Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
The war might have been over for more than a year, but Harry Potter was still not a happy man.
He wasn't unhappy – that was too strong a word – because he had the job he had always wanted, his two best friends alive and well, and an adorable godson. The wizarding world was finally at peace. But it didn't seem to be enough for him to call himself happy.
Harry was filing the last of his June paperwork when Ron appeared at the entrance of his cubicle.
"Harry, Dobson wants us in his office at midday."
"D'you know why?"
Ron shook his head. "Can you think of anything we've done wrong lately?"
Harry grinned. "Plenty."
If the war had done anything, it had stopped him from exploring all the feelings he might have experienced a lot earlier on. Now, with nothing so important to distract him, all those feelings were flooding to the surface again. The chief one being his disenchantment with a certain redhead.
It wasn't Ginny's fault, he told himself. It was no one's fault. But their kisses just didn't excite him anymore, and one night when he stumbled home from a bar propped up by a blond, muscled young man had been but the first night of many. None of them, however, seemed to last much longer than a night. Being the Chosen One had certain disadvantages when it came to starting a relationship. Ginny had actually tried to help him, but even the dozen blind dates she had sent him on had yielded no success.
He left a little while later for the Head Auror's office. All the cubicles around him had emptied out - it seemed Dobson had called all the junior Aurors to his office. Harry met Ron by the water cooler and they went in together. They were the last ones to arrive, and the Head Auror gestured them to the last two seats impatiently.
"Come on, come on, sit down."
Harry and Ron muttered apologies and took their seats. Dobson scowled around at the ten of them from behind his desk for a moment before he spoke.
"Well, as you all know very well, it's been over a year since the end of the war." He paused and nodded significantly at Harry. "And although trials have been held and sentences passed, the minister feels it prudent to... check up on all those acquitted. Just to make sure no suspicious activities are being committed."
Dobson picked up the ten manila files in front of him and began to pass them around. "Each of you have been assigned individuals to visit. Turn up unexpectedly – just in case there's something they may want to hide. Observe them at their daily routine, where they go, who they see. A lot have left the country and gone abroad – we don't even know exactly where they are, the tracker charms are often unreliable – so be prepared for any conditions. I want you to build up a profile of each and report anything suspicious to me."
Harry accepted the proffered file and opened it. He had drawn three names. Pansy Parkinson, Malcolm Baddock – and Draco Malfoy.
Harry slumped back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair in a mixture of frustration and exasperation. Why did everything always end up back with Malfoy?
"Sir-"he started, but Dobson waved a hand at him and continued on with his monologue.
"As you can see, we've assigned you to individuals rather than family groups – we can't guarantee the whole family will be in the same place. The tracker charms cast on all suspicious individuals after the war will lead you in the right direction, but they could be anywhere within a two mile radius, so it might not be a case of just knocking on the door. Alright, Potter, what is it?"
"Sir, can't I trade Malfoy for someone else?"
Dobson sent him a glare that could have rivalled Snape at his worst. "Potter, you've been assigned to him. No more arguing."
"Potter, I know you've had your differences in the past, but this is your job. Just get on with it!"
'"I know, sir, and I'll happily take anyone else-"
"For Merlin's sake, Potter, I'm not asking you to take him out on a date! Just check up on him, make sure he's not up to anything! It shouldn't take more than a few hours. And do try and act like a professional for once, not a schoolboy."
Ron clapped him on the shoulder. "Bad luck, mate."
Harry avoided the Malfoy part of the assignment for as long as possible. He picked Malcolm Baddock to start with. The boy had claimed to be under the Imperius Curse and therefore not responsible for his actions during Snape's reign at Hogwarts, but it seemed the Wizengamot had not agreed, and had expelled him from the school.
Harry couldn't help pitying the boy. He was only sixteen, Harry guessed. He remembered seeing the boy sorted. But now his wand had been snapped in two, and he had no future in the wizarding world. Harry found him at home, in an empty house, looking pale and wan. He didn't seem to be up to anything doubtful. He just looked sad.
