“Muggles have these things called video games,” Harry says to his mind healer. “You can pretend to be someone else. You and your friends can all play together; someone could be the adrenaline junkie who goes out and lets all the monsters attack him, takes all the damage, and his friend, or sometimes just a random person he meets in the game, will be his healer. It’s not like a St Mungo’s healer. The junkie doesn’t go to the healer. The healer comes with. Even though it’s dangerous. He’s part of the team. That’s Malfoy. He’s my healer.”
His mind healer looks at him for several moments, processing the Muggle terminology, and staring blankly at him while she does. Finally, Luna blinks. She notes down several things on her pad and then smiles at him. “Draco likes danger as much as you do,” she says. “He just doesn’t want you to die from it.”
“I don’t want to die from it,” Harry insists. He pauses to chew on his lip. “It’s just that I think I might if he really does leave. He heals me even when I’m still fighting so I don’t have to stop. If he leaves, I’ll lose all my life before the end of the fight.”
“Is it fair of you to ask Draco to stay in Britain when public opinion is holding back his career and making him unhappy?”
Harry scowls, looking down and away at the cruelty-free mousetrap set beneath the window. “I don’t want him to be unhappy.”
“But you’ll be unhappy,” Luna says.
“It’s okay if you are, Harry.”
“I know it’s okay,” he snaps.
She shifts in her chair, pulling both her feet up beneath her bum. She regards him. “Draco has family in Beirut,” she says.
“Oddly,” Harry says. “Completely unexpected.”
“And he has a property there.”
“Less odd,” Harry decides. “Malfoys probably have properties everywhere.”
“Yes,” says Luna. Then, “The magical community is very vibrant.”
Harry eyes her. “Is there even a community there? Where is Lebanon, in fact?”
“Don’t be xenophobic, Harry,” Luna says. “Be xenophilic.”
That’s a Lovegood motto, one of many. It’s where her dad’s name came from and her Great Uncle Xenophilius’ as well. Her great aunt’s name—Xenophilia—also from that motto. Harry’s heard this a number of times since Luna became his mind healer. He huffs. “I just don’t understand how he’s going to, you know, survive there. He doesn’t speak Arabic.”
“Draco speaks French,” says Luna. “We used to talk to each other in French when I was staying in his cellar. Voldemort didn’t speak French, so it was safer.”
“He’s not, in fact, accepting an Auror position in France, though,” says Harry. “Nor in Quebec. Do they speak French anywhere else?”
“Lots of places,” says Luna. “Haiti, Monaco, several countries in Africa. Lebanon.”
Harry sighs, crossing his arms over his chest and staring at the polite mouse trap again. “But why would anyone want to leave Britain?”
Luna looks very close to rolling her eyes. “Why wouldn’t you want to leave Britain, Harry?”
He does roll his eyes. “I grew up here. All my friends are here. My job’s here. They speak English here. Well, mostly. I’m not so sure about Liverpool.”
“And now look at it from Draco’s perspective,” says Luna. “His father’s dead, his mother moved to Italy, he’s all alone in that big, dusty manor that, I’m sure, holds more bad memories for him than it does for me, and even though he graduated in the same Auror class as you and Ron and Susan, he’s still a Junior Auror while the rest of you have been promoted. He’s a highly specialised Auror with a track record equal to your own. He’s earned the chance for a good career.”
Harry turns his wand over in his hand. That’s all true. And the worst part of it all is that they’ve worked together since they were nineteen years old and just starting Auror Academy, and Harry would trust Malfoy over anyone else in the world to have his back.
And yet, he’s never said a word about Malfoy getting skipped over. He’s always hated the thought that they might promote Malfoy because Harry Potter asked for it. He’s never considered that they might not’ve promoted him because Draco Malfoy asked for it.
He looks up at Luna. “But,” he says, hesitating, “he’s my partner.”
Has been since Day One...since before that, really. Harry’s never had a partner that wasn’t Malfoy. He’s never even considered what it would be like to have a different partner, but now that he’s forced to, he hates it. He hates it.
Her face softens, looking somehow both more and less aware. “I know, Harry,” she says. “But things change. And not all of it’s bad.”
“This is,” Harry insists, staring down at his lap.
If there’s one thing he’s certain about, it’s that he cannot survive without Malfoy with him. He doesn’t even know how he made it through the first six years of Hogwarts without accidentally killing himself. Malfoy’s been a staple in his life since eighth year Potions class and that day Harry would’ve blown his head off without Malfoy’s quick interception of a fatally incorrect ingredient.
Maybe he’s just got lazy having Malfoy around.
But Harry doesn’t think so, not really. What he thinks is that Malfoy’s his good luck charm. And his healer. And, sometimes, when no one else is paying too close attention, his friend, too.
“I don’t want him to go,” Harry says. “I need him.”
Luna considers him for a long time, and when she finally speaks, her voice is as lucid as he’s ever heard it. “Then maybe you should think about what your priorities are. England...or Draco?”
“What do you mean by that?” Harry asks, sitting up straight. He drops his wand to his lap, forgotten.
“Exactly what I said, Harry,” says Luna. “If Draco means so much to you, then maybe you should consider putting in for a transfer as well.”
Harry blinks at her, stunned. “To Beirut?”
“If you’d rather go to New Orleans, it’s entirely up to you,” says Luna, shrugging. “Only, I thought you wanted to remain Draco’s partner.”
Harry continues to blink at her. When her wand chirrups and she informs him that their hour is up, he stands, allows himself to be led to the Floo, and returns to his flat. There, he blinks at the wall for a number of minutes, until the Floo flares green again and Harry turns to find Ron’s head in the flames. Does he want to come over to theirs for dinner, Ron asks, and Harry nods, still focusing somewhere in the middle distance, both visually and mentally. Why has it never occurred to him that he could go, too?
And then: why would he want to? It’s fucking Beirut. Harry’s only even heard of it because of Malfoy’s sudden fifth-life crisis. Where the fuck is Lebanon anyway? He really should pull up a map when he goes into work tomorrow.
“There’s two bottles of Ogden’s in the bottom there,” says Ron. “The ones transfigured into pears. The plums are your fave, though.”
Malfoy is suddenly a lot more interested in the fruit basket. “Seriously? Stupefy Dunkel? You have to special order that from Berlin.” He grins at Ron, fluttering his eyelashes. “Weasley, you sappy fuck.”
Ron shrugs. “I’m really just hoping you get arrested at Customs, but if you can get them through, you deserve it.”
Susan elbows her partner in the ribs and then steps forward to hand Malfoy a card. He opens it, frowning at whatever’s written inside. “It’s the counter to the jinx Ron put on the basket,” she says. “It came from his brother’s shop.”
“Bones!” Ron says, aghast.
She gives him a haughty look and then smiles at Malfoy. “I’ll miss you, Malfoy. You’re an annoying, conceited dick, but you’re nice to look at. Much better than my partner, anyway.”
“I’m good looking!” Ron insists.
The other few Aurors who deigned to attend Malfoy’s going-away party step forward and offer him handshakes or cards or the occasional trinket. Ron’s gift is definitely the most thoughtful, and Harry suddenly feels like a complete pillock because he hasn’t got Malfoy anything at all. He stands in the corner of the break room, a piece of chocolate cake sitting untouched by his elbow, and he scowls. Sometime later, Malfoy comes up to him, bumping his shoulder into Harry’s in that casual way he’s done for five sodding years now.
“Couldn’t bother to make me a fruitcake, Potter?” Malfoy asks, smirking.
Harry scowls some more. The truth is that he’s been so busy trying to think of subtle ways to keep Malfoy here that he completely forgot that he was, in fact, leaving tomorrow morning. Like a bad memory, he’s blocked it out.
“It’s at my flat,” he improvises, and then wonders what the hell he was thinking.
Malfoy steps closer, that stupid blond eyebrow raised in that stupid blond way Malfoy has of doing it. “It?” he says.
Harry swallows, feeling hunted. “Erm, yes. It.”
“Not really a fruitcake, I hope. You know I hate fruit.”
Harry can’t help smiling. Ron is amazing. For a moment, Malfoy had really thought he’d got him a huge basket of fruit.
“Stop smirking, Potter,” says Malfoy. “You’ll wrinkle asymmetrically.”
“You do it,” Harry can’t help pointing out.
Malfoy shrugs. “Yes, but it’ll look dashing on me. It’ll just make you look like you fell asleep on a cotton pillowcase.”
Harry huffs. “Fine, no smirking. So, do you want to go get dinner or something before you leave?” He doesn’t know why, but it feels important that they eat together one last time. There’s something about eating with someone that makes Harry feel connected to them, and he’s felt connected to Malfoy for ages. He needs this one last moment of connection to get him through the rest of his sodding life without his partner.
“What about my gift?” says Malfoy.
“So fucking enterprising,” Harry mutters. “Fine, fine, you can have your gift after we have dinner.”
Malfoy beams at him. “Lovely. After work then?”
Harry nods, but Malfoy’s already moving away to talk to Kingsley—and when had the Minister shown up without Harry noticing? Already, his survival skills are slipping and Malfoy’s not even gone yet. Harry remains in his corner, scowling, and trying to think of something he can give Malfoy so that it won’t be so obvious that he had, in fact, not planned on getting him anything.
“Fucking obviously, Hermione,” Harry says, exasperated. “The problem is that I’m not thoughtful and I probably won’t be useful after Malfoy’s gone so that really doesn’t help me at all.”
“Harry, honestly,” Hermione says, sounding just as exasperated as him. “Get him something he can use in Beirut. What sort of thing will he be used to having that might not be easily found there?”
“I don’t fucking know,” Harry says. “I don’t even know where Beirut fucking is.”
She blinks at him. “It’s in Lebanon.”
“Again,” Harry begins, “No idea—”
The door to the office he shares (shared) with Malfoy opens and Malfoy walks in, reading a case file and levitating the rest of the chocolate cake behind him. Harry plasters a pleasant look to his face and notices Hermione doing the same.
“Of course they’d give you a really excellent case the moment I—oh, hello Hermione,” says Malfoy looking up.
“Draco,” she greets. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a small, beautifully wrapped box. “Best wishes,” she says, handing it to him. Harry stares at her, aghast. Even Hermione’s got the stupid wanker a going-away present.
“Thank you, Hermione,” says Malfoy.
It’s like he’s trying to say her name as much as he possibly can, which Harry hates because Malfoy won’t even call him anything but Potter but he and Hermione have been on first names since eighth year. Harry is certain something momentous happened in Advanced Ancient Runes but neither of them have ever told him what, despite considerable needling.
“I’ll just be going then,” says Hermione. Harry gives her a pleading look behind Malfoy’s back and she purses her lips but replies with a tiny nod. He exhales in relief. The door shuts behind her, leaving just him and Malfoy alone in their (formerly) shared office. Malfoy’s already packed up his desk and it looks so empty over there. It’s like half of Harry’s life is now sitting in two cardboard parchment boxes.
Malfoy hands him the case file. “Double murder,” he says. “Looks like goblins might’ve been involved. Of course.”
“Of course,” Harry echoes, taking the file. Goblin crimes are always great fun for them. Lots of danger. Lots of hexes. Harry usually comes close to death at least once during cases with goblins.
“Don’t get killed,” says Malfoy.
Harry tosses the case file on his desk and wishes he could flop down with it. Easier said than done. “I’ll try,” he says.
Malfoy comes around and perches on the edge of his empty former desk. He crosses his arms and watches Harry trying not to have a nervous breakdown. “Heard you’re getting partnered with Demelza Robins next,” he says. “It’s adorable how Gryffindors always manage to end up together. Are you magnetic?”
“Only to bad luck,” Harry says. “Thanks for reminding me what her first name is, though. I think I might’ve called her Dementora at the briefing meeting.”
Malfoy looks like he’s trying very hard not to laugh. “Only you, Potter.” He shakes his head. “Anyone else would’ve been hexed for being such an oblivious prick.”
“I don’t forget names on purpose,” Harry insists.
Malfoy shrugs. They stare at each other for a moment past comfortable. Harry busies himself with some paperwork he’s been putting off since Christmas. Finally, it’s close enough to six that they can walk out without looking too conspicuous—not that it matters much for Malfoy since he’s never fucking coming back, the stupid selfish fuck.
They walk down to their usual pub by unspoken agreement. Typically, they just sit at the bar and order drinks while Malfoy bitches about how boring Muggle football is and why do Muggles fall for the salty snack trick? while Harry makes sure their Muffliato stays up throughout their intoxication.
But this time they get a table and a couple of menus and Malfoy hangs his transfigured coat over the back of a chair instead of over the top of a barstool. It all feels very weird. Harry opens his menu, decides on fish and chips, and continues to look at his menu instead of having to look at Malfoy. He’s twenty-six-years-old for Merlin’s sake. Malfoy’s been his something since they were both eighteen, and they have never, not once, ever been weird together. They went from mutual loathing to mutual wariness to mutual long-suffering acceptance and it was all very tidy.
“Is Beirut all desert and stuff?” Harry asks, to drive away the weird.
Malfoy lowers his menu. “It’s on the Mediterranean, Potter.”
Harry knows that Greece and Italy and, like, olives, are down there, but other than that, it’s all a blank. “Oh, erm, really?” he says. “Above or below the equator?”
“It’s next to Israel.”
“I thought Israel was landlocked.”
Malfoy stares at him, looking vaguely horrified. “You’re going to die, aren’t you?” he says, seemingly to himself. “I know we always joked about it, but you’re really going to honest-to-Merlin get yourself killed without me around, aren’t you?”
Harry chews on his lip. He isn’t sure what Malfoy wants him to say so he goes with honesty. “Probably.”
Malfoy stands up abruptly. His chair scratches loudly against the floor in his haste. “I’ll go put our orders in. Fish and chips?”
He doesn’t wait for Harry to reply, which annoys Harry, but then again, Harry always orders fish and chips everywhere he goes. Including that one time when he’d been forced to attend a posh Ministry banquet and refused to eat the snails and whatever other shit they’d provided, instead loudly insisting on fish and chips. Harry does not regret this moment as he was drunk and who would want to eat snails anyway?
When Malfoy returns, he looks much more composed. Harry wishes he could say he felt the same. Harry has no idea what’s wrong with him, but there’s this strange, suffocating piece of panic lodged somewhere in his chest and it chokes him whenever he thinks about the fact that Malfoy’s got a Portkey set for 6.55 tomorrow morning.
Malfoy starts looking at him funny, but Harry’s vision has suddenly tunnelled and all he can see is Malfoy’s eyes and all he can remember is last week when he woke up from a little bit of blood loss and Malfoy had been staring down at him just the same way he was right now, only Harry’d been on his back in a deserted cottage (except for the Death Eaters who’d previously been using it as a hide-out) at the time, and—
“Potter,” says Malfoy.
“Yeah?” says Harry, swallowing carefully. He feels raw and delicate and he really thinks that if a rogue Death Eater doesn’t take him out, his own brain might.
“You need to keep seeing Lovegood when I’m gone,” Malfoy says. “Just because I’m not around to fly you mad doesn’t mean you’re going to suddenly be sane.”
“I’m not sane,” Harry says.
“That’s the point,” Malfoy says slowly. “Don’t get yourself killed.”
The barman brings over their food, saving Harry from coming up with a reply. Somehow they manage to make it through dinner and two beers each, though Harry is seriously wondering what in Merlin’s saggy bollocks he was thinking inviting Malfoy to dinner. It’s not like they’ve never eaten dinner together before, not even like they haven’t spent weeks on end together undercover in a tiny hut, not even like they weren’t once trapped in a room that threatened to broil them alive, not even like they weren’t once magically bound to each other and had to reveal their deepest secrets to unlock the curse, not even like Harry didn’t once have to give Malfoy mouth-to-mouth after he nearly drowned in the Thames…but Malfoy won’t let him talk about that one.
It’s just that—Malfoy is Harry’s partner.
Harry’s a good Auror. He wasn’t promoted for nothing. But he works better when Malfoy’s with him. He works freer—because he knows someone’s watching out for him.
They split the tab because it would be weird if Harry offered to pay, and then they step outside. There’s an alleyway two streets down that they like to Disapparate from. It’s a quiet walk and it remains quiet when they reach the alley; Malfoy wraps his hand around Harry’s forearm, and Harry Side-Alongs them to his flat.
There is a small package on his coffee table next to his Playstation controller. It’s in shoddily-wrapped red paper and there’s a tag on it that says, in a fair imitation of Harry’s hand, To: Sodding Malfoy.
Harry has to admit that he’s impressed. He doesn’t know if it’s flattering or embarrassing that Hermione’s so capable of pretending to be Harry.
Malfoy picks it up, laughing at the tag, and unwraps it without any of his normal fanfare. Harry’s just as intrigued at what’s inside as Malfoy is, though he pretends like he’s not. After five years an Auror and another three in the Academy, he knows how to do subtly now. Malfoy pulls out a pair of wayfarer sunglasses with a note from Harry’s Ministry-issued stationery spellotaped to one of the lenses. Malfoy reads it aloud:
“Dear Malfoy, I heard Beirut was hot and sort of desert-y so I got you these sunglasses. The witch at the shop assures me they’re the style that pricks wear so I know you’ll like them. I added some magic-revealing spells to the lenses so you can still do your job even if you’re blinded by pristine white sand. Potter.”
Harry begins to reevaluate his estimation of Hermione. She’s definitely dangerous. And he knows he locked his office when they left this afternoon. How’d she get his Ministry-issued stationery? He begins to wonder about that time that a story showed up in the Prophet claiming he and Ron had been spotted getting lap dances in a Muggle gentleman’s club in Soho.
Malfoy turns to him, wearing the sunglasses, and Harry’s stomach drops.
“You misspelled ‘they’re’,” says Malfoy.
“I did not!” Harry says, striding forward. “Let me see.”
Malfoy hands him the note. It does indeed say, ‘...assures me their the style...’. Harry scowls and tosses the note onto the floor. Fucking Hermione. Was it really necessary to take it that far? He only mixes up those words when he’s in a hurry. He knows the difference.
“Must’ve been in a hurry,” says Malfoy, still in the sunglasses. He bends to pick up the note and stuffs it in his pocket. “Forget I was leaving?”
“I couldn’t if I bloody tried,” Harry mutters.
Malfoy raises an eyebrow; it peeks over the top of one of the lenses and looks mysterious and unusually attractive. “What’s wrong with you?”
Malfoy takes the sunglasses off, to both Harry’s relief and distress, and gives him a pointed look. “What’s wrong?” he says again.
“I just don’t want to be partners with Dementora.”
“Demelza,” says Malfoy.
