Title: The Perfect Drug, 1/2
Summary: In which Draco’s life is shady, Harry is out to save the world from itself, and revenge turns sour.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warnings: Mild bondage
Word Count: ~14,150
Author's Notes: furiosity, I tried to fit in as much of your request as possible and I hope you like it! Thanks very much to X for coping with my excessive panicking, and to Y for picking up my blunders and being generally amazing. Title comes from the song of the same name by Nine Inch Nails.
The Perfect Drug
Formed from a potent concoction of plants, equilibrium (known for short as ‘Libby’) is widely acclaimed to be the ultimate drug. Scurvy grass and lovage serve on one side to befuddle the senses, while on the other ginger and armadillo bile act conversely to sharpen the wits. When blended correctly, the four ingredients grip the mind, tugging it from one side of the spectrum of consciousness to the other until it is held in a sort of stasis in between.
“Hey buddy, you got the stash?” sounded a suspicious voice through the narrow slot that had just been opened in the door.
Draco restrained himself from rolling his eyes. “Mick, one day you will be funny. This is not your day. Open up.”
The door swung open immediately and Draco was greeted by a wall of grinning Mick, who towered over him in as friendly a way as a man built like a heavyweight boxer with a face that could give children nightmares was able. Draco didn’t mind, though, because Mick liked him just as much as everyone else in this place, which happened to be very much indeed, and unless this situation changed he had nothing to fear from him.
“Some people are no fun,” Mick said. “They’re through there.” He gestured towards the only door available for Draco to pass through; just as he had done every other time Draco had come here.
“Good for me,” said Draco, and headed towards the door. The first few times he had come here he had been uncertain, wavering on legs Polyjuiced from one of Pansy’s friends whom he saw every so often. He was still blonde, still a similar weight to usual, a similar height, but Draco had never quite been able to shake the feeling of wrongness. It was only the nerves that had worn off – not that he let it show. Ralph and Amy called him Peter.
“Everything alright?” Mick called from behind him, voice echoing off clean white walls.
“Of course,” Draco replied without looking back.
“Cheers,” Mick said brightly. And he would be bright, Draco thought, because ‘alright’ for Draco was ‘alright’ for Mick. It was ‘alright’ for everyone in this dull, clinical place. Draco had to be ‘alright’, because without him they had nothing.
The place between confusion and absolute awareness was, until equilibrium’s creation, believed to be the regular state of consciousness. Equilibrium proved them wrong.
Draco stepped into a room with thick carpet and lush, happy house plants. Ralph and Amy were reclining on one of the leather sofas scattered fashionably around the room, talking quietly to each other. They looked up and smiled when they saw Draco, indicating towards one of the sofas.
“Peter, hi,” said Amy, getting to her feet. “I was just gonna get drinks, you want anything?”
Draco raised an eyebrow at her. “Like what?” he asked, keeping his face carefully straight.
“I won’t put anything in it,” Amy said defensively. “I can’t believe you were even thinking I’d do something like that!”
“I never said anything,” Draco demurred, sitting on one of the other sofas. “But I’m alright, thanks.”
“If you say so.” Amy flashed him a grin and wandered towards the door Draco knew led to the kitchen.
“Still holding out, then?” asked Ralph.
“It’s not ‘holding out’,” Draco said. “I have no desire to try it, so what exactly am I holding out from?” What other people did with their bodies was not Draco’s responsibility. If they decided to take the drugs he made, it was their decision. It certainly didn’t mean that he would ever use the stuff himself. After all, who knew better than he what it could do? Draco had no qualms about exploiting the idiocy of others, but had no intention of becoming part of the masses himself.
“You brew the stuff!” Ralph protested. “You sit around all day brewing Libby, breathing in those sweet, sweet smells, and you’re not even tempted? It’s not normal, mate.”
“No, apparently not. I’m pretty sure we’ve had this conversation before,” Draco replied somewhat icily.
He didn’t particularly like being here with these people who would be as friendly and nice as you please until he was gone. They weren’t fooling him and they never had. They had enough to say to each other to get them through the few minutes they were obliged to spend together, but nothing more. Ralph and Amy wanted something from Draco, and he wanted something from them. That was all. He was always gone long before the Polyjuice wore off.
Ralph laughed loudly and Draco forced himself to smile back. They spent the next few minutes complaining about how slow Amy was being, although Ralph never seemed to consider getting up to help her, and Draco never felt any inclination of the sort on his own part.
The effects of equilibrium make the consumer not a different person, but their own selves magnified. A comedian is funnier; an athlete is faster; a novelist suddenly finds their brain bursting with ideas. It is the ultimate buzz, flawless awareness of the self and its abilities. No hallucinations are necessary, because the world suddenly seems clearer and more wonderful than it has ever seemed before. It is equilibrium, and it is real, and it is perfect.
Sometimes Draco wondered why he was bothering with this whole business. He didn’t need the money; through not a little pulling of strings and sheer persistence he had managed to stop the Ministry confiscating his deceased father’s property and wealth in reparation for his crimes. He had turned himself in to the Order of the Phoenix shortly after the death of Dumbledore, somehow managing to shake off Snape, and told them that he was very sorry for his crimes, but that he didn’t think he would make it as a spy. Voldemort was extremely unforgiving of failure, and Draco had no particular desire to risk it. They had eventually consented to him running off to the Alps to stay in a forgotten hotel there, well out of harm’s way. Draco had promised them he would set to work researching potions to help with the healing efforts going on across the country as the casualties mounted, and he had kept to his word.
