2005 - 7th February

The false door creaked open with a cloud of dust. Grit washed over them and Harry exhaled sharply with a crinkle of his nose. Most of the dirt cloud had dissipated by the time he drew another breath, but he still tasted it when he spoke.

"All right. Stick together now. And remember, don't touch anything until Malfoy has a go at it."

A shoulder bumped into Harry's and warm breath wafted against his ear for a moment as a seductive voice murmured, "Does that include you?"

Harry gave Draco a jab in the ribs, but he smiled when Draco's warmth moved away. His soft chuckle remained. "Arse," Harry muttered.

Millie snickered behind him, overhearing the exchange. Harry was about to speak, but a loud crack that issued from Draco's wand had him focusing ahead as he drew.

"Lethifold!" Draco leaped back, nearly knocking Harry down. He bumped Harry's wand arm, sending the Stupify blasting into the ceiling. Millicent was luckier. Her arm clapped down between Harry and Draco; a silver image streaked from her wand and into the black depths of the creature. It let out a horrible, mewling shriek and seemed to crumple into itself before flopping to the floor in a motionless heap, looking like nothing more than a discarded cloak. Draco stepped forward and kicked at it gingerly.

"Patronus, Potter. Merlin." Millie's tone was amused. Bloody Slytherins never tired of showing off. She was a good Auror, though, so Harry put up with it.

"I know!" he protested, except that he hadn't. Hermione would have his head for not remembering how to stop a Lethifold, as would Harry's boss, but it was difficult to recall how to stop creatures he only encountered once in a blue moon. And he didn't think he'd ever seen a Lethifold. "Ernie, contain that thing, will you?"

Draco was already moving on, wand brightly lit and held high. The presence of the Lethifold indicated they were on the right track, and also that worse things could lie ahead. Harry followed, alert for any sound or movement ahead, hyper-aware of Draco and every subtle nuance in his posture.

They crowded into a small, circular room filled with nothing but a dust-covered desk and a rickety-looking chair.

"False door?" Harry murmured.

"Maybe. Just give me a minute."

Harry waved the others back. If everything went pear-shaped they didn't need to be in the same tiny space. Millie and Ernie retreated a few paces, but their wands were up and ready. Draco turned a slow circle in the centre of the room, muttering incantations. A trickle of dirt was the only warning Harry had. He leaped forward and slammed into Draco, forcing him to the other side of the room just as the ceiling collapsed in a shower of dirt, wood, and stone.

Harry struggled to breathe and cast a hasty Air-freshening Charm that dissipated much of the floating debris that surrounded them. On the other side of the room, he heard Millie cursing and Ernie coughing.

"False ceiling," Draco offered. His voice was a deep rasp against Harry's cheek; they were pressed together like lovers. Harry pushed away, fighting an inconvenient blush, and batted at the dirt on his Auror robes with a wry grin.

"You're welcome," Harry said.

Draco's lips twitched, but he only gestured at the hole revealed where the ceiling had been. "Shall we go up?"

"After you."

2003 - 13th May

"We don't need Curse-Breakers! We can handle this!" Harry protested. He winced when his voice sounded strident even to his own ears. He would never win an argument if he sounded like a whinging teenager.

Head Auror Klaus gave him a stern glare. "I am certain you believe you can, Auror Potter, and I appreciate that you took out You-Know-Who whilst still wet behind the ears, however, I have a bit more experience with actual Auror work. I am also Head Auror here, so if you don't mind I will be the one to decide whether or not this situation merits outside agencies or not."

Harry flushed at the sound of a titter from across the room. Many of the other Aurors loved it when Harry was chastised or ridiculed. He should have kept his mouth closed.

Head Auror Klaus wasn't finished. "And with that said, the Department of Mysteries is not exactly an outside agency, being part of the Ministry, after all. In the spirit of interdepartmental cooperation, we will henceforth work with Curse-Breakers whenever the situation warrants. Are there any questions?"

Several sets of eyes went to Harry, including Ron's, but Harry only shook his head.

"Excellent. And since you are so eager to speak up, Auror Potter, I believe you can be the first to embark on a recon mission with one of our Curse-Breakers. I will expect the utmost cooperation and a full report when you return."

"Yes, sir."

"And I believe you already know your assignee." The door opened at the back of the room and Harry was suddenly terrified to turn around. Ron groaned. Harry closed his eyes as Head Auror Klaus's voice became a death knell. "Curse-Breaker Malfoy."

Harry wondered why he had ever wanted to be an Auror.

2005 - 8th February

Harry brushed Floo powder from his sleeve as he stepped from the fire. He was certain there had to be a better way to travel, but he was too tired to Apparate and his flat was too far from the Ministry to fly without a fuckton of charms draped around his broom.

He stopped moving when a sound from the kitchen drew his attention. As he headed in that direction, he unbuttoned his robes. He was not surprised to find Draco shaking a skillet and tossing greenery into the sizzling pan.

"What are you doing here?"

"Making dinner. I was hungry."

"Don't you have your own flat?"

"Your cooker is better than mine. Why? Do you want me to leave? Got a date?" Draco glanced at Harry over his shoulder and raised one pale brow.

Harry snorted. "Yeah. They are beating down the doors to go out with me."

Draco poured a cup of liquid into the skillet and a cloud of steam rose into the air with a muted sizzle. Probably some sort of wine. "They would if you weren't such a git."

"If I… Wait, that's almost a backhanded compliment! Of sorts."

"A stupid, egocentric git. Did you finish your reports?"

Harry finished unbuttoning his robes and flung them over a chair. "Yeah. Took me all bloody day. You didn't return my owl."

"You asked a ridiculous question."

"Asking whether the ceiling collapse was a structural defect or a triggered hex is not a ridiculous question!"

"Of course it was a triggered hex. How could you not have noticed the blue tint near the walls after it came down?"

"Possibly because I was busy saving your arse?"

"Or you are abysmally unobservant. Get the plates. And the butter. I brought fresh bread."

Harry shook his head and squelched his annoyance. If he fought with Draco, the prat might take his food and leave. Harry was hungry. And Draco was a damn fine cook.

Harry fetched the plates.

2003 - 13th May

Malfoy's disgust was so palpable that Harry felt it might evolve into a Dark creature and lunge at him. He smiled widely at the thought, giving in to a brief fantasy of having a reason to hex Malfoy to bits.

"Yes," Harry replied, "we have to go down there. I hope you're good at Cleaning Charms, because it's a nasty ride." With that, he hopped into the pipe that led to the Chamber of Secrets below Hogwarts and started the long slide downwards. At the bottom he hastily climbed out of the tube exit and began to clean off the muck.

Malfoy popped out of the pipe end, staggered to his knees, and hauled himself up again. He made non-stop hissing sounds and cast spell after spell. "That was disgusting! Vile! And the smell!" His nose wrinkled.

Harry pulled a clump of spider web from his hair and rubbed his fingers on his robes to discard it. He was still filthy, but a bath after would take care of that, and he would send his Auror robes out for cleaning. Malfoy seemed determined to return to his usual pristine glory before taking another step.

"Keep talking. Maybe whatever is down here will come to us."

That earned Harry a glare from Malfoy, but the git shut up and he stopped with the Cleaning Charms. Harry gestured down the dark corridor with his wand.

"Shouldn't you go first? You're the Curse-Breaker, after all. Go find some curses to break."

Malfoy snarled, but went. Harry thought he heard the words "I'll find something to break…" but he didn't comment. He secretly hoped something would leap out of the shadows and eat Malfoy.

"What do they suppose is down here, anyway?" Malfoy asked after long moments of silence. Their trudging footsteps had grown slower and more cautious as they neared the Chamber itself.

"They don't know. McGonagall says she's too old to go tromping around in dank caves and the Defence professor is more into magical theory than practical application. All they know is that something came through the pipe one night and sent Moaning Myrtle into hysterics. She said it was a monster. Apparently her shrieking sent it scuttling back down here. Can't blame the poor creature for that."

The door with two serpents stood open and Harry was glad for that. He'd spoken enough Parseltongue to last him a lifetime. Draco stared around as they entered, possibly awed, at the chamber, pillars, and enormous statue. Harry tried not to let memories overwhelm him as he stared at the huge carving, but his arm ached and he couldn't help but picture Ginny's small, crumpled form, and hear Tom Riddle's mocking voice-

"Look out, Potter!"

Harry turned, ducking instinctively, and a coruscating light shot from Malfoy's wand to slam into the dark shape that grazed Harry's shoulder. Harry kept going, dropping and rolling, his wand lifting and levelling…

The creature twitched some feet away, flopping weakly and looking like a large glop of melted Muggle tyres. "What the hell is it?" Harry asked.

"I've never seen anything like it," Malfoy replied, walking closer and standing next to Harry. The thing was approximately six feet long, snakelike, and bigger around than Harry's thigh. It almost looked like…

"It looks like a mutated basilisk."

"Whatever. Put it in a box and ship it to the Ministry. We're done here."

2005 - 9th February

After Harry's fifth shout, Draco's head appeared in the flames. His hair stuck out in tufts on the left side and he looked… kind of cute, although Harry would never admit that even under Veritaserum.

"Potter! What the fuck is the meaning of waking me at this hour?"

"It's not that early and you've got to work today, same as me. I wanted to know what this box is in my living room."

