Why did Harry Potter nod in greeting to Draco Malfoy when he saw the man on the platform? Ron and Hermione were clearly not on such terms with the man. What secret did the two men share from even their own families?
December 1995: 5th Year:
"Malfoy and Potter...just what do you think you're doing?" Snape's tone was deceptively polite and the class instinctively cringed backwards.
"This is Potter's fault." Malfoy responded flatly, but not for one moment did he move his attention or wand away from Potter.
"It invariably is Mr Potter's fault. I didn't ask who was at fault, I asked what you were doing?"
"Malfoy banished that towards my cauldron." Potter waved his free hand vaguely in Malfoy's direction, his wand and attention still locked on Malfoy. "I was disinclined to let it arrive so I returned his mail unreceived...he seems reluctant to receive it back."
"I see." Snape snapped the item neatly out of the magical field which held it suspended between the two boys, he almost smiled to see that both boys instantly dropped their spells...no damage to his dungeon, how nice. Snape inspected the amorphous blob in his hand for a moment before turning to bin it. "Detention for both of you...tonight...here."
"Yes, sir." The response came in perfect unison.
"Get back to work." Snape resumed his perch at his desk and was pleased at the order which was maintained for the rest of the lesson. He was thinking first-year cauldrons and newt preparations for tonight.
"Malfoy." They'd been standing in utter silence for five minutes outside the dungeon door. Malfoy wouldn't have minded if the silence had continued.
"That's the difference isn't it."
"I'm not a mind reader, Potter."
"That Spherous Root would have done nothing more than turn the potion pink...a rather bright pink considering that much root would have bound all of the bile in the potion...but pink none the less."
"Your assessment is correct, your potion would have turned pink...might have frothed a bit too since I did send a bit extra for good measure."
"Would he have done worse than detention if we hadn't also continued our potions while trying to not receive it?"
"I still hate you."
"It's mutual." Silence fell again and remained undisturbed through the detention and out the otherside. They separated after the detention without a word.
November 1996: 6th Year:
"Malfoy and Potter." Snape actually flinched slightly when those two names came out linked for a duel, he'd thought Bones and Longbottom a bad combination, but this held promise for pure murder. Snape strengthened the wards around the small dueling platform, fixed both boys with an icey eye before giving them the all clear to begin. In the next ten minutes Snape was actually impressed, neither boy broke a single rule which had been laid down in advance...but oh, did they push the boundaries on every single rule. Not one single dark spell was cast, but both sides cast spells which could only be classified as grubby. Both boys were sporting injuries worthy of a trip to the hospital wing when Snape gave the order for them to halt and he was mentally groaning over what Poppy would be saying to him at dinner when the two boys stopped just off the platform. Snape's brows rose slightly as both boys reversed everything and healed each other then scowled at each other and stomped off to their own particular group of friends. It would seem that the mutual antipathy was not so severe that it outweighed the threat of a trip to the Hospital wing.
"I hate you." Malfoy's comment was fully understandable because he had just lost that duel.
"It's mutual." Potter's response a little less clear, unless one considered the fact that the boy had hair to match his eyes with silver streaks above each ear. There had been an effort to rectify the situation, but it had achieved absolutely nothing. Snape sneered to see Granger trying to fix the hair and then grinned slightly more with each failure.
June 1998: Godric's Hollow
"What the hell is this about, Potter." Malfoy scowled nervously around the small graveyard which he'd just apparated into. He still couldn't decide why he'd replied to Potter's request, let alone actually turned up at the specified location without support from Goyle or someone else.
"Got a job I thought you'd like to lend a hand with." Potter dumped two shovels and a coffin on the ground.
"Oh." Malfoy scowled around the night. "Where the hell are we?"
"Godric's Hollow." Potter was already digging. "The cemetary if you really need the place precisely described."
"Very funny." Malfoy grabbed a shovel and the hole grew apace. "How long have we got before there might be trouble?"
"Few hours at least." Potter grunted the words out as yet another shovel load flew through the air.
"Who is it?" Malfoy had been glancing at the coffin regularly.
"Professor Snape." Potter paused for a moment. "I figured the least we could do in thanks for him saving our lives was to give him a decent burial next to his best friend."
"My mother." Potter paused to take a drink. "I actually suspect he might have been my father had he not acted rashly when humiliated in his fifth year. She's why he turned spy. She's why he resumed spying after the rebirth. She's why he took every shit job Dumbledore thrust upon him...including teaching us brats."
"Damn." Draco shook his head slowly. "Never thought you'd turn body-snatcher, Potter."
"Least I could do since he wouldn't be dead except that he bought me some time under Dumbledore's orders."
"Time?" Malfoy paused to blink.
"The hour when Voldemort was waiting in the Forbidden Forest." Potter flung himself back into shovelling with renewed vigour. "I wouldn't have got it except Snape 'failed' to deliver a message for the Dark Lord. I needed the hour to learn the last truth of the whole bloody mess and make some sort of plan to try and keep things safe." The next hour or so passed with no words beyond the odd curse. Then Potter stepped back to investigate the hole, before pulling himself up out of it and offering Malfoy a hand. "I haven't put anything on the stone yet...you got any thoughts?"
"Slytherin to the bone?" It was delivered with a smirk as Malfoy cleared the hole.
"I think he was actually Hogwarts to the bone." It came back rather quietly.
"He was a slytherin...but he was also loyal as hell, hard-working like no one else, brilliant as all get out...wouldn't consider him witty and his morals were totally screwed...but he was unbelieveably courageous...he went to his death alone, Malfoy...I couldn't and I doubt you could either."
"No fear." Malfoy gave a snort and then a faint smile. "Here lies Severus Snape: Headmaster, Potion Master, Professor and Friend. Hogwarts to the End."
"It'll be a squish, but I'll make it fit." Potter wiped his face and applied his wand to the task.
"Were you crying, Potter?"
"I mean it, Potter, were you bawling?"
"You are too." Potter paused to scowl.
"Put a cauldron at the top and the Hogwarts crests at the corners."
"Satisfactory?" It was twenty minutes later when Potter sat back and gave the other a look.
"Adequate." Malfoy's sniffed response drew a laugh from both of them.