Next, he went to see Pansy Parkinson. She too seemed entirely innocent of any criminal activity, but Harry certainly didn't feel any pity for her. The Portkey had brought him to an large white villa by a white beach, looking out over a turquoise sea. Pansy herself looked tanned and healthy. She even offered him a glass of champagne, which he declined, and spent most of his visit enquiring after the many acquaintances she had left behind in England, as if he was on a social visit.
"Have you seen darling Draco yet?" she asked, her stare rather piercing, and Harry's mind flashed back to the Hogwarts Express, and Draco's blond head in Pansy's lap. The thought made his stomach twist.
"Oh." Pansy was looking at him as though waiting for some telling reaction. He stared back at her expressionlessly, perched uncomfortably on a chaise longue as she reclined gracefully. She maintained silence for a moment. Harry knew she was trying to force him to speak. It worked.
"I was half expecting to see him here." Harry gabbled. "He probably has a villa down the road or something, doesn't he?"
That made Pansy laugh. "He does, actually. But he isn't there." She looked down at the floor. "I don't understand him much anymore."
It wasn't until after Harry left that he thought to ask Pansy what she meant.
The next day, after some prodding from Hermione and an exclamation from Ron – "just get it over with!"- Harry went to visit Draco Malfoy.
He landed outside an old wooden church. It was derelict, he saw straightaway, and whenever it had been deserted must had been a long time ago. The insides had been gutted, the plank walls rotting away. He looked up. There were several tiny onion domes atop the tower. One had fallen over and the cross at the tip of the tower sat askew. The intricate wrought-iron gates were rusty and chipped. One was hanging off its hinges.
He turned away from it quickly. It wasn't just that the building was empty, it was abandoned. If it was possible for a building to look lonely, this one did.
He looked around in consternation, staring beyond the structure. It was hot, the sun was beating down, and Harry was standing on a dusty dirt track in the middle of nowhere. Beyond the church the land stretched away, as empty as a desert, until in the distance his could see a river winding through the grass. On the other side of the road a forest began, all deep dark pine trees.
There were no people in sight. But, to the west, he could just make out what looked like rooftops.
By the time he reached the outskirts of the tiny village he was sweating heavily. He peeled off his Auror robes, but his T shirt still stuck to him uncomfortably. He couldn't tell whether it was the heat or the surroundings that were making him so uncomfortable.
The first few houses were as empty as the church. He could say how long they had been unoccupied, but it was long enough that neglect had started to morph into disrepair. The rest of the village was the same, he discovered after a quick search and a few hastily muttered spells. Just a handful of empty, ramshackle dwellings. He didn't want to think what might have caused all the people to leave. The hairs were already standing up on the back of his neck by being in this ghost town. Clutching his wand tighter, he turned back along the dirt track, back towards the church. He stood there for a minute, puzzling over what to do next.
He could take the Portkey back to London, he supposed, but Malfoy had to be around here somewhere, and if Harry couldn't find him it was more or less proof that he was up to something. The Portkey had been meant to lead him to the man, but he hadn't seen anyone at all since he'd arrived him, and the sun was getting hotter and hotter.
Harry whirled away from the church and saw - Malfoy. He was standing there silently, watching him. Harry hadn't even noticed him approach. Kingsley would be ashamed of him, he thought contritely.
As for Malfoy, he looked – different. Harry couldn't decide if the change was a good one or not. He was even skinnier than he had been at his trial, all lean muscle to the point of gauntness, emphasising his pointed chin further. He was still pale, but not unhealthily so, and Harry was close enough to him to make out the hundreds of light freckles that were now scattered over his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose. They made Harry smile for a reason he couldn't quite work out.
Malfoy didn't look his normal polished self either. His hair, bleached white by the sun, was past his shoulders now, and had clearly not been cut in months. He was wearing Muggle clothes; a dirty white t- shirt that clung to his body so tightly it was almost indecent, and jeans almost worn through at the knees. There were two water filled buckets resting at his feet.