"You couldn't open it and find out?"

"It's more fun to wake you up."

"I hate you so much." Draco yawned and dragged a hand through his hair; it stuck out even worse. Harry suppressed a snigger. "Weasley brought the box over last night before you got home. Said they found it in the attic and thought you might want it."

Harry glanced at the box and frowned. He had given Grimmauld Place to Ron and Hermione as a wedding gift, having no intention of ever living in the house again. He hadn't thought it much of a gift, honestly, but his friends had seemed pleased to have a place of their own, even a creepy old house with filthy rooms and a screaming, angry portrait in the front hall. After several years, they had nearly finished cleaning and remodelling. The old place looked pretty nice now.

"Do you want to come over for breakfast?"

Draco snorted. "I begin to see why you woke me. Is this a pathetic attempt to score some crepes?"

"Certainly not. But… now that you mention it…"

Draco relented. "I'll be over after I shower. Everything had better be ready. Flour, eggs, butter, and fresh lemons. Not that bottled juice you like, but real lemons."

"Yeah, yeah. Fine, you bloody gourmet."

Draco broke the connection and Harry ran to set out the ingredients. His mouth was already watering.

2003 - 19th June

Malfoy walked so close to Harry that he nearly trod on Harry's heels with every step. Harry would have been amused, but the forest was creepy and dark and some of Malfoy's trepidation seemed to be rubbing off. Ernie MacMillan accompanied them. His footsteps, trailing behind Malfoy's, were oddly comforting.

"What was Gibbons doing this far out in the forest, anyway?" Ernie asked. His voice was hushed, barely audible.

"Professor Sprout said a group of Seventh-years were out looking for moonflower blossoms. Gibbons wandered off on his own; apparently he is a bit of an egocentric arse."

"Slytherin?" Ernie asked and earned a scoffing sound from Malfoy.


Malfoy halted with a gasp and Harry stopped. The terrain looked strangely familiar and then Harry knew why. He took another step. Through the trees, a macabre sight became visible. "Oh god, is that…?"

"What is it?" Ernie asked, moving closer.

Harry swallowed. "A unicorn skeleton." The same unicorn Voldemort had killed in order to drink its blood. Harry remembered entering the forest with Draco during their first year. He remembered the burning pain in his skull, and Voldemort's horrible, red eyes, and the silver gleam of the unicorn's blood. He remembered Malfoy fleeing in fear. Harry glanced at him; their eyes met and held for a moment and then Harry looked away.

He stepped forward, but Malfoy's fingers caught his arm and dug in, hard enough to hurt. "Don't. It's cursed. Look at it."

A circle had been built around the unicorn's body, a low wall of stones and twigs, entwined with flowers and vines. Harry felt it, then, a magical barrier, almost like the low thrum of wards. Centaur magic.

Malfoy walked around Harry and he resisted the urge to reach out and drag Malfoy back. Hadn't he just said it was cursed? And the Seventh-year student, Gibbons, was in St Mungo's, suffering from nightmarish visions and cold sweats that didn't seem to diminish despite a variety of potions being poured down his throat.

"The circle extends well into the forest," Malfoy said. "We're already caught by it."

"You mean we're cursed?"

Malfoy snorted. "We would already be screaming if it was going to affect us negatively. We all passed the test. Congratulations, MacMillan. You have a conscience. The Chosen One, of course, was never in any danger."

"What are you talking about?" Harry had only worked with Malfoy once more since the Chamber of Secrets incident, but his smug condescension was becoming a trademark.

"This isn't Dark magic. It's centaur magic." Malfoy's wand indicated the shrine. "They set this up as a tribute to the unicorn. Anyone that can't feel pity for the creature will suffer the curse. Good news for Gibbons-it's only temporary. The bad news is that the bastard is pretty soulless. He obviously saw this and felt nothing."

"He'll probably become the next head of the Auror Department," Ernie said dryly.

That struck Harry as funny and he laughed, thinking of Auror Klaus and his distinct lack of humour. After a moment, Malfoy joined in, and then Ernie. Soon the three of them were giggling uncontrollably.

"Can you dismantle the curse?" Harry asked, wiping tears from his eyes.

"Best not. We don't want to annoy the centaurs. We can put up warning signs to ward off any other hapless students that might wander this way."

"All right." As Harry helped fashion the signs, he realised that Malfoy had also been safe from the curse. It shouldn't have been a revelation, but it felt like one.

2005 - 9th February

Draco's crepes were delicious, as always, and Harry reflected that he should probably stop having him over so frequently or he would start to get fat.

He heard Draco rummaging in his bedroom as he knelt in front of the box and tugged it open. "What are you doing in there?" Harry called.

"Looking for some socks."

Draco had come through the Floo barefoot, his hair still wet from the shower and slicked back on his head. It was almost gold when wet and it always surprised Harry by drying to such a pale, near-white colour.

"Don't you have socks?" Harry frowned when the contents of the box met his gaze. Bloody hell, he hadn't seen this stuff in years, had barely thought about any of it.

"The cleaners don't deliver until tomorrow and I haven't got round to buying any new ones- Hey! These are my socks!"

"How can you tell?" Harry pulled out Hufflepuff's cup, regarded it with a grimace, and placed it next to the box. It was crumpled and black, an ugly souvenir.

"The Malfoy crest embroidered on is a clue."

Harry chuckled half-heartedly as he placed a curved basilisk fang next to the cup. He unwrapped a bundle of black velvet to reveal Marvolo Gaunt's ring, and shuddered as he remembered Dumbledore's blackened, cursed hand.

Draco returned from the bedroom, holding the socks. He stopped short when he saw the contents of the box. "Are those what I think they are?"

"Yeah. Not sure why I saved them, except I wasn't sure what else to do with them."

Draco wrinkled his nose and sat on a nearby chair to pull on his socks. "Bury them in a very deep hole?"

"Might be a good idea." The next item was a long, narrow wooden box. Harry opened it slowly.

"That's my wand! Give it back!"

Harry closed the box with a snap and placed it firmly on the floor. "You are never getting that back." The hawthorn wand was linked too closely to the Elder Wand and all of the bizarre lore surrounding it. Harry would never chance anyone getting their hands on it, not even Draco. He probably should bury the entire box in a very deep hole. "Besides, your new wand is working fine."

Draco pouted. "That is beside the point."

"There is no point. There is only…" Harry trailed off when a section of deep blue cloth revealed another item. The chain spilled out of the fabric with a metallic rustle. As he lifted the broken locket by the chain, a deep sense of foreboding took up residence in his chest. "Shit. I think I know what we need to do."

2003 - 14th September

"Stop. Moving!" Malfoy's voice was a rough hiss.

"I'm trying!" Harry protested. Despite his words, a chuckle escaped, sending a rumble through his chest. It wasn't funny, really, except it sort of was. "Your hair is tickling my nose."

They were plastered awkwardly together. Malfoy's head was on Harry's chest and he was sandwiched between Harry's legs. Harry couldn't move his right arm at all and his left could only pat Malfoy's left shoulder blade, if he'd been stupid enough to attempt such a move.

The Devil's Snare had caught them both unawares, probably because they'd been busy arguing when they'd walked through the abandoned greenhouse. Malfoy had dispelled the curse on the farmer's rhododendrons, and they hadn't expected anything else to attack them.

"Can you reach your wand?" Harry asked, trying not to think about their proximity.

"What do you think, imbecile? Since it's trapped in my robes and probably pressing into your ribcage at this moment."

"That explains that particular pain. Can you reach my wand?"

"Where is it?"

"In my back pocket. Right side."

"Of course it is. That is the stupidest place ever to keep your wand. How does it not fall out each time you move? And why do you insist on wearing those ridiculous Muggle jeans? Where are your Auror robes?"

"I was off-duty until summoned by His Holiness, Klaus. Besides, you know jeans make my arse look hot." Harry chuckled again and then winced when the tentacles surrounding them tightened. "Sorry."

"I hate you. Now hold still. I'm going to try for your wand."

Harry tried not to breathe, and concentrated on the scent of Malfoy's hair, which was, he had to admit, rather relaxing. It smelled nice. Minty, but with a hint of something not-quite floral. Harry strove to identify it, but his thoughts went off-course when he felt Malfoy's hand touch his arse. It began to move upwards, questing for his wand, moving with agonising slowness.


"Shut up, Potter."

The more Harry tried not to think about Malfoy smashed against him, and tried to ignore the hand sliding over his arse, the more he couldn't help thinking about it. The fact that Harry preferred blokes had been accepted quite some time ago, precipitating his breakup with Ginny and subsequent lack of anything afterwards resembling a relationship. Added to the mix was the tiny detail of Harry not having wanked in at least a few days and the realisation that Malfoy was, as a matter of fact, very fit, despite his utter gitness…

Malfoy's hand reached Harry's wand while Harry desperately fought images of them being strangled to death because of Harry's inconvenient erection-he giggled again, picturing Malfoy's reaction to that, and Malfoy cursed roundly before brilliant light surrounded them and the plant let them go.

Just in time. Harry collapsed on the wooden floor and laughed for ten minutes, thanking Merlin that his partially-hard cock hadn't been noticed by Malfoy. It couldn't have been, or Malfoy would never have let it slide. A Stinging Hex cut through Harry's relieved amusement.

