Title: A Comedy of Errors
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and her associates own the characters in this story. I am writing this for fun and not profit.
Rating: RM for language and sex.
Warnings:Established relationship. Er, is "volatile relationship" a warning category? AU; ignores Deathly Hallows.
Summary: Harry doesn't know what he and Draco are doing together. That bothers him, sometimes.
Notes: For firedraygon97's prompt of "I said left, damn you!" This is not much like my usual stuff, particularly in the characterization of Harry and Draco's relationship.
A Comedy of Errors
"I said left, damn you!"
"I think I know a bit more about this than you, Malfoy!" Harry shouted, and swung the broom right and upside-down, which made Draco shriek like a little girl and shoot out clutching hands, bending forwards so that the large bundle in his lap was cradled against Harry's back. Behind them, the Antipodean Opaleye's fire struck out like a scarlet banner across the sky, close enough to make the hairs on Harry's arm shiver and singe, but still missing them.
"That wouldn't have happened if we went left!" Draco screamed into his ear, as Harry fought to take the broom higher. The prevailing currents in the valley were against them, giving lift to the dragon chasing them—because when had anything in their lives actually gone in their favor?
"Yes, we would have died a fiery death if we went left!" Harry shouted, and then groaned. The fracas with the enraged mother behind them had roused the other dragons lairing in the valley, who stuck out iridescent heads from their nesting caves and stared with odd, pupil-less eyes. Harry didn't know enough about their behavior to say if they would come to the rescue of a comrade or not.
But he knew one thing.
"Just give her back the fucking egg, Malfoy!" He kicked the broom hard. Finally, they were rising high enough that he could see beyond the edges of the green New Zealand valley, and he knew that once they ascended some more, he'd be able to outpace the dragon. But there was still the problem of avoiding the Dragon-Keepers, who did not know about the extremely risky and entirely illegal stunt Draco and Harry had just pulled, and who had even attempted to prevent them from doing their legitimate duty. And everything would just be a lot easier if there weren't an enraged mother dragon chasing them.
"Do you know how much money this is worth in Britain?" Draco was still yelling into his ear, apparently under the impression that his words were so precious Harry wouldn't want to miss a single one. "More than ten thousand Galleons for a hollow one, and thirty thousand if—"
A change in the shadows warned Harry. The mother dragon had sailed above them and was attempting to stoop like a hawk, her claws extended and her neck darting about like an angry swan's. Harry sped downwards again, then snapped, "Hang on," and felt Draco's arms clamp about his waist like iron bars.
And then he flew.
The Starstreak broom he was riding had claim to be the fastest on the market; Harry made it prove that claim. He could feel his face stinging with pain, and his eyes streamed tears so fast that he could barely see at all. If Draco had fallen off the broom behind him, he wasn't entirely sure that he would have noticed.
And good riddance, too, he thought. He didn't mean that all the time, but at moments like this—and there had been too many of them in the three years since Harry and Draco had become partners in the Ministry's Pest Control Division—one of his few satisfactions was shouting those words in the silence of his head.
He was blind from the wind, and it was all pressure and skin and instinct now, shifting up and down as he thought it was required, lifting over the hills that his memory told him were there, flying and flying and flying bolt-up in the blue, visible to dragons and Dragon-Keepers and any everyday New Zealand Muggles who might be nearby, because he was slightly too worried about their lives to care about concealment, and there would surely be another argument with the local Aurors over that, since they were reluctant to employ Obliviators and placing the blame for wizarding accidents on flying saucers was getting rather out of hand—
And then Draco shouted, "We've made it, we've made it!" and the long, slow bellow of sorrow behind them told Harry he spoke the truth. He glanced over his shoulder, blinking furiously as he slowed the broom, and saw the Antipodean Opaleye whose egg they'd stolen dropping again. She sat on a ridge at the end of the valley and lifted her nose in one more forlorn cry. Then she lumbered back towards her nesting cave, moving as if the wind had tattered her wings.
For a moment, Harry allowed himself to share an exhilarated grin with his partner.
