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There was a sudden ‘crack’ of sound and a shower of blue sparks, and Butterman hastily backed into the narrow, dank corridor.

“Merlin’s beard!” he gasped, wiping soot from his face. 

“No luck?” Anstruther asked, in a tone of voice that suggested he already knew the answer to the question.

Butterman shook his head.  “Not a thing.”  He scratched his beard thoughtfully with the end of his wand.  “I dunno, its like nothing I’ve ever come across...like a magical maze of a lock, only the maze keeps changing every time I take a wrong turn, and then boots me back to the start, so I can’t keep track of where I am or where I’m going...or even where I’ve been.  It’s bloody clever,” he added, with a hint of admiration in his voice.

There was another ‘crack’, this time one of apparition.

“Anything?”  Chase asked.

Butterman and Anstruther shook their heads.

Chase swore.  And all three turned to stare into the small niche in the corridor wall.

After a few moments silence, Anstruther turned to Chase. “Are you sure that not one of them had any idea what’s in these things?”

Chase shook his head.  “No, and for once I think they were all telling the truth; they all looked as if it was the first time they’d heard of the place.”

Anstruther looked back at the narrow cranny, barely big enough for a grown man to stand in, at the back of which was a small iron door.  “I suppose it’s possible; after all, we all know how secretive V...Voldemort was.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Chase turned his attention back to Butterman.  “Any ideas?”

Butterman pursed his lips, and then said, “One, but you’re not going to like it.”

“Go on.”

“These locks,” Butterman pointed into the niche with his wand.  “No one could remember the way—the maze is huge—so there have to be clues, signs to guide someone through, but I don’t know what they are, or even how to look for them.  We’re going to need someone who knows how to find those signs, someone who can find the way.”

Chase frowned.  “Someone who can find the way?”

“We’re going to need a tame Death Eater,” Butterman said bluntly. 

 “A Death Eater?” Chase demanded incredulously.

Butterman nodded.  “And not just any Death Eater.  You’re going to need someone from the top.  Someone who Voldemort trusted...as far as he was able to trust anyone.”

Anstruther looked at Chase.  “You’re not thinking what I’m thinking, are you?” 

Chase shook his head vehemently.  “No.  Absolutely not.  The Ministry would never sanction it.  And besides, what in Merlin’s name makes you think he’d agree anyway?  Didn’t he pull the old “I was Imperioused” out of the bag again?  If he admits to having any knowledge that might help us with this, it’d be tantamount to admitting he was complicit all along.”

Butterman slid his wand back into its slim leather holster.  “Then you can kiss goodbye to ever finding out what is behind all these doors.  I’m the best there is,” he added, without a trace of arrogance.  “If I can’t get through those locks, then no-one can.”

~~~ 

“I haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about,” Lucius Malfoy said coldly.

And rather predictably,’ Chase thought.

“And,” Malfoy continued, “I resent the implication behind the suggestion that I might.”

Anstruther opened his mouth to speak, but shut it again when Chase placed a quelling hand on his arm.  “Mister Malfoy,” Chase began, “I assure you that no-one in the Ministry is making any such implications, we merely wish to know if perhaps your, erm, subconscious, may remind you of anything that might help us; if you were, perhaps, to come along to the star and…”

Anstruther interrupted, “Of course the ministry do not doubt the veracity of your alibi, Mister Malfoy, but there are those amongst the general wizarding population who might.  Let’s just say, there are some who have reservations.  Your assisting us in this way would go a long way to proving to those few that you were indeed on the side of the Phoenix all along.”

Chase bit back a frustrated exclamation.  He had warned Anstruther not to say anything unless called upon to do so. 

Malfoy turned from where he had been gazing out of his library window, a scathing expression on his face.  “Oh, yes, I can see just how my assistance with this matter might be construed: ‘Malfoy’s knowledge proves he was in league with The Da...V...Voldemort,’” Malfoy stuttered over the name, “‘else how would he know such secrets?’” he continued.

This very argument had been voiced at the protracted assembly at the Ministry which had preceded this meeting.  So many voices had been raised in protest against asking Lucius Malfoy for any help whatsoever, and reasons for not doing so flew around the chamber.  It had been Butterman, in the end, who had been the deciding factor in the decision to approach the former Death Eater.  “You know,” he said, almost reflectively, when someone suggested that whatever secrets Voldemort had been keeping in the star may as well remain secret, for all he cared, “the rooms behind those doors may well be large enough to hold a person.” 

The chamber had fallen silent at his words, as those seated there thought about all those witches and wizards who were still listed as missing, and all those who did not know if their loved ones were alive or dead.  In the end, sense prevailed, if there was a chance, however small, that Malfoy could and would agree to help them, then he should be asked.

“Which is probably what you intended all along,” Malfoy went on.  “To discredit me.  I know there are many who look enviously at my fortune and my place in society.”

“Your former place in society,” Anstruther pointed out.

Malfoy glared at him.

Chase had been concerned that the conversation would take this turn.  He heaved a sigh.  There had been those who had hoped that Malfoy would offer his help willingly – on the whole, those poor, misguided fools who actually believed Lucius had been Imperioused all along – but Chase was not one of them.  “Mister Malfoy,” he said, “whilst we had hoped that you may be prepared to offer your help willingly—to demonstrate your commitment to the new order—we are not unprepared to use force if necessary, to, erm, persuade you, as it were.”

“How dare you?” Lucius hissed, his eyes like glaciers.  “You come into my home and threaten me?”

“Evidence is cropping up all the time,” Chase went on, “about the atrocities committed during the war.  However innocent you may, or may not be, the Ministry may just ‘find’ something of an incriminating nature that would seriously cast doubt upon your claims of being Imperioused.”

Chase could see Malfoy literally grinding his teeth in sheer rage.  But he knew he had just played his trump card…

“All right,” Malfoy snarled.  “Since you have backed me into a corner…”

And taken the trick’, Chase thought, with little pleasure.

~~~

They had called it the “star”, but Chase thought that a better description of the place he was currently standing was “rimless cart wheel”, of course, it didn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it did more accurately describe the underground structure. 

There was a large central chamber, in the centre of which, down a short flight of three stone steps, was a flagged, sunken area—the purpose of which eluded Chase—and from this central chamber five spokes radiated out; each “spoke” was a passageway, some twenty yards in length, along which, at regular intervals, were niches.  At the back of each niche was a locked door.

They were guessing that Voldemort has used the place as some sort of storeroom, until, that is, Butterman had made his comment.  Now they reluctantly entertained the idea that it might have been some sort of prison.

A year after the war, they did not, of course, expect to find anyone alive, if prisoners there were, but at least the discovery of human remains might be the source of closure for those who were still missing relatives and loved ones.

Chase let out a sigh.  Even though they had forced Lucius Malfoy into agreeing to come to the star, he, for one, had very little confidence that Lucius would actually help them in any way.   They could, of course, use veritaserum to force an admission of knowledge, but that would do them no good when it came to the actual disabling of the locks.  Either Malfoy would help, or, as Chase suspected, he wouldn’t.

But then Chase had not credited Lucius Malfoy with one ounce of compassion.  He was wrong.

Malfoy had been brought to the star, along with several other ministry officials and Aurors, and Chase regarded the man keenly as Malfoy gazed about him, without any sign that the star was at all familiar; Chase’s heart sank even further.

An elderly witch approached Malfoy as the others were busy organising themselves, and Chase watched as she laid a hand on the man’s arm, looking earnestly up at the former Death Eater.  Chase moved closer to hear what she was saying. 

“Please, Mister Malfoy, if you know…if your subconscious remembers anything, anything at all, please help us.”

Chase recalled the witch’s name as being Lorinda Merryweather…and that she had lost her daughter and her granddaughter during the war, ‘whereabouts unknown’.

Malfoy had gone still, his face a frozen mask as the old woman’s grip tightened on his arm, but he made no move away from her.

“My daughter, Carlyn, and my granddaughter, Morwenna, both lost.  If they are here, somewhere…I know…I know they won’t be alive but…but…and so many others…”

Madam Merryweather’s voice broke and, letting go of Malfoy’s arm, she pressed a large handkerchief to her streaming eyes, and turned away.

Chase watched with surprise as a frown appeared on Malfoy’s face as he watched the elderly woman totter away.  It was not a frown of annoyance, as Chase had expected, but rather one of…of something else that Chase couldn’t quite put his finger on, but perhaps a mix of concern, of understanding of another’s suffering, of, perhaps, guilt.

“Let me see these locks then,” Malfoy’s voice rang out over the assembled troop, and Chase stepped forward to lead Malfoy into the first passageway.

The niches were small, and Chase stepped aside to allow Malfoy to enter the tight space.  Several minutes went by, and the crowd of Aurors and officials talked softly in the background, but Chase’s attention was fixed on Malfoy. 

Wandless, as he had been since his release from custody, Malfoy simply placed his hand on the door and closed his eyes.  To Chase’s sceptical gaze, it simply looked as if Malfoy was putting on a show: he would say he’d given it his best shot, and that he couldn’t help.

But then Malfoy stepped out of the niche and turned to face the small crowd that had followed them into the passageway.

“This place is completely unfamiliar to me,” Malfoy began...

Soft groans sounded from some of those assembled.

“But I am familiar with this type of lock,” Malfoy continued.  “However, there is somewhat of a dilemma.  The locks are rather like...like a maze in construction…”

Chase caught Butterman’s eye, and found the man was grinning on finding that he had been correct.

“But I do not have the power to push between the hedges, so to speak,” Malfoy went on.  “As you all know, much as you... ah, we…regarded Voldemort as an enemy, I am sure none of you will deny that he was a very powerful wizard?”

There was some grumbling and muttering at this remark, but no voice was raised in disagreement.

“I can guide,” Malfoy continued, “but I will need someone with sufficient power to push the way through.”

There were a few moments silence as those assembled put two and two together and made…

“Harry Potter,” someone said.

