Exactly one week after Draco began his new secretary job at Auror Headquarters, Harry Potter was promoted to Head of Stealth and Tracking.
Immediately after the news broke, the office threw a party to celebrate the ribbon cutting of Potter’s new private office. While their colleagues cheered and toasted Potter’s future, Draco sat behind his desk and filed reports. He had a job to do, and unlike the others, he couldn’t afford to neglect it in favour of getting drunk over someone else’s achievements.
“Hey, Malfoy, loosen up a little!” Ron Weasley shouted from his spot atop his cubicle. He brandished an empty bottle of champagne at Draco like it was a sword. “I’ll eat the rest of the food if you don’t hurry up and get your pointy nose out of those papers.”
Several people, including Potter, let out appreciative laughs. Draco cast a very pointed look at Weasley’s noticeable belly, across which his robes strained with each burst of laughter. “I have no doubt you will.”
The tips of Weasley’s ears turned crimson. His daily Weasley insult bestowed, Draco resumed filing.
The next morning, Weasley waltzed in through the door and dropped a small mountain of reports and an extra large cup of coffee on Draco’s desk.
“How astonishingly thoughtful of you,” Draco said, reaching for the coffee.
Weasley snatched it up. “You wish, Malfoy. These are for Harry. Urgent matter. Take them to his office – Gawain’s orders.”
Draco resisted the urge to punch Weasley’s shit-eating grin in. He took the items, wondering what Potter had done to deserve the life he had: twenty-three, and already so high up in the Auror department that he had his own office and someone to bring him coffee in the morning.
The moment Draco was out of Weasley’s line of sight, he stole a small sip of Potter’s coffee. It was absurdly sweet. An idea occurred to Draco. He tapped the side of the paper cup with his wand, Transfiguring the sugar in it to salt. Draco’s inner twelve-year-old cackled gleefully as he pictured Potter’s face puckering up in disgust upon tasting his morning pick-me-up.
The door to Potter’s office was closed, but the handle turned when Draco tried it. He entered without a word of warning – and immediately regretted it.
One of the new Aurors-in-training, a former classmate whose name Draco couldn’t remember, was leaning against the edge of Potter’s desk, one palm flat on the surface of the table behind him and the other tangled in Potter’s unruly hair. His legs were spread, allowing Potter to stand close enough to press their upper bodies together.
They were kissing, though they very well could have been doing more; Draco didn’t know. Not that he ought to know – like all upstanding pureblood wizards, he’d grown up thinking homosexuality was a myth told to young children to scare them into producing legions of heirs.
Except that Draco had just walked in on Harry Potter with his hand on another man’s crotch. Myth, indeed.
Draco cleared his throat loudly.
Limbs flew in all directions as the two men struggled to separate, and Draco got his first good look at Potter’s companion: blond, blue-eyed, and undeniably attractive. His tie had been loosened and one of his shirttails had worked itself out from under his belt.
Draco’s mind flashed back to the Auror-in-training applications he’d sorted through just a few days ago. Zacharias Smith, 24, former student at Hogwarts School of...
“Er,” Potter said, bringing a hammer to the awkward silence.
Draco’s gaze snapped to him. Potter’s glasses were gone and his hair was more atrocious than ever, but those small details aside, he could have just stepped out of a meeting and Draco wouldn’t have known the difference.
“At least lock the door next time,” Draco blurted out, and then he fled the scene, taking Potter’s coffee and reports with him.
“We need to talk.”
“Go away, Potter,” Draco said, raising his voice. Unfortunately, it climbed more octaves than decibels.
Draco could feel Potter’s pleading gaze on him, even though his eyes were fixed determinedly on the blank sheet of parchment before him. He was supposed to write a memo to the Head of Hit Wizards, but with Potter looming over his desk, he couldn’t remember for the life of him what he had sat down to write.
“You got the wrong impression earlier.”
“There really wasn’t more than one impression for me to get,” Draco snapped. “You’re gay. Bent. A shirt-lifting, pillow-biting sodomite.”
Potter made a strangled hushing sound. “Do you mind not saying it so loudly?”
“What’s the matter? Don’t want anyone to find out? Maybe you shouldn’t have been groping one of your subordinates where anyone could have walked in and seen you.”
Draco said all of this calmly, but inside he was seething. The sight of Potter snogging another man had already disrupted his perfectly normal morning; now he was looking to have his afternoon spoiled by the bastard as well.
“Come to lunch with me,” Potter said in a low voice. “I’ll explain everything.”
Draco looked up. “To lunch with you? No thank you, Potter. Why don’t you ask your boyfriend? Or, better yet, your girlfriend?”
“Zach’s not my boyfriend. And Ginny is...” Potter faltered, took a deep breath. “I’m not asking you on a date, Malfoy. I just want to clear some things up.”
“You can keep your explanations to yourself. I don’t want to be associated with someone like you.”
Potter’s expression darkened. “Malfoy, unless you want to spend the rest of your life associating with people like me at a job that pays a quarter of what you earn here, you’d better get your arse out of that chair and over here right now.”
Draco glared at Potter. When Potter showed no signs of backing down, Draco grudgingly got to his feet. “Power trip,” he muttered.
Potter ignored him.
They went to the café across the street, where they sat down by the window.
“What are you ordering, Malfoy?”
“Nothing,” Draco said without glancing at the menu.
“He’ll have a turkey sandwich,” Potter told the waitress who had rushed over to take their order. “What’s the soup of the day?”
“Potato and leek, sir,” the waitress gushed. The cow eyes she was making at Potter were ridiculous. Draco fought the urge to cast a permanent sticking charm on her face.
“Great. Bring us some of that. Oh, and two butterbeers.”
“I don’t drink butterbeer,” Draco said after the waitress left with their menus. “And I told you, I don’t want –”
“If I’m eating, you’re eating. Relax; I’ll pay.”
Draco frowned. “I don’t want your charity. Or your bribery,” he added on second thought.
Potter said nothing, but Draco could tell by the way the green eyes shifted that he’d hit the nail on the head.
The food arrived quickly, and contrary to his word, Draco hesitated less than a fraction of a second before tucking in. He wasn’t stupid enough to turn down free food when it came along. The butterbeer, however, he pushed across the table. Potter ignored it.
“What you saw earlier meant nothing.”
Draco chewed, swallowed. “I see.”
“He came onto me.”
“And your hand just happened to land on his dick while you valiantly tried to push him away, right?”
Potter turned a delightful shade of scarlet. “Yeah.”
“Fascinating.” Draco took a sip of soup. “Well, I suppose a hands-on approach is always best when dealing with those pesky Aurors-in-training.”
Potter’s expression fluctuated between flustered and confused for a moment, and then his mouth tightened into a stubborn line – pig-headedness, every Gryffindor’s last resort.
“There’s nothing going on between me and Smith –”
“Of course not.”
“– and I’m not leaving Ginny –”
“How unfortunate for you.”
“– so you can’t tell anyone what you saw.”
“Can’t tell anyone?” Draco repeated, arching an eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware I was obligated to follow your orders outside the office.”
Potter licked his lips nervously. “Malfoy, please. If you talk, I’ll lose everything.”
Now Draco felt the first surge of irritation. He wanted to tell Potter that not everyone had the luxury of making a twat like Ginny Weasley their first priority, that he shouldn’t take the far more valuable aspects of his life – his job, house, and fortune, to name a few – for granted. But Draco swallowed these words, because he knew Potter could preach circles around him, and he wasn’t looking to pick a fight. Instead, Draco stored their conversation in the back of his mind for future use.
“All right,” he said. He smiled at Potter, showing teeth. “My lips are sealed.”
It turned out the trauma of seeing Potter locking lips with a bloke went deeper than Draco had optimistically anticipated, because from that day on, Draco saw everything through a pair of queer-tinted spectacles.
When Potter walked into the office the next morning and smiled at Robards, Draco pictured him following up with a wink and a slight lick of his lips.
When Potter clapped little Dennis Creevey on the back, Draco envisioned him slamming the boy against the wall and thrusting a hand down his trousers.
When Potter bent over the wall of Weasley’s cubicle to tell him something, Draco imagined him whispering dirty suggestions into Weasley’s ear.
Draco’s imagination even ran away with him when Potter walked up to get his schedule for the day, and that mental image was so disturbing that Draco quickly terminated it.
But when Smith surreptitiously snuck into Potter’s office during Potter’s lunch break, Draco’s mind didn’t need to fill in the blanks with false scenarios. It already had all the images it needed.
Draco suppressed a grimace at the sight of the blue-haired terror his parents claimed was his cousin bounding down the hallway. “Not so loud, Theodore.”
“Teddy,” he corrected with a pout. “Grandma said you’re supposed to call me Teddy.”
“Too bad,” Draco snapped. He hung up his cloak, shucked off his boots. “Where is everyone?”
Teddy blew a raspberry at Draco. “Not telling,” he said, and then he scurried up the stairs to his bedroom, where Draco could hear something – most likely the potions kit his parents had given the brat for his fourth birthday – snapping and crackling.
Not for the first time, Draco silently vowed to himself that he’d never have children.
The light in the sitting room was on, so Draco headed towards it, ignoring the glares of the portraits he passed – he’d grown used to them after nearly five years in his aunt’s household. According to his mother, they hadn’t trusted her ever since she visited after Nymphadora’s birth and threatened to cut off all ties with Andromeda if she didn’t leave her family for a more respectable marriage. As much as Draco sympathised with his mother, he couldn’t help thinking that the portraits’ sentiments were justified, though he didn’t see why they should extend to him.
He found his mother sitting in her favourite armchair by the fireplace, a glass of wine in one hand and the Daily Prophet open on her lap.
“You’re back late,” Narcissa said after Draco had bent down and allowed her to kiss him on the cheek. Draco didn’t like the worry line that creased her forehead.
“It was a hectic day. A young witch was caught and killed in a Muggle gang war, and the Aurors and Hit Wizards are having disagreements over how best to handle the situation.”
Narcissa gave a slight nod, indicating the story’s coverage on the front page of the Prophet. “It’s terribly barbaric. Why not just round them up and get rid of them all at once?”
“Because the Ministry won’t allow it, Mother,” Draco said patiently. “Mass Muggle killings are against the law these days.”
“Don’t remind me,” she sighed. “Well, sit down. Dinner isn’t ready yet, unfortunately – I keep telling Andromeda she ought to replace that inadequate house-elf of hers, but she just won’t listen. She was always the stubborn one in the family.”
“Attending to business.” Narcissa gave Draco a secretive smile, which Draco liked even less than her earlier concern. “Oh, don’t look at me like that, Draco. It has to do with your marriage prospects.”
Draco groaned. “Mother, if I’ve told you once I’ve told you a hundred times. I’m not marrying Pansy.”
“It’s not Pansy, darling.”
Draco switched tactics with the reflexive speed of someone who’d had this conversation more times than he cared to admit. “Marriage is still a heavy commitment. The Ministry doesn’t pay me enough to support a wife; you know that.”
