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The door wasn't imposing, not really. It was plain. Wooden. The problem, however, lay in its nameplate. George Cowley, Controller, CI5. His new boss.

Doyle ran a finger along his too-tight collar one more time and grimaced. Why did I let Frank talk me into this? He had a job; he was, in fact, quite good at it. Criminals needed to be caught. But he'd known, somehow, that it wasn't quite right. There was getting to be hardly any difference between what he was doing, in the fight against evil, and what they were doing. Especially now that they were allowed to use--that he was allowed--

He remembered the green light, sickening in its intensity.

No time like the present. He knocked.

"Come in."

Doyle pushed the door open and stepped inside. The room's sole occupant, presumably George Cowley, looked up from his desk. He was a stern-looking man, older. His lined face, suggesting a life hard-lived, was not enhanced by a pair of blocky dark eyeglasses. Then the man smiled, and Doyle found he liked him instantly.

"Mr Cowley?" he offered. "I'm Ray Doyle. I'm here about the job, sir."

"What job would that be?" Cowley's face was even, controlled. It was what you'd expect to see from a man in such a position, Doyle mused. You'd hardly get to head an organisation of counter-terrorism agents by saying, oh, yes, the secret agent job, please take an application. The problem now, of course, was that Doyle needed to be about as secretive as that, for an entirely different reason.

"The liaison job."

Now, he just had to hope that was enough to go on, and that the man would understand what he meant immediately. Because if this Cowley was the wrong man to talk to, events were about to get very awkward. He's got to know, though, hasn't he? Be impossible to work for him if he doesn't.

The man's eyebrows drew together, quizzically. "The liaison job? Are you certain you have the right department?"

Christ. Here went nothing. "Positive." Doyle swallowed. "I was given your name by my last employer, Bartemius Crouch at--"

"Ah, yes!" Cowley brightened at the name--probably the only time hearing Crouch's name had ever made someone so happy, Doyle reflected--and he rose up out of his seat, offering his hand hurriedly to Doyle to shake. "You're the Auror! Why didn't you say so immediately? Sit down, sit down!"

Doyle sat uneasily in the hard wooden chair on his side of the desk, shifting in a vain attempt to be comfortable, then decided that whoever was sitting here wasn't supposed to be relaxed. It spoke to a certain amount of rigour in the organisation itself, which was good. Perhaps it wouldn't be so different from the Aurors.

"I was told I'd be working with Muggles," Doyle said, watching intently as the man seemed to recognise what should have been an unfamiliar word to him. "If you'll pardon me, I wasn't certain how much you would know."

"How much I would--?" Cowley's face crumpled in annoyance, but his irate gaze was directed not at Doyle but at someone farther away. "Och. Tell me what Barty told you about this position."

"Not much," he admitted, as he watched the man pull a bottle and two glasses from a desk drawer. "He told me that there was a new Muggle policing organisation being formed and that an Auror was wanted to join it. He said he'd recommended me." That wasn't precisely how Crouch had said it, of course, but Doyle shoved the memory hastily away. "And when the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement says 'jump'--"

"--you say wingardium leviosa," Cowley concluded with a faint smile, pushing one of the now-filled glasses across the desk. "Have a drink, and I'll tell you why you're here."

Doyle sipped the drink mostly to cover his surprise. The man was strangely well-informed for a Muggle. It wasn't the case that no Muggles knew about the wizarding world, of course; he still remembered the look of shock on his father's face the day an owl arrived with his Hogwarts letter. But his parents never knew even the names of the most basic spells and charms. It was possible that Cowley was a wizard, then. But if Cowley were a wizard, why would he be here, among Muggles?

"This is Criminal Intelligence 5." Cowley leaned back in his--comfortable, Doyle noted wryly--chair and tipped his hands outward in a gesture encompassing at least his office, if not the whole building. "In the most basic terms, our brief is to keep the country safe from threats that cannot be dealt with by ordinary means. We deal with criminal and terrorist groups with a much greater range of powers than are available to other organisations. For three years, since CI5's founding, I've recruited the best people from all branches of the military, the police... and now the Aurors."

"Greater range of powers?" He was drawn to that phrase. What could it imply? "What exactly does CI5 do?"

"You'll see," Cowley said, and pulled a file out of a much smaller desk drawer than the one the bottle had come from. Doyle was startled to see a photo of himself clipped to the cover of it. It was an old picture, but probably the only one the Ministry of Magic had on file--him in his yellow and black dress robes, most likely from almost ten years ago. When he had finally finished training. When he had become a real Auror. In the photograph, Doyle grinned proudly at the camera, tilting his head every few seconds.

"And to answer your previous question," Cowley continued, "you were quite right to be cautious in your introduction, as you are the first wizard in the organisation, and I'd prefer at this time that the other agents not know about it. You'll be expected to use wizardry in a concealed manner, as necessary, in the course of your duties; the appropriate clearances have all been filed with the Ministry."

But Doyle was hardly listening. He couldn't keep his eyes off the file. God, he'd been so young. It was before You-Know-Who--before everything. "I'm not to let anyone know?" he asked, just to confirm, with the part of his brain functioning on autopilot.

Cowley nodded. "Correct. And you've been cleared for any magic, at your discretion. Any magic," he emphasised, and Doyle looked up sharply, suddenly understanding.

"You mean the Unforgivable Curses."

"I do." Another fractional nod from Cowley.

He'd meant it about the greater range of powers. Christ. Well, if it was his discretion, then, perhaps he could discreetly decide not to. He'd take a gunshot wound over Crucio any day--at least guns could kill humanely--but he'd thought CI5 would be better than the Aurors, somehow. Well, he'd see.

Doyle was forced to stop staring at the file when Cowley picked it up and began flipping through it, reading aloud from the enclosed parchment, more for his own benefit, it seemed, than Doyle's. "Doyle, Raymond... born 27th January 1945, in Derby... hmm, yes... Muggle-born. Some difficulties in childhood. 1956, entered Hogwarts. Sorted into Hufflepuff. Dueling Club member. OWLs mainly Outstanding, Exceeds Expectations in Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts. NEWTs... Exceeds Expectations in Potions, Charms, Herbology, Transfiguration, and Defence Against the Dark Arts, all very good. 1963, left Hogwarts, began Auror training. 1966, full Auror status. Sterling record as an Auror, see commendations, attached. Hobbies include Muggle weaponry, especially Muggle guns and shooting, Muggle self-defence."

"This is from the Ministry's file," Doyle realised. "If everyone in CI5 is a Muggle, this will look mad to them."

"Ah." Cowley reached into the desk and pulled out another file, this one much smaller and filled with Muggle-style paper. "How about this? Doyle, Raymond. Same birthdate and place, of course. Education, Manor Road Comprehensive, Birmingham. Various employment. Entered Metropolitan Police Service, 1968. CID, 1971. Drugs Squad, 1973. Numerous commendations, all detailed here. Seconded to CI5," he paused as he wrote in the date, "6th June 1975. Well?" Cowley looked up, and Doyle could swear the man was grinning at him, even though his mouth barely twitched.

"That's--" He couldn't think of a thing to say. "Me? A copper?"

Cowley half-shrugged. "You need a plausible Muggle identity. You'll find that your fellow Aurors have worked some charms on your behalf. The records are all there, and the right people will remember you, if it's necessary." He handed over a third, even smaller folder. "You can read about your new identity at your leisure. Questions?"

He felt like he was drowning in the onslaught of information, but finally recalled the question that really he should have thought to ask all along. "Why me?"

Cowley blinked and tapped the file. "You're an excellent candidate. Practically speaking, you were the only Auror with the necessary weapons experience--"

"No," Doyle said, and Cowley stopped at the interruption. "Not that. I mean, why an Auror at all? Historically, the wizarding world and the Muggle world have both policed themselves. And why an Auror right now? Why not when you founded CI5?"

A sigh. "I might as well tell you now, then. You should know what you're signing up for." Cowley took off his glasses and rubbed at the bridge of his nose, then reached into the desk again--the same drawer his first file had come from--and pulled out a pile of Muggle photographs. Crime scenes.

The room seemed to darken as Doyle stared at them. He knew what he was looking at, of course; he'd seen scenes like this hundreds of times, but he shouldn't be seeing them here. Not in the Muggle world.

Top photograph: a wand-holding hand, somewhere inside a building, distorted through a window and a telephoto lens. Next, from slightly farther back: the wand pointed at a barely-visible figure inside the room, who was clearly curled over in agony. Neither person was identifiable. More photos, of the figure in different pained contortions. The effects of the Cruciatus Curse were unmistakable. Another person in frame now, body wracked by the same horrific spasms. Doyle flipped through the pictures faster and faster, until he was almost at the end of the pile. A jagged green light arcing out, connecting the wand and the victims; the camera had almost captured the right colour of the curse. The victims' bodies, still at last. And then the final photograph, an all-too-familiar skull and snake motif. The Dark Mark. It was outlined against the window glass rather than burned into the sky, but the intent was plainly the same: Beware. The Dark Lord is watching.

"D--" Doyle tried to speak, and found that his mouth was suddenly dry. He fumbled for the glass and drained the rest of it. "Death Eaters. You-Know-Who. His Death Eaters are killing Muggles. They're using Unforgivable Curses on Muggles. They--they are Muggles, the victims?"

He tore his eyes away from the photos, and Cowley gave a slight nod. "Aye. They're far from the only victims. And it's becoming worse. As far as we know, the Death Eaters are killing them simply because they can. And as far as the Muggle world knows, these are unexplained deaths, with no cause of death in most cases." Of course, Doyle realised dimly. They wouldn't even know they were murders, because Avada Kedavra left no trace.

Doyle felt hollow, somehow disconnected from the thing of rage and sadness building inside him. "Why... why weren't we told?"

Cowley met his eyes. "I'm telling you now. I asked Barty for more Aurors; he said one was all he could spare. I suppose I can't fault him, but we can't handle this ourselves. We need magic to fight magic."

This was his job. He'd trained for this, and they needed him, maybe more than the wizarding world did. "All right." Doyle swallowed again. "I'm in. When can I get started?"

"Good man." The sombre look on Cowley's face lifted as he slid all the files back into his desk. "And you can start right away. Would you like to meet your partner?"

"Partner?" He hadn't imagined this. Aurors usually worked solo or in large groups; there was hardly ever a need for any two-person team, much less a formalised partnership. Well, he supposed he'd adjust sooner or later.

Cowley nodded matter-of-factly. "We typically work in pairs here. Very close. He'll watch your back, and you'll watch his."

Doyle raised an eyebrow. "Does he know about--?" He held his coat half-open and motioned toward the wand tucked inside. He'd brought it with him even in his Muggle suit, of course; force of habit did that to you.

"No." Cowley shook his head. "As far as he's concerned, you're from the Met."

Right. So he was going to have a partner, with whom he was supposed to work closely, as a wizard, from whom he was supposed to hide his wizardry. And fight Death Eaters at the same time. Well. It could be worse. Somehow. He was certain he could think of a way that this could be worse. Eventually.

Cowley pressed a button on the edge of his desk. "Betty, could you have 3.7 sent in? And prepare the forms, if you please?"

"Yes, Mr Cowley," a tinny voice said through the speaker.

"Three seven?" Doyle wondered.

"Your partner, Agent 3.7," Cowley clarified. "His code number. You'll be 4.5; it's best you memorise that as soon as you can, since you--ah, good, come in, Bodie!"

Behind Doyle, there was the sound of a door opening, and as Doyle turned and met the stranger's eyes he realised that there was, in fact, a way the situation could be worse: his new partner was exactly, perfectly his type.

Damn it.

###

The newcomer's eyes, a startlingly intense blue, flicked quickly over Doyle, assessing and then, it seemed, dismissing him as a threat. The man's lips curled a little, a ghost of a smile in a carved face, and Doyle felt a confused, uncomfortable rush of heat. Attraction, of course, but the sort of thing he'd last recalled feeling when the Ravenclaw boys in the year above him brushed past in the corridor--the thrill of a beautiful stranger, above him and somehow untouchably, unutterably perfect.

It hadn't been a bad thing at Hogwarts; it wasn't like he'd ever had to talk to them, so he had held them in his mind, constructing fantasies alone at night, and nothing had ever had to touch the real world.

The man moved to sit down next to him and turned to offer him a more real smile, closed-mouthed, with his eyebrows raised as though he thought he were being funny.

"Hello."

Doyle imagined him smiling truly, lips parted, head tilted back as he slid and arched up against him--no. Not now. Christ. Merlin. Whoever. Act normally.

Doyle smiled--in a perfectly friendly way, he was sure--and held out his hand. "I'm Ray Doyle. I'm told I'm working with you. New agent, you see."

Lightning-quick, all the kindness disappeared, and the man turned back, eyes now like ice, fixed on Cowley. "Sir, I was under the impression that I wasn't working with anyone."

Cowley sat back, seeming to be unfazed. "I have every confidence that the two of you will work well together, Bodie. Mr Doyle comes to us highly recommended from the Met--"

"No offense, mate,"--and here the man, Bodie, spared a glance back at him--"but I work better alone. Always have. Always will."

Cowley sighed. "It's hardly permanent, Bodie. Try it. That's an order."

Bodie turned back to him with a more forced smile, and something within Doyle twisted, sadly, and began to fall. Bodie held out his hand jerkily, puppet-like; there was no possible way to make it more obvious that the man did not want to do this. "I'm Bodie."

Doyle took the offered hand and forced a feeble grin. "You've only the one name?"

Even the fake smile was wiped off Bodie's face this time. "It's just Bodie."

"Well," Cowley said, and even Doyle could hear that the shuffling of various papers didn't quite cover the disappointment in his new boss' voice. "Bodie, I'd appreciate it greatly if you'd show our new agent Doyle round and get him fitted and supplied."

"Right," Bodie said, and stood up, hardly bothering to look behind him as he moved toward the door. "Come on."

They hadn't got more than a few steps down the hallway when a dark-haired man stuck his head out of a door marked "VIP Lounge" and called out, "Bodie! My five quid!"

"Right," Bodie said again, and headed into the room. Doyle shrugged and followed him into the room, which, if it had contained any VIPs at one time, certainly did not seem to now. Sprawled across the sofas were a miscellaneous collection of men and a lone woman, all wearing shoulder holsters. His new coworkers, Doyle supposed. Or at least the percentage of them currently on duty.

"Welcome to CI5," Bodie said to him. "Doyle, this is Murphy, Jax, Anson, McCabe, and Susan," he said, motioning quickly in a huge circle around the room. The brown-haired man who'd waylaid them was standing next to a dart board with a tall black man. The three other people--two more men and a woman--sat on the settee with a deck of cards between them.

"It's Fischer," the woman said, irritated. "I don't know how many times I have to tell you this, Bodie, but if you're going to call everyone else by their last names--"

Bodie gave an exaggerated sigh. "Right, fellas, this is Ray Doyle. Formerly a copper, the Cow says," and the distaste in his voice was more than apparent.

"What were you, then?" Doyle asked.