Malfoy hadn't said anything. He was still watching Harry without any expression at all, not even surprise. Harry narrowed his eyes. He wouldn't put anything past Malfoy.
"Been expecting me, Malfoy?"
"Not you in particular, Potter. I just figured the Ministry would be wanting to keep an eye on me, being the deeply suspect person that I am. I'm only surprised you've left me in peace for so long. "
He fell silent again, looking at Harry expectantly. Harry stared back for less than half a minute before he snapped.
"Well, aren't you going to leave now?"
"I only just got here!"
"You came to see if I was doing anything suspicious. And I'm not. I'm getting water. So there's no need for you to be here anymore."
"Like I said, Malfoy, I only just got here. How am I meant to tell what you're up to? I'm to stay for the day – see where you live-"
"-and just generally follow me about, poking your nose in."
It wasn't phrased as a question, but Harry answered anyway. "Yes."
Malfoy stared for a little longer, then shrugged. "Fine, Potter." He gestured down at the two buckets at his feet. "You can carry one of my buckets."
Harry shook his head. "I don't think so, Malfoy. I'm here to observe you, not to act as slave labour. "
He took a little satisfaction from the fleeting scowl on Malfoy's face, happy to know he was able to get through to Malfoy in some way. The expressionless face, the toneless voice he had been greeted with was something he would have never expected from Malfoy. He had seen the man laughing, scowling, incandescent with rage – and, during the war, even terrified. He would rather, he thought, startled, have the old Malfoy back than a new, soulless one.
Malfoy stooped to pick up his buckets and walked off.
"Where are you going?"
"You said you were here to observe, Potter. So come along and observe. I don't spend my days standing out in the sun."
They set off down the dirt track, Malfoy in front, weighed down by his water buckets. Harry was glad of the slow pace; it gave him a chance to look around. He still didn't have a clue where he was in the world, he realised, and thought back to the onion domes on the church roof.
"Where are we, Malfoy?" he called ahead of him, watching Malfoy's slender neck and shoulders drooping with the weight of the buckets. He sped up a little until he was only a step behind the blond.
Harry gritted his teeth. "Funnily enough, Malfoy, I don't know where that is."
He watched the corner of Malfoy's mouth quirk upwards as he heard the impatience in Harry's voice, and it both soothed and irritated him to know that the part of Malfoy that loved nothing more than teasing him still existed.
"A couple hundred miles away from Moscow. In Russia, Potter. Know where Russia is?"
"Yes Malfoy, of course I do."
"Just checking, Potter. I'm sure Chosen Ones have more important thing to worry about than banal things like geography. " he looked over his shoulder and smirked nastily at Harry.
And just like that, Harry was thirteen again, and Malfoy on the other side of the classroom, looking over at Harry, just like he was now. It had been a long time, he realised suddenly, since he had last seen Malfoy. This year had been the longest he had ever gone without seeing Malfoy since he had started Hogwarts. Enemies or not, the blond had been a part of his life for nearly a decade.
He felt a twinge of something in his chest as he thought of that. Nostalgia, he dismissed it as, a longing for his schooldays. Even filled with dangerous encounters, they had been, in a way, simpler and easier than his life now. That was all, he decided. He certainly wouldn't have missed Malfoy.
Before Harry could confuse himself any further, Malfoy turned off the dusty road and into the forest.
"I thought we were going to your house."
Harry followed him, feeling confused. He wasn't about to ask Malfoy where they were going though. The other boy – man, really - didn't need much to make him feel ridiculous. He scowled at Malfoy's back, and pondered for a second if he being led into some sort of trap. He thought about turning back. But, he thought ruefully, he had never been able to resist following Malfoy.
After a minute or so, when the dirt track had just about disappeared behind them, Malfoy led him out into a small clearing, and Harry frowned.
In the centre of the clearing was a small wooden house. It one had one storey, with a steep roof. It too looked half abandoned, a bit like the houses in the village. Overgrown plants were creeping up the walls. Some of the panes of glass were missing, and the roof had been patchily repaired with corrugated iron. The white paint on the walls was cracked and peeling. It could be lovely, Harry thought. But right now it was miserable.