And then he remembered that none of this would have happened if Draco weren't so set on recovering the Malfoy fortune, and that they still hadn't managed to neutralize the Opaleye who had discovered a taste for eating humans, and he had to control the overwhelming impulse to turn the broom over and dump Draco and his ill-got egg on the ground.
And then brooms blazed around them like the petals of an opening flower, and Harry had to close his eyes. He knew they would be Dragon-Keepers. How else was this going to end?
"I still think you should have let me try to convince them."
Staring at the roof of their cage—a noxious little place with a smell probably unique to sick dragons—kept Harry from trying to strangle Draco, so he didn't look away. He feigned Draco's voice instead. "Please, Mr. Dragon-Keeper sir, this egg in my lap? We were totally about to Floo to Britain with it in hopes of getting help for the little blighter. He's obviously sick, as you can see by these brown patches on the egg. Could you let us through, please?"
"That's a good lie. Why didn't you use that?"
Draco's voice in one of his petulant, whinging moods could have done duty for a courting tomcat. Harry breathed in through his nose and out through his mouth, and tried, weakly, to convince his hands that they didn't want to spontaneously leap up and close around Draco's neck.
Except that his brain wanted that, and his brain was what he was trying to use to convincethem, so this didn't really work.
"Listen to me, Draco Malfoy, you fucking sorry excuse for an Auror," he said at last, when he could breathe. "Do you remember what Doris said to us before we set out on this mission? Do you?" Doris Angelsfall was their immediate supervisor, the witch who had created the Pest Control Division as a means of hunting down every threat to the British magical world, from former Death Eaters to newly-created defiances of the Ban on Experimental Breeding, and who single-handedly kept it afloat in the murky political waters between the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and the Auror Office.
"There were so many things," said Draco. "I didn't want to listen. You're the good one at that."
"That implies thatyou ever do anything besides fortune-hunt—"
"Just because you don't have a family whose name and legacy you're proud to keep alive—"
"Maybe if you had suffered real hardship a day in your life you'd understand—"
"You have no idea what it was like to see Aurors tear through the Manor—"
"And yet you ended up joining them—"
"Purely a political decision—"
"And how good are you at politics," Harry roared, his anger tearing loose of his control at last, "when you can't even remember that if there's one more fucking mark on your record, Doris says, you are out of the Ministry?"
There was a small silence. Harry closed his eyes and put his right hand over them.
"You really didn't listen." His own voice was watery with shock. "Oh my God, Draco. God damn you."
"She has a boring voice!" Draco snapped defensively. "And they're trying to implicate Father in plenty of things that I know he didn't do during the war—well, things I'm fairly sure he didn't do, anyway—and I only got five thousand Galleons for that orchid I stole from Brazil, instead of the seven I was expecting. I had a lot on my mind!"
"I'm sure," Harry muttered, more to himself than to his partner, "that the recruitment pamphlets for the Pest Control Division did not include the line, 'Travel to remote places of the world and steal all you can from them.'"
"Well, of course not. They couldn't advertise the many rare and valuable opportunities inherent in a job like this, or every other git at the Ministry would want in."
"I don't understand you," Harry told the ceiling, now that he had taken his hand from his eyes. He wondered if the Dragon-Keepers had contacted Doris yet. Even if they had, of course, they might be involved in another argument about how the Opaleye that had devoured four British wizards on holiday in New Zealand didn't need to be put down, only re-educated. "I don't understand you at all."
"And yet, you're fucking me." Draco's voice was low and smug, the kind of tone he knew could be calculated to get a reaction from Harry's groin.
"Not at the moment." Harry shut his eyes in simple weariness this time. "Maybe not ever again, if you get sacked. You idiot."
There was silence for long moments. Then Draco swallowed, and shifted closer to him, his hand brushing Harry's shoulder. Harry recoiled, and the silence returned, but this time with a hurt edge to it.
"You've always helped me in the past," Draco whispered.
"But now I can't," Harry said flatly. "Not when we were caught, not when everything was so public, not when we didn't even complete our mission before we stole the egg. And all the time, I thought you knew that you could be sacked, and had some clever plan to avoid it. And instead it turns out that you just stuck your head up your arse." He moaned, because no other sound would express his despair properly. "Draco, I just can't—"
And he rolled over and was still.