“Shh,” Narcissa said soothingly. “Your father and I have handled the monetary aspect of the arrangement. There’s no need to worry.”
“Yes, because knowing the two of you need to bribe women to feign interest in me isn’t worrisome at all,” Draco muttered.
“Don’t be dramatic, Draco,” his mother said with a stern look. “We haven’t bribed anyone. We understand your frustration, but our family name rests on your ability to continue it through marriage. Marriage is an invaluable source of security. In better circumstances, we would have had you wait until you were well-established, but in times like these...”
“Fine,” Draco said shortly, unwilling to listen to his mother delve further into their financial problems. He paused as Teddy dashed into the room, a vial of bubbling liquid with the colour and consistency of vomit clutched proudly in his fat little fist. An odour vaguely reminiscent of burning socks filled the room. Moments later, Snippy the house-elf hurdled into the room, babbling apologies as she tried to herd Teddy back outside.
“Fine,” Draco amended, “as long as I can have a daughter.”
Every Sunday, Draco and Teddy went to a Muggle park in Central London. It was a tradition Draco’s parents had started to spruce up his public image, and one Draco had grown to enjoy despite himself. As insufferable as Teddy could be at home, he was generally tolerable – at times even enjoyable – in public.
Except when he purposely ignored Draco’s orders not to attract the attention of people he didn’t want to run into in public.
Draco groaned as Potter and his girlfriend turned towards Teddy’s shout. He ran after Teddy to do damage control.
“Malfoy,” Potter said, not unkindly, when Draco skidded to a halt behind Teddy, who was rambling on about the results of his latest potion experiment to a very bemused-looking Ginny Weasley. “I didn’t know you and Teddy –”
“He’s my cousin,” Draco said shortly. “I have no choice.”
He appraised Potter. It was odd to see the other man wearing regular robes when they only ever saw each other at work. Out of the corner of his eye, Draco noticed the Weasley girl glaring at him. He raised an eyebrow. Oh, the things he knew about Potter that would shatter her proud little heart.
As if he could read Draco’s mind, Potter coughed nervously, interrupting the flow of Teddy’s dialogue. “Ginny, do you mind taking Teddy to the swings? I need to talk to Malfoy about something.”
Ginny pursed her lips. “Something I can’t hear?”
“He wants you to move out of hearing distance, so I would assume so,” Draco sneered.
“We can pick up where we left off later,” Potter said hastily to Ginny when her hand gravitated towards her wand. “I need some time to think about it, anyway.”
Draco watched with interest as a number of different emotions flashed across Ginny’s face. “All right,” she finally sighed, dragging a hand through her long mane of hair. “Come on, Teddy.”
Draco sat down on the bench. “Did she propose?”
“What?” Potter asked, tearing his gaze away from the retreating backs of his girlfriend and godson.
“You’re considering something she said. Since you’re dry-eyed, I take it she doesn’t want to break up.”
“She didn’t propose.”
“Well?” Draco prompted.
Potter waved away Draco’s question. He scooted so close that they were practically sitting hip-to-hip. Lowering his voice, he asked, “Have you told anyone about... you know?”
“Your gay lover?” Draco said loudly, smirking when Potter’s expression shifted from nervous to dear-earth-please-swallow-me-whole. He shifted away from Potter. Apparently the man didn’t have any concept of personal space. “No, of course not. I’m offended that you won’t take my word for it.”
“The paparazzi are more trustworthy than your word,” Potter grumbled, but he looked immensely relieved. “Thanks, Malfoy. I appreciate it. A lot.” He cleared his throat. “So how do you like your, er, job so far?”
“I loathe it.” Potter looked shocked. “What? Would you enjoy spending ten hours a day filing reports and scheduling meetings?”
“Why did you take it, then?”
“Everyone has to start somewhere. My background in vice and villainy just happened to set me back a little further than the rest of the world.”
Draco tried not to sound bitter, but he couldn’t help spitting out the last few words.
Potter looked uncomfortable. He absently circled the end of his wand that protruded from his pocket with his thumb, causing a leaf on the ground to swirl rapidly around his feet. Draco stared at Potter’s hand. It was almost hypnotising how Potter caressed the rounded end of wood.
“Well,” Potter finally said, breaking his hand’s pattern of movement and shoving his wand deeper into his pocket, “if you do a good job, you might get promoted.”
“Promoted? To what, Junior Undersecretary?”
Potter grinned. “Gawain says you’ve been doing a good job so far. If you keep it up, I could put in a good word for you.” He gave Draco a meaningful look. “You’d have power. More than you have right now.”
“No thank you,” Draco said shortly. He had long moved on from dreams of controlling the wizarding world. All he wanted now was to control his own future. He stood up. “I’m going to fetch Theodore before he becomes Weasleyfied.”
He sensed Potter’s eyes on him as he strode away and smiled, wondering how far he would be able to stretch Potter’s desperation before Potter noticed anything.
Then things went horribly wrong.
The first time Draco caught himself staring at Potter for reasons unrelated to plotting the other man’s untimely death, he blamed it on the lack of caffeine in his system. He summoned a cup of the darkest possible coffee from across the room – he’d have hell from Robards for that later; Ministry policy forbade mobile liquids in Auror Headquarters – and chugged it down, ignoring the odd look Potter shot him as he headed for Robards’s office.
Draco was glad when the liquid scalded his tongue and throat. The pain distracted him from ogling Potter’s arse for the rest of the morning.
The second time Draco caught himself staring at Potter for reasons that weren’t purely heterosexual, he couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough to dismiss the direction of his gaze as coincidental. Apparently Potter couldn’t either, because when his and Draco’s eyes happened to meet, Draco wasn’t the only one who blushed furiously.
One afternoon, having finally resigned himself to the fact that he was an irreconcilably sick and morbidly curious fuck, Draco decided to find out exactly what Potter and Smith did behind closed doors. He charmed a pair of his father’s reading glasses to see through walls and brought them to work. When Potter’s lunch break rolled around, Draco put them on before looking straight across the main office at Potter’s door.
What Draco did not expect to see was Smith bent over the desk, his robes rucked up around his waist and Potter’s prick buried in his arse.
Draco dropped his half-peeled banana on top of a map of Apparition stops in Southern France.
“Since when have you worn glasses?” Weasley asked rudely as he walked up, obstructing Draco’s view. He did a double take. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” Draco squeaked. He tossed Weasley’s memos at him and craned his neck to see around Weasley’s middle. “Move out of the way!”
Weasley drew himself up to his full and admittedly impressive height. “Now look here, Malfoy, you can’t just...”
He faltered when Draco pinned him with his most dangerous look. “Weasley, if you don’t move out of my line of sight right now, your weight will be the least of your problems.”
“Watch your mouth, Malfoy,” Weasley snapped, turning red. “Robards is going to hear about this. Those glasses make you look like Professor Trelawney, by the way,” he added nastily.
Weasley stalked off to his cubicle, taking out his anger along the way on Dennis Creevey, who looked very hurt by Weasley’s snarl when he said hello.
Draco looked around furtively before returning his attention to the goings on in Potter’s office. Disappointment flooded through him when he saw that Potter and Smith had separated, Potter to his desk and Smith to the door. They exchanged a few words, and then Smith walked back to Potter, who stood up. They kissed for an obscenely long time. Finally Smith pulled away.
The door opened, and Draco hastily removed his glasses. Smith grunted a careless greeting as he passed Draco’s desk on the way to the bathroom. Draco clenched his teeth.
He spent his lunch break hiding behind his desk until his hard-on went away.
The next night, Draco stayed late. Instead of rushing through the last of his paperwork, he checked and double-checked it, stretching out his time. At last, only he and Smith remained in the main office.
Several minutes passed in tense silence, and then Smith gruffly cleared his throat. “Just so you know, Malfoy, Harry was mine long before you set your sights on him, so I’d bugger off if I were you. I’ve seen you making eyes at him. Stop it – he doesn’t want anything to do with you.”
Draco tried not to panic. Smith was just trying to bait him; surely no one had noticed Draco looking at Potter. “Making eyes at him? Please. I wouldn’t be Potter’s fuck toy even if you paid me to. As for not wanting anything to do with me, I should only be so lucky.” He levelled Smith with the iciest gaze he could muster. “But I recall correctly, I wasn’t the only one who never missed a chance to make Potter’s life miserable back during our school years.”
“At least I didn’t invite You-Know-Who’s best mates into Hogwarts for a tea party,” Smith fired back. “Besides,” he paused, looking triumphant, “I’ve changed.”
Draco’s fingers tightened around his wand under the desk. “The only thing that’s changed is that you’ve grown out of sucking up and switched to just plain sucking your superiors.”
Smith turned pink. “I got this job because I was qualified! At least I’m not a grovelling, lovesick secretary –”
Smith made a strangled sound as Draco’s wordless spell glued to his tongue to the roof of his mouth. For good measure, Draco also fired off a Confundus Charm.
“Thank you, Severus,” Draco murmured under his breath, surveying Smith’s unfocused eyes with satisfaction.
He barely had time to tuck his wand away before the door to Potter’s office swung open and Potter emerged, buckling his cloak.
Potter saw Smith before he saw Draco. “Hi,” he said, flashing Smith a smile that made Draco’s blood boil.
When Smith didn’t acknowledge Potter’s greeting, Potter frowned and looked around. It was then that he noticed Draco.
“What’s wrong with him?” Potter asked.
Draco shrugged. “He’s your boy toy. Perhaps you should keep a closer eye on him.”
Potter sighed and turned back to Smith. “He must’ve had a stressful day. Probably went through Proudfoot’s obstacle course. I’ll take him home.”
“Wait,” Draco blurted out as Potter slung Smith’s arm around his shoulders.
Draco searched his mind for something, anything to detain Potter. “I heard you’re going abroad soon.”
“Er... yeah.” When Draco looked at him expectantly, Potter’s expression grew confused. “I’m... going with some folks from the Department of International Magical Cooperation. We’re negotiating with the Ministers of other major European Wizarding countries to revise cross-border tracking laws.”
“Thrilling,” Draco said blankly. “When do you leave?”
Now Potter began to look suspicious. “Why?”
Draco sighed. “I’m not planning to revolt and take over the Auror office while you’re gone, Potter. I’m merely curious.” Smith’s head lolled onto Potter’s shoulder, and Potter looked down in surprise. Draco winced. Perhaps he’d been a bit overeager with the charm.
“We need to go,” Potter said. He tightened his hold on Smith’s waist and half-dragged him to the exit. “This was a good, er, talk. See you tomorrow, Malfoy.”
“Yeah,” Draco said to the door as it swung shut. “See you.”
Preparations to send Potter and two other delegates on their trip launched a few days later, and Draco was put in charge of arranging Apparition stops and planning a month-long itinerary for them. As boring as the job was, Draco wasn’t about to challenge it, not when it allowed him to spend more time in Potter’s office.
