Harry takes one more look over his desk, confirming that any case files are locked away safely by the light glow of wards around the drawers and that all his empty takeaway cups have been binned. Satisfied, he drapes one more protective charm over it, then leans out his doorway, craning his neck down towards the bullpen. “Ron! Ron, are you ready?”
“Coming!” Ron’s voice is muffled by his desk. He’s ducked underneath it, and all Harry can see are his legs sticking out. “Just trying to find—got you, you little bastard—I dropped that shell we found at the crime scene last week, and I already promised it to Teddy—can’t disappoint him now, can I?” He carefully reverses out from under the desk, and Harry smothers a chuckle as he watches Ron slowly stand—he’s clearly still overly-cautious after knocking his head in pursuit of a dropped case file a few weeks ago and having to be seen to by the field Healer for concussion symptoms. Harry magnanimously does not remind him of the incident (this time).
“No, certainly not, but can you get a move on? I’m afraid if we stick around for much longer Robards will forget our annual leave starts today and try to assign us something last-minute. Let’s get out of here while he’s still in that meeting,” Harry urges, glancing at Robards’ closed office door.
“Thought you’d be eager for another assignment, mate,” Ron teases, but at least he starts shoving papers into his bag more quickly. “Mr My Job Is My Only Joy.”
Harry shoves him gently, but finally they’re striding through the department toward the lifts. As they step inside and press the button for the Atrium, Harry breathes a sigh of relief and rolls his shoulders back. As much as he loves his job—and for all its faults he does—he’s been looking forward to this break for Christmas for months.
And so maybe he might have abused his position as Deputy Head to ensure he and Ron were given the same time off this year, so what? Robards still had to sign off on it, after all.
He and Ron are headed to Kings Arms to meet Hermione and some of her law school classmates for a few rounds, then the three of them are taking the Knight Bus back to the Burrow for the five days they’ve all got off for Christmas, and Harry can’t wait to turn his brain off for a few days. The Deputy Head responsibilities, as much as he enjoys them, get overwhelming when he doesn’t have time to relax and recharge, and he’s just gotten off a truly harrowing series of murders. He definitely needs a break, with nothing stressful and nothing to worry about.
On Christmas Day, Harry is slumped down on one of the Weasleys' comfortable sofas, eyes half-closed as he dozes. He’s full to bursting and just edging to tipsy, and the room is warm from the fire, and Ginny’s sprawled next to him, drooling against his shoulder as she naps—Harry thinks he could fall asleep right here too, even though his arm is slowly going numb.
Just as his eyes slip shut fully, he’s jolted unpleasantly awake by a slamming door and a sharply cold wind rushing through the room. Glancing around, Harry notes that the rest of the Weasleys draped over other pieces of furniture look equally shocked—Ron is blinking rapidly and clutching Hermione’s wrist, and Charlie has rolled off his chair.
“Up and at ‘em!” comes the—disgustingly cheery—voice of Fred from one end of the room. Harry groans and slouches further down on the couch.
“It’s present time!” George chimes in from the other side, waving his wand and sending another burst of cold air dancing over everyone.
“Fuck’s sake, you two are annoying,” Bill mutters, stroking Fleur’s hair as she blinks confusedly around.
“Ahh, you’d miss me if I weren’t here to bother you, Billiam,” Fred says cheerfully, bounding over to meet George at the tree. The two of them start distributing presents, thunking them down into everyone’s laps despite the protests.
“Oi!” Harry shouts, wincing as one sharp corner gets a little too close to…sensitive areas. “Watch where you’re throwing these things, you prats.”
George snickers, elbowing Fred. “Almost ended the Potter line just then, Gred.”
“What would old Ignotus have to say about that?” Fred wonders aloud as he floats the remaining boxes to their recipients.
The mood improves as everyone tears through their gifts. Harry loves this part of Christmas—no ceremony, no formalities, just a cacophony of ripping paper and cries of delight as new treasures are uncovered.
