1. Protection and Security
Four years since Draco had begun working at the Ministry, five since Potter had become an Auror, and Draco still held his breath every single time he had to share a lift with Potter, ran into him in a corridor, or was forced to attend the same meeting. Four long fucking years of casting chilling charms on a regular basis, because he was damned if he was going to wear ugly clothing simply to accommodate Potter's effect on him when he consistently failed to have a similar effect on Potter.
Draco couldn't help wondering if his father had been smoking something more potent than usual when he'd suggested that life debts could become more if both sides were attracted or if one used the right charms.
Not being a Hufflepuff, he'd cast the charms at the first indication that Potter had noticed him. Of course, Draco's luck being what it was, the git had immediately started seeing Looney Lovegood. Luckily that had only lasted a few months.
"Oi! Draco! You going to daydream in front of that Floo all day?" Seamus Finnigan nudged Draco from behind. "Some of us have celebrations to attend."
"Bugger off," Draco said.
"Not when there's a pint of Guinness crying out for the touch of my lips."
Draco rolled his eyes. Melodramatic wanker. He turned back to the Floo and frowned. "Fire's out."
"No, that's not allowed. I've got a place to be." Finnigan elbowed him rudely to one side. A moment later, the Ministry klaxons began shrieking. Draco cast a discreet Ear Protection charm and began to back away from the bank of Floos. His heart pounding, his mind cycling through the most probable reasons for a Floo Network outage, he fought his way back through the surging and panicking crowds, not hesitating to use his cane to clear a path when necessary.
Despite not being in evidence when he'd first walked through the Atrium to the Floos, Aurors were visible everywhere he looked. The emergency wizard spaces had been opened, and they were shepherding Ministry employees towards them. Draco dodged two over-eager trainees, waved off Bulstrode, and headed back to the lifts, which were, thankfully, still working. Within minutes, he was back in dispatch, earworm settled into place, and logging into his mirror pod.
Turning to Amy Goldstein, who'd come on shift as he was leaving, Draco asked, "Status?"
"Still tracking it down," she said. "Alarm was raised at 17:29 on the fifth level by Tollinger's secretary, who saw seven or eight black-robed figures emerge from his office. Supposition is that they came through his private Floo. Network went down at 17:23."
"Which Aurors are on duty?"
"All of second shift and at least three-quarters of first, as it turns out. The only piece of luck we've got going for us. Dawlish handed in his notice just before he was due to go on shift, and Robards extended the briefing to announce it."
Good riddance, Draco thought, but had the sense not to say aloud. Just then, his mirror pod beeped, and he got to work. He was in the middle of coordinating a sweep of the fourth level when the door banged open. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Potter and Boot enter the room. Boot stayed by the door, wand at the ready, while Potter went over to Quillan Chambers, the supervisor on duty.
"Spells cast on four. We need backup now," someone yelled into his ear, and Draco turned all of his attention back to his mirrors and his Aurors. Shortly after he finished with that call, the All Clear sounded.
Quillan was staring intently at her master mirrors when she announced, "Congratulations, people, all Aurors alive and accounted for. Only three minor injuries among them." She paused and smiled. "Seven intruders captured, one dead, including Dolohov himself. That's the last of that very bad lot."
Draco leaned back in his chair and stretched. His muscles complained a little from being hunched over the mirrors. He held out his hands and checked them for tremors, reassuring himself that it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Reluctant to go home with his nerves still vibrating and adrenalin still racing through his system, he left himself logged in and went over to Quillan.
"Appreciate the help," she said, cutting him off before he could even open his mouth. "The rest of your shift either made it out or were herded into the pens with the sheep."
"I could stay?"
"Not this month," she said. "Overtime budget's already busted, and we've still got a week to go. The dragons from Finance are breathing down my neck so hard I'm getting third degree burns. It's going to be difficult enough getting this past them, emergency or not."
Giving her a nod, Draco returned to his desk and logged out. He was halfway to the lifts when Potter caught up with him, out of breath from running. "No one goes anywhere without an escort. Robards's orders."