"SAS," Bodie said, curtly. Well, it would explain his contempt for Doyle's supposed profession. Rough, tough, the usual. Trust me to pick the butch ones.

"Ah," Doyle said. "A real man's man, then, are you?" He couldn't quite keep the dryness out of his voice, and wished he hadn't said it as soon as the words left his mouth.

"Oh, we all are in the army, ducky," his new partner murmured in a high, campy voice as he headed over to the first man, offering him a note hastily removed from his wallet. Or maybe not as butch as all that, Doyle corrected. This was proving to be interesting.

"Thanks," the other man said.

"Any time, Murph," Bodie said. "I've got to go lead PC Plod here around now. You know, show him which way to point a gun."

Doyle hardly felt the insult, this time. He began to to follow Bodie back to the door but was stopped by a quiet "hey" from the man Bodie had owed money to--Murphy, maybe his name was. The man pulled him aside.

"Listen," Murphy said, barely above a whisper. "Don't let Bodie get to you. He's got something against this partnership thing Mr Cowley wants, and he likes to try to be the most rotten bugger you can imagine right until the Cow reassigns him and says he's unattached. It's not personal."

Doyle blinked. It was an odd thing to do, but it made a sort of sense. It went some way to explaining the behavior, anyway. "What did he do to you?"

Murphy shrugged. "Mostly called me every insult he could think of. Nothing too bad. Fischer, on the other hand--" He nodded at the woman on the sofa who had regarded Bodie with such vitriol. "Let's just say Bodie's not a women's libber, eh?"

"Oh." Doyle swallowed. "So all I have to do is last this out--"

Murphy nodded. "Probably not more than an op, and you'll be wanting to be reassigned, and after that Bodie's all sweetness and light. It's the strangest thing. God knows what he'll think up to get rid of you."

"Maybe it'll work out, though," Doyle said, and Murphy looked at him like he'd gone mad.

"I'd pay money to see that," Murphy said. "Go on, do your paperwork."

Doyle waved and nodded his thanks and trotted out the door to catch up with Bodie. What was he going to do about this?

###

Bodie had shown him round the place with remarkable efficiency, if not camaraderie, and in short order Doyle had acquired keys to a car, keys to a flat, a vast and confusing array of electronic equipment, and, his favourite, a hard-sided case containing two sleek and very deadly handguns.

"We report in at eight tomorrow," Bodie said, surprising him with the words, as he motioned him towards the door leading out of the building.

"We?" Doyle asked, startled. It was the first time Bodie had referred to them as a unit. Moreover, it was close to the first time he'd said anything to him. He'd sat in stony silence through the paperwork, speaking up only during the equipment disbursement to add a dry fact or two about the effective range of what Doyle now knew to refer to as an R/T.

Bodie nodded and gave another one of those rare half-grins that, faint as it was, already made Doyle feel ridiculously giddy. "Your first op. We'll be briefed at HQ first. Bring your guns, sunshine."

"Yeah," was all Doyle could manage through the pounding of his heart. Surely he wasn't going to revert into a fourteen-year-old just because the man smiled at him? Perhaps it was some new kind of Transfiguration.

Bodie nodded, then turned abruptly and headed off, leaving Doyle bewildered and alone on the pavement outside headquarters.

The rest of the day had been taken up with moving the rest of his things from his small Ministry-provided flat to his new one, and Doyle now leaned, exhausted, against the last of the still-packed boxes, contemplating his almost-empty glass through the late afternoon light shining through the huge windows. CI5 was certainly a step up in terms of accommodation, he thought, and then felt a pang of disloyalty.

They're looking for an Auror, he could remember Crouch telling him. It had been barely a fortnight ago. We believe you to be the best candidate, due to your, ahem, background.

Crouch couldn't come right out and say it, of course. No one could, these days, not with You-Know-Who and his warped quest for purity. Everyone knew even half-bloods who had simply... disappeared one day. The same, of course, and worse, for Muggle-borns, like himself. Mudblood, one of the Slytherin girls had called him, and for weeks no one would tell him what it meant.

He took another drink.

He couldn't help his background, naturally, but he'd sworn to show them it didn't matter, and now what did he get? A world where no one outside the Ministry even talked about the disappearances, where no one breathed a word about anyone's so-called background, because to imply that you might know about someone's ancestry was tantamount to saying you cared, as a Death Eater might. They'd been walking on eggshells for over five years, and Doyle had the horrible feeling that someday very soon they would all break.

Certainly, Crouch had been right--they couldn't very well send a wizard who had never seen a light switch, who couldn't drive, who didn't know how to ride an escalator or put on a suit and tie or shoot a gun. So it had to be him, just because he knew this world better than any of them. But he couldn't shake the feeling that it was somehow meant to be a punishment, because who would want to exile himself among Muggles?

He pulled himself slowly, a bit unsteadily, to his feet and surveyed his new flat. Everything visible was Muggle-appropriate, a surveillance he'd never actually had to think about before. All the pictures that moved were in boxes, the vials of the more suspicious potion ingredients put in the very back of the kitchen cupboards, all the cloaks and robes neatly folded and hidden away. Nothing to give him away to his acquaintances, except one item.

He rolled his wand speculatively between finger and thumb, then considered his now-empty glass and pointed.

"Accio wine bottle."

The bottle floated obediently out to him from the kitchen. This was probably not what Cowley had meant about spell use, but he couldn't bring himself to care.

He was interrupted, suddenly, by the sound of something thumping against the window. A bird? The noise came again, and he turned to see a snowy owl clutching a roll of parchment in its claws.

"Leto!"

He couldn't help but smile as he opened the window for the little owl. She wasn't his owl--he couldn't, of course, take in the Daily Prophet without anyone noticing--but it was good his friends still cared about him.

Leto settled on the table, dropping the scroll in a flutter of wings, and sat preening on the table as Doyle broke the seal and unrolled the scroll to see the contents.

It wasn't much--a hasty scrawl in Alice's writing, if he was any judge--but it was something.

Ray--
Hope you're enjoying your new job. Frank and I did all the memory-altering charms on Muggles for you, so when you see some constable who remembers you, think of us, eh? Things are getting busy around here--Crouch thinks he might have a lead on a group of Death Eaters lying low out your way--so we may not write much, but we wanted you to know we're thinking about you.
Best,
Alice

Leto suddenly moved to stare at him in the unnerving way only owls could, her head tilted almost perpendicular to her body, at the very moment when Doyle made to put the parchment away and go about his business.

"Oh, all right, I suppose she wants a reply?"

Leto hooted and flapped her wings, and Doyle grinned. "Silly owl."

He fetched Muggle paper and a pen, wishing he hadn't already hidden his quills somewhere inaccessible.

To Alice and Frank,
Have just moved in and received your letter. Starting work tomorrow. Will buy you both a round over at the Leaky Cauldron sometime when the job cools down.

He paused, pen in hand. Should he mention Bodie? There'd be no end of teasing after that, as they did whenever he'd found a bloke he liked. They could afford to be so smug, couldn't they, the lovebirds?

New coworkers are very... interesting, he decided on, then signed it and spent the better part of five minutes looking for an elastic band to secure the rolled-up missive with, after Leto flatly refused to carry it folded.

Finally the letter was arranged to the picky owl's satisfaction, and he smiled as he watched Leto soar away through the twilight.

Unbidden, thoughts of his new partner drifted into his head. Bodie. And along with the thought, the rush of arousal that hadn't quite dissipated after the long day, even though the man was plainly holding him--and everyone else, if what Murphy had said was true--at a far-distant remove. Why? What had the man to hide?

At least if he doesn't want to get to know me it'll be easier to hide the magic, came one very reasonable thought, followed immediately by the more alarming God, I want to know him. His mind was filled of things that hadn't--couldn't--wouldn't happen. The way Bodie might taste. How Doyle might feel Bodie's heartbeat thrum against him. How Bodie might lie against him, telling him of this and that and everything.

Ah, well. Best not to think about what he couldn't have, to quell the feelings before they got too far. The man clearly disliked him; it shouldn't take long for the infatuation to fade, Doyle mused. Good. Then he could on with the real work, the work that had brought him here. No place for schoolboy crushes.

Whatever was going on tomorrow, he probably needed to be rested for it. He left the glass on the table next to his wand, closed the window, and only tripped once on the stairs up to his bedroom when his pained yell of Lumos failed to do anything, without his wand on him. Maybe he did need to reacquaint himself with light switches.

###

He struggled to keep his eyes focused on the slides Cowley was clicking through on the wall of the dim briefing room, but all he could concentrate on was the strange hyper-awareness he had of Bodie sitting next to him in the dark. He had no idea what the man to his other side was doing, but he knew all about Bodie. He knew, without looking, exactly how his new partner was sitting, attuned as he was already to the quiet, almost imperceptible fidgeting. Bodie's legs were splayed wide in the chair. His territory, the body language said. Fight me if you dare. And oh, how he dared.

He'd never had to work with someone he was attracted to. Not like this. Some of the Aurors paired off--Alice and Frank were, of course, only the most recent example--but he'd always preferred to see people outside of work. Which, he considered ruefully, had been a damned good idea of his if this was the alternative. It'll pass, he told himself. It has to.

"We have no firm proof as of yet that these people comprise a terrorist cell," Cowley's voice droned on, as he clicked past endless slides of people hardly looking suspicious at all--a man buying fruit at a market, a woman walking down the street holding hands with a toddler. "But," Cowley continued, "should our information prove correct, the very future of our way of life is at stake. You all know, then, why we are here."

In the darkness, Bodie turned his head toward him, raised an eyebrow, and gave a fractional smile. Doyle felt his whole body tense pleasantly. Again.

"He's doing this for you, you know," Bodie whispered. "Regular briefings aren't quite so thorough on the Queen-and-country aspect."

"I'm honoured."

"As you should be." A pause, then: "...constable." Couldn't he come off it already? But then Bodie smiled at him again, and Doyle was willing to forgive the man anything.

Doyle dragged his eyes back to the slides with difficulty, and then found that all his attention was drawn to the next picture, as a feeling of deja vu washed over him. A bloke in a suit, could be anybody... but Doyle felt like he'd seen the man somewhere before.

The next slide, another man, and the feeling of familiarity only increased. Where...? The hair had been different--Doyle mentally lengthened it a little--and the clothing was wrong, but why? Oh. Robes. He'd been wearing robes. Your bog-standard wizard's outfit.

Wizards. That's where he'd seen them before. And if they were all, or mostly wizards, then they were Death Eaters. And that's where he came in.

"...agents 3.7 and 4.5," he was dimly aware of Cowley saying, with a nod in his direction, "will be primarily in charge of the observation. Audio observation of the suspects, for reasons beyond your concern, will not be possible. Visual observation will take place from a secured house, across the street from here--"

The slides switched to maps, an endless stream of locations. He stared, unaware, at the wall the slides were being projected on until someone flipped the room lights back on, snapping him out of his reverie. The other agents were getting up with the usual grumbles and good-natured complaints familiar to Doyle from every Auror action briefing. Good to know it didn't change much in the Muggle world.

He headed up to the front of the room, instead, where Cowley was busy packing the projector up.

"Sir?" he asked, pitching his voice low.

Cowley looked up, his gaze sharp. "Hmm?"

"Are those people... who I think they are?"

Cowley seemed to think about the answer for a while. "The odds are very good. Which is why you've been assigned. Is this going to be a problem for you?"

"No, sir," he put in, quickly. That question, he could answer. At least none of them were people he knew.

"Good." Cowley regarded this pronouncement as final, turning away from him. "Now go with your partner."

At the back of the room, Bodie was still patiently waiting when everyone else had left. Bodie grinned at him with something that could have been interest, but was far more likely to be a product of his own feverish misinterpretations.

"Oi, constable," Bodie said, rocking on his heels impatiently as Doyle walked toward him. "Mr Cowley isn't going to issue you a whistle, you know, so you needn't ask." His sentence dissolved into laughter; he was clearly thrilled with his own cleverness.

"Suppose you were waiting for him to issue you grenades, then, were you," Doyle retorted, and he started to head out the door.

"Nah, I keep my own in my car," Bodie said, still laughing, and Doyle couldn't quite tell whether the laughter was because Bodie was pleased or annoyed with his response. "Come on; we've the day shift, didn't you hear?"

It was an odd kind of prickly camaderie, like Bodie wanted to be his friend and to force him away at the same time. Curious. He'd have plenty of time to find out more about the bloke, though. Hours on end together, apparently. Doyle had the strange suspicion that after this op they would either be best mates or the worst of enemies, and he had no idea which.

###

Their vantage point turned out to be a house like any other, across the road from the house they were to be observing. Doyle dropped the equipment cases on the floor by the door of the hastily-repurposed upstairs bedroom, just as he heard an ominous creaking and springing sound.

He turned to find Bodie sprawled across the small, lone bed in the corner, clearly having claimed it as his own. Bodie bounced a little on top of the covers and grinned at him, head lolling upside-down off the edge of the mattress.

"S'comfortable," Bodie said, sounding happy. "When you think about how many hours we'll probably be spending here. It helps."

Doyle turned his gaze back to the cases, pointedly not thinking about Bodie and beds. "Going to help me set this up, or going to have a kip?"

"Kip," Bodie said briskly, as if the answer were obvious, and when Doyle couldn't help but look over, Bodie's eyes were already shut, long dark eyelashes falling across pale skin. It wasn't fair that even his damned eyelashes were attractive. And Bodie was, he could see, trying not to smile--he was clearly only having him on about the sleeping thing.

By Merlin, but this was going to kill him.

Thankfully, Bodie was up again in a few seconds, taking one of the cases for him. Doyle reached for the other one, and as his hand brushed Bodie's he could not quite suppress a pleasant frisson of attraction.

Bodie took over after that, assembling a complicated binoculars-on-tripod setup from one case and snapping lenses onto a camera from the other case. In silence, he dragged the entire apparatus over to the window and squinted at it, then began tilting and adjusting it to point at the house along the street. If he was supposed to show Doyle how to do this, he made no sign of it.

"So," Doyle started, because he felt he ought to say something to fill the silence, "is there usually audio recording as well, the way CI5 work?"

Bodie nodded without looking up. "Yeah. Usually have the target's flat's bugged and a radio man sitting in here by now. No idea why it's not on the menu for this op."

"Couldn't get the bugs in, maybe?" He was wondering out loud.

Bodie shrugged, and suddenly Doyle had the sinking suspicion he knew exactly why the bugs weren't there. Magical wards against electricity were easy to come by; Hogwarts had had them, even. The more electricity you wanted to ward off, the more complex the entire spell was, but a spell to kill Muggle radio observation devices in the building should be easy. It meant the people across the street were Death Eaters, and that they knew people were going to look for them. Cowley had been right.

"Right," Bodie said, sitting back from his finished work and gesturing at the binoculars. "Welcome to your first obbo. You just sit, and stare, and call in--" another gesture at the R/T--"if anything interesting happens."

"And what are you going to do?" Doyle asked, suspiciously, as Bodie began to back away to the door. "You're leaving?"

Bodie flashed him a brilliant, beautiful grin. "Tea. Sandwiches. Very important to the job."

