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The Light More Beautiful

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Work with Potter is interesting, to say the least. They’re not hiding their relationship, but Draco’s still trying to not be too obvious about it. He feels that it’s important to separate his work and his private life. To maintain a constant air of professional dignity in the workplace.

Potter apparently doesn’t have the same concerns.

He behaves himself while he and Draco are teaching Tactical Spellwork. But the rest of the time, all bets are off.

He seems to be minding his manners today, at least. By which Draco means that Potter’s maintaining his usual levels of audaciousness and ridiculousness, but he’s keeping his hands to himself while doing so.

“Are you humming ‘Bad Romance’?” Potter asks from where he sits on the corner of Draco’s worktable. Draco’s taken to keeping it cleared off for him, because Potter’s arse will be there whether he likes it or not.

“Fuck off,” Draco says without looking up from his work. “It’s a good song.”

“I know it is,” Potter says. “I just didn’t expect you to know it.”

“Pansy,” Draco says.

Potter tips his head to the side, watching him. “You’re not going to continue? You were just getting to the good part.”

Draco sends him a glare.

“Come on, Malfoy,” Potter says, leaning over to poke him in the ribs. “Keep going.”

“Fuck off,” Draco says again, slapping his hand away. So much for Potter keeping his hands to himself.

“Come on!” Potter slides off the table, grabs him and pulls him into an awkward, shuffling sort of dance that consists mostly of hip-grinding and arse-groping and, to Draco’s horror, he starts belting out lyrics. Draco thinks he’s getting them horribly wrong until it clicks that Potter’s just making them up as he goes along. About the two of them. And well now, that’s just inappropriate.

“Stop it!” Draco says, trying to push Potter off him. It’s a struggle to keep from laughing, but he knows if he does it’ll only egg Potter on. “You’re not even singing the right words.” He doesn’t succeed in dislodging him. Merlin, Potter’s like an octopus. An octopus with a terrible singing voice and no sense of rhythm and a somewhat frightening sense of humour.

Draco finally makes him shut up by sticking his tongue in Potter’s mouth, and mercifully Potter’s more interested in snogging than in continuing his ridiculous made-up lyrics.

“Merlin,” Weasley says from the door. “Clearly I’ve come at a bad time.”

Draco shoves at Potter who still refuses to let go, and Weasley looks far too amused. He leans against the doorframe and does nothing to help Draco.

“You could help me, you know,” he says, trying unsuccessfully to pry Potter’s hand from his arse.

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” he says. “You got yourself into this, mate. You knew what he was like when you took up with him.”

“Some partner you are,” Draco grumbles.

“Hi, Harry,” Weasley says. “Would you mind unhanding Malfoy? Just for a few minutes? I’ve got some case developments I need to go over with him, and then the two of you can get back to whatever kinky sex thing you’re doing in here.”

“We’re not doing any kinky sex things,” Draco protests as Potter lets him go and takes his seat on the worktable again. Potter snickers and Draco scowls at him. “Well, I’m not. Fuck knows what he’s trying to do. I’m trying to work.”

“Right, if that’s what you’re calling it,” Weasley sighs. “I’ll make this fast so you can get back to…” He flaps one hand. “Whatever. I don’t want to know. Look, you know how Pierson went into Campbell & Collins last night?”

Draco tamps down the wave of irritation that rises up in him at that. He and Weasley had spent another two nights watching the shop, gathering information about how its customers behaved. They’d worked out the timing, the password, the secret knock. They’d been prepared for Draco to go in, and when they’d requested permission, they were denied. It seems the papers had finally got wind of Draco’s return. ‘Too risky,’ Robards had said. There was a good chance Draco would be made as an Auror.

So last night Pierson went into the shop in Draco’s place, and what irritated Draco all the more was how bloody good Pierson was at playing his part. With just a change of clothing and a few potions combed through his hair and rubbed into his face and dripped into his eyes, he transformed from a respectable, upstanding Auror to a pathetic potions-addicted wreck. Lank and greasy hair, dark circles beneath red-rimmed eyes. Sallow, sunken skin. He even had the mannerisms down perfectly, nervously rubbing his hands together, hunched shoulders, flinching at every sudden sound. Draco very much disliked Pierson at that moment; he never did like it when someone is better than him at something. Draco is good at playing the haughty pureblood dipping his dainty toes into the dark arts. In just a few minutes, Pierson became the sort of potions addict that most people looked away from and pretended didn’t exist.

“He’s in St Mungo’s,” Weasley says. “Hermione just contacted me. She and Clarke and Elise caught his case.”

“What?” That’s not what Draco expected him to say.

“They’re still working out what exactly happened, but he’s been dosed with Devil’s Kiss. He was caught breaking into Filing early this morning and trying to steal case notes. He won’t say what he was trying to take. They’re getting a Mind Healer involved because Clarke thinks he was Obliviated, and he’s usually not wrong about things like that.”

“If he was dosed while breaking into Campbell & Collins, why haven’t I been notified of a raid being organised? It seems like this is the evidence we were waiting for,” Draco says.

“Can’t,” Weasley sighs. “They sent in a surveillance team to keep an eye on it while we assembled a task force, and the whole place has been cleared out.”

“Wonderful,” Draco grumbles, folding his arms and slumping against his worktable. “So we’re back to the beginning.”

“Yeah, it looks that way,” Weasley says. “Anyhow Robards has started notifying Aurors, and I wanted you to hear about it from me. You know how the rumour mill is around here.”

“Right,” Draco says with a grim frown.

“Don’t worry,” Weasley says, clapping a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “I have a couple other leads we’re looking into. I’ll let you know if anything shakes loose.”

“Thanks,” Draco says as Weasley turns to leave.

“So,” Potter says, hooking his fingers through Draco’s belt loops and pulling him in as soon as the door falls shut. “About those kinky sex things you insist we’re not doing…”

Draco sighs. Briefly contemplates skipping out early for the evening to go home and fuck Potter. But no. Between leaving early to shag Potter earlier this week and the chaos of the impending holidays, he’s starting to fall behind. He really should try to get through a bit more today.

“Half an hour,” he begs. “Keep your hands to yourself and let me work for half an hour and then I’m yours for the rest of the night.”

“One last…” Potter says, kissing him deep and groping his arse until Draco squirms away. “All right. Can I do anything to help?”

Draco ends up giving Potter his magical goggles. This’ll go faster if he doesn’t have to keep taking them on and off. He sets a timer for twenty minutes, well within the window of safety for avoiding a headache, and continues to take apart his Disillusioner, passing each piece to Potter for inspection. He doesn’t bother to give Potter much instruction on what to look for; when delicate spellwork goes bad, it’s usually blatantly obvious.

They work comfortably together, and quickly fall into a rhythm.

“I think this one’s broken,” Potter says holding up a pinion.

Draco takes the goggles from him and slips them over his head to inspect the piece. Sure enough, this is the problem. The spellwork has unravelled, what should be a deep, even blue is fizzling and spitting sparks. Worse, the spell that’s gone bad has tangled in the others. Draco’s going to have to strip it clean and recast everything. He sets it aside with a sigh. He’ll take care of it tomorrow.

He catches a quick look at Potter before he takes off the goggles. The darkness twisting through his magic has started to recede a bit. It’s interesting to see how, in just the few glimpses he’s had, the darkness ebbs and grows with the phases of the moon. He wonders if Potter realises.

Draco doesn’t say anything about it, though. Maybe he’ll mention it around the new moon. But for now he sets his goggles aside and offers Potter his hand.

“Come on,” he says and gives Potter a smirk. “I think you’ve behaved yourself long enough.” He catches Potter’s hand and twines their fingers together. “Let’s go home.”

- - - - -

“Ten laps. Go,” Potter says as they wrap up the day’s lesson.

The trainees take off running, and Potter and Draco head to the locker room to shower off. Draco strips off his sweaty clothes and steps into a shower cubicle, starts up the water and rinses off while Potter starts his own shower in the next cubicle over. Draco bends over a bit, sees Potter’s feet, and smirks.

Potter jumps as Draco slips into the shower with him, slides his arms around him and pulls him close.

“We can’t,” Potter murmurs against Draco’s mouth as Draco kisses him. “There’s no time. MacIntyre never takes more than twelve minutes to finish.”

“Better hurry, then,” Draco says.

He drops to his knees and takes Potter’s cock into his mouth. Potter hasn’t had time to get fully hard yet, and Draco sucks him firmly, loves the feel of him swelling and stiffening against his tongue.

“Oh fuck,” Potter groans, sliding his fingers into Draco’s wet hair and urging him on. “Okay, yes. Hurrying’s not going to be a problem.”

Draco hums in response, sucks harder. He puts to use every trick he’s learned about Potter in the past two weeks they’ve been spent in each other’s beds. Runs the flat of his tongue along the underside while he lets the head rub against the roof of his mouth, listens to Potter gasp above him. Waits until Potter’s moaning reaches a crescendo and pulls off, stroking him with one hand.

“Draco, I’m gonna…”

“I know. Do it,” Draco says.

“Oh my god,” Potter says, blinking water out of his eyes. “You…”

“Come on, do it,” Draco says, holding Potter by the hips, leans in to give the tip of his cock a teasing little lick. Tips his head back and locks eyes with him. “I want you to come on me.”

“Malfoy,” he whines, starts to let his head fall back as Draco keeps stroking him, then forces himself to watch. Harry’s mouth drops open and he gasps as his body tightens and he comes in long white streaks over Draco’s mouth and chin.

Draco works him through his orgasm, then holds eye contact with him as he very deliberately licks his bottom lip. Potter drags him to his feet and pushes him against the cubicle wall, kissing him deep, his come smearing between their mouths, and it’s wonderfully filthy. Merlin, Draco adores this man. He’d like to keep snogging him, but time’s running out. He regretfully pushes Potter back and swipes a wet hand over his face.

Potter eyes the floor. “I’m sorry, I want to blow you, but I’ll regret kneeling if I do.” He turns Draco in his arms, presses up against his back. “How about this,” he says, reaching around to stroke Draco’s cock with one hand.

Draco lets his head loll back onto Potter’s shoulder, and Potter kisses his neck. “I suppose this is tolerable.”

“Just tolerable? You git,” Potter says and nips him. “You’re talking bollocks and you know it. Tell me I’m good.”

“I’ll tell you you’re the Queen of France if that’s what you want to hear, so long as you keep doing that,” Draco says. Potter’s added a little twist to the end of each stroke and it’s driving Draco wild.

“France hasn’t got a queen,” Potter says. His hand goes still. “They haven’t had a queen in a very long time, actually.”

“I can’t be expected to keep track of who’s got what. We’ve got a queen, why shouldn’t they?” He rocks his hips forward, pushing into Potter’s hand. “Why have you stopped?”

“Yeah, no, this is sort of important,” Potter says, removing his hand altogether which is the exact opposite of what Draco wants him to do. “How did you not know France hasn’t got a queen?”

“Other places have queens. Belgium, I think they’ve got one. France and Belgium are sort of close.”

“Oh my god,” Potter says. “You’re not actually telling me you get France and Belgium mixed up, are you? Because I’m really starting to worry now.”

“No, I meant geographically close. And anyhow, they speak French in Belgium too, don’t they?”

“Parts of it. Mostly the southern part, I believe.”

Frankly, Draco doesn’t care. All he cares about is the fact that Potter’s hand is no longer on his cock and he really has no idea how they ended up talking about sodding Belgium when they’re supposed to be having sex. “Can I ask why the fuck we’re talking about governments and geography when you should be giving me an orgasm? I’d like to remind you that we’re on a time limit.”

“Hermione’s right,” Potter says as he begins stroking Draco’s cock again. “Wizarding education is seriously lacking in some areas.”

They barely make it. Draco comes, gives Potter a quick kiss, and has only just slipped back into his own shower cubicle when the door opens and MacIntyre’s heavy footfalls cross the room. In the cubicle next to his, the water shuts off and he hears Potter rubbing his towel over himself to dry off. Draco smiles and begins to soap up.

- - - - -

Platform 9 ¾ feels sweetly nostalgic to Draco. It’s a place he’s always associated with the excitement of going off to school, and the comfort of coming back home, of seeing both friends and parents after long months apart. It’s something that’s remained entirely untarnished by the War.

Harry is bouncing along with all the excitement of a first year off to Hogwarts for the very first time, pushing through the crowds of parents waiting on the platform, his gloved hand linked with Draco’s, tugging him along, pacing back and forth in search of the best place from which to see Teddy when he arrives.

All week, he’s been talking of little else but seeing his godson again, and his excitement is infectious. Draco urges him to step back out of the way. There’s a bench nearby that he thinks he can talk Potter into resting on until the train arrives, but a whistle cuts through the air before he can try.

“It’s here,” Potter says and shoots Draco a smile before he takes him by the hand again and drags him off into the crowd as the Hogwarts Express pulls into the station.

And then the platform descends into cheerful chaos as the students begin to disembark, the shouts and laughter and greetings, all around them families reuniting for the holidays and friends calling out goodbyes and promises to owl. Potter’s up on his tip-toes, craning his neck and trying to look everywhere at once.

“Harry!”

Draco turns to see a boy barrelling toward them full-tilt.

“Teddy!” Potter exclaims, opening his arms just in time for Teddy to slam into him so hard he staggers back a step.

They hold each other tight, and Teddy’s hair turns from bright turquoise to a wildly curling navy blue, almost exactly halfway between what it was and Potter’s. Draco looks him over. He’s not much impressed with the boy’s appearance: strange hair, torn jeans and a worn black coat over a black jumper, scuffed black boots flapping around his ankles with the laces undone, and Merlin this current fashion trend of new clothes that look old is absurd. But Teddy looks beyond happy to see his godfather, and Draco supposes the rest of it doesn’t really matter. Potter takes Teddy by the shoulders and pushes him back, makes a big show of looking him up and down.

“You have grown two inches since September,” he pronounces gravely.

“Have not,” Teddy says, shrugging free of Potter’s grasp.

“Two inches at least,” Potter insists, ruffling Teddy’s hair. “Keep going at this rate and you’ll end up taller than I am. I can’t be shorter than my godson. That’s so not on.”

“S’not like I can help it, you know,” Teddy says again, flattening his hair back down. He seems to notice Draco for the first time. “You’re Draco? My cousin.”

“Once removed, yes,” Draco says, putting out his hand.

Teddy ignores it entirely and flings his arms around Draco.

“Yes, er,” Draco says, giving Teddy’s back an awkward pat. “Hello.”

“Sorry,” Potter says, looking terribly amused. “Should’ve warned you. Teddy’s a hugger.”

