all bets are off:
(informal) the outcome of a situation is unpredictable.
Dear Officer Potter,
Thank you for agreeing to fill in on short notice for Officer Finnigan. We heard from the hospital; they're keeping him under observation for at least a week.
The attached Portkey will depart at 3 a.m. I apologise for the late hour, but the time difference is substantial.
Your destination is Las Vegas, Nevada, in the United States. Your assignment consists of four nights of security detail at the International Wizarding Casino World Series, in which three British finalists are participating. You, Officer Bones, and Officer Patil will report to a MACUSA supervisor, Senior Auror Kyle Reyes, who will explain your duties in detail.
Room and board have been arranged. Kindly contact the office via Floo with any questions or concerns.
Secretary to Kevin Sterndale
Department of Special Security Operations
Ministry of Magic
P.S. Pack light! I hear it's rather warm.
"Seamus Finnigan?" Harry asked at the front desk, showing his Ministry badge.
The welcome witch barely glanced up as she scanned down her clipboard. "Room 506-B."
Harry thanked her and dashed upstairs and through the hallways of Houdini Memorial Hospital. A portrait of the hospital's muscular, handcuffed namesake waggled dark eyebrows at him as he opened the door to Seamus' room.
Susan Bones hopped up from the only chair in the tiny room and gave him a warm hug. "Hi, Susan." He squeezed her gently before turning to the reclined figure in the bed. "Seamus, how are you feeling?"
"Just fine, Harry. Sound as a Skrewt." Seamus raised a hand to his forehead in a salute, which would have been reassuring had his face not been a chalky shade of green, and his arm covered in tubes and adhesive pads.
Seamus opened his mouth to answer but Susan cut in, "This nitwit started acting odd after lunch. It turns out that's what happens when you eat your entire weight at a seafood buffet."
"'All you can eat,' Harry," Seamus said in a reverent tone. "That's what the sign out front said. And god help me, I did." He patted his middle with a proud wince.
Harry gaped at him. "What the hell? I thought you'd been cursed!"
"Cursed with eyes bigger than his stomach," said Padma, elbowing the door open. The fragrant smell of coffee wafted up from the cups she was hovering in front of her. "Nice to see you, Harry."
Harry reached automatically for a cup, then turned his exasperation back towards Seamus. "It was a 3 AM Portkey, you know. Dorothy's head in my Floo at midnight scared me half to death. But I'm pleased to see you in one piece."
He took a sip of coffee (Padma remembered milk and sugar; all of them who'd joined the newly-formed Department of Special Security Operations after graduation had each other's drink preferences down pat). Seamus stretched out his hand for the fourth cup of coffee, but Padma batted it away. "That's for the welcome witch, Finnigan. Anyway, you can't have coffee, not with your--" she peered at the chart beside his bed, "--'unprecedented levels of shrimp neurotoxins'." They all grimaced.
Susan's phone chimed. "Come on. We're supposed to meet that Senior Auror bloke at half past, and I bet he wants us in full uniform."
"Ugh, I feel gross. Do I have time to drop off my trunk and take a rinse?" Harry asked.
"Yeah, I think so. We'll pack up your stuff and keep it at the hotel, Seamus."
"Sort yourself out!" added Padma cheerfully.
Seamus waved queasily as they began to shuffle out of the room. "Give 'em hell out there, girls. Harry, you're the best Chosen One ever!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Is it wrong of me to wish he had been cursed?" He drained his coffee and chucked the empty cup into a bin.
Nothing really compared to seeing Las Vegas in person for the first time. It was crowded, chaotic, and hot -- all the worst parts of the Quidditch World Cup combined with an amusement park, with a dash of Fiendfyre added just for laughs. Not that there were any parts of Fiendfyre that weren't the worst, Harry admitted, feeling the ghosts of clinging arms around his sides.
Harry gazed down at the afternoon bustle of the Strip, all those people swarming below, barely-distinguishable pinpricks of colour and movement. From the enormous hotel room window, he blinked dazedly and rubbed a hand over his face. The coffee was just beginning to knock the Portkey-lag out of his system.
