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“Whatever is done for love, always occurs beyond good and evil.”

                               -Friedrich Nietzsche

                            ~   

The air is thick with the scent of sleep, warm skin and lavender.

Someone buried under a thick comforter lets out a pained sort of groan, stretching within their makeshift cocoon, before emerging somewhat ruefully.

"Deli!" They croak and not a second later, a tidy looking house elf appears with a thunderous 'crack' at the foot of the bed, her long ears pulled back with a piece of navy ribbon.

"Master Draco, Sir," she greets softly, bowing low enough that her pointed nose skims the floor. Draco Malfoy reaches out to brush her head with gentle fingers and she jumps, startled by the sudden contact.

"I told you, that’s really not necessary," he mumbles around a yawn before dragging a hand roughly down his face and pushing his feet into the slippers beside his bed. The elf flinches, her wide blue eyes briefly meeting Draco's before skittering away.

She'd always been somewhat shier than most house elves, even more so than Dobby, surprisingly. She's kind, though, and Draco tries his best to treat her well. Because in all honesty he still holds a residual fear of Granger and her S.P.E.W campaign, doesn't really indulge in the idea of being targeted by her for supposed House Elf abuse, tantalising as it may sound.

"Sorry, Master."

She produces a newspaper from under a dainty arm, presenting it to Draco like a sword and he has to stop himself from rolling his eyes. Good Grief - once a house elf always a house elf, he muses to himself. He’s fond of her, however, it’s impossible not to be.

"Would Master Draco like to read th' paper now or after his breakfast?" Draco considers it, wondering if he's coherent enough to process the utter codswallop that passes for news nowadays.  

He waves Deli away with the explanation that 'after breakfast would be perfect'.

She nods then excuses herself, visibly struggling with the need to bow as she makes her exit and Draco sighs loudly once she's gone, forcing a harsh breath through his nose before cracking the vertebrae in his back as he stretches with practised ease.

Grousing quietly, Draco pushes out from the folds of his bed and shuffles stiffly across his floor in search of a shirt.

Pansy's supposed to be coming over to take him out for lunch, and by the looks of things, it seems to be drawing close to midday, already. 

Draco winces and hurries into his en suite, meaning to shower quickly so he still has time to fire call Millie about that memory devouring pocket watch she'd accidentally discovered on her last work shift.

 X

A shower, it turns out, is exactly what he needs to wake right up and Draco finds himself feeling ridiculously chipper once he's fresh-faced and fully dressed. If one thing is for certain, it is that Draco Malfoy likes to look good. He's always been a little bit vain, no more than any other wizard and he knows he's a far cry from ugly, so what's the harm in being self-indulgent.

He makes his way to the living room, glancing at the gilded clock that inhabits the far wall above the fireplace, before begrudgingly deciding that he'd have to call Millie later. Pansy possesses absolutely no patience and certainly wouldn’t wait for them to finish a conversation especially not one about a watch. Draco honestly doesn't know how he had acquired such selfish friends - but then again that surely must say more about him than anyone.

It's a quarter to twelve now, so he decides to settle into a seat by an open window. Deli has laid out the Daily Prophet on the table so Draco decides to skim through it whilst he waits for Pansy to arrive.

Draco flicks through it in a non-committal sort of way, barely spending more than ten seconds on each page. It's not as though there's much to look at, anyway - the main story seems to be about a woman with the largest collection of Dibaba Teapots in all of Europe and a picture of her surrounded by an abundance of said floating teapots takes up the entirety of the front page.

One article, however, catches Draco's attention. It concerns his place of work, proclaiming that 'as an establishment, it is a vessel of mystery and ambiguity, founded on lies spanning back for centuries'. Draco tenses for a moment, before he sighs and turns to the next page. They're not exactly wrong, per se, Harkinson Bailey's is secretive at best but the Prophet is unabashedly crass about the whole thing. They have their reasons for remaining incognito to the public eye, being dealers and care-takers of some of the wizarding worlds most powerful magical tomes. If what they are doing draws too much attention from the media, it could attract all sorts of unwanted persons. It's in Harkinson Bailey's best interest to let them blather until they grow bored and move onto their next victim-

The floo abruptly bursts to life with a bout of green flames as someone appears within the depths of it's burnt-out pit startling Draco right from his train of thought.

He rises to his feet with the languidness of a house cat, wondering vaguely why Pansy is here so early - But it's not Pansy standing in his floo, it's-

Merlin, it can't be -

"Mother?"

He stops moving, stops breathing even, just watches as Narcissa Malfoy, who he hasn't seen in over a year, steps out of his floo. The layered skirts of her dress are gathered up carefully in her gloved hands to avoid coating the hems in dust.

It's almost like encountering a ghost, he thinks as he takes in the sight of her, and Draco has to fight the urge to slap himself for fear that he's dreaming. How did she even find out where he lives - 

Her dress is nothing short of stunning, over which she has tastefully draped a mauve cloak with shining onyx buttons lining the left side. Her hair is swept back from her face by an intricately decorated pin and flows down her back in complete uniformity.

She looks...well, she like she always has. Impeccable.

Beautiful, yet deadly. Like the nightshade which used to grow in some secret alcove of the Manor Gardens. 'A single touch of nightshade can leave a man delusional' his father had once told him as he had caressed the velvety head of one bud in the midst of blooming with the tip of his cane. Draco is sure his Mother is possible of much, much worse.

When she finally meets Draco's gaze her eyes are needle-sharp and restless.

"Draco," She greets extending a slender hand and Draco hesitates before reaching out to take it, helping his Mother to a chair near the floo. "What a lovely home."

He blinks. "Thank you."

She fits here entirely too well. Reclined delicately against a high-backed, ornately carved seat in Draco's clean, airy flat. With it's tall windows, lavish curtains and carefully polished wooden floor. He almost asks her to stay...but he knows she won't. And to be frank, he's not so sure if he'd forgive himself if he asked.

"How are you?” Draco utters, looking down quickly at himself to make sure his clothes are, uh, suitable.

His Mother raises a single dark brow which is enough to convey her slight amusement. "Darling, I adore you, but let's save the pleasantries for a later date, yes?"

Draco lets out the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding in, feeling his lungs aching vaguely as he draws in new air. His Mother extends her arm again and Draco doesn't miss the hesitation in her eyes though he still finds himself curling into her like a child, breathing in the scent of a familiar, sweet smelling perfume. He pulls back, feeling wistful and seats himself on the chair opposite from his Mother. He feels uncomfortably off-kilter, sort of numb because Narcissa Malfoy is in his bloody house.

She’d have never worn her hair like that if his father were still here. The style suites her.

"I have something important to tell you, Draco," she says, her voice a strange mixture of tranquil and sombre, like the sea before a storm. Draco nods, remaining silent as she speaks.

"There's been..." She pauses for the briefest of moments, weighing her words, "An occurrence of sorts. Concerning a missing persons. Of great importance, mind you, and a group of Wizards suspected of dabbling in the Dark Arts has taken an interest in his work. They're looking for him - hunting him down."

She stops here to produce her wand from within her robe sleeve: It's a finely crafted, eleven inch,  albino birch wood wand with a Phoenix feather and Veela hair core. He'd always envied hers - prefers it over his own, especially now that his wand is heavy with the weight of a sorrow which somehow makes him ache from the inside out. 

"They left this in my care."

Draco watches as his Mother summons something, the thing materialising in the space above their heads, appearing sheerly out of thin air. Draco can immediately feel the power radiating from the object before it has even had a chance to fully form itself and he inhales sharply.

Golden sparks fling themselves from the tip of his Mother's wand as she pulls the - book? - from its place suspended above, letting it fall gently into Draco's lap.

He waits for a single beat before ghosting his fingers along the leather bound book. It's a heavy thing and soft under his palm, Draco thinks smiling to himself, before carefully - oh so carefully - pulling back the cover.

Inside, the paper is worn and yellowing and he scours it for any sign of a name. He gives a victorious huff when he finds a pair of initials just on the inside corner of the cover.

S.S.

Draco frowns, tracing over the two letters thoughtlessly his mind lost in it's analysis.

"S.S?" He looks to his Mother for an explanation but her face has gone pale and distant, her hands twisting and fidgeting ceaselessly in her lap.

Draco feels his stomach writhe anxiously at the sight, remembering how his mother had looked the exact same way when Voldemort had commandeered their home. The exact same way as when she had first laid eyes on his Dark Mark, where it had writhed like the animal it conveyed, raw and aching, against his stark white flesh.

He pushes the sickening memory down, and closes the cover again, really studying it this time. It looks like... Like a potions anthology of sorts, maybe two hundred years old if his estimation is correct.

Potions? The word resounds in his head like an echo growing quieter by the second. His Mother knows little about potions let alone enough to make use of the advanced practises contained within this book.

Draco struggles with the possibilities until realisation suddenly barrels into him and - it feels like a blow to the face - he almost drops the book as if it physically burns to the touch.

His Mother won't even look at him now and Draco feels a noise, brimming with panic, surge up the back of his throat but he swallows it down and holds his breath. It tastes like acid and terror. He almost retches.

"This is Severus'." He whispers in confirmation and his Mother flinches at the name, her eyes restlessly scanning the room as if some one might hear him, as if someone will appear through the walls any second now and Draco wonders who could make a woman who has shared the company of the Dark Lord himself, afraid. The air turns instantly cold.

"Look at me," He commands surprising himself with the authority that resonates through his voice like thunder.

"Now tell me the truth, or is that too much to ask of you, Mother?" 

She brushes a stray lock of hair behind her ear and takes a moment to compose herself. "Whilst in Paris I... I was gathering enough memories to allow me to create a portrait of Severus."

Draco stares at her.

No. No she...She can't possibly be serious - How could she think - how could she have kept that from him?

He feels something bubbling just beneath the surface of his skin, threatening to burst forth and consume him whole. He trembles with it, so infuriated that all he can do is let out a bitter laugh. She had promised that there would be no more secrets when his Father had been incarcerated. What a fucking load of shite that had been. He laughs again for lack of knowing what else to do.

"How long?" He asks in a tone devoid of the adoration which had been there only moments ago. "How long has he been..." Draco doesn't want to say 'alive' because that really isn't the right term. His Mother nods in understanding anyway.

"He's been with us for just under a year."

Draco almost chokes on his own tongue, gapes at her. 

"You're fucking joking me! How dare -"

"Draco Lucius Malfoy, you watch your mouth!"

They glare at each other until Draco caves and mumbles an empty apology.

His Mother sniffs haughtily but doesn't say anymore. Good, she must know that she's lost her right to correct him, lost her right to tell him what's right and what's not. But then again, Draco supposes that she had lost that right a long time ago.

After a while Draco gazes back down at the book sitting in his lap, wondering again why Severus would entrust it to his Mother. It looks like an ordinary potions guide but Draco isn't so easily fooled; he can still feel the strange magic clinging to his fingertips.

"He intended for you to have it. Though I don't see how you could benefit from a Potions Anthology." She's confused, Draco can tell, but she suppresses it because there's nothing Narcissa Malfoy hates more than not knowing. He'd never told her too much about Harkinson's, he supposed it would just be another thing for her to worry over. He's in half a mind to tell her now, just to see the shock on her face. You know, balance the playing field.

"Why did you wait so long then? Why didn't you tell me any of this sooner?" He questions clasping the book tightly in his hands as if that will bring Severus back.

He'd never thought losing someone twice could sting so much. 

His mother grasps his hand over where he has a white-knuckle grip on the book's spine, stroking a thumb softly over the back of his fingers. Like she used to do so often when he was a child and it works. Draco begrudgingly feels his back relax a little bit, but he's still angry - still hurt by what she's carried out behind his back. No wonder she stayed away for so long, no wonder Draco couldn't -

"I did this to ensure you came to no harm, Draco." She says softly with a crease in her brow, as if she can't quite grasp why he's not grateful for what she's done. Frowning doesn't suit his Mother; it makes her look older, more fragile and if there was one thing that Draco's Mother isn't, it's fragile.

"I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself, Mother." He means to say it in a way that holds bite, but it comes out sounding small and tired.

His Mother's eyes noticeably soften. And Merlin he wishes she would just stop already, his head is spinning with the surplus of information pressing against his skull from the inside out. He thinks he might break-

"I don't doubt your abilities, Draco - I believe you - but you're still my son." She looks mildly troubled. "I still care."

Draco feels his eyebrows draw together and though he loves his Mother, the declaration does nothing to help the nausea spiralling through him.

He gives a tight-lipped nod. "I know."

Silence closes over the both of them as they both lose themselves to their own thoughts.

How exactly does someone go missing in a portrait?

Draco sighs, closes his eyes and imagines the face of his Godfather. It's becoming increasingly difficult for Draco to wrap his head around the idea that Snape is somehow alive, and even more difficult to confirm in his mind that he is missing,

"Who - Do you know who exactly is trying to find him?" Draco asks and his Mother gazes at him for a long time, her face gradually turning neutral. She only does that when she has something she doesn't want to say and Draco is determined not to let that happen. He leans closer to her, voice straining around the words. 

"Mother, please. If we are going to have any chance at finding him you need -"

Someone appears in the floo with a soft 'thud' and Draco snaps his mouth shut, twisting round to find Pansy half - frozen in the act of stepping from the floo pit.

She swallows, looking rapidly between the two Malfoys. Onyx eyes fall to the book in Draco's hands before flitting to his and Draco can see that Pansy knows this book is brimming with old magic. The air is heavy with it, like the sky before a downpour.

"Mrs. Malfoy, Draco didn't tell me you'd be coming over today," Pansy conceals her concern behind a radiant smile as she smooths down her robes and glances subtlety at Draco once more.

He almost groans back at her in response.

She moves swiftly over to Draco's Mother, bending slightly at the waist to press a soft kiss to her cheek. His Mother, ever the weak one for good manners, smiles at Pansy before setting her eyes sharply on Draco as if silently willing him to keep what he's been told to himself. This, however, will be extremely difficult, what with Pansy having an intellect to rival Hermione Granger's own and also because it seems like she's already trying to piece things together. It's as though Draco can actually see the cogs in her brain spinning.

"Oh no, I was just leaving, dear," Mrs. Malfoy rises easily from her seat touching Pansy's arm as she slides passed her on the way to Draco's floo. Draco's seen her pull that move on guests at various Malfoy Ball's before, to try to sweeten them up. Malfoy, through and through, Draco thinks.

"He's all yours, now." At that, Pansy scrunches up her already squished nose in feigned disdain and Draco has to smother a loud snort, thankful that his mother has her back to them. Having to explain why they were laughing would imminently lead to an awkward conversation about Pansy's rather fantastic discovery of her attraction to the fairer sex, and Draco honestly does not have the willpower to get through that, least of all with his own Mother.

Pansy moves to stand next to him with a small smile of her own and together, they watch his Mother climb effortlessly into the floo scooping up a handful of floo powder on her way, from a bowl on the wooden shelf above the fire place. She hesitates before muttering something in French under her breath, a prayer most likely, before smiling wanly at Draco. But it's paper thin and he can see right through it, can see this unmistakable anguish that lies behind the smile.

Her eyes meet his.

"Stay safe."

Then she's gone.

X

Pansy drags Draco to a pretty little patisserie in the middle of Muggle London which, it turns out, is run by a Wizard named Franklyn who Pansy briefly attempted to set him up with. Turns out Franklyn is happily married to the kind Witch behind the counter who is currently swollen with their third and fourth child.

They settle at a table by the window on the second floor where the sun shines through and warms Draco's milky skin.

He ends up trying to explain to her why Fortune Teller's haven't already gone extinct, even though it's been proven that their work is a whole load of Hippogriff shite.

"Vicarious reinforcement," Draco shrugs leaning back in his seat and Pansy crooks a brow at him in a way that says he sounds like a, quote, 'pretentious bastard'.

"You know," he pushes, smirking slightly as he tries to validate his point to no avail. "Seeing someone else do something successfully and feeling the urge to try it for yourself in the hopes that the result will be the same. Plus, Muggles eat that stuff up - they love it."

Pansy snorts as she takes a bite of her pastry.

"Right," She says sarcastically around a mouthful of Danish but not without giving a small hiccup of a laugh.

For a moment they both sit in amicable silence drinking tea and picking at the platter of sweet treats between them.

When he feels eyes on him, he looks up and, surely enough, Pansy's watching him from behind a chocolate truffle, quietly curious.

"What?" He asks and she shakes her head, unsettling some of her hair from it's bun, and puts the truffle down, pressing her slender fingers into the edge of her plate.

"Why was your mum here, Draco?"

Draco's mouth goes from perfectly functional, to drier than the Sahara desert in the space of a heart beat.

Bollocks.

He knew she was bound to ask about it eventually and was surprised when she had watched him stash the book away without uttering a single thing which is very unlike Pansy, who has an opinion on just about everything and anything. Blaise often refers to her as their 'Little force of Nature'. Draco has a few other choice words he'd prefer to use instead.

But, anyway, here it is. The big Question.

Draco could see his Mother's face swim before his eyes, reminding him that he is to keep his mouth shut. But Pansy's looking at him with an unwavering determination, the sort that Draco had seen on her during their O.W.L.S and N.E.W.T.S and he so badly wants to tell her about Severus and the portrait and-

He finds himself fiddling with his napkin just for a reason not to look at her.

"Come on Dray, I'm not an idiot, I can tell this is when you're in over your head - This is serious, let me help you," She says tilting her head to try and catch his gaze from under the hair that's fallen into his face. Of course, she's right but Draco won't allow himself to admit it.

"Besides, that book you've got positively wreaks of ancient magic and something tells me it's not all the 'good' sort, either."

Draco sighs.

"Pansy -" he begins and then his mouth utterly betrays him " - Snape's alive."

He claps a hand over his mouth just as Pansy chokes on her tea, spewing it back out like a mini geyser. It would have been funny if she hadn't looked so livid.

"Draco, what the fuck!" She fumes, dabbing aggressively at her mouth and then at the table. "Draco, what the actual, bloody fuck?"

Pansy has started to shake her head out of complete exasperation.

People are shooting them scolding, dirty looks so Draco leans forward and drops his voice to an urgent whisper. "Well not 'alive' alive. He's a portrait. Mother's been gathering memories whilst she's been in Paris, he's been around for about a year-"

"A year?" Pansy looks about ready to burst. "And she's only just told you any of this?"

He hesitates then nods and she hisses sharply between her evenly spaced teeth.

"But... He's recently disappeared - nobody knows where he is - and Mother thinks it's because there are some notably  Dark Wizards who want in on something he knows," Draco continues.

Pansy frowns. "How exactly does someone in a portrait go missing?"

"That's what I thought!" He agrees feeling his eyebrows draw together.

She nods."And the book?"

Draco shrugs and begins picking idly at his napkin again. "Mother says he left it for me - so I'm sure he knows about the Harkinson's situation. There must be something he wants me to do with it, something possibly hidden inside? I mean that's usually the case with these sorts of books."

Pansy purses her lips and picks up her truffle again, nibbling at it half-heartedly as she thinks.

"Have you considered contacting anyone who might be able to help you with all of this?" She asks, her tone careful and Draco smooths out his napkin against his thighs. Folds one corner, then the next.

