Title: Bed & Late Night Snack, Part 3/5
Nash and his tentacle-faced colleague were waiting for them at the large gate – it was a real wrought-iron gate in a fence whose wrist-thick bars went up to the height of a small giant and sported nasty hooked spikes at their ends. The fence didn't surround the whole house, just a smallish courtyard in front of the L-shaped building's front door. If it had been a Muggle neighbourhood, Harry would have called it a drive. Cars weren't popular in the magical world, as the first converted Muggle vehicle, the Knight Bus, had become associated with wizards and witches who were not skilled or rich enough to travel magically. It didn't mean anything that Knockturn Alley was barely wide enough for a motorcycle to drive through; Harry had had at least one truly disturbing adventure with the aforementioned Knight Bus to prove that lack of manoeuvring space would not be a problem for a wizard.
They were greeted casually, as if their presence there wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Harry could detect no security check being performed on them. They weren't even asked to present the card they have been given, just pointed in the direction of the gate that had opened on their arrival and suggested they start walking. Malfoy apparently didn't feel secure in the knowledge that the card was in Harry's possession. He had most likely gone through the same logic that Harry had earlier, and had arrived at the same conclusion of not being able to trust knowing what was going to happen. Thus, he grabbed Harry's hand with the casual confidence of someone enjoying a 'boyfriend' status, and pushed their clasped fingers into the pocket that hid the object in question, so that they were both touching it while entering the gate. There was no visible or otherwise tangible evidence that something happened or did not happen on the account of it.
Once they were inside, they were greeted not by the wizard they had expected to meet, nor one of his employees, but a woman who looked much like the Asian version of the busty blonde looking down on them from the wide-screen that afternoon. Harry was somewhat startled by her. He hadn't met this kind of artificially improved beauty outside of the Muggle world yet. Her whole appearance screamed 'Fake' with a capital letter. Even Rita Skeeter looked and acted more natural than she.
"I'm sorry, but Castor is not here," she said, preceding the introductions. Her voice, contrary to her appearance, belonged to someone who was used to being taken seriously. Her personality didn't fit the image of the dumb elbow-decoration Harry had expected to find underneath the sparkly exterior. "He was called away on business this afternoon, but don't worry, I won't send you away empty-handed."
She came down the grand staircase she had been standing on, and Harry had to revise his previous statement: her hair colour – which was actually closer to strawberry-blond, he realised now that the lights didn't hit it from an angle that made it glow in the darkness like a halo – and her décolletage might have been fake, but she very obviously had a class of her own. The strange clash of impressions made Harry suspicious of what she really was. Either she wasn't just a trophy girlfriend or a flavour of the week, or else she was damn good at pretending.
Malfoy had apparently been just as taken aback by her as Harry was, but he managed to shake the shock a lot quicker. He pulled away from Harry and stepped forward to introduce himself, as courtesy demanded. Turned out he shouldn't have bothered, as she was obviously well aware of their identities.
"So, Harry… and Mister Malfoy…" She offered her hand first to Harry, then to Malfoy, who actually lifted it to his lips and pretended to kiss it. She seemed to appreciate the gesture because she gave him a smile. "My name is Lucy. Do you mind if I call you Draco? It feels odd to call you by your family name when I cannot do the same for your partner. It would suggest I had a reason to be on more familiar terms with him. We wouldn’t want that, would we?"
Harry felt his face heat up at the seductive glance she bestowed upon him, especially as she continued with a slow examination of his body from top to bottom.
Malfoy coughed politely. "No, we wouldn’t," he said in a strained voice. Harry silently congratulated him on his act. If he hadn't known better, he would have thought Malfoy was being jealous.
Lucy just took it in stride with a dismissing nod in his direction, while her gaze was still fixed upon Harry. It was quite rude; both to Malfoy who went ignored, and himself. He didn't appreciate being ogled. Fortunately, when one had been the centre of unwanted attention of all sorts for as long as he had, one learnt to deal with it.
"If Mister Dilato is not here, then what are we to expect of this visit, Miss Lucy?" he asked while pretending not to have noticed the blatant flirtation.
"Just Lucy, handsome. No need to be so formal," she purred, seemingly not deterred in the least by Harry's veiled rejection. "I see how it is with you, straight to the point. You're very similar to the real Harry Potter in that, you know?"
Harry refused to become flustered. Instead he tilted his head to a stubborn angle and answered the unvoiced accusation, looking straight into her eyes.
"That's the point, isn’t it? I'm supposed to be similar."
His response managed to win a startled laugh, which rang too innocent, as if it had come from someone else entirely.
"All right, Harry, Draco." Lucy finally acknowledged Malfoy's presence again, if only for the short time of giving him a nod because she turned back to Harry again after that. "Castor has plans for you, which require that you stay where he is able to call upon you at any given time. I've heard you had some trouble this morning, so I believe it won't be a problem if I ask you to stay in the mansion with the other employees. I have already prepared your quarters."
Harry tried to decide whether it should have come as a surprise that she knew this much about their lives. Perhaps not. And she didn't sound like she would accept a no as an answer.
"We would like to discuss this," Harry told her, and not just because he thought she had expected it.
Lucy nodded with another smile that seemed to say 'naturally', and pointed them towards a sitting area to the left in a small alcove that had no door and was packed with bookshelves. Harry grabbed Malfoy's arm and started tugging him in that direction.
Malfoy gave out an indignant grunt, but only struggled until he realised that Harry was using the move to covertly cast a Muffliato with Malfoy's wand hidden within his robe sleeve.
The discussion between them was short and to the point. They both knew that they would be in danger of discovery if they stayed, but they also agreed that they might not get another chance to get this close. Their staying was not really a matter of choice.
"You do know that if we stay, you can't step out of your role even if we are in private, right?" Malfoy asked. Harry nodded. He had already taken that into consideration, and while he couldn't say he was entirely happy with it, it was a small price to pay.
"You can't either."
"I don't have… oh right." Malfoy looked shocked for a second, but he quickly got his act together and gave Harry a leer, despite the fact that the colour rising on his cheeks betrayed his slight uneasiness with the situation.
They wasted no words on discussing the possibility of going back.
