Malfoy brought the cigarette to his mouth, pressed his lips tight around the filter and inhaled, sucking in the smoke like it was his last breath. His eyes closed, nostrils flared as he held the dirty air in his lungs before finally releasing it out the corner of his mouth. His hand, cigarette burning bright between his index and middle finger, rose to his forehead. The tip of his thumb scratched his eyebrow.
Harry watched the pattern loop and wondered if the repetition was soothing -- inhale, exhale, rub a thumbnail along an eyebrow, and repeat until it was time to light another. He checked his watch again. Three hours they'd been waiting. They’d been through a pack of cigarettes, two stale sandwiches, and a bottle of water and yet not a single word had been spoken between them. Malfoy exhaled another stream of smoke into the air, and Harry's fingers twitched to go over and snap the damn fag in two.
Malfoy flicked the butt; it arched high and wide, landing on the train track in a spray of sparks. The instant it landed, he tapped another cigarette out of the new pack. Harry clenched his fists, his nails biting into his palm. Malfoy tilted his head, catching Harry's eyes as he pressed a lit match to the tip. The late afternoon sunlight hit Malfoy's face; his eyes were red-rimmed and blood-shot. The edges creased with weariness. His were lips pale and thin around the filter as Malfoy inhaled. Harry wondered when Malfoy had last slept. Certainly not the previous night.
Harry's cheeks heated at the memory and he fiddled with the metal band around his wrist. It pinched, the spell holding it tight, almost fused to his skin.
Malfoy's eyes caught the movement and his gaze flickered to his own bound wrist before it drifted back out at the empty train track; the muscle in his jaw twitched. He exhaled a slow puff of smoke and asked, "What happens next?"
A file smacked the top of Harry’s desk, followed immediately by Shacklebolt's rumbling baritone. "You're off to Morocco."
Harry sat up a little straighter at the unexpected news. His fingers traced the bold lettering of Aranha on the front of the folder. He'd been expecting three weeks of paperwork while Ron was off on his honeymoon. He flipped open the file. The Aranha potion was the current hot case in the department; the number of incidences of violent clashes amongst youth had tripled since the potion had started appearing in the dark alleyways of Knockturn. For months the potion makers had eluded the DMLE’s potion abuse team.
"Morocco?" His mind searched through everything he knew about the potion. It wasn’t much.
Shacklebolt pushed aside a couple half-empty coffee cups and sat on the corner of Harry’s desk. "The latest tests of Aranha show traces of Acromantula venom from a rare breed found in Tangier."
A twist of nerves knotted itself in Harry’s belly. Tangier. He'd never been -- had rarely travelled, in fact. Only a year out of training, Harry hadn’t done much at all. Aurors with more experience and a less famous face usually handled the highest profile cases. Harry mentally catalogued what he'd need for the trip while trying to skim the file on the smuggled ingredient.
"You leave tomorrow. Expect to be gone for at least a couple weeks." Shacklebolt continued his briefing, not waiting for Harry’s attention.
Harry lifted a photo of a dead Acromantula. Blue goop, dried and crusted, clung to the stone wall of the cave around the carcass. He swallowed back his disgust and scrabbled for a relevant question to ask. "Are you looking to find the supplier? Will I be searching dark forests for nests of giant spiders?” Harry raised his eyes from the photo and grinned up at Shacklebolt. "I can see why you waited until Ron was on holidays to hand this to me."
Shacklebolt chuckled, but shook his head. "This is an Auror assignment, not a suicide mission, Potter." Harry opened his mouth and Shacklebolt lifted his hand. "And don't tell me you've already done it and you were fourteen at the time."
"Twelve." Harry laughed.
Shacklebolt rolled his eyes. "Regardless, you are not after the spiders or the suppliers. Your target is the smuggler."
Another file smacked Harry's desk and he sat up straighter. "You know who it is?"
"Almost positive. He’s been known to travel internationally, always hot-spots for illegal potions ingredients. We’ve been keeping an eye on him for nearly a year now. Eight months ago he started making regular visits to Morocco."
"And Aranha hit the streets here about six months ago? The timing is certainly right." Harry tucked the photo of the dead Acromantula into the first folder, then flipped open the second. Beneath the pages of scribbled notes, there were dozens of pictures of crowded cafes and markets, some grainy, some in perfect focus -- a man with fine blond hair and pointy chin appeared in each.
Shacklebolt stared at Harry, searching his face before finally saying, "Will that be an issue?"
"What? No," Harry stammered, defensive. "I haven't seen him in years. Since the battle of Hogwarts? Maybe once at the trials? It's a bit of a blur." Not that the name didn't still rankle him. But since Lucius was dead and Narcissa had left the country after her house arrest was served, the Malfoys had just faded out of existence. Harry hadn’t given Draco a passing thought in a very long time.
Shacklebolt hesitated then went on, "Good. I need you clear-headed on this. We can't determine how he's smuggling the stuff in. He's been on our radar for the last eighteen months, but searches at International Portkey offices here and in Morocco have turned up nothing on his person or in his purchases."
Harry looked up from a picture of Malfoy who had his hand draped over the shoulder of a fit, dark haired man. "Purchases?"
"Malfoy's an art collector," Shacklebolt explained, voice rich with sarcasm. "One who's about to acquire a shadow."
Harry let himself glance at the photo once more. A shadow. Okay. He could do that.
Harry blinked, the hot dry air stinging his eyes and making his throat ache. The market was loud and busy, full of bright colours, strange smells and buzzing with a half-dozen different languages. The knot in his gut cramped and he questioned again why he had been the one sent here. Alone. Perhaps he should have cast a Glamour. But the traces of magic could make him even more noticeable to someone like Malfoy, Shacklebolt had said. Harry needed to be careful. He ran a finger along the intricate design of a woven rug with his eyes half on the street artist, three vendors down.
"Un bon choix, Monsieur," came a voice at his elbow.
Harry nodded absently. He'd been trained for this, years ago. But the skills felt rusty and out of place in this foreign city. Too many easy jobs --getting cats out of trees, Ron would say -- and Harry dug inside himself for the confidence to believe he could take this case on. Through the crowd, Malfoy was standing close to the artist, gesturing with his hands towards a painting.
"Seulement trois cent dirhams!" The vendor next to Harry waved a small card marked three hundred dirhams in front of Harry's face.
"No, thank you." Harry’s eyes flickered at the merchant before returning to Malfoy. He'd been in Tangier four days, and it had only taken two to find Malfoy and get a strong Tracking Charm on him. He’d learned that Malfoy took walks along the beach after his morning coffee, frequented this market before lunch and spent every night drinking in a small brasserie, talking to the locals.
