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Dare To Think

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The funeral director's office smells musty. Old. Almost suffocatingly so, in Draco's opinion. Frankly, he thinks it also far too grim and dark, what with its dark wooden panelling that stretches two-thirds of the way up the otherwise creamy walls and the thick, plush, blood-red carpet. Not even the large bouquet of bright white roses and peonies and lilies spilling over the rim of a silver vase in the corner can lighten the space; besides, the sweet, almost cloying scent of the flowers does absolutely fuck-all to mask the stuffy stillness of the air and the ever so faint whiff of putridity that wafts through the half-open door. It's near-silent in the room, to the point that Draco can hear the soft huff of his breath with each slow exhale. It makes him uncomfortable, makes him shift in his chair, which then creaks beneath his thighs, loud and echoing in the peculiar, asphyxiating quiet. Draco feels odd, almost as if he's not really in his body. As if he's floating above himself, disinterested, barely engaged in the hushed conversation around him.

Andromeda's sat beside Draco, neat and elegant in her scarlet brocade chair, her feet tucked properly to one side, full black skirt draped beautifully over her knees, pale hands clasped in her lap. She nods, listening to James McIntyre drone on. The gaunt, pale man with the too large head and the skeletal hands will be the one in charge of his father's body once the Aurors finally release it. McIntyre and McKenzie have buried generations of Malfoys, after all.

It's odd to be caught in this dismal mausoleum, Draco thinks, on a Monday afternoon that's bright and sunny and bloody gorgeous outside. His mother had wanted to come, wanted to be the one to make the decisions about Lucius's interment, but she'd started crying over breakfast and hadn't been able to stop. Draco, on the other hand, feels nothing. Hadn't even when he'd looked down at his father's body in the St Mungo's morgue on Saturday morning to identify it, Harry beside him, gripping his hand tightly.

That hadn't been Lucius Malfoy lying in the morgue drawer, not really; Draco had barely recognised the puffy, pale face, its familiar angles and sharpness softened by death, the silver-gilt hair so like Draco's own pooling around his father's shoulders. Except he had. But that body, lying still and silent, hadn't been the man he'd known. Hadn't been his father. The spark of Lucius Malfoy was gone. And Draco had turned away, walked out of the cold morgue with its stench of death and cleaning charms, and promptly sicked up in the bin just outside in the hallway, Harry coming up behind him to hold his hair out of his face and then to put his uninjured hand on Draco's back.

Draco'd spent the next quarter-hour just sitting on the cold, stone floor, the taste of his sick still lingering in the back of his throat, his shoulders pressed against the white-tiled wall, Harry beside him, letting Draco lean on his shoulder. They hadn't spoken, either of them, and Draco'd been so bloody glad. He wouldn't have been able to bear it if Harry'd offered him platitudes. Told him that things would be all right.

They won't be.

And Harry hadn't. Harry'd just let Draco rest his head on his chest, his good arm draped around Draco's shoulders, the other still clamped to his body with a sling. They'd sat there together in the middle of the bloody hallway, not giving a damn who walked past them, until Draco could stand without shaking. Draco hadn't cried the entire time. He doesn't have anything like that left in him any longer, he thinks. He just feels empty now. Hollowed out.

To be honest, Draco wonders if he's normal. If other people feel this blank nothingness once the shock of death wears off. If it's even done so yet. Draco's not so certain the shock has, not entirely. But he knows that his mother can't do these things, can't make these arrangements. Draco doesn't want to either. There's some part of him that'd rather his father stay in the Aurors' care, if Draco's honest. He feels lost here in this cold, cavernous office on what should be a normal everyday afternoon, soft sunlight filtering through the wispy white lace curtains.

But who else would do this if not him? He's the Malfoy heir. He knows his duty.

Pansy had once told him during their Auror training that terrible things happen on Mondays, and he'd laughed at her. She'd been hungover and grim and very much against being forced into Dawlish's course on proper investigative technique that day. Now he's not so certain she's wrong.

Harry'd been the one to firecall Andromeda whilst Draco sat with his mother, trying to calm her down. Draco'd heard him in the hearth, asking Andromeda to come with Draco this afternoon whilst he and Teddy stayed with Narcissa, explaining the situation to her a low, careful voice. Harry would have come as well today if Draco had asked, but Draco didn't really want him to. They've only been dating a week, really, and Draco thinks it's just not done to make your new boyfriend go with you to plan your father's burial. They'd argued as Draco'd dressed himself, hushed and angry in Draco's bedroom, trying to keep his mother from hearing them, but Harry'd given in finally. Draco'd been relieved. He doesn't want to put Harry through more than he has to with his father's death. Draco knows Harry hated Lucius, and it means the world to Draco that Harry hadn't gone back to Grimmauld Place when they'd arrived last Thursday night. Instead he'd stayed at Draco's flat, understanding immediately not only that Draco needed to be with his mother but also that Draco needed Harry close by.

And so Harry had been there quietly in the background all weekend, except for the few hours on Friday afternoon he'd had to go into the Ministry to help deal with the aftermath of Draco's father's death. Draco hadn't asked about that, not even when Harry'd come back. He hadn't wanted to know. Instead, he'd sat in his sitting room with his mother, letting her grieve around him, curled up on the sofa, whilst Draco sat in the armchair beside the window, sipped a glass of wine and wished he were back in New York, back with Harry, both of them lost in each other.

Damn his father to hell.

He realises that McIntyre must have just said something to him; both the funeral director and his aunt are looking at him expectantly. "Sorry?" he asks. "It's just…" He trails off, uncertain what to say. He hates this feeling.

"Yes, of course." McIntyre sounds sincerely sympathetic. "I was just asking about the casket. What sort you might like for your father. There's the line your grandfather was buried in, of course. Very plush. Polished mahogany with engraved sides. Lovely gold trim and tufted satin lining." He glances over at Andromeda. "And I've the ones the Black family have preferred over the years. Ebony, of course, with silver. Very tasteful. I have models if you'd like to see--"

"No." Draco can't. He rubs the back of his neck. "Something plain will do. Something simple. Fuck, just throw him into a sodding pine box and be done with it." He's so bloody exhausted, and his head's throbbing. He just wants to go home, to wrap his arms around Harry and be held.

McIntyre looks a bit taken aback, and Andromeda says, "Draco, your mother--"

"She'll understand." Draco feels a bit nauseous. He can feel the thrum of his pulse in his wrists. "My father was a criminal killed in Auror custody. I don't really think I want to bury him in grand style, Aunt Dromeda." He looks over at her, and she nods. Her dark curls are twisted up onto the back of her head, and for a moment, with the way her mouth turns down at the corners, she looks almost like his Aunt Bella. A chill goes through Draco, and his Mark throbs dully, but then she gives him a small smile and the illusion's gone. He presses his fingertips to his forearm and tries to breathe out. He's going mad, he thinks, with all of this.

His aunt turns back to McIntyre. "Draco's right, James," Andromeda says, her voice quiet. "There are other circumstances to consider. Something as ostentatious as our usual family traditions might be a bit…" She hesitates, bites her lip, then says, "Gauche."

McIntyre frowns a bit, but he leans back in his seat and nods. "Of course."

There's not much to say after that, really, but they go down the bloody checklist of bereavement. Draco refuses the Prophet obituary. "Everyone already knows the bastard died," Draco says bluntly. "It's been on the front page two out of the past three days."

What Draco doesn't say is that he has no interest in a polite fiction being written about his father's life. There are no good things to say regarding Lucius Malfoy, no philanthropies, no small kindnesses on which to reflect, no people other than Narcissa and Draco who might even miss the sodding shit. Hell, his father's own brother-in-law had killed him, and his so-called friends had abandoned him. The haughty facts of Lucius's existence were writ in blood and pain and hatred and couldn't--wouldn't--be covered with the tepid platitudes of memorial. Draco will never let them be. Not now. Not after everything. He won't allow his father's life to be rewritten, to be gentled by the man sitting across from him, to be boiled down to Lucius Malfoy is survived by a wife, Narcissa, a son, Draco, and a--what would Harry be? The very thought of Harry being mentioned in his father's death notice makes Draco laugh, sharp and bitter and louder than he expects. He catches himself. "Sorry."

McIntyre looks quite discomfited, but he politely continues. "The service then," McIntyre says. "Perhaps the parish in which your parents were married--"

"No," Draco says flatly, and he sees the scandalised expression cross McIntyre's face before it smoothes away in the man's carefully cultivated look of concern. Even the least religious of witches and wizards still make some effort for births, weddings and funerals. Draco doesn't bloody well care.

Even his aunt frowns at him. "Draco, you can't avoid--"

"There'll be five people there, so what's the bloody point?" Draco doesn't look at Andromeda. He's tired, so sodding tired, and he just wants all of this to be finished. "Besides we were only the Easter and Christmas sort anyway, and only that whilst Grandmother was alive. I haven't stepped foot in St Barnabas for years, and Father nearly had a bloody conniption when the latest vicar installed was a woman. So I'm not certain he'd give a fuck about those particular niceties either." McIntyre scrawls something on his notepad, his head bobbing. Probably judging him, Draco thinks, but he really doesn't give a fuck about that either. He sits forward in his chair. "Are we done here?"

McIntyre opens his mouth to answer, but Andromeda speaks first. "We aren't," she says, and there's an undercurrent of cold steel beneath her voice, causing Draco to glance at her finally. Her mouth's tight, and she's watching him, a furrow between her brows. And then it softens, and she sighs, looking back towards McIntyre. "We'll have a small, discreet announcement in the Prophet, James. Nothing more than dates and remaining family. No obituary, no notice of where the service will be held. You'll allow me to see it before it's placed, please."

"Of course." McIntyre looks relieved. "I'll owl it over this afternoon."

"Thank you." Andromeda's back is ramrod straight. "I agree with Draco about the necessity of simplicity when it comes to arrangements, all things considered. We'll take a suitable, subdued casket. Something without embellishment. Polished walnut, perhaps, with simple fastenings. Along the lines of what we buried Ted in." Her voice cracks only slightly, and she doesn't look Draco's way. He feels angry, almost, but also relieved that she's stepped in, that she's making the decisions he can't bear to face.

McIntyre's quill scratches across his notepad. "Yes, yes." He glances up at Andromeda. "The service?" His tone is careful, light, and his gaze flicks Draco's way.

For a moment Andromeda hesitates, then her fingers brush the back of Draco's hand. "We'll have it graveside at the Malfoy crypt at St Barnabas with the parish vicar," she says finally, and she looks at Draco. "No pallbearers. No eulogy. No grand flowers. Perhaps just a very small spray across the casket. White lilies, I think?" McIntyre nods at that. "Again, very simple. Nothing inside the church itself. A compromise?"

All Draco can do is shrug his shoulders, barely able to make himself care anymore. He sinks back in his chair, letting his aunt take over, barely listening to her and McIntyre discuss the specifics. He wonders how Harry's doing with his mother and Teddy. If he's as overwhelmed as Draco is.

And then Andromeda's standing, shaking hands with McIntyre, and Draco pushes himself out of his chair, lets McIntyre's cool fingers close around his.

"We'll take care of your father once we receive him," McIntyre says, his voice kind, and Draco just nods. Merlin only knows when that will be.

He follows his aunt through the quiet, softly lit outer salon of the funeral home, his boots sinking into the dark, plush carpet. He catches a glimpse of caskets through a doorway, neatly lined up, their lids raised to show off the tufted and shirred satin lining. Draco stills, looking at them, his gaze drawn to the wooden boxes gleaming in the light from the wall sconces, the commodification of death and grieving.

Draco's surprised when Andromeda walks back, stops beside him. They're silent for a long moment, then Draco manages to say, "It's a business, isn't it? Valourising the dead?"

"In a way." His aunt catches his hand with hers, slips her fingers through his. "But no death deserves dishonour, Draco. Not even for someone like your father." She looks over at him. "The rituals we engage in when one dies, the way we, the living, interact with the shells of our loved ones…" She hesitates, then sighs a soft breath. "It's for us, not them, my dear. They don't care. They're gone."

Draco's throat is tight and sore. "He doesn't deserve--"

"No." Andromeda's fingers are warm against his. "He doesn't. None of us deserve to be grieved, really, do we? I know you're angry at your father--and oh, I understand." She gives Draco a small smile. "I've lost my parents. My husband. My daughter and my son-in-law." She looks away; her face is pale in the dim light, her eyes shadowed. "I've been angry at every single one of them in some way. There are times, when I look at Teddy, that I have to walk away. Go back into my room and scream into a pillow at the bloody-minded selfishness of Dora, walking into that battle and leaving behind a three-week old son--" Her voice cracks, and Draco can hear the rage and grief that roils beneath her words. His aunt presses her lips together, exhales. "It's not easy when they leave us behind. And it's never kind."

"But…" Draco trails off. He doesn't know what to say. He pulls his hand away from his aunt's, folds his arms across his chest, uncertain. He's quiet for a moment, then he sighs. "It's not the same, is it? Not like your husband, or Nymphadora, or Lupin even. Father…" Draco closes his eyes, breathes in the musty, woody smell of the caskets. "The things he did…" The words catch in the back of his throat, make him cough. He turns away. "He died a coward's death. A criminal's, not a hero's." The words are a mere whisper. "How do I forgive him that?"

"You forget," Andromeda says, her voice quiet, "that I was Cygnus Black's daughter."

Draco looks back at her then. He remembers his grandfather's death, back in the summer between his first and second year at Hogwarts. He'd never been close to Grandfather Black. Not like he was to Grandfather Abraxas. Cygnus Black was a hard, angry man. "He must have been difficult," Draco says after a moment.

"One might say that." Andromeda gives him a small smile. "But he was my father, and for all his many faults, when he died…" She bites her lip, shakes her head. "I couldn't even be at his funeral because of my father's hatred, because my mother burned me from the family tapestry. I couldn't bury either of my parents, and as angry as I was with them--I wanted to be. I wanted to grieve them, to say farewell, to remember the things about them that I loved, the moments from my childhood that I treasured. So trust me when I say that all of this, all these trappings, all this bollocks isn't for anyone but those left behind." She looks around them, taking in the solemn tapestries on the wall, the gleaming caskets. "But there's something to be said for being able to stand there and to say a proper goodbye. Even if there's part of you that hates him still." She reaches for Draco, pulls him to her. "I'm so sorry, darling. I really am."

Draco lets his aunt hold him, lets her stroke his back, lets her comfort him as the grief he thought had dried up seeps out again from beneath his eyelashes, hot and burning and wet.

He doesn't know how he's going to get through this. How he can.

"I want to go home," he says finally, his fingers twisted in the sleeves of his aunt's robe. "I need…" He can't finish his thought, but his aunt seems to understand.

"Harry," Andromeda says gently, and Draco just nods.

He feels a fool.

But Andromeda's already leading him towards the Floo, reaching for the jar of silvery powder on the chimneypiece. Draco can barely get the address out. His throat hurts so badly. But the green flames spin him away from the stale stuffiness of McIntyre and McKenzie's, and when he lands in his own Floo, stepping out after his aunt, he can hear Teddy's quick chatter and his mother's soft laugh, followed by Harry's low rumble.

They're in the kitchen, all three of them, sitting around the table with cups of tea and still-warm chocolate biscuits. Draco's counters are destroyed, flour and bits of chocolate everywhere, but Draco doesn't care because his mother's smiling down at a blue-haired Teddy who's explaining to her rather excitedly about Puddlemere's latest match. She reaches out a hand, smoothes Teddy's hair back. It turns a soft teal beneath her fingers before changing back to blue.

"Well, aren't you all cosy?" Andromeda says with a wide smile of her own, and Narcissa looks up at them, the flicker of mirth on her face fading slightly.

"Are you done already then?" Narcissa asks, and Andromeda walks over to the table and leans over Teddy, taking one of the biscuits from the plate in the centre.

Harry's already standing, giving Andromeda his chair. "I'll put the kettle on again, shall I?" He moves towards the hob.

"That'd be lovely, dear." Andromeda sits, then looks over at her sister. "James has all the information he needs. He and his people are just waiting for the Aurors to release the body tomorrow, hopefully. That's the last he's heard at least. We'll plan on Wednesday for the service, but that can be moved back if we need. The vicar understands the situation."

Narcissa looks down at the crumbled biscuit on her plate. "Thank you."

Harry walks past Draco, letting his hand rest on Draco's back for a moment. "All right?" he asks, his voice quiet, and Draco nods.

"As well as can be expected." Draco keeps an eye on his mother, half-listening to her asking Andromeda about the arrangements. "I was horrible at it all."

"I'm fairly certain you're not meant to be good at it." Harry picks the kettle up a bit awkwardly with his good hand, fills it with water from the tap. He sets it back down with a heating charm on it, then leans back against the flour-strewn counter. His wounded arm's still in the sling, draped across his faded blue Weird Sisters t-shirt, the neckline stretched and frayed, and he winces. Draco knows Harry's shoulder has been hurting for the past couple of days. Frankly, he has his suspicions about whether or not Harry's taking all his pain potions, but he doesn't have it in him to push the question. Not right now at least. Not when Harry's giving him that concerned look from behind smudged glasses. "Sorry about the mess," Harry says. "Teddy wanted biscuits, and it seemed to amuse your mother to watch."

"Chocolate biscuits are the best," Teddy shouts from the table, through a mouthful of crumbs. "Even Uncle Harry's."

"Yes, darling," Andromeda says, running her hand through his hair. "They rather are, aren't they?" She looks over at her sister and smiles. "Your Aunt Cissy ate them by the handfuls when she was your age."

Narcissa's mouth quirks at the corners. "The elves used to sneak them to me after lunch, as I recall."

"And you hated sharing." Andromeda laughs, and she reaches across the table, takes her sister's hand.

Draco looks away from them. He wants to lean his head on Harry's shoulder, wants to say thank you, to tell Harry he loves him. Instead he just shrugs and reaches for his wand, sweeping it across the counter. The flour and chocolate swirls up, then Vanishes in a soft pop, leaving the counter mostly clean again. Draco watches it disappear, and he feels oddly bereft. Empty.

He also wants to scream, to grab the flour tin and throw it across the kitchen, to watch it explode into a puff of white. He's reaching for it when Harry's hand closes on his.

"Don't," Harry says quietly, and Draco looks up at him. Harry's watching him with bright, worried eyes.

"I wasn't--"

Harry's thumb traces a small circle over the inside of Draco's wrist. "I got an image." He gives Draco a small smile. "But throwing flour isn't going to help you feel better. It'll just upset your mum. And then Teddy'll want to join in, and it'll be a bloody awful mess to clean up."

Draco knows he's right. He turns, his back to his mother and Andromeda, and he stares at the kettle, waiting for it to boil, his elbows on the edge of the apron sink. It's strange, he thinks, how this flat doesn't feel like his any longer. He wants to go back to Grimmauld Place with Harry, wants to feel the warmth and the welcome of the house. Not that he doesn't love his flat. He does, but it feels wrong now, like his mother's overwhelming it all. Taking it away from him. Draco rocks forward, presses his hand to his jaw, over his mouth. "I hate it here," he says finally, softly enough that his mother can't hear. "I'm going mad--"

"You're not." Harry shifts beside him, lets his hand trail up Draco's back, then back again. The faint pressure feels good, and Draco arches back into it. He closes his eyes, sighs as Harry's palm presses between Draco's shoulder blades. He misses Harry's touch. Misses being alone with Harry, misses Harry pushing him into a rumpled mattress, the whole of the New York skyline shining in the darkness around them.

Draco's chest aches. "I can't do this, Harry," he whispers. "I can't bury him. I'm so angry still…" He looks away, and he can't say anything else.

Harry's good arm slides around Draco's waist, and Harry pulls Draco up against him, resting his chin on Draco's shoulder, his slinged arm caught between them. Draco can feel Harry's knuckles against the small of his back. He knows he should chide him, knows it must be hurting Harry to hold him like this, but it feels good and calm and comforting, and Draco's selfish enough to just relax back against Harry's body and let himself be held.

"It's all right," Harry says, and he turns his head, his lips brushing against Draco's ear. "We'll get through this. Both of us." Before Draco can protest, Harry says, "I'm not going anywhere, love."

That last word sends a shiver through Draco's body. "Harry," he says, and when he looks at Harry, the soft warmth in Harry's eyes nearly takes Draco's breath away. Draco turns, pulls away enough so that he can touch Harry's face. "Merlin but I love you." It still feels mad to be able to say that. To know that Harry won't flinch away, won't look at him in disgust.

