Shacklebolt’s arms are spread wide. Two necklaces hang from each hand. Harry takes his, and finds the chain sticky with sweat.
“These are your Proofs,” Shacklebolt says. “If anything goes wrong during the Time Jump, they will help guide you home.”
At the mention of something “going wrong,” Harry looks up. Malfoy stares blankly back. Harry doesn’t know what’s on the pendant on Malfoy’s necklace, but his is etched with the Auror’s insignia—two wands crossed over a shield—and today’s date. Clues to remind him where he came from and why he came from there.
“As soon as you want to return to your Original Point, that is, here and now, the Proofs will also serve as your vectors. Just tap the Proof pendant with your wand and speak the password Miss Granger provided for you.”
Hermione is standing at the foot of the small platform where Harry faces Malfoy. She smiles at him woefully, as if she is regretting her involvement in this business. He grits his teeth into a transparent smile of his own, trying to tell her, it’ll be okay, you know. But it may not. This mission is crazy.
“Auror Potter, I want you to look me in the eye while I say this to you.”
Harry does. Shacklebolt has the air of a parent about to waggle his finger at a child.
“When you find the suspect,” he says, “do not apprehend him. Do not interfere in any way, even if he is doing harm. We don’t know how it might affect the future if you alter the past.”
“But we could stop him from murdering anyone before he even starts,” Harry says, turning to Malfoy for back up, only to receive a twitch of the cheek and the impression Malfoy wants tell him, There there, Potty.
Shacklebolt sighs. Before he can speak, Percy Weasley sticks a triumphant finger in the air. “That’s illegal, Harry, most illegal, and as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement I cannot sanction it!”
“Potter, look me in the eye and tell me you understand,” Shacklebolt says. “As much as we’d all like to save those lives, your only job is to identify the murderer and keep the two of you from getting killed.”
“Fine,” Harry snaps. He does not ask the question he knows they refuse to answer: And what the Hell is Malfoy’s job?
He puts it out of his head. For when he thinks about Malfoy, he looks at Malfoy, and that always ends in blushing, daydreaming, and embarrassing pants-related offshoots thereof. Hermione is stepping onto the platform. There, on a wooden dias, is what looks to be a crystal ball, except it is filled with stagnant smoke and dimly glowing lights. Hermione calls it a Time Sphere. She lifts her hands and begins chanting in a warbling, near-musical language.
For a long time.
It is very boring.
Harry’s eyes wander to Malfoy. They have been doing that a lot—ever since Malfoy appeared one day at the Ministry, apparently employed, apparently alongside Harry and Hermione on this “special mission.” Harry is intrigued at how Malfoy has changed. His sneer has softened to something impassive. Up close, Harry sees that his nose is the only pointy feature on his face, despite past observation. The rest of him is square, full, and conventionally, pleasingly masculine. Malfoy’s eyes still flit around a room, like he can’t quite believe he’s dirtying his air with the air of the plebs but is trying to look gracious about it. Sometimes his eyes flit to Harry, and then he draws himself erect, looks past the point of his nose for a heavy moment, and looks away.
That is the most Harry knows about Malfoy. He doesn’t even know his job title.
If Malfoy is an assassin, Harry thinks they would have told him, since that would make his job “protecting Malfoy” all the harder; plus, Shacklebolt doesn’t want the suspect dead. It could very well be that Malfoy is a temporary contractor of some kind. Perhaps he will repair Harry’s Proof pendant if it malfunctions. Perhaps his estate is making a donation to the Ministry, and he is simply along for the entertainment. No, Harry thinks. As desperate as Shacklebolt is to encourage Unity and Tolerance (and Funding), he would never kiss arse that hard. That leaves another option: Malfoy is an Unspeakable. If so, he will neither confirm nor deny it, which Harry thinks fitting to the title.
“Right,” says Hermione. “One demonstration for everyone’s peace of mind, and then we can—”
“I hardly find that necessary,” says Malfoy blandly. “Can we get on with it?”
“Too late, already done.” She tosses something to Harry. “You’ll be wanting that back.”
Harry opens his hand. It’s the Proof pendant he was just holding. “Hermione? How did you...?”
“I went back three minutes in time and took it from you. When I touched my pendant—“ She pulls a long necklace out of her robes. “—it brought me back to my Original Point without you even knowing I was gone.”
“Why don’t I remember you asking me for it?”
“Gather your thoughts. It will sink in.”
Harry trades confused looks with Shacklebolt and Percy.
And then it dawns on him.
He recalls Shacklebolt holding out the Proof pendant. He recalls reaching for it. But then Hermione hurries over, in his memory, and asks if she can borrow it for a second. Then she pulls out her necklace and touches her wand to it. The original circumstance now feels like something he imagined or dreamed.
“Wicked,” Harry breathes.
“And that’s why you can’t go pissing around with things in time,” Malfoy mutters, looking nowhere in particular.
“You’re right, Draco,” Hermione says, and Harry still finds her ability to be cordial with Malfoy jarring. Plus, he’s jealous. “And the further you’re sent from your Original Point, the harder it will be to tell the difference between what happened originally and what’s been changed. You might even forget completely.”
“Were there two of you when you went to the past?” Harry asks.
“No, it’s different than a Time Turner. You’ll simply appear in the place you happened already have been at the time I’m sending you back to. I was standing right here three minutes ago, so that’s where I appeared. If I sent you back to your birthdate...well, I imagine you’d be at a hospital somewhere. Of course, then, you’d certainly have no memory,” she adds with a tiny smile.
Harry is intrigued. “What if you were sending me to the future?”
“I’m not entirely sure. We’ve never tried it.” She looks questioningly at Malfoy, who shrugs and looks away. “In theory, you’d end up where you’d logically have ended up anyway, based on previous events. But let’s not worry about that. You’re going into the past.”
Malfoy sniffs. “You could have just explained it rather than Jumping. It’s fucking dangerous.”
“Well, Harry’s a hands-on learner, isn’t he? Minister Shacklebolt, I think we’re ready.” Hermione steps off the platform, and points her wand at the Time Sphere.
“Wait,” someone exclaims.
There’s one more person in the room, far off in the corner. Zabini, Harry thinks with annoyance. Malfoy snuck the bugger in here under the guise of his “personal assistant.” Bloody crock of shit, if you ask Harry. He doesn’t know what their true association is, but his hackles go up as he watches Zabini hurry over, slide a hand up Malfoy’s shoulder, and whisper into his ear.
“I’m not doing that,” Malfoy hisses.
Zabini looks mildly offended. “You would if it were Pansy asking.”
“Are we quite ready?” Shacklebolt says significantly. “I know this will only take five seconds in Current Time, but I’m eager to resolve this case and get to lunch.”
Zabini all but flounces off the platform.
Harry and Malfoy meet eyes. Harry’s stomach flips. Must be the adventure of it all.
“Ready,” he says quietly.
Hermione resumes chanting in the warbling language. The smoke in the Time Sphere begins to swirl, the dim lights flash like fireworks, the whole sphere expands, rushes at him hot, and suddenly Harry can’t tell if his feet are on the ground.
Harry’s ears pop!
He clutches his head. It feels as if there were corks in his ears, and now that they’ve been pushed out, his head is slowly draining, leaving him weak and confused.
“Doin’ all right, there?”
Harry opens his eyes and finds a reedy barman leering at him. He thinks the barman is concerned for his health until he says, “Don’t want you gettin’ sick in ‘ere. That firewhiskey could strip the varnish right off me counter. Jus’ had it waxed, matter of fact.”
He picks up Harry’s newspaper and wipes under it with a threadbare towel. He drops the paper with a thwack. Harry leans over his half-empty glass of whiskey, reading the headline: “Ministry Throwing in Wands on Murder Mystery?”
Now he remembers.
The Time Jump went awry. He and Malfoy were pulled into the Time Sphere by their heads, spun around in some time-space vortex that made Harry feel like the contents of a blender, and spat out again in the same place they had been standing before.
“Did it work?” Hermione had asked, running up to Harry. “Did you identify the killer?”
“No,” Malfoy said, tossing his Proof pendant to her. “We didn’t even go anywhere. Fetch me again when you want to resolve the issue, Granger.”
He swept out of the room with Zabini on his heels, and Harry hasn’t seen him much in the past few years. When he does, it’s in the Society section of the Prophet with Malfoy resplendently gripping the hand of the foundation president to whom he’s just donated a fortune; or it’s in the Weddings and Gala section with Malfoy dipping Astoria Greengrass backwards in a showy kiss of passion, flowers and pumpkin seeds flying behind them.
It made Harry sick then, and it makes him sick today.
It’s probably the gaudiness, he tells himself. I can’t still feel that way about Malfoy. Not after all this time.
A shaft of light stretches into the pub. When the door opens to the outside world, it is the first time the pub is bright enough for Harry to notice his reflection in the dust-encrusted mirror behind the bar. He is looking at an unfamiliar man. His face is averagely handsome, his hair averagely brown, and his eyes averagely blue. He remembers again, bringing his finger up to touch the lightning bolt scar still present beneath the illusion; he’d thrown on a half-arsed Glamour after his row with Ginny and stormed off to Knockturn Alley to regret his life choices in peace. Not the first time this week.
A tall man enters the pub. In the sunlight, the man is just a silhouette of black with a glowing white tinge to the edges of his tightly combed hair, which is plenty of information for Harry to decide who it is. He thinks he could close his eyes and know Malfoy’s presence by the rhythm of his stride alone. Malfoy meets his eyes in the mirror, and Harry is stricken still. Certainly Malfoy can’t see through the illusion, can he?
A girl scampers in. Malfoy holds the door for her, and she practically sticks to him in lathery excitement.
“—so hot out there! My makeup is melting off my face. But you don’t care, do you? You think I’m ravishing no matter what. Can you believe it? We finally get to be alone.”
She is kissing him. And she is definitely not Malfoy’s wife. Astoria Greengrass is modest and elegant, and this girl wears the kind of robes that expose all the parts of you that robes are meant to cover. Her heels are like normal witch’s lace-ups, but they have no toes and the laces criss-cross around her ankles in a way that Harry supposes looks sexy if you like that sort of thing. She is painted like a doll, a doll with red lipstick and black around her eyes and lashes that are too spidery to be real.
It’s Pansy Parkinson. Harry thought Malfoy had ditched her years ago.
He feels sick again.
He averts his eyes, feeling Malfoy slide in next to him at the bar. Malfoy snaps his fingers and says, “A bottle of Gold Fountain Champagne and my usual room.”
The barman leans over, spitting as he says, “Gotcher self a new one, Mr. Malfoy?”
Malfoy stares like he wants to squish the man, who retracts with a grimace and scuttles off. Malfoy’s eyes flit to Harry’s reflection. He may be smirking. Harry can’t tell. Malfoy’s not as overt as once upon a time. He looks away to adjust his cufflink, and Harry is relieved, until—
“Not at home with your wife, Potter?”
Harry is surprised at himself: he laughs in his throat, barely making a sound. “I could say the same to you.” In the mirror, he sees Pansy standing by the stairs, fixing her rouge in a floating compact. “How’d you know it was me?”
“Nature of my job. Secrets, and all that.”
“I can’t say I ever found out what your job was.”
Malfoy stretches, contemplative. As he does this, his neck elongates, and Harry catches the tendril of a white scar snaking out of his collar. “Doesn’t matter,” Malfoy says. “Time Jump thing really fucked me over, though. Messed with my perception. Do you know what I mean? Can’t find much joy in anything anymore, certainly not sitting at home with the little wife. She’s with child, though. Maybe I’ll cheer up when the lad’s born.”
For the second time, Harry is stricken. That is the most Malfoy has ever said to him. Like ever. Even in the conference room, when Harry, Hermione, and Percy planned the Time Jump, Malfoy had only ever spoken to Hermione, and that was in written notes.
He notices Harry’s stupor and says, “What?”
“I don’t think you’ve ever said that much to me unless it was to poke fun at my scar.”
“Hm.” He appraises not-Harry, almost looking through him, and says, “Don’t intend to make a habit of it either. Ah, thank you.” The barman hands him a blue bottle with gold foil around the cork. Malfoy makes to leave and adds, “Another firewhiskey for my friend. My tab.”
Harry is pathetic enough to be flattered.
In a whirl of robes, Malfoy leaves, and it’s only when Pansy’s cheeping laughter disappears up the stairs that Harry comes to his senses.
Malfoy was probably taunting him. He has probably noticed that Harry has trouble making eye contact with him, that he sweats on the rare occasion they stand in the Ministry lift together, that he stammers when he tries to say “Hello, how are you?” instead saying, “H-hey” because apparently Harry has developed a weakness for tall, blond, largely silent men.
His friend, Harry thinks bitterly.
They are not friends. And they’ll never be more than friends. Clearly, Malfoy doesn’t like blokes. By all rights, Harry shouldn’t either. He’s a war hero, a top Auror, a husband to a wife, and those things are all mutually exclusive from “liking blokes,” Harry thinks. He’ll never experience what Pansy is experiencing upstairs. And even though Harry’s life is a sad, sad lie, he’s got to keep it that way. He’s Harry Potter.
He knocks back his firewhiskey, groaning, realizing (like every time he does that) that quickly is not the way you should enjoy that particular beverage, and decides to slouch home. His wife is with child, too, and perhaps Malfoy has the right idea. Perhaps it will cheer him up when his lad is born.
He hasn’t noticed the Proof pendant hanging around his neck.
His head feels two sizes too large. To his relief, his ears pop! and his head shrinks, and the pressure streams out.
It is a feeling Draco’s never experienced, but he supposes this is what it feels like when you’re sobbing. Why the Hell is he sobbing? He hasn’t so much as shed a tear since he was a small boy, and right now he feels like a fountain. He looks up into the mirror, sees his swollen pink face, and makes eye contact with Moaning Myrtle.
He remembers. It’s like he’s emerging from a waking sleep.
He still hasn’t fixed the Vanishing Cabinet.
The Dark Lord is surely going to kill him.
That’s when he sees Harry Potter in the mirror. He is standing in the doorway of the bathroom, gaping. Draco’s devastation about the Vanishing Cabinet is eclipsed by the rage of humiliation.
He wheels around, drawing his wand. He doesn’t know what is coming out of his mouth, only that he wants to teach Potter a lesson in respecting privacy. His first hex shatters a lamp on the wall. Potter reels sideways, flicking his wand, but Draco blocks the clumsy, wordless curse with ease. As Draco opens his mouth to retaliate, he can barely focus on his incantation with Myrtle squealing, STOP! STOP! in the background, and he misses Potter again, exploding a bin instead of the smug look on Potter’s face.
He hardly registers Potter’s Leg-Locker Curse, which narrowly misses his ear and cracks the cistern behind him. Water gushes everywhere, pools their feet, soaks into Draco’s trousers, but he doesn’t notice. He notices Potter’s face.
That smug look is not really smug, is it? It’s anxious. Almost concerned.
Draco feels he’s seen that face before, not in the corridors of Hogwarts, not on the other side of the Great Hall, but up close, in a quiet room with just Potter, and Granger, and some gangly, bespectacled Weasley. But that makes no sense.
At once, he feels a weight around his neck. He is pulled down by it, not because of any particular heaviness but because of the suddenness of its appearance. He digs in his robes, drawing out a long silvery necklace.
Draco doesn’t own a necklace.
There is pendant at the end. It is inscribed with a set of numbers and a foreign emblem—a pair of lips behind a fist with a single lifted finger. A shushing motion.
Why do I have this? he thinks.
Draco looks up. Potter is still there. He is soaked with water, his head dripping, shiny black curls framing his eyes. Those eyes. Draco knows them. But not from now. From some other circumstance he cannot place.
He splashes out of the bathroom, clutching the necklace all the way back to Slytherin.
The next time he sees Potter up close is on top of the Astronomy Tower.
“There is little time, one way or another,” Dumbledore is saying, his voice carrying over the wind on the parapets. “So let us discuss your options, Draco.”
“My options!” Draco shouts. His arm is trembling from being extended for so long. ”I’m standing here with a wand—I’m about to kill you—”
“My dear boy, let us have no more pretense about that. If you were going to kill me, you would have done it when you first disarmed me....”
Draco knows it’s true. He hasn’t killed Dumbledore, partly because he’s scared. And partly because he thinks he’s going mad.
His opposite hand is twisted his robes, feeling the mysterious necklace through the cloth.
He’s been wearing it for weeks, and when he forgets to take it off before bed, he sees vivid, somehow nostalgic images: there are maps and newspapers strewn about a conference table; sometimes there is the bespectacled Weasley; sometimes there is a bald, black man in Ministry robes summoning an elf for coffee; there is a frizzy head bowed over parchments; there is Harry Potter, brushing his chin with a quill. Potter raises his eyes to Draco on occasion, hesitant, even shy. Draco doesn’t know where he himself fits into these images, why he is in this unfamiliar room, but he knows he is always in the corner, thumbing through pages of runes he doesn’t understand. The only time he moves is to drop scribbles on parchment next to Granger. Sometimes when he walks past, his knuckles brush Potter’s shoulder in a way he feels is meant to seem accidental but really is not. The images always snuff out in same place: with Draco looking across a platform at Potter, his heart thumping briefly, before he is sucked into a cloudy orb.
What does it all mean?
Draco has been wondering if Dumbledore can give him answers. He is Potter’s ally, after all. And he seems to be able to read souls.
Here on the frigid Astronomy Tower, Draco’s soul is bare. With Dumbledore at his mercy, he can choose Death Eater glory or he can choose something else. Something new. And, honestly, the more he sees these images, the more he questions whether this something new has been inside him his entire life. The very thought makes him convulse with fear.
“No,” he grits out. He jabs his wand at Dumbledore. It is agonizing, but he has to say it. “He told me to do it or he’ll kill me. I’ve got no choice.”
“He cannot kill you if you are already dead. Come over to the right side, Draco, and we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine. What is more, I can send members of the Order to your mother tonight to hide her likewise.”
