Title: A Helping Hand
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, brief mentions of Ron/Hermione, Draco/Blaise and Neville/Ginny
Summary: Finally doing something about his failing magic, Harry is relieved to find out his illness can be fixed. But an unexpected side-effect might produce some surprising results.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Fluff (but not excessive), Flangst, Post-War,
Epilogue compliant? Uhm… not really. Harry's an Auror, but that's about as far as it gets – no kids, no wives.
Word Count: approx. 10k
Author's Notes: Thank you to N for betaing and bouncing ideas and generally tolerating me. Thanks to I, who sparked this entire plot without realising it. Thanks to M (who went above and beyond), F and C for going over this.
literaryspell - I really hope you enjoy this, and have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. I was thrilled to get to write for you! ♥
The twitches had been barely noticeable at first – tiny little spasms that made his 'e's look like 's's, or the two 't's in his signature bleed into one. Then his spells would miss their mark, bringing the fruit bowl meandering towards him when he wanted the paper. The meandering was a problem too – he was used to his Summoning spells… all his spells… being quick as a flash. But patience came with age and at twenty-eight he could wait a few extra seconds for a spell to take hold, or even cast it again if the first wasn't strong enough.
But after spilling a dozen cups of coffee on himself, he began to wonder. When missed charms were picked up on by colleagues – or by blond finance officers who took great delight in pointing it out and making Harry feel like a squib – Harry began to worry. When a binding spell just faded away, allowing a criminal to escape his grasps, Harry knew it was time to see a Healer. No matter that the worry he was seriously ill knotted his stomach, and his muleish pride told him to just keep it quiet and hope it would go away, Harry knew something had to be done. He was a grown man, and it was ridiculous to be scared of going to the Healers.
As a child, he'd hated the doctors, and as an adult, he wasn't much fonder of the Healers. Everything was the same shade of green – green robes, green paint, green floor tiles. It was like sitting inside a lime, and it smelt roughly the same, the sharp tang of antiseptic spells so heavy in the air he could almost taste it. Fiddling first with his wand, then with his robes, then with a Newton's Cradle on the desk, Harry waited impatiently for his appointment. By the time Healer Murphy swanned into the room, Harry was eyeing the windows and debating jumping out of one – there was no way he'd get past the harridan on the front desk without seeing a Healer, so escape was his only choice.
"Good afternoon Mr Potter, what seems to be the problem today?"
Waving his hand about, Harry tried to explain. "Well, my right hand sort of… I dunno, twitches."
"Your hand twitches?" The disbelief laced every word, and Harry saw the Healer's eyes flick up to the clock on the wall. He felt his temper rise, and contemplated making a snide remark about keeping the Healer from a round of golf.
But he wasn't entirely sure Healers played golf. Or wizards for that matter. Mr Weasley had a set of golf clubs, but apart from one midnight incident Harry would rather not think about, he'd never seen Mr Weasley use them for anything, golf or otherwise. So he decided that, rather than having to explain an insult – which was always humiliating – he'd just soldier on. "Yeah, twitches. It was only a little at first, but now it twitches a couple of times a day. Which I could live with, but there's this constant feeling of pins and needles, like I've been sat on my hand."
"And have you?"
"Been sat on your hand?"
"Sat on… no! Christ, I wouldn't come to the Healers if I'd sat on my hand."
Harry was gearing up for a shouting match, but Healer Murphy moved on quickly. "So aside from twitching and tingling, do you have any other symptoms?"
"Yeah. Sometimes… a lot of the time, really, my spells don't work. They're weak, or they miss the target. And it isn't always when my hand twitches."
All of a sudden, Healer Murphy was paying attention, his bright blue eyes trained on Harry, unnerving in their intensity. And it wasn't a good look. "Your magic is affected? Noticeably?"
"Well, I noticed it." Thinking back, Harry knew other people had commented on his shoddy spell work – in one particularly heated discussion about expenses forms, Harry had lost his temper and tried to hex Draco, who had crowed in delight when the hex failed, and done everything short of take out an ad in the Prophet announcing Harry Potter had the magical ability of a three-year-old – putting it down to idleness as opposed to anything. "I guess other people have noticed it, too."
Healer Murphy huffed. "You should have mentioned this when you booked the appointment."
"No one asked me why I was coming in!"
"Your magic is being affected; you should have mentioned that before you gave your name. Honestly, this changes everything. I need a colleague."
Healer Murphy stormed out of the office, leaving Harry sat in the chair feeling like he was back at school, and had just received a thorough telling-off from McGonagall. And somehow it was far harder to ignore the ominous voices in the back of his mind telling him this was serious, when his Healer had stormed out of the office looking like someone had died.
In an attempt to take his mind off his problems, and his pending test results, Harry had continued living his life as though nothing were wrong, and that included going to the Burrow on Sunday for the traditional family get-together. Surrounded by three generations of Weasleys made it difficult to think about anything but the here and now, and avoiding whichever new jinx George had taught his kids.
"Harry, there's a Healer Murphy in the Floo for you. Is everything okay?"
Harry nodded, his mouth too full of Molly's roast chicken to answer her. He patted her arm reassuringly as he walked past her and into the lounge. Swallowing as he dropped onto the rug, Harry tried not to be too worried by the look on Healer Murphy's face. "Hi."
"We have your results. Can you come through?"
Standing up and nodding, Harry took a handful of Floo powder and turned his head to the kitchen. "I'll be five minutes."
Stepping out into the office, Harry smiled weakly at the other Healers in the room. He'd undergone hours of tests, being closely observed as he cast spells and made potions, even as he flew around in St Mungo's basement. Then he'd had two weeks of waiting and wondering as the results were analysed and discussed by the Healers, and he had to get on with life. "Working on a Sunday, it must be bad news?"
"It isn't great news, let's say that. Have a seat, Harry; would you like some coffee?"
"I had one back at The Burrow. What's the verdict – am I turning into a Squib?" Harry tried to sound cheerful, and light, but he doubted he'd managed it. Healer Withers, a pretty young girl who was clearly the smartest person in the room – and the one with the best manners; neither Healer Murphy nor Healer Dobbins had offered him a seat or coffee – specialised in magical disorders, and looked to be gearing up to speak.