Malfoy set down his water buckets outside the front door and actually looked sheepish for a moment as he too looked at the tiny house, seeing it for a moment as Harry must have done. His face twisted into an ugly, mocking smile.
"Not quite Malfoy Manor, is it?" he said.
Harry shuffled from one foot to the other. This new Malfoy was a strange entity to him, and Harry found himself not wanting to offend the man. He shuffled from one foot to the other.
"Aren't you worried about one of the trees falling on your house?" he asked.
Malfoy shrugged. "It hasn't happened yet." He nudged the unlocked door open and disappeared inside.
Harry made a strange sound in his throat, took a breath and followed him through the door.
Inside, Malfoy was feeding neatly chopped logs into a huge curved stove, heating some of the water.
"I suppose you'll want tea, Potter."
"It would be nice."
The grudging hospitality – and grudging it most definitely was – still made Harry smile. Malfoy seemed to be having that effect on him today. Even if he was as annoying as ever, the urge to punch him was gone. It was probably the damn freckles. He took a seat at the table and looked around.
If the outside had looked strange to Harry, the inside of the cottage looked even more bizarre. Aside from the stove, the small sitting room comprised of a table, four ornate but scratched chairs and an overstuffed armchair that wouldn't have been out of place in the Gryffindor common room if it had not been upholstered in worn black velvet.. In the corner was a small bookcase loaded with leather bound books. The furniture on its own was mismatched, shabby, and rustic. But the wooden walls were obscured behind four huge tapestries, each large enough to cover a whole wall each. The stone floor was practically invisible underneath dozens of thick overlapping rugs that together looked like a huge patchwork blanket. Harry guessed each one of them would pay for the cottage ten times over.
Malfoy handed him a chipped china cup rather ungraciously. "I don't have any sugar, Potter. So like it or lump it."
"Well, without any sugar I can't really lump it, can I, Malfoy."
The bad joke brought a smile to even Malfoy's sour face. "Great joke, Potter. Maybe you should take up comedy, Potter, now the world no longer needs your hero skills. "
Malfoy looked up sharply. "Auror work not up to your expectations?"
Harry shrugged. Apparently it was infectious. "It pays the bills."
He looked around for a change in topic. "Nice decor, Malfoy."He finished lamely.
"My mother sends me things. And I took what I could from the Manor before the Ministry moved in, and brought it here, where they couldn't get at it."
"Oh. I thought the Ministry confiscated your possessions after the war."
Malfoy shot Harry a measuring glance. "We kept control of our foreign assets." He was suddenly defensive. "Are you here to try and take them away too?"
"If it's all as ramshackle as this house, Malfoy, I don't think we'd bother. "
"No, I suppose not. " Malfoy allowed himself a ghost of a smile.
"I went to see your friend Pansy. She said you own a villa near hers."
"Why here then?"
"Why here then what, Potter?"
Now, Harry thought, Malfoy was being deliberately obtuse. "You know what."
"I don't see how it's any of your business, Potter. "
"It's Ministry business. That makes it my business."
"And if I was lying on a tropical beach with a cocktail in hand, would you be questioning that?"
"No, because, I could understand that! But this..."
"I like it here Potter. It's peaceful. No one," he paused and gave Harry a dirty look, "disturbs me."
"They have a house in St. Petersburg. They don't like it here. They say it's too...quiet. "
"Oh." Harry paused for a moment. "So who do you talk to?"
"No one, Potter. That's the point."
"Don't you get lonely?"
"Sometimes. Other times, it's a relief. No expectations, no obligations..."He looked over at Harry with understanding in his eyes, and suddenly there was a sense of friendship and companionship in the room that hadn't been there before. "Surely you understand that, Potter."
Harry smiled, and saw the beginnings of a genuine smile on Malfoy's face. "You know what, Malfoy? I think I do."
