Title: Berry Red
Warnings: Slash pairing, swearing
Summary: An explosion in the Forensic Potions Department of the Ministry of Magic has people wondering who has it in for the Ministry. After Auror Harry Potter does some digging, however, he realises the Ministry is not the target.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: George died instead of Fred, Moody is still alive but only mentioned in passing. Draco is an Auror (kind of) and a Potions genius. Thanks to fauxpersonae007 for the beta, mucho love.
The smoke in the room was blinding. The explosion had been heard from even the highest floors above the ground. People in the street in Muggle London, even, had stopped and looked around, terrified at what could be happening. Obliviators had been sent out immediately, though, and the panic outside had died down somewhat.
Inside the Ministry building however, the panic had just set in.
Through the endless corridors and stairwells leading to the lowest floors, the smoke was the thickest. The explosion had taken out most of the Potions floor, added sometime after the war when potions were in dire need. The Laboratories spanned over half of the entire area dedicated to it and was currently being vacated post-haste. Various Potions experts were being led out of the room. Some were walking, others were being carried. Some were even missing limbs depending on the potion they were working on at the time of the explosion. Harry almost didn't see Draco Malfoy as he walked carefully into the room. Fred Weasley, who had found Malfoy, had been forced to 'help' him walk considering Draco refused to be carried anywhere, despite his lack of coherence. Fred was sporting a red nose and sniffling occasionally.
"I am so embarrassed," Draco said later as he was being checked out in St. Mungo's. His robe was dirtied and streaked in grey ooze that had splattered over him the second the protective shield Fred had erected had fallen. A small orb hovered next to him just out of his reach. It glowed green and pulsated to match his heartbeat. A wisp-like string of white – the spell that connected the orb to him – ran from his left hand straight up to it. Draco stared at the orb, almost calmed by the regular pulsations.
Fred shook his head and sat on the cot opposite him coughing heavily. The wing was full of Aurors after the rumble had shaken the place. Every Potions Master, whether they had been present in the room or not, had been ordered there. Most didn't want to go considering their jobs; they had precious potions in the making after all. Even Draco did not want to go despite being the person to cause all the trouble in the first place.
"It can happen to anybody," Fred said grinning at the fact that he and his late brother had caused a lot of explosions in their time. He breathed deeply after the lung clearing spell the nurse had given him.
Draco watched him carefully, making sure the nurse knew what he was doing. One could never be sure about these things, or nurses. He then narrowed his eyes at the redhead. "Not to me, Frederick. This is a newbie mistake -"
"Newbie?" Harry said as he walked into the room. Draco looked up angrily and raised his arms in anger before letting them drop heavily to the cot he was sitting on. The small orb that hovered next to him raised and lowered at the same pace, tugged along by the spell that connected them.
"Oh for Mordred's sake, it was a tiny explosion, hardly noticeable! Why the hell would they send Wonder Auror down here?" He looked at Fred, who was the only other person in the room who could give him some answers.
Harry answered anyway. "The explosion was hardly tiny, Malfoy," Harry grinned. "It took out half the labs on the floor."
"The labs only occupy half the floor, so only a quarter was taken," Draco practically growled. "You weren't there, Potter, how the hell would you know what it was like!" he yelled, causing the heart tracking spell in the orb that hovered next to him to turn from green to red and vibrate violently.
"Draco, calm down, mate." Harry looked over to Fred, who he knew would defend Draco even if he knew the guy was wrong. Their friendship was a shock to most, especially Fred's family. Ron had taken it hard but after hearing the reason... even Molly had welcomed Draco once she'd heard how Draco had actually tried to help George Weasley by dragging him away from the battlefield. When Fred had found him, Draco had raised his wand to him, thinking him a threat until he'd seen his face.
Fred advanced on him angrily. His wand was drawn and pointed at Draco, who was bent over his brother's limp body, his hand pressed to George's neck. Draco's head snapped up and Fred disregarded the tears he could see in the blond's eyes. All he saw was the man who had caused this massacre. "What the hell are you doing? Get away from him!" He brandished his wand threateningly.
Draco, though he backed away a little, did not let go of George Weasley's neck. "No, I – I can't stop the bleeding – don't move my hand," he said frantically as Fred began prying his hand away. Fred, momentarily confused at the adamant refusal, looked down to his brother. "Wh – George? George – mate, can you hear me?" he said and lightly touched his forehead. His twin had nodded weakly, turning his head a little to smile at him. Draco, feeling awkward, searched for something to say. "Greyback was going to him. I really hate him," he added more to himself. "I threw the hardest stun I could to get him away. All I did was slow him down, though, and he – your brother – he still wouldn't move out the way." Draco shook his head as if he couldn't understand it. "I found a–a rock, levitated it and used it to knock him off. When he fell, I threw the rock at him. I think he's dead." He looked over to the boulder that sat on top of Greyback to their right. Fred searched around George. "So, he didn't get bitten?"
