Title: The Partner Interviews
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, mentions of past Harry/Ginny
Summary: On the last day of the Auror training program, a series of interviews under Veritaserum will determine who each trainee will be partnered with for the duration of their career. Harry may learn more in the course of eight hours than he did in the previous three years combined.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): None that I can think of.
Epilogue compliant? Not even a little bit (no thanks required).
Word Count: 7,500
Author's Notes: My dear a_execution, I am so glad you joined our fandom and brought your fabulous talent with you. Consider this my thanks. Your prompt sent me in an unexpected direction. I tried to include as many of your requests as I could, and I truly hope you enjoy the result despite its lack of sexxay. Have the happiest of holidays, and enjoy the H/D love!
Harry closed his eyes as he felt the telltale buzzing sensation spreading through his limbs.
Clear your mind of worry, fear, frustration, anger, all negative thoughts. This is most important, as any of these thoughts could prevent you from finding any possible loopholes in a question. If a loophole exists, you will have precious seconds to find it before the potion forces you to respond.
Harry took a deep breath, focusing on relaxing his body.
Your interrogator may try to disorient you. Veritaserum is extremely powerful and will cause a weak mind to collapse within itself while under the potion’s influence. When you feel the potion begin to take hold, focus on where you are, why you are there. If your interrogator succeeds in confusing you, you will not be prepared for the first question and will then spend the rest of the interrogation trying to ‘catch up’ to the questions. Your mind must stay ahead of the questions at all times.
Remembering his training, Harry recalled the details of this morning’s meeting, still fresh in his mind.
“As you all know, you are a few short hours from becoming fully qualified Aurors. By this evening, you will have completed the Auror training program. That you are here today means you have passed through every test we have subjected you to—and admirably so. We find all of you to be worthy of the title Auror, and we have every confidence that this final test, uncomfortable though it may be, will pass quickly. Today we undertake the process of partner selection. I am aware that many of you have been hoping to select your own partner, but we are confident that you will be content with our selection, if not immediately, then in time. Ladies and gentleman, please go about your normal routine. You will receive my Patronus with instructions when I am ready for you.”
Harry had been practicing nonverbal dueling with Tony Goldstein in training room four when Robards’ hawk Patronus had glided through the wall.
“Trainee Potter, please report to holding cell two. Surrender your wand to Auror Williamson at the door. You have five minutes.”
Robards had been waiting for him. He gestured wordlessly to an empty chair across the table and, once Harry was seated, handed him a vial of liquid marked ‘Truth Potion.’ After confirming it as Veritaserum by its faintly sour aroma, Harry had tipped the vial back and allowed thee drops to fall onto his tongue, then swallowed, trying in vain to wash the unpleasant taste from his mouth. The door behind him opened again, and he was unsurprised to see Ron enter the room and watched as his friend was ushered through the same process.
Listen to anything your interrogator says while the potion is working its way into your mind. While you don’t have control of the situation, any information you can gather may be useful to you later.
“Gentleman,” said Robards, leaning forward and glancing from Harry to Ron, “the bond between partners is the most important part of the Auror program. We take this selection very seriously, as it will mean the difference between strong, focused Aurors and weak, miserable Aurors. We must as a unit be strong, and therefore each new Auror must be paired with his or her absolute best chance for a strong partnership. We have selected several possible candidates for each of you to be interviewed with today based on your individual strengths and weaknesses. You may be assured that each person you will meet with would compliment your skills excellently if selected as your partner. However, an ideal partnership is based on more than skill alone; your partnership must be based on trust. Without complete trust in one another, you are as good as dead. We conduct these interviews with both candidates present because absolute trust is essential from minute one. There should be no secrets between partners, nothing hidden. One of the individuals you are interviewed with today will become your partner for as long as you are both Aurors. You will remember this interview, and what is said, for as long as you live. This will be the first step you take with your partner, and the information shared here will make you stronger together.
“However, you do not have a right to the secrets of anyone but your partner. The contents of every interview but the one with your eventual partner will be removed from your memory as well as any echoes, which of course refers to any instances of an event repeating itself in your mind at a later time. We trust that you understand the necessity of this.”
Harry felt the potion finally take him and exhaled, readying himself.
You needn’t fight every question. You will recognize which questions will have potentially damaging answers and which are less important. Do not waste your energy fighting against every question, or you will lack the speed of mind needed for the crucial ones.
He met Robards’ eyes and found the man smirking at him.
