Draco's head jolted up and he stared out the window, certain he had not just seen what his mind tried to convince him he had seen. A man had crossed the street, caught at the edge of Draco's vision, and something about his gait had been familiar. Draco frowned, searching beyond the glass. There had been something… It felt like a memory, long buried. He scanned the street, but no one recognizable came into view.
The door opened with a jangle of bells. The coffee shop was large with a high ceiling and several windows. Draco liked it because it reminded him of the shops back in England—all dark, polished wood and glass and worn surfaces. It felt like home.
A large man dressed in a bulky brown coat entered the shop. Draco stared at him for a moment. The man looked vaguely like Rubeus Hagrid, tall and bulky with a bushy black beard. His hair was short or nonexistent, however, completely invisible beneath a lumberjack style hat whose primary colour Draco would describe as 'bile' or something similarly unflattering.
Draco sniffed and dismissed the man, turning his attention back to the documents on the table before him. The berries were too obvious, so perhaps it was the leaves…
"Earl Grey, please, and can you make the water extra hot?"
Draco's head snapped up again, shocked completely out of his research by the voice. That wasfamiliar, and not just the tones of his British accent, but something more tightly woven with Draco's memories of home.
The large man ordered a black coffee. His bulk almost completely concealed the man who stood beyond him; only a bit of olive-coloured coat was visible. Even as Draco debated rising to retrieve a napkin or straw or something that would give him an excuse to walk past the pair, the large man moved aside.
The smaller man reached for his steaming paper cup and then turned. He froze completely when he spotted Draco and their gazes locked. Draco stared. He couldn't help it. It had to be Harry Potter, but Potter as Draco had never seen him. His dark hair was mostly covered in a knitted trapper hat and a large olive coat concealed most of his form.
The glasses were nearly the same, thick dark frames that only seemed to enhance the brilliance of Potter's eyes, but the five o'clock shadow covering his jaw was different. It made Potter look rugged and almost dangerous.
Draco opened his mouth to make a scathing greeting, but Potter's eyes widened and he gave a quick shake of his head before snapping his gaze to the other man, who turned around to catch Potter's wide-eyed stare.
The man looked at Draco curiously and then asked Potter, "You know him?"
Potter grinned. "No, but I'd like to," he said suggestively and then winked at Draco.
If Draco hadn't been seated he might have toppled over from the shock of it. The large man boomed a laugh and clapped Potter on the shoulder with a force that nearly sent him into a display of bagged coffee beans.
"Didn't know you were that type, Harold, my boy, but whatever floats your boat. Grab your sugars and let's go. The ferry won't wait for us."
Draco's brain restarted at the name. Harold. The last Draco had heard, Potter was still the quintessential Auror, so he was most likely here on Ministry business, and undercover. The latter assumption gave Draco a boost; he liked knowing things other people did not know, particularly in regards to Harry Potter.
Potter made a show of adding sugar to his tea while shooting glances at Draco, but he finally popped on the plastic lid and made his way to the door where the other man waited. Draco frowned. Was Potter leaving?
"Hold on, Carl," Potter said when the door opened. "I'll be right back."
Potter walked briskly back across the wooden floor and stopped before Draco's table to lean down. He looked even more interesting up close and his scent wafted over Draco, a curious mixture of wood smoke and heady cologne.
"Malfoy," Potter said in a low tone that was thick with intensity, "Pretend I'm asking for your number. I'll send you an owl later if you're in a place that's protected."
"They use crows here, Potter," Draco said mildly and pushed some of his papers aside to locate his planner.
Potter's lips thinned. "Crows. Yes, I'll send you a crow. Are you staying in a wizarding location?"
"No, Potter," Draco said and reached into the front cover of his planner to locate a business card. He handed it to Potter and gifted him with a flirtatious grin. Let the prat make of that what he would. "But you may send your crow."
Potter took the card and his fingertips barely brushed against Draco's. He looked thoughtful.