Truth be told, he hadn't, he'd barely just gotten his head around the fact that his Mother has been keeping this from him for so long. Pansy was, again, correct though, he'd need to get a team together, and fast.

"I've heard that....Potter and his lot are quite good when it comes to locating missing persons," She says somewhat off-handedly.

Hold on-

What?

What did she just say?

Draco's head snaps up and he scowls at the mention of his childhood enemy. It all seems quite idiotic now that he thinks about it, but he's stubborn so there's no way he's backing down from his adamency to not go to Potter of all people for help.

"Potter?"

Pansy takes a moment to sip at her tea before she leans forward across the table, pushing a cake out of her way with a pointed elbow. She stares at him with a serious set to her mouth - an expression that Draco's all too familiar with.

"Look, as much as you hate the idea of having to ask Potter for any kind of help, you have to acknowledge that he's good at this sort of thing - you can't ignore that. It's his job to locate and track down missing people," Pansy says quietly her eyes flitting between both of Draco's and, this close up, Draco can make out each of the tiny moles and freckles scattered across her heart-shaped face.

Draco looks away stubbornly and he hears her sigh.

"Don't make this harder than it needs to be, alright?" She says reaching out to pat his hand.

"Pans-"

"Draco, please, if asking Potter to help lessens the risk of you getting yourself hurt in the long run, then do it. Do it for me, at least, if you can't even do it for yourself."

Draco glances back to her, finding a rather vulnerable looking Pansy peering back at him expectantly, from under her fringe. It's rare for her to let this side of herself show and his resolve cracks almost immediately at the sight. He covers her tiny olive-tone hand with his, a small smile forcing itself onto his lips.

"Fine, you selfish Slytherin prick. Happy?" he mutters and she grins, barely masking her relief.

He's secretly glad that he has someone like Pansy on his side, worrying and watching out for him. It makes him feel safe and he loves her for it.

"You bet I am, You poncy little bastard," She mutters back and Draco snorts. "Besides, he's not an ugly looking boy, if you're into that sort of thing."

Draco feels a flush crawl up the back of his neck as he attempts to stutter out a reply and Pansy smirks knowingly, withdrawing her hand from Draco's to take another measured sip of her tea.

"Sod off, Pansy," he finally manages, once he's got his tongue back under control and she smiles but says nothing more on the subject.

X

It's almost seven when Draco reaches back home after separating ways with Pansy for the day. She'd made him promise to write to Potter as soon as he was able and he'd foolishly agreed.

Right now, though, he wants nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep until next week.

Draco smiles at the idea.

Bloody Merlin, wouldn't it be brilliant if that were a possibility? He shrugs his robes off, leaving them in a pile on the living room floor, followed by his shoes, which he unceremoniously kicks under the coffee table.

Next, he hobbles into the kitchen, deciding that he'd need a glass of Firewhiskey before he could even remotely consider writing to Potter. The notion itself is enough to give Draco a pulsing headache. He pours one glass, downs it almost immediately, then pours himself another and carries that and the bottle of Firewhiskey to his study toeing the door open softly.

Marlow hoots at him as soon as he's into the room and he grins, puts his things down and hurries over to the owl, unlatching his cage and sticking his hand inside. The tiny owl hops happily onto his wrist and spreads her wings as if stretching, whilst she lets out another hoot of greeting.

"Hello to you too, Mars," he mutters fondly and carries the owl to his desk on which he keeps a jar of dried Wallow Worms. The owl eyes the jar and pointedly cranes her head round to stare Draco down. Draco raises an eyebrow at Marlow's impatience, yet he still uncaps the jar, fishing out two particularly fat worms.

Handing them to Marlow is a bit of a production because she keeps trying to pluck them from between Draco's fingers before he even has a chance to fully get them to her. Eventually he does, gawking as the owl simply swallows them whole.

"Sweet Salazar, chew your food, why don't you, Mars?" The owl simply turns her beak up at Draco in response and he rolls his eyes, setting the owl down on her perch at the edge of the desk. For some reason, Marlow finds it fascinating to watch Draco write which is ridiculously endearing. "

Alright, suit yourself, you just might like to taste what you eat once in a while, is all," Draco tells the owl. He then settles himself down in his desk chair and rifles through his draw for a small, yet durable piece of parchment. Luckily, he finds one right at the back, and lays it across the top of his desk.

The problem is, once Draco is sat there with everything ready, he realises that he has no bloody idea what he's going to say.

'Oh hello, Potter! My Mother has just informed me that the man who tormented you for the best part of, I don’t know, seven years? Has been made into a portrait, but, alas, he has disappeared because there may or may not be a group of dark Wizards pursuing him and I need your help to hunt him down ! Yours faithfully, Draco Malfoy, your childhood enemy.'

Although he's tempted, that type of letter really won't suffice and he doubts Potter will find it nearly as bountifully humurous as he does. Draco massages his brow and sighs.

Letters were never his forte, really ; he preferred face to face interaction. But it's not as though Potter and him are exactly on speaking terms so he doesn't have much of a choice on the matter.

Marlow hoots softly in his direction and he startles, then reaches out to pet at the owl's head with a gentle finger. Calm down, Malfoy, he tells himself, before picking up his quill from its holder.

He takes a deep breath through his nose, summons a pot of ink and begins to write.

Chapter Text


"Yesterday?" Hermione peers over her shoulder as she jostles some vegetables about in a pan and there's something in the subtle downturn of her lips that tells Harry she's annoyed.

He'd told her about the letter. About Malfoy's proposition, about the overwhelming yet underlying, almost desperate tone that had tucked itself away beneath each word.

Harry had read it, rendering himself speechless for the rest of the evening because if Malfoy is anything, it’s not desperate. He has too much pride for that, enough to flood entire oceans.

Ginny's leaning into his left shoulder as she flicks through one of her many Quidditch magazines, her head lolling slightly as she tries to read the bottom of one particular page. She smells like Dragon hide and broom oil. Harry somewhat likes the scent - it's comforting, homely. He blinks and the sky flashes behind his eyelids, can almost feel the wind on his scalp, the cold against his cheeks-

"Yeah, at around half past seven." Harry replies becoming increasingly distracted by the sound of something scratching at wood, only to look down and realise exactly what it is.

The little white owl that had delivered Malfoy's letter had never made the return flight, and is currently hopping around on Hermione's dining room table hooting and flapping her wings as if she's in the middle of a heated debate with no-one but herself.

Harry really can't lie, he's absolutely smitten with her, from the very bottom of his heart and can't help but wonder how a twat like Malfoy could own an animal like this. No wonder she didn't go home.

She's impossibly tiny but so very intelligent, so full of gusto. He grins and reaches out, happy when she climbs onto his wrist and scales up his arm until she can settle contentedly into the crook of his neck. He has to fight down the overwhelming urge to swoon and fuss over her.

Hermione turns, then, one hand pressed to her hip, as the other avidly wields a spatula - and for a moment Harry is sure she's about to launch it at his head out of sheer annoyance. She doesn't, but his suspicions stay peaked when she starts waving it violently at him as she speaks.

He knows that girl has a mean throwing arm on her, when it comes down to it.

"And he was contacting you, his self-proclaimed sworn enemy, for help?"

Harry hesitates, then nods.

"And may I ask what it is that he needs your help with, exactly?" Hermione demands, sounding rather a lot like a huffy mother, and Ginny barely stops a snort, pushing her face further into her magazine to try to conceal it. Harry smiles, yet still elbows her softly in the arm ; she quietens but he can just make out her smirk from over the top of The Quidditch Weekly. Trust Ginny to laugh at a situation like this. Give her the chance and she’d probably go back in time just to call the Dark Lord a noseless cunt to his face.

"He said that he couldn't discuss it in writing and that he would much rather meet in person," Harry tells Hermione and she purses her lips seeming thrice as unhappy as she was at the beginning of this conversation.

Sure, he'd made plans to floo to her flat the previous day, feeling too worn down to take any action on Malfoy's letter by himself. Now, though, Harry's not entirely convinced this was his best idea. Hermione, to put it lightly, is bloody pissed about the fact that Draco Malfoy would have the audacity to ask Harry for help with anything, whatsoever. Especially after having avoided the lot of them like the plague as soon as the war was done and finished.

On top of that, she had personally tried to reach out to him on numerous occasions only to have her every attempt either rebuffed or ignored completely. And, of course, Harry had felt bad for her but had expected nothing less from a selfish, cowardly prick like Malfoy. He feels his skin crawling with pent up anger, smooths it down internally, because it's not...professional. Rational, yes, but definitely not professional.

"'Mione, it really isn't that big of a deal. I mean yeah, he's a complete and utter, uh..."

"Wanker?" Ginny supplies without even lifting her eyes from her magazine. That makes Hermione smile, if only a little bit and Harry's chest floods with relief.

"Perfect. He is a complete and utter wanker, but if Malfoy's reaching out for help from me, doesn't that mean that whatever it is must be serious?" Harry plucks the little owl from his shoulder when she starts to fidget and holds her in his hands. She nuzzles his palm once, then flutters over to Hermione, landing on the arm that's still wielding the spatula. She's fantastic at interpreting emotions and can obviously read Hermione's discomfort from a mile away.

Hermione melts almost immediately and gently grazes a finger over and down the owls tiny head and back, cooing sweet nothings to her. She glances to Harry with gooey brown eyes before sighing under her breath in defeat at the hopeful look on his face.

"I suppose we could... see what he has to say. But I'm coming with you." Harry holds up his hands in a gesture of truce and Hermione rolls her eyes good-naturedly before turning back to tend to her vegetables.

He feels his shoulders sag, secretly grateful for the fact that Hermione insists on going with him to meet Malfoy. She'd be far better than him at any sort of discussion and there was no way Harry could talk to Malfoy without it ending in an argument or aggressive Hexing.

Ginny finally puts down her magazine and lazily rolls her neck and shoulders, pushing her long auburn hair back from her eyes whilst turning to face Harry in the process.

There's something under her gaze, something that tells Harry she knows about the trouble he's having coming to terms with Malfoy and his letter. Then her hazel eyes flicker away and Harry is left lost once again. Swimming through his own confusion.

"What do you think of the Harpies, this season - reckon they've got a chance at winning the cup?" She asks, abruptly changing the subject, and Harry is too glad for it. He'd really rather not ruin the evening by talking about prickly Bastards like Malfoy, as childish as it may sound.

Ginny decides to then prod him heartily in the forehead, digging a finger right into his scar to encourage a response out of him because Ginny has never, in all her adult life, had the mental capacity for patience.

Harry bats her away with a small yelp, feeling a shudder roll right through the entirety of his body at the uncomfortable feel of someone practically assaulting his forehead.

"Firstly: never do that again - like, ever." He begins and Ginny cackles loudly. "And secondly, I'm afraid the Maltese Mayflies are on form, I say they're in with a good chance of winning. Did you see what they did to those 'Dragons?"

Ginny groans dramatically. "Fucking destroyed in the first forty five minutes."

Harry's not too sure, but he thinks he might have heard Hermione's light laughter over the sizzling of the pan. He reclines in his chair with a small sigh and a smile.

"But you never know, the Harpies could pull it back, especially with a Chaser like Eliza Eldridge."

Ginny hums in agreement, looking decidedly sceptical. "That's only if that Hamstring injury of hers has fully healed by the start of the season."

Harry winces in response, only just remembering that Eldridge had taken a particularly nasty tumble from her broom during a match earlier this year. Everyone had assumed she'd be out for a while, but were surprised when she'd been seen back in training not even a month and a half later. Harry opens his mouth to reply, meaning to tell Ginny that Eldridge was a dependable player, when Ron appears with a low 'clap' in the middle of the living room.

He looks windswept and a little bit confused, but he seems cheery enough and they all twist round to watch as he kicks off his shoes and plops them down by the side of one sofa. Hermione tsks unhappily at the sight as she sweeps her huge curly hair back from where it's splayed itself across her forehead, the steam from cooking making it stick to her coppery skin.

"Ronald, how many times do I have to tell you: shoes go in the hallway. You'll ruin the carpet."

He grins, absolutely radiating nonchalance as he makes his way into the kitchen area with long unhurried strides. He stops to ruffle Ginny's hair, much to her distaste and she snarls at him jokingly earning herself a gleeful smile in return. Harry stares for a beat too long before taring his eyes away.

"Hi to you to, 'Mione," Ron greets mock-sarcastically, dropping into the seat to Harry's right and trying with no success to fold his legs into the space between the chair itself and the island.

Harry attempts not to laugh.

It's like watching a giraffe try to get into a muggle car and bloody Merlin, if that's not funny then Harry doesn't know what is.

"Harry," Ron says after promptly giving up, and throws a gangly arm around Harry's shoulders, pulling him into his side."How are you, mate?"

He's ridiculously warm, even through his hefty, black Auror robes and Harry struggles with not fulfilling the urge to curl up into Ron and stay there all evening. He smells like tea and sleep. Harry almost leans in to outright sniff him.

Pull yourself together, Potter.

When he finally manages to pry himself away, it's to find Hermione side-eyeing him with something akin to pity because she knows- She knows how much Harry likes Ron - has for years - and she also knows what a complete bone-head Ron could be at times. How teeth-grindingly oblivious he is. But, as much as he appreciates it, Harry doesn't want her pity - when he's ready he'll tell Ron, because he's a grown man who knows how to handle his feelings -Well... At least he likes to think that he knows how to handle his feelings but really-

"Hello? Harry? I asked you how you're doing, mate?" Ron playfully bumps Harry's shoulder with his own as he shrugs his robes off and hangs them on the back of his chair before his cobalt eyes flit back to Harry's. Harry’s stomach curls into itself, knot after knot.

There are scorch marks littered haphazardly across both sleeves of Ron’s tattered shirt, through which Harry can just make out unnaturally reddened skin and he frowns at the sight.

"I'm great - are those hex burns?"

Ron blinks slowly, then glances down as if only just noticing the damage to his clothes. He grins sheepishly.

"Oh, work was quite... Exciting today..."

Everyone squints at him and Ron's ears turn a delightfully bright shade of pink. Well, it would have been delightful, had the mood in the room not shifted so dramatically, leaving the place feeling cold. Cold and tense.

Harry frowns even harder. "Really? I never heard about anything from Nev's office."

Hermione locks her arms across her chest and leans forward with the same tautness to her body as a coiled snake, but it doesn't look quite so menacing with a tiny, fluffy owl clinging tightly to her shoulder.

"Getting a new broom is exciting, Ronald, Going to Egypt to study ancient magics is exciting, Ronald - however I don't think, somehow, that flesh-devouring, nerve-damaging spells fit into the above category, do you?"

Ron rakes a hand through his hair looking as though he wants to argue his point - and then his posture goes slack. He suddenly looks older, more worn through but he's smiling, still, even though it looks like he would really benefit from a two day power-nap.

Harry knows that feeling.

He knew it way back when he'd first began training as an Auror and he sure as Hell knows it now.

Being an Auror is a taxing job, physically and mentally. The onslaught of paper work, Spell competency training and bodily labour takes its toll eventually. He knows how some days it seems impossible to drag your body out of bed because everywhere aches, every muscle, every bone, every fibre of your being burning in protest-

But you have to get up because knowing there are people who need saving overwhelms the pain.

Ron's eyes go soft on Hermione because he knows she's only worried about them.

All of them.

Not because she doesn't believe in their years of training or their defensive abilities, but because -

she's seen what Wizards can do. She's seen the darkness that can reside within others. Has suffered the consequences of that darkness firsthand.

"I suppose not. Sorry for making you worry 'Mione."

Hermione goes very still for a moment and then nods once, stiffly, before returning to her cooking. Her shoulders stay tight.

Harry draws in a deep breath, touching his hand lightly to Ron's arm. It’s so warm under his fingertips. "Do you need something for the burns?"

Ron gives him a grateful look and Harry resists the temptation to reach out and tuck his hair -which has dipped from amber into Auburn over the last few years - behind his ear.

Instead, he pushes out of his seat and sets off to find the first aid kit Hermione keeps around here somewhere.

X

Once the food has finished, the four of them settle down to a cozy dinner, complete with Warbler Wine and Firewhiskey.

They absolutely demolish Hermione's stir fry because it tastes incredible.

They also find out that Ron's burnt clothing is actually as a result of an elderly Wizard's reluctance to give up his three dwarf Dragon's.

Apparently something had been destroying properties in a local Wizarding community via fire and everyone assumed that it had to be the Dragons.

Ron's team had been sent to investigate the complaints of the overseeing council.

Turns out, the Dragon's were harmless and that the old Wizard was actually the one carrying out acts of arson on Magical strip clubs and other such establishments in the area, because he'd been refused access to all but one which 'wasn't even that good!' according to the Wizard himself.

"Who knew the bloke would have such good aim - Merlin - especially since he'd only had the one bloody eye!"

Hermione chokes on her wine and reels backward, laughing so hard that her eyes begin to rapidly fill with tears.

Of course, this sends the rest of them into fits of very unadult giggles and Ginny is positively howling, now, having been holding it back thus far. Ron loops an arm around Hermione to keep her from falling because they're all rather tipsy, except for Ginny who unfortunately has to work on a Sunday and cannot afford to show up the next day with a hangover.

"So this pervert of a geezer, puts up quite a fight - I was impressed - sending out binding spell after binding spell for an hour, taking down two of our team and he's only 5"3'- no really Harry, I kid you not !" Ron has to stop to pull himself to together but completely loses it when Hermione starts hyperventilating because she's laughing so hard.

"Lord, 'Mione, I know I'm funny but don't choke yourself to death!"

Ginny holds up a hand as if to say 'no more' because she's gone completely red in the face from her excessive cackling. Harry grins - it's actually quite brilliant to see.

"As much-" she hiccups on the remnants of a rogue laugh " - as much as I'd love to stay, I have work in the morning and I need my rest."

"Don't we know it." Harry mumbles around a smirk as he sips at his wine and Ginny thwacks him on the head even though she's still smiling.

Hermione looks remorseful and tries immediately to tempt Ginny into staying with promises of more stir fry but Ginny politely refuses though it looks as though she barely manages to turn down the offer. That was some really good stir fry, Harry thinks around the buzz of alcohol in his brain.

"Hermione, I love you, but no." Ginny sighs, petting Hermione's absolutely wild hair before gathering her things up and Hermione pouts and sways slightly into Ron.

She then leans down and kisses Harry on the cheek as she shrugs her jacket on, an emotion briefly flashing across her features that Harry, for the life of him, cannot decipher.

"And good luck with the Malfoy thing."

Harry groans at the reminder, and rubs furiously at his eyes with the heel of his palms, happy to have briefly forgotten what he'd came here to talk about in the first place.

Harry doesn't miss the way Ron's smile drops almost comedically fast and his eyes swivel from Harry to Ginny in shocked confusion. Harry blinks sluggishly. Ron really is too cute for his own good.

"What Malfoy thing?" He asks and Ginny raises a brow, slinging her bag onto her shoulder before winding her bedraggled looking Gryffindor scarf around her neck. There is nowhere Ginny goes that her scarf doesn't - it's become a strange sort of second skin to her.