Draco made several attempts to speak over the next few hours, but they all failed.
Harry opened his eyes. It took him a long moment to realize that he was seeing stars through the cage's glittering wards, and he blinked, surprised. The Dragon-Keepers must have decided to leave them here for a time, in order to teach them a lesson.
Either that, or they're still arguing with Doris, he thought, and clasped his hands behind his neck, rolling his head to ease out the tension. Then he followed the thin beams of starlight and a half-moon to his partner.
Draco slept on his right side, with his right hand curled palm-up and his left arm cooked, as if even in sleep he sought to hug the stolen egg close. He was breathing shallowly, but he always did that when he'd fallen asleep after a great upset. The illumination, faint as it was, still revealed the tracks of tears on his face to Harry.
Harry hissed and massaged his temples, where he could feel a headache forming. It was rare that Draco was upset enough by one of their arguments to cry. And since Harry still had residual anger himself, and the consequences of this couldn't just be fucked away, waking him up and apologizing would do no good.
Harry let himself fall heavily back on his haunches, studying Draco and shaking his head now and then.
How did it come to this? Is this twisted, volatile, argument-prone relationship we have really the best thing for both of us?
"Really, Potter. Get on with it."
"Excuse me?" Harry glanced up with his eyebrows raised. He had shared an office and several expeditions after rogue wizards with Draco Malfoy for the past three months, and he had to admit it had gone better than he thought it would.
But every now and then, there would still be a day like this, with Malfoy planting his hands on his own desk and leaning aggressively towards Harry's, nostrils flared, his knuckles whitening. Harry let his hand drop casually to his hip, where he usually carried his wand when they weren't in the field.
"Get on with it," Malfoy repeated, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "We both know that you want to shag me through the floor. It's in your eyes every time you stare at my face or watch my arse. I'm not adverse to the idea, so I have to conclude that, in your typical dim-witted fashion, you simply have not noticed that I return your desire. I do. Now, commence with the shagging."
Harry shook his head three times, once for the sheer fact of Malfoy's announcement, the second time for his sheer arrogance, and the third time for the fact that he thought he would convince Harry to do this here, in the midst of the Ministry, with their supervisor due to interview them about that small mix-up with the Russian Muggle government in five minutes.
"You're denying it?" Malfoy's sneer made his face look damn ugly, Harry had to admit. He didn't know why he found the git so attractive.
"No," Harry said. "Just wondering why you chose this time and place, of all places, to announce it. Shagging is generally something done in the privacy of a bedroom, Malfoy, with—"
"Gryffindors," Malfoy sighed, a world of contempt in one simple word, and waved his wand. At once the lights dimmed, Harry's desk was Transfigured into a large mattress complete with Cushioning Charms, and the door locked itself. A second swish of the wand produced the sound of their voices screaming at one another—a replay of one of their many fights from last week, Harry noticed.
"There," Malfoy said. "Doris will only think we've locked the door to fight, and she's pants at Unlocking Charms. Since you don't look like a master of endurance, the ten minutes it'll take her to admit defeat and find someone to help her should be sufficient." His hands were already on his robes, unbuttoning and revealing more of that skin that Harry sometimes wanked to and sometimes thought was too pasty for words. It depended on the lighting, his mood, and how much of an arse Malfoy had been that day.
"Well?" Malfoy paused when he noticed that Harry was only watching him, hitching up a shoulder and an eyebrow in the gesture of an impatient man with much better things to do.
"I want to see what you look like," Harry said.
Some note in his voice seemed to have been what Malfoy was waiting for. His mouth quirked up in a quieter smile, and his hands began to move more slowly over the robes. "Good," he said softly.
It turned out to be fifteen minutes, not ten, and there was only time for a quick blowjob on Harry's part and a quick handjob on Malfoy's. But Harry thought his partner had very little cause to complain when he came screaming and thrusting into Harry's mouth like he hadn't had an orgasm in a year.
