Title: Where The Colours Are
Rating: R (for language)
Betas: simeysgirl and ofights
A/N: Written for hd_smoochfest 2011 over at livejournal.
Draco crossed and uncrossed his legs for what must have been the dozenth time since sitting down. He held his hands on his lap, fingers entwined, resisting the urge to wring them or twiddle his thumbs. When he realised he was biting the inside of his cheek he stopped and licked his lips instead. Considering he wasn't bouncing his knees up and down, Draco was quite impressed with himself.
In truth, Draco didn't want to be here. In the completely honest and unabridged truth, Draco didn't want to be here because he was nervous. Though he wasn't about to admit that to himself, let alone anyone else.
Fighting the sudden impulse to jump up from his chair and start pacing, Draco crossed and uncrossed his legs once again. From the seat next to him he could feel his Auror-in-training partner staring at him. Slowly, Draco turned his head to look into Harry Potter's exasperated green eyes.
"What?" Draco snapped, quietly.
Potter opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off when the door opened and a short stocky woman hurried through.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," said the woman as she made her way around the desk in front of the men. Instead of taking her seat she leaned across the desk and offered her hand to Draco and Potter in turn. "I'm Mrs Merrills, Headmistress of Highgate Junior School."
"Draco Malfoy," said Draco as he shook the woman's hand.
"Harry Potter," stated Potter, also taking the proffered hand.
"I have to thank you both immensely for coming on such short notice. I can't believe Miss Carter and Mr Sherwood have just run off together! I didn't even know they were seeing each other, and it is school policy for any staff members engaging in a romantic relationship to at least inform me of it. But no, they just go and elope! And- I'm sorry, it's terribly unprofessional of me to rant like that. It was just so completely unexpected!"
Draco sat back, wide-eyed in his chair. He wondered if all Muggles talked this much, this fast. He seriously hoped not, otherwise he would probably not survive the next month. Or he would tell the Ministry to stick their Auror training contract up their arse and run off and join the wizard circus. One month undercover in a Muggle environment, who were they kidding? Draco had never been in a wholly Muggle domain before and would likely either fuck up, or give up, within a few days. He tried to hide his sudden onset of fear by crossing his legs and fidgeting a little in his seat. This earned him a surreptitious glare from Potter and Draco stilled immediately.
"It's entirely understandable you would be distressed by this situation, Mrs Merrills," soothed Potter easily. "The fact that two of your members of staff would choose not to confide in you must be upsetting."
"Thank you for your understanding, Mr Potter." She finally took her seat behind the desk and opened the folder sitting on top of it. "You both come highly recommended by the agency. I'm surprised you were even available."
"We go where we're needed, Headmistress. Highgate would seem to be the place." Potter turned in his seat, not trying to hide the motion, and looked expectantly at Draco.
"Erm, yes," Draco stumbled quickly, "and it's a pleasure to able to help." He inclined his head to the Headmistress, avoiding eye contact. He turned back to Potter and raised an eyebrow defiantly. He got the impression Potter was fighting both an eye roll and a smile.
When Draco was assigned Potter as his Auror training partner, he hadn't been overly surprised. At first he thought it was just his continuous bad luck, but as the weeks had progressed Draco had seen how the other trainees would barely speak to him, avoided working with him at all and generally acted as though he wasn't there. It wasn't until he put that together with the fact that Potter was encouraging him to attend after work social gatherings and Auror trainee piss-ups that Draco realised Potter was his partner because no-one else wanted to be.
He took this realisation to heart, and began restraining his tendency to be a bastard, especially to Potter. Draco would still rip the piss out of Potter without provocation, but he made sure to do it with a friendlier grin. Potter seemed to understand immediately and would always return Draco's insults with a wry smile and give as good as he got.
It pained Draco to know that Harry Potter was probably the closest thing he had to a friend at the moment, particularly because this was only due to Potter's misguided love of playing the hero. Draco didn't want Potter's pity, but it seemed he was in need it.
Oblivious to Draco's unease, Mrs Merrills clapped her hands together and smiled widely at them both.
"Right, I think it's time I took you on a tour of the school before the children start to arrive for classes. If you'll just wait here a moment, I'll make sure everything is... in order." She unclasped her hands and dropped them to the table, picked up the folder and headed back out of the door she had entered through only a few minutes earlier.
As soon as she was out of sight and the door had clicked shut, Potter turned to Draco and spoke.
"'It's a pleasure to be able to help'?" he mimicked.
"What the fuck else was I supposed to say, Potter? 'It's only for a month then we'll be off fighting wizard crime'?"
Potter didn't bother to refrain from rolling his eyes and smiling this time.
"Besides," continued Draco, "you're much better at kissing arse than I am."
"I was not kissing arse!" spluttered Potter.
Draco simply raised both his eye brows slowly and tilted his head forward slightly. It was a look that radiated disbelief and challenge. Potter blushed, but chose to ignore it.
"So it's kind of sweet." Potter tried for a change of topic. "Those two teachers falling in love and running off together."
"You don't believe that tripe, do you?" Draco frowned; surely Potter couldn't be that naïve? "Obviously the Ministry's swept them away, and with a few hasty memory charms I'd wager."
"What?" Potter seemed incredulous and disappointed at the same time. "Why would they do that?"
"To get us in here, of course." Draco shook his head at Potter's obliviousness. "Though why they had them elope instead of contracting some lengthy disease, I don't know."
Whatever Potter had been about to say was cut off by the return of the Headmistress.
"Right gentlemen," she gushed, "let me show you where you'll be working."
Half an hour, one lap of the school and a lot of polite laughter later Draco was exhausted. He closed his eyes and bit his lip in an effort to prevent a groan as he looked at his watch and realised it was only 8:00 am. He still had the whole day to get through and the annoying little people hadn't even shown up yet.
"And this is our final stop before your classrooms," said Mrs Merrills. "The staffroom. Other than your classroom, this is the room you'll likely be spending most of your time in."
When they entered the room Draco paused as a heavy silence settled over the crowded space and all the other teachers turned to look at them. He exchanged a perplexed glance with Potter, who gave a tiny shrug and then turned back to the room, smiling. Following Potter's lead, Draco plastered a fake smile on his face and looked at everyone in the room. Did Muggles really have to smile at each other all the time? Draco's cheeks were already starting to hurt.
"Good morning, everyone. Allow me to introduce our temporary replacement art teacher, Mr Harry Potter." The Headmistress gestured with one hand to Potter who gave a little wave. "And our temporary replacement science teacher, Mr Draco Malfoy." With her other hand she indicated Draco, who inclined his head and continued to smile and reel off expletives in his head. "Mr Potter, Mr Malfoy, this is... everyone."
Introductions were swift and awkward, and Draco was sure he'd forget all these names by lunch time. First there was Mr Williams, the old, and by Draco's quick judgement, dopey, maths teacher. Then the young, but terribly enthusiastic English teacher, Miss Cassidy. Followed by Mrs Fisher, the quiet, but seemingly friendly French teacher. The school Nurse introduced herself as Elaine, and Draco got the impression she was slightly dazed. The last two to be introduced were Mr Lowther, the P.E. teacher who was small and far too energetic for 8:15 in the morning, and the meek I.T. teacher, Mr Eisenberg.
Finally, after shaking what felt like hundreds of hands, Draco and Potter were left alone by the kitchenette to fix themselves a cup of tea. Draco looked doubtfully at the large silver contraption next to the mugs and the pot marked 'Tea', then up at Potter.
"What the hell is that thing?" he whispered.
"It's a kettle," Potter replied, stifling a laugh. "It's for boiling water."
"Show me?" Draco hated the slight whine in his voice, but hadn't been able to prevent it.
Potter seemed to study Draco's face for a moment, then nodded without protest and proceeded to fill the kettle in the sink and flick a switch on the side, muttering explanations to Draco the entire time. Draco paid close attention, not wanting to fuck it up next time he came to make himself a cup of tea. He had the feeling he'd be making himself a lot of cups of tea.
By the time the task was complete Draco was fairly certain he would be able to go through the whole process alone without dying, or worse, making a fool out of himself.
Standing side by side against the counter, Draco and Potter blew on their teas and cautiously surveyed the room.
"So what do you think?" asked Potter.
"I think the P.E. and I.T. teachers are going to be the next to elope," replied Draco, watching the two teachers in question over the top of his mug as he took a small sip.
"What?" cried Potter quietly. His head spun to face Draco so fast he spilt a little of his tea. "Mr Lowther and Mr Eisenberg?"
"If that's what the P.E. and I.T. teachers' names are, then yes."
"How can you know?"
"Look at them," said Draco as he motioned with his chin towards the teachers.
Potter dragged his eyes away from Draco to look at the couple.
"How close they're standing, how they look away quickly when they catch each other's eye, the nervous footing. It's obvious they fancy each other." Draco ended his summary with a small shrug and a noisy slurp of his tea.
"Huh." The small noise seemed to indicate Potter's realisation.
"Of course they may have trouble in the shape of that lively young English teacher," continued Draco.
"That's..." Potter looked around the room trying to locate the girl in question. "Miss Cassidy?" he said when he spotted her. "Why?"
"She's got a crush on one of them. Can't seem to tear her eyes away, in fact." Draco pondered her for a moment. "She has the look of a woman possessed. Or obsessed, really."
"Do you often do that?" asked Potter.
"Do what?" Draco responded without taking his eyes off the people in the room.
"Oh yes," replied Draco quickly. "You can learn so much by simply observing." He looked back at the two teachers that had been the reason for this discussion. "I bet it's Mr Eisenberg she has the hots for," he muttered distractedly.
"I guess all this drama means I've not got a chance of finding myself a boyfriend while I'm here," commented Potter with a small laugh.
Draco looked over at Potter curiously and their eyes met. Draco frowned slightly as Potter quickly looked away and shuffled his feet. Since when was Potter shy? Draco gave a mental shrug and chalked it up the fact that they were both gay; Potter must be worried Draco was going to hit on him if he got desperate enough.
Soon Draco could hear the distant sounds of rushed footsteps and laughter out in the corridors. The children had arrived. Mrs Merrills hurried over to them and led them out of the staffroom, across the other side of the building, past a grumpy looking caretaker and towards their classrooms.
"Here is your art room, Mr Potter." She opened the large wooden door with a couple of panelled windows and encouraged Potter inside.
From his position in the doorway Draco could see the large open space. There was a desk and an easel in one corner, along with a coat stand covered in aprons. The rest of the room seemed a jumble of tables, stools and art supplies. Potter, Draco noticed, seemed to practically skip through the room towards the desk.
"It's wonderful!" he cooed.
Draco shook his head slightly at Potter's child-like enthusiasm, but couldn't help smiling.
"And your science room is just across the hall and one door down, Mr Malfoy."
"Thank you, Mrs Merrills," said Draco. He was certain Potter was too absorbed in exploring his classroom to bother with the pleasantries.
"Well, if you need anything, or have any questions, the door to my office is always open." She gave Draco a parting smile and made her way back down the corridor.
Bidding Potter farewell until lunchtime, Draco entered his own classroom. It was more organised than Potter's art room, with desks and stools in neat rows facing a large desk. The cupboards along the far wall were all clearly labelled with their contents, and Draco breathed a small sigh of relief.
