Title: Fall Apart, Come Together
Pairings: Harry/Draco; also Draco/Asteria, Lucius/Narcissa, past Harry/Ginny
Summary: When Draco's life falls apart, he finally has a chance to make it what he's always wanted.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): wanking, frottage
Epilogue compliant? yes
Word Count: 8,500
Author's Notes: I opted to spell Draco's wife's name "Asteria" since that's more in line with the flower names so common among the witches of that generation.
That evening Draco was drunk. Being drunk was usual for him those days, as was the misery he never let himself articulate, not even in his own thoughts, but which was the reason for the drinking.
He sat, sodden with liquor, in his favourite leather-upholstered chair, and looked with bleary eyes at his wife.
"You're disgusting, Draco," Asteria snapped. She pursed her lips, then nodded with an air of decision. "I'm not going to put up with it any longer."
Draco blinked. "Is that an ul-, an ult-?"
"Ultimatum?" she supplied. "No. The time for ultimatums came and went months ago, perhaps years. I've given you more chances than you deserve. I'm leaving you."
"Leaving?" The word shocked Draco into a semblance of, if not sobriety, at least coherency. "You can't leave me."
"I can, and I will. Goodbye, Draco." Asteria turned on her heel and walked out.
Dazed, Draco remained still for a good ten minutes before getting to his feet and stumbling after her. "Hitty!" he called, and the house-elf appeared.
"Hitty is here, Master Draco. What is it master is needing? Another bottle?"
Draco swore. Even his house-elf knew him for a drunkard. "Did Asteria leave the house?"
Hitty looked frightened. "Yes, Master Draco. Mistress Asteria is gone, Hitty does not know where."
A thought struck Draco then. Perhaps Asteria had only been threatening; it wouldn't be the first time. He headed up to their bedroom, his steps weaving, but moving with determination. Everything looked as usual, except... Draco frowned. There was something different about Asteria's dressing table. He squinted at it, trying to figure it out, and suddenly realised that her jewellery case was missing. Flinging open the wardrobe, he saw that most of her clothes were gone too.
His shoulders sagged. It was true, then, she really had left him. A hint of anger pierced his consciousness. No Malfoy marriage had ever been ended save by the death of one spouse. Asteria might have left, but that didn't mean she was free.
"I'm afraid it does, in fact," the family solicitor, Amable, told him regretfully the next day. "You can contest it, but if she has evidence to substantiate her reasons for leaving, the court will almost certainly decide in her favour. What grounds is she likely to cite, do you know?"
"No common interests," muttered Draco, hoping that he was correct. It couldn't be separate social lives, as they still regularly attended various events together. Draco had certainly not committed adultery. She could cite his drunkenness... he hoped not, though. That would add another dose of humiliation to the shame of the divorce itself. He scowled, wincing as the injudicious movement sent a stab of pain through his head. Glumly he said, "There's no hope at all, then?"
Amable shrugged. "Not unless you can effect a reconciliation somehow, I shouldn't think. I imagine I'll hear from her solicitor soon; I'll be in touch to let you know what we'll do next."
Draco left in a foul temper, but he didn't at once go in search of a drink, as would usually had been his custom. Instead he went browsing in Diagon Alley, thinking that perhaps he could find some gift to send Scorpius.
The wind was chilly and his ears and cheeks were reddened with cold by the time he went into Quality Quidditch Supplies. Scorpius was Chaser and reserve Seeker for Ravenclaw this year, and although he had had a new broom only that summer, Draco was sure that his son would appreciate a new pair of gloves. Scorpius would have to be told what was going on with his parents, and perhaps Draco could use the gift to ease the shock of the news.
His purchase made, he stopped to admire the latest-model racing broom, the Thunderbolt 250, successor to the old Firebolt and reputed to be even better. How long had it been since he'd had a broom between his legs, anyhow? Too long. He resolved to fly that very afternoon.
The light from the shop window dimmed as someone passed by on the street, and then the bell on the door tinkled as the person stepped inside. Draco did not look up from his perusal of the Thunderbolt, but he tensed when his name was spoken.
"Malfoy," drawled Harry Potter.
All the hairs on Draco's arms rose. Potter was standing only inches away, far too close for Draco's comfort. Merlin, he could smell the other man. He refused to move, however, refused to show how Potter's proximity rattled him. "Potter," he replied coolly.
"Filling your leisurely days with a little shopping expedition?"
It was a barbed question. Potter had never made any secret of the fact that he thought anyone who lived off an inherited income was lazy, even anti-social. He had lived up to his own ideals by successfully completing Auror training and working for the Ministry, although he could have lived quite comfortably on the Potter family inheritance, plus what Sirius Black had left him.
Draco, of course, was supported by Malfoy family money, but Potter must have been aware that Draco had more than once applied for jobs at the Ministry, positions for which he was qualified and furthermore had connections which would have been useful. Draco had been summarily turned down every time, until he had concluded that would never be accepted by the Ministry, official pardon or no, and had ceased to make the attempt. He had consoled himself for the past several years with the fact that Potter's marriage to the Weasley chit had failed, according to rumour because he worked so much, but that solace was no longer possible.
