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The Vanishing Department

Chapter Text

“As I have already told you, the item in question is purple.”

Draco responds through gritted teeth. “Madam, this is purple.”

“No, that is lavender. Mine is purple.”

“There aren’t any other items that meet the specifications you’ve given.”

His client’s face is beginning to resemble the shade Draco thinks she’s looking for. “Perhaps,” she punctuates each syllable with flecks of spittle that come dangerously close to Draco’s face, “you need to look again. Nine inches, glass, ridged, with built in heating and cooling charms, and it’s purple.

“Are you certain that you Vanished it? From time to time we do find that people have accidentally Banished an item rather than Vanishing it, in which case it is irretrievab—”

Quite sure, thank you very much. I do know my first year charms. And my…personal effects.”

Personal effects. Draco has to suppress a snort. He is the consummate professional and this woman’s mishaps will not sway him from that path.

“And I’ll have you know, this particular item is rather rare. I’m quite set on retrieving it.”

“Yes, Madam, I understand that. However, the Vanishing Department has only received one nine inch, glass, ridged, purple dildo with built in heating and cooling charms, Vanished in the last two weeks. This is it.” He pushes the item towards her with the tip of an extended index finger. “Perhaps the colouring will match your recollections in a more familiar environment. The lighting in this office is rather harsh.”

Perhaps,” she spits, “this office is mishandling the personal property of British witches and wizards. Perhaps an investigation is in order.”

Perhaps,” Draco retorts, his patience evaporating alongside the specks of saliva now dotting his counter, “you should file a complaint with the Office of Boring Paperwork. Surely they’re better suited to investigating mislaid sex toys. Perhaps you should store your rare and valuable personal effect properly instead of Vanishing it out of someone’s orifice. Perhaps the colour seems a bit lighter because it was rather desperately in need of the rigorous Scourgification we give every Vanished object. Perhaps you should –”

“I never,” the woman screeches. “To be treated with such disrespect in a Ministry office!”

She pulls a hand back and looks as though she might be winding up for a slap. Draco refuses to flinch. But instead of landing a blow she grabs the item in question and shoves it into her robes. “You haven’t heard the last from me, I assure you!”

The door slams behind her and Draco takes a deep breath. He doesn’t get many visitors, but the ones who find him are reliably awful.

He looks up at the clock and rolls his eyes. It’s only 10:15. It’s only Tuesday. It’s only community service hour 6,410 out of 10,000. Another seventy-five minutes of sorting and cleaning and labeling and storing to do before lunch. And on Tuesdays he has to water all the plants and dispose of whatever’s rotted, and then there’s logging items and addressing requests.

He smooths his robes and takes a deep breath. The public may, at times, be unpleasant, but on the whole he is quite confident in the work he’s done with the department. Letting the occasional angry witch derail his progress is wholly counterproductive. His week had been going well until she arrived, and it can again.

Sorting the rest of the new arrivals is sure to help. For whatever reasons – Draco strongly suspects alcohol and the pressures of family togetherness – people Vanish more, and stranger things at the weekend than the rest of the week combined. He’s become an expert, three years in, at dispatching the pile quickly and, wherever possible, without close examination. There are only forty or so items left on the arrivals platform; he can do them in the hour before lunch, which will surely improve his current mood. Few things are as reliably soothing as order.

Draco pushes through the doors to the warehouse, unbuttoning his robes as he goes. The Ministry’s required uniforms are stuffy even for someone with a pureblood upbringing, all starched collars and thick wool and rows of double-breasted buttons that must be polished to a shine. They’re appropriate enough for the increasingly chilly weather, but too heavy to really permit free movement. Most Ministry workers resolve the issue by wearing them improperly, a shortcut that sets Draco’s teeth on edge. When his work requires a greater range of movement – which, happily, only occurs when he is out of the public eye – he prefers to remove them altogether, lest they become wrinkled or stained. He has therefore made a habit of doffing his robes on his way in to the warehouse, hanging them near the massive dais where Vanished items come to rest.

He’s so preoccupied with the damnably stubborn buttons that he doesn’t glance up until he’s almost in front of the dais. When he looks up, he looks up. And up. And up, his jaw falling open as he takes in the sight before him.

His formerly reasonable pile has grown. Multiplied. Expanded. The knickknacks have started mating, or the chairs have recruited an army, or there’s been some sort of appliance-related coup, or the dais has developed a growth or something, because this is not the pile he left.

This is massive. Colossal. The biggest pile he’s seen since the Cresswell’s youngest accidentally Vanished their entire cottage in a fit of wild magic. But that arrived altogether, one cottage, a bit jostled but easy enough to label and return. This, well. This.

Draco’s not sure how long he stands there before one lone expletive falls from his lips.

V V V V V

After spending 159 weeks in the Vanishing Department, Draco feels quite safe in declaring the 160th and 161st to be “the most wretchedly abysmal work weeks ever known to wizard-kind.” The declaration is no less vehement for being made to himself, in the remote, makeshift break room he’s cobbled together from Vanished furniture.

Draco is certain this is the single largest pile of near-rubbish he’s ever had to confront. He’s also fairly sure it’s the ugliest. He’d once arrived in to find a petrified elf set rather obscenely astride a taxidermed Hippogriff, and he’s still more appalled by this particular haul.

In the last two weeks he’s sorted through furniture so dusty he can barely levitate it without inciting a sneezing fit, house elf heads, suspiciously stiff Gryffindor-red sheets, a revolting nest-pile of filthy linens, pots with Merlin-knows-what caked to the bottom, and a hollowed-out troll’s leg that serves no discernible purpose whatsoever. This morning he caught a glimpse of a semi-pornographic Muggle poster, and the further in he gets the more certain he is that the polite coughing from within the pile belongs to a portrait or two. Though with his luck and this pile it could be mould gone sentient.

He is exhausted, dirty, and regularly perplexed by the strange assortment. He’s also quickly losing track of which items belong to the new bane of his existence and which have come in since this mass of glorified Crup turds fell into his life. Draco’s always glad that few people know about the Vanishing Department and even fewer care enough to seek it out, but the few that have made the trek in the last few weeks have been faced with a level of bureaucratic resentment that is, for a change, not even nominally concealed behind Draco’s professional façade.

He is, at least, convinced that the 162nd week will have to be better than the last two.

V V V V V

Draco is wrong.

His 162nd Monday in the Vanishing Department starts out promisingly enough. He has time to enjoy a proper breakfast before he leaves the Manor. There are no angry clients waiting outside the front office. There are a reasonable, but not unmanageable, number of additions waiting for him on the dais. The pile is becoming wieldy. He might even, if he skips a dusting or two, have the whole mess conquered by the end of the week.

The first ding is faint. Draco puts it down to the clinking of glass. He’s in the midst of Scourgifying and logging a few dozen empty bottles of butterbeer; there’s bound to be some rolling around. But then it comes again. And again, in close succession.

Monday morning’s clients are usually repeat offenders. The Vanishing Department’s only been around since the war and, to his great relief, was not well-advertised in the midst of post-war reforms and reorganisations. Those who care enough to retrieve their Vanished items have to do a fair bit of research to figure out whether it’s possible, and how, and where to go, and how to access the Ministry’s Level D, which is so deeply buried and poorly connected that it rarely shows up on the maps in the atrium.

Sadly, the repeat offenders tend to be the worst. Lotharios who have figured out that they can retrieve clothes and other ephemera they’ve Vanished in the heat of the moment; perpetually flustered parents retrieving beloved toys, usually of the noise-making variety; and, Draco’s personal favourite since they’re most likely to be polite, a few wide-eyed house elves (or, he has to remind himself, “magical home service staff”) in search of items that have fallen victim to fits of boredom, anger, or some combination thereof.

None of these prospects are enough to inspire a sense of urgency, but the dinging’s escalated to a few hollered calls of “Hello? Anyone there?” and once clients start yelling they rarely stop. Draco hauls on his robes and buttons as he walks.

Nothing on Merlin’s green earth could have prepared him for the sight that greets him in the front office.

This client has given up on the bell and turned to study the wall, so it’s his back Draco sees first. His back and his hair, shaggy shocks of black stuck up every which way on top of a compact frame. All of it is dreadfully familiar. He’s only got a split second to gather his wits before the man turns to reveal green eyes and wire-rim spectacles and a stupid, shocked expression that rekindles every ounce of loathing Draco has ever harboured for him.

Recovering himself, Draco comes to stand behind the counter, knitting his fingers together and looking his client – which, Draco reminds himself, is all he is – straight in the eye. “Welcome to the Vanishing Department. How may we help you?”

Potter has the good sense to snap his jaw shut. His good sense has never been extensive enough to get him any further.

Draco tries again. “As the official repository for all items Vanished within the British Isles, we are able to return anything Vanished since the end of the Second Wizarding War. Are you searching for a particular item?”

Potter cards his fingers through his hair and opens and closes his mouth again. Has he Vanished his tongue? That would be novel.

Draco retrieves a stack of forms and pushes them across the counter. “If you would like us to recover a particular item or set of items, please fill out pages A3 through B17. In some cases there may be a brief waiting period. However, we do endeavour to return items as quickly as possible.”

Potter’s still just standing there, looking at the stack of parchment and back to Draco.

Neither subtlety nor professionalism has ever been Potter’s modus operandi. Draco sighs and throws his hands up. “For fuck’s sake, Potter. Do you want something?”

The profanity jars him from his trance; Potter clears his throat and steps forward. “I, er – I may have, uh. Lost a few things.”

“Thank Merlin, the Chosen One can speak. What things?”

“Um. Well, see, that’s the – that may be a bit of a problem.”

Draco raises an eyebrow and is rather pleased to see that it has the intended effect. Potter looks sheepish and flustered and it’s just a bit delightful. “Oh?”

“Well, it was kind of a lot of things.”

Draco’s face and stomach fall in unison. The ice in his voice is entirely genuine. “How many things?”

“A lot?”

Oh, Salazar. “How. Many?”

“Um,” Potter mumbles, “about, you know, a houseful.”

Draco’s eyes flutter shut. “It’s you.” He adds, silently to himself, Who else could it be?

“It’s – what?”

Draco takes a deep breath and counts backwards from five before snapping his eyes open and staring at Potter with all the bile he can muster. “Are you, by any chance, the proud owner of nine decapitated, stuffed, and mounted house elf heads?”

Potter stops chewing on his bottom lip. “Proud might be a bit strong, but, uh, yeah. Those are mine.”

“And the rest of it?”

Potter nods, and manages enough decency to at least look properly embarrassed.

Draco reaches beneath the counter for another sheaf of parchment. “I suspect you’re going to need a bit more room to write.”

V V V V V

Potter is settled on the bench in the front office with a borrowed quill and a stack of forms at least six inches deep before Draco can flee to the relative peace of the warehouse. He’s barely through the doors before he starts fumbling with his collar, desperate for some break from the surreal scene lurking on the other side of the door.

He stops abruptly. He’s got a client here. He’s got Potter here. The Minster’s favourite. The public’s favourite. He can’t be anything less than professional. Perfectly professional. Which is perfectly fine. Draco is good at professional.

Right, then. He straightens his robes and turns towards the dais. He’ll sort some items. It’s his job. He’ll do his job. That’s perfectly reasonable.

Half a dozen bottles of butterbeer are still perched on the edge of the platform. Perfect. They’re small enough to handle without disturbing his uniform. He lifts the next one and Scourgifies it, then pulls out a quill.

Butterbeer, bottle 27 of 36.
Standard. Empty on arrival.
Area F, Aisle 3, Shelf 12.

He slips the label around the neck of the bottle and moves it into a line with the rest. No point moving them until they’re all done.

Bottles 28 through 34 have already been labelled and Draco is about to start on 35 when he is startled from his routine by the sound of a cough behind him. With nerves as frayed as his, he can’t help but jump. The last few bottles almost meet a messy end. He is still composing himself when a voice – that voice – pipes up again.

“Er, Malfoy?”

“Yes?” Draco turns towards him, trying to hide the shortness of breath that comes with being startled half out of one’s skin. No one ever comes back here. It’s against every one of Draco’s regulations. But then, for Potter, that’s probably all the more reason to do it.

“I, well, two things.”

“Of course,” Draco snaps, “let me guess. First, you continue to feel completely entitled to walk into restricted, employees-only areas of the Ministry regardless of the fact that you are not, in fact, in the Ministry’s employ. Second, you’ve got to the bit about missing items and have conveniently forgotten how to spell ‘pile of rubbish.’” Potter opens his mouth to speak; Draco ploughs ahead. “It’s P-I-L-E, space, O-F – another space here, Potter, since it’s three words, you see – R-U-B-B-I-S-H. Now if that’s all, you can leave your forms on the counter. You will receive an owl when your items have been retrieved.”

There’s a woefully familiar look of stubbornness on Potter’s face. “No.”

“Pardon?”

“One, I can spell perfectly well, thank you. Two, I’ve been yelling for you from outside for ages. Three, it’s not a pile of rubbish.”

“That’s three things, not two.”

“I only had two before I walked back here!”

“Before you walked back here uninvited and in violation of Ministry regulations,” Draco corrects.

“Are you going to help me or not?”

Draco plasters on his sweetest smile. “Oh, of course. Pray tell, Potter, what are your problems, exactly? I shall endeavour to do my very best to solve them all.”

“I –” Potter scowls. “Whatever. Whatever. Right. Two things. One, I ran out of room on the form. Two, I’m not sure what exactly I Vanished.”

“For Salazar’s sake, Potter. How is that even possible?”

“How is that – it must happen sometimes!"

“Likely, but who on earth comes looking for items they can’t remember?”

“It wasn’t exactly intentional, alright?”

“What, you came across an abandoned mansion and thought you’d get rid of the contents for a bit of fun? So powerful you accidentally Vanished half a vault? Decided to wreak bloody vengeance on evil skips across London?”

“Oh, for – it was a house. Alright? My house.”

Draco is actually a bit agape at that one. “I’m sorry? A house?”

Potter folds his arms. “Look, okay? I was cleaning it out. I’ve been cleaning it out for years and it’s just endless. Every time I think I’ve got one room straightened out there’s a new artefact or portrait or Disillusioned settee or flock of angry Doxies and I didn’t mean to Vanish everything in the house, it just sort of – I might’ve been a bit pissed off and the spell might’ve gone a bit…wide.”

“A bit wide?”

There’s a flush coming in on Potter’s cheeks. “Just a bit. A room or two. Or twenty.”

“Is there anything left in the damn house?”

Potter shakes his head. “Not really.” He pauses. “Well, a portrait. And an elf, but I think that’s just because he was able to pop himself back in. Otherwise…nothing. And I wasn’t all the way through, and I wasn’t exactly keeping track –”

“Of course not.”

Potter shoots him a look. “—since an entire house worth of stuff doesn’t usually Vanish, in my experience. So I don’t really know what was in there.”

“Let me get this straight. You were trying to clean out your house. You’ve spent a substantial amount of time doing that. Now, having succeeded at it, you would like to undo it?”

“I didn’t want to get rid of everything! Just the cursed stuff. And the broken stuff. And the ugly stuff.”

“Are you suggesting there was anything in that pile that didn’t fall into one of those categories?”

“Yes! God, Malfoy. Do you have to be such an arse about everything?”

Draco purses his lips. “Just leave me your list.”

“But it’s not—” Potter sighs. “I’ve put everything on the list that I can remember, but I can’t remember everything. If I just leave you a list I’ll never get stuff back, and it might be important, and I’ll never even know it was missing.”

“Well then, what exactly do you propose?”

Potter nods at the labelled bottles. “You have some method of sorting things, right? Couldn’t you just give me back the stuff that arrived when mine did?”

“You are not the only person who Vanishes things. Other items could have arrived in that window, not to mention several dozen items that were already on the platform when yours arrived and those that have arrived while your things have been undergoing the sorting and storage process. We are not at liberty to give away people’s things, nor can we assume that everyone will be perfectly happy to have us hand over everything that has arrived in the last two weeks. Even if it is to you.”

Potter narrows his eyes at that last. “Fine. Maybe I could look around a bit. See what I recognise.”

Draco scoffs. “And have you disturbing the entire department’s organisational system? Keep you around for weeks on end? I think not.”

“It won’t take that long. You can supervise. And I can bring friends, speed it along.”

“Friends? Merlin’s tits, Potter, that’s hardly an incentive. Having you on the premises is problematic enough.”

“But if you want it to go quickly –”

“Quickly, yes. Disastrously, no.”

“It would not be a disaster.”

“Please. Granger would try to reorganise the place, nosy witch. Lovegood would spend the whole time trying to talk to the glassware.” Draco has hit his stride; the tips of Potter’s ears are getting red. It feels good, feels familiar, and the words keep tumbling out. “Longbottom would trip into a shelf and send the whole room crashing to the ground, at which point Finnigan would blow it up. The various Weasleys would confuse it with a charity shop –”

“Stop it.” Potter clenches his fists. His cheeks are colouring nicely. “You don’t know them at all.”

Draco sneers. “Well enough not to let them in here.” It’s all coming back like second nature. “Well enough to be perfectly aware of what happened to the last Ministry department they tried to search.”

Potter’s practically steaming now. He steps forward threateningly, perilously close to an explosion. His voice is low, dangerous, half hissing. “And whose fault was that, hmm? Your fucking arrogant prick of a father –”

“Don’t you dare talk about my father.”

“I’ll talk about your father if I want to.”

“I’ll talk about your friends if I want to.”

They’re barely a foot apart now and Draco can feel heat and magic rolling off Potter’s body. That alone should be enough to ban him from the department. It could go wild at any moment and then where would they be? Buried alive in an avalanche of mislaid cloaks, that’s where. Potter is a hazard.

But they’ll never let him ban Potter, and death by knickknack is no way to go. Not least of all because, even in his rage, he knows exactly where the blame would fall, and it’s not on Potter. He takes half a step back and steadies his voice. “Outside personnel are not permitted in the department.

“Hermione and Ron work for the Ministry.”

“Personnel who do not work for the Vanishing Department are not permitted in the department.”

“What do you propose, then?”

“Give me your list. I will retrieve whatever is retrievable.”

Potter’s flush has filled in nicely, but the look on his face has segued from rage to something else. He almost looks distressed. “And the stuff that isn’t on the list?”

“If you never knew about it, you can hardly miss it.”

“Damnit, Malfoy!” Potter takes a step forward. His magic is crackling around him again, and Draco fights the urge to step back. “I’m sure it’s hard for you to understand this, spoilt rotten as you were, but not all of us had families, okay? And everything I have left of mine was in that fucking house. If you think I wouldn’t miss that, you’re even more heartless than your reputation suggests.”

They stand, staring at each other in silence, for a moment that seems to drag on endlessly. Draco’s stomach feels tight and sour and, worst of all, he’s not exactly sure why. He’s called far worse on a fairly regular basis. Potter’s outburst is pure sentimentality, mawkish and simple, the sort of thing he can barely tolerate at the best of times. It’s all the more reason to get Potter out of here as quickly as possible.

Draco snaps first. “Fine. Fine, Potter. Anything the Saviour wants. That’s how this works, isn’t it? Give me your damn list. We’ll retrieve what we can and then you can poke through the rest.”

Potter’s shoulders drop and Draco hates the look of relief that comes across his face. “Really?”

“Oh, of course,” Draco gushes, “it’s my mission in life to please the Boy Who Lived. Didn’t you know? I’ll have everything sorted and repaired and goodness, if there’s time I’ll wrap each item up with its very own bow.”

Potter snorts. “Yeah, a bow is just the thing for a troll-leg umbrella stand.”

That’s what that is?” Draco can’t help the exclamation or, unfortunately, stuff it back into his mouth.

Potter nods.

“Are you sure you want that thing back?”

Potter laughs, just once, low and tired. “Now that you mention it, what happens if I don’t?”

Draco frowns and crosses his arms. There’s a hefty amount of paperwork involved in sending non-perishables to Rubbish Incineration and Permanent Banishment, and the only other option is the guaranteed nightmare of running into that thing on a regular basis. “Just come back in a week, Potter.”

Chapter Text

The door to the Vanishing Department is ten feet of dull grey metal. There’s nothing remotely inviting about it. Which might, maybe, be why Harry doesn’t want to open it. It just doesn’t look like it wants to be opened and who is he to argue?

Except that he does want what’s on the other side.

His stuff, he reminds himself. He wants his stuff. That’s what’s on the other side.

Among other things. People. Things.

Though the people are interesting too. People who he’d wondered about sometimes, since the end of the trials. Who he’d wondered if he would ever see again. Not that he’s thought about it much, but it had been a bit strange to go from spending the better part of a year following him to going on the run and still bumping into him at every turn to reading about him all through the trials, testifying for him, and then never hearing anything more. It makes sense that he’d think about him from time to time. That he’d wonder. That he’d be surprised to bump into him after that much time had passed. Really surprised. Shocked, even. And a bit curious. Though he doesn’t seem to have changed all that much, circumstances aside. A little taller, maybe. A bit broader through the shoulders. Just as sharp, though.

Anyway.

The door. It’s charmed to be lighter than it looks. He learned that all too well the first time, when he gave it a shove and almost landed on his face. So all he has to do is push it open, just lightly, just peek through. Not actually peek because that will look ridiculous if someone – anyone really, not a particular person, necessarily, even if it is particularly likely to be a specific someone – is on the other side. Just step through. Yes. That’s smart.

He pushes open the door. The office is empty. He feels something about that, though he’s not sure what. He doesn’t want to stand around ringing the bell again, but he also doesn’t want to risk Malfoy’s ire by just going into the back.

He hits the bell once and holds his breath.

It’s just a minute before Malfoy appears. He’s as stiff and formal as before, all buttoned up and starched. It’s not like Harry’s never seen a Ministry uniform before, but none of them have ever looked quite like Malfoy’s. His buttons are polished, for goodness sake, and he must have to maintain some supernaturally correct posture to keep anything from wrinkling. Not that it’s a bad look, not that Harry even cares, it’s just noticeable on him is all.

Malfoy rests his hands on the counter and greets Harry just as he had before. “This is the Vanishing Department. How may we help you?

Harry squints at him. “I, um? I came for my stuff, remember? The big lot of things?” Malfoy looks at him coolly. “You made me fill out ninety different forms?"

“Do you have your requisition number?”

Shit. Was he supposed to have a number? Malfoy didn’t give him one. He swallows. “I – where was it? You kept all the forms.”

“A requisition number appears on pages B-16 and B-17 of the standard requisition forms, alongside explicit instructions to make note of your requisition number for future reference.”

“Where was that?”

Malfoy pulls a stack of forms from under the counter and turns to page B-16. Harry recognises his own handwriting on the page, but his focus is on Malfoy’s finger, which is pointing at a tiny, light grey line at the bottom of the page. “There.”

Harry has to lean forward to even see what he’s pointing out. Malfoy’s fingers smell like lavender. “That? That’s tiny.”

“All Ministry forms are designed for accessibility. In case of an impairment that prevented you from reading the form the type would have automatically enlarged or, if necessary, the form would have read itself aloud. In the absence of those measures, we might assume that you were able to read the form and elected not to.”

Christ, but Malfoy’s pompous. His cheekbones may be more chiselled than when they’d last met, but he really hasn’t changed at all. Harry needs glasses, yes, as the entire wizarding world knows, but he can see perfectly well with them on. No reasonable person could’ve been expected to see that line, let alone memorise it. “I could barely tell it was there. You can’t seriously tell me that everyone reads the forms.”

“The Ministry is not responsible for unread forms.”

“Okay, well, can I look at the form?”

“The Ministry does not disclose internal records to the public.”

Malfoy is polite. Impassive. It annoys Harry to no end. “Those are my forms. They’re about my stuff. I filled them out last week. It took forever. You were here.”

“If you would like to access Ministry records I am equipped to supply you with form MM-OOBP-QXP-23: Request for Access to Ministry Records.”

“You’re holding them. They’re in your hand.”

“Once filed, the Office of Boring Paperwork will reply by owl to confirm your request within seventeen business days.”

“Malfoy, the number is right there.”

“Once confirmed, you may visit the Office of Boring Paperwork in person to request the specific forms necessary to disclose your requisition number.”

“And how long will that take?” Harry can feel heat rising in his chest.

“The Office of Boring Paperwork is able to fill most requests within four to six weeks, and will send a notification by owl once forms are ready for pick up.”

Harry scoffs. “Oh, is that all?”

Malfoy is maddeningly unaffected. “There is a cost of two Knuts per page for duplication, fee payable to the Office of Ministry Accounting.”

“Malfoy, just give me the forms.”

Malfoy folds his hands over the stack of parchment and calmly looks Harry in the eye. “If you would like to access Ministry records I am equipped to supply you with form MM-OOBP-QXP-23: Request for Access to Ministry Records.”

“Seriously? Malfoy, seriously? They’re right there.” Harry reaches over and pokes the pile, because the only sane explanation is that he and Malfoy are talking about different forms.

Malfoy lifts the stack, preparing to file it away, and looks down to align the edges. It’s just an instant, but Harry knows there has to be some way to do this that doesn’t involve six weeks, nineteen owls, three Sickles and an unnaturally calm Malfoy, and his instincts have always served him well.

With both hands, Harry grabs the forms and pulls. Malfoy is just startled enough to loosen his grip momentarily. Harry stumbles back, victorious.

He grins at Malfoy, can’t quite help it.

Malfoy clears his throat. “Theft of Ministry Records is clearly prohibited by Wizengamot statutes.”

Harry hugs the parchment to his chest. “Oh, yeah? How about borrowing? You think the Wizengamot could handle that?”

“Return the forms.”

“No.” Harry takes a step back. “You just told me I need the number. I’ll give them back once I have it.”

To Harry’s surprise, Malfoy takes a few crisp steps around the counter and crosses his arms not two feet away from Harry. “Those are the property of the Ministry of Magic.”

“Is that in the fine print, too?”

Malfoy sniffs and darts out a hand, grabbing hold of the top of the stack. Harry feels Malfoy’s fingertips digging into his chest, but it’s not nearly a good enough reason to let go. “Let go of the forms.”

“Just let me read the damn number.” Harry takes a step back towards the wall, inadvertently pulling Malfoy along with him.

Malfoy, who’s kept his footing admirably, leans in and hisses, with breath that smells like peppermint tea. “You just have to have it your way.”

“Look who’s talking,” Harry retorts.

“The wizard with your things is talking.“ Malfoy tugs at the parchment. “Give me the forms.”

“Give me the number.”

“Give me the forms.”

Harry’s back is already brushing up against the wall. He frowns down at the forms. He’s got to get a look at the number, but how to do it?

He relaxes back against the wall. Feints have worked well enough with Malfoy before.

Not this time, though. Harry tries to duck around him, but Malfoy’s got a fist in his jumper before he can pull clear. Instead of a clean dodge Harry goes down hard, forms flying everywhere.

The forms. He just needs one. The right one. This may not have been a perfectly executed move but Malfoy’s still recovering from the fall and Harry’s closer to the scattered parchment. Malfoy grabs at his waist. The forms. He needs the forms. A reach won’t do it, but with a little bit of a wiggle he manages to pull partway free of Malfoy. Almost there…

His hands close around a bit of parchment just as Malfoy pins his legs to the floor. He twists free, not quite meaning to kick Malfoy but not entirely sorry about it either, and examines the form. When Malfoy scrambles up his body, reaching for his arm, Harry lifts it up above his head with a victorious shout. “B36981-T!”

Malfoy lets go with a scowl. His collar is mussed, Harry notices, and his hair. He grabs the page out of Harry’s hand and frowns down at it, then sticks it to Potter’s chest.

Malfoy stands, brushing a streak of dust off his robes with unreserved disgust. He huffs. “This way.”

Harry holds up a hand, ready to spring up and follow. Malfoy ignores him completely.

V V V V V

The piles, stacked around the same central platform where Harry had found Malfoy last time, are tightly organised and smaller than Harry had expected. His stomach sinks. “That’s it?”

Malfoy looks at him, incredulous. “That’s it?”

“There’s no way that’s everything.”

Malfoy is clearly put out. “This huge collection of bizarre household items is exactly in line with the list you provided. Perhaps you’re confused by seeing your things arranged in some semblance of order.”

“I know how much stuff was in that house. There’s no way that’s all of it.”

“It’s everything you put on the list.”

“Really?”

“No,” Malfoy jeers, “I’m joking. I want nothing more than to prolong this exercise. I am deliberately hiding two-thirds of your belongings because if there’s anything I treasure more than your company, it’s the thought of an official review.”

Harry is just a little bit taken aback at the intensity of his ire. “Christ, Malfoy. I just was hoping it would be easy, okay? That I remembered more than I thought I did. Looks like it’ll just be a little more looking than I expected.”

Malfoy goes a bit green at the reminder. Harry’s stomach twists when Malfoy turns away. What if he’s forgotten? Or changed his mind? Or, well, it’s not Harry’s problem if Malfoy doesn’t want his company. He needs his things. Even if Malfoy does seem to be in charge around here, surely he wouldn’t just keep them out of spite? Probably?

It’s a long moment’s pause before Malfoy speaks. “Yes. Right. Thursday, then. Ten o'clock.”

“Thursday? Why not now?” He hadn’t meant to say that out loud. It sounds whiny, even to his own ears.

Malfoy’s professionalism is back in full force. “I have a number of obligations in this position. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the only days when I can give your project the necessary oversight.”

“Oversight?”

“Internal oversight is one of the many ways in which the Ministry prevents fraud and mishandling.”

“You seriously think I’m going to steal a bunch of witch’s knickers or whatever?”

Malfoy’s face twists in disgust. “You’re the one who just suggested it.”

“What am I supposed to do until Thursday?”

“You might start by returning these things to your home.”

Harry shakes his head. “Fine. Fine. Do you have a trolley or something?”

“The Ministry helps witches and wizards recover objects. Transportation is the sole responsibility of the witch or wizard whose items have been retrieved.”

With that, Malfoy turns and sweeps towards the back of the room, disappearing between two cavernous aisles. Harry spends the better part of the afternoon shrinking and levitating, but he doesn’t see Malfoy again.

V V V V V

Thursday is gloomy and damp, drizzling too lightly to be satisfying or, in Harry’s opinion, to merit an umbrella. He is, therefore, a bit soggy by the time he arrives in the Vanishing Department’s front office at two minutes past ten.