“Harry Potter!”  Others took up the cry.  “He’s the most powerful wizard there is…more powerful even than Voldemort!  Harry Potter!”

~~~

Harry Potter answered the door to his little cottage at Godrick’s Hollow, casually dressed in blue jeans and a jumper pushed up to his elbows; he looked relaxed and cheerful as he led Chase through to the kitchen at the back of the house, padding with bare feet along the polished wood floor.  Chase followed him, expecting his visit to Mister Potter to be much easier than the one he had paid to Lucius Malfoy. 

“I’ve just put the kettle on,” Harry said, “would you like a cup of something?”

Chase was gratified by the offer of a hot drink. “A coffee would be great, thanks,” he replied.  “White with half a sugar; I’m not quite sweet enough,” Chase went on, adding his usual excuse for his half a spoon of sugar.  

Harry grinned, and then busied himself making the drinks, whilst Chase took a seat at the kitchen table and looked about him.  There was a comfortable feel about the place, not so tidy that it didn’t look lived in, but neat enough.  At the other end of the kitchen from where they had entered was a split, stable type door, the top half of which had been opened to let in the early spring sunshine and fresh air.  There were a number of recipe books stacked up on a small shelf, next to a rack holding an impressive number of spice jars.  So, Mister Potter liked to cook, Chase mused.  He wondered just how often Harry got to do that: although the number of celebratory functions had decreased somewhat since the early days immediately after the war, Harry’s picture still seemed to feature in every other edition of the Prophet as he attended some party or other. 

Harry finished making the drinks, and he smiled as he turned to Chase and proffered a mug of coffee, then took a seat at the kitchen table. 

“Now, what can I do for you, Mister Chase?” he asked.

“When we were going through Voldemort’s possessions,” Chase began, noting the frown which appeared on Harry’s face at the mention of Voldemort, “we came across a diary of sorts.” 

Harry looked surprised, and then concerned.  “A diary?” he queried, his voice suddenly flat.

Chase was momentarily puzzled, until he recalled the diary which Lucius Malfoy had planted on the one of the Weasley children, back in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts.  It was an unfortunate reminder of one of the many bad experiences Harry had suffered as a result of Lucius Malfoy.  He cleared this throat, “Yes; one in which Voldemort had kept notes and such.  It was written in a code that up until recently we were unable to decipher...”

“And now you have,” Harry finished. 

“Yes, yes indeed we have.”  Chase took a sip of his coffee, and then went on.  “Well, to cut a long story short, it led us to the star.” 

“The what?” Harry queried, frowning again. 

“It’s what we call it, because it’s shaped like a star - it has a central hub and corridors leading off like spokes, and leading off those corridors are rooms.” 

Harry expression went bleak.  “What’s in them?” he asked, as if he didn’t really want to know the answer. 

“Well, that’s just it, we don’t know.” 

“And you think I might?” Harry asked incredulously. 

“Oh, no, we just...well,” now he was getting to the crux of the matter, Chase found himself hesitating, and had to remind himself that after all had been said and done, this was their only chance of finding out what the rooms contained, and surely whatever he thought of Lucius Malfoy, Harry was certain to want to help in any way he could.  “We’ve had our locks expert on the job for the last three weeks, and believe me when I say he’s the very best there is, but even he can’t open them.”

“What’s this about, Mister Chase?”  Harry asked, his tone hardening and his relaxed air disappearing to be replaced by one of suspicion. 

“The locks are like mazes, but every time you take a wrong turn, the maze changes...and sends you rather unceremoniously back to the start,” Chase explained.  “We have someone who can find a way through the maze, but he needs someone, a powerful wizard to be precise, to push, so to speak.” 

“That “powerful wizard” being me, I take it?” 

Chase nodded. 

“And who would be guiding?”  Harry’s gaze was intent. 

Chase met it with difficulty, and he had to force himself to speak, “Lucius Malfoy.” 

“No.”  Harry’s voice was flat and firm, his expression steely.  “If that is all, then...”  Harry began to rise from his seat in preparation for showing Chase the door. 

“Please, Mister Potter, let me finish.” 

“There is no need for you to say anything else.  I will not work with that man, and that is final.”

“Then you will leave a lot of people wondering for the rest of their lives if their missing loved ones are behind those doors.”  His frustration caused Chase to snap.  

Harry slowly retook his seat.

Chase sighed. “Look, I understand your feelings, and, believe me, if there was anyone else, any other way...but there isn’t.  We’ve been round and round the houses, trying to find a solution that didn’t involve Lucius Malfoy, but sadly he,”  Chase looked Harry in the eye, “and you,” he went on, “are our only hope of finding a way through those doors and finding out what is on the other side.  If it was just a matter of some dubious dark arts stuff, well, we could probably have just shut up the star and left it to disappear, but those doors are big enough to be the doors to cells, and whilst we don’t know for sure if that’s what Voldemort was using them for...” 

“You have to find out,” Harry finished.  His angry expression had faded, but he still looked grim.  He stared at Chase for a few moments, and then he said, “And there really is no other way?” 

Chase shook his head.  “We really have tried everything, Mister Potter.” 

Harry bit his lip, dropping his eyes to his mug of coffee.  Chase stayed silent, knowing nothing he said now could change anything, either Harry would help them, or he wouldn’t. 

“Okay,” Harry said, so quietly that Chase only just heard him. 

“Oh, thank you, Mister Potter.  And I give you my word you will have as little to do with Mister Malfoy as possible.”

Harry looked up at him.  “I’ll hold you to that,” he said.

~~~

The man from the Ministry, Chase, Harry recalled, came to collect him the next morning, perhaps fearing that if he delayed, Harry might change his mind about helping them.  Harry had indeed spent a sleepless night debating this very idea, but in the end the thought that the cells might contain prisoners had made Harry realise that, despite his loathing of Lucius Malfoy, there was no way he couldn’t offer whatever help he could to open the cell doors.

They apparated into a large sunken circular area surrounded by steps leading up to a stone platform, off which led five passages, like the spokes on a wheel.  Chase had given Harry a few details about the star, but even if he hadn’t, Harry would have guessed they were underground, just from the feeling of claustrophobia and the sense of weight above his head.  There were a few smoking torches in brackets around the stone walls, but the place was gloomy and dank, and there was an oppressive feeling in the air.  Harry gazed about him, and shuddered.  Then he caught sight of Lucius Malfoy, chatting quietly to a short, heavily bearded wizard.  Just as he looked in Malfoy’s direction, Malfoy turned and met his gaze, then gave a slight nod in Harry’s direction, and turned back to resume his conversation.  Cold tingles scampered down Harry’s spine, and he had to remind himself that he was a grown man now, and had nothing to fear from the ex-Death Eater before him.   

“If you would care to join Mister Malfoy and Mister Butterman?” Chase said to Harry, gesturing towards Lucius and the other wizard.  “Mister Butterman is our chief lock breaker,” he added as he led the way toward the two men. 

“The one who failed to open these devilishly tricksy things,” Butterman said, reaching his hand out to Harry.  “Pleased to meet you, Mister Potter.”

Harry shook the man’s hand, then forced his gaze to Malfoy, who, thankfully, was not proffering his hand to be shaken. 

“Shall we get on with this then?”  Chase said.  He indicated towards the nearest passageway.

With hesitant steps, Harry followed the others up the stairs and on to the surrounding stone platform, and then into the nearest passageway.  He had always suffered from mild claustrophobia, and just being underground was bad enough, now the narrowness of the corridor was making it worse, as was the small crowd of Ministry officials who had turned out to watch the proceedings, and who now followed them into the confined space. 

“Here we are,” Butterman said, halting by a niche in the wall and indicating inside.  

Harry peered into the gloomy recess and made out a door which appeared to be made of black steel.  “Can you not just blast it open?” he asked. 

“Sadly, no,” Butterman replied. “That was one of our first approaches...poor Skuttleman is still in Saint Mungo’s,” he added.  “Some sort of incendiary spell built into the fabric of the door itself, so we can’t even access whatever spell it is to try and disable it.  Whatever is behind these doors, Voldemort was pretty keen on keeping it secret and safe.”  There was a note of grudging respect in Butterman’s voice.

Harry turned back to the door.  “So, how do we do this?”

Butterman turned to Malfoy.  “Mister Malfoy?  What do you think?”

But Malfoy’s eyes were on Harry.  “We do nothing,” Malfoy said.  “This isn’t going to work.”

There was a gasp and then various exclamations from those assembled.  Chase frowned.  “But I thought you said...” he began.

“There is a way we can open these doors,” Malfoy interrupted him, “but that way involves a fair degree of trust between the one who guides and the one who pushes.  I see that Mister Potter does not trust me, and I don’t think he ever will, to the extent he needs to, to make this work.”

There was a stunned silence.  Then Chase said, “But...but can you not at least try?  I know things might be a tad difficult at first, but surely....for the sake of....”  He trailed off, looking desperately between Malfoy and Harry.

Harry felt a range of conflicting emotions.  Here was his get out, his way to avoid having to have anything to do with Lucius bloody Malfoy...but Harry also had a conscience, and that conscience wouldn’t let him take the easy way out.  Besides, he was damned if he was going to profit from any decision made by Malfoy.  “I don’t like you,” he said, staring hard at Malfoy, “I have never liked you, and never will, but at least I am willing to put my feelings to one side and give this a go.”

“You’re willing to let me perform the Argilaith on you, are you?”

There was another gasp from the Ministry officials, but before Harry had a chance to ask what exactly Argilaith was, Chase butted in, “Mister Malfoy?  You never said that spell was to be used!  It’s been forbidden for years!”

Malfoy looked around at them.  “That is the only spell which will enable me to guide Mister Potter.  I was under the impression you wanted the doors open at all costs; if I am wrong, then there is nothing I can do for you.  Please return me to my home.”  He turned to make his way back to the centre of the star.

“Wait!”  Chase called.

Malfoy halted, but did not turn around.

“I will see if I can get the Ministry to sanction the use of the spell...”

Malfoy turned back.  “There is little point in you bothering; as I said before,  Mister Potter needs to trust me to perform the Argilaith on him, and I very much doubt he will once you have explained it to him,” he added, having obviously discerned from Harry’s expression that he had no idea what the Argilaith spell was.  He turned again to leave, and this time Chase let him go. 

A few seconds later there was a crack as Malfoy was apparated away.  Harry turned to Chase.  “What’s going on?” he asked.  “What’s this Argilaith spell anyway?”

“It’s like a meld of Legilimens and Imperious.  It allows the caster to share your mind: to feel what you feel, to experience your emotions, your thoughts, but it also allows them to guide you, as Mister Malfoy says.  It is almost like they move their mind into yours, and yet you still retain your free will, you are conscious of their presence...it’s very personal.  I should have known,” Chase went on, almost to himself.  “It makes sense that they would have used this spell; it would be very good for what they wanted it for.”

Harry frowned.  “So, if Malfoy casts this spell on me, he will know what’s in my head?”

Chase nodded.  “Whatever emotions you experience, he will share them.”

“Can he...can he control me?”

“No, he can strongly suggest, but you will retain your free will at all times.” 