Harry's smile widens just a bit. "I know." He reaches up with one hand, brushes Draco's hair back behind his ear. "Just remember. You don't have to do any of this alone."

It's an odd feeling to believe him, Draco thinks. "You're an idiot," he says softly, and he thinks he could lose himself in Harry's gaze.

The kettle goes off, loud and sharp and rattling behind him. Harry gives Draco a regretful look. "Best steep some tea," he says, but he runs a knuckle down Draco's cheek before he leans in and kisses Draco, his lips soft and warm and careful. "Love you," he whispers against Draco's mouth, and when Harry steps away, Draco catches his mother and aunt watching them from across the kitchen, over Teddy's bright blue head, neither one seeming terribly surprised.

"Well, Cissy, perhaps Teddy and I will stay for dinner tonight," Andromeda says, a small smile quirking one corner of her mouth. "It seems there might be some things we ought to be caught up on?"

Harry Summons the teapot from the kitchen table, catching it with one hand. "We're madly in love, Andy," he says, his voice light, but Draco can tell by the set of Harry's shoulders that he's nervous. "I'd rather thought you might have figured that out by now." Draco's gaze flicks towards his own mother, who reaches for her teacup and lifts it to her mouth.

"I may have had my suspicions." Andromeda's watching them both. She picks up another biscuit. "But I'm pleased. For both of you."

"Nan," Teddy says, pulling on her sleeve. "Don't eat all of them. Uncle Harry made them for me." Andromeda breaks the biscuit in half and hands part of it back to Teddy.

Harry pours the boiling water over the tea bags and closes up the teapot again. The look he gives Draco is careful, a bit worried. Sorry, he mouths, but Draco just smiles back at Harry, lets his hand settle on Harry's back. He wants everyone to know he's in love with Harry. Even his mother, who's giving him a long, even look.

Draco doesn't give a damn what she thinks.

He leans in, kisses Harry, hard and quick and fast, his fingers tangled in Harry's hair.

If anyone can help Draco get through the nightmare of the next few days, it'll be Harry. This idiot Gryffindor with the slow, easy smile and the toe-curling kisses that he's fallen in love with. Draco can keep his head above water if Harry's nearby, can face whatever he must if he knows Harry's waiting for him at the end of it. That realisation terrifies Draco whilst, at the same time, sending his heart soaring. Harry promised they could do this together, that he'd be here for Draco.

And Draco believes him. Circe help him, but he fucking believes him.

***

Pansy sits on the edge of her hotel bed, folding her knickers and wondering how badly her flat will smell when she gets home. It's only been two weeks, and Pansy'd left it fairly clean, but her place has a tendency to get a bit whiffy when she doesn't air it out properly. It's an old building and the plumbing is atrocious, but she loves being in Camden near the clubs and pubs and the odd mix of Muggles that wander down her street at night. Not to mention, the shabby, rundown location also has the added benefit of horrifying Camilla Parkinson which brings great joy to Pansy's shrivelled little heart. She's fairly certain her mother would have a complete meltdown if she knew that Pansy's downstairs neighbour's a charming weed dealer by trade who always helps Pansy carry her groceries up the stairs when she came back from market. Liam's a lovely bastard, in Pansy's opinion.

She tucks a stack of knickers into her satchel, then reaches for the rest of the freshly laundered pile of underthings. Pansy hadn't cared what the others did yesterday afternoon whilst they waited to hear back from Granger about Dolohov's extradition; she'd found a laundromat nearby and managed to figure out how to do two loads of clothes in the oversized American machines without having to resort to magic. Well. Too much, at least. She really hates going home with dirty laundry.

According to Granger, they're due to leave with Dolohov at ten sharp New York time tomorrow morning, which means getting to the Chambers Portkey station a half-hour earlier and then waiting around while all of the paperwork is reviewed and all of the security goons are happy. Pansy's never been on an official extradition before, but Granger's assured them that they'll take every precaution the Department of Mysteries can devise. Dolohov'll be manacled and muzzled magically on top of that to keep him from casting any wandless or nonverbal magic. Honestly, the security briefing this afternoon had been more than a bit sombre, especially given the pall cast by the death of Draco's father in Lestrange's ambush. None of them want to admit it, but they're all worried about this extradition, about something going wrong again. Pansy loves her job, she truly does, but she doesn't want to die for it. Doesn't want to be another Phoebe Rayne or Winston Chang or Lotte Marquandt. She's a fucking lab rat, for Merlin's sake. Not a field officer.

Still, she knows the dangers of being in magical law enforcement. They all do. Things happen. Aurors get hurt, get killed in the line of duty regularly. A raid can go wrong, a suspect can throw a Killing Curse. Circe, it's not like the lab doesn't have dangers of its own. A Dark object could cross her desk. A potion could implode. An experiment could go badly. Pansy tries not to think about it. If she'd wanted a dull life she would have found a boring desk job somewhere in the Ministry where all she did was push around paperwork.

That doesn't mean she's not terrified about tomorrow morning, though.

Secretly, Pansy's glad that Granger will be with them. The guv's injured, and besides, with Draco, he's got enough to worry about without adding Dolohov and the Yanks to the mix. None of them had questioned his going home alongside Draco last Thursday night. Draco had needed Potter, so Potter went. Not even Granger had protested, as far as Pansy can tell. It's odd, she thinks, how they've all just accepted whatever this is between Potter and Draco, how obvious it is that they're mad for each other. Sometimes Pansy's jealous of them both, when she glances over at them and sees the way the guv's looking at Draco, as if he'd burn the whole damned world down if Draco asked him to. Pansy doesn't think Tony would do that for her. Then again, she's not certain she'd want him to, if she's ready for that from him.

But Pansy knows it's hard for Draco and the guv too. She wonders what will happen if Potter's relationship to Draco endures or, heaven forbid, becomes more public. It's going to be nasty if it comes out that the Saviour of the Goddamned Wizarding World is shagging a Marked Death Eater. On both sides, really. From the idiots who expect their Saviour to be a bloody saint and from the opposition, who see Potter as the reason their cause was defeated, their Dark Lord killed. Pansy grew up on the fringes of those circles, was friends with people like Draco and Theo, Vince and Greg, Millicent and Daphne. Half-believed what they'd told her, learned their prejudices herself by the time she'd entered Hogwarts, much to her mother's unease. Her own father had moved in those circles, played both sides for the sake of his business, whilst never pledging fealty to the Dark Lord. Just in case those idiots win, Pansy remembers him telling her mother during hols before Pansy's seventh year. Camilla had been furious with Terry; she hadn't spoken to him for half the summer, and when Pansy had asked her father why, he'd just given her a long, even look and said that her mother's family didn't care for men like Lord Voldemort. Pansy can still recall the shiver that'd gone through her at her father's use of that name. But Terry had told her not to be afraid of a madman's made-up name, told her that they were Parkinsons, and Parkinsons would always land on their feet. He'd bloody well make certain of that. Whatever Camilla might think.

Pansy had still been afraid. She's not certain she ever stopped, and she worries about her father, about his certainty he can control people, that he can use them to his advantage. There'll be a day, she thinks, that he can't. Perhaps it's already started with Eustace. She sighs, folds a bra carefully and sets it aside. Pansy hates worrying like this. About her family. About her friends. About everything.

Draco'd been almost catatonic when he'd left for London on the guv's arm, Pansy thinks. She hopes it's better now that he's home, but she doubts it. She hasn't yet heard when the funeral will be, but she and Blaise and Althea will be there. They've already discussed as much, the morning after Draco left, in fact. No matter how horrible Lucius Malfoy was--and he was a sodding arsehole of sodding arseholes in her mind--no one deserves to bury a parent alone, it's just not right. Despite years of wishing the opposite, Pansy murmurs a quick blessing and thanks to HaShem that her parents are still alive. She can't really imagine her world without them. Whom would she mortally disappoint, after all?

A deep sadness settles over Pansy as she turns back to her pile of clothes, wondering what the weather is like in London, whether it will turn cool again or be hot when they return. She's almost become used to the excesses of New York, the blistering heat of midday, the stifling warmth after dark, and the almost unbearable chill of the MACUSA cooling charms and the Muggle air-con at the Hilton. She's bought a few wraps to cover her shoulders, but the temperature shifts still astonish and irritate her.

She pauses on a pair of black lace knickers, a near match to the ones she ruined with Tony. It seems so far away now that she left her pants on his sink, even if it's not been a week. But so much has happened - the raid, Dolohov, the roses from Dimitri Godunov. It's more than enough, to Pansy's mind. It's time for life to slow down a bit.

Pansy runs a hand over the intact seams of this pair, thinking of that last encounter with Tony. They've seen each other, of course--several times in the halls of MACUSA this weekend,in fact, whilst she was working furiously to finish case details before they left--but she hadn't dared speak to him after Eustace'd been taken into custody. He'd kept his distance as well, although she'd caught him looking after her when she passed by. Tony's too close to that investigation, they both know. Pansy's half-glad that Eustace is being charged by MACUSA instead of the British Ministry. She can walk away from it, won't have to face the indignity of an investigation into her brother-in-law, won't be forced into the whole of the Auror force knowing her family's dirty secrets the way they have with Draco's father.

Still, Pansy doesn't want to know what Tony plans to do about her own father, doesn't want to think about how her Eustace's idiocy will affect her family on the official end of things, what might be uncovered, what Tony might find out. There are things about her father and his business that Pansy wants to ignore, wants to tell herself she's never noticed. And Pansy wants to pretend that it can be okay, that she and Tony can still be on good terms, that she can still fall into bed with him without thinking about all of this, but really, who's she fooling? She can't forget the reasons he began his relationship with her, at least at the start. He used her, and although she wants to believe him that it had all changed once they'd started sleeping together, really, in her experience, men will say almost anything to keep getting fucked. She wonders what his soon to be ex-wife, Eva, might have to say about it, but she stops that train of thought before she gets too maudlin and pathetic. It's when she thinks of Eva--the rare time she does--that Pansy has to admit she's not a nice person. She'd never cared about Eva's feelings in all of this, and if she's honest, she's not certain she does even now.

Whether she can bear to forgive Tony is still up for final review, Pansy thinks. She doesn't need to know yet if she has to hate him forever. His cock really is fucking brilliant, after all, and Pansy does love a good, thick prick deep inside of her. Maybe at some point she can just use Tony for sex, she muses. It's really all he can offer her, after all, and Merlin, is he ever bloody reliable in that department. She bites her lip, thinking of the myriad times he's brought her off for what felt like hours until she was limp and gasping from release.

The knock at the door catches Pansy off-guard. She's not expecting Blaise right now -- he and Durant had been holed up all weekend in Blaise's room, doing Merlin only knows what, and Blaise has been paying for it today. He was groggy and visibly sex sore this morning, with love bites down the side of his throat, but terribly, terribly smug. Really, Pansy hates him. So bloody much. Still, he'd also been a bit grim, saying it was just an extended one-night stand.

Bollocks, Pansy thinks as she pushes herself up off the bed. This can't be the last time he and Jake Durant will see each other, not the way their teams are so intertwined now, but, well, it's not her private disaster, is it? She's looking forward to dragging Blaise out for drinks with Mills and Draco when they're back home, although a shiver runs down her spine as she wonders how much they've changed in New York. Deep down, she worries this fortnight has driven a wedge between them all, although she can't really see how. But she can feel the separation lurking still, worming its way into the cracks between them.

Pansy walks to the door, holding her wand by her side out of caution, and opens it. She's fairly certain it'll be Althea on the other side, wanting something from her, perhaps a drink even. Pansy could use a good companion for the evening, especially one who isn't Tony.

When she sees Daisy standing there instead, Pansy blinks, a bit startled, then pulls her sister inside rapidly, looking around in the hall to make sure no one's seen, before slamming the door shut.

"Circe, what are you doing?" Pansy's breathless with worry. She doesn't know why, exactly, but she has a sense it can't be a good reason that brings her sister all the way down to the Financial District on a Monday in the late afternoon.

"Hello yourself, sister mine." Daisy pushes up her incredibly expensive sunglasses, and she leans in to kiss Pansy's cheek. She smells fantastic, like chocolate and roses, or something warmer. Muskier. It's definitely a fuck-me perfume, Pansy thinks, her senses coming to full alert. She wonders whom Daisy's wearing it for, and why now when the investigation into Eustace's only just begun.

Pansy steps back, eyeing her effortlessly chic sister, who's wearing a lightweight black jacket and sleek, matte black flats, her dark hair twisted up into a tight topknot. Her trousers are some sort of beautifully clinging, heavy knit that must have cost a small fortune, and her ivory tank is whisper-thin silk. She doesn't have any jewelry on except for a gorgeous emerald pendant that looks new. Pansy notes that Daisy's not wearing her wedding ring.

"So, what brings you to the Millenium Hilton?" Pansy decides to keep her tone light. This is Daisy, and no matter how much trouble she's in, Pansy will help her, even if she needs to dissolve bodies in the bathtub or cross the border illegally. Canada can't be too far away, Pansy thinks, although the exact distance eludes her at the moment.

Daisy frowns slightly, looking at Pansy's open suitcase. "You're packing."

Pansy shrugs. "Yeah."

"Oh." Daisy hesitates, then says, "I wanted to say goodbye. I won't see you for a while."

Pansy nods, wondering how Daisy knew she's leaving tomorrow. Granger just gave them the details this afternoon, and Pansy had planned on ringing her sister later tonight. "Well, I won't be far away, Dinks. You could come and visit, you know. Mother would love to see you."

If you're not charged with conspiracy and not allowed to travel, Pansy adds mentally, and she sends another prayer up to HaShem that Daisy will be spared all of that bollocks, and not just for her sister's sake. After all of the bumps and bruises of the last week, not to mention Lucius Malfoy's death, Pansy's beyond ready for a good spell of boredom and drudgery in the lab. She wants to do crossword puzzles in the back of the Prophet at night. Or pick up random strangers from the club down the street from her flat and fuck them senseless. She's not decided which, yet.

But either way, she's bloody well not going to shag Tony until he proves himself worthy, not with Daisy in the mix too. Pansy might just need to cut him out of her life entirely. She's not going to have her heart broken again, or her family threatened. She'd rather die than see any harm come to any Parkinson, ever, through her own inability to keep her knickers up and her legs closed.

"I didn't mean England, Pinks." Daisy is looking out of the window, up towards Midtown, her hands pressed flat on the ledge. "The views here are great, aren't they? I can't believe the Ministry sprang for a fortnight here." She glances back at Pansy. "Are the baths clean?"

Pansy almost laughs, as her sister doesn't usually stay hotels shabbier than the wizarding wing of the Four Seasons when she travels. And then Pansy remembers, Daisy might be separating from Eustace, and her mouth snaps shut. In an instant, Pansy revises her image of her perfect, golden older sister and her impeccable life. There's a lot of change happening, and Pansy's not sure her heart can catch up, but she can at least avoid bringing attention to her lapse. She still wants to think of Daisy as invulnerable; she wants to think of her as leading a dashing, elegantly illustrious life in New York. Pansy's not sure she can deal with Daisy's new vulnerability.

"What did you mean?" Pansy asks, voice throaty, although she's really not sure she wants to know.

Daisy half turns then, fingering her pendant. Her bottom lip's caught between her teeth, and she sighs. "I'm going to be gone for a bit. I won't--" Daisy stops, tilts her head. "I'll be okay. I just won't be reachable."

Pansy's alarmed, and she's sure it shows on her face. "Daisy, you can't run." She takes a step closer to her sister. "You're meant to be a witness--"

"They can't force me to testify against my husband," Daisy says, her voice quiet. "It's part of MACUSA law. I can choose not to. The lawyers have said."

"So you're leaving." Something twists in Pansy's stomach, hard and frightened and unsettled. "Have MACUSA cleared you for that?" At her sister's faint smile, Pansy's heart sinks. "Daise. You know they'll catch you. What Eustace's done is bad, but it'd be worse for the two of you to run away."

Right now, Eustace is up for possession of illegal magical substances, conspiracy, and criminal malice. Pansy can't imagine what flight or worse will add to his sentence, not to mention Daisy's role in his departure.

Daisy shakes her head. "His family bailed him out, Pinks. Not me." She looks away, a tight, bitter expression twisting her face. "That fucking bastard can go to Oudepoort, for all I care."

"Then…" Pansy hesitates, thinking of the perfume, then eyeing the emerald Daisy is fiddling with. It's huge, easily above five carats or Pansy will eat a pair of her own knickers.

And the Knut drops.

"Godunov," Pansy says, her heart clenching in her chest and the vision of a hundred perfect white roses rising in her mind, their scent rich and sweet, filling the whole of the incident room. She looks at her sister. "You're running away with Godunov." She sinks down onto the edge of the mattress. "Oh, shit, Daisy. You stupid arse."

Daisy turns back to the view of Manhattan. "Dimitri thinks he can get them to drop charges," she says, and there's a steely bite to her tone. "But I'm not going to be around much."

"You know this is an idiotic idea." Pansy shakes her head, but she knows her sister. Once Daisy decides she wants to do something, almost nothing can deter her. "He's a criminal."

"He's powerful." Daisy glances back at Pansy. "And he can protect me."

That brings Pansy up short. "From whom?"

Daisy doesn't answer. She just turns again, leans her arse against the window ledge, looking away from Pansy, her arms folded across her chest.

"Fucking hell." Pansy wants to shake her sister, to tell her what bloody shit taste she has in men. But that'd make Pansy a hypocrite, wouldn't it? She'd been charmed by Godunov herself. She runs a hand over her face, pushing her loose hair back from her forehead. She feels frumpy and plain sitting here in a pair of old leggings and a too tight t-shirt she'd bought in Hogsmeade during third year before her tits had grown in properly. She'll never be the graceful, stylish creature her sister is. But then again, she's not about to make the stupidest mistake of her life either and throw her lot in Godunov. "You're really going to do this."

"I am." Daisy sighs. "I just came to say goodbye, Pinks. Not get a lecture." She meets Pansy's gaze then, and Pansy knows nothing she says is going to change her sister's mind. Her shoulders slump.

"If he so much as hurts one hair on your head," Pansy says, her voice low, "I'll fucking kill him."

Daisy gives her a wry smile, flicks a white fibre off the arm of her jacket. "And you're sure I can't defend myself? That he isn't the one who should worry?"

Honestly, Pansy isn't sure at all.

"But you're my only sister," Pansy says, and she can't help the way her voice wobbles a bit. "His bloody siblings can avenge him, if they need to."

Daisy stills. She looks over at Pansy, her face softening. "I'm really glad you're on my side," she says, and she walks over, sits beside Pansy on the bed. "But I don't want you to worry."

"You know I'm going to." Pansy leans her head against Daisy's shoulder. Daisy turns her head, kisses Pansy's temple. Pansy sighs. "What am I going to tell Mother?"

"That I'll be fine." Daisy pulls back, reaches into a pocket of her jacket, pulling out a tightly rolled parchment. Pansy can see the spellwork from here.

"What's this?" Pansy doesn't reach out a hand to take it yet, even though Daisy's holding it towards her.

"It's for Daddy," Daisy says. "It's spelled to open just for him." She gives Pansy an even look. "So don't try, my lovely Auror sister."

Pansy eyes it. "Do I want to know what's in it?"

Daisy shakes her head. "No. I think it's probably best if you don't. But you're the only one I trust to carry it."

Pansy sighs. Daisy knows her too well. She's going to bring whatever that is to her father, on a secure diplomatic transport, no less, and she's not going to betray her sister's trust. "Fine. But I'm going to chase you myself if I get in trouble for whatever the fuck this is." At least it isn't a body, she thinks, although she has no intention of telling Granger about it regardless. It'll fit in her pocket, she thinks. "Can I miniaturise it?"

Daisy nods. "It should be fine." She stands, draws her jacket a bit more tightly around her, fiddling with her buttons. "Be careful. You'll want to keep out of the action on this one." There's a worry line between her brows. "Trust me. There are factions..." She trails off, then sighs again. "Don't get involved."

"I'm just a lab rat," Pansy says, although her stomach swoops a bit. She's a lab rat who's going to be transporting a known Death Eater tomorrow.