Malfoy is waiting for him, looking cross. He stares pointedly at the clock, then at Harry, and raises an eyebrow. Harry bristles under the scrutiny. His obvious displeasure doesn’t deter Malfoy, who looks him over, eyes trailing toes to top. Harry shivers. It’s chilly in here. He’s beginning to regret his indifference to the weather and related charms.

He’s half ready to pull out his wand and dry himself off when Malfoy issues a command. “Take your shoes off and follow me.”

“What?”

“Your shoes. They’re covered in mud and leaves. You’ll leave tracks all over the department and I don’t fancy cleaning them up. Shoes off.”

Harry looks at Draco, then at his trainers. They’re half-hidden by his jeans, which are perhaps a tad too big and a bit chewed up at the hem, but it wasn’t as though it made sense to dress up for a day of going through dusty old things. Even if it is with Malfoy, not that that matters, obviously. Though Malfoy being Malfoy, with his polished buttons and pristine collar, he probably doesn’t agree about appropriate attire for the task at hand. He probably thinks Harry looks like a drowned Kneazle. Which doesn’t matter, because Harry is comfortable, though it probably does make this a poor time to argue. Best to toe off the trainers and be done with it.

If Malfoy’s surprised that Harry’s done as he’s told, he doesn’t show it. “Follow me.”

Harry does, hem dragging and wet socks smacking against the floor with every step. He hopes Malfoy can’t hear it, though the tightness of Malfoy’s shoulders suggests otherwise.

He turns his attention to his jeans. Maybe he can cuff them? Or roll the waistband to get them off the floor? Or a quick severing spell to the hem, if he can stand still long enough? But then Malfoy will definitely see the hole in the heel of his left sock, which he would’ve taken care of if he’d known he’d be walking around shoeless.

He slams into Malfoy and bounces off, stunned. Malfoy doesn’t look any happier about it. There is, momentarily, an irritated twist to his face. Harry’s stomach churns.

He’s surprised, though not unpleasantly, when Malfoy withholds comment. “We start here.”

“Okay.”

Malfoy pauses, as if waiting for an objection. After a moments pause he hmphs and continues on. “Shoes seem a logical starting point, all things considered.” He glances pointedly to Harry’s feet.

“Er, right, yeah.”

“Area G, Aisle 2, Row 7, Shelf 3.”

Harry follows him halfway down an aisle, resisting the urge to crane his neck. The shelves are epically tall and crammed full of every sort of shoes Harry’s ever seen, plus some he hasn’t, but he doesn’t have the time for a proper look. Malfoy’s a fast walker and unlikely to take kindly to another collision.

They come to a stop a third of the way down the aisle. Malfoy picks up a pair of boots and holds them out to Harry. “These arrived at the same time as your things. Do they look familiar?”

Harry leans forward to examine them. “Er, Maybe? There were a lot of pairs of old boots.”

Malfoy’s horrified. “Old boots?”

Harry shrugs.

With a heavy sigh, Malfoy sticks the boots back onto the shelf and moves down the row towards an identical pair. “If nothing else, we might assume from the number of similar pairs that they came from the same place. Given their value, singularly and combined, it is highly likely that another owner would have come looking for them. We might, therefore, surmise that they’re part of your lot.”

“Their value?” Harry walks up to the boots. “They’re shoes.”

“Dragonhide boots. Twelve pairs, sizes eight through eleven.”

“Oh. One in every size?”

Twelve pairs. One eight, four nines, five tens, two elevens.”

Harry runs a finger over a shiny black toe. It’s surprisingly soft, the scales barely registering under his fingertips. “They’re mine?”

“So it would seem.”

“I don’t know anything about them.”

Malfoy ignores him, moving down the row, counting out the dozen pairs and checking for more.

“Do you?”

“Pardon?” Malfoy’s levitating each pair of boots to the middle of the aisle, making a neat row behind him.

“Do you know anything about them? Where they were made? How old they are? Anything?”

“I am only authorised to give official information about an item’s arrival in the department.”

Harry watches him work, quick and efficient. “Unofficially?”

Malfoy levitates a pair from a taller shelf, adding them to the row.

“Malfoy?”

He sighs and turns to Harry. “The shape of the toe cap and the height of the collar suggest that these are from the late 1970s. The double tongues are technically a safety mechanism but it was fashionable among a certain set to wear one up and one down. The stitching marks them as having come from Belby’s Boots.”

Harry grips the toe. “A certain set?”

“Younger purebloods.”

“In the late 1970s?” Harry tangles his fingers in the laces, searching under the tongue to find a size. They’re a ten.

“As I said.”

It makes no sense that Malfoy should be so calm when Harry’s stomach is tied in knots. Strange that he should know so much about the shoes and nothing about what they might mean. “This says they’re a size ten.”

“Well spotted.”

“Sirius, my godfather. He wore a ten.”

Malfoy glances over his shoulder, raises an eyebrow at Harry.

“Me too. I do too.”

“Well, put them on then. Your feet are wet.”

It’s true, but it doesn’t seem to matter any more. The idea that these are Sirius’ boots, that he was right to think there was more to discover…it’s not a lot, but it’s something. He takes them down, hugging them to his chest. They smell like regular non-Dragon leather, but they’re thicker and heavier than he would’ve guessed.

“Shall we continue on?”

Harry looks up, startled. “There’s more?”

“You Vanished the contents of an entire house, listed three pairs of trainers on your form, and thought that was it?”

“I don’t know. How many shoes are usually in a house?”

Quite a few, apparently. Malfoy works his way down the aisle for what feels like an age. He pulls down seventeen pairs of what Harry learns are called brogues, eighteen pairs of trainers in various states of decline, and three pairs of penny loafers, at which point Harry begins to glaze over. He’s aware that Malfoy’s saying something about tap shoes and waders, but Harry doesn’t quite hear anything. Even Malfoy’s smirking announcement that a pair of thigh-high leather boots are also in a men’s ten doesn’t jar him too substantially, though it’s not exactly expected, as possible revelations go. Somewhere between the idea that he’s got something of Sirius’ and the unnecessarily specific shoe-related jargon Malfoy expects him to know, he’s gone a bit numb.

He’s brought back when Malfoy thrusts a pair of wellies in his face.

“What?”

“Boots, Potter.”

“Yeah?”

“Your feet are wet, your socks are revolting, and you seem determined to keep carrying the perfectly functional pair you’re already holding.”

Harry peers over his armful. Malfoy seems to have cottoned on to the hole – oh, holes – in spite of his over-long jeans. “Oh. Sorry.”

“These are Wellingtons. They’re meant to cover your feet, particularly in inclement weather.”

“Um, yeah?”

“Yes, Potter.” Malfoy pauses, expectant. “Would you like to put them on?”

“Oh! No, I’m okay. I mean, my jeans are wet, so, I’ll just dry out, thanks.”

Malfoy purses his lips, levitates the boots into line with the rest, and turns on his heel, leaving Harry to follow along.

They move through trousers, dresses, skirts, kilts, tops, formal wear, hats, scarves, and cloaks, none of which prove much more interesting than the shoes. Malfoy’s impatience with Harry has largely given way to resignation. He mostly stops consulting Harry as he adds item after item to an increasingly formidable pile. Then he stops.

“Potter.”

“Hmmm?”

“You’ve sneezed half a dozen times in the last five minutes.”

“I have?”

“You’ll get us both sick. Put on something dry, you’ve plenty of options."

“Oh.” He’s pretty cold, come to think of it, and his jeans haven’t really dried that effectively, and it’s probably not the best idea to keep walking around in wet socks if they’ve got more to do. “Is there more to do?”

“Yes, and I could do without being accused of giving the Boy Who Lived pneumonia. Change.”

“Into what?"

Draco’s eyes flutter shut and Harry thinks he can see him counting backwards under his breath before he continues on. “You do realise we’ve been collecting clothes?”

“Oh. Yeah.”

“Clothes that you own and could put on.”

“Right.” Harry looks over at the pile. It’s massive. He wouldn’t even know where to begin. Though obviously, he can figure it out. He’s an adult and, regardless of what Malfoy may think, getting dressed is not actually beyond him. “Yeah. Okay.”

“For goodness sake.” Malfoy turns before Harry can move. He starts rustling through the piles and returns with a standard issue Hogwarts uniform that looks about right. “Here, this has your name in the label.”

Harry looks up at that. “What?”

Malfoy hands him a jumper. “Here. Your name is in it.”

He looks down. It’s true. There are fine, red stitches spelling out “Potter” under a faded Madame Malkin’s label. Harry feels a lump rising in his throat. No one’s ever sewn his name into a jumper, which means…

“You do know what to do with that, don’t you?”

Harry doesn’t look up, won’t risk Malfoy seeing the dampness gathering in the corners of his eyes. He mumbles into the wool, instead. “You’re just going to stand there?”

“For goodness sake.” Malfoy turns his back with a heavily exaggerated sigh.

Harry’s freezing as soon as he strips out of his jumper and jeans. The t-shirt he’s got on underneath is sticking to him and it’s a relief to take it off. He looks up to make sure Malfoy’s still turned away and takes a moment to towel himself off with the drier bits. Malfoy shifts when he drops it to the floor.

He feels a bit exposed, even with Malfoy’s back turned, but he still hesitates before he puts on the new jumper. He weighs it, presses it to his nose. It’s thick and smells like 12 Grimmauld. That red stitching keeps staring up at him, and it’s almost certainly his dad’s. He wants to know how it got there, when it got there. He wants to know everything.

He wants to know so badly, has been so focused on the item in his hands, that he’s forgotten to ask Malfoy for the rest of his clothes. He shrugs into the jumper. “Um?"

“Yes?”

“Do you have – are there trousers, too?”

Malfoy, who is thankfully unaware of Harry’s jumper-related feelings, huffs at him. “Yes.”

“Could I have them?”

“Are you going to hex me if I turn around to give them to you?”

“Can you just tell me where they are?”

“They’re right here.” Malfoy holds out an arm, the trousers folded neatly over his wrist.

“Oh.” Even with the jumper on, he’s getting goosebumps. “Could you put them down and I’ll come get them?”

“For goodness sake, Potter. Did you or did you not live in a boys dormitory for seven years?”

“Yes.”

“Was the Lion of Gryffindor this modest the whole way through? Change behind your bed curtains, did you?”

“What do you care?” Harry’s voice is embarrassingly squeaky. “Trying to sneak a look?”

Malfoy scoffs. “I wasn’t aware that there was anything worth seeing.”

Anger does wonder for Harry’s body temperature. “Piss off, Malfoy. Trousers.”

Malfoy turns and smiles his overly-sweet smile, “Here you are.”

Harry freezes. Malfoy’s eyes aren’t straying from his face, but what if they do once he moves? What if Malfoy’s planning something? But standing still is probably just making it worse. This has to be the kind of story Malfoy will tell for ages. He can imagine the headline now, “Harry Potter, Down to His Pants, Requests Bureaucratic Service.”

He leaps forward to snatch them away from Malfoy and turns around, shoving them on and zipping his flies before he can stop to think about it.

When he turns back he finds that Malfoy’s eyes have drifted lower. He blushes furiously. “Happy now?” He blurts, realising too late that it’s completely the wrong thing to say.

“Yes.” Malfoy blinks. “Far less offensive. Though you do look like an overgrown sixth year.”

“Why sixth?”

“No reason.”

Harry stares.

“Would you like socks?”

“Yes please.”

Malfoy hands them over. “You’ve got your precious boots right there, if you want shoes.”

“Oh.” Harry looks down at the boots, sitting right next to his feet. “You know, the socks are probably enough.”

“Oh?” Draco looks thoroughly sceptical.

“Yeah, socks, you know. They’re warm. Dumbledore always –” He pauses. They haven’t gone there. Shouldn’t go there. “I’ll be alright. Trainers’ll probably be dry by the time we get back up front.”

Malfoy looks askance at him but, thankfully, doesn’t push the topic. “Fine then. Appliances.”

Harry grabs the boots by the laces and pads after him. His skin prickles under the weight of the jumper and the boots bump against his calf. It's only their first real day and he's already unsure of what to do with these new discoveries. Except, he supposes, follow Malfoy and try to keep up.

Chapter Text

“Aside from Scourgification, the Vanishing Department returns every item in the condition in which it arrived.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking, make sure they haven’t shrunk.” Draco’s client smirks. “And I’m sure they’d fit you like a charm. What do you say?”

“Sir.” The client leers at that; Draco crosses his arms against the possibility of another advance. “The Vanishing Department is not liable for the condition of items. Any testing or other assessment is the sole responsibility of –”

“C’mon now.” The man leans over the counter, his cologne posing an increasingly serious threat to Draco’s supply of clean air. “Couldn’t you give a little friendly assistance?”

There are so many directions Draco’s face wants to pursue that he’s momentarily paralysed. Past experience has proven that attempting to sigh, frown, sneer, roll his eyes and peer down his nose simultaneously results in a confused, constipated sort of expression that doesn’t have any of the intended effect. He’ll have to pick one.

He’s got an eyebrow raised and his mouth well on the way to disapproving tightness when the door opens.

Of course, he thinks. Of course he chooses to be punctual now.

Potter steps around the edge of the door looking strangely eager and, even more strangely, not especially like a damp Kneazle.

Draco’s client clears his throat. He looks Potter up and down with such unabashed lasciviousness that Draco’s skin crawls in sympathy; he clearly wants the great saviour’s attention.

Draco has never been so glad for Potter’s general obliviousness. The last thing he wants is to get stuck in the midst of some greasy, fumbling attempt at a mating ritual.

“Morning, Malfoy.”

The man grins and steps towards Potter. “Good morning indeed.”

Draco coughs pointedly, though he’s already fairly certain that this is not the sort of person who will take a hint, pointed or otherwise.

He’s right. Potter’s cottoned on enough to look dreadfully uncomfortable but, aside from offering a particularly thin half-smile and shuffling half a step backwards, he doesn’t seem prepared to do much about it.

Of all the things he expected this job to entail… “Sir,” he interrupts. “Sir,” again, more insistently, “The Vanishing Department has fulfilled your request.”

“Hmm?” The lech doesn’t take his eyes off Potter.

“Your request, sir.” Draco shoves the lacy red slip of fabric across the table. “The Vanishing Department has returned your item. You are free to leave.”

“Do I have to?” He grabs the knickers, dangles them from two fingers, and takes another step towards Potter, who’s starting to look a bit faint.

“The Vanishing Department makes every effort to maintain the confidentiality of client requests. In the interest of serving the next client, we ask people who have received their items to leave the premises as soon is possible.”

“Hmmm,” the man drawls. “I could serve the next client for you.”

Potter gulps.

“Sir, I’m afraid I will have to call Ministry Security if you refuse to leave the premises.”

The man casts Draco a wounded look. “Surely that’s not necessary.”

“I certainly hope not.”

He frowns and – much to Draco’s relief – steps away from the counter. He pauses to survey Draco. The he turns to Potter, spins the knickers around his fingers once, winks, and makes a welcome exit.

The click of the door echoes between them.

Draco turns to Potter. He’s wearing the dragonhide boots they’d retrieved. The uppers are loose around a pair of jeans that aren’t dragging on a floor. They’re dark and fitted, loose in the calf and snug through the thigh. He’s got on that black jumper again, or one just like it, with a hint of dark hair peeking over the V. His hair’s not any different, but the rest of the sartorial shift makes it look more intentional. The clothes don’t do anything to change Potter’s face, though. The tentative openness Draco finds there is almost becoming familiar, if no less irritating.

“Well,” Potter starts, then trails off. “That was…”

“Yes.”

“Are they like that a lot?”

“Depends. The objects they’re looking for are something of an indicator. That one was fairly predictable.”

“Oh.” Potter shifts. “And people who Vanish whole houses?”

For the second time in ten minutes, Draco’s got no idea what to do with his face. There’s nothing predictable about anything Potter has ever done. Accidentally Vanishing the entire contents of his home is no exception. “It’s hardly a common occurrence. Follow me.”

Draco turns, heading for the back with Potter at his heels.

Potter seems more alert than last time. There’s less shuffling and dragging, which is a relief even if the clomping that’s replaced it is louder than could possibly be necessary. Draco’s still a bit on edge, though, and not just because Potter sounds like a herd of Hippogriffs. If Potter could get maudlin about waders and edgy about old trousers there’s no telling how he’ll react to furniture. Hopefully with uncharacteristic composure, since it’s Draco’s plan for the day.

Larger furniture is stored at the far back of the department. It’s not even visible from the entrance to the warehouse and getting there takes a bit of walking. Potter follows along faithfully and manages to avoid careening into Draco when they come to a stop in front of kitchen and dining tables.

Tables are lined up, edge to edge, for yards. Tall ones, short ones, tiny round ones, huge rectangular ones that could fit half a Hogwarts house. Wood and metal and glass and some odd Muggle materials that Draco’s never bothered to learn the names of. They are among the biggest challenges to Draco’s organisational system. Sorting them by size, shape, and material would be most logical, but moving them endlessly to make space for new arrivals rather defeats the point vis-à-vis efficiency. Draco has, reluctantly, settled for sorting them by arrival date, newest closest to the front. At least it will serve Potter well.

Draco begins to levitate recent arrivals. Potter nods at several ornate tea tables and a wrought iron patio set. He stands back to make way for a Pembroke with half the leaves extended and an engraved mahogany number that would comfortably seat twenty. He smiles and runs a hand over a massive, rough-hewn kitchen table.

A plain, sturdy, trestle table follows, and Potter frowns. “This isn’t mine.”

Startled from his routine, Draco pauses. “They’re sorted newest first.”

“But I don’t recognise it.”

“Nor did you recognise that jumper you’re wearing, but there’s every indication that it belongs to you.”

“Is my name sewn into the table?”

Draco doesn’t miss the hint of sarcasm. “Don’t be an idiot. It’s a table.”

“Yeah, I see that, but is it my table?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t want to end up with just lots of random tables.”

“Tables are sorted by date of arrival. This corresponds with the rest of your lot.”

“So? Couldn’t someone else have Vanished a table?”

“They could have, yes, but they didn’t.”

Potter’s voice is heavy with frustration. “And you know that?”

“I do.” Draco stands to his full height. “I’m quite certain.”

“That makes no sense.”

“I might ask if you trust me,” Draco bites, “but the answer is wholly apparent.”

“Oh, for – how is this even a trust thing?”

“Has it ever occurred to you that I might be familiar with some of these items?”

Potter furrows his brow. “What?”

“The rather eclectic collection that came with your house was an inheritance, was it not?”

“Yeah, it was.”

“And that inheritance came from the Black family, correct?”

Realisation dawns on Potter’s face. “Oh. Yes.”

“Can you see, then, why I might be familiar with certain items?”

Potter looks rather at a loss for how to respond. Draco does his best to revel in the silence stretching between them. At least he’s got Potter on his back foot.

Potter shuffles, swallows. “Look, I – you’re right. I should’ve thought of that.”

“Mmm.”

“This stuff – was it supposed to be yours? I mean, does it – do you want it?”

Draco tries to conceal his shock. This was not anywhere in the range of reactions he’d anticipated. And he doesn’t want it back. Not at all. It’s a part of the past he’s happy to see gone. He just wants Potter to recognise that he knows what he’s talking about, that he doesn’t need any handouts, that maybe, just maybe, Draco has an expertise worth an iota of respect. “Of course not,” Draco spits. “That would be highly irregular.”

“But I don’t mi–”

“Highly irregular and besides the point. I am simply affirming that I have particular knowledge of these items and am certain that they have been correctly identified.”

“I – okay. Okay. Sorry.”

They stand there, pointedly not looking at each other, until Potter tries again. “I just didn’t recognise it.”

“Clearly.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t bother.”

“I just didn’t realise.”

“Never heard of an attic?” Draco catches Potter’s eye and is buoyed by his obvious self-reproach. “You inherit a magical home that’s been in a pureblood family for generations and assume you know all of its secrets because you’ve spent a few months poking around?”

Potter looks wounded. It’s maddening. If Potter’s not even going to recognise his own tables, if he’s not even going to bother accepting them when Draco sets them down right in front of him, Draco can hardly be bothered with finding them.

Turning on his heel, Draco strides towards the next section, coming to a stop in front of wardrobes and bureaus.

Potter is still rushing to catch up. “Hold up, Malfoy. What are you doing?”

“Wardrobes and bureaus.”

“What happened to tables?”

“We’ve moved on to wardrobes and bureaus. I will retrieve the most recent arrivals, you will tell me what you recognise.”

“What about what you recognise?”

Draco refuses to look at him, aiming his wand at an ornate armoire instead. He lifts it and sets it down in the few feet between them, blocking Potter and his stupid boots and his stupid jeans and his stupid hair from view.

“Malfoy,” Potter asks, incredulous, “what are you doing?”

“Returning your furniture.” He casts again, this time at a massive, weathered bureau, which he sets next to the first.

Potter tries to peer over it. Draco is thoroughly satisfied that the mop of his hair barely pokes over the top. “Malfoy?”

Draco aims for a cabinet with the Black family crest on the doors and sets it down next to the bureau just as Potter moves to step around.

“Malfoy, can you stop it?”

“What, don’t recognise the giant family crest?” Draco doesn’t wait for his response, aiming for the ugliest item he can find instead. He’s certain this one isn’t Potter’s, but it’s been languishing down here for months and he’s curious to know if Potter has any clue whatsoever.

He drops the closet in front of Potter, letting it clatter as it hits the ground. It looks like a children’s item, or so Draco hopes, as it’s covered in glitter and has deformed gnomes painted on the doors. “Yours, I assume? The taste is right."

“Or this one?” Draco’s barricade grows with the addition of a very plain, cheap-looking closet, white and oddly shiny, that he thinks actually is Potter’s, and new enough that Potter would’ve chosen it for himself, the cretin.

“Or this?” An unfinished pine bureau foils Potter’s latest attempt to reach him.

“Really, do try to keep up.” He aims for another wardrobe, oak from the looks of it, and it rattles even after he sets it down. “Goodness, Potter, did you leave an elf in there? The great Harry Potter, stuffer of elves into cupboards.”

Draco sets his sights on a walnut chest of drawers, dropping it into the line.

“Malfoy, really. Stop.” Potter’s voice has a warning note.

“Moving too quickly for you? Do you need more time to cry over recovered armoires?”

“No.” The rattling in the makeshift wall between them muffles Potter’s voice. “I think there’s a boggart in the that one.”

“A boggart?” Draco repeats, eyes falling on the quivering oak wardrobe. He drops his wand arm. “What do you mean, a boggart?”

“Exactly what I said. I think there’s a boggart in there.”

“Oh? And how can you be so sure?”

There’s a long pause from the other side of the blockade before Potter continues. “I’m not positive, but there was a desk a while back with a boggart in it. It did the same rattling thing and this wardrobe is from the same room.”

“Merlin, Potter. Do you just store boggarts around for fun? Is this your special boggart wardrobe?”

“I didn’t put it there Malfoy, Christ. I told you, there were some around before. It’s probably…bred, or something. Everybody meant to check when this one started rattling, but, you know...” he trails off.

“You knew there was every chance your wardrobe was storing a boggart and just left it there?”

“It wasn’t exactly high on the list,” Potter defends, “there was a war on at the time, in case you missed it.”

Draco’s jaw tightens. “Missed it. Yes. Of course. I was at a picnic the whole time. How foolish of me.”

“Malfoy…”

“No, no, Potter. You’re quite right. Well I’ll just leave you to it, then. I’m sure you miss the good old days. Bit overdue for a heroic act, aren’t you? Perhaps a boggart will tide you over.”

“Malfoy,” Potter starts again, then stops. “It’s not a good idea for me to do it, okay? Can you?”

“It’s your cupboard,” Draco retorts, glad Potter can’t see his face. He is, technically, fully capable of handling a boggart. Technically. But revealing one’s boggart to one’s old nemesis is hardly wise. Nevermind that it would involve seeing his boggart, which he could do without. And it’s Potter’s damn wardrobe anyway, and Potter knows full well that he’s responsible for the condition of retrieved items, boggarts and all. “You do it.”

“It’s really not a good idea. Seriously, Malfoy.”

“So leave it then.”

“And take it home like that?” There’s a note of panic in Potter’s voice.

“Get someone in to take care of it.”

“You think any of my friends want to see their boggarts either?”

“A professional, then.”

“And have them sell it to the papers? No way.”

“So sorry the press hangs on your every word. Not my problem.”

There’s a thud as Potter does something – hits a door? slams a shoulder? lands a kick? – on the other side of the partition. He mumbles something, Draco hears footsteps, and Potter finally makes his way around the chest of drawers.

Potter’s face is flushed and his eyes are red. His hair’s pulled up in even more directions than usual and his jumper’s pulled to one side so his collarbone’s poking out. Draco looks away. It’s a far better alternative than staring, which is proving a hard urge to resist. He’s not used to seeing Potter look so – well, not rumpled. He’s used to that, and Potter doesn’t look any more dishevelled than usual. But he looks anxious. He looks smaller. He looks vulnerable, all pale neck and bowed head.

Draco’s not at all certain of what to do with that. Comforting him is out of the question. Potter gets far too upset by inanimate objects and the Vanishing Department is not the sort of place where those sentiments ought to be encouraged. Cleaning saviour snot off his uniform is certainly not in the job description. But the other options aren’t any better. He knows Potter well enough to guess that scolding and yelling will incite a different, louder, sort of unpleasant reaction and really, all Draco wants is to be done with this. To go back to the neat, ordered world he’d almost begun to enjoy before Potter’s arrival.

Silence stretches between them. Potter’s pouting, which could go on for years. Draco sighs. “You realise, Potter, that living in a dusty old mausoleum full of things that make you cry is not actually mandatory?”

Potter scratches at the edge of a drawer.

“Stop that.” Potter looks up and Merlin, his eyes are even greener when they’re watering. “There’s no need to take it out on the woodwork.”

Potter folds his arms.

“Really, Potter. You’re the saviour of the wizarding world. If your furniture reduces you to tears, surely you can replace it. There are witches and wizards all over Britain who’d turned their whole houses over if you asked. Move. Buy things. This is not that difficult.”

Potter shrugs.

“You’re the one who’s gave half a dozen post-war speeches about the importance of moving on. One might think you were familiar with the idea.”

“It’s not that easy,” Potter mumbles.

“For Merlin’s sake, Potter. You, of all people – yes, it is.”

“Then why aren’t you doing it?”

Draco freezes, unsure that he’s heard Potter correctly. Sudden-onset rage can distort one’s hearing. “Pardon?”

“If it’s that easy why aren’t you doing it?”

“Why aren’t I – Why – Are you serious?”

Potter shrugs again, looking uneasy. As well he should, Draco thinks.

“You think I have a choice about this?” Draco keeps his voice low. Calm. “You think this is what I wanted to be doing?”

Potter’s suddenly too busy studying the floor to reply.

“There’s no way you don’t know.”

“Know what?” Potter mumbles. Draco stares.

“That it’s not a choice. Not my choice, anyway.” Draco’s voice is rising alongside his ire. “That it’s a sentence. Penance,” he spits, “to appease your lot.”

“I didn’t – ”

“You did. You certainly knew. You thought this was my idea of a promising career? It’s bloody community service, you incomparable arsehole. Ten thousand hours of it. Moving forward? Starting a career? There is no choice for me. I live in that bloody haunted Manor, I spend every weekday in Subbasement D, and I do it, all of it, because you, you and your do-gooders, you insisted on it.”

Potter opens his mouth to speak. Draco won't give him a chance to justify it. He doesn’t want to hear one single word about justice and reparations and making things right. He knows it all. Lives it, every day, constantly reminded, while Potter mucks about fighting Doxies and rearranging elf heads.

“And I’ll have you know, Potter, that while you’ve been hiding from cupboards, I’ve managed to make a functional department. The Vanishing Department works. It works well. Or at least it did before you came trekking through.”

Draco’s distracted, just for a moment, by Potter’s face. He’s wide-eyed and worried, short of breath from his attempts to break in to Draco’s tirade. Draco doesn’t need to hear it to know there won’t be anything in it worth hearing.

“There were routines. Protocols. High levels of departmental responsiveness and efficiency. Before you, of course. Before you showed up with your accidentally Vanished house, with no idea what you own, not the faintest idea of what you’re mucking up.” Draco laughs, barks, fury coiling in his chest. “Not even a second thought for anyone else.

“Find your own shit, Potter.”

Draco doesn’t look back. He knows full well that Potter might ruin the place, but what of it? Potter could bring the whole thing crashing down and the Minster would praise him personally for an innovative reorganisation.

He stalks past desks, coffee tables, side tables, bookcases, arm chairs, desk chairs. There aren’t any footsteps behind him. Small mercies.

A right at arm chairs, past sofas – there’s no way Potter will be able to find him now – and he starts breathing again when he reaches beds. He can see it now, by the back wall. It isn’t official, of course, but it seemed eminently reasonable that every workplace should have a break room and this, nestled at the far end of the department, is Draco’s.

He’s done what he can with it. There’s plenty of furniture to choose from, of course, though none of it matches. Still, he’s always had an eye for these sorts of things. At least, he knows what a nice room ought to look like. The headboards of two king sleigh beds serve as something of a wall. He’s got a sectional and a chaise and a set of side tables and an Aubusson that he’s always half-expecting someone to claim. He’s also got a few bottles of good whisky, pilfered months ago after someone Vanished a particularly outrageous weekend.

He uncorks one now, takes a long pull, and falls back on to the chaise. Potter, bloody Potter and his meddlesome, naïve, stupid questions. His feigned innocence, as though he doesn’t already know everything.

With a huff, Draco turns to face the back of the chaise, curling around the bottle. Potter may be, well, Potter, but that doesn’t mean he can’t figure his wardrobes out on his own.

Draco stays there, fuming and drinking and, occasionally, napping, and he’s glad, very glad, mostly, that Potter doesn’t attempt to find him.

V V V V V

Ministry regulations are very clear. Chapter IV, Section 17, Sub-section 8: Employees’ robes must be free of tears, stains, and other blemishes.

