* * *
A breeze flows over them, fresh and cool. Harry has learned, in a far easier way than he ever would’ve thought possible, that Draco is not a morning person. He lingers as long as possible in these quiet, crisp moments, and Harry is content to let him. To watch him. Draco’s hair has darkened ever so slightly in the years since they left Hogwarts, but when the sunlight streams in, it lights his hair—his whole—an otherworldly glow.
Harry never thought Draco could be so soft, one cheek flushed pink and the other pressed into the pillow, his eyes half open, his wand hand now draped over the side of the mattress, the other a warm weight on Harry’s chest. Harry reaches over to card his hair, and Draco’s exhale falls distinctly short of indignant. Harry might even call it contented, if not to Draco’s face.
It’s bright outside, and getting brighter, the morning dew just beginning to be cut by what promises to be an unusually sunny day. Bright enough that Harry knows it must be time—Draco’s muffled protestations aside—for them to go to work.
With a sigh, Harry pushes back the covers and trudges towards the bathroom. Draco likes them to get to the Ministry at least five minutes apart anyway; might as well get started showering, and let Draco sleep a little longer.
* * *
It is implicit in their agreement that it’s for the best if no one finds out. Neither of them has had to give reasons. Harry imagines Ron and Hermione’s faces, or Draco at the Burrow during the holidays, and that’s enough. He figures Draco does the same.
Fortunately, it’s rarely put to the test. Draco works in Research and Development, Harry in Special Operations, and never the twain shall meet, outside of the holiday party and the quarterly meetings, neither of which is small enough to force anything. Harry occasionally hears that Draco’s invented something new, and Draco occasionally mentions a project that Harry later recognises in updates to their commissioned gear, but they are, for all work-related intents and purposes, former acquaintances.
Sometimes Harry thinks that really is all they are, and the Draco he thinks he knows is a dopplegänger with a remarkably coincidental address.
Reconciling those two Dracos is…difficult. Harry has thought—as he avoids certain hallways and toilets and restaurants—the dissonance could be overwhelming. He’s been quite content not to know for sure.
But he isn’t head of the department. So when Robards calls Harry into his office and requests—“requests”—that Harry walk with him to Research and Development. Harry can’t object. What is there to say, anyway? ‘I’m sorry sir, my secret lover works there, might be a tad awkward to run into each other.’
Harry thinks not.
So he follows Robards, down three grim, grey-beige hallways, through a steel door, and into a surprisingly sterile-looking anteroom. Nobody’s at the front desk, but Robards doesn’t hesitate to slam his hand down on the bell.
Harry exhales when the harried-looking stranger who comes through the doors isn’t Draco. It’s a man he doesn’t know, a few years younger than himself and, Harry notices without meaning to, rather fit.
Annoyance drops from the man’s face when he recognises Robards and Harry in turn. It’s replaced with a sycophantic smile. “How can I help you?”
Harry barely resists the urge to roll his eyes and tries to summon the will to say something polite.
Robards beats him to it. “We’re here to see Mr Malfoy. Mr Potter will be testing his newest project.”
Harry looks up at him, startled. Neither “Mr Malfoy” nor “testing” had been part of Robards’ request.
“Of course, Auror Robards, sir. Right this way.”
Robards follows him without hesitation, leaving Harry little choice but to trail behind them both, hoping that Robards’ bulk hides his attempts to crane his neck, to look through every windowed door they walk past. To see something of the place where Draco spends his days.
He almost ploughs into Robards when they come to a stop in front of yet another steel door. It’s got a tiny window like the others, though this one’s papered over.
“We can go in. Mr Malfoy will be expecting us.”
“Expecting us?” Harry blurts it out, unthinking.
“Yes, sir. Mr Robards, an Auror, and myself. He knows the test is on.”
So Draco’s not expecting him, specifically. Which means Draco wasn’t hiding this from him, and might not be any more prepared than Harry is.
“Just an Auror and yourself, actually.”
Harry whips around to stare at Robards.
“I’ve got a meeting with the Wizengamot Solicitors. You’ll be all right, Potter?”
“Yes, sir.” It’s much more a reflex than a truth.
“Good man. Point me towards the exit, er—”
“Phillips,” the young man offers. “Right that way, sir. First left, next right, and straight on to the front office.
Robards leaves them standing in front of the door, Harry with his heart in his throat and Phillips behind him.
There’s no answer.
He knocks again and waits until Philips interrupts.
“Mr Potter, as I said, he is expecting us.” Phillips pushes the door open and they step inside.
The office is bigger than he’d expected. Almost vast. It’s got floor to ceiling shelves with an astonishing array of whirring, beeping, blipping devices that jump and shake and rattle neighbouring boxes.
A work bench sits at the centre, and on it there are several boxes. Curious, Harry steps towards them.
They’re not moving or buzzing or anything like that. Just plain brown boxes, two of them, inert on the worktop. He looks over to Phillips, who has summoned a clipboard from parts unknown and is reading over its contents intently.
Harry has worked around magical tools long enough to know that it’s unwise to open this sort of thing in this sort of place, but it doesn’t stop him from walking forward, lifting the whole box off the bench, weighing it in his hands. Tempted further, he picks up a smaller box and weighs that too, admiring the delicate folds of the paper, wondering what it holds.