Doyle couldn't help but smile back.

As Bodie left, Doyle took up his position at the window. No sign of activity across the road. If they were there at all, they certainly weren't by the window. He supposed he should be thankful that so far it was boring. At least he could get to know Bodie better, and then he'd hopefully be feeling a little less like an awkward teenager.

As if on cue, Bodie returned, far too quickly to have gone to the shops, clutching a carrier bag in one hand and a thermos in the other. Setting the Thermos down on the far table, he emptied the contents of the sack to reveal two sandwiches.

"Made you a sandwich," Bodie mumbled, ducking his head, almost looking embarrassed. "Didn't know what you liked, so I hope you like ham."

"Ham's fine, thanks," Doyle returned, now wondering exactly what had possessed the man to do this. Murphy had said Bodie was trying to drive him off, but this seemed exactly the opposite. It didn't make any sense.

Doyle took the offered sandwich and ate contentedly--it was, in fact, quite good--as he stared out the window. Still nothing, except, suddenly, the sound of a chair dragging up next to his. Bodie. He successfully suppressed the shiver.

"So," Bodie's voice came, from very close now. "Enjoying the job?"

Yes, Doyle thought, though he dared not turn now.

"Very different to the police, I'd expect," Bodie continued, and his voice was soft, silky-smooth. Almost as if he were flirting with him. But he couldn't be, could he?

Doyle turned, finally, to see that Bodie was still smiling at him, lips half-parted, eyes sparkling. Like something out of one of his fantasies. God. "I'd expect it's different to your previous life too."

He didn't know what about it should have affected Bodie so, but at his words all the welcome in Bodie's face closed off entirely, and Bodie was practically scrambling back out of the chair. Another half-second and his partner had it under conscious control, moving now with a kind of purpose, making it seem as if he had just needed to grab the Thermos across the room all along.

Bewildered, Doyle tried to clarify. "I only meant, I thought you men in the SAS spent all your waking hours either abseiling down onto something or exploding it..."

And just like that, Bodie's face relaxed, and he broke out in a grin.

"Oh," he said, and there was laughter in his voice. "Well, that. Yeah, I suppose. Not that we don't explode anything in CI5. You'll get your chance, mate."

"Will I?"

And with that Bodie was off, and he spent most of the rest of their shift explaining the workings of CI5, including several assignments that Doyle privately suspected Bodie wasn't supposed to be telling him about, with particular focus on weaponry and munitions. Doyle was as enthralled by the content as he was by Bodie's delivery of it--Bodie grinned at him, and leaned close, conspiratorily, halfway through a digression on the uses of Semtex. Their eyes met, and Doyle knew that he was definitely not going to get over this man any time soon. He had been thinking perhaps Bodie was stupid, or boring, and then it would be easy; instead the man was possessed of a lazy confidence Doyle could have found annoying and a competence he could have resented. Unfortunately, he found both traits attractive. Damn it.

It was even worse, given that half of the stories involved women, or "birds," as Bodie put it, a strange bit of slang that definitely hadn't made it to the wizarding world yet. Despite the camp the other day, and the almost-flirtatious tone earlier, the man was clearly heterosexual.

And every time Bodie moved, gestured, mimed shooting a rifle, he imagined the feel of those pale fingers on him, cupped against his face, sliding down his body--

The shift ended either far too soon or far too late, Doyle thought, depending on whether he should regard his now-growing attraction to his partner as dangerous. Two CI5 agents whose names he hadn't learned yet showed up at nightfall to relieve them, leaving them to make their way home. Which meant riding back with Bodie, the way they had come.

The ride was silent except for Bodie inquiring about his new address, then telling him he'd lived there last year; it seemed that the flats were rotated among the agents. Finally they were sitting alone, in the dark, outside his flat, and it was time to leave.

"See you tomorrow," Doyle offered.

"Mmhmm." A blurry motion, Bodie nodding his head in the dark. "See you then, Doyle."

"It's Ray," he said, before he could bring himself not to. Don't get too close. He's straight. You'll just get your heart broken.

He thought he could almost see Bodie smiling in the darkness. "Is it, now." It wasn't a question.

He got out of the car before he managed to say anything else stupid, and he headed inside.

###

Five days of nothing, nothing, and more nothing. Doyle stared, bleary-eyed, at the latest news from the Longbottoms as he tried to wake himself up with a second cup of coffee. They hadn't found anything else of their Death Eaters, either, and Doyle couldn't decide whether that was a kind of consolation or a very, very bad sign. He wondered if they were both after the same Death Eaters. He had a third cup of coffee.

Even more frustrating than the assignment itself was five days in the same room with Bodie. Bodie, who was doing a complicated dance that only he knew the steps to--one minute all friendly, the next as cold as ice, and Doyle never knew exactly what he had done to set him off. It seemed to be getting better, though; last night, Bodie had dropped him off at his place with a predatory, arousing smile that Doyle could almost, almost swear was a pure come-on. He'd been seconds away from entirely throwing caution to the wind and inviting Bodie up--or possibly just grabbing him and kissing him until he couldn't breathe--when Bodie's grin changed ever so slightly, and he mentioned how he was off to a club to find some lonely bird. It hadn't been for him, then, but that didn't seem to matter to his libido. Once he got inside, alone, he barely managed to unbutton his jeans and came precipitously quickly, thinking about Bodie fucking some nameless woman. Or him. Both were good, really.

All right, so he had some unrequited love for his new partner. Or at least lust. He remembered the advice well enough: he'd just have to wait this assignment out, then request a new partner, because he certainly couldn't work at his best in a constant state of... frustration.

And yet, when Bodie swung by to pick him up that morning, somehow the first words out of Doyle's mouth were: "How was last night?"

Bodie shrugged a little and tilted his head to the side as he pulled the car out onto the street; it was a carefully neutral gesture. "No luck."

"Sorry to hear that," he returned, automatically, even though some small thing within him was quietly exulting.

They relieved the night shift, who reported that, again, there was absolutely no activity.

"It's a bit strange, isn't it?" Bodie commented, taking up position in front of the binoculars as the other agents clattered loudly down the stairs, and they finally had the place to themselves.

"What is?"

Bodie held up the log, bereft of information. "No one's entered or left in five days, they've only the one entrance, and yet we know they're in there. You'd think that in five days someone might want to."

"They'll have to do their shopping eventually," Doyle agreed, "and we're watching. No way for them to get past us."

And as he said it he realised--they were wizards. Invisibility, Apparition, the Floo network... there were a variety of ways to get round what to the Muggles would be a locked-room mystery. Even assuming he could put up the requisite anti-magic wards--and they were not one-man jobs--that would surely tip the Death Eaters off to the surveillance. And one Auror against twenty was hardly good odds. Cowley had been right when he said CI5 needed more than one Auror for this.

Bodie hmmed in agreement and then was silent for a good hour except to signal Doyle that it was his turn. Another one of those strange silences, but he was caught off guard when Bodie started to speak.

"Sorry," Bodie said. "I know I'm being a git, and I know I was awful the other day when you were asking me about 'my previous life'." He quoted the words back with a faint air of derision, and Doyle turned to see a rueful half-smile on Bodie's face.

Surprised, Doyle started, "I shouldn't have pried--"

"No, it's all right," Bodie said, looking away from him with an odd expression on his face. "I don't like to talk about my past much, you see." He frowned and looked up. "What did you do before you were a copper?"

"Not much. This and that," Doyle said, in perfect accord with his CI5 file, hating himself for how easily the lie came to him, remembering sitting in the dirt and clutching the pieces of Syd's broken wand as the other Aurors took Syd's broken body away, with the Dark Mark shining down on them--

"I don't know if you'd understand, then," Bodie said, exhaling, and Doyle knew that he understood perfectly and at the same time, could never tell Bodie. "I was fourteen when I ran away from sch--home." A strange twitch as he corrected himself. "Ran off to Africa, got myself involved in some things I shouldn't have done. Mercenary work."

Doyle had the oddest thought, that even now Bodie was hiding something, but this was clearly more than Bodie was accustomed to be saying. Maybe that was all it was. "So when I asked about your past," he pressed, gently, "you thought I was asking about all of it, and you didn't like me asking?"

Bodie rewarded him with a tentative smile. "Right. But now I reckon, I should give this partnership thing a chance, if only because the Cow has run out of agents to pair me with. And you seem a nice enough sort. At least, I haven't frightened you off yet."

"Do the other agents usually leave by now?"

A laugh. "Yes."

"You are good at your job, then," Doyle observed, and this earned him another laugh.

Just his luck. He'd been hoping Bodie would keep trying to annoy him enough that asking to switch partners would be justified, but now he'd have to stay and--

Outside, the Death Eaters' house door opened and two men walked out.

"Finally," Bodie said, excited happiness apparent in his voice, and Doyle hastily swivelled the binoculars over to get a better look.

He thought about all the pictures sitting in the file, the people they were watching; these men matched none of the descriptions. "They're not on the list," he said, finally. He didn't even think they were wizards; they were wearing Muggle clothing and walking quickly, purposefully down the almost-empty road with strange, vague smiles on their faces.

"You're certain?"

Doyle nodded. "Certain."

"All right," Bodie said, bounding back across the room. "I'll follow them for a bit, see what they get up to. You call in, describe the situation, and watch to see if anything else happens."

"Hey," he protested, struck by the sudden unfairness of it all. "What if I wanted to follow them?"

"Next time!" Bodie yelled back from the hallway, from the sound of it already taking the stairs two at a time.

Doyle sighed and grabbed his R/T, and after a few hesitant pokes at the buttons reported in, barely remembering to use his code numbers as instructed. A tinny voice on the other end told him they were sending backup, and he switched the R/T off and settled down to wait.

He didn't have to wait long. A few minutes later the R/T buzzed. That was quick for the backup, he noted, approvingly, as he answered. "4.5."

"4.5, this is 3.7." Bodie's voice had a curious note to it. "Forget about keeping watch, mate, and get over here. You're going to want to see this."

###

He followed Bodie's directions easily enough, zig-zagging down a few streets, turning this way and that, until he came to a small alley. He turned the corner into it, took one look, and ducked back again to the main road, trying not to vomit. There was blood everywhere, pooling across the ground, sprayed along the brickwork of one wall. So much blood. In the centre of one of the pools of blood was what looked to be a young woman, or what was left of her. Christ. Doyle shut his eyes and took a few deep breaths.

And, of course, there were Bodie and the men he'd been chasing, all alive. One of the men was propped up against the blood-covered wall, half-conscious by the look of it, cuffed to a pipe. The other one was on the ground, Bodie's boot planted firmly on his chest, a dazed expression in his eyes. Two very large knives lay next to him.

"Jesus, Bodie," he managed. "What the hell happened?"

Bodie looked as confused as he felt. "I don't know. I lost them for a minute, then I heard the screaming and ran over here, and they were doing," he gestured, "this."

"And you took them down?"

Bodie nodded. "They hardly put up any fight, though. Strangest thing. I cuffed that bloke, over there, but I don't think I needed to. This one, here--" he pushed a little harder with his foot, and the man groaned--"was busy with his art project."

He hadn't noticed the other wall of the alley. He looked up at it now, and for a minute he thought his heart had stopped. It was drawn crudely in blood, half-finished, but perfectly recognizable, if you knew what you were looking for. The Dark Mark. The killer had finished half of the skull and most of the snake before Bodie had interrupted him.

Doyle swallowed a few times and tried to make his vocal cords do something. "That's--that's a very unusual piece of artwork."

"I suppose so," Bodie said, shrugging and leaning harder on the man underneath his foot. "Not really my thing, bit too much red in it." Doyle supposed the macabre sense of humour came with the job.

It was then that the man against the wall stirred and woke. "I had the most bizarre fucking dream, I'm telling you," the man's voice came, sounding almost sleep-slurred and oddly pleased. "Dreamed I'd killed someone and I liked it. God, never want to dream that again." He still hadn't opened his eyes, and he was smiling the same vacant smile.

"Hate to wake you," Bodie told him, "but you didn't dream it."

The man finally opened his eyes, took one look around, and began to panic. Doyle didn't blame him, given the circumstances, but it was very odd behaviour. The man was clearly a Muggle, as well; there was no reason he should know the Dark Mark, and yet he'd been drawing it on the wall.

"Fuck," the man started. "This can't be real, this is not fucking happening, I'm telling you, I didn't mean to do this, I don't even know who that bird is--"

The man asserting his relative innocence was especially odd, considering that Bodie had caught him red-handed--

"--and something came over me, and I felt like I had to do it, like I wanted to, but I didn't want to--"

Bingo. The Imperius Curse. With it, the Death Eaters could make anyone do anything they liked. It took years of training and a powerful force of will to resist it, and the poor Muggles probably hadn't seen it coming. Doyle hadn't recognised it because he hadn't been looking; who would have thought to see it on Muggles? But he should have known.

And worse, this was merely a warning, Doyle knew. If You-Know-Who's agents were willing to enchant Muggles to do anything... he didn't want to think about the terror and mayhem they could cause. This was nothing more than a dry run.

The conscious man's increasingly frantic babbling was drowned out by the sound of brakes screeching, a sound which was followed shortly by the appearance of Cowley and a couple of agents--Murphy, and that woman, Fischer. To their credit, none of them vomited, but Murphy was starting to look a little green.

Bodie finally released his hold on the prone man and repeated the events to Cowley, as much as he knew to Cowley. "So, sir, they killed this woman, but now they're insisting they didn't want to."

"Not very deniable, is it?" Fischer said, faintly.

Murphy swallowed a few times and excused himself away from the crime scene, while Cowley walked around and hmmed and raised his eyebrows a little at the Dark Mark. He knows perfectly well what it is, Doyle suddenly knew, and he isn't going to tell them.

"Fischer, get these two back to HQ for interrogation and have Murphy arrange for clean-up," Cowley said, and then turned his perfectly-even stare on Doyle himself. "Bodie, Doyle, aren't you two on surveillance duty? Return to it, if you please."

"You are correct as always, sir," Bodie said, so straight-faced that Doyle couldn't even tell if he was taking the piss, and obligingly began to leave.

Doyle waited until everyone else was safely heading out, then turned to Cowley.

"Yes, Doyle?"

"They were Imperiused, sir," he said, as quietly as possible. "Sir, we have to stop the Death Eaters from doing this. We could enter their flat--"

"I know," Cowley said, just as quietly, and for once the look in his eyes wasn't quite so hard. "But CI5 could hardly face them as-is. The rest of your Aurors are on the move, lad, and they tell me these people have a larger plan. They'll be distracted, and then we'll strike--"

"And in the meantime, we leave people to die?" His voice rose louder than he intended.

"No," Cowley said. "We try to stop them. That's your job, Doyle; now go to it."

"Sir." He turned away, following the path Bodie had taken. His job. He could do that. He'd have to.

###

"Well," he said, finally making it back to their vantage point, as Bodie turned around from his perch at the binoculars to look at him. "That was... more macabre than I was expecting."

Bodie shrugged. "I've seen worse."

"Africa?"

