Winners Never Cheat (Unless They're Slytherin)
"It's gone," Malfoy said flatly.
"How can it be gone?" Harry snapped. "We've barely been out of here ten minutes."
"Granger. She must have followed us."
Harry scowled. It was more than possible. If Hermione had beaten them again, Malfoy would be a total bugger to be around for the next three weeks. As if emphasizing Harry's thoughts, Draco kicked the table and then hexed it into a pile of kindling in a fit of Slytherin rage.
Harry sighed, wishing Draco did not look so damned fetching when he was angry. The silver eyes sparkled with rage and his muscular chest heaved angrily. Draco's aristocratic fingers were clenched into fists and the long line of his body was tight with tension.
Harry swallowed hard and looked away with a muttered oath. His feelings for Malfoy were getting out of hand. If Draco ever found out Harry was falling hopelessly in love with him, he would request another Auror partner and go back to treating Harry like a hated enemy. Harry would do anything to avoid that.
"What was that, Potter?" Draco asked, obviously picking up on the curse.
"Well, you are the one that left the damned orb on the table," Harry said mildly and Draco's eyes flashed again.
"Now is not the best time to remind me of that."
Harry almost grinned, but not quite. It was not wise to provoke his irritated partner too far.
"Regardless, it's gone, so let's get out of here."
"We have to get it back," Draco said single-mindedly.
"We don't even know where it is!" Harry protested.
"Who else but Granger could have taken it? She always wins. I'm sick of her outwitting us!"
"She did not exactly outwit us. You left the damned thing on the table in plain sight." Draco's frozen glare let Harry know his thoughts on the reminder. Harry pressed on quickly. "Hell, it could have been us if we had a Time-Turner."
The silver eyes widened and then a wicked smile lit Draco's perfect features. Malfoy chuckled.
"Potter, I never thought I'd say this, but you're a bloody genius."
"What are you talking about?" Harry snapped while blushing, not only at the words, but also at his reaction to the sight of Draco lit up like a child at Christmas. God, the Slytherin was gorgeous when he smiled. It was mind numbing. Malfoy did not reply, he simply strode forward, grabbed Harry's shoulder, and Disapparated.
Harry nearly stumbled into him when they arrived outside the Ministry of Magic.
"What are we doing here?" he demanded. They were supposed to stay in Scotland until the Games were over. Of course, if Hermione had the orb, the Games were over for him and Malfoy, anyway.
"Cheating," Draco said simply. Before Harry could stop him, or even spit out a decent protest, Malfoy had marched into the building and entered an empty elevator. Harry hurried to join him before the doors closed. He glared at his partner.
"Where are we going?"
"Best not to ask, noble Gryffindor," Draco said cagily.
The doors opened and a couple of officials joined them, forcing Harry to hold his tongue. After a few more stops, Malfoy led the way to Rufus Scrimgeour's office. Harry halted in mortification when Draco turned the handle and walked in.
The rest of the department was deserted, having all gone to participate in—or simply watch—the Auror Games, but Harry still felt a moment of pure panic at the idea of breaking into the Minister of Magic's office.
"Malfoy?" he hissed, but took a tentative step forward, intending to back up his beautiful, but completely mental, win-obsessed partner, if necessary. He ran directly into Draco's chest and Malfoy steadied him with a hand on his arm.
"Got it, Potter. Let's go," Draco said and released him.
"What? I thought they were all destroyed!"
"So did I, until I spotted this one lurking in the good old boss's desk. He must keep it for emergencies. God knows what he's been messing with in the past. I shudder to think."
It was a sobering thought Harry did not care to contemplate. Hopefully the Minister knew that screwing with the past was a dangerous business. Though the irony of that thought was not lost on him, Harry followed Draco down the hall to a deserted storage room.
"Come inside, Potter. This is a clandestine operation, remember?"
"This is stupid and could get us fired. All because you hate to lose."
"If you don't shut up and get in here, I'll go alone." Harry snapped his jaw shut and entered the tiny room. He shut the door and found himself nearly on top of Draco in the dark. Malfoy lit his wand, which was somehow worse. Standing a mere hand-span in semi-darkness reminded Harry of spin-the-bottle and kissing—images he did not need at the moment.
Malfoy, of course, ignored him. He gripped the lit wand in his perfect teeth and looped the long chain over Harry's neck, binding them together with the golden links. Harry felt Malfoy's chest against his for a moment, and then Draco fiddled with the tiny hourglass, using both hands.
"How long were we at the castle?" Draco asked. His voice was muffled by the wand in his teeth. "What time did we get there?"
