Title: Knowing the Price and the Value

Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own the characters appearing in this fic. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.


Rating: R/M.

Warnings: Follows the last chapter of Deathly Hallows, therefore SPOILERS, but disregards the epilogue. Language, sex, and some violence.

Summary: Draco knew Potter had changed, but never how much, until he was approached by Potter's friends in a desperate attempt to get him back to normal.

Notes: Written for irrevokable's one-shot request;both of them Aurors, Draco wearing glasses, Draco getting jealous and then getting mad about getting jealous, Harry doing something that completely threatens Draco's image of Harry (it can be anything from a small gesture to saving his life or something), them having sex in a place that isn't a couch, bed, or shower (sort of, anyway), aaand at least one brilliant and massive fight (involving magic (wandless is even better!) and overturned furniture -- you know, the works) between the two of them that turns into one of them being thrown against a wall and they proceed to snog the life out of each other.

The title is adapted from the Oscar Wilde quote: "A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Knowing the Price and the Value

Draco waited until he knew Granger was on the verge of squirming—biting her lip, casting him vexed glances and in the next moment trying to make it seem as if she'd never looked at him—before he smiled slowly at her. Granger relaxed, but she really shouldn't have.

"You'll do it, then?" she asked, sitting up on the seat and smiling at him in return.

"We haven't discussed price yet," Draco murmured. "What do I get for, in your words, making Potter act more like himself again?"

Granger clenched her hands in front of her. "I'd think it would be self-preservation, too!" she exclaimed. "After all, do you like walking into a Ministry with loose magic afloat around everyone's heads?"

Draco gave a shrug that he knew was small and graceful, because he'd worked hard to make it so. "It's not my preferred environment," he said. "But I can live with it. I would find it harder to associate with Potter for any length of time."

"Then you won't do it?" Granger looked near to spitting with frustration.

"I didn't say that." Draco cocked his head. "I just need you to make it worth my while, that's all."

Granger sighed. "I know that you still have enough Galleons of your own that any offer of money is useless. What do you want, exactly?"

She had yielded with less fight than Draco would have expected. So the Mudblood can learn a new trick. But Draco kept that insulting word behind his lips, because, in the new Ministry under Shacklebolt, Granger wasn't the only one who would leap down his throat for using it.

Pure-bloods can learn new tricks too, of course.

"Your voice in the right ears," he said. "I know that you have some untoward influence with Shacklebolt—"

"I'm a brilliant researcher," Granger said, sitting upright and shooting him a deadly look. "And he acknowledges that. That's all."

Draco laughed openly. "I didn't mean it in that way, Granger," he said. "Just that you knew him during the war." He waited for a moment, enjoying her embarrassed flush, then continued, "I know that you can talk to him about getting me transferred from the desk to field work more often."

"Why do you want to be out in the field, Malfoy?" Granger squinted at him. "I thought that you preferred to keep your pasty white arse out of danger."

Draco said nothing. He had had five years to improve upon and train his self-control. He no longer thought his comebacks were as witty as he had in school, but he had learned the value of silence. He just looked at her now until she remembered that she had asked him to do her a favor, and then shrugged and leaned back in his chair. It was comfortable, he had to admit that. But still, Aurors who sat at desks and shoved parchment around didn't get promoted, though people like that were the Heads of other Departments. Minister Shacklebolt valued Aurors who risked their lives. To have more than just a comfortable office and a mentally slow "partner" who put in an appearance at that office every few weeks, Draco would have to go into danger. "That's my price," he said. "Accept it, or find someone else to coax your little strayed sheep back into the fold."

Granger swore under her breath. Draco wondered idly if her husband had taught her those words, or Potter.

"All right," she said finally. "But only because I'm at my wits' end and I think you're the only one he might respond to like a rational human being."

Draco grinned. "Why, Granger, I'm touched." He put a hand over his heart, and watched her fume some more, which was nearly as much fun as having her blessing to taunt Potter. "Go on, then," he added. "Talk with Shacklebolt at your leisure. I'll visit Potter this morning." He turned back to his paperwork. As long as he was still here, he would show willing; he was determined never to fail at any task he accepted ever again.

Granger glared at his back for a while longer, but eventually went. Draco finished signing off on the report in front of him, which calculated the number of Auror trainees currently ready to become full-fledged Aurors—exciting stuff, that—and then stood and strode out of his office. He usually stretched his legs around eleven or so. No one would think it odd to see him meander down the corridors in the direction of Potter's office. It wasn't as though he had any more pressing business right now.

Besides, he could use the walk to remember what he knew of the case that had "dramatically changed" Potter, enough so that his friends were worried about him and his superiors were keeping a suspicious eye out.

Draco had been there, the morning that Harry Potter returned to the Ministry. He had dropped the cup of tea, made and enchanted to resist spillage by Malfoy house-elves, which he usually carried from the Manor to work each morning.

At that point, most of them had given up Potter for dead. He'd been sent towards a "rogue werewolf" who turned out to be a whole pack, after all, and one of the five Aurors who'd been sent with him had returned wounded and infected, babbling that he'd seen the rest of them pulled down. No one had seen any reason to doubt that testimony.

But there was Potter standing in the middle of the Auror section of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, alive and quite obviously angry. He glared at everyone in front of him indiscriminately. Draco had the odd experience of feeling those green eyes pass over him and not scorch him. He was beneath notice, part of the general scum of people that Harry Potter was enraged at.

He wasn't sure that he liked the feeling. On the other hand, he had survived Voldemort as a houseguest. He was no longer stupid enough to open his mouth and let his thoughts tumble out through it without thinking first.

Potter had given his head a little impatient toss that was to become familiar in the next few months and stalked into the Head's office. Draco busied himself with penning an owl to his mother so that she could send another house-elf with more tea, while at the same time trying to hear exactly what was going on behind a particular tightly-shut door.

He didn't have to listen that hard, as it turned out.

"Fuck you!" Potter's voice spat. "We were betrayed, and you knew there was a possibility of that with the inappropriate measures you've taken towards the werewolves, and yet you did nothing!"

He flung open the door and stalked out again. This time, he didn't bother to glance around. His eyes were fixed ahead of him, and Draco had never seen such rage. It was dangerous, free-floating, without a target. He hadn't bothered sending an owl after all, but had discreetly taken to his office and stayed there for the remainder of the morning. Since his partner, Horwich, hadn't come in that day, as usual, there was no chance that someone would open the door and expose him to Potter's wrath.

And since then—

Well, Granger was right about one thing, at least. Potter hadn't acted like his normal self.

He spent most of his time in a bad mood, or at least a mood with a sarcastic curl to the left side of his mouth and a casual insult for anyone who even suggested that he might have exaggerated his claim of the Ministry betraying him. He did his casework well and efficiently, but he refused all the partners that were offered him. Office rumors, of course, said that it had been his partner who betrayed Potter, either by running away when the werewolves attacked or actually leading him into a trap.

And that partner, Ideala Grand, hadn't come back alive from the journey, either.

Potter spent his free time digging through the Ministry, apparently intent on rooting out any and all people who had given up hope on the expedition and decided not to send any help. He had already effectively destroyed the careers of three of the suspects. One had been rather suddenly outed to the Daily Prophet, and thus most of the British wizarding world, as an abuser of Muggle children. The second, a pure-blood witch of the kind Narcissa might have picked for Draco to marry before he sat down and told her certain truths of the world, didn't come in to work one day, and the next day sent her resignation. And the third tried to hex Potter in the back as he walked past, and spent the next seven weeks in St. Mungo's from the spell that Potter cast in response.

It was no wonder his friends were worried. Draco was only surprised, now that he thought about it, that it had taken them so long to come to him.

After all, he had always been able to get a rise out of Potter when no one else could.