"Harry, this isn't good news. We've run every test we can, and your inherent magic is fine. Brilliant, in fact; you're a powerful young man."
Harry tried not to preen – he suspected that wasn't meant as a compliment, but rather as a preamble to some bad news. For some reason his fingers felt numb, and he tried to surreptitiously flex them as he answered. "Thanks. Is that a bad thing, then?"
"The magic isn't flowing through you properly. For some reason, your wand hand just isn't responding to, or even recognising, your body's magic. And your body needs its magic, needs every cell to recognise it, or, as you've discovered, your ability to perform spells will diminish. This condition is something we rarely see in anyone who hasn't experienced huge magical forces affecting their body. Have you been exposed to large amounts of magic, more than you would come across in your day to day life?"
"I'm not trying to be funny, but I did battle Voldemort. That was a pretty huge event all round. But it was ten years ago, so it can't be that."
Healer Withers shook her head. "It could be – it takes time for this illness to progress to the stage it has done."
"Yes, but, I only used Expelliarmus, and everyone uses that, and…" Harry knew his mouth was running away with him, and made a conscious effort to stop talking and think about what he was going to say. "But he… Voldemort… well, you know, right? He tried to kill me. More than once."
"How many times?"
"I stopped counting after the nineteenth," Harry didn't know when flippancy and sarcasm had become his defence mechanisms, but he couldn't seem to keep the acidic words in the back of his mind; they just tumbled out of his mouth.
Healer Withers smiled tightly. "I understand this is a stressful conversation, but if you could keep the flippancy to a minimum, we can get through it a lot quicker."
"Right. Sorry. Okay, it was only twice that the spell actually hit me. Oh, and another time when I cast at the same time, and our spells sort of… mixed."
"Spells don't mix," Healer Murphy huffed, looking thoroughly offended by the very idea of such a thing.
"Well, these did. We cast at the same time, and the spells mixed, and we sort of… battled for a while. And my spell won, and it sort of made his wand regurgitate all the spells it had cast before."
"Can you explain that a little better?"
"No. I was fourteen, and tried to repress as much of that as possible." Harry sucked in a breath, bringing his hand up to his eyes and squeezing his lids closed. He needed to get a grip, and not let terror colour his words with sharp sarcasm. He knew it didn't suit him. "Our wands were brothers; when they connected, it forced Priori Incantatem on his wand. And while we fought, the magic stayed connected between our two wands; I remember having red marks on my palm for the first few days after that."
"Okay, that makes things a little clearer. Priori Incantatem is supposed to be used on wands, not people; this isn't the first time a person has been on the receiving end of that spell and come out the worse for wear." Healer Withers scribbled a few notes on her pad before laying her quill down and looking up at Harry. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you that our bodies aren't supposed to be exposed, either to that kind of magic, or to magic in that amount."
"Yeah, I'd worked that one out for myself pretty early on. How do I fix this?"
The silence was deafening. Healers Murphy and Dobbins shared a glance, and Healer Withers gave Harry the kind of smile you'd give a small child before you explained to them about pet heaven, and Rovers never-ending visit to it. "Harry… we can't fix this. We can't make it go away. But, for some reason, it's only your hand that is affected. At the moment. So that leaves us with two options. You can walk out of here, and this will eventually kill you-"
Harry laughed, fingers twitching against his legs as he resisted the urge to stand up and pace. Pacing usually helped with nervousness. "See, now, that's what Voldemort thought when he was casting these spells to begin with. I'm freakishly indestructible."
She laughed too, but it wasn't a happy sound. "You are, admittedly. But do you really want to take that chance a third time?"
Harry nodded, sinking back in the chair and staring up at the ceiling. "So what's my other option?"
Healer Withers cleared her throat, and it was then that the presence of Healer Dobbins, the most gifted magical surgeon in Britain, became apparent. "Amputation."
Harry's promised five minutes had been almost two hours, and if he hadn't left his cloak at The Burrow, he'd have gone straight home. As it was, he'd had to go back and face his family, and attempt to explain this latest twist in his far-too-twisty life. Magical medicine was wonderful, and they would be able to construct a new hand for him, free of side effects, that would be just like his own now. Harry explained the situation calmly, cracking jokes and laughing as though he had already made his peace with the decision. He didn't let on that it was all moving too fast, or how scared he was. He didn't reveal his fears that something would go wrong, or that the diagnosis was wrong, and he was losing his magic forever. Harry kept all of it hidden, reassuring the Weasleys that he would be okay, that the Healers would look after him, that he would only need to take three days off from work, and wasn't that fantastic.
But when he came out of the bathroom and found Molly stood on the landing, Harry allowed himself a little cry, let himself relax into a cuddle and panic about what was to come. After all, if he couldn't let his guard down with the woman who had become his second mother, he should probably pack it all in now and take the death option. But Molly promised him, a grown man who really should have grown out of tears and cuddles, that it would all be okay. And Harry believed her.
Sat at home that night, Harry couldn't stop staring at his hand, studying every detail and trying to see what was wrong with it. It looked fine, perfectly healthy, and yet the Healers assured him it was killing him. Harry couldn't get his head around the idea that ten years later, when he was finally past the night terrors, and the fears, and the constant looking over his shoulder, Voldemort was still messing with his life.
Things moved fast after his diagnosis. He told his bosses what was going on, and they offered him unconditional support. His colleagues were mostly supportive, apart from that one goblin in the Curses Department who had a thing against Harry, and Draco. Who had looked almost sympathetic, until he regained his composure and made a snide comment about Harry being unable to wave at his adoring public without a hand. He spent two days doing paperwork, and trying to ignore the way his colleagues stared at his hand as though it had already been lopped off, and on Tuesday evening received an owl informing him his operation would take place on Thursday evening, and he would be signed off work until Monday. There was also a cursory sentence about the available counselling services, if he felt the need to talk to someone. Harry wasn't entirely sure what he could say – he was still getting his head around the idea himself.