Finally, the presents are lovingly set aside and the wrappings all Vanished, and everyone is left with identical long, rectangular packages, which the twins had insisted needed to be saved for last. The paper is a lurid, painfully bright pink with dancing fuchsia sparkles, and Harry’s not the only one wincing away from the display.
“Now!” George says grandly, leaping to his feet and trotting to the center of the room. Fred is hot on his heels, and the grins they sport are disturbing. Harry eyes the package with trepidation, casually nudging it so it’s not directly over his groin. Ginny snickers next to him, and he elbows her before turning his attention back to the twins.
“Forge and I are proud to announce that within the next few weeks, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes will be introducing a Valentine’s Day-themed line!” Fred announces with a flourish.
“Er...should I be here for this?” Harry wonders, half-fearing that they’re about to announce a return of the WonderWitch line, or something else questionable that he’ll be obligated to submit for official Ministry review. Hermione seems to be much the same mind as him—she’s watching the twins with narrowed eyes. It had been her urging (and many, many presentations—there had been charts) that got them to understand the dubious nature of love potions and pull the entire product line, despite the outcry from the more traditional Wizarding sect, for whom love potions were part of a long, romantic tradition.
“Nothing like that, Haz,” George says. Harry is not reassured.
“No, we at Wheezes are proud to announce that the Be Mine line will meet even the most rigorous standards of consent—” Fred winks at Hermione, who looks placated, “—and are only meant for a little lighthearted fun. And with fun being the object—”
“—we’ve decided to gift our favourite product to you, our loving family members, for final testing!” George continues. “Go on, open them!”
The unwrapping noises are much less enthusiastic this time. The Weasleys have learned to be leery of anything from Fred and George, and Harry holds his breath as he shakes the box open—but it’s just a quill.
A hot pink, glittery quill, but just a quill.
He meets Ron’s eyes from across the room, and they each start casting Auror-grade detection charms over the violently neon feathers. Fred rolls his eyes and George leans against the wall with his arms crossed, but they don’t object, and nobody else in the family touches them until Ron and Harry both nod that the quills appear free of hexes, enchantments, or bewitchments.
“See? Harmless,” Fred sniffs.
George nods in agreement. “Honestly, your suspicions wound us,” he says, placing his hand over his heart. “All these do is add a little…pizzazz to what you write.”
Harry narrows his eyes, watching as Fred attempts to contain a smirk. A little pizzazz. Right. He’s still not using the bloody thing.
Harry returns to work after his holiday with a spring in his step. Christmas had been perfect—relaxing and uneventful, just what he needed. He’s got a good feeling about this new year.
He checks the desk wards when he slips into his office, and they glow reassuringly at him, except—
Harry blinks, then narrows his eyes. All the quills on his desk, which he keeps in spare novelty pint glasses, are neon pink, casting sparkling reflections on the dark woodgrain of his desk from where the sunlight hits them through the window.
Bloody prats. He’ll have to reconfigure his security again. He can’t figure out how they keep getting past his barriers.
He lowers the wards, then digs through his drawers. Surely he’s got a spare quill somewhere in here?
A few minutes later, and he sighs in frustration. Somehow they’ve even managed to replace his spares—including the broken ones, Merlin, what’s the point of that—with these hideous Be Mine monstrosities.
Fine. He’ll just—have to give it a go, then.
Harry sits, pulls out a spare bit of parchment and his inkwell, and gingerly picks one of the quills up. Nothing happens, so he dips the nib in, then scrawls out a sample sentence—Harry Potter, Order of Merlin First Class, Deputy Head Auror, he’s not very creative under pressure, ok?—and watches as the ink shimmers for a moment, then turns a vibrant magenta, with faint sparkle accents.
Harry tilts his head, considering. It...isn’t that bad? A little froofy, sure, and he’ll get the piss taken out of him for ages by Patrol, but as far as Wheezes and pizzazz goes, this is really pretty harmless.
Just to be safe, he casts another set of detection spells, but all that shows up is a glamour—no doubt what’s used to alter the ink’s colour and add the glitter.
Shrugging, Harry bins the scrap parchment, then Levitates the contents of his in-tray and starts to sort them by urgency. He’s not going to borrow trouble if all these quills do is change the ink. He’s not quite sure why Fred and George are so excited about them, but they’ve always been odd.