Harry bit his lip.  “I don’t think him seeing my hidden thoughts will be a problem...as long as he doesn’t mind that I hate his guts, which I think he already knows.”  Harry smiled weakly.  “And anyway, I can shield my mind pretty well these days.”

“Not from Argilaith you can’t,” Chase said.  “Your mind would be an open book, and Mister Malfoy could turn to any page he wanted.  Look,” he went on, “we can’t do any more today.  I need to see if I can get permission for this spell to be used...and you need to think hard about whether you are really prepared to carry on with this.  I know it would be an unhappy state of affairs if we can’t get into these rooms, but if you really don’t think you can do this, then no one will think any less of you when they know about the Argilaith spell.”

“Do you think Malfoy will come back?” Harry asked.

Chase looked thoughtful.  “Actually, yes, I think he will.  It would go a long way toward answering his question of you trusting him, if you agreed for him to cast the spell.  But as I said before, you really need to be sure you are happy to proceed.  I’ll get someone to take you home,” he finished.  “I have to go to the Ministry to see a man about a spell.”  Chase smiled weakly, and then took two steps to go, before turning back to Harry.  “One thing I would ask, Mister Potter, is that you do not mention the existence of the star to anyone....I’m sure you understand?”

Harry nodded.  “Okay.”

~~~ 

“Mione, have you ever heard of something called the...Argilaith spell?”  Harry asked, as casually has he could.  He was with Ron and Hermione in the Golden Dragon pub in Godrick’s Hollow: a place that had become a firm favourite with the trio; so much so that they even had a regular table, in a corner by the vast inglenook fireplace where a fire burned on even the most clement of summer days.

Hermione put on her thinking face.  “Hmm, let me see, Argilaith, Argilaith.... Oh!  Yes!  I remember now.  It’s sort of a mix of Legilimens and Imperious, although not totally like either.  It’s been forbidden for years, though.  Where did you hear about it?”

“It...it was mentioned in some book I was reading,” Harry lied, trying not to let a tell-tale blush of guilt stain his face.  “I just wondered what it was,” he added, knowing that Hermione could never resist imparting information.

“Well, as I said,” Hermione began, going into “professor” mode, “it is a mix of both the Legilimens and the Imperious spells, but with differences. It allows the caster to sort of enter the mind of the subject, to experience everything in their head, their thoughts, feelings, emotions, in great depth.  So, like Legilimens, the caster can see memories, but the spell was usually used to share experiences as they happened, rather than to relive the past.  And like Imperious, the caster can influence the way the subject acts, but unlike Imperious, the subject does retain free will.  Actually,” Hermione’s face reddened, “it was often used between lovers, to share, erm, lovemaking emotions,” she said delicately, “the caster gets to experience both sides of the...erm, well...you get the picture,” she finished quickly.  “But it is a tricky spell, and the caster really had to know what they were doing, because there was a risk of disassociation.  Of the caster losing a grip of their own mind and not being able to retrieve it,” Hermione explained, taking in the blank look on Harry’s face.  “It is one of only a very few spells which were forbidden because they pose a risk to the caster rather than to the subject.” 

“What’s this?” Ron asked, returning from the bar with a round of drinks.

“Oh, just some spell I came across in a book and hadn’t heard of,” Harry said quickly.

“Oh, right,” Ron said with obvious disinterest, as he plonked the drinks on the table.  “Have you heard that Evans has left the Derby Dominators?” he then blurted excitedly.

“No!  Really?” Harry was grateful for the change of subject, and seized on it with relief.  “So, who’s she going to play for now?”

Later, alone in his cottage after Ron and Hermione had gone off for tea at The Burrow (an invitation which had included Harry as well, but which he had cried off, having too much on his mind,) Harry sat and stared into the creeping darkness, thinking about what Hermione had said about the Argilaith spell.  He had assumed that the spell had been forbidden because of its invasive nature on the subject, not because of the risk to the caster.  It caused him to re-evaluate Malfoy’s offer to help the Ministry: as far as he could see, Malfoy had everything to lose and very little to gain, so the question was, why was the man offering his assistance?  The cynical and more realistic part of Harry assumed it was because Malfoy had been coerced by the Ministry in some way, but there was a small, quiet voice deep inside him that wondered whether it was perhaps because Malfoy was in some way trying to make up for his past wrongdoings.  Malfoy could, Harry assumed, have tried to weasel his way out of helping by simply saying he didn’t know anything about the locks, or perhaps by trying, and then failing, to open them himself, but it was Harry’s understanding that Malfoy had offered the information about how to open the locks by using the Argilaith spell without prompting, and he had had nothing to do with the selection of Harry to help him open the locks.  Although Harry had to endure Malfoy in his mind, knowing his every thought and feeling, Malfoy himself ran the risk in the first place of suffering disassociation as a consequence of the spell, or, if they did manage to open the doors, of something of an incriminating nature coming to light which would cast serious doubt over his claim that he was acting under Imperious (which Harry and countless others already suspected was a complete lie.) 

Somehow, somewhere, there must be something in it for Malfoy, Harry decided.  And he was going to make damn sure he was around to stop whatever wicked scheme the former Death Eater had up his sleeve.  His mind made up about what he was going to do, Harry yawned, stretched, and then went to bed.

The following morning he sent an owl to Chase at the Ministry.  The reply came swiftly. 

Dear Mister Potter,

Thank you so much for agreeing to help.  I have cleared the use of the Argilaith spell with the Minister, and Mister Malfoy has agreed to meet with us again at the star to try and see if the spell will work.

I will collect you at 3pm this afternoon, if that is convenient.

Yours etc,

Fidelian Chase

~~~

 There were far fewer people in the star when Harry apparated in with Chase; only Malfoy and another man from the Ministry whom Harry didn’t know.

“No Mister Butterman?” Harry asked.

Chase smiled ruefully.  “Sadly, and much to his disappointment, he has been called away on another job.  And, we, well, we thought it might be better if there were perhaps a few less spectators, bearing in mind the spell requires some considerable concentration.”  He glanced at Malfoy, who was watching them both with an unreadable expression.

Harry swallowed.  “So, how does this work?” he asked.

It was Malfoy who answered him.  “Have you been made fully aware of what the Argilaith spell entails, Mister Potter? 

Harry nodded.  “I...I asked Hermione; she gave me the details.” 

“I see.  And are you still willing to let me perform the spell?” 

“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t, would I?” Harry snapped. 

“Gentlemen, shall we proceed?” Chase interrupted, obviously trying to defuse the increasing tension.  “Perhaps a trial run before we attempt a door?  Just to see if you two can connect, as it were?”

Harry took a deep breath.  “Okay, go ahead,” he said, with a sanguinity he certainly wasn’t feeling.

Malfoy smiled thinly.  “Ah, no, Mister Potter, the spell is not quite like others you are used to.  The Argilaith requires that we are in close contact...did Miss Granger not tell you that bit?”

“What?  What do you mean?”  Harry’s stomach suddenly seemed to be trying to tie itself into a monkey’s head knot.

Malfoy stepped towards him.  “It means, Mister Potter, that your body will have to be against mine for this to work.”

“Against you?”  Harry was annoyed at the squeak in his voice.

“Face to face, or your back to my chest?” Malfoy asked, his eyes never leaving Harry’s.

Harry tried to detect some sign that Malfoy was teasing him, but the older wizard’s face was expressionless, and neither Chase nor the other Ministry official looked as if they thought anything was out of the ordinary.  “Erm...” deciding that the last thing he wanted was to be staring in Malfoy’s eyes, Harry chose the latter option.  “My back to your chest,” he managed to say, and then turned around.

It was hard to suppress a shudder when Malfoy’s chest pressed to his back, and Malfoy’s arms came around him, holding him like a lover.

“Try to calm down, Mister Potter,” Malfoy’s voice sounded close to Harry’s ear.  “The spell works much better if you are relaxed.”

Harry took a deep breath, and tried to ease the tension in his body.

“Good.” Malfoy’s voice was soft in his ear again.  “Now, close your eyes.”

There was nothing at first, just the soft sound of Malfoy breathing and an occasional sputter from one of the nearby torches, but then Harry felt something sparkle in his mind.  It was like looking into the night sky and seeing a star twinkling...a star that became brighter and brighter.  It was so fascinating, that Harry almost forgot what was happening to him, until he heard a voice in his head that wasn’t his. 

We are connected,” Malfoy said.  His voice sounded soft and distant, but there nonetheless.

Harry jumped.

Steady!”  Malfoy said urgently.  “It’s tricky to do this, and I need you to stay calm and focused.”

Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Now, listen.  I’m going to direct you to one of the torches, and then you are going to put it out.  Keep your eyes closed, and just focus on the images I’m sending you.  All right?”

“Yes,” Harry said softly.

The star still twinkled in his head, but now another image formed: a torch on a wall half way down one of the corridors.  Harry wordlessly cast the Nox spell at it, and the torch went out.

Well done!”  Malfoy said in his head.  He sounded impressed, and Harry felt an unreasonable sense of pride.  “You are right to be proud,” Malfoy said, and Harry was abruptly reminded that Malfoy had full access to all his thoughts.  “You did extremely well for a first attempt.  I actually think there is a chance we can do this.”

The star in Harry’s head went out, and he was released from Malfoy’s arms.  The older wizard stepped away.

“Did it work?” Chase asked eagerly.

Malfoy nodded.  “Most effectively.”

“Oh!  Well done, both of you,” Chase exclaimed enthusiastically.  “That was really impressive for a first go.  Sometimes it takes several attempts to create a link.”  He beamed at Harry and Malfoy.  “So, do you think you could try a lock?”

Harry glanced at Malfoy.  “I’m game,” he said.

Malfoy nodded.  “We can try, but first, let me explain to Mister Potter how this will work.  As I said before, the locks are like a maze.  I can find the way through the maze, there are clues and signs to point the way, but you will need to walk the route, so to speak.  When we come to junctions, I will point you in the right direction, and you will make your way to the next junction...and so on.  Do you understand?”

Harry nodded.  “I think so.”  Then he added, “Will it look like a maze, with hedges or walls?  I know that’s probably a silly question, but I want to know what to expect.” “It’s not a silly question at all,” Malfoy said.  “Obviously the lock does not have actual hedges.” He smiled. “But as I am projecting the image into your head, I can make it whatever you feel most comfortable with, although it won’t appear as that to me.”

Harry stared at him for a moment.  “Oh, right, erm, well as I think we’re going to be pretty sick of the stone walls down here before we’ve finished, how about hedges?”

It was Malfoy’s turn to nod.  “As you like.  Well then, shall we?”  He indicated the nearest corridor.