"Hey! Give me back my wand! And cut that out."

"Then stop laughing, you idiot, and let's get out of here. I need a drink after that traumatising experience."

"Yeah, all right. Me, too. I'll buy."

Malfoy hesitated. It was the first time Harry had suggested anything as cordial as a drink. "Fine."

Harry considered it a victory. And he vowed never to think of Malfoy as fit ever again.

2005 - 13th February

"Any questions?" Harry asked.

Millicent raised her hand. "I say we go in and destroy them all. Incendio ought to do it. Shouldn't be that hard."

Katie Bell made a sound of disgust. "There are hundreds, Millie. Didn't you hear? They'll overrun us and then what? We need a plan."

Millie gave her a belligerent look. "That is my plan."

"Well, it's a stupid plan."

"Don't start bickering," Harry said sharply. "We need to hear all opinions so that we can formulate this. We've never been able to locate the source of the magical anomalies that keep cropping up all over the place, although the Unspeakables have theorized there is a single source. I know some people think tracing it back to Voldemort is a waste of time…" Harry gave Draco a pointed look, "But I still think it's a viable option. And regardless, the cave is dangerous. Muggles could stumble on it at any time." The latter was stretching it, due to the difficulty of accessing the chamber, but stranger things had happened. What if an earthquake or something caused the place to shift or break open?

Draco shrugged. They had already discussed it at length, and Draco was on board, as was Draco's strange apprentice Curse-Breaker, a silent, slender man named Spider. He seldom spoke and reminded Harry of Snape, although he couldn't pinpoint why. Possibly the lank, black hair and sallow complexion. And possibly his aura of precise competence-the man was lightning fast with a wand.

"I say we go have a look," Ernie said. "I like Millie's idea, but Katie has a point. Maybe we can come up with some other options." Ernie was a master at agreeing with everyone and Harry appreciated his ability to defuse the tension in almost any situation.

The others agreed with Ernie's assessment, as expected. Harry nodded pointed at the map on the wall with his wand. "Okay, here is where we need to go…"

2003 - 7th November

Harry Apparated them straight into the bathroom. Malfoy was a dead-weight in his arms and Harry allowed him to drop to the floor in a limp heap. He used a Severing Spell on Malfoy's robes, not bothering with the buttons. Pinkish goo dripped from Malfoy's chin and Harry tried to keep it from touching his skin as he removed Malfoy's robes. His fingers and part of his chin were already numb from the small amount that had rubbed on him during transit.

He tried not to think as he clinically divested Malfoy of everything and then wrestled his nude body into the shower. It was immensely difficult to prop up Malfoy with one hand-keeping him upright by basically draping Malfoy over his body-and scrub at the jelly-like goo with the other.

Harry started with Malfoy's hair, running his fingers through the soft strands until they were clean. He had to pause once and cast a Sleep-Banishing Charm on himself to counter the soporific effects of the stuff; Harry had nearly as much on him now as Malfoy, though diluted, and Malfoy had taken a face-full.

Harry lowered Malfoy to the floor of the shower and worked lather onto the skin of his torso. As his hands reached Malfoy's navel and then moved lower, Harry hoped fervently that he wouldn't wake up.

Malfoy's pubic curls were even darker than his wet hair, and felt nearly as soft beneath Harry's fingers. His cock was quite nice, of decent size with a smooth foreskin.

"Not fondling, just scrubbing," Harry murmured as though apologizing for taking liberties that would never be granted were Malfoy awake.

He shut off the water when all traces of the pink substance were gone. He removed his own sodden clothing before wrapping Malfoy in a towel and half-dragging him to the bedroom. He dropped Malfoy onto the bed and covered him with the blankets, thankful that he hadn't bothered to make his bed that morning. Malfoy's wet hair darkened the bronze colour of Harry's pillowcase. Harry looked down at him for a few moments more before he returned to the bathroom to clean up his wet clothing and set the place to rights.

Three hours later, Harry was debating taking Malfoy to St Mungo's. What if he had been wrong about the substance and it was more dangerous than he'd thought? He returned to the bedroom again and brightened the bedside lamp. It was late, and the pounding rain outside made the room seem even darker. To his relief, Malfoy stirred.

"What… happened?"

"You missed a curse. Chondrodendron pod blew up on you. Modified, probably, considering how long you've been out."

Malfoy sat up and made a face, and then his eyes widened and he clutched the bedclothes. "How long was that? And where… are my clothes?"

"I'm afraid I destroyed your robes getting them off. You can borrow some of my stuff, if you'd like. You've been unconscious for a few hours. I made some food, if you're hungry." Harry gestured to a pair of trousers and a soft jumper and shirt he'd placed on a nearby chair. "Or you can go home, if you prefer. I'll be in the kitchen."

Harry reheated the mushroom risotto and sliced some bread, in case Malfoy decided to stay. After a few minutes, he appeared in the doorway. "Um… thanks," he said.

Harry lifted a brow, but decided that snide comments would be out of place, all things considered. "You're welcome." He waved Malfoy into a chair at the small kitchen table and placed the food before him. "Would you like a drink?"

"Hell yes."

Harry poured a couple of Firewhiskeys and then sat down across from Malfoy.

"That's a really nice cooker you have there," Malfoy said.

Harry smiled.

2005 - 14th February

Harry and his team stood, shivering, in the cavern. The seawater had been freezing cold; ice was crusted on the rock walls and cut at their clothing when they'd climbed out of the sea. It was a tight fit in the narrow space, but each of them stood close to one another and cast Warming and Drying Charms to keep from shivering apart.

"That was unpleasant." Ernie rubbed his hands and stamped his feet.

"It gets more unpleasant ahead," Harry replied. He led the way to the concealed doorway and stopped, not looking forward to what came next. Even though Voldemort was dead, many of his enchantments still held strong. He pulled out a small knife.

"What are you doing?" Draco's tone was sharp.

"Opening the door." Harry flashed the blade against his wrist, wincing when the salty air hit the cut, causing it to sting almost immediately. He touched his wrist to the stone and the door swung open.

"Salazar," Draco growled and moved forward to grab Harry's wrist before he could enter the chamber. He touched his wand to the gash and Harry watched as it healed. Draco's fingers gently wiped away the blood.

"Thanks," Harry whispered. He hung back, not quite ready to enter the place now that the moment had come. It had seemed a simple thing when discussed in warm rooms, far from cold rock and colder memories, pleasantly distant from dark spots on the wall that could have been Albus Dumbledore's blood.

Harry took a deep, shaking breath and forced his feet to shuffle, one before the other. He moved into the chamber, following the narrow path that circled the lake. The greenish glow that had marked the location of the island earlier was gone, the enchantment broken when Dumbledore had lifted the false locket from the basin.

Unexpectedly, Harry began to shake. Memories clawed at him, surrounded him, and closed around his throat. He staggered back against the wall, gasping for air.


Draco's hands gripped him, but Harry barely felt them. He saw Dumbledore drinking the green liquid, clutching the basin, begging Harry to make it stop.

"Potter! Breathe. Breathe!"

Draco was warm and solid, enveloping Harry in a fierce embrace. Harry struggled to obey, to pull air into his aching lungs. Darkness licked at his vision. Dumbledore screaming, the crystal goblet, dark water, bodies crawling from the murk…

Lips suddenly covered his and Harry's eyes snapped open. For a moment he thought Draco was kissing him, but then air was forced into his lungs in a rush. Draco pulled away as Harry exhaled, and then he sucked in a huge, gasping breath on his own. He stared into Draco's eyes, colourless in the dim light from their wands.

"Oh god, what the hell was that?" Harry noticed he was shaking, and that Draco still held him tightly. What must the others think? That Harry was falling apart? "I'm okay. I'm okay!"

"No, you are not okay. You were sixteen years old, Potter, and forced to go through things no child should have had to endure. I doubt you ever really came to grips with some of it. Now, take a moment, breathe, and try to remember that it's in the past. Focus on right now."

Harry nodded, already feeling steadier. The choking sensation had passed and he concentrated on Draco's hands, relying on his strength and his familiar, comforting presence. "Thanks," he said again. "What would I do without you?"

"You'd be dead six times over."

Harry gave him a ghost of a smile. "Yeah."

"Now. Let's figure this thing out."

Draco moved a short distance away and they looked out over the dark expanse of the lake.

2004 - 10th January

"And then his cheeks swelled up like a chipmunk's and this enormous voice issued forth-nearly knocked us all down, it did. George thinks it might make Stentorus Charms unnecessary, except that the flavour is just awful. If he can-" Ron's voice halted and his eyes nearly popped from his sockets when Malfoy strolled into the room and continued on into the kitchen. He was clad only in a red towel and water droplets sparkled on his pale skin.

"Oh, knock it off, Weasley. My bathroom is being remodelled. Potter, do you still have that piss-poor weak ale? I need it to rinse my hair."

"Left hand cupboard, Malfoy," Harry replied. "At the back."

"Got it."

Ron shut his mouth, but he glared when Malfoy returned, bottle in hand.

"Hey, Weasley." Malfoy peeled the towel away from his hips and flashed Ron, giving his flaccid penis a jaunty wiggle. Ron shrieked and clapped a hand over his eyes.

Harry fell off the sofa, laughing uproariously.

"You are a complete arse, Malfoy!" Ron shouted.

