Flirt by xErised
It was his scent that did him in.
It was impossible to put it into words; exactly like how it was impossible to describe the color red to a blind man. The aroma was a potent cocktail of the freshest flowers and the most seductive chocolate. It was surprisingly subtle, easy to lose track of as it vied fruitlessly with the other cloying perfumes and woody colognes that permeated the air of the vast ballroom.
But once Harry had caught a whiff of that hormone-rousing fragrance, he couldn't get it out of his mind.
The hall was charmingly decorated in complimentary shades of pale gold, coupled with matching streaks of silver and white. The polished French windows were flung open invitingly, welcoming a warm night breeze into the room. Thick, luxurious curtains were appropriately pulled to one side, illuminating the full moon, accompanied by the twinkling stars that sparkled like precious jewels. White, heavy chandeliers dangled from the high ceiling and tossed flattering crystals of light onto the people that occupied the room.
An orchestra was performing a calming serenade, and Harry could hear the endless jangle of expensive diamond bracelets donned ostentatiously by the ladies. Dignitaries from all over the wizarding world were milling and chatting, the low hum of conversation peppered with the foreign sounds created by different accents.
Gleaming baskets held crunchy breadsticks prepared to a crisp golden, and every sort of meat was available and cooked to perfection. Fresh green vegetables, too beautiful to be eaten, were meticulously carved into the shape of small animals. Little tubs of tiramisu, drizzled generously with liquor, were paired with rich chocolate truffles for dessert. Most of the guests were queuing up patiently at the buffet table.
And of course, it was no surprise that Ron Weasley was at the head of the queue, an expression of pure delight on his face as he assaulted the buffet table voraciously.
"Brilliant dress, by the way," Harry praised, flashing a lopsided grin at Hermione. She was clad elegantly in a figure-hugging, mermaid style aquamarine dress that illustrated her slim figure. The witch patted her hair self-consciously and returned Harry's smile.
"Can you smell that? No, not the food, but this… gorgeous, unique smell…" Harry queried, his mind snapping back to the matter at hand. When Hermione shook her head, Harry took Hermione by the hand and together, the pair threaded their way towards the general direction of the scent.
"Oh! Something like… flowers?" Hermione piped up eventually, her face brightening. Harry nodded vigorously, his eager green eyes cruising the scene in front of him to try and pinpoint the exact origin of the fragrance.
And then he felt his heart skip a beat.
Draco Malfoy stood tall and elegant, devastatingly business-like in a sharp blue suit. Knotted impeccably around his collar was a molten gold tie. The light cascading from the chandelier increased his attractiveness by ten-fold, and Harry remained stock-still for a moment, admiring the way the shadows played coquettishly on the blond's face.
A glass of champagne was nestled comfortably in Draco's right hand, and his left hand was tucked casually into the pocket of his tailor-made designer pants. There was an arresting quality about him that even the most indifferent onlooker would feel drawn to, and as Harry's eyes took a lazy tour of Draco's body, he couldn't help but feel a mounting sense of excitement.
Another older blond was beside Draco, and Harry noticed Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister of Magic, in his peripheral vision. The other blond was dressed in the casual elegance of wealth, but the brunette only gave those two men a fleeting glance before replacing his attention fully back onto Draco again.
"Hey, what're the both of you doing there?!"
Jerking out of his little bubble of lust, Harry turned around. Ron had already settled down on a nearby table, looking very satisfied with his bounty from the buffet table. A small avalanche of food was piled precariously high on Ron's plate. There were mounds of colorful coleslaw, slathered liberally with creamy sauce, succulent pieces of grilled lamb and pork, huge baked potatoes drenched with landslides of melted butter and a teetering tower of little frosted cupcakes.
Upon seeing the amount of food on Ron's plate, Harry and Hermione exchanged a glance. Wordlessly, Harry hurried towards the buffet table, procured two sets of cutlery and two plates and scurried back. As if they had an unspoken agreement, Harry and Hermione calmly divided Ron's food into three parts and briskly transferred each bit onto their own plates.
"Why do you two always have to do this all the time?" The redhead said petulantly and looked down sadly at his diminished portion.
