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A Private Reason for This

Chapter Text

VII. At last the secret is out, as it always must come in the end,
The delicious story is ripe to tell the intimate friend;
Over the tea-cups and in the square the tongue has its desire;
Still waters run deep, my friend, there's never smoke without fire.

Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links,
Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks,
Under the look of fatigue, the attack of the migraine and the sigh
There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye.

For the clear voice suddenly singing, high up in the convent wall,
The scent of the elder bushes, the sporting prints in the hall,
The croquet matches in summer, the handshake, the cough, the kiss,
There is always a wicked secret, a private reason for this.

from "Twelve Songs", W.H. Auden

The body was found buried beside a thicket near the tracks down by the Hogsmeade train station. The Aurors had been lucky: in another few weeks, the body would have been hidden by the thick drifts of snow common in a Highlands winter. Instead it'd been half-unearthed by Aberforth Dumbledore’s goats, in search of dried grass and thistles to supplement the warm mush he scraped into their trough every morning, and for once the wretched beasts’ tendency to consume anything in their path had been for the better, if one might call the discovery of a virtually exsanguinated corpse "better."

Detective Chief Inspector Draco Malfoy squints against the bright, late autumn sun as he strides towards the white tent erected over the crime scene, barely stopping to flash his warrant card at the Auror constable guarding the perimeter. Sunlight glints off the silver DMLE badge on the warrant card's leather cover as he tucks it into his back pocket. He can see Aberforth and his damned goats loitering a few meters down the tracks, along with what looks like half of Hogsmeade and the entirety of Hogwarts, all trying to get as close as they can to the white tent covering the human remains. Draco scowls. Brilliant. Just bloody, fucking brilliant.

"Keep those idiots back," he snaps, and the constable nods. The last thing any of the Scenes of Crime Aurors want is a score of bored teenagers on a Hogsmeade weekend tromping around and obliterating what little forensic evidence might remain after the heavy rains the night before. Draco might have silver hairs mixed in with blond now, but he remembers clearly how much thoughtless destruction he and Greg and Vince could leave in their wake twenty-odd years ago. There's no damned way he's putting up with that shit today. Not at his crime scene.

"Will do, sir." The constable's breath is a puff of white in the chill air. His crimson Auror robe, belted at the waist with a shiny strap of black leather and brass, is a splash of bright color against the gravel of the tracks and the mud of the hillside. He scratches beneath the black and white peaked cap that's threatening to fall off his greying hair. Draco's grateful he's moved over to the Criminal Investigation Department of the service and left that wretched uniform behind. Five years of street policing was more than enough for him, even if it'd meant he'd stayed in bloody Edinburgh.

"Protective gear, DCI Malfoy." A ginger female constable, obviously bored, flicks a wand his direction, sending a spiral of thin, white dust over Draco’s clothes, skin, hair, and shoes. Within a moment, the dust hardens and grows transparent, catching the glow of golden afternoon light in its faint sparkle. Draco flexes his fingers and scowls at the pull of the charm against his knuckles. To be honest, he misses the days when no one in the DMLE gave a damn about contamination. He doesn’t know whether to blame the influx of Muggleborn into the rank and file of the Auror services or the influence of the Muggle policing system as the Magical and Muggle governments throughout Britain had drawn closer over the past twenty years. Sodding Dark Lord. One psychopathic tyrant ruins it for everyone, as usual. Now instead of ignoring the Muggles as they'd done for centuries, they're forced to work with them—or at least the ones who have enough security clearance to know about the wizarding world, and nine times out of ten those particular tits are poncy little wankers that make Draco positively itch to throw a Stinging Hex or two towards them. Still, he has to admit the Muggles have dragged the Auror services into modern policing, albeit kicking and screaming at points. There've been far, far fewer charges of Auror brutality and corruption in the ranks since Shacklebolt had pushed through the Auror Reform Act in 2001, and the antiquated rank structure had been streamlined, finally setting up a direct chain of command that made bloody sense for once.

With a sigh, Draco pulls up the thick cotton tent flap, trying to prepare himself for what's coming next and absolutely failing. He nearly gags at the smell of rotting flesh. "Shit," he says and presses the back of his hand against his nose and mouth. His stomach roils. No matter how many years he’s been a detective on the Edinburgh Auror force, no matter how many gruesome crime scenes he’s had to endure, that first whiff of dead body always gets to him. The DMLE has yet to find a spell to dissipate it.

"Breathe, laddie," Moira says in her Scottish lilt, not bothering to look up. Her short, silver hair gleams beneath the dusty glimmer of her protective charm. Other SOCAs move silently around her, bagging evidence and running preliminary diagnostics. "If you sick up over my corpse, I'll throw my best knee-reversal hex your way."

"Fuck off, you cow." The muddy grass squelches beneath Draco's feet as he squats beside the forensic Healer. "How long have that lot out there been gawking?"

Moira shrugs. "Since before I arrived. I had to chase Ab's goats away from the tent." She eyes his cream jumper, jeans and corduroy jacket. "Sorry to interrupt your Saturday morning."

"I'm certain," Draco says dryly. There's any number of detectives she might have rung up, but Moira knows he's been following the Abbott-Goldstein brouhaha. They've been friends of a sort for over fifteen years now, meeting on Draco's first case as a detective constable. Moira never brings up the fact that he'd nearly passed out at the sight of that particularly macabre mutilated corpse. That in and of itself has earned her his grudging loyalty. He looks down at the body in front of them and winces. It's a woman with blonde hair. "It's her, isn't it?" He already knows. Her photo has been circulated around Auror headquarters in Edinburgh the past two days as part of her missing persons case. He'd recognise her face anywhere.

"Looks like." Moira studies the half-naked woman. Her hair is matted with blood, and her chest and shoulders have been slashed open to the bone, deep and ragged. Gory shreds of her pale blue dress and once ivory bra hang off her body in rags, and the ground beneath her has been soaked in blood. Putrefaction has already set in, giving the skin on her bloated stomach a greenish tinge. "Hannah Abbott. Missing since when?"

"Wednesday evening, according to her husband." Draco glances over at Moira. The wrinkles at the corner of her eyes are deeply scored. He knows his aren't much better, despite the creams, Muggle and wizarding, his vanity requires that he slather on his face every evening. Nearly two decades in this job has aged the both of them, left its mark in lines and scars that cross their skin. He looks back at Hannah's shattered body. He recognises the pattern of slashes across her chest. How coule he not? He sees those scars across his chest every damned day. "Death by Sectumsempra?" he asks, voice harsh in the quiet of the tent.

Moira rolls her shoulders, her exhaustion evident. "You know I can't say yet."

Draco does, but he has to ask. "It looks like it, though?"

"Maybe."

That's as good as he's going to get right now, and he knows it. "What about time of death?"

Moira frowns up at him. "Impossible to determine without the proper tests. Besides, with the cooler air—"

"Before or after Thursday morning?" Draco pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose. He just wants to get out of the tent and have a fag. He's seen too much death in his life, and he hates every moment of it.

Moira doesn't answer for a moment, then she sighs. "Unofficially? Before, I'd guess. But not far after. No later than Wednesday midnight, but if you tell anyone that, I'll call you a lying wanker." She softens her words with a small smile.

It's what he's expected. Sixty-odd hours after she'd disappeared? Abbott would have either done a runner or got herself killed. He runs a hand over his hair, grim. He'd really hoped for the former. "Thanks," he says, standing up. "When are we likely to get a report?"

"Likely?" Moira taps her quill against her notepad. "End of the week. But for you, I'll try to move it up a bit. Can't promise, though."

Draco nods, but hesitates. "Any signs of sexual violence?" He holds up a hand at Moira's sigh. "I know. You can't say."

"And you'd be right." Moira stretches, and Draco can hear the vertebrae in her neck crack. She's been hunched over Hannah Abbott's body for at least an hour, he knows, and she'll spend most of the weekend in the morgue. "I can't even tell you for certain that she was murdered here yet, blood spatter or not. Give a lass a break, dear."

"Fine." He knows he sounds sharp, but Moira won't care. She's been doing this too long as well. There's always that frustration at the beginning, the anger that you have to foster so that you don't get caught up in the pain of another human being's death, in the grief of yet another family's loss. They're all used to it, that quick flare of temper that's all too often taken out on your fellow Aurors. He's just grateful that this one isn't a child. Those are the hardest to make it through unscathed—something he's never managed. "As soon as you can though, yeah?"

She nods again, and Draco stumbles out of the shadows of the tent into the bright glare of sunlight. He can still smell Hannah's body, that sweet-sour scent of death and decay that lingers in the back of his throat. He shakes himself hard, and the protective charm falls off in a puff of white dust just as the photographer passes, ducking into the tent behind him.

An upward sweep of Draco's wand sends his Patronus gliding away on widespread silvery wings that melt into a wisp of cloud. His team will meet him at the office as soon as it shows up on their various doorsteps. "Send the crime scene write-ups to the Edinburgh murder investigation team," he snaps at one of the constables, the pretty ginger-haired one who'd set his protective charm in the first place. Her face is familiar, and he knows he should remember her name. Elena, maybe. Or Helen. He's not certain, nor does he care. At the moment she's just a body in uniform to him. There's a flash of light from the tent, accompanied by the click of a camera. "Photos, too," he adds.

The constable scrawls something in her notebook. The ink sinks into the white page, shimmers for a moment, then disappears. "They'll be on your desk when you arrive."

And there goes his pleasant weekend, he thinks, stopping to light a cigarette with a twitch of his fingers and a snap of wandless magic—the only party trick he can do without his wand in hand. He takes a long drag, then exhales a thin stream of smoke. No books and whisky in front of a fire or pickup game of Quidditch with Blaise, Theo and Greg down at the Manor. Instead it'll be kegs of bad coffee and a ghastly spread of crime scene photos across his desk.

If he's honest, he can't wait.

***

Draco slaps the photo of Hannah's slashed and bloated body on the whiteboard with a temporary sticking charm. "Hannah Abbott-Goldstein, murdered sometime between Wednesday evening and Saturday morning."

He looks around the small office assigned to the CID's murder investigation team. The murder room, as it's known throughout the station, is a bleak place, meant for a bleak business. The walls are a shabby grey in need of painting with a few long, narrow, diamond-paned windows that let in a minuscule amount of natural daylight—what little there is in Edinburgh during the colder months—and the wooden desks angled towards one another are worn and scarred and piled high with bland beige file jackets stuffed with paperwork still to be catalogued from their last case. Too much work for too small a team. There's only four of them allocated to the Edinburgh MIT, including himself. London's where the hotshots end up, the ones the Ministry decides not to hide up here among the Scots and the sheep. Draco's handpicked his team, choosing them for their loyalty and their skills. They're his, fiercely and completely. They always will be. He's their guv'nor, after all.

Lee Jordan sprawls loose and languid in his chair, turning it back and forth with one foot. His dark dreadlocks are thick and wild, falling into his eyes. "So she's obviously out of missing persons." He's still wearing the purple and gold striped Prides scarf from the match Draco's Patronus had interrupted. He'd been the last of the team to arrive, having to Portkey in from Portree due to the Apparition wards on the stadium.

"And with us now, poor cow." Pansy Parkinson walks over to the board, Susan Bones at her heels. "Grim picture, that."

Susan flinches and looks away, tucking a silky lock of ginger hair behind her ear. Draco remembers too late that she'd been friendly with Hannah back in school. Hufflepuffs. They always have that bloody soft streak in them. "Jesus," Susan says. "What'd the bastard do to her?"

"That's what we're going to find out once Moira gets off her arse and does her job." Draco sticks another picture on the board, this one taken from an Apparition license. A blond man smiles out at them. Draco thinks he might even have just winked at Pansy. "Tony Goldstein. Hannah's husband and rising star of the Scottish Ministry. Rumor has it he's being groomed for London."

"Wanker," Lee says, and Draco can't help but agree. None of them have a good opinion of anyone who ends up in London's grasp. Knobheads, the whole lot of them. Scotland may be cold, bitter, and filled with drunken arseholes, but Draco'll take Edinburgh over London any day. At least a sheep won't call you a Death Eater to your face.

Susan turns her back to the board. Draco'd been surprised by her when her name first crossed his list of potentials. She'd been a constable down in London but had been transferred to Edinburgh after a cock-up that got her partner killed. It'd taken her some time to come back from that, but when she'd found her feet again, she'd risen through the ranks quickly, moving from constabulary to CID within two years. Her scores on the tests had been phenomenal. She's a detective sergeant in the Auror force now, with a quick, investigative mind that rivals Draco's own, even if he does think she's far too sentimental for her own damned good. "We're going by the first rule of murder investigation then?" She sounds sceptical.

"Always look at the spouse first." Draco's quill underscores Goldstein's name on the whiteboard in a stroke of bright blue. "Ten-to-one it's him."

Susan doesn't look convinced. "Too neat."

"Maybe, but it could be an easy domestic," Pansy says, leaning against her desk, long and lean in black pants and a pale grey silk shirt open to reveal the swell of her breasts. She's in heels even on a Saturday: Draco's fairly certain Pansy doesn't even comprehend the concept of weekend casual. A small silver Gringotts key hangs from a chain around her neck. It opens her family vault, not that there's anything in it any longer. The Ministry made sure of that, after the war. Still, it's one of the few Parkinson possessions Pansy has; most of the rest had been sold to pay for the house in Auckland her parents emigrated to a decade ago. "Besides it's obviously him. Look at that smarmy expression. It screams 'I'm a smug bastard what did in my wife.'" She frowns. "I'll wager a bottle of wine down the Hebridean that she made his dinner wrong again."

Draco manages to keep from rolling his eyes. Barely. Pansy's bias against politicians is legendary and has been since after the war. Not that he blames her, mind. He's also wary about anyone whose primary life goal is to sit behind a Ministry desk. But at least he'll stop by the polls to cast a vote every now and then. Pansy doesn't see the point; according to her, they're all lying, poisonous shits.

To be honest, she's not half wrong.

Lee unfolds his lanky body from his chair and saunters up to the board. He eyes the photos of Hannah's broken body, his hands in the pockets of his jeans. "Her eyes have been closed. Killer knew her."

"Could be part of his modus operandi," Susan points out. "Remember the bloke in Inverness who put pennies on the eyes of his victims?"

"True." Lee frowns. He points towards the shards of bones sticking through Hannah's sternum. "Does seem a bit personal after he imploded her chest, though."

"Or she," Pansy says. "Sorry to pull my feminist out here, but women can kill too. Just look at Draco's Auntie Bella."

Draco shudders and sets his quill down. "I'd rather not." As much as he hates to admit it, he owes Molly Weasley a debt of gratitude for taking his bitch of an aunt out. The woman had far too much delight in torture and murder; by the end of the war it'd turned into sport for her. Draco can still remember the night he'd walked in on Bella holding a wand to his mother's throat, looking for all the world as if she'd be willing to end her own sister's life on a whim. It'd taken his shout before his Uncle Rodolphus had stormed in and disarmed his mad wife. He looks back at the board. "Still, we'll need to talk to Goldstein anyway. Pans? Feel up to a home visit?" He knows he shouldn't, given her bias, but a little antagonism tempered with his own discretion might be the right push they need to close this case quickly.

Pansy's grin is feral as she reaches for her black jacket. "Always, guv." She shrugs as he shoots her a wary look. "Don't worry. I'll behave myself."

That's highly doubtful. He turns to Lee and Susan. "Open up the prelim paperwork, and tell missing persons they've a quarter-hour to get us everything they have on Hannah's disappearance."

"Already on it," Susan says, her Patronus scampering around the corner on tiny Crup feet. "I'll forward it to you when it arrives?"

"The very moment." Draco grabs his jacket and pulls it on over his jumper.

"If we're lucky," Pansy says cheerfully, "this'll be wrapped up in time for a hot dinner and a brilliant merlot."

Draco grabs the file jacket marked Hannah Abbot-Goldstein and shakes his head. They won't be that lucky. Not this time. He can feel it in his bones.

Chapter Text

The Abbott-Goldstein house is in a row of grey colony houses in the posh Stockbridge neighborhood of Edinburgh. Twenty riverstone steps edged with a wrought iron bannister lead from the cobbled street to the glossy, teal-painted door that distinguishes the Scottish Minister for Magical Transportation's home from the grey and white townhouses on either side. The ivy climbing along the neighbor's lintel and trailing across the façade of the Abbot-Goldstein house is well into the process of turning from green to deep orange-red. A lace curtain twitches at the window when Draco raps the brass knocker, and he's surprised at the speed at which the door opens. A woman stands in the doorway, a spidery cream shawl draped around her shoulders, her blonde hair rumpled and loose.

"You're the Aurors, then." Her voice is tired and gravelly. She's barefoot, but her black dress is short and tight and well-cut, showing a fit figure beneath the lace shawl. Her nails—on both toes and fingers—are polished a bright, bright red.

Draco and Pansy hold up their warrant cards. "Detective Chief Inspector Draco Malfoy," Draco says, then nods to Pansy. "Detective Sergeant Pansy Parkinson."

"Lila Goldstein," the woman says, stepping back to let them enter. "Tony's younger sister."

Draco remembers her vaguely. She was a fourth-year during his seventh, he thinks. "Ravenclaw?" He takes in the perfectly done foyer, black and white tiles on the floor, red flocked damask paper on the walls. Even the mahogany side table gleams beneath the flickering lamp that floats over its smooth surface, a white orchid in a heavy white pot beside it.

"Hufflepuff." Lila tugs the shawl tighter around her shoulders. "Tony met Hannah through me. The only two Jewish girls in our common room. We were bound to become friends, right?" She doesn't wait for them to answer; it's the shock, Draco knows. People either are silent, or they can't stop talking because if they do, they'll have to feel the grief. Lila's the latter, he suspects. "Not that my parents were thrilled at first. Hannah came from a mixed marriage. Her dad was C of E, but he didn't care that her mum raised her in a liberal shul." Lila hesitates, then draws in shaky breath. "Do you know when we'll have her body back? We'll need to bury her quickly and sit shiva…" She trails off, catching her lip between her teeth. The reality hits again.

Draco understands. He's seen it before. Loss takes you by surprise sometimes, even after years. "Soon," he says. It's always difficult for the family, having to wait until the body's released. They want closure. So does he. "The forensic Healer will have to examine her. Has your rabbi spoken to the medical examiner's office about the proper procedure to follow with the body?" The Jewish wizarding population in Scotland isn't large, but the CID's become more conscious of religious differences in regards to care of murder victims' corpses in recent years.

Lila nods. "Tony firecalled Malcolm this afternoon and arranged to have someone from our shul in London sitting with Hannah—" Her voice cracks. "With her body in the morgue."

"Were you close with your sister-in-law?" Pansy asks, and Draco gives her a warning look. It's not the moment to push, and she knows that, regardless of the quirk of her eyebrow his way. He bites back a sigh. Pansy can be impossible to control at times.

Lila pushes a lock of hair behind one ear. Her fingers tremble. "I suppose we drifted apart a bit in recent years. You know how it goes. I'm down in Manchester most of the time. Don't really see my family all that much except for holidays and the occasional weekend. And Hannah wasn't much of a social butterfly." Her soft laugh breaks into a breathy sob. "She had her friends in Hogsmeade mostly. And the girls. That's all she really needed. She wasn't all that keen on being a politician's wife." Lila presses her knuckles to her mouth before gripping her shawl once more. "Forgive me. It's just a bit overwhelming, isn't it?"

"I know how difficult it must be for all of you right now. I'm sorry." All too aware of Pansy's quiet snort behind him, Draco lets just the right amount of gentle silence hang between them before asking, "Is Tony in?"

Lila's fingers tangle in the web of the shawl, twisting the pale yarn. "He's upstairs with Ruthie and Betsy right now, trying to get them to have a bath and a lie-down. It's been a difficult day for all of us. Shall I call him?" At Draco's nod, she walks to the bottom of the stairs, limping slightly. "Tony? The Aurors are here."

"So Ruthie's the youngest?" Pansy looks around, tucking her warrant card back into her pocket, and Draco knows she's taking in the spotless hallway and the polished dark wood stairs leading up to the next storey. "Or Betsy?"

Lila leans against the bannister. "Ruthie's nine. Abigail's the oldest—in her second year at Hogwarts, but they're sending her home this evening. My mum's gone to collect her. Bets is the baby. She's four." She glances back upstairs, obviously uncomfortable.

"Three girls," Pansy says. "Your brother must have wanted a boy at some point." She gives Lila a bright smile. "Men and their bloodlines, right?"