These regulations are not generally a challenge for Draco. They’ve still got one elf at the Manor and she handles cleaning, starching, and pressing. Draco polishes his buttons and boots himself. It’s a point of pride. They must be perfect, precise. Orderly. As Draco prefers his things to be.

Which is why, with Potter’s arrival imminent, he’s wearing his robes while he addresses a few routine Thursday morning arrivals. Unfortunately, the careless bint who’s Vanished a bad container of yoghurt has other designs for his wardrobes. Foodstuffs are supposed to be Banished, of course, but it’s hardly news to Draco that those sorts of details elude most anyone who didn’t grow up with them and some who did. He’s required to Scourgify, so Scourgify he does. But he’s got to lift the lid and peel back the foil to do it properly, and as soon as he releases the pressure that’s been building inside the container a lump of yoghurt spurts over the edge of the cup and lands, gloppy and dripping, on the front of his robes.

He closes his eyes and counts backwards from twenty. He’s at four when the bell dings from the front desk.

Draco does not open his eyes, nor does he continue counting. There is only one person who would turn up at such an inopportune moment. He hadn’t even been sure that Potter would return after their last encounter, but there’s nothing like a massive, spreading, regulation-violating stain to bring forth one’s…Potter.

The bell dings again.

He has prepared for this possibility, of course. Has a plan. It will be fine. He sets down the container and starts for the front office.

Potter is waiting there, as expected. His doesn’t take his eyes off Draco as they come to face each other over the counter. He moves to open his mouth.

“Good morning.” Draco is composed. Clear. Exactly as intended. “Welcome to the Vanishing Department. How may we help you?”

“Er,” Potter starts. “Uh.” His eyes dart to Draco’s chest and widen. “Uh.”

Damn. The spot. Draco forces his most pleasant smile and waits.

“Uh, you’ve got some,” Potter points, “something on your robes.”

“Ah.” Draco looks down and feigns surprise. The yoghurt has dripped, leaving drying white rivulets in its wake. “Do excuse me.” He reaches for his wand and puts energy into his, “Scourgify.”

He replaces his wand. Potter is still staring at the now-clean spot, his mouth hanging open just far enough for Draco to be tempted to stuff one of his quills into the gap.

“As I said, good morning. Welcome to the Vanishing Department.”

“Yeah, um. Morning.” Potter shakes his head as if to clear it and looks up suddenly. “Listen, Malfoy, I’m really sor—”

“Today we will focus on recovering kitchenware. Do you use the kitchen yourself, or would it be more effective to send your elf?” He is very much hoping for the latter.

“No, I cook, but about the other da—”

“Please follow me.”

Kitchenware is close to the front. The short walk is not incidental. Draco spends the whole time evading Potter’s attempts at conversation with all manner of useless departmental trivia.

“At last count, the section designated for empty bottles held almost eight hundred different varieties of bottles—”

“Malfoy, please –”

“—including several created by Phillip Horace Wright-Parker himself.”

“I didn’t kno—”

“Here we are at bakeware. Please be aware that these sections are organised differently to those where we store larger items. For instance, rather than being sorted by date of arrival, as in our furniture section, bakeware is organised by intended use, then size, with a special section for those items, such as holiday baking tins, that do not fit within standard parameters. Are you aware of any such specialised items?”

Potter makes a noise in the back of his throat as though he can’t decide what he wants to say. He clearly wants to keep apologising, but even Harry “denser than a Spanish oak cupboard door” Potter must realise that Draco is not interested. He sighs. “Yeah. There should be a couple of them.”

“Very well. Do you remember which holidays these items are intended for?”

“Christmas, Easter. There’s a heart-shaped one – maybe that’s Valentine’s Day? And then there’s one that kind of stands up, you know, it’s curved around the edges, but it’s got a hole in the middle.”

“I believe you are referring to a Bundt pan, which will be found with non-seasonal baking goods. Are there any other seasonal items, as far as you can recall?”

Potter looks at him. Frowns. Turns towards the shelf in front of them. “Cookie cutters?”

And so they go on like that. Draco takes meticulous notes. Potter’s attempts to interject dwindle towards zero. By the time they move from crockery to glassware, they’ve almost established a pattern. Potter lists items and stares at Draco. Draco ignores him and asks for additional description. Potter tries his occasionally adequate best to describe things and stares at Draco some more. Draco ignores him and retrieves the items. Repeat.

It’s almost peaceful. Peaceful in a way Draco’s job hasn’t been since week 158, since before Potter’s pile of Hippogriff droppings made their appearance, since his days became consumed with helping Potter, or waiting for Potter, or trying to get twice as much done so he’s free on Potter days.

They’re both looking a bit worn around the edges by the time they move on to serveware. At least, Draco thinks they are. It’s a bit tedious, this. Sorting through odds and ends, avoiding Potter’s gaze. It’s clearly better than the alternative, where the alternative is having Potter hurl apologies at him. Yes, he’s feeling oddly listless, moving along like this. But it’s probably just that he wishes there was some polite way to stop for tea that wouldn’t involve inviting Potter to join him.

Potter’s good behaviour won’t lure him in to that trap. They forge onwards. He thinks Potter must be feeling it too when a butter dish shaped like, and possibly made of, a human femur goes unremarked upon. But perhaps it’s the weather, or the day of the week, and a quiet Potter is the best he can hope for.

It’s all he gets, too, through storage, pots, pans, and two-thirds of cutlery.

“One carving knife, full tang, nine-inch blade, forged by Olivia Hammett circa 1867.”

“Yeah.”

“One butcher’s knife, full tang, ten-inch blade, forged by Olivia Hammett circa 1867.”

“Okay.”

“One,” Draco pauses.

Potter eyes it but he doesn’t say anything. Draco wonders if he recognises it. There’s no reason he should, really. Draco didn’t notice it when he was just filing things away, and there’s no reason Potter would have Draco’s familiarity with its sisters. And if he doesn’t recognise it, best to move on, best to –

“What is it?”

“Nothing.” Draco clears his throat. “One knife, silver, four inches, partial tang, forged by Jocasta Flint circa 1727.”

“Why did you – what is it?”

Draco moves to pick up the next item. Potter’s hand closes over his. “Malfoy. What aren’t you telling me?”

Professionalism has got them this far. It’s something Draco’s rather good at. He clears his throat and pulls back his hand. “That knife is one of a set.”

“Oh.” Potter looks confused. “So?”

“Nothing,” Draco lies. “Just ensuring the correct identification.”

“Do I have the rest of the set?”

“No.”

“Oh. Okay. Does that matter?”

Draco can’t stop his low, bitter bark. “Not any more.”

Potter stares at him, intent and expectant.

“It’s one of a set,” Draco repeats. “Three ceremonial knives, passed down through the Black family. Ownership of them was last transferred to,” his voice cracks and he hates himself for it, “three sisters. Each received one of them on her seventeenth birthday.”

“Oh.” Queasy recognition is written across Potter’s face. “Three sisters?”

“Yes, the three Black sisters.”

“Your mum?”

“Yes.”

“And that one?” Potter nods to the knife in Draco’s hand.

“Most likely belonged – belongs – to Andromeda.”

Neither of them speaks for a long moment.

Potter reaches for the knife, sliding his fingers under Draco’s to grip the hilt. He brings it towards him, examining the blade. “So then the third?”

“Yes,” Draco whispers. No one loved a knife the way Bellatrix loved a knife. This had been her favourite. Forged by a pureblood for a pureblood, passed down through pureblood generations, a ceremonial gift at her coming of age. She’d loved to trace it over the carvings of the dinner table at the Manor, to plant its hilt on the tabletop and the tip in her fingertip and spin it until blood ran down the blade. She’d loved to spell Draco’s hand flat against the table and stab at the space between his fingers, faster and faster, her putrid teeth breaking into a twisted grin as she sang to him, warned him not to move, as if he could. She’d mourned its loss for days when she’d thrown it at the elf. Until Voldemort had got her a new one, of course, and brought her someone to try it on.

“I’m sorry.”

Potter’s apology shakes Draco free of his recollections. That alone makes it more useful than Draco could’ve imagined.

“Malfoy? I’m sorry.”

“I heard you.”

“Okay.” Potter sets the knife back on the shelf, its label dangling over the edge. “I shouldn’t have said what I did. About it being easy. Just, people have said that to me a lot, you know, ‘move on, do something else,’ and I didn’t think you would, you know, with everything – I was just surprised that you’d say that. But I didn’t say what I said because I think it’s easy or that this is easy for you, being here. Except it seems like you’re good at it, like you maybe even like it, you know, being in charge and being the only one who can sort out people’s stuff, so I thought, when you said that, that maybe it is easy for you, that maybe you’d moved on like everybody else has and I just…I made a few assumptions and I’m sorry.”

Draco tucks the tag under the knife. “You thought this was easy for me?”

“No!” Potter exclaims. “No, damn it. I’m getting this all wrong. I don’t think that. How could it be? It’s just that when I saw you here, you just seemed…and then you said that, and I thought –”

“You thought I could forget, even for a moment.”

“I…” Potter sighs, sags. “Yeah. I guess, yeah, I did.”

“Do you know why they assigned me to the Vanishing Department? Why they chose, as punishment, to make me the sole member of a new department?”

Potter shakes his head. “I didn’t even know where you were. All I ever heard was that it wasn’t Azkaban, something about community service, but no one told me anything for sure.”

“Community service. And how.” Draco’s eyes are still trained on the knife. This particular blade has never, to his knowledge, been sunk into an Imperiused Muggle or run over a prisoner’s throat, but the resemblance is enough to turn his stomach. Still, he can’t tear his eyes away. Not when the alternative is seeing Potter’s reactions. “Do you know where Vanished objects go?”

Potter shifts his weight and asks, tentatively, “Here?”

“Now they do, but before. Do you know where they went?”

“Guess that was always a bit vague. Away? Something about a void? Unless they were connected to something, like a pair of…” Potter trails off.

“Vanishing Cabinets.” Draco finishes.

“Is that what this is about?”

Draco ignores the question. His voice is quiet but it’s steady, and he’s grateful for that. “The thing most people don’t know, unless they’ve studied Vanishing or Transfiguration – Gamp’s Laws in some form or another – is that things can neither appear from nor disappear into absolute nothingness. There’s always a partner. Like a Vanishing Cabinet. That’s the principle behind their invention. If something Vanishes somewhere, it has to show up somewhere else.”

“So?”

“So,” Draco continues. “Where do you think things went?”

Potter doesn’t say anything.

“Think. Where would you go if you needed something? Anything, anything you could think of – where would you go that could produce anything you wanted?”

Draco hears the intake of breath that tells him Potter’s got it. “The Room of Requirement.”

“The Room of Requirement,” Draco affirms. “That was the other half of ‘away.’ For centuries, when witches and wizards Vanished things, that’s where they went. So when a student needed something, whatever it was –”

“That’s where the room got it all,” Potter finishes, awe in his voice.

“Yes. And when the Room of Requirement wasn’t in use –”

“The Room of Hidden Things,” Potter interrupts again. “It stored everything?"

“Yes,” Draco nods. “Stored. Past tense.”

“So then?”

“Without the room,” Draco pauses, lets his fingers grip the cold metal of the shelf for support. “When the room was destroyed, there was nowhere for Vanished things to go. The void people think of is more of a conduit. When the room was destroyed it became a dead end. It would have, for lack of a better description, filled up. Things would’ve started appearing at random. They did, a bit, towards the end of the trials. A lounge set in the middle of the sporting fields at a Muggle University, a statue of Gunhilda of Gorsemoor on top of a Muggle grocer’s. Mostly passed off as pranks, not that it was the Prophet’s focus at the time. But some of the Wizengamot noticed. And they needed a solution.”

“You?”

Draco half-laughs, and this time his voice does crack. “The Wizengamot had just heard my case. Half thought the Vanishing Cabinet made me an expert. The other half thought I deserved to have to deal with the room. ‘The consequences of my actions’ – they all agreed on that.”

“You didn’t break the room,” Potter interjects.

“I was there. That was enough.”

“But it wasn’t you.”

“The Vanishing Cabinet was.” Potter doesn’t have a response for that, nor does Draco expect one. It was him and Potter knows it. Everyone does. “And they decided that if I could find a new connection for one magical conduit, I could do the same for another.

“So you see,” Draco continues, loathe to dwell on the months of gruelling magical experimentation the task had entailed, “every object I tag and clean and file, every cookie cutter and rolling pin and ceremonial dagger I retrieve – they’re only here because of the war. As am I.” He exhales heavily. “I never forget the war. I never can.”

“I…” Potter trails off. Draco’s not sure Potter knows how to finish that sentence, not sure he wants to hear any of the possibilities. “I quit the Aurors.”

That’s not a possibility that had crossed Draco’s mind. Of course Potter would make it about himself. Draco’s on the verge of telling him off for it when he looks over and sees Potter wringing his hands, biting his bottom lip like he’s holding back words. When Draco doesn’t say anything, they come pouring out.

“I quit the Aurors because every time they sent me out the press showed up and someone was gonna get hurt some day, and I quit the Aurors because people are still trying to kill me and I didn’t want anyone else to die for me in the crossfire. And every time I went in, every time they tried to send me out, the war was always just there.

“But it was just October by the time that was clear, and I hadn’t missed too much to try school again, try finishing my N.E.W.T.s. Hermione was over the moon about it and Ginny – Ginny was there too, and Luna and Neville, people who had been through it all. And I thought maybe if we were all together, if it was lots of people who had been there, maybe it could work. But Ginny and Neville and Luna – and you, I guess, you too – you’d all been there that last year, with the Carrows. They were close in a way I couldn’t be, and Ginny, it didn’t – nothing felt quite right, being back there. It wasn’t like it had been. And even the Professors, they wanted to talk to me about it, to interview me about what happened and what it was like, how it felt and how the spell worked, all of it. And the first years were walking around looking at me like some hero and I couldn’t, you know, swear or forget to brush my hair or yell at Hermione or any of the normal things. If I was in the common room they’d be too scared to be there, and the older ones would just look at me and be reminded and I couldn’t do that to them, couldn’t be the reason they couldn’t move on, and it’s not like I could focus on classes anyway, not like that.

“So then,” he rushes on, still picking up speed, “I went to try to help George, with the store, you know? I had trained to be an Auror, I had the charms work down, but then word got out and the store was mobbed all the time. Not even customers, just people who wanted to,” Potter shudders, “to touch me, to talk to me, and they’d knock things over and the real customers couldn’t even get in. It was ruining the business, so I had to leave that too, and I liked it, you know? I really liked it. But it was dangerous. I was dangerous, to George, to everyone who came near the shop, it got so crowded.

“And then the house – that was the only place I really could be. The only place where I wouldn’t be a danger to anyone. So I was stuck there, and people suggested I should fix it up, and it’s not like I had anything else to do, so that, that…” he trails off. He searches for Draco’s eyes, and Draco’s too shocked to avoid him. “When you said that, about never forgetting the war. That – I understand that, I guess is what I’m trying to say. How everything is still about that.”

Potter’s eyes are green again. They’re always green, but not this bright, watery emerald that Draco’s discovering. It’s worse because his cheeks are pale, because his lips are swollen, because everything about him looks open and scared. Vulnerable. Exactly how Draco never wants to look again.

Draco remembers, faintly, the resolve with which he’d started his day. His dedication to simple professionalism. His organised checklists and his safe protocols and his absolute determination not to let Potter run roughshod over his department. He’s not sure when it slipped away, exactly, but he’s well and truly certain that he needs it back.

He tears his gaze away from Potter’s. Clears his throat. “I’m sorry to hear that.” He turns to the shelf and picks up the next knife. “One bread knife, full tang –”

“Malfoy,” Potter steps closer, standing just behind him, the warmth of his body threatening to push through the thick layer of Draco’s robes. “Stop.”

“It’s an eight-inch blade, forged by –”

“Malfoy.” Potter’s hand encircles his, guiding the knife back to the shelf. “Can you just stop for a second?”

The blade scrapes against the shelf. He doesn’t want to let go of it, not in the middle of a job. He has work to do and it makes a hell of a lot more sense than Potter’s strange confessions. “Forged by—”

Potter’s fingers knit between his, pulling them off the hilt. “Olivia Hammett,” Draco whispers.

He shouldn’t let Potter guide him like this. He knows it’s foolish, even if his body disagrees. At this distance all his body knows is that the last time he got this close to Potter, the last time he let Potter take his hand, the last time their bodies were pressed together like this, it was the difference between living and dying.

Potter’s turned him all the way around now. The shelves dig into his back. It’s cold, and Potter’s warm and he looks so trusting, so open, and Draco can’t stand it, can’t stand that Potter can still look at him this way, can’t believe a word Potter’s said about the war, about understanding, can’t believe Potter understands anything at all if he can stand there looking so exposed.

It takes Potter a moment to react to Draco’s shove. His eyes flash open and there’s a word half-formed on his lips before Draco takes him by the shoulders and swaps their places. Let Potter be the one pinned against something, the trusting fool.

Draco doesn’t expect Potter to be able to reach him. Doesn’t expect Potter to wrench his arm free, to grab his robes and yank, to capture Draco’s neck in the crook of his arm and keep him close, so close their lips touch even before Potter presses up into him.

He doesn’t expect Potter to be so demanding. He doesn’t expect the clash of teeth or the persistence of Potter’s tongue, doesn’t expect Potter to suck at his lower lip. Doesn’t expect the humming moans that escape Potter’s mouth when he pulls Draco’s body against him.

He doesn’t expect the sweetness of Potter’s saliva, or the plumpness of his lips. Doesn’t expect to feel the heat of it radiate through his chest. Doesn’t expect Potter to be the kind of kisser who moves with it, who rolls his hips and arches his back in time with the pressure of his lips. Doesn’t expect the firm pressure of Potter’s fingertips at his neck and on his arm, or the insistent tugging at his collar, or the way Potter bucks his hips to throw Draco off guard, to make sure Draco falls into him so that their bodies are pressed together. He doesn’t expect to mirror Potter’s gasps and moans.

But he does. He’s gone, far too gone to care. When he nips at Potter’s lower lip, Potter retaliates. When he sinks his fingers into Potter’s mop and tugs, Potter bares his neck. When Draco descends, when he takes Potter’s flesh into his mouth and sucks, Potter moans and bucks against him and digs his nails into the back of Draco’s neck.

Draco releases Potter’s neck with a slick pop. He’s gasping for air, but that’s fine when Potter is too, when Potter’s pupils have cancelled out all that green and there’s a bruise coming in on his neck that Draco put there, that Potter loved having him put there. The air between them is electric, heavy, warm. He hums and moves in again.

He doesn’t expect Potter to freeze. Doesn’t expect to be met with stillness. Doesn’t expect Potter to pull away, to cover his neck and look wide-eyed and dazed as though – what? As though he’d forgotten who he was kissing? As though he hadn’t been in the same damn kiss in the first place? As though he hadn’t been the one to start it?

He doesn’t expect Potter to run, but he does. He doesn’t expect to be left, flushed and hard, against a shelf of kitchen knives in the one place he’d thought he’d made his own. But he is.

Chapter Text

The door might not be heavy, but it’s ominous. Everything this morning has felt ominous to Harry. Everything for the last few days has. His gut’s so permanently twisted he’s barely been able to eat, much to Molly’s consternation. But he’s not sure he could keep anything down, the way his whole body starts roiling every time he thinks about it.

He doesn’t want to go in. But he doesn’t want Draco to think he’s been scared off, either. He doesn’t want Draco to think…

Well, there’s nothing to think, really. A whole weekend’s passed and Draco’s probably forgotten about it anyway. Probably wasn’t that memorable to begin with, just a couple of minutes, even if they’d been, well, really pretty memorable for Harry. But Draco isn’t Harry, as much as they might maybe have in common. Though Draco probably doesn’t think they do.

For one thing, Harry isn’t blond. For another, he hasn’t been able to stick out a job at the Ministry. And most of all, he’s not that kind of person, all rough and biting and hot, like Malfoy is.

No. Not hot. Malfoy’s not hot. That kissing was not hot. It didn’t make his blood sing, it didn’t make him hard, and he hasn’t thought about it since. If there’s anything he has to remember, it’s that. That’s not his kind of thing. He likes girls, nice girls, nice girls who smell sweet and kiss him gently, nice girls who would be sweet to strangers and kind to his friends and who don’t leave him with bruises that he hates having to Glamour away when he goes to Sunday lunch at the Burrow.

He knows what he wants and it definitely can’t be the hardness of Draco’s body, or the way his jaw smells like aftershave, or the hint of stubble that burned when Harry kissed him so hard their teeth bumped together. It’s not romantic. It’s not nice. It’s not for him and that’s all there is to it and it’s a good thing, a really good thing, that a few days have passed and they can just forget about it.

With a deep breath and firm push, Harry opens the door.

The front office is empty. His stomach flips. Draco’s not there. He’d started to be, most of the time, like he was waiting for Harry. Not that he was waiting. That would be strange. But like he was. Which was just a nice convenience, really. Probably just that he’s good at his job, which, if Harry’d gathered anything, that was it. Draco is a good Ministry official, and that’s why he was waiting.

Which means Harry’s gut is only twisting because this is awkward, trying to decide what to do now. Draco gets annoyed when he rings the bell, but he also gets annoyed when Harry just goes back there to find him, but he’ll probably also be annoyed if he comes up front and finds that Harry’s been loitering in the office without saying anything

He sits down on the bench and looks at the bell. To ring or not to ring? If Draco’s going to start the day irritated, best not. But if he’s going to think Harry’s stupid for waiting, best to.

He stands up. He’ll just ring it. Once. And then he can wait, and if Draco comes out and tells him he should’ve rung the damn bell, he can say that he had and Draco just hadn’t heard it.

It’s shiny, the bell. Polished, maybe? Probably, given the state of Draco’s buttons. It’s one of those ones that he just has to hit once, just kind of tap. Too gently and Draco might not hear it, but he doesn’t want to assail it.

Oh Godric, what would Draco even say if he broke the damn thing?

“Admiring the bell, Potter? Or were you planning to use it?”

Fuck. Harry’s stomach drops. He’s been so wrapped up in figuring out what to do about the bell that he hadn’t heard anything. Or maybe Draco’s just really quiet. Come to think of it, he is really quiet. Like a cat, almost, walking silently everywhere he goes, which has always been a mystery to Harry, not that he’s noticed.

Draco comes to stand behind the counter. Like he always does. Though Harry’s so distracted – or maybe Draco’s voice is so quiet? Though there’s no reason for it to be, so it’s probably just Harry – that he misses what Draco says.

“Sorry, what?”

Draco’s jaw tightens. It’s a firm jaw. Sort of pulsing a bit, though. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“Oh. Uh. It’s Tuesday, right?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, I thought so.” Nice one, he thinks, and fights the urge to hide in his jumper. “I mean, I thought it was Tuesday. I mean, I didn’t think I got the day wrong.”

“Yes, well. It’s Tuesday.”

“Okay, good. So.”

Draco folds his hands on the counter.

“Aren’t we supposed to, I mean, I thought Tuesdays and Thursdays, we were, that those were our days to –”

“About that,” Draco interrupts. “I’ve analysed our previous work to determine whether there might be a more efficient method to completing the task. As it stands, my knowledge of when items arrived as well as my awareness of particular items that are a part of the Black family holdings has left most of the work of identification to me.”

“Oh, um, sorry. I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean for you to feel like I wasn’t –”

“It may therefore be more effective for me to continue the work of finding and recording Vanished items that may be a part of your collection without your assistance.”

“Oh.” Harry’s chest empties.

“Being able to navigate the facility more rapidly and relying more heavily on time and date recollections may speed the effort. I can collect all items that may be yours and positively identify those that are part of the Black holdings, after which you need only return to positively identify more recent acquisitions. I will be able to more efficiently balance this task with my other responsibilities and you will be free to spend your time elsewhere.”

“Oh.”

“Will that be acceptable?”

“Um,” Harry stalls. Draco’s looking in Harry’s direction but won’t quite look at him, like he’s looking at the wall or something on Harry’s forehead, and it’s weird to have him so close when he feels so far away.

“Mr Potter?”

Harry starts. “What?”

“Is that course of action acceptable?”

“Um,” Harry tries again. “I didn’t realise I was slowing you down so much.”

Draco sniffs. “Yes, well, as I’ve said, it’s generally against departmental protocols to let members of the public leave the front office.”

“I wasn’t trying to break your protocols.” Draco’s jaw twitches again, like he wants to say something. Like he thinks Harry’s lying which, in fairness, he is. But he didn’t mean to break up Draco’s life, is more what he means.

“It is against departmental protocols because it is most efficient to let trained departmental personnel manage retrieval and identification.”

Trained departmental personnel? Harry thinks. Isn’t it just Draco? “Trained departmental personnel? Isn’t it just you?”

Draco’s jaw might be past twitching, it’s so tight. There’s a tiny vein in his forehead that Harry’s pretty sure he couldn’t see when Draco first walked out. “Department staffing is irrelevant. The Vanishing Department is tasked with returning lost items to witches and wizards in the British Isles. In order to meet demand, it is best for the department to handle requests internally.”

Harry thinks Draco is probably right. It’s his department and it’s clear that he’s got managing it down to an art or a science or whatever. There’s no reason he needs Harry here. “I guess there isn’t a reason for me to be here.”

“No,” Draco replies. He’s so different to how he was on Thursday. It’s weird, just weird, that he should be so chilly after that, when he was so warm – his breath, the skin of his neck in Harry’s hand, his mouth against Harry’s, and his chest, and his hands gripping Harry’s shoulders.

Surely that hasn’t just disappeared. This isn’t just like Draco was before, professional and, Harry readily admits, good at his job. It’s colder than that, like he just wants Harry gone. But Harry was there, he knows now, knows, for sure, that Draco doesn’t have to be like this. That Draco isn’t like this.

“Except, I’d like to be.”

“There’s really no need.”

“No, I don’t mean that.”

“I’m perfectly capable of retrieving your things.”

“I know.”

“Everything will be returned in the same condition in which it arrived.”

“I know, that’s not – I’m not saying it won’t be. Just – look. I didn’t mean to be slowing you down. We can do this different. I can move faster. It shouldn’t be all your job just because I went a little wide with a Vanishing spell.”

“It is my job.”

“I know, and I know you’re good at it. I’m not trying to say otherwise. Just that I could be helpful. I’d like to help.”

“There’s no need for your nobility. Nothing is in any danger.”

Harry wants to sigh, or hide his face in his hands, or reach over and grab Malfoy’s shoulders and pull him close and, well, shake him, probably. “I’m not saying it is.”

“Then I’m afraid I fail to understand your objection to the proposed plan.”

“It’s my stuff, isn’t it? Even the stuff I don’t know about yet. I told you that might happen. And there’s probably more new stuff than you think, that you won’t know about straight away. So I could be helpful with that.”

“I see.” Draco’s got a weird twist to his mouth like he’s trying not to frown.

Harry is left feeling uneasy. “I can take direction and stuff, if that’s the problem.”

Draco is impassive. Too impassive for it to be unintentional. The more Harry looks at him, the more he wants to see something, anything, else. “It’s my stuff and I want to help. I want to be here, I want to – I want to help. I insist.”

“Do you?” Draco cocks his head.

“Yeah.” Harry pulls up to his full height, trying to match Draco’s perfect posture, to look him properly in the eye.

“Why?”

“Because,” Harry flounders, “because I can be helpful. Like I said.” He tries not to squirm under Draco’s gaze.

“At retrieving household items.”

“Yes.” He shifts his weight, which probably, technically, doesn’t count as squirming. He’s still trying to catch Draco’s eye, and his heart starts pounding as soon as he succeeds.

Draco’s gaze doesn’t waver. “I don’t have anything prepared for today and there are several other tasks that require my attention.”

“Okay.” Harry picks at his thumbnail. “Well. I can come back.”

There’s a long pause. “Very well.”

Harry looks up, shocked. “Really? No, I mean – good. Good. I’ll see you then.”

He takes a step backwards, and then another. He wants to meet Draco’s stare but he’s afraid of what will happen if he does, but he doesn’t want to run from it either. Another step back, the door handle has to be around here somewhere – there. There. He’s got it in his hand and it’s oddly slippery – is he sweating? Draco’s still staring and he’s sweating. “Right then. Thursday. I – Looking forward to it.”

He slips outside and slams the door behind him before he can see Draco’s reaction. He leans against the wall, breathing, just breathing, until he’s steady enough to walk away.

V V V V V

Harry’s twice-weekly confrontation with the door is interrupted on Thursday morning. It’s already partway open. Harry can hear a woman’s voice through the crack. A woman’s quivering voice.

“Oh, Merlin, you’re really something.”

Harry creeps closer, leaning against the door frame. He can’t quite make out Draco’s response.

“You’re incredible, really. I never thought anyone would find it again, but Merlin,” she gasps, “and it feels just like it did before.”

Harry’s heart pounds.

“Yes, well,” Draco’s voice wafts into the hallway. “It’s my pleasure.”

Your pleasure?” She laughs a choked-up, watery laugh. “My goodness. I can never thank you enough.”

Harry’s not sure where the roaring sensation in his chest has come from, but he’d quite like it to stop.

Beyond the doorway, Draco clears his throat. “If there’s anything else I can do, please don’t hesitate to come again.”

They both look up when Harry bursts through the door to find them standing, quite respectfully, on opposite sides of the counter. “Er.”

Harry’s eyes go straight to Draco, who looks shocked in the split second before cool professionalism takes over.

“Harry Potter?”

“Er.” He looks to the woman. She’s tall, long black hair pulled into a bun, Ministry robes not nearly as pressed as Draco’s and, a bit incongruously, she’s hugging a stuffed dragon. “Yes?”

“Heavens, one really does find all sorts of things down here!” She tucks the plush toy in one elbow and holds out her hand. “Emmaline Bhatt. Pleasure to meet you.” Harry takes her hand. “Mr Malfoy’s just found our Amit’s favourite, Ravi the Ridgeback.

“Amit’s been crying about it for days. He’ll be gladder to see it than his own mother!” She throws Draco a blinding, grateful smile. “Never thought we’d see it again!”

“As I said, Mrs Bhatt, the Vanishing Department is at your service.”

“Really, Mr Malfoy, I can’t tell you what this means.” She turns her smile on Harry. “If you’ve lost something, you’re in good hands.”