Lying in bed on Wednesday evening, Harry scrutinised his hand, trying to memorise every detail, every little scar. The upside of all of this was that his horrible Umbridge-inflicted scar would be gone forever. Harry didn't know how he'd remember not to tell lies without it. In a final act of farewell to the appendage which had served him so well, even if it was apparently trying to kill him, Harry slipped his hand under the quilt and wriggled out of his pyjama bottoms. A goodbye wank seemed fitting, and as always his mind flitted around images, nameless blonds from top-shelf magazines, people he saw in the Prophet, actors, and of course, a certain blond colleague who Harry swore had taken a job at the Ministry just to continue annoying Harry until the day he died. Yes, considering so many of his wanks had been over Draco – Draco in his school robes, Draco in his Quidditch robes, Draco in those dress robes he wore to the Ministry's Christmas ball last year – Harry decided he didn't need to feel bad about using Draco's image for his hand's final encore. After all, what Draco didn't know couldn't humiliate Harry.
When Harry woke up, he didn't feel any different. Groggy from the anaesthetic potions, but still whole. Lifting his hand warily, he braced himself for bloody bandages and a sudden feeling of irreparable loss. What he got was a neat stump, skin sewed closed, and a feeling of mild confusion. But that was his default feeling, so Harry put that to one side and sat up, inspecting his wrist closely.
"Aah, you're awake." Healer Withers entered the room laden with parchment, dropping it all onto the chair and taking his wrist.
"Yep. How did the operation go – have you fixed my freakish illness?"
"I hate to break this to you, Harry, but you aren't that much of a freak. There are a fair few people with this illness. In fact, there's a support group for sufferers of Spottiswood's Magical Neuralgia Syndrome I can put you in contact with."
Harry shrugged. "It must suck for Healer Spottiswood, having this kind of disease named after him."
Healer Withers chuckled. "That's how you know you've made it in the medical world – you get a disorder named after you. Let's have a look at this hand, then." She took his arm, studying the stitched up skin closely. "This is fantastic; Gary, sorry, Healer Dobbins, always does such a good job. As soon as you're ready, I can get to work creating a new hand for you."
"I'm ready now," Harry stared at his left hand, which looked too big and peculiar all on its own. "You said it would look just like my old one?"
"Eventually, yes. We cast the spells, and then we give your body some time to recover itself, and get used to the new hand. We run tests to make sure your magic has taken to the hand, and then we can cast the final set of spells, to make the hand appear more human. It normally takes a month or so before we can complete the final Glamour spell. So you'll be all better in time for Christmas."
"You're sure? Because if I can't get Molly's turkey from my plate to my mouth, I may just cry."
She laughed, still running her fingers and her wand over his arm, casting spells wordlessly as she spoke. "You'll be able to feed yourself fine. You'll be back to normal for work on Monday, you just won't look very normal for a while."
Brushing his hair off his forehead, Harry rolled his eyes up at his scar. "I've never looked normal."
"It's overrated anyway. Are you ready?"
"As I'll ever be."
Healer Withers nodded and focussed on his arm, drawing her wand in complex lines and squiggles. She was muttering under her breath all the time, words and phrases that Harry didn't understand, but could feel the effects of. He watched in wonder as tendrils of silver shot from her wand tip, twisting and turning in the air, taking form as more and more appeared. The cloud of silver thickened, became more solid looking, and floated closer to his wrist. It was clearly a hand now, four fingers and one thumb. He could feel the heat from the charm as the magical hand got closer to his wrist, hot enough that he thought his skin would burn. But when the hand touched him, it was cool, slipping around his wrist and making goose bumps rise on his arm. Harry felt the hand connecting to his body, sending a jolt of magic through him that was powerful enough to make him jerk in the bed, like when he dreamed he was falling and twitched awake.
She let go of his arm, and Harry looked down at the hand in wonder. "Is this it?"
"Yes it is. Say hello to your new right hand, Harry."
Harry lifted his arm up, studying the new appendage. Aside from being a glistening silver colour, it looked just like any other hand. And it worked – Harry could flex his fingers, sort of. He could twist it and make a fist. "I can't feel it that well."
"That's perfectly normal. It will come with time. You also need to keep an eye on it; your nerves will take a few weeks to begin functioning with the new hand, so you may have periods when you can't feel what you're touching. You wouldn't be the first person to lean on the cooker and not realise until the hand blew up."
"It could blow up?" Explosions brought out the inner child in Harry, and he eyed his hand with a new level of respect. "Cool."
"Yes, well, if you're ready, we'll start running through some tests. Then you can go home."
Taking the practice wand Healer Withers held out to him, Harry had to watch the way his fingers curled around the wood, as he couldn't actually feel it. "And I'll be okay, going home?"
"Wow. In the Muggle world, this kind of operation would lay me out for weeks."
"Barbarism tends to have that effect. Believe me, if there were going to be any problems, we would have noticed by now. So I'm afraid, once you've shown you can complete basic spells, it's back home and then back to work on Monday."
Pointing the wand and Summoning over a vase of flowers – which reached him in record time – Harry grinned. "I never thought I'd be looking forward to a Monday morning!"
Harry really loved magic. Only in the magical world could he be told he might die, be told there was a cure to help him live, have his hand chopped off and a magical one put on, all in the space of a month, and then be back at work on Monday morning. He liked the fast pace – waiting for the diagnosis had taken far too long, and given Harry far too much time to dwell – and being in and out of hospital in a week had left Harry with no option but to process the changes and acclimatise to them – he didn't have the luxury of time to second guess his choices.
And the difference that the hand made was startling. Harry hadn't realised how bad his ability to perform spells had got, because he'd lost the ability gradually over time. To have it all suddenly back made him appreciate once more just how useful magic was, and how much easier his life was when he didn't have to concentrate on casting spells, or cast them repeatedly to get the desired result.
His colleagues were suitably intrigued by his new hand, and Robards commented on how much better Harry's handwriting was on his back-to-work report. Harry felt good; he didn't have the sense of loss, or of being attached to something alien and not a part of him, that the Healers had warned him he could experience. Nothing could ruin Harry's mood.