Harry looked at his watch. "I don't know. Round four? We were there maybe thirty minutes? It's five of five now."
Draco took the wand from his mouth.
"Okay, we'll go back to three forty five to be safe. We'll enter the castle and hide in that room you barely checked."
"It was empty!"
"An army could have been in there for the cursory look you gave it."
Harry scowled, but then the room dissolved and he felt the panic-inducing sensation of flying backward with nothing solid around him. It only lasted a moment, and then the room reformed.
"Interesting sensation," Draco commented and pulled the chain over Harry's head again, taking a few strands of black hair with it. Harry winced. Malfoy tucked the Time-Turner away and then flung an arm around Harry's shoulders. They Disapparated and appeared back in the dusty castle.
"I can Apparate myself, you know," Harry griped when Malfoy released him.
"I just like touching you, Potter," Malfoy said jokingly. Harry snorted. I wish, he thought.
Malfoy walked over and peered surreptitiously out the window.
"You know, it would be a bad thing if we saw ourselves. Can you get over here?" Harry said. Draco sneered absently at him, but left the window. Harry pushed open the Byzantine-style door to the empty room he had "cursorily" checked earlier. It was, indeed, barren. In fact, there seemed to be nowhere to hide.
"Where do you propose we go?" Harry asked. Draco walked around the dark room with his lit wand held high.
"Can we both fit in this alcove?"
Harry snorted. "That's no alcove, it's a pillar next to the wall. No way can we both be out of sight there."
Draco examined the tiny space anyway, and then nodded. "You're probably right. Let's go—"
He silenced himself when the sound of voices came to them. Harry gasped and Draco doused his wand. Malfoy reached out and snagged Harry's arm. Draco spun him around and pulled him into the tiny excuse for an alcove; Malfoy's chest felt hard and warm against Harry's back.
They heard their own voices in the outer room
"This stupid orb weighs a bloody ton. What sort of sadistic bastard decided it should be the size of a grapefruit and made of solid lead?"
"Scrimgeour," past-Harry replied.
"Naturally. Check that room, Potter. I don't need Granger leaping out and stealing my glory."
"If she were in there, we would already be hexed."
Draco's arm wrapped around Harry's waist, dragging him even farther back at the same time Harry pressed himself as hard as he could against Malfoy's chest. He tipped his head back and felt Draco's breath on his cheek. Harry's heart thudded almost painfully as its tempo increased at Malfoy's nearness.
The door flung open and a light spell quickly brightened the room. Harry was certain his past self would notice the parts that protruded from behind the small pillar.
"Empty," past-Potter snapped. "Now hoist the damned flag and let's get out of here."
The door shut and Harry sagged against Draco in relief.
"If we were dark wizards, you would be dead," Draco whispered in his ear, earning Harry an involuntary shudder. Malfoy's arm was still around him and Draco's palm spread molten heat into Harry's abdomen as it held him in place.
Harry wanted to retort that it wasn't a mission, just the stupid Auror Games, but his throat was too dry to speak and he did not want to be overheard by their past selves in the other room.
"Do you plan to stay here all day?" Draco added in the same breathy whisper and his lips brushed the edge of Harry's jaw tantalizingly.
"You could let go," Harry murmured dryly. Draco sighed and his hand disappeared. Harry quickly slipped away.
Draco moved, instantly and silently, to the door. It was of Byzantine design, with a pattern of holes making a decorative motif. Malfoy peered through the holes. Harry joined him.
Past-Draco was leaning half out the window to raise their flag—blue because Scrimgeour would not allow them to have green or red for their team colors. The bastard really hated them, which was also the reason they were partners in the first place. Scrimgeour had likely hoped they would kill one another.
"I claim this castle in the name of Team Malfoy," past-Draco announced.
"Team Potter, you mean. Will you stop hanging out so far? You'll fall."
"Concerned for me, Potter?" Draco's voice was amused.
"On second thought, jump out if it strikes your fancy."
Draco behind-the-door shot present-Harry a grin. Harry smiled back. It was odd listening to themselves argue. He turned his attention back to his past self and his blood froze. Oh, bloody hell, he had forgotten…
Past-Draco was still leaning out the window, looking for the other teams, Harry remembered. Past-Potter leaned against the sill, gazing at his partner in amusement. Harry watched in horror as his own expression softened into something tender and blatantly longing. His past self reached out a hand and slipped it through an errant lock of Malfoy's hair. Harry recalled being unable to resist the lure of it, caught on the edge of Malfoy's cape, and soft as a whisper on his fingers.