“I don’t fucking care what her name is,” Harry says. “I don’t want to be her partner.”
“So ask Dawlish for another.”
“I don’t want another, either.”
“I don’t want to quit!” Harry bursts out.
Malfoy stares at him evenly. “Then what do you want?”
“You, idiot!” Harry says. “You’re my sodding partner!”
Malfoy’s mouth presses very tightly closed. “I’m on a Portkey tomorrow morning, Potter. I’m not your partner anymore.”
Harry throws himself down on the couch. This is not going at all like he intended for it to go, although now that he gives it some thought, he doesn’t know exactly what he intended. He just knows it wasn’t this. “You’re my healer,” Harry says quietly.
Malfoy doesn’t say anything for a long time, and when Harry looks up at him again, he looks furious. “Am I?” he says tightly. “And who’s my healer then? Who has my back?”
He flings the sunglasses at Harry. They hit the couch next to Harry’s head with a hard thump. Malfoy turns and grabs the Floo powder jar, and even from this distance Harry can see that his hands are shaking.
“Wait!” says Harry.
“Fuck you,” says Malfoy. He calls out the name of his flat, steps into the Floo, and disappears.
Sometime after what might’ve been lunch, he manages to move to the couch, but doesn’t want to push his luck in case his stomach revolts. He plays a half-arsed game of Call of Duty, but his heart’s not into it and he gives it up to stare at his ceiling. His stomach still feels weird, but only, strangely, when he’s thinking about the Partner-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
Ron and Hermione come over with Chicken Kashmiri and extra onion naan at six that evening. Hermione doesn’t mention the sunglasses on the coffee table or the red wrapping paper on the floor, although Harry can see her taking it in and cataloguing the information.
“You really sick?” asks Ron, after, incidentally, biting into a piece of naan.
“Think so,” Harry says. “Stomach feels weird.”
Hermione’s eyes narrow, but she doesn’t say anything. Harry stares at the bowl of food she’s put in front of him and wonders if they have Chicken Kashmiri in Beirut.
“You once came into work with a broken femur,” Ron points out.
“It was an important case.”
“It took St Mungo’s five minutes to set it,” Ron says. “You could’ve popped over and then come into work.”
Harry shrugs. Whatever point Ron is trying to make here—well, Harry gets it. He does. He knows that he’s known for never taking time off. He’s heard the jokes. He just likes his job. Or did, rather. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Ron shrugs and takes another bite of his food. Hermione’s eyeing his Tomb Raider game box and he knows she’ll be playing it before the night’s over. Honestly, why she doesn’t just get her own…
“So, Malfoy wasn’t arrested at Customs,” Ron says. “Or if he was, they chose not to extradite him. We didn’t get any calls from the Lebanese Ministry complaining about annoying blond ferrets, so I guess he hasn’t pissed anyone off yet.”
Harry attempts to think of something he would’ve normally said in this situation if he didn’t have a stomach virus. “Give it time,” he decides on. “Malfoy has yet to let us down with being a dick.”
“That’s true,” Ron says philosophically.
“It’s his grandmother who’s in Beirut,” Hermione says then. “His mother’s mum. Druella. She was a Rosier.”
Harry cringes. He’s heard all about Evan Rosier during Auror training. Some of the things he was charged with during the first war make Bellatrix look kind and motherly. Bellatrix, who would’ve been Druella’s daughter. “Lovely family,” he says.
“He told me yesterday, at his going-away party.”
Harry doesn’t know why this information is supposed to be meaningful to him. He blinks at his food and just sighs when Hermione picks up the Playstation controller and starts up Tomb Raider.
“Where’d you get that mug?” he bites out.
She smirks. “Draco gave it to me before he left. He said it was a consolation for agreeing to partner with you.” She sips again. The mug shows his own face, and his own face winks saucily at him.
“Get rid of it,” he says.
She rolls her eyes. “No, Harry.” He opens his mouth to start up an angry rant, but she stands, setting the mug on the desk and sashaying around the desk in the manner of a woman who doesn’t have to affect any sashaying, it just happens by way of her curvy figure.
“Get rid of it,” he says again as she stops in front of him.
Demelza points her wand over her shoulder, aiming at the mug. Harry hears the telltale squelch of a sticking charm as the mug attaches to her desk. “Nope,” she says, smiling.
Harry scowls, brushes past her to go to his desk, where he finds the folder Malfoy’d brought him on Friday afternoon. He wants to swipe it off the desk in a flurry of melodrama, but when he tries, he finds that it’s also been stuck to the wood. Demelza smiles at him again.
“Draco warned me that you can be bitchy,” she says.
“I am not bitchy!” he says. “Fuck Draco. Fuck—”
“God, so bitchy,” Demelza says.
“Fuck off, Dementora.”
She laughs, which ruins the little bit of enjoyment he’d got from sort of forgetting her name. She perches on the edge of his desk and cancels the sticking charm on the folder. “I already contacted Gringotts. They’re denying everything, so we know for sure it’s a goblin murder.”
Harry grunts. She can’t even be a bad partner, can she? Just give him something, for fuck’s sake. He can easily still be a dick if she’s a good partner, but he much prefers to have a nominal excuse.
“Have you got any healing training?” he asks her.
“No,” she says. “I specialized in explosive spells and disposal.”
Harry purses his lips. Fuck. “So did I.” Fucking Gryffindors.
Because Demelza doesn’t know any fucking healing spells.
He’s so annoyed by this that when she falls through a mineshaft sort of thing in a renegade goblin hide-out they’re scouting, he takes her to St Mungo’s instead of calling for a healing Auror to help them. Anytime they end up in St Mungo’s, there’s paperwork, and Harry gets some small degree of satisfaction from the scowl she sends him as he levitates a pile of Accident and Injury Report (AIR) forms onto her lap as she reclines in her hospital bed.
“You’re such a drama queen,” she says, snatching the ever-inked quill from his hand.
He sits down on the visitor chair next to her bed and props his feet up on top of her sheets. “I can’t fix a broken leg,” he says mildly.
“I’ll remember that next time you’re standing at the top of a staircase,” Demelza mutters. She begins filling out the accident report paperwork, and she’s about five pages in when she turns to him and says, “Why are you such a dick, by the way? You weren’t nearly this bad at Hogwarts.”
He shrugs. “Dunno,” he says. “Thought it’d be a nice change of pace.”
“You weren’t a dick to Draco,” she says. “You were nice to him.”
Harry laughs. “If by nice you mean I only punch him at the holidays now instead of every week.”
“You pulled those punches, I saw you,” she says, turning back to her paperwork, a furrow appearing between her brows as she reads, to herself, “Describe the angle of descent involved in the fall. You may use pictures… what the fuck.” Harry leans over to see her drawing an arrow pointing straight down before moving on to the next question.
“I got tired of having to ask him to heal my knuckles after I broke them on his pointy fucking face. He got so smug.”
Demelza snorts. “Riiight, Harry.”
The healers release her two hours later, when they’re sure her concussion’s gone down enough that she’ll probably, most likely, be okay if she falls asleep. They don’t even bother trying to keep Aurors overnight anymore. It’s always a lost cause. Harry tells her goodnight, that he’s going to get dinner now that his partner duty is over for the day, but she comes with him, and it’s not really as bad as it could be.
Maybe if Demelza had been his partner the whole time, if he’d never had Draco, he’d be perfectly happy blowing things up with her.
But he did have Draco once, and he knows what’s missing—knows who’s missing.
‘Potter,’ comes a very familiar voice, and Harry immediately sits up straighter. ‘I just called to see if you were still alive.’ There’s a pause, during which Harry hears a sound that could either be Draco swallowing heavily or the fire crackling.
‘Since you aren’t answering, I’m assuming you’re at St Mungo’s. Or dead. Hopefully not dead. If you’re at St Mungo’s, I hope you’re pissed off from all the paperwork and that it reminds you to be more careful next time. Or careful at all. Even a little bit careful would be a marked improvement for you, really. Did you blow your hand off with an explosion enchantment again? You stupid fuck. The potions will lose their effectiveness if you keep having to regrow the same hand. Don’t get killed on the goblin case, for Merlin’s sake, Potter.’
There’s another long, heavy pause, and a warning beep from the fireplace alerting Draco that his recording time is nearly up. He sighs and says, ‘Beirut’s really lovely, Potter. You would like it. I wish you—’
It cuts off, and the fire dims to a resentful-looking smoulder. Harry stares at the fireplace, trying to finish that sentence. I wish you were here, he thinks (hopes). Or maybe, more likely, I wish you were dead. I wish you would learn a fucking healing spell. I wish you would send me those sunglasses I threw at you in my haste to get out of your flat.
I wish what? Harry thinks desperately.
He thinks about it all night, unable to concentrate on anything else. He’s got a list of possibilities two feet long by the time he falls into bed. He dreams about it, and when he wakes up the next morning, he’s still thinking about it, adding conclusions to the ‘I wish you’ list in his head as he Floos into work, as he reviews the case with Demelza, as they take a tea break and he suddenly thinks of a new lead, as they set off to a house in Dundee to investigate.
As the first Reducto flies at his head, he realizes what made him make the connection. It was three months ago, when they were on a different goblin case and Draco’d said: ‘I wish you and Weasley would apologise to the fucking goblins. They lead us into traps all the time.’ So many times Draco’s wished Harry would something.
Demelza roars in anger, flipping a table onto its side to give them cover as she fires spell after spell. It sounds like a fucking game of Call of Duty. Draco used to play Call of Duty with him—though not particularly well. Harry grins, rolls out of the way as another severing spell flies at his hand (he really doesn’t want to have to get it reattached again—Draco is right, the nerves are never as good the second (or fourth) time around). He hears Demelza calling for backup into her Patronus, but it’s soon drowned out by the heavy roar of battle around them.
They’re surrounded, he knows, but he isn’t bothered because he and Draco have been surrounded like this a million times. If he jumps out and takes a blasting curse to the chest, Draco will be right there, reversing the damage even as it starts to take effect, and Harry will keep going, manically pleased with battle and fighting and life in general as he takes out two dozen wizards with just his wand and that strange headspace he gets in situations like this. He’s in that headspace now, flinging curses like a man possessed (been there, done that, but it happens every now and again).
So that’s why he thinks it’s a perfectly reasonable idea to jump from behind the table, flinging curses in every direction, watching wizards and goblins alike fall on impact, and only putting up a cursory Protego when he sees the slicing spell coming at him.
And that’s why it takes him a few confused seconds, after he feels the cut lancing from his temple to his throat, to stop fighting and fall down. He’s jerked behind the table again, Demelza looking down at him with huge, black eyes.
“Fuck, Harry, do you have a death wish?” she says, pressing her hands to his throat. She’s looking around wildly, curses flying over their heads. A blasting curse hits the table guarding them and she flinches as the impact reverberates like thunder against the Protego infused into it.
He opens his mouth to say no, of course he fucking doesn’t, but his voice won’t come for some reason. His brows furrow in confusion. He feels dizzy and lightheaded and he suspects he may’ve made a grave mistake just now.
There’s a dozen pops as backup arrives. Demelza starts screaming for a healing Auror and Harry’s vision starts tunnelling. Is his neck bleeding? So weird. Draco never lets him bleed this long.
Reynolds falls to his knees in front of Harry and immediately starts casting shaky skin-knitting spells over him. Great, Harry thinks drowsily. He’s going to have a scar because this idiot can’t work under pressure.
I wish you were here, Draco, Harry thinks. You wouldn’t have even let me fall.
And then everything goes—
“What a week for us, huh, Harry?” she says taking up a position in the visitor chair, legs propped up on his hospital bed. She laces her fingers behind her head and regards him with a tired smile. “First you temporarily lost those fingers, then I fell into a god-forsaken goblin hole and now you’ve jumped directly into a slicing spell like a complete fucking moron. Good job, partner.”
Fuck you, Harry mouths at her.
His vocal cords still haven’t healed properly, probably thanks to Reynolds’ terrified casting and the scarring it left behind. He makes little breathy, squeaking sounds sometimes but even that hurts, so he just uses his ample free time to work on improving exaggerated looks of exasperation, indignation, irascibility, scorn, annoyance, and contempt. Demelza gets the annoyance and scorn. The contempt he saves for Reynolds, because he’s got another scar on his fucking face now, drawing a line down from his left temple, over his jaw, across his throat like it’s been slit (which it has).
Draco wouldn’t have let the slicing spell get that far into his skin.
Harry completes the AIR (a total of sixty-two fucking pages) and sets it on the table beside his bed for Demelza to turn in to Dawlish. She seems to have been napping during the two hours it took him, but when the pages flop onto the table, her eyes crack open and stare at him darkly.
“What the fuck was that, Harry?” Demelza asks, all the dark humour now missing from her voice. She leans forward, bracing her elbows on her knees and looking up at him through heavy lashes. “You could’ve been killed.”
He scowls. “You’re not,” he tries to say, but it comes out too weak and breathy to be understood. He takes a deep breath and tries again, pushing as much air into each syllable as he can, stressing all the consonants he’s always been too lazy to bother with, in an effort to speak clearly. “You’re not a healing Auror,” he manages to get out, the words slow and flat.
She shrugs. “I know. Neither are you. That’s why we’ve ended up here twice in a week.”
He looks at her, trying to impart, ‘No shit.’
To his surprise, Demelza seems to get it. She sighs and stands, stretching her arms over her head and yawning. “I told Dawlish it was a bad idea to put two explosive Aurors together, but no one else was willing to work with you. Goes Lockhart in raids, they said.” She shrugs. “It’s true. I knew that going in. Just didn’t think you’d still be quite this fucking insane if you knew you weren’t partnered with a healing Auror anymore.”
He blinks at her several times, trying to make sense of the words. They do make sense, in a strange, disconnected sort of way, but when he tries to process them on a deeper level, that disconnect doesn’t go away. He’s not quite all there, he’ll give them that (who would be after Voldemort?), but…Lockhart? He narrows her eyes and Demelza rolls hers in response.
“Healer Thomas says you’re staying the night for observation, so get comfy.” Demelza pauses again, making a show of collecting up his AIR, seemingly uninterested in saying whatever else was on her mind. Gryffindor, though, so she huffs and finally adds: “Dawlish said to tell you he’ll be by at five. I’ll see you, Harry. I’m going home.”
Harry stares at the empty spot in the doorway where Demelza had been standing only milliseconds before. He can’t call out to her and ask her what the hell she’s on about, and that pisses him off greatly. And he has to stay here overnight? Overnight? Really?
Harry’s not good at sitting around doing nothing, evidenced by the fact that only ten minutes after Demelza’s exit, he’s already trying to figure out how to wordlessly Finite the sticking spells keeping his IV tube in his skin and him, therefore, attached to the hospital bed. He can’t stay here overnight; he really will go Lockhart.
There’s a Witch Weekly on the table beside him that he can just reach if he’s careful. But it’s Witch Weekly. He notices the heading in the bottom left corner that reads: Britain’s most eligible evil Auror soon to be expating! Witches everywhere in distress.
Harry snorts. He flops back down against the pillows and stares at the ceiling for a while, but it’s really no more interesting than his own ceiling at home so he gives up after three or four minutes. He eyes the Witch Weekly again.
Goddamnit, he thinks, resigned, and reaches over to snatch it up.
Harry flips to the page indicated on the cover and comes face to face with Draco, or at least a really nice shot of his face. Harry thinks it’s probably from the press conference after that case when they had to track twelve Death Eaters all the way to Belgium and take them down by themselves. Draco’s hair is mussed and dirty in the photo, and he’s got a black eye (Harry had two) and his nose had only just been re-set a few minutes before the conference. Those were always Harry’s favourite cases—the ones where the two of them were sent out without backup and had to infiltrate a network or solve an entire case alone.
Dawlish comes in a while later, and it’s only then that Harry realises he’s still reading the sodding Witch Weekly article on Draco. There’s a lot of quoting and commentary from Witches On the Street who have opinions on Draco leaving the country forever. Harry has some quotes and commentary for them, too, but he can’t speak right now. With any luck, they’ll get the potion combo right before he checks out tomorrow and he’ll be able to properly yell at all these people who never knew Draco like he does.
“14 new and exciting ways to please your wizard,” Dawlish drawls as he takes the seat next to Harry’s bed. “A holiday away from my bratty teenaged kids would be new and exciting; was that on the list?”
Harry flushes, and quickly stows the magazine away before Dawlish can see the other headlines, especially the one about Draco...or the one about how to be better at oral sex. He skimmed that one, but no one has to know. He’s just curious about the mechanics is all. He’s always been pretty impressed by the women who did it to him, imagining how they fit entire dicks into their mouths, wondering if they liked doing it.
“So, Potter,” Dawlish says, and he sounds weary.
Harry stares at him, and says (gasps, really), “Hello, boss.”
“Potter,” Dawlish growls. He stares at Harry, unblinking, for so long that Harry starts to get uncomfortable. He wrinkles his forehead in a way that he hope says, ‘What?’ and Dawlish only scowls more. “I knew you’d be a pain in my arse after Malfoy left,” Dawlish says. “Just didn’t think you’d be this much of one.”
Harry gives him a sheepish grin. ‘Sorry,’ he mouths.
“Not sorry enough,” Dawlish says. “Not sorry enough to stop thinking you’re invincible. You aren’t, Potter. You weren’t before and you damned sure aren’t now, without Malfoy.”
Harry shrugs. He knows this. The mention of Malfoy’s name makes his stomach twist painfully. Has it really been three weeks since he left? Three weeks since Harry’s seen him? If Malfoy’s been gone three weeks, then Harry only has...he pauses to calculate it...roughly 3,380 weeks to go before he dies. He can go that long without Malfoy. Probably. Unless he gets killed in a raid first, which would make the wait a whole lot shorter, come to think of it… No, he decides. That would make it sound like he had a death wish. He shakes himself. He really should be paired with a healing Auror, though. He definitely works best when his back is covered.
Dawlish’s eyes narrow. He looks at Harry for a long time, long enough that Harry starts to wonder if something’s wrong. Finally, he opens his mouth. “I’m benching you, Potter. You’re on leave until you get your head sorted.”
“What?” Harry gasps.
“You heard me,” Dawlish says. “You’re a liability to the department right now, and I’m not going to have one of my best laid up in St Mungo’s again when she could be out doing real work with a partner who doesn’t have a death wish.”
“I don’t—” Harry starts to say, but his voice cuts off at that word and won’t pick up again to finish the sentence. He glares at Dawlish, thinking, I don’t have a death wish, but Dawlish doesn’t—or doesn’t care to—pick up on the unspoken comment.