“No doubt you are remembering your knowledge and training of Veritaserum, preparing yourself to find a way around a direct answer, as well you should be, but let me assure you,” he glanced at Ron, then back at Harry, “my questions will not be easily avoided. The Veritaserum, as you are no doubt aware, has taken full effect now. We will start with a simple question, which you will answer with a “yes” or a “no.” If your answer is yes, we will proceed with this interview. If you answer is no, you will be given the antidote and will be released from the interview with the understanding that it may mean your dismissal from the Auror program.
“Ronald Weasley, you are here today to be interviewed with Harry Potter, a potential Auror partner. Do you agree to be questioned?”
“Harry Potter, you are here today to be interviewed with Ronald Weasley, a potential Auror partner. Do you agree to be questioned?”
“Let’s begin. Harry, when did you first experience a desire to become an Auror?”
Benign. “I knew from an early age, sometime in my fourth or fifth year at Hogwarts, that it was what I wanted.”
“What were your reasons at that time for wanting to become an Auror?”
“My parents were Aurors. Part of me wanted to follow in their footsteps. I also wanted to fight against the Dark Arts, make a difference.”
“Were those your only reasons at that time?”
“How many other reasons were there?
“What was that reason?”
Harry hesitated, wanting find the right words, but decided not to waste energy on this question. “I had been demonized by the media and my peers, even my friends, several times during my years at Hogwarts. Many people seemed eager to believe the worst of me. Becoming an Auror appealed to me because I felt that if I were out there, fighting evil publicly, the public sentiment would change.”
“You wanted to prove yourself?”
“Let’s talk about your reasons for joining the Auror program. Did your desire to prove yourself play a role in your decision to become an Auror?”
“In what way did this desire change between your teenage years and the time you time began training to be an Auror?”
“Everything I went through vanquishing Voldemort, up to and including the moment of his defeat, was visible to the wizarding world. After that, I felt I had nothing left to prove.”
“What was the primary reason you decided to join the Auror program when you did?”
“I had given years of my life, everything I had, to make the world a safer place for all of us. I wanted to do what I could to make sure it stayed that way.”
“You revealed to us during your character testing that you ultimately gave your life to defeat Voldemort. Have you shared this information with Mr. Weasley?”
Harry glanced at his friend and chose not to waste energy by asking Robards which Mr. Weasley he meant. “Yes, I told Ron and Hermione shortly after the Battle of Hogwarts what had happened.”
“Have you shared this information with anyone else?”
“How many people other than the two already mentioned?”
“Why did you share this with her?”
“Because we were dating at the time, and I love her and wanted her to know the truth about me.”
“You said love in the present tense. Do you still love Ginny Weasley?”
Harry wondered why this was relevant, but it wasn’t private information, so he didn’t fight the response. “Yes, I will always love her.”
“Do you love her romantically?”
Harry glanced over at Ron and was not surprised to find a hard expression on his face. This had long been a point of contention between them. “No.”
“Does Ron know that your feelings for his sister have changed?”
“Yes, he knows that we broke up.”
“Does he know why?”
Harry clenched his jaw, but was unable to stop the words from escaping. “Not entirely.” He saw Ron’s head snap toward his out of the corner of his eye and braced himself for the next question, glaring at Robards.
“No secrets, Harry. Why did your relationship with Ginny Weasley end?”
“There were a lot of reasons,” he gritted out.
“What is the reason Ron believes your relationship with his sister ended?”
“I told him that we wanted different things. She wanted to play Quidditch and travel the world—and wanted me to travel it with her. I wanted to stay in England, become an Auror, be here for Teddy.”
“Was what you told him the truth?”
“Did you give him any other reason?”
“What was it?”
“That we were growing apart, fighting all the time. By the time it ended, we were hurting each other more than we were making each other happy.”
“Was that the truth?”
“But is that the reason your relationship ended?”
“What is the primary reason that your relationship ended?”
Harry closed his eyes, knowing there was no way around it. “Because I slept with someone else.”
“You WHAT?” shouted Ron.
“I slept with someone else,” Harry repeated through gritted teeth, the potion forcing him to answer Ron’s question.
“Do not speak, Mr. Weasley.”
“Who was the person you slept with, Harry?”
“Her brother, Charlie.”
“What the FUCK, Harry!”
Harry buried his head in his hands. Fuck.
“Sit down, Mr. Weasley, and be silent. You will be allowed to question Mr. Potter in a moment.”
Jerking his head up in alarm, Harry looked wide-eyed at Robards. “What?”