At the mention of his mother, Draco’s throat threatens to close. He knows he must be decisive. He must destroy Dumbledore completely or side with him unconditionally. Anything in between, and his entire family will be in grave danger.
“Come over to the right side,” Dumbledore continues, pale as a ghost. “You are not a killer....”
Draco hears footsteps pounding up the stairs. Four Death Eaters charge in, and, horrifyingly, Fenrir Greyback is among them, licking his lips at the sight of Dumbledore sliding weakly down the battlements. Draco stays frozen, his wand outstretched, as they urge him to complete the task at hand. But he is less sure than ever he is capable of this. There is no time to ponder, for Amycus Carrow is grumbling, “We’ve got a problem, Snape. The boy doesn’t seem able—”
Draco didn’t even notice Snape arrive.
They all look at Dumbledore. It is the first time his voice has devolved from conversational to pleading.
Snape strides towards Dumbledore, pulling out his wand, and somehow Draco knows what he is about to do.
“WAIT!” Draco shrieks. Snape whips around. Draco sweeps his wand along the row of Death Eaters. “Petrificus Totalus!”
The first four are blown back and crumble along edge of the battlements. Snape is the only one who blocks the curse, looking at Draco with shock and revulsion. He points his wand, and says, “Impedimenta!”
Draco leaps out of the way, circling Snape in an attempt to get between him and Dumbledore. “Locomotor Mortis!”
Snape deflects it with ease. “Do you have a death wish, you foolish boy? Impedimenta!”
Draco dodges it again. The spell narrowly misses Dumbledore behind him, careening off the wall and zapping the limp form of Fenrir Greyback.
“You don’t understand!” Draco’s wand is shaking. He doesn’t want have to kill Snape to keep Dumbledore alive. Even if he wanted to, he doesn’t think he could win this battle. “Just go away! I’ll kill him myself! Just go!”
“Severus,” Dumbledore continues to plead. “Please...do it. Leave the boy....”
Snape looks between them, and the creases around his mouth relax and it seems he will back down. But then his eyes dart to Draco, and he hisses, “I don’t trust you to kill him. Levicorpus! Liberacorpus!”
Dumbledore is swept into the air by his ankles. Just as abruptly, the spell releases. He drops off the side of the tower.
“NO!” Draco shouts, running after Dumbledore’s disappearing form.
Before he arrives at the tower edge, Snape has him by the arm. “You know your father will be killed for this,” he snarls. “Make yourself scarce, so you are not, as well!”
Draco stumbles back, mouth open, and suddenly he is alone with the unconscious Death Eaters. He does not stop to think. He sprints for the battlements, stretches over the edge, and lets out a moan of relief. He can’t believe it. Dumbledore is still alive, hanging precariously off the ledge.
Draco grabs him by the hand. Dumbledore howls with pain. That is when Draco notices how decrepit the appendage is.
“You’ve got to help me,” Draco says. “I can’t grab my wand without dropping you. Pull yourself up.”
Dumbledore whispers, “Finite.”
Draco is confused. There is no spell to terminate. He understands when a small form flies to his side and grabs Dumbledore by the opposite hand. No time to wonder where he came from.
“Professor!” Potter says, terrified. His glasses are teetering on the end of his nose. “Come on, Malfoy, pull harder!”
It’s no use. It’s as if an opposing force is fighting them, yanking on Dumbledore’s ankles each time they heave.
“Harry,” Dumbledore rasps. “I released you to ask this of you. See to it my promise to Draco is kept.”
“What? No!” Draco shouts, tightening his grip on Dumbledore’s wrist. “You said you’d protect me! You said you’d help me—my mother—”
“Promise me, Harry,” Dumbledore says. His eyes bore into Potter’s. Without warning, the old man’s mass seems to double, and they must dig their nails into his flesh to keep a hold. Dumbledore howls in agony.
“Professor, please stop,” Potter says, strained. “Let us pull you up.”
“Please,” Draco feels he must add.
“It’s too late, boys. I am weak. And it must happen this way. Not just for your sakes, but for the sakes of others. You will understand with time.”
Dumbledore’s eyes linger on Draco. He realizes the old man is simply distracted by the pendant now dangling out of his robes.
“Dumbledore, don’t be dramatic, we can take you to the infirmary!” Draco says. “Please, I need your help now!”
Dumbledore looks at Potter again. “Promise me.”
Potter does not respond. He chokes out an angry sob, and tightens his grip on the spare hand. Dumbledore swallows deeply, turning to Draco, his beard whipping in the wind. Again, he seems to look at the pendant—and Draco realizes. He does know something.
“Wait, wait, wait—please, tell me,” Draco whispers.
“Draco,” he says significantly, as he begins to slip away. His mass is doubling again, and again....
“What is it? What?”
But Dumbledore smiles distantly, looks at Potter a final time, and slips away like an anchor in the water.
Draco can’t watch. He scrambles back and closes his eyes as Potter shrieks and shrieks. It feels like ages, but Draco knows it’s over in a flash. Potter springs up, grabs his wand, and runs for the stairwell.
“Where are you going?” Draco asks tragically.
Potter stops in the doorway. He turns, eyes flashing with fury. Draco knows this look from his dreams. He knows it is not directed towards him, but towards some distant objective that Potter is Hell-bent to conquer. He says, “To kill that bastard, Snape! And if you’re not on your best behavior—you’re next when I get back!”
As Potter’s steps echo down the tower, Draco cannot help but feel he has done something very, very wrong.
He doesn’t feel it, too distraught from the trauma of the night: the pendant on his chest is humming with magic in cadence with a Sphere in the heart of London. The Sphere is far, far away, not in units of distance. But in time.
Harry can’t tell if the nightclub is hot because of the overhead lights, or the mishmash of bodies, or simply from all the alcohol he already consumed at the pub where he thought up this nutty idea. A muscular bloke slides past him, his hand lingering on Harry’s bum, and Harry decides on the latter two choices. He is flattered when the man raises an inviting eyebrow, but Harry shakes his head.
He’s here for someone else.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” a girl says into his ear, barely audible over the thumping of electronic music.
He turns and sees Ginny. She is debauchedly beautiful in smokey eyeshadow and corseted robes. “Do what?” he asks.
She trades an incredulous look with Luna. “Are you sure you want to look for Malfoy in here? I know he’s supposed to be all reformed and whatnot, ever since he tried to save Dumbledore way back when—but I still don’t know if he’s your type.”
Harry thinks of wind-dishevelled Malfoy on the Astronomy Tower, of heavy-lidded Malfoy brooding near the fire during Order meetings, of Malfoy’s lingering smirk that one time they crossed paths outside the Hogshead Pub and his fingers cupped Harry’s when Harry asked him for a fag light. And, no, Harry doesn’t smoke. He just wanted to touch Malfoy’s skin once, to be alone with him for half a second, to say more to him than “How do you do?” or “Did you catch the Quidditch Cup?” It had amounted to nothing, but Harry thinks of it. Oh, he thinks of it. See, Harry is a Dark Lord conquering man of 28, but he has never conquered this: his huge crush on Draco Malfoy.
Tonight will be different.
“Yeah,” he says to Ginny. “He’s my type. Come on. One more drink, and I’ll have worked up the nerve to find him.”
They push up to the bar, where the music is muffled by some merciful bubble spell, and order three shots of goblin whelt. It’s phosphorescent green, coppery, and instantly potent. Harry leans on the bar, searching the horde of dancers, vision blurring and sharpening like a camera lens. If Malfoy is here, he thinks, shouldn’t his white-blond head be easy to spot in the darkness and black lights?
“You’re sure he’s coming, Lunie Loo?” Harry asks, and snorts at how stupid he sounds. He can’t imagine Griphook drinking this stuff.
“Yes, I heard him discussing it with Blaise Zabini when they came to my office in search of information on heliopaths. Oh, they’re so fascinating. You can walk into the trail of fire a heliopath leaves behind as it gallops, and if you don’t burn up you’ll be able to look through time and—”
“You’re off topic,” Ginny sings.
“I see.” Luna beams at Harry, the glitter on her eyelashes twinkling in the laser lights. “Well, they said they were coming here tonight. It’s supposed to be Pansy Parkinson’s birthday, and this is her favorite gay wizio-Muggle dance club. I really do agree, since it’s the only gay wizio-Muggle dance club.”
“Wait, Parkinson?” Harry moans. “You didn’t tell me that part. I’ll never have a chance if she’s here with him.”
“Just give it a try,” Ginny says. She clinks glasses with him and knocks back again. “God, that’s like sucking on a knut!” Luna snorts uncontrollably into her glass, and Ginny keens with laughter. “That was not dirty, Luna! No wonder you’re single. Anyway, Malfoy and Parkinson, they’ve been on and off again for years, so they can’t be that stable, even if they are together.”
Harry frowns. “And you’re sure what you told me is true?”
“Oy, I saw him snogging Zabini after that Order meeting. He’s at least bi. I swear on Mum’s beef and dumplings.”
“Real comfort. You hate her beef and dumplings.”
“Besides,” she says, ignoring him. “I doubt he’d be at a place like this if he didn’t like blokes. I mean, we couldn’t get Ron or Dean to come, could we? Come on, one more round. You look like you need it.”
“Merlin,” he says, holding his gut, “I don’t know, Gin—”
“Do you want to sleep on my sofa tonight?” Ginny asks, narrowing her painted black eyes. “Or do you want to be bent over Malfoy’s?”
Luna is grinning over Ginny’s shoulder, chanting, “Bent over...bent over!”
“I’ll sleep wherever you want if you promise never to say that again.” Harry holds back a smile as he waves at the bartender. Once the round is down, he’s snickering into Ginny’s ear. “I had the strangest dream last night. Did I tell you? You and I were married and we had a son called Jamie. But I wasn’t happy about it. I was miserable, and I kept going to this bar in Knockturn Alley—”
“Of course, you’d be miserable! I couldn’t see you kissing a girl, much less making a baby with one!”
“Yeah, but I’d make anything with Draco, if you know what I mean.”
Ginny hooks her arm around his neck, laughing. “Oh my God, Harry! I could not imagine you talking about sex sober. You’re so hammered! Say something else!”
Harry is about to make a joke about what else he’d like to have hammer him, but that is when he sees a flash of white. It isn’t on the main dance floor. It’s a story above: Malfoy is stooped over Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini in a smoky VIP booth. They look to be in deep discussion.
Harry’s throat goes dry. “It’s him.”
The girls follow his line of vision, and Luna chirps, “You should go dance with that man spinning fire over there.” She points to a completely random wizard beneath Malfoy’s party, who is putting on a flashy show for his friends by lighting his wand at both ends and twirling it acrobatically.
“Luna, I’m not here to be entertained...oh!”
The wizard is standing directly in Malfoy’s line of sight. If Malfoy turns, he will have to notice the man’s bright flames.
“Thanks, you’re brilliant!” he cries, bounding into the crowd. The sound bubble breaks and he’s bombarded with the dreamy, tribal sounds of Veela Mind Circle.
The closer Harry gets to the fire spinner, the less he thinks he belongs here. Where most patrons are garbed in fishnets, corsets, heavy makeup, and piercings, Ginny and Luna could only force Harry into a pair of fitted jeans, a skin-tight black shirt, and a couple of leather cuffs. He feels self-conscious until he notices the number of approving glances thrown his way. He looks up, finding Malfoy is garbed plainly, too, in a tailored all-black suit. He wears no makeup and no jewelry, except for what looks to be a silver and leather band securing the end of his long braid.
Harry approaches the fire spinner. “That’s hot,” he says.
The man turns, raking his eyes over Harry. “That’s original.”
Harry laughs, eyes darting to Malfoy. He still hasn’t noticed. “Would you care to dance? With the fire, I mean. I fancy seeing how hot you can get.”
The man’s friends are catcalling behind him. He pays them no mind. He takes Harry by the hand and leads him away, all the while giving him a cool, intrigued sort of look. His eyes are framed with kohl, but he is far from androgynous. Harry thinks this man would be promising, with his olive skin and defined musculature, if he didn’t have another objective tonight. From the corner of his eye, he thinks Malfoy may be leaning over the railing observing the dance floor. And that is when the fire lights up the room.
The nearby clubbers are entranced as they begin to dance. The fire spinner’s arms encircle Harry’s body, and he spins colorful patterns, once tossing his wand up and catching it in between their bodies in a burst of bright flame. The clubbers cheer. The music rises in volume, thumping with the rhythm of the lit wand, and the dancers press in around them until Harry and the fire spinner melt into the mass of writhing bodies, only distinguishable by his dazzling light. The spinner gyrates slowly, seductively, until his front is too Harry’s back. Harry matches his cadence. He doesn’t think he’s much of a dancer, but he can be sexy when he likes. The man dances close, his spinning hand slowing to a hypnotic waving pattern...back...forth. He sweeps the wand up Harry’s body. Harry flinches, but realizes the fire is not hot. It’s pleasantly ticklish.
“Yeah?” the man says into his ear. “Would you like to feel that in other places?”
Harry looks over his shoulder at the man’s grin. Then he looks up, sure Malfoy must see him by now. His heart pangs. Malfoy is gone.
Then he hears a voice that blows a chill over his body. “I’d like to cut in.”
They turn. Malfoy is there, looking at Harry. He is strikingly long and skinny. Even in his suit it is apparent, with his Adam’s apple jutting from the collar and his fingers curling around his hips, white and spindling, where he’s pushing aside his jacket. His face is flushed, his eyes are dilated, and his fringe is starting to slip messily from his braid. Harry thinks he’s about the fittest man in this place.
The fire spinner is unimpressed. “Nah, he’s with me, mate.”
Malfoy pushes up his sleeves, as if he is preparing to row, but Harry can see that is not his intention. The spinner’s gaze falls to Malfoy’s Dark Mark. He holds up his hands, immediately backing away. There is hardly a beat before Malfoy steps forward, smirks, and says, “Hello, Potter.”
Harry is caught off guard by the scent of sweat and cologne. He fights not to inhale like a buffoon. “Hi,” he says, still shocked they are standing here. Together. “Do you...want to dance?”
“No,” Malfoy says, and sidesteps him.
Harry’s jaw drops. He is prepared to whip around and spit, Then why did you scare off my partner? but then there are hands on his hips and lips on his ear.
“I’d like you to dance,” Malfoy says.
He has used that same haunting tone—clear vowels, crisp consonants, with a low trill of assurance on the crest of each syllable. Harry shivers and says, “Sorry?”
“I want you to dance,” he repeats. “Like I saw you dancing from up there.”
Harry’s really drunk. For some reason, he considers doing what Malfoy says. He can feel Malfoy swaying behind him, not dancing, just swaying. He moves with the same assurance with which he speaks, his open jacket licking against the pockets of Harry’s jeans. His hands slide slowly down Harry’s hips, encircling him, and dipping deliberately into Harry’s front pockets, and he whispers, “Are you dancing, just very slowly?”
Harry laughs low in his throat. Yes, he’s really drunk. There’s no way this is really happening.
He looks at the bar. A pair of blue eyes and a pair of brown eyes are shining back at him. Ginny pushes her fingers at him, as if to say, Go on and dance, stupid.
Well, he thinks. Drunk, dreaming, or real, this is what I wanted.
Harry starts to move his hips. With their proximity, it is hard to do without blatantly grinding against Malfoy. Though, when Malfoy’s hand slides over Harry’s shoulder and down his chest, he pulls them closer together, and Harry thinks that maybe grinding wouldn’t go unappreciated.
The music slows from its tribal beat, flowing into something as smooth as water. Harry arches his back in time with the slow rhythm, rolling his whole body, catlike against Malfoy. Malfoy’s hand tightens on his hip. Harry rolls again, and again, picking up the pace as the bass grows louder.
“There you go,” Malfoy says. His smile is audible.
How long do they dance? Harry can’t say. And, really, it’s him dancing, while Malfoy hums, sways, and whispers things Harry never thought he’d hear in a million years from that small, firm mouth, things like, “God, yes,” and “Fucking beautiful,” and “Come on, Potter, come on.”
It’s weird. And hot. And weird. And wonderful.
They are facing each other. Harry’s been staring into Malfoy’s black eyes for two tracks. Malfoy’s jacket is slung over his shoulder, his hair sticks to his forehead, and he keeps running his finger under his nose, and somehow even that is sexy. When the music changes again, the DJ lets it drop. There is an offensive scratch. Harry looks up. The patrons shout obscenities, and the DJ says, “Sorry, mates, sorry—” and Veela Mind Circle returns.
Harry looks back. Malfoy’s face is close to his.
“Oh,” Harry says. It feels like the beginning of a kiss, but the kiss never comes.
Malfoy asks, “Why do you look at me the way you do?”
Harry blinks, thinking this is hardly the environment for a conversation. “I’m foolish enough to like you.”
“Yes. But why?”
“Besides the obvious?” he asks, sliding his hands up Malfoy’s chest until they meet two protruding collar bones. “I think you’re a good person. And a brave person. I knew from the moment you tried to save Dumbledore’s life. I’ve been...wondering about you ever since.”
Malfoy makes no emotion. “I did that for personal reasons.”
“But you did it.”
He draws in air through his nostrils, taking the moment to examine Harry’s face. He smiles. It is alarmingly handsome. “Well, as long as we’re sharing our feelings on one another—”
Pansy Parkinson has hooved onto the dance floor. Harry thinks hooved because he’s never seen such behemoth platform stilettos. Pansy is barely recognizable behind a mass of purple shadow and feather-lashes. Her hair is burgundy-black, ironed flat, and blunt cut at her shoulders. She cocks her head, earrings flying, and says, “On my birthday? Really?”
Malfoy stays close to Harry, drawling, “Do I need to remind you what you did to me on my birthday?”
“They were American Quodpot players. It was a once and a lifetime opportunity. This is Potter.”