"Homophobe!" Malfoy retorted and then the bathroom door shut behind him.

Harry laughed until tears ran down his face.

"You are both mental," Ron said. Harry agreed, but he secretly wanted to hug Ron for giving him wank material for a month. The vision of a nude, wet Malfoy… Well, Harry pretty much wanked to that every night, anyway.

"Never mind that. You were saying…?"

2005 - 14th February

They decided to lure the Inferi back to the doorway and pick them off one by one as they tried to shamble through. Ernie had suggested they drain the lake, but the fact that it was likely connected to an underground river or stream discouraged the idea. Funnelling the water out of the chamber into the ocean would probably only cause it to refill from another location. They didn't bother to test the theory, but all agreed that it seemed likely.

Once positioned, and with the bloodthirsty door blocked open, Harry put a hand in the water. White, rotting bodies lurched up out of the water and followed as he backed away. Cries of "Incendio!" echoed from the stone walls and several Inferi burst into flame. Others fled, escaping back into the water to avoid the light and heat.

"Five down, who knows how many more to go," Millie said.

"Six," Ernie corrected as a burning Inferius toppled into the water. A cloud of steam rose where the burning body disappeared.

"This is disgusting." Katie shuddered.

"Yeah." Harry walked back to the water's edge to repeat the process. And so it went.

2004 - 31st January

Harry left Quality Quidditch Supplies with the latest Quidditch Quarterly gripped in his hands. He tucked it into a pocket for later reading and looked wistfully at the newest Firebolt through the window. Even though he could afford a new broom, he couldn't justify the cost when he barely had time to fly.

He shook his head and turned away, and then started when he saw a familiar-looking figure. A hooded cloak had been pulled low over the man's face, but Harry would recognize his walk anywhere. Harry trotted across the street and fell into pace next to him.

"Hey, Malfoy."

"Go away, Potter."

"Why? I'm only saying hello."

Malfoy stopped and lifted his head to fix a pointed stare upon him. His gaze was frigid. Someone nearby gasped.

"Don't look at me like that, you arsehole," Harry said, unable to fathom Malfoy's hostility. They had been getting on swimmingly. Malfoy waltzed in and out of Harry's flat like he owned the place and even Ron had stopped commenting on his presence.

"Arse, indeed. Bloody Death Eater scum!"

Harry turned his perplexed stare to the speaker, an elderly witch who was glaring at Malfoy the way one would stare at a cockroach. Malfoy met her glower, but he pulled the hood more closely over his head to cover errant blond strands.

"Excuse me?" Harry asked her, still dumbfounded.

"Leave it, Potter."

"Be off with you, evil wretch!" the old woman cried and then pulled out her wand. She pointed it in Malfoy's direction. "How dare you even speak to Auror Potter? You should be down on your knees before him!"

Malfoy grimaced, but Harry snatched the old witch's wand out of her hand. "What are you talking about? Stop that at once." He was slightly distracted by her words, having no need to visualise Malfoy on his knees, since his version was guaranteed to be nothing like what she'd probably meant.

"Honestly, Potter." Malfoy turned away and walked off so quickly he was nearly running.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish." The witch gave Harry a wary look and held out her hand for her wand. Harry returned it, but he frowned after Malfoy. Obviously, something needed to be done.

Later, Malfoy showed up at Harry's flat in a towering rage. "What in the name of Salazar's third testicle is this?" He waved the Daily Prophet (Special Edition!) under Harry's nose.

"Salazar's what?"

"Focus, Potter. What the hell is this?"

"An interview." Harry shrugged. "I gave the vipers at the Prophet an interview. They've been hounding me for one long enough, I'd say."

Malfoy sat down on the sofa. He smoothed the paper out on his legs. "'Draco Malfoy is a top-notch Curse-Breaker. He saved my life six times over, maybe more.'"

"Yeah, well, I might have exaggerated a bit." Harry grinned. The vultures at the newspaper had been so grateful for the interview that they had let him gush on about his team, and in particular the former Death Eater turned Curse-Breaker.

"I hate you."

"You've mentioned. Hey, I have a raspberry truffle cake. Want some?"

"Stop trying to distract me." Halfway through the cake, Malfoy muttered, "I still hate you. But I suppose thanks are in order."

"You're welcome. Brilliant cake, yeah?"

2005 - 14th February

By late afternoon, they were all filthy, exhausted, and reeking of smoke and burnt flesh. Bodies had been stacked, Levitated, and flung into the lake where they began to pile up in a stinking heap. And still there were more.

Harry tried not to think about where Voldemort had found so many bodies. Raiding cemeteries, most likely, or creating his own corpses.

"That's enough for today," Harry said. "Let's go get cleaned up."

They went back to the Ministry and used the communal showers before meeting back in Harry's tiny office.

"Now what?" Ernie asked.

"Let's go play Quidditch." Katie bounced on the edge of Harry's desk.

"What?" Ernie laughed. "Are you insane?"

"Come on, it'll be fun. Besides, it's Valentine's Day and none of us have dates. I'd rather not go home and stare into a bottle of wine and think about how alone I am. How about the rest of you losers?"

Harry looked at the others and then shrugged with a grin. She had a point. "I'm in."

"Me, too," Millie said. "Although I could get a date if I wanted one." She flexed her muscles.

"Knocking one out and dragging him back to your flat hardly counts, Millie."

Spider laughed, but covered it with a cough and said nothing, as usual.

"I… Yeah, all right. What the hell?" Draco shrugged and looked at Spider. "You in?"

Spider nodded and Ernie sighed. "You're all mental, but fine. Let's go play fucking Quidditch."

Two hours later, the lot of them stumbled into Harry's flat, bone-weary, but laughing and exultant. Spider had turned out to be a bloody sneak and an insanely fast flyer. He had scored more points than anyone and then stole the Snitch out from under Harry's grasp in a completely illegal move, but one that had sent them all into stitches.

"Brilliant game," Harry said. "Two teams against Spider in a three-way next time."

"You notice how often Potter mentions three-ways?" Millie commented.

Katie giggled. "Millie, you have the filthiest mind."

"I'm dead sure that would be Ernie. Have you seen the porn collection he keeps in his knapsack at work?"

"Hey!" Ernie's protest was a near-squeak, but his ears reddened.

Harry clutched at his side and nearly dropped the glass he held. He wasn't sure how much more laughter he could take. Draco rescued the tumbler.

"Let me pour. You go sit down before you collapse."

Soon they were flopped around Harry's living room, glasses in hand, lounging on floor and chairs and sofa. Harry sat on one corner of the sofa with Draco's head in his lap. Harry's fingers trailed through Draco's hair and snagged on a tangle.

"Less hair-pulling and more temple-rubbing, Potter. I told you I have a headache."

Millie snickered. "I'll bet he's bossy in bed, too."

"No sex tonight, Potter. He has a headache," Katie added.

"You are all wankers," Harry said, but he rubbed Draco's temples and the talk turned to Quidditch, and then work, before Harry's teammates drifted to their homes for the night.

Draco was the last to leave. He blew Harry an exaggerated kiss before stepping into the fire. "Happy Valentine's Day, Potter, darling."

Harry flipped him an obscene gesture, but he went to bed smiling.

2004 - 10th March

Harry's team was newly formed, very talented, and at the moment he hated them all. Especially Malfoy.

"'It's perfectly safe, Potter. Come ahead.'" Harry's falsetto mocked Malfoy's earlier words.

"Shut up. Everyone makes mistakes. Ouch! Do you sharpen your elbows?"

"Do you guys hang around here much?" Millicent Bulstrode called. Harry'd had misgivings about allowing the former Slytherin onto his team at all, and now his concern seemed justified.

Katie Bell laughed.

"You could help, you know!" Malfoy called.

"Oh no, this is much too funny. Do you feel like helping them, Millicent?"

"I think we should let the seasoned warriors free themselves. We are lowly rookies, after all. This could be a training exercise."

Katie laughed again and Harry squirmed. Malfoy's knee was digging into his abdomen in a very unpleasant way. It was not at all as fun as being tangled in the Devil's Snare had been, even though the ropes did not tighten with every movement. They were scratchy and rough, however, and peeled away skin with every motion.

"Bell, I'm going to kill you when I get free."

"You already tried that once, Malfoy. Good luck!"

"I apologized for that! Repeatedly!" Malfoy's bellow half-deafened Harry and he sank his teeth into Malfoy's shoulder to retaliate. "Ouch! What the fuck was that for?"

"Are you guys even trying to get free?" Millie called. "Should we leave so you can grope in private?"

"Oh stop… can't breathe." That from Ernie MacMillan, who had doubled over from laughter, just beyond Katie.

"I think I can reach my wand," Harry said. "And then I am going to hex them all."

"I'll help." Malfoy said. And then he bit Harry on the arm.

Ernie toppled over, holding his sides.

2005 - 15th February

They reached the island sometime after midday. The last of the Inferi had been dispatched and Harry stood wearily, staring down at the empty basin. Draco stood nearby, likely ready in case Harry had another panic attack, but this time Harry felt nothing more than immense sadness. It had been such a waste of life. Dumbledore, Regulus, Fred and Remus. Tonks. Sirius. All of those bright lives, snuffed out prematurely. But he supposed wars were all like that. Senseless and stupid.

