Cover Design by Incandescent
~The Past, Unchanged~
Draco’s room still held the illusion of safety, even though he knew that walls, doors, and locks were no impediment to the Dark Lord or his hideous, slithering companion. Tucked in his bed and willing for sleep to take him away from this house, just for a little, Draco picked up the book he had bought earlier that week, Predicting the Unpredictable: Insulate Yourself Against Shocks. The title had appealed, in his world of constant and terrifying shocks.
He read the book in small sections, in snatched moments. He knew it was mostly hogwash, but he clung to the hope that somehow he could learn to foresee the disasters to come, and find a way out of this living hell.
Light from windows that weren’t really there filled the spaces between the abandoned furniture with thousands of dancing dust motes. Draco’s skin prickled with the ever-present tingle of magic, and sighing creaks and half-heard rustles whispered through the air.
Draco sat back on his heels, and stared at the cabinet. He had to do this, or else the consequences were fearful beyond comprehension. His chest squeezed tight, too tight to breathe or think. As panic washed over him, Draco saw again the way his mother had held herself still as the Dark Lord gave Draco his orders. Draco had seen the slight tremor to her lip, the shine in her eyes as she had listened to each word. He had felt her hand stroke his hair as he fell asleep that night, as he had as a child.
His mother deserved a braver son than he had been so far. He couldn’t bear to think about her coming to harm, and Draco had to show her that he could do this.
Despite this knowledge – or maybe because of it – Draco’s hand shook as he pointed his wand at the Vanishing Cabinet again. Maybe this time he would do it.
He opened the door to find nothing had changed.
Draco put his wand down, and shivered as sweat cooled on his brow. He closed his eyes and wished that this was not his life, that he could skip forward to having completed this task, or that he’d never said he would do it in the first place. More than anything though, he longed to see his mother smile. To see her safe.
That night he returned to the Slytherin dungeons in a dark mood. Success continued to elude him. Pansy gave him her usual tight-lipped half smile, the one that said she knew he was hiding something, if not what. Draco wrapped his robes closer. He was always cold. The weight of his choices and responsibilities weighed too heavily on his shoulders. His past choices telescoped in his mind, from agreeing to take the Mark to sneering at Potter the first day they’d met. Was he doing the right thing? Where would this end? He walked into the thankfully empty dormitory, alone with his thoughts.
When he found his copy of Predicting the Unpredictable buried in the bottom of his trunk, Draco couldn’t help the bitter little laugh that escaped him. The old dream – of being able to see into the future and save himself from the shocks of life, of having a hint as to the choices he should make – was hollow and had not brought him any comfort in some time. Yet some part of him still yearned for the ability, for a way out of this darkness.
Draco knew though that he made his choices blind. He threw the book back into his trunk. There were no answers in its pages. It was useless, as were divination and the prophecies of Centaurs. He wasn’t going to find answers in a book, or tea leaves, or even in the sky at night. He didn’t have a future, and he knew it.
~The Present, unfolding~
A steady tap-tap-tap broke Draco’s concentration. The internal workings of his toaster were laid out on the table, light glinting from the lamp angled onto them. He was loath to look away in case he forgot what went where, but the tapping didn’t stop. Draco pulled up the blinds and saw an owl, eyes wide and black but feathers bedraggled, huddled on the stairs leading down from the street. He frowned. It was rare to be visited by an owl, as most of his friends would Floo and his mother had the house-elves post letters, all in deference to his living in a Muggle area.
Glancing back at the collection of screws, metal plates, small catches, and wires, Draco tried to memorise exactly where he was. Draco was determined to fix his toaster, but it was trickier than he’d thought. Muggles were so oddly complicated. With a sigh he opened the window, a band of harsh rain falling on his shirt before the owl hopped in and dropped a letter into his hand. Before he could shut the window or dig out an owl treat, it turned and headed back into the dark sky.
Draco stared up at the owl as it disappeared into the rain, then, as he shivered, his arms and chest soaked, dragged the sash back down. He looked down at the damp parchment in his hand. The folded edges were soft from the rain. Carefully, he unfolded it, until the five lines of neatly printed letters were clear to see. As soon as he saw the first words, he began to shake, and bile rose in his throat.
DIE Death Eater SCUM. You should be rotting in Azkaban for what you have done, but there is no justice in this world.
Well there is now. I CURSE YOU, Draco Malfoy. I curse you to madness and a life with no future. You took away mine, now I am going to take away yours.
You will never find me. But I found you.
Draco’s hand trembled so violently that he dropped the parchment, and it fell to the floor. He could still see the black letters where it lay. Draco’s chest squeezed tight, and his heart racing. Finally, it had happened. He had always known that it would, that someone would find him and seek revenge. Greg had been hexed in broad daylight, in the middle of Diagon Alley only a year ago, but that had just been boils. This… this looked like more than boils.
The parchment began to steam, a curl of white vapour rising into the air. And then the letter glowed blue, and Draco took a step back. He had to get out—
The light swelled to fill the room, and Draco could see nothing but blue. It grew brighter still, so bright that even as Draco screwed his eyes shut they still hurt from the light. Magic coiled, tense and tight, around him. The hairs on his arms stood up as the magic grew, until it burst with a loud bang, knocking him to the floor and out of consciousness.
When Draco opened his eyes again, night had fallen. The floor was cold, and his head ached. He could just make out the corners of the room, the yellow glow of the Muggle lamp post slanting down from the street above. Chair legs, a table, an armchair and small sofa. He sat up, ignoring the stab of pain in his temple as he did so. Why was the room so cold? He maintained heating and cooling charms that should have left his basement flat the perfect temperature (‘central heating’ and ‘good ventilation’ as he called them when curious Muggles asked). And then he remembered the blinding blue light, the words of hate printed onto damp parchment.
Draco felt for his wand, relieved to feel the slim length beneath his fingers. He crawled to the fireplace, his head throbbing. He had to hold onto the mantelpiece to pull himself up enough to reach the Floo Powder, and sat down rather heavily before leaning forward to throw it in.
Green flames flickered up, but Pansy’s face did not appear. Draco called her name again, louder. His voice cracked, and he took a deep breath before trying once more. When she appeared, yawning and sleep-tousled, Draco realised that it was the middle of the night.
“What is it? You better be dying, I was in the middle of the most delicious dream about—“
“I’ve been cursed.”
Pansy’s eyes widened. “Are you OK?”
“I don’t know. I’ve only just woken up.”
“I…” Draco’s mouth seized up, so dry that swallowing didn’t help.
“I’m coming through. Step back.”
Draco fell back, just in time as Pansy stepped out of the fireplace. She filled the room with a subtle floral scent, an enormous fluffy mint-green dressing gown loosely belted at the waist. Beneath it her pyjamas were covered with hundreds of tiny twinkling stars. When she saw him looking, Pansy pulled the dressing gown tight.
“I was asleep.” She shivered. “Why is it so cold in here?”
“The curse, I think,” Draco said. The parchment – where was the parchment? He looked down, but where he had dropped it there was only a small pile of ashes. “I got an owl, a note. It was cursed, and there was a flash of light, and then I passed out.”
“Have you called the Aurors yet?” Draco wasn’t listening. Little dots of light travelled across Pansy’s chin, tight swirls reflecting the stars dancing on her collar.
“Draco. Have you called them? The Aurors.”
He touched his toe to the ashes. They were cold. “No. Because what could they do?”
“Find the person who did this? Work out how – if – you’ve been cursed? Find a counter-curse? Draco!”
He looked up. Pansy looked small, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. The look on her face though, was fierce.
“Call the bloody Aurors, or I will.”
A very grumpy wizard answered Draco’s Floo call, but assured him that someone would be with him soon. Draco decided to make some tea, and the kettle had just come to a boil when two Aurors – a grizzled older wizard with his hair tied back, and a diminutive black-haired witch – came through Draco’s fireplace.
They asked him questions, but they took no notes, and the older Auror – Proudfoot – kicked the pile of ashes over when Draco asked if they could do any tests on it.
“Not much we can do here,” he said. His eyes flicked down to Draco’s arm. Draco nodded; he understood.
“I do just want to run a test for magical traces, actually,” the younger Auror said – her name was Mallard or Longbill or something. A bird name.
Proudfoot’s eyes tightened, but he nodded at her. “Just don’t take too long.”
“I’ll see if I can find out which curse it was,” she said to Draco in a low voice.
When they left, Draco went to find Pansy in the kitchen. She had finished her tea, and was sitting up on the worktop.
“They won’t find anything. They don’t know what the curse is, and there weren’t any clues for them to follow.”
“There must be something!”
“If my name wasn’t Malfoy, perhaps there would be.”
“Draco.” Pansy slid down off the side, and enveloped him in a fluffy hug. “It will be fine. It was probably nothing, just meant to scare you a little.”
“I had hoped this was all behind me. Behind us.”
“Do you really think that people will forget so fast?”
“No, I guess not.” Draco sighed.
“Now, much as I enjoy standing in your tiny kitchen in the middle of the night, I think it’s time for me to go home.” Pansy yawned. “It’s far too late. You will be all right though, won’t you?”
Draco nodded, because what choice did he have? He’d always known something like this would happen, one day.
No boils, no strange movements or changes in his body: Draco could find no physical clue as to the nature of his curse. Perhaps the spell had been intended to cast a light only, in an attempt to spook? Such an explanation, though, probably fell under the heading ‘wishful thinking’.
Draco ran through his options. He could look through some popular curses. He was sure he had a book somewhere, with curses to make your bits fall off; a gift from his father in all likelihood. The curse might not have manifested itself yet, but at least he knew that it cast a blue light. Draco collected what he could find on his bookshelves, then read until he could barely keep his eyes open. As sleep began to pull him down, Draco could barely hear the small voice in the back of his mind, whispering about terrible possibilities. His last thought as he drifted off was that he had already had the misfortune to live through one nightmare. He could deal with a curse, no matter what it did.
Draco woke up to sunlight. The events of the night before seemed far off; a dream. Had Pansy really been in his flat? Draco blinked in the brightness of the morning light, as the memory of the blue of the curse burned again across his eyes. His hands sought out his chest, his arms, his legs, and then travelled across his head. No boils, nothing missing; he couldn’t detect any change. He had checked before going to sleep, but Draco needed to look again, and he stood in front of his mirror, turning each and every way, trying to spy any sign of a curse.
He fetched his wand from beside the bed, and ran every test he could think of, sweeping his wand up and down, and covering his skin in sparks of pink and green, waves of purple, pulses of yellow. He could discern no physical changes, no trace of external magic, and with a sigh of relief padded to the kitchen to make some coffee. Breakfast seemed beyond him, but coffee would perhaps relieve him of some of the unease coiling in his gut.
Pansy’s mug, unwashed, still sat on the worktop. Draco smiled: he doubted Pansy had ever rinsed – let alone washed – a piece of crockery in her life. Draco hadn’t, before the house-elves left the manor. Carefully measuring out then grinding the coffee beans helped to distract Draco from such thoughts. It didn’t do to dwell on his childhood home. The loud noise of the grinder filled the room, chasing out the ghosts of red-eyed nightmares and blue-bright curses.
A small shelf held Draco’s small store of coffee cups, and as he reached for his favourite – blue-edged bone china – his vision swam. White kitchen walls faded as a much larger room appeared before his eyes, the burble of conversation around him. A glance down revealed a menu, written in French, with Muggle prices. Dizziness spun Draco’s head as panic pushed at the edge of his consciousness. A warm laugh caught his attention, and he looked up; he almost fell out of his chair. Harry Potter was sitting opposite him, eyes crinkled and filled with light.
Potter leant forward, his fingers grasping Draco’s arm, and he smiled, the warmest smile Draco had ever seen. It was the most confusing sight of Draco’s life: half of him wanted to smile back, the other half wanted to push Potter back and run away as fast as he could. But before he could do either, the vision faded and Draco was once more standing with his fingers touching his favourite coffee cup.
All Draco could hear was the booming of his blood pumping and the huffs of his breath, and yet at the same time the memory of plates and people was clear in his mind.
His hand trembled as he reached forward to touch the cup again. Cold porcelain under his fingers became entangled with a confusing whir of sights and sounds and smells, as further images began to unfold like long-lost memories. Breaking the cup, going out to search for a replacement, bumping into Potter. An exchange of Owls. Dates. More of that warm laughter and those sparkly eyes. Dates? Draco staggered back. As soon as his hand pulled away from the cup, all the images and half-memories faded.
Draco was shaking too badly to make coffee, and staggered back until he was leaning against his fridge. Every image had felt real, a memory of something that hadn’t taken place. He closed his eyes. The curse, it must be the curse.
Was it the future he had seen? Another reality? A life lived differently?The question Draco returned to, again and again though was: why Potter? Draco hadn’t seen him for years, not since the trials. Potter had been an itch beneath his skin for so many years at Hogwarts, but Potter had ended the monster’s reign and Draco couldn’t help but feel grateful.
Draco worked in another basement – a doctor’s surgery beneath a block of flats in a slightly run-down part of London. Pansy accused him of taking his Slytherin identity far too seriously, but it was an accident of chance, all these subterranean dwellings. And neither the surgery nor his flat had views of a giant squid swimming through a lake, so in Draco’s mind they weren’t the same at all.
His patients were a mix of squibs, Muggles who never suspected the truth, and those from mixed Muggle and magical families. His father, had his mind been rational enough to understand where his son worked, would have been horrified.
Draco decided that it was too complicated not to go to work, and any residual tiredness would disappear after a cup of non-vision-inducing coffee. His morning settled into a soothing pattern of familiarity: ear infections, verrucas, tests for strange pains, reassurances that a pimple on one’s behind was not a sign of imminent death from Dragon Pox. As Draco saw his patients, he was almost able to believe that none of it had happened – not the owl, or the curse, or the strange vision. He tried not to think about the layer of ash still on his living room floor, or the memory of Potter’s eyes filled with smile.
When he had still been a student of Muggle medicine, before he’d embarked on Healer training, Draco had still nurtured dreams of being a fêted surgeon, or publishing research that would change the world. He suspected that such hopes had been more a reflection of not wanting to be defined by the Mark on his arm than any real drive or desire for glory.
Draco wasn’t expecting another vision, and certainly not when about to take someone’s temperature. He was about to reach for his wand, when he saw with utmost clarity that if he were to use magic, the girl’s mother – a Squib – would cause a big scene, ultimately leading to a story in the paper and the loss of his job. The shock of the vision was jarred by the sudden certainty that while he was unemployed and moping in his little flat, none other than Harry Potter would come to find him. And then… eyes, laughter; a feeling of warmth and connection.
Draco used a Muggle thermometer. As it beeped, he resolved to find out the exact nature of his curse.
While washing his hands, Draco saw a glimpse of strong hands linked with his, and felt a warm squeeze and the ghost of a kiss below his ear.
On his walk home, Draco saw that if he didn’t wait for the light to change and chanced it across the road, a bike would almost knock him over and a whole sequence of events would be put into place, leading to a wild night with none other than Harry bloody Potter.
