Harry hated the Tube.
The Northern Line was crowded and overheated, even in December, and if he'd managed to walk out of the Hampstead police station on his own--and how he dreaded having meetings with their detectives; the Islington force was much better organized and besides, he was never comfortable arguing jurisdiction--he'd have merely Apparated back to his office on Tolpuddle Street. As it was Ethan had caught him in the lift, and proceeded to complain at great length about Juliana in dispatch who'd turned him down yet again for a date, and really, Harry thought, leaning against the mirrored door, who could blame her?
He'd made his usual excuse about having lost his Oyster card when he had to stop to purchase a paper ticket and study the Tube map, and Ethan had waited patiently, much to Harry's annoyance.
It wasn't that he disliked Ethan. He didn't dislike anyone anymore. He was too tired to, he thought. Tired and drained and depressed, Hermione said with that worried sigh that Harry thought should, if he were a decent bloke, make him want to feel better for her sake. It didn't.
They'd dated for a while two years past. Ron had set them up, actually, which was a bit bizarre, given that he'd shagged her for a few years himself, but then again he was happy with Luna now and it was Harry's experience that anyone who thought they were in love automatically assumed that all their friends wanted to be as well.
It'd been decent enough, him and Hermione; he'd not had to learn what drove her mad, and they were good together in bed. Very good, in fact, and even after breaking up, they occasionally ended up waking in the same bed on a Sunday morning, and neither complained too much about that. Harry rather liked it, in fact. He'd go out for scones and the Guardian and they'd share a pot of tea and maybe another quick shag--or two, if he were lucky--before Hermione headed back to her flat. Much more comfortable than the mornings where he woke up next to some bird whose name he only vaguely remembered from the night before.
He shifted his bag from one hand to the other, a whispered Stabilising Charm keeping him from having to grab at the pole when the train lurched around a curve. Tube legs, his co-workers teased him about having and Harry merely smiled and shrugged when they asked him how he did it.
It was a steady job, working with the force, and there was a good chance he'd make detective inspector this year. He liked his work, rather a lot, really, and he was good at it in ways that surprised his supervisors. And anyway, he preferred to be away from the wizarding world. It had been too much after the war and the Ministry had had plans for him--ones that didn't coincide with Harry's own wishes--and everywhere he went he was faced with the spectre of the Boy Who Lived.
He'd hated it, and a year into his Auror training he'd fled for Muggle London and the relative stability of the Metropolitan Police.
Ethan droned on in his ear. The doors opened at King's Cross St Pancras and the modulated woman's voice politely suggested that one mind the gap. Harry slid to one side, letting an elderly woman in a brightly coloured sari take the seat behind.
The crowd shifted, and Harry turned his head.
It couldn't be.
He only had a glimpse, but it'd been enough. Blond hair, almost silver in the fluorescent light, and pale skin, and he was certain he'd seen a glimpse of recognition in grey eyes.
Harry pushed towards the door, ignoring Ethan's sharp "Potter" and the glares of his fellow passengers making their way further into the train.
"Police," Harry snapped, holding up his badge and people suddenly stepped out of his way, but it was too late.
The doors closed and, frustrated, Harry slapped his palm against the glass as Draco Malfoy smirked at him from the platform, blond hair swinging against his chin. Malfoy raised a hand, pulling his black coat tighter around him, a dark and silver ghost as the train sped off towards Islington's Angel Station.
"Bloody hell," Harry murmured. "Bloody, fucking hell."
"You're certain it was him?" Hermione caught a drop of duck sauce with her tongue before it fell from the egg roll onto the bed. She licked her finger and glanced over at Harry from behind messy brown curls.
Harry poked his chopsticks into the box of lo mein, spearing a pepper. He chewed it slowly, leaning back against the headboard.
"So what are you going to do?" Hermione took a sip of water from the bottle she'd set on the sidetable. "The Wizengamot's already tried him. Taken away his wand. You know that's the worse punishment for a pureblood." She shivered and tucked her hair behind one ear. "For any blood, really."
Harry shrugged. "I don't know." He dug at the lo mein for a moment. It was the truth. He'd no idea. It'd just been a shock, seeing Malfoy there on the Tube of all places, and he'd never expected that. It was such a mundane place for the bastard. He sighed and pulled his knees up to his chest. "Maybe I just want to talk to him."
"About what?" Hermione looked at him as if he'd gone round the twist, and Harry wasn't entirely certain he hadn't.
"I don't know," he protested. "Why he did it, I reckon. Whether it was worth it."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You," she said, poking him with a chopstick, "have always been far too obsessed with Draco Malfoy." She tilted her head to one side, studying him for a moment. "You know, I thought sixth year that you fancied him a bit. You were always trailing after him."
"What?" Harry barely caught the lo mein before it hit the mattress. "You never did. That's just--Merlin, Hermione, that's revolting."
She grinned at him. "Well, what was I supposed to think? It wasn't until you started dating Ginny--"
She broke off, biting her bottom lip, and she looked away.
It'd gotten easier, Harry thought. Now he didn't flinch anytime someone said her name.
Voldemort had taken her in February, and by the time Harry had found her in June, she was broken in every way possible. When she looked at him, there was nothing there any longer, no life, no recognition, no spark. Just a bleak emptiness that no one had been able to fill.
Harry'd tried. Christ. He'd tried for two years, but nothing had helped, and Molly had finally come to him and wrapped her arms around him and told him to let her go.
Doing so had nearly killed him.
She was in St Mungo's now, and he went to see her with Ron once a month. She still didn't recognise him.
It'd been Snape who'd told them in broken, stumbling sentences, words slurring together, what had happened, how the bastards had treated her, and if McGonagall hadn't been with him in the cell, hadn't caught his hand when he reached for his wand, Harry would have killed him, just for speaking of it. Just for the angry, bitter pity in Snape's eyes when he looked at him.
Harry set the lo mein aside and he caught Hermione's hand, pulling her closer. "I never fancied Malfoy," he said against her throat, and he felt her soft laugh.
He almost believed it himself.
Harry stared at the computer screen, watching the cursor blink impatiently at him. A Starbucks cup steamed at his elbow. He hated the shite, but he'd stumbled home last night at four in the morning from a stabbing in East London, and he'd discovered at half seven, standing blearily in front of the bathroom sink, that he was out of Pepperup.
His fingers hesitated above the keyboard.
He didn't have time for this. There was a three-centimetre high stack of paperwork to be gone through before lunch, and Timmons
was expecting a briefing this afternoon on the Bryce investigation. And what was the likelihood that Malfoy'd be listed in the Yard's database anyway?
The keys clacked softly. Last name, Malfoy. First name, Draco.
Harry hit enter, sending the request spinning through HOLMES' cross-referenced list of anyone in the British Isles--and quite a few outside, given Interpol and FBI resources--who had been booked for any type of crime.
Nothing. Of course. It was crazy to expect--and then Harry paused. He was an idiot.
His fingers flew over the keyboard.
Last name, Black. First name, Lucius.
The screen flashed, and there it was.
Against all odds.
The photo was recent, as were the fingerprints. Malfoy's hair hung down to his chin, framing his faint, superior smile. It was a face that knew the procedure; there was no fear or shame in his expression, merely the trace of exasperation at having his evening interrupted. Grey eyes were steady, one eyebrow quirked.
Take the damned picture already, Harry could almost hear him say.
"Christ," he breathed, leaning closer to the screen. Vice records. Fourteen of them at least in the past six years, and wouldn't you know that Malfoy'd be a poof?
The first record was from 2000. Two years after the war, and Malfoy'd been caught soliciting in a Soho alley.
Harry'd been on the force long enough to know exactly what some of the constables thought of the rentboys and how they could be treated when they were brought in. He'd seen more than one walk out of the station with more bruises than he'd had when he'd been booked.
It made Harry uncomfortable, and he'd spoken out once as a detective constable, only to be asked point-blank by Blake if he was one of those lot himself. If he'd like one of those boys to give him a bit of a ride because, mates, that could be arranged, now couldn't it?
Give Detective Constable Potter a thrill, should they?
Harry'd turned away, face red, and Olliver, his partner at the time and a twenty-year veteran, had just shaken his head and warned him to leave things well enough alone. The boys knew what to expect when they came in, after all.
"You're an idealist, Potter," Olliver had said with a sigh. "A few more years seeing what people are mad enough to do to one another and you'll change your tune. Pick your battles. Believe me, lad. You'll be glad of it."
It'd been two years before Harry told him he'd already been taught that lesson.
"Potter," Timmons snapped from the doorway. "Holland Walk. Council housing. Olliver's said to send you down."
Harry was already reaching for his jacket. "Right." He hesitated, glancing back at the computer.
It only took a moment to scribble down the address before clearing the screen.
He'd lost his bloody mind.
Edward Olliver was a burly man, wide and tall, with the faintest tinge of a West Indian accent from his mother's side, his practical personality brusque and straightforward. Harry'd liked him from the moment they first met, Harry as a constable who'd stumbled across a man beaten to death in a Camden Town warehouse, Olliver as the detective sergeant assigned to the case.
Olliver had been the one to pull him from the beat, bringing him into the Criminal Investigation Department. They'd worked together for nearly four years, until Olliver had been promoted to detective chief inspector and sent to Homicide Command in the Specialist Crime Directorate seven months past.
He was one of the few people Harry trusted implicitly. In everything.
Harry still missed the bastard. He'd been the only Muggle Harry'd ever told about the wizarding world, one night over pints at the pub down from the station. It'd been a nasty case that day, a rape, and Harry'd only been able to think of Ginny and what had happened to her so many times. He'd drunk himself nearly into a stupor, spilling ale on the papers he was to file, and Olliver had found him there. And when he'd slid into the seat across from Harry, and demanded to know what the fucking hell was wrong, Harry'd told him.
His partner hadn't batted an eye, merely grunted and muttered, "always knew there was something odd about you" before telling Harry to hand him the damned paperwork so he could wrap up this bloody case.
Two months later, Harry'd returned the favour, when Olliver lay in hospital, a gunshot wound in his chest. Olliver'd broken down then, told him about a woman he'd loved and lost nearly a quarter-century past, about their son who'd been murdered a few years back, and Harry'd squeezed his shoulder and made the same empty promises of retribution that Olliver'd given to him earlier that year--ones they both knew were useless comfort. After all, they both made them every day to families across Islington. And when Olliver'd slept, finally, Harry'd stayed with him, curling up in the chair in the corner.
That's what partners did, after all.
Olliver was squatting next to the body when Harry ducked beneath the crime scene tape, and he didn't even bother to look up, instead motioning Harry over.
"How's the Yard?" Harry murmured, squatting next to him. The body was sprawled across the cobblestoned alley, a wide gash across the neck, an arm thrown over the face as if to ward itself. Blood covered the throat, congealing on pale skin, matting in dark hair, and the clothes were rumpled, jumper ripped and jeans torn, black bloodstains stretching across the hips.
The body. It always surprised Harry how much he could detach himself from a scene like this. It couldn't be human. He couldn't let himself think of it that way, not now, not at the scene.