“Er, yeah.” In Harry’s periphery, Draco frowns. “I mean, I know. He’s helped me a lot.”

She laughs, her voice still flooded with relief. “Lose things often?”

“No, no,” Harry replies, embarrassed. “Just lost sort of a lot of things. Vanishing spell got a bit out of hand.”

“Here too. First signs of wild magic. It’s all excitement until things start disappearing and bursting into flames, but,” she shrugs, “nothing to be done. Except thank Merlin for the Vanishing Department.”

“Yeah,” Harry agrees, mustering a polite smile. “I know I do.”

“Well then, I’ll leave you to it. It really is a pleasure. And Mr Malfoy –”

“At your service,” he nods and, with a last grateful smile, she closes the door behind her.

Silence echoes between them. Draco’s eyes are still trained on the door. Harry’s trying not to look at him, at least not directly, though he knows Draco’s not moving. Not that he is either. Though he has his trusty “feeling like an idiot” excuse and not much of a clue as to Draco’s motivations.

He clears his throat just as Draco coughs. “Well then.”

“She seemed happy.”

Draco gives him a curious look. “Yes.”

“You really helped her.”

“Yes.”

“And her son.” He resists the urge to shiver under Draco’s scrutiny, only letting out a breath when Draco turns towards the back.

“Yes.”

“That was good, you know,” Harry laughs, weakly, “I thought for a second…” Harry trails off. “Nothing. Nevermind.”

“Hmm.” Draco glances over his shoulder, eying Harry before he continues on. “We will be retrieving books today. They are alphabetical by subject and author. I will start with one end of the alphabet; you will start with the other. Acceptable?”

“What if I miss things that belong to the Black family? Or you miss things that are newer?”

Draco doesn’t turn around. “Do you mean to suggest that you buy books?”

“Hey!” Harry is indignant. “I buy books.”

“Do you?” Draco sounds half-amused and Harry really wishes he could see his face. “Or are they purchased for you?”

“I buy books,” Harry grumbles.

“If I see any recently arrived copies of Interior Designing with Inferi, I shall be sure to set them aside.”

Harry laughs. Or starts to. What if it wasn’t really a joke? If it was, it’s at his expense and, even if most of his inheritance is as hideously ugly as Draco’s suggesting, he doesn’t want Draco to really think that he couldn’t make a home. Not that he cares. But now he’s laughed and Draco’s shoulders are looking awfully tense. At least he thinks there are. Draco’s always so stiff in those robes, it’s hard to tell.

Of course, sometimes he lets them get wrinkled. One time. That one time.

“Potter, zed.”

“Huh?”

“You’ve followed me to Ancient Runes. You’re meant to start from Zoology.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Draco really is as buttoned up and starched as he had been in Harry’s mind all weekend. Even at such close proximity there’s nary an unintentional crease to be found. “Potter.”

Harry looks up, startled. “Yeah?”

“Zoology?”

“Uh, right. Which way?” He wants to stuff the words back in as soon as they’re out.

“The other end of this aisle, seeing as I’m at A.”

“Oh. Right. I’ll just be over there, then.”

He’s pretty sure he can feel Draco watching him all the way down the aisle, though maybe he’s just imagining it because when he peeks out of the corner of his eye, Draco’s intent on the books in front of him.

He stays intent. Every time Harry looks up, he’s stretching up to grab a book or running his long, slender fingers down a spine. He’s entirely focused.

The books follow along behind him in neatly levitated stacks. He always adds precisely a dozen books to each stack before lowering them to the floor. He doesn’t bend or crouch, preferring instead to stand back from the shelf and read all of the titles before he selects any of them. It intrigues Harry and, he thinks, explains a lot about how Draco’s robes stay so immaculate. Come to think of it, he’s never seen Draco squat or twist or bend over.

He wonders what it would look like. Would Draco’s fringe fall forward? Would his robes crease, or are they so starched that they would fall away from his body altogether? Would he have to take them off? What does he wear underneath them? Is that pressed and ironed too? Is there anything there at all, or is it skin, Draco’s skin? Merlin, how does he look under all that wool?

Probably exactly the same, Harry thinks, trying to redirect his focus to Animalia by Zora Benthurst. He’s probably got more robes on under his robes. And even if he doesn’t, even if it’s, say, just a pair of pants, maybe silk boxers or – he stifles a grin – leopard print Y-fronts, he probably looks the same in them. He’s probably as stiff and decorous naked as he is in his uniform, and wouldn’t that be a sight? Draco Malfoy in his pants, at the front desk, ‘How can we help you? What can we reach for you? Would you like to fill out seventeen forms in triplicate?’

Harry grins at Draco. Pointlessly. Draco is not in his pants. He’s levitating a book onto his pile, back turned to Harry.

There’s not a reason that should bother Harry, really. It’s good, even. Better than the alternative. At least this makes sense. Sense is good. Rare, these days. At least, these last few days. Things had seemed a bit more sensical before. So it’s good, really, that Draco’s ignoring all of that.

Harry steps down the aisle, moving towards Transfiguration.

It’s not just good for Draco, either. Really, this is far better for him, too. Simple. Peaceful, even. And it’s good to move around a bit. He’ll sleep well, maybe. Which would be nice. He’s tired. Lots of tossing and turning. Lots of waking up with an aching erection and rushing to toss one off.

Which is even more reason that this is for the best. Waking up in the middle of the night to thoughts of Draco Malfoy’s mouth is surreal in every possible sense, and if his life is more complicated for it after three days, it’s not the sort of thing he should encourage. Even if he can’t stop thinking about it.

But he should stop thinking about it. The whole point of this house project was to try to do something productive with himself and this is definitely not productive. It’s confusing. That’s basically the opposite of productive.

But it shouldn’t even be confusing. He knows it’s not right. He knows he shouldn’t have liked it. That’s all very clear.

Nice things. He likes nice things. He wants nice things. A nice house and a nice girlfriend, well, or a nice someone? And a nice garden and probably a Crup. Two Crups. A Crup and a Kneazle?

“Excuse me.”

Harry jumps, stumbling over the untidy pile next to him.

Draco doesn’t react to his near-fall, just stands there, stock straight, looking into the middle distance

“Er, yeah?”

“Excuse me.” Draco points to the shelves behind Harry.

Harry stares. “What?”

“Excuse me.”

“I just did those.”

“As you pointed out, each of us is liable to miss certain items, at least if your book-purchasing claims are to be believed.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

Draco brushes past him. He smells like soap and that little hint of lavender.

He focuses on the bookshelf. He’s only at T. Is Draco really that much better at this? Is he really that distracted?

Now they’re just a few feet apart, he can hear Draco’s robes rustle when he moves. He can see the sharp crook of Draco’s index finger when Draco hooks it over the top of a spine and pulls. It looks dangerous. It looks like Draco knows how to use his hands.

Which does not matter at all.

Harry hasn’t kissed a lot of people but he knows he shouldn’t have liked that one. It was angry. It was mean. It wasn’t the kind of kiss he likes. He liked kissing Ginny. Loved it. She smelled like perfume and tasted like cinnamon and had full lips and she was gentle and soft and he could kiss her for a long time, very happily. And he’d tossed one or two off to the thought of her as well. So, there. Kissing Malfoy was wrong. The wrong person and the wrong kind of kissing and not what he wants, and that's all there is to it.

The way he handles books, though. Harry had never really seen Ginny handle books, at least not so far as he can remember. He must have, at some point. But it wasn’t quite so memorable. Wasn’t quite like this, the way Draco moves so precisely, the way he uses one finger to tilt the books back off the shelf, the way he caresses the spines as he checks the titles. The way he balances his wand in his hand, the precise command he has over every flick.

“Can I help you?” Draco’s voice is like ice.

“Huh?” Harry blinks. He’s been staring. Shit.

“Can. I. Help. You?”

“Er, no, I – sorry.”

He steps down the aisle, away from Draco. If he can’t smell him, that will help. If he can’t see his hands, that will help too.

P. He can do this. Potions. He had bought a book on Potions. Two of them. What were they? Something about pest control?

Draco reaches for a book that’s too high for him to quite be able to reach. He has to stretch for it. He leans up and those stiff robes fall against the line of his body. Harry’s eyes are immediately glued to the sight.

His legs are long. Harry had guessed that. He’s got a bit of an arse, too. More than Harry had thought, though maybe it’s the thickness of the fabric. His shoulders are more substantial than they had been when Harry thought about it. Not broad by any means, but strong-looking.

When Draco rocks back onto his heels his eyes are level with Harry’s. Suddenly, Draco is looking at him, straight at him.

Harry freezes. He’s not even holding a book. His hands are completely empty. Draco’s staring at him, into him, piercing but otherwise unreadable.

“Um,” Harry starts. “I.”

Draco raises an eyebrow.

“I…I’m feeling kind of.” He swallows. “I think I should…” He can just faintly make out the rise and fall of Draco’s chest. He wants to touch it. He wants to know whether he’s really as warm as Harry remembers. If he’s as hard. If he’s as rough.

He takes a step forward. “I want. I, I think –”

“Very well then.”

Harry’s heart skips a beat. Did Draco say—? Does he mean—?

“If you’re unwell it’s best for you to leave.”

“Oh.”

Draco folds his arms. His gaze turns expectant. “Well then?”

“Right.”

“Are you going?” Draco cocks an eyebrow.

“No.”

“I thought you were unwell.”

“I – I just, I’m feeling a little…” He takes another step forward.

Draco catches his eye and holds it then. It’s a look full of provocation. Harry’s certain, all of a sudden, that if he takes that step forward, Draco will follow through on what he’s saying. Not saying. Whatever. That they’ll kiss, that he’ll be pinned under the weight of Draco’s body, gasping and moaning and opening himself for Draco’s tongue, that it will be sleepless nights and wet dreams and confusion. His stomach twists.

It’s one thing to want this – which he doesn’t – and to think about wanting this at home, alone, in the middle of the night. It’s another thing to take this step. It’s too much of a thing. It’s not the kind of person he is. The kind of person he is stays over here. The kind of person he is leaves. The kind of person he is is about to vomit on Draco’s pristine robes.

“I have to go.” He takes a step backwards, and then another. “I’m just – I don’t want to, to get you sick. So. I’m going to – I have to go. I’ll see you Tuesday. I’ll – I’ll see you then.”

He turns and starts walking and doesn’t stop until he’s put that big, solid door back between them.

Chapter Text

Draco slams the flowers into the disposal chute. They don’t make nearly so satisfying a noise as the potatoes had done, but better than the mouldy bread. He eyes the newspaper. How many Prophets will he need to stack up to get a really good thud?

The tomatoes could do nicely. Not the first time someone had tried to Vanish an “heirloom” and sent the bowl along with the tomatoes. They’ve begun to liquefy and he can imagine the wet splattering sound they’ll make when they’re blown to pieces by the impact. If only he could throw them at the walls and see the results for himself.

But no, no. Of course not. The Wizengamot had been firm on that. No permanent Banishment. Had to install a rubbish chute to Rubbish Incineration and Permanent Banishment so the keen minds of that department would see if he’d tried to discard anything valuable or suspiciously dark. As if those half-wit O.W.L. dropouts would know a dark object if it bit them on the arse.

This is one of those “definitely robeless” tasks and Draco still always ends up sweating through his shirtsleeves. It’s warm, heavy work, and frankly disgusting. He still hasn’t got over periodic revulsion that comes with handling those putrefying items that really should have been Banished but that he’s required to hold for a time, should someone come looking for three tomatoes or a wilting bouquet.

Of course, it’s happened before. Panicked home gardeners who assume their produce will still be in perfect condition two weeks after Vanishing. Amateur chefs who can’t believe their spouse accidentally Vanished those leftovers. Tearful lovers who Vanish flowers in the heat of an argument.

To hell with tearful lovers. Any lovers. And their flowers. Wilted and crumbling. Completely useless. As they would have been even when they weren’t growing thick white fuzz up the stems. Idiotic gestures, as ultimately meaningless as the drooping daisies Draco’s just shoved down the chute.

On closer inspection, the tomatoes are looking so dubious that he doesn’t even want to lift them. He levitates them instead. No use risking a formerly-crisp white Oxford, even if his robes will cover it. The newspapers will have to do for a more satisfying noise.

Would that he could burn them himself. So much more satisfying to see the destruction than to imagine it. But these, at least, will make a worthwhile sound.

He gathers three months’ worth of last year’s Prophet. Once they’re a year old he can dispose of them, and thank Merlin there are so many. He tips them down the chute and waits. There’s a quick fluttering as pages try to break away and then, two seconds later, a resounding thud.

What else? He’s got behind on this. One of the many tasks that has been interrupted by recent events. Some people can’t help but ruin everything.

Like Draco’s weekend. Thoroughly ruined. Not that he had plans as such, with Goyle in Azkaban and Pansy doing her community service at a residential school for Squibs (the thought of which had given Draco every incentive to do a superlative job with his own assignment even before he realised its merits) and Blaise and Nott ignoring everyone who hadn’t come through entirely unscathed. It's pretty much down to reading, avoiding his mother, and very politely asking their house-elves-cum-unionised-home-service-staff to bring tea. Aside from a new novel it was about as interesting as watching grass grow, but it was clean and quiet. No bells, no yelling, no rotting fruit or mysteriously stained pants or bloody houses full of eccentric rubbish.

But of course, Potter couldn’t even leave him that. No. Potter was far too incomprehensible to leave Draco in anything remotely resembling peace.

First, the odd moment at the knives. Certainly strange. Perhaps, Draco is willing to concede, unexpectedly intimate, though that hadn’t been his doing. Then the little bit of grappling. Not all that surprising, really. Tussling and biting seems about right given Potter’s usual level of finesse. That it had been pleasurable is no matter. Draco is a healthy young man with certain urges that, as a consequence of his circumstances, go largely unaddressed. The occasional outing is nice enough, but they’re too infrequent to prevent a physical response when pressed up against another warm body, even if it is Potter’s. And it had been easy enough to tell that the response was reciprocal. Robes are far more effective at concealing erections that Potter’s flimsy Muggle denims.

The obvious existence of that not-insubstantial erection made Potter’s behaviour even more mystifying. Perhaps a Gryffindor could be forgiven for failing to see how such a circumstance might have been mutually beneficial, but weren’t they supposed to charge ahead even without such basic calculations? Rather than practically tripping over their own feet in the rush to leave?

Which was, well. Draco wouldn’t use the word disappointing. It wasn’t disappointing. Mystifying. Confusing. Perplexing. Illogical. Idiotic, perhaps, might be most appropriate.

Then he’d come back, all bashful fumbling and odd determination to help even though it really and truly was not necessary. Fine. Draco understood the political importance of accommodating Potter’s odd whims. He’d let him help. Kept him at a distance, given him a concrete task so simple that an adolescent troll could manage it, and left him to it.

But of course Potter made that hypothetical adolescent troll look like a gentleman scholar. Maybe that had been Draco’s mistake, to expect that Potter would have even a passing interest in books.

Instead, he’d stared at Draco the whole time. Unabashedly. Openly. Except when Draco looked back, of course.

And the quality of the looking. Another mystery. Draco was certain that his uniform was properly maintained. He had checked afterwards and hadn’t found anything in his teeth, nor any blemishes, and his hair was in place. He had concluded that they weren’t corrective glances. And Draco was working far more efficiently than Potter, so reproach was out of the question.

Curiosity, perhaps? But what about? Draco is aware that he's reasonably attractive. He has no trouble pulling on the rare occasions when he tries to. His partners are generally far more interested in a repeat performance than he is, and who knows what animates the Golden Boy’s fantasies? But if that is the nature of Potter’s interest, why the vanishing act? The repeated vanishing act? Even by Potter’s standards, it's inexplicable.

Of course, it isn’t the first time Potter has been given over to fits of staring, but that had been a different time. The implication makes Draco queasy. Does Potter still think he's up to something? That even after the war, after accepting his sentence, after everything he’d managed to build in the department, that he needs to be watched for signs of wrongdoing?

The whole thing leaves him furious. He hauls a stack of takeaway containers to the chute and sends them tumbling downward. Unsatisfying. Too wet, not loud enough. Surely there are more newspapers. Maybe a fruitcake. Maybe an aubergine carved to look like Potter’s stupid face.

These games might be palatable if Potter knew what he was doing, if there was any logic or consistency. If Draco could trust it was a game at all. That, at least, would be familiar terrain, but this –

Ding.

Draco freezes.

It can’t be time yet. Fuck. He’s left his watch in his robes. A quick Tempus shows 9:56. It’s early. He’s early. He came. Or maybe it’s someone else, maybe it’s a random customer and they’ll need something and Potter can just sit there, being baffling and waiting his turn.

Or else it is Potter and it’s only a matter of time before he wanders back here like he owns the damn place, and Draco’s in no fit state for that.

He turns his wand on himself. A Scourgify, to start with. He rolls down his shirtsleeves, links them shut. They show wrinkles from having been rolled up, but his robes will cover that.

Ding

His robes, yes. Waistcoat first. Three buttons. Robes. He shrugs them on. He’s done this before. He can walk and - yes, one, two, three, four, five, six rows of buttons. Clasp at the collar, which he straightens. He runs a hand through his hair, smooths his robes and opens the door.

Potter’s hand is hovering over the bell, though he rushes to drop it as soon as he sees Draco.

Instead of ringing the bell, he starts staring. Again. Draco barely resists the urge to sigh, or shake him, or punch him square in the jaw.

He’s wearing a new jumper. At least it’s one Draco’s never seen before, and he’s seen Potter’s entire wardrobe. Though, he reminds himself, it might not be new. It might have been stored somewhere else and retrieved or - his stomach twists – it might be borrowed, picked up off of somebody’s floor this morning.

If it is, that someone has good taste. It’s an emerald green, which, aside from Draco’s appreciation of the colour, makes Potter’s eyes look rather brilliant even when he isn’t crying. That someone would also be a similar size to Potter, because it fits him quite well. A hint of collarbone, fitted through the chest. Wool – not cashmere, Draco’s certain – but not of unreasonable quality.

Potter keeps staring.

Draco begins to wonder if he’s missed something. Misbuttoned his robes or got a smudge of something on his face. Checking would only make it worse, but really, this kind of examination would put anyone on edge.

As Potter stands there, his usual fumbling, gaping mess – albeit in a very nice, probably post-coitally borrowed jumper – Draco feels his last nerve begin to fray.

He’s tired of Potter’s looks. And really, it’s probably none of the things he’s thought of. Probably just Potter’s own unending entitlement. He probably thinks Draco’s just another Vanished object that can be tagged up and brought down for his perusal.

Draco is many things, but that is not one of them. That has never been one of them. He has helped Potter more than once and has stood for more of his shit than could possibly be considered a part of his job. He will not be Potter’s toy, to boot. If Potter wants to play games – or not play games, or half-heartedly play games, or refuse to acknowledge the games he’s very obviously playing – he’s come to the wrong place. Two can play at that not-game, and only one of them is a Slytherin.

Potter is still staring.

Draco moves to stand directly across from him, folds his arms, and waits.

Potter startles at that. Their proximity? Draco’s posture? Draco’s unsure, and even less sure that he cares as long as Potter’s on the defensive

With a nervous shift, Potter looks towards him. Avoiding his eyes, Draco notes. Interesting.

A plan jumps into Draco’s head. He had thought they’d look at desks and side tables. But why, when there’s so much more potential elsewhere?

“Right this way.” He gestures for Potter to come around the counter.

Potter hesitates. “Ahead of you.”

“Please, be my guest.”

After another moment’s pause, Potter steps into Draco’s line of sight and Draco’s survey begins. Potter’s wearing the motorcycle boots again, along with those snug, dark jeans, and then the green jumper. Draco draws his eyes up Potter’s body. By the time he reaches Potter’s face, he’s delighted to find the beginnings of a blush. He quirks an eyebrow.

Potter doesn’t respond in kind. He folds his arms over his chest and shifts uneasily. “You should go first.”

“Oh? I’d thought you’d surely learned your way around by now, given your recent tendency to wander off alone. ”

The blush deepens. “Er. I’m sure you - you know it better than I do. You know what we’re doing today.”

“Yes,” Draco tilts his head. “I do.”

Potter’s cheeks are beginning to resemble the Hogwarts Express.

“Very well, then. This way.”

As he brushes past, Draco can hear Potter’s intake of breath. There’s a pause before Potter’s footsteps fall in line behind his own.

He leads Potter straight back towards the dais, unwilling to give anything away before he absolutely has to. They’re almost there before he takes a sharp turn to the left. Past office supplies, past musical instruments, past the start of kitchenware. There’s bakeware, crockery, glassware. As they reach knives, Draco continues, “I believe we have some unfinished business.”

“What?” Potter squeaks, stumbling to a stop.

“In kitchenware. We have successfully retrieved items used to prepare and serve meals, but there’s more to it than that.”

“Oh. Um. More?”

“Yes. A proper table setting requires linens. I’ve no doubt that you’ve inherited quite a collection.”

“Oh. Linens.” Potter looks tentatively relieved. So much the better.

“Yes, as I’ve said.” Draco pivots away from Potter and takes a left two aisles past knives.

Potter is slow to follow which, Draco reminds himself, is not a bad sign. Draco is running a hand over a length of rough grey silk by the time Potter’s footsteps round the corner.

“What do you think?”

“What?” Potter stops a good ten feet away.

Draco turns to him. “What do you think?”

“Of what?”

“Hand to the fabric.”

“What?”

“The way it feels, Potter.” Draco takes down the neatly folded runner and holds it out.

“Um,” Potter scrambles. “I’m sure it feels good.”

“Are you?” Draco muses. “It’s really very nice. Bit rough. Don’t you want to touch it?”

“I, um. I’m sure that’s more your area. Your expertise. Area of expertise. Your – your thing.”

“My thing?”

“Your – I mean, the thing you’re holding is more. You can tell more about that than I can. About silk. Not my area.”

“Hmmm. Very well then. Does it look familiar?”

“I don’t know. It looks like a thing, you know, that you put on a table.”

“Incisive. It is, in fact, a thing you put on a table. A runner, to be more precise.” Draco looks over at Harry. “Don’t know if it’s yours?”

Harry shakes his head.

“Hmmm.” Draco unfolds it, draping the fabric over his chest as he examines the hem. “How fortunate. There’s a label.” He glances up. Potter’s eyes are locked onto his chest. He runs a hand across the fabric. “Often is, in older, custom-made items. ‘Lavinia’s Linens, Made for Elladora Black, 1873.’ Fairly conclusive. Here.” He holds it out for Potter, who shifts back nervously.

“That’s okay. Maybe a pile? Would be good?”

“They are your things, but I would advise against putting century-old silk on the floor.”

“Maybe on a shelf?”

“If you’re that averse to touching it, I suppose so.” Draco puts it on a bit of empty shelf and turns back to the task at hand.

There are several sets of plain cotton napkins. Those won’t do. Half a dozen silk tablecloths, redundant. Paper napkins? Repellent, almost certainly Potter’s, and not at all useful for his current endeavour. His eyes land on a set of black satin napkins. Terribly pretentious, almost certainly the Black’s, and far more useful.

He pulls at one, letting it fall open. “And this? Is this yours?”

Potter’s still looking nervous, now with a hint of the caged animal about him. “How should I know? It’s a black napkin.”

“Just a black napkin? This,” he explains, taking a step forward, “is made of Duchesse satin. Valuable on its own, with particular use for those who entertain late at night.” He quirks his mouth at Potter. “They shimmer by candlelight. Creates quite an effect. Another lovely hand to the fabric, if you’d care to feel?”

“No thanks.” Potter folds his arms, looking intently at the shelving next to him.

“Shame. Quite an experience. Would feel lovely in one’s lap, or next to the skin.”

“It’s a napkin,” Potter objects. “That’s not what it’s for.”

“No,” Draco pauses. “Of course not. How silly of me.” He turns back to the shelving, then peeks over his shoulder at Potter. “I suppose you don’t have any feelings about lace, either?”

“No.”

“Such a shame. Hard to run a household when you know so little about the tools at your disposal.”

“Oh, and you’re the one to teach me? Is that what this is?” Potter is advancing, step by step. Draco does his best to look concerned.

“I do have certain types of expertise you might find beneficial.”

Potter scoffs. “About fabrics? Table settings?”

“Among other things.”

“Other things. Right. This is something, Malfoy, even for you.”

“Pardon?”

“You think you’re so clever, don’t you? Luring me back here, trying to get me to feel your fabrics.”

“My fabrics?”

“Among other things,” Potter bites.

“They aren’t my fabrics. As we’re trying to establish, they’re largely your fabrics.”

“Not the point.”

“Oh? Beg pardon, I must have misunderstood.” Draco bites down on a grin, turning it into his most professional pleasant smile. “If not the safe return of your mistakenly Vanished table linens, what is the point?”

Potter is fidgeting. He handles agitation so poorly, prone to outbursts as he is. It’s a good sign, Draco can feel it. Potter’s voice is low, almost a growl. “I know what you’re trying to do.”

“I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

“You get me back here, near the – you know, near the aisle from the other day, get me back here and starting going on about wanting me to touch things and how good they feel and your skin, and how good your skin feels, and pretending it’s all about napkins when really you’re – you’re trying to…” He trails off.

“I assure you, I’ve said nothing about how good my skin feels.” Though now Potter’s mentioned it… “Not that the insight into your associations isn’t fascinating.”

“That’s not fair!”

“No?”

“No,” Harry crosses his arms, “and you know it.”

“Do I? Rather like it’s unfair to come to a person’s place of business and start throwing them up against the shelving? Or staring at them too intently to focus on your own work?”

Potter clenches his jaw.

“Perhaps unfair is the wrong word,” Draco continues. “Impolite?”

They both pause, staring, as silence roars in the cavernous aisle. He’s fully aware that he can’t give in first, but that doesn’t stop Draco feeling the prickly heat creeping up the back of his neck.

He won’t let it show. Instead, he recovers his pleasant smile. “All the more reason for you to learn the art of tablesetting. Always wise to improve one’s –”

The end of his sentence is lost to Potter’s mouth. One moment Potter’s coiled on the edge of rage, the next Draco’s pinned to the shelving again. Potter is a hot weight against him. He kisses Draco urgently, pressing first lips, then tongues together.

Draco’s head spins. He had expected to win, but not so quickly. Not like this, surrounded by the smell of Potter’s soap and with his cock already hardening under his robes. Not with Potter grabbing at him and rolling their hips together. Not with Potter gasping like that. Moaning. Mumbling things that Draco’s not certain he can stand to hear.

He had expected to win, but not to be unsure of whether the kissing or the winning was better. Not to be unsure about which he’d choose, if forced.

But then, he realises, smiling against Potter’s mouth, he’s not being forced. He’ll take both. Have his cake and eat Potter, too.

The last time, what had sent Potter running? Yes...escalation.

He pulls back just far enough to catch Potter’s eyes, the ring of green already dwindling to nothingness. He laughs, low and breathy, and grabs Potter’s belt to pull him closer.

It’s enough, just enough, to send Potter jumping back out of reach. He’s gasping and flushed and trying his damnedest to look sceptical. “What’re you doing, Malfoy?”

There’s nothing professional about Draco’s smile. “What do you think, Potter?”

Potter opens his mouth and closes it again. He’s searching for words. Draco knows how hard that must be for him.

“Looking to run again, are you? Where’s that famous Gryffindor courage now?”

“I’m not scared.”

“No?” Draco leans back and cocks his head, making absolutely certain that Potter feels the promise in his gaze. “Prove it.”

“You’re mad,” Potter exhales.

Draco shrugs. “Perhaps, but I’m not afraid.”

“I’m not afraid!”

“So you keep saying, yet you keep your distance.”

Potter takes exactly one step forward. “Fine.”

“Very brave. Bravo. Only a relatively slender centaur could fit between us.”

Potter huffs and takes one more step forward. “Satisfied?”

“Satisfied?” Draco laughs and takes his own step forward. “Are you trying to satisfy me, Potter?” He reaches out to brush his thumb along Potter’s jaw and doesn’t miss the hitch in his breath. “I’d say you have a way to go.”

“No.”

“No, you don’t? Beg to differ.” He lowers his thumb to Potter’s collarbone, tracing the line towards the V of his jumper.

“No, I’m not.”

“Ah, of course. The great Harry Potter is a selfish lover.” Potter’s eyes bug out at the word. “I should’ve known.”

“I’m not! We’re not.”

“Of course not.” He leans in to catch Potter’s earlobe between his teeth, releasing it when he draws a whine from somewhere low in Potter’s throat. “You’d have to be concerned about my satisfaction if we were.

“As it is, however,” he pushes Potter into the shelving. “As it is, we need only be concerned with yours.”

Potter moans when his back hits a metal post. Draco pins him there with a kiss at least as searing as Potter’s had been. Potter’s gasping, uneven breath doesn’t escape his notice. He pulls back to murmur, “Scared yet?”

“No.”

“Good,” Draco hums, “and linens? Still so scared of those?”

“No,” Potter pants, deliciously confused by the question.

“Good.” Draco reaches for his wand. Potter gasps as two black velvet runners wind around his wrists, pinning him to the crossbars. “Scared yet?”

“No,” Potter whispers.

“So brave,” Draco smirks, “So stoic.” He runs two fingers down the underside of Potter’s arm, wrist to armpit. “If you’re afraid, you only need say so.”

“Not afraid.”

“No?” Draco traces down Potter’s side.

Potter shakes his head, hair falling forward to hide his eyes. Draco pushes it back. Hiding is not the sort of thing he’ll allow.

It’s very much the opposite of what he’ll allow. He yanks Potter’s hair, pulling his head back so they’re eye to eye. “Hiding behind your fringe? Doesn’t look like you’re unafraid.” He smooths it back. “Eyes on me. Understood?”

Potter nods, his breath coming quickly, the vein just above his collarbone pounding.

Draco steps back to survey his work and, in even that second’s pause, realises that his cock is throbbing as heavily as Potter’s jugular.

The saviour of the wizarding world, spread before him, flushed and panting with the outline of his cock stretching the fabric of his jeans. Draco’s mouth waters at the sight of it. At the idea of what he’s about to do. Of what he can do.