“Also a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“I should hope more than once,” Harry says. He shuts his mouth. The alcohol seems to be speaking for him. Malfoy is smiling at him again, and that more than makes up for Harry’s embarrassment.
“I think not,” Pansy is saying. “I’m very patient with you, Draco. I don’t put up a fuss when you bring home Blaise, or anyone else for that matter, but tonight you could at least—”
“Pansy.” Malfoy tosses a bagful of galleons at her, still staring at Harry. “Go buy the most expensive drink they make, love. Add one of those olives with the gemstone in the middle. I’ll find you later.”
Malfoy guides him through crowd, his hand warm on the small of Harry’s back. Harry cannot help feeling guilty about Pansy. But, he reckons, whatever sort of arrangement they have is none of his business. He sees blackness, flashing lights, leering men, the occasional woman, the occasional woman who is probably a man, but he feels nothing but that hand. Malfoy is touching him. Malfoy wants him. The warmth of the club is blasted away by cold. They are in an alleyway, and Harry’s back stamps the bricks, and Malfoy descends on him, his fringe falling out of his loose braid to frame their faces, and they are alone behind a sheet of white hair—and Malfoy is kissing him.
Harry has never kissed a more deliberate man. He can moan, arch his back, scratch at Malfoy’s shirt, but Malfoy kissing is a force Harry cannot combat. He kisses at his own pace. He does not lose control, even while Harry is mewling, grasping, outwardly desperate to touch him. When Malfoy finally brings his pelvis forward, Harry feels that his behavior does not indicate a lack of interest. Malfoy’s erection jumps between them.
Harry is so excited he must pull back for breath. “So, that’s how you feel, then?”
“That’s how I feel.” Malfoy bares his teeth, growls in a way that is both sexy and comical, and slaps Harry on the thigh. He backpedals away, light on his feet, and flings his jacket off his shoulder like a cape and tosses it over the other shoulder. Harry laughs. This is all so surreal.
Harry wants to kiss again, but Malfoy has busied himself against the opposite wall. He pulls a chain out of his robes. There is a pendant at the end, a silver snake with rubies for eyes and a flicking gold tongue. He removes the tongue and holds it up to his nose. He sniffs abruptly, closes his eyes, and exhales. Then he runs a long finger under his nostril.
He thrusts the instrument at Harry. “You want—?”
Harry holds up a hand, a bit sick at the sight of it.
“Maybe if it were shaped like a lion?” He stuffs the necklace into his robes, sauntering back to Harry. There is a sheen of sweat and a trace of violet power on his upper lip. “Now, where were we?”
Harry wants him so completely that he doesn’t mind the bitterness of the stuff. He is moaning into Malfoy’s mouth when he hears the blasts—three of them, sharp, in rapid succession.
They jump apart. A mass of people comes screaming out of the nightclub. Malfoy stares. Harry pushes off the wall, sprinting for the entrance.
“Ginny!” he shouts, dodging frantic faces and flailing arms. Several people are spattered with blood. “Luna!” It is too dark. It is too crowded. He follows red footprints back to the club entrance, praying he will find neither of them inside. A small group is clustered in the center of the bare dance floor. One man is kneeling over another man, desperately pressing on his chest, sobbing. The supine man is soaked in blood. A redhaired girl turns away from the scene. She bolts for Harry.
“Thank God!” Ginny says, lunging into his arms. Luna runs up beside her. “We thought it was you on the floor. That man looked so much like you.”
“You’re all right?” he asks. Ginny nods frantically. Luna is wide-eyed, which Harry thinks is a good sign with her. “Who did it? Did you see the attacker?”
“Harry, don’t.” Ginny pulls him outside, where he can hear sirens wailing. “It was a Muggle. Both were Muggles. The attacker used a gun, not a wand. I’m sure of it.”
“But I should still—”
“You know Shacklebolt wouldn’t want you to interfere.”
Harry growls. She’s right. The Muggle police are already skidding to a stop in front of the club, anyway.
“We’ll get ourselves home safe,” Ginny says, taking Luna by the hand. They start clicking down the street. “You’ll probably want to get back to your business.”
“My bu—?” Harry blushes as she nods down the alleyway. Malfoy is there, shoulder against the wall, flicking the ember off a fag like there had been no commotion. It seems as if he’s been staring at Harry the whole time.
“You’re a lovely dancer, by the way,” Luna says as they wander off. “Better than a wiggling wombat-toad.”
Harry is strangely aware of his limbs as he returns to Malfoy. But this should not feel awkward, should it? This is what you do after snogging someone at a club. You go home with them. No matter that it’s Draco Malfoy, long and lean, pulling slowly from a cigarette, his eyes drooping in contentment, his fist clutching a pendant full of illicit powder only to slide down his front to hook on his belt, his forefinger stroking the the crease between his thigh and his groin like the action is not specifically meant to drive Harry mad. No matter about that at all.
He reaches for the back of Malfoy’s neck, pulling him down, mouth open to catch the tendrils of smoke rolling off Malfoy’s tongue.
Before they kiss, there is a squawk.
“Oh, Merlin, there you are!”
Pansy pushes Harry aside and throws herself into Malfoy’s arms. Malfoy has to grab her to stay upright.
“Did you have fun?” he asks, dropping the cigarette.
“Is that all you have to say to me? I thought you were dead. I could have been dead, too. This is why I hate coming to Muggle London! It’s so barbaric. Anything can happen. Come on!”
“Wasn’t it your idea?” he laughs, letting Pansy drag him down the alleyway. Neither of them so much as glance at Harry.
He glares at the dying cigarette, feeling very, very stupid. He should have known Malfoy was toying with him. He should have know Malfoy—
“Potter, you coming?” Harry looks up. Malfoy’s hand is outstretched, the other hand occupied with a a scandalized-looking Pansy. “We’ll floo to my place from the Leaky Cauldron.”
Tonight is weird. Harry kind of likes that.
He takes Malfoy’s hand.
Draco’s 23, and it’s his first day at the Ministry.
After pretending to be dead during the war and spending the next five years locked in the library of Oxford’s wizarding satellite campus (his program of choice: the Mysteries of the Universe), he is finally ready to make himself useful to society. And look really impressive doing it.
Not so impressive so far. He’s already lost in the Department of Mysteries. He tugs on his shushing pendant, as he’s come to call it, only a little perturbed about how somber it is down here. It forces his mind to a dark place it doesn’t like to go—the tower with Dumbledore. How would things have been different if Draco had killed the man? If he’d gone with Snape and continued as a Death Eater, instead of joining the Order? Would he be rotting in Azkaban like Crabbe and Goyle? Would he be dead?
No use speculating, though it is tough not to. Draco has made his choices. And it seems they were the good ones.
As he approaches the end of a corridor, a shadow moves around the corner without bringing a body with it. Draco lurches back. The shadow steps off the wall, transforming into a three dimensional person holding out a hand clad in black leather.
“And here I’ve found you, Unspeakable Malfoy.” Draco recognizes the voice. His new boss.
“Sir,” he says quickly, shaking the outstretched hand. He assumes it’s a sir. His boss, only referred to as the Head, is garbed in head-to-toe black, face obscured beneath a shadowy hood, hands engloved, voice muffled by magic. Draco finds it dreadfully exciting that this will someday be his uniform, too.
“You’ll start straight away,” the Head says. “Yes, I think so. We’ll get you an access badge to the forbidden archives and an office in the research quarters.”
“Research?” Draco asks, his excitement ebbing away. He follows the Head down a narrow corridor, even darker than the first.
“It is your expertise, is it not?”
“Yes, but I thought—maybe—” He gazes over his shoulder...towards the Hall of Prophecies, the Death Chamber, the Space Chamber....
“Predictable lad. Yes, lads are all so predictable. We’ll acquaint you with the exciting tasks when you’ve earned your merit. Now let us introduce you to your research partner.”
The Head pushes open a door, and Draco finds himself in a most unmysterious conference room. It is glaringly white with its magical windows that bring in artificial sunlight. It is stocked with quills, memo-pads, and a Muggle-looking water cooler. Hermione Granger sits at the table. She and Draco gawk at one another.
“I sense familiarity,” the Head deadpans. “Yes, I sense it. I will linger no further.”
The door clicks. Granger is first to speak. “Well then. Malfoy. Let’s start straight away.”
“People keep saying that.”
“It’s an urgent situation.”
“Hm.” Draco clutches his satchel. He wonders if it’s too early to ask for a transfer. This is less glamorous than he imagined. He asks, trying not to sound as if he cares, “What are you doing here? I thought you worked for the Department of Magical Creatures.”
“I’m finished there. Now I’m working as a temp researcher for the Aurors. Harry suggested it, while I figure out where I want to be permanently.” She digs in a thick folder, and tosses a stack of newspapers across the table. “You may as well familiarize yourself with Case 157.”
The Times headline is too bold to miss, even while he’s trying not to look. “Saw it this morning.”
“You read the Muggle newspaper? I never would have thought. What did you think, then?”
“Unfortunate thing, Muggles murdering each other left and right. But they’re unstable sorts, it’s to be expected.”
“No.” She looks mildly disgusted. She pushes another newspaper towards him. “Didn’t you read the Prophet today, as well?”
This time he looks. The photograph portrays several Aurors, including Harry Potter, standing in a blood-spattered flat amongst Muggle police. The police don’t seem to notice the wizards at all. The headline reads, “Third Muggle Murder Connected to Imperius! Consistent Magical Signature Identified!”
Curious. Draco likes curious. He sinks into seat. “So, what? Someone is making Muggles kill each other with the Imperius Curse? And that’s how this one died?” Draco nods to the photograph he refuses to look at.
“It would seem so.”
“And they’ve got me researching it because Aurors are too good to do anything besides harass former Death Eaters?”
“More like Shacklebolt and Percy Weasley are trying to push a new crime solving program. The Wizengamot is giving them—well, us—a trial run before they vote. We’re going to see if we can’t go back in time and identify the suspect while he commits the murders. So, break out your time travel knowledge, Malfoy.”
Draco’s lip curls. “This may be the most arrogant, ethically questionable thing to come out of this administration yet. And that includes the Death Eater tracking.” He taps his chin, thanking Merlin that particular legislation failed. He sighs. “But I do like a good puzzle. Who would be in charge of whom?”
Granger gives him a withering look. “Neither, we’re a team. They wanted me to invent the time travel mechanism on top of researching the case, but I couldn’t crack it on my own. I’m not well trained in the details of this stuff. That’s where you come in. So, while I work out a list of suspects for the Aurors, you’ll be fine-tuning a specimen I came up with that can send a person back in time and bring them back again—without creating a copy of them, unlike Time Turners. We want to make as few ripples in time as possible.”
“And what will the bloody Aurors be doing?”
“Identifying the suspect, capturing him, and reaping the glory, of course.” She looks as annoyed as Draco feels. “But since the Auror in question will be Harry, I guess I don’t mind.”
Harry Potter. Draco hasn’t seen much of him since the war. He’s thought about him a fair share.
Draco clears his throat, feigning indifference. “Well, since it’s for a good cause.” He stares out the fake window, listening to Granger flip through parchments until he can’t stand it anymore. “How’s Potty doing?”
“He’s fine,” Granger says, and that’s bloody well it.
“Not engaged to that Weasley girl yet, is he?”
“Quite the opposite.” She laughs to herself. “I imagine he has you to thank for that.”
She pauses. And pauses. Draco’s eyes about pop out of his head, and he raises both hands. “Come again?”
“Oh. Yes. Harry’s been hinting that he might be over girls ever since you brought Zabini around to one of the last Order meetings and he was all lovey dovey with you.”
“Merlin, don’t remind me. Zabini has no tact.”
“I don’t know why that triggered Harry to be vocal about it. Maybe he never knew how acceptable homosexuality was in wizarding society before then. At any rate—no, I don’t see him marrying Ginny in this lifetime.”
Draco tugs his pendant, contemplating this. They order coffee, gather quills and ink and graphing paper, and get started straight away.
Everyday for two weeks, Granger plunks her patented notes in front of him—equations of runes woven in artful chronologies that make Draco’s head spin with fascination. “Ah,” he says, intrigued by Granger’s breakthroughs. “Mm,” he says, and scratches out her errors. Granger looks over her tea mug, half pleased and half insecure about his progress and then she goes back to analyzing criminal records, both Muggle and wizard, and all the latest newspaper articles.
“We’ve got another one,” she says one day, tossing the morning’s editions of the Prophet and the Times on the table. “Did you see the report?”
“I don’t make a habit of reading the paper,” he says groggily. He gathers her time travel equations and makes a nice pillow.
“Late night? You and those clubs.” Granger conjures a mug of hot water and a tea bag. She never calls a house-elf for proper tea. “You should really read the paper, Malfoy. We should be in this together, and I can’t find a pattern or motive for the life of me.”
“I’m sure you’ll—” He lifts his head, and notices the photograph in the Times for the first time. “Huh.”
“No. Maybe. Hand me the victim profiles.”
She does. There are four in total. Each murder victim is an attractive, mid-twenties Londoner. Draco had known the bloke from that first day with Granger. It hadn’t seemed relevant at the time, just regretful. But now these others....
“Fuck,” he says, banging his fist on the table. He looks anywhere but Granger, which right now means out the fake window. There are two squirrels dancing foxtrot in a tree. Well, that is no less irksome.
“What! What is it?”
“I’ve got your pattern for you,” he says, almost too nauseated to trust his mouth with the rest. “Each of these Muggles were my lovers.”
As shocked as he expects Granger to be, she merely spreads out the victim files, looking at each face as if they will confirm the notion. They don’t. They’re Muggle photos, worse even, hazy printouts from social media websites. “You’re certain?” she asks.
“What do you take me for? Don’t you remember the faces of the people you’ve slept with?”
“It’s not too difficult, having only the one.”
Draco is traumatized enough without having to imagine Weasley’s freckles contorted with passion. He taps the face of a dapper brunette he met at a cinema. “I brought him home last night. And this girl, here—I dated her this summer. Briefly. I thought she was finished with me, but apparently someone had just finished her. These two blokes, I also slept with them. And now they’re fucking dead. All of them.”
“This is suspicious,” Granger says, and Draco hopes she doesn’t mean he’s suspicious because he’s had quite enough of that from the wizarding world. “The killer is targeting Muggles you’ve slept with.”
“I don’t think it’s a ploy against Muggles. I live in Muggle London. They’re the only pool I happen to choose from.”
“Strange you chose to live there,” she mutters, taking notes furiously.
“The wizarding world’s a small place, and I didn’t want to bump into my father after he booted me out.” Granger lifts an eyebrow, and he adds, not really knowing why, “I backed out of my betrothal.”
“I see.” She grabs a fistful of parchment, looking at him with more excitement than he thinks is advisable under such a circumstance. “This is good! I mean. Not good. I’m very sorry. But it’s a start. Finally, it’s a start.” She scrambles around the table and sits far too close for comfort. “Is there anyone who might have reason to stop you from being with other people? Anyone who might be jealous, perhaps?”
Draco puts his head into his hands, thinking of his only remaining confidants, one of whom is probably on his sofa right now blowing the paint on her nails dry.
Pansy scowls at Harry from the top of the stairs. “Hurry up, you perverts. It’s fucking freezing, and I want to get these clothes off.”
“I will do as I please in my own flat,” Malfoy says, and what he pleases seems to be exploring the shell of Harry’s ear with his tongue.
It is very nice. Everything about Malfoy is very nice, oddly enough, from the gentleness of his hands (as he guides Harry up the steps of this shabby brick building) to the firmness of his mouth (as he stops on every landing to reaffirm his attraction to Harry). Harry looks up, midkiss. Pansy’s hands are glued to her hips, and he thinks he can see straight up her nose to read all her resentments.
“I don’t want to be rude,” he whispers, putting a hand on Malfoy’s chest.
“I can be rude in my own flat,” Malfoy says, and furrows his brow like he’s trying to decide where to kiss Harry next.
Pansy stamps her foot. “You can do anything in your own flat except insulate the walls, apparently! Now get your arse up here and open the door!”
Malfoy barks with laughter, and runs up the stairs. He smacks Pansy’s on the arse. “Ever heard of a warming charm?”
“Ever heard of Death Eater surveillance? You know I hate using magic in Muggle areas. We’d have Aurors lurking around every corner if we used magic every day. You know, besides present Aurors.” She shoots Harry a disdainful look and clomps past the industrial sliding door.
Malfoy follows, calling out, “You can stay down there all you like, Potter, but I’m not going to fuck you until you come inside.”
The inside of Malfoy’s flat is nothing like the drafty stairway or the dilapidated streetface. Harry can only describe it as sleek. The first thing he notices is a huge fireplace, which bursts to life upon their entrance. It is framed with artwork too modern for Harry’s taste and topped with, peculiarly, a flat screen television. The glossy black floors are covered in furs and run throughout a space that seems made up of no more than an unused kitchen, a corner with a luxurious bed, and two other doorways. Harry has no idea where they lead, but Pansy has slammed past one of them, leaving her stilettos in the entranceway.
Malfoy is shirtless. He has a streaming fag and a mobile phone in one hand. Harry’s head cocks ever so slowly as he beholds the sight. Yeah. Huh. Malfoy is text messaging. If that isn’t strange enough, he’s smiling again.
Harry clears his throat.
Malfoy pulls on the cigarette.
“So,” Harry says, drumming his fingers on his thighs. “You’re owning, not renting?”
Malfoy snickers. At Harry or the mobile, it’s hard to tell. “I own the building,” he says.
“That’s...cool. You work for the Ministry and entrepreneur on the side, then?”
“Hm? Yeah. My dad cut me off, but it’s not hard securing a loan when your name’s Malfoy.”
“Ah. So, what is it you do for the Ministry again?”
He blows smoke out the side of his mouth, muttering, “You know I can’t tell you.”
“Ron and I always guessed you were an Unspeakable, since you helped out on that Time Jump mission.”
“Guess all you like.”
“Maybe I will,” Harry teases. He frowns to himself. Maybe I will? Is that what passes for flirting in my head?
