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Burn the Curtains and the Wine

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He expects the sand. He's in the fucking desert, after all.

What Harry doesn't expect is the swift kick to his gut that follows. His opponent takes advantage of Harry's sudden loss of vision, the man's right leg whipping out in an arc as he springs from where he's crouched beyond the gusting sand. It's enough to knock Harry on his arse, and probably would have done a lot worse if it wasn't for Harry's hastily cast Protego.

Harry scrambles onto his elbows, eyes stinging as he scuttles across the scorched earth like some deranged crab.

"Arresto Momentum!" he shouts into the swirling sandstorm before him. The dust hovers as if caught between the push of the diminishing winds and the pull of gravity. It's still too thick for Harry to bare his lungs to the onslaught of dust and debris without the protection of the bandana he's using to cover his mouth, but it's thinned enough for Harry to cast a powerful Eradication Spell, and he can't help but feel a bit smug when the particles of sand disintegrate in front of him and his adversary mutters an audible oath.

Serves him right. Harry will admit that conjuring the sandstorm was a brilliant tactic, but the 540 kick that followed was an absolute willy waver. The bloody fucker.

Harry will absolutely deny any grudging admiration for an assassin who works for an organisation as despicable as Sang Pur, but there's no denying the excitement that courses through him when his opponent launches himself at Harry. Harry feels the weight of the impact as the wind gets knocked out of him once more, and he twists to the right, narrowly escaping a hit to the crown jewels.

They roll as they trade jabs, his adversary refusing to go pliant even after Harry lands a particularly well-aimed punch to the man's lower jaw that, while seeming to temporarily stun the man, would have left anyone else insensible. Harry takes advantage of the distraction, pinning the man's arms overhead and reaching for his opponent's wand, but then the man bucks up with his hips, his powerful thighs tensing as he throws Harry off. The shift of power is done so quickly that Harry's surprise must show in his eyes, for as the man straddles Harry and nudges the sharp end of his knee against Harry's balls his lips curl into a triumphant smirk.

Warmth floods through Harry—from his embarrassment, as well as something else stirring in his belly. It's a heat that nearly matches that of the fire crater lying less than a hundred feet away, blazing angrily as it spits bubbles of molten rock into the air. A fist catches the corner of Harry's mouth, and he tastes the tang of copper that oozes from his lips. The man seems to have forgone his fancy wandwork for brute force, and Harry grins as he feels his adrenaline surge in response.

Harry knows that the Tekes have nicknamed this place 'The Door to Hell', but at this very moment, he's never felt more alive.



Three years ago

Harry stares out at the wall in front of him. There's a divot in the plaster where the paint changes from a dingy, minty green to celery, or maybe it's just his hazy vision. He blinks, and the pain that's seared across his backside comes back into focus.

He’s always known his recklessness would be his undoing.

“Is that the best you’ve got?” Harry grits out.

He flinches as a palm cracks across his bare buttocks, his muscles flaming in its wake. Harry pushes up onto his elbows and arches his back, choking back a whimper as his body reacts to Draco’s touch.

He feels rather than hears Draco’s shuddering breath, the puff of air making his toes curl. It slides across his shoulders then disappears until there's nothing, nothing except silence and the cramping in Harry's fingers from gripping the sheets, the stiff, cheap linen folding under the pressure like a paper accordion. He's about to let loose with several choice expletives when Draco steadies the sides of Harry's arse.

Draco fingers dig into the reddened flesh, his nails surely leaving crescent-shaped calling cards as he kneads and then prises the cheeks apart.

“I’m going to wreck you, Potter,” Draco rasps. He slides the pad of his thumb between Harry’s arse cheeks, the path already slicked with sweat, until it's pressing against the sensitive rim of Harry's arsehole. It’s teasing, maddening, the blunt insistence capped by the hint of nail, and Harry finds himself leaning back, chasing the feeling.

“Get on with it,” Harry grunts, as Draco lets out an infuriating chuckle.

“So impatient," Draco admonishes, his breath catching. "Is Krum not doing it for you?”

Harry lowers his head onto the pillow, the weight of his body shifting onto his elbows and shoulders as he rolls his eyes. He and Viktor are co-workers and close friends but nothing more, despite what Draco or the media might think. Even if Harry and Viktor were a couple, he’s not sure why Draco would care, anyway. It's not like they're even friends-with-benefits. They’re more like former-enemies-who-are-now-almost-civil-acquaintances-with-benefits, and it doesn’t explain the petulant and possessive tone that underlies Draco’s snide remark.

Any further efforts to suss out the source of Draco’s irritation are shut down when Draco replaces his finger with the tip of his prick. Harry hears Draco’s satisfied hum as he rubs his slippery cockhead along Harry’s sensitive, swollen hole. It’s followed by a bright burst of pain as it pushes against the ring of muscle; Harry presses back, fighting his body’s instinct to resist, eventually surrendering to the sweet burn as Draco slides in, and Harry lets out a long and throaty groan.

“Fuck, you feel so good,” Draco moans as he sinks in further, his perfectly manicured nails leaving their mark.

The admission threatens to unravel something inside of Harry. “Less talking and more fucking,” Harry grunts. “Unless you’re not up to—”

His next words are knocked out of his throat as Draco draws back, then slams into Harry with such force that Harry feels it all the way up to his chest. Draco grinds against him, the angular bones of his hips bruising Harry’s arse as he settles the weight of his palm between Harry’s shoulder blades to push Harry down. Harry can feel his pulse quicken as he fights against the urge to escape the pressure of Draco’s competent hand, the harsh smell of the utilitarian detergent from the pillowcase filling Harry's nose and mouth.

“You were saying?” Draco smirks. He may have returned to England chastised and repentant, relegated to some menial desk job within the Department of Transportation, but he's still a right tosser, even though he’s admittedly more fit than ever.

Still, even though Draco's words are lighthearted, there's an edge to his voice—a slight uptick at the end of the sentence—that makes Harry think Draco’s control is slipping.

Harry clenches his arse, the muscles squeezing around Draco's cock. He hears Draco’s whimper, and a part of Harry fills with a smug satisfaction at the sound. He knows how good his arse looks, how the years of training and fucking accentuate the dips and curves of his backside in all the right places. He’s close to coming himself, his own cock an angry red, its tip weeping from being mercilessly teased. He could come with just a brush of his cockhead against the sheets, but he won’t—won’t do it first, can't think of giving Draco that satisfaction, not when they’ve been playing this game for the past hour.

For months, really.

And then Draco leans over, the planes of his surprisingly toned chest sliding against the sweat of Harry's back as his breath lingers hot against Harry’s ear.

“You should see yourself, Potter. So fucking desperate for it, like you can’t get enough. You can’t, can you? The Ministry's Golden Boy, begging for cock, holed up in some filthy room far away from the paparazzi, your friends…from Krum. Just for the pure pleasure of fucking yourself on my dick.” Draco shifts, the change in his position causing Harry to gasp as a bolt of fire-hot pleasure lances through him. Draco digs his fingers into the sides of Harry’s hips hard, hard enough to bruise, and begins to pound into him mercilessly. His hips snap jackrabbit fast, his words stilted as he grunts. “You’re going to come like this, come on just my cock and nothing else. Because nothing makes you feel like this…no one fills your arse better." The sound of slapping skin echoes through the room, and Harry hears the hoarseness in Draco's voice as his own arms begin to falter under the strain. "You were made for me, Potter; made to take me, take my cock. Merlin, you should see yourself, you greedy fuck—"

Harry howls, his vision whiting out as his orgasm punches through him, his abdominal muscles clenching and thighs juddering as he comes untouched, his dick twitching as it pumps his release. He swears it’s because the head of Draco’s cock rubs repeatedly against his prostate, the drag against the sensitive gland merciless until Harry's nearly begging for relief, that Harry thinks this is one of the best fucks ever.

It's not because of Draco’s words, or the fact that Draco's tone turns almost reverent, that Harry's mind drifts towards something alarmingly like bliss. It’s only because Harry hasn’t been fucked in weeks that he never wants this moment to stop, and definitely not because of the way that Draco groans when he finally comes, or the way he falls forward and wraps an arm around Harry's chest as if he doesn’t want to let go. It's because Harry's wrung out that he savours the last moments they're connected, even as Draco's movements slow and his cock softens, spunk and lube dribbling out between them.

It’s possible that Harry passes out. Eventually, it's the sound of Draco's boots thumping against the floor that causes Harry to rouse.

Harry blinks as Draco slides the boots over his socked feet.

“You're going…?” He turns and throws his arm out towards the nightstand, hand reaching blindly as he frowns. Bloody hell, where are his glasses?

Draco makes quick work of his laces. He’s nearly fully dressed, looking almost too well put together for one-thirty in the morning, except that his hair is mussed, cheeks faintly pink, and lips kiss-bitten.

“I have to be up at six. Some of us actually have to work for a living." Draco's mouth is set in a straight line, but his voice sounds almost fond as he watches Harry fumble around in the bed covers. “You know, there is such a thing as an Accio,” he adds as he hands Harry his glasses.

“Why, when I have you to do my bidding?” Harry says with a snort. He sits up and puts on his glasses just in time to catch Draco glancing at Harry’s chest, his eyes lowering to Harry’s stomach before settling on the soft outline of Harry's cock.

“Don’t push it, Potter. You're not that charming, despite your delectable arse. Speaking of which, ta for the fuck. Perhaps one day, you'll actually outlast me.”

Draco opens the door with a wicked grin then exits, the trolleyed patrons of the White Wyvern audible in the background as Harry flips him the bird.



Two years ago

Harry doesn’t care that people are blatantly staring as he strides into the waiting room, or that every single one of the white plastic chairs that fill its interior are occupied by bored teenage wizards and their frustrated parents. He banks a hard right and heads down the hall as the frazzled edges of his control sputter and fail.

“Out!” he barks as he throws open the door, causing the room's two occupants to sit up with a jolt.

One of them recovers more quickly than the other.

“I hadn't realised you were my two o’clock, Potter," Draco drawls, eyeing Harry disapprovingly. Harry knows he looks less than presentable; his hair hasn't seen a comb in days, his clothes are stained and tattered, and his face is probably as dark as his mood. "Though I hope you're not here to take a picture for your licence. Mrs Honeycut is notorious for capturing even the smallest of flaws, even without your attempts at appearing utterly dreadful."

The wizard who sits across from Draco sniggers. Harry throws him a baleful glare and hisses. He wonders if he might retain his talent for Parseltongue, because it doesn’t take much more before the young man is up on his feet, hastily grabbing his files before scurrying out.

“Now look here, you can’t just barge in whenever you feel…” Draco’s eyes widen, his words trailing off as Harry begins to tremble. “Merlin, Harry, what’s wrong?” he asks, standing.

The Coburg catastrophe, or the Coburg cock-up were some of the kinder phrases being thrown in Harry's face. The ones said behind closed doors were a thousand times worse. Regardless, there's no question it was a fuck-up of monumental proportions.

“I…” Harry squeezes his eyes tightly. He needs to get this out, to be able to unburden his abject feeling of failure, and takes a gulping breath as his guilt and anguish burst through. “There was a problem at work. A…mixup with the schedule, and nothing was in its proper place. Things weren't where they were supposed to be, and I let everyone down.” He grinds his teeth in frustration at the inadequacy of his words, limited by what he can say, and torn by what he wants to.

“Did the Kestrals and the Bats end up in the same hotel after last week’s kerfuffle?" Draco asks as Harry buries his face in his hands. "I swear, there are some days I don’t pity you. Quidditch players are the worse divas imaginable.”

“Draco…” Harry says impatiently. His magic is pushing out at the edges, and the last thing he wants to be doing is talking about the Kestrals or the bloody Bats when the baubles on Draco’s desk are, and everything else around them is, in danger of shattering.

Draco cocks a brow. “Considering you neglected to point out the hypocrisy of my statement, you’re definitely in bad shape.” He removes his wand from the lining of his sleeve and flicks it towards the door, muttering a Locking Spell. “What do you want?” he asks, replacing his wand as he walks towards Harry.

“I want…” A shudder runs through Harry’s entire body as Draco cups his face, their foreheads touching. “I need you,” he whispers.

“Mmmm,” Draco says. He pushes away a strand of Harry's hair from where it’s plastered against Harry’s cheek, then licks a long, slow path along the side of Harry’s neck to his ear. “You’re sexy when you’re all growly and out of sorts, you know.”

Harry braces himself to be teased some more, but Draco is nothing if not surprising. Harry’s fists clench as Draco tilts his face and gives him a saucy grin before running his hands along the length of Harry’s back. His palms skim the sides of Harry's waist, working their way down Harry's hips, to the backs of Harry's thighs, until Draco follows their trail and falls to his knees.

Harry’s cock stirs as Draco's touch finally kindles something beneath the desperation that's been gutting him for the past several hours. It burns away some of the wretched misery, leaving him vulnerable and bare.

“Please,” Harry begs, his voice breaking. Draco loosens Harry’s flies then pushes Harry's trousers and pants down in one go until they sit rucked around Harry’s thighs, just low enough to free Harry's dick. Draco takes Harry's rapidly hardening cock in hand, his mouth parting as his tongue swirls roughly along the flushed head. He looks beautiful on his knees with his lips slick with spit, his grey eyes dark as he looks at Harry from beneath his pale lashes, unable to suppress the small, needy sounds that emerge from his mouth.

"Fuck, Draco," Harry groans as Draco wraps his pretty lips around Harry's cockhead and swallows him down, precome and saliva coating the shaft as Draco tongues it like an ice lolly. Harry threads his fingers through Draco's hair and gently tugs, the soft and silky strands so different from Draco's sharp personality and the razor-tipped barbs that often leave his mouth.

Harry gives in to the pleasure. He allows his mind to be blissfully blank, wishing to be free from his anger and pain, to live for just this moment. He grasps the shaft of his cock and pushes it deeper into Draco's mouth. It's more of a demand than a request, and he's lucky it's not met with teeth.

It's bliss, then, when Draco redoubles his efforts and Harry sinks further into the wet heat of Draco's mouth. Merlin knows where Draco learned his technique—not that Harry minds, or particularly cares, as long as he's the beneficiary of it.

Yet a small part of him whispers that he does care. That even though this…relationship between them is some undefined, temporary thing, and Harry could always find another mouth or hole to fuck, it wouldn't be the same. Because it wouldn't be Draco.

Draco must sense that Harry's mind is wandering. He stops to grab Harry's hand, gently squeezing Harry's fingers as if to ask for more, then swallows him down until Harry's prick hits the back of his throat.

Draco's eyes grow wet as his face flushes bright from the effort. It's the unmistakable, choking sound that does it; Harry's hips snap as he gives in to his most base needs, fucking into Draco's mouth, faster and harder.