"Merlin, Hogwarts won't be the same without that." Potter shook his head before turning to lend a hand getting the coffin into the ground. It took half an hour to refill the hole properly and compact the soil down.
"Why did we do that by hand?" Malfoy looked up with a scowl from where he was collapsed with a waterbottle.
"More respect since it took us four hours instead of two minutes."
"True." Malfoy got to his feet with a moan, bowed briefly to the tombstone and then turned back to Potter. "I hate you."
"It's mutual." Potter almost grinned as Malfoy apparated away, but he still had a bit to do. He rose and dusted himself off before turning to face the stones. "Just letting you know that we won...I hope you're happy." Potter then stepped back, collected the equipment and apparated quietly away.
September 1998: Basic Training: Department of Magical Law Enforcement
"I hate you." Malfoy had sunk into the seat he was assigned and taken one look at his training partner before uttering the quiet mumble.
"It's mutual." Potter did smirk that time. "Bit damn fool of you not to think that I'd be in this class."
"I was hoping you were too damn sick of fighting and wanting to party for a bit."
"Not a chance, my parents weren't made of money." There was a moment of silence. "Why are you here?"
"Got to do something for a few years, learn the ropes of survival at the Ministry, get a feel for who the real power are."
"You expect to do that in the Auror Department?"
"High probability because of my status I'll be stuck on departmental detail...can't think of a better place to learn the ropes."
"Point." Potter gave a soft snort. "Malfoy?"
"Was that potions exam depressingly simple or what?"
"That was a NEWT level standard potions exam we sat." Malfoy cast half a glance at Potter. "In the fifteen years Snape was Potion's Master for not a single student he'd had from first year who sat the OWLs failed. Even Longbottom passed with a pretty comfortable grade. That's why he only took O level students in the NEWT subject...didn't want anyone who wasn't responsible enough and interested enough to actually work. Man was no end of a git, but he knew how to make the essential aspects of potions stick in any head."
"I'll say...asphodel and wormwood?"
"Draught of Living Death...you did look the most damn fool that day, Potter."
"I didn't see you in any hurry to supply the answer."
"Of course not, only a fool even considered offering an answer if Snape didn't specifically ask."
"You claiming to have known the answer?"
"No." Malfoy gave a snort. "Do I look like Granger?"
"I can fix it if you'd like."
"I'll pass...and I also intend to wipe the mat with you in dueling."
"In your dreams, Malfoy, in your lovely, rosey-pink daydreams."
"I hate you."
"It's mutual." They both turned as the lecturer began the class.
April 1999: DMLE: Auror HQ.
"Sir, you..." Draco Malfoy's smooth entry ground to a halt when he saw the second occupant of the room. The Supervisor was not alone, and his companion was someone Draco had been fairly actively avoiding, whenever humanly and magically possible, for the past eight months...which was actually depressingly rarely.
"Grab a seat, Malfoy." The Supervisor waved a negligent hand, otherwise occupied with warding the room to an insanely high degree of security. Even Moody would have been hard-pressed the even know who was in the room...let alone what was going on.
"Is this going to take long?" Malfoy rather cautiously took a seat.
"Shouldn't take too long." The Supervisor dropped his wand back onto his desk. "The Department has a proposition for you, you hear it and you make a choice whether to accept or refuse. If you refuse you will be out of here within five minutes and never remember having been here. If you accept...well you could be in for a rather long evening since we, the Department, have our doubts about Potter's logic."
"Then I might as well walk out right now." Malfoy half rose in preparation to depart.
"Chicken much?" Potter's calm tones stopped him dead.
"No, I just know that anything involving you will be fool-hardy and verging on utter insanity...in the best scenario."
"Wonderful." The Supervisor was smiling widely. "Finally someone who agrees with me. You're out-voted, Potter."
"Not a chance, sir." Potter swung a negligent foot. "He's a Slytherin and a Malfoy, he'd never have actually left without hearing the proposition...he just wants some idea of what's in it for him."
"Officially you and Potter will be tied to desks as being politically too powerful and high-profile to endanger in front-line activities."
"Unofficially?" Malfoy slowly sat back down.
"Unofficially, you're too damn useful to waste serving as official escorts, prisoner escorts and issuing fines for apparition misdemeanours. You'll need to be tied to your desks because our simulacrums can't cope with anything more and still remain tangible and interactive."
"Is everyone offered this officially labelled as too important to risk?"
"No, it depends on the particular person in question. Sometimes they fail out of training...we couldn't do that with either of you since you're wrecking the grade average. Injuries...punishment for incompetence in the field...again unusable in your particular cases. This is one of the first times we've used political reasons."
"What will we actually be doing?"
"Covert Operations...for want of a better description. Death Eaters. Smuggling rings. Anything filthy and violent, you'll be the first on the scene and probably the last off the scene. Your simulacrums will live your official lives...otherwise you simply won't exist."
"I comprehend why Potter." Malfoy's eyes narrowed. "But why me?"
"Potter requested you as primary choice partner."
"What?" Malfoy stared at Potter in disbelief. "What sort of sick joke is this? We've done nothing but try and murder each other whenever we've met for years."
"No joke at all." Potter sat forward. "As you said, we've done nothing but try and murder each other for years."
"So what's the joke?" It came out as a vicious hiss.
"No joke." It came back as a low growl.
"Gentlemen...this doesn't look like it's going to work." The Supervisor was actually looking slightly worried.
"Rubbish, Malfoy simply hasn't fully considered the situation yet." Potter leant back in his seat and shut his eyes.
"Well how about you educate me." Malfoy likewise slumped backwards in his seat, his eyes never twitching from the menace to society who'd been the bane of his school years.
"I would actually like to hear this as well." The Supervisor leant forward and grinned slightly in response to Malfoy's look of pure shock. "Potter's proven to work well when left to his own insanity. Hence we've let him choose his own partner without insisting he give reasons in advance."
"It, of course, didn't hurt that the person I chose was the other person you were considering pulling into this insanity." Potter opened one eye for a brief moment. "It's simple why I chose Malfoy, I know he will do everything in his power to keep me alive and intact."
