The Ministry lift was far too small.
Harry studied the lift buttons and then the pattern of the carpet very carefully, unsure if he wanted to make small talk with Malfoy who was occupying the opposite side of the lift. He frowned. There were events of mutual life-saving between them but that was years ago and Harry wasn't sure, to be completely honest with himself, what he thought about Malfoy anymore. They did work in the same building, he knew that much, and that was new.
Harry had caught glimpses of that pale blonde head weaving in and out of the crowds flooing in in the morning and of him eating lunch alone in the cafeteria, but hadn't been this physically close to him since they were schoolboys. The idea of them exchanging words now made his mouth dry; Harry knew nothing about him. If he was still an obnoxious prat. What he had been up to after the war. If he still lived at the Manor. Even if his parents were alive.
Harry had stopped keeping track of the trials after the war. The lists of Kissed Death Eaters had made headlines every day and made him sick to his stomach. Harry stopped reading the papers. He stopped going to the memorials, despite Hermione's chiding. The guilt still knotted deep and keen in his stomach and wrenched at his heart afresh, waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the image of Sirius disappearing behind the veil, sitting at Weasley family dinners forced to stare at the empty chair across from him at the table.
Everybody had lost something. He had no idea what Draco Malfoy had lost.
The idea of ever being stuck in a stalled lift together with Malfoy made him even more uncomfortable. He bit the inside of his lip and prayed to Merlin it wouldn't happen- not today.
A sharp ping cut through the silence and the doors flew open, allowing a flood of wizards and witches to surge into the lift. They piled in steadily and hurried to enter before the doors closed, their soft murmuring and chatter rising to fill the small space so rapidly that Harry felt lost in the rush. As one last witch squeezed her way in, Harry was jostled into a stiffened Malfoy. Harry put out a hand to steady himself. Malfoy hissed out a sound of annoyance and Harry lifted his hand abruptly from the blonde's shoulder.
"Er," said Harry by way of apology.
Malfoy sneered and used a hand to brush off invisible dust from his robes. "Do try to keep your hands to yourself, Potter," he said irritably, loud enough for the rest of the lift to hear.
Harry felt his face heat to the tips of his ears but still managed a soft but angry, "Sorry."
"Hmm. I should think so."
Harry rolled his eyes. Still a prat, then. If Malfoy was going to act like they were still in school, then he could have it his way. Though Malfoy didn't look much like he did in school. He looked older. And tired. Though Harry supposed he did too; they all did.
The lift plummeted down like a stone, and Malfoy bumped against Harry each time it came to an abrupt halt. Their chests thumped lightly at the next floor down and Harry wasn't sure where to look at all after he made the mistake of making eye contact and was rewarded with a withering stare and thin lips set in a firm line. Harry's face warmed again and he cleared his throat, settling his gaze on the spot on the wall above Malfoy's impossibly light hair.
"So...what department do you work for again?" Harry asked above the bedlam. Malfoy remained silent. Harry glanced back down and frowned. Maybe it was too loud.
Harry leaned closer and repeated his question, ignoring the wisps of blond hair tickling below jaw.
Malfoy's pursed his lips and his hands came up to his own collar. "I heard you the first time, Potter," he said, languidly fixing his tie into a tighter knot. His pointy elbows ran slowly along the length of Harry's ribs as they moved, grinding into his chest. Underneath his ribs, Harry's heart pounded hard in his ears. God, Malfoy was infuriating even now. Harry felt the familiar anger rise in the pit of his stomach and clenched his fists.
Harry groaned and shook his head. "Nevermind, forget I even-"
"I'm an Unspeakable," Malfoy answered, surprising Harry. He tilted his chin up as he spoke and his hands dropped back to his sides promptly. The lift came to a halt and Harry's wrist brushed Malfoy's. The skin there was warm.
"Oh," Harry said.
The sea of people was thinning at each stop.
"And you're an Auror," Malfoy continued in an even voice, looking at Harry with a scowl forming on his curling lips, "Which means, you should have gotten off at your stop seven floors ago."
"Er," Harry felt his face burn again and his mind flew to excuses. "I was-I just-"
His fists furled and unfurled and he shoved one hand into his robes to grasp his wand, as he sometimes did when he felt nervous, out of instinct. And then, feeling silly, produced it again from his pocket.
The lift stopped again and Harry felt the familiar rollercoaster jerk of his stomach thrown back into his chest. Malfoy's fingers brushed Harry's wand hand briefly in the momentum. Harry flinched at the touch. He practically felt Malfoy's magic sparking through it.
"I'll see you, Potter," Malfoy said curtly, pushing against Harry to move out of the lift though, Harry noticed only after the doors closed, that he didn't have to. They were the last two inside.
Harry wasn't sure what to think about it. Except he kept thinking about it. At his desk, where he wrote up his files. At home, with his takeaway and his telly. Draco Malfoy. An Unspeakable? Harry wasn't sure he even knew what an Unspeakable did. Most of the Unspeakables he knew were older witches and wizards- most who had gone through extensive training and had proven themselves, in some way, trustworthy of secrets of the Department of Mysteries. But Malfoy? Harry's heart tugged at the memory of Sirius falling. He rolled his head in his hands before getting up the throw away his empty curry container. Guess he really didn't know anything about Malfoy after all.
He dismissed the run-in as an singular occurrence.
And then it happened again.
There was a small rap at Harry's door.
"Come in," he said absentmindedly.
The door opened and Malfoy glided into the room, shutting the door behind him. Harry jerked up from his seat.
Malfoy had a purpling bruise on a high cheekbone but besides that looked haughty as ever.
"What happened to your face?" Harry asked, standing up from his desk.