Harry spends the whole day triple-checking his reports and memos before he sends them off, but nothing seems wrong—they’re all colourful, to be sure, and the glitter sheds if the paper is moved too quickly, so he and his desk are both vaguely tarted up for the clubs right now, but nothing else seems to be going on.
He forgets about it. His week is fairly slow from a case perspective, mostly some petty theft and property damage from New Year’s Eve, but it takes him a bit to get back into the swing of things.
Ron stops by to get him for lunch and snickers at the quills, but stops when Harry threatens to get the twins to replace all of his writing implements with them, too.
As they make their way to the cafeteria, Harry notices Rob, the excruciatingly handsome wizard down in Records, watching them closely. Ron elbows him and Harry flushes, looking away quickly. “Stop that,” he hisses.
“What? He’s finally looking at you, mate—you should go talk to him!”
“Er—no,” Harry mumbles. Rob’s almost intimidatingly pretty, and anyway, the few times Harry has talked to him, when he’s gone to pick up files in person, he hasn’t been impressed by Rob’s ego and lack of interest in anything outside of himself. Harry doesn’t think he could put up with that for more than the few minutes he spends admiring the eye candy every few weeks.
Odd, though. Rob’s certainly winked and flirted when Harry’s been down in his department, but he’s never sent so much as a glance Harry’s way when they’ve crossed paths elsewhere. Maybe he messed up his request form that morning.
Harry dismisses the Rob thing, but as the week goes on, he can’t help noticing that more and more of his...well, they’re not crushes per se, that’s reserved for—anyway, more and more of the people at work he fancies are acting weird around him.
After Rob, he’s stopped by Emma, the lovely (and too young for him) Welcome Witch who staffs the desk in the afternoons, who normally just looks at him from under her lashes, but this time she’s cosied right up, touching his arm and giggling even when he’s certain he’s not being that funny. Ron, the prat, stands back and watches, a hand over his mouth as he takes the scene in with glee—no doubt Hermione will hear about whatever the hell this is, and Harry resigns himself to teasing for the foreseeable future as he bumbles his way out of the conversation and escapes back to his office.
The next day, after Robards sends out case assignments and Harry’s added in notes as needed, he’s waylaid by Arnav, the transfer Auror who’s here for a six-month exchange and who has the biggest, most beautiful eyes Harry’s ever seen on a man. Arnav’s far too slick for Harry’s liking—he’s chatted up nearly everyone in the Ministry who isn’t a direct superior by now—but Harry had underestimated what it felt like to have that charm focused on him, and barely gets away with a mumbled “er, no thank you” when Arnav invites him out for some advice that night, a hand resting on Harry’s bicep.
Harry can’t date his subordinates. He already had to sit through all the seminars when he got promoted, and he’s not keen to do them over.
And then at lunch that day, Olivia, the tall, toned Quodpot liaison in Games, sits down at their table and immediately leans into Harry’s space, completely ignoring Ron and Seamus, who watch in bewilderment as she inches closer and closer to Harry over the next half-hour. Harry, turned on and a little terrified, leans back as far as is polite. Olivia is stunning, but she’s very intense, and Harry’s not sure he could date someone who’s that much more muscular than he is, even if he often finds himself watching the play of her back under the tight jerseys she wears to work.
And it continues all week. Harry can’t figure out why, but he’s enjoying the attention, even when it’s coming from such inappropriate, impossible options. He’s never been pulled this much in his life.
It was a little weird when Minister Shacklebolt gave him a strange, intense look in the hallway, though.
One afternoon, Ron comes into his office and grabs him up into a spine-cracking hug without a word or any context. Harry squeaks but lets it happen, and when they finally pull away and Harry’s caught his breath, he notices Ron’s eyes are shiny.
“Me too, mate,” Ron says, staring significantly into Harry’s eyes. “Me too.” He claps Harry once on the shoulder, wipes his eyes, and heads back out to his desk.
Harry stands there for a moment, then shrugs. It’s nowhere near the oddest thing that’s happened to him so far this week.