“A standard part of the interview. Harry, do you believe your relationship with Ginny would have lasted had it not be for your infidelity?”
Harry sighed. “No.”
“Because we didn’t have enough in common to keep us together.”
“Do your sexual preferences contribute to this belief?”
Harry didn’t even attempt to limit his response. There was no point now. “Only slightly. I am attracted to men, but I loved Ginny. I believe that had we wanted the same things out of life, we would still be together.”
“Just a few more questions, Harry. Do you consider Ron to be your friend?”
“Yes! I consider him to be my best friend. My brother,” Harry choked out.
“If he were selected to be your partner, would you protect him to the best of your ability?”
“Would you ever consciously put him at risk?”
“Would you put yourself at risk to protect him?”
“Would you give your life to protect him?”
“Yes,” Harry whispered without hesitation.
Robards was silent, and Harry’s whisper seemed to echo through the room. After a long moment, he spoke again. “Mr. Weasley, at this time, I will allow you to ask whatever you wish. Mr. Potter will answer truthfully and will not,” he glanced at Harry in warning, “ask any questions in return.”
Ron was silent for a long time, and when Harry finally met his eyes, they were burning with hurt and disappointment. “So—what?” he said at long last, fists clenched. “Are you gay?”
“I don’t know.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“I’m attracted to women and to men.”
The question was flawed, but Harry answered truthfully anyway.
Ron clenched his jaw, and Harry fought the temptation to look away.
“Were you ever going to tell me?”
“Tell you what?” He knew he had broken the rule, but he needed to be sure what Ron was asking.
“Were you ever going to tell me that you’re gay?”
“When I had worked up the courage.”
“Courage—Harry, why would you need courage? Did you think I would—what? Did you honestly not trust me enough to tell me?”
Harry answered the questions one at a time. “I was… afraid it would ruin our friendship. I didn’t know how you would react, considering how you reacted when Gin and I broke up. I trust you more than anyone, but… I wasn’t ready to tell you yet.”
“Were you ever going to tell me about Charlie?” The question was delivered tonelessly.
Harry couldn’t look him in the eye any longer. “No.”
“Right.” With his peripheral vision, Harry watched as Ron faced forward again. “I have no further questions.”
Completely gutted, Harry did the same.
Robards began questioning Ron in the same way he had Harry. He asked about his early desires to become an Auror and how they had changed over time. Ron’s responses were similar to Harry’s with regards to wanting to do something good, wanting to make a difference. He talked about how he’d wanted to do something his brothers hadn’t done, wanted to stand out. In the end, he had joined the Auror program because it was the right thing for him. He had felt that his personality and skills would be highly suited to the duties of an Auror. There simply hadn’t been anything else he’d wanted to do.
Robards asked probing questions designed to wheedle out anything hidden, but nothing was said that Harry didn’t already know. With each answer, Harry felt more and more guilty for his own secrets and cursed both himself for not telling Ron sooner and Robards for using his knowledge of Harry’s past to force him into revealing it before he was ready.
The final questions stabbed Harry in the gut. “Ron, is there anything you haven’t disclosed that you think would be important for your partner to know?”
“I have stressed the importance of absolute trust in a partnership. If Harry were your partner, would you trust him enough to tell him anything about yourself?”
“I’ll ask you the same questions I asked him. Would you protect him to the best of your ability?”
“Would you ever consciously put him at risk?”
“Would you put yourself at risk to keep him from harm?”
“Would you give your life to protect him?”
There was no hesitation. “Yes.”
“Thank you. Harry, I will allow you to ask whatever questions you wish. You may begin.”
Harry had only one question. Harry turned to face his friend. “Can you ever forgive me?”
Ron was silent for as long as the potion would allow before he finally met Harry’s eyes and answered. “I don’t know.”
Harry swallowed heavily and nodded, struggling to remain composed. “No further questions.”
“And I have only one question left for each of you. Harry, do you believe you could serve as an Auror to the best of your ability with Ron Weasley as your partner?”
Harry experienced an odd mixture of emotions as guilt, confusion, and the strong sense of friendship he felt toward Ron warred with each other, arguing over their right to Harry’s voice. When his mouth opened, he honestly wasn’t sure what was going to come out. “I don’t know.” It was the truth, and now he could guess what Ron had been feeling when he’d given the same answer.
“Ron, do you believe you could serve as an Auror to the best of your ability with Harry Potter as your partner?”
“At the moment, no.”