Olliver snorted and rubbed the back of a gloved hand over his close-cropped dark curls. A few streaks of grey were beginning to spread across his temples. "Bigger lot of tits I've never seen. Almost puts Timmons to shame." He glanced over at Harry. "Been trying to get you over there since June."
"Not interested." Harry gave him a faint smile.
"Pity. Could use your voudoun down there. Third one of these in the past month." Olliver handed him a pair of latex gloves. "So. Any ideas?"
Harry frowned down at the body. "Geoff Anders. Caucasian male, late twenties, probably using an alias, given that he was found in this section of Islington, throat slashed left to right, vivisected and genitalia removed."
"All that from your--" Olliver hesitated, then wiggled his fingers at Harry. "You know."
"No." Harry grinned at him. "I skimmed the report your constable's filing right now."
"Prick." Olliver pulled at Anders' jeans gently. The fabric slid open, revealing the clotted stump of a penis. "Did a decent job there."
Harry winced. "Christ." He slid his wand out of his pocket, glancing around to make certain no one was watching. A quick flick of his wrist and a murmured Legilimens, and he pressed lightly at the edges of the dead man's mind, searching for any residual entrance.
He sighed. "It's been too long."
"Sodding fuck." Olliver ran a hand over his face, tugging at his jowls. "Nothing then?"
"Not from him." Harry hesitated. "Send me the full reports. Maybe another pair of eyes?"
"Expect them this evening. But I think you ought to see this. It's why I called you down." Olliver slid the corpse's arm away from its face. The hand flopped against the cobblestones, splashing into a puddle.
Harry's breath caught.
Olliver looked over at him. "Poor sod looks rather a bit like you, doesn't he?"
Harry pulled his coat tighter around him, huddling into the warming charm as he lingered across from the bank of grim council houses on Lyon Street. He sipped from a paper cup of tepid Darjeeling, purchased from the tiny newsagents on the corner and cursed the London rain.
Polyjuice. It'd only taken him a moment to cast the detection charm and Olliver had demanded to know what it meant. Harry hadn't known what to tell him. Anders--or whomever he was--had been a wizard, which meant the Aurors should be involved. Harry knew that.
He also knew he'd not owled Ron yet, or Tonks, or Kingsley even. He didn't want to, and he couldn't quite explain why.
Just like he couldn't explain why he was standing here in the damned rain watching Draco Malfoy's flat.
He was done with it.
He crossed the street.
Harry tossed the cup in the rubbish bin on the corner, exasperated with himself. This was mad. Entirely. Christ. He should be at work; there were three cases already on his desk waiting--
Malfoy's window opened and a towel landed on Harry's shoulder. He caught it reflexively before it hit the wet pavement.
"Wipe your feet if you're coming up," a familiar drawl said above him. "I just had the floors cleaned."
Malfoy had answered the door in trousers only--black wool, Harry noted with a detective's eye, and he ignored the sharp jut of
Malfoy's hipbones above the thin waistband and the way the wool smoothed over his arse when he turned to go back into the bedroom, leaving Harry alone long enough to look around.
Music drifted down the hallway--French pop, Harry thought, bright and crisp. Not something he would expect Malfoy to listen to.
The flat was small, but meticulously tidy, and there was nothing visible in the tiny sitting room that would indicate a wizard lived there. Three creaky wood steps led up to a galley kitchen--gas stove, refrigerator, miniscule sink. The dishes were stacked neatly in the cupboards behind glass-paned doors, the paint chipped at the corners.
There was a telly in the corner with a Freeview box, and the books on the bookcases on either side of the worn leather chesterfield were all Muggle--Harry saw Joyce and Doyle and Hornsby and tucked away on a bottom shelf he thought perhaps he might even have had a glimpse of Stephen King.
"I do read, you realise."
Malfoy had pulled on a white shirt; it hung open as he fastened the cuffs, and he'd pulled his damp hair back neatly.
"Interesting books." Harry stood up, and his coat swung around his hips. He pushed it back on one side, tucking a hand into his pocket and giving Malfoy a glimpse of the badge clipped to his belt.
Malfoy blinked slowly.
"The truly interesting ones are in the bedroom." He slid his feet into a pair of black loafers sitting next to the chesterfield. "What are you doing here, Potter? I sincerely doubt it's for sex." He looked Harry up and down. "Filth, are you now? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Once an Auror, always one, Muggle or not, I suppose."
Harry couldn't stop himself. "And once a whore, always a whore?"
Malfoy paused, his fingers stilling on his shirt buttons. "If you must be so vulgar."
"How else would you describe it?" Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Fourteen vice violations since 2000. What the hell are you thinking--"
"I'm thinking that I like eating," Malfoy snapped. "And I like a roof over my head."
"By shagging any bloke who wants a slap and tickle--" Harry couldn't explain why he was so angry. It was a waste, he thought. Even Malfoy deserved better.
Malfoy's grey eyes blazed. "What should I be doing, Potter? The Wizengamot never stopped to think of that, now did they? Took my wand, sent me to live as a Squib for all intents and purposes, stole the Manor and all my father's accounts, and made it damned certain that the wizarding world would toss me out on my ear--"
"You could have found help."
"From whom?" Malfoy gave him a scathing glare. "Surely not you. You wanted me in Azkaban as I recall."
"Snape," Harry bit out, and even though it wasn't fair of him to use that particular card for any number of reasons and he bloody well knew it, he was still surprised to see Malfoy's face crumple for the briefest moment before he caught himself, his mask sliding into place.
"How is he?" Malfoy asked, and his voice was almost calm.
Harry hesitated. When Voldemort had discovered Snape's betrayal he'd cursed him, a hex that had broken his spine and seeped into his neurological system, the Healers said. The spine had been easy to fix. Snape's mind, on the other hand, had not. He hadn't left St Mungo's in three years. They never expected him to.
Harry'd seen him a few months ago on a visit to Ginny. Snape'd been curled in a corner on the locked ward, raving to a mediwizard sitting patiently next to him. He was barely intelligible, words garbled as he shouted about Death Eaters and Dumbledore and broken promises, and when Harry'd passed, he'd grabbed his arm, fingers digging in painfully, and the look of humiliated anguish in Snape's dark eyes when he'd choked out "Potter--owe me--out help of here" had twisted Harry's gut before the mediwizard Stunned Snape into letting go.
It was a slow, excruciating end for a proud man. Particularly one who had been the only reason in the end that Harry had been able to defeat the Dark Lord.
"He's not well," Harry said slowly. "It's only a matter of time now."
"I see." Malfoy looked away. "The last time I saw him was after my hearing, you know."
There was an awkward silence. The hearing had been a farce, really. Harry knew that now, but at the moment he'd wanted someone--anyone--to pay. Only Snape's angry, halting testimony had kept Malfoy from Azkaban--or, like his parents, a Dementor's Kiss.
"I could take you to see him," Harry offered. It seemed a small penance to pay for his youthful ignorance.
"No." Malfoy's voice was sharp.
Harry nodded, relieved. He'd rather not repeat that experience. He glanced around. "Doesn't seem like you'd like living like a Muggle."
"I don't, you idiot." Malfoy had stepped away, his back to Harry, and he was staring out the window, watching the rain stream down in long rivulets. "But I prefer it to the alternative. Particularly given the life span of former Death Eaters in the wizarding world."
Harry couldn't protest. It wasn't uncommon for a rumoured Voldemort supporter to be found dead in ditches and alleys, whether or not they'd been through Wizengamot hearings. Sometimes it was still enough for a whisper of collaboration to taint a wizard or witch, destroying their lives and often those of their families.
"Why'd you do it, Draco?" he asked softly. "You didn't have to take the Mark. You didn't have to do what he asked."
Malfoy laughed, a sharp bark of resentful laughter that echoed in the room. "You always were thick, weren't you?" He looked at Harry then, and his eyes were cold and empty. "I never had a choice, Potter. Just as you never had a choice about killing him."
"There's always a choice," Harry said, but he didn't really believe the hollow words any more than Malfoy.
"The truly ironic thing," Malfoy said, looking down at the wet street again, "is that everything I did was to keep my parents alive. And for what? It was always going to be either His Lordship or the Ministry." He glanced back at Harry. "They never had a chance," he said bitterly.
Harry said nothing.
Malfoy walked to the door and opened it, waiting. "Get out."
Harry stopped in the hallway, turning back to look at Malfoy. "Six years. You couldn't have found another way?"
Malfoy slammed the door in his face.
Ron caught his Boddingtons just before Harry knocked it over with another one of the homicide reports. "Watch it, mate."
"Sorry." Harry rubbed his palm over his burning eyes, and he stretched, grateful for the pop of the vertebrae in his neck. They'd been going over the files Olliver had sent over for five hours now, and the only thing they'd discovered, besides the fact that each of the three murders were committed in an identical fashion, was that each of the victims resembled a war hero.
Victor Whitman, Remus Lupin. Timothy Griffin, Severus Snape. Geoff Anders, Harry Potter.
"I feel sorry for the Snape one," Ron muttered, and he downed another swallow of beer. "Rotten luck, dying like that."
"What I don't understand," Harry said, peering down at the crime scene photos, "is how they managed to stay Polyjuiced." He tossed a picture of Griffin on the autopsy table down. "Fourteen hours after death. Still looks like him."
Ron shuddered and pushed the photo away. "Christ, the way Muggles treat their dead's inhuman. Can't they at least mend the skin?"
"With what?" Harry frowned at the autopsy report for Whitman. He'd had a kidney removed for some odd reason. "They're Muggles, Ron. They do the best they can." He bit his lip. "Who are they?"
"They don't match any of the missing wizard reports I have." Ron set a bright orange folder on the table. Its papers ruffled inside, a quick puff of exasperation. "Then again, the description's not really much to go on unless you turned up missing." He looked at Harry over the rim of his beer bottle. "Don't go doing that, all right? Bad enough when you lit off with that French bird last Christmas and didn't tell anyone. Mum nearly had a heart attack."
Harry snorted and leaned back in his chair. "This is bloody ridiculous."
"What's bloody ridiculous is that I'm still here." Ron drained his beer and with a grimace wiped the back of his hand across his mouth.
"Horrible shite. Next time, I bring the beer, all right?"
"I like it." Harry grinned up at him, rocking his chair back. It creaked underneath him, and Harry let it fall back with a thud.
"You're mad. And you've no taste." Ron stood up and shrugged on his Auror's robe. The new squad commander insignia glittered in the lamplight. "I'll leave those files with you. Just don't lose them or Kingsley'll have my arse." He glanced down at Harry. "You know you could come back any time. Tonks tells me that every time we have a meeting."
"I know." Harry reached for his beer. It was warm and bitter against his tongue. "You know why I can't, though."
Ron sighed. "It'll calm down eventually."
"Eight years, Ron." Harry shook his head. "You know as well as I do it never will. I won't ever be anything but the Boy Who Lived, and I'm tired of it all. Besides, I rather like straddling both worlds like this."
"Right." Ron rolled his eyes and grabbed another beer from the table. "Tell Hermione hello if you see her before Sunday. She's coming over to take Luna shopping, but I think that's just an excuse for Luna not to have to go to dinner at the Burrow and have Mum ask her again why we're not married yet."