Draco cleared his throat and Harry looked at him. For possibly the first time he realised how grateful he was that Draco Malfoy had been spared. So many had been lost, but some… Well, some had been found.

Harry smiled to let him know that he was all right. "I'm okay," he said and this time he meant it. "But I have no idea what to do now."

"Hey, Harry!" Millicent called. "I think I found something!"

"I'll be right there." Harry turned to the basin one last time, and then cast the most powerful Reducto of his life. The sound echoed in the chamber like thunder and small stones rained down from the ceiling, splashing into the water and causing Harry's teammates to shout in alarm. The basin was pulverised.

Harry nodded at the pile of dust and rock it had become and then went to see what Millie had found. It turned out to be a dark hole beneath the water, possibly a passage, or possibly the entrance by which the water entered.

"I'll swim down and check it out," Harry said and began to unbutton his robes.

"Damn it." Draco's fingers worked at his own buttons. "Shut up. I can't let you go down there alone. If you think Head Auror Klaus is scary, you should try a performance review with Unspeakable Edgely. If anything happens to you, I'll most likely disappear forever."

Harry made a scoffing sound, but he doubted Draco would mention it if it weren't true. Once down to his boxers, Harry stepped into the water, wincing at the cold.

"I hate you, Potter." Draco's voice bordered on whinging. Harry almost smiled. The more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

"Just come on," Harry said. He cast a Bubble Head Charm and dove into the water. At least there were no more killer bodies intent on tearing them to pieces.

The dark hole was a true passage, leading far into the cave before curving sharply upwards. Harry climbed out of the water onto another narrow ledge, shivering violently. Draco pulled himself up, slipped, and accepted Harry's help to escape the water.

"L…looks like w..we'll need the r…r…rest of the team," Draco said through chattering teeth. He cast a Warming Charm on himself and then Harry.

Harry looked at the snake-headed carving mounted on the wall and nodded with a weary sigh. Why could nothing ever be easy?

2004 - 16th May

Hermione, cross-legged on the floor, jabbed her wand into the huge map spread out atop Harry's carpet. "You see? Here, here, here, and here. All at the same time, as if triggered by something. Again, it happened last year." Her wand tip poked at red-coloured circles. "Here, here, here, and here. I admit there doesn't seem to be a pattern as far as location, but you have to admit the timing is suspect."

"So you believe that all of the occurrences of Dark Magic since the war have a single source?" Malfoy's voice was dry and he tapped the tip of his wand against his cheekbone as he spoke. He was on the floor with Hermione, but his knees were drawn up to his chin and one arm was clasped around them. He was barefoot again.

"Not all, of course. There are still people who practice it, and even natural occurrences, although those are rare. But concentrated, bizarre eruptions, like the Ashwinder Incident in 2001 and that episode of cursed jewellery last year? It seems to me there is an occasional magical influx or something that triggers these, I don't know… pockets of pre-existing curses."

"That sounds incredibly farfetched, Granger." Malfoy sounded sceptical, but he winked at Harry, who suddenly knew that Malfoy believed her; he was simply winding her up.

"It is not farfetched! I just showed you the evidence! Are you demented? And I've been a Weasley for three years. When are you going to figure it out?"

Malfoy's eyes sparkled and Harry couldn't hold in his amusement. His stomach convulsed with silent laughter. Ron spoiled it by guffawing loudly. Hermione's gaze pierced him.

"For Merlin's sake, Hermione, he's been having you on for half an hour. Even I figured it out when he made you repeat that bit about Essex."

Hermione looked surprised for only a moment. "You believe me?" she asked Malfoy.

He nodded, but instead of appeasing, his words seemed to enrage her. "You are all complete and utter asshats!" she cried and cast an angry Aviana. Harry laughed even as his arms waved at the attacking birds pecking at him.

"Stop, Hermione!"

Malfoy's laughter rang out and he dragged Harry from the sofa to use as a human shield. "Make her stop, Potter! I'll even admit she's right!"

Harry's elbow banged into the floor and he was laughing too hard to protect himself adequately. A bird pecked at his nose, causing his eyes to water.

"What did you say?" Hermione asked.

"Draco thinks you're right!" Harry cried, "And so do I! Now, stop!"

The birds disappeared immediately and Hermione looked appeased, if not contrite. Harry wiped his eyes and sat up. Draco-Malfoy (although it was becoming harder not to think of him as Draco)-did not quite let go and when he asked for more details about Hermione's theories, he rested his head on Harry's shoulder.

Harry leaned back into him and gave in to yet another silly fantasy as their words washed over him.

Ron continued his crossword, oblivious to them all.

2005 - 15th February

Instead of swimming, they Apparated the rest of the team in one by one. Although they barely fit in the tiny space before the carving, Harry felt it wiser for everyone to be present, just in case.

Draco and Spider went to work on the doorway-they were all certain that's what it was, at any rate. Four broken curses later the whole thing crumbled to reveal a dark, cobweb-littered passage. A bright Lumos revealed nothing but darkness beyond.

"Shall we, then?" Draco asked jauntily and started off. Despite his outward lack of concern, his wand never stopped moving and whispered spells sent multi-coloured light bouncing from the dark walls.

A creak of wood was Harry's only warning and he dragged Draco down as he shot a Shield Charm over their heads. Metal spikes on a wooden frame hovered in mid-air. Harry released the spell and the contraption banged against the wall with a horrendous screech.

"Merlin," Draco said, trembling slightly in Harry's grip.

"Tom Riddle was Muggleborn. He wasn't afraid to use Muggle tricks, even though he preferred magic. We'll need to watch for trip-wires and pressure-plates. Like that one." Harry gestured at the barely-raised stone on which Draco had stepped.

It was slow going. The corridor branched three times. Once they took it to a dead-end. Twice they triggered Muggle traps, one a simple false-floor leading to sharpened spikes in a pit. Harry had begun to sweep for any trace magic. Voldemort might have used Muggle tricks, but he had still utilised magic to place them.

They reached the final portal sometime before midnight. Draco had refused to halt for the night, despite Harry's rational arguments. The rest of the team had supported Draco, so Harry watched in irritated trepidation as Draco and Spider cast complex spells, intertwining and overlapping as they tried to open the door.

"Poison gas," Draco said at one point. His eyes were closed and weariness was etched in every line of his face. Spider nodded. He looked nearly as tired. "Potter?"

"I'm ready."

Draco tripped the trap and greenish gas sprayed forth, undeniably toxic and probably caustic, as well. Harry enveloped it all in a Bubble Charm and then Vanished it. Draco's weak smile spoke volumes.

"Almost there."

And after a few more casts, they were. The heavy black door swung open to reveal a single, short pillar atop which rested a gleaming orb. It seemed to pulse rhythmically, like a heartbeat, and gave off a yellow-orange glow that was anything but sinister. It looked like a miniature sun.

"What is it?"

"I have no idea," Draco admitted.

2004 - 21st July

Harry leaned against Draco, so tired he could have fallen to the floor and stayed there. It had been a long three days in Helsinki, with too little sleep and too much running. And unseasonal, energy-sapping heat. It was good to be home, if only for the cooler temperatures.

The door opened and Draco dragged him inside. "Where are we?" Harry asked.

"My flat. It's closer than yours."

"I should go home." Harry tried to look around. Despite Draco's near-constant presence in Harry's flat, Harry had never been to his place. At the moment he was simply too tired to do more than take in the unusual fact that the flat was cluttered. He had expected Draco's living quarters to be as pristine as his clothing.

"Not yet. You need food. And sleep. And a shower. In whatever order."

"Sleep first."

Draco nodded and they staggered down a short hallway to a bedroom with an enormous, inviting-looking bed. Without speaking, they kicked off their shoes and crawled atop the blankets. Harry was asleep before he could register the fact that he was finally in Draco Malfoy's bed.

He awoke in the morning tangled around Draco, and was momentarily bemused to find the position altogether not-disturbing. His heart ached for a moment and he sternly reminded himself that Draco was his friend and work-mate. Nothing more.

Even so, he pressed a soft kiss against Draco's forehead before sliding out of bed and seeking out the shower. Draco didn't stir until Harry had breakfast nearly cooked. Then he leaned against the doorway, still in his rumpled clothes, and smiled.

"I could kiss you, Potter."

"I'd hold you to that, but you'll likely change your mind after a shower and a change of clothes. Go on, then. I'll keep it warm for you."

Draco snorted and went to shower.

2005 - 16th February

"I know what it is." Spider spoke in a loud, clear voice for the first time in Harry's memory. Even while spell-casting, Spider tended to whisper or mumble.

"What… what is it?" Harry tried to rein in his surprise.

"We call it a power-trigger. They have one in the Department of Mysteries in Prague. I studied it during my Unspeakable apprenticeship, before I decided to become a Curse-Breaker. It gathers energy over time and when it reaches capacity, it sends out a pre-determined pulse of magical power."

"Sends it to where?"

"Anywhere instructed. Spells can be laid out in advance and this is used to initiate them. Rather than setting up a spell with a Timer Charm-since those can be tricky and unreliable-it's easier to set up a latent spell and then use this to trip it."

"Bloody hell, Granger was right. He set up patterns of spells and then used this to engage them. He could have created dozens, or hundreds, and needed only return here to add new instructions."

"Years worth."

