Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Notes: First, thanks a bunch to The Ultimate Beta, Pionie, whose help has been absolutely indispensable to make this story something I'm proud of. Thanks again, hun. ;)
Now, honestly, when I saw this prompt, my heart stopped: Alfama, the song, used to be my ringtone and there's few things I enjoy as much as walking up Alfama, the neighbourhood, right before sundown. I spent many dates like this *grins*. And the fact that you wanted it to be about it and all those things that make me love my city . . . ! I hope I managed to meet your expectations, dear prompter.
Harry Potter had come to realise that sex was the cause of everything.
In fact, if Merope Gaunt hadn't had the hots for Tom Riddle Senior, Voldemort wouldn't have been born. If Albus Dumbledore hadn't had the hots for Gellert Grindelwald, he would have stopped him far sooner. If Ginny Weasley hadn't had the hots for Tom Riddle Junior, the Chamber of Secrets wouldn't have ever been opened.
If Harry Potter hadn't had the hots for Bill Weasley, he would still be on the Weasleys' Friday night dinner invite list - and would probably be dodging Mrs Weasley's attempts at matchmaking, but still.
So, yes, sex was the cause of all the world's problems. Luckily, it was also the solution. After all, if Severus Snape hadn't had the hots for Lily Evans, Harry Potter might never have defeated Voldemort. And, in the spirit of that newfound philosophy, Harry decided to go out tonight and have hot, kinky sex with the hottest bloke he could get his hands on.
It was what people expected of him these days, anyway - Harry Potter, the rebellious hero. Which showed just how low those expectations were, although he supposed it was completely his fault for putting himself in this situation in the first place.
Bill, in an astounding example of Gryffindor-esque morals, had decided to tell Fleur he'd been cheating on her. With Harry. It didn't take long for the rest of the family to find out. Mrs Weasley was heartbroken, Ginny was giddy with joy at his humiliation and Ron - Ron didn't know yet, but it was only a matter of time, and that was also one of the reasons why Harry wanted to be out of Grimmauld Place as soon as possible.
Hence why Harry took a long bath, wanked himself to put any thoughts about redheads from his mind and put on his tightest jeans and his best red shirt. Telling himself that, if it were up to him, he would pick himself up, Harry put his wand in its holster, took his wallet and headed towards the fireplace. The Sneaky Snake would be full tonight.
Harry walked down the stairs and paused in his study's doorway when he noticed the barn owl landed on his Otis's poll, but just shrugged and reasoned that the letter would still be there when he got home, hopefully after Ron paid him a visit. The owl could probably use a nap, anyway.
Harry reached for the ugly gnome-shaped jar on the mantelpiece for some Floo Powder and came up empty-handed; he groaned. Perfect. Throwing his cloak onto the sofa, he stalked towards the kitchen pantry, wondering if he had at least remembered to buy some more. He hadn't. But he did find one of Hermione's parchment shaped post-its saying, Don't forget to buy Floo Powder.
Already steeling himself against the unending line in front of the pub when he Apparated, Harry totally missed the Cleansweep Eleven to his right, which was why he tripped and sent the rest of the cleaning supplies crashing into the shelves. A pickle jar swayed dangerously above Harry's head, before smashing onto the floor, sending glass and foul-smelling juice splashing all over the place, namely over Harry's jeans.
Harry looked up, wondering who had decided to screw with his life. Karma, his conscience supplied helpfully. Harry took a deep breath, before gathering himself up to go and change. Or perhaps not. He could always check into a hotel and spend his night with a nice, hot chocolate and some WWII films instead; he wasn't in mood for flirting anyway, and sex would sadly mean tears, he suspected.
He was getting to the ground floor, when he heard the whoosh of the fireplace and then, "Harry!" Harry wanted to bang his head against the wall where Mrs Black's portrait used to be until he knocked himself unconscious. "Harry, you there?"
Harry took a bracing breath and entered the parlour. "Ron? I'm here; you can come through if you want." Never mind that Harry most certainly didn't want Ron to come through. He watched Ron's face go from comprehensively confused to outright thunderous when he took in Harry's outfit. "I was just about to go out," Harry began in guise of explanation, but common courtesy had never been Ron's strong suit.
"Let me get this straight," Ron growled, dangerously low, "you helped my brother cheat on his wife and now that he's finally had the balls to come clean about it, you're going to bolt and pick some other idiot to shag, is it?"
Harry sighed, "Look, Ron, I told him not to tell Fleur-."
"What the hell, Harry? And keep on fooling around with you? You two owe Fleur some respect! She's the mother of his children . . . remember them, Victoire and Dominique? You played hide-and-seek with them not a week ago! Were you cheating on their mother with my brother then, too?" Harry thought it was best not to tell Ron how long this thing of theirs had been going on, but Ron must have seen something on his face, because he froze, sucking in harshly. "Well, were you?"
Harry looked away and nodded. "Yes."
Ron sat up straighter. "How long, Harry?"
Harry bit his lip, and looked away from Ron's earnest blue eyes. "Three years; after he came to work at Niffler's Haven."
Ron looked furious, ears red and nostrils flaring. "You asked my brother to come work with you so you could fuck him?" It had been Bill who hit on Harry actually. "Dammit, Harry! Do you have a thing for redheads, or what? You fucked Charlie, too? George? Is that why you were with him all the time after the war?"
Harry got up. "That's enough." That was the thing about Ron. He knew Harry so well that he knew exactly where to hit. "You can't come into my house and insult me. Get out." Harry would never do such a thing as make a pass at George when he'd been grieving for his twin. He wouldn't. He had just wanted to help and Ron knew that. Harry liked to think that he had, that he and George had helped each other through and not in a sexual way. Harry hadn't actually shagged anyone until Bill.
Ron never did learn when to shut up, though. "Ha, but it was okay for you to come to my house and insult my family, right?" So much for the 'Harry's a part of the family' thing they usually had going on. "I can't believe you did this to us. Bill's getting a divorce, Ginny's still heartbroken and George keeps rejecting Angelina. Can't you settle for your fans? Must you have everyone?"
"Get. Out. Ron," Harry gritted out, his hand going to his wand. "You know nothing about it, so shut the hell up!" Ron startled and eyed the wand warily, before stalking to the Floo. "And when you finally decide to listen to me, don't bother," Harry added, "I'm sick of this."
Ron drew in a breath, then sneered. "If it'll keep you away from my family, gladly!" His hand went for the ugly gnome-shaped jar, but Harry didn't have Floo Powder.
Harry flushed, but levelled him a glare. "I ran out!"
"Obviously!" Ron shouted back and stomped down the hall, banging the front door on his way out. Moments later, the unmistakable sound of Apparition was heard.
Harry sighed and sagged onto his sofa. He just wanted to cry. He wouldn't, not in a million years for Ron or Bill, but he certainly felt like it. It was so unfair. Harry had made a mistake. He shouldn't have done anything with Bill, he knew that; but it had been nice to have someone who understood his love for adventure and magic, and who would support Harry in every project he'd put his mind (and heart) into.
The stupid barn owl hadn't left yet and Harry just barely stopped himself from hexing it into next week when it landed next to him and haughtily extended its leg to Harry. Admitting defeat, Harry took the letter. "Don't expect any treats," Harry told it. He didn't have to be a gracious loser with an owl. As the creature was leaving through the Floo, he took notice of the envelope.
From Professor Minerva McGonagall, Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. Great. The perfect ending to an already perfect day.
It was already August when Harry felt comfortable walking through Diagon Alley again, and he was dodging the wizards and witches striding about on their own business. The street was as busy as always.
The noise was almost deafening. It was actually for the best because Harry didn't want to deal with fawning fans right now; Hermione usually didn't take it well when he was late to their appointments and he was already borderline so. Some people spared him a glance when they bumped into him and, after a few seconds, looked like they might gather the courage to approach him. Harry didn't give them the opportunity and slithered away through the crowd.
One would think they would lay off after the War and the Harry-Weasley scandal, but it seemed he was as wanted these days as ever. It was just as fine as otherwise, mind; he didn't care anymore.
Harry arrived at Florean Fortescue's, now under new management, and held the door for an elderly lady who didn't even look up to thank him, before getting inside.
Hermione was already at their usual table with both of their orders, her hair pushed up in a loose bun with a curly fringe framing her face. Today, she was wearing a gray suit, with matching robes and a red shirt. Harry sat down warily and only then did she lift her gaze from the magazine she was reading. Witch Weekly, and she didn't look any less serious despite the frivolity of her reading.
"Hi, Hermione," he greeted. She pursed her lips and waved her wand lightly, murmuring a Silencing Spell. "What? I'm on time," he protested, although he was fairly sure that wasn't what was bothering her.
