In the summer in the garden in the rain, Draco Malfoy crashes into him, kisses him like a drowning man gasps for air. It is wild and frantic, electric and white-hot, and Harry kisses him back for reasons just beyond the edge of his understanding.

Warm rain rolls down his skin, fingers grope at his ribs, and Harry kisses him until he is drunk off it, until he's dizzy with it, until he is able to almost – almost – forget who they are, where they are, what they're doing.

The initial roar of it settles some, into a steady rhythm. Breath catches, muscles tighten under Harry's hands.

He pulls away. "I—"

Harry swallows, looks back toward the wide French doors that stand open, leading into Grimmauld Place. He can hear the vague, distant sounds of conversation coming from just inside, but nothing like alarm. No one in the party saw.

Draco pulls away. "I'm sorry," he says. There is white-blonde hair, slick with rainwater, falling in his eyes.

"Why?" Harry asks.

"I shouldn't have done that," he says. He blinks against the rain, turns his head away.

"When have either of us benefited from doing the things we should have done?" Harry asks.

Draco looks back at him and frowns. Harry is fascinated with the drops of rain that follow the curve of his cheek, that roll over and down his lips.

"We're partners," he says. "There are rules—"

Harry catches the raindrop hanging from his lip in a kiss. Draco's breath stammers; Harry steers him backward against the warm, rainslicked stone of the wall, out of view, and returns the favor of the incredible kiss. Draco makes lovely sounds, makes lovely movements, and his fingertips return to Harry's ribs.

"When have either of us benefited from rules?" Harry asks into his mouth.

Draco answers only with a moan. Harry goes back to kissing him.

In winter in the hallway in the small hours of the morning, Draco comes striding down the hallway, expression stormy, black robes billowing around his feet.

"Great," he says, the moment he's in earshot.

Harry frowns. If there is some part of him that is admiring the striking black-on-black robes of an Unspeakable and the way they contour so easily to every shallow curve of his body, if there is some part of Harry's animal brain that is remembering the way those shallow curves felt under his fingertips, then Harry keeps that part firmly in check.

"Brilliant," Harry echoes. "I can't imagine why he'd call us both here, but it can't be anything good."

"Let's get this over with," Draco says, moving brusquely for the door.

Harry starts. "You can't just walk into the Minister of Magic's office—" he begins, but Draco is already turning the handle.

"I switched departments to get away from you, Potter," he offers, flippantly, "a door won't stop me."

Harry growls in the back of his throat. "I doubt there's anything that will keep you from running away."

"Suck on every cock in the universe, Potter," Draco says, which catches Shacklebolt's secretary quite off-guard.

"Uh," she squeaks, "the Minister isn't—"

"Yes, he is," Draco interjects. "We're going through."

"You can't—"

But Draco does, breezing right through the antechamber and toward the wide double doors engraved with MINISTER OF MAGIC. Harry follows, disliking for entirely childish reasons the idea that he has to be the one following Draco.

If Shacklebolt is at all surprised that they come barging into the office of the most powerful man in Britain entirely unannounced, he doesn't show it. When the doors swing open, he glances up once over his wire-frame glasses, then returns his focus to the stack of parchments in front of him.

"For all his faults, Mr. Malfoy," Shacklebolt says by way of greeting, "your father did manage to instill some sense of propriety in you. I wonder where that's gone."

"Bets are off when you force me into the same room as this wanker."

"Standing right here," Harry says icily.

Shacklebolt sighs. He takes off his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose.

"Do either of you two remember when you were the best partners in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?" he asks.

"Unfortunately," Harry says.

"Like a shellshocked soldier," Draco adds.

"This is going to be a disaster." Shacklebolt rises, crosses the room, shuts his office door.

"Sounds like it," Draco says.

"Trust me, if I thought I had any recourse, I would be doing that instead. Unfortunately, this is a matter of the most profound importance that directly affects Britain's national security interests."

"If you're trying to get us to work together again—"

"Sit," Shacklebolt interrupts.

Harry and Draco exchange uneasy glances, but they sit. Shacklebolt sits across from them, at his desk, setting aside the stacks of parchment he'd been working on when they arrived.

"I left the department, Shacklebolt," Draco reminds him. "I'm not an auror anymore."

"Trust me, I remember," Shacklebolt says.

"The fit you threw, it would be hard to forget."

"Fuck yourself on plywood, Potter."

"If you two don't resolve your differences quickly," Shacklebolt interrupts, "a lot of people are going to die."

It doesn't really drain the anger, but it does defuse some of the tension. Harry feels the nettle of Draco's gaze on him, but he does not look back.

"That seems hyperbolic," Draco says after a moment, presumably when Harry refuses to meet his eyes.

"Antonio Sorrentino," Shacklebolt says. He opens his desk drawer and produces case file, in the all-too-familiar grey-and-tan cardstock folder, which he tosses to Draco. "The friendly, public face on an Italian purist extremist group."

"So why is it our problem and not Italy's?" Harry asks.

"We're working with them on this case," Shacklebolt says, "ever since it came to light that they'll be transporting something very big and very dangerous to England via Florence."