When Harry comes it's with a roar so loud he swears it can be heard on the next floor. Draco remains on his knees, face tear-stained as he swallows every drop. It's only when Harry's legs threaten to buckle that Draco stands, picking up a napkin from his desk as he rises to delicately wipe at his mouth.

"Sorry about that," Harry manages once his blood has rerouted to his brain. He tucks himself back into his trousers, and the realisation that he might have exposed their romantic entanglement with his more-than-enthusiastic vocal performance gives him pause. "I, erm…I could always cast a couple Obliviates on your co-workers," he jokes weakly.

Draco straightens out the cuffs of his shirt. "It's nice to know that even the Saviour isn't beyond employing unscrupulous methods to achieve the greater good. Luckily, I had the foresight to cast a Muffliato. My reputation—and yours—remains intact."

Harry hesitates, his finger hovering over the button of his jeans. "You did?" he asks, brows furrowing. He certainly hadn't given Draco any warning when he barged into the office. A quick glance shows that Draco's wand remains where he usually keeps it, in the halfway-opened drawer of his desk. Perhaps Harry got carried away more than he thought.

"I did." Draco's face is a faint shade of pink, the loose strands of hair surrounding his face like a debauched halo. His breathing is too quick, and there's a noticeable bulge in the front of his trousers.

"I…" Harry glances at the round, Muggle wall clock that's a familiar staple in every Ministry office. "I could take care of that for you," he offers, looking pointedly at the generous outline of Draco's cock.

Draco's cheeks pink further. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I have a line of angry would-be-Apparitionists outside my door. I'd like to make it to lunch some time before tomorrow."

Harry's both disappointed and glad at Draco's refusal. Anthony and Hermione are waiting for him, and with everything that's happened today, he's not sure if he can put them off for much longer.



Sixteen months ago

"Harry." Draco manages to look both apologetic and pissed off when he sees Harry standing outside the door to his flat. "You can't just barge in any time you feel like it. I'm busy."

Harry grips the box in his hand. It took him forever to track down a bottle of Draco's favourite champagne. "It's Wednesday evening."

Draco rolls his eyes. "Yes, Merlin forbid I have any kind of a social life."

"Oh," Harry says, deflated. If he strains, he can hear the sound of muted laughter along with clinking dishes coming from the next room. His cheeks heat as a heavy weight settles in his chest. "My apologies, I didn't realise you had company. Erm…here." He shoves the box with its wrappings at Draco, whose eyes grow large as his mouth drops in protest.

"What is this?"

"You mentioned this was your favourite. When we were arguing about the best drinks."

"Harry, did you get me a '95 Clos D'Ambonnay? It costs nearly £3,500!"

Harry winces. "I know."

Draco cradles the box carefully, his eyes hooded in thought. "Not that I'm not exceedingly grateful, but whatever for?"

"It's our anniversary," Harry says. "That is, it's been two years since we…well, since we started…" Harry's voice trails off; he never knows what to label what they have, or what they are. Things just happened, and then things continued to happen.

"Fucking?" Draco finishes the thought slowly, arching a brow. "Oh, Harry. Hold on." He holds up one long, elegant finger, the same one he usually sticks up Harry's bum when he starts to finger Harry open, and Harry swallows. "Don't go anywhere, please."

Harry frowns as the door shuts. He wonders how long Draco will keep him waiting when the door reopens in less than a minute.

"Come on in," Draco says. From the corner of his eye, Harry can see Blaise helping Pansy into her wrap. They're putting away their wands, and the air contains the lingering traces of magic. Harry's nostrils flare; it smells like a conventional Cleaning Charm. He peeps around for signs of anyone else, but everything looks in its proper place, with no dinner party or orgy to speak of.

"How do, Potter," Pansy says with a smirk. She saunters by and cups Harry's face, then pats him on the cheek. "No need to apologise for ruining our evening. We were just leaving, anyway."

"Potter." Blaise returns Harry's nod, then turns and gives Draco a wink. "Enjoy the rest of your evening, Draco. Don't do anything I wouldn't."

"Was that supposed to be a warning?" Draco calls after them. He's wearing a ridiculous smile on his face even after they've left, and Harry feels his heart soften, just a little.

Draco walks over to the kitchen and places Harry's gift on the counter before unwrapping it. Even though Harry told him what lay inside, Draco's jaw drops slightly once he removes the bottle from its ebony box.

"Circe, clearly I won in this deal. Shall we make a toast?" Draco casts a Cooling Charm and then Accio's two champagne flutes to float from the sideboard, the fine crystal landing on the counter perfectly spaced and without a bobble. Even though it's a simple spell, Draco's technique is precise and finely-honed, and executed with a grace that seems effortless.

Harry doesn't remember Draco being quite so good with spellcasting while at Hogwarts. He must cast a thousand Accio's during the day as part of his job with the Department of Magical Transportation to have become so proficient.

A pang of sympathy hits Harry over Draco's situation. Draco's skills certainly aren't without merit, and although he's not sure where Draco fucked off to for several years following the war, he's seen how seriously his former nemesis takes his paper-pushing job: always the first to arrive and last to leave.

Harry wishes he could do something more for Draco. Perhaps after his next trip, if there's time, he could call in some favours.

"Harry?"

Harry's eyes dart up guiltily. Draco is watching him with a wary expression, his eyes scanning the room before returning to Harry. "Is something the matter?"

"No. Sorry," Harry says with a strained laugh. It's amazing how focused he can be in certain situations, while his mind wanders at others. "They're sending me to Plovdiv in a couple of days. Rumours of a doping scandal."

Draco relaxes visibly at the answer then sets about to fill their glasses.

"Hmmm," he says as he hands Harry his drink. The champagne sparkles merrily, the topaz bubbles popping and fizzing against Harry's nose. "Didn't you just go there a couple months ago? Something about possible broom tampering?"

Ugh. It's times like these where Harry hates how perceptive Draco is.

He shrugs. "Classified information," Harry says apologetically. "Most likely, it's nothing. We're just obligated to check everything out."

"Lucky you." Draco pouts. "At least you get to travel somewhere fun. Plovdiv is one of my favourite cities."

Harry sighs. He's sure there's no sightseeing to be done this go-around. "I wish I could enjoy it more. The Ministry keeps me on a pretty tight schedule whenever I travel."

"Ah, yes. Surrounded by fit men and women, being wined and dined at all those meet-and-greet dinners. Must be a tough life," Draco muses. He shakes himself. "Anyway, what should we toast to?"

"Fun adventures?" Harry suggests.

Draco raises his glass. "And safe travels."

Harry takes a sip of champagne—too large of one, he realises, as he starts to feel overly warm. It's been a long day, and the only thing he's had is coffee and a rather stale biscuit at breakfast. If he's not careful, he's liable to end up with a hangover that'll give even the strongest Pepper-Up Potion pause. "Do you want to grab something to eat?"

Draco looks torn. "I can't. I've an early day tomorrow." Harry is about to tell him that he doesn't think the Ministry will care if he punches in late for once, when Draco quickly adds, "But I could do takeaway, if you'd like?"

Harry smiles. "Curry?"

Draco clutches his chest and gives Harry a horrified look. "With champagne?" He picks up the bottle and pats the glassy curves, stroking it as he coos, "Don't worry, darling. He didn't mean it. Only a heathen would think to pair you with something other than the most expensive seafood."

"I did mean it," Harry says, suddenly jealous of the damned bottle.

Draco rolls his eyes and places the magnum down. He walks over to his wine cooler, pulls out a six-pack of beer, and brings it over to Harry.

Harry recognises the make immediately. "Dark Lord Imperial Stout?" he says, unexpectedly delighted. "You remembered!"

"Of course I did. You nattered on about how great it was for at least half an hour."

"And it is," Harry agrees. "But however did you get it? They only sell it once a year."

"So I discovered," Draco sniffs as red steals along the curves of his cheeks. "Well, given the way you went on about it, I had to try one. A Malfoy is accustomed to the best, after all."

Harry busies himself with opening the bottle and steals a glance at Draco in the process. Draco's face is still flushed and he's wearing the trace of a pleased smile. Harry decides not to point out the fact that all six bottles in the pack are still present.

"This is ridiculous," Draco says crossly, pointing an accusing finger at the telly. "It's not even that the fight is choreographed poorly—I mean, the Praetorian guard's blade literally disappears halfway through the scene—but the opponents are meaningless and the leads aren't going to die. There's no agency, nothing to be gained from this tripe."

Harry leans his head against the sofa. He's pleasantly buzzed, enough so that he forgets himself and props his feet up against Draco's coffee table. Draco promptly reaches over and nudges them off. "How do you know they won't die?" Harry asks, his eyes half-lidded.

"Because they still have another film in the trilogy."

Harry leans against Draco, smiling at him fondly. "Keeping up with Muggle blockbusters, Draco? Who would've thought?"

"Your fault entirely. I try to inject some culture into your life, and this is what you teach me instead."

Harry turns. His head is already resting on Draco's shoulder, so when he looks up their faces are so close they're practically touching. He can smell the traces of lemon and coriander on Draco's breath, the breadiness of the champagne.

"Modern movies are a part of culture." Harry means to give Draco a pat on the head, but as he touches the fine, blond strands of Draco's hair, he ends up carding his fingers through them, feeling their silken weight as they glide between his forefinger and thumb.

When Harry lifts his gaze, he notices that Draco's watching him intently. Draco's grey eyes, which can turn a flinty blue when angry, are now warmed over with flecks of yellow and pale green.

Draco licks his lips. Harry used to think they were too thin—at times, almost cruel—but right now they're shiny and pink with just a hint of teeth peeping through, and they're one of the most sensual things he's ever seen.

"Harry," Draco whispers. Something shifts between them. It's nearly imperceptible, but undeniable. This thing that they have…it's not just about fucking, and Harry's not sure why he hasn't noticed it earlier. But before he can process it further, Draco tips Harry's chin with his hand, angles Harry's head, and bends down to brush his pink lips over Harry's mouth.

The kiss isn't angry or needy. It's gentle and almost sweet and, in some ways, it knocks Harry for a loop even more. Draco takes his time; it's almost as if he's experiencing the softness of Harry's lips for the first time ever, marvelling at the way Harry opens up to his demands as their kiss deepens.

Harry sighs as Draco's tongue sweeps roughly against his own, twisting and licking along the inside of his mouth.

"Draco," Harry whispers as they pull apart. The movie credits are rolling, the music fading until all that remains is the staticky blue signalling the end and the sounds of their joint breathing.

When Draco unbuttons Harry's shirt, he undoes them one at a time and not in a fit of impatience. As his fingers push aside the fabric and skim along Harry's sides, his touch is gentle yet deliberate, and Harry's flesh burns, marked by their wake.

When Draco slides off Harry's jeans, it's with a slowness that could almost be mistaken for laziness. It's how Draco's eyes warm over with genuine pleasure that lets Harry know this is something special, as if Draco's desire is now fueled by something more than just having a fit and willing body against him. It's the manner in which he works Harry open, his fingers sliding inside Harry's arsehole one at a time, fucking him almost lovingly, that tells Harry their relationship is no longer one of acquaintances, but friends.

It's the way Draco slips inside him when Harry's ready, working Harry over in such a way that makes Harry believe in fairy tales and happy endings. As if the roll of Draco's hips, the sounds that spill from his mouth, and the magic of his kiss could leech poison from an apple, or wash away the burden of one hundred years of sleep. It's the way that Draco holds Harry in his arms when Harry comes, his eyes widening as he follows Harry and spills, Harry's name a reverence on his lips, that makes Harry not only see stars but reach for the moon.

It's the kind of sex that's mind blowing and magical, yet surprisingly domestic. It makes Harry long for someone to come home to every night. Someone who can take away the hard lines and angry edges of his life and make him feel clean and uncorrupted.

And perhaps it's the beer and champagne, or the post-orgasmic glow, or the way Draco tucks Harry closer as if he doesn't want the moment to end, that has Harry wishing this were something more permanent. That he could trade their spur-of-the-moment, clandestine meetups for lazy mornings with breakfast in bed and goodnight kisses.

And perhaps he thinks these things out loud, going as far as to think that Draco—with his mundane job, prickly exterior and posh tastes—could grant Harry that feeling of normalcy. He marvels at how lovely it would be, if they were actually married, and he could come home to dinner and a movie, and Draco in his pyjama bottoms and socked feet.

Despite their history, there's something about the way they fit together that seems so right. And perhaps Draco is just as desperate and impulsive as Harry, or wishes for those things as well, because he nuzzles Harry's cheek, his voice muzzy and sweet with happiness, and whispers, "Let's do it."

Sometimes, Harry's instincts are infallible.

Other times, instinct can be a bitch.


Chapter Text

Now

Harry stares at his sock, its fabric pulled and stretched to the point where it's nearly a white-grey instead of black. If he rubs it against the arm of the sofa, today might be the day that it finally breaks, forming the hole it's been heading towards for the past month, since Harry first noticed it.

He rubs it against the curled outline of the sofa arm, snorting. At least the blasted sofa would be good for something.

It was one of the first things he and Draco had fought about. Harry wanted a leather sofa—a leather sectional, to be exact, the perfect shape and size for lazing about or watching the telly. It would be roomy enough for their friends, and covered in an easy-to-care-for fabric.

Draco wanted some ridiculous tufted thing with carved, wooden legs and a pair of curled arms, along with deep cushions that were covered by throw pillows made of velvet. At least, Harry thinks it's velvet. Whatever it is, it's soft and impractical, which leads to Draco fussing over every spill and mess. The only reason Harry gave in to Draco's ridiculous aesthetic was because Draco also stated that his sofa sat at the perfect height for Harry to bend over and be fucked senseless, then proceeded to prove it to him. It's been weeks since they've had sex—months since this sofa was used for anything except lounging—and even then, the act was perfunctory and devoid of any spontaneity or feeling.

Harry sighs as he props his feet up on the arm, his back sinking into the too-soft sofa cushions as he shoves several crisps into his mouth. At least it's a good length for lying down on, even if there's only enough room for one person.

There was a time where Draco's finicky and posh tastes actually turned Harry on, but now he finds it insufferable. Harry's always been a bit impulsive—even more so when his dick is involved. Looking back, it's the only reason he can think of as to why he thought he and Draco would be good together. Why they had married on a whim—without fanfare or a huge society wedding, to the consternation of Narcissa Malfoy—and eloped without a care in the world, much to the chagrin of their friends. But now Harry can see that Hermione and Ron were right. He and Draco aren't well-suited. Now, he's confronted with a failing marriage after less than a year, while his job goes from difficult to worse.

Harry feels the wards shudder with Draco's unmistakable magical signature as he flicks on the telly. Their home is ridiculously protected, one of the few things they actually agreed on. Harry is thankful; he'd hoped Draco would buy his explanation that Harry still attracted the occasional stalker or two, but as it turns out, Draco was fully onboard, stating that he too was haunted by his past. They worked on the wards together, fine-tuning the layers of spells until even Hermione was stumped trying to break them. He remembers the fun he and Draco had, on a project that required teamwork while allowing the occasional show of one-upmanship, and the joy they both felt when it was completed.