A good hunter always observed his prey. Draco did that by taking up a post just outside Potter's office. There were wards swarming across the door, of course, but Draco had made a study of wards as part of his process of qualifying for Auror training, and picked up other certain, esoteric knowledge from books in Malfoy Manor. The Pigeon Pryer, a spell originally meant for plucking the eggs right from under sitting birds, worked, with a slight modification, to slide through those wards and give Draco a free observation point past them.

He supposed that he would look rather silly bent over and peering through the peephole to anyone who came down the corridor, but a simple Repelling Charm took care of that. Then he bent and looked. His glasses—which he had worn almost constantly since the war, due to the way the Fiendfyre in the Room of Hidden Things had irritated his eyes—teetered and threatened to slide down. Draco caught and held them in place.

Potter was reading a card of some sort. It was made of blue paper, Draco thought, and had a moving Quidditch game on the front. The team, of course, was clad in the Gryffindor colors of red and gold. Draco didn't think such cards were usually sold in shops; ones that had the colors of various teams in the league were far more popular. Someone had probably spent time hand-making this card.

Potter just stared at it. Draco wondered idly if his experience with the werewolves had damaged his intellect, and he needed time to figure out what it was. Regardless, he would probably smile in a moment and set it on his desk, where it would have a place of honor—

Potter curled his lip, snorted, and ripped the card very deliberately down the middle. Then he ripped the halves into quarters, and the quarters into smaller pieces still, and cast them into the air. A flick of his wand lit them on fire, a quick-burning spell that Draco hadn't seen before, and which reduced them to ash long before they fluttered down.

Draco felt a lurch in his belly. If was one of Potter's little friends, it might have been sickness. Because he was himself, it was something more like wonder.

And then Potter faced his office door and said, "You might as well come in, Malfoy."

Draco blinked once, but he had learned that one couldn't hesitate in the Ministry if one wanted to take advantage of an opportunity. He withdrew the Pigeon Pryer, ended his Repelling Charm with a wave of his wand, and then looked at Potter's door. The wards were withdrawn, as he had expected. Still, it was always best to make sure.

He had not expected—

Well, he had expected many things of Potter, but not that.

Draco couldn't even say why the simple gesture, of Potter discarding a gift that one of his admirers or friends had created for him, hit him so hard. After all, a man might tear up a card in any one of many fits of fury or disgust. It didn't have to say anything deep about Potter's personality, especially since he might have torn up the card for Draco's benefit, once he sensed him watching.

But sometimes the simplest gestures told the most about a person. Draco had learned that after watching the casual way that the Dark Lord commanded his snake to devour prisoners. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

He shut the door of Potter's office behind him and gave a little nod. Potter stared back at him with devouring eyes that had gone the color of an undersea forest. Draco cocked his head and waited. Even though he had been the one caught spying, he saw no need to be the one to begin the conversation.

Potter could ask him the obvious question or not, as he pleased.

The other man sighed at last, and turned his chair more fully around from the desk. Draco preferred an ornate seat not much different from the ones in his bedroom at the Manor; they were most comfortable. Potter, it seemed, had had his fitted with a Muggle contraption that allowed it to swivel. His desk, Draco couldn't help noticing, was completely free of paperwork, with several burn marks on it, and there was still a faint smell of smoke lingering in the air, more than could possibly have come from the relatively simple burning spell he'd cast on the card.

"When did you start wearing glasses, Malfoy?" Potter asked.

Draco blinked, and then lifted his finger to push the glasses away from the bridge of his nose. "You get caught in Fiendfyre," he said shortly, "find out that you're allergic to it, and then tell me that you won't need glasses. Of course," he couldn't stop himself from adding, "as freakish as you are, I'm surprised it didn't cure your eyesight."

Then he wondered what he was doing. He never snapped like that at anyone anymore; he put up a cool wall of silence and watched them exhaust themselves snarling against it.

But, well, Granger had hired him to insult Potter and put a dent in his surly mood. This would do it as well as anything could.

Potter laughed.

Draco tried not to stare. Potter had cast his head back in absolute carefree abandon as he laughed, and the sound was dark, and resonant, and seemed to flow straight up his throat from his belly. It was a chuckle that Draco would have suspected could come from an acquaintance of his, but never someone so wholesome as Potter.

He was beginning to see why his friends were worried that Potter was acting a bit strange.

"Really," Potter said, wiping at his cheeks as if to get rid of tears of mirth, "whatever Hermione's paying you, it's not enough."

Draco was determined not to jump. He simply raised his eyebrows and said, "And what would I want with money from Granger's vault?"

"Oh, well, I used the word pay loosely." Potter shrugged and stood, bringing his face closer to Draco's than Draco felt comfortable with. He stood still, of course, and Potter grinned and turned away after a moment to pick up his wand, which still lay on the chair. "Strange," he continued in a light voice, facing away, "that you aren't denying you're in Hermione's employ."

"You seem to know everything already." Draco shrugged. "What would be the point of denying it?"

"It wasn't really hard, you know." Potter turned to face him, spinning the wand meditatively between his fingers. "Ron and Hermione have been talking about trying to do something to get me back to 'normal' for weeks, and they've tried everything from making me visit with Ron's brothers to locking me in a room with his sister." He grimaced a little. "Ginny understood, oddly enough, which wasn't what they wanted. I thought they would have to turn to you sooner or later."

"Really, Potter," Draco said, tapping his finger against his chin, "this is problematic. How am I supposed to keep my bargain with Granger if you know everything already? I don't think you'd play along and pretend to be insulted so that she would still put a word in for me with the people who need to hear it. You don't strike me as that kind of bloke."

He felt so odd, he realized, as he waited for Potter to speak. He seemed to be taking deeper breaths, and pulling in more air each time, than he had since he'd become an Auror. Being in the same room with Potter didn't relax him—he would have been mad to think it could—but it energized him and made him feel as if he were flying. That was worth something.

How much, he didn't know yet.

"I might be willing to play along with you, at that," said Potter, and his voice had descended a few notches.

Draco met his gaze, and smiled slightly. "What do you want, then?"

"Not here," Potter said, and waved his wand in a complex pattern. Several motes of light appeared in the middle of the office, coalesced, and formed an image of him. The secondary Potter sank into the chair and picked up a piece of parchment that had whirled out of nothingness next to him. Then he picked up a gleaming quill and began to write on the parchment.

"I see," Draco murmured. "So the reports of you being industrious in the office aren't true after all."

"It all depends on which version of me you think is here." Potter held open the office door and gave him a smile with teeth. "I'll show you the spell, so that you can convince whoever looks in on you that you're still hard at work, too. Now, come on. There's a pub a few streets away from here where people have learned not to be curious about me."

"I hardly think—"

"You're not the only one with Galleons, Malfoy." Potter sauntered a few steps down the corridor and then put his head back around the edge of the door. "Coming?"

"You need—" Draco shook his head. And to think I thought Granger's request odd. "You need me to tell you how to find out information on your enemies, when you've already done such a good job of it so far?"

"That's the problem." Potter sat back and stared at the bottle of butterbeer he'd ordered and which sat on the table in front of him, untouched except for three sips. "I've gone as far as I can. I've discovered the most obvious people who were party to my betrayal. But the people who were protecting them are hiding behind layers of paperwork and favors. I need you to show me how to crack that layer, get beyond it and bring down enemies who are too hard for me to reach right now."

Draco shot one more look around the pub. Incredible as it seemed, the people in it actually fit Potter's description and studiously kept from looking towards him, though Draco could sense the curiosity crimping the edges of their faces. Of course, the dim lighting and the generally dingy atmosphere of the place probably helped.

"I might still have a few contacts that I could use," he said. "But it's dangerous, Potter. You ought to know that. Your fame might have protected you so far, but it won't if they think that you'll seriously challenge the structure of the Ministry, not just threaten a few disposable people. Why don't you tell me exactly why you want to do this?"