He’s already looking forward to the weekend.
On Friday, Harry spends the morning processing samples from a potions lab Ron’s team is looking into for illegal imports. It’s tedious—he has to log every single vial with his own impressions, run diagnostics, and determine if they’re conclusive enough to check into evidence or if they need to be sent down to the Potions division for further testing. Luckily, only one needs to be sent off, and Harry dashes off the memo with his request as quickly as he can, trying not to think about who’s going to read the report and what commentary they’ll have about his ‘choice’ of ink.
He rubs his hands over his trousers, trying to get some of the sparkles off before he reaches for his next report. Hermione is looking up spells that can remove glitter from skin and clothing, but she’s had no luck so far, and Harry is half-resigned to spending the rest of his life glimmering everywhere he goes. It’s in his hair, for Merlin’s sake, and not just the hair on his head.
He takes lunch in his office, not interested in whoever’s going to accost him today, and he’s just vanishing the sandwich wrapper when his door slams open and Draco Malfoy storms in, clutching a report. From how sparkly and messy his hair is, and the pieces of glitter glinting from his eyebrows, Harry gathers it’s his report, the one from this morning for the unidentified sample.
“Hello, Malfoy…?” Harry says uncertainly, half-rising from his chair. “Was there something wrong with my memo this morning?”
Malfoy spells the door shut with a snarl, then whirls back to Harry, red-faced and furious. “I will not allow you to humiliate me like this, Potter. This is harassment! This is a hostile work environment! I’m Owling WR this minute, we’ll see what they have to say—”
Harry comes around from behind his desk and grabs one of Malfoy’s waving arms, interrupting the flow of invective. “Malfoy, what in the fuck are you talking about? Since when is sending you a memo with an analysis request workplace harassment? Look, let me just—” and he snatches the memo out of Malfoy’s other hand, drawing back far enough to glance over it without interference.
Oh bloody fuck.
It’s his memo, alright—if the glitter all over Malfoy hadn’t been enough to confirm it, the ink colour definitely is. It’s even his own handwriting. But this is not what Harry wrote.
Harry scans over the text, but he’s only registering every few words—no doubt a defense mechanism, his brain trying to protect him from the horrors within the memo.
Harry is quite certain that never in his life has he put to writing anything about the gleam of Malfoy’s hair in the Atrium lights, or the snap of his eyes when he’s arguing a point, or the rush of something Harry feels every time they cross paths. There’s even an appallingly flowery passage about Malfoy’s commanding bloody presence during debriefs, Merlin, every tiny embarrassing thought he’s ever had since Malfoy came to work at the Ministry is in this memo, every idle fancy and stray fantasy immortalised in that hideous, vibrant ink—including, crammed down at the bottom, a truly mortifying come up to my office when you’re free, there’s some investigating I need you to do.
Harry stands frozen for a while, Malfoy’s angry ranting washing over him unregistered. He thinks back over the last week, all the coy touches and flirty smiles and blushing interactions. He thinks about the reports and the memos and the forms he’s filled out and sent winging through the Ministry over the last week—and more specifically, who they’ve gone to and what Harry has thought privately to himself about each of those people in his…spare time.
“Fuck,” he mutters, glaring at the quills sparkling innocently at him from his desk. Right. Nothing for it but to face this head-on.
“Malfoy!” he shouts, reaching out and grabbing Malfoy’s arm to stop his frenzied pacing. “Bloody hell, Draco, calm the fuck down, will you? Listen to me for a moment? Look, I didn’t write that—no, don’t start again, let me finish—I didn’t write any of this. Do you really think I’d willingly use this colour ink, or put anything like…that in an official request? It’s the quills, Malfoy, look, these bloody quills from Wheezes, Fred and George replaced all mine with these horrid pink things, and I tested them and thought they only changed the ink colour so I haven’t gotten around to replacing them yet, but they’ve apparently been changing the messages when they reach their intended targets too, here, you try it, you’ll see for yourself.”