"As you see," he said. "Apparently you're doing the same thing, since you're here as well." He stretched his mouth into a half-smile, and turned his head a fraction to see how the other man reacted.
Potter was scowling. "Hardly. It's lunch time, and I was on my way to the Leaky Cauldron."
Draco stared after him in some confusion as Potter whirled and marched out of the shop. Had he only come in to needle Draco in the first place? Perhaps, but if so, why? Draco didn't want to think about it, any more than he wanted to think about the way his heart had been pounding in Potter's presence.
He gave the Thunderbolt a regretful pat – it was a lovely thing, but he scarcely needed a professional-class broom, as little flying as he did these days – and left. Hitty would have his lunch prepared by now, and then he would go flying on his old broom.
The exhilaration of flight had him in a better frame of mind by the time he landed, his ears numb from the cold wind and his nose red and running, and sought out his favourite chair. He started to pour himself a glass of brandy, but stopped himself as his hand touched the decanter. Instead he summoned Hitty and had her bring him hot tea. The flying had cleared his head, and he wanted to keep it clear.
Asteria had left him. He would have her watched, find out if there was another man in the picture – that would give him leverage, in case she chose to cite Draco's habitual drunkenness as grounds – but he rather doubted it. Asteria had never been that highly sexed, for which Draco was grateful. Once they had had Scorpius, they had settled into a routine where Draco indicated he was willing, once a week, and half the time she turned him down. When she did accept his attentions, she always seemed indifferent, even detached; which Draco supposed was an indicator that her interest was no greater than his own. For his part, he managed by thinking of someone else entirely. He would have ceased making even the effort that he did, had not his mother given him some very pointed advice. It had worked, too, since the reason Asteria had left was pretty clearly Draco's drinking. Had it been the quality of their marital relations, she would presumably have left years ago.
Draco stretched out his feet to the fire and sipped at his tea, feeling the hot liquid warm him all the way down. He wondered if perhaps Asteria would agree to a separation, living apart but without going through a formal divorce. Draco suspected that if he were officially single, there would be more witches chasing after him, hoping to marry him for his money and position, than he cared to deal with. Besides, with a separation he'd have as much as five years to try to convince her to come back.
He sent an owl to Hogwarts' Headmistress that evening, explaining the family situation, and received permission to visit Scorpius the next weekend but one. In the meantime he continued his usual pursuits, although he found them more sterile than ever before. Perhaps it was the absence of alcohol, for he continued to refrain from drinking to the extent he had habitually done, only having a glass of wine, no more, at social functions. Several people remarked on it, and on Asteria's absence, but Draco managed to smile and indicate that she was indisposed.
During those ten days before visiting his son he saw Potter twice more: once when he was having lunch with Pansy, and again when he was having new robes fitted at Madame Malkin's. Each time it was only a glimpse, but enough to make Draco's pulse race, and for him to wonder if Potter were following him for some unknown reason.
He Apparated to Hogsmeade early on the appointed morning and walked briskly to the castle where he presented himself to Headmistress McGonagall, and waited as she sent for Scorpius. The boy had been told that his father was going to visit, lest he make plans with his friends that might interfere, but not the visit's purpose.
"Hello, Father. Good morning, Professor."
Scorpius's entry interrupted a rather strained conversation about changes to the curriculum since Draco's day, to his relief. He smiled at his son.
"Shall we go to Hogsmeade? I'm to have you back by four o'clock, so we have most of the day if we want it."
"Thank you, Headmistress, for giving me your time, and for permitting Scorpius this day out," Draco said.
"You're most welcome, Mr. Malfoy," she replied. "I hope the two of you have a pleasant day."
Outside of her office, Draco thought of something. "Here." He pulled out the parcel he'd brought, and watched Scorpius unwrap the Quidditch gloves. "I hope they're the right size."
"They're perfect," said Scorpius, pulling one on to try it. "Thanks, they're great."
"You could run and leave them in your room," Draco suggested, "so that you don't have to haul them around all afternoon. Quidditch probably isn't on our agenda."
"Good idea. I'll be right back." Scorpius pelted off down the corridor.
Draco waited, nodding to the students who came past him, and bowing slightly when the Bloody Baron drifted by. Scorpius was back within a few minutes; he had put on a muffler, Draco noticed, and mentally applauded his son's good sense.
They set off back to the village, Draco asking questions about Scorpius's lessons, and how Quidditch practice was going, and so on. He knew most of it – Scorpius was reasonably good about writing regular letters, although the fact that Asteria had decreed that he should get no allowance unless he wrote a least once a fortnight doubtless had a good deal to do with that. Hearing him talk about his life in person, however, was more satisfactory. Ravenclaw sounded like a rather different atmosphere than Slytherin had been in Draco's day at least, and Draco was able to inquire about Scorpius's friends.
By now they had reached Hogsmeade. It wasn't a weekend designated for student visitation, so the streets and shops were quite quiet. The clerk at Honeydukes looked delighted to see customers, and Draco let Scorpius choose an assortment of sweets to take back to school with him.
