Venice, California is an odd little cluster of Wizarding and Muggle lifestyles, Draco observes as he walks through a loosely-knotted crowd being delighted by a band of performers levitating one another. Anyone with magic can sense a spell being cast, but magical regulations are slightly more lax in this part of the United States than they are in the rest of the country—or the world, in fact—in deference to the lifestyle and culture that seems to thrive here. People in California seldom seem surprised by what they see in the beach cities, or what they see others doing; they chalk it up to sleight-of-hand mastery or sheer eccentricity, and seem to enjoy coming to this place specifically for such reasons.
A light wind ruffles back Draco’s hair and he absently takes a bite from his melting, garishly-colored ice dessert called a Sno-Cone. Another performer ahead of him swallows and then breathes a streak of fire, eliciting oohs and ahhs from those watching and Draco rolls his eyes a little; his wand core is obviously dragon-heartstring.
It’s not a bad place for a wizarding business, he concedes as he wanders around in the glaring afternoon light, and wishes he were wearing something more appropriate than his best tailored Muggle waistcoat over a silk shirt. In the collection of shops that dot the walking path, there are several that are charmed so that Muggles can’t see them, and they seem just as popular as those populated by the non-magical; he considers popping into the one of them to get more suitable attire.
It had been Blaise that had persuaded him to visit this section of States after checking on his investments in New York. The gold in the vault Draco had inherited two years ago on his twenty-first birthday is now spread far and wide, and thanks to his father’s training, has been yielding positive results from the start. These profits have allowed Draco to secure his mother a finer cell at Azkaban and a few precious luxuries that she’d had to do without for the first three years of her imprisonment, when the Ministry had drained their vaults and seized the Manor for reparations. Fortunately, due to a clause in inheritance law, Draco’s untapped vaults had been safe from the same treatment, and he’s to inherit two more in the next few years.
Blaise has been talking up the idea of a combination Wizarding/Muggle hotel in this area for the last several months, and when he’d heard that Draco would be coming here to inspect Pansy’s fashion business (quickly becoming an empire), he’d asked for a meeting. He has been working as the manager for a Wizarding hotel just outside of Santa Monica for over a year, promoted from the position of concierge, and had begun to wonder what was stopping them from fusing the two lifestyles in an exclusive resort-stay location that would keep Wizards comfortable and set Muggles jaws agape with fascination. Draco has to admit the idea, which had seemed so outlandish when presented to him, might have some merit in this place.
It’s not entirely altruistic of him that many of the places or ideas he invests in are from former Slytherins still suffering the financial and social effects of the War; Slytherins are wily and astute, and will do nearly anything to succeed. Of course, he makes sure to invest in others (Lovegood runs a rare bookshop in Hogsmeade that does surprisingly well) and charities, and it seems like the tides might finally be turning. Last week, for instance, there was an article on page eighteen of the Prophet discussing a donation he’d made to a Wizarding orphanage, and not once did it mention his Death Eater history but for a comment about “the much-changed Malfoy heir.”
He’s contemplating taking off his shoes and rolling up his trousers to put his feet in the sand and perhaps even dip them in the shining blue of the Pacific (and oh, if his father could see him now), when a flash of wild black hair catches his eye as it disappears into a small Muggle shop with a sign that says, “Surfing, USA.”
Curious, he turns and follows it. It’s dim inside, away from the bright sun and it takes Draco’s eyes a moment to adjust.
There are odd, zippered bathing suits in there on plastic people—mannequins, if he remembers Pansy correctly—and long, slender boards of varying heights. Funny little webbed shoes decorate the place and, of course, there’s the telltale California memorabilia that seems to populate every store he’s been to: chains with Hollywood or Venice, CA! or palm trees etched on them, and t-shirts and postcards with similar logos. A voice calls from the bowels of the store, “Hang on, coming!” and Draco’s heart thumps wildly at the familiar strangeness of it.
And then Harry fucking Potter emerges, winding through the displays, to greet him with a friendly smile. “Hi. How can I help you?”
Draco suddenly can’t breathe; his mouth goes dry, and he stares with wide eyes.
Potter’s welcoming expression slowly melts into concern.
“Hey, are you all right?” He takes ahold of Draco’s arm and leads him to a chair behind the counter, eyeing his suit. “The heat, maybe? It’s pretty warm out there today for a getup like that.”
And it’s Potter, but not Potter. He’s older, obviously; he’s lost that half-starved look he had the last time anyone had seen him, in the Battle at Hogwarts. His hair is shorter, too, on the sides and in the back, but as dark and wild as ever on top, flopping over his forehead attractively. He’s tan and muscular, wider in the shoulders, but his muscles are unobtrusively defined under his red tank-top and shorts. And his eyes are so, so green.
“What are you doing here?” Draco manages, and Potter’s eyes widen behind his glasses—different frames, thin and silver—before he takes a step back.
“I, um, work here,” he says cautiously. “What are you doing here?”
And that’s how his voice is strange, Draco realizes: the other man doesn’t have a British accent. Some of his shock fades and with it comes the realization that, across the world, there is a Potter doppelganger, and that’s all this man is. Not British. Not a wizard. Not the hero everyone has been searching for, for years. Just a man in a beach shop.