Draco nodded. "He probably intended to continue using this well into his reign. Might even have used it during the war for those Muggle explosions that kept happening."

"How do we stop it?"

"One of us has to break it."

"That sounds easy enough," Millie said and cracked her knuckles.

Spider snorted. "Not really. First we have to get to it." He reached out a hand and a glowing purple sphere sprang up around the orb, inches from Spider's fingertips.

Draco sighed. "You know he set up enough curses around this thing to keep us busy for a while."

"Then why don't we call it a night and bring in the Department of Mysteries to handle it in the morning?"

"I'm not sure we have time for that," Spider said. "I don't like the look of it. They glow more brightly as they charge and this one is not exactly dim. It could pop at any moment and then we'll have another round of chaos out there somewhere. People could die."

"I agree. I would rather take this out now." Draco sounded tired, but determined.


"Yeah. Well, then. Spider, let's do this." Draco straightened his spine, lifted his wand, and got to work.

Harry and the others settled in for a long night.

2004 - 24th October

"You know, Malfoy isn't so bad. Anymore."

Harry looked up from the pumpkins he'd been weighing. How did one know whether or not a pumpkin was ripe, anyway? He blinked at Ron and finally registered his words. "What?"

"I was just thinking. About Malfoy."

"You. Were thinking about Malfoy."

Ron nodded and shoved a package of Brussels sprouts into his basket. Hermione had sent them out to fetch supplies for their early Halloween party. "Hermione invited him. To the party."

Harry grinned. "Did she now?"

"Yeah, and I've agreed not to pick a fight with him. Since we're adults now, and all. Do you suppose we need more bacon?"

"That's… very big of you, Ron. There is no bacon on the list."

"Then we definitely need more." Ron navigated the market, heading for the meat section.

Harry shook his head and followed, somewhat bewildered by the strange conversation.

2005 - 16th February

A Tempus Charm revealed that dawn was not long due when the last of the barriers crackled, broke, and fell away in a shower of purple sparks.

Draco staggered and Harry caught him. Spider put his hands on his knees and let his upper body hang; the picture of exhaustion. Both of them shivered. They were sweating, even though the room was still bitterly cold. Harry cast another Warming Charm on each of them.

"Is that it?" Harry asked. "Now we can smash it?" The orb was glowing brighter now. At first Harry had thought it was his imagination, but when he could no longer look at it without squinting he knew it had to be true.

"Heavens no. Gryffindors, honestly."

"Fuck. Tell me how."

"It's kind of like a ward, but inside. It takes a spell similar to Legilimens to reach it, and then it has to be delicately dismantled from the inside out."

"Can you do it?"

Draco swallowed and nodded. "I can do it."

"He can't do it," Spider countered. "He's too tired."

Draco shook off Harry and stood on his own two feet. "I'm fine."

"He's not fine. And I don't have the experience. We need to call someone from the Ministry."

"We don't have time! Even if one of us Dispparated, dragged an Unspeakable out of bed, and Apparated them back here, we could be too late. Look at it!" Draco gestured. The throbbing, pulsing light from the relic was becoming blinding.

"You could have mentioned that earlier! We've been standing here watching you and could have fetched help!"

"We were busy casting the whole time!" Draco shouted.

"Boys! Save the lover's quarrel for when you get home. Draco, what do we need to do?" Millie's voice was matter-of-fact and cut through Harry's frustration, although he still wanted to shake Draco.

Draco swallowed. "You can't do anything. I have to-"

"Yes, they can." Spider stepped closer. "We all can."

"How?" Draco blinked at him as though trying to focus. Merlin, he had to be barely holding on. The stubborn git.

"A linked Legilimens."

Draco sighed heavily and shook his head. "It's too difficult. None of us can-"

"I can." Spider chuckled at Draco's sharp look. "I'm good, Draco. Damn good, in case you hadn't noticed."

"I noticed. Why do you think I took you on as an apprentice?"

"Then it's settled. If any of you have a problem with this, speak up now. While the spell is active, we will be able to read one another's surface thoughts, so if you have anything to hide you'd best mention it now. Keep your perverted fantasies to yourselves and concentrate on cracking this thing open."

A fist of anxiety gripped Harry and rattled him for a moment. Surface thoughts? He swallowed hard and glanced at Draco and then away. He took a deep breath to steady himself. How bad could it be? At the moment his surface thoughts were mostly worry, cold, and exhaustion. If you have anything to hide… Don't think about that!

His unease was reflected in the faces of his teammates, but they all stepped forward, Katie, Millicent, and Ernie. Harry was proud of them. He tried to shove aside all non-professional thoughts and gave Spider a nod.

Spider hesitated only a moment and then lifted his wand. "Legilicontineo!" He pointed it first at Harry, then at Millie, and then the rest of them in turn, repeating the word each time. He finished with Draco. Harry concentrated on the orb. Vague, foreign ideas flitted in and out of his consciousness, drifting through like passing fancies.

Still freezing in here.

Don't think of beds and pillows.

I hate the colour orange.

Potter has a nice arse. That had to be from Millicent, deliberate. Ernie snickered.

So does Katie.

"Can we all agree that we have nice arses? I'm going in." Harry heard Draco half-aloud and half in his head. It was bizarre.

He caught a fleeting Potter does too before Draco's thoughts drowned all the others. A web appeared in his mental vision, looking almost haphazard in construction. He felt exhausted just looking at it and realised the weariness was most likely from Draco. Alarmed, Harry sent strength back, pushing it through the link, hoping to counter the tiredness.

Yes, like that. Spider's mental voice hinted at approval.

Harry stepped closer, finding Draco more by touch than sight; the brightness in the room was nearly overwhelming now. Harry's inner sight was locked on a web of gold. Harry grasped with one hand and then the other, fitting himself against Draco's back. Draco tensed and then relaxed, allowing Harry to hold a bit of his weight.

"You can do it," Harry breathed, confident. He knew it to be true. Whatever doubts he'd once had about Draco's abilities, and about his character, had long vanished in the mists, buried in late nights, lost socks, warm grey eyes and the smell of breakfast cooking on winter mornings.

Harry was tired. His thoughts kept slipping along paths they ought not, and he'd always been pants at Occlumency.

"Almost there," Spider whispered. The web was unravelling, coming apart as Draco's chanting grew louder. Unfortunately, so was the brightness and the pulsing, blinding light.

Something warned Harry, although whether his Auror instincts, some change in the throbbing tone emitted by the orb, or sheer, dumb luck, he would never be certain. His grip tightened on Draco and he yanked hard, lifting his wand to cast the strongest Shield Charm of his life at the same time.

"Get down!" he shouted as the orb exploded. The force of it slammed him across the small room; there was a twisting, sickening sense of flying and then everything turned white, just before it went black.

Harry woke in a too-familiar place, the scents and sounds placing themselves before he opened his eyes. St Mungo's. He sat up.

"Auror Potter! Nice to see you back with us again. In a manner of speaking, I mean."

"Hi… Gloria. Can you… Do you know anything about my team?" About Draco?

"A bit shaken up, but all are fine, except Mr Malfoy. He hasn't awakened yet. The others have been released and sent home."

"I… can I see him? Malfoy?"


"Please, Gloria. Healer Baldwin."

She made a scoffing sound. "You know it's Gloria, Mr Potter. Don't be trying to butter me up with fancy titles, even if I've earned them. I suppose it's all right as long as you're feeling well enough to walk."

Harry got to his feet slowly, knowing better than to try and leap out of bed to prove himself. He felt only slightly lightheaded. Gloria nodded approvingly at him. "Why isn't Draco awake? Is anything wrong?"

"I don't know. Healer Darzi is seeing to him now. He's just down the hall in Room Seven."

Harry thanked her, and noted that he could not have been in the hospital long, as he still wore his uniform trousers and linen shirt rather than hospital-issue pyjamas. His Auror robes had been placed in a carry-bag near the door, along with his wand and glasses. He retrieved the latter and put them on, then tucked his wand into a pocket and hurried to Room Seven.

He pushed open the door to find a slender Healer dabbing salve on Draco's chin. A small gash there mended instantly.

"Is he going to be okay?" Harry asked.

"Auror Potter. You have not been here for some time. Or have you been confining your visits to departments other than Spell Damage?"

"No, I've been good. Draco?"

"A mild concussion, I think, made worse by over-exertion and exhaustion. From the state of all of you, I should assume you have not slept in some time?"

Harry was so relieved he had to grip the doorframe to keep from leaning against it. A concussion. Thank Merlin. "It was necessary. I promise that we will take some time off this week and rest up."

"Indeed you shall. Healer's orders." Darzi stepped away from Draco and sealed the container.

"May I sit with him?"

Healer Darzi nodded. "You may. And you will be calling me if there is any concern."

"Of course." Harry pulled a chair closer to Draco's bedside and reached out to take Draco's limp hand. He barely noticed when Healer Darzi left.

Harry had nearly dozed off by the time Draco woke. He snapped awake at a gentle squeeze from Draco's hand and his eyes flew to Draco's face. "Are you all right?"

"Head… hurts. Thirsty."

"I can't help with the headache, but here." Harry placed his wand-tip against Draco's lower lip and spelled a stream of water into his mouth when Draco opened up. He drank and then lifted a hand to let Harry know he'd had enough.