Draco tries not to let that hurt. Pansy doesn't thinks sometimes, and he can tell when his eyes meet hers that she's mortified. He gives her a small smile. It's not her fault she doesn't remember. No children for him, much to Astoria's grief. It was odd to think the Malfoy line would die off with him.

"I'll find Tony." Lila takes a step back into the bannister. She winces, stumbling slightly, and her hand goes to her hip.

"Injury?" he asks, letting a tinge of concern color his voice.

A flush spreads down her throat. "Nothing really. Just a bit of chronic pain that pops up when the weather changes."

Draco just hmmms pleasantly. Lila turns to go upstairs, but stops at the sight of legs descending. Tony Goldstein ducks to avoid bumping his head on the ceiling as he steps down the last few stairs. The light from the upstairs shines on his perfectly coiffed blond hair; his black trousers are pressed, and his pale blue shirt hasn't a single wrinkle in it. He dries his hands with a flannel as he looks between Lila and Draco, then back at Pansy. She waves at him, a sardonic smile curving her lips.

"Malfoy? Parkinson?" Goldstein sounds confused.

"They're from the Aurors," his sister says, and Goldstein's eyes narrow.

"I see," he says after a moment. He hands the flannel to Lila. "Could you check on the girls for me? I've put them both down for a nap, but I'm afraid Bets will want to play instead."

She nods and, without a backward glance at Draco and Pansy, climbs the stairs. She takes them slowly, favouring her left leg.

"Terrible timing for a pain flare-up," Draco says, watching her.

"Old Quidditch injury from school. Fell from a Chaser's broom." Tony turns and walks down the hall. "Tea or coffee?"

Pansy and Draco exchange a look before following him. There's something odd about this family, Draco thinks. Something odd about Goldstein in particular. He's too pulled together for a grieving husband. "Coffee would be brilliant," Draco says.

The kitchen is large and white and bright, with enormous paned windows in the dining nook that look out over the damp garden. Cheerful blue and green floral cushions brighten up the high-backed benches framing the table. The hob's top-of-the-line, an enormous steel and black monstrosity that takes up a good portion of the butcher block counterspace along one wall, and the refrigerator is twice the size of the ancient one tucked away in the small kitchen at Draco's flat.

"You've done well for yourself," Pansy says. She perches on one of the stools lining the island countertop, one heel hooked over a rung, as she glances around the kitchen, an envious look on her face. The cabinets have glass doors, and white dishes and crystal stemware are visible through them, each row neat and orderly.

Goldstein pours water into the kettle and sets it boiling with a touch of his wand against the steel side. Small blue sparks drift up towards the ceiling before they fade away. "I suppose." He reaches for a tin of coffee and spoons some into a French press. "Hard work pays off."

"Didn't know the Scottish Ministry paid so well," Pansy says. She nudges Draco. "We must be in the wrong department."

"Obviously." Draco sets Hannah's file jacket on the countertop and opens it. There's a soft rustle of paper and parchment refiling themeslves as he does so; Susan's forwarded the missing persons notes already. He thumbs through them. "So Hannah disappeared Wednesday night?"

"Yes." Goldstein transfers the water from the kettle to the French press. "I've gone over all this with your lot already."

"That was missing persons," Pansy says. She picks an apple out of the wire basket next to her on the countertop, leaving behind the pears and oranges. It's a typical ploy of hers, an attempt to both invoke a hospitality as yet unoffered and to unsettle Goldstein with a presumptuous gesture. "May I?" At Goldstein's nod, she bites into the apple. It crunches loudly, and she dabs a thumb at the corner of her mouth. "We're the murder investigation team. Bit different of a focus."

Draco flips a piece of parchment. The timeline of Hannah's assumed disappearance is scrawled across it in DCI McMurty's abominable handwriting. He squints down at the parchment. He's already seen it unofficially in passing a few days ago, but this is the first time he's had to study it. "Your first inkling that something was wrong was around half-nine Wednesday evening?"

Goldstein plunges the coffee and pours it into three heavy white pottery mugs before answering. "Yes. As I told the other Aurors, I had a dinner meeting. Hannah had mentioned at breakfast that she intended to run a few errands and have lunch with a friend. Milk or sugar?"

"Black for me, thanks," Draco says.

"Sugar, please," Pansy adds. "Two, if you don't mind." Goldstein pulls a crystal bowl filled with sugar from a cabinet. He adds two spoonfuls to one of the mugs and stirs. Pansy fiddles with the silver key on the chain around her neck. "Which friend?"

Goldstein hands them each a mug of coffee, then cups his own between his hands as he leans against the counter. Steam rises from the rim of the mug, curling around his fingers. "I don't know. One of yours was trying to track that down. Hannah didn't always get specific with her plans for the day, at least not with me."

He sounds tired and exasperated, Draco notes. Not exactly heartbroken. Still, he's well aware some people are better at hiding their grief than others. He takes a sip of coffee; it's surprisingly good. "Who was looking after the children?"

"We have a nanny," Goldstein says. He stares down into his cup; he's yet to drink from it. "Not live-in. She's a grandmum who lives in Old Town. Elodie Fergusson. She takes the children when Hannah needs—" He breaks off, his voice cracking, and Draco catches the man's first flash of real emotion. Goldstein sets his coffee on the counter and rubs his hands over his face. "When Hannah needed her to." He swallows and looks away, crossing his arms over his chest. "Hannah left Bets with her for the day and asked her to pick Ruthie up from grammar school, then bring both girls back home. She was supposed to be back by dinner, but when I got home, Elodie was frantic because Hannah hadn't arrived yet. We tried to contact her—I even Apparated to Hogsmeade and knocked on some doors, but no one had seen her for hours."

Draco checks the statement McMurty had taken. It matches. "But you didn't Floo the Aurors until Thursday morning."

Goldstein doesn't answer for a moment. "It's close to the anniversary of her parents' deaths," he says finally. "In the war. The Snatchers took them. Her mother was Muggleborn. And the high holy days were only two weeks ago. They can be difficult when you've lost someone. I just assumed she needed some space—"

"It's been over twenty years," Pansy says over the rim of her mug. She's set the apple core aside. "She was still grieving?"

"Hannah was an only child," Goldstein says. "Losing her parents scarred her. She always got a bit moody around this time, and she'd been talking to Ruth more about what her mum and dad were like."

Draco looks up. "Ruth's been asking questions?"

Goldstein nods. "She's nine now, and she wants to know more about her family. There's been some sort of history project or the like at school. She's the only one of us with brown hair, so she wants to know whom she got it from, that sort of thing. Hannah's mum was good at potions, like Hannah was, and Ruthie's already got a knack of knowing what plants work best in what potions. Hannah kept telling Ruth how proud her mum would be if she'd had a chance to know her." He sighs. "Those conversations upset her afterwards. Made her miss her mum."

Draco can relate. It's been two years since his own mother passed away, her body fragile and broken from the curse damage she'd sustained that annus horribilis Voldemort had the run of the Manor. There's only so much Cruciatus one can endure, after all. He still feels that raw ache every time he wants to firecall her, only to remember she'll never answer again. He hadn't felt that sort of grief when his father died.

"When did you realise the Aurors needed to be involved?" Pansy asks, and her voice is gentler than before. She understands loss also, all too well. It's the legacy of the war. Draco doubts his generation will ever be able to move past it. Not entirely. It's too deeply etched in their souls, their hearts, their very skin. He touches his left arm, his fingers featherlight against his corduroy jacket. The Mark's still there, faded but visible. It always will be.

Goldstein picks up his coffee mug and takes a sip. He cups it in his hands again. "Thursday morning she wasn't back. I Apparated to her parents' old house. She wasn't there. She wasn't at their graves either, nor was she with any of her friends. I checked the Broomsticks and the Hog's Head and even the Leaky. She still has a set of rooms there. Millicent Bulstrode kept them for her when she bought the pub from Hannah."

"Eight years ago, right?" Draco makes a note to check the timeline with Millie.

"Thereabouts. Abby was little, and Ruthie'd just been born." Goldstein runs his thumb over the rim of his mug. "Hannah wasn't anywhere. I didn't know where else to look, so I firecalled the Aurors."

Pansy leans forward, her elbows on the counter. "And you're a Minister, so they didn't make you wait. Bumped you up to the top of the pile."

"So I assume," Goldstein says. "Although they thought she'd bunged off for a bit." The unexpected harshness of Goldstein's words causes Draco to look at Pansy. She raises her shoulder in a tiny shrug. Goldstein sets his mug down with a thump of pottery against wood. "She was lying there dead next to the Hogsmeade train tracks for days, and your lot told me that may be she'd just had enough of me and her children. That maybe she'd just left—" He breaks off and looks away, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Look, it's been a long, horrific day. I'd really like to go upstairs and make certain my little girls who've just lost their mother are all right. If you don't mind."

Draco nods slowly, watching Goldstein. He's not sure what to make of the man yet. There's something he's not saying. "Of course. But we'll need you to come by the station to make an official statement."

"Fine." Goldstein twists his fingers together, looking away. He's not wearing a wedding ring, Draco realises. There's a pale band of skin where it should be. Goldstein rubs a thumb across the slight indention there, almost thoughtlessly, but Draco knows that's not the case. He'd spent months after Astoria left missing that ring. Feeling as if some intrinsic part of him had been amputated, even if the months—years, really—leading up to that moment had been terrible.

Goldstein drops his hands, as if suddenly becoming aware of what he's doing. "I can stop off in the morning."

"Greatly appreciated. And bring your sister, will you? We'd like to formalise her statement as well." Draco picks up the file jacket and takes one last swig of coffee before putting his mug down. It really is brilliant. Much better than the swill he normally brews before dashing down to the station. "Pans?"

Pansy slides off the stool. She holds her hand out to Goldstein. "Really sorry about all this, Tony. Hannah was a good woman. She didn't deserve any of it."

"She was." Goldstein takes her hand for a moment, then lets his fall away. "And she didn't." He leads them out of the kitchen and back down the hallway. "I want to find who did this," he says at the door. He looks at Draco then, and his eyes are dark and fierce. "I want whoever left my daughters without a mother to pay."

Draco touches Goldstein's arm. "We'll find them, Tony. Don't worry."

The door closes behind them. Pansy and Draco are silent as they make their way down the steep steps back to the cobblestones.

"Well," Draco says as they step onto the street. "Do you think he did it?"

Pansy contemplates the house. "Maybe. No wedding ring."

"Might have lost it."

"Might have," she agrees. Neither one of them actually believe that though.

Pansy raises the collar of her coat to block the chill breeze that ruffles the few leaves remaining on the trees that line the street. "I wonder about that sister-in-law. Was it just me or did she seem a bit quiet?"

"Hidden depths there, I think," Draco says. "She was in shock, anyway." He fumbles in his pocket for a packet of cigs, taps one out and puts it in his mouth. He glances back up at the house as he lights the cigarette with a flick of his fingertips. There's a movement at an upper window, and Lila Goldstein's pale face is framed by the curtains. Their gazes meet, his steady, hers uncertain, and then she's gone, leaving the lace curtain swinging against the glass. Draco exhales a slow, even stream of smoke. He looks back at Pansy. "Did you mean it when you called her a good woman?"

"Hannah?" Pansy takes the cig from him and inhales deeply before dropping it to the cobblestones and grinding it out with the pointed tip of her shoe. "I thought you were quitting."

"I was." Draco looks mournfully at the tobacco smeared across the cobblestones. "And then I realised how fucking idiotic that was."

"And that's why you have me." Pansy smiles sweetly at him, the cow. "As for Hannah, I wasn't being a bitch for once, if that's what you're asking. She actually was a decent woman. Did a lot of work with charities after she stopped working. As Lila said, she might not have been a social butterfly, but she had friends. Always said hello to me the few times our paths crossed after school. Even asked after my parents. Millie quite liked her; that's why she kept rooms for her at the Leaky." Pansy gives him a pointed look. "Which should tell you something."

True. Millicent Bulstrode could spot a liar and a fake a kilometre away, and she didn't suffer fools gladly. Or at all. "So who would want to kill her?"

"That," Pansy says, pointing at him, "is exactly the question we need to answer." She glances up at her watch. "Station or pub?"

"Pub first, station after?" Draco follows Pansy's lead and lifts the collar on his jacket. It's going to start raining again soon. He can feel it in his bones. "I could use a stiff drink after today, I think."

Pansy nods. "Order me a wine, will you? I so desperately need a loo that I'll even risk that pigsty the Hebridean labels the ladies."

"Rubbish. You're just trying to force me into buying the first round." Draco's no fool. Three decades of friendship have schooled him in the Parkinson wiles.

She grins at him. "Always, darling. Red, not white, and none of that plonk Cuddy tries to pass off as a decent vintage."

"You're going to drink me out of rent money, aren't you?" Draco asks, amused, but Pansy's already Disapparating away.

With a roll of his eyes, Draco follows her. He really needs that bloody drink.

Chapter Text

"So is Anthony Goldstein capable of murder?" Lee asks the next morning. He sticks a photo of Lila Goldstein on the whiteboard. "Or is his sister? Because as far as I can tell, these are the top two potentially violent wankers we have to look at." He points to Lila. "And I don't give a fuck if she's a nutter with a vicious wand swish, if she said "go," I'd shag her right now, across this desk, with all you lot watching, I swear on Merlin's tits."

"Oh, fuck off, you," Pansy says, smacking the back of Lee's head as she walks past him. "Don't make me owl Orla." She loves Lee, but there's only so much of his bullshit she's willing to endure, especially at half-seven on a Sunday morning when she'd rather be burrowed beneath her duvet, eye mask blocking out what little grey light could filter through the grimy windows of her minuscule flat. Not to mention the pounding hangover she has from last night. Fuck Cuddy and his cheap wine, and fuck the generic hangover potion she'd picked up from Skeates' Apothecary on her way to work since Draco swigged the last of hers whilst she was in the shower. The useless shit has yet to kick in. "I'm about to put the kettle on. Any of you bastards want me to do you one too?"

"Yes," the rest of them chorus. The rain's started up again today, cold and wet against the windowpanes, and the Auror wing of the Edinburgh Magical Law Enforcement building is too old for the warming charms to properly stick.

"It could be someone outside the family, you know," Susan says through a mouthful of the slightly stale croissants Draco had brought in from the bakery down the corner. Her long hair is pulled up in a ponytail. In her pale pink cardigan, she looks freshfaced and innocent in a way Pansy has never been able to pull off.

Pansy fills the kettle with water and taps her wand on the handle. She leans against the small kitchenette sink in the corner of the office, watching her colleagues. Susan's always been the most idealistic of the lot. Pansy chalks it up to her Hufflepuff nature. She was surprised when Draco suggested Susan after Maggie left for London, even more surprised when Suse had accepted. The MIT isn't the favoured position, not here in Edinburgh. Most Aurors prefer diplomatic protection or dark magic crime. Pansy'd once dreamt about a plum position like those, years ago when she'd first joined the services. Not that the Ministry—Scottish or British—would let a Slytherin like herself anywhere near either of those. Pansy knows full well if it wasn't for Draco she'd still be a constable on foot patrol in one of the scabby areas of Edinburgh. She'd annoyed too many of her sergeants in those early years.

"Most violent crimes are committed by the people closest to the victim." Lee steals half of Susan's croissant. Crumbs are everywhere. "First thing you learn in Auror training. Well, after 'thou shalt not throw hexes at thy partner,' which Draco never managed to learn. That's why they tossed him up in this godforsaken place."

"Aye, but Scotland's a beautiful country," Draco says in his worst Glaswegian accent, flipping two fingers Lee's way. Even though Pansy knows he barely slept after their drinking binge, spending most of the night on Pansy's sofa attempting to familiarise himself with Hannah's case file whilst Pansy snored in her bedroom, he's relaxed, his booted feet up on his desk, and his rectangular, black-framed glasses perched on the end of his nose. At forty-two, Draco's well fit, and she can still remember how firm and wide his shoulders felt beneath her palms as he screwed her up against the wall a few months past. It'd been late, and they'd been tired and frustrated, trying to wrap up a case involving a kid. She'd kissed him; he'd kissed her; they'd ended up with her arse being slammed into this very wall. Incredibly reminiscent of their school trysts, come to think of it.

They've never been a good couple when they've tried, she'll admit that much, but they still fuck every now and then, when one or the other of them needs to stop feeling so damned much. Eventually they'll stop for good, most likely whenever Draco finally meets that man or woman who'll make him forget how badly Astoria broke his heart. She knows that'll never be her. They've used each other to ease the pain of losing the ones they loved: when Viktor had married a year after their breakup, Draco'd helped distract her from the media practically weeping over Krum's wedding day with a dirty weekend in Margate, of all places. But the occasional romp in bed—or against a wall—is all they'll have, and Pansy's old enough now to find that a bit lacking. Not that she minds the sex. She just wants more. Maybe even children. As much as it surprises her, she's in her forties. If she wants a sprog, now's the time to start thinking about it.

The kettle whines, and Pansy pours milk into three mugs—Draco drinks his black—and throws tea bags into each before she fills them with hot water. "I do think Lila's hiding something," she says, levitating the mugs across the room. They slosh over as she sets them on the desks.

Susan blots the papers in front of her. "Like what?"

Pansy shrugs and sits on the edge of her desk, mug in hand. "Who knows?" She looks over at Draco. "Tell me I can have a go at her when she comes in this morning?"

Draco dips his tea bag in and out of his mug. "Why not? Suse, you want to take on our Tony?"

"All right," Susan says, but her reluctance is obvious. Interrogation isn't her strong suit, which is why Draco's pushing her to do it, Pansy knows. Susan needs the practice.

"I'll sit in with you." Draco's feet drop to the floor. "Lee can go with Pans."

Great. Pansy ignores Lee's bright grin. She runs a hand through her short, dark hair. "I swear to Hecate, if you cock this up, Jordan—"

He holds his hands up. "You take charge. I'll just sit back and be the pretty one."

"Arsehole," she says, but she can't hold back her smile when he blows her a kiss. Lee is a tit most of the time, even if he outranks her slightly, but he's charming when he wants to be. She takes a sip of her weak, milky tea and grimaces. This isn't the glamourous, exciting life of an Auror she was promised when she'd signed up. Then again, she's grateful she has a career at all. She's one of the lucky ones, she knows.

Pansy pulls Lila's file from the stack on Draco's desk and glances at the clock. She's an hour or two before she'll be called to the interview room. Might as well be certain she has her facts straight.

Tuning the others out, she focuses on no one but Lila Goldstein.

***

Tony Goldstein sits alone in the interview room. Draco watches him through the charmed wall, able to see his every move as he stands up and walks from one corner of the room to the other, then returns to his chair, dropping down into it with a sigh.

"Hello?" he asks, and Draco can tell Goldstein's tension is rising from the charms that monitor heart rate and anxiety levels. They've left him in there alone for an hour just to add to the pressure. Draco wants to know if he'll crack.

"He's ready," he says to Susan, standing next to him. She's biting a nail, Goldstein's file jacket clutched beneath her arm. He puts a hand on her back. "You can do this."

Susan turns to him, her eyes wide. "No, I can't. Draco, there's something I need to tell you—"

"Susan," he snaps, "you're a good Auror—"

"I'm friends with their family." The words come out in a rush. Susan's face is resigned. She plucks at the edge of the file jacket. "I mean, I'm friends—or I was friends with Hannah." She blinks hard and presses her lips together.

Draco stills. Shit. She cannot be saying what he thinks she's saying. "In school, you mean." He tries to keep his voice calm and even. He doesn't like being the type of guv who goes off on his underlings. Not if he can help it.

Susan shakes her head. "Now. I mean, not the best of friends." And Draco knows by the way her gaze slides to the side that she's lying. Circe's fucking tits, he's going to kill her. "But I knew her well enough. We went out sometimes. I know Tony. I've sat for the kids—"

"Bloody hell," Draco says. He runs a hand through his hair, then stares back at the observation wall. Goldstein is drumming his fingers against the table. "Suse." This could bite him on the arse later. At the very least, the Crown Wizarding Prosecution Service won't be happy, that's for certain. At worst, the defence could have the whole thing thrown out at trial. Improper policing and all that shit.

"I know." Susan sounds miserable. "I should have said from the beginning, but it's Hannah, right? How would you feel if it was Millicent? Or Greg? Would you be able to stop yourself from trying?"

She has a point, as much as he hates to admit it. He wouldn't. "You've put me in bad place. If Bradford finds out…" He sighs. No one likes their DCS. He's a bastard of the highest degree, and he'd throw you under the Knight Bus in a heartbeat if he thought it would gain him entrance to London and the rarefied air of the wizarding elite. Draco could tell him from personal experience that particular heady elevation isn't always all it's cracked up to be. When one falls—and one most likely will, given the fickleness of society—the bruises don't easily fade away.