Draco occasionally considered telling Ralph and Amy that he had been the one to first make Equilibrium, just to see how they reacted. As it was, his efforts had gone largely unrewarded due to the somewhat negative side effects his creation had caused in the long run. He didn’t want his name being put to it in any significant way, because even as the original brewer he still doubted that he would be able to escape the time in Azkaban.
As it was, even though Draco often had his doubts about this whole scene, about these dull, fake, empty people he traded with, it was something to do. And in this post-war world, a rich Malfoy who nobody trusted or liked still needed something to do. Some might call it a hobby.
Every drug has side effects. Many equilibrium users suffer from depression, potentially for the rest of their lives, because no experience will ever surpass what they have already felt. It causes the brain to swell, the heart rate to increase, and the body to go into overdrive. Although there have not yet been fatalities, healers believe it only to be a matter of time.
“So,” said Amy, sitting back down next to her boyfriend with a squeak of skin on leather. Amy’s clothes were not so much clothes as artistically placed scarves; Draco had never really understood why the more money women seemed to have, the less they seemed to wear, but this was really none of his business. He was still unable to grasp Ralph and Amy’s reasons for preferring Muggle attire to that of self respecting wizards. Then again there was very little that was respectable about them, so maybe that in itself was his answer, and he had little to no interest in women as aesthetic beings anyway. “Have you got it?”
Draco reached into one of the pockets concealed in his robes and took out a bottle that had once contained beer. Now, of course, its contents were far more valuable. He handed it over to Amy, who carefully took the top off and inhaled some of the steam that immediately began to curl up from the neck.
“Yeah, that’s it,” she said, nodding, and the tension that had formed in the room for just those few instants evaporated. There was no need, really. Draco always delivered. Almost reverently, Amy put the top back on the bottle. Seconds later it had vanished from sight.
Ralph opened a compartment concealed in the arm of the sofa and took out a large bag, which he tossed to Draco. Draco took a quick peek inside, then, satisfied it was enough, shrank it to a suitable size and put it safely in his robes. It was, as he well knew, a fairly insane sum. Then again, Ralph and Amy probably charged their clients far more; Draco felt that he was being positively generous. They were making a very comfortable livelihood from his creation.
“Alright?” Ralph asked.
“Nice doing business with you,” Draco said, giving them a nice, fake smile. They returned it with force, bright lamplight shining off their perfect white teeth. Draco made to get to his feet, but was surprised when Amy stopped him.
Equilibrium is more addictive than nicotine, more expensive than diamonds, and one of the most complicated potions ever created. Its brewing relies equally upon instinct and accuracy, and even expert potion brewers can only make it correctly in one batch out of twenty.
“By the way, Peter, what do you know about Harry Potter?”
Draco paused, and then sat back down again. Amy was always the one to strike the deals, and rarely made time for idle chit-chat.
“Well,” he said, “he killed the most evil wizard in history a few months back, and apparently he’s a bit of a hero, although I personally think he’s overrated.”
“Fuck off. You’re of a similar age, I’m sure you were at Hogwarts at the same time,” Amy pressed. “You must know him better than that.”
“We weren’t exactly what you would call friends,” Draco said lightly. “I don’t really see what you’re getting at.”
“Do you know what he’s up to at the moment?”
Draco blinked. His brain instantly reminded him that Harry was single after ending his relationship with Ginny Weasley for supposedly private reasons, which Draco had made it his business to discover. It had turned out that Harry was actually an enormous kind of poof, which hadn’t surprised Draco as much as it could have done at the time. He was still not completely sure why he had been so keen to know the details of Harry’s private life, but had convinced himself that it was just old habits dying hard, seeking ammunition and so on. Still, he very much doubted that Ralph and Amy wanted to hear about that kind of thing.
“He’s an Auror, trying to smoke out people like you, isn’t he?” Draco finally said.
People like them, Draco thought, and people like himself. It was just like Harry to make it his work to destroy everything Draco created. Draco liked to take such efforts personally.
The equilibrium trade has boomed since the end of the war, when it was first created as a medication for some of the more seriously wounded to distract them from the pain. Since then it has been made illegal.
“Not people like us,” Ralph growled, his affable mask slipping. “Us.”
Draco paused. “Oh.”
“We’ve been sending him off on fake leads,” Amy explained, “but it’ll only last so long. We need a distraction.”
“So find one,” Draco said bluntly. There was no shred of doubt in his mind that if Amy and Ralph were going down, they would do their damn best to take him with them, and although they had never seen him out of Polyjuice or found out his real name you could never be too sure. “You don’t need my permission.”
“We need it to be someone we trust,” said Amy. Draco nearly laughed at that, but stopped himself just in time. Trust wasn’t the word, not at all.
“Yes…” he said slowly.
“He’s gay,” said Ralph, sitting up straight for the first time. “He’s gay, he’s single, and he likes blonds.”
Draco very nearly choked on air, stunned that they had managed to come by such information. Then again, it was probably easy for them to find things out; some of their clients were well connected. Very well connected. Equilibrium appealed to almost everyone, especially the rich and powerful who needed to be at the very top of their game.
The sentence for possession is flexible, but the minimum tends to be a year.
“Your point?” he asked slightly dazedly.
“Nothing,” Ralph said innocently. “Nothing at all. But if you were to know anyone who might be interested in distracting him for a while until we can find a long term solution, we would be very grateful. We’d pay you extra.”