"Hide in your laboratory and don't come out," Daisy says. She chews on her lip. "Dimitri says--"

Pansy shakes her head, cutting her sister off "I don't want to know, Dinks. Not one word more."

Her sister nods, then gives her a quick hug, the whisper of her mouth next to Pansy's ear. "Stay out of it all, Pinks. Please." Daisy's voice breaks a bit. "I mean it. Don't be a hero. Or a bloody Gryffindor."

And then Daisy's gone, the door of Pansy's room closing behind her with a quiet snick, and Pansy's left clutching a magicked scroll of uncertain contents in a musky cloud of chocolate and rose, wondering when she'll see her older sister again.

She's strangely bereft at the thought that it might be longer than she can imagine.

***

When Harry slips out from beneath the duvet, Draco's still sleeping, his pale hair fanned out over the smooth grey cotton of his pillow. Harry thinks about waking him, of rolling Draco onto his back and pulling his legs wide so he can suck Draco's prick, but settles for brushing a kiss across Draco's cheek instead. They haven't had sex since they'd come back to London. Draco's been too wrapped up in his grief, and Harry won't push him. It's nothing that he can't take care of with his own hand, and Draco needs Harry to hold him at night, to be there for him when he wakes up from a bad dream. Harry can do that. He wants to, and he won't think about how odd that is, how he's never been with a partner in this way, not like he is with Draco. Ginny had always told him he was a shit boyfriend, and every other person he'd dated, all the way through Jake, had concurred.

Harry doesn't want to be a shit boyfriend for Draco. Not right now. Not ever.

"I'm going to go into the Ministry," he says softly against Draco's ear. "I'll be back when I can."

Draco mumbles something and shifts deeper into his pillow. Harry's glad Draco's sleeping, at least. He's barely eaten for two days, and Harry can tell that Draco's nerves have been fraying under the constant, quiet sorrow of his mother. Privately, Harry wonders whether Narcissa shouldn't be staying with her sister, who might be able to handle her grief better than her son can, but he's not going to say anything before the funeral tomorrow. For now, they all just have to muddle along as best they can.

Harry picks out dark trousers and a white shirt from the satchel he's still living out of, frowning at the wrinkles before quickly spelling them smooth. At some point he'll need to go back to Grimmauld or have Kreacher send over some new clothes. But his cleaning charms will have to do for now. He's picked up a few tricks over the years, although Draco still thinks his housekeeping spells abysmal, and he's probably not half-wrong. Harry pads over to Draco's en suite, setting his clothes on the corner of the sink before taking a quick morning slash. It feels odd to be almost living here in Draco's space. Harry isn't certain he likes it. He misses Grimmauld and the way his house would open up for Draco, the attempts it made to make certain Draco was comfortable, welcome even. Draco's flat feels closed off to Harry. Too quiet. Too filled with sadness.

It's already twenty after seven and Harry needs to hurry. Gawain had summoned him by owl last night for eight o'clock sharp, and Harry assumes he wants to get a briefing on the MACUSA situation before he goes into meetings about Dolohov. Hermione had said something about Luxembourg being interested in charging Dolohov in connection with the transport deaths, even though those were clearly committed by Lestrange, but Harry assumes that's a political manoeuvre, both to use against Lestrange when he's caught and to force the British Ministry's hand on something else. Honestly, it's all going to get bloody ugly soon, Harry thinks. He rubs his left hand over his face, checking in the mirror to make sure the bags under his eyes aren't too awful. Even though they'd spent barely a fortnight in New York, his body feels like it's two in the morning right now. Christ, but he hates adjusting to time zones and Portkey drag.

Harry lines up his potions and takes them one by one, all but the strongest pain potion--he needs his mind clear if he's to face Gawain today--then starts the shower. He manages to soap his hair well enough, keeping the water shield around his dressing since the skin's still fragile. He can clean it later with a spell the Healer in New York taught him.

His shoulder aches deeply, and although it's probably going to be fine, Harry's pride has taken a hit as well. It's bad enough that he got nailed by Dolohov, but the fact that he went down before the action really got going bloody well infuriates him. Then again, Harry supposes, it's just as well he took the attack so the team could fight. And Harry's pleased for Zabini--he knew Zabini had this in him, and after the ambush in Prague and the Crickerly attack, Zabini's confidence had flagged. Terribly. To be honest, Harry thinks Zabini's earned the triumph of Dolohov's collar more than anyone, and he'd shown his prowess under pressure.

And if some of Zabini's confidence returning also includes his sleeping with Harry's ex, well, Harry has no bloody right to be offended by that, whether or not it stings. Jake deserves someone who wants to be only with him, Harry thinks. They probably think it's temporary, Jake and Zabini both, but, well, Harry has seen how Zabini looks at Jake. Eventually they'll figure it out, he supposes. It's none of Harry's affair any longer, and he's just as happy to be sidelined with an injury so he can care for Draco right now. He only hopes he's doing more good than harm lately. It's hard to tell with Draco sometimes, especially when he's as pulled in and withdrawn as he's been the past few days. Harry thinks Draco needs to cry, needs to let himself fall apart, to rage, to be furious and grief-stricken and unhappy. It worries Harry that Draco's so silent and shut down.

Still, everyone grieves in different ways. Harry remembers what it had felt like that summer after the war, how tired and shuttered he'd been, going to funeral after funeral, unwilling to let his sadness be put on display for other people. Draco's more like him than either of them might like to admit. Besides, Ron's right. All Harry can do is be here for Draco. Wait for Draco to tell him what he needs, wait for Draco to feel what he's going to feel.

Harry uses magic to dress himself, wincing as he holds his arm out to let the shirt smooth itself over the still reddened skin of his shoulder. He's going to carry a lacework of scars across his arm, and Harry'd be fine with it if they didn't bloody itch so much right now. Also his scapula's beginning to ache from the immobilisation, and he's going bloody mad from not being able to go to the gym. Maybe he can do something in water or at least some yoga soon, he thinks. He's going to go spare if not. Harry hates not being active, hates the way his body gets twitchy, tense. He needs to purge some of that energy somehow before he implodes. The last thing Draco needs to deal with at the moment is Harry in sodding mood. Even Harry knows that.

Walking out to the hall with his hair still damp and his braces newly situated, his arm in its sling, Harry spies Narcissa in the kitchen, sitting at the island counter. Even though he's late, he walks in to check on her. It's part of what he's doing for Draco, this attempt to step in, to help in any way he can, even if it's something as simple as making certain his mother's fed and cared for.

"Good morning," she says softly, her face drawn and deep shadows under her eyes. She looks regal even like this, Harry thinks, clutching a cup of tea and, judging by the redness of her eyes themselves, clearly having sobbed half the night.

Harry touches her shoulder as he walks past, and she smiles at him. "Good morning," he says. He thinks about pouring a tea of his own, but he hasn't the time. He takes a scone from the breadbox instead, and breaks off a piece, walking back to lean against the island beside her. "Sleep well?" He pops the bit of scone into his mouth. It's a bit dry, but still delicious, studded with currants and faintly sweet.

"Enough."

That's obviously not true, but Harry doesn't press the matter. Instead he offers Narcissa half the scone. Crumbs scatter across the marble counter, and Harry brushes them away. "Eat," he says. "You can't live off tea alone. Even laced with firewhisky." He's caught the smell of it, drifting from the cup. He keeps his voice light, though. Far be it from him to judge her, and it might help her nap this morning. Draco'd be relieved.

Narcissa takes the scone, albeit reluctantly. "One can try," she says, but there's a bit of a flush across her cheeks. She nibbles at the edge. "Are you gone today then?" Her blue eyes are warm, but she looks like she could break out in tears again at any moment.

"I have to go in. I've been summoned." Harry hesitates. He knows he's been a buffer for her and Draco lately. Neither of them seem to be able to talk to one another, not in any depth at least. Narcissa's devastated with guilt and loss, and Draco's bloody furious with his father to the point that Harry's rather certain Draco can't even feel his own grief at times. "But I'll be back as soon as I can."

She pats his good arm. "We'll be all right."

They both know it's a lie, but there's nothing Harry can do. "I won't take long," he promises again and he walks back to the hall and picks his coat from the hook beside the entry hearth.

The Floos aren't too busy yet as Harry arrives at the Ministry. He manages to get through the wand check quickly, and up into the lift. He doesn't bother to check his watch. He's probably ten minutes late by now, but he hopes that Gawain will be charitably disposed.

When Viola sees him, she clucks and gestures to his arm. "That's not a good souvenir, Harry. You're supposed to have fun in New York, not get hexed by a bloody idiot."

Harry smiles, a bit pained. "Next time I'll just buy a t-shirt or a snowglobe. Promise."

"For fuck's sake come in, Harry, and stop wasting my assistant's time." Gawain bellows from the inner office, and Viola raises her eyebrows and nods toward the open door.

Harry gives up any hope of Gawain being in a good mood. He walks in, his steps silent on the thick carpet. "Hi, sir. Sorry I'm late."

Gawain waves a hand at him, but he's scowling as he sets a file jacket down. "Sit." When Harry's settled himself in one of the chairs in front of Gawain's wide, heavy desk, Gawain asks, "How's the arm?"

Harry shrugs with his good shoulder. "It's all right. The Healers in New York think it'll be good as new soon, although I'll get some wicked scars out of it."

"Charazando did that?" Gawain's frown deepens. "What the fuck was Dolohov casting with, the Elder Wand?"

"No." Harry sighs. "That's still safe, obviously." He hasn't told anyone, not even Hermione and Ron, that he'd left the Elder Wand in Dumbledore's tomb. He's not about to let Gawain know. "Dolohov had his own fucking wand." Dolohov's hit is still a bit of a sore point with Harry. Charazando is supposed to be a minor spell, after all. "He also used an otherwise unknown spell, one that does internal damage." Harry leans back in the chair, trying not to wince. He doesn't want his boss to think he's exaggerating his injuries or playing a sympathy card.

"Have you been to St Mungos yet?" Gawain's eyes are sharp. "I know the New York Healers are good, but I want you seen by our people too."

Harry shakes his head. "Sorry. I was going to later this week." After the funeral, he thinks to himself.

There's a long silence after that. Gawain looks out the window to the atrium below. "Yes," he says finally. "Make certain you do." He drums his fingers against the arm of his chair, and Harry can tell Gawain's furious with him. His heart sinks a bit, but he just takes a deep breath and settles himself. Whatever Gawain throws at him, Harry can take. He's done it before. More than once. Harry thinks that's part of why Gawain likes him, if he's honest. Gawain prefers people who don't cower. The Head Auror heaves an irritated sigh, then looks back over at Harry. "Dolohov's a dangerous bastard and no mistake. Saul's taking him into the cells over there, as you might've heard."

Hermione had mentioned it, when Harry'd rung her over the weekend to check in whilst Draco was sleeping one evening, and Harry wonders if Gawain's upset that the Unspeakables are keeping Dolohov under their guard. Still, he thinks it's a decent idea. Lucius Malfoy hadn't been attacked whilst in an Unspeakable holding cell. Harry draws in a slow breath, then says, "There have been a lot of surprises lately." When Gawain glares at him, his brows drawn together, Harry adds, "Sir."

For a moment, Gawain looks as if he wants to rip Harry's head off, but then he relaxes back into his chair. "You're right, of course. Between you and me, I'm just as glad it's Saul's job to keep Dolohov locked up safely." Gawain rubs his temples. "There've been far too many surprises in Auror custody recently, on both sides of the pond."

Harry shifts, coughing softly. "At least the Americans have had trouble as well."

"Yes, but it's our arses that Luxembourg are coming down on, for their envoy's death." Gawain looks over at Harry. "You worked with Charlotte Marquandt, didn't you?"

Harry hasn't even had time to think about Lotte. He can't believe she's gone. There'd been a time a year or so ago he'd even thought he'd fancied her, when he and Jake were in one of their off-again moments, Jake storming back off to New York after they'd fought, telling Harry they were definitely done. Lotte had taken him out for drinks. He'd kissed her afterwards, half-pissed, beneath a street lamp on Rue du Fossé, and he can still remember how soft and warm her lips had been. She'd pulled away, told him she wasn't willing to risk it, that she wasn't going to be his rebound shag when she was certain he'd go back to Jake in the end. She'd been right. They'd stayed friends though. Lotte was just that sort.

"I did," Harry says finally. "She's--was great." A lump forms in his throat, tight and painful, and he looks away for a moment. He needs to get to Freddie, needs to talk to someone about all of this and soon. He'd cancelled his last appointment because of the raid in New York, and he'd not owled for a follow up yet. He has to do that when the funeral's over. Harry won't let himself fall apart. Not on Draco.

Gawain heaves another heavy sigh and looks away. He rests his elbow on the arm of his chair, presses his knuckles to his lips. He doesn't say anything, just sits silently. Harry waits, watching him.

"You know," Gawain says finally, "I'd planned to suspend you when you returned for your blatant disregard of my orders regarding Sergeant Malfoy."

Harry jerks his chin up, heart pounding. He hadn't really considered it, although Draco'd worried, late at night when they were lying in bed together, and he kicks himself for being so bloody trusting, so certain in his defiant insistence to Gawain that he was going to be open about his relationship with Draco. "I'm sorry to hear that, sir."

"You'll be sorrier to hear that I can't," Gawain says, and he turns a grim frown on Harry. "We need you too much in the field. Also, Saul Croaker is going to take Malfoy on formally, and that will absolve you of professional misconduct. I believe he'll backdate it to the beginning of the New York mission." Gawain's mouth tightens. "As a favour for the Saviour of the Wizarding World." He looks unhappy. "You're bloody fucking lucky, Harry. They wouldn't have done something like that for me. They didn't, in fact." He leans forward, his elbows on his desk. "But Saul wants Malfoy that badly he's willing to overlook both of your defiances."

"What?" Harry's head is spinning, and he wishes his focus weren't so off with the time shifts and the potions. He can't quite believe his ears, and he feels dazed. He knew this might happen, but it feels unreal right now, and his first reaction is an angry kneejerk. "I mean, Draco's obviously not able to work right now due to family circumstances, sir, but he's still essential to Seven-Four-Alpha. And he's an Auror, not a sodding Unspeakable--"

Gawain stands abruptly, a bitten off swear on his lips. "Stop playing silly buggers, Harry. Like I've said, you're incredibly fortunate not to be sent home without pay to cool your heels for a few weeks, although I doubt it'd do bloody much in your case." He walks over to the window, looks out onto the atrium below, his hands in his pockets.

Harry bites the inside of his lip, sitting silently as Gawain continues. "You know damned well Malfoy can't be near Lestrange case, and the likelihood that will cross over to your team's doorstep is higher than I'd like, all things considered." He looks back at Harry. "And Saul wants to take him on as a full Legilimens. Pay for his training and everything. Going to make an official offer to him after the funeral."

"But Draco just made sergeant." Harry doesn't know why this matters, but it does. Draco'd been so proud of his exam and his promotion. It's Harry's sodding fault he can't stay on the Auror rolls, and that upsets Harry. He doesn't want to be the reason Draco's career derails. That's not what he wanted from any of this.

Gawain turns, facing back towards Harry. "Malfoy'll receive an equivalent rank in the Unspeakables, perhaps even better. I hear he's quite a natural as a Legilimens, and we're very scarce on those in Britain. Saul's champing at the bit."

"I don't want to lose him from the team." Harry knows he shouldn't object further, knows the decision has been made, knows that nothing he does will change that, but he really thinks Draco is the heart of Seven-Four-Alpha. They need him. "Can you put me in charge of another group? Let someone else take on Seven-Four-Alpha? Hart, perhaps? She's just made Inspector--"

"You'd do that?" Gawain shakes his head, surprised. "You'd give up your first special branch assignment for Draco Malfoy?" His gaze searches Harry's face.

Harry nods. He doesn't even have to think about it. "Draco's worked far harder for it, sir. He deserves to be here. I've just been given what I have because I killed Voldemort." He snorts. "If a rebounding curse can be considered that."

"No matter, Harry," Gawain's expression is kinder now, the harshness softening, a gentleness back to his eyes. "There's nowt to be done about it. Althea's your sergeant now. And I need you all to come back into the office as soon as possible. I'll give your team time to settle back in from the extradition today, but we're dangerously low on trained Aurors as it is, and I'm fighting a war here, whether or not Kingsley and the Wizengamot want to see it as such." Harry blinks at the intensity in the Head Auror's voice. Gawain's barely speaking above a whisper, but his syllables are clipped and fierce. "Peasegood's gone. Bates and Wrightson are gone. The Unspeakables just lost Chang. Shah's having a bloody existential crisis because he thinks he'll be held responsible for the transport safety since he left the detail and survived."

"No. Not Shah." Harry shakes his head in protest. "He'd never go in with the wrong side."

"You and I know that," Gawain says, "but the timing looks bad, and let me tell you, the Prophet's already starting to push the connections. He had to go back to Azkaban because of fucking Rodolphus Lestrange at the last minute, and Chang was substituted." Gawain sighs. "Proudfoot's starting to make noises about disciplinary action, but I'm doing what I can to put him off. The Changs have his ear though." Gawain shakes his head. "Poor family. The mother's beside herself."

Harry suddenly realises that this is Cho's little brother they're speaking about, that he should send flowers, or something in sympathy. His heart clenches in his chest. They've all lost so much and for what? "It shouldn't be like this, Gawain. We shouldn't be sitting here with so many dead already. They weren't supposed to come back, those bastards." He doesn't know whom he blames, exactly, but a black wave of despair slides over him, almost physically pinning him to the chair for a moment.

Gawain sits down again and runs a hand through his hair. "Agreed. But they are back, some of them at least, Lestrange first among them. We're the poor fools who have to mop up." He settles, looks at Harry. "At least your team captured Dolohov."

"When's the transport due?" Harry shivers involuntarily, his brain leaping back to the present. He's worried about his team, and he can tell from the set of his features that Gawain is as well. They're bringing him in today, Parkinson, Zabini, Whitaker. Even though Harry's grateful Hermione's taken point, it's hard for him not to be with Seven-Four-Alpha right now.

"They'll be sent off at ten local time, three in the afternoon here." Gawain glances down to a sheet on his desk. "Tom Graves is supervising the transfer personally."

"I'd like to be there when they arrive." Harry doesn't want to let his team come in with Dolohov alone. He knows Hermione has it covered, but he wants to at least show up to greet them on the other side. He hasn't mentioned it to Draco yet, for obvious reasons. He'll go back to the flat for lunch, then come in again.

Gawain nods. "I think that's a good idea. I'm set to meet Saul at half-two in his office. Why don't you join us at quarter til?"

Harry thinks this is a good sign. A peace offering of sorts. He could have dealt with suspension, but he doesn't want to draw any focus from Draco's grief right now either. "Are Luxembourg moving quickly?"

"Not sure." Gawain steeples his fingers. "Their people are supposed to be examining the Dementors, and they'll probably send more oversight." Gawain's face is grim. "As if they haven't been over our facilities with a fine-toothed comb already."

"Hermione mentioned Barachiel Dee had been in hospital," Harry says cautiously.

Gawain's expression flattens, and Harry can't help but wonder what the story is behind Gawain's dislike of Zabini's grandfather. "He's perfectly fine." Gawain sounds bitter and exasperated. "The arrogant prat chatted up the mediwitches and then checked himself out the moment Irskine turned his back."

Despite the obvious tension, Harry can't help the chuckle that escapes him. At least someone is coming out of this hale and hearty, he thinks, and he can only imagine how Barachiel Dee had handled being confined to St Mungo's. Gawain's visibly not amused, although the corner of his mouth quirks after a few moments.

"Speaking of that family, I'd like to give Zabini a commendation." Gawain's face is strangely thoughtful, and Harry can't quite read his expression. "If you think you can put him forward."

"Of course." Harry leans forward, nodding as eagerly as he thinks is presentable. "Absolutely. Zabini was bloody brilliant with Dolohov." Harry's shoulder twinges as he sits back in his chair. He doesn't let it dampen his enthusiasm, but he does rub his forearm, trying to settle the nerve pain. "He's an incredible duellist, and he got the collar. He actually took him on directly."

"In that case, I'll need your report as soon as possible," Gawain says. "I've already read Granger's."