"Oh?" Malfoy's eyes narrowed. "Just what makes you think that I won't simply murder you myself the first time we're out of sight of witnesses?"
"Pride for one." Potter gave a small smirk. "Then there's the slight issue of my death being on your record for the rest of your life...it wouldn't look very good."
"Those aren't your only reasons." Malfoy's eyes narrowed. "Spill Potter."
"You'll figure it out fast enough I reckon." Potter slumped a little further down in his seat.
"I hate you." It was ten minutes later when Malfoy spoke.
"It's mutual." Potter finally opened his eyes and sat up again with a tired sigh. "Believe me, it's mutual."
"Are you certain you two can work together?" The Supervisor looked torn between fear and amusement.
"Positive." Malfoy responded in a rather bitter tone. "I hate him, no question...however it is my great sorrow that I actually understand portions of his twisted brain when he gives me sufficient hints...there's also the fact that I'm the only person who couldn't care less if he uses snakes while he works."
"They weren't my snakes to start with." Potter straightened completely to scowl at Malfoy.
"Doesn't make any difference after you reminded them of your second language." Malfoy gave a sneer before collapsing into laughter.
"It was worse than second year." Potter shook his head ruefully, somehow managing to scowl while simultaneously laughing. "Absolute chaos. I couldn't believe the idiot had forgotten that I can talk to the things...we were only discussing where they were."
"It sounded like you were marshalling them to do some serious damage." Malfoy regained control and sat up straight. "What happens now, sir."
"Now you sign a contract, receive twenty-four hour access to the training facility, and commence basic training for the new job."
"And then?" Malfoy's eyes narrowed.
"Stay alive, it's damn difficult to arrange for the death of two desk bound simulacrums without also killing off a few other people."
"Potter should be a cynch, just have the bloody thing walk under a bus."
"I'd prefer a train I think." Potter seemed to be considering things thoughtfully before abruptly sitting upright. "Malfoy would undoubtedly break his neck after slipping on a banana peel left on the edge of the gutter near the Ministry."
"Why would I be outside the Ministry?" Malfoy gave a sniff. "I would deign to die nobly preserving the life of the Minister from an attack though."
"I actually would prefer it if I never had to deal with the question at all." The Supervisor rose. "Now we just have to arrange your passes and a few other details...including the contract. Do follow."
"Yes sir." Potter rose to his feet and then smirked at Malfoy.
"I hate you."
"Well damn!" The Supervisor was shaking his head gently as he waved Potter and Malfoy to grab themselves seats. Officially, as in he'd just screamed it across the Auror Pit, he'd just called both in to read them the riot act for being a disruption in the department. They were going to have to leave the office looking rather downtrodden.
"Sir?" Neither man had any doubts about why they had been pulled in, but equally they were not stupid, unless the Supervisor specifically said otherwise they were nothing but a couple of desk aurors pulled in for a matting.
"The Minister has just been past raving about the wonders of the Auror Force." The Supervisor had a faint smirk on his face.
"Congratulations, sir." Potter's calm response drew a snort from Malfoy, he couldn't believe how innocently complimentary that Gryffindor could sound.
"The problem, Potter, is that I didn't send any Aurors where he seems to think they were."
"Oh dear, should I check the rosters again?"
"No Potter, you need to stop screwing around and fill me in on exactly what you two lunatics have been up to...other than establishing a reputation for volatile temperaments and mutual hatred."
"Malfoy's introduced me to a couple of his friends down Knockturn Alley...I introduced Malfoy to the Muggle World..."
"I still haven't recovered." Malfoy muttered his interruption softly and scowled.
"...We've done some work in the training room and have started looking into our options."
"You call three duels a day for two solid weeks 'some work'?" The Supervisor blinked rapidly and then glared at both men. "You haven't been cleared for active duty yet."
"Sir, we haven't left our desks except at the end of the day...or to duel."
"Malfoy, I might have believed him if you weren't about to piss yourself laughing." The Supervisor swivelled cold eyes to the other man.
"I'm simply bowing to the master of innocence, no wonder Snape couldn't pin a thing on him."
"It wasn't for lack of trying." Potter scowled darkly.
"All that aside, you both claim to have not left your desks during work hours except to duel?"
"Depends on your definition of desk, but yes." Potter gave a confident nod, which Malfoy backed up less than a second later.
"So you weren't responsible for the apprehension of three thieves who just happened to portkey in next to the Minister?"
"That was the Minister?" Potter's innocent surprise was beyond compare. Malfoy choked violently before staring fixedly at his shoes. "That was just a little dust-up...kind of a warm-up."
"They'd pinched an item of interest from the Nott House. I called in Potter because I know he can follow apparition trails better than I can and it seemed reasonable to think he could track portkeys as well. We spent a happy half-hour apparating over most of England before we caught up to them properly...it was just our rotten luck the Minister was there."
"Malfoy was the one who thought to wear official robes with some mild glamours." Potter gave a grin.
"That was commonsense Potter, you said out next stop was going to be London!" It was a soft snarl Malfoy gave in response.
"What does the Minister think happened?"
"Oh, the usual, our vigilence enabled us to isolate a threat to his person and arrive at exactly the right moment to neutralise it...though I've yet to figure out what he thought his actual guard was for."
"Probably decoration." Potter stiffened as he finished speaking. "Malfoy?"
"Only yours." Malfoy's response was calm.
"I'll be right back." Potter acquired a thoroughly chastened expression just before he plunged out of the office.
"What happened?" The Supervisor looked enquiringly at Malfoy.
"Potter wards his desk...and someone tripped them." Malfoy gave a shrug. "It was probably just someone leaving a note...but better safe than sorry."
"I was actually thinking about the reason why you were apparently visiting Nott's at the same time as sitting in your desk."
"That, sir, is classified."
"I presume the reason that Potter could help you out without leaving his desk is also classified."
"I think so." Malfoy paused for a moment. "Being who he is he might just simply be able to maintain multiple projections of himself...I guess that would be classified as well." Malfoy blinked. "Terribly sorry sir, it seems I can't answer."
"I advise you to leave the innocent looks to Potter, he's more convincing."