“I don’t need more money,” Draco spat. “Why would--”
“If you were to know someone who might want to bring him down,” Amy said more quietly now, looking more intense than Draco had ever seen her. Not for the first time, he wondered how much of Amy’s dumb shallowness was an act, and what was really going on beneath those thick layers of makeup and blonde-streaked hair. “A little manipulation here and there. They wouldn’t need to keep him long, and they could make him hurt at the end when he’s not needed any more.”
There was a cruel little twist to Amy’s mouth, and Draco shivered. Did she know? She certainly seemed to—but no, she couldn’t. It wasn’t possible.
“Dear Auror Harry’s made a fair few enemies over the years. Apparently there are still a few Death Eaters loose here and there,” Ralph finished. “It wouldn’t be too hard to find one ready to wait just that little bit longer.” There was a hard glint to his eyes. “If you have the contacts.”
“And you can’t do this yourselves?”
Dealers of equilibrium are generally sentenced with at least ten years in Azkaban.
“We have quite a lot on at the moment, what with trying to hold the bastard off. It’d be great if you’d help us out.” Amy smiled brightly, persuasively, mask back on. It didn’t matter so much to Draco now, though. They didn’t know who he was. He would prefer them to think him a Death Eater on the run than Draco Malfoy. And something in there had struck a chord.
After all, Draco thought, what else did he have to do? It would be to his benefit in the end.
“I’ll find someone,” he said gruffly. “Leave it to me.”
“Thanks, we don’t owe you enough,” Amy said briskly, standing up. Draco took it as his cue to do the same and sidled towards the door as quickly as he could, while trying to keep the flow of now idle pleasantries natural.
“Be seeing you soon?” asked Mick as he opened the door.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Draco replied, masking a sigh of relief as he finally stepped outside.
Brewers serve a life sentence. And yet the judges look at them in awe, and their fellow prisoners treat them like kings.
The café was quite spectacularly unexciting. It was owned by an old man nobody had ever seen and never remembered the name of, and run by a small group of extremely bored baristas who wandered aimlessly around behind the counter. They served extremely mediocre drinks, like too-milky tea, too-weak coffee, and not-at-all-chocolaty hot chocolate. Their cakes were nearly always stale, even though they were allegedly restocked every day. They very rarely delivered what one ordered. Service was very much without a smile.
Nevertheless, the café was always a veritable hive of activity. The clientele were always well dressed, smart and businesslike and always watching each other intently to scout the competition. People rarely came there by accident, just passing through the area and deciding they were a little peckish. They came there for a reason.
Purely coincidentally, Harry Potter would invariably be found perched at one of the rickety tables at around eight in the morning, where he would stay for half an hour sipping at the horrible coffee until he put down his newspaper to continue off to work. This probably had nothing to do with the large numbers of young men and women who strolled casually in at around this time, dressed to kill and looking surreptitiously around for a free table near their customer of choice. Nothing at all.
Through no small stroke of luck, Draco ended up joining the long queue snaking towards the shop door precisely fifteen seconds before Harry did the same. He was so busy scanning the tables for the shock of black hair he had come to associate with the man that it was only when a bony elbow jabbed into the small of his back that he saw Harry there at all.
“Watch yourself,” he hissed, spinning around before stopping dead. Harry was of a height with him now. Clearly his hormones and decided to stop taunting him and get on with it, because Harry was looking rather significantly better than he had when they had last met, with an air of confidence that he had never worn so comfortably before.
On the other hand, Harry had needed to be forcibly restrained from throttling Draco to death when they had last met, so this was not much of a surprise.
“Sorry,” said Harry, looking at the offending elbow as though unsure how it had managed to escape him. Then he looked up. “Oh, it’s you,” he said flatly.
“It’s quite tricky for me to be anyone else,” Draco replied, before realising that actually he spent quite a large proportion of his adult life being someone else for business purposes, and had found it surprisingly easy.
Harry craned his head to one side. The till with its sulky attendant was a good twenty customers away, and the service was being particularly sluggish today. It suddenly dawned on Draco what a torturous task he had undertaken. Harry’s shoulders slumped just that little bit as he realised that they would be spending the next few minutes pressed together in the crush of the shop, and that there was nothing he could do about it.
“It’s been a long time,” Harry said stiffly.
“It has,” Draco agreed. He didn’t add that he had not missed Harry at all, in part because insults were probably not the best way of coercing Harry into a relationship, but mainly because it was nothing that either of them didn’t already know. “How have you been?”
“Good, good,” Harry said quickly. “I’m an Auror, and. Um. Well, that’s pretty much it. But it’s good.”
“It sounds,” Draco replied, trying not to laugh slightly hysterically, “good.”
“I heard you’re working in Misuse of Magic,” he said, trying to keep his tone light. They took a step forward, inching closer to the till.
“Yeah. Trying to catch up with the people buying and selling equilibrium,” Harry said, seeming to relax slightly. “I bet you probably know a bit about that.” He spoke with his face completely straight, but his eyes told a different story. Harry had bought new glasses, Draco noticed suddenly, thin flat ones that rather suited him. You could actually see his face. It wasn’t a particularly bad face, either; it was the owner who posed the problem.
“A little,” Draco replied, equally deadpan. “It’s nice to know there are people like you around saving ignorant people from themselves. I’m sure they thank you for it as you lock them away. I, for one, find the knowledge helps me sleep better at night.”