"Ask Harry," she says simply before drawing her wand, waving at them all and promptly disapparating.

Before Ron even has a chance to get the question out into the open Harry stops him.

"We should really put her to bed first," he suggests in a soft voice. Hermione is snoozing heavily against Ron, dribbling against his already ruined shirt and when Ron grimaces Harry can't help but to grin.

God, he loves his friends.

On moving Hermione, Harry rediscovers his little friend, the owl, getting cosey in her hair and Ron laughs softly. The sound travels right down Harry's spine to pool warmly in the depths of his stomach. Merlin help him not to do something he will regret because Harry really does not want to fuck up a brilliant friendship like this. Ron is undoubtedly one of the most important people in his life- losing him would be soul destroying and Harry can barely bring himself to think about anything like that happening. 

Harry removes his small friend from Hermione's hair and stashes her in the hooded part of his jacket which he carries out and leaves on the kitchen table once they've finished tucking Hermione into bed.

He and Ron settle down to talk, taking chairs on opposite sides of the table ; Harry pulls his feet onto his self-appointed seat, then brings his knees up to his chest and heaves out a weighty sigh. Sitting face to face, he can't help but notice the way Ron's jaw has squared up nicely with age and how he's stopped wearing his hair in that ridiculous bowl cut-esque style, instead, opting for something more modern and Merlin does he look good, so, so good.

They've all grown a lot since, since.... Everything.

War and anguish could do that to a person, he supposed.

After spending a good deal of time  explaining to Ron what he had already explained to Hermione, Ron simply stares at him, having gone entirely silent at around halfway through the conversation.

"And you're actually going to go?"

Harry shrugs lamely wishing he could think of something better to respond with. He doesn't know why, but the low light in Hermione's well-composed living room is making him twice as drowsy, his body hums pleasantly with the gentle thrum of alcohol through his veins.

After some deep thought, Harry comes up with a reply that far exceeds his current mental state.

"It'd be rude to just ignore him. Besides, the letter... It seemed important. I spelled it to see if there were any hidden messages and I found traces of extremely powerful magic. It wasn't all his either."

Ron nods his head slowly, his eyes gone calculating and sharp. Auror mode, Harry notes vaguely with an internal smile.

"Well I suppose ... If he contacted you, he must be desperate," Ron grins softly and Harry can't help but to follow the motion with his eyes, his fingers, his mou- Harry shakes his head to clear the thought right out of his mind.

What is wrong with him? They're discussing something serious and here he is, fantasising about snogging his best mate?

"Hermione said she's coming with me on Monday - she doesn't trust him either."

"Do you blame her? He's a two-faced slimy little git." Ron's lip unconsciously curls in disgust.

"I get it, but that's not the point - the point is that we, as Aurors, have a role to fulfil no matter who or what it's for. Malfoy or not, he's still someone who needs my help and respect to him for swallowing his pride to reach out and ask for it. That's a big deal, coming from someone like Malfoy."

Ron takes a moment to mull over Harry's words before his shoulders sag heavily in defeat. Thank Merlin for that, because Harry is far too tired and tipsy to debate with anyone tonight even, frankly, himself. Which is probably why he's defending Malfoy rather than mocking him.

"Right, I see there's no point in arguing with you, mate." Ron says and then laughs softly. "You and that bloody Hero complex.... But if he so much as looks at either of you wrong-"

Harry gives a blasé wave of his hand, hears Ron snort in disbelief and tosses a grin back at him.

"Yeah, yeah. I know, hex his bollocks off. You don't have to tell me twice."

Ron's eyes light up like stars in place of the laughter he doesn't let loose.

His face takes on a look of pure fondness which he then unleashes on Harry without so much as a warning.

It's so gentle, so soft, yet it manages to feel like a direct punch to the stomach, leaves Harry breathless, raw, almost gasping for air -

- and Harry reckons he could get drunk on that look alone, he's sure of it.

And in that moment he knows one thing and one thing only:

That he is totally, completely and utterly fucked.

Chapter Text

Draco spends the entirety of his Sunday afternoon psyching himself up for the meeting with Potter because the urge to not show up is even stronger than it had been the week prior.

He'd almost toppled over with sheer, unadulterated relief when it had seemed like Potter wasn't going to grace him with even the semblance of a reply... Until, that is, a letter had come early that very same morning stating that he would, in fact, meet with Draco on the strict terms that Granger would be accompanying him.

Draco had almost snarled a loud at that but had remembered that he was a Malfoy and Malfoy's don't bloody well snarl like wild animals.

Oh, but he really was feeling wild.

Typical Potter, can't do anything without one of his cronies tagging along, even after all these years. But he had also been surprised, half expecting Potter to outright turn him down, possibly through the use of a Howler.

Sweet Salazar Slytherin, Draco could only imagine what that bespectacled moron would have to say to him.

The following Monday morning had found him staring into the mirror for a good half an hour, straightening and restraightening his waist coat. Pressing at his trousers, flattening his already pristine robes. Tugging at his hair until it fell as he liked, curling soft and loose against his pale forehead.

Merlin, look at him - dolling himself up for the likes of Potter and Granger. Draco glanced at his bronze-plated pocket watch before deciding it was time to make his leave. He throws on one of his less...flamboyant robes followed by a pair of plain black patented shoes, which he had shined himself, for good measure. The last thing he wanted was either of the two making jibes at his wealth or favour for extravagant clothing.

He paces to his door yet pauses in the act of grabbing his bag solely for the fact that, in there, he'd hidden Snape's.... Gift. Draco didn't know how else to name it, even though 'gift', in itself, was rather ridiculous and not even remotely suitable.

He slugs the book over his shoulder, feels it weighing heavily at his side, more like a shackle than an archaic piece of literature, before prying his front door open and leaving.

X

The Grand Library is, well... A lot grander than he recalls even though he'd only been here just last week for work.

The building looms far, far above him - a monster composed entirely from white stone and masterfully-forged black metal. Each of it's four heaving pillars is thicker than two widths of Draco's body and he must admit it is both a terrifying and incredible piece of architecture.

Almost as much as Harkinson's is. Almost.

He sweeps through the high oak doors with his chin jutting proudly and his shoulders back, acting as though he's meant to be here in an attempt to get people to stop looking at him so strangely. It works to a certain extent. Most of them go back to doing whatever they were doing prior to Draco's entry. Yet some hold his gaze, stare him down with curious, vaguely disgusted eyes and Draco struggles not to sneer or swear in retaliation. Struggles not to shrink back from their prying gazes. There’s atremble starting in his hands that hasn’t been around in a long, long time.

The Librarian distributes a dark frown to those who continue to mutter until they fall silent and she goes back to enchanting a feather duster into cleaning the highest shelves that stand behind her. Draco feels his chest swell with relief as he passes by her desk, making for the depths of the Library in search of two Aurors.

He doesn't know what he'll discover but can only pray that he finds enough restraint within himself to keep from decking Harry bloody Potter square in the nose on sight.

Deep down he expects to meet a boy who's clothes are far too big for his scrawny frame, who's owlishly large eyes glare back at him with determined hatred from behind crooked wire-rimmed glasses. Or a girl, awkward and slim, with too much hair for the designated space on her head and overtly large teeth. Maybe a thick roll of parchment in her hand.

But he certainly doesn't expect to see this.

Not the man who waits in Potter's place, with a sure stance and an unreadable, emerald gaze. Still with that God-awful hair but it... It somehow suites him which just serves to make Draco despise him all the more. And a squared jaw, broad shoulders and - Is that his owl?

Or a woman with bronze skin, almond shaped eyes and full lips. Softly curling hair that is still ample but tame now, pulled back carefully into a high pony tail which only serves to further exaggerate the graceful curve of her face and neck. Draco's stride almost falters because facing them suddenly doesn't seem as impossibly easy as it did before. He finds himself straightening his clothing again, easing out his posture in an attempt to look unfazed. But he is. He's incredibly fazed. Because these are clearly not the same woe begotten child heroes he'd attended school with - these people are authoritative, influential and dare he say - powerful. He clutches his bag tighter to him when Potter's sudden laughter rings out across the open space between them and a smile morphs his face into something Draco refuses to acknowledge as disasterously handsome. He finally looks like the Golden Boy the world has been desperately trying to salvage from the wreck that was the war, someone ready to save lives and bring justice - or whatever other Hippogryff shit it is that Chosen One's do. Granger chooses that moment to fleetingly glance his way only to have the smile that had been on her face slip from it with the fluidity of water. Potter frowns at the sight and then proceeds to follow her agitated gaze and - It's like the world tilts slightly ; everything goes skewed, taking Draco with it.

Potter's brow dips ever so slightly and his mouth firms up until it's nothing but a fine, bloodless line.

He looks more...confused than peevish but Draco immediately brushes the thought aside, putting It down to the fact that Potter's most likely shocked by him actually having the nerve to show his face in public. He stops about a metre in front of the two, raising a single brow at them both before clearing his throat.

Granger's face, on the other hand, has taken on a strange look, almost neutral but definitely, definitely calculating, ten times more focused than she had ever been during their school years.

She's analysing you, Draco acknowledges with a bitter sort of amusement and has to save himself from snorting out loud.

Whatever she thinks he's up to, Draco really isn't interested in hearing right now and this little staring contest that's happening between the three of them is beginning to turn awkward in that uncomfortable sort of way. Well, more awkward than it already appears to be.

"Is this how you greet all of your clients?" Draco drawls, in a desperate attempt to break this stifling silence, as he glances boredly between the two Aurors ; Granger gives a short humourless laugh as she swivels her narrowed eyes to Potter. They seem to have a silent debate in that short moment before Potter gives in and focuses his attention back on Draco.

His eyes are greener than Draco remembers them being. Like Absinthe.

"You're right, sorry. Mr. Malfoy, if you'd kindly like to follow us into a more private area so we can discuss -"

Marlow decides to assert herself, then, hooting loudly and swooping down from Potter's shoulder and up onto Draco's. Once satisfied with her placement, she begins to hoot and coo softly against his neck fluffing out her feathers distractingly. Damned owl, trying to get sweet with him after cozying up to Potter like that. But Draco can't stay angry with Marlow for long because she's helped him through more than Draco can currently account for.

Potter has the curtesy to look at least a little bit embarrassed and he basks in it for a moment. Good, he should be.

"Do you make a habit of stealing everyone's owls Potter, or am I an exception?" He queries just to get a rise out of him and Potter rises to the bait, flushing furiously, his hand going tight on his wand.

"I di-"

"Lead the way, Potter." Draco sighs cutting him off abruptly because he can't stand the idea of watching Potter blather about like an imbecile all day. He's gone through over seven years of baring witness to it already.

Granger rolls her eyes at Draco as though she's irritated by his mere existence, like he's a fly in need of swatting, before pivoting round and making off at an inconsiderate speed in the opposite direction. Maybe he shouldn't have ignored over twenty of her letters - that would have increased his chances of receiving any help with Snape, ten-fold.

Potter trails after her at a more leisurely pace not even bothering to wait and see if Draco is following and Draco is in half a mind to just turn around and leave but knows he can't afford to. Do it for Severus, for Pansy, for his Mother, himself -

Granger draws her wand when they reach a door on the far wall, tapping it five times against the wood and once against the handle. A burst of Magenta sparks erupt from her wand and bounce off of the brass like miniature fire works before the door gently sweeps open to reveal a smaller library inside.

The floors in here are deep mauve and gold gradually leading up to a multitude of towering book shelves which are absolutely bursting with literature of every size, shape and hue. Draco has to physically stop himself from racing over to begin racking the shelves for books - He's fallen in love with the sight, made morose by the fact that he's here with the likes of Potter instead of having free reign to do as he likes with this abundance of literature.

Draco tares himself from his reverie to find Granger already seated on a richly stuffed sofa, beginning to scrawl on a summoned piece of parchment. She looks to Draco pointedly and gestures at the seat opposite with a face full of impatience. This new Granger is possibly even more terrifying than the old one.

Potter sits next to her and summons his own parchment and quill, plucking them out of the air and positioning them on his knees. Draco peers at him as he inscribes something across the top of his parchment, noting that Potter's handwriting is still, for lack of a better word, fucking awful.

"Right, Mr. Malfoy," he begins gaining a tone of business and Draco finds himself inexplicably drawn to it as he makes himself comfortable on the chair assigned to him. Not as comfortable as it looks apparently seeing as Draco has to discretely shift about to find a spot that isn't plagued by lumps under the fabric.

"You contacted me in relation to the disappearance of...?" Potter glances to him with raised brows and Draco idly reaches up to pet softly at Marlow's head. He considers how he's going to tell Potter that it's Severus who has apparently gone missing before deciding it would be best to be straightforward. Dancing around admission would only prove to make this situation all the more troublesome and Draco has had his fair share of trouble already. Still, he finds himself verbally tripping over the name in an attempt to get it out into the open.

"Severus. Severus Snape."

The room instantaneously delves into silence when Granger's ceaseless scribbling stops. Potter accidentally snaps his quill in surprise, spraying ink across his parchment and hand. His head droops a little bit like a flower in need of some sunlight, like he's trying to distract himself from saying something he'll later come to regret. Draco's surprised by Potters civility and well-kept demeanour.

"E-excuse me, Sir?" Granger questions in a voice that is dangerously even as if the thin veil that is social etiquette is the only thing preventing her from hexing Draco into the next life. Draco puts a pale hand on the arm of his chair and grips hard, tries his best not to let his own instability show. When he's finally sure that he is able to speak without his voice quivering, he forces himself to meet Granger's eye poring all of his determination into the stare.

"Did I stutter, Granger?"

She purses her lips, puts a hand over Potter's where he's still clenching his broken quill and gives a tight jerk of her head that Draco thinks is supposed to be a nod.

"No, my apologies."

When Potter raises his head again, his face is neutral, placid even and Draco is more unnerved by it than if Potter had openly attempted to throttle him. He'd expected fire and fury but instead he'd received calmness and collection and it fills him with a cold, paralysing dread. He dares to meet Potter's gaze and there's something behind those toxic green eyes, something livid and outraged and -

Draco looks away, he has to because Potter is being ridiculously intense and he can't handle that right now. Not after everything that's already happened. Not when he's this close to absolutely losing it-

"He's been missing from his portrait for five working days and it has... Been said that there are a group of Dark Wizards seeking him out due to his ownership of something they desire." Draco folds his legs and leans back in his chair as though saying it a loud has stolen every ounce of his energy from his body.

Potter leans his elbow against the arm of the sofa and straightens his back out, inclining his head toward Draco in reluctant interest. There's a strange set to his mouth that makes him look as though he's trying not to say something cruel.

"May I ask where the portrait has been kept up until this point, Mr. Malfoy?" Draco tries not to outright shudder at the way the two of them keep referring to him as 'Sir' and 'Mr.Malfoy'. It revives memories of his father that he would much rather purge himself of, but he won't say so. That, to Draco, would be to admit weakness, to admit that after all these years apart his father still manages to make Draco's stomach coil up into a nausea inducing knot.

"I believe that would be with my Mother," Draco replies slowly. "In Paris."

Granger taps rapidly at her parchment with a single nail, tilting her head as she studies Draco with something tight and irritable in her face, something that looks as though it's about to snap. And believe you me, Draco does not want to be around when that happens. "Then shouldn't you be taking this up with the Parisian Wizarding Authorities, first?"

Draco blanches ; he'd never thought to ask his Mother about that little detail before she'd left. But he knows his Mother and he knows she's not an idiot and can't help but to become irritated by Granger's somewhat condescending inquiry.

"Granger, I know, being the proclaimed Intellect that you are, how hard it is to believe that the rest of us mere mortals contain any functional, cognitive brain whatsoever." He begins in a sickly sweet tone, ignoring the small smirk that works it's way onto Potters face - because, really? "But, alas, there are few others, aside from you, who are in ownership of such brilliant minds as yours. - Of course she contacted the Parisian authorities, don't be insulting!"

Draco had desperately wanted to let out a few chose expletives during the entirety of that little tirade but had held his tongue. Merlin, help him get through the rest of this meeting without either of these idiots uttering anything else so entirely stupid.

Granger raises a single brow and glances to Potter who's still wearing that infuriating smirk. She too then, begins to smile, rolling her eyes at Potter who gives her a small nudge.

Draco doesn't think he's ever despised any two people more.

"Mr. Malfoy, we are by no means, trying to cause offence through our questioning, but it is basic Auror protocol and therefore cannot be avoided," Potter explains pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose thoughtlessly. "If there is anything you would voluntarily like to tell us than you are more than welcome."

Draco fingers the edge of his bag.

Should he say anything about the book? About how wrong the magic it contains feels when Draco handles it with his bare hands? Potter sighs almost in audibly and Draco finds himself watching him again, the way his eyes dip down as they skims over the parchment pinched between his fingers. The warm sunlight pouring in through the window makes his black hair look almost brunette, almost tameable -

Draco scolds himself internally. You are not here to study Potter! he seethes before pulling his bag from his side, sliding his hand into its depths and gripping hesitantly at the thick spine of the book. He pulls it out carefully and glances between Potter and Granger.

"Snape had left this to me. I'm not entirely sure as to whether this will help in terms of finding him but...." Draco places it on the low glass-topped table that separates them and somehow feels thrice as vulnerable by doing so. He hates that more than he hates Potter. Vulnerability was never quite his forte.

Granger immediately draws her wand again from one robe sleeve and presses closer with eager, attentive eyes. She glances to Draco for permission to touch the book and he, for less than a tenth of a second, has the temptation to snatch it out from under her hands before she has the chance to get to it. Potter has his wand drawn too and is muttering things under his breath as his traces it over the books cover.

Silence ensues before Granger suddenly purses her lips together when the book glows a faint green and then returns to normal and decides to join Potter in his spell work. Draco recognises it as a revealing charm.

"Aparecium," Potter mutters but again, and rather unsurprisingly, nothing happens.

Draco tuts impatiently under his breath only to have Potter throw him a mildly irritated glance. He scowls determinedly back. Now that's more like it. He was growing rather bored if this new, tiredly polite Potter.

"Don't you think I've already tried that?" Potter rolls his eyes with much gusto a gesture that comes across as rather Slytherin. "Then how about telling us that you have, instead of acting like a complete prat?"

Granger frowns between the two of them in obvious distaste before stashing her wand artfully up her sleeve.

"Lets not argue like children, shall we?" She mutters. They settle for glaring at each other instead which just serves to irritate Granger even further.

"Would you two-" Something lets out a terrible, high-pitched squealing and Draco wonders who's just upset a potted Mandrake only to find that the noise is coming from... The book? Well that's new. The squealing stops almost as immediately as it had started and they all stare at it in wonderment.

"How odd," Granger begins to draw her wand again just as the book promptly flings itself open and it's pages go fanning apart as if unseen fingers flip wildly through them.

That's definitely new.

"Malfoy," Granger says slowly her eyes going quizzical at the sight. Words begin to peel themselves from the fidgeting paper, swirling skyward and gluing themselves to any available surface in sight. 'Catnip' attaches itself to her left cheek.

