Title: A Finer Unconsciousness
Rating: PG/K+ at most (language, light slash).
Pairing: Harry/Draco, background Harry/Terry Boot and Ron/Hermione.
Timeline: Ignores DH canon.
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling owns all characters and settings appearing in this fic. I am writing purely for fun and for no profit whatsoever.
Summary: Some people can have declarations without words.
This was written for msmindfunk's birthday over on LJ, using the prompt of "Harry and Draco as Aurors." It took me a while to come up with something that hadn't been done to death. This is a one-shot, so can be read independently of anything else I've written.
A Finer Unconsciousness
Harry felt as though his mornings were a procession of hellos, and his evenings a succession of goodbyes. One unexpected side-effect of having so many friends, acquaintances, and old schoolmates working in the Ministry was that his throat was sore from so much talking by the time he left each day.
Of course, he never had more than a stiff nod for Malfoy. Malfoy had somehow become an Auror—Harry did not even want to think about how large a bribe he'd had to give the committee that chose the trainees—and had been given an office not far away from Harry and Ron's.
Hermione sometimes lectured him on the virtues of forgiveness. Harry didn't care. Malfoy had had the entire wizarding world forgive him because he passed some redundant information on to Headmistress McGonagall and then accomplished what was evidently the spotless and heroic act of doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the war. He had plenty of friends. His social life wouldn't suffer if Harry ignored him.
Draco categorized his co-workers in the Ministry more by their expressions than by how they spoke. The ones who smiled the most and met his eyes the most were often the ones who cut him down with their words; the bluff, hearty, welcoming "friends" had cold gazes that watched and weighed and wanted. Draco preferred the former, uncomfortable as it sometimes was to be around them.
Potter, of course, had to stand in a category by himself. He never spoke to Draco; he just nodded, his eyes reflecting the unvarying contempt he'd always regarded him with, and then looked away. Draco had spent some time wondering what that meant.
Now he didn't bother. He had enough Ministry politics swirling around him given his partner's romantic intrigues. (He hadn't thought that a sixty-year-old witch would stir that much interest, but Draco had learned, to his sorrow, just how very wrong he was, at least when the witch was Gilda Smithson). Potter seemed content to stay out of them, so Draco saw no reason to be concerned with him.
Harry hesitated in the doorway for a long moment. Then he shook his head and strode into the room. If he was going to do it, he should do it, not stand here like an idiot and make this seem bigger than it was. It was just a gesture.
Malfoy and Smithson had been assigned what seemed a fairly routine domestic abuse case. It had quickly become a maelstrom; evidently the wife was a sociopath as well as an abuser. It had ended in a pitched spell-battle, and Smithson had been flayed alive by one of the curses the other witch, Amanda Morris, used. Most of the rest of the Aurors were currently in a state of shock, mourning Smithson, whom many had liked. Everyone seemed to have forgotten about Malfoy, even though his partner had just died.
To Harry, that wasn't right, even if this was Draco Malfoy. But he didn't need to stay long. He'd just make his gesture and leave.
Draco sat staring down at his desk. He kept seeing Gilda's laughing face; he'd made a joke right before the battle, and she'd always appreciated his sense of humor. And now she'd gone, so suddenly and so violently that none of Draco's training designed to help him cope with just this was helping him cope with it. He swallowed, while nausea bit at him with sharp, persuasive teeth.
A hand descended on his shoulder and squeezed, gently, soothingly. Draco whipped his head up and found Potter gazing at him, face utterly blank, neutral, unsympathetic—but at least acknowledging his existence.
Before he could jerk away or make any indignant remark, Potter raised an eyebrow, and then turned and walked out of the office. And Draco found that his stomach had calmed, and he could think of other things.
The opening door had told Harry that someone else had entered the workout room where Aurors trained by firing curses at wizard-shaped dummies, but he saw no reason to look around. It was usual, after all. In fact, Harry had been surprised that he'd had the large, airy, scorched-smelling chamber to himself for as long as he had.
He did blink when he glanced to the side and saw Malfoy launching curses just on this side of legal at one of the dummies, a wooden carving painted with a cackling face out of someone's nightmare.
Harry thought of saying something, then shrugged. He didn't precisely distrust Malfoy, after all. Using a spell against him in this setting would be too stupid for a former Slytherin, besides. He turned his attention back to his own work.
Potter started at seeing him, then turned around again. Draco found himself more warmed by that than he would have been by a greeting, or even the other wizard's customary nod. Potter was as good as saying that Draco's presence was nothing to get exercised about.