Harry resists the urge to swear. Of course Hermione's got her paperwork in already. He's late, as usual, but he thinks he has better cause right now as well. "I'll get a report in by the end of week, sir. Once we…" He hesitates, then says, "Well, I'll want to be there for Draco when his father's buried." He raises his chin, daring Gawain to challenge him.

"We've released the body, you know." A hush settles across the room. Gawain looks over at Harry. "Lucius Malfoy's I mean."

Harry takes a deep breath. "That's good. The funeral's been scheduled for tomorrow. At eleven." Andromeda had been ready to take the Ministry on today if Lucius hadn't been released. Harry's glad she won't have to, if he's honest. "St Barnabas in Wiltshire."

"I'll let people know." Gawain's silent for a breath, and then he says, "We had to take a tissue sample." Gawain presses his lips together; he doesn't look happy. "I asked Jones to make sure we had enough to analyse, just in case it's not him." He shrugs his shoulders. "The way this lot are popping up alive again, one can't be too careful. Although, under the circumstances, we're all but sure that's Lucius Malfoy lying in the morgue." At Harry's frown, Gawain adds, "We've looked at all the recording charms around the Portkey cabin, both from our end and the site in Brussels. It seems fairly obvious that Lestrange killed them all. With no evidence that Malfoy's body was switched out."

Harry hadn't even thought about the possibility of a body swap. He thinks for a moment. "I suppose it's good to be certain, under the circumstances. Parkinson can show Jones the tests she did for the last one."

Gawain nods, then leans back in his chair with a sigh. "Well. At least someone's burying Malfoy." Gawain's face is clouded.

"What do you mean?" Harry doesn't quite follow.

"No one's claimed Marcus Wrightson's body." Gawain watches Harry's face. "Everyone else Peasegood took out has been claimed by family and interred, but he's still in the morgue." Something crosses his face, sadness, Harry thinks. "No one wanted him. No family. No friends. Shit of a way to die, wouldn't you think?" Gawain sighs. "Fucking Marcus. I thought he was one of ours. One of the good ones." He looks up at Harry. "Don't let yourself be a bloody idealist, Harry. It'll ruin you every time."

Harry shakes his head, not quite sure what to say. He wants to feel something, wants to know what to do, but he doesn't. It's all so strange.

Gawain pushes his seat back, indicating that the interview is over. 'I'll see you at quarter to three in Saul's office, Inspector Potter."

"Thank you, sir," Harry ducks his head, aware that he's narrowly avoided disaster yet again. He lives his life under a lucky star, he thinks.

Gawain's voice follows him out. "Oh, and Harry? Don't be fucking late this time."

Harry winces and lets the door fall closed behind him.

***

Blaise follows Pansy and Althea into the heavily warded room tucked away in the back hallways of the Chambers Street Portkey terminal. It feels strange to be back here again with his luggage in hand. He doesn't want to leave New York, if he's honest. He feels like a heel, really. He should want to go back to London, want to check in on Draco. Circe, he's only firecalled once, on Sunday night, and he'd reached the guv then, who'd told him Draco was sleeping. Blaise isn't great with time zones. Potter'd looked tired and worn out, and Blaise is worried that the guv might be taking on a bit too much this early in however he and Draco are defining their relationship now.

It's not his place to say, though. Blaise knows that damned well. He'd learnt that lesson during Draco's relationship with Nicholas Lyndon, had Draco furious with him for questioning that bastard's motives. Not that the guv's anything like Lyndon, thank Circe. Still. Blaise doesn't want to upset Draco. Not with everything he's going through.

Granger's standing by the customs officials, waiting as they check her bag for charms. Weasley's gone ahead earlier this morning on a regular Portkey, Blaise knows. He's not an Auror; they couldn't have taken him with them. Blaise drops his satchel down beside Granger's. She looks over at him, her dark curls pulled back by a thin cream scarf wrapped tightly around her hairline. Whilst the rest of them are in full Auror dress uniform, even down to Pans, Granger's in a black silk top that drapes perfectly over her breasts and a pair of cream trousers that make her arse look brilliant. Bloody Weasley's a lucky man, Blaise thinks. "Boss," he says, with a cheeky grin that he doesn't quite feel.

"Zabini," Granger says, and there are lines at the corner of her mouth. She looks tense and worried. Blaise doesn't blame her. Not after what had happened with Lucius Malfoy's transport.

They'd talked about the danger yesterday afternoon, gathered together in the MACUSA incident room. Anything could happen. Despite London and Luxembourg's best efforts, Rodolphus Lestrange was still at large. Granger had nixed the use of a Portkey cabin. They'll be doing this the old-fashioned way, each of them bound to Dolohov, the official Portkey being delivered to them by Tom Graves himself.

Blaise is still fucking terrified. He's doing his best to hide it, though, just as the others are. Pansy's been quiet all morning, unusually so, and it's starting to worry Blaise. When he'd asked her about, as they checked out of the hotel, she'd just shaken her head. Said she was fine. That's bollocks; Blaise knows it, and she knows he knows it. But there's no use in pushing her about it. Pansy'll talk when she wants to and not a moment before. Still, he rests a hand on her arm as she puts her bag beside his.

"All right, old girl?" Blaise asks, and Pansy just gives him a faint smile.

"Brill," she says, but her smile doesn't reach her eyes, and Blaise thinks she must be upset about Eustace and how that fucking wanker's going to hurt her family. He doesn't even want to think about how Daisy's going to face it all down. For all that Pansy whinges about her sister, she loves Daisy dearly. Blaise has always envied her that connection. He'd spent most of his childhood wishing he had a sibling. Even one older than him.

Althea drops her bag down in front of the customs official. She looks severe in her dress blacks, her hair twisted tightly back at the nape of her neck, her red sergeant's bars polished as brightly as her boots. She watches as the MACUSA Aurors go over their luggage carefully before setting it into a crate that'll be Portkeyed separately once they're gone. Blaise nudges her shoulder. "It'll be fine," he says.

"We'll see." Althea's mouth is a thin line. "After what happened last week I'm not certain I trust anyone."

"I'm not sure I ever did," Blaise says, his voice light. Sometimes he wonders how non-Slytherins survive. How they manage to go through their lives thinking people can be trusted, can be believed, can be counted on.

Pansy glances over at them both, and she doesn't smile as she says, "It's never a good idea. Not really." Her fingers brush across the breast pocket of her Auror uniform, almost as if she's checking to make certain something's there. She catches Blaise watching her, and she drops her hand. The look she gives him is shuttered, yet even.

Granger turns around. "So here's how this is going to go," she says. "In a few minutes, our friends here from customs are going to leave, and Antonin Dolohov is going to be brought in via that door." She nods towards a plain white door in the corner. "This room's warded. Heavily. There'll be MACUSA Unspeakables outside in all corridors leading to us, and Dolohov will be under an armed guard comprised of Unspeakables and Aurors. Everyone with me so far?"

They all nod, their faces sombre.

"Right." Granger pulls four silver cords from her pocket and hands them around. "You'll each use your cord to bind yourself to Dolohov. Upper arm or thigh, I don't care which. The cords are charmed to form an unbreakable bond." She looks at them, her mouth tight, her expression grim. "Even after death. Ours, obviously. Or his, but if they come for him, I'm not so certain they'll want Dolohov dead this time. Still, our objective is to protect the prisoner at all costs. Even at a danger to our lives. Am I clear?"

"Utterly," Althea says.

Pansy draws in a quick, soft breath beside Blaise. "The Unspeakables are taking the threat level rather seriously, I see." Her voice is light, but Blaise can hear the slight tremble beneath it. So can Althea, evidently. She places a hand on Pansy's shoulder and squeezes lightly. Blaise can feel Pansy relax at Althea's touch. Pansy gives Althea a small smile, and it's more sincere than Blaise expects it to be. Curious.

"We are." Granger lets her own silver cord slide from one hand to another, a thin, shimmering serpent of magic against her skin. "None of us want a replay of Lucius Malfoy's transfer. I want all of you home safely, and Dolohov in our custody. We'll be keeping him in the Department of Mysteries, at least for now. Luxembourg's making noises about taking him themselves."

Blaise thinks that's wise. The Department of Mysteries is the only place those bastards haven't yet managed to infiltrate. Merlin fucking help them if they do, but Blaise doesn't want to think about that. Ever.

There's a movement at the door, and they all look towards it, bodies tense, their Auror senses on high alert. Even Pansy's hand goes to her wand hilt, that training they'd had in their first few months as Aurors kicking in even for a self-professed lab rat like her.

Jake walks in, and a ripple of relief goes around the room, even from the customs officials. He nods towards the MACUSA Auror in charge. "Everything set, Holborn?"

"Close enough," Holborn says, and he's watching the customs officials tag Blaise's bag and set it aside. "Is the prisoner on his way?"

"Five minutes, give or take." Jake looks damned good in his flat-front khakis and his navy jacket, open at the front. He's wearing a blue shirt with white pinstripes, and Blaise wants to sink down to his knees in front of Jake and mouth his prick through the twill of his trousers. A roil of pure lust goes through Blaise, sharp and hot, and Jake's head turns towards him almost immediately, as if he can feel it radiating from Blaise's taut body.

He probably can.

Fuck but they'd spent most of the weekend in bed, and Blaise feels guilty about that, about the waves of pleasure he'd ridden whilst his best friend was at home, grieving the death of his father. But those two days were all that Blaise was going to have, weren't they? And he wasn't willing to give them up in some mad solidarity for Draco's loss. He couldn't. He wouldn't.

So he'd wrapped his body around Jake Durant's, and taken Jake's thick, long prick into him over and over and over again, stretching his arse wide, blocking everything out but Jake's mouth and his hands and his cock, refusing to think about the outside world.

Blaise hadn't bothered with clothes all weekend. He didn't think Jake had minded. They'd fucked until they were both spent and exhausted, and the room stank of sweat and spunk, and then Jake would roll Blaise over again and kiss him, pressing him into the mattress, their bodies sliding slickly together, both of them almost insatiable for the other.

To be honest, Blaise has never been fucked like that before. Somehow, he doesn't think he ever will be again.

He can feel his body responding to Jake, can feel the way he wants so desperately to walk up to Jake, to press his body against his, to feel the warm solidity of Jake beneath him. He craves it. Badly.

Blaise looks away. Takes a deep breath. Tries to focus on anyone--anything--else. It doesn't work. He's so fucking aware of every movement Jake makes, of the way Jake pushes his hair back from his forehead, of the soft murmur of Jake's voice as he greets Granger first, then Pansy and Althea. Blaise stares down at his feet, tries to still the quiet thud of his heart.

Like that's bloody well going to happen.

"Hey," Jake says from beside him, and Blaise glances up, doing his best to look as if he doesn't give a fuck that Jake's a foot away from him, hands in his pockets, seersucker jacket pushed up at the sides.

What Blaise wouldn't do for a pair of sunglasses right now. Anything to hide behind, to keep Jake Durant at an arm's length. He exhales, a soft, slow puff of breath that parts his lips, and Blaise catches the way Jake's eyes dip down. Pansy's watching Blaise, and there's a faint furrow of worry between her perfectly groomed brows. Blaise looks away, but he also doesn't miss Althea's quick, knowing glance.

"Got a moment?" Jake asks Blaise, and the corners of his eyes crinkle. Circe, they're so fucking blue, Blaise thinks, but he just shrugs.

"Can't go anywhere without being attached to a fucking Death Eater," Blaise says, "so I suppose I might."

Blaise can feel Granger's curious gaze on him as he lets Jake lead him a few feet away from the others. It's not much privacy, but it's not as if they've one last chance at an empty room, yeah?

Jake's back is to the others; Blaise can see them looking over Jake's shoulder--even Granger. He feels his face warm. "So," Jake says, and then he stops, an uncertain expression crossing his face.

"This weekend?" Blaise gives Jake a small smile, keeping his voice low. "Pretty good."

"Yeah." And Blaise gets a flash of something warm and soft from Jake, a quick image of himself spread out across the hotel bed, sweaty and sated. "It was decent, I'd say."

Blaise feels a bit flustered. He tries to push it away, but he thinks Jake can sense it anyway. Merlin, but Blaise needs to work on his Occlumens.

Might be a good idea flits through his head, so quickly that Blaise isn't quite certain at first it's not his own thoughts.

"Stop that." Blaise frowns at Jake. "No Legilimency without explicit consent, remember?"

Jake chuckles, and it's a warm, low sound that goes straight to Blaise's prick. "Sweetheart," he says with a faint drawl, "you projected that loud and clear."

Blaise sees Pansy's eyebrow go up a bit further. "Circe, Jake." He hesitates, then says, "So we're saying goodbye. How terribly dull of us."

"Something like that." Jake pushes his hands deeper into his pockets, rocks forward on the balls of his feet. For a mad moment, Blaise thinks that Jake might actually kiss him. Right here in front of everyone. He's disappointed when Jake doesn't.

Instead Blaise shifts, folds his arms over his chest. His Auror jacket pulls tight across his shoulders. Blaise knows it's a good look, the way it makes him look broad in the chest, lean in the hips. "We had fun."

"A bit." Jake rubs at his jaw. He hasn't shaved this morning; there's a bit of stubbly shadow that Blaise wants to press his face against, wants to feel scrape across his cheek. "I'd do it again."

"Would you?" Blaise smiles faintly. Of course you would, you wanker, he lets himself think, and he's rewarded with a soft laugh and a shake of Jake's head.

I think I might miss you, Jake whispers in Blaise's mind. Well. That brilliant arse of yours, at least.

"You're incorrigible," Blaise murmurs, but he's watching Jake's face. For a moment, he thinks he sees a flicker of regret, and then it's gone, and Jake's just looking at him, the way every other one of Blaise's ridiculously stupid flings has. Except not quite. There's something a bit held back about Jake Durant. As if he's trying to keep Blaise at a distance and failing. Blaise steps closer, reaches up to flick a piece of nonexistent lint from Jake's shoulder. "If you find yourself in London," Blaise says, his eyes fixed on Jake's face, "look me up."

Jake's smile is slow and easy. "I might just do that, Constable Zabini," he says, and Blaise's stomach twists at the heat in Jake's gaze. He almost forgets they're not alone, almost reaches up to touch Jake's cheek, to smooth his thumb along the curve of Jake's bottom lip.

Blaise catches himself in time.

The door opens again, and even Jake's head turns. A half-dozen Aurors, give or take, come through the door, Espinoza and Martine amongst them. In their midst is Antonin Dolohov, wrapped in shackles, hands clasped in front of him, a thick metal gag hiding his mouth, the woven leather straps disappearing into his lank, filthy hair. He's in the bright orange robe of the MACUSA prison system, the American phoenix printed across the back in black ink. The customs officials slip out behind them, giving Dolohov uneasy looks as they do.

A frisson of fear goes through Blaise at the sight of the man. Dolohov's eyes are sharp and bright and dark, his gaze flitting around the room. Blaise knows Dolohov can't cast wandlessly here, not with the myriad magical dampeners on the shackles and the gag. Even Blaise can feel the strength of the charms, and he's halfway across the room from Dolohov. Still, he can't help holding himself a little tighter, making certain his wand's in easy reach, the holster at his hip unsnapped. If Blaise is honest, he doesn't trust anyone in this room outside of Pansy, and even she could be corrupted. Any of them could. Blaise had lived through the war, after all. He's seen what people are capable of, what they can be forced to do. He wraps the thin silver cord Granger'd given him earlier around one finger, feeling the cool slickness of the metal against his skin.

"Ready?" Martine asks Granger. "Graves is coming with the Portkey, but not until you're all in place."

Granger nods and motions towards what's left of Seven-Four-Alpha. They draw close; Blaise hates to leave the comfort of Jake's side, but he strides towards Granger with only the slightest backward glance at Jake. The MACUSA Aurors wait until Seven-Four-Alpha is even with them, and then they draw back in a smooth, fluid movement, their own silver cords sliding off Dolohov's limbs, making space for Blaise and Pansy to move behind the bastard.

Dolohov's elbow goes out, but Blaise already has his wand in his hand, the tip pressed against Dolohov's temple. "Give me one reason," Blaise says quietly into Dolohov's ear. "Because I'm Slytherin, old man, and I haven't the qualms of a Gryffindor or Ravenclaw about taking your fucking arse down. Harder this time." He feels Dolohov relax, Dolohov's elbow going back to his side. "Smart."

The look Dolohov gives him is scathing, vicious, but Blaise tells himself he doesn't care as he binds his left arm to Dolohov's right. Pansy's taking Dolohov's thigh--probably to torment the fucker, Blaise thinks, since it presses her body tightly against Dolohov's.

"Hi," Pansy says to Dolohov with a tight, thin smile. "Cosy, are we?"

Dolohov makes a noise behind his gag, but it's unintelligible.

"No toying with the prey, Parkinson," Granger says, attaching herself to Dolohov's other arm. "It's not done."

"Says you." Pansy gives Granger a bright smile, and Althea snorts from Dolohov's other side. Blaise is fairly certain he hears an affectionate slag in the way Althea clears her throat afterwards, and Pansy just laughs, wrinkling her nose Althea's way.

Granger glances over at Jake. "I wish you'd finished looking at that case file you were working on for us," she says, a bit wistfully.

"I don't know," Jake says, and his gaze finds Blaise. "I might need a weekend or two in London coming up."

Blaise just looks away from him, a fluttery warmth twisting through his stomach. He's certain Jake's only flirting, only saying things he thinks Blaise might want to hear. Still, Blaise wants to think about a dirty weekend in his flat, wants to imagine Jake Durant bending him over the edge of his sofa and fucking Blaise senseless.

It seems like an eternity before Tom Graves walks into the room. Blaise knows it has to be less than a minute. His whole body feels as if it's on high alert; the heat from Dolohov's arm seeps through the thin wool of Blaise's summer dress uniform. Everyone in the room is tense, worried when the door opens one last time. Hands go to wands, then relax when it's clear that the latest intruder's the Director of Magical Security.

"Stand down," Graves says, and Blaise wishes he could hear a tinge of amusement in Graves' voice. He doesn't. None of this is funny. Not after last week. "Durant, help me with this. It's keyed to both of us."

Graves holds a small box in his thick hands, highly polished and black, the MACUSA symbol engraved in silver on its top. Jake moves forward, his wand in his hand, and together he and Graves unward the box, the spells dissipating in a soft puff of bright red sparks. Slowly Jake opens the top, pulls out a small obsidian disk. He flips it over, examining it, frowning down at the slick, shiny stone.

"It's good," Jake says finally, and Graves nods, not a single hair of his perfectly coiffed head moving.

"Antonin Ioannovich Dolohov," Graves says, looking over at Seven-Four-Alpha and their prisoner, "you are hereby transferred from the custody of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the Magical Congress of the United States of America to that of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the Ministry of Magic of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Unspeakable Hermione Granger and her team will transport you to a holding facility of their choosing, and as Director of Magical Security for MACUSA, I am relinquishing and waiving all rights to a trial of said prisoner on American soil pursuant to the Magical Extradition Order of 1931."

Granger's shoulders straighten. "And, as senior representative of the Ministry of Magic, I take on responsibility for the prisoner as outlined in the MEO of 1931," she says, and there's a shiver of magic that goes through the room. Blaise feels it spark along his spine, feels Dolohov tense next to him.

Graves huffs out a sigh. "Well, the fucker's yours now." He doesn't sound happy about it, Blaise thinks, but Jake's handing Granger the smooth, flat Portkey disc.

"You've got about thirty seconds," Jake tells her. He's looking at Blaise, though.

The Aurors around them have their wands out, watching them all. Blaise is glad that Draco's not here to see them, not here to realise that this level of protection's only in place because of his father's death.

Blaise rocks back slightly on his heels, his body thrumming with anxiety. Fear. He doesn't want to go back, he thinks again, and his gaze settles back on Jake. He wonders if he'll see him again or if this was just one brilliant weekend of shagging and cock-sucking. Blaise doesn't know why that thought makes him itchy and unhappy, but it does. He tries to push it back down, tries to keep it hidden from Jake.

He's not certain he manages.

And then the Portkey clicks in Granger's hand and starts to spin, lifting up over her palm.

The last thing Blaise sees before the Portkey pulls him away is Jake's face, tight and tense and terrible, those bright blue eyes fixed on Blaise.

Blaise spins into the darkness, his fingers digging tightly into Antonin Dolohov's forearm.

A moment later they land with a thump in the middle of the Department of Mysteries.