Lucy received their answer with an air that suggested she had never doubted it would be a positive one. To their discomfort, it seemed she considered the business talk to be concluded at that point, and returned to her previous flirting. Harry felt doubly uncomfortable, because he had to keep his act as Malfoy's lover in mind and behave accordingly. She didn't make it easy for him.
"So this is what the real Harry Potter looks like," she said just before they arrived to the aforementioned rooms they were to stay in. "I always wondered…"
Harry had an uncomfortable feeling, being in the focus of her scrutiny.
"Something the matter?" he asked, pretending to be casual and trying his hardest to not let his fear of being recognised show on his face. He wasn't as good an actor as Malfoy, but he managed.
"Oh you know, just… I had only ever seen him in photos in the Prophet and in the centrefold of Witch Weekly." A choked noise coming from Malfoy interrupted her briefly but she pretended not to have noticed it. Harry followed her example. "All that 'boy hero' and 'larger than life' stuff one hears… I thought he was shorter."
Harry blinked. To say he had been taken aback would have been mild understatement. He had sort of lost his mental footing in the face of her obvious teasing, especially because she was, again, playing the role of the stupid blonde while only minutes before, she had given evidence that she was anything but. However, Malfoy didn't miss his clue to step into his role of jealous boyfriend and save Harry from having to answer. Afterward, Harry wondered whether Dobby had learnt the meaning of the word 'save' from his masters or the other way around.
"Do not worry your pretty head about it, my lady." Malfoy's grip on Harry's shoulders became blatantly possessive and there was a smirk on his face that Harry should have recognised in retrospect. "He's… ah…compensating for it in other areas," was Malfoy's quite uncharacteristically rude remark.
He won another shocked giggle from Lucy, and the right to examine their new room in private. Only when the last echoes of her high heels coming down against the tiled floor had already died down did Harry figure out what exactly Malfoy had meant by his last comment. It didn't fail to make him blush and wonder whether Malfoy really thought… He hastily pulled his mind out of the gutter, angry that he had let himself be distracted by irrelevant matters.
He was relieved to discover that 'their quarters', even though they were meant to share, contained two twin beds. He never really liked sleeping on the floor, but it would still be preferable to sleeping in one bed with Malfoy, however wide that bed might be. Attached to the room, which served both as a bedroom and a drawing room with the two functional areas separated by an empty strip in the middle, were a bathroom and a separate toilet.
Harry ached to go on reconnaissance right away. The opportunity was there, as Dilato was apparently away from the mansion and Harry thought he would find his private rooms unoccupied. But there was the very real possibility that this had been set up for him with the intention to lure him into a trap. If it was, then it was entirely too obvious, he thought with dismay.
There was no question about it that they were under observation. Harry wished he knew exactly what kind of observation it was. For a brief moment, he considered casting a revealing charm. Then he remembered that if he did that, there was a chance that the monitoring spell would pick up his magical signature, despite him using a different wand. Perhaps they were counting on him doing exactly that. Harry didn't think his 'employers' were so naïve as to expect him to be completely clueless about his accommodations.
As a last-ditch attempt, he circled the room, looking around and pretending to get acquainted with the furniture and the decoration, while he tried to feel his way around – as an Auror, he was attuned to the most common spells used for the purpose of observation, and there was a chance he would be able to pick up on a familiar magical signature. Unfortunately, the mansion, like all the other ones in its vicinity, was so full of obscure magic that there was no way for Harry to get a clear signal without strengthening and filtering it out with a spell.
"Oh! I always wanted to read this one!" Harry heard Malfoy crowing from the sitting area where, similarly to the place in the main hall, there was a well-stacked bookshelf set up with other commodities. A few seconds previously, he had been, just like Harry, inspecting the room; now he was standing in front of the bookshelf, browsing among the titles.
Harry's first reaction was annoyance. He wasn't really interested in any book Malfoy would be so ecstatic about, especially at a time like this, but he wasn't given a choice in the matter. Next he found himself being forcefully dragged onto the plush sofa with Malfoy sprawled in his lap, of all places, and a book pushed in front of his face. Harry wanted to snap at him, but then something made him think: Malfoy was probably just as aware of their surroundings. It was not likely that he would have forgotten why he was here in the first place. Thus, Harry stopped protesting and decided to try figure out what Malfoy wanted with that book.
His first impression was that it contained colourful pictures next to the prose, but he couldn't really discern them until he pushed it back to a distance that was outside the focal point of his contacts. Then he felt all his blood flow into his face.
Just like Malfoy to spot a book like the Kama Sutra first thing when inspecting a strange bookshelf, and then force Harry to go through it with him, perched on his lap, ensuring that Harry couldn't possibly move even if he wanted to. Unfortunately, with the roles they were playing, he was well within his rights to do so. Harry gave in with a sigh and wiggled around a bit to get some of Malfoy's weight off his lap because, while Malfoy looked skinny, he was nowhere near a lightweight, and Harry's thighs were starting to go numb.
"Hm… do you think you could do this?" Harry left Malfoy's first question unheeded. He reckoned it was said for the sake of their roles but that didn't mean he had to obsess over those pictures as if they contained the secret of the universe. Cover or not, Malfoy was behaving like a third year who had just discovered Honeydukes, and Harry was starting to get the impression that he was enjoying himself way too much. He couldn't fathom what most people saw in that book: those positions were not new by any means, and while the pictures were certainly colourful, there was nothing more speaking for them. Some of them were not even anatomically correct.
A sharp elbow bored between his ribs.
"Hey! I'm talking to you, honey-buns!"
Ouch. That was one of the more offensive pet names in Malfoy's repertoire, which meant that he was serious about wanting Harry to pay attention. When he did, he understood right away.
Malfoy's finger was resting on the page, but not on one of the pictures. Instead, he was tapping his index finger consecutively alternating between two parts of the text. When Harry looked closer, he discovered that he was indicating two words.
Harry cursed himself for being so slow on the uptake sometimes. It's not like he wasn't familiar with this code; Hermione had once showed him. He just hoped none of their observers was very knowledgeable in Muggle history. Now that he had caught on, it was only a matter of finding the right words on the page to establish a working communication between them.
He tapped the words while giving Malfoy some half-arsed answer about his butt hole being in a different place than the entry point depicted on the print, causing Malfoy to let slip a startled snicker. So their little coded question and answer game commenced.
…look… …around… …?