His hand trembled as he unlocked his front door. Draco didn’t think he could take any more shocks, any more of these ridiculous visions. The cold grey of his living room provided a strange comfort, because here was evidence of the curse that didn’t involve an unrecognisable life. He sat on the sofa and stared at the ash on the floor. The note might have burned away, but he could remember everything it said. I curse you to madness and a life with no future. Were these visions madness, then?
The word future danced at the edge of his thoughts for the rest of the evening. Was he seeing the future? Nothing about his visions felt likely; Draco put a hand to his chest, remembering the pain of being sliced open, the way everything had faded as he slumped to the floor. That had been real, unlike phantom dates or embraces.
The Floo flaring to life broke his train of thought, and Draco tensed. With effort, he forced himself to relax, pushing his shoulders down and attempting to order his face along calm lines.
“I hope you’ve got some proper security in place on your Floo connection,” the duck-named Auror said, her head floating in the green flames.
“I, er…” Draco came to kneel by the grate. “I will do.”
“Good.” She nodded. “I thought I should let you know the results of the tests I ran. I’m sorry to say this, but there were definite traces of Dark Magic in your home. They didn’t match your magical signature—”
“You have my magical signature?”
“It’s on record.” She narrowed her eyes. “We keep records for all known associates of You-Know-Who.”
“Oh, right.” Draco ignored the tightness at the back of his neck. He knew that the Ministry would always keep an eye on him.
“Yes, so it was a curse, but I can’t narrow down which one.” She looked down, to check a parchment Draco couldn’t quite see. “It’s in the field of Mind Curses.” She peered at him, as though she would be able to see the curse through the flames. “Have you had any symptoms? Voices, visions, paranoia, terror, nightmares?”
Draco blinked at her list. “Is that it? No casual dismemberment or horrific boils?”
“I’m trying to help you. And as I said, the curse appears to be aimed at the mind, not the body. Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary?”
“No.” Draco spoke before he had time to think what he was saying. “No, nothing.” He didn’t want the Ministry poking around in his mind. And there was no way he wanted to talk about the fact that it was Potter he kept seeing. Potter pulling their bodies close as he kissed—
“Well, we’ll keep a record of the curse on file, and wait until we get a match for the magical signature. Or until you are affected by the curse. Keep in touch.” She closed the Floo connection rather abruptly, and Draco was left to stare into the cold and empty grate.
When Draco passed the hallway mirror, he caught sight of his reflection. He was still half expecting to see some hideous transformation, but instead he saw Potter pushing him up against the wall. Potter touched him with hungry, desperate hands; fingers unbuttoning and mouths kissing. Hot hands touched his skin, and Draco couldn’t help but moan as the vision surrounded him, became more real than anything else. Potter’s hand disappeared beneath Draco’s shirt, and Draco grabbed Potter’s head to kiss him even more. His shirt fluttered to the floor.
Draco gasped, and the sound filled the hallway, the touch of it bursting the illusion. The lines of light and shadow shifted, and Draco stumbled as the world seemed to sway around him. He steadied himself with a hand against the wall, and looked around to find that he was again alone in his hallway. The only evidence of his vision was his still racing heart and – damn it! – a hungry lick of arousal filling his belly. He could almost, but not quite, feel hands ghosting across his skin.
Draco’s tea was still too hot to drink, so he reached for the nearest patient file instead. Before he could even close his hands over the folder, a chain of events began to unfold in his mind. In his mind’s eye, a chance encounter led to Potter managing to look shy while hinting at his interest with a lick of the lips. A flash of skin, warm beneath Draco’s fingers. A wet mouth on his neck, licking, kissing—
“Are you OK? Draco?” The touch of Sarah’s fingers on his arm broke the stream of images, and Draco was back at the in his consulting room, facing his concerned-looking colleague. “This is beginning to get worrying. Did you hear a word I just said?”
“I…” Draco’s stomach flipped as he felt again the soft touch of Potter’s hair his cheek. He dropped his hand to his side.
“Is there something wrong? You get this haunted look, and then you freeze. And you haven’t listened to a word I’ve said in the last five minutes, have you?”
“Sorry, I… I haven’t been sleeping well.”
Sarah looked sceptical. “You would tell me if there was something wrong, wouldn’t you?”
Draco didn’t want to talk about it. Not to Sarah. Not to anyone. “It’s just sometimes… I have nightmares.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, hoping that Sarah would assume that it was some inner turmoil: post-war funk or concern for his parents.
As expected, her face softened, and she patted his hand. “Of course.”
Draco gave her a tight little smile, then leant forward to peer at the notes rather than touch them. The case was interesting enough that she appeared to forget her concern, and Draco didn’t have to have to explain how he kept having visions of a future in which he… Draco paused. Oh my, in which he got thoroughly fucked by Potter. He swallowed, his clothes suddenly too-tight and uncomfortable.
He realised that he was pointing out a particular detail in the file, his fingers just skimming the paper. He moved his hand away and the images faded.
Draco hadn’t been lying about the sleep. Night brought dreams, terrible and strange. Draco was older, married, with a son at school; and yet still there was Potter. Draco woke with a longing, deep in his soul, for a man he couldn’t touch. Slowly reality seeped back in, and he remembered that he wasn’t married, or a father, or secretly in love with Potter. He didn’t know Potter.
Draco’s toothbrush clattered into the sink, forgotten, as Draco stared at his reflection. He saw a face lined with age, and creased with sadness and loss. The face of a man mourning the passing of his one true love, missing the companion who had stood beside him in this very bathroom for so many years.
The ache in his heart, the sense of loss, stayed with him all day. How could he mourn something that had never existed? And yet he did.
To others, Draco was sure, he must look as though he had developed a tic: he would freeze, stare blankly, then retreat, several times a day. How to explain to his colleagues or patients that he was seeing whole lives run past his eyes? He saw himself happy, sad, lost, in love. And always Potter.
Draco had cleared away the ash, aired his living room, burned sage; the eerie cold had dispersed. A heavy heat had settled over London, and the world seemed to have slowed down. Amongst his books Draco found his old copy of Predicting the Unpredictable, still marked in his school-boy hand, the pages dotted with questions. He sat in his armchair, staring at the pages, barely reading. Instead he remembered the monster prowling the hallways of his home. He thought back to those lonely, desperate days, and his secret wish to know a way out of it all. This had never been what he envisaged though, these endless visions of Potter.
A shadow fell across the book, and Draco froze, not willing to look up. He couldn’t move, and yet his breath and pulse grew faster, until he was shaking. What if… what if it was Potter, standing outside, come to bother him as he had in one of the visions? The knocking continued. He hated this, the fear of what might be. He hated feeling out of control.
“Draco, I know you’re in there.”
Pansy, it was Pansy. Hearing her voice had never been more of a relief.
“Open up!” She sounded as impatient as ever, and Draco hurried to answer the door.
She wore a huge hat, the brim covering most of her face.
“Finally. What were you doing? On second, thoughts, don’t tell me. Here, take this.” Pansy thrust a bottle of wine into his hands. The bottle was cold enough to be beaded with condensation. “And before you say anything, your flat is fine: all I care about is that you have a corkscrew and two glasses.”
Draco was bustled into his tiny kitchen, and before he knew it he’d opened the wine and had followed Pansy out into the garden. She was standing in the shaded courtyard, staring out to the long thin lawn that ran all the way to the railway tracks. Along the neighbouring fences, Draco had left the grass to grow long, bright with colourful swathes of poppies and buttercups he gently encouraged with some of his mother’s spells.
“Your flat might be small, Draco,” she said, her face lit with wonder, “but this garden is divine.”
“Yes, very nice. But what are you doing here?”
Pansy removed her hat and set it carefully on the table. “You’ve locked your Floo, I’m not stupid enough to send you an owl. Especially after the other night. I know that you think I can be a thoughtless cow, but I was actually worried something awful had happened to you. I’ve been checking the Prophet every day.”
“And yet you turn up with wine.”
“My mother told me I should never visit empty-handed. Now spill. What’s going on? Nothing’s dropped off has it? You’ve not been out for days—”
“I’ve been to work.” Draco didn’t mention that he hadn’t been in for the last two days. He’d been trying to avoid anything that might set off another vision.
Pansy sneered as if Draco had said a dirty word. “That doesn’t count.” She had a job, but never spoke about it, probably because it was so boring. Something to do with filing, if Draco remembered correctly. “You know how hard we’ve all found it just to keep going. If you start hiding away, it makes it much harder on the rest of us.”
Draco thought of Pansy, Blaise, and even poor old Greg, one man down on their sad little Slytherin outings. His unease didn’t last long. “You are a terrible manipulator, Pans. We mostly go to Muggle places – I don’t see how it would make much of a difference if I’m there or not.”
“Well it does.” She removed a packet of cigarettes from her handbag. “I’m bored of Blaise trying to get into my knickers, and Greg—”
“Talking to Greg is akin to making conversation with a flobberworm, I know. But he’s Greg. He’s always been around.” Vince’s name went unspoken, as it always did. One of the things about being on the losing side was Draco never really did feel he could mourn his dead. What was Vince’s death worth, compared to that of a Weasley, or even the surprise hero, Snape?
“Don’t change the subject.” Pansy sat back and blew smoke out, her glass of wine untouched. “I want to know what’s wrong.”
“I—” Draco honestly didn’t know where to start. He reached for his wine glass, but paused before touching it. Thankfully there was no vision of Potter this time. “I was cursed.”
“You were? Oh.” Pansy’s cigarette wobbled. “I had hoped that it was nothing more than a prank.”
“What’s the curse? Are you all right?”
“I keep seeing… things. Glimpses, of I don’t know, the future I think.”
“Yes, but it’s nothing I want to see.”
“Oh, darling.” She leant forward. “Do you get fat?”
A look of horror crossed her face. “It’s not me is it? I don’t get fat, do I?”
“No one gets fat. I just, er… I keep seeing someone.” Draco waited for Pansy to say something, but she stubbed her cigarette out on the wall and kept quiet. She didn’t even move as a wasp hovered over her hand. She was probably more toxic than any wasp venom, anyway. Draco sighed. “Fine. I keep seeing Potter, with me, in my future.”
“Potter. Wait a second. Harry Potter? Why him?”
“I don’t know.” Draco remembered the sight of Potter’s body pressed up against his own. “I don’t even know if it’s really the future I’m seeing, or just nightmare visions.”
“So what have you done about it?”
“I’ve got some books.” Draco gestured inside. “I’m doing research.”
“No.” Pansy shook her head. “That’s not enough. You need to find out what the curse is and reverse it. You need to talk to the Aurors.”
“I don’t really want to talk to anyone about this.” Draco saw again the slide of limbs and fingers dipping into creases and hollows. He crossed his legs beneath the table. “Er, you know, ex-Death Eater. Hero of the Wizarding World. You didn’t see how those Aurors were with me. The older one practically sneered at my arm before they’d asked me a single question. No one’s going to listen, and no one’s going to help me.”
“I’m going to help you.” Pansy lit another cigarette. “And I know someone else who will help you, like it or not.”
Draco squinted as his eyes adjusted from the darkness of the Leaky Cauldron. His clothes were already beginning to stick to his body, and a fresh prickle of sweat threatened to damp down his hair. Draco hated high summer days like this; much better to have the brisk clarity of autumn, or even the bogginess of a rain-filled spring. Diagon Alley was unbearable, filled with hot and sweaty bodies, the varying odours of scores of wizards and witches offending his nose. Worse still was the creeping fear that any moment a vision might strike, leaving Draco vulnerable in the middle of the street as he stared blankly on at a glimpse of some impossible future with Potter.
But Draco needed to buy a present for his mother’s birthday – something to make her smile. The stares and whispers as people caught sight of his white-blond hair were nothing new. Malfoy, he heard, and sometimes even Death Eater scum. Sometimes the crowd pushed at him with extra force, but Draco had long learned to ignore such things.
He kept his head down and focused on getting to Flourish and Blotts.
Strangely, when the commotion started, it wasn’t about him. A whisper moved through the shoppers and their steps slowed until the moving mass of people had become an immovable wall of gawkers. Harry Potter, they were saying. A prickle of panic disturbed Draco’s carefully maintained calm. Was he going to have one of his bloody Potter visions, here of all places? His feet moved more quickly until he looked up and saw the familiar painted quills that marked the bookshop. Relief made him giddy: he had avoided a vision, and would be finished with this terrible shopping trip soon.
Draco found the perfect book, a little first edition of poems about summer days and winter walks. He smiled the moment he saw it, and hoped that she would too: the cover had an illustration of a child under a tree, and it could have been a memory of his own childhood. A reminder of a happier time. This corner of the shop was always quiet – second-hand books didn’t have the same draw as the flash biographies of war heroes or treaties on the New Wizarding World, or whatever they called it now. But Draco loved these unique books, these gifts from the past. These were the things that remained, after the dust had settled.
He was head down, counting his Knuts and Sickles back into his money pouch, when he walked straight into someone else. The bag fell to the floor, coins rolling away. Draco froze, despite himself, as he braced himself for the seemingly inevitable onslaught of images and sensations. Nothing happened, and Draco crouched, eager to pick up his money and leave as soon as possible.
A hand darted out, grabbing a Galleon as it rolled towards the door. Draco looked up, as Harry Potter offered him his coin back.
Draco felt as though he were falling. For some reason, he thought that he’d have some warning before actually bumping into Potter. This really was the most useless curse ever.
“What are you doing here?”
“Thanks are customary,” Potter said, with amusement. “Or so I’m told.”
Draco tried to take another step back, but as he was crouched on the floor, instead he caught his robes on his feet and stumbled. Mortifyingly, Potter reached out and righted Draco. Potter’s hand was warm, his grip firm. In a flash, Draco remembered that in his dreams then night before, he’d had a very clear mental picture of that same hand, wrapped around his—
“I don’t need any help,” he snapped.
Potter looked at the floor, and the coins scattered everywhere. He rocked back on his heels. “I can see that.”
“Move on, Potter.”
With an ease that Draco suspected he wouldn’t be able to match, Potter sprang up to standing. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll leave you to it.”
Draco waited a beat, not yet reaching to retrieve any of the coins. Potter was still standing there, watching him. “Go on, then,” Draco said. “Leave.”
“Oh. Right. Leaving.”
Draco shook his head as Potter departed. His chest was tight, and he could barely breathe. Thank Merlin the encounter had been brief. It was not worth thinking about, what it would have been like if he had been forced to endure one of the visions with Potter there. As it was he found it difficult to shake the memory – half real, half not – of Potter’s hand, warm and brown.
“So you saw Potter?” Pansy said. She sat perfectly still and focused all her attention on him. Draco was unnerved by her calm. Surely she should be reaching for a cigarette, or something? They were in her living room, the drinks cabinet within reach and an open bottle of wine sitting between them. Draco shifted in his seat.
“Did you have a vision? Did seeing him spark anything off?”
“No.” Draco picked at a cushion on the sofa. He had already ascertained that touching the cushion was safe. Vision-free. “But it was only a brief encounter. It wasn’t anything that could be described as a proper conversation.”