Harry’s stomach sank, and he barely heard Robards explain that they would each be summoned for their next interview shortly. He downed the antidote when it was handed to him in one gulp and stood still for the Binding Spell that would make it impossible to discuss the events of the interview with anyone not present. And then he stumbled out the door after Ron, who had exited swiftly as soon as the Locking Charm had been released.”
“Just—leave it, Harry,” he snapped without turning around, slamming the door as he left the holding area.
It was several minutes before Harry was composed enough to follow.
Harry was sitting at his desk, staring unseeingly at the review of his most recent training mission. He didn’t know how long he had been there when Robards’ hawk landed on his desk and he heard the man’s voice.
“Trainee Potter, please report to holding cell six. Surrender your wand to Auror Jacobs at the door. You have five minutes.”
Numbly, Harry made his way back to the holding area and found holding cell six. This time, another trainee was already seated at the table. Harry recognized her as Sarah Fawcett, a trainee who had joined the program at the same time as Harry, and he nodded to her. While she was not a close friend, Harry had always liked her. He had been paired with her several times during their three years of training, and he’d always been impressed by her ability to learn and adapt quickly. She wasn’t the sort of person who spoke just to fill the silence. Harry liked that.
After watching Harry dose himself with Veritaserum, Robards gave the same explanation he had in the last interview, word for word. Harry wondered why this was necessary until Robards got to the part about how the memories of every interview but one would be removed. The image of Ron’s disappointed face flashed through his mind, and he shut his eyes tightly. This wasn’t the time to think about that; he needed to keep a clear head—not that it had done him much good last time.
The potion took hold quickly, and Harry was relieved when Robards began questioning Sarah first.
“Miss Fawcett, do you believe you have earned the privilege to be called an Auror?”
“When was it that you decided to become an Auror?”
“I was nineteen years old. It was just after the battle of Hogwarts.”
“What was the primary reason you decided to join this program?”
“My family had been killed weeks beforehand by a man named Casper Selwyn. In the weeks after the battle, the Aurors were rounding up the Death Eaters who had escaped. Selwyn was one of the missing. I wanted to find him myself and take my revenge, and I knew that the only way I would be in a position to do this without going to Azkaban myself was as an Auror.”
“You were driven by vengeance?”
“Yet you knew that you lacked the necessary N.E.W.T.s to be considered for training. Is that correct?”
“How was it that you came to be accepted into the Auror program anyway?”
Harry raised his eyebrow, quite curious as to what her response would be. A slight delay in her response was the only sign that she was fighting the question. “I falsified my certifications and bribed a member of the N.E.W.T. board to verify the information I submitted to the Auror office.”
Harry’s eyes widened as he glanced at Robards, curious how the man would take this information, but Robards… didn’t seem surprised at all. In fact, he was looking at Harry, the tiniest of smirks lifting a corner of his lips. Confused, Harry looked back at Sarah and found her staring blankly the table, the only hint that she was ruffled a barely noticeably quickening of her breath.
“How long was it before this ruse was discovered?”
“You found me out in my entrance exam.”
“And why did we allow you to continue?”
“You told me you saw something valuable in me despite my dishonorable choice.”
“Did our discovery of your behavior change your mind from your desire for vengeance against Selwyn?”
“Did your reasons for staying in the Auror program change?”
“Not at that time, no.”
“Are you driven by revenge still?”
“When and why did your desire for revenge against Selwyn change?”
“In the second month of my training, Selwyn was caught and charged with many crimes, the murder of my family included. After having recently experienced an interrogation under Veritaserum myself, I had an appreciation for the… inescapability of it. I watched as Selwyn was brought to trial and questioned by the Wizengamot under Veritaserum again and again. I heard him swear under its influence that he had been under the Imperius curse during every one of the crimes he had committed, that he had been Voldemort’s slave. I heard him describe the despair he had felt as his body had committed atrocities his mind was screaming against. I understood his feelings of powerlessness—I had felt the same way constantly since I had lost my family. It was difficult for me to let go of what was, at the time, my only reason for living, but I couldn’t escape the truth. I knew that my anger was misplaced and that the monster truly responsible for the death of my family was already gone.”
“With your original reason for entering the Auror program gone, why did you continue with the training?”
“I considered dropping out, but I had nowhere to go. I had no family, very few friends, and no other interests to pursue. As the weeks went by, I realized I was enjoying the training, enjoying learning. I had begun to develop friendships with a few of the other trainees, and I found myself wanting to stay.”