“What’s so great about Smith?” Draco asked one morning as he waited for Potter to finish writing up a list of names whose contact information he needed.
“He’s a hard worker,” Potter said absently. “He’s not at the top of his class, but he tries. Never misses a day of training. Always asks if he has questions. He’s grown up since Hogwarts.”
“But why are you fucking him of all people?”
Potter’s grip slipped, causing him to slash a bold strike through the Prime Minister of France. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes you do. I’ve seen you two, going at it like Kneazles.”
Potter’s quill snapped. “You’ve been spying on us?”
“I’m the one who should be offended! You’ve violated my right to a safe and sterile working environment by having sex with a colleague in the office. Really, I’m surprised no one else has noticed yet.” Draco took Potter’s gawk as an indication that he could continue uninterrupted. “So why Smith? I mean, I suppose he’s endearing in an underfed, pasty –”
“You’re paler than him!”
“– way, but really, I would have thought the great Harry Potter could do better than an overconfident moron like him. Then again, you are dating the Weasley girl, so the concept of standards is probably foreign to you.”
Potter threw open his desk drawer and searched through a mess of crumpled memos for a new quill. “First of all, I’ve already told you that what goes on between me and Zach isn’t important. Everyone thinks I’m giving him private lessons to help boost his score, and I’d like to keep it that way. Second of all, I thought we agreed not to bring this up again, so I’m not sure why we’re having this conversation in the first place. Third of all, sod the fuck off, Malfoy.”
Draco gestured at the list, which Potter hastily resumed writing. “There must be something spectacular about him if he managed to turn you queer. I mean, you’re so obstinate that I’d assume it extends to sexual orientation... unless you were gay to begin with.”
“What about you?” Potter muttered, scribbling so fast that Draco was sure he would have to use a Deciphering Charm to read the list later. “You’re the ponciest bastard in this office, and you don't hear me calling you a poof.” “But I’m not shagging Zacharias Smith, am I, Potter?” Potter finished the list and shoved it at Draco with enough force to crinkle the parchment. “Get back to work, Malfoy.” “Why can't you just answer the question, Potter?” “Because it's none of your bloody business.” Potter flicked the list at Draco again. “You’ve got ten seconds before I call security. And trust me, Malfoy, you don’t want to deal with the security wizards for an office of security wizards.” Draco took the list, fighting back a laugh. He had forgotten the fun to be had in getting Potter riled up. He loved the way Potter’s entire body tensed at the first sign of conflict, the way his nostrils flared as he tried to control himself. Was Potter always that passionate in everything he did, Draco wondered. Did Potter’s eyes light up the same way when he talked about Quidditch or apprehended criminals? Did the slight growl creep into his voice during a spirited debate or in the heat of the moment?
The moment Draco's mind ventured to the unsavoury place of a riled up Potter in bed, his amusement vanished. Disturbed by the direction of his train of thought, Draco slunk out of the office.
The day Draco realised he had begun to anticipate being called upon to bring Potter his morning coffee was the day he decided to put his foot down and halt his rapid descent into insanity. It was driving him mad, this obsession. He would smother his burning curiosity, and he no longer cared what it would take to do that.
All he wanted was to rid himself of Harry Potter.
Draco’s plan of action took him to the door of Potter’s office during his lunch break. He knocked this time, knowing all too well the consequences of not doing so.
“Come in,” came the muffled response.
Draco entered and shut the door behind him. After a moment’s hesitation, he locked it as well.
“What is it, Malfoy?” Potter asked without glancing up from the letter he was writing.
“I’d like to proposition something,” Draco said stiffly.
“If this has got anything to do with the Chinese Ministry, you can tell Gawain –”
“No, it’s something else.”
Potter still wasn’t looking at Draco. Somehow, that gave him the courage to get the words out.
Draco resisted the urge to smack Potter upside the head. “You. Me. Sex.” He punctuated each word with an illustrative gesture.
Potter snorted. “As tempting as that sounds, no thank you.”
He looked up expectantly. A few seconds passed, and then Potter set aside his quill. His eyebrows were knitted in confusion.
“You’re serious?” When Draco didn’t respond, Potter’s eyes widened. “Merlin on a motorbike, you are serious.”
Draco finally gave up, dropping his gaze. “I want to know what’s so great about it. You... you’ve got to have a reason for doing it.”
“Why not find yourself a rent boy if you’re so curious?”
“I’m not that desperate,” Draco said with a withering glare. Of course Potter would suggest that, the filthy pervert. “I may despise you, but you’re still preferable to a street rat who gets paid to be a semen receptacle. Yes or no, Potter?”
Potter leaned back in his chair and looked Draco up and down, as if inspecting one of his Aurors-in-training for physical impediments. Draco crossed and uncrossed his arms, feeling hot and uncomfortable, as if Potter’s scrutiny was a spotlight shining on him.
“No,” Potter said at last. He looked like he was struggling to hold back a grin. “You’re not my type.”
“I’m better looking than Smith!” Draco spluttered.
“It’s not about looks,” Potter said, rolling his eyes. “You could be bloody Adonis for all I care, and I still wouldn’t sleep with you.”
“Then what is it?” Draco snarled.
“Your personality is a turn off.”
As if that settled it, Potter returned to his letter.
Draco narrowed his eyes. He’d tried to avoid his last resort, but Potter was asking for it. A wizard had to do what he had to do.
“I’ll expose you,” he said in a low voice. “If you don’t do as I say, I’ll tell the reporters everything.”
Potter’s back stiffened. He slowly looked up at Draco. “What did you say?”
There was the trump card. Draco released a shaky breath as his confidence came flooding back. He took a few steps backwards, fumbling for the door handle.
“One slip of my tongue, and everyone will know just how private your lessons with Smith are. All I have to do is open this door.” Draco paused, letting Potter savour the weight of these words. “What’ll it be, Potter?”
Potter’s eyes were hard and cold behind his glasses. “Meet me here after work.”
The rest of the day crawled by at an agonisingly slow pace. Everyone seemed to linger in the office longer than usual. By the time the door clicked shut after the last straggler, Draco’s jittery restlessness had escalated into a mild panic attack.
Draco compulsively straightened the piles of documents on his desk as he ran through the behavioural script he had settled on. He would knock, Potter would open the door, and they would get to it before anything too awkward occurred. The less talking they engaged in the better, especially since Draco doubted he’d be able to get out a word around the nervous lump in his throat.
Draco stood up. What was he thinking? There was no reason for him to be nervous when he had the upper hand. He marched towards Potter’s door, trying to ignore the way it loomed ahead of him like a shadowy gateway to hell. He reached out, hesitated, and then knocked. The sound was as loud as a gunshot in the silent office.
The door flew open and banged against the wall. Draco jumped, startled. Potter sat behind his desk, holding a sizeable bottle of rum in one hand and his wand, which was pointed at Draco, in the other. Draco automatically reached for his own wand before he realised Potter had used his to open the door.
“About bloody time,” Potter muttered, setting his wand down.
“It’s not my fault you people make me work long hours,” Draco snapped, before he realised he had broken his no talking rule. He bit his lip. “Why are you drinking that?”
Potter flushed and mumbled something inaudible.
“I said I’m not doing this stone cold sober,” he said. The alcohol sloshed in the bottle as he held it out to Draco. “Reckon you shouldn’t either.”
Potter shifted in his seat, looking uncomfortable. “It hurts less. Being on the, um, other end.”
Now it was Draco’s turn to colour. “I am not letting you fuck me, Potter,” he said indignantly, though in truth he hadn’t really thought about who would be doing what. “If you know it hurts, you must have –” Draco’s eyes widened. “You’ve done it.”
“No! Zach told me that. I’ve never – I don’t – Christ. Malfoy. I can’t believe I’m talking about this with you.”
Draco folded his arms. Potter’s denial had long ceased to amuse him. “Potter, if you’re voluntarily putting your prick up another bloke’s arse on a regular basis, you’re gay.”
“I’m not gay!” Potter half-shouted. He swallowed a too-large gulp of rum and choked on it, coughing until he was positively puce. Draco stood by, his trepidation dissolving as supreme irritation took its place. Admittedly, he had not imagined things would progress in this direction.
When Potter had regained control over his breathing tubes, he slammed the bottle down on the table. “Look, let’s just get this over with. What d’you want me to do?”
“Whatever you do with Smith,” Draco fired back.
“Fine,” Potter snapped. He stood up and staggered. Draco pursed his lips. Perhaps that had been Potter’s goal all along – to become so inebriated that he couldn’t physically go through with what Draco was demanding of him.
But Potter managed to make it over to Draco without passing out. They stood face-to-face, glaring at each other. Draco found himself holding his breath, and not just to avoid inhaling the strong smell of alcohol seeping from Potter’s every pore.
“Well, I’m not going to do it, Malfoy,” Potter finally said.
With a frustrated sigh, Draco curled a hand around Potter’s neck and drew him into a close-lipped kiss. They stayed like that, their lips mashed together uncomfortably, until Potter finally stepped forward and gingerly gripped Draco’s hips with the tips of his fingers. His lips parted, and the bitter taste of alcohol flooded Draco’s mouth.
Suddenly Draco felt a surge of confidence. There was nothing terrifying about this. It was just like kissing a girl – if he closed his eyes, he couldn’t even see Potter, couldn’t feel anything but the shockingly soft hair at the nape of Potter’s neck and Potter’s warm lips clinging to his.
Draco pulled Potter closer, grinding against him, wanting to feel the hard lines and edges girls didn’t have. Potter made a muffled sound that went straight to Draco’s groin. A hand rubbed Draco through his trousers, and then two fingers slipped under Draco’s waistband.
Draco broke their kiss. “Potter...”
“What, Malfoy? Not gay enough for you?” The words were a challenge, daring Draco to contradict him.
He traced the length of Draco’s cock with his fingers, and Draco bit his lip, nodding his understanding. He leaned against the door behind him, his pulse racing as he watched Potter spit on his palm and then resume what he had been doing, namely, freeing Draco’s erection from its confines.
Draco inhaled sharply when Potter’s hand, slick with spit and sweat, finally closed around his cock. The physical contact felt incredible. Potter’s grip was almost painfully tight, his strokes short and erratic. Draco’s breath picked up as the pressure in his groin mounted. He peeked out from underneath his half-closed eyelids. Potter had braced himself against the door with a hand above Draco’s shoulder and averted his gaze. His flush had spread down to his neck; he looked miserable.
Gritting his teeth, Draco turned Potter’s face towards him.
Anger flared bright and vivid behind the glaze in Potter’s eyes, and Draco bit back a moan. He didn’t know what was happening – Potter wasn’t doing anything Draco hadn’t had done to him before by girls, but Draco was more turned on than he’d ever been. He wound his fingers tightly into Potter’s robes, and their mouths crashed together in a lip-bruising, teeth-clacking kiss.