"That's because you need to have some semblance of decorum at events like this, Ron! There're important people around here that you might be working with in the future, and it's not a good idea if they see you stuffing your face like this! You are working for the Ministry, after all," Hermione pointed out in her usual matter-of-fact tone as she shook her hair free and clipped it back with a red ribbon.
There was a moment of silence as the trio of 27-year-olds basked in the regal atmosphere of the hotel ballroom. Harry's eyes were still straying distractedly towards Draco, though, his senses in freefall because of Draco's addictive aroma that had become more concentrated due to their short proximity away from the blond.
"Harry? Harry! I asked you a question!" Ron said, nudging his friend.
"Sorry, my mind was on… other things," Harry mumbled, reluctantly tearing his gaze from the blond. Hermione tilted her head quizzically and beamed playfully at Ron.
"Do you detect anything… special in the air, Ron?" She asked and raised her eyebrows meaningfully at Harry.
Obligingly, Ron scrunched up his nose and sniffed the air warily. Gradually, Ron's face melted into a gooey smile, his mouth forming an 'O' of sheer happiness. His eyes fluttered closed and he breathed deeply, inhaling batch-fuls of air before sighing blissfully.
"Bloody hell, that smells absolutely divine. That's something remarkable, I can tell you. If I could smell nothing but that for the rest of my life, I'll die a happy man," Ron practically moaned.
Harry and Hermione shared an alarmed look. "Ron, you're actually… erm… smelling Malfoy," Hermione said, wincing. The redhead's eyes immediately snapped open, a sliver of distaste swiftly replaced by a flash of confusion.
"Malfoy?! Weren't we talking about roast chicken?" Ron squawked and gestured heatedly towards the buffet table. "Anyway, Malfoy's here?" Ron queried, craning his head.
"Don't look, Ron! He's staring right at us!" Harry squeaked and immediately ducked his head, fire gathering rapidly in his cheeks. Sure enough, Draco fixed the ex-Gryffindors with an amused glance, before insinuating back into the conversation carrying out between Kingsley and the other man.
"Sorry, mate," Ron grinned and forked some more potato into his mouth.
"Do you remember during our final year how we would give the boys in Hogwarts marks upon ten on their bums, Harry?" Hermione said, laughing.
"Yeah! Justin got a seven, Seamus an eight, and Malfoy a… nine point five," Harry gulped as he stuck a finger in his collar to loosen it slightly. "Although I definitely think he deserves a perfect ten now," the brunette whispered as an afterthought, his eyes licking Draco's arse and legs hungrily.
"You just broke up with Joshua, Harry. Isn't it a bit too early to be checking out other men, least of all Malfoy?"
"It's been six months since we broke up, Ron," Harry reminded while he toyed blankly with the smooth, waxy leaves of the decorative orchid on their table.
Ron shrugged his shoulders dismissively, but immediately picked up the conversational thread again. "What score did my butt get?" he asked, puffing himself up importantly and sticking his own arse out proudly.
"You got a… nine," Hermione revealed and dissolved into a bout of giggles when she saw Ron's affronted expression.
"You preferred Malfoy's to mine?! What's wrong with my bum?!" Ron yelped, turning around and regarding his arse with looming dismay. "It's not... saggy or anything, right?!"
"It's a very good specimen, honey," Hermione placated soothingly, placing a hand on her husband's arm and stroking it. Ron sniffed haughtily, but he was mollified. Harry chortled at the camaraderie between husband and wife. However, he immediately sobered up and quickly took a sip of his beverage, partly to cool his blushes with champagne and partly to cover his face with the champagne flute when he caught Kingsley and the two blonds looking towards his table.
Kingsley's face split into a sunny beam and he beckoned Harry over. Flattening his shock of black hair with his palm, Harry pushed the glasses up the bridge of his nose and tried to saunter as sophisticatedly as he could, but to his horror, he ended up tripping unglamorously over the too-long train of a woman's dress.
His face flooded with color, Harry finally reached the three men and smiled courteously at Kingsley and the other blond, trying as hard as he could to avoid Draco's eye.