And then, almost dropping it when he’s interrupted by a bang. He looks over to find Draco staring at him, his hands empty and a box at his feet.
He stares back, just remembering to set his own box down and step away.
Phillips snaps to attention. “Mr Malfoy, sir. Mr Robards had to report to a meeting with the Solicitor General. Mr Potter and I are here for the test.”
“I…” Harry starts, but trails off as he looks, really looks, at Draco.
All that softness has been replaced with severity. The soft halo of his hair has been slicked back; Harry can imagine errant strands being forced to perform hard labour for their disobedience. His robes are pressed within an inch of their lives. His shoulders are straight and firm, even in the midst of this newly created disarray.
Harry pulls self-consciously at his own robes, which hang open and are, he knows, just a bit rumpled. “Hi.”
Draco ignores him, directing his attention to Phillips. “So I see. I was expecting Lindley.”
Harry frowns and interrupts before Phillips has a chance to talk over him. “Robards said this was
a job for me.”
“So. Here I am.”
Draco steps over the dropped box to come towards him, and Harry’s heart leaps at the promise of familiarity, until Draco comes to stand several feet away from him from him, hands folded primly on the worktop.
“Very well then, Mr Potter.”
Harry’s stomach twists in a way that’s not altogether pleasant.
Draco Summons the box he’d been carrying, stacks it on top of the one Harry’d first lifted, and holds out a Ministry-standard Portkey. “If you’ll both come with me, we can begin the test right away.”
* * *
They land in—or, Draco and Phillips land, and Harry falls—in a massive meadow, set dead
centre in the middle of a valley.
The sun’s burned off any remnants of the kind of dewy mornings Harry usually associates with Draco and he has to shield his eyes to get his bearings. It doesn’t help, really. He doesn’t know where they are, just that it’s green as far as he can see and totally deserted.
He thinks Draco must know this place, because he doesn’t stop for an instant. Neither does Phillips. By the time Harry’s given up on figuring out where they are, Phillips has set up an elaborate recording device, trained on the heart of the meadow. Draco’s set the boxes down side by side on the ground. He’s waiting, arms crossed and a cold smirk firmly in place, when Harry turns around.
“Are you quite done with your gawking?”
“Where are we?”
“Outdoors.” Draco raises an eyebrow.
“In a field, Potter. Does it matter?”
Phillips pipes up in his most helpful tones. “We’re in Wiltshire, Mr Potter, due southwest of the Ministry by approximately 100 miles.”
“100 miles?” Harry tries to estimate their proximity to Malfoy Manor. Wishes he’d paid better attention in…well, primary school, so the knowledge would probably be lost by now anyway.
Draco scowls. “Should’ve known you’d be the type to ask too many questions.”
Harry wants to ask what he means, but the statement doesn’t exactly leave itself open to inquiries. He frowns instead.
“Do you want to see this, or shall I send you back and ask for someone else?”
He doesn’t really want to see. At least, it’s not at the top of his list of priorities. Not that he’s going to admit that to Draco, never mind poor Phillips, who’s looking a bit shocked at Draco’s less than deferential treatment of him. “Sure. Show me.”
“Sure?” Draco baulks. It’s overtaken by smugness a moment later. “Said like someone who’s got no idea what’s in the box.” He bends and lifts the lid.
All Harry can see is white tissue. His confusion is genuine. Doesn’t make it any less off-putting to Draco, apparently.
With a huff, Draco bends and pulls out a flowing cloak covered in what looks like hundreds of tiny feathers. It shimmers in his hands, and Harry can’t help but stare. Even at a distance, the intricacy of this creation is apparent.
Draco throws it to him. Harry’s never been gladder of his reflexes.
Draco pulls an identical cloak from the second box and shrugs it over his shoulders. With a raised eyebrow and a gesture, he indicates that Harry ought to do the same.
It’s far lighter than he’d expected and, thankfully, not too warm, but Harry’s no less confused about what they’re doing.
“Er...quite the…fashion statement?”
“Dire though the situation may be, we are not here to remedy your wardrobe.”
Phillips makes a strangled sort of noise. Harry looks down. He’d thought Draco’s teasing was in jest all this time. At least, it had never been delivered quite so cuttingly. He does his best to still the twisting in his chest. Plasters on a smile. “What are we doing here, then?”
“Flying.” Draco’s smile is half invitation, half challenge.
“Brooms?” Harry looks to Draco first, then to Phillips, wondering if perhaps one of them has a shrunken set somewhere in their robes.
“No brooms?” Harry repeats, confused. “Then how—?”
Draco bends his knees and jumps. He doesn’t fall, and it takes Harry a long moment to realise what he’s seeing. Draco, suspended over the ground, without a broom.
He blinks. Closes his mouth. Looks up. “How?”
“The cloaks, Potter.”
Harry looks over to Phillips, who is staring at Draco with unmistakable awe, stopping only long enough to scribble furiously on his clipboard. He turns back, and Draco is exactly where he’d left him–standing on nothing as easily as if it were the grass beneath Harry’s feet.