“Save it for the mind healer, Potter,” Dawlish says, standing. He tosses an envelope on Harry’s lap. It’s sealed with the official Ministry seal. Harry glances at it and then gapes up at Dawlish. He’s been officially suspended? Officially?
Dawlish is long gone before Harry’s able to force his vocal chords to produce even a little bit of sound, and his gasp of rage goes completely unheard and unremarked on by anyone at all.
Luna hmms in response. “You’re referring to Draco? And the fact that he moved to Beirut four weeks ago?”
Harry nods. He was, the words fade as his wand trails off, sinking downward with Harry’s indecision. Harry presses his lips together and writes, He was my best friend. I can’t do this without him.
Luna blinks three times in quick succession. “Do what, Harry?”
Anything, he writes, shrugging. I’m a fucking mess when he’s not around. I don’t even know how to be alive when he’s not here. I just pretend, & apparently I’m not very good at that.
“Why do you have to pretend?” Luna asks, and Harry notices that her voice has definitely shifted into something steadier, something firmer than usual. It’s a delicate change, but he’s always been good at picking up on things like that.
Because I don’t understand the point of it anymore. I never really did after...the war. But then in 8th year, when we became friends, I saw how much he loved being alive, how grateful he was that it was all over... It made me want to try to understand. I’ve been trying ever since but I never really get it until we go for a walk at lunch & he laughs when it rains on us, or we have dinner at Ron & Hermione’s and Ron argues with him, or we get ambushed on a case & his face gets so serious & he tries so fucking hard to keep us both alive. When I see those things, I get it...for a few minutes at least. He makes me get it.
Harry stares down at his hands clenched in his lap as things start to fall into place in his head. He can hear Luna breathing, can feel her watching him, waiting for something. He looks back up at her and notices that her eyes are incredibly focused and clear right now. He’s never seen that on her. He swallows and opens his mouth to speak before he remembers that his voice still isn’t working. Fucking Reynolds. Fucking St Mungo’s. They still don’t know why he hasn’t healed correctly.
Frowning, he writes, Draco always joked that I’d get myself killed without him around. He’s right. Eventually I will. But it’s not because I’m a bad Auror. I’m a good Auror. But the longer he’s gone, the less I remember about why life’s important. One day, I’ll just forget it all, & then I’ll forget to sidestep a Killing Curse, too.
Luna inhales sharply. “Harry,” she breathes.
He glares at her. I’m not suicidal, he writes, the words sharp and snapping in the air.
“No, you aren’t,” she says, and he really has no idea if she coddling him or not. “But this isn’t a healthy way to live.”
I don’t know how to live any way else.
She purses her lips, then sighs. “You need to learn, Harry. In fact, that’s your assignment.”
I’m not at Hogwarts anymore, Harry says, eyes narrowed. You can’t make me do homework.
“No, I can’t,” she says. “So don’t do it for me. And I know you won’t do it for you. So how about you do it for Draco? He wanted you to stay alive, didn’t he?”
Reluctantly, Harry nods.
Luna beams at him. “Great! So that’s sorted.”
Harry sighs. What do I have to do?
“It’s easy,” Luna assures him. “Just learn how to live.”
Help someone in need!
Eat your favourite food!
Adopt a puppy, kitten, or Nargal!
What utter fucking rubbish, Harry thinks. The Floo flares just as his White Mage rezzes him, and he promptly dies again when he sees whose face is in the flames. Malfoy. His face is a little distorted, like the distance between them is too much for the Floo Network to handle, but it’s still him. It’s still Malfoy, and just the sight of his face, warbly or not, is enough to make Harry’s head spin. He tosses the controller aside and runs up to kneel in front of the hearth.
Malfoy eyes him critically, no doubt looking for injuries. Harry is more glad than ever that the hoodie he’d pulled on upon rolling out of bed this morning covers up the angry gash across his throat. Malfoy sees the pale scar running down the side of his face, but that sort of scar isn’t as fatal-looking as one across his neck, so it’s fine. Mostly. Malfoy’s eyes narrow to slits.
“You got hurt,” he says flatly.
Harry shrugs, affecting a sheepish look that he hopes will win him some reprieve. It doesn’t.
“What happened?” Malfoy bites out.
Harry shrugs again.
“Not speaking to me now, Potter?” Malfoy says, voice rising in annoyance. “Too good to for me now that you’ve a brand new Gryffindor partner?”
Harry shakes his head quickly, but Malfoy’s already pissed off and now he’s ranting about, of all things, the fact that the sunglasses Harry (Hermione) bought for him are still sitting on the coffee table next to the crumpled wrapping paper. Harry holds up a hand to get his attention. It doesn’t work. He tries to speak but he doesn’t know what to say, and he’s not sure if that’s the reason nothing comes out, or his fucked up voice box. Malfoy is pulling away from the call and Harry can tell that he’s about to end it, and he can’t, he just can’t, let that happen. In desperation, he reaches into the flames, and his fingers close around the soft linen of Malfoy’s shirt. They both pause, startled. He hadn’t even realised that was possible to do in international calls.
For some reason, he wants to keep touching Malfoy, wants to press his fingers against Malfoy’s chest and feel his heartbeat, wants to hold him and never let go again. If he doesn’t let go of Malfoy this time, then Malfoy can’t leave him. Fuck Beirut, fuck London—the wormhole holding them together right now has eliminated every kilometre between them and the past four weeks disappear in the infinitesimal space between Harry’s fingers and Malfoy’s skin. He feels Malfoy’s breath stutter beneath his palm and his fingers curl of their own volition.
Then Malfoy swallows and meets his eyes again. “What, Potter?”
Harry breathes in slowly, retracts his hand even more slowly. He holds his palm up again, entreating Malfoy to wait. When Malfoy nods, he runs over to the coffee table, grabs his wand, and then returns to write in the air, I can’t talk.
Malfoy doesn’t seem to get it, so, reluctantly, Harry reaches up to the collar of his hoodie and tugs it down, exposing his neck. There’s a beat of silence between them, but instead of the frustrated, ‘Damn it, Potter!’ followed by quick and efficient casting that he expects from Malfoy when he has an injury, he gets this instead:
Malfoy’s mouth dropping open, the blood draining from his face—Harry can see it even through the flames. Malfoy’s eyes blowing wide and terrified. Then: his mouth firming, lips pressing into a rictus of anger that Harry hasn’t seen since sixth year.
“Fuck you, Potter,” Malfoy whispers, his voice catching. “Fuck you for never appreciating anything or anyone at all, especially yourself. I refuse to wait for you to die. I won’t do it to myself. So go on and do what you’re going to do anyway. I’m done with you. Just...fuck you.” The flames go dark, taking all the heat in Harry’s flat with them. He stares at the grate for a long time, but Malfoy doesn’t come back.
He wishes St Mungo’s would figure out how to fix his fucking voice because he’s getting tired of writing so damned much. And it’s really embarrassing when he incorrectly uses an apostrophe in front of Hermione. Instead of getting better with time, his voice has actually worsened since Malfoy called. At the hospital, he’d at least been able to squeak or huff out some non-throaty consonants, like N and P and B. The Gs were impossible, of course, but at least he had Ts. At least he could vocalise his own sodding name.
Now he’s got fuck-all. He can’t make any sounds, not even breathing ones, and he doesn’t know why, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of issue a Muggle would have—surely even Muggles without voices could make Ms and Rs?—so he’s starting to suspect that this is the result of a curse scar on his vocal chords. And Harry knows all a-fucking-bout curse scars. Who the fuck let Reynolds through healing training?
“Do you like tacos?” Luna asks.
Harry shrugs. Yes, he writes. They’re my favourite food. You said to eat my favourite food.
“Ah,” Luna says. “And how did they make you feel?”
Full, Harry writes. I had 3 of them.
Luna purses her lips ever so slightly. “Did you try any of the other things on the list?”
Harry nods. I brought Mrs Weasley some flowers when I went to supper at the Burrow & I minded Rosie for Ron & Hermione when they went on a date. We played the quiet game & I won.
“That’s great, Harry. How did it make you feel to do something nice for someone else?”
It felt nice, he says. I suppose.
“Did Mrs Weasley like the flowers?” Harry nods. “Great! And did it make you feel good to make her feel good?” He nods again. Luna beams at him. “That’s excellent, Harry. You’re making great progress.”
Harry doesn't think he’s making great progress. He does not, in fact, think he’s making any progress at all. He thinks that his voice is getting worse and the state of his flat is getting worse and the balance of his Gringotts vault is going to get worse if Dawlish doesn’t let him come back to work soon. He doesn’t know what Dawlish wants from him, though. Twice a week, he meets with Luna and she prods him into talking about inconsequential things that he isn’t convinced matter but which he goes along with anyway. And once a week, she sends her reports on Harry’s progress and her “professional opinion” of his state of mind to Dawlish. And once a week, Dawlish tells him he’s not fit for the force yet.
Any more weeks being not fit for the force and Harry won’t be fit for anything. He’s a lazy sort of exerciser, so he only does it when he’s forced to because it’s part of his workday. When all he has to do is sit at home in front of his telly, well, that’s all he does. He could do some push-ups in front of the couch between games like Draco used to, but he doesn’t give enough fucks to bother. He’s always been able to stay in shape with just his on-the-job training, and the discipline to go further is, quite frankly, beyond Harry’s capability right now.
Before, when Draco was his partner, he could occasionally be convinced into a few miles around the park of a Sunday morning, but now his Sundays are better spent on PSN, which just came out last month and which he’d hoped to use with Malfoy before Malfoy fucked off to the desert. It would have been such a laugh to listen to Malfoy bitching at Muggle teenagers playing Dark Souls II.
So, basically, Harry has run out of fucks to give about anything at all.
Except Malfoy. He really wishes he could run out of fucks there, but all he seems to do is play video games (badly, for some reason—he used to be so good) and wonder where Beirut is. Maybe one of the Muggles on PSN would know. He decides he’ll ask tonight when he gets home from dinner at Ron and Hermione’s. Except, oh wait, he can’t talk.
Fuck, he misses Malfoy. And he hates it.
“And how about your priorities?” Luna says then.
Harry blinks at her. What?
“Have your priorities changed from the last time we spoke about them?”
I’m not sure I have priorities... Harry writes slowly.
“Of course you do,” Luna says. “Everyone has priorities. Before Draco moved to Beirut, your priority was first to live in England. Is it still that?”
Harry rolls his eyes. That’s not a priority.
“Oh,” says Luna. “I must have been mistaken then. And our time’s up for today.”
Harry doesn’t need to be told twice.
“Dinner’s almost ready,” Ron says.
Harry and Hermione grimace at one another behind his back.
Harry stares at Rosie’s mushy peas with longing. Hermione scoops another spoonful up and angles it towards Rosie’s mouth, and even she looks at the green mush a little longer than strictly necessary.
The best part of not being able to speak is that he doesn’t have to make appreciative noises in regards to Ron’s spaghetti tonight. Of course, it leaves Hermione to take the brunt of the ‘So how is its?’ but Harry has never claimed to be a good friend, so he just sits back and smirks at her when Ron’s not looking.
“Oh, your best yet, babe,” Hermione says, remarkably convincing. Harry’s more sure than ever that she’s got some sort of spy training from the Unspeakables and she’s been impersonating him in strip clubs and he really doesn’t want to know anything at all about her and Ron’s sex life, but unfortunately the proof that they have one is presently drooling green mush.
Ron beams at her, then turns to Harry. “Luna going to clear you anytime soon? Getting boring in the office without your constant screaming tantrums.”
Harry scowls. I don’t scream.
“Riiight,” Ron says. “Not anymore anyway. So no, then?”
Harry shakes his head, still scowling.
“Bummer,” Ron says. “You should just take a holiday since you’ve got the time. Maybe you just need a break to decompress.”
If I decompress anymore, I’ll be flat, Harry writes, which, okay, it’s melodramatic, but in case no one’s noticed yet, he’s a jobless, partnerless, voiceless, sanityless bloke who’s been dead at least once before. He’s entitled at this point.
Ron rolls his eyes and takes another bite of spaghetti. Hermione gives him a look, and Harry knows that, despite his bad cooking, Ron will be getting some tonight. He probably gets some every night. Hermione has those looks on her face frequently. Who would’ve ever thought.
Somehow, he makes it through dinner, but when he finally begs off, stepping out into the chilled evening air, he doesn’t want to go home. He doesn’t know where he does want to go, but home isn’t it. He feels...riled. Antsy. So he goes to a club in Soho that he and Ron used to frequent before he and Hermione finally both decided to stop sleeping around and settle down with each other. It’s weird going in without Ron, but he gets a few appreciative looks, and that always helps.
He pushes through to the bar, miraculously finds an empty spot to stand, and raises his fingers for the bartender. She comes over, eyebrows up in question. The music’s too loud to even make an attempt at speaking, which works out well for Harry. Occasionally, he does have good luck these days. It’s rare though. He used up most of his during his developmental years.
Harry points to the Guinness tap and she pours him one. He slides her a fiver and gives her a thumbs up like a complete wanker before turning to survey the rest of the club. This isn’t his scene, he thinks all of two minutes later. It’s never been his scene. He doesn’t say no to an anonymous shag with a fit Muggle every now and again, but trawling for tail has always been more of a thing he does because Ron does—or did, rather. Ron got all of that out of his system real quick, though, and Harry’s never seen anyone so disgustingly domestic and committed in his entire life. Which doesn’t say much, but the baby talk at Rosie is something he will remind Ron of when they are all sixty and greying.
Nevertheless, he’s paid for the beer, so he’s going to drink it.
It’s the fastest beer he’s ever drunk, but Harry suddenly really wants to be anywhere but here. He drains the last of it, turns to set it down on the bar, and when he turns back again, his chest brushes against another chest. Harry attempts to stutter out an apology, but nothing comes of course, so he just gives the woman a coy smile.
She takes that very positively, pushing her lean frame against his even more. She’s tall and athletic with short, curly black hair. Decidedly androgynous, and not his usual type, but, there’s something about the look in her eyes that’s working for Harry right now. When her hand lands on his hip and she smiles at him, he doesn’t even think about it; he leans in and kisses her. Her fingers tighten around his hipbone and she groans, and fuck, he wishes he could groan, too. When she tugs on his hand and begins leading him out of the club, Harry goes willingly.
They make out the entire cab ride back to her place, wherever that is, which saves him from trying and failing to talk. Harry’s vaguely aware of stumbling around furniture as they enter her flat, tearing clothes off as they go. She slips out of her jeans and drops to her knees, taking his down with her. When her mouth closes around him, he tips his head back, eyes sinking closed.
The Muggle woman sucks him so well that it’s not long before he feels his thighs tensing in anticipation, but he doesn’t want it this way, not tonight. So he kicks his pants and trousers away and drops to his knees, grabbing the hem of her shirt to pull over her head. Her breasts are small; she hasn’t even bothered with a bra, and Harry groans (silently) at the sight.
He pushes her back onto the couch and crawls on top of her. She arches against him, the sharp jut of her pelvic bone rubbing against his cock and it feels amazing. She tries to pull his hoodie off, but he doesn’t let her, doesn’t want her to see the thick scar running across his throat, and she doesn’t try too hard. Harry flips her onto her stomach and trails kisses down her spine, letting the increasing volume of her moans guide his actions. She presses her bum up in invitation. Harry summons a rubber from his wallet and hopes she’s got her eyes closed.
When he enters her, it occurs to him that it’s been about four years since he’s slept with another person. The last time he had sex, Harry was twenty-two. It’s distressing, he thinks as he sets up an absent, meandering pace. What kind of twenty-something man isn’t trying to stick his prick into every hole he walks by? His kind, apparently.
The Muggle woman moans, shifting her hips back against him, and he makes the mistake of looking down at her.
There’s this weird, uncomfortable moment when he thinks her hair looks an awful lot like his, that her lean, muscular back is a lot like his, that the dimples above her arse look remarkably similar to those above his own. It’s like he’s fucking himself, and for a moment, Harry is so grossed out that he thinks he might lose his erection, but then, just as he has that thought, another comes. He thinks, what if it were him? What if he were getting fucked and moaning like Miss Muggle? A memory of Malfoy healing his broken nose flashes in his mind and a rush of heat lights him up from the inside.
He starts thrusting faster and she groans, her voice going low, and fuck if it doesn’t sound a little masculine. Harry closes his eyes and grabs hold of her hips. What if Malfoy had not stopped at healing his nose? What if he’d leaned in and kissed Harry? What if he’d taken advantage of Harry’s injured state, stripped him right there on the field, and fucked him senseless?
Oh, fuck, Harry says, or at least tries to.
Why is that so hot? Harry doesn’t spare the time to worry overmuch about it, just settles right in for a single-minded fantasy that involves him in place of Miss and Malfoy holding Harry’s hips as he pounds into him. Harry gasps. He imagines Malfoy thrusting into him, imagines feeling Malfoy’s cock inside him, imagines Malfoy draped over his back, wanking Harry off while he fucks him.
All too soon, he knows he’s going to come. He reaches down, trying to get Miss there too so he can feel marginally less guilty about this encounter, but finds her hand already there, which is a relief, because he’s always been rubbish at taking care of a woman during sex. He really just has no fucking idea what to do. She tenses, her walls clenching around him, and that’s all it takes. Harry feels himself unravelling. He falls over her back, imagines Malfoy falling over his, and lets the pleasure wash through him.
Afterwards, he feels both freed and unmistakably chained.
I’m in love with him, he says straightaway. Harry’s never been one for beating around any sort of bush.
Ron pauses, a spoonful of banana hits Rosie’s cheek instead of her mouth, which she finds hilarious.
“What,” Ron says, as the words fade away. “I think sleep deprivation has rendered me temporarily dyslexic.”
Harry scrunches his forehead. He writes, Isn’t Rosie sleeping through the night now?
Ron’s face suddenly takes on a cornered look. He glances to the kitchen, where Hermione is hopefully making proper tea and pulling out the hidden yoghurts and other pre-made breakfast foods. “Erm, yes, but.”
Oh, Harry says. He grimaces. Fuck, Ron. Ew.
Ron shrugs. Hermione comes into the living room with a tray full of safe-to-eat foodstuffs and a pot of tea, looking as bright-eyed and bushy-haired as she ever does.
Hermione looks well rested, Harry observes.
Ron colours. “Yes, well, she got accustomed to staying up until three in the morning at Hogwarts, didn’t she?”
“Didn’t I what?” Hermione asks.
“Doesn’t matter,” says Ron quickly. He turns back to Harry. “What’s important here is that Harry may or may not’ve just said something extremely distressing.”
Hermione turns to Harry, handing him a vanilla yoghurt and a banana. “Don’t distress Ron at the weekend, Harry. The weekend is for de-stressing.”