"You are English?" The merchant spoke again, now in a thick accent. "For an Englishman, one hundred and fifty dirhams! It is the best price you will find in Casa Barata."
Malfoy was nodding and handing over cash. Harry pushed past the merchant to get a better look at the painting the artist was presenting to Malfoy. "I'm only looking,” he shot over his shoulder at the still hovering vendor behind him. “I'm here on business."
"Business in Tangier, fantastique! Soixante-quinze dirhams! Seventy-five for the business man taking a gift home to his wife."
Harry shook his head. "No, thank you. And I'm not married." But Malfoy turned abruptly and headed directly towards them. Harry cursed, turning back to the merchant and ducking his head. He pulled out his money-pin and flipped through the long thin paper currency. "Seventy-five dirhams, then?"
The merchant's eyes brightened and he began to roll the rug. "I have pillows, Monsieur, that would go perfectly --"
"No." Harry sighed. "Really, no." He flicked his gaze to the crowd, catching the blond head about ten deep ahead of him. "That will be all." He shoved the bills into the waiting hand, hoisted the tightly rolled rug onto his shoulder, and wove his way through the crowd.
By the time he saw Malfoy enter his hotel, Harry's shoulders ached and sweat had begun to trickle into his eyes. With a groan he lowered the rug and looked around for a way to get rid of the thing. He spotted a young boy with a pull cart and managed to convey the offer of the rug. The boy looked up at him with dirty cheeks and a broad grin. The tension in Harry’s shoulders relaxed a fraction.
Deep in thought, he wandered through the bustling narrow streets to his own hotel. He had a few hours until Malfoy left for the brasserie. Harry didn’t think he’d been spotted and he'd managed a good look at Malfoy's purchase. It was more progress than he'd made since his arrival.
Back at his own hotel, he stripped off his linen jacket and splashed cold water on his face to cut the oppressive heat of the room. Kicking off his shoes he flopped on the bed, opening Malfoy’s file on the thin coverlet. The top parchment held a summary of Malfoy’s history. Harry read it over, trying to dig out what information he could. Malfoy had been a recluse since the war: under house arrest for two years, then barely leaving his Manor except to travel abroad. There were several photographs of Malfoy with the same dark-haired man. Eduardo Mattos was written on the corner of each.
Harry skimmed the pages of notes until he found the name again. Eduardo and his twin brother, Emilio, appeared to be the only people in direct contact with Malfoy for the last few years. Eduardo was currently living at Malfoy Manor. Scribbled in a margin was Emilio Mattos: moved to Tangier Winter 2004. Artist.
Attached to the parchment was a series of art photos. Some were framed and hanging on the walls of Malfoy Manor, while others were taken at a Portkey office check-in point. The first painting was marked The Moth, artist: Emilio Mattos.
Harry squinted at it and tilted his head. Then he turned it upside down and squinted some more. It was interesting. It featured a vibrant blue that made it seem full of life, but not anything like a moth. Harry snorted and tossed it back onto the pile. The rest of the art photos were similar: swirls of abstract shapes that didn't look like much of anything, yet he could see why someone would like them. He got lost in the waves of colour for a moment before shaking it off.
The last item in the file was a photo. It was taken in Tangier; Harry recognised the brasserie Malfoy had visited the past two evenings. Harry’s thoughts whirled while watching the grainy photo of Malfoy pressing a soft kiss to Emilio Mattos’ lips before pulling him behind a curtain.
Harry tried to push away the surge of arousal and the flood of memories of another time he’d watched two men kiss. Two years ago, Harry had been at a Muggle club, drowning his sorrow and confusion about his break-up with Ginny, when a man had approached him. He’d instinctively recoiled, fumbling his drink and making an arse of himself at the thought that he’d appeared interested. Never would anyone in the wizarding world make that mistake. The man’s expression had darkened at Harry’s reaction and he’d strode off without a word.
Harry had spent the rest of the evening at the bar, with a Notice-Me-Not Charm to hide his blatant staring. Curiosity, he’d told himself, while he watched the man who had approached him find a partner and progress to the dance floor and ultimately to a darkened corner of the club.
Harry had never found the courage to return to that club and he’d never known the man’s name, but what he’d seen that night -- two men writhing together to the sultry beat of the music, hiding in the shadows and crowding each other against the wall, hands buried in each other’s trousers while they panted at each other’s necks, licking and biting in open mouthed kisses. He’d never forget a moment of it. It’d been wank-fodder for months and slowly it morphed into a guilty, confused longing that Harry buried inside himself.
He’d stopped dating altogether at that. For months, he’d claimed a broken heart, then overwork. Eventually people just stopped asking.
He watched the picture again, Malfoy’s open, easy sexuality stabbing him in the gut.
The sun rose on the beach, the shadow behind Malfoy darkening and stretching. He’d been sitting on the sand, cigarette pressed between his lips and eyes on the waves for over an hour. Harry had found an open café, just off the beach. He sipped a peppery coffee, turned the page of a newspaper he couldn’t read and waited. On the table beside him a soft suede hat was left abandoned. Harry picked it up and after a moment’s consideration, placed on his head.
Eventually, Malfoy stood and dusted the sand from his trousers. He took one last look out at the waves and he set his shoulders. With a small down turn to his mouth and furrow to his brow, he left to start his day. Harry left a few bills on the table, and with the same grim determination that Malfoy seemed to exude, he followed.
After devoutly watching Malfoy do nothing but flirt with the bartender and fill ashtrays every night, Harry’s investigation turned on its head in an instant. He tipped his hat so that it blocked most of his face from view and watched Malfoy walk through the door. Across the smoke-filled brasserie Malfoy greeted a man, kissing each cheek. The man grinned and motioned for Malfoy to join him at a tiny table, big enough for an ashtray, a small lamp and two drinks.
Harry recognised the man immediately from the photo he'd stared at the night before. Emilio was identical to his brother but for the longer hair and a slimmer frame. The photos implied Malfoy hopped easily from one to the other, though none of the write-ups in the file speculated on their relationship other than the fact that Emilio was an artist whose work Malfoy purchased.
A waitress dropped off another small, handless cup of mint tea in front of Harry. He nodded his thanks, his eyes never leaving Malfoy. Every time Malfoy shifted, his knees brushed against Emilio’s. They would drink for a while and whisper to each other, noses brushing cheeks. Occasionally, Malfoy would throw his head back and laugh. They seemed to have eyes for no one else in the room.
Harry sipped his tea and waited, cataloguing every detail he could for the report he'd be writing late into the evening. The waitress returned with another cup, and stood directly in his line of sight.
Harry tried to subtly shift to the side. "I haven't finished this one."
She leaned closer, displaying the full curve of her cleavage. "Something stronger, perhaps?"