One less thing to worry about.
He made his way around the large desk and took the stool behind it. The stool he would spend his time teaching from for the next month. The sound of children storming up the corridor made Draco's heart speed up with fear. He laid his trembling hands on the desk, looked down at the papers sitting there and smiled.
Thank fuck the teacher left lesson plans.
By lunchtime Draco was passed exhausted, through completely knackered and out the other side somewhere close to defunct.
"I won't survive the rest of the day, let alone the rest of the month," he moaned to Potter.
"Don't be so melodramatic, you'll be fine." Potter was far too cheerful.
They had left the school grounds to have their lunch, so they would be able to talk more freely about their undercover work and how they were getting on. This meant they were currently sat at a picnic table in a nearby park with Silencing Charms surrounding them. Draco had noticed Potter casting these discretely, but said nothing.
"I am not being melodramatic, Potter. I'm being-"
"If you say so," Potter cut him off and waved his hand dismissively. Draco gaped at him. "I think it's great. I'm having so much fun being creative with the kids. They're so full of energy and ideas. I'm really motivated to make something. It's a great feeling."
"You're making something?" asked Draco before deciding he didn't actually care enough to wait for an answer. "Whatever. Trust you to love the annoying brats. I can't bloody stand them."
"Trust you to hate the interesting youngsters. I find them very engaging." Potter huffed and took a large bite of his sandwich.
"You would, what with having the mental age of a child yourself," said Draco with a playful smirk.
"It's better than having the mentality of a mardy old git," Potter replied as soon as he had swallowed.
"Oh, good one, Potter, that almost smarted." Draco chuckled and took a bite of his own food.
Potter did his patented eye-roll-wry-smile routine and opened his mouth to say something, but never got the chance to get his words out.
"Hey, Harry!" The red-headed menace, as Draco had taken to calling him, bounded up to the pair and landed on the bench beside Potter. "Malfoy," he said without inflection or malice. That was new.
"Hi, Ron. Glad you could meet us here." Potter grinned at his friend and offered him a crisp. Draco noted that the greedy bastard took a handful.
"Yeah, it's not far from the supermarket at all," said Weasley quickly, before ramming his mouth full of Potter's pilfered crisps.
Draco had intended to laugh at Weasley's misfortune at being placed in a Muggle supermarket for his one month undercover training, but seeing those small flakes of deep fried potato falling from his large mouth as he chewed put him off somewhat. He wrinkled his nose in disgust and pushed the rest of his lunch away. Draco noticed Potter abandon his packet of crisps with a suspiciously pale face, and he couldn't not notice Weasley pounce on the left over food and continue eating like a rabid dog.
"So, Ron," Potter began cautiously. Afraid of being sprayed with food crumbs and spittle, Draco didn't doubt. "How's it going at the supermarket?"
Thankfully Weasley finished chewing, swallowed and even took a cheeky swig of Potter's drink before answering.
"It's okay, I guess, but they had me stacking shelves all morning."
"Oh no," Draco spoke for the first time since Weasley's arrival. "Was doing a simple and repetitive task all morning too complicated for you, Weasel?"
Weasley pursed his lips and glared at Draco, but didn't say a word. That was also new. Draco grinned mischievously at him before turning to Potter, who wasn't quick enough at hiding his own smirk. Draco laughed out loud.
"Right, well, unlike some lucky sods, I only get half an hour for lunch," said Weasley as he stood up from the picnic table. "So I'd better be heading back."
"Okay, Ron," replied Harry, giving his friend a small wave. "Just remember that we lucky sods also have to start work an hour and half before you do," he called at Weasley retreating back.
"He is such an easy mark," Draco stated after a moment's silence.
"You are such a nasty git," commented Potter, still smiling.
"There you go. You see you, Potter, you can almost give me a run for my money."
"Almost?" Potter attempted to raise an incredulous eye brow. He failed.
"Almost," repeated Draco. "A bit of practise and I'll have you making me beg for mercy."
Suddenly Potter seemed to lose his breath and choke on his own tongue. Draco looked at him with puzzlement and concern, but was surprised to find him blushing. He supposed struggling for breath could do that to a person.
Once Potter had gotten both his breath and his normal colouring back, he narrowed his eyes at Draco and began pointing towards the right side of his face.
"Why have you got a pencil behind your ear?" he asked.
"That's not a pencil," replied Draco smoothly.
"It sure looks like a pencil." Potter frowned at him.
"You're training to be an Auror, Potter," said Draco slowly. "Take a closer look."
Leaning across the table, Potter's face was soon merely inches away from Draco's own. He looked up to see Potter's bright green eyes studying the side of Draco's face intently. Letting his gaze roam over Potter's, actually rather pleasant, features Draco soon spotted what appeared to be flecks of dark paint in Potter's hair. Ignoring the sudden impulse to reach up and touch the paint speckled locks, Draco's breath hitched as Potter made a startled jump and sat back. He had obviously finally spotted the Glamour on Draco's wand.
"That's clever," stated Potter.
"Yes, it is," Draco agreed.
As Potter took out his own wand and set to work on a Glamour of his own for it, Draco's eyes were unconsciously drawn back to Potter's hair. Now that he knew they were there he could make out those adorable dark, dried paint splatters. He found himself wondering how vigorously Potter had been painting to get splash-back in his hair. Draco also began wondering why he had thought to describe something about Potter as 'adorable'. Today was definitely a day of firsts.
Later that afternoon found Draco blissfully alone in his classroom and eternally grateful for free classes. He had one more class to teach, but an hour of silence and rest until then. He had even managed to successfully make himself a cup of tea using that strange kettle device.
The teaching aspect of the time Draco would be spending here at Highgate Junior School so far seemed to present no problem for him. He was worried at first, obviously, but the children actually seemed pretty well trained.
When they had been told where they would be placed for their month of undercover Muggle training Potter had spent a fair amount of time moaning to Draco about private schools. He explained how pompous and arrogant they made children, which Draco hadn't seen as a problem. Being a bit of a snob himself, and being a straight-backed, hard-nosed Malfoy to boot, he had easily dealt with the few annoyingly rude and supercilious children who tried to cause trouble for the new teacher.
Potter had also ranted about how expensive private school tuition fees were, and that a good education should be available to every child, not just those who had parents that could afford it. Although Draco obviously had no issues himself with regards to money, he actually agreed with Potter on this one. In the wizarding world, every magical child was offered a place at school, be it Hogwarts or elsewhere, regardless of their financial circumstances. Every child had the right and opportunity for decent education. Draco found himself quite bewildered at the fact that Muggles would not offer this same chance to their children.
A knock at the classroom door stirred Draco from his musings. Without waiting for consent a student Draco recognised from one of his earlier year six classes opened the door and entered the room.
"Mr Malfoy," she said gently.
"Yes," Draco paused and thought back the register he had called for the class, trying to recall the young girl's name. "Emma, is it?"
"I knew that." Draco scowled at himself. Ellie giggled. "How can I help you, Ellie?"
"It's Mr Potter, sir," answered Ellie. "He asked me to come and fetch you."
As much as Draco appreciated the well-behaved children, he would have to stop all this 'yes, sir,' 'no, sir,' 'three bags full, sir' nonsense. It was as if these children had no personalities. Plus it made him feel so old.
Wondering what the hell Potter needed him for, he quickly downed the last of his tea and stood up. As he followed Ellie out of the door he struggled to refrain from rolling his eyes; whatever Potter wanted it was no reason to interrupt Draco's limited leisure time.
Entering Potter's art classroom, Draco stopped in his tracks and frowned at Potter. He was stood at the front of the room leaning heavily on a large chest, looking very red and short of breath. When he spotted Draco he stood up straight and smiled at him. Draco's frown simply deepened.
As Ellie made her way back to her place at a nearby table, Draco made his way towards Potter.
"What the hell are you doing sending a pupil to come and fetch me?" he whispered harshly in Potter's ear.
"I couldn't do it; I can't leave the class unattended," reasoned Potter.
"Hmph," Draco huffed. "I have better things to do with my spare lesson time, Potter, than-" he paused. "What am I doing here anyway?"
"I'm sorry," consoled Potter. "I just-" His already flushed cheeks seemed to darken slightly as he refused to meet Draco's eyes. "I don't know anyone else and I needed some help."
"Help with what?"
Potter grinned somewhat coyly at him and motioned to the chest.
"What?" Draco was going to need more than a coquettish smile and vague motions.
"I need to move it over there." Potter pointed at at spot a few metres away.
"And why would you need my help?" asked Draco. "Surely you can just-" It was as he was about to suggest a Levitation Charm that Draco's eyes caught sight of Potter's paint brush tucked into his apron. Potter's not-really-a-paint-brush paint brush. Shit. "Just... push it?" finished Draco lamely.
"It's really quite heavy," said Potter tightly, obviously a little pissed off about Draco's almost slip.
"Er-" Draco cringed. "Have you thought about removing its contents?"
"No," replied Potter. "I thought about asking someone dexterous to help me. Obviously I asked the wrong person," he hissed.
"Jeez, Potter, did you take that making me beg for mercy thing literally?" Draco ran a hand through his hair; an instinctive reaction to stress even a classroom full of prepubescent child hadn't been able elicit from him. "I'll help you," he said finally.
This earnest declaration seemed to placate Potter, whose face relaxed as he took a deep breath. He looked at Draco, all animosity gone from his eyes, and smiled.
Ten minutes, a lot of effort and a few choice, but unuttered, curse words later and Potter's chest sat inoffensively in its new location, looking for all the world as though it hadn't just made two fully grown men moan, groan and clutch gratefully at their Glamoured wands, silently promising to never take them for granted in future.
Collapsing into chairs either side of Potter's desk, the pair watched the students sketch and paint while they got their breath and energy back. Draco was already craving another cup of tea.
"Why did you want that thing moving over there, anyway?" asked Draco at last.
"Oh, erm," Potter looked down at his feet and rubbed the back of his neck. "I just thought it would be better over there." He finished off this feeble justification for all Draco's hard work with a shrug.
Now it was Draco's turn to purse his lips and hiss.
"Potter-" he started, harshly.
"Mr Potter, sir!" called one of the students. "I've finished early. Can I start a second one, sir?" He sounded like one of those pompous kiss-arses that Potter had ranted about.
With a quick apologetic, but smug smile at Draco, Potter rose up from his chair and walked over to the student.
For a few minutes Draco watched Potter wander among the children, offering help and guidance to those who asked for or needed it along the way. He found himself smiling at how much Potter was obviously enjoying himself. He thought nothing of it until Potter looked over, spotted Draco smiling and returned it with a large smile of his own. Draco squirmed a little in his seat at being caught admiring Potter and tried to calm his suddenly increasing heart beat as Potter made his way back to him.
To cover his unexpected and embarrassing state, Draco resorted to the Malfoy classic: a diversionary insult.
"Whose dress did you nick, Potter?" he drawled. "Granger's? Suits you, though. As if you were born to wear dresses..."
"Malfoy..." Potter sounded confused as he looked down at himself. "This isn't a dress."
"Well, obviously." Draco wondered how Potter could be so dim when it came to a simple, if somewhat exaggerated, put-down. "I was simply insinuating that you look ridiculous in that apron."
"Malfoy..." Potter frowned as he said Draco's name this time. "This isn't an apron, either."