As well as their own sweets, Honeydukes sold a few made by others, and Scorpius asked for half a dozen packets of Chocolate Frogs, explaining that he had a friend who collected the cards, too. The explanation was made with a sideways glance at his father that Draco had trouble interpreting. Was Scorpius embarrassed to admit that he still collected the cards at his age, or was there something about the friend?
When they had left the shop and were walking along the uncrowded street, he asked.
Scorpius's face was pink with more than the chilly air.
"He, I, um. We've been friends since our first year, best friends, but I didn't think you'd approve of my being such good friends with Al Potter." Scorpius's gray eyes were pleading. Absently, Draco noted that his son was now almost as tall as he was; Scorpius was no little boy anymore, to be told with whom he could be friends.
"I'm sorry that you felt that way," he said quietly. "Your grandfather would certainly have objected, that's true, but..." he shrugged. "What's past is past, and things don't always turn out the way we expect them to. Speaking of which, I didn't come here today just to bring you those Quidditch gloves and buy you sweets. I need to talk with you about something."
Scorpius looked apprehensive, but he followed his father into the tea shop. It was still called Madame Puddifoot's, although its original owner had sold out several years previously. Only a couple of tables were occupied. Draco asked for them to be seated as far as possible from the other customers. With the teapot steaming between them, and a plate of biscuits and cakes to go with it, he knew he could put off this talk no longer.
"Your mother and I..." he paused and took a sip of tea. "Your mother and I are separating. Probably for good."
Scorpius sat very still for several moments, then nodded. "It was Mum's idea."
"Yes, it was," said Draco, surprised. "How did you know?"
Scorpius shrugged. "No offence, but you've never been the sort to take that much action, even when you're unhappy with something."
His son's perception took Draco aback, but there was truth in what Scorpius had said.
"Anyway," Draco said, "since it seems likely that there isn't going to be any reconciliation or anything like that, I felt that you ought to know what was going on."
"Yeah." Scorpius picked up another biscuit and turned it over in his fingers before taking a bite. "Dad," he said thickly through his mouthful, "why didn't Mum come to tell me?"
"I expect she plans to; we haven't spoken since she left, though. I've only had messages through my solicitor. Until things are settled, she doesn't want our separation to be public knowledge, but you're hardly the public, and I thought you had the right to know what was happening with your own parents. As for the Christmas holidays, if you were wondering about those, unless I hear something from your mother to the contrary, I'm assuming you'll come home and we'll see your Malfoy grandparents as usual." He wasn't looking forward to that occasion; he would have to tell his parents what was going on before Christmas, that was for certain. Perhaps his mother would be understanding enough to prevent his father from being too openly angry or critical in Scorpius's presence. Draco wasn't going to count on it.
"I was kind of wondering about that." Scorpius hesitated, raising his hand to his mouth and biting on a cuticle. "Would it be better if I stayed at school, or visited a friend over the holiday instead? So as not to make things awkward?"
Draco reached across the table to clasp Scorpius's forearm. "Not at all. If your mother wants you to be with her over the holiday, I'm sure we'll manage to work something out. We both love you; this separation is not at all on your account. Don't think that for even a minute, all right?"
Draco looked hard at Scorpius, assessing whether his son was telling the truth. Satisfied, he sat back and poured himself another cup of tea. "Shall we talk of something more pleasant? Are you doing anything especially interesting in any of your classes, or learning new moves for the Ravenclaw Quidditch team?"
Scorpius seemed relieved to talk about something else. By the time he returned his son to Hogwarts, Draco felt reasonably sure that Scorpius understood what was going on, and could cope. He spoke again briefly to Headmistress McGonagall. She assured him that she would let both Scorpius's Head of House and the rest of his professors, plus Madam Pomfrey, know what was going on, in case Scorpius became upset later.
There could never be an ideal time for something like this, thought Draco ruefully as he Apparated home and told Hitty to prepare dinner, but at least it was autumn of Scorpius's sixth year, so it wasn't as if he were getting the bad news while he was trying to prepare for either his O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s. That was something.
Scorpius had been correct, too, in his assessment of his father, although Draco hadn't enjoyed hearing it. He'd been unhappy for years, really, and simply gone on that way, without ever even trying to make any changes in his life. He had just drunk more to try to wash away the unhappiness, and that had been a mistake, no question. Draco was surprised at how easy he had found it to stop drinking to excess the way he had done for so long. He wondered. If Asteria knew that he wasn't drunk every night anymore, would she want to come back? Probably not, which was just as well. If she did come back, doubtless Draco would start hitting the bottle again.
He'd never consciously admitted to himself before how much of his unhappiness was due to his wife. She wasn't a terrible person at all; as he had told Scorpius that afternoon, she was a loving mother, rarely shrewish, and certainly she had been a social asset to Draco over the years. It was just that... well, to be blunt, it was that she was a woman, and Draco just wasn't that interested in women. If they could have been friends, the way he was with Pansy, with no pressure for any greater emotional intimacy – or sex – Draco probably would have been less unhappy. Asteria's expectations, though, were understandably for more than that.