"Let me stay on," Susan begs. "I know I'll have to step down at some point, but for now…" She bites her lip, her fingers clutching the file jacket. "I need to do what I can, Draco. Please."

Draco swears, and his anger ebbs. Somewhere down the line this'll earn him a bollocking, he knows, but it's not the first time he's bent the rules for one of his team. "For now. But I handle the questioning in there. You keep your sodding mouth closed. Do I make myself clear?"

She nods.

"The minute this comes out, I toss you to the wolves," he says. "I'm not protecting you at cost to my own career."

Susan nods again. "Thanks."

Draco just shakes his head, still annoyed. She should have told him yesterday; she should have stepped aside the moment Hannah Abbot's bloated and bloody face went up on the murder board. He doesn't care why she didn't. The wizarding world is small; they all know people who know other people whose files might land on their desks. It's the price of living in such an insular community. But if Draco'd known earlier, he would have put Susan in the back of the case, kept her out of view from the get-go. He doesn't want to go up against Bradford over this. He'd prefer to save those for the times when his squad has to cock procedure up.

"Fucking bloody Christ, Susan," is all he can say, and he walks out the door, expecting her to follow.

She does.

***

"Hello, Lila," Pansy says as she strides into the interview room, Lee on her heels. She nods to the constable, and he steps outside, closing the door behind him. "Has Trask been treating you well?"

Lila looks strained. She's tried to smooth her hair back, but it's slipping from the chignon at the nape of her neck. Her clothes are mismatched; Pansy's relatively certain that on a normal day Lila Goldstein would never have stepped out of the house in a short brown skirt and a fuzzy fuchsia cardigan buttoned up to her throat. "Yes, thank you," she says. "I just don't understand why I'm here? Tony said I'd only have to give a statement."

"Of course," Pansy says agreeably. She sits down across the table from Lila. "That's what we want, right, Lee?"

He takes the seat next to her and turns a lazy smile Lila's way. "Absolutely. Just a statement."

Pansy touches her wand to the box on the table between them. "Interview with Lila Rose Goldstein, 10:12 in the morning, Sunday, sixteenth of October, 2022. DS Parkinson and DI Jordan present. Just to remind you, Lila, this interview is not conducted under caution, and you can leave whenever you'd like. Understood?"

Lila nods. She rubs her hands together, thumb sliding over the large gold knot ring on her right hand; Pansy notes her short, neat crimson nails and long fingers. Despite her fragile air, Lila has strong, wide hands with the hint of calluses along her palms. Were they capable of murdering her sister-in-law?

"For the record, Ms. Goldstein has nodded," Pansy says. She opens her file jacket. "So, Lila, you mentioned that your relationship with your sister-in-law had suffered a bit in recent years. Can you explain why?"

"I already told you." Lila twists the edge of her sleeve between her fingers. She's nervous. Might not mean anything, but in Pansy's experience people who fidget in the interview room are generally hiding something. "I live in Manchester. We didn't see each other as often as we'd like."

Pansy gives her a cool smile and glances at the clock. Another four minutes to get Lila to crack—easy peasy, that—and she'll win that fiver from Lee.

Really, by now, he ought to know better than to wager with her.

***

Goldstein jumps when Draco throws the door open. He glares at him. "Do you know how long I've been—"

Draco flicks his wand at the recording box, and the two speaking trumpets rise, turning towards both sides of the table. He sits in one of the ridiculously uncomfortable metal chairs and opens a file jacket as Susan slides into the seat beside him. "Interview with Anthony Joseph Goldstein, 10:14 in the morning, Sunday, sixteenth of October, 2022. DCI Malfoy and DS Bones present." He smiles at Goldstein. "And yes, we know how long you've been waiting, Tony."

Goldstein's eyes flick towards Susan. "Hello, Su—"

"We'd like to talk about your wife," Draco says, raising his voice before Goldstein's friendliness with Susan can be captured on the recording. Goldstein falls silent. "Or rather your relationship with your wife."

"What about it?" Goldstein sounds wary. Draco smiles again. Good. He likes to push. Susan sits silently beside him, watching Goldstein.

"You're not under a caution, Tony," Draco says. "You understand what that means, yes?" Goldstein's a politician; Draco's certain he's familiar with the legal ramifications of the interview.

Goldstein frowns. "You're not charging me with any illegal activity, and I can terminate this interview at any moment."

"Exactly." Draco leans back in his chair. His quill hovers over his notepad, ready to scrawl. "But I would advise you to co-operate to the best of your ability. You are aware that family is often examined first when a crime of this nature is committed, yes?"

"Christ." Goldstein laughs and shakes his head. "You think I did it."

"We didn't say that," Susan starts, but a glare from Draco has her sinking back into her seat. He counts to ten, reminding himself that tearing into his junior officer in front of a suspect would do more harm than good.

Instead he turns back to Goldstein. "So what happened last Wednesday, Tony? Did Hannah push you too far? Did you snap? Throw a curse at her before you thought better of it?"

Goldstein returns his look, evenly. "I didn't kill my wife, Malfoy. I loved her."

"Did you though?" Draco lets his quill drag across the paper, writing Hannah's name in black ink across the pristine white surface. Goldstein's gaze follows the nib before he glances away. "It'd be easy enough to do. One simple curse. We'll find out, you know. The forensic report will come back. It'll tell us everything. What curse it was. What kind of wand cast it. So are you absolutely certain, Tony, that you didn't kill your wife?"

"Fuck you, Malfoy." Goldstein lifts his chin. "I didn't kill my wife."

***

Pansy leans closer to the recording device. Its speaking trumpet quivers and expands as she says, eyes fixed on Lila Goldstein, "I have a statement here that missing persons collected last week in which you told them that you and Hannah met for lunch frequently in London. I'd say as much as once every two weeks, sometimes more?"

Lila blanches, then recovers. "Is that a crime?"

"No." Pansy watches Lee from the corner of her eye. He huffs, knowing already he's lost. "But I'd say your earlier statement is a bit misleading, wouldn't you? I mean, really, Lila, which is it? You never saw her much or you saw her every other week?" She picks up a copy of the statement. "You said you were scheduled to have lunch together last Wednesday, but she rescheduled on you. Is that correct?"

Lila looks away. "Yes."

Pansy smiles, bright and vicious, as she moves in for the kill.

***

A screech of metal against stone echoes in the silent interview room as Susan shifts in her seat. Draco presses his foot against hers, and she stills. He flips a paper in the file jacket spread in front of him. He pulls out a photo and lays it on the table between them. Susan breathes in sharply. "This is how we found Hannah. But then you know that." He pauses. "You went to identify her yesterday."

"Yes." Goldstein tries not to look at the photo of his wife, her skin split, her face swollen and mottled. "Put that away."

Draco slides it back into the file jacket. "Where were you Wednesday evening, Tony? Because the work dinner you said you had? We checked that out last night. Your assistant says she didn't have it in your diary." It's an utter lie, but a deliberate one. Draco wants to unsettle Goldstein, to throw him off-kilter.

Goldstein licks his lip. Draco can see the tension in his clenched jaw. "Out with it. You weren't really at a work function."

Slowly Goldstein shakes his head. He's beginning to crack. "I was at dinner though."

Draco raises an eyebrow. His gamble's paid off. There's something more coming. "With?"

Goldstein hesitates. His eyelids flutter closed, and he takes a slow, deep breath before he opens them again. "Kirsty Lennox. She's one of the junior undersecretaries in Magical Sport. We…" He looks down at his hands, splayed across the wooden tabletop. His wedding ring's still missing. That little detail suddenly makes sense.

"You were having an affair," Susan says quietly. "Weren't you?"

"Yeah." Goldstein looks up at her. "It hadn't been long. Not this time."

Draco raises an eyebrow. "This time."

Goldstein pulls at a hangnail. "We'd had an affair before. When Hannah was preggers with Bets. I hadn't meant to, but Hannah didn't want me touching her the whole time. She said it was the hormones; she had morning sickness. Kirsty was there, and was…"

"Lonely?" Susan asks.

"Something like that." Goldstein runs his hands over his face.

Susan doesn't take her eyes off him. "Hannah never knew." Draco knows what she actually means. Hannah'd never told her. He watches Susan's still face, worry twingeing through him.

"No. I broke it off after Betsy was born. Hannah changed then, and—"

"And you went back to her bed," Draco says, and Goldstein nods. Draco leans back in his chair and crosses his arms over his chest. The interview room's cold; he can see the goosebumps on Goldstein's arms. "How long have you been seeing Kirsty now?"

"A few weeks at most. I just…" Goldstein inhales again, then breathes out in a huff. "I was an idiot. But I didn't kill Hannah. I swear." His voice rises at the last, pleading, begging them to believe him.

***

There's a long silence. Lila shifts slightly in her chair, and it squeaks, a tiny noise that fills the room. She sighs. "Tony didn't like me and Hannah to meet up. I mean, he didn't mind at first. But lately…I think he thinks she'd been telling me things about their marriage."

"Had she been?" Pansy asks. She studies Lila. She's not certain what to think of the woman. Lila Goldstein seems quiet and mild, but there's something shifting underneath the surface that intrigues Pansy. She suspects Tony Goldstein thinks his sister is easily controlled. Pansy's not so certain.

"Yes," Lila admits after a moment.

Pansy suspects the uncertain look Lila gives her is calculated. She doesn't know whether to trust her. "What'd she say?"

Lila sits back in her chair, and there's a whiff of controlled elegance in the way she moves. Pansy recognises it; her mother'd drilled that sort of graceful motion into her at an early age—or attempted to, at least. Lila clasps her hands, and the sleeves of her jumper fall over her knuckles. "Just that they'd fought now and then. Nothing outrageous. The usual husband and wife troubles over the course of a relationship, I think. They had a good marriage to start with. But the past few years, it's been…" She presses her lips together, then breathes out slowly. "Strained, actually."

"Strained?" Lee leans forward. His dark hair falls across one eye. "How so?"

"I can't explain, really." Lila rubs her thumb over the knotted ring again. It glints in the bright light of the overhead lamp. "Neither of them really spoke to me directly about it other than to complain about a particular fight now and then. They're both very private. Like to keep their problems between the two of them. But I knew something was off. It had been some time back, maybe six or seven years ago? But then Betsy was born, and I thought that was going to be the end of the strangeness. They were both so happy to have her."

Pansy raises an eyebrow. She takes the five Galleons that Lee passes her under the table, sliding the coins into her jacket pocket. "A new baby made their marriage better?" That seems unlikely. Not that Pansy knows that much about infant care, but Mills had been a beast when her first one arrived. Poor wee Hestia Grace Nott had nearly destroyed Millie and Teddy's marriage.

Lila nods. "I know it sounds mad, but they stopped arguing once Bets came."

"And lately?" Lee asks.

"I don't know." Lila looks uneasy. "Hannah wouldn't really talk about it, but I know Tony wasn't happy. Not like he was the first few years of their marriage. But that doesn't mean he hurt her. He never would. Not Tony."

Pansy and Lee exchange a long look. "Cheers, Lila," Pansy says finally. "You've been a great help. Why don't you tell DI Jordan here exactly where you were on Wednesday evening and afterwards? That way we'll be able to check your alibi." She stands, and Lee leans forward with a smile.

"Shall we?" he says, and he pulls a quill from his pocket.

Pansy closes the door behind her with a nod towards the constable. She wonders if Lila Goldstein knows how much trouble she's just placed her brother in.

***

Draco glances at Susan, then back at Goldstein. He's not certain he trusts the man, but he's also not certain Tony's that good of an actor. "Did Hannah find out you were shagging Kirsty again?"

"No." Goldstein balls his hands into fists. There's a long scratch across the knuckles of his right hand. "She didn't know anything."

Right. Draco's not so certain about that. It's been his experience that cheated-on spouses know, somehow. Even if they don't know the specifics. He'd certainly known with Astoria. His jaw tightens. "Were you in public that night? We'll need to verify your alibi, preferably with someone other than your mistress."

"She's not—" Goldstein stops at Draco's incredulous expression. "Fine. We went to Martin Wishart. Out in Leith. It's a Muggle restaurant; we thought we wouldn't be seen there, at least by anyone we knew."

Draco scrawls the restaurant name on his notepad. "We'll check that out. In the meantime, I wouldn't think about leaving Edinburgh. Not even for London, am I clear?"

"Perfectly." He's not happy, that much Draco knows. They never are. Goldstein's embarrassed and angry, and for a man with at least a modicum of power, that's a dangerous combination. Still, Draco doesn't think Tony will push back, at least not terribly. He's too much to lose if Draco lets this line of questioning leak to the press.

"Interview terminated at 10:28." The chair complains loudly as Draco pushes it back and stands. "See you around, Tony." He picks up the file jacket and heads for the door, Susan behind him. He stops, turning back to Goldstein. "When'd you take off your wedding ring?"

Goldstein looks taken aback. His thumb drops back down to his ring finger. "I…" He bites his bottom lip. "I lost it. About a week before Hannah…" He draws in a deep breath. "It must have fallen down the sink when I was shaving, I think."

"And you didn't try Summoning it?" Draco raises an eyebrow.

"I didn't notice at first. By the time I had, it'd probably made its way down the pipes to the Firth." The politician's slid into place now. Goldstein's chosen his lie and has committed to it. "I was going to replace it, but when all this happened…" He trails off, settling back into the role of bereaved spouse.

"Pity," Draco says. He wonders who'd brought up the spectre of divorce first, Hannah or Tony. He nods at Goldstein and reaches for the doorknob. "Stay close to Edinburgh, will you? I'm sure we'll have further questions."

When the constable steps back into the interview room, the door closing behind him with a heavy thud, Draco turns to Susan. "What do you think?"

She looks surprised at the question. "Why?"

"Oh, I don't know," he snaps, heading down the hallway back to the murder room. "You know the bastard?"

Susan doesn't say anything for a moment. She catches up with Draco as he pushes open one of the heavy carved wooden doors that separates the offices from intake. "I don't think he did it."

"Really?" Draco's sceptical. "Unhappy marriage, cheating on his wife—"

"But that's just it," Susan says. She holds another door for him. "If he's cheating why kill her?"

Draco rubs the back of his neck. "Maybe she found out? Caused a scene? Threatened to leave him? Neither of them were wearing their wedding rings."

"Hannah wasn't like that." Susan shakes her head. "And murder rather than divorce? This isn't the nineteenth century, Draco. Not even a politician would be ruined by a broken marriage. It happens all the time. Practically everyone's divorced now."

True enough. Draco's own marriage had ended after almost a decade. Even after all the vicious fights, all the horrible things they'd said to each other, he'd thought they could learn to be happy again. She hadn't. Enough said. In the end he'd become the first Malfoy to be divorced in generations.

"So you believe him."

Susan shrugs. "He hasn't yet given me a solid reason not to."

Draco opens the door to the murder room and gestures her in. "I hope you're right," he says.

He's not entirely certain she is.

***

The Hebridean Black might be a hole in the wall, but it has three saving graces: it's near the law enforcement building, it's usually filled with Aurors and thus far less likely than most pubs to entertain a drunken brawl or three on a Sunday night, and it has an entire wall filled with Scotland's finest firewhiskys.

Draco's finished his third of the evening when he turns his glass over and sighs. "Home it is for me, and you lot had best head out as well. We've an early morning." They've spent the past hour and a half trying to wind down from the day. Not talking about the case, of course. That wouldn't do, not outside the murder room. Too many ears close by, too many chances of a journo or two lurking around the bar, hoping for a pissed Auror to drop a few titbits about a case. Besides, a nightly drink or two in the pub is team tradition, their time to catch up with one another, to clear their minds of the grim business they do before going home to pets and, in Lee's case, family. Draco's an empty flat waiting for him. Astoria'd taken their Crup, Hildegard, in the divorce; Draco hasn't had the heart to replace her.

"You're no fun," Pansy says, but she sits up from the sofa where she's been slouched against Lee, nearly empty wineglass in hand. She stretches like a dark cat, her full breasts pressing against the red cotton of her shirt.

"The guv has a point." Susan's had three beers herself. Her hair's starting to slide from her ponytail; she pulls at it, tightening the elastic.

Lee snorts. "You're just saying that because it's your round, Suse."

"Of course, I am," she says primly, then she breaks into a wide smile. "I'll start the orders tomorrow night, all right?"

"Well enough." Lee clinks his glass to hers, then drains it before setting it down. "Best get home soon. Orla's mum popped over for dinner, but if I'm too late back, she'll fret, and I'll pay for it later." He stands and reaches for his coat. His wife's nearly nine months gone with their first child, and she worries about being married to an Auror. It's not so much the long hours they keep during a case; Orla's a novelist and values her quiet time. But Orla's also afraid Lee'll do something idiotic whilst tracking down a murderer and get himself killed in the process. Draco doesn't exactly blame her, all things considered. It's a possibility in this job, and Lee can at times be too reckless. Bloody Gryffindor.

Draco pushes himself out of his armchair. They've been sitting next to the fire in the corner of the dark pub, and he's warm and relaxed. The clink of glasses and rumble of chatter buzzes through his head. For the first time since crouching over Hannah's body yesterday, he's not obsessively thinking of her. Not really.

Pansy looks up at him. "I'll get you home, shall I?"

He knows what she wants. She's lonely too. For a moment he considers giving in. It'd be so easy to fall into bed with Pansy, bury himself in her body as she wraps those long legs around his hips and gasps against his ear. He misses sex. He misses intimacy. He misses not going to bed alone. He hasn't touched another person since August and that was just a drunken blow job in the loo of a gay bar down Princes Street with a charming, well-hung Muggle post-grad from the uni. Before that had been Pansy, stupidly in the office, and they'd both been awkward the next day until they'd gone for a drink and laughed it off the way they always do when they end up fucking.

Instead Draco shakes his head. "I'm fine," he says. Pans is disappointed, he can tell, despite her attempt to hide it with a shrug and a smile, but to be honest he's relieved to be heading home alone. He needs some space, to think and to unwind.

Good nights are said all around, and Draco finds himself outside in the cold air. He could Apparate, but his flat's a bit of a walk away, but not too far, and he wants to clear his head a bit.

Edinburgh's wizarding sector is hidden away in the depths of Old Town, a warren of medieval streets and tall stone buildings in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle that's filled with tourists and the ridiculous kitsch they throw money at. Draco's always been amused at how intertwined the Edinburgh Muggles and wizards are, how, in some places, the quiet, ancient wizarding alleys run parallel to crowded souvenir shops and chippies. Draco's flat is westward in Dean Village, just across the rocky, rushing froth of the Water of Leith. The streets are lit by Victorian cast iron lamps, their glass globes shining in the misty dark, outlining the black stretch of bare tree branches and the rows of townhouses, black and white Tudors and Victorian stone. Lights glow in the windows of a pub down the street, and happy laughter spills out of its open door, the sound of Muggle civil servants winding up their too-brief weekend.

Draco climbs the steps of his building, pushing open the heavy carved wooden door. His flat's on this floor, thank Merlin, tucked away in the back recesses of the long, narrow hallway that smells of musty curry. He unwards the door and steps in. Most of the furniture he nicked from the Manor before he sold it all off, primarily to pay his father's debts. Some pieces, like his enormous teakwood bed are too large for the space, but he loves the sitting room, crowded with bookcases, armchairs, his trunk from school, and a cozy leather sofa from his grandfather's suite, the same one he'd spent most of his childhood curled up on, listening to Abraxas Malfoy read to him from thick, leather-bound volumes.

He flips on the light and nearly shouts.

"Hullo, Draco," Blaise drawls. He's sprawled across the sofa, wearing a t-shirt of Draco's that he has yet to return, having borrowed it six months past, and a pair of yoga pants. His feet are bare. "You stood me up for Quidditch today."

"So you decide to scare the shit out of me in retaliation?" Draco scowls at him as he drops down into the overstuffed brocade chair his mother had spent the last year of her life in. "Go home."

Blaise sits up. "Pans says you're both on the Abbott-Goldstein case."

And there it is. Draco groans. "Go home, Blaise."

"It's going to be the case of the year, you know." Blaise leans forward, his elbows on his knees. "My editor—"

Draco takes off his glasses and runs his hands over his face. "No information to the press that doesn't come through official channels. Pansy damn well knows that, and so does your bloody editor." Draco's willing to use Blaise's Prophet connections when it's useful. This soon into the investigation, however, is no such thing.

Blaise eyes him. "Rumor has it you're focussing on the husband."

"Does it?" Draco gives him a bland look, or as close to one as he can manage. He's going to have words with Pansy in the morning. She knows better than to leak anything to Blaise. Friendship doesn't extend that far.

