Harry hadn't planned on doing it; he really hadn't. But right now, moments before the chance would be surely lost--with Malfoy still jiggling about on the grassy ledge behind him, excitedly muttering his achievements (which, incidentally, had turned to: "All seven, hit the lighthouse... I'm the greatest… Oh yeah, oh yeah…"), with the last of the chocolate nearly spilling out one side of his mouth--that was suddenly and shockingly exactly what Harry wanted to do.

And Harry knew he wouldn't leave until he did it. ...Until he said it.

The Elder Wand... the sandwich eating... the chocolate frogs... the--the damn rocks. Together, they were all swimming around in his mind, like pools of Veritaserum, as clear as deionised water. Cool and calming. He could see the liquid clearly in his mind's eye, and it was swirling and mixing with something else… another potion, this one strangely familiar and coloured like smooth ice, like whipped cream... only more shiny, and pearlesque, with curls of smoke rising from its surface and tangling in the air… stilling him deep inside, the effects odd and unexpected.

He ensured the magical binds were in place on Mulciber, taking much longer than he needed to--checking them more than once, more than twice, and then more than thrice--before turning to Malfoy and reconnecting their eyes. And Harry knew: his gaze was strangely soft, and open, and--and honest, with a man he used to hate.

Harry wet his lips and stared at Draco. He thought he'd known him, having butted heads with him through the most critical years of his life. So, maybe he did... but then, maybe, in other ways, he didn't.

But it didn't matter; it was all different now. Years and minutes and seconds seemed to pass; life, the very fabric of time, and memories all turned to liquid, melting and blurring into a new sense of Now… and of Him… Of Them… and of This.

Mulciber was grumbling about 'bloody Malfoys' and how they always went and betrayed their Dark Lords. Harry hit Mulciber with a Silencing Charm without even turning or thinking twice about it.

Then Harry did it, he did it. He gave Malfoy a small but sincere and very present nod.

Then Harry said it, he said it:

"Thanks," Harry breathed. "Malfoy…? Just--" His head gave Malfoy another curt but clear nod. "Thanks."

Pigs were flying today. Pigs. Pink ones. Loads of them. All wearing brightly coloured tutus.

Draco's head instantly lowered at Harry's words, his eyes averted and clouded and unreadable.

Harry took in another steadying breath. "…For the Elder Wand... and... and for Pettigrew." Harry denied his eyes the desire to blink; instead he held them open and held his gaze on Malfoy. "And... for this."

Draco was still throughout it all: hands in his pockets, head slanted, expression thoughtful, and eyes resting on shifting blades of grass--not moving a muscle all the way through. Once Harry had finished, Draco's head lowered even further, hair concealing his eyes, the top of his blond head now mostly visible. After endless seconds, Malfoy lifted his head back up to face Harry, his eyes smiling and shining and full. "Anytime, Potter," he said. He slowly smirked; the twinkles began to reappear in his eyes. "Anytime," he remarked casually and airily, as if it were all in a day's work for him to turn up out of the blue and help catch the bad guys, by way of super chocolate-eating powers and lazy, off-handed threats to one's life.

Draco Malfoy: the Superhero of Stalking and Surprise, with powers so great they were known to none other.

"So." Malfoy jumped down from the ledge and began to move towards Harry and Mulciber with a cool, playful swagger to his walk, hips swinging cockily once more as he moved. "Shall we escort the prisoner back to headquarters, or what?" he asked rhetorically, with an excited smirk.

Harry sighed inwardly. Oh, no

Malfoy obviously loved this whole Auror business to bits--loved it--even more than Harry had first thought. ...Adored it so much that he couldn't even handle not being a part of this--a part of each and every step, each and every aspect of the job.

Malfoy was obviously determined to see it all through.

But travelling with a prisoner and a fake-Auror, on purpose? Well, that was more than just a little illegal. And Harry...? Harry couldn't do it.

"No, Malfoy," he whispered to the man who was now staring out into the distance with a wonderfully pleased and somewhat wistful expression. Malfoy's head swung towards him in shock. "We can't. I'm sorry. You can't tag along. You're not allowed."

His wide eyes were fixed on Harry, testing Harry's seriousness and obviously dismayed with what he eventually saw. "Oh…" He cleared his throat. "Well, then how about--how about I get there myself?" He looked away. "...Get there some other way?"