He steps forward, pressing his pelvis to Potter’s, feeling the hard ridge of his erection through all the layers between them. He slips a hand beneath the hem of Potter’s jumper and shivers when Potter jumps at the touch.

He hums his pleasure into Potter’s neck, pleased to no end when Potter cants his head, revealing a stretch of pale flesh. He moans when Draco dips down to lick a fine line up Potter’s neck, gasps when it turns into a bite, groans when Draco sucks, long and hard. Draco pulls away, leaving behind another blooming purple spot. This time, Potter can’t run. Nor, to Draco’s pleasure, does he show any inclination to.

Nor does he object when Draco lifts his jumper, stepping back to run his thumbs up the arch of Potter’s ribs and down through the thick trail of hair that leads to his belt. He whimpers when Draco shoves his jumper up to his armpits, exposing the coarse hair that radiates from his sternum and covers his chest. He flicks Potter’s nipples with his thumbs and his cock twitches when Potter whines and arches up for more. He can’t help his fingers digging in to Potter’s skin when that whine almost becomes a word, a plea.

Draco wants to hear that word. He will hear it. He lowers his mouth, anchoring his fingertips into Potter’s sides and sucking one pink nipple into his mouth. Potter half-yells at that, throwing his head back and arching into Draco’s smiling mouth. Potter’s skin is salty with the lightest sheen of perspiration and Draco’s put it there, knows that somewhere between fear and desire he’s made Potter sweat.

He wraps his hand around the thick leather of Potter’s belt. It’s smooth in his hand, cold where Potter’s skin is hot. He runs his fingers to the buckle and pauses, leaning in. “Do you want it?”

“Mmm.” Potter rolls his head, his eyes fluttering shut.

Draco needs to see him, needs to hear him ask. “Tell me.”

“I,” Potter gasps.

“Scared to say it?” He nips at Potter’s neck again and presses his hips forward when he hears the answering moan.

Potter shakes his head.

“Come on, Potter. Tell me.”

“I,” Potter tries again.

Draco is torn between impatience and the need to hear this, to hear Potter ask him for it, even if it’s only an instant, even if it’s only because the blood’s too far from his head to support any semblance of good judgement.

He grips Potter’s buckle and pulls, lifting his waistband away, having a first look at the soft skin below Potter’s jeans.

“Never,” Potter whispers.

Draco looks up, frozen. Potter’s eyes are wide and, assertions to the contrary, they’re scared. “What?” Draco bites out.

“I’ve never,” Potter whispers again.

Draco swallows, rasps, “Never been with a man before?” He dips a finger below Potter’s waistband “Need me to be gentle?”

“No...never.” Potter looks to the floor. “No one’s ever.”

“Ever?” Draco’s chest seizes. He’d never imagined, for all Potter’s hesitation, that this might be the case. That this could be the case. “No one’s ever fucked you before?”

“No…anything.”

Draco’s heart pounds. “No one’s ever sucked you?” He begins to slide his hand downward.

Potter shakes his hand.

Draco’s fingers are skimming over the front of Potter’s pants now, searching for the outline of – yes, there. Potter gasps, whimpers, his shoulders straining as he’s torn between pulling back and arching into Draco’s hand. “No one’s ever touched your cock before?”

Potter’s trembling with the effort of staying still. He shakes his head again and Draco’s grateful, beyond grateful, that his hand is wedged so tightly between Potter’s jeans and his pants that Potter probably can’t feel him trembling at the thought of it.

“But you want it, don’t you?” Draco whispers, not trusting his voice for anything more definite.

Slowly, Potter nods.

“Say it.” Draco’s fingertips graze the soft cotton swell. “Do you want me to touch you?”

Potter’s chest shudders as he inhales. “Yes”

Draco leans in, bracing himself against Potter’s chest, moving to lick his way up Potter’s jaw. “Now?” He has a finger to either side of Potter’s cock, so close, so close to being the first.

“Yes,” Potter whispers.

Draco cups Potter’s cock and trails his fingers towards the head. He has to fight off a wave of dizziness at the sounds Potter’s making. He steels himself, his free hand gripping Potter’s bound arm for support.

Potter whines when Draco withdraws from his jeans. Draco squeezes his arm. “Stop,” he hushes, returning his hand to Potter’s belt buckle. “If you want more.”

Potter complies, falling silent, his eyes huge as he leans forward to watch Draco’s hands.

Draco steps back. He takes the buckle in hand, holding Potter’s eye as he slides it open. Draco’s breath hitches alongside Potter’s as Draco lets the belt drop open and runs his hand over the bulge in Potter’s jeans.

The dark line that trails down Potter’s stomach grows thicker as Draco follows it southward, thrilling at the fine, coarse hairs. He wants to run his fingertips over them, to follow them to their destination.

Instead, he lifts his hands away and pushes Potter’s jeans towards the floor.

He’s not sorry. Not at all. There’s more thick hair across Potter’s thighs, which are muscled and trembling, just like the rest of him. He leans forward to grab Potter’s arse, catching a nipple in his mouth as long as he’s there.

He smiles into Potter’s skin when another almost-word falls from Potter’s lips. It’s a strangled sort of noise, one that Draco’s fairly certain started with “Ple—” And at that he’s unsure, again, of whether this feeling is victory or arousal or whether it has, with Potter, always been some amalgam of the two. He’s unsure, too, whether it matters exactly why he’s throbbing at the sight of the Harry Potter, stretched out, bound and stripped, cock straining through his pants.

It doesn’t matter, he decides. He doesn’t care. Potter’s thin whimpers are beautiful and Draco could watch him roll his hips against the air for hours. He’s half tempted to, but then he would have no excuse to see more, and he desperately wants to see more.

He hooks a finger into each side of Potter’s waistband, lifting away, and bends his knees until he finds himself at eye level with Potter’s cock.

It’s dripping. It’s the first thing he notices, his eyes fixed on the thin white strand trailing down Potter’s shaft. It’s thick, too, and long. Big enough that he knows with total certainty that he’d feel gloriously full with Potter stretching him open. Big enough that he wants to know whether he can take it all in his mouth.

He looks up and his chest flutters. Potter’s flushed and panting. His skin glistens from the fine sheen of sweat that’s gathered across his chest.

Potter’s looking at him. Not even quite looking. It’s too animalistic, too needy to be anything as self-aware as looking. His attention is fixed completely on Draco, who feels faint with the realisation. Whatever he does now, Potter will be watching. Whatever he does now, Potter will likely remember for the rest of his life.

He catches Potter’s gaze and holds it. Trails a hand up the inside of Potter’s thigh to the thick hair at the base of his cock, and wraps a loose fist around the shaft. Potter’s eyes threaten to flutter shut until Draco squeezes, hard. Potter gets the message. They stay open after that.

“Tell me,” Draco repeats.

Potter nods.

“No,” Draco insists. “Say it.”

“What?” Potter’s voice is thin and high.

“Do you want –” he pauses. Me? This? He hasn’t got an end to that sentence.

“Yes,” Potter interrupts, his breath uneven. “Want.”

Draco doesn’t drop his gaze, but he does drop to his knees. He pulls Potter towards him, leans forward so that the head of Potter’s cock is brushing his lips. He feels Potter twitch against him, feels him fight to stay in place, to exercise some last shred of restraint.

He won’t allow that either.

Potter cries out and shudders when Draco runs his tongue up his shaft and then takes Potter in his mouth.

Draco’s glad that his own moan is muffled by the seal he’s created around Potter’s tip. It’s an undignified, needy sound, not the sort he’s accustomed to making. Not the sort he’s usually inspired to make, but he’s damned if Potter’s skin doesn’t raise goosebumps on his own, if Potter’s cock isn’t a flawless fit for his tongue.

He can take it almost to the base and it’s perfect. His mouth’s full and it’s hot and salty, his hands are gripping Potter’s arse, pulling him closer, and then, then it happens, on an exhale.

“Please,” Potter gasps. “Draco, please.”

Draco feels the moan rumble up through his chest and thank Salazar he’s got Potter’s cock butting up against his throat, because Potter groans and pulls at his restraints and seems to think it’s an advanced technique rather than Draco’s shock at hearing his name out of Potter’s mouth.

Even as he’s shaking himself, wondering if he’s imagined it, if this is real, Potter is sliding into a string of mutterings that confirm the strange reality of it all.

“Please….fuck, Draco. Want, want.”

He has a million questions and not a single one of them is worth asking if it involves taking Potter’s cock out of his mouth.

Instead, he pulls back. He'll make Potter work for it.

Potter does. He does it beautifully, thrusting forward, whimpering when Draco sits back so that even Potter’s most enthusiastic thrusts just graze his open lips.

He wants Potter in his mouth, but he doesn’t want it to end. Wants to watch him come, wants to taste him, wants to bring him, trembling, to his knees, but he doesn’t want to stop. Potter’s cries are too sweet, his begging too precious.

“Please let me…oh fuck, your mouth, your mouth, Draco, please…”

He leans forward again, running his lips over the shaft, kissing the tip as gently as he can.

“Please let me, I need to, I want.”

“Say it,” Draco whispers. “Tell me.”

“Have to come,” Potter gasps. “Please, please let me, your mouth…”

Draco swallows him down, his fist meeting his mouth as he covers Potter’s shaft. He brings his free hand to Potter’s bollocks, rolling them in his palm. Potter’s ramblings grow more urgent.

“Oh, fuck, what are you, oh, more, please, just like that, please.”

And of course Potter would be a talker, of course he would be as expressive in this moment as he is in the midst of a fight.

Potter’s bollocks are high and tight and Draco has to make a choice. He wants to watch and he wants to taste, but he can’t do both, not enough of both.

He looks up and catches Potter’s eyes, and the choice is made for him.

He sits back on his heels and strokes Potter, twisting his wrist at the end just as he does for himself.

He can see it all from here. Potter’s stomach contracting, his thighs trembling. The stripped, aching look on Potter’s face as he gasps for air, as he groans one last, “Oh, fuck, please,” and then Draco’s face is covered in hot stripes. Potter’s gasping for air, gripping the shelves, his knees trembling with the effort of staying upright as Draco strokes it out of him, letting it fall onto his chest, into his hair, leaning forward to catch the last drops with his mouth.

Potter smiles down at him, breathless and ecstatic, looking like he’s never felt something so wonderful, which, Draco supposes, he never has. It leaves Draco dumbfounded, the warmth of that smile. For all he’s sucked a few cocks in his time, he’s never seen a smile like that in the aftermath.

Of course Potter would have to be different.

He draws his wand and casts a discreet and expert Scourgify at himself and, with a wave of his wand, releases Potter from his restraints.

Potter sags to the ground, bare arse hitting the floor with a smack. His hand is warm on Draco’s knee. “Hey,” he murmurs.

Draco straightens his back. He may be on his knees, but it’s strictly a matter of necessity; there’s no need to attach any sort of symbolism to it. “Yes.”

“Hey, that was…wow.”

“Yes, well.” Draco smooths his robes.

“You were…wow.”

“One’s first time often is.” Draco stands and Merlin, but his cock is aching. He goes through the exercise of straightening his robes, mostly to ensure that the fabric is displayed to discretion’s best advantage. He can’t let Potter see, not the way he’s just seen Potter. Not any of it.

“Hey,” Potter calls after him. “Hey.”

Draco starts to refold the runners. “Yes?”

In the corner of his eye, he can see Potter yanking at his clothes, his cock – limp but, Draco’s loathe to admit, still impressive – disappearing into his pants. Potter tugs his jeans up and his jumper down. His hair doesn’t look any different than it usually does, and as far as Draco can tell – as far as Draco will admit – there's no evidence that anything of note has happened here.

Potter’s hand is on his arm. “Hey.”

He stiffens, runner still in hand. “Yes?”

“Where are you going?”

“I have a job to do.”

“But we just – what about you?”

“As I said, I have a job to do.”

“But we just –”

Draco turns towards him, willing himself not to blink, not to smile, not to give anything away. “Established that you’re capable of making it through a full hour in my department without fleeing. Well done.”

Potter’s face falls. It doesn’t do anything to endear him to Draco, nor does it stop him talking. “But I wanted, I mean, um. I thought you – did you?”

“What?” Draco snarls.

“Didyoucome?” Potter bursts out.

Draco raises an eyebrow at him. “I fail to see how that’s any of your concern.”

“Any of my – you’ve got to be joking.” His voice is ragged. “You’re just going to do that and go back to work like nothing happened?”

“No,” Draco replies, stomach twisting when he hears Potter’s sigh of relief. “There’s no need for you to stay.”

Potter looks at him, crestfallen. “What?”

“You don’t know Dupioni silk runners from lace napkins, you have no idea where to look for signs of ownership, and you almost certainly don’t know anything about how these items should be used after their retrieval. There’s really no reason to stay.”

“There is.”

“Oh?” Draco turns his back, focusing all of his attention on the black satin napkin he’s folding and none of it on Potter’s advancing footsteps or the warm hand on his waist or the traces of Potter that linger along his gums.

“Please, look at me.”

“I’m focusing.”

“Focus on this,” Potter says, and plants a kiss just above the back of Draco’s collar.

Draco’s eyes flutter shut. He allows himself a single deep breath before he opens his eyes and turns, shaking Potter off in the process. “There’s a job to be done. If you can’t assist, you’ll have to leave.”

“Fine.” Potter grabs the napkin from Draco’s hands.

“What are you doing?”

“Folding.” Potter doubles it over. His voice is choked, and Draco’s chest along with it. “Why, do you want to touch it?”

“You don’t know how to fold.”

“It’s not rocket science. Arithmancy. Whatever. This is not that hard, Draco!” He’s yelling. Properly yelling, his face flushed and his eyes red.

“You’ll crease them.”

“That’s the point of folding!” Potter throws the square of cloth at Draco and crosses his arms.

“If you fold them properly, not if you crumple them up like so much rubbish.” Draco retrieves the satin, doubles it over itself, and then again, and sets it back on the shelf.

Potter baulks. “You heartless bastard. What the fuck is your problem?"

Draco has to look away, lest Potter see that he’s flinched. Or blinked, more likely. Probably has a bit of Potter’s stale ejaculate in his eye. He reaches for another runner. “I haven’t got one. What’s yours?”

Mine?”

Draco ignores him.

“I’m not leaving.”

“You’re not going to spend the entire day wrinkling things, either.”

“They’re my things!” Potter objects.

“Well then perhaps you’d like to find them yourself.” Draco has regained enough confidence in his own iciness to turn and face him again.

His resolve almost fails him. Potter’s eyes are that brilliant about-to-cry green again and, with the jumper, the effect is otherworldly. Particularly since his eyes are red-rimmed. Complementary colours, Draco thinks. Potter looks dishevelled in all the best ways, like the kind of man who’s just been properly got off, the kind of thick-cocked man who doesn’t want to walk away without knowing he’s pleased his partner. The fool. As if self-sacrifice hasn’t cost him enough already.

“Draco, don’t.” Harry’s voice is soft, imploring.

He startles to hear Potter use his name like that. It’s one thing when someone’s got your cock in their mouth, but this…Merlin.

“Can we just do this together?”

Draco can’t. He’s sure of it. It’s all terribly suffocating all of a sudden, this cavernous space he’s got so used to. He can’t spend a day here with Potter, with Potter kissing his neck and holding his waist and calling him Draco. Something will happen, something dangerous. He just knows it. It’s a certainty. They’ve always been a disaster together, and this…

“No, we cannot. Not when your,” he scrambles, “attitude gets in the way of professional collegiality.”

“My attitude?”

“I shall be managing routine rubbish disposal. I will return at the end of the day to check your work. These four sets of shelves hold the items that are likely to be a part of your lot. When in doubt, I recommend checking for monograms and examining the seams for notes to do with origins or inscriptions.”

Draco starts walking before Potter can reply. When he turns, he sees Potter in his periphery, looking hurt and bewildered and on the verge of crumbling. Draco walks faster.

It’s a blur until he gets back to rubbish disposal. He leans back against a post and listens for footsteps. There are none, thank Merlin.

As soon as he’s certain he’s not been followed, his hands fly to his robes. He fumbles over the closures and shoves a hand down his pants. He’s aching, burning to be touched, has to stuff a fist in his mouth to keep from crying out when he wraps a hand around himself. He brings himself off quickly and inelegantly, collapsing against the post and listening to his own heartbeat echo in his ears.

Potter is still out there somewhere, fumbling his way through doilies and serviettes, and it doesn’t matter. Draco has a job to do. A job that’s important, that makes sense. There are Prophets to discard and other things too, probably, definitely. He pulls himself up, ignores the shakiness in his knees, and begins to rebutton his robes.

Chapter Text

Harry James Potter is sick of obstacles.

He’s been thinking about it non-stop. He’s certainly had the time. All those hours alone with endless stacks of napkins. All those hours spent wandering through his house, trying not to think about it. Trying not to think about how good Draco Malfoy made him feel, or how hard he’d come, or how much he wants it to happen again. Trying to think, instead, about those nice girls he’s supposed to end up with, who would never tie him to a shelf and suck him dry. Thinking about whether it’s their girlness or their niceness that leaves him wanting. Deciding that it doesn’t really matter, because when he thinks about nice boys and not-nice girls, none of them make him instantly hard the way his irrepressible, Draco-related daydreams do. None of them, not even his own made up fantasy people, are as interesting as Draco Malfoy.

He’s sick of trying not to think about him. He’s sick of pretending he doesn’t want to. He’s sick of feeling like he shouldn’t want to. He’s sick of feeling like every damn thing in his life is meant to keep him from the few, precious things that actually feel right.

He’s sick of not being able to have a job without putting people in danger. He is sick of sitting in his half-empty house – half-empty mausoleum, just like Draco said – and trying to pretend he gives a Galleon about the arrangement of furniture chosen by people who hated his godfather and would’ve hated him too.

He’s sick of the way Ron and Hermione walk on eggshells when someone brings up work or relationships or the war or anything else that fucking matters in their lives. He’s sick of the way Molly sends him home with leftovers because she thinks he won’t cook for himself. He’s sick of the way Arthur and Seamus and Neville and Dean and even fucking Ginny have taken him aside to reassure him that he’ll find someone someday.

He’s sick of the way the Welcome Witches swoon when they weigh his wand and the way the Welcome Wizards look at him with barely veiled adulation. He’s sick of the kids fresh out of Hogwarts who cup their hands and whisper when he’s in the lift with them. He’s even sicker of the adults who do the same.

He’s sick of this hallway and he’s sick of this walk and he’s completely fucking sick of this bloody door.

He shoves it open so hard it slams into the wall. Fine with him; he’s sick of walking on eggshells around Draco, too.

Draco, who has jumped a mile and is standing behind the counter looking at him like he’s gone mad.

Harry freezes, barely sticking an arm out in time to catch the door before it swings back to hit him.

Merlin, but Draco looks good. It’s not that he hasn’t thought about it, not that he hasn’t wanked half a dozen times in the last two days to the memory of Draco’s mouth around his cock, Draco looking up at him and stroking him until he came. It’s that seeing him brings the experience of it flooding back so viscerally that he has to lock his knees to keep them from giving.

He swallows. His stomach twists. His heart pounds. He suddenly realises that he has very little idea of what to do with himself in all of this. Except, maybe, take a step forward and see. It’s the only kind of solution he’s good at anyway.

Momentary unease crosses Draco’s face. It’s quickly replaced by that same familiar, cool professionalism that’s been driving Harry round the bend for weeks now.

Harry’s twisting stomach begins to sink. He wonders if, in a world where standing without vomiting has suddenly become his biggest accomplishment, the delicate treatment he’s been getting from his friends isn’t justified after all.

Draco folds his hands on the counter and looks at the door. “Ministry heating and cooling charms are set to a standard eighteen degrees, while hallways are maintained at sixteen degrees. Ministry visitors are asked to help maintain those temperatures by closing doors at all points of entry and egress when they are not actively in use.”

Harry steps aside and lets the door fall closed behind him. Malfoy’s as buttoned up as ever and it’s never bothered him so much.

“Today we will retrieve coffee and side tables, small bookshelves, and desks. Follow me.”

Draco moves so quickly that Harry has to rush to keep up. They don’t pause or exchange a single word all the way around the dais, past books, until Draco halts at the end of an aisle. “Bookcases.”

He moves with alarming speed and precision. Harry’s a bit awed by the rate at which he pulls shelving units down and creates parallel lines stretching down the aisle. When he reaches the end, he turns back to Harry and points to the first one on his right. “This one?”

Harry can’t see it and opens his mouth to say so.

“Nevermind, it’s got the Black family crest on the back. This one?”

“I can’t see it,” Harry blurts.

With a flick of his wand, Draco sends it shooting down the aisle. Harry has to jump out of the way. “Hey!”

“That one?” Draco repeats.

“Yes, it looks familiar.”

“Very well.” Draco summons it back and sets it next to the first.

Before Harry can suggest a different approach, the next bookcase is zipping towards him. And so they go on for an hour, Draco standing so far away that Harry can’t even make out the filigree on his robes, let alone touch him. Let alone kiss him.

When they’ve sorted the few items that aren’t Harry’s from the many that are, Draco folds his arms and announces, “Coffee and side tables. Follow me.”

Harry, who is ready for a nap, is not especially keen on having to jog after Draco’s disappearing form.

They repeat the same routine in coffee and side tables. Draco lobs furniture at Harry. Harry dodges it. He tries making jokes, too, hoping to jar Draco from his unwavering focus on a row of folding tables and nightstands.

“Is that an heirloom or a practical joke?”

No response.

“Sure that’s a table and not another troll part?”

Nothing.

“Clearly commissioned by the extra-mad side of the family.”

The next table stops just short of his kneecaps.

“Two tables walk into the Leaky.”

A nightstand is levitated and comes perilously close to his head. Aside from his assault via furniture, Draco is impassive. Harry hates it.

He tries again. “The one table says to the other, fancy a butterbeer?”

No response. He sighs. He, Harry James Potter, is sick of obstacles. And one of those obstacles is busy lobbing tables at his head.

He has to dodge another one as he steps forward. Has to jump aside when Draco sees him getting closer and levitates a polished tree stump at him. Almost trips when Draco slides a heavy oak night stand into the diminishing space between them.

But he is tired of obstacles. He puts a knee on the oak top, leans forward before Draco can back away, fists his robes and pulls him in.

Draco doesn’t look at Harry. There’s no acknowledgement of their proximity aside from the vein jumping at the base of Draco’s throat.

“I’m going to kiss you now,” Harry tells him, and he does.

Draco doesn’t respond at first. His lips are entirely unyielding.

Harry Potter is so sick of obstacles.

He nips at Draco’s bottom lip and pulls back to whisper, “C’mon Malfoy. I know you’re in there.”

Draco opens his mouth – to respond? To breathe? To tell Harry off? – and Harry seizes his chance. He kisses Draco firmly, gripping his robes and pulling him in, moving against his mouth until – he could sob for the relief of it – Draco presses back. He brings a hand up to Harry’s arm and the pressure reminds Harry of velvet runners, of fingertips, of everything about Tuesday that has kept him so thoroughly occupied since.

He’s left breathless, pulling back only out of necessity, resting his forehead against Draco’s. The exhalation comes, unbidden. “Fuck, I missed you.”

And just like that, Draco is ice again, standing stock straight and moving on to the next thing. His withdrawal is so abrupt that Harry almost stumbles forward. He catches himself, only to be left staring at Draco’s receding back.

“Desks.”

Draco throws the word over his shoulder and disappears around a corner.

Harry wants to scream. He is very, very tired of obstacles. Too tired for a poker face. Too tired for distance. “Draco, stop!”

He doesn’t. Doesn’t even waver.

Then, Harry thinks, he can’t stop either. He jogs after Draco. “Stop. Stop! Malfoy!”

Draco halts in front of a sea of desks. “Once again, I will identify likely candidates and you will confirm or deny that items are a part of your estate.”

“No.”

Draco ignores him. “These are also sorted by date of arrival, so we can begin with those closest to us. This is an oak secretary, circa the late nineteenth century. Does it belong to you?”

“Draco, come back.”

“The charms work is consistent with patterns favoured by pureblood families. Concealment charms, primarily, with Anti-Intruder Jinxes on the drawers at the left.”

Harry slips between Draco and the desk. “I don’t care if it’s mine.”

“The Vanishing Department is required to make every effort to return Vanished items to those parties that seek their return.”

Harry’s heartbeat echoes through his chest. “I don’t care about the desk.”

“Based on the time of arrival and the particular combination of charms work, we believe this is your item.”

“We? Who is this ‘we’ you’re always talking about? It’s you, Draco. You do this. You do all of this, and it’s brilliant.” He reaches for Draco’s jaw.

“All feedback on the performance of The Vanishing Department should be directed to the Wizengamot.” Draco steps aside. “The next item is a teak writing desk, mid-twentieth century. This design is influenced by Muggle trends, making it an unlikely candidate unless it’s a recent acquisition.”

“Yeah, that’s mine, Arthur got it for me. Do I need to fill out a form to tell you you’re good at your job?”

Draco moves the desks into a line, ignoring Harry’s question.

“Is there a form for wanting you, too? Will it work if I do it in triplicate?”

“Ministry regulations, including officially issued forms and correspondence, serve an important role in the day-to-day functioning of Britain’s bureaucratic agencies.”

“Draco,” Harry grabs his arm and pulls, trying desperately to regain his focus, to see Draco look at him like he had the other day. “Please.”

Draco stills at the word and Harry’s heart skips a beat. Something’s working. Something, finally. He says it again. “Please.”

Draco’s posture becomes, if anything, stiffer, but he doesn’t try to move away. Harry comes to stand behind him, chancing a hand on his waist. He leans forward and exhales, “Please, Draco.”

He can feel his own heart pounding, but it’s the increasingly rapid rise and fall of Draco’s chest that gives him hope. He nips at Draco’s earlobe and has to repress a victorious smile when he feels Draco shiver against him.

“Draco,” he murmurs, “I want you. I’ve been wanting you for weeks. I’ve been dying for you since you ran off on Tuesday.”

He reaches around, resting a finger on the lowermost button on Draco’s robes.

“You’ve seen me,” he continues, cock stirring at the memory. “Please, Draco. Let me see you.”

“No. I have a job to do,” Draco replies, his voice trembling.

Harry slips the button free and presses his hips into Draco’s back. The pressure is delicious, but it’s almost beside the point. He wants Draco to feel the effect he has. “You’ve done so much already. Just a little break.”

Draco steps out of reach and turns on Harry, eyes flaring. “You seem thoroughly intent on disrupting the functioning of this Department. It’s a violation of Ministry protocols.”

Harry is momentarily taken aback by the sudden transition to anger, but it’s better than the stoic alternative. Draco’s stubborn fire, his determination to have the upper hand – these things are familiar. These are things Harry can work with.

“Fine,” Harry replies, raising his hands in concession. “Tell me what to do.”

He doesn’t miss Draco’s fleeting look of astonishment at the offer. It thrills him. He can feel the heat of Draco’s gaze, but he doesn’t move. He stays there, hands raised, waiting.

“You can return to the task at hand and identify the next item.” Draco moves to stand beside another desk. He rests a hand on the tabletop to, Harry realises, keep his fingers from shaking. “Writing desk, mahogany, early twentieth century. Familiar?”

“Yes, I think so.” Harry comes towards him under pretence of examining the desk. “Not sure, though.”

“What would help you –” Harry rests his hand over Draco’s and Draco’s breath hitches “—make a positive identification?”

“A closer look would probably help.”

“Very well, then. Go ahead.”

“Okay,” Harry murmurs, stepping up until he’s toe to toe with Draco. He runs a thumb over Draco’s left cheekbone, down his jaw. “Help me, would you?”

“Certainly. If you’ll step aside, I’ll examine the item myself.”

“Not like that.”

“You’ve agreed to identify the desk.”

Even through Draco’s heavy robes, Harry can feel him shaking. “You want this too.”

“No.” Draco tries to step back, but Harry's prepared for it. He slips an arm around Draco’s waist, holding him close.

“Then say you’re afraid.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Draco spits, refusing to make eye contact.

“You are though.”

“I am not.”

“Then help me.” Harry leans in, his lips brushing Draco’s ear. “Please.”

The word sends a shudder through Draco’s body. Harry’s cock throbs at the feeling of it.

He reaches up for the buttons of Draco’s robes again. Stills when hesitation crosses Draco’s face. He won’t lose Draco now, can’t stand the idea of seeing him slip behind his professional façade again.

He drops the hand and brings it to his jumper. He looks Draco square in the eye before he whispers, “Trade you.”

Draco doesn’t respond, but Harry can see his gaze drop to Harry’s hem. He can see the absolute focus, the hint of interest. “Please, Draco. Another button.”

Draco’s voice is gruff. “You first.”

Harry nods, too relieved even to laugh. “All the way?”

Draco nods.

Harry grips his jumper and tugs, bringing it over his head in one almost-smooth motion. His nipples perk at the cold. He resists the urge to cover himself. He lets Draco look.

And Draco does look. Harry arches to let him and perhaps unknowingly, Draco takes a step towards him.

It puts Draco’s robes within his reach and Harry’s fingers come to the buttons once more. “Please, Draco.”

Draco swallows. Nods.

The wool is thick and stiff. Harry has to slip his fingers under the buttonhole to pull the button free. He looks up. “Another?”

Draco nods, and nods again when he repeats the question, and soon Harry’s fingers are lingering on the clasp at Draco’s collar. He leans in until he can taste the peppermint on Draco’s breath. “Please?”

He feels more than sees Draco’s nod.

The hook slips clear of the eye and Harry slides his hand inside the heavy grey wool.

There’s starched cotton there – more layers, more obstacles – but he can feel the outline of Draco’s body now, the curve of his ribs, the contours of his chest. He already wants more.

He’s grateful when Draco lets him lift the robes off his shoulders and slide them down his arms. Harry tries not to drop them. He tries not to lose all focus.

As he’s imagined, Draco’s just as pressed and starched underneath his robes. His shirt is a crisp white, his trousers immaculately ironed, his belt so perfectly matched to the fabric that Harry doesn’t see it at first.

“Merlin,” he breathes. “You…” He traces his fingers down the row of buttons concealing Draco’s sternum. He wants to undo every inch of him. This man who works in forms and protocols. Who responds beautifully to requests. It’s something Harry can work with, that. He wants it badly enough to try.