He had been so delusionally happy, then.

"Fuck!" Harry yelps as the sharp sting of a spell zips across his partially uncovered belly, causing the half-chewed crisps to spray across his chest and onto the cushions. He turns and glares at Draco. "What the hell was that for?"

"It's a Cleaning Spell. Perhaps you should familiarise yourself with it," Draco adds, his nostrils flaring as he looks at the crumbs on Harry's chest with disdain. He picks up the opened bag of crisps that's fallen to the floor, dangling it between his fingers like it's something toxic. "Why you insist on eating here when we have a perfectly serviceable kitchen is beyond comprehension."

"You don't complain when Teddy's over," Harry says in a petulant tone.

"One eight-year-old child in this house is more than enough." Draco bins the bag before Harry can even protest, then starts spelling the clothes and shoes Harry has left strewn around the living room into a big pile that hovers several feet off the ground.

Harry scans the room frantically. He doesn't think he's left anything around that's incriminating, but he can't be sure. It's been over two weeks since his last assignment, and all this waiting has made him bored and sloppy. Even so, he doesn't think Draco will notice, as his husband seems to be levitating half the objects in the room with a minimum of effort, the remainder of which seems to be focused on nagging Harry.

"I saw you leaving Kingsley's office today," Draco says in an off-handed way that Harry knows is anything but.

"Riiight." Harry takes a deep breath. "Erm…we were just going over the details of my trip. I'm going to Sofia, remember?"

"What ever happened to being an Auror? Catching the bad guys?" Draco gripes. There's a growing frustration in his tone that makes Harry bristle. "Don't you ever wish you were doing something more? With everything that's been going on with Sang Pur, I can't believe your stupid trip is what Kingsley is spending his energies on."

Harry barely suppresses a growl at the mention of the pureblood terrorist organisation. Their despicable messages are spreading despite the Ministry's best efforts—even more so since they began utilising both wizarding and Muggle methods of communication to foment violence and unrest. It seems that hate knows no boundaries, even when confronted by its own hypocrisy.

There's also the issue of the group's deep pockets. They seem to have spies at every level of the Ministry. Every time the DMLE makes a high-profile arrest, the suspect either escapes the judgment of the Wizengamot or, even worse, makes a literal escape from custody. Even the efforts of the Ministry's Aurors to stop Sang Pur at its roots—through plea bargains and the development of witness protection programs in exchange for information—have turned against them. Sang Pur just upped the ante, assassinating potential informants right under the Ministry's nose.

It's why Kingsley formed Phoenix, a group so secretive that fewer than ten people know its true purpose. It's the reason Harry's taking a Portkey to Ashgabat tomorrow, not Sofia, and then will drive a 4 x 4 into the Karakum desert. His familiarity with the Muggle world is another reason why Harry is well-suited for his job, as hideaways and unconventional escape routes are not always conveniently located in non-wizarding towns. And it's the reason why Harry feels entitled to lounge about, even if it's only for one bloody hour, and why his response to Draco is so gruff.

"I did my part. It's time for others to do their share." Harry tries to backtrack a bit as Draco's cheeks pink in anger. "I mean, it's not like what I do isn't important, either."

"I'm sure your job as ambassador for the Department of Magical Games and Sports is exactly the kind of reassurance the public needs."

"Maybe I should shoot higher. I hear the Department of Magical Transportation has an easy promotion track. Pencil pusher to Apparition tester in three years."

The words are out of Harry's mouth before Harry can take them back. Draco visibly recoils, before his face settles into something unreadable.

"That's low, and unfair," Draco says. He fiddles with his ring, twisting the band of gold back and forth around his finger. It's something he does when he's nervous or unsettled. Harry once thought it endearing, but now he's noticed that Draco's been doing it more often. "And I'm not you. You're the Saviour. You're someone people look up to."

Harry wants to apologise but the words get stuck in his throat. "They shouldn't," he says instead. He reaches to remove his glasses through force of habit, then remembers that he doesn't use them anymore, not since Hermione encouraged him to undergo a Muggle corrective procedure six months prior.

Draco notices the misstep, observant as usual. "Sometimes I think you're blinder now, more than ever."

"Perhaps I'm tired of what I see," Harry grouses.

The silence hangs thick between them. "Are you going to call on Krum while you're in Sofia?" Draco finally asks, lips thinned.

Harry arches a brow. "Would you care if I did?"

Draco's silence is an indictment in and of itself. He lowers his wand, Harry's dirty laundry and any hopes for an amicable resolution crashing down along with it.

The green flames of their Floo roar to life as Hermione's head pops through, her hair flying in every direction.

"Harry, I need…Oh, hello Draco."

Draco's eyes widen. "Are you all right, Hermione? Is everything okay with the baby?"

"The baby…oh yes, the baby is fine!" Hermione replies, looking down in the direction of her belly. Her laugh is a bit strained and Harry frowns, knowing how unflappable she normally is. "It's just that…Harry is going to Plovdiv, and I was hoping he could get something signed for Ron."

"Ah. I see." Draco's eyes shutter. "I'll be in the library, then. Feel free to carry on with your important business." His spine is stiff as he walks away.

"What's wrong, Hermione?" Harry asks quietly once Draco is out of earshot.

"Your trip. It's not happening tomorrow, we need you in Ashgabat tonight." Hermione glances at the library; the door is shut, and Harry can't hear a thing, has no clue as to what Draco might be doing in there. "They're transporting the prisoner first thing in the morning. The most likely spot for Sang Pur to intercept the caravan is by the Darvaza gas crater, based on topography and locale. Information regarding the route and the paperwork for your clearances are located in safe E67, in Bagman's old office."

"Got it," Harry says, voice grim.

"Your Portkey leaves in three hours." Hermione bites her lip, and Harry's unease grows. "Covault is a key witness, Harry, I can't stress this enough. If anything should go wrong…"

"It won't, Hermione."

She gives him a watery grin. "Well, if anything goes wrong, you know how to get ahold of me."

"I will. But everything will go smoothly, you'll see."

Hermione nods, then ends the call. Harry runs to the bedroom, sparing a final glance at the library's closed door. He thinks of leaving a note for Draco, but there's a petty part of him that wonders if Draco may welcome the news of his earlier departure.

Or worse, Draco may not notice Harry's absence at all.

Harry throws whatever clean clothes he has left into a duffel along with one of the kits he has at the ready for emergencies such as this. He shrinks them both and tucks them into the inner pocket of his trousers before snapping it shut.

"Ministry of Magic, seventh floor," Harry calls out clearly, stepping into the Floo.

Three hours? Hermione's worries are unfounded, for Harry's packed and ready in less than one.

⦾⦾⦾

The temperature in the Karakum Desert can fall below freezing during the winter months, but it's the tail end of September which means that it still feels brutally hot, even when the sun has yet to make an appearance. It's a heat that seems to seep up from the sand, the strange landscape of dunes and the molten orange-red fire crater lighting up the sky in the distance and churning like one of Snape's cauldrons. It seems otherworldly, especially after leaving the sprawling metropolis of Ashgabat, a jewelled oasis nestled in the lush foothills of the Kopet-Dag.

Harry could have secured a bed in one of the chaikanas near the main road, but he makes the drive out at night, preferring to set up camp close to where his target will be. He's lucky there's a small hill that serves perfectly as a makeshift campsite and hideout—luckier still that the off-road conditions and less-than-hospitable nights do a good job in staving off all but the most curious of thrill-seekers.

He lies down on his bedroll and inhales. The air is clean, much crisper than in London. He can feel the heat emanating from the fire crater to the north, the way it settles over his skin, dangerous yet oddly comforting. The desert is quiet, almost too much so, aside from the occasional pops and hisses the crater unleashes. It leaves Harry with only the company of his thoughts.

For years, Harry sought quietude, equating nothingness with peace. It was probably a big reason why he thought that being with Draco—having some semblance of a normal life, of domesticity—was so appealing. But the routine of it was somehow worse. Instead of anchoring Harry, it left him floundering.

And Merlin, he wanted it to work. Wanted it to the point that he thought, at one time, that he was actually in love with Draco. He grew to admire the way Draco had survived, the way he re-established his place and purpose within the wizarding world despite the fallout from his and his family's actions, just as much as Harry admired Draco's form in a fitted waistcoat and trousers. Yet not even Draco's change of heart and physical attributes are enough to ground Harry anymore. Instead, he finds that he's most alive in the midst of battle, with his magic and purpose guiding him, and his wand pressed to the base of his enemy's throat.

Harry lifts his eyes to the heavens, unwilling and unable to sleep. The sky is vast, the stars too numerous to count. He wonders how it is that he's here, tasked with protecting a pureblood with blood on her hands and hate in her heart, while he can't bring himself to be with the pureblood who has love to offer him at home.

In the light of day, the desert looks different. It's as if the sky and land have flipped in reverse, the huge expanse of sand overwhelming the landscape. It's broken up by scattered vegetation, the low-lying shrubbery clinging to the patches of black soil that appear sporadically within Harry's field of vision. The sun is intensely bright, enough to make one feel punch-drunk, but these are the moments where Harry feels his senses are on edge, every shift in the sand or rise in the sun's trajectory registering in that part of his brain that's ready to fight.

He unshrinks his equipment bag and places it carefully over a small square of tarp, then casts a gentle Cleaning Charm to brush the bits of sand from the material, making sure the spell is light enough not to damage the specialised magic that's part of his arsenal. It had taken Harry nearly a week to perfect the touch, given his inclination towards power over refinement. It makes him think of Draco's own talent and fondness for subtle charms, like when he spelled the various shelves of their refrigerator to remain at different temperatures. But then Harry remembers how irritated Draco became when Harry placed vegetables on the shelf meant for the cheese, and the small smile that had emerged slides away.

He stretches his arms overhead then exhales slowly, shaking his head. This is what his world has been reduced to: putting his life on the line in the hopes of thwarting the assassination of a criminal, and worrying about what his husband will think if Harry forgets to put the perishables in their right place.

A Tempus cast on the sand shows that it's almost seven. Harry plays around with its form as it wavers against the sand, then transforms his bedroll into a fold-up chair. He takes out his breakfast and Omnioculars and sits.

Harry unwraps his sandwich and takes a bite. The pickle is a bit soggy and the cheese is processed. It's hardly breakfast fare, but needs must, given Harry's reluctance to deplete his magical reserves on a Cooling Charm for nothing more than a more palatable meal. He snorts, thinking that Draco would be horrified at the thought of anything less than Wensleydale cheese on a ploughman's, plebeian as it is.

Harry swallows forcefully as the bit of bread and cheese lodge in his throat. He knows he's been thinking of Draco a lot, and as frustrating as things have been between them, there's a part of him that hopes their marriage may be salvaged. They're at a place where things are unravelling—have been for a while, after the blush of their giddy honeymoon wore off—and a lot of it is Harry's fault. For most people, it's the stage where they might seek the services of a marriage counselor, but how can Harry enter therapy when he's unable to be honest about his life, for Draco's safety as much as for his own?

The existence of Hit Wizards is suspected by the public and well-known throughout the Ministry, although the identities of assassins are closely guarded and further protected by an Unbreakable Vow. Hermione knows Harry's role, as do Goldstein and Kingsley. Ron would likely be hurt that he's not part of Harry's coterie, but Harry refuses to place the burden of such knowledge on more than one person within a single family. Especially since that family is growing.

Harry's eyes burn. He wipes at them—it's the sand, for sure—then wolfs down the remainder of his breakfast and stands, lifting his Omnioculars.

Nearly an hour passes before Harry notices something that disrupts the monotony of the sand and the sounds of the sputtering crater in the background. He dials in closer before hitting the button that one of the Unspeakables in the Time Room developed to record everything for future review. The modification extends the five second loop of a normal Omniocular to thirty minutes of replay, and has been the primary source material for the investigation of security breaches during prisoner transport.

Sure enough, a small caravan pulls into sight. On first glance, the group of three 4 x 4's looks like any typical, adventure-seeking tourist group, but as Harry casts an Anti-Reflection Charm and cranks up the low-light image intensifier, he sees traces of active magical signatures in all three vehicles.

He zooms in with the Omnioculars, noting that the prisoner is currently being held in the middle vehicle, her hands bound by Muggle handcuffs. The DMLE is forced to use such methods of restraint after a prisoner was killed by one of Sang Pur's assassins while under a modified Immobulus. Wizarding-rights groups were vociferous in their protests, claiming the death was due in part to the Ministry's use of unnecessary force. Right now, Harry can see the way Covault's legs are jittering, a sheen of sweat above her upper lip and blonde brows.

He wonders if her nerves are in response to the enemies inside the truck or the ones on the other side.

The sand behind the tires billows in soft plumes, as if unbothered by the weight of the conveyances grinding down on its ever-shifting surface. There aren't any other signs of movement, so Harry uses the time to quickly pack up the stray wrappers and to exchange his top for his Weird Sisters t-shirt.

All kinds of people have their little quirks and superstitions, but Harry doubts anybody else's have implications as deadly as his:

It's the shirt he was wearing when he made his first hit.

It was the shirt he wasn't wearing when he lost two members of his team in Coburg two years ago.

It's the shirt he's worn for every assignment since.

It's soft and threadbare and, luckily, its maroon colour does an adequate job of hiding any evidence of blood. It's also nearly two sizes too small, and the tight fit is perhaps the only reason why Draco hasn't seen fit to dispose of it when Harry's out and about.

It really is unsettling just how much Draco's been creeping into Harry's thoughts. Harry's mind tends to run in several directions at once while he's on assignment, but it's generally focused on mission-related scenarios; he tries to anticipate all the angles, to formulate a backup plan or two, and then, perhaps, one more. Perhaps it's the sour, sad note on which he left their home last night, the last straw placed on a camel's back that's already bent and brittle.

Harry slides his wand into the secure lining of his militarised robe. The wand he uses on these types of missions is his first—his favourite, as it should be. The team at Phoenix tried to train him with another, since his magical signature was so ingrained with the original, its familiar appearance and inherent nature a threat to Harry's anonymity. But there was a reason why Harry felt that incredible thrill, that burst of rightness when Ollivander thrust those eleven inches of holly into his hand all those years ago. His wand is why he's been able to channel his magic into something more focused, since it can be, admittedly, as unruly as it is powerful.

Harry's not about to place his life at a further disadvantage. Despite what the Ministry might think, the exposure of his identity won't mean much if he's not alive to care.

He lifts the Omnioculars once more and sees the caravan drawing closer. It looks to be five miles out from his hiding spot, and there's still no movement outside of the line of vehicles crawling over the desert, their fronts sinking then rising as they cross each dune. There's a part of him that wonders if he should have set up camp further down the line, but Hermione was insistent that the terrain here would provide his best chance for cover, in both the literal and metaphorical sense.