He expected Potter to snap back and bluster his way out of the situation, but instead Potter gave him a single intense glare from under his fringe, and then nodded, once. "I suppose that I can't blame you for wanting to know," he murmured. "All right, Malfoy, this is what happened."

But even though he had said he would start the story, still he hesitated, his fingers resting against and tapping on the cool glass of his drink, until Draco gave an impatient little cough. Then Potter began in such a low voice that Draco had to lean forwards to hear it, which put him uncomfortably into Potter's space.

"They told us that there was a werewolf who had started attacking Muggles whenever he was transformed in Scotland." Potter's hands tightened on the bottle of butterbeer. "It was personal for Ideala, because she had known the werewolf before he was infected. Or, at least, that was what she told me.

"Just before we were due to go, we received word that the werewolf had managed to transform without the aid of the full moon. If that was true…" Potter gave a small shrug.

Draco shivered. The fear that werewolves might someday discover a way to do exactly that had been a prevalent one in the wizarding community for generations, even though his mother had assured him from the time he was five that it could never happen. It was only the involuntary nature of the transformation and the fact that it happened once a month which enabled wizards to confine werewolves at all.

"They sent us four other people." Potter snarled under his breath, his gaze becoming distant. "We were told that they had expertise in hunting not only lycanthropes but criminals of all kinds.

"They didn't."

Draco frowned. "But why did they want to send them along?"

"Because," said Potter, staring at Draco, "this particular pack was under Ministry protection. They were using them as threats against anyone they didn't like, and collecting their saliva so that they could infect especially troublesome people later."

Draco blinked in startlement. Again, it was something that had been hinted at as a threat in the past, but his parents had told him that it never actually happened.

"Come on, Potter."

Potter pulled his lips back from his teeth, as though he were a werewolf himself. "After what I saw in those caves, Malfoy…call me many things, but never a liar. The pack was never meant to attract attention. When it did, though, the Ministry had to pretend to take the threat seriously, and send enough people along on the mission that the public wouldn't clamor they should do more. They never intended, of course, that anyone who could cause trouble would come back from the mission alive.

"Ideala betrayed us almost as soon as we arrived. The werewolves took me and three of the others captive. The one who could be intimidated, the weakest of the other teams they'd sent along, was convinced to wait until after the full moon, then return to the Ministry claiming that he was infected and that he'd seen the rest of us die."

"He wasn't infected?"

Potter shook his head. "If Ideala had let the pack bite him, he wouldn't really have any reason to cooperate. Instead, she made sure he was safe when the full moon came." Potter's gaze grew darker. "She let the werewolves tear the other three captives—besides me—apart. She wanted to keep me alive and infect me, so that I could continue to be 'useful to the Ministry,' her words. At that time, the pack had no Wolfsbane, and so she couldn't be sure that they would only bite me and not kill me when they transformed. She hid me when the moon came rising, and left the others to be torn apart and appease the savagery of the animals. She was already planning to procure some Wolfsbane for the next full moon. She would have worked with the pack leader then to make me into one of them."

"They didn't succeed," Draco said quietly, drawn into the story despite himself.

Potter shook his head again, eyes so dark now that Draco shivered when they brushed across his face. "No. I killed her a few nights later and escaped. But I had to listen to the sounds of my comrades dying before I could reach them. And, of course, with Ideala dead, there was no one I could force into corroborating the story when I returned to the Ministry."

"The pack?"

"Already scattered when I next returned." Potter stretched restlessly. "And the evidence of Ministry involvement had gone with them, of course."

"What about the wizard who pretended to escape?"

"He's gone, Malfoy, or haven't you noticed?" Potter's lip curled slightly when he smiled. "He vanished out of the country before I could reach him. And I haven't yet reached the people who protected him, either." He leaned forwards intently. "That's where you come in. I want the people who tried to make me a werewolf, who corrupted my partner, and who betrayed Woodborn, Carlson, and Jones to their deaths. You're the person who can give me entrance into that guarded world."

Draco exhaled noisily. "I told you, Potter, not easily," he said. "Besides, I want to advance in that world. It sounds like you want to smash it. Our goals are incompatible. What I would want from you—"

"I could give you several things," Potter said instantly, "not just one."

"This should be good," said Draco, and folded his arms.

"First," said Potter, "I can get you field work as an Auror for the time being, while I work on doing more."

Draco blinked at him. "How?"

"I'm one of the most successful field Aurors, Malfoy." Potter cocked his head slightly. "And you might have noticed that I'm minus a partner."

Draco smiled in spite of himself. "Very well. What else can you give me?"

"When I do create holes in the old Ministry," said Potter, finishing his butterbeer and tossing the glass bottle casually from one hand to the other, "I don't plan to just leave it a power vacuum that will collapse in on itself. Someone needs to fill those holes. You could be one of those people.

"Third, I know that you didn't come out of the war as well-off as everyone thinks you are. I can give you some money. We'll negotiate for as much as we both think is fair.

"And fourth," Potter said, leaning across the table and lowering his voice, "I have it on good authority that I give magnificent head."

Draco caught his breath. "You're gay?"

"Bisexual." Potter flicked his fingers, his gaze never wavering from Draco's face. "And as long as you aren't going to say that bisexuality doesn't exist, your opinion of my orientation doesn't really matter to me."

Draco nodded slowly. He knew it was a much better bargain than anyone else in the Ministry could offer him, and that alone ensured he would accept it. He did feel the need to say something else first, though.

"You certainly have changed, Potter," he murmured.

Potter shrugged and snagged Draco's own Firewhiskey to take a drink. "I don't think I have," he said. "Before, I acted exactly the same way when someone threatened me or my friends. I just didn't acknowledge to myself what I was doing, and how many moral compromises I was willing to make." He caught and held Draco's eye. "Or maybe the change occurred during the war, when I found out that I am willing to use Unforgivables to make things happen."

Draco took that as the warning it was meant for, and stretched his hand across the table. "I think we might conclude a profitable bargain, then, Potter."

"I knew you'd think the price was worth what you're getting," Potter said, and clasped his wrist tightly, once.

Then he bowed his head and let his tongue run over Draco's knuckles. Draco caught his breath and tried not to let his eyes cross with visions of where else he wanted that tongue, and as soon as possible.

"And you're sure about this, Harry?" Kingsley Shacklebolt's voice all but begged Potter to say this was a joke.

"I trust Malfoy in a way that I don't trust other people." Potter's arms were folded, but his face was blank with boredom and his voice was low and calm. Draco, who knew exactly what had caused that, wondered for a moment if this was why Potter's friends had been desperate enough to approach him, because they had heard him talk like that. "I know that he isn't going to betray me unless a better offer comes along, for example. And I'm fairly sure it won't."

The Minister sighed and pressed a hand against his brow, as if he had his own curse scar that ached there. Draco cocked his head to the side, interested to see if he did, but his hand fell away from the place, showing clear, unmarked dark skin.

"If you insist, Harry," Shacklebolt said. "But you know there's still no evidence that Ideala was a traitor."

Potter merely smiled, the smile of someone who wasn't interested in discussing the matter any longer. Draco had seen that expression enough from his father to know exactly what it meant.

"Very well," said the Minister, and then signed the request form that Potter had brought to him, which made Draco's transfer of status official. "But you have to know that many people in the Department will think badly of you for it. There are other Aurors, even trainees, who need the experience more." He gave Draco a long stare. Draco, who had more practice now than he had ever wanted in being gazed at with disrespect instead of envy, returned it with equanimity.

"Yes, well, I don't trust them," said Potter, and snatched the request form, and turned away.

Draco made sure to walk along at his side, because that was what a good partner would do.

"Do you want to keep your office, or should we have you move into mine?" Potter asked when they were in the corridors and other people could hear. Draco saw more than one head turn, more than one jaw fall open.

Draco knew this was Potter's way of letting others know that he and Draco shared more than just friendship, but he was surprised that Potter was offering him the choice. "You don't care?" he asked.

