TITLE: Life in the In-Between
NOTES: Written for norton_gale in the first wave of hd_holidays but not posted at that time. She requested (among other things) "hurt/comfort, H/D in relationship with some angst for balance, happy endings, romance" - I hope this fits the ticket. The epigram and title come from Ars Poetica by Anthony Butts.
SUMMARY: In wartime, it's too dangerous to make promises.
only the hope of movement, for every target
an aim, lives spent in the in-between,
multitudes of coexisting in this particular filament
as if no other were possible..."
"Ferula parvus." A stick, about the length of a quill, dropped point-first onto Harry's head.
"Ouch!" He rubbed his scalp. "Take more care, will you?" He rolled down the window of the Muggle auto and threw the stick onto the pavement.
"Sorry," Tonks said, in a tone that wasn't. "That's still too big. Ferula minimis, and close that up, will you? It's bloody cold out there." A stick barely the length of her smallest finger fell into her lap. "Perfect."
Harry stretched out as much as he could, given that he was on the driver's side, and looked at his partner. "I know this is the most boring task we could possibly be doing, and I'm sure that Moody's got his knickers in a twist about me for some reason yet once again, but in Albus's name, Tonks, why are you practising conjuring spells?"
She grinned at him and added another stick to her growing collection. "Because I'm bored, and I haven't any idea what to get Kingsley for Yule, and so I thought I'd make him a quill cup out of sticks."
Harry stared at her. "A quill cup made of sticks."
"Yes," Tonks said cheerfully. "Then he'll say 'Tonks, whyever did you give me a stick cup? Have you gone mad?' and I'll say "As a matter of fact, Kingsley old friend, I have indeed gone mad, having been stuck in an auto with Potter for three-plus weeks watching a house that nobody ever goes into.' Then he'll frown at me, and I'll say - helpfully, mind you - 'Just between you and me, Kingsley, I'm a bit worried about Harry. He's gotten rather bitter what with the not being able to shag his sexy Death Eater spy boyfriend, don't you think?' And then Kingsley will say -"
"Tonks." Harry sighed heavily and started to rub his forehead. "He's not my boyfriend."
"I should think not," Tonks said. "Kingsley's straight."
Harry whimpered faintly. "Malfoy, I meant. He's not my boyfriend."
Tonks shrugged and started fastening the sticks together with a fixing charm. "My mistake. So my cousin is just your routine trick after he hands over information that might get him and Snape killed if it ever got out that he knew how to get in touch with you, let alone that he regularly ends up dirtying the knees of his trousers in an alley somewhere?"
"Something like that." Harry closed his eyes. "God, I'm bored."
Tonks said nothing for a few minutes, humming softly as she built her cup, until she moved sharply. Harry sat up and peered through the windscreen. "What is it?"
"Thought I saw something. Come on." She slid her wand into her sleeve and got out of the car, running into the shadows along the buildings. Harry followed close behind, wishing he'd had time to cast a Disillusion Charm on them both before they got into something dangerous.
As they got closer to the house on the corner, Harry noticed a faint glow from one of the top windows. "Look," he said quietly.
"Yes," Tonks whispered. "First time we've seen a light. Did Moody tell you anything to watch for?"
"Only that it might be a Death Eater meeting house," he said. "Should we get closer?"
Tonks shook her head, drawing him back into the crevice between two buildings. "Watch and report. You know the rules. Did Dra - er, your friend - has he told you anything about this place?"
"No. He's in Bulgaria anyway," Harry whispered. "Haven't seen him in a couple of weeks."
"No wonder you're in such a pleasant mood," Tonks said wryly, then stiffened. "Something's moving in the garden." Harry leaned forward to see if he could tell what was causing the low rustling noise.
Suddenly, the house lights blazed, lighting the grounds below. Tonks darted across the street before Harry could catch her. Though he followed quickly, he soon lost sight of his partner as she slipped through the group of people that hadn't been there just a moment before. Harry went after her but ran headlong into a heavily muscled chest, which was attached to a very strong arm. "DMLE action. Step away, sir."
"Auror," Harry yelled. "I am DMLE! What the hell?"
"Potter?" The other man chuckled unpleasantly. "Not your lot. Get lost."
Harry squinted in the dim light. "McLaggen, you bastard, this isn't your patch." Without noticing, he'd pulled his wand in frustration, and a wide cruel smile broke across Cormac McLaggen's face.