"You have gotten her up the duff," Harry pointed out with a laugh. "You'd think this would be the time."
"Tell her." Ron fastened the frogs on his robe. They croaked softly with each click. "It's not like I haven't asked."
The flat was quiet after the Floo sputtered out, and Harry looked back down at the autopsy photo of Geoff Anders. It was strange, seeing his own face cold and grey, the y-incision barely missing the mole on his right clavicle.
He had to be overlooking something, somewhere.
With a sigh, he reached for his coat. It didn't look like tonight would be filled with sleep either.
He really needed to order some more Pepperup.
It wasn't difficult to Apparate into Geoff Anders' flat. The wards were strong, but Harry had gotten used to breaking wards during the war, and within three minutes he was inside, latex gloves on.
Muggle habits were hard to break.
The flat was dirty, piles of dishes spread across the floor, clothes draped on the telly. No Floo, no sign of a wizard's presence, no pictures even, and Harry frowned. The flat was almost like a filthy version of Malfoy's.
It was in the bathroom that Harry found the first traces of magic. Potions, a chest full of them, in small blue apothecary bottles labeled to resemble Muggle herbal infusions. Quite a bit of Polyjuice--Harry nearly gagged at the smell--and a few other medicinal potions, those purchased from a small apothecary off Knockturn Alley.
Harry slid the Pepperup into his pocket.
There was a mobile on the sidetable in the bedroom, and Harry flipped it open. One new voice mail.
He hit the call button.
It took a moment to connect, and Harry nearly dropped the phone when he heard Malfoy's voice.
Where are you? You stupid sod, I've been trying to reach you for two bloody days and now you've forced me to speak to this wretched Muggle thing when you know I despise it. Ring me back.
The voice mail beeped.
Harry closed the mobile slowly and slid it into his pocket.
Draco Malfoy had some explanations to give.
Harry heard Draco down the hallway, complaining as usual. Twenty-six years old and it seemed he still acted like he was eleven.
Shrugging out of his jacket, he draped it over one of the chairs in the holding room. Hermione'd bought it for him when he'd first made detective sergeant, and it was one of his favourites, brown Harris tweed with suede patches on the elbows, and combined with his uniform of jeans, white shirt, loose tie, wire-rim glasses and messy black hair, it gave him a suitably intellectual look that managed to send him home from the pub on Friday nights with a girl rather frequently.
Harry refused to consider why he grabbed it from the closet today.
"Black's here, Harry." Gemma Ansari, a detective constable Timmons had brought on a few weeks back, knocked on the doorway. "Bit of a prat, isn't he?" she murmured.
"I heard that." Draco entered the room with as much confident aplomb as he had when they were in Hogwarts. He moved as if he owned even the Muggle world, and Harry envied him that certainty as much as he envied him the elegant way he took the chair, crossing one leg over the other with a bored sigh. "Stupid rasher."
Harry nodded at Gemma, and she backed out of the room, with a sideways glare at Draco.
Harry didn't quite think he blamed her.
"What is it, Potter?" Draco examined his neatly trimmed fingernails. "I truly hope you've a decent excuse for bringing me into this hellhole at such an ungodly hour." He looked up then. "Well, aren't you going to offer me tea?"
Harry set a manila folder on the table. "No. And this ungodly hour is two in the afternoon."
"I work late." Draco smirked at him, and Harry resisted the urge to throw him out of that damned chair.
Instead, he opened the folder, tossing the photographs across the table. "Anders. Griffin. Whitman. Odd, but they all seem to have familiar faces."
The colour in Draco's cheeks drained and he reached for the photo of Anders with a shaking hand. "When?" he murmured, and Harry felt a twist of relief that he wouldn't have to force Draco to help.
"Anders was found yesterday morning."
"I just rang him," Draco said quietly, almost to himself. "He never answered."
Harry sat on the edge of the desk. "Who was he, Draco?"
Draco's eyes flashed and he tossed the photo down again. "I'm not your Watson."
"Christ." Harry ran a hand through his hair, leaving it standing on end. Even after eight years, Draco was still a bloody annoying little prick. "You know him. I've a message you left on his mobile--"
Draco glared at him. Harry sighed.
"Don't you want to find who did this?"
"You won't." Draco looked away. "I can guarantee that."
Harry pleated his tie between his fingers, let it go, then pleated it again. "Why not?" he asked finally.
Draco didn't answer.
"Look," Harry said, "I need your help--"
"Or what?" Draco stood up. "You can't keep me; you've nothing on me. Not in regards to those--" he pointed at the pictures, "--or my method of paying for my flat. So if you'll excuse me--"
"Draco," Harry said softly and Draco's shoulders stiffened. He turned, at the door, and the glare he sent back at Harry had a tinge of fear. He knew what was happening. Harry was certain of it. "You're frightened."
Draco shook his head. "You're mad, Potter. Now either charge me with something or let me go."
There was silence for a long moment, and then Draco sighed.
"Leave me be, Potter. Please. For Merlin's sake, just leave me--and all of this--be."
The room was oddly empty when he left.
Green flames flickered around Ron's head.
"Better make this quick. Kingsley's in rare form today. We're all putting Galleons on whether or not Tonks made him sleep in the library again."
Harry snorted. "Do they ever stop arguing?"
"Only long enough for a makeup shag or two." Ron grinned. "So, I reckon you're wanting to know what I found?"
"Yeah." Harry bit into a reheated pasty and swallowed. Four o'clock and he was just now slipping home for a quick lunch and a Floo call to one of the Auror hearths. Fucking Malfoy. "Anything?"
"Nothing." Ron shook his head. "Cross-referenced every Ministry file I could wiggle my way into, and let me tell you, I probably broke a few codes in the process. Better be bloody glad I've high-level access, mate."
"No trace of any of those names?" Harry wiped his mouth. He wasn't surprised. He'd expected them to be aliases.
"In those combinations? No. According to the Ministry, they don't exist." Ron hesitated. "There are records with those last names, though."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Really."
"Yeah." Ron pushed a thick file through the Floo. Fresh parchment copies stuck out willy-nilly from the stack, their corners curling slightly. "Thought you might like them. Might be some others tucked in there too--I couldn't be too thorough with Kingsley breathing down my neck. Interesting stuff in there; don't know how useful it'll be. Makes for good gossip though. Did you know old Ollivander had three brothers? Weird. Only showed up because his mum's mum was an Anders. One of them had a Squib in the family too--very hush-hush that. Padma Patil married one four years back--an Anders, that is, not a Squib. I think I remember Hermione trying to make me go to the wedding when we were together."
"She did," Harry said dryly. "I got you out of it last minute by pretending to be ill."
"Oh, right. She caught us out, didn't she? Oh, and Crabbe--remember that piece of shite?--he had a Whitman for an aunt." Ron scratched his chin. "Didn't they put him in Azkaban?"
"Most of them ended up there." Harry flipped through the papers quickly. Birth records, death notices, marriages licenses, Auror reports, Ministry departmental lists-- "Ron, if you weren't a bloke, I'd kiss you."
Ron gave him an odd look. "Right. Well, you can buy me a pint instead."
Harry was already two pages into the file by the time the Floo flickered out.
"You realise it's well past time you had a new partner, yes?" Olliver set his whisky down on the bar. "That Ansari's a bright girl, according to her files."
"Stop breaking into Personnel's records. You can't tell me you've forgotten how tetchy they were about it last time they caught you." Harry waved Andy over, holding up his empty glass. The Angel was only a few streets away from the station, near the corner of Pentonville and High Streets, next to the Tube, and was a favourite meeting place for constables and detectives both off duty and on. Wetherspoon never complained; he claimed the filth kept his pub in order, the way they had in his father's day and his grandfather's and his great-grandfather's.
"Keeping an eye on you, Potter." Wetherspoon drew him another Guinness. "I'm not sending you home pissed tonight."
"Sod off," Harry said amicably. "It's not Friday yet."
Wetherspoon set the pint down in front of him. The head sloshed over the side, splattering across Harry's hand, and he licked it clean.
"Any matter, I don't need a partner," he said to Olliver. "Besides, it's not like Timmons hasn't tried."
"So I've heard." Olliver eyed him. "You run them off in less than a week." He drained his whisky. "Stop being a prick, Potter. Or get off your lazy arse and come over to SCD."
Harry didn't say anything. He didn't want a partner. He wanted Olliver. They'd worked well together, to the point they'd even begun finishing each other's sentences. It'd been easy, the two of them, and he knew finding that again would be nearly impossible. And finding a partner who could know his particular secrets was unthinkable. Olliver'd just accepted them, without surprise, without question, without scepticism. It'd surprised Harry, but he'd been grateful. He wasn't going to have that again, he knew.
But going to the Yard?
Not a possibility. If he'd wanted that, he'd have stayed with the Ministry.
Harry liked Islington. He liked the streets, and he liked the people. He was comfortable here. Police work suited him, and he felt as if he was doing something worthwhile. He didn't have the bureaucracy of the Yard hanging over him, nor the expectations of the Ministry.
He didn't have to be anyone here but Harry. Not the Boy Who Lived, not the Saviour of the Wizarding World. Just the quirky detective sergeant with his odd little hunches.
The Guinness was half-gone; he tilted the glass, watching the remnants of foam slide up the side.
It wasn't as if he avoided the wizarding world. The great majority of his friends were wizards and witches, he shopped rather frequently in Diagon Alley, and he used magic every day.
He just wasn't willing to give up the safe anonymity of the Muggle world, he supposed.
Rather like Malfoy, really.
"Guinness for your thoughts," Olliver said as Wetherspoon set another whisky in front of him.
Harry took a sip of beer, licking his bottom lip. "Do you believe in coincidences?"
"Me either." Harry twisted his glass between his hands. A shout went up from the group of constables gathered around the dartboards. "It's just I find it odd that I unexpectedly run into an old schoolmate who happens to have connections to your case."
"The rentboy?" Olliver scratched at his beard. "Bit murky, that." He eyed Harry. "You think it's deliberate?"
"I don't know." Harry finished off his Guinness and set the glass down, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "But I think maybe I should find out."
Olliver nodded and picked up his whisky. "No such thing, really, as a coincidence. Especially when it comes to rentboys. Bloke'll do a lot if he needs a few pounds."
"I'll come with you then." Olliver reached for his coat.
"No need. Finish your drink, mate." Harry slid off the stool. "I'll let you know what I find out."
Harry pounded on the door of flat 4B. "Come on, Malfoy. I know you're in there."
The door flew open and Malfoy, wrapped in a black silk dressing gown, his hair mussed and cheeks flushed, glared out at him. There was a long, pink scratch down the side of his throat. "Get lost, Potter," he snapped, and started to close the door.
Harry stuck his foot out, stopping him. "Let me in or I take you and whomever you've got in there down to the station." He crossed his arms. "Don't make me do that, Malfoy."
A scruffy man, not much older than Harry himself, came out of the bedroom, running his hand through his messy dark hair. He was naked and Harry looked away quickly from his lanky, thin body and the curve of his cock. "Something wrong?"
"No." Malfoy met Harry's eyes. "Potter was just leaving."
