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At the Crossroads There We’ll Meet

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Harry Potter died on a perfect summer day.

Up until then, Draco’s day had been remarkably pleasant. St Mungo’s was slow that morning, and he only had to treat two broom crashes and a minor case of Splinching, and then spent the rest of the time filling out his paperwork as slow as possible to make it last as long as he could, and gossiping with Healer Canton. For lunch, he ate quickly and then walked down to a small park nearby to fritter away the rest of his allotted hour in the warm sunshine.

He picked a bench near a pond and watched a small child chase ducks, and idly thought that someday it might be nice to have some of his own. Children, not ducks. Growing up at the Manor had cured him of whatever urges he may have had to own any sort of fowl. Peacocks were vicious bastards, and though ducks appeared mild in comparison, Draco had learned early and often to not trust anything with feathers and a beak. Foul beasts, the lot of them. Not that children were much better, Draco mused as the little boy went down on his hands and knees in the muck. His exasperated mother went over and hauled him up by his arm, and Draco aimed a discreet Scourgify at the knees of the little one’s trousers. His good deed for the day, he thought. Those stains would never have come out otherwise.

Then at the end of the hour he walked the few blocks back to work, greeted the Welcome Witch, walked down the hallway, and found Harry Potter dead.

He probably hadn't been alive when they'd brought him in, not with that much blood soaked through the shredded front of his Auror robes. A cluster of Healers surrounded him, all frantically casting spells and pouring potions into his slack mouth, while Draco stood frozen in the doorway because this couldn’t be right, it just couldn’t. It didn’t seem real that Potter could really be here, all bloody and bloody well dead. But he was. That was his messy mop of hair, those were his glasses knocked aside and teetering on the edge of the cot, those were his fingernails bitten down to the quicks and his ratty trainers with the laces on the left one untied and green eyes wide open but unseeing and he was so still. Potter was never this still, always tapping his fingers or bouncing his knee, restless and fidgeting in a way that used to drive Draco absolutely spare back when they were forced to sit near each other in class.

He’d never imagined he’d live to see Potter dead. Been afraid of it back during the war, sure, and who wasn’t? But even then he didn’t entirely believe it could happen. Potter had always been a constant in Draco’s life, one of the few things that had remained immutable through the chaos of his adolescence. Harry Potter would always be there, an ever-present thorn in Draco’s side. Even in recent years when they only interacted at the odd Ministry function a few times a year, Draco took a certain comfort in the fact that Potter was still out there, still playing the hero and appearing in the papers and irritating the piss out of Draco just by existing.

Weasley stood nearby, one hand clasped to his mouth as tears rolled unchecked down his cheeks. He looked scared and broken in a way that Draco had never seen before, not even at the height of the war. Draco made his way over to him without thinking because with his world suddenly knocked unexpectedly and viciously sideways, he needed the comfort of a familiar face. It didn’t even matter that the face happened to be freckled.

“What happened?” Draco asked quietly, looking back over to Potter as the Healers still worked over him, although every one of them had to know by now that it wouldn’t help. But this was Potter and Potter was different, and of course they couldn't just let him go.

Weasley’s hand dropped from his face to dangle limply at his side. “Raid gone bad,” he said, his voice trembling as it caught on the words. He didn’t even glance at Draco, and Draco couldn’t quite tell whether the sudden shock of grief had temporarily eased the tension between them or if Weasley genuinely didn’t realize he was speaking with Draco. “Carlson’s Curiosities, down on Knockturn. We knew he was trafficking in illegals and we… we…” He blinked rapidly and another tear welled up and spilled over. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

“I meant the spell,” Draco said gently.

Sectumsempra,” Weasley said.

Draco’s fingers pressed against his own sternum before he could stop himself. There was a certain irony in it, a sort of poetic justice, but Draco couldn't be glad. He remembered all too well the numb shock of being cut open from clavicle to crest of ilium, how the pain crashed over him moments later, the sheer terror of watching himself bleed and bleed and bleed while the words 'I am going to die’ echoed over and over in his head with a sickeningly bone-deep sort of certainty. Potter deserved more than that, more than this, sliced up and dead at just twenty-five.

“He saved me,” Weasley said hollowly, staring at his friend. “The curse was coming at me, and he pushed me out of the way, and… he saved my life.”

And that didn’t surprise Draco in the least, because that was just what Harry Potter did. He saved people. He’d saved Draco, and now he’d saved Weasley. He was a Gryffindor to the last, as much as Draco hated the house stereotypes at Hogwarts, but sometimes they fit. Harry Potter was all noble self-sacrifice and foolhardy bravery, utterly heedless of what his rescue would cost.

Except it was sort of a shit rescue, Draco thought as he watched the Healers work. One of them bumped Potter's hand and it slid off the edge of the cot, his arm dangling, his fingers loosely curled. Draco stared at the bitten nails and remembered Potter gnawing away at them in class as Binns droned on.

Yes, he'd saved Weasley's life at the expense of his own, but that wasn’t the real cost of it. When he’d died, he’d left Weasley behind with the sick knowledge that each and every second he lived had been bought at the expense of his closest friend, and Weasley would spend the rest of his life paying for it in guilt.

It wasn’t something Draco would wish on his worst enemy, and it had been a long time since Hogwarts.

Weasley sniffed loudly. “I didn’t even see it coming,” he said. “Didn’t even see it coming before he pushed me out of the way.”

Out of nowhere, a memory tugged at the back of Draco's mind, thrumming faintly until it burst into an idea. A brilliant, stupid, ridiculous, impulsive idea, the sort of idea that a reckless rule-breaking Gryffindor like Potter would appreciate, actually. And then, against the bare corner of Draco's brain that was still screaming on about exercising good judgement and not his responsibility, the idea unfurled into a plan.

“I have to go,” Draco said. “Right now. I have to go. Tell them…” He trailed off, because Weasley looked like he was in no shape to tell anyone anything, and with the Savior lying dead it wasn’t likely anyone would listen to him anyhow. “Nothing. Never mind.”

He turned around and walked out of the room, and no one noticed him leave.

* * *

It had been a long time since Draco had felt comfortable in the Manor. His parents spent more of their time in their house in France, and that gave the Manor an empty sort of feel to it. Draco nearly leapt out of his skin when a house-elf popped up next to him to ask him what he needed. He shooed it off and hurried to his father’s study, feeling almost sick with nerves as he pushed the door open and made his way to the desk.

Draco’s hands shook as he searched through the drawers. He’d never have dared otherwise, despite the fact that he was an adult now and Lucius hardly ever came in here anymore, but this was an emergency. He recalled his father stealing a Time-Turner from the Ministry years ago, hiding it away and only mentioning it to Draco when things with the Dark Lord had gone from bad to worse.

“Five hours,” Lucius had said. “That’s as much as you should ever try to go. Otherwise you risk serious harm to both your body and mind.”

“Five hours?” Draco had repeated with all the condescending arrogance of youth and ignorance. “What good is five hours?”

“It’s enough to undo a mistake,” Lucius had replied. And then, with a touch of his old haughtiness. “Or establish an alibi.”

Well, there wasn’t any greater mistake that Draco could think of than Harry Potter being dead. He dumped a pile of parchment onto the floor and groped at the back of the drawer, and came up empty.

"Where is it?" he growled to himself. It had to be here. Draco knew it had to be here.

Lucius would keep something like that close at hand, somewhere safe but easily accessible. The antique desk fit both conditions nicely. He yanked open another drawer, ignoring the tingle of wards giving way. Though the desk was crawling with all sorts of vicious wards, added to by one generation of Malfoys after another, Draco knew they wouldn’t hurt him. The magic recognized his blood. He rummaged through the drawer, came up empty again, and slammed it shut. The wards crackled and spit, protesting his rough treatment of the desk. Draco scrubbed at his forehead in frustration. He couldn’t imagine that his father wouldn’t have kept something like that even after the war ended, something rare and valuable and infinitely useful. It had to be here somewhere. He yanked open another drawer.

And Draco knew he’d found it before he laid eyes on it. He recognized the hum of magic, subtle, probably slight enough that another wizard wouldn’t even notice, but Draco was a Malfoy and his father’s magic called to him. He pulled the drawer off its slide and dropped it onto the plush carpet with a muffled thud. He shifted aside stacks of papers and bottles of ink, sticks of sealing wax and several stamps, and there, at the very back, was the small wooden box Draco remembered from all those years ago. A layer of protective spells curled around it and Draco stretched a hand over it, and lost himself for a moment in the reassuring tingle of his father’s magic. He reached for the box again, and the web of spells popped like a soap bubble at the first brush of his fingers.

He opened the box and took out the small black velvet pouch that nestled inside. It had a comforting heft to it, and something inside clinked gently. His fingers trembled as he plucked at the loose knot holding the little bag closed, and upturned it over his palm. The Time-Turner dropped into his hand in a slither of gold chain, and Draco took a deep breath as he looked down at it.

The idea of turning back time itself to go save Harry Potter had seemed mad to him before when he’d stood in that hospital room beside Weasley and stared at Potter’s corpse. But now, standing behind his father’s desk with warm sunlight streaming through the windows and a brisk breeze rustling the trees and the Time-Turner cupped in the palm of his hand, it seemed absolutely mental. Clearly Draco had come entirely unhinged and ought to Floo straight back to St Mungo’s and check himself into the Janus Thickey ward for being a complete nutter.

Because this didn’t make any sense.

But you owe him, a corner of Draco’s mind whispered, probably the same bloody corner that remembered the Time-Turner in the first place. He saved your life, pulled you out of the fire. You owe him this.

Draco looked down at the Time-Turner.

Bollocks.

He took a few moments to close his eyes and just breathe, calming himself, settling his nerves. He slipped the chain over his neck and settled the hourglass over his chest. Gaudy little thing, in Draco’s opinion. If someone was going to go through all the trouble of making something that could turn back time itself, one would think they’d put a modicum of effort into making it look a little nicer. It’d look far better in silver, Draco thought, not quite so flashy.

“You’re procrastinating,” he scolded himself, then clenched his teeth. “And talking to yourself.”

Well, he was already mad for doing this; talking to himself didn’t seem quite so serious in comparison. This was so illegal, never mind that it was for the Savior. There were a lot of people who still hated him for his father’s deeds, for his name, for the things he’d done when he’d had no choice. This was the excuse they’d all been waiting for to throw him in Azkaban.

You owe him, Draco reminded himself. He was already committed.

In his enthusiasm, Draco gave it two turns when just one would have done, and found himself in the uncomfortable position of having an hour or so to kill before he could do what he came here for. He spent a while in the Manor gardens, thinking it best to keep out of sight. The fewer people who saw him, the smaller the chance that someone would make the connection that he was somehow in two places at once.

At half past noon, he Apparated to Diagon Alley and made his way to Carlson’s Curiosities, one of the many shops specializing in the sort of rare and unusual artifacts that had become increasingly difficult to locate after repeated Auror raids had shut down Borgin and Burke's. Half a dozen bells strung on a frayed silk cord jangled as Draco pushed the door open. It had the same feel to it as the shop it’d replaced: a bit dusty, a bit disused, a bit disorganized. The man behind the counter, presumably Mr Carlson, looked up, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. Draco gave him a sneer and then pointedly turned away, browsing idly along shelves crowded with mostly-worthless junk. He found himself vaguely disappointed; maybe they had their nicer merchandise in the back, available only to those who knew what to ask for.

“Is there anything in particular I can help you find?” Mr Carlson asked from just behind Draco, sounding as though the only thing he’d like to help Draco find was the exit.

Draco only just restrained himself from flinching. He set down the hand of glory he’d been inspecting and turned to face the man, grateful for the few extra inches of height that allowed him to look down his nose. “If I see anything worth purchasing, I'll be sure to let you know,” he said, then turned back to the shelf, summarily dismissing the man.

“Just like your father,” the man murmured as he stalked back up to the front counter, and Draco allowed himself a few seconds of relief that Lucius’s reputation still did him some amount of good in certain circles.

He turned back to the shelf and browsed through the merchandise, shallow bowls of knucklebones, haphazard piles of roughly cut quartz, a display case of cursed jewelry, an entire shelf of potions vials all labelled with the names of diseases: Spattergroit, Vanishing Sickness, Scrofungulus. Everything an ailing wizard would need to cure himself if he happened to be on the run and unable to seek treatment from St Mungo’s. Though with these sorts of unregulated potions, they could sometimes cause more problems than the diseases they were meant to cure. Draco sighed and moved along to examine a small wooden box. He picked it up and gave it a light shake, and heard something metallic rattle around inside it. He was nearly out of things to look at on this shelf, and this was the place that gave him the clearest view of the door. He examined a set of brass scales closely, scraping a thumbnail over the faint etching on the base, trying to keep up the pretense of a casually browsing customer as he waited.

Even though Draco had known it would happen, and had spent the last fifteen minutes with his ears straining in anticipation of it, he still jumped when the door burst open and Aurors flooded into the shop. He stepped back behind his section of shelf as Mr Carlson shouted a warning and dropped down behind his counter in a shimmer of Shield Charms. Moments later, the door to the back room swung open and two more wizards flung themselves into the fray.

Draco twitched his wand into his hand and nearly jumped into the action himself, but held back. Perhaps his involvement would bring the wandfight to a close before Potter came to harm, but he couldn’t risk getting caught up in a duel that would distract him from his main objective of keeping Potter alive. He curled his fingers tight around his wand, slunk as far behind his shelf as he could get without missing any of the action, and watched the spells fly back and forth. His heart hammered against his ribs as he watched what had been the last moments of Potter’s life. What very well might be the last moments of Potters life again if Draco fucked this up.

And then it happened. One of the wizards levelled his wand and shouted Sectumsempra! at Weasley’s back while he was busy trying to dismantle the Shield Charms wrapped around the front counter. Potter, the great noble Muggle-raised git that he was, lunged forward and bodily knocked Weasley out of the way instead of using a spell like a proper wizard would have done, all of his Auror training and Hogwarts education erased in a single moment of blind panic.

Draco knew that sometimes Sectumsempra didn’t react predictably against Shield Charms – sometimes it bounced, sometimes it shattered the shield – so he went for Potter instead.

