"Big day today, uh?", said Ron refilling Harry's teacup with the remains of the kettle before filling it and putting it to boil again.
He was a tad jealous of Harry getting such an exciting job. But only a tad. One war in a lifetime was more than enough for him, and now he and George were very successful businessmen, thank you very much. Let others fight the evil. In this case those others were his best mate, who would be fighting from the Aurors Department starting today, and his girlfriend, who had been fighting for a year now, from behind a desk and books and forms and against any sign of the old times corruption and rot in the Ministry. Merlin, he loved her.
The kitchen at Grimmauld Place was much more welcoming since Hermione had convinced Kreacher to retire to an old elfs home –those institutions were a triumph of her hard work at the ministry– and mornings used to be calm, despite their busy lives. They used that moment of the day to reconnect and chat, just the three of them, with their impossible schedules flatting in that gigantic house.
"Big day, big day. Very big", babbled Harry. "I should have some toast, shouldn't face the day with an empty stomach".
"Oh my God, Harry", laughed Hermione, "you've already had two! This is not like you, what's going on?". She set aside the muggle newspaper she had been reading and observed his friend intently.
"I'm good. I'm fine, really. Just a bit nervous. I really want to make things right, you know. Catch the villains. But I don't want to be too disappointed when they make me do desk work for ages at first. I just don't wanna fuck it up because I'm hot-headed and I know it and if I fuck it up I don't want them to look over it because I am the Harry Potter".
"I get it. You want to do the right things for the sake of it not because that's what you're expected to do, and at the same time you are worried that you'll be too eager, you'll get yourself in trouble and they won’t punish you because of who you are. Well, just try to control that hot head of yours and demand explicitly no special treatment".
How was it that Hermione always said the same thing you just had said but better, and came up with an answer to your troubles in the time you could say "toast". Oh, toast, maybe he should have one.
"Mate, I am not one to tell someone when to stop eating but are you sure you want that third toast?"
"Shit, I already had two toasts, how could I forget?", muttered HArry, genuinely surprised, butter knife in hand.
Hermione rolled her eyes in amusement.
"Let's go Harry, we better head to the Ministry before you try to put some clothes on your clothes"
Harry arrived early, thanks to Hermione’s superhuman sense of punctuality, and waited in the meeting room for the other two trainees and Robards. There was a speech, smiles and conspiratory nudges. Harry knew both Jenkins and Esposito wanted to be his partner. He went along well with either of them, but he secretly hoped to be paired with a veteran to learn the ins and outs of the job. Finally, they were led to the precinct and all the chatter, the scratch of quills on parchment and the hustle reigning there suddenly stopped at their arrival.
"Aurors, welcome to the team our three new trainees: Veronica Jenkins, Adelaide Esposito and Harry Potter. Jenkins and Esposito will be partners under the supervision of our most veteran Aurors, Holt and Milton, for the mandatory last three months of training. Mister Potter will partner and be supervised by Auror Malfoy".
Harry had most definitely got it wrong.
"Excuse me, sir, who?"
"Mister Malfoy", repeated Robards louder, gesturing towards a desk where a man dressed in the Auror robes, not the trainee ones, with the unmistakable pale blond hair of the Malfoys, was busying himself on some report. At the second mention of his name, Draco Malfoy turned back, stood up, held out a hand and forced a smile.
"Potter. Welcome to the Auror's Office. The desk opposite mine is currently vacant, please take it while I discuss some matters with Chief Robards".
Harry shook Malfoy's hand dumbfounded and stared as the two men walked away and locked themselves in Robards office. Moving slowly, he took claim of his desk, while instinctively scanning Malfoy's for any signs of conspiracies. Then he reprimanded himself. Malfoy had changed. He had turned to their side during the last battle. Harry had spoken for him at his trial. It was probably the fact that he was there inexplicably without having undergone the same training as Harry what had made Harry suspicious. But there was probably a perfectly acceptable explanation. Unless there wasn't.
Harry stood up and made his way to Malfoy's desk, checking each and every drawer, using his wand to open the locked ones. He swept over all the neatly arranged files on the trays looking for whatever clue of what was going on here.
"Potter, what is going on here?", Robards inquired. He had a quality to his voice that made him sound as if he bellowed even when he whispered.
Malfoy was by his side, looking somewhere between shocked and mad.
"Sorry, I'm new, I got carried away and wanted to know in which cases we were going to work?". It came out as a question because even Harry could tell it was bullshit.