"Are you trying to get me to take you in?" Harry was beginning to lose his temper. Christ. He wondered if he could get away with strangling the bastard. Accidental death in the course of an investigation--it happened sometimes.
Malfoy flushed. "Stephen is not here on business," he hissed at Harry, and Harry felt his face flame.
"Oh." Harry tried not to look at the man leaning against the wall, or at the bite mark on Malfoy's jaw.
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Will you please get out of my doorway?"
Harry stepped back hurriedly. "Right. Sorry."
Malfoy slammed the door on him. Again.
Harry sat on the steps of Malfoy's building. He didn't know why he was waiting. It'd been nearly an hour and a half, and who knew? Maybe Malfoy was the type who liked to cuddle afterwards.
He tipped a bottle of beer to his lips. Thank God for off licenses, and the rule about drinking on duty be damned. There were moments when a bloke just needed a bit of alcohol to forget what he'd just seen.
The problem was, he couldn't.
It wasn't that he didn't appreciate women. God knew he did. He liked their softness, their warmth, the sweet taste of the gloss on their mouths.
Women were beautiful, and he liked nothing better than to have one wrapped around him.
But he noticed men. He always had; he knew that. And he knew most blokes didn't pay attention to the way a man's back smoothed into an arse, or the slope of a man's shoulders, or the sharp jut of a man's hipbones, so much narrower and more prominent than a woman's.
He didn't like that he looked. And he tried not to. Christ, he'd tried. And he'd become quite good at not noticing.
It wasn't that he thought it was wrong to be bent. He didn't care what people did in their own bedrooms. It was just--he wasn't like that.
He didn't want to be like that. He couldn't be.
A movement at the end of the street caught his eye; he had the odd sense of being watched--a skill he'd developed in the war and honed on the beat. "Hullo?" he called out, his hand going to his wand.
There was silence, then the rustle of a bush and a fox darted out, disappearing into the rubbish bins across the pavement. Harry snorted. He was too damned jumpy tonight.
Another swig of beer, and he leaned back against the iron railing of the steps. It had to hurt, really. After all, it wasn't as if that was made for sex.
He shuddered and the bottle clinked against his teeth. He couldn't imagine doing that in a million years.
And then he thought of the bite mark on Malfoy's jaw, and he wondered what his skin would taste like, if the faint stubble would scratch his lips. It had to be different from kissing a woman. There were more angles, after all. Fewer curves.
His breath caught.
The door rattled behind him and Stephen came out, dressed this time in jeans and a jumper, and Harry hated him when he flashed a grin at him.
"He says you might as well come upstairs before you're too pissed to walk."
Harry glanced up at the window. A drape shifted, and he caught a glimpse of Malfoy's pale face. "Bastard," he muttered, and he kicked over two bottles when he stood. They clanked against the pavement.
"He won't be any good for a while, though," Stephen said, with a smirk that made Harry want to knock him to the ground. There were love bites on his clavicle. "He's a brilliant fuck, you know ."
"Bugger off, arsewipe," Harry said, and he let the door snap shut behind him.
Malfoy'd at least had the decency to pull on clothes.
Although it didn't help that his idea of proper attire was a pair of grey cotton pyjama bottoms that slid low on his hips and a white ribbed undershirt.
Harry shifted on the chesterfield, suddenly uncomfortable, and quite aware that he might not be entirely sober.
Malfoy sat down next to him with a sigh. He crossed one leg over the other, bobbing his bare foot lightly in the air. "Well?"
"What?" Harry looked up from studying the curve of Malfoy's arch and blinked.
There was an annoyed sigh from the other end of the chesterfield. "It's midnight, Potter, and you're in my sitting room. Do forgive me if I wonder what the hell you might want from me."
"Oh." Harry rubbed his palm over the chesterfield's curved arm. The worn leather was warm against his skin. "Right." He'd rather not think about what it was that he might or might not want. "It's just you showed up so conveniently."
Malfoy gave him an odd look. "What?"
"Seven years almost since I last saw you at the hearing and now suddenly you show up right at the time when there's a murder case that you know something about--" Harry broke off and he shook his head, scraping his thumbnail across the leather piping on the chesterfield. "Something's going on. I can feel it."
There was a silence. Harry could hear the distant sounds of traffic and the faint tap of rain starting against the windowpanes.
Malfoy glanced away, and he pulled his knees up to his chest, his feet pressing against the edge of the cushion, toes curled into the leather. He sighed. "I followed you the other night. I didn't intend for you to see me. I didn't know if you'd be needed. I just wanted to know how I could find you if you were."
"Needed for what?" Harry watched him carefully. Malfoy shrugged and his fingers smoothed over the cotton of his pyjama bottoms, pressing them to his shins.
"Something. Anything. You are the Boy Who Lived after all. Seemed like a good idea to find you. In case." Malfoy looked at him then, and his pale blond hair swung forward, brushing against the marks on his neck. Harry licked his bottom lip and turned his head.
This was a sodding bad idea.
"Who's Anders?" he asked, trying to keep hold of the threads of conversation, and then Malfoy's palm slid over his jaw, turning his head, and he was right there.
"Why'd you sit out there, Harry?" Malfoy asked, and his breath was soft and warm against Harry's cheek. "Two hours, just to talk to me?" His thumb dragged over Harry's mouth, and Harry froze, his fingers digging into the leather.
"Malfoy--" he started, and then Malfoy's mouth was against his, wet and open, and he was straddling Harry's hips, pressing him back against the cushions.
Harry couldn't stop his hands from curling over Malfoy's shoulders, and he knew he should push him away. This was mad. Utterly mad.
And then Malfoy shifted, sliding forward, and his tongue slid into Harry's mouth and that was his cock--Christ--this was what a man tasted like, what he felt like, and Harry was so bloody pissed--
Malfoy's mouth moved down Harry's throat, nipping lightly, and he felt entirely different from the way Hermione felt against Harry. Malfoy was hard and rough, and Harry could feel the barest hint of stubble rasping lightly across his skin.
He was hard, and breathless, and Malfoy rocked into him and Harry gasped and that was too much, that press of cock against cock. Harry pushed Malfoy away, knocking him off his lap and onto the floor.
"Don't," he choked out, staring at Malfoy sprawled in front of him, his pyjama bottoms tented. Malfoy was breathing hard, his eyes bright, cheeks flushed.
He looked incredible.
Shaking, Harry pulled himself up. "I have to--" He swallowed hard, hands tightening into fists. "Yeah."
He fled the flat, leaving Malfoy watching him, slightly dazed.
Hermione hadn't said anything about Harry arriving in the middle of the night, reeking of beer. He'd just pushed her into the bedroom, jerking off her knickers as they stumbled backwards, kissing, and they hadn't even made it to the bed before he was in her.
They fucked on the floor, quick and fast, her legs wrapped around his hips, fingers digging into his shoulders, and it'd been enough to push the thought of Malfoy out of his mind.
At least for a few hours.
Work seemed to be slightly less distracting.
Harry leaned back in his chair and ran his hand over his face. He could feel the press of Malfoy's mouth still, the warmth of his cock--Harry groaned and rocked forward, burying his face in his hand.
He was getting hard just thinking about it.
"I'm never drinking again," he mumbled into his palm.
"Pity," a woman said, amusement tingeing her voice.
Harry dropped his hand, face flushed, and he slid his chair further under his desk in an attempt to hide the bulge in his trousers. Gemma set a stack of papers on his desk. "These were faxed over from the Yard."
The phone rang.
"And that," Gemma said, "would be the Yard."
"Thanks." Harry reached for the phone as she slipped out the door. "Potter here."
"Are you looking at the faxes?" Olliver's voice was brusque, hurried, and Harry could hear the blare of traffic in the background.
Harry skimmed the first one. "Gemma just gave them to me--" He broke off, flipping to the second page. "Bloody fuck."
"Rentboys all," Olliver said. "You want to explain how four of you lot ended up bending over for a few pounds?"
"I know who can." Harry pushed the papers into a folder. "I'll ring you on your mobile when I find out. I want to check something first."
He hung up and grabbed his jacket and the folder.
This time Malfoy was staying the fuck away from him.
First, however, he needed to Floo Hermione.
The morgue was cold.
Harry knew it had to be--one didn't want bodies rotting, after all, bad form that--but there was cold and then there was freeze your damned bollocks off.
The morgue assistant pulled the drawer out. "I can give you five minutes, but you owe me, Potter."
"Tickets to Arsenal against Man United, I promise, Patrick. Up the Arse and all, what?" Harry shivered and pulled his jacket tighter. Still strange to see his face like that. Hermione shifted next to him, and he could feel her distress. He touched her arm lightly; she looked at him, lip caught between her teeth, and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
Patrick snorted. "Better come through this time or I'll put a bug in Timmons' ear."
Harry waited until the door clicked shut behind him. "What do you think?"
Hermione studied the body. "It's strange. Definitely your face." Her eyes drifted further down. "And cock."
"I'm bigger than that," Harry protested and Hermione rolled her eyes and pulled her wand out.
"Shrinkage. It's freezing in here, and he doesn't have any flowing blood." She walked to the other side, her mouth pursed. She flicked her wand at the corpse, murmuring under her breath. Black sparks drifted across the grey skin. "Interesting."
"What?" Harry leaned forward, watching the pattern form on the skin.
Hermione frowned down at the sparks. "It's not just Polyjuice. Obviously. There are traces of an additional potion of some sort. Possibly transfiguratory, which makes sense." She looked up at Harry. "It'd keep the form after death. Very difficult to break too. It's just usually those sorts of potions are considered very experimental because they tend to border on poisons. You have to be very adept at brewing either of them. It's far too easy to mix them and end up with a potion that's a poison or a poison that's a potion. Or both." She frowned. "We've done a bit of work with them at the Ministry, mostly based on Death Eater research."
"So which is this?" Harry asked, looking up at her.
"I don't know. I'd have to examine the molecular structure and magical signature of the potion remnants and that takes time."
"Right." Harry shoved his hands in his pockets, rocking forward on the balls of his feet. "But we do know they were forced to drink something before death."
She shook her head. "Not necessarily. Some potions can be delivered intravenously. St Mungo's does it all the time with unconscious patients, and there are Dark potions that work best through a cut in the skin."
"Possibly the mutilation?"
"Maybe, although I'm not getting the proper readings from the wounds to say definitively. Check the reports again." Hermione swept her wand over the body and the sparks disappeared. "Something could have been overlooked. Or maybe there was a puncture wound? A needle of some sort could have been used. Far easier to transport potions to be used offensively in that manner. The Death Eaters did it from time to time during the war."
Harry stared down at the body, rubbing his hand across the back of his neck. Fucking hell. "And that would look like?"
"Small circular wound, probably surrounded by a slight bit of bruising, I'd say."
Harry squatted slightly, peering at Anders' neck. "Rather like this?" He pointed to a faint bruise around what looked like a purple-black pinprick just behind Anders ear. It'd been listed on the autopsy report as a possible bugbite, he recalled.
Hermione looked at him. "Rather like that, yes."
"Great." Harry sighed and pulled out his mobile.
Hermione touched the tip of her wand to the bruise. Dark sparks exploded everywhere. "Any idea who did this?"