"I'm tired."

"Concussions and exhaustion will do that, apparently."

"Take me home."

The words made Harry's pulse leap, even though he knew Draco hadn't meant what Harry's heart wished he'd meant. "I don't know if that's a good idea."

"I can't sleep here. I don't like it and this bed is uncomfortable and it smells."

Harry choked back a laugh because he knew Draco was completely serious. "Well… all right." After all, it had been ages since Harry had broken any rules. A quick spell halted the Monitoring Charms without setting off any alarms (yes, fine, he might have done that a time or two in the past) and he leaned down and scooped up Draco, holding him close. "Hang on."

Scarcely a jolt later and they dropped onto Harry's bed. "My place was closer."

"Good." Draco rolled over and snuggled into Harry's pillow while Harry got up and closed the curtains. The weather was still miserable, but it was daylight, close to noon by the clock on the wall, and Draco would sleep easier in the dark. "Stay with me."

Harry froze for only a moment, until he remembered it wouldn't be the first time they had fallen asleep together. And he was extremely tired. "All right. Let me send an owl or two and I'll be back."

He jotted off a note to Head Auror Klaus and another to Hermione before returning to the bedroom. By the time he peeled off his trousers and crawled into bed, Draco was sound asleep.

When Harry woke, the light filtering through the curtain cracks was gone, and he posited it was night. He was wrapped around Draco, unsurprisingly, and moved carefully to ease himself away without waking him. Harry had always been lucky in the past, either waking without awkward morning wood, or escaping before Draco awoke to notice.

His bladder was complaining enough to quell any amorous feelings, although at one point Draco moved, and murmured in his sleep, and his hand reached out to catch on Harry's hip, squeezing lightly and then relaxing. Amorous feelings, indeed, Harry thought in exasperation, and held his breath as he disentangled his limbs.

Draco rolled over and pulled his pillow closer, allowing Harry to escape. He bolted for the bathroom, heart pounding, and flattened one palm against the wall as he relieved himself. He was fucked, he was, so irrevocably, absolutely, and utterly fucked.

"If only," he muttered to the aching in his heart. He shook off his maudlin thoughts and made his way to the kitchen, snatching up a pair of pyjama pants on the way. Thankfully, his growling stomach gave him something to think about besides the man sleeping in his bed. He hadn't eaten since breakfast the previous day.

He cooked breakfast, even though the clock told him it was just past midnight, and tossed bacon, sausages, and eggs into a skillet. He slathered butter and jam on a piece of toast and ate it in four bites. He was sliding an omelette onto a plate when a noise behind him nearly caused him to drop the skillet and go for his wand… which he'd left in the bedroom.

"Merlin, you scared the life out of me." He glared at Draco and placed the skillet back on the cooker.

Draco smiled. "I hope not. Is that bacon?"

"Yes, and I've made enough to feed the entire Ministry. I hope you're hungry."

"Bloody starved." Draco dropped into a chair and Harry set the plate in front of him before turning to take another from the cupboard. He hoped the lights were dim enough that his ridiculous blush wasn't visible. He needed to pull himself together. How often had they eaten together in this room? Too many to count, and far too many to behave like a schoolboy with a crush.

Draco still wore his hospital-issued blue pyjama bottoms, although he had removed the shirt for some reason. St Mungo's must have dressed him accordingly, expecting to keep him overnight until Harry had scuppered that idea.

"How do you feel?" Harry asked and sat down across from Draco, who ate with the least amount of finesse Harry had ever seen.

"Hungry. Head hurts," Draco mumbled around a mouthful of eggs. A string of melted cheese dangled from his lips and he wrapped an index finger around it and shoved it into his mouth. Harry stared, stupidly charmed, and almost snickered aloud. "Shut up. I've seen you eat like a stray mongrel."

"Well, yes, but you generally don't." Harry laughed and set to his own food, trying to eat with slightly more dignity, even though his gaze strayed constantly across the table to Draco.

When their plates were empty and their teacups had been refilled thrice, Draco sat back with a hefty sigh. "Salazar, I needed that. Where's my wand?"

"Ah… I believe it's still at St Mungo's." Harry hadn't bothered to grab Draco's satchel of personal items before Disapparating. "Sorry. I'll grab it in the morning. Or… later this morning, I suppose. You can use mine." Harry rose and carried his plate to the sink. He heard Draco's chair scrape as it slide back and he winced, expecting a tirade at worst, and a snappish comment at best.

Instead, a hard form pressed against his back and Draco's soft voice murmured, "Oh may I? Use your wand?" Harry dropped the plate; it clattered into the sink with a jarring noise that echoed in the room. His limbs seemed frozen; he couldn't move, could hardly breathe. Was Draco having him on? "Harry?"

He turned around, needing to know, and Draco let him turn without moving away. Their eyes held and Harry had no idea what to think. Draco's expression was soft, possibly guarded, but not at all teasing or sardonic. "What-?"

"I heard your thoughts. In the cavern. How could I have been so stupid, so utterly oblivious, not to have known? I thought I was the only one with these ridiculous feelings, and yet-" Draco drew a ragged sigh and then he leaned forward and pressed his lips to Harry's. It was heart-stopping, surreal, and altogether terrifying.

Harry's body responded when his brain seemed unable. His hands reached out and pulled Draco in. The gentle, questioning kiss became a frantic, unstoppable force, an expression of pent-up, too-long-denied need. Harry thought he might shake apart from the force of it.

Draco drew back, chuckling, his eyes huge and dark. One hand was beneath Harry's shirt, stroking his ribs; the other touched his chin before moving up to press against Harry's wet, bruised lips. "Easy, Potter. We have time."

"I can't believe…"

"That this took us so long? Apparently, we are both idiots not to have figured it out sooner." Draco's hands moved away and he reached down to take one of Harry's. He turned away and tugged, so Harry followed blindly, half-wondering if he'd fallen asleep and was now dreaming, yet unwilling to search too hard in case it were true; if so, he would rather not wake up.

When they reached Harry's bedroom, Draco turned and pulled Harry into another hungry kiss and it finally cracked through Harry's dazed astonishment. He dove into the kiss, giving back wholeheartedly. His hands wandered, free at last to do what he'd so often dreamed. Draco's back was smooth and muscular, his body was hard in all the right places, and the most enticing of his hard places dug into Harry's hip with insistent pressure. Harry groaned and pressed back, then lowered his hands to cup Draco's firm, perfect arse.

Draco bit Harry's lip, pulled, and then bit hard kisses into Harry's skin from jaw to collarbone. Harry felt devoured, consumed with need, bolstered by Draco mouth and Draco's hands.

"Oh god," he said. "Is this… too soon? Should we…?"

"Potter, I think two years of foreplay is enough for any man."

A laugh bubbled from Harry's chest, followed by a heartfelt groan as Draco's questing fingers reached his aching cock. Draco squeezed; a delicious promise. "Harry," he corrected. "Absolutely right. What was I thinking?"

"You were thinking you'd like to be fucked. Or that you'd like to fuck me. I'm not much arsed which way it's to be at the moment, as long as it's one or the other."

"Both," Harry replied. "Not at once, of course, but-"

Draco laughed into his mouth and it was a beautiful thing. Harry found it hard to kiss whilst smiling so widely, but he managed it. He even found the grace to move them across the room towards the bed, although they didn't quite make it when Draco's feet tangled in something and sent them toppling to the floor.

"Ouch. But, horizontal now. Better." Draco's words were muffled against Harry's chest and he started with the biting kisses again. Harry would have complained that Draco was half-vampire if it didn't feel so bloody good. He sure as hell didn't want him to stop. "And it appears that you're topping."

Harry growled a fervent agreement and tore at Draco's pyjamas, needing to put an end to the final barriers between them. Draco did the same and the constricting fabric was shoved away and discarded, leaving nothing but skin to be touched and caressed and kissed with greedy, demanding kisses.

"Need you so much," Harry whispered as his hand found Draco's cock. At long last everything he'd fantasised about was in his grasp, and in Draco's grasp as well, and if he didn't stop drawing his fingers over Harry's cock like that the main event was going to be postponed… Harry pulled Draco's hand away firmly and pressed it against the floor, keeping it there as he lowered himself to position his mouth over Draco's cock. He licked his lips suggestively, enjoying the fierce, hot gleam of desire in Draco's eyes, visible even in the darkness.

Draco gasped. "Do it."

Harry thought about teasing, but he didn't have the patience. Instead, he took Draco's cock into his mouth slowly, sliding his tongue down the back side inch after blissful inch, enjoying the long, rough groan torn from Draco as he did so. Harry took him all the way into his throat, suppressing his gag reflex by sheer force of will and the fact that he'd envisioned this scenario so many times that it almost seemed unreal, except that he'd never imagined the gasping cries and the trembling of Draco's wrist beneath his hand. That was new, as well as the heady, musky scent and the taste of Draco on his tongue-and the fingers painfully yanking at his hair.

Harry looked up with a lifted brow.

"Stop. I don't want to come until you are in me."

Harry let go with a long, lingering suck that had Draco swearing aloud and arching his back in a very fetching manner. "Accio wand." Harry grinned smugly when it smacked into his hand. Protection Charms and lube followed. Draco's gasping, half-choked phrases when Harry was three-fingers deep were almost more than he could bear.