Potter’s hand movements quickened, and Draco moaned, his hips jerking up to meet Potter’s fist. Each upwards thrust caused the soft fabric of Potter’s robes to drag across the head of Draco’s cock. Draco’s stomach tightened in anticipation, and he tore his mouth away from Potter’s, tilting his head back so he could draw in gulping breaths. He was so close... just...
He barely noticed Potter push his trousers further down until he felt Potter’s other hand slide between his legs. Potter crooked two of his fingers, stroking the spot behind Draco’s balls, and the pressure in Draco’s abdomen burst. He came with a stifled cry, his entire body shuddering violently.
Silently, Potter stepped back. Draco sagged against the door and pushed his sweaty hair back so he could see Potter properly.
Potter’s was red-faced and sweaty, as if he were the one who had just come, but when Draco looked down, he could see the outline of Potter’s erection beneath the thin material of his trousers, partially hidden by his robes, damp with Draco’s come.
Making a split second decision, Draco reached for Potter’s belt. Potter took several unsteady steps backwards, out of Draco’s reach.
“Get out,” Potter said through clenched teeth. He looked like he was about to be sick. “I did what you wanted me to.”
The implications of what Draco had just done began to take form. Horrified, Draco hastily pulled up his trousers and hurried out of the office.
The next day, Potter was as elusive as water, slipping away into the maze of cubicles every time Draco was in his vicinity, for which Draco was greatly relieved. He had feared that Potter, for all his lack of good sense, would act in such a way that would spark speculation. Instead, Draco got staunch indifference. He couldn’t have hoped for more.
But Draco’s stomach still leapt when Potter walked past his desk, and if anything, the inappropriate scenes his mind constructed around Potter grew even more intense with the added dimension of the memory of Potter’s touch. Something ugly stirred in the pit of his stomach when he saw Smith and Potter stop to chat, and he knew then that it wasn’t over yet.
Visitors to Andromeda’s house were rare. Aside from a handful of family friends and the occasional Ministry official, no one really had any reason to visit Draco’s family – which was why Draco was surprised to find an unfamiliar woman standing by the door when he Apparated home after work.
“Who are you?” he demanded, fingers curling around his wand as he ascended the front steps, manoeuvring around the icy spots. He could never be too careful, considering there were still people in the world who wanted his family dead.
The woman smiled. She was pretty and dark-featured, and she looked vaguely familiar. The knuckle-sized gold brooch that held her cloak around her shoulders spoke of wealth and good upbringing.
“Excellent timing, Draco.” Her voice had the edge and clarity of a glass razor. “I assume you don’t remember me.”
“I’m afraid not.”
The woman offered a gloved hand. “Astoria Greengrass. I was two years below you in Hogwarts. My sister, Daphne –”
“Ah, yes.” Draco remembered Daphne Greengrass by name, having sat through many of Blaise Zabini’s vivid accounts of what exactly he would do to her if he could get her alone in their sixth year. He didn’t remember much about Astoria, most likely owing to the fact that they’d been in different houses. “Why are you here?”
“Your parents didn’t tell you?” When Draco shook his head, Astoria took his arm. Her grip was surprisingly strong for a woman so slight. “Walk with me.”
They left Andromeda’s garden and strolled down the pavement, heading up the hill that separated them from the small Muggle town on the other side.
“I don’t believe in beating around the bush, so I’ll get right to it,” Astoria said as they walked. “I’m twenty-one and still single. My parents are concerned about me. I’m concerned about me. I want to meet someone I can fall in love with, maybe even settle down and start a family with. Someone I consider an equal, essentially.”
Understanding dawned upon Draco. “Aha! You’re the one I’m marrying.”
Astoria frowned at him. “Not so fast. My mother and I compiled a list of eligible pureblood wizards. You were on it.”
“Really,” Draco said with a snort.
She flipped her long hair over one shoulder. “That’s what I said when she suggested you. I mean, you’re practically a fugitive, aren’t you? I changed my mind, though, after the twenty or so candidates before you all failed to meet expectations.”
“And what makes you think I’ll live up to your unreasonably high standards?”
“So far, nothing. I’m warning you so you can collect yourself and start trying to impress me.”
A smile twitched at the corners of Draco’s lips. The girl was refreshing; he’d give her that. But he’d have to test her before he took her offer seriously. “I’m not interested.”
“Really. Even if I told you my family was well-off? Forgive me, but I should think you of all people wouldn’t hesitate to snatch any opportunity to get your hands on a full Gringotts vault.”
Draco hesitated, but decided to press ahead anyway. “Gold is a given. I need to know if I can live with you before I commit to anything.”
She paused for a beat, then laughed. “Well, well, a man who likes to play hard to get. Does this mean I’ll have to court you?”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “If you’re up for the challenge.”
“That depends. How much energy will I need to invest into winning your affection?”
“A great deal if you intend to succeed.”
“Will the payoff be rewarding?”
Smiling, Astoria steered Draco back in the direction of Andromeda’s house. “Well then, let’s not dally, shall we?”
Against his better judgment, Draco found himself looking forward to the date they set for dinner. He had a good feeling about Astoria – if everything went well, there was a good chance he would finally be able to start rebuilding his reputation with a respectable marriage.
Meanwhile, Draco’s frustration mounted with each passing day that Potter ignored him. It wasn’t fair that he should be the one who couldn’t stop going back to that night in Potter’s office when he’d orchestrated the whole thing to shut out thoughts of that exact nature. He wanted to make Potter suffer too – after all, Potter was responsible for planting those thoughts in Draco’s head in the first place.
It didn’t take long – or much – for Draco’s frayed patience to snap. One afternoon, he happened to be walking past Potter’s office when Smith swaggered out, looking like a fucking ray of sunshine released from the hands of God himself, and knocked shoulders with him.
Next thing Draco knew, Smith was on the floor with a bloody nose and he was being restrained by a burly Auror twice his size.
The door to Potter’s office flew open before anyone could react, and Potter dashed outside.
“What the hell?” he said, looking from Smith to Draco and assessing the situation with surprising speed. “Malfoy, did you just physically assault Smith?”
“I apologise. I would have used my wand, but it was a spur-of-the-moment decision.”
Potter stared at Draco. The rest of headquarters did the same.
“Well,” Draco said, “if no one minds, I’d like to return to my desk now.”
Potter ran a hand through his hair, causing it to stick up on end. “In my office, Malfoy. Now. Someone fix Zach’s nose before the bleeding gets worse.”
The Auror pinning Draco’s arms down handed him over to Potter, who promptly dragged Draco into his office and slammed the door shut.
“Sit,” Potter said.
Draco conjured a chair and perched on the edge of it.
“What were you thinking, Malfoy?”
“I told you,” Draco said calmly, “I wasn’t. It was an impulsive thing.”
“You don’t impulsively punch someone in the face,” Potter snapped. “What do you have against Zach?”
Draco carefully examined the carpeted floor. “I should think that would be obvious.”
There was a long silence, during which Draco debated whether he would prefer Potter to put him on probation for unprofessional behaviour or hex him into next Friday for bringing up the one incident Potter had clearly tried to avoid acknowledging at all costs. On the one hand, Draco couldn’t afford to hurt future job prospects with a misconduct strike on his record, but on the other hand, he didn’t fancy getting cursed by one of the Ministry’s most experienced Aurors, either.
“Malfoy,” Potter finally said in a strained voice, “whatever you have against me hasn’t got anything to do with Zach. So leave him out of it, okay?”
Draco shook his head, amazed that Potter could be so dense. “It has everything to do with him.”
“Look, if you’re still upset about that time you walked in on us –”
Draco could take no more. He lurched out of his seat, grabbed Potter’s face in both hands, and forced his tongue between Potter’s lips. Potter released a surprised squeak.
“Malfoy!” he spluttered, shoving Draco away. “You said last time was a one-time thing –”
“I changed my mind,” Draco said. He flattened both palms on the surface of Potter’s desk and leaned forward, looking Potter in the eye. “Or are you all right with me telling your girlfriend about dear Zacharias Smith?”
If looks could kill, Draco would have been burnt to a crisp by the flames that blazed into life in Potter’s eyes. “Why are you doing this? We’re not enemies anymore, Malfoy. Are you really that hung up on the past? Can you not get laid otherwise?”
“None of the above.” Draco reached out, ran a thumb along Potter’s stubbled jaw. “I’m doing this because I can.”
Potter wasted no time. Knocking Draco’s hand away, he locked the door, cast a Silencing Charm, and stood up. He shrugged off his robes, letting them fall into a heap on his chair, and removed his belt so quickly that it made a hissing sound as it slid out of the belt loops.
“What are you waiting for?” he snapped when Draco didn’t immediately move. He unbuttoned his trousers. “If we’re going to do this, we’d better do it before someone comes looking for me.”
A seed of dread blossomed inside Draco. He hadn’t anticipated the consequences of angering Potter. He removed his trousers and underwear, kicking them aside so that he stood naked from waist down.
Potter looked away. “Bend over the desk.”
Draco wanted to protest, but Potter looked like he would strangle Draco if he so much as spoke, so Draco cleared away some of the mess on the desk and bent over, resting his weight on his forearms. His cheeks heated as he tried to imagine how he looked – arse in the air, completely exposed; anyone could walk in and see him if Potter let it happen.
Potter tapped one of his drawers with his wand, unlocking it. It slid open. Potter rummaged through it, taking out a condom and a small bottle of lube. Just before Potter shut the drawer and locked it, Draco noticed a half-full box of condoms in the back. Jealousy burned in his gut like acid.
Potter moved behind Draco. The sound of a cap popping and plastic crinkling reached Draco’s ears. Draco glanced over his shoulder. He flushed when he saw that Potter was staring at his upturned arse, lips red and parted, the open bottle of lube and torn condom packet forgotten in his hand.
“Spread your legs,” Potter said, sounding quite unlike himself.
Draco did so, his mind flashing back to the time he had seen Potter and Smith in this exact position. And now he was in Smith’s place. Fuck.
He barely had time to reflect on this development before two cold, slick fingers were shoved roughly into his arse. Draco hissed in pain.
“Fuck! Not so fucking fast, Potter!”
Potter slowly twisted his fingers, and through the discomfort, Draco couldn’t help thinking it was very Gryffindor of Potter to slow down for him. He exhaled shakily. His muscles clenched and relaxed around the intrusion. It wasn’t too bad, but he couldn’t imagine what was so appealing about it.
With one final twist, Potter pulled his fingers out. Draco rested his cheek against the desk, feeling the thump of his heartbeat against the wood. The bottle of lube was set down by his head with a thud, and then Potter’s hands were gripping his hips, fingers digging painfully into Draco’s skin.
Draco felt Potter’s cock press against his hole, and his chest constricted in fear. Shit. He hadn’t thought this far, but everything was moving along so swiftly that his protests were jumbled in his head.
Potter didn’t bother with pretences. He shoved his cock inside Draco in one thrust, and Draco clenched his teeth to stifle a shriek as pain wiped out his mind. He tried to twist away, but Potter’s hands prevented him from moving.