"What on earth is that thing, Potter?"
Harry looked up and groaned as he found Draco sat in one of the Ministry's conference rooms. Just because every time he saw Draco, Harry's heart sped up and his palms got weirdly sweaty didn't mean their relationship had warmed any. In fact, Harry reckoned that if Draco knew half the things Harry thought about him, he'd kill Harry on the spot. Stupid stuck-up ponce. "It's a hand, Malfoy. You know those things you wank with in your empty flat, all on your own?"
"I'd rather wank alone than over pictures of the Weasel. And you'll notice that my hands are not twinkling."
"Jealous that I'm sparkling and you're not?"
"That is possibly the gayest thing you've ever said, Potter. Which is an achievement for the man who announced I bum boys at a Ministry Gala."
Harry felt his cheeks heat up. He preferred not to think about the manner in which he came out, a drunken trainee Auror who was sick of being asked when he'd make an honest woman out of Ginny. Neville was also upset that his girlfriend was being married off to his friend. "Typical that you should come up from Zabini's gob for air in time to hear me come out. Pining for me, Malfoy?"
"As drunken mistakes go, Zabini is a few thousand rungs higher than announcing your topping habits to the entire Ministry. And Malfoy's don't pine. We take what we want, when we want it. You'll notice how I have left you well alone for the entirety of our professional relationship."
Harry was about to retort – with what, he didn't know, as his insults were never on a par with Draco's – but then the rest of their colleagues came in, and Robards did the little cough that implied they were about to start the meeting, and everyone needed to sit down and shut up.
"Right, you all know why we're here. Budget time." Robards paused, letting a groan ripple around the table. "Yeah yeah, everyone hates budget time. But if you want to be paid, you're going to have to do it. So, the heads of the MLE sub-divisions, get your requests in by the end of the day. Send them to Potter and Draco, who will be locked in this room until they have hashed out a budget for the next financial year."
"What?" Harry was barely managing not to squirm in his seat while he sat next to Draco in this meeting – there was no way he'd survive extended periods of time in alone Draco's presence. Draco might kill him. Or he might kill Draco. Or jump him. Neither one was a viable option. "Sir, you know how useless I am with numbers."
"That's what Malfoy is here for. He does the numbers, you do the practical side of what can be allocated to who. Besides, given your condition, I think some time behind a desk would be good for you, to get you back up to speed."
"I'm fine. Absolutely fine. Look, completely able to go out of this room and not have to tolerate Malfoy." Harry waggled his hand about to illustrate his point.
"And apparently able to perform a stellar example of jazz hands." The sneer on Draco's face was evident in his voice as he looked up at Robards. "I want your word I won't be jumped by this flaming Auror."
"Stop trading insults, and start crunching numbers. This item is closed." Robards was using his don't-argue tone, and Harry sank back into his chair. He tuned out the rest of the meeting – he didn't need to know about what the Unspeakables were doing anyway – and tried not to think about being locked in a room with Draco. Of course, he was sure Robards wouldn't actually lock the door. Though if he did, they'd have privacy. A few Muffliato spells, and Harry could shag the pomposity right out of Draco. Just bend him over and-
"Is there something you'd like to say to me?" Draco's hiss was barely audible, and Harry turned his head to the side to look at Draco questioningly.
"Then kindly get your twinkly hand off my thigh. It's hard enough to concentrate in these meetings as it is."
Harry had no idea what Draco was going on about, and clearly his expression reflected that. Draco tipped his chin down, and Harry lowered his eyes, following the line of Draco's pointy, chiselled jaw down to-
-his own hand, rested on Draco's thigh as though it belonged there. Harry snatched his hand back like he'd been burned, jamming it between his knees and squeezing his legs closed. "Oh fuck!"
"Not in a meeting, dear." Draco turned back to the meeting, seemingly unfazed by Harry's hand. Typical – Draco was such a flirty git, he was probably used to being groped in meetings. And in the hallway, and in his office, bent right over his desk and-
-"OW!" Harry's right hand had wriggled free of his knees, and in his haste to stop himself grabbing Draco again, he'd walloped his left hand into his coffee mug, spilling coffee all over himself and the desk. "Bugger, sorry."
"Potter, no one likes these meetings, but that's no reason to destroy the conference room. Can you behave for the rest of the morning?"
Harry nodded, trying not to blush too hard as Robards eyed him closely, waiting a few seconds before he returned to the agenda. Draco was practically trembling with suppressed laughter, but Harry couldn't worry about that now. Something was wrong, and his hand was going haywire. There might well have been past cases of Spottiswood's Magical Neuralgia Syndrome, but Harry doubted they'd ever resulted in limbs developing a mind of their own. He always had to be different.
Waiting out the rest of the meeting, Harry didn't bother warning anyone he was coming, just stepped into the Floo and called out for Healer Withers' office. He ignored the secretary shrieking that he couldn't just walk in – Harry felt this was a situation where Hermione wouldn't tell him off for using his 'Boy Who Lived' status to bend the rules of appointment etiquette – and rushed into Healer Withers' office. He caught her on her lunch break, shoving the door closed in the receptionist's face and sinking into the chair opposite her desk. "Something's gone horribly wrong."
"Really?" Healer Withers put down her sandwich and eyed Harry closely, focussing on his hand. "Everything looks fine to me."
She paused, looking at Harry as though he were mad. "That's the point, Harry."
"No, really alive! It's doing its own thing… it has a mind of its own!" Harry could feel himself getting hysterical, as all manner of possibilities floated into his head, images of his hand dragging him around seedy nightclubs and Muggle London, his hand insulting his friends, developing a mouth and legs and running away and-
Snapping to attention, Harry looked up at Healer Withers. "Yes?"
"Sometimes it takes a while for the magic to settle down, so you may experience involuntary actions or twitches. But the hand does not have a mind of its own – it cannot contradict your own mind."
"I…" Harry wasn't entirely sure how to explain what had happened in the meeting. "I sort of… it sort of grabbed at a colleague, and I didn't even realise what was happening until the colleague pointed it out."