Mobilicorpus!” Draco shouted. There wasn’t time to put any thought into where he wanted Potter to end up, just so long as he wasn’t there anymore. He just pushed with every ounce of magic he had and Potter flew back, crashing into the shelf of healing potions as the spell zapped past…

…and flew straight for the Shield Charms around the counter. It bounced, flew back, and caught Weasley square across the chest. His eyes went wide as he fell back, probably tried to scream but all that came up was a sort of gentle burbling sound. Draco beat Weasley to the ground, on his knees before Weasley had even finished falling backward, eyes sweeping over him and cataloguing the injuries he had to fix. He swished his wand viciously over his patient’s body as he rattled off a string of spells: something to knock Weasley the fuck out, then Numbing Charms, a Blood-Clotter—

“Ron!” Potter screamed, throwing himself forward, leaning over Weasley like he could do a damned thing to help.

Draco shoved him away. “Do your fucking job, Potter, and let me do mine,” he snarled without looking up.

—standard spells to monitor heart and breathing rates, a Diffindo to cut the shredded robes away so Draco could see what he was doing, and then Vulnera Sanentur, Vulnera Sanentur, Vulnera Sanentur, over and over and over, a pause to cast a Shield Charm around himself and his patient as a corkscrewing jet of gold sparks streaked past close enough to singe his hair, then again and again, watching critically as the flow of blood slowed and stopped, and the ragged wounds paled and narrowed, the skin knitting back together to leave raised pink scars. Refresh the Blood-Clotter, layer on more charms to monitor his patient’s condition, another Numbing Spell for good measure, and he’d done everything he could. Weasley was stable.

Draco rocked back onto his heels as he stared down at his work. He felt a split second of the same potent victory he always felt after healing a difficult injury, before it all collapsed into jittery nausea when reality crashed down around him, what he’d just done, the spell he’d just countered, that he’d saved both Harry Potter’s life and Weasley’s life and only broken about a thousand laws to do so. All of it hit him at once.

For a moment, Draco thought he might throw up.

The light, warm pressure of a hand on his shoulder snapped him out of it. He looked up, blinking, to find that Potter had come back, was crouched near Weasley’s knees and had been for Merlin knew how long. The duel was over and all three wizards had been subdued, and Potter was just staring at Draco with those big green eyes.

“You saved me,” he said. “You saved me and you saved Ron.”

“Yes, well,” Draco said briskly, rising to his feet in one smooth motion. “He still needs medical attention, I’m afraid. He needs to be taken to St Mungo’s immediately to have those scars taken care of. If we wait they could become permanent.”

“They could…” Potter began, his gaze dipping down to Draco’s chest.

Draco scowled at him. “My eyes are up here, Potter,” he snapped, and Potter’s guilty gaze jerked back up. “Take your friend to St Mungo’s.”

Potter’s brow furrowed as he frowned. “I assumed you’d take him. I mean, since you…”

“I still have ten minutes of my lunch break,” Draco sniffed, thinking wildly. He had to get away from Potter and find his other self before the other Draco went back to work and bumped into Potter with no memory of what had just happened. What a fucking disaster that would be. It suddenly struck him that he, a criminal, was sitting here surrounded by Aurors. He turned to leave.

“Wait,” Potter said, catching him by the sleeve. “You still need to give a statement—”

“And I will,” Draco said, shaking his arm free. “See to your friend. I’ll come by the Ministry after my shift is over.” He hesitated, taking in Potter’s appearance for the first time. Some of the jars and vials of potions on the shelf he’d crashed into had broken, and their contents had spattered his Auror robes. He had a small cut on his hand, and a silver powder dusting his hair and one side of his face, smeared a little where he’d obviously rubbed at it. “And see to yourself as well. Unregulated potions are illegal for a reason. You’re probably fine, but you never know what idiot’s been stirring the cauldron and it’s best to be sure.”

Potter frowned, but didn’t try to stop him again as Draco rushed out of the shop.

The depths of June meant that the overly-warm air outside the shop was far from refreshing, but Draco drew in great deep breaths of it and felt his jangling nerves unwind a little. He slipped down a narrow space between two buildings and rubbed a shaking hand over his forehead, taking a few minutes to himself before he had to go back to it and face people. With the action over and the adrenaline fading, a trembly sort of relief was taking hold of him, and fuck if it didn’t leave him more disconcerted than he’d been before.

After a minute or so, he turned to leave, but then hesitated, unsure what to do. Potter was still alive, which meant that Draco had no reason to go back in time to save him. And if Draco didn’t go back in time, then Potter would die, but would it make a difference if Draco had already kept him alive? If he’d already gone back in time to save Potter, then why had he seen Potter die in the first place? Trying to work through it made Draco’s head ache fiercely. All this time travel business had seemed so simple when Draco was staring at Potter’s body. But untangling the aftermath… well, he was beginning to see why the Ministry had declared time travel illegal. The power to go mucking about with the timeline could be disastrous in the wrong hands.

In the end, after wasting several long minutes berating himself for not planning this out beforehand, Draco wrote himself a letter explaining what had happened. He included specific instructions on where to find the Time-Turner, and telling himself to go save Potter. Better safe than sorry, he thought, and this got his other self out of the way so he could just go back to work and get on with his life.

He Apparated to the park, hoping he wasn’t too late, and cast a strong Disillusionment Charm over himself before he came out of the copse of trees that hid his sudden arrival and crept as close as he dared to the bench by the duck pond. He took the letter from his pocket and used a gentle Wingardium Leviosa to send it floating over to himself.

He watched anxiously as the Draco on the bench picked up the letter, glancing suspiciously around, and opened it up. Draco stared hard at the back of his head and made a mental note that it was nearly time for a haircut. The other Draco stood up, stared around again, then set off for the same small copse of trees that Draco had just arrived in. After the faint crack of Apparition had faded, Draco dropped the charm, aimed a Scourgify at the little boy’s trousers, and went back to work.

Fuck his good deed for the day. Draco had just done his good deed for the rest of his bloody life.

* * *

The next week went on with remarkable predictability. Potter wrote a very thoughtful letter to thank Draco again for saving him, and although the wording of it led Draco to believe that Potter had enlisted Granger to help him draft it, he nevertheless appreciated the sentiment. Other than that minor interruption to his routine, his life carried on very much as usual. He woke up, he went to work, he came home. Repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

Until Tuesday, just shy of a week after the Potter incident.

Much like last Wednesday, Draco was enjoying what had started off as a very good day, and those didn’t happen very often during the warmer months. Summers at St Mungo’s were always varying degrees of frantic, due to many of the staff trying to schedule their holidays at the same time, which had the unfortunate side effect of longer stretches of work between days off for those of the hospital staff not fortunate enough to be lounging on a beach somewhere.

So when Healer Pye called him into work on his first day off in a week and a half, Draco indulged in a heavily-put-upon sigh even as he said he’d be right in, and tried very hard to bear in mind that at the end of the month he’d be in Malta and could forget all about work for two glorious weeks. Besides, Pye wasn’t a bad sort, despite his tendency to blather on about Muggle healing methods. He was a nice enough bloke, not too much older than Draco, and had been friendly to him even back when Draco was a trainee, when so many of the other hospital staff hadn’t yet bothered to look past the Mark on his arm. Draco still felt he owed Pye for that.

Draco wasted no time as he changed into his Healer’s robes. He figured they wouldn’t have called him in without a damn good reason for it, and besides, there was that rumor going around that Healer Weston planned to retire soon and that would leave his Shift Supervisor position available. Draco fully intended for that position to become his, and a little overtime certainly wouldn’t hurt his chances.

Barely ten minutes later, Draco exited the Floo in the St Mungo’s lobby and strode across the room without bothering to say hello to the Welcome Witch. The one on duty today always seemed to take great pleasure from snubbing him if he made any attempt to be nice to her, so Draco had stopped giving her the pleasure of it. At first, it had taken a great deal of effort to resist the urge to sneer at her, but ignoring her seemed to irritate her more than outright churlishness and now Draco did it with great relish.

Healer Pye was occupied with a patient when Draco went looking for him, and he took the time to read over the charts of the people he’d treated yesterday. He’d only gone over two when Pye approached him, looking grim. Draco frowned, his fingers just brushing the cover of the third chart. Had something gone wrong with one of his patients? Yesterday Draco had treated a wizard who’d nearly lost his hand in a cauldron explosion, and Draco still had his doubts about whether the man would regain full use of his fingers. He couldn’t think of anyone else he’d treated who had a serious enough injury to warrant Draco being called in on his day off.

“Malfoy,” Pye said. “In my office, if you don’t mind.”

Not even a smile in greeting. Whatever had gone wrong had gone wrong in a very bad way. Draco frowned and followed along after Pye.

“Who’s dying?” Draco asked as soon as Pye’s office door had shut behind them. Someone had to be dying; Draco couldn’t see any other reason for his being here right now.

“Harry Potter,” Pye said.

Draco rocked back, stunned. Potter couldn’t be dying; Draco had saved him himself. “Harry Potter?” he repeated dumbly.

The desk chair creaked as Pye settled into it. “He came in this morning complaining of weakness, lethargy, and dizziness. We’ve diagnosed him with acute anaemia.”

Draco frowned. “So dose him with a Blood Replenishing Potion and start him on—” he began immediately, then cut himself off with a sigh. “I suppose if it were that easy, I wouldn’t be here.”

“Of course not,” Pye sighed and rubbed at his forehead. “It’s rather more complicated than that, unfortunately. It took extensive testing, but the anaemia appears to be caused by an unusual form of Vanishing Sickness. It’s targeting his blood cells, and so far has resisted all of our efforts to treat it.”

Draco’s frown deepened. “There’s no form of Vanishing Sickness that targets blood cells.”

“No, there’s not,” Pye agreed. “And that’s why we’ve called you in. We’ve managed to trace back to when Potter was exposed to this illness, and we were hoping you might be able to assist, since you’re one of our most talented Healers when it comes to analyzing potions.”

“Potions?” Draco echoed. “Potter was poisoned?”

“By accident, it would seem,” Pye said. “It happened during the raid where Auror Weasley was nearly killed.” A faint smile tugged at his mouth and he added, “I’m sure you know the one.”

“Yes, but I was there and Potter wasn’t exposed to any…” And then it clicked in Draco’s mind. The vials on the shelf, each labeled with a different disease. The ones he’d assumed were cures. “Oh Merlin. I’m a fucking idiot.”

Pye tried to give him a reassuring smile. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. There’s nothing you could have done. We’ve been able to determine that this particular poison came in a powdered form that’s absorbed almost instantly through the mucus membranes. Potter was infected with it the moment he inhaled. There’s no way you could have stopped this.”

But Pye didn’t know that Draco had caused it. He’d been the one who’d sent Potter crashing into that shelf. He’d tried to save Potter and instead he’d succeeded in killing him slower.

No. He had to stop thinking like that or Potter really would be dead. Draco could fix this. He would fix this. He felt the guilt rising up in him flare and shift. This was entirely Draco’s fault. He’d been stupid. He’d fucked up. And now he would fix it. The guilt bled away into anger, and Draco welcomed it. He could channel anger, twist it up and make it suit his own purpose.

“I’m taking lead on his case,” he said and for an instant he heard his father in his voice.

Pye didn’t even flinch at the sudden fierceness of Draco’s tone, just nodded as if he’d expected it. He slid a folder across the desk to Draco. “Of course. I’ve already taken the liberty of speaking with Head Healer Thompson about it. Potter practically demanded that you be the one to take over, anyhow.”

Draco nodded distractedly, his mind already on Potter, his eyes already skimming through the chart, taking in the results of the diagnostic spells, the tests they’d run, Potter’s symptoms… he worked through it, what he knew of the poison, the analysis run on the samples of poison collected from the shop, his mind already busy sketching out several options for treatment. He should get to work right away, but a part of him needed to see Potter first. Needed to reassure himself that Potter was still here, alive and strong for now, because he didn’t think he could concentrate otherwise.

He mumbled a distracted goodbye to Pye and let himself out, still scanning over the chart as he walked up the hallway.

When Draco approached Potter’s room, the door stood open and he could hear the soft murmur of Potter’s voice.

“...and the butterbeer corks are to keep the wrackspurts away, and the heather is for… um.”

“Nargles, Harry.”

Draco froze just outside the door. He recognized that voice, somehow managing to sound soft and dreamy and gently chiding and mildly amused all at once.

“Ah, yes. Nargles. That’s right,” Potter said. He didn’t sound at all mocking, and Draco wondered whether he was just humoring Lovegood or if she actually had him convinced about all her ridiculous make-believe creatures. “Let’s see. What’s this one for?”

Draco risked edging forward enough to look into the room, and saw Potter perched on the edge of his bed, studying the oddest bouquet of flowers Draco had ever seen. The blue glass vase could barely contain all the flowers it held, all different varieties nestled haphazardly together. There weren’t just flowers, either, but colored ribbons woven throughout, along with several lengths of yarn strung with little silver bells. A fork and spoon stuck up from a bunch of pink carnations, along with several big white feathers, and half a dozen butterbeer corks jammed onto what appeared to be a set of knitting needles.

“Marigolds,” Lovegood said, pointing into the depths of the bouquet, “are for increasing positive energies. And here’s poppies, to help you sleep. And snapdragons, for easing anger, especially anger toward oneself.”

Potter snorted. “I don’t think I need that one,” he said, his voice caught somewhere between amused and puzzled. “I’m not angry at myself for anything.”

“Oh,” Luna said. “That one’s not for you. But here’s geraniums for comfort, because I know you dislike hospitals, and pink roses for friendship, to remind you of how loved and cared for you are, even when visiting hours are over.”

“And the gladiolus?” Potter asked pointing at a cluster of flowering stalks in the very center of the bouquet.

“That one’s just to cheer you up,” Lovegood said and smiled at him. “Because I know the gladiolus is your favorite flower. It suits you, you know, though it’d fit even better if you’d been born a day later.”

Potter laughed, then reached out to touch one of the little bells and made it ring. “Have I ever told you how much I love your bouquets? They’re almost worth the trips here.”

Lovegood blinked at him, all wide-eyed sincerity. “You don’t have to wait for your next trip to St Mungo’s, Harry. I’m glad to make them for you any time you’d like.” She turned just then to smile at Draco, though he hadn’t made a sound. “Hello, Healer Malfoy.”

Draco stepped into the room. “Good afternoon, Lovegood. Potter.”

“Well, I believe I’ll be off now, and leave you two to get started,” Lovegood said brightly. She leaned down and brushed a chaste kiss against Potter’s cheek, and Potter reached out to give her hand a squeeze. “Try not to worry, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Potter’s smile faltered a bit at that, but didn’t slip completely. “I’m sure I will be.”