“Hold still,” Draco hissed, when Potter started to pull back. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to adjust to the painful stretching. Potter’s heavy breaths punctuated the muted sound of people bustling about in the main office. “Are you fucking mad, Potter?” he choked out when he could think clearly. “I’m not bloody Smith; my arse isn’t used to things going up that way.”
“Okay. Okay, shit. Just... just calm down.” Potter breathed in deeply, brushing the lightest of touches across Draco’s lower back, as if to apologise. “Tell me when you’re ready.”
After a moment, Draco gave a minute jerk of his head. “Get on with it,” he managed, his breath fogging the smooth surface of Potter’s desk. Potter eased out slowly, and Draco gritted his teeth against the burn. His breathing quickened as Potter moved back in, fingers like pincers on Draco’s hips. Fuck, what had he been thinking? He wasn’t gay, wasn’t meant to be. “Relax, Malfoy,” Potter said, and there was a strange softness to the edges of his voice that caught Draco off guard. “Breathe. You wanted this, remember?” “Don’t remind me,” Draco ground out.
“If you’ve changed your mind –”
“No,” Draco said sharply. He felt the old sense of rivalry creep back, barring him from letting Potter escape when Draco finally had one up over him. He pushed himself up onto his elbows. “Move, Potter.”
Potter did so, the rough fabric of his trousers chafing against Draco’s arse as he shifted back. One of his hands left Draco’s hip and closed around his cock, and Draco couldn’t keep a startled sound from escaping.
“Like that?” Potter muttered. He thrust into Draco again, causing Draco’s hips to slam against the edge of the desk. Draco grimaced; he’d suffer bruises for that later.
The thought quickly fled his head as Potter’s fist tightened around his cock, and all he could think was fuck this actually feels good. Then Potter pushed past something inside Draco that sent toe-curling pleasure sweeping through him, and coherent thought failed him as he arched his back with a whimper. He splayed his sweaty palms against Potter’s desk and rocked backwards, trying to drive the disturbing knowledge that he was having sex with Harry Potter in the middle of the goddamned Ministry out of his mind. He really had gone around the twist. It was over in a matter of minutes, and Draco vaguely noted that Potter never lost his rhythm on Draco’s cock, and, in fact, sped up, jerking Draco’s orgasm from him before he could believe it was happening. A grunt behind him told him that Potter had spent himself as quickly as possible as well. After a while, Draco felt Potter shift on top of him and pull out. Draco felt the dread of meaninglessness wash over him at the sudden absence of heat behind him, inside him, leaving behind a sense of emptiness that wasn’t entirely physical. Semen receptacle, he recalled. God, he was no better, was he?
“Are you hurt?” Potter asked quietly.
Draco pushed himself to his feet, biting back a gasp at the stabbing pain that now made itself known. “I can handle it.”
Potter Summoned Draco’s clothes and handed them to him. “Malfoy, you can’t keep doing this to me. I don’t know what you get out of it, but it isn’t fair.”
“Fair?” Draco laughed softly as he pulled on his trousers. “Fair is suffering the consequences of getting caught. Isn’t that the principle behind your job?”
Potter gave no answer.
“Tomorrow, then,” Draco said. “Don’t forget to cancel your meeting with Smith.”
They began meeting several times a week under the pretence of organising the materials for Potter’s trip. To avoid suspicion, Draco made Potter persuade Robards to make planning the trip Draco’s main responsibility for the time being.
Most days Potter would bend Draco over the edge of his desk and fuck him from behind, as if sex with Draco was another office chore that couldn’t be over with soon enough. Draco found himself doing everything in his ability to crack Potter’s stubborn resistance. Every moan, every whimper, every gasp he wrung out of Potter was a personal victory. Potter knew it too, because Draco often caught him biting his lip to stay silent, red-faced from the effort of not letting anything that would make him seem vulnerable escape on a pant.
Sometimes, just to piss Potter off, Draco would force him to talk instead of fuck. Their conversations never lasted longer than five minutes, and always ended with wands being drawn or insults being hurled back and forth. Words were the only infallible way to get under Potter’s skin, so Draco relied heavily on them, even during sex.
“Think the Weasley girl would be turned on if she saw us right now?” Draco panted one day. “Bet the bitch fantasises about it, watching you fuck me like this – always thought she looked at me funny, like she was planning something.”
Potter slammed into Draco, and Draco grunted as his cheek hit the wall with a dull thud. “Fuck you, Malfoy,” Potter growled.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Draco said with a breathless laugh. His eyes watered from pain, his cheek throbbed, and he was inches away from coming all over the plaster wall of Potter’s office.
Potter bit Draco’s shoulder, teeth sinking into skin and tendon as his cock pulsed inside Draco. Draco moaned and spread his legs wider, shifting back so there was room for Potter to move his hand between Draco and the wall and finish him off.
Afterwards, Potter kissed the nape of Draco’s neck before pulling out. The gesture was so at odds with the rough way he’d handled Draco just moments ago that it was the only thing Draco remembered looking back on the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the more Draco tried to avoid acknowledging it, the clearer it became: Potter had power over him. Even when Draco told Potter exactly how he wanted their afternoons to play out, he still had the feeling he was the one being played.
He hated the way his chest tightened every time he kissed Potter and the movement of Potter’s lips under his wasn’t entirely mechanical. He knew he could have demanded more out of Potter, could have forced Potter to suck him or even bend over for him. He didn’t, though, and in a way, it was his rational side’s way of apologising to Potter for something it couldn’t take responsibility for.
It shouldn’t have come to this, Draco realised one afternoon as he watched Potter clear off his desk in preparation. The first time should have been enough. Draco wasn’t one to let trivial pursuits obscure his view of the bigger picture, yet that was what Potter was doing: distracting him from the more important task of deciding how to go about making Astoria his.
Still, Draco let it happen. He made it happen, because it was the only way to keep Potter’s attention, to be something more than a secretary who made coffee and filed reports and recited everyone else’s schedules as they walked in the door.
Zacharias Smith eventually stopped knocking on Potter’s door. Draco was surprised by how easily Smith gave up until he saw the other man exchanging secretive smiles with another Auror-in-training during an office meeting.
Even Ginny Weasley no longer appeared at Potter’s side as frequently as before. Media stories about a possible split ran rampant, but both ends refused to comment on the state of their relationship.
Not that any of it mattered. Over time the Smith incident faded out of memory, and the sex was whittled down to something purely physical. For all the recognition Potter gave Draco beyond their time together, Draco might as well have been nonexistent, a ghost who flitted in and out of Potter’s life – too insubstantial to make an impact, and transparent enough for Potter to see right through him.
Draco could not remember the last time he had dined in an upscale setting. He told Astoria as much as they prepared to Apparate to the restaurant she had chosen for their first dinner.
She laughed. “We can work on refining your skills. As long as you don’t embarrass me –”
“I won’t,” Draco said indignantly. He adjusted the collar of his dress robes as he passed the mirror in the hallway. “We’re leaving, Mother!”
Narcissa poked her head out of the sitting room. “Enjoy yourselves,” she said, giving them a little wave before disappearing back into the room.
“She’s in unusually high spirits.” Astoria handed her cloak to Draco and turned around expectantly. He slipped it on her, lightly brushing her throat with his knuckles as he did up the buckle. She didn’t even flinch.
“She’s just glad her son’s not asexual,” Draco said. “I think she and Father were preparing for the worst before you showed up. As far as they’re concerned, you’re an angel sent straight from the heavens to grant their wish for an heir.”
“My, aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves. You have a long way to go before you can convince me I want my first born to bear your name, Malfoy.”
“Call me Draco.”
Astoria smiled and patted Draco’s arm as they prepared to Apparate away. “Let’s wait until after dinner to start using first names, shall we?”
As it turned out, Draco’s upbringing had survived the last few years. He quickly fell back into the smooth rhythm of the upper class. Astoria did not have to remind him how to butter his bread or hold his fork. What surprised Draco was how much her delight over his abilities pleased him.
“You’re a never-ending bag of surprises,” she said, laughing like a child in Honeydukes for the first time when Draco ordered their entire meal in French, stumbling over just a few words.
“I’m a Malfoy. My family owes its life to surprises.”
Astoria tapped her wine glass with a manicured finger as she studied Draco, suddenly serious. “It was brave, what your mother did for Harry Potter. Not many people in her position would have done the same.”
Draco took the abrupt change of subject in stride. He had suspected it would come up sooner or later; people always wanted to know his family’s side of the story Potter had told the Ministry to negate their sentence to life in Azkaban. “She didn’t do it for him. Like I said, we’re Malfoys. We don’t do anything unless we benefit from it.”
“That’s what’s so wonderful about it. Your mother risked everything for what mattered most to her – family. Who cares what’s right or wrong during wartime?”
“Are you sure you aren’t a Slytherin?”
“My parents and sister ask me the same thing every day,” she said, laughing. “No, fortunately, I was always the brains of the family.”
The meal was delicious, as was to be expected of the restaurant. After dinner, Draco accompanied Astoria back to her home in Berkshire. Drunk on expensive food and high society, he couldn’t keep an undignified bounce out of his step as they walked up the gravel drive.
“Is a kiss in order?” he asked when they found themselves standing in front of the door, facing each other.
“Perhaps, Draco,” Astoria said, her voice almost a purr. The frost-dusted grass around them sparkled under the glow of the lights in the upstairs windows, and Draco smiled, feeling buoyant. This was normal, acceptable, familiar – this, not his tryst with Potter.
Draco stepped closer to Astoria and tilted her chin up. She gazed at him, cheeks flushed from the cold, looking suddenly and uncharacteristically vulnerable.
At that moment, Draco realised there was a great possibility he could fall in love with this woman.
Without thinking, he leaned down and brushed a chaste kiss across Astoria’s lips. When he pulled away, her eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted, as if she were still caught in the thrall of the brief, innocent touch.
“Good night, Astoria,” Draco said.
All at once, Astoria seemed to collect herself. “Let’s do this again, shall we?”
Draco smirked. “I’ll be waiting for your owl.”
Draco had Potter up against the wall before Potter even had time to lock the door.
“Malfoy, hang on –”
“No,” Draco growled. He tangled his fingers in Potter’s thick hair and tugged, exposing the curve of Potter’s neck. He sucked and bit at Potter’s pulse point, drawing a low moan from Potter.
“Do you want to get caught?” Potter panted, one hand grabbing Draco’s arse and pulling him closer despite the reprimand. The other hand pushed Draco’s robe off his shoulders. Draco ground his hips against Potter’s, and Potter’s face contorted as he fought to keep his pleasure from showing. “The d-door...”
“Leave it,” Draco muttered, fumbling with Potter’s zip. The thought of Smith walking in on them sent a thrill through Draco that manifested itself in his groin. He buried his face in the crook of Potter’s neck and shoulder, inhaling the faint scent of soap and sweat, tasting the smooth skin there. Draco felt elated, breathless with power. If Potter really hated their time together, he was doing a damn good job of covering it up right now.