"No." Harry dialed a number. "But I know who's at the top of my list now."
"Malfoy?" Hermione asked, curious, and Harry held up his hand.
"Olliver," he said into the phone. "I think you need to stop by the morgue."
"There has to be a motive." Olliver bent over the body, pressing lightly against the tiny cut with a gloved fingertip. Hermione frowned at him, shooing him off as she traced her wand lightly along the y-incision across Anders' chest. "You can't jump to conclusions just because you don't like this rentboy of yours."
"He's not mine," Harry protested. He leaned against the tile wall, arms crossed. "And doesn't it make sense? I mean, he's not told me a damned thing--"
"Except that he's frightened." Olliver stood up. "What's wrong with you, Potter? You're acting like a twat. For Christ's sake, think. You've a bloke who's connected to these murders. Same profession, same background, knew at least one of them well enough to leave a message on his mobile, won't tell you anything except a vague indication that he's scared shitless. Now is he your suspect or your next victim?"
Frustrated, Harry ran a hand through his hair, leaving it standing on end. "He stonewalls me--"
"And how many times have you run up against that in this line of work?" Olliver shook his head. "You're slipping, Potter. He's a rentboy. On a good day, he's not exactly what you'd call trusting of the filth, now is he? And if there's history between you two--"
Harry flushed. It sounded so damned tawdry. "Just old school grudges."
"That's enough." Olliver looked over at Hermione. "Tell him he's being a twat."
She didn't even glance up as she gently tapped her wand into a clear phial. Green sparks tumbled down to the bottom. "You're being a twat, Harry."
"Then tell me who our top suspect is?" Harry glared at them both. "We've nothing."
Hermione sealed the phial. "You'll have something shortly. A name at least for this poor fellow. I think I've enough for the Aurors to trace a magical signature at least." She glanced hesitantly at Olliver. "You know they'll want to take this on though. It's not Muggle any longer."
"The fucking hell it's not." Olliver glared at her. "My case, my jurisdiction."
Hermione ignored him. "If Malfoy's involved, Harry, the Wizengamot will have to be notified. Once I turn this in--"
Harry sighed. Christ, this was not something he wanted to argue at the moment. "Is there any way to keep it hush for now?"
"I could talk to Ron, I suppose." Hermione chewed her bottom lip. "He's high enough to get me Auror laboratory access without having to file an actual report. And I've a contact in the labs who could probably assist, as long as Ron signs off on it."
Harry nodded. "Ask him. Tell him he owes me that favour from last year still. He'll know what you mean."
"How long until we hear anything?" Olliver asked.
"An hour, maybe two." Hermione slid her wand into her pocket. "I'll let Harry know as soon as I can."
She Apparated and Harry looked at Olliver. "She's right, you know. The Aurors will take this over at some point. They have to."
"Then I reckon we should find the bastard first," Olliver said calmly.
Harry grinned. "I reckon we should."
Files were scattered across Harry's desk.
There was something he was overlooking; he knew that. Something obvious and glaring. He rubbed his temple, staring down at the pages of notes he'd made.
How'd the three wizards get hold of the Polyjuice? He supposed they might have brewed it themselves, but chances were, given that they were making a living as Muggle prostitutes, their names were on the extensive list of Death Eaters who'd escaped Azkaban only to have their wands taken, their magic hobbled. And the Office of Improper Use of Magic kept a strict eye on the list as a whole.
So someone had to give it to them. But who, and why?
And how the bloody hell had that person managed to obtain enough bits and pieces of Remus and Snape and himself?
It made no sense.
Harry pulled his glasses off, tossing them on the pile of papers. He pinched the bridge of his nose.
He needed a break.
There was a loud pop, one that nearly sent him backwards in his chair, surprised, and then Ron was there, in the shadows in the corner, a rolled parchment in his hand.
"Jesus." Harry glared at him and slid his glasses back on. "Don't bloody do that in here. I could have been in a meeting--"
Ron shrugged. "Obliviation, mate. It's an Auror's friend."
"I was expecting an owl." Harry leaned forward. "What do you have?"
Ron handed him the parchment silently.
Harry scanned it quickly. Christ. Bloody fucking Christ. He looked up at Ron. "Explains a bit, at least."
"Yeah," Ron said. "But only a bit."
Harry shivered. Something was wrong. He could feel it in his bones and he wasn't certain why.
He just knew he needed to see Malfoy.
He stood up, not bothering to put the files away. His wand was in his pocket, and he reached for his coat. "Come on," he said, and Ron gave him a curious look.
"Where are we going?"
Harry shrugged. "I have an odd feeling. Wouldn't hurt to check it out."
"Malfoy, open up." Harry pounded on the door of Malfoy's flat.
"Maybe he's not here," Ron leaned against the doorjamb.
"It's the middle of the day. Trust me, he's probably sleeping last night off." Harry slammed his fist against the door. "Malfoy!"
There was a muffled crash of breaking glass, and Harry didn't stop to think. Jerking his wand out, he blasted the door open just in time to see a swirl of black and two familiar white masks before the crack of Apparition echoed through the flat.
"Shit," Ron murmured, and Harry turned.
His heart stopped.
Malfoy was sprawled across the kitchen floor, glass and blood glistening around him.
His shirt was ripped open, his trousers torn, and a deep gash ran from sternum to hip.
Harry could see the black-red of Malfoy's organs, the white of his ribcage, and he swallowed the bile rising in his throat as he dropped to his knees, not giving a damn about the blood.
Malfoy's eyes fluttered and he looked up at Harry, blankly, and then recognition sparked. "I knew you'd come," he whispered and Harry couldn't look at the flecks of blood catching at the corner of his mouth. He laughed, and then grimaced in pain. "I summoned you."
"You did." Harry smoothed Malfoy's hair back from his brow. "And I'm here. Don't talk, all right?" He looked up at Ron. "We have to do something. You're better at the spell than I am."
Ron knelt on Malfoy's other side. "I can't believe I'm doing this for Malfoy." He pulled the pieces of Malfoy's shirt away and winced. "I can patch him up a bit, enough to move him, maybe, but he's going to need a Healer, Harry. And soon."
"Just do it," Harry said tightly.
"Right." Ron moved Harry's hands to either side of Malfoy's ribcage. "Try to hold him closed. It's going to hurt, and he's going to move. I've never seen a wizard in the field stay still through this."
Harry nodded. Malfoy's breath was shallow, barely perceptible and he groaned softly at the pressure of Harry's hands.
"It's all right," Harry said gently, and he wasn't certain why his hands shook. He'd seen as bad as this during the war. Worse even. But this was Malfoy and his skin was warm and sticky beneath Harry's palms and blood seeped between his fingers.
"Don't cock this up, Weasley," Malfoy choked out, his fists pressing into the floor, and he arched up as Harry pushed the wide flaps of skin together. "Merlin--"
The tip of Ron's wand slid over the wound, and he sang the healing spell softly under his breath, the melodic chant rising and falling with each slow sweep of his wand.
Malfoy screamed and twisted beneath Harry's hands, his jaw tight, teeth clenched. Harry stroked his thumbs lightly along Malfoy's chest. "Hold on, all right. You're almost done."
Slowly the skin knit together, twisting into a red, angry scar.
Malfoy collapsed against the floor, eyes closed, breathing hard. His lashes were damp.
Ron leaned back against his heels. Sweat shone faintly along his upper lip. "That should do. For now."
"We can't take him to St Mungo's," Harry said, and his blood-streaked fingers combed idly through Malfoy's hair. "It'd take too long to convince them to treat him."
Malfoy's eyes fluttered. He reached up and caught Harry's hand, sliding their fingers together. Harry flushed at Ron's raised eyebrow, but he didn't pull away.
He supposed if he had nearly been murdered, he'd want a bit of comfort himself.
"There's always Cho," Ron said slowly. "I mean, she mostly works with babies and such, but she's a Healer, and Malfoy's not that far off from a baby, really--"
"Sod off, Weasel," Malfoy said faintly, with a tiny curl of his lip, and Harry squeezed his hand roughly.
"Knock it off, the both of you." Harry thought for a moment, chewing on his lip. It only took a moment to make up his mind. "Look, we'll take him back to my flat. He'll be safer there, and then you can talk to Cho. She's more likely to do it if you ask her."
Ron nodded. "Right."
Harry lifted Malfoy carefully, brushing aside Ron's offers of a levitation charm. There was something cold about moving him with magic, much as Harry knew it'd probably be easier.
Malfoy wasn't the lightest thing, after all, and he stank of sweat and blood.
But he curled into Harry's neck, his breath warm on his skin, and Harry held him close as they Apparated.
Harry thought perhaps he might actually like it.
"He'll be all right," Cho said, reaching for the jar of Floo powder on the mantel. "Stop worrying, Harry."
"I'm not." Harry tugged at his fringe, ignoring Ron's snort from behind him. "He's just my best witness for a case, all right?"
Cho gave him a look--the exasperated one he usually got from her. "Just give him the potions and keep him in bed for at least a day or two. I'd prefer longer, but given that you won't let me take him to St Mungo's, I'd say that's the longest the two of you will be able to manage not killing each other."
Harry flushed. She had a point. Maybe. Or shagging, his mind added and he scowled. Christ. No.
"You don't need to report this to the MLE, Cho," Ron said, stepping forward. "I'll handle it."
She nodded, her short black hair sweeping against her cheek. "All right then. Floo me if you need." She kissed Ron quickly on the cheek and handed him the jar. "Tell Luna I'll see her and the sprog-to-be Tuesday morning."
A burst of green flame and she was gone.
"You know I'll have to report to Kingsley," Ron said with a sigh, scooping up a handful of Floo powder. "Right?"
Harry sighed and scratched at his neck. "Yeah."
"Sorry, Harry." Ron set the jar back on the mantel. "It's just if it is a Death Eater and with Malfoy involved and now you--"
"I know." Harry rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet. "It's fine. Really."
Ron gave him a dubious look.
"Go," Harry said. "I should check on Malfoy anyway. When he wakes, I've a few questions for him."
"I bet." Ron hesitated, and then he tossed the powder on the fire. The flames leapt up. "Just be careful, Harry. And I'm not just talking about whatever it is you've managed to get yourself caught up in here." Ron gave him an even look. "It's Malfoy, after all."
Harry flushed. "I'm sure I've no idea what you're talking about."
"Of course you do." Ron smiled faintly. "I'm not a bloody idiot, mate."
He disappeared into the twist of fire.
Malfoy slept until well after dinner.
"What do you think you're doing?" Harry snapped as Malfoy struggled to sit up in Harry's bed, wincing as he pushed himself against the pillows. Harry set the tray of sandwiches and tea on the foot of the bed. "Christ, Malfoy--"
"You know, really, you could use a cushioning charm on this bloody mattress," Malfoy grumbled. He was pale, and his hair was mussed, half-hanging in his eyes, and Harry couldn't stop himself from pushing it back.
Malfoy gave him a startled look, drawing away, and Harry dropped his hand. Fucking hell, what was he doing? He handed him a plate silently, his face flushed. Malfoy eyed the sandwich dubiously.