Potter shrugged and shook his head.

Well, all right, then. Time to test how serious he is about this. "Move into mine," Draco said. "It's more comfortable, and I'm not moving everything I want to keep with me into your cramped little space if I don't have to."

Potter laughed, that deep and resonant laugh that Draco had heard the day before yesterday when he insulted him. That got even more stares. Draco raised his eyebrows slightly and paced along at Potter's side like someone, he thought, walking beside a very expensive dog.

Everyone who might think his recent behavior makes the Boy Who Lived less of a status symbol is deluded.

"I don't understand, Malfoy."

Draco rolled his eyes and turned around. Trust Granger to catch him right in the middle of studying Potter's Muggle chair and collection of photographs and maps and Orders of Merlin, trying to decide how they would all fit into his office. Potter was still in his own room, Summoning some of his possessions off the walls. "I'm getting close to him," he said. "I thought that was what you wanted. If I can insinuate myself into his life, then I can bring him back to normal, yes?"

"You were supposed to insult him and bring him back to normal that way." But Granger looked uneasy, as if she suspected there was a joke here she didn't understand, and Draco reveled in it.

"Right now, he's still too damaged," Draco said. Yes, let's call it that, since it's the only way she'll be able to make sense of matters. "He laughs at my insults. That's not a normal reaction from Potter, in case you haven't noticed. But at least I can make him react, which is more than you succeeded in doing, from what he tells me." He had laughed himself sick this morning at Potter's rendition of the way Weasley and Granger questioned him, "subtly" trying to find out what was "wrong" with him. "In time, I can work him back around to the way he used to be. He's like an oyster. I'm like a grain of sand. By being constantly in his company, I'll remind him of the much better and stronger friendships he used to have with you lot. I'll irritate him so much in the end that he should come begging you to take him back."

Granger looked unconvinced. She pulled out her wand and tapped it against her lips. Draco watched her warily. While she was a Mudblood, he had never denied her facility with a curse or a hex.

"I don't know," she said. "Oysters make pearls out of grains of sand, too."

"Tell me," Draco said, permitting a bit of humor to creep into his voice, "what exactly do you think the chances are of friendship happening between Potter and me? Let alone becoming a pearl."

Granger smiled reluctantly. "All right," she said. "But just don't get too comfortable in your new position, Malfoy. You aren't here to be his friend, remember?"

"I remember," Draco said softly as he watched her depart. Potter came around the corner a moment later, his shrunken desk floating behind him. He tossed his head in the direction of the Mudblood and raised his eyebrows.

"What did she want?"

"Just to remind me that we aren't friends," Draco said, and then waved his wand and Vanished half the Orders of Merlin. Potter didn't object. Considering that those were awards given him by the Ministry, Draco thought he knew why.

"Oh, well, as if she knows what friendship is these days," Potter said, edging past Draco and then returning his desk slowly to normal size, continually estimating the distance between Draco's desk and the walls with his eyes to see how big he should make it.

"You think we're friends?" Draco asked, because that would be amusing.

Potter glanced at him with that diamond-edged smile he never gave anyone else. "Of course not, Malfoy. Just suggesting that she's so determined to have me 'back to normal' that she never considered whether she's acting like one."

Draco nodded in contentment and Vanished another Order of Merlin. Then he tried with the photographs, but Potter noticed and gave him a glare. Draco waited a moment—he rather enjoyed the look of anger and the color it turned Potter's eyes—but gave in and brought it back. As fun as petty amusement was, he stood to get something worth much more out of this arrangement.


Draco plunged right.


And then he turned left, pivoting neatly as the hex sped past his leg.

His heart pounded madly. Sweat pricked him under his arms and stood in the corners of his eyes. He was panting so hard that he knew their enemies could hear him, but then again, their enemies had been alerted already when Potter's hex had battered the door down. And now they were spread around the edges of the central dining hall in the large, abandoned manor that seemed to be the natural choice of headquarters for those groups trying to become the next Death Eaters, wands in their hands.

That could have been dangerous, but their curses were, for the most part, pitiful against two trained Aurors.

Draco caught a deep breath and plunged to the floor, rolling past someone who tried to kick him in the ribs and someone else who tried to singe his hair with Incendio. He felt like laughing. This was the first time he had realized how true the words of his instructors in Auror training had been: that most adult wizards, despite a Hogwarts education, really could not manage many of the complicated spells Draco and other Ministry workers took for granted.

He Body-Bound a witch who seemed to be trying to take down the wards so she could Apparate, but then someone Petrified him. Draco screamed in his head as a wizard in a white cloak bent over him, breathing hard himself but all smiles at having stopped an Auror.

"Reducto!" someone yelled just above him, and the wizard in the white cloak went flying away. One moment Potter was kneeling next to Draco, ending the Petrifying hex and helping him back to his feet; the next moment he was charging towards the front of the hall, his wand spinning circles that sent out rays of yellow light, which chained most of the wizards who were still free.

Draco caught his breath with an effort, and then followed Potter, cleaning up the mess he'd left and taking wands from those enemies who still had them. Now and then his gaze went to his partner, who was dueling with the recovered white-cloaked wizard. Potter was dodging the curses with quick, neat expertise, and though his face was flushed, he showed no other sign of strain. Draco knew he would win easily.

He had never realized Potter could be so handsome.

Draco smiled a little. His first payment of Galleons from Potter had come through this morning, and his first day on the job as a field wizard was everything he had hoped it would be (save for his partner having to rescue him, perhaps). Potter had even shown him the spell that made one's glasses stay firmly on one's nose instead of flying away when one was wheeling through the midst of battle.

Given how Potter looked at this moment, another part of the promised payment would be no trouble at all.

"And you think that's the place to start?" Potter's eyes were intent as he rubbed the parchment with the name Draco had given him between thumb and forefinger. "With this Dyers?"

Draco nodded. "It took me a long time to coax my mother into revealing he was one of the people who accepted my father's bribes; it was almost as though she thought I was too young to know." He actually thought Narcissa had been as reluctant to give up the name as she was because she didn't want to see Draco treading down his father's path and repeating Lucius's mistakes, but he wasn't about to tell Potter that. "He's still susceptible, by all accounts."

Potter's eyes darkened in that way they had. "Then my enemies might already have bribed him into accepting their load of bollocks."

"Ah." Draco smiled and leaned back in his chair. They were in their office, with the door heavily warded and the corridor outside covered with charms that were triggered to ring or sing out if specific people came by. "There's one fact about Dyers that was never very relevant to my father, but probably is to your…enemies. Dyers hates werewolves. One killed his sister and infected his niece, and she committed suicide rather than live with it. He would be more likely to betray anyone who tried to enlist him in that plan you mentioned than go along with it, no matter how large the bribe they offered. And he'll help you—not out of the goodness of his heart, but more willingly than he would have otherwise."

Potter's face shone. Draco couldn't lie to himself; it was rather flattering to be the cause of a brightening like that, no matter why.

"You seem to believe me when I tell you there's a conspiracy to use werewolves like that in the Ministry," Potter murmured. His eyes grew darker again, but Draco didn't think it was with anger this time—not the way he was rising to his feet, not with the look he was giving Draco. "Even Ron and Hermione didn't. Why?"

Draco shrugged. "I'm less surprised by any corruption in the Ministry, Potter. My father helped cause a good part of it, after all."

He wondered a moment later if he had opened himself up to a taunt about his past—he and Potter got around most of their potential arguments by simply not discussing that—but Potter didn't respond in words. He took a few steps nearer, crossing most of the space left between their desks, and then sank to his knees. Draco felt his breath speed up, and he parted his legs without really meaning to do so.

"This is where the next payment comes in, I reckon?" He wished his voice wasn't so breathless. On the other hand, Potter had never been the most observant of people.

"It is," said Potter, and began to unbutton Draco's robes.