Malfoy looks up abruptly. He tosses the mobile on the bed and strolls around the room, the snake pendant swinging on his pecs. Malfoy is broad and attractive, like Harry has long known him to be, but unclothed Malfoy’s hip bones jut out and Harry thinks he can count his ribs through his chest. His skin is baby smooth, from his navel to his chin. Besides his long, silvery braid, Malfoy appears hairless. Harry’s eye is drawn to the bulge in his trousers; he is deeply interested in learning whether this hairlessness is natural or the product of grooming. But he somehow feels uncomfortable initiating...well, anything with Malfoy. To be honest, he’s self-conscious about Pansy’s presence. He has no idea if she has retired for the evening, or what.
“Do you like Les Gobelins?” Malfoy says, waving his hand.
“I can’t say I—”
Before Harry can finish, an operatic voice emanates from somewhere in the flat.
“French musical about the Goblin Uprising of 1910,” Malfoy says over the music. He sticks the fag in his mouth and conducts his fingers as a block of voices sing in excited harmony.
Death in the tunnels!
What’s on the cave walls?
The singing stops. An electric guitar twangs on. Harry opens his mouth, but Malfoy halts him. Then his fingers fan out dramatically just as a woman belts:
The opera sings on, though as Malfoy drops his hand the volume fades.
“You don’t like it?” he asks, so close Harry can feel the heat of the fag as it hangs from the side of his mouth.
“Oh, yes. It’s haunting.”
“Ha. Don’t lie to me. No one likes it. Hey, you’re not wearing glasses.” He reaches for Harry’s face, and does nothing more than stroke and examine it.
Harry can’t stand it anymore. He plucks the fag from Malfoy’s lips, saying, “Don’t smoke right now.”
“I can smoke in my own—”
“Your own flat, got it. Not right now.” He flicks it into the fireplace.
“Ah, you’re sexy, aren’t you?” Malfoy is toying with Harry’s belt buckle now, slipping the leather out of the metal clasp without breaking eye contact. Harry is overcome by arousal. Malfoy seems unaffected, saying, “I had a dream the other day. That you cursed me and made invisible swords slash me across the chest.”
“Oh?” Harry breathes.
“And then I helped Snape murder Dumbledore and never joined the Order.”
“I got married to some heiress. And never noticed the way you looked at me.” He lowers his mouth to Harry’s, not quite touching. “Until it was far too late.”
Harry’s erection is apparent through the opening in his jeans, which rather lends to his distraction. All he can say is, “I’m glad it wasn’t real.”
“Yeah,” Malfoy says. He gently bites Harry’s lip. “Me, too.”
Fuck this toying around. Harry pushes Malfoy onto the bed. Or he tries. Malfoy is sturdy. They grapple for a moment, Malfoy cackling all the while, until Harry is straddling him, kissing him, trying to press his hands up over his head.
“No, no,” Malfoy rasps. “No, no. That’s not how I do it.” He launches Harry onto his back and slides up between his thighs.
Harry is falling to pieces as Malfoy kisses his neck, his erection jumping against Harry’s thigh. Apparently, one thing on this man isn’t skinny. “I don’t care how you do it—just do it!”
Their clothes are dispatched. It is prolonged and clumsy in Harry’s intoxication. He thinks Malfoy’s intoxication makes him sharper, happier, and swift of hand. He produces KY and a condom from beneath his pillow, manages to maintain his allure as he squeezes the bottle, his mouth turning round with fascination as he fucks a finger into Harry. Harry is reeling from the suddenness of it all. It’s what he wants, what he’s wanted for years, and intoxicated or not, he feels strangely and assuredly that they’re supposed to be doing this.
“Kiss me,” he says, and doesn’t wait for a response. He puts his fingers into Malfoy’s hair and draws him down, rubbing his scalp as they embrace. Malfoy melts. Just as fast, he stops, panting. The braid has fallen beside their heads, smelling of cedar and leather. Harry’s eyes follow the braid up to Malfoy’s delighted, mischievous face.
“I’m going to fuck you,” he says. He rubs the musky, lubed fingers on Harry’s mouth. “Potter, I’m going to fuck you tonight. I want you to know.”
“I know.” He begins to laugh at Malfoy’s sparkling eyes. Has he been wanting this for as long as Harry has?
“Will you suck me first?”
He rolls onto his back, and Harry crawls up the bed to lay in the heat between his legs.
It is still shocking to be doing this, putting his mouth to Malfoy’s cock, which is so red, leaning there to one side, arcing from his groin to his pelvic bone like a monument to lust. Harry lifts it up, puts his lips on the head. He doesn’t suck. He tastes. This seems to make little difference to Malfoy. He forces air out of his nose, twists the sheets, bracing himself. But Harry pulls off with a pop and smiles, massaging the length with his fingertips.
Malfoy lifts his head in awe. Then he drops back into the pillows, fringe flopping. “Tease. Do it.”
He gathers Malfoy’s balls in his hand, holding them as he sucks. Malfoy is an impressive specimen, and, no, there’s no hair, which makes him look bigger. Harry drools trying to take the whole cock in. It’s no use. Malfoy is now fully erect, his cockhead rising out of the fleshy sheath within Harry’s mouth, and Harry must grab the base with both hands to cover it, flipping his uncooperative hair over his head for angle, and he sucks hard. His cheeks hollow. His eyes close. His whole body rocks as he works the cock. As he moves, he feels the cheeks of his arse slipping in the lube, and it makes arousal burn in his gut. He wants to mount Malfoy. He wants to know him.
Harry smiles, hoping to convey this with his eyes. Malfoy smiles, sweats, and shudders back at him, and Harry is overcome with satisfaction.
The top of the bed dips. He smells moist skin and realizes Pansy is there, her head dripping from the bath and her face scrubbed clean.
“Not this bloody musical again,” she says.
“Feel better now?” Malfoy asks breathlessly. “All the meanness has washed off?”
“Ha, bloody, ha.” They kiss. To Harry, the sound is obnoxious. He suddenly knows how Pansy felt in the stairwell. “Are you done yet?” she wonders.
“Does it look like we’re done?”
“If Potter can’t manage you,” Pansy says, looking at Harry for the first time, “then I shall have to help.”
Her breasts dollop along Malfoy’s body as she crawls down. She never breaks eye contact with Harry, who has stopped moving but is still gagged with cock. When she comes face to face with him, he feels as if they are alone, despite the endowment between them. He pulls off, clears his throat, feeling that words are in order.
“Hi.” It is a neutral word, no trace of the hostility Pansy displayed before. She stares at Harry, contemplating him, caressing her cheek on the back of Malfoy’s cock. Then she shuts her eyes and swallows it. All of the massive thing. She does not seem put off by Harry’s saliva, nor his hand still gripping the base, which she is able to firmly tongue. She curls her fingers around Harry’s, suckling, sedulous about the matter.
Harry is mesmerized. He doesn’t think he’s turned on (though, Malfoy’s closed-mouth groaning is doing a number on him). Pansy’s gall mesmerizes him. It inspires him.
As if she can hear his thoughts, Pansy’s eyes open. She hooks a finger in the air, still working, and, as if her finger is tied to one end of an invisible string, the other end attached to Harry’s nose, he leans forward. He pokes his tongue out, tentatively drawing it from the base of their hands, up the vein, to the ridge of the head where Pansy’s lips rest, and before he knows it they are laving the entire length of flesh together.
Malfoy grabs Harry’s neck. “Oh, sweet—fucking—”
Pansy sits up to twist her hair into a bun, but before she can go back down Harry takes her place. Malfoy’s cock tastes of chapstick now. It’s like a slap in the face to him. He’s sharing a cock with another person. A girl, at that. He’s never done anything like this. Pansy lays across Malfoy’s legs, so close to Harry he can smell her shampoo, feel her soft shoulder. Some damp tendrils of hair fall out of the bun, tied as it is only by more tendrils of hair, tickling his face. She’s smirking. It’s eerily like Malfoy’s smirk.
“I can tell you like him,” she whispers.
Harry looks up, still sucking, but Malfoy is inside his own head.
“You know, more than just wanting to fuck him,” she goes on. “But I’ll save you some trouble. You’ll never have him.” She strokes Malfoy’s balls with the palm of her hand. Malfoy shivers, whispers something, but remains distant. “I don’t say that because I’m jealous. I say that because even if he liked you back—he’s not capable of doing anything about it anymore. So just make the most of tonight, and begone.”
Harry lifts his head. Malfoy’s cock throbs powerfully in his hand.
“What do you mean?” he asks.
Pansy waves him away. “Nothing.”
“That’s some heavy stuff, you can’t just—”
“Pardon me,” Malfoy says. “Are you holding some kind of convention down there?”
“Though, why you like him, I have no idea,” Pansy says, rolling her eyes. She tongues the slit of the cock, nose to nose with Harry.
“Pansy, is something wrong with him? If it’s like—drugs, or whatever—there are clinics, and—”
“Hey! Drop it. Do you want to enjoy this shit or not?”
Harry looks at Malfoy, both beautiful and strong in the pillows, feeling his gut tighten. “I do.”
“Then shut up,” she says. Then she gnarls a hand into his hair and pulls him into a kiss. Harry moans in surprise. He hasn’t kissed a girl since Ginny in sixth year, and Pansy is nothing like Ginny. She is as firm as a man. Harry is compelled to relax into her. When he does, she stops the kiss and pushes his head down onto Malfoy’s cock, pumps once, twice, and pulls him back off. She swipes her tongue up the cockhead, straight up Harry’s chin, and takes his mouth again, managing to kiss Harry while keeping Malfoy’s cock between their mouths, as if it is a third party in the intimacy.
“Shit, shit,” Malfoy is saying. He is arching off the bed, watching them. “Yes, like that. Okay, not like that. More sucking. Both. At the same time. That’s nice, that’s nice....”
Malfoy is fucking between their lips as he begins to come. Pansy pumps the base. Harry covers the head with his mouth. He closes his eyes, enjoying the quiver of Malfoy’s flesh, the cries ringing in the air, and cannot contain the spilling seed. It gushes out of his mouth and over their hands.
Malfoy recovers quickly. He pulls Harry up, and gives him a strangely sad smile.
“Hey,” he says raspily, “I forgot you don’t like girls.”
“You—? How did you know?”
“Granger told me a few years ago. When we were on that Time Jump case.” He squeezes Harry’s neck, his mouth dropping open for a long moment. Pansy is lapping residual cum off his cock. “Fuck. Ah. Okay, Potter—I want to make sure you enjoy yourself. Pans, get off. It’s sensitive.”
She busies herself with her hand between her legs on the other side of Malfoy.
“Anyway,” Malfoy says. He searches Harry’s face. His pupils have retracted to something normal. “You just sit tight. No more kissing my girl. That was hot, though. That was fucking hot. What was I saying? Right, sit tight—”
“What do you mean sit tight?”
Malfoy jumps up, clutching his snake pendant, and escapes to the loo.
Pansy is staring at him languidly. Harry wonders if she’s pleased to have been called “Malfoy’s girl.”
“Pansy,” he says, looking at her bellybutton and not her working fingers. “What did you mean before? Tell me.”
“Fucking persistent Gryffindor,” she says. She presses her head into the pillows, spreading her legs wider for her hand. “Mm, since he seems to be doing it in front of you, I’ll tell you. Ever since Blaise got him hooked on that stuff a few years ago...the only thing he cares about, apart from partying and shitting away money, is fucking. Mmm. Usually Muggles...not world heroes. It’s like...powdered hedonism, that stuff. He’s always happy, but I can tell he’s not. You know? He takes care of me, at any rate, so I don’t bother him about it much....”
“What is it? The stuff in the pendant?”
“I don’t know,” she sighs. “God, why are you talking to me right now? The dust...it’s something Blaise turned up with, like I said. They’re both always using it.”
Harry remembers the way Blaise used to follow Malfoy around at the Ministry, half sullen, half jealous. Were they snorting it back then, too?
“You’re a surprisingly good kisser,” Pansy says. She is looking at him predatorily. He can hear her hand working hard now. “If a little bottom for my taste.”
With truly horrid timing, Malfoy turns up behind Harry, pushing him onto his hands and knees. Pansy throws her head back in silent laughter.
“H-hi,” Harry says, pleased and surprised to find Malfoy erect again.
“Hello, you fucking beautiful thing,” Malfoy says, almost chuckling. Harry hardly registers this as an effect of the powder. Malfoy’s pleasure seems genuine, if unnaturally amplified. He kisses the crook of Harry’s neck, and whispers, “I’m going to fuck you. Can I fuck you?” There is the crinkling of latex. Without warning Malfoy is nudging Harry’s backside. “Tell me yes, Potter.” He slaps the round of Harry’s arse.
“Ah! I’ve only told you ‘yes’ about a hundred times.”
“You’ve implied it. I want to hear it.” The way his cock pushes against Harry’s opening, so urging, so full, Harry must squeeze his eyes shut not to cry out. He must grip his own cock not to spontaneously burst on the sheets. “Say yes to my cock,” Malfoy growls into his ear.
“Yes, yes! Fuck me.”
There is another chuckle, so quiet he can’t really hear it. It vibrates in Malfoy’s chest as he pushes against Harry. His cockhead slips past the opening, and the chuckling turns to humming, first rhythmic, and then sporadic, until Malfoy is balls-deep. Harry has abandoned holding back his cries. He puts his head down, offering his hips for Malfoy’s grip, his arse for Malfoy’s abandonment. It’s just so good.
Hazily, he opens his eyes. Pansy is smirking at him, her head on her hand. It seems she has finished touching herself.
Bottom, she mouths.
Fine, yes. Harry is a bottom. Not just incidentally. He loves taking cock. He loves taking Malfoy’s cock. Now he knows it for sure. He grips himself, focused on Malfoy completely. All his fantasies, those lingering looks at the Ministry, at the Order meetings, the wondering, the longing, have all led up to this. Harry lets go, shaking, unabashedly coming all over himself. He whimpers while Malfoy continues to fuck him; his whole body is sensitive, and he loves it.
Malfoy wraps his arms around Harry’s waist, gritting out, “Did you come on my dick? Yes, you did. You’re so tight. Do you want me to come, too? Do you want it?”
Harry reaches an arm back to pull Malfoy’s head close. Malfoy kisses him stiffly. He is sporatically dipping into Harry now, groaning affirmations of pleasure into the crook of his neck, nodding his head, and fucking so deeply Harry thinks at least one of them will bruise. Malfoy pushes in once more, let’s out a “Ha!” and withers onto the bed near Pansy’s breasts.
She dangles the mobile phone. “Look at this. Blaisie is upset we left him at the club.”
Malfoy snorts, rolls over, and closes his eyes.
Harry wants to touch him, but cannot bring himself.
He nods off for what seems like a moment. When he opens his eyes the fire is out, the music is off, and Pansy has abandoned the mobile in favor of sleep. The moon is high in the sky, making the flat gauzy white. He jumps, finding Malfoy is awake and frowning at him. His eyes are clear gray and his laugh lines have faded. The powder has worn off.
“What’s this?” he asks, picking up something on Harry’s chest. It’s a round pendant on the end of a long chain.
“I don’t know. I don’t remember putting it on. Maybe Luna stuck it on me earlier when I wasn’t paying attention. She likes good luck charms.”
“No,” Malfoy says swiftly. “It’s your Proof pendant.”
“My what?” Harry inspects it. The Auror insignia is there, and the date it was issued five years ago. “But I gave it back to Hermione. Right after the Jump failed.”
“Then something’s wrong. We need to go see Granger in the morning.”
Harry can barely hear his own voice. “We?” he asks. He’s stupid. He knows he’s stupid, but he likes the way that word sounds.
Malfoy raises an eyebrow. “If something went wrong with your Time Jump, something may have gone wrong with mine.”
“Just sleep here. We’ll leave first thing.”
Malfoy places the pendant on Harry’s chest, rests his hand there, and doesn’t pull it away. Harry is stupid again, and puts his hand there, too.
It’s ironic. Now that Draco is sure Potter prefers men, he can do nothing about it—lest Potter be murdered. What a thought!
And now he must spend an ungodly amount of time with Potter, researching in the Auror conference room. This makes Draco anxious. When he is anxious, he tugs on his two-charm necklace. One charm is the shushing pendant. The other is a recent addition, a hollowed-out snake with a removable tongue, filled with “powdered hedonism,” as Pansy likes to call it. Blaise had simply pressed it into his hand a month ago and whispered, “Fairy dust—literal fairy dust.” Draco doesn’t care what it’s called. Ever since he first snorted the stuff, he’s been pulling every night, any man, woman, or Veela he wanted, and feeling like a king doing it. And no one seems to turn up dead when he’s on the powder, so that’s an added benefit. Still, he cannot, will not, risk it with Potter.
Draco slips into the conference room like a shadow. Percy Weasley, Potter, and Granger don’t look up. Ha. Draco has gotten better at this since the Head took him under his wing. Her wing. Whatever.
He leans over Granger. “It’s not Pansy.”
She jumps, and exclaims, “How do you know?”
Potter looks up, notices Draco for the first time, and buries his face in his criminal file again. Weasley frowns over his horn-rimmed glasses. Draco inclines his head, and Granger joins him in the corridor, where they stoop to avoid passing memo-planes.
“Have you been researching the case instead of the Time Sphere?” she asks.
“No, still slogging away at that. But I realized something. Pansy doesn’t use magic around Muggles. She’s too afraid of Death Eater tracking.”
“That’s an urban legend, Malfoy.”
“She doesn’t know that. And she’s been adamant about it since we left school. I have a place in Muggle London, and I can’t even get her to heat up my tea there with her wand.”
“All right. Suppose that proves it’s not her, which it doesn’t. Is there anyone else in your life you think is capable of this?”
“Capable? Surely, but they’re all in prison or dead. Or at Malfoy Manor.”
A haggard old Auror limps past as he says this, and shoots him a dirty look.