He couldn't stop himself in time from asking, and for an instant Bodie froze and then seemed to relax himself, forcibly, with great effort. "Yeah," Bodie agreed after a while. "I... worked with... some dangerous people."

Doyle pulled up a chair and Bodie, oddly, relaxed even further, probably seeing that he wasn't going to push him about it. "My turn?"

"If you like," Bodie said, with a faint grin, and as they got up to switch seats he could swear Bodie brushed up against him, closer than he should. Close enough to feel the heat of him as he moved behind him. Doyle shivered.

"What did Cowley want to see you about back there?" Bodie asked through slurps of his Thermos.

"Not much," Doyle lied quickly, then expanded on it. A quick denial was, after all, suspicious. "I just... wanted to know why we weren't going after these fellows--" he gestured to their target--"who are clearly involved, seeing as it's their house."

Bodie put down his thermos and regarded him with interest. "And?"

Doyle scrambled for a convincing explanation. "He said there were other factors. Whatever that means."

"Classified, more like." Bodie snorted. "Though it's strange of him to keep it from us. If it's the sort of thing that might get one of the agents in trouble, he usually likes to make sure we know about it."

At Bodie's words, Doyle felt guiltier and guiltier. If he could only tell Bodie what was really going on... God, he was falling for the man, wasn't he? He'd been ordered not to tell. But that didn't stop him from wanting Bodie to know.

"That sounds strange," Doyle agreed, wishing all the while he could say something else instead.

As the rest of the shift wore on, Bodie was... nicer to him. An hour or so was taken up by Bodie's enquiries about his background, for which Doyle frantically tried to remember the details of his cover identity. Bodie seemed to have entirely abandoned his earlier reserve, and the rest of the time was taken up with quiet, smiling remarks that could have expressed some kind of interest. Or not. He was going mad.

It's got to only be a few more days, he told himself, as the day wore on to evening. It was supposed to be his shift watching the window, but after establishing that nothing was happening, he'd started taking more and more overt glances over at Bodie, who was sprawled, supine, across the bed in the corner. Far more interesting than his job.

Asleep, Bodie was completely relaxed, looking as if he had hardly a care in the world. Doyle watched the slow rise and fall of his chest, his eyes drawn first up to the hollow of Bodie's throat, where he could almost see the man's pulse beating against pale skin. His shirt was buttoned up to all but the last button; somehow Bodie's odd penchant for long sleeves even in this heat made the smallest bit of skin that much more alluring. His gaze was pulled almost helplessly down the length of the man's body, past narrow hips, and even now he could see that, oh, yes, Bodie was filling out those cords nicely--

"Thought you were supposed to be watching the window," came Bodie's voice, sleepily, and Doyle nearly fell off the chair in surprise.

"I--"

"Good to know you see something you like," Bodie said, camping like mad, as he stood up with a swing of his hips that Doyle was definitely not paying attention to because he was turning back to the window to do his job. Merlin's beard, if the Death Eaters had chosen then to attack...

He had to ask for reassignment. That was all there was to it.

Their relief finally showed up, and Doyle spent every one of the minutes as Bodie drove him back to his place trying to figure out how to tell him his decision. Finally, Bodie pulled over outside his door and there was no time left to delay.

"Night, Ray. See you in the morning," and God, when had Bodie started calling him by his first name? It must mean something--no. He couldn't do this any more.

Bodie smiled at him, another one of those beautiful, heartbreaking smiles, and Doyle realised he had to say something.

"Bodie." He swallowed. Licked his lips. "I can't work with you. I'll put in for a new partner after this op. Thought I should let you know."

Bodie's face seemed to crumple, all the life gone out of it. Bodie stared past him, through the car window, not quite meeting his eyes. "Why? You had said before--I thought now it was going better. Promise I'll never call you P.C. Plod again." The man was practically pleading with him.

"No, no, it's been good," he hastened to assure him. "You've been great to work with. I just--"

Bodie's eyes were clouded with confusion and something like shame before he closed them altogether. "Then what?"

"It's the flirting," Doyle said, awkwardly, and then when Bodie said nothing, added, "You know you're flirting with me, yeah?"

Of course Bodie knew. He had to know. But you couldn't very well say that to a Muggle, given how much they generally hated gay people, without giving the man some way to make a graceful out.

"So it's like that, is it?" Bodie's eyes opened, fixed on him then, and he tilted his chin up defiantly. "I like flirting, Doyle. Flirt with a lot of blokes, for your information, and I do more than flirt if someone's interested."

He couldn't speak. He could barely hear Bodie past the pounding of his own heart. This wasn't at all how the conversation was supposed to go.

"If you're going to work with me," Bodie continued, voice seething with rage, "you'll have to deal with some harmless flirting. But since it obviously threatens your fragile sense of masculinity here, maybe you'd feel better asserting yourself. Go on," he urged, and something about his tone was dark and dangerous. "You probably want to hit me, don't you? Get it all out of your system. Smash my face in. S'what we do to queers, innit?"

Bodie's eyes glittered, and Doyle stared at him in horror and incomprehension. "Christ, no, that's not what I want at all--"

"What?" The word was snapped out so sharply, it was hardly even a question. "What do you want?"

Doyle met Bodie's eyes, took a deep breath, and said what he should have said the first time. "What I meant was... I was hoping for more than just flirting, because I can't deal with this. I want you so much I can't fucking stand it. For your information."

Bodie stared at him. He stared at Bodie. Merlin's name, I really said it floated idiotically through his head, and then, suddenly, they were kissing.

He wasn't sure which of them had started it. Probably both of them. Bodie's arms wrapped around him, clinging to him like he was drowning, like he'd never kissed anyone before and only had one shot. Bodie's mouth locked on his; the sheer intensity was intoxicating.

"You couldn't have said that in the first place?" Bodie whispered, when they finally broke apart for air.

"I tried," Doyle whispered back, and felt himself smiling anyway. "D'you want to come home with me?"

Bodie tilted his head at the building outside the car. "Isn't this it?" he asked, and followed it up with a laugh.

Doyle knew when he was being mocked, but right now he was too high on lust to care. This was already going better than the last bloke he'd slept with. For that matter, better than the last five.

"I meant inside."

"Oh, if you insist," Bodie said, grinning, and they leapt out of the car as quickly as they could.

Bodie, clearly the sort of person to never miss an opportunity, proceeded to fondle Doyle as he tried to open his door with shaking, overexcited fingers. One of Bodie's hands traced a leisurely, possessive path down Doyle's back, settling on his arse. This was going to be good.

"So," Doyle said, finally fumbling the door open, "how far were you going to take the flirting?"

Another laugh as they stepped into the darkened flat. "Far as you like."

"Then I want you to fuck me. Hard," Doyle said, without having to think about it. He'd done a lot of thinking about the matter all week, after all.

"That can be arranged." Bodie kissed him again, quickly, and then began to pull him up the stairs toward his own bedroom, finding his way unerringly in the dimness.

"Don't you need the lights on?"

He couldn't see Bodie's face, but the voice was all smug self-assurance. "Used to live here, remember? I think I can find my own bedroom."

They entered the bedroom, and Doyle retained enough presence of mind to take off his own coat first--with his wand carefully concealed in a long interior pocket--and fling it into the corner of the room, where Bodie wasn't likely to go anytime soon.

He heard a laugh, saw Bodie's teeth flash white in the darkness. "Want some help with the clothes?"

"I'll take all the help I can get," Doyle replied, just to get Bodie to touch him more, and Bodie stepped close, kissing him again while somehow managing to divest him of his shoulder holster and the top half of his shirt in one easy movement. CI5 certainly selected for the talented, he thought dazedly, and he slid his hands over to Bodie's arse, pulling him even closer. Bodie moaned gratifyingly and thrust forward, rubbing himself up against Doyle's hip.

They wobbled there, precariously, for a few seconds; he was ridiculously pleased to hear the catch in Bodie's breath, to feel how Bodie was trying to slide against him harder, knowing that he was doing these things to him.

Then Bodie laughed again and, without warning, flipped him around over his side so that they both landed on the bed, with Bodie on top of him. What followed was a scramble of logistics--him trying to unbutton Bodie's shirt one-handed, running his fingers down smooth skin that even in this darkness he could tell hardly saw the sun, Bodie trying to get him out of his jeans while kissing all the way down his stomach, then teasingly kissing all the way back up. Doyle rocked up against him impatiently, and God, you'd think he was sixteen again, the way he wanted this.

At some indefinable point after their clothes had been shed it became more than just preparation, more than the anticipation of it, and Bodie was sliding against him, warm and slick with sweat, rubbing against him just exactly there, and Bodie was kissing his neck, and he was arching up into it, and he was almost, almost--

Suddenly Bodie's weight went away, and he groaned in frustration.

"Have you got anything slippery?" Bodie's equally breathless voice asked from next to him, and it took Doyle several seconds to collect his thoughts well enough to understand the question.

"Acci--" he started, and just barely managed to stop himself from trying to cast the damned spell. "Actually, yeah," he recovered, hoping it wasn't that noticeable. "Top drawer, bedside table."

The bedsprings creaked as Bodie got up; he heard the sounds of a drawer sliding open, and then Bodie returned with his container of Vaseline, dropping it on the bed next to him.

"Roll over?"

It could have been a command, but there was a slight uncertainty to the tone that Doyle took to be a question. This wasn't exactly risk-free for either of them; CI5 probably didn't encourage it, and, after all, they'd only known each other a week. But it was certainly a better way to get to know someone.

"How very romantic," Doyle noted, but he rolled onto his stomach anyway, and he realised he was smiling into the covers.

"I'm sorry," Bodie replied, his tone full of laughter, "but did you want flowers? Thought you wanted a good hard fucking, but I can pop round to the shops, get some roses, and be back--"

Doyle found himself laughing. He liked this man. "Shut up and come here."

He felt Bodie's hands press against his back, slide down his spine, and come to rest lightly on his arse, hardly doing anything. Impatiently, Doyle shoved his hips upward, and Bodie chuckled from somewhere very nearby.

"Aren't you the eager one?"

"Mmf," was all Doyle could say with his face in the pillow, his groan mostly muffled by fabric.

"What, do you have somewhere else to be later? Hot date?"

Doyle raised his head to answer. "Wasn't planning on--mmm--"

Bodie's hand moved closer, suddenly, to where he wanted it to be, slick fingers dipping inside him, teasing. Helpless, Doyle rocked back and moaned, trying to get the fingers closer, further in, until Bodie pulled them away.

"Slow down." Bodie's other hand curled around his hip. "What's the hurry, eh? I'll give it to you hard as you like, but it'll be better if we do it my way. You'll like it."

"Hey, who's giving the orders here?"

"Me," Bodie said, and his voice was full of an absolute certainty that was incredibly, unbelievably arousing. "And you're going to beg me for it."

Doyle hadn't really thought himself the sort for begging, but he found was willing to swear to anything a few minutes later. Bodie was, as he had said, taking it incredibly slowly, methodically, working one finger into him, and then a second. From what he could see of Bodie in the brief patches of moonlight through the window, Bodie looked oddly hypnotised by the slow movement of his own hand, eyes wide and dark with arousal.

Doyle pushed himself up onto hands and knees. "Now?" He was relaxed enough, surely; his cock throbbed with the thought of it.

Another laugh from Bodie. "Not even close."

"Come on," Doyle complained, only a little acidly. "I can hardly--oh--oh, Christ--"

Suddenly, Bodie slid a third finger into him and pushed hard, deeper, twisting his fingers in a way that sparked pure pleasure down all of his nerves. Doyle grabbed at the covers for purchase as Bodie slid his hand out just far enough, then pushed in again, harder, and faster, with all Bodie's strength behind it. Doyle didn't know if at some point Bodie'd managed another finger, God, he could have fit so much more of him, and somehow that thought, the idea of being so completely filled, only turned him on more.

He was dimly aware of his own ragged breathing, the noises he must be making, but he could only focus on Bodie's fingers fucking him, harder, harder, exactly the right place, just a little harder and he was going to come--

It all went away suddenly, and Bodie's fingers slid very gently out of him. He almost wanted to cry in frustration.

"You're not coming 'till I fuck you," Bodie said in a remarkably calm tone, as if it were an observation of some kind of empirical fact.

"Bodie, please--"

"And now you're ready." Bodie's voice, rough with desire, was still suffused with that same competence and certainty.

Just as quickly as he had done everything else, Bodie was behind him, warm body pressing against him, and oh, finally, Bodie's cock sliding inside him just perfectly. He was still sensitised from before, Doyle noted, dazedly, and it all felt so good.

"You're great," Bodie whispered in his ear. "Feels wonderful." It was good to know he wasn't the only one enjoying this.

Doyle rocked back and was rewarded with a moan from Bodie. "Feels better if you move."

"I did know that, Constable." Now was really, truly not the time for Bodie to make fun of his supposed past, but Doyle found he didn't care.

Bodie grabbed his hips hard enough that Doyle was certain to have bruises later, and he thrust forward, roughly, exactly as he wanted it, again, and again, until Doyle could barely keep himself from falling forward.

"Harder," he whispered, and he thought he heard Bodie laugh.

Bodie slammed into him harder, and faster, then even faster, taking him closer and closer until one last thrust, exactly right, pushed him over the edge, and he gasped and came harder than he'd ever come in his life, while above him Bodie groaned, thrust once, twice more, and it was over.

He couldn't hold himself up anymore, and dropped to the mattress, arms shaking with the effort, as Bodie slid easily out of and off him, moving to lie next to him on the bed. Sleepily, Doyle turned over to see Bodie, skin now flushed, covered in sweat, smiling the smile of a victor.

"I will say," Doyle mumbled, conscious thought rapidly disappearing, "that you're a man of your word."

Another smug smile. "I try."

At that, Doyle started to drift off to sleep, perfectly content, until he was awakened--minutes later? who knew?--by the sound of Bodie moving as if planning to get out of bed.

Even half asleep as he himself was, he could hear the hesitation in Bodie's voice. "Do you want me to leave for the night?"

"Not a chance." He reached out muzzily and grabbed for Bodie's arm. "You're staying here."

"All right." He felt Bodie relax against his shoulder. "Good night, then," Bodie said.

"Night," Doyle repeated, or tried to repeat, as he fell deeply asleep.

###

The blare of the Muggle alarm clock jarred him awake, and for several seconds Doyle didn't quite know where he was. There were Muggle things, he was in a bed, and something heavy was resting on his chest. Where am I? How--?

The pressure lifted as Bodie raised his head and looked at him. His eyes sparkled a vibrant sapphire in the early morning light, and suddenly Doyle remembered everything that had happened the previous night. He'd really--they had finally--

He slid sideways to reach the alarm clock while Bodie pulled all the covers higher around him, almost up to his neck, still staring at him.

"Regretting it already?" Bodie asked, in a tone that was clearly intended to be a joke, but at the same time wasn't the sort of thing you asked unless you secretly meant it. He'd probably been giving Bodie a strange look.