"What are you on about?" Draco looked Potter up and down, missing the blush that rose on Potter's cheeks at the action. "It's a little excessive and-" He paused, his eyes on the collar, along with Potter's neck. "-kind of frilly, but it's an apron."
"It's a smock," stated Potter, shaking his head slightly in disbelief.
"No, Potter-" Draco stopped when he heard a familiar girlish giggle. He leaned to the left and looked past Potter to see Ellie stifling her laughter behind her hand, and the rest of the class watching them intently, many of them smiling openly at the men's exchange.
"I think I'll be on my way, it's almost time for the final class of the day." Draco stood and made his way past Potter and towards the door.
"I'll see you out," said Potter as he followed Draco.
Once they were out in the corridor they stood just to the side, out of sight of the classroom's windowed door.
"Er, sorry about that." Potter cocked his thumb over his shoulder to indicate the classroom they had just left.
"Sorry about the fact that we provided a group of 10-year-olds with a little entertainment, or sorry for nearly causing me to break my back?" Draco smirked as Potter scratched at his chin.
"Good boy." Draco laughed. "Still, it could have been worse. You could have asked me to do some life modelling for you, or something."
Potter spluttered a little, but recovered quickly with a smirk of his own.
"Well, I have been looking for some inspiration lately." Potter's words were playful, but he wouldn't quite meet Draco's eye.
"And you think me in the buff will help you with that? Oh, Potter, you do amuse me sometimes."
Draco's chuckles echoed down the corridor as he made his way back to his own classroom, and he once again missed the rosy glow that coloured Potter's cheeks.
It was two days later that Draco had the pleasure of teaching the class that had been witness to Draco and Potter's chest moving and insult swapping display, and Draco soon discovered that children, like elephants, never forgot.
"Sir, how's your back today?" Ellie greeted him with a small laugh as she entered the classroom.
"Not that it's any of your concern, Ellie, but my back is just fine," replied Draco.
There were a few cheeky smiles flashed at Draco as the class made their way into the room and sat themselves down behind their benches. He didn't trouble himself over them; likely a couple of teachers doing some grunt work and tame verbal sparring was something quite unusual and exciting for this highbrow school.
It was about half an hour into the lesson that the kids started getting braver. Draco had caught sight of the occasional elbow to the ribs or whispering behind hands out of the corner of his eye, as if they were trying to egg each other on. For now, Draco decided to ignored it, but it wasn't long later that Ellie threw her hand up in the air, almost chasing a laugh out of Draco as a mental image of an over eager first year Granger popped into his head.
"Yes, Ellie?" prompted Draco, standing up and moving to the front of his desk, assuming she had a question about the work he had set them.
"Mr Malfoy, sir, do you really think Mr Potter looks good in dresses?"
"Do I think-" Draco spluttered and gaped. "Excuse me?"
"On Monday you said Mr Potter suited that dress," said Ellie calmly. "Do you really think he suits dresses?"
Draco decided Ellie must be the ring leader of this particular class, and he needed to take her down early before the others followed suit and took up arms against him. He couldn't have a group of 10-year-olds humiliating him; even Potter couldn't do that.
"Well, Ellie, Mr Potter wasn't actually wearing a dress," he reasoned. Draco wondered if children could be reasoned with.
"Yes, but you said-"
Apparently not. He had thought he liked Ellie, but she was really starting to get on Draco's tits. Draco sighed before interrupting the girl.
"Ellie, Mr Potter and I were simply joking with each other. You and your friends share jokes and laughs together, don't you?" Draco tried to explain with examples she could understand. Surely this had to work.
"Yes, sir, but then why did your jokes make Mr Potter blush instead of laugh?"
"Potter was-?" Draco stopped and backtracked. "Mr Potter wasn't blushing, Ellie."
"Yes he was, Mr Malfoy!" cried another voice from the opposite side of the room. "Every time he looked at you!"
"And especially when you were looking at him, sir!" chorused another voice from the back of the class.
Several children had begun to nod their heads.
"No." Draco tried to pacify the energy he could feel starting to rise in the room. "If Mr Potter was flushed, it was because it was such an effort to move that chest around."
"That was when he blushed the most, sir," Ellie spoke up again. "But it wasn't when he was pushing the chest; it was when you were bent over it." She finished with a wide, and Draco would venture cunning, smile.
Feeling the heat start to rise in his own cheeks, Draco didn't know what to say. How could a bunch of pre-teens fluster a fully grown Malfoy man so easily? Did they teach manipulation and intimidation at this school? And Draco was willing to bet the entire Malfoy estate that if Ellie had been a student at Hogwarts, she would have been a Slytherin.
He'd taken too long to respond, and quiet giggling had broken out across the classroom. Draco bought himself more time by straightening his jacket and walking slowing back around his desk to take his seat. As he sat down he caught the satisfied twinkle in Ellie's eyes and the playful curve on her lips.
"If you'll please play close attention to the side-note on page 394, as we I will be asking you more detailed questions about this in your next lesson."
Draco gave up on any kind of non-science related topic of conversation with the students. If in doubt, ignore the irritating blighters, bore them with facts and threaten them with tests.
"And they just wouldn't let it go! They were like a dog with a bone."
"Come off it, Malfoy, they're just kids."
"Wicked, shrewd, conniving kids!"
Draco and Potter were sat at the same picnic table, surrounded by the same Silencing Spells enjoying a relaxed lunch while Draco whinged about his harrowing ordeal with the sixth year class earlier that day.
"That Ellie girl is too smart and evil for her own good. I wonder what her plan is." Draco narrowed his eyes in concentration as he wrapped his lips around the straw of his drink and sucked.
When Potter laughed Draco looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
"What?" he asked.
"Nothing, you're just-" Potter bit his bottom lips and shook his head slightly, as though trying to clear it. "You're just overreacting, Malfoy. She's 10 years old. Stop taking it so seriously."
"Potter, that little vixen intimated that you had been staring at my arse!"
"Erm, yeah." Potter turned away from Draco and rubbed at the back of his neck with one hand while shoving his cob into his mouth with the other.
"What do you mean 'Erm, yeah'? Is that really all you have to say on the matter?" Draco couldn't believe Potter's nonchalance. "The very idea that you would be looking at my arse is completely ridiculous, but what is she trying to accomplish by throwing around such extravagant fabrications?"
"You become unbelievably toffee-nosed when you get worked up, Malfoy, even for you," commented Potter.
"Is it the long words?" said Draco condescendingly. "Should I have said 'big fib'?" For some reason he got the urge to reach out and pat Potter on the head as he spoke.
"Oh, no," Potter denied quickly. "The uppish ponce persona suits you to a tee. I wouldn't have you any other way." He finished with a chuckle and absorbed himself in his lunch once again.
What the hell did that mean? All through school Potter had done nothing but rag on Draco for being a stuck-up bastard, and now suddenly he liked Draco that way? Draco just couldn't figure Potter out. He knew Potter only put up with him as his Auror-in-training partner because he was oh-so-noble and no one else wanted Draco. But Potter was being nicer than usual, and Draco didn't care for pity.
"Go back to the insults, Potter, they suit us better," said Draco with a sigh and a slight shake of his head.
"What? Why?" Potter seemed genuinely concerned that Draco wanted them to continue throwing jibes at each other.
"Because that's what we do," said Draco with a small shrug. "But I guess we've never really tried doing anything else before," he added quietly.
Draco went back to his drink while contemplating Potter some more. After a few seconds he looked up at the man in question. Potter was frowning slightly, with an earnest look in his eyes. His lipped quivered as if he might say something, but a familiar boisterous voice got there first.
"Hey, guys!" cheered Weasley as he once again took a seat beside Potter. The inclusion of Draco in the friendly greeting did not go unnoticed, and Draco filed the fact away for dissection later.
"Hi, Ron," Potter said to him, though without his usual joviality.
Deciding he shouldn't let Weasley's unusually cordial greeting go unacknowledged, Draco nodded to him.
"You okay, Harry?" asked Weasley immediately, obviously noticing Potter's less than enthusiastic mood. And for some reason he gave Draco a hard stare once he'd spoken.
Draco just shrugged and went back to his food. The food he wouldn't let Weasley put him off of today. He accomplished this by determinedly not looking at the uncouth git as he once again shovelled his lunch into his giant gob.
Potter and Weasley talked quietly between themselves for a little while, and Draco took the opportunity to continue pondering the bizarre turn the lesson earlier had taken.
He couldn't be sure the children were telling the truth, but he couldn't think of a reason why they would lie. One could argue, as Potter had, that they were 'just kids' who were trying to rile up a teacher, but Draco didn't buy that. He had seen the look on Ellie's face. He knew that look because he himself had worn it plenty of times. It was the look of someone with a plan, a plan that was going just as they wanted it to. Draco just had to figure out what the Slytherin wannabe was up to.
Why would she tell Draco that he had made Potter blush? How and why would that even be possible? Sure, Draco took the mickey out of Potter a lot; take the dress thing as an example, just like Ellie had. Perhaps she was trying to make Draco feel guilty for upsetting Potter. Except Draco was fairly confident he hadn't upset Potter. They were almost constantly throwing barbs at each other, it was what they did. Of course Ellie didn't know that, though, so perhaps she was just feeling sorry for Potter, because Draco's playfully offensive remarks were a lot more cutting than Potter's. But why would she feel sorry for Potter?
Suddenly it hit him. Ellie had a crush on Potter! Oh, it was so obvious now. This was just perfect. Maybe she wasn't as much of a Slytherin as Draco thought; it would seem there was a bit of Hufflepuff in there too. A Slytherpuff? Draco laughed lightly to himself, but shook his head, missing the odd looks he got from Potter and Weasley, he was getting distracted. A nice hot cup of tea sounded like a brilliant idea right about now.
Actually, maybe Draco was over thinking it. Ellie having a crush on Potter wouldn't explain why all the other children in the class spoke up, all claiming Potter had blushed when he looked at Draco. And when Draco looked at him? How did that work? Why would Potter get embarrassed when Draco looked at him? Did he think Draco was eyeing him up or something? Shit, that was it, wasn't it? It all added up. The assessing look Potter gave him when he had asked for his help with the kettle. Draco making remarks about those two teachers fancying each other, quickly followed by Potter's pronouncement that he wouldn't find himself a boyfriend at the school. The way his breath had hitched when Potter had leaned in close to examine his Glamoured wand. The way he had been admiring Potter as he moved around the classroom; Potter had caught him doing that red handed. Fuck. Potter was embarrassed because he thought Draco liked him.
Draco sat stock still on the bench, vaguely registering that his mouth was hanging open like a fish. 'Shock' was an insufficient word for Draco's current state, 'stupefaction' might come close, but realistically a new word would have to be invented to adequately describe how Draco was feeling. All brain function had ceased and he wished someone would come along and press his reset button.
"Ron, be quiet, would you!"
Potter's urgent and imploring words penetrated the haze of Draco's mind and jostled him back to reality. He found his eyes focusing on the two men sat on the other side of the picnic table.
"You okay there, Malfoy?" asked Ron. "You're looking a little... paler than usual, which can't be good thing."
"Is because you overheard what Ron was saying?" Potter's voice sounded an octave higher than usual and he looked worried. "Because, you know-"
"What are you rambling on about now, Potter?" Draco interrupted him with a confused frown.