“I, I, saw you, outside, and…” Draco waves his hand, his sentence trailing as he realizes how strange that sounds. But Potter-not-Potter gives Draco a smile, lopsided and charming, a smile that Draco knows like the grip of his own wand—not that it’s ever been directed at him, of course.
“Yeah?” His eyes travel down the length of Draco’s body speculatively before raising again to his face.
Draco feels a flush begin to climb on his neck. “I mean, I saw your shop, and I wondered what—what surfing is,” he says.
The smile doesn’t drop from Potter-not-Potter’s face; he laughs a little. “You’ve never heard of surfing?”
Stumped for an excuse, Draco can only shake his head and mumble, “England, you know…”
Potter-not-Potter shrugs. “It’s an ocean sport. All about balance and connecting with the water. When you do it right, it’s like flying.”
At this, Draco’s pulse speeds up again. He takes another glance at Potter-not-Potter’s forehead, which is still obscured by his hair. “And you run this shop?”
“Yeah. For the last year, now.” His smile dims, just for a moment, before resuming. “Interested in lessons?”
“Oh, no. Just, ah, curious. I’m not much for flying,” he says, lying through his teeth.
Potter-not-Potter looks disappointed for a second, and then perks up. “What are you interested in?”
Draco stands uncomfortably. If he’s not mistaken, Potter-not-Potter is flirting with him, and his mind flashes to the various lovers he’s taken over the years, all of them with dark, messy hair and bright eyes, and all of whom pale before the man before him. It feels like the perfect opportunity to do some flirting back and kill time before his International Portkey in two days, and he thinks it even might be easy. A dinner, a dance, drinks back in his hotel room followed by a fabulous shag or maybe several. But the incredibly similarities of the man’s features, rather than drawing him in, are making him feel off-kilter and flustered.
Potter-not-Potter is still watching him, waiting for his answer, and Draco clears his throat, trying for a smile. “Travel. Business,” he says, voice light. “Possibly you.”
Potter-not-Potter’s smile widens. “Good answer. What’s your name?”
“Malfoy,” Draco says automatically, and then remembers who he’s talking to—or rather, who he’s not. “Draco Malfoy.”
“Like Bond, James Bond?” Potter returns with a chuckle.
Draco doesn’t know who Bond-James-Bond is, but he shrugs and nods as though it’s true. “Exactly.”
“Exhilarating,” Draco corrects. He’ll have to find out about Bond-James-Bond later. But his correction seems to have amused the other man, who grins and runs a hand through his hair. Draco’s eyes land on his forehead, which is tan and clear of scars. He feels a sense of disappointment as possibility begins to fade away.
But still, there’s a man in front of him, attractive and strong, and he has the chance to play out a fantasy that he hadn’t realized until two minutes ago that he’d been searching for, for years, and so he holds out his hand. “What’s your name?”
“James Black,” he says, taking Draco’s hand easily and giving it a squeeze.
Draco’s eyebrows knit together at the name, surely a coincidence, but the flagging hope he’d felt a moment ago rises; a small and tight kernel in his chest. “Would you like to have dinner with me, James?”
Dark eyebrows rise and James takes another appraising look at his body. Draco knows that his clothes, shoes, and demeanor are completely out of place and that he’s probably wholly different than what James is used to, but if his answering smile is anything to judge by, he seems to like what he sees.
“I’d love to.”
Draco knocks lightly at the bleached wooden door and waits nervously.
He’s a little late; he’d had to acquire some more casual Muggle clothes (a pair of jeans and what the Muggle sales-person had assured him was a “nice” t-shirt, although Draco isn’t sure how one differentiates t-shirts from nice and not nice except that it seems to be made of good material) and Floo Blaise to cancel their dinner meeting and ask about that Bond fellow. (He’s a little flattered at James’s words, now that he knows.)
He’d paid for two nights in an extra hotel room, as well, completely Muggle and on the beach not far from the address James had given him. Just in case.
After a minute, James answers, face beautiful and bright, and Draco’s heart clenches just a bit; he’d started to wonder if he’d imagined how much they look alike.
“I was starting to think you might not come.”
“I’m sorry,” Draco says. “I had some business that ran long.”
“No, it’s okay. You’re really not that late, and it gave me a chance to shower,” James says, and indeed, his hair is still damp, curling in different directions. James looks at Draco’s outfit and smiles. “I’m glad you’re wearing that. Thought I might have to put on a suit.”
“You don’t seem the suit type,” Draco says, feeling his own twist of arousal as he looks at the other man. James is also wearing a t-shirt, in deep green, and it hugs his shoulders and the flat plain of his stomach enticingly. “You look great.”
James’s ears turn pink, and he holds the door open. “Come on in, lemme just grab my wallet and keys.”
Draco steps inside, glancing around. The apartment is small and sparsely furnished, with an overstuffed couch that seems too big for the area and one of those large television contraptions Muggles seem so fond of. There’s a small kitchen off to his left, and landscape paintings all over the walls—although, Draco notes with a tingle of foresight, not a single photograph.
Finally James returns, flashing that warm smile that makes Draco’s insides shiver, and they leave. Draco has picked a restaurant only a short walk between his hotel and James’s flat, and they make it there quickly, chatting companionably about the weather.
They’re seated in an outdoor, veranda-style section. Small machines radiate heat to keep the area warm and there are tiny hanging lights strung up, wafting in the breeze, giving them the appearance of glowing pixies. James orders the swordfish for himself and Draco gets the same; he’s never had it before.