Harry turned to look into it, and then followed Malfoy when he began to make his way up the steps.

They halted before the first door.

Malfoy turned to Harry.  “For what it is worth, Mister Potter, you have my word that I will only do what is necessary to open the locks; I will not invade your thoughts or memories in any ther way.”

Harry returned Malfoy’s gaze steadily.  “Would I know if you had?”

Malfoy shook his head.  “No, you would not.”

“So, I won’t know if you have kept your word then, will I?”

“That’s where the trust comes in, Mister Potter,” Malfoy replied, his grey eyes fixed on Harry.

Harry took a deep breath.  “Okay; let’s get on with this, shall we?”

Malfoy gave him one last look, and then gestured towards the door. “If you step into the niche,” he instructed.

Harry did so, not liking the narrow confines of it one little bit.

“Now,” Malfoy went on.  “I will be behind you...so.”

He stepped behind Harry, and put one arm around Harry’s chest, bringing them close together.  He stretched his other hand out to the door and laid it flat on the steel.  Harry shut his eyes and waited for the star to appear in his head.  After a few seconds it did so. 

Ready?” Malfoy said in Harry’s head.

Harry was about to vocalise a “yes”, when he thought he would try not saying anything, but just thinking his answer.

In his head, Malfoy said, “Well done, Mister Potter.  Now, let’s see what we can do.”

The first image came slowly: first a soft, hazy green, and then hedges forming an entrance.  Harry felt a nudge in his head, and he stepped forward into the maze.  There were three options, left, right and straight on.  Harry waited for a direction, and then, at Malfoy’s prompting, turned left.

Harry had no idea how long it took to navigate the maze.  The deeper they went, the longer it took for Malfoy to nudge him in the right direction, and the more force of will Harry needed to push along the route, but all of a sudden they were in the centre of the maze and there was an audible “click”.

The star abruptly winked out in Harry’s head, and he staggered as Malfoy stepped away.  Harry’s whole body ached, and his head throbbed as if he had awoken the morning after an especially riotous party.  He pressed a hand to his temple, backed out of the niche and turned around.  The first thing he saw was Chase supporting Malfoy; he looked exhausted and was pale and sweating. 

“Is he alright?”  Harry asked.

“It has just taken a lot of Mister Malfoy’s energy to guide you.” Chase replied.  “He’ll be all right soon.  Let’s get you to a chair,” he said to Malfoy, supporting the man down the steps into the centre of the star where a couple of chairs had been set up.  Everyone seemed to have forgotten that they had opened the lock, except Harry.

He turned back to the door and put his hand on the handle.  He was just about to open it, when there was a crack of apparition and Butterman appeared. 

“Have you tried it?  Did it work?  I’m so cross I couldn’t come earlier...that idiot Jenkins triggered a clorigel lock and got himself stuck.”  He noticed Harry stood by the door.  “Don’t open that!” he said urgently, hurrying to Harry’s side.  “Let me check it first,” he went on, extracting his wand from his holster.  Chase and the other Ministry official joined them, leaving Malfoy alone.  Harry stepped away from the door with mixed feelings.  On the one hand he had not wanted to open the door, afraid of what might be behind it; on the other hand, opening it had seemed like a just reward for having conquered the lock.

Butterman pointed his wand at the door and uttered several incantations under his breath.  Nothing happened.  Butterman beamed.  “Oh, well done!  It is open – no tricks, traps or bogey men left.  Chase?  Do you want to do the honours?”

Chase turned to Malfoy.  “Mister Malfoy?  Do you wish to...?”

Malfoy shook his head, and to Harry’s eyes, even that seemed like an effort.

Chase returned his attention to the door, and reached for the handle.  It seemed like everyone held their breath for a moment, and then Chase turned the handle and opened the door.  They all craned in for a look, but there was nothing to see, aside from a dark, empty cell of a room.  The sense of anticlimax was almost palpable.  Butterman let out a sigh.  “Oh.  Oh well, at least there’s no body,” he said pragmatically.

Chase stepped into the little room.  “Well, you were right, Butterman.  These rooms are easily big enough for prisoners.”

Butterman went off to speak with Malfoy about the lock opening, and the man from the Ministry apparated away – presumably to report back to some department at the Ministry, leaving Chase and Harry to examine the empty cell.  It measured approximately four feet long by the width of the door across, and on the side facing the door there was a low shelf.  It was dank, cold and the air smelt stale.  Harry shuddered at the thought of anyone being incarcerated in such a tiny box, with no light and no way of knowing if they were ever going to be let out.

Harry stepped back into the corridor, wondering what was going to happen now.  “So, shall we try another door?” he asked Chase.

Chase shook his head.  “In the first place, I don’t think we have time...”

Harry glanced at his watch.  “Buggering hell!” he exclaimed, hardly believing his eyes.  “Is that right? It’s taken us over four hours?”

“Yes.  We knew it would take time, but it did take rather longer than we thought...it’s amazing Mister Malfoy managed to hold the Argilaith for so long.  Although,” he went on, glancing towards where Malfoy was talking in a low voice with Butterman, “I think it’s taken its toll on him.  I doubt he’d be up to another door, even if we did have the time.  I rather fear, Mister Potter, that this job is going to be a lengthy one,” Chase added, turning his attention back to Harry.  “Although, hopefully the more you do, the quicker it will become.  When do you think you will be able to come again?”  There was a hopeful look in Chase’s eyes.

 Harry thought about it.  He wanted to get this job, and his contact with Malfoy, over and done with as soon as possible.  “Tomorrow?” he suggested.

“Oh, yes, if you could, Mister Potter, that would be excellent.  Perhaps, if we start early enough, we can get a couple of doors done?  Although we will have to see how Mister Malfoy holds up,” he added, casting another look of concern at Malfoy.  “Do you not feel any affects yourself, Mister Potter?” he added, turning back to Harry.

“I’ve a bit of headache, and I feel pretty tired, but I’m okay.”

“Excellent, excellent.  Well, let’s see if tomorrow is all right with Mister Malfoy.

It was, and so Harry found himself back at the star with Chase, Malfoy, Butterman and the man from the Ministry, whom Chase belatedly introduced as Carnaby Rooke, the following morning.  Malfoy looked pale, and there were shadows under his eyes, but he assured Chase he was fine when asked.

They went to the door next to the one they had opened the day before, deciding to keep going down the same corridor.  Once more Harry stepped into the alcove and waited for the feel of Malfoy’s chest against his back, and Malfoy’s arm around him.  He heard Malfoy take a deep breath, and then slowly the star blinked into existence in Harry’s mind.  The greenery of hedges appeared next, and soon Harry was deep in the maze with Malfoy nudging him at every junction.  Again, the sharp “click” of unlocking brought Harry back to reality.  Malfoy was leaning heavily against Harry, and it took a moment for him to step away.

Harry checked his watch.  It had taken them slightly less time to open this lock, but only by ten minutes or so.  At this rate, they would only be opening two doors a day, if Malfoy couldkeep going.  Harry glanced at the older wizard.  Malfoy was again looking exhausted, and once again Chase led him to the seats in the centre of the star.

This time it was Rooke who opened the door after Butterman had given the all clear. 

The cell was identical to the first one they had opened, but this time it wasn’t empty.  A small leather, brass bound chest sat on the shelf.  Rooke reached for his wand and cautiously approached the box, muttering a spell under his breath.  Obviously having found no threat, he reached out and opened the box, and then recoiled.  But the snake inside was dead, Harry saw, when Rooke brought the casket out into the corridor.  Still, it looked very life-like and Harry could understand Rooke’s startled reaction.

The four of them stared at the dead snake, looks of bewilderment on their faces.

“Why would anyone keep a dead snake in a box?” Butterman asked.

“Perhaps it wasn’t dead when it was put in?” Chase hazarded.

“Something to do with some dark magic or other,” Rooke guessed.  “I’ll take it to the department,” he added.  “See what they can make of it there.  Are you going to have a break now?  Come back after some lunch?”

Chase looked over to where Malfoy was still seated.  “I think so. I certainly think Mister Malfoy needs to rest.  Although Mister Potter here seems to be holding up pretty well.”  He turned his gaze on Harry, a look of admiration on his face.

Harry shrugged.  “I’m okay.  Just a bit of a headache again, but I would appreciate a break as well.”

“Right then.  Butterman, can you take Mister Malfoy home, and I’ll drop Mister Potter off?”

“Can you please call me Harry?  And, surely I can take myself home?” Harry asked. 

“Ah, no, sorry, Mis...Harry.  The star is locked in other ways – we have had to tie the apparition point into a ministry spell, so only a very few ministry officials have access – myself, Butterman here, Minister Rooke, the Minister for Magic himself, and a couple of others.  We didn’t want a free for all,” he added.  “Those who were here when you first came had all been brought side-a-long, and a right phaff it was as well,” he went on.  “The Argilaith spell was actually a pretty good reason for keeping them away, not that there wasn’t a good deal of moaning!  So, I’m afraid you will have to be collected and dropped off.  I’m sorry.” 

Harry shrugged.  “It’s not a problem.  I just thought it would save someone a job.”

“Meet back here at 2pm?” Rooke suggested.

It became a pattern of their days: Harry would be collected, by Chase more often than not, at around 9am, then they would go to the star; he and Malfoy would work their way through a lock, then a break for lunch for an hour or so, and then back at the star for another door.  It took them ten days to do the first run of doors down one side of one corridor.  By the end of it both Harry and Malfoy were exhausted and all they had to show for their trials was a leather bag containing glass jars—the contents of which looked completely desiccated, as if they had been recovered from the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh—a small collection of clay tablets etched with some kind of script, a bundle of clothing—which had given them all a moment’s horror when they thought it was a corpse—and a pile of mouldy books which were so damp they were unreadable.

It was late on the evening of the tenth day, and they had just finished the last door of the first run.  They had made a wrong turn on the lock, very close to the end, and had had to start again, and so they were all exhausted, but none of them seemed to be able to find the energy to go home. 

“All we’ve found is just so much rubbish,” Chase said with a sigh.  “Why was he keeping all this?”  

They were gathered in the centre of the star, seated on the chairs which had been transmogrified from hard wooden ones, to comfortable soft armchairs.  Over the last few days, a small stove had appeared, along with cups and the means to make tea and coffee, and a desk and a chair, at which Rooke spent most of his time, pouring over paperwork.

“My department has come up with nothing, nothing to link anything we’ve found, and none of it has any magical connection – not even the snake,” Rooke said dispiritedly.