Harry fiddles with the focus. Perhaps it's the heat, or the fucking Glamour, or the fact that his marriage is hanging by its last thread, but there's an uneasiness that's buzzing throughout him that's matched with every turn of the dial, the objects blurring in and out of sight without quite being seen.

Suddenly, a Range Rover pulls into his line of vision. It's travelling parallel to and at a higher speed than the caravan, the dust clouds that spray from its wheels coating its too-clean surface, and Harry just knows that the person who's driving is one of those entitled, citified wankers.

His suspicions are proven when the driver stops just short of the safe perimeter of the crater and opens the door, music screaming from the Range Rover's speakers as he steps out. The strains of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" are thankfully muted once the door is shut, although the music must still be playing in the man's head since he plays air guitar as his hips shimmy and swivel.

Harry snorts. Double wanker. Albeit, one with some sexy moves.

Still, it's an unforeseen problem. The Turkmen government was supposed to assist the Ministry by prohibiting any tour groups from entering the area for the next several hours. Now Harry's stuck with the responsibilities of keeping Covault alive, as well as babysitting some wealthy knob wearing a Muggle baseball cap and who has a penchant for overplayed and overrated music.

Right now, the man is unbuttoning the top of his trousers and reaching under his waistband as if to take a piss. Harry watches, curious to see despite himself, and then—

Oh no.

In the split second it takes for Harry to realise that the man isn't unzipping anything further, and that his hand is dipping too shallowly to be relieving himself, the man who is now anything but an incompetent tourist is whipping out a wand of the non-fleshy variety and unlocking a Muggle gun.

"Fuck," Harry breathes. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck." The caravan is pulling closer, less than one mile away, crawling across the desert as if in slow-motion and oblivious to the danger that's ahead as the man throws off his cap. It must trigger a spell, for the air surrounding him shimmers, possibly from the combination of a Disillusionment and Glamour spell. Harry records it, then shrinks down the Omnioculars and smooths down the hem of his t-shirt once, twice, and then a third time for good luck.

Since it's Harry's job to ensure the caravan's safety, or at the very least Covault's, Harry decides to rely on his speed and power. It's one of the reasons he prefers a Glamour over Polyjuice, not trusting that his limbs will move the way he wants when inhabiting someone else's body.

He dashes out from hiding, cursing the way his feet sink into the sand.

"Alarte Ascendare!" he cries, switching his intended target from the enemy to the Range Rover at the last moment. The car rises, then crashes down from over fifteen feet, the sound it makes on impact intensified once Harry directs an Incendio at the gas tank, causing it to ignite.

Harry Accio's the gun from the enemy's hand. He's tempted to perform his own victory dance when he sees the assassin's widened eyes, which quickly narrow.

"That was my fucking car," the man snarls. His voice is deeper than Harry would have expected given his lean, lithe form.

"That's payback for making me listen to your shite music," Harry retorts as the man literally growls. Harry's muscles coil as the man charges, eager to see what the man will challenge him with next. There's something about the way this man moves, the fluidity and grace and precision of his movements, that makes Harry think this fight will be nothing short of spectacular.

The man aims a Blasting Curse at the middle of the conveyance, but the distance and Harry's rapid approach causes him to misfire.

"Mine was better," Harry says smugly as the sand and rock twenty feet from the caravan shatters into a thousand pieces.

"Yours required two spells and was aimed at a stationary object," the man shoots back, but it's clear that he's peeved when the cars, now aware of the danger, begin driving faster.

The knowledge puts Harry at ease as he focuses his attention back onto his opponent.

"And thanks to your failed attempt, you just notified my team and saved me the trouble." He braces for the impact as the man flies across the distance, the sinking sands seeming to do little to slow his speed as he launches himself at Harry.

The assassin easily throws off Harry's Impediment Jinx, just as Harry side steps the Flipendo that's cast his way. Harry's magic sings as he aims a flurry of Knee-Reversal and Stickfast Hexes at the man's legs. They're both utilising lighter charms and hexes instead of the darkest of curses, and Harry wonders if his opponent is savouring their duel as much as he is.

He hasn't felt this kind of energy in…well, forever. He almost feels badly that he'll have to take his opponent down. They're anticipating each other's moves so well, and there's a brief moment, when their bodies collide and they resort to fisticuffs, when Harry questions whether he might not win. He shoves at the strong chest lying against him, managing to cuff the man on the chin, then casts a Cracker Jinx, covering his own ears as hundreds of exploding wizard crackers rain confetti and chocolate and flying bats around them.

Harry prepares to cast a Petrificus Totalus when the man directs a Ventus Jinx into the sand that's more powerful than any Harry has ever encountered. The blast of wind and dust funnels into a storm system so quickly that Harry barely has time to raise the bandana that's encircling his neck to cover his nose and mouth.

"Copycat," Harry calls out with a hint of bitterness. If the other man hears him, his response is lost to the howling wind, the remains of the silver cracker wrappers adding insult to injury as they whip against Harry's exposed skin. It's a lame comeback, but he's disappointed at himself for not thinking of the spell first.

He's even more furious with himself when he doesn't block the kick to his gut that follows.

Harry manages to cast a wandless Slowing Charm and then a Deletrius to disperse the sandstorm. It's enough to negate the effects of the Ventus, much to his opponent's displeasure as he hurls himself at Harry with an audible curse.

They tumble past the wreckage of the still-burning Range Rover, closer to the fiery rim of the crater than is safe, fists flying and legs kicking as their wands are all but forgotten. It's probably the adrenaline that does it, but when the man rolls Harry over and pins Harry between his thighs, Harry can't help the way his dick hardens, or the moan that escapes him in response.

The man's grin turns nearly feral as he grinds down, the length of his own cock palpable through the layers of their clothes. He clutches the front of Harry's robes, the fabric gaping.

And then, for the briefest of moments, his assailant's face freezes and arm stills.

Harry frowns in confusion. He uses the reprieve to wriggle away, trying to ignore the strange shift in the man's demeanour and the way his movements cause their cocks to slide back and forth. Everything changes, however, when the man rears, pulling his arm back, and smashes his fist into the corner of Harry's mouth.

Harry feels the trickle of blood gathering from his split lip as the bitter tang of copper bursts onto his tongue. His opponent is reaching for his wand, but his movements, for the first time, seem stilted and unsure.

Harry's fingers twitch. "Expelliarmus," he croaks out. The wand smacks into his open palm, the length of wood smooth and strangely familiar.

"Of course." The man chuckles. It's wry and ironic as he and Harry scramble to their feet.

Harry points his wand at the man, who simply stands with his hands out and open.

Harry casts a Stinging Hex at the mans' feet. "Fight back or surrender!" he shouts as the man remains immobile. Harry can't…he can't cut a man down, especially not this man, not when he fought against Harry so brilliantly and valiantly. He can't attack him in cold blood, unarmed.

The man shakes his head. Harry lets out a cry of frustration, then throws the man's wand back at him. His opponent catches it easily, but doesn't attack. Instead, he stares at Harry as his right hand rubs the base of his left ring finger. Harry's gaze is drawn to the pale strip of skin, lighter than the rest. A strip of skin matching the width of a wedding band.

It's Harry's turn to be stunned as the man raises his wand. His unreadable gaze is the last thing Harry sees before the mysterious dueller Disapparates with a quiet pop.

⦾⦾⦾

"It might not be Coburg, but it could've been. The leak is definitely coming from someone in the Ministry," Harry persists. He cradles the mobile against the crook of his arm, summoning his clothes in a pile then shoving them into his duffel.

Hermione's voice crackles, every third or fourth word dropping out as Harry groans. Even though he's back in Ashgabat, the cellular service is sporadic.

"Covault…arrived in Shīrvān and will…London tomorrow. So…debrief and…home," she says as Harry grinds his teeth in frustration.

"I can't. Hermione, I know who Sang Pur sent, it's…"

"Harry?" Hermione's voice rises in pitch. "Do you know who....Pur's assassin?"

"Yes. It's…" Harry closes his eyes, unable to seal Draco's death warrant. He doesn't know for sure; Draco works so hard at his entry-level job, fully embraces Muggle movies and food and culture. How could Harry's husband, whose biggest concern is making sure the laundry's separated into the appropriate piles and the refrigerator set at the appropriate temperature, be the same person who's ruthlessly destroying any and every lead to take down the mastermind of Sang Pur?

But Harry can't ignore how proficient Draco seems to be at everything—his talent for intricate spellwork, his ability to shore the wards on their home, his talent for picking apart the faults in choreographed fight scenes. Harry can't deny the way the would-be assassin's body felt, or how the wand that flew into Harry's hand thrummed with a familiar magic. He can't find any other explanation as to why they anticipated each other's moves so naturally, and how the man's body aroused Harry, in more ways than one.

"Never mind," Harry croaks. He's going to sick up.

"Harry? Harry James Potter, what…you know…?"

"Sorry, Hermione. Gotta go." Harry bins the mobile and casts an Incendio, staying just long enough to ensure that the device is completely destroyed. He slings his duffel over his shoulder and exits his hotel room with a grim expression. He'll get to the bottom of this shiteshow himself.

In fact, he's looking forward to it.

Chapter Text

When Harry steps foot into their house that evening, he's not greeted with smashed photos of their wedding, or broken bottles of his favourite Imperial Stout, or the flaming wreckage of their sofa (pity), but with the delicious smells of Draco's traditional Sunday roast.

Harry checks his face in the entranceway mirror. The Glamours around his split lip and swollen cheek are holding. "Draco?" He steps around the corner, fingertips grazing his wand.

"Darling." Draco suddenly appears at his side, and Harry has to stifle a yelp of surprise. He's wearing an apron that says Kiss the Cook, his shirt starched and without a blond hair out of place. He's never looked quite so sinful or dangerous. "How was Sofia?"

Harry shrugs and puts his car keys on the table. "Uneventful."

Draco's eyes dart down. Too late, Harry realises that his knuckles are scraped and bruised.

"I took a spill. One too many drinks," Harry says as he lets out a strained laugh.

Draco tsks. "You should be more careful. One too many slip ups and Kingsley might be looking for your replacement."

"Erm…right." Harry stares, unnerved by Draco's steely and unflinching gaze. "I'm just going to…" He inhales, and his stomach growls embarrassingly.

Draco arches a brow. "They didn't feed you in Sofia?"

"No. Was too busy working. Networking."

"Ahh, I see. Meet anyone new and exciting?"

Harry meets Draco’s eyes. "No one that stands out."

Draco's lips thin. "Well, it's a good thing for you that I cooked. Why don't you put your things away. Dinner’s almost ready."

"Okay. Sounds good." Harry swallows at the stilted silence, then looks up. "I missed you."

Draco doesn't blink. "I missed you, too."

Harry watches as Draco turns on his heel, wondering if this will be his last supper. There's no limp in Draco's walk, nothing to suggest that Draco was involved in a vicious fight less than ten hours ago. Still, Harry casts an Alohomora and a Revelio upon reaching their bedroom door, feeling a bit foolish when nothing jumps out to surprise him. He moves into the en suite and strips off his clothes, then proceeds to scrub away the sand and grit from his trip. A glance at his reflection tells him he needs several Healing Charms on his face, torso, and hands, and he performs them quickly before throwing on a clean shirt and jeans.

By the time Harry takes his place at the dining room table, his nerves are on end and his pulse too quick. He toys with the handle of the steak knife that's set in front of him as he tries to calm his breaths, then removes it, slipping it into the back pocket of his jeans. The sounds of food being plated filter out from the kitchen, and he wonders what Draco is up to. The red Bordeaux has already been poured; the two glasses look identical, and he can't see anything amiss as he holds his up to the light, though he switches them quickly before sitting back down.

"Roast beef. My favourite," Harry says as Draco enters with a platter. Harry's eyes narrow as the train of dishes continue—roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, peas and carrots, and dressing. "You must have been home all day, cooking."

Draco smiles. "It's amazing how much I can do with the right tools and a little incentive."

"And have you? The proper incentive?" Harry asks as he warily eyes the carving knife Draco's wielding.

"What better one than the chance to spend time with my loving husband? It's been so long since we properly talked." Draco slices through the slab of meat quickly and cleanly, then places it neatly onto Harry's plate. Harry stares at the beef. Its juices glisten under the low light, the centre a beautiful pink.

"We could have gone out to eat." Harry waves Draco away as Draco moves to place a scoop of Brussels sprouts on his plate. "No Brussels sprouts." He looks up at Draco with a wounded expression. "I hate Brussels sprouts."

"Silly me, I forgot. It's like I don't even know you anymore," Draco remarks, dumping them on Harry's plate anyway. He serves himself a generous helping of everything on the table, then sits at the opposite end facing Harry. A soft sigh escapes him as he rubs the back of his neck.

"Rough day?" Harry asks with an innocent smile. He snaps open his napkin and places it on his lap.

Draco lowers his hand back down to his side. "I had to make some modifications to my set-up at work," he says, grimacing. "It's nothing I can't handle."

"I don't know how you stay so fit, sitting at a desk all day," Harry comments idly as he picks up his drink, then thinks better of it, and puts it down.

"Well, I seem to pick up after you constantly. It turns out that dealing with your little messes requires more effort than I originally thought."

"Perhaps you need to relax your standards a bit. Not everything has to be a life or death situation," Harry snarks as Draco chokes back a cough.

"I wouldn't expect you to understand. Working with Quidditch players…well, you probably don't have to worry much about sloppy messes. Or loose ends."

Harry's grip on his fork tightens. "How's your job been, anyway?"

Draco doesn't miss a beat. "All right, for the most part. Although I had a bit of an issue with a client today."

"Really?" Harry leans in. "How so?"

Draco's lips curl into a faint smile, one that doesn't reach his eyes. "It turns out this client was well-known. Well-known enough that there was another agent vying to take care of her."

Harry hums. "For shame. I guess some people have no respect for boundaries."

"Or principles." Draco points to Harry's untouched plate with the sharp end of his knife. "Aren't you going to eat?"

"I'm not hungry."

Draco actually laughs. "Your stomach earlier said otherwise."

Harry clenches his jaw. "You first."

Draco shrugs, then cuts a perfect morsel of meat, the edge of his knife clinking loud against his plate. "Mmmm. Absolutely delicious," he says as he takes a bite. "Even if I do say so myself."

Harry eyes his meat dubiously. He takes a tiny forkful, raises it slowly to his mouth, and chews it slowly. Surprisingly, it is delicious, spiced just right and cooked to perfection. Even better, it doesn't kill him when he swallows.

"Very nice." Harry coughs, forcing the chewed up piece down his throat. "Erm…could you pass the salt?"