…not… …now… …female… …expect…
…later… …need… …distract…
It was somewhat inefficient and some answers demanded repeating with a different set of words to be understandable, but in the end, it worked out better than expected. They were also able to keep up a light, witty give and take about the pictures in the book to mask the real exchange of words between them. They even managed to work out code words for things that they couldn't find direct reference to in a sexually themed book. Harry was amused when he managed to work out that Malfoy was using the word 'eunuch' for the octopus-faced fellows and 'lingam' as a reference to their missing host, and almost managed to forget the seriousness of their situation. That is, until Malfoy asked him what he thought where the 'big dark man' might be found.
Harry needed a few repetitions to fully understand whom Malfoy was referring to, as the book didn't contain a word even remotely similar to 'Shacklebolt'. He sobered abruptly. He gave an avoiding answer of needing to take a look around to know whether he was even there in the mansion or someplace different, and he was very glad for their cumbersome method of communication because it wouldn't enable Malfoy to ask the difficult questions.
There was a minute stillness, after which Malfoy stirred and stretched like an overgrown cat in Harry's lap – and a very heavy one at that – then stood up without another word to put the book back in its place.
"It's late. We should go to bed," he said in a low voice, not looking at Harry while making his way past him into the bathroom. Harry looked at his watch and saw that Malfoy was right. It was almost two in the morning.
They took their turns in the bathroom. Harry was already in his bed, dozing lightly, when Malfoy finished with washing his hands after having used the toilet, so he was taken by surprise when he felt the sheets move and the mattress dip under the weight of another body crawling in with him.
"What are you doing here?" he hissed, having forgotten their act for an instant, thus needing to make quick amends. "Not here," he stage-whispered.
"Afraid of peeping toms?" Malfoy's tone sounded light and teasing on the surface, but Harry's ears picked up on a different kind of emotion underneath it. He wasn't able to identify it, though; relief or annoyance? He doubted he would ever be able to work out Malfoy's deeper motives, but he thought 'taking the shite out of him' would be a safe guess. "You aren't going to tell me you have a headache, right?"
The words froze on the tip of Harry's tongue because he was, in fact, just about to say the very same thing. "When has a headache ever stopped me?" he scoffed, annoyed that he had been caught. "I just don't feel comfortable doing… things here." That was true enough; not that he would have been comfortable with 'doing things' with Malfoy at any other place. There was a point he had to call a stop in their pretence. He had learnt the lesson at his own cost that one of his weaknesses was not being able to keep his work and personal life apart. It was better not to risk the two being mixed up by stupid stunts that felt like nothing much at the time and later turned out to have been a grand mistake.
"Spoilsport." There was a little disappointed sigh coming from Malfoy's direction. "You know, as much as I hate him, sometimes I wish you were the real thing. Potter never had any trouble with acting on his exhibitionistic tendencies."
Harry barely managed to stifle a shocked grunt. Malfoy once again managed to shift his perception of him; Harry just wished he knew in which direction. Before he could have come to a conclusion, he felt the mattress tilt again and Malfoy moving around, as he presumed, heading for his own bed. Thus, he was caught completely off guard when in the next second, he found himself pinned underneath his weight and on the receiving end of a passion-filled snog. Malfoy's hands slipped unabashedly under the thin fabric of his shirt; the touch of a warm palm on his waist kept Harry in his position, not by force, but with its mere presence.
Before long, Harry could feel his body reacting. The decision whether to throw Malfoy off or respond in kind was taken away from him by his own traitorous body. It had always been like that when it came to sex and relationships: his head was confused and hesitant, but his body knew what it wanted and acted without his permission. Harry generally didn’t mind. It usually got things figured out quicker than his floundering mind. He was used to giving a mental shrug and jumping headfirst into the flurry of sensations – and why should it have been any different now? There was a slight cessation of Malfoy's activities – he had probably expected Harry to resist more.
His first thought was that if he let Malfoy get away with this, then he wasn't going to just lie there passively and allow the other to do things to him. He wasn't some kind of damsel in distress between the sheets, even if he was acutely aware that Malfoy thought so. Harry could see where that misconception had come from but it wasn’t as though anyone could blame him for refusing to share intimate details of his private life with someone he barely had contact with, beyond a superficial business relationship. Now it looked like the level of familiarity between them was about to change.
It gave Harry a small satisfaction to note that Malfoy was more than just a little taken aback when he suddenly turned the tides on him, flipping him over and reversing their positions of molester and molestee. Later, when the quickly sparked passion had cleared out of his mind, he would also be tremendously amused by trying to imagine the shell-shocked expression on the narrow face. Right now, he was just riding the tide of passion Malfoy had initiated and resolved to enjoy every damn minute of it, if only to spite Malfoy. His body, blinded by overwhelming need, couldn't care less if it was Malfoy underneath him whose erection was rubbing vigorously against his own and eliciting delicious sparkles behind his eyelids, or his occasional friend-with-benefits wearing a strap-on.
He rocked against the squirming creature underneath him. Malfoy wasn’t trying to escape, he was squirming against him, his movements generating heat and friction between them. He seemed to have completely surrendered to mindless passion, barely restrained groans of pleasure emitting from his throat that shot through Harry like little electric currents and ended up pooling behind his navel, feeding a delicious pressure there until it got too much to contain.
Predictably, the little gymnastics ended with both of them coming in their pants within a very short time. Under different circumstances, Harry would have been embarrassed by his lack of endurance. Coming down from his high was a sobering experience. Now, being in his right mind again, he was definitely not all right with what had happened. Remembering potential observers was enough to spoil the pleasant lethargy of his afterglow.
He rolled off Malfoy, uncomfortable with the cooling wetness in the front of his pants, but still needing a minute to himself until he would be able to stand up and cover the distance between his bed and the bathroom. However, there was nothing requiring that he needed to put up with Malfoy's presence in his bed any longer; Malfoy however didn’t seem inclined to move. It looked like he was already halfway to la-la-land.
Harry's arm shot out to collide with warm flesh under the cover. He flexed his muscles and shoved until he heard the satisfying thump on the floorboards.
"Ow! What the hell?!"
"I don't cherish the thought of waking up with your drool all over my shoulder again. You have a bed of your own, don't you?"
By the time he got back from his clean up, Malfoy was already coiled up under his own sheets, either too worn out or unwilling to make the trip to the bathroom.