Harry shook his head and stood only to find Malfoy's table empty. From the corner of his eye, he spotted a flash of blond hair disappearing through a heavy green curtain on the far side of the room. Harry ducked behind a pillar and after a quick Notice-Me-Not, he Disillusioned himself.
The space behind the curtain was a narrow hallway with several doors. Harry was just in time to catch Malfoy open the third door and usher Emilio inside. Harry needed to lunge to get through before Malfoy closed the door and locked it. For a minute he thought he'd been spotted. His foot caught Emilio's heel and Emilio glanced behind himself but shrugged at what must have been empty space. Malfoy's eyes flickered to the spot where Harry stood, but they passed over him as well.
The room was small and dark. It smelled of burning lamp oil and the rich spices that seemed to cling to everything in Tangier.
"Draco." Emilio's voice was deep and thick, with a rolling Latin accent. Spanish or Portuguese, Harry guessed. "I'll have enough for another small --"
Whatever Emilio was about to say was swallowed by Malfoy's kiss. "We never get any time alone, darling," Malfoy whispered into Emilio’s mouth, his hands pulling at Emilio's collar, popping a few buttons then nuzzling at his exposed neck.
Harry backed himself into the corner, eyes wide. It was all too familiar, mirroring his favourite fantasy yet so much better. So much worse.
Emilio seemed just as startled as Harry for a moment, then suddenly he was all over Malfoy. Hands first at his own belt buckle, then fumbling with Malfoy's. Their loose linen trousers slid to the floor, one after the other.
“I’m glad you understand.” Malfoy smirked.
Emilio chuckled darkly, with an edge of sarcasm that Harry couldn’t quite comprehend. “I understand you perfectly.” Then he knelt and took Malfoy's soft cock in his mouth and Harry tore his eyes away. Pulse thundering in his ears, he tried to ignore what was happening two feet away from him. He focused on his training and began to catalogue what he could of the room: the simple writing desk in the corner, the quill and ink well, the stack of blank parchment.
Malfoy was a talker, which was no surprise, really. But good Lord, Harry could have gone his whole life not knowing just how much of a talker Malfoy was. And now that the words were there hanging in the room -- suck me hard, fuck, your mouth is fantastic, ugh, Emilio, yeah just like that. -- it was impossible to get them out of Harry's brain. They cruelly worked their way down his spine and twisted about his dick.
Harry blinked away the lust and tried to focus again. Something was important here. And it wasn't the sounds from Malfoy's filthy mouth in the back room of a... Harry paused. The brasserie was hardly a brothel, and the back room had all the amenities for business dealings and not for a quick tryst.
An owl perched in one corner shifted about, hooting its disapproval at the ruckus below and Harry huffed in sympathy.
The next night Malfoy and Emilio were already at their table when Harry settled into a stool in the far corner of the brasserie. Malfoy tapped a cigarette from his pack and Emilio was there with a match like a well choreographed dance.
Harry had been up late the night before scratching off a report for Shacklebolt. Crumpled parchment littered his hotel room floor from all his attempts to objectively -- professionally -- detail the progress he’d made. “Why did you choose me for this assignment?” he’d wanted to ask Shacklebolt, but part of him didn’t want to know the answer. The final report was borderline at best and Harry had a feeling Shacklebolt would be reading it with a smirk on his face at Harry’s expense.
Malfoy lifted the cigarette to his lips and Harry couldn’t help but think of all the dirty things that had spilled from that mouth as Emilio had knelt before him.
A few sips into his mint tea, a waitress set down a tall thin glass identical to the one in Malfoy’s hand. Harry looked at it and then back to the waitress. “I didn’t order this.”
"For you, sir.” She gave him a filthy smile. “From Monsieur Malfoy."
Harry looked over to see Malfoy raise his drink in Harry's direction and wink.
Cheeks flaming, Harry tossed back the drink. The alcohol ripped down his throat, and eyes watering, he slunk out of the bar.
Harry knelt in front of the fireplace in his hotel room and stared at Shacklebolt’s stern face, lit green in the flames. “A death?” His stomach plummeted.
Shacklebolt nodded. “Last night at Hogwarts. A couple boys had a bit of a row -- nothing serious, but wands were drawn and things escalated quickly. The victim was hit with a Reducto that sent him crashing into the wall behind him hard enough to snap his neck. He was killed instantly.”
“How in the bloody hell --“
“The suspect tested positive for Aranha.”
“The Healer said the drug-fuelled rage made his magic erratic. He lost control of the spell and put intense power behind it.”
Harry’s mind flashed to the fights he’d been part of in his Hogwarts days, the petty sniping and pranks, the duels that went too far and could have ended so much worse. He swallowed past the bile that had risen in his throat.
“We need this smuggler, Harry.”
Harry wiped the sweat from his brow and nodded. “I’ll do my best, sir.”
The next night he changed strategy. He waited at the small bakery across the street from the brasserie and once Malfoy was settled at his tiny table, Harry strode off to Malfoy's hotel.
The door to the hotel room was locked but not well-warded. The ward dissolved easily with a training-level Disabling Charm. Harry looked up and down the corridor before turning the knob. It opened with a soft click. The room was posh, with that forced-modern feel that felt off in such an ancient city.
Harry scanned the room quickly for magical triggers that might set off a hidden ward. When nothing shimmered, he set about methodically searching the room. On the desk was the painting he'd seen Malfoy purchase at the Casa Barata market several days prior.
Harry bent to get a good look at it. A small parchment on the dresser read: The Olive Grove. It looked like early spring to Harry, all brown, leafless branches and grey skies. Sad. Waiting. He snorted. At least he could tell what it was.
He scanned it for magical traces and found nothing. There was not even a frame to hide a phial of venom inside. He began to search the closets and drawers. Nothing else was note-worthy -- unless Malfoy's preference for black silk boxers was worth mentioning in his report -- until he tried to open the top drawer of the bedside table and a sharp zing of magic burned his fingers. He stuck his injured finger in his mouth and scowled. A few wand flicks and Harry confirmed a strong ward, stronger than the security on the door to the hotel room at the very least.
He checked his watch and shook his head. It would need to wait; Malfoy would be done with Emilio soon. He double-checked the room to ensure he left it undisturbed and slipped out the door. His heart jumped to his throat as he turned.
Malfoy was leaning casually against the adjacent wall. He took a long drag off his cigarette, then wet his lips. Lowering his hand, he slowly exhaled into Harry's face. He looked Harry up and down with an expression that said he knew very well he’d put on a good show for him two days past.
"Hope you didn't leave it a mess, Potter." He pushed off the wall, knocking Harry's shoulder as he entered the room. He slammed the door, leaving a lingering scent of cigarettes and the spicy tang of cologne.
