The pale blue liquid bubbled merrily in the cauldron, emitting colourful fumes that filled the faintly lit room. Draco's vision blurred, and he cast another Impervius Charm on his protective goggles and then carefully scooped the reddish powder from the silver scale to a small bowl. Wand out and ready, he poured the powder into the cauldron. The liquid exploded, flames bouncing harmlessly against Draco's Shield. After a moment, Draco Vanished the smoke and the cauldron's contents except for a small piece of fabric at the bottom. Touching the tip of his wand to the fabric, Draco picked it up and inspected it carefully. It was completely unharmed, and Draco smiled, pleased with himself. He took a clipboard from his desk and checked a tiny box.
"Twenty down, three hundred and fifty to go," he murmured and then sighed, going through the list of ingredients required for the next test.
"Heens?" a voice asked.
Draco nearly jumped out of his skin, the sudden appearance of a person beside him startling him senseless. By some miracle, he managed to remain perfectly still. He took a few calming breaths before turning his head.
"Weasley," he said, curling his lips in distaste. A cheerful looking Ron Weasley stood beside him, waving a half-full bag of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans in front of Draco's nose, his face distorted by a mouthful of sweets. Draco purposely avoided looking at the offered bag.
"Pardon?" he asked.
Weasley chewed and chewed, and Draco prayed the git would choke on the bloody beans; however, Weasley managed to swallow them all with an audible and slightly terrifying gulp.
"Beans?" Weasley repeated, still waving the bag as though that would make it more tempting.
"No, thank you," Draco said as politely and as dismissively as he could before he turned his attention back to the clipboard in his hand. Honestly, did Weasley think he was an idiot? Accepting sweets from the Auror who spent his nights developing horrendous and hazardous products with his brother was positively insane. Draco might have fallen for it once — or twice — but he had learned his lesson. Who knew what ghastly effects the beans would have once consumed?
As patiently as he could, Draco waited for Weasley to leave, but that proved to be a futile effort.
"Ooooh, is that the new Auror protective gear you're working on?" Weasley asked with ridiculous enthusiasm, leaning closer and rudely invading Draco's personal space. Draco made a noncommittal sound, hoping to avoid any type of conversation, but Weasley nonetheless continued his prattling. "George and I are working on a new product for Aurors ourselves. I think it'll be brilliant. And very helpful. It's already in the testing stages." Weasley smiled at Draco beatifically. "Bean?"
Draco gave Weasley a disbelieving look.
Weasley's blue eyes widened. He looked at the bag in his hand and gasped. "Oh no! You think there's something wrong with them! There isn't, I swear. I wouldn't test this product on you. Obviously. This is for Aurors, I said. The test subject should be someone with more..." Weasley gave Draco a contemplative onceover. "Stamina," he concluded at last.
Draco sneered, trying not to feel insulted, and determinedly looked at his clipboard again.
He heard Weasley stuff another handful of beans in his mouth. "Hee? Hey're hine."
"Mmm." Draco made a random note on his clipboard.
Weasley swallowed audibly again. "If I were to test this new product on someone, it would be Harry. Now there's a man with impressive stamina."
Draco grit his teeth.
"Harry could take it," Ron continued. "Harry can take a lot."
Draco struggled not to react in any way, but his face was heating up, all the way to his ears.
"Is it hot in here or what?" Weasley asked airily.
Bloody Weasley. Draco didn't dare look at him. He ticked another random box. He'd have to delete it later. "Why are you here?" he asked through clenched teeth.
"Oh!" Weasley exclaimed, and Draco's ears detected faint rustling noises. "I broke my Foe-Glass. I need you to fix it." Weasley shoved a small broken mirror in front of Draco's nose.
"It can't be fixed," Draco said firmly.
"You haven't even looked at it!"
"I can't fix a broken Foe-Glass."
"You fixed Auror Jenkins Foe-Glass just last week," Weasley all but whined.
Damn it. Draco took another calming breath. "She offered compensation."
"Last I checked, Malfoy, you're being compensated for fixing our broken equipment. It's called getting a paycheque."