They were staying in a suite on the 13th floor of Unicorn Grove, one of three all-wizarding hotels, along with The Silver Sickle and Atlantis. The former had a reputation for unsavory business, while the latter was so prohibitively expensive as to be laughable. There were wizarding portions of the other hotels on the Strip as well, carefully disguised or made invisible to Muggles (Harry had seen a family on a flying carpet zoom directly into the O of the Bellagio) -- but apparently it was easiest to do business at the all-wizarding establishments.
The hotel's enchanted decor of breezy trees, soothing waterfalls, and frolicking forest animals was mostly restricted to the towering exterior and vast main lobby. The interior was a little toned down, but Harry's room still gave him a strong impression of Teddy's primary school production of Robin Hood. Most unnerving was that all of the portraits and tapestries depicting squires and ladies-in-waiting had incongruous American accents.
Seamus' trunk and belongings were scattered on one side of the room, so Harry threw his travel-grimy clothes onto the other bed and headed into the en suite, letting out a blissful sigh when the hot water hit his skin. The pipes at Grimmauld Place were rather temperamental, so he never failed to treat himself to scalding-hot water whenever possible. There were a couple of odd dials and levers on the wall that reminded him of the Prefects' Bathroom; Harry played with them until he settled on one that turned the water apple-scented, and offered a blob of similar shampoo from a silver nozzle.
The caffeine really started to kick in while Harry washed his hair. He always looked forward to field work, although this one -- being directly responsible for a civilian's safety, on foreign soil, and on short notice -- had him a bit more nervous than usual. So after he ducked his head under the water to rinse his hair, he reached between his legs and began his favorite method of physical relaxation.
When Harry had begun his practice of this particular method in his teenage years, he often visualised someone Ginny Weasley-shaped; long red hair, short skirt, athletic curves. But over the years, the figure had morphed into someone with the jawline of Cedric Diggory, the body of that one heavily tattooed and extremely fit Australian Seeker, and the distinctive white-blond hair of… well. And then Harry figured, who was he kidding, right? and just let himself add in a loosely knotted green and silver school tie, and a smile right in the middle of "fuck you" and "I'd like to fuck you." He hadn't seen the figure of his waking dreams in seven years, so he had to improvise here and there. But the posh, drawling, taunting voice could belong to no one else.
He breathed in deep, apple-y goodness and leaned back against the cool stone shower wall. The figure in his mind had in a stylish undercut, with the top long and flowing over his eyes. Harry ran the fingers of his left hand through his own hair, imagining that his grasp held pale-as-dawn blond hair instead of his own unruly dark locks. And at the same time, the hand in his hair wasn't his, but that of he-whose-name-we-don't-really-think-about, whose pale clever fingers ran along Harry's scalp the way he liked. Potter, Potter, the voice murmured against his ear, with a wicked smirk. Harry tensed, biting his lip and coming closer and closer until--!
He let out a drawn-out, satisfied moan that he hoped the fall of water and several doors would hide. Merlin, he must have really needed it if he hadn't even thought to cast a Muffliato beforehand. He stayed boneless and panting against the shower wall for a minute, the scented water pounding on his tingling body.
Allowing the image of the cocky blond figure retreat to the shadows of memory, Harry stepped out of the shower with a bit more spring in his step and went to see just how wrinkled his uniform had gotten in the trunk.
Refreshed and suited up in their green and black uniforms (Susan did an Ironing Charm for Harry), the three Special Ops Officers met up with their MACUSA contact in the lobby of the hotel. Kyle Reyes was tall, with close-cropped dark hair and prominent dimples. He shook hands all around and handed them official dossiers, but added dismissively, "You can read those later. Let's talk on our way to the venue. And please, call me Kyle. I can't do that last-names-only thing with you guys; it just feels weird."
(Harry had been apprehensive about how he'd be received on this mission -- Ginny had told him about the American obsession with celebrities, and how she'd gotten mobbed outside her hotel in Portland before a Harpies/Pixies game -- but Kyle had just said, "Harry Potter, right? Cool.")
