scarlet_malfoy: (h/d kitties)
posted by [personal profile] scarlet_malfoy at 10:02pm on 11/01/2009
Author: [livejournal.com profile] scarlet_malfoy
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] annafugazzi
Title: The Great Divide
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, Harry/Ginny, Draco/Astoria, Ron/Hermione
Summary: If one has wavering faith, can one still have unwavering hope? A tale of beginnings and endings, of getting to the bottom of what one can live with, what one can merely endure… and what one cannot live without.
Rating: R
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Infidelity, Angst
Epilogue compliant? Epilogue Compliant, though I've interpreted certain elements of it differently.
Word Count: 28,000
Author's Notes: I have to thank both Sarah McLachlan and Vienna Teng for writing the songs that were my muse throughout this entire writing process. Without them, this story wouldn’t have its name, and wouldn’t have a heart. I highly recommend listening to both this acoustic version of “Possession” by Sarah McLachlan, and Eric’s Song by Vienna Teng while you read. I must also thank Jenni for reading this first, and keeping me positive. Above all, I thank [livejournal.com profile] lap_otter for her amazing insight and quick beta work, and for being with me every step of the way. Lastly, I must thank the mods for working with me and subsequently putting up with me. You are the heart and soul of this fest and this fandom and you are exceptionally under-appreciated. Thank you for everything! [livejournal.com profile] annafugazzi, I hope you enjoy reading this fic as much as I enjoyed writing it. <3



~*~

The Great Divide

~*~


Friday September 12th, 2008


Harry stood in the middle of the brightly lit dueling room, smiling and sweating in equal measure as he gazed around at his class. After three hours a day of intensive study and practice for two weeks, each and every one of his students could perform a perfect Conjunctivitis Curse on a target in motion. As a result of being said target in motion, Harry really couldn't make out any of the faces around him, and probably wouldn't be able to see clearly for the next hour or so, but his heart was swelling with pride.

"Professor, are you all right?" Harry could make out a female voice to his right somewhere, and he reached out a nearly blind arm to place on her shoulder. "Aren't going to pass out on us, are you?"

"Marie, yeah?" Harry grinned, just able to make out her face at the closer distance. "Cheeky brat. If you think twenty one well-aimed Conjunctivitis Curses are enough to bring me down, you've underestimated your professor."

A guffaw echoed from across the room, and Harry knew it to be Carlos, whose laugh was unmistakable and bordering on annoying. "Wouldn't want to underestimate you, Professor Potter, 'course not!"

"Hey!" Harry patronized, dropping his arm off Marie’s shoulder and turning toward the corner of the room that Carlos’ voice seemed to have originated from. "I'm pretty good, I'll admit, but there isn't a witch or wizard yet who's been able to throw off an undiluted Love Potion." The class dissolved into giggles and Harry put his hands on his hips, rolling his eyes and sheepishly recalling the incident last week in which he'd entered the classroom shouting about how enamored he was with Padma Patil, the receptionist of the Auror Training Department. The student who had slipped him the potion was under intense scrutiny at the moment, and her place in the Department was unstable at best. "So unless you'd like me to deduct 10 points from your perfect score for today, Mr. Vasquez, you'll remember not to allude to such incidents. Are we clear?"

"My… my perfect score?" Carlos intoned. All around him students seemed to be holding their breath, shifting anxiously from foot to foot. While Harry was an easygoing sort on a personal level, he was fairly strict when it came to grading. To receive a perfect score from him was almost unheard of.

"That’s right. And that goes for all of you today, not just Carlos. I've been harping on you all term about the real essence of this job... that it's something you can only truly grasp with time. It's something fluid, intense, strong... all that rot. Sound familiar?" A few students groaned half-heartedly under their breath. Harry sounded like a broken record most days, and he grinned because he knew it. "There is absolutely no room for self doubt out in the field, and for the very first time today, I saw the self-assured Auror inside each and every one of you."

"I'll bet I could cast the Conjunctivitis Curse in my sleep," Marie joked, though her eyes shone with surprise.

Harry nodded enthusiastically, hoping he was looking at a fuzzy Marie and not the fuzzy student next to her. "That's just it. You've got it, you've exactly got it, and that's how you need to feel about each and every one of the defensive spells you learn this year. All the hard work you've put into learning this one curse? You'll be working three, four, maybe five times as hard on the Blasting Curse next week. It all depends on how long it takes you, individually, to know it, understand it inside and out." He smiled around at them blindly. "And you all wondered why it takes six years to become an active Auror, eh?"

Some students laughed, but not many. "Relax, would you? Good job is all I'm trying to say! Now go on, get out of here. Ten minutes early, I know, but it's Friday. Go out, party, get a little sloshed, whatever, and I'll see you all next week."

Early dismissal was evidently more emotionally gripping than flattery, and there was an excited flurry of movement as the students made to exit, either out the main doors of the dueling classroom or through the back towards the showers. A hand grabbed Harry by the elbow and pulled him out of the way of the stampede.

"Professor... may I?" Harry blinked at the wand suddenly pointed in his face. If it had been any other student but Marie Callivan, he might have worried. But because of the fact that it was, he nodded.

"Conjunctiva Reparo!"

The world swam into focus not all at once, but in increments, which disoriented him for a second or two. He shook his head, adjusted his glasses, and looked down at Marie, who was smiling hopefully up at him with round brown eyes. She'd been Padma's assistant for two years, during which she'd eavesdropped on as many classes as she possibly could. She knew most of the class material inside out, and it was only the practical skills she was honing now, during her first official year. Harry considered her one of his best students.

"Thanks, Marie. I'll have to remember that one for next term."

She laughed, turning to pick up the bag she'd placed against the wall. "Well, I'd offer to take your weekly report down to the ninth level for you, as usual, but with this new level of security in place..."

Harry sighed, opening the door for her and then stepping out after her. "These security measures are crazy. Don't they realize that people have work to do? First they ban inter-office memos between floors, and now stand-ins aren't allowed to deliver reports? Bloody crazy."

"One little exploding, Hexed parchment too many, I'd say, Sir." Marie avoided his eyes as they walked.