“Aren’t you close with Blaise Zabini?” Granger asks. “Is he still...your lover? Would he have reason to be jealous?”
“We dabble,” Draco admits, “but him, jealous? That jealous?” He remembers all the times he and Blaise had used the contents of the snake pendant to work up the nerve to come onto their favorite club-goers, pub-goers, even people right off the street. Blaise had probably pushed Draco to sleep with more Muggles than even he himself would have preferred. “No, I don’t see why I should suspect him.”
“I’m going to keep him in mind,” Granger says, making a note on her legal pad.
Draco wonders, not for the first time, whether his own name is on that legal pad. It shouldn’t be, since he consented to weekly Veritaserum screenings to remain on the case, but given his passive involvement in the crime, he imagines there are things Granger and Weasley don’t disclose to him. And there’s something else that has been nagging at Draco since their research was brought to the Aurors.
“Why aren’t we telling Potter about the correlation amongst the victims?”
She frowns. “Percy thinks it’s best that Harry is in the dark about the details of the case. He thinks Harry will run amok, arresting who he sees fit, once he goes back in time. Probably why he asked you to accompany him, now that I think of it. Anyway, he and Kingsley both want to keep Harry’s scope narrow, so he doesn’t ruin their chances at getting the Time Jump approved before the Wizengamot.”
“What use will he be if he’s in the dark, though?”
“When the time comes, I’ll issue him a file with a description of the suspicious activity and the time and date the suspect will perpetuate the activity. Harry will observe the murder, travel back to Current Time, detain the suspect, and testify under Veritaserum.”
“So he’s like a trained dog. Wearing blinders.”
“He’s very good at what he does, but hasn’t learned discretion, that’s for sure.”
Draco smirks to himself, tugging on his necklace, wondering what such an indiscreet personality would be like in the bedroom.
“What is that you keep pulling on?” Granger wonders. “No, not the snake. The other one.” Her eyes light up as he reveals the shushing pendant. “Oh! It means ‘Unspeakable.’ How clever.”
“Is that what it means?” he mutters.
“I see your idea, Malfoy! You and Harry can use pendants with symbols on them as your anchors back to Current Time. With just enough information to alert you and no one else. Not only will they serve as reminders as to your Original Point in time, they’ll be the magical vectors that pull you to safety. Brilliant! We’ll just implement a password system, or something, so there are no accidents.”
Draco stands erect, somehow pleased with himself. “Yes, yes. That was my idea. Ow!” A memo-plane had struck him in the ear.
“I’ll have one made for Harry, too,” she says, whipping her legal pad out again. “He’ll probably want the Aur—”
“Er,” someone says. Potter has poked his head out of the conference room door. “Percy thinks it’s unwise to be having confidential meetings in the corridor.”
“Right,” Granger says. “We’ll be right in.”
The door closes.
“What does Potter do in there, anyway?” Draco asks.
“Come to think of it, I have no idea. Knowing him, initialing paperwork and doodling in the margins.”
Whatever Potter is doing, he ignores it for the rest of the research session, spending his time looking back and forth between Draco and Granger as they float notes to each other.
Get Zabini to come around the Ministry more. I want to observe him with you, writes Granger.
Draco rolls his eyes, and writes back, I’ll hire him on as my personal assistant. He needs the work, anyway.
Whatever works, she responds. Did you already charm your Unspeakable pendant, or shall I?
You do it. I’m very busy. And don’t refer to me as an Unspeakable on noncombustible parchment.
The parchment explodes in Granger’s hand. She yelps, and glares at him. So does Weasley, who leaves, muttering something about schoolchildren.
Granger casts a healing spell on her charred fingertips, compares the Prophet and the Times for a moment, and then sends him another note. She smiles at the newspapers, and doesn’t look at him again. Draco unfolds the parchment suspiciously.
You two sure look at each other a lot. I think it’s sweet, but please don’t do anything about it.
He refolds the note, flicks it back to Granger, and aims his wand to disintegrate it under her nose. He misses and disintegrates her newspapers instead.
“Well!” she says, glowering from beneath her brow. “I can see I’ll get more work done elsewhere. See you later, Harry.” She enchants her remaining paperwork to follow her out the door.
Draco and Potter are alone. He feels Potter’s eyes, but doesn’t dare look back. His runes begin to swim on the page. The clock ticks. It is awkward. It has been awkward ever since he found out Potter prefers men. Draco’s attraction has blasted sky high now that he knows reciprocation is possible, even likely. But it cannot be. It cannot.
He stands, nods curtly, and makes for the door.
His fingers twitch on the knob. Blood throbs in his ears. Images begin to loop in his head: Draco standing between Snape and Dumbledore; Draco joining the Order; Draco standing up to his father, refusing to marry Astoria Greengrass; Draco following his dream, joining the notorious Unspeakables despite the stigma that only a Death Eater would be interested in the Dark mysteries of the world. A force has guided Draco to do these things. A force called courage. Perhaps courage should prevail just one more time.
He wheels around, barking, “Look, Potter.” Damn it! He didn’t mean to bark. Potter has jumped, spilling his files on the floor. Draco pushes on. “Sorry. Look, it’s a conflict of interest right now—” Not to mention, you might get murdered “—but what do you say? After the case is resolved? Do you know what I’m getting at?”
Potter adjusts his glasses. “I can’t say I do.” He bends down, gathering the files, and, fuck, if Draco isn’t met with the tightest backside in all of wizardom.
Potter mashes the files into a satchel. The crumpling of paper sets Draco on edge, but not in the way Potter’s flush does, nor the way his tongue swipes across his upper lip, nor the way he nervously fingers the hem of his shirt.
“I’m asking you...” Draco says, “if you would like. I mean—I’ve got box seats for the Wimbourne Wasps. Or, if you want to grab a pint, or something. Don’t make me spell it out.”
Potter’s eyes are wide. “Are you asking me out?”
“It would seem so.”
“After the case?”
And, just before Draco’s heart catapults out of his chest and crawls under the floorboards forever, Potter simply says, “I’d like that.”
“Ah. Yes. Right then.” Draco is staring. Potter is smiling. There is only one thing left to do. Draco points a finger and says, “Don’t tell anyone. Not a soul.” And he sweeps out the door.
He dashes down the corridor, waits four agonizing minutes in the lift, bows past the Head, who is deliberating over muffins at a tea trolley, and locks himself into his office. He slumps against the door, finally letting himself breathe. He begins to laugh.
Is this real? He touches his face, his chest, but, no, he’s not dreaming. He’s not dreaming! He’s going out with Potter. He can’t ever remember feeling so euphoric. Not ever! Except...he looks at the snake pendant. There is residual lavender dust on the tongue. If Potter’s smile can have the very same effect, Draco sees no need for this stuff ever again.
He rips off the pendant and throws it into a file cabinet. Then he sweeps out of the office to find Granger. They’ve got time travel to invent!
He doesn’t know it. He doesn’t feel it. But, stuffed in a storage closet in the Department of Mysteries, the Time Sphere lights up like a fire in the night, fuelled by courage and caring and other remarkable things.
When he wakes up, Malfoy’s arms are around him.
He tries to breathe without making a sound. If what Pansy said last night is true, that Malfoy isn’t capable of ongoing affection, then he wants to revel in this moment for as long as possible. Soon they will seek out Hermione, and figure out if there is anything fishy going on with this Proof pendant. After that, they’ll part ways.
Harry absently touches his chest. The pendant is gone.
He rolls towards Malfoy, and finds him snoring with his mouth open. “Hey, did one of you take my—?”
Pansy is gone. Not only that, but the flat is different. The bricks have been replaced with white wooden panels. The wall where the fireplace and flatscreen once stood now leads to a veranda overlooking a sea. French doors stand open, letting in a warm, misty air that shakes Harry to his senses.
“Malfoy,” he hisses. “Get up! Something’s going on.”
Malfoy rises like a monster from the dead, glaring through the streaks of his hair. The long braid is missing, too, as if it were chopped off in the night. “Did you call me Malfoy? Been awhile since I heard that. You must be in a snit.” He palms his eyes, yawning.
“She’s where she always is—in Manchester with some fat rich bloke twice her age. What’s wrong with you?”
Harry stares. Malfoy’s snake pendant is gone, too. He could have sworn Malfoy went to bed wearing it. Harry puts a hand to his forehead, feeling strange. He can’t tell if it’s dizziness, tiredness, or if he’s simply going mad.
“You been having strange dreams again?”
“What?” Harry asks distantly. He feels his neck for the Proof pendant one last time. Gone. “Yeah, it must have been a dream.”
Reality is trickling back to him. They are in their villa in Corsica. They have been dating since the Time Jump failed and the murders stopped, never having found a suspect or even a correlation amongst the dead. Harry had pressed Draco for a year to stop being secretive about their relationship. It’s been ten years, and Draco will now boast to anyone about how much Harry Potter loves him. And how much he loves Harry Potter back.
Draco kisses him on the neck and leaves the room without a word.
Harry must be sleep deprived or something. Ever since they took time off from the Ministry, they’ve been staying up through the nights, drinking sparkling muscat, singing to Les Démonistes Musicale and Les Gobelins, and making love to the dark orchestral interludes. He stretches, vowing to get to bed early tonight.
“We had a threesome with Pansy in my dream,” Harry calls out, grabbing a wrinkled shirt off the floor.
“Oh?” Draco’s voice floats from somewhere in the villa. “Do you have some unrequited fantasies you’d like to share with me?”
Harry snorts. “No.”
“Ah. Well. I’m all ears if you change your mind.”
“Where are you?” Not in the kitchen, Harry sees, though he can smell turkey bacon cooking in the oven. He looks through and finds Draco on the balcony where they take most of their meals. He is doing pull-ups on a bar charmed to levitate. “Hello, up there,” Harry says, leaning on the doorframe. Draco is wearing only a thin pair of shorts, and his triceps and tanned back are on full display. Harry bites his lip as the arm muscles bunch up, large and strong, and then release.
“Morning,” Draco exhales. “You act as if I don’t do this in the same spot, at the same time, every day.”
“I seem to be increasingly forgetful.”
Draco drops down and waves the bar into oblivion. His chest hair glistens with sweat, but he seems to have enough energy yet. He charges Harry, sweeps his legs into the air, and carries him into the kitchen.
“Just in case you’d forgotten how to walk, too,” he declares, setting Harry onto the counter.
“Oy! Not funny.” He swats Draco on the chest, takes a moment to marvel at the sheer largeness of it, and simply has to kiss him. Harry was flustered with his boyfriend’s health obsession when they first started dating, but he’s secretly thankful for it now. Draco is a model of health and youth at 33 years of age and, quite frankly, he is built.
Draco pulls back, managing to be sexy as he whispers, “Egg whites?”
“Can’t we have whole eggs for once? Please?”
“Already separated them.” He pats Harry on the flank, and springs away.
Harry feels at peace, watching Draco from the counter. The most mundane movements are punctuated with flare. Draco doesn’t place fruits into the blender. He catapults them. He doesn’t spread hummus onto toast. He swipes it. He doesn’t smile at Harry as he places the meal onto the balcony table. He beams. He beams with such a perfect balance of charm and cockiness that Harry feels himself melt, as if hasn’t been loving that face for a decade.
“Thank you,” he says almost disbelievingly, as he sits at the table, “for making all this.” And for bacon, he thinks, swiping a piece.
“Naturally.” Draco, never one to dine undressed, has put on trousers, a linen shirt, and boat shoes. He whips a napkin into his lap. “Anyway, you’d fuck up my diet if you were in charge of the kitchen. Imagine, half a dozen full-fat eggs and pound of sausage, all served on a decorative bed of crisps. I shudder thinking about how much weight I gained when I first started seeing you.”
“Got you to stop smoking, though, didn’t I?”
“I might have ditched you for that, too, but you gave good head. Ah! There’s my baby.”
“You’re such an arse, Malfoy.” It’s hard to mean it, watching him tickle his owl’s chest so dotingly.
“Malfoy again?” Draco raises an eyebrow, and disappears behind La Gazette du Sorcier.
Harry bypasses the egg whites in favor of toast. He has grown used to having to eat hummus on whole grain bread with cucumber. His mouth is full when he looks at the back of the paper and spits, “Oh, shon of a bif!”
The paper corner flips down. “Sorry?”
“Nothing! Er...” Harry says, brushing crumbs off the table, “...just got toast everywhere.”
But Draco is already turning the paper over and translating the French headline. “Former Death Eater Pansy Parkinson Found Dead in—” He turns white. His mouth snaps shut, as he glowers at the page.
“Darling,” Harry says. He reaches for Draco’s hand, but is met with a single finger. One moment.
It is much longer than one moment. Draco has stopped reading and narrowed his eyes at the sea. Harry knows not to bother his partner when he looks like this, but he is having a hard time not comforting him. Pansy was his best friend. He reaches for the fruit juice to distract himself, but Draco’s hand shoots out and grabs his wrist.
“Hold on.” He is looking at Harry like one looks at someone too close to the edge of a cliff. “D-don’t eat or drink anything until I get back.”
“Back? Where are you going?”
“Actually. You’re coming with me.”
“You’re freaking me out. Oy!” Draco is pulling him towards the fireplace. “Tell me what’s going on!”
“I’ll tell you when we get there.”
Draco grimaces and says, “Weasley’s house.”
“Granger!” Draco shotus, marching into the country home like he owns the place. He barrels into a small red-haired boy, knocking him over his sister as she watches telly sprawled on the floor.
“I was standing there, Uncle Draco,” Hugo says, righting himself. “And her name’s not Granger, you know!”
“I’ll acknowledge you when you’re old enough to finish a sentence without pausing to pick your nose.” Draco pushes Hugo aside by the face, steps over Rose, and, by the high-pitched exclamation of remorse, seems to find Hermione in the kitchen. Draco is hissing at her before Harry can finish hugging his godchildren hello.
“Er, why don’t you go warm up your racing brooms?” he says, ushering them out the front door. “I’ll meet you outside for some Quidditch in a little while.”
He sneaks into the kitchen. Hermione is setting a kettle on the range, lighting the fire with her wand, and talking to Draco as he looms over her shoulder. “It’s not my fault Kingsley didn’t contact you. And, yes, he, Percy, and Robards want to reopen the case. The perpetrator left the same magical signature as the first murders.”
“Why didn’t you contact me, then?” Draco asks.
“You two were on your last week of holiday. I really did think it could wait until Monday.”
His breath is so forceful it blows her hair. “Not if he’s dead by then!”
“What?” Hermione asks. Draco is intruding in her space so much they nearly bump heads as she turns. “You think the killer would come after—? Oh, God.”
“You would choose a time like this to turn dense.” Draco sits at the kitchen table in a huff. He notices Harry, his mood growing even more dour.
“What case are you talking about?” Harry asks calmly.
Hermione gives him a sharp look, registering him for the first time. It is Draco who speaks, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Case 157. The case we invented the Time Sphere for.”
Harry ponders this while they trade uncomfortable looks, and when he pulls the ancient information out of his mind he finds himself even more confused than before. “How do you know more about Case 157 than I do? I thought you were only involved for the time travel perspective.”
“He wasn’t supposed to know, strictly speaking,” Hermione says, wringing her over mitt. “It was my fault, really. I was indiscreet while I was researching suspects. It’s lucky I was. That’s how we found out he had a stake in solving the case.”
“Why did he have a stake? And why are you two being so secretive? This was my case, you know.”
“Not anymore,” Draco says. He stands and begins to pace. “Not now that you might be involved.”
“Draco, I don’t think we should tell him,” Hermione says. “Shacklebolt—”
“Oy!” Harry says. “You’re treating me like a child! I know Shacklebolt and Percy were keeping things from me, thinking I’d be rash and ignore their instructions. But that was ten years ago. I’ve grown since then, and I’m Assistant Head Auror now. Tell me.”
Draco is staring out the window, gripping his hips. Hermione puts a comforting hand on his arm as she explains, “The murder victims in this case were all Draco’s lovers. That’s the only link we could find between the four of them.”
Harry’s jaw drops. “That’s why you flipped your lid about Pansy? I mean, besides the obvious reasons? She’s your ex-girlfriend...the same signature was found on her, wasn’t it?”
Draco nods, managing to look dark despite the white afternoon light glimmering in his hair and eyelashes.
“Once the leads fizzled out and the murders stopped,” Hermione went on, “we wondered if the murderer just happened to be targeting young Muggles. We wondered if it might have been a coincidence. Draco did get around back then.” She squeezes his arm apologetically. “So, we didn’t worry too much when it came out that you two were dating. But now it’s clear that this person is targeting Draco. And not just Muggleshe’s been with...but anyone he’s been with.”
“And you brought me here because you’re worried I’m next.” Harry slips past Hermione and puts his arms around Draco’s waist, his head on Draco’s shoulder blade. Draco draws their hands up, brutally tight in his grip, and kisses Harry’s knuckles. He is shaking. “It’s going to be all right,” Harry says. “We’re at an advantage. The others didn’t know they were targets, but with all of us informed I bet we’ll catch this person by the end of the week.”
“No, no, no.” Draco begins to laugh bitterly. He turns around and fixates on Harry. “You’re not on the case. You might be the case soon, don’t you see?”
“Well, I’m not going to sit around drinking tea while...probably some jealous ex of yours is lurking in the bushes. I won’t do it!”
“Harry—” He closes his fist midair, as if to choke some invisible foe. “No! I’m putting my foot down. The answer is no.”
“There wasn’t a question,” Harry hisses, but he sees in the ferocity of Draco’s gaze that there will be no further argument. And he supposes he’d rather be comfortably hidden away at Hermione’s house than kidnapped by Draco and locked in the depths of the Department of Mysteries. “Hold on,” he realizes. “There’s someone else to worry about. Zabini.”