Harry managed to restrain himself from asking any more questions while he drank his tea, noticing that Malfoy hadn't made anything for himself. He should really, he thought as his inner Kingsley tapped him on the shoulder again, have checked the drink for any dangerous substances. But his gut instinct told him Malfoy meant no harm. Instead of speaking, he watched Malfoy over the rim of his teacup. The man was staring down at the table, tracing a pattern on the table with one long fingertip. The sight made Harry shiver and he took his eyes away. He didn't remember Malfoy being so attractive.
Eventually though, his damned curiosity got the better of him and he started up again.
"You and your parents seemed so close. Why live so far apart?"
"It was easier this way. There was...too much to say, and no way to say it."
Harry nodded. "I understand. I do."
Harry spent a few more hours with him in companionable silence, content with watching Malfoy at his work, patching the roof, digging up vegetables, fixing the wire mesh around the chicken cage. The blond worked with ruthless speed and efficiency, but his face looked peaceful enough. He looked softer, gentler. Harry approved of the change, even if it was strange to think of Malfoy as attractive – beautiful, even.
He sat and passed up tools to Malfoy as he worked on the roof, and they had passed most of the afternoon pleasantly enough before something occurred to him.
"Why is the village empty, Malfoy? Where are all the people?"
"Gone, Potter. And I didn't kill them all, if that's what you're wondering. Just gone. To the city, to Moscow, to find good work. There's not much opportunity in a place like this."
"I wouldn't have thought you would like that, Malfoy. Aren't Slytherins meant to be opportunistic?"
Malfoy's smile was twisted. "I had opportunities, Potter, and look what I did with them."
When dusk began to approach, Harry knew he had to find the way back to the Portkey. He bade Malfoy farewell, and left with a handkerchief full of the strawberries Malfoy had given him from the garden. They shook hands for the first time, and Harry wondered how different life would have been if he'd taken that hand eight years ago.
"I hope you get the house ready in time for winter, Malfoy."
The man smiled. "You could see for yourself, Potter."
Harry pondered those words all the way back to the Portkey. He wasn't quite sure how Malfoy had intended them.
But he was going to take them as an invitation.
The next time he came, it was snowing. It wasn't like Hogwarts snow though, it seemed somehow harsher, and the cold wind was not crisp but bitter. Inside the cottage though, the stove was warming the little sitting room, and everywhere seemed to be draped in blankets and quilts. The room seemed even smaller than it had last time, but with Draco curled up in the overstuffed armchair from Malfoy Manor it was cosy rather than suffocating.
"Didn't you want to spend the holidays with the Weasleys and Granger?"
Harry had wanted too. But, he had explained to Draco. He didn't think it was possible. "The first Christmas without Fred...I know they see me as family, but I would just feel like an intruder."
Draco nodded understandingly, and Harry felt an inexplicable rush of gratitude towards him. Draco, he realised. When had he stopped being Malfoy and become Draco?
Harry stayed the night, watching the snow fall thickly, listening to Draco's breathing, still slumped in his armchair.
The next morning, Draco bid him farewell with a kiss on the cheek, and as he tramped through knee-high snow back to the Portkey, Harry felt like he was on fire.
The third time he came, it was early spring and the snow was melting. Harry hammered on the door, and Draco opened it with his blond hair falling in his eyes and the edge of his t shirt riding up. Without a word, Harry gathered him close, covered Draco's mouth with his own and carried him through to the tiny bedroom.
They landed haphazardly on the single bed, Harry feeling needy and urgent and more alive than he had in months. He twisted them round so that Draco was lying on his back, with Harry above him. His breathing was quick and eager, and though some mutual understanding Harry knew they had been leading up to this moment for years. Draco's long blond hair was spread out behind him on the pillow, but the grey eyes Harry had imagined for months now as half lidded and seductive during sex were wide and a little...nervous.
"You have done this before, haven't you, Draco?" He still felt a thrill run through him as he spoke Draco's first name.
Draco blushed, the pink tinge hiding all the freckles on his cheekbones. "I was in the middle of a war, and then I was here, Potter. There wasn't really any good time for it."
"You called me Potter. I want you to call me Harry."