They fucked later, on Harry's bed, in Harry's bedroom, with the lights appropriately bright so that Harry could see and mark every inch of Malfoy's skin that he wanted to. Malfoy lay there with his eyes shut when it was done and refused to admit this was better, but Harry knew it was.
And he's always refused to admit that anything I like is good. Harry ran a hand through his hair and sighed. The smell of his own sweat-dampened skin was noticeable now beneath the reek of dragon-sick. Why am I with him?
He couldn't answer that question. He shook his head and called up another memory that he had always hoped would contain the answer, since it was vivid enough.
"I had no idea that you would—"
Another of Harry's framed photographs spun past him and smashed into the wall. Harry finally got over his shock, drew his wand, and floated the photograph into the air as he erected a Shield Charm in front of himself. He grimaced. The cherry wood, which even Harry had to admit made a beautiful setting for Hermione's dark hair and Ron's red, was cracked, and both figures of his best friends stood in one corner of the picture staring reproachfully at him.
"Stop it," he growled, raising his eyes and glaring at Draco.
Draco, his hand on Harry's desk groping for another photograph to throw, narrowed his eyes. "You were touching her," he hissed. "Admit that you've been snogging her behind my back and I'll stop."
"So what if I was?" Harry was rapidly losing his hold on his temper, and he could smell the wooden frame of the picture smoldering. He made a desperate attempt to calm down, hard as it was when his desk looked as if a typhoon had ripped through it. Draco had not only moved things from the neat piles of open and closed and pending cases that Harry had arranged them in, he'd torn parchment to shreds and scattered the few personal possessions that were important enough to Harry to have them in front of him every day. "I know that you've been fucking Terry Boot behind my back."
"It's different for me," Draco snarled, and drew his wand. "I have needs that you can't appreciate—"
"Yes, sluts always do."
A spell consisting of violently green smoke rings raced towards Harry, tearing through his Shield Charm. Harry barely got himself out of the way in time, and he couldn't manage to pull his photograph with him. He heard small shrieks as the Ron and Hermione in the picture began to burn.
"Take that back!" Draco screamed, spots of pure outrage standing on his cheeks, and Harry knew he was close to casting some Dark spell that would get him sacked on the spot. And Harry, despite the fact that it would have cleared the considerably polluted air with his best friends and let him go on to some more relevant division in the Ministry, didn't want that to happen.
He had never been able to say why he didn't want it to happen. He just knew he didn't.
Harry flung himself at Draco, wrestled his wand away, wrapped his arms around Draco's middle, and bore him to the floor. He endured the punches and the thrashing and the flailing and the wailing that assaulted him in the next few moments. He bit back his snarl of pain when Draco bit his ear. He endured, as he always had, his partner's temper tantrums and his excessive, immature jealousy. He hardly had a right to demand that Harry be faithful to him when he wasn't faithful in return.
And yet, Harry had agreed to that arrangement. He no more fancied the young witch Draco had seen him talking to than he fancied Ron, and he had certainly never snogged her, except perhaps in her star-struck daydreams.
No, I don't know why I agreed to this either, he thought, as Hermione demanded the answer in his head. She had certainly demanded it loudly enough the evening that she had tried to break the news to him gently about Draco and Terry Boot, and Harry had been forced to admit that he already knew.
When Draco had exhausted himself, Harry dropped his head, resting his chin on Draco's collarbone, and kissed the skin there. Draco quivered, once, and then turned his head and caught Harry's mouth in a furious bite.
Harry had planned to apologize right there, but the way Draco was trying to eat his lips made nothing so imperative as taking off Draco's clothes then and there. And then there was nothing so imperative as biting in return, and sucking, and casting numerous impatient lubricant spells, and leaving large finger-shaped bruises on Draco's hips with the strength he used to drive himself in.
It was over an hour later before he was able to murmur, into Draco's wildly disheveled hair, "'M sorry. I take it back."
"It's all right," Draco said, so softly Harry felt the puffs of breath on his own neck better than he heard him. "Doesn't matter."
But a little while ago, it mattered so much—
Harry dropped off into exhausted sleep before he could finish the thought. It was a common way of resolving the contradictions that surrounded his affair with Draco. As long as he didn't have to think about them, they didn't have to exist.