"Keep up then," Draco said and began to walk faster. He gritted his teeth when his bad leg complained but didn't slow down.
"Wanker," Potter said in a tone that Draco might have interpreted as fondly amused if it had come from anyone else. As it was, he had to put serious effort into not taking offense.
In the lifts, Potter immediately stood with his back to Draco — who was once again trying to decide whether to be insulted that Potter didn't consider him a threat or complimented — and jiggled one leg constantly, as if impatient to be out of there. Which would have been fine if Potter hadn't had his hands in his pockets, pulling his robes tight across an exceptionally fine arse.
"You answered." Potter blinked at Draco through the flames.
"Most people answer when someone yells out of their Floo at four o'clock in the morning," Draco said. He yawned and lowered himself into the leather chair by the hearth.
"Is that what time it is?" Potter sighed, sending sparks hissing up the chimney.
A tremor went through Draco's left hand, leaving behind an all too familiar pins-and-needles sensation. He massaged it with his right and scowled at Potter.
Potter's eyes flickered down to Draco's hands. "Malfoy, I—"
"Tell me why you called or get out of my fire, Potter."
"Dolohov suicided. "
The lack of intonation meant that it took a few seconds for the meaning of Potter's words to penetrate. "Good riddance to utter shite," Draco finally said.
"Isn't that the truth?" Potter made a face. "Anyway, I didn't think you'd want to read it in the Prophet tomorrow."
"If that's all?"
"I... erm... yeah."
"Then I'll say good night." Draco raised his wand, ready to shut off the Floo connection.
"What? I'd like to get back to bed before my shift starts."
"You're on tomorrow?"
"Today, and yes."
"Guess you won't want to meet me at the Phoenix after shift, then?" Potter looked almost disappointed, but Draco put it down to a trick of the flames.
"Perhaps another day." The words were out before Draco could take them back.
Potter smiled. "You never know, Malfoy. I might just hold you to that."
And then he was gone, leaving Draco with flashes of bright red searing across his memories and nerves that were once again twitching with remembered pain. He levered himself out of the chair and limped slowly back to his bedroom. Hopefully there was still a phial of Dreamless Sleep in his bedside table.
2. Crisis Intervention
"Malfoy, you've got to get help out here now." Potter's voice filled Draco's ear.
"Not until you tell me what's going on." Draco flicked his side mirror and started making notes in a new report form.
"Potions lab explosion," Potter said, his disgust and fury as clear to Draco as if he were standing beside him. "Bastard was brewing Mind Glitter in the house next door to Morgana Primary."
Draco swore and began sending instructions to the mediwizards on call. "Numbers?"
"Three teachers, thirty-seven kids. Terry's checking on the office staff," Potter said. Noises in the background made it clear that he was moving around. "We've got Bubblehead charms on all of them, but six of the kids and one teacher were outside in the gardens, and they're in rough shape."
"Already in progre —" Potter's voice broke off. When he came back on, it was noticeably rougher. "Get them here yesterday, Draco. There's a kid... He must have been skiving off. Hiding in the broom shed. Stupid, stupid—"
Draco interrupted him. "Bubblehead charm, Potter."
"I don't think he's breathing."
"Resuscitation charm then," Draco said, "with a Lung Purification twist." He gestured at Eleanor Branstone, who took over coordinating the rest of the rescue operation.
They worked together for what seemed like forever, getting the unnamed student breathing and keeping him that way until the emergency mediwizards arrived. Even after they'd arrived, Draco continued on with Potter until it was all over but the reports.
Afterwards, he sat there, twirling a quill and staring at his mirrors, still hearing Potter's voice in his head. They'd been working so closely, almost as if they were one person, and he felt Potter's loss as if a part of himself were no longer there. He reached up to run a finger around the shell of his ear.
Draco started as Quillan yelled in his ear. Her abruptness was a clear indication that she'd been trying to get Draco's attention for some time.
"Sorry," Draco said. "I just needed a minute. I'll get right on those reports."