Malfoy is standing still finally, but his sneer is disbelieving. “You’re talking gibberish, Potter. You’re trying to tell me that the quill is the reason you’ve taken complete leave of your senses?”
“Yes,” Harry says firmly, guiding Malfoy to one of the visitor chairs. He goes back around the desk and sits down, rummaging until he finds a blank paper, which he pushes across the desk along with his inkwell. “Look, just—grab one of those quills, and use this ink—you can see it’s black in the well, write something out, fold it up and hand it back to me. You’ll see.”
Malfoy stares at him for a moment; just long enough to give Harry time to contemplate the fact that he’d sent Kingsley several reports this week, and that he’s always found the Minister attractive in a very intimidating way, and good lord he never never wants to know how those particular fantasies have been interpreted to text.
He spares a minute to wonder if it’s not fair to not share his suspicions about the true purpose of the quills with Malfoy, but it’s too late—he’s snatched one up and is very carefully printing out “POTTER YOU PRAT” in large capital letters. He folds the paper neatly, then chucks it back across Harry’s desk.
Harry smiles weakly at him, then unfolds the paper and presses it flat to the desk, so they can both see. As they watch, the whole parchment shimmers, and when it finally clears it’s a long screed that Harry scans through rapidly, pulling out phrases like the bewitching curve of your neck and eyes that pin me into place even in my dreams before Malfoy screeches and tugs the paper back. Harry doesn’t let go, and they struggle for a moment before it rips in half.
They stare at each other for a minute, both turning pink, and finally Harry blurts out “So, would you like to go with me to the Twelfth Night celebration tomorrow, you know, as a date?”
“Yes, of course,” Malfoy responds instantly, turning even redder.
They smile stupidly at each other for a while, and Malfoy’s sitting closer, and Harry finds himself half-standing and leaning over his desk, and Malfoy’s tipping his head and his eyes are starting to close, and Harry’s eyes zero in on his lips, and—
“Oh fuck. Oh fuck,” he yelps, jumping back into his seat.
Malfoy blinks and sits up straight, arching an eyebrow in question.
“Malfoy…” Harry groans, dropping his head into his hands. “...I sent a memo to Blaise this week.”
Blaise Zabini, who is, as far as Harry can tell, still one of Malfoy’s closest friends.
Blaise Zabini, who works down in Mysteries, thinks Harry is a first-class idiot after all the times he’s tripped over his tongue watching the man swan around in those tight, tight robes. But really, it’s not Harry’s fault! Those cheekbones should be illegal, especially when combined with those eyelashes.
Harry marinates in his misery for a moment, but then Malfoy starts to chuckle, then giggle, and then he’s out-and-out laughing, and has to lean forward and clutch Harry’s desk to keep himself steady.
“I’m glad you find this so bloody amusing,” Harry grumbles, but he’s utterly charmed watching Malfoy completely lose himself in laughter.
“Bloody fuck, Potter, you’re lucky he hasn’t disappeared you for the sheer cheek of it,” Malfoy gasps out, tears streaming down his face. The thought tickles him so much it sets him off into new howls of laughter.
“Psh,” Harry responds, giving up on suppressing his smile. “You’d miss me too much to let him do that.”
Malfoy’s finally calmed himself down enough that he can breathe properly, and he’s wiped his face mostly dry. “Well, certainly, Potter,” he replies, and his voice is soft and gentle and teasing, and something in Harry melts.
Standing, Malfoy circles the desk until he’s near enough to drop a light kiss on Harry’s cheek. “You should pick me up at five tomorrow. We can go for a drink before the gala starts, talk a little before we’re overrun by flunkies.”
“Sure,” Harry says dazedly, distracted by how pleased Malfoy looks.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” Malfoy heads for Harry’s office door, pausing once he’s opened it and shooting a smile back over his shoulder, then rapping at the doorframe before he exits.
Harry sits back in his chair and smiles goofily at nothing for a while, until he’s interrupted by an overly-large midnight blue memo that sails in and jabs him hard enough to scratch his forearm. When he tries to grab at it, it dances out of his grasp and starts smoking.
“Oh bloody fuck, that’s from Mysteries.”