The next morning, Harry left his hotel at dawn, walking through the quiet streets of the city that had yet to wake. This had become his favourite time of day, when he’d sit at the beach café and just watch Malfoy walk along on the sand and watch the sunrise. There were no expectations, no mind games, just a quiet moment with Malfoy deep in thought and Harry in the shadows behind, trying to catch a glimpse of his mind.
He ordered his espresso and pastry and found a chair, but frowned at the empty beach. He waited, picking at his croissant, his espresso long gone. Malfoy didn’t show.
He wound his way through the slowly waking streets and back to his hotel. He’d visit the market mid-morning and pick up Malfoy’s trail there. If that failed, he had the Tracking Charm, but activating it could tip Malfoy off, so he’d wait it out. He supposed even Malfoy could have a lie-in every once in a while.
He stopped in the corridor several feet from his hotel room. The door was ajar and Harry cursed, knowing immediately how Malfoy had spent his morning.
Malfoy was lying on the bed, propped on an elbow, legs crossed at the ankles. As Harry walked in his grin broadened as if he were genuinely please to see Harry. The files on both Malfoy and Aranha were spread everywhere through the room and Malfoy was thumbing though several photos of himself.
“Good morning, Auror Potter.” Malfoy’s eyes lit with mischief. “How was the beach?”
Harry pulled his wand and pointed it at Malfoy. “I could have you arrested for breaking into my hotel room.”
“Nonsense.” Malfoy stood, taking one of the photos with him. “It was open when I arrived. You won’t be able to prove otherwise, I guarantee you.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed, but in his gut he knew Malfoy was probably not lying about the lack of proof. His eyes fell to the picture in Malfoy’s hand. The picture was wrinkled and worn, like it had been handled often. Harry realised only one photo from that file would look like that and flushed.
Malfoy followed Harry’s gaze and lifted the picture. “Like this one, Potter?” His hand darted out, grabbed Harry’s suede hat, and tossed it over his shoulder. It landed on the bed. Harry couldn’t move, pinned to the wall under Malfoy’s gaze. Malfoy slid one hand slowly up Harry's arm, then his fingers trailed Harry’s collarbone and down his chest and abdomen, pausing with a light touch at the button of his trousers. Harry gasped, his heart in his throat. Then Malfoy's hand danced lower, feather light, and traced the outline of Harry's hard cock. Fury, embarrassment and unwelcome curiosity warred within Harry until he was frozen with indecision.
Malfoy’s expression flickered from teasing to surprise. He recovered quickly, his eyes going half-lidded and his cheeks colouring as he whispered, “Isn’t that interesting?”
The puff of warm air on Harry’s ear sent more blood flooding south. His face flamed with humiliation. “Get out.”
Malfoy’s fingers stilled. And after an aching stretch of nothing but breathing and silence, Malfoy pressed his palm fully against Harry’s crotch. “You’re gorgeous like this, Harry,” Malfoy breathed.
Harry gritted his teeth against the feel, refusing to press forward, unable to pull back. “Get out,” he rasped, his voice dark and gritty like it was ripped from his throat.
Malfoy’s eyes flashed with fear and something else entirely. With a mortifying pat to Harry’s stiff cock, Malfoy turned on his heel and disappeared out the door.
The photo of Malfoy and Emilio kissing fell silently to the carpet.
Furious, Harry threw up a ward on the door with enough force to make the windows on the other side of the room rattle. He stormed into the bathroom and twisted the shower to scalding. Despite his best efforts not to touch himself, he still came to the thought of Malfoy’s hand around his cock.
He was beginning to lose control of the entire assignment.
One of the first lessons he'd learned in Auror training was that a suspect who knows he is being followed shows you exactly what he wants you to see. Therefore, everything that you see is meaningless.
He stepped out of the shower and wiped the steam from the mirror, squinting at his reflection. He needed to know what Malfoy wasn’t showing him. With a plan clear in his head, he transfigured his spectacles into a pair of thin square frames. Then he flicked his wand across his face. The image in the mirror altered before his eyes. His skin darkened until it was tanned and leathery-worn. Thick salt and pepper stubble covered his jaw and a mop of grey hair fell into his dark eyes. He scratched at the coarse whiskers under his chin. The Glamour was so superficial he barely felt the tingle of magic, but the effect was dramatic. He grinned at himself until the mirror began to blur from the leftover heat of the shower.
It was time to begin again.
Outside his hotel, he purchased a gandora from a street vendor. Once he’d changed into the off-white ankle-length tunic, he set off to find Malfoy, feeling invisible for the first time on this assignment.
He waited outside Malfoy’s hotel, sitting beside a man dressed identically to himself and flipping through a small book in Arabic. Just after noon, Malfoy stepped out the front doors. Not preoccupied with hiding, Harry caught the way Malfoy’s eyes traced the crowd in an instant, the way he threw almost imperceptible glances over his shoulder as he began to walk.
Harry had been naive to think Malfoy hadn’t been perfectly aware of Harry’s every move, that a worn hat and ducking behind pillars was enough to hide his familiar face. Now, though, Malfoy’s stance was entirely different. His shoulders were hunched and his pace was hurried, legs moving in quick strides just short of a jog. A few blocks from the hotel, Malfoy whipped around a corner and Harry had to dart after him, dogging a trolley of clay pots with the reflexes of a Seeker.
He caught sight of Malfoy down a tiny alley, his hair barely visible in a narrow inset doorway. Emilio stood across from him. Harry stopped at the mouth of the alley and bent low; he grabbed a small potted basil from a window sill and fiddled with it, straining his ears to pick up what he could from a distance.
They were arguing; Harry caught snippets as their voices raised and lowered.
“... letting Potter get too close on purpose,” Emilio snapped, poking at Malfoy’s chest with each word.
Malfoy slapped the hand away. “I don’t work for you, Emilio. Remember that.”
Emilio back-handed Malfoy across the face with a loud smack. Malfoy stumbled backwards but Emilio pulled him close until they were nose to nose. Harry had to stop himself from rushing over there, giving himself away and God forbid defending Malfoy. Emilio held him there another few minutes, their conversation a blur of harsh whispers.
Malfoy stepped out of the doorway, face flaming on one side.
“You’d better know what you’re doing,” Emilio shouted after him. “Because I’m just going to let you hang yourself.”
Malfoy didn’t turn back. He slunk out of the alley, shaking from head to toe. As he passed the hunched form of Harry, busy re-potting someone’s herbs, Malfoy whispered to himself, “I expected nothing less.”
Harry knelt at the bedside table in Malfoy’s hotel room, wand swishing in quick practiced movements as he ran through ward-disabling spells, focused on every variation he knew. It had been three nights of this. Eventually, he would get it. The wards on the top drawer shimmered blue, a shade darker than previous. He smiled. Given Malfoy's pattern, he had another hour, maybe enough to break through that night.