The days marched on. Draco met with his solicitor several times more, and they began to hammer out tentative possible settlement. Draco heard from Scorpius that Asteria had finally told him herself what was happening, visiting him a fortnight after Draco's trip to Hogwarts. Asteria agreed that Scorpius could spend the first part of his holidays, including Christmas Day, with his father and paternal grandparents, but she had moved into a flat that had a bedroom for her son, and wanted to see him for the latter half of the break. To that Draco was quite willing to agree.
In the meantime, he decided to try once more to find some kind of regular employment. While the lack of it certainly hadn't been a direct factor in the breakup of his marriage, he thought that perhaps if he'd had something more to think about than social engagements and the occasional board meeting, he might have been less unhappy. The trouble was in finding something suitable. Draco didn't feel that he was cut out for working in a retail establishment – anyhow his parents would disown him if he did so, that was certain – and something like banking was unlikely to work out, since the goblins monopolised that industry. No, what he wanted was a Ministry position, though after the many rejections he'd experienced there, he didn't have a great deal of hope.
Draco thought it over. When he had tried to find a position at the Ministry in the past, he had drawn on his family's well-placed connections there, and yet been unsuccessful. There were fewer of those connections now than there had been fifteen years ago... and perhaps, just perhaps, that approach had backfired. Draco had to admit that although he was qualified for most of the positions he'd sought, he wasn't necessarily the most outstanding candidate. He could imagine that the heads of departments might be reluctant to show a Malfoy any preference, especially if the person urging it had a history of uncertain loyalties. This time, then, he would apply through the usual routes, only for those jobs for which he was certain he qualified, and he would not ask anyone else to intercede for him.
With that resolve, he had Hitty bring him that day's Prophet and turned to see what jobs were listed. There was a more complete list at the personnel office in the Ministry building itself, but the advertisements in the paper would give him an idea.
If he wanted to be a clerk, there was ample scope for that, Draco found. Most of the Ministry's departments appeared to be hiring junior clerks, from the Department of International Magical Cooperation to the Department of Magical Games and Sports to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, where the Aurors were advertising for an assistant clerk. Draco frowned thoughtfully at that last advertisement. Of all the Ministry departments, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was the least likely to hire him, he suspected. Potter was an Auror, as everyone knew, although Draco didn't think he was the head. You never knew with the Aurors, though. They weren't quite as mysterious as the Unspeakables, but still not exactly forthright.
He summoned a piece of parchment and a self-inking quill, and scribbled down the jobs he felt he could reasonably apply for. As an afterthought, he added the one with the Aurors. Probably pointless, but it wouldn't take that much effort to apply.
The next day saw Draco scowling over a stack of half-drafted letters of application. He hated doing this kind of thing. Maybe he wasn't cut out for the paperwork of a clerk's job after all. On the other hand, promoting himself was rather different from Ministry paper-pushing. He returned to his resume, which he had revised and re-revised until it was practically illegible. He had better copy it afresh and see what it looked like then. After some thought, he had listed his experience on several boards of directors, but not until nearly the end of the page. It didn't seem too relevant to the types of job he was seeking now, but it did show that he hadn't just sat on his arse since leaving school.
It took Draco several attempts to get both resume and letters written to his satisfaction. He would see if there were any positive responses before going to the Ministry itself to see if there was anything else for which he might be eligible.
Nearly a week passed before his first reply, from Broom Regulatory Control in the Department of Magical Transportation. He ripped open the envelope eagerly.
Dear Mr. Malfoy, the letter began. We regret to inform you...
Draco crumpled up the piece of parchment into a ball and hurled it across the room. Then, sheepishly, he Summoned it back and smoothed it out. It wasn't as if he had really expected anything different, he reminded himself, and this was only one response. He'd applied for almost a dozen jobs; there was still plenty of room to hope.
In the meantime, while he waited to hear, he spent a good deal of time flying, rediscovering the pleasure it had always held for him, and wondering how he'd forgotten. He challenged himself by Apparating with his broom to the dragon preserve in Wales, and flying in that dangerous area. He was careful, however, to avoid those parts of the preserve designated as nesting sites, and which were completely off-limits to anyone but the dragon-keepers. Elsewhere in the preserve, flying wasn't illegal, but you flew at your own risk.
He had a brush with a particularly vicious, heavily scarred female one afternoon, though he was nowhere near the mating or nesting grounds, and after that was a bit more circumspect in flying. He also met with his solicitor again, and then owled his parents to ask them to dinner at one of the finest restaurants in wizarding London. Telling them that he and Asteria were divorcing was more and more urgent as the Christmas holidays drew nearer, and Draco hoped that doing so in a public place might keep his father from responding in a way that they might both regret later.
He was the first at the restaurant, and stood when his parents swept in, smelling Narcissa's expensive scent as she swept him into a light embrace. Draco held her chair for her; his father seated himself.
"What's the occasion?" Lucius's eyes were sharp. "I gather Asteria will not be joining us?" He gestured at the table, laid for only three.
"No, she won't."