"Er-" Potter seemed suddenly unsure of himself. "-nothing. Nothing at all. So, Ron, getting on any better at the supermarket?"
Although highly suspicious of the sudden change of subject, Draco was grateful for it. He could only hope like hell Potter hadn't been moaning to Weasley about the crush he suspected Draco had on him.
"No, it's gotten bloody worse!" moaned Weasley. "They've stuck me on the flipping fish counter, today!"
"Is that why you smell like that?" chimed in Draco, slipping easily back into the familiarity of Weasley-baiting. "I assumed you'd skipped your annual bath." He finished with the friendliest smirk he could muster. Draco couldn't bring himself to look at Potter, though he suspected the man was giggling. Or trying very hard not to, from the sound of it.
"Oh, fuck off, Malfoy," retorted Weasley, but the words lacked spite. "I'm not staying here to be insulted." He got up from the bench slowly, and Draco was quite sure he saw the hint of a smile before he turned and walked away. "See you later, Harry."
"Ta-ta, Weasley!" Draco called after him, with a little wave. "I thought he'd never leave," he added under his breath.
The sudden lack of the red-headed boisterousness that was Weasley simply reminded Draco of the fact that he was now alone with Potter. Potter who thought Draco fancied him. Draco managed to suppress the groan that was pleading to escape his mouth, but had no chance of preventing his head from falling forward and hitting the table with a dull 'thud'.
"So," Potter spoke up so quietly Draco suspected he would have missed the words had the wind been in blowing in another direction, "are you okay, Malfoy?"
Draco heaved a deep sigh, breathing in the woodsy smell of the table his nose was currently squashed against. He felt very unsure of himself now he'd finally figured out the situation.
"Yes, Potter," replied Draco finally. He looked up and found concerned green eyes looking back at him. The git truly was worried about him, which was even more unnerving than pretending to be nice to him. "I'm fine. Just driving myself crazy trying to figure those kids out, you know?" It wasn't a complete lie.
"I'd forget about that if I were you," encouraged Potter. "They don't know what they're talking about."
"For once Potter, I agree with you."
They fell into an amicable silence while they finished their lunch. Draco tried to put his thoughts to the back of his mind; there was nothing he could do. Of course, he could tell Potter outright that he didn't fancy the git, but Draco was quite sure a direct and unprompted denial would be seen as the equivalent of declaring his love for Potter in the middle of the school's morning assembly.
Resisting the urge to sigh again, Draco glanced up at Potter who had his head bent low over the last of his cob. Immediately he spotted the flecks of paint in the wild mess of Potter's hair. It was green this time. Draco wondered absently how Potter had managed to get paint not only in his hair, but right on top of his head. The thought that was taking up most of the space in his head, however, was how perfectly the green colour of the paint matched the vivid green of Potter's eyes. Before Draco knew what was happening he was smiling to himself, all previous stress forgotten. The desire to pat Potter on the head had returned, along with the easy certainty that Draco found the man adorable.
Suddenly the notion of Draco having a crush on Potter didn't seem as far-fetched as Draco would have liked to believe.
As he made himself a cup of tea, Draco thought back to his first morning at Highgate, when Potter had shown him the Muggle way to prepare his favourite beverage. It wasn't an unusual thing to do; to remember being taught how to do something when doing it yourself a week later. Still, Draco could feel his pale cheeks colour as he poured the boiled water from the kettle into his mug. Blushing, lip biting and slight fidgeting had all become common reactions for Draco whenever he'd thought about Potter in the last few days.
Turning away from the kitchenette, Draco walked into the staffroom and glanced around for a seat. It was morning break time, all the children were running about in the school yard, and most of the teachers had retreated into the sanctity of the staffroom.
He spotted Potter quickly and scowled at himself for it. He looked to be in the middle of an intense conversation with the maths teacher, Mr Williams. It took a few seconds for Draco to recall the name of the man, which was surprising considering he could recollect almost the entire conversation the old fellow had insisted on having with Draco about shillings, farthings and thrupenny bits, as well as other Muggle money Draco wouldn't recognise even if it wasn't outdated. Deciding it best to steer clear of Potter and the money-obsessed Mr Williams, Draco headed to the area of the room furthest from the pair.
He smiled at the red-headed lady as he sat down next to her. She was the French teacher, he was sure, but what was her name?
"Excusez-moi, Mademoiselle, mais je ne peux pas me rappeler votre nom?" He decided to just ask her.
"Mon nom est Madame Fisher," she replied with a smile. "Et vous êtes Monsieur Malfoy, oui?"
"Oui, mais s'il vous plait appelez-moi Draco." He inclined he head as he spoke.
As he said his name, Draco couldn't help but notice Potter in his peripheral vision, as he turned his head in Draco's direction. He briefly wondered why 'Draco' would draw Potter's attention, but 'Monsieur Malfoy' had failed to, but decided to pay it no mind.
"Bien, Draco, alors vous appelez-moi Debs," she insisted. "Il est différent pour parler Français avec un adulte."
"Je fais confiance que mon Français est acceptable?" Draco had been speaking French since he was six years old; he was more than confident.
"Il est parfai," she confirmed with a laugh and a light touch to Draco's arm.
Draco smiled politely, but his attention was now focused on the tight look on Potter's face as he continued to watch his interaction with the French teacher; had Potter not known he spoke French? It amused Draco to note that Mr Williams kept jabbering on, oblivious to the fact that Potter was no longer paying attention. The slightly giddy, but satisfied feeling he had in his stomach was another thing Draco noticed. He'd never felt it before, and he didn't know what it was. Possibly indigestion, he thought, though he hadn't had lunch, yet.
It was only when Debs spoke up that Draco realised he had been sucking on his bottom lip and frowning with concentrating while he was assessing his feelings, along with Potter.
"Êtes-vous bien?" she asked, obviously concerned.
"J'ai mal à la tête," Draco replied smoothly. He figured he was going to have one soon, anyway; he would be teaching Ellie's class next lesson.
Debs gestured with her hand to Draco's head and started to say something, but Draco had stopped listening, because it was then that Potter's eyes narrowed as he absentmindedly stood from his chair and took a step towards them. Potter never took his eyes off of Draco, who in turn continued to watch surreptitiously as Potter came closer. That was the reason that Potter didn't see the misplaced stool, and why Draco was the first on his feet, rushing to Potter as he fell flat on his face.
When he reached Potter, Draco grabbed him by the shoulders and yanked him off the ground before Potter had a chance to push himself up.
"Potter, you clumsy oaf, are you okay?" Draco's voice was both concerned and derisive.
There was a low groan as Potter lifted his head and flexed his arm muscles, apparently checking for injuries. His cheeks were a blazing red, though from having the wind knocked out of him during the fall or from embarrassment, Draco didn't know. Either way it was rather cute, a thought which caused Draco's cheeks to turn red, too.
"I think I'm- argh! Maybe not," Potter winced as he tried to stand up, the pain plain on his face.
"What is it?" Draco asked urgently.
Draco bobbed down beside Potter, who sat back on the floor and gestured to his right leg. Instinctively Draco's hand reached up to grab the wand behind his ear, but Potter grasped his wrist and held onto it tightly. Although his face was still creased with pain, there was now also an unspoken warning in Potter's eyes. Draco had, once again, almost blown their cover.
"It's my knee," hissed Potter.
"All accidents and injuries need to be logged with Elaine," piped up Mr Williams, who hadn't moved from his chair.
"Can you help me to the Nurse's office?" Potter asked. He still hadn't let go of Draco's wrist.
Draco felt, and probably looked, a little bewildered, but nodded. He got to his feet and leant down to help Potter to his. With all his weight on his left foot, Potter wobbled a little so Draco reached out to steady him. Potter grasped both of Draco's outstretched arms and clung to them. He looked up at Draco sheepishly.
"I'm, er, going to need some help with the walking." Potter sounded so shy about the request that Draco had to wonder if Potter didn't have more injuries, and he was just trying to hide them in his noble stupidity.
Draco nodded again and, after a little awkward fumbling, Potter draped an arm across Draco's shoulders to bear his weight. Draco used one hand to secure Potter's arm in place and looped his other arm around Potter's waist to hold help hold him up.
"All set?" Draco asked.
"Yes," replied Potter as he hopped forward slightly on his left leg.
Slowly they made their way towards the door of the staffroom, barely giving the other teachers a second glance as they made their exit. Draco quickly had time to note the sly glances and knowing looks exchanged, and could only assume they had all pegged Potter as an accident prone idiot. He also spotted the worried frown that decorated Debs face and had difficulty refraining an eye roll; even in the middle of Muggles Potter could find himself a fan base.
Once out in the corridor, with the staffroom door shut safely behind them, Potter instantly began hissing in Draco's ear.
"I only hurt my knee, Malfoy, why the hell did you reach for your wand?"
"Instinct, Potter, okay?"
"No, it's not okay. That's the second major slip-up you've almost made. At least that I've seen, for all I know there could have been plenty more."
Potter quietly mouthed off at Draco about his mistake throughout the long and slow journey to the Nurse's office. Draco simply let him have at it, believing the ranting probably distracted him from the pain. While Potter did his moaning Draco replayed the incident in his mind; it had gone so quickly at the time. He wasn't sure why he'd jumped to Potter's aid so quickly after what was really only a small trip-up. He also didn't know why he had immediately gone for his wand, before he even knew what Potter's obviously not life-threatening injury was. No, all Draco could really remember was the feeling of his heart sinking through the floor as he saw Potter fall, followed by the panic and worry that was currently still warring inside of him.
Narrowly avoiding a tumble over the caretakers discarded mop and bucket, Draco and Potter burst through the door to the Nurse's office and Elaine didn't even start. She was sat behind her desk, but was looking out of the window. Only when Potter called her name did she turn her head towards them, her eyes as expressionless as they had been on the day they had met her, when Draco had noted that she seemed fuddled.
"A little help here?" Apparently it was now Draco's turn to be pissed off.
Elaine stood and made her way towards them, motioning to the examination couch. Draco helped Potter over to the couch and sat him down, reluctantly letting his arm drop from Potter's waist.
"What's the problem?" asked Elaine, seemingly without care or concern.
Draco opened his mouth to explain what a clumsy git Potter was, but Potter got in before him.
"It's my knee," he explained. "I tripped and I must have twisted it, or landed on it strangely."
"Just relax your muscles and let me have a look," she said as she took hold of Potter's ankle and gently bent his knee.
After listening to Elaine's many questions ('Does this hurt?', 'What about when I do this?') and watching the elderly woman fondle Potter's leg, Draco lost interest in the proceedings and turned away to look around the room. It was fairly small; just the desk and examination couch, along with a few cupboards and a sink, and just enough room for Draco to pace.
As he walked to and fro in the confined space Draco took note of the posters on the wall. Most of them depicted different parts of the body, internal and external, explaining what they were and what they did. There were also signs reminding children to brush their teeth at least twice a day and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Draco almost snorted at that last one; all he'd seen the children eat for lunch in the dining hall was chips and beans.
When he looked at the cupboards he saw they were all as neatly labelled as the cupboards in his own classroom. He briefly wondered if the same person had organised both sets of cupboards, or if Elaine and Mr Sherwood were simply both the same kind of neat freak.