He redoubled his efforts, anxious to get the assignment over with and get away from Malfoy. The previous night Malfoy had been waiting for him outside the building, cheeks flushed and a smirk of someone who'd just fucked your wife. Nothing like the scared man arguing with Emilio in the alley days before.
It had kept Harry up for hours, wondering what the game was. Harry had used his Glamour sparingly the previous days, mostly following without it and keeping up the pretence that he was incapable of following in secret. He certainly couldn’t grasp why Malfoy allowed him into his hotel room every night. He knew how to ward Harry out; the difficulty Harry was having with the drawer was proof of that.
Harry tightened his grip on his wand and whispered the next counter spell in his litany.
The door clicked open a moment later. "Potter," Malfoy said, voice flat. He strode in, tossing his jacket onto the bed. "There are easier ways to get into my drawers, you know."
Harry sprang to his feet, wand lowered but heavy in his palm.
Malfoy sat on the bed and removed his shoes with a casual air that spoke of well-practised calm and was anything but natural. His eyes never left Harry's as he leaned back on the bed, his weight on his palms and his legs spread wide. The blatant invitation of the bulge in Malfoy's thin linen trousers made Harry's cheeks heat.
"You're back early." Harry let his eyes trace the length of Malfoy's body and back to his eyes, playing along. "Your little boy-toy find some richer cock to suck?"
Malfoy snorted and his face relaxed. He stood and poured a drink for both of them from the decanter on the desk. Harry took the offered glass, letting Malfoy stand too close.
"Getting tired of going through my pants, Potter? The last guy gave up after two nights."
"Why don't you open that drawer for me and we can be done with it?"
Malfoy stared at him, searching his face for a drawn out moment. "And what will happen then?" He leaned in and Harry’s nostrils flared at the scent of whiskey on his breath.
Refusing to back away, Harry said, "Depends if you have anything to hide, now won't it?"
"Everyone has something to hide." Malfoy barked a bitter laugh and stepped back; Harry chest swelled at the minor victory.
Then with a flick of Malfoy’s wand, the drawer flung open.
Harry blinked and looked between Malfoy and the drawer. Malfoy just raised an eyebrow and took a sip of his drink. Harry edged closer to the drawer and peered inside. It contained a single frameless painting. Another of Emilio’s, he thought at a quick glance. He whispered a few Glamour reveals and Finites to Notice-Me-Not spells but the contents of the drawer remained unchanged.
He reached for the painting, but Malfoy moved to stand before him, hands on Harry's chest.
"Now that we've got that out of the way ..." Malfoy smirked and shoved Harry hard, toppling him onto the bed. He straddled Harry's hips. Harry scrambled backwards, his hand finding Malfoy’s jacket. "Anyone ever tell you curiosity killed the cat, Gryffindor?"
Malfoy's fingers were at his collar, his arse pressed tight to Harry's thickening cock. Harry’s mind blanked to everything else, but he managed to spit-out, "I'm just doing my job." He struggled to lift himself off the bed but Malfoy gripped his wrist with surprising strength.
"What else are you curious about? I must say you've seemed distracted." Malfoy’s voice was thick, sweet like honey as he writhed against Harry’s groin.
Harry gritted his teeth against the sensations that slithered up his spine. The heat of the room was stifling and he gasped for breath. His mind fluttered to what another Auror might do in the situation and came up with only that another Auror wouldn’t have landed in it in the first place.
Malfoy leaned in, his breath tickling Harry's lips and when Harry turned away, he licked a stripe up Harry's jaw. "Morocco too hot for you, Potter? I'm off to cooler climates after this. You going to keep following me? Hiding your voyeur kink behind some useless assignment."
"I think you like me watching, Malfoy,” Harry grunted as Malfoy shifted, changing the angle and rolling his arse on Harry's aching dick. “I think you like to put on a show, knowing I’m there in the shadows.”
Malfoy chuckled but didn’t deny it. He pinned both of Harry's wrists in one hand. Harry let him. The grip was weak but Harry couldn’t make himself fight it. With quick fingers, Malfoy opened Harry's trousers. Harry hissed as a palm covered the bulge in his pants. "What do we have here?"
Harry thrust up into Malfoy's hand. "Shut the fuck up, Malfoy. Merlin, do you ever stop talking?"
Harry broke a hand free and reached for his wand; it had gone too far already. Before he touched the handle, his cock was engulfed in wet heat and he thrust up, involuntarily. Malfoy's hands snapped to his hips to hold him to the mattress.
All thought vanished from Harry’s mind as Malfoy worked him hard and fast, tongue swirling up and down the shaft. Nothing else mattered but that a man's mouth, Malfoy’s mouth was on his cock. Harry strained his neck for a better view. Malfoy’s cheeks were hollowed and his eyes were on Harry. The suction increased to the edge of painful.
Harry gasped for air. His hand found Malfoy's hair and tugged. "Too much," he tried to say, though he doubted it came out.
Cool air tickled his wet cock as Malfoy released him and stood. Harry barely caught his breath in the time it took for Malfoy to strip out of his trousers and pants. He was on Harry again, licking and sucking at Harry's neck -- there'd be a mark Harry would have to heal before he reported to Shacklebolt.
Malfoy reached between them, steadying Harry's cock and sinking down on it. He was tight, but not dry. He'd prepped himself tonight. Or maybe someone had stretched him earlier. But Harry's mind couldn't hold that thought because Malfoy was moving, up and down, finding a brutal rhythm and keeping it. Malfoy's thighs trembled from the exertion. It would have been quick, embarrassingly quick, but the scratches to Harry's chest and the bites to his shoulder staved off the orgasm. In the end, Harry lost all sense of time and control. Malfoy fucked ruthlessly, manic and consuming. And in a moment of reckless idiocy, Harry let himself be devoured.
The world faded in and out as he approached orgasm. Malfoy was talking but his words were a meaningless blur of sarcasm. Harry toppled over the edge at the sight of Malfoy riding him, head thrown back, fist flying over his cock. He barely had time to enjoy the slow fade into bliss before Malfoy slid off and the world faded to black.
When he woke it was still dark; a few shouts from the street below travelled up through the open window. He’d fallen asleep. God, he was an idiot. His eyes darted to the clock and it had only been an hour at most. Harry shot up and looked around the room. His empty glass of whiskey sat on the bedside table. He picked it up and sniffed it. A faint trace of sleeping potion still lingered.
He smashed it against the far wall. “Son of a bitch.”
The room was empty. Malfoy was gone, his clothes and bags, the painting on the dresser, not a trace left.
Only the painting in the drawer remained.