Oh, Merlin. "Malfoy...?" Harry's voice was gentle, more gentle than perhaps it had ever been. "Malfoy...? He's a prisoner. A--a prisoner. I need to Apparate him right into... a cell. And then... I need to charge him, and do some paperwork. Immediately. Right away." Harry pressed his brows together to impart his sincerity on the matter. "Malfoy? There's... there's nothing for you to do. I'm--I'm sorry." Harry hitched his shoulders slowly, but his own face was now lowered and grim, and his eyes could not meet the others. "That's just how it works." Harry said it so quietly that he almost didn't hear himself.

When he looked up again, it was to see Malfoy frowning and looking into the distance. The sky was cloudier now and the sea was moody: waves clashed and crashed against each other. The whole sea seemed to churn. The breeze picked up at that moment and tore through the grass. Malfoy glanced back at Harry a moment later; the wind whipping through his hair now, making soft blond strands lift and stand on end and swirl around his head. His eyes were intense and--and even sad.

He was a palette of grey. A study in the tones of one pale, sunless colour.

Winter had arrived early this year, and it was standing right in front of Harry.

Harry almost felt himself suddenly stumble, though he wasn't even moving nor did he move--or even intend to. But it still felt like Harry had tripped nevertheless; like he'd fallen and lost his footing, and wasn't quite standing straight or upright anymore. "We have to go," Harry said hoarsely.

Malfoy slipped his hands into his pockets and looked down at the ground, rubbing a groove in the dirt with the edge of his shoe. He nodded once, and then, after some hesitation and the tight pressing together of his lips, a second time.

"I'm sorry… I'm…" Harry whispered, and then placed a hand on Mulciber's shoulder and let the familiar feeling of Apparition roll over him and press against his skin, violently sucking him into a hole that felt too suffocatingly small.

"...sorry."

oooo

"DRACO!" Harry screamed as soon as they landed in the padded cell, Mulciber rolling over and hitting a wall under the force of momentum and maybe even under the force of Harry's premature release--he was so furious with Malfoy that he'd let go of Mulciber's arm a split-second too soon.

But it had all happened in a flash: there was Malfoy; a--a picture of loneliness. And--and heartache. And Harry felt for him; he'd actually felt for him!

And then this. At the final second, Malfoy had lunged forward, blatantly ignoring Harry's expressed--and painfully sincere--wishes. With a hand firmly around Harry's wrist, he'd journeyed through space with Harry--he'd deliberately tagged along with no thought of anyone but himself and himself alone. And he'd killed a little piece of Harry in the process.

Harry could have kicked himself. What had he been thinking--what had he been thinking? That a Malfoy could change his spots, his stripes?! That a Malfoy could respect and understand a Potter and let him just be?

Mulciber moaned and heaved himself slowly onto his unsteady feet, rubbing his sore back, while Malfoy sheepishly dusted himself off and, partly turned away, looked up at Harry, guiltily, out of the corner of his eye.

Harry stood there, enraged: fists by his side, body taut, angry and disappointed eyes just nailing into Malfoy; they pierced into the pale skin and blond hair of Malfoy's bowed head, not even wavering in the slightest when a pink blush began to spread across Malfoy's cheek and neck.

Malfoy kicked one of the bars lightly with his shoe and eventually asked in a small voice, "So…" The blush become blotchier and a deeper shade of red. "What now?"

Harry closed his eyes. "What now?" Harry repeated coldly.

Malfoy gave a half-chuckle that sounded desperate and lacked confidence. "Yeah." Malfoy raised eyes that were somewhat eager and maybe even smiling a little. He was apparently attempting to 'lighten' the mood.

"Now…?" Harry turned and nodded to the outside guard and, hand on Malfoy's lower back, guided him out of the cell, leaving Mulciber behind. "Now? You go home, Malfoy," Harry said in a voice more distant and wobbly than it should have been. He turned a corner with Malfoy, hurriedly tugging him along by the arm, and headed towards Rose's front desk. Rose spotted Malfoy and began to giggle until she saw the harsh look on Harry's face; she immediately scooted off in the opposite direction, towards the tearoom. "You go home," Harry continued. "And you…" He strode towards a cabinet and shuffled some papers about in a drawer. He returned to Malfoy's side with a thin booklet in his hands. "Here. You go home, and you fill out that application package." Harry paused and began to blink rapidly, ignoring the strained edge to his voice. "And you--you become an Auror, and perhaps move to… to Ireland." Harry turned roughly away. "And you stop stalking me, you stop illegally tagging along on critical Auror business and Auror Apparitions… and you stop threatening the validity of my arrests. And then…?" He looked over his shoulder at Malfoy; the two finally meeting eyes. "We all live happily ever after. The end."

TBC…