Kyle walked them through the lobby to the escalators that led to the hovertram station. As they boarded, Harry was reminded of the Tube, except that the sleek golden carriages were several stories in the air and hurtled around at unbelievable speeds under a very powerful Cloaking Spell.
"So we're on our way to Atlantis, where all the tournament events will take place," said Kyle conversationally, as they zipped around a massive erupting volcano and towards two pirate ships in the midst of exchanging cannons. Harry tried hard to focus.
"There's only one event today, and it's just a welcome party: photo shoot, press conference, and cocktail hour. My local team has already done a safety check of the room, entrances and exits, and routes to and from. They're examining the food and drink now. But starting tomorrow, those responsibilities will fall on you individually." The three of them nodded; security spells had been drilled into them so as to be second nature.
Kyle walked them through the structure of the series, which started officially tomorrow at noon with roulette, then an evening game of blackjack. Friday noon was baccarat followed by craps. Saturday was the main event: an all-day poker tournament, with the biggest stakes and biggest winnings. Then he gestured to their dossiers and gave a quick word about the high rollers they had been assigned to guard. The three Special Ops officers would be responsible for security during the higher-risk moments: escorting their wards to and from the games, and guarding them during the events. Kyle’s local Aurors would serve as more passive security, stationed outside each high roller's hotel room as well as backup around the restaurants and other public areas.
"Susan, you're with Edward Claiborne. He's from No-Maj parentage but he's pretty skilled at illusion spells. He was actually banned from a few events when he was younger for trying to use magic during a game, but he's on the straight and narrow now." When Susan peeked inside her dossier, the Claiborne in the wizarding photo began fiddling with his handlebar moustache. Padma caught Harry's eye and mouthed 'No-Maj' with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. Harry smiled. Yet another weird American thing to get used to.
"Padma, I've given you Honoria St. John Bucklebridge. She's just starting her gambling career but she just won a major invitational in Macau. Bucklebridge is a high flyer and apparently she's engaged to the guy who's eight hundredth in line for your guys' throne or something. I can't see why anyone would want to get to her, and at a gambling tournament of all places, but you never know." The imperious witch in Padma's dossier looked like the type of British aristocrat who had a middle name like St. John, Harry thought privately.
Last was Harry, who had been assigned to a gambler with the dubious moniker of Snake Eyes. Harry opened his dossier, curious for a look, but there was no photo inside. He showed the empty space to Kyle with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, weird. I could have sworn it was there this morning." Kyle patted absently at his pockets, but shrugged and waved a hand. "Whatever, you'll see him soon enough anyway. Snake Eyes is a legend, man." Kyle's eyes took on a faraway look. "His instincts are unbelievable, and he's an absolute genius at statistics and stuff like that. He reads the other players like a Legilimens. The wildest thing is that he doesn't even use magic."
Harry frowned, thinking of Claiborne. "Well, they're not allowed to, right?"
"No, I mean… He doesn't use magic at all. Not even in his real life, outside of the casino. I don't even think he owns a wand."
"He's not a Squib, is he?" asked Padma.
"I don't think so. Something about him tells me he's a wizard," Kyle mused. "You kinda have to see him in action. I'll introduce you guys before the cocktails and mingling tonight. Oop, hold on, this part is always a little disorienting."
"What--?" began Susan, but the hovertram was already rapidly approaching the surface of a vast, dark lake between two towering hotels. Before Harry knew it, they were plunging into the water and down, down, down.
Atlantis was disgustingly chic, very clearly out of the Special Ops travel budget, and so cool that Harry couldn't stop staring. The entire hotel was underwater -- exorbitant shops, exclusive restaurants that had a waiting list for the waiting list, opulent lounges and lavish clubs, probably close to two thousand rooms and suites, and twenty vast gaming rooms. They left the hovertram on shaky legs and followed Kyle into the dark luxury of the resort.