The waiter approached just then to take their drinks orders and explain the daily specials. When he had bowed himself away, Draco said, "Actually, it's about Asteria that I wanted to talk to you."
"Is she pregnant again?" Narcissa asked, her eyes bright with hope. "I wouldn't have expected it after all this time, but..."
"No," Draco cut her off. "No, Mother, I'm afraid it's not nearly such good news. Asteria and I have separated. It was her idea, but I think it's for the best for both of us."
Lucius's face was stony. "Divorce?"
"Oh dear," Narcissa sighed. She nudged her husband. "Dear, the waiter."
Indeed, the waiter was bringing their drinks, and remained to take their meal orders. Not until he had gone did Lucius repeat, "Divorce?" with his eyebrows raised dangerously.
"Yes," said Draco, feeling reckless. He hadn't wanted the divorce himself to begin with, that was true, but there was no point in protesting the inevitable; moreover, as he had already said, he now thought perhaps it might be for the best.
"Why?" asked Lucius, his eyes sharp on Draco. "Asteria's from a good old pureblood family; she must have had very good reasons to go this far. How have you been acting towards your wife to have provoked her to this?"
Draco could feel the blood heating his cheeks, partly in shame, partly in anger. "I don't see how that is any of your business, Father. What's done is done."
Lucius's fist hit the table with a loud bang. Heads turned across the restaurant, and he moderated his voice. "It is indeed my business," he hissed. "Anything that reflects on the family name is my business, as head of the family. Is it something that would be detrimental if she chose to make it public knowledge?"
"No," Draco said, feeling weary already. "I wasn't sleeping around, or beating her up, or anything else with which the Prophet could have a field day, I assure you." He was reasonably sure now that Asteria was not going to cite his drunkenness as her grounds, not since he'd agreed to the divorce, and Lucius didn't need to have any suspicions along those lines verified.
"Draco..." Narcissa began, but Lucius cut her off with a gesture.
"Let me handle this. You're using Amable and Swift to represent you, I assume?" The firm had been the Malfoy family's solicitors for generations.
"Good. I'll speak to Amable senior tomorrow and instruct him." Lucius nodded, satisfied.
"Father, this is my marriage, and my divorce, and I will instruct my solicitor as I see fit. We're well on the way to an agreement already, and you will please stay out of it." For all the firmness of his words Draco didn't quite look at Lucius when he spoke.
Narcissa had gone pale. She put her hand on Lucius's arm. "Dear, I'm sure that Draco has matters under control."
Luckily their food arrived at that moment, breaking the tense tableau. Gratefully, Draco turned to his veal scaloppine.
"I do have things under control, as Mother says," he said quietly after a few moments. "I may not conduct my life in precisely the way you would choose, but that doesn't mean I don't care about the Malfoy name."
Lucius snorted. "If you're not telling the truth..." He left the threat hanging as he lifted a bite of sole Florentine to his lips.
Somehow they got through the rest of the meal. Draco assured his mother that he and Scorpius would visit over the Christmas holidays, to her evident pleasure. He did not tell them that he was seeking a job at the Ministry; Lucius would try to insist on using what influence and connections he still had, and Draco didn't think it was wise to remind his father of how futile that had been before. It was a relief when he finally said good night and returned to his own, albeit empty, house. The house-elf's presence in no way mitigated his solitude.
Rejections from various Ministry departments trickled in over the next week or so. More than once Draco was tempted to get drunk out of sheer frustration; he couldn't have explained why did not. At last he had heard back from every job except for the one with the Aurors. Day after day went by with no word, until finally Draco concluded that they weren't even going to have the courtesy to send a rejection.
He needed to speak with his solicitor again. He could combine that with a visit to the Ministry's personnel office, to see if there were any new positions that had perhaps not yet been advertised in the Prophet.
Accordingly, the next morning he dressed in business robes and went down to breakfast at an early hour. The post arrived as he was eating a piece of toast, and he flipped through the envelopes. A bank statement, a note from Pansy, what appeared to be an invitation, several circulars – and something on Ministry letterhead. Perhaps the Aurors had gotten their act together enough to turn him down, but Draco didn't feel like reading another rejection at the moment. He left it unopened and returned to his toast and tea.
Before he left to go to Amable and Swift, however, a kind of doleful curiosity drove him to come back and open the letter.
Dear Mr. Malfoy, it read. We were pleased to receive your application, and feel that your qualifications would suit you well for our open position with the Aurors. We would therefore like to invite you to be interviewed next Tuesday at ten a.m. Please contact us if this time is not feasible for you. Yours sincerely, Letitia Throgmorton, Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
Draco dropped the letter in shock, then picked it up and read it again. Yes, they really wanted to interview him. He would never have thought it possible. Perhaps his hopes of remaking his life would be fulfilled after all.
The day of the interview, Draco arrived fifteen minutes before the appointed hour. He had a portfolio with him containing copies of his resume and additional documentation of his past experience, more for something to hang on to than because he thought it would be needed.
The witch behind the desk in the personnel office smiled at him sympathetically. "Please take a seat, Mr..." she glanced down at a parchment list before her, "... Mr. Malfoy. You'll be called shortly."