"What happened to your face is by far the bigger mystery," Malfoy said unamused. His voice became serious. "I need a file from you."
"The name is Fergilius Fern."
The name rang a bell. Harry looked down at the paper he had just started on. "I'm doing him right now," he said to Malfoy, "Can you come back in a half hour? I haven't even read it yet."
"All the better," Malfoy snipped, holding out his hand, "You haven't had a chance to mess it all up. Give it here."
Harry was suddenly very angry. He did good work for the Ministry, everyone knew that. And this was his job, damn it, and he was going to do it right, Malfoy be damned.
"Excuse me?" Malfoy said slowly, his voice burning low and smouldering still. "My orders override yours, Potter."
"What do you need the file for?"
"I can't tell you, you idiot."
Harry wasn't sure if Malfoy couldn't say because he was an Unspeakable or because he was an insufferable git. Most likely a combination of both.
Harry licked his lips, his voice raising. "Well, just wait a half hour. It can't be that urgent, can it? You took forever with that damn Vanishing Cabinet. I know you must possess some semblance of patience."
Something like hurt flashed across Malfoy's face and he narrowed his eyes. "Yes, well with you stalking me all over the place, it was hard to find the spare time."
Now it was Harry's turn to be outraged. He stepped towards Malfoy, "I was NOT stalking you! I was trying to figure out what you were doing."
Malfoy didn't budge. "And it looks like nothing's changed. Mind your own business, Potter. And I'll mind mine. Now hand me the file so I can be on my way, as delightful as this conversation has been."
"You can sit here and wait," Harry said through his teeth. Malfoy glared back, his lips threatening to curl back to match Harry's. And suddenly Malfoy was very close to him, his hand on Harry's chest as if he was going to shove him but had changed his mind.
"I would wait on bated breath, Princess Potter, if I had the time," he hissed, "But I need to close this case. Some of us actually do work instead of spending their time wanking at their desk and using the loo."
Harry grabbed Malfoy's wrist. "Shut up!"
Malfoy sneered and tried to jerk his arm back but Harry held on tight. "Let go of me!" he ordered.
"No!" Harry said crossly, trying to push Malfoy back out of his office but getting stuck in the doorway. Harry tried to reach for the doorknob with his other hand and Malfoy caught it with his.
Harry groaned, frustrated. He shoved his body against Malfoy, banging him against the door. Malfoy made a noise like he had had the air knocked out of him. He made an urgent sound in his throat and Harry found himself leaning into it. His nose grazed the edge of Malfoy's ear where the hairs tucked behind it came loose and dusted the back of his neck. Malfoy shifted underneath him and his sharp hips dug painfully into Harry's skin.
"You're obstructing justice, Potter," Malfoy hissed again. His grip on Harry's wrist tightened and it actually hurt. Harry scowled at him. "Just because you're Harry sodding Potter doesn't mean you're above the law. Merlin, you're full of yourself!" Malfoy's hips shifted again and Harry felt a spark in his groin. And a spark of panic in the back of his head.
"You're impossible," Harry growled, quickly letting go of Malfoy and backing off of him. Malfoy let go too and rubbed at his wrist.
"And you're a Saint?" Malfoy jeered, still breathing heavy.
"You tell me, Death Eater."
Malfoy froze for a fraction of a second and Harry immediately knew he had gone too far. Malfoy's face was suddenly shuttered and he brushed himself off-again, invisible dust-and headed towards the door, this time of his own volition. God, Harry hated himself sometimes.
"Malfoy, wait, I didn't mean it," Harry said, reaching out and grabbing a hold of Malfoy's left arm. Malfoy let out a pained shout as if the Mark still burned and whipped around.
"Go fuck yourself, Potter. Some people have changed. It's nice to see you haven't at all."
He left the office with a whirl of robes and a slam of the door that caused a pile of papers on Harry's desk to dislodge and float to the ground.
He heard someone call down the hall after Malfoy, "Oi, running late for a Dark Arts meeting?" and hated himself even more.
Harry waited around the corridor, shifting from one foot to another. He had the file ready and he decided to deliver it himself to apologize. But his office was empty.
"Stalking me again, Potter?"
Harry nearly jumped at the voice near his ear. Malfoy had walked out from the loo behind him, holding his wand. He tucked it away quickly.
Harry's eyes followed the movement. "You weren't in your office," he said lamely.
"I was attending a meeting," Malfoy said stiffly, and started walking down the hallway. Harry frowned but trailed after him. Malfoy opened the door to his office and beckoned for Harry to enter. "After you, Potter."
Harry entered and looked around nervously. The room was nearly bare, with a single desk and two chairs on either side of it. Two metal filing cabinets stood against a sterile wall. And Harry was surprised at this. He expected something more-well, more. Malfoy sat on his desk rather than in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest expectantly.
"Um. Look, I'm really sorry about what I-"
"It's fine," Malfoy snapped, "We don't have to like each other. May I please have that file now?"
Harry flattened his hair under his palm and handed it over to Malfoy with the other. "I don't dislike you," he said quietly. Which was true, he supposed.
"What are you going on about?" Malfoy demanded, opening the folder and scanning the documents with sharp eyes. "You can go now."
Harry's temper flared at being dismissed so flippantly and he rose up. "Look, Malfoy, I said I was sorry about what I said and I just want to-"
"You can do whatever you like," Malfoy hummed disinterestedly as he continued to flip through the papers.
Harry breathed out, frustrated. His eyes fell on the page Malfoy was on. "I tabbed the report on the Muggle incident in green and-"
"I don't need your help, Potter," Malfoy said firmly, finally looking at Harry for the first time since they set foot in his empty office. "Thank you, you can go now."