“So,” James comments as they wait for their food to arrive. His eyes twinkle a bit. “What really brought you into the shop?”
“You,” Draco admits with a little smile. He pauses. “I saw you and you… reminded me of someone I once knew.”
“Old boyfriend?” James guesses, and it makes Draco laugh.
“Schoolmate. We didn’t get on much, actually,” he says tactfully, trying not to wince with memory. “But I’d always found him… Interesting.”
“Ah. Schoolboy crush.”
The waiter brings over the wine, a nice white, he’s assured, and Draco takes a deep swallow of it; it’s crisp and cool against his tongue.
“Maybe,” he acknowledges. “Not that I knew it at the time. We rather hated each other. What about you? Any schoolboy crushes I need to worry about?”
James’s expression flattens, just for a moment. He shrugs. “Probably not. So, do you come to the States often?”
Draco nods. “Often enough. This is my first time in Southern California, though. The heat is…”
James grins. “I know, it can be bad.”
“Actually, I like it. It’s not as oppressive as summers where I live. You can breathe here. Is this where you grew up?” Draco asks, and he knows in the back of his mind that he’s digging, but fortunately for him, first-date questions often follow along the same lines, so.
“I’ve been here a while,” James answers, a bit guardedly. Then he offers, “I met Jeff, the previous owner of the shop, a few years back and he sort of took me under his wing; he taught me how to surf, gave me a job. One of those grizzled, old, life-surfers from those sixties movies, you know? He was pretty great. I had saved enough to come in as a partial partner with him last year when he died, and I found out he’d left the whole thing to me.” There’s sadness in his voice, but affection and pride, too. “Which was just like him to do. He liked to help people.”
“And you needed help?”
“He thought I did,” James says lightly. His fingers drum against the tablecloth in a quick, staccato rhythm. “He was right, I guess. The way we are as teenagers, you know.”
“And yet, you’re, what? You can’t be much older than me, and you’re wearing a vest and a tie on the beach, and your life is filled with travel, Mr. Bond,” James jokes, deftly turning the conversation away from himself. “How old are you, anyway?”
“I turned twenty-three last month. You?”
“About the same,” James says, flashing a quick smile. “Happy belated birthday.”
They’re interrupted by their entrees being delivered. Draco’s overwhelmed by the scents rising from the steam; a citrus smell from the sauce surrounding the fish; the tang of summer vegetables. He glances at James and finds him watching him, green eyes dark, before the other man smiles again and begins cutting into his food. He chews and swallows and Draco is struck, watching the muscles bunch in his jaw and ripple in his throat. He takes his napkin and places it in his lap as James’s tongue darts out to lick a bit of sauce on his lip.
“Is yours not good?” the other man asks, and Draco flushes slightly, but shoots him a grin.
“Probably not as good as you make it look,” he says wryly, and is pleased when James beams at him, open and happy.
They eat for a while, peppering the conversation with observations about the restaurant and the area and what Draco does for a living. Draco feels a certain amount of pride when he calls himself a spoiled, trust-fund brat and James laughs hard enough to choke on his wine. And it’s so hard to separate him from Potter, this green-eyed man who laughs a bright laugh Draco knows from his dreams and smiles crookedly and pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose with the exact same gesture Draco used to use to mock Potter to his friends.
From the depth of his marrow, Draco feels like he knows this man, and yet there are just enough significant differences—not to mention his sexual orientation and complete lack of awareness about who Draco is—to make his doubt hover above their meal like a dark cloud. His questions are always turned, though consistently enough answered that it’s possible James is merely a private person getting to know a man he’s interested in.
When dinner is finished and they’ve left the restaurant, Draco tries to pluck up the courage to invite James to his hotel room. They walk down the street, shoulders brushing, and James tilts a look at him which makes Draco’s groin and belly tighten.
“Come to mine?” James says softly and the phrase, so commonly English, diverts Draco for a moment before he nods.
He steps forward, linking their hands together and draws James in for a kiss. James responds gently, and it’s just as a first kiss should be, not that Draco knows much about relationships, having preferred quick one-offs with Muggles over the past few years rather than trying to convince wizards that he’s no longer a threat, that he’s someone good, with purpose.
But this… this. The kiss is soft, sweet, questing. Draco runs his tongue lightly along the seam of James’s lips and they part for him, allowing him entrance, and garnering a gentle moan from his partner. He tastes of wine and lemons. James pulls Draco flush against his body, deepening the kiss, rubbing his tongue against Draco’s before exploring the depths of his mouth. He traces the sensitive skin inside Draco’s bottom lip, then licks hotly into him as Draco grips him tighter around the waist and applies more pressure with his mouth.
At length, Draco pulls out of the kiss, which is rich and dizzying and promises so much more. He’s unsteady and aroused, cock aching for release, and James stares into his eyes as they breathe for a moment.
Just then, a gust of cold wind sweeps past them, and James’s air flutters away from his face and there, on his forehead, his Potter’s trademark scar. Draco stares at it in wordless wonder; it flickers for a few seconds like a dissipating charm before the skin smooths out and it disappears.
Draco jerks out of his arms, and James—Potter’s—hands start to follow him before falling to his sides. His expression is etched with the remains of fading lust, and he stares at Draco in confusion. “Draco?”