"I'm staying at the Hotel 1000," Draco said. "It's on—"
"I know where it is. You'll hear from me by tonight. Can you um… smile?"
Annoyed at being interrupted, Draco thought his smile probably resembled a grimace more than anything, but Potter didn't seem to mind judging by the grin he sent back to him. His murmured words were barely audible.
"Thanks, Malfoy. I owe you one."
"See you later, Harold," Draco said.
Potter turned and went out without another word.
Harry sipped his tea even though it had gone cold during the walk to the ferry. He watched as the waves churned behind the boat, leaving the dock behind. The cityscape looked beautiful in the cold, clear morning light. So far Seattle had not lived up to its reputation of being a rainy city. In the two weeks Harry had been in residence it had only rained once, and snow was predicted for coming days.
His thoughts returned to Draco Malfoy. Of all the people Harry might expect to encounter two thousand miles from home, Malfoy would not have been on the list. Harry's suspicious nature reared its head. What was Malfoy doing here when, coincidentally, Harry was looking for the British connection to a smuggling ring? It almost seemed too easy, but Malfoy hadn't seemed nervous, only surprised.
Carl stood silently beside him, watching the city recede. He reminded Harry of Hagrid, which made him feel slightly guilty to be deceiving him. Still, Carl was a link to the case, since the last shipment to the UK had been tracked to the bed-and-breakfast Carl ran from his property on Bainbridge Island.
Harry had rented a room from Carl and then accompanied him to town on the pretence of finding his way around like the tourist he professed to be. In actuality, he nearly lost sight of his mission a couple of times due to sheer fascination with the city. Seattle was so different from London with its even streets and pavement, fascinating modern architecture, and works of art on nearly every corner.
"So," Carl said, "You're gay?"
Harry glanced at him and shrugged. "Sometimes," he admitted and grinned.
"This is a tolerant place, for the most part. Not as progressive as London, but we do all right. Just… be careful."
"I always am. I might go back to the city tonight for some night life."
Carl snorted a laugh. "And some pretty blond man?"
"Hopefully. When is the last ferry back?"
"Late. Like 2am. Grab a schedule from the rack to be sure. I'm going to sit down. It's damn cold."
Harry nodded and watched as Carl made his way to one of the bolted-down chairs and sat down. It was looking more and more like Carl was a regular Muggle with no involvement in the case, which was jointly a relief and a frustration; Harry had no real leads. The recent guest roster at the bed-and-breakfast had told him nothing.
Harry reached into his coat and pulled out Malfoy's business card. The prat was also here under false pretences and a false name. The card read Brutus Black, Herbalist. Surprisingly, there was a telephone number and an email address. The thought of Malfoy using common Muggle tools made Harry shake his head in disbelief.
He returned the card to his pocket. Herbalist, honestly. Harry wondered what he was really doing here. He was torn between hoping Malfoy was involved in his case and hoping he wasn't. On the one hand, it would make solving the case easier and Harry could go home; but on the other, it would mean that Draco Malfoy was still a horrible wanker and not someone Harry would like to get to know better.
Harry reflected that time away from England had apparently done Malfoy some good. Very good. The bastard was gorgeous. The last few times Harry had seen him, Malfoy had seemed pale, stressed, thin, and petulant-looking. All of that, except the pale, was now gone. Malfoy looked healthy, peaceful, and ethereally desirable.
Harry shivered at a gust of wind and pulled his cap more tightly over his head. Bloody hell, Seattle was as cold as Scotland. And Harry was lusting after Draco Malfoy. Clearly he had entered an alternate dimension.
Carl owned the bed-and-breakfast inn on Bainbridge Island that had once been a decent-sized manor house. It was white with navy-blue trim and a wrap-around porch that looked out over the water. Harry had paid for the best room in the house, so he had an amazing view from a small private balcony.
As far as Harry could tell, Carl and all of his guests were Muggles. Harry had suspected Carl at first, but now it seemed likely he was just a scapegoat for the real criminal.