Lovegood studied him for a moment, then sighed, nudged the vase closer to him, and spun it a quarter turn, the bells on the bouquet and the bracelets on her wrist jingling in pleasant dissonance. She pointed at the cluster of flowers now closest to Potter’s bedside. “Chrysanthemums for optimism. I’ll bring more of them tomorrow since these don’t seem to be enough. And some asters, I think. For patience.”

“Thanks, Luna,” Potter said with another smile, this one a little less strained.

She gave Potter another smile in return, then turned to Draco and held out her hand. He accepted it without thinking, and she pressed his fingers between both of her palms. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I know you’ll set him right.”

Draco’s breath froze in his lungs. Did she know what he’d done, that this was his fault? How did she know? And if Loony Lovegood had figured it out, who else had put the pieces together?

“I…”

“You look worried,” she said, gently interrupting him. “But you’ve really no reason to be. You’re one of the best Healers here. I’m sure you’ll have our Harry right as rain in no time at all.”

“I…” Draco said, and trailed off again, suddenly uncertain. Did she know? That was the problem with Lovegood. Half the things she said were complete and utter nonsense, but on the rare occasion she could be uncannily accurate, only to turn around and say that she only knew because the blibbering humdingers had told her or something equally inane. Her calm gaze and placid smile gave nothing away so, at a loss, he settled for a simple, “Of course. Thank you.”

“All the same,” Lovegood said, still watching him with wide grey eyes that were far too perceptive to put Draco entirely at ease, “I believe I’ll bring you some chrysanthemums tomorrow as well.” She frowned, brows drawing together as she studied him. “And some lilacs, I think.” She nodded to herself, gave Draco’s hands one more squeeze, then let him go and brushed past him on her way out of the room.

“What are lilacs for?” Draco asked Potter after she was gone.

Potter shrugged. “No idea, I don’t think she’s ever brought lilacs for me before.” He was fiddling with the bouquet again, running a gentle finger along a stalk of gladiolus where the sweetly pink petals had just begun to bloom.

“So,” Draco said, inspecting the odd bundle of flowers. Up close, he could see that there were more little odds and ends tucked away between the petals and leaves: a tarnished key, a thimble, a large shard of porcelain, a stub of a candle, several knuts, and a short chain of paperclips. And that was just what he could see from here. “You don’t strike me as a gladiolus person.”

“Really?” Potter asked, leaving off fondling his flowers in favor of looking up at Draco. “And what do I strike you as?”

Draco shrugged. He hadn’t really considered it. “Daisies, maybe.”

Potter snorted and rolled his eyes. “Something common?”

“Something practical and down to earth,” Draco told him, then flipped open Potter’s chart. “I assume Healer Pye has spoken with you regarding your condition?”

“Yeah,” Potter said, plucking at a bit of lint on the blanket. He stretched out a foot and bumped the chair Lovegood had occupied. “Sit down, will you? You don’t need to loom over me like that.”

It was on the tip of Draco’s tongue to inform Potter that he did not loom, thank you very much, he was just standing there. But Potter glanced up at him and nudged his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, and Draco sat.

He ran through all of the standard diagnostic charms again, jotting down notes and comparing Potter’s results with the numbers Pye had marked down just a few hours prior. He compared them against the numbers from when Potter had got himself checked over after the raid, and fucking hell Draco was glad that he wasn’t the Healer who’d missed this and sent Potter home again. He questioned Potter about everything he could think of that might help him track down a cure, double- and triple-checking all of Potter’s answers against the chart. Then took fresh samples of blood.

“This should be enough for me to start with,” Draco said briskly, flipping the chart closed as he stood up. “I’ll stop by later today and let you know what I’ve found.”

“Malfoy…” Potter said, sounding vulnerable for the first time, and Draco nearly fled the room right then and there. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear whatever could make Potter say his name like that. “I trust you to tell me the truth. Everyone’s trying so hard to be optimistic, and I don’t need that shit. I need someone to be honest with me, even if I’m not going to like what they’re going to say.” He swallowed and looked Draco dead in the eye. “Am I going to be okay?”

“Potter,” Draco said, a bit more sharply than he’d intended, but fuck it. Potter said he didn’t want to be coddled, so Draco went on in his very best talking-to-an-idiot voice, “Dragons, basilisks, and megalomaniacal madmen couldn’t kill you. Do you honestly think this Vanishing Sickness has a chance?” He even managed a bit of a sneer to go along with it.

After a moment’s surprise, Potter laughed aloud. “You’re right, I’m being ridiculous,” he said with the first genuine smile Draco had seen from him all day. He didn’t seem to realize that Draco hadn’t actually answered his question. “Are you going to start your tests now?”

Draco snorted. “Well, some of us do have to work around here. Enjoy your flowers, Potty,” he said as he turned to go. “Be good and I’ll bring you some daisies.”

“You’d be roses, I think,” Potter called after him.

Draco rolled his eyes as he glanced back at Potter. “Expensive and prickly?” he guessed.

Potter quirked a smile at him as he swung his legs back up into the bed and flipped the blanket over himself. “Got it in one.”

Draco caught himself smiling back at him, and quickly turned to the door. “Just rest for now, and I’ll stop by again later.”

“I’ll be here,” Potter called after him just as the door swung shut.

* * *

Potter faded quickly, though he did his best to hide it from his endless rounds of visitors. Draco understood why he did it for his godson; Teddy Lupin was a child and he could see why Potter would want to avoid frightening him. But Granger and Weasley came by every day, and every day Potter pasted on a big bright smile for them too, chatting optimistically about the new developments in his case, and how the Healers were working so hard and were quite close to finding a cure, really, it certainly wouldn’t be long now.

Lovegood stopped by a few more times as well, and Potter didn’t cling to the smile quite as hard with her. She perched on the foot of his bed, her legs tucked up beneath her, and they talked quietly. Sometimes she read aloud from the newspaper or a magazine, and once Draco had caught them playing cards. Potter always seemed brighter after a visit from her, and Draco didn’t think it was just the extra chrysanthemums and asters she’d brought him, a smaller bunch tucked into a jam jar beside the big blue vase.

At first Draco had assumed that Potter and Lovegood were involved romantically, but on her third visit she brought a man with her and it only took one look to tell that he was utterly smitten with her. Draco found Lovegood’s odd ways much easier to tolerate after that, and he tried not to think about why.

Visiting hours had just come to a close when Draco went down to Potter’s room with another sheaf of parchment tucked into Potter’s file. Potter looked up at him, bright smile at the ready.

“Knock it off,” Draco told him. “I told you not to pull that shit with me. I’m your Healer, I need you to be honest with me regarding your condition.”

Potter let go of the smile with something rather like relief as he let himself sag back against the stack of pillows. “Please tell me you’ve found something.”

Draco set his folder aside. “How are you feeling?” he asked even as he cast a handful of diagnostic charms over him. Potter seemed paler than he had just that morning, with dark circles under his eyes, and Draco’s spells confirmed the continuation of Potter’s downward trend.

“Fuck,” Potter sighed, curling one hand into a fist and thumping it weakly against the blankets. “Nothing?”

“I’m sorry,” Draco said. “I have a few more leads, and another experiment running. I should know more by tomorrow morning.”

He had to hope that it would yield the desired results. Draco didn’t know how many more dead ends they had time for.

“You look like shit,” Potter told him.

Draco felt like it too, so he didn’t bother to argue. Besides, he’d looked at himself in the mirror that morning, his complexion gone sallow and the dark circles under his eyes mirroring Potter’s. He was pushing himself too hard and he knew it, but with Potter fading quicker with every passing day, Draco didn’t have the luxury of taking his time.

“Aren’t you sleeping at all?” Potter pressed.

“I’m sleeping enough,” Draco said.

Eight hours a night, but it turned out that a full night’s sleep wasn’t quite enough to make up for working more than a full day. He worked his full ten-hour shift at St Mungo’s, fitting in time to run his experiments and consult with the other Healers investigating Potter’s case, then spent another five hours in the hospital labs running tests on Potter’s blood. Then he went home and used the Time-Turner to squeeze in another six or seven hours of research before he collapsed into bed and passed out for the night. He couldn’t keep up this pace much longer, but, Draco thought as he looked at Potter, one way or another he wouldn’t have to.

He ran more diagnostic spells over Potter and went through his usual litany of questions, and found that Potter’s dizziness had worsened.

“I’ll adjust your potions again,” Draco assured him, making notes in Potter’s chart. He turned to go before Potter could sense Draco’s alarm at how useless the potions were becoming in easing Potter’s symptoms.

“Malfoy.”

Draco looked back at him. “Yes?”

“I…” Potter hesitated, licked his dry lips, and went on. “Would you mind sitting with me? Just for a little while.”

That was the beauty of the Time-Turner, Draco thought. He’d meant to go home and research more, but he could spare a bit of time to spend with Potter and not feel guilty, because he’d just make it up later. He told himself it was because spending time with him seemed to do Potter good. Potter didn’t have to pretend he felt fine with Draco because Draco already knew exactly how ill Potter was. He always seemed a little more relaxed after visiting with Draco for a bit, and Draco tried not to think of how a visit with Potter always seemed to help him feel better as well.

They never talked about Potter’s illness. Instead, they talked about Potter’s friends. About how Teddy was doing in school and about how Weasley finally planned to ask Granger to marry him and about Lovegood’s work with the Quibbler and where Molly and Arthur planned to go on vacation next month. Draco learned Potter’s favorite color (green) and his favorite food (cottage pie) and his favorite Quidditch team (the Holyhead Harpies). He learned that Potter hadn’t had a date in five months, ate more takeaway curry than he probably should, and wanted a dog but couldn’t have one, all due to his hectic work schedule. He talked about some of the stranger cases he’d been involved with as an Auror, and in return Draco told Potter about some of the more bizarre illnesses he’d treated. He told Potter that he disliked dogs but wanted a cat, preferred Thai to curry, and hadn’t had a date in almost a year. He told Potter his favorites. (Kenmare Kestrals, croque monsieurs, and blue.)

These conversations grew shorter day by day as Potter grew tired more easily. Today’s had barely lasted fifteen minutes before Potter was nodding off and Draco stood to leave.

“Malfoy… Draco.” His use of Draco’s first name brought him up short. Potter looked up at him and went on, “Be honest with me. Please. What are my chances?”

“There are no chances, Potter. I will not let you die,” Draco said.

Potter sighed, barely able to keep his eyes open. “Malfoy…”

“Do you doubt me?” Draco demanded, suddenly angry. “Remember exactly who you’re talking to. I spent hours making enough Potter Stinks badges for the whole school to wear during the TriWizard Tournament. I taught myself how to sew just so I could make a Dementor costume to scare the shit out of you. I’ve always been a stubborn bastard where you’re concerned, Potter, and now I have decided that I will not let you die. I will save you. That’s all there is to it.”

“You know,” Potter said with a wan smile, “when you say that, I can almost believe you.”

“Believe it, Potty,” Draco told him. “Because I do.”

And he did. With every inch of himself, he did. He had to believe it, because right now it felt like that belief was all Draco had left.

* * *

Even though he’d known it was coming, Potter’s death was still a shock. His condition had deteriorated rapidly until all the potions they’d been forcing into him stopped easing his symptoms entirely. Nine days after he’d been admitted to St Mungo’s, Potter’s heart gave out.

The decision to change history was easier this time; there wasn’t even a second’s hesitation in Draco’s mind. Draco logged the time of death in Potter’s chart, scratched a few notes, and scheduled the autopsy for right the fuck now. He had five hours to figure out both what exactly had killed Potter and how to fix it.

It took him four hours and forty-five minutes. And then he could have kicked himself. Was sorely tempted for a long moment to use the Time-Turner to go back into the past and do just that. They’d all been so focused on Potter’s blood and marrow, so certain that was where the problem lay. And testing seemed to confirm it; every test showed that Potter’s blood was thoroughly contaminated in trace quantities. They’d all thought the poison was potent enough that those small amounts they detected were responsible for making Potter so sick, that it had completely dissolved into his blood, destroying the red blood cells and causing his organs to begin to fail.

The poison was extremely resistant to any and all treatments they’d attempted, and what little good the Healers were able to do wasn’t nearly enough to undo that much damage. Because Potter’s blood was what had been affected first and foremost, that’s where they’d concentrated all their efforts: on his blood and marrow. But it hadn’t dissolved into his blood. It had settled into Potter’s fucking bones. And none of them had even thought to take a chunk of bone from him to test.

It had taken him four hours and forty-five minutes to add up the clues, and that left him just fifteen minutes. That was all the time Draco had to save Potter’s life

It wasn’t enough.

Draco sagged against his workbench. He’d figured it out too late, unless he wanted to risk serious harm to himself by traveling back further…

Traveling back further.

Draco had the Time-Turner out of his pocket and around his neck in an instant. He grabbed his notes and the test results and stuffed them into his pocket, then ducked into the lab’s supply cupboard and spun the Time-Turner.

He eased the door of the cupboard open a crack and peeked out to see himself hunched over the workbench, feverishly searching for a solution. He looked like shit, pale and too-thin with big dark circles under his eyes and a sort of jittery inelegance to his movements that spoke of too much caffeine and not enough sleep. Carefully, Draco used a Wingardium Leviosa to send his little packet of papers over to the workbench, timing it perfectly for a moment when his other self squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his hands over his face in frustration. The other Draco opened his eyes, jumped when he saw the papers suddenly in front of himself, and looked wildly around the room. He picked up the papers and leafed through them, his haggard expression easing into a smile as he read. He leapt to his feet, took two steps toward the supply cupboard, then hesitated, nodded once to himself, turned around, and left the room at a run.

When the door fell shut, Draco left the supply cupboard and sat down on the worktable to give his other self five minutes to change the future. He couldn’t save Potter’s life in fifteen minutes, so he’d had to get himself to go back sooner.

Those minutes dragged by. Draco had never been one to let others handle his business for him. He didn’t trust anyone to do things as well as he could, especially crucial things like this. And it was hard to sit back and let someone else take control, even if that person taking control now was just as competent and capable as Draco, because it was Draco. He scrubbed a hand over his face, then reached out and picked up the mug of coffee that had long since gone cold and drank down the rest of it just to give himself something to do. He grimaced as he swallowed. Coffee tasted vile even at its best, and tasted far worse gone cold. But Draco had been pushing himself so hard this last week that he desperately needed the caffeine. He bore the bad taste like a well-earned punishment.

At four and a half minutes, Draco decided he’d waited long enough. He stood up, took a moment to steel himself, then made his way up to Potter’s room with his heart in his throat.