Harry picked it up. It was surprisingly light. There was no place to hide a phial, no frame to smuggle venom inside. It was simply a painting. Harry squinted at the pale scribble on the back corner of the canvas: The Spider.
Lost in thought, he wrapped the painting under his cloak and left.
Harry paced his hotel room. The Spider art was on the bed, propped against the headboard. Malfoy's file was spread out in front of it. The answer had to be here. If Malfoy took off, Harry had to have been close. He stared at the painting. He could no more see 'the spider' than he could 'the moth'. He found the photo of The Moth and placed them side by side, staring for so long that when he closed his eyes the deep blue of each remained as if tattooed to the inside of his eyelids.
A cold prickle broke out on the back of his neck as it all fell into place. He scrabbled through the file on Aranha until he found the photo he was looking for: the carcass of a huge dead spider, dark blue staining the walls of the cave.
"You son of a bitch." He used a Slicing Charm to cut a square of blue off the canvas of The Spider and conjured a box. He sealed the sample inside and opened the Floo.
"Tell me the contents of this paint."
The warrant for Malfoy's arrest was issued within the hour of having the test results.
"In the bloody paint," Shacklebolt snarled. "Christ."
Harry shook his head. It was brilliant, really. A bloody brilliant way to smuggle a potion ingredient. The lab test confirmed a stasis charm was placed on the venom, leaving it unaffected by its method of transport. One painting likely contained enough venom to produce several batches of the Aranha potion.
"You have your warrant, Potter," Shacklebolt said, eyes hard. "Find him. You know the international arrest protocols. Don't cut any corners. I don't want him getting away. In the meantime, we'll confiscate all the art at Malfoy Manor. That's all we'll need to put him away for a long time."
Harry's stomach knotted. "I’ll get him." His bag was packed. He grabbed the warrant and with one final look around the room, he focused on his Tracking Charm and Apparated.
A hotel room materialised around Harry, eerily similar to the one he'd just left. His mind processed the subtle differences in an instant: the air was fresh with a cool summer breeze floating in from a window; the oppressive heat of Tangier had lifted; and that aching dryness of the air that had kept Harry reaching for a cup of tea for the last ten days had vanished.
Wand out, tight in his grip, he turned about the room and stopped short.
Malfoy sat on a couch not three feet from him. The drink in his hand was raised and pressed to his sweat-slick forehead. Eyes shut and voice flat, Malfoy muttered, "Took you long enough.” He shook his head then downed his drink. His clothes were the same as the previous night, the ones that had sat in a pile on the floor while Malfoy had ridden him, hard and fast. They were wrinkled. Harry wondered if the button or two missing from Malfoy’s shirt had been Harry’s doing.
Harry swallowed past the bitter taste of guilt on his tongue and stepped forward, wand trained at the middle of Malfoy’s face.
"Draco Malfoy, in adherence to international wizarding law 342z-41, I hereby place you under arrest for the trafficking of illegal potions ingredients." Harry had never hated the distant, professional sound of his voice as much as he did at that moment. By the book, Shacklebolt had said. Malfoy was too slippery to give him an inch.
Malfoy stared straight into Harry's eyes as he explained his rights; Harry wished he'd look away.
He tapped Malfoy's arms with his wand and a thick metal band appeared on both Malfoy's wrists. Malfoy paled. "As per statute 793 of international wizarding arrests: constraints must be applied immediately following an arrest. Standard Protocol Incarceration Bands impede all Apparition and Portkey travel and limit the accused's travel to within twenty metres of the arresting officer."
Harry touched his own wrist and a matching band appeared. All three glowed for a moment in a flare of heat that made Harry gasp and Malfoy curse.
"Potter, I --"
But Harry didn't want any interruptions of steps that had been so deeply ingrained in his head before he’d left Britain. If he stopped now, if he listened, he might waver and he couldn't afford that. He had a job to do. That much he understood. Malfoy and his games only muddled his judgment.
"Searches are to be conducted of the premises and the person directly following arrests. Anything found in your possession will be brought forth as evidence during your trial."
Malfoy's mouth turned down at the edges, his lips pressed tight. Harry's hands were quick, steady and professional as he tapped up and down Malfoy's trouser legs. He waited for the comment. Clearly, there was one to be made. The silence was deafening.
He removed Malfoy's wand, money pouch and various personal items from Malfoy’s pockets. At one point, when Harry's hands were at Malfoy's waist and their noses were a hair's breadth apart, Malfoy swayed into him. For a moment Harry though Malfoy meant to try to kiss him, but Malfoy pulled back before their mouths touched.
Harry's lips tingled regardless, and he moved on to Malfoy's luggage to hide his shortness of breath.
The Olive Grove was the only painting in Malfoy's possession. Something in Harry's gut stirred as he examined the painting, but he couldn't think why.
He pulled out a folded, worn parchment and spread it out on the coffee table. "Locate me," he whispered and touched his wand to the parchment.
Immediately a map began to appear, filling in from the centre and drawing a sketch of his current location. "Toulouse," it read beside a small lightning bolt as the remainder of France filled in.
"All right, Malfoy." Harry wiped his sweaty palms on his trousers. "We can't Apparate or Portkey out of here. We'll need to find transportation to the British Embassy in Paris to get your extradition underway."
Malfoy sat back on the sofa, head in hands while Harry sent off a Patronus to Shacklebolt.
Across the train platform Malfoy tilted his head, catching Harry's eyes as he pressed a lit match to the tip. Harry watched the pattern of Malfoy’s smoking recommence, lips squeezing the filter as he inhaled. The bright sunlight hit Malfoy's face. There were dark circles under his red-rimmed eyes, and the beginning of wrinkles at the edges. Harry wondered when Malfoy had last slept. Certainly not the previous night. He fiddled with the metal band about his wrist; it pinched, the spell holding it tight, almost fused to his skin.
Malfoy's eyes caught the movement and his gaze drifted back out at the empty train track, the muscle in his jaw twitching.
"What happens next?"
The words sounded foreign spoken after so much silence. It took a minute for Harry to realise they had come from Malfoy. He let out a puff of air. His feet ached from standing about for hours waiting for the train, and his head pounded from the mind games.
He shuffled over to Malfoy and sat a couple arm lengths away. "We take the train -- if it ever gets here -- to Paris. From there we get permission to take you back to Britain and I'm sure you know what will happen when you hit British soil."
Malfoy's thumb rubbed his eyebrow and he quirked a small unreadable smile.
"We might never have caught you, you know. If you hadn’t left that painting behind --"
"Yes, well." Malfoy's hand trembled as he pressed the cigarette to his lips. "Fuck," he shouted as the cigarette burned too close and burned his fingers. He flicked it onto the train track with the others. Then he sucked the finger into his mouth.