“Can’t imagine where he’s learned that,” Draco says dryly as Teddy releases him.

“Are we going now?” he asks. “I don’t want to be late or we won’t get good seats.”

Potter’s arranged for the three of them to attend a Quidditch match today. None of the national teams have a game until January, but two of the local teams are playing this afternoon. According to Potter, Teddy’s about as Quidditch-obsessed as they come. He’s more than happy to watch anyone play.

“We’ll be fine,” Potter assures him. “We’ve got almost an hour. Where’s your trunk? I’ll Shrink it down for you so we don’t have to stop by the house.”

They arrive for the match almost fifty minutes early so they get excellent seats near the top of the stands. Teddy keeps chattering all through the game, never quite stops talking altogether but he does intersperse commentary about the game in between telling Potter all about his classes and his friends and the small everyday adventures that make up life at Hogwarts. Potter nods along, sometimes shares a story of his youth, and occasionally draws Draco into a short analysis of some move one of the players performed over the pitch.

But for the most part Draco simply sits back and watches, and he’s content with that. It’s clear to see how Teddy adores Potter, and that Potter dotes on him in return. They may not be blood relatives, but they’re undoubtedly a family, in some ways more than a family. The pair of them are practically glowing, they’re so thrilled to be together. Draco’s never had that sort of connection with any of his relatives.

After the match, they all Apparate back to Potter’s house.

“Why don’t you take your trunk up to your room,” Potter suggests, restores Teddy’s trunk to full size and casts a Wingardium Leviosa on it so it floats a few feet off the ground.

“Okay,” Teddy says, snags his trunk by one handle and heads for the stairs, taking them at a run as his trunk bobs along behind him.

“And don’t let it bang into the—” A loud thud! echoes from upstairs, and Potter sighs and finishes, “...wall.” He shakes his head. “Every time. He’s probably left a dent in the plaster. He always leaves a dent in the plaster. I’ve no idea why I keep fixing it.”

“That boundless Gryffindor optimism of yours?” Draco suggests.

Potter rolls his eyes. “Yeah, that must be it.” There’s a loud crash from upstairs. “Anyhow, as you can see I’m probably going to have my hands full for the next while. He’s with me until after Christmas when he goes to Andromeda’s.”

Draco’s heart clenches at the thought of four days without Potter. “Right. Well, you know where to find me.” He leans in for a kiss. “Have a good time with Teddy.”

“I wanted to ask…” Potter begins. He suddenly looks nervous. “I know we’ve only been together for a few weeks. But I was hoping maybe, if you didn’t have other plans, well. I’ve talked to Molly and Arthur and they’ve extended an invitation for you to spend Christmas with us at the Burrow.”

“Weasley’s parents have invited me over for Christmas?” Draco repeats.

“Well, yeah. I mean, you’re important to me. And I’m important to them. And I just thought it’d be nice if all the important people in my life were together for Christmas.”

Draco frowns at him. “Is this a werewolf pack thing?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Potter says. “More of a… Well, I don’t have much family so it’s really important to me—Not that I think you’re family yet, we’ve only just started dating and oh god I said ‘yet’ like I think it’s just a matter of time. Not that I don’t think it’s a matter of time because it’s too soon to think anything about that, isn’t it, and I’m saying this terribly. I’m sorry, I should have rehearsed this. It’s just that it’s Christmas, you know? And I’d like you to spend it with me.”

Draco smiles, partly because he’s always enjoyed Potter flustered and off-balance no matter the occasion and partly because his heart is soaring at Potter telling Draco he’s important to him. “I’ll be there,” he says. “Owl me the time when you get a chance. And if I should bring anything.”

He’s nervous about it already, but he’d brave a thousand Weasley family Christmases to make Potter smile like that. He pulls Draco in for another kiss which starts out as a brief kiss goodbye and somehow turns into a slow snog, complete with Potter’s wandering hands.

“Oh, gross!”

Draco jumps back, but Harry laughs and pulls him back in for another quick peck before he turns back to face Teddy.

“Another few years and you won’t think kissing’s so bad anymore,” Potter tells him, and Teddy rolls his eyes.

“I’m never going to think you kissing anyone is not gross,” Teddy tells him. He glances at Draco. “No offence.”

Draco remembers being horrified around that age when his parents kissed each other. “None taken.”

Potter gets that grin on his face that means he’s about to be sort of an arse, then catches Teddy in a loose headlock and gives him a loud smacking kiss to the top of his head while Teddy sputters with all the indignity a preteen boy can muster, which to be fair is quite a lot, and squirms away.

“Ugh,” he says, and turns his hair sickly green. “You’re awful and I can’t believe we’re related.” He watches Potter suspiciously, like he’s expecting to be grabbed again and forced to bear the ignominy of a second kiss. “When’s dinner? I’m starving.”

“Don’t be so dramatic, I’d never let you starve,” Potter says, turning for the kitchen. Tosses over his shoulder, “I’ll owl you later, Draco.”

Draco steps through the Floo to the sound of Potter and Teddy debating what sort of pasta they should make for dinner. Draco sighs, looks around his flat, and misses Potter already. He anticipates four long and lonely days until they can spend time together again. Even the next twelve hours feels unbearable; he's grown used to sharing a bed with Potter every night.

But on the bright side, at least he’s got something to do now. He’ll probably spend every minute of every day until Christmas worrying about spending it with the Weasleys. Ginny and Weasley won’t be a problem. And Hermione’s all right. Potter, of course. And Teddy too.

The rest of them, though, he’s not so sure about. And there are a lot of them.

He sighs again. Oh yes. This’ll be fun.

- - - - -

Draco gathers up his things and goes over them to make sure he has them all. Potter assured him that he shouldn’t feel obligated to bring gifts for everyone, but he’s picked out a nice bottle of wine for Molly and Arthur, wrapped an old and rare book written by Ada Bridgerton who helped to found St Mungo’s for Granger, and he’s made a second pair of his magic-detecting goggles for George. They’re not anywhere near as sensitive as his are, but most of the Wheezes George develops aren’t anywhere near as complex as Draco’s inventions. He’s wrapped a book on Quidditch strategy for Teddy, since he’d mentioned hoping to try out for the Hufflepuff team next year. And for Weasley, he’s located the wizarding chess set he used back at Hogwarts, where the pieces are dragons instead of men. That should put an end to Potter’s cheating; dragons don’t use weaponry. Draco hasn’t mentioned that last one to Potter. He’s sort of curious to see how long it’ll take him to figure out a way around that.

He feels a bit odd that his gifts are things he either dug up from the Manor or made himself, but the Weasleys strike him as a bunch who put more emphasis on thoughtfulness rather than the amount of money he’s spent. It’s not how Draco’s ever approached gift-giving in his life, so it feels a bit odd.

To balance that out, Pansy got a small bottle of hellishly expensive perfume and he sent along a colourful silk scarf for Luna. Lucy’s still sulking in her alcove from being forced to make the delivery for him.

Draco double-checks the gifts he’s packed into a bag. At the last minute, the removes the gift he’s wrapped for Potter and sets it aside. He thinks he’d like to give it to him privately.

He takes a deep breath, tosses a handful of powder into the Floo, and calls out, “The Burrow!”

And steps out into cheerful pandemonium. He’s still got one foot in the Floo when he’s nearly bowled over by a small girl with red curls who’s in hot pursuit of another ginger girl. They’re both shrieking and being chased by a man with red hair and wire-rimmed glasses who looks vaguely familiar, one of the Weasley siblings, obviously, and one that probably attended Hogwarts at the same time as Draco, but he has no idea who he is, and Merlin, Draco’s going to have to use their given names to keep them all straight, isn’t he?

“Hi, Malfoy, Harry’s in the kitchen!” the man throws over his shoulder.

That would be useful to know, except Draco has no idea where the kitchen is, and everything is loud and he has no idea how he’s supposed to fit into this. He entertains the comforting fantasy of going back through the Floo and retreating to the quiet sanctity of his flat. The only thing that stops him is that sometimes it takes two or three tries to pronounce his vowel-less Floo address.

To his immense relief, Granger comes up to him with a knowing smile. “I know, it’s a bit overwhelming at first, isn’t it?

“A bit?”

She laughs. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”

She takes him by the elbow and leads him to deposit his gifts beneath the massive Christmas tree. Then takes him around introduces him to everyone. They go into the kitchen last where Molly is directing Bill, Weasley (whom Draco will never think of as ‘Ron’), Audrey, and Harry, who lights up when he sees Draco.

“Hey!” he says, leaning in for a quick kiss. “Merry Christmas!”

Draco takes in his appearance. He’s wearing a green wool jumper with a large yellow H stitched onto the front, with a frilly blue apron over that, and mismatched potholders—one blue and white striped and one yellow with pink polka dots—over his hands.

“Merry Christmas,” he says, smiling. “I like the new look.”

“I’ve been pressed into service,” Potter says, glancing at Molly.

“Don’t listen to him,” Molly calls from where she’s mixing a big batch of punch. “He volunteered to help. And hello, we’re glad you could come.”

“Thank you. I, ah, I brought you this,” Draco says, offering the bottle of wine.

“Thank you, Draco, just set it on the counter over there. Harry, that roast needs to come out of the oven now.”

She seems more than a little harried, and Draco can’t blame her with the massive dinner she’s preparing. He leaves the bottle where he’s told and escapes into the living room, lets Granger lead him over to an unoccupied sofa and sits down with her. There’s a stack of books on the coffee table. Draco scans the titles. Touch Me Fall: 101 Common Love Curses and Make Whole the Ruined: A Healer’s Comprehensive Guide to Undoing the Consequences of Love Potions Gone Wrong and Of Your Broken Little Hearts: The Lingering Effects of Reversing Love Spells. He doesn’t have to guess that she’s still deeply involved in the same case he is.

“Are you making much progress?” he can’t help but ask, gesturing to the books.

Granger reaches over and picks up the top book from the stack, flips it open.

“No,” Weasley interrupts, leaning over the back of the sofa to pluck the book out of his wife’s hands, and Draco looks behind him to see that he and Harry have been released from kitchen duty. Potter gives Draco a fond smile and reaches down to give the back of his neck a brief rub. “No, no, no,” Weasley goes on. “It’s Christmas. No talking about work.”

Granger glances between them, then says to Draco, “It’s rather complicated. It might take a while to explain.”

Draco casts a look over the rest of the house, full of red hair and boisterous cheer and entirely too many small children for Draco to feel at ease. “I’m very interested,” he insists, and is pleased to hear that he only sounds the slightest bit desperate.

“Well, we’ve made some progress with—”

“Hermione,” Ron whines.

“Hush, Ron,” she says, taking her book away from him and waving him off. “I’m making polite conversation with a guest.”

“Come on,” Potter says, linking his arm through Weasley’s. “I’ll let you trounce me at chess. That always makes you feel better.”

Hermione glances after them as Potter pulls Ron across the room. “He’s got a new stash of charmed swords, doesn’t he?”

“I’m afraid so,” Draco says. They’d gone out with Pansy earlier in the week and Potter had fed Draco a rather large number of martinis just to get the little plastic swords that came skewered through the olives. Draco had ended up far drunker than he’d intended to, but didn’t mind so much because then they’d gone home and Potter had thanked his ‘commitment to the cause’ with a truly glorious amount of sloppy drunken sex.

She nods. “I thought as much. He always gets that look in his eyes when he’s about to cheat.”

Draco thinks of Weasley’s gift, sitting wrapped beneath the Christmas tree. “Let him get one last time in.”

Granger eyes him speculatively. “Have you figured out a way to make him stop?”

“Not quite,” he admits. “Rather, a way to prevent him from doing it. Unless he gets extremely creative. Which honestly I wouldn’t put past him, but at least Weasley should get a few games in without worrying about Potter cheating. You’ll see. Now tell me about the latest cases of Devil’s Kiss you’ve had.”

“As of yesterday, the formula’s changed again,” Granger says. Her voice gets brisk as she switches into business mode. “Less side effects, harder to detect, and harder to reverse. We were lucky enough to get our hands on a sample of it shortly after they appear to have made the change, but it’s still being analysed.” She shakes her head. “It’s nearly impossible to get, but right after they make a change it seems that whoever’s making it gets a bit careless. We get a new handful of victims brought in to St Mungo’s, and a dose or two of it usually ends up in Auror hands.” She gives a little laugh. “Sorry, I know you know all of this already.”

“That’s one thing that doesn’t make sense about this case,” Draco muses. “With other illegal potions, the point of making them is to sell them to desperate people for absurdly high prices, right? The whole point of doing it is to turn a profit.”

“And it’s hard to turn a profit if they’re largely unavailable,” Granger agrees, nodding. She tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Clarke and I were discussing the same thing at work the other day. Elise thinks its because the potion is so powerful the developer is being exclusive about handing it out, but I don’t agree.”

“I don’t either,” Draco says. “This isn’t the work of someone with any sort of conscience.”

Granger grimaces. “That’s certainly true.” Her brows draw together and her frown turns contemplative. “We ought to organise a meeting,” she says. “Get the Aurors and the Healers who’ve been involved with it to sit down together and go over everything they’ve got so far. Something, some detail we’ve missed might be brought to light. So far it’s mostly been me and Ron passing information back and forth, but I think getting everyone together at once might prove useful.”

Draco nods in agreement. “Talk to your superiors, I’ll clear it with mine, and we’ll get something worked out.”

They talk for a bit more, and Granger goes into more detail about the ways they’re trying to reverse the effects of Devil’s Kiss until she’s forced to intervene when Hugo attempts to scale the Christmas tree. He sits alone for a few minutes and feels awkward until a voice shrieks his name.

Draco turns just in time for Teddy to fling himself at Draco. He’s wearing a ridiculous orange jumper with a big turquoise T on the front, and his hair is festively red and green.

“Hello, Teddy,” he says, patting him on the back. “Have you had a nice time with Potter?”

Teddy launches into an excited recitation of all the things he’s been up to with Potter, and a few minutes later his grandmother comes to find him. Draco recognises her immediately, though he’s never met her before.

“Oh,” he says, standing up and offering her his hand. “Aunt Andromeda. Teddy and Potter have both told me so much about you, I’m so glad to finally meet you.”

Things are a bit awkward with her. There’s a lot of bad history between Andromeda and Narcissa that was never mended after the War, and it becomes clear within the first few minutes that she’s only making an effort for her grandson’s sake. By the end of their short conversation, Draco hasn’t won her over entirely, but he thinks he’s begun to show her that he’s grown into more than the child his parents raised.