“Why is becoming an Auror important to you now?”
“It goes back to Selwyn. I realized after his trial that although I had joined the program to be in the perfect position to hunt him down, I was actually in the perfect position to protect others from being victimized in the same way he was, in the same why I was. I stayed in the Auror program, and I’m here today because our society has a great capacity for good if it is allowed to thrive free from the evils of men like Voldemort. I am here so that if another dark lord begins to rise, I am in the perfect position to stop him.”
Harry allowed her words to sink in and found himself with a newfound respect for her. As it turned out, they shared the same goal.
“Thank you, Miss Fawcett. My next several questions will be aimed at determining your compatibility with Mr. Potter. What do you consider to be your greatest magical strength?”
“What do you consider to be your greatest magical weakness?”
“Defensive spells. Although I have learned many and can cast most of them well enough, I have difficulty thinking on my feet. I often deliberate to long and lose my opportunity to defend myself.”
“Do you believe that Mr. Potter’s knowledge and mastery of defense is greater than your own?”
“Would you be comfortable accepting instruction from him if you were partnered together?”
“Yes. Harry is the best in our class with defense. I received my best defense marks when I was paired with him.”
“Do you consider Mr. Potter to be a friend?”
Sarah furrowed her brow hesitated. “No.”
“Why do you not consider him a friend?”
“I don’t know him very well.”
“In the times that you have been paired with him in training, has he been polite to you?”
“Has he made an effort to get to know you better?”
“Does this offend you?”
“Why does this not offend you?”
“Because I have not made an effort to get to know him better. We have not shared the same close friends. I like and respect him and would not be opposed to developing a friendship with him, but it has never happened on its own.”
“Would you be opposed to a partnership with him?”
“Would you prefer to be his partner?”
“Not necessarily. I respect his accomplishments and abilities a great deal, and I have enjoyed his company when I have been in it. I would not be disappointed to be partnered with him, but I would also be pleased to be partnered with one of my friends, someone I am more familiar with.”
“Miss Fawcett, between partners, each person’s personal life is highly visible. This is to be expected and encouraged. It is important that anything that could cause a strain in the partnership be disclosed now rather than in a moment when lives could be put in danger by a lapse in focus. I disclose the following information with this in mind. Mr. Potter prefers the company of men, romantically and sexually. Does this information bother you or unsettle you in any way?”
Harry watched very closely as Sarah looked at him and blinked. She was clearly surprised but… not alarmed.
“During the course of your partnership, he would likely be dating other men, having sexual relations with other men, and it would strain the partnership if he felt he needed to hide this information from you. Would knowing these details of his personal life make you in any way uncomfortable?”
“No, of course not.”
“I have only a few more questions, Miss Fawcett. Is there anything you feel would be important for Mr. Potter to know if he were selected as your partner?”
“No, I don’t believe so.”
“Thank you. Mr. Potter, at this time I will allow you to ask any questions you wish of Mrs. Fawcett.”
Harry dug through his mind, searching for something to ask, and came up with nothing. She seemed to be good match. It was easy to see why Robards thought they would do well together.
Harry’s own interview took longer than the last had but was far less grueling. He repeated many of the same answers regarding his decisions to become an Auror. He gave a detailed accounting of his childhood and his fight against Voldemort. Robards questioned him about his impressions of Sarah over the last few years, and he replied that he thought her smart, competent, and agreeable. Robards asked if the knowledge of Sarah’s falsified N.E.W.T.s bothered him. It didn’t. He’d done much more questionable things than that in the pursuit of something he felt strongly about. The truth was that he believed they would make decent partners, and he said so.
When it came time for her to question him, she asked only one thing.
“What is the one thing you regret the most?”
It was hard to pick just one. There was Sirius, Hedwig, and every other death he could have prevented with knowledge he had now. There were so many things he regretted. Luckily, the Truth Potion chose for him. “I regret not having the courage to end my relationship with my ex-girlfriend before I was unfaithful to her.”
Robards asked them if they believed they could perform to their full potential as partners. Sarah answered yes and so did Harry.
The rest of the afternoon flew by. Ron was clearly avoiding him. Harry had thought to find him and apologize again but gave up after it became clear he didn’t want to be found. What a nightmare. He had managed to choke down half a sandwich and was trying to talk himself into facing the other half when Robards’ Patronus found him again and instructed him to report to holding cell one.
He was the first to arrive this time and had already begun to feel his fingers buzzing when the door opened and in walked the last person he had expected to see. “Malfoy?”