"You're worried, aren't you?" Harry slowed as they approached his own office door and he turned to face her. "You've got nothing to worry about. They’ve doubled the watch in every department, and they're screening all visitors extensively. Takes at least an hour to get through inspection these days. Anyways, I'm not entirely convinced it wasn't just a mistake no one has the guts to own up to... and how long have we known each other, Marie? Call me Harry, would you?"

Marie looked up at him finally, looking less than convinced. "When I was just Padma's assistant running errands for you once in a while, it was all right to call you that, but now? Sorry, it just doesn't feel right. Professor."

Harry rolled his eyes. "It makes me feel unnecessarily old. You're just two years my junior. No need for that formality outside of class, okay?"

"Twenty-eight is hardly old!" She shook her head with a slight smile. "Whoever you are, you’ve no idea how glad I am that you're finally my professor. It's been the best two weeks of my life, actually being a part of it, you know?"

Harry beamed at her. "And I've never had a more promising student. It's just my second year teaching and all, but I can tell that you're setting a standard for years to come. I hope you know that." He paused, raising an eyebrow. "However, don't you have somewhere much more exciting to be than chatting here with your professor on a Friday afternoon?"

"A date later tonight, actually." Marie grinned suggestively. Harry smiled back, preparing to turn towards his office door and make his final goodbyes when Marie took a cautious step forward. "Can I ask you something?"

"Not dating advice, I hope. Couldn't help you much with that, I'm afraid. Been out of that loop for a while now!" Harry hoped and prayed that this wasn't about to get awkward. One hand was situated behind his back, gripping the door handle firmly should he need to make a hasty escape.

But Marie's grin faded, and she merely looked troubled. "What made you quit the field?"

Harry had to think about the words for a few seconds before they made sense in his mind. He hadn't been expecting anything like that - in fact, he'd been preparing for the worst. A proposal, a proposition, another Love Potion or something along those lines, all of which he had experienced in his relatively short life. He was relieved that his faith in Marie had not been completely unfounded. But how could he tell one of his best students why he had quit the line of work he was training her for?

"Well... well, it's hard to say, really." Harry scratched his head and wished, not for the first time in his life, that he were more eloquent.

"Please try. I'd really like to know before I get much farther into this thing. I respect you. Your opinion is important to me. I listened in on your classes the most last year, if that means anything to you."

Harry laughed. "No wonder you aced the last two quizzes. Little sneak."

Marie just looked at him pointedly, and Harry nodded, leaning his shoulder against the doorframe and crossing his arms in resignation. "All right. I don't want you to think that I have any less respect for those in the field just because I made the decision to resign from active duty, or that I think any less of what they do. It's extremely important work." He looked at Marie, whose head was tilted to one side. "It just... wasn't something I could do anymore. I spent the better part of my childhood worrying about the bad guys, and I'll never get those years back. And now, I've got a three-year old, a two-year old and another one on the way, and I just... I realized that I didn't want to spend my adult years within that same frame of mind. For my kids' sake, as well as mine. Does that make sense?"

Marie nodded. "You spent just three years in the field. And you were top of your class. Was the Department sad to see you go?"

"Cried into their pillows every night for a week." Harry kept a straight face for about two seconds before they both burst out laughing. "Really, they were disappointed at first, tried to talk me out of it for a long time, but eventually they understood. And I still wanted to be involved here, which everyone seemed really happy about. I love teaching."

Marie placed a friendly hand on Harry's arm. "It shows. Thanks for sharing that with me, Harry."

"Of course." Harry glanced around the hallway, which had almost completely cleared. "Go have a weekend, you nutter. I've got to finish my report and bring it downstairs myself and all that shite, and if I'm late again, my wife will certainly bite my head off. I'll see you on Monday, yeah?"

"Bye, Professor... Harry." Marie smiled and turned to leave, and Harry sighed, finally turning the knob of his office door and heading inside.


~*~

Strange how you know inside me
I measure the time and I stand amazed
Strange how I know inside you
My hand is outstretched toward the damp of the haze


~*~



Ginny’s red hair seemed almost on fire itself as her face floated in the fireplace in Harry’s office. Seated at his desk, Harry flipped idly through the weekly report he had yet to completely fill out and deliver to the ninth level - the Department of Mysteries - before he could call it a day and go home.

“Do you think you can finish and be home in half an hour? The kids are hungry, I’m hungry... I don’t see why you couldn’t have delivered it on your lunch break or something.” Ginny spoke while attempting to keep an eye on James and Albus and glare daggers at her husband at the same time.

“I had a student in who needed some help with his defensive stance during my lunch break. I’m hungry too, and I’m sorry, but I’ll be home as soon as I can. It might be half an hour, or it might be a little longer. Who knows?” He finally glanced at her, unsurprised but still wincing at the anger in her eyes.

Things hadn’t been wonderful between the two of them as of late. With the announcement of the arrival of their third child, Ginny had been asked kindly to resign from her position on the Holyhead Harpies. It made sense, Harry had told her at the time. After having taken the allotted time off for both James and Albus, the captain was only doing what was best for the team as a whole. And, Harry had reminded her, she’d be able to spend a lot more time with the kids as a result. He had expected her to be happy about that, at least, but Ginny had only become more and more distant and irritable as her waistband expanded.

At first he tried to blame it on Ginny’s changing hormones, but eventually, after plenty of denial he realized it had nothing to do with the pregnancy. After all, Ginny had been pregnant twice before, and in Harry’s opinion she’d made an absolutely adorable pregnant woman, glowing and happy and only prone to crying fits once in a while.

This time around, Harry felt unbearably guilty around his wife. She would burst into tears and refuse to tell him what the matter was, refuse to let him in. She never outright said it, but it was clear she envied him his time away from home and sometimes made degrading comments about his switch from fieldwork to teaching. It hurt Harry very much that his wife, who had once been so understanding about his decision was now using it as some kind of ammunition against him. Harry was worried, about the two of them, and for the new baby.

Things were already complicated enough. He didn’t mind so much being used as a conduit for Ginny’s anger as long as nothing had to change, but he didn’t plan on letting Ginny take an ounce of it out on his child. Harry hoped that he knew his wife better than that, that she would never do such a thing, but lately he wasn’t so sure.