"No, Castor is still not back," were the first words Lucy greeted them with when they arrived. They had been asked to have breakfast with her after having been woken up by a maid servant that morning. There were only the three of them, which was a disappointment on one hand; on the other, Harry was definitely grateful he didn't have to see Nash and his still nameless friend eating. "But he sent instructions." She turned to Harry. "He has an assignment for you."
Harry accepted the folded parchment from her hand and managed not to wince when he felt her fingers brush on his, and he was certain there had been nothing accidental about it. Malfoy noticed it, too, but all he did was giving them a sulking glare and turn back to his plate. Again, Harry couldn't tell how much of his resentment was playacting and how much of it was real. He was certain Malfoy was exaggerating his injuries and he hadn't fallen on his hipbone quite as hard as he would have liked Harry to believe. As expected, Lucy assumed that the limp had an entirely different cause, as evidenced by her obvious amusement and the leer she had sent their way upon entering the dining room. Harry was sure that the unvoiced assumption only aggravated his 'boyfriend's' already less than sparkling mood.
Harry read the missive and then gave it to Malfoy. By an unspoken agreement, supported by Lucy's aimless chatter, they didn’t speak about the assignment at the breakfast table. Once they were back in their room however, they were no more free to talk. Not that Malfoy needed to spell out the matter to Harry. Harry only needed to put himself in his place: it seemed a waste of time. They needed to stay there in order to search for their target, not go to a stupid Ministry function to be able to sniff around on the highest administrative level for evidence whether Castor Dilato's paid contact was secretly working on something he intended to keep for himself instead of sharing the profit…
Normally, he would have suggested that Malfoy use the time Harry was away to search the mansion. However, when he had handed the assignment to Malfoy earlier, Lucy looked minutely surprised, as if she hadn’t expected it. There was something in that look that gave Harry a bad feeling about leaving Malfoy alone, so he decided against it, even though Malfoy's presence would make his task more difficult.
Harry was hard pressed to preserve his neutral expression instead of giving away his real emotions. He had finally, finally stumbled upon the name of the person whose illegal activities he had been working to trace down for the past months. There was no doubt about it that it was the right one. Not even someone like Castor Dilato could have bribed more than one member of the Minister's personal staff. Even better, he had been given the password necessary to get into the man's spell-protected safe in his private office within the Ministry.
"Would you please explain to me in plain English what we are doing in your girlfriend's flat?" Malfoy asked, his eyes moving suspiciously between Ginny and Mad-Eye Moody, who was sitting in the living room and, to all appearances, initiating intimate acquaintance with the telly's remote control. He had just arrived there to assume his role as Harry Potter for the night.
Apparently, the old members of the Order were taking turns playing substitute for him since the previous day. He had been called in after the Hit Wizards had turned up empty-handed and given their reports to Robards because they had thought it had been he who had sent them after the doppelganger. Apparently, Robards had decided that for his own safety, he had to keep Harry in the office in plain view. Harry wondered whether he had noticed the switch up. Whether he had or had not, he wasn’t as ignorant as to order a Polyjuice-test.
"You mean you actually want to go to one of these functions with me?" Ginny asked, taken aback. Harry couldn't really fault her; he had never been very fond of public appearances, especially since there was no way to predict how the media would interpret his actions in the next day's issue.
"If I understood correctly, I'm practically ordered to appear tonight, right?" Harry asked back, not bothering to answer Ginny's previous question. She nodded. "Then it won't be conspicuous that I'm there."
Ginny gave him a beaming smile in answer – which Harry knew would disappear very soon. He didn't see a point in stalling. Better get over the inconvenient part before she started donning her make up, he decided.
"Sorry, Ginny, but I won't be going with you. I'm going with Malfoy."
She blinked at him, then the aforementioned person in surprise.
"Erm… not that I'm prejudiced, you know me, Harry, but wouldn't that be a little…" She stopped when she heard Malfoy's amused snort coming from the entrance hall that he had refused to leave ever since Harry had yanked him over the doorstep. Harry needed a few seconds to work out where the misunderstanding lay and hurried to correct it.
"No, I meant that I'm going with Malfoy but he is… going as you."
"Oh! That's not fair!" There it was what Harry had feared: the indignant outburst.
"We have a job to do. It's important," he said in lieu of an apology, hoping that Ginny would understand. After all, she was an Auror like Harry.
"So he is going to take my place tonight." She nodded towards Malfoy. "And what am I to do during that time?" she asked. Harry was going to suggest that she stay home and watch 'Conspiracy Theory' on the telly with Moody. The old man needed some entertainment now and then. However, his good intentions were stomped into the ground by the sudden flash of a Plan in Ginny's eyes.
"I know! If Malfoy is going to be me, then I'm going to be Malfoy."
"I'm afraid I don't…" the person in question started but was abruptly silenced by the no-nonsense glare of two too-brightly gleaming eyes turned on him.
"If you're in my skin, then I can use the opportunity to slip into yours and do a little bit of reconnaissance in Knockturn Alley," she said with a tone that suggested she wasn't to be deterred by anything.
"Ginny, I don't think that's such a good idea. Just how much Polyjuice Potion do we have on hand, anyhow?" Harry tried to plead with her.
"Just about enough for three hours. Malfoy can take all of it. I'll use Glamours."
"I thought you said there were detectors in the Ministry," Malfoy said, frowning. Ginny answered his question with her usual professionalism when it came to spells.
"Polyjuice can only be detected by a direct skin sample and the general Ward Charms they have up in the common areas won't notice it. On the other hand, they would detect a Glamour Charm. So that spell wouldn't be safe for you to use, even if either of you were capable of learning it within..." She looked at her watch. "…the next half hour."
"And what about you?" Harry asked, starting to become somewhat frantic.
"Don't worry about me," she said, her cheeks flushed with excitement. "I was best in class when it came to concealment techniques. I'll whip up a good likeness to Malfoy in no time."
Harry had to admit she was right; even if her class technically only contained one other person: Harry, who managed the Disillusionment Charm on the first try but had trouble with assuming different appearances. He had never been overly bothered by that particular failure. He reckoned he had been sneaking around for so long that different means of going unnoticed just didn't seem to come to him that naturally.