Malfoy, for a brief moment, looked as surprised as Harry felt, but he masked it quickly and strode forward to accept his dose of Veritaserum. “Potter,” he said nonchalantly as he took the seat next to Harry.
Why was he being interviewed with Malfoy? Indeed he had long been over the animosity he’d felt toward the man in their teenage years—Malfoy’s quiet determination and refusal to engage in confrontation with his fellow trainees had made it surprisingly easy—but they had barely spoken in three years aside from the times it had been necessary for training. They were not friends, and Harry couldn’t think of anything they had in common, so why were they here together now?
Furrowing his brown, Harry listened as Robards repeated his speech for the third time, and he agreed to the disclaimer when it was time. Robards began with Malfoy. He was asked the same questions about his motives that Harry had been asked in his other interviews. Harry listened as Malfoy spoke about wanting to be a part of rebuilding the world he had foolishly helped to tear down. He also said that the name Malfoy had once been respected, and he wanted it to mean something honorable again. He’d felt that becoming an Auror would allow him to accomplish these things. Harry hadn’t ever been sure why Malfoy had joined; he supposed if he’d ever given it much thought, he would have figured it out. There had been speculation from some of the other trainees who hadn’t been as willing to let of old grudges as Harry had that Malfoy was trying to infiltrate the Ministry to report to his father, but Harry hadn’t believed that. Malfoy had survived through the same character testing that the rest of them had. If he’d been found wanting, he would not have been allowed stay in the program.
After it was established that Malfoy intentions were indeed worthy, Robards moved on to a new line of inquiry, one that both surprised and intrigued Harry from the first question.
“Mr. Malfoy, I am aware that you and Mr. Potter were never fond of each other as children, to put it mildly. You told me on one occasion that you hated him during your time at Hogwarts. Why did you hate him?”
“He represented everything I had been raised to believe was wrong, yet he consistently outshone me. He had no knowledge of his own magic when we began at Hogwarts, yet he was naturally gifted in almost every subject. He associated with Muggle-borns and people my father had called “blood traitors,” people I had been taught to hold in contempt, yet he met with success after success. He became more and more popular and well liked among our peers as each year went by while I was scorned by all save for members of my own House—I, whom my father had raised to be a King among men, could never measure up to Harry Potter.”
“Were you jealous of Mr. Potter?”
“He had everything that I wanted—popularity, victories, friends, followers, and most of all, my father’s attention.”
“Your father compared you to him?”
“Yes—he loathed Potter and berated me for being unable to best him at anything.”
Harry blinked. He hadn’t known it had run that deep. He’d always figured Malfoy was just unpleasant by nature. It had always been obvious that Malfoy had learned that unpleasantness from his father, but Harry hadn’t guessed anything beyond that. No wonder he had been such a nasty git.
“Do you still hate Mr. Potter now?”
“When did you stop hating him?”
“When I realized that my father had delivered me into the hands of a madman. My father, and not Potter, was the one who’d had it all wrong. My father and the people he associated with were murdering innocent people and tearing families apart, whereas Potter and his friends were saving people, looking for the good in everything. It wasn’t difficult to see who was the better man—who were the better people. There was a day when I looked around and found myself in an impossible, hopeless situation. I was forced by circumstance to admit to myself that it was my father who had gotten me into that situation and that my only hope of getting out of it was Potter. I didn’t hate him after that.”
“What are you feelings toward Mr. Potter now?”
Malfoy bit his lower lip, a trick Harry recognized, as he had often used it himself to gain an extra second or two to think. “I have respect for his many strengths.”
“What else do you feel toward Mr. Potter?”
Malfoy visibly struggled with himself for a moment before he was forced to respond. “I resent him.”
“Why do you resent him?”
“I am a different person now than I was as a child. I was spoiled, bitter, and cruel, but I am proud of the person I have become. Potter had the luxury of being born into the role of a hero; I did not, yet I was strong enough break out of the role I was cast in. I resent that he does not understand how difficult this was for me, how difficult it was to admit that I was wrong, and I resent that he does not see me for the good man that I have become.”
Harry was floored. He’d had no idea that Malfoy’s feelings ran this deep, no idea that he, Harry, had only seen a caricature of the much more complex work that that man truly was.
“Are you interested in developing a friendship with Mr. Potter?”
“I am… drawn to him.”
“I like him.”
This surprised Harry even further. He hadn’t realized that Malfoy had any regard for him one way or another.
