Title: Duplicity and Impossible Tasks
Summary:"He can't take his eyes off you," Pansy whispers in his ear, her soft words tickling his skin and ruffling his hair. Draco shifts in his seat at the long Slytherin table. His eyes burn from tossing and turning all night—the encounter with Potter had repeated in his mind until he thought he might go mad.
Rating: PG-13/light R
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? This is set during HBP, so compliant through that.
Word Count: 5,000
Author's Notes: citrus_lime I hope you enjoy this. Happy hd_holidays! Thank you so much to J and D for the beta help. Thank you to the mods for running this delightful fest.
"He can't stop staring at you," Pansy says.
Her fingers comb through his hair, soothing and making him feel sleepy and content. He reclines on the sofa facing the fire, his head in her lap. The common room is warm and quiet. The fire still burns brightly in the hearth although it is late enough in the evening that most of the younger students have gone to bed.
"Don't be ridiculous," Draco mutters. This is the first time he's felt relaxed in ages. The last thing he needs is for Pansy to point out that Harry bloody Potter seems to be watching his every move.
As if he hadn't noticed that himself.
She shifts her legs, kneeing him in the side of the head and nudging him to sit up.
"Don't call me ridiculous, darling," she says. "I'll tell you what's ridiculous. You and Potter refusing to just shag and be done with it. That's what's ridiculous."
"Shut it, Pansy," Draco snaps. "You're the one who wants to shag Gryffindors, not me."
"Hmm," Pansy hums, with a twisted half-smile and then purses her lips.
"Careful, love," Draco drawls. "Fantasizing about Weasels can cause madness. Just look at Potter."
She smiles like she's in possession of the answer to some deep mystery and opens her mouth to retort. Crabbe and Goyle choose that moment to come lumbering over, looking askance at Draco. He flops his head back into Pansy's lap and her fingers resume their hypnotising strokes.
Draco takes a deep breath and forces himself to sit up and face Crabbe and Goyle. He knows they'll whinge. His control on them feels more tenuous every day and how much longer they'll do as he asks without explanation is anyone's guess.
"Come on you two," he says, as surely as he can muster when he is feeling anything but sure. "One last attempt tonight."
I need the room of hidden things.
Draco mutters the phrase—the one that usually works unless the room is feeling clever—as he paces back and forth in front of the apparently empty wall.
The door appears and he clenches his jaw as he steps inside. Crabbe and Goyle move into place and their footsteps echo in the hallway, heavy, clumsy steps despite their suddenly diminutive size.
"What are you doing out at this time? You should be in bed. Go on."
Granger's shrill voice carries even into this room, ordering two little girls back to bed and grating on Draco's fraying nerves. She thinks she so fucking smart and she has no idea. But she's cost him his look-outs, so the possibility that perhaps she does have some idea occurs to him.
"It's no use, Hermione. He's slipped off again."
A deeper, smoother voice cuts through the quiet of the room. Draco freezes next to the door, listening, but all he can hear is his pulse pounding in his ears. Damn Pansy and her suggestive little comments straight to hell.
"It's no use anyway," Granger snaps irritably. "I can't believe I let you talk me into coming along. You're obsessed."
Draco squeezes his eyes shut and his head drops against the door with a thunk.
The sunlight filtering through the heavily curtained castle windows seems a touch brighter today. Draco, already towering over most of the other students in the crowded hallway, feels a bit taller than yesterday.
There was definite progress last night. For the first time, the cabinet didn't seem to simply absorb his spell work and the door opened without sticking. He can almost forget why he's working so hard, harder than he's ever worked on anything in his life, to fix it. He goes into the room, focuses, touches the smooth, nearly living wood with his hands. His wand is nimble and channels his magic. And when he is at a loss for his next move, he buries himself in the manual he nicked from the Manor Library. Everything else—the screaming vacancy left by father, his mother's pained expression, and the nightmarish inevitability hurtling toward him—disappears.
He wants to fix it, of course. He has to. He has to restore the Malfoy honour, has to prove to everyone that he can do it. But, if he's being honest with himself, he might just be taking longer than necessary.