Malfoy sighed. It was a short and annoyed sound, but he didn't let the annoyance show much in his expression.
"Potter, I like my desk in a certain order, next time please refrain to touch my things and just ask. I'm here to help you become a fully trained Auror". He said that last bit with resignation, avoiding eye contact, but somehow it sounded sincere.
"Speaking of which", said hot-headed Potter making a grand entrance with an innocent smile, "when did you become one? I didn't see you in training".
Malfoy glared at Robards as if saying ‘I told you so’ and then gestured for Harry to stand up and let him sit at his desk. He proceeded to tidy up the minimum mess Harry had left behind while Harry approached Robards, several steps away, who answered the question made to Malfoy in a confidential tone.
"Mister Malfoy applied and trained to be an Unspeakable but in the moment of his insertion he preferred to become an Auror. The Unspeakable training is", Robards wasn't particularly pleased admitting this and was by no means going to use the word 'superior', "more thorough than the Auror training, so Mr. Malfoy entered the precinct as a completely trained Auror and he's been on duty for almost a year now"
"But, sir, that's not possible, not much more than a year ago we were finishing school togeth…"
"Do you have any idea of how the Unspeakable Department works, Potter?"
"Neither do I. All I know is that Malfoy got here fully trained, with a recommendation letter from above. He's been here for about eleven months and he's on his way to become one of my most valuable Aurors. That's why I paired my most valuable trainee with him".
Robards tapped his shoulder, Harry nodded and in a second he was alone with Malfoy again. He went around Malfoy's desk to his own empty piece of furniture.
"You can summon stationary from the general store of the ministry", Malfoy said, and Harry's paranoia kicked back in. How did he know he was thinking the desk was empty? Was he reading his mind? Did the Dark Lord show him how to do it? "Case folders are kept in that room". Or maybe he was just showing him around, which is a perfectly normal, non evil thing to do to a first day trainee. "The standard routine is arriving at 8 or earlier at the hour you deem most convenient for your particular load of work”, Malfoy continued without looking up from his parchment, “attend the morning brief at 9 and work at your on discretion in your open cases, according to regulations, until the end of your shift, which in normal circumstances would be at 5, or later on until you deem convenient for your particular load of work. Lunch break at 1. Tea breaks at 11 and 3. Calls are answered by experienced Aurors. Given that you are paired with one, there's the slight chance that, if there's nobody else left, we have to answer a call, but it would be rare. Officially, you'll be answering your first call as an observer in about a month, when a suitable one comes in, and your first call as an active Auror would be in three months. Any questions?"
"Yes, why did you drop from the Unspeakable Department?", Malfoy glared at him. "Oh, and sorry for… untidying your desk".
"Apologies accepted, and the answer to that question is none of your business. Now, these are a few closed cases to file, but first there's paperwork to do. I'm going to supervise how you do it and help you if you've got any doubt".
“They paired me with Draco Malfoy!”
“Oh, good, I hear he is a very competent Auror”, said Hermione turning around in the drawing room. It looked like she had just flooed right before Harry. “Although some of the veterans are not very happy with him, I sometimes hear them brag about their pranks to him in the cafeteria. I hope they don’t target you now”.
“They what?!”, Ron entered the room with a spatula in his hand, wearing a Chudley Cannons apron.
Harry turned to the most sympathetic voice in the house, ignoring Hermione’s remmark on Malfoy’s quality as an Auror but filing in the rest of information.
“Malfoy’s an Auror! And they paired me with him! Now he’s sort of my boss!”
“Mate, that sucks! How can they let someone like Malfoy even join the Aurors? He was a Death Eater!”
“He was a boy”, cut Hermione sternly, “caught in the wrong side of a war. I think he proved himself enough during the last beats of war. He also faced and defied Voldemort, he had him living under the same roof! I can only imagine how that would have felt like, so we are not judging him. Even if he was a little shit as a kid”.
Ron listened and understood. But Malfoy was a Malfoy. Malfoys had hated and mocked Weasleys for ages. And Malfoy had been a Death Eater. Death Eaters had torn his family apart and killed many of his friends. It was a lot to digest.
“I don’t trust him Harry. Keep your eyes open”
“Constant vigilance!”, blurted the two boys at the same time, almost laughing.
Next morning Harry played the teacher’s pet. Whatever Malfoy said, he did perfectly with a bow on the top. He observed carefully Malfoy’s work procedures and took notes on a piece of parchment that he kept between his actual trainee notes. He was compliant, polite, even charming. Towards the end of the day he wrote down in his little spy piece of parchment: “By 4:30 subject approachable demeanor stiffens. Tired?”