"May I introduce Harry Potter, head of our Unspeakables Department?" Kingsley started in his smooth, baritone voice. "I'm sure you would not require an introduction for Mr. Malfoy, seeing that the both of you were at school together." In reply, Draco inclined his head coolly and drank a mouthful of champagne, enjoying the bubbly tickles at the back of his throat. Harry felt calculating grey eyes surveying him over the rim of Draco's glass, and the brunette fidgeted slightly. A cloud of intoxication was wafting from Draco, mingling with the oxygen in the air, diffusing in Harry's blood and suffusing his brain, and Harry had to slacken his tie further.
Meanwhile, the older man beside Draco raked Harry up and down with a scouring gaze, before giving Harry a thin, perfunctory smirk that bordered on a sneer. Harry retaliated by giving him a wintry smile in return. The man frowned slightly and touched Draco's fingers in a supposedly intimate way. A shimmer of uneasiness flickered in Draco's eyes and he inched away imperceptibly.
Harry's shrewd eyes caught and registered every movement.
"Harry, you probably have not officially met this man yet," Kingsley implied the other blond. "He is the well-known owner of this chain of hotels, and he is the one behind today's very fabulously arranged event, with Mr. Malfoy's invaluable assistance, of course. This is- excuse me-" Kingsley frowned disapprovingly at his secretary, who had just popped out from nowhere and tapped Kingsley on the shoulder timidly.
"I'm really sorry for interrupting, Mr. Shacklebolt, but Signor Romano, head of the Hit Wizard division from Italy, is leaving now and has requested to meet Mr. Labelle and you, sir, to thank you personally for hosting today's magnificent occasion."
"In that case… Shall we?" Kingsley smiled formally and escorted the other blond away, the heels of their fancy shoes clicking on the black and white checkerboard marble floor. Within seconds, the pair had melted easily into the throng of people.
Harry ran his fingers through his hair so that it stood up in choppy peaks. He could feel the sensual tug of pulsing pheromones in the atmosphere, and he was just about to open his mouth to exchange pleasantries before Draco cut him off efficiently.
"Do excuse me, Potter, but I've got to… circulate," Draco drawled silkily, indicating the crowds with a long, pale finger. The blond dazzled him with one last supercilious grin before slinking away.
It took a few seconds for Harry to realize that he had Just Been Snubbed.
That was what had happened a month ago.
Harry had tried to put it behind him, but he couldn't stop turning that split-second first encounter over and over in his mind, like a Muggle film helplessly stuck on rewind. Harry felt himself desperately wanting to re-do that evening all over again, longing for the last minute witty comeback to show Draco that he was no longer the hopelessly awkward boy that he once was. He had found Draco's ruthless superiority impenetrable yet seductive, a quality that managed to infuriate and thrill Harry at the same time. The blond still maintained that consummate air of irrefutable arrogance, that sheer, undiluted pride that Harry had fallen prey to all those years back when they were still at Hogwarts.
And that… scent had already mutated into something so much more, into a penetrating bouquet that seemed to be the most complex scent ever, sweeter than even the most prized elixir. It was driving him demented, taking up permanent residence in his head no matter how much he valiantly tried to push it out. It was absolutely exquisite, and Harry marveled at how it was able to leave a haunting after-effect in his brain.
Every time whenever Harry passed by a florist or a bakery, he would catch the glorious, teasing essence of exotic flowers and the characteristic dark and sweet tang of chocolate. His mind would immediately, as fast as lightning, whip back to the memory of Draco at that fateful night. Hermione had said that she wasn't surprised that Harry had the potential to feel so strongly about it, since "our sense of smell is actually able to trigger a profound effect on our brain with the involvement of pheromones, including sex pheromones," and her assurance that it would probably wear off soon.
Harry couldn't help but feel a zingy shiver of anticipation dart down his spine at the sex bit.
Ron, however, had just snorted good-naturedly and went, "You've gone bonkers, Harry."