Draco, though he backed away a little, did not let go of George Weasley's neck. "No, I – I can't stop the bleeding – don't move my hand," he said frantically as Fred began prying his hand away.
Fred, momentarily confused at the adamant refusal, looked down to his brother. "Wh – George? George – mate, can you hear me?" he said and lightly touched his forehead. His twin had nodded weakly, turning his head a little to smile at him.
Draco, feeling awkward, searched for something to say. "Greyback was going to him. I really hate him," he added more to himself. "I threw the hardest stun I could to get him away. All I did was slow him down, though, and he – your brother – he still wouldn't move out the way." Draco shook his head as if he couldn't understand it. "I found a–a rock, levitated it and used it to knock him off. When he fell, I threw the rock at him. I think he's dead." He looked over to the boulder that sat on top of Greyback to their right.
Fred searched around George. "So, he didn't get bitten?"
Draco shook his head. "No – someone saw. They shot a curse at me and – he," he said gesturing to George, "He tackled me out of the way. But it hit him instead. I've tried everything but I can't stop the bleeding." He pressed his hand harder to George's neck.
Draco had stayed with them both until George had died and then stayed with Fred when he'd cried over his body. Fred had never forgotten it.
Draco hadn't either and the two of them had become good friends after the war. Fred was also the only member of the Weasley family Draco conversed with often. "Frederick, I do not make these mistakes." He also absolutely refused to call him anything as common as Fred. The man in question had long since forgone trying to dissuade him of it. "If Snape were here, he'd kill me." Fred coughed a little once more. "And look at you! I could have killed you!"
Fred rolled his eyes. "Hardly." He knew exactly how guilty Draco felt about his brother. "I feel like I have a cold actually."
Draco slumped down. "Well, that makes sense. I was brewing a potion to reduce the symptoms of a cold when you came in with that sample." He screwed his eyes shut and gripped the bridge of his nose with his free hand as if he were in pain. "I should have checked the damn thing first. 'Never have unknown potions in your Laboratory, Draco' Severus practically hexed that into my head when I was a boy. What the hell is wrong with me?"
"Hey, Malfoy, calm down," Harry said repeating Fred's words. "I just need you to answer a few questions for me."
Draco gave him the most put upon look known to mankind. "Yes, no, no, twice, yes, no I wouldn't do that and how else can I describe an explosion except for 'It went bang?'" Draco watched him with a cocked eyebrow, obviously hating the fact he was still there. "I went through the same training as you, Potter, I know you want answers. Those are your top seven. Do you have anything harder?" He cocked his head to the side and studiously ignored Fred snickering on the bed opposite him.
Harry, nevertheless, took them all down. His eyes scrutinised the blond for a second as he wrote those answers in, in the exact same order he'd arranged the questions. "Do you think you could help us break down the remnants of the unknown potion?"
Draco sat back in thought, impressed with a question he had not expected Potter to come out with. "I'm not sure. After the explosion, there's no telling what it could be now. I may have to see if I can break down the two from whatever they both made." He frowned thoughtfully. "It was an odd colour too."
"If they weren't in contact, how did they react?" Harry asked.
Fred took over here, seeing as Draco had narrowed his eyes into his 'look', the one he saved for people who angered him and those he thought were truly stupid. "Harry, mate, potions aren't only used for drinking and throwing on things, some of them produce fumes or scents that do the 'affecting' yeah?" Fred paused, obviously searching for words that could explain it with the least amount of confusion. "Um, in this case, the unknown potion I brought must have had a bad reaction to the fumes of that cold and flu potion Draco was brewing-"
"That's not the name of it," Draco said losing his look.
Fred, once again, rolled his eyes. "Does it matter?"
"Yes, Frederick, it does matter." He gestured to Harry's quill and pad irritably. "Now he's got 'Cold and Flu Potion' down he's going to put in his report I'm brewing a potion to cause a cold. No one will want to take it!"
"Cold and Flu Reducant, is that better?"
Draco squirmed in his seat. "Maybe. Though, that's not a word."
Harry looked between the two of them and wished he'd been assigned somewhere else. "Right, so this Cold and Flu Reducant," he said inserting the word above the line he'd written, "- its fumes mixed with the potion Fred brought you and everything exploded?"
Draco shook his head, though he seemed confused by something. "No, the air around it exploded. Rather violently, actually. There's a difference. That's why there was smoke."