"Malfoy what on Earth-" After the words, comes space itself. Draco's never seen anything like it. It steals the breath right out of his lungs. Whole universes tare themselves from within the book, encasing the room in an ethereal purplish glow that somehow makes it difficult to formulate coherent sentences within his mind.

Potter's wide emerald eyes find Draco's just as gravity makes itself scarce and they're sent wheeling aimlessly into a galaxy of endless suns. And the look they share makes him feel as though he's going to burst out of his own skin, as though he's on fire, as though he's drowning, all in one. The universe itself seems to be intertwining with his very being, forcing out his soul bit by tedious bit. He can't quite tell where he ends and the immortality of the cosmos begins.

"Close it," He hears Granger whisper but the sound seems to gain momentum, reverberating around empty space until it holds the same volume as a shout. Draco staggers under the sheer weight of her voice, feels his head reel with the immensity of it.

Except, her mouth doesn't move.

Does it?

Draco can't quite remember because the memory has already deserted him.

He's never felt more insignificant in his life. Well, actually- now is not the time for self-deprecation, he tells himself.

Potter then wades into view again, physically struggling to reach for Granger with a hand composed entirely from crystals and colours and -

He tries to speak a loud but his voice is swept away on an invisible breeze and that scares him more than anything -

Why would Severus leave him something so imperceptibly dangerous without so much as a heads up, or a simple warning or, or something -

Even a piss-takingly cryptic message would have seen a much gladder reception than whatever chaos they had just been launched head first into. Lord, Draco doesn't even know what had triggered such a dramatic reaction from the book - He doesn't have time to finish his thoughts as the room begins to twirl sickeningly on its axis, sending books and paper and stars cascading into the abyss of a black hole which has appeared above their heads. Granger slams into Draco's side as they're unceremoniously tossed about inside the maelstrom.

What's worse is that he's been made to look like an absolute moron in front of the likes of Potter because he had no idea how to stop this madness. Not that he should care.

But, Merlin, he does.

Some small, sour part of him, is determined to prove himself entirely removed from that of his pitiful younger self.

Draco pushes forward at Granger's beckoning hand on his shoulder and each of them encircle the book as best they can whilst fighting against its unseen power. Together they physically attempt to force the book shut, after three of Granger's spell are flung back at them, which turns out to be a horrific mixture of full bodily shoving and talking at one another until their voices can no longer be heard over the screaming of the invisible storm.

Potter, obviously having had enough of being tossed about like herbs in a cauldron, hurls one powerful binding spell at the book, flinging out his wrist in a strong figure-eight motion. Blue light bursts from the tip of his wand and curls itself tightly against the leather bound Anthology effectively ceasing the flow of magic pouring from its pages.

Draco briefly lets himself be impressed by Potter's magical prowess.

The room, at that, is dropped gracelessly into complete stillness and the book seals itself shut, dropping down onto the table with a muted 'thump'.

The newly found silence is overbearing.

Draco's ears ring with the sudden loss of sound and wind buffeting his body, and it vaguely reminds him of the time they'd once discovered a hurricane inside of a magical Survival Guide back at Harkinson's.

Granger blows a stray lock of frizzy hair from her face and frowns in puzzlement. "Bloody Hell."

Draco raises a brow at her language whilst Potter only snorts from his spot on the floor where he's dropped down to search for his lost glasses. "Couldn't have put it better myself."

They each heave themselves back to their feet. And it's strange because for the briefest of moments there is a distinct lack of hatred in the room. There's a distinct lack of anything, really. Like the air has been sucked right through the floorboards.

Draco might as well have been keeping company with a couple of absolute strangers.

But then. Then it all comes rushing back with the unforgiving, tyrannous force of a tsunami. It almost hurts. The hate, the distrust, the envy, the pain. It pummels Draco right in the chest and he wheezes on a breath filled with sorrowful frustration. Granger has to prop herself up on a shelf because the same nauseating wave seems to have struck her too and Potter stops searching for those ridiculous glasses, just sits there staring into space with a look of utter loss on his face.

Not to mention, the place is a complete disaster and Draco truly doesn't know how they're going to explain it until Granger weakly begins casting cleaning spells all over the room. Books are strewn across the floor in varying states of destruction and paper is still gently raining down from the ceiling above, some of it even smouldering a little bit. Draco reaches out and catches a page, examining it carefully. The script is written in Arabic and from what he can tell, is based on the history of Middle-Eastern Magics. It's sad. Such a beautiful piece of literature destroyed because of his own stupidity. If Crawford had seen this, he'd have been subjected to a year underground with the Gremlin's doing monotonous piles of paperwork.

He draws his own wand and gets approximately half way through a binding charm before he feels eyes crawling over his skin. Surely enough, when Draco lifts his head to see who exactly said eyes belong to, Potter is staring intently over at him, his eyes gleaming dangerously behind rediscovered spectacles and there is such a potent loathing there - such undiluted hatred that it is almost tangible. Draco sneers in response though for some reason his heart rate has tripled in speed and his fingers tingle with excitement. He's missed this, being able to get under Potter's skin so easily without really having to try. It makes him giddy and Draco wonders if he'd always been this sick in the head.

"If you think this is some big joke, Malfoy-"

"Save it Potter," He snaps, holding up his hand with an acute abruptness that he wants to come across as rude. "Do you honestly believe I would waste the entirety of my Monday morning trying to thwart the likes of you? How self-absorbed."

A particularly hefty scroll chooses that moment to whip passed Draco's face - almost smacking him in the jaw - and inserts itself tidily back onto a shelf. He wheels round to seek out the perpetrator but finds only Granger, who innocently quirks a brow at him when he spits an incoherent threat her way.

"If you're lying about Snape..." Potter trails off, his shoulders hunched up somewhere near his ears and Draco could taunt him right now, could mock him for lacking the finesse to be a truly great Auror- But he doesn't. He sighs and marches over to the low table in the centre of the room to seek out the remnants of Severus' potions anthology. The book, however and to Draco's unhidden dismay, is completely unharmed, if anything it seems to look better than it did before which pisses him off far more than it should.

"I'm not lying." Draco says as he stoops down to pick the book up and stores it carefully back into his satchel. "Severus is missing and..." He looks quickly to Granger then at his hands again. "I need your help, so if we put our differences aside for one moment to find him, that would be marvellous, Potter."

Granger surprises him almost immediately by gently extending her hand for him to shake. There's a serious understanding dashed across her face And Draco almost caves under the relief of it.

"We'll help you, we are Aurors after all, Malfoy," She concedes with a hint of a joke beneath her voice and Draco, against his own will, offers the smallest of smiles in return. "Thank you, Granger."

She nods swiftly and Potter, somewhat begrudgingly, comes to stand next to her, muttering some sort of agreement. It could have been Draco's imagination but he swears he sees a flush creeping onto Potter's cheeks. How sweet.

Granger nods again, her stance straightening out, her head tilted just so and for some reason, Draco wants to trust her. She meets his gaze and raises her brows slowly.

"Let's get down to business then, shall we boys?"

Chapter Text

He's known since first year that Hermione Granger has absolutely no mental capacity for the idea of 'rest or relaxation' so Harry's not entirely too sure why it surprises him when she, yet again, proves this. By the time he hustles into his office at around eight ‘o’ clock that morning, there's already a weighty wad of parchment paper sat comfortably at the centre of his desk.

Harry’s body sags at the mere sight because, most unfortunately, for the last two days he has been doing absolutely nothing but research and, by Merlin, he swears if he sees another bloody report again he's going to scream, or cry, or both. He also briefly allows himself to wonder how exactly Hermione had gotten into their office without the password, but this is Hermione he's talking about - the woman has tricks hidden inside of her tricks and there’s something humorous in the mystery of that.

Harry shakes his head as he shucks his outer most robes off, taking note of the fact that Neville has been kind enough to clear a space on the pin board hung up on the opposite side of his desk so Harry wastes no time in sticking odd bits of parchment paper up onto it in a particularly vain attempt to bring some semblance of order into his life.

And it's hard.... since Malfoy has come wading back into orbit, inevitably, so have the nightmares - though they're nowhere near as dread-inducing as what they used to be. What they could be - and the idea of that makes him tremble. And he doesn’t even want mention the stammer.

Ron would’ve been able to stop the nerves with one of his bloody terrible joke. But Ron isn’t here, he left on a mission that very morning to trek down to Loughborough on call about a supposed ring of Wizards attempting to smuggle small Jet worms across the Scottish boarder. And by Merlin does Harry want to see him. To just be near him - Good Lord, why won’t he stop shaking?

He clenches his fingers shut and swivels round to look at Neville - anything to stop the thoughts from overtaking him, from drowning him- "Morgan Morley-J-Jones, Nev, where did she end up working?" He asks, recalling rather belatedly what he had ordered himself to do the night before, which had been to enquire after a Wizard by the name of Henri Dubois - an artist in the business of magical portraiture. A suspect, as far as Harry is concerned.

Neville blinks owlishly at him from over the top of the document he's glued himself to, his eyes encircled with dark bruises from what is most probably lack of rest. Harry is in half a mind to use his authority to send Neville home with orders to do nothing but sleep. Hell if he had any say, half of his bloody department would still be tucked up in bed right about now. The year had been so tough and they weren’t even a quarter of the way through it yet. If Harry didn’t know any better, he’d assume some greater force was out to get him.

"Department of International Magical relations I think."

"She took that extra curricular on M-M-Magical Artisans, right?"

"I-" Neville rubs furiously at his face as if trying to physically ward off the fatigue creeping into his skin like a Wiggler. "I think so."

Harry nods, pushes away slowly from his desk because taking a trip down to the Department of International magical cooperation sounds perfectly grand right about now. Just the right thing to clear his mind.

“You alright Harry?” Neville questions suddenly and Harry whirls round, caught completely off-guard by the inquiry only to see the genuine concern sitting deep in Neville’s eyes and it makes him glad to have friends like this. Friends that know when he’s actually not ‘alright’. Plus, the stutter usually gives him away.

“Just bloody p- per-perfect,” he says and somehow manages to crack a grin out of Neville’s work-hardened face because it’s a joke they’ve made since the third year Yule Ball when Neville had dreamily swept into their room after a night of dancing responding to Harry’s own ‘you alright’ with that exact remark. With a small smile and a wave, he dips out of the office, feeling marginally better than he had this morning.

X

The Department of International Magical Cooperation reminds Harry exactly of Gryffindor Common Room. It’s loud and vibrant and positively bursting with people all in the midst of carrying out some important task or the other. He manages to swerve past five Wizards babbling to each other in French before having to sidestep a wispy Witch deep in deliberation with a statue of a golden Buddha who seems to be having none of it.

“Morley-Jones’s office?” he asks, stopping an older Wizard with skin the colour of mahogany, to which the man nods slowly, gesturing at a door painted bright purple just a long the way with a gnarled finger.

“That one right there, young man,” He elaborates with a slow smile that somehow manages to calm the nerves squirming in the pit of Harry’s stomach. “Take a traditional Nigerian pepper-up potion. You look like you need it, Sir,” The Wizard utters good-naturedly and before Harry can object he’s holding a small, glowing vial in his hands, watching the back of the man’s head retreat down the hall.

“What on Earth...” He grins to himself, earning more than enough odd stares on his way to Morley’s office. For some reason far beyond Harry’s knowledge, the door knocker is unabashedly rude. It glares at him with silver-gilded eyes upon arrival before promptly critiquing his appearance for the whole corridor to hear and Harry lets out a shocked laugh.

“Are those glasses supposed to be fashionable?” It begins in a slow unimpressed drawl that catches Harry by surprise. Oh lord, if he’d wanted to be belittled in front of a crowd he’d have called Rita Skeeter, or better yet, Draco fucking Malfoy. “Excuse me?” The door knocker roles it’s eyes with vigour.

“Heavens. Deaf and blind - would you like me to call someone to assist you, Sir?” It gushes in a sarcastically loud tone that just about makes Harry’s skin crawl. “You must be in the wrong department.”

Before Harry has a chance to retort the door swings violently open and he’s met with a cacophony of sounds. A young man pours out on awkwardly long limbs, paper mounting high in his gangly arms.

“Oh sorry,” he begins before his eyes fly open fully behind thick glasses. “Auror Potter! P-please excuse me I didn’t mean to - damn this blimmin’ paper - Sir my utmost apologies -“

Harry rights the quickly falling stacks smiling kindly from behind his own glasses because fuck if this young wizard doesn’t remind Harry of himself when he’d first joined the Ministry. Awkward, star-struck - unsure as Hell.

“S’alright,” He replies casting a quick stasis charm on the paper before it has a chance to fling itself from the Wizards grasp once again.

“Thank you, Sir,” He huffs with surprise and weighty relief.

“Anytime,” Harry nods and the young man scuttled quickly past with a flush and wide eyes. When Harry peers into the office, Morley-Jones is practically screaming at the floo in what he can only assume is German whilst the massive green visage suspended in the pit solemnly bobs up and down in agreement with whatever she’s saying. Her hair is a wild, dark cloud about her head and her eyes, as vividly emerald as Harry’s, are hooded with frustration. If it weren’t for her much fairer skin and a million freckles, you would almost believe the two of them to be related.

“Anyway,” she surmises in a heavy Scottish brogue, a sigh leaving her in one big gust. “I’ll get your dog back to you Mr.Schäfer as soon as possible, for that matter. Have a nice day!”

The head disappears with a rush of pleasantly warm air and Morley-Jones takes a few steps back from the floo, composing herself with a hand to her brow before straightening up to finally notice Harry. A brief something flickers across her face before it breaks into an honest, bright expression - a grin full of relief, displaying the wonderful and rather wide gap in her front teeth. Before he can make any query on Mr.Schäfer’s missing dog, she holds up a hand to silence him as if she knows and Harry smothers a smile.

“All you need to know is that people these days are still in the business of animal kidnapping,” She sighs and Harry is yet again bombarded by thoughts of Malfoy -and why can’t the bastard just leave him alone?

“Tell me about it,” he mutters before straightening his glasses more out of habit than necessity. “I don’t mean to impose Jones but I need to ask you something.”

She raises a brow before spelling her door shut with a flick of her wrist which only serves to remind him of how powerful Morgan Morley-Jones truly is. Harry would never in his right mind try to cross a witch like her.

“Fire away Mr.Potter.” She says perching herself lightly against her desk with the same rakish poise Harry wished he himself had mastered sooner. His eyes move from her to the single window behind the desk in the office which has been spelled to look like the Scottish highlands - it’s beautiful, yet so lonely. He snaps himself from his reverie. “What do you know about Henri Dubois?”

There’s a heart beat of silence. It feels like a hiccup in time. Morley-Jones pauses on her way to pick up her wand, which lays motionless against the worn wood of her desk. Her eyes snag on Harry’s, dark and filled with wonder, but she doesn’t question him. She pointedly avoids asking at all. Harry doesn’t know why he hasn’t made a closer friend of Morley-Jones sooner.

"He was something of a prodigy once upon a time," Morgan huffs pushing out her bottom lip in thought. "That is until he got himself involved with the wrong crowd- you know -" Her eyes flit to Harry's with heavy perturbation and he knows immediately what she's implying. Merlin, he wishes he didn't, but he does.

"Dark Wizards demanding portraiture?" She gives a sad little smirk and shifts her weight from one foot to the other, tonguing furiously at the gap between her two front teeth as if trying to further widen it.

"Unfortunately, Potter. He went into hiding almost a decade ago to escape both the media and other...unwanted attention. Poor sod did an awful good job with it too, took himself all the way to Jamaica at one point but he was only safe for so long."

Of course they'd go after Henri Dubois, even if it is the most obvious move to make, it is a necessary one. But then again, that would make tracking them a walk in the park, just a matter of retracing steps, making a few fire calls. Maybe he could do this after all. Maybe... Maybe Snape wasn’t as far out of their reach as he’d thought. Harry nods, feeling strangely empowered and Morgan throws him a sly grin her freckled cheeks bunching up with inconspicuous amusement. Her magic thrums through the air, so thick that it seems to crackle.

"Oh Potter, I know that look and whatever it means, do try to keep yourself out of trouble." Her accent has thickened considerably with glee and Harry, try as he might, cannot resist the urge to grin back.

He feigns innocence as he cocks his head to the side, “Whatever could you mean, Miss Morley?"

They share a look of pure mischief and Harry feels strangely at home. Oddly in his element.

Morgan sighs and fixes a hand through her wild mane giving Harry a soberingly solemn look.

“Seriously though Harry, if... if you need me for anything, you know where to find me, aye?”

He swallows, offering up a grateful smile.

“Of course, Morgan.”

X

Lunch time has rolled around when Harry finally manages to track down Hermione in the department of misuse of Muggle artefacts, where she has buried herself like a tea mole under a heap of parchment. She scribbles away at what looks suspiciously like a report with an earnest sort of determination on her face.

Harry sighs and lumbers toward her wondering if she had been there since the early hours of this morning, if she had even bothered to remind herself to eat.

He raps his fingers lightly against her desk and she startles like a ghost, her eyes snapping to him as though she were about to unleash a torrent of fury upon him for having the nerve to disturb her.

“Easy, ‘Mione,” he soothes with a grin and she jabs her quill into the ink well with enough strength to send ebony ink sloshing back out again. She scowls more and spells the ink back into its small prison which Harry very almost laughs at but knows Hermione would kick his arse if he let out so much as a giggle.

“What are you doing here?” She hisses collecting bundles of parchment together and pushing them firmly to the side. He shrugs coyly, turning to walk away.

“Lunch time, I suppose. But if you’re not hungry I can just-“

Hermione leans over the desk quicker than a Leprechaun to grab his wrist and Harry has to physically bite his lips together in order not to snort. “Wait, Harry, love, darling. You wouldn’t honestly deprive a girl of her food, would you?”

She bats her eyelashes at him and Harry raises a brow. “Well that depends if said girl can drag herself away from her sodding research long enough to come down to the canteen for Shepherds pie.” Hermione groans in dismay obviously torn between her reports and the Ministry’s so called ‘Muggle Monday’.

Fine,” She appeases almost immediately and Harry all but drags her from the Department so they can enjoy a wonderfully filling lunch. He takes the chance to also clue her in on what he learned of Henri Dubois.

By the time he’s finished explaining Her eyes are a light with something terrifyingly fierce and she leans across their small table in the corner of the ornate and rather large canteen her voice low, urgent. “That’s a brilliant lead, Harry! He might just take us straight to,” She grapples with the name which makes Harry feel better knowing that he’s not the only one having trouble saying it.

“Dubois might lead us straight to Snape.” Her eyes drop to the table suddenly and Harry frowns, reaching out to touch her hand.

“‘Mione? What’s the matter. A second ago you were buzzing...”

She smiles wanly and shakes her curls. “It’s just... These Wizards, Harry.” She gives him a grave look with distant, torn eyes and Harry knows immediately who she’s referring to.

“They’re - they followed Voldemort and I think they want to try to resurrect him.”

Harry immediately goes numb. He draws his touch from Hermione and they stare at each other in cold, cold silence. Ice draws through Harry like a blade, dragging at his flesh until he can hardly bring himself to breathe.

“But, but that’s not possible.”

Hermione swallows thickly but can’t seem to shift whatever has settled in her throat.