He looks up, finding Draco’s eye. “Please.”

He traces his fingers over Draco’s button. “Please,” he whispers again. “Let me.”

Draco doesn’t respond, but he doesn’t move to stop him. Harry makes quick work of these buttons, rushes to relieve Draco of his shirt.

He wants to commit the sight to memory. Trails his fingertips over the plane of Draco’s stomach, so lost in the feeling of bare skin that he’s surprised when Draco’s hand darts up to grabs his wrist.

Draco’s voice is a rough growl. “What do you want?”

“You,” Harry supplies.

“No.” Draco looms over him, circling his wrist with an iron grip. “Tell me. What do you want?”

“Touch me?”

Grey eyes flash dangerously. “Already am.” Draco tightens his grip. “What do you want?”

“This.”

“Tell me,” Draco insists, dragging Harry’s hand towards his waistband.

“Let me touch you,” Harry breathes. “Please.”

Harry’s cock, already objecting to the confines of his jeans, throbs when Draco takes his wrist and trails his fingers over the outline of Draco’s cotton-covered erection. “Like that?”

“Yes,” Harry exhales.

Draco rolls his hips into Harry’s fingertips. “Just like that?”

Harry nods, struggling to press harder against Draco’s flies.

“That’s all you want?”

“No,” Harry shakes his head. “Merlin, No.”

“Tell me.”

The pounding in Harry’s chest becomes a hammering when he looks up. Draco’s watching him, his pupils huge, his cheeks flushed. He licks his lips and it’s all Harry can do not to ask him to wrap that mouth around his cock again. But that could be too much. He won’t risk this.

“Skin,” he rasps.

“You’ve already got that. “

“Please,” Harry murmurs, looking up at Draco. “Let me touch you.” He presses his hand into the ridged outline of Draco’s erection, hoping that will be enough to make his meaning clear.

“Sit back,” Draco commands, dropping Harry’s wrist. “Hands on the table.”

Harry complies, heart racing.

Draco’s hands go to his own waistband. “Is this what you want?”

“Yes,” Harry breathes, “God, yes.”

“Ask nicely.”

“Please,” Harry exhales. “Please, show me.”

Draco handles the leather expertly, then unfastens his trouser buttons with a series of deliberate pops that leave Harry’s mouth watering.

Harry follows the line of Draco’s fingers as they grip either side of the undone fabric. “Please,” he murmurs. “Please.”

Draco moves slowly, rolling his hips as he lowers the fabric. He reveals the edge of a patch of honey-blond hair.

“Please. More.”

Draco pulls his hips back, lifts the fabric away from himself and, in one motion, lets his trousers and pants drop to the floor.

He’s everything Harry’s fantasised about. Hard in all the right places, lean and strong, pale skin stretched across jutting hipbones that fairly call out for Harry’s lips.

Draco steps out of his shoes and clothes and steps towards him. Harry’s half-convinced he’s going to faint. Draco steps between his legs and grips his chin. “Is this what you want?”

“Yes,” Harry croaks, nodding desperately. “Yes, please.”

“Then suck me.”

He freezes. Looks up. “I’ve never.”

Draco smirks down at him. “I know.”

Harry’s chest contracts. The reality of a hard cock in his face leaves him more nervous than he’d ever admit.

He bends his knees and leans forward, reaching out to run a hand up the inside of Draco’s thigh.

“Good,” Draco breathes. “That’s good. Just do as I say.”

Harry nods, eyes pinned to the sight before him.

Draco’s instructions are a blur; Harry finds it difficult to focus on listening with his fist wrapped around the base and his tongue laving the tip of Draco’s cock. It’s salty, a bit bitter. Still not enough. In this moment he wants, needs to know what it would be to take Draco deeper. But when he tries, Draco pushes him away.

“Greedy, are you?”

Harry looks up at him, unsure of the correct response.

“So new to the task, and you already want more.”

“Yes, I – Yes.”

“Say it.”

Harry swallows. “Please.”

He tilts his head to meet Draco’s fingers as they come to card through his hair. “Good. Take me in your mouth.”

Harry doesn’t waste a second, bobbing down until his throat contracts against the pressure

“Slow there,” Draco breathes. “Merlin, but you’re hungry for it.”

Harry doesn’t verbalise his response, just sinks down onto Draco’s cock. The salty tang at the back of his throat may be new but it’s not unwelcome, nor is the thick heat that fills his mouth.

He loosens his mouth and begins to bob, running the flat of his tongue over a vein, lapping at the coarse skin of Draco’s head, pulling back to savour every drop gathering at his tip. He loves the low moans he earns when Draco’s cock runs over the rough roof of his mouth, the way he gasps and thrusts deeper when Harry drags a hint of teeth over his shaft. He’s just come to the conclusion that he could do this forever when Draco’s hands fist his hair, pulling him away.

He looks up, disappointment warring with anticipation.

“You like sucking me?”

He’s surprised to discover the raw hoarseness in his throat. He hopes his nod will suffice.

Draco leans down. Harry whimpers when Draco starts dragging the side of his index finger up Harry’s stomach, over his nipple, to his swollen lips. “Want more, do you?”

He feels the moan before he could possibly intend it and hopes Draco knows that it means “yes” and “please.”

“Strip.” The command is decisive. Harry sheds his jeans as quickly as he’s able, cock twitching towards Draco as soon as it’s free.

Draco takes it in hand. “Eager, are you?”

“Yes,” Harry gasps tilting his hips to grant Draco access.

After a single, slow stroke, Draco lets go of him and steps back.

Between the coolness of the room and the heat of Draco’s scrutiny, Harry shivers. Draco muses aloud, to himself as much as Harry. “How shall I take you, then?”

Harry hums, looks to Draco’s prick, licks his lips.

“No, no.” Draco laughs, low and dangerous. “I’ve had that.” He steps forward again. “I’d rather have something…” his hand is warm, sliding down Harry’s back, “new.” He grips Harry’s arse, squeezes. “Turn around for me.”

A nervous knot bubbles into Harry’s stomach.

“Now,” Draco commands. “Legs apart, elbows on the table.”

Harry complies and fear begins to war with lust. He’s so open like this. Draco can see everything. He could be looking right now.

The hand on Harry’s flank suggests that Draco is. The hum of approval confirms it. The finger that trails down his spine, lower, dipping into the crevice at the top of his arse leaves Harry without any doubt that Draco is taking in everything he can.

He buries his head in his arm, hoping to hide the flush that’s creeping over his face.

Still, Draco’s finger continues it’s slow path, running towards, then over the tight rim of Harry’s arsehole and then – no. He doesn’t move on. Harry clenches, and Draco takes the opportunity to wedge the pad of his finger into the ring of muscle. “You said you liked taking it.”

Harry can feel the thickness of Draco’s cock against his thigh. His chest freezes. He wants, yes. Merlin, he wants. Wants Draco’s mouth, wants Draco is his mouth, wants to touch him. But this, this will hurt. It’s bound to. He knows he’d try it anyway, for the dizzy possibility of making Draco come apart, but he doesn’t quite want it like this. Right here, right now. Doesn’t want to be sent off after, aching and alone. “Please,” he whispers.

“Please fuck you?” Draco murmurs, beginning to rut against his leg.

“Please,” Harry tries again. “I’ve never…I don’t. Don’t hurt me. Please.”

“Of course.” He can hear the smirk in Draco’s voice and hopes it isn’t concealing disappointment. “The virgin.”

“Yes,” Harry whispers. “Please, Draco.”

“Hmm,” Draco muses, the shaft of his cock pressing against the swell of Harry’s arse. “But you make such a picture.”

“Another way,” Harry pleads.

Draco is silent as he runs his hands down Harry’s back. It’s enough of a pause that Harry begins to worry that he’s miscalculated, that “please” isn’t enough against the force of Draco’s desire.

He jumps when Draco’s hand lands on his arse with a hard smack. Then Draco pulls him upright, pressing into his back and wrapping an arm around his chest.

Harry’s surprised gasp turns into a guttural moan when Draco’s right hand wraps around his prick and begins to stroke. He melts back into Draco’s chest when Draco's mouth attaches to the juncture of his neck and shoulder. He thinks he says something – a plea, most likely – but he’s too far gone to remember it, to even be sure the words were fully formed.

Draco’s hands are sure and capable, and Harry’s teetering on the brink long before he’s ready. He grabs Draco’s wrist. “Please,” he pants. “Not ready.”

“You feel ready.” Draco keeps stroking, slow and careful, and Harry can’t help but buck into his fist.

It’s bliss, Draco’s skin against his like this, but he wants Draco there with him. He wants, desperately, to make Draco come too. “Please let me.” He struggles to turn around.

He’s surprised that Draco relents, but he does. And then they’re standing chest to chest, cock to cock. He tilts his head to capture Draco’s bottom lip between his, heart surging when Draco’s hips push against his. “Please,” he murmurs again, his breath mingling with Draco’s. “Please let me make you come.”

Draco’s strangled groan is answer enough. Harry’s cock twitches at the sound of it, at the promise implied therein. He moves to reach a hand between them.

Draco grips his wrist again. “Turn around.”

“But –”

“Not that. Turn around.”

Harry falters. Draco’s fingers grip his jaw, turn his head so that he can feel Draco’s hot breath on his ear, can hear the low whisper. “Trust me.”

The words take his breath away. His cock says yes, his skin says yes, his pounding chest says yes. He nods.

Draco’s hands are firm. They turn him, push him forward again.

There is a murmured incantation, and then he hears the wet sound of Draco stroking himself. It’s all he can do not to turn and watch. Merlin, but he wants to see.

Draco trails a warm hand over his shoulder blades. The gentleness of it is new, the softness in Draco’s voice as he leans over and whispers it again. “Trust me.”

Harry nods. “Yes.”

Draco inhales sharply and moves down Harry’s body

Harry tightens when Draco bites at his arse, nudges his way into the crevice there. He almost panics at the first warm breath, at the thought of Draco’s mouth, there.

His hesitation doesn’t last. Draco’s tongue brushes against his hole and any possibility of reservation goes with it. He whimpers, an embarrassingly needy sound, and pushes back against Draco’s face

He opens for Draco without question or reservation. This rivals Legilimency for its intimacy. Draco’s tongue is a kind of magic he’s never encountered before, and there’s nothing to do but rock into it, welcome it, until he’s so far past the edge of coherence that his attempts at language wouldn’t even qualify as begging.

His knees are liquid by the time Draco stands behind him. He feels the weight of Draco’s cock press against his arse again. He’s got no desire to move, let alone object. It’s all he can do to stay standing.

“Trust me,” Draco murmurs again.

“Yes,” Harry manages, barely able to form the word. And then: “Please.”

With a ragged moan, Draco slips his cock into the cleft of Harry’s arse. Harry feels a fleeting stab of nervousness. Then Draco drags his cock over Harry’s hole and it’s replaced by sparks of pleasure.

It’s new. It’s new and it’s good and oh – oh, Merlin. The anxiety, the hesitation – everything’s gone save the agonising brush of Draco’s shaft against Harry’s puckered flesh. He pushes back, wanting more, angling for more, always more.

“Please,” he moans again.

Draco’s thrusts pick up speed. Harry rocks back to meet each one, canting his hips so that Draco’s shaft crosses the sensitive ring of his hole every time.

When his thrusts grow erratic Draco leans forward, wraps his hand around Harry’s cock, and begins to stroke. It’s so much, so overwhelming. The words come pouring out.

“Please Draco, please, your hand.” “Merlin, fuck, touch me, please.” “Draco, I can’t – I can’t, oh, fuck, just like that, please.” And then he’s coming, vision blurring as he spills over Draco’s fist.

His head is swimming, his knees weak, his mind so far gone that he almost misses the jagged, erratic quality of Draco’s exhalations. Then he realises: it’s here, he’s here for it. Draco’s going to come.

He locks his knees and tilts his hips, making sure his arse is open for Draco, whose fingertips are digging into Harry’s shoulder, whose thrusts are rough and erratic, who’s groaning and cursing, muttering a string of epithets dotted with the occasional, “Potter, yes, so good,” and Harry can’t wait for it. He clenches his arse around Draco’s cock, ruts against him, tries everything he can to bring him over.

Draco moans one last, “Potter,” and then Harry feels hot liquid fill his cleft, feels it spurt onto his lower back and run down his thighs as Draco makes a few last, shallow thrusts. He feels Draco collapse on top of him and stretches a hand back to run his fingers through Draco’s hair, keeping him close.

They breathe like that, against each other, sweat and come cooling against their skin, Draco’s weight pressing Harry’s ribs into the table, his breath filling Harry with a kind of satisfaction he’s never known before.

It’s a long moment before Harry feels Draco stir, before he plants his palm on the tabletop and pushes away.

Without the heat of Draco’s body above him, Harry is suddenly freezing. He follows Draco’s lead, pushing himself to stand.

He’s afraid to turn around, to see Draco’s eyes glazed over with frost instead of lust. But his clothes are behind him and he hears the rustling of Draco’s. It’s a fine line between post-coital and exposed, and standing here naked won’t be a good option for much longer.

By the time he convinces himself to turn, Draco’s back in his pants and bending to retrieve his trousers. He doesn’t try to catch Harry’s eye, focusing instead on rebuttoning his flies.

Harry’s so drawn in by the image, so hypnotised by Draco’s fingers, that he misses Draco’s wry smile. “Going to stand there all day?”

Harry startles. “Oh, I.” His voice is still raspy. He swallows. “I, no. I can. Just need my clothes and then I can, if you want I can…” He waits, hoping Draco won’t finish his sentence, won’t give him that word, leave.

“Here,” Draco says instead, holding out the tangle of Harry’s pants and jeans.

“Thanks.” Harry takes them, putting them on as much to busy himself as to fend off the cold.

“Wait,” Draco interrupts. Harry freezes. “Scourgify.”

The tingle of Draco’s spell is far less pleasant than his touch, but much gentler than Harry’s own attempts at the charm. He looks up, surprised. “How do you –? That didn’t hurt.”

“An area of expertise. Have to be quite careful with some of the things we get.”

“Oh, right.” Harry zips his flies and reaches for his jumper.

By the time it’s over his head, Draco’s shirt is buttoned, but his tails hang loose around his hips and his hair is still tousled. It’s a sight Harry thinks he could stand to see more of.

Draco turns to face him, hands in his pockets.

“Look,” Harry heads him off. “I don’t want to leave. Maybe you want me to, but I don’t want to go. And I don’t want you to go either. That was – maybe what just happened is old hat to you, maybe you do it all the time –” Harry blanches involuntarily at the thought “—but it’s not that way for me, and that felt good, and you, you’re. Just don’t go running off again, for fuck’s sake.”

Draco cocks his head. Harry tries not to fidget under the curious gaze. “Fine.”

“What?” Harry looks up, as startled by that as by anything else that’s just happened.

Draco shirt is still untucked and it’s thoroughly wrinkled. He’s stepped back into his shoes and his belt is more or less buckled but his robes lay, untouched, in a pile on the floor. He shoves his hands in his pockets and catches Harry’s eye. “That desk.” He nods at the writing surface that’s got a spot of Harry’s ejaculate decorating the edge. “Is it yours?”

“Yeah.” Harry comes to stand next to him, their arms brushing. An impish smile sneaks across his face. “All of it.”

Draco snorts and nudges Harry with his elbow. “Well done.”

Harry bumps him back with his shoulder. “Well done, you.”

“I am very good at what I do.”

“Yeah.” Harry exhales, twining his fingers with Draco’s. “Speaking of, do we need to do more?”

“More what, exactly?”

Harry snorts. “Desk-sorting. Though…”

“Probably,” Draco agrees. “The desk-sorting.” He squeezes Harry’s hand, lets go, and leads the way towards the next desk in the row.

Chapter Text

It’s Monday morning and Draco is humming. It’s an unusual state of affairs, but then, what hasn’t been lately?

It’s that time of year when seasonal objects start to make their appearances, particularly on Mondays. More tinsel is Vanished in the course of family squabbles than Draco will ever know what to do with. At least, he thinks, removing a silver strand from where he’s draped it around his neck, it’s easy to store.

He lays that bunch down next to the others and pulls out his labels.

Tinsel, lot 18 of 18
Silver. Synthetic.
Area E, Aisle 1, Shelf 14

That’s the last of it, and it’s only half ten. He smiles, contented. He can spend the rest of the day on other things. Might even get caught up on correspondence and paperwork. Might even be able to steal an extra long lunch in his break room, and if he spends part of it wanking, as he’d done with a good part of his weekend, no one need be the wiser.

First, though, he has forms to file and requests to fulfil.

He spends half an hour gathering a list for the day and begins his rounds.

Clothes – one pair of bright green, supposedly high-end trainers with an inexplicable cutout for each individual toe; one leather harness, which he levitates rather than touching; two formal cloaks, a tuxedo, and a ball gown, their Vanishing the telltale sign of a couple in a hurry; and an adult-sized fuzzy Crup costume, about which he doesn’t want to know.

On to books. A rare edition of Paytner’s Potions that he’d rather keep for himself. Half a series of books about a school in a chalet. A dog-eared copy of a pulp novel with a scantily clad woman arrayed in front of a giant, green, toothy lizard-looking thing; he levitates that too, just to be safe.

In toiletries he adds a shaving set to his pile, admiring the sharpness of the blade. Whoever’s lost this knows how to keep a razor. It’s a skill Draco would like to develop.

Back to kitchenware, for a set of bright red ramekins that he’d just filed away towards the end of last week – more carnage from the holidays, most likely.

As he walks, he remembers – lets himself remember – the times he’s shared these spaces with Potter. It’s harmless enough as a way to pass the time.

His musing results in a barely repressed grin when he reaches the tables section. Potter was quite adept at furniture dodging. No wonder he won the war, really.

And then there had been desks…

That train of thought is so entirely unproductive that he knows he’d better redirect his attentions elsewhere.

He wanders back across the room towards musical instruments for a set of recorders. It’s a good choice. Unlike the rest of the place, there aren’t any visions of collarbones or pink nipples or firm arses to distract him. One of the few places left where he can claim that, any more.

The realisation hits him, suddenly and with enough force to stop him walking. One of the few places where Potter hasn’t been.

Which means it’s one of the few places Potter has left to go.

Which means that there are only a few places that Potter still has to go, and then they’ll be done.

Draco’s fine. He really is. He releases the post he’s unwittingly grasped and straightens. Re-levitates the items that have fallen to the floor behind him. He’ll just retrieve these recorders, that’s all, and prepare them for return.

He doesn’t realise until it’s too late that the rest of his rounds involve a different sort of subconscious cataloguing. They still need to do knickknacks, all sizes; portraits, photos, and tapestries; musical instruments; and grocery/liquor, but none of those things will take more than day. The way Potter’s become so adept at it all, it won’t take more than a day combined.

By the time he returns to the front desk, Draco’s in a bit of a daze. One more day. Well.

It’s no matter, really. He’s had a few fantasies, yes. And it was more satisfying than his encounters with strangers. But that’s probably attributable to the newness of having Harry Potter at his disposal, nothing more. Potter probably won’t even be of much use after the novelty wears off. Even if he begs like a dream and leaves Draco harder than he can ever remember being. Novelty will do that to a person.

Perhaps they can slip in a quick last encounter. If they have enough time. Though, Draco reminds himself, it’s really quite a misuse of his time and therefore probably best avoided. As is this pointless navel-gazing.

He starts sorting through the items he’s retrieved.

Ramekin, item 1 of 8
Red. Ceramic.
Area C, Aisle 6, Shelf 23

It’s for the best, really. That Potter should go. Draco’s never been this close to falling behind at work before now. It simply wouldn’t do to fall down on the job.

Book, “Paytner’s Potions”
Paperback.
Area C, Aisle 3, Shelf 28

And surely Potter will be perfectly happy to get back to his own life, in which there could never be a place for Draco, which is irrelevant, as he wouldn’t want one.

Book, “Taken by the T-Rex”
Paperback
Area C, Aisle 2, Shelf 7

This will be better for both of them.

Trainers w/Toe Cutouts
Green. Material Unknown
Area F, Aisle 1, Shelf 8

He’s certain of it.

Really. It’s been a pleasant enough interlude, but isn’t that enough? They’ve fought and nearly come to blows and Potter’s completely upended most every system he has, and the sweetness of his arse doesn’t mitigate the havoc he wreaks. For Merlin’s sake, the man is walking chaos, and Draco certainly doesn’t need any more of that in his life than he’s already had.

Yes. That settles it. One more day will be more than sufficient, and in the meantime, he’ll just have to keep himself occupied.

V V V V V

Draco turns the page, realises he hasn’t read a word of it, and turns it back. It’s a standard form. He’s read hundreds of them. There’s no reason this should be any different.

It’s probably boredom. Or perhaps he’s tired; he didn’t sleep terribly well last night, which always wreaks havoc on his mood. Tea might be in order. Except – he looks at the clock – it’s 9:55 on Tuesday morning. Potter will be here any moment. There’s not enough time. He could invite Potter to share tea with him…

He dismisses the idea as quickly as it comes to him. Their job is almost over and Potter will want to finish it and be on his way.

9:56. Well. He can finish this form. Or he could polish his buttons again. The way Potter had handled them… Well, it had left them smudged, is what it had done.

But if he goes to polish them now, Potter’s liable to arrive while he’s doing it and come storming into the back and find him at it, and that would be terribly embarrassing, to be caught so off guard. And he’s already polished them thrice, and had the elf press his robes twice, just in case. There isn’t really a need to do it again.

9:57. He must just be bored. At least Potter will inevitably offer some break from the monotony of this blasted stack of parchment. Not that he minds the paperwork. Forms are the backbone of good departmental functioning. He loves forms. Forms are helpful. Forms are great.

The door creaks open. Draco jumps but wills himself, with everything he’s got, not to look.

He counts backwards from ten. At six he turns the page he still hasn’t read. At three he tamps the edges of the stack. At one, he looks up.

Potter is standing just inside the door with a sheepish smile, hands stuffed in his pockets. He looks…well. He looks perfectly acceptable. He’s wearing jeans again, of course. But he’s put an Oxford on under his jumper and – Draco does not let the surprise show on his face – they match, a light blue collar sitting over brown wool. And he’s abandoned the motorcycle boots in favour of one of the many pairs of brogues they’d retrieved together. Brogues that match his jumper and his belt. Draco is….he’s….he’s finding it perfectly acceptable, that’s all.

Potter shifts his weight, starting to look uneasy. The movement startles Draco from his thoughts.

“Good morning. Welcome to the Vanishing Department,” he recites, automatically.

“Thanks,” Potter replies, a smile creeping in at the edges of his lips. “I wasn’t sure.”

Draco is at a loss for words. Potter’s joke is technically at his expense, but it’s not unkind. “Yes, well,” he clears his throat. “Come in.”

Potter steps forward, leaning on the counter, wrapping one of his hands around the edge of Draco’s. His palm is warm, and his fingers are firm. “What’s on deck?”

“We have several tasks to accomplish today. We’ll start with musical instruments and then knickknacks. Grocery and liquor will follow, then we’ll finish with portraits, photos, and tapestries.”

“Full day.” Potter smiles at him. “Must be more left than I thought.”

“Ah. Actually, this is the last of it.”

Potter’s face falls. “What?”

“It’s those four sections. That’s all that’s left.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of the layout of the department? Fairly.” He can’t quite muster his usually level of disdain.

“Right, of course.” Potter frowns. “You’re sure we can do that all in a day? It sounds like a lot.”

“Musical instruments won’t take very long, nor will knickknacks. At this point, most of grocery will have been discarded. Visual arts may take some time, but there should be enough left.”

“And it has to be done in a day?” There’s a heart-warming edge of panic to Potter’s voice. “None of it can wait till Thursday?”

“It can, inasmuch as it’s mostly non-perishables, but why would you want it to?”

“Why would I want it to?” Harry looks thoroughly confused.

“Our purpose has always been to return your personal effects with as much efficiency as possible.”

“Yeah, I know, but then what about – what happens afterwards?”

Draco has done his level best to avoid this question, even in his own thoughts. “You’ll have a fully, if poorly, furnished house full of efficiently retrieved things,” he tries to joke, “and can restart your original project of discarding and replacing them.”

“Draco…” Potter reaches for his hand.

He pulls it back. “This way to musical instruments.”

The walk is short and silent.

Draco starts. “I’ve retrieved likely candidates, though these items were few in number.”

He shows Harry a pianoforte, two bagpipes, a lute and a viola. To Harry’s delighted surprise there’s also an electric guitar with a Hobgoblins sticker on the back, which he concludes must’ve belonged to his godfather and promptly tries to play. Draco puts his hand across the strings and, consequently, over Harry’s fingers, in an attempt to make the noise stop.

It does, but he’s left staring into Harry’s eyes.

He drops his hand. “Knickknacks.”

“What?”

“Knickknacks are next.”

“Oh.” Potter frowns, lifting the guitar strap off his neck. “Do we have to?”

“Better than listening to you abuse that guitar.” Draco turns and leads him to an aisle, two over, that’s filled with all manner of appalling artefacts.

He turns to face Potter. “This won’t take us very long. Though incomplete, your record of knickknacks was surprisingly thorough.”

Potter grimaces. “It’s hard to forget any of that stuff.”

“Apparently, as you managed to differentiate between hungry-looking black ceramic Kneazle statue, deranged-looking black ceramic Kneazles statue, and angry-looking black ceramic Kneazle statue.”

Potter shrugs. “They left an impression.”

“More than your clothes did?”

“Jumpers are a lot less memorable than dioramas of plastic Muggle children’s dolls arrayed in scenes of torture, I assure you. Or this one needlepoint, what did it say? ‘Ring around the Muggle, Watch them as they Struggle, Crucio, Crucio, They all fall down?” Potter shudders.

“Ah,” Draco deadpans. “A classic.”

“What? You’re kidding me.”

Draco cracks a smile. “Yes.”

There it is again. Potter’s staring. Not quite staring, though. It’s got sort of a tender edge to it and the corners of his mouth are turning up. Draco turns away. “There are some similar artefacts, however, that do technically belong to your estate, some of which may have been in the attic.”

He begins to pull items down, listing them as he levitates them into a row at Potter’s feet. “One troll-arm coat rack. One Hand of Glory.”

“Whoa.”

Draco ignores him. “String of 144 petrified fairies. Sixteen self-lighting candles. One large bowl, carved from – oh, goodness, from a Goblin skull. One fan made of Augury feathers. One fan made of Occamy feathers. One snake-woven basket.”

“It’s a basket made by snakes?” Potter interjects, sounding curious and a bit appalled.

“It’s a basket made of snakes.” In the corner of his eye he sees Potter mime retching. “One doorstop – ah, it’s a petrified Knarl. Set of bookends built from Bezoars. Handy. A clock that tells where you are. Only one hand on it at the moment – your name, I see.”

“A clock?” Potter’s face lights and his eyes follow it as Draco adds it to the row. He looks half-ready to follow it the thing.

Draco clear his throat, pointedly redirecting Potter's attention. “Yes. A Muggle lock-picking kit. A decorative Gobstones set. Three decoratively concealed home secrecy sensors, and a shrunken head.”

“Mmm, delightful.” Potter eyes the head.

“Indeed.” Draco rolls up his list. “Do you see anything else?”

Potter shoots him a strangely shy smile. “That I want?”

“That belongs to you. That is part of your estate,” Draco corrects.

“No, nothing else that’s part of my estate.”

“Very well then. Grocery and liquor.”

“Already?” The note of panic has returned.

“You were very efficient. Well done.”

“No, wait, I think I saw, um, some heads of…I don’t know what, but they looked like big ugly birds and they probably had the Black family crest on them. We should go back, check it out.”

“And if I believed you, we would. However, we have work to do.”

“How’s that for trust,” Potter mumbles.

Draco, and the flushing tips of his ears, ignore the comment.

Potter may question his trust – jokingly, Draco is surprised to realise – but he follows him regardless, to grocery and liquor.

He turns to Potter, more apologetic than he means to be. “I’m afraid most of the grocery will have spoiled by now.”

“Funny how we didn’t start with that.”

“Yes, well.” Draco defends. “It would’ve mostly gone off by the time you first got here. And you’re much more agreeable now than you were then.”

“Am I?” Potter raises an eyebrow rather rakishly.

“Oh, do shut up. Do you want grocery, or shall we move on to liquor?”

“Um, actually, there should be a box of chocolate digestives…”

“You’re that attached to your biscuits?”

“No,” Potter defends, “just a little hungry.”

“You’re hungry?”

“Well, yeah. It’s almost lunch time.”

“Oh.” Draco’s thoughts return to the tea he’d been craving. Maybe they could take tea together after all. There are several kettles over in kitchenware, and apparently Potter’s favourite biscuits are already here.

“But,” Potter rushes on, “we don’t have to stop. I know how you feel about efficiency. You know, getting things done.” Potter cringes. “I’ll be okay with just a couple of biscuits.”

“Of course.” Draco straightens. “Efficiency, yes. I’ll return shortly. Is that all that you want?”

Potter looks him up and down and tries for a suggestive smile, but it comes out looking a bit nervous. Draco’s puzzlement at that mix must show, he’s sorry to realise, because Potter mimics his own formality. “It’s fine. I’ve replaced everything else already and don’t want to slow your work any further. Thank you for asking.”

Draco nods, and disappears down the aisle.

Potter’s on his third biscuit by the time they reach the liquor aisle. Potter’s scepticism about it had been enough to make Draco insist.

“Really, it’s not that important. If you just want to be done, I mean, I’ve replaced all that stuff, too. Good excuse for a dozen butterbeers.”

“A dozen butterbeers?” Draco doesn’t even try to hide his disdain. “Are you totally unaware of your collection?”

“Yeah, course. Couple of butterbeers, some cider. Think there was a bottle of wine Hermione left, and a couple dusty things in one of the parlours.”

“So, no, then.”

“What do you mean, no?”

Draco stops in front of an aisle and turns to face Potter. “You had a proper collection, Potter. This way.”

They’re only a few yards into the aisle before it begins. “This,” Draco points about three shelves over, “To that.”

“What?” Harry goggles. “You’re joking.”