Harry shook his head and looked away, out the edge of the cage at the small portion of the Dragon-Keepers' camp he could see from here. It was the dead of night. No one was up and about, and no one seemed concerned with letting the two prisoners in the cage out to relieve themselves or exercise their muscles.
Harry took care of one problem out the opposite end of the cage from the one where Draco slept, and then lay on his back and repeatedly stretched his arms and legs to ease the other. His mind was full of the numerous partners Draco had had up to a year ago, when he had declared, in a long, slow drawl, that he would try fidelity to Harry for a time—though he reserved the right to change his mind whenever he wanted. Other than a few snogs, and maybe one mutual wanking session that might or might not have happened, Harry hadn't caught him with anyone else since.
Why did he make that decision? He touched his lightning bolt scar, which never ached now but had never faded from his forehead either, as he had once hoped it might. For that matter, why did I?
But he had accepted that he would live with whatever being lovers with Draco brought him, no matter how grim the consequences or embarrassing the path there. What was harder for him to see was the advantage to Draco. What in the world did Harry offer him that he couldn't get better and cheaper elsewhere? Tolerance of his sexual antics, maybe, but if that had been all, Draco wouldn't have chosen to stay in Harry's bed alone.
And then there are the times I'm the embarrassment. I really don't know why he stayed through those.
To say that Harry was surprised to hear the thunderous pounding on the door of his flat would be an understatement. No one disturbed him on this day, the third of November and the anniversary of the day Voldemort had been defeated. Ron and Hermione made him surrender his wand to them the day before and searched his flat for sharp objects, but they understood both his need to be alone and his need to get completely and totally pissed. Hermione had even enchanted several objects for him that would break easily and repair themselves afterwards, so he could smash them again. They had explained things to the rest of the Weasley family as delicately as possible.
No one else had ever bothered to appear at Harry's flat, which made him think this must be a stranger looking for directions or determined to get the Savior's autograph. With a grin at the prospect of fun to come, he yanked the door open.
Draco swept past him and gave him a sidelong, offended look, as if the sight of Harry, who was covered with the small feathers from one of the pillows Hermione had enchanted and not even half-drunk yet, were unexpected in some way.
"What are you doing here?" Harry asked without inflection. Draco had probably forgotten the date again, because Draco did things like that.
"Rescuing your inner organs," Draco said crisply, and leaned against the wall opposite Harry's tiny kitchen. Only the way his hands tightened in front of him showed that he might be nervous. "You're going to die of alcohol poisoning before you're thirty, you know. I can hear your liver screaming for mercy. Draco, it says, stop my stupid owner before he starts crying, I hate that even more than the drink."
Harry opened his mouth. It wasn't a smile, and it wasn't a laugh because he didn't have the voice to make a sound. It was just an expression that he knew made him look as if he were about to tear someone's throat out. He had confronted Bellatrix Lestrange like that in the end.
"You did remember what day it is," he said, and his voice had the kind of quiet he'd heard in it right before he cast a fatal curse. "You chose to intrude anyway."
Draco pushed himself off the wall. "Yes," he said, and examined his fingernails. "I did."
"One fucking day a year, Malfoy." Harry began to move opposite to him, in a slow circle. Draco flicked his fingers, and his wand was in them in that little swift way he had, impossibly fast. Harry could hear the blood-beat starting in his head. There were two reasons he isolated himself on this day, and his mourning was only one of them; his immediate danger to anyone in the vicinity was the second. "One day a year, to be by myself and scream my lungs out. That's all I ask."
"And it's what I won't allow." Draco's eyes narrowed. "I need you today. And you need to be on your feet and doing something. This doesn't solve anything."
"I don't want it to solve anything," Harry told him plainly. "I want to wallow and brood. I don't do it the rest of the year. I behave like a good little citizen and their good little hero. Except for fucking you, I suppose."
He hoped Draco would count that as an insult and the fight could start, but Draco just shook his head, eyes clear as adamant. "That's the best thing you've ever done for yourself," he said. "And you're going to do another one just now." He aimed his wand at Harry, but oddly off to the side, as if he would cast a hex that would bounce off the wall and at him. "You're going to stand on your own two feet, let go of the guilt, and remember that those people are dead, Harry."