Draco puts down his fork and knife with a loud clatter. "But of course," he says with a thin smile right before picking up the vintage, figural dragon salt shaker they picked up one weekend in a marché aux puces in Lille and pitching it with full force at Harry's head.

Harry whips the steak knife from his back pocket and flings it at the porcelain missile. He ducks for cover, uncertain whether Draco may have spelled it into something less benign, then grimaces when he hears the salt shaker shatter.

"Oops," he says, face contrite. He sits back up, dismayed to see the decapitated dragon and a wash of salt and porcelain fragments scattered all over the dining room table. "Erm…Seeker reflexes?"

They both stare at the mess.

"I'll clean it up," Draco says, as they both bolt out of their chairs. "I'll get a rag," Harry suggests. No sooner has Harry rounded the corner into the living room before an Expulso shatters the chandelier in the dining room, suffusing the space in a blaze of blue light.

Harry casts a Protego, fuming as the crystal shards bounce off his shield. He actually loved that fucking lamp.

"Figures you'd destroy the one thing I picked out," he shouts.

"I did you a favour, darling. After all, I didn't marry you because I thought you had good taste."

Harry dispels the protective bubble and aims a Confringo in the direction of the kitchen. He smiles meanly when he hears the roar of the flames along with Draco's indignant yelp. "And I didn't marry you for your cooking." He crouches down along the floor, just in time, as a Dissendium opens up a massive hole in the living room wall and tentacles sprout from the glass terrarium on the side table.

It is a distinct improvement. Harry hates that terrarium.

The petulance in Draco's tone is unmistakable. "What's wrong with my cooking?" he calls out.

"Nothing. If one likes tradition shoved up their arse seven days a week. It's a miracle you haven't killed me with your fussiness," Harry growls. He knows this goes against every rule in the handbook, but he can't stop baiting Draco, even though it gives his position away.

Apparently, Draco can't help it, either. "The evening's not over yet, darling."

Good. So Draco's still in the kitchen. Harry exits the living room, scrambling past the broken bits of glass and porcelain in the dining room and wincing as they crunch under his heels, then aims a Waddiwasi at the heavy pendant lights that hang over the marble island.

There's a deafening crash that's accompanied by a thud so great that the walls of the room shake, causing all the figurines on the shelves to spill onto the floor. "You absolute fucker!" Draco roars as Harry grins. He hears something slam in the pantry, and imagines that Draco must be kicking at the door. "It took me over a year to convince Mrs Nesbitt to sell me those glass shades!"

Honestly, Harry's sad too. He loved those lights—loved helping Draco install them. Loved the way Draco had thanked him by hauling Harry up onto the kitchen island before bending him in half and eating him out.

The sacrifices he makes for the greater good.

"Perhaps you're not as charming as you thought," Harry snarks. He casts a Permanent Sticking Charm on the framed photograph of his mother and father hanging in the corner, because Draco is nothing less than vindictive when he's in a mood, then waits for Draco's response.

Except there's…nothing. Harry frowns, his ears pricking for any hint as to what Draco's planning, or even his whereabouts. He crouches down, carefully making his way around the broken debris that's scattered all over the floor until he's by the door leading from the dining room into the kitchen.

Harry grips his wand, holding its base close to his chest. He readies himself to cast a Stupefy as he slowly rounds the corner, his head tilted up…

The kick that explodes against his chest has Harry falling onto his back, his head spinning as his teeth chatter and his wand rolls out from his fist. Even though the world around him is wavering, he has the presence of mind to roll to his right, just in time to avoid the impact of Draco's foot smashing into his face. The déjà vu causes Harry to laugh, although the sound is overly loud and a bit manic to his concussed brain. He scrambles to his feet, trying to keep himself upright as his left ankle threatens to turn, but then Draco manages to grip the placket of Harry's shirt and uses the leverage to heave Harry off of his feet and into the wall.

Something cracks loudly. Pain spikes in the back of Harry's head and neck, spreading and shooting along his spine. Harry can still move his arms and legs, thankfully, and he forces his right leg to lift and flex as he lands a well-aimed kick at Draco's balls.

A wheeze escapes Draco's partially opened lips, the sound pure music to Harry's ears. He takes advantage of Draco's doubled-up position to snap the pointed end of his elbow against the side of Draco's face, smirking as Draco staggers.

"I always knew you were trouble," Harry spits. He tastes the salt of sweat and blood in his mouth, and he's sure his lip's split open again. He wipes at the trickling fluid with the back of his hand, just in time to see Draco pull himself up along the sideboard to grab a bottle of wine from the top.

Harry tries to cast a wandless Confringo, but his unsteadiness causes him to misfire. He winces as the silk and cotton drapes they custom-designed last fall burst into flames, the steel curtain pole bending and breaking from the heat and weight. Draco advances on Harry, and Harry manages to sweep out with his leg just as Draco swings the wine bottle up and around, smashing it against Harry's head.

They topple, legs entangled and arms flailing. Draco makes a pained noise as he lands on his back, and then again after Harry falls face-first on top of him.

Harry clutches at one of the large shards of glass, not caring that it's cutting into his hand as he holds it against the bounding pulse point of Draco's neck.

"How could you?" Harry shouts. He pushes the shard of glass deeper when Draco tries to buck his hips, and a pinprick of blood appears on Draco's pale skin. "After everything you've done…everything you've learned, how could you work for a group like Sang Pur?"

The cabinets are rattling, threatening to fall off their hinges. Harry can't seem to rein in his magic; he hasn't felt so out of control since that horrific night in the Hogwarts' boys' bathroom ten years ago.

Draco stills under Harry. His face is no longer filled with fear or anger, but with unmistakable hurt and betrayal.

"What?" Draco gapes. "Is that…is that what you think?" he asks, his voice horribly small.

"What am I supposed to think?" Harry yells, his frustration causing him to push Draco harder. "I found you trying to assassinate a high-ranking member of Sang Pur, someone who was under Ministry custody! The DMLE has been trying to strike a deal with Covault for months. Do you know how many people put their lives on the line to make this happen? How many people could be saved by this information? Yet you tried to kill Covault—"

"Under direct orders from the Ministry!" Draco shouts.

Harry freezes. "What?"

Draco's eyes dart down to where Harry's still pressing the glass fragment against his skin. Harry sees the slow trickle of blood that leads to a small pool at the juncture of Draco's neck and his elegant collarbone, and he loosens the pressure fractionally. "I'm an assassin working for the Ministry, you fucking wanker," Draco hisses.

"That's…that's impossible." Harry shakes his head, trying to clear it. Perhaps it's the multiple concussions, but nothing is making sense. "I'm an assassin, working under orders from the Ministry," he says, partially to remind himself of this fact as he removes his hand from Draco's throat and sits back on his haunches.

"Thank Merlin." Draco rests his head back down on the ground and takes several long, deep breaths. "I thought you…" He swallows again, then opens his eyes, his expression open and honest. "I thought you went rogue.” He pauses; something falls in the next room, landing with a reverberating crash. “So you don't work for the Department of Magical Games and Sports?" he asks with a shaky laugh.

Harry sighs then slides off Draco. "I do. It's more of an honorary position, though. It is easier for them to provide cover for my trips that way.” He rolls over onto his back so he's lying side-by-side with Draco. There's a massive chunk of plaster missing from the ceiling where the row of pendant lamps used to be. "And what about you? Do you really work for the Department of Transportation?"

"Yes. For pretty much the same reason. When the Ministry started assigning me missions, that's when they upgraded me to an Apparition Tester. Though I have a feeling that's where our similarities end."

"It doesn't make sense, though. Why would they send two of us on a contract with opposing goals? You said you were ordered to kill Covault, while my orders were to keep her alive." Harry turns his neck to look at Draco. Draco is biting his lower lip, his brows furrowed in thought.

"Perhaps it's like Hydra."

Harry looked at Draco out of the side of his eye. "I think you've been watching too many Marvel movies."

"No, hear me out. After von Strucker's death, Hydra splintered with all these independent cells operating independently because there wasn't a formal leader. I'm not saying that Kingsley isn't a strong leader," he adds, cutting off Harry's protest, "But something similar could be taking place. Two factions—at least—within the Ministry, with similar interests but competing objectives."

"Okay, let's say you're right. It still doesn't make sense that no one else is aware of the existence of specialised subgroups of assassins outside their respective teams."

"The possibility might not be as outrageous as you think. There are people within my group who don't know its true purpose. And we live together and had no idea." Upon hearing Harry's silence, Draco persists. "Fine, I'll start. My group is called The Avengers."

"Seriously?" Harry can't help his chuckle.

Draco glares. "Yes, it was my idea, and yes, it's your fault for introducing me to the whole franchise. Most of our members, as far as I know, are former Slytherins. Blaise, Pansy, and myself, for example."

Harry thinks about all the times Blaise and Pansy have called upon Draco after hours. Usually, he tunes out or goes over to Ron's when discussions turn to fashion or things of that sort. "So whenever Pansy gossips about the latest celebrity couples or hottest clubs—"

"Oh, she genuinely enjoys talking about such things," Draco says with a laugh. "But it was terribly effective for getting you out of our hair as well."

"I can't believe it," Harry says, shaking his head. "Right under my own nose."

"I'd say something, except I'm equally guilty of such negligence myself. Let me guess: Granger and Weasley?"

Harry shakes his head. "Only Hermione. My identity is kept secret through an Unbreakable Vow. I couldn't expect two people from the same family to carry that responsibility. After what happened in Coburg…" Harry clenches his hands to keep them from trembling. "Do you remember that day I came into your office? When we were, erm, still a casual thing?"

"We were fuckbuddies, Potter. And if you mean that time you threw my handler out following a spot of bad blood between the Bats and the Kestrals, I could hardly forget. I couldn't talk properly for a week after you decided to spill your frustrations down my throat."

Harry gives Draco a sheepish look. "Right. Except there was no Quidditch disaster. A group from the DMLE was sent to apprehend Quentin Lowrey, while I was there for his protection"

"Ahh, yes. The financier who helped funnel a large portion of Sang Pur's money into offshore accounts." Draco shifts slightly.

"Right. The things is...by the time we arrived in Coburg, someone had reached Lowrey first. The police presence was enormous. And apparently, Sang Pur's people were there as well, looking for retribution. They started questioning lone travellers; two people in our group posed as a couple to avoid being detained, but their stories didn't corroborate. And then Sang Pur…" Harry takes a shuddering breath as weariness takes over.

Draco pulls himself partially up, propping himself on his elbows as his expression turns serious. "I’m sorry, Harry. I heard…. About how they were discovered. Death was probably a welcome reprieve, in the end.

“I was brought into what would become the Avenger’s project several weeks after Lowrey's murder,” Draco continues softly. “There were a considerable number of us who wanted to be on the right side for once. Who had a lot to prove. I was already a Hit Wizard for the Ministry by that point—and I resent you calling me a 'copycat', by the way, when I was the one who hexed you with a Cracker Jinx over fifteen years ago—but when Sang Pur continued to grow in influence, they formed a small and specialised unit for the sole purpose of managing the prisoners."

"But…Draco, by 'manage', you mean assassinate! How can you justify that? At least with Phoenix—"

"Phoenix is the name of your group?" Draco snorts. "How original."

Harry pulls up into a sitting position and gathers his knees against his chest. "I don't get it. How can you defeat Sang Pur if you pick off every important lead we get?"

"Sang Pur's influence has only grown in the last five years despite all the Ministry's efforts!" Draco cries. "They have money and corrupted and sympathetic officials on their side. Twelve people with ties to Sang Pur have been brought to trial during that period and only two have been convicted. And do you know why? Because the two that reside in Azkaban are so low within the organisation that they have no useful information to divulge. At least, nothing that the Ministry doesn't already know. All accused of any importance have either escaped or been set free. But Lowrey's death showed us that we could slow the spread in a different way."

"The accused have to go through the judicial process and stand trial. Without it, we'd be as bad as they are."

"By killing the masterminds of Sang Pur, we'll be saving lives. Covault is one of the founders of Sang Pur, Harry. She has ties all around the world, has been responsible for thousands of deaths. How can you take the chance of letting her go free?"

"Because we can get more use out of her if she's alive! Because we can track down others in the organisation, try to cut it down at its roots. Because it's the morally right thing to do!"

Draco takes a deep breath, his shoulders straightening. "What if it were Voldemort?"

Harry whips around. "What the fuck do you mean by that?"

"Knowing everything you do now about Voldemort. If you had a Time-Turner and could prevent the war…stop the bloodshed, would you?"

"That's…you can't mess around with time, Draco, the consequences—"

"For fuck's sake, Harry, I'm speaking hypothetically! If you could prevent Voldemort from killing your parents, or Sirius or Remus, or Colin or Fred or any of the others whose lives were cut short because of his influence and actions, would you?"

"Draco," Harry says softly. He reaches out to wipe at the wetness that's collecting at the corners of Draco's eyes. "By that same reasoning, I would be willing to kill your parents. Perhaps even you."

Draco worries his lower lip. "There have been many times when I've thought things would be better off that way."

Harry scoots over next to Draco and wraps his arm around Draco's shoulders. "I don't think there is a right answer. Only difficult ones. Which is probably why our two groups developed. And I’m glad you’re around, because my world’s better off with you in it," Harry adds fiercely.

Draco peeps up at Harry. "So you think I'm right, then? About the two factions?"

"Yeah. I think you're right." Harry picks a piece of diced apple up off the floor and aims it in the direction of the waste bin. It hits the rim, teetering on the edge before falling in. "When did you know it was me? When we were fighting in Darvaza?"

Draco lets out a slow breath that whistles between his teeth. "The Expelliarmus was a bit of a giveaway. Plus, you were wearing that Weird Sisters t-shirt you refuse to bin. You kept telling me it was a collectible; I should have known there was something else behind it," Draco admits, huffing out a laugh. "But honestly? I think…I just knew." He traces the outline of a divot that’s appeared in the recently polished floor. "It seems ironic, since we were living dual lives in plain sight of each other without realising it, but everything about you really did feel familiar." He smiles, one that's soft and looks like he's sharing a secret. "I'm really mad that you blew up that Range Rover, by the way. Blaise was furious."

"Serves you right. Especially since Phoenix only gave me a rental." But when Harry turns towards Draco, his smile is fond. "You fiddled with your ring finger. That's your tell." Harry captures Draco's hand and rubs the smooth, gold band, then brings it to his lips.

"I hate taking that ring off. Especially when things have been going south between us…sometimes I feel like it's all I have left of our marriage."

The ache in Harry's heart is greater than all the bumps and bruises he suffered that day. "Do you regret it? That day when I barged into your office, demanding an expedited Apparition license?"

"Merlin, you were such an entitled, arrogant prat!"

"We were in a rush because we needed one of our new team members to go to Bogota that week."

Draco crinkles his nose. Harry hates that he still finds it incredibly adorable. "You were so demanding: I need it now, so help me, Malfoy, or I'll have your job!"