Harry hates to say the name. He is not a strictly jealous person. Draco had maintained a close friendship with Pansy, after all. But with Blaise Zabini it’s different. Zabini is ruthlessly flirtatious with Draco. It’s like a challenge for him, getting under Harry’s skin: at Ministry functions when he tells jokes, putting a hand on Draco’s bicep as he laughs, knowing Harry must maintain professionalism; when they bump into him at pubs, and Harry runs to the loo for just a moment, and Blaise takes that moment to recount with Draco that one time when they fucked at that one place and what a laugh it was. Draco has always brushed it off as “just how Blaise is,” but Harry senses something snide in the behavior. Still, he doesn’t want to see the tosser murdered.
“We should really get him into hiding,” he finishes. “He might be a target, too.”
Hermione clears her throat. “About Zabini....”
“Don’t start, Granger,” Draco says.
“Well, it’s worth saying!” She turns to Harry. “There were only two people in Draco’s life who hung around enough to be aware of all the people he’d slept with—Pansy and Blaise. And, yes, the jealous lover angle seemed to fit. At first, we suspected Pansy, since she was Draco’s girlfriend at the time. We thought maybe she was tired of their open relationship. But then it became clear Pansy was afraid to use her wand to heat tea, much less cast an Unforgivable. We shifted our focus to Blaise, since Draco slept with him, too.”
“Well, we crossed him off in the end,” Draco says, looking uncomfortable.
“You crossed him off. I always thought he was the most likely suspect. Percy seemed to agree.”
“Percy would arrest a former Death Eater for wearing offensive perfume! And Blaise—I just don’t see why he would have done it. I give Blaise everything he wants. He doesn’t want me to be his boyfriend, so why would he go around killing people who do?”
Harry doesn’t hear that last bit. He is prickling over a tiny slip. “You give Zabini everything he wants?”
Draco’s face washes over with blankness, but not before the twitch of regret.
Harry’s breathing picks up as he says, “You said you hadn’t seen Zabini in months. Not since he came to your office, trying to get into your pants, and wouldn’t leave it alone.”
“It’s not what it sounds like, Harry.”
Hermione looks between them, grimacing. “I think I hear Rose calling me,” she says, and darts away.
Harry feels his voice go deep. “It sounds like you’ve been seeing him in secret. Though, what you’d be doing with him, I really couldn’t guess.”
“It’s not what it sounds like.” He reaches for Harry, but Harry backs up to the range, where the kettle is starting to hum.
“I would have expected this out of you when we first started dating,” he growls. “But now? With that prick?”
“I will not calm down!”
The kettle screams. Harry jumps when the steam hits him in the back. Draco flicks his wand, puts out the fire, and pulls Harry to the kitchen table.
“Listen to me,” he says, both hands on Harry’s. “I have been seeing Blaise, but not like you think. I’ve been meeting up with him every month to give him money.”
Harry narrows his eyes, more confused than angry. “What?”
“I’ve been doing it off and on since—Merlin, since right after leaving Hogwarts. Pansy, too. Making a living after the war was hard on those of us with Dark Marks, you know that. But what I dealt with was nothing like what my friends dealt with. You vouched for me during my hearing. Plus, I had a leg up, being involved with the Order from the start. They had none of that. They couldn’t get jobs back then, and it’s still tough today. And it’s not as if purebloods have many skills for the Muggle world. So, yeah. I’ve been helping them. I stopped with Pansy when she got with that rich fellow. But Blaise...he’s taken a turn for the worse. Comes to me more and more often for help. I think it has to do with that fairy dust stuff.”
Harry recalls an incident in their first year dating. He found some lavender powder in a tiny pouch in Draco’s bedside table. Draco swore he’d forgotten about it, that it was something Zabini had probably stowed there long ago. It was then that he confessed his former abuse of the euphoric drug—and that Harry was the reason he’d given it up. Harry doesn’t like to think about how different their lives would be if Draco had kept using.
“I went to dinner with him last week,” Draco says, still speaking of Zabini, “to tell him that I’d be weaning him off his money. He didn’t take it well. Started rowing with me right in the middle of a Muggle restaurant, throwing around words like ‘galleons’ and ‘Hogwarts’ and ‘Dark Mark,’ and I had to drag him outside because people were getting disturbed. It only got worse. He told me I would never abandon him if it weren’t for you. He said that’s why it was great when we were using the dust together—I was having too much fun to care about money. He started making threats, saying he was going to tell you I’d been cheating with him, or some rot like that. I knew I had to just walk away. Then he shouted at me down the street. He told me to watch out. Told me my pretty boy had better watch out, too. His words, not mine. I didn’t take him seriously. Thought it was the dust talking....”
He trails off, bowing his head.
Harry weighs his words carefully. “I know Zabini’s your friend. But you have to admit, he’s the most likely suspect now. After all that’s happened.”
“I know,” Draco whispers. “But why would he kill Pansy? Pansy?”
“I don’t know.” He strokes the hair that curls at the back of Draco’s neck. “But no matter what, he needs to be under custody—for questioning or protection.”
There is a quiet tap on the kitchen doorway. They look up, finding Ron there in his Auror robes with Hermione beside him. “Small house,” he says. “I couldn’t help overhearing.” He slides a folder across the table. “Harry, your case was reassigned to me, since you’re were on holiday. Plus, there’s a conflict of interest now. Not supposed to be showing you this, but when have we ever minded the rules?”
Harry thumbs through pages of blocky, black text. “What is this?”
“Witness accounts. They’re all pretty useless but two. This one’s from the doorman at Parkinson’s building. He said someone he didn’t recognize came in unaccompanied late last night.”
“Is that unusual?”
“Very posh Muggle condominium. They seem to be on speaking terms with everyone who comes through. The doorman said when he questioned the stranger, the man waved a stick, and he forgot everything after that.”
Harry casts a look at Draco, who has his head in his hands, and turns back to Ron. “Did you restore his memory? Did he say what the man looked like?”
“Yeah,” Ron says, tight-lipped. “Tall, skinny black man wearing a long coat. I’m guessing he meant robes.”
“Sounds like enough evidence to take him to the Ministry for questioning. You’ll have to wait for Percy’s approval to test for Zabini’s magical signature, but....”
“Oy, you may be Assistant Head, but I can do my job just fine,” Ron says, swatting Harry on the shoulder. He turns to Draco, and speaks quietly. “I heard what you two were talking about just now, Malfoy. You might find your answers in the third witness account.”
Draco pulls his head up, lifts an eyebrow at Ron, and flips to the file in question. Ron’s finger touches a paragraph.
Witness says she heard arguing coming from the flat of Miss Parkinson and Mister Benedict. Witness thought it was strange to hear a male voice, knowing Benedict was out of town. The man seemed to be asking for money. Miss Parkinson refused. The man went on to threaten to reveal what seemed to be a secret of theirs — that Miss Parkinson had siphoned a fortune in valuables from a mutual friend of theirs. The man claimed half of those valuables belonged to him. Miss Parkinson refused again. There was more shouting, a cracking sound, and then silence.
“Her Gringotts key is missing,” Ron says. “I thought we’d catch him when he went to the bank, but the vault’s already cleaned out.”
Draco pushes the file away, pale. “Cause of death?”
“Blunt force trauma. We think he stunned her, and she struck her head on the mantle.”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione look away while Draco wipes his eyes on his sleeve.
After a minute, Ron asks, “Do you feel up to showing us where Zabini lives...the places he tends to hang out?”
Draco is staring out the window with wide, glossy eyes. Harry wants to reach out, but gives him space. Suddenly, Draco scrapes his chair back. “Yes. Sure. We’d better get him before anything else happens.”
He sweeps away, and Harry has to run after him, grabbing the back of his shirt. “Hey! Don’t do anything rash, all right?”
“That sounds strange, coming from you.” He gives Harry a swift hug. When he pulls back, his forehead is wrinkled, and he is drawing something out of Harry’s collar. “What’s this? You don’t wear jewelry.”
“Hm? I don’t know.” A pendant dangles from the end of a chain around Harry’s neck. He gets a flash of déjà vu, as if he’d just seen this thing yesterday. “Is this my Proof pendant?”
“What?” Hermione says, jumping out of her chair. “I had this destroyed when we nixed the Time Jump. Harry, did you have a copy made?”
“Of course not.” There is a heavy feeling growing in his stomach. “What does this mean?”
“I don’t know, but it’s not a good,” she says, trading a loaded glance with Draco. “Go on and find Zabini. We’ll figure this out when you get back.”
Draco gives Harry a long, almost frightened look, touches his cheek, and then charges through the fireplace with Ron.
The day of the Time Jump, Draco feels he might burst out of his skin. He hopes it isn’t showing. Especially not now that Potter is aware of his attraction. He looks across the platform, past the Time Sphere, and sees Potter’s huge green eyes. Merlin, he thinks. He can’t humiliate himself now. And he certainly can’t fail at their endeavor.
He will simply follow Potter into the past, identify the murderer—Potter should not recognize the face, but Draco probably will—and guide them back home through the Time Jump safely.
“Wait,” Blaise exclaims, just as they are about to Jump.
Draco fights the urge to roll his eyes. Blaise has no idea Granger, Percy, and Shacklebolt suspect him, and drawing attention to himself in this manner will not help the idea of his innocence.
He slides his hand onto Draco’s shoulder and whispers, “Kiss goodbye? This could go wrong for all you know.”
Really? Draco thinks. You want to draw attention to yourself and make it look like you’re an obsessed lover? “I’m not doing that,” he hisses, shooing Blaise away.
“You would if it were Pansy asking.”
Nonsense, Draco thinks, looking across at Potter again. There’s only one person I’m interested in kissing now.
“Are we quite ready?” Shacklebolt says significantly. “I know this will only take five seconds in Current Time, but I’m eager to resolve this case and get to lunch.”
Blaise flounces off the platform. For a moment, Draco thinks his hand might have flicked in the direction of the Time Sphere, but he shakes the thought away. Blaise can have pretty swishy gestures.
When Granger activates the Sphere, Draco is caught off guard by the sensation: it feels like a pair of omnipotent hands are snatching him and dragging him bodily into the Sphere, where he is flung into motion like a spinning top. When it’s over, Draco is spit out in the same place he started from, staring at Potter, who looks just as confused.
“That went well,” Draco says to no one in particular.
“Did it work?” Granger asks, running up to Potter. “Did you identify the killer?”
“No, we didn’t even go anywhere,” Draco interjects, tossing her his Proof pendant. “Deactivate that, will you? Fetch me again when you want to resolve the issue.”
He is out the door before she can stop gaping.
Draco is furious. Three months of his life have been wasted! He strides down the corridor, Zabini on his heels, not just upset about the wasted work and time: if this case isn’t resolved, he’ll never get to see Potter outside the Ministry.
“Malfoy,” someone calls behind him. “Malfoy, hold on.”
Potter is shuffling out of the chamber, still wobbly from the Jump, but looking directly at him. Draco’s heart flutters. He holds up a hand to Zabini, and meets Potter halfway.
“Hi,” Potter says, winded. “Um. That was weird. I’m sorry your work didn’t pan out, but I bet it’ll go well next time.”
“Oh, right.” Draco feels stupid. Of course Potter had run out to talk about the mission.
“There are still no leads on the case,” he continues. “Until you and Hermione can repair the Sphere, the whole thing’ll probably be lagging. It could take months.”
“Yeah, that’s true.”
Potter scuffs his foot, and then bursts forth, “Look, I thought I would give my assignment to someone else. I’m sure Neville wouldn’t mind working with Hermione. That way—you know—no conflict of interest....”
“Oh. Oh, yes.” Stupid answer. Stupid irresistible Potter. Draco tears his gaze away, looking over his shoulder at the screwed up face of Blaise Zabini. He does look awfully jealous. But malicious? Murderous? Draco thinks not. “I like that idea. Yes. Why don’t you hand it to Longbottom?”
“Brilliant. So, how about the Leaky Cauldron on Friday?”
“No,” Draco says, and it’s not just because he considers the Leaky Cauldron completely pedestrian. “Let’s keep it between us for now. My flat. Come by floo. I’ll make you dinner.”
“You can cook?”
Draco puts a hand to his chest. “You wound me. Of course, I can cook. I cooked your arse off in Potions, didn’t I?”
“All right,” Potter laughs, shaking his head. He bites his lip. Merlin, stop it, you’re killing me, Draco thinks. Potter backs away, noticing Granger exit the chamber. “I’m looking forward to it. I really am.”
Draco can only nod. He is mesmerized by how smoothly this is going. There is something building up in him, though, some wonderful, billowing sensation. He can’t squash it, he has to—
“Potter,” he says. He rushes forward, whispering before Granger can get within earshot. “If this were any other time or place, I would—I would kiss you goodbye. Right here and now. I can’t tell you why I can’t, just—God, know that I want to.”
“Harry, lunch?” Granger says, sweeping Potter away before he can respond. But his eyes are bright and his cheeks are dimpling in a subtle smile, and Draco thinks that says enough. It certainly pushes his heart back into his chest.
“What was that?” Blaise asks, as they make their way back to Draco’s office.
“Nothing special,” he says, thinking that it is probably, absolutely, quite the opposite.
Hermione is topping off Draco’s wine at the end of a much-needed dinner.
Zabini has been detained, and, Harry thinks, will prove guilty in due time, for Draco told him upon his and Ron’s return that the ordeal went “as expected” and that he hasn’t heard the term “blood traitor” that many times since his father disowned him. Harry touches Draco’s knee at the very thought of it, and receives the first soft look he’s seen on his lover’s face since breakfast.
“Since your Proof pendant hasn’t appeared,” Hermione is saying, “I’m assuming you’re not the real Draco, for lack of a better term. Wherever he is—and I imagine he could be anywhere in time—he’s probably lost with his Proof, like Harry. It’s unlikely one of you returned to your Original Point properly and the other one didn’t.”
“Excuse me for butting in, imaginary being that I am,” Draco says, looking between Hermione and Ron, “but what does that make the two of you? Or them, for that matter?”
Hugo is skipping by the kitchen table, chased by Rose, apparently amused to be keeping a beloved book from her.
Hermione sighs at her children. “We’re the same as you. And none of us is really imaginary, you know that. We exist on a parallel plane to the one Harry originated from. Ours is just as valid and real, but this Harry doesn’t belong here. He needs to go back—and so do you, wherever the real you is, Draco—or else the original plane will be paused forever.”
Draco nods, swirling his wine somberly.
Harry gasps, as something occurs to him. “What will happen to you all if I leave? If this plane is only a copy of the original one, will you continue to exist once I’m gone?” He looks from Hermione, to Ron, to Draco, and feels like this silly pendant shouldn’t force him to go anywhere, to leave his family and possibly never have them again in the same capacity.
“We don’t know,” Hermione says honestly.
“Then I’m not going.”
“Harry,” Draco says, putting a hand on the back of his neck. He strokes it with his thumb in that way he knows makes Harry weak. “You have to.”
“But I don’t see why—”
“As long as the two of us are gone, it’s fucking with the fabric of time. For all you know, you might be waking up in a new reality every day of the week. Do you remember how confused you were this morning? It’s possible the strange dreams you’ve been having are actually happening. We can’t risk it. You have to go.”
Harry lets out a quivering breath. He nods.
“Bright side is you’ll get ten years of your life back, mate,” Ron says. But Harry can see the concern in his eyes, in all their eyes.
Will they get a new Harry to replace him when he leaves?
Will they be sucked into a black hole, never to live again?
There is no point in stopping to wonder. The proper choice is clear.
“Do you remember the password I gave you?” Hermione asks.
“Yeah,” Harry says, inspecting his pendant closely, “it’s—”
His world goes white.
“HARRY? Harry—” Draco searches the kitchen uselessly. Weasley and Granger are standing. The children have popped in to see what the fuss is about. Everyone is here but Harry. Harry’s gone. Just—poof! Without even a so-long-and-see-you-ten-years-ago. “What the Hell was that, Granger? He didn’t touch the pendant! Did he?” He whirls on Weasley. “Did you see him touch it?”
“No,” Weasley says, his whole mop of hair beginning to tremble. “He didn’t say a password either.”
Draco shakes Granger’s shoulders. “Then why did he disappear? Where is he? Hold on, I’m going home. Maybe he Apparated there.”
“He’s not there,” Granger says, distant and calm. Weasley is clutching her, too, wide-eyed, silently urging her to continue. “Something must have happened in the past to alter the future.”
“What the fuck could have happened to make him disappear out of the blue?” Draco demands.
Granger lifts a hand to her mouth, the color draining from her cheeks, and that is all the information Draco needs.
“No,” he croaks. “You can’t be serious. No.”
But he understands. He’s studied this shit. He sits, and can’t stop shaking his head. What now?
It happens on a sunny Spring day, a year after he and Harry start dating.
Draco exits one of the many fireplaces at the Ministry, so lost in thought he doesn’t notice the way witches and wizards are scampering about in chaos. He is playing with the box in his pocket, wondering for the hundredth time how he should put this to Harry at dinner tonight.
So, want to move in together? he thinks.
No, too impersonal. It doesn’t convey the depth of his feelings.
You make a better man out of me, and I don’t want to wake up one more day without you.
No, no, that sounds like a marriage proposal out of a Muggle romantic-comedy. Draco may be head over heels for Harry, but he doesn’t want to wife the bloke.
I bought a villa in Corsica. Here’s my key. And here’s yours.
Draco grips the box abruptly. The key rattles against the velvet. Yes, he thinks with a smile. That’ll do.
He can’t stop smiling. He must look very silly. He’s learned not to care. That’s what being in love looks like.
He thinks of that first date, of dinner in his flat in Muggle London, of burning the crispy glazed duck breast, and breaking the salad emulsion, and sinking the chocolate souffle, and generally having to admit defeat against a bag of groceries (and secretly signing up for cooking classes after that). He thinks of whipping out his phone and pressing the curry takeaway on speed-dial, and of Potter doubling over in hysterics all the while. He thinks of Potter being a beautiful prat. After the wine, and the banter, and the sharing of secrets, and the not-quite-putting-his-arm-around-Potter, and the lip-chewing, and the shifting foot to foot because they didn’t want to say goodnight, and the regretful, polite adieu, Potter had turned to him, and said, “You told me you wanted to kiss me goodbye at the Ministry.”