By coincidence—or maybe he really was more observant than Draco wanted to give him credit for—Potter opened Draco's robes and lowered his trousers and reached into his pants at just the right speed. He wasn't hurrying, furtive, afraid he'd be caught. On the other hand, he wasn't going slow and trying to act seductive, which didn't really fit the mood between them. He simply took his time, as if this were normal in every way. Draco had no problem at all getting hard.

Potter smiled when he saw that, but the smile wasn't mocking. He leaned down and slid his lips gently around the head, then moved his tongue in a zigzag pattern that Draco couldn't remember feeling before. Or maybe no one else had ever done it so brilliantly, he thought, his brain dissolving in haze as his head sagged back against the chair.

Potter never let a tooth through. He sucked at the perfect pace, too, thoughtfully applying a bit of tongue there, turning his head so that he could suck from the side there. Draco had never experienced anything like it. He wasn't desperate to come. Instead, the need and the pressure built up slowly, like some accumulation of lava underground, and then the pleasure came soaring along and took him by surprise.

Given that he did everything else so perfectly, Potter's precise swallowing shouldn't have taken him by surprise, but for some reason it did. Potter pulled back, did a cleaning charm, fastened Draco up again, and stood with a nod.

"I'm going to talk to Dyers," he said.

And then he was gone, leaving Draco to stare after him in a mixture of confusion and wonder.

"I don't see you making much progress."

"Because judging from the outside gives you such an accurate picture, Granger." Draco kept his back turned to the witch, arms folded, his gaze on the far side of the corridor. He was standing outside Minister Shacklebolt's office, where Potter had been called for another of those "conversations" that Draco knew essentially amounted to the Minister asking Potter what the hell he thought he was doing. Draco had seen no reason not to come along on the journey, even if he wasn't invited to the destination.

"You—you have to do better than this!" Granger said, and circled around Draco, so that he was forced to look into her ugly face. "Harry's still acting abnormal. He won't give me the time of day, unless I promise not to talk about his mad crashing around inside the Ministry. He spends most of his time with you, or alone, or talking to people whom I know he's never been friendly with. He doesn't date—"

He had better not,Draco thought. I don't want to pick up any diseases.

"He doesn't want to play Quidditch with Ron anymore, he almost never visits the Burrow unless it's a special occasion! I want to know what the fuck you're doing with him, and I want to know now." Granger had her wand leveled at his face again.

Draco was, for a moment, tempted to tell her, just to watch the way her expression would change. But he had to sigh and shake his head. "These things take time, Granger. You might have noticed he has a dark scowl on his face most of the time now. I don't relax him. I'm needling him in private, where other people won't hear me and wonder why we remain partners when we irritate each other so much. As for the people he's talking to…surely you didn't think I could convince him to give up his quest for vengeance so quickly?" He was curious, though he hadn't yet admitted that to Potter, what Granger and the Weasleys really thought of Harry's werewolf conspiracy plot.

"It's revenge," Granger said. "Not justice. That's the reason why it can't be allowed to go on."

Draco snorted. "Then you think the Ministry really is clean, Granger? When the Dark Lord's followers were able to invade it so easily? When there was no large change in its composition when Minister Shacklebolt took office?"

"Even if it isn't," said Granger, and his eyes hardened, "it isn't Harry's place to go thrashing about like this. We all have to make compromises to work here. If we wanted to act like the idealistic children we were once, then we wouldn't have chosen careers in the Ministry. I know that I want to make a difference for other people. I'm not as obsessed with the office politics that go on around me as Harry is."

Draco peered at her. "Are you sure that Potter's the one acting abnormally, and not you? At the very least, he's acting more Gryffindor."

Granger hissed under her breath. "Listen, Malfoy," she said. "It's true that Harry has caused a little less trouble since he's been with you. Or maybe he just hasn't been as obvious about it," she added darkly. "But either way, it's not like him to be this obsessed with just one thing. He should know that sometimes you just have to let things go, and wait for a better day."

Draco rolled his eyes. "I seem to remember that Potter spent a good portion of sixth year following me around."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Granger exclaimed, as he'd known she would. "Besides, Malfoy, you were up to something."

Draco controlled his response. Snapping would do him no good at all. "And has it occurred to you that, just maybe, the people Potter's trying to trail are 'up to something?'" he asked, mimicking her tone as accurately as possible. "Have you listened to his story?"

"I think—" Granger shook her head. "Listen, Malfoy, there's no evidence for any of it. Harry's been under a lot of stress—stress that you're adding to, by the way—and—"

"I think you're adding more to it than he is, Hermione."

Draco had seen the door of Shacklebolt's office open from the corner of his eye, but Granger evidently hadn't. She started immediately when Potter stepped up behind her and spoke into the corner of her ear. She whirled around with her wand out, in fact, leaving Draco to blink and wonder just what Potter's friends were thinking of him.

"Harry," Granger muttered, and swallowed thickly. Then she rallied. "That's not funny, you know."

"I didn't do it for laughs." And indeed, Potter's face was as bereft of humor as Draco had ever seen it, close competition, at least, for the morning he had told Draco about the werewolf pack. He glanced at Draco. "I don't think either of us thinks this is amusing, unless Draco has a perspective on this that he hasn't told me about yet."

Hiding his surprise to hear himself addressed by his first name, Draco simply shook his head.

"See? No one's laughing. You don't have to feel left out, Hermione." Potter cocked his head. "Now, I know that you're done interrogating my partner, because lately you can't stand to be in the same corridor I am, so if you would kindly leave us alone? Draco and I have a great deal to do." He turned and started striding away before Granger could react. Draco decided he might as well follow, though he lingered enough behind Potter's steps to get a good look at what Granger might decide to do in the meantime.

Granger closed one hand hard about her wand. Draco shook his from his sleeve. But in the end, it seemed Granger couldn't bring herself to shoot a hex at her former friend's back, or that of his chosen partner, either.

She contented herself with a sulky call of, "You've changed, Harry."

Potter turned back to face her. There was humor in his eyes now. Briefly, Draco felt sorry for Granger.

"You've missed the part where you convince me that's a bad thing," Potter said lightly, and then tilted his head at Draco. "Perhaps you'd care for a blowjob when we arrive back at the office?" he asked, in a slightly lowered voice.

Draco nodded at once. He couldn't think of a mood where he wouldn't care for a blowjob from Harry Potter.

Really, the man was a treasure. He was ready to pay fourfold for a few simple favors that Draco could easily do him. And he was no longer so arrogant as he'd been in school, which, Draco found, made him much better company.

Draco had always known the prices of most of the people around him. For the first time, he thought he might be learning to appreciate the value of something, too.

Draco dropped into a defensive crouch the moment he nudged the door to his office open. There was blood everywhere, sprawling in long, lazy streams along the floor and extending from Potter's chair behind the desk. A moment later, a groan announced that the culprit was still inside the room. Draco narrowed his eyes and felt his hand twitch. A curse just this side of Dark settled on his tongue.

"It's only me, Draco," Potter's hoarse voice said. Then he hauled himself upright and leaned on his desk, ostentatiously ignoring the bleeding wound on his right shoulder, which, Draco deduced, had been the source of most of the redness on the floor. "You're jumpy," he added, when he spotted the drawn wand. "I was only trying to find some towels that might stop this bleeding for a while until I can cast a healing spell, but I've been all over the damn room and can't find any. I don't suppose you know where one might be?"

Draco, never taking his eyes from Potter, Transfigured one of the pieces of parchment spread over his desk and held the resulting towel out. Potter looked only mildly embarrassed as he pressed it against his injury. He shrugged, then hissed under his breath and muttered, "I should remember not to do that." He raised his voice. "Sorry. I'll clean this mess up in just a moment."

