Depending on how one chooses to look at it, things are either progressing nicely or at a complete standstill. It's true, for example, that they haven't been able to make it past the cellar door despite several weeks of increasingly convoluted efforts; however, it is also true that Draco has been working through each careful layer of spellwork one by one, and that the progress is measurable, just not, they are beginning to suspect, quick enough, as the deadline of opening night looms.
Similarly, it is true that the incident in the hallway against the wall over fifteen breathless, passionate, blindingly erotic minutes has gone more or less unacknowledged by either party since it happened, but it is also true that in that interim silence, Harry has confronted several realities that he had theretofore left unexamined. He doesn't know exactly what to do with the new information, but he nonetheless has it.
The deadline is drawing ever closer, however, entirely unconcerned with their progress, or lack thereof. Dress rehearsals came and went, tickets for opening night sold out rapidly, and the shadow of everything they had not yet seen through became a perpetual cloud hanging over their heads.
Then, on the evening of opening night, the answer metaphorically hit Harry over the head in the form of a conversation.
"And Singh is definitely coming?"
It's two of the investors, speaking under their breaths as they exit the house toward the end of the final dress rehearsal. Harry stops several yards away and around the corner, rooting through his pockets, ostensibly searching for his pocket watch, giving him a reason to eavesdrop.
"She is," answers the other. It's Esposito and Ivanov again; Harry is beginning to suspect that they are the ones in charge of the project under the opera house. "Dirty traitor whore. She deserves worse."
Harry racks his mind. The only Singh that Harry can think of who would be relevant is Malai Singh, a noted Thai blood egalitarian and activist. But why would she be coming here? She would hardly travel in the same circles as Esposito and Ivanov – if anything, they would have reason to…
Harry's mind churns slowly.
"And the rest?"
"Almost all accepted. Don't worry, Marina, everything will come to fruition."
"So long as we're far enough away before that curtain rises tonight."
Harry may not be as quick as Draco, but it doesn't take any sort of genius to put it together. His heart rate picks up. If he's right, they have only hours before hundreds of people are going to die.
Harry turns to head back toward the house, and then the answer literally hits Harry over the head in the form of a sharp confundus hex.
Harry staggers forward; but for years of Auror training and learned resistance to hexes, he would be unconscious. He splays his hand on the wall, tries to catch himself and then feels a wand pressed to the back of his neck.
Even delirious from near-unconsciousness, Harry recognizes Giuseppe's voice. Harry wets his lips and spends a few critical seconds trying to put together a plan through the haze of pain.
"Word came down from above – a mole was found intercepting communications, an Italian spy who claims to be a contact to two undercover English aurors."
"What's under the opera house?" Harry slurs, foregoing his fake accent.
"Never you mind that, Forger," Giuseppe answers, "or whatever your name is. Only one of the pair of you needs to be alive for questioning, and frankly, I think we could have more fun with the blonde."
Harry feels a sudden surge of fear and adrenaline.
Harry regains his footing, spins, and CRACK – Giuseppe's neck snaps under his hands like fragile porcelain before the rest of the curse is out of his mouth. Harry pants, and his vision swims, and he drags Giuseppe's body into a nearby closet. It's not perfect, but it will have to do. Either way, Harry's sure it won't matter past the moment the curtain rises in La fenice.
Draco spins, and he can tell at once that Harry's been hit with a bad hex. There aren't a lot of good explanations for that.
"Fuck," he says.
"We've been found out. I think I know what the plan is, and we have to go now. We have to get into the cellar or a lot of people are going to die!"
Draco rises. With his hair tied back and leg warmers sagging around his ankles, he's hardly battle ready. "The opera—"
"Fuck the show, Malfoy, there's some kind of bomb under the opera house, and people are already starting to arrive!"
It goes against every artistic bone in his body, but Draco swears and grabs his wand off the vanity. "Let's go."
"They've invited a whole bunch of blood egalitarians, activists, outspoken politicians," Harry says as they run from the dressing room. "I checked the list in the box office before I came. They're going to get all their enemies in one place and—"
"Fuck," Draco hisses.
"We need to get down there right now, but I don't know—"
"I can get us down," Draco says.
"Then why haven't you yet?"
"Because up till now I've been going for subtlety over speed, but now that we're pressed for time—"
CRASH! The moment they come around the corner, a red bolt of light flies past Draco's head and shatters a mirror behind them. Draco counts two, four, eight – shit.
"You take the left," Harry says.
"Just like old times," Draco answers, and they dive into the fray, wands blazing.
In the front of the house, the guests arrive, dressed to the nines, glittering, laughing, chatting about the bold new reimagining of the classic.
Along the sides, out of view, a battle rages. Bodies drop one by one, curses fly, plaster splits and crumbles. Harry and Draco fight their way down and down and down, through what feels like an endless number of stagehands, all of them apparently alerted to their presence.
"We have to pool magical power," Draco says, panting hard as they run down the last stretch of hallway toward the door. "My finesse, your raw strength. A temporary psychic link that lets us channel one magic into the wards over the door."
"Sounds good," Harry says. "Let's do it."
"Give me your hand."
Harry extends it. Draco grabs it too tightly, and somehow not tight enough.
For a moment, sort of vaguely and distantly, Harry can feel Malfoy's presence, his magic pressing into his own – but even with Harry's limited knowledge of cooperative magic, he can tell—
"What's wrong?" Harry asks. "Why isn't it working?"
Draco's eyes are shut, frowning in impatient concentration at the doorway. "We're not – we aren't letting each other in."