Then Draco's attention was caught by the glass-fronted medicine cabinet. He knew it was the medicine cabinet because it was as clearly labelled at the rest of the cupboards. Without the sign, though, Draco would have had no clue as to what the cupboard should have contained, because it was currently completely empty.
He frowned and turned his attention back to the room's other occupants. Elaine was now wrapping Potter's knee in some kind of bandage and telling him to keep his weight off of it as much as possible.
"Excuse me, Elaine?" Draco called to get the woman's attention.
She stopped what she was doing, leaving Potter's bandage to loosen and dangle; unsecured. Turning to Draco, she waited expectantly without speaking.
"Er-" Draco faltered for a moment. "Why is the medicine cabinet empty?" he finally managed to ask.
For the first time, Draco saw something change in Elaine's eyes, as if a spark had gone off behind her irises. It was just for a second, and then they were as blank as before. When she spoke, her voice carried as little emotion as it always had.
"Medicine was going missing, so we removed it all."
"What medicine did you keep in this cupboard?" Draco continued to question.
"Children's paracetamol, emergency inhalers for some of the children, various antiseptic and soothing creams. Nothing worth stealing."
Draco noticed Potter frown at him and shake his head very slightly, obviously confused as to why he was concerned about the contents of school Nurse's medicine cabinet and silently asking him what he was doing. Draco simply shrugged and resumed his pacing. He had found it interesting that a simple question about what had been kept in the medicine cabinet would cause Elaine to specifically comment about the contents being worthless to thieves.
With no further questions being asked, Elaine turned her attention back to Potter's knee.
Once again enjoying one of his free classes, Draco sighed contentedly to himself and sipped his cup of tea. He had discovered he didn't hate this Muggle undercover task as much as he thought he would. Sure, he couldn't use magic all day and he had to put up with hundreds of short, loud annoying people sucking up to him and calling him 'sir' all the time, but there were benefits, too. Top of that list was no one looking at him like he was dog shit they'd had to scrape off their shoe. These Muggles weren't that bad at all; even the caretaker always had a smile for him. Another benefit, that was higher on the list than Draco cared to admit, was how much time he got to spend with Potter. Time that was much more social than the way they interacted at the Ministry and during Auror training.
When he heard the knock at the door he had a suspicion as to who it might be, and smiled to himself. The only other person who would pay him a visit, let alone knock, was Potter, but Draco knew he would be getting ready for the class that was due to start. So when, once again without waiting for permission to enter, Ellie opened the door and stepped inside, it did not surprise Draco.
"Shouldn't you be on your way to class, Ellie?" asked Draco as the girl simply stood in the doorway.
"Yes, Mr Malfoy, I'm heading over the art room now. I-" she paused; a calculated and perfectly executed pause, if ever Draco saw one. "-I just stopped in on my way to suggest that you come along."
"Come along to your art class?"
Ellie simply nodded innocently.
"And why would I want to do that, Ellie?" asked Draco, wondering what the girl was up to now.
"Well, Mr Potter's injured..." she trailed off slightly, perhaps wondering if mentioning Potter's injury alone would persuade Draco. However, considering Draco had fully healed Potter's twisted knee in the park on their lunch break, and that Potter was now simply keeping up appearances, that guilt trip wasn't going to work. He raised an eyebrow at the clever girl before him and she must have known her ploy had failed, as she tried again from another angle. "You seemed to enjoy yourself last time you sat in on the class, sir." Her voice had taken on a sickly sweet tone and Draco was adamant he wasn't going to fall for it. "And I know Mr Potter would love to have you."
"Mr Potter would what?" cried Draco, suddenly much more alert. So much for not falling for it. What did she mean Potter would love to have him? Was she taking the piss?
"See you there, Mr Malfoy!" Ellie called as she giggled and made her way down the corridor, leaving the door wide open.
Draco sat still for a few seconds, unsure of what to make of that brief conversation, then thought 'Bugger it', he didn't have anything better do and he was starting to think playing along with Ellie's little scheme would be the only way to find out what the little would-be-Slytherin was up to. So he stood up from his stool and headed for Potter's classroom, taking his cuppa with him.
He quietly opened the door and slipped inside just as Potter began the lesson. As he made his way to the back of the class, Potter caught his eye and frowned, but said nothing. Grabbing an empty chair, Draco set it down in the far corner near the window and settled himself into it.
The room was quiet as Potter explained to the class what they would be doing in the lesson. Something about negative space, but really, Draco wasn't listening. Instead he was watching Potter as he pretended to hobble around from behind his desk on a crutch. Hiding his smirk behind his hand, Draco had to turn away before he laughed out loud; Potter was a terrible actor. He gazed out of the window for a while, still not really listening, but letting the sound of Potter's voice wash over him as the sun shone down on his face and taking an occasional sup of tea.
It was when he heard the murmur of voices and the rustling of paper that Draco drew his attention back to the classroom. The children had begun working on whatever it was they were supposed to be doing, and Potter had seated himself behind his desk, though not before giving Draco a long look that seemed to ask 'why?' and say 'thank you' at the same time. This puzzled Draco, but he didn't get long to mull it over as a hand shot up in the air; Ellie's, of course. A wide smile graced Potter's face, and Draco almost knew he had been reminded of an enthusiastic first year Granger, just like he had been.
"Yes, Ellie?" prompted Potter.
"Mr Potter, sir, is there any of your own work you could show us as an example that we could draw from?"
"Well, er-" The question had instantly caused Potter to dither. "We, er, we went over examples in the last lesson, Ellie, you shouldn't need any more than that."
Draco smiled again; it seemed he wasn't the only person who could make Potter blush.
"But, sir-" Ellie tried again.
"Today's lesson is for all of you to put into practise what you learnt last lesson." Potter tried to be firm, but his voice was still full of warmth. "Please continue."
The room was quiet again for a few minutes, but it didn't take long for the children to speak up again.
"Mr Potter, is this right? It looks stupid," called one boy near the front of the class.
Potter seemed to sigh, but smiled and fake-limped over to the boy's desk all the same. He bent low, speaking quietly to the pupil and gesturing with his crutch-free hand. Draco watched the whole time.
After helping the boy, Potter stood and began making his way back to his desk. Before he could get there however, another voice rang through the room asking for help. Potter turned and made his way towards the voice, but before he'd taken two steps, an additional voice called to him, followed by another.
"What's gotten into you guys today?" asked Potter. "You're never usually this vocal." As he spoke his eyes roamed across the room and eventually settled on Draco in the back corner. Draco gave a little wave and smiled as Potter rolled his eyes in realisation and slowly made his way over to Draco, leaning on his crutch.
Seeing Potter being wound up by the kids was even more fun than Draco would have thought. He was such a patient person who, for some reason completely unknown to Draco, believed the best from everyone. Potter would have called it trust or optimism, or something else equally nauseating. Draco called it foolish, but seeing Potter's carefree character bent to the will of children did make for great entertainment.
"Okay, I concede," said Potter quietly when he reached Draco. "Ellie's up to something."
"I hate to be so cliché, Potter, but I told you so." Draco hid his smirk behind his mug now, even though he'd long since finished his tea.
"Yes, okay, you can gloat later." The slight bitterness of his voice and the small smile on his lips were wonderful in juxtaposition. "Have you figured out what she's trying to do?"
"Unfortunately not." Draco frowned and turned to view Ellie, studiously getting on with her work. He was being bested by a 10-year-old and he was not best pleased about it. "For now I have decided to play along with her silly ploy and see when it leads." He looked up at Potter and couldn't help but smile. "And today it led me here."
"What do you mean it led you here?" Potter suddenly seemed nervous as he leaned heavily on his crutch and hopped slightly.
"When I said 'it', I should really have said 'Ellie'. She stopped by my classroom on her way here and invited me along." As Draco spoke he saw the shock and confusion pass over Potter's face. Regardless of Potter's new found belief that Ellie was up to something, he obviously hadn't thought her capable of being quite that strategic and forward-thinking. "She attempted to get me here with sympathy," continued Draco, gesturing to Potter's knee, "but we both know that won't work."
Potter cringed slightly and rubbed at an elbow; it had taken Draco a lot of effort to convince Potter to let him heal his knee, the git was adamant it wasn't that bad and that he should suffer through it. Draco was almost inclined to let him, simply as punishment for being an ungainly buffoon, but knew he'd worry about him too much if he didn't heal him. And as much as Potter might deserve the penance, Draco didn't.
"Then she told me that you would want me here, and I have to say I was intrigued," finished Draco.
Potter swallowed rather loudly and blushed. That was interesting to Draco; it turned out Potter did blush rather a lot. He wasn't complaining, though, it made him look all the more attractive. He opened his mouth to speak, but then gave up and shrugged instead. Draco narrowed his eyes at the motion; that was suspicious.
"I don't know why she'd say that," said Potter quickly, seeming to sense Draco's uncertainty. "I have to get back to the class."
With that Potter shuffled off back towards the children before Draco could reply. Draco was baffled at how Potter could be so mortified at the idea of Draco having a crush on him, but still be so nice to him. That wasn't something Draco would have been able to do, but Potter was apparently a better person than he was. He watched Potter laugh and joke with the children, play up his injury so kids would volunteer to fetch supplies for him, and more than once Draco spotted Potter glancing at him from the corner of his eye. He never looked directly at him, but coy and alluring were traits that Draco found very appealing in his newly realised crush, even if that crush would never look at Draco that way.
And it was then, one sunny afternoon in the art room of a Muggle junior school that Draco truly admitted to himself that he was falling for Harry Potter.
"Do you wear it to protect your sorry excuse for clothing?"
"Then it's an apron."
"No, Malfoy," sighed Potter, "it's called a smock. It's bigger and- and it has arms!" he cried, almost triumphantly.
Draco had made the mistake of calling Potter's dress an apron again, and it was exasperating the man. So naturally Draco wasn't going to back down. Even if Potter's delightful flailing and pouting wasn't reason enough to keep being a stubborn bastard about the matter, Draco could never actually admit he'd never bloody heard of smocks, and was actually rather embarrassed about being wrong.
"So it's an extra-large apron that discriminates against the armless." He shrugged. Draco did love being an awkward sod.
"I give up," said Potter weakly as he turned his attention back to his lunch.
"I win!" Draco punched the air in exaggerated glee and hit Potter with his toothiest smile.
"I wasn't aware we were competing," stated Potter, but he grinned back at Draco all the same.
"We're always competing, Potter, in one way or another."
They were silent for a time, each chewing their sandwiches quietly. Draco took the opportunity to admire Potter. Once again the man had shown up for lunch with dried paint in his hair. It had been impossible for Draco to miss it today; the bright yellow that it was. The flecks started strong and thick in the hair above Potter's forehead, and gradually dispersed through the strands further back. Draco suspected Potter had run a paint-covered hand through his hair a couple of times to create that sort of effect.
He wondered, not for the first time, what Potter had been painting. The yellow made him imagine Potter painting a gorgeous sunrise, or perhaps a field of sunflowers. Draco stopped that line of thinking immediately and mentally slapped himself for being such a soppy wanker.