"Excuse me," a truly tiny boy says, pulling impatiently on Draco's sleeve. "I'm to tell you to meet Professor Snape in the empty staff office on the sixth floor."
"What?" Draco says, turning to look down at the boy.
"I'm to tell you to meet Professor Snape in empty office on the sixth floor," he says again, tone and cadence identical.
"All right, you've delivered your message," Draco snaps at the boy who is still standing and staring at him as if he's afraid to go without being dismissed.
Draco turns away from the Great Hall, his heart beating hard in his chest. Snape wants to meet him in private, again, does he?
Draco nearly flies up the staircase at the back of the entrance hall. By the third floor, he is winded and forces himself to slow down. The last thing he needs is Snape thinking he's eager to see him, eager to confide, to hand over his mission. By the time he reaches the sixth floor, he's smoothed his hair, regained his breath and is ready to face whatever Snape plans to throw at him this time.
The office floor is caked with dust that rises in little eddies with his every step. The old desk looks as if it was here during the Founders' time and it creaks in protest as Draco leans against it. Why on earth would Snape ask to meet him in a filthy, abandoned office?
Draco slowly pushes himself to standing and slips his wand into his hand. The door creaks, but no one comes in. He takes a step and notices that the dust has been disturbed, a footprint just by the door.
Some impulse he can't explain makes him run. He dashes out of the room and into the hallway, the hard heels of his shoes click on the stone floor and he can hear the soft flap of trainers behind him.
He takes a corner flat out and nearly slips, reaching out to steady himself and grabbing a suit of armour that topples with a terrific noise. He hears a muffled exclamation of surprise as his pursuer is forced to leap the obstacle.
His heart is racing and he feels more awake and alive than he has in months. He can almost hear the flutter of that bloody cloak as Potter races to keep up with him.
He's not certain why he ran, but Potter seems to think there's a reason to chase him. What he can't explain is that Potter must know that he knows, and yet he is still running after him and still wearing the cloak. Draco considers stopping, just to see what Potter will do, when he feels a smart smack to the back of his head. He draws his wand and turns to see one of the tough leather gloves from the fallen suit of armour landing on the floor next to him.
"Oooh. Runny, runny, ain't he funny." Peeves is dangling arse for elbow just below the ceiling, rolling about and laughing. "What you running from pretty, ickle Malfoy?"
"Piss off, Peeves," Malfoy snarls, rubbing the back of his head. He keeps one eye trained on Peeves and one on the stone floor. He suppresses a grin when he sees just a flash of the white sole of a trainer.
"Students using foul language!" Peeves shrieks, pelting Draco with another glove. At least he's run out of gloves now. "Poshy-posh swearing at Peevesy. I'll tell Daddy."
"Piss off or I'll tell the Bloody Baron you've been bothering his great-great-great-grand nephew."
"Not nice to threaten Peevsey," Peeves shouts, and for a split second, Draco thinks the threat won't work. But Peeves blows a loud raspberry and shoots off as if he were a balloon that had been punctured.
Draco takes a step and listens for the quiet slide of rubber on stone. "Potty wee Potter," he chants, barely above a whisper.
He dashes into the boys' bathroom and holds his breath. If he weren't looking for it, he would never have noticed, but the door seems to stick in place for a split second on its way to swinging closed. He strides to the back of the bathroom and grins at the thought that Potter thinks he's cornered him. He pauses for the time it takes to draw two breathes and when he can feel Potter coming close, he ducks in the passageway to the staircase to the seventh floor.
The room knows him now and it takes just one turn past the wall and a pleading, "I need a place to hide from Potter," and the door opens for him.
It's not cavernous, packed with the rubbish of years of indiscretions, spells-gone-wrong, and forgotten treasures. It's small and nearly empty. It looks like a comfortable yet spare sitting room. On the small table sits a dim lamp and two bottles of Butterbeer. Draco walks to the middle of the room and falls heavily, trying to catch his breath, onto the dark green sofa.
Potter must be outside the door, pacing and mumbling, his breath coming in quick, ragged bursts. Just like Draco's. His cheeks will be pink, his green eyes blazing with frustration, and his stupid hair more dishevelled than usual.