Draco holds himself there, unmoving save the slow curl of a smirk, for one long moment while he seems to watch Harry’s reaction. Then, without warning, he zips back and forth across the field, interspersing a series of spins and dips and inversions that leave Harry’s head spinning. It’s graceful and powerful and Harry can’t tear his eyes away—not when Draco is almost reduced to a silhouette, nor when he comes so close Harry thinks he could almost reach out and touch him.
With a flick of his wrist, Draco drops back to the ground, landing easily. Gracefully, even. “They are designed to let one fly without a broom.”
Oddness of the situation aside, Harry can’t help his burgeoning excitement.
“Without a broom? Without anything?”
“That’s amazing, Dr—” at Draco’s sharp look he turns it into a cough, ending with “Malfoy.” He coughs again for good measure. “Sorry. Pollen.” He smiles weakly. “That’d be amazing in the field.”
“That’s the idea.”
Harry looks up at him with a grin. “How does it work? Tell me.”
He’s met with a certain, not-insubstantial, amount of disdain. “We find it best not to worry the Aurors with those details. A few charms, a bit of spellwork. That’s really all you need to know.”
“But I want to know.”
Draco sneers. “Well obviously, we should all break protocol because Harry Potter wants to know.”
It’s been so long since he’s seen that look, with that intent, levelled in his direction, that Harry can’t find a response.
“Come now, Potter, let’s get this over with.”
He looks to Phillips for—he’s not sure what. Explanation? Reassurance? The restoration of his grasp of the English language?
Whatever he wants, it’s not contained in Phillips’ features, entranced though they are at the prospect of what’s about to occur.
Harry lifts the cloak. It’s got an ephemeral sort of sheen to it and he wonders if there’s potential for built-in disillusionment. Or maybe that’s meant to be obvious? He doesn’t ask. Shrugs it over his shoulders instead.
Draco gestures exasperatedly towards the air, suggesting that Harry should also fly.
This time, Phillips does offer some form of useful assistance. “We recommend starting with a test jump, sir. Then, if that proves successful—if you’re able to maintain height and stability—we would move on to more advanced manoeuvres. Travel, flips, anything you might need in a chase.”
Harry narrows his eyes at Draco. “Thank you, Phillips.”
And he jumps.
It’s a strange sensation. Not quite like standing, though he’s as steady as he would be if he were on the ground. But there’s a strain in his ankles, and when he looks down his feet are dangling several feet above the ground.
He can’t resist a grin, though he makes sure to direct it towards Phillips. “More advanced manoeuvres?”
“Yes, sir, and might I say? Remarkably fast adaptation. It took—”
“Let’s be a bit more specific about the manoeuvres, shall we?” Draco interrupts. “This isn’t anything like walking. Your magic will propel you. You have to think the direction you want to move in.”
“No,” Draco snaps. “You’re moving through the air, not just to a destination point. Closer to flying—you need to steer.”
“Oh.” Harry brightens. Flying he can do. “All right then. Shall I?”
Draco rolls his hand to suggest that yes, Harry should bloody well get on with it.
The first tests are fine. A bit thrilling, if Harry’s honest about it. After Phillips is satisfied that he’s mastered the jump, he tries moving left, first. Does a quick spin and reverses direction. He can’t help grinning, or sneaking a look at Draco as he does. He’s relieved to see something softer in Draco’s eyes. Relieved and exhilarated, he tries for a flip, just as he would on a broom.
He tucks his head, and sees the green grass of Wiltshire, and the sun lighting Draco’s hair, and he smiles.
* * *
“Potter,” he whispers. “Potter! Are you awake?”
“Mmph,” Harry manages. Barely. “Happened?”
“You tried a flip without asking for instruction, and wound up taking a head first trip into Wiltshire’s finest dirt.”
“Ungh.” Harry winces. Tries to lift his arm to rub his eyes, but a sharp pain suggests another strategy might be in order.
“Not that one. You broke that one, and I’m not usually the one doing the healing. Use the other.”
Harry obeys, trying to brush his fringe out of his eyes. Draco slaps his hand way, smoothing the hair back over Harry’s forehead so gently Harry can barely feel the pressure of his fingers. “Idiot,” Draco mumbles.
“Didn’t know.” Harry’s not quite up to arguing, but the reflex isn’t any less strong.
When Harry finally manages to lift both lids, Draco’s not looking as angry as Harry’d first thought he would. His brow is furrowed, his lips pursed. His hand lingers on Harry’s head.
Harry’s half-grateful he’s been out long enough for the sun to have started setting; he’s not sure he could manage anything much brighter. But he finds he wants to manage. Wants to remember this odd, out of place expression on Draco’s face.
They sit in silence for what feels like a long time. It must be, because Draco eventually clears his throat, removes his hand, and rises from the edge of the mattress. “Well, then. One more dose of pain potion and you’ll sleep it off. Be fine in the morning. Open up.”
Harry does, and for all this has been a strange day—more than a strange day—he’s relieved to see these hints of Draco, his Draco, coming back. Relieved to know it’s not all brusqueness and Malfoy.
He swallows and Draco withdraws his hand. “Good. Sleep.”