Considering the troubles he'd been having with most of his colleagues lately, and even the Head of the Auror Office—it seemed no one was in a hurry to be appointed Draco Malfoy's new partner—Draco appreciated it.
It must have been two hours later when he and Potter both left, walking side by side. Potter ducked out the door before him and held it wide, a gesture of instinctive courtesy that Draco knew he would have done for anyone, friend or partner or stranger. He caught the door in turn and then separated from Potter to travel down his own corridor, feeling tranquil and at least half-rested, in mind as well as body.
Harry normally never thought about the sniping conversations he passed in the corridors. Office gossip, office politics, nothing to do with him. He had refused to use his name to gain prestige in the Ministry, and that effectively put him outside most of the normal structures of prestige and in-fighting.
This time, though, he heard too much. Malfoy's name. A deliberately careless tone of voice. A promise to reveal the "real murderer" of Gilda Smithson.
Harry spun on his heel and stared at the woman who'd spoken. He sought to summon the freezing glare that he'd used on Ginny when she suggested they get back together for the third time, after the rows had told Harry once and for all that their affair wasn't working. He kept on staring, and the woman's face got paler and paler, until she glanced away uncomfortably. Harry sneered at her and kept walking.
Draco paused, his left hand flattening on the wall. He'd been around the corner when Lauren had started in on him, and he would have spoken up in a moment to defend himself, with a brand of withering sarcasm that he knew full well Lauren couldn't match.
And then Potter had come along, and glared for all the world as though Lauren had just tried—had just tried to impute an Auror's good name and increase the distrust towards him in the Department. Draco was no more and no less than any other Auror to him.
Draco let his hand drop and smiled the first genuine smile he'd ever given Potter. Potter, of course, didn't see it, given his turned back. But its point wasn't to be seen.
Harry yawned and scrubbed his hand across his face. Ron had needed to be home often with Hermione this week, since both she and the baby were sick. And while Harry understood that perfectly, it did mean a lot of late nights at the office, with both his paperwork and Ron's to finish.
Something landed on the desk in front of him, riding a Levitation charm. Harry stared at it in surprise for a long moment. It was a cup of tea.
He glanced over his shoulder, and saw Malfoy standing in the doorway of his office, cradling a teacup of his own. Harry nodded at him, noting absently to himself that the usual stiffness had gone out of the gesture, and then picked up the teacup and turned back to the report that was supposed to chronicle exactly how Ron had managed to lose the Department's last Time-Turner.
Draco had lingered, watching Potter for long moments, before he went to fetch the tea. He'd asked himself as he went what he was doing. After all, Potter wasn't a friend, so why should he do him a favor?
No, he wasn't a friend. But Draco would have appreciated it if someone had handed him tea on a late and busy night with stacks of paperwork thirty centimeters high still to go, so he thought Potter would appreciate it, too.
Draco smiled as he moved away from the door and back to his own paperwork-laden office, still his alone, since no one had yet partnered with him and the Auror Office had removed him from fieldwork for the time being. Potter's neck had seemed to have a little more flexibility this time around.
Harry glanced around. He could have sworn that he had felt the door of the close, warm pub where he sat with Terry Boot, his casual fuck-buddy of the moment, open, admitting a blast of chill winter air, but he was halfway to drunk, so that might have been his imagination.
No. The door had opened, because there was Malfoy, shaking a loose dusting of snow from his cloak.
Harry smiled before he knew what was doing, but decided that the smile could stay when Malfoy's eyes found him, if only for the sheer surprise in the other man's face. Harry waved casually to him, and then turned back. Terry was telling a funny story about the time his mother had tried to slip his father a love potion, and Terry's funny stories were few and far between. That was all right; Harry wasn't dating him for his mind.
Draco blinked when he saw Potter's smile, and more so when he saw the wave. Then he shook himself.
They weren't complete strangers, after all. No reason they shouldn't gesture to each other.
He joined Montague and Pucey, whom he'd come there to drink with, but made sure to keep half an eye on Potter, and when Potter stood and ambled towards the door with his arm around the insipid-looking man he'd brought, Draco smiled. That worked; he looked dumbstruck in turn. Contented, Draco turned back to his drink.
Harry wasn't entirely surprised when Malfoy's assigned partner turned out to be one of the latest trainees just come out of the Auror entrance program. There was no one else in the Department who would put up with him, probably. Even Harry, sorry as he sometimes felt for the prat, wouldn't want to work side-by-side with him.
He met Malfoy walking to the lifts a few hours after the announcement. Harry studied the lines of his body. He had a tense slump to his shoulders, but the expression on his face was complex. Not entirely displeased, perhaps.