He hesitated and Malfoy took this as a sign to stand up and escort him out. But Harry couldn't let it end like that, not yet, not when he was still feeling like rubbish.
"Let me buy you a drink tomorrow?" Harry tried, "After work?"
Malfoy scoffed and leaned over him to reach the doorknob. His blond hairs itched the side of Harry's jaw.
Harry wrapped his hand around Malfoy's and removed it from the knob. "Hey, is that a yes or a no?"
Malfoy frowned at Harry for a long while. "Stop holding my hand."
"Oh!" Harry dropped it like it was on fire. His hand tingled as if it had been.
Malfoy's narrowed eyes searched Harry's. Harry looked blankly back. "What?"
Malfoy straightened up. It was only then that Harry noticed how close they were standing. It was a warm day but he could feel the heat from Malfoy's body and it came in stronger waves when he breathed in. Harry was uncomfortable that close to Malfoy's face. He had a better look at the bruise- it was darker already, didn't he have time to heal it yet?- but it was hard to avoid Malfoy's harsh gaze down his pointed nose. Malfoy's eyes pierced his and Harry suddenly felt very, very foolish for asking such a stupid question. Harry licked his lips nervously and watched as Malfoy's eyes darted low to his mouth like a hawk on its prey. Malfoy's lashes were fine against his pale skin and Harry nearly missed them save for the flutter of his eyes coming back up to meet Harry's.
"Fine," Malfoy said softly near Harry's cheek. The puff of air on Harry's face felt light and warm and somehow he felt the same way. He smiled despite himself.
"Great! That's great. See you tomorrow, then?" Harry said hopefully as he stepped out of the office.
"No, I've changed my mind," Malfoy said curtly, and closed the door in the Harry's face.
It was still bugging Harry the next day.
"I don't understand why you're getting so worked up about it, mate," Ron said lightly, scratching his nose. "It's not like you two have even spoken in years."
They stood in the break room, surrounded by pink boxes of stale donuts and the smell of other people's finished lunches in the trash. "Yeah, I know," Harry said agitated. His arm rested on the counter while Ron poured himself some coffee.
"And besides, it's Malfoy. Who cares!"
"It's just the way he acts around me that is so annoying."
"You mean the way he ignores you?" Ron asked, with a mouthful of pastry.
"Yes. I mean no! I mean. Sort of. I just want to know what he's doing."
Ron gave him a serious look, powdered sugar regally dusting his chin. "He's an Unspeakable, Harry. You can't know what he's doing."
Harry waved his hand. "No, I know, I know. I mean...I just want to know what he's been doing in his life in general."
"Why?" Ron was incredulous now.
"I don't know!" Harry said exasperated.
Ron was still looking at him like he had sprouted another head.
"I'm going to go to the loo," Harry announced, excusing himself. He was flustered and felt the heat rise along the back of his neck. Nevermind that he was headed to the bathroom on the 9th floor.
The sound of Harry's shoes clicked loudly off the walls as he made his way down the empty hallway. No sign of Malfoy. Harry turned on his heel to go back but paused at Malfoy's office. The light in his office was out even though it was only mid afternoon. Again. Strange, Harry thought.
He sighed and entered the bathroom to wash away the thought of Malfoy still clinging to his skin. He froze in his tracks. Malfoy was bent over the sink, the curve of his back arching gently into his ducked head. He was gripping the porcelain of the sink with thin hands that were reined in tight. His wand lay useless on the ground. A cold chill ran down Harry's back at the familiarity.
Malfoy turned to face Harry and Harry winced at the sight of a second fresh bruise blossoming on Malfoy's sharp jaw.
"What are you doing here?" Malfoy demanded sharply, glancing towards the door anxiously.
"Are you alright?" Harry said tentatively, inching closer.
"I'm fine, Potter, thank you for your concern." Malfoy snatched his wand from the floor and Harry thought for a moment that Malfoy would hex him. Instead, he tucked it into his robes and Harry felt petty for thinking otherwise.
"You don't... look okay," Harry pressed. He frowned and stepped forward. Malfoy was breathing hard and his hair was dark and dampened with sweat.
"I'd advise you to mind your own business," Malfoy said scathingly, pushing his hair back as if he knew what Harry was thinking. "What are you doing here?" he repeated.
Harry ignored the question. "What happened? Why don't you just heal yourself?" Harry demanded, his brows knitting together and curiosity bubbling at the brim. "Here, let me heal it for you."
"I'm fine!" Malfoy snapped. One of his knees gave away suddenly and he caught himself on the edge of the sink.
Harry caught Malfoy's elbow and Malfoy looked up angrily through pale hair that stuck to the corners of his face with the sweat.
"Don't touch me!" Malfoy shouted, jerking his elbow away.
Harry held on anyway, pulling up on it to force Malfoy into a standing position. Malfoy curled his lip and scowled, on the defense even as he leaned against the bathroom wall panting still. His chest heaved desperate and heavy. The beads of sweat that gathered around his forehead made slick trails down his neck and into his robes. Harry followed them with his eyes and realized his breath was heavy too. Malfoy's tilted his head back the smallest degree and Harry watched his Adam's apple bob, dislodging a pearl of sweat that branched off in rivulets that disappeared beneath his collar. He reached out to touch and Malfoy slapped his hand away.
Harry's mind was buzzing.
"What are you doing?" Malfoy hissed.
"I just want to-just let me heal you."
Harry brought his hand up to Malfoy's face and held it gingerly with his palm, gently, like it was something liable to break. Malfoy didn't slap his hand away. His head felt heavy, like Harry's hand was the only thing holding it up. Harry used his finger to brush the skin there, grazed it lightly with his thumb, and the faint flutter of Malfoy's lids were the only indication that it hurt. Harry's heart beat faster.