"What does that mean?"
Healer Withers didn't answer, just stared at Harry across her folded fingers. "I think, perhaps, you should go and speak to some of the people in the SMNS support group. You're in luck – they meet on a Monday evening, in the back room of the Leaky. Seven o'clock. Now, I have a consult, and I'm sure you need to get back to work."
Harry tried to get her to stay, but she'd walked out of the door before he could even form the words to ask a question. Infuriated, Harry stared at the certificates on the wall. What the hell was going on, that his hand would act independently of his awareness, and that Healer Withers would have an explanation for that, but be unwilling to share it? He didn't want medical answers from a group of oddball witches and wizards who needed a support group to cope with their illnesses- Harry wanted answers right now, and without the burden of having to share that he was certain would come with meeting any kind of group.
So he mulishly stayed put, waiting over an hour for Healer Withers to come back. She didn't. As the clock approached two thirty, Harry had to give it up as a bad lot; if he wasn't back at work for at least some part of the afternoon, he'd have a mental Robards to go along with his mental hand. But if there weren't some answers tonight, Harry was moving into Healer Withers' office until he got some.
The back room of the Leaky was surprisingly nice; decorated in simple black and white, with pictures of Quidditch players on the wall. A fire roared in the grate, and huge jugs of Butterbeer stood on a heaving table, along with pumpkin pasties and the house Pea Soup. Harry gave that a wide berth, pouring himself a glass of Butterbeer and sliding into a chair. He'd barely taken a sip when a little old wizard sat down next to him, jutting out his left hand, the one that wasn't trying to balance a glass and two pasties.
Harry wiped the condensation from his glass on his robes, reaching out to shake the offered hand. "Harry Potter."
"You've got the 'new' look about you."
"Heh, yeah, this is my first meeting. Should I introduce myself?"
"No, no. 'Meeting' is the wrong word for these things – we get together once a month to compare war stories and annoy Tom. What're you here for?"
Harry held up his other hand, holding it out and letting Artemis study his new hand.
"Impressive work. Getting new blood into the group is worth it just to see how the magic is advancing."
Harry grinned, resting his hand on the table and tapping the fingers softly. He could only just feel the wood under his skin. "It isn't finished yet – they still need to make it look more human, you know?"
"Aye. Course, that wasn't an option when they started these procedures; cop a load of this." Artemis pulled up his robes and stuck his leg out proudly.
Gasping, Harry couldn't help himself leaning closer, staring at the writhing mass of silver magic that took the form – albeit loosely – of a leg. "Wow."
"Aye. Never a dull moment at dinner parties with this beauty."
"I bet not." Harry paused, wondering what the etiquette was for these situations. Not that he ever put much stock in etiquette, but he wanted to make sure he got his answers tonight, and it would help to get them before he accidentally offended everyone in the room. Luckily, his dilemma was solved for him when Artemis took a deep swig of Butterbeer, and belched loudly.
"So, Tessie tells me you have some questions about your new hand?"
"Tessie?" Harry began mentally running through the list of people he'd spoken to about his hand. Nope, no one called Tessie was on that list. He didn’t think he knew any Tessies.
"Tessie Withers. You see a Healer as much as I do, and you can't help but end up on first name terms. So, questions?"
"Yeah… sorry, I'm probably going to sound really mental, but have you heard of anyone's limb sort of… acting up?" Artemis looked confused, so Harry elaborated, "You know, sort of… doing things without you wanting it to?"
"Oh aye. A fair few of us have had that problem. Take meself for example; lost me leg after a nasty incident with the missus, went and got it fixed, all well and good. So I come home, and blow me if every time me mother-in-law walked into the room, my new leg flew out and kicked her up the arse."
Harry snorted, coughing and choking as he tried to recover from inhaling Butterbeer. Wiping the dribbles off his chin, Harry stared at Artemis in shock. "You kicked your mother-in-law?"
"More than once. Vile little witch, always sticking her great big nose in where it didn't belong. I'd wanted to give her a good kicking the first time I laid eyes on her."
"So why did you start after the operation?"
"I didn't choose to. But magic's a funny old thing; it doesn't listen to good reason. I'd been pushing down the urge to give her a kicking, and me new leg just didn't listen to that."
Harry sipped at his Butterbeer, trying to work out exactly what Artemis was getting at. The thick Northern accent didn't help the understanding, but Harry was trying his best. "So you're saying your leg acted on your secret desires?"
"It was no secret. And not so much desires, as those things you really want, and you tell yourself you can't have. For instance," Artemis tipped his head across the room, in the direction of a plump woman with a silvery hand much like Harry's. "Poor old Norma used to go on all these diets, telling herself what she couldn't have. And when she lost her hand in a misguided weight-loss spell, her new hand caused havoc. Every time she went shopping, she got ready to pay and the hand had been sneaking currant buns into the basket."
Harry really wanted to taste Draco's buns. And Draco would probably be affronted at having his arse compared to such a proletarian cake. "So, what? I should do what my hand tells me to do?"
"No, man, you have willpower don't you? Trust me, the courts won't take your hand as an excuse – you go talk to old Sparky; he's doing time in Azkaban for harassing young girls in the street. Some things you just shouldn't grab in public."
Harry's eyes widened, and he tried to remove that mental image from his brain. For some reason, he imagined Sparky to look much like Filch. Shaking his head, Harry looked down at his hand. "Is there not a potion, or a spell, or something?"
"There's whole papers written on what a medical marvel this symptom is. Reams and reams of parchment, and the best Healers in the world can't figure out why the new limbs do that. Then," Artemis' face darkened, and he downed the rest of his Butterbeer in one. "Then, the chuffing philosophers got involved, started telling us that it was because magic was honest, and we should do what the new limbs did, as they were acting free of our moral compasses. Poppycock! If we were all meant to do what we wanted, we wouldn't have consciences in the first place. Kicking your mother in law is never the right thing to do, magic be damned."
After such an impassioned speech, Harry didn’t really know what to say.
Artemis grinned, the mischievous smile making him look ten years old. "It was bloody good fun, though."