“The sooner I get started, the sooner I’ll be home. Will you be watching over me as I work?” Harry asked coldly, watching his fingers play an indistinct rhythm over the cover of the report on his desk. He had been very careful over the past few months, making sure not to buy into the frustration building up inside him, telling himself that it would only make it worse if he responded. But it had gotten so bad lately that he couldn’t stop his mounting anger from escaping little by little.

There was no response other than an indignant huff on her end. He listened as she slammed the grate shut at home, and the green flame in his office’s fireplace disappeared, leaving behind a heavy silence.

He glanced at the wall next to his desk, where a smiling photograph of James and Al was on prominent display. Their smiles rejuvenated him, calming him down enough so that he could actually concentrate on finishing his report.


~*~

And of course I forgive
I've seen how you live
Like a phoenix you rise from the ashes
You pick up the pieces
And the ghosts in the attic
They never quite leave


~*~



"The Department of Mysteries," the lift's cool, female voice finally announced. A chill ran down Harry's spine, as it always did and always would whenever he got off on this particular level – but it didn’t deter him for more than a moment. He stepped out of the lift, report in hand, once the iron grilles had opened wide enough for him to step through.

He immediately noticed that all the desks in the circular reception area were deserted, and all of the hallways that intersected off the main room were dark.

“Fuck,” he muttered to himself, walking into the very center of the room and glancing around a bit desperately. He hadn't considered that the reports might have had to be in before a certain time of day. The only thing that was stopping him from getting the hell out of there and turning his report in on Monday instead was the fact that he really did not want to receive a nasty memo from the head of either his own department or the head of the Department of Mysteries. For no reason that Harry could discern, these reports were of utmost importance, and all departments within the Ministry were required to have them in. The ‘or else’ was implied, and he really didn’t fancy any articles in the Prophet about him having an inquiry at work.

With a frown, Harry turned to make his way – regretfully – back to the lift, when he heard a door open and close down one of the invisible hallways. He could hear someone walking, shoes clacking on the stone floor. It echoed up and down the intermingling hallways, back and forth and back and forth so that Harry wasn't sure where the sound had originated from - until he saw someone appear, carrying what looked like the entire Ministry’s weekly report. All of them were identical to the thick binding Harry had stowed under his arm. After a moment he realized that it was Draco Malfoy.

It was almost comical to see the reports tipping out of Malfoy's grip as he noticed Harry's presence. They flew across the room in all directions and hit the ground almost in slow motion, a cacophony of paper.

Malfoy must have been sure that his glare alone could burn a hole through Harry, who was feeling a bit scandalized under the scrutiny. After a moment, Malfoy took notice of the report under Harry’s arm, and comprehension dawned in his eyes.

“That was supposed to be in by four o’clock, Potter.” He glanced over Harry’s shoulder to look at the large clock on the wall, furiously ticking just above the lift. At the same time he muttered an alphabetizing charm, and the files flew from the ground into Malfoy’s once again outstretched arms – including Harry’s file, rudely ripped from his fingers.

“Ow!” Harry yelped, wringing his hand and finally returning Malfoy’s glare. Up until then he’d been regarding the other man with almost faint amusement, but receiving a paper-cut from his one-time nemesis put him a little past the edge of faintly amused.

“Sorry about that.” Malfoy didn’t sound sorry at all. “See, some people apologize when they appear out of nowhere – very creepily, I might add – and make them drop their very important files all over the floor.”

Harry stared at the red line across his palm. “If you’d have given me a moment or two before biting my head off, then you would have heard me apologize.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes at him, igniting something petty but fiercely stubborn in Harry’s heart – something he forced himself to swallow and thrust beneath the surface. Harry wasn’t fifteen years old anymore, even if this encounter was making him feel like it over again. So much had happened to him since then – to Malfoy, too, he presumed. Harry hadn’t thought of their intense schoolboy rivalry in years.

He hadn’t really seen much of Malfoy after the war, though he’d testified on both Malfoy’s and his mother’s behalf, saving them both from a 20-year stint in Azkaban on charges of being accomplices to the Death Eaters. Malfoy hadn’t uttered a word of thanks to Harry, not even an owl of recognition, absolutely nothing at all – until Harry took it upon himself to return the hawthorne wand. What did he need it for, really? A bit awkwardly and just as Harry had been turning to leave the Manor, Malfoy had thanked him – it had been short and certainly not sweet, but Malfoy had been sincere enough that Harry’s estimation of him had risen a bit. During Harry’s testimony, he had stated quite adamantly that he believed Malfoy had refused to identify him that night at the Manor in order to save his life. It hadn’t been the first time Harry had witnessed Malfoy make a decision like that; Harry would never forget the way all the color fled from Malfoy’s face when he told the Wizengamot about that night on the rooftop with Dumbledore.

They hadn't had reason to come in contact again until a few years after the war, when Malfoy started working in the Department of Mysteries. Harry had only seen Malfoy at various Ministry functions outside the office, since he had been on active duty most of the time. He had attended Narcissa Malfoy’s funeral last year out of respect for the woman who had saved his life during the war, and Malfoy had politely thanked him for coming, but that was it. This was only the second or third time he had even seen him in the Ministry since he’d started teaching.

“Well, now you’ve got my report. Sorry it was late. Do you need anything else?” Harry asked, itching to get out of there, but Malfoy closed his eyes and sighed, as if Harry had reminded him of something quite dreadful – he looked back at Harry and glared at him resentfully.

“Actually, I’ve got to have you sign a sheet saying you’ve dropped it off and that you are, actually, who you say you are – new safety protocol, don’t ask me – but I’ve left it in my office.” Malfoy glanced up at him and immediately turned to head back down the hallway he’d just come from, several overhead lights turning on as he approached. Harry supposed he was meant to follow, and so he did.