Even after everything went pear-shaped three months back, Hermione had never wavered in her silent support - she hadn't accused him and she hadn't lectured him - but Harry knew it was wearing on her everyday to have to listen to Ron's rants, Ginny's gloating and Bill's regretting.
He was correct. "I meant to only discuss business, but I've reached my limit, Harry. Ginny told me you haven't returned Bill's calls," she told him. As if he didn't know exactly the last time he had spoken with Bill Weasley. "You have to talk to him, or else this is never going away."
Harry scowled. "I have. He just doesn't listen."
Hermione bristled furiously. "For Merlin's sake, Harry! Bill's marriage has already ended! I've always supported you two in whatever you decided, but you've been miserable since it ended. At least, listen to him."
Harry shook his head. "His marriage has not ended, Hermione. Have you talked to Fleur lately?"
Hermione shook her head. "And neither has Ron," she added, "He's not taking sides." Despite the warmness that followed Hermione's statement, Harry knew he should consider himself lucky that Ron wasn't talking to either of them, because Harry really didn't need to deal with Ron's monochromatic morals right now. He already had his own ringing in his ears as it was.
"I didn't want to tell Fleur precisely because of this, Hermione," he told her truthfully, playing with the condensation on his soda. Hermione waited for him to explain.
Harry hadn't really loved Bill, he knew that, not like Ron loved Hermione or Mr Weasley loved Mrs Weasley; but he had liked him so much, and then Bill confused everything, and got guilty and ashamed and had wanted to come forward about it. As if Fleur would ever agree to a divorce or an annulment. Of course not; she planned a family holiday and had returned with Bill wrapped around Victoire and Dominique's little fingers. Harry couldn't compete with that; hell, he didn't want to.
"If he really wasn't happy, it wasn't because of us . . . I told him, but he wanted to tell Fleur, anyway. He didn't listen to me. Must be a Weasley trait," he added, more bitterly than he had meant to.
Hermione grimaced with pained understanding. "I suspected it on your last assignment," she sighed, "I wanted to be wrong. God, what a mess," she breathed, leaning her forehead on her hand. Hermione's swearing like a Muggle meant things had really gone south.
Harry knew she was having a hard time, playing go-between to Harry and the Weasleys, especially when she had clearly chosen the side that she wasn't supposed to.
Furthermore, he had figured Bill's problem before she did; it was with Fleur, not with his own conscience and not some epic love for Harry. Bill had wanted revenge on Fleur for her not caring enough. "Look, Hermione, I liked Bill. I would be with him if," he shrugged, "if he liked me back. But he doesn't and I'm not going to let him use me as an excuse to run away from Fleur."
"I knew something was off," Hermione sighed, "Remember last April?"
Harry nodded, smiling wistfully. They were supposed to liberate an elf's sword for Parkinson, but instead they had ended up sliding down the mountain, with a Wyrm on their tails, while Bill kept shooting Stunning Hexes and Harry tried to control the stupid flying carpet they had stolen in Chor bazaar the previous day. Of course, while Harry dealt with the angry sheriff afterwards, Bill had been on the Floo to Fleur. "We had to hide in a mountain cave that night and Bill," he stopped. "Yeah, I'll miss him."
Hermione's expression softened and she took down her Silencing Spell, before picking up her fork again. "You're a good bloke, Harry; you shouldn't have to deal with this stuff. Bill's grown up and he should take responsibility for his actions, instead of playing the sorry husband. Ron agrees with me," she hinted.
"Ron has to learn how to think before speaking." Harry ignored Hermione's muttering Boys!. "Besides, you overestimate me, Hermione," he added, picking up his silverware as well, "I can be selfish, too."
"I know, or you wouldn't have got involved with a married man," she pointed out, but it was half-hearted. "You just won't look in the right places, will you?"
Harry rolled his eyes at the familiar turn in the conversation. "I don't want you playing matchmaker again."
She just shook her head exasperatingly. "I would if you let me, but fine. I won't. Drown yourself in your work, if it suits you." Harry spared her a rueful smile and patted her hand; Hermione's lips twitched. "On that note, what's the next assignment for Niffler's Haven? Goyle told me you had another meeting with Headmistress McGonagall this morning."
"Well, she's worried about any last minute arrangements," Harry told her. Hogwarts wouldn't be opening up for another two months, at least.
Hermione nodded. "I can't believe it took over six years to rebuild the school. Fleur was delighted that Victoire and Dominique were going to Beauxbatons." Harry could appreciate the fun in that despite everything - he quite liked the two blonde toddlers, regardless of their parents - so he chuckled. "Any stray curses?"
"Nope. The team of curse-breakers the Board of Governors hired did their job well enough, I s'pose. She just wanted me to take a look to make sure." He sighed. "Also, er." Hermione quirked an eyebrow. "McGonagall needs to reset Hogwarts' wards before next term." Hermione leaned forward with interest. "It's awful. You can almost feel how empty those halls are; there's no magic."
"Every student, every teacher, every Headmaster that has ever lived at Hogwarts left a bit of their magic for the school," Hermione told him, "It cannot simply be gone."
"Yeah, that's why I'm hoping that once she re-sets the wards, all that free energy will be grounded in the school again."
Hermione chewed thoughtfully on her steak. "You might be right. Hogwarts needs its wards just like wizards need their wands. I'll do a bit of research on that, just in case the wards don't work. I think I've already come across a ritual or two that helps to ground magic. It's normally used on people that lost control of their power. I think Dumbledore had at least one to his name."
"Well, anyway, the wards can only be reactivated using the Founders' Keys. McGonagall found Hufflepuff's and Gryffindor's in Dumbledore's vault, Ravenclaw's never left the ritual chamber, but Slytherin's missing. As if the bloke would ever make things easy for the others. I bet he hid it out of spite."
Hermione shook her head in exasperation. "He was probably the most cautious of the four. Imagine all those keys in the wrong hands. Anyone could access Hogwarts." Harry waved her off, scoffing, and she rolled her eyes. "Well, are you taking the job?"
Harry hesitated. "I have no idea where to start," he admitted, "and I don't really want to start digging into Wizarding history again. It didn't go very well last time. You know, with the Hallows and the Horcruxes and all that crap."
"Do you reckon someone else could do the job, then?" she asked, matter-of-factly. "The kids need wards."
Harry groaned. "Why me?"
Hermione patted his shoulder comfortingly. "Because you let people guilt you into it."
Harry had to crack a smile at that. "So, do you reckon you can hold the fort while I'm away?"
Hermione sniffed haughtily. "I have before, haven't I? If it weren't for me, you would have foundered this company by now." Harry had to give her that. "The others and I will take care of everything. Now, do you have any idea whatsoever about this?"
"Actually, there's something I heard a while back, while we were still at Hogwarts." Hermione smiled knowingly, as if she could have known Harry had been thinking (and researching) about it since he met with McGonagall three months earlier. "You know that nasty portrait of Elizabeth Burke?"
"That awful witch that made Sirius's mum look nice?" Hermione asked, already taking out her notebook and a Self-Inking Quill.
Harry nodded. "She told me about a journal that has the descriptions and locations of all Slytherin's artefacts. Might be worth a shot."
Hermione nodded, but then paused in the middle of her writing. "Wait, Burke? Do you think Borgin and Burkes?"
"Yep, although now that I think about it, the Ministry confiscated a lot of their inventory. I really don't want to have to fight Unspeakables again."
Hermione laughed. "Yeah, they're mean bureaucrats when they want to be," she tutted sympathetically, "and they're still upset we refuse to swear secrecy about some of the things we find."
"If I wanted to keep secrets, I'd have accepted their job offer. We haven't told people about Horcruxes. We're not stupid," he ranted, but she wasn't listening, busy with her notes.
She looked up after a moment, a contemplative look on her face. "Are we doing this, Harry?"
As if he had any choice by now. "Yes, I reckon we are."
"Lovely," she said, "it might do you good to finally have a project. I don't quite like how pessimistic you're becoming." She held up her hand when Harry opened his mouth to protest. "Those silly things you've been doing for Gringotts don't count, Harry; they're easy, they don't mean anything to you. I mean a real project," she smiled wistfully, "like finding the Philosopher's Stone."
It wasn't easy to locate the journal Elizabeth Burke had spoken of, especially because the Department of Mysteries hadn't wanted anything to do with it and Borgin had been less than helpful. Of course, Harry and Hermione had their ways of making people talk when they wanted to - Veritaserum not-withstanding - but it turned out that they hadn't had to, because Burke, on the contrary, had been glad to run his mouth off three days after their first visit. Mr Burke had sold the journal to Mr Malfoy three years before the Second Wizarding War.
Hermione and Harry thanked him and fire-called Luna to browse through their file on the Malfoy estate - nicked from the Ministry months before, thank you very much, Kingsley. The journal featured there indeed. The issue was to find where the Malfoy property had been stashed. With Narcissa dead and Lucius rotting in Azkaban, it all belonged to Draco Malfoy and - Harry never thought to be thinking it - unfortunately, nobody knew where the little ferret was. Not even Goyle, and Harry was on his good side these days.