Potter was in there alone, unconscious and shrouded in layer after layer of spells to keep his body perfectly still. Draco picked up Potter’s chart from where someone had left it conspicuously open on Potter’s bedside table and skimmed through the notes regarding Potter’s cure. Potter had been put into a deep sleep, his body held carefully immobile and thoroughly supported by a complex shroud of spells, and then every bone in his body had been Vanished. They’d put him on a strict regimen of Skele-Gro. The agony of his bones regrowing would be unbearable so he’d be kept asleep until the worst of the pain was past. Vanishing and regrowing them all at once, especially with Potter so weak to begin with, was an incredibly risky procedure, but Draco had absolutely no doubt that Potter would come through it.

Draco plucked a chrysanthemum from the jam jar at Potter’s bedside and twirled it between his fingers as he left to enjoy the first peaceful night’s sleep he’d had in a week and a half, utterly secure in the knowledge that Potter would be just fine.

And indeed he was, though it took another week and a half for Potter to recover enough to be sent home.

Draco brought him a small bunch of daisies with his discharge papers, and Potter laughed when he saw them, wonderfully and beautifully alive.

* * *

Six months passed. Draco and Potter exchanged semi-regular owls, met up for a drink every couple of weeks, and grew closer than Draco had ever thought possible. Closer, even, than he’d ever dared imagine. Draco couldn’t quite figure it out. He didn’t exactly like Potter, and as far as he could tell, Potter didn’t exactly like him. They still disagreed on nearly everything. They still couldn’t have a conversation that didn’t descend into bickering, and sometimes that bickering still escalated into fights. They still irritated the shit out of each other without even trying.

But now they specifically set aside time to meet up and do it, and Draco found that he looked forward to it a little more with each passing week.

Mostly Draco tried to avoid thinking about it too hard because he wasn’t entirely sure he’d like what it said about him if he ever figured it out.

He wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t in denial. Draco knew perfectly well that he was attracted to Potter. It was just that the mere notion of how deep this attraction might actually run rather horrified him, and so this was more of a case of… self-preservation through careful avoidance.

It worked pretty well, most of the time.

So he went right along with his life, pretended that Potter wasn’t fit as all fuck, exchanged owls with him and met up with him for a few drinks or the odd meal when they both managed to leave work at a reasonable hour, argued with him, pissed him off and was pissed off by him in turn. And somehow throughout it all, they grew to be… well, not quite friends. More like friendly acquaintances. Two people who could share space and exchange words without wanting to strangle each other. Most of the time, at least. Which, frankly, was more than either of them would have ever guessed possible. Draco knew because they’d had a conversation about just how fucking bizarre it was.

At first, Draco felt immensely pleased by all of it. He’d saved Potter’s life, and finally had the attention from Potter he’d sought back at Hogwarts. He’d enjoyed those first few months, where he had everything he thought he wanted. But slowly, a little at a time so that he didn’t realize what was happening until it was already too late to do anything about it, that attention from Potter started to feel like it wasn’t enough.

And for the most part, Draco avoided thinking about that as well.

Because lust was one thing, Draco could handle physical attraction, but this whatever it was that he felt for Potter was entirely different. And on the rare occasion when he let himself think about it, his stomach twisted and his heart pounded and his lungs felt all fluttery and, worst of all, Draco could feel a tenuous little spark of hope curling through him, taking root as it grew. He couldn’t even imagine the heartache that would follow if that little spark managed to blossom and spread, but he could picture it well enough to know that he wanted no part of it. So until he worked out how to make it stop, he couldn’t do much of anything but ignore it in the hope that a lack of attention would mean that it wouldn’t grow as much. Because he knew that Potter would never feel that way about him.

On the bright side, this new struggle with his own ridiculous and impossible feelings provided Draco with enough of a distraction that he no longer spent every waking moment terrified that Potter might die again. For the first few months, he’d carried the Time-Turner with him everywhere, worried that he might need it at a moment’s notice, and terrified that the delicate cloaking spells he’d layered over it to keep its magical signature from being traced might fail. Draco knew that someone at the Ministry had been alerted the very moment he broke the protective spells his father had placed on the Time-Turner. That somewhere in the bureaucratic depths of the DMLE, someone had a file for him, packed with the details of the first two times he’d used the Time-Turner, and that this particular someone was waiting for him to use it again, waiting for him to make a mistake this time so they could track him down and throw him in Azkaban.

But still Draco kept it with him all the time, until months had passed without further incident and he’d finally felt that he could leave it at home, safely layered in masking spells but ready for Draco to snatch it up again the very moment he needed to. The first few days without it in his pocket had been stressful, but Draco had distracted himself with work, and comforted himself with the knowledge that as a Healer at St Mungo’s, he’d be among the first to know if Potter had another accident. But with each day that passed without incident, Draco relaxed a little more, and a little more. Until this whole attracted-to-Potter mess had reared its ugly head and Draco had been able to turn all his worry and attention to that instead. For a while, life went on.

And then Potter died again.

He didn’t go down in a blaze of glory. No dashing heroics or noble acts of self-sacrifice. There was hardly any blood this time, and no drama, and not even a bad guy. Just a careless worker refacing a building. Potter happened to be passing by just as the man accidentally dropped a block of stone from his scaffolding. It struck Potter on the head and killed him instantly.

Draco sat stunned as the wireless switched back to the Quidditch match they’d interrupted to make their grim announcement. Puddlemere had just scored and for a moment a slightly-staticky wave of the crowd’s cheering washed over him before he slashed his wand at the wireless and turned it off. The sudden silence was just as big of a shock. Potter was dead. Again. And Draco knew he couldn’t leave it at that. Here he’d broken dozens of laws to save Potter’s life twice, only for this to happen? To have Potter die in a meaningless accident? For Potter to have survived everything he had, only to get himself killed by getting clunked over the head? Draco couldn’t let that happen. He wouldn’t let that happen. He absolutely refused to let this be the way things ended.

He went into the kitchen, wrote himself a note and used a Sticking Charm to fasten it to the box of Earl Grey for his other self to find when he came in to make himself a cup of tea before the Quidditch match started. He went upstairs and dressed in his warmest jumper and a pair of thick wool socks, and took the Time-Turner from the top drawer of his bedside table. He’d already layered it with protective spells to keep his modest stash of porn safe. Not that he expected anyone to steal his porn, but if something happened to Draco – years ago he’d imagined his unexpected death; now he pictured his sudden arrest – he didn’t want his mother to come across it when she came to clear up his possessions. His mother was a smart witch; he knew she’d know what a locked and warded drawer meant, especially a locked and warded drawer of his bedside table, and would probably just Incendio the whole piece of furniture. It hadn’t taken much to adjust the spells already in place to mask the Time-Turner’s unique magical signature.

He gave it five turns, just to be safe. The wireless announcer hadn’t said when the accident had occurred and Draco couldn’t risk getting there too late. When the world around him stopped rushing, he Apparated to Diagon Alley and made his way to where the accident would occur. He loitered directly across the street, and between his restless pacing and how he checked his watch every few minutes, he thought most people would assume he was waiting to meet someone. And that was true enough, in a way.

After ten minutes, Draco regretted not taking a coat. Though Autumn had barely given way to winter, it was unseasonably warm. But the day’s bright sunshine had seemed a lot brighter when he’d viewed it from the warmth and comfort of his living room, and he’d thought his heavy wool sweater would be enough. He made do with a few liberal Warming Charms and kept waiting.

After thirty minutes, Draco also regretted not taking a few minutes to buy a cup of tea. Something to warm his hands and his belly, and with enough caffeine in it to keep him awake and alert because this was boring as fuck, just standing here waiting. At first, his nerves were so tightly wound he thought he might snap. Each small sound, each flash of motion, each new person stepping out of a shop snagged Draco’s attention and sent his heart pounding for a split second of is this it? But the human body can’t sustain that level of anxiety for long, and as the minutes dragged on the tension had eased and faded until nothing but sheer fucking boredom had taken its place. Draco watched the workers fitting slabs of stone together and sealing them into place with magic and kept waiting. He almost thought he’d rather have the tension. At least the near-unbearable apprehension had made time fly.

After an hour, Draco regretted ever meeting Harry bloody Potter, and since when had the stupid git suddenly learned how to die, anyway? The Dark Lord had tried how many times to off him and still hadn’t managed it? And then years later, Potter snuffed it by taking a rock to the head. Perhaps instead of all that Avada Kedavra nonsense, the Dark Lord should have just tried chucking stones at him.

Draco sighed. He’d well and truly lost his mind. And it was entirely Potter’s fault. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and checked his watch again. Potter had better come along soon. Draco didn’t like to leave the Time-Turner free of protective spells to muffle its magical signature, but he wasn’t sure how those spells would affect it while in use. His apprehension began to return, because as stressful Draco found standing about and waiting for Potter to drop dead in front of him at any moment, it was nothing compared to the thought of Aurors tracing the magical signature of the Time-Turner and hauling him away just moments too soon. Draco shivered and glanced up and down the street.

And then Potter appeared, stepping suddenly out of a cafe just two buildings down from the one under construction. He looked different out of his Auror uniform, not nearly so imposing without the smart blue-grey robes decorated with all the official insignia. When they met up for drinks or dinner, they usually did it right after work, with Potter still in his Auror uniform and Draco still wearing his Healer’s robes. It was a little bit jarring to suddenly see Potter in a pair of frayed jeans and a slightly-too-large red jumper. He looked younger like this. More approachable. More vulnerable.

Draco twitched his wand into his hand, prepared to use it if he had to, though he didn’t anticipate needing magic for this. As much as he liked the idea of another flashy rescue, he needed to be subtle about this. He needed to disrupt the upcoming events without seeming to do so, because appearing in the nick of time for yet another daring rescue of one Harry Potter would be more of a coincidence than Draco cared to risk. He’d already taken enough chances in doing this in the first place. He wanted to minimize the chances of someone adding up the clues that every time the Time-Turner was used, Potter nearly died and Draco was right there to save him. So he’d do this one subtly.

“Oi! Potter!” he shouted, starting across the street, hoping to catch his attention and hold it for a few minutes until the danger had passed. That way keeping Potter alive this time would be a lucky coincidence, not an actual rescue. He kept one eye on the scaffolding, ready to act at a moment’s notice if someone else walked beneath it at the wrong time.

But Potter didn’t even pause. Just kept walking straight into harm’s way, and Draco noticed that he had little white strings connected to his ears. He’d seen Muggles wear them sometimes, and they did something to keep people from hearing. Draco didn’t understand the point of wearing them in public, especially where it might be important to hear when someone was shouting at you to save your fucking life and so help him if Potter died again because of those stupid things, Draco was going to yank them out of his ears and bloody well strangle him with them.

“POTTER!” he shouted, horrified, hurrying faster as Potter kept walking closer to the scaffolding.

He’d tried to be subtle about it, he really had, but as always Potter just couldn’t make things easy for him.

Draco had already begun to raise his wand when the stone fell, and he swapped the Mobilicorpus on the tip of his tongue for a Protego. He’d take no chances this time. The Shield Charm stretched over Potter’s head with several long seconds to spare, but Draco’s nerves didn’t ease until the stone hit the Charm with a muffled bong! like someone had struck a bell from a great distance.

Potter seemed to hear that, at least. He jumped, flinching away from the stone, then looked around wildly, his startled gaze coming to rest on Draco as Draco rushed up to him. He jerked the white strings from his ears and let them dangle, tinny music unexpectedly audible.

“All right down there, mate?” one of the men yelled from the top of the scaffolding.

Potter looked up. “I…”

“Fuck off!” Draco shouted back and, in a supreme display of self-restraint, left it at that. He grabbed Potter by the elbow and hauled him away just in case that inept imbecile up there decided to have another go at Potter. He certainly had enough building supplies left to throw.

“You saved me,” Potter said as he allowed Draco to lead him down the pavement.

“It would appear so,” Draco said, glancing behind him to ensure that they’d come a safe distance from the scaffolding before he stopped. There, even if the whole bloody thing collapsed, they’d be well clear of it.

“I nearly died,” Potter said, looking more shaken than Draco had ever seen him look before. His hands trembled as he stuffed the odd white strings into his coat pocket.

“One would think that you’d be used to it by now,” Draco said, covering his own nerves with a dry tone and a faint smirk.

“Yeah, but that was different,” Potter said, shoving a hand through his hair. His fingers didn’t tremble so much now, but he still looked far from fine. “It was always on the job, or for a reason. Not… not like this.” He looked back up the pavement at the fallen block of stone. “Not as a freak accident.”

Draco really wished in that moment that he’d gone to get his cup of tea. He should have also bought a second cup for Potter so he could press it into his hands, let the steady warmth seep into his palms and center him, get him calm.

Next time, Draco thought.

And then went suddenly light-headed with the thought that there could very well be a next time.

Fucking hell.

“You really have to stop doing this, Potter,” he said, and his voice came out a bit desperate.

“What?” Potter had been staring back at the block of stone again, and now he turned back around to face Draco. “Doing what?”

“Nearly dying,” Draco said. “You’re making quite a habit of it.”

“Well,” Potter said, and tried out a smile. It came out a little strained. “I’m pretty good at it so far, don’t you think?”

Draco thought of the last three times, where the near-misses hadn’t been misses at all. “Your luck’s bound to run out at some point.” As it could have today, if they’d made the announcement over the wireless just a little later. If Draco hadn’t decided to listen to the Quidditch match. If he’d gone to use the toilet or fix another cup of tea or check his mail. If he’d stepped out of the room for the wrong few minutes and managed to miss hearing it.

“Thank you,” Potter blurted out. “I, sorry, I just realized I hadn’t said. But thank you. For saving me. Erm, again.” He offered Draco a shaky sort of smile. “You’re making quite a habit of it.”

“It was nothing,” Draco said, forcing a smile that felt every bit as strained as Potter’s looked. “I was just in the right place at the right time, is all.”

* * *

Another week passed. Draco received another thank you letter from Potter, though Granger obviously hadn’t helped him with this one. The parchment had a few ink splotches in the left margin, several sentences had been scratched out and rewritten, and it didn’t contain nearly as many obnoxiously large words. Potter asked Draco to go out for a drink with him on Friday night, but Draco had to work late. He wrote back with his apologies and asked Potter out for dinner on Saturday, but Potter would be gone on an Auror mission. They agreed to try again when their schedules quieted down, and Draco tried very hard to remind himself that neither of those invitations had been meant as dates.