"Erm…right. And I take it you probably didn't even have the authority to give it to me. Given…you know, what I know now."

Draco arches a brow. "You would be correct."

"Well, I did make it up to you," Harry says, waggling his brows.

A faint colour creeps up Draco's cheeks. "Had I known how desperate you were to get that license, I would have held out for something more than a blow job," he says as Harry laughs. "It was good, although perhaps not quite as good as a Breguet Classique."

Harry squeezes Draco's hand. "I wanted to tell you so many times. All those times when you thought I was arsing about, going to dinner parties and Quidditch tournaments—"

"It used to drive me crazy," Draco says, his expression pinched. "You never asked me to accompany you. I thought you were embarrassed. Or that you had other reasons for not wanting me there with you."

"I never cheated on you, you know. Never felt the urge." When Draco stares at him, hard, Harry's face flames. "I mean, aside from…erm, what happened today. That was the first time it's ever happened. And it happened because it was you."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it. Because if you had, I might have two more deaths on my hands." Draco's voice breaks; it sounds like he’s half-joking, but there's an underlying desperation. As if sitting amongst the broken china and glassware and the ruins of their professionally designed house means nothing compared to the fragility of their marriage. He and Draco are just so breakable—caught between their lies and their past, between who they were and are.

Even though Harry undoubtedly looks as if he's been thrown into a dryer with a two-by-four and set on high, and feels as if he's undergone two cycles to boot, all he can think about is reassuring Draco. He wants to kiss his blood-stained lips, to smooth the lines from his face, the ones that, now that Harry thinks about it, he’s only seen disappear during sleep. He wants to hold Draco in his arms, to make love like they once did and forget about Sang Pur and the Ministry and the blood on their hands, even if just for a moment.

"Harry?" Draco's tilting his head, a smirk forming at the corner of his lips.

"Yeah?" Harry asks, shaking himself.

"This whole existential crisis that's written all over your face? Perhaps you should forget about putting bits of apple in the bin, and put something in me instead." He pulls Harry's head towards him and crushes their mouths together in a wild and frenzied kiss, full of smashed lips and teeth and tongue.

"Oh my god," Harry moans as Draco presses up against him, the base of his palm pressing against Harry's rapidly hardening cock. "There's no way cheesy pick up lines should sound so good." He shifts, then curses when a piece of crockwear lodges itself in the meat of his hand.

"Tergeo." Harry extends his arm and focuses on a Cleaning Charm just as Draco slips his hand under the waistband of Harry's pants and presses the tip of his pinky against the slit of Harry's cock. "Fuck, Draco," Harry moans. The Tergeo shoots out from Harry's fingertips, strong enough to sweep all the debris around them out of the kitchen and into the adjoining room, much to Draco's delight.

"Circe, you know how hot it gets me when you show off all that power," he crows, thumbing the tip of Harry's cock.

Harry might have cast another, even more powerful Tergeo after that. Just for thoroughness' sake, of course.

"Come on, off, off, off," Draco demands, pulling at Harry's pants impatiently.

"Why don't you get them off me yourself?" Harry teases. He manages to arch a brow, even though the question comes out as a half-whine and breathless.

"Don't mind if I do." Draco summons one of the kitchen knives—and holy hell, Harry hadn't realised that he shared a wandless magic kink with Draco—the sharply honed instrument somersaulting in the air until it lands in Draco's grasp, wooden handle flat against his skin. Draco draws the sharpened tip of the blade along the waistband of Harry's trousers, stopping at the place where the base of the button meets the thread, and clips it neatly. Harry's breath hitches, because…well, there's a deadly knife a hair's breadth away from his cock, but his cock apparently hasn't a shred of common sense since it's straining against the fabric of his pants, aching for Draco's touch.

Luckily, Harry's mouth remains connected to his brain. "Wait," he says frantically, "You're not going to—"

The tip of the knife slices down the length of the black, cotton fabric, halving it neatly. "Yes?" Draco asks as Harry's cock happily springs out.

"Nothing," Harry grouses. He slips the knife from out of Draco's hand and Vanishes the weapon, then tugs down Draco's trousers, the fabric ripping in his hands.

"You're lucky I love—" Draco's eyes go wide as Harry's heart stutters at Draco's near-confession, "—love the way you fuck me," Draco continues, voice hoarse. "Those were bespoke, you Neanderthal." He unbuttons his shirt and slides it off, most likely to prevent it from suffering Harry's impatience.

"And those were my lucky jeans," Harry points out as he backs Draco against the kitchen island and turns him around. "God, your arse is illegal," he groans, his calloused palms kneading the pale flesh. He traces the shapely, muscular lines of Draco's buttocks, lingers over the indentation near Draco's hips, slows as he dips his thumb into the depths of Draco's crack. "I never noticed this before," Harry says absently as he runs a finger tip along a faint scar on the back of Draco's thigh.

"Got caught in a fight last month with some fucker whose blade was tipped in Basilisk venom." Draco huffs out a laugh as Harry groans; he remembers the discomfort Draco was in, which Draco blamed on a splinching accident when a novice Apparitionist attempted a Side-Along. "Pansy hid the evidence during the week it took to heal. She's a pro with Glamours."

"Wow," Harry says, impressed. "Glad I never had to experience that. Although I have taken a bludgeon to the face that was covered in the scales of a Hungarian Horntail."

"Harry? We could trade stories all day, but I'd be much more impressed if you fuck me with that strong and talented prick of yours."

Harry's fingers sink deeper into Draco's flesh, strong enough to bruise. His husband has the ability to remain an insufferable tosser even when he's bent over the island and shoving his bare arse in Harry's face, arse cheeks pushed up high as Draco sinks onto his elbows, submitting.

"In a second," Harry croaks out. He falls to his knees and presses kisses along the graceful curve of Draco's spine, nipping Draco's visibly marred skin with his teeth. He delights in the way the paleness blooms red, using his teeth to leave a lasting mark of his own on Draco to go with the rest.

Harry hums in satisfaction as he licks a rough, wet stripe from the underside of Draco's balls, up his perineum, and along his crack.

"Harry," Draco practically wails as he pushes Harry away. He Summons his wand from somewhere in his shredded trousers, then points the tip to his arsehole. "Put it in me," he begs as Harry's breathing stutters upon seeing Draco's pink and perfectly furled hole, newly glistening. "Put it in me, put it in me now."

Harry runs the tip of his finger around the rim. It's well-lubricated, but tight. "Hold on, baby," he murmurs, "Let me just loosen you up—"

"No." Draco reaches behind him, his hand threading through Harry's hair. He tugs gently, urging Harry upwards. "I want to feel you. Come on, fuck me." The rest of his demand is swallowed as Harry presses up against the defined muscles of Draco's back, then tilts Draco's head towards him and devours his mouth.

Draco's tongue is rough and insistent, the whipcord muscles in his arms tense as he arches back against Harry. Harry's cock slips between the cleft of Draco's arse; the meaty rounds of flesh massage his shaft, and Harry practically snarls with impatience as he grasps his cock at the base and angles the tip, overwhelmed by the slickness of the lube and the swollen perfection of Draco's rim.

He nudges the tip of his cock forward, gasping as the tight ring of muscles squeezes around the sensitive head. He whispers into Draco's ear when he sees the tense line of Draco's shoulders, tongues the line of sweat at the nape of Draco's neck.

"You're gorgeous, sweetheart," Harry says as Draco lets out a long and pleasured moan. Harry pushes past the resistance and then his eyes slam shut, his movement stilling as he's suddenly engulfed in the wet, warm heat of Draco's arse.

Draco wriggles, hips moving as he pushes himself onto Harry, and it's all Harry can do not to come as he tries to regulate his breathing. Not that Draco makes it any easier, with all the sinful, filthy sounds that are coming out of his mouth.

"Yeah," he says, over and over, the yeahyeahyeah's growing slurred and frantic. "Put your back into it, Potter. Fuck me like you mean it…"

It's probably the Potter that does it. The way Harry's last name slides off Draco's lips—the familiarity of it, the hard and biting consonants, and the way Draco softens it with affection. It's the way the r seems to trail off at the end, as if Draco doesn't want to let go until he has no more breath to support it. Or perhaps it's the way Draco's cool, sharp beauty contrasts with his messy hair and swollen lips, or the way he can't stop begging as he grinds against Harry, so wanton and filthy.

Harry grabs ahold of Draco's hips, then rears back and slams into him as Draco keens, flesh hitting against wood and marble. Harry reaches out with one hand to brace himself against the countertop, then begins fucking Draco fast and deep. A part of him wishes they could take it slow, so he can pull back and enjoy the tight, steady clutch of Draco's walls until Draco begs him so prettily for more. But Draco extends his right arm and catches hold of Harry's thigh, then pulls Harry close so they remain forever tied, pushing and pulling but never too far apart. It forces Harry to spread his legs and shift the angle of his hips so they snap up, each thrust causing Draco to let out a long whine, the globes of Draco's arse bouncing from the impact as Draco practically rides him.

And when Draco tilts his head back, his hair brushing against Harry's chest and the swanlike line of his neck exposed and vulnerable, Harry loses the last thread of his control. He wraps his hand around Draco's cock and jerks him off, the skin hot in his fist and probably uncomfortable from the friction, yet Draco's mouth just parts in pleasure as he begs for more. Draco's hips roll, back muscles and forearms taut until he comes, spilling all over Harry's hand. Draco's uhuh whimpers and glazed eyes cause Harry to spill inside Draco's tight heat, his fingers leaving purple bruises along the sides of Draco's hips as Harry shudders and howls.

When Harry catches his breath, and his heart is no longer pounding out of his chest, he kisses along the strong curve of Draco's arms and shoulders, and tastes the sweat that decorates Draco's skin. "God, I missed you," Harry whispers.

Draco doesn't say anything at first, and Harry freezes. For a panicked moment, he wonders if they're back to where they were not even twenty-four hours ago, when the lies and pretense filled the yawning space between them until it was nearly unbridgeable. But then Draco turns and traces the lines of Harry's nose, his cheeks. He presses along the swell of Harry's lips, sucking in his breath when Harry's tongue darts out to lick his fingertips. And, finally, he makes his way up to Harry's forehead, his index finger brushing over the faint scar as Draco stares into Harry's eyes as if he's seeing Harry for the first time all over again.

"I missed you too, darling," he says with a small shiver.

Harry summons Draco's shirt and drapes it over Draco's shoulders. "So what's next? Do you think this story can have a happy ending?"

Draco turns his head towards Harry. There's a hopeful look in his eyes, although it's guarded. Harry wishes he could spell Draco's reservations away as easily as he can their bruises.

"Pansy thinks that happy endings are for stories that haven't finished yet." Draco presses the back of his hand to his mouth to stifle a yawn. "Our bedroom is the one place that's not currently in shambles, and you and I have been up for over twenty-four hours. Whatever we decide, it can wait until morning."

For the first time in months, Harry wakes up with Draco still in bed, his body pliant and warm, curled in Harry's arms. He's making these small, pleased rumbles, his face soft and so very young. The shades are still drawn, but the morning light makes the fabric almost translucent, which casts their bed in a golden hue. Harry can't help rolling his hips, smiling to himself when Draco hums and pushes his arse against him. He looks as beautiful as a prince in a fairy tale, albeit a naughty one. Harry wonders what Draco would look like, waking up with his cock engulfed in the warm, soft suction of Harry's mouth.

Of course, that's the moment when something smashes through the window, causing Harry and Draco to bolt upright in bed. Harry hopes that Pansy's words aren't prophetic when he stares at the M84 stun grenade that's bouncing around on the floor in front of them.

Chapter Text

When Harry had hoped to start the morning off with a bang, this wasn't what he imagined.

Harry casts a Quietus followed by a Silencio, while Draco pulls Harry towards him then casts a Protego and a Repello. The ground shakes as the grenade detonates, the walls rattling as he and Draco stumble about.

"Finite Incantatem," Harry shouts hoarsely once the aftershocks subside. He whirls upon Draco, who's looking towards the window, his eyes wide and a bit dazed.

"Fighting dirty already?" Harry snarls. He shakes his head; even with the muffling spells he can't clear the faint ringing from the Caterwauling Charm in his ears. "Had your goodbye fuck, and then decided to call for backup?"

The confused look on Draco's face is quickly replaced by one of quiet fury. "If I wanted you dead, you would be already. I certainly wouldn't put myself in the line of fire along with you, you absolute tosser!"

An apology lies on the tip of Harry's tongue. It never makes its way out as the shade blows off the bedroom window, followed by the sound of shattering glass and plumes of sand filling the air.

"Fucking Finestra," Harry spits out as similar explosions are heard in the living room. The sand coats his tongue and fills his nose and he scrubs at his face furiously, finding it hard to breathe.

The suffocating sensation eases after Draco casts a Scourgify on them both.

"Thanks," Harry says, taking it as a sign that he hasn't completely bollocksed things with Draco. He casts a Homenum Revelio, then groans. "Fuck. We've got company. Lots of it."

Draco nods, his mouth moving silently as he counts. "There looks to be at least six…no, seven. There's someone by the elm tree in the park." He pauses. "Who also happens to be carrying something that looks very much like an L85A2 assault rifle fitted with thermal viper sights."

"So you don't think it's Sang Pur," Harry says slowly as a chill falls over him.

Draco shrugs, but Harry can see that he's just as disturbed by the revelation. "Anything's possible…it could be a coincidence that these are the very same types of weapons the Ministry has been training their operatives with after the last exercises with the British Muggle military and MACUSA."

Harry thinks furiously. "Do you think they're after you or me?"

Draco raises a disbelieving brow. "Maybe both? Does it really fucking matter, at this point?"

"No, it's just…" He crawls over to the nightstand, opens the drawer and lifts up a secret panel. From there, he pulls out a leather roll containing several spare wands and pulls out two. "Okay. I'm assuming you have backup wands and Muggle firearms as well?"

Draco nods. "In the library." He lurches, knocking into Harry as an explosive grenade bounces off the far wall and lands three feet in front of them. Draco lets out a cry of distress when Harry starts to cast a Protego, looking absolutely wounded. "It's one of Blaise's inventions," Draco explains as he spells Cistem Aperio. "It takes advantage of the fact that most would cast a Protego when encountering an HE grenade, but this is charmed to reverse the spell cast upon it. In this case, we would have been locked into the protective bubble with the grenade alongside us."

"And by the time we realised its action, it would have been too late," Harry concludes, watching as the grenade reverses the opening spell that Draco cast and shudders, keeping the shrapnel inside its tightly clamped walls after it detonates.

"I don't understand…with the thermal imaging, they know that both of us are here. That we were unarmed and in bed." Draco clenches his hands at his sides, his mouth set in a tense line. "They're not looking to capture us. They're looking to kill us," he whispers miserably.