"Malfoy," Quillan repeated in a tone so gentle that it terrified Draco. Still, appearances must be kept up, so he kept his fear locked down tight and raised an eyebrow in inquiry. "The boy? Did you get his name?"
Not even bothering to check his notes, Draco shook his head. "No time and no one to ask."
"Didn't think so." Quillan put her hand on Draco's shoulder. "Come on. Pack up your things. We've called Davies in. You're getting the rest of the shift off."
"Tell me," Draco gritted out past his clenched teeth. The quill snapped between his fingers.
"It was Parkinson's son."
Patrick. A muffled roaring filled Draco's ears, and he had to grab onto his desk to keep his balance when he stood up too abruptly. His godson. He'd been trying to save the life of his own godson.
"I'll sort everything out if you log off," Townsend said.
"Mungo's?" Draco asked, absently tapping the rune on his master mirror.
"Use the Floo in my office." Quillan was already using the hand she'd placed on Draco's shoulder to guide him in that direction.
"How could Potter not recognise him?" Even as he muttered the words, Draco remembered that Potter had been out of the country on assignment for the last six months and likely hadn't been over to Pansy and Ginny's to meet Patrick. The adoption party, after all, wasn't until Saturday. Blinking his burning eyes, Draco tossed a handful of powder onto the flames and stepped into them.
The Floo spat him out into Potter's arms.
"You look like Thestral shite." Draco shoved Potter away as soon as he felt steady enough on his feet, fighting the urge to take comfort from that unexpected embrace.
"I don't smell much better either." Potter tugged at his robes and made a face. "Come on. They're in a private waiting room. Pansy's about going spare, and I can't tell whether it's going to be Ginny or the Healers who hex her first."
"You're useless, Potter."
The left side of Potter's mouth curved up into the lopsided grin that Draco loved to despise and then fell almost immediately. "Hope not. I don't think any of you will forgive me that."
Before Draco could respond, Potter was guiding him towards an open door, and then Pansy had her arms around his neck and was crying into the shoulder of his robes. After that things blurred into hours of waiting and comforting Pansy, endless cups of tea and inedible food substitutes brought down from the Tea Room.
Eventually though, Healer Pye came through the double doors and Draco got to his feet along with everyone else. Pansy was clinging to him and to Ginny, and Ginny was gripping Potter's arm hard enough to cut off the circulation.
Pye smiled, and Draco breathed.
"Ms Parkinson, Ms Weasley," Pye said. "Patrick is in recovery. We've managed to get all of the toxins out of his system and don't expect any long-term side-effects. Would you like to see him?"
"Please," Ginny said, hugging Pansy. "We'd like to stay with him, if we can."
"Just the parents tonight," Pye said. "Everyone else can see him tomorrow after he's been moved to a regular room."
When all the goodbyes and the hugs had been shared and Weasley after Weasley was filing through the Floo, Draco sat down in the nearby waiting area. Sheer determination was all that stopped him from collapsing onto the bench. The tremors that shook his left leg improved as soon as he took the weight off. Propping his cane next to him, he pressed the heel of his right hand into the thigh, trying to ease the cramping muscle. He bit his lip to stop himself from cursing the fact that he'd left his potion at home.
Instead of going through the Floo as Draco had expected, Potter crouched next to him. "You all right?"
"I'm fine," Draco said, clenching his left hand to hide the trembling.
Potter twisted his face into one of the strangest expressions Draco had ever seen. Then, giving up on that, he raised both eyebrows and used his fingers to hold one down.
"Merlin, Potter, do not do that again." Draco sniggered. "Someone's going to think you've got spell damage."
"It wasn't that bad."
Unable to resist the urge, Draco arched one eyebrow. "It was worse."
Draco had a retort all ready to go, but had to grit his teeth against the pain caused by his calf muscles contracting. He pasted a smirk on his face, but Potter was clearly not fooled.
"You need to go home," Potter said.
"And you're still a master of the obvious."