Beyond glass walls, in the deep blue-green water, impossible creatures swam through the walls and overhead. There were not only sharks and turtles and jellyfish the size of the Knight Bus, but Grindylows and Kappa too. The effect would have been as creepy as the Slytherin Common Room if not for the oscillating mood lighting that guided their path towards the casino. When they made their way there, Kyle paused for a moment to let them gawk.
Unicorn Grove and every building Harry had passed through (except for the hospital) had been dominated by brightly-lit slot machines. Harry and Ron had been dragged to a casino in London once for Lee Jordan's birthday and had grown dizzy at the spinning coloured wheels, the endless chiming. Harry found it nauseating to watch the hypnotised-looking people at machines, tapping their wands on the control panel in grim silence.
In stark contrast, the casino at Atlantis was spectacular and effortlessly lush. Instead of jangling fruit machines, there were hundreds of beautiful white marble tables covered in aquamarine cloth, with clusters of gorgeous people playing cards or dice games. The dealers were clad in stiff black uniforms, wielding weird long wooden paddles and shuffling cards as high as the ceiling with an effortless flourish. The refined quiet of this space was like an art gallery, with murmuring voices in a dozen different languages instead of the insistent cheerful peals of magical gadgets. There was no sign of mass-produced tour group t-shirts or trainers among the clientele; it was all elbow-length gloves, dazzling robes, and even a tiara or two, which reminded Harry of the Diadem and made him feel a bit ill. He was glad he'd gotten a chance to shower.
They ducked around a server in a splendid mermaid costume bearing a tray of crystal champagne flutes and morsels of caviar, and Kyle led them up a grand set of stairs winding around a gigantic statue of Poseidon. He shook his trident as they passed, and Padma's squeak of surprise drew several disapproving glares.
After walking for an age and a half, they came to a lounge that would have fit Grimmauld Place twice over. Photographers and journalists were seated in low chairs facing a long table lit by gently bobbing golden globes, and the backdrop was a vaulted glass wall behind which dolphins were cavorting merrily. About thirty other security officers were there too; Harry spotted French and Italian flags on some nearby uniforms, among others.
"The hotel security are escorting the players here from the Floo and Apparition points, so we can sit back here and watch the press conference," Kyle told them, before getting up to chat with another American Auror.
"Blimey," breathed Susan, when he was out of earshot.
"Yeah." Harry nodded. It was a hell of a lot to take in. He felt nervy all over again and almost wished he had time for another wank. He settled for bouncing his leg and fiddling with his wand holster. Padma tried to read her dossier in the subdued light but gave up when the torches dimmed, and the guests began to enter from a grand entrance at the other end of the room.
There was an usher announcing them as they were admitted one by one, like they were at a ball or something. Madeleine Carpentier. Tianyi Chang. Raya Widjaja. The King. Domenica Giordano. They all looked terribly important and alluring, and they carried themselves like royalty instead of oddballs who played Bluff for a living instead of having real jobs. Harry watched them with fascination anyway.
Then there was only one empty seat at the table remaining, and Harry recognised moustachioed Claiborne and distinguished Bucklebridge, but his own high roller hadn't shown up yet. He started to get an odd feeling in his gut.
From the front of the room, the usher intoned, "Snake Eyes."
And somehow, Harry knew.
Even before the final figure appeared in the shadowy doorway, dressed in an impeccably tailored sky-blue summer suit. Lithe figure, perfect shoulders, long legs striding to the last available seat.
He knew before the man removed his hat and sunglasses to unveil sharp grey eyes and a fall of hair so light blond it was nearly white.
He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt before the man shrugged off his blazer to bare forearms and hands absolutely covered in a riot of colourful tattoos, that he'd spot the Dark Mark hidden among the intricate shapes and lines.
Susan drew in a sharp, hissed breath and Padma murmured, "Oh my god, it's Draco Malfoy."
The conference and photoshoot passed in a blur. Harry was stationed near the exit but his eyes were fixed on Malfoy as surely as if he were wearing Omnioculars. He couldn't have looked elsewhere even if he'd wanted to.