Harry fell into step beside him. Malfoy cocked his head, half-looking at him, obviously more preoccupied with his own affairs. Harry nodded, and pressed the button for the lift.
Draco wasn't sure how to feel, honestly. There was at least the chance that his new partner, a young Muggleborn wizard who'd left Hogwarts several years after Draco, wouldn't soak up the gossip of the Department and start treating him like a pariah. And Draco had the chance to guide and mold him into someone acceptable, not an idiot like half the people he worked with. But still, that no one who'd known him for years was quite willing to trust him struck home hard.
And then Potter was there, walking quietly beside him, waiting for the lift in silence, stepping into it with him as if they did this every day.
As they rode down, Draco felt his spine relax and his breathing soften and slow. Stepping out of the lift, Potter gently bumped shoulders with him, then glanced at him and gave a blink and a shrug in dismissal of it. Savoring the utterly ordinary human contact, Draco followed him to the Floo connections that would take them home. Potter never once looked back.
Harry flexed his fingers. He'd always had bad luck, but this time it was worse than usual. He'd been captured by Fenrir Greyback and held captive for several hours before Ron could find him, and the werewolf had broken every bone in his right hand. The Healers weren't sure he'd ever regain the full use of it.
But there were exercises he could practice to make the fingers more limber, and Harry was determined to do each and every one, each and every day.
It was the silence from the doorway that made him glance up. Malfoy stood there, another complex expression on his face. Harry raised an eyebrow at him and waited for him to speak, never stopping the motions of his hand.
Draco had heard that all of Potter's fingers were broken. Until this moment, looking at the knobs and odd bumps all over the healed hand, he hadn't quite believed it.
He took a step in. Potter just watched him come, face curious but not cautious.
Draco cast a spell that he'd learned during the war, helping to heal his mother's strained leg after his overeager aunt had cast Cruciatus on her. Potter opened his mouth slightly, then glanced down at his hand. Draco knew that a wash of warmth would have traveled through it, relaxing the stiffness and working down to the joints. Potter looked up at him, a faint half-smile on his mouth, and Draco found himself more satisfied than he would have been after an effusive thanks.
Harry darted forwards, and leaned out in pursuit of the Snitch. He and Ron had an informal Quidditch team that usually played together on Sundays, and it was Saturday afternoon now. He was determined to be ready to Seek with his right hand by then.
The weakened fingers spasmed as he clutched at the Snitch, but Harry pushed a little more speed from his new Nimbus 2003 and yelped in triumph as the wings fluttered against his palm. So what if he could only hold it with his second and third fingers, if his thumb and ring finger still hurt when he curled them inwards? It still counted. And the high March wind hadn't even affected him.
As he turned the broom around, he caught a glimpse of a figure watching him below. Harry blinked, less because he had an audience—this was a public practice pitch, after all—than because he recognized the white-blond hair as belonging to Malfoy.
Draco caught his breath as he watched Potter race after the Snitch. It was as though nothing in all the world existed for him but the small golden ball, and even after he held it a tingling thrill raced down Draco's spine. He seemed to have been invited to share in Potter's triumph, though it was only coincidence that he'd arrived here at the same time.
Potter swooped down at him, and hovered just above his head. Draco looked up at him. He didn't think he could say anything. All the words would come out wrong, anyway. He just tilted his head at Potter's right hand and smiled.
Potter smiled back, and Draco knew he had been invited to share in the successful catch. Then Potter flipped his wrist, tossing the Snitch towards Draco. Draco had to scramble a moment to catch it, and by the time he looked up again, Potter had landed and was a distant figure walking down the pitch, broom over his shoulder.
Harry stretched his arms over his head and stared up at the June sunset. Terry had told him today that they were quits forever, because he was getting married. Harry wasn't sure how to feel about that. On the one hand, he'd never dreamed of having anything permanent with Terry; on the other, it marked a change in a relationship he had thought would never change, since both of them enjoyed the casual sex and demanded nothing more of each other.
He couldn't say why he'd chosen the dirty alley behind the Ministry's entry to watch the sky and think. He just had.
An elbow brushed his. Harry glanced over. Draco Malfoy stood there, and somehow that seemed entirely appropriate; he had every right to stand there if he wanted. Harry leaned back against the alley wall and looked up at the sunset again. It really was a fine one, purple above and blue below, in the middle a spreading stain that was almost peach, orange-tinted clouds sliding by.