“Yes,” Draco admitted.
“What’s stopping you now?”
Draco looked at the destroyed kitchen. “I don’t want to mess it up.”
“The only thing that could mess it up,” Potter said, placing two small but strong hands on Draco’s chest, “would be if you never did it.”
And Potter had kissed him.
Looking back, the night had gone perfectly.
Draco wants every night to be like that from now on.
He stops in the Ministry Atrium. There’s a gaggle of people around the Security Desk, pushing to register their wands. The guard is shouting, “No more reporters! This is getting out of hand! You’ll all have to wait until the press conference with Minister Shacklebolt!”
Suddenly, the gaggle turns away from the security guard. There is an uproarious hike in volume and commotion, and the group descends on two figures pushing through the crowd. Cameras flash, lighting up the pale, tear-streaked faces of Weasley and Granger.
They stop, seeing Draco across the hall. Draco’s heart chooses that moment to stop, too.
He cannot make his mouth form the horrible question in his mind. Not that it matters. Granger seems intent to do the work for him. She charges Draco, whips out her wand, and holds it to his throat without a care for the reporters, Ministry officials, or security. “Were you dating him?” she spits.
Cameras are flashing like stage lights.
Draco hears nothing, feels nothing. It’s a wonder he can choke out a, “What?”
“Were you dating Harry?” She presses the tip into his jugular, her eyes welling up with fresh tears.
“Were?” Draco says, voice cracking. “Yes. Yes, I was. I am. Granger, what’s going on?”
She lets out a high-pitched noise, pulls away, and buries her face into Weasley’s chest. He leads her away, looking like a mine just a prod away from explosion.
Draco doesn’t care. “Weasley,” he blurts. “Harry, is he—?”
Weasley turns on him, bright pink, looking monstrous he bellows, “HE’S DEAD! HE’S DEAD! HARRY’S DEAD!”
Draco is frozen, hardly registering the meaning of the words. It can’t be....
Weasley continues, practically foaming at the mouth. “The good news is Zabini didn’t have time to make an escape before I got home! I arrested the bastard, no thanks to you!”
“Ron, let’s go,” Granger says. “The reporters—”
He ignores her, sticking a long finger in Draco’s face. “Zabini’s magical signature matched the signatures from the Case 157, the case you were so willing to throw in the towel on! What did you think? If you ignored it, it would just go away? Did you think a fucking Death Eater was incapable of wanting to harm someone? Of harming Harry Potter? Or were you just blind because you were sucking Zabini’s dick, too?”
Draco is clutching his head, sliding down the wall. “Oh, God. It’s my fault...it’s my fault....”
“Yes, it bloody well is,” Weasley snarls.
Granger grabs his arm. “Ron, now is not the time—”
“How could you, Malfoy? How could you risk it, knowing his life was in danger? You could have at least told us what was going on! I would have guarded him!”
Draco shakes his head frantically. “I didn’t think—”
“You certainly thought of yourself! You thought of what you wanted! Without even warning Harry! Without letting him make his own choice! Selfish fucking bastard!” Weasley has Draco by the front of the robes. He is pulling back his fist in fury. Draco hangs limp, thinking the damage Weasley can do to his face is nothing compared to what he deserves.
Weasley drops Draco, shaking off his smouldering fist. Granger is standing there with her wand out. “I don’t need Harry gone and you arrested for assault on the same day,” she says stonily. “Let’s go.”
When they leave, the reporters swarm on Draco.
“Mr. Malfoy! You’re friends with Blaise Zabini. Did you have any idea he had designs on Harry Potter?”
“Mr. Malfoy, did I hear something about dating? Was this a lovers’ quarrel?”
“Are you in contact with Miss Pansy Parkinson, a friend of Zabini’s? Do you think she would have comment?”
Draco can’t hear them. Or chooses not to. He sits on the Atrium floor for half an hour, staring at the key in the velvet box.
The funeral is even more monumental than Albus Dumbledore’s.
It is held on the same spot, beside the Black Lake at Hogwarts. His friends insist Harry would have wanted it that way, Hogwarts being his first true home. Draco thinks Harry would have preferred no bother at all, but does not debate.
And what a bother it is. There are spectators by the thousand. There are people in robes, pointed hats, beards down to their knees, former Order members, former Death Eaters, the entire British Ministry, goblins, giants, one half-giant, house-elves, Veela, Centaurs, and even three uncomfortable-looking Muggles in the front row. And there seems to be one Weasley for every non-Weasley in attendance. The spectators line up, row by row, in a crowd deep enough that it backs up to the steps of the castle. A holographic image of a marble table in front of the lake is projected in the sky. The merpeople sing as single hippogriff sweeps overhead, showering Harry’s body with a colorful array of flowers. Shacklebolt is the first to speak.
Draco cannot listen. He doesn’t need to watch this tribute, these fawners and fakers touching Harry’s hands, crying all over him. Those are Draco’s hands to touch. Those are Draco’s lips to cry on.
No more, reminds himself. And it’s all your fault.
He reaches past his collar and slowly pulls out a pendant on a chain—a small, silver snake with rubies for eyes. He could really use a hit of what’s inside. He eyeballs Granger, still surprised she showed up at his doorstep and dragged him to the funeral. It was probably for the best she’d insisted he stand beside her, otherwise he’d be snorting dust in Rubeus Hagrid’s massive shadow right now.
He stuffs the necklace in his robes. Or he tries to. Granger’s hand has shots out and grabbed his wrist.
“Get off.” Draco shakes her, but her grip is brutal.
She is not looking at the snake. There is a second necklace around his neck, one he hadn’t noticed. It holds the Proof pendant.
“Didn’t you take this?” Draco asks. “Didn’t you destroy our Proofs?”
“Fuck. Fuck! That means I’m still in a Time Jump.”
“Yes!” she says, so loud people turn and glare at them. Granger doesn’t care. “Meet me by Hagrid’s hut after the service. Don’t touch the Proof till then.”
“We have to be smart about this, Malfoy!”
“What’s there to be smart about? I just touch the damn thing, say the password, and I’m back at the start! Zabini can go to Azkaban before Potter and I are ever an item.”
“Disregarding that lovely bit of information,” Weasley says, “who’s to say you’ll even remember all this once you go back in time? Who’s to say you won’t just do this all over again—for real, this time?”
“He’s right,” Granger says, folding her arms and pacing in front of the pumpkin patch. “I mean, you should remember a certain amount. The whole reason we wanted to send you into the past to begin with was so that you could identify a criminal and go about proving his guilt when you came back. But now that we’re in a state of time that occurs after the point we’re sending you back to, who’s to say how that will affect your memory?”
“You lost me,” Draco says flatly.
“Honestly, Malfoy, are you an Unspeakable or aren’t you?”
“Granger, confidential information!”
“Please,” Weasley says, lifting a hand, “you wear that information in your smirk.”
Granger shushes them both. “It means we can’t count on Malfoy remembering something that hasn’t happened yet in the reality we’re sending him back to.”
“We could pin a note on him,” Weasley suggests.
“It would be gone by the time he returned to the Original Point. No, we’re going to have to rely on our minds. They’re our most powerful tools. All right.” She claps her hands together, and Draco tries to ignore the dreamy way Weasley is suddenly staring at her. “Draco, you’re going to appear in the Time Jump chamber. If your memory is going to fade, you’re going to have five or ten seconds tops to make this happen. First, you stun Zabini to remind yourself he’s the perpetrator. Next, give me a message. Something snappy, but thorough. I might be able to tap into some sort of magic-based déjà vu, and remember all this.”
“And what about Harry?” Weasley interjects.
“Harry?” She looks toward the lake at the figure in the now-closed marble tomb. “We’re going back to the start, right? Harry should be there, alive and well. And none of this will ever have happened.”
“Thank Merlin you noticed that Proof pendant, ‘Mione.”
At the mention of the pendant, Draco pulls it out of his robes. He takes a deep breath and taps it with his wand.
“Do you remember your password?” Granger asks.
Draco refuses to acknowledge her. He simply says, “Gryffindors rule.”
He disappears with a pop!
There is a moment of silence, until Ron grins and says, “That’s low, Hermione. That’s really low.”
Hermione bursts into laughter, and the laughter turns to weeping, and they hug each other tighter than they ever have before.
Draco stumbles into the Time Jump chamber, and hardly has a chance to blink before Granger is rushing him. “Malfoy, did it work? Did you identify the suspect?”
Yes, he thinks! He whirls around, pointing his wand at Blaise, shouting, “Stupefy!”
But stupid Granger is in the way. Draco swerves to miss her. Blaise takes the opportunity to lunge out of the way of the spell, and it explodes on the wall.
Percy Weasley is shouting, “Mr. Malfoy, what on Earth are you—”
In one movement, Draco magically silences Weasley, who stumbles back clutching his throat, and paralyzes Blaise with such a hard Impediment Curse that Blaise smacks against the wall and crumples into a heap.
Weasley and Shacklebolt have pulled their wands, while Granger looks horrified.
Draco drops his wand, lifts his hands in surrender, and launches into explanation. “Granger, Zabini kills Potter. I don’t know why, maybe because I love him. His signature is on the other four victims. Something—something about hippogriffs and pumpkins and merpeople—fuck, I’m forgetting!”
“Malfoy?” she asks, shaking her frizz in confusion. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It wasn’t in this reality. It was at Hogwarts, Harry’s funeral! Think, woman. I’m forgetting everything!”
“I would have given you way to clue me in,” she says urgently. “A phrase to toggle my mind—something you’d never say in your whole life—”
Granger chokes out a smile. “I’m joking. I remembered when you said you loved Harry. I had to hear you say that out loud.” She turns to Shacklebolt and Weasley. “It’s Zabini. We’ve got proof. Malfoy can testify with Veritaserum.”
“You’re positive now?” Shacklebolt says, wilting in relief.
Granger nods, and Shacklebolt sets about summoning a team of Aurors. Weasley mimes a quill writing on parchment, and rushes out of the room.
“Granger,” Draco says, spinning in a slow circle. “Where’s Harry?”
Granger’s eyes widen, and for once she has nothing to say.
It has been a long morning, despite the shortness of it, and all Kingsley wants is a sandwich. He knows he’ll be hungry at least a little while longer when he returns to the Time Chamber to find Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger arguing quietly as they lean against the dais, where the Sphere sits. He motions the Aurors to levitate Zabini away and strides towards the platform, pushing back his robes to place his hands on his hips.
Malfoy spins around so fast Kingsley imagines his hair would have slapped him in the face if it hadn’t been gelled stiff. “Potter’s not back and Granger won’t let me program the damned Sphere to go find him.”
Kingsley tenses. He knew such complications were possible, but these two had insisted they were unlikely. “Where is he?” he asks as calmly as he can.
“By our reading of the Time Sphere," Granger says, not looking at Kingsley but somewhere past his head, no doubt writing out equations in midair, "I think Zabini sent Harry to the future five to ten years. We think since Harry was murdered on the plane where Draco was sent, he therefore disappeared from the future plane. And ours.”
“But I keep telling her that Harry was murdered at a date after today’s," Malfoy says. "He should be here now! He’s not supposed to be dead yet.”
Granger’s eyes are growing dark. “And I’ve already checked Ministry records. He’s not dead currently. It’s something else. I think Harry simply can’t materialize here without touching his pendant and saying his password. It’s how I—how we designed the Sphere.”
“How’s he supposed to touch his pendant if he doesn’t exist?" Malfoy asks. "I’m telling you, I can go find him. I can bring him back.”
Kingsley heaves a sigh. “You know I can’t allow that. We cannot tamper with time so readily. It would be hard enough explaining Harry’s absence to the Wizengamot without you getting lost in time, too. Miss Granger, is there really no way to call him back?”
“No way to call him...but there may be a loophole to all this.”
Malfoy folds his arms, looking as petulant as the 16-year-old boy Kingsley took into the Order all those years ago. “I don’t like the loophole,” he says.
“I don’t like it either, but we have no choice,” Granger snaps, looking at Kingsley directly for the first time. “If someone dies or disappears in the future, before they’re meant to be dead in Current Time—that’s our reality, right now—then that person will show up in Current Time at whatever age they last existed with their Proof pendant.”
“Shouldn’t that be now?” Kingsley wonders.
"No!” Malfoy cuts in. “It’s five to ten years from now. Wherever the Time Sphere last dropped Potter. It’s insane—it’s—" He trails off, shaking his head.
It takes Shacklebolt a moment to fully realize the implications of this. “You’re saying we have to wait for him? Possibly for ten years?"
When Malfoy doesn’t answer, Granger nods.
“Will he have aged in all that time? Or will he be at the age we last saw him?” They look at each other. He doesn’t wait for response. “And what about his knowledge? Will he be aware of what’s happened in our current time plane? Will he retain different knowledge of another plane we’re not apart of? How will this affect—?”
“Kingsley, we can’t say for sure," Granger says. He knows he shouldn’t badger her. She’s got more reason than any of them to be upset—though, Malfoy is certainly frazzled. And Kingsley certainly doesn’t know what to make of his strange and sudden declaration of love for Potter. No matter. Granger is finishing, "If he pops up, it’ll be with his Proof pendant. We’ll be able to inform him what’s going on, let him touch the pendant one final time, and we’ll all rewind back to Current Time."
"Lots. Mainly because we have to protect the Sphere."
Kingsley's stomach clenches, and it’s not because of a lack of sandwich. He understands that if the Wizengamot gets wind this mission has gone awry, some well-meaner will want to destroy the Sphere in the name of public safety. Then Potter will surely be lost to time.
"Malfoy," he says abruptly. Malfoy jumps, looks up. "No matter what happens at the hearing, you have my explicit permission to use all the Department of Mystery’s resources to hide this device. I’ll be in touch with the Head."
Malfoy is still tight-lipped, but he nods.
"Miss Granger," Kingsley says. She lifts her chin. Her eyes dance with unshed tears. "I trust in your programming. I trust in all your work. Potter’s going to be fine."
He says this partly for her confidence and partly for himself. She nods. They all stare at the Time Sphere. The fog swirls slowly. The lights flash dimly.
"Ten years?" Kingsley asks.
"Ten years," they whisper.
The summer of Draco’s 33rd year, he is having lunch with Granger on the balcony of the Ministry’s new Green Cafe. When one hears balcony, one should think of a space charmed look like the outdoors, feel uncomfortably hot like the outdoors, but is still indoorsy enough to smell like a cafeteria rubbish bin. When one hears lunch, one should think of a soggy pile of grass and legumes that Draco wouldn’t feed a starving orphan. He tells this to Granger, and she snorts iced tea out of her nose.
They have become good friends, waiting for Potter.
Over the years, Granger, Shacklebolt, and Draco have kept Potter’s employment on record, his finances in order, and have informed friends and colleagues that he is on “a lengthy mission of utmost importance.” They forge letters in Potter’s scratchy handwriting. They pretend to have communicated with him by floo every few months. They appease Ron Weasley when he begins to question his friendship with Potter, saying he can’t believe Harry wouldn’t let him know he’d be gone for ten bloody years.
“It would have endangered your life if you had known,” Draco tells him. “He told me to let you know. Didn’t care about my life so much, apparently.”
This seems to please Weasley.
Draco drops his fork with a clatter. “How much longer do you think?” he asks Granger, who is now also Weasley, he remembers, looking at the pin-prick diamond on her finger.
“I’ll give you the same answer I give you every time you ask. I just don’t know.”
“Wish we would have invented a way to track precisely when and where the Time Jumper ends up. You know. In the event of massive, life-altering fuck-ups.”
“We’ll tag it on the new prototype,” she says with a lazy wink.
“Granger,” he says suddenly. He’s had this thought a dozen times, but has never voiced it aloud. “What if the loophole...?”
Her voice is little more than a whisper around the edge of her glass. “What if it malfunctions?” She takes a sip, and that seems to end that train of thought.
Draco has gone through many milestones without Potter. He’s refused to marry Astoria Greengrass (again), disowning himself from his family utterly. He’s broken it off with Pansy, finding the little ingrate had been pocketing his valuables. He’s been Hooded like a proper Unspeakable, and he catches a glimpse of his head-to-toe black facade in the reflection of the cafe doors as he thinks this. He’s bought himself a home overlooking the sea in a breathtaking part of the Mediterranean. But he knows in his heart that if he had gone on that date with Harry Potter, the date meant to happen just days after the Time Jump, something even greater would have happened. He’s aching to know that greatness first-hand, rather than simply in the wisp of a false memory.
A shadow emerges from the doorway of the balcony. Draco doesn’t budge, thinking it’s the Head. It doesn’t transform into a person. It lays over his table, and Draco’s eyes follow it down to a gently tapping foot.
“Draco, you left for work without me. And you lied again. We do so have whole eggs. I made the best fryup—”
Draco springs out of his seat. The glasses and silverware clatter. Granger is rising, too, making a spectacle for the other patrons as she tries not to scream.
It’s short, stalwart, befuddled, handsome, thirty-three-year-old Harry.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, looking between them.
Draco’s mouth is open. At last he pushes out, “How’d you recognize me in my Hood?”
Harry reaches past Draco’s black glove to touch his wrist. “Please,” is all he says.
“I take it this is the relationship you would have had,” Granger says into his ear. “Merlin’s beard, you were right. You were in love!”
“You two are acting weird,” Potter says, adjusting his glasses. “Did you share one of those fairy wing smoothies again? Anyway, I’m really going to insist you stop hiding the yolks, Draco. I’m not going to get fat, you’re not going to get fat—”
“Shut up for a second.” Draco pushes back his Hood, grabs Potter by the face, and kisses him for the first time ever.