He hadn't seen Malfoy for seven years. There had been the trial, and Harry's testimony, and silently thrusting the hawthorn wand into a stone-faced Malfoy's hands as he left. He seemed to remember a tersely-worded thank you owl that he Incendio'd as soon as he'd read it. The last he heard, the Malfoys had moved to the Continent; Nott and Zabini were the only two Slytherins to return for an eighth year at Hogwarts. After graduation, Harry had thrown himself headlong into Special Ops training. Between his demanding job, Sundays with the Weasleys, visiting Teddy and Andromeda, and remembering to sleep and eat every once in a while, there had simply been no room in his head to consider much else.
And if Harry did have a tendency to pull blokes with blond hair and athletic, aristocratic features… and if he had envisioned Malfoy every time he closed his eyes in unfamiliar men's beds… well, Harry really had thought he'd never see him again, so what was the harm in that?
But god, laying eyes on Malfoy in the flesh was something else entirely. He'd lost track of the number of times Ron had begged him to leave the Invisibility Cloak in his trunk for the night, or Hermione had rolled his eyes at Harry's musing on Malfoy's latest schemes. For Merlin's sake, he'd only learned to master a wandless Lumos so that he didn't have to reach for his wand to check the Marauder's Map for Malfoy in the middle of the night. That it had evolved from suspicion to needful obsession that kept him awake and tormented and hard was something neither Hermione nor Ron had ever been told.
Malfoy brought out the worst in Harry -- competitiveness, focus verging on obsession, an urge to solve conflicts with fists and wands instead of thinking for two seconds. Not exactly good traits for a special operations officer. Harry wondered how pissed off Captain Sterndale would be if he asked to be removed from the mission. Or maybe he could ask the hospital to hurry up Seamus' treatment and get him back out in the field. Merlin, anything but having to open doors and check chocolates for poison and be at the beck and call of Draco Malfoy, the most insufferable tosser and the most compelling individual Harry had ever met.
It really didn't help that Malfoy had grown up to become the spitting image of the not-so-imaginary Adonis that Harry had wanked over not an hour before. He fidgeted in his seat, adjusting himself surreptitiously, but it didn't do much good.
Before he knew it, applause roused him from his reverie. The high rollers stood from the long conference table for group photos, then began to meander to the cocktail bar while a string quartet struck up a lilting tune in the background. Kyle beckoned the three of them to follow him so that they could be introduced.
Susan shook hands with Claiborne, whose ridiculous moustache had been waxed to the tips for the photoshoot. "I knew your aunt," he said to Susan with a roguish wink. His voice was high-pitched and musical, like he was on the verge of laughing. "She was the head prosecutor when I got my lifetime ban from the Piccadilly Wizards' Casino. She was a formidable woman." Susan looked surprised but gave a firm, proud nod of agreement.
Padma met Honoria St. John Bucklebridge, who greeted her frigidly before turning to light a cigarette with her wand. Even though the invitation for tonight had specified casual attire, she was still bedecked in silver and rubies at her ears, throat, and wrists. Padma raised her eyebrows but seemed to accept her fate, following Bucklebridge at a discreet distance.
Which left Harry and Malfoy.
Instead of mingling with the other high rollers, Malfoy was alone. He stood by a cluster of empty chairs watching the dolphins, his blazer draped picture-perfect over his sculpted shoulders and his tattooed hands in his pockets. The shifting light from the water illuminated his profile in an awfully lovely way. Harry's heart banged about in his chest as if trying to break its way out.
As Harry and Kyle approached, Malfoy turned to look at them and his bright gaze speared Harry like a knife. He underwent a series of minute transformations that had to have been invisible to anyone who hadn't watched him across the Great Hall for six bloody years. A slight widening of the pupils, a hitch in his breath, squaring his shoulders. Harry felt his own spine straighten, preparing for battle even as his eyes roved over the tight pull of Malfoy's flawless white shirt over his chest.
Oh god, he was tall and lean and fit as fuck, and Harry didn't know whether to tamp down the hot feeling coiling in his belly, or harness it for the inevitable blows that would be exchanged as soon as Malfoy opened his perfect pink mouth.