Draco’s schedule didn’t ease over the next week, and he regretted having to turn down another invitation to meet Potter for drinks on Friday. Potter sent back a very understanding note, and they agreed to try again the week after.

On Friday, Draco didn’t get home until after one in the morning. He should have been home hours ago, but a wizard had come in five minutes before the end of his shift with the most horrifying case of internal Splinching Draco had ever seen. Fucking idiot, trying to Apparate while drunk. It had taken Draco several hours to get the poor bloke pieced back together and then almost another hour just to keep him stable. And now Draco felt far too on edge to go to sleep just yet. It would take time to shake off the tension and the last of his nerves and the jittery euphoria that always followed in the wake of healing an exceedingly complicated injury. For a while there when he’d been in the midst of it, Draco would have flipped a coin on the chances of his patient living or dying.

On a whim, he changed his Healer’s robes for a pair of dark jeans and a black jumper. Muggle things. He took the Time-Turner from his robe pocket and took a moment to inspect the charms on it that concealed its signature before he slipped it into the front pocket of his trousers. After Potter’s near-miss with the block of stone, he’d taken to carrying it around with him again.

Draco took a few moments to comb his fingers through his hair, checked his reflection one last time, and Apparated. His sudden appearance in the alleyway startled a stray cat, and it watched him warily as he strode away and turned onto the main road, heading for the club just half a block up the street.

A queue of Muggles stretched along the front of the building, waiting to be allowed inside a few at a time. Draco murmured a Disillusionment Charm as he approached them, walked past them, and slipped into the club behind a pair of girls whose laughter easily disguised his footsteps.

Once inside the club, Draco dropped the charm. Whirling colored lights slashed through the dim club, and the very air throbbed with music turned up so loud it fell just this side of painful. Men and women were everywhere, talking and laughing and drinking and dancing, every one of them dressed to kill. For a moment, Draco felt underdressed in his jeans and jumper, but he quickly shrugged off the feeling. He wasn’t looking to pull anyone tonight, wasn’t trying to attract attention or impress anyone. Just have a drink or two and dance until he’d worked off the last of his post-shift nervous energy.

He pushed his way through the crowd until he reached the bar where he ordered a double shot of vodka. Draco couldn’t quite suppress a shudder as he tossed it back. He much preferred mixed drinks, but didn’t want to carry around a glass while he sipped at it. The shot would take the edge off his nerves and let him get right to the dancing. Already, the burn of the vodka had begun to fade into a dull burst of warmth that spread through his stomach and chest.

He left the glass on the bar and pushed his way through the crowd to the dance floor in the center of the club. A group of girls off to one side had just stopped dancing and started to push their way toward the bar, and Draco slipped neatly into the space they’d left behind before it could close up again. He felt a little awkward as he moved to the beat of the first song, as he always did when he began to dance in public. The vodka hadn’t quite kicked in yet, and he’d never quite been able to shake the years of formal ballroom dance instruction that told him he should always dance with a partner. Draco closed his eyes and tried to forget that part of him, the Malfoy part of him, the pureblood wizard part of him, and especially the Healer part of him. Right now, the only person here was Draco. By the time the second song finished, Draco had lost himself in it, nothing left in him but the throbbing beat of the music thudding through his lungs. He closed his eyes and let go.

Draco had lost count of how many songs he’d danced to when he felt himself reach his limit. He turned away from the dance floor and he let out a long, slow sigh of contentment as he began to make his way to the exit. His muscles felt warm and loose, his skin a little sweaty and probably flushed pink. He thought about how wonderful the chilly December air would feel on his skin as he stepped outside, and he smiled in anticipation.

The smile slipped from his face in the next instant when he spotted a familiar head of tousled dark hair. It looked like… but it couldn’t be… Then the head turned and then there was also a familiar pair of round glasses upon a very familiar face. Potter. And Potter wasn’t alone.

The Muggle bloke with Potter was tall, slim, and very, very blond. And obviously flirting with him. Draco hesitated, curious to see what happened next. Then immediately wished he hadn’t when Potter bent his head close to the blond bloke’s ear and murmured something that made the guy light up like Christmas had just come again. Potter finished the last of his drink and stood up, waited a moment for the blond bloke to do the same, and they started for the door together.

Together.

Draco’s mind spun. He’d had no idea Potter even liked men. If he’d known, if he’d said something earlier… All of a sudden it became the most important thing in the world to not let Potter go home with that man. Logically, Draco knew that this probably wasn’t the first time Potter had done this, but all of those times were in the past and Draco hadn’t had to see any of them. Not like this, right in front of him and well within the five hour window when Draco could do something about it.

Merlin, this was all sorts of illegal. Even more than when he’d gone back in time to save Potter. Because this time was selfish and Draco had no excuse for doing it. He looked back across the club just in time to see Potter slip out the door with the other bloke’s arm round his shoulders. Fuck it. Draco had risked everything to save Potter. He deserved this. Deserved a chance, at least. And judging by the guy Potter had picked up, Draco thought it was probably a pretty good chance. Apparently Potter liked blonds.

Draco Transfigured a napkin into a sheet of paper, then used a quick Accio to summon a pen from behind the bar, entirely uncaring if anyone saw. In a few minutes it wouldn’t matter anyhow. He scribbled himself a quick note, tucked it securely into the front pocket of his trousers, and hurried off to the toilet.

He didn’t need much time, just a half-turn should do it. Draco closed his eyes as the world whirled and rushed around him, then tucked the Time-Turner beneath his jumper and went back out into the club. He blinked, willing his eyes to adjust to the dim light of the club after the relative brightness of the toilet, and quickly scanned the room. And yes, there, sitting near the end of the bar was Potter, still blessedly alone. Draco couldn’t see any sign of Potter’s would-be lover.

Keeping his head ducked, he made his way out onto the dance floor, trying to remember where… Yes, right there. Interacting with himself would break one of the biggest rules of time travel, but desperate times and all that. And anyhow, it wasn’t as if he’d been following the rules so far. Why start now?

Draco took a moment to admire himself as he drew near, the graceful way he danced, every movement fluid and as natural to him as breathing. Eyes closed, head tipped back, small smile of utter bliss curling at his mouth. Perhaps if he could just get Potter to see him like this, then the whole Potter-going-home-with-someone-other-than-Draco problem would sort itself out because he couldn’t imagine anyone able to resist him like that. Draco had no idea he’d looked that…

Draco shook his head. No, he had to do this himself, had to leave nothing to chance and no room for error. He made his way up behind himself and pressed close to catch his attention, and the other Draco moved back against him, his head falling back to rest on his shoulder, which allowed Draco to talk into his ear and hopefully lessen the chances of anyone overhearing the very strange conversation he was about to have with what they’d assume was his identical twin. His other self didn’t even look around before arching against him like some sort of slutty feline and Draco pulled back a little in surprise. Merlin, this was how he acted when he wasn’t looking to go home with someone? He looked at himself again, the closed eyes, the blissful expression, how he’d entirely lost himself in dancing. He shivered.

“Don’t look,” he said, shaking off his discomfort and getting on with it.

Of course the other Draco immediately recognized his own voice, and went suddenly rigid and half-jerked around to look, but Draco caught him. “He’s fine, nothing happened to him,” he said, and felt the body against him relax a fraction. “This is different. Here. This explains everything.” He slipped the folded square of paper into his other self’s pocket, then turned and disappeared into the crowd, heading back to the bar and to Potter. He didn’t have to look back to know that his other self was watching, and he put a little extra sway in his hips just for the hell of it.

When Draco drew nearer to where Potter sat, he caught sight of the other bloke sitting a short distance away, watching Potter intently. And Potter looked right back at him. Encouraged him. Invited him over with coy glances and promising smiles.

Well. That was going to stop right the fuck now.

There wasn’t an available stool next to Potter, so Draco just slid himself in between Potter and the girl sitting next to him, leaned one elbow on the bar and touched his other hand to Potter’s shoulder. The way Potter jumped, half-startled and half-guilty, was immensely satisfying.

“Malfoy?” he blurted out. At least that’s what Draco assumed he said; it really was quite loud in here.

He cast a spell around them that dimmed the noise enough to actually hold a conversation.

“Hello, Potter.”

“What are… why are you here?” Potter demanded, his nervous gaze darting back across the bar to the blond bloke. He wasn’t off balance for longer than a few seconds before his eyes narrowed suspiciously. “I thought you said you were busy tonight.”

“I was. I had to work late and only finished up a little while ago,” Draco said with a shrug. “I caught a bad Splinching accident just before my shift ended and was too wound up after to be able to sleep. So I thought I’d go out for a while.”

Potter nodded along, his suspicion softening into understanding. “I’m like that too sometimes, after a tough case. All the adrenaline.”

“So what are you doing here?” Draco asked, glancing around. He noticed his other self lingering near the hallway that led back to the toilets, watching avidly to see what happened. Draco flipped him off and turned his attention back to Potter. “Are you meeting someone?”

“Er,” said Potter, his eyes darting back across the room to the flirty blond bloke with something rather like regret. “No.”

“It seems to me that you’re looking to,” Draco said lightly. “And I think you can do much better than him.”

For three long and glorious seconds, Draco knocked Potter entirely off-balance. But he recovered quickly and gave Draco the same coy smile he’d been using to tempt the other bloke. “Why Draco Malfoy, are you offering?”

“Perhaps,” Draco said, and wished he’d taken a minute or two to come up with some sort of plan because he really had no idea what the hell he was doing.

Something in his voice or expression gave him away. Potter’s gaze swept over Draco and the coy smile turned predatory. “I think you are. I think you’re very interested.”

The heat in Potter’s eyes unnerved Draco, and he struggled to hold on to his composure. “You say that as if you aren’t.”

Potter leaned closer, even though they could hear each other perfectly well thanks to Draco’s spell. “I am,” he said, his breath tickling Draco’s ear and making him shiver. “I very much am. I just never thought you were.”

Merlin. Draco hoped that Potter wasn’t just drunk. He drew away and gave Potter a cool look, then swiped Potter’s drink and took a sip. Ugh, sticky-sweet and bubbly, but no trace of alcohol. Draco set the cup back down. “And now?”

“Now…” Potter said. “Now, I think we should continue this conversation somewhere a bit more private.”

“What makes you so sure I’m willing?” Draco asked. Even though this was what he wanted, there was a part of him that couldn’t bear to make it easy for Potter.

“I think you wouldn’t have come over here otherwise,” Potter said.

Draco just stared at him, eyebrows raised.

“Shall we go, then?” Potter prompted, one eyebrow lifting up in understated challenge, and for a moment the unfairness of it all, that Potter could effortlessly lift one eyebrow, struck Draco dumb. How many hours had he wasted in front of a mirror, attempting to master the very expression with which Potter now regarded him, and didn’t it just figure that perfect Potter could do that when Draco couldn’t? Both of Draco’s eyebrows insisted on moving together. “Well?” Potter prompted.

Draco cleared his throat. The vodka must have affected him more than he’d thought, to be pondering of his eyebrows and their limitations, of all things, while Potter stood there all raffishly charming, with his tousled hair and battered leather jacket and his offering to go home with Draco and his carelessly quirked eyebrow, and oh yes, that was why Draco was contemplating—

“Malfoy?” Potter prodded, looking far too entertained by Draco’s lapse in attention.

“Yes,” Draco said, a bit too quickly if the way Potter’s mouth twitched up into a faintly amused smile was any indication. He cleared his throat again and fought to keep the scowl off his face. He hadn’t meant to make it this easy. “Yes, of course.”

“Great,” Potter said and tipped his head back to drain the last swallow of Coke from his pint glass.

The way Potter’s throat bobbed as he swallowed distracted Draco so much that he nearly missed when Potter shifted slightly, using Draco’s body and the bar to shield his motions, and Transfigured the pint glass into the oddest helmet Draco had ever seen. Draco blinked down at it, torn between gawping down at the odd thing like some sort of twit, and gawping up at Potter, Auror Harry Potter, who’d just broken about half a dozen laws by performing magic in public, and Draco was pretty sure that stealing a pint glass from a bar still counted, even if it was from Muggles. And even if the pint glass wasn’t exactly a pint glass anymore.

Potter pushed the helmet into Draco’s hands, and Draco took it without thinking. He frowned. “What do I need this for?”

Potter only grinned at him. “You’ll see.”

That grin made Draco instantly suspicious, but he followed Potter out of the bar and down the pavement.

“What on earth is that?” Draco demanded as Potter strode over to a… Draco could barely describe it. It had two wheels and a seat, so clearly it was meant to be sat upon and presumably it moved. But the rest of it was shiny black and gleaming metal and it had more bits to it, all slotted and jumbled together, than Draco felt entirely comfortable with.

“It’s a motorcycle,” Potter told him, and Draco didn’t need to see Potter’s face to know that he’d just rolled his eyes.

Draco sneered at the back of Potter’s head. “A Muggle thing, I presume?”

“Don’t sneer at me,” Potter said without looking back.

Draco huffed. “Then don’t roll your eyes.”

Much to Draco’s surprise, Potter just laughed. He turned back to Draco and for a split second Draco thought that Potter was about to kiss him. His stomach trembled with nervous excitement at the thought of it, but Potter just leaned close to his ear and growled, “Oh, you’re going to be such fun, aren’t you?”

To which Draco masterfully changed the subject and replied, “There’s no fucking way I’m getting on that thing.” He glared at the motorcycle.

“Scared, Malfoy?” Potter asked with a teasing grin as he took a step back.

For a moment, Draco was sorely tempted to say yes, he was bloody well scared of that contraption and anyone with a brain in their head absolutely would be. Clearly Muggle, the motorcycle had far too many strange parts to it for Draco to feel he could trust it. That was the problem with Muggle things: too many parts to them, too many things that could break or go wrong. Give him a blessedly simple and reliable spell any day, nothing to go wrong there. Normally Draco would have barely taken one look at that motorcycle before he turned right around and walked away without a second thought. But this was Potter, and so Draco gave it that second thought, and made the disheartening discovery about the truly ridiculous lengths he was willing to go to for the chance at sex with Potter.

Apparently, they included getting on a motorcycle.

“Of that thing?” Draco asked, waving an imperious hand at the terrifying contraption. “Not in the slightest. Of the thought of getting on it with you driving?” He let his gaze sweep up and down Potter’s body.

Potter snorted and rolled his eyes again. “I’m a very safe driver.”

“Don’t lie to me, Potty, I’ve seen you on a broomstick.” Draco folded his arms over his chest and looked him up and down again. “You’re reckless.”