She frowned, and Draco’s stomach dropped. Why had he told her anything? He hated being dependent on anyone else, and to be indebted to someone like Pansy was a terrible idea. He’d never hear the end of it. “You know, I really don’t know much about these visions of yours. I know you see Potter. What are doing? Flinging hexes at each other? Drinking merlot in your garden? I think you’re going to have to tell me a bit more—”
“No!” Draco flushed red. “I don’t want to. I can’t—”
“What have you seen?”
Draco sank his head into his hands.
“I see what might be possible futures. Or just visions sent to torment me.” Draco sighed. This was exactly what he had been avoiding: telling anyone the content of his visions. “I told you. I see… I see myself, with Potter.”
He took a deep breath. “In my visions we’re often lovers.”
“Oh!” Pansy’s cheeks pinked up and her lips parted as she inhaled. “Oh, I see.” Draco could hear the interest in her voice. Dammit, why did she have to be so obsessed with sex?
“Actually, be thankful that you don’t.” Draco shuddered, as he recalled Potter’s mouth hanging open a look of ecstasy on his face. It was far too intimate and he wished he didn’t know what Potter looked like at the point of orgasm.
Pansy’s eyes narrowed as she considered her next question. “So in these, er, visions, you and Potter are together?”
“And are there lots of… details, in these visions?”
He looked back down at the cushion.
“Oh, how intriguing. Have you got the hots for him? Is this something you haven’t shared before?” The questions tumbled out of Pansy’s mouth.
“No! I’ve spent years trying to forget his existence. You were at school with me: you know how things were.”
“Yes…” Pansy tilted her head to one side. “You never stopped talking about him. You were obsessed.”
“He was a jumped-up little snot! I knew I couldn’t talk to you about this. You just want to see sex everywhere. You’ve always had an unhealthy interest in my love life.”
“I’m sorry.” Pansy reached out to touch his arm. “I can see that you’re—”
Pansy’s words became lost as a now-familiar cloud of images swam into view. Except instead of Potter, Draco saw himself, sitting in a room full of Weasleys and laughing. It was so shocking that he dropped his drink, the sound of the glass shattering bringing him back fully into the moment.
“Ooh, did you have one just then?” Pansy’s eyes were wide, and she ignored the mess on the floor. “What did you see? Did you see Potter’s cock? Potter Peen?”
Draco shook his head, unable to speak. Pansy, thankfully, moved away to fetch him another drink. She paused only long enough to give her wand a lazy flick, the broken glass on the floor rising up and reforming a wine glass. “Something stronger, this time,” she said.
Draco took the tumbler of Firewhisky she handed him, and rested it against his chin. He took a deep breath, and his eyes watered from the boozy fumes.
“I didn’t see Potter at all.” He looked up to meet Pansy’s gaze. “I saw… Weasleys.”
Pansy shuddered, but then smiled faintly. “But is this progress? Not seeing Potter, I mean.”
“I think… I think Potter was still nearby. He isn’t always in the visions, but they are always about him.” Draco was reluctant to describe the times he’d seen himself alone, grief-stricken.
“Oh.” Pansy sat back. “Do you ever see me?”
“Sometimes.” He anticipated her next question. “And no, you’ve never been fat in any of them.”
Pansy reached for a cigarette. “Well, at least there’s that.”
“I’ve been reading this book, about seeing the future. Just in dreams, and everyday omens. It says… it says that sometimes it’s better not to know.” Draco took a sip of Firewhisky. It burned as it went down. “I’ve no guarantee that any of this is true. My own visions seem to be hugely unlikely.” He searched Pansy’s face for understanding. She nodded.
“What do the Aurors say?”
Draco didn’t answer.
Pansy frowned, her customary sharpness missing from her movements. “You haven’t told them about the visions, have you.”
“I’ve told you, I can’t tell anyone about this.”
“You can and you will. I told you that already. Meet me at the cafeteria in the Ministry tomorrow at noon.”
“At the Ministry? Why there?”
“Because I work there, stupid, and it’s my lunch break.”
“You work in the Ministry?”
“I knew you were never listening! And you call me self-absorbed…”
Draco grinned, and they turned to other topics of conversation.
Years of medical training – Muggle and wizarding – had taught Draco a lot about working methodically and he was sure that if he just thought about this enough, he could figure out what the curse was and how to get rid of it, without any help. He regretted saying anything to Pansy, and was still mortified that he’d told her even the vaguest details of his visions. Draco didn’t particularly want to have to explain to anyone else what he was experiencing; his skin flamed at the thought alone.
Nevertheless, he asked Melissa to pass his patients onto Sarah if he was late back, and Flooed into the Atrium at the Ministry just before midday. He hated being in this place: it reminded him of darker days, of his father in his wild-eyed phase, and then in Azkaban. He thought of feeling alone, and frightened, during the trials.
The queue for lunch was short, but Draco hung back and waited by the entrance. He couldn’t see Pansy yet, and he didn’t feel hungry, not with his stomach gently turning at the thought of having to explain all about his curse to some stranger.
“Draco!” Pansy’s voice rang out clearly, and several people turned to look at her. Draco ran his hand through his hair and pushed himself off the wall he was resting against. Any starers could take their suspicions and stuff them; Draco might hate being in the Ministry, but he knew he hadn’t done anything wrong in years.
“Pansy.” He nodded. “So who are we meeting?”
“Lovely to see you too. Now come get some soup – it’s the only edible thing here – and we’ll find a quiet table.”
The cafeteria was noisy, the clatter of cutlery and chatter of voices echoing off the green-tiled walls. Draco doubted that any table could be described as ‘quiet’, but they found one tucked under an arch in a corner. Before he sat down, Draco paused as a stream of images passed before his eyes. Potter, face lit by sunlight, leaning forward to move a strand of hair from Draco’s face. Potter, rubbing his thumb over Draco’s wrist whilst in animated conversation with some former Gryffindor in a pub. Potter—
“Draco.” He blinked, back in the cafeteria with Pansy. “Sit down,” she said. Draco was disorientated enough that he let himself be pulled down into a chair. He didn’t register who else was at the table until he’d taken a deep breath and closed his eyes. When he opened them, Draco stared in disbelief at the bushy brown hair and slight frown of none other than Hermione Granger. He then turned to Pansy, who shrugged.
“Was that one of your visions?” Granger asked without preamble.
“You? You’re the person who Pansy wants to help me?”
“We have an agreement.” Granger had bought the soup too. It was thick, and red. She picked up her spoon and dipped it in. “Didn’t she tell you about it?”
“Pansy didn’t say, no.” Draco looked over at Pansy. He wasn’t really going to have to tell Granger, of all people, about his visions of Potter, was he? And how did she know Granger?
“Don’t look so surprised, we work together,” Pansy said.
Granger blew on her spoon. “We have done, for years.”
“To be honest, I didn’t even know that Pansy worked in the Ministry until yesterday. What is it you do here?” Draco asked, turning to Pansy. “I thought that your job was something boring involving filing?”
“It is. I work in Wizengamot Administration, as a filing clerk.”
“You’re not a filing clerk though,” Draco said to Granger. “I’ve seen you in the Prophet. You’re a working on new wizarding legislation.”
“Yes, I am. And I’m a member of the Wizengamot. Pansy has been… of use, recently.”
Draco’s face heated. He had seen the photos of Granger in her Wizengamot robes, but had filed them under ‘I don’t care’ and not thought of it again.
“Now,” Granger continued. “Pansy tells me that you’ve been cursed and that somehow this involves Harry.”
“You are having visions, of possible futures, correct?”
“Why would you want to help me?” Draco viewed her with suspicion. He’d almost killed her husband once – had she forgotten?
“I owe Pansy a favour. And besides, this involves Harry, and he’s my friend. So, tell me all about it.”
Draco was certain he’d do no such thing. “Even if I believe that you want to help, what can you do? You’re not a Curse-Breaker.”
“I’m good at research. And not entirely without knowledge about the Dark Arts, or certain more... unorthodox spells,” she said primly. “Look, I know that you’re no idiot. Why don’t you just tell me the basics, and about whatever you’ve already done for research.” She cast a spell, her wand movements discreet enough not to draw attention, but made openly enough for Draco to see. He noted, with surprise, that she used one of Snape’s: Muffliato. “See,” she said, arching an eyebrow. “I’m not totally ignorant.”
Despite his doubts – and possibly also because Pansy kicked him under the table – Draco nodded. He laid it out as briefly as he could; the mystery owl, the curse with the blue light, and in the sketchiest terms, the visions.
“So you’ve been cursed by a witch or wizard with a grudge and some knowledge of the Dark Arts;” Granger said, counting off the first point on her fingers. “The curse cast a blue light and has left you seeing visions of the future – your own and others – that you can’t verify as true, but which so far seem unlikely; you are reluctant to see help through official channels due to the nature of some of your visions. Basically you want to identify the curse and thereby also its counter-curse, correct?”
Draco nodded along with Granger’s summary.
“I’m going to look into it, but at this stage I’m afraid that I’d be inclined to agree with you: it doesn’t sound like you are seeing an accurate representation of the future.” Granger glanced at her slim wrist watch, then stood. “I’ll send you a message via Muggle mail if I find out any more. And if you can think of anything else to tell me, feel free to owl or mail me too.” She cancelled the Muffliato and strode away, her footsteps lost above the din of the room.
“Sometimes Hermione challenges my notions of my own sexuality,” Pansy announced. “Her efficiency, her mind: they leave me more than a little flustered.”
“You have a crush on Granger?” Draco had no way of telling if Pansy was serious or not.
“Unrequited, sadly. Nothing seems to distract her from her ginger plank of a husband.” Pansy poked Draco in the side. “Anyway, I told you she could help.”
“She hasn’t done anything.”
“Not yet. Give her time.”
The next day, Draco’s third patient of the morning left a copy of The Daily Prophet behind. As a rule, Draco didn’t look at the paper, but there was a lull, and Melissa brought him a nice cup of tea when she told him that patient number four hadn’t turned up. He sat back with his tea, and stared at the paper. Would there be a story about Potter inside? There always seemed to be. In fact, it was one reason he avoided the paper.
Now though, Draco felt more of a… connection to Potter. Why, already that morning he’d seen – or rather felt – Potter give him a truly bone-melting massage. He was still feeling a little flustered by it, to be honest: the massage had threatened to turn into something else, and Draco was left aching and hard. He refused though, to masturbate over a bloody curse-vision, and as a result was still feeling rather uncomfortable.
Draco opened the paper, and there, as predicted, was a Potter story. “Harry Potter Broke My Heart!” They were either these kiss-and-tell tales, or pictures of Potter visiting hospitals and shaking hands with people with terrible curse wounds. Draco wasn’t prepared though, for the twinge of jealousy that ran through him at the thought of Potter in bed with someone. Else, his mind helpfully supplied.
Draco looked up at the door, noting that it was firmly shut before continuing with the article. It was a tale of woe from one of Potter’s rejects. This time, a woman. As usual it was a compelling mixture of prurient detail – massages, this time – and disgusting self-pity: ‘I thought it was love’. The line about the massages drew Draco’s attention. He knew how good one of Potter’s massages could be, but although this morning it had been both annoying and arousing in equal measure, now it left Draco feeling… sordid, somehow.
This curse, these visions: they seemed even more unlikely, now that Draco had been reminded of Potter’s seemingly cavalier approach to lovers. Not that Draco had been considering making the visions a reality, of course.
His head began to hurt. The sooner this curse was broken, the better.
Granger’s note came three days later. In that time, Draco had endured increasingly more intense physical visions. He felt the warmth of Harry’s skin beneath his fingers; he lived through each vision as though it was real. Draco had also found that visions were beginning to spring up without the need to touch anything first. Which was great as he could use his favourite coffee cup again, but not so great as he now had no way of stopping of them until they were over.
Her note was brief. He was to meet her in Hogsmeade, near the Shrieking Shack. Draco rolled his eyes when he read it, because it was such a childish meeting place, but he scrawled back an answer that he would be there. He wanted to know what she had found out.
The Shrieking Shack looked as dismal as ever. The windows were still boarded up, and merely looking at it made Draco want to give up all hope. There were clouds in the sky, and one passed in front of the sun, blunting the edges of everything with the shadow it cast.
“You came,” Granger said, joining him.
“I said I would.”
Granger began to walk around to the side of the shack, and Draco followed. “I need to do an experiment,” she said.
“On me?” asked Draco, alarmed.
“In a way.” Granger looked up, past Draco, and after a moment a soft smile lit her face. Draco followed her line of sight and froze.
Potter was standing in front of the Shrieking Shack, only a couple of feet away from them, staring at its windows with a faraway look on his face.
Draco looked over at Granger in panic.
“I thought that it would be a good idea for you to see Harry,” she said.
Before he knew it, Draco was being shoved from behind, and he fell straight onto Harry— Potter. Damn his stupid visions, he wasn’t going to dignify Potter with anything as familiar as his given name. And yet his mouth was all of a sudden dry; Potter was wearing the shirt with the pockets. The one he’d ripped off Harry in a vision, right before theyshowered together.
“Malfoy, you really need to watch where you’re going.”
Draco blinked, then brought himself up to full sneer. “I was pushed.”
Potter looked over Draco’s shoulder. “I don’t see anyone there.” No, of course he didn’t. But Draco was sure that Granger was still hiding and probably watching this whole exchange. An experiment, honestly.
An irritating smirk hovered on Potter’s lips, and Draco wanted nothing more than to remove it. He said the first thing to come to mind. “That shirt is hideous.”
“This?” Potter looked down in surprise. “I’m sorry, Malfoy, but I don’t really see why you should be insulting my clothes.”
“You look like a farmer, off to milk the cows.” In one of Draco’s visions he’d insulted the shirt too, and he cursed himself for being stupid enough to repeat anything he’d glimpsed of a possible future. He tensed, waiting for the flow of images, but nothing happened. He was still standing opposite Potter and his horrible shirt, with no hint of any kind of future at all.
“Well the only difference between a cow and you at the moment would be the look of intelligence on the cow’s face.”
Draco gawped. Potter wasn’t supposed to insult him back. Aware that his mouth hanging open was probably an invite to another insult, he hastily clamped his lips shut.
“Not quite the wit you always fancied yourself, are you?” Despite his words, there was a smile on Potter’s face.
For a second Draco thought that maybe Potter had seen the same visions too. The sense of panic this brought narrowed his sight down to just the space in front of him: the space which, unfortunately, was occupied by Potter’s face. Draco took a deep breath, trying to reassure himself that it was only a curse, and one unique to him. There was no reason for Potter to be affected too. And besides, Potter wasn’t having trouble breathing or talking. Unlike Draco. He struggled to find something to say.
“Despite our time at school together,” and my intimate knowledge of the position of every mole on your body, “we don’t really know each other, Potter.” Draco tried hard to maintain his air of insouciance.
“We could get to know each other.” Potter looked up at him through lowered lashes. Draco’s mouth threatened to drop open again. Was Potter flirting with him? Potter reached out to touch his arm, and smiled.