Harry turned Malfoy's face in his hand and looked at the older bruise. It was beginning to yellow a bit at the ends and gave Malfoy's skin a sickly color at the edge of his cheek. But it was still dark and ugly and stark against the rest of his pale skin. The smell of stale sweat and steel and something else familiar entirely rose around them. Harry breathed out and Malfoy jerked at the sound. "What happened?" Harry asked again. His thumb moved to Malfoy's chin.
Malfoy's lips parted but he didn't answer. He was staring hard at Harry with his brows drawn together, tight as a bow and sharp as an arrow.
Harry sighed, frustrated. "What's your problem, Malfoy?" He asked crossly, "I'm just trying to help."
"Don't lose sleep over it, it's part of the job description," Malfoy sneered and turned his head out of Harry's hand altogether. His nose grazed the side of Harry's cheek and that same blond hair was tickling the underside of Harry's neck. Harry moved his face away. Malfoy continued, "And the last time we were in a bathroom together, it hardly seemed you cared if I was still breathing or not."
Harry suddenly felt heavy with guilt and dropped his hand to Malfoy's. He brushed Malfoy's palm with his the tips of his fingers and Malfoy closed his hand into a fist.
"That was a long time ago," Harry said, lowering his eyes. "I didn't know what it would do. I'm sorry."
"That's quite alright," Malfoy said darkly, "Considering the things I've done, I probably deserved it."
Harry's eyes flew up in surprise. "No, you didn't! Nobody does!" He thought of that scared little boy who couldn't kill Dumbledore even though everything in his scared little world depended on it. His stomach was twisting into knots of anger and guilt and pity. He had an inkling of what Malfoy had lost.
Malfoy was still looking away, but his face was furious. The lines in his face were tired and strained. "Hurry up, Potter!" his voice ricocheted off the tile walls.
"I-I just want to-" Harry started. He didn't know what he wanted.
"Then just do it!" Malfoy said in a dangerous voice, his eyes flashing like steel. Malfoy's face was cold but the pulse in his neck was beating hot and fast. Harry couldn't think straight. He touched Malfoy's jaw again, and licked his lips, his wand forgotten in his robes. His heart was beating quickly and the adrenaline in his veins was roaring in his ears.
Harry leaned in and kissed him. Malfoy made a startled noise in his throat and Harry shut his eyes and kissed him harder. His lips moved across Malfoy's chapped ones and he licked at a piece of skin that was lifting off the side of his bottom lip. Malfoy groaned and opened his mouth. Harry swallowed the noise and pushed his tongue into Malfoy's mouth, hot and wet and soft under his. And Malfoy kissed him back furiously, angry and desperate. Harry buried his hands into Malfoy's robes and hauled him close. His hands pulled the fabric loose and found their way inside to feel the hot skin underneath moist with sweat. Harry groaned into Malfoy's mouth and Malfoy bit his tongue, hard enough to hurt. Harry shoved Malfoy into the wall and Malfoy deepened the kiss.
Malfoy's hands were fisted in Harry's hair, pulling him flush against his body. Malfoy's pointed nose crushed against Harry's cheek and then the other as their mouths moved and tongues touched. Harry's glasses were pushed higher and higher up his nose and he let them. Harry's tongue twisted with Malfoy's and his hands burned on the smooth flesh of Malfoy's waist. Malfoy's mouth was hot and demanding, and Harry worked his way around it like he would never have another chance. Malfoy moaned and the sound was more arousing than any thought Harry had ever had.
Harry pressed himself hard against Malfoy, his growing erection pushing roughly against Malfoy's hip. Harry's teeth grazed Malfoy's lips and he kissed the side of his Malfoy's mouth, buried his mouth into Malfoy's cheek with a throaty groan. He could feel Malfoy hard under his robes too, arching against him. Harry slid his hands up Malfoy's back and moved his mouth clumsy and wet along the curve of his neck. Malfoy's shoulder was sharp against his and his flat chest rose and fell rapidly under Harry's hands. Like liquid velvet, Malfoy's tongue traced the roof of Harry's mouth tentative and slow before coming back down to draw Harry's tongue back into his mouth. Harry felt cold hands on his neck and Malfoy was running his hands down the nape of his neck. Harry shuddered and moved his hands to pull Malfoy's robes the rest of the way down his shoulders and freed arms that wrapped like silk around Harry's neck. Harry squeezed Malfoy's hips as hard as they were kissing until his lips burned and hurt from the pressure.
Harry pulled Malfoy's lip with him as he drew away, out of breath. His vision was blurred, both from the heat of the moment and his skewed glasses. He could make out dark eyes and a pale face close to his. He propped his glasses back in place and suddenly everything came into focus, red Sectumsempra scars blooming across Malfoy's chest, remnants of a Dark Mark on his left forearm. Harry stared.
A pause was all it took. Malfoy took the opportunity to push Harry off of him and straighten his robes in a swift movement. Suddenly remembering, Harry scrambled for his wand and muttered a quick, "Episkey. Episkey."
"Thank you kindly, Potter," Malfoy seethed, his hair still dishevelled and his robes sticking to his flushed skin. But his face was unmarred and hard as stone.
Harry opened his mouth to speak.
"Don't," Malfoy warned him.
"I was there," Harry blurted anyway. He felt like he had to say it. "I was there. That night on the Astronomy Tower. You shouldn't have, you should have trusted us, and I hated you for it but I know why you did it. I know you did it for your family."
Malfoy paused. "You don't know anything about me."
Harry walked back to his office even more restless than when he left it that morning. He palmed the still evident bulge in his robes and shut the door behind him. He thought briefly about wanking but the idea of proving Malfoy right about his earlier accusation kept him at bay.
