Title: Twin Knives
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairing: Harry/Draco, past Harry/Ginny and Draco/Astoria
Warnings: Violence, angst, somewhere between EWE and epilogue-compliant
Wordcount: This part 3900
Summary: Draco has narcolepsy—and violent dreams. Harry has insomnia—and enemies. It takes Draco a while to figure out how their problems are connected, but once he does, it's their enemy who should watch out.
Author's Notes: Another Wednesday one-shot, based on a prompt from enamoril: Harry has been cursed with insomnia, and Draco with selective but debilitating narcolepsy. Draco frequently dreams of Harry trying to kill him during his sleeping moments, and discovers that the curse placed on them came from the same source... someone whose trying to drive Draco to kill Harry, who is overworked in the Auror ranks. Non canon- Divorce from Ginny due to work obsession before any kids were conceived. Draco lost Scorpius to Astoria in his recent divorce due to incompetence from the narcolepsy. Also, I'd like them to end up together. Otherwise, take it where you will :3. Due to the length and complexity of the prompt, this one-shot will have three parts, one posted this Wednesday and the others during the following two weeks.
Draco strained his neck, but he couldn't move. The cords that tied him down to the makeshift altar were too tight, already pulled to their taut limit. Draco tried to move his hands, and he couldn't do that, either. He was held helpless.
The figure above him moved slowly towards him, eyes glowing in the dim flicker of lightning from above. It wore a hood and heavy cloak, but for all that, Draco could make out the green eyes and familiar lightning bolt scar above him before the knife came down.
Draco jerked himself awake, spitting and swearing. He lifted his head and looked bleakly around the small, bare office he'd been exiled to lately, since he had fallen asleep during the last conference on the management of dragon reserves.
The way he'd fallen asleep again here. And had another dream about Potter almost killing him.
Draco stood up, his hands so firm on the edge of the table that it felt as though he could never fall asleep again, that he would feel that hardness branded into his palms until the end of time. But he knew better. He was prone to falling asleep in the middle of speaking, in the middle of walking, and a few times, it was only Greg or some other quick friend nearby that had saved him from a concussion. He hadn't dared ride a broom since this had started.
And he had fallen asleep in court, and lost the most important case of his life, the moment when he'd had to explain to the judge why Scorpius should stay with him.
Draco growled softly. He should have done something about this before. He knew well enough that his narcolepsy wasn't natural, and neither were those dreams. He might have dreams about Potter, of course, because Potter appeared in a lot of his war memories that got turned into nightmares on a regular basis.
But not like this. And as far as Draco knew, the magic of the life-debts that connected them should have prevented him from obsessing about Potter's ability to harm him. People who owed each other life-debts had a faint, magical connection that made them a little more open to each other.
A tiny bit, Draco had to concede. He knew James Potter had saved Professor Snape's life, and he had seen how much Snape hated the dead Potter. But Potter himself, and Draco, had had no such deep enmity.
Which meant this was a curse. Draco should have investigated the possibility before, but between fighting to get custody of Scorpius, and then pressing Astoria for a chance to be allowed to see him, and avoiding his disappointed parents' firecalls, and struggling to keep his job—small as it was, it was his—in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, he hadn't had the time or the energy.
Now, he did.
Draco's hand tightened on his desk again. He might fall asleep in the meantime, but for now, he was awake. And that meant he had to go do some research.
"Harry. Go the fuck home."
Harry didn't bother looking up. He had a few more forms to sign, and after that came the report on the Goblyn case that had turned so unexpectedly violent. There was always more to do, and more time to do it in now that he didn't sleep anymore. "What home would that be, Ron? The one Ginny took away? Or the flat that my landlord keeps displaying to people eager to see where the Famous Harry Potter lives?"
Ron's breath caught, and then he leaned into Harry's field of vision and shook his head. "You know she wouldn't have taken it if she had a choice. She needs to have a home base to come back to when her team isn't playing."
Harry gave him a long, long stare until Ron grunted and turned away. He didn't bother making his voice soft when he added, "I see what she means. You are obsessed with work."
"Yeah," said Harry. "And if I could sleep, then I might not be. I might have spent some more time with her." That had once been the time of his best moments with Ginny, the moments just before they fell asleep, leaning together and whispering in soft voices about their plans and dreams.
"You know Hermione offered to research the cause of your insomnia for you." Ron wasn't looking at Harry right now.
"She didn't need to research it, she said, because she said she knew it." Harry leaned back and sighed. He was losing precious minutes of working time. He wouldn't have grudged the loss if either he or Ron had stood a chance of convincing the other one, but he knew as well as Ron that neither of them would do anything but repeat the same words and ideas. "And I'm not going into therapy."