Draco pulled back his arm, as though stung. “Are you mad?”
“No.” Potter laughed, a low, rich sound. It travelled straight to Draco’s traitorous cock. “I’ve grown up, that’s all.”
“We barely know each other, and anyway I have no intention of joining the sorry list of your former lovers.”
Potter’s smile didn’t fade. Instead he shrugged, a slow, languorous affair that spoke of an unhurried attitude to pleasure. “Oh, I don’t think that anyone on that list is sorry. You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers.” He winked at Draco and turned away.
Draco watched him walk off in the direction of Hogsmeade. No wonder Potter seemed to have someone fall in love with him every week. Not that Draco was going to do that, of course. But he could see how that confidence could be… attractive. Remembering all of Potter’s conquests put things in perspective. The Harry who haunted his days and nights wasn’t hopping in and out of other people’s beds. Draco was still staring when Hermione reappeared by his side. She stared after her friend, and sighed.
“I don’t know what you hoped to achieve with that little meeting.”
“I wanted to find out if there was any truth to your visions.”
Draco turned to face her. “Truth?”
“Truth might not be the right word. Mostly I needed to see Harry’s reaction to you.”
“And?” Draco thought back to the lazy smile, the flirty glances. “He was a little more cocky than I remember.”
Hermione laughed “Well that’s one way of putting it.” She tilted her head. “He seemed to like you.”
“I get the impression that he’d like anyone,” Draco said. “And stop looking so… speculative. I’ve no intention of any kind of quick gratification with someone who I hated for so many years.” Granger flinched, ever so slightly, and Draco sighed. “Look, I don’t hate him now. I don’t know him, but I am grateful for him… ending Vol—” Draco still found it hard to say the name. “You Know Who. But I’ve tried very hard to move beyond certain aspects of my youth, and the last thing I want is to have to spend time with Potter.” Draco stopped, and added a little more gently, “I’m sorry, but I really don’t think that we’ll ever be friends, let alone anything else.”
“But your visions—”
“I’m not a Seer, I was cursed! They’re not the same things at all.”
Granger nodded slowly, her eyes searching his face. “I’m trying– I want to understand your curse. I need to be absolutely clear on this: is there any chance that you and Harry would ever… you know… sleep together?”
Draco thought about the images of Potter – no, Harry – naked before him. If there was no history, if they were strangers? Maybe. But then he remembered being humiliated by a Hippogriff, losing countless games of Quidditch, and the sharp pain and spin into unconsciousness in Myrtle’s bathroom. He remembered his father’s decline into madness, and the way Lucius would spit out the name Harry Potter in private, no matter what he’d profess in public.
“No,” he said. “It will never happen.”
“I see.” Hermione took a small step back, her intense stare broken, although she was still frowning and looked deep in thought. “I need more time to think about this. I’m… I’m a little worried, to be honest. If there’s no chance that you are seeing a possible future, then you have most likely been cursed to see the impossible. I think…” She paused, and fixed him with serious eyes. “I think that this curse is supposed to drive you to madness.”
Draco huffed. “That’s not exactly a surprise, is it? Someone wouldn’t curse me to a happy ending, would they?”
“Draco,” Granger said. “I know that this is all worrying for you, but I’m sure I’ll be able to work something out.”
“Tell me at least that you learned something from that encounter with Potter.”
Granger shrugged. “I’m not sure yet.” She shuffled her feet. “You’re just going to have to be patient while I try to figure this out. And I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go now – I’m supposed to meet Harry at the teashop.”
“If you were meeting him at Madam Puddifoot’s, how did you know he’d come here first?”
Granger smiled sadly. “He always comes here first. I know Harry.” She didn’t elaborate, and Draco didn’t ask.
In bed that night, Draco picked up Predicting the Unpredictable again. He was sure there was something in it about false omens. He had scrawled the words ‘When I dream of life without the Dark Lord, does it mean it is a possible future?’ next to the chapter on dreams. Draco traced the letters with a sad smile. Such desperation. He read a section he’d underlined as a teenager.
Often hints of future events are woven into dreams: like half-remembered details of a past life. These details take different forms but the sense of recognition and familiarity is a key sign that they may be significant.
What nonsense this book was. Deep down, Draco had known it then, but now he knew it for certain. There were no clues to be gleaned from his dreams, now or then. They offered false hope, false promises. His thoughts returned to his earlier encounter with Potter. The memory of it was so different to his visions – there had been none of the warmth, the familiarity. It had been… disappointing in some way. His dreams and visions were merely an illusion.
Draco saw his father, clean shaven and… well, not smiling. Grimacing, more like, but he looked as though he was aware of what was happening around him. Present. He stood at Narcissa’s side, and put his arm around her. Then Harry appeared at Draco’s side, the comforting presence of a hand pressed to the small of Draco’s back bringing a smile to his face. As the vision faded, Draco was left in the dusty expanses of the dining room at the Manor, the usual feelings of regret and pain swirling as he tried to remain calm. This room held too many memories: he didn’t need any extra ones.
“Would you like some more peas?” Narcissa’s hand, serving spoon already filled, hovered near Draco’s plate. It was a question she had asked so many times before, but this time there were no house-elves to serve them – these were peas she had cooked herself – and the room was unbearably hot without the benefit of well-applied cooling charms. Lucius was nowhere to be seen, but Draco could hear him. Somewhere in the Manor, Lucius was shouting.
“Yes; thank you, Mother.”
Lunch with his parents was Draco’s private penance, but for what, he could never quite decide. His choices were many and varied. Each week they went through this charade. His mother made them lunch, sometimes Lucius joined them, sometimes he didn’t. His presence was often felt, either way.
“How is your work?”
“Fine, thank you.” Draco looked down at his plate, noting that his mother’s cooking skills had improved. As had his own. He sighed: it really was a brave new world. Sensing both that his sigh had concerned his mother, and that she needed a better answer than ‘fine’, Draco took a sip of water before giving what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “It’s good to finally be in practice. And at least the Muggle patients don’t ask awkward questions.”
“And the wizarding ones?”
“The ones I have don’t seem to mind. But, truthfully speaking, there aren’t many. A few old school friends. My favourite ones though, are the ones married to Muggles. They like that I can offer both magical and Muggle approaches, especially for their children.”
When Narcissa smiled, Draco’s heart lifted to see her small spark of pride. So little seemed to capture his mother’s interest these days, and her focus on his career was gratifying, although he was always a little scared that he might, one day, disappoint her. And she had been disappointed enough in life already. As if to make the point, a crash violent enough to make the chandelier above them tremble came from above. Fine dust shimmered in the air, and Narcissa’s face pinked. Whether in embarrassment for the dust, or for her husband’s outburst wasn’t clear. It didn’t matter really.
Beyond his mother’s head, Draco could see a glimpse of the colourful blooms of the garden. He didn’t ask after it, for this year it had finally passed onto the list of things not to mention. The roses climbed wild, fallen petals littering weed-filled grass. When he left the Manor later that afternoon, Draco took care to avoid the old rose garden.
“Your next appointment is here,” Melissa said. And then she grinned. “He’s awfully handsome in person, I have to say.”
Draco stared at her. “Who is?” He looked at the patient list for the day. “James Perkins?”
“It doesn’t matter what it says his name is, it’s definitely him.”
“You’ll see.” She winked, then let herself out. Everyone was going mad, not just Draco, it seemed.
Despite the introduction, Draco was still surprised when Harry Potter walked into the consulting room. He clenched his hands together tightly behind his desk. Melissa had been in the room with him a moment before, winking; this wasn’t a vision. He dug his thumb nail into the palm of his hand, and the small jolt of pain was enough to persuade him that, yes, this was real.
“James Perkins, I presume?” With an effort, Draco kept his voice calm. “What are you doing here, Potter?”
“I needed to see a Healer.”
“I would believe you if it wasn’t me that you’d chosen to see.”
Potter looked wounded. “You don’t believe me?”
“You’re wasting my time.”
“Hermione said you might be difficult, but that you were a good physician.”
“Granger said that about me? I’ve never treated her.”
“I’m supposed to get a medical – you know, a physical, for work – and I wanted a doctor who used Muggle medicine as well as magic. When she said that’s what you do, I thought I’d book an appointment.”
“I’m not doing your medical. I’m not going to be your doctor, Potter. To be quite honest, with our history the idea is ridiculous.”
“I don’t bite, you know.” Potter smirked. “Not unless you really want me to.”
“No one’s biting anyone!”
“I’ve already cleared it with the DMLE. Your record’s clean.”
Draco took a deep breath. “I know my record’s clean, because I have followed every rule, obeyed every restriction and directive, since the war. But I also know that being your physician would be a terrible mistake.”
“Actually, I think that there might be more people interested in seeing someone qualified in Muggle and wizarding medicine. And if it became known that I was your patient—”
“People would assume that I was out to get you.” Draco unclenched his hands, and put them on the desk. He rolled up his left sleeve to reveal the faded Dark Mark. “This is all that anyone sees or knows about me.”
Potter stared at Draco’s arm, and swallowed. Draco had hoped that actually, Potter wouldn’t react; instead Potter shrank back a little. Draco’s heart sank. It was always the same. Potter was no more noble and forgiving than any other wizard. He had every reason to be less so. His visions – the smiles, the kisses, the warmth – were all a lie.
“I didn’t know you still had that,” Potter said quietly. “I’d heard rumours, but now all the Death Eaters are in Azkaban—”
“You’re not the same. You were young—”
Draco shook his head, and thrust his arm forward again. “It’s a difference lost on most.”
Potter sat quietly, his brow gently creased. Draco’s eyes drifted down to Potter’s hands, and he felt again the heated slide of fingers across his skin. He shut his eyes, willing away the false memories of what had never been.
“You know what I said at your trials. I… I want you to do my medical. It’s…” Potter trailed off. “It’s important to me. I feel as though without this, you won’t see that I’ve grown up. That I trust you.”
Trust. Draco had never thought he’d ever hear Potter talking to him about trust. Something – pride perhaps, or a long-seated desire for approval made him sit a little taller. Despite himself, Draco found himself nodding slowly.
“I can’t say I understand your thinking on this. But I’ll do you a basic set of checks. After that I really would be more comfortable if you saw my colleague, Dr Merrick, in the future.” Despite being flattered that Potter had sought him out, Draco still had no desire to have to see him on a regular basis.
Potter nodded, then pulled out a folded piece of parchment from his pocket. Draco noted that the edges of the folds didn’t match, and there was a coffee ring marking one corner. He harrumphed when he opened it to find the Ministry seal, and a list of areas that Potter needed to get signed off.
“You do know that they will want me to examine you with magic, don’t you?” he said, as he ran down the list. “Any Healer could complete this exam for you.”
“I like the reassurance of Muggle checks too. I’ve been seeing a Muggle doctor for a few years now, but it’s hard to explain some things to him. Like how some things heal really quickly. Or why I have this scar on my hand.”
Potter held out his arm, and Draco peered down at faint white lines. I must not tell lies. He shivered.
“Umbridge, detention, and a Blood Quill,” Potter said quietly.
Draco looked back down at Potter’s hand. Blood Quills. In a detention? That was… savage. He remembered his glee at Potter no longer being the golden boy at school, and bile rose in his throat.
“Fine. Just the medical, that’s it.”
Standing next to Potter, listening to the rhythms of his heart and the whoosh of each breath, Draco tried as hard as he could to keep the hand holding the stethoscope still. He realised that this was the nearest they had been since the day of the Battle, and shut away the memory of the flames. Instead, half memories of dreams and visions swam in front of him.
Up close, he could feel Potter’s heat through his thin t-shirt. The barest hint of sweat hung in the air between them, and Draco had to ignore the way his mouth had gone dry. Muscles flexed beneath fabric as Potter followed every one of Draco’s instructions.
Draco was much more comfortable once he’d stepped back and turned to his wand for the next few tests. Potter was, of course, healthy, hearty, fit and… well, fit. There was no denying that he was a man in peak physical condition. And easy on the eye. Draco thought back again to Granger’s question, and an unexpected pang of regret hit him: there really was too much past, but if Potter were a stranger, then yes, Draco could admit that he would be interested. If only for a one-time thing: Potter didn’t seem to be the settling-down type.
His hand had been resting on Potter’s chest a fraction too long, and Draco moved it away. Even doing this exam was a terrible idea, and Draco rushed through the next tests. He was eager for Potter to leave.
Perhaps Potter was a hypochondriac. It would explain his preference for not only a Healer but also a doctor; or rather both in the form of Sarah Merrick. Since Draco’s initial exam, Potter had been back three times. The only good thing about it was that when Draco was with Potter – not even talking to him, just nearby – the visions stopped. It was only a temporary reprieve, but a welcome one.
Maybe Potter fancied Melissa. The way he was smiling at her, as she looked up through lowered lashes was enough to confirm that they were at least flirting. It looked all wrong, seeing those looks directed at Draco’s receptionist.
Not that Draco was deliberately going out of his way to watch him, or anything. There was always such a fuss when Potter arrived that Draco couldn’t help but notice him. He would open the door of his consulting room, and see Potter sitting with his hands between his knees as he waited, or leant up against Melissa’s desk, smiling his smiles and laughing that rich, warm laugh of his. And Draco felt a twist within, each time, because he recognised that smile. He had seen it turned on him in so many visions. He had felt too, strong fingers wrap around his wrist and pull him tight.
But Potter hardly looked at Draco. Superficially he might seem the same man that Draco saw in his visions, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t the man whose whispered breath tickled Draco’s ear, or whose hand fed Draco chocolates. That was all the curse. Sometimes, in the dark of the night, Draco wondered if maybe it was a window onto his own fantasies. He couldn’t quite believe that they would all be so sappy, but perhaps all he did want was to be wined and dined and seduced with smiles and touches. Either that or, as was more likely, this was a hideous curse designed to torture him.
“Let’s ask him now.”
Draco realised that Potter was standing with Sarah, and they were both looking at him. He cleared his throat. “Ask me what, exactly?”
“Harry here wants a second opinion,” Sarah said.
Draco ignored the way his shoulders tightened at hearing Harry. That name was, in his mind, the name of the man who haunted his days and nights. Not this messy-haired Auror standing in front of him.
“He wants my opinion?”
Potter shrugged. “There aren’t many other joint magic and medicine specialists I can ask.”
Draco twisted his mouth, chewing on his lip as he decided whether to agree or not. “Does it merit a second opinion?”
“Don’t be such a fussy pants,” Sarah said. “Come on, you’ll find this interesting. Come into my office and we can discussit.” Draco shook his head, and silently counted to ten as he saw Potter mouthing ‘fussy pants’ as Sarah walked into her room.
Once they had sat down, Potter cleared his throat. “So basically I want to ask about scar removal. Curse scars, that is.”
Draco looked up at the lightning bolt just visible beneath Potter’s hair.
“Yeah, like that. Something left by Dark Magic.”
“I’ve never seen a scar left by the Killing C—”
“This wasn’t left by a Killing Curse.” Potters hand went to his head. “I know everyone thinks that, but it was something else, something terrible.” He sighed. “Something that died with Voldemort, but the scar remains.”