Potter sighed instead of trying to give that a reply. Probably because he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if he’d tried to argue. Instead, he tugged his helmet down over his head and fiddled with the little strap that went under his chin. Draco pulled his on as well, and Potter let him fumble with the strap for a minute before gently batting Draco’s hands away and doing it himself. Draco hated that he had to stand idly by and let Potter fasten the thing for him, like a child who hadn’t quite mastered how to dress himself yet. But at least Potter hadn’t made him ask for help, so he just stared through the clear visor part of his helmet and tried his best to ignore how Potter looked smugly amused at Draco’s failure with the little strap. The bastard.

“Mine or yours?” Potter asked as he mounted the motorcycle, and the way Potter’s trousers stretched and shifted over the curve of his arse captured all of Draco’s attention.

“Mine,” Draco said a moment later, once Potter got his arse firmly planted on the seat. “I live—”

“I know where you live,” Potter interrupted.

Draco blinked at him. “What? How?” His eyes narrowed into a sharp glare that had no apparent effect on Potter. “Are you stalking me?” Again, he nearly added aloud.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Potter said, sounding vaguely annoyed, though Draco couldn’t tell if it was because of the stalker accusation or because Draco hadn’t joined him on that Muggle contraption yet.

“I really don’t think I am,” Draco shot back. “You do have something of a history of following me about.”

“I thought you were up to something, and you were, might I add.” Now Potter definitely sounded annoyed.

“I assure you I’m not up to anything now,” Draco snapped, his cheeks growing warm. Draco hated when he blushed; his skin got all blotchy pink in a thoroughly unattractive way. “And I don’t want to talk about the war.”

“You brought it up!” Potter huffed, exasperation mingling with the irritation, like Draco was the one acting unreasonable here. “And I don’t want to talk at all. I want you to get your arse on the bike so I can take you home and shag you.”

Draco just folded his arms over his chest and glared, doing his best to ignore the fact that he probably looked ridiculous in his strange helmet. He certainly sounded ridiculous, his voice muffled and echoing oddly. At least Potter couldn’t see him blushing. Probably.

“For the love of…” Potter began, but broke off in a gusty sigh. “I owled Parkinson, all right? Right after the raid where you saved me. I thought about coming to see you in person to say thank you so I got your address. Happy now?”

Pansy, Draco decided, was no longer his friend. He thought of the ridiculously expensive handbag he’d bought for her upcoming birthday and wondered whether it was too late to return it.

“Is that good enough for you?” Potter asked when Draco didn’t immediately say anything. He heaved another dramatic sigh. “Merlin, you’re difficult. You’d better be the best sex I’ve ever had.”

Draco eyed the motorcycle with distaste. “I assure you the feeling is entirely mutual.”

“Get on the bike, Malfoy,” Potter ground out.

Sex with Potter, Draco reminded himself as he swung his leg over the seat and climbed aboard. He didn’t see anywhere on the motorcycle he could hold on, so he placed his hands gingerly on Potter’s hips. Potter grabbed him by the wrists and hauled him forward so that Draco slid up behind him, his groin snug against Potter’s arse, his arms around Potter’s waist. Well, now. This was certainly better than Apparition. Despite what Draco had said, he didn’t think Potter was really that bad on a broomstick, and how different could this be? They’d stay on the ground, of course, but other than that, it’d be just like—

And then Potter started up the engine, the rough noise rolling up and down the empty street and Draco quickly changed his mind. Might have even got off the motorcycle, told Potter his address and then Apparated to meet him there, but Potter did an odd little twitch with his foot and the noise changed and the motorcycle surged forward. Draco squeezed his arms tight around Potter’s waist and had a moment of panic when he remembered that the ghastly thing only had two wheels, and how could it stay up with only two wheels? But somehow it didn’t topple over as Draco half-expected it to, and Potter’s foot twitched again as they sped up.

Riding a motorcycle felt similar to riding a broomstick in a lot of ways. And it felt very different in others. There was the same rush of air, the same glide and swoop of its motion, the same tenuous balance to it, the same half-giddy feeling of utter freedom. But broomsticks didn’t roar like this thing did. They didn’t have a thousand little metal bits, just waiting to go wrong. And they didn’t zip by so close to obstacles that Draco could have touched them, if only he’d been able to unclamp his arms from around Potter long enough to reach out. Or at least things weren’t this close when Draco flew, but then he’d been trained in proper broomstick safety and his survival instincts were perfectly intact, thank you very much; Potter drove like he flew, from what Draco had seen, because he was a crazy person.

It suddenly occurred to Draco that he wouldn’t be able to use the Time-Turner to save Potter if he wrecked the motorcycle, because Draco would most likely be killed right along with him. Draco’s arms tightened even more around Potter’s waist, and Potter reached down to give his hand a pat, quick enough that Draco didn’t even have time to shout at him for recklessly taking one hand away from the handlebars. And then Potter, the absolute bastard, went even faster.

Not that he’d ever admit it to Potter, but Draco spent most of the trip with his eyes closed. So it caught him by surprise when they came to a stop and the clear visor of his helmet clacked against the back of Potter’s when Draco failed to hold himself steady. He opened his eyes and found himself outside his end terrace. Potter shut off the motorcycle, leaving Draco’s ears ringing faintly in the sudden silence.

“Never again, Potter,” Draco growled, clambering off the motorcycle as fast as he could manage without looking too eager. In his haste, his ankle brushed against the odd tube that swept over the rear wheel and pointed off the behind the motorcycle, and the damned thing was bloody hot. Draco scowled at it. Merlin, give him a good broomstick any day. He’d never burned himself on a broomstick before.

“Careful, it’s hot,” Potter warned entirely too late as Draco rubbed his ankle and glared.

“Figured that out already, thanks,” Draco snapped.

Potter only grinned and pulled off his helmet, and Draco did the same. He dropped his carelessly on the ground – it was only a pint glass, after all – and strode up his front walk without bothering to wait for Potter. He clearly knew the way, after all. Stupid bloody stalker. Why on earth was Draco even doing this?

Right. Sex. With Potter.

He caught up to Draco just as Draco unlocked his door, and they stepped inside. Draco turned on the lights with a wave of his wand before he shut the door behind them and turned to face Potter. When he’d agreed to do this with Potter, he’d rather imagined they’d throw themselves at each other right away, all their antagonism suddenly channeled and transformed into passion and bruising kisses and groping hands, like the very air between them had ignited.

Instead, Potter took a small step away from Draco and peered about his living room, hands tucked boyishly into his pockets, and Draco suddenly found himself enormously glad that they’d taken Potter’s motorcycle, that he hadn’t been given the opportunity to presumptuously Apparate them straight to his bedroom if Potter hadn’t planned on jumping straight into bed. Or perhaps Draco should feel irritated that they hadn’t just Apparated to Draco’s bedroom, because then they might have skipped straight to the kissing and groping without all this… awkwardness.

“Nice place,” Potter said at last, but in a blandly polite sort of way that Draco knew meant that he’d only said it because he thought Draco expected him to.

“Coming from someone with your taste,” Draco said, letting his eyes linger pointedly upon Potter’s unruly mess of hair before he swept his gaze meaningfully over Potter’s attire, “you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not sure that I should take that as a compliment or an insult.”

Potter rolled his eyes. “That’s not a very nice thing to say,” he pointed out, entirely unfazed.

“I’m so sorry to disappoint you,” Draco said dryly.

“Besides,” Potter went on as if Draco hadn’t spoken, rocking back on his heels as he took another long look around the room. “I’m not sure what it says about your taste that you think I’m so objectionable, but you took me home anyhow.” He glanced back at Draco and quirked a smile at him. “I like your sofa.”

“What?”

“Your sofa. I like it,” Potter repeated like he thought Draco might have misunderstood the simple sentence. “I thought you’d have all sorts of ridiculous antique stuff, but your sofa looks really comfortable. The cushions seem all…” He trailed off and flexed the fingers of one hand in a strange sort of grabbing motion. “...squashy.”

A part of Draco objected at hearing his sofa referred to as ‘squashy’ but the word really did fit. Mostly he just had no idea why they were even discussing his sofa in the first place. “You’ll find that I have exceptional taste,” he said.

“Just not in blokes you bring home?” Potter asked, all innocence. He didn’t fool Draco for a second.

“Apparently not,” he muttered.

When he didn’t get the response he wanted, Potter ignored him as he walked over to the sofa and flopped down on it, then bounced a little on the cushion. “Just as comfortable as it looked,” he said, grinning up at Draco. “Is your bed this comfortable, I wonder?”

Draco stared at him.

“Just wondering,” Potter went on. “It’ll give me something to look forward to later.”

My bed is what you’re looking forward to?” Draco demanded, certain that Potter was only winding him up and entirely helpless to do anything other than respond to it. “I ought to kick you out right now.”

“You wouldn’t,” Potter shot back right away.

Draco raised his eyebrows – both of them at once, unfortunately – and said, “Is that a challenge?”

Potter seemed to belatedly realize his mistake in saying anything to Draco that could even remotely be interpreted as a challenge. He opened his mouth, shut his mouth, then opened it again and said, “I like your end tables, too.”

Draco rolled his eyes as he dropped down onto the sofa beside Potter. “Brilliant save, there.”

“I thought so,” Potter said with a grin, utterly unrepentant. The tip of his tongue darted out to wet his lower lip.

And Draco couldn’t help it. His gaze dropped to Potter’s mouth, drawn in by the motion and held there by the intoxicating idea of kissing him. It struck Draco just then that he could, that kissing Potter right now was actually an option. He could simply lean in and kiss him, and Potter would probably let him do it because he’d come home with Draco, hadn’t he, and that meant he wanted Draco to kiss him. And in any case, they’d be doing a hell of a lot more than kissing before the night was over, because Potter had said he wanted that too.

Draco only realized he was staring when Potter’s mouth curved into a small smile. Draco looked quickly away and hid his embarrassment by suddenly becoming very interested in his fingernails.

“You know, it’s all a bit surreal to have you looking at me like that,” Potter said, turning slightly on the sofa cushions to face Draco. “I didn’t even know you were interested in men.”

Draco forgot all about his fingernails and gaped at Potter, because the papers liked to bring up his sexuality nearly as much as they liked to rehash his past as a Death Eater. “Don’t you read the papers?” he asked.

“Not really, no,” Potter admitted, shifting a little bit closer. “But I guess I should probably start if this is what I’ve been missing. If I’d known I had a chance with you, I’d have taken you home ages ago.”

“Oh,” Draco said faintly as Potter leaned near. “Might I ask how long exactly ‘ages ago’ means?” His voice came out soft and breathless, and Draco was sure that Potter could feel the words. He was so close to Draco now, he’d barely have to lean forward for them to be kissing.

“Long enough,” Potter said, his voice just as soft, and Draco shivered as Potter’s words ghosted over his lips, “that a bit of anticipation will only make it sweeter.”

Potter sat back again, smiling, and Draco nearly hexed him. He could feel his cheeks warm again, probably going all blotchy. He couldn’t explain the hot rush of embarrassment that curled sourly in the pit of his stomach. He knew Potter was just teasing him, probably meant it as a bit of harmless flirting before the evening progressed. But all it did was reinforce to Draco that Potter only viewed this as a dalliance, a stupid meaningless one-night thing, and Draco wanted more than that. All it did was reinforce the fact that yet again, Potter had control. And yet again, Draco was left wanting. Wanting friendship, wanting attention, and now wanting more.

Well fuck that.

Draco stood in one swift motion. “If you decide you’ve had enough anticipation, I’ll be upstairs. Otherwise, there’s the door. Please turn off the lights when you leave.”

It was a hollow sort of satisfaction to leave Potter gaping at him from the sofa as Draco turned on his heel and swept from the room, but he’d take whatever he could get.

Up in his bedroom, he quickly took off the Time-Turner and dropped it into the drawer of his bedside table where the protective spells there would keep it hidden. He turned back to the door, and didn’t quite know what to do with himself. How to wait for Potter to join him without making it look like he was waiting on Potter. Should he remain dressed? Take off his clothes? Sit down, or remain standing?

Potter didn’t give him enough time to do more than contemplate his options without settling on any one thing. The stairs creaked as Potter climbed up them and Draco barely had time to plant his feet squarely and fold his arms over his chest before Potter appeared in the doorway.

“Did you turn off the lights downstairs?” Draco asked before Potter could say a word.

“Er, yes?” Potter answered, and there was that lovely off-balance look Draco had been missing. “Malfoy…”

Draco just watched him, and Potter didn’t say anything more. Instead, he glanced around the room, his eyes lingering on the bed for a moment before he looked back to Draco.

“Do you want this?” he asked, his voice heartbreakingly uncertain.

Draco knew that if he told Potter to go, Potter would turn right around and leave. He considered it for a long moment, because a part of him was busy screaming how ridiculous this was. He was here with Harry Potter, for fuck’s sake, what could ever come of this? As much as he wanted it, wouldn’t knowing what it was like just hurt him more in the long run?

“Come here,” he said, and Potter went to him.

“What do you need?” Potter asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

Draco needed a lot of things. He needed to get Potter out of his head. He needed his stupid heart to stop thudding every time he thought about Potter. He needed this ridiculous infatuation to run its course before it grew into something he couldn’t turn away from. Something far more frightening than it already was. Lust, Draco could handle. A ridiculous schoolboy crush, he could handle. But this, this was showing all the signs of deepening into something far more dangerous.

“I need,” Draco said, keeping his voice firm, “for you to get on your knees. Now.”

Potter blinked at him, surprised again. But then he met Draco’s eyes and held them as he very slowly and deliberately lowered himself to his knees. Didn’t say anything, and didn’t move beyond that. Just continued to hold eye contact, waiting.

With Potter kneeling, Draco felt a little of his tension ebb away. It wasn’t that Potter had put himself at much of a weakness, because Draco was sure that Potter’s Auror training made up for any physical disadvantage that kneeling might cause. But Potter on his knees felt like it made things a little more level. Gave Draco back a little of the control he desperately lacked.

He had the upper hand now, with Potter playing along and doing what Draco said, so he might as well push it as far as he could. Still looking down at Potter, still holding his gaze, Draco let his hands drift to the fly of his trousers. He popped the button open. Slowly lowered the zip. Tucked his thumbs into the waistband and drew them down his hips inch by teasing inch.