“And the worst bit of it is, that all the cells might contain the same rubbish...or they may not, and there is no way we are going to know, unless we open every door,” Chase added.

Malfoy had been leaning back in his chair, his eyes closed, but now sat up and opened his eyes.  “I wish I could help you,” he said quietly, “but you have to believe me when I say that I really do have no knowledge of this place; I’ve never even heard mention of it, from anyone.” 

There was a short silence, and then Butterman leaned over and patted Malfoy’s arm.  “It’s all right, Mister Malfoy, we do believe you – no one would put themselves through what you have gone through, by choice.” 

Harry glanced over to Malfoy, and suddenly realised he was seeing the man, not the former Death Eater.   Yes, he saw the familiar, elegantly dressed wizard, long blond hair tied at the nape of his neck with a black ribbon; slim-fingered hands with neatly manicured nails; he saw the smooth, pale skin and the grey eyes fringed by long, dark lashes...but now he also saw the fine lines around the corners of Malfoy’s eyes, which spoke of laughter in another place and another time, the slight quirk of the mouth which tilted it up slightly to the left, as if Malfoy was about to smile; the trace of scars on the back of Malfoy’s left hand, and the way his fingers continually rubbed at the fabric covering one of his knees; he saw the way Malfoy’s shoulders sagged, as if under a great weight; and when Malfoy suddenly looked over at him, Harry saw that instead of the cold grey he had always assumed they were, Malfoy’s eyes were in fact a soft, dove grey , and he noticed how tired they looked. 

“Time to go, I think.”  Rooke broke the silence, and Harry’s contemplation of Malfoy; he quickly looked away. 

They all got to their feet, then Butterman Apparated away, with talk of pints in The Laughing Donkey, Rooke took Malfoy, and Chase took Harry back home. 

That night Harry dreamed of the star.  The hub span, and the doors spiralled into darkness, always more of them, ever on and on, and Harry rushed from one to another, searching, searching...for what he did not know, and the star turned faster and faster, and Harry was whirled along with it...until arms caught and held him, and then there was an island of calm in the storm, and the centre of the island was a pair of fine, grey eyes, which held Harry steady amidst the tumult.

~~~

Harry stirred his cornflakes around the bowl, and contemplated whether he should contact Chase and tell the man he wouldn’t be available to go to the star that day.  But he knew that eventually he would have to turn up and face Malfoy, and allow Malfoy into his head again; he just had to hope the man would keep his word about not delving into Harry’s memories.  

His dream had confused Harry; he would never in any waking moment have considered Malfoy to be an anchor in a storm, but he had featured as such in Harry’s dream.  Harry had tried to rationalise this away as the usual random strangeness of his dreaming subconscious, but should Malfoy happen to see his memory of the dream, he might construe it in an entirely different light...and that was something Harry definitely did not want to happen.  They had reached an uneasy truce working together in the star, and Harry did not want that upset in any way, as might well happen should Malfoy see Harry’s memory of the dream and come to the wild conclusion that Harry had some sort of crush on him.

Harry spooned up the last of his cornflakes, washed up his bowl and spoon, and then went to brush his teeth.  He would just have to front it out, and if by chance Malfoy did say anything about his dream, then Harry would have every right to accuse the man of spying and be suitably indignant.

~~~

Shall we address the dragon in the room?” Malfoy said in Harry’s head.  “Only it is rather blocking my view of the lock,” he added dryly. 

They were stood in the niche in front of the first door of the other side of the corridor.  Harry had taken up his usual place with Malfoy’s arm around him, and Malfoy’s broad chest against his back.  Malfoy had laid his hand on the door, Malfoy’s star had twinkled into existence in Harry’s head, and Harry had waited for the vision of the maze to appear...only it hadn’t, and now Malfoy had asked the question. 

Harry bit his lip.  “What do you mean?” he replied wordlessly, as casually as he could. 

I said I wouldn’t pry in your mind, and I won’t, but you are not making it very easy when you are trying so hard to repress the memory of your dream that it is making it stand out like a beacon.  So you dreamed about me...and I have dreamed about you, but that is hardly surprising, given the amount of time we have spent together over the last few days.” 

Malfoy’s dispassionate words were like a splash of cold water, and Harry felt rather silly for stressing so much.  Of course that was the only reason he had dreamed of Malfoy; because he had spent more time with the man than anybody else recently.  Although...it didn’t entirely explain his dream-self regarding Malfoy as some sort of safe haven.... 

That was merely your subconscious twisting my being your guide when opening these locks,” Malfoy said in Harry’s head, once again reminding Harry that his thoughts were like an open book to the older wizard.  

 That explained Harry’s dream completely.  He felt much better, and took a deep breath...then suddenly wondered what Malfoy’s dream of him had been.

Nothing I care to share, although, since I have been party to your dream, I suppose it is only fair,” Malfoy said, 

“No!”  Harry said hastily.  “There is no need, really.” 

“Is everything all right?” Chase asked from behind them. 

Harry realised he had spoken aloud.  “Yes, yes, fine, sorry, we were just...just...” 

“I asked Mister Potter whether he would like a change of scene as far as the maze is concerned,” Malfoy supplied smoothly.  “As you wish, Mister Potter; we shall keep with the hedges."

They found the first body that day.  It was Chase who opened the door, and then gasped.  Harry leaned over his shoulder to see what had caused the reaction, and saw a bundle of what looked like rags on the stone bench at the back of the cell, and then he noticed the bones sticking out of them.  He reeled away with a strangled “No!”

Rooke, who had been working at his desk in the hub, shot to his feet.  “What is it?”

“Body,” Harry managed to reply, glancing at Malfoy as he did so.  The older wizard looked every bit as shocked as Harry, and for the first time Harry began to wonder if Malfoy really was telling the truth about his lack of knowledge of the star. 

In next to no time, it seemed, the star was full of wizards from the Ministry, and then Harry was escorted home by an obviously fraught Chase.  “I’ll be in touch,” the Ministry official said.  “Not sure when...we’ll...that is...”  He gave Harry a speaking look, and then shook his head.  “For all we said there may be prisoners in the star, I don’t think anyone really thought there would be, especially after unlocking so many doors and not finding anything.”

~~~

Harry spent the next three days anxiously waiting to hear from Chase, or indeed anyone from the Ministry.  Chase had been right: Harry had braced himself the first few doors they opened for the possibility of finding a body, but the more doors they opened which had revealed nothing of any note, the more he had managed to convince himself that the star was merely a storeroom of sorts; a dumping ground for bits and pieces of no value.  Now, with the finding of the dead prisoner, he had had to re-evaluate, and was trying to come to terms, once again, with the fact that this might just be the first of many corpses they would discover. 

Hermione and Ron turned up on the afternoon of the third day.  “Blimey, Harry, mate, where’ve you been hiding yourself, eh?” Ron demanded.  “You look all pale and wan...you need a pint at the pub, that’s what,” he went on.  “Good job Herm and I came to make sure you hadn’t poisoned yourself with one of those weird recipe things you keep trying and that your rotting corpse wasn’t stinking out your kitchen!” 

Hermione might have noticed the bleak look which morphed Harry’s face before he managed to school his expression into one of faint amusement, because she dug Ron hard in the ribs and said sharply, “We’re doing no such thing, Ron.  And it’s tasteless of you to suggest it!”

Ron turned on his girlfriend with dismay.  “It was only a joke, ‘Mione, there’s no need to get your knickers in a twist.  Harry knew I was joking, didn’t you Harry?”  He turned to his friend for support. 

Harry mentally squared his shoulders, and smiled.  “Course I did, Ron.  No, just been a bit busy, that’s all.  Now, what was that you said about a pint?”  The last thing Harry really wanted was to go to the pub, but he knew it was a sure fire way of distracting Ron from asking just what it was that Harry had been busy with.  And so he had ended up spending lunchtime and most of the afternoon with Ron and Hermione in the Golden Dragon.  In a way, it was good for him to do something other than sit and dwell on whether the Ministry had been able to discover whose body they had found in the star, and whether they were even now breaking the bad news to some poor witch or wizard that their missing loved one had been found.  But he did notice that Hermione gave him one or two quizzical looks, and knowing his friend’s perspicacity where secrets were concerned, he did his best to steer the conversation away from himself and onto more general subjects.

Hermione caught Harry’s arm just as they were leaving the pub later, and held him back.  “Harry?  Is everything all right?  You seem...distracted, somehow.” 

Harry bit his lip, and then decided that a bit of the truth was better than an out and out lie, which Hermione would be bound to discern.  “I’m okay...I’m just doing a job for the Ministry and it’s a bit tiring.  It’s also not something I can talk about...sorry.” 

“Is it something to do with you asking me about the Argilaith spell, Harry?” Hermione asked seriously.  “Only, as I said, it can be very dangerous to cast.” 

Harry decided a lie was now in order.  “No, nothing to do with that.  Honestly,” he added, taking in Hermione’s narrowed eyes.

Hermione looked at him steadily for a moment, and then nodded her head once.  “Okay.  If you’re sure.  You know you can always talk to me, don’t you?  And you know that unlike some people we know,” she shot a dark look towards where Ron was now standing outside the pub, “I can keep a secret.” 

Harry smiled at her.  “I know, and thanks, Hermione.”

~~~

On the morning of the fourth day, Harry was ready to go to the Ministry himself to see what was going on, when there was a knock on his front door.  It was Chase, looking a lot less strained than he had the last time Harry had seen him.  Harry ushered him into the kitchen and put the kettle on.  “So?” he demanded. 

“Not as bad as we feared,” Chase said, seating himself at the table.  “Obviously it was a body, but it had been there for a very long time according to our investigators.  At least a hundred years; so nothing to do with Voldemort.” 

Harry sat down with a thump.  “Thank goodness,” he exclaimed.  “I mean, I’m sorry for whoever it was...but at least it wasn’t someone from the war.  But then, who was it?” he added, frowning.  “I thought the star was created by Voldemort?” 

“I think we all did; at least, we just assumed it was.  But really, if we’d thought about it, and looked around us a bit more instead of focussing on the locked doors, we would have realised the star was far older.  Our team are re-evaluating things now, but it seems as if the place could be at least a few centuries old.  It’s beginning to look as if Voldemort just came across it, and decided to use it for his own purposes.” 

“Where is it, exactly?” Harry asked, realising he had never thought to ask. 

“North Wales,” Chase answered. “Actually, to be more accurate, an island off the coast of North Wales: Anglesey – the last stronghold of the druids.” 