After she leaves to greet the other people here, Draco sits alone for a few minutes before he notices Percy is also sitting alone, and goes to strike up a conversation with him. He, like Draco, seems most comfortable on the outskirts of the ruckus (when he’s not chasing his small daughters) and together they commandeer large glasses of Molly’s punch and a quiet corner, and settle into a long conversation about the latest goings on at the Ministry. They’re in the middle of a lively debate about the validity of the rumours going around about Kingsley Shacklebolt running for Minister when Molly calls them in to dinner.

Draco ends up seated between Potter and George. Teddy is on Potter’s other side, and he’s so excited for his first Christmas at the adult’s table that he scarcely stops talking. Potter listens indulgently, so Draco spends most of the meal talking to George and Angelina about their shop.

After dinner, everyone pitches in to clean up. The kitchen is crowded, everyone talking and laughing as they trip over each other and fall into their tasks of clearing the table and washing and drying and putting away. Draco lingers awkwardly on the outskirts of the action, until Arthur invites him into the living room where Percy and Audrey are already at work, sorting through the presents piled beneath the tree, getting them organised and ready to hand out.

When the kitchen is clean and dessert is in the oven, everyone troops back into the living room and sits down, and with great ceremony and excitement, Arthur begins to pass out gifts.

Draco had worried over his own gifts, but they go over well. Granger and George and Teddy are appreciative of their gifts, but Weasley is thrilled when he unwraps his new chess set, stands up right where he is and brandishes it at Potter.

“No swords!” he exclaims, shaking the box. One of the pieces inside gives a small roar. “No swords ever again!”

Draco receives an assortment of Wheezes from George and Angelina (for inspiration, George tells him) and a beautiful leather journal and cut glass ink bottle from Granger and Weasley.

Potter gives him a leather motorcycle jacket with the explanation, “You’re always staring at mine.” And Draco’s not certain whether Potter thinks he just likes the jacket or if he’s figured out it’s the jacket on Potter specifically that he likes, at least until Potter leans over and whispers to him, “I thought it’s time you returned the favour and gave me something to look at.” He gives Draco a wink.

The last round of gifts turns out to be a bunch of coloured jumpers with big letters on the front. Potter’s is a deep plum with the H done in royal blue. He beams like a child, gives Molly a hug, and immediately begins to take off the jumper he’s wearing to put on his new one.

“This one’s for you,” Molly says with a tight smile, handing Draco a squashy package wrapped in red and green striped paper. His surprise must show, because her smile grows a bit less tense and she adds, “You’re a guest in my home on Christmas, what sort of hostess would I be if I let you leave empty-handed?”

“Thank you,” he manages, feeling entirely wrong-footed. Everyone’s watching him now as he tears off the shiny paper to find a scarf knitted in soft slate-blue wool. His fingers stroke over the neat rows of stitches. “Thank you,” he says again. “It’s lovely.”

“Come on, Malfoy,” Potter says, still wrestling his arm through the sleeve of his jumper. His hair is rumpled and his glasses are askew. “Try it on!”

Draco gamely wraps the scarf around his neck, and Molly’s smile shifts to something small but genuine. “Just as I thought. That’s your colour, dear, it brings out your eyes.”

“Now you can finally give mine back,” Potter says, poking Draco in the ribs. “You still have it, you know.”

Draco is well aware. He kept it deliberately, and sort of wonders what Potter would say if he knew that Draco smells it sometimes. He feels a bit creepy when he does it, but Potter smells really good and Draco’s already admitted to himself that he’s rather hopeless where Potter’s concerned. “I know exactly where it is. Remind me later.”

“Sure,” Potter says. He leans against Draco and grins at him.

He looks so happy right now, surrounded by so many people who love him. And Draco can’t help but feel honoured to number among them.

- - - - -

The Weasleys are lovely. They’re also loud and excitable, and the house is too crowded and too warm and too lively, and Draco’s anxiety rises by inches until he needs to get out now. Christmas at the Manor was always a formal affair with just his parents, and in New York he’d usually volunteer to work so he didn’t have to spend it alone. No one seems to be paying him much attention, so he takes his new scarf, casts a few strong Warming Charms around himself, and slips out onto the back porch for a few moments of silence and fresh air.

Of course Potter comes after him. He pauses in the doorway to cast his own Warming Charms, then crosses the porch to where Draco’s leaned against the far railing. A thin layer of snow coats the wooden boards, and it scrunches beneath his shoes as he walks.

“There you are,” he says.

Draco gives him a tired smile. “Here I am,” he says. He turns back around, rests his forearms on the railing. The night is clear and cold, the stars a bright sprinkling of light overhead with the moon shining above.

Potter comes up beside him, follows Draco’s line of sight, then looks away over the dark garden.

“Are you okay?” he asks after a few moments.

“Yeah,” Draco sighs. “It just feels like a bit too much. I needed some air.”

“Understandable,” Potter says. He shifts closer until his arm presses against Draco’s.

Draco leans against him and sighs, the small puff of steam from his breath dissipating quickly . “And… This is your family. I don’t quite feel like I belong.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Potter. “You belong here because I want you here. Everyone else wants you here because you make me happy.”

“I know, I know that. Everyone’s been so welcoming and I suppose that’s why there’s a part of me that’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like with Molly. I just don’t understand why she’d knit me a scarf,” he says quietly, toying with the fringe. “She clearly doesn’t like me.”

“She doesn’t know you,” Potter says. “All she knows of you is your parents, and they didn’t exactly get on with her and Arthur. But she knows I wouldn’t be dating you if you were like that. And Ron’s been talking you up to her, too.”

Draco slants him a look. “Why on earth would he do that?”

Potter shrugs and doesn’t look at Draco. His cheeks have gone a bit pink, but Draco can’t tell if he’s blushing or if it’s from the cold. “He claims it’s because you do such good work. Personally, I think he was trying to smooth the way for this. He figured out I wanted you before I did, you know. I mean, I knew I wanted to fuck you, but he figured out that I could have more than that with you. And he knows it’s important to me that his family accept anyone I’m with, so…” He shrugs again. “And, well, knitting things is sort of a point of pride with Molly.” He glances over his shoulder, aims a fond look at the warm light spilling from the kitchen window. “Keep it up and you’ll probably get a jumper next year.”

The idea that Potter wants Draco to be here next year as well explodes through his belly in a dull burst of warmth. “I think I’d like that.”

Potter holds out his hand. “Come on, it’s cold as fuck out here. Let’s go back in.”

He stays right by Draco’s side for the rest of the evening, and before too long the parents are bundling their small ones off to home and bed. Potter lingers, squeezing in as much time with Teddy as he can get before he follows Andromeda through the Floo.

“I thought we’d go back to mine tonight,” Draco says as Potter takes up a handful of Floo powder.

“Oh? Any particular reason?” he asks. “Not that I mind, I’m just curious.”

Draco likes his flat well enough, but he’s only just moved in there and it doesn’t quite feel like home yet. Potter’s house, on the other hand, feels warm and lived-in. The strange collisions of decor have grown on Draco simply because all of it suits Potter so well. It makes Draco feel closer to him, and so they always end up there when they spend the night together.

“I’ve left your present there,” he says.

“Oh, I see,” Potter says, his smile turning wicked. “And does this present involve you being without clothes?”

Draco smirks at him. “In a sense, yes.” He starts for the Floo, then turns back to Potter. This is going to take a bit of explaining. “Drrcg Mlhlfry,” Draco says, and Potter blinks at him.

“What?”

Draco repeats it, slower this time. “That’s my Floo address.”

Potter attempts to say it, and mangles it horribly.

“It helps if you sort of cough while you say Drrcg,” Draco offers.

Potter tries it again and doesn’t get much better. He sighs and frowns at the Floo. “Well, okay. This’ll be fun.”

Ever the Gryffindor, Draco thinks fondly.

"I'll go first," Draco says. He takes up a handful of Floo powder and flings it in, and steps out into his entryway.

There’s a long pause during which his Floo remains cold and dark, and then there’s the crack of Apparition from out in the hallway, followed by a knock on his door. Draco opens it up to find Potter.

“Give up?” he teases as Potter comes inside.

“No, I did not give up,” Potter huffs. “I ended up in bloody Cardiff, is what I did. Said the hell with it at that point and just Apparated. It took me a few jumps to get here.”

“Ah,” Draco says. “Well, perhaps I can make you feel better.”

“Is it sex? Sex always makes me feel better,” Potter says, trailing after Draco and into the living room.

“Sex later. This first. Here,” Draco says, offering Potter a small package wrapped in silver paper dotted with little blue stars.

Potter grins and shreds the paper in his eagerness to get it unwrapped. But his smile turns a bit confused when he discovers that he’s been given his own scarf.

“Not that I don’t appreciate you returning it,” he says. “But this was already mine.”

Draco says nothing, but he pulls out his magic-detecting goggles and gives them to Potter.

He still seems a bit baffled as he slips them on, then gasps, running his fingers reverently over soft orange wool. “What have you done to it?”

“Warming Charms that automatically switch off once you’re indoors. Water-Repelling Charms. Sticking Charms, so it never slips once you put it on,” Draco lists. “And you know how when you pull it up over your nose and breathe through it when it’s really cold, but then it starts to smell a bit odd? There’s a charm to warm and freshen the air that comes through it. I’ve also added a rather neat little charm that activates if you ever forget it somewhere—” And then he can’t keep talking because Potter yanks off the goggles and kisses him. “But there’s more.”

“Tell me later,” Potter says, nibbling at Draco’s lower lip. “You can tell me everything later.”

“If you insist,” Draco says as Potter mouths his way down Draco’s neck. “I take it you like your gift?”

“It’s brilliant,” he says, one hand wandering down to Draco’s trousers. “I now own the most brilliant scarf in the world.”

“Keep doing that and we won’t make it to the bedroom,” Draco warns as Potter’s hand rubs firmly over his cock.

And they don’t.

But it’s all right. Draco’s sofa is wide and comfortable, and the room is quite cosy with a fire roaring in the fireplace. And he’s finally got Potter back in his arms, right where he belongs.

- - - - -

New Year’s has always been Draco’s favourite holiday. Pansy used to tease him about it when he was younger and all their other classmates liked holidays that centered around gift-giving or sweets. New Year’s had neither of those.

But Draco’s always liked it because of the clean-slate feel that came along with it. It’s always felt a little like going to King’s Cross, both the sweet nostalgia of coming home after another finished year at Hogwarts and the giddy excitement of reuniting with his friends and going off again for a new year in September. Of letting go of the past and starting over fresh. He’s eager to share that with Potter.

The full moon falls on New Year’s Eve, he knows. Recently he’s been paying closer attention to the phases of the moon than he has since the last time he took a course in astronomy. And now that he’s looking for the signs, he can see how Potter’s affected. He pushes himself harder in class. His appetite increases. His limp grows less pronounced. For the past two days, he’s been nearly insatiable in bed.

But it’s not all good. He fidgets almost constantly. Paces back and forth like a caged animal whenever he’s indoors. And when Potter was describing the symptoms of his lycanthropy, he completely neglected to mention the mood swings. The smallest things seem to irritate him, but his annoyance is transient because the smallest things also seem to delight him.

“Peterson,” Potter announces as he comes banging into Draco’s lab on Thursday afternoon.

Draco looks up to see the familiar glow of Potter’s magic, the bright yellow-gold shining steadily, but the threads of darkness are at the height of their power, thick and deep and inky black, curled throughout his body. Draco pushes the goggles up his forehead and blinks his eyes a few times.

Potter scowls. “He’s such an arse, I couldn’t even deal with it today. He was making fun of Stalton’s duelling again so I sent him the fuck home.”

The look on Potter’s face tells Draco it probably wasn’t quite that simple. He also wonders what Potter’s done with the rest of his class but thinks it best to move along to safer topics. “I got you something.”

Potter brightens immediately. “Really? What?”

“Over there,” Draco says, gesturing to the tiny wooden crate on his desk. A dozen clementines nestle inside, each one wrapped in crisp white tissue paper. He knows Potter buys his from a Muggle store, Draco’s seen them on his kitchen counter, sometimes in a blue cardboard box, sometimes in a bag of orange plastic netting. But Draco went to Diagon for these, just because he thinks there’s a certain satisfaction in unwrapping the paper from each one.

“Oh,” Potter exclaims, taking one out and unwrapping it in a soft rustle of tissue paper. He grins at Draco. “I just ate my last ones this morning.” He balls up the tissue paper and tosses it into the bin, then turns the clementine over in his hands but doesn’t peel it. “What’re you working on?” he asks, coming up beside Draco to peek over his shoulder.

“Just a pet project I’ve had for a while and haven’t been able to get working properly,” he says, gesturing to the stack of coloured folders. “What happened with Pierson attempting to steal files made me think that we need better security.”

“How do you mean?” Potter asks.

“Here,” Draco says, sliding a folder over to Potter. “Open that.”

Potter gives him a suspicious look, but picks up the folder and flips it open. It bursts into confetti in his hands. “Clever,” he says. “But not terribly useful. I’ve just destroyed whatever was in here.”

“That’s the bit I haven’t got working yet,” Draco says. “When it’s working properly, there’s a Vanishing Charm that will activate on the contents, bringing them safely back to a designated shelf down in Filing. But yes, for now it just destroys the whole thing.”

“But surprisingly useful if you want to throw a party,” Potter says, shaking orange and white bits of paper from his hair and dusting them from his shoulders.

“I’ll keep that in mind if this whole Auror thing falls through for me,” Draco says dryly, taking the next folder off the top of the stack and spreading it over the table in front of him. He begins to cast, periodically pulling his goggles down over his eyes to inspect his progress.

Potter sits quietly and watches him for approximately four seconds before he gets bored, heaves a sigh, and begins to toss the clementine up in the air and catch it, over and over and over. Draco does his best to ignore him, but he really is trying to concentrate and Potter wears his patience thin. He slaps his wand down onto the table and snags the clementine out of the air a second before it would have dropped neatly into Potter’s waiting hands.

“Do you need to go home?” he asks, and Potter shakes his head and sighs.

“Pans is having her annual New Year’s party tonight,” Potter says, taking the clementine back from Draco and digging his thumbnail in near the stem. He peels off a strip of orange rind and drops it into the bin.

“Are you going?” Draco asks. Pansy had mentioned it to him, but this is the first time Potter has.

Potter shakes his head again. “Full moon,” he says bitterly. “I’ll be in no shape for polite company. Or whatever sort will be at any party that girl plans to throw.”

“Oh,” says Draco, then sidles up to Potter with a slow smirk, nudges his knees apart and presses up between his thighs. “Well. I’m rarely polite, you know.”