"Welcome home," the guv says, his voice warm and even, and he's there, between Robards and Croaker.

Fucking hell but Blaise has never been so glad to see Harry Potter in his life.

***

Draco hasn't been inside the Manor for weeks. Not since his mother moved out.

It feels odd to be standing in the foyer again, this warm Wednesday morning in late July, the silence of the house almost an oppressive weight around him. He'd come here first, before his mother and Harry, who'd offered to wait for Narcissa as she finished dressing for the funeral.

Crying, more likely. And that's what's rubbing Draco raw. His mother's constant tears, his feeling as if he's suffocating in her grief, allowed to do nothing but support her, be the good son. When all he wants is to slam his fist into a wall, to scream, to destroy everything around him in a flurry of vicious, violent magic.

And when his mother had drifted down the hallway in tears again, her dressing gown wrapped tight around her, her misery had scraped rawly across Draco's nerves, pushing at the chinks of his Occlumens, overwhelming his mind until Draco felt abraded by his mother's sorrow, every bit of him jangling and jittering with the waves of unfiltered emotion rolling from Narcissa in waves, somehow pushing past the meagre shields Draco's managed to keep in place the past week.

Draco hadn't been able to bear staying in the flat one more moment. Thank Circe, Harry'd pushed him towards the Floo before Draco'd started yet another fracas with his mother. Or with Harry. Draco can't seem to help himself this morning. He feels wound up. Angry. Furious with his father for putting them all in this position, even if he knows that's ridiculous, knows that his father didn't plan to be killed, but Draco doesn't care. If Lucius hadn't found himself caught up in all this bollocks again, if he hadn't been so desperate to be relevant, to have some modicum of power once more...fuck. Draco hates his father for what his idiotic choices have forced his mother to deal with. For what they've forced him to face.

His feet carry him up the staircase. Draco doesn't quite know what he's doing. Where he's going. Why he's walking through these hallways again, his fingers trailing along the curve of the bannister. Sunlight filters through the arched, lead-paned windows on the landing, gothic remnants of his family's proud past, destroyed by his father's arrogance.

The last time he climbed these steps, Harry was with him, strong and silent, standing back whilst Draco confronted his father. Took him into custody.

Draco's polished black brogues sink into the thick, purple carpet of the hall. He'd run down this hall as a child, flown his first broom down it when he was four, white-blond hair tumbling into his face, his bare feet barely brushing the floor, his father laughing at the end of the corridor, telling Narcissa that Draco was a bloody natural on a broom whilst she fretted beside him and sent a house elf over to catch Draco before he flew down the staircase.

If Draco closes his eyes he can almost hear his father's voice.

He ends up in his father's sitting room with its tall, paned windows that fill the room with morning light, casting shadows across the comfortable leather chairs and sofa his father favoured, the heavy Jacobean bookcases that line one end of the room, sunlight reflecting off their leaded glass doors and carved dark wood.

Across the arm his father's favourite chair is a folded copy of the Prophet, yellowing already in the sun. Draco sits down, feels the leather give beneath his thighs. He glances at the Prophet; it's dated the ninth of June. The day he brought his father into custody. Draco pushes it away, lets the Prophet fall to the floor in a rustle of newsprint. Six weeks tomorrow it will have been since that morning he'd stood in front of his father. Defied him. Imploded his family as he once knew it.

Draco wonders if he would have made the same decision, had he known what today would bring, had he known he'd be sat here in his best black wool suit and green tie, silver serpent cufflinks gleaming at his wrists. He looks around him, feels the presence of his father imbued throughout this room. This had been Lucius's refuge. His sanctuary. Draco knows his parents' old bedroom lies through the half-open door on the long wall opposite the bookcases; his mother's sitting room flanks it on the other side. Narcissa had moved out of the bedroom a few years after the war. She claimed it was for sleeping purposes, but Draco's not a fool. He knows how strained his parents' marriage had become in the past half-decade. To be honest, he suspects that's part of his mother's intense roil of grief. Guilt and anger and loss all rolled into one turbulent package.

Circe, but his family's fucked up, Draco thinks. He sinks back into the chair, breathes in the lingering scent of leather and something curiously spicy, like cloves and musk. It reminds him of his father. Of sitting here with Lucius during school hols, taking breakfast with his father in the mornings, Draco still clad in his pyjama bottoms and a Quidditch t-shirt, his father dressed impeccably in a suit, his wizarding over-robe waiting on a hook nearby for whatever jaunt Lucius planned to take into London that day.

There's a movement from beneath the sofa, and Draco frowns until a small russet-and-white fur face peers up at him, a bit blearily. Cronus, Draco realises, and it's only then he wonders who's been looking after his father's favoured Crups. The elves, Draco supposes, since Chronos's arse looks a bit plumper than it had the last time Draco'd seen him. He vaguely remembers his mother telling him when she moved in that Trissie would be taking care of the beasts. Draco'd been too lost in Harry at the time to care.

Cronus waddles out, followed by Coeus and Crius. Draco expects the Crups to lunge for him, like usual, barking, teeth bared, but they just sit silently, looking up at him, all of them a bit lost and uncertain.

What must the poor bastards be thinking, Draco wonders. His father had been ripped from them so suddenly, and Lucius had been the world to those damned Crups. Cronus quirks his head, looking up at Draco, one of his folded ears flipped up. Draco reaches out and smoothes it back down, as quickly as he can, expecting a sharp nip in return. Instead, Cronus just whines a little, his forked tail thumping against the floor. Draco's father had never bothered with the law that said Crups' tails had to be trimmed down to one at birth to keep Muggles from noticing them. Lucius had found that particular Ministry regulation cruel. Draco wants to laugh at that thought, but in absurdity rather than amusement. His father could watch the Dark Lord kill a Muggle in cold blood but he balked at the idea of harming his pup. Merlin.

"He's not coming back," Draco says to Cronus, and the Crup just frowns up at him. "I can't--" Draco breaks off as Cronus jumps up, landing in Draco's lap. For a moment Draco calculates how fast he can get to his wand to cast a sleeping charm, but Cronus just turns around twice, then settles himself into the chair between Draco and the leather arm, putting his head down on his paws with a heavy sigh.

Draco stills in surprise. Crius and Coeus look up at their brother, then with snuffly huffs, drop down beside Draco's feet, curling up the way they had when Lucius sat in this chair.

"Oh," Draco murmurs. His hand settles on Cronus' back, and the Crup looks up at him, his eyes wide and a bit sad. Draco thinks the Crups must know then, must somehow understand what's happened, must realise their master's never coming back. Cronus pushes his head beneath Draco's hand and whines a bit more. Draco pets him, scratches him behind his ears the way he remembers his father doing. "I'm sorry," he whispers, and a deep ache opens up inside of him, almost overwhelming in its intensity.

He sits silently--for how long, Draco hasn't a clue. The quiet of the room is strangely comforting, as is the warmth of the Crup beside him. Draco can almost believe he's a boy again, just home from Hogwarts, waiting for his father to stride into the room and ask him how his term had been as Lucius tossed his robe over the arm of the sofa.

And Draco misses that Lucius. The father who had always listened to him in those early days of school, who had taken his side without question, who had even indulged him in his angry complaints about how bloody irritating Potter was. Draco smiles faintly at that, and a bit bitterly if he's honest. He can't help but wonder if his father had suspected then that his son might be a poof. Draco had been so gone for Harry even back then. He just hadn't recognised it for the pash it was. Not really.

What would it have been like for Harry if Lucius had lived? Draco can't imagine it would have been all happy families. Not with the two of them across the Christmas table. But his father would have been in Azkaban. At least for a while, and perhaps that might have made it easier for Harry.

Or not. Draco knows what'll be said if they go public with their relationship. He's not a fool. The Saviour of the Wizarding World oughtn't be seen on the arm of a known Death Eater. But Harry's never been one to care what the public thinks, and it's one of the ridiculous quirks Draco loves about him.

And Draco does love Harry. Madly. It's a strange sensation, these feelings that twist up inside of him whenever he thinks of Harry. Draco's not used to it, not entirely comfortable with the way his breath catches when he looks over at Harry, when he catches Harry unawares, his glasses perched on the end of his nose as he reads a case file, or when he watches Harry talking to his mother, gently drawing her out of her cocoon of sadness, making Narcissa smile, even a little.

His mother's accepted Harry. Even adjusted to Harry sleeping in Draco's bed the past week, to Harry wandering out into the kitchen for breakfast, hair mussed and shirtless, in desperate need of a strong cup of tea. Draco knows she doesn't entirely understand, not when so obviously faced with evidence of her son's bent nature, but she's trying. And Harry's good with her. Careful. Polite. Always kind, more so than Draco has been, he thinks.

Draco doesn't know what he'd do without Harry. How he could face today. He dreads it. Doesn't want to face putting his father into the ground. There'd been part of him that had wondered if it was even his father in the morgue drawer. How many of those bastard friends of his father's had faked their own death, after all. But he knows deep down inside that his father's gone. Lucius wouldn't hurt Narcissa like this. Draco's bloody well certain of that.

The door to the sitting room swings open, and Harry walks in. "Hey," Harry says, and Draco just looks at him. Harry's in a black suit, perfectly tailored, with a grey silk tie, his sling charmed to match the black of his suit today. He looks lovely with his dark hair artfully mussed and his face clean-shaven. How inappropriate is it, Draco wonders, to want to fuck your boyfriend just before your father's funeral?

Harry walks in, looks around. He raises an eyebrow at the sight of the Crups sprawled around Draco. "Part of your inheritance?" he asks lightly, and the ludicrousness of it all makes Draco smile, just a bit.

"They miss Father." Draco strokes a finger along the back of Cronus's ear. "I'm waiting for them to remember they loathe me."

"Give them time." Harry sits on the arm of the chair and looks down at Draco. "Your mum's with McIntyre downstairs. They'll need you soon."

Draco just nods. He knows he'll have to go down, knows he'll have to make it through the next few hours. The service. The lunch his aunt is hosting at her house. He wonders idly if the Manor elves are in the kitchen, or if they're cooking for Andromeda.

Harry smoothes Draco's hair back from his forehead. "You can do this," he says quietly. "You know that."

"I'll be fine." Draco turns his head, brushes his mouth across Harry's knuckles. "Thank you for giving me some time, though."

"Your mum's all right." Harry's hand cups Draco's cheek. "I think she'll make it through the service at least." He hesitates, then says, "She wants me to sit with you both."

Draco thinks he should be surprised, but he's not. "That's good of her." He knows what that means, knows that his mother is already offering Harry a place in their family. If he wants it. Draco's chest constricts a bit. "Will you?" He doesn't look at Harry as he asks. He strokes Cronus' ear instead.

Harry doesn't say anything at first, and Draco's heart thuds loudly. He's certain Harry can hear it. And then Harry reaches for Draco's hand, curls his fingers around Draco's. "Would you like me to?"

All Draco can do is nod.

"Then I will." Harry's voice is soft. His thumb traces a small circle on the back of Draco's hand. "We should go down though. Your mum's already fretting."

Draco lets Harry pull him out of the chair, Vanish away the Crup hairs that cling to his suit. Cronus looks disgruntled, and Draco smoothes his ears back. "I'll come back," he promises, and Cronus' tails thump against the leather of the chair. Draco means it. He doesn't know what to do with his father's Crups, but he knows he can't leave them here in this bloody house with just the house elves for company.

Harry leads Draco downstairs. His mother and McIntyre are in the foyer, along with Andromeda and Teddy, all of them dressed in shades of grey and black. Even Teddy's hair is a subdued slate blue today. They look up as Draco and Harry take the turn from the landing, their hands still interlaced. Draco knows his mother and Andromeda have both noticed. Even McIntyre's eyebrow goes up, but he doesn't say anything.

"There you are, darling," his mother says. She's in an elegant dark grey wrap dress made of raw silk. It looks beautiful on her, and she's wearing her engagement and wedding rings again, Draco notices. She hasn't had those on in years. Death brings out odd things in people, he thinks, as his mother holds her hand out to him. "James was just telling us how the order of service will go."

McIntyre clears his throat. "Yes, well, the vicar will be leading, of course. It's a simplified graveside service, per your request. However…." The funeral director trails off, looking a bit uncertain.

"What?" Draco looks between McIntyre and his mother.

"It's not just family that'll be attending," his aunt says, her voice quiet. "James says that some others have gathered."

"Quite unusual," McIntyre says, with a worried glance Draco's way. "But given the individuals in question…" He chews on his bottom lip. "Well. You'll see, Sergeant Malfoy."

With a frown at Harry, Draco follows McIntyre to the wide entry Floo. St Barnabas has been the Malfoy family parish for as long as there've been Malfoys in Wiltshire, even if in recent years the family's been strictly Easter and Christmas attendees. Or less, in Draco's case. He hasn't stepped foot in St Barnabas since the Dark Lord took over the Manor. It feels odd but strange to land in the Floo back behind the choir stalls now.

The stone church is empty and silent. Draco waits for his mother to come out after him, followed by Harry, then Andromeda and Teddy. Draco catches Teddy as he stumbles, keeping his cousin from smashing his nose on one of the saint's statues in the back corridor. Teddy gives him a small smile; Draco just lets his hand drop.

"Used to do that myself when I was small," Draco says. "Nearly brained myself on the Apostle Paul over there." Draco nods towards the statue of a serious, bearded man across from the Floo, raised up just enough so that his bare toe was even with an eight-year-old's temple.

"Thanks," Teddy says. He looks up at Draco, almost as if he's assessing him, and then he slides his hand in Draco's, pulling Draco after the others. Teddy's palm is warm and a little bit sticky, but something about the feel of it against Draco's skin is right, and when both Andromeda and Harry smile at him, Draco's cheeks grow warm.

McIntyre leads them through the quiet nave, and into the foyer beyond. The arched wooden doors are heavy; their iron hinges creak when McIntyre pushes them open, letting the bright summer sunlight flood over the cool shadows of the foyer. Draco blinks as he steps out into the warmth of the July morning. It's nearly Harry's birthday, Draco realises. A week and a half or so to go. It's a curious thought to have as he walks down the stone steps, his brogues hitting the crushed gravel of the circular path leading towards the graveyard. Draco glances back at Harry, who's helping his mother down the steps, holding one hand for her as she daintily makes her way down the worn steps, her skirt caught up with her other hand. The sun glints in her golden hair, and his mother's beautiful, Draco thinks as she looks up at him, giving him a small, sad smile.

Draco doesn't know what to expect as he follows McIntyre and his aunt down the path towards the Malfoy crypt, large and grey-white against the other half-sagging headstones around it. But it's not the people gathered around his father's closed casket, a simple spray of lilies on top of the polished walnut. Blaise and Pansy and Althea are there, all in their Auror dress uniforms, standing tall and square-shouldered beside the path. Behind them are Olivia Zabini and Barachiel Dee, Terry and Camilla Parkinson, then Mille and Hannah and Greg and Theo, even Gawain Robards, and a row of Unspeakables in uniform, as well as Granger and Weasley, the latter's hair shining ginger and bright in the sunlight.

And then Harry pulls Teddy back and Blaise and Pansy are beside Draco, holding him, Pansy whispering I'm so sorry, darling in his ear. Draco clings to her, breathing in the smell of roses against her skin, feeling the press of Blaise's hand against his back. He's missed them these past few days. Badly. As much as Draco loves Harry, he needs his friends too right now.

He steps back when he hears a deep voice say, "Sergeant Malfoy."

Kingsley Shacklebolt's standing beside Draco, with Gawain Robards and Bertie Aubrey flanking each side. They look solemn, Robards and Bertie in full dress uniform as well, and Shacklebolt extends his hand to Draco. "I'm sorry for your loss," he says. "Officially and on a personal level as well. The death of a parent is always difficult." Draco can tell he's sincere.

"Thank you, sir," Draco says, and he means it as well. He's a bit stunned that the Minister of Magic's shown up at his father's burial. That any of them have, to be honest. He looks back behind Robards and Bertie, and he sees a handful of other Aurors. Shah. Viola. Dawlish even. Aurors from his past assignments. Men and women he's worked with for years. They're here, and Draco knows they've not the slightest bit of respect for his father.

And then Bertie's pulling Draco into a one-armed embrace and he says in Draco's ear, "They've all come for you, you know that, lad."

Draco hadn't, but he realises Bertie must be right. Aurors and Unspeakables alike dip their heads as Draco makes his way down the line, taking their quiet murmurs of sympathy in, one after another, his mother behind him.

"Whatever you need, Malfoy," Weasley says, holding out his hand, and Draco hesitates only briefly before taking it. He can feel Harry watching from beside McIntyre, and Draco can't say anything, can only nod as Weasley releases his hand. "If there's anything at all…" Weasley falls silent for a moment, and then he says, a bit gruffly, "I know what it's like to lose someone in your family. So yeah. Anything." Weasley looks away, towards his wife. Granger puts a hand on his shoulder, and he smiles faintly at her.

And then Draco's being pulled away by one of McIntyre's helpers, being led down to the gaping hole that's the entrance to his family crypt. His father's casket sits in front of it, and there are seats for Draco and his mother and Andromeda and Teddy. Harry stands behind Draco, his hand on Draco's shoulder, and Draco knows what this means, their colleagues watching Harry with him, touching him like this, like he's more than Draco's SIO.

Harry doesn't seem to give a damn.

The vicar steps forward, a small, round woman with a pretty face and a dark bob. "Lord," she says quietly, "thou hast been our refuge, from one generation to another."

Harry's fingers tighten on Draco's shoulder, and Draco feels a warmth go through him. He stares straight ahead at the smooth, shining wood of his father's simple casket, letting the vicar's words fade into the background, a quiet hum of Anglican platitudes meant more for his mother than himself. He sits ramrod straight, memories of the last Malfoy funeral he'd attended flitting through his mind, of Grandfather Abraxas, so pale and stern in his casket, and the church that had been filled to overflowing with the wizarding elite, of his father standing beside him, his hand on Draco's shoulder much as Harry's is now. Draco had never seen his father express the slightest bit of emotion at Grandfather Abraxas' death. Draco can't help but wonder if Lucius had been glad to see his own father go, if the Malfoy line was destined to be filled with fathers and sons who despised one another.

Except Draco had never hated his father entirely. He still doesn't. He can't.

He watches as the vicar sprinkles dirt on his father's casket, watches as his mother stands and does the same before turning to Draco expectantly.

Draco doesn't want to. And yet he finds himself standing, walking over to scoop a small handful of dirt from the pile beside the casket. He lets it fall from his fingers, hears it striking the wood, spattering against the lilies. He doesn't feel as if he's in his body, doesn't feel as if he knows what he's doing. Everything's so distant. So empty.

Somehow he sits back down. Catches Harry's hand with his own dirt-streaked fingers and he holds on, tightly, waiting for it all to end.

He won't fall apart. Not here. Not now.

Not ever, if he can help it.

Draco holds fast to that small curl of anger deep down inside of him. At his father. At the world. He clings to it. Tightly, as if losing that spark of fury will spin him out of control, bring the whole world crashing down on him.

In front of him the engraved plaque on his father's casket gleams bright in the sunlight. Lucius Abraxas Malfoy. 6 Aug 1954 - 13 Jul 2006.

"That we," the vicar is saying, "with all those that are departed in the true faith of thy holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory…"

Bollocks, Draco thinks. Complete and utter bollocks, and he wants to throw himself to his feet, to shout and scream and rage against all of this idiocy, at the idea that his father might deserve any bliss, any peace at all, in any sodding afterlife that might or might not exist.

He can't though. He can't embarrass his mother like that. He won't.

And so he sits silent and angry, his whole body tense and tight as the vicar ends her prayer, steps back away from the casket.

McIntyre's men move forward, levitating the casket and its spray of lilies up, moving it slowly towards the crypt. Draco can't watch. Can't let himself look at what's left of his father being guided into its final resting place.

That's not Lucius Malfoy, Draco wants to say. My father was alive. Vicious. Bright. Sharp. Not silent. Dead. Gone. His chest tightens. His shoulders shake as he stands along with the rest of his family, Harry by his side.

Draco refuses to look back at that dark, gaping hole in the carved stone crypt.

He won't let himself cry.