There were half a dozen or so other job-seekers in the room, although Draco was sure that they couldn't all be interviewing for the same position he was. He found an empty chair and sat, taking long slow breaths to try to quell the fluttering in his stomach. After all, it wasn't as though he had to have this job; his livelihood didn't depend on it. He simply wanted it more than he'd wanted almost anything in years, wanted a chance to do something that might make even a little bit of difference in his world.
Draco jumped up. Another witch with a clipboard stood in the doorway. "Please come with me," she said.
He followed her down a corridor. She opened the door and stepped back to gesture him inside. "Your interviewer is already there."
Taking a deep breath, Draco clutched his portfolio for reassurance and went in.
Harry Potter was sitting at a small table with several stacks of parchment in front of him. He looked up at Draco's entrance. "Mr. Malfoy," he said in professional tones. "Please take a seat."
Draco swallowed and stepped forward to take the chair indicated. "Good morning, Auror Potter."
He held out his hand. Potter shook it with a grin. Firmly, Draco quelled the reaction that threatened to result from Potter's touch.
"I don't know why it seems odder to hear you call me that than anyone else. Still." He gazed intently at Draco. "You're looking well."
"Thank you," muttered Draco.
"All right, then. Interview." Potter leafed through one of his stacks of parchment and pulled out a sheet, running his finger along it. "Tell me, Mr. Malfoy, how you think your experience would suit you for this position?"
Draco emerged from the interview room an hour later, overwhelmed. He had not expected Potter to be the person who interviewed him, and had been totally unprepared for the effect that would have. He wasn't sure if he could walk as far as the Ministry Floo, not in his present condition. He spotted the witch with the clipboard who had led him there and waved at her.
"Could you tell me where the men's room is, please?"
She pointed. "Down that way, take a left at the first cross corridor, and it's three doors along to your right."
"Thank you." Draco set off in the indicated direction.
Safely locked in a stall, he pulled out his wand and cast a quick privacy charm before reaching into his trousers to set free his aching cock. He wrapped his hand around it, Potter's face, Potter's firm handshake, filling his mind. Within moments he came, sagging in relief against the wall of the stall. He gathered his wits and cast another spell to clean up. If he were lucky enough to be offered the job, he hoped that he would learn to control his reactions soon; running off hourly to the loo to wank over the Head Auror would not look too good, that was certain. It had been over twenty years since he'd been so close to Potter, though, not since the night of the Battle of Hogwarts, and perhaps his reaction today was just a consequence of that.
He terminated the privacy spell, flushed the toilet needlessly, and stepped out of the stall, only to confront Potter in the flesh once again. Potter gave him an amused grin.
"We meet again."
Draco managed to mumble an assent, going to the sink to wash his hands so that he would have an excuse not to look at Potter standing there at the urinals. Another memory surfaced, this one of the last time he had encountered Potter in a bathroom. Though he had long since given up any grudge over the incident, the scars on his chest twinged.
"I did remember to tell you that the hiring decision will be made by the beginning of next week, didn't I?" Potter asked cheerfully as he re-fastened his clothes.
"Yes, yes you did." Draco edged toward the door.
"Excellent. I don't do this interviewing thing very often, so I'm always worried that I'll forget something important."
"I can understand that. Thanks again."
Draco fled. There was no other word for it, he admitted glumly to himself as he sat in front of a ploughman's lunch in the Ministry canteen. He sighed. Perhaps working at the Ministry wasn't the best idea for him. Well, he'd just have to see if he was even offered the position, and then decide if he could handle it. He had no fears about being able to do the work, only about his ability to handle himself in such close proximity to Potter every day.
He visited his solicitor once again that week, just to see that everything was in train for a quick settlement, and not incidentally to ensure that his father hadn't meddled in his affairs. All seemed to be well, to Draco's relief.
Other than that, he did little while he waited to hear word as to whether he was offered the position with the Aurors or not. He indulged in a bit of a lie-in those mornings, thinking ruefully that if he did get the job, he would have no choice but to get up early every day.
Thus it was that on Monday morning he was still in bed when the post arrived. He felt himself being shaken, and opened one eye in displeasure to see Hitty bending over him, wringing her hands anxiously.
"Master Draco, sir, Hitty is sorry to be waking master Draco, but he insists Hitty bring you this," she held out a letter, "and that master Draco must then speak with him."
"What?" said Draco, yawning. "What's this all about? Who is this he you're talking about?"
He shoved himself semi-upright against the pillows and reached for the letter.
"He, sir." Hitty's eyes were round with anxiety. "Master Harry Potter, sir."
"Potter?" said Draco blankly. What on earth was Potter doing at his house at – he squinted at the clock – nine-seventeen on a Monday morning?
"Yes, master Draco. Master Harry insists that Hitty bring the letter for master Draco to read before he speaks with master Harry."
"Oh, all right." Draco yawned again. "Put him in the living room and tell him I'll be down in a few minutes. And bring him a cup of tea if he wants one; bring me one, too."