Harry cast a quick spell to call a crow to the balcony railing. The black birds were everywhere and seemed devilishly intelligent. Harry showed the message to the crow and it cocked its head at him and then stuck out a leg. Harry fastened on the message.
"Draco Malfoy, Hotel 1000," he said.
The bird didn't move and Harry frowned at it. "Caw," it said reproachfully.
"Oh yes. Treats before. Sorry." Harry went inside and spotted a bit of blueberry muffin on his plate, left over from breakfast. He carried it to the crow, who snatched it and flew off. Strange birds; Harry much preferred owls.
He went back inside and spread his files out on the desk, trying to concentrate on work instead of wondering if Malfoy would reply.
Despite Potter's surprising appearance, Draco managed to put the man out of his mind and focus on his job. He needed to take a trip to the local botanical garden, but it was too risky to Apparate in the daytime. Even in such cold weather, Muggles seemed to love walking, running, or cycling through the park-like area. Draco supposed he could take a Muggle cab, but he hated the horrible metal boxes Muggles rode around in. Also, he wanted to wait and see if Potter would owl… or crow, as they said here.
In the end, Draco dropped off his planner at the hotel and then walked to Pike Place Market to peruse the Muggle artistry and fresh fruit. There he succumbed to the temptation of yet another leather-bound journal (curse the Muggles, how did they sense his weakness?) and a silver pendant for his mother. He liked to send small gifts home with his letters.
He purchased a bundle of fresh flowers and returned to the hotel where he arranged them in the crystal vase he had bought on his first day in the city. The flowers reminded him of home and he replenished them whenever they started to droop.
He had just seated himself and opened his planner when a crow lit on one windowsill and tapped the glass. Draco's pulse leaped, but he scowled at himself and pushed out of his chair to approach the window. The message was not necessarily from Potter and why should he be excited to hear from Potter, anyway?
I am merely homesick, Draco rationalized. It had been good to hear a British voice and see a familiar face, even if it was Potter. Draco turned one corner of the glass to sand to admit the bird. Muggle-built high-rise buildings did not have windows that opened. Too much chance of Muggles leaping to their deaths, Draco supposed, which he understood. If Draco didn't have magic, he might be tempted to hurl himself, also.
The bird hopped inside and then flew around the room, refusing to give up the message until Draco located a treat. Luckily, he had bought a bag of Satsuma's, so he quickly peeled one and held it out for the crow. The bird snatched the fruit and lit upon the table, finally allowing Draco to remove the message.
Will you be available this evening at 7:00? If yes, shall I meet you at your hotel or elsewhere? ~H
Draco rolled the message and tapped it against his lip. He debated the wisdom of inviting the pretending-to-be-gay Auror to his room, but he supposed there was no harm in it. Draco was in the Penthouse Suite, after all, and the place had a small living space separate from the bedroom. He took up parchment and a quill.
At my hotel is fine. I am in the Penthouse Suite. I will tell the staff to admit you.
Draco did approve of the hotel staff. For Muggles, they were very attentive to his every need, and almost as efficient as house-elves.
The crow was still on the table, ripping at the orange fruit, so Draco attached the note and said, "Harry Potter, wherever he is."
Harry stood in front of the metal door and gave his appearance a once-over before yanking off the woollen cap and running his hands though his hair in an attempt to straighten it. When he realized he was primping for Draco Malfoy, he scowled and shoved the hat into a pocket of his coat before lifting a hand to rap sharply on the door.
The door opened just when Harry was about to knock again. Malfoy looked immaculate, as expected, but very casual, which was not expected. He wore a white button-down with a few buttons open at the collar, and dark olive-coloured trousers with a neat cuffed hem. His feet were encased in white socks, which made him seem oddly vulnerable, somehow.
Harry cleared his throat and dragged his eyes up to meet Malfoy's.
"Come in to my humble abode, Potter," Malfoy said with a smirk and gestured at the room with a flourish.