It’s everything his dreams told him it would be. And this time Harry is real—his tender mouth, his hands as they clutch Draco’s robes, his compact, firm body, his smell, which is indescribably wonderful, except, yes, he did have a fry-up for breakfast. It’s Harry. It’s Harry.
“Not in front of everyone,” Harry says, breaking away, though smiling just the same.
Granger is bouncing on her heels, looking between them like she wants to burst in on their embrace. She decides to, all but suffocating Potter. “Harry, I’m so happy to see you! I don’t even know what to do with myself!”
“Thanks,” Potter says, quirking an eyebrow at Draco through the bushes of Granger’s hair. “But didn’t we just get together a few days ago?”
“Oh, yes, I just missed you! Are these new robes? They look so nice.” She is blatantly digging for the Proof pendant.
“Er, no, they’re the same bulk-issued Auror robes. Hermione, stop, you’re tickling me!”
“Hey,” Draco whispers in Granger’s ear. “Do we have to do this now? Can’t we just...spend some time with him first?”
“We’ve discussed this. We can’t tell him anything. It’s best for the time continuum if he knows less. Here it is!”
She pulls out the chain with the Auror emblem hanging from the end. Even now, Draco gets chills seeing it.
“Hey, what’s that doing there?” Harry asks.
“Do you remember the password I gave you with this?” Granger asks.
“Hermione, that was a lifetime ago. I don’t recall right now. I’ll think about it while we’re having tea.”
She pulls out Harry’s wand and guides him to touch the pendant. “It’s something you’d never say.”
“Oh, right,” he says, rolling his eyes toward Draco fondly. Draco smiles. He tries to smile with his very soul, for he doesn’t know if he’ll ever see that cheerful look in Harry’s eye again. At least, not directed towards him. Harry says, “Books are fun. We should all read books.”
Then he is gone. Then everyone is gone.
Harry’s ears pop!
“OH, GOD,” he says, clutching his head. His knees hit the platform in the Time Jump chamber. “Percy, I don’t know if we solved your mystery, but I am never doing that again. That was the longest, most nauseating five seconds of my life. Hermione, I can’t—”
Large hands are ripping at his robes. Harry’s heart flutters. Malfoy.
“Er, what are you—?”
“Is it there?” Hermione is babbling. “Is the pendant there?”
“Here it is!” Malfoy exclaims. “It’s him!” He rips the Proof pendant off Harry’s neck, and throws it aside with his own. Then he pulls Harry into a crushing embrace. Hermione presses herself against his back. Rather cozy, Harry thinks. If really, really strange.
“We’re glad you made it back safe, Potter,” Shacklebolt says, sitting wearily on the step of the platform, patting his brow with a handkerchief. Percy is the only one who looks confused, clutching his throat like he can’t speak. That is when Harry notices Blaise Zabini laying stunned nearby. What in the world?
“I’m sorry,” Malfoy is saying. “I should have caught him. It was my responsibility, and I fucked it up.”
“What’s going on? I’ve only been gone a moment.”
“Take a breath, and let it sink in,” Hermione says, standing up.
Harry remembers snippets of things. The Time Jump failing. The killer turning out to be Blaise Zabini, years later. Harry becoming Assistant Head Auror. Hermione’s children. Harry living with Malfoy. Harry loving Malfoy...in a variety of ways.
Suddenly, his face is on fire.
“Anything?” Malfoy asks, noting Harry’s embarrassment.
“Some stuff. I don’t know if it’s the same stuff you saw. I know you went somewhere different.”
The thought makes Harry’s stomach sink. If he remembers right, Malfoy was to the past, not the future. He has not seen the potential Harry has seen. For all Harry knows, the future he saw was a false one caused by artificial circumstances of the Time Jump. Malfoy is still just an acquaintance, still betrothed to Astoria, still Pansy’s boyfriend. And Harry doesn’t fit in anywhere.
He stands up and backs a respectable distance away.
“Potter,” Malfoy says, shaking his head. He puts his hands on Harry’s cheeks. “I saw some stuff, too. Do you understand?”
Oh. Harry cocks his head slowly, happily. “I think so.”
“What matters most is that you’re home,” Hermione says, taking Harry’s hand. “I bet you’re hungry. Let’s grab lunch, and talk. And we have a lot of work to do to make this Sphere tamper-proof before the hearing, Malfoy. Until tomorrow?”
“Oh. Yes. Tomorrow.”
Harry feels Malfoy’s eyes on him as they leave. He turns around at the last second, saying, “I just remembered exactly what week it is, Malfoy. Would you...still like to have dinner Friday? The Leaky Cauldron?”
Malfoy blinks at him, seeming to marvel that Harry is willing to ask this in front of Granger, and Percy, and the Minister for Magic. He smirks, and says, “You don’t want me to cook?”
Harry grins. “No. I really, really don’t.”
For the first time in what seems like many years, Harry is lying on his living room floor, tossing a Snitch into the air and catching it repeatedly, head to head with Ron, as they listen to a Quidditch game on the wireless. It’s the tail-end of a Chudley versus Falmouth match, so, for reasons that are needless to explain, that does not help Ron’s mood as he tosses his object into the air and catches it repeatedly. His object is a ring in a box. He has been brooding all night about the question he wants to ask Hermione, and Harry hasn’t thought of any better advice so far except, “I mean. Yeah. I think you should.” Harry can’t find it in himself to confess the, sort of, adventure he’s been on for the past decade (or the all-of-five-seconds in the Time Jump chamber, however you want to look at it). Not with Ron so bothered. He knows that to Ron, laying on the floor listening to their favorite team get smashed is what they did last night, and the night before, so Harry thinks it would be a blow to Ron’s system at this apparently crucial juncture in his life. So Harry lays, thinking about his memories, which he hopes are really the future, and knows Ron will ask Hermione the question in his own time, and the results will be fantastic.
Ron hops up for some reason, knocking Harry out of his thoughts. The match isn’t over, and he usually likes to roll around on the floor, pleading to Merlin, until the very last whistle. Maybe he’s gone to be sick again.
He returns to the living room, saying, “Harry, you have a visitor. It’s—” His face scrunches up. “Malfoy?”
Harry’s on his feet as quick as his Snitch. He tosses it on the sofa, tries to give Ron a look that says, Oh, really, how very strange! but probably comes across as, Oh, my goodness!
“How does he know where we live?” Ron asks, stopping him in the entrance hall.
“I don’t know, maybe Hermione.”
“Hermione? What, does she want us to get smothered in our sleep?” He looks at the ring-in-a-box, ghostly white. “Maybe this isn’t a good idea.”
“No,” Harry says, pressing him into the wall as if to knock the stupid out of him. “I just remembered. It was me. I invited him.”
“Huh.” He looks from Harry, to the front door, and back to Harry again. “Well, remember to change the locks when you’re finished doing...whatever you’re doing.”
He disappears into the living room. Harry steels himself, flings open the door, and finds Draco Malfoy on the doormat dropping his hand to his side like he’s just finished brushing back his hair.
Despite the memories, it is still surreal to see him there.
“Hullo,” Harry says.
Draco nods until Harry remembers himself, stumbles back, and directs him inside. As soon as he closes the door, they hear from the living room, “Son of a—fucking—merciful Merlin!”
“Chudley Cannons are playing,” Harry says, and feels the blanks don’t need filling in.
Draco smirks. “That’s what happens when you choose your team to match your hair.”
“Oy!” Ron shouts. “Say that to my face, you bloody—”
“Let’s go in here,” Harry says, leading Draco into his bedroom, realizing belatedly how suggestive the choice is. They can still hear Ron cursing at the wireless, so he waves his wand, casting his best silencing charm, and goes quite still. That’s pretty suggestive, too. “Anyway, yeah, Ron’s excitable right now,” he says, teetering on his toes as Draco examines his room.
It must be very plain by Draco’s standards. Harry hasn’t acquired many new things since Hogwarts, except for a bed of his own, and a chest of drawers of his own, and some Auror robes shoved in random places in those drawers. There’s a clock on the wall Harry’s rather fond of, a gift made by Ron, which he modeled after the family clock at the Burrow. There are only three hands on Harry’s—Hermione’s, Ron’s, and Teddy’s—which are set at Ministry archives, crying like a baby, and Andromeda’s house respectively.
“I like that,” Draco says, indicating the clock. “Not just because it violates Weasley’s privacy.”
Harry decides it’s best not to reveal to Draco he likes something borne out of the Weasley family legacy, and remains silent.
Draco is glowering at the clock now. “So, I spoke to Blaise in Auror detainment.”
“Got him to confess. Told him they’d probably go easier on him if he did.”
“What did he say?”
“I don’t know if I ever told you this in your Time Jump, but I’ve been giving Blaise money for years. Apparently, whenever I get infatuated with a new lover, I start to ignore him, neglect him. He didn’t like that. And he didn’t like me directing my money elsewhere.”
“It was about money, not jealousy?”
Harry sinks onto his bed. “And he was willing to kill people just to keep an allowance?”
“He reasoned they were only Muggles, and it was a means to an end. At least it makes it easier to let go of him...knowing he’s a black-hearted bastard. Though, I hope they’ll spare him the Kiss.”
Harry shakes his head, boggled. “Can’t believe the bloke we were trying to catch with the Time Sphere almost ruined our lives with it. Did he tell you why he sent us to the places he did?”
Draco inclines his head. “Don’t think it was a conscious decision, where to send us. I think when he noticed I’d taken a liking to you, he didn’t think he could kill you outright. It’d be too fishy. He just wanted send you away—to anywhere but here. Instead, he fucked us both over on accident, and the rest was history. Or future, for you,” he adds with a twitch of the cheek.
“I see.” Harry takes note of Draco’s fine evening robes, and wonders, “Not that I’m unhappy to see you, but...have I misunderstood our plans?”
“No,” he says deeply. He sighs. “No, I just thinking. I was thinking that I couldn’t wait.”
“Do you want to get some dinner, then?”
“That’s not what I mean. I mean,” Draco says, rotating his hands around each other, as if to reel in a passing thought before it disappears with the wind, “I’ve been waiting too long. How do I put this? Even though the memories are mostly faded—mostly—I still feel like I’ve been waiting ten years to see you. I don’t want to wait a week, or month, or a year to make this happen.”
“Oh.” Harry can’t seem to swallow all of a sudden.
Draco steps closer. It is less of an intimate act than a movement of intensity. “You see, I know in the back of my mind what maybe, might, happen in the next year. And if I’m right, it’s good. But I find myself here, now, without the fortune in galleons I think I will earn, without my villa in Corsica, my Unspeakable Hood, my everything, really, except somehow my friendship with Granger—which, as you know, has been something I’ve dreamed of having my whole life—”
Harry holds back laughter, eager to hear the end of this.
“ —and I’m without you, Potter. Harry,” he amends, and then says softly again, “Harry. I’m without you all over again. I have these memories, you see? Of the very beginnings of a really perfect whatever-you-want-to-call-it with you.”
“Yes. That works. My point is...I’m not a patient man. I reached my limit on patience about a decade ago, and now I’m bursting at the seams wanting to just—God, where am I going with this? I want to—”
“—continue where we left off,” they finish at the same time.
Draco nods, his short hair falling in front of his eyes. Harry thinks it was gelled back this morning, and wonders if Draco’s “memories” told him Harry prefers it loose and chin-length. As he pushes it back with two fingers, Harry realizes he’s smitten with it at any length.
“Though, I know we didn’t leave off in the same place,” Draco finishes.
“I know we were only together a little while in your Time Jump,” Harry says, looking at his socks. “But, just so you know, ten years from now is...really good, too.”
“Some stuff you’ll say to me in the Green Cafe about ten years from now.”
“What’s the Green Cafe?”
“Someplace very trendy paid for by your taxes.”
“Hm,” Harry says, and that is all.
He knows what Draco wants. He knows what he wants. But what if it goes wrong? What if it doesn’t measure up to the first time around (or was it the second, or third time around)? This is their last chance. Harry supposes that’s why it’s important, now more than ever, to give it his best shot.
“Draco,” he says, jumping up.
His breath hitches. Draco is staring at him in a fiery, familiar way.
Harry pushes on quickly, quietly, head high. “I don’t want to wait either,” he says. “It’s strange. I feel like I know everything about you—like, even how you kiss. And yet I’ve never felt it.”
Draco comes closer, but does not touch him, does not speak.
“And I feel like I know your smell, but this morning was the first time I’d ever been that close to you. Isn’t that true?”
Draco lifts his hand. It hovers, almost covetingly, next to Harry’s cheek. When it touches, Harry shivers, though he is warmer than he ever recalls being. He knows this hand. He knows the lines, the grooves, the very weight of it.
“I already know how you touch,” Harry says. “Strange, right? We’ve never touched. I remember you touching my face. Like this. And my neck. And my chest. My....”
Draco touches each of these parts, like Harry’s mouth is guiding his hands. They run down Harry’s ribs, encircling the waist. There is enough room in the hoop of his arms that their bodies are still not touching, but as Draco’s fingers walk the small of Harry’s back with hardly any pressure, Harry does not wait for guidance. He sinks into the embrace like a hot bath. He puts his head on Draco’s shoulder and feels his heat, and when he looks up Draco’s eyes are clear with longing.
“I even,” Harry says, and this memory is the hardest to express because it is the best. It is the one that has him biting his lip, wishing it were Draco biting his lip, worrying and knowing in his fibers that if he doesn’t fulfill this haunting image that nothing in this life will ever compare. “I even know what it’s like to be filled with you.”
“Harry,” Draco whispers. He leans down, and there are no more words.
It is not like a memory when they stumble to the bed. It feels new to Harry. He remembers a brawnier, browner Draco sweeping him up in the Mediterranean heat. He remembers a bony, forceful Draco bending him over a bed in industrial London. And the white scars poking out of Draco’s collar in Knockturn Alley are gone, just gone. Harry can’t even remember why they’d been there to begin with. No, this is all new, and kissing Draco anew is a wonderful thing.
How much time passes while they kiss? One minute? Twenty? Time seems irrelevant now. At some point on the continuum, their clothes are lost, but their mouths are still hurried. Draco’s teeth part and take Harry’s lip, while Harry marvels at how focused he can be on the intensity of Draco sucking it raw, even while his legs are wide, his arse splayed out before Draco’s cock. And though he still doesn’t know exactly why—the memories are, after all, snapshots and essences of feelings—he knows what Draco means when he says, “I missed you.” He is fucking Harry, hips snapping, veins bulging with exertion, eyes squeezing so the skin comes together in folds, nails digging beneath Harry’s shoulders, but it is a gentle sentiment.
“I missed you,” he says, furious now. It’s like he wants to force the tenderness onto Harry.
When Draco finishes, the only sign is a puff of air in Harry’s ear. He drops down, weighing them into the bed, and Harry wonders if it is too soon to joke about Draco having left on his shoes. He can’t laugh. He is too shocked happy to laugh. This morning he was longing for an affirmative glance from Draco Malfoy, and now Draco is between his legs, seemingly grinning into the crook of his neck.
Draco ducks down. Harry thinks he wants to remove his wingtips, but he stops short at Harry’s hips, looks up, and kisses Harry’s cock, which is now half-hard, content against his thigh. Harry’s mouth goes slack. Draco is sucking long, open-mouthed kisses down it. He is deep-throating Harry with ease, and then pulling his mouth off the head to bury his nose in a place just past Harry’s line of vision. He feels Draco’s thumbs pry him open. He plants his feet on Draco’s shoulders, completing the exposure, loving the exposure.
When the suckling starts, Harry first notices the sound. It’s the sound that makes him moan. And, then, of course, he feels it. And he thinks about the image. The thought of Draco’s lips puckering onto him wetly, loving Harry’s arse like it is his mouth, is so beautifully dirty to him. Then there is a tongue, and humming, and more deep, hard suckling, so much that Harry thinks he may break apart.
Draco penetrates him with his fingertips, first his long middle finger, then his pointer, curling in to push the soft flesh. He is flicking his tongue on Harry’s stretched rim. Harry’s eyes close, but his mouth stays open. He keens as Draco touches him deeply, where it aches with pleasure. He rocks down on the fingers, wanting more, wanting more.
“I remember something like this,” Draco says. “Something that happened on the beach outside our house.” He moans in his throat. It is a moan of restraint. He is fighting to keep his pace. “I fucked you with my fingers...right there in the sand...firm and slow...with nothing but the waves and the breeze touching your dick.”
Harry must look up. Draco is staring hard at him. The gray in his eyes is gone. There is only the blackness of lust. Harry takes himself behind each shaking knee, opening up more, more....
“Give me more,” he says. “Tell me more.”
“I fucked you until you were so tight you were pulling my fingers in.”
“And then you came, and came, and I kept my fingers inside, while you fucked yourself onto them. God, yes. Just like that, Harry. Yes, come on.”
Harry comes with the flat of Draco’s finger against his prostate, projecting semen onto his chest and neck. He can feel the warm water, see the sun in Draco’s hair, feel him smiling against his thigh....
Draco waves a hand, cleaning them up, and lays alongside Harry with his head on his fist. “Or perhaps that was a fantasy. After all, we never made it to Corsica in my Jump.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Harry whispers. He touches Draco’s face, his smooth cheekbone, his rough cheek, his soft mouth....
It isn’t until Draco speaks again that Harry realizes he’s fallen asleep.
“This is real, right?”
“What?” Harry asks, though he’s heard perfectly well. The thought has occurred to him, too, that the Proof pendant may appear on either of them at any moment.
“Do you think this is real?” Draco repeats, sounding frightened.
“I hope so.” He presses his face into the cologned ridges of Draco’s chest. “But if the pendant keeps appearing, look on the bright side—we’ll get to go back in time and keep living this moment all over again.”
“Yeah.” Draco embraces Harry, kisses him on the head, and whispers, “I don’t guess I’d mind loving you forever.”
In the bowels of the Department of Mysteries, a Time Sphere glows with magic. It flickers, as if filled with lightning...
...and fades to black.