Hitty bowed her head and disappeared with a pop. Draco opened the letter, his hands trembling. It was too thick to be a rejection, surely? But why would Potter have come if he had sent a letter? Draco grabbed the sheets of parchment as they tumbled from the envelope and hastily smoothed them out.
Dear Mr. Malfoy, he read. We are very pleased to be able to offer you a position as clerk in the Department of Magical Transportation. This position will commence on December 15. Please read and complete the enclosed personnel forms, and return them to the Ministry within seven days of receipt. Thank you very much. Yours sincerely, Prunella Noakes.
Draco blinked and rubbed at his eyes. The Department of Magical Transportation? That didn't make any sense. They had turned him down weeks ago. Perplexed, he sat staring at the letter until Hitty returned with his tea, which reminded him that he had Potter downstairs waiting for him. Well, whatever he was here for, Draco could ask him what was going on.
He pulled on the first clothes that came to hand and ran a comb through his hair. Carrying his teacup with him, he went down to greet Potter.
"What the hell is this all about, Potter?" Draco demanded, brandishing the letter and very nearly spilling his tea as he did so. "You're the only one I interviewed with, to work for the Aurors in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. So why did I get a job offer from the Department of Magical Transportation instead?"
Potter had jumped to his feet when Draco entered the room. "That's why I came here, to explain." There were crimson spots on his cheeks. "I asked them to hire you, assured them that you were more than qualified for their position, and they agreed."
"But why? If I'm so well-qualified, why not hire me yourself?" asked Draco in frustration.
"I'm head of the Aurors," said Potter, as if that explained everything.
It didn't, not to Draco. "So what?"
"So, I'd be your boss," said Potter.
"And you still dislike me so much after all these years that you're not willing to have me under you?" Which didn't make a great deal of sense, Draco knew, because if Potter had such an intense dislike for him as all that, he wouldn't have bothered to come to Draco's home this morning. Moreover he hadn't sensed that level of antagonism during the interview; all his tension had had an entirely different basis.
Potter's flush deepened. "Um. No. Quite the opposite in fact. I, um, I fancy you." He said the last three words very quickly, looking down and away from Draco.
"What?" Draco's head was spinning worse than it had with the hangover he'd endured the day after Asteria left. "Look, sit down." He took a seat too, setting down both letter and teacup. "Explain yourself."
"I know that you and Asteria have separated," Potter began, and nodded when he caught Draco's glare. "I understand it's not meant to be common knowledge, but we routinely investigate all applicants for positions in our department."
"Go on," said Draco, crossing his arms. It occurred to him that Potter had seemed to be shadowing him long before Draco had even thought about applying for the clerk's position with the Aurors, but he chose to say nothing of that, for now at any rate.
"Well, so it's not entirely clear from your solicitor's papers just why you're getting a divorce. I mean, 'no common interests' is pretty generic. Probably I'm being really stupid about this, but I thought that perhaps, once you were divorced, you might be attracted not just to women, but maybe men too. And if there was any chance that you would be remotely interested in dating me, I couldn't be your boss, you see. Even if you're not at all interested, the way I feel about you would make it hard for me to act as your supervisor." Potter wound up his explanation with a hopeful look at Draco.
"So you persuaded another department head to hire me, just on the slim chance that I might be willing to date you?"
"That's pretty much it, yeah," Potter admitted. "It sounds much stupider put bluntly like that, somehow. I had just gathered the impression from you that although you would like to work for the Aurors, you didn't have your heart set on us particularly, just on a Ministry job in general, so I didn't think it would make a difference to you if Magical Transportation hired you instead. If that's wrong, I'm sorry, but I'm still not going to be able to offer you a job with the Aurors, for the reason I already gave."
Draco remained bemused. "Let me get this straight," he said. "You fancy me to the point that you think my presence in your department would distract you from your work, even if I'm not interested in dating you; and if I am, then you feel it's inappropriate –"
"Against regulations, actually," Potter interjected.
"– against regulations, then, for us to date with you also being my boss. So you called in a favour, pulled some strings, whatever, to get a department that had already turned me down to reconsider and hire me. Is that right?"
"Basically, yeah, that's it."
"Okay." Draco took a deep breath. "I can hardly say no, can I?"
"Of course you can say no," said Potter, looking indignant. "Both to the job offer and to me."
"Technically, yes, but the thing is, I don't want to say no." Draco gave Potter a small smile. "You're right, I want to work at the Ministry very much, and I don't really care which department. And, er, I fancy you, too."
Potter grinned back. "I rather thought you might. Those Ministry loos? Spells don't work there. Safety precaution, in case some lunatic – or George Weasley – were to bring in something explosive."
"What?" Draco's jaw dropped. "You bastard, you listened to me wank?"
"Yeah." Now Potter looked worried. "I mean, I didn't follow you into the loo because I thought you'd be doing that, or anything. I didn't even know it was you in the stall till I heard you... um, you moaned a bit, and I recognised your voice."
"Oh." Draco thought it over. Had he said Potter's name in the heat of the moment? That would explain a lot, including why Potter had gone to such lengths to get Draco a different job. "They really ought to put up a sign to warn people, you know. About spells not working."