"Ahh, but my expression of mild plotting leaves him for dust." Malfoy gave a faint smirk. "He can only manage innocence or evil plotting. Gryffindors, no subtlety at all."
"It isn't required of us." Potter dropped a thick folder onto the desk and settled comfortably back in his seat. "I don't think Addams is going to try snooping in my draws next time she's required to leave me a note."
"What have you done to her?" The Supervisor seemed worried.
"Not much." Potter gave a wide grin. "But the back of her robes might be flashing 'I groped Malfoy' for the next couple of days."
"You are so dead, Potter."
"Am I supposed to be keeping a tally?"
"Tally?" The Supervisor didn't seem able to make up his mind between laughter and soft-moaning despair.
"Well, a certain Dark Lord kind of told me I was dead...eight or nine times if you count every time he implied the matter. Malfoy's been threatening me every couple of hours for the past eight-odd years. Snape...actually I think he was only intent on expelling me. A couple of Weasleys have notified me of my deceased status. Bellatrix Lestrange certainly thought she was going to kill me...announced it almost as often as she saw me...about five times. Then there's the odd individual who's name I can...oh, Malfoy's dad told me I was dead a couple of times as well. Otherwise no one notable threatened me...Fudge might have wanted my hea..."
"Shut up, Potter." Malfoy rolled his eyes. "We get it, everyone hates your guts and wants you dead. You can start the tally tomorrow...and my death threats don't count."
"Which reminds me that I will chuck a fit if I see Tonks before you get her de-charmed."
"Fun...accuracy for that." Potter smirked. "Speed and accuracy to be precise."
"I hate you." Malfoy turned to the Supervisor. "Can I leave before he completely undermines my sanity."
"With my blessing." The Supervisor was thumbing through the file Potter had brought in. "Infact you can both go."
"Sir." The two men retreated leaving the Supervisor to stare blindly at the file and wonder whether this partnership was a good thing...or a very bad thing.
"Are you trying to get us killed?" Malfoy had no idea why he hadn't simply murdered the Gryffindor already. Potter, tied up in knots by an ex-death-eater with a good hand for the cruciatus, had used his available breath for the lamest line of cheek Malfoy had ever heard. The ex-death-eater had been almost appoplectic when he'd finally departed. Potter was now slumped against a wall in very bad shape.
"No." Potter shifted and began ivestigating his ribs with a gentle finger. "They're too well trained in not killing me to actually do it now."
"Damage?" Malfoy scooted across and took over the investigation.
"I don't think any actually broke." Potter had given a small wince at one point, but Malfoy had to agree with the man's assessment. Potter's ribs had to be fractured and bruised, but none of them had fully broken yet...there was no immediate danger of a puncture if he moved.
"You're lucky." Malfoy moved back to his corner and took a worried look at his watch. Their current location was a heavily warded dungeon and they had not moved in there willingly.
"I know." Potter's eyes were closed and his breathing very shallow.
"Please tell me that your insane little Gryffindor brain actually had some sort of stupid idea of a reason behind you decision to do that?"
"It works a charm on Death Eaters...figured it would also work on an ex-death-eater." Potter's eyes blinked open for a few moments. "It does, I am happy to tell you."
"Oh, you thought the absence of his scaliness would lower his propensity to use the cruciatus?"
"No." Potter was smiling rather faintly, but Malfoy was more than a trifle amazed that the man could smile at all after a go like he'd just been through.
"The majority were Slytherins...means they only considered Slytherin plots." Potter gave a thin little cough. "They always talk while the curse you." Potter spat out a bit of blood. "We've got to get out now."
"Oh, and we didn't five minutes ago?" Malfoy dragged Potter to his feet and watched him for an intent moment.
"I'm good." Potter waved a rather limp hand. "Can you manage the door?"
"Fine." Malfoy glared at Potter for a moment, then swung and focussed on the door. The cell was heavily warded...but it was warded with attention on Aurors, not Malfoys. Malfoy almost rubbed his hands as he began plotting his assault pattern. He also intended to leave a little surprise for any fool who decided to re-ward the cell.
By the time Malfoy was finished, five and a half minutes later, it was not just the wards on the cell door which were in shambles. There probably wasn't an intact ward on the property when Malfoy grabbed Potter and apparated them directly from the cell. Malfoy's comments on the ward work as he filled in his report, perched next to the sterilised bed where a grumpy Potter was being held overnight for 'observation' and filling in his own report, were not restricted to the english language and spared no kindness for the caster. Potter was as amused as cruciatus would allow.
"Why did we have to get out then?" Malfoy abruptly dropped his quill and stared at Potter, his mind remembering the curious anomaly of Potter's earlier speech.
"Apart from being uncertain whether my sanity could take another go...I'd got all we needed." Potter caught the plane which came shrieking into the room and unfolded it before handing it to Malfoy. "They've caught the lot."
"He..." Malfoy was gurgling unintelligibly.
"Oh, and I reversed your filing last night...you'd better have a nice line of curses for me the next time you see Parkinson. That was a rather large fine she asked you to lose."
"Couldn't care less." Malfoy was scowling at the page.
"She won't be happy, this is the third time you'll have failed her."
"I'm not Merlin, Potter, and she's a bloody awful apparator." Malfoy looked up with a scowl. "This fool actually told you the when and the where of the transfer?"
"Yeah." Potter gave a small shrug as he finished off his report with a flourish. "Standard Death-Eater practice, they love to tell me things while cursing me...I think they believe it increases my sense of helpless futility to know what my capture is going to cost."
"Morons." Malfoy refocussed on his report and finished it off a couple of minutes later.
"Okay, that's weird." Potter was shaking his head gently, mostly supported by a pale Malfoy who really was in only slightly better condition.
"Thanks for taking it." Malfoy applied another enervate, they weren't going to get anywhere if Potter lost consciousness again.
"You're not quite so inured to the damn things." Potter gave a shiver and then took a little bit of weight back on is own feet. "I am so getting myself a potions belt...one of those nice ones which carries everything but still looks like a normal and boring belt."
"If I had one I'd be feeding myself anti-cruciatus, a pain potion and a couple of energy potions just for good measure." Potter took a bit more weight back, but cursed as he tried to take too much and crumpled down. "I think I may have done something bad to my left knee."