Draco lets his head fall back onto the sofa. His body thrums with the knowledge that Potter nearly caught him. Nearly, but not quite.
Pansy's been right all along and now Potter's doing more than watching him.
He tells himself that it means nothing as he pulls open the front of his robe, opens his trousers, and slips his hand into his pants.
"You do know what he's up to, don't you?" Pansy asks.
"No," he says, slowly drawing out the last sound, round and full on his tongue. There have been three other messages—two purportedly from Snape and one from Slughorn. Each time the professor wasn't there. Each time Potter was somewhere in the vicinity.
"Shall I enlighten you?" She smirks and sits across from him on the dark green sofa, crossing her legs and leaning forward with a little purse of her lips.
"I'm sure I have no choice," he drawls.
Younger students give them a wide berth, draw away whenever Pansy looks at him with that predatory gaze or he rests on the sofa with his head in her lap.
He considers telling Pansy about his little adventure the other day. She'd like that, like hearing that he could hear Potter breathing, that he knew Potter wanted to catch him but wouldn't know what to do with him if he did. He exhales slowly and shifts his hips, deciding to keep that last thought to himself.
"He wants to see what you would do if he does catch you."
Draco laughs a little too loudly. No one would notice except Pansy, who arches her eyebrow. "Don't be an idiot. He can't bear that he doesn't know what I'm working on. Like a few others, I might add."
"Hmm," she says, kicking her feet up into his lap. "Just promise me if he ever does catch you, you'll tell me all about it."
Draco shakes his head, trying to clear the fog and force his eyes to remain open. He can't let Snape see, can't have him knowing that he hasn't slept in days and the combination of nerves and fatigue is staring to overwhelm him.
"I'll expect eighteen inches on the energy generated when a curse is cast," Snape says, walking painstakingly slowly past Draco. He trails a hand over the desk, fingers splayed out on the wood worn smooth by centuries of students sliding books and parchment over the surface. He hesitates and his glance darts to Draco before he moves with his usual gait, that somehow manages to appear slow but is quick enough to send his robes billowing behind him, to the front of the classroom.
Draco shoves his book, parchment, and quill into his bag. He is out of the room before Snape has a chance to call him back for one of his little chats. Snape can get him alone if wants, but Draco doesn't have to make it easy for him, a distance he would never have imagined wanting from his one-time mentor. He rubs his hand over his forehead at a sudden sharp pain.
Draco pulls himself from his thoughts and looks into the face of a sneering, arrogant little Gryffindor. He glares heartily enough that the child thrusts a folded bit of parchment into Draco's palm and skitters away. The handwriting is vaguely familiar and he knows he's seen it but can't think whose it is.
The note says that Professor Snape would like to see him in front of the Library. His correspondent is either not the sharpest quill in the bunch or is not overly concerned with Draco realising the note is a fake.
He stands outside the library. His breath catches in his chest. He waits.
He has cultivated patience over this past year that his childhood tutors would scarcely believe. Patience and attentiveness, keen awareness of every whisper of sound, the tension in the air, a shift of mood, have been the lessons of his changed circumstances.
He wouldn't be able to say that he heard anything, no swish of a cloak or slap of a sole on the stone. He pulls the bit of parchment from his pocket with a flourish and makes a show of reading the note. He mutters the words aloud and huffs in exaggerated frustration.
Draco looks up and down the hallway, one hand on his hip. He considers confronting Potter, but it seems infinitely more interesting to see how long he'll keep it up.
Draco turns and strides purposely away from the library. He turns at each corner, walking faster until he is nearly jogging. Potter marks his every step, enough distance that they won't collide if Draco stops abruptly, close enough that Draco can feel him in the stillness.
He passes every staircase without so much as a look, knowing that Potter expects him to climb to the seventh floor. When he gets to the stair to the fifth floor west corridor, he darts in and runs up the narrow staircase.
The speed makes Potter's hurried steps just audible and Draco's mouth curves into a smile. He's good, there's no doubt about it. If Draco didn't know he was following, there would be no sign.