Harry bristled. His hair seemed to stand up just that little bit more. Clearly all his attempts to calm it had continued to fail, or maybe he had given up a long time ago. It added extra height to him, Draco supposed, and it didn’t exactly look bad. Just different.
“It destroys their lives,” he said furiously, already on the defensive. Draco hadn’t really expected the conversation to go any other way, but he could already feel his control slipping and this irked him. “Someone needs to do it!”
“We’re so lucky to have you. I can truly say you’re my hero.”
“Have you not grown up at all?” Harry demanded. “You’re still so petty, just because you made something bad and now you can’t unmake it. Or maybe you won’t. Is that it?”
Draco could feel himself beginning to redden. He hated it when that happened; he was too pale to hide it and it made him look like a tomato wearing a straw wig. There was a brief interlude when Draco asked the first barista if she could get him a coffee, and to make it black. Then he turned straight back to Harry.
“I was doing what your people asked,” he hissed. “I just did it so well you can’t handle the consequences.”
“Yeah, you never were good at that,” Harry agreed bitterly. People around them were beginning to stare, but Draco couldn’t bring himself to care. This was clearly not going to work. It was never going to have worked, if he was honest with himself. There was too much history, too much hatred and fighting, and even when they had been on the same side there had never even been a semblance of reconciliation. Draco would have to find someone else. This particular idea had been doomed from the start.
Harry gave a cough that sounded like ‘Dumbledore’, and Draco’s insides froze.
“That was a mistake,” he said quietly. “A mistake. I explained myself for it so many fucking times I could--”
“Didn’t help, though,” Harry replied nastily. “Didn’t stop you making more messes, and it’s always my job to clean them up for you.”
“You make it your job.” Draco could feel his hands begin to shake. The urge to just let them do what they wanted, to slam his fists into Harry’s face…
“At least I do it properly. I don’t fail to do the stuff I set out on.” Harry was practically sneering now. Draco hoped that all his adoring fans were watching, that they would see their hero doing what they pretended he wasn’t capable of: being spiteful and bitter.
“You--” Draco started, then cut himself off. He took a deep breath, then another, then stepped out of the queue. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t – no, he wouldn’t start a fight with Harry here, now, surrounded by the people who loved him and would instantly take his side. He wouldn’t play into his ‘heroic’ hands, wouldn’t do what he wanted because Harry was clearly gagging for a punch up. He would just leave, right now, before he did anything he would regret.
“No drink is worth this company,” he said loudly, then turned on his heel and stalked out of the café, feeling Harry’s eyes boring into his back
Draco had known in his heart that it had been a mistake to go straight to his brewery when he got home. Unfortunately, it was such an instinct that even the fact that he was still seething with rage didn’t stop him pressing his hands to those familiar spots in the wall, murmuring the words that rolled so easily now off his tongue, and stepping back as the wall slid open to let him in.
When he had been making the secret hatch behind the wall, Draco had revelled in the irony of putting its entrance in the hallway. He’d loved the idea that everyone who walked in and out of the house would amble straight past it, completely unaware of what was hidden right before their unsuspecting eyes.
As soon as he had completed it, though, as soon as he had spent all those hours working and reworking the hiding spells until there was nothing he could do to change them, then he had realised his mistake. Because while the irony was indeed delicious, every time he opened his front door his nerves twanged with fear that maybe some passer by, some random, innocent visitor would spot a mistake, some trifling thing out of place and all would be lost. Every time he opened his own front bloody door.
Brewing equilibrium wasn’t easy at the best of times. Draco knew full well that he could only make it with his mind completely on the job.
There was a fizzling noise from the cauldron. A foul smelling smoke wafted into the air.
Draco picked up one of the waiting beer bottles and hurled it at the wall. The heavy feel of the glass in his hand and the sound of destruction suited his mood better than delicate brewery, so he vanished the rest of the potion and turned his attention to the line of bottles.
“Don’t know what the hell I was thinking,” he muttered, letting loose another bottle and watching as the shards skidded across the floor.
“Potter’s a prick,” he said. Crash. “A fucking wanker who doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” Tinkle. “Can’t believe I was going to try to seduce him. I mean, for shame.” He laughed bitterly, then picked up another glass and, holding it out in front of him, gently released it and let it drop to the floor. Cracks spread across the surface, so Draco finished it off with the heel of his boot, grinding under him with a satisfying crunching sound.
He nearly missed the sound of the doorbell, freezing in shock for a moment as realisation dawned.
Draco dashed for the ladder leading up to the hole in the wall, one of his boots crunching on every other step thanks to the glass now firmly embedded in it. He waited until the entrance was completely shut off, nothing more than a plain wall, before opening the door.
The delivery boy waiting behind it stared at him.
“What?” asked Draco. He hated these delivery boys who were somehow all the rage at the moment. It was one of those post-war fads, along with Muggle clothing. People seemed to think it was cute to have their parcels delivered by human messengers instead of owls as was proper. Draco thought it was one of the most ridiculous ideas he had ever heard.
As such, nobody he knew had even considered sending anything to him via a delivery boy until now.
“Got a parcel for you,” said the boy in a bored, nasal voice.
“Fine,” replied Draco, reaching out to take it.
“You’ve got to sign for it first.” A clipboard was thrust into Draco’s hand. He stared at it for a while.
“Just sign it, ok?” said the boy.