Potter sighed. And then he rubbed the back of his head, making his hair even worse.
Not about to wait for Potter to get his brain working, Draco got his feet and cane under him and stood up, just managing not to wobble. He made it one step before he felt Potter's hand on his arm.
"Don't be so pig-headed," Potter said, and before Draco could object, he was drawn against Potter's sweaty robes and Side-Along Apparated.
3. Assessment and Response
The shift had been bad. One of the worst Draco had had in weeks. He'd barely been able to walk away from his mirrors for long enough to get to the loo and certainly not long enough to stretch properly. As a result, the muscle spasms in his leg were sending shooting pains into his hip and lower back. Somewhere between that and the adrenaline still running through him lay the reason he'd let Seamus and Ernie drag him along to the Flames and Phoenix when he'd ended up behind them in the queue for the Ministry Floos.
He followed them to a large table in the back. Far too conscious of how badly he was limping, he took the only available chair that didn't require him to shuffle sideways to get to it. Casting a discreet Cushioning charm on the hard wooden seat, he settled into the chair and stretched his left leg as much as the crowded table allowed.
A pint glass was put in front of him, the head foaming over the lip, and Potter asked, "All right, Malfoy?"
"What do you think?" Draco gave him an incredulous look that brought points of red flushing into Potter's cheeks. Then he became aware that everyone else was looking at him. He sneered at them and got nothing but smiles, nods, and raised glasses back. Bastards, the whole lot of them.
"Might as well drink up, then," Potter said, lifting his own glass. "Here's to another day with everyone making it out the other side."
"And to yobs with piss poor aim." Seamus rubbed at a scorch mark on his shoulder as he sunk most of his ale.
"Forgot to duck again, did you?" Terry laughed.
"Could've been killed," Seamus said mournfully, "and then where would you lot be?"
"But think of the epitaph." Potter sniggered. "Here lies Seamus, who survived Voldemort only to be dropped by a seven year old waving her Mummy's wand."
"Oi!" Seamus scowled at Potter. "She had to be at least Hogwarts' age."
"Old enough to know what to do with you then," Amy said.
Placing a hand on his chest, Seamus swooned back into his chair and partly on top of Draco. "You have to save me, Draco. She's wounded me. Possibly unto death."
"If you think I'm taking Amy on for you, you're even madder than Potter." Draco shoved him away.
"And here I was thinking Malfoy finally liked me." Potter was grinning, but there was something off in his tone of voice. "I may never recover from the disappointment."
Disconcerted, Draco took another sip of his ale and let the conversation flow over him. After a couple of hours, Terry left, taking Amy with him. Eventually it was just Seamus chatting up the waitress, and Potter who'd been unusually silent for most of the evening. Draco glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. Potter was staring into the depths of his nearly full glass.
"Something growing in there?" Draco asked.
For a moment, he thought Potter was going to ignore him, but then he shrugged. "You ever play with the what-ifs, Malfoy? What if I'd taken that call instead of this one? What if I hadn't done that last, unnecessary sweep of the grounds? What if—"
"Don't." Draco reached out and took Potter's glass, placing it on the table. "That way lies dragons."
"I'm never that lucky." An impenetrable look on his face, Potter leaned his head back and closed his eyes. When he spoke again, his voice was so quiet that Draco had to lean in to hear him. "Do you really think I'm mad?"
"You're a Gryffindor, Potter. It comes with the territory."
"Slytherins would never risk themselves to save someone else, huh?"
That odd tone was back. Draco found himself wanting to comfort Potter, and that left him speechless. He didn't do comfort. Clenching his left hand into a fist, he pressed the knuckles into the thigh muscle of his left leg.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Potter said, straightening up and reaching for his ale. "Don't worry about it, all right?" He drained his drink and set the empty glass down with a thunk that made Draco aware of the haze he'd somehow been drawn into by the way Potter's throat muscles worked as he swallowed.
"No." Potter caught Draco's right hand in both of his. "I'm so fucking tired of being Potter, you have no idea. If you can't call me Harry, at least have the fucking decency to stop talking to me."