He grabs the door handle and says, "Ephemeris," loudly enough so that Potter will hear. The lock clicks open and he steps into the humid warmth of the prefects' bath. He flicks his wand at the door, holding it open for a few seconds so that Potter can slip in, unnoticed, if that's what he wants to believe.
Draco feels the whoosh of the smooth, golden ropes flying at him before he has time to process the incantation. He manages to spin halfway around before he falls, so that it's his shoulder instead of his face that bangs painfully into the wall, as the ropes bind him from knee to chest. He struggles to remain standing.
Potter is right in front of him. So close he can feel the warmth of his body. So close he can feel Potter's breath against his cheek and feel the fury radiating from him in waves.
"What the fuck are you playing at?" Potter growls, yanking off his cloak, and Draco is sure Potter will hear his heart pounding.
"Let me go," Draco spits. "I am not someone to trifle with."
Potter walks around him, gaze raking up and down his body. Draco feels a wave of dizziness threaten to send him toppling into the deep bath.
"I think you are. Tell me what you're up to," Potter demands.
"You're barking mad," he says. Panic that has everything to do with Potter so close starts to bubble up in his chest and he swallows against it. "I'm not telling you anything."
"There's something to tell then," Potter says, a smug look on his face that should absolutely not make Draco wonder what it would be like to kiss him.
"You know there is," Draco sneers, trying to regain his footing, lifting his chin and pretending he is not bound by Potter's ropes. "You know there is. That's why you follow me about like a lovesick cow, marking my every move. It drives you mad. You're gagging for it."
Potter leans even closer and smiles a predatory smile that makes the hair on Draco's neck stand up.
"So maybe I'll keep you here like this until I get it," Potter says, his eyes glinting in the dim light of the lamps.
"Coincidence, is it?" Draco says, scrabbling for a foothold. "Like a bad knut, you. Showing up again and again wherever I am. How is that?"
Potter falters, just a brief shadow over his confidence, gone as quickly as it comes. He pats his pocket as if is making certain something is still there.
"I know where you are," Potter says in a low, breathy voice. "Leave it at that." He presses his wand, almost gently, into the soft flesh just below Draco's jaw.
Draco's heaving chest strains against the silky ropes, his breath deep and erratic.
"That's no great feat," Draco says. "Your little notes make sure you'll know where I am. And I'll say it again, end this spell or I will make you very sorry."
Potter doesn't falter this time. He trails his wand from Draco's jaw, down his throat, and rests it in the hollow at the base of Draco's throat. Draco can feel the traces of Potter's wand, of his magic, on his skin.
Draco smirks. "Keep pretending, Potter. And you still haven't let me go. What are you going to do with me now that you've caught me?"
This, he will tell Pansy about.
Potter looks as if a conflict with the Dark Lord himself is taking place in his brain. He's glowering over Draco, nearly panting and nervously biting his lip. He lets his wand arm fall to his side, his pulse beating visibly in his throat. Draco flinches as Potter's left hand reaches out and stops just short of Draco's cheek.
"Fuck," Potter bursts out and he turns on his heel and stalks out of the room.
The ropes vanish the moment the door swings shut. Draco sinks onto the side of the tub, trembling. He retrieves his wand and fills the bath, warm water and rich lather filling the room with fragrant steam. He sheds his robes and sinks in. He slips down until the bubbles are up to his chin and the silky water eases the slide of his hand over his skin.
"Oh, don't stop on my account."
"Bloody hell," Draco shouts, and jumps nearly out of the water, which isn't the thing to do at all. "Myrtle, what are you doing here?"
The ghost puckers her translucent lips into a pout and moans, "You don't come and visit me anymore. It's because you have him now, isn't it? You don't need me. He used to talk to me, too, you know."
She wails and flies into the tap at the other end of the bath. Draco slips further down into the water, closing his eyes and letting the warmth engulf his head.
"He can't take his eyes off you," Pansy whispers in his ear, her soft words tickling his skin and ruffling his hair.
Draco shifts in his seat at the long Slytherin table. His eyes burn from tossing and turning all night—the encounter with Potter had repeated in his mind until he thought he might go mad.