Harry pulls Draco against his chest and brings him for a quick kiss. "We're going to get to the bottom of this," he promises, nuzzling Draco's hair. "But first, we have to make it out of here alive." He motions for Draco to follow him into the en suite, where he climbs into the shower stall and places his hand on a grey tile, fifth row from the bottom and two squares over from the right. It lights up, reading the whorls on his fingertips and his magical signature, then opens with a pneumatic hiss. Harry hesitates, his hand hovering over a long range precision rifle, but ultimately decides he'd be better off with the submachine gun that's well-suited for close quarter combat.

"Come to Daddy," Harry says with a huge grin. He runs his fingers lovingly over the gun's barrel before pocketing a box of gold cartridges.

Draco rolls his eyes. "Play with your toys some other time, Potter. I'd prefer to make it out of here alive." He shakes his head, smiling despite himself. "I can't believe you hid your arsenal in the loo."

"Best room in the house," Harry says with a laugh. He switches the setting of the L91A1 to auto-fire, tightens the strap, then slings it around his shoulder.

"I beg to differ," Draco sniffs. They manage to avoid another explosion as well as a barrage of spells and bullets as they duck behind a pair of swinging doors and the remains of the tufted sofa and dining table. By the time they reach the oak-panelled safety of the library, Harry realises with a wrench in his gut that one of the hexes cast their way was something invented specifically for Phoenix by Hermione.

He's sitting in one of Draco's overpriced club chairs, which now looks like something fit for a rummage sale, his head in his hands, when he hears Draco's pleased intake of breath as one of the panels next to the bookcase clicks, then slides open.

"What…?" Harry jumps out of his seat. "Are you telling me you're keeping an underslung grenade launcher in our own house?" He stares, utterly gobsmacked. "We babysit Teddy in here!"

"Who's your daddy now?" Draco smirks. He bypasses the line of heavy artillery, passes up on the gleaming rifles and machine guns and a fucking portable Starstreak Missile launcher, in favour of a Glock.

"What the fuck, Draco?" Harry asks, indicating all the high-powered firearms at their disposal with a hitch of his shoulder as he stares at the small, shiny pistol.

"It's effective, it's elegant, and unlike some others, I don't subscribe to the mantra of Bigger is Better in order to express my machismo."

"You certainly had no complaints about my machismo last night," Harry grumbles. He's only slightly mollified when Draco comes up to him and palms Harry's cock, grinding down expertly with the heel of his hand.

"Don't worry, Potter," Draco says, his breath hot along Harry's ear. "As my arse can testify, I think your barrel size is absolutely perfect."

Harry feels the familiar tendrils of lust curling in his groin. He knows that his face is probably growing ruddy at the thought, and he groans as his focus is bandied about from his nerves, the adrenaline, and especially the way in which Draco's fingers are now clutching Harry's cock. "God, when we get out of here…" Harry promises, just as the last remaining window in the library disintegrates into a puff of sand. "Next time, we're not getting a place with a wall of windows."

"Deal," Draco says. The word has Harry's heart blooming with hope, because it's a promise of something more than survival and mere co-existence. "Get us out of here alive, and I'll even let you pick the damn sofa."

"A leather sectional," Harry insists, twisting and rolling on the floor as he narrowly avoids being struck by an Exploding Charm. The bookcase behind him shatters, showering the room with parchment and leather. "Black, with a recliner."

"Walnut brown," Draco compromises. He walks over to the Floo, his eyes narrowed in consideration.

Harry grips Draco's elbow and pulls him back. "Wait. It's probably booby-trapped." He takes a planter along with some Floo powder and throws it into the opening. In a fraction of a second the hearth explodes, sending pieces of masonry flying as a vicious, dangerous heat fills the air. Draco pushes Harry to the floor while angry flames roar above them, separated only by Draco's hastily cast Protego.

They stand once the flames die down. "We're going to have to go through the front door," Draco says, chewing on his lower lip so hard that it's bleeding. "Can you create enough of a distraction so I can make it to the garage?"

Harry snorts. "Yes, of course. What's in the garage?" he asks, envisioning a place that's so secure it rivals RAF Menwith Hill.

"Our getaway car."

Harry pauses, his hand inches away from the door handle. "That broken down Fiat," he says flatly.

"It's not broken, and it's only Disillusioned to look like a Fiat. Now, can you get us out of here, or not?" Draco asks with a smug expression.

The garage is small, tiny and dark, but it's located in the rear of the row of houses and, therefore, convenient. It was a distinct selling point in their decision to purchase this particular home, and Harry wonders what other things Draco weighed before signing.

Harry tries to paint an optimistic picture. They are horribly outnumbered, and their only chance of evading the Ministry's highly trained and deadly group of Hit Wizards is through maximising the element of surprise. "I can Disillusion myself and cast a couple of Reducto's before they pinpoint my location," Harry says, unwilling to risk innocent civilians being caught in the crossfire. "The thermal sights won't be of any help to them once I'm out in the open with the rest of their team. But we'll need to do this now, before they can surround us further."

"Wait." Draco darts out of the room. There's a muffled curse, followed by the sound of wood and plaster breaking. When he returns, he's carrying something wrapped inside a cloth napkin.

"There isn't time to pick through our belongings," Harry says crossly.

Draco doesn't answer, only presses the object into Harry's hand.

"Oh," Harry says, stunned as the corners of the napkin unfold to reveal the shrunken photograph hidden inside. His hand trembles as he traces the lines of his parents' faces, the lump in his throat swelling. "Draco… Thank you," he manages to choke out.

The tips of Draco's ears grow pink. "It wouldn't have taken me so long if your Sticking Charm wasn't so damn impossible to reverse—"

Harry hauls Draco against him, smashes his lips to Draco's mouth, and kisses him deeply.

"I love you," he says as he lets Draco go. Draco sputters, and the shocked and ecstatic look on Draco's face is worth every precious, passing second.

"Harry, if this doesn't work—"

"It will." Harry will do everything he can to make sure that it does, or die trying.

They make it to Cardiff in just over two hours.

"It would have been a lot faster, if we weren't being chased and shot at from London to Newbury," Draco grumbles as he parks the car.

Harry pulls back his seat to stare at Draco. "We were in rush hour traffic."

"Other cars were sitting in rush hour traffic. We were travelling at non-rush hour speeds."

"Next time, warn me before you decide to create your own lane between two cars with only inches to spare."

"This, coming from the person who performed a Spiral Dive to record the fastest Snitch catch in Hogwarts history."

Harry grins as he rubs his hand admiringly along the dash. "I can't believe you got the DMLE to give you an Audi e-tron GT. They're not even in production."

Draco smiles. "It's a concept car, thus, it exists. Plus, if Tony Stark can have one…"

Harry rolls his eyes. "This and a Range Rover. Clearly, I've been asking for the wrong things."

Draco unbuckles his seat belt, then leans into Harry's space. "What would you ask for, if you could?" In the light of the late morning sun, his grey eyes are flecked with gold and green.

"Hmmm." Harry swallows, then drags his gaze away from Draco's eyes and plush lips. "Maybe an Aston Martin."

"Nice. Although I always pictured you more as Captain America than Bond. Plus, you'd look sexy with a Harley between your legs." Draco brings his hand up to trace the lines of Harry's brow. "I always thought you were sexy and amazing when you flew."

"Even when we were fighting for the same prize?" Harry croaks.

"Especially then."

"So." Harry takes a deep breath. "What's next? The Audi is way too conspicuous and besides, I'm sure it's outfitted with plenty of Tracking Spells."

Draco nods. "I'm sure of it. Avenseguim happens to be one of Pucey's favourite charms. He tries to have it added to all the Avenger's inventions."

They sit there for a moment in silence, thinking.

"We can't do this alone, Draco," Harry finally says. "We're just running at this point. We need to know why they're targeting both of us and what they're planning next."

"I…" Draco rubs his face with his hands, and when he looks back at Harry, his eyes are pained and weary. "I know you're right. I just don't know who to trust."

"How about Blaise or Pansy?" Harry asks gently.

Draco shakes his head, looking miserable. "They are my dearest friends, but…as much as we've known each other, the years after the war were miserable. They worked their arses off to become respectable. I'm not sure if they could give that up to be on the outside again, even for me. Even if they could, I don't think I could ask it of them."

Harry lets out a long, deep breath. "Okay. Okay…" He hates putting her, Ron, and their unborn child in this position, but Harry also knows she is the only person besides Draco who knows what he is and who he trusts with his life. "I'll call Hermione."

Draco squeezes Harry's hand, but he's unable to hide the relief from his voice completely. "Are you sure?"

Harry thinks about everything he and Hermione have been through together throughout the years, and especially in the Forest of Dean. "Absolutely."

⦾⦾⦾

The vinyl squeaks when Hermione slides into the empty booth seat across from Harry.

"Hi, Harry," she says as she places her hand on his, the weight unassuming and reassuring. She glances around the diner, her eyes growing wide. "Where's Draco? Has he…" She lowers her voice, the pressure in her hand increasing. "Did something happen to him?"

The waiter comes over with their menus. "Good afternoon. May I get you something to drink?" he asks Hermione.

"Oh, thank goodness you’re alive," Hermione says as Harry takes a sip of his own water. "Hullo, Draco."

Draco places the water pitcher he's carrying down on the table, the force of it causing its contents to splash. "Bloody hell. How did you know?"

Hermione opens up her handbag, leaving the mouth open wide enough for Harry and Draco to see the round, compact mirror that sits inside. "It's something I'm working on: a portable Secrecy Sensor specifically made for Concealment Charms, except it's intended for people instead of objects. I haven't quite got the identification elements just right yet, but…" She smiles as Draco slides into the seat next to Harry. "You do manage to spell an exceptional Glamour, but you have a bad habit of twisting your ring."

Draco curses again as Harry laughs. "You have no idea how grateful I am for that habit,” Harry says, his mood sobering as both he and Draco cast a Muffliato around their booth. “Thanks for meeting us, Hermione. I know it wasn't easy for you to get away.”

"The Ministry has been keeping close tabs on everyone involved since this blew open, but I couldn't not see you. It's not right, what they're doing," she says.

"Do you know why we're being targeted?" Draco asks.

"The Ministry is scrambling to cover up their role in Darvaza. Two of the Ministry's best Hit Wizards were assigned to manage the transport of Covault, but in completely opposite ways? It reeks of incompetence."

Harry thinks about the safeguards in place to protect his identity and true purpose. "How did they find out?"

"Because the two of you are incredibly skilled and, apparently, still unable to keep from pulling at each other's pigtails. Traces of your magical signatures were found in the area, plus you'd left a lot of evidence for the Ministry to sift through."

"What kind of evidence?" Draco asks.

"Harry's Omnioculars, for one. The Unspeakables broke down the video frame by frame, focusing on the point where you took off your hat and the Glamour and Disillusionment spells were cast. From there, they used various techniques including high-pass filter sharpening, deconvolution technology, and ISD kernel refinement to capture your physical profile."

"Fuck. I’m sorry," Harry says, wishing he had focused the Omnioculars on recording the conveyance instead.

Draco shrugs. "You did what you were supposed to. I shouldn’t have made it so easy for you."

Hermione sighs. "And what happened with the Range Rover didn't help, either. Not only did it sustain irreversible structural damage, but there was a lot of very expensive, state-of-the-art equipment loaded into the vehicle, equipment that they wanted salvaged. Individual Hit Wizard teams may not have known about each other, but the people who developed the technology used by the Avengers and Phoenix—the Unspeakables, the Department of Defence, and the Department of International Magical Cooperation, to name a few—recognised their work on the Omnioculars and Range Rover right away. The problem is, they now had two instances of highly secret, advanced technology being used—not against our enemies, but against our own employees."

"So it leaves the Ministry with egg on its face. But why are they directing their energies towards Harry and me, instead of addressing the root of the problem?"

"Because it's more than just saving face. Faith in the Ministry is shaky. Kingsley is…Kingsley means well, but his policies are viewed as out of touch, especially given Sang Pur's steady growth in popularity and power. People think he's ineffective, and it doesn't help that there are obviously those within the system who are corrupt. And it's not just public opinion; people within the Ministry are nervous, too. How can anyone feel morally certain of what they’re doing after learning that their co-workers are working against them?"

"So the Ministry is hanging us out to dry. Painting us as two agents gone wrong," Harry says bitterly. "Better to sacrifice us than lower morale."

"I'm so sorry," Hermione says, her lashes wet as she blinks furiously. She reaches into her handbag to pull out a copy of today's Prophet. Harry scans the front page; there’s a picture of him and Draco at last month's fundraiser for the Disaster Relief Fund. It's hardly flattering, as the tension and emotional distance between them is profoundly evident in the lines of their bodies and faces. It's a perfect picture for the headline that screams 'Gone Rogue: Saviour Snaps' and 'Draco Malfoy: Terrorist Turncoat'."

"Ouch," Harry says. "And I thought Skeeter was bad."

"That's terrible," Draco remarks. "The editor should be fired. If anything, it should be 'Turncoat Terrorist'."

Harry snorts as he hands the newspaper back to Hermione. "They've labelled us as having PTSD and 'sociopathic behaviours resulting from dysfunctional family dynamics'. If I had known I could be diagnosed without ever setting foot in a Mind Healer's office, I could’ve saved a lot of Galleons."

"I'm glad the two of you find this funny," Hermione says as she purses her lips, her eyes filled with reproach.

Draco's face falls. "Trust me, Hermione, we don't. We spent the last four hours being attacked in every way possible in our very own home by people we work with…people we socialise with, whose kids we’ve held in our arms. I don't find any of that funny, at all. But what can we do?"

"The one thing we can't do is keep running, Draco," Harry says quietly. "They'll find us, eventually. It's no way to live."

Hermione drums her fingers against the table. "Obviously, it's not my decision to make, but I'm inclined to agree with Harry. And remember, it's not just the Ministry you have to worry about. Now that you’re exposed, Sang Pur will want revenge as well. From the Ministry's point of view, that would solve the problem: both of you out of the picture, quickly."

Harry takes a moment to mull everything over. "So that’s what we'll do, then. We're going to give them what they want."

⦾⦾⦾

The sun actually shines today over the London skyline, not muted by smog or rain, but with an obscene brightness that throws the objects in its path into sharp relief. It's harsh but apropos, in a way. As if even the heavens agree that things need to be exposed.

There's a chill where Harry and Draco stand, hidden behind one of the stone turrets of Tower Bridge. Plenty of tourists are already gathering, strolling along the bascules, many unaware that the car holding Covault and three Ministry bodyguards will be passing by at precisely 9AM. The waters of the Thames which swirl below are a murky grey and much too shallow, but it's not his and Draco's final destination, anyway.

Harry laces up his gloves, pulling on the string with his teeth then tugging to ensure they're snug. He has his broom—not one of the ones that he's received from the DMLE that's outfitted with cutting-edge spell repellants, Anti-Fire Charms, and a bulletproof handle. It's his own, a Firebolt that feels entirely familiar in his hands. Besides, he has no need for such contrivances when he has a posh and wholly unique good luck charm of his own.