Every working day Malfoy was well-mannered and ready to give a helping hand to Harry. He always repeated that his duty was to make of Harry a fully trained Auror, and he said so with a straight face, no signs of sarcasm. He never once lost his patience, even when Harry purposely tested it for his little observation experiment. Malfoy was flawlessly professional, unemotional at all costs.
“Very well, Potter. Desk work has no secrets for you already. Please, accompany me now to file these, I just realised you are still not familiar with the files room, as we always accio the dossiers and I’m always the one putting them away”
Malfoy cocked an eyebrow at him: “Don’t overdo it”
Harry ducked his head and followed Malfoy to the archive with a stack of files in his arms. Malfoy held the door open for him and closed it behind them. When Harry heard the locking charm it was too late and Malfoy had him against the wall in the blink of an eye, wand out, but not too close.
“I have noticed your little game, Potter. Did you honestly believe an experienced Auror wouldn’t know when he’s being tracked? Are the others into this? Explain yourself. Now!”
Harry was panting a little. He was considering his odds. He was well built, definitely broader than Malfoy, but Malfoy was taller, and he’d always had better marks at school so if, on top of that, he had undergone a better training, fighting wasn’t an option.
“I am waiting, Prat Who Lived”, pressed Malfoy, verbally and physically. He loomed over Harry because Harry’s knees were bent, turning the few inches of height difference in a huge deal.
“I-I-I could not wrap my head around how could you already be an Auror. I was trying to make sense out of it. Training time doesn’t add up and…”
Malfoy pushed him harder against the wall and retired back to the door.
“Bloody stupid git. What’s the first step of an investigation?”
“Ask the suspect, victim or witness, but I did and you said it was none of my business”
“Because it is none of your damn business! Salazar, Potter! Do you have any idea of the number of death threats I still get? How am I supposed to react if they suddenly pair me with the Saviour of the Wizarding World and he starts taking notes of my routine?!”
“But you are an Auror, you are respected, Hermione told me the word around the Ministry is you’re good at it. Why would anybody want to hurt you?”
“Because I still have this”, Malfoy said rolling up his sleeve and showing the slightly faded dark mark. “It doesn’t go away. It won’t go away no matter how many rights I do. I’ll never undo this wrong”
He unlocked the door but Harry stopped him.
“Malfoy. I wasn’t sent to watch over you, I promise. I didn’t even know you were in the office until I first came here. It was a shitty thing to do, I’m sorry. You told me to stay out of your business and I should. Because honestly you’ve been a great trainer, I have nothing to suspect about”
Malfoy looked at him genuinely surprised.
“Well. Thank you, Potter. You’re not a bad trainee yourself either”
Harry chuckled and grabbed the door knob, but stopped as if he had just remembered something.
“Oh, and if you get any more death threats, those are against the law. We are Aurors. So just… tell me. We’ll investigate them”, he finished with a self assured smile.
Malfoy looked at him puzzled. After a couple of seconds nodded, pressing his lips in a thin line, and they went back to their desks.
“So”, started Hermione over dinner, “have you yet deciphered the mystery of Malfoy?”
“Ya, what’s da git up to?”, said Ron with a mouthful of potato mash.
“Well, just today he found out I was spying on him. And he wasn’t very pleased”
“Wonder why?”, replied sarcastically Hermione, eyes on an official document.
Harry ignored her.
“Actually, it kinda looks like he knew from the beginning. But today he confronted me. Long story short I apologised, the air is clear now. We are good partners”
Ron gaped, mouth full of roast.
“Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, mate, don’t you long story short me. What happened?”
Harry told the scene at the archive and how Draco looked repentant of his past and determined to do good.
“I just don’t understand why would anyone send him death threats. He was a kid, for Merlin’s sake. What was he supposed to do? Forsake his family, defy Voldemort? I bet none of the people writing those letters would have stood a second before Voldemort and Malfoy lived in the same house for months”
“Well”, said Ron, this time after swallowing, “Sirius did rebelled against his family…”
“Don’t mention Sirius, that’s different…”
Hermione dropped loudly a book he had picked up at some point. Her multitasking was beyond human comprehension.