"Just what we need." Malfoy pulled Potter into a more comfortable position and then hit both legs with a healing charm.
"Thanks." Potter twisted slightly to send something of extraordinary nastiness at whatever had caught his attention behind them.
"Just Flint being nasty." There was a moment of silence. "You might have warned me that you'd arranged such a solid alibi for yourself."
"I didn't realise it was us until after we were on our way...and then there wasn't time."
"True." Potter sighed. "This stuff is deadly...do you think we'll be let off the hook soon?"
"We better be or I'm going to demand extra sleeping time input into my schedule. If I could take it home I could sleep in until midday and still make it to work on time...we just proved that!"
"Think the Supervisor will gape when I report duelling Flint and Malfoy on the way out?"
"D or L Malfoy?"
"Both, actually." Potter gave a weary smile. "Your old man was the one that cursed us."
"My old man may value family over Voldemort, but that doesn't make him a convert to muggle loving." Malfoy was eyeing the ward boundary which was still several metres off. It would be unbelieveably humiliating if they didn't actually manage to escape with the evidence intact and themselves mostly intact.
"Contemplating quitting?" The quiet taunt was all Malfoy needed to spur him over the boundary with the load.
"I hate you." Malfoy spat the words out after they'd verified a successful apparition back to Headquarters and he'd downed several potions.
"Evidence is intact though." Potter had sunk to the floor next to his office robes, one hand futilely attempting to get something from a pocket.
"Moron." Malfoy dug a quartet of potions out of the pocket and cracked the top on the first one. "Open."
"Yerch!" Potter grimaced after swallowing the first dose. "The taste is almost not worth the results."
"Again." Malfoy had cracked the second top and offered it.
"Taken back to back the taste is even worse." Potter gagged briefly this time, but he was well enough to sit up properly and swallow the last two doses by himself. "Thanks!"
"You're going in..." Malfoy stopped as he abruptly grabbed his tablet and scanned it. "Perfect, I'm over the moon to announce that I've just beaten you in a brawl downstairs."
"Sod." Potter got awkwardly to his feet, stripped off his dark robes and exchanged them for the office robes he would need to be in. They took a moment to fix their appearance to match the information on the simulacrum tablets before sitting back to wait for the opportunity to exchange places with the simulacrum. As Malfoy frequently said, this was very tiresome.
"I hate you." Malfoy moaned the words while still accepting Potter's hand to get himself out of his current tangle of legs in a ditch.
"It's mutual." Potter swept a swift scan over his partner, applied an even swifter healing charm before dusting the man down vigorously.
"No, I really hate you, Potter." Malfoy sniffed and then pushed his hair out of his face. "I'm meant to be at a political party in my best clothes, not wallowing around in some ditch observing incompetents while passing myself off as an intoxicated muggle."
"Relax, you'll get more than payback tomorrow evening."
"I want payback now." Malfoy was snarling softly. "That twit was a first-year during our seventh-year."
"I forgot to take my seventh year." Potter handed over a couple of potions before he lead the way quickly down the street.
"Oh wonderful, you just had to remind me that I'm still defeated by the fool who got into the department on fame alone." Malfoy had gulped down the potions with relief, his expression visibly easing. "He can't even be out of school yet! What the hell is he mixed up in this for?"
"Pot and kettle...ferret?"
"Oh shut-up." Malfoy shot a quick glance around and then apparated.
"The other possibility was that he was a firstie in our third year."
"Shut-up." Malfoy scrawled for readmittance and checked the tablet to see if by some miracle he could simply go home and soak in a large bath with lots of potions mixed in. Yet again though, no such luck. Malfoy was begining to suspect his simulacrum of slacking.
"I'll probably trip you on your way back to your desk." Potter grabbed his own tablet, grimaced and then returned it.
"Can't I do something to you for once?"
"Your dignity permits an act so blatant that it persuades me to drag you downstairs into the training room?"
"My dignity gets tired of being tripped, hexed, jinxed and generally set-up by that lump of insanity which passes as your brain." Malfoy jammed his tablet back into its slot for the next time his simulacrum was put on duty.
"Well, you got the majority of the fun in the early days."
"That is not the point, Potter."
"Oh, so hexing my robes Slytherin house colours when the Minister and Departmental Head were making an inspection equals a single trip? Not a chance."
"Well I..." Malfoy stared, blinked and then stared again. "Potter, please tell me that is not our simulacrums bickering."
"They are Malfoy." Potter scratched his head as he sorted out what the simulacrums were bickering about. "It seems you dropped a file on my head and are currently resistant to all insults directly intended to persuade you into letting me kill you in the duelling room."
"Damn!" Malfoy rubbed his face wearily.
"Take off home, I'll cover the paperwork for both of us."
"But..." Malfoy seemed torn between relief and deep suspicion.
"I'll let the pit know you're booked for dinner and I've got a promise for two solid hours downstairs in repayment for covering you."
"Evil, Potter, very evil." Malfoy slumped slightly and then gave a tiny nod.
"Get moving, you need some serious potions for that bruising."
"Thanks." Malfoy accepted the two vials of potions Potter had pulled from a pocket, then simply apparated away. Potter disengaged both simulacrums and changed into his office robes before he stalked irritably into the pit muttering under his breath about 'bloody Slytherins', cursing his own nobility and looking around for some sucker to duel. It was getting very hard to find anyone willing to duel him anymore, apart from Malfoy...and if that scan he'd done had been right, Malfoy was going to be only semi-active for several days. Potter rubbed his face and cursed again, this was the very last time he was going to allow them to be split up for any reason whatsoever. They were not Hit Wizards for Hire. Thinking of that though, he'd better arrange something so Malfoy's absence tomorrow morning would be understandable...would he mind fighting off an attempted mugging? An elegant fight of course, defended his date with skill...pity the perpetrators got away, but they needed a reason to be seen raking the stacks anyway. Potter dropped into his desk with a final curse, pulled a mountain of paperwork to a central position in front of himself before burying his face in it. Why couldn't magic do the paperwork? It could file the stuff, so surely it could do it as well.