Draco looked at the clipboard, trying for a moment to decipher the minute print explaining what exactly he was signing for as the boy began to tap his foot impatiently. Finally he gave up and just signed the bloody thing, deciding that if he died and his soul happened to be the property of anyone but himself, he would seek out everyone involved and make them pay.
“Thank you,” said the boy, making the nicety sound like a personal insult. He held out a small parcel. Draco took it. “Have a nice day.”
“Thanks,” Draco said to his retreating back, then took the parcel inside and shut the door. He went straight to the kitchen and put it on the side, where the granite had been spelled to withstand most spells thrown at it, then retreated to a safe distance. A quick spell opened the parcel, leaving the contents sitting safely on the worktop.
Draco waited for a moment, and then approached with caution.
It turned out to be coffee, sitting untouched in a cardboard cup, a warming spell gently heating the air around it. The lettering on the outside proclaimed its origins in the café Draco had just returned from, and a few spells convinced Draco that the contents were exactly what he had ordered earlier, without any nasty surprises added in between.
Draco shrugged, opened the lid and took a sip. It turned out to be absolutely foul, so he poured it down the sink anyway, thinking that although the service was far better than he had expected, in the long run it was clearly a wasted effort. It was as he absently turned the cup over in his hands that he finally noticed the message scrawled on the bottom.
I was out of order this morning, so this is the closest to an apology you’re ever going to get from me. My work isn’t really like how you think, and I’m not just doing it to be a hero or to spite you or whatever. If you want an explanation, we can talk over dinner. Give me an owl back if you want. Or not, if you don’t want to, but I’m just leaving it open. Hope you enjoyed your drink.
Draco sat and stared at it for a while. Then he tossed it into the bin. And then he summoned it back out again and had another look, but it turned out to read exactly the same as it had done the first seven times so he threw it back in and forced himself to leave it there, even though his fingers were itching. Written documentation of an apology from Harry Potter was something that should really be treasured; maybe framed and put up in the entrance hall.
And yet, no, because Draco was mature and far above such petty deeds.
A large, Harry-shaped spanner had been thrown in the works of the despair and sulking that had been planned for the day, and also for the drunkenness and sulking that had been planned for the evening, but Draco was inexplicably pleased nonetheless. His earlier resignation had vanished. He had somehow managed to get an apology out of Harry for an argument that he had probably started, so clearly it would only be a matter of days before the other man was in the palm of his hand vowing never to be nasty to the poor, helpless drug industry again. It was a given.
Draco could see no possible way that the plan could go wrong.
“So,” said Draco. “This is different.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed, briefly looking up from the menu he had buried his head in to meet Draco’s eyes.
And it was. Draco had expected a number of things from the evening so far, and Harry had totally failed to deliver any of them.
Draco had expected to go to a posh restaurant where dozens of people would see Harry being magnanimous and extending his hand to the suspicious Malfoy; the table had been booked in a small place with very few diners and a warm, friendly atmosphere. Draco had expected Harry to turn up looking his usual, scruffy self (or at least, the one Draco had grown accustomed to seeing over the Hogwarts years); Harry was sitting calmly in front of him in a clean, crisp shirt with a freshly shaven face and tidy hair, and, well, not looking that bad at all.
Draco had expected attempted murder within the first ten minutes; but although the conversation so far had been stilted and awkward, compared to their normal standards they were afloat upon an ocean of calm.
The waiter arrived, blinked at them a few times in surprise, and then asked if they were ready. Harry ordered steak and Draco ordered salmon, and they both fumbled with the wine menu for a few minutes while trying to catch each other’s eye until the waiter took pity on them and gave them a hand. Draco couldn’t pronounce what they ended up ordering, and Harry looked just as confused, but at least the ordeal was over.
Unfortunately, this also meant that the menus had been taken from them, so no option remained but to talk to each other.
“Do you make a habit of doing this?” Draco finally asked, sitting back on his chair.
Harry frowned. “Taking you out to dinner? I never noticed myself doing it before,” he replied soberly, and Draco was briefly taken aback until he realised that Harry had been joking. He laughed shortly, and reminded himself that unless he relaxed it could be a very long evening.
“I seem to remember there being quite a few people at Hogwarts you didn’t get on with,” he explained. “Uh, no offence. But this is still a bit of a weird thing to do.”
“Yeah, I know, but.” Harry shrugged. “It just seemed really stupid. I mean, you played your part in the war--” he paused, seemingly stumbling over the words (probably holding himself back from adding ‘although it was pretty small’ and ‘even though it’s made my life a bit of a bugger now’, thought Draco) “—and we’re adults now. We shouldn’t be bumping into each other and pissing each other off in public places.”
“What a mature mentality,” said Draco.
Harry laughed slightly bitterly. “Happened quite quickly, and it was a surprise to me, too.” Draco suddenly remembered the stories he had heard about how Molly Weasley had died, about Neville Longbottom, about how Harry had killed Voldemort. A lot of people had grown up very quickly. Too quickly. And others hadn’t grown up at all.
Still, this wasn’t what Draco had wanted to talk about this evening. Presumably, Harry had a few things he seemed to feel the need to hash out, and then Draco could get on with seducing him and it would all be fine and dandy.
“It was a nice thought about the drink, though,” he said, smiling at Harry, who smiled back. Not a bad smile, Draco thought. Harry really wasn’t that unattractive at all. Seducing him might be something he could really get behind, once he learned to cope with the fact that Harry was Harry.