But then Harry had succumbed to the inevitable. It was something that he had thought about tirelessly, but could never summon enough boldness to do it. And then when he'd gone and done it, it was like waking up from a fuzzy dream that was blurred at the edges, the dubiousness and fogginess, the uncertainty of whether it had really happened. He had urgently riffled through the reams of parchment on his table, and when he had discovered that one sheet was indeed unaccounted for, he realized, to his horror, that no, it hadn't been a dream.
Ron liked to dub it glibly as "Something That Should Never Be Done Again Under Any Circumstances Whatsoever".
Harry had written a letter to Draco.
Oh no, that wasn't the worst part.
He had actually sent it.
Harry hadn't really been expecting a reply, really, but he couldn't help but feel his heart do a little wiggle when he had actually gotten a letter back from Draco. While Harry's fingers fell over each other to undo the string on the envelope, Harry's thoughts had ricocheted in a different million directions. Could it be that Draco had felt the same way too? Could it be that he had felt his own heart beat faster, felt his own breath being stolen away, felt the urge to kiss Harry's perfect and plump ruby-red lips? Could it be that Draco had wanted to tear his own clothes off and fall oh-so-gracefully into Harry's muscled, strong arms and let Harry whisk him away to a life full of sweet romance?!
Sadly, it was nothing like that. There were no words dripping of sly and forbidden passion and feelings, nor were there any gasps of clichéd delight at Harry's brave stab at correspondence. His reply had been as clinical and antiseptic as the snap of surgical gloves against wrists. It stated a date and time, and a neatly printed address of Draco's office.
The bloody letter wasn't even handwritten, for God's sake.
So that was what Harry was fretting over right now, trying to tame his mess of black locks minutes before he was due at Draco's office. Puffing an overgrown tuft of curls away from his eyes, the brunette yanked the miserable comb out of his hair and tossed it aside. Hermione was plumping his tie up, and Harry gasped when she hitched it up too high.
"Sorry!" Hermione cringed and quickly released it. She paused, breathed out noisily through her nose, sighed in defeat, looped the tie over Harry's head and lobbed it away.
"You were never a tie person, Harry," Hermione declared.
"Thank you!" Harry quipped, working his thankfully free collar loose with his fingers. The brunette hated wearing formal wear; he found it too constricting and uncomfortable. Given his choice, he would probably turn up at Draco's office dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, but Hermione had shot that suggestion down, stating pragmatically that Harry had to dress for the occasion.
Harry gave Hermione his trademark crooked grin and walked towards the Floo at Ron and Hermione's house.
"Uh-uh, Harry. Ron hasn't cleaned the Floo, and I doubt you want to turn up there all sooty and dusty like just now. Go by the Muggle way." With that, Hermione grabbed Harry by the shoulders and steered him towards the door.
The place reeked of money.
Harry twitched a bit nervously as he sat on the rather hard couch in the waiting room. A row of cushions, arranged stiffly in descending size, was positioned formally behind the brunette. The smaller cushions were placed on their tips like diamonds against the bigger ones, and Harry shifted his bum out further, slightly afraid to disturb the meticulousness of it all. He had never felt comfortable in formal environments. Draco's office was located at the second highest level of the building, and it seemed to house no one else other than Draco and his secretary.
Wriggling his toes in his shoes, Harry looked around the area. The décor was modern and austere, yet welcoming. Business magazines that looked brand-new were sprawled on a coffee table that looked equally new, without a coffee ring or scratch on it. Harry nonchalantly flipped through a few magazines, but couldn't make heads or tails of it.
He was sure that Draco was carrying out some sort of power play, simply because another businessman had exited Draco's room when Harry was there, so Draco was obviously alone in his office.
But he had still kept Harry waiting for the past ten minutes.
Sighing, he chucked the magazine back noisily, earning a glare from Millicent Bulstrode, who had turned out to be Draco's secretary.
The ex-Gryffindor had expressed extreme shock when he had realized that this rather pretty woman turned out to be Bulstrode, who he had once called a 'hag'. It was amazing what a proper, chic hairstyle, together with a fashionable taste in fitting clothes could do. Her shiny black hair was coiffed in a sophisticated chignon and held in place with a dainty ruby flower. She had lost weight, and her lime-green sleeveless sheathe dress highlighted her much-improved figure. She had regarded Harry with mild curiosity and apprehension when he had appeared, but she was aware that Harry did have an appointment with Draco that wasn't arranged through her.