***

Thursday morning comes too soon for Althea. She feels as if she'd barely slept before it'd been time to wake again; her nerves hadn't let her settle and she's still back on New York time. She supposes it's also the stress of the Dolohov transport, not to mention the funeral of Lucius Malfoy stirring up emotions that she'd thought had been well-buried for years. Althea knows all too well what it's like to lose a parent, especially in such a violent and unexpected way, and she feels Malfoy's loss intensely, even given who his father was. A parent is still a parent, and Althea misses her own mother every day. She'd also gone to New York petrified she might have to come back to Mitchell having drunk himself into a stupor and done something rash. Or worse.

The first thing she'd done when she'd got home was to go see her father, to make certain with her own eyes that he's all right. Mitchell had thought her half-mad when she'd walked into his room at the halfway house, but she'd needed to put her arms around him, to lean her head on his shoulder, to let him know she loved him. Needed him. Her father had just let her cry on him, had just stroked her hair and told her softly he'd be okay. He promised he wouldn't leave her, promised he wouldn't make her go through life alone. And Althea had wept in her father's arms, letting herself remember how much she misses her mother, admitting to him how empty she is.

Really, it's everything Althea hasn't let herself feel for weeks. Being back in London means thinking about Marcus Wrightson again, thinking about the future and what might happen to all of them. She feels so bloody lost if she thinks about it too much, as much as she's so glad to be on Seven-Four-Alpha, to have some sort of anchor right now.

Now she's walking back through the bullpen with a paper cup of tea in her hand, wondering if the past weeks in New York were a dream. They certainly feel like it. She greets a few people on the way in--she and Maxie are scheduled to take lunch together, but he's not here now. He'd said that her dad had been well when he visited Sunday, and she's so grateful to Maxie that he's gone to see Mitchell this past fortnight, that they've made friends. Her father thinks Maxie's brill, wants him to come back and watch the cricket with him whenever he can.

Althea wants to go back herself again and see Mitchell this afternoon, if she can get away early. She needs to mention it to Potter, see if he'll let her leave for Bristol. She knows it's not a typical day, but Potter'd also said they needed to get back. Robards is feeling antsy. Althea's not surprised. She's seen the Prophet headlines the past two days, suggesting that there's gross incompetence in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. They're going after Proudfoot first, but Robards' name had been mentioned as well, as had Shacklebolt's, and an editorial from Barnabas Cuffe had suggested that perhaps the Wizengamot might call for a vote of no-confidence in the Minister, particularly given his opposition to the Death Eater registry legislation that's starting to gain traction.

Althea doesn't like the direction her country's starting to turn towards. Even Maxie had been resistant to the idea that she'd go to Lucius Malfoy's funeral. It'd look bad for her, he'd said when she'd firecalled him Tuesday night, a frown on his face. She ought not to be at a known Death Eater's funeral. For a moment she'd nearly agreed, but then she'd remembered Malfoy's stricken face when the news came in about his father, and she'd shaken her head, told Maxie it wasn't about memorialising a Death Eater but rather about being there for a member of her team who'd lost a dad, the way Malfoy would be there for her if it'd been Mitchell who'd been murdered.

Maxie had just snorted, told Althea she was a damned fool. Maybe he's right, she thinks, but she doesn't much care. Not after everything Seven-Four-Alpha's been through since she'd come on board.

When Althea opens the door to the incident room--their incident room, with their whiteboards and their desks and the familiar clutter scattered across it--her heart actually skips. If she's honest, she's bloody glad to be back here as well. Setting her boots back on British soil feels right. New York had been an interesting break, a good chance to see how MACUSA polices, but Althea's glad to be back in London, back in here in the Ministry, blowing on a cup of proper tea and hearing the sounds of a proper Auror force around her. Even the smells are familiar, and although she knows this is a difficult homecoming, she's glad to be faced with it finally instead of dreading it from afar. New York'd been unreal, like a holiday on Mars. She'd had a great time shagging Lucy and the work'd been interesting, but there's nothing quite like home, is there?

Parkinson traipses in next, her satchel slung about her shoulder and sunglasses pushed up on her head, her dark hair pulled back in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. She's lovely in heels and bright green trousers with a wispy, floral chiffon blouse that dips down low enough to let a glimpse of creamy skin and lace edging show, and Althea lets herself look a bit. Respectfully, of course.

"All right there, Parkinson?" Althea asks, taking in the curve of Parkinson's neck, the quirk of her gorgeous, scarlet-lipped mouth. Althea wonders what it'd be like to kiss her, to have that bright red lippie smeared across her own mouth. She breathes out, then takes a sip of her tea, trying to keep her hand from trembling. Pull yourself together, you idiot, she tells herself. You don't shag your co-workers, remember? Even if your guv doesn't seem to give a fuck. She looks away when Parkinson smiles at her, bright and sunny and oh so sharp as only Parkinson can manage.

"Rather, thanks," Parkinson says cheekily. "All right yourself, Whitaker?"

Althea nods. "Just getting comfortable again." She's sitting at the table in the corner, one that used to be Malfoy's, or Parkinson's perhaps, but Althea knows she's got her place in the team now and she can sit where she likes. She hardly remembers being afraid to take the wrong seat, but she knows she had been at the beginning.

Parkinson plops down next to her and starts rummaging in her satchel. Her coffee's on the table, and Althea's amused. She's also trying not to look down Parkinson's shirt too much--Parkinson has something lovely on in ivory lace, and Althea doesn't want to fixate on her bra but, well, for Circe's sake, it's right there in front of her. "I can't find any proper quills in here."

Althea reaches into her own satchel, pulls out the new ones she'd packed today. "Take one of mine. I had a set in my desk at home."

Parkinson selects one with a lovely stripe to the black feather. "Ta, you beautiful Ravenclaw." She blows her a kiss with the feather, touching it lightly to her lips and making Althea swallow hard in astonishment before looking away. "This is brilliant."

As much as she tries not to stare at Parkinson, Althea fails. Mentally she kicks herself. Over and over again. Having a pash on a co-worker is so sodding passé, as much as it seems to be the norm rather than the exception in Seven-Four-Alpha. But none of them are your bog-standard Aurors, are they?

As if on schedule, Zabini comes in looking a bit worse for the wear. He's beautifully dressed, of course, but his face looks a bit worn and harsh and Althea thinks she detects a hint of sadness under the irritation. He sets his coffee down hard, splashing a bit across the top of his desk. "Morning, witches."

Parkinson eyes him, sipping from her own cup and leaving a crimson-coloured stain on the edge. It's darker than the shade she'd been wearing in New York, not that Althea's watching or thinking about her colleague's lipstick choices. Not at all. "What's flown up your broom twigs, darling?" Her tone is mocking, but Althea knows that Zabini would've responded badly to compassion. She's learnt that much about him in recent weeks.

Zabini leans back in his chair. "What hasn't? Mother and my grandfather have settled in my flat. She can't stop complaining about how cramped everything is. It's a bloody two-bedroom, and I'm sleeping on the fucking sofa so she and Grandfather can have the beds, so I don't know what she's whinging on about."

Parkinson shakes her head in commiseration. "Well, it's not as though we can afford the Beaumont with our pay packets."

"Exactly." Zabini snorts. "And they expect me to have time to squire them around the city. Mother was actually incensed that I had to work today. She wanted to go to lunch."

Parkinson laughs, whilst Althea tries to imagine a parent who doesn't understand workdays.

"The sheer affront," Althea says, trying to put a toe in the Slytherin game of mockery. It seems to work.

"Can you imagine?" Zabini puts his hand to his chest in mock outrage. He's clearly feeling better, Althea thinks. He just needed to be distracted. "That I might actually have to be an Auror for a bit."

"And what about a certain American Unspeakable?" Parkinson eyes him. "Has he firecalled yet?"

Zabini glances towards the door. The guv should come in any minute, and Zabini's look is wary. Althea doesn't blame him. She wonders what the guv will think of someone from his team shagging his ex. It's awkward, she supposes, but so is buggering one of your sergeants, and Potter doesn't seem to have had a problem with that. Zabini shrugs. "No. But we've texted a bit. He's busy with something Graves wants." He looks a bit put out.

"Any sexy photos?" Parkinson looks over. "I wouldn't mind a look at what you've been busy with."

"Pansy, he's an Unspeakable." Zabini purses his lips.

"You didn't answer the question," Althea says. She sees Zabini narrow his eyes at her, and yeah, she's pretty sure Durant gave Zabini some photos to remember him by. She smiles at him over the rim of her tea.

Zabini mutters something about Ravenclaws dressed as Slytherins, but he's saved from further outrage by the door opening. The guv comes in red braces and dark trousers, his shirt sleeves buttoned and his arm still in that bloody sling, his jacket in his other hand. He smiles. "There you all are. Thrilled to be back at work again, I'm certain."

The room feels strangely hollow without Malfoy. Althea wants to look around for him, but she checks herself. It feels as if he should be here, and she misses him. Merlin, but she never would have thought that a month ago. Never would have considered calling any of this lot her friends. Especially not Malfoy.

Potter settles his things on the table nearest the door, dropping his jacket across it and taking a miniaturised satchel out of his pocket with his left hand, then saying the spell to restore it to size.

"Well, we're back," he says when he's done. He regards them each in turn. "And it looks like this is going to be our team going forward. The four of us." He sounds a bit regretful. Tired even. Definitely unhappy.

Zabini and Parkinson look at each other quickly, then over at Althea. She shrugs and glances back at Potter.

"What about Malfoy?" Althea asks, leaning forward in her chair. She sets her tea down. "Sorry, guv, but isn't he going to come back too, when he's ready?"

Potter presses his lips together and takes a breath, then shakes his head. "He's going to be offered a position with the Unspeakables when he comes back. They're all but drafting him into Croaker's division given the shortage of Legilimens." He fiddles with his satchel, opening it up with one hand, not looking at any of them.

"What does Draco have to say about it?" Parkinson's voice is sharp, her carriage erect. "I can't imagine he wants to leave us."

Potter shrugs and steps away from his desk, coming to the centre of the room. He leans against what would have been Malfoy's desk. "I'm not sure there's much choice. I tried to argue with Gawain, but Croaker and national security seem to take priority."

Zabini settles back. "Are you sure that you don't take priority, guv? I mean, you're fucking him after all." Parkinson gives him a shocked look, and Althea's a bit taken aback herself at Zabini's bluntness. Zabini frowns at them all. "Sorry, I'm just wondering if it's motivated by that any, Draco's transfer." He looks over at the guv. "I would have thought you'd fight back a bit harder against any national bloody security bollocks, but…" He trails off, his gaze fixed on Potter's face.

The guv rubs a hand over the back of his neck. "It's a fair question, and yeah, I was worried too, Zabini. I'm not half-certain they're moving Draco because I made it clear I wasn't going to hide my relationship with him. You're not far off what I asked Gawain myself." He meets Zabini's frown with an even look of his own. "But I do think it's also about the Legilimency. Saul Croaker's desperate to have that specialty, particularly with Jake back in New York." He hesitates, then he says, "They want to train him. Pay for it all with a top-notch Legilimens, and possibly bump his rank up in the Unspeakables force. This isn't a demotion for Draco, and it doesn't preclude his working with us on cases." Potter's mouth tightens. "I'll make damned certain of that. It helps to be best mates with a high-ranking Unspeakable myself."

This seems to mollify Zabini, and Althea does believe, of all people, Potter tries to have Malfoy's best interests at heart. She's seen them together, and she knows that the guv, for all his failings, truly wants Malfoy to succeed.

"Well, I guess it's just us, then," Parkinson says archly, sipping at her coffee, then putting it aside.

Potter looks over to her. "Yeah. Just us. With a little change."

They all look at him expectantly.

"Whitaker's our sergeant now." Potter smiles and looks over at Althea, who can't help but blink at him. "Gawain asked to have you put in that role formally for the team."

To Althea's great surprise, Zabini and Parkinson clap, genuine if slightly smug smiles on their faces.

"Hear, hear," Zabini says, as Parkinson adds, "Well done, Althea." She reaches across her desk to touch Althea's arm, and a frisson of warmth goes through Althea.

Althea can feel her face heat. She ducks her head. "Thanks, guv. I'm happy to serve, if you'll have me."

Potter's smile widens. "I'll need some help with these two. We all know who's in charge, after all."

Parkinson sticks out her tongue, whilst Zabini whispers "Draco" sotte voce. Potter pretends not to hear, but Althea catches the faint hint of red across his high cheekbones, sees the slight quirk of his mouth at the corner. Zabini's not far off, Althea thinks. Whatever the guv might believe.

"Well. I know you all have your drinks, but I reckon it's my shout at the teacart this morning," Potter says, his voice light and teasing. "I'm sure you're all dying for a pumpkin pasty." He shoots a look at Zabini. "Or three." Zabini just shrugs at him, gives the guv a lazy, easy smile.

The funny thing is, Althea actually could bloody well murder a pasty right now, or whatever else Margaret has on her cart.

As she follows them all out into the hall, her team with her guv, she thinks, maybe being home won't be that bad.

Merlin's tits, though, she's going to miss Malfoy's snark. A fucking hell of a lot.

***

When Harry walks back into Draco's flat just past four, he hears raised voices, then the distinct sound of crockery shattering against the kitchen wall. He drops his jacket, not bothering to hang it on the wall hook, and strides down the hallway.

The kitchen's a mess; half of one cupboard appears to have been flung across the room. Shards of pottery are scattered across the floor, and Narcissa's standing there, another soup bowl in her hand, her shoulders heaving.

"Calm the fuck down, Mother." Draco's back is to Harry, and his voice sounds strained, tired. "I'd really rather you not destroy my entire kitchen over a sodding Prophet article."

"What's wrong?" Harry asks from the doorway, and they both turn to look at him. A faint flush stains Narcissa's pale cheeks, and from the frown on Draco's face, Harry realises this is something he wasn't meant to see. Fuck that, he thinks. So they thought they'd have it all cleaned up before he came back. It's not as if he still wouldn't have had to deal with the fallout. Honestly, Malfoys think they can hide everything from the world, present this acceptable, polished front. They're sodding stupid about that, in Harry's opinion.

There's a Prophet on the island counter. Harry picks it up, frowns down at the front page. It's the usual bollocks about the current Ministry political situation and Luxembourg's involvement in it. But down at the corner's a photograph. From yesterday, Harry realises. After the funeral. He can see Draco and Narcissa front and center, their bright blond hair gleaming in the sunlight, but they're surrounded by Kingsley and Gawain and Bertie Aubrey. Harry sees himself just behind them, with Ron and Hermione at his side, the rest of Seven-Four-Alpha a step to the right. But it's the text that's the problem, he realises. Orla Quirke's done it again, writing a terse, vicious paragraph about the Ministry notables at the funeral of known Death Eater Lucius Malfoy. It begs one to ask, she's written, why so many Aurors and politicians showed up for Malfoy's funeral, when not a single Auror representative--much less Harry Potter, himself--attended the services of Hit Wizard Winston Chang this past Monday, or Unspeakable Phoebe Rayne on Sunday. When asked, Department of Mysteries head Saul Croaker had no comment for the Prophet, but one might speculate, given recent events, that perhaps there are more Death Eater sympathisers than one might like within the ranks of our Magical Law Enforcement.

"Cow," Harry says, and he drops the Prophet back down on the counter. He looks over at Narcissa. "This upset you enough to destroy half of Draco's soup service? It's less about your husband than the Auror force."

Narcissa leans against the counter. Draco takes the soup bowl from her, sets it back into the cupboard. "It's not just the article," she says.

Harry moves closer to her. "Then what is it?" Draco turns away, his back to both of them, his hands splayed against the sink, his shoulders hunched, his head bent. Exhaustion radiates from him, and Harry's worried. It's all getting to be too much for him, Harry thinks, this emotion his mother's swirling through. Harry knows it's bringing up other things for Draco. Memories about the war. The aftermath. He's been next to Draco this week as Draco cries out in their bed, tossing and turning as the dreams wrack his body. Harry doesn't know if Draco remembers them in the morning. They've never spoken of them, but Harry won't forget the things Draco says, the whispers Draco breathes out in his troubled sleep.

How Draco has lived with some of this, Harry doesn't know.

"I know the world wants me to hate my husband," Narcissa says, her voice quiet, yet raw. She looks up at Harry, and he can see the anguish written in the lines of her face. "But I don't. I never have, even when I turned him in--" The words catch in the back of her throat, crack a bit.

Harry reaches for Narcissa with his good arm, pulls her up against him. She feels fragile and frail as she twists her fingers in his shirt. Harry holds back the wince. He hasn't been taking his pain potion the way he ought to have. He's been hiding that from Draco, but he's needed to be more coherent than the primary pain potion makes him feel, more able to handle the emotional waves that have been coming at him here in the small footprint of Draco's flat. He lets Narcissa press her face against his chest, gives her the comfort that he knows Draco isn't entirely capable of right now. "I'm sorry," Harry murmurs.

Narcissa breathes out. "Never mind me, Inspector--"

"Harry," he says gently, reminding her, and she pulls back, looks up at him.

"Yes." Narcissa wipes the corners of her eyes with one thumb. "Of course. Harry." She draws in a ragged breath. "I'm being a right fool, I suppose."

"One who destroys my kitchen," Draco says from the sink. He still hasn't turned around. "For fuck's sake, Mother." He sounds angry. Bitter.

At his wit's end, Harry thinks.

Narcissa looks away. She folds her arms across her chest, bends her head so a loose lock of her hair falls forward over her cheek. Harry wonders if she knows how much like her son she looks.

"I haven't anything for dinner," Draco says. He turns around and there's a bright, half-mad look in his eyes. "The pantry's bare."

It's not, but Harry thinks Draco needs to get out of the flat. And Narcissa needs a moment alone to compose herself. "We could go to Sainsbury's." He looks at Narcissa. "If you don't mind."

Draco nods, tucks his hair behind one ear. "You'll be fine, Mother. Just don't shatter all of my fucking dishes."

Narcissa's face flushes again. "I'm sorry," she says, her voice formal and flat. "It was rude of me."

Draco doesn't answer; he just walks past Harry and says, "I need to get my shoes."

And then Harry's left in the kitchen alone with Draco's mother. Narcissa doesn't look at him. She just takes her wand out and starts to Vanish away the tiny shards of broken pottery, shattered beyond proper repair.

"My apologies," she says after a moment. "I hadn't meant to lose my temper that way. I'm afraid I've angered my son."

"He'll get over it," Harry says. He watches her. Narcissa moves slowly, her shoulders bent, her hair slipping out of the loose knot at the nape of her neck. The dress she's wearing is clean but crumpled, and she hasn't put on any makeup. It's the first time Harry thinks he's seen her face entirely bare. Her brows are light, her lashes so pale they're almost nonexistent, her cheeks a bit blotchy. She still looks beautiful. Delicate, yet strong. Determined, he thinks, and he sees so much of her son in her. Harry hesitates, then he says, "Do you want to talk about it?"

Narcissa doesn't answer at first, then she glances over at him. She looks tired, worn out. "There's nothing really to say, Harry. I'm angry and sad, and if it weren't for me, my husband wouldn't have been in the place in which he lost his life, not to mention those other poor people..." She trails off, turns her head away from Harry. He can tell by the set of her shoulders that she's fighting back another wave of tears.

"It's not your fault," he starts to say, but she cuts him off with a sharp shake of her head.

"Their actual deaths? No." Narcissa stiffens, her mouth a tight line. "That lies fully on my brother-in-law's shoulders. Rodolphus always was a bastard." The word sounds strange from Narcissa's lips. She Vanishes the last bit of broken pottery. "But you might understand my uncertainty about whether or not I made the right choice to turn Lucius in." She rolls her wand between her fingertips; a faint spray of pale blue sparks flies out, dissipates in the air. "Perhaps it would have been wiser for me to handle him in a different manner. I could have forced him to stop associating with those idiots--"

'But could you have?" Harry asks gently, and she looks at him then. "Your husband kept being drawn back into it all. You never could stop him before. You did what you thought was right, and we…" Harry sighs, his heart heavy. "We didn't protect him well enough. The Ministry, I mean. Whatever the fucking Prophet says….they're right about that. We fucked up. We didn't see Lestrange coming, and your husband paid the price. So did Winston Chang and Phoebe Rayne and Lotte Marquandt and Achilleus Avery. They're all dead because Rodolphus Lestrange escaped our care. Not because you turned your husband in for criminal activity."