There were fewer echoes in the smaller hallway, but the sound still bounced from wall to wall strangely, in a way that seemed to make every little movement or twitch intimately obvious. Harry was certain it hadn’t been like this down here back in his fifth year – though he’d never visited any of the offices before, so perhaps he was wrong. Eventually they stopped at a nondescript black door, identical to all the others in the hallway, and presumably, the entire department. The small silver plaque on the wall beside it read in indented script: Draco Malfoy, Head Coordinator of the Dept. of Mysteries. Harry shook his head in wonder.

“Amusing, yes, nameplates always are… could you do me a favor, though, and get the door, please? I’m a little heavy-handed.” Malfoy tilted his head towards his office door. Harry sighed, but opened the door nonetheless, following Malfoy into the office.

“What was that look for, anyway?” Malfoy inquired as he set the pile of reports on the corner of his desk and kneeled down to rifle through one of the filing cabinets against the wall.

“What look?” Harry asked as he took in the large, brightly lit office, and the fake sunlight streaming in through the shutters. He would never have imagined Malfoy’s office so… friendly, or comfortable. Two off-white plush armchairs were in front of his large, mahogany desk, and homey touches lined the shelves – lots of picture frames and magical post-it notes filled with hurried but tidy print. Some finger-paintings were pinned to a large corkboard behind the desk.

“Oh, come on, Potter. The look you just gave my nameplate outside. It was two seconds ago. Have you developed the attention span of a goldfish since the good old days?” Malfoy’s voice was mostly muffled as he kneeled low over the cabinet’s lowest open drawer, but still audible. Harry could only see his back.

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Dunno, though it seems some things never change.” He shuffled from foot to foot, wishing Malfoy would quit being so bloody annoying and find the damn parchment so he could just sign it and leave.

Malfoy had the nerve to laugh. “Oh, I’ve changed, Potter. Believe you me.” He straightened finally with a parchment in hand and snatched a quill from his desk, offering them both to Harry. Frowning at him, Harry took them and leaned over the desk, scanning the document for a place to sign.

“Left hand side. Names are in alphabetical order, so you should be somewhere in the middle, there.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled, finding his name quickly and scrawling his signature and the date along the line. “For the record, that look wasn’t a slight against you or anything. I just don’t get the Department of Mysteries, I guess.” Glancing towards the top of the document again, his eyes caught on a framed photograph of a blond-haired little boy that Malfoy had on his desk, and he spoke before Malfoy could retort. “Is that your son?”

“Oh, yes… that’s Scorpius. I think he’ll be in the same class as your current youngest.” Malfoy quirked an eyebrow at him as though he were anticipating a negative response, but then his eyes flickered downward onto the photograph, silently wiping away a bit of dust that had gathered on the silver frame.

Harry’s eyebrow rose in turn, wondering if Malfoy understood at all that he himself had changed, too. The familiar, stubborn impulse had surprised him simply by still existing within him, still a part of him after all the time that had passed. It was being brought into focus for the first time since… well, probably since his very last real exchange with Malfoy, years ago. But he wasn’t going to let it rule him. In class, he’d dealt with several students who had had pasts littered with the lineage of Death Eaters, and he’d been able to come to turns with all of them, and they with him. He’d had to learn to let go of a lot of pride when dealing with students, their parents, and other members of the staff. Old acquaintances were no different; he was determined to make it so. However natural it seemed to argue with Malfoy, he was going to have to find a new way to channel it or something.

“Well. Let’s hope they get on better than we did, eh?” Harry handed both parchment and quill back to Malfoy, who looked astonished.

“One can only hope.” Malfoy placed the parchment back in his drawer and shut it with his foot. “That’s all I need here, Potter.”

Harry nodded, feeling strange and oddly pleased with the exchange, though not entirely certain how to end the conversation. He’d never had to worry about being cordial with Malfoy before. “Next week, then?” he asked hesitantly.

“Next week, right here. And do try to be punctual from now on,” Malfoy chided as he picked up the large pile of reports again.

The corners of Harry’s mouth twitched in acquiescence, and he moved to hold the door open and follow Malfoy back out into the hallway of echoes.

Harry stared ahead, automatically keeping time with Malfoy’s noisy footsteps. Malfoy had filled out in the years since the Death Eater trials. Harry had never really taken a purposeful look at the man, but back then Malfoy had been all skin and bones. With all that he’d been dealing with at the time, Harry could hardly blame him, having been rather skinny and bony and stressed himself. He was glad Malfoy seemed to have fallen into a healthy routine, with a healthy family life. Good for him.

“What are you even looking for in all these reports? I just don’t get how my boring notes could be in any way important,” Harry voiced tentatively.

Malfoy shot him a withering glance over his shoulder. “Don’t be daft. We’re the Department of Mysteries. Don’t tell me you honestly expect me to answer that?”

Harry shrugged. “Not really. Thought I’d ask, just in case you were off your guard or something.”

“An Unspeakable is never off their guard,” Malfoy sniggered at what must have been a private joke as he faced front. They’d reached the main room again, and Malfoy turned around to face him. “Don’t follow me. I’m not taking the lift. I’d rather you not see the hallway I take these files down, if you don’t mind.”

It was Harry’s turn to snigger. “Now who’s being creepy?”

“At least it’s my job to be creepy. What’s your excuse?” Malfoy raised an eyebrow.

“Ha. Touché,” Harry said, fiddling with the hem of his jumper and wondering if it would be at all appropriate to shake Malfoy’s hand. It seemed they’d managed to come to a mutual understanding regarding their past, or something along those lines. Harry wasn’t going to dissect it too much, but he would accept it for what he thought it was.

He held his hand out then, realizing a split second later that Malfoy’s hands were rather preoccupied with all the reports he was holding. Malfoy’s cheeks turned a light shade of pink as he stared down at the proffered hand.

“Sorry, well, guess that was a dumb idea,” Harry muttered as he retracted his hand, starting to slowly back toward the lift. “See you next week, Malfoy.”

“Next week,” Malfoy echoed. “You should try that again next week, at a less inopportune moment, perhaps.”

Harry grinned, beginning to turn. “Maybe I will.”