“He had followers, death eaters all over the globe, some that hadn’t reached here in time to aid him before his fall. Some that are... powerful, Harry.”

He breathes deep. Takes another hard breath but can still feel the stammer coming on.

“How powerful.”

Hermione opens her mouth, closes it again, opens it once more to let honesty tumble between her lips.

“I don’t know yet.”

Well fuck. Bloody fucking fuck.

“At least we still have time. N-no-ot a lot but enough to try, ‘Mione.”

She nods resolutely, the fierce look returning like a tidal wave to her eyes, strong and unforgiving.

“And we have what they don’t.” She utters with a bitter-sweet smile. “

That God-awful book.”

X

They march down to Harry’s office, bent on contacting Malfoy so they can get together a plan of action, based on what they’ve both learnt. Harry knows they can do it. Knows that whatever or whoever they’re going to have to face they are already one step ahead of. He’s almost floating with the relief that for once, he knows what he’s doing before rushing into the fight.

“- turns out someone had stolen the mans bloody dog, Mione! W- w -Why would someone do that, tell me. Honestly!” Harry says throwing his hands up in exasperation.

She smiles softly,” You’re one to talk, Potter.”

He raises a brow. “Beg your pardon.”

She raises one back. “Was it not you who birdknapped Malfoy’s owl? Or do I have the wrong Wizard?”

Harry sputters, but cannot scrape together a decent retaliation in times d Hermione's light laughter bursts forth at his expense, touches his ears and warms his chest, he's so relieved to hear it because life has made a rarity out of her happiness that he’s not even annoyed that she’s laughing at him.

They reach his office and Harry pushes the door wide another joke on his tongue-

But the joy of the moment is immediately shot through and destroyed by the near unbelievable sight of Ron stood soot streaked and blood smeared next to an equally bloody Draco Malfoy in the middle of his office. His jaw is working as though he's trying to muster the urge to speak yet his lips stay pressed shut, tight and chapped. That, in itself, is warning enough. He notices that Malfoy is clutching the book to his chest like it might sprout legs and escape, his fingers a mess of blood and dust, as though someone has tried to physically pry them away from the leather-

And then it clicks. Heavy and wrong in his head, like an old door falling in to lock. Harry swallows loudly and it's the first sound someone's made in the room for one whole minute.

"They know about the book."

Chapter Text

Silence.

Nothing but silence from the Ministry’s own Golden boy. One of their top Aurors, or so they say. How...pathetic. There’s a sneer already forming on Draco’s lips, a comment dripping with sarcasm poised at the tip of his tongue, but he doesn't say it. Instead, he grips the book tighter to his sodden robes, rises up to his full height in an attempt to look as though he has some semblance of sanity left and seethes. As though he isn’t possibly two seconds away from unconsciousness. He’d stopped counting the curses being flung at him after around fifteen.

“Did you not hear me, Potter?” He fills his voice with the chilling contempt of twelve years of hatred and sets his eyes ferociously upon Potter who continues to say nothing, his expression carefully blank as his eyes flicker back and forth between Draco and Weasley. 

Words cannot express the type of rage coursing through Draco in that moment. He doesn't know what it is about the distinct lack of speech on Potter's part that winds him up the way it does, but nevertheless, it leaves his blood positively boiling. Weasley sighs beside him. His cobalt eyes, framed with a sickening concoction of blood, dust and drizzle, are nothing but a bruise blue stain against the watery canvas of his face. Yet, he still maintains an air of level-headedness. Like he wasn’t just on the wrong end of a very ill-aimed, ill-timed Avada Kadavra and Draco hates it. He also can’t help but notice that the slight tremble in Weasley’s body has worsened since they had reached the Ministry and he winces a tad when Granger rushes forward to grasp him by the sleeve into which a gaping hole has been singed. Weasley doesn’t pull away, though. If anything he seems to collapse into her hold which is mildly alarming what with Weasley towering above Granger. Her eyes linger on Draco. Wary as ever, he notes, wishing for nothing more than a seat and a strong sleeping drought.

“Why - How on Earth did you two bump into each other?”

Draco inhales slowly and very loudly through his nose. “I was actually on my way Harkinson Bailey's, if you really need to know. Weasley appeared just in time to help me... handle a group of hostile wizards.”

Granger raises one eyebrow in disbelief. “Something tells me that’s a bit of an understatement, Malfoy.”

Draco blanches but is quick to smother it. Granger’s astuteness will be his downfall. “I’ll explain in more detail later, Granger but right now Weasley and I are rather in need of a Healer.”

X

More than a few curious eyes peer at them as they quickly traverse the corridors of the Ministry and Draco tries not to meet a single one. He knows that looking would most likely leave him with the impression of disgusted faces imprinted behind his eyelids for weeks to come. And frankly? He’s already had his fair share. Draco tries to tune into the conversation taking place between the trio around him instead.

“ -It protected us. Damn bastards tried to curse me,” Weasley huffs as they walk and Granger rolls her eyes. Draco doesn’t point out that Weasley missed the part of the story where he's almost killed. Do they usually keep things like near-death experiences from each other? “But that book put up a barrier - do you reckon it’s possessed?”

“That’s a-a-a po-possibility,” Potter stutters from behind and Draco doesn’t miss the twitch in Granger’s eyebrow, doesn’t miss Potters sudden inability to articulate correctly.

“Something powerful like a Demon?” Weasley proposes without missing a beat. Draco gets the discernible feeling that he’s missing something, but exactly what that is, he has no idea.

“Demon’s entrapped within objects often manifest physically but can’t go anywhere without the object they have been entrapped within. As far as I know, nothing has appeared, as such,” Draco explains. “I’d say it has become self-aware over time.”

Granger hums in agreement. “That’s often the case with extremely powerful, magical creations. I’ve never seen it on this magnitude before, though.”

A sharp pain lances through Draco at that moment and he feels his own face crumple around a wince. Small mercy they seem to be turning into the medical wing now because Draco isn’t sure he would have been able to walk any further.

The wing is high and wide, with ornate ceilings and a generous amount of space between each ward. Granger leads them to a desk at the left of the entrance behind which a jaunty looking Wizard sits spelling through mounds of paper work.

Draco glances about and is brought to the attention of Weasley who is now shaking like a leaf caught in a windstorm. He has somehow declined into a pallor more sickly than the previous one. Sweat beads across the bunched skin of his forehead.

“Weasley?” Draco says and the redhead manages a thin smile before a small huff of pain pushes past his drawn lips. There is something inherently irritating in the way he’s still trying to play hero.

“Potter?” Draco says urgently and Potter, who had been politely conversing with the Wizard behind the desk turns, catching sight of Weasley. The look on his face makes Draco’s stomach twist.

There’s ... something behind it. Something which spans far beyond just amicable concern. It holds a weight, a certain depth to it like that of oceans, or of chasms. Potter rushes toward Weasley, taking his arm between gentle hands and Weasley’s face turns sickeningly soft. Draco looks away. He doesn’t know why, but he can’t bring himself to watch. Friends don't look at each other like that, he thinks distantly. It feels like he’s witnessing something private.

Lucky for him, Granger and a band of Mediwitches come to escort them to rooms in which they’ll be treated. Thank Merlin.

X

He’s sitting on a bed in the Medical Wing, Granger bombarding him with questions whilst a Mediwitch flits about like an irate fairy, trying to tend to his wounds. That’s when it occurs to him, like some sort of belated epiphany, that his entire body hurts. His face, his back, his legs, Merlin, even the roots of his hair seem to be crying out in pain. The adrenaline must have been the only thing keeping him upright, and with that drained from his system, he feels about ready to collapse.

He finally unsticks his bloodied fingers from the book and sets it on the bed beside him. Granger gives it a ginger look, bending primly at the waist to examine the cover. She frowns, running curious belligerently reverent fingers over the faded black leather in a way that is funnily reminiscent of her younger self.

“It looks different, is it different?” Draco can't help but to be impressed with how quick she is.

“Yes, it's different,” he says simply as a soothing cold gives chase to the soreness dashed across the skin of his lip and left cheek. He tastes the cut on his mouth once more only to find it vanished and nods his thanks to the Mediwitch who finally seems to be satisfied with her work.

“I’ll be back later to check up on your vitals, Mr.Malfoy,” She voices, before leaving the room.

Granger folds her arms across her chest and redirects her attention back to Draco. "I have a feeling that you're right about it being sentient. After we ran diagnostics last time, the results came back showing no evidence of any external magic use. It seems to have it's own... magical core."

“Along with the fact that, as Weasley said, it defended us during the attack. At this point I'm quite sure it has a certain level of awareness."

Granger is quiet for a moment as she mulls that over."Do you have any idea how they found you, those wizards?"

"I think they were following me," Draco says fighting off a sudden yawn. "They must have figured out who I am, my relation to my Mother and Severus. It was really only a matter of time before they came after me, too."

A glimpse of something tight and angry, flashes across Granger’s face before she turns away from him. Draco doesn’t bother to read too much into it, his mind is moving slower and slower with each passing second and it’s all he can do to stop himself from swaying into unconsciousness. What he most desires, is to get out of these absolutely tattered robes and sleep for the rest of the year.

“Look, Malfoy, it’s obviously not safe for you to be working independently, anymore. From what you’ve told me I can only assume that they know a lot more than we'd anticipated - probably, down to where you live.”

Draco knows this. Had done since the day of his Mother's visit, really. He grimaces to himself, raking a hand through his grimy hair. He’ll have to find a place to stay, possibly a safe house, living with a friend would only put needless lives at risk. And - frankly? - Draco’s had enough of seeing lives being put at risk.

It takes a moment, but Draco finally remembers what he had come to the Ministry to do. He picks up the book, fiddles with the lock until it pops open and thumbs through the blank pages, turning it toward Granger.

“Those weren't always empty were they?”

“All the text disappeared after we had that episode in the library, I'm not entirely sure what happened-”

There’s a knock at the door. Granger looks torn for a moment but she eventually goes to open it and - lo and behold if it isn’t the saviour of the entire Wizarding World. What joy. Potter pauses before entering, scratches his squarish nails through the stubble colonising along his jaw as he surveys them both from under purplish lids and dark brows. It looks as though he hasn’t slept in months which somehow makes Draco uneasy.

Potter was supposed to be the steadfast one, after all. The chosen one, the unflappable, unshakeable Boy who just wouldn’t fucking die. But right now? Right now, he looks as though he’s one strong gust of wind away from collapsing. Granger visibly relaxes at the sight of him but only minutely. There’s still an ounce of worry etched into the lines on her caramel forehead.

“Harry,” She says striding forward as she speaks. “How’s Ron.”

Potter aims a quick, wary glance at Malfoy before his eyes find there way back to her. The tense strain of his shoulders makes Draco’s stomach squirm.

“He’s fine, f-f-or the most part-“ Granger makes a sound like a choked Owl and Potter quickly reaches out to grasp assuredly at her shoulder. “You were right. About the nerve damaging spells. He’s been exposed to so many that he might...have permanent damage to his left arm.”

Draco can’t see Granger’s face, but from the way her body bows forward and her head drops, he can tell she’s fighting back tears.

No wonder.

No wonder, Weasley had dropped his wand in the middle of the fight, had struggled to get his body to cooperate. Draco immediately feels shame course through him like a wave at the way he had sneered at him for being so utterly ‘useless’. Had Weasley not thrown himself in front of Draco... he might not have gotten so badly injured. He doesn’t owe Draco a single thing, so why would he... why...

“He was protecting me,” Draco whispers hoarsely and Potter flinches as Granger whips around with a face full of astonishment. “He put himself between me and them. I...”

Her face collapses into a proud smile and her eyes soften considerably. “That noble idiot.” But then something else infiltrates her features and she returns right back to worrying. “Does that mean- will he be able to carry on as ...”

Potter opens his mouth to speak. Opens it, closes it, opens it again and Draco is briefly reminded of the fish they used to keep in the ponds at the Manor.

“I-I-I-I don’t kno-know.” Granger, reworks her face into something far more professional before taking a measured breath.

“Is it okay if you stay here whilst I...?” If Potter is against her request, he doesn’t let it show. He simply nods giving Granger’s shoulder a quick squeeze before walking her out the door.

When he re enters, he doesn’t say a word and Draco isn’t sure whether he’s in the right mind to ask more about Weasley’s well-being. He tries to summon something to say, something to break the suffocating silence but his tongue won’t work. Every word he tries becomes lodged in the depths of his throat.

And really, it would be lying if he said he wasn’t more than a bit irked by Potter’s silence. Since when had he become so... reserved? Or had he always been that way? Draco rifles through the memories he has of Potter and - no, he hadn’t been particularly shy nor quiet during their school years. Always ready to snark back at Draco whenever they engaged in a verbal battle. Ever the fierce little Gryffindor. Brave and brash, irritating Draco to no end with his obnoxiously loud voice, irritating Draco with just his mere existence in all honesty. Not to mention when he would partake in that awful thing Draco assumed was supposed to be snogging with that equally awful Weasley girl.

He surreptitiously glances toward Potter, struggling to detect even the smallest fragments of the boy he used to be but only managing to find a tired, pale man in his wake. He clears his throat and Potter’s jade eyes flicker to him. And for a moment, Malfoy notices what an oddly beautiful colour they are, like pieces of coloured glass caught in sunlight, what an unusual face they’re set in. It occurs to him for the first time since, since... ever, that Potter is in some way not entirely British which shouldn’t be as shocking as it is. But to Draco, Potter’s always been, well, just Potter... nothing more. Curiosity thoroughly peaked, Draco wants to know more, wants to know what kind of blood flows through his veins- It's only when Potter awkwardly clears his throat, does he realise that he’s been staring for far longer than is socially acceptable and stiffly averts his gaze.

“I should go and thank Weasley-“ Draco says, trying to diffuse the tension that has gathered in the air like tar and Potter’s face flashes with the barest moment of surprise.

“Try not to look so shocked, Potter, I am capable of basic human decency.” He sneers. Nice to know Potter still thinks as little of him as he did during their school days-

Another abrupt thought suddenly invades Draco’s mind and he swears loudly. “Merlin’s hairy bollocks!”

For Salazar’s sakes, he’d forgotten about Deli! How could he have forgotten about Deli? He scrambles to his feet ignoring the rising nausea and merciless pounding at his temples, surging upward, wand in hand. Potter’s eyes go comically wide and he extends his own hands toward Draco as if he’s trying to tame a Dragon.

“Mal-f-foy I really don’t think-“

“Oh do shut up, Potter!” He snaps woozily finding his way to the door on shaking legs. It feels as though the very ground is shifting beneath his feet.

“Where a-are you-you going?”

“To get my bloody elf, Potter, would you please-“

“You have an el-“

Something tickles the skin under his nose and he stops abruptly to brush whatever it is away.

Potter stares at him, his eyebrows drawing upward in - is that - surprise? Worry? Is Potter worried? The possibility alone seems blasphemous.

“Malfoy...”

Draco glances down at his hand. Deep scarlet streaks the length of his index finger. He touches his nose again and more blood slides slowly over his fingertips. It won’t stop. Why won’t it stop? Potter moves toward him, his arm coming to rest under Draco’s elbow as his eyes dip into extreme concern. Electricity pulses out from the point of contact and Draco gasps at the sheer sensation -

What is this feeling? -

He barely has time to rasp out a weak. “Potter.”

Before he collapses into darkness.

Chapter Text

Her eyes are on his, her fingertips on his face, five points of pressure against his cheek. His bones are settled, sinking deeper into his own flesh with every passing second.

She smiles-

Lovely lady, sure and sweet, join the dance use your feet-

Her lips move but he can’t hear her over the breeze and the rustle of leaves and bed sheets.

Speak up, my love?

She leans closer -

X

Harry stumbles under Malfoy’s weight, curling his fingers into the coarse fabric of an expensive robe. He hisses, pulling Malfoy to him.

This isn’t happening right now. Harry’s mind races, he can feel the crackle of wild magic pulsing through his fingers - He calls out as he sinks to the floor with Malfoy in his arms, cradling his head in one broad palm. Every event that follows happens in a blur. A nurse rushes in before summoning more mediwitches and wizards to the room. Harry is forced to wait outside, the last thing he sees is Malfoy being hoisted onto the bed.

X

Eyes like stars, hair like night Grace us with your purest light.

She speaks and still he cannot hear. She smiles again raises his hand to her lips and touches them to his knuckles.

My love, the wind is too loud -

She moves closer and even the sound of her motion is lost to his ears.

Then there is silence.

She looks into his eyes and they are so familiar. Hardened and cold, but that’s not right-

Her mouth moves and he can hear her speak.

“Wake up.”

X

Malfoy’s head snaps forward.

His eyes are two wild, glassy things tossing in their sockets. Harry jumps hastily back from the side of the bed, almost falling over his own feet.

“You’re, you’re -“ Malfoy stares unblinkingly up at Harry his chest heaving, hair splayed around his face almost shockingly white under the fluorescent onslaught of the hospital lights.

There’s something awfully gaunt about Malfoy’s face now that Harry isn’t looking at him from halfway across the room. Haunted, he corrects himself upon closer inspection. Had Malfoy looked this...bad the last time they’d met? Harry doesn’t think so, or at least, he can’t recall so. Malfoy seems to have aged ten years in only two days. Harry has never understood something more in his life.

Before he can speak, the door flies open and in storms none other than Pansy Parkinson herself. She stands facing the bed, gloved hands on hips, looking sharper than flint itself. Her red lips slowly draw into a thin line before she speaks. Harry is shocked into stillness -can’t even remember the last time he’d been in the same room as Parkinson.

A nurse rushes in after her, looking breathless, Saying something like ‘I tried to stop her’. Harry gently excuses him, keeping his eyes on the witch.

Well?”

Draco looks baffled but also relieved.

“Well, what?” He huffs with barely any bite.

Saying those two words seems to sap him of all energy.

Parkinson’s face darkens considerably. “who did this to you, Draco?”

He gives his head a laboured shake and Harry almost feels bad for him. “All hooded figures, no idea.”

“No emblem? No mark?”

Draco shakes his head yet again.

“Why were you alone, Draco?” Parkinson shifts her weight from one foot to the other her mouth pulling down at the corners. She’s ruthless. All sharp lines, not a single hair out of place. How on Earth did Ginny...?

“I was taking it to Harkins.”

Her eyes flash. “Why on Earth-“

Draco cuts her off, sounding miserable, looking desperate. “He might know what it means-“

This time Parkinson cuts Malfoy off. “No Draco. Harkins isn’t - you can’t trust it, you know that.”

“Well I had to do something besides just larking about like Potter’s useless bunch, it’s been days and nothing has happened.”

Harry gears up to argue back but Parkinson is faster. “You of all people should understand the amount of time it takes to research these sorts of things Draco! Look at you trying to rush in and deal with this all by yourself! Look at where it’s gotten you! Not only have you managed to put yourself needlessly in harms way, but also someone else for Merlin’s sakes, Draco when will you understand that this isn’t just about you!”

She has turned almost purple with rage, her hands clenched at her sides hard enough to turn her knuckles white.

Before Malfoy has a chance to retaliate she storms from the room, slamming the door viciously behind her. Harry’s surprised she hasn’t punctured the floor with her heels.