Throughout breakfast, Potter has thrown glances across the Great Hall, his intense gaze making Draco feel itchy and on-edge. He's looked up from his coffee several times and caught Potter staring for a split second before Potter looks away and pretends to be engrossed in whatever inane piece of tripe Weasley is currently spewing.
"You're being ridiculous again," Draco says, rolling his eyes. "He's occupied watching Weasley try and stuff that entire sausage in his mouth in one go."
"Oooh," She coos, again in his ear. "So who's watching who?"
"Whose mouth do you want to stuff your sausage in, then?" Blaise asks, arriving late for breakfast looking well rested and gorgeous. He inserts himself between Draco and Pansy, and Draco shoots Pansy a death glare.
Draco takes a big gulp of his coffee and considers going back to bed and calling this day off.
Draco hangs his robe on a hook, glancing quickly around the prefects' bathroom for any sign of intruders. He averts his eyes pointedly from the spot where Potter had him tied up. Fuck. Potter had him tied up. He shakes his head to rid his brain of the image. He doesn't need to be caught out wanking in here twice in as many days. The tub is full of hot water and brimming with extra bubbles. He jumps in, wincing at the heat.
He can't remember the last time he did something after dinner other than head straight to work on the cabinet.
After Potter's performance the other day, his conclusion that Potter is his secret correspondent seems less than forgone. Either way, it's clear that Potter is trying to catch him and that he apparently wants to be caught. He stretches and dives in to the water, swimming slowly to the other side and stops next to the tall, curving taps.
There's a soft whooshing noise and the whinging voice says, "Did you come to see me? I see you." Myrtle giggles and splashes into the water.
"Stay above, will you?" Draco asks as kindly as he can manage when she resurfaces. "I need to talk about something."
Myrtle adopts a blissful expression and floats to hover next to him. "Anything."
"I've, I've," he stutters melodramatically. He may as well toss her a bone. He did appreciate her ear in the past. "I've something I can't figure out."
"Tell me all about it," she croons.
"You said the other day that Potter, the other boy that was in here, talks to you, too," Draco says haltingly. "I was wondering what he talks about. It would help me to know."
"I can't tell," Myrtle says. "Then he wouldn't trust me anymore and neither would you and hardly anyone wants to talk to me as it is."
"I understand. It's just that it would help me so much. Help me to feel less alone," Draco says silkily, turning wide eyes toward Myrtle.
Myrtle looks as if she's about to burst. "He's been getting notes that tell him to meet someone and then he gets there and the person's not there. He thinks someone's tricking him. He thinks it's you."
"Does he?" Draco says. "Has he shown you the notes? What are they like?" Draco asks, his heart speeding up, knowing they must be the twins of the ones he has in bedside table drawer.
"Like the one you had the other day."
"How do you know what mine looked like?" Draco splutters at the thought that Myrtle kept a much closer eye on him than he'd previously thought.
"I don't spend all my time in the toilet, you know," Myrtle huffs.
Draco leaps from the bath, ignoring Myrtle's squeaks of delight, and pulls his robe on over his wet skin.
He runs along corridors and down flights of stairs and strides into the common room, stopping where Pansy sits, curled like a cat, in the best chair in front of the fire.
"We've figured it out, have we?" she purrs. "You're dripping on my favourite boots."
"You treacherous, scheming little bint," Draco hisses, shaking his head so that more water drips from his hair onto her precious dragon-hide boots.
"I am not a bint," she says. "Now, untwist your knickers for just a moment. As much as it hurts to say this, Potter is not entirely stupid. He knew that the notes weren't real, just as you did, and yet he answered every one. He knew it was you he'd meet, and yet he went. Every. Single. Time. You can keep wanking over him, or you can do something. And darling, it's rather boring that even with all of my help, you haven't gone past the wanking." She settles back on the sofa looking unbearably smug.
Draco grabs a piece of parchment and a quill off a startled second year. He scribbles a note and folds it, sealing it with his wand.
"Take this to Harry Potter," he whispers to the child. "And if you read it, I will know."