Harry's eyes closed involuntarily. It wasn't Voldemort he saw dying in front of him, or Bellatrix, both of whom he'd slain on that final battlefield. It was those who had sacrificed their lives to destroy the Horcruxes, each of which had needed to bathe in the blood of an innocent before it would lose its power. Ginny. Neville. Luna. Dean Thomas. They'd died unhesitatingly, bravely—and unnecessarily. The Horcruxes required deep wounds, not fatal ones. They could have lived, if Harry could have made it to them in time.
If he could have slain Voldemort before the Dark Lord, in his horror of death, had hit Harry's friends with a fourfold Killing Curse.
Harry opened his eyes, and they were filmed with red. He had not been sane when he killed Voldemort. He knew it. He could see a misty green haze drifting in front of him, and hear a voice speaking from a distance.
Mindlessly, he ran at the voice, knowing that if he could just kill it, or himself, he would be at peace.
And then he stopped, a few inches away from the voice, because he didn't want to harm the person who spoke in those tones. He didn't know why. He just didn't. The voice was different from Voldemort's—just as high-pitched and just as spoiled and selfish in some ways, but different.
He closed his eyes and sagged against the wall.
When he looked again, Draco was standing in front of him, perfectly composed. He'd already put his wand away, and he held out his hand to Harry again.
"Come on," he said. "We are going to get out of here and find a club where we can dance until the poison's out of you. And then I'm going to take you back to the Manor—" he raised an eyebrow to challenge Harry's automatic objections; they were always fucking in Harry's flat or the Ministry "—and make love to you until you're too exhausted to think of anything else."
Harry slowly nodded. "Okay," he whispered. It made a difference to know that he had had someone else with him on this day and they hadn't ended up dead. Then he hesitated, because while asking the question was painful, he wanted the answer. "How did you know I wouldn't hurt you?"
Draco's hand clasped his and pulled Harry in for a kiss that tasted of saliva and desperate determination. "I just knew."
Maybe he doesn't know either. So how does he know that he wouldn't be happier away from the Ministry? Away from me?
The dawn was coming. Harry thought he must have dozed off. He raised his hands above his head again, and tried his best to ignore the hunger gnawing at his belly. The Dragon-Keepers hadn't thought it fitting to treat their guests to any sort of food. Harry wondered idly if they had ever met the Dursleys.
Maybe he doesn't leave because he knows that he's helpless without me. God, that orchid.
Perhaps because she had more practice in saying it than anyone else, there was no one who could make Draco's surname sound so menacing as Doris Angelsfall. She prowled back and forth behind her desk, her blue hair—permanently turned that color by a misfired charm in her youth—swaying around her ears, her hazel eyes locked so intently on Draco that Harry expected him to squirm. Draco, of course, merely folded his arms and looked bored.
"You knew better, Mr. Malfoy," Doris said lowly. "Because we must intervene in the affairs of other countries in order to track Death Eaters and establish proper protection of British citizens does not mean that we have leave to steal from them."
"It isn't stealing," said Draco, and his head came up, bright blotches of color on his cheeks. "It's acquiring. Senhora Marcelina invited me to select whatever I wanted from her garden, in gratitude for catching Mulciber before he could turn violent on her. She had no right to object when I selected that orchid." He nodded to the beautiful flower sitting in the pot on Doris's desk.
Harry fought the urge to put his hand over his eyes. He should have suspected there was something wrong when Draco kept him busy that morning with a blowjob, a favor that Draco routinely requested of him but almost never offered to return. That had been while the house-elves Draco had commanded to appear there from Malfoy Manor tried to smuggle the orchid out of the garden. Too bad that Draco hadn't known about Senhora Marcelina's traps.
I mean, of course, it's a good thing that he didn't know, Harry thought. Confusions like this were inevitable when dealing with a partner whose lost status he pitied but who refused to accept charity of any kind from him, either money or Harry's offers to raise his reputation.