Harry grimaces again, imagining Hermione’s brand of de-stressing. Hermione continues, “What did you say to Ron?”
I’m in love with Malfoy, Harry writes again.
Again, the spoonful of banana hits Rosie’s cheek. Again, she breaks into peals of laughter. “Damn it, I was really hoping it would look different this time,” Ron says.
Then Hermione says, “Well, of course you are.”
They both turn to her, horrified, but for different reasons. How much does Hermione really know, Harry wonders. But Ron is probably more worried about the odds of it being untrue if Hermione believes it. “What?” says Hermione. “It’s obvious. It’s been obvious for years.”
Harry scowls, suddenly annoyed that she’d figured this out ages ago when it only hit him while having sex with a woman. Ron stammers out a hopeful, ‘Are you sure, Harry?’ and Harry is starting to feel a bit defensive.
Sharply, he writes, I miss him. I can’t stop thinking about him. Before he left, we were together all the time because I liked having him around. I hate the thought of having a different partner, or him having one. & now I want him to fuck me. Over & over until I can’t even walk straight.
Ron jerks backwards, his face a mask of horror as his eyes scan the words again and again.
“So, what are you going to do about it?” Hermione asks calmly. She spoons some yoghurt into her mouth and watches him over the edge of the cup.
Harry sighs. I’m going to fucking Beirut.
These, and other exciting facts, Harry learns the day before his Portkey departure. From Wikipedia.
Never one to waste time, he’d gone straight from Ron and Hermione’s to the Ministry to request travel authorisation from one of the poor sods who pulled a weekend shift. Then he’d gone to one of the other poor sods, flashed his Auror-in-Charge look, and silently demanded the records on file for Draco Malfoy and Druella Rosier Black.
Druella lives on the Avenue de Paris, near to Rue Nigeria, and that’s the best he’s going to be able to do because Malfoy’s records are above his clearance level without prior approval since Malfoy’s still an Auror, and Auror safety is always top priority, even though Harry’s a sodding Auror, too, and blah blah blah.
Fine, he writes, and copies down Druella’s address.
When he returns to the International Travel office, the grunt at the desk hands him a Portkey for tomorrow morning and an authorisation slip. He thanks her for it and Floos home, where he proceeds to read all about Beirut and Lebanon, and then gets sidetracked reading about Israel and Palestine. Six degrees of separation and a sustained feeling of righteous indignation later, Harry’s back to Beirut and wondering who named all these fucking streets.
His Portkey is set for tomorrow morning at 6.55, which feels important somehow. Like maybe he and Malfoy are on this wavelength separate from everyone else, that their fates are entwined by the timing of a Portkey. Or maybe that’s just when all of the Portkeys to that region are scheduled to activate.
Whatever the reason, it’s getting late, and he should probably pack some things. Maybe lots of things. He doesn’t know how long he’ll be there. His travel visa allows for six months. Will it take six months to convince Malfoy he needs Harry like Harry needs him? Malfoy’s stubborn sometimes. Maybe he should pack up his whole house.
He digs one of Hermione’s omnipresent bottomless bags from the back of a kitchen cupboard and begins stuffing things in it, starting with his shrunken wardrobe, then his favourite chair, toiletries, his television, all of his gaming consoles, all of his games except for Tomb Raider which he decides to leave with Hermione, some other random things he finds around his house, and finally, the sunglasses Malfoy should’ve taken with him when he left.
He stuffs that in a knapsack with the Google Maps directions to Druella Rosier’s condominium and tries to get some rest before his Portkey in the morning. It takes him a long time to fall asleep. He’s not sure if it’s nerves or anticipation. For Harry, those things are usually one and the same.
Harry’s chest tightens and he firms his mouth, determinedly pushing that thought away. Malfoy is his partner. He exits the British Embassy Arrivals Chamber where his Portkey dropped him, and pulls out the directions to Malfoy’s grandmother’s flat. For a moment, he considers hailing a cab, but then remembers that he doesn’t speak Arabic and he damned sure doesn’t write it. So he sucks it up and attempts Apparition to a place unknown.
It works out fine. Things usually do for him. He pops into existence between two high-rises, and walks around to the front of the building where a doorman attempts to halt his progress, but who steps easily aside with a wordless Confundus Charm and a smile. Harry takes the lift up to the twenty-second floor, double checks the address once more, and raps sharply on the door.
It’s opened by Malfoy, looking tanned and sleep-rumpled in a pair of pyjama bottoms and nothing else, save for the hipster glasses on his nose. He blinks a few times, then his eyes go wide. “Potter?”
Harry waves at him, smiling sheepishly. Still can’t talk, he writes. He’s getting good enough at this particular magic that he doesn’t need his wand for it anymore, or even to draw the letters. They just pop up when he thinks them. It’s rather convenient actually.
Malfoy steps back from the door and Harry takes the invitation for what it is, stepping into the flat and looking around with ill-disguised curiosity. What are you doing home? he writes as he studies a Rosier family crest hanging on the wall. I thought you’d be working right now.
He senses Malfoy stepping up close behind him. It makes his skin tingle, makes him feel heated all the way through, and he has to take a moment to compose himself before he turns around again. Malfoy’s studying him intently. He’s still got the glasses on. Harry wonders if he even realises that they’re still there. Malfoy’d hardly ever let Harry see him in glasses before, even on the occasions when Harry’d passed out on his couch after a hard day and a late night drinking together.
“We don’t work Fridays here. What are you doing here, Potter?” Malfoy asks.
I missed you, Harry writes. He worries his lip as he watches Malfoy read the words. I can’t do it without you.
Malfoy’s gaze snaps back to his, fiercely intent. “You’re still alive,” he says.
Barely, Harry replies.
Malfoy snorts and turns away. Harry follows him into a bright kitchen with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the Mediterranean.
“Tea?” he asks but doesn’t turn around to see if Harry’s written a response, just goes about making it anyway.
Harry doesn’t drink tea all that much. He drinks it at Malfoy’s place because Malfoy drinks it and now, tasting it for the first time in months, he doesn’t know what to make of it. It’s familiar and exotic all at once, and it’s still just tea.
They sit in silence for a long while. Malfoy won’t look up and Harry can’t talk to him if he doesn’t. He drinks his tea and tries not to notice how uncomfortably it settles in his stomach. He wishes Malfoy would take off those glasses. It makes everything feel so much more intimate than it really is, and while there’s a new part of Harry that desperately wants that intimacy, there’s a whole other part of him that wouldn’t know what to do with it if he had it.
Liar, he thinks, remembering the last eight years.
He’s never been closer to anyone in his entire life than he was to Malfoy by the end of their partnership. And he’s known since that Potions class in eighth year that having Malfoy in his life is like some sort of strange, counterproductive requirement for continued existence. How’d he go all those years before Malfoy? How’d he make it through those close encounters alive? It’s never been a matter of skill in living—Harry’s got plenty of that—it’s more that he’d never really understood what the point of life was. Harry’s always lived for a purpose; when he was little, it was for the fantasies in his head of a better life; when he was in school, it was destroying his parents’ murderer, and nowadays, it’s Malfoy. The thing about living for Malfoy is that it doesn’t require any sort of action, like living for Voldemort did; it just needs Malfoy.
Harry thinks all these things, and then he comes to the realisation that he can’t tell Malfoy any of it. He can’t say ‘I love you’ like he’d told Ron and Hermione; he can’t say ‘I need you’ like he thinks in his head; he can only say ‘I want you’ because it’s the only thing that Malfoy will understand from him.
He kicks Malfoy softly beneath the table, and when Malfoy looks up, his expression is wary. “Yeah, Potter?”
Being your partner is more important than being an Auror, Harry writes, and everything in Malfoy’s expression changes, shutters down like shop windows before a hurricane.
“Don’t say that,” Malfoy growls, shoving away from the table. “Don’t—Potter, just stop. Do you even hear yourself?”
Yes! Harry snaps. I’m mute, not deaf, prick.
Malfoy’s eyes narrow. “Harry,” he says, and the sound of his name coming from Malfoy’s mouth sends his heart right into his throat. Harry stares at him, eyes wide, and the shock gives Malfoy the opening he apparently wants. “You love your job.”
Loved, Harry corrects. Did. Past tense. Not anymore. It sucks without you.
Malfoy scoffs and turns back to the kettle, fiddling with boiling more water even though they haven’t finished the tea they already have yet. “Come on, Potter,” he says, his voice quieter now. “I could barely drag you away for a beer at our local on Fridays.”
“That’s n—!” Harry begins and his voice cut’s off mid-word, finishing on a breathy, drawn-out squeak, the whole thing sounding like cat claws running down cotton fabric. His throat seizes up painfully, but he doesn’t even care about that. This is the first time he’s made a single sound in weeks. The healers at St Mungo’s are convinced there’s nothing wrong with his vocal cords; there’s a scar there, and it’s definitely from a curse, but their tests say it isn’t preventing him from making sounds. He’s lived this past month in annoyed, bitter silence and not once has his voice worked since Malfoy last Floo’d him.
But this is amazing. Amazing. His voice isn’t completely gone; it’s still inside him somewhere, he just has to force it out. Malfoy’s staring at him and Harry opens his mouth to try again, to force his fucking throat to work, even through the strange pain. Behind him, a door opens, and there goes that plan. He turns to look and comes face to face with an eighty-year-old Andromeda.
She’s scowling at him, and all he can think is at least Druella didn’t give her looks to Bellatrix. Harry stands and awkwardly holds his hand out to shake, but Malfoy’s grandmother only sneers at it.
“Harry Potter,” she says, more to Malfoy than to Harry. “In my house.”
“Nana,” Malfoy begins.
I just came to visit Malfoy. Draco, Harry amends. Druella reads the words and then stares at him some more.
“Mm,” she says. “Forgive me my rudeness, Mr Potter, but what in Cornelius Fudge’s ugliest green bowler gave you the idea that a man who devoted seven years of his life to trying to get my only grandson killed, or at the very least maimed, would be welcome in my home?”
“Nana,” Malfoy says again, but she cuts him off, too.
“Please, Draco. I will not have it! Your mother and I have worried about your partnership with this unstable cretin for nearly a decade and now that you’ve finally got away from him, he shows up here and you’re serving him tea as if you welcome the invasion! No, Draco! No. I’m Flooing your mother.”
“Nana, no!” Malfoy says. Druella’s already striding from the room. Malfoy rushes after her. Harry stands in the middle of Nana Black’s kitchen, feeling both indignant and embarrassed, and that has definitely never happened to him before. Malfoy’s family hadn’t wanted him working with Harry?
Malfoy’s gone for a long time. Harry can hear voices coming from the other room and one of them is Narcissa Malfoy’s. It’s raised. Harry doesn’t think he’s ever heard Narcissa Malfoy yell before, but it definitely sounds like she might be now. Harry doesn’t blame her. He’d like a good yell these days, but he has to resort to smashing plates against walls.
When Malfoy comes back, he’s alone and his mouth is pressed tightly together. All he says is, “You need to go, Potter.”
“Wha—?” Harry manages to get out before his voice fails again. The shock is maybe too much stress for his throat just yet. You’re kicking me out?
“Yeah,” says Malfoy. “My grandmother’s right. You aren’t good for me. I thought you were, but…”
But what Malfoy? Harry snaps. He knows he shouldn’t be an arse, but the realisation that Malfoy doesn’t want him around is so very different from the reality he’s accustomed to that he can’t process it. His heart is somewhere in his throat right now.
“But time and space have given me the emotional distance to see what I couldn’t before, Potter,” Malfoy says, sneering. “I can’t have you around. You’re going to get me killed, and I’ve worked too hard to keep myself alive. And I just…I can’t sit around and watch you die, Potter. I’ve seen enough of that shit in my life. So,” he pauses, takes a deep breath. Quieter, he finishes, “So just go.”
Harry frowns, waits for something (anything) from Malfoy, but Malfoy’s blank expression doesn’t change. With a completely silent sigh, Harry goes.
“Even if you could talk, which might I add is extremely important in the field, the fact remains that your reporting officer hasn’t cleared you for field work yet. Or, really, any work.” The Auror-in-Charge thumbs through the folder on her desk and then looks back up at him with a patient expression. “You’re suspended pending medical evaluation, Auror Potter. To be frank, there’s no way in Merlin’s infinite arsehole that I’m accepting a transfer request from you.”
Harry scowls. I’m a good Auror, & I’m fine.
Her eyebrows go up. “Then I suggest you have your mind healer send a certified letter to that effect to Auror Dawlish.”
There’s no way Luna’s going to do that. She might be a bit loony, but her reputation in the field is excellent. Sighing, Harry looks at the Auror-in-Charge again. Is there anything I can do here? It doesn’t have to be fieldwork. Just...anything. I need to keep busy.
And I need to be near Malfoy, he doesn’t add.
The Auror sighs. Hers makes a sound. “I tell you what, Potter. I’ve just lost my department secretary and we’ve got a lot of shit piling up. I’ll contact Auror Dawlish, and if he gives the okay, I’ll let you come in and man the desk. Would that be acceptable to you?”
Harry nods his head quickly. The Auror narrows her eyes. “I want weekly updates from your mind healer. This is the British Embassy, not rehab; I’m not going to let you come in and have a holiday on my time and the Ministry’s knut. You will be working towards a successful med eval.”
Harry nods quickly again.
She waves a hand at him. “Go, Potter. I’ll owl you if I get the okay from your supervisor. Don’t contact me again if you don’t hear from me. I’m not going to bother sending you updates if I don’t hear back from London.”
Harry goes. He’s been doing a lot of that lately. Luna would be proud. Probably.
She actually rolls her eyes at him. “I’m very impressed by the region code this Floo call is coming from,” she says. “Did you know you’re calling from Western Asia?”
...yes, Harry says. Actually, no. Is that where Lebanon is?
“You really should’ve taken me up on those Nargle scouting expeditions I invited you to after Hogwarts,” Luna says. “Do you know which countries border Ireland?”
England & Wales, Harry says right way. Then, Wait! That was a trick question.
“So you wanted me to clear you,” Luna says. He nods and she blinks at him. “Well, are you ready to be cleared?” He nods again. She blinks once more. “What’s the meaning of life, Harry?”
He gapes at her. No one knows the answer to that! That’s like asking what the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is!
“About ten metres per second for a European Swallow,” Luna says. “I’ve never studied an African one. Let me just make a note for my next trip to Johannesburg…”
About clearing me… Harry says, when her writing has continued on long enough for his patience. She doesn’t look up so he forces the words to blink.
“Oh, yes,” says Luna. “About that. No. Floo me when you can give me an answer to the meaning of life and then I’ll clear you. It’s been lovely talking to you, Harry, but my three o’clock is here. Au revoir!”
She cuts the call before he can respond. He hasn’t even got to tell her about all the going he’s been doing.
This communication without words thing is really, really hard.
He tries to stop by Malfoy’s grandmother’s again, but she’s put an anti-Confundus on the doormen, so after the first time he shows up unannounced, he’s not able to get in again. He tries waiting for Malfoy outside, but he apparently either Floos or Apparates to and from work every day. He thinks about Malfoy constantly.
When he goes to sleep, he thinks about him there, too, only when he’s asleep, he can’t stop his subconscious from remembering that night with the Muggle and replacing the woman with him…or sometimes even replacing her with Malfoy. He dreams about the long line of Malfoy’s spine; he sees it shiny with perspiration and bowed with pleasure; he sees Malfoy turning his head back over his shoulder and looking at Harry with sex-drunk eyes, his body moving with each of Harry’s thrusts, and fuck, when he wakes up from those, he forgets that Malfoy is Malfoy and not Draco.
A lot of the time, Harry just sits in his hotel room, trying to comprehend Lebanese soap operas on telly and waiting for the owl that may or may not come from the Embassy. Inevitably, his thoughts return to Malfoy, to the three years they were partners in Auror Academy and the four that they were partners on the actual force.
Twelve days after he arrives in Beirut, the owl comes.
Suspended Auror Potter,
Head Auror Dawlish has approved you for light deskwork with a clearance level of no higher than Goldenrod. You will report to the Embassy on Sunday at 0700 and you will not be late.
Auror-in-Charge Candace Fievel
She has to get that dig in, doesn’t she? Harry thinks. But whatever. Playing secretary for the Embassy means he’ll be playing secretary for Malfoy. And that means that Nana Black can’t keep stonewalling him.
“I like your punctuality, Potter.”
He smiles. Fievel pushes herself up from the desk as if she’s been sitting there for hours already, and Harry would believe that. She’s got the look of a workaholic. He’s seen it on his own face. She slides past him and out into the main department floor where she guides him to a little desk set off from the others, surrounded on two sides with stacks of unfiled folders, with a locked door positioned behind the desk.
“You’ll sit here,” she says, laying a set of keys on top of the desk. She pulls out the chair for him and there’s another stack of files on the seat. “Well, eventually you will. The files are to be tagged by date, Aurors on record, victim, suspect, type of crime, and extradition requirements of any and all citizenships involved; be sure to cross-file as appropriate. Any questions?”
Harry would love to ask a few, such as ‘What the fuck,’ but she turns around before he can get the words up. “I’ll be in my office,” says Fievel. “Big clusterfuck with the Turkish Ministry. Would tell you more, but it’s Burnt Orange clearance level. Oh, forgot to mention, you’re also on coffee, lunch, and morning za’atar croissant duty for the office this week. It’s part of standard new transfer hazing.”
Her door shuts before she’s even finished with the last word, leaving Harry standing amid a terrifyingly unstable mountain range of backed-up files. He hates paperwork; it was always more Malfoy’s thing, but Harry will be damned before he lets that stop him. He needs this pissant job; he needs it because it’s the only place he can reach his partner.
So he picks up the stack of files from his desk chair, sits down on the floor to lean against the desk, and begins to tag and sort everything. A lot of them aren’t written in English, so he has to put the fucking translation spell back on, which of course gives him a headache, but despite all that, or maybe because of it since Harry will admit, if only to himself, that he works well under a strong sense of martyrdom, he manages to clear the chair and the desk by noon. He would keep working, in fact, if it isn’t for the disgruntled yelling in the office.
“Mais putain, où est le repas?! On n'a déjà pas eu de croissants za'atar au p'tit dèj ce matin et maintenant il est midi et il n'y a aucun putain de repas sur mon bureau!”
Which echoes in Harry’s head in a tinny voice: ‘But [unknown word], where is the food? There has already been no za'atar croissants at my breakfast this morning and now it is noon and there is no [unknown word] meal on my desk.’
“Potter!” comes Fievel’s voice.