Harry looked at present-Draco in horror and the grey eyes met his measuringly. Harry knew with a sickening dread that his secret was out. It meant the end of the partnership; the end of everything except waking at night on sweat-soaked sheets, remembering every image of the blonde Slytherin including this one—Malfoy's expression was serious and almost thoughtful. His face was patterned with pale circles from the door.
Harry flushed and looked back at their former selves, glad to note that past Potter had moved away from Draco to wander randomly about the room. The two made small talk that mainly consisted of verbal sniping, until Harry got a splinter of wood in his palm and Draco had to spell it out for him. Arguing, they departed—leaving the heavy orb on the table.
Draco opened the door when the sound of voices had faded completely. Malfoy picked up the metal object.
"So, it's your fault for getting that stupid splinter," Draco said in a normal tone. Harry felt immense relief. It seemed that Malfoy was willing to ignore Harry's revelation.
"You were the one that put it on the table because it was too heavy," Harry replied.
"Meet me back at the Ministry in front of Scrimgeour's office," Draco said and Disapparated. Harry felt a momentary sense of loss. Malfoy had been Apparating them together all afternoon—apparently he was no longer willing to touch Harry. No big deal, Harry told himself. Hopefully he won't request a new partner. I just have to keep things professional…
Harry Disapparated. Malfoy was already in Scrimgeour's office, replacing the Time-Turner so that their past selves could find it in a few minutes. Malfoy returned.
"All right, now we just have to avoid ourselves until five o'clock," Draco said. "About twenty five, thirty minutes. I know just the spot."
Malfoy reached out and grabbed Harry's shoulder, causing an irrational surge of pleasure to wash over Harry, and swept them away once more. Harry was surprised to find them next to a lake, not far from the small castle they had claimed. Draco immediately released him and pulled the heavy orb out to look at it admiringly. The plain sphere had no magical purpose—it was simply the job of each team to locate it and return it to the starting point while neutralizing all obstacles and claiming specific landmarks. This would be the first time they had won as teammates.
And probably the last.
Draco practically gleamed. He was flush with victory and smirking with glee. Harry tried not to watch him with naked lust in his eyes, but it was bloody difficult. He looked away forcibly.
"We won by cheating," Harry said gloomily. That earned him a glance of argent amusement that he caught out of the corner of his eye.
"All's fair in war and wargames, Potter."
"That's all's fair in love and war," Harry corrected automatically.
"Ah, yes. Love. Why didn't you ever say anything?" Draco asked. His voice was surprisingly even.
Harry picked up a flat stone and skipped it across the lake. It bounced four times before sinking. He scowled.
"It's not exactly something that spills out during normal conversation," he snapped. "'Good morning, Malfoy, how's the paperwork coming? By the way, I'm in love with you. What's the word on the Johnston case?'"
His voice was harsh with self-derision.
"You're not in love with me, Potter," Malfoy said in that drawling, know-it-all tone that Harry hated. He spun angrily to snarl at Draco and demand to know how the hell Malfoy could possibly know what Harry felt—but the sneaky Slytherin bastard had moved with cat-footed silence and was right behind him. Harry seized up against Malfoy's chest with a gasp and Draco's arms enfolded him to keep them both from tumbling.
Harry's hands curled into Draco's robes and he stared into Malfoy's too beautiful eyes. Draco looked surprised for only a moment.
"Oh, hell," Malfoy said and lowered his lips to Harry's.
The kiss was better than anything Harry had dreamed. As expected, Draco was not the type to give him a light peck—Malfoy assaulted Harry with lips, tongue, and teeth, demanding and searching, devouring and teasing; marking Harry forever. He melted into Draco, sliding his hands up to touch the oh-so-soft hair, and meeting the kiss with his own frustrated ardor—months of suppressed desire returned in a surge of passion. Harry drank deeply of Draco's essence, trying to imprint the memory in case this was one of Malfoy's unpredictable games. Harry lapped and sucked at Draco's lips—bloody hell, the damned Slytherin tasted like heaven and felt like paradise…
The kiss seemed to last forever and when it ended, Draco seemed as shaken as Harry felt. Malfoy drew back to stare into Harry's eyes, but his arms did not loosen. Harry's hands were tangled in Draco's hair.
"Damn, maybe you are in love with me," Malfoy said wonderingly.
The words made Harry laugh, though he tried to suppress it, sensing an edge of hysteria in the chuckle caused by nervous tension.
"Well?" he asked, half-dreading Draco's response.
"I suppose I could get used to it. Just don't write me any poems or sonnets. And no sending me flowers at work."
"Not even on your birthday?" Harry asked, barely able to speak through the crushing sense of relief and astonished delight.
"Well, all right. But only on my birthday." And he kissed Harry again.