"God, no." Doyle rubbed at his eyes. "You were fucking wonderful." He winced as soon as he said it; unguarded sincerity, so easy to achieve this early in the morning, was probably not his best bet. "It's just been a while since anyone spent the night, and I wasn't expecting to wake up next to... anyone." This sentence was getting more and more awkward. "I'm going to go put the kettle on. Milk and sugar in your tea?"

Bodie's smile returned. "Thanks, and both, yes."

"Great." He grabbed a robe and headed off down the stairs. "Oh, and feel free to have a shower, whatever. You know how everything works."

"Will do."

He could hear the shower starting as he filled the kettle, and he realised he was whistling. He was happy. He hadn't been happy in ages. He'd needed this, and maybe Bodie'd want to do it again, and--

What was he thinking? He couldn't do this again. He should never have done it in the first place. Bodie was a Muggle. Bodie wasn't supposed to know about him. In theory, magic was supposed to be a secret. In reality, most of the Muggles who knew were people who were also romantically involved with wizards, because it was a very hard secret to hide. True, he had an advantage over the opposite-sex couples in that there was never a chance they'd have half-blood children who were going to be levitating the dining table at the age of six, but eventually... Bodie was going to notice.

Bodie was trained to observe things. He'd notice the wand soon enough, even if he didn't know what it meant. He might, even now, be rifling idly through Doyle's things upstairs and find his robes. He might begin to wonder, sometime in their nebulous future together, when Doyle couldn't produce any pictures of himself--still pictures, at least--and he'd want to know why Doyle would have no friends, or family, or past to talk about. His cover was designed to hold up to minimal scrutiny; it wasn't going to hold up to Bodie.

As if on cue, the shower above shut off, and simultaneously something large and heavy thumped against the window. Doyle turned, knowing exactly what it would be--an owl. Not the Longbottoms' owl, he noted with mild surprise. This one was larger and wearing one of the Ministry's purple-coloured leg bands. In its claws it clutched what looked like some kind of an official letter, which it transferred to its beak as it swooped in for a landing on the outside edge of the sill. It was probably Crouch wondering why he hadn't reported in yet. By Merlin, but he did not need to deal with this today.

The owl, standing on the windowsill, smacked its body against the closed window again in annoyance and fluttered its wings.

"Shh," Doyle whispered, ineffectually. "Can't you just leave the letter outside?"

Smack went the owl against the window again. He supposed that was a no.

"Now really isn't a convenient time," he gritted out through clenched teeth, wanting to curse every delivery bird he'd ever seen.

The owl hooted. Loudly.

"Ray," came Bodie's confused voice from upstairs, "what's going on down there?"

"Nothing," he called back, and hissed "go" at the owl, who was clearly not moving.

He heard the rapid thumping of Bodie coming down the stairs and pulled the curtains shut just as Bodie rounded the corner. Outside he thought he heard the sound of disgruntled flapping.

"Thought I heard an owl or something. Hooting," Bodie said, towelling at his hair. He was dressed in his clothes from yesterday--back to being covered neck to wrists to ankles, Doyle noted in disappointment. He hadn't even got to see him last night, not really. "Can't imagine why there'd be one inside. Probably had water in my ears."

"Probably you did," Doyle agreed, and something inside him died a little as he said it. "Help yourself to anything you like; I'm going to have a shower."

Bodie smiled at him in a pure, uncomplicated, almost trusting way, and Doyle felt like the worst criminal ever. He couldn't hide the rest of his life from Bodie. He couldn't. But he had to.

He turned the shower up as hot as it went and spent a long time in the steam leaning his head against the wall. Unfortunately, it didn't give him any new ideas.

###

He showered. He dressed. He grabbed the last piece of toast from Bodie, who seemed determined to eat him out of house and home. Bodie gave him a ride, of course, over to where the op was. And Bodie didn't once talk about it.

Oh, it wasn't that he was silent. Bodie talked about a lot of things--the game he was looking forward to watching tonight, how he hoped there'd finally be something to see at the obbo, what he thought the weather tomorrow was going to be. But none of it was about last night, and Doyle sighed as he climbed the stairs behind Bodie to their usual room, to wait and watch. It had just been for the night, then. Well, it had been a good night, and no one could fault Bodie for not wanting to do it again. It was better this way, he knew. This way Bodie wouldn't even be getting so close to finding out about him.

"They're active today," Bodie noted, peering through the binoculars.

This could almost make him forget his self-imposed misery, and so Doyle scrambled up to take a look. "Where?"

"There's movement," Bodie clarified, indicating fuzzy figures moving, somewhere inside the house across the way, "but they're not leaving the house."

Bodie leaned close to him--probably unintentionally, Doyle reflected--to point out one moving figure.

"I see it," Doyle said, trying not to focus on Bodie's nearness. The sex hadn't made anything easier; in fact, it seemed as though the distraction was twice as bad now. He sighed. Again.

"Well," Bodie said, "why don't you have at the binoculars? Get some more practice watching, what with you being new to the outfit and all." A teasing smile flashed across his face, and Doyle was abruptly conscious of wanting to push Bodie against the wall and kiss him until he looked like that all the time.

"I think I've watched enough already," Doyle complained, but he took the seat. This way at least he wouldn't be looking at Bodie. Again.

He watched in silence for several minutes as whatever activity that seemed to be going on in the house quieted down, and he wrote it all in the logs, ever dutiful, while next to him Bodie snapped some pictures. The only sound in the room was that of the camera clicking. God, it had all been a mistake.

Doyle stared out the window, not really focusing--

--and hands, warm and knowing, slid up his inner thigh.

He yelped, surprise and pleasure mixed, and looked down to see Bodie, sitting on the floor in front of him. Bodie looked up at him and smiled crookedly at him; the grin was dirty and knowing and suggested ten thousand things that Bodie wanted to do to him. Yes.

"Jesus Christ, Bodie," Doyle croaked, when his heart had finally settled down to something approaching its normal rhythm. "And here I've been thinking all morning that you hated the whole thing. You couldn't just tell me about it?"

"Demonstrations are ever so much more interesting," Bodie said archly, still grinning that same lecherous grin. Bodie undid the top button of Doyle's jeans, and a sudden heat washed over him.

He supposed he should be saying something along the lines of we're on duty or isn't this a bad idea right now but what came out of his mouth was a dare if there ever was one: "How do you know I'm interested?"

Bodie palmed his cock through his jeans, pressing heavily, and Doyle could only gasp at the exquisite friction. "You're interested," Bodie said, and the smile on his face now was confident. Arrogant, even.

"Smug bastard, aren't you?" Doyle breathed.

Bodie undid the rest of his buttons, laughing. "You know you like me," he said, with exactly the same confident look on his face, but his voice trembled a little as he said it.

He's giving me a chance to back out, Doyle realised. He's afraid too. I should stop this now, before it becomes any more serious than this. We can't do this.

"I like you," Doyle agreed, surrendering himself entirely to the truth.

He caught a fleeting glimpse of Bodie's eyes, a look of pure relief and joy, before Bodie bent his head and took him in his mouth.

He quickly discovered that Bodie was extraordinarily good at this and didn't seem to care how much he moved or whether he thrust his hips this way or that. Judging by the noises Bodie was making, he seemed to enjoy it even more that way, and God, that was a turn-on. Bodie only wrapped his free arm around his lower back and leaned in, taking him even deeper. Bodie's mouth was warm and wet, his tongue touching all the right places, and he couldn't stop himself from coming, helplessly, as Bodie swallowed.

Bodie sat back on his heels, grinning and wiping his reddened mouth off, looking thoroughly debauched already. And, not that it should be possible, he looked even more smug.

"Not half bad, if I do say so myself," he said, eyeing Doyle's own state of dishabille and incoherence as if it had been some kind of artistic performance. One at which he had, of course, succeeded.

"I suppose," Doyle said, between heaving breaths, "that if I ask you where you learned how to do that, you're going to lie wildly. Tell me it was Africa or the army or public school or something."

A laugh. "Natural talent, sunshine."

"Should have guessed."

"Well." Bodie stood up, brushing off the knees of his trousers. "Suppose I should let us get back to work then." The words were perfectly reasonable, but one look at Bodie showed that he didn't mean any of it. His eyes were dark with arousal, and those trousers didn't leave much to the imagination.

"Oh, no, you don't," said Doyle, and he was up out of the chair, pushing against Bodie, taking them both across the room. They fell onto the small bed in the corner, which creaked alarmingly at their combined weight.

Bodie arched up against him. "This is terribly unprofessional of us, you know."

"I won't put it in the report if you don't."

Doyle reached down to unfasten Bodie's trousers, beginning to lever himself down his partner's body, so he could return the favour.

"Wait," Bodie panted, and a hand grabbed his. Doyle froze, wondering if now Bodie was going to be the one to put an end to it. "Not--not like that. Don't stop," Bodie clarified, hastily, and the sudden tightness in Doyle's throat relaxed. There was a long pause, and then he whispered, "Just come up here and kiss me. Please."

His voice was raw, exposed, like it was breaking him to say it. And with good reason. Kiss me. You didn't usually say that to your meaningless tricks; and if you did, you didn't say it like this. Like the person meant something to you. Bodie was falling for him, probably as much as he was falling for Bodie. This was going to hurt a lot, sometime very soon. But right now, he couldn't bring himself to care.

So he kissed Bodie. Bodie's mouth opened underneath him, welcoming, tasting like--well, a lot like him, if he was being honest--but beyond that, a strange, heady sweetness. He licked along Bodie's lip, and Bodie seemed to like that, clutching at him and producing a noise he could really only call a whimper.

Encouraged, Doyle did it again, working a hand down between them to encircle Bodie's cock as he kissed him. Bodie moaned unintelligible words into his mouth and thrust up, roughly, into his hand. The rhythm, simple enough, came easily to him, and he stroked Bodie in time with the kisses, balanced against Bodie's increasingly desperate thrusts, until Bodie was so close, eyes shut, mouth open slackly, focused entirely on his own pleasure... and the most fucking beautiful thing Doyle had ever seen in his life.

"Come for me," he whispered.

And Bodie did, shaking and moving against him, pushing up into him as though they two were the only people in the universe and if they tried hard enough could become one.

Afterwards they lay curled together on the tiny bed, him half-atop Bodie so they could both fit, and were silent a long while. Bodie ran warm fingers through his hair. It felt so good, and Doyle hated himself for liking it as much as he did. Don't get attached. This can't last.

Into the silence, he whispered it against Bodie's chest, whispered the question he didn't even need to ask, the one he really shouldn't have asked. "Do you think this is a mistake?"

Bodie was quiet for so long that Doyle thought perhaps he hadn't heard, and was about to decide he hadn't when Bodie finally answered him.

"Probably," Bodie said, voice strangely calm, in the same low voice Doyle had used, the sound of it thrumming against Doyle's ear. "I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. Mostly I try to make different ones every time. That way it's a learning experience."

"What about now?"

"I have to say," Bodie said, voice tinged with an odd kind of regret, "I've never made this one before."

"Well." Doyle sighed. "That's got to count for something, hasn't it?"

Bodie reached up and took Doyle's hand, interlacing their fingers together. "Yeah. It does."

###

The next day was when everything went wrong.

It was early afternoon when a call came in over the R/T. It wasn't their op, but they were being asked to intervene--a couple of madmen had sniper rifles, a very tall building, and a list of demands, and the two of them were the closest agents. The Death Eaters could wait, especially since they weren't doing anything exciting.

Almost before Doyle had time to process what they were being asked to do, Bodie was out the door.

"Usual plan of attack," Bodie was telling him, as he slid into the driver's seat, "is for one of us to take the stairs and someone else to come up the lift. Don't know what the roof access is like."

Bodie was perfectly calm. In his element. He'd probably done this a hundred times, Doyle reflected.

"I defer to your wisdom."

A tight grin. "That's what I like to hear."

The next several minutes were a blur of events Doyle couldn't quite reconstruct. The building, ten stories tall, had roof access by stairs only, and he followed Bodie up, with a tiny part of his brain still admiring the easy, fluid grace with which Bodie was moving.

Bodie drew his gun, after a silent count to three they kicked at the door, and then the fight was upon them. Two men, and Bodie, naturally, took the larger one; somehow Doyle had known he would without really knowing how he knew that. The smaller man rushed him, and they grappled in a flurry of blows, neither of them finding any purchase, until the movement of the fight took them to a cleared area on the far side of the roof.

Doyle circled his own man, drawn away from Bodie in the fighting, and there was a sudden gunshot, thunderously loud, from the side of the roof where Bodie was. Doyle's opponent, distracted, glanced that way for just an instant, and that was all it took. Doyle punched him twice, in the face, and he went down.

Perfect. Now to see what Bodie was up to.

Bodie was tangling with his man on the other side of the roof, out of line of sight thanks to an inconveniently-placed bit of brickwork. He heard another gunshot--Bodie, he hoped--and a heavy thud, the sound of a body smashing into concrete.

"Ray--" Bodie's hoarse yell, with its ripple of urgency, sparked something in him, and Doyle leaped over his unconscious quarry to see... nothing. The man Bodie had been chasing was staining the edge of the roof with his blood, but Bodie was... gone. Where was he?

"Bodie!"

"Over here!" Bodie called, and his voice seemed to come from close by, but from somewhere... down? That didn't make any sense. The only thing down from here was... oh God.

Doyle looked over the side and finally saw him. Bodie was hanging off the edge of the roof, just barely, and the ground was ten floors down. Bodie's fingers were clutching the ornamented lip of the roof, a few feet below him, and Doyle could see from here that his knuckles were white with tension.

"Hang on," he called out. "I'll get you. Just don't fall." His chest felt tight, and he knew it wasn't from the punches he'd taken.

"Got him good," Bodie said, squinting at him, with the sun in his eyes, and grinning some kind of mad exhilarated grin, as a rivulet of blood trickled down his face. "He did push me at the end there, so if you could help me out--"

Doyle knelt down immediately, metal latticework pressing uncomfortably on his knees, leaned over the side, and stretched as far as he could. His fingers brushed the tips of Bodie's fingers, and he shifted further forward to extend his reach, until he was fully lying on the metal-and-cement retaining wall, with most of the top half of him hanging off the building.

He stretched out his arms again, pushing muscle and bone and tendon to their limit, until his hands touched warm flesh. Finally. Bodie's eyes met his just as he locked his fingers around Bodie's arm in a firm grip. He felt one of Bodie's hands circle his own arm reciprocally, so that the hold was secure.

"Got you, mate."

And that was when his shoulder slipped and his weight shifted forward. He could almost feel it happen in slow motion, like moving through water, as he slid across the metal. His center of gravity was over the edge now, and he knew what was going to happen. Bodie's eyes went wide as their combined weight pulled the both of them over the edge of the building, and then they were falling together, seconds away from the ground.

Doyle didn't have to think about it. His hand was still on Bodie's wrist, and he shut his eyes. The one spell no one needed to hold a wand for. A spell no one needed words for, but he said them anyway.

"Apparate," he whispered into the wind, and the world moved sideways--

--and they hit the floor of his flat, hard, Bodie underneath him.