“I’m well aware,” Potter says with a smile. “I’m rather fond of that, actually.” He sets his partially-peeled clementine aside and puts his arms around Draco. “Are you still trying to get your work done, or do you think I might talk you into leaving early today?”

“I suppose I could be convinced,” Draco says, then asks, “What about the rest of your class?”

“I sent them home too,” Potter says. “Just, er, with less yelling than Peterson. God I can’t wait to be done with him.” He pushes Draco back so he’s got space to slide off the table. “Ready?”

Draco smiles and takes his hand.

- - - - -

They make a date of it. By the time they leave the Ministry, Potter’s too anxious to be in public, so they order takeaway Thai and Draco goes out to pick it up. They eat right out of the boxes, curled up together on Potter’s sofa. Draco’s favourite New Year’s tradition has always been to get completely sozzled on champagne and play Exploding Snap with whatever friends he could talk into joining him, but Potter says he prefers to avoid alcohol during the full moon, and Draco doesn’t want to get drunk alone.

So instead they listen to the wireless for a bit, curled together under a thick knitted blanket. Potter’s combing his fingers through Draco’s hair and it’s making him sleepy.

“I need you,” Potter says out of nowhere.

His voice has an edge to it that Draco hasn’t heard before. Something helpless and desperate. He shakes off his drowsiness immediately. Potter’s eyes are fixed on him, intense and predatory. Draco suppresses a shiver as an intoxicating mix of arousal and nerves courses through him. He wonders if Potter can smell it.

“Shall we go to bed?” he asks casually, standing. He turns the wireless off with a flick of his wand.

Potter nods, and they go upstairs. Draco starts to undress but Potter stops him. “I need to talk to you first,” he says, and waits for Draco to nod before he goes on. “Do you remember the first time we had sex in my kitchen? How you asked me how my lycanthropy affected me? And I’d mentioned other physiological changes?”

“Yes?” Draco says.

“Well… there’s one thing I’d sort of brushed over. I’ve never… Er, truthfully it’s a bit embarrassing and I thought I’d just never bring it up, but seeing you, and you being here tonight, I really really want…” He takes a deep breath, looks Draco in the eye. “I’d like to knot you.”

“Oh,” Draco says, imagining it. Potter stretching him wide, of them being locked together after. “All right.”

Potter kisses him, hard and hungry, and Draco melts into it. Lets himself go limp and pliant, lets Potter take control. They’re both fully hard by the time they get undressed and on the bed. Potter stretches out on his back and Draco begins to straddle his hips, but at the last moment he turns so he’s facing away from Potter.

“Thought you might like to watch,” he tosses over his shoulder as he gropes behind himself for Potter’s cock. “You should have a particularly nice view from back there.”

Draco sinks down slow, listens to Potter gasp behind him. His hands curl around Draco’s hips, smooth over his bum, slide up to curl around his hips again. Draco braces his hands on his knees and leans forward to give Potter an even better view of his cock sliding into Draco’s arse as Draco rocks his hips, working him in long, slow thrusts.

He rather wishes he could see it too, but instead he watches Potter’s toes flex and curl like that day in the showers. He must do this all the time, Draco realises. He wonders if Potter’s even aware of it. He watches Potter’s toes as he wanks himself.

“Wait,” Potter says. “Wait a minute, I need to touch you.” He struggles to sit up, puts his arms around Draco and holds him close. “You were right. The view was great, but you’re too far away from me like that.”

“You’ve got your cock up my arse, I’m not sure I can really be far away,” Draco points out, but Potter’s stroking him, urging him to move again.

Their rhythm picks up, and Draco can feel Potter’s knot when it begins to form, swelling inside him, stretching him wide at the end of every stroke until it grows large enough to keep him in place.

“Oh,” he gasps, grinding himself down on Potter’s lap. “Yes, yes.”

Potter nips at the back of Draco’s neck, then again, harder. Draco moans and lets his head loll forward. Potter bites him and doesn’t let go, tightens the arm he has wrapped around Draco’s middle, speeds up stroking Draco’s cock. His knot is stretching Draco to the point where he feels wonderfully, intensely full as it locks them together. Draco rolls his hips, the thrusts shallow but the friction is amazing. He speeds up his motions, keeping up with the rhythm Potter’s set with wanking him in firm, strong strokes. He can feel himself getting close.

Potter’s bite tightens to the point of pain, and Draco cries out and comes hard, and the sharp pain of Potter’s teeth breaking skin gets lost in the blur of pleasure. He barely notices Potter coming too.

Afterward, his neck aches, and his hand comes away bloody when he wipes at it. He ought to be upset, he thinks, but really he just feels tired. It takes a bit of adjusting, but they’re able to able to lie down with Draco on his side with Potter curled up behind him.

“I’m sorry,” Potter mumbles into Draco’s shoulder. “I, er, I think I mated you.”

Draco snuggles back against him. “Mmm, if that’s what you’re calling it these days…”

“No, I mean mated. Like, sort-of-bonded.” Draco tries to sit up, forgetting that he and Potter are still knotted together. He doesn’t get very far, and has to settle for twisting his back to try and get a look at him. “It won’t affect you,” Potter quickly reassures him. “Just me. And, er, not even me, really.”

As always, it’s amazing that Potter can be so confident and competent in every other aspect of his life. But once things get personal, he goes all tongue-tied and awkward. It’s sort of cute. Would probably be cuter if Draco weren’t currently preoccupied with worry about what sort-of-bonded might mean.

“Spit it out, Potter,” he says. “What have you done?”

“Nothing!” Potter says quickly, then corrects, “Well, almost nothing. As long as I stay on the suppressants, it just means I’ll want to knot you around the full moon.” He hesitates, hiding his face against Draco’s shoulder before he continues, “And, er, only you. If we ever break up, and I’m seeing someone else, I won’t be able to knot them at all.” He hesitates again. “Not that that’s… bad, really. I mean, knotting feels good and all, but it’s not bad enough that you should feel obligated to, I mean. Not if you want to… leave.”

Draco sighs and presses himself back into Potter’s embrace. Grabs Potter by the wrist and forces his arm around Draco. “Well,” he says. “I don’t plan on leaving, so you’ll never have to worry about that.”

- - - - -

They rest for an hour or so, just long enough for Potter’s knot to ease and for Draco to drop into a light doze. He wakes to Potter kissing the back of his neck, warm and open-mouthed and punctuated by little flicks of his tongue. It hurts a bit, and Draco slides a hand up there, probing gently with his fingertips along the tender wound where Potter broke the skin with his teeth.

“Sorry,” Potter murmurs.

Draco rolls over to face him. Doesn’t say a word because there’s nothing to say about it. He’d have said no if he’d had a choice about it, but he understands how affected Potter is by the full moon, and saying that Draco wouldn’t have agreed to this if he’d been asked about it would only upset Potter. Instead, Draco kisses him, warm and slow, runs his hands over every inch of Potter’s body he can reach while Potter holds him close and rocks his hips against Draco’s until they’re both hard again.

“I thought maybe we could try it the other way,” Potter murmurs against Draco’s mouth. He keeps his eyes closed. “I’ve never… but, I’d like to. With you.”

It takes Draco a moment to work out what Potter’s asking for. “You’d like me to fuck you?” he asks, and Potter nods, his eyes still closed, and Draco kisses him again. “Turn over,” he says.

Potter rolls over and stretches out on his stomach, and Draco scoots down the bed and pushes his legs apart so he can lie between them. He runs his hands up the insides of Potter’s thighs, urging him to spread wider, watches him shiver. He does it again, and again, intending to draw this out as much as they can both stand. Potter’s got a gorgeous arse, and Draco is nearly faint with glee that he’s going to be the first person Potter allows to have him like this.

It’s greedy of him, he knows. But Potter is always so delightfully responsive, so wonderfully vocal when they have sex. Draco’s sure he’s going to react beautifully to being filled up and fucked for the first time. And no one else in the world will get to see it but him. He traces his fingers down Potter’s thighs, brushes them over the tender skin at the backs of his knees.

“Don’t tease me,” Potter says. It’s not anywhere near begging, but it leans enough in that direction that Draco’s deliciously tempted to see whether he can push him to it.

Draco strokes his thighs again, then hooks one hand behind Potter’s right knee and pushes his leg up to spread him wide, exposing his hole. Potter whines and pushes his face into the pillow. His leg shifts like he’s trying to close himself up, but Draco doesn’t let him move it back down. He cups Potter’s arse cheek with his other hand, spreads him wider, and Potter whines again. His arsehole twitches.

“What are you doing? You don’t need to be staring at it,” Potter says, his voice muffled because he’s talking into the pillow. Everything about his body language is radiating embarrassment and uncertainty.

“Shh,” Draco says, pressing a kiss just where Potter’s thigh curves into his arse. “You’re beautiful.”

And he is. Most of the time it’s Potter’s intensity that Draco finds beautiful. His confidence and his power and his unwavering strength. Even when he’s uncertain and off-kilter, he’s still determined and strong. But this version of Potter is deliciously shy, blushing and hesitant, and Draco wants nothing more than to debauch him thoroughly. He knows it won’t last. Potter’s always been a quick learner. Once he’s done this the first time, he’ll have his confidence back. There’s a certain sort of power in bottoming, Draco’s learned. It’s all in how one goes about it, and there’s no doubt in his mind that Potter will learn that and learn it well. Draco will be entirely helpless and he’ll enjoy every fucking second of it.

But for now, Draco plans to enjoy every moment of Potter’s submission.

Draco smirks to himself. If he’s only going to have it this once, he might as well get all he can out of it.

He leans in, breathes warm over Potter’s arsehole, feels him shiver.

“Draco…” He sounds almost pained, helpless and confused and embarrassed.

And Draco revels in it, in making Potter feel this way, in pushing him past the limits of his comfort. He fastens his mouth over Potter’s arse and sucks lightly, pushes the tip of his tongue against him until he feels his body give way, works inside in little teasing licks while Potter writhes and whimpers, can’t quite seem to decide whether he wants to get away or push himself closer.

Draco takes his time opening Potter up, getting him all wet and relaxed, delighting in every sound he makes.

“Never had anyone rim you before, have you?” Draco asks, though Potter’s reaction to it was all the answer he needed. He lubes up a finger and gently circles Potter’s opening.

“No,” Potter says. “I’ve never—God, yes. Oh, that’s…” He draws in a shuddering breath as Draco's finger sinks deep. “That’s why people do this, then. Holy fuck.”

Draco smiles to himself as he draws his finger slowly out and pushes back in, stroking over Potter’s prostate, fingering him gently until he’s begging for more. He slicks a second finger and pushes it in, feels Potter’s body stretching to take him, fucks him with it while he debates whether or not to add a third. Personally, Draco likes to feel the burning stretch of a cock forcing him open, but Potter’s never done this before and neither of them know how Potter will like it best.

Erring on the side of caution it is, then. Draco pushes a third finger inside him. He’s so hot and tight, the sounds he’s making are as intoxicating as Draco thought they’d be. The thought of sliding his cock into Potter’s arse steals his breath, makes his ribs feel two sizes too small. He’s harder than he’s ever been in his life, his arousal so sharp it feels like he’s burning up from inside out.

“I need to be inside you,” he says. “Right now.”

“Yeah, okay,” Potter says. “Do it. God, please.”

Draco tugs his fingers free of Potter’s body, feels how his muscles tighten around Draco’s fingertips when he pulls them out. He crawls up the bed and lines up his cock, kisses the sharp curve of Potter’s shoulder blade as he pushes slowly inside.

Restraining himself feels like the most difficult thing he’s ever done. Forcing himself to go slow, and then to stay still to give Potter’s body time to adjust to him. But he manages to keep his baser urges in check, because he wants so much for this to be good for Potter. Wants him to tremble and squirm and blush, yes, but he wants Potter to love every second of it.

So he gently strokes Potter’s back with one hand, and gives him as much time as he needs.

“Okay,” Potter says. “Okay, I’m good now. You can move.”

Draco leans down and presses a kiss against Potter’s spine, then pulls out and pushes back in, again, and again, until he’s thrusting in a smooth rhythm as Potter pants and moans beneath him, twists his hands in the sheets. He’s trembling, shifting restlessly, torn between pushing back against Draco and grinding his cock against the mattress.

“Draco,” Potter whines. “God, Draco.”

“Merlin,” Draco breathes. “I wish I’d known sooner how desperate you’d be.”

Potter whines, arches up against Draco. “I… Please,” he gasps. “Please.”

“Look at you,” he says. “Look at what a slut you are for this, how you’re begging for my cock.”

Potter makes a soft sound, and Draco honestly can’t tell whether it’s meant to be words. The idea that he’s temporarily destroyed Potter’s vocabulary is an unexpectedly potent turn-on. That Potter’s been reduced to this wordless, needy, slutty thing. It’s incredible. Right now, in this moment, Draco owns him and it’s exhilarating.

Draco fucks him harder, watches Potter fall apart more. “Look at how much you need my cock in you. Fuck, you’d do anything for this. I could make you beg for it. I could make you beg.”

He runs his hands up the warm, smooth expanse of Harry’s back, down over his sides, the fingers of his left hand bumping over the scarred ridges running over Potter’s ribs. Potter pushes up against him, rising to his knees, and Draco takes him by the hips and quickens his thrusts. Potter keeps his face pressed into the pillow, and the idea that he can’t see a thing, that all around him is darkness and the sound of Draco’s words and the feel of Draco behind him and inside him, it’s intensely arousing.

Draco’s control is slipping, he feels like he’s barely able to control himself, slamming himself into Potter over and over. “Slut,” he gasps. “You’re such a slut, but you’re mine. You’re mine, fuck.”

Potter comes hard, so lost inside himself that he doesn’t even cry out. His body goes rigid and jerks, his arse tightening almost painfully around Draco’s cock, and that’s all it takes for him to come too. He pulls out gently and rests his head against Potter’s back as he tries to catch his breath.

“I’m sorry,” Potter mumbles, his words soft and slurred. He starts to move like he intends to sit up. “I don’t know why I…”

“Shh,” Draco says, smoothing his hands down Potter’s bare back, gently pressing him down to the mattress. “It’s all right. Just lie there, just relax. You were lovely.” He keeps stroking, feels Potter go limp and pliant beneath his hands. “You were so beautiful, the way you let go.”

He sits up and continues to rub Potter’s back, murmuring gently to him, telling him how wonderful he is, how beautiful he is, how lucky Draco feels to have shared this with him. He digs his thumbs into the muscles below Potter’s shoulder blades and feels him groan, keeps massaging until Potter’s too relaxed for even that. He leaves off, stroking his fingertips lightly up and down Potter’s spine.