The pause before he turns to go gives Harry just enough time to eke out one creaky syllable: “Stay.”
Draco pauses, his back already turned to the bed. “You need your rest.”
“Yeah.” Harry coughs, trying to clear the taste of the Potion from his mouth. “Stay.”
Draco turns back to him with his eyebrows quirked. “And how likely are you to rest if I stay?”
Harry gestures feebly at his broken arm. “Likely.”
“Then why…?” Draco trails off.
If anything, the pain potion should slow Harry’s heart rate, so he can only imagine how hard it’d be pounding without it. He’s sure there’s some sort of good excuse for his request out there somewhere, but he’s buggered if he can think of it. “Want you to.”
“To sit by your bedside? You’re decent-looking enough, but looks alone can hardly hold one’s interest for eight hours.”
Harry’s eyes are fully open now, and he’s feeling more alert than he really should, searching out Draco’s eyes, though Draco seems determined to look into the middle distance. It doesn’t stop Harry trying. “Come sleep.”
It’s a long moment before Draco speaks. “Sleep?”
Harry gestures, with his good arm, to the empty half of the bed. “You like the pillows.”
It’s true. Draco’s said so.
“You’ve got the awful sheets on, though.”
Harry manages half a chuckle. “Yeah. You’ll live.”
Draco snorts. “I have very delicate skin.”
Harry tries for a saucy eyebrow waggle. If Draco’s face is anything to go by, he’s missed “saucy” by a mile.
When Draco bursts out laughing, toes off his shoes, and slides in next to him, Harry thinks he can live with that.
When he wakes up the next morning, feeling much less sore and much more aroused, to find Draco’s arm wrapped around him, to find Draco’s lips open and one corner of his mouth crusted over with the remnants of drool, he thinks he even likes it.
* * *
His meeting with Robards, however, cuts right through his pleasant haze, replaces his memories of early summer mornings with the cold grey Ministry office walls in ways that cut far deeper than the literal.
Nothing against Robards himself. It’s the news that Harry will have to do another round of Draco’s trials that sets him on edge. Seeing Draco—Malfoy, really, not his Draco at all—like that, all impatience and disdain…it was an experience he could do without repeating. Accident prone though he is, there are only so many times he’s willing to break something.
Not that he can argue that the trial was a success. Crash landing face first into a hill is hardly… Well. It’s not like he can argue the trial was a success.
But there’s no reason to believe another trial will go any better. And the idea of making an arse of himself in front of Draco yet again is…unappealing.
He’s relieved, at least, that somewhere in the superimposition of the Ministry’s drab decor over his previously sunny mood, Harry manages to make an argument to that effect—that he should be allowed to practise. That Robards picked him for a reason and he has the basic ability and it’s just a question of practise. Access. Time—time alone—with the cloak in order to figure it out.
He’s relieved—very relieved—that Robards relents. Even uses his status to get the cloak delivered to Harry’s desk.
All that’s left, then, is to figure the damn thing out.
* * *
But that’s of no matter now. Harry isn’t here to complain; he’s here to practise. He pulls the cloak over his shoulders and jumps.
The feeling of standing on air is no less exciting, even if it’s not quite as novel as it was the first time. He recalls Phillips’ directions. Doesn’t try to walk, or swim, or anything like that. Instead, he does his best to lock eyes with a tree trunk, and wills himself towards it.
Too hard. He sticks out his arms to keep himself colliding with it, and falls to the ground, limbs akimbo.
Again. He jumps, trains his sight on a nearby fence, and tries to steer himself towards it. He ends up doubled over a rail. At least, being alone, he doesn’t have to conceal his pained groan.
Again. He jumps, aims back towards the tree. He manages, this time, to slow himself with time to spare. There’s less room than he’d ideally like between his nose and hundreds of pounds of hardwood, but he’s managed. And even if he hadn’t, it’s not like he’s never had his nose broken before.
Emboldened, he launches himself towards the fence again. It’s a close call, and he has to put
out his arms to brace himself, but he manages to manoeuvre so that, instead of colliding with it hip first, he lands astride the topmost rail. He thinks it might almost look cool.
That’s not the point, though. Precision. Flips, spins. Everything Draco can do. That is the point.
It’s hours under the relentless sun. There are a handful of moments when Harry wishes he’d be knocked out under the relative cool of the tree’s shade, and a handful more when he considers crawling into the shadow of its leaves.
He leaves the flip for last. Tests the cloak every way he can think of first. It’ll let him sit easily enough. He can move from one place to another. Spinning’s a bit of a trick; the cloak gets tangled in his feet and it’s so much energy to free them that criminals would have too much of a chance to get away.
But none of it was a problem for Draco, he reminds himself, and almost goes careening into the ground when his mind wanders to those memories; the long lines of Draco’s body moving seamlessly through the air, the warmth in his eyes as he watched Harry launch into his flip.
Shaking his head clear, Harry tries another spin. It’s smoother, but his left foot still tangles, and he almost falls when he jerks right to compensate.
He isn’t sure why this has to be quite so hard. Why something that’s so intuitive to Draco has to be so perplexing for him.