They lay there for a few seconds, and Doyle could feel Bodie's chest heaving underneath him as the man struggled to catch his breath. Bodie's face was close, blurry at this distance. Doyle watched as the look in his eyes shaded from what might have been fear--understandable in a man who had probably thought he was about to die--into an even wider-eyed confusion.

Bodie pushed him off, wildly, and sat up, looking around the living room, his face a study in incoherence. "You were--I was--and then...?" Doyle didn't blame him; he'd probably be twice as confused if he were a Muggle. Which he wasn't. And Bodie was. Damn it.

Oh, Cowley was going to be narked about this. Doyle remembered him telling him how Bodie was not to know, but it had been the only decision possible. He'd saved Bodie's life. He'd saved both their lives. And if it was that important for Bodie not to know, well, he could take care of that in a second or two. But maybe he could wait a minute, a soft, insidious voice whispered. You don't want to hide this from him. You know you don't, not really. You want to trust him with anything. Everything. Let him have his questions, and then Obliviate his memory. It would be almost like truly telling him.

He reached for the coat pocket where his wand, thankfully unbroken in the fall, still lay, and waited for the inevitable questions: We were falling, weren't we? Bodie would ask, once he'd recovered enough. How are we in your flat? That's impossible. And Doyle would smile and start to explain magic, and Bodie would be incredulous at first, but slowly, slowly--

But what happened next was like nothing he could have predicted. In the space of one breath, Bodie's face paled to an alarming degree, and then hardened into... anger? Rage?

"Who sent you?" Bodie demanded. His voice rasped accusingly in the silence. "How the fuck did you find me?"

The words didn't make any sense, being as they were the exact opposite of what Doyle had been expecting to hear. "I--what?" he managed.

"It was my family, wasn't it? You can tell them to fuck off." Bodie's nostrils flared. "How many Galleons did they pay you for this?"

Doyle's mind finally caught up with the conversation, and scattered pieces of information began to snap together. Bodie was not surprised by wizardry. Bodie knew what wizardry was. Bodie knew what Galleons were, therefore he had more than a passing knowledge of the wizarding world. Bodie could very well be a wizard. But--but Cowley had told him he was the only wizard in CI5. No, he corrected himself, just the only one Cowley knows about--oh, fuck. His stomach tightened, and the horrible, vertiginous feeling coming on was worse than plummeting off the building had been.

"Take your shirt off," he told Bodie, struggling to keep the terror out of his voice. "Now."

He hadn't seen anything on Bodie's skin the other night, but it had been dim in his bedroom, and after all, he hadn't really been looking for it. Yesterday Bodie hadn't even taken any clothing off. He remembered all the other outfits Bodie had worn, all very high-necked and, most importantly, long-sleeved. The easiest cover identity ever. And he hadn't even suspected. It would be so easy for Bodie to be a Death Eater.

Bodie snorted derision at him. "Can't say I'm in the mood for--"

"Right now," Doyle said, and without even thinking about it, his gun was in his hand, trained on Bodie's head. He flipped the safety off, and he knew Bodie heard it.

He watched as Bodie's eyes flicked back and forth between him and the gun, finally settling on him, and the anger was starting to be tempered with confusion. "Doyle, I don't know what the hell you think you're doing, but--"

"I need to see your arms. Both of them. In the light." His own voice echoed oddly, making his head pound. It was usually only ever the left, but he didn't want to take any chances. Not when he'd been so lax. How could he have been so stupid?

Bodie stared at him for a long, long moment and then slowly slid off his shoulder holster and pulled his shirt over his head. The cream-coloured, blood-spattered fabric gave way to the pale skin of his chest, and then slid down his arms. Both of them perfectly bare. No tattoos, no nothing. No Dark Mark.

Doyle exhaled, switched the safety back on, and dropped his gun on the floor in unadulterated relief. Oh, thank God. He's not a Death Eater. I didn't sleep with a Death Eater. He could still be a conspirator, of course, but he wasn't one of You-Know-Who's elite. A small part of him wondered why the part of it that bothered him so much was the sleeping-with bit.

Bodie balled up the fabric of his shirt in his lap as he talked, fingers clenching it tightly. "Would you mind," Bodie started, in a voice that was far too careful and precise for his words, "telling me exactly what the fuck is going on?"

Doyle was at a loss for words. If he was here working for CI5, surely it was obvious what he was doing?

But Bodie had come up with his own theory. "Told to seduce me, were you?" he asked, and the betrayal in his voice was heartbreaking to hear. Bodie's head dropped; he refused to meet Doyle's eyes. "You thought, oh, you'd get me to trust you, lure me back--"

"You really think the Ministry of Magic sends Aurors to play Mata Hari?" The idea was ridiculous. "If you're not a Death Eater, I don't know why the hell you'd think you'd rate one of us."

Bodie's head snapped up, and the confusion and anger plainly apparent in his eyes was now mixed with a dawning respect. "You're an Auror?"

He couldn't stop himself; he began laughing. Bodie had been insulting his background the whole time, and if he'd only known the truth. "You like that better than the Met, eh? Yeah, I'm an Auror, and I slept with you because I fucking wanted to, so you can forget that idea."

Bodie shifted position, drawing his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them, and regarding Doyle through eyes still narrowed with suspicion. "Then why are you here?"

"Assigned." Doyle shrugged. "You must have heard; some Death Eaters have begun killing Muggles, and they wanted an Auror to keep an eye on You-Know-Who's agents in the Muggle world."

He felt more than a little silly spelling it all out, but then Bodie blinked at him, clearly totally confused. "Who? Death Whats?" Bodie tried again. "And who?"

"You-Know-Who," he repeated, but it didn't help.

"No," Bodie said, beginning to sound frustrated. "I don't know who, so bloody tell me already." The sheer incomprehension in his voice had to be real, Doyle decided. Maybe it could be faked, but... he didn't think Bodie was lying to him.

"Maybe you'd better go first," Doyle said, cautiously. There had to be some reason Bodie didn't know anything about... well, anything.

Bodie continued to glare at him. "Not much to tell, not that I think I owe you any sort of explanation." Something inside Doyle began to shred itself into tiny bits. "I left home when I was fourteen, like I said. But it was Hogwarts I ran away from. I haven't seen any of my fucking sainted pure-blood family since, nor any other wizards, and I'm not planning on it." Bodie's mouth twisted, anger and pain. "Wasn't planning on it," he corrected himself.

That did explain why he knew nothing of You-Know-Who; assuming he was about Doyle's own age, being completely oblivious to the wizarding world for fifteen years would have done the trick. And something about Bodie's story sounded vaguely familiar. Doyle frowned. He thought he remembered that...

"When I was a fifth-year," he said, thoughtfully, "at the beginning of the year, there was a Gryffindor boy, in the year below mine, who disappeared one day. No one ever saw him again, as far as I know. I'd never met him at all, anyway, so it didn't mean much to me at the time. That would be you?"

Bodie nodded quickly, now staring at one fixed point on the floor as though it were the most interesting spot ever. "That's me."

Daring as Godric Gryffindor himself, that was Bodie; he knew that already. "I was a Hufflepuff, myself."

Bodie looked up at him and snorted. "Yeah, a perfect do-gooder. I might have guessed."

"Oh, thanks very much," Doyle said, not really trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. Bloody Gryffindors, always thinking that there were no other decent houses. "One of the Ravenclaws insisted that the Squid had eaten you, you know."

This got a short, sharp laugh from Bodie, but anger was still etched into his face. "Not one of your more clever Ravenclaws, then, as the Squid's a vegetarian."

"I know." Doyle scrubbed at his face, exhaled, and figured he owed Bodie his side of the story. "And just so you're up to date on current events, there's a war on. Has been for about five years. That's why I'm here."

This seemed to intrigue Bodie, who shifted a little closer, with an interested expression, after he finally pulled his shirt back on. "War? With who?"

"We call him You-Know-Who," Doyle said, swallowing hard. "They say if you say his name, he'll hear it. He'll find you."

Bodie laughed again. "Those are things they tell children to scare them, and you know it. Magic can't do that." He was so confident; Doyle remembered when he, too, used to be that sure that no one could do that, that nothing could harm anyone like that, that no spells could be that powerful, that no one could kill so many or cause such pain.

"You wouldn't say that--" his throat was suddenly dry--"if you saw what he was capable of." And his flat was warded, of course it was, he'd done it himself, but he still felt that twinge of fear as he said it. "Voldemort."

"Funny name," was all Bodie had to say.

"And it's not just him." If he kept talking, maybe Bodie would see how important this was. "He has followers. Death Eaters, they call themselves. And they're most likely the people we're observing. Symbol is a snake and skull. Maybe you've seen it somewhere recently? Next to a couple of Muggles clearly under the Imperius Curse?" He couldn't resist adding that bit of information; then Bodie would see that his presence here was reasonable, after all.

Bodie's eyes went just a little wider, then narrowed. He remembered that wall, Doyle knew. "Anything else you're not telling me?" Bodie bit out the question like it was a kind of curse, as bad as the Unforgivable ones. "Or should I just assume it's all been a fucking lie from the beginning?"

"I--it--" The words wouldn't come out. "It hasn't. I haven't lied; I wasn't to tell anyone--" Merlin's name, Bodie. The words he couldn't say pounded insistently against his skull. I wanted to tell you. I didn't want to hurt you. I didn't want it to be like this.

"I reckon you're meant to Obliviate anyone who guesses," Bodie said, perfectly correctly. It wasn't really a question, and Doyle, numb, said nothing, so he pressed on, ruthless. "Wiped the Cow's memory yet, have you?"

"Who d'you think wanted a bloody Auror in the first place?" Doyle finally managed to retort, and this quieted Bodie for a little bit. "I'm here because the war has spilled over into the Muggle world. The Death Eaters are, as you may be able to figure out, now attacking Muggles," he repeated, "and your Mr Cowley decided that CI5 needed an wizard to help respond to any threats. He got me."

"And a fine lot of good you've done, one dead already--"

"There's too many of them," Doyle said, bleakly. "And only one of me. We can't just take the Death Eaters head-on; no one would survive the firefight. We're waiting for them to make a move more openly, and believe me, it's not my first choice. By the by," he added, "they also like to tattoo themselves with their symbol. On the forearm."

Bodie blinked and was clearly reevaluating Doyle's earlier actions in light of this. "Oh."

"But now that you've been informed of the situation," Doyle continued, "I think this changes the odds significantly. With a bit of a refresher in Defence Against the Dark Arts, I'm sure you could--"

"No."

The word was so quiet, he almost didn't hear it. "What?"

"I said, no," Bodie repeated, and his voice was so terribly cold. "I don't care about your odds, and I especially don't care about your war. I am not doing magic ever again. For any reason. I broke my wand when I left. It's over, and I want nothing to do with it." His voice may have been cold, but his eyes, locked with Doyle's, were fire. "Is that clear enough for you?"

Bodie's vehemence was unexpected, and he had to ask. "Why?"

Bodie was still staring at him, motionless. "You're a Muggle-born. You wouldn't understand. And don't bother asking how I know--" he raised a hand--"it's completely fucking obvious. And it's different for you."

"How?"

"You lot," Bodie shrugged, dismissing Doyle and every other Muggle-born with a wave of his hand, "have never seen anything else like the wizarding world, and you think it must be better. I didn't want any of it. And it might have seemed exciting to you, but there's nothing to fucking do, is there? My family would have happily married me off to some equally pure-blooded girl of their choosing as soon as I left Hogwarts, and then I'd be expected to spend the rest of my life, I don't know, breeding crups while raising five perfectly pure-blooded children. And all the wizardry--those spells are parlour tricks. No one does anything interesting."

"You thought mercenary work would be more interesting?"

"Well, yeah." Bodie rose to his feet, unsteadily. "I was right."

"It's not parlour tricks now," Doyle said, and somehow he was on his feet next to Bodie. "Not for the Aurors. Not for me. People are dying--"

"People are always dying--"

"You could make a difference."

Bodie took a ragged breath and didn't meet his eyes. "I threw my wand in pieces over the side of a freighter when I was fifteen. Somewhere off the coast of Senegal. I am not coming back."

"You're lying," Doyle said, suddenly possessed of a perfect certainty. "You may have done, but you got it back somehow. And you still look at it, don't you, and think about what could have been, and you wish you had the chance. It isn't too late--"

Bodie stepped in close, suddenly, and pulled his head up to stare at Doyle, chest heaving. For a few seconds Doyle was positive that Bodie was going to hit him, but he only stood there.

"Fuck you," Bodie spat out. "Don't you tell me what I think. Don't you fucking dare."

Mute, Doyle raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, stepping back, as Bodie grabbed his gun and seemed to be heading for the door.

"Where are you going?"

"Off to do my bloody job," he snapped, from the doorway, "because someone's going to wonder soon why we disappeared from the top of that building."

Oh. Of course. "Do you want... do you want me to head there, or back to the stakeout?" They had a job to do. He had to remember that.

"Do what you like," Bodie said, not even looking at him, and Doyle felt his heart crumple and begin to tear.

"Bodie--"

"I don't trust people. I fucking trusted you," he added, hoarsely, barely above a whisper.

The door slammed shut behind him as he left.

###

He didn't see Bodie at the stakeout at all, and by the next morning, Doyle, curled up cold and alone in his bed, had resigned himself to the idea that he probably wouldn't be seeing Bodie again. It was strange how much that thought bothered him, and he shoved his face into the pillow and called himself seven kinds of fool for caring so much. There was, as he had told Bodie himself, a war on, and it was damned irresponsible of him to let his personal life get in the way.

Over breakfast, another Ministry owl arrived, and Doyle let this one in much less reluctantly than the one from a few days ago. Why not? Nothing to hide now. The huge owl perched on the back of a chair, sedately, while Doyle extracted the message from its claws--a sternly-worded request from Crouch himself, telling him to report in at half past ten to summarise CI5's operation so far. Perfectly reasonable request; he was, after all, supposed to be here as liaison.

He had called into CI5 to explain his brief absence, leaving Cowley the codes he had requested they use in situations like this, and was just about to write the reply to the Ministry when someone knocked on his door.

Practically tripping over the furniture in his rush to get to the door, he opened it and found Bodie on his doorstep. Bodie's hands were shoved into his pockets, and he had an entirely unreadable expression was on his face, but Doyle's heart leapt as he saw him.

"Hello," Bodie began.

"Hello yourself." Best if they were both noncommittal.

"Came to give you a ride," Bodie started, and the overture of friendship was, at least, a good sign. "If you want one, that is."

"I would." Doyle let the barest hint of a smile slip, when inside he was exulting. "But I can't right now. I've a meeting."

"Then I'll drop you back at HQ," Bodie offered, instantly. "I thought--I have a few things to say on the way."

"It's not at HQ," Doyle pointed out. "And I don't think you want to accompany me to the Ministry of Magic."

Bodie stepped back at once, as if shocked, all the happiness in his eyes gone, just by Doyle's mention of it. "Suppose I can expect them showing up at my door after you mention your new working arrangements, then. And you're right; I'd rather not. Sorry for inconveniencing you this morning."