"Oh, it's like that? Assaulting a Hit Wizard? Thanks, Potter, I'll enjoy this." McLaggen had one hand on Harry's shoulder and the other balling into a fist when Harry spotted a white-blond blur flashing across the garden and into the house. He twisted out of McLaggen's grip and raced for the door, but was intercepted by another pair of Hit Wizards.
"There, there, Potter," one of them said, patting his head. "You and the clumsy girl can sit back and let real Magical Law Enforcement do our work. We've got the nasty old Death Eaters locked up tight, we do, so why don't you two just run along back to Mad-Eye and give him our love?" The other goon pulled on a glove and took a pocketknife from his coat, holding it out to Harry. "Grab on," he said brusquely, and shoved the knife into Harry's grip long enough for the familiar and unsettling tugging sensation to set in.
Three hours later, Harry let the back door of number twelve, Grimmauld Place, slam shut behind him. He'd Apparated to the back garden from Moody's office, too annoyed even to make his way to the DMLE Floo. Moody had been nose-to-nose with Derrick Marquam, the senior Hit Wizard, when Harry and Tonks raced into his office, their words tumbling together. "Hit Wizards - that house in Muswell Hill - entire stakeout compromised, Alastor!" Once the yelling had subsided a bit, they'd told their story to both men, interrupted near the end by the arrival of four abashed Hit Wizards.
"Bloody McLaggen and his musclebound cronies," Harry muttered as he headed up the stairs, wanting only a long hot bath. "Tips and surveillance and building a case that will stand up with the Wizengamot when we bring the Death Eaters to trial, blasted to bits by wand-happy bastards who not only forgot to ward the doors until everyone inside had gotten out, but got themselves wounded in the attempt!"
He continued to grumble as he stripped off his shirt and tossed it on his bed, pausing when he noticed a small envelope on the pillow with a familiar and elegant scrawl across the front. He ripped it open and pulled out the small card within, which said only "Behind Borgin & Burke's. As soon as you can." Harry grabbed his shirt and struggled into it as he raced down the stairs, already reciting the Apparition spell as he opened the garden door.
He appeared on the pavement in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies. The street was empty this late; he hurried down Knockturn until he spotted the break in an otherwise continuous stone façade and turned into the alley.
"What took you so long?"
Harry frowned. "I came as soon as I got your note." He moved closer to Draco, who was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed.
"I've been here nearly two hours." Draco grimaced just a bit as Harry reached to touch his shoulder.
"Are you all right?" Harry cast a faint Lumos and looked carefully at Draco. "You look like hell, Malfoy. I've been at the Ministry - bloody Hit Wizards...." Harry frowned and leaned closer, voice much softer. "You were there, weren't you. In Muswell Hill. I thought I saw your hair."
Draco chuckled, opening his eyes slowly. "Remind me to glamour next time."
"You were there. Bloody hell, Draco, we've been watching that house for weeks! Give us a word or two, will you?" Harry grabbed Draco's shoulders, intending to shake some sense into him, but stopped cold when Draco barely managed to stifle a yelp. "Are you hurt?"
"It's nothing," Draco said hoarsely, reaching up to hold his arm. "Can't go to Mungo's - you know that, they call your lot as soon as one of us shows up - so someone else set it. I'll be all right."
"Let me see," Harry said quietly. "Set? Was it broken?"
Draco nodded, still holding his arm. "Didn't know you were raiding." He grimaced a bit. "Didn't know you were watching, Potter. How about a word or two in my direction, or is this completely one way? I give you information, I suck your cock, Saint Potter gets what he wants, the end?"
"It wasn't us. It was fucking McLaggen and his goons," Harry said. "And I didn't know this had anything to do with you, all right? Believe me, I'd have asked a month ago and not had to spend every night since in a Muggle auto that smells of chips." He carefully peeled Draco's fingers away, then unbuttoned his shirt and pushed it down to look at the damage. "That's a half-arsed job. Who set this, your great-aunt Harriet?"
A faint smirk crossed Draco's face. "Third cousin Henrietta, actually." He sighed and looked at Harry. "Hit Wizards. Why?"
"I don't know. Maybe they got a tip." Harry reached to touch Draco's cheek, wiping away a smudge of dirt. "What's going on there?"
"Nothing requiring Hit Wizards," Draco said quietly. "If your investigation's been compromised, I'm not sure it's safe to tell you."
"Malfoy...." Harry scrubbed his hands through his hair, half-exasperated even though he knew Draco was right. "Look - are you in danger because of this? Did they see you?"