Harry entered and could not help but be impressed. The room was gigantic for a hotel suite, and contained two full sofas, a gas fireplace, and a dining table with six chairs. Everything was covered in cream-coloured leather or gleaming dark wood that practically screamed "expensive". It was a distinct change from Harry's single, small room at the bed-and-breakfast.
Two large windows looked out over Puget Sound and Harry admired the lights of commercial ships dotting the bay for a moment. It was pitch dark already and bitterly cold outside. "Nice view."
"Thank you. Would you like some tea? Coffee? I haven't figured out how to work the contraption," Malfoy waved towards the Muggle coffee maker in the kitchenette, "but room service is very quick at bringing me whatever I require. You can toss your coat on a chair, there."
Harry turned away from the windows to raise a brow at Malfoy. His tone had been polite, but not quite friendly. "I'm surprised to find you in a Muggle establishment. There are wizarding hotels here, you know?"
"Diving right into the interrogation, I see. No beverage, then? I have a fine Cabernet, or are Aurors forbidden from drinking on duty even when thousands of miles from home?"
"I'm not on duty," Harry said awkwardly, even though it was not quite true. Harry slung off the satchel that contained his invisibility cloak, a map of Seattle, and the ferry schedule, unbuttoned his coat and shrugged out of it, tossing them and his accompanying scarf onto an uncomfortable-looking chair.
Malfoy snorted. "I cannot imagine you ever really being off duty, Potter. Wine?" The last word was a taunt as Malfoy lifted a bottle.
"Yes, please," Harry said and then frowned when Malfoy's lips twitched. Damn it, he had been in Malfoy's presence for less than five minutes and already he was becoming irritated and falling for manipulative Slytherin techniques.
Malfoy turned away to remove two glasses from a dark cabinet. "Have you eaten?" Malfoy asked casually as he spelled the cork free and then poured two glasses.
"Yes," Harry replied, although that wasn't completely true, either. He had eaten a late lunch and wasn't particularly hungry, but he probably shouldn't sit around drinking alcohol with Draco Malfoy without eating a more substantial meal. Not that he planned to "sit around", either. He intended to ask Malfoy some questions and then catch the ferry back to Bainbridge Island.
"Have a seat, Potter. We might as well be comfortable while we stare at each other suspiciously, yes?"
Harry rolled his eyes, but walked into the soft glow from a tableside lamp and sat down on a cream coloured leather sofa. It was cold to the touch, but warmed quickly. Harry wondered if Malfoy was the same way, and snatched up a magazine from the table to cover the path of his thoughts.
The Herb Companionread the title, just above a photo of a savoury-looking soup that had Harry suddenly feeling hungrier.
"Are you serious about this 'herbalist' thing?" Harry asked.
Malfoy glared as he handed Harry a goblet half-filled with red wine. Before he could reply, a ringtone sounded from across the room. Harry blinked in surprise. Even though Malfoy's business card had listed a telephone number, he had not actually expected him to possess a phone.
"Pardon me," Malfoy said politely and set his glass on the coffee table. He made his way across the room and picked up the black rectangular phone. "Brutus Black," he said. Harry snickered and Malfoy threw him a quelling look over his shoulder. "No, Sylvia, it's no bother. Tomorrow? What time?"
Harry watched as Malfoy walked across the room to the desk and flipped opened the planner Harry had seen him using at the coffee shop. Malfoy turned a few pages. His arse looked exceedingly fine encased in his trousers, and his legs were longer and fitter than Harry remembered. Harry took a gulp of his wine and focussed on the magazine, opening it to a random page.
"Yes, I am available. Of course, it is no problem at all. I look forward to it. You have a pleasant evening, as well, Sylvia. Goodnight." Malfoy's tones were borderline sycophantic until he pressed the button to end the call. "Tomorrow. Damn her, she loves to do this to me. What I wouldn't give to tell her to bugger off." He sighed and scribbled something into the planner with a Muggle ink pen.