“I’m—I’m sorry. I can’t,” Draco says shakily, putting more distance between them. The stars are too bright above, as bright as Potter’s smile, as burning as his kiss, and he feels faint for a moment. He holds up a hand when Potter moves nearer, and attempts a smile. “Too much wine, I think. I should probably get back to my hotel.”
Potter’s face falls, but he nods gamely. “I’d, I’d like to see you again,” he says softly.
“Yes,” Draco says, straightening his clothes, surprised to find everything in order. “Can I call you in the morning?”
Potter’s mouth curves up at the side, though he still looks a little uncertain. “Sure.”
And so Draco turns and leaves, trying not to run in his effort to flee his former enemy, the Savior of the wizarding world who everyone believes to be dead, the man he suddenly, so desperately, wants.
After he gets back to his original hotel, Draco knocks back two fingers of Ogden’s Finest in one, long swallow, and sits with his head in his hands for a moment.
The memory of Potter’s fingers, drifting over his jaw before tangling tight in his hair blurs in front of his eyes. His lips still tingle.
He pours himself another and then steps into the Floo with a handful of powder and heads over to Blaise’s flat.
Blaise comes into the room as his wards chime, clutching a towel around his waist, still wet from his shower. “Hey. I guess your date didn’t go well?”
“I need everything you can get me on Potter,” Draco says immediately. “On his disappearance.”
Blaise laughs a little. “Draco…”
“I need it now.”
“I’m dripping all over the middle of my living room!” Blaise objects, eyeing Draco doubtfully. “What’s happened?”
“Can you get it for me?” Draco asks, voice quick and cutting.
“Well, yeah. Of course. We have plenty of old papers from when he first disappeared back at work. We keep newspapers on file for seven years for guests who might need or want them,” Blaise says as a puddle begins to gather at his feet.
“I need them,” Draco says again. He pauses. “I’ll fund your hotel if you can get them to me tonight,” he adds. He was planning to, anyhow, but incentive never hurts. Blaise doesn’t seem excited, however; he’s looking at Draco as if he’s gone a bit mad, and Draco supposes that’s not far from the truth.
“Are you okay?”
“I’ll explain. I will. But get them for me?”
“Yeah. I’ll Floo over to your hotel. Give me an hour. And I heard that promise, by the way; I’m holding you to that.”
Draco gives him his room number and leaves. His room is open and plush, comfortably tailored to suit his needs and yet for nearly an hour he just sits, the ramifications of his new knowledge pounding through is skull. If Potter’s alive—really, truly alive—it could change the whole landscape of society. Right now, witches and wizards revere Potter as though he had never been just a boy who was both loved and hated while growing up; who laughed with his friends and got angry and didn’t ever seem to brush his hair and flew like he belonged in the air and once nearly cut Draco in half with his wand. His name is used to raise money for the Ministry, to sell products, and to garner followers.
And then there’s Draco’s mother. Oh, sweet Salazar, his mother insisted for months while she awaited her trial that she had helped Potter in the end, had lied to the Dark Lord, himself, about Potter being dead to aid his way back into the castle.
And no one believed her; they had locked her away for hosting the Dark Lord in her home, for being married to one of the most hated Death Eaters. It was only due to Granger’s testimony of his refusal to identify Potter at the Manor and his excessive illness at watching her torture that had spared Draco the same fate. But this… This could potentially free his mother, after all.
Blaise arrives after fifty-four minutes, looking ruffled and agitated. He hands a leather tote over to Draco. “Everything we have. I shrunk them to fit. Newest editions on top. It’s mostly the Prophet, but there are a few French newspapers in there as well.”
“Fine, fine,” Draco says absently, beginning on the task of pulling out the stacks of papers and enlarging them. “Thank you, you can go.”
Blaise stands for a moment, then moves to sit beside Draco with a sigh. “Just tell me what we’re looking for.”
Draco throws him a distracted, grateful smile. “I want to piece together what happened with as little conjecture as possible. Bare bones. Directly after the Battle. His disappearance.”
Blaise gives a long whistle through his teeth. “That’ll take some time.”
“Then help if you must, but do so quietly,” Draco says, his fingers already beginning to feel dry and stained from the ink on the papers as he sorts through them. Blaise nods and they sort through papers quickly for the next few hours, throwing a glow-charm over sections that seem pertinent and the story slowly begins to take form.
He’d read the papers at the time, of course—everyone had—but they’d been saturated with so much speculation that it was difficult to find out what had really happened.
Which was that Potter, after defeating the Dark Lord and spending hours talking to the hordes of people pressing in on him, had gone up to the Headmaster’s office with Weasley and Granger to discuss something with Dumbledore’s portrait. He’d then bid them goodbye and headed toward Gryffindor tower for a nap—plenty of witnesses can attest to his arrival there—and then he’d simply vanished from his room. Spells had been rebounding all over the castle at that point, bleeding out from the stones that had absorbed so much magic and destruction, and it was considered a possibility that the school itself had swallowed Potter.
As the outcry from the public grew louder, so with it grew fear that Voldemort had actually murdered Harry, and that his death had just taken longer to take effect, but nothing so much as a shred of clothing ever turned up to verify Potter being dead; he was just…gone. Investigations intensified; the Ministry took his wand as well as Draco’s for examination, although no one could ever find the Elder Wand that Potter spoke of to Voldemort, that Draco had apparently been the master of for a short time. The Magical signature in the bed Potter had been sleeping in showed dozens of powerful spikes of energy, in succession, the largest of these only twelve minutes before Weasley had come in to wake him.