Nothing had changed since Draco had admitted to himself how he felt about Potter. He knew it was pointless to do anything about it; he knew he couldn't pursue him. He had quickly come to terms with the fact that he would carry this torch for Potter, while seeing him every day, while working beside him for the foreseeable future as his Auror partner. Draco had to wonder if, really, he had cared for Potter much longer than he had realised, but had never consciously accepted the fact because he'd also always known that nothing could ever come of it. It would be much harder from this point onwards, now he knew how he felt, while knowing just as well that he'll never have Potter.
In an attempt to drag himself out of the self-pitying hole he found he was slowly falling into, it was Draco who initiated the increasingly friendlier by the day greeting with Weasley today.
"Afternoon, Weasley. Say, do you have to wear an apron for your job, too?"
"Hi," said Weasley as he approached the picnic table. "An apron?" He was obviously already confused.
"Yes," Draco explained slowly. "It's a piece of cloth, often vaguely human-shaped, used to cover one's self so one's clothes don't get dirtied." He looked down at Weasley's mucky clothes before continuing, "What am I talking about? Of course you don't wear an apron."
"I was in the bakery today!" Weasley cried quickly in his own defence as he looked down at himself.
"So that's what all that white power is? And there was me thinking you had a sherbet addiction."
As Draco ceased his sarcastic tirade and Weasley stood, mouth hanging slightly open, flabbergasted, the only sound that could be heard was coming from Potter. He was bent over the side of the bench, doubled up with noisy laughter. Draco and Weasley glanced at Potter, and then shared a puzzled look. Weasley just shrugged and chose to avoid his guffawing friend by walking around the table and sitting down beside Draco. This surprised Draco, who raised an eyebrow at Weasley, but said nothing.
"And Malfoy, if I did have a sherbet addiction, I'd never waste any by spilling it all over myself," retorted Weasley once Potter had stopped laughing and sat up again. "I'm not as clumsy as someone we know." He turned to look straight at Potter.
Draco smirked, and the smile that still lingered on Potter's face vanished.
"Ron..." said Potter, warningly.
"Oh, come on, Potter, let the ginger one mock you. How often does he get one over on you?"
"Yeah, Harry, let me mock you!" agreed Weasley. "Tell me again about how you fell?"
Potter's eyes flicked back and forth between Draco and Weasley. Draco thought he seemed rather worried, though about what he had no idea; everyone at the table knew Potter had fallen flat on his face and embarrassed himself.
"Oh, and don't forget to leave out the bit about Malfoy carrying you to the Nurse's office, I think that was my favourite part..." Weasley looked off into the distance and smiled to himself, as though recalling a fond memory.
"Shut up, Ron," Potter chastised almost shyly. "I lack physical coordination. You both know what happened, so can we move on?"
"Spoil our fun, why don't you." Draco pouted. "I for one enjoyed seeing you spread eagle on the floor."
With another little chortle Draco turned his attention back to his food. From his position next to Weasley, he almost missed the knowing look the red-head gave to Potter in the wake of Draco's declaration.
After a few minutes filled with only the quiet sound of food being munched and drinks being slurped, Weasley spoke up again.
"I know they say blonds have more fun, Harry, but really."
Draco frowned at the odd statement and, assuming he was making some kind of dig at him, was about to ask Weasley what the hell he was on about. Before he got the chance, Potter had spat his drink across the table.
"What!" he managed to choke out, juice still running down his chin.
It was probably wrong for Draco to find the man attractive in that state, but thankfully he didn't care. He simply smiled to himself and enjoyed the view as Potter grabbed a tissue and dabbed at his face.
His smile soon turned into a thin line of disdain at Weasley's next words.
"Your hair, mate," he explained slowly, and illustrated his point by pointing to Potter's head. "It's covered in yellow paint."
"Oh," said Potter, at once calm again. A hand reached up and threaded through the scruffy locks, just as Draco had imagined he had done earlier.
"Why? What did you think I-" Weasley cut himself off abruptly at the quelling glare from Potter.
Draco briefly wondered what he was missing, but didn't spend long worrying about it. He was suddenly too busy mentally cursing Weasley and his big mouth as Potter began picking at the yellow paint flecks in his hair. Draco liked those paint flecks and didn't want to see them go.
"Why didn't you tell me about my stupid hair, Malfoy?" asked Potter as he yanked out a few strands from his head in his attempt to remove the paint.
"I've been telling you for years about your stupid hair, Potter. You just never listened."
He smirked as Potter rolled his eyes.
"Okay, I set myself up for that one," admitted Potter.
"You really did, mate," chipped in Weasley, laughing.
"I thought perhaps you were paying me homage, and I decided it rather suited you." Honesty mixed with condescension was a favourite of Draco's.
The hands in Potter's hair stilled almost instantly. A few seconds later he shrugged and lowered his hands, much of the yellow paint still adorably marring his hair.
"Whatever," said Potter, almost too casually.
Internally, Draco cheered himself for however he'd managed to get Potter to abandon his paint removal task. Externally, he acted as though Potter's actions were of no consequence and began clearing the rubbish from the table. He supposed he would have to get used to his emotions not matching his actions in regards to Potter, because he'd never be able to share his true feelings for the man. Not unless he saw even some small hint that Potter might somehow return them, and what were the chances of that?
It was late one evening a couple of days later that Draco stumbled upon something that he really shouldn't have seen in a Muggle school.
He had stayed late to mark some tests he had set Ellie and her classmates earlier in the day. Draco had regretted trying to get his revenge on the young scheming girl by issuing the tests as soon as the children had handed them in at the end of the lesson; realising he had actually given himself 30 times as much work to do than each of the pupils.
Half-way through the large pile of papers Draco sighed and decided it was time for a break. He would need a cup of tea if he was going to make it through the rest of tests anyway. Who knew 10-year-olds were so bad at spelling? He would have to have a word with that English teacher.
As he stood in the staff room's kitchenette waiting for the kettle to boil he heard hurried and erratic footsteps echoing out in the corridor. Draco wondered who would be wandering around the school at this time and, if he was honest with himself, he suspected it was Ellie up to more mischief. So he abandoned the kettle; Potter said it boiled quicker if you didn't watch it, anyway, and made his way out of the staff room and into the hallway. As he slowly walked towards the disturbance his feet slipped slightly on the damp floor; the caretaker must have forgotten to put his signs up.
What he saw when he reached the source of the noise shocked Draco enough that for a few seconds his simply stood and blankly surveyed the scene in front of him.
Elaine, the school Nurse, seemed to be walking slowly in one direction, gazing around as though she was lost. Then suddenly she stopped, shook her head and turned around, wandering back the way she had come. Occasionally she would pause and focus her attention on something on the wall, or peer into a classroom as though she was looking for someone or something.
The thing that shocked Draco the most, however, was the sheer amount of magic he could feel around the woman. Granted, he had not been around as much magic as usual in the recent weeks, unless you counted Potter, whose magical core was so strong he probably exuded magic from every orifice. But as Potter had not actually been using his magic, even that wasn't as vivid as it normally would be. The magic surrounding Elaine, however, was full of intensity and power. It should definitely be nowhere near an elderly Muggle Nurse working in a Muggle school.
From her obviously confused state, Draco suspected she had been hit with some kind of memory or befuddlement spell. And from the strength of the magic surrounding her, along with her disorientation, he had to conclude that it had happened very recently.
Draco turned his head from side to side, glancing up and down the corridor, fruitlessly checking to see if the witch or wizard responsible was silently trying to creep away. He briefly considered prowling the school in search of them, but knew it would bear the same results as his cursory scan of the hall.
Turning his attention back to Elaine, Draco made his way over to her and gently took her hands. The action caused her to stop mid-stride and look down and their clasped hands.
"Elaine," Draco spoke quietly, worried about spooking the woman.
Her eyes slowly made their way up to his face, and then the brow between them furrowed as she focused on him.
"Mr Malfoy," she finally replied.
"Yes." Draco practically sighed with relief; she was simply suffering the immediate after-effects of whatever spell had been used, and hadn't lost her entire memory. "Let's head to the staff room and get you a nice cup of tea, okay?"
She smiled at him as she let him lead her down the corridor.
Draco knew he would need to talk to Potter about this as soon as possible, but for now all he could do was wonder if the kettle had boiled yet.
Early the next morning Draco caught Potter as he passed the science classroom on his way down the corridor. And that was literally; he stood in the doorway waiting, grabbed hold of Potter's arm as he strolled past and practically dragged in him through the door.
"Malfoy!" he shrieked as the momentum of Draco's hauling propelled him across the room.
"Listen, Potter-" began Draco, but stopped when the pitch of Potter's exclamation actually sank in. "Wow, could you sound any more like a girl? Anyway," he continued without waiting for an answer, "I need to talk to you."
"I do not sound like a girl!" Potter claimed, still an octave too high. He cleared his throat and carried on in his normal voice. "What do you need to talk to me about?"
"What about her?" Potter frowned. "Is this about her empty cupboard?"
"No, no-" Draco paused, "-at least I don't think so, but maybe. Good point, Potter."
"I made a good point? Er, I mean..." Potter attempted to correct himself. "I made a good point," he stated more assuredly.
"It does happen occasionally." Draco allowed himself a small, genuine smile before continuing. "Have you used any magic on her?" He hated himself for asking, but he knew he had to. "A Memory Charm, maybe? To make her forget about your fall?"
"What!" spat Potter. He was understandably a little pissed off at the accusation. "Why the fuck would I do that? And besides, I tripped up in the bloody staffroom; everyone saw it! Do you think I've wiped everyone's memory?" He was slowly making his way closer to Draco, his cheeks reddening, and not in that cute blushing way, but in anger, which wasn't nearly as attractive. "And for what? So I wouldn't be embarrassed? What the fuck do you take me for, Malfoy?"
"I'm sorry, I had to ask, we're the only ones..." Draco trailed off as he began pacing across the threshold of the room.
"We're the only ones what, Malfoy?"
"With magic!" whispered Draco urgently, biting his lip and rubbing his temples.
"Stop," said Potter firmly. It was his turn to catch Draco as he did an about-turn to continue his pacing. Holding both of Draco's arms he turned him so they were facing each other. "Talk," he commanded.
Draco took a deep breath and began telling Potter the events of the previous evening and everything he had seen and felt. Throughout his retelling Draco noticed several looks cross Potter's face. There was shock, intrigue, suspicion and concern. By the end of his speech the predominant emotion marking Potter's face was one of concentration as he thought about what Draco had told him. Under other circumstances Draco would have asked Potter if it hurt, but this wasn't the time for jokes.
"And," began Potter after a minute, "it wasn't you?"
Draco pursed his lips and took a deep breath through his nose. Potter looked to be asking reluctantly, just like Draco had felt he had had to ask Potter the same question, but knowing that didn't make it smart any less.
"I mean, I'd understand," Potter rushed on. "You know, if you'd accidentally slipped up and said something you shouldn't have, or absentmindedly used your wand, and had to-" He motioned with his hand, seemingly unable to finish his sentence.
"And if I had, I would be telling you all this why?" Draco forced his voice to stay calm.
"Because you're not a bastard, Malfoy, regardless of what you might think." Potter spoke quietly, but earnestly, and it shocked the ire right out of Draco. "If you had had to alter her memory, you would tell me about it." Potter's firm tone brooked no argument.