"What does that mean?"
Draco grinds his teeth. "It means that our magic doesn't want to combine because we have unresolved issues."
Harry stares at him in silence for a moment. Then, "Our magic wants us to work out our baggage."
"No, we want to work out our baggage!" Draco snaps, yanking his hand from Harry's, and Harry shakes off the sudden feeling of bereftness. "Magic is only as cooperative as the magic user's mind lets it be. We can't work together because we can't work together, because we're too caught up with everything we're not talking about!"
"You've got to be fucking kidding me!" Harry shouts at him. "Hundreds of people are going to die because we're scared of emotional vulnerability?"
"We don't have time for this!" Draco shouts back at him, then he grips his hair and screws his eyes shut and says, "I – fuck – Harry, I – I'm sorry about what happened with Weasley—"
"Are we really doing this?"
"What choice do we have?"
It's a good question, and as patently ridiculous as it seems to hang the lives of so many people on them working out their unresolved emotional issues, Harry supposes there's little enough point in fighting it.
"Fine," Harry says. "Fine! Yes, you should fucking be sorry!"
"Well, I am!" Draco yells, voice echoing through the hallway. "I'm really sorry! I just wanted to do what was best for you!"
"Well bang-up job on that, Malfoy, because what you ended up doing was absolutely fucking wrecking me. I was not sober for a week after you left!"
"I'm sorry!" Draco cries again. "It just – God, I was just so scared – not only of hurting you, but of letting myself get hurt – it's not easy for me, you know!"
"Are you honestly trying to get me to sympathize with you after you broke up with me?"
Something behind the door rumbles. They both seem to realize that they don't have a lot of time left.
"You grew up with Muggles, Harry! It's different for you! Pureblood culture is just – it's so bloody steeped in homophobia; I grew up hating myself for having a crush on Blaise Zabini, feeling like absolute filth every time I daydreamed about a boy, and it's not like any of that went away!"
The rumbling gets louder. "Malfoy, talk faster!"
"And then you just sauntered back into my life and you were so funny and charming and you just forgave me for everything that happened, even though I didn't deserve it—"
"Didn't deserve it? Malfoy, of course you deserved it—!"
"—and you're perfect and lovely and fit and I hated myself for how much I liked you, and when Weasley came along it was so much easier to follow her logic than to admit to myself that I—"
Harry stares at him, then the door, then Draco again, then the door again. "That what? Malfoy, we haven't got the time—!"
"It was easier to agree with her than it was to admit to myself that I was scared because I was falling in love with you!"
"Malfoy, I was falling in love with you, too, you absolute fucking knob!"
Harry grabs him by the face and kisses him ferociously, because they do not have time for this, and Draco kisses him back like fire and sin, and he grabs Harry's hand in his own and presses it into the door. There comes a great shattering sound, an explosion of magic, and not only does the ward come apart, but so does the entire door, like brittle glass.
Harry drags himself away just as Draco does, and they cross through into a dark, cavernous, boiling hot room – the exposed vein of the hot spring running underneath the opera house. It is swelling with Dark Magic, pulsing and vibrating and rumbling to a crescendo.
"They've run the curse through the entire spring!" Draco cries over the deafening sound. "This could take out the whole city!"
"Can we disarm it?" Harry shouts back at him.
Draco looks at him a moment, then holds up his hand as an offer to Harry.
Harry takes it without a second though. "Once more, then, with feeling!"
Draco's magic surges into Harry's, and together, with one great force of magic, they push—
Draco can tell by the movement of Shacklebolt's eyes that he's read the same line for the fifth time. He wets his lips, glances sideways at Harry, who gives him a small, reassuring smile.
"Well," Shacklebolt says eventually, slowly, setting the report back down, "I suppose the bright side of this whole ordeal is that you managed to keep the total number of deaths below double digits."
"In fairness, Minister," Draco says, "we did tell you that we didn't want to work together."
"Yes, that was the big oversight in this case."
Draco sits back, looking rather like a scolded child.
"You breached protocol so many times and in so many – let's call it – unlikely ways that frankly I'm amazed you managed to achieve the mission's objective," Shacklebolt says. "It would be within my rights to strip both of you of your badges."
"I'm here on contract from the D of M, you can't strip me of what I don't have," Draco says.
"And I am objectively the best auror on staff," Harry says, "so firing me would be a colossal waste of resources."
"Yes, thanks," Shacklebolt snips at them. "How about we just send Mr. Malfoy back to his position as an Unspeakable, put Mr. Potter back with his previous partner, and if the Department of Internal Affairs comes knocking, we all plead obliviation?"
"Gladly, Sir," Harry says.
"What mission, Sir?" Draco adds.
"Now both of you get out of my office."
They stand up and leave before Shacklebolt comes up with another reason to yell at them. When the heavy oak door swings shut behind them, they both ease – Draco with a loosening through the shoulders, Harry with a single long, deep breath.
"That could have been worse," Harry decides.
"He could have hexed us, I suppose," Draco says.
"You know," Harry says, "breaches of protocol aside, we were pretty spectacular."
Draco looks at him sideways look. Harry grins at him.
"Dinner?" Harry asks.
"Fine," Draco says, "but no more of that shitty Muggle takeout you like so much. We're actual partners now, and it's time we started acting like it."
Harry laces his fingers easily into Draco's. "Sounds good to me."
Author's Note: AAAAAAAA thank you for reading! Especially those of you who were here from the beginning, I love you most of all! If you liked it, leave a review! I love me some reviews. :D