"Weasley! I refuse to allow you to discredit me, which would indubitably happen the moment you're let loose in Knockturn Alley. Just… no!" came Malfoy's strangled objection. Harry noticed that the subject had finally managed to draw him out of his 'hiding place'.
"It's a fair trade, Malfoy," Ginny said with a hard smile on her face. "You're going to be me – I'm going to be you. Don't worry, I promise not to do anything I wouldn't do if I were myself."
"That somehow doesn't reassure me," Malfoy muttered, looking a little lost, while his eyes were following Ginny running around her flat in erratic patterns, like an excited worker bee trying to describe the way to a promising field of wildflowers – on another spiral arm of the Milky Way.
"If you can't take it without worrying, then worry about the fact that I promised Hermione that I'd be wearing my green dress this evening – you know, Harry." She turned to him and winked. "The one that complements your eyes so well."
"Shite." The word was out of Harry's mouth before his mind could have overridden his reaction.
"What?" Malfoy asked reluctantly as if he'd have rather preferred not to know.
"Uhm… nothing," Harry said, trying to chase an unbidden image out of his mind. "It's just a bit…" Short. "It might not fit well," he muttered quickly.
"Come on, Malfoy!" Ginny called from the bathroom, waving a moss-green fabric like a flag. "You put this on before you turn into me."
"Potter says it's not going to fit…" Malfoy said, strangely subdued, but he was already on his way.
"It'll have to," Ginny snarled, though Harry didn't think there was much real resentment in her tone. She was too excited by the prospect of a sightseeing tour in Knockturn Alley. "I won't have you ogling my body."
Malfoy actually laughed at that, snatching the cloth out of her hands, and then banged the door firmly closed behind him with a last call of, "As if I'd be interested in any way, woman!"
Harry had to stifle a snort, seeing the disappointed expression on Ginny's face when she realised what Malfoy had meant by that. He must not have wholly succeeded because she turned to him and gave him a confused glare. Harry couldn't get rid of the impression that she looked like a kid who had just been told that the Easter Bunny wasn't real.
"Did you know?" she asked, managing to sound accusing.
Harry just shrugged without a word, then he stood uncomprehending in the face of her inscrutable stare. What did it matter? Malfoy wasn’t even her type – he was too scrawny.
Not five minutes later, Malfoy came back from the bathroom in full regalia – except shoes – and Harry found his prediction being proven false. Malfoy's measurements seemed fairly similar to Ginny's, presumably owning to the fact that she was tall for a woman and her shoulders were wider from working out regularly. She still played Chaser for an amateur Quidditch team on Sundays. Malfoy was a little taller, though, which caused the already too short dress to reveal more of the creamy skin of Malfoy's surprisingly smooth thighs than necessary. He must not have felt comfortable with it either, because he was holding his robe in front of him.
Ginny chose the same instant to come out of the bedroom, having changed into dark robes that would help conceal the part of her body that couldn’t be changed with Glamours. She had already cast the illusion charms; Harry did a double take when he suddenly saw two Malfoys standing side by side.
"Here, I have already mixed a lock of my hair into it." She pushed a small, golden purse into Malfoy's hand, which contained the bottle of Polyjuice Potion. Malfoy disappeared into the bathroom anew, and she turned to Harry and stepped in front of him, executing a full turn.
"Well, what do you think?" she asked, obviously proud of her spellwork.
Harry nodded thoughtfully and tried to categorise the small details. The bodily differences between Malfoy and her were now presumably covered up by high heels and some padding. Now she also sported Malfoy's sharp cheekbones and chin; the angle of the eyebrows was different and they were thicker; the nose straighter and narrower; her hair pale yellow, shorter and standing up in spikes, the way Malfoy was wearing his nowadays – down to the dark roots he had allegedly achieved with a hair-dye potion of his own creation.
"Not bad. You made a mistake with the eyes, though."
"Really?" she asked, looking for the nearest reflecting surface. She found a mirror, which she tilted left and right to check the Charms over her face, frowning. "I don't think so. More slanted, perhaps?"
"You got the colour wrong," Harry pointed out a little reluctantly. He didn't like to argue with her when she was in one of her weird moods, like now.
"I did not! They're just the right shade of blue, I tell you." Then she struck a pose reminiscent of Lavender Brown, Romilda Vane or possibly Scarlet O'Hara, and launched into a dreamy monologue. "…azure orbs cut out of the skies just before the storm breaks; the colour of pure white clouds reflecting from a sapphire tsunami…" But soon, she snorted and broke out in unapologetic giggles, seeing the long-suffering expression on Harry's face.
"…not blue…" Harry dared to interject, swearing to himself that this would be the last of his contributions for the night, but for some reason, he just couldn't leave it without comment.
"Oh, come on, Harry, what would you know?" More than enough, a traitorous voice in the back of Harry's mind answered. "I was the one with the perfect surveillance scores. If I remember right, you couldn't discern a curse rash from a pimple." And God forbid Ginny ever let him live that down!
She looked at him expectantly, as if she were waiting for Harry to acknowledge that he was wrong. She didn't get an answer from him, but in that moment, Malfoy showed up again, sans concealing robe, apparently having used the last couple of minutes to drink his first dose and check over his appearance. Harry was surprised that he had even taken the time to apply some subtle make up to his eyes and lips, obviously taken from Ginny's stock.
"In this case it appears that Potter is right for a change," he said in a voice that was both Ginny's and not at the same time: same vocal range, different cadence. "They're grey."
Malfoy, already perfectly attuned to his role – a little too perfectly, if Harry was asked, but he wasn’t – linked his arm with Harry's elbow and made a point to smooth down some imaginary creases on his ever-green dress robes. Then he turned back to Ginny and gave her a decidedly impish wink, which caused Ginny to grace them with her inscrutable stare again. Harry blinked, mystified by the interaction that was going on over his head.
"We're going," he stated categorically and gave Malfoy a tug in the direction of the door. The last thing he heard was a gruff warning coming from the living room.
"Don't forget, Potter: Constant Vigilance! Watch your back and keep an eye out for that assassin!"