“What do you like about him?”
“I like his stubborn determination, his natural capacity to draw others to him, his sense of humor… his smile.” At this, Malfoy’s cheeks turned pink.
Robards stared at Malfoy, his expression becoming shrewd. “Are you attracted to Mr. Potter?”
Malfoy closed his eyes, as if in defeat. “Yes.”
Harry’s own eyes widened as this piece of information sank in. He’d never considered… It had never crossed his—he hadn’t even known Malfoy was gay!
“How long have you been attracted to Mr. Potter?”
“Since our second year of training.”
“Have you ever made your attraction known to him?”
“I knew any advances would be unwelcome.”
“What made you believe that?”
“To begin with, he’s never expressed an interest in me beyond what was necessary to complete our training, and even if he had, I’m very much aware that he is straight.”
Robards paused for a moment, and Harry was sure he was going to correct Malfoy, but he moved on to another question.
“Do you believe your attraction to Mr. Potter could interfere with duty as an Auror if you were his partner?”
“No,” Malfoy muttered.
Robards glanced at Harry before asking the next question. “If at any point you began a romantic relationship with Mr. Potter, is there a possibility that it would interfere with your ability to act appropriately?”
Malfoy’s cheeks turned even more pink. “I don’t believe so.”
“Would you ever attempt to initiate a sexual encounter with Mr. Potter while on duty?”
“Even if you were in a relationship with him that would permit it?”
“I—don’t know. Fuck!”
“Knowing our rule regarding fraternization, if you were partnered with Mr. Potter and subsequently discovered that a romantic relationship with him were possible, would you consider requesting a different partner in order to pursue such a relationship?”
“I—yes.” Malfoy buried his face in his hands, looking utterly miserable.
Harry couldn’t believe this was happening. Of all the possible revelations to come out of this, learning that Malfoy fancied him was one he would never have seen coming if he’d had a thousand years to look for it. He barely heard a word that was spoken over the next few minutes, still reeling as Robards wrapped up his part of the interview. When it was his turn to ask the questions, he simply had no idea what to say.
“Do you… I—Malfoy—Fuck, why didn’t you—” No, he’d already answered that. He didn’t know Harry was gay. He couldn’t think of a single question that wouldn’t embarrass the man further, and while he wasn’t put off by the idea of Malfoy fancying him, he wasn’t sure he was ready to say that out loud. There was only one thing he could say. “I decline to question Mr. Malfoy.”
Robards began his examination of Harry. He repeated his standard motive questions, threw in a few about Harry’s strengths and weaknesses, and then, as Harry had known he would, turned to subject to Malfoy.
“Mr. Potter, do you feel the same way now toward Mr. Malfoy as you did during your time at Hogwarts?”
“How has your opinion of him changed?”
“I used to hate him as much as he hated me, but after the war ended and we both began training here, my opinion changed. I could see that he had grown up, and he was working as hard as the rest of us. I wasn’t interested in holding on to childish grudges.”
“Were you aware of that his opinion of you had changed?”
“I assumed it had.”
“He has not been at all unpleasant to me or to my friends since the end of the war.”
“Were you aware that he had come to hold you in high regard?”
“Have you ever been aware of his attraction to you?”
“Does knowing that Draco is attracted to you make you uncomfortable?”
“How does it make you feel?”
“Have you ever been sexually attracted to Mr. Malfoy?”
“No, not…” Harry clamped his mouth shut. Do not provide extra information.
“What were you going to say?”
“Not before now.”
Malfoy’s eyes flew to Harry’s, stunned.
“Are you now attracted to Mr. Malfoy?”
Harry couldn’t help it; his eyes roamed over Malfoy’s body—pale, smooth skin… long, lithe muscles… strong, sharp jaw line... The potion answered for him. “Yes.”
“Are you now considering the possibility of a romantic relationship with Mr. Malfoy?”
Harry had to admit that idea was worth investigating. “Yes.” He held Malfoy’s gaze and watched as the fear and humiliation melted from the other man’s face, leaving him with a bewildered expression, as if this turn of events was simply beyond his comprehension. Harry knew the feeling. Robards looked back and forth between them, and it was obvious that the man hadn’t seen this coming either.
Robards cleared his throat. “Harry, do you in any way doubt that Mr. Malfoy’s motives for becoming an Auror are honorable?”
“Do you believe him to be of good moral character?”
“Do you believe that you would be able to work as his partner without any lingering animosity surfacing?”