Narcissa's silent, and Harry thinks she's angry with him until she leans back against the counter, her arms crossed over her chest. "I blame myself," she says quietly. "And I think my son does as well."

Harry shakes his head. "He wouldn't."

"Grief does strange things to one's thinking," Narcissa says, and she gives Harry a small, wry smile. "Be careful with him, Harry. He's far more fragile than he understands."

"I know." And that's what worries Harry, if he's honest. He's waiting for Draco to fall apart. Wondering when it might happen.

There's a footstep in the hall, and Harry turns around just as Draco walks in, his white shirt still untucked over his jeans, his boots on, his hair slightly mussed. "Let's go," Draco says, not looking at his mother.

Harry gives Narcissa a sympathetic glance, but he follows Draco out of the flat, and down the staircase to the entrance hall of the building. Neither of them speak; Draco still has his arms folded across his chest. Harry wants to take his hand, but he doesn't think Draco wants to be touched at the moment.

"All right?" he asks instead, and Draco just shrugs.

"I will be." Draco holds the door open for Harry.

Harry thinks that's about as much as he'll get from Draco at the moment, so he lets him be.

Sainsbury's is two streets away. The walk's nice enough; it's pleasantly warm without being sweltering. The perfect Thursday afternoon, with the sun high in the sky and no chance of rain. The trees that line the street are the bright, vibrant shades of green that only happen in summer, their leaves casting shadows across the pavement. Harry likes the walk; he feels as if he's been cooped up inside far too much this week, trapped in the tangle of grief that's twisted up between Draco and his mum. Even being at the Ministry had been a bit of a relief, as much as Harry'd missed Draco, as much as Harry'd worried about him. He's starting to understand what Ron had meant about being overwhelmed by Draco's emotions, and he thinks maybe Draco's getting lost in them as well.

They're halfway to the market when Draco glances over at Harry and says, "I had an owl from Saul Croaker today."

"Oh," is all that Harry can say. He waits, uncertainly.

Draco looks away again. "They want me to come on board as an Unspeakable. Away from Seven-Four-Alpha."

"I know," Harry admits, and Draco doesn't look surprised. "Gawain told me Croaker wanted to offer it to you after the funeral. I didn't want to say with everything that was going on. Thought it might be too much for you."

Draco just nods. His arms are folded across his chest again, and he's worrying the fabric of his sleeve between his fingertips. "Are you angry?"

Yes, Harry wants to say, but he sighs. "Do you want to take it? It'd be good for you. The Legilimency bit."

Draco stops at the street corner, waits for the light to change before he steps into the zebra crossing. Harry follows him. "I don't know," Draco says after a moment. "I might." He looks over at Harry. "Then again, I'm not so certain they're going to give me a choice. Not after you and I…" He pushes his hair back behind his ears and glances away. "Well. I can't be under your command if I'm dating you, can I?"

"I suppose not." Harry's arm aches. He wishes he'd taken his pain potion. He stops in front of the trolley rack in the Sainsbury's car park and digs in his pocket for a pound coin to leave for the deposit. It takes him a moment, but he finds one and shoves it in the slot, pulling out a trolley with his good hand whilst Draco waits, looking off into the distance, his hands shoved in his pockets, shirt rucked up over them. Harry looks back at him. "Does it bother you?"

"A little," Draco says. He falls into step beside Harry. "I'm not certain I'm Unspeakable material. Much less Legilimency."

Harry wants to scoff at that. "Jake said you were the most natural Legilimens he's seen."

"I'm not certain I want to have your ex praising me," Draco says, but Harry catches sight of a soft smile curving his lips before Draco tips his head, letting his hair fall forward, curtaining his face.

They step through the sliding doors and into the cool crispness of Sainsbury's. Harry heads for the produce section first, tossing some fruit and veg into the trolley without really thinking. Draco wanders beside him, looking a bit lost.

"I'll miss Seven-Four-Alpha," Draco says finally, adding a bag of grapes to the trolley. He doesn't glance up at Harry.

Harry lets his hand catch Draco's. He squeezes Draco's hand gently before letting it drop. "I'll fight it if you want me to."

Draco hesitates, then he shakes his head. "It wouldn't work." He sighs, walking beside Harry as they head for the fish counter. "Besides, it's for the best, really. For you and me."

It is, and they both know it. "Doesn't make it easier," Harry says. "It didn't feel right, you not being there with us this morning." He wants to tell Draco it feels as if there's a hole without him, as if the entire team's been gutted. They'd all missed him. Even Whitaker. Still, he thinks that's the team's place to tell Draco. Not his.

Draco doesn't say anything. He just rests his hand over Harry's on the trolley handle, his pale, thin fingers covering Harry's thick ones. Warmth spreads through Harry at the touch. He loves this prickly bastard of his. Madly. And he'd do anything for him. Whatever he needs to do, Harry will. He hopes Draco knows that.

They've made their way through most of the store, adding things to the trolley basket, before Draco says, "I want jam tarts."

Harry glances back down the store and frowns. "I want to pick up some eggs. I'll meet you in over there?"

Draco nods, and Harry watches him as he walks away. Harry's still worried about Draco, but he's seemed better as they've wandered the Sainsbury's aisles. Harry's deliberately gone slower than he would have on his own. Draco needs this time out, needs to be able to be apart from his mother. Needs a chance to separate himself from her grief. It's good for him, Harry thinks, and, as he sorts through the eggs, picking out a decent half-dozen, he considers how else he can give Draco this space.

Which is why it takes him by surprise when he turns down the aisle for baked goods and sees Draco still staring at the packages of biscuits, his face pale, his hands shaking.

"What's wrong?" Harry asks, pulling the trolley to a stop beside Draco.

"They don't have them." Draco's voice is thin, strained. "They don't have the bloody jam tarts--"

Harry pulls a package of tarts from the shelf. "They're right here--"

"Those aren't the right ones." Draco draws in a ragged breath. "I like the Mr Kipling ones, not the store brand." He looks at Harry, pushes the package out of his hands. They drop to the floor with a soft thud. "These aren't fucking right, Harry." His voice rises.

"Draco--" Harry starts to say, but then Draco's face crumples, and Harry has just enough time to grab at Draco, not even caring that a jolt of pain goes through his wounded shoulder. He misses and Draco's on his knees in the middle of the aisle, his whole body trembling, and he's sobbing. Raw, angry sobs that make his shoulders shake, that echo in the silence of Sainsbury's in the late afternoon.

This isn't about jam tarts. Even Harry knows that. He looks around. They're alone in the aisle, so Harry does the only thing he can think of doing. He pushes the trolley away, and he kneels beside Draco. "We're going home," he says softly, and he wraps his arm around Draco. "Can you hold on to me?"

Draco nods, and his arms go around Harry's neck, his face pressed to Harry's bad shoulder. Harry draws in a deep breath against the pain, and then he does something no bloody Auror ought to do.

He Apparates them both out of Sainsbury's, hoping madly that no one turns the corner of the aisle.

They land in the front hall of Grimmauld Place. Draco's shaking against Harry, and his sobs feel as if they're being ripped from him, harsh and wild and furious. This is what Draco's needed, Harry thinks. To feel the grief of losing his father. He's been holding it inside too long, trying his best to be strong for his mother.

That sort of thing never bloody works. Not in the long run, Harry thinks. Even as much as he's managed to keep bottled up, he'd still spent days the summer after the war locked away on his own, letting the angry tears out. They'd come even when he wished they wouldn't.

Somehow Harry gets Draco to the kitchen, sits him at the table. And then Kreacher's there, pushing Harry away, putting the kettle on before Harry can ask him to.

Harry sits with Draco whilst he cries, his face hidden by his hands, and when the sobs finally slow, Kreacher sets a cup of hot, milky tea in front of Draco, resting one long, bony hand on Draco's shoulder. The kitchen feels warmer and brighter, Harry thinks, and then he realises it's the house itself, doing what it can to comfort Draco, to make him feel welcomed. Safe.

"Better?" Harry asks, and he feels a bloody fool when he does, but Draco just wipes the back of his hand across his wet eyes and gives Harry a faint smile.

"Somewhat." Draco's voice is low. Rough. He draws in a slow breath, then exhales. "I feel foolish."

"You shouldn't." Harry watches as Draco sips the tea, as the blotches of pink start to fade from his face. "You're grieving, Draco."

Draco sets his cup down. "For a bastard."

"For your father." Harry shifts in his chair, his shoulder twinging. "He was an arsehole, but he was still your dad."

They're silent for a moment, then Draco says, "I can't go back tonight." He stares down at his half-empty cup. "To my flat."

"I know." Harry sits back in his chair. "We're staying here."

"My mother--" A flush of guilt goes across Draco's cheeks.

"I'll handle it." Harry stands. "You finish your tea, then come up to the library and find me. Yeah? Kreacher'll pour you another cuppa if you need it." Kreacher's standing at the hob, watching them both, thin shoulders hunched, his face worried and drawn. Harry knows Kreacher will look after Draco without hesitation if only Draco will let him.

Draco just nods, but he doesn't look at Harry. Still, when Harry rests his hand on Draco's shoulder, Draco reaches up, brushes Harry's knuckles with his fingertips. "Thank you," Draco murmurs, and Harry just squeezes his shoulder gently before pulling away. He glances back at Draco from the doorway. Draco's leaning on his elbows, his face pale, a bit gaunter than Harry'd like it to be. He looks exhausted and emotionally drawn. Harry wishes there was something--anything--he could do to take the pain of all this away. He knows he can't. He can just be there for moments like this. Moments when Draco needs to break.

If nothing else, Harry can make him feel safe.

He goes upstairs to the Floo and firecalls Andromeda. She answers immediately, and when Harry explains what's happened, she sighs. "Poor boy," Andromeda says. "It was bound to happen, but still."

"We're staying here at Grimmauld tonight," Harry says. "He needs some space. Some time away." He hesitates. "I hate to ask, but can you take Narcissa on? For a few days? It's just they're not…" Harry doesn't know how to say it. "He's not letting himself feel things properly. He thinks he has to be strong for his mum, and, well." Today happens, he thinks. He falls apart in the middle of bloody Sainsbury's over sodding jam tarts.

"I've been waiting," Andromeda says. "I didn't want to push, but I thought this might happen. Don't worry. I'll look after Narcissa. You take care of Draco."

"Thanks," Harry says, and he means it. "Tell Narcissa not to fret about us. I'll send Kreacher over later to pick up clothes for Draco." And his own satchel, Harry thinks. He's not certain they're going back to Draco's flat any time soon.

Harry sits back on his heels after Andromeda says goodbye, taking a deep breath as he watches the flames shift from green back to orange. He wonders if he can do this, if he really can take care of Draco, if that's what Draco needs from him.

He wants to try. Wants to be here for the man he loves.

Slowly, Harry pushes himself to his feet, letting out a soft huff of pain as he does so. He turns, and Draco's in the doorway, watching him.

"Are you taking your pain potion?" Draco asks, his eyes narrowed.

"Yes," Harry lies, but there's a tenseness around Draco's mouth that lets Harry know Draco doesn't believe him.

"Bollocks," Draco says as Harry walks over to him. "Harry, you have to--"

"I will." Harry leans in and kisses Draco, slow and careful, his lips warm against Draco's soft mouth. Draco falls silent. Harry pulls back and looks at him. "You need to rest. We're going upstairs, and we're going to have a bit of a lie down, yeah? I'll even take something for the pain if it'll make you feel better."

"Please." Draco's hand settles on Harry's hip. "I'll only rest if you do."

Harry nods. "And then we'll get up and eat. Kreacher'll make anything you want."

"I'm not really hungry," Draco says, but when Harry gives him a frown, he sighs. "Maybe a cheese toastie."

"You hate cheese toasties," Harry says. "You mock me for eating them."

Draco starts up the stairs. "I mock you for only eating them, you idiot. You can't survive on nothing but a toastie." The staircase grows brighter as they walk up it, and the scent of roses starts to drift towards them. Draco smoothes his palm over one of the newel posts. "Your house missed me, Harry."

"Not really surprising." Harry takes the last few steps up to the landing. "I think it loves you almost as much as I do."

That makes Draco look back at him, his hand already on the doorknob to their bedroom. "You're a sentimental twat, Harry Potter," he says, but he's smiling faintly, and the look he gives Harry is warm and soft.

Harry touches Draco's face, leans in and kisses him once more. "But I do love you," he whispers against Draco's lips. "Madly even."

Draco breathes out, lets his cheek rub against Harry's. "I don't know why," he says finally. "But I do love you too." He pulls back, looks over at Harry. "Thank you," he says. "For being here for me."

Harry lets Draco lead him to the bed. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

"Liar," Draco says as he toes off his boots and his socks, then stretches out on his side of the bed. And, Harry wonders, when did he start thinking of it as Draco's side, anyway? But it is, and Draco looks right, all long and lean and pale against Harry's navy blue coverlet. Draco glances at him. "You promised you'd rest too. Potion first, though."

"I will." Harry takes his boots off, unsnaps his braces and sets them aside, then goes to the en suite and quaffs a paracetamol rather than a pain potion, rinsing it down with a handful of water. He climbs up on the bed behind Draco, taking care with his shoulder.

Draco's half-asleep already, and Harry's not surprised. That burst of grief had to have worn him out. Harry smoothes Draco's hair back, kisses his temple.

"You know, I really do love you, Harry Potter," Draco murmurs, his eyes still closed. "Probably more than's healthy." He yawns a bit. "Prat."

Harry can't help but smile. "I know." He rests his head on the pillow beside Draco's, breathing in the soft scent of sandalwood and clover in Draco's cologne. He rests his hand on Draco's side; he can feel the slow rise and fall of Draco's breath, can tell as it evens out when Draco finally slips into sleep.

To his great surprise, Harry does too.

***

Draco wakes to the sound of the shower in the en suite, soft golden light spilling out from the half-open door. The rest of the bedroom's cast in shadows; the windows are dark through the sheer curtains, and one small lamp flickers warmly on top of Harry's tall dresser, beside the small sex toy chest that Draco still remembers the password to.

He sits up, a bit groggily. Draco hadn't meant to sleep this long, and his head feels a bit thick and fuzzy. Still, his heart's a bit less heavy and tight, and his body's not as tense as it'd been before the ragged sobs wracked his soul.

The wooden floor's cool beneath his bare feet as he pushes himself up, pads towards the en suite for a quick slash. He also wants to see Harry, to know he's still here with him, even though logically Draco realises he must be. It's not as if anyone else is going to have turned the shower on, after all.

Steam fills the en suite, fogging up the mirror and making Draco's skin feel warm and wet. Merlin only knows what it's doing to his hair. At least he can't look in the mirror and tell. Harry's clothes are in a pile on the floor, his pants and arm sling on top. Draco leans down, picks them up. Folds them. He's tutted at Harry before about the way Harry treats his clothes, dropping them wherever he feels like. Draco sets them on the side of the sink, a neat stack of cotton and twill. He almost thinks about complaining again, but he doesn't know that he has it in him. At the moment at least.

And then Draco hears a soft noise from the shower. A half-groan, followed by a breath. He turns his head, catches a glimpse of Harry behind the curtain, his feet planted firmly in the tub, his back to Draco, hair wet, water pouring across his golden skin. Harry's beautiful, Draco thinks, his gaze drifting across the muscled expanse of Harry's shoulders, down to his narrow waist and hips, over the round swell of his taut arsecheeks. It's the first time Draco's seen Harry naked in a week, and his body responds, his cheeks heating, his cock starting to harden in his jeans. It surprises Draco. He hasn't even wanted to wank for days.

It's then that Harry shifts, turns just enough for Draco to see Harry's left hand on his prick, moving slowly. Awkwardly. His foreskin slips back, and Draco can see Harry's cock rising up, hardening with each careful, fumbling stroke. His wounded right arm hangs limp at his side, unable even to hold Harry up, and Harry turns again, pushing his back against the tiled wall as his left hand pulls harder at his prick, tugs his foreskin over the swollen, ruddy head.

Draco watches. Harry's eyes are closed. Water runs down his broad chest, rivulets forming in the scattering of dark curls, dripping from the hard nubs of his pebbled brown nipples. Harry breathes out again, a quiet, careful huff that opens his lips just enough to make Draco want to climb in the tub fully dressed and kiss him.

Harry's right shoulder is red and raw, the skin just barely knit together. Draco can barely look at it without thinking of that moment when Harry fell beneath Dolohov's hex, the fear that had overtaken Draco, the terror that Harry would never get up again. That he was gone. That Draco had lost him.

What does it mean, Draco wonders, that Harry's death would have destroyed him? Utterly and completely. Whereas he can live through his father's murder. He can walk through the day, can breathe, can let himself exist. But if he'd lost Harry….Merlin. The very thought makes Draco want to sink to his knees, his body bent with anguish.

This must be what it feels like for his mother, he thinks, and something around his heart loosens, a furl of sympathy twisting through him. If it'd been Harry, even this soon in their relationship, Draco wouldn't have been able to bear it. How much worse must it be for his mother, who'd spent thirty-two years of her life in love with Lucius Malfoy?

Somehow Draco must make a soft noise because Harry's hand stills. His eyes open, and he's looking at Draco, a flush going across his cheeks. "Oh." Harry's hand falls away from his prick. "I'm sorry--"

"Don't stop," Draco says, and his voice is rough and raw. "Please."

Harry just stands there, uncertain. "Draco--"

And then Draco's climbing into the tub, without shucking off his shirt or jeans, and the warm water pours over him from the shower, wetting his hair, his clothes, sticking them to his skin. Draco doesn't care. "Harry," he manages to say, and then he's kissing Harry, their mouths wet, Draco's hands cupping Harry's slick cheeks. He rocks his hips forward, lets Harry feel the swell of his own prick against Harry's, only the wet denim and cotton of Draco's jeans and pants separating them.

"Christ," Harry gasps against Draco's mouth, and his left arm wraps around Draco's waist, pulling him closer. "I didn't want--" He breaks off in a groan as Draco's fingers brush over the head of his cock. "You don't have to--"

"I want to," Draco says, and he does. "You could have asked, you idiot. If you needed this."

Harry buries his face against the curve of Draco's throat, breathing hard as Draco pulls at Harry's foreskin, tugs it over Harry's slick head. "You didn't need me adding to everything," he says. "I can wank--"

"Not well," Draco says, turning his head to nip at Harry's jaw. "Not with that arm."

"It takes a little longer," Harry admits. His breath catches as Draco's fingers stroke down his shaft. The quiet sound shudders through Draco's body. Makes him want, the way he hasn't for days.

Draco steps back, lets his hand fall away from Harry's prick. Harry bites off a protest and stands silently beneath the warm spray of the shower. Draco starts to unbutton his shirt, his wet hair falling into his face. Harry just watches him, eyes bright and hot. Draco lets the wet cotton fall off his shoulders, lets it land with a sodden plop against the porcelain bottom of the tub. "Harry," he says, his voice soft, and he fumbles with the button and zip of his jeans. It's only then he realises how stupid he was to get into the shower with them on. They stick to him, heavy and wet, and he nearly falls trying to shove them down his thighs. Harry catches him with his good arm, holds him steady with a soft laugh.

And then Draco's laughing as well, a well-spring of sharp, painful joy that bubbles up as he stands in the shower, his jeans down around his knees, until it twists like a knife, its edges opening Draco up, making his feelings roll through him, angry and harsh and raw, and his laughter slows, turns to hot tears that spill down his face, mixing with the warmth of the shower spray.

Harry holds Draco close as he sobs, one arm around him, their skin slick and wet and hot against each other, their swollen pricks bobbing between them, pressing together.

"I don't want to think," Draco manages to choke out, his face pressed against Harry's good shoulder, his hands tight on Harry's hips. "Please."

"Wait here," Harry says, and then he's gone, and Draco's standing mostly naked beneath the shower, his back pressed against the tiled corner, tears still leaking from the corners of his tightly clenched eyes.

It only takes a moment before Harry's back, but it feels an eternity to Draco. But he hears the shower curtain pull back, and the water turn off, and he's cold suddenly, even in the warmth of the steam. When he looks down, Harry's crouched at the side of the tub, his wand in his hand, and he casts a Severing Charm on Draco's jeans, cutting them from Draco's calves. The heavy, wet denim slides off, landing wetly beside his shirt, and Draco can step out of his pants. He leaves them there too as Harry holds out his hand, helps him step out onto the thick, plush bath mat.