Potter put in a solid two hours of work on the paperwork before he took a moment off to ostensibly visit the toilet, it was the only place he could guarantee sufficient privacy while calling Malfoy on the Black mirrors.
"What?" Malfoy was looking pretty bad, Potter noted as he settled slightly more comfortably.
"I was considering arranging a subtle mugging. You nobly defend your date and take some punishment because you refuse to let her get injured. Perpetrators unfortunately escaped. I'm guessing you won't accept them being muggle muggers. Explains the fact you look smashed up and gives us plenty of reasons to be combing the stacks."
"Why on earth would you be helping me?" Malfoy lifted an eyebrow. "Celebrating in the pit seems more likely."
"Not a chance." Potter gave an evil little grin. "Let thugs get away with putting the kibosh on my dueling partner? No way. Totally unacceptable. You're the only person who is still willing to even train with me...let alone let me pick a fight. Just think of all the lovely insults we can throw around while combing the stacks."
"I hate you, Potter." Malfoy turned the mirror off with that, confident that he really would need the newspaper tomorrow morning...if only so he could learn the name of the date he was protecting so heroically.
November 2001: Auror Department
"They're at it again!" The announcement had every desk cleared within seconds and flurry of legs and robes headed for the Training rooms. These days betting on the duels between Potter and Malfoy amounted to a departmental sport. In two years of desk work, the mutual antipathy the two young men shared had caused them to hone their duelling skills to a vicious degree of perfection. They ended up in the training rooms most days for one reason or another, ranging from old-fashioned frustration at being paper-pushers, to explosive bouts of temper after one or the other had thrown a hex out of sheer boredom. No one was willing to challenge either man to a one on one fight any more, not that anyone had ever been too keen on facing Potter, but Malfoy had become truly formidable, as only a man who regularly duelled Potter could become. Occasionally one or the other man was used to help new teams work on their teamwork in a volatile situation. Potter usually, but Malfoy if they wanted genuine dark spells flying, not that Potter didn't use dark hexes himself...it was just that Malfoy's didn't guarantee a trip to hospital. Just once had the two men been persuaded to fight together, and they'd proven that if you fight someone often enough you can also team fight, even if you refuse to talk to each other.
"Ouch." The mumbled comment was an accurate reflection of what was on everyones mind as the body slammed heavily into the ward barriers.
"Someone got out of bed on the wrong side I think." Another soft mumble and more grunts of agreement. It took a lot to cause an Auror to flinch, but most of them were flinching right now.
"Make that two people." This one came with a snort. Malfoy had finally recovered from whatever no one had seen which had resulted in him hitting the barrier and the two men were clearly intent on murdering each other by the nastiest methods possible. If it weren't that they all knew they were in the Auror Training rooms, some of the old hands would have sworn they had ring-side seats for Death Eater Central. The spells couldn't even be classed as grey, or grubby...definitely not off-white or creamy. The spells were dark as they came without actually being the unforgiveables.
"I reckon Potter got out of the wrong side of bed...Malfoy's just pissed now because of getting thrown into the barriers like that."
"Who wouldn't be."
"Me." One of the rookies flinched. "I'm a complete wimp when it comes to Potter."
"Most of us are complete wimps when faced by the chance of facing either one of those two." The snort came from near the back. The old hands had no fear of admitting their cowardice on this subject, Potter was too prone to making people eat their words if he heard a boast.
"I think the political reason might not be the actual reason that those two are restricted to desks." It was one of the greener recruits who spoke up after a while.
"Oh?" Almost every head turned to look at the man.
"What moron would even contemplate breaking the law if they knew they were going to face that?" The hand-wave was rather vague, but in the right direction. All heads turned back to the duelling area just as Potter jumped, dove and rolled before regaining his feet, all to avoid an obnoxious battery of spells from Malfoy which would have given a machine-gun a run for its money.
"That is a point." Willis seemed entertained as she watched Potter and Malfoy prowl around, it was highly likely that whatever came next would put a normal person in hospital...permanently. "Why does Malfoy accept the fights?"
"They went through basic training teamed up...because Malfoy worried the big names and they trusted Potter to keep him in line. We'd all got an eyefull of both of them during basic training and knew to keep our distance. Even in training they were no holds barred in a duel." There was a momentary silence. "I figure Malfoy doesn't say no simply because he prefers being regularly thrashed by Potter to admitting that he will never beat the man."
"Malfoy's won a couple of times."
"Every time Potter was carrying some sort of handicap, be it left hand casting or someone else's wand."
"One of the times I believe he was limited to filing spells."
"Filing spells?" The rookies had turned up a blank.
"Mm, spells for filing paperwork and ordering books." Willis gave a soft snort. "Malfoy nearly lost that duel anyway."
"He won the duel when they were restricted to hair charms."
"Only because Potter didn't know any."
"Do you think they're trying to kill each other?"
"They usually are."
"Well, I think they should be glued to their seats. I wouldn't have a job if the baddies knew that was prowling around after them." That drew a general chuckle before attention was drawn back to the duel. The wave of magic from Potter caused every jaw to drop and Malfoy to curse as he dove for cover. No one knew what the spell did, but with that much power behind it, it had to be lethal.
"Uncle! Fine, I won't hex your name-plate like that again." Malfoy peered warily out from his cover towards the other.
"Hnh!" Potter twitched his wand irritably for a moment before abruptly shoving it away. "Idiot." Potter crossed to help Malfoy out from his cover. "Alright?"
"Fine." Malfoy waved his wand a couple of times. "I'll need more bruise balm though."
"You should have thought of that earlier." Potter pushed Malfoy ahead of him, herding the man back to the pit. "We have the Ministerial Detachment Minutes waiting for our avid attention."
"Potter, I need the hospital afterall."
"Uh-uh, little Snake, not wriggling out of it that easily." The door slammed behind Potter, but not before Malfoy's unvarying response which indicated the two men separating for their desks.
"I hate you."
March 2002: London
"You know..." Potter sank down onto the park bench and watched the children who ran, played and shouted.
"Apart from the fact that both of us have been getting a bit sloppy lately." Malfoy used the dry comment as a prompt when it became apparent that Potter wasn't about to finish the sentance.