Harry was amazed.  “Wow!  Really?”  If pressed, Harry would have said he’d assumed the star to be somewhere in England, although there was no reason to expect that it was.  “I’ve never been to Wales...at least, I didn’t think I had.”  He smiled.  “So,” he went on, picking up on what Chase had said, “is the star something to do with the druids?” 

Chase shook his head.  “We don’t think it is quite that old.  Although,” Chase added, “I suppose part of it may be.  There’s a bit you haven’t seen yet where the walls are pretty much natural rock.” 

“And you think that Voldemort just found it and decided he could use it?” 

“It’s beginning to look that way.  And, honestly, we’re beginning to wonder just how much he did use it.  So far there has been nothing to tie anything we’ve found with Voldemort – we’d just assumed the things were his because we assumed the star was his.”  Chase stopped and rubbed a hand over his face, then he let out a sigh.  “Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we can give up on searching the cells.  There is still a chance that Voldemort, having seen that someone in the past had used the star as a goal, decided to do likewise.  And we can also assume that he set the locks on all the doors for a reason...although, maybe he set the locks, but then never got around to using the star for whatever it was he intended.  We just don’t know.” 

“So, we carry on unlocking the doors, then?” Harry asked. 

“If you still feel up to it, then yes.”

“Of course,” Harry replied.  “I don’t think I could bear to walk away now; I’d always be wondering if there was anyone else to be found.  Do you know who it was?  In the cell?” 

Chase shook his head.  “Not a clue.  He—we know it was a male—may have had nothing to do with the wizarding world at all.  Unless we can trace the history of the star before Voldemort had it, then there is very little chance we will ever discover who it was.  He’ll be given a decent burial, though, we can do that at least,” Chase added. 

The star had become familiar over the days Harry had spent there, now, when he returned the day after Chase had brought news of the body, it had become strange again.  There was the feeling that many people had been there, instead of the quiet stillness Harry had become used to.  There were several empty coffee mugs on Rooke’s desk, at the sight of which Rooke tutted, before clearing them away.

Malfoy apparated in with Butterman a few minutes after Harry, and Harry noticed that he too looked around with a slight frown.

“Shall we carry on from where we left off?” Chase asked.  

Harry swallowed hard.  If they were going to find any more bodies, there was a high chance they would be in the vicinity of the last one.  He felt a temptation to ask if they could start somewhere else, but then realised he would only be putting off the inevitable, and he also knew that those adjacent doors would be at the back of his mind the whole time he was working somewhere else.  Best to get it over with now.  He squared his shoulders.  “Yes; let’s do this.” 

Malfoy shot Harry a look, and Harry had the sudden notion that Malfoy had been having exactly the same thoughts. 

It felt almost comforting to have Malfoy move into position behind him, to have that warm expanse of chest pressed to his back and to have Malfoy’s arm around him, holding him close; it was like a reassurance that there was someone to share his concern and trepidation with, and who understood those feelings. 

As soon as Malfoy’s star winked into existence, Malfoy spoke in Harry’s head.  “I know; I feel the same.”

Harry was startled, but before he could ask how Malfoy had known what he was feeling, Malfoy went on.  “Sustaining the Argilaith spell for as long as we do, for as often as we do, can create a...let’s say an ‘awareness’ of how the other person is feeling.  A sensitivity, if you like, to their thoughts and emotions.”

“...like telepathy?” Harry asked tentatively.

Malfoy was silent for a moment, and Harry wondered if the older wizard was familiar with the word.  

I have heard the word, but, although I’m not too familiar with it, as I understand it, telepathy is the ability to communicate with another using only your mind...much as the Argilaith spell allows us to do.  However, if I were not using the spell, I could not speak with you as we are doing now.  No, the bond the Argilaith can form is only that such as can form between long standing friends or lovers...over time they become familiar with the way the other thinks and feels.  I suppose you could say the Argilaith is a short cut to that stage in a relationship.  Come now, we had better get on,” Malfoy added. 

But Harry’s mind had got stuck at the word “lovers”, and it took a gentle “Harry?” from Malfoy to bring him back to his senses.

Yes, ah, yes, okay, erm, yes, let’s go.  I’m ready,” Harry added, as much to himself as to Malfoy.  It was only later that he realised that Malfoy had called him ‘Harry’ rather than ‘Mister Potter’. 

It was with a sense of relief that they opened the last door in the first corridor several days later, and had not found another body, but their relief was tempered by the fact that they had found nothing at all.  Once again, they were seated in the hub, and Chase voiced the frustration everyone was feeling.  “Whilst I am, of course, relieved that we have not found any more dead prisoners, I have to say this job is becoming increasingly stressful, simply because we, well, you two,” he glanced at Harry and Malfoy, “are doing so much hard work for nothing.”  He let out a long sigh.  “I think we all need a break; as much as I want to get this job over and done with, I think we all need to remind ourselves what real life is like.  I propose we all take a week off.”  He glanced around at the others for any signs of disagreement – and found none.  

~~~ 

Harry welcomed the break for two reasons, the first was that he was tired of spending his days in the semi-dark, close confines of the star, opening door after door and finding nothing, and he was weary, both mentally and physically.  The second reason was that he was becoming increasingly concerned about the way his feelings towards Malfoy were changing.  He had said, and fully believed it at the time, that he would never like Malfoy, but now, having got to know the man better, and having discovered that he was more than just an ex-Death Eater, Harry found that his dislike was fading...and more worryingly than that, Harry realised he was beginning to develop feelings for the man.  He was starting to look forward to that moment when Malfoy pressed to his back and placed his arm around Harry; when the warm, woody smell of Malfoy’s cologne, and the faint scent of cigar smoke which clung to Malfoy’s robes, surrounded him; when Malfoy’s voice spoke softly and intimately in his head. 

Harry believed he could come to terms with the giving up of his antipathy towards Malfoy; after all, everyone deserved a second chance.  But what he could not accept was that he was attracted to the man.  He wondered if somehow Malfoy was influencing his feelings, perhaps subtly manipulating Harry into becoming infatuated with him...but to what end?  

Harry spent his week off pondering this question, spending hours in his kitchen.  He had found cooking to be a great stress-buster after the war; it absorbed him as he took on more and more complicated recipes—sometimes smiling quietly to himself when he wondered what Severus Snape would have made of his new passion; the weighing out and combining of different ingredients being a lot like potion brewing. 

Whilst Harry would often invite friends round to sample the results of his efforts, that week he simply did not feel like entertaining, and so Molly Weasley was the happy recipient of most of his dishes (although she looked slightly askance at the beetroot falafel).  The Burrow always seemed to be full of half of Ron’s Quidditch team; many of whom were from different countries and who had adopted Molly as a sort of second mother, so Harry knew that Molly always welcomed extra rations. 

By the end of the week, Harry had decided that his feelings could not possibly be natural, and so it had to be something Malfoy was doing to him.  He determined to have it out with the man when they next met.

~~~ 

Chase looked thoroughly refreshed and almost jolly when he came to collect Harry, ready to start the next corridor.  “Goodness!” he exclaimed.  “I have to say I feel much better after a week off...how about you, Harry?” 

“I’ve done lots of cooking,” Harry replied, noncommittally, and then added with a forced smile, “but it was good to spend some time in daylight!” when he saw a worried look appear on Chase’s face. 

Malfoy was already in the hub when Chase and Harry apparated in, and Harry cursed both himself and Malfoy for his stomach’s sudden decision to produce butterflies.  Harry had wondered whether time away from the influence of Malfoy and whatever spell the man was working on him would have lessened his feelings, the contrary seemed to be true. 

He squared his shoulders and followed when Chase directed him and Malfoy to the next corridor.  “And on to number two corridor,” Chase said, gesturing at the stone corridor with something akin to a flourish. 

“And then only three more to go,” Malfoy said dampeningly. 

Chase’s smile faded.  “Yes, I’m sorry; I know this is not easy for you both, and it is taking up so much of your time....” 

“No matter,” Malfoy said briskly.  “Let’s just get on with it, shall we?  As you say, every minute we spend here is a minute of time we could be spending doing something far more pleasurable somewhere else.” 

They entered the first niche, and then Malfoy pressed to Harry’s back, and the man’s scent enveloped Harry as Malfoy’s arm came around him and held Harry close.  Harry closed his eyes and tried to fight the feeling of desire that flooded his body.  As soon as Malfoy’s star winked into life in his head, Harry spoke silently.  “Please, please stop whatever it is you are doing,” he said urgently.

He sensed Malfoy’s confusion immediately.  “I...I don’t understand, Harry; what must I stop doing?” 

I know it’s you, because it can’t possibly be me that is feeling this,” Harry rushed on desperately.  “So just stop!” he added firmly. 

There were a couple of moments of silence, and then Malfoy said gently, “Ah, I see.  Well, I am sorry, Harry, but your feelings are all your own, and I have nothing whatsoever to do with creating them or otherwise influencing them.” 

I don’t believe you,” Harry blurted.  “It must be something you are doing...I know you can use the Argilaith spell to influence people.  What about this bond you talked about?  You said it was the same as the one between lovers!” 

That is true, in so far as knowing one another’s ways of thinking is concerned.  But I can’t influence you to find me attractive or desire me.  If you are not willing to take my word for that, then I suggest you confirm what I say with either Chase or Rooke, Harry.” 

Stop calling me Harry,” Harry snapped.  “I didn’t give you permission and I don’t like it.” 

Malfoy’s voice in Harry’s head remained calm as he said, “Of course; my apologies, Mister Potter.  I suppose I considered us to have reached a level in our relationship which might permit the use of first names, but I was obviously wrong.” 

We have no relationship, at least, not one beyond us working together,” Harry said angrily.  He pushed against Malfoy, and the older wizard stepped back to allow Harry out of the doorway, breaking the connection between them. 

“Is everything all right?” Chase asked anxiously, recalling Harry to his surroundings.

“I just...need a moment,” Harry managed to say.  He had been so sure that Malfoy had been manipulating his emotions, causing him to have the feelings he had been experiencing for the older wizard, that Harry was simply unable to cope with the fact that those feelings might in fact be genuine.  He stumbled away from Malfoy, then whirled round and stormed out of the corridor, before ducking into the next passageway along to give himself some space to gather his scattered thoughts.  He found himself in the corridor which he recalled Chase mentioning, the one which had bare, unquarried walls, and half way down, at the furthest reaches of the light from the torches in the hub, Harry found an outcropping of rock which provided a small ledge to sit on.  He perched on it, and covered his face with his hands.  Of course, there was always the chance that Malfoy was lying...but the effect the Argilaith spell had on Harry’s sensitivity to Malfoy’s thoughts and feelings made him reluctantly admit to himself that this did not seem to be the case.  There had been genuine denial in Malfoy’s voice...and concern...but no surprise, now that Harry thought about it. 