Harry had expected to be more nervous about entering the Ministry with Malfoy on his arm – even if Malfoy happened to look like his co-worker, whom people were used to seeing in his company. The truth was that he had already suffered though so many of these functions that the only feelings he was able to dredge up for having to be there were boredom and loathing. Especially during the first half hour, when all they were permitted to do was to stay there in the middle of a crowd and pretend to be interested in the speeches that were being delivered. Afterwards, Harry couldn't have said who had spoken up there at the podium and what they had been about.
Instead, he amused himself with watching Malfoy trying to role-play Ginny. Of course, he would have to actually know her to be successful in his attempt. Harry found himself having to smother a grin now and then after some of his more oblivious blunders. Fortunately, people who he was talking to – people who did know Ginny and should have suspected something – all assumed that she was just somewhat tipsy, and Malfoy's habitual drawl seeping through Ginny's voice only reinforced that false impression.
"Don't overdo it," Harry whispered into Malfoy's ear close to the end of the never-ending speeches.
"Potter, you're not appreciating my efforts to give us a reason to quickly disappear from here," came the sultry voice accompanying by Ginny's face twisted into a pout that was so alien to her that Harry couldn't refrain from surreptitiously looking around to check whether someone had noticed. But he saw the logic in Malfoy's plan.
"She's going to kill me," he muttered under his breath. He was glad Ron was not that big on these events or he would be in real trouble now.
The plan worked – a little too well, as the first person they stumbled into sneered and suggested they 'get a room'. It had been Percy, so perhaps it just offended his sensibilities that anyone dared to put up such a display in his sanctified Ministry. Malfoy pretended to take the advice at face value and used it as an excuse to haul Harry out through the nearest door.
"Bloody hell! Do you even have an idea where we're heading?" Malfoy hissed, irritated, after twenty minutes of having been dragged through the Ministry on a route that seemed to resemble a grand tour, if they ever considered setting up one.
"Quiet," Harry breathed and looked back above his shoulder covertly. Still there.
On an impulse, he reversed Malfoy's hold on his wrist and pushed him between two neighbouring pillars in a short aisle they had been walking by, until he was sure they were at least partially tucked into the shadows. At first, the body squeezed between the wall and his front stiffened in indecision, but never let it be said about Malfoy that he was slow on the uptake. Harry almost didn't need to voice the explanation for his sudden actions.
"We are being followed."
"And your first thought was that it's some perv wanting to catch us getting it on in a public place?" Malfoy asked, sounding dubious, but he already had his arms wrapped around Harry's neck.
"Either it is and they'll go away, once they got what they came here for, or it's not and then they'll leave as soon as they realise…"
"Ooh," Malfoy cooed into his ear and shifted closer. "You planning on doing naughty things to me, Mr Potter?" he asked in a voice both breathless and loud enough that the question would be audible even from a distance. Then he continued in a whisper. "You're a quick study; I'm impressed."
Harry shook off the annoying surge of embarrassment when he realised what he was talking about. This was not the time for introspection. And the fact that their observer hadn't budged from his place rather proved that he was the sort Malfoy was calling a 'perv'. Either that, or some security wizard really dedicated to his job. Which meant that, as much as Harry had hoped it wouldn't come that far, now they had to continue with the act.
That was when he found himself out of ideas as to how to proceed. This had never been part of his Auror training, for one. He only realised that he had been standing more of less frozen to the spot when Malfoy's furious hiss reached his ear.
"Watch your hands, Potter!"
"You're supposed to put them on my arse or my tits, not just let them hang down. And bloody well do it like you mean it!"
So he did - and damned if Malfoy talking about his breasts didn’t put a dent in his sense of reality. But it was still weird – hearing Malfoy's voice out of Ginny's mouth and feeling his muscles go tense between him and the wall when, in the same situation, Ginny's body always went slack with the need to be taken care of. Though Malfoy was probably just reacting to the stress, not any kind of misplaced arousal; Harry's mind latched to that thought and used it to guide him through his confusion. He forced himself to see them through his mental eyes from an outsider's view, trying to analyse the picture they most likely presented. He came to the realisation that their observer – if he was there for the fun – would be getting impatient by now at the lack of action.
Malfoy gave out a little surprised noise when Harry leaned in and caught his lips with his own, but he seemed to have no problems with getting into his role. Not that he had ever had before, Harry mused, a bit distracted. The kiss was deep, a technically perfect rendition of a passion-fuelled encounter. Harry felt Malfoy's tongue caressing his own, his fingers grabbing the hair on his nape, a subtle shift of his hips… and his mind supplied him with a running set of commands of how he should react, where to put his own hands and when to take the control back from Malfoy. He tasted like Ginny. Had the shape of Ginny. He had none of her softness – there was nothing soft in his body, nor in the way he moved and responded to Harry's actions.
Malfoy broke the kiss with the excuse of having to draw in air, pulling Harry's head into the curve of his neck and shoulder. Harry delivered a trail of kisses up on his throat, until he reached Malfoy's ear and took it between his teeth, signalling with a bite that he had understood Malfoy's intention.
"He is still there," Malfoy breathed into his ear. Harry had been able to feel the sharp gaze on his back, had been conscious of it while mentally designing his act, but it felt good to get a confirmation from Malfoy.
"What now?" he asked. "Should we break it off now and come back later?" He knew what he would have chosen, had the situation been reversed, but there was a little voice in his mind, whispering that he could not force Malfoy to do this; especially not when he was trapped in someone else's body whose reactions he might feel weird about later. There was a reason why sex wasn't done while Polyjuiced, even if the gender of the person didn't change. The 'might feel weird'-part varied from mild discomfort to total dementia and the mind healing itself by getting rid of the uncomfortable memories more surely and irrevocably than an Obliviate.
Perhaps, Harry thought, he would have a better chance for success if he left Malfoy at Ginny's and came back on his own; he knew the layout of the building and it would be easier for him to hide in plain view if…
"The hell am I going to come back again!" Malfoy hissed. "We're doing this now." Harry could feel the twitch that indicated that he was feeling less confident about the idea than his tone suggested, but he decided not to question it. Unfortunately, when Malfoy was feeling out of sorts, he always resorted to either anger or virtually transferring his discomfort on another person by turning insufferable. Merlin knew, Harry didn’t like to be on the receiving end of either.
He jumped a bit when, out of the blue, Malfoy's hand slipped southwards and grabbed something Harry was rather attached to. Their predicament, though, didn't allow him much of a leeway.