He was gone, back down the street, almost before Doyle could say anything, before it had even occurred to him that Christ, Bodie, it's not all about you was something he ought to consider saying.

He broke three quills composing his reply to the Ministry.

###

Doyle took the underground lift down to the second floor of the Ministry, as usual. Even though it had promised to be a bright, clear day outside, the windows inside the Department of Magical Law Enforcement showed grey, rainy skies. Crouch was probably in a bad mood, and he liked everyone to be just as grumpy when he was. Yet another thing Doyle wished he didn't have to deal with; today was already shaping up to be bad enough.

He headed through the roomful of mostly-empty cubicles--his fellow Aurors must all be on assignment as well--and turned through the maze of corridors, ducking some of the usual interdepartmental paper-aeroplane memos, until he found Bartemius Crouch's office.

"Ah, Doyle." Crouch looked up from his paperwork, pushing the quills and parchments aside. "You're early, but I suppose we may as well start now. Tea?"

"No, thank you, sir."

"Well, then," Crouch said, gesturing to the empty chair. "Sit down, and tell me about CI5's progress."

So Doyle did. Not that there was a great amount of progress to report, but he thought he'd hit all the major points, when--

"May I have the files?" Crouch interrupted.

"Pardon, sir?"

"The files," Crouch repeated, voice rising in impatience. "The ones providing the details of exactly who you are, as you put it, 'staking out'. I need names for your fellow Aurors to investigate."

Doyle tried frantically to remember. "I--Dolohov is definitely one of them, sir, but I can't recall--"

"You were specifically asked to provide information as part of your duties as liaison, Mr Doyle."

He'd had the files. They'd been on his table, and then Bodie had knocked, and he'd... entirely forgotten. God, what an idiot.

"It won't happen again, sir."

"See that it doesn't." Crouch harrumphed, and the magical windows punctuated this with a bolt of lightning. "If you're finding it difficult to do this job, I can have you reassigned to regular duty."

Crouch held his gaze, and Doyle knew this was the moment. He could say, no, he couldn't take it, and they'd pull him off in an instant. Probably send Dawlish into CI5 in his place. The man wasn't Muggle-born, but he could fake it passably well; he was also, unfortunately, damned unlucky as an Auror--and really, when it came down to it, he wouldn't want the man watching anyone's back alone. If Cowley paired him with Bodie, he'd probably get both of them killed in under a week.

He couldn't do that. Bodie might hate him for the rest of his life if he stayed, but it was better than the alternative.

"That won't be necessary, sir."

"Good." Crouch relaxed a little, sitting back. "I understand you're working undercover with Muggles; is that at all difficult?"

Now would be the time to say something. Doyle swallowed. "No, sir. I'm getting along well." With the Muggles.

Crouch concluded the meeting with a few desultory remarks, Doyle promised fervently to bring the files next time, and he was left on his own to head back. He stopped at his own cubicle in the Aurors' Offices, and stared at it like it belonged to someone else. There wasn't much left to identify it as his--a few pictures, the ticket stub from a Chudley Cannons match last month. A pile of Archives requisition forms he hadn't bothered to clean up was still sitting there, in the middle of his otherwise-cleared desk, taunting him. Tantalising him.

He could, with a few words, get all of the Daily Prophet's archives searched around the dates Bodie had disappeared. Assuming the names were the same, he could try to pull records on Bodie's family--surely one of them (he was betting on Bodie) must have a less-than-clean youthful past--and get the addresses. They must miss him.

He remembered the look in Bodie's eyes.

He took the lift out, without touching anything.

###

When he finally arrived at the stakeout, Bodie didn't talk to him. Bodie was sitting at the window, still as a statue, giving the impression of being fixed single-mindedly on his work.

Somehow Doyle suspected that was untrue.

"I'm back," he announced, unnecessarily.

Nothing.

"Thank you for covering for me."

Still nothing.

He sat, as quietly as possible, on the bed.

"I didn't tell anyone anything, Bodie. Just so you know."

Bodie still didn't turn to look at him, but his voice croaked hoarsely from the window. "Do you want a fucking medal?"

Fuck it. He couldn't take this conversation anymore. Doyle flopped back onto the bed and somehow, despite the thoughts racing through his brain, managed to fall asleep.

After the long stretches of nothing, when it happened, it was almost too quick to notice. Doyle was lying, drowsy, on the bed, half-dreaming, when he was shaken awake, violently, by Bodie's hand on his shoulder. He awakened to darkness. He must have slept longer than he had planned.

"Up," Bodie hissed, in a tone that Doyle at first took for anger about the whole wizardry thing and at him in general, but that he quickly realised must be more than that. "They're on the move, all of them--"

Doyle rolled to his feet to look out the window and saw, to his horror, every one of their suspects now leaving the house in ragged formation, including several people near the end of the group who didn't seem to match any description and were so boring that his eyes wanted to pass right over them--damn. They had to be using one of the appearance charms. This was bad.

But it got worse, when the man at the lead--Antonin Dolohov, to judge by his resemblance to the pictures--looked up at them, right up at the window, and gestured.

"They've seen us," Doyle said, and tilted his head at Bodie. "Call in, now--"

"And how do you think the A Squad is going to fare against wizards, Doyle?" Bodie asked, his mouth twisting, but he was pulling out his R/T.

"Ask for the Aurors, then," Doyle snapped back. "Come on, we haven't got much time before they ward up." It was what he would have done, anyway; electricity wards were both simple to set and an effective paralysis against their communication. They were a drain to maintain and a dead giveaway that there were wizards about, though, which were probably the only reasons the Death Eaters hadn't deployed any until now. Small mercies.

Bodie, thankfully, clicked the R/T on. "3.7 to Alpha One, suspects are on the move, and we've been made. We need backup. Repeat, we need backup." Bodie moved closer to the window, into the moonlight, and Doyle saw his eyes widen with something that looked like fear. "Fucking hell, they've got giants! We need the Aurors now!"

"Alpha One to 3.7," came Cowley's voice over the R/T, after a pause that lasted far too long. "Please confirm--"

The R/T hissed, crackled, and went completely dead, just as all the streetlights outside went out. The wards must have gone up. It was a good thing the moon was almost full tonight. Doyle could only hope that the message had gone through and that Cowley wouldn't spend too much time wondering how Bodie knew about Aurors.

Bodie stepped back from the window and Doyle took another look. The nondescript people in the group were growing taller and taller as the charms were shed, at least ten feet tall now and still growing. Giant height. Damn.

"We can't wait for backup," Doyle said. Their eyes met, and Bodie nodded. Doyle reached for his wand and waited for Bodie to do the same. He must have brought his. Surely he'd see that now was a time for magic, no matter what he'd said before.

But Bodie was already pulling out a gun and grimly checking the clip.

Doyle gaped. "You're going to go after giants with guns?"

"Gunpowder isn't electrical," Bodie said, sounding supremely unconcerned and pulling out a second handgun from God-knows-where as he headed for the stairs. "It'll work. Don't worry about me, mate; I can handle myself."

There was nothing he could say to that, so he turned and followed Bodie down into the oncoming firefight. He'd just have to hope this didn't get them both killed.

In the dark it was hard to see, but that didn't stop Bodie from bravely taking a few shots at a giant, who seemed to regard handgun bullets like an annoying insect to be swatted. With the giants standing twenty feet tall, of course that would be the case. They needed a different tactic. But Bodie was right; the bullets did work.

"Try the humans instead," Doyle called out, as he managed to catch a giant with a Shrinking Charm. There, that was even better than bullets. But the Aurors--CI5--anyone had better get here soon. They couldn't do this for long.

Bodie headed a bit farther down the road and took aim. Three shots later, the group of Death Eaters scattered. Trying to get away, are they? Doyle thought, then headed off down the pavement after the only one of the Death Eaters who'd chosen to go it alone--a slim woman, black hair tangling as she ran.

She was running quickly, but Doyle was faster, and just as he'd almost caught up with her, she turned a corner, into a dead-end alleyway. Perfect.

He skidded to a halt, chest heaving, and raised his wand hand. "Stop."

The woman turned around, pointing her own wand straight at his chest, and Doyle could see that she was... laughing? Her face was twisted with something almost like glee. "I suppose you think you've got me, Auror," she said, voice surprisingly calm. Her mad, dark eyes were set deep in a pale face. She looked to be Doyle's age, maybe a few years younger. They could even have gone to school together.

"If you know I'm an Auror, then you have the advantage of me." She hadn't been on the list of suspected Death Eaters that Doyle could remember; almost all of them were men. He attempted a smile. "I'm Ray Doyle. And you are...?" Stall for time, stall for time, get her to drop her guard...

But the woman's wand remained unwavering as she sketched a mockery of a curtsey. "Bellatrix. Faithful servant of the Dark Lord."

Doyle snorted. "What, did a Latin primer hit you on the head as a child?"

Bellatrix's lip curled into a sneer. "That would be Bellatrix Lestrange to you, Mudblood."

No one had been able to prove that the Lestrange family was connected to You-Know-Who, Doyle thought frantically. He could now. If he survived this. He remembered, suddenly, the Slytherin girl who had called him a Mudblood, then added fifteen years to the face. Some people never changed.

"The other Aurors are coming," Doyle said, hoping like hell it wasn't a lie. "Whatever you're planning, you won't get away with it."

"Oh, I think I shall," Bellatrix said, and that was when the giant grabbed him from behind.

The giant's hands fit round Doyle easily, as though he were but a small toy, lifting him a few feet in the air. He struggled forward, but he was held fast, immobilised by just one of those huge fists. He couldn't even turn to see his attacker. He sagged, unresisting, as the giant carefully plucked his wand from his hand, holding it carefully between a huge thumb and forefinger. Doyle couldn't see quite what happened after that, but he heard what he thought must have been the dull thudding noise of his wand being thrown to the ground. This is not good.

"Do you want me to kill him?" came a deep, thrumming voice from behind and above him. The giant's voice. The giant's free hand pinned him on both sides of his head and began to exert a heavy pressure on his temples. "Could crush his skull in, all easy-like, as you please--"

Through his hazy, pain-fogged vision, Doyle could just barely see Bellatrix shaking her head. "Thank you, but no." A sneer again, this time more thoughtfully. "That would be too quick for the likes of him. Drop him, and I'll take care of it."

The giant's hands obediently released him, and Doyle fell, staggering forward on landing. Where was his wand? He only had a few seconds before--

He wasn't fast enough. Bellatrix pointed at him and snarled. "Crucio!"

After that, there was only pain. He crumpled to the ground as a thousand knives stabbed him, every nerve ending aflame. As he stumbled, falling towards the brick wall on one side of the alley, he was dimly aware of Bellatrix's voice saying something mocking, and then the heavy pounding of receding giant footsteps. They were leaving him here, alone, with the Cruciatus Curse on him.

The tide of pain receded for a brief instant as he lost his balance entirely and fell, slamming his head into the pavement, as the real sensory input fought with the induced. He had another half-second of respite, and then the curse came back and swallowed him entire.

From somewhere far away, someone was screaming, and a small part of his mind knew it was him. The worst part of it, he thought, frantically, in another one of those horrible, drawn-out moments when the pain lessened almost enough for him to think, was that it wasn't going to kill him--it couldn't, in fact. But there wasn't likely to be much of his mind left afterwards. He'd seen it happen to better men.

Then the curse flared again, and Doyle hung suspended in it, trying to keep breathing when every breath drove shards of ice into his lungs, trying to focus on that when every inch of his skin was on fire, scorching, flaying him alive--

Someone yelled something, and this time it wasn't him; the voice seemed to come from somewhere out in the street. More footsteps. The Death Eaters, back to kill him. He hoped to God they'd be quick about it.

"Finite incantantem," a voice called, from behind him, and suddenly the pain ceased, a blessed relief, but with it came new, real pain--every muscle he'd been tensing spasmed anew, and he hissed in surprise, trying to breathe through it. It was probably another one of the Death Eaters behind him, come to finish the job with Avada Kedavra. Doyle thought about turning to at least see the means of his death approaching, but his muscles, still locked, refused to obey him.

He managed one breath. Two. He opened his mouth, and the horrific rasping noise that came out wasn't his voice, but it would have to do.

"If you're going to kill me, you bastard," he forced out, "then do it already."

He waited another breath, and then another. No bolt of sickly green. Well, he couldn't expect that they would be merciful--

"I wasn't planning on it, sunshine," a familar voice drawled lazily at him, and God, he must have already gone mad from the pain, because that sounded like--

"Bodie?"

Doyle struggled to a sitting position, and against the darkness of the alley, he could see the now-familiar shape of his partner, holding a gun in his left hand, dangling laxly at his side. In his right hand was an unfamiliar wand, pointed straight at him with complete confidence. Bodie's own wand, possibly, or one he'd taken off a Death Eater.

A thousand thoughts went through Doyle's head, but only one of them made it to his mouth. "You said you were never going to use magic again."

Bodie shrugged. "I changed my mind." Doyle could see the outline of Bodie duck his head, look to the side as if embarrassed. His next statement was much quieter. "Some things are more important."

Doyle felt his lips part in a grin, and suddenly the pain didn't bother him at all. His chest lightened with joy.

"So," he started, "want to help a bloke find his wand around here?" He was pleased to see that he could lift a hand, only a little shakily, and point to the rest of the alley.

"I've heard that one before," Bodie said, laughing at the old, old chat-up line, but he called out "Lumos!" and lit up the area. After a bit of hunting around in one of the corners, he returned with an undamaged wand.

"Ta very much."

"I know you've just been Cruciated," Bodie began, and the look in his eyes was a combination of tender and oddly protective that a week ago Doyle would have sworn the man didn't know how to feel, "but the cavalry have shown up, and if you can move, they could use some help holding the line."

Doyle nodded. "I'm all right."

Bodie slid his gun back in his holster and held out the hand that didn't have a wand in it. Doyle grabbed it gratefully, pulling himself to his feet.

Bodie gave him a brief smile, the kind that held thousands of promises in it, then held up his lit wand. "No sense giving our position away. Nox."

The alley was plunged into darkness, and they turned together and ran into the street.

Hexes and countercurses were flying back and forth across the street--Death Eaters on one side, Aurors on the other. Doyle followed Bodie as closely as he could, stopping only when Bodie flung himself down behind a car for cover. Next to them were two robed wizards, and as the brilliant light of a Tarantallegra hit the wall behind him he could make out their faces--

"Frank! Alice!"

Frank looked over at him and grinned. "Ray!"

"How are things?" Alice pushed her hair back with her free hand, then rose up briefly to aim at someone on the opposite side of the street. "Expelliarmus!" She dropped down and frowned.

"Got her?" Frank asked, glancing over, and Alice shook her head.

"Damn."

"I'm well, thank you," Doyle said. "But I don't think now is the time for a conversation. What can I do for you?"

Alice dropped down from a second ineffective curse and took a long look at them in the dark, squinting thoughtfully. "I've got some tactical ideas for you, Ray, but I don't know about your CI5 Muggle friend--"

Bodie's voice came from behind him, low and startling. He'd almost forgotten Bodie was there. "I'm not a Muggle. Wizard. Am CI5, though." He said the short, easy sentences so casually, without the slightest hint that he could have been the same man who had sworn the other day that he was never, ever going back to that world.