Smiling, Harry looked at his hand again. He was sure it would be fun to touch Draco. To take off all those fussy robes and explore every inch of skin. To run his sparkly fingers up the inside of Draco's thigh and dip them into his-
"I'm so sorry; I have an early start in the morning. But I'll definitely come to the next meeting." Holding his robes out to hide his half-problem, Harry made the most subtle exit he could, drawing his wand and Apparating home as soon as was humanly possible. His new hand was telling him to spend some quality time in the bath, and Harry wasn't going to argue.
Harry took Tuesday off, and just as he'd hoped, when he told Hermione about his problem, she had immediately tracked down the relevant medical articles, and kept quiet about his crush on Draco. In fairness, Harry doubted he hid it from her very well, what with his choices of previous partners. And she did maintain that she'd called his crush in third year, but he wasn't entirely sure that was true; he'd only worked it out himself in sixth. But she said nothing, just read with Harry through the mountain of parchment.
"Honestly, Harry, it looks like there's no real explanation. The philosophical takes on it are interesting, but don't really provide much practical use."
"So my choices are shag Malfoy, or continue making a prat out of myself in meetings."
"I'm sure you didn't make a prat-"
"-I was stroking his thigh!" Harry loved Hermione's rationalisations, but some things just couldn't be explained away.
"You know, if you just asked him out, this would all go away."
"Yes; my hand would flee my body under his barrage of ridicule."
"Don't use long words with me, Harry, because I have a better idea of what they mean than you do. Besides, how do you know Draco would ridicule you?"
"Because that's what he's done every other day for the past five years?"
"And you never once thought he took up the job as finance officer for the Auror sub-division because he didn't dislike you?"
"Right, I'm telling Ron to stop letting you read those Muggle romance novels. Not everyone orchestrates their entire career around being hopelessly in love with someone else. And you didn't see Draco with his tongue down Zabini's throat; if he wants something, he gets it."
Hermione's lips were pursed, but Harry didn’t think he'd gone too far with her. He was possibly right up to the line, but he hadn't tipped her over it yet. Luckily.
"Well, maybe he's just never thought about it. Perhaps if you asked him out, he'd think why not?"
Harry huffed. "Because that's what I want in a relationship – an apathetic attitude."
"I do wish Molly hadn't bought you that thesaurus for Christmas. You sound like you swallowed it."
"I know what apathy means."
"Though, perhaps you had to swallow the thesaurus, because you couldn't swallow Draco."
"Hermione!" Harry flung a marshmallow at her, outraged that his friend could suggest such a thing. He always forgot that, when they got going with bickering, Hermione could be as lowbrow as he and Ron. "Such a filthy mouth!"
Hermione shrugged, picking up the empty hot chocolate mugs and sending them over to the sink. "I'm right, and you know it. Now take these papers and go home; you have to spend all day in a small space with Draco tomorrow, so you either need to work out how to ask him out, or get all the frustration out of your system so you don't humiliate yourself again."
Harry stuck his tongue out, but he stood and collected up the papers, letting Hermione guide him over to the Floo. He kissed her goodbye and waved at baby Rose before he tossed down a handful of Floo powder and called out for home. As he was spinning away, he was sure he heard her mutter something about Draco, stating and obvious, but he was too far gone to call her on it.
Not that he'd ever admit it, but Harry had needed to work it out of his system. And wanking with a hand you couldn’t really feel was an exciting experience – almost like there was someone else doing it for you. Another person's hand curling around his shaft, but a person who knew instinctively what Harry liked, knew just the speed to stroke at, just the right way to add a little twist around Harry's glans. Not that he pretended the hand was Draco's, of course. And he definitely didn’t forget himself and yell out Draco's name in the bath, coughing and spluttering on the final syllable as he accidentally inhaled bubbles.
Lounging in the conference room the next morning, waiting on Draco showing up, Harry let his mind wander. He wasn't stupid, and he knew storybook romance only existed in one eponymous place. But he couldn’t see how a lifetime of sniping at each other could result in a happy, functioning relationship. Or even a mutually enjoyable shag. Well… maybe he could see the shag. Hell, he'd even let Draco bend him over the desk too. If he couldn't have the relationship he wanted, he could at least have mind-blowing sex. That was only fair. However, Harry suspected Draco didn't abide by the rules of fairness.
"Morning, Potter. Got that hand under control today?"
"I've just had major surgery, there are bound to be some glitches. If you can't be nice, Malfoy, you could at least be considerate."
"I do apologise; I didn't realise groping was classified as a glitch."
"You wish I'd groped you."
"In the middle of a budget meeting? Hardly."
Harry looked up at Draco, suddenly hopeful. Maybe he could persuade the other man into a shag. Or three.
Draco appeared to take Harry's sudden jumping to attention as though it were Harry preparing to continue the argument. He rolled his eyes as he muttered, "And don't bother straining yourself trying to come up with a witty comeback; just take this stack of budget requests and help me explain to idiot Aurors that 'I want' rarely gets."
A stack of parchment was sent in Harry's direction, and he caught it easily. Beginning with the top file, Harry looked over the numbers closely. "Okay, the Unspeakables want a ten percent increase in their budget this year, to fund three extra staff members, and an upgrade to their office."
"They can have three percent for the new staff, and if they're that worried about the office I'm sure one of them knows a painting charm. Next."
Harry looked up at Draco, stunned. He'd only had to do the budget meetings once before, with old Elphious. It had taken three weeks, and Harry had been close to a nervous breakdown by the end. Draco's brisk efficiency was almost scary. Especially because it meant Harry didn’t have the luxury of a few weeks to decide what he was going to do about his secret crush, and a hand that managed to have the largest mouth in the world even without any lips.
"It's four letters, Potter. N, e, x, and t. It means, follows what came previously, or subsequent in a series."
"Yeah yeah yeah," Harry muttered under his breath, making a note of the raise Draco had approved and picking up the next sheet. "Okay, the Office for the Approval of Flying Apparatus wants a five percent increase."