“Better?” he asks.

“Mm, yeah,” Potter sighs. “It’s just… I really shouldn’t have done it like that. My leg hurts now.” He rolls halfway onto his side and peeks up at Draco through his dark fringe. “Would you rub it for me?”

As if Draco could deny him anything when he’s looking up at him with those puppydog eyes. “Of course. Let’s just get cleaned up first.”

Draco reaches for his wand and casts several gentle Cleaning Charms over himself and Potter and the bed. When he finishes, he nudges at Potter until he rolls onto his back.

“Warming Charm first,” Potter says, settling back against the pillows. “Then your hands.”

Draco nods and casts, and Potter sighs. Draco sets his wand aside, and then hesitates. He’s never touched Potter there before, on the scarred skin stretched taut over twisted muscle. Too late, he realises he’s waited too long and Potter’s mistaken his reluctance for disgust.

“No,” Draco says quickly, putting one hand over Potter’s thigh. Part of him is irritated that Potter thinks so little of Draco, but he swallows it down. Potter is sensitive about this. And it’s going to take a while for him to get past the way Draco reacted in the kitchen that first night. “I just don’t want to hurt you. That’s all.”

Potter’s face eases. “You won’t,” he says. “Just go slow. Use the flat of your palms, and not too hard.”

Draco takes a deep breath and presses down, feels the tense muscles spasm and Potter’s breath comes out in a pained hiss. Draco backs off immediately.

“Sorry, sorry,” he says quickly.

“No, s’fine,” Potter says between clenched teeth. “S’good. Keep going.”

Draco does as he’s told, pressing down again and again, still wary of every noise from Potter. It’s interesting how visible the results are. He feels the muscles in Potter’s thigh ease, sees the tension in Potter’s face ease along with it. He continues until there’s no more twitching, until Potter relaxes fully against the mattress. Draco casts a final Heating Charm and curls up beside him, his head on Potter’s chest. He closes his eyes and listens to the steady thump of Potter’s heart.

“You’re a treasure for putting up with me,” Potter murmurs after a while, stroking Draco’s hair. His voice is deep and echoes oddly where Draco’s ear is pressed to his ribs, drowns out his heartbeat for a few seconds.

Draco frowns and lifts his head. “Why?”

“Well, I’m sort of a lot of bother, aren’t I? And you haven’t said two words about it.” Potter tightens his arms around Draco. “I mean, the knotting thing is sort of weird.”

Draco thinks the knotting thing was sort of brilliant. And yes, a little weird, but mostly brilliant. “I enjoyed that,” he says. “Quite a lot, actually.”

“But it’s not normal, is it?”

“Potter, stop it. No, it’s not normal, but since when have you ever been? It was brilliant, and you’re brilliant. And anyhow, there’s all sorts of things I like about you.”

Potter’s fingers in Draco’s hair go still. “Like what?”

Draco props himself up on an elbow so he’s half-draped over Potter’s chest. “Well, your hair, for one.”

“My hair?” Potter asks, flattening it with one palm.

“Yeah,” Draco says, reaching up to comb his fingers through it, fluffing it back to its usual buoyancy. “It’s going silver.”

One corner of Potter’s mouth twitches into a smile. “That’s an odd thing to like about me. What else.”

“Your toes,” Draco says, thinking of watching Potter’s feet in the showers after the Quidditch game. “They’re, er, nice,” he finishes awkwardly.

“My toes?” Potter echoes with a small laugh. “I’m almost afraid to ask what else.”

“Oh no,” Draco says. “I’ve given you two, now it’s your turn.”

“Your goggles,” Potter answers immediately. “While we’re on the topic of weird things we like.”

“What?”

“The goggles you wear when you’re working on your devices. They make you look a bit like a mad scientist. All you’d need is the lab coat.” He gives a sigh. “I should get you one just so I can take it off you.”

Draco laughs. “You’re an odd one, Harry Potter.”

Potter gives him a fond smirk. “Says the man who likes me for my grey hair and my nice toes.

“There’s other reasons, too,” Draco says, reaching down to wrap his hand around Potter’s cock. He squeezes gently, feels it begin to stiffen. “This, for example.”

“Oh,” Potter says softly, tilts his head up a bit to brush his lips across Draco’s. It’s a distracted sort of kiss that feels a bit unintentional, and Draco loves that he can make Potter kiss him without meaning to. “I’m unconvinced. Perhaps you should show me in more detail.”

Draco continues to stroke him and he’s fully hard again in no time, hips pushing up into Draco’s touch, groaning when Draco gives him a particularly firm stroke. Draco’s only half-hard himself, wishes he could get it up for another round, but he needs longer than this to recover from the last one.

“I’m impressed you’re ready to go again so soon,” Draco says.

“Full moon,” Potter manages, his breath coming in soft gasps. “Always gets me like this for a few days, leading up to it. Might as well take advantage, I’m going to feel like shit tomorrow.”

Draco’s hand goes still. “The Quidditch match. In the showers after, that was a few days before…”

“Yes,” Potter says, bucking his hips up, pushing into Draco’s hand. “God, yes. And you were so fucking hot. Still are, just keep… fuck, keep going.”

“Why don’t you tell me again,” he urges, slowing his strokes to something slow and maddening. By the way Potter growls and clutches at the bedsheets, Draco thinks he’s succeeding at it fairly well. “Tell me again how you could smell me.”

Potter whines, arching his back, and dear Merlin, Draco will never get tired of this. Of Harry Potter naked and writhing and desperate for his touch.

“You were aroused,” Potter manages. “I could smell how much you wanted me. I was so close to going in there with you and fucking you senseless. I needed you so much.”

The grandfather clock downstairs strikes midnight, and Draco slows his touch as he counts the tones.

“You know,” he says, when the last one fades away. “There’s a belief that whatever you’re doing at midnight on New Year’s is what you’ll be doing for the rest of the year.”

“You’re going to spend the rest of the year touching my cock?” Potter asks. “I think I’m okay with that. Keep going, please.” He rocks his hips up.

And Draco obliges him, wanking him until he spills over Draco’s fingers. Draco fondles his softening cock for a few moments, then catches Potter’s eye and lifts his hand to his mouth. Slowly slides one finger inside and begins to suck it clean. Potter’s eyes darken as he watches.

“Come here,” he says. He cleans Draco’s hand with a murmured spell, and draws him down to snuggle close. “If you’d kept doing that, we would have gone again. I just want to hold you for a while.”

Draco puts his ear against Potter’s chest and listens to the steady thudding of his heart. Potter rubs his thumb in small circles over Draco’s shoulder and presses a kiss to his hair.

- - - - -

When Draco wakes up beside Potter on the first day of January, he looks like an entirely different man than the one Draco spent the prior night in bed with. Potter’s pale and trembling, bleary-eyed and looking like he didn’t get any sleep at all.

“Tea,” he croaks out, dragging the duvet over his head. “Please. And dry toast.”

Draco hastens to get it for him, returns with the requested tea and toast, and climbs back into bed while Potter eats it. He looks like he’s forcing himself to swallow each sip and bite, but he tells Draco that he needs to get something in his stomach or it’ll only be worse. Potter looks so awful, Draco’s having a hard time imagining what ‘worse’ might possibly entail.

“You can leave, if you want,” Potter says when he finishes. “I’m probably just going to stay in bed today.”

“Promising me a day spent in bed isn’t the best way to get rid of me,” Draco teases, and that gets a smile out of him.

Draco gets a book from Potter’s library and reads aloud while Potter naps on and off beside him. He’s looking much better by lunchtime, and Draco heats up soup and fixes them a couple of cheese toasties. When they finish, Draco coaxes Potter into the shower, and afterward they bundle up on the sofa beneath heavy blankets and spend the afternoon listening to wireless dramas.

All in all, Draco thinks it’s a pretty brilliant start to his year.

After seeing how ill Potter was after the full moon, Draco’s amazed at how quickly he recovers from it. Just two days later, he’s acting completely normal.

“Are you free tonight?” Potter asks after Tactical Spellwork finishes up for the day. “A bunch of us are meeting at the Hart and Hen later after work.”

Draco gives him a look as they walk down the hall to Draco’s lab. “This is something I’m curious about. Do you ever meet at the same bar twice?”

Potter wrinkles his nose. “Pans,” he says. “It’s like she’s determined to visit every club and bar and pub in London. She’s dragged me to about a thousand of them so far.”

“Are there even a thousand pubs and bars in London?” Draco asks with a frown.

“It bloody well feels like it,” Potter sighs. “But ask Pans. I’m sure she knows. She’s got a map all marked out and everything. I don’t know why she’s made it her life goal to never visit the same place twice.” He shrugs. “But everyone should have a hobby, I suppose.”

“Slytherin ambition?” Draco suggests, stepping into his lab with Potter close behind.

“That’s a nice way of saying it,” Potter says, taking his customary seat on the corner of Draco’s worktable. “How do you feel about curry tonight?”

Draco arches his eyebrows. “Didn’t you just say you wanted to meet up with Pansy?”

“Yeah, but I don’t want pub food. I want curry. We can be late to the pub if there’s curry involved,” Potter insists.

“On your head be it,” Draco mutters, searching for his other glove. Finds it where it had slipped off the far edge of the table and onto the floor.

Potter smirks at him. “I thought we could take the bike,” he says.

Suddenly this plan for curry is a lot more appealing. “I don’t know,” he says with feigned reluctance. “Driving’s so much slower than Apparating. I wouldn’t want to be too late.”

Potter sees through him in an instant. “Fine, fine,” he says with a laugh. “We can fly, you git.” He slides off the edge of the table. “Anyhow, I forgot to tell Ron about it at lunch today, so I’m going to try to catch him before he leaves. Back in a minute.”

Draco watches him leave, then turns his attention to his work, eager to get as much done as he can before Potter comes back to distract him.

- - - - -

“Fucking Agnes,” Draco spits, slamming into the office the next morning.

“Who are you this time?” Weasley asks without pausing in jotting down notes in the margin of the parchment spread over his blotter.

Darco Malfrot according to that cow,” he grumbles, and Weasley looks up at him.

“It’s not that bad,” he tries to say.

Draco levels a glare at him. “I want you to close your eyes and imagine what Potter’s going to say when he hears about it.” Because Draco can imagine it quite clearly. ‘What’s that, French for bad frot?’ because Potter thinks he’s all sorts of clever, and all right, maybe most of the time he is, but Draco’s a perfectly good frot, thankyouverymuch, and Potter bloody well knows it.

“Okay, maybe it is that bad. But it’s not Happy Pooter bad.” Weasley shrugs. “And anyhow, everyone’s dealt with Agnes. Practically a rite of passage for moving to London. I spent three days directing my guests to Robe Weasler’s Flat.”

“Robe Weasler?” Draco echoed.

“Yeah. As Ginny pointed out, it sounds like some sort of pervert.”

“She’s not wrong,” Draco says. Then, “Three days? How did you get yours sorted so quickly? I’ve been dealing with that horrid woman for almost two months now.”

Weasley grins and leans back in his chair, tucks his hands behind his head. “I sent Hermione to deal with it.”

Draco thinks about Granger and how she used to get when she was on a crusade back at Hogwarts. He thinks about how much she must have honed that skill over the years.

“Weasley,” he says. “Can I borrow your wife?”

- - - - -

Granger is a goddess made mortal and sent to earth, Draco’s sure of it. She doesn’t even Firecall for an appointment, just goes marching right in, ignores the secretary’s indignant sputtering, and pushes open the door to the inner office. Agnes actually flinches back from her, and Draco’s glad Granger’s on his side. She’s one absolutely terrifying witch when she’s got her back up about something.

They have his Floo address sorted in about thirty seconds flat.

Draco could just kiss her. He settles for shaking her hand, thanking her profusely, and making a mental note to send flowers to her office.

He’s feeling so good about it that he makes a little detour over to Name and Moniker Establishment on his way down. He demands to speak to Mr Ingham and refuses to leave until he’s done so. Eventually the secretary relents and takes him to a small office where a short man with a puckered frown and a truly unfortunate comb-over looks up and glares at the interruption.

“Mr Ingham? Draco Malfoy,” he says. “You’ve rejected five of my requests for department names. Consider this my sixth. I’d like to call my subdepartment Magical Accessory Development.” He slaps his written request onto the desk.

Ingham looks down his nose at it but makes no move to pick it up. “That’s not a very good name.”

“I don’t care what you think of it,” Draco says. “You’re going to approve it.”

“Oh?” Ingham says, looking Draco up and down. Honestly, the man is a powermad nutter. “And why am I going to do that?”

“Because this is the alternative,” Draco says, slapping a second sheet of parchment down over the first. Potter has been hard at work coming up with new acronyms, some of which make the ones he’d applied with to name his class look positively mild. He’s pleased to note that Ingham goes a bit pale as he reads over the list. “Approve my request, or that’s what I start submitting. And,” He pauses and gives Ingham a nasty smile, “I’ve got more than just those. I’ve got the really creative ones on a separate list.”

“You’ve been talking to him,” Ingham says.

And Draco has to bite his tongue to keep from laughing. He’s going to tell Potter about this later, that the people in this department refer to him in the same tone of voice people used to get when they talked about You-Know-Who. Potter will laugh himself sick.

“You know we reported him,” Inham goes on.

Draco arches his eyebrows. “And how well did that work out for you?”

Ingham sputters a bit more, goes all flushed and indignant, and Draco's forced to pull out his second list and hand it over. He watches the blood drain from Ingham's face as he works through the first name—Very Innovative Complex Inventions Organised Using Supremely Creative Or Complicated Key Magics Or Necessary Spellwork To Ensure Results—and he can see the exact moment when Ingham comes up with vicious cockmonster. His cheeks flush pink and his eyes get comically round.

It's more than a bit unwieldy, too long to even fit properly on the form, but Potter had been so proud of it when he'd presented it to Draco, announcing that he'd even fit in a letter K.

Ingham stamps Draco’s application approved right then and there, doesn't even bother to read the rest of the list, which is rather a shame because the whole thing is wonderful. Potter's brain truly is a thing of terrifying beauty.

“I am having the best day,” Draco announces to Weasley when he makes it back into his office. “Your wife is terrifying and my boyfriend strikes fear into the hearts of megalomaniacal parchment-pushers. I don’t know why I didn’t use them both sooner.”

“Got your Floo address fixed, then?”

“We were in and out in under a minute,” Draco says. “And I got my subdepartment name approved.” He spreads his arms wide. “You’re looking at the new head of Magical Accessory Development.”