In the end, it was Bill who suggested that they search the Very Ancient Artefacts' files in the Ministry's public library. The Ministry kept track of every British artefact since the Founders' age and the files were updated yearly. They hadn't found any reference to Elizabeth's journal, but they had found an inordinate number of Malfoy possessions being 'sold' to an antique-shop in Portugal. Harry and Hermione decided that they might as well browse the shop for the journal.
And so, Harry took the Port-Key Number 7 to Lisbon and headed to the Temple of Centuries.Alfama
The first notes of the Portuguese guitar in the pub below his flat were sort of a bittersweet consolation for his dreary dinner and lack of company. It was also very fitting.
Fado was sorrow, after all; tragedy and sunsets. It was Revolution. Loneliness, afterwards, but also hope, the very last shimmer of hope that hangs on to life because it has no other choice. The singer, a woman called Mafalda, started a new song.
His flat was simple, with its sturdy furniture, embroidered cosies and colourful walls - and also very old, but would probably be standing many years after he was gone. He lived in the part of the city that had been trashed by the earthquake and then rebuilt to withstand similar catastrophes. So, yes, the flat would be around long after him. The city too, probably, even rundown and decaying as it was - not the rotting type of decaying, mind, but the type of lost identity and lack of purpose.
Draco Malfoy took his plate to the window, since no one was there to complain about bread crumbs anyway, and sat down on the cushioned chest, staring out at the city. The view was of the Tagus. The man who sold roast chestnuts on the corner of his street was still there, because roast chestnuts tasted better in the chilly dusk, after all, and the autumn would soon be here and people would want roast chestnuts. He finished his dinner and listened to Mafalda for the rest of the evening.
Harry looked at the street map again, before losing his temper and tossing it into the first bin he found.
Of course, that left him with a problem; these little streets all looked the same and he had no idea where he was supposed to be going, except that it was upwards. When he finally decided to enter a coffee shop to ask for directions, the waiter didn't speak English. Harry damned his long-gone luck thrice. Finally, a part-timer girl seemed to know enough English to tell him how to reach the underground and then get out at a station from where Harry could easily reach the shop he was looking for.
After five minutes of not getting what she was saying, Harry finally asked, "Look, can you please draw me a map or something?" She laughed and told Harry to wait twenty minutes until she finished her shift and she would take him there. Harry could have kissed her. She gestured to one of the tables and brought him pastéis-de-nata and coffee, for which he could have kissed her again.
After that, it didn't take him long to reach the right street and, much to his chagrin, he recognised the archway behind it; he'd passed it not three hours ago. He thanked the girl and strode to the shop, wary of losing any more time with this nonsense. The journal probably wasn't there, anyway; nothing was that easy since the War.
The front of the shop was sky-blue with Temple of Centuries written in yellow over the window and doorway. The window showed an old doll's house on a green velvet table cloth and a pair of vintage shoes on a pedestal next to it. A sleeveless dress hung on a female mannequin. The curtain behind it was made of golden lamé and it held wooden puppets by their strings. The only sign this shop belonged to a wizard was the silvery sign hung on the polished glass door that said, The password is 'Scottish Lakes'.
The door jingled when Harry got inside and immediately, a short, pretty brunette got up from behind the counter. "Posso ajudar nalguma coisa?"
Harry blinked. "Uh, I'm British, so . . . ."
"Oh, excuse me. How may I help you, sir?"
Harry pointed to the doorway. "The password is 'Scottish Lakes'?" he tried, shrugging, not sure if she could see the sign or not.
The brunette blinked. "Uh, just a moment, please. Boss says he wants to be called when someone knows the password." She walked through an archway behind the counter, before a couple of doors cricked open and Harry heard her speak with someone; she returned to the main room with a blush on her cheeks. "Sometimes, I think he's brewing meth in there, or something," she said with a nervous laugh, that didn't sound entirely honest.
Harry was fairly sure that 'meth' wasn't what was in the cauldron, but he could safely say that her boss was brewing something indeed, if the smell was anything to go by. Wizard, then, although the girl seemed to be Muggle.
While he waited, Harry entertained himself wandering through the shop. There was a small music box, purple with golden ballerinas, that caught Harry's attention, not only for how pretty it was - Rosie would love it - but also for the familiar magical signature on it. It reminded Harry of the portraits in Grimmauld Place. "Please, don't touch that," said a male voice with a British accent. Harry replaced the lid on the music box and turned. "How may I help you, sir?"
At first, Harry couldn't quite process what he was seeing, but as he saw grey eyes widen and the blond man take a step back, his mouth dropped. "Malfoy?"
Something that felt very much like fire fluttered in Harry's stomach. Malfoy looked rooted to the spot, face ashen and eyes wide, his hands fisted next to his body. "What are you doing here, Potter?" he breathed. "How did you find me?"
Harry opened his mouth, then closed it. He didn't quite recall what had brought him there in the first place. "I-uh . . . What are you doing here?"
Malfoy seemed to compose himself, because his face closed up and he looked haughtily at Harry. "I asked first, but, on second thoughts, don't answer. I don't care. Please, get out."
Harry drew himself upright, an almost forgotten wish to do something taking over him. "Now, wait just a minute. You can't exactly expect me to just brush off the fact that you vanished off the face of Earth for the past seven years. What, did you think it was only a matter of time before the Aurors went after you? Because if you'd had the balls to stick around, you might have learned that I testified on your behalf. You've been exonerated, you git."
Malfoy sniffed disdainfully. "Yes, and it took you about two months to get it done. I'd have been Kissed far before that for Dumbledore's attempted murder. I happen like my soul where it is, thank you very much." He placed a hand on the music box. "Now get out, we're closing up."
"No, you're not!" Harry pointed at the door. "It says right there that you're open until six. It's half four now, so you can't be closing up." Malfoy quirked an eyebrow, sparing Harry a deadpan look. Harry took a breath. "Look, I need something from your shop," he quickly explained.
"Of course," Malfoy sneered, "and I'm supposed to abide to your wishes, am I? Well, too freaking bad for you, Potty. Get out, before I call the police."
Harry felt a familiar indignation course through him at Malfoy's unreasonableness, and suddenly wanted very much to punch Malfoy in the nose. He crossed his arms to prevent himself from doing so, not caring if he looked petulant. "You know what; I don't care what got your knickers in a twist. I'm here as a customer-a polite one, at that-and I need to find a particular journal. I'll be out of your hair soon enough, you cowardly little prick. Do you have any idea what I'm talking about?"
Malfoy looked thunderous for a moment, but then he drawled, "No, I don't." He hadn't even thought about it first!
"You're lying, Malfoy," Harry gritted out. He had to be. "I'm willing to pay good money for this, so . . . That should at least satisfy you, right? Good money, that is."
Malfoy's expression suggested that he was itching for his wand, so Harry let his fall from its arm-holster to his hand just in case. "I don't want your money, Potter. I want you out!" He turned towards the girl, who was looking between them in alarm. "A Polícia, Mafalda."
Harry didn't have to speak Portuguese to know what that meant, so he aimed a subtle Fixing Charm at the telephone. Draco's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Potter, I'm warning you . . . ."
"I'm not afraid of you, Malfoy-never have been, never will be. Now, about that journal," Harry said, "think about it, please? It's part of the Malfoy estate, so you must have it. It belonged to Elizabeth Burke."
"I don't and I don't even know what that is. I don't know any Elizabeth Burke," Malfoy admitted, crossing his arms in front of his chest, eyes flashing in a way that told Harry he should probably be casting the Invisible-Shield Charm. "Does your Ministry know its employees are in the habit of threatening civilians?" he drawled suddenly. "It's not very becoming of an Auror, is it?"
Harry took great pleasure in saying, "I'm not an Auror, Malfoy. I'm a private investigator and my employer wants results." He so loved to prove to Malfoy how he was much more than the Gryffindor poster boy; always had.
Malfoy blinked. "A mercenary, Harry Potter?"
Harry supposed Malfoy didn't need to know that he was working pro-bono for Hogwarts. "Yep. Not many scruples, either," Harry said.
Malfoy barked a laugh. "Really, Potter? I can spot a lie, and a lie spoken by a Gryffindor is even easier to spot. So, what has made Saint Potter try to bluff the demonic Slytherin? War veterans? Old ladies? Orphans? Kittens?"
Harry clenched his jaw. "I'll tell you, if you tell me why you left, Malfoy? Was it your mother's illness or your father being in Azkaban?"