Harry kisses Draco. It's slow and careful. Easy, almost, the way their bodies fit together. Draco's hair is sodden, lank against his cheek, his nape. He shivers against Harry's body, the chill of the air striking his wet skin. Harry smoothes his hand down Draco's back, still kissing him, and Draco could lose himself in the soft, gentle press of Harry's lips against his. It's not a desperate kiss, not wanton, but one filled with love, and care, and worry, the kind of kiss that promises not an night of passion but a lifetime of devotion.

And it takes Draco's breath away.

"Harry," he says. "I need…" He doesn't know what exactly. He just knows that he couldn't bear it if Harry didn't touch him, didn't hold him like this.

A shudder goes through Draco as Harry steps back, reaches for a towel. Harry dries Draco off, watching him with a kind, yet heated look. "All right?" Harry asks, as he slides behind Draco, drags the pale blue towel down Draco's spine, over Draco's arse.

Draco just nods. The towel's a caress against his chilled skin. "Yes," he manages after a moment, and his prick has never been so hard, he thinks. Not from a shower.

Harry presses the towel against Draco's hair, so light, so careful. Draco knows Harry could use a drying charm, but he's glad Harry doesn't. Draco needs to be touched like this, to be cared for as only Harry knows he needs. Draco feels something full and heavy in him shift, and his eyes start to grow damp again. He blinks the tears away, watches in the clearing mirror as Harry bends down to drag the towel up Draco's left leg, then over to his right, just barely letting it brush the underside of Draco's cock. Draco hisses, softly, and when he glances down, Harry's smiling up at him, his eyes so warm and wide without his glasses.

"Tell me what you want," Harry says, standing up. His prick is nearly flat against his belly, so large and ruddy and thick. Draco wants to put his mouth around Harry's head, to suck the slickness from it, to taste Harry's bittersweet saltiness.

Instead Draco holds out his hand, and Harry takes it, letting Draco lead him back into the bedroom. Draco stops beside the bed, turns to Harry, touches his cheek, his fingertips so light against Harry's warm skin. "I want you inside of me," Draco says after a moment. "I need to feel you--" His voice breaks. "I need to feel you fucking me." He draws in an unsteady breath. "Please."

Harry nods. "My arm," he says. "We have to take that into account."

"I know." Draco sits on the edge of the bed. He feels strangely shy. He covers by reaching out, dragging his thumb across Harry's slick head, then lifting it to his mouth, sucking the taste of Harry from his skin. Harry breathes in, sharp and rough. "I could ride you."

"You could." Harry steps back, turns towards his dresser. "But I thought we could start with something else." He opens the toy chest, pulls out a flared plug and holds it up. "All right?"

Draco's stomach flips. "All right," he says, and he scoots up the bed, pressing his feet against the edge of the mattress. He spreads his knees wide.

Harry's face shifts; Draco can see the pure desire in his eyes. "You're beautiful like that," Harry murmurs, and he pulls the phial of lube from the bedside table, uncapping it and pouring some over his fingers. It's slick and cold against Draco's arse when Harry touches him, but Draco stills himself, fights against the instinctive flinch when Harry presses a finger into his hole. It's a bit awkward; Harry's still using his left hand and he scrapes his fingernail across the inside of Draco's arse. Draco hisses. "Sorry," Harry says, and he starts to pull his hand away.

"No," Draco says. He tightens his arse around Harry's finger. "Keep going."

Another finger slides in. Harry's watching Draco, and Draco knows Harry's judging his reaction, his response, trying to make certain this is what Draco wants.

It's good. Draco lets the thought slip across Harry's mind, and he sees Harry relax.

"One more?" Harry asks, and Draco nods, spreading his knees wider, his elbows pressed into the coverlet. His prick bobs in the air, long and thin and pink. Harry presses a third finger in, and Draco lets his head fall back, his body starting to feel the stretch more intensely. Harry twists his fingers, pressing them deeper. It's slow. So very fucking slow, and Draco loves it, loves how he can feel every movement of Harry's fingers inside of him, loves how Harry's thumb strokes the soft skin between his arse and his bollocks. His prick's leaking, smearing across his skin every time his head hits his belly. Draco stretches his arms out across the bed, gives himself into Harry's touch. It feels incredible, like his whole body is on fire.

And then Harry's fingers are gone, and Draco can feel the harder silicone tip of the plug press against his arsehole. "Breathe in and hold," Harry says from between Draco's knees.

Draco does, and he can feel the plug sliding in, settling deep within his arse. It's almost too much at first. He holds his breath until his lungs burn, and then he exhales in a rush. He fills full, his arse heavy. He looks up at Harry who's smiling down at him.

"Okay?" Harry asks.

"It's nice." Draco shifts his hips, feeling the plug press against the ring of muscle around his hole. The pain's shifting, turning into something far more deliciously pleasant. "Very nice."

Harry's smile widens a bit. "Then you won't mind if I do this?" He casts a vibrating charm, and the plug shivers to life in Draco, making Draco fall back against the bed, his hips jerking slightly.

"Fuck," Draco says, and he bites his lip. "That's even better."

He can feel Harry's fingers sliding up the inside of his right thigh. "You know," Harry says, "the first time we used one of these--do you remember?"

Draco does. So well. He'd been spread against this very bed, clamps on his nipples, Harry leaning over him, urging him to come. "Yes," he manages to say. He twists his fingers in the coverlet, the plug's vibrations going through him, rumbling against his prostate. He doesn't know how long he'll last like this, if he's honest. He needs to come. Wants to, so desperately. "Why?"

Harry's lips ghost across the head of Draco's prick. "That was the night," Harry says, "that I realised how fucking in love I was with you." His mouth slides over Draco's cock, sucks him in, deep and hard in one smooth slide, and Draco cries out, his hands flexing against the mattress, his shoulders coming up. He can barely think with Harry's mouth on his prick, with the plug shuddering deep inside of him. It's too much, and he presses up, pushes his cock into Harry's mouth as far as he can. Harry pulls back up, almost to the point that the head might slide out, then he breathes out through his nose and pushes back down, his hand going down to cup Draco's bollocks, rolling them with his fingers.

For a moment, Draco thinks he might die. It'd be a brilliant death, sharp and bright and filled with pleasure, but he can barely breathe, can barely move. His whole body feels tight and hot, and he can't think, can't do anything but feel the way Harry's hand is on him, the way Harry's mouth moves along his prick, the way Harry feels between his spread thighs.

"Oh," Draco says, breathless. "Oh, Harry. I--" He cries out again as Harry's shoulder rolls against him, pushing one thigh wider, Harry's mouth taking almost all of Draco's prick into it. Draco digs his toes into the mattress, tries to ride out the shudders wracking his body as Harry sucks his cock, hard and fast and quick.

And just before Draco's certain he can't hold off any longer, Harry pulls his mouth away. Harry reaches down, casting the charm to turn the vibration off, and he pulls the plug from Draco's arse, tossing it to the end of the bed. Draco groans in frustration, his head thudding back against the coverlet, and then he feels the mattress shift as Harry shifts onto the bed, stretches out beside him, long and muscular against Draco's left side.

"Hey," Harry says, and he runs his good hand along Draco's chest, his thumbnail scraping over one of Draco's nipples. "Okay there?"

"You're a fucking wanker, Harry Potter," Draco chokes out, and Harry just laughs, soft and low, leaning over to kiss the side of Draco's neck.

"I'm wounded," Harry points out. "Arm's supposed to be immobilised, remember?"

Draco turns his head, looks at Harry. "Your mouth's not," he says, a bit more petulantly than he'd like.

Harry chuckles again, and Draco can feel the rumble of his laugh against his arm. "I'm tired," he admits, and Draco can see a slight spasm of discomfort cross his face. "It takes a lot to do this one-handed. You mentioned something about riding my prick." He looks over at Draco. "If you want?"

Fuck but Draco does. He sits up. "Can you make it to the pillows?" he asks, and Harry eyes the stretch of bed he'll have to cross.

"Help me?" Harry's abdomen tenses as he sits up, not using either of his hands. Draco doesn't know why Harry's strength always surprises him, but it does. Even after months of shagging him senseless. Draco holds Harry steady as he slides up the mattress, wincing every few inches.

"Are you certain this is a good idea?" Draco asks, suddenly worried. "I can wank--"

The look Harry gives him is sharp and a bit offended. "Draco, I swear to fucking God, if you don't ride my cock, I might actually sulk in disappointment. I was absolutely willing to use my hand until you put the option of your arse around my prick out there, so, yeah. It's a sodding good idea."

"You're an idiot," Draco says, but he gives Harry a fond look. "And your Healers will probably hex me."

"My Healers can fall off the bloody Dover cliffs for all I care." Harry settles himself against the pillows; Draco pushes another one behind him for a bit extra support. Harry slaps his bare thighs. "Now get your brilliant arse over here and fuck me, Draco Malfoy." He lets his shoulders sink back into the stack of pillows. "I want to feel that pretty prick of yours rubbing all over me until you pop."

Draco straddles Harry's thighs. "Such language, Inspector Potter." He lets his hands slip down Harry's chest. "Whatever would the Prophet say?"

"Probably write an editorial about what a slag I am." Harry smiles at Draco, touches his face. "More fool them," he murmurs as his good hand slips behind Draco's neck, fingers tangling in Draco's half-dried hair. He pulls him closer, brushes his lips against Draco's. "The better story'd be how bloody mad I am about a certain blond Unspeakable."

"To-be," Draco says, and he kisses Harry, soft and warm, his mouth opening to Harry's tongue. When he pulls back, he smoothes Harry's hair back from his forehead. "You're still technically my Inspector."

Harry's mouth quirks up on one side. "Does that turn you on?"

Draco bites his lip, then smiles back. "Have I been fucking you for weeks?"

"You terrible pervert," Harry says, with a warm, affectionate laugh. His thumb strokes along the angle of Draco's jaw. "We'll have to find other ways to get you worked up then."

Draco shifts his hips forward, lets his prick slide against Harry's. "I think we could do that." He looks down at Harry, taking in Harry's faint stubble, the warm shine in Harry's eyes. Draco's knuckles drag lightly across Harry's cheek. "Merlin," Draco says, his voice barely a whisper. "I love you, Harry."

At that, Harry turns his head, kisses Draco's hand. "Show me," Harry says, and the words are a quiet huff against Draco's fingers. "Please."

It's almost too much. A shiver goes through Draco, and he bends his head forward, presses his forehead against Harry's. He breathes out. "Lube," he says finally, and Harry Summons it wordlessly, the prickle of non-verbal magic shimmering across Draco's skin. Harry hands the phial to Draco.

Draco pours the thin liquid across his fingertips, leans back along Harry's thighs. Harry watches him, barely breathing, as Draco slicks himself up, twists his fingers deep into his already stretched hole. "You like that," Draco says, the words getting lost in small, quick gasps. "You like watching me fuck myself."

"I do." Harry swallows. "Christ, I do. Look at those fingers inside of you. Fuck, Draco…." He catches his bottom lip between his teeth, breathes out. "I love you so much," he says. "I'm so sorry--"

"No," Draco says and he pulls his hand from between his thighs. He pours more lube across his fingers, then slicks Harry's prick up, rubbing his thumb over Harry's swollen head, pushing his foreskin up then back again, just enough for Draco to work the tip of one finger into Harry's wet slit. "Don't be sorry. Not here. Not in this bed."

Harry just nods, exhales. His nipples are hard and tight; Draco leans in and licks one, revelling in the way Harry's body jerks at the drag of Draco's tongue. Draco strokes Harry's prick, his fingers tight around his shaft, just the way he knows Harry likes. It surprises him still, the way he knows Harry's body, the instinct he has now as to how Harry will react to a touch, to a nip. This is more than sex, more than fucking, more than a chance to get off with his very fit superior officer. Draco wants Harry to feel incredible, wants to see that lost, liquid look in Harry's eyes when he's seated deep in Draco's arse, wants to show Harry exactly how much he loves him.

"Can you hold your prick for me?" Draco asks, and Harry nods, reaching between them with his left hand to hold his cock steady. Draco reaches for the headboard, balances himself, before letting himself sink down, the head of Harry's prick pressing against him. Even with the plug having loosened him up, it still takes a moment for Draco to relax enough for Harry to breach him. Draco grips the headboard, breathes out, then back in again as he slides himself further down, bit by tiny bit, his eyes closed, his fingers digging into the solid wood.

When he's fully seated, Draco exhales, lets himself relax around Harry's prick. He's missed this, missed feeling Harry inside of him. They haven't gone this long without fucking since May; they're nearly at the end of July. Draco would never have thought he'd need Harry Potter this much. But he does. He opens his eyes.

Harry's watching him, his face soft. "Hey there," Harry says, and Draco smiles at him. "This is all right?"

"So very," Draco says. He doesn't want to move yet. He likes the feeling of Harry inside of him like this, likes being so close to him, likes how intimate this is. Draco lowers one of his hands to cup Harry's face, his fingers pushing back into Harry's dark hair. Harry's looking up at him as if Draco's the most beautiful man, as if he loves Draco. Worships him. Draco feels light, shivery, as if he owns the whole bloody world just because Harry Potter's looking at him that way. He lets his hand slide down Harry's throat, over Harry's chest. He wonders what he's done to deserve this. His Mark catches his eye, still dark and twisted across his scarred arm. They're so very different, he and Harry. It makes no damned sense sometimes.

"What are you thinking?" Harry asks, and Draco looks back up at him. Harry's brows draw together. "Draco?"

Draco shakes his head at first. He doesn't want to admit it. But Harry doesn't look away, doesn't turn his head. He just watches Draco, steady and even, and somehow Draco finds himself asking, "How can a Death Eater like me be loved by a man like you?"

Harry's good hand slips up, fingers carding through Draco's hair. "Oh, so bloody easily," Harry says, his voice almost a whisper. "And with all my goddamned heart, Draco Malfoy. Every sodding cell of it."

Draco closes his eyes again, rests his palm against Harry's heart. He can feel the soft thud of it against his skin. "Oh," he says, and then Harry's pulling him forward, kissing him, and it's rougher this time, not as gentle, a clash of teeth and tongues and mouths, and Draco's certain his heart is going to beat out of his chest, loud and staccato.

"Fuck me," Harry says into Draco's breath. "Please, baby." And there's such open need in his voice, such obvious want, that Draco groans, rolls his hips forward, his prick pushed between their two bellies.

He moves slowly at first, his hands still gripping the headboard for balance, and Harry's fingers dig into Draco's hip. The room feels warm, the air soft around Draco's body, almost as if the house itself is cushioning them, making it easier for Draco to slide up and then back down Harry's prick. Draco thinks he smells roses and lilacs, and he wants to laugh at first at the absurdity of the house, but then he looks down at Harry's face, at the way Harry is gazing up at him, his pupils wide and bright, his cheeks flushed, and Draco can barely breathe.

Draco rides Harry, harder now, and he spreads his knees, lets Harry look down at the way his cock is pressing into Draco's arse, and Harry groans.

"So fucking tight," Harry manages to say. Draco's head falls back; he holds onto the headboard with one hand, reaching back with the other to balance himself over Harry's thighs. It feels so good, impaling himself on Harry's prick, and he loves the wet slap of his cock against Harry's stomach. They're both gasping, groaning, and the bed's shaking beneath them, creaking with each slam of Draco's hips downward.

And Draco doesn't think about anything but Harry, and the way Harry feels inside of him, and how hard his prick is, and how he wants to come so fucking badly, but he won't--not yet, not until Harry does. Harry grips Draco's hip tighter, and Draco can feel Harry's other hand pressing into the mattress beside them, his fingers brushing against Draco's calf. Draco's thighs burn with the effort of holding himself up, of pushing his arse down along Harry's prick. He knows Harry's shoulder is hurting, sharp and burning; he can feel it spark across the surface of his mind, and he slows a bit, worried.

"Goddamn it, Draco," Harry says, loud and rough in the quiet of the room. "Don't. Fuck--" He pushes his hips up, rolls them against Draco's arse. "I need--"

Draco knows. He clenches himself around Harry's prick, moving faster, his breath coming in sharp, ragged bursts. He knows exactly when Harry falls over the edge, feels the tightness of Harry's thighs, the jerk of Harry's bollocks, the way Harry's whole body tenses just before he shouts, his head falling back, his mouth open and pink, and Merlin, he's bloody gorgeous when he comes like this, his spunk filling Draco's arse, slipping out with each press of Draco's body, slick and stick across Draco's skin.

"Yes," Draco hisses, and he leans forward, his body still rocking into Harry's. "You beautiful bastard--"

Harry kisses him, reaches down between them, grabs Draco's prick with his left hand and pulls. It hurts at first, but Draco gives himself into it, and he presses his swollen, leaking cock into Harry's hand as he feels Harry slip out of his arse, softening.

It's a stroke or two or twenty--Draco doesn't care, loses count. But his body shakes and trembles beneath Harry's touch, and Draco bites his lip, rocks forward into Harry's tight hand, a trickle of sweat rolling down his back, between his shoulder blades.

"Come for me," Harry says against Draco's ear. "I want to see you fall apart--"

Draco cries out, arches forward, his body doing exactly what Harry asks of it. He shudders, jerks, and then his spunk is spattering across Harry's stomach, over his hand, and Draco's gasping, begging Harry not to stop because there's one last spasm---he shouts, his voice ringing out through the room, his whole body shaking, his knees pressed into the mattress, his hands tight around the edge of the headboard.

He sinks forward, his body limp. Sated. He can barely feel Harry's kisses along the curve of his neck, can barely hear Harry's voice, whispering in his ear, telling him how good he's been, how amazing it was to watch him come like that. Harry's hand strokes down Draco's back, so featherlight until Draco slips back into his body and then it almost burns, and Draco shudders at the touch, slides away, rolls onto his side, breathing hard still.

Slowly, his trembling stills. Harry slides down the pillows, curls himself up around Draco's back, his good arm draped over Draco's waist. Draco knows it can't be comfortable for him, but when Draco tries to move, Harry holds him down and says, "Stay still."

Draco does.

They lie there together for a long moment, their breaths easing, slowing. The house settles around them, creaking in the eaves, the windows rattling just a bit. Harry presses his mouth to Draco's nape and nips, gently.

"Better?" Harry asks, and Draco can't help but smile, even though Harry can't see it.

"Much." Draco shifts, turns towards Harry. He watches him, studies the way Harry's eyes flutter closed, the way Harry exhales. "I'm sorry I'm so difficult right now," Draco says, something hot and tight crossing his chest, and Harry turns his head and looks at him.

"You're not." Harry reaches for Draco's hand, threads his fingers through Draco's. "You're grieving."

Draco rolls onto his back, stares up at the ceiling. "It's hard," he says, and he feels the burn of wetness in his eyes again. He blinks it away, breathing out. "I'm angry, but I miss him."

"I know." Harry doesn't say anything for a moment, then he sighs. "I don't remember my parents well. If at all, really. Sometimes I think the few memories I have might just be dreams." He looks over at Draco again. "I can't imagine how hard it is for you, to have the memories and to lose your dad like this. I am sorry, love."

The endearment warms Draco, cracks something in his heart. He rolls over again, curls himself along Harry's side, rests his head on Harry's chest. He can hear Harry's heartbeat, feel the way Harry's fingers slip through his hair. "You make me feel safe," Draco says after a moment. "Like I can survive this."

Harry's hand stills for a moment, then he goes back to stroking Draco's hair. "I'm glad."

Draco's throat feels tight. He splays his fingers over Harry's stomach. They're long and pale across Harry's golden skin. "You have to be careful," Draco say after a moment. He tries to keep his voice even, but it still trembles a bit. "If I lost you too--" He breaks off, choking off a swell of fear. Grief. He swallows. "Promise me, Harry." He doesn't look up.

Harry's silent, then he says, "I promise."

It's a lie. Both of them know it. It can't be otherwise, not in the career they've chosen. Harry can't be careful, not always. Neither can Draco.

But Draco needs the fiction right now. Needs to believe that Harry will be safe, that someone like Dolohov won't take him down, that Harry can be invincible.

"Thank you," Draco whispers, and Harry curls his fingers around Draco's, pulls them up to kiss them lightly.

Together they lie sprawled across their bed, Grimmauld Place rustling and sighing around them, both of them silent, lost in their own fears, their own hopes.

For now, it's everything Draco needs.