A small smile quirks Blaise's lips. "No, but it does now. First rule of investigation, etc., etc."

Draco curses his lack of a poker face. It's cocked things up for him more than once over the years. He slides his glasses back on. "There'd better not be an unnamed source close to the investigation in your piece tomorrow morning."

"Would you rather be named?" Blaise's smile widens at Draco's glare. "Do you think he did it?"

Draco shakes his head. "No more from me. Go home."

"I thought I'd kip here tonight." At Draco's narrowed eyes, Blaise laughs. "On the sofa. Fine." He stretches his long legs across the ottoman. "I'll be in Edinburgh until you find Abbott's killer. Maggie won't let me back into the newsroom until you've crucified Goldstein." He frowns. "I think she might have it out for the poor bloke. Some old school grudge or other. Ravenclaws, you know. "

Draco sighs. He's tired, and he can't deal with Blaise at the moment. He just wanted a warm cuppa and his bed tonight. Not a cantankerous childhood friend and would-be lover. "One night," he says. "Tomorrow you find a hotel."

"Fair enough," Blaise says. He watches as Draco pushes himself out of his chair. "Certain you don't want to share your bed?"

"Positive," Draco says over his shoulder. "You know where the linens are."

He closes his bedroom door behind him and slumps against it, cursing Hannah Abbott for getting her damned self killed.

***

Susan doesn't expect to find herself outside Hannah's house. It's not unfamiliar to her; she's spent more than one recent evening climbing these steps to knock on the perfectly painted, shiny teal door.

Tony opens it, standing in a rectangle of golden light. "Susan?" he asks, and he pulls the door wider. "Please tell me you haven't more questions—"

She shakes her head. Her hands are balled into her jacket pockets, and she's a bit more pissed than she'd thought, if she's here. Draco would have her guts for garters if he knew, and he'd not be wrong. Still, she can't help herself. She doesn't want to go home and fall asleep to the images of Hannah's broken body. Not yet. She clears her throat. "I just wanted you to know I believe you," she says. She knows she sounds a fool. Perhaps she even is. "I don't think you killed Hannah."

Tony's face softens. He leans against the door. "You don't?"

"No." Susan reaches out, but before her fingers can brush Tony's, she lets her hand drop. If he notices, he doesn't react. "Draco's keen on you being the one, but I think he's wrong. I just wanted you to know."

A moment of silence stretches between them, fragile and tight. Tony nods finally. "Thanks." He hesitates. "Do you want to come in?"

She does. She desperately does, but she shakes her head again. "Wouldn't be wise." She studies the angles and shadows of Tony's face. He and Hannah'd had their problems, she knew that. Hannah had told her some of it, complaining about how difficult it was to be married to a politician who was in turn married to his work. Susan thought Hannah was lucky. She'd envied their marriage, how happy it'd been at first. Tony loved Hannah, even during the bad times. Even Susan had been able to see that. None of her small handful of relationships had ever been as alive as theirs had been. Everyone fights from time to time; it doesn't qualify someone for murder.

"Okay," Tony says, and Susan thinks he seems a little relieved. She doesn't blame him. Things are awkward between them now, where once they'd been easy. Having a warrant card does that sometimes.

Susan takes a step down, then looks back at Tony. "You'll be fine," she says, and she hates how inane she sounds. Even Pansy's better at these sorts of talks than she is. Susan's too introverted, too uncertain of herself to be of much comfort to others.

Tony gives her a faint smile. "I know." For a moment Susan wants to see the killer in him, wants to believe he's capable of the violence she'd seen marking Hannah's body. She can't.

"Good night, Tony," she says, and as she turns away, a wave of grief crashes over her, so abrupt and sudden she's certain it'll take her down.

It doesn't, but she can feel a hot tear spill down her cheek. She wipes it away with the back of her hand. Hannah's dead. There's nothing she can do about it.

Except put her killer away.

But Susan's not sure she has the ability to do that any more.

Chapter Text

Dawn comes too early. Draco makes his way into the murder room, coffee in hand. The rest of the team wanders in after him, yawning and in various stages of irritation with the world. None of them are morning people, to be honest, although Draco'd be willing to lay money on Pansy being the worst of them all. When she sits down at her desk, bleary-eyed and holding the largest tea Black Medicine sells, Draco glares at her and throws a wadded piece of paper her way.

"Blaise," he says, at her raised eyebrow. "Blaise was still sleeping on my sofa when I left this morning. He's here to cover the murder, you bint."

Pansy just shrugs and sips her tea. "Better yours than mine. And he owled me about Hannah first. All I did was confirm." She looks at him over the cardboard rim of her cup. "Don't frown at me. You know damned well Communications will be releasing what details we have this morning."

"Whatever," Draco snaps. He's still annoyed with her. "Speaking of which, Bradford's wanting a report, so what's the latest you lot have turned up?"

"Nothing much," Lee says, looking up from his notepad. "Far as I can tell, Hannah was the perfect politician's wife. Nice to everyone, involved in charity, engaged in her children's education. Never rocked the boat. Always made sure the attention was on her husband, not herself."

Susan leans forward in her chair. She looks exhausted, like she's slept even less than Draco. "Why wouldn't she? Hannah wasn't the type to seek the spotlight."

"And yet she was in it," Pansy points out. She pushes copies of Prophet photos across her desk. Draco can make out Hannah Abbott in each one, always by her husband's side, perfectly dressed and perfectly coifed. "Her marriage made sure of that."

"Unhappy marriage," Lee says. At Susan's scoff, he shakes his head. "You don't skulk around and cheat if your marriage is happy. Goldstein wanted a bit of skirt on the side. What wasn't he getting from Hannah?"

Draco knows from experience it's not that cut and dried. "Some people just enjoy the thrill of cheating. Doesn't mean they want to leave their spouse. And some couples think sharing their bed with someone else is foreplay."

Lee looks sceptical. "Doesn't sound like the Abbott-Goldsteins fit that category."

"Maybe not." Draco skims the list of possible witnesses that missing persons had culled last week. "Let's start pressing a bit, seeing if anything pops up about their marriage. Did Hannah actually know about this Kirsty Lennox, for example? I want to know how discreet Tony actually was." He looks at Lee. "You and Pans go sniff around his office. Talk to the admins; they almost always know everything that goes on."

Lee pushes himself out of his chair. "Will do, guv." Pansy follows, slower, draining the dregs of her tea.

Draco glances at Susan. "We'll drop by the children's school, shall we? Hannah volunteered there an afternoon or two a week. Let's see if she confided in any of the other mums."

Susan doesn't look thrilled, but she knows better than to complain. Draco's not a fool—if she wants to stay in the investigation, she'll submit to his reins. He's not going to have Tony Goldstein released on a technicality. If Tony did this, if he carved his wife up like a fucking roast dinner, Draco's damned well going to have him in Azkaban. It's the least he can do for Hannah.

Draco reaches for his coat. Off to interview upper middle class Hogsmeade mothers, then, most of whom know his ex-wife. Exactly how he'd like to spend his Monday morning. Just bloody brilliant. He sighs. Better to get the worst of it over now. Surely the afternoon'll have to be better.

He hopes.

***

Stradbroke-Ellesmere Wizarding Primary School is located in a small dip at the end of the Hogsmeade High Street. It's nearly two centuries old now, although Draco barely remembers it from his Hogwarts years. He supposes he'd known it was there, sitting back behind the wrought iron gates and stone walls that separate it from the street itself. He'd just not given a damn. Hogwarts had been his first school; he'd spent his primary years being tutored by a string of pretty pureblood governesses, most fresh out of Slytherin House themselves and thrilled to be taking a gap year in residence at the Manor. They seldom lasted long; Mother would move them on to another job or well-arranged marriage before they caught Father's eye. Draco'd been fond of several of them and had learnt a great deal under their tutelage, in his opinion. That sort of education, however, has fallen out of favour since the war. Even wealthy purebloods are sending their children to schools for reading, maths, and basic training meant to help the little ones keep their magic from flaring too terribly as their bodies grow and change. Draco can recall hours of sitting still in a chair, focussing on his steady breathing in order to control the roil of magic deep within. He'd exploded several of his mother's favourite crystal vases before he'd managed to tamp his power down. Father'd been thrilled, of course. Another Squibless generation to crow about.

The two-storey stone building in front of him is small and squat, the wide lawn covered with red and gold leaves from the trees overhead, and he can hear the shouts and squeals of children from the back garden. Mandy Brocklehurst, the headmistress, opens the door before Draco knocks. They'd been partners in Charms fifth year. He'd always liked her; there was something steady and calm about Mandy that had resonated with Draco, even if she had turned him down flat when he'd asked her to join him for tea at Pudifoot's one Hogsmeade weekend years ago.

"Draco," she says with a small smile. He'd firecalled before they'd Apparated over. Whilst normally he'd prefer the element of surprise, he'd felt he owed Mandy a heads-up, particularly with the children about. Draco may be an arse to most of the people he encounters, but he's a soft spot for ankle-biters, as much as he hates to admit it.

"Thanks for letting us drop by," he says as Mandy ushers them down the hall and into her tiny office. "You remember Susan Bones?"

"Yes." Mandy offers a hand to Susan, who takes it cautiously. "Detective Sergeant now?"

Susan nods. "You've a nice place here."

"We try."

Draco glances around Mandy's office. White bookcases stretch up to the white ceiling, each shelf filled with colorful book spines, taking most of the wall space save for one large, partially open window in the corner. The chill from the fresh air is tempered by the fire crackling in the wide stone hearth. Mandy's desk is almost too big for the space, heavy and solid mahogany, if he wasn't mistaken. Even the two chintz covered chairs he and Susan take are sturdy and well-made. The entire room reeks of money. "People pay a premium for educating their children now?"

Mandy shrugs. "We are one of the top two wizarding primary schools in the United Kingdom, and we have proximity to Hogwarts, as well as access to some of their resources."

She sounds as if she's reciting from marketing materials.

"Such as?" Susan's pulled her notepad out already.

"Teaching faculty, for one." Mandy crosses one leg over the other. She's still beautiful, Draco notes, with smooth brown skin and a halo of dark, curly hair that doesn't show a single grey strand. She wears a short, dark red robe over a black tweed skirt and black cashmere turtleneck, all perfectly tailored. "Some of the Hogwarts professors come by once or twice a month to present to the children. Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures are always favourites. Potions as well."

"And parents volunteer in classrooms?" Draco watches the children through the open window, tossing around a small golden Snitch as several adults cheer them on. The Snitch moves slowly, and Draco suspects it's been charmed to be easier to catch. He manages not to roll his eyes. He doubts such a notion would have ever crossed even his indulgent parents' minds. He'd been nearly nine before he'd caught his own Snitch, and even all these years later, he remembers what a sense of pride he'd had that day.

"We encourage parents to be active participants in their children's education," Mandy says. She turns and follows Draco's gaze. "Gemma Yang, for example, has a daughter in Year Three, and she stops by every week to spend time outdoors with the children."

"Ruth Goldstein's a third-year," Susan points out, and Draco's pleased at her cool, slightly barbed tone. That's the Susan he knows, the sharp detective capable of cutting through investigative bunk. "I'm assuming Ms Yang would have interacted with Hannah Abbott at some point during the past three years."

Mandy looks distinctly uncomfortable. "I believe they were friendly, yes."

"She'd be happy to speak to us then, I'm certain." Draco leans back in his chair, steepling his fingertips. "Would you mind if we borrowed your office?"

There's a brief hesitation before Mandy tips her head his way. "Of course not." She picks up a quill and scrawls something across a scrap of parchment before tapping her wand against it. The parchment folds itself into an origami swallow, then flutters through the window and out into the back garden. "I'm sure Gemma'll be here shortly."

"In the meantime," Susan says, her quill skimming across the white page of her notepad, "how would you describe Hannah's work here at the school? Her husband told missing persons that she spent at least two afternoons a week here—"

Mandy laughs. "Really? No, that can't be right. Tony must be mistaken. Hannah might stop by on Wednesdays, for less than an hour after lunch. Sometimes she'd stay to help one of the Hogwarts professors with their lessons during the last block of the afternoon, if one was scheduled to present to the students, or she and I would have tea together. But that was infrequent, if I'm honest. Most Wednesdays she popped in, spoke to her girls and whomever else was helping out, and then she'd dash off for another appointment." Mandy catches herself, as if she's concerned she's said too much. "Don't get me wrong; I quite liked Hannah. She was lovely. Very warm and charming. But she wasn't one of our most involved parents. Not in the slightest."

"I see," Draco says, but he doesn't. He flips through the report in the file jacket on his lap. "The year teacher also mentioned she'd been by last Wednesday, and that she'd stopped by to see you afterwards—"

"She did." Mandy's quick, but her calm's been ruffled, he can tell. "She came earlier than usual—mid-morning—and only stayed a few moments, just long enough to check in about Ruthie's progress. She's been having a rough time this year. It's common behaviour in students who have older siblings at Hogwarts. Hannah had an appointment later, she said. We had to be brief."

"Appointment with whom?" Draco asks, and Susan looks up from her notepad. A red curl's slipped from her braid and brushes against her cheek.

"I don't know." Mandy picks up a quill and nervously strokes her fingers along the feather. "She didn't tell me." Draco thinks she's prevaricating. Mandy'd never been the best liar, even back in school.

There's a knock on the door, and a woman, five or seven years younger than Draco, he'd estimate, stuck her head in. He doesn't recognise her at any rate. "You sent a note?"

Mandy looks relieved. "Gemma, yes. The Aurors are here and wished to ask you about Hannah."

"Oh, that terrible business." Gemma steps into the office. She's small and neat, her black hair short and stylish. She looks tired as well; Draco suspects that's par for the course with motherhood. "It's the husband, isn't it? I read in the Prophet just this morning—"

Draco cuts her off. He hates civilian speculation. "Ms Yang, you worked with Hannah in the third year classroom?"

Gemma nods. She perches on a large stuffed ottoman positioned beneath the open window. There are fewer children outside now, most likely due to the darkening sky. It's going to rain again. Draco's so bloody tired of rain. "You could say that. She didn't do much work, really. Just chatted with me when she even bothered to show up."

Susan and Draco exchange a glance. "Did the year teacher mind?"

"Not at all." Gemma smoothes her short, dark blue robe over her thighs. Her legs are impossibly long, Draco can't help but notice. "To be honest, Marta preferred Hannah not to be there. She thought she was a bit too distracting. Ruthie never behaved when her mum was around, and Hannah just laughed it all off. Never disciplined the girls. She said they had too much of that at home, that her husband was too rigid with them." She puts a hand to her mouth. "Not to speak ill of anyone, of course."

Draco managed not to snort. "Never," he says, and Gemma's eyes narrow at him. "So there was friction between Hannah and her husband?" He can feel Susan tense beside him.

"Definitely," Gemma says, lowering her voice. "I mean, I suppose that's why she…well. You know."

Draco honestly doesn't. "She what?"

Gemma's brown eyes sparkle. She has information the Aurors don't, and she's thrilled. Draco's met plenty of witnesses like her. They need to be special. It makes them extraordinarily capable of being manipulated. "She never said it of course, but a woman knows, right, Mandy?"

Mandy looks away. She knows what's coming next, Draco can tell. He decides to play the dumb male. "And what would that be?"

Gemma raises an eyebrow. "Her affair."

Draco and Susan sit in silence, letting that particular bombshell sink in. "Her affair," Susan says after a long moment, and her voice sounds strained. Draco gives her a sharp look.

"Well, she didn't call it that," Gemma says. "But it must have been someone in Hogsmeade, because she always showed up here dressed to the nines. High heels and all—" Gemma marks off at least a three inch gap with her fingers. "—and everyone knows you'll break a leg running after the children in those kinds of shoes."

"And you interpreted this as an affair." Draco eyes the woman in front of him. She doesn't seem the type to be petty and vindictive, but he's worldly enough to know that appearances don't mean a fucking thing.

Gemma shrugs. "She said she was meeting a friend, and she wore short skirts, low-cut tops, and fuck-me heels. The kind of outfit I'd wear if I wanted my husband—or someone else—to pay attention to me. I didn't judge. Merlin knows Tony's a bit of a stick in the mud—" She breaks off and bites her lip as Mandy shakes her head at her discreetly.

Draco catches the exchange. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his warrant card, the DMLE star shining silver in the grey sunlight. He lays it on the desk. "See that?" he asks, and Mandy looks away. "That card means that if you impede an official investigation, I have the right to send for the uniforms and have them cart you off to Edinburgh under duress. So I'm going to ask this once: what aren't you telling us?"

It's Mandy who answers, much to his surprise. "Hannah wasn't happy with Tony. She hadn't been for quite some time. She was seeing someone. Gemma's right about that." Mandy sighs and folds her arms over her chest as she leans back in her chair. "I don't know whom; she never said. But she was the happiest I'd seen her since Betsy was born. She went from being a bit drab to being beautiful again. I didn't care what—or whom—she was doing as long as I saw her smile the way she was smiling. It was like having the old Hannah back. The Hannah I knew from school."

Susan closes her notepad. She doesn't look at Draco as she stands. "I think we're done here."

He lets her walk out before he turns back to Mandy. "If you remember any names—"

"I'll be in touch." Mandy gives him a faint smile. "But she never gave me any, so I doubt I will."

"Fair enough." Draco nods at Gemma. "Thanks for the help."

He finds Susan down the hallway, sitting on the bottom step of a wide staircase, her notepad clenched to her chest. Her eyes are wet, but only just a bit, and when she hears Draco's footsteps, she tries to wipe them.

"Stop that," Draco says, and he tries to keep the worry from his voice. He doesn't quite know what to do with tears, really. Astoria had made that clear every time she was upset with him. He'd never been able to comfort her, not even during those long nights after her sister's death, so he'd stopped trying. She'd never been able to forgive him for that, but he hadn't known what to do: if he tried to ease her pain, he just made it worst. Eventually it'd just seemed better to leave her alone, to let her grieve in her own way. He thinks that was the first mistake he'd made.

Draco sits on the step beside Susan, awkward and uncertain. "Are you certain you can do this?"

She nods, but doesn't look at him. "I want to."

Their generation has been scarred by death and war. Susan herself lost most of her family between the two wars, including her Aunt Amelia, who'd cared for Susan like her own daughter. But this is harder, he knows full well. You expect death in a war. When it comes silently in the dark of an everyday night, violent and sudden and painful….that's different.

Draco's hand settles over Susan's. Her skin is cold and clammy. "Suse—"

"I thought Hannah had the perfect life," Susan says. She lets Draco slip his fingers around hers. "It's just difficult to realise she didn't. That she and Tony would… With other people…" She swallows hard and leans against Draco. "I didn't know any of this."

"People surprise you sometimes." Draco puts an arm around her gingerly. He's not great at sympathy, but he's been through enough of Pansy's breakups over the years. This isn't that far off. "I mean, when push comes to shove, we're all really just a bunch of selfish, murderous wankers, aren't we?"

Susan laughs wetly. "Spoken like a true DCI, guv."

"I try." Draco nudges her, then stands up, holding out his hand. Susan takes it and he heaves her to her feet. "Think you can make it back to Edinburgh without another fit of tears?"

"Could do." Susan draws in a shaky breath. "Thanks."

Draco doesn't answer. Susan is one of his now, and Draco's always been fiercely protective of his people. Too much so, Astoria would say. Then again, Astoria'd never understood Draco the way his team does. If she had, perhaps things might have ended differently.

He opens the door and leads Susan out into the wet autumn sunlight.

***

Lee's never felt comfortable in the hallowed halls of the civil service. There's something a bit too much for him in the echo of his footsteps along marble flooring, Pansy's heels tapping along beside him. He hasn't really trusted the Ministry since the war, if he's honest, which is mostly the reason he's up here in Edinburgh. Well, that and Angelina tossed him over for George now, didn't she? Not that he minds; he and Angie hadn't been that great together in the long run. Too many arguments, and when he'd come home early one afternoon to find her sitting in the lounge, surrounded by her packed bags, well, he couldn't really say much. To be honest, he'd seen it coming. They'd tried their best to be friends after, but it'd been impossible not to notice when his ex started flirting with his best mate. Lee'd drawn the line at that. Perhaps it was petty of him, but it'd hurt too much to see the way George looked at her.

As sympathetic as his friends had been, most of them had refused to take sides, which, practically, meant they'd almost all gone with George and Angie in the end. Why wouldn't they? George was on his way to money and influence. All Lee had was a shitty job as a constable Auror under a post-war regime that he wasn't certain was much better than what they'd had with Scrimgeour and Fudge. When the position in the Edinburgh CID had opened up; Lee had jumped at the chance to get away from London, the Ministry and his mates. He'd never expected to have Draco Malfoy as a damned fine guv'nor, nor did he know that ten years later he'd be happily married to a bespectacled, pointy-faced, Anglo-Irish Ravenclaw with a fiery temper and a craving for cold black pudding during her pregnancy. Things all work out for the best in the end, he thinks.