Malfoy's face shuttered, the childish glee at taunting Harry gone and Harry felt his skin crawl at his own cruelty. Malfoy pulled up a distorted smile. Harry wanted to erase it from his face. "Nothing like that, Potty. It was a woman, but I don't suppose you'd know anything about that, would you? The Boy Who Lived to Shag Men? Isn't that what they were calling you? Did the Weasels finally realised who was screwing their-?"
Malfoy stopped abruptly when Harry waved his arm, pointing his hidden wand at Malfoy, barely aware of what he was doing. "Don't you dare to talk about Bill! At least I stayed and faced the consequences of my actions!" Malfoy's eyes flashed. "Nobody can say that much about you!" he shouted, before turning away and pushing past Malfoy to get out of the shop. Hermione had better come up with a new plan, because Harry would end up doing something really stupid if he had to face Malfoy again.
The Tripping Hex caught him right in the shins and Harry found himself catching his weight with his hands, before he smashed his face against a golden-laden tallboy. He righted himself up in time to see Malfoy inspecting his fingernails nonchalantly. A sideways glance at Mafalda showed she didn't seem to find anything odd about the fact that her boss had just hexed a costumer - she still had her hand on the phone and looked about to bolt to the door, nonetheless - which led Harry to the conclusion that Malfoy was being a childish prat intent on humiliating Harry with a hidden wand.
Well, too bad for him. Surreptitiously waving wand inside his sleeve, Harry cut off the leg of the table Malfoy was leaning on and was rewarded with the loud crash of Malfoy falling on top of the broken table. Then he headed towards the doorway, but he should have known better than to turn his back on a snake, because the Stinging Hex was aimed at his arse and Harry turned to see Malfoy righting himself up, an embarrassed flush on his cheeks. "You should be used to a sting in your arse, right, Potty?" he sneered, and Harry lost it.
"You self-righteous prick!"
"You would like that, wouldn't you?" Malfoy shouted back and, unable to use his wand properly, Harry put it away and advanced on him, fully decided to break his pointy nose in the most painful, Muggle way. Malfoy didn't back down and, when Harry tried to close his hands around Malfoy's throat, he found himself being choked in return. Soon, they were rolling on the floor, trying to get each other to cry uncle, although Harry couldn't quite remember what they were fighting about.
It seemed like a boy's spar, but it wasn't, and Malfoy wasn't exactly being gentle, Harry thought when his head was banged against the floor. He hooked his legs on Malfoy's and shifted them, until he was pinning Malfoy to the ground with his hips and hands. Malfoy thrashed, but Harry had completed his training with the Aurors after all.
He opened his mouth to gloat, when someone cleared their throat. Harry looked up to see Mafalda leaning over the counter, looking embarrassed. "Uh, should I leave you two alone?"
Malfoy flushed and shoved Harry off; Harry let him because he felt somewhat embarrassed at having forgotten Mafalda was there, and got to his feet. "No, that won't be necessary, Mafalda." He shoved Harry on his way to the counter, and Harry bumped against a dressing table that rattled dangerously. "You may go, if you wish. I'll take it from here."
Mafalda was taking off the fairy wings that were part of her uniform and saying, "Oh, cool. Obrigada, chefe!" when the purple music box from earlier crashed onto the floor, scattering its contents around the floor. Mafalda froze on her way to the door and a pained expression crossed Malfoy's face.
Harry looked between them, sure he had been caught in some delicate situation, and almost apologised before he remembered who he was talking to and that it had been Malfoy who shoved him in the first place. Still, he had liked the little music box, so he kneeled to help Malfoy pick up the pieces.
It wasn't broken, though. It had just opened, and a small notebook fell from the rectangular compartment on the top. Harry made a move to pick it up, but Malfoy was faster for once. "Slytherin's Most Prized Possessions," he read aloud. "Is that what you were looking for?" he asked Harry, a calculating look on his face.
Harry could have admitted to himself that maybe, maybe, Malfoy really hadn't known about it.
He ran a hand through his hair. "Look, you stupid git, McGonagall wants to open Hogwarts in September and she can't if Hogwarts's wards are not in place. She needs something from Slytherin to do that and I need that bloody diary to bloody hell get it for her!" By the end of his speech, he was shouting, frustrated beyond measure that, of all the shop owners in the world, he had to be stuck with Malfoy. "Now, are you going to give it or not?"
Malfoy's lips twitched upwards, although he didn't take his gaze or eye from the journal. "So, old ladies, uh?"
It took Harry a while to place the comment, but then he rolled his eyes and took the peace offering for what it was. "Name your price for it and it's yours, Malfoy."
Malfoy looked up then, and his eyes flashed with something for a moment - which made Harry blush and shy away from his intense gaze - but then he got up with the music box and the journal and, after placing them on top of the closest surface, turned to Harry with his arms crossed. "That music box was my mother's, Potter. It belonged to every second daughter since Lyra Black; which means that this notebook," he waved the journal, "meant something to her. I'll protect her interests."
It was odd to see Malfoy caring for something so banal. "Ok, I promise to return it safely after . . . ." Harry trailed off when Malfoy began shaking his head. "What do you want, then?" he asked, rubbing his forehead to ease the pressure.
Malfoy brushed invisible lint from his cashmere jumper and drawled casually, "I want to help you find what you need." The last person who'd said that to him had been Bill, but Harry suspected Malfoy actually meant it.
It was like Harry was seeing him for the first time and, yet, it sounded very much like something Malfoy would say. Malfoys were nothing if not proud of their history and this particular Malfoy had always wanted to be part of something big. Harry supposed that finding Slytherin's Key to Hogwarts's wards fit somewhere in that category.
Of course, he could have told Malfoy to bugger off and replace the journal using the quick handwork he had got so good at, but that seemed like a terrible disrespect towards the brave woman that Narcissa Malfoy had been and towards her son, too, in a way. Plus, Harry had never stolen anything if he could bargain for it and he always, always gave it back. He didn't fool himself thinking that either of them had been the least concerned about him when they did what they did, but it didn't change the fact that someone who was capable of loving their family to the extent of betraying Voldemort could not be entirely evil.
Malfoy was looking at him challengingly, but Harry could see a soft glow of expectation in his eyes. And, since Harry had by great authority that he was a pushover for brave causes, he could do nothing other than agree, "Fine, you can help. But I'm not going to pay you for services rendered."
Malfoy snorted. "As if I want your money."
"Uh, so . . . ."
Harry whirled around, not quite believing he had forgotten about Mafalda again until she spoke, and basically just broken the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. But she didn't look shocked or anything, just uncomfortable.
"I'll just leave, all right? You're not gonna fight again, are you?" The question was mostly addressed to Malfoy, so Harry stayed out of it, hoping he would stop blushing sometime soon; he had just outed the Wizarding world to a Muggle. Hermione was going to kill him, if she ever found out.
Malfoy smirked at her. "No, I suppose I won't. My ribs are killing me."
Mafalda smiled. "Great." She turned to leave, but hesitated with her hand on the doorway and glanced at Malfoy. "It's good to see you looking so alive, chefe. Até amanhã."
"See you tomorrow," Malfoy replied, before turning to Harry, a mocking smirk on his lips. "You're lucky she's used to crazy people coming here shouting about wards and Slytherins, otherwise your Ministry might have had to sentence you to-how long is it? Up to two years in Azakaban for breaking the ISWS. The public wouldn't be happy about locking up the Boy Wonder, I daresay."
Harry snorted. "I think people would hardly be surprised, Malfoy. They're still shocked about my adulterous streak."
Malfoy quirked an eyebrow. "Humph, I still don't think they would let their Vanquisher go to prison. You're Britain's favourite rule-breaker. Like America's Bart Simpson."
Harry smothered his grin; he wanted to say something nice, too, but it wouldn't do to thank Malfoy for making Harry feel a bit warmer. Most of the time, he really didn't care about what people thought of him. Just occasionally, when it hit him particularly hard how further he was from everything he had hoped for. "Yeah, okay," he ended up saying, shrugging noncommittally. Malfoy was busying himself trying to put the music box together. "Do you know where's the closest Wizarding hotel?"
Malfoy looked up, and his ears got a bit pink as he answered, "It depends on your standards. There are a few near my house, but they're simple and don't have breakfast included."
Harry's stomach twinged when he remembered the last rundown place he'd slept in. "Believe me, I'll sleep almost anywhere."
Or that was what he had thought, before he took a look at the rundown building Malfoy was pointing at, after a particular tiring journey up the winding streets of Malfoy's neighbourhood. The paint was peeling off the walls and the windows seemed a breeze away from breaking. "Uh, Malfoy, I know what I said, but-."
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Potter; it's a ruse!"
Harry crossed his arms over his chest. "How do you know?"
Malfoy narrowed his eyes. "That's where I used to stay before I rented my house. Now, are you going to get a room or what?"
The tension drained from Harry's body to be replaced with uncertainty. "Aren't you coming?" They had to go over the journal, after all.