Malfoy nodded once in affirmation, and Harry turned to face the lift. He didn’t have to wait long, as it didn’t seem to have gone anywhere since Harry had left it not ten minutes earlier. He clambered in, and turned to face front. In the time it took for the grilles to shut, he watched Malfoy, still standing there protecting the secrets of his files and studying him with interest. Their eyes met for a split second. Neither of them looked away.


~*~

And of course I forgive
You've seen how I live
I've got darkness and fears to appease
My voices and analogies
Ambitions like ribbons
Worn bright on my sleeve


~*~


One Week Later
Friday September 19th, 2008


Draco gritted his teeth, gripping the headboard and thrusting in time with the man on his knees behind him. Fingers made their way up and down his back, nails leaving behind trails of bright pink skin as Draco hissed.

“Close… almost… ah, Har… nry… Henri, Henri…” He bit his lip guiltily as he came.

Henri de Lorme was a rich French diplomat’s son. Lucius Malfoy had been good friends with the elder de Lorme for as long as Draco could remember, and their families had even vacationed together a few times. Draco and Henri had been very close as children, but hadn’t seen much of each other after their respective departures to Hogwarts and Beauxbaton. After the war – in which both families had been rather involved – the Malfoys and the de Lormes had decided to start vacationing together again, in hopes of bolstering their spirits and getting themselves back on level ground within the wizarding world.

One thing that neither family had counted on being bolstered was their sons’ mutual sex drives.

Of course, neither family was aware of that fact, though Draco thought Lucius might have had some suspicions. He never voiced them, and for that Draco was grateful. The arrangement he had with Henri de Lorme was a purely physical one, with a strong basis of friendship that had sustained it for longer than the usual fling.

Draco still planned on getting married and producing his heir, and Henri had similar plans. He wasn’t in love with Henri. He’d never been in love, not even with his wife.

Especially not with his wife.

Henri lay down on his back beside Draco, grinning widely. Draco lay down, too, but didn’t reach for Henri or pull him in for any sort of post-coital kiss. They had never done that. Both agreed it would be taking the arrangement too far.

“So, who is this – Harny, hmm?” Henri asked, a bit of humour evident in his tone. Draco was glad it was dark in the room. Henri would have trouble making out the finer details of his face, which would not be conducive to secret keeping. He’d gone rigid at the remark, and he had a feeling his cheeks were turning slightly pink, entirely of their own accord.

“Slip of the tongue, perhaps, during a particularly intense moment of passion. It’s been known to happen. I’m quite flighty, you know me.” Draco looked away, pretending to study the contours of the darkened ceiling.

“I do. I know you quite well.” Henri reached out to turn Draco’s face towards him, and Draco braced himself to pull away. “Well enough to know that something is very… odd about you tonight.”

Draco forced himself to laugh. “I’m just tired. I don’t really know what else it could be.”

Henri smiled knowingly. Draco could just make it out in the darkness, the tender curving of the other man’s lips. If there was any one person Draco trusted enough to tell, it was Henri… but both of them knew that he wouldn’t.

With a couple of gentle pats on the cheek, Henri stood and began to search for his cloths in the dark. As usual, he would Apparate home. He never spent the night; it was another unspoken rule of their arrangement.

“You know my Floo is always open, Draco,” Henri said kindly, stepping into a thin sliver of moonlight near the door that had escaped the shutter’s wrath. The man’s dark hair was sticking out at funny angles and it made Draco’s stomach turn for reasons that were becoming all too clear to him. He closed his eyes to shut it out of his mind.

“Thanks, Henri. I’ll talk to you in a few days at my parent’s place for tea, yeah?”

Henri looked slightly crestfallen, but he smiled and nodded, and with a slight turn he was gone.


~*~


Four Years Earlier
Monday September 5th, 2005


“Before entering this room,” Reginald Kilpatrick – Draco’s soon-to-be-boss – began to address the small group of new Unspeakable trainees, “you must read and sign the contract. It is of utmost importance. If you cannot adhere to the terms, I’ll have to ask that you leave and ask the front desk for a memory charm on the way out.”

It was very clear to Draco that there were no games being played. Kilpatrick’s voice was a colorful bass, but despite its warmth there was an undercurrent of intensity that made Draco shiver whenever the man was being even slightly threatening. He was short and stout and had a long dark beard that came to such a distinct point, Draco was sure he spelled it that way every morning.

Draco calmly studied the parchment that had been handed to him, and several moments later he learned exactly what the term “Unspeakable” meant.

At first the knowledge terrified him. His gut instinct was to hand the contract back and run to the front desk for his memory charm, but he forced himself to read to the very end.

He’d be giving up the ability to speak freely. Before entering the main work centre of the Department of Mysteries, he’d have to undergo a process of complicated spell work – which they termed ‘taking the Oath’ – that would, in essence, make it virtually impossible to tell another person who wasn’t also an Unspeakable anything about the innerworkings of the Department. It sounded far too Veritaserum-esque to Draco, though the last sentence gave him some solace.

Unspeakables may inform family members and close friends about the Oath they have taken if they are asked to disclose any information regarding their line of work.

Draco, who had lately been digging for realistic excuses to meet with Henri twice a month, now had the perfect alibi. Even his cold-hearted bitch of a wife wouldn’t dispute the Oath of an Unspeakable. Before now, Draco had been in awe of the ambiance of Unspeakables, intrigued by the secrets they kept, and curious to learn it all, to be as awe-inspiring as they were, if only to regain a bit of respect and social-standing in the wizarding world.

He’d been through the moral testing. He’d had his mind searched from beginning to end, top to bottom, had all of his most intimate thoughts plundered and critiqued by qualified Unspeakable Legilimens. His very moral fiber had been judged. In the end, they’d found him worthy of the appointment. To try for it had been the very first decision Draco had made for himself, of his own accord, without any other person or influence in mind, and the joy he felt at success had been sweet.

Now, Draco had another choice to make. It was true that he didn’t really need to work. The Malfoy funds would virtually never run out, not unless he went wildly crazy buying houses in every major European city, which he wouldn’t do. He was very happy with his new three-level flat in London.