“You really want to remove it? Your trademark scar?”
Potter frowned. “I know everyone thinks of the scar when they think of me – just draw a little zigzag and two circles and you’ve drawn Harry Potter – but actually I got this the night my parents died, and there used to be… side effects. When Voldemort was alive.” He rubbed his scar again, then stared at the floor. Draco looked over at Sarah, whose attention was fixed on Potter. “But anyway,” Potter said. “I was just using it as an example; I’m fine with my scar now.”
Draco thought to the fine silver lines across his own chest. Potter’s eyes flicked to the same spot and then their eyes met, and Draco knew that they were remembering the same thing. Potter looked away.
“We’ve all got our scars,” Draco said quietly. “Most people haven’t asked for them, but learn to live with them.”
“Most people,” Potter said. “But there are plenty who haven’t. Tell me,” he paused, and leant forward so that Draco saw only him, Sarah lost on the edge of his vision. “Do you know what happened to Lavender Brown at the Battle?”
Draco’s throat was tight. It ached, and his mouth was dry.
“Did you ever see what Greyback did to her?” Potter sat back in his chair, his face set in hard lines. “Actually, maybe you’re not the person to get a second opinion from.”
From his other side, Draco heard an intake of breath. Sarah knew his history, of course she did, but he knew it was different, seeing him with Potter like this.
“Yes, to answer your question, I do know what Greyback did to her. I know everything he did at Hogwarts that day.” Draco wanted to look down, look away, but he forced himself to keep looking into the intense green of Potter’s eyes. For once, there was no overlap, no memory of visions. “I know that he attacked her and killed others. I know that she has scarring across her face, but I also know that magic can’t heal all scars.”
“Greyback wouldn’t have got into the school if you hadn’t let him in.”
“I know. Everyone knows, and no one will ever let me forget.” Draco’s breathing had sped up. “Do you think that you’re the first person to bring this up, to throw it in my face?” He was beginning to feel shaky. Every time this came up, it was the same. Draco knew that his own feelings about any of this were immaterial, as far as anyone else was concerned. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. “I know,” Draco said, more quietly. “Of course I do. Why do you think I spent time trying to help with the research into Healing and curses?”
“Spent? You’re not working on it at the moment?”
“Potter, I’m guessing you already know the answer to that.
Potter smiled then, just enough to lift the corners of his mouth. “I was curious about what your reaction would be.”
“And the whole Muggle-doctor-Healer story?”
“Oh, that’s still true. I’m interested in how Muggle medicine could be of use.”
“Wait,” Sarah said. “What exactly are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry for my subterfuge,” Potter said. “I want to fund some research and I want Draco’s… input.”
“You want me to work for you?” Draco couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.
“A little consulting.” Potter turned in his chair to look at Sarah. “Also I really do need a personal physician with good knowledge of both worlds.” The warmth came back to his voice, to his face, as he gave her a small smile. The frown didn’t leave her face.
“Why not just ask?” Sarah said.
“I doubt that Draco would have spoken to me—”
“And this is better?” Draco said. “Why should I speak to you now?”
Potter held his head up. “All I’m asking is that you think about it. My interest in research is unconnected to my job at the DMLE. I can leave you some contact details for my current research team. Look, Draco, I knew this would be a difficult conversation, and I thought it was better to hear the offer from me directly.” He stood, and left a card on Sarah’s desk. “I’ll see myself out. Just… think about it.”
After the door clicked shut behind Potter, Draco’s heart was still racing.
“Wow, you two really do have a… past, don’t you?” Sarah stared wide-eyed at Draco.
“You could say that.” Draco couldn’t see how they could ever work together, let alone anything else.
On his way home, Draco brushed his hand along the sun-warmed bricks of a wall, and found himself walking a different road with Harry by his side. Smiling Harry, full of laughter, grabbing his hand and kissing it. Draco stopped walking, and the vision faded. After a few deep long breaths he was able to continue again. His encounter with Potter had confirmed for him that these visions had no basis in reality. Potter could not be more different to the Harry of his visions. In fact he was different enough that for a while back at the surgery, Draco had forgotten about the visions entirely.
The next day Potter dropped off a sheaf of papers and rolls of parchment: information about the research he was funding. He walked in, all smiles again, and Draco watched Sarah visibly soften beneath the charm offensive. Draco slunk back to his room, sickened by the whole display.
The reports sat, unread, on his desk for the rest of the day.
Draco tried to ignore the papers, pushing them to one side as he saw patients. He left them at the surgery when he went home, and refused to look at them when he got in the next day. By his morning tea break, his curiosity had won through. He scowled at the first page, put his cup of tea down to read the second, then raced through the rest with growing interest. Damn the fact that this was tied to Potter! The approach the research was taking, the careful overview and testing of Muggle practices with and without the addition of magic – it was all fascinating. And from their early results, Draco could see that there was a small glimmer of hope for those bearing curse wounds.
The next time Potter came in to see Sarah, Draco came to stand by the door to his office. He watched as Potter chatted easily to Melissa. When Potter looked up, pausing as he reached out to pat Melissa’s hand, Draco drummed up the courage to speak.
“I’ll help you.” Draco waved the stack of reports. “I want to meet the people you’ve already got working on this.”
“I knew you’d come round,” Potter said, and flashed him a smile. He whispered something to Melissa, who laughed a little too loudly.
“I’m only interested in the work.” Draco’s last few words were almost swallowed as Potter crossed the room and stood so close, Draco could practically feel the heat coming off his body. Draco still hadn’t got used to seeing Potter in his space like this. He took a step back.
“Why don’t we meet to talk it over? Dinner, tonight?”
Draco couldn’t answer, as the inevitable memories of dinner dates – none real – overwhelmed him. Instead, he blinked, and silently cursed himself for being so feeble.
“I’ll take that as a yes. I’ll meet you on the corner of Windmill Street and Charlotte Street at eight. Don’t be late.”
Potter was gone by the time Draco had regained the ability to speak. He shut himself in his consulting room, and leant against the door. He needed to find out whether Granger had made any progress on his curse. Or the Auror – Goosander, he’d finally remembered her name – with finding the person who had cast it.
Dinner was the most confusing thing to happen to Draco yet. On the one hand, it was a blessed relief not to be plagued by visions, but on the other, it was totally disarming talking to Potter. He wasn’t anything like Draco remembered from school. Thinking of names to call Potter had been one of his favourite pastimes back then, but now ‘Scarhead’ didn’t seem quite so funny. Actually, as Draco twirled fettuccine around a fork and nodded as Potter talked about how he envisaged offering free curse scar healing and developing better training for Healers, Draco found himself nodding along. Potter seemed serious about the research.
The Harry of his visions seemed far away from this solemn Potter happily talking about cortisone and magical fields and healing rates. The playboy hero he’d read about was also absent. When the waitress came to clear their plates away, and Potter charmed her with one of his smiles, Draco remembered that Potter moved from one conquest to another. He shook his head to clear such thoughts away. Why was he thinking about this? The stupid curse had addled his brain.
Draco ordered a ridiculously rich chocolate dessert and resolved to enjoy what was left of the evening. At least while he was with Potter he got to have a break from the visions.
The next time Potter decided that they should meet over the weekend, for morning coffee. He pressed a small piece of parchment with the name of a Muggle Tube station scrawled in the most awful handwriting, and Draco hated himself for the thrill of anticipation that came with the touch. Draco could appreciate that they were both fitting this in with their jobs, but these meetings… well, they did feel a little date-like. They weren’t dates, Draco told himself sternly. Not at all.
After Potter explained they were going to meet the research team for their morning coffee, they didn’t talk much as Potter led them through the streets of London. When they stopped on a residential street, Draco was confused. He didn’t know what he had been expecting: some kind of slick lab or a warren of rooms buried deep within St Mungo’s. Instead he found himself standing in front of a hauntingly familiar town house.
“Number twelve,” Draco whispered. He recognised now where he was: Grimmauld Place.
Draco knew how the sun looked, filtered through the leaves of the trees outside, as they fell across the bed on the second floor. He remembered the press of the stair treads, digging into his back. Draco closed his eyes. He had never stepped a foot in this house, yet he knew it. Sometimes he had seen it filled with light and laughter, other times shadows and misery.
“You know about Grimmauld Place?” Potter asked, frowning. “Not many people do.”
Draco cast about for a reasonable explanation for knowing about Potter’s probably super-secret house. An image of a tapestry, a family tree, came to him. Of a dark and moody Harry who tore Draco’s clothes off with a feral desperation, and backed him onto the rough fabric, pressing him into the hard wall. Draco forced himself to focus. “The old Black house. Mother’s… cousins, I think.”
“Yes. I inherited the house. It’s… a long story.”
Whatever Draco thought he knew about the house vanished as soon as they walked through the front door. The place was clean and bright, but rather than being laughter-filled it soon became obvious that it was a small clinic or hospital. A man in pyjamas with his arm in a large bandage was making his way slowly up the stairs, and called out a greeting to Potter.
They sat in a small sitting room at the front of the house, and Draco was surprised yet again when a wizened old house-elf appeared and bowed deeply. A whirling sensation filled his body; Draco couldn’t quite work out where he was. By the time tea arrived, his stomach had settled a little, and Draco was able to sip his tea without the cup and saucer trembling too noticeably.
Potter talked about the project, but Draco was only half-listening to his words. Instead, he watched the way Potter’s eyes lit up as he became more animated.
“So are you ready for the tour?”
“Mmm.” Draco blinked. “Yes, I am.”
Even though it was a Saturday, two people were at work in the room at the back that housed a mix of Muggle and magical research items, in a clinical version of a potions lab.
“This is Odwolfe Scovel. His focus is more on the magic side of things,” Potter nodded at a pale man wearing silver glasses. “And this is Celeste Mire, she is our resident Muggle expert.” A woman with warm brown skin, her hair wrapped in a brightly coloured headscarf atop her head smiled at Draco. They both put down their instruments – Draco didn’t recognise Odwolfe’s – and stood to greet him.
“We were both so pleased to hear that Harry had persuaded you to join our little team,” said Celeste.
“Only in an advisory capacity,” Draco answered. “But I am intrigued to hear about your research.”
“Witt Doddridge at St Mungo’s has good things to say about you,” Odwolfe said. “Your work on magical fields informs one part of our research.”
Draco didn’t know that anyone at St Mungo’s thought about him at all. He wondered if Odwolfe was merely trying to butter him up, or impress him by mentioning Doddridge.
“We’ve just been talking about different Muggle methods of scar prevention, and whether any would work for wizards,” Celeste added.
Draco nodded. This was all familiar ground. “They work up to a point. But then that’s true for Muggles, too.”
“That’s what I said!” Celeste smiled. “So tell me, what do you think about lasers?”
By the time Draco looked up again for Potter, he’d gone.
The sacral dimples of Harry’s back were an invitation to touch; Draco’s hands moved despite themselves. Harry’s skin was warm. Draco’s fingers spread, and, remembering the way Harry had massaged him, Draco pressed down into the flesh, his hands moving in a slow and wide circle. Beneath him, Harry sighed with pleasure.
“Oh yes, just like that.”
Draco smiled to himself. “You really are a spoiled little saviour, aren’t you?”
“Don’t you dare stop.”
Draco continued with his slow massage. He could still feel the gentle inner ache from his earlier tumble with Harry, but his dick nonetheless began to fill again. Merlin, but he didn’t think that he would ever get enough of this man.
The shock of emerging from this vision was like cold water pouring over him. It had been so… Draco didn’t have the words to describe it. Instead, he closed his eyes, wanting to feel again the slide of warm flesh under his hands. He ached with a want that had one name: Harry. Nothing about this was simple, but in that moment, Draco didn’t care. He was at home, alone. His hand slid down and this time he didn’t pull back; he wouldn’t deny himself this release. Every action now was tied up with half-memories, with warm laughs and sun-dappled skin. His eyes still shut tight, Draco lost himself to the memory of arms tight around him, of a mouth hot and willing, of wrestling Harry to a bed while gently mocking him. It all felt so real, and as his strokes intensified, so did the tightness in his chest and his sense of loss. As he came, Draco felt empty: none of this was real. None of this had happened.
When Pansy found him, Draco hadn’t emerged from his flat for a few days. He rested his head against the door before opening it, hoping that just maybe she’d lose interest and go away.
“Draco, you look terrible.”
He sighed. It wasn’t anything he didn’t know already. “Come in.”
Pansy swept in, wafting the cloying scent of her disgustingly expensive perfume behind her.
“Tea? Water? I don’t have much else.” Despite her poise, a fine sheen of sweat was beading on Pansy’s face and she looked flushed. The sun was lost behind thick white cloud, and the air was heavy. Draco was sticky with sweat. What he needed was a good thunderstorm, lots of rain and noise to wash away his malaise.
“Water, with ice if you have it.”
In the kitchen, Draco tried to collect his thoughts. Pansy had never visited so often, and her obvious interest in helping him was at odds with what he knew of her. What was it she wanted? He attempted a smile as he gave Pansy her water, but she ignored him, focusing instead on taking a long drink. He sat on the sofa, trying to take care to position himself with some modicum of grace. Despite the dark circles he knew were under his eyes, Draco did want to look presentable.
When Pansy put the glass down on the side table, her eyes snapped up.
“I’ve never seen you like this before. Is it the curse? Or is it… something else?”
Pansy regarded him as she pulled her top lip tight with her teeth. “Yes… maybe. Draco, how many times have you seen Potter this week?”
Before Draco could ask her what exactly she meant, there was a knock at the door.
“Wonderful. That woman is always punctual.”
“Which woman? Who have you been giving my address out to? Pansy, you can’t do that—”
“Relax.” Pansy nodded in the direction of the knocking. “It’s just Hermione. You better let her in.”
Granger’s eyes were wide as she walked into his living room, her eyes darting from the Muggle photos on his shelves to the pile of magic books on divination sitting on the table by the window.
“Yes, I live here, no I don’t have any house-elves, yes this is a Muggle flat.”
“I– Of course– It’s not…”
“Have a good poke around while I get you a drink. It’s really not that interesting, but I can see you want to have a nose.”
Granger flushed red. “I’m not here to look around, I’m here to let you know what I’ve found out so far. I can just go, if you’d prefer.”
“Draco, don’t be such an insufferable pillock,” Pansy said, glaring from her seat in the armchair. “Now go fetch Hermione a drink. And say sorry.”
When Draco came back with more iced water and some glasses, Pansy and Granger were deep in discussion about some work-related gossip. Draco passed Granger her water and was rewarded with a brief glance and a nod, before she returned to grilling Pansy about what sounded like the back room deals of the Wizengamot. Pansy’s value to Granger was beginning to become clear: Pansy obviously had access to everyone’s secrets. Draco found it strange that it was Granger Pansy had chosen to align herself with; Pansy had hated her at school.
Pansy looked up and caught Draco’s eye. Granger broke off and started to root around in her bag, and Pansy mouthed the word ‘hot’ at Draco. He shook his head: obviously Pansy didn’t hate Granger any more.