"So now we know it wasn't the only two people that we know of in this school with magic, who the hell was it?" Draco was stumped, he couldn't even figure out why Elaine would have magic used on her, let alone by whom.
"We'll have to report it to Head Auror McClane. He'll want your memory of the event, of course. And he may ask the Obliviators to take a look at Elaine, to assess if her memory has been tampered with, and if so to try and retrieve what they can." Potter slipped effortlessly into Auror mode after weeks of playing the perfect teacher; it came so easily to him.
With nothing to add to Potter's perfect summary of what needed to happen, Draco simply nodded once in agreement.
They would inform the Auror department of the situation, aid initially with statements, memories and facts as much as required, and then leave it in the hands of the qualified Aurors; he and Potter were still Aurors-in-training, after all. They still had classes to teach.
It was the start of Draco's last week at Highgate Junior School, and he was beginning to suspect that he would actually miss the place. As much as he might moan and claim to hate the children, he actually liked them rather a lot. He respected the fact that even though they spend an inordinate amount of time in lessons whispering and passing notes to each other, they still manage to get all the work done that he asks of them. He may also have belittled all things Muggle before his time at the school, but was now considering investing in his own kettle; it seemed a waste of magic just to heat some water when there was a contraption that you could do it for you.
Overall, he was simply glad of the opportunity he'd had to be here. He may miss it later, but for now he should enjoy it.
It was this good mood that prompted him to dismiss his pre-lunch class 10 minutes early, and the loud cheer he received in return was reward enough, though you would never hear him admit that out loud. Even under Veritaserum.
Knowing that Potter had a free lesson before lunch, Draco decided to go and pick him up early before heading to the park. There was no harm in dropping in on your workmate-come-friend and secret crush simply in the hope of spending a few extra minutes with them, Draco decided as he checked his hair in one of the reflective glass-fronted cupboards.
Sighing at how pathetically he had fallen for Potter, while feeling heavy inside at how hopeless the situation was, Draco left the classroom and walked the short distance to the art room. He wanted to ask Potter if he'd heard anything about the case with Elaine, anyway.
It had been declared an official case when magical traces had been found surrounding Elaine that were more than a month old. It meant that whatever had happened to her had started before Draco and Potter had been placed at the school. Obliviators had confirmed that her memory had been tampered with, and had taken her to St. Mungo's to work on recovering what memories they could with the Mind Healers there. It was hoped they would be able to help her remember enough to discern who had done this to her and why.
When he reached Potter's classroom he extended a hand out to the door handle, but stopped when he caught sight of Potter through the window. He was at the far end of the room near his desk, stood in front of the easel Draco had noticed on their first day, but had never seen Potter use. He was certainly using it now; he was wearing his dirty apron, with a paint brush in one hand and a palette in the other. From the angle Potter and the easel were at, Draco couldn't quite see what Potter was painting, and Potter couldn't see Draco watching him.
Glancing up and down the corridor, Draco saw no one but the caretaker idly cleaning the windows at the far end of the hall.
Deciding to indulge in a bit of Potter-watching, Draco withdrew his hand from the door and leaned against its frame, still gazing through the window. Even from this distance Draco could see the grey paint flecked throughout the right side of Potter's hair. Looking at the hand holding the paintbrush, he could see the back of it was covered in wet grey paint. Smiling, Draco lamented the fact he couldn't see Potter's face and wondered how much of the paint was decorating his forehead. As if to prove Draco's suspicions, Potter's paint covered hand reached up and rubbed at his temple. Draco had to stifle an endearing chuckle, lest he be discovered.
He observed Potter's arm movements as he painted, noting that they were gentle and slight, and concluded that Potter must be adding small details to whatever he was painting. Draco idly wondered how long Potter had been working on the piece of art. Suddenly his mind rocketed back to that first lunchtime in the park; hadn't Potter made a comment to do with making something? He wasn't sure. He hadn't taken as much notice of inconsequential things Potter had said back then, and he deeply regretted it now. Maybe if Draco were the kind of person to actually take an interest in other people, other people would be more inclined to take an interest in him.
And just like that Draco made the unconscious decision to open the door and enter the classroom.
Draco had covered half the distance towards Potter when the door clicked itself shut and the noise alerted Potter to his presence. He spun around and didn't even bother to hide his shock as he gasped, stepped resolutely in front of his painting and stuttered through his words.
"Wha- er- Malfoy," he cleared his throat. "What, erm, what are you doing here?"
"I let my class go a little early, so thought I'd come see if you'd heard anything about Elaine's case."
Draco thought it was very sweet how nervous Potter obviously was about his painting, but didn't want to stress him out by prying about it. Yet.
"Oh." Potter's shoulders sagged as his visibly relaxed. "And no, I haven't heard anything new."
Nodding in acknowledgement of his words, but not replying, Draco stepped forward and motioned to the painting behind Potter's back.
"So," began Draco curiously. "What are you painting, Potter?"
"Nothing!" replied Potter, far too quickly. He moved to grab the canvas, still attempting to hide it from view.
"The paint all over your forehead tells a different story," said Draco, laughing lightly.
"What?" Potter's head rose and his eyes shot up in their sockets, as if trying to get a glimpse of his own forehead.
As much as Draco found Potter's lack of confidence in his artistic ability endearing and cute, he was desperate to see what the man had been painting all these weeks. He needed to see the painting that was responsible for those wonderful afternoons Potter had spent looking adorably irresistible with specks of paint in his hair.
Taking the opportunity Potter's distraction with his mucky forehead had offered him, Draco grabbed Potter by the arms and unceremoniously shoved him to one side. He vaguely registered Potter giving a shout of surprise, or perhaps of indignation, Draco wasn't sure because he now had a clear and unobstructed view of Potter's painting.
What he saw gazing back at him from the canvas was his own face.
His glanced over at Potter, who had his hands clamped over his bent head, then back to the painting. Yes, it was definitely a painting of Draco. It showed his head, shoulders, and upper body and looked to be set in the Slytherin common room at Hogwarts. Behind him there was a large green arm chair positioned beside a familiar stone fireplace. Looking at the face of his painted self, Draco was slightly unnerved to find it staring right back at him with such piercing grey eyes. He wondered if he had that affect in real life, or if it was an attribute only Potter's painting possessed.
Looking more closely at the eyes, Draco could spot slight differences between them. The left eye had finer, more detailed lines and looked more realistic than the right one. That must have been what Potter was working on while Draco had been watching him through the window in the classroom door.
Unable to stare at his painted self any longer, Draco turned away from the painting and towards Potter, who now had his hands by his sides with his head turned away. The silence was heavy and Draco couldn't stand it; it now appeared to be his turn to stumble through words.
"You- that's- but-" Draco had never felt more inarticulate in his life. "You painted a picture of me." He decided to start with a simple statement.
Potter nodded, but didn't speak, and didn't look at Draco. Although that much was obvious, having Potter confirm it seemed to ground Draco, and he felt as though he could think properly again.
"But, why would you paint a picture of me?" That was the one question that was burning a hole in Draco's curiosity.
There was more silence for a few minutes. Draco didn't want to push Potter, trusting that he would speak in his own time.
Eventually Potter heaved a sigh and looked up at Draco. In that moment, Potter's eyes pierced him far more than the grey eyes of the painting, and Draco realised there was so much about Potter that he had never managed to see, or to understand. He now found himself nervous about the box he had inadvertently opened, but instinctively knew he would never again be able to close again.
"Ron's right," stated Potter simply.
"Weasley?" asked Draco. "What's he got-"
"You're oblivious." Potter cut across him. His voice was strong, but soft. "For all the observations you make, considering how closely you watch the people around you, taking into account how accurately you assess people and situations, you-" Potter stopped suddenly, closing his eyes tightly and taking another deep breath. "You really can't see what's right in front of you."
"What's right in front-?"
"Me, Draco," implored Potter. "I'm right in front of you."
Draco barely even registered the use of his first name as what Potter was saying suddenly impacted him right in the chest. His heart jumped up to his throat, and although he opened his mouth to speak, no sound could make its way around the newly relocated organ.
After gazing at each other for a few seconds, Potter spoke again.
"I painted you, Draco-" This time Draco recognised the use of his first name, and he couldn't help the whimper that escaped him at how wonderful it sounded coming from Potter's lips. "-because you are all I can think about."
Draco was floored. He didn't know what to think. He didn't know what he was supposed to do with this information. It seemed impossible. In the space of three weeks Potter had gone from his annoyingly amicable workmate-cum-friend, to secret crush, to resignedly-unrequited love interest. And now Draco had discovered it wasn't as unrequited as he thought, and that Potter's interest in him was apparently clear to see, but he had managed to miss it completely.
Confusion overwhelmed him, and Draco needed to leave. He needed some space, a lot of quiet and a preposterous amount of tea. Knowing this, he had started to subconsciously back away from Potter.
"Malfoy, wait, where are you going?" asked Potter.
Draco absently wondered about the renewed use of his surname, but simply shook his head slightly in response to the question. He turned around and began walking with more purpose.
Potter followed him towards the door, obviously not willing to let him leave without something. Some word. Draco stopped and turned back.
"Harry..." He hadn't meant to say it. His mind had thought 'Potter', but as soon as his gaze had locked with those green, and still so piercing eyes, the name had simply fallen from his lips.
The word had frozen Potter in place, confusion and hope plain on his face. Draco's heart, now settled safely back in his chest, ached at the beauty there. He took that sight with him as he turned and left the room.
Draco spent the rest of the day doing a lot of thinking. His moods had swung far and wide, often quickly and without warning. Initially he had been angry; at himself for not realising how Potter felt, for not picking up on the signs that now seemed so obvious, and at Potter for managing to keep this from him, for not simply telling Draco how he felt. That had led him to feeling guilty, because he had kept his feelings from Potter just as easily. Then he was hit with the realisation that they did both have feelings for each other, and the utter joy that brought to Draco. This soon gave way to doubt—the disbelief that Potter could feel that way about Draco so strong he could almost taste it. He was sure he must have misunderstood somehow, which led him to going over the whole scene in Potter's classroom again, as well as previous interactions, hoping for evidence or clues that he had missed.
Most of the night was spent tossing and turning, his mind unable to stray from Potter for more than a few seconds at a time. When he did finally succumb to sleep it was in the early pre-dawn hours when his thoughts had finally exhausted his brain, and all that was left was his heart's steady rhythm lulling him into a restless slumber.
It was with an overused brain and sleep deprived eyes that Draco entered the school the next morning on the prowl for a cup of tea. For all the thinking he had done the previous day, he still had no idea what to do, other than avoid Potter until he had figured it out.
This rudimentary plan failed before he had even made it to the safety of his classroom.
Potter came hurtling out of the staffroom as he passed, convincing Draco the man had put some sort of charm on the door to alert him when anyone walked by. He had the good grace to look shamefaced.
"Can we talk?" he asked without preamble. "Not about yesterday, unless you want to-" As tired as he was, Draco was still able to give Potter a look that clearly said he did not want to talk about yesterday. Potter quickly continued. "It's about Elaine."
Although he wanted to avoid Potter, Draco did also want to be kept up to date on the case. He nodded once to Potter and motioned for him to follow as he moved down the corridor. Their classrooms were on the other side of the building, and Draco didn't think he could cope with being in Potter's presence for the long walk over there without what was left of his brain imploding. Instead, Draco led Potter around a corner to a dead end at the far end of the hall, close to the maths and English classrooms.