“You know who rebelled against his family too, Ron? Your brother Percy. Should we ostracize him and send him death threats because his actions impeded those of the Order of the Phoenix against Voldemort? War is a shady land. Sirius, Percy, Draco Malfoy, they all made difficult choices in that land. None of them can compare because each one of them had their circumstances. We are not at war anymore. We haven’t been for two long, beautiful years. I reckon it’s time to build something instead of tearing things down”
The two boys looked at her impressed. She added:
“For those of you not familiar with language finesses, what I’m suggesting is that Harry should befriend Malfoy, at least in a professional sense, and help him with the death threats situation. And stopping the pranks would be nice too, I heard those two idiots bragging again today and they get on my nerves”
“Oh, I already suggested the death threats thing”, said Harry proudly raising one finger.
“Don’t try to befriend Malfoy, Harry, the prat hates you”, said Ron.
“You don’t know that!”, cut Hermione, “People change. They saved each other’s lives during war, Harry spoke in his trial… He’s an adult now. And Harry says he is always polite”
“Yes, but, like he means it. It’s very weird. It’s not the posh, interested kind of polite we knew. Maybe Mione’s right. Maybe he’s changed. I’m…”
“Mate, don’t say I’m gonna try to be his friend”
“…gonna try to be his friend”
“Oh, Merlin. When this goes terribly wrong you will take care of our weeping son”, Ron said to Hermione.
“We are a family, if it goes wrong we’ll both be there for him. Plus, it won’t go wrong”.
“Would you stop acting as if I’m your child? It creeps me out”
“Poor Hawy iz scawed! Come I’ll kiss the fear away!”, mocked Ron pursing his gravy covered lips and making kiss noises.
Weeks passed and Harry got used to desk work. As the other Aurors were on a peak of field work, Jenkins, Esposito, Malfoy and Harry were buried under a slide of paperwork, doing extra hours.
It was half past six and they were wrapping it up when Holt and Milton entered the precinct battered and smoking.
“The hell happened to you?”, exclaimed Malfoy
“Domestic dispute”, said them unisone and then bursted laughing.
“I don’t want to see a major incident, then…”, muttered Esposito.
“Good news is”, announced merrily Holt, “there were so many damages and obliteration to do that you’re not getting bored in the next half century”
Harry whined, his hand stiff around the quill. Jenkins dropped on her seat.
“I’ll be needing tea, anybody fancy a cup of tea?”
“Trainees, go home. I’ll take over from here”
Jenkins and Esposito brightened up and refrained from hugging Malfoy.
“Are you sure, Auror Malfoy?”, said Jenkins already at the door.
“Thank you, Malfoy!”, shouted Esposito from the elevator.
Malfoy spent some time arguing with Holt and Milton about the details of the case, commenting on their negligences with his nose wrinkled. Milton and Holt didn’t take him very seriously. They mimicked him, laughed, patted his back and left. When Malfoy turned on his heels he found Harry, inking his way through a file.
“I told you to leave, Potter”
“No way, Malfoy. I’m your partner, we share the workload. Also, I don’t appreciate people patronizing my partner, specially when he is the brightest wizard of his age only behind Hermione Granger. But seriously, who could beat Hermione? She’s not even human, I’m sure. I live with her!”
Malfoy gave him an odd look and sat at his desk. After a moment he said:
“Okay, you keep working on that file and I’ll get started with the mess those two brought”
Malfoy frowned, and bit his lip.
Harry’s smile beamed.
Harry was very focused counting the seconds for the clock to strike 5 when an owl dropped a letter on top of his messy hair.
“Give me that, Potter. It’s a call”
“A call!”, squealed Jenkins.
“We can help!”, offered Esposito.
“You can both go home, it’s already five o’clock”, said Malfoy mercilessly while he reached for his paper knife.
The two young women gathered their things and nodded goodbye to Harry with faces of utter disappointment. That’s when Harry’s dizziness made way to realisation: a call!
“What is it about? Are we going or is there anyone else to cover it? Is it gonna be like my first call or is it extraoficial because it’s too risky but nobody else is here to handle it and you and I are the only ones and you know I am perfectly capa…”
“Hush, Potter, I’m trying to read here!”
Harry, sat back, still overexcited, and watched Malfoy frown at the letter, run a few charms over it, then summon the Aurors schedule and frown even more. Four Aurors were at home after a fourteen hours shift, they would be battered. Other two were at Dover, two at Derry, six at Edimbourg whatever had happened there, and four more were on diplomatic duty. Then there was Esposito and Jenkins, which, no. And then Malfoy and Harry.