The sun has inched closer to the tops of the hills. He doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to hang on to the prototype. It’s time to try again.
He starts by bending forward. Touching his toes. Feels the stretch in his hamstrings, but he doesn’t go tumbling. Tries pulling his knees towards his chest. They go easily, and stay there until he lowers them again.
With a deep breath, he tries it all at once, pushing himself forward so his feet flip over his head and he rushes towards the ground.
And then he tucks into himself and he’s turning up again, the gold-green grass flashing by in a blur as he corrects himself. He opens his mouth to let out a victory whoop.
He stops halfway through, his yell descending into nothingness, at the sight of a man’s silhouette sitting on the crest of the nearest hill. His skin’s so pale, his shirt so white, his hair so bright in the sun that Harry thinks he can be forgiven for mistaking his lover for a cloud.
Draco doesn’t rise to meet him. Doesn’t wave. He rests his forearms on his knees and just watches.
Beads of sweat spring up along Harry’s collar.
He breathes in deep and lets it out again, willing himself to stay cool in every sense of the word. He pushes himself forward again, remembering to tuck his knees, rolling into nothingness and hoping his momentum will be enough. He can feel the cloak begin to catch on his shoe and pushes himself through the turn even more quickly, righting himself before he can stumble.
Training his eyes on the fence, he wills himself towards it again, manages to settle on the top rail with considerably more aplomb this time.
Draco still watches him. Seated astride the fence, the cloak spilling over to either side, Harry watches back.
Still, he feels more scrutinised than scrutinising. Still, his pulse pounds as he waits for some response.
Long moments pass. The chorus of insects seem to echo trough the valley.
Eventually, Draco stands and extends a hand towards Harry.
In the cloak, it is a moment’s work to grasp it.
* * *
“Hmm?” Harry can’t help but be suspicious of the hint of amusement he sees written across Draco’s features. “What is it?”
“You kept trying to spin in your sleep.”
“Muscle memory, most likely.” Draco’s smile deepens. “Or the distinct possibility that you want to impress me even in your deepest sleep.”
Harry blinks, runs a hand through his hair. “Or it’s sharing a bed with someone who hogs the covers.”
Draco huffs. “I do not.”
Harry stares down at their bodies. Draco’s is swathed in an Egyptian cotton top sheet, heaped under a light quilt. His own modesty is barely kept intact by a pair of tented boxers.
He looks back up to Draco and raises his eyebrows.
“You kick them off in the night.”
“Do not.” Harry sits up to punctuate the point and winces at the abrupt reminder of last night.
Draco doesn’t miss it. His smile returns, slow and unmistakably salacious. “You do. Though it’s a wonder how you have any energy left.”
“I’m full of surprises,” Harry grumps, shifting his weight to one side.
“So I recall. But will you be able to make the same sort of effort with Phillips and Robards watching?”
Draco rolls his eyes and slips out of bed, taking the sheet with him. “Is that the sort of show you’re planning?”
“Would be hard to pull off when you won’t even give me a second look in front of them.”
The words are out before Harry can stop them. He half-thinks that he has no idea where they came from. The other half roundly informs him that he’s a liar. Both halves notice the stiffening of Draco’s back.
Draco pulls the sheet more tightly around him and doesn’t turn to look at Harry. “You’ve never suggested… We have an understanding.”
Harry shifts, unnerved by the change in tone. “I know, just—”
“Yes?” The muscles in Draco’s shoulders tighten even more. He steps further away from the bed, reaching out to finger the cloak where it was thrown over a chair in last night’s mad dash to disrobe.
“It’s never come up like that before, has it?”
“It’s just.” Harry levers himself out of bed and comes to stand behind Draco, tempted, though not
daring, to touch him. “Didn’t you think it was weird?”
“Professional,” Draco counters. “It was professional. As is appropriate in a professional setting.”
Harry pauses. He wishes, once in a blue moon, that he’d listened to the hat and gone Slytherin just for the extra practise he might’ve got at decoding them. Eight years spent surrounded by Gryffindors does nothing to tell him whether Draco is stating a fact or a preference. “Yeah, but—”
“But what?” Draco snaps.
Harry pauses, even more uncertain than he had been. “Is that what you want?”
Draco huffs. “What I want is to shower with enough time left after for a proper breakfast.” He makes for the en suite. “You can see yourself out, I’m sure.”
“Yeah,” Harry mumbles. Then, “Draco,” he says, louder—loud enough for Draco to pause in his walk to the bathroom. “It’s not what I want. What—What I mean to say is, I don’t mind people knowing. You know. Better that than things being all…weird.”
Draco doesn’t turn. He steps through the doorway and closes the door behind him without another word.
* * *
Phillips has set up an array of devices while Robards and Proudfoot trade cordialities with the woman from R&D and congratulate Draco on his work. Harry shifts his weight from foot to foot, responding when spoken to, trying not to be too obvious in examining the strained note behind Draco’s thanks.
Draco and his colleague have forbidden any spells unrelated to the trial and they’re all sweating by the time Phillips announces that the trial can begin. Harry’s newly glad the heat refuses to break, or else he might be the only one wiping beads of sweat off his brow.