Malfoy took a step back and blinked in surprise. "Why would I? I mean, you could just get a room and I'll wait here."
"We aren't going over the journal in the middle of the street, are we? Risking it with one Muggle is enough for today . . . ."
Malfoy rolled his eyes and sighed. "Really, Potter. Go get a room and then come out so that we can grab something to eat. Then, we go over the journal."
"Oh, ok." That sounded reasonable, Harry decided. Then something in the whole exchange resonated wrongly with him, and he shouted over his shoulder, "Next time you order me around, I'll hex you." Harry could have sworn Malfoy chuckled.Lost and Found
Harry exited the hotel - a very fine hotel, clean and with a very polite staff, tastefully decorated - a rough hour later to find Malfoy sitting on a bench in front of the place's statue, taking a slow drag from an expensive looking cigarette. "Since when do you smoke?" Harry asked.
Malfoy sent him a deadpan look, before replying, "I don't usually."
"Only when you're nervous?" Harry teased, but then snapped his jaw shut when Malfoy's cheeks turned pink. He searched for something to say. "So, uh, dinner?"
Malfoy seemed to take the change of subject in stride and threw the fag away, putting it out with his well-polished shoe. "Yes, I'll make us something while you read this journal." Harry hesitated, and Malfoy's face closed up. "It's not an ambush, for heaven's sake! You'll see me cook!"
Harry bristled. "That's not what I was thinking, you git. I was just surprised that you can cook, that's all!"
Malfoy harrumphed and headed towards one of the side streets, pulling Harry into one of those yellow cable cars he'd seen in the tourist guides when it passed by them. He bought them both tickets and took a seat near the window. Malfoy looked like he was at home, and that upset Harry for reasons he couldn't quite fathom.
Malfoy lived in a street like so many others, with low green windows and colourful old buildings, a small diner in one of the lower storeys and children playing football in the street corner further down. Malfoy took his key from his jeans' pocket and opened the door, moving aside to let Harry go inside first. "Fifth floor, Potter, no lift," Malfoy said from behind Harry and pushed him towards the narrow stairway.
Two girls that had to be younger than Harry winked at Malfoy on their way down. "Finalmente tens companhia, honey?"
"Mind you own business, Maria," Malfoy snapped. "Lest I tell your friend what you've been up to with her boyfriend." The girl named Maria glared and flipped Malfoy off, before heading down the stairs. "My lovely neighbours," Malfoy explained when they couldn't be heard anymore. "Two barely legal cheating bints that occasionally can be good company." Harry smiled at the note of fondness he heard.
Malfoy's flat was the only one on the fifth floor, and it was a nice and cosy three-room storey. Malfoy threw his keys into the bowl by the door and hung his jacket on the coat rack behind it, then Harry's. He took the journal from his pocket and handed it over. "Living-room's through there." He pointed at the lime-green doorway. "Anything else, feel free to explore on your own. I'll be in the kitchen, which is through there," he said, pointing at the archway framed by a curtain of multicoloured beads.
Harry entered the living-room, which was, despite its simplicity, nice and classy. The sofa was comfortable and the coffee table was pretty, the rug made Harry want to take his boots off and the fireplace was a nice touch, too. However, what really took Harry's breath away was the view from the window; Harry could see the sun setting over the river and the shadow taking over the narrow streets he had climbed not an hour ago. "Wow," he breathed.
"It's nice, isn't it?" Malfoy asked from the doorway, an odd expression on his face.
"Yeah, it really is," Harry replied with a smile.
Malfoy's lips twitched, but he turned and returned to the kitchen, leaving Harry to wonder what he had wanted. This reminded Harry that he should focus on the matter that had brought him there in the first place; Elizabeth Burke's journal.
The journal's pages were yellowed with age, but strong enough for Harry not to worry about it. It was hard to concentrate when his eye caught words that reminded him of things past. There was a whole chapter dedicated to Gaunt's ring and a similar one dedicated to Slytherin's locket.
Soon, Harry reached the section about the Key. He was in the middle of a particular shady paragraph - trust Slytherins to sugar-coat some of the most gruesome wards Harry had ever heard of - when a clink of silverware brought his attention to fact that Malfoy was setting the table. "Anything useful?" he asked casually, coming to stand behind Harry to peek at the page.
"Yes, this is the Key I'm looking for," Harry explained, pointing at a sepia picture of Slytherin's Key. He felt Malfoy tense up slightly as he looked at the entry. He shrugged. "I'm not sure if it's useful, though."
That was the end of it, until they were sitting in front of each other at Malfoy's square dining table, and Harry blurted, "It simply doesn't seem possible."
Malfoy blinked in surprise, before finishing chewing on his steak and swallowing. "Well, what do you want me to do about it?"
Not having expected the indulgence, Harry paid him no attention and continued, "I mean, Elizabeth says that Slytherin gave the Key to his trusted heir but, as far as I know, the only heirs Slytherin had were Gaunt's ancestors and-trust me-when I checked, none of their possessions was worth anything." Except the Resurrection Stone, but that he didn't say aloud. "I don't see anyone from Gaunt's family selling any family heirloom and I don't think Slytherin would be careless with his things."
"Are you sure no one would sell anything? I mean, if they needed money . . . ."
Harry nodded absently, popping another french-fry in his mouth. "I suppose that Merope could have sold something, but I'm sure Voldemort would-."
"What? What has the Dark Lord to do with anything?"
That caught Harry's attention, and he explained, "It's not a commonly known fact, but Voldemort was Merope Gaunt's son. She took one of Slytherin's lockets when she ran away from her father, but Voldemort got it back; I might as well check that end again . . . I just never found anything before."
"The Dark Lord probably wasn't aware of it, Potter." Malfoy's eyes were locked on his wine glass. "I mean, you might not find anything at all. These things are often bought through less legal means, or even stolen. It means a lot to a pureblood family to own something that proves their blood status."
Harry snorted in disgust. "Tell me about it. Even Umbridge went nuts about it."
Malfoy nodded. "Nowadays, it's not unheard of to hide these artefacts, you know? Lest the Ministry claim them as Magical Heirlooms."
Harry's head snapped at that. "You mean I might never find it?" Malfoy shrugged. "Damn, I need to work on that grounding ritual, then. I suppose I should get back to Britain as soon as possible." He rubbed his forehead to ease the pressure. There was no way re-warding Hogwart's was going to be an easy task.
"If you leave now, you might still be able to catch the last Port-key of the day," Malfoy pointed out, still not looking at Harry, while swirling his wine in the glass.
Harry looked around Malfoy's cosy flat. "Well, I suppose I should help you clear the table first, don't you think?" It wasn't often someone let Harry ramble about his suspicions and instincts, and he should really show his thanks in some way.
For a moment, it seemed Malfoy was going to throw Harry out right away, but then he simply said, "If you want to wash the dishes, I certainly won't stop you."
Harry froze when he heard the song coming from the pub below.
Malfoy didn't seem to notice anything odd and he kept clearing the table, in a gesture so mundane that Harry felt distinctly like he was watching some other person in their house; then Malfoy began humming the melody that was coming through the walls. Harry stared, transfixed. The song was sad and melancholic, but it also sounded like hope, even though Harry didn't understand the words. "That's Mafalda singing," Malfoy offered, absently.
"The girl from your shop?"
Malfoy nodded on his way to the kitchen, arms filled with the two plates and rice bowl. "We met in the pub below and she said she was looking for a job; that's how she came work for me. Fado singers aren't in much demand these days."
Harry couldn't understand why, if that was what she sounded like. "Fado?" he prompted, not sure what that was.
"It's a traditional music style, Potter," Malfoy replied, "and bring me the wine glasses, if you would."
Harry got up to do just that, and followed Malfoy into the kitchen. "It's nice," he said, and Malfoy got the same expression he had when he saw Harry watching the sunset. "Can you take me downstairs?" The sort of smugness slipped from Malfoy's face. "I mean, it's a public place and I could go on my own, you know. But it's better to sit in a pub with some company, right?"
Malfoy was frowning as he agreed. "I suppose. Get your jacket."
"And the dishes?"
Malfoy gave him an odd look. "I'll take care of it in the morning, Potter," he said. "It's not like there's anyone to complain," he added, matter-of-factly.
Harry wasn't sure how to reply to that, so he simply got dressed and waited for Malfoy to turn off all the lights.
"What's the pub's name?" Harry asked when they were halfway down the stairs.
Malfoy smiled self-deprecatingly, but Harry wasn't sure why. "It's Casa de Fado, Potter; Fado House, in English."
They exited the building minutes later and Malfoy headed for the next door, pushing it open, and greeting the barman with a smile and a nod. "That's José, the owner and Mafalda's father. This pub has been in their family forever." Harry nodded, gladly accepting Malfoy's offered information. He gestured to a table in the back of the room and left through the crowd while Harry took his seat, only to return later with two tall glasses of red wine.