And then, nothing.
Simply rumor and innuendo, gossip and worship and fear. His friends refused to give interviews, not that it mattered to the reporters; Draco himself had been forced to take Veritaserum on multiple occasions until they had released him from the suspect’s list. It was, to this day, unknown what had happened to The Boy Who Lived, or where he was.
Except that now, it wasn’t.
Somehow, he’d ended up on the opposite side of the globe, happily selling beach merchandise instead of finishing his Auror training and working his way up the ladder of the Ministry, and Draco wants to know why.
Blaise gets up and pours them a drink. He clinks his glass against Draco’s once, almost ironically, before taking a sip, and Draco can feel himself being examined. He sighs. “You can’t tell anyone.”
“Would I do that?” Blaise says innocently.
Blaise rolls his eyes. “Fine. The amount of money you’re giving me—“
“Investing in your idea…”
“Fine, the amount I’m getting from your investment in me, is a hell of a lot more than I’d get selling a story to the papers. So, you think you’ve found Potter, do you?” Draco looked up at him, startled. “Yeah, I thought as much. But you’re not sure?”
“I wasn’t,” Draco says slowly. “He speaks like an American, his scar is gone. He works at a shop on the beach. But I thought—they’re identical. Then tonight…”
“Wait, your date was with him?” Blaise interrupts, his mouth opening comically. “I always knew your thing about Potter went deeper than the urge to murder him. Merlin’s tits, Draco, did you shag him?”
“No! I… I kissed him,” Draco corrects. “And then… then his scar appeared. Just for a moment. He doesn’t know who I am, though. More to the point, he doesn’t know who he is.”
Blaise gives another whistle. “So, you’d thought you’d become the new Savior by bringing him home?”
Draco bristles at this. “I thought no such thing. But, my mother…” His voice cracks. Blaise looks contrite.
“Your mother,” he says, nodding.
“Well, all right, we can figure this out. Are you sure it’s him?”
“No, I mean…” His friend exhales hard, then pierces his dark eyes at Draco. “I have no doubt that you went out with someone who looks just like Potter. And maybe even that you saw his scar. But, all jokes aside, is it possible that you just saw what you wanted to see?”
“I…” Draco falters, thinking of the shadows and his dizzying lust and the taste of the other man’s tongue. “I don’t think so.”
“You should figure it out before you set the world on its side,” Blaise suggests calmly. Draco gets up to get another drink, fully aware that the axis of his world, at least, has already shifted.
They meet Potter for lunch at a tiny restaurant—nothing more than a window at which you order food—not too far from his shop.
Draco had called him upon waking, asking to see him for lunch and if it would be all right if he brought a friend with him. Potter’s pause had been long and heavy. “I’m not really… That’s not really what I’m into,” he’d said at last, and Draco had dumbly looked at the telephone as though the machine were at fault for his embarrassment.
“No!” he said, voice choked. “I just… I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant. It’s just that, I’m supposed to leave tomorrow, and I promised him lunch today, but I’d like to see you as well, and… It’s all right if you don’t want to.”
Potter’s voice became cheerful again. “No, that’s great, totally fine.” He gave the name of the restaurant and they set up a time.
Blaise waits with him as Potter approaches, eyes widening fractionally as he notes the similarities, and he gives Draco a tiny nod that he feels relieved by, but of course it’s not enough.
He introduces the two of them and they order; Potter insists that Draco try something called a corndog, which sounds awful, but Blaise’s eyes are a bit wild with laughter at the thought, so Draco takes the suggestion just to one-up Blaise and prove he can eat the disgusting Muggle thing. He gets a side of chips, waits for everyone else to order, and insists on paying, although Potter objects. (Blaise doesn’t.)
They find seats at a nearby luncheon area, filled with benches and tables and begin eating. The corndog thing is weird, but not bad, particularly when dipped in mustard. The chips, however, are divine; hot and greasy and misted with salt.
“So, James,” Blaise says, “Draco here has taken quite a liking to you.”
Potter smirks and casts a glance at Draco. “I may have taken a liking to him, too.”
“But he hasn’t really told me much about you,” Blaise presses, gently. “I grew up in England and transferred here, oh, about four years ago. You said you grew up here?”
“Actually, I didn’t say that,” Potter says blandly after a slight hesitation. “But I’ve lived here for five.”
“Where did you live before here? I could swear you look familiar.” Blaise says.
Potter pats at his mouth with a paper napkin, and shifts in his seat. He smiles a bit at Draco. “Is the schoolboy crush similarity so striking that your friend would recognize him, too?”
Draco shrugs. “Blaise?”
Blaise nods, snaps his fingers. “That must be it. You look exactly like Harry Potter.”
Draco tenses, waiting, but the name gets no reaction. Potter eats a chip, glancing back and forth between Draco and Blaise for a moment.
“Draco said they weren’t friends,” he ventures after swallowing.
Blaise laughs, loud and abruptly. Even Draco cracks a smile.
“That’s an understatement,” Blaise mutters breathlessly through his laughter. “They positively tried to kill each other.”
Draco kicks him under the table, glaring at him balefully. Blaise grins, completely unrepentant.