The door shut behind him with a satisfying bang as he passed inside the office. Draco was sure that no one would care and come to check. Half the Aurors had bets on when Potter and Malfoy would return to their disputes and break their partnership apart in noisy recrimination. They wouldn't want to interrupt a fight that could be the decisive moment. Draco kept his voice as flat and precise as the wand movements he'd used to Transfigure the towel. "What happened to you?"

"I went to speak with Dyers this morning." Potter sat down in his chair. Now that Draco had time to pay attention to something other than his own defensive instincts, he saw how pale the other man was, and that he favored his right leg, too, although no blood was seeping through his robes or trousers there.

"Let me guess." Draco steepled his fingers in front of him to prevent himself from lashing out. He'd had no idea that Potter intended to act so soon. A few days of reconnaissance would have been Draco's style, followed by at least a week more to learn Dyers's routine. Instead, Potter had gone in only four days after Draco gave him the man's name. "He wasn't sympathetic."

Potter laughed softly. "He was fine. But I was attacked on my way back to the Apparition point." He pressed the towel more firmly against the wound, and shifted over to pick up his wand, which lay on the desk. "Don't worry," he added. "I already checked, and even though it was full moon last night, this isn't a werewolf bite. They were using some kind of spell, I think. Hermione's told me about a few that conjure a vicious dog for as long as you need it, then Vanish them again."

Draco shook his head. "You're an idiot," he said at last, because those were the only words that would take care of what he was feeling adequately. "Why didn't you contact me and ask me to go along?"

Potter raised his eyebrows, then waved his wand and murmured something. Draco tried to sway sideways from the yellow bolt of light that came towards him, but it struck him anyway and surrounded his face with a faint golden glow. He sat up straighter, glaring. He was tempted to hex Potter. Getting blood all over the office floor deserved at least that much.

"What did you do to me?" he demanded.

"Checked that you were the real Draco Malfoy." Potter made a sharp gesture with his right hand, then winced and hissed as his wound reminded him it was there. "Why didn't I contact you and ask you to go along? Draco. This has never been reciprocal, remember? Or, at least, not past the first exchange of favors. I give you blowjobs and money and help you advance in the Ministry. I'm not going to ask you to risk your hide in a fight not your own, any more than I would ask you to give me a blowjob in return."

Draco opened his mouth, and then realized he didn't have anything to say in response to that. After all, the nature of his bargain with Potter was indeed just that: they did things for each other, but not on a continuous basis. Even the trust they'd developed together in the field was only that natural for Auror partners who needed to watch each other's back, and no more. Draco knew they would never have the friendship that partners often had, and which he knew Potter had had with Ideala Grand before she betrayed him.

He shut his mouth and glared. "If you die," he said, "what happens to my chances for advancement in the Ministry?"

Potter smiled ruefully. "That's true, Draco. I'll think about it in a little more depth next time." He brightened. Draco bit his lip, telling himself that he was not jealous of anyone else for putting that look on Potter's face. It was a ridiculous thing to be jealous of. And how could he be jealous in any case, when he was a young man who would do brilliant things in another few years? "At the very least, Dyers gave me my next name. He knows a few people who would be willing to work with us, and pull down the people who engineered this disaster."

"Who are they?" Draco asked, trying to pretend no more than casual interest.

Potter shook his head. "Sorry, Draco. Dyers made me swear an Unbreakable Vow not to tell anyone else."

Draco turned back to his paperwork. He had more of it now that Potter had become his partner, but he still cleared his desk with the same efficiency.

And why should he care what mad things Potter did in pursuit of his vengeance? He would probably manage to survive. He was Harry Potter, and that helped.

Draco should only want to be at the side of someone who had helped him for years, because that person's value would outweigh the risk he was taking. And as interesting and worthwhile a companion as Potter had proven himself to be—as much of a shame as it would be to have that talented mouth slack forever—he hadn't crossed that line yet.

"Did you see the Daily Prophet this morning?"

Draco didn't bother to look up, but only shook the newspaper, which was spread out in front of him, in praise of Potter's observational skills. Potter laughed, that sound Draco loved to hear, and shut the door behind himself.

"Yes, well, that was one of mine." Potter stretched his arms over his head, wincing only slightly. It had been a few weeks since he received the shoulder wound, and it had healed more swiftly than Draco thought it should.Perhaps Potter visited St. Mungo's on the sly, he thought, watching around the edge of the newspaper. "I couldn't quite believe it when we managed to hook her. She survived unscathed through her crimes at Hogwarts and her part in the Voldemort war, but Dolores Umbridge is out of the Ministry at last."

"Hmm," said Draco. He could feel his cock stirring as he watched Potter stretch again and take a few swift steps in lieu of a victory dance. "I know what would put me in a celebratory mood." He shoved his chair back from the desk and spread his legs, patting the side of his thigh.

Potter laughed softly. His eyes were a color Draco had never seen before, a bright green close to malachite, but the same lust sparkled in them as always. He took one stride, slid easily to his knees, and waved his wand. Draco's clothes were open before he knew it, and then his erection vanished inside a perfect, warm, wet mouth.

Potter's better mood led to a better blowjob, though Draco wouldn't have believed that if someone had told him so, since they'd been pretty fucking spectacular before. His tongue tried new and experimental patterns. He varied his breath as well as the motion of his mouth when he hummed, and he bobbed his head as if he were a Muggle child with a lolly. His hands roamed, for the first time Draco could remember, stroking the tender skin along his thighs and dipping just behind Draco's balls to rub there. Draco caught his breath deep in his chest and came explosively down his partner's throat.

He was still weak-kneed and panting when Potter pulled back, winked, and did up his trousers again. Draco sat there, gazing down at him, wordless. Then he found his hand lowering, as if of its own free will, to tangle his fingers in Potter's hair.

With an easy chuckle, Potter pulled back from the touch. "Come on, Draco, no need to tax yourself," he said. He stood and glanced at his desk, his posture casually shielding his crotch from Draco's covetous gaze. "Dyers thinks that we should be able to go after the next major conspirator soon. We haven't found any ties to Shacklebolt yet, which means the upper levels of the Ministry may not change as much as we thought." He whirled around, and Draco was able to make out no sign of arousal. "But that doesn't mean you won't still get a proper position. I promised it, and I'll make sure of it. A man of your talents shouldn't be wasted."

Arrogant Potter. He thinks more of his own talents than he does of mine, I'm certain.Draco avoided Potter's gaze, and showed nothing of the bile rising up his throat. He just nodded. "Of course," he murmured.

He rubbed his fingers together several times that day. They felt oddly dry. Potter probably had dandruff, and he'd spread it to Draco when Draco skimmed his hair.

He couldn't see any sign of dandruff, no matter how closely he studied Potter. Of course, that mattered not a whit. The git probably had enough sense to cast spells that would keep it shielded from plain sight. It was only someone who touched him who would know the difference.

A furious pounding on his door awakened him from a dream of gripping Potter's hair and fucking his mouth, so hard…

Draco jerked up, erect and gasping, and realized that he was still in their office. He'd fallen asleep over the desk, stubbornly trying to finish up one more of paperwork before he went home to the Manor, this time on a case where he and Potter had arrested five wizards trying to smuggle living demiguises into Britain. He licked his lips, cast a spell to take away the erection, and strode to the door, since the intruder didn't intend to stop knocking.

"Yes?" he snarled, only to find himself on the end of a wand. He thought for a moment Potter's enemies had come hunting him, before a Lumos charm flared and he realized he was blinking down at Granger.

"Do come in," he said, stepping out of the way and rolling his eyes when she immediately pushed past him to settle in his chair. See, Potter, even your friends agree that I have better taste in furniture.

"It's been a month, Malfoy," Granger said. She folded her arms and regarded him with a disturbing air of calm. "You haven't made any progress. I'm going to Shacklebolt tomorrow and telling him that you should be removed as Harry's partner, unless you can tell me that you'll have Harry back to normal by morning."