"Eat." Harry was annoyed, more so than he should be, perhaps, but this was Malfoy after all. He poured a cup of tea, adding another phial of the potion Cho had left and charming the saucer to levitate next to Malfoy's arm. "And don't spill that."
Malfoy was already half done with the sandwich. "Judging from this utter pigsty, I highly doubt it'd make any difference if I did."
"It's not that bad." Harry glanced around the room. All right, maybe he'd not put away his clothes last time he'd done laundry, but at least they were folded neatly in the chair. For the most part.
He sent a pair of pants skittering beneath the bed. "We need to talk, you realise."
Malfoy swallowed his tea. "I'm tired. I just had my chest ripped open--"
"And that's exactly why we need to talk." Harry sat on the edge of the bed and the mattress dipped beneath him.
Malfoy reached for another sandwich, stopping to peel the cheese away, wrinkling his nose. He bit into the bread and chewed. "I suppose there's no way to dissuade you? You always did have a one-track mind."
"And you know a great deal more than you're letting on."
With a shrug, Malfoy took another sip of tea. "Darjeeling? I prefer Earl Grey."
"And I'd prefer Gregory Goyle not to be going about looking like me either," Harry said calmly, and it was almost worth it to see Malfoy choke on his tea, spewing it across the coverlet.
Malfoy wiped his hand across his mouth, staring down at the teacup. "I don't know what you're talking about--"
"Don't," Harry said sharply. "Don't even start. Unless you're going to tell me who the other two are and why the bloody hell they decided to Polyjuice themselves."
There was a long silence, and then Malfoy sighed.
"Theodore Nott and Vincent Crabbe," he said finally. "The three of them Polyjuiced when we were working--whenever we were pretending to be Muggle, really. You don't understand what it's like, Potter. It's not safe to be yourself on the streets and anything you can do to protect yourself, you do. It only took Greg being followed home and having the bloody fuck beaten out of him once before I realised that. We had to do something, and Polyjuice seemed the easiest solution."
"What about you?" Harry gave Malfoy an even look. "You didn't."
Malfoy shrugged and looked away, pulling his knees to his chest with a wince. "Maybe I didn't care. Maybe it didn't matter if I was beaten. Or whatever happened." He stared off into space. "And it's not like I had anyone who gave a damn. Not like they did. Their mothers at least, if no one else. I didn't even have that. And someone had to look after the fools, or they'd get themselves killed--" His voice broke on the last word.
Harry didn't say anything. He was almost afraid to.
"We did what we had to do," Malfoy murmured. "It's how we coped with what the Wizengamot forced us to be." He glanced at Harry, his lip curled. "I suppose you think we should be lucky to have escaped Azkaban."
The thought had crossed Harry's mind. "Maybe."
"Try living without your magic, Potter."
Harry didn't think he wanted to. He chewed on his bottom lip. "How'd you get the potion if you couldn't make it?"
"How do you think?" Malfoy raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Snape may be half-mad, but he could still brew. Until lately, at least. He owled it to us. I couldn't meet with him--the Aurors monitored our conversations, but they thought Vincent was too thick to bother with. He asked him for it, and Snape agreed." Malfoy looked away. "He always did look after us. Even when we didn't deserve it."
Harry was astounded. "So he turned the other three into himself, me, and Remus? How--"
"Really, Potter, you're the thick one. He had Lupin's hair still from brewing Wolfsbane for him--it's part of the potion." Malfoy sighed. "Yours was easy enough to get from the Weasley girl's room. You go and see her often enough."
"She doesn't even remember me," Harry said quietly.
"She's mad." Malfoy cut him off before he could protest. "And don't say she's not. You're not the only one who gives a damn about someone who's off their nut anyway."
His face was drawn, and he twisted the coverlet between his fingers.
And Harry knew. He wasn't certain how or why even, but he knew. "You and--"
"Not for long. His Lordship made certain of that, didn't he?" Malfoy raised his chin defiantly. "And he didn't force me, so don't even suggest that or I'll pound your bloody face in--"
Harry held up his hands. "I wasn't going to." He slid up the bed, settling next to Malfoy. "Budge over."
Malfoy gave him a baleful glare, but did.
Harry leaned his head against the wall. "Do you love him?"
"I don't see how that's any of your business," Malfoy snapped. "Do you love the Weasley bint?"
"I did," Harry said slowly, staring up at the ceiling. "For a very long time. And maybe I still do in a way, but it's changed. It has to, I suppose. You can't--" He stopped, licked his lips. He could hear Molly's voice in his head from so long ago. "You can't lose yourself in madness. As much as you might like. You can't throw your own life away."
Malfoy was silent. "Maybe it's best if you do," he said finally, and Harry turned his head. Malfoy was next to him, pale and silver in the faint light from the lamp and Harry knew it was mad, knew it was utterly insane, but he couldn't stop himself from touching him, running his fingers lightly along his warm, stubbled jaw.
And when Malfoy looked at him in surprise, mouth parting just enough, Harry kissed him.
It was a soft kiss, almost hesitant at first, but Harry slipped his fingers into Malfoy's hair, twisting white-blond strands around his fingers, and he pulled him closer, his tongue swiping gently at Malfoy's.
He tasted of tea and the faint sweet bitterness of the potion.
"I despise you," Malfoy murmured against Harry's mouth, and Harry pressed him back into the pillows, kissing him roughly now, teeth pulling at Malfoy's bottom lip.
"Of course you do." Harry dragged his tongue over Malfoy's reddened mouth.
Malfoy's hand was on his neck, and he arched into the kiss with a soft gasp. Harry couldn't believe he was doing this again, couldn't believe he'd started it, but Malfoy's mouth was soft and wet and open--and Harry couldn't stop tasting him.
This was mad. Malfoy was a bloke, for Christ's sake--
Harry kissed him again, his glasses bumping against Malfoy's cheek, and he was breathing hard as Malfoy pushed at him, rolling him onto his back. He leaned over Harry, pressing tiny wet kisses along the angle of his jaw.
"Merlin, you taste--" Malfoy broke off, scraped his teeth across Harry's throat and Harry groaned, twisting beneath him, his hips thrusting up into air.
"You're killing me," he whispered into Malfoy's skin, and Malfoy's hair was soft and silky in his hands. "Since the other night--I can't stop thinking--"
"That, Potter, is your problem." Malfoy bit Harry's collarbone, and his hand was at Harry's trousers, tugging at the buttons. "You think too damned much."
And then his hand curled around Harry's cock, his fingers warm and tight and Harry gasped and his hips bucked up.
Malfoy's hand was firm and smooth and Harry'd been thinking about it, wondering what it'd feel like to have another man bring him off, and he was thrusting up into Malfoy's grasp, wanting more, needing more--
"Come on, Harry," Malfoy whispered into his ear, and he was breathing hard, warm and quick against Harry's skin and it was too much, really. "I want to see you--your beautiful cock--come on--"
"Christ--" Harry arched up, his body shaking, one hand twisting in the coverlet beneath him and with one quick twist of Malfoy's fingers, he came with a cry, falling back against the mattress. He stared up at Malfoy, his breath coming in quick, sharp gasps, before sliding his hand down Malfoy's side, his palm slipping over the bulge in Malfoy's trousers.
And then Malfoy's face twisted in pain.
"Malfoy--" Harry pushed him back onto the pillows.
"I'm fine," Malfoy protested, and he shoved Harry's hands away, wincing. "I'm fine." He closed his eyes, breathing in slowly. "I'm fine."
"The hell you are." Harry smoothed Malfoy's hair back from his forehead. "I'll get you a potion--"
"No." Malfoy caught his hand. "Just stay, all right? I'm tired, that's all."
Harry nodded, curling up next to him. He pulled his trousers together, buttoning them. Malfoy snorted. "Bad form, Potter," he murmured, turning his head into Harry's shoulder.
"Twat," Harry mumbled into his hair.
It was oddly comfortable, this heavy silence that settled between them. Harry closed his eyes and slept.
Harry woke up to Malfoy's mouth on his.
"Good morning," Malfoy whispered, and he slid over Harry, his cock pressing into Harry's side.
Harry gasped; Malfoy rose up over him, straddling his hips. He was naked, pale in the grey, early morning light filtering through the window, and Harry stared at him.
He was beautiful.
"I'm feeling better," Malfoy said, and Harry's hands were on his thighs already, his thumbs smoothing over silky skin and taut muscles. "Much."
Harry's breath was coming in short, sharp pants, and he licked his bottom lip. "I can see."
Malfoy smiled faintly, and Harry's gaze drifted down, past the pink-red scar twisting across Malfoy's flat stomach. His cock was hard and red, and it curved against his hip.
Harry ran a finger up the underside, watching Malfoy as he arched back with a hiss.
He'd never touched another cock before, and the smooth slide of hot skin against his palm was oddly familiar--and oddly alien. He twisted his hand over the head, smearing dampness down Malfoy's shaft.
"Nice," Harry murmured and Malfoy leaned forward, catching his mouth with his.
"Shut it, Potter," he said softly, and Harry's stomach lurched at the swipe of Malfoy's tongue against his lower lip.
Malfoy unbuttoned Harry's trousers, pushing them down his hips, and his hands were warm on Harry's thighs, spreading them apart as he kissed down Harry's chest, teeth sharp against his ribs, his hipbone.
"Oh, God," Harry groaned, twisting against Malfoy's mouth. It was amazing, incredible and he didn't know why he'd waited this long to let a man touch him like this. His hands slid through Malfoy's hair.
And then Malfoy dragged his tongue across Harry's cock, sucking lightly at the head, and Harry's hips bucked up.
"Christ, oh Christ, Malfoy," he gasped, and his fingers tightened, pulling at Malfoy's hair. It was warm and wet, just like a girl's mouth, but there was something in the way Malfoy sucked at him, his tongue swirling around the head, dipping into the slit in that way that Harry loved, the way few girls ever managed to do entirely, Malfoy's hand pulling his foreskin back just enough, thumb tracing tiny circles, and he didn't want him to stop.
Until Malfoy slid lower, his mouth closing on Harry's balls.
Harry swore again, and he spread his legs wider, needing the press of Malfoy's palms against the heated skin of his thighs.
He reached for his cock, needing to touch himself, to pull himself off because this was too damned much, and Malfoy slapped his hands away.
"Not yet," he said against Harry's thigh, and then his mouth moved lower and at the touch of his tongue there--oh God--Harry twisted, and his foot dug into the mattress, the sheet twisting around it.
Christ, how had he never known this could feel so amazing?
Malfoy's tongue flicked at his entrance, pressing in slightly, and Harry couldn't believe he was doing this, couldn't believe his mouth was there, his tongue--oh, fuck, that was Malfoy's fingertip, rubbing lightly against him, and Malfoy raised up and reached for something on the sidetable.
"What are you--" he began and then Malfoy's finger was back, slick this time, and Harry's eyes widened as Malfoy pressed into him.
It burned, sharp and painful for just a moment, and Harry almost cried out, almost told him to stop until Malfoy slid in further, and his fingertip brushed something deep inside and Harry's hips jerked up.
"God," Harry groaned, pulling at the sheet, and Malfoy laughed, a sharp, bright sound that Harry'd never heard from him.