“I guess, although to be honest I think the coffee’s kind of crap,” Harry replied easily.
“You do? But you drink there all the time,” Draco blurted. Harry cocked his head, looking amused, at which point Draco realised that he would probably have to outright confess to drug dealing to incriminate himself any further this evening. Nicely done. He took a large gulp of wine, wiped his mouth with his napkin, and continued even though Harry’s grin had only grown larger as he faffed about. “If you don’t like it, why go there?”
“It’s local, easy and cheap. And I have a terrible weakness for caffeine.”
Draco gasped theatrically. “You don’t say!”
Harry shrugged. “Everyone has a weakness. Me, since the war I haven’t been able to function without caffeine in my blood. I’m only good at my job because I know that sometime everybody slips up or gets attached to something they can’t afford to be attached to, and it’s always just a matter of time.”
“Really,” said Draco, frowning.
“You don’t have to believe me.” Harry nodded and smiled as the waiter brought their food, and Draco watched in silence as he stabbed his knife right through the middle of the steak. Very much the Harry way.
“Go on, then,” he said after a few minutes of silent chewing.
“Go.” Harry stopped to finish his mouthful, remembering good manners only a second too late. “Go on what?”
“What’s my weakness?” Harry stared at him for a few seconds, thoughtfully spearing another chunk of meat, and then shook his head.
“Dunno yet, but I’ll get back to you. Promise.” He popped the food into his mouth and looked away.
The next few minutes passed pretty much in silence, Harry apparently lost in his own little world and Draco for once completely devoid of ideas or things to talk about.
“Well,” Draco announced to the house at large, “that was a miserable failure.”
His voice echoed dully off the walls, so Draco scowled, threw his coat on the floor and stomped into the living room.
They’d had wine, sure. Plenty of wine. Which would normally have been enough to loosen Draco’s own tongue, as well as Harry’s, so the fact that it had even been possible for the evening to have been quite so awkward defied biology and physics and most of the forces of nature, magic and otherwise.
It was just illogical. Draco had been as friendly as he could have been expected to be, given the situation and company, and for a while it had seemed like Harry had been trying, too.
Then Harry had tried, once again, to turn the conversation back to work and war, and Draco had made another valiant attempt to steer it away once again, and Harry had got this look in his eyes and from then on the evening had been as good as over. Talk of Quidditch was soured by the mention of old rivalries and bickering over teams. Harry finished his food long before Draco on each consecutive course, so was left fiddling with the cutlery or the napkin as Draco made a mess of his food in his hurry to finish. And for some reason, there was something about the whole damned scenario that was tugging at Draco because it just wasn’t right.
All his instincts were screaming that he should send Ralph and Amy a short, sweet message apologising for his failure to find someone to sort out their Harry problem. While he was at it, maybe he should just discard that whole side of himself altogether, leave behind that part of his life he had never really enjoyed but couldn’t quite let go of.
“Fuck,” Draco muttered, reaching under the sofa until his searching fingers grasped the neck of a bottle. Firewhisky, of course, none of that equilibrium crap for Draco because it made his life even more deliciously hypocritical.
And as he felt the first few drops burn their way down his throat, Draco resigned himself to the knowledge that no matter how terrible an idea it was, he wasn’t ready to give up on Harry yet.
Draco lounged in the foyer of the Ministry of Magic, grinning widely in response to the suspicious stares he was receiving from almost every person to pass him by. You just couldn’t beat loitering with intent in an area where you were very much not wanted and where nobody could quite find a good enough reason to get you kicked out. The hostility was practically strangling him. It was the best fun he’d had in ages.
“To Harry Potter?” repeated the delivery boy, staring at the coffee cup in disbelief. Draco had spent a fairly inordinate length of time debating whether it would look corny if he returned Harry’s gesture of contact through beverages. He had concluded that since Harry was in essence a Gryffindor, there was probably nothing he deemed ‘too corny’. He had worn a red scarf for seven years, for heaven’s sake!
“That’s what I said,” replied Draco, turning to look at him again and carefully ignoring the muttering group of people standing a few metres away shooting glares at him every few seconds.
“And you couldn’t give it to him yourself?”
Draco frowned. “This is your job, isn’t it?”
“I don’t have to use you,” Draco interrupted snippily. “I’m sure there are plenty of other people in your profession who’d be perfectly happy to just do as I say without questioning my motives.”
The boy at least had the decency to blush. “Sorry, sir.”
He took the package from Draco’s hands and headed towards the lifts, head bowed. Draco wondered whether his message would reach its desired recipient unread. He doubted it, and decided not to give the boy a tip.
Harry came down to meet him ten minutes later, a crooked smile on his lips and a raised eyebrow Draco could see from the moment he stepped out of the lift.
“So,” said Harry, perching on the side of the fountain as the group of Draco’s watchers hurried away, “you just assumed I’d excuse myself from work to see you.”
Draco smiled and went to sit next to him, just close enough that their shoulders brushed whenever they moved. He ignored the fact that it was making his arm tingle, since he could barely even feel Harry through the fabric of his robe so that was totally irrational.
“It worked, didn’t it?”
“I was curious.” Harry didn’t meet his eyes, looking away with a hint of red on his cheeks.
“That kind of thing killed the cat, you know,” he replied airily, pushing himself to his feet and setting off towards the door, hearing Harry fall into step beside him.