"McLaggen?" Draco shook his head a bit. "I only got hit by something misdirected. They weren't aiming for me." His eyes darkened. "They came in wands blazing, Potter. Didn't even look where they were aiming. I got a few spells off before they Disapparated - hope I broke someone's nose."
"You did," Harry said with a smirk. "Mark Wells, that big bloke who left school the year before we got there."
A grin flashed across Draco's face before it was replaced by a grimace. "Good. He's nearly as stupid as Flint, and that takes talent." He sighed. "Look, I haven't got anything new for you. I just..." His voice trailed off. "Saw my cousin with you and wanted to know if she was all right, and wanted to know what the hell was going on. It's not a military target, Potter. That's all I can tell you."
Harry leaned against the wall next to Draco. "Wish you could give me more. Maybe get the investigation back with me and Tonks, give you some space if it's really not anything to worry about." He reached to brush Draco's hair off his forehead. "You really do look like hell, you know."
Eyes closed again, Draco smiled wryly. "That your way of saying you don't want to shag?"
"Damn it, Malfoy." Harry pushed away from the wall and crossed his arms, stepping closer to Draco. "Look at me, will you?"
Draco reluctantly opened his eyes. "Yes?"
"This isn't about sex for protection, you know. Not like you're buying a bit more of your safety - and Snape's - every time we meet up." He leaned forward, one hand on either side of Draco's head, voice quiet and determined. "If you're doing it out of duty or fear, Draco, stop. I'd hoped you were - well, that you were doing it because you liked it. Wanted to." He was quiet for a minute, watching Draco watch him. "I am. Do."
Draco stayed still for a moment, then nodded. His body sagged a bit as he relaxed. "I am. It's just that I've never been able to read you, Potter. Not from that very first day in Madame Malkin's. Don't know what you're thinking when you see me - traitor or murderer or someone easily turned to your own uses or just someone who's never given you a reason to care what happened to me." His mouth twisted into a smile. "And at least I know that I'm good with my mouth. It's a useful skill with my compatriots."
"They're not your compatriots," Harry said very softly, leaning forward until their cheeks were almost touching. "And I've had a reason to care what happens to you for some time." He moved just a bit closer, brushing his lips against Draco's and then deepening the kiss.
Draco brought his hands to rest at Harry's waist, gently returning the kiss. "I'll admit I'm much happier you're my contact than Tonks." He chuckled. "Although I've wondered - can she morph into a boy?"
Harry grinned at him. "She refuses to answer that, and you're a bloody pervert to wonder that about your cousin." He kissed Draco again swiftly, then stepped back and held out his hand. "Come home with me. I want to look at your arm in better light, and I think you could use the sleep." Looking more closely, Harry noticed the start of a worry line on Draco's forehead and deep circles under his eyes.
Draco looked down at the ground, then back up, nodding. "A few hours. I have to leave before sunrise, all right?" He reached for Harry's hand, stepping close to Apparate with him into the Grimmauld Place back garden. Shaking his head a bit, Draco moved away from Harry. "I'll never like going side-along. Feels totally different."
"You just like being in charge," Harry said lightly as he led Draco into the house. "Food? Bath? Bed?"
"Bath." A dreamy look crossed Draco's face. "Hot and with bubbles."
Harry laughed as they climbed the stairs. "Hope you know a bubble spell, then. This is purely a bachelor Gryffindor sort of place. You're lucky to have clean towels."
"Philistine," Draco said as he pushed Harry out of the bathroom. "Leave me to my fantasies." The door closed firmly behind Harry, lock shooting home. Harry went back downstairs and poked through the cupboards, putting together a tray and carrying it up to his bedroom on the off-chance Draco might be hungry. He kicked off his shoes and stretched out on the bed with a stack of dispatches, drinking a Butterbeer as he caught up on work.
"This house is bigger than it looks from outside," Draco said. He stood in the doorway, a towel wrapped around his hips, watching Harry read. "I tried three other doors before I found the right one."
Harry put the parchment aside and scooted across the bed, leaving room for Draco. "Too big, really. Alastor says it's not wise to have too many Order members in the same house, so I haven't got any roommates. Gets rather boring."
"What, you and Weasel don't spend your every non-working hour eating crisps and talking about Quidditch? Or arguing about who gets to top?" Draco came closer to the bed, hesitating until Harry patted the duvet.