A rather bored Harry got up and wandered around, his eye caught by the dozen or so abstract paintings that studded the cold, icy-blue walls. There was one painting with only splodges of color haphazardly slung onto it. Harry shifted his attention to another one, and he was trying to figure out whether the person portrayed was a man or a woman when Millicent called out his name.
"Draco will see you now, Potter."
Walking towards the door, Harry wiped his palms on the thighs of his pants, turned the knob firmly and stepped over the threshold.
There were two heavy, mahogany bookcases filled to the brim with thick, leather-bound tomes. Harry could see no personal photographs, unlike his own cubicle in his department, where there were sunny pictures of Ron and Hermione, together with their kids and the whole Weasley family. A clean Floo network was positioned conveniently in the room, and was obviously used a great deal by Draco due to the substantial pots of Floo powder near the fireplace. Two owls perched quietly in separate cages and looked inquisitively at Harry. Their role was clearly to make it a lot easier for Draco to receive and send mail.
Draco's desk was a long slab of polished wood, and a mug of hot tea was cooling on it. There were no Muggle appliances anywhere at all, no computers, no laptops and no phones. Instead, there were stacks of parchment, unopened letters and a handful of quills neatly arranged at one side of the table. But there was something strangely curious. A small bottle of honey, together with a small gleaming spoon sat on the corner of Draco's table, but before Harry could take a better look at it, Draco had swiftly grabbed it and dropped it in a drawer.
The blond was a model of self-assurance, his veneer of cool reserve giving nothing away as Harry moved closer towards him. Harry drew deep breaths of air into his lungs to clear his slightly woozy head, but immediately regretted it when Draco's heavenly scent assaulted his senses and he ended up going a bit light-headed.
Draco was sitting behind his desk, his elbows planted on the edge of the table. His wrists were bony, his arms a bit too thin for Harry's liking. The ex-Slytherin interlinked his fingers together and fixed Harry with a thoughtful gaze.
"So, to cut to the chase, is it correct for me to say that you fancy me?"
What?! No 'how are you's or even a friendly, normal 'good evening'? Bloody hell, he didn't even offer me a seat! Harry huffed indignantly. There were two chairs right in front of Draco, but they were loaded with cumbersome files. It didn't make any sense when the rest of Draco's office was so immaculate. Harry suspected that Draco had done it on purpose.
But no matter, Harry thought as he grinned to himself, a cord of steel running up his spine. Lifting up one stack of files and plonking it unceremoniously on Draco's table, Harry smiled innocently at Draco and helped himself to a chair. He was rewarded by a surprised look from Draco. The blond blinked and squared the heap of files in front of him with military precision, making sure that the corners met at ninety degree angles and that the sides of the files were perfectly parallel to the table edge.
"Maybe I fancy you just a teeny weeny bit," Harry replied, bringing up his hand and lifting his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.
"Oh, really? I reckon it's more than that," Draco said slyly and slowly unfolded a certain letter that made Harry blush bright red. The ex-Slytherin cleared his throat and scanned the letter, the sides of his mouth quirking up into an amused smirk."Shall I jog your memory? About how you think that I'm the 'hottest, sexiest man in the whole friggin' universe'?"
At this point, Harry mustered up a watery smile, inwardly cursing his lack of control and his penchant for inappropriately sexy thoughts.
"Or that I have a… brilliant bum that is totally worth a rating of ten out of ten," Draco recited dryly.
"I'll give you an eleven if you'll let me grab it," Harry blurted out without thinking, and ended up clamping a hand to his mouth.
Think witty, Harry, not pervert.
Draco's eyebrows climbed his forehead, but he instantly recovered his equilibrium. "Thank you for the kind offer, Potter, but I'm not interested."