Harry considered offering to heal it, but he doubted Malfoy would let him.
"It's over now." Malfoy shrugged then inspected his finger before fumbling with the pack for another fag.
Harry watched Malfoy’s hands shake too badly to light the match.
"So tell me, Potter." Malfoy tapped the metal clasps around his wrists together. "Ever fasten these to a bedpost?"
"Shut the fuck up, Malfoy."
Malfoy barked out a laugh. "The Potter moral high ground. Spare me. I liked you better when you were on your back, making those sweet little noises."
Harry stood and walked to the far side of the platform -- as far as the bands would let him. He stared out into the distance at the tunnel the train would eventually appear through and tried not to think about the last forty-eight hours. Or the next.
The train arrived eventually -- four hours late. They endured the journey to Paris in silence, Malfoy watching the French countryside blur by, Harry watching Malfoy.
The British Embassy was expecting them. They were immediately escorted to the wizarding suite -- a large room with a private floo, a sitting area and two single beds.
"The doors are warded to prevent anyone wearing International Incarceration Bands from leaving," the embassy worker had explained. "It will be your residence until the extradition of your prisoner."
Malfoy flopped on one of the beds, curled his hands behind his neck and stared at the ceiling.
Harry cast a quick Muffliato and tossed Floo powder into the hearth. "Shacklebolt, Head Auror, British Ministry."
"Auror Potter?" Shacklebolt's face appeared in the flames a moment later.
"I have him, Sir." Harry made a conscious effort to keep eye contact, and bury the conflict he was feeling. "We're at the British Embassy in Paris."
"I -- that's -- Harry, I need you to tell me again where and how you came into possession of the paint sample you sent earlier."
Harry's gut twisted at the nervous pitch to Shacklebolt's voice. Something had gone wrong. "It was in his hotel room in Tangier. He showed it to me, then left it there when he moved on." Harry recited his well-practiced version of the events.
"All that happened in Tangier?"
"So he didn't leave Morocco with that painting."
"He's a slippery little devil, that one. The issue is, Harry, that being in possession of Acromantula venom is not illegal in Tangier."
"But he's been smuggling it into Britain. The walls of the Manor are full of paintings with that same blue. At least two other pictures I’ve seen in the file.”
"We checked the paintings, Harry. Every single one. Not one painting purchased in the last five years has any trace of Acromantula venom."
"But -- how can that be? He has to be the smuggler."
"Oh, he's the smuggler, all right. Eduardo Mattos has disappeared, but he left behind a full studio of replicas of his brother's paintings."
Harry's mind raced. "Replicas? The paintings at the Manor are replicas of those bought in Tangier?"
"And all we are left with is a Manor full of paintings made with paint and one painting made with venom that was never taken out of the country."
"We have nothing on him, Harry. Not unless there is something in his possession upon arrest."
"You have twenty-four hours, then I will need to officially drop any charges."
Harry looked over his shoulder. Malfoy lay on his side, eyes directly on Harry. "I'll report back to you as soon as I can, Sir."
"See that you do."
When Harry crossed the room, Malfoy moved to sit up, back against the headboard. Harry said nothing as he unlocked the luggage he'd confiscated from Malfoy upon arrest. On the top, wrapped in a protection charm was the painting Harry had seen him purchase that first day in Morocco, The Olive Grove.
Harry held it up.
Malfoy's lips curled into a small smile as he looked between Harry and the painting. "Have a nice chat with your boss?"
Harry felt the sour taste of bile at the back of his throat. He'd known, even before he'd seen Malfoy's smile. His gut twisted as he took in the soft brown and green of the painted trees. Not a trace of blue.
"A collector should always have a variety of works in his gallery, Potter. It wouldn't do to be too predictable."
"This painting will he be thoroughly examined."
"Destroyed, you mean. Brutes. You'll find nothing but oil and canvas." Malfoy examined his fingernails. They’d been chewed to the quick on the train ride to Paris and Harry instantly saw the bravado for what it was.
Harry flicked his wand and Malfoy's hands flew up over his head. The metal clasps hit the headboard with a thunk.
"Kinky." Malfoy grinned, all teeth and far too self-satisfied to be real.
"Long gone, I'm sure. He had a Portkey that we wore as a ring. He would have been out of the country the minute the Aurors tripped the wards. I was not privy to the destination, of course. Our contractual obligations dissolved upon my arrest."
"Don't be naive, Potter. Most successful businesses run like a well-tended clock. One gear out of line and the entire machine stops functioning. Clock makers are very astute at hammering every cog and gear into place and keeping them there."
Harry's mind raced. "Until one gear gets arrested and becomes completely useless to them."
Malfoy smirked. "Something like that. It gets replaced, eventually, and the clock will work again. Differently."
"But the gear gets out."
And Harry understood exactly what Malfoy had done. “Bloody hell.”
"Not free yet." Malfoy tugged at the cuffs. "But we both know you have nothing on me. That painting is nothing but a beautiful work of art that caught my eye while I was watching you argue with a local over a carpet."
Harry flopped on the bed, shaking his head in disbelief, even a little impressed. "You thought of everything, didn't you?"
Malfoy's face closed off, eyes searching Harry's face. "Not everything, no."
Harry stared at Malfoy, both the man he presented to the world and the one Harry had seen hints of beneath. He wanted to claw at the mask, crack it beyond repair and see the naked rawness of what lay hidden. He couldn't seem to help himself, and he leaned in and softly kissed Malfoy's lips -- first the raised bow of the top lip, then a gentle tug to the bottom. He closed his eyes and held himself still. Malfoy still smelled of Tangier, of the ocean and mint tea and spices. It reminded him of what he was doing and to whom. He really could not do this. He was about to move away, break the kiss, when Malfoy sighed. Harry felt it as much as heard it -- a broken shuddered exhale. Before he'd had a conscious thought, Harry was pressing in instead of backing away, swiping his tongue over Malfoy's lips until Malfoy opened to him. The kiss was still tentative, light grazes of tongue against tongue that sent shivers down Harry's spine and made him scramble up the bed until Malfoy's thighs straddled his knees and his hands buried in Malfoy's hair.
"Harry." It was barely a whispered gasp, so filled with need and want that Harry's gut twisted. He wanted to pull back and say "What?" and "Why?" and "Who are you, really?" But there'd be time for that later -- time to strip away the layers of mystery and lies and bravado and find the man beneath.
For now, though, there was Malfoy's mouth, his neck and his jaw. He tugged at the buttons of Malfoy's collar and soon there was a shoulder to lick and bite and the sound of "Harry" echoed again between their panting breaths. The tenderness slipped away as Harry's fingers dug into Malfoy's bony hips. They rocked together, clumsy and off rhythm in their awkward position.