“Wonderful,” Weasley says as Draco flops down into his desk chair. “You’re on a roll today, so why don’t you go through this new batch of tips we got in and see if you can keep it going?”

Draco pulls a face at him, but settles in to work. The way his day is going, he may very well crack the case open, he thinks.

But it turns out it’s not him who cracks it. It’s Granger.

A new Devil’s Kiss victim had been brought to St Mungo’s. Like the others, he couldn’t say where he’d been or who he’d been around that could possibly have dosed him. Unlike the others, he had a small scrap of parchment crumpled up and jammed into one of his pockets. A scrawled address and a single name: Filmore.

As much as Draco would love to jump right in, they have to go through the proper channels. A surveillance team is dispatched, and they quickly report back that the address is an abandoned building in Muggle London, heavily warded. Robards calls an emergency meeting, organises a dozen Aurors, and Weasley and Halbard quickly go over the relevant points of the case, briefing the rest of the Aurors who’ll be serving as support. When the meeting is finished, they all stand up and prepare to make their way down to the Apparition Point.

“Go on,” Draco mutters to Weasley. “I’ll catch up.”

He knows he shouldn’t be doing this, but he wants to see Potter before he leaves. If something goes wrong, Merlin forbid, he doesn’t want the first Potter hears about it to be when they’re informing him Draco’s been injured.

Draco pokes his head into his lab, then goes down the hall to check Tactical Spellwork even though it’s long past when class would have ended. The training room is empty, as is Potter’s office.

Hurrying, he makes it up to the Apparition Point just as the others are preparing to Disapparate. Draco falls into position, and then he’s gone in a crack of sound.

- - - - -

They knew the Aurors were coming.

Draco doesn’t know whether they’d been tipped off about the raid or whether they’d been nervous and taken precautions after they’d made Pierson as an Auror.

It doesn’t really matter either way, because the end result is the same.

The building is a large cinder block warehouse with small high windows and a broad door, and it’s heavily warded. Draco and the other Aurors cast a bubble of wards of their own, strong Notice-Me-Not Charms woven in with Anti-Apparition Wards, to keep the suspects from escaping and to keep themselves from being noticed by Muggles. The Ward and Resistance Disassemblers come in, but it takes them a long time to work through the complex layers of spells warding the building. Several hours pass, and it’s well into nightfall by the time the wards finally come down. Draco wishes he'd been able to find Potter. They'd made loose plans to get dinner together after work, and now it's long past when they should have met. He's probably heard about the raid by now, and Draco's sorry he couldn't tell Potter himself.

Though everyone’s nerves are running high by this point, they still take their time. Aurors surround the building and ward the windows, though they’re all high up and look as if they don’t open. The Ward Disassemblers create an Apparition Point around the side of the building, in case they need to Apparate any wounded away. They position lookouts at the corners of the building, and the rest of the Aurors assemble at the only door.

They open up the door and push inside, and all hell breaks loose.

Several dozen fireworks, aimed straight at the doorway, go off at once in an overwhelming flurry of loud bangs and bright flashing colours. And while the Aurors are temporarily blinded and deafened and utterly disoriented, the wizards they’re after fire curses into their midst.

The Aurors are forced to lower the Anti-Apparition Wards they’d layered over the warehouse in order to transport the injured to St Mungo’s. The condition of several of the Aurors is dire enough that they don’t have time to make it to the designated Apparition Point they’d left around the side of the building and they have to disable the entire bloody thing. And of course as soon as they do, four distinct cracks of Apparition come from deeper in the warehouse.

Draco comes through it without a scratch.

But Weasley isn’t so lucky. A curse had caught him squarely across the ribs, shredded his robes and begun to peel his flesh back in long strips. Draco hits him with every first aid spell he knows, holds him tight and Apparates him to St Mungo’s where several Healers take him away while another lingers to question Draco about what spell Weasley had been hit with.

Draco answers his questions, and the man rushes off, leaving him standing in the middle of the hallway with no idea what to do next.

The front of his robes are soaked with blood, and Draco doesn’t even notice it until a young Mediwitch draws him aside and cleans him up with a few gentle spells. “There you are,” she says with forced cheer. “You’ll want to look presentable when you visit your partner after he’s patched up.”

“Yes, thank you,” he says, brushing his hand over his robes. They’ll take care of Weasley. He’ll be fine, and Draco should be presentable when he visits. “Thank you.”

She gives his arm a sympathetic pat and directs him to a waiting room. At a loss for what else to do, Draco takes a seat and settles in to wait.

- - - - -

He hears the approaching slap of running footsteps, and Draco turns to see Potter come sprinting up the hall, his unfastened robes flapping behind him. He skids to a stop, socked soles sliding on the polished floor. He looks like he just tumbled out of bed, still clad in his blue and white striped pyjamas, his hair a wild mess and his glasses askew. He’s still got pillow creases down the left side of his face.

“Ron,” he gasps. “Where’s Ron?”

Draco’s so relieved to have Potter here that at first he doesn’t even think to question how Potter knows about Weasley’s injury, just holds him close and murmurs reassures to them both that he’d got Weasley here in time, that Weasley will be fine, that everything’s okay. Potter trembles against him and presses his face to Draco’s neck, and Draco holds him tight, rocks him slowly back and forth.

After a minute, Potter pulls away, takes a deep shuddering breath. Stands up straight, but he clutches Draco’s hand in his.

“What can we do?”

“For now, nothing,” Draco says. It’s not the truth, exactly. He could be back at the Ministry, barricading himself in his office and combing over their evidence in search of new clues. Those wizards won’t be at the warehouse anymore; they’ll have gone somewhere else. The pieces are there, they have to be there. But he looks at Potter, pale and determined, scared out of his mind at the thought of losing his best friend and trying like hell not to show it. No, Draco’s place is right here with him.

“How long did they…?”

“They didn’t say. It could be minutes, it could be hours. Come on, let’s sit down.”

Draco tugs on Potter’s hand and leads him to a couple of empty chairs. A wave of his wand Transfigures two of them into one small sofa. Both he and Potter could use a bit of comfort, and they don’t need armrests between them. They sit close enough that their knees touch, and Potter keeps hold of Draco’s hand.

“How did you know?” Draco asks after a few minutes. He needs something to fill the silence. “They wouldn’t have had time to contact you. They’re still working on getting ahold of Granger and she’s here in the building.”

Potter gives a strange laugh and scrubs his hands through his hair. “Oh my god,” he says. “You’re not going to believe this.”

“Is this another installment of Harry Potter’s Weird-Arse Life?” Draco asks, frowning.

“Oh yes, very much so,” Potter says with a grimace. “I knew because I dreamt about it. In my dream I saw Ron get hurt, and I saw you take him here.”

Draco slants a sceptical look at him. “So, what, you’re some sort of seer?”

Potter shakes his head. “No, not really. Not like… crystal balls and tea leaves and all that rubbish. I can’t see the future. Just bits of the present, and only Death Eaters.”

“What?” Draco blinks at him.

Potter sighs and slumps in his chair. “Hermione’s looked into it a bit. The magic Voldemort used to Mark his followers was a living sort of magic, attached to himself. And as best we can tell, when he died, that left a void, and the magic left behind in the Marks sort of… reached out for the next best thing.”

His Mark itches faintly, as it always does when he thinks about the awful magic that made it. Draco folds his arms over his belly and does his best to ignore it. “But why would it replace that connection with you?”

Potter shifts in his seat. “It’s complicated,” he says finally, darts a glance at Draco and looks away again. “I’ll tell you, but not here. Not in public.”

Draco frowns at him. “But… it means you can see me all the time?”

“Not really. I can’t control it. I just get dreams, and it’s not even all that clear. Mostly impressions. I dream about Azkaban a lot.” He glances up at Draco and looks down at his feet. “But you’re different. It was after…” He trails off, looks around, lowers his voice before he continues. “After I bit you, I haven’t dreamt of anyone else. Just you, and it’s still just glimpses, but clearer.”

“I’m not sure how I feel about that. You watching me like that.” Even though Potter can’t control it, it still unnerves Draco to be spied upon.

“I guess you’ll just have to sleep with me every night. That way I don’t see anything more exciting than you lying next to me,” Potter says with a wan smile. It sounds like it’s meant to be a joke, but all Draco hears is don’t leave me.

He reaches out and links his fingers through Potter’s. “You really do have the strangest life.”

“Yeah,” Potter sighs. “I wish I didn’t.”

“Nonsense,” Draco says briskly. “Your strange life has made you who you are. And I—” I love you, he’d been about to finish. “I’m… rather partial to the person you’ve become,” he says instead.

“Thanks,” Potter says with that crooked smile that turns Draco’s insides to melted butter. He gives Draco’s fingers a squeeze.

He’s not afraid to tell Potter how he feels, Draco assures himself as they continue to wait for word on Weasley’s condition. It’s just that this is hardly the appropriate time or place for it. After this, after all this is over. He’ll find the right time for it when everything’s okay again.

- - - - -

Ten minutes later, Granger comes dashing into the waiting room.

“I just heard,” she says, her eyes darting from Draco to Potter and back again. “Where is he? What’s happened?”

Draco assures her that they’re taking care of Weasley. He’ll be all right. Everything will be fine. Potter joins in with the reassurances, and Draco wouldn’t have ever guessed he’d been on the verge of letting his nerves overtake him just fifteen minutes earlier.

They sit down together, Potter expanding Draco’s two-seat Transfiguration to something that will fit all three of them. They lapse into anxious silence.

Draco notices for the first time that she’s not dressed in the traditional lime green robes of St Mungo’s Healers. “Did they finally get rid of those awful green uniforms?” he asks. “Can’t say that colour’s much of an improvement."

Granger straightens her vivid yellow robes across her knees. “Not entirely, Magical Bugs and Diseases still wears green,” she says. “But the other floors have been assigned new colours. Artefact Accidents is pink, Creature-Induced Injuries is turquoise, and Spell Damage got lilac. Potions and Plant Poisoning got stuck with yellow.” She grimaces. “They’re all fairly unattractive shades, but the yellow’s just a little bit worse, I think.”

“Absolutely worse,” Draco agrees. “It’s positively gaudy.”

A faint feel of deja vu tugs at the back of his mind, but just then Beller, an Auror Draco recognises from around the Ministry, comes to find him. They’d like him to submit his account of what happened while the details are still fresh. A part of Draco is tempted to argue, but Potter and Granger have been friends since they were children. They’ll be able to comfort each other. They’ll be okay.

Draco promises to return as soon as he’s able, and follows Beller to the lobby and Apparates to the Ministry.

He gives his account three separate times to three separate Aurors, before sitting down to fill out a form with a written description of what happened on the raid. It’s long and tedious and repetitive, and Draco’s tempted to tear it in two and walk out, get back to St Mungo’s where his boyfriend and his partner and Granger all need him to be. He wonders if Weasley has been healed already. He pictures Potter and Granger at Weasley’s bedside, Potter in his pyjamas and Granger in her gaudy…

He goes still, a drop of ink dripping from the end of his quill to splot onto his report.

...yellow robes.

He gets a brief flash of sitting in his modified tent alcove with Potter. Watching Campbell & Collins. The wizard who stepped out on to the pavement, the gust of wind that caught his cloak and revealed the yellow robes he wore beneath.

It could just be a coincidence. It could just be a customer, someone who’s addicted to potions or needed an unsavory artefact of some sort or even someone who just likes that ugly shade of yellow.

But Draco doesn’t think so. The pieces line up far too neatly. The whole case so far has been too careful, too deliberate. It’s not as simple as a black market brewer trying to make money. It’s about something bigger, more complicated than a common criminal. There has to be a bigger plot behind it. In fact, the particulars, the relative unavailability of the potion, the way a few cases would crop up and then the formula would change before another few people were dosed with it, it feels almost like…

Oh fuck.

He doesn’t have evidence yet, but Draco’s learned to trust his hunches. When they’re this strong, they haven’t led him wrong yet.

Draco abandons his half-written report and leaves without a word.

He knows he should tell someone, but he’s technically not an active Auror at the moment. Auror regulations demand that after the grievous injury of a partner, the uninjured Auror must submit to testing to be sure they’re in a fit emotional and mental state to go back into the field. And Draco hasn’t got time for that right now, and in all honesty he probably wouldn’t be able to pass it even if he did. He hurries back to St Mungo’s, finds out that Weasley’s going to be fine but hasn’t woken up yet. Draco goes to his room and finds Potter alone, pacing. He’s no longer in his pyjamas, but has changed into a jumper and jeans and a battered pair of trainers.

“Stop that,” he says, forcibly guiding Potter to a chair and making him sit. “You’re going to aggravate your leg. Where’s Granger?”

“Popped out for a moment,” Potter says. “She went to explain to Molly and Arthur what’s going on. She didn’t want them to hear about Ron from some random Auror. She should be back any moment. Did you need her?”

“I need to ask her about her coworkers.”

Potter frowns at him. “Why?”

“The potion case you were investigating when you were injured,” Draco says. “The Imperius one. They were trying to control certain influential people and take over the Ministry, right?”

Potter’s frown deepens. “Yeah, that’s what they said.”

“But they never got it working right. And anyhow, mind control is messy.” Draco stands up, paces to the door, turns back. “Any Potions Master worth his salt could say that. Imperio’s hard enough and that’s direct mind-control. Easier to use but easily tested for. A potion’s subtler, but it’s hard to get it just right, to make the victim act naturally. For it to be undetectable. If you were a Potions Master, what would you suggest?”

It’s a rhetorical question, but Potter answers, “Make a different potion. Make something more subtle.”

Draco nods. “Something where the people you feed it to aren’t doing what you want because they’ve been told to do it.”

“But because they want to do it,” Potter says. His eyes are getting wider. “Like, if they were in love.”

“From a potion so strong it made Amortentia look like child’s play.

Potter sucks in a deep breath. “All the people in St Mungo’s who were dosed with Devil’s Kiss—”

“—were test subjects, yes. Because it’s still not right. It’s still not subtle enough.”

“And it’s got all sorts of nasty complications and side-effects,” Potter adds. “Hard to be subtle about it if the person you’ve dosed can’t keep food down or hallucinates.”

“That night we watched Campbell & Collins. That last person who left, the wind caught their cloak,” Draco says. “They were wearing yellow robes.”

“Yellow robes, like… Oh my god,” Potter says. He stands and paces. “No, okay, that makes sense. Because even if a Potions Master has the knowledge to test reactions and adjust his formula, he probably doesn’t have the equipment or the funds, never mind how hard it’d be to keep hostages.”

“But if he’s someone who works for St Mungo’s…” Draco says.