“Don’t let this get to your head, Potter. We are answering this call. But. Even though Robards gave me permission to take you given the case and the case is given, you are not jumping into action unless it is absolutely necessary. That means, unless lives are on the stake. Understood?”
Harry nodded energetically.
“Good. This letter says two wizards are exchanging a suitcase filled with illegal potions in three hours in muggle London, at Hyde Park. I verified it in case it was a prank and it seems it is real, but there’s something odd to it, so we better be wary. I suggest changing into muggle clothes, flooing to the Leaky and using muggle transportation to the site”
Malfoy nodded and headed to the storage room to get muggle clothes and muggle money. He stopped midway, though, and turned to Harry with a half smile.
“Do you happen to keep that cloak of yours?”
Harry’s eyes widened.
“The invisibility cloak? Yes, I do, of course”
“Would you mind to put it to the service of the law?”
“Nothing would make me happier”
“I’m going on a case!”, stormed in Harry, spreading ash dust around the drawing room and running upstairs to his bedroom.
“Good! Take care!”, shouted Ron from the kitchen, buttered toast in hand. Hermione wasn’t home yet.
Harry changed into muggle clothes and rummaged in his wardrobe until he found his cloak. He had used it so many times to catch Malfoy red handed or to fool him and now he was going to help him with it. It was an odd idea that awakened an odd feeling. He trusted Malfoy now. If he thought about it, he didn’t understood how or why, but the feeling was there in his gut. He trusted him. He was going on a mission with him, so he had too. But the oddest thing was that with trust came a certain fondness. Like when he saw the veterans pick on Malfoy for no reason and he felt the urge to stand up. Standing there, in front of his wardrobe mirrored door, Harry asked himself if that trust and fondness were because Malfoy had taught him the few last steps of his dream job or because he actually deserved those feelings.
“Mate, are you alright? You looked like you were in a hurry and now you’re taking forever! Want some toast before you leave?”, shouted Ron.
“Where is he leaving to?”, asked in a normal volume Hermione from the drawing room.
“I’m going on a case!”, said Harry, getting down the stairs, “No toast for me, thanks, Malfoy is treating me at the Leaky while we discuss tactics”
“You’re answering a call? Already? You’re not supposed to just yet!”, complained Hermione.
“How do you know the Auror’s department regulations?”
“Knowing things is my thing, Harry”, said Hermione rolling her eyes.
“Anyway, I love you both, have a nice evening, don’t wait for me up!”, said Harry as he jumped into the floo to the Leaky Cauldron.
Ron put an arm around Hermione’s shoulders.
“They grow up so fast, don’t they?”
It was shocking to see Malfoy in muggle clothes, but he didn’t look uncomfortable at all. He had ordered two half pints of butterbeer, one presumably for Harry, and was reading thoroughly a report of a closed case.
“What are you reading”, Harry asked.
Malfoy didn’t even bother on looking up.
“I’ve been checking the last reports on potions traffic. An anonymous call is unusual and this modus operandi has never been reported before. There’s something that just doesn’t make sense in this case”.
“Well, we’ve got the cloak. We can watch from afar and decide when it’s safe to act”, that was so unlike him Harry didn’t even believe he had said it.
“The cloak is for your safety, Potter. I doubt it would fit us both. I’ll be patrolling and you’ll be watching. If anything fishy happens that compromises me, alert the Aurors”
“Okay, you know what? No. I’ve been playing nice and by the book but this is ridiculous. How can two trafficants or conspirers or whatever be more dangerous than half of the things I’ve survived? And don’t tell me it was luck, you know I can manage my way around a dangerous situation, training finished or not, so stop being so stuck to the regulations and use me!” Harry was too carried away by his speech to notice the blush on Malfoy’s face. “I mean, there’s no way this could be worse than Voldemort!”
There was a silence at the Leaky. He had been too loud and, two years later, people were still a bit shaky, but they rapidly realized it was Harry who had said it and started to cheer and chant his name. Harry wanted to disappear.
“I see how eager you are to jump into action so people calls you a hero again”, said Malfoy venomously.
“It’s not about that…”, his answer came muffled because his head was buried deep in his arms.
“Oh, please, Potter, don’t deprive your audience of your gorgeous face, and the chirpy sound of your voice. What did you say?”
Harry was reminded of all the teasing about the fame he never asked for he got at school and got angry at Hogwarts Malfoy and angry at himself for trusting the Malfoy currently in front of him.
“I said. It’s not. About. That.”, he whispered menacingly, closer to Malfoy’s face.