Draco pursed his lips. "Last I checked, Weasley, Aurors should take better care of their equipment. It's called not being a buffoon."
Weasley fell silent, undoubtedly insulted, but Draco knew better than to believe he had given up. Sure enough, Weasley tried again. "What if I offer you compensation?" He paused, then added, "Bean?"
Ignoring the offending bag of sweets, Draco smiled. "Trust me, Weasley. The compensation offered to me by Auror Jenkins is not something I'd ever want from you."
Weasley remained silent for a merciful moment, but then, quite unexpectedly, he burst out laughing.
"Oh, I get it," he breathed through his laughter. "You're trying to convince me that she offered you sex! And as a completely straight man, you just couldn’t refuse." Weasley pretended to wipe tears of laughter from his eyes. "Right."
Draco clutched the quill in his hands. "It's nice to see you make a logical conclusion for once. It's a historical moment. I'll make a note of it."
"That was sarcasm."
"Well, then, you should stay away from it because you don't know how to use it properly."
"I bet she did offer you sex," Weasley mused. "And you fixed her Foe-Glass just to make her go away."
Draco kept silent, trying not to growl because Weasley was completely right. That woman had practically assaulted him. Apparently, she had a thing for his protective goggles. Insane creature. Draco barely managed to get rid of her.
"Poor girl." Weasley sighed loudly. "Thought she had a chance. She had no idea you like 'em stronger and with a little more cock. And, you know, with dark hair, green eyes and glasses."
"Stop pretending you know something you don't!" Draco snapped. "It's all in your head, weasel."
"Did you know that sometimes you actually drool when Harry walks into a room in full Auror regalia?"
"Did you know there are potions that can help you with your hallucinations?" Draco fumed, cursing Weasley for existing. He had hidden his irrational and pointless feelings for Potter so well, and as far as he knew, no one suspected anything. Except Weasley, of all people. How was that possible? "Shall I brew them for you?"
Weasley ignored him. He rubbed his chin. "I think I actually have photographic evidence."
Draco contemplated stabbing Weasley in the eye with his quill.
"Oh, Malfoy." Weasley snorted. "You're such a coward. If you want Harry, just tell him. He's a nice bloke; he'll turn you down gently."
Draco promptly set his clipboard on the table and turned around, wand pointing straight at Weasley's crotch.
Weasley took a hasty step back. "Okay, okay, that was mean," he said, looking guilty. "I'm sorry. Really. Let me make it up to you, okay? Bean?"
"My thoughts exactly." Weasley eyed Draco's wand. "I'll just... leave this here." He carefully set the Foe-Glass and the bag of beans on the table, as though worried that a sudden movement would make Draco snap and hex his balls off. He wasn't wrong.
Weasley grinned and hurried backwards to the door, as Draco yelled, "I'm not fixing your Foe-Glass! And I hate beans. They're Gryffindor sweets."
His hand on the doorknob, Weasley paused and cocked his head at Draco. "Gryffindor sweets?" he repeated and adopted a thoughtful look that simply didn't become him. "I suppose it is," he decided. "It takes guts to eat them."
"It has nothing to do with bravery, you single-minded idiot. Why buy a bag full of sweets if you know in advance that half of them are rotten? That's sheer lunacy."
"To see how lucky you are," Weasley answered promptly. His eyes narrowed, and he gave Draco an uncharacteristically shrewd look. "What's the matter, Malfoy? Afraid that if you do something daring, you'll be left with a bad aftertaste? You'll miss all the good stuff that way, too."
"I can simply buy the good stuff and not worry about the bad," Draco shot back.
Weasley snorted. "Suit yourself. But I don't think the truly good stuff is for sale, mate." Exiting, he pointed his finger at Draco. "You'll fix the Foe-Glass, just so you know."
"I will not."
"Yes, yes, you will," Weasley said confidently. "Because if you don't, I'll come back tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that..." Weasley closed the door, but Draco could still hear him chanting, "And the day after that..."