“...he’s got all the equipment right here, and he can perform whatever tests he needs because he’s helping.” Potter stops short. “I know who it is.” He spins back around to face Draco. “Clarke. It has to be! He started work here six months after I was bitten. And he’s… oh my god, how did we miss this? He’s always asking Ron about work. He’s always asking me, and when we went out, that’s all he wanted to talk to you about. I always thought he just really loved his job, Hermione’s so work-obsessed I just assumed it made sense for her coworker to be too, but he wanted to see if we were anywhere near catching him.”

“The first isolated incidents of Devil’s Kiss started about a year and a half after that,” Draco says, mentally flipping through the case particulars. “One in May 2004, one in January 2005, two in September and October of 2006, then another two in March 2007, and then four between November 2007 and February 2008.”

“And then starting a few months ago, there was suddenly a whole string of them.”

“He’s getting close to perfecting it. Close enough that he needs test subjects to finish adjusting the formula,” Draco says. “We need to get him right now.”

“He’s here tonight,” Potter says grimly. “His shift started a few hours ago.”

“How thoughtful of him,” Draco says, drawing his wand. “And how helpful for us.”

Draco hates to leave Weasley alone, but Potter said that Granger will be back any moment and he’d dearly love to have Clarke in custody and be well on the way to capturing his accomplices when Weasley wakes up. Weasley will understand, because Draco would want the same thing done if their positions were reversed. Any Auror would.

Together, they step out into the hall and take the lifts one floor up for Potions and Plant Poisoning, and head for Clarke’s office. Draco hopes he’s there. He’d rather get this taken care of in the relative privacy of an office rather than in the busy hallway or, Merlin forbid, in a patient’s room.

Potter has his wand out as well, gives him a nod, and Draco flings the door open.

The room is dim and empty, the only light coming from the steady glow of monitoring charms along one wall. All of them are glowing soft blue except for one, glowing brightly green. No sound comes through it at first, but then they clearly hear a door open, and footsteps, and Granger softly calls out, “Harry?”

“Fuck,” Draco says. “He heard everything. He knows, and we have to find him now. If we don’t…” He runs a hand through his hair. “But I have no idea where he’d have gone.”

“I do,” Potter says. “His house has a full potions lab in the basement. He’ll have gone there before he leaves. He probably keeps a copy of all his research and he’ll need that before he runs.”

“Okay, fuck, we need to go now.” He turns to Potter. “I don’t have time to go to the Ministry. I don’t have time to get back-up. I shouldn’t ask this of you, but…”

“You don’t have to ask; I’m going with you. No way am I not going to be a part of this.”

The determination in Potter’s voice throws Draco off a bit. He blinks.

“That arsehole turned me into a sodding werewolf,” Potter snarls. “Even I have my limits.”

“Wait,” Draco says as they hurry back down the wall, heading for the lobby so they can Apparate out. “Clarke’s a werewolf? How do you know?”

“He’s the one who bit me,” Potter said. “We identified the others. The only one we didn’t identify was the Potions Master, because he was transformed at the time.”

“How have you not recognised him? Isn’t your sense of smell keen enough to detect other werewolves?” Draco’s been doing a bit of research on his own after he was caught off-guard by the whole knotting and mating things. He knows werewolves identify each other by scent. Potter should be able to tell not only that Clarke’s a werewolf as well, but that he’s also the one who’d turned him.

“Suppressants. The suppressants I’m on hide my…” Potter grimaces and grudgingly continues, “...my natural musk.”

And oh, Draco’s going to tease the hell out of him for that later. Now’s really not the time.

“And I know for a fact that he’s on the same ones I am,” Potter says. “Because he bloody well recommended them to me. And I assumed it was because he was a Healer, that he’d know about which potions worked best because of his job.” He pauses, conjures a Patronus and gives it a short message about who’s behind this and where they are. The shimmering white stag gallops off and vanishes through the wall, on its way to Robards. Potter turns to Draco and offers his arm. “Ready?”

Draco takes it and tightens his grip on his wand. “Let’s go.”

- - - - -

They arrive on the street outside a modest home on the outskirts of London. Draco can feel the staticky crackle of some seriously heavy wards layered around the property. They cast strong Disillusionment spells over each other, so that each of their magical signatures will allow them to see the other.

“Don’t worry,” Potter says with a fairly terrifying sort of smile. “I can get through those.”

Draco braces himself as Potter takes his arm again and Apparates. But there’s no impact, no grating of magic, no backlash of torn wards unravelling. Potter seems as surprised as Draco feels.

“I wonder,” he says. “I’ve been here before. He had a small dinner party and I came with Ron and Hermione. I wonder if he never bothered to ward the place against me afterward.” He stares up at the front door. “That arrogant prick.”

“Come on,” Draco says quietly.

For a criminal, Clarke is remarkably lax about security beyond the wards he’d put up around his property. There aren’t any secondary wards on any of the doors or windows, so all it takes is a simple Alohomora to get them inside.

The ground floor is dark and quiet, and Potter leads the way down the hall to the kitchen where a door stands open. A steep staircase slants down into the basement, where there’s warm light and a soft mumble of voices.

They’re outnumbered, but they’ve got the element of surprise. Draco takes the lead now, goes slow on the stairs because Potter can’t take them as quickly as he can. He counts five men, Clarke and four others, three of them busily working while Clarke and one of the unidentified men argue about something on the far side of the room. Potter and Draco reach the bottom of the stairs, and Draco looks around for the most tactically sound places in the room to attack from.

A large worktable takes up the center of the room, and several full cauldrons sit on top of it. A set of bookshelves take up the far wall, crammed with books and stacks of parchment. The three men are working to wrap jars of finished potion in protective gauze and packing them up in crates. There’s a small alcove between the furnace and a stack of boxes just to their right where Potter will be well-defended, and Draco tugs on his sleeve and leads him to it. There’s another set of stairs leading up, presumably to the back garden, that Draco intends to sneak across the room and hide himself in.

But before he can move away from Potter, Clarke lashes out with his wand and shouts, “Expelliarmus! Finite Incantatum!

Draco tries to hold on, but his wand wrenches itself from his hand and sails across the room along with Potter’s. The other four men gasp as Potter and Draco are suddenly made visible.

Clarke gives them a smirk. “Clever,” he says. “But I could smell you coming. Oh, not you, Harry. The suppressants take care of your scent. I could smell him. You’ve mated him, haven’t you? He reeks of it.”

That’s something none of the werewolf books Draco had perused had mentioned. If he gets out of this, he intends to write a series of strongly-worded letters to their publishers.

“Give up,” Potter says. “The Aurors know we came here. They’ll arrive any minute.”

“And by the time they get through my wards, we’ll be long gone.” He looks from Potter to Draco. “And you’ll both be dead. It’s rather a shame. Personally, I do like both of you. But I can’t have you giving me away. You especially, Draco Malfoy,” Clarke sighs. “I had so dearly hoped you’d chosen to follow in your father’s footsteps. You’ve quite a mind. I could have used you.”

Draco sneers at him. “I’d never help someone like you.”

“Ah, but you already have,” Clarke says. “Did you like the fireworks I left for you? You gave me the idea for that with the conversation we had at the pub that day, about how you based your designs of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. I thought to myself, why not just go straight to the source? I think it worked quite effectively. Don’t you?”

“You injured half a dozen Aurors,” Potter says. “You’re a fool if you think they’ll ever stop looking for you.”

“I doubt that,” Clarke says, giving him a smile. “I turned their Saviour into a dark creature and no one’s found me yet.”

“I’d like to point out that we found you,” Draco says, laying a restraining hand on Potter’s arm.

“An unfortunate stroke of luck,” Clarke says, gesturing to the man beside him. “Filmore here fucked up the Floo address and it was unfortunately out of commission. I was forced to come and go via the front door like everyone else.”

“For the last time,” Filmore grits out through clenched teeth. “When we changed the shop name, I had to change the Floo address.”

“And for the last time,” Clarke shoots back, “I told you not to piss off Agnes!”

“When we take over the Ministry, that bitch is going to be the first to go,” Filmore says.

Clarke holds out a restraining hand. “All in good time. She’s only part of the problem. The Ministry is corrupt. It’s become a sluggish thing, weighed down by bureaucratic ineptitude, so thoroughly rotten that the only way to cure it is to tear it to the ground and rebuild it.” He gives Filmore a nod. “My colleagues here had a good idea, but they lacked the expertise to follow through. They planned to control key members of the government to further their own agenda, that of blood purity and the protection of our culture. As more and more Muggleborns join our world, they erode our traditions, our values, our—”

“Oh my god,” Potter says. “Are you monologuing?”

Draco tries to elbow him to make him shut the fuck up, because antagonising a bunch of dark wizards while said dark wizards have them cornered and disarmed and outnumbered doesn’t seem like the best way to go, and Draco’s something of an authority on antagonising others, if he does say so himself.

But Potter’s having none of it. He swats Draco away and keeps talking. “I mean, really. Do you know why Voldemort never won against me? Because he couldn’t shut up. If he’d just killed me, that would’ve been that. But instead he was always banging on about his grand plans and his tragic past.”

“Potter,” Draco warns.

“Don’t speak of the Dark Lord like that!” Filmore hisses, stalking forward. This time, Clarke lets him go.

“It’s true,” Potter says. “Like, just after he got his body back? He totally had me. I was restrained and unarmed. And do you know what he did? Blathered on about his sad childhood and the glory of his Death Eaters, then instead of killing me outright, he gave me back my wand and tried to make me fight a duel with him.” He snorts and rolls his eyes. “Really, who arms their enemy?”

“The Dark Lord is—”

“—dead,” Potter interrupts, putting his chin up. “Voldemort is dead, and I killed him.”

“And I will take such pleasure in avenging him,” Filmore says. He gets right up close to Potter and digs his wand into the underside of Potter’s chin.

And then Potter punches him in the face. Draco throws himself behind the stack of boxes as curses come shooting at them. Potter wrests Filmore’s wand away from him and shouts, “Accio wands!”

The wizards manage to hold onto theirs, but Draco’s and Potter’s come flying across the room and Potter catches them both neatly and tosses one to Draco.

Protego!” Draco shouts, and the response from his wand feels just the slightest bit off. He realises he’s got Potter’s wand, but it does his will without hesitation so he doesn’t try to get his own back.

Though Draco’s been practicing his duelling far more in recent weeks than he ever has before, he’s still hard-pressed to hold out when they’re outnumbered five to two. But luckily for him, one of those five is unarmed and one of his two is Harry bloody Potter, so they quickly take down two of the men, leaving just three.

Draco’s locked into a duel with Clarke while Potter’s battling one of the other wizards, when things go wrong. They’d both discounted Filmore because Potter had taken his wand. But he crawls along the floor to where one of his compatriots lies sprawled and unconscious, takes his wand, and lashes out.

Avada Kedavra!”

The jet of green light lances straight at Draco, and Potter’s already moving. He slams his shoulder into Draco, knocking him clear, and gets his wand up barely in time to cast an Avada Kedavra of his own. The two spells meet and explode in a shower of green sparks, and Clarke casts at Potter, and Filmore casts at Draco, and the duels go on. The third wizard, who’d previously been duelling Potter, takes the opportunity to make a run for it, goes dashing off across the basement and disappears up the stairs.

Two against two. Draco smiles grimly. These bastards don’t stand a chance.

Draco casts and counters, ducks and dodges, biding his time, waiting for an opening.

There’s a loud bang, and Draco glances over to see that Clarke’s decided he can’t get through the heavy shielding Potter’s cast around himself. Instead, he’s cursing the floor beneath Potter’s feet. It’s cracked and jagged, and Clarke hits it again and Potter nearly goes down. It doesn’t look like it’ll survive another spell.

Filmore fires off a curse at Draco, and he counters it easily before Filmore casts again. This one goes wide, and Draco aims his counter at Clarke instead, blocks the curse he’s aimed at the floor as Filmore’s spell strikes the table, smashes into it and sends everything flying.

Including the cauldrons of potion.

A spray of liquid hits Draco’s face, temporarily blinding him, and then a cauldron slams into his head.

The world spins, he hears Potter rap out Expelliarmus and Incarcerous in quick succession. Then there’s footsteps and a crack, another bright sizzle of a spell zipping by overhead, and then the last thing Draco sees before he blacks out is Potter’s frightened face.

- - - - -

Being an Auror is dangerous work, dangerous enough that when Draco wakes up, past experience means he knows he’s in a hospital before he even opens his eyes. The cool and unnaturally crisp sheets. The steady hum of monitoring charms. The air is too cold and a little bit too dry for comfort. Draco opens his eyes.

Oh yes. Definitely St Mungo’s.

“Malfoy,” Weasley says, leaving his chair and coming to loom over Draco’s bed. He’s got a strangely concerned look on his face. “How are you feeling?”

Draco pauses for a moment to take stock of himself. His head aches faintly, but otherwise he feels fine. Or at least well enough that he’s not sure why Weasley’s looking at him like that. “Fine,” he says, and his voice comes out gentle, vague and somewhat slurred. And all right, that’s a bit alarming. “Where’s Potter?” His voice is still all soft and drifty, despite his efforts to sound otherwise. Definitely on potions, then.

Weasley darts a nervous glance to the door. “Outside. He’s fine, don’t worry. And we caught Clarke and the rest. All of them are safely in custody and awaiting trial. As you can see, I’m fine too. Thanks for asking.”

That’s all well and good, and Draco’s pleased to hear it, but it doesn’t answer the question of why Potter’s not in here with him. “I want to see Potter.”

The look on Weasley’s face grows pained. “I should go tell your Healer you’re awake,” he says.

Draco frowns at him as he leaves. He knows that Weasley knows that the monitoring charms cast over Draco will have alerted his Healer the moment he woke up. He sits up in bed and waits for someone to come in and tell him what the fuck is going on.

Barely a minute later, a Healer flanked by a pair of Mediwitches enter the room. Draco is asked all the routine questions: does he know his name, does he know what day it is, what’s the last thing he remembers. They take his vitals and ask him whether he’s in any pain.

“A bit achey but not too bad,” he says. “I’d like to see Potter, if you don’t mind.” Weasley had said he’s fine, but Draco needs to see with his own eyes that Potter’s not hurt.

The Healers and Mediwitches exchange apprehensive looks, and the Healer gives the other two a nod. “Bring him in.”

One of the Mediwitches leaves, and returns a few moments later with Potter in tow. He looks anxious as he approaches the bed and lingers at the side. Not a bloody scratch on him, thank Merlin, or Draco would have to murder him himself. Potter doesn’t say anything, just looks down at Draco anxiously.