But nor could he stay home and be content. He had married Astoria Greengrass as his mother had wanted. His mother had been weak and sick then, and he hadn’t been able to begrudge her a thing. Astoria was very beautiful, with dark hair and pale skin and was what Crabbe had once termed ‘the most wankable bird in Slytherin.’ Draco had thought they might come to be friends, at the very least – they hadn’t met each other more than a couple of times before getting married. It was an old system; arranged marriages weren’t nearly as popular as they had been in his parents’ generation, but it was ideal for pureblooded gay men who still wanted to maintain an image.

It was also ideal for Pureblooded witches whose funds were waning. Both facts were unspoken between them, but clear as day at the same time – the two most brightly lit elephants that had ever hidden in the corner of a room.

Draco had thought they would be able to work through their issues together, and make the best of the situation. He was a reasonable man, after all.

But on the eve of their marriage, Astoria had turned to him and said, “If I catch you cheating on me, Draco Malfoy, I will make your life a living hell.” Then she’d kissed him tenderly on the cheek, and retired to her own room, leaving Draco upset and angry at the turn his life had suddenly decided to take.

But there hadn’t been anything he could do at the time. He’d only married her for appearance’s sake anyway, and he felt like a bit of a hypocrite demanding any kind of respect or loyalty in return. He could live with his marriage, as long as it stayed in the outskirts of his life.

As he signed the contract, he mentally triumphed over Astoria’s threat, knowing he’d never again be under any obligation to his wife. Lying would be a part of his job, and she’d simply accept that, as anyone in the wizarding world would. Unspeakables were the most mystical, secretive branch of the Ministry and no one doubted them. He could fuck Henri, fuck any man he wanted on the side and he’d have absolutely no one to answer to.

Oh, this was definitely something he could live with.

He ended his name with a flourish, and handed the contract to Kilpatrick.


~*~

Strange how we know each other…

~*~


One Month After the Delivery of the First Report
Thursday October 9th, 2008


“WELCOME ALL, TO THE THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY FOURTH ANNUAL QUIDDITCH LEAUGE CUP!”

Every single person in the stadium, Harry included, began to show their appreciation by screaming and clapping in tandem. The Ministry’s reserved box was full of employees and their families, though Harry and Ginny had left the boys with Molly for the evening.

Harry had been a bit wary about bringing Ginny to the game, and even more surprised that she had seemed so desperate to go. Wasn’t it a lack of Quidditch in her life that had changed her? To her credit, though, nothing had gone awry just yet. She was sitting next to Harry in the front row of the topmost box, not quite smiling but looking around with an almost naive gleam in her eye, almost as if she’d never seen a Quidditch pitch before. Harry wondered if she was reliving their first Quidditch World Cup experience together; that had been the last time Harry had been at a match quite this animated. League Cups weren’t generally as heated as World Cups, but there was good reason for it, of course.

“PLEASE WELCOME TO THE PITCH, FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1892…THE CHUDLEY CANNONS!”

Fans bedecked in orange robes and with orange paint on their faces – it covered some fans’ bodies entirely – jumped to their feet as the players zoomed on to the field. Harry didn’t stand, as his allegiance had shifted slightly since his Hogwarts years, but he had to laugh at Ron, his hair clashing horribly with his robes, screaming himself hoarse a couple of seats down from him.

All of the present Weasleys had gotten to their feet, Ginny included. Harry helped her back down into her seat afterwards, though she admonished him with a harsh look after she was settled. Harry didn’t say that he’d only been thinking of her safety and the baby’s, and he probably wouldn’t have even if she could have heard him over the roar of the crowd. Molly had given her an earful before leaving the Burrow, not thinking it very wise for a woman seven months pregnant to be attending a Quidditch match. Harry hadn’t been about to side with his mother-in-law out loud in front of his wife, even if he whole-heartedly agreed. He’d learned that it just wasn’t worth it to argue with her, because he would not win and he really did not want to spend any more sleepless nights on the couch.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a familiar blond head enter the box, and his head swiveled to watch as Malfoy made his way down the aisle toward him. He smiled as he took in the scarlet and light green face paint Malfoy was wearing that perfectly matched the colors Harry had charmed his own robes. It looked like he wouldn’t be the only one in the box supporting the other team.

“AND NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THEIR OUTSTANDING VICTORY OVER THE KARASJOK KITES IN 1956… PLEASE WELCOME, THE CAERPHILLY CATAPULTS!” The exultant Catapult fans made their presence known while a chorus of boos and hisses from the Cannons fans sounded. Harry jumped to his feet excitedly, cheering despite the look Ron was giving him from a few feet away. Malfoy reached him just as the screams died down and they turned to each other, shaking hands briefly before taking their seats.

“Glad I’m not alone in the box today!” Harry yelled over the din, ears ringing and his breath coming out in misty tendrils. He’d dropped off his report every Friday to Malfoy in the past month – always on time – and he’d begun staying to chat with the other man over their lunch-breaks – even coming back to finish up the conversation at the end of the day, sometimes. They argued and they disagreed on quite a bit, but even so, they both seemed to have developed a sense of respect towards others’ ideals. Harry thought it might be safe to say that they were becoming friends.

Malfoy nodded his agreement, eyeing the back of Harry’s robes curiously. Harry grinned and turned so that Malfoy could see the name “Llewellyn” etched across the back properly.

“I used to have a Dangerous Dai Llewellyn poster in my room at the Manor!” Malfoy laughed. “My parents absolutely detested it.” Harry struggled to picture something as tacky as a poster hung up on the wall in Malfoy Manor – the same Manor that Voldemort had once inhabited – but was finding it difficult.

“Hey, where’s Astoria?” Harry asked, noticing for the first time that Malfoy had come alone. Malfoy never really mentioned his wife when they talked, and Harry had noticed that there wasn’t a single picture of her in his office. He thought it was a bit weird, but then he really wasn’t one to judge as far as wives were concerned.

“Ah… she couldn’t make it.”

Ginny cleared her throat loudly just as Harry opened his mouth to comment. He closed it abruptly and turned towards her instead, wishing he had her ability to speak a thousand words with a single glare.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me properly?” Ginny demanded, an icy sweetness to her tone. Malfoy raised an eyebrow.