"How's Orla?" Pansy asks, almost as if reading his mind.

Lee gives her a sideways look. "Tired, footsore, and as big as a house," he says. He doesn't mention that Orla'd woken him twice in the middle of the night to rub her back. He misses her second trimester when he'd wake up half-hard, Orla's beautiful swollen breasts swinging over his mouth and his cock in her hand. She'd been gagging for him then, thanks to the hormones. Now he was lucky if she'd give him a quick tug every week or so, and forget going anywhere near her fanny. He'd taken to wanking in the shower, calling up memories of his wife's trim body and the way her thighs tensed around his hips when she came beneath him.

Christ, he misses sex. There's a part of him that understands Goldstein's falling into bed with this Kirsty Lennox. He misses burying himself in Orla's softness, smelling how much she wants him, feeling her tighten and flex with each thrust of his prick. On the other hand, he's not thick enough to think he could get away with anything as idiotic as cheating. Besides, he loves Orla. He might appreciate a pretty woman—Merlin knows he's done a side-eye down Pansy's loose neckline a time or two; he's a straight man, after all—but he'd never make an untoward move. Especially not on Pansy. It'd be a toss-up as to who'd have his guts for garters first: his partner or his wife.

Goldstein's department is on the third floor of the Scottish Ministry, tucked away in the bowels of Holyrood. Magical Transportation has a small wing, and once the double glass and oak doors close behind them, shutting out the echo of the main corridor, the floors shift from cold marble to a plush green and gold carpet that Lee's boots sink into. The hallway that stretches before them is lined with offices; Lee makes out the Scottish Floo Authority etched across one door, just beside the tiny office of the Hogwarts Express–Scotland.

"Posh," Lee says, and Pansy rolls her eyes. Sometimes he forgets she grew up incredibly wealthy; she might still indulge in expensive suits and haircuts, but neither she nor Draco makes him feel the lout out of Hackney that he is, not any more at least. He's been in both their flats. He knows how dark and small they both are, even if there are priceless antiques tucked away in musty corners.

Pansy nudges him as a tall blonde with brilliant tits and long, pale legs that disappear up into her tight black skirt walks out of a file room. She stops short and blinks at them, lowering the file jacket she's been looking at.

"Sorry, may I help you?" she asks in plummy tones that make it clear she wasn't born north of the border. There's the faintest hint of a French lilt that makes Lee suspect she was educated at Beauxbatons. It's obvious that her preference would be for them to turn on their heels immediately.

Lee and Pansy pull out their warrant cards. "Detective Inspector Lee Jordan of the Edinburgh Aurors," Lee says. "This is my colleague Detective Sergeant Parkinson. And you are?"

The woman eyes the cards, her demeanor changing. "Ophelia St John-Fawsley. Tony's assistant. Are you here about…" She looks up at them, and a furrow mars her smooth brow. She lowers her voice. "That terrible business."

Pansy gives Lee a long look. "We are," she says. "Would you mind if we talk to you for a moment?" She lets her drawl slip out, even out posh-tottying Ms St John-Fawsley herself.

Ophelia nods and motions for them to follow her into a small conference room. A heavy oval cherry table, highly polished, fills up most of the space. Ophelia takes one of the sturdy leather chairs; Lee and Pansy follow suit.

"Tony's not in today," Ophelia says. "He thought it best he work from home. To be with the girls, of course." There's something off in her tone; something slightly bitter and caustic beneath the cool affection.

"Of course." Pansy matches Ophelia's small smile. Lee knows she can sense it too. "We'd actually prefer talking to you—"

"Did you know he was shagging Kirsty Lennox?" Lee asks bluntly. There's no bloody sense in beating about the bush, he thinks, even if Pansy gives him a bitter glare. Ophelia's dying to say something. He can tell.

Ophelia doesn't say anything for a long moment, but she settles back in her chair and watches him. He doesn't flinch away; he keeps his eyes fixed steadily on hers. The leather chair squeaks as Ophelia leans forward, finally making her decision. "Of course."

Lee's surprised. He hadn't expected her to acquiesce so quickly. "Really."

Ophelia's bright blue eyes flick towards Pansy, a shared moment of female solidarity in the face of male stupidity. "I was in charge of his diary, DI—Jordan, was it?" She crosses her arms; her long nails are a gleaming pink. "One starts to notice a pattern in long lunches, shall we say?" She shrugs. "Tony's never been as discreet as he thinks he is."

"Did Hannah know?" Pansy brushes her hair back, tucking it behind one ear. She's shifted her body language ever so slightly, loosening up, making herself appear more open, less threatening. A sympathetic female. Lee indulges in a moment of quiet admiration for his partner. Pansy's nothing if not a master manipulator.

It works. Ophelia turns slightly, her attention sliding from Lee to Pansy. "What do you think?" Her expression is muted but Lee catches a flicker of irritation as it passes over her face. "They're always so certain their wives never guess, but they do." Her lip curls, and Lee understands now. Ms St John-Fawsley's been cheated on at least once. Maybe more, given her venomous tone when she spits out, "Men. How thick do they think we are? Of course Hannah knew. She came in more than once during his lunches with that Kirsty slag. I tried to protect her—no woman really wants to know her husband's shagging some cheap tart—but she put two-and-two together, didn't she?" Ophelia's face softens. "Poor thing. She didn't deserve what happened to her."

"Tony says his wife never knew about Kirsty Lennox," Lee says, and that earns him a contemptuous look from Ophelia.

"Of course, he would. Doesn't want to look the arse. Wants to protect his precious reputation."

Lee's taken aback at her anger. He tries to keep his face blank, but he doesn't entirely manage. Ophelia draws back, slumping into her chair.

"Sorry," she says. "It's all a bit of a sore spot for me. My ex-fiancé…" She plucks at the jewelneck of her pale blue cashmere cardigan. "That's neither here nor there, is it, really? It's just I always felt badly for Hannah. Such a nice woman, always smiles and asking about me when she came in. Most of the other wives never bother with that sort of chatting."

"You liked her," Pansy says.

Ophelia nods. "And if you ask me, Tony's not as upset about all this as he ought to be."

"How so?" Lee waits. He can see her struggling with what she wants to say. For all her poise, Ophelia's young and angry, and in his experience, that combination is always willing to crack at some point.

"It's just—" Ophelia breaks off, chewing at her bottom lip. Some of her red lipstick wears off onto her bright white teeth. She sighs. "When he firecalled this morning to say he'd be working from home for the day, there was a woman with him. She didn't mean to say anything, I think—she just walked into the room when he was ringing up. He tried to pass it off as his sister, but I've met her. She's a mouse, really, and this woman…well." She raises her chin. "If it wasn't Kirsty Lennox, I'll kiss a grindylow."

Lee lets his gaze drift towards Pansy. She's writing in her notepad. "What time was the firecall?" Pansy asks. Her quill scritches across the paper, leaving behind a nearly undecipherable, thick, black scrawl.

"Around half-eight?" Ophelia doesn't sound certain. "Maybe a little later. Ten 'til nine at the latest. Definitely before the morning post arrived, and it's always here before nine."

Pansy nods and closes her notepad. She glances at Lee and nods. "You've been very helpful, Ophelia."

Fear flits across Ophelia's face. "I didn't mean—I don't think Tony did it," she says quickly, but she doesn't sound convinced. She most likely needs the job, Lee thinks. He'd guess there was some kind of tension with her family, most likely involving the former fiancé. This isn't the sort of position you'd find a wealthy girl in, not if she didn't need to be. A family like hers would have better connections than Tony Goldstein. She'd have been in a higher minister's office. Perhaps even assisting a member of the Wizengamot.

"No one's charging him with murder," Lee says. He lets the obvious yet hang unspoken between them. "We're just trying to figure out what happened to Hannah." He hesitates. "When was the last time you saw her?"

"Two Mondays ago," Ophelia says. "She stopped by to let Tony know she'd be having dinner in Hogsmeade with an old friend. Someone who'd given a talk at Ruthie's school."

"Did she leave a name?" Pansy asks, but Ophelia shakes her head.

"No. She just popped in and out whilst Tony was in a meeting. I was copying one of Tony's reports for the First Minister, so I just sent him a quick memo about it and went on with the report. He didn't seem terribly fussed." Ophelia pauses, thinks. "I'm fairly certain he went out for dinner with a few other ministers that night. Definitely with the Minister of Magical Sport. Hugo stuck his head in Tuesday morning, laughing about too much whisky the night before."

Lee stands. "Do you mind if we firecall if we need anything more?"

Ophelia shakes her head. "Best if you use my private Floo, though. I'm on the network."

Lee waits until they're back in the marble corridor before he looks over at Pansy. She's tucking her quill and notepad into the pocket of her suit jacket. There must be a charm on it: the jacket still looks smooth and fitted. "You think he's down for it?" he asks as their footsteps echo along the empty hallway.

Pansy pushes open a glass door, holding it for them both. "Doesn't look good at the moment." Lee grunts in agreement. There's a bit more to Kirsty Lennox than Goldstein'd led them to believe. Draco's going to be narked, that much's for certain.

They pause at the security desk, flashing their warrant cards again before being waved around the line of visitors having their wands weighed and checked. One of the few perks of the Auror force: no one ever tries to take your wand from you.

The air outside is cool and crisp, and Lee thinks he might see the faint swirl of a snowflake or two on the breeze.

"You want to tell the guv?"

Pansy sighs. "Might as well. Five Galleons says he hauls Goldstein in on his arse again."

"Easy bet, that," Lee says, shaking his head. He catches sight of a pasty cart down the street, steam rising up into the grey sky. His stomach rumbles. "Lunch?" He'll jump at any excuse to delay the explosion that'll come from his DCI, at least for now.

With a reluctant groan, Pansy—no fool herself, when it comes to the Malfoy mood swings—follows him down the cobblestone street.

Chapter Text

Draco trudges up the wide stone staircase that dominates the marble lobby of the Edinburgh Magical Law Enforcement building. It's impressive, he supposes, Victorian Gothic mixed with medieval fort, but he's all too aware of how shabby and severe the Auror offices are. The solicitors and barristers have a bit more dosh to spread around; their hallways have plush carpet and panelled walls, at least up until the reception area. After that it depends on the department—and how well the department's head has managed to cosy up to the Ministry's budget office.

He's sent Susan off to interview the heads of the charities who'd listed Hannah on their boards. She's not best pleased with him, he knows, but the work will be good for her. She's too close to this case, and he wants her to have a bit of distance. It's walking a tightrope sometimes, policing the magical community. There's a higher frequency of knowing not only the victims but the perpetrators as well. The war and the flurry of trials in its aftermath had underscored that for all of them. Keeping Susan on the sidelines seems best for now. He doesn't care if she's annoyed with him. She'll get over it. Eventually.

"Malfoy!"

He looks up. A woman leans over the stone balustrade above, her black curly hair pulled back with a bright green and yellow scarf that sets off her dark skin.

"Nat," Draco says, and he knows his exhaustion is coloring his tone. Natalie Weston is the assistant to DCS Bradford. If she's looking for him, it can't be anything good. He turns on the landing and starts the climb up the last set of steps.

She gives him a sympathetic look. "Sorry, love, but my boss is looking for you. Just wanted you to know."

He's grateful for her warning. The last thing he wants is to run into Bradford unwarned. He takes the last two stairs in a long stride. "Thanks." He falls into step with Nat, heading through the near empty corridor back to the Auror offices. "Is he on a tear?"

Nat arches one eyebrow and shifts the stack of file jackets in her arms as a purple interoffice memo zips around her head, darting down the hall in front of them. "What do you think? Some bloke from London arrived this morning asking questions about your case. Tall, dark haired. Rather handsome from the side. Didn't get a name; Braddy was so quick to pull him into his office, and I was fielding a firecall from Anderson's team. Figured you might want to know, since I'm fairly certain they headed your way a quarter hour past."

Draco swears. He's known this was coming; there was no way London would be able to keep its hands out of a case involving a Ministry official, even if it was in the wilds of Scotland. Bloody fuckers. "I owe you."

"You do," Nat says with a smile. "I'll collect, no worries."

He leaves her, taking the hall that leads down to the murder room. His boots echo in the silence, a solid, steady beat of annoyance against the worn wooden floors. This is his case, and he'll be bloody damned if he lets anyone from the South take it from him. By the time he throws the door of the murder room open, not caring that it slams against the wall loudly, rattling the glass set in its heavy wood, Draco's worked himself into a fury.

"I don't know what you're thinking, Braddy," he snaps, and then he draws up short as the two men studying the murder board turn towards him.

"Malfoy." Bradford's voice holds a tone of warning. Draco doesn't care. He's too fixed on the other man, tall and well fit and dressed in an impossibly impeccable suit.

"Harry Potter," Draco says. He doesn't move. Can't move. A vise grips his heart, twists his stomach. "Harry fucking Potter." He flinches at how shrill he sounds.

Potter shoves his hands in his pockets, utterly ruining the line of his suit. He rocks forward onto the balls of his feet; his ridiculously messy hair falls over his face. There's a bit of silver at his temples now, his shoulders are broader, and his taste in clothing has improved dramatically, but somehow he looks nearly the same as he had at nineteen. "Malfoy."

Draco folds his arms over his chest, mostly to hide how badly his hands are shaking. "What the fuck are you doing here?" It's been years since he's seen his former partner—since he left Auror training for the Hogsmeade foot patrol to be exact. Last he'd heard the Golden Boy of Gryffindor was flying upwards through the ranks in London, although rumour has it he'd turned down the position of Deputy Head Auror out of some misguided interest in staying in the field. Potter'd always been a fool that way.

"Detective Superintendent Potter's been asked to supervise your team," Bradford starts, a sneer on his face, and Draco tenses, ready to snarl, but Potter stops them both with an upraised hand.

"Not supervise. DCI Malfoy's still in charge." Potter gives Draco a warm smile. Draco wants to slap it off his stupid face. There's a reason he'd repeatedly hexed the smug, self-assured bastard when they'd been partners in training. It wasn't as if Potter'd even wanted to be paired up with Draco, at least at first. The Minstry'd made him; it was the only way the Aurors would take Draco on after the war, no matter how well he'd done on the entrance exams—a near perfect score, mind. "I'm just here to help," Potter adds.

"To report back to London, you mean." Draco's not surprised when Potter shrugs in acknowledgement. Potter isn't a complete fool, just an utter arse. Draco looks over at Bradford. "You can't actually want to give those shits this much control over an investigation—"

Bradford looks sour. "It's a delicate situation, Malfoy. A politician's wife—"

"You cannot be serious." Draco rubs his hands over his face, pushing his glasses up to his forehead. His head aches already. "It's an Edinburgh investigation. All events of record happened in Scotland."

"With a Scottish Ministry official as your prime suspect," Potter says. He nods back to the murder board, covered with scrawled notes and scowling photographs. "At least I'm assuming Tony's picture's up there for a reason."

Draco meets his gaze evenly. "Always look at the family first."

Potter nods. "It's what I'd do."

Draco's nostrils flare. He wants to tell Potter off, but he'd rather not deal with the fallout from Bradford. His eyes flick towards his superior officer. Potter catches the look and smiles.

"Richard," Potter says, and since when did he develop a first-name relationship with Braddy, Draco thinks with a flare of annoyance. "I'm sure you've more important things to deal with. Malfoy can catch me up on the particulars of his enquiries."

Bradford doesn't want to go, Draco can tell, but there's nothing he can say. He knows the details of the investigation already. He puffs himself up, like a peacock trying to look self-important. "Do try to behave, Malfoy," he says, and when he turns his back, Draco flips a two-fingered salute.

Potter snorts. Bradford glances back, eyes narrowed, but Draco's quick and already leaning against the edge of the desk, glaring at his boss. He knows exactly how much insubordination Bradford will overlook based on Draco's record of closing cases. With a curt nod at the both of them, Bradford strides out, letting the door slam shut behind him.

The murder room's silent. Draco doesn't look at Potter as he walks to the board, writing down the information he and Susan had sussed out at the school.

"Malfoy," Potter says after a moment, but Draco doesn't turn around. Potter sighs. "I know this isn't optimal—"

"Really." Draco puts a question mark next to Hogsmeade lover. He underscores it with three thick red lines. "Because I'd always thought that it'd be brilliant to have one's ex-lover-slash-arsehole training partner be assigned to spy on one's investigation—"

"That's not what's happening here."

Draco stares at the board, not really seeing it. His body's tense and tight. It's not that he hasn't thought about Potter in the past twenty years. He has, usually late at night when he's morose over a bottle of Ogden's Finest, with bitter memories of Potter those few months when he was Harry to Draco, his mouth on Draco's throat, his hand on Draco's cock. They'd never meant to have sex. It'd just happened, one evening whilst they were practicing hand-to-hand combat for a training test the next day. Potter'd pinned Draco to the floor, laughing as he'd leaned over him, and he'd been so fucking gorgeous that Draco'd lost his mind and leaned up to kiss him. They'd rutted against each other, rolling over the firm mat, kissing, touching, gasping. The memory of it still makes him ache. For nearly half a year, they'd fought and fucked and fought again until, in the middle of a night of blindingly intense coupling that'd left Draco shaky and light as a feather, he'd been a complete idiot and whispered those words he'd been thinking into Potter's ear as he came.

In the dim morning light, Harry'd called it off, rolling out of bed and drawing on clothes all while telling Draco he needed some time. The soft click of the door shutting had broken Draco's heart. Two weeks later Draco'd looked down at Potter writhing across that same damned mat that had started everything, this time with the echo of a Stinging Hex still hanging in the air. He hadn't seen him since, if one didn't count the pages of the newspaper.

Most of those he'd Incendioed.

"What is happening then?" Draco can hear Potter step closer. He tenses, expecting a hand on his shoulder that doesn't come.

"I'm here to help," Potter says after a moment, and Draco snorts. He turns then, and Potter's right there, looking at him soberly through wire-rimmed glasses. "I know it's—"

"Not optimal." Draco puts down his quill. "You've already said." He pushes past Potter, catching a whiff of lime and neroli. Christ, when had Potter grown up? Properly tailored clothing? Posh cologne? Even his bloody hair looks as if he's finally found a decent barber. Draco's not certain he likes this. Potter should be shabby and tasteless the way he'd been when they were young and stupid colts dancing around each other. Draco picks up a file jacket from Lee's desk and flips it open, staring blindly at the parchment inside. Who'd taught Potter to match a suit and tie, for Christ's sake? It's unsettling, is what it is.

"Draco," Potter says, a weariness weighting his voice.

Draco turns on him then, slapping the corner of the file jacket into Potter's purple silk tie. "Do not call me that," he snaps. "You lost all right to my given name that night you walked out of my flat."

Potter's brows draw together in frown. "That was twenty years ago."

With a nasty shrug, Draco throws himself into his desk chair. It squeaks beneath him and rolls a bit on the uneven wooden floor, and for not the first time, Draco curses the miserly Scottish Ministry and their refusal to fund new office furniture in the annual budget.

"Seriously?" Potter asks, and he sits at Susan's desk. His eyes narrow as he studies Draco. "You're still not over that—"

"Fuck off." Draco reaches for another file jacket—any one, it doesn't matter—and opens it. If he ignores him long enough, maybe Potter will disappear. It's a futile hope, but he clings to it anyway.

Potter runs a hand through his hair. "Jesus." He looks at Draco. "Look, I don't like this any more than you do. But Dawlish thought there should be a London presence here, given the delicacy of the case—" Draco interrupts him with a snort, but Potter just goes on. "And Gawain agreed—"

"Robards ought to have been voted out of office by now." Draco's never understood the popularity of the current Minister. Robard's not a fool like Fudge had been, but he's no Shacklebolt either.

Potter just gives him an even look, the overhead lamps glinting off his glasses. "I'm here for the duration, Malfoy. I don't have any intention of stepping on toes—as long as you don't cut me out of the enquiry."

Draco's mouth tightens, but he's cut off by the door slamming open, and Lee's cheerful, "Hullo, guv" that's nearly drowned out by Pansy's "What the hell is he doing here?"

"DSI Potter's been sent up from London to help," Draco says dryly, bolstered by Pansy's furious face. She doesn't know the whole of what went on between him and Potter—he's never been brave enough to admit he shagged the bastard; he doesn't want to lose her respect—but she knows their training partnership was bitterly vicious and she's seen the scars Draco took from it, the visible ones at least. "He'll be joining us on this case."