"Then you'll have to go to Shacklebolt, I'm afraid," said Draco, and yawned. He didn't try to conceal it. Did Granger think it was easy, being a field Auror? Since she had chosen to study magical law, she remained behind a desk most of the time.

"You don't care, do you, Malfoy?"

"About your threats?" Draco shook his head and settled in Harry's chair, which tilted alarmingly beneath him. "Not a great deal, no. I think you'd find, if you took a moment to look at reality, that Harry is causing quite a stir of interest in the Ministry. Most people think it would be a good idea to accommodate him. I'm unlikely to be dismissed because you think that's what should happen."

"I meant that you don't care about Harry," Granger clarified impatiently. "A true friend would have wanted him to stop this madness. He's already been hurt several times."

"He was only hurt once," Draco said sharply.

Granger sniffed at him. "No, he wasn't. There was the shoulder wound four weeks ago, and he was limping last Tuesday, and then he broke a finger last weekend, and he came in favoring his left arm this morning. That's what I mean. You don't care about him. He'll die on your watch because you can't be arsed to pay attention to anything but your career."

Draco hated the jealousy that flooded him then, sharp and sour as vinegar. If Potter was hurt, he should have been the first to know; it could affect his performance in the field, and therefore Draco's own safety. Granger didn't care about Potter either, since she had tried to hire Draco to spy on him. Draco didn't want the position of Potter's best friend, but since he'd been fulfilling that role by default for the past several months, he at least should get some of the special consideration that came with it.

"Maybe," he said, summoning up the reserves of venom he had dammed too often around Granger, "if you and Weasley could have been arsed to believe him in the first place about the werewolves, he would never have had to come to me."

Granger slammed her hands on the desk. "There is nothing about werewolves behind this, Malfoy! Harry's just gone a little mad in his need for vengeance, and he's trying to hunt and pull down people who have nothing to do with the original cause!"

"If you believe that, then why aren't you stopping him?" Draco dug his fingers into his arm to prevent himself from lashing out this time. "You're supposed to be Gryffindors, aren't you? Against the suffering of the innocent and all that."

"No one can stop Harry when he gets in one of these moods." Granger shook her head impatiently. "We couldn't talk him out of following you, or out of suspecting that there was something wrong with Snape in our first year at Hogwarts, even though Snape wasn't the one trying to steal the Philosopher's Stone."

"Somehow," Draco murmured, "you don't comfort me. He was right about me, after all. And he's right that Snape was involved in defending the Stone, even if he wasn't trying to take it."

Granger ran a hand through her hair, which sprang up and looked ugly behind the sweep of her fingers. "You don't understand, at all. He's not right about this. We've tried and tried to explain that to him. We've tried to listen to him sympathetically. We've tried to bring him back to himself. He doesn't want to come back."

"Then maybe this is what he is now," Draco shot back, "and you should respect that and learn to deal with him on this level."

"I want my friend back," Granger said. "And I won't get him this way." She stalked away, paused long enough to say, "I'm going to Shacklebolt tomorrow," and then flung the door open and flung it shut behind her.

Draco was left alone to brood on the fact that he hadn't seen Potter's wounds, which must have meant that Potter had gone out of his way to conceal them from Draco's probing eyes.

I should have known. The conviction grew in him as he felt jealousy boil once more, pickling his heart. I have a right to know.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

Potter had the nerve to let the door fall shut behind him as if it were an ordinary morning, and to frown at Draco as if he had no idea what he meant. "Tell you what? There are lots of things that I'm forbidden to tell you by the Unbreakable Vow, Draco. I thought you knew that."

"Not that," Draco spat, and rose to his feet, his wand clenched tightly in his fist. "You didn't tell me that you were wounded after the first time. You should have told me—"

"Why?" Potter's eyes were still bright with amusement. "None of the rest of them caused me to bleed on the floor. And that first one discomfited you so much—"

"It did notdiscomfit me—"

"You weren't watching your own expression," Potter said, now with an infuriating gentleness. "You looked absolutely disgusted, and not a little angry." He shrugged. "I had them treated before they could interfere with my performance in the field. I assumed you would rather not know."

"I have a right to know," Draco said, and stalked a little closer, watching for Potter's wand.

"No, actually, you don't." Potter still looked amused, but he folded his arms and leaned against his desk. "You never volunteered to come with me on these hunts. As long as I stay alive and in shape to benefit you, then it shouldn't matter to you where I'm going or what happens on those journeys. You'll notice that I took no cuts to the mouth."

The jealousy and the anger were feeding on one another, tugging on Draco's stomach like the urge to vomit. "You think this is only about what shape you're in when you give me blowjobs, you bastard?"

"Of course," Potter said, and finally his eyes started to darken and his brows to bend down. "What else would it be about?"

Draco hit him with a Body-Bind, or tried. It seemed that Potter had an instinctive reaction to that particular wand movement. He spun out of the way, ducked behind his desk, and came up holding his wand, to fire a purple line of light at Draco.

Draco probably wouldn't have been able to dodge that a month ago, but becoming a field Auror had paid off in more ways than the obvious. He folded to the ground, and heard the sound of an impact with the wall behind him, mingled with the smell of burning wood.

He fired from the floor. Potter cursed in startled tones as his right foot suddenly took on a life of its own and tried to hop away from him. While he was casting Finite Incantatem on it, Draco climbed back to his feet and aimed a spell that should feel like someone kicking him in the teeth at Potter's face.

Potter was still too alert for that, though, and cast a Shield Charm before Draco's blow could land.

And then they began fighting so fast that Draco couldn't distinguish one spell from another. He knew he used Shield Charms, and that some of the hexes got through and stung fierce wounds into being along his shoulders and spine. He also knew that he had burned off the hem of Potter's robes and some of his skin, but he wouldn't give up. He just gritted his teeth and came in harder, as if that would solve anything. Draco cut Potter's desk in half down the middle and destroyed his horrible Muggle chair; Potter retorted by flipping his desk over when Draco tried to hide under it and taking off the arms of his comfortable seat.

In the maelstrom of adrenaline and magic, Draco became aware that he was screaming, raw, wordless cries, and that Potter was shouting, louder and louder each time because his words were blocked by Draco's voice, "Malfoy, what is this about? What on earth did I do? Look, will you calm down—will you just—fuck, that hurt—"

"You cut me out of it!" Draco finally said, when the urge to simply scream had passed and he wanted Potter to know the depth of his folly. He dropped to his heels and flung himself into an arching movement to escape the curse headed for his chest, and then finally managed to fire a Body-Bind that Potter couldn't escape. The other man fell stiffly to the floor in front of one weirdly glowing half of his desk. Draco stood up and advanced on him, resisting, with some difficulty, the temptation to kick him in the groin. "You didn't let me help! You never once asked me my opinion! And then you moved away when I tried to touch you!"

Potter stared at him with those dark green eyes from the middle of a motionless face.

"You didn't give me the chance to make up my own mind about you," Draco whispered heatedly, crouching down next to him, gripping his chin, and shaking it. "You told me that story about losing your partner and your allies, but you never thought that I'd sympathize, did you? Oh, no, everyone knows that Slytherins don't do sympathy! You just assumed what I'd do and did the opposite. You said you didn't want to tax me, but I know the truth. You thought you wouldn't get anything out of me, so why bother even asking it?

"Well, let me tell you something, Potter. I've changed more in the last five years than you could ever imagine. I learned more during the war than you could ever imagine. Going after you in the Room of Hidden Things was the last genuinely stupid thing I ever did. And I'm not stupid enough to let someone like you hold me at a distance when I have the chance to get closer to you. Do you fuckingunderstand now?"

He paused, his chest heaving, and then remembered that Potter's jaw was bound and he couldn't answer. He fumbled for his wand and cast a localized Finite Incantatem, just enough so that Potter could answer back.