Groaning—or trying to—Harry peers over the desk, and finds himself staring at four irritable Embassy Aurors and Fievel’s weary face. She looks like she’s been running on hopes and Every Flavour Beans for about five days. He lifts his eyebrows in what he hopes is a friendly query and not a sarcastic-looking gesture. One of the Aurors narrows his eyes at it, and Harry points to his throat just to be safe. He’s got the look of a man who wants to fight and Harry suspects he’s the French yeller. Seeing the scar seems to appease him, which Harry refuses to think about.
“Potter, I told you you’re on lunch duty,” says Fievel. “What are you doing on the floor?”
Harry extends his arm in a gesture he hopes will encompass the entire fucking mess of old file folders they’ve had sitting around for who knows how long.
“Well, take a break and get us all lunch. We like the shawarma from the Muggle woman with the blue cart, and pick up a few of those bread baskets from the magical man on the bicycle since we didn’t get croissants this morning.”
“I want clams on a stick,” says a young female Auror. “And a stick of scorpions, too. Here, I’ll give you gold for those. A wizard with a baby Manticore sells them near the docks.” She passes him a handful of knuts and sickles and then wanders away. Everyone else seems okay with the shawarma, whatever the fuck that is, but Fievel gives him a list, and it’s in English, so he will persevere.
He’s still not comfortable working with Lebanese pounds, so by the time he figures out the cost of the shawarmas, does the math in his head, and tries vainly to mentally convert it to galleons so he can tell if he’s getting buggered or not, the Muggle woman is well frustrated. She holds up four fingers and points to one coin, then holds up 3 fingers and points to another coin. He doesn’t even care at this point, and hands it over without argument. Next he looks for a wizard on a bike; it, unsurprisingly, isn’t hard to find. From him he purchases some bread hanging from hooks on his bicycle and is grateful that the exchange happens over sickles.
It’s been a hell of a long time since Harry’s seen a Manticore, but he recognises the little beast as soon as he nears the docks. It’s running happily back and forth, feelers waving as it weaves around the feet of passing Muggles. Judging by the Glamour Harry can see shimmering around it, he’s been cleverly disguised as a Basenji, but to Harry they will always look like those Warlock pets from that time he played World of Warcraft. Felhunters were the reason Harry picked that class, and he’s wanted a pet Manticore ever since, but of course he’s not that big an idiot.
Still, he stops and bends to pet the Manticore as he nears the man selling questionable food items on kebab sticks. The Manticore stops and purrs, curling it’s tail around Harry’s arm and panting happily. He’s a Mediterranean Manticore (Harry knows his breeds), and the fatal stinger barb was bred out of them hundreds of generations ago, but their bite is still venomous. At this young age, he’d not give Harry more than a migraine, but he seems well behaved enough to not bite anyway.
“Auror,” says the man, a hint of question in his voice.
Harry stands up, desperate for a fellow English speaker. He looks around, then holds the blank side of his list up and projects the words onto the paper, You speak English?
The man reads and then nods. “I went to school in London. I know you,” he says, with only a slight accent. His eyes flick to Harry’s forehead before he adds, “You used to be able to talk. I downloaded your victory speech from MagiUpload before it was shut down.”
Harry shrugs, and then, seeing no reason not to, pulls his uniform collar down enough to show the pinkened gash across his throat.
The vendor’s heavy eyebrows go up. “I would’ve thought the healers could take care of it.”
Well, Harry would’ve, too. And yet.
He shrugs, and flips the paper over, pointing to the note requesting one clam stick and one scorpion stick. The vendor turns to retrieve them, and the Manticore takes that moment to bound back over to them, curling through Harry’s legs like a cat and yipping like a Basenji. Too much time under a dog Glamour... Harry thinks. He reaches down and strokes him between the horns. The Manticore turns its head to gnaw gently on Harry’s forearm, which is adorable, and that’s the moment that Harry realises that Hagrid’s had maybe too much influence in his life to date.
“You like my Manticore, eh?” says the vendor.
He’s holding a paper bag out to Harry, and there’s definitely more than two sticks in there. “He just turned one this month. What a big boy, aren’t you, Shaadhon? If you’re interested, his mother’s just had another litter; I could put you in contact with the breeder…” he trails off enticingly, or maybe that’s just how it sounds to Harry.
Illegal, Harry writes on the paper.
“Not here,” says the vendor.
But Harry isn’t staying here. He’s just come to talk (or gesture) some sense into Malfoy so they can both go home and Harry’s electronics will work properly again. He shrugs, hopes his expression looks simultaneously grateful and regretful or whatever is appropriate right now.
“If you change your mind, I’m here every day. And I put a few extra sticks in there for you. Try the mantis. It’s my grandfather’s recipe.”
Harry hopes his grimace looks more like a smile, but he can’t be sure, so he turns and hurries back to the Embassy. He’s only been gone fifteen minutes, but there’s a hoard of hungry Aurors stationed by the door, apparently awaiting his return. They descend on him like Zerglings (Merlin, he’d really love to have a Manticore), pawing through all the bags and retreating with food. The young Auror from before grabs a clam stick and a scorpion stick, leaving him with the remainder. Finally the crowd thins, and there’s only one Auror left waiting for lunch. Harry looks up, and his heart stutters in his chest.
“Potter,” Malfoy says quietly. Not even angrily, like Harry had half-expected. “What are you doing here?”
Harry hands him the last shawarma and shrugs. I talked Fievel into giving me a job so I could talk to you. You were avoiding me.
“It didn’t occur to you that it might be on purpose?”
Definitely occurred to me, Harry writes. But I’m tenacious to a fault. & sometimes I’m able to push all my self respect to a dark, disused corner of my mind in order to do things other people would find humiliating. Like desperately following my former partner across the world & begging him to give me another chance.
Malfoy looks like he wants to smile, but he doesn’t. “Thanks for lunch, Potter,” he says, beginning to turn away. Instinctively, Harry reaches out and grabs his arm. Malfoy pauses, but it takes another tug before he turns back around.
You left these, says Harry. He snaps his fingers and the sunglasses jump into his hand from the bag in his hotel room. Malfoy looks at them but doesn’t take them. They’re yours, Harry insists. Take them.
Slowly, Malfoy shakes his head. “I don’t want them.”
Harry huffs silently. Malfoy, don’t be a prick. They were a gift. You can’t give them back. I want you to have them. Because maybe if you take them & use them, maybe you’ll think of me sometimes & you’ll remember that we’ve worked together longer than we ever worked apart, & I might be deluding myself, but I don’t think that you need me any less than I need you. I don’t think I was always good for you, but I was always right for you. Please, Malfoy, for the love of Merlin, take the sunglasses & wear them & at least be safe. But think about me, & about 8th year & the Academy, & the first time we ever solved a case together without a Sr Auror sticking his dick in, &
“I—I really can’t do this, Potter,” Malfoy breaks in. He shakes his head several times, looking hunted. “I don’t want them. Keep them.”
This time, he manages to jerk himself free and has slipped through a door marked Malfoy — Proulx before Harry can reply. Now what the fuck is he supposed to do with the sodding things? Exhaling heavily, Harry shoves the sunglasses on his head, tosses the bug sticks on the desk, and returns to work as his emotional word vomit fades from the air like melting wax.
And only then does he allow himself to consider what he’s just done. Eaten a fucking bug. Or half of one, really. Not even a full bug, a baby one, but there’s the added bonus of it not having any antenna or twitchy legs to get stuck in his teeth, and—now that he’s run-on-sentenced himself into a neutral state, Harry considers the actual experience. A bit bacony, actually. And meat’s all the same when it comes down to it, isn’t it? These bugs probably aren’t any dirtier than the factory farms chicken nuggets come from. He bites off the rest of the larva and this time he looks at it as he eats it, acknowledges to himself that he’s licking the taste of bug off a wooden stick when normally, he’d throw out any of the rice with weevils in it.
Harry finds he’s enjoying the roasted larvae so much, and the night is so nice, that he decides to bypass his hotel and walk around a bit more, see the city. He pulls out the next stick and, ah, here’s the famous roasted mantis. Smells a bit saffrony, which Harry approves of. He bites off the first one and crunches on it as he walks along the coast. The Mediterranean is beautiful and the weather is still warm enough that the light breeze coming in from the water feels good as it flows over his black uniform shirt and trousers.
He finds he’s not as immediately copacetic with the legs from grown insects, but the flavour’s stronger in them and he likes that. Kind of like saffrony walnuts, in fact. The next stick is a scorpion and he doesn’t care for their bitterness, so he bins those and pulls out the last one: a skewer of four fat beetles. It turns out these are his favourite.
The sun is setting now, shining a glare in his eyes. He pulls the sunglasses down from his head and they get stuck on his glasses, so he pulls those off and spells his prescription into the sunglasses lenses because he’ll be damned if he gives Malfoy the satisfaction of thinking these blasted things will just sit on his bedside table for the next twenty years while Harry stares longingly into the reflective lenses each night and yearns for his partner to return.
He doesn’t need props for that.
The magic-revealing spells Hermione put on them are first-rate, and Beirut lights up with both ancient and modern magic. Even more than in London. He pauses before a restaurant with outdoor tables positioned by the water and leans over the railing, inhaling the clean, warm smell of the sea and letting the sound of happy Beirutis having dinner wash over him. He finishes off his last beetle and bins the bag and sticks. A live band is playing at another restaurant further down the street; he can just barely make out the vocals.
Another round of laughter comes, and Harry freezes. He knows that laugh. Harry twitches his wand and nothing happens. Sighing, he refocuses and tries again. This time, the non-verbal Notice-Me-Not spreads over him and only then does he turn around.
Malfoy is sitting with three other Aurors, all of them women, including Clam Sticks. And he’s having a crackin’ good time. Clam Sticks leans into his personal space, eyes alight with humour as she whispers something to him, and Malfoy breaks into fresh peals of laughter. God, Harry hasn’t seen Malfoy act this way in public since…since ever, he realises. In the safety and anonymity of his flat or Grimmauld Place, Malfoy’d loosened up like this all the time. Anytime Harry’d beat him at Call of Duty or camped him in PvP, Malfoy would laugh like this. He’d delighted in being shit at Muggle games, despite how hard he always tried to be good at them.
There’s this difference in London Malfoy and Beirut Malfoy. London Malfoy’s cold, collected, a fine Auror, who, despite years of dedicated work and a top-notch solve record, is still despised by three-quarters of the department.
And then there’s Beirut Malfoy. Beirut Draco, really. He looks a lot like Harry’s Malfoy, the one no one else sees but him. Or at least, the one no one else used to see but Harry. But now everyone’s seeing him—Aurors, Muggles, wizards, street vendors, Manticores, and even waiters. Malfoy’s different here, and it looks good on him; it’s always looked good on him, but no one else has ever got to see it but Harry.
Harry feels an intense surge of jealousy…and then he feels ashamed. Malfoy’s happy here. He’s Draco, here. Not defined by his surname. And who is Harry to ask him to give that up?
He feels sick, and it isn’t from the insects.
The question is, what does he need Harry for?
Harry doesn’t really think he needs him as his Auror partner. Maybe everyone is right and Harry really does have a death wish. Maybe he’s not really in a mental place to be an Auror. But Draco is, and Draco’s strong and capable, and Harry shouldn’t stand in his way. So how could he need Harry then, if not as an Auror? Harry isn’t sure. He’s not good at anything else.
He decides to give himself the month to think things through, not make a hasty decision, and so answers (sort of) an ad he sees for a bedsit sublet near to the Embassy. It’s already furnished and moving in entails picking up his Bottomless Bag from his hotel room, checking out, and Apparating to an alley nearby. The landlord gives him a key and an odd look, his eyes noting the scars on Harry’s face, not just the lightning bolt one.
“There will be no trouble from you?” Harry’s translation spell says after the landlord shoots off a burst of Arabic.
Harry shakes his head vehemently and tries on a smile. He can’t do too many offensive spells non-verbally; right now, he’s about as dangerous as Dudley on a diet. Which is to say: dangerous, but not unduly so.
The landlord leaves him be and Harry takes a look around his bedsit. It’s clean, tidy. The mattress has seen better days, but then again, so has Harry’s singing voice. He tosses his bag onto the chair by the window and flops down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. The cracks have been freshly plastered. Harry appreciates the effort. It’s no fancy condominium in the posh district, though, like Malfoy’s Nana’s place. He wonders if there are cracks in Malfoy’s bedroom ceiling, if Malfoy and his grandmother have breakfast together in the mornings, if she’s kinder to him than she was to Harry, if he’s dating Clam Sticks…if he thinks about Harry at all.
He falls asleep tracing a crack that reminds him of the constellation Draco. And then he dreams of Draco, and when he wakes up, his heart hurts. How did he ever go so long and not realise what Draco means to him? He doesn’t know; he hasn’t any idea at all. The sun’s not up yet, but he can’t sleep anymore, so he rolls onto his side and stares blankly out the window at the brick of the building across from his, and he thinks about all the years he’s had to make things right with Draco.
And all the years he never did.
“It also needs to be cross-filed under Turkey,” Draco says, eyes focusing somewhere to the right of Harry’s lightning scar. “It’s important that this one isn’t lost.”
Harry takes the folder from him, and their fingers touch briefly. It’s happened thousands of times before when they were passing cases back and forth, when they drank together, when they crammed onto Harry’s tiny couch for two-player games. It shouldn’t feel electric now—and it doesn’t; it feels like his blood has been set alight and it’s pounding through the tiny vessels at his wrists, sending an agonising ache reverberating up his arm, pulsing with each of his heavy heartbeats.
Draco doesn’t seem to notice.
Draco, Harry begins, but Draco gasps and turns away. It’s the first time Harry’s ever used his name to his face.
“Fuck off, Harry,” he says, loud enough for only him to hear, and that’s the first time he’s ever used Harry’s name, too. “I’m not your healer.”
He leaves, Harry stays, and this is beginning to feel familiar.
His week of hazing is over, but maybe it will endear him to Yelling French Auror Proulx, who, Harry learned last week, is also Draco’s new partner. He has a deep and instinctive hatred of Auror Proulx, so the endearing will only be going one way, but Proulx seems to respect Draco’s talents a lot, and that…well that means something to Harry. Even if being replaced feels like his lungs have been replaced, too. With rusted spikes.
“Shaadhon always knows when you’re coming,” says a now very familiar voice at the same time that Harry is almost knocked over by the force of an excited juvenile Manticore jumping up his legs. “He likes your magic, I think.”
I like his, Harry says, bending down to scratch Shaadhon’s head. Feels strange…a little demonic and a lot like a puppy.
“Yes, that’s Manticores for you. You’re sure you don’t want to see that new litter?”
Harry very much would, but he really shouldn’t. What’s he going to do with a Manticore in England? Dawlish will definitely never let him back to work if he brings home one of those. That’s assuming he isn’t arrested at Customs for trafficking.
He gives Shaadhon one last scratch and stands again. The vendor hands him a bag, four beetle sticks peeking out the top. Harry sticks his hand in his pocket to pay, but the vendor shakes his head. “On me today, Auror.”
I have to pay you, Harry insists.
“Pay me with your acquaintance instead,” says the vendor. “I have enjoyed our conversations this past week and you like my Manticore. I would like for us to be friends.”
Harry feels a little swept away for a moment. This has to be the nicest request for friendship he’s ever received; actually it’s the only request he’s ever received aside from Draco’s on the train before first year. Other people just assume they’re acquaintances or friends after meeting him, and it’s made him uncomfortably aware of his own personal space and when other people are easing themselves into it.
After a pause, Harry sticks his hand out. The vendor takes it. Call me Harry, then.
The vendor smiles. “And I am Ziyad.”
This is the first time Harry’s made a friend since Hogwarts. It feels…strange. And invigorating. It feels like a good day.
He buys some coffees from another vendor and returns to the office. He sits the first coffee on Fievel’s desk and she looks so surprised and so grateful that it makes Harry’s belly warm and he gives her a smile, even though he’s feeling pretty run dry. He drops the other coffees under a warming charm in the breakroom and lets the Aurors in residence find them for themselves, first come first served.
When he returns to his own desk, Draco’s file is still sitting there untagged and unfiled. He’ll have to activate the sodding translation charm again (why can’t Draco write his fucking reports in English? Harry knows he can; he’s read seven years of the prick’s reports and they were all in English) but even that doesn’t ruin the soft high he has from making a friend and the free beetles he had in lieu of biscotti with his coffee.
The charm snaps on his head, sounding a long, high-pitched ringing in the middle of his brain while it calibrates to his location, native tongue, and the words he’s presently looking at. He scrunches his eyes closed and breathes through the discomfort until the ringing stops. There’s a soft chime to alert him the charm is active (as if he wouldn’t be able to tell). He opens his eyes and scans the cover sheet, noting down the Aurors involved, the date, the situation, etc. etc. etc., with only half a mind.
It’s when he gets to the end that his interest resurfaces. There, in Draco’s tidy, cramped hand, is a note in the bottom right margin, as if he’d just been making a note and hadn’t meant to put it on the cover page.
Why does this remind me of the Turkissue? Chk report from last month. Explosions had similar arcs? Amplitudes? Is there evidence of a pattern?
Definitely Draco. No one does inappropriate portmanteaus quite like him. And then the rest of it hits him: Explosions?
Why is Draco anywhere near explosions when he doesn’t have an expert explosives Auror with him? And he doesn’t; Harry’s pulled Proulx’s file (benefits of being the secretary of a really disorganised office and having very little regard for other people’s privacy (since they have very little regard for his own)) and Proulx specialises in potions. He has no training whatsoever in safely handling or disposing of explosion magic.
The file’s colour-coded Burnt Orange, but Harry really gives zero fucks, and besides, he normally has Scarlet clearance, so fuck this Goldenrod shit. The password for Burnt Orange clearance is apparently the same all over the Ministry. Or perhaps they just haven’t deactivated his clearance in London. Either way: Way to go, Ministry of Magic. Impressed by your commitment to security.
He opens the file and quickly reads the report, familiar enough with Draco’s handwriting and shorthand that he’s able to clear the first twenty pages in under ten minutes. Then he gets up and rifles through all of Draco’s reports from September until he finds the one that looks like it could be the one Draco had referenced. He reads that one, feeling his stomach tighten with each new revelation on their situation with a group in Turkey. Someone comes in, the door creaking as they swing it open, and Harry slams the file shut and slides it into the desk drawer. He puts on a bored face as Fievel rounds the corner.
She eyes him. Not suspiciously, because he’s been an Auror for seven years and he knows how to not look guilty by now. “You bored, Potter?”
“Not paying you to be bored,” Fievel says.