Growling in frustration, Draco took off his protective goggles and pointed his wand at the broken Foe-Glass. The sooner he fixed it, the sooner he'd be free of Weasley. A single spell hit the glass, and it mended itself in an instant. Scowling, Draco shoved it aside and redirected his glare at the bag of beans.
Honestly, he wasn't afraid of them; they were simply a dumb invention. Why eat them?
To see how lucky you are.
Draco bit his lip. He wasn't lucky. He knew that without eating dreadful sweets. Annoyed, Draco grabbed the bag and stared at the colourful selection. They could be poisonous, but Weasley did eat them, so it was unlikely. However, they could still taste like vomit. It would be ridiculous and unnecessary to eat a single one. Except Draco was curious now — was he lucky? Was one rewarded for doing something daring?
Draco picked a small pink bean — pink stuff rarely tasted bad — and carefully put it in his mouth.
It tasted like strawberries.
Of course, just because Draco could acknowledge that it was his own fault he ate the damn bean, it didn't mean Weasley would live to see another day.
Draco burst into Weasley's office. The doors were open, and Weasley didn't even notice anyone had come in. He was bent over his desk, reading a long spreadsheet. Seething, Draco raised his hand and, with mad satisfaction, smacked Weasley against the back of his stupid head.
Weasley screamed — like a girl, in Draco's opinion — and spun around with his wand in hand.
"Who's there?" he yelled, frantically scanning his office.
"Guess, why don't you?" Draco spat.
Weasley's eyes widened impossibly, and he looked straight at Draco's chest.
"I'm taller than that!" Draco all but growled.
"Malfoy?" Weasley's face was as pale as the white walls of his office. "Malfoy, are you... a ghost? Merlin! Please tell me you didn't choke on the bean."
"Funny, Weasley. Really hilarious. Look, I'm smiling." Draco bared his teeth. "Oh, wait. You can't see it. BECAUSE I'M INVISIBLE!"
Weasley blinked, still clutching his wand and looking a little to Draco's left.
"Are you... haunting me?" he whispered.
"I'm not dead, Weasley. And stop pretending to be surprised. You did this to me!"
Draco moved behind Weasley and smacked his head again.
"Ow! Stop that!" Weasley jumped away, turning his head left and right, looking like a madman. "I didn't do anything!"
Malfoy clenched his fist. "You know what the advantage of invisibility is? I could kill you right now, and you wouldn't see it coming."
Weasley carefully manoeuvred around Draco, pointing his wand in the direction of Draco's voice. He stood between a tall office cabinet and his desk, probably in a futile attempt to avoid further attacks.
"Malfoy, I swear, I didn't turn you invisible. Are you sure one of your experiments didn't backfire?"
"Oh, please. It happened right after I ate one of those bloody pink beans!" Draco said, unable to hide the distress in his voice. It had been horrible. His whole body had suddenly disappeared, as though he had been wiped from the face of the earth. He could no longer see his own limbs or his clothes. Even his wand had turned invisible, and foolishly Draco had dropped it in the moment of transformation. It rolled off somewhere, and he couldn't find it anymore, which just added to his distress.
"You ate the bean?" Weasley asked, looking surprised for a moment before he burst out laughing. "I knew it! I knew you'd pick the pink one. You ponce!"
Draco grabbed a random object from the desk — a paperweight, he noted — and threw it at Weasley's head.
Weasley yelped but unfortunately ducked in time.
"Honestly, Malfoy! I don't know how this happened. It wasn't supposed to make you invisible."
"Right. A new product for Aurors? It couldn’t have been this, obviously. How could invisibility help Aurors?" Draco sneered, trying to quell the tiny voice in his head that wanted to acknowledge how very impressive such an invention was. Wizards had tried to become invisible for ages, but they had never quite managed, except for a handful of truly powerful ones. Disillusionment Charms and Invisibility Cloaks — rare, those, bloody Potter — were all they had. To think Ron Weasley succeeded where everyone else had failed.
Weasley, apparently, shared Draco's doubts. "You really think I invented some sort of Invisibility Potion?" he asked, his expression twisted into a disbelieving grimace.