"And where would you be if I did that?" Draco tried to pull his hand out of the warm ones that were cradling it, but Potter's grip only tightened.
"If you called me Harry?" Potter tilted his head and focussed on Draco. The tip of Potter's tongue peeked out from between his lips as it always did when he was thinking hard.
"Don't deliberately misunderstand me." Draco took a deep breath and added, "Harry."
The smile he got in return wasn't like any other Draco had seen on Potter's face. Although, Draco mused, if he used it on his friends that would go a long way to explaining why they'd stuck around after he almost got them killed.
"Draco." Potter breathed his name. "I wanted a name like that when I first heard it. Something different. Something that wasn't given to every Tom, Dick, and—" he sniggered "—Harry."
"Well, we can't all have intelligent parents, can we?" The minute he said the words, the happiness faded from Potter's face, and Draco wished he could unsay them. "Oh, stop that," he snapped, "I didn't mean it that way."
"Yeah, all right."
The twisted curve of Potter's lips looked forced, and that made Draco's stomach sink. He reached out with his left hand and wrapped it around Potter's hands, which were still holding Draco's right. "I thought you had me worked out by now."
Potter's laugh was half-hearted. "Only insult the ones you love or some such rot. Is that what you're claiming?"
"Hardly." Draco smirked. "Just think of all the spectacular insults that would never see the light of day."
"I'm sure the world would survive the loss."
Draco wanted to respond to that, he really did, but Potter's tongue swept over the cracked surface of his lips. And Draco couldn't do anything but watch it.
"Closing time, gentlemen."
The interruption shocked them apart. Draco turned to see the waitress standing across the table from them, Seamus's arm around her waist. Both of them looked highly amused.
Before Draco could think about what it meant, he was releasing Potter's hands and Potter was standing up. Staggering, Draco corrected himself. He touched Potter's forearm. "You know better than to Apparate home like that."
"You going to report me?"
"Not likely. Too much paperwork."
Potter swayed and grabbed at a chair for balance. He shook his head. "Fuck. Didn't think I'd had that much to drink."
"Thinking never was your forté." Using his cane and the table, Draco pushed himself to his feet. He manoeuvred himself in front of Potter, who was watching him intently. "Come on," Draco said, holding out his arm. "My turn to make sure you get home safely."
When Potter drew Draco's arm around him and leaned into him, trusting him, Draco had to bite the inside of his mouth to stop himself from saying something utterly foolish. Instead, he pulled Potter closer, fixed an image of Potter's front door into his mind, and Disapparated.
"Potter, Boot, come in." Amy sounded calmer than Draco felt after hearing her repeat those words for the third time.
"I don't know what to do," a woman said into his earworm.
Silently cursing her, Draco drew on his professional persona and locked his worry about Harry behind the tightest shields he had. "Why don't you start by giving me your name, location, and a brief description of your problem?"
"Oh, it's Fiona, Mrs Fiona Morley. I live at 46 Halkett Close in one of those lovely new terrace houses they built last year."
Draco flicked a finger at his right side mirror. A map flashed onto the surface with the location highlighted. "And are you there right now?"
"Where else would I be?" Mrs Morley said. "If I wasn't here, I wouldn't be calling you, now would I? It's about those disgusting boys across the street. I can smell them in my sitting room some days. I'd be surprised if they even know what a bath is."
"I haven't been able to raise either of them," Amy was explaining to Quillan, who stood between her and Ernie. "Not since they entered the house."
Ernie was tapping his mirrors but speaking far too quietly for Draco to hear.
Mrs Morley said, "Well, something has to be done about their stench."
"Unfortunately, a lack of physical hygiene isn't a crime, no matter how much some of us might like it to be," Draco said.
"But they're vile." Mrs Morley clicked her tongue, and the noise made Draco wish he could send someone out to arrest her for wasting his time.
"Finnigan and Williamson are on site," Ernie said. "Proudfoot and Kumble are on their way. Others will follow as they're able."