His thoughts were still swirling around Malfoy and his bruise and his words. He shook his head. Mind your own business. For all you know, he walked into a door. Twice.
But he could still feel Malfoy's body pressing into his, hard. And his throat felt tight at the memory.
Harry straightened some papers on his desk and attempted to read the one at the top. He read the same paragraph three times and gave up.
Despite himself, Harry let his hand fall under his desk. He let out a breath and checked the door again nervously. Most people were probably gone for the day, it was nearly five pm.
Harry hesitated. He had never done this at work before. But he never snogged a bloke in the loo before either. He swallowed and lowered his hand into the waistband of his pants. He licked his lips and smoothed the course hairs down on the way to his -
His door flew open and Ron was suddenly in the room. "Hey Harry OH GOD!"
Harry nearly jerked out of his chair and ripped his hand from his pants. "RON! I WASN'T- I'M NOT-"
"YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS! I just found out- wait, you weren't what?" Ron asked bewildered as he watched Harry scrabbling at his desk, red-faced and flustered.
"Um. Nothing. Fell asleep at my desk there for a minute," Harry said, certain that he had just lost ten years off his life and willing his face to stop burning.
"Oh," said Ron frowning slightly. "Well you know how you were going on about how you wanted to know what Malfoy's been up to?"
"Yeah," Harry said slowly, trying to follow his train of thought.
"So I pulled some strings with Dean Thomas in Wizard Resources and found Malfoy's Ministry file," Ron paused, looking pleased with himself as he waited for Harry to prompt him.
"And what did you find?" Harry asked.
Ron lowered his voice conspiratorially, "Malfoy did special training with wards and transport after Hogwarts. He did rotations in Azkaban and interned at the Ministry before he was even hired."
Harry's brow furrowed. Wards and transport? He didn't know Malfoy was good with magic like that. Though he supposed he didn't know what he thought Malfoy was good at. Potions, he guessed. Or politics. Something.
"Thanks, Ron," Harry said absently, grabbing for his cloak folded over his chair. "I have to go now." Wards and Transport. He had to look up what that entailed.
"Um, yeah, Harry, it's Friday. We both have to go. Mum will be pissed if we're late to dinner. Hermione's said she'd meet us there."
Dinner at the Burrow was a weekly thing.
Ginny, like usual, seemed to be avoiding Harry's eyes. Though it was hard to tell if it was on purpose or if he was imagining it. She was talking to a grinning George and her nose crinkled when she laughed. A red curl caught in the corner of her mouth and she reached to brush it away before punching her brother in the arm at something he said. The strap of her dress kept falling loose around her small shoulders that shook as she laughed.
The rest of the family chattered around him merrily. To Harry's right, Hermione was glaring reproachfully at Ron who hadn't yet noticed and was talking loudly with his mouth full. Mr. Weasley was attempting to tell Molly about his day while she bustled about between the table and the kitchen, carrying overflowing platters of chicken and ham and boiled potatoes. Harry took a deep breath. This would always be home to him. He grew up here with the smell of baking and the sound of footsteps on the stairs and warmth of people who loved each other.
Mrs. Weasley brought the steak and kidney pie out last, Harry's favorite. She smiled at him knowingly, wiping her hands on her apron. Harry smiled back. The scene was a happy and familiar one and Harry knew that he should feel cheered by it but he wasn't. He always felt like he had lost something terribly important and the emptiness somewhere in his gut ached with the memory of it.
Ginny stood to cut a piece of pie, tendrils of her copper hair curling around the sides of her face and about her neck. Her dress clung to her soft body as she moved and her mouth was open in concentration. Harry remembered the way her round, red mouth felt when he kissed her for the first time. He had been so nervous, he was sure she could hear the hammering of his heart through his chest.
Harry felt the same way when she broke up with him, all freckles and red with anger, telling him that he wasn't giving her enough.
Then he thought of Malfoy who didn't want anything from Harry at all.
That night Ginny had thrust a box of things Harry had given her over the years into his open arms and Harry hadn't known what to say.
Ginny cut another slice of pie and held out her arm for Harry's plate.
Harry had always been Ginny's hero. She must have been severely disappointed to find out he was nothing special. Ron, too, though he never said so. Malfoy had expected Harry to lose the War. Some twisted, dark part of Harry (that he never, never shared with Ron or Hermione) thought maybe he preferred that. He certainly didn't feel like anybody's saviour.
"Harry!" Ron's elbow nudged him in the side. Everyone was looking at him from around the table.
"Oh! Sorry," Harry said sheepishly and accepted the slice Ginny placed on his plate.
First thing Monday morning, Malfoy sat behind his desk eyeing Harry wearily.
"What is this?" Malfoy said finally, looking suspiciously at the rectangular box Harry had produced from his robes.
"A present," Harry said.
Malfoy looked unamused. "It was only a kiss, Potter. You don't need to woo me with expensive gifts. I can assure you it won't happen again."
Harry felt the tips of his ears burn but pushed the box closer to Malfoy stubbornly. Malfoy sighed and opened the lid. And his jaw dropped a fraction at the sight of his old hawthorn wand nestled into the velvet draping of the case. Malfoy took it out and held the length of it in his hands, fingers running over the smooth wood in disbelief. The soft curve of his mouth tilted upwards for a sunny moment in time and Harry felt his mouth rise too.
"How does it feel?" Harry asked.
"Good," Malfoy said, the shadow of a smile still at his lips.
Malfoy turned the wand again in his hand and shook out his wrist as if testing it.
"Try it out," Harry urged.