"There will be a mark on your record, Malfoy," Doris said, folding her hands and frowning at him. "And of course you will Floo back to Brazil and return the orchid to Senhora Marcelina with your personal apologies."
"Pardon, Senhora—I mean, Madam Angelsfall," said Draco, a triumphant smile darting around his mouth. Harry, who knew very well what that smile meant, wondered if he should put his hand over his eyes now to save trouble. "It's only the mark on my record that will occur."
"And why, precisely, is that?" Doris leaned forwards like a striking snake, but Draco didn't flinch. Harry thought he had discovered some essential reservoir of courage in himself during the year he had spent on the run with Snape from both the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters. He was still childish and selfish much of the time, but he no longer quaked in the face of minor danger the way he had in Hogwarts.
"Because I've put spells on the orchid that can't be reversed," Draco said placidly. "If the flower goes more than a hundred miles from me without my consent, it will be utterly destroyed."
Doris turned away from him and stared at the purple flower, vivid with orange spots, for a long moment before closing her eyes and shaking her head. "And I suppose that you'll consent to its sale, but not to leaving it with Senhora Marcelina?" she asked.
"Got it in one." Draco was smiling openly now, knowing, just like Harry, that the danger was past.
"Tell me, Mr. Malfoy," Doris said, still with her back turned, "why I should permit this—this piracy of yours, which takes months of complicated negotiations with other nations to smooth out. Tell me why I shouldn't just transfer you back to the regular Auror Department now, and assign Auror Potter, whom, Merlin knows, never gets into scrapes like this, another partner."
"Because I get results?" Draco narrowed his eyes. "Because my family has been ignored or treated unfairly by the Ministry for years, such as being made to pay the majority of our fortune simply in exchange for not taking my father—who is in frail health and who actually helped the Order of the Phoenix in the final battle—back to prison? Because you know that Potter would drive anyone else mad inside of a day, and you want him here?"
Doris's shoulders stiffened. Then she said, "Wait outside in the corridor, Mr. Malfoy. Please," she added, when Draco didn't move. Another thing that had changed in the past few years, Harry thought, was how stubborn Draco could be when he wasn't offered sufficient courtesy. That, too, probably stemmed from his year on the run, but also from the way that society had treated him and his family in general when he returned to it.
Draco went, with several glances over his shoulder. Doris turned around and gave Harry a heavy look.
"Your terms still hold?" she asked.
"You know that Draco's a good Auror," Harry said, refusing to rise to the bait. "And his thefts aren't actually as frequent as you're making them out to be. If the Wizengamot would simply admit they made a mistake and release the money they owe to the Malfoys," he added, unable to resist, "then he wouldn't have to steal, anyway, and I think he'd calm down in other aspects of his personal life, too."Though I'm not sure I'd actually want that. His skin was still tingling from the kisses Draco had given him that morning, both before and after the blowjob.
"I did not ask you any of those questions," Doris said levelly. "I asked you if your terms still hold."
Harry met her eyes, and smiled. It was not the kind of smile that anyone else ever got to see him exchange with his supervisor. "They do," he said. "I find Draco a challenge. If you simply send him away for reasons that wouldn't cause you to sack any other Auror, then I go, too. And I could make quite a fuss about the Wizengamot's activities concerning the Malfoys and other pure-blood families—if I wanted to."
Doris sighed. She had known that she took a gamble when she hired Harry, Harry thought, watching her. His presence and popularity helped to lend an aura of legitimacy to the Pest Control Division. But he could use that power against her at almost any time, and while he wouldn't have cared to three years ago, he'd discovered an unprecedented interest in politics since then.
No one cared to hear about those politics when someone with the name Malfoy spoke of them. But someone with the name Potter? The general wizarding public would prick up its ears.
It was the only way Harry could help Draco, since he had already refused more open support.
And it was the way Harry sometimes reassured himself that Draco really did need him.
"Very well," said Doris at last. "A mark on his record only. Given what I suspect of Senhora Marcelina's criminal activities and the absolutely pitiable state of the Brazilian Aurors, it won't be hard to persuade her to keep quiet." She paused, and eyed Harry. "But you know that someday his record will be so heavy with demerits that not even you will be able to protect him."