"Oh." Draco flicked his gaze upwards to stare at Harry's scar, and then drifted back down to Harry's lips. He reached up and traced them with a long finger. "Old habits die hard, I guess. Alright then, Harry."
"Alright then what?"
"Do it. I want you."
Harry felt an answering surge of lust that matched the desire in Draco's voice, and he stirred, settling more comfortably on top of Draco, his hardening cock pressing into Draco's groin, feeling a matching hardness. Draco pulled Harry's head down to him and crushed their lips together, and suddenly it all felt completely natural to Harry.
It didn't take them long, despite numerous layers and fumbling fingers, to discard their clothes by the side of the bed and for Harry to press back against Draco, except it was so much better now there was nothing between them.
They stayed like that for long moments, Harry's hands either side of Draco's face, Draco's hands clasping Harry's shoulders and pulling him in closer, skating over the smooth muscles there. Then Harry slipped off Draco to lie by his side, their mouths still connected, Harry's hand straightaway finding its way in between Draco's parted legs and stroking the soft skin behind his hard cock.
Harry could practically feel the nervousness pulsing through Draco as he stroked the delicate pucker, moving the pad of his thumb over Draco's hole in gentle spirals. He'd bought lubricant with him, and used it now with fingers that were unsteady with desire. He leant back, and was watching the blond closely, working to loosen him while teasing Draco's tightening sac. He could feel Draco relax slightly, and he replaced the thumb with a finger, and slipping it past the ring of muscle into Draco's passage.
He stilled when Draco gasped, but when he met the blond's eyes they were greedy, and when Harry pressed his fingers against his prostate he moaned, his hips tilting upwards. Harry couldn't stop his grin and leant back up, covering Draco's mouth with his own, adding another finger and slipping deeper inside, brushing his prostate. His fingers dug into Harry's back, urging him on.
Harry resettled himself on top of Draco, guiding his legs further apart, positioning the head of his straining cock at Draco's entrance, rubbing the tip of it in little circles, feeling a heady rush of lust as Draco lifted his legs and pulling him in closer until his heels pressed against Harry's back.
Harry was tenderly touching his face, but it was his green eyes that kept Draco aroused as the tip of Harry's cock breached him and slid inside slowly. Harry watched him grit his teeth as he pressed in, and he knew the man was in some pain. He was so, so tight. Harry could see him gripping the sheet until his knuckles were white and he gripped Draco's hand, and squeezed it hard. Draco grasped onto him like he was drowning.
"You're amazing," he whispered in Draco's ear. "I mean it."
Harry inched his way in slowly until he was fully sheathed inside, keeping still for as long as he could while Draco adjusted, their bodies fitting together perfectly. Draco shifted under him, and Harry couldn't resist thrusting into him. Draco caught his breath, but there was no pain in it now, and Harry could hardly breathe with pleasure. Draco was hot and slick and wet, and soon he was moving in time with Harry, gripping his arms as Harry rubbed against his prostate with each thrust, setting off sparks in him each time.
The constant clenching of his muscles around Harry's painfully aroused cock was too much. He sped up his movements, and in moments he felt the sensations running through him intensify, and quickly grasped Draco's cock. Seconds later, Draco clenched around him harder than he had all night, and suddenly Harry was spilling himself inside Draco, and Draco was gasping and coming just as hard.
They stayed there for long moments, Draco's hand resting in Harry's messy hair while Harry's fingers stroked his side.
"Come back with me." Harry said impulsively, and saw Draco smile, and shift away from him slightly until Harry's softening cock slipped out of him.
"I can't. Not yet."
"You can't mean to stay in this shack forever."
Draco slapped him lightly on the shoulder. "Don't be rude about my house, Harry. And anyway, it's called a dacha."
"The house. In Russian, it's called a dacha. My parents live in our big house, this one is a summer home, a place to get away from the city... an escape."
Harry sighed. "You can't run forever, Draco."
"I know, Harry. I'll come back if you'll be there. But not yet."
Draco pulled Harry's lips back over his. "Soon."