Draco finally managed to yank Potter’s trousers and boxers down around his knees. He wrapped a hand around Potter’s erection, running his thumb along the underside. Potter groaned; his eyes were dark, demanding, and when Draco felt an urgent pressure on his shoulder, he dropped to his knees without second thought.
Somewhere in the back of Draco’s mind a voice insisted that he stop at once or there’d be no turning back to his relatively heteronormative existence. For some reason, putting his mouth on Potter’s prick seemed significantly more homosexual than having it up his arse, a far less personal orifice.
But Potter’s cock was hard and leaking and right there, and the rest of Draco’s body was so well-acquainted with it by now that a blow job seemed like the most appropriate next step. Draco swallowed the saliva that suddenly flooded his mouth and scooted forward.
Splaying his palms across Potter’s abdomen, Draco experimentally licked around the head of Potter’s cock. Potter’s hips strained against Draco’s hands.
“Fuck,” he whispered.
Draco smirked. “What do you want me to do?”
“I don’t care, it’s your show,” Potter ground out.
“Really. Your dick seems to think otherwise.” Draco sat back. “Fine, then. Get me off.”
He started to stand, but Potter’s hands shot out, forcing him to stay on his knees. “Suck,” Potter growled. He blushed. His eyes, half obscured by dark eyelashes, darted down to Draco’s upturned face, pleading with him. “P-please. Keep going.”
“Thought so,” Draco crowed.
He leaned forward, taking half of Potter’s cock into his mouth, and sucked. Potter moaned, and Draco’s heart skipped a beat – they hadn’t cast a Silencing Charm; surely someone had heard that. A quick glance upwards revealed that Potter was thinking the same thing, if his mortified expression was anything to go by.
Draco alternated between licking and sucking, testing to see what produced the most interesting reactions. Potter’s pants almost sounded like whines now. His fingers tightened in Draco’s hair, twisting the strands painfully. Draco decided to go one step further in his experimentation. He released Potter’s cock.
Potter made a high, desperate sound that made more blood rush to Draco’s already hard cock. “M-Malfoy, please...”
“Be patient,” Draco scolded. He lightly stroked Potter’s side while he sucked on two of his fingers. Then he took Potter’s cock back into his mouth while sliding his spit-slicked fingers behind Potter’s balls. Ignoring the tug at his hair, Draco stroked along the crack of Potter’s arse. When he rubbed his finger firmly over Potter’s hole, Potter groaned, bucked, and came into Draco’s mouth. Caught off guard, Draco gagged but managed to swallow around Potter’s cock. He drew back and wiped his mouth, making a face.
“Is that why your arse has been off-limits all this time? You wouldn’t get to the actual sex part if your partner ever came near it?”
Potter glared at Draco, red-faced. “Stuff it, Malfoy.” He picked up his wand and locked the door. “Come here.”
Draco got to his feet warily. Instead of decking Draco, Potter tugged him closer and unbuttoned his trousers. Less than a minute later, Draco was gasping his release into the bunched-up fabric around Potter’s shoulder.
“Ten minutes ‘til your break ends,” Potter said when he had cleaned both of them off with a wave of his wand. “You’d better get dressed.”
Draco frowned. He hated the time limits Potter always enforced; they made him feel like he was renting out some kind of whore. He walked over to Potter’s desk, rummaged around in the lower drawer, and extracted the bottle of rum Potter always kept on hand.
“You’re leaving tomorrow,” he said, taking a swig.
Potter straightened his tie, shrugging. “So your schedule says.”
“What does your girlfriend have to say about that?”
“She told me to bring back a souvenir for her. How’re the travel plans looking?”
“Already turned them in to Robards. You seem to be taking all of this in stride for someone who’s never left the country.”
“I like trying new things,” Potter said shortly.
“Are you sure? Your knees are shaking.”
“I’m not nervous,” Potter snapped. He looked down at his knees.
Draco snickered. “You’re too easy, Potter.”
“Seriously, Malfoy, get dressed.”
“I don’t think I will.”
Potter flicked his wand, sending Draco’s robes flying at him. He ducked to avoid them.
“Is that all you can do, Potter? Really, if it bothers you so much, why don’t you come dress me yourself?”
“What are we, five years old?” A smile twitched at the corners of Potter’s lips. “Christ. Fine.” He walked over, but Draco took several steps backwards. “Seriously, Malfoy?”
“What, you thought I’d give up that easily?” Draco held his arms out. “Come on, Potter. Put those big, bad Auror skills to use.”
Scowling, Potter lunged for Draco, who deftly sidestepped him and darted behind his desk. Potter turned and ran after him, but Draco hopped the chair and jogged around the other side. Potter threw his hands up.
“I give up.”
“You do?” Draco said from the other side of the desk, surprised.
Potter walked back around, nodding. Pleased, Draco leaned back and waited for Potter to fetch his robes for him. Then, without warning, Potter spun around, grabbed Draco’s wrists, and twisted them behind his back, forcing him to bend over the desk. Parchment crunched under Draco’s chest, and his breath left him with a startled grunt.
“Just kidding,” he said into Draco’s ear.
Furious, Draco craned his neck to get as good of a look over his shoulder at Potter as he could. Potter was grinning like a dog that had finally unearthed a bone after vigorous digging.
“Cheater,” Draco spat. He rested his cheek against the smooth wood of Potter’s desk, waiting for his heart to stop pounding in his chest. The lingering adrenaline was dizzying. “Very well. You win. Never let it be said that the Head Auror is all talk and no action.”
“I’m not Head Auror, you pillock.”
Draco shrugged as best as he could with Potter’s weight on top of him. “You could be. I’m sure you’d win the popular vote by a landslide.”
“Yeah,” Potter snorted. He moved back, giving Draco room to turn around. “The only vote I wouldn’t get is yours.”
“Not that mine would count, anyway,” Draco muttered. He snaked an arm around Potter’s waist, vaguely aware that he was close to overstepping the boundaries of their arrangement, but the butterflies in his stomach didn’t seem to give a damn. “I could be persuaded to vote for you with a little... incentive,” he murmured, brushing the lightest of kisses across Potter’s lips.
“Really,” Potter whispered, kissing the corner of Draco’s mouth.
Draco caught Potter’s lower lip between his teeth and sucked on it lightly. “You’ll need to start immediately if you want to convince me in time for the next election.” He glanced at the clock on the wall behind Potter. “We’ve got –”
Someone pounded at the door. “Harry? Are you all right?”
Draco and Potter both froze. “Y-yes, Ron,” Potter replied, his eyes glued to Draco’s.
A pause. “All right. We heard thuds coming from inside, and we figured you and Malfoy... well, never mind.”
Weasley plodded off. Potter released Draco and stepped back. The distance was like a blast of icy air. Draco sucked in a breath and went to pick up his robe. What had he been thinking? He’d been flirting with Potter like a giggly school girl. Fuck.
“I, um, I’ll probably be gone by the time you come to work tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Draco said without looking at Potter. “Have a good trip.”
“Malfoy, hang on.”
Calloused fingers wrapped around Draco’s wrist, forcing him to turn. Before Draco could say anything, Potter pressed a brief kiss to his lips.
“I’ll see you when I get back,” he said in a rush, and then he all but pushed a stunned Draco out the door.
While Potter was gone, Draco tried to carry on as usual. He tried not to search for hidden meaning in the short letters Potter sent to him requesting more documents and information. He tried not to wonder what Potter was doing whenever he went out with Astoria, tried not to wish he was with Potter the first time he slept with Astoria and all the subsequent times... tried not to miss Potter.
But he did.
Draco strode into the Leaky Cauldron and dropped onto the first empty bar stool in his line of sight.
“Scotch,” he barked at Hannah Longbottom.
Draco glanced over at the bloke sitting beside him. “You could say that.” It hadn’t been, really; he was just in the mood to yell at someone, and he could never go wrong with a Longbottom.
The man smiled sympathetically. Smoke from the cigarette dangling between his fingers curled around him, making his features hazy, but Draco could tell he was good looking – surprisingly so, considering the pub’s regular patrons. “Sorry to hear that. I’m William.”
“Charmed,” Draco said without taking William’s proffered hand.
William cocked his head. “You’re not going to tell me your name?”
“That depends on whether you’re going to put it to good use. If not, there’s no need for you to know it.”
“I can think of several ways it might come in handy.”
William raised his eyebrows suggestively. His meaning instantly became clear to Draco, who recoiled slightly, more taken aback than disgusted.
“I’m not like that,” he stammered.
William’s eyes widened. “Shit. Sorry, mate, I didn’t mean to... I thought you...”
“What gave you that impression?” Draco asked haltingly. “The Leaky Cauldron isn’t exactly the best place to solicit strangers.”
William shook his head, looking embarrassed. “You’re the only one not making eyes at the landlady. Stupid assumption, I know.”
Hannah handed Draco his drink; he took it and gulped half of it down, wondering what to do now. Just because he and Potter had fucked a couple of times didn’t mean he was gay, did it? At least, not enough to fool around with other blokes.
But Potter wasn’t gay either, and he would likely take advantage of William’s offer if he were in Draco’s position... Potter, who was thousands of miles away in Merlin-knew-where, most likely with a dark-eyed, bronze-skinned foreign boy writhing deliciously under him, moaning and gasping his pleasure in French or Italian or some other exotic language...
The heavy taste of alcohol burned in Draco’s throat as he slid his hand onto William’s thigh. William turned stunned eyes to him.
“No,” Draco said around the lump in his throat, “it wasn’t.”
Draco stumbled back home at three in the morning, still moderately drunk and reeking of sweat and sex. He staggered up the stairs and nearly jumped out of his skin when he found a wide-eyed Teddy standing in the doorway of his bedroom.
“Merlin’s balls, do you want to kill me, Theodore?” Draco hissed, grabbing Teddy by the collar and dragging him along as he passed through the doorway.
“Teddy.” Teddy sniffed and wrinkled his nose. “You smell funny.”
Draco resisted the urge to bang his head against the doorframe. “It’s too late for you to be awake.”
“You’re awake,” Teddy pointed out. He jumped onto Draco’s bed, bouncing a few times before settling down. “Were you with the lady who comes over all the time? The one you’re going to marry?”
“Who said I’m marrying her?” Draco asked, shrugging off his robes.
“Grandma. Are you?”
“It’s none of your business. Go to bed.”
Teddy wriggled under the covers. “I think you should marry her. She’s pretty.”
“Looks aren’t everything,” Draco snapped. Then he did a double take. He had just sounded frighteningly like Potter. “Theodore, you have five seconds to leave before I remove you by force.”
Draco could tell by the way Teddy’s eyes widened that he was remembering the time he’d refused to stop pestering Draco when Draco had been busy filling out job applications. Without a further word of protest, he hopped down and scurried out the room.