"I didn't do this to myself, and you all but confessed you tampered with the beans!"
"But this isn't what they do." Weasley seemed bemused. "It's just a substance that gives a person a bit of courage." He cleared his throat. "I already tested it on myself as well as George and Harry. And a number of Aurors. It never had this effect. Are you sure you didn't do something —"
"Yes, I'm bloody sure! If your stupid product had an unforeseen effect, we might as well call this a poisoning attempt!"
Weasley looked stricken. "Nasty stuff, poisoning attempts, aren't they?"
Shocked, Draco froze, lost for words. No one ever mentioned Draco's actions in sixth year, ever since his mother, in her obsessive desire to ensure a better future for Draco, had written ridiculous apology letters to everyone she could think of and had signed them with Draco's name. Draco was cross with her for weeks. But it helped. He only realised it when he started working at the Ministry. "So this is revenge?" he asked quietly.
Weasley rolled his eyes. "No, it's not revenge, you git. You brought it up. I just thought it was funny that you're accusing me of poisoning."
"This isn't funny," Draco said, trying to steer Weasley away from the sore subject.
"Yeah, well, neither was —"
"You're lying!" Draco said quickly, and Weasley gave him an indulgent sort of look. "This is a curse of some sort," he insisted.
Weasley sighed. "It's not. Ask George. Ask Harry. It's just a harmless potion."
"Of course. I should ask your friends and family. Because they wouldn't lie to protect your freckled arse."
"You've seen my arse?"
Draco ignored him. "You have ten seconds to convince me not to murder you right now," he snarled. Weasley looked unimpressed, so Draco added, "And by murder I mean I'll go to Robards and tell him what you've done."
That had Weasley looking worried. "It will wear off," he promised. "In a couple of hours or so. I'm positive about that. And this isn't so bad, is it? You could go and spy on girls in the showers. See, I said girls. Because I acknowledge the fact that you're straight." Weasley nodded vigorously.
"If it doesn't wear off..." Draco threatened, glaring menacingly until he realised that his glare couldn't have any effect on Weasley.
"It will," Weasley assured. "If it happened because of the bean, I mean. Though, I still don't understand it. We had some strange side effects. Like, Auror Parker gained quite a bit of muscle and George grew a huge pair of..." Weasley fell silent and then an enormous grin nearly split his face in half. "Oh, wait. I get it. You can only be brave if no one sees you. What's the matter, Malfoy, scared it'll ruin your carefully built reputation?" Weasley yelped as a picture frame flew right at him and smacked his shoulder. "Aw, come on, Malfoy. You're invisible. Think of all the fun things you could do!"
Draco searched for something else to throw at Weasley, deciding that was fun, but his gaze fell on a picture on Weasley's desk. It was shot at Weasley and Granger's wedding. The newlyweds were grinning and waving while their dark-haired groom stood a little aside, watching them with a smile.
Weasley was right about one thing. He could go and do something fun. Like scare people he didn't like and perhaps discover something nasty about them, something he could later use as blackmail material. Or he could do something else.
Draco stared at the wedding picture. Potter had a day off. Not that Draco kept track, but Potter rarely took a day off, so those occasions were memorable.
"Right. I'm leaving," he said.
Weasley tensed. "What? Where?"
"That's none of your business." Draco headed for the exit.
"Wait!" Weasley ran after him. "You can't actually spy on anyone in the showers! I was kidding! You get that, right? Malfoy?"
Draco considered throwing Weasley out the window, but he forced himself to calm down — he had much more important things to do. He paused and turned. "I can't see my limbs, Weasley. I'm going to St Mungo's."
Weasley's features relaxed. "Good choice. You're a clever one. I always thought so."
Draco shook his head and put Weasley out of his mind, turning his attention to more pleasurable thoughts. What seemed like a curse mere seconds ago, now looked like a blessing. He was invisible. Completely invisible, which was so much better than having a wretched Invisibility Cloak tossed over you. Draco grinned, thinking back to all those times Potter had followed him around, hidden beneath that stupid cloak. It was time to return the favour.