Harry took a sip. "This is very good. Thank you." Malfoy's lips twitched, but he didn't smile. The song changed and the Portuguese guitars began a quick tune, accompanied by the sad notes of the cello. Mafalda was soaring with the music and her voice was beautiful. Malfoy didn't seem able to take his eyes off her. Harry swirled the red liquid in his glass, glad for the excuse not to look at Malfoy as he asked, "So, is she the one you came here after?"
Malfoy was giving him an unreadable glance when Harry looked up. "No, Potter. I came here because of a British woman."
"Oh. It didn't work out between the two of you?"
Malfoy's lips twitched in bitter amusement. "No, gladly. Mostly because I ran." Harry frowned in confusion and Malfoy looked at the stage as he explained, "I was supposed to marry Astoria Greengrass when I reached seventeen. I didn't want to, so I saved us both from a loveless marriage. Mother set up this business for me during the war so that I was ready if the time came."
Harry swallowed thickly, guilty about the words he'd thrown at Malfoy that same afternoon. "Why didn't you bring your mother with you?"
Malfoy pressed his lips together, seeming to wonder if he should allow this conversation or not. "She didn't want to leave my father. The House of Black mates for life."
Those words were accompanied by a look that made Harry's breath hitch and his heart beat faster. "Are you a Black or a Malfoy?" he asked quietly, holding those gray eyes with his. Malfoy leaned forward, lips parting as he got closer, and Harry felt his body move on its own, already eager to welcome him - but Malfoy stopped. He drew back as if burned, got up and left.
Harry quickly followed, not willing to give up just yet, but he only caught Malfoy in the street.
Malfoy looked really beautiful right then in the moonlight, his cheeks flushed from the red wine and a look on his face that made Harry feel wanted.
It was the look Ron had on his face when Hermione went to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum and the look on Hermione's face when Ron dated Lavender, and the look on Severus Snape's face when Lily told him who she was dating. Malfoy was looking at Harry like he was everything Malfoy could ever want, but would never have.
Harry wanted to make Malfoy feel as desired as Harry felt right now. He wanted to take that look off Malfoy's face, replace it with a little happiness, give him a little bit of heaven, like Malfoy had inadvertently done to Harry, so he pushed Malfoy against the wall next to the pub's door and kissed him for all he was worth.
Malfoy made a choked noise, but Harry didn't care and pressed his body more firmly against Malfoy's. He was rewarded with a low groan and found himself shoved against the opposite wall, Malfoy's tongue pushed into his mouth as he took what Harry had offered.
No kiss had ever felt this fulfilling, this right.
Harry threw his head back, when Malfoy moved against him, and Malfoy took the chance to nip on Harry's neck. It felt so good, so warm, that Harry cradled Malfoy's face in his hands to kiss him properly.
"Harry," Malfoy murmured quietly, moving against Harry frantically, "Harry, Harry, Harry . . . ." He sounded lost and afraid, which was stupid and didn't make any sense because Harry was right there and didn't plan on going anywhere, but Harry still kissed the words away, before pushing at him lightly.
Malfoy let go immediately, swallowing thickly to compose himself, but Harry could still see the bulge in his jeans and the arousal in his eyes. "Let's go up," Harry suggested quietly, pointing at Malfoy's apartment and receiving a brusque nod in return. He thought about taking Malfoy's hand on their way up the stairs, but that didn't seem like such a good idea when he considered the tense line of Malfoy's shoulders as he walked silently in front of Harry.
As soon as the door closed behind them though, Malfoy pushed Harry against it and started on his shirt, his breathing getting more and more laboured as he got closer to the skin. Harry tried to reciprocate, but Malfoy didn't let him. He took off Harry's clothes piece by piece, letting them fall to the floor, and then knelt in front of Harry. His hands travelled up and down Harry's chest, before settling on Harry's cock, all but worshipping the hard flesh beneath his touch.
Harry drew in a harsh breath when Malfoy took him in his mouth, hands digging at his buttocks to pull Harry closer, and Harry let him, sagging against the door to keep himself upright when his knees gave away. It felt good, it felt like Malfoy was giving and taking at the same time, and wasn't that what sex was supposed to be all about?
Malfoy sucked him like it was the best thing in the world, the hot waves of pleasure coursing through Harry's body so intense that he could not possibly last much longer. But before Harry reached his climax, Malfoy drew back, got up and pulled Harry towards himself for a deep kiss.
Malfoy seemed almost desperate in his need to have Harry in every way; he could have it, Harry didn't mind. He curled his arms around Malfoy's neck and kissed back, pouring his willingness into the kiss, as he was forcefully backed towards the bedroom.
Malfoy had a hand wound around Harry's waist and another curled around his neck, and all of Harry's naked skin was in contact with the fine fabric of Malfoy's clothes, which was more arousing than Harry could have believed otherwise. Malfoy threw him on the bed and quickly took off his own clothes, before covering Harry's body with his own.
Harry felt so hot, so far gone, that he could just move against Malfoy as he closed his hand around Harry's cock and pumped. "Shit, Malfoy!" Malfoy's hand tightened around Harry's length and something hard shone in his eyes, and Harry knew instinctively what it was. Possessiveness. "Draco, ah, Draco, sorry." Malfoy smiled smugly, before kissing his way down Harry's body, bypassing his cock to go below.
Harry's eyes rolled close at the first thrust of Draco's hot tongue inside. He didn't think anyone would actually do that to a lover, but Draco was showing no restraint as he lavished Harry's hole, opening him up with his mouth and fingers. Harry clawed at the sheets to keep himself grounded and moaned his appreciation aloud, because Malfoy deserved to know how good he was at what he was doing.
"Harry," Draco whispered from the vicinity of Harry's crotch and, once again, Harry knew what he meant.
"I'm ready," Harry said, pushing himself further down on Draco's fingers, before they withdrew and Draco moved up on the bed to look at Harry. The gleam in his eyes made Harry want to fuck him right now; forever again, if he had any say in it. "Do it. Now."
Draco pushed Harry's knees up and looked down intently, wantonly, before aligning himself and slowly pushing inside. It had been a while for Harry, so he evened his breath and focused on relaxing. Draco helped, nipping on his neck and ear, kissing his face, his eyelids, his mouth, panting filthily in his ear, whispering things that Harry couldn't understand but that went straight to his heart. He stopped when he was fully sheathed, eyes closed and jaw locked with the effort of staying still.
Harry didn't think it was entirely for his sake because, when Draco's eyes opened, he looked straight at Harry as if committing him to memory.
Draco began to thrust shallowly, but faster as Harry got looser and soon the bed was creaking dangerously and they were clinging to each other as their pleasure built up. It was great and he felt protected, and he was so close it hurt and Draco was biting his lip, obviously trying to hold on for Harry, and wasn't that the sweetest thing someone had ever done for him?
Draco fisted Harry's cock and stroked in time with his thrusts, and Harry lost himself and came all over their chests, Draco's lips on his to muffle their orgasms.
They stayed frozen in position, through countless minutes, trying to make it last a little bit longer, before Draco pulled out and let his body fall next to Harry's, chest flushed and glistening with sweat, fair hair plastered on his face.
Then he glanced at Harry. And Harry's heart fluttered. There was the bliss Harry had been aiming at earlier. He smiled. "Merlin, Malfoy, that was amazing," Harry said, while catching his breath.
Draco blinked, surprised, then smirked. "You weren't so bad yourself, Potter." The smile fell away fast, though, and Draco looked the other way, towards the window, his expression just a shade short of desolation, although Harry couldn't understand why.
Harry tried, "So, do you need me out of here?"
Draco's head snapped at him, before looking away again, and shrugging. "You don't have to go." That was exactly what he had wanted to hear when he asked, and he inched closer.
Draco startled when Harry laid his head on Draco's pillow, nuzzling the soft skin of his shoulder. He hesitated for a moment, but then lay on his side and threw an arm over Harry's back. Contented, Harry dozed off, and he wasn't sure if he was dreaming or not when he felt Draco's arm tighten around him and a gentle kiss was pressed to his shoulder, his neck and, finally, his lips.
Harry woke up when Malfoy shifted on the bed, his senses always alert. The sun was not up yet, but the light that came through the window was the purplish light of dawn.
Malfoy was staring, Harry could tell as much and, because it felt too nice to have someone's undivided attention, Harry pretended to be asleep. Malfoy ran his hands up and down Harry's back, but there were no more secret kisses. Sadly.
Without the relaxation of slumber, Harry started to get uncomfortable in the position he was in and he must have done something to give himself away, because Malfoy tensed up and retreated on the bed. Harry opened his eyes with a sigh, to find Malfoy looking at him blankly. "Hi," Harry greeted with a smile. "Are you freaking out?" he teased.