For a long time after he had stripped and slid into bed, Draco lay awake, mulling over Teddy’s words. He and Astoria had been together for nearly four months – eternity, by pureblood courtship standards. Perhaps it was time he took the next step.
Draco tried to imagine himself coming home every night to a family and dinner cooked by his very own house-elf. It seemed surreal, like a fairytale he had grown out of believing in.
Married life. Draco supposed it might suit him, but it would mean giving up his current lifestyle. He’d have to leave his parents, for one. The luxury of being single would be no more. He would have to make adjustments, amendments, sacrifices.
Draco closed his eyes. His memories of the night were fragmented; he could still taste the salty-bitterness of William’s come on the back of his throat, could still feel his sides bruising under strong fingers.
And now Draco had the opportunity to bury it in the past. No more reckless decisions. No more men.
No more Potter.
The evening before Potter was slated to return, Draco lay in bed with Astoria, idly tracing the shadowy shape of the window frame cast across her bare back by the moonlight spilling through the closed window.
“What would you say if I asked you to marry me?” Draco asked casually.
“Mm... is that a hypothetical question?”
“That depends on your answer.”
The pillow dipped under the curve of Astoria’s smile. “I would say that I thought we had agreed in our arrangement that I would do all the proposing.”
“Forgive me for intruding, then.”
Astoria touched Draco’s hand under the sheets. “Do you mean it?”
“It’s something I’ve been considering.” Draco watched the snowflakes outside drift to the ground, afraid to face the blatant sincerity he knew he would see in Astoria’s expression. He felt as though he were standing on the edge of a deep pit, looking down into the grave he had dug for himself, unable to tell where it ended.
In the past, he had only lied to save himself. This time, he didn’t know what he was trying to save.
Draco felt Astoria move closer and rest her chin on his shoulder. “I would say yes.”
Draco’s gut twisted. What had he done?
The first thing Draco heard when he woke up the next morning was Potter’s voice outside his door. He jerked awake, snatched his wand from the bedside table, and locked the door, taking care not to wake Astoria.
“...didn’t go to work, did he?”
Draco’s heart slammed against his ribcage, as if hopelessly drawn to the sound of Potter’s voice. What was Potter doing here?
“Don’t know,” chirped Teddy’s voice.
Draco closed his eyes and thanked the heavens for the half-werewolf brat.
Footsteps fell, and the door handle rattled. Draco held his breath, but Potter didn’t attempt Alohamora.
“Mr Potter, may I ask why you’re attempting to break into my son’s bedroom?”
Something thudded against Draco’s door, presumably Potter’s elbow or another one of his body parts as he spun around to face Draco’s father.
“I was just... I’m here to see Teddy.”
“It would appear he’s standing right beside you. Unless you have reason to believe there are two of him, I don’t see any reason for you to continue searching for him.”
“Right. No, of course not. I actually wanted to ask Mal – your son something. It, er, doesn’t look like he’s in, so I’ll just be on my way.”
Potter’s footsteps halted. “Yes?”
“Let my son be. He owes you nothing.”
When Draco arrived at work, he found the entire office huddled around Potter, who was laughing and sharing stories about his time abroad. Draco weaved around a cluster of starry-eyed Aurors-in-training and settled down behind his desk, just as everyone burst into applause at something Potter had said.
Draco looked up.
His and Potter’s eyes met over the crowd. Potter’s gaze was intent, hungry, like he wanted to devour Draco right there on the spot. Draco flushed and averted his eyes.
He had a bad feeling about this.
Draco dropped a hefty pile of papers, bound in a leather folder, on Potter’s desk.
“I’ve organised the first set of reports from your trip and turned them in to the International Magical Office of Law. This is your copy. I’ll get started on the documents from the second week tomorrow.”
He wheeled around and had one foot out the door before Potter spoke up. “Wait.”
Even though every muscle in his body strained to keep going, even though his entire world had been narrowed to his desire to reach his desk, Draco stopped and turned.
“Is the folder missing something?” he asked through gritted teeth..
Potter made to get out of his seat, then sat back down, looking uncomfortable. “Um, don’t you want... I thought you came in for...”
He flushed deep red, and all Draco wanted was to drop everything, lock the door, and have his filthy way with Potter. He stepped inside and carefully shut the door, hiding his shaking hands behind him.
“Potter,” he hissed, “listen up and listen closely. As far as I’m concerned, the only unprofessional behaviour we’ve ever engaged in is trying to kill each other.”
Potter’s eyes widened. “What’re you on about?”
“You of all people should know,” Draco said, his throat suddenly tight. Stop, stop, stop, a voice in his head urged, but he couldn’t slow down, couldn’t halt a flood that had been straining against its barriers for too long. “You’re steeped in denial, Potter. Everything is nothing to you. You’re willing to take responsibility for the whole fucking world, but you can’t take responsibility for something as simple as putting your prick in a hole.”
“What about you? ‘I don’t want to be associated with the likes of you’... what the hell are you doing right now, Malfoy?”
“I never wanted this,” Draco snarled.
Potter gaped at Draco. “You blackmailed me!”
“I didn’t ask for this to happen! I thought... just once...” Draco drew in a ragged breath, blood roaring in his ears. “The moment I saw you with Smith, everything went pear-shaped. You – you changed me. I can’t keep going like this. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life picking up men at bars, always afraid that the next one will ruin me, just because you did this to me!”
“What are you saying, Malfoy? That I turned you gay?”
The realisations that he was gay and he wanted Potter hit Draco like one freight train after another. He straightened up, the ground under his feet stabilising as his plan of action became frighteningly clear. “I’m saying I quit.”
A vein in Potter’s forehead bulged. “You quit?”
“That’s right.” Draco wanted to laugh. It was that simple – he could leave. He didn’t have to put up with the Ministry and the utter lack of respect he received from them. The world was full of other employment opportunities, none of which involved Potter. “I quit this miserable job.”
Potter spluttered. “But you need it!”
“I need a secretary job like I need a life sentence to Azkaban, Potter. My girlfriend’s father –”
Potter turned even redder than before, and Draco couldn’t help thinking that he had never seen so much blood in that end of Potter’s body. “You have a... a... you’re dating a girl?”
“My girlfriend’s father,” Draco continued loudly, “coaches the Appleby Arrows. There’s an open training spot on his team.”
“You can’t just – just go from paper pushing to training professional Quidditch players!” Potter caught Draco’s arm as Draco turned to leave for the umpteenth time. “Malfoy, wait, don’t leave. We need you.”
“No you don’t,” Draco spat. “Find another ex-con to toss behind that desk. I’m done here.” He ripped his arm out of Potter’s grip. “You’re free to Obliviate your secret out of me if you’re worried, but there’s no need. Go back to Weasley or Smith or whoever it is you want. We can pretend nothing happened.” He smiled bitterly. “But don’t forget to lock your door in the future, Potter. You wouldn’t want to make the same mistake twice, would you?”
“Malfoy, will you hear me out? I went to your place this morning because I wanted to tell you –”
“It’s not my problem anymore.” Draco threw open the door. “I’ve found what I was looking for. Maybe it’s time you did too, Potter.”
Draco went home and told everyone about his plans to get engaged to Astoria. They were delighted. Draco’s mother insisted on accompanying him to London to help him pick out a ring and get fitted for dress robes, and Andromeda offered to plan the bonding ceremony. Meanwhile, Draco’s father sat him down and launched into a stern lecture about what marriage entailed, from managing financial situations to finding a trustworthy house-elf to care for the child.
When Draco pointed out that he hadn’t proposed yet, his father glared at him and reminded him that pessimism hadn’t helped their family survive a war. Draco bit his lip and nodded.
It was a trivial detail, anyway. He had no reason not to propose.
Draco took Astoria out for ice cream that Sunday. He insisted on paying for once, and she let him, licking her pistachio ice cream cone while she watched him dig around in his pockets.
Embarrassed, Draco stayed quiet as they walked to the Apparition stop. Astoria looped her arm through his and tugged him closer, offering him a taste of her ice cream. He shook his head sullenly.
“Don’t be a poor sport, Draco,” she chided, forcing her cone closer still to his mouth. He sighed and acquiesced.
“I don’t like ice cream,” he said once he had licked off what had smeared across his lips. “It’s for spoiled children.”
The words came out more clipped than Draco had intended. Astoria angled him a sharp look, but he looked away as they passed Madam Malkin’s. Cheerful music floated out from the store, and Draco remembered the last time he had been in the store, when Potter and his sidekicks had swaggered in and insulted his father to his mother’s face.
That was the real Potter: disrespectful, arrogant, inconsiderate. He didn’t care about Draco, never had – and why should he? Draco had forced Potter into having sex. Obviously Potter had only played along to save his reputation. Draco had done the right thing by quitting before he started reading anything into Potter’s behaviour.
Draco picked up his pace and didn’t slow down until Madam Malkin’s was far behind him.
“You seem distracted.”
“Really. Because I’ve been naked in bed with you for nearly five minutes, and you’ve spent more time looking at the ceiling than me.”
Draco looked at Astoria. The chill in her expression would have made glaciers tremble in fright.
“You’re thinking about someone else right now,” she said, her voice tense, coiled tightly around the accusation at the heart of her words. “Someone you would rather be with. Who is she?”
Dread churned in Draco’s stomach. “Why would I be thinking about anyone but you?”
Astoria tightened her hold on the sheet she had wrapped around herself. She threw a look over her shoulder, carefully guarded but for a thin sliver of anger. “Well?”
“There’s nothing to discuss. Stop being melodramatic.”
Astoria turned on Draco. “If you won’t tell me yourself, I have Veritaserum on hand. Take your pick.”
Wincing, Draco grabbed his clothes. He sensed the need to make a quick escape looming in the near future.
A large cardboard box slammed down on Draco’s desk, flattening the letter of resignation he’d just tied into a neat scroll. Draco stared at the box for a long moment, then, with a gulp, slowly looked up to find the source of the sudden chill glaring down at him.
“Your belongings,” Astoria said. “I’ve taken the liberty of collecting them and bringing them to you. Consider it a merciful favour, as my sister has sworn to turn you into a ferret and keep you in a glass cage to entertain visitors if you ever step foot on our property again.”
Draco swallowed. “F-ferret?”
Behind Astoria, Ron Weasley burst into his distinctive guffaw. Someone else whistled loudly.
“Astoria, can we talk about this in private?” Draco hissed, his face burning.
Astoria placed both hands on either side of the box and leaned over it so that her face was inches away from Draco. He flinched, half-expecting her to spit venom in his eyes.
“No,” she said softly. “This is the least I can do. I actually liked you, Draco, but you fucked with me. It’s only fair that I return the favour.”
“Are you sure you’re not a Slytherin?” Draco asked weakly.
“Malfoy? What’s going on here?”
Astoria straightened up and stepped aside, giving Draco a clear view of the Head Auror, Gawain Robards, clearing a path towards his desk. Draco slumped lower in his seat. Just when he’d thought his day couldn’t get any worse.