"We haven't." Potter gave a small shake of his head. "As fighters we're as good as ever...we're just not completely paranoid anymore." Potter kept his eyes on the children.
"Well, we better adjust for this claimed reduced level of paranoia." Malfoy gave a scowl. "I refuse to waste perfectly good clothing on morons."
"Those trousers certainly were written off." Potter gave a small shake of his head as he remembered the tatty shreds of material which Malfoy had hidden by short-term transfiguration for three hours. "How do we do it, Malfoy?"
"No idea." Malfoy was grim. "But we'll learn...even if we spent the rest of our time randomly hexing each other."
"Lovely, we put on our paranoia when we don our robes each morning." Potter gave a faint snort.
"It's called being alert, Potter, not paranoid. Moody was paranoid."
"D'you think he ever did this?"
"Not a chance." Malfoy gave a snort. "Moody liked the attention of being a good auror, no sense of subtlety and the patience of a starved lion who's smelt fresh meat. If there have ever been any like us before...they were the people who did not wish for history to remember them."
"You don't want to be remembered?" Potter lifted a curious eye-brow.
"If I'm remembered by history, I want it to be because I wielded my political and financial power with skill and subtlety for the betterment of the wizarding world. No, I have no wish to be remembered for 'fancy wand-waving'."
"You, Potter could do anything you like and it would merely be a sidenote...or footnote, attached to the details of your many fights with the Dark Lord." Malfoy gave a snort. "Currently your footnote states that you work at the DMLE and show promise to rise high."
"Auror third class on the Ministerial Detail." Potter gave a sniff before rising to his feet and stretching. "You'll be back in a week?"
"Shouldn't take any more than that." Malfoy tilted his head in acknowledgement before he moved off to find a private place for apparating home. Neither of them were totally comfortable about this, however, jobs needed to be done and Malfoy couldn't be jumping around with a time turner to deal with the current issue at home. Potter would have a new partner for a week.
January 2003: Minister's Detail
"Potter!" Malfoy grabbed the man the moment his head stopped swimming from the displacement of the Time Turner. A distant bit of his mind was relieved to note that he'd arrived at almost exactly the right second. That did not fix his leg though.
"Healing?" Potter took a second off his shield to cast a preliminary healer at Malfoy.
"Yes...and a scourgify if you don't mind." Malfoy cast a full-powered shield so Potter's shield wouldn't be missed when it fell in a few seconds. Potter was going to need all his power to get Malfoy mobile for the rest of the day.
"Someone got you properly." Potter winced as he got a readback from Malfoy's leg.
"Relax, I'm pretty damn certain it's you who'll get the sod who got me."
"Good." Potter cast three quick spells and handed Malfoy a potion before retaking his position reinforcing the massive shield protecting the Minister and his party. "You'll be feeling the leg something savage but it should hold."
"Good." Malfoy tested the leg warily, flinched and then scowled at Potter before striding off to tell someone he needed a new position because Potter was too distracting for words. He wasn't about to mention his lack of complaint earlier had simply been that he knew he was going to need the cover for shifting in and out to cover his double duty for the day. Malfoy never asked how Potter managed these things, he had a feeling that Potter actually knew significantly more about the workings of Time Turners than he'd ever let on to the departmental who'd given them their strict lecture on the use and maintenance of the device. Potter had never used the device in sight of Malfoy, but use it he must because he was in multiple places at once whenever it was required.
"OI!" Malfoy was barely settled into his new position before a palid Potter was jostling his elbow.
"Healing?" Malfoy couldn't see any damage on the other, but that didn't necessarily mean a thing. With the shimmering obscurus charm in place Potter could be bleeding out and the spell would conceal it if it considered it part of Potter.
"De-cursing." Potter was getting paler by the second. "Gut wrencher."
"Ouch." Malfoy winced as he cast the requisite spell to cancel out and reverse the spell Potter so acurately described in his crass manner. The spell literally grabbed the intestinal tract and slowly pulled it out through the front of the abdominal cavity while twisting slowly through any number of degrees. "Stop playing nice."
"That's what you said just before you sent me up." Potter wiped his face as he drew a couple of deep and cautious breaths before abruptly swearing and diving back into the thick of the melee. Malfoy winced when he realised what had caught Potter's attention. That was going to hurt if...Malfoy winced even more, but no longer was it for an alternative version of himself, it was for the fools who'd been on the verge of making his alternative self hurt. Potter had cut through the fools in less time than it took for the group to realise they'd chosen the wrong 'black cloak' to gang up on. All five of the fools were bound and banished out of play. Potter was totally pissed and Malfoy couldn't blame him for both of them had needed healing.
"Potter." The Supervisor was frowning darkly as he swept across the pit. "Malfoy and Willis I need you as objective witnesses."
"Sir." Malfoy promptly scrambled to his feet and followed the Supervisor into his private office.
"The objective of today's exercise was to initiate and defend an attack against the ministerial detail." The Supervisor was frowning. "Potter, you were part of the Ministerial detail...what were you doing down on the floor putting people into Hospital?"
"Benjamin requested a role tranfer which Shacklebolt approved. I replaced Benjamin on the floor while he took my position within the Ministerial Detail." Potter's tone was flat. "I remained within the exercise dictates until the second time I needed to step out of the fight for healing purposes."
"You left the fight for medical reasons?" The Supervisor seemed perplexed.
"One shattered leg which I cast a temporary heal on..."
"Already taken." Potter gave a slight grimace. "After I required Malfoy's help with a rather nasty curse I decided there was no point remaining within guidelines when the 'opposition' were ignoring said guidelines. My job was to protect the Minister and keep my men alive. I acted appropriately to meet those objectives...and the only people I hopsitalised were those I knew were breaking the guidelines for the exercise."
"That may well be the case." The Supervisor rubbed his temples and sighed. "There's going to be trouble over this."
"Considering I'm already permanently confined to desk duties about the only options left for punishment are banning me from the training rooms or firing me...both of which would be totally pointless."
"Malfoy...why did he require your help with a curse?"
"The curse was...dark." Malfoy grimaced slightly over the word. "Potter, in all his prejudiced glory, figured I'd know what to do about it."
