They didn’t need the NEWTs. Exams were from another life. They needed this—new spells, more spells, real practice, experience; learning how to rely on more than just shell-shocked determination and an insane Expelliarmus, what they should have known during the battle. The war days played themselves over and over again in Harry’s head with flashing details. They could have died a thousand times. Somehow they hadn’t.
He’d always wanted to be an Auror, and the wizarding world needed them. They needed him. The war wasn’t over. There were several Death Eaters on the loose. He knew them by name—Yaxley, Dolohov, Mulciber. The MLE couldn’t say no to him anyway, after all… Catching Dark wizards was what he was meant to do.
Their first mission as newly-licensed Aurors justified everything; they were ensuring that the victory would last, bit by bit. Ginny didn’t appreciate his zeal; they fought, and Harry could pretend that was why he kept shaking every other night.
Things got worse after another stakeout. Neville took a sudden leave and then he quit. Although it shouldn’t have affected Harry, it made him sick to see his friend’s truly relieved smile when they met at the Leaky for a pint after he’d decided to go into professional Herbology. It was a happy smile. Even though it meant he would have to spend weeks, perhaps months abroad, with Hannah tied to London—he’d found a way out. In the following months, Harry drowned himself in work. He was more on edge than ever. Then he and Ginny were done. He worked harder.
Until they made him stop. Not just the Head Auror, but Ron, too—Ron, who was so comfortable in the job it made Harry feel like an Infernoed rag doll in comparison. He now admitted to himself that they had been right, that it had been a relief in the long run, but it was also when he broke down for good.
The Mind Healer didn’t help. Harry spent every other session shouting or breaking things, generally too dizzy with frustration to hear whatever the shrink was saying. He didn’t want any bloody potions, so he left one day and walked for hours in Muggle London.
He needed an outlet.
The only thing that came to mind as he saw a police car drive by was a vague memory of cartoon westerns on one of Dudley’s countless television sets, and lonely childhood games that seemed to belong to another universe.
He found a small firing range. Feeling unable to ask for information without sounding like a budding psycho, he shut up and gazed at the boards, his mind reeling too much for him to memorise anything. But this was it—the promising sounds, the unfamiliar words, the money he would have to spend on lessons—his money... His eyes stung with the prospect of relief. He took the night to calm down and eventually signed up at another range, with a slightly less dishevelled air.
That was all it took—twice a week, sometimes three times a week, he would go and spend fifty minutes on double sessions, aiming at pins or firing holes into white paper targets. He would trap his miserable little self in the strange silence of the ear muffs and let all his anxiety course through his arms, gather in his hands and explode out with the gunshot.
It helped him put wandwork behind. It seemed more physical, more brutal, and yet less terrifyingly lethal than spells. He had to focus, stand still, take time to aim; he was so bad at first—one would think, being in law enforcement… but it felt wrong in his mind to claim he was an Auror anymore. He was nothing. Focus, aim, stand still. It felt more manageable than Occlumency and nonverbal spellcasting, which he’d always had a hell of a hard time with. Here, when he took aim and pulled the trigger, he was still free to curse and to cry within. With both eyes open, he did. And, gradually, it was easier to empty his mind.
The Mind Healer was satisfied. Harry kept flooing over to London, frequenting the firing range to fill the time he had spent in therapy sessions, grateful that his friends had stopped asking questions. Week after week, he worked himself up his own hall of fame—Harry A, Harry C, Harry 25 May, Harry 15 February… Sometimes it was hard not to picture himself using the gun against dark wizards in a night sequence. Sometimes, as he stared at the target, the white would turn green. Most of the time though, it was just accurate bliss.
He was more relaxed. He could enjoy time at the Burrow and the company of his wonderfully successful friends. Ron never brought work home. Hermione built walls of Magical Creatures legislation. Ginny made her way into the national league. As Harry watched them, the cracks in his life began to mend.
He didn’t return to his job. He knew there would always be a position for him but he wasn’t ready. He was becoming something of an expert in handguns. He enjoyed trying out old and new models every so often, feeling the minute differences of the shocks in his arms. But he did have a favourite—a .44 caliber short-barrel revolver. He seldom used it at the club, never tried to use it outside, but he kept it at hand in his small Muggle flat, and he could feel its cold weight in his hand every night. Maybe he would start a collection. Maybe this piece was already one too many.
The day he met Malfoy again made him feel as if he still hadn’t recovered his bearings.
They were in a “gay friendly” club and he wasn't prepared. He felt terrified and frustrated again, only in a different kind of way. By the end of the night, Malfoy’s body was too close to his, the lights of the club pulsing across his pale skin—his gaze, his breath, laced with brandy, and his cologne—steeped in Harry's system. They almost kissed. They parted, scared shitless, and it took them a few more weeks to decide they could fuck and maybe, sometimes, date.
Now they were at his place—they’d tossed a coin—Harry had snatched the rigged sickle in midair and caught the wickedly satisfied grin on Draco’s lips. They’d been here once before, but not for long; this was the first time he let Draco so far inside. He figured they could give it a try. Harry went to the bathroom, letting Draco—Malfoy—wander about, and when he came back, he found him by the nightstand in his bedroom, holding the gun.
He was turning the revolver in his hands, taking it in with a curious, serious air. The gun fit snugly in his palms, like he knew how to hold it, what it was, and what it was for; his long pale fingers traced the lines of the barrel, the tip of his thumb catching in the smooth indentations of the cylinder. He didn’t dare press the safety latch. Maybe Harry had told him about it.
Draco looked at Harry. He must have left it on the nightstand. The box of bullets was in the drawer below, locked away behind a Muggle-Repelling Charm.
Harry couldn’t take his eyes off his face—Draco had his gun; he was gazing intently at Harry; he had to be the first to move. Draco lowered his arm and walked over to Harry. He pressed their foreheads together; his hand settled on Harry’s hip, and cold metal was pressed against his cheek. Draco still looked deep in thought.
Then he made a sound with his mouth—like fireworks—and Harry did not jump. When their eyes met again, Draco was smiling. Harry grabbed his wand hand, made him lower the gun, and kissed him.
Without breaking the kiss he took the gun, and Draco lifted his hand again to cup his cheek. He was going to pay for this—maybe not so much for going through his stuff without permission (though if Harry was honest, he could only blame himself for forgetting to hide the gun in the first place) but for… barrelling into his life like that. He was going to do something about it right now.
He would never have an easy life—he was born in the wrong place at the wrong time for that—but with this beautiful smile against his mouth and Draco’s scent around him like gunpowder, the ride would be worthwhile.