“Who are you?” Robards barked.
“Good morning, Auror Robards,” Astoria said, flashing Robards a streamlined smile. He blinked. “I’m – oh, I’m sorry, I was Mr Malfoy’s fiancé until last night, when he revealed that he’s been seeing someone else. I’ve just come to drop off his possessions.” Astoria patted the top of the box, her nails tapping against the cardboard. “I hope you haven’t turned in your letter of resignation yet, Draco. My father is rather partial to my sister’s take on all of this.”
Astoria spun around and left in a flurry of expensive robes. The Aurors who had stopped to watch the drama unfold hastily made way for her, all looking deeply impressed.
“Settle down, you lot,” Robards said, shooing everyone back to their cubicles. “Malfoy, no one cares what you do in bed. We’ve got enough trouble to deal with without the women you cross running around the office.” He grabbed Potter’s arm just as Potter walked in. “Impressive timing, Potter. I need your report on the Milton case.”
Potter looked from the slowly dispersing crowd to Robards to the box on Draco’s desk. “Er, sure. What’s going on?”
“Malfoy’s fiancé just ditched his cheating arse,” someone told him gleefully.
Draco swallowed a groan. He glanced down at his squashed letter of resignation and then back up at the Head Auror. Behind Robards, Potter was watching him intently.
“I apologise, sir,” Draco said stiffly. “I’ll leave my personal matters at home in the future.”
“Good. Now come along, Potter.”
Draco stopped by the Leaky Cauldron after work with the intention of getting pissed out of his mind. He halted halfway to the bar when he saw two heads bent together near the back of the pub, tousled black and burnt red standing out against the dingy backdrop.
Heart pounding, Draco did an about-turn and left. He waited for the sickening stab of jealousy to pulse through him, but he felt nothing but the heavy emptiness of resignation.
Draco Apparated to the Greengrass estate.
The first thing Draco did after he managed to get past Astoria’s father and sister and find Astoria in the garden was plead for her forgiveness.
“Get on your knees,” was her immediate response. “Show me you mean it.”
Draco looked at the damp ground. “I will if you’ll agree to put what happened behind us and marry me.”
She laughed harshly. “Draco, I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last wizard in the world and the only other option was to mate with a Muggle.”
Draco sighed. “It was worth a shot.” He paused. “I’m sorry.”
The grass rippled around Draco’s feet as a breeze blew by. Draco looked around him, at the life he had nearly secured and then lost, and felt a twinge of regret.
“Who was she?” Astoria suddenly asked. Her voice was cold with pride. “You’re not a fool; you wouldn’t have left me for just a pretty face. What did she give you that I didn’t?”
Draco wanted to laugh at the absurdity of the question. “Nothing. She gave me nothing.”
Draco did laugh then, a soft, sad laugh that made the lines around Astoria’s pursed lips soften just the slightest. “I wish I knew.”
Draco walked through the front door and right into a familiar body.
“Malfoy, wait. Malfoy – Draco!”
“Get out of my house, Potter,” Draco said, heading for his bedroom as quickly as he could without breaking into a jog.
“Christ, Malfoy, slow down. It isn’t your house. Besides, Andromeda said I could come over to visit Teddy whenever I wanted.”
“Do I look like Theodore?”
“No, you look like the person I came to see today. And it’s Teddy.” Potter’s footsteps picked up as he pounded up the stairs after Draco, and before Draco knew it, his back was against the wall on the second floor landing and Potter’s hands were squeezing his waist.
“Did you break up with her?” Potter demanded.
“Let go of me,” Draco hissed. He tried to pry Potter’s hands off his waist, but Potter fought back, twisting his wrists and entwining their fingers. His palms were warm and familiar. “What are you doing?” Draco asked, unable to keep a tremor out of his voice. “Someone will see.”
Potter’s response was to wind his arms around Draco. The intense pressure of Apparition cut off Draco’s protest, and a moment later, he found himself gasping for breath on an empty lane in front of a small cottage covered with ivy.
“Where the hell are we?”
“I live here,” Potter said with a grin.
“Godric’s Hollow,” Draco breathed, looking around him at the similar cottages lining the lane. He had heard about the wizarding village, of course, but he’d never visited. He gazed at the cottage before him, feeling slightly awed in its presence. “I thought the house was destroyed.”
“Ron and Hermione helped me rebuild it.” There was a note of pride in Potter’s voice. “Come on.”
Draco hesitated. He didn’t have to listen to Potter. One look at Potter’s hopeful expression, however, had his feet carrying him through the gate.
The inside of the cottage was surprisingly clean. The reason why became apparent when Potter led Draco into the kitchen, where the ugliest house-elf Draco had ever seen was tending to a cauldron in the crackling fireplace.
“Welcome, Master Malfoy,” it croaked, giving Draco a funny bow. Draco recoiled slightly.
“Can you make us some tea, Kreacher?” Potter asked as he sat down at a small table covered in with newspapers. “That smells brilliant, by the way.”
While the house-elf bustled about preparing tea, Draco sat down across the table from Potter. “How does it know my name?”
“Kreacher used to work for your mum’s family. You’re probably a bit of an idol to him.”
They sat in silence. The substance in the cauldron bubbled merrily, the fire crackled, and the teacups clinked as they were set down on saucers. Potter looked distracted as he watched Kreacher move around. Draco bounced his knees, wondering why Potter had dragged him here if he was just going to show off his house-elf.
After a while, Kreacher shuffled over bearing a large platter of tea and biscuits. He set everything down and then excused himself with a bow.
“I haven’t been dating Ginny for a long time,” Potter said.
Draco, who had just bit off half a biscuit, choked and spat crumbs over the table. “What?
Potter fiddled with the gold-plated handle of his teacup. “At the beginning we made a point of showing up in the papers together occasionally to keep the rumours down. But we aren’t together, haven’t been together for years. I saw her today and made it official”
Draco gaped at Potter, dumbfounded. “You said –”
“I thought it would keep you quiet, if you knew what I had to lose. I... I was going to go back to her, but then you made... you started...” Potter’s jaw worked for a moment, as if it pained him to voice the next few sentences. “Sex was your twisted little way of keeping me at bay, of making sure you were always one step ahead of me, but I didn’t want it to stop. I didn’t care what your motives were, as long as you stayed.”
“But you hated it!”
“I did, and then I didn’t, and... fuck, Malfoy, it’s all messed up. I hated you for screwing me over again. I was just starting to make sense of myself. That day in the park – Ginny asked me if I wanted to get back together. I held off because of Zach, but by the time I realised he didn’t mean anything to me, you’d come into the picture. As sick as it sounds, I liked what we did – not just the sex, but you, from all the shit things you’d say down to the way you fucking looked at me in public.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I’m sick of denying it,” Potter said, his expression pained. “While I was abroad, I got to spend some time away from the press, away from all the pressure to... to be someone. I realised something. All I’ve ever known is how to fight a threat – control it, make it disappear. I don’t want to do that to myself. And...” he gave Draco a small, nervous smile, “it’d be brilliant if I didn’t have to do it to you, either.”
Draco stared at Potter for a very long time. Was he saying he want to get together? Immediately, Draco’s mind jumped to thoughts of them spending time together outside the office: walking through the park, going out to dinner, getting ice cream...
Draco rose to his feet.
“Where are you going?” Potter asked, jumping out of his chair. He looked alarmed.
“I can’t,” Draco said haltingly. “I can’t keep playing games with you, Potter. I’m a grown man; I owe it to myself and to my family to marry.”
“Did you not hear what I just said, Malfoy? I don’t want this to be a game.”
“It can’t be anything else. Men aren’t supposed to marry men.”
Potter hurried after Draco, stopping him just before he reached the front door. “What if I said you can keep dating women? If you find one you like more than me, we’ll stop seeing each other. I’ll even give you my blessing.”
“Potter, I tried that with Astoria. In case you haven’t noticed, it didn’t work.”
Smiling, Potter brushed his knuckles against Draco’s cheek. Draco fought not to lean into the touch.
“Exactly,” he said.
Two months later, Draco decided to bite the bullet and take his Auror Entrance Exams. He had learned enough from working at the office that he passed the written exam with flying colours. With Potter’s help, he managed to squeak through the practical portion and talk his way out of the less-than-favourable results of the background check.
Draco quickly became immersed in proving his worth in his new position. When he wasn’t studying, he was in the training room, fighting simulated opponents and practising with the other Aurors-in-training, one of whom was Smith, who had been forced to repeat his first year.
A few days before Christmas, Draco met a lovely young woman named Vesta while waiting in line for his turn with Proudfoot’s obstacle course. They immediately hit it off, and a few days later, she agreed to spend the holidays with him and his family.
The news that Draco was no longer single spread rapidly among the gossip-prone Aurors-in-training. It wasn’t long before Potter, the newly appointed Head Auror, found out.
Draco was heading out of his last lecture of the evening with Vesta when Weasley pulled him aside.
“Go on, I’ll owl you later,” Draco told Vesta. “What do you want, Weasley?”
“Harry wants to see you.” He gave Draco a nasty look. “What did you do this time?”
Draco’s heart rate sped up, as it always did before he saw Potter. He tried to keep his excitement from showing on his face. “Perhaps he has a Christmas present for me.”
“Let’s hope it’s a new personality,” Weasley muttered.
Draco sneered at Weasley. “Very funny. If Potter could grant personalities, he should be able to grant appearances too, in which case if he were a true friend he would have improved yours a long time ago.”
Before Weasley could respond, they reached headquarters, where Draco left Weasley by the massive Christmas tree near the entrance.
Potter opened the door when Draco knocked. “You wanted to see me?” Draco said, feigning nonchalance.
“Inside,” Potter said curtly.
Draco raised his eyebrows. He entered the office and shut the door behind him. Potter walked over to his desk and began gathering his things.
“I hear you’re seeing Vesta Taylor,” he said tersely as he swung on his cloak. “She’s got a reputation for being loose, doesn’t she?”
“Loose and wealthy? Lucky me.”
With a growl, Potter spun around and advanced on Draco, leaving his briefcase on the desk. “You’re doing this on purpose, you little shit.”
“Don’t be silly,” Draco said breezily. He hooked his fingers in Potter’s belt loops, tugging Potter closer. Potter’s hands came up to cradle Draco’s face, and he kissed Draco hard, as if trying to drive thoughts of Vesta out of Draco’s head. It worked. “I did leave New Years Day open, you know. I was thinking of going to Paris to see the fireworks. You’re more than welcome to come along.”
Potter shifted closer, rolling his hips against Draco’s. “Is tonight open?” he asked, lips teasing Draco’s earlobe.
“Depends on what you plan to do if it is,” Draco murmured, tugging Potter’s button-down out from under his trousers and sliding a palm up the smooth, warm plane of Potter’s back.
“Why don’t we start in bed and work from there?”
Draco smiled against the side of Potter’s neck. “In that case, let’s get out of here.”