Potter broke first, his eyes sliding lower, lingering on how Draco’s half-hard cock pressed against the soft cotton of his underpants, before sweeping down his legs to follow his trousers as they dropped to the floor. Draco’s legs had never been his favorite feature. Long and slender, they’d never quite lost the slim coltishness of youth. But Potter seemed entranced, even lifting one hand to brush reverent fingers along the side of Draco’s knee. Draco slowly stepped out of his trousers, peeled off his socks, and drew Potter’s attention back up his body by shucking off his jumper and undershirt, and then Potter couldn’t seem to look away from his chest.

Potter licked his lips, and Draco smiled. He stripped off his underpants and palmed his cock, giving it a few rough strokes, and Potter’s attention went right to it, then he darted a quick glance up to Draco’s face.

“Go on, then,” Draco said. He dropped his hand to his side and canted his hips forward in blatant invitation.

“Is that an order?” Potter asked, amused.

Draco looked down at him. “If you’d like it to be.”

“If you’d like to pretend it is,” Potter shot back. “I’m not doing this because you’ve told me to.” He shifted a bit closer. “I’m doing this because I’ve wanted to suck your cock since I was fifteen.” Some of Draco’s surprise must have shown on his face because Potter laughed and went on, “Caught sight of you in the showers after a Quidditch match. Couldn’t get you out of my head afterward.”

“You hated me back then,” Draco said.

“I hated your smart mouth,” Potter corrected. “I never had anything against your cock.”

“You still haven’t got anything against my cock,” Draco couldn’t help but point out.

“But I could, couldn’t I?” Potter murmured. He leaned forward and exhaled a rush of warm air over Draco’s cock before he dragged his tongue over the tip.

“You could,” Draco said. “And then perhaps we’ll see if you still hate my smart mouth.”

Draco reached out and tangled his fingers in Potter’s hair, urging him closer, and Potter obediently opened his mouth and swallowed Draco down as far as he could go, sucking hard. Draco’s knees went wobbly as Potter pulled back so his lips wrapped around the head of Draco’s cock, his tongue flicking over the tip, then slid back down.

Looking down at Potter kneeling before him, eyes squeezed shut in concentration as he sucked at Draco’s cock, sliding up and down its length, making soft little moans of utter satisfaction like he thought that sucking Draco’s cock was the best thing in the world… it felt surreal, like a bizarre dream that might fade at any moment.

Fucking hell, Potter was good at this, going at Draco with a deliciously uninhibited sort of enthusiasm. Draco’s hand in Potter’s hair was now as much to keep himself steady as it was to urge Potter on. He was driving Draco half-mad with those little moans of his, with the deliciously obscene sounds of his wet mouth working over Draco’s cock.

“Oh fuck,” he breathed as Potter swiped the tip of his tongue hard against that sensitive little spot on the underside where head met shaft. “Oh fuck, you…”

Potter did it again, and again, then slid back down until his nose brushed Draco’s skin, shuddering faintly as he forced his throat to relax enough to take Draco in as deep as he could.

Too close, he was too close, his body going tense as heat pooled low, and Draco didn’t want to come like this. As good as this felt, Draco wanted more. He twisted his fingers in Potter’s hair and yanked his head back, exposing the long vulnerable column of his throat. Potter went willingly, his lips wet and very pink, his eyes sharp and eager. Still holding Draco’s gaze, Potter licked his lips once, very deliberately, and didn’t complain even though Draco’s grasp on him kept his neck bent at what had to be a very uncomfortable angle. His throat shifted as he swallowed.

“Stand up,” Draco commanded and let go of Potter.

Potter stood up, and Draco moved around behind him, regaining a little more of his control once he was out of Potter’s line of sight. Potter didn’t try to turn to watch him. Draco stepped close and pressed himself to Potter’s back, relishing the feel of Potter’s clothes against his own bare skin. He slid his hands down Potter’s chest and over his belly and down to his groin where he found Potter just as hard as he was. Potter shifted his hips, pushing his erection against Draco’s palms.

“Take off your clothes,” he murmured in Potter’s ear, then leaned forward just enough to catch Potter’s earlobe between his teeth, sucked gently, and was pleased when Potter gasped.

Draco stepped back to watch, even more pleased when Potter didn’t try to turn around. Just stripped off his shirt, dropped it onto the floor, and reached for his trousers.

Potter, to Draco’s great surprise, had a tattoo. A large black dragon curling over his right shoulder. He reached out and traced it with a fingertip, but it didn’t move. Muggle, then.

“Where did…?” he began.

Potter craned his neck to see what had caught Draco’s attention. “Oh, that,” he said, pulling a face. “Made the mistake of going out and getting very drunk with Charlie Weasley. I honestly don’t remember getting it.”

“I like it,” Draco said without meaning to. He’d never put much stock in Divination, in omens and prophecy and all that rubbish. But in that moment, the dragon on Potter’s shoulder felt like a sign of the very best sort. Like the universe was telling him that this was okay, that Draco could have this. That maybe he could have something more. He rubbed his fingers over it again, and felt a bit silly to be so comforted by what was nothing more than the result of a drunken night out with a dragon-obsessed Weasley.

Potter glanced over his shoulder again and gave Draco an endearingly lopsided little smile. “I’m glad I kept it, then.”

He turned his attention back to taking off his trousers, and Draco pressed up behind him and shooed his hands away. “Let me…”

He undid the buttons and zip, and pressed his erection against Potter’s backside and he hooked his thumbs into the waistband and drew down both Potter’s trousers and underpants at once. He rocked forward again, tugging Potter back against him by the hips, pushing his cock against Potter’s bare arse.

“I think,” Potter said, reaching up and back with one hand so he could stroke his fingers through Draco’s hair. “I think we should…”

He trailed off as Draco caught Potter’s hand by the wrist and pulled it down to suck at his index and middle fingers. “You think we should what?”

“Bed,” Potter managed to get out as Draco sucked at his fingertips again. “Bed, now.”

Draco let him go, took half a step back, and gave Potter a light smack on the arse. “Up with you, then.”

Potter sent Draco a mock glare over his shoulder, and stopped to pull off his socks before he went to the bed. “How do you want me?” he asked.

Draco considered the question. “I think I rather like you on your knees,” he said.

“I see,” Potter replied, crawling up onto the bed to kneel on the sheets, thighs spread, weight on his forearms, back arched. “Like this?” He peeked over his shoulder at Draco.

“Oh yes,” said Draco, admiring the view. “Just like that.”

He took a moment to fetch lube from his bedside drawer before he joined Potter on the mattress and knelt behind him. This still felt surreal, to have Potter here in his bed, willingly on his hands and knees, waiting for Draco. He trailed one hand up the back of Potter’s thigh, over the curve of his arse, and up his back, dragging the pad of his thumb over his vertebrae. Potter’s skin, warm and soft and real, reassured him. Potter was really here. This was really happening. He stroked his hand back down Potter’s side, and felt Potter’s ribs shift smoothly as he exhaled, then again as he inhaled, his ribcage expanding beneath the gentle pressure of Draco’s palm.

“You’re…” he began, and trailed off, unsure of what he’d meant to say.

Potter glanced over his shoulder, smiling gently. “I’m waiting,” he said.

Draco didn’t waste any more time. He slicked his fingers with lube and rubbed them over Potter’s arsehole until Potter groaned and shifted his hips, pushing back against Draco’s hand in a wordless plea for more. Draco gave him what he wanted, pressing inside with one, then two, working his fingers in and out until the overwhelming tightness eased to something a little more bearable. And then did it a little longer just because he liked all the noises Potter was making, all these wonderfully helpless little moans, half-muffled with his forehead pressed to the sheets.

“Please,” he said. “Please, Malfoy. I want you in me.”

“I believe that I’m in you right now,” Draco couldn’t resist pointing out, twisting his fingers and getting another moan out of Potter.

“Bastard,” Potter said. “You know what I mean.”

Just because he could, Draco made Potter moan again before he pulled his fingers free. He reached for the lube again, slicked up his cock, and knelt behind Potter. He lined up his cock, took a deep breath, and hesitated.

“Ready?” Draco asked, both because there was a small part of himself that couldn’t quite believe this was really okay, and because the rest of himself thought it was hot as fuck to make Potter ask for it.

“Yeah, come on,” Potter said, rocking his hips back so that Draco’s cock slipped over him.

Draco lined himself up again and pushed forward, slow and careful, easing inside with shallow little thrusts to let Potter’s body get used to him until finally, finally, his hips met Potter’s backside. He held himself perfectly still, pressed as deep inside Potter’s body as he could be, and let the brilliant impossibility of the whole thing wash over him. He was fucking Harry Potter. Harry Potter, the powerful and capable Auror, the skinny kid from Madam Malkin’s, the Boy Who Lived, Potter. And Draco was inside him right now. The whole thing felt surreal again.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” he said, rubbing a hand up Potter’s back just to feel his skin, warm and tangible and so very real. “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”

That got a laugh out of him, Potter’s back shaking beneath Draco’s palm. “I know. It’s pretty fucking weird, isn’t it?” He peeked over his shoulder at Draco, all bright green eyes and rosy pink cheeks even as his smile slipped the barest fraction. “But it’s a good sort of weird, right?”

“Right,” Draco echoed, and Potter grinned at him full-force before letting his head drop forward again.

He smoothed his hands over Potter’s arse as he pulled back, then slid in again, slow at first, then faster and faster as Potter began to push back against him. Draco had wanted Potter like this so he could look at Potter’s tattoo, but he was suddenly grateful Potter couldn’t see him. With Potter facing away from him, Draco could stare at him all he liked. At the tattoo, yes, but also at the long slope of Potter’s back. The slight curve of his waist. How his scapulae pressed up sharply from his back. The way his hair curled over the nape of his neck. For a long moment, Draco stared at it, ridiculously overcome with the urge to kiss it, until he realized that he could. If he was fucking Potter, then he was certainly allowed to kiss the back of his neck.

So he did, and Potter made a wonderfully appreciative noise and pressed his back against Draco’s chest. As much as he enjoyed kissing Potter’s neck, the lure of watching his cock sliding in and out of Potter’s arse was too great to resist. Draco straightened up again, catching Potter by the hips to pull him back to meet each stroke.

“Tell me,” Potter gasped, twisting his fingers in the bedsheets. “Tell me how I feel.”

“Tight,” Draco said, curling his fingers harder around Potter’s hips. “And hot. And, oh fuck. Potter, you’re so, you feel so good.”

“More,” Potter said. “Tell me more.”

“What the fuck,” said Draco, slowing his thrusts so he could speak. “Do you want to get fucked or do you want to have a conversation?”

Potter laughed breathlessly. “I just like hearing you talk,” he said, his voice half-catching on the words. “You sound like you’re going to pieces. I like making you fall apart.”

Draco gave Potter’s bum a firm swat, but Potter only laughed again, and Draco decided that getting even with Potter wasn’t really worth it when he could be fucking him instead. He slammed his hips forward, picking up the pace until he had Potter whimpering and babbling out nonsense, mostly please and harder and oh god! Potter shifted back, raising himself up onto one hand while he reached down with the other and began pulling at his cock, his strokes rough and desperate. It didn’t take him long after that to reach his climax; Draco felt it building just before it hit, in the way that Potter’s arse clenched tight around him, and he fucked harder into him, desperate to find his own release before Potter finished.

He nearly made it. Potter had only just slumped forward onto the mattress, his body still twitching faintly with the final waves of pleasure, when Draco’s own orgasm slammed through him. It caught him hard, everything else falling away as every nerve in his body pulled blissfully taut in one sweet, piercing rush.

Draco collapsed over Potter’s back, half on him and half on the bed. He could feel his heart thudding against Potter’s back, Potter’s back hot and sweaty against his chest. They lay like that for long minutes, intimately entangled as they tried to catch their breath, before Potter shifted impatiently, elbowing at Draco until Draco rolled over and stretched out beside him.

The sharp tingle of a cleaning charm swept over Draco before he could protest. He hated those bloody things, always made his skin itch terribly. Sometimes he even broke out in a faint pink flush from them. But he couldn’t find it in him to complain when Potter made a drowsy humming sound of pure contentment and snuggled up to Draco, his face tucked snugly into the curve of Draco’s neck, with one leg flung over Draco’s thighs, and one arm draped over Draco’s chest. Draco sighed and fit his arm to Potter’s, his elbow atop Potter’s fingers, his own fingers curved over Potter’s elbow. Potter’s lateral epicondyle fit into the basin of Draco’s palm like they were made for each other, and he tipped his head to the side to burrow his nose into Potter’s hair, breathed deep, and sighed again.

He knew that, despite their tenuous new friendship or friendly acquaintanceship or whatever the fuck else Draco wanted to call it, there was a good chance that this new intimacy wouldn’t last beyond tonight. He knew that Potter had gone to that bar in search of someone to go home with. Knew that people interested in long-term relationships didn’t usually go about finding them by going home with strangers. Knew that people didn’t find love by jumping into bed with the first fit person who bought them a drink.

But as he lay there in the dark, with Potter tucked warm and snug against his side, Draco let himself pretend.

* * *

When Draco woke up, he found himself alone in the bed. He slid a hand over the empty stretch of sheets at his side and found them cool to the touch. He wondered how long ago Potter had left. Wondered why he was so disappointed when he’d known this would happen.

The sex, he decided, that was why he was disappointed. The most wonderful part about bringing someone home for the night was the morning sex that came after, all warm and sleepy, building bit by bit as they woke up together. Draco was disappointed by Potter’s disappearance because it meant he wouldn’t get another shag out of it. It had to be that, because the alternative explanation was just too horrible to contemplate.

Right.

Sighing, he stood and stretched, grimacing at the way his skin itched. He scratched idly at his belly and looked down, sighing again when he found his skin faintly pink. He hated using Cleaning Charms on his bare skin. Well. Not that he’d have to worry about that any longer, would he? He padded into the adjoining bathroom and climbed into the shower, twisting the knob so the water came out just shy of too-hot, hot enough that he had to ease himself into it, inching forward to let his body adjust to the sharp sting of heat. The irritation from the Cleaning Charm disappeared in the heated flush from the almost-too-hot water.

Draco had his eyes closed and was rinsing shampoo from his hair when a pair of hands slid around his waist. He jumped and his feet slipped on the slick tile, and he might have fallen if Potter hadn’t steadied him.

“You didn’t leave,” he said, surprised.

Potter smiled and tightened his arms around Draco. “I just got up to make some coffee,” he said.

“But I don’t have coffee.”

“I found that out,” Potter said. “So I went to go buy some.”

His surprise at his shower being interrupted by a naked Potter was fading; his disappointment was long gone. Draco smiled. “Couldn’t even go one morning without coffee?” he teased.