"Hermione tops. Everyone knows that. Come on, Malfoy. We've had sex before - it's all right to sit."
Draco sat down, swinging his legs up onto the mattress. "Never in a bed though, you and me. Thought you had a danger fetish, dark alleys and imminent discovery and that sort of thing." He grinned at Harry. "Tell me I'm wrong."
"It's mostly the dangerous boys I fancy, not the situations," Harry said lightly as he turned to face Draco. "Double agents, you know the sort of thing. Very cloak and dagger." He lifted Draco's arm and examined it carefully. "It's not as bad as it looked in Diagon, but it still could use resetting. Could Snape...."
"Maybe," Draco said. "I'll see him in a few days, or I'll ask Aunt Bellatrix before then. Her healing charms hurt like hell but she's good at them. She's had enough practice on Rodolphus over the years." He smirked. "Talk about danger fetishes."
Harry slid down the bed and flopped a pillow onto his face, groaning through the feathers. "Ugh. I don't want to know, Draco." He could feel Draco shifting to lie next to him.
"That's the second time tonight," Draco said quietly.
Harry opened his eyes to see Draco watching him. "Second time what?"
"That you've not called me Malfoy."
"It's your name," Harry said. "Is it a problem?"
"No." Draco lifted his hand to touch Harry's cheek, then gently removed Harry's glasses and twisted to put them on the nightstand. "It's rather nice, actually. Odd hearing it in your voice, but nice."
Harry swallowed, feeling an odd sensation in his chest. "You could call me Harry."
"No," Draco said, tipping his face down to kiss Harry nearly as softly as they'd kissed in the alley. "Not safe. I have to think of you as Potter - if I slip and call you Harry, I'm dead." He kissed Harry again, tugging at his shirt and slipping his hand under the hem to slide across Harry's stomach.
Harry groaned and sat up, yanking the shirt off and throwing it across the bedroom, then leaned down to kiss Draco, more deeply this time. When Draco's hands came up to Harry's belt, he shifted to make it easier as he kissed down Draco's neck and across his uninjured shoulder. "Stop me if this isn't all right, Draco."
Draco laughed softly as he worked Harry's belt open and undid his jeans, shoving them halfway down Harry's hips. "Very much all right. So much cleaner than that damned alleyway." He rolled onto his back, smiling almost shyly. "Of course, one might think it means something in a real bed."
Harry got off the bed long enough to step out of his jeans and pants. He pulled the towel away from Draco, grinning appreciatively at the result. "You're bloody gorgeous, Draco." He climbed back onto the bed, straddling Draco's hips, looking down at him. "And yeah. It might mean something. Unless that's dangerous too."
Draco shrugged. "It is. But that's a danger I can live with." The shy smile appeared again. "It lends a bit of reason to the madness." He pulled Harry down, wrapping his arms around Harry's waist and kissing him thoroughly.
Harry wound his fingers into Draco's hair as they kissed, trying not to rub against him too much. "And we've got time for once." A throb from his cock made him grin lopsidedly. "Maybe not so much time, actually." He rocked his hips a bit harder, grinding against Draco's matching hardness.
"Want you," Draco whispered. "Please. Now." He twined one leg around Harry's, lifting the other to hook over Harry's hip, and groaned softly as they rubbed against each other.
After another deep kiss, Harry smiled and kissed the tip of Draco's nose. "I think I can manage that." He leaned over and opened his nightstand, pulling out a small red jar and handing it to Draco as he rolled to one side. "Will you? I want to watch you."
Draco blushed deeply as he opened the jar and scooped out some of the cream inside. "Watch? Didn't know that was one of your things, Potter."
"I'm always willing to change my mind," Harry said, trying to control his breathing as Draco spread his legs and reached back to slick himself. "Fuck, Draco."
"That is the general idea," Draco said, wrapping his slippery hand around Harry's cock without warning. He stroked slowly, kissing Harry as he did.
Harry groaned. "Careful, then." He reluctantly pulled Draco's hand away and rolled to his knees between Draco's legs. "Some day, all the time we want...." He shifted closer, pulling Draco's legs up around his own hips, and got himself in position. As he pressed slowly in, he leaned forward and kissed Draco hard.
"God, Potter," Draco whispered, "don't tease." He rocked his hips toward Harry, taking him deeper, as his hands stroked Harry's back and sides. "Didn't anyone tell you there's a war on?" He laughed softly. "There'll be time for time after it's all over."