“First of all, I have a few questions to ask,” Granger said. She had unrolled a scroll and held a tall white quill in her hand, ready to take notes. “How frequently are you having these visions? How long to they last? Does your contact with Harry make any difference to what you see? And finally, how is the Auror investigation going?”
Draco was quiet as he tried to order his answers. “I, er, I have the visions every day. A few every hour, plus dreams at night.” He paused. “They last… not long. A minute or so at most. And when I see Potter – that is, when I’m with him – I don’t have any visions. It’s quite a relief, actually.”
“I see.” Granger scribbled furiously, the parchment filling with surprisingly neat handwriting. Perhaps not all Gryffindors were as messy as Potter. She stopped, and looked up. “And what about the Auror investigation?”
“I haven’t heard anything, and I don’t really expect to,” Draco said.
“What do they say about the curse?”
“He hasn’t told them about it,” Pansy said. “Because he is an idiot.”
“Pansy!” Draco honestly didn’t know why they were friends sometimes. He turned back to Granger. “We all know that threats against a former Death Eater will be at the bottom of the ‘things not to really bother with’ pile for the DMLE. And I don’t want them digging around in my head, either.”
Granger raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. She tapped her quill on the parchment and looked back down at her notes instead.
Draco put down his glass of water. “So are you going to tell me what you’ve learnt? That is why you’re here, right?”
“If you don’t want me to call you names, you really should try to be a little less rude,” Pansy said.
“You’re one to talk.”
“As much as I’m enjoying this heart-warming display, shall I continue?” Granger had set aside her scroll and was watching them with bright eyes. She waited for them to nod before continuing.
“My conclusions so far fall into three general categories. Firstly, the nature of the curse. Assuming that the caster desired negative consequences for you, I think that it is safe to say that the curse is intended to be deeply unsettling at best, and to damage your perception of time and/or reality at worst. Secondly, I think that your interactions with Harry may be tampering with the curse on some level. Finally, it will be impossible to identify a counter-curse until we know precisely which curse was cast.”
Draco sifted through the information. He asked the first question to come to mind: “Should I stop seeing Potter?” Whereas a week or two earlier, Draco hadn’t thought in years about Potter in any depth, the idea of not seeing him any more—
He didn’t know whether it was Harry or Potter he wanted to keep seeing.
“I… I think that it’s promising that you don’t have visions when you see him. It’s as though…” She frowned. “It’s as though being in his presence cancels out the curse, just in the short term. I need to think about this some more though, before I can say anything more.”
“Oh, good. I mean,” Draco said, blushing, “it’s good to have a break from the visions.”
“No, what you mean is that you’ve got the hots for Potter, and want to keep seeing him.” Pansy said.
“Really?” asked Granger, turning to face her. “That is interesting.”
“He always was a little obsessed with Potter at school. Never stopped talking about him.”
“How interesting,” Granger said. “Because Harry—”
“I’m still here!” The words came out a little shrill, but they both turned back to him. Draco ran a hand through his hair. “And I don’t have the hots for Potter. It’s just… complicated. By the visions. And he charms everyone, doesn’t he? I’m always seeing witches fall at his feet. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel the odd flicker of interest when he looks at me.”
“A flicker? Is that why you shut yourself away and moped all weekend?”
“I’ve been cursed. I’m allowed to mope.”
“You have been cursed,” Pansy said softly. “Please be careful, Draco. I know that you see yourself with Potter in your visions, but you have to remember that they aren’t real.”
“I know.” Draco turned to Granger, who was watching him as though he were another puzzle to solve. “But does he ever—”
Granger looked pained. “I think that’s a dangerous path to tread, Draco. Pansy’s right. This curse, whatever it is, it’s intended to drive you mad or torture you. It’s very possible that any, er, growing feelings may be part of that.”
“So what am I supposed to do? You said to keep seeing him, but if I do—”
“Your visions will reduce, and perhaps so will any illusions about what lies between you two.”
“Oh, OK.” Draco felt empty, drained. He was weary of this whole thing: of seeing Harry time and again, of watching the way that Potter talked and laughed and his damn skin and smile.
“Look, I haven’t finished with this curse yet. I’m still going to try to find or figure out a counter-curse or cure.” Granger patted Draco’s hand, then sat back.
“No stone unturned, right, Hermione?” Pansy said.
Draco suppressed the urge to roll his eyes at her obvious infatuation. He sipped his water while Pansy and Granger returned to gossiping about work. He tried not to think about the future.
This didn’t feel like the visions at all. This felt real. Late evening sun warmed the room, but both Harry and Draco were focused on the lists of potions in front of them. He wasn’t sure quite when Potter had merged into Harry, but it seemed ridiculous to keep calling him ‘Potter’ when everyone else said ‘Harry’. Besides, Harry always called him ‘Draco’ now.
They were sitting close enough that Draco could feel the press of Harry’s body. Was Harry as aware of him as he was of Harry? It seemed unlikely.
“I never saw you as someone who’d have an interest in research.”
“Like I told you before, don’t believe everything you read in the papers.” Harry sat back and grinned. “Seriously though, as I see it, the war is over, but the scars remain.” He shrugged. “I‘ve been on many tours of scar units. I get letters. And it’s something I can understand, a little.” As it often did, his hand went to his forehead. His hand dropped and he met Draco’s eyes. “I’m sorry, you know, about cu–“ He broke off to take a deep breath. “I’m sorry for cutting you open like that. I didn’t know what the spell was. Just that it was for enemies.”
“I—” It all came flooding back: not just the pain of being sliced open like that, but the hate and fear of that year. “I’m sorry, too.” He met Harry’s eyes. “I made some really bad choices. I… I have a lot of people to apologise to. Helping you with this… it’ll never be enough, not really.”
Draco held onto the tight ball of pain in his chest. Regret was too weak a word to describe how he felt about the past. This was the difference between curse-induced visions of naked limbs, and reality. It didn’t matter whether Draco wanted to reach out to touch Harry or not.
“It’s all in the past now,” Harry said. He turned back to the list of potions. Did he carry resentment, the way Draco carried regret? Probably not: Harry seemed to be someone who lived in an endless moment. Draco leafed through a book on potions, not wanting to have to talk again quite yet. This Harry, the one who listened to technical details with interest, the one who spent his free time with his oldest friends and who shared out his smiles freely: this was the person Draco wanted to know. The visions, when they came now, were lacking.
Draco had dropped in again after work. Celeste and Odwolfe seemed to be at Grimmauld Place most evenings. Draco suspected that they lived there, along with Harry.
“So with Muggles, they have similar scarring issues. When I was growing up, I saw all kinds of scars. It was only when I went to Beauxbatons that I learned that things like limb amputation didn’t have to be permanent.” Celeste flexed the fingers of her right hand. “I once fell off my broom and had to have the bones of this hand regrown. If it had been not an accident, but a curse though, I would have lost the hand. Like a Muggle.”
“Muggles are more used to injuries being permanent?” Odwolfe asked.
“Exactly. There is some focus on how scars form, but the field of scar reduction is built on the idea that scars do normally form. And that sometimes the body can react to an injury by scarring excessively.”
“Whereas we’re so used to being able to heal injuries that we associate scars with curses, and see their permanence as part and parcel of the Dark Magic that caused them,” said Odwolfe.
“So, if I’ve understood this right, you’re focusing on adapting Muggle healing and scar reduction techniques for Dark Magic curse wounds in wizards?” Draco found the combination of Muggle and wizarding healing fascinating.
Celeste nodded. “What Muggles might refer to as cosmetic treatment, although the ramifications go beyond appearances for many.”
“How much does the magic interfere with normal healing processes?” Draco had always found this to be the main stumbling block with curse wounds and scars.
“Well that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it?” Odwolfe said. “In fact, I have to get started on organising the next set of tests, if you’ll excuse me.” Odwolfe walked out of the room, muttering to himself as he went.
Celeste finished her tea and left too. As the door clicked shut, Draco turned back to Potter, who was watching him. Draco ignored the shiver that passed through him at Potter’s intense gaze.
“Anyone would think that you’re making excuses to visit us here now,” Potter said. “You’ve been here three evenings this week already.”
“Oh, don’t look so alarmed! I know that everything you have suggested has been most valuable. I really do appreciate your input. We all do.”
Now they were alone, Draco couldn’t bring himself to look at Harry directly. Instead he studied the warm brown of the hand leaning on the sofa. Thoughts of research or healing faded from his mind. How was Harry so tanned? It wasn’t like they lived in a particularly sunny country. Maybe Harry had a secret stash of Portkeys, and spent his weekends lounging on the Cote d’Azur or sunning himself in Hawaii.
“How are you so tanned, anyway?” asked Draco. “And don’t say Quidditch: it’s not just your face and hands that are brown.”
Harry raised his eyebrows at Draco’s observation, but didn’t comment on how Draco could possibly know. Of course, Draco had seen Harry’s body many times in visions, but that wasn’t why he was curious about the tan. He would have to be blind not to notice the way the warm brown skin extended below Harry’s neck, a triangle of skin and the lightest smattering of dark hair visible when Harry’s top shirt button was undone. Draco swallowed at the thought of it.
“How long have you lived in London?” Harry asked.
“Er...” The question confused Draco, focused as he was on Harry’s skin. “Three, four years.”
“How well do you know it?” Before Draco could answer, Harry stretched and continued. “Hampstead Heath is wonderful. Especially the ponds.”
“Ponds?” Draco imagined a muddy pond complete with toddlers feeding the ducks. “Sounds... lovely.”
“We should go sometime. You can’t call yourself a Londoner until you’ve been.”
Harry’s thumb idly stroked the top of the sofa. What would Harry’s skin taste like? Sweet, like honey, or salty like the sea? The thought was distracting. Draco may have touched it a hundred times in his visions, but he had no idea what it would be like to touch all that skin with his tongue. He would be a connoisseur of the creases of elbows and knees, of the hot places of the neck and the tops of thighs.
Dammit. Draco crossed his legs; he didn’t even have the curse to blame for the growing tightness of his trousers. Stupid hot Potter with his tan and his warm eyes. Draco was finding the scruffy look more and more attractive as the days went past.
“Are you OK, Draco?” Harry leant forward. “You look tense.”
“I’m not tense. Just...” Draco couldn’t meet Harry’s knowing eyes. “I’m always like this: I’m a finely tuned individual. I’m in a constant state of alertness.” Arousal, more like.
“Yes, I can see that. Very… alert.” Harry’s hand reached for Draco’s back, his fingers already beginning to move. “This isn’t tension – these knots in your back aren’t anything other than your readiness to… to what? Attack? Pounce?”
Draco silently counted to ten. “Don’t mock me.”
“What you need is a good massage.”
Draco went weak at the knees at the thought of Harry’s hands pummelling his flesh. He pulled back though, before Harry could do any more. “Don’t.”
Harry sat back again. “Fine.” His eyes travelled over Draco’s face. “Maybe another time. But you’ve still got to come to the ponds with me.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m sure I can—”
“Nonsense! It’s so much better to go with someone else. I’ll be happy to take you along, I go there all the time, anyway.”
Draco looked at Harry’s earnest face, and knew that he would not be able to say no. Not when Harry shone that smile in his direction.
Harry had insisted that they arrived via Muggle transport, but the train journey was surprisingly quick, and the station close to the Heath. They stopped to buy a punnet of strawberries, then walked beneath tall trees toward what Draco assumed was a large park. With the rear of brick flats as the backdrop, they walked past a pond that did indeed feature a small child feeding some ducks. Draco was unimpressed, but Harry wore such a smile of blissful calm that Draco matched his pace, glancing over every now and then to look at Harry’s face.
The knowledge that he was free from the prospect of any visions while he was with Harry was strangely liberating. It didn’t matter what choices he made: he wouldn’t see if they led to sex or kisses or soppy staring over candlelit meals. For once, Draco could just enjoy living in the present, and not some impossible future.
They walked, side by side, their arms brushing from time to time. Draco didn’t know if Harry felt it too, the waves of delicious shock sent through his body with each touch. If he did, he didn’t show it. Draco lost track of where they were, of anything around him, as he focused on the touches, on the warmth of Harry in that tiny moment. He only became aware again of his surroundings when Harry stopped walking. To the left of the path was a small body of open water, filled with Muggles.
“There are people swimming,” said Draco.
“Yes,” said Harry.
“But the water is green.”
“Is it?” Harry leaned forward, and peered down. “I suppose so. But it looks refreshing, no?”
Draco looked at the men and women splashing and swimming. They looked happy, and he and Harry were standing in the bright sunlight. It was hot. “I suppose. But… it’s a bit exposed here, isn’t it? All these people walking by—”
“Nothing like a swim in open water on a day like today.”
“You want to go swimming, here?”
“No, not here,” Harry said and Draco sighed in relief. “I want to go swimming further along, in the men’s pond.”
Harry started to walk again, and Draco hurried to catch up. “What do you mean, the men’s pond?”
“It’s a bit more relaxed. Men only. I gather you didn’t bring your swimming things? No worries, I brought spares.”
Draco stopped thinking about things like green water and mud then, because he realised that he was going to see Harry in next to nothing. He was going to see Harry virtually naked. Of course, he had seen Harry naked in his visions and his dreams, but this wasn’t the same. This was the real Harry Potter, not some spectre from a curse, or a night-time fantasy. Their arms touched again, and this time the jolt travelled straight through him. Draco squirmed as it went all the way to the one part of his body that he needed to not do that, especially if he was going to have to strip in front of Harry. Green water, he told himself, and lots of disgusting mud.
They walked through trees, across a meadow of long grass, and up a hill. The air was filled with chirruping insects and the odd bird call, as well as the inescapable heat. Draco tried to keep up with Harry without showing that his breathing was becoming more laboured, or that his head was beginning to ache in the fierce sun. If he had known that they were going to walk cross country like this, he would have brought a bloody hat.
The gentle buzz of magic washed over his skin, and Draco’s head shot round to see Harry quickly stow his wand.
“You looked hot – it’s just a sun protection charm.”
Draco muttered his thanks, too puffed to do more than focus on placing one foot in front of the other.
Draco stopped when they reached a large black sign, covered in rules and regulations, and a map of the pond. He had never seen anything like it. One sentence in particular caught his attention: SWIMMING COSTUMES MUST BE WORN AT ALL TIMES EXCEPT IN DESIGNATED NUDE SUNBATHING AREA.
The words ‘NUDE SUNBATHING AREA’ echoed around his mind, as he remembered the way that Harry’s tan seemed never to end. There was no way that Harry Potter, hero of the wizarding world, medical research philanthropist and well-respected Auror, would sunbathe naked… was there? Draco’s chest squeezed painfully tight, and he wondered if he would survive this day.
“Come on!” Harry called, and Draco realised that he had fallen behind again. There was, thankfully, a place to get changed, and Harry threw a small bag at Draco. It contained a range of swimwear, and Draco chose something at random. He cast a charm he had learned at school, but not from any professor. With any luck, the charm should hide any unforeseen… activity within the confines of the swimming trunks.