"That's quite alright, I'm sure it works," Malfoy said, the smile slipping off his face. He put it back in the box and looked at Harry with uncertainty. "Thank you for returning it."
"It's your wand, it belongs with you. Sorry it took me so long to give it back."
"I thought you had thrown it away," Malfoy said, leaning back in his seat. His shoulders were sharp against the fabric of his chair.
"Throw it away? Malfoy, your wand helped me win the war."
"Did you know about the wand when you took it?" Malfoy asked, frowning.
"No," Harry confessed, "I sort of worked it out along the way. I never really knew what I was doing back then, things just kind of fell into place."
"Dumb luck?" Malfoy suggested.
"You could say that," Harry smiled. "I was lucky you couldn't recognize me at the Manor."
"I would know your stupid face anywhere, Potter," Malfoy assured him, a smile twitching at his lips.
Harry rolled his eyes but grinned anyway.
"So now you have to do me a favor," Harry told him.
"Do explain how returning a stolen item is a favor to be repaid."
"I was thinking after work, we could-"
"No. Get out of my office."
Another stack of papers appeared in his IN box and Harry nearly snapped his quill in half. He had been stuck behind piles of paperwork for the past month. Things had been slow as of late which he supposed was good. No dark wizards terrorizing the public. Though a part of him wished Shacklebot would just burst into his room with an anonymous tip and a broom chase. Harry's legs ached to be wrapped around his broomstick and he missed the feel of the wind whipping at his hair and dragging over his cheeks. He could even go for a cheap Muggle disturbance at this rate, though it would mean Oblivating them (and he hated that).
Harry sat grumbling at his desk, slowly realizing he was caught uncomfortably pressed against a glass ceiling. The famous Harry Potter. Can't have him apprehending everyday criminals, he's not just anyone you see. Which left Harry a small pool of cases assigned to him a month. And the pool was slowly trickling dry. Ron seemed happy enough with his paperwork. Harry had made the mistake of buying Ron a magnetic sculpture of the Eiffel Tower for Christmas and his friend spent most of his time playing with the pieces under his desk during work hours.
"Hey, Harry, how do magnets work again?" Ron called from across the hall and through their open doors.
"It's magic, Ron!" Harry hollered back. He could barely see Ron's head behind the stack of papers on his desk. Looked like they were both going to be here late.
Harry's mind drifted to Malfoy. He wondered if Malfoy had already switched wands. If he was holding it right now and if he felt that comfort of a wand that chose you, like the first time. Harry took it for granted now, but still remembered the warmth running up his arm and feeling that tug in his chest. Closing his fingers around the wand in his hand and knowing-this was it.
The smile on Malfoy's lips was enough confirmation, he supposed. It was a foreign concept, Harry thought, smiling himself as he shook his head. The idea of making Malfoy smile. He had never seen it directed at him before let alone caused by him.
"Harry, what are you doing right now?" Ron called.
"Work. What are you doing?"
"Same. What are you doing?"
Harry sighed and resigned himself to sorting through the files. It was almost time to leave anyway. A few moments passed.
"What, Ron?" Harry asked tiredly.
"Can you help me finish this one bit of paper, mate? I've got to go- I think it might be Hermione's birthday. Or our anniversary, but I can't remember."
Ron was already standing up, his face pale, as he shoved his arms into the wrong sleeves of his coat. Harry met him in the corridor. "I don't think it's her birthday," Harry said.
"I'm a goner," Ron moaned to Harry while entangling himself further, "Do you think Honeydukes is still open? Why do I do this to myself?"
He was still talking to himself when Harry moved to let him through the doorway.
"Thank you, Harry, I owe you one," he threw over his shoulder.
Harry's amusement broke when he entered Ron's messy office. The plant Hermione had deposited in the far corner was in a state that would have Neville swooning. The stacks of paper were piled precariously on all free space on the desk but one file was left open. Harry sat down at Ron's chair and almost disrupted the magnetic statue left unfinished to the side. Taking one last look at the clock to see how much time he had left, he bent his head over the desk and started filling out the forms Ron had left untouched save a liberal sprinkling of crumbs near the top.
Harry's neck had started to ache but he had finally finished. And it was only five minutes past. He felt accomplished and closed the folder and leaned back. He started to tidy up the desk a bit and then stopped, feeling more like Mrs. Weasley than he had any right to be.
There was a distant knock and he looked up to see who it was. Malfoy had his back to him and was facing Harry's office. Harry's door was still ajar and Malfoy paused for a moment before knocking again at the open door impatiently. Harry's heart leapt into his throat as he leapt up from the chair.
"Malfoy!" He stepped in front of Ron's desk so that Malfoy could see him.
Malfoy turned around and looked at Harry, bemused. "Playing musical chairs, Potter?" He stepped into Ron's office and looked around with the downward curve of his mouth the only indication of disdain. "How can anyone work like this?"
Harry shrugged, "Ron manages alright."
Malfoy looked like he was suppressing a sneer. "Weasley?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "He's not here, I was just helping him with something. What are you doing here?"
Malfoy twisted his mouth and switched his briefcase from one hand to the other before he spoke. "I've finished work early today. I thought I might take you up on your offer for a drink."
Harry couldn't stop his smile. "Alright, I just need to lock up my office."
They sat at the smoky bar elbow to elbow in uncomfortable silence. It occurred to Harry that he had never had a normal conversation with Malfoy before without it turning into an argument or a fistfight. So he bid his time. A stout witch leaned over to refill the drink in Malfoy's glass and Harry was on his third. A fire was burning bright in the hearth and the light from the flames illuminated Malfoy's face in orange and gold and soaked into his hair like watercolour. His nose looked impossibly pointy with the flickering light licking up his cheeks and the curve of his brow. Malfoy looked down into his firewhiskey and his lashes looked aflame.