"I see." The Supervisor's lips twitched slightly as he noted the classy glower Potter had directed at Malfoy for the jibe, then his expression morphed into a grin. "Potter, your primary stage of punishment is a complete medical."
"Hell." Potter's expression sank into the floor and took up residence among the totally depressed. "When?"
"Fine." Potter hesitated for a moment longer and then slumped out of the room, Willis was close behind him, her conversational attempts aimed at the cheering.
"Malfoy...?" The Supervisor frowned for a moment before clunking his teeth together. "We're going to have to assign you a temporary partner for the week...I don't think Potter has a hope in hell of getting off with less than a week on medical suspension."
"You needn't bother assigning me a temporary partner." Malfoy gave a faint shrug.
"You aren't allowed in the field by yourself, Malfoy." The Supervisor's brows lowered. "I didn't think you liked your desk at all."
"I don't." Malfoy tilted his head curiously. "Have you been looking for a reason to have him examined?"
"For several weeks now." There was a silence. "You do realise that he probably hasn't spent a moment without at least one potion in his system since that run in with the dragon smugglers."
"He was on eight potions...I believe he's got it down to three potions now." Malfoy gave a small shrug. "You do realise he's going to have to blame dueling me for the damage?"
"Oh." The Supervisor grimaced. "Very well, Mr Malfoy, you're suspended from active casting for one week and will have active casting monitored for the next two months."
"Very well, sir." Malfoy moved to the door, gave a brief nod and then left for his desk with a scowl. He was going to have to use his spare wand if Potter came up with any crack-brained notions in the next two months.
"What bit you, Malfoy?" It was Tate who perched on the edge of his desk. "Willis was trying to cheer Potter up, but you were only meant to be an objective witness. Did the boss assign you duties with Potter?"
"No." Malfoy growled the word out irritably before fixing the moron with a cold eye. "I'm on desk duty with restricted casting because Potter's a bloody fool who doesn't know when to call it quits in a duel."
"Eh?" Tate blinked.
"Buzz off, you'll find out soon enough." Malfoy snatched the nearest file which required his attention and pointedly ignored Tate. It would be all over the pit soon enough that Malfoy had messed Potter up badly three weeks ago. The only thing Malfoy was thankful for, was that the Supervisor had not also insisted that he undergo a medical examination. Somehow he didn't feel that the bite on his left arm could be attributed to anything but a dragon...and even Potter couldn't introduce a dragon into the Auror training rooms, for all his knowledge of what to do when one took a bite out of you. Malfoy scratched his concealed bandages as he considered possible explanations which did not include an actual dragon. As an activity is was significantly more interesting than the tally of minor thefts which had been reported in the last day and he was meant to be reviewing and categorising. He'd probably need to blame Potter for using the Depression Hex again as a reason for why there'd been no celebration on his part that day.
"Well." Harry Potter sank wearily into one of the hard, polished seats and took a disspirited bite of his muffin before washing that down with a mouthful of even worse coffee. "I, personally, think this reeks."
"I could have told you that five years ago when the Supervisor first proposed the matter." Draco Malfoy sniffed before reluctantly attacking the meal himself.
"It has been fun though." Potter gave a sudden snicker.
"Yup." Malfoy paused mid-bite to nod briefly.
"Will you be coming back?" Potter had finished eating before he finally asked the question which Malfoy had been waiting for.
"No." Malfoy shook his head slowly. "My father..."
"Damn." Potter leant back in his seat and sighed.
"So what do you do now?" Malfoy was actually curious about this one.
"Dunno." Potter stared out the window watching the cars as they passed in the rush of their busy lives.
"No." Potter was silent for a long moment before he gave the decisive reply. "I've had a couple of temporary partners and somehow...I just can't trust them the same way as I can trust you. It's damned annoying."
"It is, isn't it." Malfoy gave a soft snort. "You'll officially settle down behind that desk everyone's been pressuring you to escape from?"
"Hey, I'll have you know that my simulacrum is a rank four Auror and doing quite nicely." Potter gave a sniff. "That desk would probably be more interesting than doing this for much longer. The baddies are getting boring."
"Be kind, Potter, become a Basic Trainer."
"Hmph." Silence fell again between the two men. "Well." Potter scrunched his garbage together into a ball and rose to his feet. "Goodluck in the future and do visit occasionally...don't bribe the minister too completely."
"You're no fun, Potter." Malfoy balled up his trash as well before rising. "I dare you to shake hands the first time we meet in public."
"Please, spare me." Potter rolled his eyes. "I do that for you and you have to take a bet on the following day's headlines."
"No way." Malfoy gave a snort before throwing his trash in the bin. "9:00 saturday morning a good time for you to die?"
"In your dreams, Malfoy." Potter grinned and chucked his trash after Malfoy's. "Wednesday at four."
"Sounds good to me, means they'll not forget what a couple of Desk Aurors can do."
"A Basic Trainer and some rich briber you mean."
"I hate you."
"It's mutual." They both laughed softly as they parted at the doorway, it had been their identifier the entire time they'd worked together. No one else understood quite what that meant and so no one ever did manage to replicate the identifier properly. Even the Supervisor had failed in an attempt to 'infiltrate' them, and he'd been around them since the beginning. It had been the Supervisor who'd been concerned by their refusal to change their identifier. They'd said if he could 'infiltrate' them, then they'd accept policy dictates, otherwise shut-up. The Supervisor had eventually given up, but he'd tried plenty hard in the early years.
They had been the Elite, nameless, faceless shadows whose very existance was a common topic of Auror Tea Room debate. They'd both done their bit for these debates and one year they'd managed to arrange for themselves to be 'unwillingly' teamed to produce a skit on the Elite at the end of year festivities...and had it been a fesitivity, they'd ended up hexing each other in the middle of a 'raid' after 'E1' had apparently said the wrong thing. It had been fun, being the Elite, fun and yet isolated. They'd faced the worst the Wizarding World contained back to back with few qualms. That was something which was either lived, or never known, it could not be shared. They might now be moving on, but they still had each other's backs and always would. The habit was too deeply ingrained, it simply was part of who they were...even if no one else would ever realise it. They'd never exchanged more than about two civil words in public, and they probably never would and yet...they had been the Elite.