Harry narrowed his eyes in confusion. "Okay, so the air exploded, whatever that means. Why aren't you both dead?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Well, sorry to disappoint, Potter." When he received no answer he continued. "Usually when there is a fusion of two separate states-"
"When air and liquid mix," Fred interrupted. Draco frowned at him until he saw Fred gesture to Harry's face, only now clearing from its confusion. "Simple is the best course here."
Draco narrowed his eyes. "Right. When dealing with potions, and air and liquid mix," he stressed, "there's a...smell that the explosion gives off before it actually explodes," Draco explained. "Something weird and out of place," he added gesturing absently. Harry watched those hands trying to convey the meaning of his words to him and could easily say that he still didn't understand. But he followed those elegant hands, stained with ooze as they were, anyway, making the orb weave and bob around. "Unless you know to react to it when you smell it, you can't set a protection spell on time."
Harry looked up at him. He swallowed. "What does it smell like?"
Draco thought a second. "Something fruity usually." He cocked his head to the side. "Of course when everything explodes it turns to its usual nasty self, pungent and disgusting." He shuddered and looked down at the goop that streaked his clothes and hands. "More often than not the fruitier the smell is the worse off the victim. Before this one it was like a mixed berry type-"
Fred crossed his arms. "Really? It smelled more like pears to me."
Draco raised his top lip into something resembling a sneer, but not quite close. "Pears? Were you in the same room?"
Fred cocked an eyebrow at him. "I should think so considering I'm the one that put up the protection spell and signalled the alarm."
Draco rolled his eyes and shook his head in mourning. "Oh I am never going to live this down." His hands went to his hair to brush it back as it had fallen into his face when he'd lowered it. But when they came away with the same grey mass he opened his mouth in horror. The scream, Harry could see, was building. Even Fred looked worried, which said something.
Harry decided that was his cue to leave. "Well, I think I have enough here. If I have anything-"
"Extra you'll owl me, I know Potter." Draco was still glaring at his hand. He looked up at him. "Now scoot, I want to get out of here and they won't let me go until you leave." Harry shook his head closing his notebook. He nodded to Fred and left the room.
After two years of training, one would think that Harry would have gotten used to Draco Malfoy's presence in the Ministry. After another four years of working together, everyone would think he would be used to seeing the blond walk past his cubicle everyday on his way to the training rooms, smelling of potions and that spicy aftershave he just had to use every morning.
Truth be told, he was constantly surprised by him all the time, from the war onwards. No one had expected him to help George, switch sides in the war, or give incriminating evidence to known, wanted and captured Death Eaters. No one had expected him to help Fred with his depression or become a frequent guest at the Burrow. No one thought he'd sign up for Auror training and survive it, especially not Harry. He knew what the man had had to go through to gain a semblance of respect there. But Draco had survived it and then surprised everyone further by coming out top of the class. He then accepted a trainer's job at the Ministry, training other Aurors. Two months into his training job he was asked to take on the task of Potion's Researcher, examining forensic evidence and such. Naturally, Draco had jumped at the chance and the Ministry took on two extra trainers to take some of his classes. Draco Malfoy had made a name for himself in the Ministry, and the Wizarding World, free of stigma.
He was good at his jobs too. The trainees loved him and Draco had gone from earning their respect, to them earning his. His graduates rivalled Aurors of the War's statures, besting them in combat and field work. Even paperwork was done efficiently. Hermione sang Draco Malfoy's praises after she discovered this, as it was her job to make sure those things ran smoothly in her Research and Development Department. 'Can't research if things aren't documented after all,' she'd said. His Potions job ran smoothly and he took shifts with it when the potions were not difficult to brew or needed little supervision, but they were always perfect and hardly anyone sniffed them before they took them anymore.
Harry's eyes strayed downwards as Draco passed him. He cocked his head to the side in contemplation. No one expected the blond to have such a nice arse either. Harry wasn't sure when his grudging respect had evolved into this… lusting behaviour he had been experiencing lately, but Harry continued to lean back in his chair, two days later, like he did every day to peak out of his cubicle when Draco passed him by at nine a.m. He was probably on his way to the one of his classes with the second years. The chair squeaked a little and then all Harry heard was a cracking sound before the chair fell to the ground. Ron, who was seated opposite him, looked across to Draco, back again and then cracked up in laughter. Harry's face, red as it was, looked at him angrily. When he turned to the right, he noticed Draco was watching him with a cocked eyebrow, coffee in hand. The blond shook his head, most likely at Harry's stupidity and walked off snickering.
"You alright, mate?" Ron said trying hard not to laugh anymore.
"Fucking chairs." Harry righted it and sent a Reparo to it before he sat in it again. He ignored the snickering of people passing and picked up a quill and an old report he was supposed to have written up for Hermione last week and busied himself with work. That was the second time he'd fallen over staring at bloody Draco Malfoy.