Got anything else for me? he asks, eyebrow raised.
She snorts. “No. It’s Thursday, Potter. Go home and enjoy your weekend. I’ll see you back bright and early on Sunday.”
He waits until she leaves and then points his wand into the desk drawer, shrinking the file. He slips it into his pocket and then slips out of the Embassy. He does go home, but only to get his invisibility cloak. He doesn’t care if Draco wants to see him. He’s going to see him.
Can he break these wards? He retrieves the sunglasses hanging from the neck of his uniform shirt and slips them on. He eyes the criss-crossing lines of wards around the flat, prodding at a couple to confirm that they do what his training tells him they should do. Yeah, he could get through these wards. Not easily, but he can.
But should he? Breaking and entering is probably illegal in Lebanon, too. He can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be, but, admittedly, Harry’s knowledge of Lebanon begins and ends with a crowd-sourced encyclopaedia entry. He considers the enormity of the two files in his pocket and then decides to hell with legalities; he needs to speak to Draco about these immediately. He pulls out his wand and begins to flex the wards enough to let him through.
Fifteen minutes later, sweating and exhausted, the door clicks open and Harry steps between two ropes of magic and over the threshold. He does a quick check to make sure Druella really is out, and then sits down on the couch to wait, invisibility cloak firmly in place. His blood is heated from adrenaline and worry and excitement, things that all mesh together rather well for Harry. He bounces his knee. Finally the Floo flares, and Draco steps out.
Harry begins to rise from the couch. The Floo flares again. Another man steps out after him and immediately presses his chest against Draco’s back. Draco lets his head fall back onto the man’s shoulder and Harry feels the distinct urge to vomit. Oh god, what has he walked into? Harry stands there, frozen, unable to look away, nowhere to go. He watches as Draco turns in the man’s arms, as his expression becomes intent as it always does on a hard case, as they—
As they kiss.
Harry’s sure he makes some small dying sound in that moment. How is it that his voice won’t work when he needs to ask if there’s a public loo, but the moment Draco kisses another man while Harry hides in his living room, he apparently can’t help himself from making noise? It’s not fair, he’s been agonising over the lack of his voice for months and now Draco is kissing someone who isn’t him, someone who can’t have loved him for seven years and liked him relatively well for another one in eighth year, someone who really, legitimately, has no reason to live when Draco’s not part of that life.
Draco pulls his shirt off, revealing a back covered in delicate, precise patterns of black ink. The revelation that so much of Draco’s body is now covered by a tattoo that Harry’s never seen feels like a betrayal, even though he knows that’s ridiculous. He’s seen Draco shirtless thousands of times over the years, but this is new. This is something he did without Harry. The man whispers something against Draco’s mouth and Draco smirks before grabbing his hand and leading him down the hall. A door shuts. Harry’s stomach feels like it’s been turned inside out. His legs shake as he carefully walks to the door, flexes the wards, and slips quietly from the flat.
Now, with only half of his bottle remaining and even less of his motivation to do absolutely anything, Harry mirror calls Luna to ask for a hint on the meaning of life. Ron answers.
What are you doing over there? Harry asks.
“Dinner,” says Ron. Harry gives him a dubious look. “Come on, Harry,” Ron says, ignoring that. “We have dinner with Luna all the time.”
Harry sighs quietly. He might as well run this by Ron since he’s here. What do you know about the situation with Turkey? Has anything about it made it to London?
Ron looks shifty. “I heard you were only cleared for Goldenrod these days.”
So? I need you to get me some information. I was looking at this file and there’s something…not right about it. About the explosions. I need to know what’s going on with Turkey.
“What kind of not-right?” Ron asks, finally settling onto his knees and leaning in closer to the Floo. Ron’s always trusted Harry’s instincts on things like this, and as a fellow explosives Auror, he knows exactly how wrong things can go when Aurors who aren’t trained for them try to deal with explosion spells.
Harry glances over his shoulder to add a silencing spell to the wards around his door. When he looks back, Ron’s face is grim.
It reminds me of the goblins, Harry tells him.
And that’s all he needs to say before Ron’s expression goes hard and he says, “Tell me what you need from me, Harry.”
Just look into the closed Turkey cases, Harry says. We shipped most of them back to London after the bombings stopped. Find me a pattern.
He waits until ten, hoping that it will have given Draco time to kick the mystery man out of the flat and that Druella will be gone to her Rotary Club meeting or whatever it is she does, and then just like last night, he slips past the doorman and up the elevator to the twenty-second floor.
This time, he knocks. Hard.
The door opens and Draco looks confusedly at the empty air before Harry shoves his hood down and pushes past him into the flat.
“Potter, I told you—” Draco begins, as Harry passes him.
“Shut up, Draco,” Harry says, his voice scratchy. Draco is sleep-rumpled and wearing only his blue pajama pants, his glasses shoved haphazardly on his face as if he scrambled to find them on the bedside table before coming to the door. “You alone?”
He hears the door shut behind him, but doesn’t pause. He heads straight for the living room and sits down on the couch, already spreading the files out on the coffee table before him. Draco comes in, his eyes a little wide. He stands in the doorway and stares.
“Harry, your voice…”
“What abou—” he says before it cuts out again, and that’s when he realises that he’d vocalised an entire sentence and a half. Fuck, I spoke. Again.
“Yeah, you did. Your voice is healing?” Draco asks. He takes a few steps closer, eyes cutting to the orange and red folders in Harry’s hand before flicking back to Harry’s face.
Not really, Harry writes, after trying a few times to say the words. It’s only worked around you. He shrugs. Anyway, who cares about my voice? No one cares what I have to say. I’m here about this Turkey thing. The Turkissue.
Draco colours. “Where did you hear that? You can’t repeat that, Harry. It’ll get me sacked, for fuck’s sake.”
You wrote it on a cover sheet, pillock, says Harry, rolling his eyes. I erased it. You’re welcome.
Draco sighs heavily and then comes to sit down on the chair across from him. He props his elbows on his knees and stares at Harry. “What’s going on, Harry?”
You alone? Harry asks again.
“Of course I’m…” He trails off when he sees Harry’s expression and then his eyes narrow. “Nana’s visiting Mother in Italy this week. Why would you think I wasn’t alone?”
Harry ignores him. Just then, another man walks into the living room, towelling off his hair as he says, “Draco, what’s going on? I heard—”
LEAVE, Harry snaps. The man hesitates. Harry stands up, projecting his most menacing face, and he drops the towel and Apparates out.
“Potter!” Draco says. “Last night, you—?”
I figured it out because of you, Harry cuts in, ignoring the pounding in his chest and the devastating realisation that this is definitely the first time Draco has ever lied to him, but it might not be the last.
You’re always right about the goblins. You know how they like to fuck with us whenever they know we’re on their case? These explosions over here, along the borders. They’re traps. Little tiny ones drawing your Aurors further and further over the borders every day. Just like the ones the Turkish Ministry was struggling with a few months ago. It’s in Syria, too, now. And Israel. They’re surrounding the whole region with these traps.
He tosses the folders on the coffee table one by one, the labels and colours increasing in severity and clearance level as they hit the wood. Draco’s not working the Turkey cases. No one is, actually. Not for months. They’ve been closed, assumed sorted, and the only reason Harry was even able to make the connection is because of the days he spent staring at nothing but the cover sheets to these folders and those like them.
But seeing them all spread out here, Harry knows the moment Draco gets it.
“Oh, fuck,” he says. “They’re trying to dismantle our forces.”
Yeah, Harry agrees.
He runs his hand through his hair, agitated, and then half-turns before squeezing his eyes closed briefly, as if warding off a headache. He turns back only enough to say, “You want some tea, Potter? I’m going to make some tea.”
He walks away before Harry can respond, as usual, about not needing any sodding tea. Harry’s breath catches when he sees the tattoo on Draco’s back. He’d almost forgotten about it in the stress of the night before. It’s big, covering the entirety of his back in black, magically-geometric patterns, and it makes Harry’s stomach clench with the desire to trace those lines with his tongue and fingers. God, he wants. He wants so much and he can’t have.
Draco returns with the tea. Harry’s fingers shake as he lifts his from the saucer and takes a sip, just to be polite. It’s full of whiskey, so he takes another. Draco sits down heavily on the couch next to him, the heat from his body radiating outwards in all directions like a sun flare. The tea and whiskey is not enough to keep his hands occupied; they keep aching to reach over and touch Draco somewhere, anywhere. This shouldn’t feel unusual. It shouldn’t feel awkward. They’ve touched innumerable times and Harry knows precisely the feel of Draco’s forearms, how thick the blond hair is on them, the direction it lays. He knows the places Draco has sun freckles and the shape of his feet.
“They’ve killed dozens of Aurors in the region in the past months,” Draco says after a long, uncomfortable silence.
He cuts his eyes to Harry, as if this situation is just as awkward for him as it is for Harry, but that’s impossible since there’s nothing more awkward than wanting to climb onto your ex-partner’s lap and ride his dick while holding his face and telling him a thousand ways you’ve fallen in love with him.
Yep, Harry says.
“Why?” Draco finally looks at him directly, and it nearly undoes him. “What’s their endgame?”
“Don’t know,” Harry whispers. “Haven’t got clearance.”
“I’ll get them,” Draco says. “Stay here. I’ll get the files, just…” He rakes his hand through his hair and looks at Harry oddly. “I’ll be back. What files?”
“Anything—” that’s cross-filed with Syria or Israel, or Turkey, too, since it started there, Harry finishes when his throat catches on the sounds.
Draco nods, turns, and Apparates. Harry busies himself pouring them both another cup of tea-whiskey while he waits. When Draco returns, Harry’s on his third, but his hands still aren’t steady. Why is he having this reaction to Draco? He’s never reacted this way to him in his entire life and it’s patently ridiculous that now, when he actually cares whether or not he looks like an idiot in front of Draco, this is when he does.
Draco dumps another set of files on the table, including three black ones, the highest clearance level in the Ministry. Neither of them ever got it in London. Draco’s only been in Beirut for two-and-a-half months and he’s already got it. He sinks down onto the couch next to Harry and glares at the files, as if their mere existence is an affront.
“How the hell did I miss this?” Draco says.
Harry shrugs. You would’ve got it eventually. You always do.
Draco laughs harshly. “No, we always did.”
Harry swallows hard. Yeah, they always did. The way they play off each other’s thoughts doesn’t even seem real sometimes, like they each have ninety-nine per cent of a brain and another one per cent hanging off to the side that doesn’t fit their own but when it comes near the other’s, it slots right into place. Harry hasn’t felt that slotting in months, and he’s incomplete.
All right, Harry says. Open the black ones. Haven’t got clearance.
Draco does so, and they each pick up a couple. There are patterns here. Patterns Harry’s seen only in his head until now. That’s always been his value to the Aurors, this preternatural knowledge that he can often only prove until after the fact. Harry knows things, and then he finds the evidence for them. Draco works the other way, and their partnership has always been a clash of instinct and evidence.
They don’t get very far. The most recent attack happened on the Israeli border, but the area is so destroyed that there’s only some Arabic graffiti remaining to show that it was ever a human-made structure at all. The destruction caused by these bombings is heart-stopping. The explosions expert in him tries to work backwards, figure out their mindsets or at least their methods, but he comes up blank. Harry knows there’s a pattern here, but fuck if he can find it.
Sometime during the evening, Draco swallows his pride and puts on the glasses. Harry doesn’t comment on it. He likes it too much to risk their removal. It’s hot this time of year, Draco’s got his shirt off again, and the way his spine bends as he leans over to read the black file in his hand makes Harry burn. He doesn’t comment on that, either.
“It’s got to be Idiot Code,” Draco mutters, rubbing his eyes beneath his eyeglasses.
Excuse me? Harry writes. I’m not
“No, of course you aren’t,” Draco says, exasperated. “Potter, you are charmingly stupid sometimes. I didn’t say you were an idiot, I said that’s the type of code they’re using to organise these attacks. It’s not just one person doing them. It’s like a flash mob of—”
A flash mob… Harry repeats, lips quirking.
“I’ve been to Muggle London, Potter,” Draco says. “You dragged me there all the goddamned time.”
Anyway, says Harry.
“Anyway,” Draco repeats. “They put the code into the location, and then people who want to participate have to figure out the next time and location from clues in that one.”
“Why haven’t any of us figured it out before now then?”
“Because the code’s blown up with the explosions. I’m not even a hundred per cent sure this is it, but from some of these pictures, it looks like there are always messages written, and those messages probably give directions for the next attack.”
That’s still sloppy, Harry says. Our intelligence Aurors are trained better than that.
“No argument,” Draco sighs. He flops down again, takes another drink of the Firewhiskey, and passes the bottle to Harry. “And yet you find it without being trained in intelligence.”
I’m intelligent, Harry insists, but he grins at Draco when Draco gives him another exasperated look. Anyway, I didn’t see it. You did. I just fuck around until something snags at me. He takes another drink of the Firewhiskey. He feels warm and happy now that Draco’s speaking to him, and there’s a spark in his belly that’s either from the lowering of Draco’s eyes to Harry’s mouth or from the Firewhiskey.
Harry swallows. We should see if we can find a picture of that place before the explosion…figure out where they’re going next.
Draco’s eyes flick up again. “Yeah, we should.”
They don’t, though.
He’s drunk enough at this moment that when he calculates the risk/reward of the thought in his head, he determines that it’s a sound decision. Harry stands, grabs the hem of his shirt and pulls it over his head. Draco glances up at him, his eyes skittering away, but it’s warm enough that he doesn’t think anything of it. He returns to the file. Harry pops the button on his jeans and Draco’s eyes flash back to him, wide with shock. Harry watches his face for reaction as he unzips and steps carefully out of his jeans until he’s standing in Draco’s living room in only his pants.
“Potter?” Draco says.
Harry takes two steps until he’s right in front of him, and then he slides one knee onto the couch beside Draco’s hip, knocking the file to the floor. He’s still staring at Harry, not reacting. Not punching him in the face. Harry redistributes his weight and then slides his other knee onto the couch, straddling Draco. When he lowers himself to Draco’s lap, he feels Draco’s sun flare heat seeping up into him. He loops his hands around Draco’s neck, and then he waits.
“What are you doing?” Draco whispers. His eyes are unusually bright behind the lenses of his glasses.
It’s necessary, says Harry. I need you.
Slowly, he lowers his face to Draco’s, watching for the denial, smelling warm whiskey and exhaustion with each of Draco’s rapid breaths. Their lips touch and the sound that comes out of Harry’s throat is frighteningly new to him, earsplitting in its existence, not its volume. All at once, Draco’s arms come up around him and his body surges up against Harry’s and there’s nothing in the world more meaningful than the process beginning between them.
“Harry,” Draco whispers, fingernails digging into Harry’s back. His mouth moves away from Harry’s own and drags kisses along his jaw, trailing down the pink scar that runs down and across his neck. “So glad you’re alive.”
Harry grinds his hips down and Draco gasps. Draco’s hard and the feel of it pressed against Harry’s arse is familiar in its unfamiliarity. He reaches down and fumbles at Draco’s fly until he manages to get all the prissy buttons unsnapped, and Draco lifts his hips up again to help Harry shove his trousers and pants down.
There’s a moment when he tries to finagle his own pants off, but he gives up and Vanishes them instead, unconcerned with whether or not he ever sees them again. He’s completely naked with another man for the first time and it should be freaking him out, but all he can think is that of course this is the appropriate next step for them after almost ten years as each other’s extra limbs.
He’s never touched another dick before, but when he reaches between them to grab Draco’s, the weight and size of it feels right in his hand. He strokes it slowly. Draco tosses his head back, the streetlights reflecting off his glasses. Harry bends to lick his neck, just like licking the neck of a woman but with the rough grit of a day’s stubble against his tongue. Draco’s hips move sensuously, rocking Harry up and down with each undulation, and suddenly, it’s not enough to just touch him. He needs to be connected to Draco again like they used to be; he needs that shared headspace they used to have on a hard case, and he doesn’t know how to get there without the threat of imminent death hanging over their heads, but he knows how to get close to it.
He grabs his wand and coats his fingers with conjured lube. It drips between them and onto their cocks. Harry slicks Draco’s up, feels him trembling with each stroke, and then reaches behind himself to do himself. He doesn’t hesitate, but he’ll admit that he has no idea what he’s doing. One finger slides in and he tentatively moves it in and out, to no particular effect or sensation.
“What the hell are we doing?” Draco pants. His eyes are heavy-lidded and Harry isn’t convinced that he even knows what’s going on.
Have to fuck you, Harry says, trying to figure out how to get a second finger in at this angle. He’s not sure, but he suspects one won’t be sufficient. Advice?
Draco blinks heavily. “You’ve never done this before?” Harry shakes his head, teeth closed around his bottom lip as he continues working one finger in and out. “And you want to bottom? Without any idea what you’re doing?” Harry nods.
“Oh Christ, Potter,” he says exasperatedly and that’s definitely a new expression for him. Suddenly, Harry finds himself lifted up and tossed down onto the rug on his stomach. The lubricating spell is repeated and then he feels Draco’s chest pressing him into the floor. His slick fingers trail teasingly down Harry’s side and then along the crease where his bum meets his thighs. When they move to his hole, he presses up hopefully. Draco slides his fingers around it, the teasing bastard, never touching him where he wants.
He growls and presses his bum up as Draco nears his hole again and Draco’s slick finger slides in. Harry moans lowly. Draco’s chest tenses, his breath shuddering out over Harry’s neck. He lifts himself all the way up, settling on his knees somewhere behind Harry. His finger slides in and out and Harry sluttily follows the rhythm with his hips. Draco’s free palm settles over his hip, rubbing smooth circles over his hip and arse.
“God, Harry,” Draco says. “Are you sure you’ve never done this?”
Yes, obviously, Harry writes. I’d remember it. Fuck me, Draco, god damn it.
“You’re not ready.”
I’m always ready.
He hears Draco huff out a tiny laugh and then the finger’s gone. He feels the blunt head of Draco’s prick pressing against him and he exhales shakily, relaxing into the heady feeling of them combining in such an intimate way. It feels like he’s waited eight years for this moment where Draco’s body completes his body.
Draco slides in and his breath rushes from his lungs, ghosting over Harry’s back. There’s pressure, a full feeling, but it’s not painful. He feels like this is how things are supposed to be and maybe that eliminates some of what pain there might’ve been. And he’s never been more turned on in his life.
Experimentally, he presses his bum up and Draco slides in deeper. It doesn’t feel especially wonderful in any physical sense, but the feeling of my-god-finally that he gets in his head and chest and wrists more than makes up for it. Draco closes the space between their bodies, his chest laying flat against Harry’s and he kisses the damp skin of his shoulder. Harry turns his head and their lips meet messily.