"Problem?" Harry asked mildly and took a sip of his wine. His curiosity was near to bursting and for just a moment he wondered if Malfoy had turned into some high-class rentboy and the whole "herbalist" thing was just a façade. Harry took a larger drink of his wine when the thought of paying for a night of sex with Draco Malfoy caused his heart to race and a part of his anatomy stir with interest. Down, boy, Harry thought.
"No," Malfoy replied and turned around. "Yes. Care for a walk, Potter? I have to meet the wretched cow tomorrow morning, at ten bloody a.m., no less, which means I have to go and fetch her favourite treat right now, while the shop is still open. Showing up tomorrow without them will cause my immediate fall from favour and I cannot allow that, not after all the work I've done to get there."
Harry blinked in surprise, realizing it was possibly the most Malfoy had ever said to him in one go. It was a pity that none of it made sense. "A walk? Where to?"
"Not far. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes if we dawdle. I'll buy you a coffee. It's right next to a Muggle coffee shop."
"Isn't everything next to a Muggle coffee shop here?"
Malfoy smiled, which was a very nice look on him, indeed. "You noticed that, did you?"
Harry snorted. It was hard not to when there were at least two coffee shops on every stretch of pavement between streets. "Trained Auror," Harry said in a confidential tone. "I notice things."
Malfoy's smile widened, but he shook his head and turned away to walk towards another door. "Let me fetch my gloves. Be right back."
Harry downed the rest of his wine, coughed at the burn as it went down, and then got up to put his coat back on. Malfoy returned, dressed smartly in a black wool coat with a double row of flat black buttons. A green scarf was draped over his shoulders, missing only a hint of silver to declare his everlasting allegiance to Slytherin house. Malfoy tugged on black leather gloves and gave Harry an unreadable once-over as Harry fastened the buttons on his own coat and slung his satchel over his shoulder.
Malfoy said nothing, however, and merely walked to the door and held it open for Harry. As an apparent afterthought, he let the door swing shut, leaving Harry in the hallway alone. He returned a moment later with the phone in his grasp.
"I wouldn't put it past her to call and cancel," he muttered as he slipped the phone into a pocket of his coat and pulled the door fully shut.
They walked down the hall towards the lift and Harry glanced at him askance. "Doesn't magic interfere with that thing?"
"Dreadfully. I've gone through three of them so far, and that's with taking care not to cast any spells near them. Sometimes I forget and do something wandlessly." Malfoy grimaced. "Muggles can't function without them and I have to admit, I've grown fond of the instant communication. If I need to reach a Muggle, I just push the buttons for their identifying number and speak directly to them. Waiting for owls—or crows—is becoming a bit of a bother."
Harry shook his head in amazement as the doors opened and they stepped into the wood-panelled box. "Using Muggle devices and appreciating them. Who are you and what have you done with Draco Malfoy?"
Malfoy snorted. "I am Brutus Black and Draco Malfoy remains back in England where he belongs."
Harry nodded. "The name doesn't suit you. But the clothes certainly do."
"Why, Potter, if I didn't know better I would swear you are flirting with me."
Harry blushed and fixed his gaze on the rows of numbered buttons. Malfoy pressed L, which Harry tried to recall the meaning for. Lowest level? Lounge?
"What do you mean 'if you didn't know better'?"
"I still receive the Daily Prophet, Potter. I might not be in England, but I keep abreast of the news. I have not seen any recent headlines announcing your breakup with the She-Weasel, nor a single scandalous hint that you might be less than Golden-Boy Straight."
Harry threw him a lingering glance and then said, "It's nice to know the Daily Prophetdoesn't know half as much about me as they think they do." Harry enjoyed Malfoy's off-balance look until the doors opened. He suppressed a chuckle and exited the lift.
Out on the sidewalk, the cold hit Harry like a Bludger; the wind had picked up and made the icy day seem pleasant. The bellman was warmly dressed, but looked fairly miserable. "Good evening, sir," the man said in a friendly manner.