"Just what do you think you are doing?" he hissed. The bite on Malfoy's ear was meant as a warning; Malfoy, though, must have chosen a different way to interpret it, because he didn't remove his hand.
"You don't seem to be up to the task," was the teasing answer.
Harry fought really hard against the twitch in his fingers that would have liked to curl around that delicate throat and just squeeze. Instead, he reached down and grabbed Malfoy's wrist in an iron hold, lifting it and pressing it to the wall above his head. After a half second of contemplation, he repeated the move with the other arm, restraining them both in one hand.
"Oooh, kinky," Malfoy cooed somewhat louder, and Harry realised that he had already slipped back into his role. That reminder was enough to get his act back together.
He leaned back down into the curve of Malfoy's throat. His other hand reached around the unusually slim waist – well, unusually slim for Malfoy – and pulled hard.
"Get your legs around my hips," he commanded, and then he was busy moulding his groan into a sign of ardour rather than the evidence of the sudden sharp pain tearing into his back. He could tell Malfoy was really into his role, because he started wiggling, as if in the throes of passion, and Harry had a hard time keeping his balance until he managed to find a rhythm of his own that counteracted it. But then Malfoy really started to writhe, and Harry was suddenly mortified by the thought that the other was getting off on it… until he heard the low, sort of pained hiss next to his ear.
"What's wrong?" Harry was instantly alert.
"The potion! I'm going to turn back within seconds," Malfoy whispered urgently.
Harry realised that in the situation they were in, there would be no good enough excuse for digging out the bottle with the Polyjuice Potion. It would have only served to give them away.
This really was not the time to panic; years' worth of experience gained in sticky situations helped him to keep a cool head. He only just managed to rearrange their positions in order to shield Malfoy's face from their observer when the transformation began.
Malfoy's trembling turned into wild undulations, and Harry was familiar enough with Polyjuice to know that it would be only a matter of seconds until it got worse while the back-transformation occurred. The convulsions started in that second. Harry did his best to match their erratic rhythm, both to keep up the pretence and to maintain their balance. When he thought it was just about finished, he firmed his muscles and pushed Malfoy firmly against the wall, knowing fully well how it was going to look from afar.
The transformation had only lasted five seconds or so, but still left Malfoy's body shuddering with exhaustion. He was panting into Harry's ear, his forehead supported by Harry's shoulder. "Good thinking, Potter," were his first words, making Harry shiver when cold air hit the sweat-dampened skin under his ear.
"You can let me down. He isn't there anymore," Malfoy told him.
Harry let out a relieved sigh, flexing strained muscles and preparing to lower him gradually. He adjusted his grip and abruptly froze on the spot when the sensation on his palm registered in his mind. The short, tight dress had slid up when Malfoy had put his legs around his waist; Harry's fingers were pressing into bare skin. That was when Harry realised two more things. One: Malfoy wasn't wearing any underwear; two: he was hard and the evidence was pressed into Harry's belly. There was an answering stirring in his groin.
Shocked, he dumped Malfoy on the floor. There was a moment when he tried to contemplate what sort of reaction he should have, but his mind evidently wasn’t capable of processing such abrupt changes. Finally, he just began to snicker helplessly because Malfoy really looked sort of stupid: dishevelled, his erection tenting the front of Ginny's green dress and his long, bare limbs in a haphazard jumble on the floor. After helping him up and discreetly looking the other way while Malfoy righted his clothing, it was still the only response that his mind was capable of providing. He thought it was still better than making a big deal out of it.
"Are you just about done now, Potter?" Malfoy asked for the fifth time, stomping down the corridor – and somehow managing to do it without making any noise – toward the administrative staff offices. Unfortunately for Malfoy, the change caused by Polyjuice put too much of a strain on one's body to be advisable taking it two consecutive times if the back-transformation wasn't prevented by another dose. That meant he was stuck in the dress in his own form, and Harry was provided with an unexpected source of amusement.
He hadn't been lying; the dress was somewhat on the short side. It didn't help that, while Malfoy wasn't much taller than Ginny, his legs were definitely longer, so the skirt-part of it revealed more of them than when he was in her body. Now, while Malfoy was prissy like hell and every move he made was saturated with over-bred aristocratic pretentiousness, one thing he was not, was 'feminine'. His legs, sticking out of the shortish skirt looked like every other regular bloke's: angular in all the places where a woman had nice curves; his knees sort of knobbly; and let's not forget leg hair. No wonder Harry found himself involuntarily grinning from ear to ear on several occasions.
"Merlin, Potter, if I didn’t know better, I'd think you're ogling my arse. I swear you're more of a pervert than that ginger-haired secretary."
That comment made Harry's good humour disappear faster than a dropped Sickle under a sewer grate.
"Percy?" he asked with shock, not even aware that he had said it out loud until Malfoy answered.
"Who else? He must have followed us from the moment we left the ballroom. Ah, that's the right door: Renfield."
Malfoy stopped in front of their destination. Good that he did because, his mind still reeling from the revelation, Harry hadn’t been exactly paying attention to their progress and would have walked past it without noticing.
He grabbed Malfoy's wrist before he could touch the handle and pulled him back from the door. After the first second's confusion, Malfoy followed his lead without a word, observing attentively as Harry used his wand to disable the security spells on the office. Once inside, he put them back in order again.
Malfoy had his wand out but he was standing unmoving in the middle of the room, clearly waiting for Harry to give him directions. Malfoy seemed to be out of his element during a break and enter operation. Harry wondered why he felt more relieved than annoyed by the knowledge that he would be of little help; perhaps because help wasn't the reason he brought Malfoy along. He waved his wand around the office, making sure that there would be no other nasty surprises waiting for them – it was useful to have old Mad-Eye for a mentor.
"You look in the desk drawers and I am going to open the safe," he told Malfoy when he was done with the last sweep. Malfoy set to work, again, without question.
Opening the safe was just a saying; no one really expected to find a real safe in any kind of wizard residence, except perhaps if the wizard was Muggle-born and too used to living among non-magical folk. It took hard work with fine-tuned searching spells to find an indication of where and how a wizard chose to hide his possessions he feared for. Harry was good at finding them – thanks to a mix of longstanding practice and intuition. Ever since he could remember, it just felt natural for him to stumble upon things – except when he was trying too hard, concentrating on why he had to find something instead of paying attention to the clues.