“Right.” Harry felt slightly ridiculous introducing two people who had known each other – albeit indirectly – for years, but if it got her off his back for the time being, it would be worth it. “You remember my wife, Ginny. Gin, you remember Draco Malfoy, don’t you?” He leaned back in his seat so the two of them could shake hands.

“Of course. Harry’s been on about how much you’ve changed since school, haven’t you Harry?”

Harry went a little red in the face at that, though Malfoy was grinning at him – he didn’t exactly want Malfoy to know he’d been talking about him, even if it had been nothing but praise.

He was grateful Ron chose that exact moment to plop down in the seat next his sister, not seeming surprised in the least to see Malfoy there. Harry had told him all about Malfoy’s unexpected friendliness several evenings ago over dinner, and both Ron and Hermione had seemed pleasantly surprised. Malfoy didn’t know this, though, and Harry could sense him stiffen at his side.

“Ready to get slaughtered, Catapults?” Ron was a big blur of red and orange hues, making him look like an entirely overgrown and mismatched child. The smile plastered across his face sealed the deal, and Harry felt Malfoy relax slightly. He had rarely witnessed Ron so excited – his behavior was rivaling the day Hermione had answered with a resounding ‘yes’ to his proposal of marriage. Hermione was nearly nine months pregnant and at home with Rose at the moment. She had taken Harry aside after dinner and mentioned that Ron had brought out his old Cannon bed-set, and was refusing to sleep under anything else.

“When the Catapults win,” Harry had grinned cheekily at her, “he’ll put it back in his old trunk where it belongs. Don’t worry.”

A blaring whistle reverberated in Harry’s ears, and he stared down at the pitch. The match hadn’t quite started yet, but the players seemed to be circling in to land.

“Statistically speaking, the Cannons haven’t slaughtered anybody in over a century,” Malfoy was pointing out. “So it’s highly unlikely that they’ll…” The rest of Malfoy’s words were swallowed up by the screams of the crowd. Everyone was leaning over the railings, gaping down at the pitch. On the far side, a line of real-life catapults stood, a Catapult team member manning each one. On their side of the pitch, they could see the orange forms of the Cannon players holding their wands just under the fuse of as many ancient-looking cannons.

The whole crowd stood and shouted as the pre-game display lit up the sky with brightly colored explosions, showering the crowd in orange and green-tinted sweets. Harry grinned, wishing his boys could have been there to see it – though Al probably wouldn’t have liked the noise very much. When it was over several minutes later, Harry noticed Ron staring at him and Malfoy, shaking his head in dismay. “What happened to my best mate? Those good old Cannon days, Harry, don’t you remember?”

Harry laughed, and Ron grinned despite himself. Quidditch, in the face of their new, adult lives, really didn’t hold as much importance as it once had, and was hardly a true source of animosity between the pair. “Of course I do. I just couldn’t avoid coming to the realization that the Cannons are…well…”

“They’re absolutely terrible, is what they are,” Draco added helpfully, popping a green sweet into his mouth.

“Haven’t been terrible this season though, have they? They’re in the League Cup, after all!” Ron seemed to have reminded himself of the fact all over again, and he looked ready to pee himself. He bumped shoulders with Ginny giddily, but she leaned away from him, towards her husband, her arms crossed over her bulging belly. Harry unconsciously leaned away from her a bit.

“A fluke. An odd bit of luck on their side this season. Nothing more. You know Walters is the worst Seeker the Cannons have had in years. Just you wait and see.”

“You’re ridiculous, do you know that?” Ginny suddenly turned to him, angry. “I’m going to sit with Angelina.”

Ron adjusted his knees so that she could pass, and all three of them stared after her as she marched up the aisle. Harry blushed a deep crimson. He’d so hoped they’d be able to get through the game without something ridiculous happening, something that would bring the issues they were having to the attention of others.

Looking concerned, Ron moved over to sit in the newly vacated seat. “Don’t worry about it, mate. Hermione’s exactly the same. Sorry you’ve still got two months of it left, though.” When Harry didn’t say anything, he went on. “I can go try to talk some sense into her if you’d like.”

Harry shook his head, responding in clipped tones. “No use, really. Just let it be.” He could feel the anger rising up inside him, adrenaline rushing through his veins. This was the first time he’d gone out to do something fun in months, and now he was feeling horribly embarrassed and ashamed. He could practically feel her glaring at the back of his head from several rows back, and he hated the power she had over him. He had to master himself. He had to get over this. He’d been looking forward to this game for such a long time, and he wasn’t going to let her ruin it for him.

In avoiding both Ron’s and Malfoy’s eyes, Harry saw that the players were lining up on the pitch now, facing each other, preparing to shake hands. Excitement slowly began to replace the anger in his stomach, and he hurriedly tried to store the rest of his unpleasant emotions away. He wasn’t going to deal with it right now, not when something this monumental was about to occur right before his eyes.

“You two are something else,” Ron spoke, almost wistfully. Harry turned to him, surprised he wasn’t taking in every detail of the players down on the pitch, but was instead looking from Harry to Malfoy to Harry again, shaking his head. “The only two Catapult fans in the box. I never would have imagined it.”

Malfoy elbowed him, and Harry grinned. It didn’t seem so weird to Harry. Not anymore. He’d come to look forward to the other man’s company quite a bit, and was late in coming home most Fridays as a result of the time they spent in Malfoy’s office talking. It was refreshing and new, and gave him something to look forward to.

The whistle blew loudly, signaling the start of the game, and without another word Ron jumped up to join his brothers and the other orange-clad fans.

“It is pretty funny, actually,” Malfoy remarked. Harry, understandably distracted, couldn’t take his eyes off the Snitch until it finally disappeared from view somewhere near the farthest Cannon goalpost. Only then did he turn to look at Malfoy for the first time in several minutes.

“What’s funny?”

“The Catapult colors.” He fingered the cloth of Harry’s robes, raising his eyebrows. “Variants of red and green?”

It took a moment for the implications to dawn on Harry, and then he grinned mischievously. “Well, it seems two old Quidditch opponents can call a truce, as long as their mutual favorite team contains both their old house colors, right?”