“You inherited a pureblood estate. There would’ve been a wine cellar, certainly, as well as a full bar. And as you can see here,” he leads Potter down the aisle, “the Black family was one of the many Pureblood lines with a soft spot for Muggle liquor. It most likely would have been hidden somewhere in the house, but it appears they had a full complement of Muggle liquor as well as our more familiar magical drinks."

“Blimey.” Harry looks up at the shelves, glistening bottles reaching towards the ceiling. “That’s – Merlin, where were they hiding that?”

“Most likely in a second parlour behind the first.”

“But where. Do you know, actually?”

“No, not precisely. Though I would advise looking for trick bookcases and mantels.”

“Like a spy movie,” Potter enthuses.

“Pardon?”

“Sorry, Muggle thing.”

“Yes, well,” Draco continues, feeling some obligation to defend his magical heritage, “the Magical collection is quite impressive as well.”

“Really? What is there?”

Draco walks him through it, surprised by Potter’s enthusiasm for learning something new. Of course, the only bottle he really gets excited about is a cheap, half-empty bottle of Firewhisky of a sort that he claims his godfather had liked to share with Remus Lupin. Still, he seems impressed with Draco’s knowledge, which Draco resolutely refuses to be moved by. Even if Potter’s excitement threatens to be contagious. Even when Potter asks him if there’s anything he’d like to try, which, if he’s entirely honest, when it comes to a 1933 Ogden’s French Oak-Aged Single Malt, he would. Not that he’ll tell Potter that.

“Are you sure you won’t have some? There’s plenty to go around. I don’t even know where to start.”

“It’s not appropriate to drink on the job,” Draco explains. Potter needn’t know that this is not one of his stricter protocols.

Potter shifts. “It wouldn’t have to be on the job.”

“Work breaks are not an appropriate venue either.”

Potter tries a grin. “Even though it’s appropriate to, uh, you know. On the job.”

Draco ignores him and is glad, once again, that his robes are so well-suited to hiding his nascent physical reaction. “If you start drinking, I’m afraid we’ll never accomplish the task at hand.”

“Would that be so bad?” Potter blurts. There’s a pause between them, broken when the insult sets in and Potter adds, “Hey! I’m not a bad drunk.”

“Nobody thinks they’re a bad drunk.”

“I’m really not though. Everyone says I’m funny.”

“Everyone would say you walked on clouds, if asked.”

“My friends wouldn’t.”

“Bully for them. We still have a task to complete.”

“Maybe I’m a really efficient drunk. You don’t know.”

“Given how distracting – distracted you are sober, I doubt it.”

“You think I’m distracting?” Potter’s boyish grin erases any trace of offence.

“Distracted.”

Potter frowns. “Because you’re so eager to be finished.”

“It’s my job.” Draco defends.

“Yeah, I know, but –”

“Would you like to start levitating bottles, or shall I do it on my own?”

Potter’s frown deepens, and he sets the box of biscuits on a shelf. “No, I’ll help.”

They fall into a silent routine that, between the two of them, moves quite quickly.

“These ought not be shrunk for transportation.”

“Oh. Um. That’ll make it difficult.”

“Yes, well, the same is true for portraits.”

“So I’ll have some very full hands, you’re saying.”

“You may have multiple trips through the Floo, yes.”

Potter sighs, then perks up. “Probably makes sense to go after the close of business, doesn’t it? Wait till the Atrium’s not so full.”

“You’re likely to finish before the evening rush. I doubt that will be necessary.”

“Oh.” Potter looks away. “Right then. Well, best to move on then, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

In spite of his words, Potter doesn’t make any move to leave.

“Potter?”

“Draco?” He turns back, and Draco is stunned by the open question written across his face. “Is it?”

It takes him a moment to parse Potter’s question. Of course it’s best to move on. They can’t spend the rest of the day standing in a field of liquor bottles, and any other possible meanings are patently absurd.

Still, his voice is softer than he means it to be. “You have portraits, photographs, and tapestries to sort.”

Potter keeps looking at him, an urgency rising behind his eyes. “Draco,” he says again.

“Potter,” Draco replies. Sigh. “Follow me.”

He does. He follows Draco closely. So closely that their fingers brush, which Draco thinks must be an accident until Potter links his little finger through Draco’s.

When they reach the edge of Section H, Draco straightens his fingers and Potter’s hand falls away. “You should be able to make these identifications on your own.”

“You’re not helping?” Potter is startled and looks, perhaps, a little hurt.

“There’s no need. Photographs are in front of you, tapestries on the far wall, and portraits to your right. Pureblood families prefer portraits to photographs, so any of those should be more recent, and therefore easily identifiable, additions. There weren’t many tapestries in the lot, and the condition of those that were labelled suggests that they had been hung on display, so you will be able to recognise them. Portraits, of course, can offer their own assistance.”

“Yeah…” Potter trails off. “I just thought,” he sighs. “Yeah, nevermind. I’ll be fine.”

“Very well. I’ll be in the front office if you,” what? Draco scrambles. If you need me? If you want me? If there’s something I can give you? If you want to interrupt a job I’ll almost certainly be too distracted to do? “I’ll be in the front office.”

“Right.”

He leaves Potter, shoulders hunched and hands tucked into his pockets, and returns to the front.

The stack of paperwork is right where he left it. It’s only a few minutes past noon. He has plenty of time to get this done. He turns the page.

Five minutes later, he turns it back, realising he hadn’t actually read it before turning it over. He starts again.

Ten minutes later, he’s still staring at the page.

Fine, then. There are other tasks he can do. That he should be doing.

He walks into the warehouse silently. He wouldn’t want to distract Potter with the door or his footsteps. Not that Potter would even notice, given the way he walks. Though he’s considerably quieter in those brogues, which really do look quite charming with that jumper.

Not that it matters, particularly because, as he walks past Section G, he realises that Potter’s no longer visible from this distance. He must be doing it, then. Going through all those things .

There was no reason for Draco to help with them. Just a bunch of old family photos, most likely, and Potter would want privacy for those. As is quite reasonable. It’s rude for Draco to be curious about what Potter would have looked like as a small child or what he did with his friends, or who else might appear prominently in the photos next to him, their arms around one another.

He realises, with a bit of a jolt, that he really doesn’t want to know. Doesn’t want to see Potter with his arm around the Weaselette, smiling, kissing her cheek, doing whatever it is they’d done as a couple. He remembers, vaguely, though he thinks with certainty, Potter telling him that it hadn’t worked between them. But perhaps it isn’t about the youngest Weasley so much as Draco’s newfound and rather unfortunate understanding that he doesn’t want to see Potter with anyone.

Plants. He’ll water the plants. They’re against the back wall, almost as far as he can get from Potter. That will be productive, no thought required.

Several dozen Aguamentis later, Draco is at a loose end again. There are the ferns he keeps in his own break area. Perhaps those need attention.

He doesn’t meant to find himself casting those Aguamentis from the chaise, nor to stay seated upon it, but this day seems to be full of things he doesn’t know what to do with, and at least he’s not much of a danger to himself if he’s seated and stationary.

He wonders what Potter would think. If he’d hate that there’s so much green, though it does look good on him. If he’d appreciate that Draco had brought in plants. If he’d think it was a good place for tea. If he’d sit on the sectional or next to Draco on the chaise, even though it’s not all that large. If he’d sit close to Draco, their thighs touching, their teacups sitting next to each other, Potter’s hand coming to rest on his knee.

Draco stands. It’s been an hour. It must have been. He checks his pocket watch and sags with relief. It’s been 72 minutes. More than an hour. Surely he can go and check on Potter now.

He moves quietly towards the front of the room. He doesn’t want to surprise Potter, but doesn’t want to disturb him either. It seems a sound course to have chosen when he hears the first strains of Potter’s voice, choked with emotion.

It’s difficult to make out the words. He looks back over his shoulder. There are some Extendable Ears stashed somewhere around here, but summoning one is sure to draw Potter’s attention.

Instead, he creeps closer, balancing on the balls of his feet, until he’s pressed against the wall just beyond Section G.

“You’d be so proud of him. Merlin.” There’s a sniffle. “He’s been doing puzzles lately, just the beginner ones, but he’s so good at them. And he insists on dressing himself. Not always the best – though who am I to talk?” Potter’s laugh is weepy but sincere. “And he always changes his hair to match his shirt. And he’s so sweet to everyone. Everyone he meets just adores him, and for good reason.”

“And you, Harry?”

There’s a long pause, and another sniffle. “I’m fine.”

“Are you?” The voice is familiar, though Draco can’t quite place it.

“I –” Potter voice wavers. “It’s been hard, sorting through everything.”

“I can imagine. And is that the only reason?”

“It’s part of it.” Potter lets out a ragged sigh, and launches into an explanation much like the one he’d given Draco. His attempts at jobs, his isolation, his frustration with the way he’s treated by the public. The portrait, whoever it is, listens silently, and Draco thinks Potter is winding to a close when he adds something new. “And I think I’ve met someone I like, someone who understands all that, and there’s nothing I can do about it. About any of it.”

Jealousy crashes over Draco, blood pounding in his ears. He had been right, then. There is someone. He squeezes his eyes shut and tries, silently, to regain his breath. He can’t reveal himself, not now.

By the time he’s regained his equanimity, they’ve moved on to other topics.

“Until the public fervour dies down a bit more, is there work that might be satisfying to you that could be done out of the public eye?”

“I,” Potter pauses. “Not that I can think of. Everything I’ve wanted to do has always involved other people. Helping them, one way or another.”

“And that has always been one of your most admirable traits, Harry. Don’t let it become something that isolates you.”

“I don’t know what else to do, though.”

“Will you think on it? Perhaps Hermione and Ron might be able to offer useful insight, knowing you as well as they do.”

He laughs. “I’m sure Hermione will have plenty to say.”

“Good, good.” Draco can hear the hint of a smile in the portrait’s voice. “Now, Harry, about this woman of yours.”

“We don’t have to talk about it.” Good, Draco thinks, go with that. Then Potter continues, in a mumble Draco almost misses. “Man.”

“Ah,” the portrait pauses. “My apologies. This young man of yours.”

“That’s it?” Potter queries.

“You must know, Harry, that I believe that love takes many forms.”

“Love?”

“Affection?” The portrait replies. After a pause, he goes on. “Fondness? Esteem? Attraction? That you are invested to some degree is already obvious.”

“How’s that?”

“That you mention him at all. You were never one to talk openly about romantic feelings, with Ginny or Ms Chang, for instance.”

“It’s different.”

“How so?”

“He’s not like them. He’s a he, for one. And you might not care, but other people will.”

“Who will, Harry?”

“People,” he mumbles.

“You’d be surprised, I believe. Have faith in those around you. They love you very much. What else is it?”

Draco’s mind races. Who knows Harry this well, knows all of these people, but who he can’t just go talk to outside of a portrait? It doesn’t sound like the other Weasley twin, and it’s definitely not Snape or Dumbledore. Harry's godfather had a reputation for being rough and tumble, where this portrait is cool and considered. But who?

“It’s…well, it’s who it is.”

“Forbidden love? Or, pardon me, affection.”

“Sort of.”

“Dare I ask?”

“I don’t think you want to know.”

There’s another pause. “Alright, then. Is his identity the main obstacle to beginning a relationship?”

“No.” Potter sighs. Draco imagines him carding his hands through his hair, or maybe putting them in his pockets, and almost misses the portrait’s next question.

“What is it, then?”

“He doesn’t like me back.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“Yes,” Potter laughs, and Draco’s heart goes out to him even through the haze of jealously. “Totally sure. He doesn’t want me around.”

“He doesn’t?”

“No. I tried, I really did. I mean, I knew he was an arse at first, but then I got to know him, and he’s really good at his job, and he’s funny even though he probably wouldn’t say so, and he can be kind to people, even though most people probably don't know that, and he understands things. The war, I mean. He really understands it, and what it’s like after. And I thought maybe we were getting on a bit better, that he was opening up some. And I thought after we –” Potter stops abruptly. “Um.”

There’s a brief pause. “Go on. It's okay. A physical connection is an important part of a relationship.”

“Right,” Potter mumbles. Draco can practically hear him blushing. “Well, we didn’t quite, I mean, I don’t want you to think –”

“It’s alright. I don’t need the particulars.”

“Okay. Okay, good." Harry exhales. “But after…whatever. I thought he wouldn’t push me away. And he did at first but then, um, things happened again, and he didn’t. But then when I’ve tried to ask him to do things – other kinds of things, I mean – he just ignores it and doesn’t answer, and he’s really eager to get me out of here.”

Draco grips the wall for support, unable to believe what he’s hearing.

“Out of here?” The portrait continues. “Are we discussing Draco Malfoy?”

There’s no response. Is Harry making a face? What kind of a face? What is the portrait doing? Draco wants so badly to look, but there’s no way he’s willing to cut this conversation short or risk discovery.

“Well. I admit that I’m surprised. But it does make sense that you’d have some shared experiences.”

“It does?”

“Yes, Harry, it does. And from what I’ve gathered from my admittedly non-ideal position in this corner, you’re right that he’s good at his job. You also mention that you’ve had more than one encounter, and that it seemed that he was opening up for a time.”

“Yeah, until he stopped.”

“Be that as it may, it sounds as though his feelings may be more complex than you might imagine.” No Draco wants to scream. Also, Yes, Merlin, yes.

“I don’t think so.”

“Harry,” the portrait's voice is gentle. “You have always had an exceptional ability to love. But for many people, it’s rather difficult to admit their feelings, even to themselves. Add to that the experiences Draco Malfoy had during the war and the particular reactions he might face if you were to embark on a relationship and perhaps you can understand why it might be difficult for him to take your signs of interest seriously.”

Draco wants to protest. He’s fine. Perfectly so.

The portrait continues. “That is also often the case for young men who grew up in certain of the old pureblood families, men like Draco Malfoy or your godfather.”

“Sirius?”

“Had a very difficult time professing feelings of affection when we first met. Boys in these old aristocratic families were trained to rule, not to be partners. Certainly not to be open with their emotions.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Nor is there any reason you should. And I don’t mean to set you up here, Harry. It is possible that you’ve read the situation correctly and that your feelings are not reciprocated.”

“Yeah,” Harry mumbles in agreement.

“But, if you’ll permit me to offer some advice, the possibility of love – or affection, even attraction – is quite precious and not nearly so common as people sometimes make out. You’ve said you are nearing the end of your project here and that it seems he wants you gone. If that’s the case, there’s very little risk to telling him.”

“Except total humiliation.”

The portrait laughs. “Except that. But I’m afraid that’s largely unavoidable if you hope to live an interesting life.”

“Easy for you to say; it’s not your total humiliation.”

“No, true, but I’ve had my fair share.” He laughs again. “You know, in Defense once, Sirius defeated my boggart by turning it from a moon into an appallingly accurate estimation of Professor Flitwick’s ghostly bum.”

It clicks for Draco then. The moon. It’s Remus Lupin. Lupin, who he’d been so sceptical off, and who has still told Harry to…he can’t think about that.

The portrait is laughing deeply, and Potter joins in with him. Their laughter grows as Lupin describes the scene and Potter tries to guess at his godfather’s and father’s reactions, and the whole time Draco is pinned to the wall, legs completely unwilling to move.

As their laughter begins to dwindle, Lupin’s portrait speaks first. “As wonderful as it is to speak with you, I suspect you have much more work to do. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch up now that you know about me. Why don’t you go back to your work?”

Potter sighs. “Yeah, alright.”

“And Harry?”

“Yeah?”

“Think about what I’ve said, will you?”

“Yes, Professor,” Harry teases.

Lupin offers some similarly joking reply, but Draco doesn’t hear it. At the sound of Harry’s first footsteps, he’s jarred into action.

He can’t run. Can’t do anything that might give him away. He walks. Slowly. Carefully. Quietly. Even breathing could give him away, he thinks, though it’s absurd, he knows it, to think Potter would ever notice that, would catch on to something that small.

Still. Still, he’s silent as he moves back to the front office.

The paperwork is still there. It’s just two o’clock. Paperwork. He can do this.

He starts down at the form.

First Name: Hannah Cohen
Object Vanished On:

Potter likes him. Likes him.

Object Vanished On:

He can’t do this. There’s no hope.

He looks beneath the counter for correspondence. He can open letters, surely. And he can alphabetise them. The alphabet will still make sense.

The first sheet of parchment slices into his fingertip. It’s just a papercut. Nothing to be concerned about. He just needs to be more careful. He grabs for a letter opener and does the rest without incident.

Usually, he alphabetises in one tidy pile, but that system quickly falls apart. The first letters are fine, but he keeps mixing up the ones that come next.

Fine. Separate piles.

Potter likes him. Potter thinks he’s good at his job.

Separate piles.

Potter thinks he’s funny and kind. Which only means that Potter is wrong.

A. B. C. He can do this.

Potter kisses like the devil and has an arse so gorgeous Draco could barely last four minutes, and he hasn’t even got inside him. The realisation that Potter might want to change that state of affairs, might want Draco inside him, hits him like a Bludger.

D. F. E.

No. That’s absurd. Potter won’t want this. Lupin was fine about it, but he’s a bloody portrait, and he always was a soft-hearted fool, even in life. He’s clearly wrong.

H. I. J.

Except about the reactions they'd get. He’s right about that. It would be a disaster. Potter’s had enough of public attention, that much is clear. He won’t want any more of it. Unless he wants something secret. Bile rises in Draco’s throat.

J. L. Shit, this is all wrong. He has to start over.

Potter probably does want something secret and that’s all. Maybe they’ll meet here, or in Potter’s beloved mausoleum. Or, no, Potter won’t even want him there. The house is under a famously strong Fidelius charm, there’s no way. They’ll meet in the rooms above the Hog’s Head, that’s more likely. They’ll be filthy and Draco will get bed bugs.

A. B. C. D.

And Potter will want him for a quick shag now and then, and won’t that be glorious. Merlin, he wants Potter bound again, wants him tied to a headboard, his legs spread, that gorgeous cock in his mouth. Wants Potter shooting down his throat this time.

No. No.

E. F. G. H as in Harry.

Yes, that’s right.

And then Potter will run off and marry some suitable witch, someone sweet and nice and charming, someone the Prophet will adore.

I. J. K. L.

Which is how this is supposed to go anyway. He knows this. There’s a similar story meant for him. Granted, with a lot less niceness and public approval and a lot more closing his eyes and thinking of the line, but that’s the order of things and he likes order.

M.

“Hey.”

Draco’s head shoots up. Potter’s standing in front of him looking nervous and charming and beautiful. He’s carrying an enormous, faded tapestry under one arm, which means…

“I, uh. I’m done.”

“Oh.” The syllable barely makes it out of Draco’s mouth.

“You were right that I’d be ready to start moving things before the rush.”

“Right.”

“I know you can’t help me move anything. Regulations and all. Would you mind if I moved it up to the front office, though? Figured I could move things up here, then to the lifts, then the atrium, then through the Floo a little at a time. But then I have to move it all in here first. But then, you know. It’ll be gone. Can let you get back to it.”

“Ah.”

“Is that okay?”

“Yes.” Draco looks back down at the parchment. “Fine.”

“Right. Okay. I’ll, um, be right back, then.” He leans the two frames against the counter and goes back towards the warehouse.

He works efficiently. Draco’s not sure when he got this efficient. He levitates the bottles in large batches. He moves half a dozen portrait frames at once. He’s even, rather cleverly, used the wire from the back of a portrait to wrap a bundle of photographs. And he does it all with an economy of motion Draco’s not noticed before. His body is tight and surprisingly purposeful. He handles things carefully but he’s definite about it. The way his hand wraps around a frame so he doesn’t poke at a portrait, or how he extends a finger against the length of his wand to direct the sets of bottles he’s levitated.

Draco tries to continue in his task. He’s fairly certain he makes it look like it. He shuffles papers. Puts them in piles. Rustles them around when Potter comes through.

Soon, it’s almost three, and Potter’s things are in the hallway. It’s just Potter, then, alone and standing in front of him, hands in his pockets and a nervous expression.

He opens his mouth to speak. Draco knows what he’s going to say, can see it on his face – and when did he learn that face so well? – but he can’t hear it. He doesn’t have an answer for that question.

“Draco, I was wondering –”

“That’s all of it then?”

“Yeah, but, um, I was hoping to speak to you about –”

“If you have any additional inquiries about lost items, the department is equipped to handle them.”

“Okay, but it’s about something else, I –”

Draco’s nauseous. He can barely breathe. “If I come across any other items that may belong to your estate I will communicate that to you via official Ministry channels.”

“Draco…” Harry trails off, looking down. “You really want me to go, don’t you?”

Draco doesn’t know how to answer that. He doesn’t. He doesn’t really want Potter to go. But telling him to stay is out of the question.

“Our task is complete.”

“Yeah,” Harry looks at him sadly. “I guess it is.” Draco’s heart threatens to scream at the broken look Potter gives him. “Well, thanks. For your help.” He tries to smile, but it doesn’t take. “Good luck with everything.”

He turns. Draco’s throat is painfully tight. He’s sure he couldn’t speak even if he had something to say.

So all he can do is watch the door close and stand there in an office that’s never felt emptier.

Chapter Text

The front office door is still ugly, but it’s not as ugly as the troll leg umbrella stand.

Harry spent most of yesterday looking at the troll leg umbrella stand. It’s hideous. It’s one of the things he actually had considered intentionally Vanishing, before he knew where Vanished things went. He’d hesitated over a memory of Tonks tripping over it once, but that wasn’t really a reason to keep something so grotesque. Certainly not a reason to keep it in the front hallway once he’d learned that he had an attic.

But he hasn’t put it in the attic. At least not yet. He’d considered Vanishing it instead, now that he knew where Vanished things went.

The thing is, it's unmistakably his. If Draco saw it he’d know right away that it was Harry’s. And then if he didn't do anything, or if he sent an official notice, then Harry would know that he really wasn’t welcome. But if he sent an owl instead, or maybe firecalled, that would be a different thing altogether. Maybe he’d even invite Harry to come get it. Or offer to bring it to Harry.

So he’d stared at it for a good long while. Maybe two hours? Not all in a row, but intermittently throughout the day. Breakfast, stare at troll leg umbrella stand. Arrange library, stare at troll leg umbrella stand. And so on, until he thought he really ought to just get on with it.

Except he hasn’t actually Vanished anything since the incident that had got him into all this. The idea that he might accidentally overdo it again gives him pause. Showing up with a potentially endearing and relationship clarifying troll-leg-umbrella-stand-related gesture is one thing; repeating a total disaster seems ill-advised.

Besides which, what if Draco just ignored it? Or didn’t actually remember it? Or thought it wasn’t at all endearing?

And when he thought about it, he didn’t really want to Vanish the stupid troll leg umbrella stand. He just wanted to see Draco. And there had to be a better way to do that.

Like going to see Draco.

He rests a hand on the door, not quite up for pushing just yet. It’s 9:57 and part of him wonders if, if he just waits until ten, if they can pretend it’s a normal morning and ignore the rest.

But, he reminds himself, he doesn’t want it to be just like any other normal morning. He pushes against the door.

To his surprise, Draco is at the counter, poring over a stack of parchment. Harry smiles; he can’t help it. Though when Draco looks up, clearly shocked, he thinks maybe he should have.

Draco shoves the parchment into a rough pile and frowns down at it. “Welcome to the Vanishing Department. How may we help you?”

“I was thinking of Vanishing a troll leg umbrella stand.”

Draco is startled into looking at him. “Thinking of it, or did it? Is that thing sitting in my department again?”

“No.” Harry breathes a sigh of relief. Draco’s not shutting him out entirely. “Just, I was thinking about doing it.”

“I understand why you would want to get rid of it, but surely selling it as an antique pureblood heirloom would lead to more desirable outcomes for us both.”

“Oh. I was thinking of the attic.”

“Also viable.”

“Yeah.”

“Potter, people don’t usually visit the department before they Vanish something.”

“That would kind of defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, rather.”

“Yeah.”

“Did you Vanish something else? I do have retrieval forms at the ready.”

“No, nothing else.” Harry’s chest is tight. He's running short on polite chitchat.

“Is something missing? We were very thorough, but with a lot of that size it is possible that something was overlooked.”

“Not as far as I can tell.” Maybe Vanishing the troll leg umbrella stand was the better plan after all.

“Then I’m afraid I’m not clear as to the purpose of your visit.”

“I wanted to ask you something.” Anxiety flashes across Draco’s face and Harry rushes to assuage it. “Not something bad! I don’t think so, anyway. I mean, you might, but, okay. Look.”

“Was something damaged? You know that we are not responsible for the condition of items after they are recovered.”

“No, everything’s fine.”

“A complaint, then? Of course you’d have a complaint. Well, fine then. I can give you the form for that.” Draco begins shuffling around in the parchment under the counter.

“Merlin, no, of course not. You’ve been great with everything, I don’t have any complaints.”

“Another problem?”

“Draco, please.”

The sound of rustling parchment ceases abruptly.

“Please look at me.”

He emerges from below the counter looking – well, Harry can’t quite tell what. Scared, maybe? It’s a new look, and this isn’t really his forte, though he’s clearly making Draco nervous, so best to just get on with it.

“I haven’t come because anything’s wrong. I’d like you to—” He takes a deep breath. “Would you have a drink with me?”

Draco swallows and looks away. “As I’ve said, it’s inappropriate to drink in the workplace."

“I didn’t mean in the workplace.”

There’s no response.

“I’d like you to have a drink with me outside of the workplace. I’d like – I’m trying to ask you out. On a date.”

Draco stares at him for a long moment. Then he goes back to rearranging his pile of parchment.

“Draco? Um, did you hear me?”

“Yes,” he hisses, not looking up. “I fucking heard you.”

Anger. Of all the possibilities, Harry had not been expecting that. “I – What? Did I do it wrong? Is there, um, some proper pureblood way I’m supposed to ask?”

“Of course not,” Draco spits. “What do you think you’re playing at?”

“I’m not playing at anything. Merlin, Draco, it’s just a drink.”

“Just a drink, is it?” Draco looks up, eyes flaring. “And will we be having this drink in a sleazy inn somewhere? Or one of those Muggle hotel bars that none of your friends would ever set foot in? Under a bridge, perhaps?”

“My friends go to Muggle places. And – what are you talking about?”

“A date.” Draco snorts. “At least have the decency to be honest about it. It is quite evident that you enjoyed our encounters. It is entirely understandable that you’d want me to get you off again, if a bit selfish. But I will not, will not be your dirty little secret.”

“What?” Harry wants to backpedal, but he’s so lost he doesn’t even know where to go. “What the hell are you talking about? Secrets? I’m just asking you for a drink.”

“A drink, right,” Draco huffs.

“Seriously. Really. You can pick the place. Wherever you want to go. It doesn’t even have to be a drink. We could get tea somewhere. Or have lunch. Or, do you like ice skating? They’ve just finished putting a rink up in Diagon Alley.”

“Ice skating? In Diagon Alley? In front of people? Do you know what they’ll say, you crazy fool? You and I, ice skating together in the middle of everything? Imagine the headlines and tell me you want to do that.”

“Draco,” Harry sighs. “There are headlines whenever I leave the house.”

“Well, how lovely for you.”

“Oh, yeah,” Harry snorts. “There was an article in the Prophet yesterday about my drinking problem because someone saw me moving all that liquor, and another one accusing me of having an affair with a portrait. Which,” he rushes on at the look on Draco’s face, “is absolutely and completely untrue. But there will always be articles.”

“My point exactly.”

“And my point is that I want to do it anyway.”

“Easy for you to say, oh Chosen One. Do you know what they’d write about me? Do you have any idea?”

Harry’s heart sinks, but he charges on. “I don’t care.”

“Maybe I do!” Draco’s voice rings out, seeming to occupy the entire room. “I’ve spent years making this department work and it’s likely to be the only job I ever have. Do you think I’d do anything to jeopardise that? To risk reassignment because the press says I’m a danger to the boy wonder?”

“Thought I was the prince of the wizarding world and they wouldn’t print a harsh word about me.”

“You, no. Never you. But newsflash, Potter: it’s not always about you.”

“I know that!” Harry yells. “Merlin, you’re stubborn.”

“I think the word you’re looking for is ‘correct.’”

“No, I’m pretty sure stubborn is the word for someone who will come up with any excuse to say no. If you don’t want to go out with me, just fucking say so!”

Harry’s voice seems to echo across the room before settling into a long silence.

Draco looks at him. Draco doesn’t say anything. Harry, against his better judgement, begins to hope because, at last, Draco Malfoy has shut up.

It’s an opportunity, Harry realises, and rushes on. “Look –” Draco starts to raise a hand in objection and Harry grabs it, twines their fingers together. “Just listen for a second. Okay?” He pauses. “Please?”

Draco looks outraged and mollified in equal measure, and Harry presses on.

“I would like to have a drink with you, not at work. I don’t want to keep you a secret, I know people will object. I think – I hope – that the people close to me won’t be among them. And yes, you’re right, the other stuff was brilliant, but it turns out that you’re good at other things too and that, well,” he pauses for breath, “that I like you.”

“The people close to you,” Draco says, his voice considerably lower. “I don’t see them forgiving me.”

“You don’t know them very well.”

Draco casts him a sceptical look.

Thinking of the few comments Ron and Hermione had made at finding out who he was spending so much time with, he amends, “I’m not saying it would be easy or fast. We don’t even know if you like me – at least, I don’t know if you do – or if you would like me after the drink. We don’t even really know if I’d like you, though I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t pretty sure. But if we did like each other, I’m just saying, eventually, that I think they’d come around.

“But it doesn’t really matter if you won’t have a drink with me.” He squeezes Draco’s fingers and then releases them. “And if you don’t, if you really don’t – if I’ve read this all wrong and you think I’m a troll and,” his heart hurts even thinking it, “the other stuff was just a joke or a game or a way to pass the time, just tell me that and I’ll leave you alone.”

There’s a long nervous pause, after which Draco murmurs, “Gryffindor.”

“I – what?”

“Gryffindor,” Draco repeats, a little louder. “All these famous tales of epic bloody magical swords that are meant prove you’re the heir of Gryffindor. Totally unnecessary for anyone who’s ever heard you ramble.”

“Um, I don’t know what kind of answer that is.”