Pansy gives Potter a dismissive sneer. "Ever so helpful, I'm sure."

To Draco's surprise, Potter merely returns a cool nod. "One tries, Parkinson. One tries."

And really, Draco's beginning to wonder if Potter should be retroactively sorted Slytherin with that composure. Just exactly what had twenty years at London HQ done to the man? Draco glances over at Lee. "Any joy at the Ministry?"

Lee shrugs. "A bit. Goldstein's assistant reckons she saw his bit of skirt in the background of a firecall from his house this morning." He looks at Potter. "Have you read the files, Harry?"

Draco'd forgotten Lee spent a good chunk of his Hogwarts sharing a common room with Potter. It irks him, however irrationally, that one of his team has a history with the bastard. He scowls at Lee, who ignores him, just as he always does when he thinks Draco's being unreasonable. Fucking arsehole.

"The latest report Bradford has from you, yes," Potter says. "Tony's been sleeping with a junior undersecretary, naughty lad." He rolls his eyes. "Cliche."

"His wife didn't seem to mind." Pansy sits on the edge of Draco's desk. Her hand settles on his shoulder, a comforting weight that reminds him that she's on his side at least. "Ophelia the assistant insists that Hannah was aware of her husband's infidelity."

"Unsurprising." Draco closes his hand over Pansy's, squeezing lightly. He nods towards the board. "Given the fact that she might have been fucking about herself."

"Hogsmeade lover?" Pansy raises an eyebrow as she reads Draco's scrawl. "Really? Good for her."

Draco understands the sentiment, to be honest. He's secretly glad Hannah was cuckolding her husband. Still, he has to point out the obvious. "The lover might have done her in."

They're all silent. The fire in the Floo hearth across the room crackles and snaps. It's absolute shit at putting out warmth; it always has been. Draco flicks his wand at it, refreshing the waning Warming Charm on it. There's a draft from the windows that never quite goes away. Draco wonders if Potter notices how ramshackle the building is. He knows damn well it doesn't even begin to compare with the luxury of Auror headquarters in London. There's not even a bloody teacart passing through during the afternoon.

Potter leans back in Susan's chair, his hands behind his head. Draco'd hated it when he did that during training. More than once he'd Vanished the back legs from the chair, sending Potter falling to the floor. He knows Potter remembers when he eyes Draco, then sits forward with a thud. He scratches at the faint stubble on his chin. That shouldn't be attractive. It is. Draco hates his life sometimes.

"If she had a lover herself, maybe Tony knew," Potter says. The look Pansy gives him drips with disdain. He holds his hands up. "I know. But someone had to say it. I'll throw myself on that particular sword." Draco feels a faint ripple of sympathy. It disappears quickly.

Lee walks over to the board and draws a line from Goldstein's photo to the question mark next to the lover. "We should probably interview him again." He glances back at Draco. "I would, but for Orla. I can take the case file home with me, though. She won't mind me going over those, if I keep them to the kitchen table."

Draco nods. Lee's at his best combing through their interview transcripts to find similarities—or discrepancies—that they can follow up on. "I'll stop by his house on the way home."

"I'll come with you," Potter says, and Draco wants to refuse him, but he can tell by Potter's set jaw that he might as well not try. He exchanges a long look with Pansy. She's itching to object, he can tell, but he shakes his head.

"Fine," he says to Potter. He's not going to show weakness. This is his bloody case. If he has to piss on it, he will.

Potter stands. "I'll get my coat."

Pansy grabs Draco's jumper as he pushes his chair back. "Are you all right?" she asks quietly, her eyes fixed on Potter's back as he shrugs into his overcoat. Lee pretends not to listen.

"I'm fine," he says. She doesn't believe him, he knows. He's not certain he'd believe himself at the moment. Still he gives her a tight smile. "Go home. Rest up tonight. I'll want you and Lee out in Hogsmeade tomorrow morning. See if she met up with anyone at the pubs."

Pansy nods. "What about Susan?"

"She's talking to the charities." There's a part of Draco that hopes Susan calls in ill. He doesn't know how much longer he can protect her, not with Potter hovering. He touches Pansy's elbow lightly and lowers his voice. "Stop worrying."

"I can't." Pansy's gaze slides back to Potter. He's picked up a file jacket and is flipping through it. "That can't be good." She looks back at Draco. "For any of us."

He knows. He just hopes they're both wrong.

"Potter," he says, his voice sharp and too loud for the room. Potter puts the file jacket back on Lee's desk. "Let's go." He just wants to be done with this.

All of it.

He strides past Potter, grabbing his jacket from the coatrack by the door. He doesn't wait for Potter to follow.

Why should he, after all?

***

Harry'd last seen Tony at the Ministry Ball in August. He and Hannah had been every inch the successful young political couple, he in well-cut formal robes and she in a shimmering, deep blue ball gown that set off her blonde curls. Harry doesn't know whether he greeted them or not this year; he thinks he and Tony might have waited in the same line for drinks. He's so used to seeing them both at parties, it's still hard to realise it will never happen again.

Now, as Harry stands on his front steps, a too tense Malfoy at his side, Tony's drawn and haggard, worlds away from the dapper young politician of that August evening. His clothing is still carefully arranged, and he's put on the outward shell of a successful man, but his face is almost ghostly with concern. He looks at least ten years older.

"Hi, Tony. Sorry to bother you." Harry shakes the hand offered to him, leaning his shoulder close to Tony's. "Can we come in for a moment?'

Tony opens the door wide and turns without a word, leading them through the darkened foyer and into the right side of the house towards his study. Harry's been here once or twice over the years, and he remembers the room well. Tony's an amateur mixologist, and Harry'd once spent a warm evening testing some of his new drinks with several of the young guns of British wizarding politics. From the corner of his eye, Harry sees Malfoy's lips press together, his annoyance scrawled across his face. It's an expression he recalls all too well from their training days. Perhaps it had been harder for Malfoy to gain entrance before.

The house is silent and shrouded in shadows. It takes reaching the edge of the wood-panelled room before Harry's eyes adjust to the gloom. Tony's standing at the table near the window, shoulders silhouetted by the setting sun outside. Without looking back at Harry or Malfoy, he asks in a rough, raw voice, "Speyside or Islay?" He reaches for one of the myriad bottles lining the wall of shelves.

"Speyside, please." Harry says, breaking all of the rules of these sorts of encounters, whilst hoping that this tactic will keep the interview at the level of a chat between acquaintances. It's been his experience that suspects are more willing to cooperate if you're careful not to remind them that they are indeed under suspicion. "And perhaps an Islay for Mr Malfoy?" He looks to Malfoy's face for confirmation, remembering that this had been his preference twenty years before.

"No," Malfoy says, to Harry's surprise. Malfoy'd never bothered with following the rules before. "We're on official business, Tony. Neither of us will indulge, will we, DSI Potter?" The scowl he casts Harry's way is scathing. Harry rolls his eyes.

Tony sets down the cut-glass tumbler he's holding and then bends to select a different bottle from a lower shelf. "Very well. I assume I can still have my own drink."

"Naturally," Harry says, easing back into a heavy leather chair after casting a Lumos that sparks the lamps along the wall. He stills, hoping that his silence will encourage Tony to initiate conversation.

Malfoy remains standing, tall back lightly arched against the grooved molding of the door frame. He's aged well, Harry thinks. His cropped blond hair doesn't show any signs of grey yet, unlike Harry's own unruly mess, but his hairline is beginning to recede, Harry notes with satisfaction. The glasses are new, though. Harry likes them, likes the way they steady the sharp angles of Malfoy's face with their dark rectangles, thick, black lines stroked around those keen grey eyes. Malfoy pushes them up with one perfectly manicured finger.

"We're here about Kirsty." Malfoy's sharp, nasal tones split the silence. There's a slight hint of Edinburgh burring his voice. Harry supposes two decades in Scotland leave their mark. Malfoy folds his arms across his chest, and his corduroy jacket stretches over solid shoulders that are wider than they once had been. He'd been whip-thin after the war, nearly gaunt, and there'd been times when sparring that Harry'd been afraid he might actually break the bastard. No chance of that now, he thinks, letting his gaze slip down Malfoy's lean, muscular body.

Tony turns around, glass in hand. "I've already told you everything—"

"Hannah knew about her." Malfoy watches his face, and Harry watches Malfoy. "Did you know that, Tony?"

It takes Tony a moment to reply. "No." He sinks into one of the leather chairs. The ice in his glass clinks as he lifts it to his mouth. When he lowers it, his eyes are dull. Bloodshot. Harry wonders how much he's been drinking already today. "She never said—"

"Well, she wouldn't, would she?" Malfoy pushes himself off the door frame. He stalks over to the shelves of whisky, eyeing them. "I mean, she was having it off with someone herself. Best to have you interested in someone else's fanny if she's after her own bit on the side." His coarseness surprises Harry. "What was it, Tony? Not able to pleasure your wife properly?"

Tony's eyes stray to the open door, beyond which his children have presumably been put to bed by his sister. Or the nanny, Harry supposes. Anyone could walk in on them, or overhear.

"Malfoy," Harry says. Malfoy glares at him, but he turns and stares out the window beside the shelves, falling silent. Harry looks over at Tony. "Did you know about Hannah's lover? That couldn't have been easy."

Tony licks his lip, then raises his glass again, taking a long drink. He presses the back of his wrist against his mouth before saying, "I'd suspected." He rests his glass on the arm of his chair. "I didn't know, per se. I suppose that doesn't help my case."

"Not really," Harry admits. He doesn't believe in misleading people under interrogation, and he's clearly taking the sympathetic role in this conversation, given Malfoy's need to be an utter bastard. "But a clearer picture of what was happening will help all of us. We're hoping to understand your side of the story, of Hannah's affair, that is. And your own."

Malfoy snorts from the corner, but Harry presses on. "Do you know who Hannah was sleeping with?"

"Whom," Malfoy says. "Honestly, Potter, sometimes I do wonder if English is your mother tongue."

Harry shares a commiserating look with Tony. "Do you know who it was?" Malfoy looks away in irritation. Harry'll admit to a moment of triumph.

Tony rubs a tired hand over his eyes, then sighs. "I really don't know. I had noticed she was dressing differently, buying new clothes and more involved in her charities and the like lately, but I wasn't really looking closely." He pauses. "At her, that is."

He seems to realise the truth of this as he says it, and Harry lets the weight of it settle between them before continuing. "Kirsty, then. How long have you known each other?"

"Five years." The brief, fond smile transforms Tony's appearance. "She came into the Ministry as a games girl, I mean, games analyst for Sunil Duncan. Sunny's the one who introduced us, actually." He lifts his glass again. "He knew Hannah and I were in a rough patch."

"We'll need to talk to him," Malfoy says, but Tony's already shaking his head.

"He's been named head of the league for all India now. Based out of Mumbai, I think. You could probably catch up with him during the Superior games, but he's a busy man in the winter." Tony's eyes catch Harry's. "Is there any way to keep this quiet at the Ministry? We've managed to be discreet, and I don't want to jeopardise her next promotion."

"Or your own, you mean." Malfoy's scorn is like a lash. Harry wonders whether Tony hears it as clearly as he does, having often been its victim in the past. "We hear you're quite the rising star of the Scottish Ministry, that you might even get called down to London."

Tony gives Malfoy an even look. "Not likely now, is it, what with your lot wanting to pin my wife's murder on me."

Harry leans forward in his chair, elbows on his knees. "Did you do it, Tony?"

"No." The answer's quick and without hesitation. He doesn't even have to consider the question. "I most certainly did not. Hannah and I had a life together, however difficult it might be at moments, and we both made our peace with it." His gaze flits towards Malfoy, then back to Harry. "I loved her. Even when we were unhappy, I loved her. I still do."

"Funny, her peace seems a bit more final than yours right now." Malfoy walks behind Tony's chair. He leans over Tony's shoulder. "Do you have any idea who might not have been as peaceful with the circumstances of your marriage as you claim to be?"

Tony stands up abruptly and leans in, his face close to Draco's. "She was the mother of my children, Malfoy. Your wife may have buggered off on your pathetic arse, but Hannah and I were in it for life."

Malfoy flinches, but barely. Still, Harry can tell Tony's hit his mark. He knows Astoria left nearly four years back or so—it'd been the talk of the town even in London—but he'd never paid attention to why. He'd never wanted to look at the reasons it might have mattered to him.

"At least she's still alive," Malfoy says in a low, dangerous voice.

Harry pushes himself out of his chair. "We're done," he says, and he reaches for Malfoy's elbow. Malfoy pulls away, but Harry's fingers twist in the corduroy of his jacket. He nods to Tony. "I'm sorry for your loss."

It takes all he has to shove Malfoy down the corridor towards the door without launching into a lecture on enquiry ethics, the Wizengamot Policing Act of 1999, and the Auror Reform Act of 2001. He waits until Tony's closed the door behind him, and they're on the cobblestones.

"Have you lost your bloody mind?" Harry barks, shoving Malfoy against a lamp post.

Malfoy pulls away with a snarl and a flash of white teeth. He straightens his jacket, his back to Harry. "Fuck off," he says, and his voice is tight.

Harry runs his hand through his hair in exasperation. He'd taken this assignment partially to block bloody Cormac McLaggen from being sent—Merlin only knew how Malfoy would have handled him showing up in his murder room—and partially because he's kept his eye on his former partner's career for the past two decades. It's his fault Malfoy'd ended up in Scotland, after all. He's never been able to shake that guilt. But when it'd come to Malfoy or him, the Ministry'd thrown their considerable weight behind Harry. Malfoy doesn't know it, but Harry'd gone to Kingsley himself to keep them from giving Malfoy the sack. Couldn't have a Death Eater attacking their fucking precious Chosen One, could they? Instead they'd offered him the Scottish uniform, as far away from Whitehall's corridors of power as they could place him.

To be honest, Harry's always wondered what would have happened if he'd admitted that he and Malfoy were shagging. They'd probably have booted him out as well. Post-war prejudices had been running high at the time, and the very fact that the Auror services were replenishing their ranks from Slytherin House outraged many magical communities. He remembers the uproar that had filled the Prophet's editorial page when Parkinson had been taken on. Somehow a Slytherin girl being inducted into those sacred ranks had been even more horrifying than a Malfoy in certain quarters.

"I need a drink." Harry stomps past Malfoy. He wants a pub, and he wants one right now.

"What are you—"

Harry doesn't wait for Malfoy to catch up. He marches on, scanning the larger street ahead as it comes into view. Neon lights from the Muggle stores glow in the evening dark.

They round a corner, Harry a good ten paces in front of Malfoy. Harry catches a glimpse of a promising green-painted front and a shield for McEwan's next to an estate agent's, but when he sees duck confit and trout with tarragon beurre blanc on the hand-lettered menu boards, he continues walking. He wants a real pub, none of that gastro shite.

"This is ridiculous," Malfoy sputters behind him, but Harry just holds up a hand and strides on, a man in search of a proper pint.

Twenty minutes later he finds the Bonny Prince between a Scotbet and a curry shop on Queensferry. Its bright blue paint is faded and grey at the edges, but warm light spills from the wide window, and the bar is crowded as they step in, the ancient floorboards creaking beneath their feet. Harry points to a corner table, and Malfoy stalks towards it, his hands shoved in his jacket pockets. It takes Harry some time to be noticed by the barman, and he doesn't think his estuary English does him any favours, but he manages to pay for two tall pints of Dark Island and shepherd them safely back to the table. He places one in front of Malfoy and sits.

"Now you can talk," he says as he lifts the ale to his lips. The malty, coffee-cocoa taste of it drains some of the tension from his shoulders.

Malfoy circles his hand around the base of the glass. "You're an arse."

Harry shrugs. "So I've been told." He takes another sip and watches Malfoy over the rim of his pint. "You nearly crossed some lines back there."

"Since when did you become such a stickler for rules?" Malfoy lifts his glass and takes a sip. When he sets it down again, there's a bit of froth on his upper lip. Harry has an urge to wipe it away; before he points it out, Malfoy drags the back of his hand over his mouth. "Last I remember, you never gave a fuck about how an enquiry was handled as long as you got the information you wanted. And you almost took a drink from a suspect back there, which certainly isn't in the Scottish MIT protocols."

Harry's well aware that Malfoy's trying to antagonise him. It doesn't bother him, oddly enough. If he's honest, he finds it rather comforting. Being frozen out by Malfoy is far, far worse. "You don't become a detective superintendent by tossing procedure aside entirely."

The look Malfoy gives him could activate a Noxious Potion. Easily. "I rather thought you became a detective superintendent by licking arse. Or having people lick yours."

"That too," Harry says with a grin that Malfoy fails to return. "Come on. As I recall you rather liked my arse licking. Once."

Malfoy scowls into his dark ale. "Don't make me refresh your knowledge of harassment in the workplace standards. I've just sat through the recertification training."

Harry leans back in his chair. He hadn't expected Malfoy to stay angry, at least not over a pint. "You're genuinely upset."

"You're genuinely an idiot." Malfoy lifts his glass again. He downs half the beer in one long swallow that Harry's rather certain he shouldn't find attractive. "Goldstein's a twat."

Harry doesn't disagree. What Tony had said wasn't cricket, to be fair. "You did push him," he says.

Malfoy's glass hits the vinyl-covered tabletop with a thump. Beer sloshes up the sides. "He did it." A woman in a tight cardigan and tighter jeans passes close by them, three pint glasses balanced in her hands. Malfoy pitches his voice lower, but his tone is no less urgent. "This was my third time talking to the bastard. I don't buy the pious husband act. He's hiding something. I mean, for Christ's sake, he's a fucking serial adulterer—and a politician to boot. You're going to sit there and tell me that you think he's not good at dissembling?"

Harry runs a fingertip up the side of his glass, frowning down at the faint line of bubbles rising through the nearly black liquid. "I just don't have him down for it. His answers are too clear, especially for a politician."

"You wouldn't." Malfoy throws himself back into his chair. "You've always toed the party line, haven't you? Protect the status quo and mutual bootlicking club."

That makes Harry laugh. "Which is it, Malfoy?"

Malfoy frowns. "What?"

"Am I a Ministry toady or do I toss protocol aside? You can't really have it both ways." A burst of raucous shouts comes from the back of the pub. Harry leans forward again, his elbows on the table. "So…"

"You're a pain in my arse is what you are." Malfoy finishes his pint, then stands to gather the second round. "And a bloody nuisance."

With Malfoy away, Harry pulls a small notepad and biro from his pocket and starts sketching the timeline of Hannah's death as he knows it from the files he went over earlier in the morning. He understands Malfoy's focus on Tony. It's the same tack he'd have taken in one of his enquiries. The spouse is almost always the prime suspect. And Merlin knows Tony has motive. Probably even opportunity, if one discounts his alibi. It'd be easy enough to work around. But there's something that bothers him, something that makes him less eager to pin Hannah's death on her husband. Maybe Malfoy's right. Maybe he's spent too many years in the bowels of the Ministry. Maybe he doesn't want to look at Tony as a suspect because he sees himself in Tony.

A pint glass lands on the table in front of him, and Harry looks up as Malfoy drops down into his chair. "What are you cogitating?" Malfoy asks, and even though he sounds bored, Harry knows better.

"No one in the whole of wizardom uses "cogitate" in casual speech, Malfoy." Harry sets his biro down on the notepad. "I'm thinking about Tony, if you must know. I'm not keen on him for the murder, but maybe you're right. Maybe I'm biased."

Malfoy eyes him suspiciously. "You never admitted I was right before."

"I was nineteen the last time we worked together, you ponce." Harry reaches for his pint. "Of course I wouldn't admit anything. I was barely aware of the world around me, much less myself."

Malfoy looks uncomfortable at that. "So you think Goldstein's a possibility."

"Not our only one." While weighing the other options, Harry rocks onto the back legs of his chair, knocking against the chair behind him. A heavy man with the largest beard Harry's seen outside of Hagrid's frowns at him, and Harry lets his chair legs hit the floor again. "What do you think of this secret lover angle? The murder was in Hogsmeade, after all."

"The dump site was in Hogsmeade," Malfoy points out. "She might have been killed anywhere."

"True, but it's easier for a single person to transport something within a given radius. Hartwein proved two years ago that it's much more taxing to work an Apparition over long distances with the mass of a body and keep from splinching the corpse. The magical expenditure is exponential."

"I read her paper as well," Malfoy says over the rim of his glass. "And yeah, the typical pattern is within mile or so, but it's better not to rule out the possibility of a strong wizard—"

"Or witch," Harry says, and Malfoy waves him off.