Malfoy's face shuttered and he got up. "What do you want for breakfast?"
Harry sat up. "Isn't it a bit early for that?"
Malfoy gave him a look, as he put on his pants. "I have a shop to open, Potter. I do work for a living, you know?"
Harry held up his hands in mock surrender. "Alright, alright," he smiled at Malfoy rolling his eyes, "anything you want is fine. Do I get to have it in bed?" he joked and was surprised when Malfoy actually nodded. "I do?"
"Yes, if you want. It's common courtesy, after-well."
Harry tried to smother his laugh, but he couldn't help it; Malfoy looked so awkward. "Thank you, Draco." Malfoy blushed brighter and left the room. Harry ogled his arse as he walked, before throwing himself back on the bed. This was perfect; Harry felt happy and it had been a while for him. It got even better when, twenty minutes later, Malfoy brought him French toast, cereal and tea. "Aw, you're spoiling me for anyone else."
Malfoy pressed his lips together, but just sat next to Harry and they shared the food. "What are you planning on doing about Slytherin's Key, Potter?"
"I don't know," Harry said, munching on toast with honey. "I'll probably have to tell McGonagall to delay Hogwarts's opening for another year while Hermione and I work on how to rebuild the wards. At least, I know that the key's still in Britain, so I might take a further look at that."
"Are you leaving today?"
Harry knew he ought to - he had so much work to do for Hogwarts, and a lot of things to sort out with the Weasleys, and he'd be damned if he let a night full of silent promises turn his head - but, in the end, what he said was, "No, I can stay for a while, if you want." Malfoy looked down and clenched his jaw, and suddenly Harry felt dreadfully cold. "Or, I can go right now," he added, just because he had to be sure.
Malfoy turned to him, eyes alight with anger. "Yes, Potter, I bloody hell want you to go right now!"
Harry felt himself grow pale; then his brain kicked in and he tried to get up, but found himself tangled in the sheets. He got himself free as coolly as he could, before Summoning his clothes and getting dressed.
Malfoy had his hand clenched around the butter knife so tight his knuckles were white, but when Harry picked up his jeans, he snapped into action and pulled Harry onto the bed, shoving the food tray to the floor. He pinned Harry with his body, hands above his head. "Why did you have to come, Potter? Why here? Why me? Why now?"
"What the fuck, Malfoy, let me go! I'll hurt you," Harry warned, narrowing his eyes at him.
Malfoy barked a laugh. "Funny threat, Potter. You already did." Harry froze, but Malfoy didn't seem to notice and took Harry's mouth in a bruising kiss. Lost, Harry opened his mouth and let himself be ravished. "You have to have everything, don't you? I was happy, Potter! Until you showed up."
The accusation didn't sit well with Harry. "How could I have known it was you, you git? I just want that damned key!"
Malfoy let him go all of a sudden, and strode towards a painting above the mahogany chest of drawers. "Speak to me, oh Slytherin, the greatest of Hogwarts's four," he murmured to the painting and Harry saw it disappear to show an indentation in the wall. Malfoy shoved a few pieces of official-looking paper aside and reached inside to retrieve a silvery chain, a very familiar-looking key dangling in one end.
Harry felt outrage swell inside of him. "You had it? All along?"
Malfoy sneered. "It's mine. It belonged to the Ancient House of Black and it's rightfully mine. My mother left it to me."
"I'd give it back, Malfoy! Merlin," he breathed, covering his eyes with one arm. Why did Malfoy have to ruin the greatest night Harry had ever had? "I just need it to reset Hogwarts's wards, I'd have given it back to you." When he looked up again, Malfoy was looking broken. It made Harry's heart ache. He felt that way himself; he had for a while now, except that same morning. It was what it felt like not to know what you were supposed to do, what to be.
"It doesn't matter," he said, not looking at Harry, "I'm giving it to you. If you promise to get away from me. It's yours; it's been yours since you asked for it. Just go away."
"You just kissed me! I liked it!" Harry exclaimed. "Why the bloody hell are you so intent on pushing me away? I won't take anything from you!"
"You will! I'm not a hero and I don't care about some," he sneered, "mystical wards that need resetting. You want me to be something I'm not!"
Harry didn't believe him. "I just wanted for us to make each other feel good. I though you did, too. If you don't, just say so!" Harry shook his head in disbelief. "I promise I won't cry, if that's what you're worried about." Except that he sort of felt like it.
"Well, I want you to cry," Malfoy shouted back, "I want you to beg me to have you, like you should have when we were eleven! I don't want to feel good," he sneered.
Harry sat up straight. "That's it? You're throwing me out because I slighted you back then?" Harry asked. "I am sorry, you know I am. You can feel it! But even if I wasn't, that's history! Draco, I-."
"Don't call me that!" Malfoy spared him a contemptuous look, before turning his back on Harry. "Just take the damned key and go away, Potter." He sounded weary. "Just-go."
"I'll go, Malfoy," Harry agreed, heart squeezing painfully in his chest, "but we'll be talking about this someday."Coming Home
Harry was poring over the Founder's Books, learning the procedure to reset the wards with the Founders' Keys, when Hermione walked in and took a seat in front of him. Harry ignored her at first and continued to munch on his pen, ignoring Madam Pince as she sniffed aloud at the intrusion.
Of course, Hermione wouldn't be likewise treated. "Harry," she began in what Harry and Ron were used to calling her mum-voice. "Is there anything you want to tell me?"
"Not really, no," Harry replied casually, because frankly, Hermione didn't need to know everything and she already seemed to. Hermione took Harry's book away from him and closed it. Harry sighed and turned to face her, confusion and the need to share overriding annoyance. "What?"
"You left last week borderline depressed, and now you return with a sparkle in your eyes that wasn't there and an amount of energy for research that is making me tired. So . . . ." Seeing as he didn't continue, she exclaimed, "Explain!" but her lips were twitching in a way that gave away her amusement.
Harry took a breath. "I just need to get this done as fast as possible. I have to return the key, you know."
Hermione eyed him suspiciously. "Tell me again how you got it, Harry Potter."
Harry dutifully repeated, "The antique-shop's owner had it."
"Is this mysterious owner the one who turned your head?"
Harry inspected his fingernails nonchalantly. "I wouldn't know. Draco Malfoy inspires very odd feelings in me."
Hermione squealed, then flinched when Madam Pince cleared her throat forcefully. She threw a "Sorry!" over her shoulder, before turning to Harry, cheeks flushed with excitement. "You found Malfoy? After all these years?" Harry nodded. "And you fancy him! Still! Oh, Harry!" She threw her arms around Harry's neck and hugged him. "I'm so glad you got over Bill."
"I was never into Bill in the first place, you know," Harry pointed out, but he suspected he actually had been very much so.
Hermione snorted. "Right. Still, it was unhealthy. But, Malfoy! Oh, boy . . . ." Harry laughed at her enthusiasm. "What are you going to do now? Are you going back to Portugal, Harry? Is Malfoy coming back to Britain?"
Harry's amusement died then. "I'm not sure what to do, actually. I'm not sure he wants me." He shrugged. "We didn't part on very good terms."
Hermione clucked her tongue in sympathy. "If you hadn't fought, I'd be worried, Harry. That's part of the charm I reckon, otherwise Ron and I would have never lasted. All that tension has to go somewhere."
Harry cringed. "Too much information, Hemione!"
Hermione laughed. "All right, I spare you the details. But, just so you know, Malfoy carried a mighty torch for you all those years ago. I wasn't sure he'd ever get over it."
"He said Blacks mate for life," Harry murmured.
Hermione squealed again. "Oh, dear Merlin! That's like, the sweetest confession ever, Harry!"
Harry flushed with satisfaction. "You think so?"
Her expression softened from excited to fond. "I'm so happy to see you like this, Harry. I can't remember the last time I actually saw you hopeful about something. That, at least, has to be worth something."
Harry reasoned it really was.
"In short, this is not only the rebirth of one of our most important institutions, but also a mark of hope for the future. Our children will begin a beautiful journey tonight, for the first time in seven years, and Hogwarts shall teach them all about magic, love, friendship and family and it shall raise them to be the wizards and witches of tomorrow."
The crowd erupted in cheers, and Harry smiled.
It wasn't only reporters and the rich purebloods of the Board of Governors that were watching, but also men and women that had sent their children away that very same morning on the Hogwarts's Express; people who remembered what it was like to be excited to come to this very castle and learn everything its ancient halls could teach, people who remembered what was it like before. Even Harry, who had never had a moment of peace in his six years of education, knew how great it was to see Hogwarts standing again.
McGonagall was weeping into her handkerchief, and even Hermione blew her nose once or twice, but they weren't the only ones. All throughout the audience that extended beyond the tent prepared for the event, people were weeping, but they weren't grieving; it was as if they finally got the closure they needed for the War.