Malfoy sits there in silence, a crease forming between his pale eyebrows as something unreadable worms it’s way onto his face. As if he’s surprised that she actually left.

Harry feels his jaw tighten alarmingly. What an absolute-

“Good God, Potter, stop glaring at me and say something, you look as if you’re about to burst a vein.”

Harry continues to glare at him from behind his glasses and Malfoy smirks, Harry bloody hates that smirk. “Look, Mal-Malfoy, all a conversation between the two-two-two of us could possibly do is aggravate your condition.” Even though you’re always fucking aggravated, Harry thinks.

Malfoy blinks, seemingly taken aback by Harry’s decline to entertain him, before his defences shoot up. “Oh Sod off, Potter. Can you even hear yourself? Since when were you so concerned about my welfare?”

Harry shrugs, settles back in his chair, because it feels better to argue with Malfoy than to think about him unconscious and haemorrhaging on the hospital floor. “Let’s put it this-this way, Malfoy:” Harry pauses to reign in the stutter he feels pressing demandingly at the inside of his throat. “I d-don’t.”

Malfoy lets out a sharp snort, looking past Harry with pursed lips. “How Slytherin of you.”

The door opens and Ron sidles into the room carrying a tray stacked high with cake and biscuits, much to Harry’s relief. Calm immediately washes through him at the sight of the grin splitting Ron’s face in two.

“Blimmin' hard getting passed those medics, aye? Thought you’d both need something to brighten you up. Specially you Malfoy, you look like Dragon shite.”

Malfoy sneers, his face flashing briefly to life. “Speak for yourself, Weasley, at least my looks aren’t permanent. You on the other hand are a complete and utter lost cause.” Laughter erupts from Ron and Harry is left mildly amused much to his own contempt.

Malfoy looks bewildered for a moment before setting Ron with a sharp look. “Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

Ron picks up a biscuit and stuffs the entirety into his mouth. Malfoy grunts in disgust and that’s much better. Harry tries to ignore the feeling of relief swelling in his chest. He also tries to ignore the shake in Ron’s fingers when he brushes hair from his eyes. He catches a glimpse of dark, spidery veins curling around Ron’s wrist and disappearing under the sleeve of his shirt. Scars criss-cross over his knuckles. Most of which are old. Harry feels immediately guilty for not noticing sooner.

When he looks up again Malfoy is watching him. Like he knows something, like he can see right into Harry’s thoughts. Panic surges through his gut, needle sharp and relentless.

“Why did Parkinson not want you to take the book to Bailey’s?” Harry asks in an attempt to shift the attention away from himself and thankfully it works.

“What’s this? Doesn’t that place have a bad reputation?” Ron asks lowering his biscuit back to the plate with a face full of curiosity and concern. Steely grey eyes narrow in sunken sockets. Malfoy hunches into himself, creating a barrier between them with his arms.

“Alright,” Ron says with a one shouldered shrug. “Suite yourself, we’re only trying to do our jobs Malfoy-“

“Get out.”

Ron looks shocked. He opens his mouth to speak but Malfoy doesn’t give him the chance. “I said get out.”

“Malfoy-“

“Don’t come in here pretending like you care, Weasley, I’ve had an awful lot of that for the past six years.”

Harry snaps.

He can handle Malfoy going for him but not Ron, especially not after what Ron’s done for this twat.

“You asked for-f-for help, Malfoy. You were the one who ca-ca-came-came to us -“Harry tries to say knowing his stammer has botched the impact and acidity of his tone. The frustration of it all makes his body tremble.

Malfoy smiles cruelly, his eyes narrowing. ”You see Potter, it’s funny because from afar you could almost pass as fine. But up close-“ Malfoy’s eyes glitter “- up close the cracks begin to show. It’s not so easy to hide how fucking broken you truly are.”

Harry goes completely still. For the first time in a long time, the sounds in his mind go quiet. There’s a split moment where no one moves.

Harry can feel Ron staring at him.

The resounding thud and rumble that courses through the room in the following moments, however, makes everyone jump. A crack snakes it’s way down the wall closest to Harry and he shakes. Watches in disbelief as the crack devours almost half of the plaster. Ron is quick to rush him out of the room, grasps Harry by the arms and ushers him through the door, but not before Harry catches a glimpse of Malfoy’s shock-ridden face.

He’s too engulfed by his rage to take any pleasure from it.

X

Harry welcomes the contact when Ron puts a gentle hand on his shoulder, dipping down to meet his eyes. He only then realises that he’s still shaking. “He’s a prat for saying what he did, mate and I’d understand if you didn’t want to-“

“I’m fine, Ron.” Harry mutters and Ron gives his arm a squeeze. Warmth blossoms from the point of contact outwards sliding like warm honey down the length of his arm and into his fingers. Bloody Hell, but that feels good. “I know, it’s just, you said you had it under control -“

Harry gives Ron the sternest look he can what with his bones being turned to the consistency of jelly just from that single touch. “I’m okay, Ron don’t worry about me. I do have it under control, I promise.”

Ron watches his face for another long moment before he finally nods and let’s go. Harry tries not to chase the touch.

“If you say so, mate. ”

X

He finds Parkinson with scarlet blotches scattered across her face. She sits, clearly still seething, glaring down at the floor.

 “Are you... do-do-do you need some time alo-lone?”

Parkinson gives him a cold stare as if he’s something you’d find on the shelf in their old potions classroom. “What’s wrong with you? Never had a problem gobbing off before, Potter,” She chides hotly and Harry swallows down his own retort, waiting until he sees the regret seep into Parkinson’s face like molten rock. If that look were equivalent to a galleon Harry would own a yacht and a Mansion in the Maldives by now.

“I-“ She looks about as uncomfortable as they come. “That was horribly distasteful of me to say. Sorry.”

Harry offers a tight smile. Did she actually just-?

“Apology accepted. May I sit?”

Parkinson raises a brow her eyes creasing softly around a curious look. “You can do whatever you please, it’s a free country as far as I’m aware.”

A genuine grin pours out of him against his will and Harry tries not to let his astonishment show. How could he forget just how charmingly abrasive Pansy Parkinson could be? “Right. Thanks f-fo-for reminding me-me, Parkinson.” He pauses for a moment to tuck his robes underneath himself.

“How is he?” Parkinson sniffs once Harry is seated.

“Honestly? It loo-looks looks a lot worse than it is.” He answers gazing into the distance. “What - why was he-he-he-he out there by himself, he p-put himself in serious danger.”

Parkinson purses her lips. “That boy has...no self-preservation. Potter, he doesn’t seem to care about what happens to him. As long as he gets the job done.”

“He doesn’t care?” Harry can’t help but to repeat.

“After the war? No. Not at all,” Parkinson says. “You could say he’s gotten to be quite like your old self Potter.”

The word Broken resounds through his mind for a few moments. He has to hold his breath and count to five before answering. “And what does that mean?”  

She looks at him. A slow, penetrative stare that could possibly make him implode.

“Reckless.”

That shocks a breathless laugh from Harry. He’d hardly have called himself reckless, it’s just that trouble has a way of finding him wherever he seems to go. It’s not like he wants to live a life of danger. He was a walking case of bad luck. Hermione insisted he carry a shamrock around with him at all times.

Parkinson’s mouth curves into the smallest of smiles before she sighs, staring along the length of the hallway.

“Trouble just sort of finds me, Parkinson it’s not a choice, that’s why I became an Auror in the first place. So I could learn how to properly protect myself and others.”

Suddenly, she sits perfectly upright twisting slightly to stare at Harry, her face alight with revelation.

“I have a request.”

Harry’s laughter tapers off. The look in her eye tells him that whatever she’s after can’t be good. And he’s right because the next words to come out of her mouth make his vision swim.

“Let Draco stay with you.”

Chapter Text

There is silence and darkness. There is dust and decay. Death.

A man sits amongst it all, idly spinning a ring around the smallest finger of his left hand. The body at his feet has turned cold, Riga mortis making it stiff. The man places his heel against a gaunt, bloodless face before delivering it a vicious kick. He’s rewarded with a wet crunch that makes him shudder and he smiles gently.

“Oh Michael, whatever shall I do?” He sighs before drawing his wand and muttering something under his breath. A white mist sleeps from the tip to the ground and encases the corpse which resides there.

With a start and a groan, the body wheezes back to life, spluttering and clutching at his dislocated jaw. He winces as he tries to snap it back into place.

“Must you do this every time?”

The man smiles again, a disturbingly dazzling thing which displays rows of even, pearly teeth.

“My deepest apologies.”

The resurrected man narrows his eyes, still holding onto his grotesquely unhinged jaw. “You’re not even remotely sorry.”

The man grins. “You know me far too well. If they hadn’t pulled your body from the river I don’t know what I would have done.”

Michael raises a skeptical brow. “Replaced me immediately?”

He grimaces down at himself, pushes a finger through the new hole in his chest.

“All for a blasted book-“

The man’s eyes gleam with malice. “Not just any book, Michael my dear boy. The book of Moirai is worth more than life itself. More than this mortal world could ever conjure up.”

Michael doesn’t look particularly convinced but he holds his tongue.

”Tell me, Michael, who was it who put you in the river this time?”

”Bloody Auror bastard and his little blond friend. Might’ve been that... Mar- Manor-Mallows? No that’s not right..Melroy?-“

The man’s eyes flash and he jerks forward in his seat, disgusting in his desperation. Frightening in his fascination.

”Do you mean Malfoy?” His voice is almost serpentine in nature, his lips glisten with spit.

”Malfoy! Yes, that’s him!” Michael exclaims partly enraged partly triumphant. “Slimy little cunt.”

The man grins, his mouth stretching beyond what could be considered as humanly possible.

”How, delightful. This should make things far more... interesting.”

Chapter Text

Draco is unhappy, to say the least. He leaves the hospital wing with Pansy at one elbow, Granger at the other and a headache pressing mercilessly at the space between his brows. Not to mention that his clothes chafe horribly against the sore parts of his body every time he so much as breathes which is a crisis in and of itself. An overwhelming desire to be chin-deep in a scalding-hot bath suddenly sweeps over Draco and he has to suppress a pitiful whimper. 

Potter and Weasley walk ahead of them immersed in an almost silent, but seemingly no less heated, conversation. Not that Draco's been watching them or anything. Potter keeps rearing back to throw petulant glares at Weasley, his mouth pressed into a thin, rigid line, whilst Weasley stares back at him with a Gryffindor-ish sort of resolve, trying to gesticulate and failing badly because of his injured arm. Draco would laugh if he didn’t feel as though he’d been trampled by a herd of Hippogriffs.

Meanwhile, Pansy and Granger are having their own quiet debate, one that Draco can barely keep up with for how fast they're speaking.

“It needs to be locked up,” Pansy says in that forceful way of hers, which is only exaggerated by the sharp clip of her heels against the Ministry's marble floors. Granger looks dubious.

“As much as I agree, Parkinson, we still need to -“ Granger lowers her voice, moving closer “-to find out what exactly Snape's intentions were.” She pauses. “As a matter of fact, We still need to find Snape - and this book, as volatile as it is, seems to be our only clue.”

Pansy glances away, her eyebrows drawn down into a contemplative, albeit, fixed ‘V’. Granger pushes on resolutely, which Draco has to commend her for. Pansy is stubborn at the best of times and downright mulish at the worst of them.

“Leaving it could end up making an already difficult situation, much worse. That book is powerful, powerful enough to do Merlin knows what and if it falls into the wrong hands-”

“I know, Granger." Pansy sighs, waving her hand dismissively. "The fate of the wizarding world could be in grave danger and so on and so forth.”

The way Granger purses her lips makes it seem as though she's trying desperately hard not to snap at her.

For the first time since coming into this rather unwanted ownership of the book, Draco is racked with honest doubt. Possibly due to the fact that's he's had time to actually sit with the knowledge that this is now, very much, his problem, or maybe because of the attack, which isn't all too shocking, when you think about it. Being unexpectedly hexed at in a darkened alleyway, by Death Eater wannabes can have this sort of effect on a man. What Draco really needs, is a plan of action. Destroying the book is most definitely off the table, plus Draco's not entirely too sure how he would even go about that. Besides, he surprisingly doesn't think he has the heart to do it, not when it feels so sentient... so alive. There’s something about the magic of it, that is so... so breathtakingly familiar, yet Draco can't quite to put his finger on why that is. He clutches the book to his side.

Weasley suddenly drops back, coming to walk beside Granger who gives him one strong, unreadable look, before speeding up to fill the empty space next to Potter. Draco doesn’t know why, but his heart begins to race  and no amount of measured breathing will make it slow down. Traitor. He’s nervous. Because of Ron Weasley. What in high Hell is happening to him?

“Thank you,” Draco says stiffly as a means to break the awkward silence between them and Weasley straightens up, that ridiculous smile spreading like a slow wave across his face. His thankfully ruddy face, mind. Colour sits high on his cheeks, two pink splotches against the paleness of his freckled skin. A miracle, really, considering how he looked earlier. Draco grimaces internally and tries to suppress the guilt that rears up in his stomach like bile.

“For what?” He asks, genuinely confused.

“Protecting me, Weasley." He gives Weasley a curious side-eye. "Your memory is alarmingly poor for a professional of your supposed calibre. If this is the sort of standard the Ministry expects from it's Aurors, then, really, Merlin save us all.”

This earns him a scowl, but it’s a fleeting expression, quickly replaced by something much more congenial. Draco’s not entirely too sure if he likes it or not. Mostly, he thinks he's just surprised to be on the receiving end of whatever this is. This strange sort of 'non-hatred' that has developed between them. Along with Weasley’s sappy heroics and Potter’s ridiculous intensity, he’s not sure if he can take much more of it. In a bout of utter childishness, Draco wishes for his Mother. It’s selfish, he's well aware of this. For a moment he has to wonder if she would come back, if he asked her to. He's waves the thought abruptly away.

“It was nothing, Malfoy I was just -“

“Doing your job?” Draco meets Weasley’s eye with a raised brow. “I know. You haven’t failed to remind me.”

Weasley holds his gaze, an oddly amused expression on his face. “Don’t like Aurors much do you, mate?”

Draco sneers back in reply. “However could you tell?”

This time Weasley laughs. It’s a deep, surprisingly resonant sound, which reverberates right through Draco. Why wasn’t Weasley biting back? They should have been tearing at each others throats by now not, not sharing jokes like old classmates. Something tightens in his chest. An inexplicable sensation that almost leaves him winded. What on Earth is the matter with him?

“I can’t blame you, Malfoy. Right lot of Gits, we are,” Weasley puffs out his cheeks in mock-disappointment and shakes his head.

Draco takes the chance to look away. Definitely not to hide the smile pushing at his mouth. Not at all. That would be an absolute betrayal of everything he stands for. “At least you can recognise how far up your own arses you all live.”

The guffaw Weasley lets loose tips the scale. Draco can’t hold back the laugh that clambers out of his mouth, nor the small smile that follows after. Doesn’t have time to be appalled at himself for laughing at the joke of a, of a Weasley. The aforementioned redhead stares for a shocked second before he too is choking on his own laughter.

“What even,” Draco clears his throat, ”What exactly are you, Weasley?”

There’s a beat of silence.

“An Auror who lives up his own arse? Merlin, Malfoy I thought we’d already been over this?”

Draco rolls his eyes, trying not to reward Weasley with another smile.

Potter is staring at them. A blank eyed, awful thing. Draco resists the urge to glare back. He resists the urge to feel guilty, to feel anything at all.

X

“Stay with Potter? Are you insane?”

They’ve pulled into a small alcove near Potter’s office. Or rather, Pansy had all but cornered him, throwing up a quick muffliato as if she'd divined poor Draco's reaction, already. There's a charmed window overlooking a scene of some bustling, mundane road and a remarkably soft, velvet-covered bench. Draco spreads his fingers over the material absent-mindedly as he levels his friend with a sour glare.

“I don’t see why that will be an issue-“

His scowl deepens. “You know bloody well why that would be an issue, Pansy-”

“It’s the safest place for you right now, Draco-” She tries to tell him her with an exasperated voice, but Draco is too livid to listen.

“Have you forgotten who he is!” He stresses through gritted teeth, feels a flush of molten shame crawl up his neck. “Have you forgotten who I am? What would people say if they found out the Boy-who-lived was housing an ex-Death Eater? ” The words taste bitter in his mouth, even after all this time.

Pansy looks as though she's about to speak, but instead she turns to glare out the window, her jaw working silently. She stays that way for an entire minute before she speaks again. It’s possibly the longest minute of Draco’s life. 

“Do you remember what I said that day after your Mother visited you?” Her voice is soft, her fingers digging into her upper arms where she's grasping them tightly

Draco remains silent. Of course he remembers, and of course, she doesn’t fail to remind him.

“I said that if you couldn’t do it for yourself then do it for the ones you care about,” she utters quietly glancing over her shoulder with a silent plea in her eyes. It's such a vulnerable look, so small.

He chooses not to argue. Pansy’s face, alone, is enough to stop him.

“Fine.” Her eyes light up. “Fine. But I’m getting my things before I go.”

She roles her eyes, then, but she’s beaming nonetheless. “Whatever you desire, your majesty.”

X

Draco leaves the Ministry with both Granger and Potter in tow having parted ways with Pansy, much to his despair. She'd rushed off, robes a-flutter, babbling something about how she'd take care of his Professor Crawford and not to worry about coming to work for the next week. He'd been surprisingly forlorn, at that, because, truthfully, he likes his job. Being surrounded by books is remarkably calming when they're not trying to maim you. But he supposes he'd rather take the week off than risk being hunted and, most probably, murdered in some dark alley by a group of deranged Wizards.

They reach the designated apparition point just as it begins to rain, only stopping so Draco can transport the three of them to his house.The tension between them is thick, palpable even and Draco tries to restrict his mild panic to shaking hands and quick, shallow breathing. From the outside, his home looks much the same, a tall plain looking terrace overlooking an even plainer garden, yet when they enter, it is eerily still. He treads through the darkened hall-way on careful feet, noting that everything looks untouched. But he knows someone else has been there. The very air itself has been disturbed. Potter and Granger follow behind, silently, wands drawn.

Draco spots a small movement from the corner of his eye, before something rushes out from under the sofa and clings to Draco’s leg, urging both Granger and Potter to launch into action-

Yet when he glances down, it’s only to find Deli, fat tears rolling down her tiny cheeks. His heart beat slows when he realises it’s just her.

“Master Draco is okay!” She clutches his trouser leg between her fingers, rubbing her face into his knee.

Draco feels awful for forgetting about her. Awful and touched by her rare display of affection. He kneels down and gently pushes a handkerchief into her grasp closing his hand over hers reassuringly.

“I’m okay, Deli, frightened me a tad though. You aren’t hurt at all?”

She shakes her head, her ears flapping about manically.

“I’s fine Master.”

She hiccups around a tiny sob and Draco grimaces as he holds her to his shins.

“I’m glad.” He urges her to stand back a bit so he can look her in the eye. “This is Miss Granger, Deli. She will be taking you somewhere safe.”