"Now," Draco said. "Now, now, now."

Harry withdrew his fingers and positioned his cock, sliding it easily into Draco's waiting heat. He closed his eyes and their guttural moans mingled. Harry hooked his arms beneath Draco's knees and held him open as he drove deep.

"Fuck yes."

Harry's eyes snapped open and locked with Draco's. His mouth was half-open and his teeth were brilliantly white; his lips needed kissing. Harry was distracted from the thought when Draco's hand found his own cock-he held it and stroked. Watching Draco's pale hand stroking the reddened length of his shaft was riveting. Up down, up down, in time with Harry's thrusts. It was bloody amazing.

Draco threw his head back and his free hand gripped Harry's thigh reflexively, tightening and loosening with each stroke. Harry's legs shook with the effort not to come immediately. He focussed on Draco's cock, not that the sight made restraint any easier.

"So good." Harry's breathy murmur was a terrible attempt at articulating the swell of emotion that gripped him. He glanced up, caught Draco's intense stare, and finally went in for that kiss. It was messy and impossible to maintain. Harry's lips bumped into Draco's nose, earning a snort. Undaunted, Harry stopped moving and gave him a long, thorough, lingering kiss.

When he came up for air, Draco's voice was typically sardonic. "Done already?"

"Just making it last," Harry replied in vague acknowledgement to the fear that this might be his only opportunity. Draco was like quicksilver; he wanted Harry now, but what about tomorrow?

"Save that for next time. Right now I just want to see your come face."

That pulled a surprised chuckle from Harry and he kissed the impossible prat once more before moving back into a strong rhythm; unwilling to admit that he really wanted to see Draco's "come face" also. With that in mind, he pushed Draco's hand away and took a rough grip on his cock.

"So forceful."

"Shut it," Harry retorted with a smile and then matched the movements of his hand to those of his cock, pushing forth and back with greater and greater speed, until neither of them had enough air to produce words, probably an improvement in both their cases.

With one final, strangled cry and digging of nails into Harry's thighs, Draco came, spurting brilliantly in a pearlescent stream over his taut abs. His face contorted into an intense mask that resembled rage until his eyes opened to reveal a languid, drugged-looking bliss that pulled Harry in and sent his own climax tumbling over him.

His eyes fluttered and he hoped his expression was more sexy than idiotic, although with the sensations shuddering through him he wasn't particularly concerned. Draco didn't laugh, at any rate, and lifted a hand to drag Harry back into a bruising kiss. Harry's fingers smeared through the residue on Draco's stomach and the hand on Harry's neck loosened.

"Ew." Draco's nose wrinkled.

Harry laughed. "Oh don't tell me you're fastidious about sex juice." Harry shoved his hand through it again and then planted his hand on Draco's shoulder, chest, and cheek, leaving behind wet fingerprints.

"Sex juice? Disgusting. Now I need a shower. And you need a thesaurus."

Harry collapsed on Draco's chest, chuckling uncontrollably until his cock slipped out with a sloppy sound, earning another huff of disgust that set Harry off again. Merlin, he had expected Draco to be a fabulous shag, but he hadn't expected to have so much fun at the same time.

"Did I ever mention that I think you're brilliant?" Harry asked.

Draco's hands, which had been attempting to shove Harry away, stilled. "No, Potter. You most assuredly never did."

"That's because you're mostly a prat." Harry rolled away and sprawled on the floor next to Draco. He gave him a lopsided grin. "But you are. Brilliant, I mean. And dead sexy."

Draco looked away and wrinkled his nose, but his cheeks were pink. "Of course I am." He pushed himself into a sitting position and kicked at the clothing partially tangled around his feet. "And I need that shower now."

Harry watched with avid appreciation as Draco stood and walked across the room. The sight of his naked arse made Harry's cock twitch with a renewed desire to revisit it. Harry nearly groaned. Once was definitely not enough.

Draco paused in the doorway and looked over his shoulder with a lifted brow. "Are you coming?" He smirked at his own words and it turned into a husky laugh when Harry scrambled to his feet.

"Was that an innuendo?"

"If you prefer. And, Harry, I am staying for dinner. And breakfast. In fact, I might never leave."

"Thank god, Merlin, Godric and Salazar," Harry said fervently and raced headlong into an erotic shower and (hopefully) even more erotic future.

2005 - 17th February

Draco was propped against the pillows with a quill tapping against his lips. Occasionally he would scrawl something on the parchment. Harry's head rested on Draco's abdomen and his contribution to "report writing" was interjecting an occasional statement or answering a question thrown at him.

Head Auror Klaus had, surprisingly, allowed Harry a couple of days off, on the provision that he write up and submit a proper report. It was Draco's opinion that Harry couldn't write a "proper report" if his life depended upon it, so he had graciously offered to take over the process. Harry was sure it had nothing to do with the fact that Draco owed a similar report to his own department head. Two birds, one stone and all that.

"So with the orb destroyed, there won't be anything to trigger latent spells, right?" Harry shot a pinpoint of light from the end of his wand onto the ceiling and watched it dance around. He frowned at the cobwebs revealed; it might be time to do some spring cleaning.

"In theory. The Unspeakables are researching it now. They already know more about the process than we ever will. It's difficult to know if they can even locate whatever spells You-Know-Who left behind, but Spider said it is unlikely they can be activated without an external source. Chances are the Ministry will ineffectively send some unlucky Aurors hither and yon to try and dredge up all remaining spell pockets."

"If they send me out, I'm taking you with me, Malfoy."

Draco snorted and flicked Harry on the nose with the end of the quill. Growing restless, Harry rolled over and pressed a kiss to the head of Draco's cock, the shape of which was visible beneath the red pyjama pants he wore. Harry's pyjama pants; and Draco had only complained a few times about the colour. In a show of turnabout, Harry currently wore Draco's black silk pants, although Draco had already peeled him out of them once.

A hand clapped onto Harry's shoulder with a loud smack. Harry winced. "Stop that," Draco said. "No more sex until this report is done."

"Okay," Harry replied agreeably and then mouthed Draco's cock again.

The hand moved from Harry's spine up to his hair where it clenched, but Draco did not pull his mouth away. Draco's cock moved and began to swell and Draco groaned. "You are a right bastard."

"It's your fault." Harry tugged at the pyjamas, intent on exposing the beauty he was already intimately familiar with, but in this case renewed acquaintance could only be a good thing. As the head peeped from beneath the waistband, a shout caused Harry to suck in a surprised breath.

"Oi! Harry! You here? We're coming through, so you'd best be decent!"

"You left the Floo open?" This time his hair was pulled, and hard. Harry winced and tugged the waistband back into place.

"I didn't know they would barge in!"

"They are your friends. It's what they do!"

Harry sat up and rubbed his head, pleased in spite of the interruption because Draco actually sounded disappointed. "In here!" Harry yelled.

Ron was the first into the room and he clapped a hand over his eyes. "Oh, Merlin, no!"

Hermione gave him a punch on the arm. "Stop it, Ron. It's about bloody time, actually. Hello, Harry, we came to make sure you were all right. Hello, Draco."

"Weasley. And Weasley."

Hermione gave him a smug look that fled her face when she was jostled aside. "Move along, Granger. Teammates coming through." Millie pushed forward and did not stop until Harry found himself enveloped in a neck-crunching embrace.

"Millie," he squeaked into her shoulder.

"Good to see you boys up and alive. Thought you might be dead when all we got was a measly owl."

"They were probably busy." Katie's giggle drew an answering guffaw from Millie.

"Well, then. We can see you're both fine," Ernie said loudly. "I suppose we can run along now."

"Good idea!" Ron nodded. "We can come back when you're… not…"

"Half-naked in bed?" Draco supplied. "Preparing to shag? Again?"

Ron's face turned even redder. "Yes. That. In fact, I think I need a drink. Ernie, care to join me in the other room? Nicetoseeyou,Harry,bye."

Hermione shook her head as Ron and Ernie bolted. "Men. Honestly. It's good to know that some males are not hung up on primary school notions when it comes to sex. Spider, is it?" She held out her hand.

Spider took it with a grin and nodded. He said nothing additional and Harry assumed he had used up all of his words during the mission and was now back to silence for the time being.

"What's the big deal?" Millie looked confused. "If you've seen one cock you've seen them all."

"Oh, I disagree. I'd like to see them all." Katie nodded and then blinked innocently when all eyes turned to her. "What?"

"It's always the quiet ones," Hermione muttered. "Come on, girls. And Spider. Let's give the boys some privacy. If we raid their kitchen and take their food they'll not be able to hole up in here forever."

"Good idea. I could use a sandwich. Come on, Cock Seeker." Millie wrestled Katie into a headlock, waved at Harry and Draco, and exited. Spider gave them a salute and followed.

Hermione pressed a kiss to Harry's forehead and squeezed Draco's hand. "Be good to each other," she said sternly. "Or else." She gave them both a warning look, followed by a smile, and went to join the others, closing the door behind her.

"Will she really take all the food?" Draco asked.

"Probably. But we can always 'hole up' at your place." Harry smirked.

"What a naughty little Auror you are."

Harry straddled him and then grabbed his wand to cast absent Locking Charms and Silencing Spells on the door. He took the report and quill from Draco's hands and threw them onto the floor. "Let me show you just how naughty I can be."

And he did.