"I-er-" Harry began, shifting in his seat.
"I see you're a man of many words," Malfoy said, looking at Harry pointedly.
"How are your parents!" Harry shouted.
Malfoy's face crumpled and his mouth twisted bitterly. He tossed back the rest of his drink. "My mother is fine, managing the estate. My father is in Azkaban."
Harry perked at the mention of Azkaban. "Oh," he said, mind reeling.
"How are yours?" Malfoy asked, contemptuously.
Malfoy's mouth was an ugly curl, "Oh, were we not asking questions with obvious answers? Surely you knew about my father, don't you read?"
"I had no idea about your father. I don't keep up with the papers."
Malfoy looked at Harry with equal parts curiosity and anger. "Why not?" he demanded.
"I don't like thinking about it," Harry said, feeling suddenly defensive. "I'm sorry I asked."
Malfoy raised his hand for another drink and the bartender nodded at him. Malfoy gestured to Harry as well and Harry had to chug the rest of his lager to make room for another brimful. Harry was starting to feel the warmth in his face and in his belly.
"Why did you decide to start working at the Ministry?" Harry pressed.
"What is this, 20 questions, Potter?" The corners of Malfoy's mouth threatened to rise.
"If you must know," Malfoy's leg pressed warm against Harry's as he leaned in. "It's my way of getting closer to you," Malfoy drawled, his face looming into focus, "So I can finish the job the Dark Lord couldn't."
"Ugh," Harry shoved Malfoy back who was laughing openly, "You're the worst."
Malfoy was still laughing and his leg was still pressed to Harry's. Harry nursed his drink in his hands.
"Why are you an Auror?" Malfoy asked, "Didn't get enough adventure saving the day as the Boy Wonder?"
"I sort of like being on my feet," Harry said honestly. "I don't like having to overthink things."
"No, I don't suppose you're much of a thinker," Malfoy mused. His glass was empty but his eyes were full of mirth so Harry let that one slide.
The warmth from his chest and from the fire were getting a bit much. Harry could feel the perspiration misting down his back and around his armpits. He loosened his collar and Malfoy watched him do it.
"What happened to the girl Weasley?" Malfoy said, resting his jaw in his hand.
Harry was surprised he remembered. "It didn't work out."
"Pity." Malfoy didn't look like he meant it.
"How about you? Didn't you have that girlfriend in school?"
"Blaise would be offended you thought that."
Harry felt himself flush. "Oh."
"Why, may I ask, do they have you cooped up in that stuffy office all day? My impression of an Auror was much more formidable than that. Also, your handwriting is shit."
"It's not that bad," Harry protested, pushing up his glasses though they didn't need adjusting. "And I'm not sure, why. I think it's because they have me on some kind of special-case-only reserve that I don't much appreciate."
"You sure it's not because you're pants at your job?"
"Maybe," Harry admitted.
"I'm kidding, Potter. You were literally born for the job. Why haven't you talked to Shacklebolt about upping your workload?"
"I don't know, it just never came up."
"Since when do you just let things happen to you without rushing into it head-on? Don't be stupid, tell them to change their policy."
Harry smiled. "I think I will."
The same witch from earlier put more logs into the hearth, the dry wood crackling loudly before smouldering over in the glowing embers. The smell of fresh cedar came up in plumes and burnt the inside of Harry's nostrils. The heat of the room was stifling and warming still and Harry felt like he was trapped in a sauna. The hot air drifted up his sleeves, licked at the back of his neck, and Harry felt his skin pricking uncomfortably. Malfoy was drawing dark, wet circles into the wood counter with his glass. Even the glass was sweating but Malfoy's smell was still sharp and clean from across the table against the earthiness of the wood and the dirt floor and the trapped air. Malfoy stroked his fingers against the frosted glass, the beads of condensed water collecting along his fingertips and dripping down to his wrist and dampening the edges of his sleeve.
"It's still there," Harry said.
"What is?" Malfoy asked.
"Barely," Malfoy pulled up his sleeve to prove his point. The skull and snake imprinted there on his thin arm looked freshly inked still. Harry didn't mention it. He did reach out to touch it.
Malfoy watched him do it. Harry felt lightheaded and told himself it was the heat and not the drink.
"Does it hurt?" Harry asked.
Harry's hand shook as he traced the pattern with the curve of his palm, expecting Malfoy to jerk it away at any moment. He didn't. The Mark was dark and and unsettling even after all this time. The blackness in the hollows of the skull filled Harry's eyes and he fought a shudder despite the heat. The serpent's body coiled in hypnotic undulations that seemed to crawl under Malfoy's skin and threatened to poke through. Harry covered it with his hand and looked up. Malfoy was studying his face with dark eyes that changed in the firelight. Harry realized his mouth was parted wide and he closed it, pressing his lips together.
Malfoy put his hand on Harry's and kept it there for a moment before picking it up and placing it on the table. He rolled his sleeve down slowly, each turn of the fabric an effort. His arm was covered once more and the end of his sleeve was already dry. Harry's mouth was dry. So he drank some more.
Malfoy was looking into his cup again and his jaw was sharp against the glow. Harry's head was swimming and his chest felt heavy, anchoring him to the barstool beside Malfoy and beside the fire and beside himself with heartache. Harry's head was throbbing and the people and noises in the bar were blurring together into a warm hum.
"Hey, can I ask you something?" Harry said suddenly.
"If you could do it again, would you still have-"
"No," Malfoy said, his words ringing like a gunshot in Harry's ears.
Harry felt like a weight had lifted off his chest.
Malfoy put down a handful of coins and pushed out his stool out to leave.