“Something like that, I’m sure.”


~*~

Strange how I fit into you
There's a distance erased with the greatest of ease
Strange how you fit into me
A gentle warmth filling the deepest of needs


~*~



“Here’s a couple more pints for the losers!” Ron announced happily, slamming the glasses down on the table with a little more force than was probably necessary. He was completely inebriated, though, and couldn’t really be held accountable. The Cannons had won the match, and would be competing in the World Cup for the first time in history. He sauntered drunkenly away from Harry and Draco’s table, much too excitable to share a drink with the sole pity party in the pub.

Draco sighed at the new pints, staring guiltily into the nearly empty one he was currently nursing – it must have been his eighth or ninth. He was getting quite tipsy. He was, in fact, much tipsier than he'd been in a long time, and much, much tipsier than he'd promised himself he would ever be around Harry. He knew himself. He said things, did things without thinking, and if he got any tipsier, he would be downright drunk. It was entirely possible that he might slip and tell Harry how adorable he was being when he was drunkenly trying to remove the bottle cap of the cheap lager he liked so much with his teeth. Harry's wand was inches away from him on the table, and Draco nudged it forward with the tip of his own wand until Harry finally gave up.

"You used to be an active Auror, right? Mustn’t have come across many evil overlord bottle caps, I guess." Draco grinned into his pint.

The pub was extremely packed with exuberant Cannon fans. Harry and Draco had been able to secure a tiny corner table where they wouldn’t be in the middle of everybody’s good time as they drank their sorrows away, though their knees knocked together every time someone ungraciously stumbled by. After his sixth pint or so, this no longer seemed like a bad thing to Draco.

"There were surprisingly few evil overlords in the Auror business," Harry mused, flicking the newly removed bottle cap in Draco's general direction. It flew nearly fifteen centimeters to the left. "Not even very many wannabe evil overlords, though there were a fair few of those just after the end of the War." He paused, frowning, and took a drink from his bottle. "But we don't want to talk about that. Something a little less depressing, I think. Not the loss, though. I think we’ve pretty much run that topic into the ground."

Draco eyed him peculiarly. "Yes. That loss that just about devastated all my hopes and dreams - and yours, too, from what I have gathered – you’re right, that subject is so much less depressing." Draco couldn't help but laugh his way through the end of his phrase. He really was far too tipsy. One didn't laugh over the events of the war in the face of Harry Potter. It just wasn't done, and if he remembered this moment on Monday he would have to apologize to him, but at the moment he was too far gone to care.

He took a swig, and ended up with the dregs of his pint in his mouth. Making a face, he forced himself to swallow down the tasteless bubbles rather than spit them unceremoniously to the floor.

"At least during the War I knew what I was supposed to be doing, if not how to do it." Harry made a face at his drink and took another long swig, nearly emptying the bottle.

"And you don't know what you're doing now?" Draco realized a moment too late that this question was perhaps not very tactful. Harry didn't seem too put off by it, though, and he regarded his lager quite seriously for a moment or two before answering.

"Not really." Harry wasn’t speaking very loudly, so Draco leaned in. Their knees were touching again.

"You've got a job you seem to really enjoy, two going on three great kids, a wife who married you because she actually loves you... and you don't know what you're doing?" Draco hoped he didn't sound patronizing or angry, because he wasn't. He was genuinely curious how someone like Harry, whom everyone in the entire universe adored, seemed so unhappy with his lot in life.

Harry was beautiful through his obvious frustration - frustration that thankfully didn't seem to be aimed at him. Draco's words had obviously sparked something, though. He’d managed to push one of Harry's buttons, and he hoped he hadn't pushed too hard.

Sighing heavily, Harry slumped in his chair and buried his face in his hands for a moment before looking up at him. "I don't think Ginny's loved me for a while. I don't know what I did."

Draco’s mouth fell open a bit at the admission, and suddenly the tension during the game, the almost hateful glances Ginny had been throwing Harry’s way when she thought he wasn't looking, how she had split the moment the match had ended without so much as a goodbye to her husband… it made a lot more sense. Draco had figured something was up. It had been rather obvious to just about everybody in the Ministry Box. Could it really be as drastic as Harry was letting on, though?

He dug his knee into Harry’s, unable to stop himself from offering some form of comfort. Draco was able to tell from the look on his face at the moment that it truly was as drastic as all that. He was also acutely aware of the fact that Harry was confiding in him, and not in the Weasel, and not in Granger. Draco swallowed heavily, steeling himself against letting his own feelings get the better of him. He couldn’t disappoint Harry, not now.

It was difficult not to reach for his hand. Something, anything to wipe that look off his face.

"I could tell something wasn't right this afternoon. I'm really... well... you can talk to me about it, if you like." Draco sounded like an absolute idiot to his own ears, but he didn’t know what else to say. He let himself bump shoulders with Harry, telling himself that it was definitely something Ron Weasley would have done in this situation.

But hot anger surged in Harry's eyes then, replacing the emotional meltdown that Draco had been sure was about to happen. He was a little relieved. An angry Harry was, at least, one he knew how to deal with perfectly. An emotionally distraught one... well. A hole had been left in a chest cavity the last time they had met under those circumstances. Perhaps this turn of events was for the best.

There was a permanent wall up around the issue after that. Harry didn’t want to talk about Ginny anymore, and Draco didn’t push him. Instead, Draco shared some stories about his own marriage, hoping to get Harry’s mind off of things. He’d never told anybody the whole truth about Astoria, and he felt his Oath catch his tongue several times as he drunkenly went into far too much detail. Harry’s eyes widened in astonishment several times at the things Draco admitted, and Ron, too drunk to deliver any drinks to them himself, had the barmaid returning regularly to their table to relieve them of their empty pint glasses and bring fresh ones.

Draco didn’t remember all that he had actually told Harry at the end of the night, and had absolutely no idea how much they’d had to drink as they stumbled out of the pub together later on – except for the fact that it had been way too much.


~*~

And with each passing day
The stories we say
Draw us tighter into our addiction
Confirm our conviction
That some kind of miracle’s
Passed on our heads


Part 2

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