"You have your spare?" Draco asks quietly, even though it's unlikely anyone can hear them, as high up as they are.

Harry pats the pocket of his robe where his wand from Phoenix resides. It's now rigged to make quite the splash, if all goes well.

"Four minutes, twenty-three seconds," Draco says. There's a sudden change in his demeanour, with the sharp lines of his face growing even more pointed, the colour of his eyes more flinty, the cords of his forearm muscles becoming more apparent. He looks every bit the predator, and in this case, Harry is glad that he isn't the prey.

Harry knows how important the moments before a hit are, how his nerves often sit on a razor-tipped edge. Still, he can't help but lay his hand on Draco's shoulder, their flying gear preventing them from getting as close as he wants.

"In a way, Covault brought us together. And now, we're here again."

Draco nods, his jaw tense. "It does have an appealing symmetry to it."

"We've got this, Draco. We're the best there is for a reason."

When Draco turns, his eyes have softened back to a warm grey. "I'm the best, Harry. But it's only because I have you."

The wind lashes against Harry's face, stinging his eyes. "I take back what I said the other night," he chokes out. "You're the most charming person I know."

Draco huffs out a laugh, then turns to watch the traffic along Tooley Street as it grows more congested. "Two minutes."

Harry sighs, then lowers his goggles. He's never worked with Draco before, so he supposes it's best that he leaves Draco to gather his thoughts, if that's what works best for Draco. Still, he hoped for a more—well, a more tender goodbye. Not that this is goodbye, but still.

One minute to go.

"Harry?"

Harry startles, nearly mishandling his broom. "Yeah?" he asks. He has to lean in towards Draco as the wind picks up, nearly drowning out Draco's too-soft words.

"When you first saw me, what did you think?" Draco smiles and does a little shimmy, reminiscent of the dance he performed in Darvaza.

"I thought you were the most beautiful person I'd ever met," Harry replies honestly.

"Even under all that Glamour?"

Harry smiles, a tender one he reserves only for Draco. "I was talking about when we were kids."

Thirty seconds.

"Ask me again," Draco says suddenly.

Harry throws a leg over his broom, bouncing twice on his seat to test the stirrups. "What?" he asks, forehead furrowed in confusion. "Ask you what again?"

"If I regret the day you barged into my office, demanding an expedited Apparition License."

Harry laughs, although the sound of it is hoarse. "Okay," he says, blinking back the moisture that threatens to flood his eyes. "Do you regret the day I barged into your office—"

"Not for one bloody moment," Draco says. The corners of his eyes crinkle before he glances in the direction of Hay's Wharf.

"I love you, Mr Potter-Malfoy," Harry says fervently, his heart aching with all he has to give.

"I love you, too, Mr Malfoy-Potter," Draco says, cheeky as ever.

They share a knowing look just as the polymer-bonded explosive that Hermione has rigged detonates in the square next to the water's edge. There's the sound of screeching tires and crunching metal, setting off a series of wailing sirens and frantic cries. The smoke that billows from the wreckage of asphalt and stone looks like something out of the movies, but Harry knows Hermione has done everything possible to limit the collateral damage. It's really a distraction for the true show that follows.

Harry kicks off of the turret with a booted heel, Draco at his side as they enter the fray below.

Chapter Text

Five weeks later

Harry clambers out of the sparkling clear blue waters off the shores of Prioni Beach, shaking out the lingering drops that manage to cling to his shorn hair. He sees Draco watching while wearing a thoughtful, heated look, and takes a little longer than necessary to towel off.

The Mediterranean sun beats hot against Harry's tanned skin, and the water manages to be both clear and an intense green-blue. It's a distinct difference from the frigid waters and sheer cliffs that mark the Scottish border of the North Sea, the dark depths of which were certainly less welcoming when he and Draco plunged into its waters following an exhausting chase along the path of the Thames until it spilled into the open sea. It had taken a week for the divers to retrieve Harry and Draco's wands, although their bodies were never found. A porbeagle shark was seen in the vicinity, and it had taken one week and a day for the Ministry to declare that the chances of survival this far from land were slim to none, thus declaring the pair dead in absentia.

It is a declaration that several people would, in private, be happy to refute vigorously, including the fisherman who waited off the port of Lerwick to retrieve them.

It all feels like a lifetime ago, including the frosty, seemingly insurmountable distance that once existed between him and Draco.

"Draco?" Harry asks as he rummages through his bag to pull on a t-shirt.

Draco grabs hold of the shirt's hem, the brush of his fingers hot against Harry's skin. "Darling, I'll listen to whatever you have to say if you leave that shirt off."

"If I leave it off we'll be late for our meeting with Hermione." Harry laughs as Draco shrugs, not disputing the accusation. They stare out at the coastline; the cliffs look almost bleached-white from the magnitude of the sun, and it's not surprising to think that Icarus could be tempted by its hypnotic promise.

"Wait," Harry says as his eyes widen with a dawning realisation. "Did you choose Ikaria as the place for our safe house because of some myth?"

Draco makes a diving motion with his hand and mimes a splash. "I told you, I like things with an agreeable amount of symmetry. Let's just hope it's not a lesson in hubris as well."

Harry packs up their things as they make their way to their brooms. "According to Hermione, it may be safe to return to England in as little as two months."

“Mmm,” Draco says absently. “Christmas back home. Could be nice.”

Harry thinks about hot cocoa and wet snow and the smell of fresh pine. He remembers coming home last year, too bloodied and exhausted to put much thought into a gift, or to brave the last-minute crowds on Christmas Eve. Disappointed judgment managed to suffuse everything Draco didn’t say when he opened the bottle of red wine that Harry procured from the bodega two streets over, and Harry vows to make it up to him this year. He’s been eyeing the latest Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response rifle in particular.

Harry casts a Drying Charm and ties their bags to the end of his broom, rubbing his hand along the smooth, worn walnut shaft. Although he and Draco had escaped the chase with their lives and a minimal loss, he misses his Firebolt dearly. Still, the brooms which they rented from Mrs Losta down the street are perfect for making lazy, sight-seeing circles and for sun-filled beach days.

Harry likes it, especially since he knows it won't be like this forever.

The buzzer at their front door rings at precisely half past twelve, as scheduled.

Harry finishes peeling the last shrimp then tosses it into a large bowl along with the avocado and lentils. "Let her in already," he calls out to Draco when he doesn’t hear a second set of footsteps in the entranceway. He frowns at the salad, eventually deciding it needs more colour, and adds another quarter cup of pomegranate seeds before picking out some of the shallots. "Lunch will be ready in a second."

"It's…" Harry hears the door slam as Draco mutters something incomprehensible. "There’s a Granger-Weasley at the door. Just…not the right one." Draco makes his way to the kitchen, his expression pained as he's followed by Ron.

"Harry!" Ron's grin seems to take up the entirety of his face as he runs to Harry and envelops him in an enthusiastic hug. When Ron pulls away his face is flushed, his freckles prominent along the curves of his cheeks. "What'd you do to your hair?" he asks, giving Harry's head a scrub. "Malfoy finally convinced you to cut it?"

"It's too hot around here to keep it long," Harry complains.

"Leave Harry alone, Weasley. I alone reserve the right to torture my husband. Besides, I miss it, too." Draco sighs as he walks over to Harry and drags his fingers along the short strands at the back of Harry's neck. "There's not enough left for pulling whenever we—"

Ron presses his hands to his ears. "Stop," he groans. "That's way more information than I need to know."

"Don't encourage him, Ron," Harry warns as a devilish gleam appears in Draco's eyes. He pops off the cap of a Septem pale ale and hands Ron the bottle, partly because his best mate is flushed from the heat and partly to stop him from saying anything that will bait Draco further.

"Cheers." Ron tilts the bottle in Harry's direction, then takes a large swig, sighing in pleasure. "Oh, that's good." He walks over to the kitchen counter, peering at the white bowls that sit on the butcher block filled with their salads. "You made all this?" he asked Harry suspiciously, his eyes darting towards Harry's apron.

Harry makes a face as he looks down at the Kiss the Cook apron. "Been trying out some new things," he says as he drizzles a citrus vinaigrette over the leafy greens.

"Actually, Harry's been on kitchen duty ever since he complained about the fussiness of my cooking," Draco interjects.

Harry looks at Draco, eyes narrowing. "Actually, I complained about it being seven days a week. Once or twice a week wouldn't be bad."

Draco stalks over to Harry. He sidles up, his firm chest pressed against Harry's back as he crooks his chin along the curve of Harry's neck and cages Harry between his arms. "I am more than fair. We played a version of 'rock, paper, scissors' to see who would cook today, and I won."

Harry tries to keep his expression sour, but finds it hard to concentrate when Draco presses forward with his hips. "You charmed the scissors to explode on contact. And then you shrunk the target when it was my turn."

Draco mouths along the line of Harry's neck, the wet path of his tongue causing Harry's skin to grow goose-fleshed and tingly. "Darling, I just tried to make it interesting. After all, I've seen you hit a target with both hands tied behind your back while blindfolded."

"Okay, guys?" Ron waves his arms frantically, finally breaking Harry out of the growing lust-filled haze. "Still here, and again, still too much information. But honestly?" Ron speaks to them both, but Harry knows who Ron's next words are intended for. "I'm thrilled for you. This whole thing…I mean, with Harry cooking, and the two of you looking disgustingly happy while playing house? It's like you did the whole marriage thing in reverse." He lets out a yelp as Draco casts a Revelio Charm.

Draco puts his hands up in apology as Ron rubs his backside. "Sorry. The compliment threw me. Had to make sure you were really you." He slips his wand back into the pocket of his shorts. "Speaking of which, why are you here and not your lovely wife?"

"Hermione's in her thirty-sixth week. Between the travel and the stress and the heat…well, I sort of put my foot down," Ron confesses. When he catches Harry's disbelieving gaze, he rolls his eyes. "Fine, Hermione let me put my foot down. But she did send me with this." He rummages through a messenger bag and pulls out a file. "It contains all the information you need for your next assignment."

Draco arches his brow. "Hermione put all the information in one place?"

"It's supposed to be encrypted with your passwords, and requires a retinal scan and your magical signature to access. It's impossible to open otherwise."

"You tried to, didn't you?" Harry asks, his smile widening as he takes the folder and places it on top of the sideboard.

"I would never!" Ron says in mock horror, matching Harry's grin. "And yeah, it was impossible."

"How are things back home?" Draco asks hesitantly as they sit down to eat. Harry knows it's a loaded question. Their lives are almost too idyllic here in Ikaria, and Harry often catches Draco in the quieter moments, when Draco doesn't know that Harry's watching, fiddling with his ring, as if he's waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Ron spears a forkful of his salad, managing to capture all the ingredients at once. "There are things I'm not privy to," he says around a mouthful of shrimp. "But Hermione's been pushing to declassify information related to your cases. Now that some of the hysteria has died down following your exposure, people are realising that nothing's actually changed. Sang Pur's still in the news, the judicial system hasn't been able to make any notable convictions, and there's been a lot of chatter within the Ministry. 'Oh! What a tangled web we weave', and all that."

"Actually, that quote refers to lying in the context of love. But, point," Draco adds, his hand flying up to catch the wadded napkin Harry throws at him easily.

"Well, maybe whatever's in that folder can help you untangle a bit of it. Hermione seems to think it could be your gateway back to England, as well as allowing the Ministry to save face." Ron goes back to devouring his lunch as if he hasn't just given Harry news that could change his world a thousand times over.

"You look happy, mate," Ron says as he pauses at the door. The smell of wild lavender and saltwater is notable in the air, and the persistently blue skies do little to dispel the notion that it's nearly evening.

"I am." Harry hears in the fondness of Ron's words, sees how content Ron seems to be in his own skin, and it hits Harry suddenly, just how much he misses him. How much their lives have changed, and are still ever-changing.

"Sure you can't stay?" Harry asks

Ron shakes his head. "Another time." He clasps an arm around Harry's shoulders and pulls Harry in, pressing their foreheads together. "I mean it. I never would have thought you and Malfoy would work, but…it kind of makes sense, in a way. You seem settled."

Harry looks at the living room—at the mismatched furniture and the odds and ends he and Draco have collected from their day trips around the island, and the panel that leads to the hidden safe room for their weapons. Their house back in London had so much of Draco's influence, from the furniture down to the flatware, but it was like a façade: definitely not Harry, but not truly Draco, either.

Harry returns Ron's pat on the back. "Give Hermione my love," he says. He refuses to say goodbye, because if all goes well, he'll be able to see them both soon.

"We may have to rethink those Christmas plans," Draco says once Harry rejoins him in the kitchen. He's managed to open Hermione's folder. The documents are in neat piles on the table, and there's a flash drive plugged into the hidden port on his laptop.

Draco turns the screen towards Harry. "Our next mark," he says as Harry lets out a low whistle.

"Shit." Harry plops down in his chair, his heart racing when he sees the grainy image of Sang Pur's ringleader. "Jake Byrne. They found him."

Draco nods as his fingers fly over the keyboard to bring up a separate screen. "He's in Bhutan. Byrne couldn't resist the lure of Taktshang Goemba and all the ancient magic of the surrounding areas. They were able to put a trace on him; apparently, he's made his way to Phuentsholing, where he's been residing for two weeks."

Harry purses his lips as he leans closer to the screen, then taps it to enlarge the image. "Draco…look here. In the lower left hand corner." He points to a map and casts an Engorgio. "There. He's written down some information on Sharada Navaratri and Jaigaon. Byrne may be planning a move that coincides with the celebration. If he's not apprehended soon, he can easily get lost in the crowd."

When Draco smiles, it's hungry and calculating. "Our instructions are to bring him in, dead or alive."

"What are they offering us in return?"

"A private mea culpa. And a public statement that our involvement and deaths were simply fabricated to throw Sang Pur off the trail, while the real Hit Wizards were the ones responsible for Byrne's fate." Draco closes the laptop, his face serious. "They also want us to head the Hit Wizard division upon our return."

Harry barks out a dry laugh. "That's a bit presumptuous on their part."

"It is," Draco agrees as he draws Harry close. But Harry knows, as does Draco, that they'll do it.

Some may think it's about bringing down someone as despicable as Byrne, but it's more than that. There's something about the adrenaline rush of the hunt. It's the ability to match wits, the physical and mental strain required to push another person as much as you push yourself. It's the feel of a gun or wand in your hand, life and death whittled down to a single bullet or spell. It's the come-down that occurs once the intensity and excitement dissipates, and the need to latch onto something normal, if only for a moment so you can get up and do it all over again.

Others might not understand it, but Harry does.

It's his life.

And now, it's his with Draco.

⦾⦾ Fin ⦾⦾