"The point being that most curse murders do occur quite close to the places the bodies are found, unless the victim isn't entirely dead at the time of Apparition. Or if Muggle transport is used, which would be extremely visible in Hogsmeade." Malfoy leans his elbows on the table. His face is alight. "So there's the possibility that Hannah's place of death is indeed that Hogsmeade thicket, but there's also the chance that she was attacked elsewhere and brought there to die."

Harry's sceptical. "Seems an awful lot of work. Wouldn't it be more likely that she's lured out by her attacker? Besides, hasn't forensics been in their house already? If Tony attacked her there—which is what I'm assuming you're speculating—there'd have been some residue, whether curse or blood."

"The sister cleaned up," Malfoy suggests. "Everyone sees her as useless, but they're wrong. She's clever enough."

Harry considers. "Possibly. To protect her brother, I could buy that. And shield the family name. Especially if she knew Hannah was cheating."

"Or the lover," Malfoy says. "If we knew whom she'd been seeing."

They fall silent among the furor of the crowded pub. Harry watches Malfoy. He's not the same prickly, hotheaded boy Harry'd been both entranced and repulsed by all those years ago. They'd been such idiots back then, really, still reeling from the war. It'd shattered his entire generation; Harry's not certain they've ever truly recovered. They're wounded, the lot of them. He knows it's left him with deep scars. He envies his friends who've managed to settle down. He and Gin had lasted less than four months after the war. He doesn't blame her; he'd been emotionally withdrawn and exhausted, and she'd been mourning her brother. They're better as friends now. She married Dean Thomas in the end and their eldest girl just left Hogwarts. Harry's longest relationship has been a year with Luna, and even then he'd barely protested when she'd left him for Rolf.

Ever since he's bounced between lovers, mostly male, finally settling into a rhythm of one night stands, finding a lot of them in Muggle clubs around London. Muggles don't care about his scar; to them he's not the Boy Who Lived but rather a damn good fuck. He doesn't mind it so much. It gives him more time to lose himself in his work while still offering him physical release. Harry's never been comfortable with intimacy. Hermione keeps suggesting he only needs to be willing to make himself vulnerable to others, but the very thought unsettles him. There are too many people who care more about his damned scar than about the man beneath it, too many people who'll fawn over him just to have a chance to be near the Chosen One. He'll stay a singleton, thanks. It's easier. Fewer emotional minefields. He wonders what it must be like to know your spouse wants someone more than you, and he doesn't understand how Hannah or Tony could live like that, how they could stay comfortable in that kind of marriage. He thinks he'd rather be alone.

Malfoy slides off his glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose. "This whole case is ridiculous, you know." He sounds tired. "We're not supposed to be dying, our lot. Not again."

"Yeah." There's something personal about Hannah's death. Something that reminds Harry of the friends and family they all lost nearly a quarter century past. He can't believe it's been that long, not really. He still dreams about the battle more than he'd like to admit, and he's grateful he sleeps alone. At least no one else is woken by his shouts in the middle of the night.

Malfoy rubs at his eye before slipping his glasses back on. "Sometimes," he says slowly, "I think I'm too damned old for this. Too damned tired, at least." He picks up his beer again. "You never forget the bodies, do you? Fifteen years on a murder team, and I'm still surprised by the shit we can do to each other."

"It's remarkable," Harry says quietly. He remembers his first homicide after moving over from the illegal potions squad. A sixteen-year-old Devon boy poisoned by his older brother during summer hols. It'd been the first time he'd truly realised how flawed some families could be. No matter how bad his own childhood had been, he could always find someone who'd dealt with worse. That fact depressed him.

"I close my eyes now, and all I can see is Hannah's body in that thicket. All that blood…" Malfoy looks at Harry. "If I had any sense I'd leave the files with you and bugger off to some place warm. Ibiza, maybe. Or Saint Lucia."

"I'm sorry." Harry swishes the dregs of his pint in the glass. "I am."

Malfoy is quiet for a long moment. Harry can hear his breath. "I'm not sure I know what you mean."

"I've blundered into your investigation." Harry looks up then to find Malfoy regarding him with a curious tilt of his head. "I didn't mean to suggest I could do anything better than you've already done. I only thought I might be a lesser evil than McLaggen."

Malfoy raises an eyebrow. "Was that my other choice? Has Dawlish finally gone round the bend? Because I'm fairly certain I'd be in the holding pen right now in London if he'd been sent."

Harry laughs. "That's a win, then."

They look at each other. Harry thinks he sees a faint smile threatening to curve Malfoy's mouth, but he's not certain. Malfoy is handsome, still, if a bit pointy. Harry will grant him that. Even after all these years.

Suddenly uncomfortable, Harry decides to stand for the third round. He needs a moment away before he embarrasses himself and makes things more awkward between them. He reaches his wallet and pulls out a few more Muggle notes. "Be grateful I've merely managed to annoy you, yeah?"

"There's always tomorrow," Malfoy calls from behind him. "You still have hope."

With a smile and a shake of his head, Harry flips two fingers over his shoulder as he enters the scrum at the bar. Perhaps this time they should switch to Black Douglas, he thinks. He doesn't even mind if he gets a bit lashed tonight. Christ knows he wouldn't mind not thinking for a few hours. Malfoy could do for it as well, in his opinion. It's an Auror's right, what with all the ghastly talks they'll have to face.

With a wave of his banknotes from the crowd, he catches the barman's eye.

Chapter Text

The ground crunches underfoot as Lee and Pansy walk down Hogsmeade High Street towards the Hog's Head. Pansy's drawn her wool-lined trenchcoat closer around her, and he's shivering a bit in his leather jacket. The first hard frost of the year had fallen the night before in the Highlands, and it's early enough that the puddles are still frozen in the shadows of the steep-roofed buildings. With the sun up at eight, there's not much time for a thaw, Lee thinks. He wonders how early it will snow this year.

"This doesn't half bring back our golden years at Hogwarts," Lee says and laughs at the appalled expression on Pansy's face. "Want to get some hot cocoa afterwards, Parkinson? We could go to Madam Puddifoots."

"Have you been into the Wheezes again?" Pansy's red lips are pursed in a moue of distaste. "In your dreams, Jordan. I've nightmares every Valentine's Day about the amount of tulle that woman went through."

Lee stops joking and walks on a bit. He glances back at his partner, picking her way through frosted cobblestones in heeled boots, and recalls the conversation he'd had over breakfast with his wife. "Oi, Parks, are you seeing anyone?"

"What, now my mother's paying you to spy on my marriage prospects? No." Pansy's cheeks are pink, and Lee's not sure whether it's with the cold or with embarrassment about the topic. Pans is a good sort though: she'll shove him or call him names if he needs to stop.

"Orla wants to know. She's already making plans for Yule dinner and wants to know how many places to set. But while I'm at it what should I report back to dear Irmenhild?" Lee grins at her. "Are there any Parkison cherubs in her future?"

Pansy slips on a sloping set of cobblestones. Lee catches her arm and steadies her. "Iphigenia. My mother's name is Iphigenia. And you're an arsehole, Lee. What's got into you?"

Lee's not sure. Maybe it's because Orla's so close to delivering their baby, and he's seeing the world differently. Pansy sometimes gets a wistful look on her face when they encounter children on the street, in between her scowls and whinging about the little anklebiters being in her way. He's not entirely oblivious to her actions; he does watch her. When he first started working with Pansy eight years ago, he thought she was a vicious but lush bit of skirt. He still thinks that, but he's learned to observe more closely. She wears more of her feelings on her sleeve than she knows.

Lee also knows her affair with the married solicitor didn't work out too well last year. He still doesn't know who the bastard is—he had to keep himself from observing too closely or he would have been compelled to do something about the knowledge. He's not deluded enough to think that Pansy needs him to look after her honour, but he's fiercely protective of her nonetheless. Just because she's tough as nails doesn't mean she can't be hurt. He hopes the guv keeps that in mind too. Lee's no fool; he knows they shag from time to time, all while pretending no one else notices. It doesn't bother him as long as they keep it out of the office. Christ knows Draco needed something to get him past the shock of the divorce. Lee'd actually been grateful to Pansy for whatever she'd done to snap him out of the grief-hollowed Inferius he'd been right afterwards.

"Well?" Pansy demands.

A low tree branch scrapes across Lee's shoulder. "Just trying to carry on a conversation about home life, you know. Not all murders and prosecution." He affects a wounded air until Pansy laughs. "Also it's colder than a merman's bollocks. Why couldn't the Founders have focused on warming spells for this entire area? And who builds a village this close to the bloody snow line?"

Dervish and Bangs are still closed, and the seller from Gladrags is dragging a small rack of garishly coloured summer robes onto the street as Pansy and Lee pass by. They're walking from the station to the Hog's Head to try and connect the two crime scenes: the inn where Hannah was last seen alive and the thicket where she was found. Later, they'll go back and look at the thicket again once the sun's a bit higher in the grey sky. They'll also need to stop in at the Three Broomsticks, Lee reminds himself.

"Hengist of Woodcroft, or didn't you pay attention in History of Magic?" Pansy pulls her belt tight and tucks her reddened hands into pockets. "He was a Hufflepuff, of course. And perhaps the Founders liked the icy, atmospheric castle look. Our Durmstrang visitors thought it was positively balmy, I remember."

Lee grins with her at that, remembers the weird year of the Tournament and the last joyful flourish of their adolescence before everything fell to pieces. "Do you still hear anything from Krum?"

"No." Pansy shakes her head. "He and Kristina have a baby now, a daughter I think, and he's been promoted within the Bulgarian Wizarding Federation. It's all secondhand gossip."

Pansy and Viktor had dated for years, five to six depending on which one of them is telling the story and what gets left out or added in. At one time, Lee had been sure that a wedding was just around the corner, despite Pansy's epic pash on their boss and Viktor's string of long-legged female assistants, but then suddenly, four years back, it'd been over, and Pansy hadn't really been willing to talk about why. Krum had married Kristina a year later, but Lee wasn't sure that was the entire story. They'd left the London embassy shortly thereafter to move back to Bulgaria. Lee gets a New Year's card every year, but he'd still like to haul Krum in for questioning. Not that it would make a damn bit of difference. When Pansy cuts someone off, she means it. Death is kinder than a Parkinson with a grudge.

Stopping on the front steps, he and Pansy each rub their hands together, trying for a bit more warmth—and to muster their courage, if Lee's honest. No one likes the Hog's Head. If you're desperate enough to brave Aberforth Dumbledore's pub, you either need to get pissed off your arse or you want privacy. Pansy goes into the Hog's Head first, pushing aside the heavy wooden door and leaving space for Lee to follow her into the warm, musty room beyond. It reeks, although the soot and smoke from the weak fire are doing a nice job of partially cloaking the smells of spilt beer, old cabbage and worse. Aberforth's been known to give his damned goats the run of the place when the temperatures drop. Lee eyes the floor. He'd rather not put a foot down into goat shit. These are his favourite boots.

Aberforth is motionless at the bar that doubles as a reception area, his unkempt white locks trailing along the scarred, encrusted wood. Pansy and Lee look at each other, motioning to determine who would have the distinct pleasure of waking him up. The bastard's a hundred and thirty-eight now and crankier than ever. If it weren't for the snores shaking the dirty glasses beside the old man, Lee'd worry he'd popped his clogs. Mercifully, a goat starts bleating from behind the bar, and Aberforth startles, his hand banging against the wood as he jerks up, nearly upsetting a shelf of dirty bottles behind him.

"Merlin and blast, Hyacinth!" He blinks blearily at the goat who trots out into the room, pausing to eye Lee and Pansy before heading past them to jump up on the cushioned seat tucked into the grimy bay windows. Dust billows up around her as she settles into the filthy velvet. Aberforth focusses on Lee and Pansy. "Who are you?" His voice is creaky and rough.

Pansy pulls out her warrant card. "DS Parkinson and DI Jordan from Edinburgh. How are you, Ab?"

Aberforth narrows his rheumy blue eyes at her as he draws himself up, tall and still as wiry as Lee remembers him. "I'm old, lass. How do you think I am?" He fumbles with a pair of spectacles, somehow managing to get them on, then gestures towards her. "Let me see that card of yours."

Pansy hands her warrant card over. Aberforth studies it, looking between her and the photo. "You look better in person," he says finally, handing it back over. "Pug faces aren't very photogenic." Lee steps forward with his warrant card before Pansy can respond, but Aberforth waves him away. "Don't care," he says, and he reaches for a stained tea towel to wipe across the bar. "Coming to talk about that Abbott girl, are you? Took you long enough."

Lee exchanges a glance with Pansy. "You've been expecting us?"

Aberforth looks over the rims of his spectacles at them. He's still sharp, Lee recognises, even in his advanced years. "Generally one assumes the Aurors will do their duties even in this day and age." He sets the tea towel aside and reaches for a bottle of firewhisky. "Can I tempt you?"

"We don't drink on duty," Pansy says, which is a bald-faced lie for their team, but Lee doesn't point that out. The bottle Aberforth's pouring from is encrusted with something whose origins he'd rather not consider. "Did you know Hannah Abbott then?"

Aberforth downs a gulp of firewhisky, and steam puffs from his ears, stirring the tufts of hairs above them. "Do any of us truly know one another?" he asks, then points at Pansy's unimpressed face. "Don't scowl, lassie. You'll wrinkle." He shuffles out from behind the bar and takes a seat at one of the rickety tables. "But yes, I knew Ms Abbott. Or Goldstein. Whatever she was when she came in here."

Lee takes a seat beside the old man. Pansy follows, gingerly brushing the dust from the chair before sitting. "She came in here frequently?" Lee asks.

"One might say." Aberforth tilts his glass back and forth, watching the whisky swirl up the sides. "Weekly. She kept a room on hire every Wednesday afternoon for the past year and a half." He smiles, bright and fierce and defiant. "We're that sort of establishment, you see. Take on all the riffraff Rosemerta'd rather not dirty her hands with. Doesn't make me popular with your lot, but what can a man do?"

"Who'd she meet in the room?" Pansy crosses one long leg over the other. Her pointed boot grazes Lee's calf, deliberately, he's certain. She wants to make certain he's paying attention.

Aberforth shrugs. He takes another swallow of firewhisky. "Never said, and I never saw." Before either of them can question the veracity of that claim, he goes on. "No Apparition wards here once a room's hired out. I don't care who meets whom as long as they don't cause me any trouble. And Hannah never did."

"But you knew she was having an affair," Pansy begins.

"Didn't care," Aberforth says. "Still don't. She was a grown woman, making her own choices. If she wanted a bit of rumpy-pumpy upstairs with some bloke, it wasn't my business."

"Even if it got her killed?" Lee asks quietly.

The clouds shift outside; a thin shaft of sunlight breaks through the grimy window, illuminating the dust motes drifting through the air. Aberforth looks down at his near-empty glass, then drains it, setting it back down with a sigh. He burps a puff of steam. "She was a good lass, Hannah was. She didn't talk much when she came in, but I knew she wasn't happy at home. When she'd leave here, she was smiling again. Every week."

They're silent for a moment.

Lee shifts in his chair. It creaks uncertainly beneath him. "When was the last time you saw her?"

Aberforth tugs at his ear. "Same as I told your last lot. Bit after seven in the evening last Wednesday." He hesitates. "She was odd though. Not like usual. Rushed, I'd say, and she didn't look up when she came through. She never stayed here that late either. Usually left by half six or earlier. Had to get back home to that husband of hers, but if she had time she'd stop for a drink. Liked my port, she did."

Lee's not certain anyone under eighty even drinks port any more. "But she didn't that night?"

"Ran out of here like a Hippogriff on fire," Aberforth says. "Wouldn't even talk to me when I told her she'd left her scarf."

Pansy perks up. "Do you still have it?"

"Might still have half." Aberforth pushes himself up out of the chair. "Goats, you know." He heads for a narrow closet across the room and riffles through it. He pulls out a lacy scarf, slate blue and hand knit. One end's loose threads, with large chunks of the yarn missing. "Hyacinth likes cashmere," Aberforth says apologetically as he drops it on the tabletop. "Caught her in the act, though."

Lee fumbles through his pockets for an evidence bag, pulling it out and enlarging it with a flick of his wand. He levitates the scarf into the bag and seals it shut. "I'll need to take your DNA—and Hyacinth's," he says, feeling like a bloody fool. "For forensics to eliminate from the readings."

Aberforth shakes his head. "You'll have mine on file already. Been in the holding cells once too many. Hyacinth'll be happy to provide some hair."

Pansy eyes Lee. "Don't even look at me. This trench coat cost me a month's pay. It doesn't go near a goat."

Bloody fucking hell. Lee stands and makes his way towards the window seat. Hyacinth raises her head, her beady dark eyes taking Lee in. She bleats and bares her teeth.

"She's playing," Aberforth says behind him. "She doesn't bite. Much."

That Lee doesn't believe. He holds a hand out. "Hullo, Hyacinth."

The goat snaps at his fingers. Lee pulls back, glaring at her. He searches his pockets and pulls out a few Ice Mice. Orla's been craving them lately, and he's learnt to have a stash about at all times. He offers them to Hyacinth who sniffs his fingers, then lunges for them when he tosses them on the cushion beside her. He grabs a few hairs from behind her floppy ears as she's wolfing the sweets down, her teeth already clattering and clacking. Putting the hairs into another evidence bag, he backs away slowly.

"Ice Mice?" Aberforth shakes his head, scowling at Lee. "Those'll give her the wind something awful."

"And we best be going," Pansy says smoothly. "We've a few other enquiries to make." She stands. "Ta, Aberforth. You've been a help."

Aberforth waves a hand. "Glad to be on this side of the investigation for once. You make a fine copper, Detective. Always thought your mother could have made more of herself. Then she married that blockheaded Parkinson chap."

Pansy raises an eyebrow in amusement. "I'll give Daddy your regards."

Aberforth huffs. "Out of my pub the both of you, if you're not staying to drink. I've a business to run here."

Lee looks around the empty room. "Booming." He raises a hand as he follows Pansy back out onto the street. "Always a pleasure."

They make it half a street away with serious faces on before the first wave of laughter starts. They lean on the side of building in the weak daylight. Pansy is blotting away tears in her eyes with a handkerchief and Lee's got to clear his throat a few times to get his voice back.

"I still can't believe you made me get a sample from a goat," Lee says.

Pansy elbows him. "Shut it, you. We're here to work." Her amusement dies down, and she looks over at him. "Is my mascara running?"

"Not a bit," Lee lies. It is a little. "Your mother would be pleased."

"You're an arsehole." Pansy smiles up at him. "And a shit liar." She sobers, twisting the handkerchief between her hands. "Speaking of my mother, can I tell you something?" she asks, and Lee gives her a curious look.

"Always." He smoothes her windblown hair back behind her ear. "What's on your mind?"

Pansy looks away. She's pretty like this, the morning sun lighting up her pale cheek. She rubs at the tip of her nose. "I'm thinking about having a kid," she says. "On my own, I mean." She looks over at him then, and her eyes are brightly fierce. "I don't know if I will, but I thought I might as well consider it. Mother's been haranguing me about the possibility of grandchildren and my eggs withering away, and if I'm honest, I don't know that she's terribly off the mark. If I'm going to, then I need to do it soon."

"You're only forty-two," Lee says. "You've plenty of time—"

"Not that much." Pansy pulls her trench coat tighter against the breeze. "I've just been wondering if I'm where I want to be with my life. You know?"

He does. If it weren't for Orla he'd still be in his bachelor's flat, eating Pot Noodle for tea every night. "Are you talking to the Healers?"

"I've an appointment Friday afternoon," she says. "Just for information. I don't even know if I want to do it. I love my job. I don't want to lose it." She hesitates. "I just want to know my options right now."

Lee drapes an arm around her shoulders and pulls her up against him. "Whatever you decide, we'll work it out."

"Thanks." Pansy gives him a tiny, uncertain smile. "Don't tell Draco yet. He'll think I've lost my mind, and I'm not certain he'd be wrong."

Lee thinks she's underestimating their guv and his utter dedication to all of them. But it's her secret to tell, not his, and he's willing to keep it until she's ready. He ruffles her hair. "Feel up to harassing other upstanding members of the Hogsmeade community?"

She laughs. "Is there any doubt?"

The sun sparkles on the wet grass of the garden beside them. Lee grabs his partner's hand and drags her up the street.

There's a killer out there somewhere, waiting for them to find him.

***

"Get your coat," Malfoy says from the doorway of the murder room.