For the next several minutes, Blaise asks increasingly personal questions that Potter answers evasively, and Draco gets frustrated—by his friend, Potter, and his own attraction to and confusion about the man. He reaches over and wipes away a smear of ketchup on Potter’s lower lip with his thumb because it’s strangely sexy and also irritating. Potter smiles, blushing, and Draco glances away. He feels Blaise tense beside him.
“I have to be getting back to work now,” Blaise says out of nowhere. “Let me just say a quick goodbye to Draco, and I’ll let you two get back to your lunch. It was nice meeting you, James.”
“Er, you too,” he says and they both freeze for a moment at the use of Potter’s well-known conversational fumble. It’s not as though people don’t say it generally, but really, if you paired “er” with “Expelliarmus,” you’d have a complete Potter catchphrase.
Blaise leads him away for a moment and gives him a tight hug, which is odd because they don’t hug. There’s a hushed, quick whisper in his ear. “It’s him. His scar. I saw it.”
“When you touched him,” Blaise says quietly, and then releases Draco from his grasp. Draco’s knees feel slightly weak, and makes his way back to the table to collapse gratefully into his seat. Potter is watching Blaise walk away.
“No, just a friend. We roomed together in… in boarding school,” Draco says.
“So, nothing ever happened between you two?” Potter asks. “I didn’t say that.”
Draco’s mouth curves up mischievously. “To hear him tell it, he’s one hundred percent heterosexual. There are a few boys in our dorms who would beg to differ, however. He’s seventy-percent, maximum. But he’s a good mate, now.”
Potter chuckles. “That must be nice, staying friends with people you were in school with. He’s a bit nosy, though.”
“He is,” Draco agrees readily. “But it can be worth it. So, you’re not friends with any of the people you went to school with anymore?” He fears it sounds too casual, but he’s having a difficult time detaching.
Potter gives a sigh, and he fidgets with his napkin for a second before meeting Draco’s eyes. “Look, this is awkward. I don’t usually tell people about this until I’ve gotten to know them better, but you seem interested, and… I like you. And there’s the added benefit of you living on a different continent, so if you’re an asshole about it, I never have to see you again.”
Draco stills. “What is it? It can’t be that bad.”
“I don’t actually have a past,” Potter says in a low voice. “I woke up a few years back in the hospital with no memory. And I know it’s weird—you’d be surprised how many guys don’t want to date the guy who has no history—but it’s fine. Like, really. My life is happy, I’ve got friends and I run a business and things are fine. I don’t need someone feeling sorry for me or losing their mind trying to figure out what happened to me. Both of which,” he adds, “has happened with previous boyfriends.”
And there it is, laid out in front of Draco like a present. So many questions answered in one fell swoop. He feels lightheaded from with revelation and hope.
Potter is waiting silently for his reaction, and after a few minutes, Draco knows what to say. He smiles and touches the other man on the inside of his wrist. Potter’s pulse thrums gently under his fingers.
“When you get off work, would you meet me at my hotel?”
Draco spends the rest of his day reorganizing his plans.
The amount of gold it takes to arrange for his Portkey time to be moved up is large, but not nearly as staggering as the amount it takes to assure that he can be transported directly to his flat, completely bypassing Customs on the way out of the US and back into Britain. However, Draco didn’t study under his father’s tutelage for nearly eighteen years without learning what kinds of palms to grease, so by the time Potter arrives, just after dusk, everything’s arranged.
He knocks at the door in three sharp raps and Draco takes a look around to makes sure everything is in its place before answering; he’s charmed his room to make it more Muggle-friendly, making the lamps appear electric and even transfiguring a stack of books into one of those televisions, albeit one that won’t work should Potter ask to watch something.
He takes a deep breath and answers the door. Potter stands there, and Draco ignores the leap of his pulse at the sight of him. He invites him in and Potter gives him a shy kiss on the corner of his mouth before following him in.
He looks around. “Nice room! Sort of a weird lobby, but this is… good. You’ve got a view of the ocean from here?”
He walks over to the windows that take up the whole of one wall, lifting the drapes and peering out.
“Yes. Would you like a drink?”
“Thanks, I’ll have whatever you’re having.” Draco pours them wine and approaches Potter from behind, sliding his glass between the space at his elbow and his waist. When Potter takes it, Draco leaves his hand resting on Potter’s hip. He’s just barely taller than the other man now, but it enables him to rest his chin on Potter’s shoulder as they stare out at the ocean beneath the rapidly darkening sky.
Potter is holding his breath. He stills at the feel of Draco’s body touching his, lightly, from behind. After a moment he turns his head, and his eyes are already growing dark with desire. Potter leans back to fit himself more tightly against Draco’s body, and Draco can feel the curve of his arse brushing against his erection.
Draco doesn’t quite know what he’s doing; this wasn’t what he had planned. But his need is so immediate, and surely he’ll never get another chance after tonight, so he leans forward and catches Potter’s mouth in a kiss.
Potter kisses him back, quickly, willingly; his body is half twisted around, arse rubbing persistent circles against Draco’s heavy groin, teeth nipping at Draco’s lower lip. Draco digs his fingers tightly into Potter’s hips. Potter jerks away.
Potter’s eyes are wide and startled; he looks at Draco oddly, and shakes his head in rapid, tiny movements, as though trying to dislodge something from it.