Draco scoffed loudly. "They just let Dage and Unthank retire, and I know for a fact they don't intend to replace the doddery old gits. So they can have a three percent decrease."
"Thank you. Next."
Harry could have pointed out he hadn't meant it as a compliment, but it seemed pointless; Draco was skilled in hearing only what he wanted to hear. As Harry looked up he saw Draco frowning at a piece of paper, and stood up. "Confused?"
"Your boss has atrocious handwriting. What does this say?"
Circling the table, Harry leaned his left hand on the table and his right on the back of Draco's chair, squinting to try and read Robards' flowery writing. "Oh, it says the Aurors have been promised the money for five new staff for three years now, and if it doesn’t materialise this year he's going to… well, he's going to do something unpleasant to the both of us involving Bludger bats and flag poles."
The chair felt strangely soft under his fingertips, but Harry ignored it as he looked at Draco, wondering if Draco had just not understood what Harry had said, or had been shocked into silence. At first, it seemed that the latter was true – Draco's eyes were closed, and his lips were twisted up. But it wasn't an expression of pain – rather, it was the closest thing to a smile Harry had ever seen on Draco's face.
Then he saw movement in the corner of his eye, and it all became painfully clear. Quite independently of Harry's consciousness, his new hand had rested itself on Draco's back and was scratching through the robes. And, from the look on his face, Draco was quite enjoying it.
"You know, if you're going to accost me in dark meeting rooms, you could at least scratch a little firmer, and a little lower."
"It's hardly dark," Harry fired back, looking around the brightly lit room even as he dropped his hand lower, scratching his fingers firmly over the small of Draco's back. It was actually quite soothing – it would have been better if he could feel himself scratching Draco properly, instead of just the faint little thrills of sensation that he felt at the moment – but Harry wasn't going to complain. Hermione's words – the ones about making a move, not the filth about swallowing – floated back into his mind, and Harry leant down, nuzzling his cheek against Draco's hair.
Harry didn't know what he'd expected, but it hadn't been Draco jolting forwards and dislodging his grip. "What?"
"I do not do nuzzling. Do I look like a nuzzler to you?"
"Well, no, but I..."
"I thought you had grown a pair, and that your inappropriate groping was the signifier of a quick shag to break up the monotony of budget negotiations. Clearly, you are the same flowery sap that would make kissy faces at a Weasley that you have always been. Kindly return to your seat, and keep all appendages to yourself."
Harry didn't know whether to be offended or aroused. There was something about Draco's lips making all those long words, and the disdain that dripped off every syllable that made Harry want to... well, do a lot of things. "I'm not a flowery sap."
"You're hardly a lean, mean shagging machine either. And you're still touching me."
Sure enough, Harry's hand was yet again on Draco's body. And there weren't enough robes in the world to hide the problem Harry had. He reckoned he had two choices: fuck or fight.
"You know what I think, Malfoy?"
"You can think? Stop the presses."
"I think you'd like nothing more than to be bent over this desk."
"Shame there isn't anyone here wizard enough to do it."
The gauntlet was thrown, and like every idiot hero before him, Harry was helpless to walk away from such a challenge. Clenching his fingers in Draco's robes, he revelled in the way the expensive material creased and crinkled. Hauling Draco up out of the chair, Harry didn't bother with preamble or formalities.
And apart from a muffled grunt when their lips pressed together for the first time, Draco did no complaining either.
All the frustration that Harry had thought he'd worked out the night before came rushing back, hot and present as he pressed himself as close to Draco as he could get. It still wasn't close enough, and Harry pulled his body away from Draco's, keeping their lips together as he started fumbling with Draco's buttons.
And carried on fumbling. Harry needed to be able to see what he was doing – and breathing might be quite nice too – so he reluctantly broke the kiss.
Harry stared down at the row of tiny buttons in dismay. There were at least two dozen tiny brass fixings. Harry started at the top, muttering, "Stupid fussy clothes."
Draco batted Harry's hands away, pushing his hair out of his face as he spoke. "They're the height of fashion, not that you'd know fashion if it jumped you in a back alley. Apertum." The simple command produced the greatest result in the history of the world, ever. The buttons slipped obediently from their holes, and Draco's robe fell open to hang around his shoulders. And even that still looked dashingly sophisticated as opposed to untidy and half-dressed. Bloody Draco.
Harry undid his own three, meagre, buttons by hand, pushing his robes off his shoulders and letting them fall to the floor. Grabbing Draco's head again – Harry suspected Draco liked a little rough treatment – Harry pulled Draco back into a kiss with one hand, while the other worked at the buttons on his trousers, popping them open and lowering the zipper to release some of the growing pressure. Reaching for Draco's trousers, Harry broke the kiss for a second time and groaned. "Ribbons? Your trousers are held up with ribbons?"
Draco grunted. "They're thongs, and they're used by the best dressers. It's a mark of class, Potter, hence your not recognising it."
"I have class. I just don't have ribbons."
Shrugging, Harry pulled on one of the strings until it unravelled, pulling the ties loose enough that Draco's trousers opened. Harry gaped. "Apparently even a thong is too much underwear for some."
"Are you going to provide a faux-witty running commentary, or shag me?"
"I can't do both?" Harry questioned, pushing Draco towards the large desk. Draco turned around of his own volition, pushing down his trousers and leaning over the desk. It was a little impersonal, sure, but the sight of Draco's arse stemmed any objections Harry might have had. The chance to shag Draco was such an unlikely occurrence that Harry didn't want to jeopardise it by stating he preferred his sex face to face. Glancing around the room and seeing nothing that would fit the job, Harry drew his wand and conjured up some lubricant into the palm of his hand. He hated conjured lubricant, and always wondered what in the world – as matter couldn't be created – had suddenly been depleted to create the little blob of clear goo. But needs must.
There was something decidedly ungraceful about fishing his erection out from his trousers and smearing it with lubricant, something a little too teenage and fumbling for Harry's liking. But as Draco had made no move to remove any more clothing than was necessary, Harry figured full-frontal nudity was out of the question. Shame.
"Do get on with it, Potter."