Malfoy leaned in even closer.
“Oh, isn’t it, now? Then what’s it about? Why do you want to risk your life in something that is clearly a trap?!”, hissed Malfoy inches away from Harry’s face.
“Because I am good at this!”, Harry blurted, “I’ve been exposing traps since I got in Hogwarts and I survived. I’ve survived dragons, trolls, beasts of all sorts, a war… I survived Voldemort! I think I can survive this too and keep you from harm, because if this really is a trap, it is probably set to get you, and if you go alone and I watch from the distance, well, allow me to guess the trap is going to work”.
Malfoy sat back, frowning, looking at Harry suspiciously.
“Why do you care that much?”
“For Merlin’s sake, Malfoy, you are my partner. I have your back”, Harry said as he placed his hand on Malfoy’s arm, “and I expect you to have mine”.
Malfoy looked incredulously at Harry’s hand on his arm, then at Harry’s earnest smile. He slowly, shyly, smiled back and nodded.
They strolled through Hyde Park in silence. Malfoy had his hoodie on, covering his unmistakable hair, and Harry clenched at his backpack strap, were he kept his cloak. Harry chuckled.
“Nothing, I just realised how suspicious we look for a muggle. It’s ironic”
“Ha, ha, Potter”
“Don’t be so stiff, there’s still half an hour”
“I am not stiff, I am alert. Because I am working. Know the difference, you prat”
“Finally! I thought, you were never going to insult me again after the archive incident”
“Do you have a disdain kink, Potter?”
“Nope, not that I know, but it was getting weird talking to you with so much politeness all the time. We used to be at each other’s throats at school. Do you think we can reach a compromise? Like some sort of a good-humored insult based friendship?”
Malfoy stopped on his tracks.
“Friendship?”, he muttered, disconcerted. But then the snap of an apparition not far away caught them by surprise.
They hastily took cover behind a tree and Harry put on his cloak.
“They are at the spot the letter indicated, with the suitcase. They arrived together so it’s obviously a trap, they are not trading nothing here if they come from the same place. It’s early, they probably didn’t expected us to be here already”, said Malfoy peeking from behind the tree.
Harry’s floating head nodded once.
“We stick to the plan. At eight you strike and I follow. I got your back”, he said before pulling on his hood.
Malfoy took a deep breath, stared at his watch for a while and then said “Fuck it”, and started to walk down the hill with Harry almost laughing at his partner’s newfound recklessness following close behind, wrapped in the invisibility cloak.
“Auror Department! Leave the suitcase on the ground and step back”
Both men raised their hands immediately at their heads height and stepped back slowly.
“What are we accused of, mister Auror?”, said one husky voice mockingly.
“Performing magical transactions in muggle space without proper cover and illegal potion’s traffic, by an anonymous informer”, replied Malfoy, cautiously approaching the suitcase. He pointed at the nearest of the crooks: “You. Open it”.
Harry could hear him grin at the order. That was it. It was the suitcase. He ran towards them. The man opened it and pushed Malfoy inside in the blink of an eye. The two guys deappareted with the suitcase and Harry had just a split second to hang onto one of them to side along.
“What the fuck?”
Harry felt backwards as his involuntary host appareted in his destination, which was not the same as the other wanker and the suitcase containing Malfoy. And then he noticed and he couldn’t help saying out loud:
Milton jumped at a voice coming from nowhere. Harry cast expelliarmus on him, dropped the cape and raised his wand.
“Where is Malfoy, Milton?”
“My, my, if it isn’t the saviour of the world… Didn’t notice you took a liking for bloody killers!”, he spat.
“Milton, I swear to the stars, you tell me where is Malfoy right now or…”
“Or what? Are you gonna turn in a veteran Auror? Who’s gonna believe you? Besides your pretty little girlfriend will be worse than dead before you get to the precinct for Veritaserum to make me talk”
“Petrificus totalus!”, cast Harry.
Milton dropped flat on his back in the middle of his sitting room and Harry leaned over him.
“Unless you are a secret ace in Occlumency, I don’t need to get to the precinct for shit”, Harry spat.
He then proceeded to find out Malfoys whereabouts and used Milton’s owl to inform Robards of the situation. He wrote:
Milton and Holt kidnapped Malfoy using a false call as bait. Milton is now petrified at his home and Holt plans on torturing Malfoy aided by several other victims of Death Eaters in Holt’s basement. I’m on my way. Send help. Whoever in the department that doesn’t want Draco Malfoy dead will do.