"Yeah," Harry gasped as he started to thrust into Draco. "Promise."
"Don't promise," Draco said quickly. "Just - harder, all right?" He writhed under Harry, kissing Harry's chest where he could reach. "Quit holding back," he whispered. "No fucking time to be a hero."
Harry groaned again, deciding to take Draco at his word. He snapped his hips faster, pounding into Draco as hard as he could, nearly overcome by Draco's demands and his soft luminous skin and the sense that they might not have a chance like this again until things were different in the world. Draco was moving under him, raking his teeth over Harry's nipples, making little noises that spurred Harry on, and far too soon, Harry felt his abdomen tighten and his breath quicken even more. "Draco..."
"Yes," Draco breathed. He worked his hand between them and started to stroke his own cock as Harry started to shake. "So fucking close, you don't know what you do to me, do you?"
As the last waves of his orgasm faded, Harry braced himself on his elbows, still inside Draco, and watched Draco's hair slide across the pillowslip. "It's all right," he whispered. "You're safe for now. It's okay."
Draco cried out as he began to spasm, splattering Harry's chest as he clenched around him, then pulled Harry down for a long kiss. "Don't fucking promise anything,, Potter," he whispered harshly. "Not even for just this minute."
Slipping out of Draco and fumbling for his wand, Harry sighed. "I know. It's just...I wish things were different."
"If they were," Draco said quietly, "we wouldn't be here like this. The War's worth at least that much."
Harry found his wand and cast cleaning spells, then dimmed the lamp and pulled the duvet up over them. "You've got a couple of hours. I'll wake you."
"Ninety minutes." Draco moved closer, resting his head against Harry's shoulder.
"Ninety minutes," Harry said as he kissed Draco's hair. "How's your arm?"
Draco shrugged. "It works. I'll have Severus look at it." He pulled back and looked at Harry. "Why did you start surveilling in Muswell Hill in the first place?"
"Got a tip," Harry said. "Someone thought they'd seen traffic at odd hours. Recognized some people on the Death Eater lists." He returned Draco's steady gaze. "I can't keep people away unless you tell me, Draco."
After a long moment, Draco sighed and nodded. "It's a safe house. Children, mostly, and older people. It's bad, Potter, and even the inner circle's realized that it's better to send their families away in case something happens." He smiled bitterly. "Something like rogue Hit Wizards firing on grandmothers."
Harry frowned. "People living there?"
"No," Draco said. "It's a waystation, and that's all I can tell you." He looked carefully at Harry. "They're not Dark, Potter. They're barely out of nappies, or about to need them again. A few of us are trying to help. The end's coming - you know that - and there's no use everyone dying in the Dark Lord's final attempt for glory." His eyes glittered, but he kept them fixed on Harry. "That includes you, you stupid hero."
"No promises," Harry said gently, "but I'll keep that in mind." He kissed Draco's hair again. "Will you be using that house again?"
"No. It's been compromised. The spellfight made the neighbours take notice, so we'll go elsewhere."
"Tell me next time," Harry said. "At least Tonks and I can do more from inside if we know what's going on."
Draco nodded, then yawned. "I won't tell you much. But I'll tell you something." He curled closer. "Ninety minutes."
The next morning, Harry brought Tonks coffee and a scone.
"You look rough," she said, promptly dropping crumbs down her cleavage and getting a brown spot on her shirt. "Long night?"
"You could say that," Harry said. He sat on the corner of her desk and watched her cast cleaning spells. "He was there."
"Figured," she said. "Safe?"
"Injured. But he'll be all right."
Tonks patted his knee. "Some day you'll get to go on a proper date, you know."
Harry laughed and covered her hand with his. "Whatever for? You'd never have anything to complain about to Kingsley."
She grinned and waved her wand. A sharp stick dropped onto Harry's head. He caught it as it bounced and snapped it in two, handing her the pieces. "Come on, partner. Let's go save the world."
Tonks grabbed her jacket and followed him out of the office. "I was thinking, you know. Just a quill cup isn't much of a gift. You think Kingsley would be offended if I bought him a MagiDate membership?"
Harry laughed and slung his arm around Tonks's waist. "Maybe some day you'll manage to ask him on a proper date yourself, you ever think of that?"
Tonks grinned at him. "Then he'll really think I've gone mad. Come on, Harry. I want another scone, and then we'll go stare at some other building guaranteed not to contain Malfoys."
"No promises," Harry said cheerfully, and followed her out onto the street.