“Well,” Potter said, and his smile faltered a bit. “I’m planning ahead. I was sort of hoping it wouldn’t be for just one morning.”

“I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out,” Draco said and leaned in to suck at Potter’s neck.

Potter responded eagerly, tipping his head back and leaning into it as his hands slid down to Draco’s arse, squeezing firmly, tugging his hips forward to press against his own. Draco slipped his arms around Potter’s waist and turned him, nudging him back under the spray of water because he wanted to see Potter all wet, wanted to see that tattoo all slick and glistening. Potter yelped and tried to squirm away, twisting against Draco’s grasp.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he exclaimed as Draco let him go. “The water’s boiling!”

Draco snorted. “What a delicate little flower you are,” he said because he knew it would make Potter scowl. “It’s not that hot.”

Potter kindly obliged him with the scowl, though his frown was too close to a pout to look at all threatening. “Shut up,” he said, then poked a finger at Draco’s belly. “You’re all pink from it.”

Draco shrugged. “Perhaps I’ve got tougher skin than you have.”

“Please,” Potter said and rolled his eyes. “If your skin was half as tough as you’d like to think it is, we wouldn’t be here now.” He paused and smirked, the expression a bit too gleeful to be effective. Probably thought he was so clever, twisting Draco’s words. “You’ve always been so easy to get at.”

“Really?” Draco asked, stepping close and sliding one hand around Potter’s waist, splaying his fingers wide against the small of Potter’s back. “Of the two of us, I’m fairly certain that I’m not the easy one.” He skimmed his hand down Potter’s arse, gave it a thorough grope, then pushed a finger inside.

“No, definitely not me,” Potter said, his eyes squeezing shut as Draco worked the finger in and out of him for a moment before adding a second. “You’re the easy one. I’ve got you right – oh! – right where I want you.”

Potter’s words were confident, but his voice caught on them as he spoke. Draco smiled and twisted his fingers, stroking deeper, and Potter gasped, the small sound nearly lost in the hissing rush of water. He whimpered as Draco took his hand away, and didn’t protest as Draco turned him around and pressed him up against the tile wall. He bit at Potter’s shoulder, then licked along his spine as he sank to his knees.

“What’re you…” Potter began, twisting around to look at Draco.

Draco gave his arse a sharp smack. “Turn around,” he said, and Potter muttered something, probably rolling his eyes as he turned back to face the wall again. Draco cupped Potter’s arse cheeks in both hands, spreading him wide before he leaned in and gave Potter’s arse a firm lick.

“Oh,” Potter groaned, spreading his legs and arching his back to urge Draco closer. “God, Malfoy.”

“So now you’re willing to do what I say?” Draco couldn’t resist asking.

“Yeah, whatever you want, just keep—Ohgodyes, just like that.”

Draco hummed softly in satisfaction. He didn’t do this often – a Malfoy didn’t get down on his knees to kiss just anyone’s arse, after all – but it was entirely worth it to see Potter writhing like this, practically climbing the tile wall of the shower. He pushed his tongue against Potter’s hole, working it open with firm licks, while Potter panted and moaned and whimpered and fell apart entirely, just as Draco had hoped he would. He could probably make Potter come just like this, and for a minute Draco debated doing so. But as appealing as that sounded, Draco very much wanted to fuck him again.

He stood up, and of course Potter tried to turn to face him again. Fucking hell, was he utterly incapable of following simple instructions?

“Turn the fuck around,” Draco told him.

“No,” Potter said just before he looped his arms around Draco’s neck, leaning in so close that the tip of his nose brushed against Draco’s. “You know… we never kissed last night.”

Draco frowned, running through last night’s events in his mind. “We didn’t,” he said. “But we should…”

“Yeah,” Potter said.

And then his lips were on Draco’s, warm and soft and slow. Draco let himself melt into it, let his world narrow down until there was nothing but this, the warm water against his back and Potter’s warm mouth on his. And despite everything they’d done last night or where Draco’s mouth had been just now, kissing Potter now felt like more than all of that put together. Almost shockingly, unbearably intimate. But fragile at the same time. Like a promise Draco didn’t know if they’d be able to keep.

He sucked lightly at Potter’s lower lip, and pulled reluctantly away. “Potter,” he said softly, just barely louder than the rushing water. “How much coffee did you buy?”

Potter blinked at him, frowned. “I don’t know, enough for a week or so? Why?”

“And then you’ll buy more?” Draco pressed.

“Er, yeah, I guess so.”

“You know I don’t drink coffee,” Draco said. “It’s horrid.”

Potter got it then, Draco could see it in the way his eyes lit up and his mouth quirked into a sudden grin. “That’s good,” he said. “I can leave it here and won’t have to worry about you stealing it.”

“I would never,” Draco said, pitching his voice higher in mock outrage.

Potter just laughed and kissed him again, and Draco let him, all slow and unhurried at first but quickly heating up until Potter had Draco pinned against the slick tiles of the shower wall, kissing him breathless and frotting against him. For a moment, Draco almost pushed him away, turned him around and fucked him hard because he wanted Potter to come with Draco buried in him as deep as he could get. But he let it go. They’d do it like this for now, and Draco could always fuck him later.

After all, the coffee Potter had stashed in his kitchen said that there would be many more opportunities for making Potter come in every way Draco could think of.

And Draco had all the time in the world.

* * *

Potter had spent the night with Draco every night since then. Only two more nights, so far, but Draco liked the sound of every night. It had such a wonderful feeling of permanence to it. Even though he didn’t have to be at St Mungo’s until noon today, Draco was up and dressed at eight o’clock. Potter’s shift had started at seven and they’d managed to squeeze a quick fuck into their routine.

Their routine. That was another phrase Draco liked the sound of. Three mornings probably didn’t constitute a routine quite yet, if he was being perfectly honest about it. But fuck it, Draco could call it whatever he liked in his own head.

He’d just settled down at the table with the newspaper and a hot cup of tea when someone knocked at the door. Frowning, he set the newspaper aside and went to answer it. He wondered if Potter had left something behind in his rush out the door. They’d ended up running a bit late, but it was worth it, Draco thought. That’d certainly be the last time Potter made any sort of thoughtless comment about how easy it was to make Draco come.

Draco opened the door, and then froze.

“Weasley,” he said dumbly. He had no idea what Weasley was doing here, standing on his doorstep at eight in the bloody morning. “What’s this about?”

Weasley opened his mouth and hesitated, and then all the facts – Weasley, on his doorstep, at eight in the morning, without Potter – fell into a neat line and for one heart-stopping moment, Draco couldn’t breathe. Fucking hell, not again. Potter had only been at work for an hour, what the fuck could he have… It didn’t matter. Draco would fix this. His hand twitched to his pocket, but no, he had to get rid of Weasley first.

“Malfoy,” he said grimly. “I think this is a conversation we’d best have inside.”

Draco stepped back to allow Weasley to come inside, and shut the door after him. For a long moment, they just stood right there by the door and stared at each other. Weasley seemed like he was working his way up to whatever he had to say, and Draco didn’t bother to offer him a seat. He didn’t want Weasley to get comfortable here. He needed to get all the relevant information, and then get rid of Weasley as soon as possible.

“Malfoy,” Weasley said again, watching Draco steadily. “You need to give me the Time-Turner.”

Caught entirely off-guard, Draco felt his expression flicker. He clamped down on it before his alarm could show, but the sudden sharpness of Weasley’s blue eyes told him that he hadn’t been quick enough. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said anyway.

Weasley sighed and didn’t look at all convinced. “Look, I… Here’s the facts. Someone has been using a Time-Turner illegally. We’ve been tracking them since June, but haven’t had any luck with it since this individual was smart enough to either Apparate with it to a warded area or to place a spell on it to shield its magical signature.”

“I fail to see what this has to do with me,” Draco said, recovering a touch of his confidence. They couldn’t prove anything. He’d been so careful.

“Last Friday night,” Weasley went on, still watching Draco closely, “that individual didn’t Apparate or shield the Time-Turner. And I traced it right to your doorstep.”

Draco barely kept himself from wincing. Friday night. Fucking hell, he knew that getting on the back of Potter’s contraption had been a mistake. He slipped his hand into his pocket, unsure what he even meant to do. Five hours wasn’t enough to fix this mistake.

“I’m not here to arrest you,” Weasley told him, and Draco looked up at him in surprise. “And no one else will, either. I took care of the trail leading here. You saved my life, Malfoy. I would have been dead if you hadn’t been there. I owe you that much.”

A sharp pang of guilt twisted in Draco’s gut. He’d been the one who’d caused Weasley’s near-death in the first place. “Then why are you here?”

“I’m here to keep your arse out of Azkaban,” Weasley answered. “And because Harry can never find out what you’ve done for him.” He leveled a shrewd look at Draco. “I know that’s why you were doing it. It’s too much to be a coincidence to be anything else. Every time we’ve detected a trace of a Time-Turner being used, it’s always been you and Harry right there.”

Draco’s hands clenched into fists. “You can’t possibly be telling me you’d rather I had just let him die.” Belatedly, he realized that he’d as good as confessed, but fuck it. Weasley seemed to know everything already anyhow.

“I’m not,” Weasley said. “But Harry would. Not that he wants to die. But…” He paused, exhaled heavily, and looked almost pained as he went on, “Harry made his peace with death a very long time ago. And you intervening like this isn’t something he’d ever approve of, even if you’re doing it with the best of intentions. Trying to cheat death like this… it’s too close to what You-Know-Who did.”

“It’s not close,” Draco insisted, because it wasn’t, it wasn’t the same at all.

“To Harry, it’s close enough,” Weasley sighed. He scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Trust me on this, Malfoy. I know him. I know how he’d react if he found out what you’ve done.”

Without thinking, Draco’s hand slipped into his pocket and he twisted the Time-Turner’s chain around one fingertip. “I can’t,” he said. “If I do, and he dies…”

“That’s not your responsibility,” Weasley said firmly. “It’s not your choice to make.”

Deep inside, Draco knew that Weasley was right. But when he held up that certainty to the overwhelming rush of panic he felt at the thought of losing Potter, especially now that they’d just found each other. He didn’t want to give this up. He didn’t want to have this taken from him.

“You’ve got two options, the way I see it,” Weasley said after the silence had dragged on. “Either you give me the Time-Turner right now so I can destroy it. Or I arrest you.”

“Why haven’t you just arrested me?” He pulled the Time-Turner out of his pocket and stared down at it, knowing what he had to do but still resenting the hell out of it. And resenting Weasley for forcing him. Even resented Potter for being such a stupid altruistic bastard.

Weasley shrugged. “You saved my life, didn’t you? Now I’m letting you keep yours.”

Draco’s hand clenched around the Time-Turner. As much as he wanted to hex Weasley senseless and make a run for it, skip backwards through time until this whole mess never happened in the first place, he knew he couldn’t. Draco drew in a deep breath and handed it over.

“And Potter will never find out about this?” he asked as the Time-Turner disappeared into Weasley’s pocket.

“I hope not,” Weasley said as he turned to go. “But if he does, I know he’ll forgive me. He’ll forgive both of us.” He glanced over his shoulder at Draco and smiled. “That’s Harry’s biggest strength: his ability to forgive.”

Draco thought back over everything he and Potter had been to each other, everything they’d been through and how far they’d come.

“Yeah,” he said at last. “It is.” He sighed. “Take care of yourself, Weasley. And… take care of Potter.” Keep him safe.

Weasley nodded to him. “I’ll do my best, but I don’t really think I need to. He’s the Boy Who Lived. Honestly, at this point I’m not sure he can even be killed at all.”

“But I’ve seen—”

“All I’ve seen,” Weasley cut him off, “are near-misses. Believe in that, Malfoy, or you’ll drive yourself mad otherwise.”

And then he was gone, taking Draco’s peace of mind with him.

* * *

Weasley’s words lingered with Draco through his entire shift at St Mungo’s that day. His pocket felt empty without the comforting weight of the Time-Turner tucked safely inside it, and the future suddenly felt a hell of a lot more uncertain. But the more he turned Weasley’s last words to him over in his mind, the deeper they sunk in.

There was no way of knowing what would come next, so he had to believe that everything would be all right. And after all, wasn’t that all that anyone could do?

Draco did his best to lose himself in his work and ended up covering part of Healer Wright’s shift after his own had ended. He staggered through the Floo well past midnight, and found Potter waiting for him, wrapped up in a blanket on Draco’s sofa and nodding off to the soft sounds of the wireless playing gently in the background.

He shifted, stretching slightly at the whoosh of the Floo, and a sleepy smile broke across his face. “Hey,” he said.

Draco barely bothered to strip off his Healer’s robes before he went to Potter, and he didn’t have to say a word. Potter just held up the edge of the blanket and scooted over to make room for Draco, wrapping the blanket back around both of them when Draco snuggled as close to him as he could get.

“Rough day?” he asked.

“Something like that,” Draco murmured, pressing his nose to the warm curve of Potter’s neck, and sighed as Potter rubbed at his shoulder. He’d been so tense all day.

It would take almost a week before that tension faded, and then it would take Draco another three months before his hand stopped twitching for the Time-Turner that was no longer in his pocket. It would be almost a year before the last small part of him stopped resenting Weasley for stealing that reassurance from him. In the meantime, Draco and Potter would fight and make up and fight and make up, until finally Potter became Harry and their arguments eased into good-natured bickering, a pretense they mostly kept up for the excuse of make up sex.

There would be holidays and family get-togethers, slowly mingling social circles and friends that started out as ‘his’ and gradually became ‘theirs.’ There would be another close call for Harry at work, and another long stay at St Mungo’s, and then after another six months back in the field, he’d be promoted to Head Auror where he didn’t have to put himself in harm’s way nearly as often, and things would get far better after that.

But for now, in this moment, the creeping dread at the idea of Potter’s unforeseen death still settled in a cold weight at the back of his mind. He shivered.

Potter wrapped the blanket tighter around the both of them and pressed a kiss to Draco’s temple. “Stop worrying.”

“I’m not worried,” Draco insisted.

Potter laughed. “You most certainly are. Whenever you’re worried about something, you’ve got this little line that appears right here.” He tapped Draco’s forehead, right between his eyebrows. “So stop. Whatever you’re worried about, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Draco looked into Potter’s eyes and saw nothing but sincerity. Potter believed. Despite everything he’d been through, Potter believed.

“You’re right,” he said, forcing a smile. “I’m sure it will be.”

And though it would be years before Draco settled into that belief, he felt the first tiny part of him ease closer to faith.