"You need it."
Harry shrugged. "Maybe I do, but if I don't sleep at all, I can't have nightmares, can I? I don't have any of the normal side-effects from not sleeping, either." Except the weariness that dogged him all the time—but not hallucinations, not a drunk feeling, not any of the other things that Harry knew should be happening to someone who didn't get regular sleep, never mind four months without a wink of it. "This is magical."
"And you know that Hermione cast all the spells she could, and she still couldn't figure it out." Ron's hand tapped against his knee as though he was considering reaching out and hitting Harry on the side of the head. Honestly, Harry was surprised it hadn't happened yet. It was a wonder that he and Ron managed to work together at all, considering the tension that had swirled between them ever since Ginny. "It has to be your nightmares."
Harry only turned back to his paperwork and didn't respond. Hermione's latest theory was that Harry was using his own magic to keep himself awake, both so that he could avoid the nightmares and so that he could get more work done. Harry had argued that wasn't true, Hermione had pointed out that he wouldn't know about it because it wasn't conscious, and that conversation had ended badly.
Like so many of his conversations, lately.
"When you want someone to talk to, mate," said Ron, and his voice was bitter, "then say something to me again."
Harry sighed and listened to the door shut before he went back to signing the forms. The truth was, he did work better without anyone around. Even though he and Ron didn't spend a lot of time talking, the mere silent humming, the buzz of their disagreements, was enough to distract Harry.
He and Ron still worked together in the field well, or the Ministry would have found other partners for them. But Harry thought it would come to that in the end. Either he would ask for someone else, or Ron would.
Harry shook his head and stood up. Right now, he was so distracted that the blur of thoughts actually kept him from seeing the parchment. He would take a brief break, go to the loo and get a cup of tea. And then he would come back and keep working.
He turned around, and saw Malfoy standing in the doorframe.
Harry blinked at him in silence. He hadn't seen Malfoy in person since the Death Eater trials. Well, and there had been that one time last year when Malfoy had been a witness to the theft of a rare egg from his Department. But Harry couldn't imagine why Malfoy would have sought him out.
Malfoy studied him closely for a second. He looked like hell, Harry noted absently. Even though he had never heard that Malfoy suffered from the same kind of insomnia he did, the prat had a year's worth of dark circles under his eyes, and his back was stiff.
"I need to talk to you, Potter," Malfoy whispered. "About a curse that's been cast on both of us."
Maybe it is insomnia. Harry's path was so separate from Malfoy's that the rumors might have passed right under his awareness. Interested now, he nodded and gestured Malfoy to the chair in front of the desk. "Are you having trouble sleeping, too?"
Malfoy opened his mouth in what looked like a pant rather than a laugh as he sat down. "No. I've been falling asleep all the time." He leaned in and stabbed a finger at Harry as if he thought Harry was the one who had cast the curse. "And I finally investigated what it could be, and narrowed down the list of Dark spells. And then I started searching for someone who was suffering from insomnia." He paused. "Honestly, it didn't take that long. Most of my dreams are about you."
Harry paused. Then he sat down, and said, "Why?"
"Because this is the Twin Knives curse," said Malfoy. "I didn't recognize it at first because it can be cast any number of ways, having equal but opposite effects on two people, and I hadn't ever heard about it using sleep as the vehicle." His face had gone white and taut. "I thought I was the prime target, because the insomnia you've received apparently doesn't have that many ill effects on you."
Harry shrugged. "It's alienated me from my friends. They think it's magical, but they also think I used my own magic to cause it so I could spend more time at work." He was at least a little intrigued. He had had people approach him with explanations or treatments for the insomnia who obviously wanted something from him, but he didn't think Malfoy needed his autograph or anything. "What do you dream about where I'm concerned?"
"You trying to kill me." Malfoy rubbed the back of his neck. "Now, though, I think the target is you."
Harry grunted, accepting that. Merlin knew he had enough enemies. "Why?"
Malfoy paused for a second. "Do you have often have fantasies about trying to kill me?"
Harry stared long enough to make Malfoy flush, and then he said, softly and precisely, "No."
"Well, then, this isn't drawing on fantasies in your head that could have provided material for the curse," said Malfoy, and looked away for a moment, scratching the back of his neck. "And you haven't felt the urge to seek me out and use your wand on me in a violent manner."
"Not the last I looked, no," said Harry, and drew a frustrated glance from Malfoy before he shook his head and stared down at his hands.