“Mister Potter?”  Malfoy’s soft voice interrupted Harry’s tangled thoughts. 

It was on the tip of Harry’s tongue to tell Malfoy to get stuffed, but the sensible part of him realised that this would really only be putting off the inevitable – he and Malfoy had to complete this job, which would entail them spending several more weeks together – it would be best to get this conversation over and done with now. 

“Does it really bother you so much that you are attracted to another man?”  Malfoy asked. 

Harry frowned.  It was generally known amongst his circle of friends that Harry was gay, but that news had obviously not reached Malfoy.  Harry raised his eyes to the older wizard.  “Not at all; I’m gay,” he stated, defying Malfoy to make anything of it. 

“Ah, then it is just being attracted to me that is causing you so much consternation.  I can understand that...I admit I found it somewhat disconcerting when I realised I was attracted to you.” 

Harry’s mouth fell open, and he stared at Malfoy for a moment, before gasping, “What?  You’re kidding, right?  Or is this some stupid, misguided attempt to make me feel better?”  Harry refused to acknowledge that for a moment he had felt a surge of excitement at Malfoy’s words, and instead covered his initial reaction with indignation and scorn. 

“On the contrary,” Malfoy replied with that oh-so-infuriating calmness, “I was merely trying to assure you that I understand how you feel, having felt the same way myself.  I admit my reaction was much as yours when I first realised I wanted to bed you, but then I decided that it was just one of those irrational desires one gets from time to time, and continued on with our job.  Just because one feels a certain way does not mean anything has to come of it, or, indeed, that anything should.  Just as one may find one dislikes someone for no apparent reason, but has to, say, work with them, then I consider this the same.  We have to work together, so can we not just put our respective irrational feelings to one side and get on with things?” 

Harry’s anger had deflated, and now he just felt miserable and confused in the face of Malfoy’s rationality.  “I don’t know if I can do that,” he said at last. 

Malfoy sighed.  “I have two ideas, one which I am sure you will not countenance, which leaves only one other solution, which is for me to inform Chase that we are no longer able to connect—it happens sometimes, so he wouldn’t be suspicious—and the Ministry will have to find someone else capable of pushing.” 

Harry looked up again at Malfoy.  “You’d do that?” he asked incredulously.  He couldn’t believe that Malfoy would be prepared to cover for him...but then Malfoy had been full of surprises today. 

Malfoy nodded.  “If you really decide you cannot continue to work with me, then yes, Har...Mister Potter, I would.” 

“Oh, call me Harry,” Harry said wearily.  “You’re right; it does seem silly to be so formal when you have been in my head and seen all my secrets.” 

“As I said before, Harry, I respect your privacy; I have not and will not pry.  Although that may be a moot point.”

“A what?” 

“A moot point – if you decide you can no longer continue, then I will have no further opportunities to ‘see all your secrets’.” 

Harry got to his feet and faced Malfoy.  “How can you deal with this so calmly?” he asked.  “When did you suddenly turn all reasonable and sensible?”

“When I decided to try thinking before I said and did things I might regret later,” Malfoy said with a rueful smile.  “So, shall we go and tell Chase?”

Harry shook his head.  “No, we’ll go and get on with these bloody locks...if you can work through your “irrational desires”, then so can I!”  He grinned at the older wizard. 

Malfoy smiled back.  “Good man!” he said, clapping Harry on the shoulder.

He turned, and began to walk back down the corridor towards the hub.  Harry followed him, and then jogged to catch up.  “So, what was the idea I wouldn’t go for?” he asked when he reached Malfoy’s side. 

“Oh, nothing; it’s not important.” 

Harry caught hold of Malfoy’s arm to halt him.  “No, go on, tell me.” 

Malfoy turned to Harry and regarded him steadily.  “Having come to an agreement about how to move forward, do you really need to know?” 

“Why won’t you tell me?” Harry demanded. 

“Because it will probably just cause more problems,” Malfoy replied. 

Harry folded his arms and looked mulish.  “We’re not going on until you tell me.” 

“All right then, I was going to suggest we give in to our respective irrational desires and get it out of our systems,” Malfoy snapped.  “Happy now?” he added.

Harry wished there was a seat handy so he could collapse into it.  “You seriously...?  But you’re not....  Did you think....?  Honestly...?” he gibbered. 

Malfoy raised an eyebrow.  “Hmm, let me see...yes, I did seriously consider it; not as such, but it wouldn’t be the first time; and, honestly, yes, I did think it might have been a solution.  Does that adequately answer your half asked questions?” 

Harry stared at him, and pressed his lips together over an almost irresistible urge to laugh...and urge he found he had to give in to. 

Malfoy’s worried expression morphed into a broad smile as Harry laughed helplessly.  

“I think, much as I am tempted, we’ll see if we can restrain ourselves for now,” Harry finally managed to say. 

Malfoy put on a very disappointed face.  “Oh, what a shame!  But I think you are right, we must soldier on in the face of our mutual adversity...still,” he added, with a twinkle in his eyes, “if you change your mind....” 

The wave of desire that coursed through Harry at that moment nearly caused him to change his mind right there and then.

Malfoy must have noticed the look in Harry’s eyes, because he went on softly, “I must admit, the prospect is becoming more alluring and less irrational by the second.” 

They stared at each other for a moment, and then Malfoy took a step towards Harry. 

Harry was not really quite sure what happened between that moment and the moment when he was being very thoroughly kissed by Malfoy, but it obviously didn’t involve him fighting Malfoy off...on the contrary, he was clutching Malfoy to him every bit as firmly as he was being held by Mal...Lucius, and by Merlin’s beard, was Lucius a good kisser!  Harry responded with all the pent up desire which had been trapped within him for days, if not weeks.

“Hello?  Is everything all....oh, oh, I’m sorry.”  Chase’s voice sounded from the end of the corridor, and Lucius and Harry abruptly broke off their kiss.

Harry was bright red. “Bugger!  I’d forgotten about them!” he hissed at Lucius.

Malfoy too was looking rather flustered.  “As had I,” he hissed back.  “Come on, let’s go and get some work done, and then we can carry on where we left off on our own time later,” he added, with a promise in his eyes which had Harry’s cock hard in his jeans.

Chase was loitering, just out of eyeshot, at the end of the corridor when Lucius and Harry emerged.  “Is...is everything all right?” he asked again, looking especially at Harry. 

“Yes, fine,” Harry answered, as nonchalantly as he could, and not meeting Chase’s eye. 

“Indeed,” Lucius added smoothly.  “Harry and I just needed to work a few things out.  I’m sorry we have kept you waiting, but we are ready to go on now.” 

Having Lucius pressed to his back with his arm around Harry, held a whole new significance now, and, indeed, when Malfoy’s star appeared in his head, the older wizard obviously felt the same, because the first thing he said silently was, “This is going to be hard...in more ways than one.” 

On that last word, a hard cock was pressed to the crack in Harry’s arse, and he let out a hastily muted squeak. 

Still,” Lucius went on, “the sooner we get these bloody doors open, the quicker we can retire to somewhere more private, comfortable and preferably horizontal.” 

Harry was all for that idea, and determinedly focussed his attention on the image forming in his head. 

They got through that door in record time, just a shade under three hours, but when Rooke opened the door, they had cause to regret they had opened it at all. 

It was full of all manner of items, which had obviously been placed there recently, and which had “dark magical artefacts’” written all over them.  Once again the star became rapidly full of ministry officials, and Lucius and Harry were sent to sit in the hub.  The likelihood of them leaving the place any time soon disappeared into the far distance.  Eventually, Chase appeared, and he was accompanied by a couple of burly Aurors.  “I’ll take you home, Harry.  Mister Malfoy, these gentlemen will escort you to the Ministry; there are a few questions we’d like to ask you, if that’s all right?”  He added the last in a tone which suggested it was going to be all right, whether Lucius liked it or not. 

Harry shot a worried look at Lucius, but the older wizard appeared calm and collected.  Lucius glanced at Harry.  “Tomorrow, Mister Potter, all being well,” he said formally, before turning to his two escorts.

Chase dropped Harry outside his cottage.  For a moment he looked as if he was just going to apparate away, and then he seemed to change his mind.  “Harry?  May I come in a moment?” 

Harry guessed immediately what was on Chase’s mind, but he couldn’t think of an excuse quickly enough to keep the man at bay.  “Erm, yes, sure.”  He unlocked the door and led Chase through into the kitchen.  “Tea?  Coffee?” he asked. 

“No, thank you.  I won’t take up your time, Harry, and I know it’s not really my business,” Chase said hurriedly, “but I can’t, in all good conscience, not say anything.  You and Mister Malfoy...I saw...not that I was intruding...but, well,” he stopped, an embarrassed look on his face.  Harry turned away and busied himself putting the kettle on. 

He heard Chase take a deep breath.  “Just...be careful, Harry.  I know Mister Malfoy is an attractive man, but he was a Death Eater—which of course you know—and whilst I know he protested his innocence, saying he was Imperioused, well, I think we all pretty much take that excuse with a pinch of salt.  He’s a dangerous man, Harry, someone it may well be advisable not to get involved with, if you get my meaning.  It’s just that if, well, if anything happens between you, and then you part ways...well, it could make it awkward for you working together...not that that is my primary concern,” Chase went on hastily.  He sighed again.  “Oh, dear, I am making a bit of a hash of this, and after all is said and done, you are a grown man and able to make your own decisions...just, promise me you will think carefully about this, Harry.” 

Harry turned to Chase.  “I appreciate your concern, Mister Chase, but it’s not necessary.  As you say, I am a grown man and capable of making my own choices,” he added firmly.  

Chase nodded. “Of course, of course...I’m sorry for saying anything, but I know how alluring Mister Malfoy can be, despite him being rather persona non gratia these days.  Oh, well, I’ll leave you to it.  I’ll, erm, probably see you tomorrow.  Bye.”