“You,” Draco pants against his mouth, but he doesn’t finish the sentence.
Harry nods anyway. He knows how to complete Draco’s sentences. It could be ‘You are mine’ or ‘You are so hot’ or ‘You fucking shit, I hate you’ but just like Draco’s broken off ‘I wish you’ in the Floo, it means all of those things at once. Where is their Idiot Code for each other?
The progression of pleasure curling inside him is so subtle that he isn’t aware of anything more than Draco’s mouth on his until he’s about to come. He cries out, scrunching his eyes together and Draco trails his lips up his jaw, nips at his ear. “You’re close.”
Harry nods frantically. Draco’s thrusts slow to an almost agonising pace, but he reaches down and takes hold of Harry’s dick. He strokes it slowly, way too slowly, and the burn starts low in his belly and holds on tight. He’s practically crying from the beautiful stress of being on the edge and unable to step over.
Draco whispers things to him. Unintelligible things that may as well be in code for all Harry can concentrate on them. His entire existence is narrowed down to the sound of Draco’s breath in his ear. Draco draws it out, it’s like an eternity. When he finally speeds up again, his fingernails digging into Harry’s shoulders, his cheek pressed tight against Harry’s, they breathe the same air and everything feels. Harry doesn’t know how it feels, just that it does, and then Draco lets him drop, and he feels everything.
Draco finally wakes up, moaning.
“Harry?” he murmurs into his pillow and then breaks off into another moan as Harry’s tongue swirls around his hole.
“Mm?” Harry says, otherwise occupied.
“Oh fuck, Harry,” Draco says. He pants harshly as Harry dips his tongue in and out. His voice is tight when he adds, “God damn it, Harry, god, yes... No! Stop! My grandmother’s coming home today.”
Harry lifts his head enough to say, “She’s here,” before lowering his mouth again. Draco nearly breaks his nose for the second time when he bucks up, panicked. Harry manages to push his hips back down and adds, “Be still. I locked and silenced the door. Auror grade spells.”
He resumes his exploration of Draco’s arse with his tongue. Draco tries to resist for only a few more perfunctory moments before he relaxes back into the bed moaning. When he has Draco gasping for breath and begging him, he decides that’s well enough and slicks up his prick. Draco presses his bum back enticingly, and if there’s anything Harry doesn’t need when it comes to Draco, besides a broken nose, it’s enticing.
He’s never been on this end of anal sex before, but he’s well-versed in vaginal sex, and as of last night he’s been on the other end of it, so he figures he can muddle through it if he pays attention to Draco. And that’s certainly easy enough. Draco’s infinitely eye-catching; not even just in an attractiveness sort of way. The lines of his body are striking and his hair is unmatched by anyone save Lucius, but it’s their shared history, Draco’s sharp, sometimes slightly-evil, personality that draws Harry. If he were a moth, he’d set up house in a vat of citronella if only Draco were there.
He watches Draco intently as he begins to push forward, attuning himself to every piece of Draco’s body, watching for tensing shoulders, for a moue of discomfort or pain on Draco’s face, pressed as it is halfway into a pillow. The tip of Harry’s cock breaches him and he does tense, his breath leaving him in a great whoosh, but when Harry tries to pull out, he reaches back and grabs tightly onto the wrist by his hip.
“Don’t you dare, Potter,” he hisses.
Harry nods, feeling his throat close up. He pushes in a little further, and then a little more, and when Draco starts rocking back against him, he can barely control himself as he slides in the last few inches. He falls over Draco’s back, trembling with suppressed need to fuck Draco into the mattress, and attempts to get himself under control. He never gets the chance. Draco starts fucking himself on Harry’s prick, his hands clenched in the sheets, the words coming from his mouth the most filthy things Harry’s ever heard, and they aren’t even in English.
He fucks him hard, searching for that spot that Draco hit the night before that made him lose his mind, and when he finds it, Draco makes an even filthier sound and growls at Harry.
“Right there,” Draco demands, and then, “Yes, god, yes fuck me just like that you annoying son of a bitch.”
Harry complies. He can feel himself rapidly nearing his climax and he hopes to god that Draco is close, too. He reaches down and grabs Draco’s shaft, pumping him in time with his thrusts. Draco tenses all around him.
“Come on, come, you fuck,” Harry breathes, and Draco does, hot and wet all over Harry’s fingers. It’s enough to send him barrelling over the edge, and he shudders, his hips thrusting erratically as he pumps himself into Draco’s arse.
When his breathing is under control again, he pulls slowly out and flops onto the bed beside Draco, grinning beatifically. Last night was fantastic and this morning is fantastic and Draco is fantastic and Harry’s life, on the whole, is suddenly incredibly fantastic. He turns to look at Draco, still grinning.
“It was okay?” he asks. “If it wasn’t, I’ll be better next time. I take instructions well.”
Draco snorts. “No, you don’t.”
Draco rolls his eyes. “It was…adequate.”
“Oh, please,” Harry says.
“Fine,” Draco says, fighting a smile. “It was…really good.”
“Really, really good?”
“You only get one really,” Draco says. “Or else you’ll get complacent.”
“That’s fair,” Harry says. He sobers. “But seriously. It was okay?”
Draco’s face softens. “Yeah, Potter. One would think you’d never had gay sex before with the way you carried on about it this morning and last night.”
“I haven’t,” Harry says. “You’re the first.”
Draco sits straight up and stares down at Harry with wide eyes. “I thought you meant you’d just never bottomed before.”
“Well,” Harry says, disconcerted. “I hadn’t.”
“But—with another man,” Draco insists. “And you’ve never?”
Harry starts to sit up, confused by the distressed look on Draco’s face. “No, I’ve—” his voice cuts out mid-sentence and it’s only then that he realises he’s been speaking this whole time. He tries again, but it won’t come, so he sighs and writes, I’ve only slept with women before you.
Draco jumps out of the bed, taking the sheet with him and wrapping himself up tight. “You should go.”
What?! Harry writes after trying unsuccessfully to demand it aloud. But we just
“You need to go,” Draco repeats before he can finish. He runs around the room collecting all of Harry’s clothes and tossing them at him. Harry takes his pants, bemused, but doesn’t move from the bed.
But what about the explosions? he says.
“I’ll take care of it,” Draco says without looking up more than necessary to quickly read the words. “Don’t worry about it. It’ll be handled and I won’t…I won’t tell them you stole the files. Unless you want credit? But no, you don’t,” he adds to himself. “You never do. I’ll take care of it,” he repeats firmly.
Harry’s t-shirt hits him in the face and falls to his lap. He stares at it, his heart beating a panicked rhythm. Draco won’t look at him. He swallows heavily and slides from the bed to put his shirt and pants on. He grabs his trousers from the bed and digs out his wand.
Draco? Harry writes. Draco doesn’t look at the word. Harry makes it blink. He still doesn’t look. Chest aching, Harry Apparates home.
He busies himself by working on the case, even though Draco says he’ll take care of it. He can’t stay still and fortunately, Ron and Hermione are usually willing to humour him.
What did you find? Harry asks through the mirror.
Ron’s face is grim. “Got a lead on those files you sent me,” he says. “You got a map of the area?”
Harry looks around the flat and spots the one he snagged from the office the week prior and never actually looked at. He summons it over and lays it flat on the floor. It’s got fewer details than the Google Map he looked at before coming to Lebanon, but the nation outlines are darkened in here.
What am I looking for?
“You can follow a trail from bombing to bombing throughout Turkey, but there’s no set pattern,” says Ron. “It’s all about the message. Code’s in Arabic. Hermione deciphered it. She only found one picture with a full message remaining, but she does think Malfoy’s right; it’s Idiot Code. There’s a keyword that looks like it appeared on all of them, only a little bit’s intact on most of them, but enough that she’s ninety-five percent confident.”
What did the full message say? he asks.
“It translated to something like ‘Welcome to Istanbul. Stay as long as you want, and be sure to see the Republic Monument.’ The next week, Taksim Square was bombed and two Turkish Aurors killed in the explosion.”
Harry nods grimly. Yeah, I read that report. A British Auror was, too.
“Yeah,” Ron says. “Retired one. He was there as a contractor.”
What’s the keyword then? Harry asks.
“‘Welcome’,” Ron says. “It’s usually written in graffiti, but once it was on a placard. Anyway, the first sentence clues you in that it’s coded, and then the second one gives the time and place. Then anyone who cracks it and wants to come, comes. It’s like BYOB, except the second B means ‘bomb’, not ‘beer’.”
How do you tell the time from that? This one said ‘stay as long as you want’.
Ron grimaces. “It’s more like the pattern the characters are written in. They drew out an Arabic numeral four. The next attack came exactly four weeks later at four p.m.”
Okay, Harry says, even though it’s not okay because, really, that four could’ve meant four hours, four days, or even four months. They’re still missing something. They have to be. So now we just have to decipher the next one.
“Gonna be tough,” Ron says. “Since it was blown up with the last explosion on the Syrian border.” He holds a picture up to the Floo, and it looks a little wobbly though the mirror, but with squinting and the activation of his translation charm, Harry can see ‘Welcome t’ and then the blasted face of a monument, the rest of the message annihilated.
How do the other people crack it if the messages get fucking blown up? Harry asks. If it’s a flash mob, how are people being alerted to the fact that a message is even there before it gets demolished? Harry’s head whirls with dozens of different trains of thought, his instincts pinging him that something is not right.
“Write ‘em down first, I s’pose,” says Ron. “This one just came through this afternoon. I reckon all your Aurors are bitching about losing a day off as we speak.” He bites his lip. “Heard there was a casualty. Israeli Auror.”
Thank god, Harry thinks. He’s sorry for the Israeli Auror, but that means it isn’t Draco.
Okay, Harry says. I need to go. I think I have a lead. I’ve got a feeling. Thanks, mate.
It’s nothing like it used to be, before he was suspended, before he lost his partner. He doesn’t enjoy it anymore. He’s just sick with worry over Draco getting hurt and he’s determined to finish this to keep Draco from becoming one of those Auror casualties.
He wonders if he ever really did like it, or if it was the prospect of eight or ten hours attached to Draco that got him out of bed every morning. He thinks he once liked the daring involved in being an Auror, but maybe it was just that he liked how cold Draco’s fingers were when he patched him up afterwards. He thinks he once liked the way being an Auror affirmed his life, gave it meaning, gave him meaning…but now he thinks maybe that was Draco’s doing, too.
Harry hates the thought that he might’ve somehow threaded Draco so completely into his life that he won’t ever know how to have it when Draco’s string unravels. He doesn’t think this is the answer Luna’s looking for. Surely it can’t be healthy to choose to continue to live only for one person. He’s supposed to be a self-sustaining entity, isn’t he? Capable of surviving alone?
He’s alone in the office for the better part of the morning and afternoon. He busies himself re-cataloguing some old, mis-filed cases while he lets his mind run amok. He’d been so sure that there was a Muggle connection to these attacks, but he’d found nothing with Google.
He’s an obsessive person; it’s no surprise that he obsesses over Draco, especially now. He’s still replaying Saturday morning in his head in between fretting about the case, but now, instead of wondering what he did or said wrong, he just thinks of the sleepy, satisfied look Draco’d worn in the brief moment between when they finished and when he’d kicked Harry out. His face had still been flushed and his eyes had been soft, and he’d looked so, so pleased to turn his head and find Harry occupying his second pillow. For a moment, Harry had—
He sighs. It’s silent again. There are no witnesses besides Draco to his being able to sometimes speak. Fucking curse scars. Maybe this is all a dream and he hasn’t actually spoken since the day his throat was slit open. Maybe he’s in a coma. Maybe he’s dead. Well, those don’t actually sound too horrible. He looks around, half-expecting Dumbledore to ride up on a train and finally take him away from all of this bullshit. There’s no Dumbledore. Surely he hasn’t accumulated enough bad deeds in the years since the war that he’s in purgatory now? Or hell?
Bollocks, he probably has. Suicide is bad, he recalls, and while he hasn’t actively sought it, he will admit, in the privacy of his own head, that he’s not been too bothered by the prospect of an early death. A crime of omission, maybe.
Around three, Fievel comes in and it occurs to Harry that this is the first he’s seen of her all day. She walks by without acknowledging him, her hair a mess and her face harassed. She’s got the file in her hand. The file.
Quietly, Harry gets up and follows her. He pauses outside her door, leaning against the wall and finding, for the first time, his lack of vocal sound beneficial. His breathing doesn’t even make noise anymore, except in front of Draco. And even then only sometimes.
“We got another bombing, this time in Lebanon,” he hears Fievel say through the crack in her office door. She sounds exhausted. “Malfoy found the pattern but we were too late, and now we don’t have the message to get to the next one. We need help.” There’s a muffled reply.
“The Our Lady of Lebanon monument in Harissa,” Fievel says then. Another pause. “The fuck you can’t! Those are my Aurors out there, and you will send in the goddamned calvary because every one of them are British citizens, even Proulx and Malfoy, despite how French they’d like us all to believe they are!”
Harry gasps, but of course it’s unheard. She’s asking London for help? There’s another muffled reply, and then Fievel makes this long, high-pitched, angry growl that pretty much sums up Harry’s feelings about life. The mirror disconnects with an echoing crack and then he hears what sounds like every single thing on Fievel’s desk hit the floor.
Harry jumps away from the wall and high-tails it back to his desk. Seconds later, Fievel storms out of the building and still doesn’t notice that Harry’s there.
She’s locked her office door, but Harry would be a shit Auror (or maybe just a shit Harry Potter) if he weren’t able to dismantle the locks and sneak in undetected. Had Ron alerted Dawlish? Has the Ministry known about this the whole time? Harry sorts through the files scattered on her floor.
Draco’s folder’s there, locked now, but he’s seen it all at this point. He pushes it aside continues prowling through Fievel’s files, finding nothing. Then he sees the photograph, half-falling out of the brand new case file labeled ‘Our Lady of Lebanon’. Harry grabs the photograph and sucks in a breath at the photograph he finds inside it. He’s seen this monument before. It was on the Lebanon Wikipedia page.
And now that he thinks about it, he remembers quite a few of the Israeli places bombed from his six degrees of separation search. He’s right. There is a pattern here, but it’s just been far too Muggle for any of them to catch onto.
Draco sighs and opens the door further. “Why can’t I quit you?” he mutters as Harry pushes into the condominium. Louder, he adds, “Potter, I just got home from thirty-six hours on duty on my day off. I can’t deal with your existential crises right now. What do you want?”
Harry turns to him, knowing he looks like a hot mess of anxiety and bad hair. The next one’s here. In Beirut.
Draco freezes. “What?”
“I found the pattern. It’s fucking Muggle technology. They’re bombing places on Wikipedia pages for each of the locations. And look." He hands Draco a print out from Google Maps Street View. The photograph was taken only weeks before today’s bombing, and barely visible on the bottom of the statue is a short string of Arabic graffiti.
Welcome to Beirut. Please enjoy our boardwalk.
Draco’s lips move as he works out the characters. He’s learning Arabic fast, but he’s still not fluent. He exhales all in a rush. “Beirut.”
We have to stop them, Harry says.
“We have to alert the Embassy,” Draco corrects.
I was just there. No one’s in.
“Because they’re all out trying to find the terrorist group that bombed a monument in Lebanon yesterday and had us scrambling for the past two days.”
Harry gnaws his lip. It’s not a single group, Draco. I’m sure of it.
“We discussed the flash mob aspect…”
It’s more than that, Harry says. None of this fits together. There’s a pattern in the lack of pattern. They’re choosing places from Wikipedia listings, but I can’t figure out the order they’re using. & if I can’t, how are they somehow managing to get an Auror or 2 present at the time of each of the explosions? There’ve been Auror casualties with every explosion, & these are places that Aurors aren’t normally stationed.
“Christ,” Draco mutters, running his hand through his hair. “You and your instincts.”
They work, usually, Harry says.
“I fucking know they do, Potter. I just thought I was done chasing after them. All right, fine. Someone’s working inside. What are your instincts saying we should do?”
Harry doesn’t know what this weird negative emotion that wells up in him at Draco’s resigned question is. It feels a little like guilt, or shame, or fear. It’s all of those things and none of them. Not tell Fievel.
“It’s not Fievel,” Draco says at once.
Not her, Harry agrees. He doesn’t know who it is, but he’s sure it isn’t Fievel. But it’s someone she trusts. Someone she’s given clearance to. So we can’t tell her, either. We have to go to the boardwalk. That graffiti is in the shape of a 7, & that’s today’s date.
“We need to find the graffiti immediately,” says Draco. “It’ll be somewhere on the boardwalk. Split up?”
The very thought makes Harry’s skin crawl, but he nods anyway. His throat is tight and the words won’t come. Draco turns and heads east, leaving Harry standing awkwardly amongst all the people moving about. Ziyad waves to him, and Harry forces a smile, trots over.
“Beetles again?” he says.
Harry pays for the beetles and crunches on one while he says, Hot today.
“Shaad likes it hot, don’t you, buddy?” Ziyad says, as Shaadhon bounds and jumps up Harry’s legs, front feet braced on his thighs and feelers tickling Harry’s face. His mouth is open and panting, rows and rows of sharp gleaming teeth on display. Harry grins at him and scratches him behind the ears. He should take a picture for Hagrid if he makes it out of this damned city alive.
I’m looking for some graffiti, Harry writes. Seen any?
Ziyad shrugs. “Just what’s along the retaining wall. But that’s always there. Is something wrong?”
Might be, Harry says. It’ll be fine, he adds, trying not to worry him, but then again, he really doesn’t want Ziyad or Shaadhon hurt. Maybe you should close up early today.
Ziyad narrows his eyes, black eyebrows scrunching together. “What’s going on?”
Harry shakes his head. I think it’ll be fine, but just in case. I’m trying to find some magic before it…goes off.
“Is there a bomb?” Ziyad whispers. “Mother of God, where? The docks?”
Maybe, Harry says. I have to find it.
“Take Shaadhon,” Ziyad says immediately. “He can sniff strong magic out. As a matter of fact, he’s been really excitable lately. I thought it was just you showing up, but now that I think on it, he started a few days before you arrived. Has it been here all along?”
Harry’s heartbeat stutters. Quite possibly, he writes. How far ahead of them are these terrorists? Weeks? Months?
Ziyad whistles and Shaadhon bounds over. “Go with Harry,” he tells the Manticore, and Shaad’s feelers bob up and down as if he understands. He gives Harry a distressed look. “Be careful with him, Harry.”