"No, I don't fucking understand," Potter whispered. "I wasn't taking your choices away, for God's sake. I was keeping you safe. And I was offering you what you said you wanted. What's the problem now, Malfoy? Did you change your mind about the price? I'll give you something else, if—"

"Fuck yes," said Draco, his voice rough, and not just with the screaming. "Let me show you what I want."

And he cast again to release the Body-Bind, then surged forwards and seized Potter's lips in a kiss.

Or maybe it wasn't a kiss. Call it a passion-filled snog, Draco thought, through the haze filling his head. That would do quite well. His tongue was ramming into Potter's, and his teeth were clicking against Potter's, and his body reported all sorts of wonderful and disturbing sensations from elsewhere as he forced his face further and further into Potter's, breathing noisily, chewing, licking, trying to climb into him.

Then Potter's tongue answered back.

Draco opened his mouth wider and bit down on Potter's lower lip. That won him a startled exclamation, followed a moment later by a moan. Draco smirked, smug as a centaur at the revelation that Potter liked a bit of pain with his pleasure. He had known it, based on the way he sometimes gagged around Draco's cock but insisted on sticking it down his throat anyway.

Potter spread his legs then, and started answering with the rest of his body as well as with his mouth. Draco snarled in welcome and let himself be rolled over. If Potter had some need to dominate, let him dominate, as long as it meant that they were both finally engaging in this, and that the bastard wouldn't hide his arousal any longer.

So long as he gave Draco the choice, instead of assuming, like a Gryffindor git, that he already knew everything about Draco.

Potter's knees were locked on either side of his legs. Draco's legs were locked around Potter's hips. It didn't make for the best angle for rutting together at first, but they found a rhythm that suited them both, and they didn't need to find their passion. It rose and crashed over them like a drowning wave, and Potter practically howled with eagerness. Draco wondered for a moment whether that bite might have been from a werewolf after all.

And then he lost himself to the wonderfully painful pressure against his cock from an inviting hardness—finally finally—and the tight pinch of his trousers around it and the unsteady, frantic motions of Potter's hips and the mouth that was still trying to devour his, even as it meant that Potter had to bend his neck down at an awkward angle.

And those eyes, dark with lust at last, and drowning drowning drowning Draco in deepest green.

When he came, it was an affair of arched back and stretched spine and legs bent to the snapping point. A muffled wail bubbled in the back of his throat. He felt Potter's shoulders, Potter's shoulders, tensing with his own climax and trembling with his own furious grunts, and his satisfaction tore through him so hard that it left him trembling like a swimmer who'd tried to outrace a flood in the aftermath.

Potter's face twisted in orgasm, and his eyes widened. Then he threw back his head, and a sound like the deeper cousin of that laugh Draco loved ripped his throat apart. And Draco found himself stroking Potter's flanks, his torso, everywhere he could reach, hoarsely whispering encouragement.

The agony of wanting was worth it, he thought when Potter had collapsed across him in a limp, sweaty mess, given what he got as a prize. And then Potter turned his head and laid his cheek across Draco's in a simple, wordless gesture that made have to close his eyes. Well, that was all right. Everyone had to close their eyes sometimes.

"Wow," Potter said at last, like the uneducated, completely uneloquent halfblood he was.

"Yes," Draco said. He dredged up determination, remembering that Potter might change his mind now that the heat of the moment was past. "And I meant what I said. I have a new price. You can stop paying me Galleons; I don't need them, since I'll be sharing your bank vault. But we share, from now on, partnership and power and sex."

"You're sure you won't change your mind?" Potter braced himself with an arm on Draco's chest and pulled back to stare into his face. "This isn't your fight. Or," he amended, probably warned by the flash in Draco's eyes, "it doesn't have to be, anyway. There's no reason for you to take on danger—"

"Except that you are doing so," Draco said, "and I know what you're worth. I'll have you know, Potter, that that's one thing no Malfoy has ever neglected to do."

"What's that?" Potter blinked. Draco wondered idly how clear his face was to Potter right now. Potter's glasses were hanging askew off one ear. Draco's had flown across the room somewhere. The charm to keep them on one's face was meant for running and dodging, not for a session of passionate sex.

"Protect their investments," said Draco.

When Potter smiled and bent down for another kiss, Draco knew he was understood.

"He's talking about aiming for Head Auror, now." Granger stood in the door of Draco's office, staring at him. Her hands were on her hips. Draco thought of mentioning how unattractive it made her look, but then decided not to. Why should it be his duty to improve her appearance? "You know that he won't do well in that position."

Draco stretched his legs out on his desk—unlike the one Harry had ruined, this was not an antique from the Manor, so he might as well rest his feet on it—put his hands behind his head, and grinned at Granger. "Oh, I don't know," he said cheerfully. "With that newfound obsession with office politics you've described more than once, there's no reason he shouldn't do well. And now that he's mostly cleaned out the Auror Department by having Ernest Thicknesse arrested, he very sensibly wants to make sure that no more corruption creeps back in, or he'd have to do it all over again."

Granger shook her head and twined a curl around her finger. "But he never used to be like this," she muttered. "I think you've been a bad influence on him."

Draco dropped the grin and his feet. He leaned forwards and rested his elbows on the desk. "Granger," he said clearly. She shot him a started glance. "Hearing people die three feet from him, people he was helpless to save, changed him. So did having someone he trusted absolutely betray him. Whether or not you want to admit that, it's still true. I'd think that you'd want to learn what the new Harry's like and befriend him, instead of constantly bemoaning that he'll never be the same again."

"Why do you care?" she challenged him.

"Because not being friends with you hurts Harry," Draco said. "And I don't like it when he hurts. Stop it."

"Protecting your ticket to fame and fortune, Malfoy?" Granger's eyes were narrowed with dislike.

"I knew you wouldn't understand," Draco said with resigned distaste.

"Damn right she doesn't," said a voice from behind Granger, and Harry stepped past her and into the office. He circled around to stand next to Draco at once. Draco rose to his feet. The desk was between them, but a quick slide took care of that, and then he could set his shoulder against Harry's and curl his arm around his. Harry gave him a quick smile, but his eyes were hard and dark with anger when he turned back to the woman who had been his best friend.

"I've just become more aware, Hermione," he said quietly but intensely. "I'm not a cynic. I know what my name's worth now, that's all, and that I can't fight every evil with a wand. I'm doing more good in the Ministry than I'd manage otherwise in twenty years. Is that really worth arguing over?"

"We just want you back, Harry," Granger whispered. Her eyes glistened.

Harry shrugged. "You can have me, but on my terms. And those terms require acknowledging, first, that you believe me about the werewolves—and with Thicknesse's little confession yesterday, I have no idea why you still doubt me—and then apologizing. When that happens, maybe we can have dinner together."

"Not at the Manor," Draco interjected. "I have some standards."

"Of course," Harry agreed, kissing his hair.

"How can you stand him, Harry?" Granger asked, her voice rising. "He's horrible."

Draco turned his head to the side, presenting his profile, the better to show off his narrowed eyes and expression of utter scorn. "I'm someone who knows exactly what Harry's worth, Granger, and how to value him," he said. "A lesson you lost along the way, when you started demanding that he conform to your terms and ignore his own changes just because you didn't share that experience with him."

"He keeps talking about worth," Granger said, past him, to Harry. "Can't you see that he just wants to use you?"

"There are so many different kinds of worth, Hermione," Harry said, in a dismissive tone.

Granger stalked out. Harry stood gazing after her sadly for a moment. Draco rolled his eyes. I have to do something, or he'll brood the rest of the morning, and that's something I would be quite happy never to share again.

"There are many different kinds of worth, you're right," he said. "For now, I think I need to appraise your mouth again, since it's been a whole two hours and it may have lost some of its savor in the meantime."

And Harry let go with that resonant laugh that Draco loved, and his eyes shifted from one kind of darkness to another. Draco had learned to appreciate those, too.

Draco dragged him into a kiss, smug again.

No Malfoy ever made a better bargain.