“Thank you. Mr. Malfoy, I will allow you to ask anything you wish of Mr. Potter at this time.”
Malfoy looked as unsure of what to say as Harry had been. He opened and closed his mouth several times before finally speaking. “Do you—” He cleared his throat. “Are you seeing anyone?” His cheeks turned a bit pink again, but he maintained eye contact.
There were a hundred ways Harry could have dodged the question, but he didn’t mind answering honestly. “No.”
“And… you don’t find the idea of a relationship with me… distasteful?”
Malfoy’s lips showed the tiniest hint of a smile before he turned from Harry to face Robards. “I have no further questions.”
“Then, gentleman, I have only one question more for each of you. Keeping partnership rules in mind, Mr. Malfoy, do you believe you could serve as an Auror to the best of your ability with Harry Potter as your partner?”
“No,” Malfoy replied firmly, his tone bordering on cheerful.
“Mr. Potter, keeping partnership rules in mind, do you believe you could serve as an Auror to the best of your ability with Draco Malfoy as your partner?”
The answer didn’t surprise him as much as it could have. “Keeping partnership rules in mind, no.”
Robards closed the interview and bound them both to silence before dismissing them. They claimed their wands from Auror Sanderson and left the holding area, walking side by side in silence. Harry was still trying to process what had happened. He looked at Malfoy and found that Malfoy was looking back, the same almost smile quirking his lips. They came to the intersection where the left turn would take Harry back to his cubicle and the right turn would take Malfoy to his. Harry had taken a step to the left, intending to go and have a long think at his desk, when he felt a hand on his.
“Harry, wait.” Malfoy led him into a nearby alcove, hidden from passersby unless they were looking for it. “Listen, I have to say this… while I have the chance.”
Harry nodded, keeping his expression open.
“I… I’ve wanted you for a long time. I didn’t even know you were gay, or I would have… I—look, if they don’t make us partners, and considering the fraternization rule, I can’t see why they would, then I won’t... I won’t remember realizing that I have a chance with you. All this time I’ve been sure I was mad for wanting you…. I just—”
“You’re not mad, Draco.” He leaned in and placed a soft kiss on the corner of Malfoy’s lips. “Not mad at all.”
Malfoy didn’t breathe, and when Harry pulled back, Malfoy leaned forward as if to follow him.
“We might not remember the contents of the interview, but I’m sure we will remember this.” He placed another kiss on the other corner of Malfoy’s lips, chuckling inwardly at the simple quirkiness of life. “If it will make you feel any better, write yourself a note.”
It was only a matter of an hour or so before Harry, along with the other trainees, were seated in the conference room again, buzzing with anticipation.
“I wish to thank you all for your cooperation today,” said Robards. “I know it was difficult for many of you, but I am proud to say that no trainee declined a single interview. Every trainee has been successfully matched with a suitable partner. We will make a formal announcement at the commencement dinner this evening revealing who has been partnered with whom, but first, I will call you to my office one by one. As was explained to each of you, your memories of all interviews but the one with your selected partner will be completely removed.”
Robards left the room, and Harry didn’t have to wait long before his name was called. After closing the door behind him, he took a seat and closed his eyes, trying to relax his mind.
“Are you ready?” asked Robards.
Harry opened his eyes to find Robards looking back at him. He struggled for a moment to remember where he was and how he had arrived here, but it came to him quickly. He was here to have his memory modified. Most of the day was… hazy. The meeting… practicing with Terry, Robards’ hawk Patronus. He was sure he’d seen it more than once. And then… “Sarah? Sarah’s my partner? Didn’t you interview me with Ron?” He was met with silence. “I know you can’t discuss the details of the interviews… but—”
“No, I can’t discuss the details, and I can’t tell you who else you were interviewed with, but Harry, as your friend… let me give you some advice.”
Harry nodded uncertainly.
“If there is anything you are keeping hidden from your friends, consider what you have to lose if they find out from a source other than yourself. I partnered you with Sarah because your interviews proved conclusively that she is the best chance you have at a strong partnership free of complications, both now and in the future. One of rules that all Aurors must abide by is that there is to be no fraternization of a romantic or sexual nature between partners, and there is no danger of that becoming an issue with Sarah. There is no rule, however, that disallows fraternization between non-partnered Aurors, and Harry—if you look around, I think you might find exactly what you’re looking for.”
It was only a moment before images began to flash through Harry’s mind.
A hand holding his.
Clear, grey eyes smiling at him.
A puff of breath warming his lips.