He smiles, a bit sheepishly. “Sorry. Sorry. Happened sooner than I was expecting, I guess.” His voice turns wry. “You might guess that I don’t go out a lot.”
“I don’t either,” Draco admits softly.
The break in the moment was necessary—really, how would he have explained it later when Potter decided to accuse him of something like rape for taking advantage of someone who didn’t know their own identity?—but disappointment floods through him anyway. He sighs. “Why don’t we talk for a minute? Actually, I’d like to get your opinion on something.”
He gestures for Potter to sit down on the low-slung sofa and the other man does, his limbs loose, movements graceful. He leans back, taking a sip of his wine, relaxing into the cushions and doing nothing to hide the obviousness of his erection, which is clearly outlined beneath his jeans. Draco gulps in a bit of air and removes his wand from a small table nearby, bringing it over to Potter.
And indeed, this is the last thing he needs to do to ensure that Potter is really Potter; Draco has gone through so many scenarios in his mind—that James Black grows a scar because of Draco’s accidental magic, that it really is a sheer coincidence, that Draco himself is finally losing his mind. Even the fact that Potter can see and enter his hotel isn’t really proof, as the odd Muggle can occasionally do so, and need to be Obliviated afterward. But use of magic will solidify all of his hopes and suspicions, and so he hands over his Hawthorn wand to the other man carefully.
Potter studies it curiously; his hands run up and down the length of it; his fingers trace the grooves at the handle. “What is it? It’s warm.” He smiles a bit wickedly. “We should probably have some actual sex before we decide we need to introduce sex toys.”
Merlin. Draco takes a deep swallow of his wine for something to do besides pounce on the man in front of him.
“I don’t think they’d be needed, actually,” he says. “Actually, it’s, ah, a prototype of an invention I’m thinking about investing in.”
Potter inspects the wand again. “Really? What’s it do?”
“Many things. Want to try it?”
“Sure. How do I work it?”
“You’ll give it a swish, just like this,” Draco says, whirling his fingers in the appropriate motion, “And say 'Lumos.'”
“Okay.” Potter waves the wand and mutters the incantation. Not only does the tip of the wand begin to glow a blinding blue-white, the lamps in the room brighten momentarily before fading back to their normal hue.
Draco sits, quite abruptly, next to Potter on the sofa—he decides it’s a better option than passing out at his feet.
Potter is smiling widely. “Cool! It doesn’t even look electrical. What else can it do?”
“Try Nox,” Draco rasps, throat dry, and makes the motion for Potter to duplicate with the wand.
“Nox,” Potter commands, and Draco feels the heavy shudder of magic as the wand, all of the lights in his room, and, judging from the winking out of light from behind the drapes, all of those in the building across from them go suddenly dark.
“Oh, shit,” Draco says, blinking in the sudden pitch.
“Er, was it supposed to do that?” Potter sounds nervous, and Draco finds him with his hand, which grasps his thigh first and then follows upward until he can gently pull the wand from Potter’s grip.
“Not… exactly,” Draco manages. “Might need to do some more tests with that one.” He mutters an incantation under his breath, twitching his wand, and the lights in his room return, although the building next door will probably have an interesting time fixing the problem, he thinks, wincing.
Well. It’s pretty apparent that he’s dealing with a wizard whose latent powers have built up in the time he hasn’t been using them. All misgivings about the identity of the man in front of him have been blanketed in the darkness of Nox. The problem, that Draco can only hope he won’t get arrested for, is the next part.
“Is the wine not to your liking?” he asks, taking a sip of his own.
“No, it’s good.” Potter takes another, deeper drink and leans forward, intent clear in his dark green eyes before he kisses Draco again.
Draco leans back in his seat to better allow the kiss and Potter takes full advantage, leaning over him, pinning Draco to the back of the couch with his body, which is all hard lines and soft angles. Draco pulls out of the kiss, twisting his head to reach the shell of Potter’s ear and outline it with his tongue, sucking lightly at the lobe, which makes Potter give a shivery moan that twists at Draco’s insides. And then suddenly Potter is everywhere, his body splayed over Draco’s, rubbing against the length of him. Draco has fallen back further into the couch; he’s half-lying down and the heady weight of Potter is pressing him deep into the cushions as Potter’s hands wander frantically.
Draco licks a stripe of skin, salty, on Potter’s throat and scrapes his teeth under the line of his jaw, biting down on the cords in his neck. One of Potter’s hands grips his hair and the other thrusts between them, searching, and finds Draco’s cock, palming it roughly through the material of his trousers. Draco’s hips stutter upward erratically and he finds himself yanking on Potter’s shirt, trying to dislodge the tuck of it from his jeans, a strip of the tan skin on his stomach just barely exposed when the knock comes.
They pause, hesitate, and Draco’s heart threatens to beat out of his chest as the desire from his cock to keep going almost overrides his brain, which has temporarily forgotten—again—what a horrible idea this is. The knock comes again, and Potter levers himself off of Draco with a rueful chuckle.
“Go,” he says, fingers smoothing Draco’s shirt for him, “Answer that. Then maybe put one of those Do Not Disturb signs on the door.” He grabs for his wineglass and takes another drink.
Draco gets up and answers the door.
“Hello, Mr. Malfoy, your Portkey delivery,” the concierge says in a crisp French accent, handing Draco a sealed envelope with a generic smile. “It activates at nine-o’clock, Pacific Standard Time, so I hope you’re packed and ready. The other arrangements are taken care of, as well.”