Turning his back on the huddled dispatchers, Draco tried to focus on the idiot at the other end of his call. "Unless there's something else, Mrs Morley..." He let his voice trail off, hoping against hope that she'd catch a clue.
"I thought you couldn't send Aurors to talk to them," she said accusingly. "There are four of them out there right now. Making a god-awful racket, might I add. And one of them has longer hair than our Emily. You'd think my taxes would buy a better class of—"
Draco's attention snapped back to his call. He spun around and beckoned Quillan over. "Mrs Morley, this is very important. I need you to tell me exactly what's been going on across the street. Did you see two Aurors entering that house earlier?"
"They were out there for ages, banging on the door loud enough to wake up my mother, and she's been dead for decades. Yelling, too. In my day, the Aurors knew how to treat people."
With some of the same hexes and curses, I'd like to send your way if you don't shut up and tell me what happened, Draco thought. Letting the record of his call scroll on his left side mirror for Quillan to review, he asked, "Did you see what happened to those Aurors?"
"Well, that's why I'm calling, isn't it? Honestly, young wizards these days. If you'd just listen for five minutes instead of jumping to conclusions."
"My apologies, Mrs Morley." Draco slid his wand out of reach and did his best to sound pleasant and apologetic, rather than violent and homicidal.
She lowered her voice to a near whisper and said, "They're in the house next door."
"Number 26 and 27 look like two houses, but they're really one." An odd sound that Draco couldn't place came through his earworm. "I can see right into the bedroom in number 27, too. That nice Potter boy, the one who's still in all the papers, is on the floor. There's another one beside him as well. Those ropes look tight enough to be painful."
Quillan scrawled a question on Draco's notepad.
Draco nodded. "Mrs Morley, if we send Aurors over to your house, could you take them up to your bedroom?"
"Aurors? In my bedroom? Why on earth would I want that?"
"They need to get a fix on the room you were telling me about, for Apparation purposes."
"Well, I suppose that would be all right," she said. "As long as they promise to cast Cleaning charms on their shoes before walking on my new carpet."
"Of course, Mrs Morley." Cleaning charms on their shoes, Draco wrote below Quillan's question, and added a couple of exclamation points for emphasis.
"Tell her they'll go to her back door, and keep her on the line," Quillan said before heading over to Amy and Ernie.
"They're going to come round the back, Mrs Morley," Draco said. "To ensure that they can't be seen from across the street."
There was a pause, and then he heard her moving. "This is rather exciting, isn't it?" she whispered.
Not the word I'd use. Draco glanced over at the others, but they were locked into their mirrors. He could hear mumbling in the background, but the stupid bint had obviously put her own mirror down. He shifted positions, and his chair adjusted for maximum support and comfort.
"Kumble's in the kitchen with her," Quillan said, coming up behind Draco. "The others are about to Apparate."
Draco nodded. "Mrs Morley?"
"They won't let me back upstairs," she said. "And this... witch insists that I hang up on you."
It was a close call, but Draco managed not to allow his gratefulness to bleed through into his voice. "Thank you for your assistance, Mrs Morley. You're in very capable hands with Auror Kumble."
"What kind of name is Kumble anyway?" Draco heard, just before he closed the connection.
He pulled out his earworm and leaned forward, resting his forehead on his crossed arms and arching his back to stretch out his aching muscles. In the background, he could hear other dispatchers talking, some to Aurors and others to civilians. However, like them, his focus was on Quillan, Amy, and Ernie, and their two officers down.
The words that Draco had been planning to toss at Harry evaporated when he saw him sitting on a bed in St Mungo's. Harry's legs were dangling over the edge, and he was cradling his head in his hands. Draco stood in the doorway, watching him, before he knocked his cane against the doorjamb.
Harry looked up. His expression was so hopeful that it was almost physically painful to see his gaze skitter past Draco to the hallway behind him. "It's been hours," he said, tilting his head in a way that Draco recognised as an invitation to join him.