They all jumped at the crack of Harry’s apparition but couldn’t see no one. There was Malfoy tied to a chair, sweaty and panting, but looking defiant. Surrounding them there was Holt and a half dozen of people.
“You did this, little shit. I know you can do wandless magic. He did the sound to scare us. Crucio”
Malfoy endured the curse silently. It was over quickly, not half as long as the Death Eater’s Harry had witnessed. Even so, Harry’s knuckles were white with anger, but he knew better than starting to hex people blindly. He first needed to let Malfoy know he was there, and then he needed a plan to disarm and reduce them.
“You know, Holt”, said Malfoy surprisingly calm, even smug and just slightly breathless because of the curse, “I’ve had crucios cast on me thousands of times. I’ve had even worse curses cast on me. For a curse to be effective you have to show intent. You have to be powerful, well trained but you also have to harbor hate and evilness and self assurance. You are a little fearful thing, Holt. Your curses are barely tickling me”, he spat with a crooked smile.
Holt punched him in the nose and there was blood everywhere. Harry ran to Malfoy and grabbed his hands, hoping they weren’t too numb because of the tight ropes and he could feel and understand Harry was there.
“Does this tickle too?”, bellowed Holt. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand and looked around. “Who wants to go next?”
A woman stepped up.
“The Death Eaters took my parents when the war first started, before the Boy Who Lived. Crucio”
Malfoy tensed slightly, but the curse was over in no time and the woman was weeping. Harry tried again to make his presence known. He loosened a bit the ropes with his wand and squeezed Malfoy’s arm right above the elbow. Malfoy sided his head and nodded imperceptibly. While another wizard was claiming his grudges against the Death Eaters, Harry took the chance to whisper in Malfoy’s ear:
“Where’s your wand?”
“Holt!”, exclaimed Malfoy, and Harry took the hint. “How are you going to justify this when you’re finished? I know your faces and names. Are you lot planning on killing me? Do you have a grand murderous scheme out of your miserable little brains?” mocked Malfoy, earning himself another punch, which made Holt’s coat flown, revealing Malfoy’s wand in one of his inner pockets.
“Keep your mouth shut, will ya? When we’re finished with you they’re going to keep you at Mungo’s and nothing you say will make any sense”
Malfoy burst out laughing, stirring anger and disconcert amongst his captors, which Harry used to retrieve Malfoy’s wand and promptly put it in his hands.
“You jokes of avengers, taking your pitiful vendettas on me! I was seventeen at the end of the war and didn’t even cast a curse over neither of you or your relatives. You chose me when other redhanded Death Eaters are running free and I am working to catch them! How stupid, self-centered revenge can get to be? Or is it fear? Because you think they’re stronger than me? You chose me because you thought it would be easier, isn’t it? Ah… I’ve faced scum in my short life… Death Eaters at least knew their spells, but you… if you’re planning on leaving me demented and speechless at the rate you pathetic inepts are setting your curses you’ll need a billion weak-ass crucios of yours in a row!”
Infuriated, the seven of them raised their wands like one, but before they could pronounce any curse, Malfoy had released himself, disarmed, and stunned Holt, Harry had dropped the cloak and disarmed two witches and was dueling with a wizard, and Jenkins and Esposito had stormed in stunning the other three in a heartbeat. Malfoy stunned one of the disarmed witches and Jenkins the other, while Esposito disarmed the man dueling Harry. Then Robards entered the scene with Johnson and Winchester, right back from Dover, the three of them wands in hand.
“Are you alright, Malfoy?”
“Very well, sir”, he said as he collapsed on the edge of the chair. “I could use some cures at Saint Mungo’s, though”.
“You’ve done remarkably well, Malfoy. This will be noted”
“Please, sir. We’ve got an excellent team of trainees”, he breathed right before passing out.
“Potter, fuck off to sleep already”
“I told you the last time you woke up, I’m waiting for Robards, he’s going to brief us on the situation”
“How many times did I doze off?”
“Dunno, like seven? But the healers say they cast on you eleven crucios, plus the punches, and the magic inhibitors in the suitcase, so you can doze off as much as you want. Are you feeling any better by the way?”
“I’m okay. Just tired”
“Well, take another nap and I’ll wake you up when Robards comes”
“Liar. Wake up”
Harry had his head resting on his arms on the side of Malfoy’s bed and Malfoy was poking his cheek with a bonny finger.
“Draco, you feeling better?”, he mumbled.