"He's on our side," Doyle added, hurriedly.

Frank gave him one of those looks that meant he would definitely have to tell him all about this later. "Right." He gestured with his wand hand to the top of another, slightly taller, building, a few blocks down and just around the corner. "We put anti-Apparition wards up, but we think they've got broomsticks up there, and that's where they're trying to get to, but we're having trouble holding them back. And if they get there--"

He didn't need to finish the sentence. Then the Death Eaters would all get away, and this would all be for nothing.

As if on cue, one figure, and then another, flew up from the rooftop, silhouetted briefly against the moon.

Alice pointed. "They're getting away! Merlin's beard!" She then added a few comments on Merlin's ancestry and probable sexual habits that Doyle was fairly certain no one had ever taught him in those History of Magic courses.

"There are about ten here on the street," Frank said. "And as you can see, we've just barely got them here. CI5 are due any minute, I'm told, but I don't think they'll be much use without any magic."

Bodie was quietly moving forward as Frank talked, until he reached the end of the car they were all hiding behind. "I can take them. But we've got to let them closer."

Doyle blinked. "Let them get closer to their escape route?" It didn't make any sense.

His partner nodded. "I've a plan, but I have to get closer too. Ray, you'll need to come with me, to cover me."

He tried not to dwell on how Bodie was again calling him by his first name--the sudden shock of happiness did not mix well with the adrenaline rush. "All right."

A wide grin spread across Frank's face as he turned to Bodie. "If you can do this, mate, I'll be naming my firstborn after you."

There came a laugh from Bodie. "You wouldn't do that if you knew my given name."

Making a note to wheedle his way into seeing Bodie's file if they all survived this, Doyle nudged him. "He doesn't mean it, Bodie. They're probably going to name their firstborn something stodgy like Neville. Even if it's a girl."

"Right," Frank said, mouth twisting, as he was obviously trying not to laugh. "Go to it, and good luck."

And at that Bodie took off at a dead run, and Doyle followed him, pausing to aim a wild Petrificus Totalus or two at the Death Eaters. Come on, come on, he thought. Pay attention to me, over here. By the sound of the groans he thought he might have got one. There were no hexes from the Aurors. The Death Eaters, probably unable to believe their luck--or, more likely, confident that they must have eliminated most of the opposition--ran on.

He ducked a Stupefy and rolled, finally coming to the corner where Bodie was, across the street from the house that Frank pointed out. On the opposite side of the street, the Death Eaters were half a block away and gaining rapidly.

Bodie grinned at him as he fell into place behind yet another concealing car, next to him. "Glad you could make it."

"So," Doyle panted, "what's the plan?" The Death Eaters were closer and closer to an escape. Whatever Bodie was going to do, it had better be quick.

Bodie almost smirked at him. "Fire. Always a good plan."

Doyle stood up for as briefly as he could, took another look at the location. Regular house made of brick, cars in front made of steel. The petrol inside them would be hard to light from here, at this distance. Surely Bodie knew that things that were difficult to light manually were just as difficult to light with magic? Maybe he didn't remember. Maybe he never learned the hotter-burning spells. He was half-trained at most, after all.

"Incendio doesn't have flames hot enough for that." And anyway, the fire spells were easily countered. Bodie had to know that, if he remembered nothing else.

Bodie grinned at him as though he himself were the most brilliant person in the world. "Wasn't thinking of Incendio."

The first few of the Death Eaters had reached the house. What the hell was Bodie playing at? "Bodie, for Christ's sake--"

"They'll have a hell of a time extinguishing thermite," Bodie said and finally aimed his wand in the direction of the building, like he'd been waiting for that precise moment. "Accio grenade pins." And he smiled and held out his hand as several very small objects shot through the air toward them.

Doyle breathed out in pure amazement. "You're a genius."

"Thank you." Bodie was still smiling. "You'll want to duck and run, as we've about ten seconds. Nine, eight--"

He could do better than that. "Impervius," he whispered, grabbing Bodie and pulling him close. Bodie grinned at him again, and Doyle leaned in, impulsively, and kissed him just as the shield charm went up. Outside it, the fire blossomed all around them as Bodie kissed him back.

###

After that, everything was strangely normal; strange precisely because it was so normal. The usual team from the hit wizards came over and started to put the fires out and repair everything that had been broken while the rest of the Aurors rounded up the remaining Death Eaters--not including Dolohov and Lestrange, Doyle noted sadly. The mediwizards were there too, of course, probing at him, and it was all a familiar blur of faces and wands and waiting for the shaking, draining feeling of coming down from the adrenaline rush. It hadn't happened yet, and he was still tense, expecting something else to happen.

In other words, it was more or less like every mission ever. Except, of course, for the presence of Bodie, next to him, and so he was reminded of who he was meant to be now, where he was. Bodie stared back, white-faced, at the mediwizards examining him, almost as if he expected them to recognise him as one of them. But they were, in fact, treating him as though he were one of the Muggle bystanders--a cursory examination, with none of the usual explanation of what they were doing, the easier for them to Obliviate later.

One of the mediwizards eyed Doyle, asking for permission. "If you want, sir, we can give this bloke a Sleeping Draught now, Obliviate him in a minute--"

Bodie said nothing, but his eyes were wide and white in a kind of muted panic.

"No, no," Doyle cut in. "That won't be necessary, thank you."

Shrugging, the mediwizards moved on to tend to Dawlish, and it was then that CI5 turned up and Bodie visibly relaxed, sagging against him in relief and almost causing Doyle to fall over. All the doors of the nearest car opened, and three agents poured out, followed by Cowley.

So much for keeping it secret, Doyle thought, ruefully, as Jax, McCabe, and Fischer stared at the scene in amazement, as across the street two Aurors were working on the twisted remnants of a car with good old Reparo spells.

Cowley looked disapprovingly at his gawping agents, then over at the pair of them. "Gentlemen."

"Sir," Doyle said, politely, and out of the corner of his eye he could see Bodie attempting a jaunty salute.

"It seems the operation has concluded," Cowley said, after a few moments of regarding the scene.

Bodie nodded. "Looks that way, sir. They're taking the. Er." He stopped, apparently unsure of the name.

"Death Eaters," Doyle supplied.

"Right. Them. The Aurors are handling it."

"Hmm." Another pause from Cowley. "I want to see the two of you tomorrow, eight o'clock, for a debriefing. Agent Doyle, I'd appreciate if you didn't discuss your... talents... with any other agents. The secrecy of wizardry has been compromised enough."

The other agents, of course, hadn't even heard. They were still staring around as though they'd walked into a fantasy world, like a first-year Muggle-born on his first visit to Diagon Alley. Doyle winced. "Understood. Will it be Auror briefings or Obliviation all round, sir?"

"I haven't decided yet." Cowley practically snapped at him. "Go on, get out of here."

So Doyle turned and went, and Bodie, quickly enough, followed him.

They were a few paces down the street when Cowley called out at them again. "And lads? That was good work."

When they were finally out of earshot, Doyle let out a long-held breath. "Is he usually like this?"

Bodie likewise exhaled, and the sound turned into a laugh. "Worse. Going to transfer back to the Aurors?"

It could have been a joke, but something in Bodie's voice said it wasn't, and Doyle stopped dead on the pavement and turned to look at him. "Nah," he said, deliberately casual. "I've begun to like it here."

The smile Bodie gave him was unfeigned happiness. "Oh? Is it the food, the guns, or the women?"

He let his gaze rove over Bodie, purposeful, speculative. "Think it's the men, actually."

Bodie stepped close. "Even better." He breathed the reply into Doyle's ear, all shivery hot breath. "You should meet my partner, then. He's very attractive, I'll have you know."

"Oh?" He pretended surprise. "What a coincidence; mine is as well. I quite fancy him."

"He's not here now, is he?" Bodie asked, grinning like a madman and just barely managing not laughing uproariously, by the look on his face. "I could, you know, take a look at him for you. We could compare notes. I always like the pretty ones, myself."

"I expect he'll be around shortly," Doyle managed, swaying and bumping into Bodie, who moved up against him, warm and solid, in a motion that was entirely too smooth to be an accident. "I'll let you know."

Bodie put a hand on the back of his neck, already an intimate gesture; it slid, promisingly, down to the small of his back. "In the meantime, Ray--" and Merlin, what he wouldn't give for Bodie to keep saying his name exactly like that--"would you like to come back to my place for the evening? I could... keep you company until he shows up."

"I thought you'd never ask," Doyle said and kissed him.

###

He could tell, waking up the next morning, that it wasn't going to be the same as the last time he'd spent the night with Bodie. To start with, Bodie was already awake, propping himself up on one elbow and smiling at Doyle like he was the best thing he'd ever seen. There was something to be said for transitioning to full alertness with your partner running warm, smooth hands along you. Doyle smiled back and luxuriated. He could get used to this.

They were nearly late to the meeting with Cowley; Bodie was distracted enough to burn three slices of toast while Doyle watched him and thought about kissing the back of his neck. He suspected that the look might have contributed to the distraction, which was how Bodie additionally managed to spill the tea. Neither of them cared. Afterwards, Bodie, clearly trusting, threw him the car keys, and they proceeded to HQ at a velocity that Doyle thought would have made Cowley proud--he was getting the measure of the man now--if only they had been speeding in pursuit of criminals.

They made their reports to Cowley, describing in detail the attack by the Death Eaters. Bodie, Doyle noted, omitted the part involving his use of magic at all, and Doyle struggled a little to keep up with the speed of his invention; apparently he'd been the one pulling the trick with the grenades. Nonetheless, Cowley pronounced himself satisfied with the report.

"You can go," Cowley said, then frowned as Doyle began to stand up as well. "No, just you, Bodie. I'd like to have a word here with Doyle about his conformance to his original orders."

Cowley's face was stern, unyielding, and Doyle knew that this had to be about how he'd disobeyed Cowley's orders in the first place by letting Bodie know about wizardry. He could just imagine the lecture now, how they didn't stand for that sort of thing at CI5.

"Before I go, sir," Bodie said, and a bright smile began to play across his lips, as though something was funny, and then he met Doyle's eyes as if he expected Doyle to share the joke. Something odd was going on here. "I was wondering if I could ask you a question."

Doyle watched as Cowley blinked a few times--clearly they were both trying to figure out what Bodie was up to--and then acquiesced. "Go ahead."

"I was just wondering what house you were," Bodie said, quite cheerfully, as if the question were completely expected. "At Hogwarts, I mean."

A long silence from Cowley, as he was undoubtedly considering which Aurors he could pay to have them give Bodie a very extensive memory charm. "He's told you that much about the wizarding world? Doyle has?" This earned Doyle a glare. Where was Bodie going with this?

"You see, sir," Bodie continued, as though he were entirely oblivious to the controller's tone of voice as well as his question, "Doyle and I had a bet, and he reckoned that you were a Ravenclaw, seeing as how they're the wise ones, and that's a good quality if you're running CI5. Sir." Doyle had said no such thing; they'd never even talked about the idea that the Cow might be a wizard. Doyle had in fact taken him for a very well-informed Muggle.

Cowley shook his head. "Agent 3.7--"

"But as for me, sir," Bodie added, talking over him, "I had the notion you were a Gryffindor." A long pause. "Like me."

The room was absolutely silent, then, and Cowley stared at Bodie for, Doyle thought, an excruciatingly long time. Bodie looked back, evenly, and then, as if it were some contest he'd lost, Cowley dropped his head and looked away.

"Agent Doyle?"

Doyle cleared his throat. "Sir?"

"Never mind that matter I wanted to see you about. Bodie?"

"Hmm?" This, naturally, from Bodie.

"You'll be needing to update your personnel file at your earliest convenience. I am given to understand that it is less informative than it could be."

"Understood, sir."

"Get out of here, you two." Cowley made a shooing motion. "Three days' leave for both of you."

Bodie stood up, so Doyle did as well, and from the delighted look on Bodie's face Doyle surmised that this was a reward rarely granted. Or maybe Bodie was just happy.

They were at the door when Cowley coughed discreetly. "And Bodie?"

They stopped, and Bodie turned back. "Yes?"

"It was Slytherin."

"Ah," Bodie replied. "Sorry, sir. Suppose I should have guessed."

He grinned at Doyle, who felt himself full to brimming with delight, and together they left the office, with the sounds of Cowley muttering, "Och, call me a Ravenclaw," to himself behind them.

###

"This is a mistake," Bodie stated, eyeing the Leaky Cauldron sign with barely-concealed fear, to a degree which people did not usually apply to pub signage, and edging back ever so slightly, as though he wanted to run as far away from it as possible. He probably did.

"Is it one you've made before?" Doyle asked.

"No." Bodie's laugh was quick, biting, and terrified. "And I was hoping you wouldn't remember my philosophy about that."

"Oh, come on, it's only a drink. And it's not as though you haven't already met Frank and Alice."

Bodie snorted and pulled at his ill-fitting borrowed robes. They were too tight across the shoulders, but they were the best Doyle had other than the ones he was wearing right now.

"I don't know how you talked me into this."

"You like me," Doyle said, putting on a smile that was, he hoped, sweet enough to convince Bodie.

Bodie only snorted again, more loudly.

Through the pub's unevenly-glazed windows, a few Hogwarts students, determined to enjoy their summer holidays even in the midst of the war, clutched mugs of butterbeer and laughed. They were fourth- or maybe fifth-years, Doyle thought. So young. About as old as Bodie would have been when he'd left.

He nudged Bodie, pointing out the gaggle of students more or less with his hip. "Takes you back, doesn't it?"

"Mmm-hmm." The reply was even. Not enthusiastic, but not terrified either. Maybe Bodie was loosening up a little about this.

"Anyone remind you of you? How about that kid?" He nodded in the direction of one of the kids, a dark-haired boy with a rakish-daredevil, life-of-the-party sort of look, all too familiar on his partner, and Bodie unexpectedly shuddered.

"Him? Mate, look at his face, he's got Black written all over him. They're all a little bit--" Bodie held out a hand, tilted it back and forth, and then finally spoiled the gesture by concluding aloud--"mental."

"Ah."

Doyle squinted and was forced to admit the Black resemblance, owing to his recent encounter with Bellatrix. Within the pub, young master Black wrapped an arm around the slighter boy next to him--brown-haired and, oddly, his face marred by a few nasty scratches--and smiled at him. Doyle remembered that smile. Young love, indeed.

"Reckon I know which one you were like," Bodie continued, nodding toward the furthest window, where another student of the same age sat alone, curled over a scroll of parchment, his long stringy hair falling in his face. "Swot."

"Hey!" Doyle protested, as Bodie started to laugh. "You're just jealous, and I'll have you know I was a Chaser for Hufflepuff. It wasn't all books."

"Yeah, you keep telling yourself that."

"I will," Doyle said, "and come on. I'm buying."

Bodie flashed him one last nervous smile and slipped his hand into his. The feeling was better than magic.