"Snake Eyes, good to see you again, man," said Kyle cheerfully, as if tectonic plates weren't silently breaking and shifting beneath Harry and Malfoy. "I'd like to introduce you to your bodyguard for the weekend. This is Officer--"
"Thank you, Auror Reyes. Potter and I are well acquainted." Malfoy's words were cordial, but the knowing smile he gave Harry slipped under his skin like a familiar splinter finding its way home.
Kyle raised his eyebrows at Harry in mild surprise, but Harry gave him an I'll-explain-later scrunch of the mouth. The Senior Auror nodded, then headed back towards the larger group, leaving the two of them alone.
"Harry Fucking Potter." That crude oath in Malfoy's cut-crystal accent blazed through Harry in an instant. He put out a hand to steady himself on the back of a chair, trying to make it look like a casual lean.
"'Snake Eyes', Malfoy? Could you be any more obvious?" He chose to deflect the barbed introduction than to come to terms with Malfoy's voice working better than a Jelly-Legs Jinx.
To his mingled delight and annoyance, Malfoy laughed. "Believe it or not, it's a gambling term. Not everyone is gagging to relive their schoolboy days ad nauseam, and it's been a long time since I encountered anyone who thought that house mascots were still relevant."
Now it was Malfoy's turn to scrutinise Harry. Although he was wearing his full uniform -- white shirt under dark green robes, grey trousers, black leather gloves, and high laced black boots -- the way Malfoy's gaze raked over his body flayed him bare. Harry stared back defiantly, trying desperately not to think of gagging alongside the image of a Slytherin necktie put to an alternative use.
Whatever Malfoy was looking for, he seemed to have found it, because he broke the stare and gestured to a passing waiter. "Two dry martinis, please," he told the man.
"I can't drink on the job," Harry objected. Though Merlin knew he could use it.
"Oh, no?" Malfoy looked a little disappointed, but his mouth perked up in a little smile. "Make that one dry martini and one... peppermint hot chocolate. Extra whipped cream. Please and thank you." The waiter bowed and slipped away. Malfoy settled languidly into a chair and waved a hand at Harry. "Salazar's sake, stop hovering. Have a seat."
Harry furrowed his brow but did as he was told. "What the hell are you doing here, Malfoy?"
"As you are well aware, I am competing in my sixth International Wizarding Casino World Series," Malfoy replied placidly. He leaned back, getting comfortable. "It turns out I'm rather good at winning money when I put my mind to it. I suppose you'd prefer I was... oh, cleaning up owl droppings, or rotting away in Azkaban, to atone for my crimes?"
"Just atoning would be enough," Harry snapped. "Wasn't that part of your sentence? Ten years of community service?"
Malfoy touched a hand to his throat in an exaggerated gesture of delight. "Why Potter, you remembered! I'm touched. Don't forget, a lifelong playdate with the Dementors for Father, and exile abroad for Mother since the Manor was seized for reparations." His eyes had a dangerous gleam. "For your information, this is how I make use of my week of annual leave. I do spend most of my time doing serving my community."
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
The waiter reappeared with their drinks, and they sat in tight silence while the glasses were deposited on crystal coasters. Malfoy's elegant martini looked quite at odds with Harry's cheery hot chocolate. Harry performed the regulation spell to check for poisons and curses, and a wave of his wand produced a shimmer of blue: all clear. Finally, Malfoy said:
"...I work at a hippogriff rehabilitation center."
"HA!!" Harry's shout of laughter rang through the room, and several elegant heads turned to look at him in disapproval. He only had eyes for Malfoy, who looked irked. "You're right, I don't believe you."
"Good to know some things will never change." Malfoy picked up his martini and raised it to Harry, who in turn grasped the handle of his oversized mug. The aroma of rich chocolate and fresh peppermint seemed to ground him, even as his insides wriggled at the sight of Malfoy swallowing a sip of his cocktail. He took a drink of his hot chocolate and gave an appreciative hum.