"Isn't it supposed to rain in Seattle?" Harry complained.
"Yes, sir, this is very unusual. We're hoping it will break soon and get back to normal. Enjoy your evening, sir."
"Complaining about a little cold, Potter?" Malfoy asked and wrapped his green scarf twice around his face.
"This is not a little cold," Harry replied. "This is bloody frigid." He yanked his hat from his pocket and pulled it over his head, nearly sighing with relief as the wool covered the vulnerable tips of his ears. "Where are we going?"
"This way. Don't worry, I promise not to let you freeze." Malfoy turned and headed south, crossing the first street and continuing past a large yellowish skyscraper. Many of the buildings in Seattle were architectural marvels. Others, not so much.
The walk warmed him and by the time they reached a small park-like area with a scattering of huge trees wrapped in white lights, Harry was feeling less chilled, except for his face. Every gust of wind felt like it took another layer of skin from his cheeks.
He wanted to ask how much farther, but did not want to seem like a petulant child.
"Nearly there, Potter."
Homeless people huddled on benches at the small park and several people in various types of clothing waited near a sign that announced a bus stop. Malfoy led him past them all to the corner and then said, "Come this way. I want to check on something."
They crossed First Avenue and then crossed another street—James, Harry noted with a pang. A chocolate store on the corner caught his eye and he thought it was Malfoy's destination, but Malfoy veered and headed towards the waterfront. The street here was dark and the area seemed more menacing than the brightly lit region they had just left.
"Where—?" Harry began, but Malfoy suddenly grabbed his lapels and pushed him, not overly harshly, into the stone wall of the nearest building. Due to the lack of aggression in the motion, Harry did not fight back, but only waited to see what Malfoy was up to.
Malfoy leaned close, until his breath mingled with Harry's. For the first time since they left the hotel, Harry felt excessively warm. It seemed astonishing that Malfoy meant to kiss him, unprovoked, and in such a strange locale, but there seemed little other reason for Malfoy's odd behaviour.
"Don't look now," Malfoy said quietly, "but we're being followed. Back on the corner, the bloke in the black trench-coat. He picked us up just after the hotel and now he is lurking over there. The light has changed once already and he's been examining the flyer on that light post long enough to have it memorized twice over."
Harry glanced past Malfoy's shoulder with his peripheral vision and caught sight of a black shape. It was too dark and the man too far away to make out any details, other than the fact that he had long, dark hair, or possibly a scarf draped over his head. Or a hoodie, dammit. How had Harry not noticed him?
Because he had been too focussed on Malfoy's attractive presence, obviously. The moment that idea registered, Malfoy's lips pressed against his. Harry's sharp intake of breath was muted by Malfoy's mouth. Harry's heart was thudding so loudly he would not have been able to hear it, anyway. He wanted to push Malfoy away and demand to know what he was doing; he wanted to pull Malfoy closer and sate the insane need that suddenly seemed to be the most important thing in the world.
"Make it look good," Malfoy murmured against his lips and then pulled Harry roughly around the corner by a firm grip on his coat. Harry stumbled after him, willing his brain to catch up to his libido. An alley opened up before them and Malfoy released his coat and grinned at him.
Harry's intelligence finally kicked in. To onlookers, it would have appeared that he and Malfoy had been overcome with passion and ducked into the alley for some private time. "Thanks," Harry said, more breathlessly than he'd intended. He reached into the satchel and tugged out his invisibility cloak, thanking his stars that he carried it with him at all times.
Harry slung it on, fighting a blush, ready to conceal himself from Malfoy's curious stare. Harry grinned at him. "Be right back," he said and then paused. He leaned forwards and pressed a quick kiss to Malfoy's lips before stepping away and letting the hood drop. Let Malfoy make of that what he would.
Invisible, Harry jogged into the street, eyes searching for the man in the trench coat.