It’s Robards who announces the test: Harry is to chase Proudfoot who will attempt to evade capture using any means fit for the task, so long as they stay in the valley.
Harry really doesn’t know why they don’t tell him these things beforehand. The element of surprise? Seeing how well the cloak and its users will adapt in the field? Some weird desire to
maximise the likelihood of him making an arse of himself in front of Draco?
Phillips hands him the cloak and he slips it over his shoulders. He wills himself not to trip, or spin off, or repeat his first attempt.
Phillips steps back and gives a signal. Proudfoot nods and fires off a Stunner before breaking into a sprint.
Reflex takes over. Harry rolls to one side to dodge the spell, tumbles out of it and leaps into the air. He wills himself to move towards Proudfoot and tackles her to the ground before he’s even thought of it.
They try again, and again, and again. Proudfoot tries firing hexes, jumping out of Harry’s way, meeting him with a punch to the stomach. Short-distance Apparition is the only thing that gives her much of an advantage. Harry thinks it would be tricky to integrate spellcasting in to his use of the cloak if he weren’t working so entirely from instinct. As it is, he finishes the trials breathless, exhilarated, and a rousing success.
Instinct has always served him well before. It’s what’s got him through this, after all, and a war, and a few dodgy cases since. And it’s what compels him as he moves back towards the lot of them, drops to the ground if front of Draco, grabs him by the robes, and hauls him in for a kiss from which he holds nothing back.
He is so giddy with it all—the summer sun, the wind against his hair, the feeling of flying without restraint—that he doesn’t notice something’s wrong at first. He presses his lips to Draco’s as easily as he always does, and they’re warm as they always are, and Draco’s body is strong and reassuring against his own.
It’s just that Draco isn’t kissing him back. The lips Harry meets are unmoving and slack, and when Draco moves it’s not to pull him closer, but to push him away.
Harry stumbles back, hand to lips, and stares, only to be met with a look of appalled shock.
As if Draco’s dismay wasn’t bad enough, the rest of their group is looking, to varying degrees, shocked and appalled.
Harry can feel the heat creep into his cheeks. His skin burns with the embarrassment of it, and he wishes, suddenly, that Draco had come up with a time turner instead of a cloak.
He makes a few attempts at stammered apologies, all met with stunned silence. Every Gryffindor instinct in his body wants to stay and fight for this, to kiss Draco again, to tell all of them.
But his instincts have never betrayed him so badly as they’ve just done and instead, he Apparates away.
* * *
He goes to work early for the sole purpose of slinking in to his office before anyone arrives. He can’t stop replaying the moment in his own head, and he sure as hell doesn’t need to hear about it from anyone else.
He thanks Merlin and Circe both for Ron, who brings him fish and chips at lunchtime. The bag's soaked through with spots of grease and Ron’s grimace when Harry asks him how it’s going tells him everything he needs to know about his decision to spend the day hiding.
He stays until he can’t hear anyone moving through the hallways. His stomach is grumbling again by then, and his patience is worn thin.
The next day he calls in sick. And then, blessedly, there’s a weekend.
* * *
He turns it over in his hands, imagining the worst. Wonders if he could pretend it never arrived.
That’s one of the major problems with owls, he decides. Like the Royal bloody Mail’s Signed For, with extra pecking.
No, Draco will know he’s got it.
He drops on to the mattress and hides behind his hands for as long as he can without completely losing all self-respect.
When he opens it, he reads:
Please return Research & Development’s prototype at your earliest convenience. You may send it with an owl addressed to the department if your illness will keep you away from work for additional work days.
It is both better and worse than he thought.
On the one hand, Draco hasn’t cursed all of his ancestors and damned him to hell or anything.
On the other, Draco appears to have moved from acting as though their relationship is purely professional to making sure that their relationship is purely professional.
Harry groans, falls back on the bed, and stairs at the ceiling until he falls asleep. When he wakes the sun is already higher than it should be, and at that point, really, what’s the point of going in?
* * *
It’s metallic – like two thick rods hitting each other, reverberating through the room and, just as the sound begins to calm, hitting again. He’s turns into the back of the sofa and buries his head under a pillow.
The noise gets faster, almost by double, and Harry’s forced to realise it’s not in his head.
When he opens his eyes he’s so startled he almost leaps off the couch.
Draco is standing on his hearth, the poker grasped firmly in one fist, banging it firmly against the stand. He is entirely unmoved by Harry’s surprise. Just keeps pounding away, his free hand on his hip and his eyes trained on Harry, until Harry has regained some semblance of composure – at least, as much of one as he can manage while trying to shout Draco’s name over the racket.
At last, Draco relents, dropping the poker back onto its hook with one last bang, and folds his arms. “Yes?”
“What—? Why—?” Harry glances to the poker and back up to Draco’s impressively stoic face. “What are you doing here?”
“The cloak, Potter. You can’t just keep it.”
“Oh.” Harry scratches his head. “Right, yeah. Sorry. Let me just…” He trails off and points at the hallway.
Draco gestures for him to move along.
To Harry’s surprise, Draco also follows him out of the room. “This place is a bloody disaster. How many bowls are on the end table? Turning your parlour into a soup kitchen?"