"Come on, Malfoy, tell me the truth."
"I just did." Malfoy nibbled at one of the olives on the sword-shaped skewer. Harry noticed for the first time that he wore one or more rings on each slender finger. "It may come as a great shock to you not having seen me since we were at school, Potter, but I've left my bad habits behind. Fibbing and sneaking and tattling -- it's just too much trouble, I find. Far easier to tell the truth." He made a weird little hand gesture that might have meant something like 'scout's honor,' but Harry didn't know for sure, as he would never have been allowed to join.
He snorted. "That's the most un-Slytherin thing I've ever heard you say."
"Don't be puerile. It was ages ago when we were placed into teams on the whim of a talking hat. Are you honestly telling me you still categorise people into nerds, bores, liars, and chivalrous fools who'd jump in front of a train to save a kitten?"
"Of course not," replied Harry hotly as he thought to himself, Such a Slytherin.
Malfoy looked at him over the top of his glass, lips sealed but grey eyes glimmering knowingly. Harry distracted himself by gazing at Malfoy's arm tattoos. It might be surrounded by inked flowers, birds, and geometric shapes now, but Harry knew the Dark Mark was still there. Whether or not he still thought of himself as a Slytherin, that indelible proof of Malfoy's choices would be there forever.
Yes, he'd rather focus on that than on the sight of Malfoy's Adam's apple bobbing as he drained his martini.
Harry found that his own drink was almost finished, save for a small blob of whipped cream at the bottom. He raised the cup to his mouth and darted out his tongue. "Thanks for the drink. What are you doing now?"
He looked up in time to see Malfoy avert his eyes hastily. "I plan to catch up on my beauty sleep. International Portkeys always leave me feeling wrung out." He stood, and Harry stood with him.
"I'll walk you back to your room."
Malfoy glanced at him again, and Harry couldn't parse the gleam in his eyes. "Not like that, you won't."
"I have to. It's my job," Harry insisted. But he wasn't expecting Malfoy to close the distance between them and cup Harry's jaw in one hand.
The 'what are you doing?' died in Harry's throat at the touch of Malfoy's cool palm. He was a few inches shorter than Malfoy, which meant he had to tilt his head back to look at Malfoy's half-closed eyes while the other man's silver gaze was focused on Harry's mouth. His minty aftershave held the sharp tang of an impending storm.
Alarmingly, Harry's instincts told him to tilt his head to one side to make a better angle for the kiss. Because that's what this was, wasn't it? Harry's heart was pounding. Surely there could be no other--
In a split-second, Malfoy swiped his thumb and drew his hand back to show Harry a morsel of whipped cream that had been sitting at the corner of his lips.
Then with a wicked grin, Malfoy (the absolute bastard) brought his thumb to his own mouth and licked it clean.
Harry stood speechless as Malfoy shrugged back into his jacket, tucked his sunglasses into the breast pocket, and picked up his hat with a little twirl. He looked perfectly composed, unlike Harry, who was half bamboozled and half so turned on that his knees felt wobbly.
Gathering his wits, he raised a hand in farewell to Kyle, who was across the room with his colleagues, then followed Malfoy out of the lounge and towards the lifts that led to the rooms and suites. Questions burned on his tongue but he didn't dare speak as they passed the museum-quiet card tables. After a ride in the lift that felt far too short, they were standing in front of a grand door reading 'Deity Suite'. One of the local Aurors was stationed a bit down the hallway and gave Harry a perfunctory nod from over her paperback novel.
"Well, as delightful as this little reunion has been," drawled Malfoy, "I need to unpack. It turns out it takes much longer without a wand. Here, I'm supposed to give you this." He handed Harry a clear token shaped like a seashell, then held an identical one up to the door of the suite. A lock clicked and the door opened. Malfoy stepped forward quickly, and around him Harry caught a glimpse of a suite like something out of a pornographic interior design magazine: gauzy curtains, marble pillars, dark blue leather sofas, and what looked like a combination fountain/jacuzzi sunk into the living room floor.