While it was true that his subconscious observational skills weren’t the best, especially reading people, he was well capable of extracting information from his environment if he consciously paid attention to what he was doing. It had been no coincidence that he had made the Quidditch team his first year but had struggled with Potions. The subject just could not hold his attention. Harry blamed his lack of interest on bad memories about standing next to the sizzling pan in his aunt's kitchen when he couldn't blame it on Snape's double standards.
There… A slight discrepancy in the magical texture of a self-ordering filing cabinet alerted him to a possible hidden pouch of wizard space behind one of the drawers. With the password he had been given, it was a matter of minutes before he managed to crack the concealing spells and wards. From the residual magical signatures around the shelf, he noticed that not all of the protections were up, and the ones that were, had been put back sloppily, as if the caster had been in a hurry.
The hidden space only contained a stack of parchments, but the fact that their owner bothered with placing a protection on them in addition to keeping them in an already hidden and protected location was proof enough for him to not question its value. Thus, he pocketed the bundle and began to reproduce the original state of things.
When he was done, he turned around and found Malfoy standing over the disorganized desk, leafing through a folder with great interest.
"Found something?" he asked.
Malfoy pulled loose a sheet and then snapped the folder closed, placing it back where he found it. He started looking for a pocket for the parchment; not surprisingly, he didn't find any on the dress. So he folded it several times, until it started resembling an improvised padding to balance furniture with and stuffed it into his purse with the Polyjuice Potion.
"Possibly," he answered belatedly to Harry's question. "Are we done now?"
Harry grunted affirmatively and re-opened the wards on the door.
Sneaking out proved almost harder than getting in had been. The function was still in full swing and Harry didn’t want to risk the chance of Malfoy being seen by anyone in his current state. Malfoy offered to turn into Ginny again, but Harry knew better than to accept.
"I'd rather not have to carry you out on my shoulder," he warned. Malfoy seemed to understand his reasoning without having to explain: an unconscious girl would be more conspicuous than Malfoy in his current state of dress; they just had to keep to the shadows. So they did. Harry still needed to do some quick thinking and use a couple of Confundus Charms on two stray guests and the security wizard in the atrium. From there, they Apparated right into the middle of Knockturn Alley.
At Knockturn, they had to make a quick run for it. The noise of Apparition alerted a couple of thugs to their presence. Malfoy's appearance wasn't exactly out of place there, but it was associated with a specific profession. Those men probably thought Malfoy was one of those young Squibs purchased from their families to be sold on the streets, and that he was now on the flight from his captors with his lover. They probably figured they'd get a free round from his owner if they managed to catch them.
There was no question whether to make a run for it or to stay and fight: there were too many of them and the sounds of a tussle would have only alerted more. Malfoy didn’t need to be told to hurry up. Living where he did, he'd have met more of the unfortunate victims than Harry had on his patrols. In all likelihood, he knew exactly what kind of treatment to expect if they got caught.
Their steps clattered loudly on the slightly damp cobblestones. The noise of running steps behind their back indicated that their pursuers were rapidly closing in on them. It must have rained earlier; the street under their shoes was slippery with moisture, making running for their health a precarious matter, especially for Malfoy, who was wearing a pair of Ginny's high-heeled shoes, slowing him down. Harry had half a mind to tell him to get rid of the bloody shoes and they'd deal with the cuts later – except that the pavement was littered with shards of potion bottles; Merlin only knew what poisonous substances had been kept in them once upon a time.
Harry cut down on his speed more until Malfoy caught up with him, then grabbed his wrist, pulling him along. They weren't running fast enough to cause Malfoy to stumble, but his wheezing was almost louder than the clack of their steps on the pavement. A sudden, sharp tug on his arm prompted Harry to turn back. Malfoy managed to stay on his feet, though, so Harry didn't slow down much, only enough to let Malfoy catch up with him.
"You all right?" Harry asked.
Their destination was only a few yards away; Harry really hoped that they wouldn't find the gates closed. Now they were running shoulder to shoulder, which enabled Harry to let go of Malfoy's arm, but Malfoy almost immediately caught his hand, most likely needing the support to keep up his speed and balance. Harry allowed it and held on fast.
They rounded the last turn in the crooked alley, and spotted a hooded figure standing in the back entry of the mansion, smoking. That detail identified him as Nash's squid friend. Harry changed their direction, turning away from the front gate, and heading in this new direction without hesitation.
The figure jumped out of their way with an indignant yelp when he realised they weren't slowing down. With his last bout of speed, Harry pulled Malfoy over the threshold and kicked the door closed behind them with a resounding thump.
"What the hell?" came the muttered swearing from the side.
Harry was too busy panting and trying to keep himself from falling onto his knees to pay attention to the exclamation. That was already hard enough to do, with all those distracting black spots dancing in front of his eyes, he really didn't need the added weight of Malfoy collapsing on him.
"We… could've… Apparated," Malfoy wheezed into Harry's shoulder. Harry silently agreed with him but that didn't mean he was about to tell him that.
The kiss caught him off guard. It allowed Malfoy to take full advantage of his partly open mouth. His mind drenched in adrenaline, Harry found himself responding to the stimulus, his tongue automatically moving into the battle for dominance – who cared about breathing, anyhow – and his arms curling around a slender, silk-clad body pressed to his own. Soon, he was panting for an entirely different reason.
It took his mind several seconds to catalogue what was going on. He was squeezed between Malfoy and the nearest wall, the alignment of their bodies a reverse of that in the Ministry, but otherwise very similar – down to the presence of a spectator. Except that this time, the spectator was witnessing this against his will and despite its presence, Malfoy seemed eager to continue from where they had left off.
Harry's hands on Malfoy's shoulders thrust forward, hard. Malfoy ended up stumbling backwards and landing on his indecently clad arse with an expression of utter disbelief etched into his features.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Malfoy?" Harry hissed, discomfort making his tone sound perhaps a bit harsher than he wanted to.
Malfoy's surprise didn't last long; when it was gone, it gave way to fury. Harry could see where this was leading and didn't intend to have that discussion with a third person present. He turned on his heels and started walking towards their room at a deliberately controlled pace, vaguely aware of the noises Malfoy was making while he pushed himself off the floor and followed in his wake.