"Nice, isn't it?" he murmured against Harry's throat and Harry could only nod because it was amazing, those bursts of pleasure that shimmied through his hips into his cock and all he wanted was to feel more.
"Please," Harry choked out and Malfoy slipped another finger into him.
It hurt, and Harry's legs shook, and his jaw tightened, and Malfoy was stroking his cock lightly, telling him to relax.
He tried, he did, but his arse ached and burned and Harry pressed down on the fingers in him until Malfoy kissed him roughly.
"Harry," he whispered, "look at me," and Harry did. "Trust me."
Harry forced his hips to loosen, his thighs to fall wide. Malfoy smiled down at him, and his hair swung forward, brushing against Harry's cheeks.
"I do," Harry said quietly, and it was true. Oddly. He never would have thought it, but he trusted Malfoy--Draco, his mind said, and Harry nearly laughed at the strangeness, and then Draco's fingers moved slowly, stretching him, and the burning twisted into something more, something primal.
Draco's breath was ragged, and his cock brushed against Harry's thigh, heavy and warm. Harry wanted him inside of him, suddenly, needed it in a way he couldn't explain, didn't want to explain, and he flushed at the thought.
Men weren't supposed to be fucked, were they? They were supposed to do the fucking, and what did it say about him that he wanted Malfoy--no, Draco, of all people, inside of him? He wasn't a girl, wouldn't be the girl--and then Draco's fingers twisted inside of him, and Harry didn't give a damn about any of those things as long as Draco kept doing that.
And then Draco's fingers were gone, and Harry felt oddly empty. "Draco," he said, and he flushed at the whine in his voice.
Draco's mouth brushed his. "Hold on."
Harry waited impatiently, and when he looked down and saw Draco's hand sliding over his own cock, slicking it with oil, he groaned. "You're killing me."
Draco slid up and Harry felt the damp, blunt head of his cock against his hole.
"Breathe, Harry," Draco said with a soft laugh, and Harry drew a shaky breath, his eyes fixed on Draco's.
And then Draco was in him, and the first press made Harry arch and hiss in pain.
Draco smoothed Harry's hair back from his forehead. "Relax."
Harry nodded and breathed out. "Is this hurting you?"
"Not likely." Draco laughed. "Stop worrying." He moved slowly, his eyes holding Harry's. "And look at me."
The burn faded, and Harry shifted, just enough to cause Draco to gasp, and he grinned up at him. "I like that sound."
"You would." Draco bit his jaw lightly. "Tell me to fuck you."
Harry slid his hands down Draco's back, enjoying the feel of muscles flexing beneath his palms. "Fuck me," he whispered against Draco's throat.
He thrust into Harry, lifting his arse up off the bed, and Harry's hands tightened on Draco's shoulders. Oh God. This was what it was liked to be fucked, hot and slick and Christ he wanted it harder--
"Yes," Draco gasped, and Harry realised he'd spoken aloud.
Draco moved faster, his hair catching on the corner of Harry's mouth with each quick thrust of his hips, pressing them against the mattress, and it hurt in a way that Harry never wanted to stop.
He needed this, needed Draco, and he thought maybe he'd always needed Draco like this and maybe Hermione was right, maybe he had wanted him for years and did it matter really? Did any of it matter when Draco was inside of him, fucking him, and oh God, yes, that felt so goddamned good.
His leg was around Draco's hips, pulling him harder into him, and he was kissing Draco, biting at his mouth, urging him on with soft gasps and mumbled curses.
"Close, oh God, close," Harry groaned, and Draco's hand slipped between them, brushing over Harry's aching cock, and that was all it took, that and one quick thrust that pressed him harder into the bed, and his hips bucked as he came, crying out Draco's name.
Draco slammed into him, not even trying to be gentle, and it didn't matter any longer because Harry wanted to see him like this, wanted to see his eyes bright and unfocused, wanted to see the flush spread over his cheeks as he ground into Harry's hips with a groan, as he arched back, his throat long and pale in the grey shadows.
He fell forward, gasping.
They lay silently for a moment, their bodies twisted together still. Harry almost thought he could hear the steady throb of Draco's heart in his chest.
"That was--" Harry trailed off. There weren't words, really.
Draco nodded, his hair sticking to Harry's chest. "Yeah."
Harry closed his eyes for a moment. His fingers drifted across the damp skin of Draco's back. He'd never had sex like that.
He wondered how long before he could do it again.
Draco slid out of him. Harry felt oddly bereft until Draco curled up next to him, pulling Harry's head onto his shoulder.
"You're frightened," Harry said finally, and he looked up at Draco. "About all of this. That's why you came to me."
"Maybe." Draco sighed. "Wouldn't you be?"
"Yeah." Harry kissed Draco's throat gently. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you."
"That's what I told Gregory, and Vince, and Theodore."
Harry ran his fingertips over Draco's jaw. The scratch of stubble against his skin sent a shiver down his spine. "Why the four of you?" He rolled onto his side, propping himself up on one elbow. "There's something you're not telling me."
Draco snorted. "There's a lot of things I'm not telling you, Potter."
Draco gave him a curious look.
"You've fucked me; you might as well call me Harry when you're not in me as well."
"You're an idiot." Draco smiled faintly. "Harry."
Harry grinned at him. "Better." He traced a fingertip around Draco's nipple. "So?"
There was a long silence, then Draco sighed.
"Have you ever done something that you regretted? I mean truly, honestly regretted?"
"All the time." Harry flattened his hand on Draco's chest. His skin was soft and warm and the smooth, barely curved planes of his rib cage fascinated Harry.
Draco swallowed and shook his head. "I think this is different. We never meant for it to happen. It was an accident. We were trying to help--" He looked away. "Slytherins aren't exactly good at helping. It's far more of a Gryffindor thing to do."
Harry just looked at him, waiting.
"It was Zabini." Draco stared up at the ceiling. "He'd only taken the Mark a few months earlier, and it was his first time out with Greyback." He looked over at Harry. "You didn't want to cock up Fenrir's plans. He--reacted badly. We found him--we were part of the second group. Father'd made certain we weren't in the first wave of the raid. It was all he could do to protect us--Zabini was too new, too fresh to be able to keep him out of the fray. We tried to help him. We did. But we--" Draco broke off and closed his eyes.
"What?" Harry asked softly, touching Draco's mouth.
"You have to understand," Draco said, his voice quiet, "that sometimes the only way we could manage to get through what we were asked to do was to be entirely pissed out of our minds. If you numbed yourself enough, then you didn't think about what you had to do, or about the blood or the shit or any of it." He drew a deep breath. "We were all drunk, and we tried to fix him, but it didn't work. None of it did. We only made things worse, and then the only thing I could do--he was begging me. He knew he was going to die."
Harry breathed out. "You used the curse."
"I didn't have a choice." Draco curled into Harry's side. "At least I thought I didn't. Now there are a hundred ways I'd do it differently. I think about them every night." He looked up at Harry. "We all did."
"It was war."
Draco shook his head. "He was one of my best friends, and I killed him."
Harry didn't say anything for a moment. "Who knows about this?"
"The four of us." Draco sighed. "Father, of course. And Snape. He helped us hide Zabini's body among the dead that day. He did it for me. His Lordship would have killed me." He pressed his face into Harry's chest, his breath warm across Harry's nipple. "There were strict rules on that sort of thing. The Dark Lord didn't want us going about thinning his ranks."
Harry ran his fingers through Draco's hair. "Understandable, really. Though we'd probably have appreciated it."
Draco huffed softly into Harry's skin. He raised his head. "It has to be Snape. He was so angry with us that day--it was the last time he came to me, that night. He couldn't look me in the face; he told me I'd sickened him, that I'd gone too far down Father's path."
Draco looked at him then, and his grey eyes were pained. "I know."
Harry pulled Draco to him, holding him close.
The knock at the door was sharp and quick.
Hermione pushed past Harry when he opened it, still dressed only in his pyjama bottoms at half ten. "You owe me for this, you realise," she murmured, and she set a bag of groceries on the counter as she pulled off her coat. "And I figured you'd nothing in your pantry but beer and crisps."
"You know me so well," Harry said dryly.
She humphed at him, pulling out bottles of juice and a tin of steel-cut oats. "So," she murmured, with a glance towards the bedroom, "you do fancy him then?"
Harry glared at her and she laughed, leaning across the counter to kiss his cheek. "It's not exactly a surprise, love. I broke up with you because I was tired of your giving boys' arses a better once-over than you gave mine."
"Not true." Harry flushed at her raised eyebrow. "Okay, only slightly true."
"That's all that matters." She set the kettle on to boil. "Now. Where is the patient? I should probably go let him get the appalled shouting over with so he can be fed, I think."
Harry laughed and led her down the hall.
"You don't think this professor of yours could be responsible?" Olliver strode down the corridor of Homicide Command quickly--too quickly for Harry who was still pleasantly sore from the morning's activities.
Harry sidestepped a cart filled with files. "I don't know. Draco thinks perhaps--" And Harry caught the sharp look that Olliver sent his way at the change of name. He flushed. "Anyway, if he thinks it might be, I don't discount that. He wouldn't accuse him lightly, believe me. It's just--" Harry sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "It's not like him, mad or not. And I've no idea how he might get out of Mungo's."
"Couldn't he just disappear?" Olliver stopped in the tiny galley kitchen to pour a paper cup of coffee, light with one sugar. He handed it to Harry, then poured another, black. "That pop thing you do."
"The place is warded against that." Harry took of sip of coffee, grimacing. Christ, if it wasn't for caffeine-- "It' d be incredibly difficult."
"Still--" Olliver gave him that look that he knew too well.
Harry held up a hand. "All right, I'll check it out."
"Where's the rentboy?" Olliver asked over the rim of his cup. They headed down the hallway again, and Harry had to hurry to keep up. He rubbed his hip discreetly.
"My flat. Hermione's staying with him." Harry glanced down at his watch. "Christ, I should check in on them."
Olliver nodded. "You find out what you need to about the professor. I'll pop my head in, make sure they're all right."
"Thanks." Harry handed Olliver his cup of coffee. "I'll have my mobile if you need me."
He turned down a near-empty corridor, Disapparating with a sharp crack.
"It's entirely impossible for anyone to leave hospital without our knowing," Augusta Pyewackett said, leading Harry down the brightly lit corridor. Her heels tapped against the marble flooring. "And the Ministry requires that we keep extra wards and charms on Professor Snape in particular."
"I'm certain," Harry murmured. They stopped outside a locked door.
Pyewackett peered at him over her spectacles. "He's not entirely coherent, you realise. The curse has settled into his brain stem and is beginning to make its way through the cerebellum--"
"Just let me in," Harry said grimly, and she sighed and unwarded the door.
"Five minutes, Mr Potter," she said. "I'll be right outside, should you need me."
Snape was curled in the bed, and Harry was struck by his gauntness. His hair hung in his face, as long as his shoulder blades now, stringy and black, and his thin hands were scabbed over.
"Hello, Professor," he said quietly, and Snape turned his head, fixing dark, hollow eyes on him.