Granger kneels down next to Draco offering out her hand in greeting. “It’s nice to meet you Deli.”

After a moment of wary confusion, Deli takes Granger's hand, who does her best to comfort the little elf.

"I'll see you back at the house." She says with a heavy glance around the barely-lit room and apparates.

As soon as she's gone, Potter casts a quiet spell, frowning at nothing in particular as he concentrates. A pale pink light curls from the tip of his wand and his frown deepens.

“Dark magic.” 

Draco doesn't waste another moment, he paces to his bedroom and quickly gathers some clothes, shrinking them and putting them into a small case.

When he returns Potter is staring out the window, eyebrows drawn together.

“Shall we go?”

Potter jumps and whirls around. His eyes look like coloured glass in the near darkness. He is breath taking and repulsive to Draco all in one glance.

“‘Course.” He moves to Draco’s side. “Mind if I..?”

His fingers hover close to Draco’s arm.

Draco holds his breath. “If you must.”

Potter’s grasp is sudden. Gentle yet firm. But not... not like it had been, not electric like when Potter has caught him in his descent into unconsciousness.

They apparate in silence.
X

Granger is waiting for them when they arrive. As soon as their firmly on the ground, she and Potter surge off in deep deliberation, disappearing through a door and leaving Draco stood in the bright hall way. He takes a moment to gather his bearings and gazes around the place as his mind works to catch up.

Grimmauld Place is the farthest thing from what Draco could ever have imagined. He'd half expected a dreary little excuse for a house, with outdated furniture and portraits of snooty Black ancestors. His ancestors, come to think of it. A sigh leaves his lips as he takes his shoes of and his feet sink into the plushest, reddest carpet he thinks he’s ever stepped foot on. And though the colour scheme is suspiciously Gryffindor, he has to admit that it’s cozy. Very homely. Very.... Potter. There are pictures lining the walls and funny, charismatic pieces of furniture dotted about that somehow do and don't match at all. The word bohemian springs to mind. A smiling Granger accompanied by an entire pack of Weasleys waves enthusiastically at him from within a gold frame by his shoulder, jostling each other playfully in an attempt to all fit.

Draco edges further into the house. He can hear the two moving about in the kitchen. The sound of a kettle whistling away on a stove. Draws opening and shutting. Granger’s soft laughter. It’s all so sickeningly domestic, Draco doesn’t know where to place himself.

The door suddenly opens and Potter peers out, his glasses slightly fogged over, light spilling out from behind him.
Draco stares. He can’t help it, he's only human. Potter is wearing a fitted black turtle neck, one which clings to him disgustingly well. He feels nauseatingly out of his element and doesn't really know how to fix it.

“Are you-you c-com-coming in. Or-or are you going to stand the-there all night?”

Draco knows he should do something other than stare, but he can’t help himself, not when Potter is treating him so normally and looking so annoyingly good. Especially after what he’d said, after what he's done. Draco rubs absently at his sleeve, over where he knows the mark is, feels it like a physical weight. This whole situation is as far from normal as the sun is from the Earth.

Thank the stars Granger chooses then to push past Potter and hang her robes up on the rack at the base of the stairs. The rack wobbles on its legs, bowing slightly before returning to its original state. Of course it moves. Draco wouldn't expect anything less.

“Oh for Merlin’s sakes, Malfoy. Come in!”

Granger takes his arm, cajoling him gracelessly into the kitchen. She pushes him into a seat at the table which is overflowing with all sorts of paperwork and odd knickknacks. A little wooden man is wobbling around between the mess. Potter trails in after, heading in the direction of the kettle.

He turns to Draco, but doesn’t quite look at him. “Tea?”

Draco nods trying to suppress the sinking feeling in his chest which he distantly registers as nervousness. Do it for Pansy, come on-

Granger, having donned an apron somewhere between entering the kitchen and turning on the stove, points a spatula in his direction. Her hair has frizzed considerably, it curls free from its bun and sticks out like the legs of a spider around her face. “What are your thoughts on pasta?”

He eyeballs her, warily. “Well, as long as you don’t poison me, I suppose, quite positive.”

Granger gives him a strange look, then, as if she's trying to work out a particularly difficult riddle. When this goes on for longer than it should, he feels his ears grow hot.

“What?” He snaps and she shakes her head albeit very slowly, a flicker of - amusement? shimmering across her face.

“You... did you just make a joke?”

Draco blinks, trying to process the question. “Granger don’t tell me, in all of your years that you have never come across humour before.”

She lets out a single ‘ha’ and turns back to the stove. “You’re almost as bad as Harry.”

That makes Draco snort. “You couldn’t possibly be insinuating that Potter is on the same comedic level as I?”

It might have been his imagination, or possibly even a trick of the light, but he could have sworn that he saw Potter smile. This day just keeps getting odder and odder still.

“You’d be surprised actually, Malfoy.”
Granger casts a wicked smile over her shoulder.

Odder and odder.

Potter brings over a pot of tea and sets it On the table with a quick glance to Draco.

A glance turns into a look, and a look into a stare. Draco feels his face heat up, he jolts backwards trying to escape Potter’s jade gaze.

“Hey Mione co-come here. Am I seeing things or -“

Granger, having been distractedly rifling through cupboards twists around to look.

“Were those there just now?” Potter awkwardly nods at Draco and Granger shuffles closer, ducks her pretty face to study his.

“What?” He orders, demands, face hot. ”What?

“Strange question but bare with me a moment : Malfoy have you always had freckles?”

Draco frowns at the query unable to comprehend exactly what he’s being asked.

Excuse me?”

Potter burrows through the things on his table before coming up with a mirror. It’s cracked and generously coated in a layer of dust, which isn’t a surprise going by the state of the kitchen. Draco grimaces but takes it holding it up so he can peer into the smudged glass.

And sure enough there they are.

A smattering of moles across his face dark and unevenly spaced. He tries to wipe them away. They stick.

“What in Merlin’s saggy....“

Chapter Text

They both fall into a strange rhythm over the course of the following week. It’s not an active decision, nor is it an entirely natural occurrence either. Perhaps more along the lines of an unconscious strategy, if it really needed a name.

Harry wakes each morning to work out, shower, dress, and avoid Draco Malfoy like the actual plague. Practically flings himself out the front door in his haste to get away. He knows it’s childish, he does, but he has every right to act like this, seeing as it’s his house that’s been infiltrated.

Harry takes breakfast in his office, between filing reports and reviewing cases, usually ends up with crumbs of some variety, all over his paperwork. Neville asks why Harry is suddenly so eager to be at the office, knowing good and well why that is. Harry normally replies with his middle finger. If he’s lucky, he’ll only briefly catch Malfoy in the evening, flitting about on light feet in search of food, talking softly with Kreacher or Deli, in transit from one room to the next.

That’s when it usually hits home. The fact that Draco Malfoy now lives under the same exact roof as him. How fascinatingly, terrifyingly strange it is to be cohabiting one collective space. He also wonders what Malfoy does all day, when he’s gone. Well, he has an inkling of an idea, occasionally catches him lugging huge books up the stairs to his room like it’s nothing.

They also avoid talking about the whole, um, freckle conundrum, which they really should discuss, but well, they can barely utter a simple ‘hello’ to each, let alone hold down a conversation involving something so potentially serious. Well, Hermione said it was nothing to fret over, but he's still on edge, how could he not be?

Harry really is at a loss. Everything just seems so stagnant and he has no idea how to get it moving again.

X

Their odd routine comes to a grinding holt on the Monday of the following week when Harry is wrenched from his sleep by a disgruntled cry.

He’s stumbling out of bed before he knows it, smushing his glasses onto his face and almost slipping on the stairs in his haste to get down them. Thank Merlin for the coat rack, because it catches him before his body has a chance to rendezvous with the ground.

He grasps for his wand, prepared for the worst and-

Harry gapes. He must look ridiculous but in all fairness, he’s allowed to, given the situation. He would recognise that devilish heap of fur anywhere. Malfoy, it turns out, is having a stand off with his Cat. His hissing, peevish cat. He sidles past Malfoy and scoops the mound of squirming black fur into his arms.

“Huxley can you not be an arse for more than two minutes of your miserable life?” Harry mutters tersely and deposits him out the back door. Huxley studies him for a moment, peering at Harry with two unsettling and somewhat judgemental jade eyes, before sashaying haughtily away. What an absolute bastard. He’s sure that cat was human in a past life.

“Why on Earth do you have such a frightful creature living in your house, Potter?” Malfoy scowls, still looking a touch shaken up.

Harry surprises himself and Malfoy by laughing. “Now, n-ow, M-M-alfoy, you don’t have to be so hard on yourself.”

“Ha-bloody-ha, Potter."

It's at this moment, when Harry  catches sight of the hefty envelope in Malfoy’s hand. He raises an eyebrow. 

“I need to borrow your owl.” Malfoy says stiffly in response, as if it physically pains him.

Something suddenly niggles the back of Harry’s mind, because he’s almost certain Malfoy had... no, he’s probably just mixing him up with some other pompous prick. There’s no way Malfoy would have an owl of his own, he’s always hated them.

“I don’t think it’s safe to be sending out letters-“

“Well, you see, Potter," He's cut off rather rudely, " I have this little thing called a job. I know it must be difficult for you to understand, so do try to keep up, but not all of us are at liberty to pick and choose when we work.”

Harry ignores him. “Didn’t Parkinson already bail you out?”

“One weeks leave is already pushing it, Potter,” Malfoy sighs irritably and Harry really is trying to not deck the silly bastard right in the face.

Instead, he just points Malfoy in the direction in the right direction and retreats to his room.

X

Tuesday is long and fruitless. Every lead concerning Snape runs infuriatingly dry. No one seems to know anything about anyone which is funny because Harry is absolutely certain that isn’t the case. He's been an Auror long enough to know when he's being told a bold-faced lie which seems to have happened in every interview thus far. It's just getting a hold of any hard evidence that's the tricky part. He can't really go in making accusations based on a gut feeling. Hermione, on the other hand seems to be having a bit more luck, which Harry tries not to get too sore about. They’ve managed to track down Henri Dubois to some seedy hotel in East London renowned for it's less than savoury tenants and even less savoury conduct. Now they're just trying to find ways to flush him out without causing 'too much of a scene', Robards had said because, God-forbid, any of them get caught actually doing their jobs.

He drags his aching body through the door at a quarter past ten that evening, carrying with him the weight of the world and a scowl.

Huxley greets him with a loud meow and a sneeze, curling his inky body around Harry’s ankles as soon as he steps through the door.

“Cat,” Harry grunts in lo of a greeting, bends at the waist to scratch behind a twitching black ear.

“I think I found something.”

Harry nearly jumps out of his skin at the sound of Malfoy’s voice, which sends Huxley scampering into the shadowy depths of the kitchen.

harry glares up at Malfoy who is stood looking giddy and half out of his mind on the stairs. His shirt is almost entirely unbuttoned and where it is buttoned is done up completely wrong. Glasses sit askew in the blond mane of hair atop his head. It’s almost endearing, in a bizarrely abstract way and Harry has to physically will himself to not make a comment.

“Bloody M-Merlin, a simple hello would suffice.”

Malfoy rolls his eyes and trots delicately down the stairs. He doesn’t stop, swiftly goes toward the kitchen and drops an impressive stack of parchment on the table. That blasted book is sat right a top the heap and Malfoy's eyes flick to him expectantly. They shine like jewels in the half-light, fierce and cool and determined.

Harry approaches with caution, gazing down at the work spread across his kitchen table.

“It’s of Greek origin, Potter, thousands years old at least, probably more. It first appears in early Greek mythology in children's stories about the Gods.” Malfoy shuffles through the parchment and points a long finger at a line of unintelligible scrawl.

“And here, you see, I found the Journal of a 15th century magi-bibliographer, Franz Herschel, who writes about his experience with a tome possessing mystical powers, far exceeding the realms of all realities and practicalities, unlike any he had ever seen, with the ability to warp time and space itself.”

Harry looks at Malfoy, slightly impressed and trying not to show it. “Sounds familiar.”

Malfoy nods fervently and pulls out a different sheet of parchment. “The next piece of information I could find comes from the 18th century - another Herschel. An astronomer, who could apparently walk amongst the stars with the help of an heirloom he discovered by accident in his family vaults.”

Harry frowns trying to take in all of this information. “What I don’t understand is how Snape ended up with it, then. Do you know of any Herschel’s in his family?”

“Not as far as I’m aware,” Malfoy mutters, pulling his glasses down to his nose and frowning over his research.

He looks strangely good in them and Harry finds himself unable to stop casting fleeting glances in his direction. Glasses are his thing, Malfoy has no right to go and -

“We occasionally work with the Unspeakables. They might be able to offer us more of information about this book.”

The clearance will be ridiculous. Even as an Auror of his status, Harry knows it will be nearly impossible to hold a meeting with an Unspeakable. He is vaguely impressed by the fact that Malfoy has had the opportunity to rub shoulders with such high standing witches and wizards.

Harry wants to know more. He’s eager, really. He’s never even set foot in Harkinson Bailey’s despite it being the Ministry’s top supplier for all things literary based. Then again, he's never needed to, there's always someone to, well, do that for him.

“What’s it like? Working there, I mean,” he asks and Malfoy regards him slowly over the top of his glasses as if only just remembering that he's not alone. Harry should be offended, but for some odd reason, it makes his stomach swoop, instead. He really has no right to look like that -

“I’d really rather we didn’t get into specifics, Potter,” He sighs before gathering his things briskly.

Harry frowns, confused. “No really, I’ve heard... things.” He finishes lamely.

It’s like he can actually see Malfoy’s wards go up. “And, pray tell, what kind of 'things' these would be, Potter?"

Harry's not entirely too sure what, he's said to warrant such a reaction. “Look, Malfoy, I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m just curious- “

“I think it’s best that you mind your own business, Potter. Do try to remember that I’m not your friend and I most certainly will not lark around discussing the finer details of my personal life with the likes of you. There are at least thirty things I'd rather be doing and at least three of those include scraping literal Crup shit off of people's shoes.“

Harry feels his jaw turn stiff with anger and his shoulders square. Why does he have to ruin a perfectly civil conversation? “Do me a favour and piss off, Malfoy. I think it’s you who should try to remember that you’re in my house-“

“The house in which I never wanted to fucking stay, Potter!-“

“It’s for you own bloody safety, you ungrateful git-“

“I can protect myself- !”

“Yeah? Is that why you almost got blasted to bits, when- !”

The book chooses then to fling itself open with an almost angry thud, the pages whipping about maddeningly before beams of blinding light shoot from within.

Oh, fuck.

Harry moves without thinking pulls Malfoy to him, wand drawn, hand curling protectively over Malfoy’s shoulder, fingers digging into fabric and flesh and -

X

The air is different here. Not bad, different, just... different.

It’s dry and fragrant and warm, like summer. Harry holds a hand up against the sunlight and squints, spreading his fingers before dropping his arm to his forehead in defeat. At least the grass is cool against his back. What was he doing, again? He’s sure...He’s sure that he was supposed to be doing something...

A shadow falls across his body and he lets out a sigh of relief, pulling his arm from his sticky face, only to find that man -Draco, was it?- lounging next him, head tilted back against the sun, dark hair twisted up loosely on top of his head. Dark hair?

Harry blinks slowly. Oh yeah, of course. What else would it be?

He rolls over and presses his face into Draco’s bare thigh, earning a gentle laugh in return. A cool hand cards through Harry’s hair in return and he hums appreciatively. What was he doing, here, again?....

It’s the easiest thing in the world when he leans up to press his mouth to Draco’s side, then against his shoulder. Two bright silver eyes and a smile greet him when he finally reaches Draco’s face and Harry grins in return, bumping their noses together. He could... stay like this forever, he thinks, ghosting his fingers down a pale neck and touching his lips to Draco’s. Something deep in his head tells him that he should be angry - 

why would he want to do that?


But now that the thought is there... now that the thought is there, he can’t seem to shake it.
He shivers and squints above him as the sky plunges from blue to grey.

No, this isn’t what he wants - why does he feel so, so -


A hand wraps around his throat and Harry is shoved back into the grass. He’s scared, so fucking scared, not just of this man, but of himself-

He doesn’t want to hurt him, no, he wouldn’t.

Harry loves him, he would never-

X

Harry’s not sure who pushes away first, it’s so synchronised that it’s almost as if they’d planned it. What he does know is that it bloody hurts. Something deep within him aches like it’s been torn from right between his ribs and Harry tries not to double over gasping.

Malfoy doesn’t look much better. In fact, Malfoy doesn’t look like himself at all. He’s gone even paler than usual, his mouth twisted into something cruel, almost pained. He’s backing away from Harry slowly something very accusatory in the set of his brow.

And his hair, his hair, dark as pitch - he looks like that man. Panicking, Harry squeezes his eyes shut, but the memory is already slipping away from him. Fuck, wait, what man?

Before he can think to speak, Malfoy is storming from the room.

Harry feels as though he’s been flayed open. It’s, to be quite honest, one of the worst feeling he has ever experienced in his life, which is saying a lot, like having his heart wrenched through his chest. He presses a hand to the kitchen table and heaves in a shaking breath.

For some reason far beyond his understanding, he wants to cry.

What the fuck just happened?

Chapter Text

Draco doesn’t come out of his room for two days. He throws himself wholeheartedly into his work, spends hours hunched over an eclectic spread of history books, translating and copying out ridiculous masses of text. Time becomes secondary, the ache in Draco’s right hand is near constant and he reads so much that his eyes start to go funny even with his glasses on. He adds notes over everything he writes, red cursive spilling across black cursive, on red on black. A confusing clash of script across pages and pages of parchment.

The place is a wreck, too. Paper strewn across the desk, gathered at the foot of the bed - Draco hasn’t seen most of the floor for the better part of a week. It’s all just a warped manifestation of the goings on inside his own head. Too many things rolling round and around inside of a brain that has already reached maximum capacity. Too many thoughts of Potter’s breath falling hot against his neck, lying in the grass under a blazing sun- Too many thoughts of Potter, full stop. Stupid, awful, tactless Potter.

Draco clasps an ink-stained hand to his hip and one to his head, holding it there as if that will stop the words from tumbling out. He can’t help but feel that it’s all a bit much.

It also doesn’t help that he hasn’t really made any headway in his research, either, which is infuriating because the need to know what he’s supposed to do is eating him up inside. If Snape’s trying to tell Draco something, here, he really for the life of him, can’t figure out what it is.

Draco briefly stops to look at himself in the mirror. To card his fingers through the dark locks that now sits atop his head, to lean closer and inspect the colony of moles that now reside on his face. Turning this way, leaning that way.

For a man who clearly has no idea what a mirror is, Potter seems to have an awful lot of them. Honestly, you’d think he’d know what a comb is by this point in his life, especially with that awful mop he calls hair, not to mention his abysmal sense of fashion which consists primarily of worn-through jeans and faded muggle tops with.

Draco pulls the hair away from his neck, arranging it into a slack sort of ponytail and locks eyes with the strange man in the reflection of the tall mirror stood by the window. The only recognisable thing are the eyes. He knows those eyes. Storm grey and just as unforgiving.