Rolling his eyes, Harry brushed off the bored indifference in Draco's tone. Resting his good hand on Draco's hip, revelling in the soft, warm skin under his fingers, Harry guided himself into place, giving no warning before he sunk into Draco's body. All manner of adjectives flew up into Harry's mind; hot, tight, ohsoverygood, but he wisely kept silent, breathing deeply as he came to rest, hips-to-arse, against Draco's body.
That was the most constructive thing Draco had said to him in... well, ever, probably. So Harry did. He didn't think about secret crushes, or repeat performances, and especially not about Hermione's I-was-right face. He focussed wholly on the task at hand, on sliding in and out of Draco slowly and steadily until he found an angle and a rhythm that worked for them both.
Got it. Harry tightened his grip on Draco's waist, confident to move faster, harder, to add in rolls of his hips and squeezes of his fingers, now that he felt like he knew what he was doing. Draco was as vocal in sex as he was the rest of the time, grunting and groaning, tossing out curse words and sharp instructions. Harry responded to some, ignored others, but mainly focussed on building his rhythm, on increasing the tautness in his body until every inch of him was tingling and trembling, ready for the last push to send him toppling over the edge. Draco provided that push, clenching down around Harry's shaft, and muttering Harry's name along with the directive to come. It would have been rude to refuse.
Crying out, Harry felt every inch of his body, even his brand new hand, as though it were on fire. This was easily the best sex he'd had in ages, and it hadn't even been that adventurous. It figured that Draco would be the best at everything, whether he was trying or not. Collapsing over Draco's back, Harry caught his hand on the table, balancing some of his weight as he listened to Draco finishing himself off. That in itself was enough to make Harry's spent dick twitch, hopeful of a second round.
"Any time you want to shift your dead weight, Potter, is fine by me."
Groaning, Harry pulled himself together well enough that he could stand up. He'd barely straightened before Draco had moved away, muttering cleaning charms – but only for himself, Harry noted as he looked down at his sticky trousers – and beginning to redress. "That was..."
"I am rather talented, it's true."
Harry shrugged, muttering his own cleaning charms and tucking himself away. Picking up his robes and charming the creases out of them – Draco had taken care of his own robes already – Harry tried to think of something witty to say.
"The Department of Muggle/Wizard integration wants a fifteen percent increase for new staff, and additional training courses." Draco was back in his chair, looking at the parchment in front of him as though nothing had happened. And when he looked up at Harry, the look on his face said plainly that Harry would do well to do the same.
Suddenly much more enthused about numbers and percentages, Harry returned to his seat. The first step was over – now he had to work on a follow-up plan. And Draco could sit on the other side of the table pretending to be aloof and detached, but the glances he was sneaking at Harry as they read through the next proposal were as subtle as a neon sign. Harry forced down a smile, not wanting to play his hand to early. If one shag could convince Draco that Harry was a tolerable person, then Harry could only imagine what two or three would achieve.
Shagging Draco had definitely cured the problem of Harry's errant hand. Or at least he thought it had. It was a little hard to tell, as Harry hadn't seen Draco in the three weeks since the budget negotiations. Draco had communicated any changes via inter-office memo, and had resolutely avoided all of Harry's suggestions that they meet up to discuss things, which were really hints that they meet up and have sex again. And again. And again.
Harry knew that just getting to shag Draco once was more than he would ever have thought possible, and he should be grateful for it and move on. But he couldn't. Harry wanted more. More sex, and at least a chance to see if there could be more feeling too. Perhaps he really was the flowery sap Draco had accused him of being.
Riding the desk was substantially less fun than riding a broom, and Harry had been looking forward to his final hospital treatment for a week and a half. As long as there were no problems, the spell would be finalised, and Harry would have his pass back into field work. There was only so much coffee he could drink in any one day, after all.
The receptionist clearly hadn't forgiven him for storming into Healer Withers' office, or for slamming the door in her face, and called his name with badly-concealed disdain. Harry smiled at her cheerfully, and headed into the office. "Hey."
"Hello, Harry. How are you coming along?"
"Fine, thanks. Brilliant, in fact. I'm ready to start working again."
She nodded, circling the desk to stand in front of Harry. Harry waited patiently while she manipulated his hand physically, and then cast various diagnostic spells. "Everything seems fine; have you experienced any problems?"
"Full feeling in the hand now?"
"Yep, for the past week or so."
"Good. And your little problem cleared up?"
Harry bit back a smile. "Yeah, it did."
"Fantastic. Then I think we're ready to close things up here. Once the Perm-A-Glamour is in place, your new hand will be indistinguishable from your old one. Then we'll follow up at three, six and twelve months. After that, it'll be every two years, unless you have problems, and then you must come and see me immediately."
Harry nodded his agreement, watching as Healer Withers drew her wand in intricate patterns, speaking quickly. Harry couldn't make out any of the words, but he could see the effects they were having. Tendrils of flesh-coloured magic flew from the end of Healer Withers' wand, twining around his new hand and flattening against it. In less than five minutes, his hand looked exactly like... well, exactly like a hand.
"Are you happy with it?"
"Yeah! It looks so... so real!"
"Well, it is real, for all intents and purposes. The magic is so advanced that you'll even bleed if you get a cut."
"Oh, yay." Healer Withers laughed at his dry sarcasm, and Harry flexed his hand a few times, studying the way the skin wrinkled and stretched exactly as it should do. "Thank you."
"Floo me if you have any problems at all."
Nodding, Harry stood up and stepped out into the waiting area. The receptionist was staring at him with out-and-out hatred in her eyes, and Harry understood why when an elegant black owl swooped over to him, swooping so close Harry could feel the tips of its feathers brushing his cheeks. The owl dropped a scroll from its beak and flew towards the open window. Unravelling the scroll, Harry recognised the handwriting instantly.
Forgive me; getting a budget finalised apparently requires taking up residence in my office for three weeks.
However, if I can remember the way out of this hellhole department, I will be in the bar of Le Grande at eight this evening.
And I hear their room service is excellent.
Harry folded up the parchment with his brand new, non-sparkling, hand. Perhaps this story was going to have a fairytale ending after all.