“I reckon I’m a bit sturdier than that,” said Harry, and when Draco turned to look at him he was smiling. Smiling suited Harry, he decided; it was easier to find someone hideous when they were always glaring and sneering at you. But finding him attractive was purely based on convenience, his mind making itself accustomed to its task. Nothing more.
“Let’s hope so. You don’t know where we’re going yet.” Draco picked up the pace, his tone brisk, until they came to a halt at a public fireplace.
“They have these at the Ministry, you know,” said Harry.
“But do you really want your colleagues knowing you’re going to Milton Keynes instead of sitting at your desk?” Draco asked, pasting an expression of innocence onto his face.
“Milton Keynes,” Harry repeated. “Why?”
“You’ve never been skiing, have you?” Draco asked, and he smiled as Harry’s eyes widened. “Thought not.”
“Have you?” Harry replied.
“Of course. It’s better in the Alps, but needs must.”
Harry snorted. “Ask a stupid question,” he mumbled. “I’ll probably get myself killed.”
“Come on now, you were a natural at Quidditch,” Draco said sweetly, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. “There’s no reason why you won’t be a natural skier.”
Harry met his eyes for a few long seconds, during which Draco tried to look as innocent as he possibly could, even though his insides were doing dances of anticipation. If today went as planned, he would be having the most fun physically possible outside of the bedroom and killing an entire flock of birds with one stone. If Harry was out with him, he wasn’t working; if Harry wasn’t working, Ralph and Amy were gaining valuable hours to make their escape. Oh, and Draco happened to be bloody good at skiing, and he had every hope that Harry would prove just the opposite.
Harry started off fairly well, standing awkwardly on his skis as he coasted gently down the slope. His slim frame was bulked out by his ski jacket, and he waved his poles around in the air as if unsure what to do with them – which would be close to the truth, because Draco had assured him that they were just one more thing that would come naturally when he stepped onto the snow. Draco stuck by his side as they slowly began to gain speed and approached a curve in the track, and Harry started shooting him nervous glances.
“How do you turn?” he called.
“You lean,” Draco replied, demonstrating with a neat turn.
“You lean?” Harry shouted. “I’ll fall!”
Draco shrugged. “Less of a drop than Quidditch.”
Five seconds later, Draco slid to an effortless stop inches away from the pile of limbs and snow that had become of his companion. He watched for a few seconds as Harry tried valiantly to untangle his legs from his skis, entirely failing to suppress his grin, before bending down to lend him a hand.
“You said to lean,” Harry groaned, wiping snow from his glasses. “What kind of advice is that?”
“But you do lean,” Draco explained. “Just not like that.”
“What did I do wrong?” Harry demanded, ignoring Draco’s hand and trying to get to his feet by himself, but overdoing it slightly and falling over again.
Harry stared at Draco for a few moments in complete and utter disbelief, then reached out to take the hand still wavering in the air and yanked on it. Draco was so surprised to find himself collapsing on top of Harry that he forgot even to swear, able only to realise that they were suddenly lying flush together in the snow, skis and legs tangled, and that he had no idea how to get up.
“Sorry,” Harry apologised cheerfully. “Seems like there are a few things about skiing you’ve still got to teach me.”
“Maybe you’re already a lost cause,” Draco growled, trying to shove himself away from Harry but completely failing. Through his ski jacket, he felt Harry’s hands coming to rest on his sides, and for a moment thought that the other man was trying to help him up. This turned out not to be the case; Harry had apparently decided he just wanted to put them there. This was surprisingly all right with Draco, and he wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that. On the other hand, Harry did have very large, strong hands, which explained a great deal about his Snitch-catching skills, the bastard.
When he looked down, Harry was still grinning at him. “We could stay here all day, I suppose. I guess I don’t really have any other plans, what with you making me miss work.”
Draco started slightly, shoving Harry away from himself more roughly than he had really intended, and tried not to notice when Harry’s grin wavered. “You’re not giving up, then? Even though you’re naturally rubbish?” Draco smirked at him, scooting back towards Harry to grab his jacket and wrench him to his feet.
“Is that a challenge?” Harry asked, eyes glittering.
“It might well be, Potter.”
“Then I accept. Oh, and since you’re probably going to be the last person to see me alive,” he added, trying to dust off the white powder already crusted to his jacket, “call me Harry.”
They went up and down the slope for the rest of the afternoon. Much to Draco’s satisfaction, Harry fell down quite frequently and hard, which appeased his resentment of his natural skills at Quidditch somewhat. Whenever Harry fell over, he made a heroic attempt to take Draco down with him, and, well. Snow was a volatile substance. Even the best of skiers overbalanced sometimes. And Harry did do a rather good job of cushioning Draco’s fall, as well as doing an equally good job of putting his hands in various exciting places on Draco’s body, apparently in an attempt to help him up.
Draco concluded by the time they decided to call it a day that he must have some sort of animal magnetism, and since Gryffindors were more animal than human anyway it had started to work on Harry. This idea was cemented for him when Harry suggested that he come back for a drink after handing in their equipment, and Draco agreed more readily than was really necessary.
You’re getting into character, he told himself as they headed lazily towards the hidden fireplace for the centre’s wizarding clientele. And you’re doing a brilliant job. Is Harry limping?
Draco had tried to ignore the fact that the change of name had come to him so easily. Harry had started calling him Draco as soon as Draco had started calling him Harry, which was clearly just another sign of his arrogance, because Draco had actually never given him permission. But on the other hand, Draco couldn’t quite bring himself to tell Harry otherwise, and the way Harry said his name made him feel inexplicably warm and fuzzy, so by the time it occurred to him that this might not be a good thing it was far too late to change.