"Now, please welcome Professor McGonagall," Harry finished, "whose dedication to Hogwarts allowed it to bloom hope in our hearts once again." Everyone clapped heartily when McGonagall stepped onto the podium and she smiled, shoulders straight and head held high; Hogwarts's last defender and she deserved the ovation.
"Thank you, Mr Potter. I daresay you weren't so supportive of my dedication when you were my student," the masses laughed, "but detentions are needed, my dear, for trouble-makers like yourself." Harry blushed and sent her an apologetic look.
Hermione was laughing in Harry's ear, as she patted his shoulder in comfort. "Don't think I don't know you were in it, too, Mrs Granger-Weasley." Hermione choked and her face lit up like a Christmas tree.
They laughed harder.
"Without the help from both of you, however, Hogwarts would not be standing to see this day." A murmur ran through the audience and they clapped for Harry and Hermione. "But let us not dwell in the past, my friends, because this is a day of joy. We shall . . . ."
Harry tuned out the familiar speech and turned to Hermione, who said, "We did it. The kids are coming home today." Her smile was beautiful in its peacefulness.
"They are. We should leave puzzles for the smart ones to find."
Hermione grinned. "I don't think we need to. There is no way all of Hogwarts' secrets have been discovered and, now that the magic is grounded again, there'll be many more of them for all the things that were broken and now replaced."
Harry chuckled. "You might be right, you know? I passed by that mirror in the Fourth Floor and it was locked again. I think the passage might have been reconstructed."
"You know," she began with a deliberate casualness that left Harry feeling wary, "you could leave the Marauder's Map in Filch's office." It would always be Filch's office, even if the man had died long ago. "See if anyone is enough of a marauder to steal it."
Harry gaped in outrage. "That map is going to a legitimate Marauder, Hermione. Either a Potter or a Lupin."
Hermione giggled. "Or a Black. I'm sure there are some bastard Blacks out there."
Harry blushed. "I really don't want to think about Sirius like that."
Hermione laughed, but didn't say anything else until McGonagall talked to them again. "Mr Potter, if you would do the honours," she prompted, handing him the pair of scissors that would cut the purple ribbon in front of the main entrance.
Harry took them, but then he hesitated. "Let's do this together, Professor. This is your school now." McGonagall's eyes welled up with tears and she nodded jerkily, taking one of the handles.
Harry looked back at his friend. "Come on, Hermione, you too." Hermione looked surprise, but then a smile stretched over her face and she put her hands on top of Harry's. "Ready?" he asked, they nodded.
The purple ribbon fell and Hogwarts's massive doors slid open.
"It's now official! Hogwarts is open!" McGonagall announced and the noise became almost deafening, but it ceased when Harry got on the podium again.
"Now, I'm sure some of you have questions . . . ." he said at the reporters, because this was the expected part of the routine, and all hands came up. Harry sighed and pointed one of them, as Hermione and McGonagall took her places again. "You, ma'am, please."
"Thank you, Mr Potter. Cecily Merryheather, Witch Weekly. Is it true that you are involved in an illicit threesome with Mr and Mrs Bill Weasley?"
Harry's breathe left in a whoosh.
He got up and got ready to leave as they kept shouting questions that had absolutely nothing to do with the sanctity of this place. Hermione would deal with them and they would be lucky if they escaped a well-aimed Toenail-growing Hex. She didn't mind the Half-Blood Prince's inventions so much when it suited her.
However, just before he turned his back, he saw a cloaked figure in the back of the row of Governors get up to leave. He wouldn't have thought anything of it, if he hadn't caught a glimpse of fair blond hair beneath that cloak, and he instantly knew who it was.
Harry returned his gaze towards the group of reporters and sent them his most charming smile, ignoring Hermione's alarmed expression. "Miss Merryheather, you do understand the consequences of making a suggestion like that in public, don't you? The laws concerning Veela conduct apply to all Wizarding folk, so I'd advise a bit of discretion." Harry felt smugness bloom in his chest when Cecily paled.
"Now, to answer your question, no, I'm not involved in a threesome with Mr and Mrs Bill Weasley. I'm, er, starting a relationship with someone else, in fact." Hermione was hiding her face in her hands and McGonagall was glaring daggers at him, but Harry didn't care, because Draco seemed rooted to the spot near the back row. "But I hardly think this is the time or place to discuss my private life."
Hermione was now beginning to look delighted, after having realised what was happening. Unfortunately, but predictably, the crowd of reporters had also realised Harry was staring right at the cloaked figure standing in the audience and the flashes went off.
From Draco's stance, he was uncertain of his welcome. Harry smiled encouragingly, and that seemed to set him at ease, because he took a step forward. The crowd of reporters went crazy at the exchange, all eager for a glimpse of the person beneath the cloak. Harry's smile softened and he pointed towards the entrance with his head; Draco nodded, before vanishing amongst the people.
"I thought you'd wait near the Great Hall," Harry said by way of greeting, as he entered the Founders' Chamber.
Draco had his back to the door and was gazing at the obelisk that rose in the centre of the room, on the stone platform where Draco was standing. The four Keys were inserted in their respective slots and the runes in the stone were glowing softly. The air was heavy with magic. "I was, but McGonagall said I could come and see this. It's-it's . . . ."
If he turned, the expression on his face would be the same as those times in Lisbon, Harry suspected. He found it very endearing how Draco was so touched by beautiful things. "Overwhelming, yeah," he finished for him. "Why did you come to Britain? I'd have brought the Key back after tonight's ritual."
Draco sighed. "I didn't want to come," he admitted, "I fought not to."
Hopeful, Harry stepped beside him and slipped his hand into Draco's cold one. For a moment, it seemed as if Draco was going to just suffer the contact in silence, but then he held onto Harry's hand with a desperation that rankled with Harry. "You don't trust me," Harry tried, although he was fairly sure he also wouldn't trust him, if he were Draco.
Draco scoffed, "Why should I? You never liked me and you don't trust me, either."
Harry might still have his reservations about the whole thing, but something about the way Draco seemed to want him set his heart at ease, selfish as that sounded. Which meant Draco was the one who needed to learn how to trust Harry. "I sort of fancied you when we were in school," Harry confessed and was surprised when he saw Malfoy smirk in a way that used to make Harry's Hogwarts's uniform very tight around the groin.
"Please. As if I didn't know it." Harry felt himself warm up in embarrassment. "All that blushing, staring and stalking, Potter; you acted like Ginevra Weasley did around you. It was a running joke in the dungeons." Even after almost a decade, that still stung a little. Draco squeezed his hand subtly, comfortingly, and Harry wasn't sure if it was his imagination or not. "It was just a crush. It doesn't mean anything compared to what you risked for Bill Weasley." Harry could sense the question in there somewhere.
He almost protested - why did everything have to be about this one mistake he had made, when the only thing he had searched for in Bill for months was the very same thing Draco had given him during a single shared meal? - but Draco was still staring ahead, as if he couldn't bring himself to look into Harry's eyes.
"I don't think it was like that," he started, and Draco looked at him, eyes intent. "I didn't risk anything for Bill; things ended up the way they did, because he used me as a crutch to deal with his marriage problems." Suddenly, the weight of guilt in Harry's chest eased away into nothing and Harry felt he could breathe again, feeling liberated by his own admission. He smiled softly at Draco. "But, more importantly, I didn't want to risk anything for him. I don't mind taking risks if it is with you. I already have, haven't I? During the war and just last month . . . ."
"I like you, Draco, I really do," he said, at last. "Regardless of who we were, I like this handsome man who did all those wicked things to me, and I know how much it took for you to reach where you are now. I wish I'd done things differently, instead of acting like a self-conscious, selfish berk while you actually did something with yourself."
Draco's eyes looked haunted, but he was clutching Harry tightly, leaning against Harry's side. "After the Dark Lord, you had to find yourself, Potter. That's nothing to be ashamed of. I wish," he stopped, "I wish I had stayed; maybe if I had thanked you back then we could have ended up here way before."
Harry tucked his head into Malfoy's collarbone and nuzzled the soft skin there, sniffing the cherished scent. "Do you want to reset the wards with me?"
Draco, nose buried in Harry's hair, froze, astonished. "What?" Harry felt warmness spread through his chest at the look of barely repressed pleasure in Draco's face. "You'd let me-?"
"You understand you'd be connected to Hogwarts forever. It'd be a part of you." When Draco hesitated, he added, "The magical flow would be so fast, it wouldn't make difference in your power, but you'd be responsible for the integrity of these walls. You'd be the channel by which Magic grounded itself in Hogwarts." Harry searched Draco's face. "Are you ready for such responsibility?"
Draco smirked lazily, entwining his fingers with Harry's. "Are you?" The room glowed pink.