“It’s an observation, not an answer.”

“Okay. Well. Could I maybe have an answer?”

“I won’t be kept a secret and there’s nowhere safe we can be seen in public together. Hardly a viable option.”

Harry’s chest aches. He’s promised to accept it, but fuck if it doesn’t hurt anyway.

He looks up at Draco who is…a lot more expectant looking than he would’ve expected.

And then it hits him. There wasn’t a no anywhere in there. Draco’s no Gryffindor, but Harry was almost sorted Slytherin. Maybe it was because he was hosting a sliver of dark lord but whatever, he’ll take it.

“Okay,” he says slowly. “How about this.” He grabs a piece of parchment from Draco’s stack and turns it over. “Can I have a quill?”

“You’re going to fill out a form? Now?”

“Quill, please?”

Warily, Draco hands one over.

“You’ve helped me retrieve everything that was Vanished from my house. I would like to invite you to come see it in person, properly arranged, and to share a drink with me from my newly abundant collection. You pick the bottle.”

“Your house is under Fidelius, Potter.”

“Exactly.” He slides the piece of parchment across the counter. His address is written across it in clear print.

Draco’s eyebrows shoot up.

“You asked me to trust you once. Clearly, I do. If you think you can trust me back – if you think you can trust that I won’t keep you a secret, that I won’t run as soon as there’s some ridiculous headline, that I like you and would enjoy your company for an evening – meet me there at eight on Saturday.”

He takes Draco’s hand and places it over the words he’s just written. “I hope to see you then.”

With one last look and his heart very much in his teeth, Harry turns and leaves the department.

V V V V V

Number 12 Grimmauld Place has never looked this immaculate. Or maybe it has, but not in decades. Not in such a long time that Kreacher is overwhelmed about it, which is itself a bit overwhelming but also, Harry hopes, a good sign.

It’s all been under construction for months, but the possibility of Draco’s visit has pushed him to finish. He’s pulled out all the stops he can think of, though there are probably at least a dozen more he doesn’t know to think of. The stuffy old carpet in the entryway has been replaced with cherry planks, now polished to a shine. The stairs have been refinished to match and he’s replaced the wall between the stairs and entryway with an intricate banister that he really likes, and rather hopes will be to Draco’s taste. It makes the whole space loads more open which, if his department is anything to go by, Draco does seem to like.

Then there’s the drawing room. He thinks it’s turned out pretty well. He’s had everything refinished, so it’s just as formal but a little lighter. A lot lighter. Warmer, he likes to think.

And he’s gone ahead and got a Christmas tree, just in case. It was almost time anyway, and they make a room feel so cosy. He’s always thought they’re welcoming, as well, and he wants Draco to feel welcome.

He’s decorated it, too, with Ron and Hermione and Dean and Neville and Seamus and Luna (whose efforts had required just a bit of undecorating after the fact). And when they’d asked why he was so eager to get it set up, he’d told them. It hadn’t been an easy conversation, but it hadn’t been as bad as he’d imagined in the end. They all seemed, without telling him, to have arrived at the same conclusion – that Draco had been caught up in something just as they had and that after everything they’d realised they would have done to protect their families it became a bit harder to judge. “Not that we want him around for Sunday Roast,” Ron half-joked. “Yet,” Hermione interceded. “But it’s been a long time since you’ve been this motivated about getting something done. It’s good to see.”

He is aware, in the back of his mind – or, just as frequently, the front of it – that Draco may not show up. He never said yes, never even picked up the parchment. Harry is aware that he may have told his friends for nothing, or for something that’s about to be a bit of egg on his face. But if Draco does come, and it does come up, he can tell him with a straight face that he’s already keeping his promises.

If Draco comes.

It’s 7:48 and he still hasn’t had any word. Not that he expected any or asked for it. But he'd hoped…

He hopes. It’s something he seems to do a lot of these days. Which, Luna had pointed out, is an important change on its own. Though it hurts more than he remembered, this churning, achy feeling that’s seen him to sleep and woken up with him these last few days.

There are probably productive things he could do in twelve minutes. Though, upon surveying the room, he can’t see any. Which doesn’t mean that Draco won’t. He’s got an ice bucket; maybe he could carve the ice into little animals? Does Draco like animals? Or maybe he should do something in another room in case Draco doesn’t like this one.

Panic begins to rise. Should he have set the dinner table? He’d mentioned a drink and eight seems late for dinner, but maybe purebloods eat late? What if Draco is expecting a full meal? He’s got hors d’oeuvres, Kreacher had been sure about doing that part, but not a proper meal. He could go set the table. Or he could make tea, in case Draco prefers that. Or double check the kitchen, if Draco would rather be somewhere warmer and more casual, as unlikely as that seems. Or, he thinks, he could remake the bed. Which he, then, tries not to think too much about. Changing the linens and flipping the mattress and making it twice already…that was surely enough. If it even becomes relevant, which there’s no reason to think it will. It’s only a drink, and then only if Draco shows up.

7:55. He can do this. He should just settle in. Draco will probably be fashionably late and he should just sit down and stop pacing.

Which, fuck. He’s leaving lines in the rug. Draco will know he’s been pacing. Standing here like a terrible fool, walking back and forth and waiting. He draws his wand and tries to think of a spell to smooth carpet. Or maybe he could just lie down and roll over it? Make big lines, rather than pacing lines? But then he’d get lint all over himself, but there is a spell for that. Scourgify, in fact. Which is not his area of expertise, so much as it’s –

Ding

Harry’s stomach lurches. That’s the doorbell. The doorbell to his house. He checks his watch; it’s eight o’clock exactly.

He smooths his trousers, makes sure his dress shirt’s properly tucked in under his jumper, and walks – slowly, but not too slowly. Reasonably. Carefully. – to the front door.

Draco is shivering on his top step, wrapped in a Muggle overcoat and scarf.

“Hi,” Harry breathes.

“Good evening,” Draco chatters.

The sound of his teeth jars Harry to action. “Please, come in.” He stands aside.

Draco steps over the threshold, glancing around. He’s clearly surprised. “My, Potter. I expected more troll leg.”

“Harry, if you don’t mind,” he adds at Draco’s raised eyebrow. “Since it’s, you know, a social occasion. And, I put it in the attic. Now I know I’ve got one.”

“Right. We’ll see.”

“About the attic?” Harry asks, confused. He hadn’t planned to make that a part of their evening, and he's gripped with the worry that he may have overlooked something important.

“The name thing.”

“Oh.” Harry breathes, relieved. “Right, well. Draco. Can I take your coat?”

“You may,” Draco replies, shrugging out of it rather stiffly.

Harry tries not to stare. He fails miserably. Draco’s robes have been replaced with a Muggle-style suit that fit him beautifully. His legs look as long and toned as Harry knows they are, and the lines of the jacket leave Harry breathless. He has a new appreciation for Draco’s comments about hand to the fabric, at least inasmuch as he very much wants to put his hands on the fabric.

Draco clears his throat, redirecting Harry’s attention.

“Sorry,” Harry mumbles. “I’ll just—” He gestures for the coat and hangs it before turning back to Draco.

“Thank you,” Draco replies stiffly.

“Would you like to come in?”

“I am in.”

Harry laughs nervously. “More in. In the drawing room. For a drink.”

“Yes, that would be fine.”

Harry is relieved that Draco follows him, and even more relieved when he catches Draco eyeing the room approvingly. Draco picks the bottle, a 1943 Ogden’s French Oak-Aged Single Malt. It doesn’t mean much to Harry, but then, he’d be happy with a cider, and the liquor isn’t really the point.

As Harry pours – his over ice, Draco’s neat – he realises that, aside from greeting Draco and sorting the drinks, he has no idea what to say. Asking about work seems patently ridiculous. It seems fairly clear that Draco’s home life isn’t a welcome topic. The war is clearly off limits. He doesn’t know if Draco has any hobbies or, for that matter, friends, these days.

Draco, standing stiffly on the opposite side of the room, seems to be encountering the same problem.

“Your drink.”

“Ah.” Draco acknowledges, without moving to take it. “Thank you.”

“Would you like to have a seat?”

Draco hesitates for a moment. “Certainly.” He moves to sit on one side of the longest settee in the room. He accepts the drink gingerly when Harry hands it to him.

His own drink still in hand, Harry is completely unsure of what to do with himself. There’s an armchair on the other side of Draco that’s closest to him, but then they’re not sitting next to each other, which Harry would like them to be. But he doesn't want to crowd Draco, so he'd take the other end of the settee and sitting that far away from each other on the same piece of furniture is ridiculous.

It doesn’t require climbing over Draco’s legs, though, so he’ll take it.

Once seated, Harry swirls his glass. He’s fairly certain that’s the sort of thing one is supposed to do. He almost sloshes some over the edge when he watches Draco take a first taste.

His neck is long and elegant and his Adam’s apple bobs as the first sip goes down. Then he lets out a satisfied little hmmm, a half-moan that goes straight to Harry’s groin. Draco’s tongue darts out to lick his lower lip and the uses of that tongue come flooding back to Harry, who has, as a result of forgetting the English language, given up on conversation altogether.

Instead of attempting speech, he takes a drink from his own glass, and promptly chokes. It burns, good Merlin, how does Draco drinks this stuff? He looks up, eyes wide, at Draco’s thorough amusement, and tries to suppress the gagging. It only makes it worse, and he dissolves into a coughing fit.

Draco smiles, takes another sip, and lowers his glass with another satisfied, maddening little moan. “Wait for your ice to melt, if you can’t take it straight.”

“I can take it,” Harry wheezes.

“Obviously.”

“I,” Harry coughs again, banging a fist into his chest to clear it. “I can.” He pouts.

“Mmm.”

Silence returns. Draco swirls his glass in slow, lazy circles, his wrist moving in ways that prove quite distracting, and Harry’s almost reduced to coughing again when he realises why the motion looks familiar.

He almost takes another sip, then thinks better of it.

But, as Draco had said, Harry is a Gryffindor. He can do this. Not the drink, maybe, but this, with Draco. “So,” he begins, “do you have any hobbies?”

Draco snorts. “Hobbies, Potter? Do you take me for a butterbeer cap collector?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

“I’m not.”

“Okay. Me neither. Do you still play Quidditch?”

“Who with?” Draco’s voice is edged with bitterness. Another subject to avoid, apparently.

“Well, what do you do? When you’re not at work.”

“This and that.”

Harry closes his eyes for a moment to keep from rolling them. He takes a deep breath and tries again. “Can you be more specific?”

Draco folds his arms, resting his glass on his elbow. Harry doesn’t know how he manages to be so frustrating and so elegant at the same time. “I read.”

“Books?”

“No, butterbeer caps.”

Steeling himself to forge onwards, Harry takes a rather large gulp of his drink. “Read any good books lately?”

“Nothing you’ll have heard of.”

“Try me.”

“I’ve seen your books.”

“I’ve read other things too. That aren’t butterbeer caps.”

“Big fan of literature, are you?”

“Maybe.” He sulks. “You don’t know.”

“Very well. I’ve just finished a novel, Great Expectations.”

Harry gapes. “Great Expectations?”

“As I said, nothing you’ll have heard of.”

“Don’t be an arse, Draco. I’ve heard of Great Expectations. I’ve read Great Expectations

“You have not.” Draco sits up, alarmed.

“Have so,” Harry defends. “One summer.”

“You read during the summer holidays?” Draco raises an eyebrow.

“Yes,” Harry replies, conveniently omitting the bit where there weren’t really many other options.

“Novels?”

“I’m not sure why I’m getting the third degree when you’re the one reading Muggle novels.”

“Yes, well,” Draco sniffs. “I am expanding my horizons.”

“With Muggle novels?”

“It seemed advisable. After…everything.”

“Oh.” Harry fidgets. Another inadvisable subject. “Well, uh,” he scrambles, “how about Miss Havisham?”

It’s like watching a dam break. Draco, it turns out, has rather a lot of feelings about Miss Havisham, and even more about Wemmick, and he expounds with a vehement passion that Harry finds beyond charming. He’s never been so grateful for the Dursley’s limited interest in literature. Their just-for-show collection of the classics means he’s read Great Expectations twice, actually, and when he suggests that Miss Havisham had been wrong to want Pip and Estella apart, Draco’s startled in the best of ways, half-speechless and squinting at Harry to make sure he hasn’t been replaced by an imposter.

“You believe, then, that the orphan and the heiress belong together?”

“I think it turns out they’re not so different after all.”

“Of course they are. Estella’s been raised to prize status above all else. She can never reciprocate his affection.”

“But she has so many chances to hurt him –”

“And she does,” Draco interrupts.

“—and she doesn’t, not like she could have. She resists the thing she’s been trained since birth to do.”

“She does not. She hurts him in all sorts of ways. “

“But she’s honest with him. What is it, 'entrap and deceive'? She doesn’t do that. Everything that happens, they always know each other.”

“Or Pip just wants to think they do.”

“Is Pip wrong?”

Draco narrows his eyes. “Returning to Wemmick, then.”

“The man who leaves his heart at home so he can do his job?”

Draco takes a slow sip and turns back towards the window, seemingly intent on the glow from the street lamps. “I wouldn’t have taken you for an interpreter of allegory.”

“I’m full of surprises.”

“Apparently.”

“We can talk about Wemmick if you’d like.”

“I’d prefer another drink.”

“Same again?”

Instead of replying to the question, Draco stands and takes the glass from Harry’s hand. Harry considers objecting, but he’s so transfixed by the lines of Draco’s suit, by the way his fingers lift the cork from the bottle’s neck, that the opportunity passes him by. Draco refills his own glass and pours Harry a finger of something that looks a fair bit lighter.

When he returns, he sits next to Harry. “Try this,” he offers.

“Okay…” Harry looks at it warily, and when he chances a sip, he doesn’t choke. It’s not bad, actually. Not cider, but not bad.

“So?”

“Not bad. Doesn’t feel like an Incendio to the throat.”

“Ha. Knew you couldn’t take it.”

“I can take all sorts of things.”

“Oh? Is that so?” Draco arches a brow.

Harry’s cheeks heat, but he doesn’t look away. “Yeah.”

Draco takes another sip and Harry thinks he sees the hint of a smile around the corners of his mouth. Still, the silence feels laden and it’s making him anxious, though he’s not quite sure what about.

“So, um, The Great Gatsby?” Harry tries.

“Please, Potter. Muggles are one thing, Americans another.”

“Harry,” he replies, softly.

“Yes. Right.” He looks into his glass. “Harry.”

Harry’s heart swells. A smile seems inappropriate, but his mouth wants to do something. He leans into Draco and, to his delight, Draco doesn’t pull away. Instead, he rests his hand on Harry’s thigh.

This kiss is slow, deliberate. When Harry opens his mouth, he’s met with the soft heat of Draco’s tongue. He takes Draco’s hand in his and squeezes, and feels the pressure returned.

When Draco brings his hand to Harry’s cheek, shivers run down Harry’s spine. His fingers still smell like lavender, his breath carries a rich, smoky hint of whisky, and the sweetness and spice feel so much like Draco, like being immersed in him at last.

It’s several long, delicious moments before they withdraw. Draco looks almost stunned. Harry certainly feels it, the impact of the kiss reaching to his toes.

The look they share is just as weighty. Harry would never admit it, lest it make Draco stop, but he is, in this moment, just a bit afraid.

“Um,” Harry tries, breaking the silence. “So, work?”

Draco looks at him, still dazed. “Pardon?”

Harry wants to hide. Of all the questions, he has to blurt one of the few he had quite intentionally decided to avoid. He knew the kiss might’ve scrambled his mind a bit, but now he’s got to persevere or look like an even bigger idiot. “I just mean, you must have some good stories.”

“Yes,” Draco pauses, the corners of his mouth turning up. “I do.”

“Um, tell me one?”

Draco considers. Harry’s awash in relief. If he’s managed to save this he’ll remember to throw a sickle in the Ministry fountain next time he’s there. “A particularly memorable one comes to mind.”

“Great!” Harry enthuses, before he’s silenced by Draco’s look.

“I arrived to the department one morning to find the most spectacular collection of items.”

“Oh?” Harry replies, a bit less enthusiastically.

“Yes. It was quite something.” A smile is creeping over Draco’s face. “Took weeks to sort through. But one of the most memorable items, in retrospect, was one of the first I found.”

“Is that so?” Harry tries to swallow his nerves.

“Mmm, yes. There was a pair of sheets, Gryffindor red. I went to levitate them and they were absolutely stiff in spots.”

Harry thinks he really should have hidden when the urge struck.

“Can you guess why?”

“I’ve cleaned them,” he mumbles, helpless to fight the blush that’s blossoming over his cheeks.

“That was unnecessary. As you know, Scourgification is a standard part of item retrieval and return.”

“I’ve got new ones.” Harry thinks of the crisp linens upstairs, about which he had, if he’s honest with himself, been secretly optimistic.

“Have you? Are they still Gryffindor red?”

“No.” He laughs, glad at least he can reclaim that one sliver of dignity.

“Too bad,” Draco replies with total nonchalance. “I’d wager you looked good in them.”

Harry looks up, startled. For all that he’s been teasing, Draco is smiling at him softly.

“Perhaps you could show me?”

“I,” Harry swallows hard. “Yeah, I could do that.”

Draco sets his glass down and looks at Harry expectantly. Heart in his throat, Harry stands and extends a hand.

The heat of Draco’s fingers in his is something of a balm, at least enough of one to get him upstairs without his knees buckling. He’s pleased, in the part of his brain that’s still capable of coherent thought, to note that Draco looks approvingly at the heavy brocade drapes covering a mercifully silent Walburga Black, at the banister, at the paintings that hang on the landing.

He approves, too, of the colour of the new sheets. Harry knows, because he asks. “Better than the others?”

Draco smiles, more softly than Harry is used to. “I think you’d look good in these too, if that’s what you’re asking. As to their quality –”

“Hand to the fabric?” Harry interrupts.

“Yes, that is a key indicator of quality.”

“You could test it, if you want. See how they feel.”

“Could I?”

Harry squeezes his hand. “Be my guest. Please.”

Draco turns to him, looking suddenly grave, and Harry feels the tug as Draco pulls him close. They’ve been closer than this before, but this feels far more intimate. A lick of anxiety curls Harry’s stomach again. He’s not sure what to do with this, without direction, without anything other than the bare fact of their attraction.

Kissing seems like as good an idea as any.

When Harry presses in, Draco braces his hands against Harry’s shoulder and pushes and, for one horrible second, he worries that he’s misunderstood. Then the backs of his knees collide with the mattress and he realises that it’s an encouragement, not a rejection

He lets himself be pushed to sit back against the bed. He’s on the verge of pulling Draco down on top of him when he realises he’s at eye level to Draco’s waist, and there’s something he’s been wanting to try again.

Draco moves to follow him down onto the bed. It’s Harry’s turn to stop him. He reaches a hand under Draco’s suit jacket and looks up, meeting his eye. “Please.”

He’s met, at first, with the same inscrutability he’s had to break through so many times. Then Draco exhales and nods his assent.

It’s only his nerves that keep Harry from jumping for joy. Instead, he reaches for the buttons of Draco’s jacket and slips them through the buttonholes. Underneath, his shirt lies perfectly against his stomach. His belt buckle gleams in the dim light, drawing Harry’s eye, and his hands.

The leather is incredibly supple; Harry may be developing a new appreciation of Draco’s preoccupation with how things feel against one’s skin. He draws it through Draco’s belt loops, the room silent save the whisper of leather against wool.

Harry moves to Draco’s shirt, the weight of Draco’s lapels brushing against his wrists as he works down the row of buttons, revealing the faintest, palest sliver of skin as he goes.

When he reaches Draco’s waistband he takes a steadying breath and keeps going, lowering Draco’s flies to reveal a patch of honey blond hair. Harry looks up, surprised, and is met with a bemused smile. “Ruins the line.” Draco whispers, and runs a gentle hand through Harry’s hair.

Harry leans into Draco’s hand, then lifts his own to run a thumb over the coarse blond hair.

Draco’s cock is filling, just beginning to strain at the fine wool of his trousers. Harry opens his knees and urges Draco to stand between them. He leans forward, then, and kisses the top edge of Draco’s curls, moving slowly downward to mouth against the soft skin he finds there

Draco’s hips tense at the promise and Harry is eager to make good. With a deep breath, he withdraws Draco’s cock. It’s as pale as the rest of him, save a few pink veins, and as thick as Harry remembers. His own trousers tighten at the memory of it, of Draco, rutting into him. He wants to return that pleasure.

If Draco asked him now, he would have to admit that he’s afraid. He’s glad, then, that Draco doesn’t ask, that his mouth will, in short order, be too full to answer.

He brings Draco’s head to his lips and kisses it, just as Draco had done to him. He barely hears the thin whimper that escapes from Draco’s throat, but he’s heartened by its existence all the same.

Emboldened, he licks a stripe up the underside. His heart leaps when Draco hums his approval. Harry tries it again, pressing harder, following one of those fine, pink, curving veins from base to tip.

He feels Draco’s first moan to his bones. It’s a thrill unlike any he’s known, and his nerves give way to excitement. He wants more of this – the taste of this, the feel of it, the reactions he’s able to draw.

With a deep breath, he takes Draco into his mouth. He doesn’t gag this time, or cough, or lose his breath. He lets himself savour the salty bitterness that begins to gather at the back of his tongue.

Then he looks up. Draco looks half-hypnotised, dilated pupils focused entirely on Harry. His jaw is slack, his chest rising and falling, the hint of a flush beginning to cross his pale skin. Harry moans at the sight of it and Draco’s trembling hips snap forward, his hands twisting in Harry’s hair as he pushes himself deeper.

Still, if Harry could have more of him, he gladly would. He reaches a hand under Draco’s shirt to grip his waist, to tell him, or try to, how much he’s wanted.

Perhaps the moan, the low, “Harry,” that goes straight to Harry’s cock, is a response to the suction of his mouth around Draco as he begins, slowly, to work his way into a rhythm. He’d like to think, though, that some of it’s due to the blissful connection of skin against skin. That Draco feels this as deeply as Harry does.

He keeps his hand on Draco’s side, using it to urge him forward, deeper into his mouth. He’s waiting for Draco to give in entirely, to start fucking into his face, to come all over him. When Draco begins to pick up speed, the anticipation grips him. He’s ready. He wants.

With a wet pop, Draco pulls out of his mouth, out of his grasp. He doesn’t have time to object.

“Harry,” Draco groans, and pushes him down on to the mattress. Harry is wedged between the bedding and Draco’s knee, and any objections are driven out of his mind when Draco rips off his jacket and shirt, dropping them to the floor alongside his trousers and climbing on top of Harry.

His mouth is hot against Harry’s neck, the suction bruising, and this mark is one Harry wants to keep – no Glamours, no concealment of any sort. He tilts his head, giving Draco better access, but Draco has moved on to his jaw and then his lips, nipping at them, pressing into them, kissing him so thoroughly that Harry is left gasping and boneless against the quilt.

Draco pulls back and urges him up, stripping him bare as quickly as they can manage.

And perhaps Harry is not alone in thrilling to the feeling of skin against skin. Draco moans and gasps and begins to mumble his way through a string of curses that would embarrass half of Knockturn Alley.

They are pressed together, hip to hip, driven forward by the delicious friction of their cocks together, but it’s not enough, not nearly.

Harry pauses, grips Draco’s arm to still him. They share another one of those looks, those looks that make Harry feel far more naked than his actual lack of clothing. Harry has done his research since his last encounter, begun to explore himself. He wants it, knows he wants it to be Draco, but he knows it will take time. Pulling away for lubricant, for space, for the right angle...no. He can't stand to be away from Draco's skin that long and, if the look in Draco's eyes is anything to go by, neither can he.

Draco is looking at him, his gaze edged with something curious, perhaps expectant.

“Next time? Harry asks.

“Next time,” Draco whispers, as though the words are unfamiliar. “Next time,” he says again, nodding, and dips his head to kiss Harry.

Harry, who reaches between them and wraps his fist around their cocks. Who strokes, once, twice, before Draco’s fingers cover his own.

They find a rhythm easily, slow and steady at first, increasing as speed as their hips begin to buck, as their breathing grows rapid. And then, with a strangled, “Harry,” Draco gasps. His body snaps taut, and the there’s hot liquid spilling over Harry’s fist as Draco moans his way through his orgasm.

Harry strokes him until Draco winces and pulls his hand away. He’s sweating, flushed. Gorgeous.

And then his hand starts moving again, taking Harry firmly in his grip and sliding over his shaft, running a thumb over his slit. Harry’s balls are tight, almost aching. “Please,” he moans. He wants to come, wants to share Draco’s post-coital bliss.

The thought is pushed from his head as pleasure blazes through him, sparks of light clouding his vision as he arches and comes, gasping one last set of, “Please, please, Draco, please,” as Draco eases him down onto the quilt.

His heart is pounding and he gropes for Draco’s hand. There’s a tightness behind his eyes when he finds that Draco’s been feeling around for his as well. Fingers twined together, they rest until the sweat begins to dry, until Harry feels a different sort of shiver coming on.

“Cold,” he murmurs.

“Mmm,” Draco agrees.

“Sheets?” Harry asks, adding, “Still haven’t felt the sheets.”

“Oh,” Draco pauses. “Yeah.”

“Do you…?”

The question hangs in the air for a moment before Draco squeezes his hand and lets go. “Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Yes, Potter.”

“Harry.”

“Yes.” Draco smiles, reaching to pull down the quilt. “Harry.”

The sheets are, it turns out, satisfactory for Draco’s hands, and his legs, and his good night’s sleep. And, in the morning, for another slow half-awake press of bodies. And after that, for breakfast in bed.

Chapter Text

He’s on his way to water the plants when Draco notices a new arrival. He diverts his course immediately.

It's the end of spring term at Hogwarts and all the usual routines are thrown into disarray. Every student with something to hide thinks they can get away with Vanishing it. In fairness to them, Draco thinks, they can. But "every student with something to hide” is almost all of them, and it's a nightmare. He'd finished clearing the dais fifteen minutes ago and there's already something new on it.

Approaching carefully - Wheezes are an ever-present danger - he can't quite make it out at first. It's small and steely grey. It doesn't look like any Wheeze he's familiar with.

Lifting his wand, he levitates the item and it falls into shape instantly. It's a pair of handcuffs. Well. Hogwarts students must be getting up to considerably more interesting things nowadays than he ever did at that age.

He's preparing a label when the bell from the front office rings. Even his interruption is interrupted. It's been that sort of a week. He slips the item into his pocket and half hopes, for the schadenfreude alone, that it's an angry parent with child in tow.

When he pushes through to the front office, he's met with a very different sort of surprise.

"Harry."

With an impish grin, his...person-of-significance-with-formal-labels-to-be-assigned-at-a-later-date leans forward onto the counter. "Hey."

"This is unexpected. I'm sorry to disappoint, but I took an early lunch and I'm afraid things are quite busy here at the moment."

"Oh, I'm not here to take you for lunch."

"Oh." Draco is taken aback. "Then...what?"

"It seems I've Vanished something, I'm afraid."

"You have?"

"Yes. Quite recently, actually, and I'm rather hoping you can help."

"Oh?" Draco feels the hint of a smile coming on. "Do tell."

"Tell? You don't need me to fill out a form?"

"Arse. Let me guess. A personal effect, black metal, Vanished at some point in the last fifteen minutes."

"That is a remarkably accurate guess. Could it be that you've already retrieved them?"

Draco reaches into his pocket and sets the handcuffs on the counter. "Depends. Is this the item you're describing?"

"You really are very good at your job."

"As you well know. And you were hoping to take this item with you, I gather?"

"Actually," Harry leans in, running his thumb over Draco's hands, "I was hoping you would."

"Highly irregular," Draco replies adopting his best bureaucratic demeanour. "You realise it breaks several important, possibly criminal, Ministry protocols to knowingly withhold Vanished items."

"Oh, no, you misunderstand. I want you to return them. I definitely want you to return them."

"Is that so?" Draco smirks.

"I was thinking maybe we could try implementing a different protocol for their return. One not usually available to the public."

"Asking for special treatment? How very like you, Potter."

“Isn’t it though? Probably ought to be punished for it really,”

“You’re relentless.”

“Is that punishable too?”

“Just for that, I’m keeping these.”

“Not permanently, I hope. I did come all the way down here to see about retrieving them.”

“Yes, I can see how thoroughly selfless that was.”

Harry shrugs. “You could always return them to me now.”

“Harry,” Draco sighs, though it’s fond. “You know it’s end of term. It’s a zoo.”

“Which is all the more reason for you to take a quick break?”

“Quick like the time you Vanished your favourite cock ring?”

“More like the time I Vanished my old Quidditch leathers.”

“The first time or the second?”

“The first.”

“That quick? Hmm.”

Harry grins.

“Oh, Merlin,” Draco sighs. “You know I can’t take time out today.”

“What are the odds I could appeal for some after hours retrieval?”

Draco bites down on a smile. “Perhaps I could be convinced, but it would be very difficult.” He lifts the handcuffs and examines them. “And your propensity for demanding special treatment certainly needs correcting.”

“I understand,” Harry says, faux-gravely. “I appreciate your willingness to accommodate.”

“Very well, then. I imagine you’ll be wanting home delivery, as well?”

“I thought the department didn’t assist with transportation?”

“The department will make an exception if you make that coq au vin for dinner first.”

“You sure? We’re learning soufflés in class this week.”

“Coq au vin has much less chance of falling.”

“My soufflés don’t fall.” At Draco’s look, he adds “Anymore.”

“Then I suppose I’ll leave it to you.”

“Alright. Though if you’re going to make exceptions, figure I might as well make it worth your while.”

“I’m sure you’ll find a way. Besides which,” Draco leans forward, mock-seriously, “it’s hardly an exception if I’m returning an item that is, technically, my own.”

“I thought they were ours,” Harry pouts.

“In spirit, yes. But technically, you purchased the blindfold while I ordered the handcuffs.”

“In that case, no need for incentives, is there?”

“Hey,” Draco reaches over and pulls him close. “Coq au vin, soufflés, and I’ll return them properly later tonight.”

“You’re sure I have to wait?”

“Insatiable,” Draco smiles. “I’ll see you this evening.”