“You,” Draco says, faintly alarmed at how his voice slurs all soft and dazed even through his anger. “You fucking idiot.”

Potter’s eyes go comically round. “What?”

“You heard me, you’re a fucking idiot. I don’t even have to ask what you were thinking when you threw yourself in front of me like that because I know you weren’t thinking anything at all.”

“What? You’re really going to scold me over that? When you protected me over protecting yourself?”

“I got myself clunked over the head and dosed with a potion. You could have been killed,” Draco shoots back. “You didn’t even know that would work! And if your timing had been off even a fraction of a second—”

“But it wasn’t and I’m fine,” Potter insists. “And you’re fine too.”

“That’s not my point, my point is you had no idea whether the Killing Curse could be deflected like that, but that didn’t stop you from—”

The Healer bustles forward, pushing Potter back, putting himself between them. “That’s enough now, that’s enough.”

“Hey,” Draco says. “I wasn’t done with him.”

But Potter lets himself be pushed away to the other side of the room, and then the Healer turns back to Draco.

“Mr Malfoy, how do you feel?”

“Like I had a fucking cauldron dropped on my head and I’ve got an idiot hero for a boyfriend,” he snaps. Or tries to snap. His voice is still coming out soft. His head feels like it’s been stuffed with wool batting.

“How do you feel about Mr Potter?”

Draco leans around the Healer to aim a glare at Potter. “Like I want to slap him.”

The Healer blinks at him. “You don’t feel any differently about him?”

“No,” says Draco. “I pretty much always want to slap him.”

“That shouldn’t be right,” the Healer says, looking quite baffled.

“Oh, but it’s true,” Draco says. “It’s very interesting, you see. He’s the Boy Who Lived, inspires courage and determination and whatnot in everyone around him, except for me. I only feel inspired to hit him. It’s really not fair.”

“Not fair?” the Healer repeats, and Merlin but that’s getting old fast. This bloke seems a bit too slow on the uptake to be a proper Healer, and Draco wonders how he got through his training. He’ll have to lodge a complaint.

“Extremely unfair,” Draco says. He’s growing very sleepy at a somewhat alarming rate. “There are regrettably few circumstances in which I am allowed to hit him. He choked on biscuit crumbs once, and I got to wallop him on the back. It was the highlight of my week.”

“I shall endeavor to choke on more biscuit crumbs in the future,” Potter vows solemnly from across the room.

“This is why I’m partial to you,” Draco says, letting his eyes slide shut. “You’re very accommodating.”

“But this doesn’t make sense,” he hears the Healer say. “He should be madly in love.”

But I am, Draco thinks as he drifts off.

He doesn’t hear if Potter replies.

- - - - -

Potter is beside him when he wakes up a second time. And unfortunately, whatever lovely spell or potion they’d used on his head has worn off.

“Oh Merlin, that’s unpleasant,” he groans, pressing a hand to his forehead.

Potter levers himself up out of his chair and sits down on the side of Draco’s bed. “What’s wrong?”

“My head hurts.” Draco feels carefully along the bandage they’ve wrapped around his head. He didn’t even notice it when he’d woken up before. “I feel like I was hit by a Bludger.”

“Bludger, cauldron. They’re both made of iron,” Potter says, and Draco considers pointing out that cauldrons aren’t made of iron, most of them are made of pewter. But frankly it feels like too much effort, and he’s not sure he’d be able to tell the difference between getting knocked over the head with one or knocked over the head with the other, so it’s probably a moot point. And he’d already known how terrible Potter is at Potions, no need to point it out again. “I’m sure your Healer will be in with something for it in a moment.”

“I don’t want him,” Draco grumbles. “Can’t I have Hermione?”

Potter snorts. “I’m going to tell her you said that.”

“If she comes here I’ll tell her myself. And tell her to bring me a pain potion while she’s at it.” Merlin, his fucking head is pounding.

Potter gropes for his hand among the bedsheets, finds it and grips tight. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”

“Of course I am,” Draco sighs.

“But I was so afraid you wouldn’t be,” Potter says. “You were doused head-to-foot in a potent love potion.”

Draco frowns. “Well I’m fine. And lucky me, Clarke appears to have worked out the negative side effects of it. We were just in time, weren’t we?”

“We were,” Potter says fondly. “Though he would’ve had to start over again, wouldn’t he? If the potion doesn’t work?”

“Actually,” Draco says. “I think the potion’s fine.”

Potter frowns. “You really are affected by it?”

Draco sighs. “No, not at all. I think… or at least as far as I can tell from what I’ve read of the analysis and what Granger’s told me. But I think it didn’t make me fall in love with you because I was already there. So it had no effect.”

“You…” Potter says, his eyes getting very wide.

“I love you,” Draco says, because he wants there to be no doubt in Potter’s mind what he’s trying to say.

Potter kisses him, and Draco forgets all about his aching head and kisses him back, loses himself in the warmth of Potter’s body and the feel of his mouth against Draco’s. Tangles his fingers in Potter’s hair and presses hard against him.

And of course, that’s when his Healer walks in.

- - - - -

Less than a month later, Draco’s given up his trendy flat for Potter’s cosy home.

“Don’t you think you’re rushing?” Weasley had asked when they’d announced it.

And Potter had laughed. “We had a thirteen-year pause in our relationship.” He slung an arm around Draco’s neck. “If anything, we’re overdue.”

Draco had asked him about it later, whether Potter really counted that as the beginning.

“It was the beginning, for me at least,” Potter told him. “It’s when I started to think about you differently.”

The day they move feels more like a party than a chore. Their friends have all turned up for it, Weasley and Granger and Ginny and Dean and Neville and Pansy and Luna. There’s not actually much to move—Draco and Potter had already sorted through Draco’s flat to decide what to get rid of and what will replace Potter’s furniture—but everyone offered to come help, and Potter can never say no to his friends.

They do it after work on a Thursday evening. It takes less than an hour to get all the furniture settled into Potter’s house and all the boxes stacked neatly out of the way for Draco to unpack later.

“Potter,” Draco says to get his attention, and shoves an armload of jumpers at him. “Take those upstairs for me?”

“Sure,” Potter says and goes off to do just that.

Draco waits until he hears the floorboards creak overhead before he slips from the living room, leaves all their friends chatting and cracking open bottles of beer, and hurries after him. He hesitates on the landing, takes a few deep breaths and runs a hand through his hair. He wears it a bit longer these days to cover the bite on the back of his neck. The imprint of Potter’s teeth has scarred silvery-white, barely noticeable against his pale skin. But still, it’s his, his and Potter’s alone, and he doesn’t like the idea of anyone else seeing it but them. Draco indulges in one more deep breath, and walks up the hall. He catches Potter just as he’s stepping out of the bedroom, and Draco pulls him back inside without a word.

Potter, the beautifully wanton thing that he is, gives Draco a grin and slides his arms around his waist. “Would you care to discuss Belgium?” he asks.

Draco rolls his eyes. He’s given up on trying to get Potter to quit using that as code for, ‘I’d like to shag your brains out right now, please.’

“That’s not why I’m up here,” he says.

“Oh?” Potter asks, looking adorably lost. Like Draco plus bedroom not adding up to equal sex is something he hadn’t even considered.

“No,” Draco says. His heart is thudding against his ribs as he rounds the bed to the nightstand on his side of it, opens the top drawer, and takes out the book he’d stashed there two days ago. He opens it to the page he’d marked, and takes a deep breath. He’d planned out all sorts of things to say, but all that comes out of his mouth as he thrusts the book at Potter is, “What about this one?”

And then it’s too late to take it back. He holds his breath and watches Potters eyes move back and forth over the lines of text.

“You want to bond with me? But this…” Potter frowns, reads over the passage again, then looks up at Draco. “This is barely a bond. It hardly has any effects and you can break it just by saying a counterspell.”

“Exactly,” Draco says. “That’s why I chose it.”

Potter’s frown deepens. “Why, so you can leave me if you change your mind?”

“No, you idiot. Because you’re bonded to me—”

“Sort of bonded,” Potter corrects.

Draco rolls his eyes. “Fine, because you’re sort of bonded to me—”

“Well it sound stupid when you say it like that,” Potter says, and for Merlin’s sake, now he’s gone all sulky. This isn’t at all how Draco planned for this to go.

“Potter, it sounds stupid when I say it at all. Will you let me finish?” Draco sends him a glare, and Potter mimes locking his mouth shut and tossing away the key. Merlin, this man is going to be the death of him. And Draco must be mad because he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I chose such an easily reversible bond so you know that I’m with you because I want to be, not because we’re stuck together. You’re mated to me, but that only affects you one night a month. You can leave me anytime you want. I want this bond because either of us can break it with a few words, walk away and not look back. But we won’t, because we’ve chosen to be with each other. And that means more to me than bonding permanently. Because as long as we’ve got this fragile bond between us, we’ll know that we’re together for no other reason than because we want to be.”

It makes sense in his head, but it does sound rather silly when he says it aloud. Still, he can tell from the way that Potter’s eyes are shining that Draco’s chosen exactly right.

“Let’s do it tonight. Right now,” he says.

Draco blinks at him. “What?”

“Why not?” Potter presses, eager now. He’s smiling and Draco already knows he’ll end up agreeing to it because he can’t deny Potter anything when he’s like this, bright and enthusiastic and impulsive and so very much Harry that Draco feels like he’s drowning with how much he loves him. “All our friends are here, it doesn’t need any preparation to cast. Let’s do it now.” He drops heavily down to one knee and catches both of Draco’s hands in his own. “Draco Malfoy, will you bond with me?”

Draco can only laugh and tug at Harry’s hands. “Get up, you berk. And you can’t ask me, I’m the one that asked you.”

“Ah, but you didn’t ask properly,” Potter says, standing up again, staggering a bit but Draco keeps him steady. “Just shoved a book in my face and said ‘What about this one?’ That’s hardly a proposal.”

“That’s because it’s not a proposal,” Draco says. “We’re not getting married.”

“Might as well,” Potter says. “We’re forever, as far as I’m concerned.”

Draco hesitates. “Are you… You didn’t just… ask me?”

Potter gives him that crooked smile, the one that turns Draco’s insides to melted butter. “Yeah. I want to. Draco, will you marry me?” He glances down. “I’d get on the floor again but I’ve been pushing my leg today and I’m not sure I can get up a second time.”

But Draco’s not listening to him anymore because he’s too busy hugging Potter and saying yes.

Holding hands, they go back down the stairs.

“Hey!” Potter shouts from the doorway to the living room. “Draco and I just got engaged.”

The room explodes into cheering and shouted congratulations, and there’s a whole round of hugging before either of them can get a word in edgewise to explain about the bonding. Then there’s another whole round of shouting and hugging and congratulations before Granger takes charge.

They do it in front of the fireplace with their friends in a loose semi-circle around them. Granger performs the spell. Pansy stands up beside Potter and Weasley stands up beside Draco. And then with a wave of a wand and a few spoken words, Draco can feel the magic wrap around both of them.

They finish the bond with a kiss. The spell doesn’t call for it, but when the magic sparks to life between them, Potter leans in and Draco tips his head to meet him. It’s the perfect way to end the small impromptu ceremony they’ve had, and the perfect way to begin their life together.

- - - - -

But of course nothing in Harry bloody Potter’s life could ever end so neatly, Draco thinks half an hour later. Instead, after the toasts and the wine and the congratulations have subsided, Weasley speaks up.

“There’s only one way to end this night properly,” he says gravely. “The Noble and Most Ancient Game of Drinks.”

“Toujours saoûls!” Ginny hollers as Hermione sighs, “Oh Ron, no.”

“Why not? It’ll be the best game ever. Can you even imagine her face when we tell her the half-blood who’s inherited her estate just got bonded to one of the last surviving members of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black? And they’re both men?” Weasley goes on. “She’s going to be livid.”

“It’s incredibly disrespectful,” Granger says firmly. “You know how I feel about this. She may have been a terrible woman, but she’s dead and it’s still—”

Weasley’s eyebrows raise a fraction and he twitches the curtain open.

“VILE INVADERS! FILTHY BLOOD-TRAITORS!” Walburga’s piercing stare fixes on Granger. “DISGUSTING MUDBLOOD DEFILING THE NOBLE AND MOST ANCIENT HOUSE OF BLACK WITH HER UNCLEAN PRESENCE!”

It’s interesting, Draco thinks. He can practically see Granger’s blood boil.

“Oh hell,” she says. “Give me the damn bottle.”

“Toujours saoûls!” Ginny shouts gleefully, handing it over, and this time it’s echoed all around.

It’s a fairly ridiculous game. It’s loud and disorganised and mostly involves people shouting, at each other and at the portrait. Wally gets overexcited about the noise and begins to shriek as well, adding to the pandemonium. Lucy swivels her head to give him a disgusted glare and shuffles sideways on her perch to put as much distance between them as she can.

“FILTH AND IMPURITY!” shouts Ron as Walburga screeches, “FILTH AND CORRUPTION!”

“Bloody hell,” he says, taking a drink for ‘filth.’ He sighs. “I really thought I had that one.”

As Potter had warned Draco when he’d explained the rules, they’re not able to play for more than a few minutes. Neville buckles first, getting up and closing the curtain, cutting off Walburga mid-rant about how they’re all debasing her glorious home with their mere presence. Draco wonders if she’s saying that out of force of habit, or if she genuinely doesn’t realise she’s been removed from Grimmauld Place.

“Sorry, but I have to work tomorrow,” Neville says. “And there’s nothing worse than facing the first years with a roaring hangover. Ask me how I know.”

Potter snickers. “That’s the advantage of teaching grown-ups,” he says. “Also, I’m not above threatening them with laps if they provoke my headache.”

“Yeah, but they all think you’re a bit mad anyhow,” Weasley tells him.

“They wouldn’t be wrong,” Ginny puts in, grinning.

“I’m not that bad!” Potter protests.

“Shitfarts,” Weasley says, as Pansy says, “Armed pawns,” and Dean adds, “The Lumosed quill.”

Draco has no idea what that last one refers to, but from the way everyone reacts to it, it must be a story well worth hearing. He’ll have to ask Potter to tell him later.

Draco looks around, at his friends and Potter’s friends who have somehow become theirs. At Potter, face flushed with laughter. At the home they now share. Potter catches him looking and gives him a grin, grabs his hand and pulls him in for a quick kiss. He doesn’t let go after, but lets their hands dangle between them, fingers loosely entwined.

And Draco can’t help but smile.

This is everything he never knew he wanted, and it’s exactly as he’d hoped it would be.