"I noticed." Draco made his way over to the bed.
"Has my guard left?"
"If you mean the mediwitch on the desk, she's currently being distracted by Seamus."
"Let's go then." Harry began to slide off the edge of the bed.
"Stay still." Draco put out a hand to stop him, grasping his chin when he tried to duck. Healing paste glistened on the curve of Harry's jaw, drawing attention to a hex burn. Dried blood dotted his upper lip and crusted the rim of his left nostril.
Laying his cane on the bed, Draco retrieved his wand from its holster and conjured a warm, damp flannel. Harry's eyes fluttered closed as Draco cleaned his face with gentle strokes, careful not to disturb the paste.
"Now you look more like a visitor than a patient," Draco said, flipping the flannel into the air and Banishing it.
They stood there, Draco between Harry's legs, until Draco's hand shook against Harry's jaw. Draco looked away and tried to pull his hand back, to step away, but Harry wrapped his legs around Draco's and held him in place.
"I asked," Harry said, "since you never talk about it." He scratched the palm of Draco's trembling hand.
The unexpected touch sent a jolt of heat to the base of Draco's spine. His fingers twitched, curling inwards, capturing Harry's. He licked his parched lips and searched Harry's eyes for something, anything, to help him understand. "Just another war wound," he finally said.
"When did he Crucio you?" Harry brought Draco's hand up and rested his cheek against it. "Before or after you lied for me?"
"I was a failure." Draco blinked to clear the rush of red that filled his vision. "It wasn't your fault."
Harry turned his head and fastened his lips to the base of Draco's thumb, dragging his mouth down the skin, leaving a trail of heat. All the way to the faded snake's head that was the beginning of his Dark Mark. He paused, nudged Draco's sleeve out of the way with his chin, and licked.
His tongue was rough against the still-sensitive skin, and Draco hissed as he felt it all the way to the base of his spine.
"Does it hurt still?" Harry peered up at him through long black eyelashes. "I know how agonising it was to get one, whether you wanted it or not. I had to watch him burn the Mark onto more than one forearm."
"Did you—" Draco shook his head. "Never mind. I don't want to know."
"No," Harry said. "Not yours."
Relief shot through Draco. Somehow that had mattered more than he'd known. Still he needed to change the subject. Balancing most of his weight on his right leg, Draco leaned down and rested his forehead on Harry's. "You had me worried today."
"I had me worried today." Harry's mouth curved into a half-smile. "Can you imagine how much fun the Prophet would have had if I'd let a pair of petty thieves get me?"
"No one would have been laughing."
Harry's sigh was a gust of air that blew through Draco's hair. "I'm rotten at this. At what to say and how to act when I want someone. Usually I'm too busy running as far and as fast as I can from crazy people who are so sure they know what I need that they forget to ask me."
A warm feeling caught in the base of Draco's throat, and he smiled. "You don't have to say anything."
"Neither do you."
The kiss, when it came, was tentative at first. A brush of lips, still tasting faintly of healing potions, that sent an ache through Draco. He touched the tip of his tongue to the dip in Harry's upper lip, and Harry parted his mouth.
They would have gone further, kissed more deeply, but someone cleared his throat loudly enough to break them apart.
Harry tightened his grip on Draco's hand. "Seamus?"
"If you want out of here, you need to go now." Seamus had a broad grin on his face. "We're gathered in the usual waiting room." He turned his head briefly. "Oh hell, she's on her way back. Get out of here."
Before either of them could say anything, Seamus had disappeared.
"Brilliant sense of timing," Draco said.
"I always did, even at school." Releasing Draco, Harry picked up his cane, considering it for a second before handing it over.
Draco moved carefully to one side. When Harry swayed as soon as he got to his feet and fumbled for the bed, Draco slid his left arm over Harry's shoulders and drew him to his side. "Come on. Or they'll have you in here all night."
They walked a bit more slowly than they probably should have, with Harry's arm around Draco's waist, but Draco wouldn't have traded their closeness for the entire wizarding world.