Malfoy pulled his wrists and the headboard rattled. "Let me go, you arse."
Harry sat back on his heel and let his eyes trail over Malfoy, wrinkled and mussed, red cheeks and swollen lips. He twirled his wand between his fingers just to show who was in control and Malfoy's eyes flashed with fury. He looked fucking gorgeous, like a Bengal tiger pacing just on the other side of the glass cage. With a spike of adrenaline, Harry muttered a spell and Malfoy's cuffs detached from the headboard.
Malfoy flew at him, tackling him the bed, his hand clutched tight to Harry's shoulders, pinning him in place while Malfoy attacked his mouth -- teeth and tongue and spit -- cursing nonsense and barely whispered scraps of sentences. "It had to be you, Potter." Malfoy’s fingers tore open Harry's trousers, plunging a hand inside to fist his cock. "Of course, it had to be you."
Harry blinked through the fog of his thoughts, trying to process Malfoy's words while doing all he could to get Malfoy's zip to fucking lower. Finally the zip gave. He sighed into Malfoy's mouth. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he said. What he meant was 'why are you even talking right now?'
Malfoy slapped Harry’s hand away and pushed his trousers and pants down to his knees. Then he was on Harry again, taking both cocks in hand and pumping, rough and fast. "My entire mess of a life -- it's always been you."
Harry winced at the tight, dry hold, the almost but not quite perfect friction of their cocks rubbing. "You made your choices, Malfoy." His voice was hoarse, rougher than he'd expected. Malfoy's head snapped up at the sound and Harry thrust into his hand to get it moving again.
"Choices. Fuck you, Potter." Malfoy let go of their cocks and Harry thought for a moment that was it -- Malfoy was going to leave them like this. Then Malfoy raised his hand and licked his palm, laving it with spit and an exaggerated swirl of his tongue.
His hand wrapped them together again and Harry's eyes squeezed shut. He didn't want to think about Malfoy's words, to be left with the images of a frightened boy, who trembled at wand point, his voice cracking over every Crucio he was forced to incant with a madman standing over his shoulder. He hadn’t forgotten the nervous habits of a man chain-smoking, anxiety he'd never expected from a Malfoy but apparent with every trembling drag.
He wanted to lose himself in the brutal pace Malfoy was setting and push aside the myriad of unanswered questions Malfoy’s words had raised. He didn't want to dissect what was cock-sure attitude and what was simply bravado, what was done out of self-preservation versus greed.
But fucking Malfoy would not shut up.
"Should I have gone to the Aurors ten months ago? Trusted you to believe me, protect me, when they knocked on my door?"
Malfoy's face was tucked in at Harry's neck, each breath a burst of wet heat below his ear. Harry gritted his teeth against the rising orgasm. The conversation had become too important. Harry knew his window into Malfoy could slam shut any second.
"Help me find the big players in this, Malfoy. What Aranha is doing, it’s really nasty."
Malfoy's hand stuttered, breaking the rhythm. Harry swallowed back a curse. "They'll kill me." The words were nothing more than a wisp of air at Harry's throat.
He was right. Harry had heard the stories of people breaking ranks in the crime rings, threatening to spill secrets and their gruesome deaths. But it didn't have to be that way. "Then trust me."
They were still nearly fully clothed, sweat-soaked shirts clinging to their bodies, pants at their thighs. Harry could feel every twitch of Malfoy's cock next to his as they waited out the moment. It felt like the world was holding its breath.
When Malfoy moved, it was a long stroke up, a thump swipe along both tips before lowering again. Harry's heart thudded madly in his chest; surely Malfoy would hear it. Then Malfoy did it again and again, a steady measured pace and Harry was on the edge again just like that.
Malfoy pressed his mouth to Harry's jaw, breathing him in as much as kissing. "I want to." His teeth closed, tight enough for a shock of pain to snap Harry's eyes open. "You bastard, I want to."
“Please,” Harry breathed.
Malfoy's hand faltered, then his body trembled and went rigid. The slick warmth of come coated both their groins. Harry moaned at the sensation, at the easy slide of Malfoy's hand, knowing Malfoy was smearing his own come onto Harry's shaft.
"You can. You can trust me." Harry thrust up into Malfoy's grip, twice, three times and his world exploded in colour, that familiar wash of euphoria, followed by a pleasant buzz.
He lay there, Malfoy at his side, undeterred by the fact that he was filthy, come and sweat beginning to cool between them. “I’d get you protection, Malfoy. I’ll get you what you need.” He whispered the words, eyes on a tiny fray in the pillowcase, afraid to meet Malfoy’s gaze.
Malfoy said nothing as the minutes dragged on. His eyes were shut, but Harry could feel the still frantic beat of Malfoy’s heart beneath his fingers and knew he’d yet to fall asleep. Harry gave him the time he needed and finally Malfoy spoke, voice devoid of emotion, “The Mattos brothers are nothing. You need Cortez.”
Malfoy turned to him. “Aloisio Cortez. The potion master. If you stop him, no one else knows how to make Aranha. The paranoid old bastard would never tell a soul.”
“And you know where to find him?” Harry raised himself on his elbow, blinking wildly at the break he’d hoped for but never truly thought he’d receive.
Malfoy stared at him, eyes boring into Harry’s before he tilted his head a fraction. “I know where to find him.”
Harry let out a puff of air. Excitement curled in his belly, bubbling up his chest. “I’ll get you protection. Or cover stories. Whatever you need.”
“You’d better.” Malfoy pressed a kiss to Harry's shoulder; his fingers curling possessively across Harry's chest. “Don’t make me regret this,” Malfoy teased, but his grin was half-hearted at best. They both knew what was at stake here.
Harry closed his eyes and breathed the faint scent of cigarettes from Malfoy's hair. He let himself sink into the warmth of Malfoy's hold for a moment then kissed his cheek and slipped out of bed. His mind raced with possibilities. Timing was critical. He already had a few dozen questions for Shacklebolt. But there were ways to accomplish this. There were resources and experts. Harry held Malfoy’s gaze and promised, “You won’t regret it.” I will protect you.
First thing he needed was a shower and some time to think. Then he’d talk to Shacklebolt and they would plan. His eye caught the Olive Grove, lying on the floor where he’d dropped it earlier and he thought of the marketplace and just how out of his depth he’d been. Still was. He looked back at the bed to Malfoy curled on his side, pulling at the fray in the pillowcase. He looked young, his hair falling in his face as he gnawed his bottom lip.
When Shacklebolt had sent him on this mission, Harry hadn’t understood why. But Malfoy’s words still echoed in the room. It had to be you, Potter. And Harry wondered if in the end, that was the answer.