When he saw Harry again, Draco dropped his bag. Harry was… why hadn’t he known that Harry looked like this? He had thought the he knew Harry’s body already. And yes, there was the small round scar on his chest, and yes, his knees were still endearingly knobbly, and his hair dark and coarse where it touched his body. But… somehow Harry was full of edges. Not the inflated, hard edges of the gym bore, or the bony edges of the underfed, but something else entirely. Each muscle was just visible enough for Harry to have definition shade all across his abdomen, but it was all softened by flesh and skin. He was not over-built, but compact. Like a coiled spring. Draco wanted to reach out and touch, to traces the paths outlined in front of him. He tried not to look at the ones that led to the tiny black speedos that did nothing to hide—
A cough broke the spell, and Draco looked up. Harry was staring at him, and Draco was conscious of how pale his own skin was, of how Harry’s tan did indeed stretch over every visible inch of skin. Harry looked as though his skin would feel sun-warmed, all over. At his side, Draco’s fingers twitched at the thought of touching him and finding out.
Behind Harry a bank of grass dropped down to another pond. Light glinted off the murky water, the pond fringed on the far side with a dense line of trees. And men sitting, sunbathing and swimming all around them.
“Come on.” Harry led Draco to a free spot. “You must never see the sun. Your skin is so pale,” Harry said, and he reached out to touch Draco’s side. He pulled back his hand before he made contact with Draco’s skin. “Sorry. It just seems to… shine, in the sun.”
Draco could remember getting the train and walking here. He was fairly certain that this wasn’t a vision – not that he’d had one all week. Just dreams filled with longing. Harry lay down on the grassy bank and closed his eyes, but Draco stayed sitting, his arms wrapped around his knees. Was Harry trying to tell him something by bringing him here? There were so many mostly-naked men around them, Draco was pretty sure he wasn’t imagining the non-heterosexual vibe of the place. There was a small jetty leading out into the water, with men sitting and chatting in small groups, taking in the sun or splashing their feet in the water.
Harry had elected to sit in the full sun, and despite the sun protection charm Draco was soon almost dizzy with the heat. And perhaps with the sight of the lean body beside him. He shifted where he sat, glad for the charm on his swimming trunks. Harry looked up at the movement, squinting into the sun.
“I’m getting hot. We should go for a swim.”
The water was still a murky greenish-brown, but not as cold as Draco thought it would be. The wood of the jetty was warm beneath his legs, and Draco was reluctant to dip in more than a toe. Beside him, Harry crouched into a low dive, the muscles of his back tensing before he disappeared under water with a small splash. He re-emerged, wet and glistening. Draco’s mouth fell open, but it snapped shut as a man on his other side hummed in appreciation. The cheek. He didn’t want to share this sight with anyone else. The only thing to do, Draco realised, was join Harry. He took a deep breath and slid down into the water. He couldn’t see his torso, let alone his legs, and tried to ignore the panic that came in the murkiness. His panic intensified as his feet touched the bottom, which was indeed a little muddy.
“The best thing to do is not to stand, but to swim,” said Harry, and he pushed away, launching into a confident front crawl.
Draco followed, letting the water wash over his head in the hope that it would clear it of the fog of Harry he was rapidly getting lost in. Pushing through the water in pursuit of Harry was like one of his dreams, but he didn’t stop until he’d caught up. Harry greeted him with a smile, and Draco forgot about dreams and visions. Instead he splashed Harry, whose smile turned into mock-outrage and a volley of splashes.
Harry and Draco chased each other through the water, until they were cool despite the sun. They got out, Harry’s brown skin deliciously dotted with goosebumps and water droplets before he towelled himself dry. As Draco watched the towel passing over Harry’s skin, he decided that it was a good thing that they couldn’t use drying charms. There was something to be said for Muggle methods.
Once they were both settled back on the grassy bank, Draco began to see the advantages of coming to the ponds. Not just the semi-naked Harry – although a quick glance over at Harry lying back and sunning himself proved that it was definitely a bonus – but also the way that Draco didn’t feel over-hot and sticky any more. Now the sun was welcome, warming him gently after the cool waters of the pond.
He lay back and closed his eyes.
Beside him, Harry chuckled. “I knew you’d warm to this.” Draco felt, rather than saw, Harry stretch, and then rummage around in his bag. “You should have some water.”
Draco sat up; Harry held out a bottle of water. And then produced the strawberries from earlier. Water dribbled down Draco’s chin as Harry picked one up and bit into it, white teeth against red flesh.
“Mmm, these are good,” Harry said. Draco put the water down and wiped his chin, ignoring the trickle of water travelling down his neck onto his chest. Maybe Harry wouldn’t notice. “You should try one.” Harry leant forward and held a strawberry to Draco’s lips.
Sweet juice; warm fingers. Draco’s mouth was full of strawberry, and his head full of Harry. Draco’s body thrummed with Harry’s proximity, and he swallowed the strawberry with difficulty.
Once they were both sticky with juice and sleepy from the sun, Harry surprised Draco by jumping up and pulling him towards the water again. Wrist wrapped in Harry’s fingers, Draco followed willingly.
The rest of the day passed in a haze of sun and dips into cool if unclear water, and when it was time to go – they had been there for hours – Draco didn’t want to leave.
They walked back the way they came, and this time, Draco noticed a small sign with an arrow: ‘Nude sunbathing’. Harry saw him looking, and nodded. “It’s good fun,” he said. “But I didn’t want to scare you on your first visit.” He stepped a little closer. “My tan does cover every bit of me, in answer to your original question,” Harry voice was low enough that only Draco could hear. For a moment, all other sounds in the world were blotted out, and Draco struggled to draw air. As he finally managed to drag in a deep breath the world came rushing back to him, and Harry had walked on again.
Was Harry flirting with him? Was it possible that there was an interest there? Draco looked after Harry’s retreating figure, and tried to work it out. They had gone swimming together, but there had been no rubbing of lotion, nothing more suggestive than information about Harry’s tan. He was sure Harry hadn’t realised what his strawberry-stained fingers near Draco’s mouth did to him. Draco was under this stupid curse, and he was probably seeing more than there was.
Hermione’s next note arrived when Draco was reading about divination again. It was such a mess of a discipline, he wondered how he could ever have found hope in such patent nonsense. He put the book down with some relief. He decided to head straight to the Ministry to see if he could catch her on a break – according to Pansy she liked to stop for tea – and avoid wasting any more time sending notes back and forth.
The cafeteria at the Ministry was a little quieter than it had been before, with isolated tables of witches and wizards enjoying thick slices of cake and huge steaming pots of tea, or jugs full of iced pumpkin juice.
Hermione was easy to spot, as she was practically bouncing with excitement. She cast the Muffliato before Draco had even sat down.
“I was hoping you’d come straight away. I think I’ve found your curse.” Hermione said. She grinned. “It’s called ‘The Seer’s Folly’.”
“The Seer’s Folly? What does that even mean?”
“It’s an old curse, one used for… well, usually for pretty hateful people. Although I’d say that being hateful would be a prerequisite to using it in the first place, wouldn’t it? Anyway, it was used in long-running family feuds, or to for political gain. In one memorable case in 1295—”
“Yes, but what does that mean for me?”
“Oh, right, sorry. It curses the victim to see false futures." Her smile faltered a little. "I’m sorry, Draco: it means that someone wanted to curse you to madness.”
Draco’s stomach dragged down. In fear? Anger? Disappointment? He couldn’t tell. He certainly didn’t share Hermione’s excitement. He knew now that it wasn’t real then, any of it. And that someone out there really hated him. “Am I going to go mad then?”
“No, I don’t think so.” She still seemed full of energy, as though desperate to share a secret.
“Why ever not?”
“Because you’ve been spending time with Harry.”
“And?” Draco was confused.
“Well, that’s the other interesting thing I found out. The curse is intended to give the victim visions of an impossible future, one in which the person cursed is tied to their oldest enemy. I’m not sure that the caster knew who you’d see. It’s possible that you might have seen Voldemort, you know.”
“But I saw Harry.”
“Yes, and then you got to know him a bit better. Would you describe him as an enemy, now? Or even in the same way you saw him back when you bumped into him at the Shrieking Shack?”
“I–” Draco knew he could claim to still hate Potter. Maybe he did, but Harry… Harry he ached to be close to. Whether he was real or not. “No,” he said quietly.
“Draco,” Hermione said, not taking her eyes off him. “How do you feel about Harry?”
“I–” Draco couldn’t answer. His throat was tight, aching tight again, and his breathing had sped up.
“I see,” she said. “I do. I see the way your face softens when you talk about him. And the way you look so sad, too.”
Draco had to look away from the kindness in Hermione’s eyes. “What’s the point?” he whispered. “This curse, it’s worked, hasn’t it? This is going to drive me mad.”
“No, it isn’t.” Hermione reached out a hand, and squeezed Draco’s arm. “When was the last time you had a vision?”
Draco thought back. “I… I don’t know. Last week. And it wasn’t a vision, it was a dream.” A dream of waking next to Harry, rolling over and seeing that face and not knowing or caring if it was Harry or Potter, just wanting to lean in and kiss it. And then actually waking, alone. “But I don’t need to have the visions now, to feel tortured.” He twisted his hands in his lap, digging his thumbs into the side of his fingers.
“I think the curse has been broken. That’s what I wanted to tell you. The only known cure for the curse is if the enemy you see in the visions… well, ceases to be an enemy. If the visions have a chance of coming true.”
Draco looked up. “So you think it’s broken because… because how I feel about Harry has changed?”
“It’s good to hear you admit it,” she said gently. “That you… like Harry now. It’s good to hear you say his name. But that’s not why I think it’s been broken. I– I’ve seen that same soft look on Harry’s face, you know.”
Hermione’s words sounded as though they were coming from far away, from over an ocean. Draco tried to grasp at their meaning.
“That lost look. When he talks about you, Draco.”
“He talks about me?”
She smiled fondly. “All the time. We get to hear about your brilliant research ideas, and how amazingly pale your skin is, all over. Except when you blush.”
“Oh, mercy.” Draco put his head in his hands.
“And how you are clever and reformed and not like the Malfoy of our Hogwarts days, and yet how you challenge him and don’t let him rest on his laurels.”
Draco couldn’t look up. Harry had said all that? Did that mean that— Draco didn’t dare finish the thought. But hope fluttered within him. He could feel it in his trembling fingers and he could feel it in the tightness of his chest. Hermione reached out and squeezed his arm.
“You need to talk to him properly. Whatever happens next isn’t foreordained or written in the stars. It’s up to you, now. I think the curse is gone. Whatever’s left is down to you, and Harry.”
Draco nodded, but didn’t say anything. Hope seemed a step too far after all he had been through, and yet… he remembered green eyes and wet skin, and the touch of warm fingers, sweet with strawberries, on his lips.
“I need to go,” Draco said. “I– I need to think about all this.” None of it felt real, but then nothing had for weeks now. He needed to go home and clear his head. And then decide what to do.
Draco heard voices as he stepped through his front door. He had talked to Harry the night before – just a quick Floo call to thank him for the day out – but Draco couldn’t remember if he’d locked the Floo before he went to bed. He’d still been full of sun and the warmth and the memory of acres of tanned skin and inviting curves and hollows.
Draco frowned: he could hear a woman’s voice, but it was higher pitched than Pansy or Hermione’s. It was familiar enough that is was hopefully not a would-be assassin or attacker. Draco stepped into his living room, and found Goosander and Harry sitting on his sofa. Both in their Auror uniforms. Harry’s face was pulled tight, and he was holding a book on his lap. Draco faltered: Harry didn’t look happy.
“What are you doing here?”
“We’ve caught your attacker, and I thought you’d want to know straight away,” Goosander said, standing when she saw Draco.
“I didn’t know that Ha– Potter was working on my case, too?”
Goosander turned to Harry, as though waiting for him to say something, but he just gave a tight-lipped shrug.
“Harry isn’t on your case. But he is the Auror who apprehended your attacker.”
“I don’t understand.”
Goosander gestured to the armchair, and sat back down. Draco slowly lowered himself in the armchair, never taking his eyes off Harry.
“Early this morning,” Harry said. “There was a disturbance at an entertainment venue in town, and I was called out to deal with a potential Dark Magic situation.” Harry voice was cool, the words delivered mechanically. “After I had booked in the wizard causing the disturbance, I ran his magical signature through our database.” Harry looked up at Draco. “Imagine my surprise when your name came up.”
“Er, Harry,” Goosander said, nudging him with her elbow. “Maybe I should carry on, OK?” She gave him a concerned look, then turned back to Draco. “It was that wizard’s wand that had charmed the threat you received.” She pulled out a small notebook from her pocket, and flicked a few pages through. “Do you know a Pierre Borman?”
Pierre… oh yes, well-coiffed hair and a flair for the dramatic. “Yes.” Draco’s voice quavered, and he tried to speak more firmly. “An old… friend. Or rather,” he added hastily, “an ex.”
“Ex friend or…?”
“A former lover,” Draco said quietly. “So… so it wasn’t because I was a Death-Eater, then?”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were cursed?” Harry said.
“The Death Eater part was a bit of a convenient smoke screen.” Goosander said. “And yes, why didn’t you inform us about the curse? I asked you about Mind Curses.”
“How do you know about the curse?”
Harry patted the book on his lap. It was only now that Draco spotted the title: Predicting the Unpredictable.
“Is that my copy?”
“I picked it up while we were waiting.” Harry held his hand up. “I was wasn’t snooping, I was passing the time. When I opened it, I saw it was scribbled all over, and was going to close it again when—”
“You don’t call that snooping?”
Harry ignored Draco. “—I saw this note in Hermione’s handwriting.” He waved a piece of paper. “And then I saw my name.” He dropped his voice. “I want to know what’s been going on. A curse? Talking to my friends behind my back?” Harry’s face was hard and he sat back, waiting for answers.
“I don’t really want to discuss this with the DMLE,” said Draco. “I didn’t at the time, and not much has changed on that front. It’s… personal. I’m not in any danger, and you say you’ve caught the assailant?” He looked over at Goosander, who nodded. “I’d rather talk to just Harry about this, if you don’t mind. Some of this concerns him, and he can report back if any of it is pertinent to your case. Would that be acceptable?”
Goosander looked between Harry and Draco. Neither said anything. “Oh for…” She sighed. “Fine. It’s not exactly orthodox, but I’ll let Harry talk to you about this after I go. Let’s return to Pierre Borman. You say that you’re not in danger, but you were cursed, correct?”
“Despite the anti-Death Eater sentiment in his note, from what he said when we questioned him about it, I think it is safe to say that he was motivated by more personal reasons.”
“He didn’t take the break up well. But it’s been almost a year now.”
“Pierre lost his job soon afterwards, when his association with you became known.”
“But he works as a wine merchant! What does it matter?” Draco was shaking now. Why was the world full of such vindictive idiots? Why did his past always have to ruin everything? He answered Goosander’s next few questions without really paying much attention. He had been stupid to hope for anything: with Harry, with anyone. He could never escape the consequences of his past.