Laughing breathlessly, a little hysterically, even, Draco takes down his hair again and reaches for his wand, sizing it up for a quiet moment, feeling more than just the physical weight. Then without another thought, he’s slicing away at the dark mop, chunks fluttering to the ground at his feet. Just like that.

It had taken him three painstaking years to grow it out and he stands there for a moment, shaking, holding onto his shorn locks like a lifeline as he gazes at himself in the mirror.

The first thing he thinks is that he looks like a child again and the second, that he looks absolutely mad. His gut rolls, lurching sickeningly. Not exactly ideal, but it will have to do. At least he can sort of recognise himself again.

Potter comes by a total of five times over the duration in which Draco secludes himself within the confines of his room. Draco can see his shadow under the door when he does, the way he awkwardly pauses there for a moment before retreating back to wherever part of the house he comes from. Some strange part of him wishes that Potter would knock, or call out for him, but of course, he never does. It would give Draco a reason to... say something, like he should’ve done instead of leaving Potter in the kitchen like a coward.

He can’t seem to get the look Potter had on his face out of his mind. That sorry, desperate, cripplingly sad expression exacerbated only by those fragile green eyes. He’d wanted to go to him, surprisingly, to comfort him, but some ugly feeling had told Draco not to. Had told him Potter deserved it.

With a sigh, Draco goes back to the book, sat innocently on the desk by the window more out of habit than anything else. Closes it. Opens it. Closes it again. The pages remain steadfastly, stubbornly empty.

That night he dreams of war, of wading through thick black muck in search of something. He dreams of bright, jades and emeralds, of absinthe jewels burning beautifully in the dark.

He wakes with a start, covered in sweat, hard in his trousers and angry as he’s ever been.

X

The raucous of guests is what finally lures Draco from his room on the third day of his silent protest. Is Potter throwing a bloody party? He thinks he spots bunting just beyond the living room door. The timing seems awfully poor, what with everything that’s going on.

Draco peaks his head down the stairs and immediately sees too many heads of red hair. Ginevra Weasley is sat on the couch talking to Granger, whilst Ronald has himself propped up in the living room entrance, glass in hand, looking too much like he belongs.

Weasley blinks at him owlishly from the doorway before a smile eases across his face like a slow wave. Friendly, as though there wasn’t a drop of bad blood between them. Draco tries to pretend it doesn’t irk him.

“Never thought you’d be able to pull off brunette, Malfoy.”

Draco rolls his eyes, not really understanding why his stomach jumps the way it does. Another thing he chooses to ignore.

“Well, I am a man of many capabilities. Quite the flatterer, aren’t you,” Draco intones, quirking a brow at him. Can’t quite tell if... no. Definitely not, he is definitely not flirting with Weasley. Or rather, Weasley is not flirting with him.

Weasley’s airy smile broadens, fine lines appearing at the corners of his eyes. And really - really - it shouldn’t look as charming as it does.

“I try, mate,” he sips his drink, something dark and most probably alcoholic, swirls it slowly as he takes Draco in. “Harry tells me you’ve... been up there for days now. Everything alright?”

Draco scowls and continues his descent down the stairs until he’s standing across from Weasley, possibly too close. Possibly not close enough. He can make out every single scar and freckle littered across his face, feels inexplicably giddy.

“Do you make a habit of talking about me behind my back?” Draco snarks brightly, doesn’t wait for an answer. “That, I’m afraid, Weasley, is none of your business.”

Weasley rolls his eyes and takes a sip of his drink, clearly attempting to overlook Draco’s peevishness.

“Right, and why exactly did you ask for our help if you have no intention of letting us actually do anything?”

Draco scoffs. “You’ve had ample opportunity to offer your services up until now. I don’t see why it is up to me to give you exact orders on what you should already know how to do. You are an Auror and quite capable of making your own decisions are you not?”

A muscle in Weasley’s jaw twitches frantically. Draco stares, feels his own face twist into something ugly. He doesn’t try to stop it, no, rather he encourages it, squaring his shoulders and raising his chin readying himself for a fight.

Weasley doesn’t rise to the bait, he just levels Draco with a soberingly solemn face. “You should really try to be less of a prick sometimes, Malfoy. People might actually start to like you.”

With that, he downs his drink and walks away, leaving a mildly hurt and Draco in his wake.

He feels eyes on him immediately after. Looks up to meet Potter’s shocking green stare and can’t find it within himself scowl or snarl in return. There’s something so brutal and raw in the set of his face, as if he’s trying to decide what to do with himself, how to act. Stupid Potter and his stupid emotional honesty. No wonder the Prophet always had an absolutely field day with him, he’s shit at masking, Draco can always tell exactly what he’s feeling at any given moment.

The events of last night trickle back to him slowly, then, in little drips and drabs. He is forced to remember the heat of Potter’s skin, his smile, how he’d tasted - it had all felt so devastatingly real. So dangerous and thrilling and beautiful in the most twisted sense of the word. Like Potter had actually been his. What he’d felt was disconcerting, because it’s begun to morph into something else, something a little bit too close to hope.

Draco gulps, suddenly overcome, and stumbles toward the garden.

X

Potter’s magic sits heavy in the air. Draco only comes to realise just how present it is throughout the house when he steps outside. The sudden lack of it leaves him feeling inexplicably cold, a little bit numb and for a moment he’s glad to escape it.

He rubs his hands up his arms and casts a quiet warming charm, tilts his head up to look at the stars.

“Cold for June, don’t you think?” Someone comments in airy tones and Draco almost jumps out of his skin.

“Sweet Salazar on a stick!” He curses as he wheels round to see who it is.

None other than Luna Lovegood, smiles up at him from where she’s crouched over What Draco can only assume is a vegetable patch and he has to wonder how he hadn’t noticed her before. She looks almost the same as she had at the tender age of sixteen, with her long hair and unwavering eyes, so much so that a barrage of suppressed memories comes flooding back to Draco - and he’s suddenly stood in that courtroom. Sweating and shaking and afraid. So, so afraid. Paranoid under the stares of a thousand eyes. Lovegood had been there, with that same distant expression, that easy way of hers. Even after the running and the death and the tortu-

“Lovely time of year for a birthday, though. When the weather’s right,” she mumbles turning back to gently cup the leaf of a plant by her foot and simultaneously releasing Draco from his own thoughts.

“A birthday?” He echoes not entirely too sure if they’re engaged in the same conversation, and Lovegoood smiles at the plant before rising from her crouch. Her dress is a mad clash of mesh and silk, which reaches to the ground, her bare pink feet peaking out from beneath.
Gone are the turnip earrings and in a brief moment of delirium, Draco thinks he misses them.

“It is your birthday today, isn’t it?” She asks clasping her hands behind her back, smiling. Draco would question how she knows that if it were anyone other than Lovegood.

He hasn’t celebrated his birthday in years.
To be quite honest he’d almost forgotten about it entirely. There are too many memories connected. All so...dark, sore like fresh bruises that he’s not quite, nor ever shall be, ready to tend to. Some things are better left alone.

“Well I...” he makes an exasperated little sound. “I suppose it is? What day is it?”

“June 5th,” Luna gently supplies. “Odd for someone to forget the day of their entry into the world.”

Draco sniffs, haughty and cornered. “Birthdays are terribly overrated, if you ask me.”

Lovegood’s smile brightens. “I don’t think I did ask you, Draco.”

He feels heat crawl up his neck in an instant.

“So what’s all that about,” Draco says waving his hand toward the house in an attempt to change the subject.

Lovegood glances thoughtfully behind her, the light from the windows turning her face an ethereal gold. “We’re the closest thing to family that Harry has and he adores the company.” She gets this sort of bereft look in her eye. “I don’t think he particularly likes to be in that big house all by himself, either.”

For some strange reason that makes Draco’s heart clench. It is an awfully big house for one man. Even if that man just happens to be larger than life, war-hero Harry Potter. “No one likes to be alone.”

To say that those months after the war had been difficult would be a monumental understatement. No one wanted anything to do with a Malfoy, let a lone one who carried the mark of the monster who had tried to wipe out an entire race. People left a wide birth wherever he went, cast him openly disgusted looks, pulled their children close when he walked past. He can’t really blame them, he’d have probably done the same. But the loneliness had gnawed away at Draco like nothing else and with the delicate state of his mind after the trials ended, it had almost broken him.

“You’re a good man, Draco, I can see it in you,” Lovegood says out of nowhere, as if she see into his mind. “Bright, like a star.”

And it startles Draco, wrenches at some part of him that leaves his eyes burning and his throat growing tight.
“You don’t even - you can’t say that. I did awful things to you, Lovegood, absolutely unforgivable things.”

“I forgive you,” She says simply, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do and it pulls harder at that painful shard lodged in his chest. “We all forgave you, at some point, Draco. Too much has been lost to hold onto silly things like grudges. We all had to move on, in our own way, forgiveness is just a part of that journey - a part of the healing.”

She looks at him, really looks at him. “I think it’s time for you to move on, too, Draco. Do you’re own healing, allow yourself to be happy. Live. It’s okay, you can let go, now.”

And he does. Some thing in him gives way and he begins to sob, like a child, right in front of Lovegood. It pours out of him like a tidal wave with no chance of stopping and she holds him through it, soothes him with nonsensical, quiet words. Cathartic doesn’t quite cover how it feels to cry in that moment. He let’s himself mourn for all that he’s lost. His home, his father, his childhood. All the things that were taken from him. The things that simply weren’t fair.

Draco doesn’t stop for a long time, not until his voice is wrecked and his eyes are swollen. He feels strangely calm afterwards, a sudden ease settling in him that has an almost tangible weight to it.

“Thank you,” He croaks, scrubbing at his eyes and nose in an attempt to dry his damp face and regain some of his composure.

Lovegood smiles at him, then, with this genuine warmth and intensity. She loops her arm through Draco’s arm and together they walk back to the house.

X

He’s not entirely too sure how he ends up in Scotland with Pansy the following morning. All he knows is that he was in Potter’s living room, reading one moment and standing in Hogsmeade the next.

“Pince,” she’d snapped as they manoeuvred they’re way through Diagon Alley under heavy Disillusionment charms. “Pince used to mention a book like yours in our History of Magical Literature club, all the time.”

Draco had tried not to make a comment about Pansy being a member of Pince’s book club, because he values both his life and his balls.

They land in Hogsmeade within the hour, the Scottish air fresh to the point of stinging and the sky above, a brilliant, summer blue. The cobble stones, are smooth underfoot as they walk.

“Doesn’t quite feel the same does it?” Pansy mutters as two young witches race past them with brimming handfuls of colourful sweets most probably from Honeyduke’s. Draco hasn’t been there in literal years. He’s tempted to drag Pansy in for a minute, just to reminisce over the specific smell of it. He’d always loved that smell, all gooey, sticky-sweet and thrilling to a twelve-year-old Draco. Something strange and wistful lurches through his chest.

“Feels like a dream,” Draco says.

“Yeah.” Pansy looks at him with soft, sad eyes. “Yeah.”

X

Hogwarts looks absolutely beautiful, when they arrive. She stands proudly atop her hill overlooking the lake which shimmers brightly in the midsummer sun. The castle was rebuilt almost identically to the way Draco remembers it before, before-
He clenches his left hand into a fist and breathes deeply. The last time he was here.... The last time he was here, he had been collecting his things from the wreck that was the Slytherin dormitory.

Minerva McGonagall greets them both with a nod and a smile, to let them through the wards. Draco can hardly recall the last time they had met.

It might possibly have been. His trial. Her somber face cast out from the crowd. She’d vouched for him. The cowardly sixteen year old, full of pride and hurt and confusion. She’d seen something in him, though what exactly that something was, Draco has no idea. Maybe the same thing Lovegood - Luna, sees in him.

“Mr. Malfoy, Miss. Parkinson, you look well, I take it your journey was pleasant?”
She inclines her head ever so slightly, looking poised in her deep green robes.

“Yes thank you, Headmistress,” Pansy nods politely and Draco tries not to be too outwardly uncomfortable.

“Yes, thank you,” He says with a small smile, feeling unbearably young.

“Dare I ask what brings you all the way out here?” McGonagall asks, leading them through the main doors of Hogwarts, her robes fluttering behind her. A group of What look to be first years scuttle past with big eyes and heavy looking satchels. They’re impossibly small and Draco wonders if that’s what they looked like in their first year.

“Oh, just a few inquiries to do with work, Professor,” Pansy says breezily.

McGonagall, eyebrows ever-so-slightly raised, doesn’t press the matter. Instead she tells them about how the school’s been fairing since they were last here. They’re implementing a new integration system for muggle-borns which will make it easier for them to transfer between both muggle and magical education. Pansy’s better at carrying the conversation so Draco leaves it to her. He’s a bit too overwhelmed to focus, anyway. Seeing the house banners has him chocking up unexplainably.

“Here we are, then,” McGonagall says drawing to a stop outside of the library. “If you need anything, I’ll be in my office. Try not to cause too much trouble.”

She offers Draco a gentle, knowing smile as she passes and there’s so much he wants to say. He’ll have to come back and visit, like she’d owled for him to all those years ago, he thinks with guilt trickling through his mind.

“Alright, Malfoy?” Pansy asks quietly, her hand coming to rest on his arm. It’s warm and grounding.

“I will be,” Draco says softly back and gives his arm a brief, comforting squeeze before pushing the library doors open.

Madame Pince, greets them immediately, and it seems as if she has not aged a single day in six years. But then again, Draco had never known a young Pince, so.

She frowns at Draco, frowns even more deeply at Pansy as if recalling all the mischief they used to get up to as students. Draco vaguely remembers something about spelling books to the ceiling and many, many library detentions.

The library itself is bright and cozy and full of life. It makes him sort of ache with nostalgia. He can’t say he misses it, not exactly, the feeling runs impossibly deeper than that - like the feeling of coming home in it’s own way.

Pince directs them to a table a little deeper into the room.

“Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us,” Pansy says as they settle, and Pince makes a little hmph sound in the back of her throat, as she rearranged the glasses.

“You hardly gave me a chance to refuse, Miss. Parkinson. More fool me, for forgetting what a persistent little thing you are.”

Pansy smiles, not even having the curtesy to look a little bit embarrassed. “So, Madame Pince, the book I had discussed - the one in my letter. What can you tell us about it?”

Draco wonders exactly what Pansy has said - she’d been vague about it, about this entire trip in general, actually - hoping she hadn’t disclosed anything telling. The less people involved, the better.

“I only know of one book documented to harness powers like those you described and it was most definitely not made for worldly consumption,” Madam Pince utters matter-of-factly. “Some believe it to have been created by wizard kind in order to regulate the land, simply outgrowing the power of it’s maker with age as is common for most magical artefacts.”

“But you don’t believe that, do you.” Pansy states, chin jutting forward with interest.

Madam Pince purses her thin lips.
“Not in the slightest, no.”

“It’s easier,” Draco mutters. “To believe that - more suitable for public eyes and ears.”

“Precisely, Mr. Malfoy,” Pince says as if only just remembering that he’s there. “No Wizard has ever been documented to carry such power, not in the last five hundred years. Yet it is said, by legend of course, that the Fates themselves once roamed the Earth-”

Draco leans forward eagerly. “The Fates?”

“Do try to not interrupt me, Mr. Malfoy,” Pince chides hotly and Pansy chuckles. He refuses the urge to stick his tongue out at her.

“Sorry.”

She gives him a pointed look and sips at her tea. “Where was I... Ah, yes. The Fates, beings responsible for maintaining the equilibrium of the world. They have complete control over every detail of our existence - when each flower will bloom, when a man will draw his last breath. How a wave would crash upon a shore. All of this, inscribed within these powerful tomes.

“Legend says, that there was an overarching being, the highest and most powerful of all the Fates. However, she was betrayed by one of her most loyal servants who, supposedly fuelled by jealousy, stole away her book and cast it into the sea.”

Enraptured, Draco leans forward in his seat, barely sitting on his seat. “Then what?”

Pince adjusts her glasses and takes another measured sip of her tea. “Then, nothing, Mr. Malfoy. This is the end of the story.”

Pansy frowns, her face cast into strange shadows by the firelight. “Surely there must be more. That just seems like an entirely abrupt way to finish a story.”

Pince, straightening her robes, rises from her seat and spells her chair tidily back to it’s table. She levitates her tea over to her desk, before turning to the both of them with stern eyes.

“Abrupt as it may be, Miss. Parkinson, that is all there is to say.” She purses her lips at their joint looks of disdained confusion. “You’re bright, capable young people, if you feel that this ending does not quench your thirst you will either have to just make peace with this or seek out one that does. Whichever of these you decide to choose, do not do it by halves. Discovery is not for the faint-hearted. Good luck to the both of you.”

With that she disappears between a row of book cases, leading deeper into the library without so much as a backwards glance.

Pansy let’s out a long, weighty sigh and slumps back defeatedly in her seat as if all the energy has suddenly left her body. “We haven’t even skimmed the surface, have we, Draco?”

Draco gives a rueful smile to the room at large, feeling his own shoulders sag. Pansy is probably right, which means they’ve got their work cut out for them.

X

Draco arrives back feeling somewhat determined. He kicks his shoes messily under the living room table and paces through the house in search of Potter so he can deliver the news. Both the kitchen and the garden are empty which is unusual because Potter likes to moon about between the two on his days off, either eating or strolling in the sun, so Draco doubles back.

The murmur of voices coming from the down the hallway has him heading for the living room again, barely contained excitement buzzing under his skin. Just wait until Potter hears about what he’s learnt. And Draco has his mouth open ready to declare his findings when he stops dead in his tracks -

There’s a man that he doesn’t know in the living room. He’s tall and dark-skinned, handsome, and standing much too close to Potter. Something dangerous flares up inside of Draco that takes him by surprise as he watches.

Potter sways into the stranger, smiling as he accepts a lazy kiss and he looks absolutely sinful. All red lips and disastrous hair, like he’s been fucked. For some reason it makes Draco burn. He must make some sort of noise because Potter startles suddenly head whipping in Draco’s direction and Draco immediately turns on his heal and storms away, not waiting for a reaction.

It’s Potter’s house. He can do whatever the fuck he likes, as a far as Draco’s concerned, a little warning would have been nice, though. But it’s not just that, it’s not just that at all. Draco slams the door of his bedroom shut behind him, satisfied with the way it rattles on it’s hinges. The feeling is only momentary though and then he’s back to seething. He summons the tumblr of Firewhiskey he had snuck from Potter’s pantry and a glass, pouring one out and gulping it down.

He is yet again bombarded with the memory of how Potter’s body feels pressing into his own. The unforgiving heat of him. Unwarranted, Draco imagines what it would be like to have Harry sprawled across his bed, writhing against his pale green silk sheet, leaving his room smelling like his after shave, wearing his shirt.

Draco flings his glass at the wall with an uncharacteristic snarl, whirls around and rushes everything from his desk to the ground. He stands there panting for a moment, glaring down at the mess he’s created.

It consumes him. This sudden, unwanted need to, to - have Potter. And it terrifies him just as much. Maybe even more so.
Draco, slides down the door with a pitiful little moan, sticking his hands into his hair and pulling hard.

What is happening to him?