"I'll let you thank me later," Pansy calls as he ducks out of the door.
Potter stalks down the hallway, his steps solid and sure. His angular shoulders squared, and his jaw with the new dark shading of stubble set. Draco stands in the shadow of an alcove and watches while Potter paces back and forth, muttering like a madman and further rumpling that ridiculous hair.
It takes the door ages to appear, but Potter is stubborn beyond even Draco's expectations. Potter gasps in relief and Draco relishes that sound, lets it roll about in his head.
Potter pushes open the door and enters, his school robes billowing behind him.
Draco moves quietly from his hiding place and faces the door. He is desperate to gain access to the room, to see what it is that Potter needed the room to become. The pursuer has become the pursued, and Draco wants to get into that room with Potter as much as he's wanted anything this year.
He walks in front of the room and says, "I need to go where Harry Potter thinks I'm going. I need you to be what Harry Potter thinks I need you to be right now."
He nearly crows when the door appears in a fraction of the time it took Potter.
The room is exactly as it was the day he asked for a place to hide from Potter—big, squashy, green sofa, small table with two bottles of Butterbeer, soft light of one lamp casting a golden hue over the room.
Potter is sitting on the sofa, wrists resting against his parted knees, looking around as if he's in a waiting room. He jumps to his feet as Draco pushes the door shut behind him. The note Draco wrote is dangling from the fingers of one hand.
"You found..." he starts, unable to form his thought. The constant state of nervous arousal of the past weeks has finally driven Draco mad. He has the urge to turn and run.
"You wanted me," Potter interrupts, making the room dip under Draco's feet. "Wanted me to find you. Why?"
"I didn't send the other messages," Draco says. He's somehow moved closer to Potter without moving his feet, so close he can see that there is a delicate, smoky-grey ring around the brilliant green of his eyes.
"I didn't say you did. I asked why you wanted to be found," Potter says. His voice is low and rough in a way Draco has never heard.
"Same reason you were looking, I expect," Draco says, dropping his gaze to Potter's lips, hoping he'll catch the bottom one in his teeth.
Potter hands are on his shoulders, pushing. Draco thinks to push back, but he lets himself be shoved against the wall, lets Potter's strong hands pin him. "What are you trying to do to me, Malfoy?"
Potter's breath is warm and quick on his face. Draco tilts his chin in a gesture he hopes is defiant. And then Potter's lips are on his.
His fingers dig into Draco's shoulders, still pinning him to the wall, but his lips move softly, open and easy, on Draco's mouth. Potter manages to infuse this gentle kiss with all of the intensity of his earlier death glare, pressing in and parting Draco's lips with his tongue. Potter moans when his tongue touches Draco's. The sound makes Draco finally push back, angling his head and curling his tongue around Potter's, holding back a whimper at the silky slide of their mouths against each other.
Potter leans into him, pressing his body against Draco's. He is certain that Potter's solid frame holding him to the wall is the only thing stopping him from sliding into a heap at Potter's feet. He lets himself melt against Potter and it is such a relief, after all, to let someone else be solid. The planes of their chests fit together, his arms fall easily around Potter's waist, and he groans as he rolls his hips against Potter's.
"Fuck," Potter gasps into his mouth, deepening the kiss, holding Draco tighter. Potter's hands hover hesitantly at small of his back, inching toward his arse. They break the kiss, panting against each other's cheeks and Potter looks as if someone's stunned him.
"What now?" Potter asks, voice shaky.
"First this," Draco says, framing Potter's flushed face with his hands and pulling him in for another kiss.
Searching, greedy fingers run over his sides and chest, and Draco yields as Potter presses his thigh between Draco's legs. The tightness that has resided in Draco's chest for months gives way to searing, dizzying heat. He tilts his head back as Potter's lips attack his throat. With hands and tongues and desperate, rocking hips, they take each other further and further from Dark Lords, impending war, and impossible tasks.
Second, he thinks, leaning against Potter, sticky and gasping for breath as his heart rate slows, find Pansy. See that she is punished her for her duplicity. And then buy her the biggest fucking box of Honeyduke's finest ever made.