After a series of monosyllabic answers, Draco barely acknowledged as Goosander made her excuses and left. The room was silent, and Harry was still sitting with his arms folded and his face closed and angry.
Draco decided to speak first. “Hermione’s been helping me.”
“Hermione is it?” Harry finally looked up. “How long did it take you to stop calling me ‘Potter’, and yet you have no problem calling her ‘Hermione’?”
“It took about the same amount of time, actually. I decided it was time to stop acting like a schoolboy.”
Harry tapped the book. “What is this, Draco? This book is about seeing the future, and yet I keep seeing my name in it. And the chapter on false clues has the most notes.”
“Not snooping, were you?” Draco said.
“You know I wasn’t looking at this book as an Auror.” Harry gave Draco a lost look. “Just tell me what’s going on.”
Draco stared at the floor. He didn’t want to look at Harry; he didn’t think he would be able to speak if he did. “I was cursed to see a future with an enemy.”
“I’m your enemy?” Harry sounded hurt. Draco looked up to see a face filled with confusion.
“No! Well not any more. And you were the one who used the spell for enemies on me.”
“When we were sixteen! I’m not talking about the past. I’m talking about now. You and Hermione were talking about all this, behind my back? Why did you spend time with me then? Was it all down to this curse? I thought—” Harry bit his lip, and stopped talking.
Draco took a deep breath. “I kept seeing visions of different possible futures involving you. It was… disorienting.”
“What kind of futures?”
Draco looked away. “We were together.”
“And this was impossible?” Harry said with a hint of steel, a hint of challenge.
Now Draco looked up. “Given our history? Yes, I’d say it was.”
“I—” Harry stopped. “I need to find Hermione.”
“Wait,” Draco said. “I can explain. It’s not—”
“Stop. I don’t know what to think. But I know that I can’t be here.”
“Please, let me explain. Hermione—”
“I still don’t understand what’s happened here, but I know that I‘ve been a fool to think—” Harry broke off and moved to the door. “I’m going to find Hermione. I… I can’t talk to you about this right now.”
The flat shook as the front door shut with a little more force than was necessary, and Draco was left alone.
Harry had left Predicting the Unpredictable on the sofa. Draco picked it up. Inside, the careful loops of his teen handwriting crossed over the more fluid lines of his adult writing. As he looked through it, Hermione’s note fell out – it was the most recent one.
Draco, we need to meet. I have important information about your curse, and about Harry too. I think you’re going to want to hear this.
He had wanted to hear it, and for a short while he’d even thought that somehow he’d get a happy ending, after all. He’d obviously been wrong.
Draco was uncertain whether he was welcome back at Grimmauld Place or not, so he stayed away. He missed talking to Odwolfe and Celeste, but most of all, he missed seeing Harry. There were no more visions, no more dreams. It was all over.
“He’s here again, Draco,” Melissa looked nervous as she peered around the door to his consulting room.
“James Perkins,” Melissa said in a loud whisper.
“I don’t think that name has fooled anyone for a while now.” Draco steeled himself for what would probably be the last he’d see of Harry. “We all know who he is. Let him in and—”
“I’ll pass your other appointments onto Sarah.”
“Thanks.” Whatever other words Draco might have had disappeared when Harry walked in. He looked smaller somehow. Draco’s heart clenched at the thought that he’d done that to him; taken away some of Harry’s irrepressible energy.
“I spoke to Hermione,” Harry said once he was seated. “I still don’t understand why neither of you told me what was going on.” Harry looked up at Draco. “I might have been able to help, and even if I couldn’t… it makes me see all our time together in a different light.”
“I know, but I was… it didn’t seem real. The visions, that is.” Draco hated himself for messing everything up so badly. He could be honest, now. Even if it was too late. “I was scared of frightening you away.” He looked down, his throat tight with shame. “Like I scare everyone else away.”
“Stop, Draco.” Harry ran a hand through his hair, leaving it sticking out in about five different directions. “Hermione did explain a bit more about your curse, and, well, I was angry with you. I didn’t like the idea of you meeting up with me, while the whole time the very thought of being with me is enough to make you go mad.”
Draco swallowed, bracing for the inevitable rejection to follow.
“But… Hermione told me how you stopped seeing the visions. She told me why. She told me,” Harry whispered, “How the curse was broken.” He bit his lip. “It wasn’t just about you, at the end, was it? And… it wasn’t a lie, either.”
Draco shook his head, because Harry couldn’t possibly mean any of this. Whether or not it had been true, Harry would walk away. Because the curse had been right: he didn’t have a future.
“Draco.” Harry took a deep breath, as though bracing himself for something terrible. “I–“ He started again. “Haven’t you learned yet never to doubt Hermione’s research?”
“What are you saying?”
“I think that we should start again.” He held out his hand. “I’m Harry, and I’d really like to take you out to dinner some time.”
Draco stared at Harry’s hand, warm and brown. He couldn’t move.
“Draco,” Harry whispered, and Draco looked up. “Please.” Harry took Draco’s hand in his. His grasp was firm, his fingers hot.
“You… want to take me out to dinner, even though I didn’t tell you what was going on with the curse? I thought you were angry.”
“I was angry. I am, still, a little bit. And I don’t really understand what happened to you. But… nobody’s perfect. Besides, I, er, I actually like you.”
“Nobody’s perfect? Is that really what you’re basing this decision on?”
“Wait a second. Are you quoting a Muggle film?” Draco frowned as he tried to remember which one. “Are you comparing me to a man in a dress?” Draco still couldn’t believe that Harry meant any of it. “As for liking me, I get the impression that you like everybody. You could be asking Melissa out to dinner, not me.”
Harry’s hand was still on Draco’s, and he moved his thumb, brushing it once across Draco’s knuckles. “I’m not asking Melissa, I’m asking you.”
“I…” Draco thought about Harry emerging from murky waters, droplets sparkling in the sunlight. He remembered that his last few dreams about Harry hadn’t been due to the curse at all: the twisting ache he’d felt had been all his own. He thought of all the times he’d been scared, and all the moments he’d wished he’d known what the future would hold. Draco looked up at scar lines visible beneath a tan, and he leant forward and caught Harry’s chin with his hand. Harry’s lips parted with a small breath in, and Draco kissed him.
Harry had his hands in Draco’s hair almost instantly, and they both craned forward to deepen the kiss.
The kiss wasn’t like any of the kisses from Draco’s visions. There was sadness mixed in with the still-impossible-to-believe realisation that he was finally kissing Harry. Draco held onto Harry with more hunger than he’d thought possible; he didn’t want to let go. He didn’t want a future where he had to.
“Fuck dinner,” Draco said as they pulled apart, breathless and red-lipped from the kiss. He felt in his pocket for his wand, and closed his eyes tight to pull Harry into a side-along Apparition. They stumbled in the hallway to his flat. “I’ve had dinner with you already. More than once if you count the stupid curse and the visions. Besides, there are other things I’d far rather see you do with your mouth.”
“Oh.” Harry’s eyes were wide and a little wild. “I think I could come to like this side of you.” He took a step closer to Draco, their bodies close, and leant forward for another kiss. His glasses squashed between them, and Draco gently pulled them off and put them on the shelf by the front door. They rested against each other, breath hot and limbs trembling.
“I’ve wanted to do this for weeks.” Harry pushed Draco back until he was pressed up against the wall. “Your mouth is completely kissable, you know.”
“I bet you say that to all the boys.” Draco was trembling.
“No.” Harry shook his head. But then his smile faded. “Well, maybe. But not anymore.” Sloping sunlight caught Harry’s eyes. Without his glasses it was clear just how green they were. “You– you’re something else.”
Harry laughed. “You’re sure of yourself.”
“Well, I’ve seen a hundred versions of the future.” Draco suddenly saw it, the inevitability of this moment. Even when it had been impossible, something inside him had always stirred at the thought, the thrilling, forbidden thought, of the two of them together. “And in every one you– we–”
Harry kissed him. “This is my first time with you, but for you this is all old.”
“This isn’t the same at all,” Draco said. “This is real. After a while, the visions were just a distraction.”
“What did you see?”
“I saw this,” he kissed Harry again, warm and close. “But it wasn’t you. It was a version of you – a version of me, too – but after a while I didn’t want to see you in visions. They might have given me a taste of what might be, it wasn’t real. I wanted the real you.”
“I’m here now.”
“Oh, I know.” Draco pushed his hips forwards into Harry’s and was rewarded with a small gasp and a returning pressure. “I want you,” he said, his voice low and urgent.
“Me too.” Harry’s fingers moved to Draco’s neck, undoing the top buttons of his shirt. As Harry worked his way down, he placed hot, hungry kisses on Draco’s neck. As the last button pinged open, Harry’s hands moved to Draco’s back. His thumbs moved with just the right amount of pressure, and Draco groaned.
“That feels so good.” Draco wanted more. He half-remembered the vision-massage, but more than that, he could feel the heat of Harry’s hands, the way his own flesh moved beneath them. Draco brought his hand to Harry’s face, and pulled him in for another kiss; a hungry, devouring kiss.
Draco’s shirt fell to the ground, and Harry stood back. “You’re so pale,” Harry said. His hands went to the bottom of his own t-shirt, and in one swift movement he pulled it off over his head. Draco swallowed again, at the sight of Harry’s warm skin, curving into inviting lines around his abdomen and sides.
“And you look good enough to eat.” Draco reached out and ran his hands over Harry’s skin. “Merlin, you are actually hot.”
Harry grinned. “You’re the one who got me like this.”
“Come on.” Draco hooked his fingers into the top of Harry’s trousers. “Enough talking.” He meant to pull Harry into his bedroom, but his fingers brushed something hard. And warm.
“Fuck.” Harry groaned. “More.”
Draco didn’t need telling twice. He thrust his hand into the tight, hot space, and wrapped his hands around Harry’s cock. His visions had never felt this immediate, this heated and desperate. He wanted to see Harry’s cock. He had an idea of how it looked, but he wanted to touch it and smell it and run his tongue along every last inch of it.
Draco dropped to his knees, and popped open the stiff button at Harry’s fly. Above him, he could hear Harry breathing; harsh breaths filled with anticipation. Draco pulled down Harry’s trousers and underwear, and nearly fell back in surprise.
“Fucking hell,” he said in awed tones. “Your tan really is all over.”
“What? Yes,” Harry said, his voice rippling with amusement. “‘Naked sunbathing this way’, remember?” He wiggled his hips, causing his tanned erection to bob in front of Draco’s face. “Enough with the looking though, you can do that later.”
Draco touched his nose to Harry’s dick. It smelled warm and musky, and he stuck his tongue out and gave it an experimental lick. Harry’s breath hitched, and Draco’s own cock gave a corresponding twitch. With a smile to himself, Draco decided to see what other noises he could elicit from Harry. He deployed every hard-won blow job skill at his disposal. Draco lapped at the tender ridges, and dipped his tongue in the beading tip; he took Harry deep in his mouth. He sucked and nipped and kissed and consumed Harry, until he wasn’t aware of the groans and moans Harry made, only of the tightening grasp on his hair and almost painful press of his own erection.
Harry pulled him away, and Draco stood up, his lips tingling from his efforts. Harry’s eyes were wide, and a dull blush suffused his upper body. Sweat glistened on his face and across his chest, and Draco’s mouth fell open again at the sight. Harry pulled him close for a kiss, and there was a rough edge to this one that hadn’t been there before.
“I don’t want to come yet. Not until I’ve seen your cock. Not until I’m inside you.”
How Draco didn’t come right then, he didn’t know. Instead though, he groaned and pulled Harry, finally, toward the bedroom.
Harry shuffled for a moment, then stopped to kick off his trousers, bending slightly to do so and giving Draco a glimpse of his brown bum. In the bedroom, Harry knelt to remove Draco’s trousers, humming in appreciation as Draco’s aching cock finally sprang free. He pushed Draco onto the bed climbed on top of him.
“You lucky…” Harry kissed Draco on the chest, pausing to lick his nipple before travelling lower. “Bastard. Getting to preview all this.”
“It wasn’t the same—”
Harry circled Draco’s navel with his tongue, and Draco bucked up off the bed. Harry chuckled. “Oh, I’ve not started yet.” He moved lower still, but bypassed Draco’s cock. Instead, he elected to bite down gently on the inside of Draco’s thigh. Then he kissed upward, ending by licking Draco’s balls. He closed his mouth on Draco’s cock, and Draco couldn’t help but squeeze his eyes shut, too overwhelmed to keep them open. He could hear the blood pumping in his ears, and feel his toes curling with pleasure. Draco twisted with the intensity of it, and his dick pulled out of Harry’s mouth.
“Let’s make some proper memories,” Harry said.
Draco groaned. “That’s ridiculously cheesy. Merlin, what am I doing with you?”
Harry grasped Draco’s dick and gave it a long, slow rub. Draco thrust up into his hand. “Patience,” Harry said, and he smiled. He held up his other hand and waggled his eyebrows. “Accio lube!”
Draco laughed as a tube sped through the air from one of his bedside drawers. “Show off.”
Harry just grinned and caught the tube.
“If you think that was showing off, those visions of yours were way off the mark.”
A not-so-short time later, as Draco lay on his bed, panting, drenched in sweat, and quite unable to stand due the way his legs wouldn’t stop shaking, he could not help but agree. His visions had been nothing like reality. This was much better.
~The Future, Unknowable~
Draco woke from a dream of long limbs and murky water, of breaking through the surface to bright sunlight. A memory, he realised, from long ago. The soft sound of birdsong signalled the start of a new day, although the light that filled the room was still grey and weak. Beside him, Harry murmured in his sleep.
Draco turned to see dark lashes shut tight, lips gently parted. Harry’s face changed as he woke up, a soft smile creeping across his lips as he opened his eyes.
“Good morning, lover,” Harry said.
“Do you remember the first time you took me to the ponds? I had a dream about it last night.”
Harry leant up on one elbow. “Oh yes. I had to cast that charm – you know, the erection-hiding one – before we left the changing rooms.”
“Me too.” Draco grinned. “I’ll never forget how good you looked, all that sun-kissed skin.”
“Mmm, all that pale skin. Untouched.” Harry slid a hand onto Draco’s side. “I’d never seen anything like it.”
“I didn’t dare touch you. I thought we didn’t have a future.”
“And here we are, still together.” Harry yawned. “Years later.”
“I was right about one thing though.”
“I really couldn’t see the future. I mean, if I had, surely I would have spotted the Weasley-Granger-Parkinson love triangle?”
“They are happy together. Sometimes when Ron gets drunk he mumbles about boobs, lots of boobs.”
Draco shuddered. “I don’t want to know. But it does make me happy to see Pansy so content.” He gave Harry a sly glance. “And you don’t want to hear what she says about your two best friends in bed—”
Harry shut Draco up with a well-placed squeeze of his hand. “Let’s not talk about them at all. I’ve got a much better idea.”
“Yes,” Draco said, bringing his mouth close to Harry’s. “I thought you might.”