“So,” Draco said a few minutes later as Harry pushed open the door to his flat. “Limping.”
Harry’s front door opened into a large, spacious living area. Its walls were dotted with photographs, the fireplace was already stocked with wood, and the whole place had a lived-in feel. Draco noted that the colour scheme was still warm reds and golds, illustrating to anyone blind and stupid enough not to notice already that Harry was Gryffindor to the core.
“Say what?” Harry asked, gesturing towards a sofa at the other side of the room.
Harry headed over to a cabinet as Draco took a seat, and emerged a few moments later with a bottle of wine and two glasses.
“Limping,” Draco said again.
“I’m fine,” Harry said firmly. “Comes from falling over too much after spending my afternoon endlessly travelling up and down a few metres of snow, because apparently it’s meant to be fun.”
“You enjoyed it,” Draco informed him. “And if you tell me anything else, I just won’t believe you.”
“Makes a change, you calling me a liar,” Harry said dryly, and Draco froze. Then Harry smiled at him, and the moment passed.
“Let’s see it, then,” he said, gesturing towards Harry’s bad leg. Harry frowned, curling it under himself defensively and trying to hide a wince.
“I told you, it’s fine.”
“Pain isn’t always helpful,” said Draco. “Sometimes it’s just pain. Try to show common sense. I know it doesn’t come naturally, but it really does work.”
Harry scowled at him, and then gave in with a loud sigh to show his discontent.
A few minutes later, Draco had Harry’s ankle on his lap and was turning it this way and that, brow furrowing as he realised how swollen it was. He felt vaguely impressed that Harry had kept going on it, because he certainly wouldn’t have; on the other hand, that could possibly be attributed to Harry’s complete inability to work out when to stop, the same inability that had won him the war.
“You’ve done quite a number on this,” Draco said softly, lightly running his fingertips over the inflamed skin and hearing Harry gasp. When he stole a glance at the other man, though, he began to doubt that it had been a gasp of pain, so he did it again just for posterity before taking out his wand.
Harry stiffened, foot tensing in Draco’s hand.
“If I was going to hurt you, don’t you think I’d already have done it?” asked Draco. Harry didn’t reply, but he relaxed again and Draco took it as answer enough.
The healing spell only needed a few seconds to take effect, Harry’s ankle shrinking between Draco’s hands and the smile on his face more genuine. It dawned on Draco halfway through his second glass of wine that the point of this whole venture had been to put Harry out of action, so he should probably have left him to suffer, but somehow…
It was hard to find all that much hatred for Harry as he flopped contentedly on the sofa next to him, hard to hate the way he joked so easily about Sprout’s “love” for her plants while the crackling fire glowed on his face and the alcohol warmed his belly. It was hard to hate the way Harry suddenly opened up to him, talking about how he never wanted to work for the Ministry but needed to know he was doing something good. It was hard not to believe Harry when he said that he wasn’t doing his job to spite Draco or to destroy people’s jobs, but because he couldn’t bear to watch people wish their lives away and waste what little money they had in this new, safer world that they had fought so hard to create.
So when Harry said with a rueful smile, late into the night, that he should probably be getting to bed for work tomorrow, Draco agreed with him.
Harry walked him to the fireplace, even though they were only sitting a few paces away from it and Draco could probably have found his way out of his own accord. Harry handed him the pot of powder, and they paused. Draco found himself staring at his lips, and when Harry moved to stand with him before the flickering flames he suddenly felt like he couldn’t breathe. His hands twitched at his sides, wanting to reach out… and then Harry moved away.
“Thanks for the coffee,” he said softly.
“You’re welcome,” Draco replied, feeling like he was missing something as he stepped into the fire.
“Everybody has a weakness,” said Harry, standing so close to Draco that he could feel the light tickle of his breath on his face and the heat radiating from his body.
“Of course,” Draco scoffed. “So tell me, what’s mine?”
Harry smiled and leant closer, and suddenly Draco’s clothes vanished. Somehow this seemed to make perfect sense to him, although how exactly this worked he had no idea. Still, this didn’t overly bother him; Harry’s lips were on his shoulder, tongue flicking out to trail gently over the sensitive skin there. Draco shuddered, and Harry laughed into his neck, lips curving against him and teeth grazing his skin. He felt his knees buckle, but Harry’s arms were already around his waist, holding him firmly in place.
Draco didn’t so much hear Harry’s reply as he felt it, coming from somewhere deep inside him that he couldn’t hide from, couldn’t pretend did not exist.
Harry’s teeth were still on him, scraping over his Adam’s apple, and Draco let a hiss escape from his mouth as he pressed forward. He could feel Harry’s cock bumping against his stomach so he reached for it, grasping it in his hand and squeezing as Harry gasped and bit down harder. Harry’s fingers were walking slowly across Draco’s side, brushing tantalisingly over his cock and it just wasn’t enough, so Draco made a complaining noise and released Harry slightly until the other man got the hint and took hold of him more firmly, stroking him slowly but with blissfully sure hands, until--
Draco woke gasping for breath, erection tenting the bedcovers. When he took himself in hand he told himself over and over that he was just getting into character, trying to make the job easier because there was no way he was giving up now. It meant nothing at all that when he came, he thought of Harry.