Malfoy blushed at the sound of his first name. Harry was rubbing his eyes and didn’t realised.
“Why did you spent the night here? And don’t tell me again that stupid lie about Robards briefing us”
“Oh, he sent an owl, he expects us at 11 if you are recovered, and then you get your day off. And I’m assigned as your bodyguard”, he said that last bit with a very small voice.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!”
“Calm down, your nose may be cured, but you’re still weak because of all the curses. Take it easy”
“I don’t need a bodyguard! Is that why you stayed?”
“Actually, no, you obnoxious git. If you must know I stayed because I was worried about you. I only knew about the bodyguard situation at 6 when the owl arrived”.
Malfoy scowled at him.
“Why would you be worried?”
Harry let out a heavy sigh. Then he sat on the side on the bed and took Malfoy’s hand between his. This time he saw the blush and maybe he blushed. Maybe. But he spoke as if nothing was going on:
“I know this is something very difficult to get through your thick, hard skull, but not only I am your partner, meaning that professionally I am obliged to take care of your safety, but also your friend. And last night I watched you, my friend, get kidnapped and tortured. Not a happy sight. Not something I could go to bed with until I was sure you were up on your feet again. That’s what friends do”
He released one hand to pat Malfoy’s shoulder and let the other linger for a while, smiling at him. Then he stood up and made his way out of the room.
“I’ll start the paperwork to get you out. You get dressed”, he said pointing to a crisp clean uniform, “and we’ll get going”.
“They admitted everything, including the death threats you hadn’t informed us about”, said Robards severely.
“My apologies, sir, I didn’t want to make a fuss”
“There will be a trial and the presence of trainees will be questioned but I am certain that the outcome of the events and that day’s schedule will justify it. Speaking of which, Potter, Jenkins and Esposito performed excellently, for which I decided to deem concluded their training”
“Thank you, sir”, said the three of them as one.
“Auror Malfoy, you are to spend the rest of the day off and Auror Potter will be assigned to take care of your safety in case there would be a retaliate strike, which I doubt, but better safe than sorry. I recommend you stay in an uncommon place in case they know your routines”
“Thank you, sir. I know the protocol”
“Very well then. You are dismissed”
“I’ve been here before”
“It’s your great aunt’s home. Sirius left it to me”
“Doesn’t it hate you?”
“Oh, yes. I think the kitchen likes me and my bedroom is starting to tolerate me, but mostly it hates me. A lot”
“Pure blood’s homes have this kind of magic. They don’t tolerate just any inhabitant. How are Granger and Weasley doing here?”
“Not bad. Ron’s a pure blood. And Mione’s read a lot on ancient pureblood homes and does dozens of incantations a day to calm the house down”. Harry stopped to think for a second. “I bet the house loves to have you around. You are a Black too”
“Nobody loves to have me around”, muttered Malfoy before he could think.
Harry shook his head, grabbed the chessboard and the pieces from the buffet and gestured to Malfoy to follow him to the back garden. When they sat at the wrought iron table, Harry spoke as he set the board:
“I do like having you around. Otherwise I wouldn’t consider you my friend”
“We are not friends, Potter. We are partners. We get along. We are not friends, we can’t be”
“Why? I want to. I don’t see why not”
“Because I was a Death Eater and you are the Boy Who Lived. I tried to kill Dumbledore and you did a sectumsempra on me, because…”
“You were… you tried… I did. Look. War is over. We are no longer pawns of that game. Let’s be whatever we want to be. I wanted to be an Auror and you helped me become one. That fills me with respect and admiration and makes me want to become your friend”
Malfoy didn’t replied for a while, playing their chess game in silence, eyes on the board. And then he said:
“The Unspeakables weren’t tasked with the prosecution of the fugitive Death Eaters. And I wanted to catch them. I knew their names and faces and families. I could make myself useful pursuing them. That’s why I asked to transfer to the Auror Department”
“That’s badass. And how did you do the training in such a short time?”
“Come on, friends don’t keep secrets!”
“But Unspeakables do”
“You’re not an Unspeakable anymore!”
“Or am I?”, replied Malfoy cocking an eyebrow right before they both burst out laughing.
From the kitchen window, Ron and Hermione watched the scene. Ron took a sip of his tea.
“He can still come weeping…”
“He won’t! Killjoy…”
“You were right, though. About Malfoy. He looks different, like he’s changed”
Hermione looked fondly at his boyfriend, sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder.
“They grow up so fast, don’t they?”