Harry nods. He looks at Shaadhon and wonders how he’s going to impart the need to find a patch of explosive magic, but Shaadhon just stares at him and then nods his feelers again. He takes off for the docks, and Harry chases after him. He catches up with Draco at the retaining wall, nearly running into him as Shaadhon barrels past. Draco’s staring transfixed at the supports of the docks before them. Shaad twines around all the pillars, eyes rolling like a spooked horse, making demonic little whistling breaths.
Harry skids to a halt and inhales sharply. Come here, Shaadhon, he writes carefully. Remarkably, the Manticore stops and returns to Harry’s side, though he looks pained by it. There is graffitti all over this place, much of it no doubt hidden by the sea during high tide. The sharp smell of sea water mixes with the crackling, dry heat of dormant explosive spells. Harry activates his translation charm.
Welcome to the end. Welcome to the end. Welcome to the end.
Repeated over and over and over on pillars and walls and a rusting dingy docked nearby. He grabs the wayfarers from his shirt neck and slips them on. The area lights up with blinding scarlet light. The area is so heavily quilted in explosive magic that he can’t even see the support pillars beneath it or the docks above it.
Draco get back to the retaining wall, Harry says. It’s the only clean place. The docks are crawling with fire & shockwave spells. I can smell C-4 but I don’t see it. Must be inside the pillars.
He can feel Draco’s eyes on him as he weaves spell after spell into the supports all around them. Even with the sunglasses, he’s being blinded by the sparking trails of explosive magic wrapped all over the docks. Behind him, Draco incants the spell Aurors use for looking at wards and his breath catches audibly.
“We were so wrong,” Draco says. “This is far too tidy to be crowd-sourced.”
No, it is, Harry says, and makes it blink to get Draco’s attention. You were right about the flash mob. We just missed the timing. I think they’re just watching for graffiti to show up on special places, and then they all come and add their own special touch. Lots of people showed up to put this together, but it wasn’t the explosion that was timed. It was the construction. Look—there are dozens of magical signatures here, but they were clever. Combined spell-casting...muddles everything up so much we’ll never get a clear read on any of them.
“Fucking brilliant,” Draco says, studying it, and indeed it looks as though he’s impressed. “How are they activating it though?”
Harry shrugs. That’ll take some investigating by forensics Aurors, but for now, all they have time to do is contain the area. Draco finally convinces Harry to let him put in the call for backup.
Proulx’s the first to arrive, of course. Arseholes seem to always show up early to the party. He shoulders Harry out of the way and starts speaking to Draco in rapid-fire French. Unimpressed, Harry activates the buggering translation charm and pretends to be clueless as he continues to cast.
“You let this idiot in on a black-level case?” Proulx says, gesturing angrily, and, in Harry’s estimation, Frenchly.
“He’s not an idiot,” Draco says. “He’s my partner.”
Harry’s heart soars until Proulx says, “I’m your partner.”
“He was first,” Draco says. “And he’s a good Auror. He’s saved my life dozens of times.”
Proulx scoffs. “He nearly got you killed on a daily basis.”
Draco glances at Harry and then back at Proulx and Harry knows that he knows he can understand him. “He always saved my life first. And his instincts are rarely wrong.”
“Fine,” Proulx says. They switch back to English then, thank Merlin, because Harry’s starting to get a migraine. Proulx turns to Harry. “I’ll find Fievel. We’ll have to bring in London Aurors. Our explosion disposal force is limited.”
The best one is right here, cocksucker, Harry says, but Proulx’s already turned to stalk away so only Draco sees it. He snorts, and then covers it with a cough. Proulx turns back around but Harry makes the words vanish before he can see them. With another scowl, he continues on, and Harry is alone with Draco again, as things should be. And anyway, getting Ron in here to help can only be a benefit.
It takes another fifteen minutes before the area is secure enough that Harry feels safe having Draco within the city limits. They settle down against the cement retaining wall some feet away and watch the boats sailing in and out. Still no Fievel and still no Proulx and still no other Aurors. Where the hell are they? Ron is probably held up at Portkey Customs because that’s the sort of situational irony that Harry is normally subjected to.
He’s antsy to get Draco away from the area, but they can’t leave it unattended, so they Disillusion and wait. Draco pulls out a stakeout kit from his Auror robes (two sleeping bags, a concealment candle, a tip-sheet on proper Disillusionment Charms, a bag of crisps that have been silenced against crinkles and crunches, and two skeins of water) and opens the crisps. He offers some to Harry but Harry shakes his head. His stomach is too tied in knots to eat.
This doesn’t feel right, Harry says. I feel like I’ve missed something.
“I do, too,” Draco says quietly. “But you followed procedure exactly. You did every single render safe procedure step. I watched you. What else can we do?”
Harry doesn’t know. He feels like he never knows anymore. Shaadhon has calmed down now that all of the magic has been dampened and is currently sniffing a dead seagull lying further down. Harry pulls out a deck of Cards Against Humanity and raises his eyebrows at Draco. Maybe it’ll help to settle his nerves at the least.
“Might as well,” Draco says. “Wish you’d get the magical version, though.”
Not as fun. They’re all about me.
“That’s why I want to play them,” Draco says. “For example...” He puts down a black card and reads, “‘What ended my last relationship?’ — Harry Potter.”
I did not! Harry says. He lays down a card that says ‘Poor life choices,’ and Draco snorts.
Draco always bogarts the Card Czar position, and in true fashion, lays down the next card. “And how about this one: ‘What’s the most emo?’ — Harry Potter.”
Fuck you, Harry says, slamming down a ‘Masturbation’ card.
“I’m really good at these Muggle games,” Draco says as he (cheats) sorts through the black deck to find a new card. “Here we go: ‘Blank. That’s how I want to die.’ — Harry Potter. Well, maybe not want, more like how I’m likely to die.”
Harry’s face heats up with anger. He has a few choice options (because really, there are loads of awesome ways to die) but he decides on ‘Three dicks at the same time.’
Draco chokes and Harry gives him an imperious look. Harry snatches the black deck from him and lays down the top card: ‘What will I bring back in time to convince people I am a powerful wizard?’
“Harry Potter,” Draco immediately says.
Harry kicks him in the shin and he yelps, but finally (finally!) looks through his cards and lays down ‘The force’. Draco is not “good,” per se, at this game. He’s a little too logical for it. But so far it’s been the only way that Harry could ever convince him to learn about Muggle pop culture and so he says nothing, just lays down his card. Draco knows what Star Wars is, and that’s enough for Harry.
They play until the setting sun becomes civil twilight, and still no Aurors. It’s got to be fate that when Harry lays down ‘What’s that sound?’ they both hear a click. Harry tenses immediately. He knows that click. Behind him, he sees Shaadhon running, panicked, towards them.
“Draco, get down!” He tries to throw himself on top of Draco anyway, but the blast comes from the other side of the retaining wall and everything is wrong wrong wrong about this situation. Draco is knocked into him and they skid several feet before slamming into the water, cement raining all around them.
Harry inhales seawater and chokes, his lungs burning. Draco’s sinking fast and why isn’t he swimming? He surges downward, grabbing Draco around the waist and kicking hard to break the surface. A piece of cement ricochets into his head and he sees stars. He feels drowsy, begins to sink, his grip on Draco loosening, and then he forces his head clear again. This is his healer; a warrior never lets his healer die.
He puts everything he has left into kicking up. The surface seems so far away and his lungs are burning from salt water and lack of air, but he kicks anyway. He has to get Draco to the surface, if it’s the last thing he ever does. Cement is sinking fast all around them, knocking into his shoulders and hips and Draco’s chest. Draco still doesn’t stir and Harry feels his chest burning from more than the suffocation. He kicks again and again, and eternity later, they make it to the top and he gasps in long lungfuls of air. They’re at least twenty feet from the docks and Draco still isn’t conscious. Harry isn’t even sure he’s breathing. He holds him tight, struggling towards shore, feeling himself want to cry for the first time in twenty years.
They’re so close to the shore, so very fucking close, but Harry’s vision is tunneling and his limbs are weak and he just…can’t. He shakes his head hard, trying to clear it. He kicks feebly, but they don’t advance any closer to the shore. He’s going to drop Draco if he doesn’t get him to land. Harry’s always thought he could do anything because he’s such a stubborn motherfucker. Mind over matter. Mind over magic. But right now, his mind isn’t clear enough to be over anything.
His vision darkens. He uses the last of his strength to drag Draco up and toss him as far as he can towards the shore. His chest lands heavily on a floating fragment of the docks and he stays there; at least his head is above water. That’s enough for Harry. His healer’s safe. Harry’s eyes begin to close. He feels rows of sharp teeth clamp down onto the back of his neck, or is that just what dying feels like? He thinks he should know—
“Mate,” Ron says, coming in. Harry hasn’t seen this look on his face since the war.
Hey, Ron, Harry says. He can’t look away from Draco on the hospital bed. Get through Customs all right?
“Fuck off, Harry,” Ron says tiredly. He sits down next to him and wraps his huge hand around the one Harry’s positioned on Draco’s thigh. “All right?”
Harry shrugs. Luna wanted me to figure out what the meaning of life is, he finally says. Said she’d clear me for work again when I did.
“And did you?” Ron asks.
Harry nods. The thing is, though, now he doesn’t want to go back. It’s always a trap, and now that his heart is trapped up in Draco, he doesn’t think he can sustain anything else. A good thing since he’s certain Dawlish will arraign him if he ever steps foot on British soil again. He’s broken countless laws regarding access to confidential files. Hermione here, too?
“Talking to the Healer,” Ron affirms. “She’ll be in presently, I’m sure.”
Harry nods and returns his attention to Draco.
Come on Draco, Harry thinks. You’ve gotta pull through this. Even if you never love me, not like I love you. You have to wake up anyway. I’d rather see you get married off to some pureblood than watch you lie here forever. Come on, wake up so one of us can be happy.
Hermione comes in then, looking exhausted. She turns to Ron first. “What did your team find?”
Ron glances at Harry before speaking. “There was another load of C-4 buried behind the retaining wall. Muggle fuses, so that’s why your spells didn’t pick it up. We caught them. Managed to trace magical signatures on a few of them, thanks to your clean containment spellwork, Harry. Didn’t contaminate the scene at all.” He sighs and then glances back to Hermione. “It’s going to be a nightmare for us. The ones we got traces on are all Muggleborn.”
Hermione’s eyes sink slowly closed, as if she’d been expecting that but hoping against hope that it wouldn’t be the case. “Motive?”
“Don’t know yet,” Ron says. “Susan’s interviewing. We should find out soon.”
“I bet I can make a guess,” Hermione says. She shakes her head, as if shaking the whole thought away, and comes to take the chair on Harry’s other side. “How are you, Harry?” Her eyes water and then she launches herself at him. “Oh god, I’m so glad you’re alive. I was so worried. I’m always so worried, but oh my god, Harry, I’m just…” She breaks down into sobs then, none of them actual words. Harry hugs her back, rubbing his hand up and down her spine. He and Ron avoid eye contact during this time, focusing instead on Draco, still unconscious in the hospital bed.
“I’m not going to return,” Harry says. Hermione freezes. Ron does, too.
“Harry?” Hermione says, lifting her face from his chest.
“I’m done with being an Auror,” Harry continues. Draco’s face is so pale. There’s a gash on the side of his head where part of the retaining wall hit him when it exploded. Harry can’t think anything but ‘what if he doesn’t wake up?’
“I never really wanted to do it. I just wanted to be Draco’s partner. I just never realised it until Draco wasn’t my partner anymore. I can’t do it if he’s not my partner and I can’t stand the thought of him being in danger. I don’t want to see it every day, and I would if I worked with him again.”
“Harry,” Ron says slowly.
Harry glances at him.
“Mate, you’re talking.”
“Oh,” Harry says.
He wishes that he could care more, but honestly, he really doesn’t have anything else to say. Not until Draco wakes up. He will wake up. Harry has to keep telling himself that. When he doesn’t say anything more, Ron and Hermione lapse into silence again. They sit with him for perhaps half an hour before Susan Bones knocks on the open door and quietly requests Ron’s presence. Hermione follows them out and Harry’s left alone again with Draco.
He interlaces his fingers with Draco and lays his head down on Draco’s stomach, breathing deeply to keep from losing it. “I’m sorry,” he says. “For all the years that I made you think you were only a healer to me. You never were just that. You’ve always been my…my. Any word that can follow after that is what you are to me. My friend, my partner, my healer, my reason to wake up, my reason to drink, my reason to want to kill myself when you haven’t had your tea and my reason to want to live even when you haven’t had your tea. My…love.
“Even when I didn’t know what it meant, and I still don’t maybe, even then. There’s always been a piece of me, and it’s a big piece, that triangulates onto you whenever you’re near. I physically ached when you were no longer in England. Coming here, even just being in the same city as you, it made things better. Not great, but better. Draco, you’re everything to me.
“I know it isn’t healthy or normal to require another person in order to stay alive, but honestly, when has my head been healthy or normal since the war? We both know it hasn’t, and…that’s okay. You make me as normal as I can be. You’re my meaning of life. Without you, there is no meaning. There’s no life at all. I love you, and you’ve got to wake up because if you don’t, you’ll be responsible for the death of the Saviour of the Wizarding World.”
“You are so full of yourself,” Draco croaks.
Harry stiffens. He feels Draco’s hand disentangle from his own and then it lands haphazardly on Harry’s hair. Draco’s fingers are stiff and slow in their movements, but they’re moving.
Harry clenches his eyes closed for just a moment, inhaling shakily. He turns his head, finds Draco looking back at him. He looks wretched, eyes bruised and blood still caked to the side of his face. He smells like seawater and detonated C-4.
“God, you’re awake,” Harry says.
“Yeah, have been since you laid down on me. Your head is heavy, imagine that.”
Harry laughs but it sounds more like a sob. “I’m so glad you’re alive.”
Draco’s smile is tired. “Sucks having to say that, doesn’t it? Now you know how I always felt.”
Harry grabs his hand again and refuses to let go. He falls asleep just like that, with his head on Draco’s stomach and Draco’s tired fingers in his hair. Draco’s alive, and nothing else matters.
“Her name is Reynolds,” Harry says to Narcissa, over tea, three weeks later. “She’s six weeks old.”
“What an…unusual name for a female Manticore,” Narcissa remarks.
Harry rubs her behind her little baby feelers. She rolls over in his lap to offer her belly for rubbing instead. “I named her after the incompetent Auror who failed to stitch up my slicing spell properly and left me mute for almost four months. Did you know Manticore venom will destroy the dark magic in a curse scar? Wish I’d known that during the war…”
The story of Harry’s rescue of Draco, and Shaadhon’s subsequent rescue of Harry, has made the rounds around the London Ministry. Dawlish’s already offered him his job back, but there’s no fucking way. Still, it’s a nice little ‘fuck you’ to all the Aurors who always thought he was incapable of being present enough in a danger situation to even know when another Auror needed rescuing. And it’s also kind of humiliating to be rescued by a juvenile Manticore, but whatever. He’s never going back to London anyway. They can laugh all they want.
Well, actually, Hermione looks to be putting on a little weight around the middle so he’ll probably have to go back for the birth.
There’s an uncomfortable silence. Harry happily sips his tea, even though he doesn’t like it, and smiles at Narcissa and Druella. Druella still refuses to even look at him, which is not a problem for Harry since he and Draco have moved into the Malfoy property here in the city anyway.
“Do you plan to return to the Auror force?” Narcissa asks.
“Never,” Harry says. “I’ve decided to breed and train magic-hunting Manticores for the Ministry.”
Narcissa looks pained. She’s probably imagining all the semi-lethal Manticore kittens running around and pissing on ancient Malfoy rugs. “Draco tells me that he’s taking a sabbatical, to reassess.”
“That’s right, Mummy,” Draco says, returning from the kitchen. He offers her a plate of sandwiches and then does the same for Nana Black. “I’ve told you thirty times.”
Narcissa gives him a sharp look. “I hope you decide not to return as well, darling.”
Harry hopes for the same, but he refuses to say anything. He doesn’t want to sway Draco’s decision and have Draco end up being resentful of him for the rest of their lives. It’s not as bad as it would be if Draco does return and ends up getting killed, but it has to be Draco’s decision.
Harry doesn’t think he’ll return. Harry thinks he’s seriously considering putting his healing expertise to use in magical pathology instead. There’s a huge magical hospital here in Beirut, serving the entire region, and it’s one of the top teaching hospitals in the world. They offered Draco a position as soon as he announced to the Healer-in-Charge that: ‘Of course Harry’s voice returned after Shaadhon bit his neck to pull him to shore. Manticore venom destroys dark magic, you idiots.’
Neither of them mentions the fact that Harry already had been able to speak around Draco while under extreme emotional distress or the thralls of passion. It’s none of their fucking business, and really, there are some mysteries Harry can go to his grave without obsessing over. Not many, but a few.
Later, after Narcissa and Druella leave, Harry lets out a huge sigh. Draco comes and straddles his lap, bending down to kiss him slowly. Reynolds scampers away before being squashed between them. “Thank you for being nice to my family, even if you were sort of a dick at the same time.”
“You have to let me lean in,” Harry advises him. “I’ll get better.” He nips at Draco’s bottom lip and says, “I’m surprised your mother is so copacetic with our relationship.”
“She only hated you because I got into dangerous situations because of you,” Draco says. “And Mummy knows it’s not for her to judge anyone else’s personal relationships, even mine. Everyone’s relationships are strange if you look deep enough. She married my father, after all.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of you not producing a Malfoy heir with me.”
“Oh, that,” says Draco. “Well, I’m sure she’ll figure out something. I ‘accidentally’ left a brochure for Muggle sperm donation on my bedside table a few years ago and she hasn’t said a word to me since. I think she’s enchanted with the idea of not having to deal with a daughter-in-law, so she’s willing to bide her time and see what I do.”
Harry rolls his eyes. “You are so weird.”
“You love weird,” Draco says.
“Love you,” Harry corrects. “Even when you’re weird.”
Draco trails his mouth up Harry’s jaw line until he reaches his ear. “I’m not going back,” he says. “I won’t scare you again.”
Those are the most beautiful words Harry’s ever heard. He pulls Draco to him and crashes their mouths together. He doesn’t know how they got here, really. The whole thing feels unreal, a little like a video game where the objective was to make it out alive and instead he’s decided to stay trapped here with Draco. He doesn’t care though. He’s used to traps, and as far as they go, Beirut is a good one. Outside, the sun sets over the Mediterranean. Draco’s hair catches sun flares and heats Harry up from the inside out. Things are heavy between them. There’s gravity.