"We'll just see about that when it happens, won't we?" Harry responded, and went to open the door, find Draco, and tell him the good news.
And now it's happened.
Harry studied Draco thoughtfully. Full morning light was streaming across his face, but still he didn't open his eyes. Perhaps he really was asleep; he was one of the heaviest sleepers Harry had ever known.
But that was generally only after sex, so Harry's money was on feigning.
He lay there, and he thought, and he remembered, and he pondered. He thought of how Draco added to his life, and how both their lives might be improved if they parted ways.
By the time the Dragon-Keepers came to fetch them and send them home to Doris in disgrace by the most uncomfortable International Floo route available, Harry had decided what he was going to do.
Doris's eyes glinted when she ushered them into her office. She knew what this moment meant, or she thought she did. Harry felt a distant pity for her, but not enough to pull back on his surprise.
"Well," Doris said, while Draco stood with his head down, staring at his shoes. He didn't even look up when Doris began to dip her quill in ink, though always before he had issued a protesting murmur when she put the mark on his record. "It appears, Mr. Malfoy, that—"
"His seemingly perfect partner earned a mark at last?" Harry asked, careful to keep his tone droll. "Yes, he did."
Doris stared at him. Draco stared at him. Harry kept his own face controlled, because the impulse to laugh like a hyena at both of them was strong.
"You will explain yourself, Mr. Potter," Doris said, and her eyes were harder than Hermione's when she encountered mistreatment of a house-elf.
"Of course, Madam Angelsfall," Harry said promptly. "It seems that I've spent a bit too much time around my erratic partner, but this time I picked up the recklessness just as he'd calmed down. I was bored, and I admit that I thought the assignment unworthy of us, since negotiators should have spoken with the New Zealand Dragon-Keepers first, to make them resigned to the necessity of putting one of their beasts down. Draco begged me not to do it, but I was the one who came up with the plan to steal the dragon's egg and insisted on doing it before we'd even located our culprit. He went along with it like the good partner he is, and then he was going to take the blame, just because I made him carry the egg in his lap. I thought I could fly the broom to carry us to safety better than he could." Harry shrugged slightly. "It was stupid of me to put us at risk in that way, let alone to damage relations with the New Zealand Dragon-Keepers when we have a delicate situation on our hands that is still unresolved. I admit I was stupid, and I claim full responsibility."
Doris glared at him, then at Draco. Draco put his chin up and raised his eyebrows. He was a born liar, which had served him well the few times he was not caught flat-footed carrying out one of his crimes. He said nothing to dispute Harry's version of the story, and despite Doris questioning them both sharply, Harry didn't slip up. He was telling the truth about the events, after all; he only had to substitute names.
Finally, looking disgusted, Doris put the mark on Harry's record, and then gave Harry a lecture about trying to deal in Class A Non-Tradeable Goods, which her glares said she knew she should have been giving to Draco. Then she let them go. Harry ambled down the corridor, determined to show no sign of flinching before the confrontation he knew was coming.
Draco had the sense to wait until they were in their office and put up charms against eavesdropping before he turned around, at least. His face wore a simple, blank, lost expression.
"Why?" he asked.
And then Harry found he didn't have to dread this after all.
He raised a hand, reached out, hooked his fingers through Draco's hair, and pulled. Draco stumbled towards him. Harry kissed him, for the first time trying to memorize the taste of his mouth. He choked back the silly, soppy words rising up his own throat, because now was not the time for them.
For the first time, he believed that someday, they would deserve their chance.
He pulled back from Draco at last and whispered, "Because I wanted to."
Draco gave a slight nod, and then said, "How did you know that I wouldn't object to your protecting me?"
And then Harry, with a tingling sensation of warmth in the center of his chest, knew that Draco did need him. There was just a slight quaver in his voice, just a slight unusual tightness in the way he clasped Harry's hand.
But that was enough.
And if Harry still didn't know why Draco needed him or he needed Draco, the reasons didn't matter.
Lifting Draco's hand to his lips this time, he whispered, "I just knew."