Draco had been about to Apparate home—it had been a long day, breaking in his abrasive partner, and he was exhausted—but he'd seen Potter's familiar, worn green cloak from the corner of his eye as he passed the alley, and had to investigate. He would have thought Potter had left hours ago.
Draco, testing a silent theory of his own that he couldn't have defined aloud, walked into the alley and stood next to Potter.
Potter made room for him calmly. Draco traced the direction of his gaze, and found himself watching the sunset. Well, why not? he thought as he rolled his head back against the brick behind him (he'd have to wash his hair later). It was magnificent, and if he leaned a bit to the side he could feel Potter's warmth against him and hear his breathing now and then.
Harry threaded expertly through the crowded corridors; most of the people around him had stopped to talk, but Harry had no time. Not if he wanted to catch Malfoy before he disappeared into the Head Auror's office, at least.
There he was, his face raw but determined, his head stubbornly uplifted. Harry quickened his steps for a moment, and then he could tap Malfoy on the shoulder. When the other man turned around, no doubt braced for an attack, Harry took his hand and squeezed it.
Malfoy was up on charges of sexually harassing his young (and stupid) partner. Most of the Ministry seemed to believe he'd done it, simply because Mark Turner was undeniably handsome and had a reputation as a picky lover. Harry couldn't quite find the words to express how stupid he thought the whole thing was, but on the other hand, he couldn't just stand back and let Malfoy walk into fire without a show of support, either.
Draco had expected anyone behind him—anyone but Potter. But then, once he saw him, it seemed unthinkable that he wouldn't have been there. Draco even found himself a little indignant that Potter hadn't come earlier.
And then Potter squeezed his hand, and half-smiled at him.
Draco returned it. The smile hinted that they had a secret from the rest of the world, he and Potter, and wouldn't the rest of the Ministry explode if they knew? It was better than a full grin, which would have looked foolish at the moment. On the other hand, Draco could keep that half-smile at his face when he turned and entered the Head's office.
Ron argued with him. Hermione traveled over from her position in the Department of Mysteries to lecture him. The Minister himself sent his personal wish that Harry would reconsider. Harry had lost count of the number of his co-workers who'd tried to convince him to change his mind—everyone from Kingsley Shacklebolt to Hestia Jones.
He didn't listen to them. He packed his desk, and then he went to the Head's office to turn in his personal resignation letter.
They'd sacked Malfoy, and over nothing more than Turner's baseless accusations. Some people said Turner was sleeping with the Head, too. Harry didn't care. He only knew that the Auror Department had not turned out to be what he thought it was, and he couldn't stay in a place that would hound Malfoy for a death he'd been blameless in.
Draco lifted his head when one of his house-elves appeared to tell him that he had a visitor at the gates of Malfoy Manor. The elf had added that the visitor, while not invited, seemed perfectly happy to wait there until he was let in or otherwise acknowledged.
Draco activated one of the spells that allowed him to see through the eyes of the wrought iron dragons on the gates. Potter was leaning on the marble wall with his arms folded, now and then looking at the carvings that displayed Malfoy history and Malfoy pride and shaking his head, as if to say that he could not believe what pompous arseholes Draco's ancestors had been.
Draco smiled, and told his elf to let Potter in.
Harry sprawled across Draco's couch—he'd told Harry to call him Draco after the third glass of wine—comfortably half-pissed. It felt oddly like a celebration, even though Draco had called him an idiot in seven different languages when Harry had told him what he'd done.
Lazy traces of sunset light streamed through the glass windows in front of Harry. Harry frowned at it thoughtfully. It was beautiful, of course, but he knew something was missing. It took him a long time to figure out what it was. But hell, he'd been drinking for a while. He figured he could cut himself some slack.
He sat up and put his wineglass aside. Draco, lying on the floor next to the couch, looked up at him, probably caught by the decisiveness of his movements. Harry cupped Draco's chin, and then held his eyes for a moment, suddenly wondering if Draco would want to do this the day after he'd gone through a sexual harassment trial.
Draco hadn't known this was missing, but the instant Harry hesitated, he felt a spark of annoyance. He lifted himself on his knees, and met Harry halfway, nearly mashing his face into the other wizard's. They took a moment to sort themselves out, and then they were having a very ordinary, calm, patient kiss. Draco felt his lips curve into a smile under it anyway.
Later, they'd talk. Right now, the grip of Harry's hands, shifting to his shoulders, and the way the sunset flashed and glimmered in his glasses as he drew Draco down to the couch spoke more eloquently to him than either of their fumbling tongues had ever managed. And Draco had never had a problem translating Harry's gestures.
Welcome, they said, over and over again.