"And honestly, I don't think someone would bother with me now," Malfoy said. "Not when I've already testified about all the war crimes I knew of, escaped Azkaban, and lost custody of my son. I could almost see Astoria casting the curse, but it would have ended when she won. And she wouldn't have had a particular reason to pick you, or inflict me with visions like that."
Harry thought a second, arms crossed on his desk. He had been willing to accept the insomnia and the way it slowed his thoughts because it gave him so much more time to think them instead of resting uselessly in bed, but now he wondered about the price. "So you think that the visions are—what, pushing you to kill me in self-defense?"
"Yes," said Malfoy simply, and crossed one leg over the other. Harry must be more dazed by lack of sleep than he thought, because he almost regarded the motion as elegant. "That's the usual purpose of the Twin Knives curse. One knife, the less important victim, is directed against the other."
Harry ran his fingers through his head and let out a soft sigh. What Malfoy was saying made sense, but—"You know how many enemies I have? Figuring out which one of them it is isn't going to be easy."
He looked up at the sound of a soft thunk. Malfoy's head had dropped forwards onto the desk, and he was breathing so heavily that if Harry had found him at a crime scene, his first fear would have been smoke inhalation. But he was only asleep, and not easy to wake up, as Harry found out when he shook him.
Harry paused a moment to regard him with pity. He could only imagine what that would have done to Malfoy's chances of winning custody of his son in court.
Then he moved Malfoy's head out of the way and quietly went on working. He couldn't do anything more until Malfoy woke, given that he had no lead on the curse except what Malfoy had told him, and it didn't do to waste time.
Draco woke from a vision, this time, of Potter stalking him through the corridors of the Ministry. It was more realistic than the last fifteen or so, and Draco was afraid that they would only grow more realistic from here on out. He exhaled hard and rubbed at his cheeks.
"Are you all right?"
Draco nearly leaped up from the chair before he remembered where he was and that he had sought out Potter on purpose. He sat back down, shaking a little. Potter nodded at him and shoved aside the stack of paperwork in front of him.
"Were you…writing while I was asleep?" Draco asked, staring at him. It seemed so. There were inkstains on Potter's fingers that he didn't remember being there only a few minutes ago, or however long he had slept. He cast a subtle Tempus Charm and saw that it had been about ten minutes.
"Yes," said Potter, his eyebrows rising a little. "I don't know anything about this spell, so I didn't know how long it would be until you woke up. I wasn't going to waste the time."
Draco whistled softly. "No wonder you got divorced, too."
Potter turned and looked at the wall as though there was a window there. But although Draco thought he was certainly high-ranking enough to have merited one, there was only the stone. "Not you, too," he said, and his voice was almost a monotone. "That's all they want to tell me, Ron and Hermione and Ginny and the rest of them, that I'm too obsessed with my job."
"You are, if you haven't sought help before now," said Draco. "You got divorced three months ago, right?"
Potter blinked at him. "Right."
"And you were suffering the insomnia before that," Draco concluded. That had to be true, because his own inconvenient bouts of sleep had started before then, and the Twin Knives curse inflicted both its horrible parts at the same time. "What did your wife say about that? You never thought you should go and have a Healer look at you?" Damn, he could have been out of this before if Potter had gone to someone knowledgeable enough to recognize the Twin Knives when they were looking at them.
On the other hand, it was a Dark curse, and most Healers only studied ways to counter them, not how to cast them. And without the other person who was suffering from the Twin Knives—in this case, Draco, who with his visions had known Potter was connected somehow—it was very hard to diagnose.
"She didn't like it, of course." Potter had his head turned away again. "She said that I cared more about being an Auror than I did about her."
"Well, you probably did," said Draco, who saw no reason to mince his words.
Potter winced visibly and glared at him. "Do you want my help or not?"
"You don't care about getting the curse removed for its own sake?" Draco stared. Trust whoever had cast this to have paired him with someone who didn't care about curing the spell.
Potter waved his hand. "The extra time is useful. And I'm not the one who's really suffering from it, am I?"
"You're not afraid that I might be driven to kill you?" Draco asked. "If only in self-defense?"
Potter's gaze came back to him, and his face was faintly amused. "You're nothing I can't handle."
Draco wanted to snap at that, but from Potter's perspective, it was probably true. Still, it stung. "Well, I want to get this solved," he said. "And that means we have to start thinking of people who wish both of us harm. Or at least don't like me enough that they don't have any trouble using me as a weapon to get rid of you."
"A Death Eater," said Potter, his voice faint and bored.