"Tell me," said Draco after a quick glance to make sure they were alone.
"Well, Ron said that-" began Potter before Draco interrupted him.
"Weasley? What's he got to do with it?"
"He's partnered with Troman at the supermarket, who's been dating Hackett, who's one of the Aurors assigned to the case." He spoke as if this was common knowledge. Draco was more than a little miffed at yet another case of him apparently missing the obvious.
"Okay," he said simply, with a shrug for emphasis.
"So," continued Potter, "Ron said that the memory charm used on Elaine wasn't overly strong; they think maybe it was rushed, what with you interrupting them and all." Potter smiled at Draco, but Draco currently didn't appreciate what he now recognised as Potter's attempts at flirting. "Anyway," Potter moved on quickly, "they were able to recover some of Elaine's memories and it transpired that she'd been stealing from her own medicine cabinet at the school."
"She was the one stealing the medicine?" All Draco's thoughts and confusion over Potter were swept aside in the wake of this revelation. "But why? She said there was nothing there worth stealing? Was she lying?"
Potter shook his head and opened his mouth to explain, but the sound of children's chatter and laughter suddenly filled the corridor. With the kids heading into the school, Draco and Potter would easily be spotted as they trampled by. Draco frowned as Potter looked quickly around, then grasped Draco's upper arm and pulled him a few steps to the right.
"Come on," hissed Potter as he opened a door and pushed Draco inside a little less than gently.
It was dark, and Draco squinted as he tried to peer at the space he had been thrust into, until Potter flicked a switch on the wall and a small light illuminated what was apparently a supply cupboard. A cursory look around the small space showed shelves piled high with books, papers and boxes full of who knew what. Draco didn't much care to find out; he turned his attention back to Potter and looked at him expectantly.
"It appears," Potter carried on as though there had been no pause in the conversation, "as if she's been under a long-term Imperius Curse. The after-effects are all there; lethargy, suggestibility, compliancy and inability to make decisions."
"She was rather quiet that time in her office when she saw to your knee," commented Draco. "She barely spoke unless we spoke to her, and she could scarcely concentrate on one thing at a time." Draco felt like hitting himself. "Fuck!" he muttered urgently under his breath. "How didn't I see it at the time?" And again, Draco was faced with the fact that he had missed what was right in front of him.
"It's okay," placated Potter. "They know who did it; they've caught them."
"What?" Draco breathed a sigh of relief. "Why didn't use that fact as your opener, Potter? Bloody hell."
"Sorry, I wanted to explain."
"Which you can now do-" Draco paused. "Please?"
The sound of the children outside in the corridor had passed, but neither man made a move to exit the cupboard. Potter smiled at Draco as he carried on with the tale.
"Although there were traces of magic surrounding Elaine that were months old, there wasn't enough there to detect what spells were used, or to garner a magical signature from. Except," Potter sounded pleased that he had been able to so quickly wipe the frown that had begun to form on Draco's brow, "the magic you sensed surrounding her that night; that was fresh. They easily extracted a complete magical signature from it. Once they compared it to the signatures of previous convicts that they've recently been allowed to keep on file, they found a match! They arrested him! We both missed all the action, actually, because we left so early yesterday..." Potter's exited voice trailed off into awkwardness at the reminder of the previous day.
"So- hang on," Having just registered Potter's words, Draco was confused again. "What action did we miss?"
"The Aurors coming to the school last night and arresting Gaius Higgins!" Potter's enthusiastic narration was back. "Turns out he's a wizard. He had his wand confiscated and was put on probation here for trying to Reducto his way into someone's house."
"Who the hell is Gaius Higgins?" Draco was starting to wonder if Potter had hit him with a Befuddlement Spell since entering the supply cupboard.
"He's the caretaker," Potter informed him quietly.
"Oh," said Draco with a slight frown. "Must of gotten his hands on another wand, then," he continued, almost to himself. He was, for the third time in almost as many minutes, cursing himself for not paying more attention and picking up on the clues.
Potter simply nodded.
"So they've arrested him, and that's great and all," said Draco, "but if the old magical traces were so weak they couldn't detect what spells were used or by whom, they can't prove she was ever Imperiused, let alone who by." Draco continued, even though the smug know-it-all look that he had probably stolen from Granger never slipped from Potter's face. "So surely all they have him on in the memory modification?"
"That's all they thought they'd have him on," explained Potter. "But it turns out he's pretty new to the world of excessive wrongdoing; all he'd ever been caught for before were minor infractions. As soon as McClane got him in the interrogation room he was spilling his guts." Potter was openly grinning now as he revelled in his story's conclusion. "He Imperiused Elaine to gain access to the medicines; he's been peddling Muggles drugs to witches and wizards. There's nothing like Muggle drugs in the wizarding world; we use magic and potions for ailments and injuries. Even the most basic Muggle drugs, like paracetamol, can affect a magical person who's never taken them in extreme ways."
As Potter continued to rabbit on about how valuable Muggle drugs were on the black market in the wizarding world, Draco tuned him out; he knew all of that. Draco did keep his eyes on Potter, though. He noted the way his lips moved as he formed words; so animated and expressive. He gazed into his wide eyes; so deep and full of passion. He looked at his wild hair; even in the dim light of the supply cupboard he easily spotted the flecks of grey paint clinging to the hairs. Draco couldn't be sure if they were left over from the previous day, or if Potter had been working on his painting early this morning, and he didn't rightly care.
The surge that went through Draco when he caught sight of those paint flecks was like lightening, and he had no time to ponder the consequences of his actions as he reached out to Potter. Draco's hands slid softly across the other man's cheeks, before gripping his face and holding it in place as he leaned forward and pressed their lips together.
A moan escaped Potter as he leaned in and deepened the kiss. If his lips weren't busy, Draco would have smiled. As it was, he returned Potter's moan and let his hands descend down Potter's chest and sides, to rest on his hips.
Hands came up and wound themselves in Draco hair, and Draco responded by gently parting his lips, letting his tongue ease its way past Potter's lips and into his mouth. Potter's breath hitched, but he welcomed the new addition with his own tongue.
Draco's hands found their way under the hem of Potter's t-shirt as they gripped each other tightly, occasionally nibbling at a lip or tongue as the heat between them increased.
"Draco..." Potter managed to say breathlessly against Draco's lips.
The sound made Draco's hands hold Potter's hips more firmly; his fingers digging into the skin there.
"Harry..." he barely whispered in response.
It was as Draco's hands began to slowly glide up the soft skin of Potter's back that he heard a soft click from the handle of the cupboard's door. Followed by the quiet, but tell-tale creak of the hinges as it was gradually pulled open.
Freezing in place, both Draco and Potter slowly turned towards the door, lips pulling apart as they did.
Stood in the corridor staring unabashedly at the pair was Ellie. Draco's eyebrows rose at the wide and unarguably smug grin that was plastered across her face.
They all remained like that for a few seconds. Just as Draco thought perhaps he should say something, Ellie slowly closed the door; her light footsteps could be heard as she walked away. All without uttering a single word.
Draco and Potter turned back to look at each other; hands still twisted in hair and stroking across skin. Eventually, Draco spoke.
"So that's what she was up to."
A few seconds were spared for quiet laughter, but soon they resumed their kissing and caressing.
They were both late for class.
As the last week of his month long stint drew to a close, Draco found himself with the urge to never leave. It was here at Highgate that he had discovered and nurtured his feelings for Potter, where he had been part of a young girl's match-making attempts, where he had uncovered Potter's true feelings for him, and finally, where he had snogged Potter's brains out in a supply cupboard.
They had made multiple trips back to that supply cupboard over the last few days. Draco wasn't sure whether it was due to sentimental reasons, or simply for guaranteed privacy. At least it was guaranteed now that they used a Locking Charm on the door.
Frequent clandestine meetings resulted in both Draco and Potter often running late for class; always drawing a knowing look from Ellie, and falling behind on lesson plans and marking work. This in turn meant their lunch times were suddenly spent trying to catch up.
It wasn't until their very last day that Draco and Potter got the chance to go to the park for lunch again. They sat on the same side of the picnic table, knees brushing occasionally and half-heartedly picking at their food. Instead they spent their time talking, something Draco hadn't before realised they had yet to really do, since that first kiss. Other than whispered promises and heated declarations in musty supply cupboards, of course.
"Part of me still doesn't believe this is real," said Draco. "That you would want me."
"Then that part of you is stupid and needs to shut up," Potter told him firmly.
"Potter, you wound me," whined Draco as he clutched a hand to his chest. "Remind me again why I like you?"
In answer, Potter leaned over close to Draco, sipped a hand around to the back of his neck and placed a lingering kiss on his lips.
"Oh, yes," said Draco when they parted, "that's why. You make an excellent point, Potter."
"When are you going to start calling me Harry?"
"I do call you Harry." Draco paused. "Occasionally."
"In the midst of a passionate snog or while your grabbing my arse doesn't count, Draco." Potter swatted him lightly on the arm.
"I'd argue that that's when it counts the most, Harry." He spoke the name softy into Potter's ear and felt the breath he let out against Draco's neck.
"Seriously, though," continued Potter, pushing Draco away slightly. "If we're really going to do this, if we want more than hurried kisses and rough gropes in- hang on." A very worried look had crossed Potter's face as his eyes darted to Draco's, searching. "You do want more than snogs and gropes, don't you?"
Before Potter had even finished speaking Draco's hands were holding his face and he was nodding reassuringly.
"Yes, Harry, I want more than brief kisses and secret meetings in supply cupboards. I want lunches in the park, nights out and lazy mornings." He paused to kiss Harry gently. "I want you."
"Good," sighed Harry contentedly, "because I want you, too."
Both smiling, they went back to their lunches.
It wasn't long later that a familiar red-head made his presence known by sitting down opposite them. He took a quick glance between Draco and Harry, and although there were no overt signs; no touching hands, no meaningful looks, he knew immediately.
"Finally got a clue, did you, Malfoy?" said Weasley, brightly.
"Something like that," answered Draco, smiling.
"About bloody time. Harry's only been nursing his crush since sixth year."
"Ron!" cried Harry, instantly the shade of a telephone box.
"I'm sorry, mate, but it's true. Everyone knew but muggins here." He cocked his head in Draco direction. "So what happened then?" This time he waved a hand between Draco and Harry.
"I got cornered into telling him how I felt and he ran off." Harry pouted in Draco direction.
"So you dragged me into a cupboard!" countered Draco.
"Then you attacked me with your mouth!"
"I didn't hear you complaining. In fact, I heard you-"
"Okay!" interrupted Weasley. "I've heard enough, no details, please. Ever."
Harry laughed while Draco tipped his head to the side in thought.
"Perhaps something a little more visual?" he asked, and before waiting for an answer he took hold of Harry's wrist, pulled him close and crashed their mouths together urgently.
Responding in kind, Harry grabbed Draco's shoulders and held him near. Their eyes fluttered shut and Draco could feel Harry's smile against his lips before wiping it off with a swipe of his tongue.
Draco's contented sigh was never heard.
Ron's groan, however, was heard loud and clear.
- End -