Harry heard the front door close.  For a moment he stood in rigid silence, then he let out a shout of anguish, and hurled his mug at the kitchen wall.  Why could his life never be simple? Why was there always trouble and problems whichever way he turned?  And had he really been considering going to bed with Lucius Malfoy?  Oh yes, we were, his body confirmed with a sudden hardening of his cock.  Harry let out a sigh, and got out his wand to clear up the shattered china from his kitchen floor. 

~~~ 

Chase sent a note to say he wouldn’t be collecting Harry the next day, and so Harry spent the day being irrationally concerned about what was happening to Lucius.  If the Ministry had found anything to prove Lucius hadn’t been Imperioused as he claimed, well, the man deserved whatever he got, and Harry shouldn’t be wasting another minute’s thought on him...except, hadn’t he always thought that Lucius was lying about being Imperioused and been prepared to have sex with him anyway?  And hadn’t he decided that everyone deserved a second chance?  Although this last was probably just an attempt at justifying his desire for Lucius. 

The following day, Chase arrived at Harry’s door with a surprised but pleased look on his face.  “Well, Harry, good news,” he said, as Harry ushered him into the kitchen.  “It turns out, much to everyone’s surprise, that Mister Malfoy was telling the truth after all!”

Harry frowned.  “What?”

“There was evidence in the items we found, which proved that Mister Malfoy had been Imperioused.” 

Harry felt a whole surge of emotions run through him, the chief of which seemed to be relief, closely followed by the realisation that he could now sleep with Lucius without a conscience!  “That’s great news!” he managed to say, “although, as you say, rather surprising.” 

“Indeed,” Chase said, seating himself at Harry’s kitchen table.  “I feel quite guilty now about how I doubted the man, especially after all he has done for us recently.”

“Speaking of which,” Harry said, “hadn’t we better go?”

“What?  Oh, no, no doors today.  Mister Malfoy was at the Ministry until early this morning.”

“This morning?” Harry squeaked.  “You mean he’s been there since we left the star?”

Chase had the grace to look slightly guilty.  “Erm, yes, well, we, erm, that is, the Auror department, had rather a lot of questions...until we found the evidence to support Mister Malfoy’s claims, that is.”

There came a sudden knock at Harry’s door.

When Harry opened it, he was amazed to find Lucius on his doorstep.  The man had obviously come straight from home, and from a shower, if the damp, slightly curling ends of his hair were anything to go by, but he had dark shadows under his eyes, one of which was an unbecoming shade of black and purple.  He smiled, with those oh-so-kissable lips.  “I believe we have some unfinished business, Harry, and as we have been given the day off...” 

Harry had to admit that he was very flattered that instead of spending the day recovering from his visit to the Ministry and catching up on some sleep, Lucius had come straight to him.  He grinned.  “I believe we owe you an apology?” he asked.

Lucius frowned.  “Apology?  Oh, ah,” he added, on catching sight of Chase, who had followed Harry to the door.

“Mister Malfoy,” Chase began.  “I have just been giving Harry the good news.”

“I see.”  Lucius’ eyes narrowed.

“So, I’ll, erm, let you enjoy your day off,” Chase finished.  He turned to Harry.  “Everything all right, then, Harry?  Anything I can do before I leave?”

Harry was grateful for Chase’s concern for him, but life had suddenly become simple, and all he wanted to do was to drag Lucius through his door and upstairs to his bedroom, and the sooner Chase was gone, the sooner he could do just that.  “No, everything is fine, Mister Chase.  I’ll see you tomorrow,” he added, in an attempt to hurry Chase on his way.

“Right, right then.  Yes, well, goodbye both.”  Then Chase, with one last look at Harry, Apparated away.

Harry reached out, caught Lucius by the sleeve, and pulled him into the cottage, then he kicked the door shut.  It seemed Lucius was as eager as Harry, for he pushed Harry up against the wall in the hallway and began kissing him thoroughly.  Harry pressed himself to Lucius’ warmth and returned the kiss with passion.  Lucius’ hands roved over Harry’s body, whilst at the same time, Harry’s hands did likewise, pulling at Lucius’ layers of clothing until his fingers found flesh at the waistband of Lucius’ trousers.  He broke off the kiss to sigh with pleasure, and then to remark, “You wear too many clothes!”

“My feelings entirely,” Lucius concurred.  He glanced up the stairs.  “Shall we?”

Harry grinned in response, and then frowned slightly and reached out to delicately brush his fingers around Lucius’ black eye.  “Did they hurt you very much?” 

Lucius shrugged.  “They only gave me what they thought I deserved, until they found out I didn’t!  Then there were some rather red faces and apologies, and me being my most frosty and advising them they would be hearing from my lawyer!”

Harry laughed at the image, and then said, “I have to say, I’m surprised to see you...I thought you might be sleeping it off at home, bearing in mind how long they kept you.”

Lucius gave a rueful smile.  “To be honest, I was pretty sure Fidelian Chase would have been round here nagging your ear off about how unsuitable I was and how you should avoid me at all costs.  I’m afraid my “irrational desire” simply wouldn’t countenance the thought that you may change your mind, and so I came to see you as soon as I had washed off the stink of the interrogation room and made myself presentable.” 

“I’m so glad you did,” Harry said softly.  Then he took Lucius by the hand and led him upstairs.

~~~ 

“Hmmm.”  Harry basked in the afterglow of a very satisfying bout of sex.  “That was wonderful.” 

Lucius stretched, and grinned.  “Yes, it was rather, wasn’t it?  Seems our desire for each other was not so irrational after all.”

Harry regarded the pink nipple, surrounded by a whirl of white blond hair, which was within kissing distance from where his head lay nestled on Lucius’ shoulder.  It seemed a shame to deny that little nub his attention, so he bent and pursed his lips around it. 

Lucius groaned.  “Much as I am enjoying your attentions, do remember that I am not as young as you and thus it takes me more than ten minutes to recover!” 

Harry’s hand snaked down Lucius’ body and grasped hold of the older wizard’s cock, which responded to his touch with a decidedly interested twitch.  “I think you are underestimating yourself,” he said with a grin.  “But you’re right,” he went on, letting go of Lucius’ cock and throwing back the covers on the bed.  “Fancy a cup of tea?”

Lucius laughed.  And then exclaimed as Harry made for the bedroom door totally starkers, “Surely you’re not going downstairs like that?”

“No, I’m going for a pee first, and then I’m going downstairs...who’s going to see me?” Harry asked. 

Lucius shook his head incredulously.  “Your neighbours?  Your friends unexpectedly dropping round?  I don’t know...don’t you have a dressing robe?” 

Harry shrugged.  “I do, but I never use it.  Here,” He reached for a robe which was hanging on the back of his bedroom door, and tossed it to Lucius, “use this if you’re coy...although you don’t have anything I haven’t already seen...and kissed, and licked and....”

“All right, we get the idea.”  Lucius caught the robe and then clambered out of Harry’s bed.  “You might have seen all my delights,” he went on, struggling into Harry’s rather small robe, “but there are many, many others who have not!”

Harry came back into the room and went and put his arms around Lucius.  “I’m very glad about that.  I find myself feeling rather possessive of your ‘delights’ at the moment.”  

Lucius kissed him, and then pushed Harry away.  “Go and do what you must, and hurry up, I want a shower.” 

“You can use the top bathroom; I’ll go to the one downstairs.  I’ll see you in the kitchen in a bit.”  Harry cheekily patted Lucius on the backside, and then scurried from the room before Lucius could retaliate.

Fifteen minutes later, Lucius slid behind where Harry was standing at the kitchen counter buttering some toast.  He wrapped his arms around the younger wizard and ducked to kiss Harry’s neck.  His robe was open, and the full length of Lucius’ slightly damp, naked body pressed to Harry’s equally naked back. 

Harry turned in Lucius’ arms, and wound his arms around Lucius’ neck, pulling the man into a kiss.  His cock collided with Lucius’ cock, and he broke off the kiss to murmur against Lucius’ lips, “I feel a full recovery has been achieved.” 

“Hmm, indeed,” Lucius agreed, urging his hips forward to further press his growing length against Harry’s equally eager cock. 

A moment later, Lucius turned Harry around again, and for a second Harry regretted the loss of the feel of his cock rubbing against Lucius, but then he let out a gasped “Oh, yes!!”, as Lucius’ cock slid between Harry’s thighs and nudged against his balls.

“I am beginning to see the advantages of an exhibitionist lifestyle,” Lucius said, reaching around to grasp Harry’s erect cock.

“Oh! Ah, yes; it does have some good points,” Harry managed in a strangled voice, as Lucius expertly manipulated his cock.  “In me!” he added urgently.

He heard Lucius murmur the lubrication spell, and then sucked in a breath as Lucius’ cock slid inside him in one long, smooth slide until Lucius’ balls came to rest against his arse.  Harry’s fingers bit into the edge of the counter top as Lucius began to rock inside him; small movements which nevertheless drove Harry to the point of orgasm as they massaged his sweet spot.  Then Lucius stilled, allowed Harry time to breathe himself away from the point of no return. 

“Don’t want you coming too soon,” Lucius whispered by Harry’s ear. 

Harry twisted his head around and caught Lucius’ lips in a kiss.  And for a few moments they clung tightly together, sharing a deep kiss, until Lucius withdrew and pulled Harry away from the counter.  A sweep of his arm, and Lucius cleared the coasters and placemats off the kitchen table, and then he turned Harry round and pushed him down to lie on it, his arse just over the edge.

Harry grinned up at Lucius.  “Breakfast will never be the same again,” he laughed, bringing up his legs to wrap them around Lucius’ waist as Lucius entered him once more.  This time Lucius fucked him hard and fast, his hands curled around Harry’s thighs, pulling Harry into every stroke. 

Harry didn’t think he had ever seen a more lovely sight than Lucius, as, hair wild, he looked down at Harry with those fine grey eyes, lips parted, teeth clenched as he drove into Harry over and over.  

And then Harry’s eyes closed and his back arched as his orgasm rushed over him, wave after wave of bliss that had him crying out, feeling Lucius come inside him a moment later.  Lucius dropped over him, coming to lie on Harry’s sweat sheened body.  Harry could feel the older wizard’s heart pounding, and Lucius’ breath was quick by his ear. 

“Hmm,” Lucius said when his breath had returned to normal, “I could get used to this.”

“So could I,” Harry agreed, “but perhaps not on my kitchen table...it’s a bit hard on the back!”

“Oh, sorry!”  Lucius rose up, his softening cock slipping from Harry’s body as he did so.  He reached a hand down and hauled Harry upright.  

Harry kept his legs wrapped around Lucius, reached up to slide a hand behind Lucius neck, and pulled the man down for another kiss. 

In the hallway, a clock struck eleven o’clock. 

Harry broke off the kiss to grin.  “Time for brunch, then I think an afternoon siesta may be in order.” 

Lucius returned Harry’s smile.  “What an excellent suggestion!  As long,” he added with a yawn, “as there is some sleeping at some point.” 

“At some point,” Harry agreed.

 

 

~~Fin~~