Harry nodded. "I need to talk to you. About Zabini and Crabbe and Goyle and Nott." He hesitated. "They're all dead and Draco's--"
"No," Snape spat out, his eyes wild, and he struggled to sit up, his hospital gown twisting around his narrow hips. "No, Draco not--"
"He's not dead," Harry said, his hands on Snape's shoulders, gently pressing him back down onto the bed, and at the relief in Snape's face, he knew the man, mad or not, had nothing to do with any of this. He couldn't hurt Draco any more than Harry could now.
Harry sat on the edge of the bed. Snape watched him warily.
"Someone's after him. They've already tried, and I don't know who it could be." Harry ran a hand over his face. "It's about Zabini. It has to be--"
"Yes." Snape sighed. "Hide. They him." He gritted his teeth, jaw tight. "Accident," he barked out finally, eyes blazing. "Boys. Dunder--" He coughed, his thin shoulders shaking.
Harry bit his lip. "I know that. But who--"
"Revenge." Snape rolled his eyes. "Gryffindor idiot think. Who?"
Christ, the man was as infuriating mad as he had been at the peak of his power. Harry glared at him.
"Secret," Snape choked out. "Not Zabini." Snape broke off, stumbling over the words. His jaw twitched. "Wands."
"Jesus." Harry pulled at his fringe. It was like walking on a precipice, talking to Snape. "Wands?"
"Wands," Snape snapped and at Harry's confused look his brow drew together. "WANDS."
"I don't know what you're trying to tell me," Harry shouted, and Snape slammed his fist against the bed.
"WANDS!" he shouted. "SQUIB. WANDS."
Pyewackett burst into the room, two mediwizards behind her. "Mr Potter, I think that's quite enough--"
Harry was pushed out of the room, Snape still shouting behind him.
He stood in the hallway, shaking.
"Timmons's been looking for you," Gemma said, following Harry down the hallway to his office. "I told him you were off at the Yard. Sent him on a five minute tirade."
Harry nodded, his head swirling. "Thanks." Wands. Wands. What the bloody hell did wands have to do with Zabini?
"And I picked up your mobile a few minutes ago," Gemma continued. "You left it on your desk this morning." She handed him a note, scribbled in her near illegible hand.
M fine. Sending Granger home. Olliver.
And then it fell into place.
"Wands," Harry said, eyes widening. Wands. Ollivander. Squib. His mind flashed back to the myriad records he and Ron had sorted through. A bastard Squib. Hush-hush. Ollivander. Olliver. Not surprised by magic. Olliver. A murdered son eight years back. Rumors around school of Zabini's mum and her husbands--Medici, they'd whispered, poisons, and Zabini'd just laughed--
It wasn't a transfiguratory potion. Not entirely, although it had the same properties, even Hermione had said. "Poison," he murmured. "He cuts them first, while they're still alive, and then she poisons them with a potion."
Gemma eyed him, suddenly tense. "What?"
Harry looked at her blankly for a moment, then made up his mind. He grabbed her arm. "There's something I need to tell you, at some point, but now's not the time. Just whatever you do, don't panic, all right?"
And with a crack, he Disapparated them both.
"What the bloody hell was that?" Gemma whispered, and she hadn't stopped trembling.
Harry frowned at her. "Not now, I said."
"We go from the middle of the station to outside your flat and you say not now?"
"Shut it." Harry moved to the edge of the door, pulling out his wand.
Harry put his hand over her mouth. "I'm a wizard, this is magic, and you're going to bloody well help me, because if he's hurt Draco I'm not going to be responsible for what I do and I'd rather not spend the rest of my life in prison or in Azkaban."
Gemma gave him an even look. "You better have some better explanations when this is done."
"Just do your job." Harry pointed his wand at the door and blasted it open.
"Olliver," he shouted, and he heard Draco's cry from the bedroom.
They were standing over him when he burst in, Gemma on his heels, and the knife was in Olliver's hand, wet and red with blood.
Draco lay sprawled across the bed, his chest sliced open, blood pouring from the deep cut. He clenched the sheets in his hand, and Harry's throat tightened. "Get the fuck away from him."
"Don't, Harry," Olliver said calmly, and the woman next to him, tall and beautiful, had her wand pointed at Harry. "He has to pay. They all do."
"No." Harry took a step closer. "You can't do this, Olliver. You don't want to."
"Harry," Draco whispered. "Get out of here."
Harry glared at him.
"I do." Olliver looked up at Harry then, and his face twisted. "He was my boy. Our boy, mine and Anatola's," and he gestured towards Zabini's mother. Her dark eyes were cold and bitter. "And you promised, Potter. You promised we'd find the bastards some day and we did, and now I want what's mine." He paused. "You can help me, Harry. You said they'd pay."
"Not like this." Harry's voice was hard. "How'd you find them?"
Anatola laughed, a harsh, angry bark. "A madman talks. All one needs to do is listen." She raised her chin. "So very few do."
"And me?" Harry looked at Olliver then. "We were partners. I trusted you--" His mouth tightened. "Is that why you brought me into the CID?"
Olliver looked away, discomfited. "Don't be ridiculous."
"So...what? You used me? You lied to me about what you knew. Let me think you'd no idea about magic and the Ministry." Harry ran a hand through his hair, his fingers gripping his wand tightly. "Christ, what an idiot I've been."
"As if you'd want to associate with a Squib--and a bastard son at that--"
"I wouldn't have cared!" Harry snapped. "I thought you were a Muggle and I didn't care. Why would I--damn it, Olliver. You killed three men!"
"They killed my son," Olliver shouted, and Harry took a step back. "My boy." His voice broke. "Do you have any idea--"
"Yes," Harry said quietly. "I do."
Olliver looked away, and his fingers curled tighter around the knife.
"This is what we're supposed to stop," Harry said, and he touched his partner's arm. "I can't let you do this," Harry said, eyes burning. He blinked hard, once, twice. "I'm sorry, Olliver. I am--"
"You always were a fool, Edward," Anatola said, stepping forward. "This farce has gone on long enough." She pulled an amber glass phial from her pocket, uncapping it to reveal a long needle at the end, and she lunged towards Harry, grabbing his arm.
"Harry!" Draco rolled to the side of the bed frantically, reaching in vain for Harry, his blood smearing across the sheets.
The knife sank into Anatola's side, slicing up beneath her rib cage. She stared at Olliver in shock as he twisted it roughly, and the phial fell from her hand. "You idiot," she whispered.
She tumbled forward.
Olliver clenched the knife tightly, his hands shaking and covered with blood, and he looked up at Harry then. "You're my partner," he choked out. "Can't let her--not to you--" He broke off, his eyes closing. He dropped the knife. "Shite."
Gemma grabbed him, twisting his arms behind his back and cuffing him. He sank to his knees. "Nobody was supposed to care," Olliver murmured, staring at the carpet. "They were only rentboys."
There was a thud against the wardrobe door, and Harry jerked it open. Hermione fell out, her legs and hands and mouth bound with Incarcerous. She shouted at him, her words muffled, her eyes wild.
He caught her before she tumbled to the ground.
"That, Harry James Potter," she said with a glare, "is the last bloody favour I'm doing for you for quite a while."
"I don't suppose anyone's bothered to think about the person over here sodding bleeding to death, now have they?" Draco snapped, and Harry was next to him then, his hands pushing back the bloodstained sheet.
The cut was deep, but not as bad as it'd been the day before. Still. "Floo Ron," Harry said to Hermione, and she didn't stop to question.
Harry touched Draco's face lightly. "You'll be all right."
"I know." Draco caught Harry's hand in his, curling bloody fingers around his wrist.
Gemma looked away.
"You're not allowed to die," Harry said softly, and Draco laughed, then winced.
"Neither are you, you stupid sod." He glared up at Harry. "I do despise you, you realise."
Harry grinned down at him. "I don't think I'd have it any other way."
He didn't object when Draco kissed him.
Harry set the box on the table next to Draco's plate of eggs and toast.
"What's this?" Draco folded the Prophet, the Quidditch scores on the outside, the way Harry liked it, and handed it over.
"Present," Harry said, through a mouthful of sausage, and Draco rolled his eyes.
"Obviously." Draco slid his hands over the smooth wooden lid. "Why?"
"Just open it, you twat," Harry said, his cheerful tone belying the twinge of nervousness that somersaulted through his stomach. Perhaps it wasn't the best way to tell him. He might even be narked--two years living together, and Harry still managed to cock things up on a regular basis. Fortunately, Draco was easily appeased--and often distracted mid-rant--with sex.
On occasion Harry'd been known to annoy him purposely, just for the chance to have Draco's cock up his arse.
Draco lifted the lid and froze.
The wand lay on a black silk lining. It was as close to Draco's original as Harry'd been able to get without going to Ollivander's. He rather thought that'd be slightly in bad taste. Well. Hermione'd told him it would be, and for once he'd listened.
"I went to Paris for it," he said softly, and Draco's eyes flicked up to his.
"Idiot," he murmured. "I can't even use--"
Harry coughed. "Yes, well, about that."
Draco's eyes narrowed. "Potter, what have you done?"
"It took a bit," Harry said, shifting in his seat. "I had to pull a few strings and so did Ron, but the Wizengamot's dropped the restrictions on your magic." He smiled faintly. "We've been trying for six months now, and today, it's official."
Draco stared at him. "No more monitoring?"
Harry shook his head. "It's done."
Draco breathed out, then looked away. "Severus would be pleased."
"I should tell him," Draco said softly, running a finger across the wand. It sparked, tiny silver bursts of light against the black silk.
Harry touched his shoulder. "Yeah."
There was a moment's silence. Snape had died a year past; Draco still visited his grave every week. Harry'd always understood. It was impossible to let go completely.
A smile spread across Draco's face, lighting his eyes. His fingers curled around the wand. "You're a fucking sod."
And then Harry's back was on the table, Draco's mouth pressed to his. "I loathe you utterly, you realise," he said, sliding his hands down Harry's chest, "and always will."
"Of course." Harry smiled against Draco's skin.
Draco raised his head, his fingers pausing on the waistband of Harry's trousers. "You know what we can use this for?"
Harry blinked at him, then laughed. "Draco Malfoy, you're an entirely filthy-minded perve."
"And you're complaining?" Draco grinned down at him and Harry reached for him again, just as his mobile rang.
"Shit." He fumbled with his pocket, pulling the phone out. Draco grabbed it from him, and frowned down at the number.
"The detective inspector will be late, Gemma," he said into the phone and Harry swore. "Very, very late," Draco added, "so if anyone's dead, I'd suggest just sending the poor buggers on to the morgue because there's a rather good possibility that I've no intention of letting him up at all today. Right then, ta and all that Muggle shite."
Harry could hear his partner's laughter as Draco clicked the phone off and tossed it aside. It skittered across the kitchen floor. "I am so going to be sacked some day because of you."
"You're the one who keeps asking me to fuck you in your office. Now." Draco raised an eyebrow. "Where was I?"
"About to take my trousers off and shag the hell out of me with your wand?" Harry hooked a leg around Draco's hips, pulling him closer.
"I think that might have been it," Draco said against Harry's mouth, and Harry smiled.
Life, he thought, was a beautiful thing.