"Wait--!" called Harry as Malfoy began to close the door, though he didn't know what to ask first. Where's your wand? Why don't you use magic anymore? What was up with licking your thumb thing earlier, because holy hell?
What he finally ended up saying was: "Can I have your number?"
Malfoy paused in the doorway, looking at Harry like he'd just suggested they move in together.
"Er. You know. If you need to get in touch with me, 'cause there's only a Floo in our common area. It's my job to keep you safe. And Susan and Padma want to get sushi for lunch, but after what happened with Seamus, I don't really feel like it. So if you wanted to get something to eat or whatever--"
"Oh my god, fine," said Malfoy, his features softening into something like amusement. He stuck out his hand for Harry's phone and keyed himself into the contacts with several swift taps of his thumbs. Then he did the thing where he called himself, because Harry heard the first few seconds of Carly Rae Jepsen from his jacket pocket. When he handed the phone back, their hands brushed and lingered for a moment too long. "Good night, Potter." Malfoy stepped inside and the door snapped shut.
In a bit of a daze, Harry meandered back through the labyrinthine hotel towards the hovertram station, and he only got lost once. (Why was there a button in the lift for 'Wedding Chapel'?) During the whole tram ride back to Unicorn Grove and the subsequent walk back to his room, his heart felt all leapy, and he couldn't even blame it on the caffeine anymore. It was either the Portkey-lag or seeing Malfoy again, and Harry wasn't sure which option he preferred.
In the black solitude of the hotel suite -- Padma and Susan's room was dark -- Harry shrugged out of his clothes and laid on top of the cool sheets, feeling electric and weird. Unbidden images rose in his mind like a malfunctioning Pensieve: teenage Malfoy laughing in the Great Hall as his owl swooped down with a package of sweets. That one Quidditch match when the locker room pipes had frozen so the Gryffindor and Slytherin teams had all had to crowd into Ravenclaw's, hurled insults and hurled towels and brief, tantalizing glimpses of skin. Malfoy licking his thumb with his eyes trained on Harry's like they were just two blokes in a bar, who didn't have all this fucking history between them.
Harry's phone buzzed on the nightstand next to his wand. Malfoy had added himself under the contact name SNAKE EYES, with a pair of animated dice icons that Harry hated on sight and didn't know how to change.
officer potter. what time do i get the pleasure of yr company tmrw?
He dug around on the floor for his crumpled dossier. I go on duty at 5, and I'm supposed to escort you to the thing at 6.
hm. i have plans for breakfast but we can do late non-sushi lunch after roulette if you like.
just take the lift to the pool at my hotel. you'll find me.
And another in quick succession: did you bring a bathing suit?
No? Why??? Harry responded, wondering what swimwear had to do with lunch.
ok. sweet dreams.
Harry scoffed, plugged his phone in, and set his glasses aside as he slipped under the sheets. He wondered if it was bad form to wank to thoughts of real Malfoy now that he had seen the stretch of cloth over his torso and taken in his incendiary scent. For twenty minutes he tossed and turned, staring at the blurry neon reflections of light that shone through a break in the curtains.
Then he decided sod it, and did it anyway, because he needed the sleep and Malfoy would never know. He finished even faster than he had in the shower, thinking of the way Malfoy's plump lip had caught in sharp white teeth when he'd said Harry Fucking Potter.
Sweaty and breathless and sated, Harry cast a lazy wandless Scourgify and was nearly asleep when voices sounded right outside his door.
"Muffliato, Standard Book of Spells, Grade 5, Harry!" said Padma through an exasperated laugh.
"Really makes you wonder what the Gryffindor boys' dorm was like," Susan remarked. Then, more loudly, "Harry, if you can't cast a decent Muffling Charm, I'm asking Sterndale to never pair us on a mission together again!"
"Oh my god, sorry, I'm so sorry, goodnight!" Harry's face was burning and burying it under a pillow didn't really help. He wriggled further under the sheets and reflected that after seven years of good behavior, this was a hell of a way to become obsessed with Draco Malfoy all over again.