Potter comes up behind him, waiting, and Draco sucks in a nervous breath as the concierge’s eyes flash to him and his professional expression falters with what can only be recognition.
“James, I’ll be right there. It’s something to do with business,” he says quietly, relieved when Potter simply turns and walks back into the sitting area.
“Was that—?” the concierge blurts, jaw dangling, an astonished forefinger pointing in Potter’s direction. It’s just Draco’s luck to have the one bloody European wizard in the whole of the hotel deliver something to his room.
“My date,” Draco says blandly. “Thank you.” He shuts the door in the man’s face.
He walks back into the sitting area to find that Potter has removed his t-shirt; he lounges in his seat, knees bent and legs wide. Draco’s nerves crack at seeing so much golden skin; the subtle definition of Potter’s abdominal muscles, the wide expanse of his chest, lightly furred with black hair. Potter is smiling at him, eyes dark and knowing, and Draco presses a distracted hand against his erection, willing it to go down.
“Did you put the sign on the door?” Potter says, voice low.
Draco swallows hard, feet walking closer before he can stop himself. “I need to show you something.”
Potter’s smile grows. “I need to show you something, too. Come here.”
“Fuck,” Draco whispers, closing his eyes tight for a second, wishing with everything in him that this was just a regular date and that he was allowed to partake in what the gorgeous, oblivious man in front of him was offering. “No. Something else.”
Screwing up his courage, Draco retrieves his wand from where it’s fallen on the floor and Summons the lone newspaper Blaise allowed him to keep.
Potter’s mouth drops open. “Really, what is that thing? Bugs aside, you’re going to make a fortune!”
“It’s a wand,” Draco says carefully, handing Potter the newspaper and sitting back down beside him.
“Fitting. Like magic, right?” Potter says, then goes quiet as he stares down at a picture of his own face, at seventeen, stark and skinny.
The picture had been taken by Dennis Creevey, with his brother’s camera, directly after the Battle of Hogwarts. In the photo, Potter smiles, exhaustion and relief etched over his near-gaunt features; he shakes hands and allows himself to be hugged before the photograph loops. Underneath is another photograph, taken at the Weasley wedding several months prior, and Potter is talking furtively to Granger and Ron, wearing dress robes, and then he throws his head back on a laugh as a couple dances passed him. The headline reads, THE SEARCH FOR THE SAVIOR CONTINUES: WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HARRY POTTER?
The silence is thick and terrible. After several minutes, Potter looks up angrily, crumpling the paper in his hands. “What is this shit?”
“I-I recognized you,” Draco says. “The other day. Yesterday. Shit. But you didn’t know me, and I couldn’t be sure it was—was you until…” He gestures vaguely with his wand.
“No, I get it,” Potter says, voice tight. “Instead of just making fun of the amnesiac, you felt like you had to take it a step further by creating a bizarre backstory too. I’ll give you credit—that, at least, has never been done before. Jesus.”
He throws the paper at Draco, who flinches even as it falls harmlessly to the floor between them, and grabs his shirt from the floor, pulling it on in quick, jerky movements. Potter wobbles a bit as he stands, then sways on his feet.
“I can explain, I promise,” Draco says quietly.
But the potion in Potter’s wine is finally taking effect and Potter pins Draco with a stricken, betrayed look before sagging back onto the couch. He tries, once, to heave himself back up, scrambling for purchase against the fabric of the couch, before he slumps fully into it. His eyes flutter closed and his scar burns bright on his forehead, and he mumbles, “This is just fucking like you, Malfoy,” accent clear and apparent, before he passes out.
Draco stares at him, troubled, adrenaline rushing through him at Potter’s last words. He wonders if they mean that Potter has known who he is the whole time or if it’s just a part of whatever spell has been cast on him, fading now.
It doesn’t matter, however; all of the plans have been set in place, and Draco knows that he’ll do whatever he can for his mother—that’s always been the case. Men have done so much worse for so much less.
He takes a deep breath and breaks the seal on the envelope, glancing inside at the innocuous blue-and-green marble. He looks over at the clock. 8:50.
Draco Summons his things; his bag has been packed for hours. He grabs some powder and sticks his head into the Floo: Blaise is waiting for him.
“Did you get their address?”
Blaise shakes his head. “I’ll have it for you by the morning. You could always take him to the Ministry.”
“No,” Draco says emphatically. “I don’t even want to consider what such a public unveiling would do to him. Not to mention what the community itself would do to me. This is better.”
“They’re remarkably private,” Blaise says, “for being so in the public eye.”
“That’s why they’re private, you nitwit,” Draco says with exasperation.
“Do me a favor—“
“Shut it. Send an owl—or whatever it is you send here. I highly doubt their Floo is open. Use whatever connections you have to get a letter to them; I’ll reimburse you for whatever the cost. I need secondary verification—they’re not just going to listen to me, of all people,” Draco says, the enormity of what’s about to happen hitting him in the face like a blow of Granger’s fist.
“Will do. Good luck.”
Draco exits the Floo and reaches for Potter’s hand, then changes his mind and sits next to him, his bag in his lap, and clamps an arm around his shoulders.
“You’ll thank me, one day. I hope,” he says to the sleeping man, and then touches the marble.