"Here's what I propose. I'll give you exactly two months to date me. Pull out all the stops, captivate me, and make me fall in love with you, if that's even possible. If I end up liking what I see, then I'll allow this to go further. There will also be rules. If you break any of them, then it's game over," Draco explained, his tone as crisp as iceberg lettuce, his lips twisted in merriment and challenge. Grey eyes sparkled as brightly as the diamonds on Draco's watch as he pushed a piece of parchment towards Harry across the table.
Harry licked his lips and read the note. The blond ran a finger down the feather on his quill and said out loud the rules that he already knew by heart.
"I will see you once a week for the next two months. And only once a week. The maximum time taken for each date will be three hours. There will be no physical intimacy at all. You are not allowed to Apparate into my own home, and if you wish to see me in my office, you will have to book an appointment with Millicent. After every date I will give you a score to let you know how you have fared. Once any of the above rules are broken, the two months will immediately be discounted and you would have failed."
"So... the next two months are some sort of trial period before you're willing to be my boyfriend?" Harry clarified, his mind tip-toeing through the plethora of possibilities that Draco's arrangement seemed to carry.
Draco didn't give him a straight answer, but merely flashed Harry a rallying smile and said smoothly, "You have eight dates with me. Use them well. I'll see you next week." With that, Draco busily sliced open an unopened letter with a silver letter-opener, and Harry knew that he was being dismissed.
Stumbling out as though he was in a daze, Harry tried to spot any subtle signs of emotion in Draco's demeanor, but turned up empty. The other man was as distant and dignified as a bank manager, and Harry itched to crack that stern exterior.
The brunette had a feeling that Draco had handed him a contract and made him sign over the dotted line.
But his dormant, competitive streak was suddenly and unexpected piqued, and Harry felt a delicious flicker of ambitious zeal. And as the corner of his lips pulled upwards into a smile of a naughty cherub, Harry realised that even though the blond had been his own frigid self in that clear-cut exchange, Harry was perfectly sure of one thing:
He was going to blow Draco Malfoy's mind.
Draco waited until the door clicked firmly behind Harry, waited until he heard Harry thank Millicent quietly and the brunette's footsteps fading away with distance before he let his carefully schooled expression chink and slip away.
He had searched Harry's physique for any imperfection, but was flummoxed when he failed to find any. Harry's clothes flirtatiously concealed a fit body, complete with mouth-watering broad shoulders. Playful, distinguishing clusters of black hair flopped and curled insolently all over the place, cheekily dangling over his eyes, and Draco had to suppress the urge to smooth Harry's hair back and neaten it up. His skin had the soft glow of a tan, doubtlessly caused by the rigorous training from his job. His chiseled jaw glinted with stubble, demonstrating the sheer testosterone emanating from Harry, sending Draco's hormones in a disturbed flurry. The crisp white shirt that Harry had worn complimented his jade eyes wonderfully, and Draco had caught an alluring peek of taut chest. Draco sighed as he picked up his quill, the nib hovering over the parchment.
His rediscovered peace of mind was in disorder again, after he had just gotten over him-
The brunette had looked more confident and sure of himself compared to the last time he had met him, and Draco felt a bubble of interest blooming within him. The tiniest pinpricks of lust and intrigue were stirring in his system and Draco stifled a smile. The blond doodled aimlessly, allowing his mind to wander, roam and day-dream, something that he hadn't done for so long. A small, eager part of him was wondering what sort of slow, tempting magical seduction the other man would cook up.
Let's see what you can do, Potter.
Things to note:
1) Harry and Draco's jobs are crucial to the plotline.
2) Why Millicent and not Pansy? Shall I just say that Pansy has been reserved for a more… special role?
3) I'll do my best to have two new chapters up every month. All updates will be on Friday. Additionally, this fic will not be discontinued under any circumstances.
4) Flirt is planned out to have around 12 chapters, but it's not set in stone. My chapters will be longer than other fics as I have a lot of material to squeeze in every chapter, especially three-quarters into the story, when everything gets really interesting. I hope the length won't scare anyone away. D:
5) 100% of my energy will be focused on this; in other words, I will not upload any other piece until Flirt is completed.
Lastly, if you've read it and liked it, it would be nice if you dropped a review. /grin