Harry grabs the bottom of the banister and pushes himself up the stairs.
“And the smell. Are you aware that there’s a smell? There is. The smell of the unshowered masses. Or perhaps you’re so unshowered as to pass for an entire mass yourself.”
Despite his better efforts—which are, admittedly, rather feeble at the moment—Harry’s shoulders slump in a bit. It’s bad enough for Draco to have to come, and for him to have found Harry in a bit of a shabby state, but really, he’d been quite embarrassed enough already.
Draco doesn’t seem to notice. They step off on to the landing. “And your hair, Potter. I didn’t know it could get any worse, but I suppose the saviour’s always got to one up even himself.”
Harry squeezes his eyes shut for just a moment as he turns the doorknob, trying to steady himself. He knows the bedroom’s not any better and he sure as hell doesn’t want to think of the last time Draco was here, or what he’ll have to say about it now.
He’s not sure whether to be relieved or horrified when Draco’s apparently gobsmacked into silence.
At least for a moment. “Merlin, Potter. This is a den of insanity. Unmade sheets, pants on the floor—is that a sock on top of a candle? This is unfit for human habitation, for Salazar’s sake. The mad lair of a man so mental he’d go around kissing co-workers he barely knows.”
He’s been trying to keep his head down and just get through, but something in Harry grates at that. They aren’t co-workers who barely know each other. They’re lovers. He’d thought maybe they were even more than that.
Harry turns back to Draco without retrieving the cloak. “Is that what you told them?”
“Hmmm?” Draco asks, suddenly distracted by something on the ceiling. “You know you’ve got a spot of—”
“Them,” Harry continues on. “Robards and Proudfoot and them. That I was mad? That we’re co-workers who barely know one another?”
Draco’s eyes narrow as they turn back to Harry. “Is that what you think?”
“Obviously,” Harry bites, folding his arms in front of him, partly as a gesture of defiance, partly because it’s as close as he’ll come to hugging himself in front of Draco right now.
“And you’ve called in sick for almost a week based on the assumption, made without so much as bothering to ask, that that’s what I said?”
“Well, what the hell else were you going to say?” Harry throws up his arms. “You wouldn’t even kiss me back, you were clear that you didn’t want anything said, you treated me like a total stranger—”
“Like a professional,” Draco interrupts.
“Whatever you want to call it, it’s the same thing. You did everything you could to ignore me.”
“I had no idea you thought so little of my diplomatic skills.”
“Your diplo— What?”
“My diplomatic skills, Potter. I am a Slytherin, am I not?”
Harry snorts. “Among other things.”
“And do you think feigning ignorance would’ve been a successful tactic, given the audience?”
“What do you mean?”
“You, being ever the reckless Gryffindor, kissed me in front of four of the most astute people in the Ministry’s employ. Do you think they would’ve believed it if I said it was an inexplicable, impulsive fluke?”
“I…I didn’t think about it?”
“Obviously,” Draco drawls. “It’s fortunate that one of us has that capacity.”
Harry’s indignance is cut off by a sharp stare. He bites his tongue. Literally, unfortunately, but it keeps him quiet and he’s glad of that when Draco continues on.
“Robards and Proudfoot know full well that you’re impulsive. Everyone with a Prophet subscription knows you’re impulsive. Burning buildings, dark magic, none of that’s any match for your—well, I say insanity, but I hear others prefer to call it “courage.” But those who actually know you also know that you’re rather intensely private. A million rumours about the number of dark wizards you’ve captured, not a single one about your private life.”
Still confused, Harry let a pause grow between them.
With a sigh, Draco continues. “So while you are impulsive, your impulsivity does not extend to anything so intimate as kissing, and I had not suddenly turned into an explosive hex in need of full-body smothering.”
“So I told them we hadn’t wanted to register our intradepartmental relationship with Wizard Resources lest it leak to the press, particularly when we’d never worked together and had had no chance of a conflict of interest until this case. That we’d been weighing how best to tell them and that, in your excitement, you’d likely forgotten that—”
“You told them?” Harry can feel his eyes halfway to bulging out of his head, which almost makes
up for not being able to feel his fingers.
“You did say you didn’t mind people knowing,” Draco huffs, a sudden edge of defensiveness creeping into his voice.
“I don’t,” Harry blurts automatically. “I definitely don’t. You told them?”
“It was the politic thing to do,” Draco defends.
“The politic thing?” Harry repeats Draco’s words, wishing again, and rather fiercely, that he spoke Slytherin.
“Yes, well,” Draco mumbles. “Among other things.”
There’s no suppressing Harry’s grin.
Before he can ask the next question on his mind, though, Draco continues. “Do you plan to return to work any time soon?”
“Oh! Er.” Harry makes a feeble attempt at faking a cough. “I, um, I find I’m feeling much better today, so, um. Probably in the morning?”
“Very well, then.” Draco walks to grab the cloak. “Take the evening to consider your position, then, and I’ll see you at the Ministry.” He looks down at his hand, seems to reconsider, and drops the prototype back on the chair. “And bring that with you.”
Draco’s through the door before Harry can think of anything else to say. He’s very certain, though, that he’ll be making it in to work.