"Probably," Potter agreed. "Anyhow, um, it was pretty hot, listening to you. I might even have had a wank myself, after you left."
Potter's face had turned pink again. Draco licked his lips. "Really?"
Draco thought to himself that for two people who'd each been married for well over fifteen years, they ought to be beyond the blushing nervous stage, even if the dynamics were a bit... different... with another man than with a wife. He ignored his stuttering heart and said, "I'd have liked to have been able to hear that."
Potter stood up and moved closer. "You can do more than just hear, if you want."
Dazedly, Draco nodded. To have two things he'd hardly even let himself dream of, happen on the same day, was almost too much to take in. As Potter's lips – Harry's lips, now, thought Draco – touched his own, he felt a curious sense of rightness, as if this were what he'd been waiting for his whole life. He started to put his arms up, to pull them closer, then dropped them and swore.
"What is it?"
"I can't." Draco forced the words out. "Right now things are almost settled between Asteria and me with regard to the divorce. If she were to somehow learn that I was seeing," he swallowed, "much less sleeping with someone else, well, she wouldn't hesitate to use that knowledge to force a renegotiation. She is a Slytherin, after all."
"Was," said Harry in an absent voice.
"Oh. Sorry. I try to keep in mind that whatever House anyone might have been in when they were at Hogwarts, they aren't anymore; their past doesn't define who they are now." Harry's eyes were very green as he looked at Draco. "That includes me... and you."
Draco gave a slow nod. "I see. I guess. Nevertheless, Asteria won't hesitate to use any knowledge against me, of that I'm certain." His solicitor had eventually persuaded her to keep quiet about Draco's drinking by agreeing to a substantial lump-sum settlement as well as alimony.
"So you're going to turn me down after all," said Harry, plainly trying to make a joke of it.
"For now." Draco swallowed again. Maybe Harry wouldn't be willing to wait? "Four months more, maybe, until it's all over and I'll be free to do as I like."
With a sigh, Harry stepped a few feet away. "Shall I look for the announcement in the Prophet?"
Draco shook his head. "I'll let you know. But maybe we could go out for a drink or something together now and then before that?"
Now it was Harry who shook his head, negating that suggestion. "I don't think I could handle that. I'd be wanting too much."
His gaze was so warm that Draco felt it almost like a caress, sending a shiver through him. "Fair enough," he agreed. He had waited years for this, never expecting it could happen, not even really admitting to himself that this was what he wanted; he could wait a few months more. "I'll still take the job at the Department of Magical Transportation. You'll see me around the Ministry."
"Yes. Um. I should go now." Harry grinned a crooked grin. "Owl me when you can."
After he had left, Draco sat cursing to himself. He wanted to call Harry back, tell him that it wouldn't matter what Asteria did, but he knew that if he did, he'd regret it. Four months wasn't that long to wait.
It wasn't. Having accepted the offered position, Draco found himself caught up in learning his new duties, tasks he found more enjoyable than he might have expected. Christmas passed in a whirl, with Draco spending less time with Scorpius than he might have liked, but managing to avoid any major quarrels with his father. Lucius now realised that Asteria wasn't going to drag the Malfoy name through the mud, even if he still was angry over the fact of the divorce. His father's attitude reinforced Draco's feeling that he'd made the right decision in saying no to Harry for the time being.
The decree of divorce was issued in early April. When he received word, Draco started to write an inter-office memo, then stopped. It was almost his lunch time. Instead of going to the canteen, he took the elevator to level two, and asked to see Head Auror Potter.
"Draco?" Harry looked up in surprise as Draco entered the office, pushing the door firmly closed behind him.
"You said that spells won't work in the loos," said Draco, "but how about here?"
Harry's eyes widened, but no one could ever say he wasn't quick on the uptake. He pushed his chair back and in a few strides was beside Draco, kissing him hungrily.
"No need for any extra spells here," he said between kisses. "This office has all kinds of privacy and security charms on it at all times." His hand captured Draco's, brought them down to fumble at their respective waistbands.
Draco cooperated, not caring that he was so openly eager, since Harry was as much or more so. He moaned into Harry's mouth as their cocks rubbed together, and felt Harry's trembling thrusts in return. It was everything and nothing like what he'd imagined, the orgasm that seized him almost frightening in its intensity.
Harry looked as shaken as Draco felt when they stepped apart to tuck their clothes back into place.
"Come flying with me this weekend," Draco asked him on impulse. Having re-discovered his love for that the previous fall, and knowing that Harry had always loved it too, he wanted to share the experience as companions rather than rivals for the first time in their lives.
"I will." Harry smiled. "As long as there's no crisis here."
That was doubtless the sort of thing that had broken up Harry's marriage in the end, Draco realised; that Harry put what was right ahead of what he wanted. Draco didn't delude himself that Harry would change, or that everything would be perfect between them. Both of their pasts precluded any such idea. What he did know, however, was that being with Harry was what he had wanted without recognising it consciously for years, and he would do almost anything to make sure it continued.