"Hey, wait!" Harry dug into his pocket for some coins before realizing that Malfoy had paid for him.
Malfoy was nearing the fireplace to floo home.
"Malfoy, wait! Do you want to go flying?"
Malfoy stopped and looked at him incredulously. "Are you mad?"
"You're mad," Malfoy said, crossing his arms.
Harry had grabbed Malfoy's arm and apparated them both to 12 Grimmauld Place and were now standing outside in the pale moonlight and under what Harry presumed to be the entire twinkling Malfoy and/or Black family. Harry held out a spare broom for Malfoy to take, an old Firebolt model. His own legs were wrapped securely around his broom.
"I'm not going anywhere," Malfoy scowled, "And neither are you at this rate. You're stumbling."
"I'm not!" Harry said earnestly, leaning forward to press the broom handle into Malfoy's hand. Harry lost his balance and fell against him instead. Malfoy caught him and made a snide comment but Harry didn't hear it, only felt it in the vibrations that traveled to his ears and rattled his chest. He was confident his head would stop hurting once he was in the sky.
Harry straightened up, "Sorry."
"It's fine," Malfoy was looking at him appraisingly with a frown on his face. "You're going to fly," he said, unconvinced.
"Watch me," Harry grinned, bracing his feet against the soil that crumbled at his feet. He pushed off the ground and felt what he had been dying to feel for so long. The rush of momentum roared in his ears as he lifted off the ground and left everything behind- his stomach, his voice, his uncertainties. The wind tossed his robes in inky waves about him and he felt his hair fly back from his face and whip wildly and he kicked up his feet to accelerate. He shot up like a rocket, slowing his ascent only to feel the cold air bite against his pulse point beating wildly in his neck. His skin was burning up and the air chilled his throbbing head and he felt exhilarated. Malfoy was a pale beacon of light below him and his fair hair waxed stark against the blackness of the sprawling ground.
Harry plunged low on his broom to shout out to Malfoy, his eyes tearing at the speed of his downward spiral. His stomach caught up with him on the dive and he instantly felt sick. He closed his eyes against the vertigo. When he opened them, Malfoy was suddenly on his broom beside him.
"Potter, get down!"
Malfoy's hair was blowing into his face and his eyes were unbearably grey. His hands were gripping the broomstick tightly and his mouth was open, harsh and concerned. Harry thought briefly that he would like to kiss that mouth. The thought nearly knocked him off his feet.
Harry obliged, landing haphazardly into a set of bushes. The leaves were sharp against his skin and a hard branch dug into his ribs. He heard the soft thump of Malfoy landing beside him.
"I hope you're satisfied with yourself."
"I think I locked us out of the house," Harry groaned, internally wincing at how slurred the words sounded to himself.
Malfoy made an angry sound of disbelief and Harry threw up into the bushes.
The brightness washed in and out and Harry grimaced, rolling to his side to block out the light. The blades of grass itched his face and he jerked awake, startled. He sat up on the damp grass with leaves poking out of his robes and probably in his hair. Malfoy lay asleep next to him. God, I'm an idiot, Harry thought to himself grimly. Flashbacks from last night came to him and it gave him a splitting headache that had built up since then. He squinted his eyes and looked at the body huddled next to him.
The sunlight that streamed through the branches left splotchy shadows on Malfoy's face and Harry watched the pockets of light shift and illuminate the curve of his cheek and his widow's peak. Malfoy looked tense even in sleep. Harry held his breath and ignored the urge to press a hand to Malfoy's forehead. The furrow between his brows deepened and shallowed out as his eyes darted beneath his eyelids. His breathing was deep and his chest rose softly, a fisted hand clutched to his side.
Malfoy stirred and his eyebrows knitted together like it hurt. He didn't wake.
Harry hesitated. His mouth tasted sour and he swallowed hastily trying to wash the taste out.
He leaned over Malfoy and shook a shoulder. "Hey, Malfoy."
Malfoy's gasped as he snapped up and Harry drew back.
"Potter!" Malfoy accused, dead leaves falling from his hair when he spoke.
"Were we out here all night?" Harry asked, eyes small against the sun. It was still early in the morning.
"Yes," Malfoy hissed, "Because you locked us out."
"Why didn't you just alohomora the door?" Harry said, annoyed.
"I didn't think of it."
Harry mouthed disbelief. Malfoy looked flushed.
"You're such a moron, Potter, I can't believe I wasted all night with you."
Harry felt a stab of resentment. "Well I don't remember asking you to stay with me. Why didn't you just go home?"
"On a broom? All the way to Wiltshire? You are mental."
"No, you idiot, why didn't you just apparate home!"
"I didn't think of it," Malfoy gritted through his teeth. "And I was drunk."
Harry frowned. Malfoy didn't seem that sloshed last night. "That doesn't make any sense-"
Malfoy kissed him. Harry fell back at the unexpected weight and Malfoy tumbled on top of him. Malfoy's lips were still warm from sleep and they drifted over his. Harry groaned and kissed him back. Malfoy's body was a hard weight against Harry's chest and he felt breathless.
Harry's fingers dug into the earth below him to ground himself when Malfoy broke for air. His heart was beating wildly and his head was hurting from the blinding light still sifting down through the leaves.
Malfoy's head rested in the groove of Harry's neck and he panted there.
"I've been thinking about you all week," Harry said, squeezing his eyes shut.
Malfoy shuddered. "God, Potter."
The words branded Harry's skin where they fell from Malfoy's open mouth. They lit him on fire and he felt reckless with desire numbing his thoughts and warming his limbs, up.
He ground up against Malfoy and gasped to find Malfoy already hard against his thigh.