* * *
There’s a lot of clock ticking, too, and he’s pretty well resolved to get a new watch and a new wall clock by the time noon rolls around.
Two sharp knocks on the door startle him out of his seat. Ron doesn’t knock like that, nor Hermione, nor Robards or Proudfoot or anyone else he can think of. There’s one person who probably would, though. He smooths his hair and his robes and steadies his breathing, and summons his wand.
Draco stands in the hallway. Harry can see a few curious heads turning behind him.
“Hey,” Harry offers.
“Harry,” Draco replies with a nod. “Have you brought the cloak with you?”
“Er, yeah.” He ducks behind the door and pulls it out. He’s brought it in on a hanger to try to smooth some of the wrinkles, and hopes it’ll be okay. “Here you go.”
Draco steps back into the hallway and raises his voice, not so much as to be obvious, but certainly enough to be overheard. “Actually, I was wondering if you’d like to have lunch with me.”
“Oh.” Harry drops his hand. Draco winces when the cloak puddles on the floor, but covers it with his best imitation of patience. Harry lifts his arm immediately. “Sure. Yes. Draco. I would. I mean, I would like to have lunch with you.”
“Very well then. Why don’t you bring the cloak with you?”
Draco’s smile is positively rakish. “Trust me, Potter?”
Harry steps forward, joining him in the hallways. It’s a tight squeeze, but he’s not objecting, and he kind of wants all those eavesdroppers to hear him. He returns the smile. “Yeah, I do.”
“All right then.” Draco holds out a hand, and Harry takes it before realising there’s something in Draco’s palm that feels a lot like a Portkey. Draco winks. “Follow me.”
* * *
But when he steps back, Draco is still there. When he blinks, Draco is still there. When Draco pulls an identical cloak from his pocket, he’s still there.
“I thought we were having lunch?”
“The elves are preparing something.”
Draco smirks. “The Manor’s about a five minute walk over the hill at the north end.”
Harry turns to look then swivels back around when he realises that he won’t be able to see anything, and is probably making a bit of an arse of himself.
“But before that, I thought we might work up an appetite.” Draco slips the cloak around his shoulders and slips a hand into his other pocket, pulling out a snitch. “What do you say to some flying?”
Harry’s grin is all the answer he needs to give, apparently. As soon as he’s turned it on Draco, Draco leaps up into the air, hovering there, waiting.
Harry feels the increasingly familiar sensation of his own cloak settle around his shoulders, and he joins Draco in the air. Draco holds out the snitch. “Count of three?”
“Count of three.”
They say it together: “One, two, three…” and then the slip of gold vanishes from between Draco’s fingers and takes to the sky. They lock eyes, silently agreeing to wait before chasing it down. Or, Harry thinks, at least on his part, enjoying the rather novel view of Draco, eyes awake and open and focused on him, out in the midday sun.
Draco grins, and Harry feels their familiar rivalry explode between them. Draco’s off in a split second, with Harry on his tail.
They fall into a surveillance pattern. Harry alternates between lazy loops of the sky and sitting on the tallest branches of the tree he’d practised in. Draco floats through the air, sometimes lying on his back, sometimes turning on his stomach, sometimes righting himself and whizzing past Harry so quickly Harry’s sure he’s seen the snitch.
It’s a feint every time, though. Draco admits as much when he comes to sit next to Harry in the tree. Neither of them has seen the Snitch. It’s just, Harry thinks, rather nice to be here. Together.
No rush, no secrets.
A cluster of clouds pass overhead, and after the heat of these last few weeks Harry almost feels cold. He thinks Draco must too; he presses closer to Harry and lets out a little shiver.
“If I am, would you want to take this inside?”
“Take this in…oh.” Harry grins. “What happened to working up an appetite?”
“Fully intend to keep my word on that.”
“And the snitch?”
“We could always finish this later.”
Harry thinks of Draco’s bedroom in the Manor, and all the rooms he’s never seen. He wonders if Draco will look as at ease at the dining table, or in the kitchen, or wherever it is they’re going to eat.
“Okay,” Harry agrees. “But lunch first.”
“First? My, Potter, don’t tell me all the sneaking around is what did it for you.”
“No!” Harry is adamant, and makes himself lower his voice the second time around. “No. No, I guarantee, I absolutely promise, it’s nothing like that.”
“No. Just, I…you know I like trying new things.”
“Yes….?” Draco trails off with a smirk.
“There are a lot more of them to try now. Like having lunch together.”
“Hmm.” Draco sits back, considering. “Intriguing point. Though,” he raises an eyebrow, “I hope those won’t be the only new things we try.”
With a grin, Harry leans in to whisper several other things they might try in the service of working off their lunch.
“Well.” Draco’s voice is creaky. He sits up and coughs to clear his throat. “In that case. Lunch?”
Harry grins and leans in for a kiss. This time, Draco responds – his lips are warm, and pliant, and firm against Harry’s, and his hands come to grip Harry’s shoulders and pull him closer, and it leaves Harry breathless.
He takes Draco’s hand, stands on the branch, and leaps into the air. Draco follows and doesn’t let go.