Harry frowns. "Transporting what?"

"If we knew, we'd tell you."

Draco is thumbing over the first few papers in the folder, and Harry watches his face as each individual feature falls into the shape of a frown. Harry remembers, all at once, the long process of memorizing the minutiae of his expressions, of learning to discern the quirk of an eyebrow from the twitch of a mouth. He remembers the strange, fluttering sense of accomplishment he felt when he realized just how well he knew Draco, how easily he could read every subtle change in that porcelain face. It makes something deep in him ache, which in turn makes the rest of him very angry.

"You look stupid when you read," Harry says to make himself feel better.

"You look stupid when you say or do absolutely fucking anything," Draco snaps back, eyes trained firmly on the case file.

"Merlin's tits," Shacklebolt sighs.

"We can't work together," Harry says. "Send me in alone. Malfoy's not even an auror anymore."

"But he still has all his auror training," Shacklebolt says. "And trust me, given where you'll be undercover, you'll need him. There aren't a lot of aurors, past or present, who—"

"La Fenice?" Draco says suddenly. "The Florentine opera house?"

"The same," Shacklebolt says. "You see now why we need to pull you out of the Department of Mysteries for this. Not a lot of crossover in background, law enforcement and opera."

"What in shitting fuck does Draco Malfoy know about opera?" Harry asks.

This, somehow, seems to make Draco more angry than any other comment. He snaps the case file shut and if looks could kill, Harry would be almost certainly catch fire. "Fuck you, Potter, I'm a classically trained countertenor."

Despite himself, Harry's surprised. "You are?"

"I spent six years in a Viennese conservatory, dickhead!"

This does little to abate Harry's surprise. "You did?"

"We were partners for over a year! Did you never once listen when I talked?"

"Apparently not," Harry says.

Draco growls, snaps the case file shut, tosses it back onto Shacklebolt's desk. "We can't work together," he says – or to be more accurate, repeats. "I have moral objections to being in the same room as him."

"Then consider yourself under the orders of the Minister of Magic to reevaluate your morality," Shacklebolt returns, not missing a beat, "because this case is far too important to be squandered because the two of you can't get over whatever dragon shit it is that forces you to squabble like children."

Draco purses his lips, sits back in his chair, folds his arms. Harry's mind is going back – however unwillingly – over the long road that brought them to this point. Shacklebolt has every right to be angry, Harry supposes. If it were him dealing with the loss of two of his objectively best aurors, he'd be angry, too.

"We don't know what sort of deal will be going down at the opera house, but we know it's going to be big, and we know that it has the capacity to kill a lot of people. I need the best team available, which unfortunately for me means you two.

"This is not a request," Shacklebolt says. "Work out your differences. I don't care what they are. You're leaving for Florence tomorrow."

"Minister—" Harry begins.

"You're dismissed."

And as much as Harry knows they both enjoy sassing the Minister of Magic, in practice it only goes so far. In the end, he is still the Minister of Magic. Or more relevantly, he is still their extremely scary boss.

Shacklebolt, as if in further signal that he is done with the conversation, returns to his large stack of parchments.

Draco spends a few brief, tense seconds drumming his fingernails on the arm of his chair before abruptly rising to his feet, grabbing the file, and spinning around to exit the office. Harry chews his lip a moment in silence.

"Is there any way I can talk you out of—"

"Get out of my office."


Harry rises and leaves. There is a knot forming in the pit of his stomach, a dread more intense than he'd anticipated. He tells himself that he should be more angry than anxious, but now that he has to confront it head-on, the shallow veneer of indignation melts away as though it was never there at all, and Harry is forced to tackle the uncomfortable realization that he is far more fearful than he is upset.

"I would ask if you want a copy of the file," Draco says when Harry steps through the antechamber and into the hallway again, "but as I recall, you don't read case files."

It hurts more than it should, more than Harry wants to admit, perhaps for the same reason Harry is so suddenly fearful – because Harry will have to spend the next few weeks working with Draco again, because all the bad history is already bubbling up to the surface, and Harry isn't sure he's ready for it.

"Two months since we've split up," Draco continues, voice terse, "and still you manage to make my life difficult."

"Well if it makes you feel better, I'm not looking forward to it, either."

"It doesn't make me feel better."

Harry suspected that it wouldn't. "Well, it's happening anyway, so perhaps we should call for a cease-fire."

Draco snorts derisively. "As if that would last. You were never able to keep your fucking mouth shut about anything, even when…"

The second half of the sentence hangs in the air, unspoken but not unacknowledged. When we were together. Harry's face tightens, and the knot of dread in him only grows. He is not ready to confront this. He cannot imagine that he ever will be.

"You're the one that called it off, Malfoy," Harry reminds him, voice low.

A darkness comes over Draco's face, deeper and more deadly than any of the biting, flippant anger he'd shown in Shacklebolt's office. "I'm not doing this with you," he says, voice dangerous. "Be at the fucking Floo station tomorrow morning on time or I'm leaving without you."

He storms off, and Harry can detect a subtle trembling in the hand that clenches the file, and Harry is not ready for this, he is not ready for this.