Draco snorted a little. "That's another reason I didn't get here until now. I was investigating the current status of the Death Eaters who are still alive. Except me, of course," he added, when Potter's eyes went a little too visibly to his left arm. "And all of them are in Azkaban. They don't have wands. They couldn't get close enough to cast the curse, anyway."
Potter sat up, and his eyes burned a little. Of course that's what it needs to get him to take an interest, Draco thought, and held back from rolling his eyes with an effort. Connect it to a case, a mystery.
"Then we're dealing with someone who has Auror training," said Potter.
Draco blinked. "How do you reckon that? I didn't know about this spell because I'm a Death Eater. It's one that any reasonably well-educated wizard would know."
Potter didn't even seem to notice the crack aimed at his own learning. "Because, first of all, it can't just be a Dark wizard I've annoyed, or they wouldn't have a reason to target you," he said, holding up one finger. "I doubt you've been an annoyance to them lately."
"I have been doing my work," said Draco.
Potter gave him a faint smile of disbelief. Draco was coming to dislike Potter on his own merits again, regardless of the part he played in Draco's inconvenient dreams. "Yes, but I also doubt that you've taken any beloved pet of a Dark wizard into custody," he said.
Draco scowled. That was, unfortunately, true. It did seem as though people who wanted to break the Experimental Breeding Ban weren't Dark or even mad so much as overly enthusiastic idiots. Rather like Potter's friend Hagrid.
Before Draco could mention that, Potter went smoothly on. "An Auror, on the other hand, might have a grudge against me, and also have a grudge against you, if they thought that you escaped justice when you escaped Azkaban."
"Maybe," said Draco. "But I still think this has to be more complicated than that. Someone could have chosen me because of the rivalry that we used to have, and they would think that my killing you would be—less questioned—because of that."
Potter only nodded, once again not disturbed by discussion of his own death. Draco wondered for a second what would make passion flash in his eyes. Even the interest the case seemed to have excited in him was only an academic one. Maybe the insomnia had dimmed all his emotions. "That's true. But I didn't tell you the other reasons that I think the killer is an Auror."
Draco folded his arms and rolled his eyes. "Then, by all means, enlighten me."
Potter didn't react to the sarcastic tone, except to blink at Draco a little, as if encouraging him to calm down. Then he shrugged and said, "Because I remember that curse, now that you mention it. It was taught to the Aurors in the year ahead of me, because they said it could be a useful tool to incapacitate a pair of criminals working together. By the time I got to that part of the training, though, they'd decided it was too Dark to keep using."
"So you don't know how to cast it, but you know who might," Draco breathed. "So we've only got Aurors older than you to check out." He sniffed and sat up. "Still a large group."
Potter nodded. "Yes. But smaller than all the Dark wizards in Britain."
"Fine," said Draco. "Tell me the ones you've annoyed, and I can maybe tell you the names that sound familiar." He was sure he would have had to come into contact with the Auror at some point. The Twin Knives curse relied on the caster's wand touching a victim at least once.
"Who haven't I annoyed?" Potter shrugged wearily. "There are ones who are angry at me because they were friends with Ginny or they knew her." Draco nodded, remembering that Potter's wife, ex-wife, had been part of the Auror ranks briefly before she decided she would rather play Quidditch. "And there are ones who are angry that I spend so much time working and take some of the most high-profile cases."
Draco blinked and sat up. "That's it."
"How do you know?" Potter leaned back in his chair, evidently wanting to put some distance between him and Draco. "A minute ago, you didn't even know it was an Auror."
"Because jealousy is the best motive for a crime such as this," Draco said, shaking his head. "Jealousy doesn't care who it hurts. The person who did it might be sorry later, but they'll probably convince themselves that you deserved it."
"I'll submit to your expert knowledge of criminal motivations," said Potter. Draco checked his face cautiously, but it was hard to tell if he was joking. "So. That limits the number considerably. Most of the Aurors older than me don't resent me. They're better Aurors anyway."
"Sometimes modesty goes too far," Draco muttered, but Potter only gave him a blank look and didn't seem to understand. Draco gave up on getting him to see it. "You think you could name them now?"
"That won't be necessary."
The voice was low and smooth and dark and came from the doorway. Draco spun, already rising from his chair, his hand on his wand. He knew that he would have to defend himself from another curse in a moment, and that meant—
His limbs grew heavy. His eyes closed. He screamed inwardly, but the curse had no pity on him.
As he plummeted towards the floor, the last thing Draco saw was Potter leaping in between him and the cloaked figure at the door.