Harry looks up from the stack of files he's been reading. He's just put down the interview report with Lila Goldstein and is about to start in on a transcript of the missing persons notes from DCI McMurty. "What's happened?" he says while standing to reach for his jacket. He pulls it over his blue and grey Fair Isle jumper. He's foregone the suit for today; no one on Malfoy's team except Parkinson bothers with business dress. He doesn't blame them: the room's colder than the Hogwarts Great Hall at Christmas, and he's grateful he thought to pack a few woolen jumpers. If he's here much longer he'll have to hop back to his flat for one or two more. Maybe even his Peregrine Harris tweed jacket. He's been envying Malfoy's all morning and regretting his short-sighted decision to avoid leather elbow patches.

"The forensics are back," Malfoy says, holding the door for Harry. "Three days early, bless Moira. We need to get to the morgue before the press get wind of it."

Malfoy leads them down an unfamiliar side stair and into an apparently disused back entrance area. He sticks his nose out of the fire door, looks twice, and grabs Harry's hand to haul him into the next door over, the back entrance to a nail bar. The young woman with pink hair taking a quick break to eat in the small office looks up, and for a moment Harry's afraid she's going to scream, but then she sees Malfoy and nods. She puts down her bowl and walks to the front, returning in a few moments with a white-clad manager who clasps Malfoy's hand.

"Draco, how are you?" she asks. She's small and immaculate, her braided black hair twisted back into a knot at the nape of her neck. Three thin silver bracelets clink around her dark, tattooed wrists, but her fingers are bare.

"It's been awhile, Sophie. Business looks good." Malfoy nods in the direction of the bustling salon floor, filled with Muggles and witches. Not to mention a wizard or two. Harry's surprised, although he now knows why Malfoy's cuticles look so well kept. He glances down at his own ragged fingernails, folding his hands to hide them. Malfoy doesn't seem to notice. "Any problems recently?" he asks, his brow furrowed. "The lads letting you be?"

Sophie shakes her head with a smile. "All good. No bother to report."

"Excellent." Malfoy glances back into the office area. "I'm sorry to trouble you on such short notice, but I was wondering if DSI Potter and I might use your Floo."

Sophie nods and leads the way through a back hall into a small, warm Floo area. Harry had expected to be put on display, or even remarked upon, and he's strangely pleased not to be a subject worthy of discussion—or notice, even. He's beginning to think he likes Edinburgh.

Malfoy hands Sophie five Galleons—"For drinks at the Samhuinn party," he says, squeezing her hand—then motions to Harry as Sophie discreetly steps out earshot. After Malfoy gives him their destination, Harry takes a pinch of Floo powder from the green ceramic bowl beside the silver Buddha and throws it into the small, well-tended fire.

"Edinburgh Wizarding Morgue." The green flames rise up as Harry steps in.

After a few twists and turns, his feet meet the tile of an echoing foyer. The room smells slightly damp, like a swimming pool, and as he recovers his balance, he sees two Aurors guarding the front doors. From what he can tell through the narrow window there looks to be a tumble of journos outside, and Harry thinks he catches a glimpse of Blaise Zabini.

The Floo whooshes behind him, and a quick burst of air ruffles the back of his hair as Malfoy stumbles into him, still a bit off-kilter. Harry steadies him without thinking, and his breath catches when Malfoy's hip brushes his.

"Sorry," Malfoy says as he pulls away.

Harry doesn't want to let him go. Malfoy's all angles and sharp planes, and Harry can see the faint blond stubble across Malfoy's jaw that makes Harry want to lean in and touch it with his lips. Instead he steps back.

"Sorry," he says, echoing Malfoy.

He follows Malfoy down a long, wide corridor, their footsteps echoing in the silence. Harry's never liked morgues. He finds them unsettling at best. They remind him of the excruciating blank whiteness of a train platform so many years ago, of a squalling, deformed infant tucked away beneath a bench, of his own weary acceptance of a death that, in the end, never came. Sometimes he wishes it had. He carries that exhaustion with him every day.

A silver-haired woman steps out of an open doorway. "You're here," she says to Malfoy. Her robe's the light blue of a medical examiner. "I swear I could hear you thundering down the hall in the middle of Hurricane Bawbag, lad."

"Came as soon as your Patronus arrived," Malfoy says. "DSI Harry Potter, Moira MacRandall. Scotland's finest medical examiner."

Moira smacks Malfoy's arm. "What have I told you about flattery?" She holds a hand out towards Harry; Harry shakes it. "Pleasure." She holds open the door to the morgue. "Would you like to see what I've found?"

They follow her into the autopsy room. Hannah's body is lying on a stretcher, covered in a linen shroud from head to toe. A wizard sits beside her, a prayer shawl draped over his shoulders and a book in his hand. He looks up as they enter, then stands. He has a gentle face, lined deeply, and his hair is pure white beneath his yarmulke.

"Rabbi Malcolm Schapiro," Moira says. "DSI Potter and DCI Malfoy. They're here for the forensics report on Hannah." She glances back at Malfoy. "Malcolm's shul has been taking turns watching over Hannah's body since we brought her in."

"Healer MacRandall tells me Hannah will be released for burial after she speaks to you." The rabbi's hand brushes the shroud. "Moira's been very kind to accept the requirements of our religious law."

"Due to which, a typical autopsy hasn't been performed," Moira explains, leading Harry and Malfoy over to the stretcher floating in the corner. The lights grow brighter.

Malfoy squints as Moira lowers the lights. "Why not?"

"It's important," Rabbi Schapiro explains, "to make certain every drop of blood is buried respectfully. The Talmud makes certain exceptions to burial law in the cases of murder victims, but we prefer to keep the body as intact as possible, even burying her in the clothes she was killed in so as not to lose any blood that might have been shed." He gives them a faint smile. "It all comes down to respecting the body; for us, this mortal shell should be protected, as we would one of the most vulnerable within our community."

Moira nods. "So I've made an exception and approved use of alternate diagnostic techniques per the Scottish Ministry. I can demonstrate the findings now, and I have an extensive report you can go through later."

"How reliable is this new method?" Malfoy asks. He sounds sceptical.

"Don't make me hex you." Moira picks up a silvery board and taps it with her wand. It immediately glows, and a cocoon of spells surrounding Hannah's body becomes visible in the dim lighting. "It's top of the line technology. We'll be implementing it more frequently in coming months." She shakes her head. "I'd wager it'll be replacing me by the time I retire."

"Impossible," Malfoy scoffs, but he steps closer to the stretcher.

Harry's never seen one of the new second-generation spellboards in action, and he's very impressed by the display. He takes a few moments to look at the intricacy of the colourful woven array covering Hannah's body. Malfoy's right beside him, peering at the webs that converge on Hannah's abdomen and her head.

"This is a full list of our findings." Moira hands Malfoy a file jacket. "But I'll demonstrate the legal record that I filed herein which was recorded in front of two witnesses." She glances over at the rabbi. "In plain English, I've filed the official report that the Aurors will have, but I'm going to show you the most relevant information."

With a "tabellae revelio," a set of words appears on the board, corresponding in colours to the webs covering Hannah's shrouded form.

Malfoy reads off the list. "Likely cause of death: blunt force head trauma complicated by perimortem Sectumsempra. Time of death most nearly calculated to 18:00 on 12 October, 2022. No indication of sexual assault. Possible signs of perimortem struggle: hand-shaped bruising on forearms and upper arm with no retrieved alien DNA. No other fractures or indications of trauma. Residue in head wound consistent with stone or stone-like material."

"We do have a few tests outstanding," Moira says. "We're still matching diagnostic images to likely shapes for the head wound, and we're testing the discovered traces of flora and fauna with samples from Hogsmeade. We do have the specs of the wand that cast the Sectumsempra in the full report, but we're conducting an experimental process to gather more information about the caster."

Harry shakes his head in wonder. Technology's incredible. "I can't believe how much you're able to read with these spells."

"So what I'm seeing here," Malfoy says, ignoring Harry, "is that death was by trauma, not Sectumsempra?" Harry tries not to flinch. He remembers casting that spell on Malfoy himself, and the way his watery blood had spiraled darkly down the loo drain. It's not one the proudest moments in his life.

Moira hesitates. "Possibly."

Malfoy looks over at her. "That doesn't sound definite, Moira."

She runs a hand through her cropped hair. "The Sectumsempra came after the head trauma, that much I'm certain. What I can't specifically say is which wound killed her. There's enough bleeding from the spell trauma across her chest that she might have bled out from that, but she was already dying from her skull being crushed into her brain. Even if a Healer had been standing over her, at the scene, I can't say that she'd have survived."

"Jesus," Harry says, and then glances over at the rabbi. "Sorry."

Rabbi Schapiro shrugs and looks back down at Hannah's shrouded body. "I agree with the sentiment, lad."

"Will this hold up as legal evidence?" Malfoy asks, his finger tracing the last piece of information about the stone residue. He looks at his fingertip after touching the spellboard, almost as if he expects the magic to be visible on his skin.

"Of course," Moira says, sharing a look with the rabbi. "We all want justice for Hannah."

"We do," Malfoy says. For a moment he sounds choked up, but he recovers.

A clerk steps into the room, with a quill and a formal piece of parchment in hand. Harry hangs back; with a nod from Harry, Malfoy signs for the release of the body. It'd be well within Harry's right to do so as the superior officer, but it's not his place, he thinks. Not this time. This is Malfoy's case, not his. Moira scrawls her signature beneath Malfoy's, and Harry witnesses the transaction. The clerk steps forward to receive the parchment and then appends a red seal with a permanent sticking charm.

"Go in peace," Moira murmurs, letting her fingers brush the edge of Hannah's shroud.

Rabbi Schapiro steps forward once the paperwork is complete. He places a gentle hand on Hannah's brow, saying a soft prayer as everyone watching keeps silence. Then he takes an embossed Ministry portkey token from the pocket of his dark suit and activates it with his wand. Holding Hannah's hand in his, he waits for a few moments. All at once, he and the body disappear from view, leaving behind an empty stretcher.

Harry's throat aches. He lays a hand on Malfoy's shoulder, then lets it drop.

"I'm going to find the bastard who killed her," Malfoy says quietly. "I'm going to find him and destroy him."

Harry couldn't agree more.

***

Potter's still sticking close by Draco when they get back to the office. There's something unbearably intimate about working a homicide together, especially on a former school mate. Draco hadn't known Hannah well; he assumed Potter had known her a bit better, if only from their shared London connections. He and Goldstein had certainly looked matey during the house visit last night. But still, Draco can remember Hannah as a teenager, blonde hair floating around her shoulders and an easy laugh that rang through the Hogwarts corridors, and he won't let another one of their year go like this, in a blaze of unpunished violence. This is his penance, he's aware, working these cases, his way of correcting the offenses of his youth. Hannah might absolve him completely.

Might. Deep down inside, he suspects nothing ever will.

Merlin, he'd do anything for a fag right now. Anything to soothe this tight, hard feeling in his chest and the lump in his throat. He can work past it, he's worked worse cases. Still, this has got to be in the top ten, at least of the past few years. If it weren't for his team, and the unsolved crime, he'd just let himself fall apart now, go home, drink, shout, do something. But they've got a job to do, and he's got to keep his team together.

Draco and Potter stand almost touching, side by side before the murder board, close enough that Draco can hear the slight huff of Potter's breath at his shoulder. Coming back from the morgue, they hadn't bothered to use a covert Floo. There'd been a few paps and journos lounging about when they'd tumbled into the lobby, but Harry'd just walked past them like he didn't see them, ignoring the flash of cameras and the shouted questions like a seasoned pro. Draco supposes by now he is. He lets his gaze drift across his team. Pansy's leaning against the edge of a crooked window frame, dark eyes liquid and watching as she always does. Draco doesn't think there's much she misses, which makes her a bloody good detective. Susan sits next to Lee, reading the examiner's report over his shoulder, their mismatched and scarred chairs pulled close in front of the desk. She looks wan and worn, but she smiles at Lee when he lifts the report up so she can read a chart without squinting. They're all here together, and now Draco has to lead them forward, out of this mess and into some kind of resolution. It's the least that this crime deserves.

Draco takes a quill and writes "Blunt force head trauma," on the board, then sets the quill down. "This was an intimate crime," he says. "Not a curse cast from afar, but something close up involving a struggle. Moira's not definitively matched the murder weapon yet, but her team found stone residue, and based on the fracture pattern in the skull the stone'd most likely been shaped by hand. I'd suspect some sort of object, maybe an art piece even. This part of the murder almost certainly happened indoors."

He takes a deep breath to think, watching his team. "Contrary to what we thought at first, the Sectumsempra may not even have been the cause of death. Per the report that Lee's holding, the Sectumsempra was inflicted a good ten minutes after the head trauma, perhaps longer. " He looks over to Potter. "Anything you want to add?"

Potter has his arms folded over that ridiculous Fair Isle jumper. "Only that we're looking at a killer who would inflict curse damage on top of a fatal head wound and watch someone they knew—likely very well—bleed out in front of them."

Susan raises a hand. "Is there any chance that it was accidental?" Her voice is thin and wavery. Draco doesn't think she should be here, not for this part, but she has some need to see this through for as long as she can. He respects that, even if he thinks it daft.

Draco raises an eyebrow. "I assume you mean the head trauma. Possibly, although there are signs of bruising on Hannah's arms." Susan nods, her quill scratching across her notepad.

"Do we know anything more that would implicate Tony Goldstein?" Pansy asks.

"He's still our best suspect." A muscle in Draco's jaw clenches, and he relaxes it before he starts speaking again. "There's nothing immediately incriminating or exonerating in the report. They only found Hannah's DNA at the scene."

Susan leans back in her chair, sagging a little against Lee who holds her up while continuing to thumb through the report. Pansy looks out the window, her profile softened in the grey light.

"Do you want to do the next part, or shall I?" Draco asks. He knows that Potter's deferring to him on his own territory. He doesn't have to let Draco call the shots, he could play the pompous London arsehole to the hilt, but he's not, and Draco's quietly grateful.

Potter leans in to respond, lips close to Draco's ear. "You do it. It's your team." He's near enough that when he looks up, Draco can see the individual hairs of Potter's coal-black eyelashes, and beyond that the fathomless grass-green of his eyes. Taking a deep breath, Draco smells the scent of limes and orange blossoms, covering the rancid floor-polish smell that permeates the building. Potter smells warm and alive, and for a brief, and quickly suppressed moment, Draco has the urge to bury his nose in Potter's neck and keep breathing him in.

He's quite obviously going mad. Fuck, he really needs that cigarette.

Resolutely, Draco turns back to face his team. "We'll start with the wand diagnostics first thing in the morning. Moira thinks Ollivander is more likely to have made it than Gregorovitch or Kiddell. The signature residue melded more with his line. Pansy, I'd like you and Susan to take the specs in the report to Ollivander's and cross-reference them to their purchase records. See if we can narrow down a list of actual wands sold in the past half-century. In the meantime, both of you talk to Mandy Brocklehurst again. See if she's anything new to tell us about Hannah's affair, but be discreet. Take her out after classes end. Coffee and cakes or something."

Pansy nods, her lips pressed between her teeth. Susan gives a quick nod as well, sitting forward in her chair, arms wrapped around herself. Lee gives her a quick nudge with his shoulder, and she smiles quickly.

Draco picks up a stack of parchment and hands it to Lee. "I want you here, cross-referencing the testimony. Susan, the charities? Anything for the board?"

"Not really, guv." Susan swivels to face him. "Just the usual about how much Hannah'll be missed and how she was a valued patron. Both the directors I talked to seemed a bit taken aback by the whole situation. I'll submit my report, but I don't think there's much there."

Draco doesn't either. It'd been mostly busy work to keep Susan distracted. He glances between Lee and Pansy. "How'd Hogsmeade go?"

"Aberforth was helpful," Lee says. "For a given value of help. But we know Hannah was at his place Wednesday afternoon. Didn't leave until after seven as several of the other shopkeepers confirmed. She walked past Gladrags around one, heading towards the Hog's Head. But for the six hours in between, she might as well have been a ghost."

"Any joy with Rosmerta?" Potter asks, and Pansy shakes her head.

"The Three Broomsticks was closed," she says. "The post office clerk says she was called to London for the day."

Draco exchanges a look with Potter. "We should follow up on that." Potter nods, and Draco claps his hands, suddenly uncomfortable with how easy it is to rely on Potter. He's not part of the team, and he never will be. "All right, you lot. Let's see how much further we can get tonight. Most helpful piece of information doesn't have to buy a round at the Hebridean after work."

The team scatters, and Draco heads for his desk. There is no glamour to Auror work; there's just a hell of a lot of reading. And thinking. And trying not to look at Potter.

Draco completely fails at that last one.

***

Harry watches Malfoy out of the corner of his eye. He knows it's ridiculous, but he can't help himself. Malfoy's bent over a open file jacket, frowning down at the parchment in front of him, the tip of a quill in his mouth. There's a smudge of ink on his bottom lip. Harry finds it charming.

A wadded-up sheet of paper hits Harry in the head. He turns in his chair and glares at Lee.

"You're not fooling me," Lee mouths at him, and Harry flicks two fingers Lee's way. Lee just snorts. "DSI Obvious," he whispers, and Malfoy looks up at that.

"Did you find something?" Malfoy asks.

Before Harry can shake his head, Lee says, "Not yet, guv." When Malfoy's not looking, Lee points to his eyes, then at Harry. Arsehole.

The door to the murder room opens, and Bradford comes in, another figure in a black suit behind him. "Gentlemen," Bradford says, and Harry's heart sinks when he recognises the flash of curly blond hair at Bradford's side.

"Harry," Zacharias Smith says, with that smarmy smile of his that manages to be ingratiating and dismissive at the same time.

"Zach." Harry sets aside his paperwork, fully aware of how much Zacharias loathes that nickname. He ignores Malfoy's curious gaze. "What exactly are you doing here?"

Bradford leans against Pansy's desk, bumping a photo of herself, Malfoy, and, if Harry's not wrong, Millicent Bulstrode. Bradford steadies it before it falls. "DCI Smith has a request from the London Ministry."

"I bet he does," Lee says, and he leans back in his chair, his hands clasped behind his neck, dreadlocks falling over them. "What have we fucked up now?"

"Lee," Malfoy says, and there's a warning in his tone.

Zacharias smoothes the hang of his suit jacket. Always aware of the political, he's co-ordinated his tie to Saltire blue. Idiot, Harry thinks. "Harry's already quite aware of this—" Malfoy's eyes flick towards Harry. "—but the London headquarters would prefer that the public focus of your investigation shift from Tony Goldstein onto a more appropriate suspect. His sister, perhaps. Lila's a nice girl, but odd—"

"You can't be serious," Malfoy snaps. "This is a murder enquiry, and you're telling me that the Head Auror would like us to ignore the most likely suspect we have at the moment—"

"Well, that's not true, is it?" Zacharias walks over to the murder board. He taps the Hogsmeade lover. "Surely you've begun to look into this matter?"

Harry wants to deck him. Instead he says, with as much calm as he can muster, "We're doing our best, Zach. We've only just received the forensic report from the medical examiner, and the identity of the lover is as yet undetermined."

Zacharias eyes him. "As I recall, in London, you were quite in agreement that Tony couldn't have killed his wife, whatever DCI Malfoy might think."

Malfoy's sharp intake of breath is quick and small, but Harry can hear it. "I said then I thought it was less of a possibility," Harry says. He doesn't glance at Malfoy.

"You know what the scandal will be if he's actually cautioned," Zacharias says. He brushes a piece of lint off his sleeve. "The Ministry would prefer to avoid that embarrassment." He looks up at Harry. "At all costs, Harry." His name on Zacharias' lips sounds intimate, just as Zacharias intends.

Harry knows they're going to announce the big transportation overhaul next month that Tony had coauthored. He also knows that Malfoy is going to have his guts for garters, if he ever speaks to him again, but it's hard to explain the politics of London to Edinburgh and vice versa. It had all seemed so much clearer just a few days ago, when he and Zacharias had been called into John Dawlish's office. Harry'd been surprised to find the Minister sitting across from the Head Auror, especially as the rumours about Robard's health looked to have some basis in fact.

Malfoy's silent, but Harry can feel the heat of his anger already. Harry draws in a deep breath. "I sincerely hope you didn't make the trip up to Scotland solely for this reminder."

Zacharias laughs. "Of course not. Richard here—" He gestures towards Bradford. "—and I have dinner with the First Minister and some other friends. I'm surprised you didn't receive an invitation to Alba House, Harry."

Harry had. He'd just binned it the moment the owl had dropped it off at his hotel last night. "I must have misplaced it. Enjoy," he says, knowing Zacharias will. He's always thrilled when he thinks he's scored against Harry, even if he's rarely right. Harry finds it too tedious to get involved.

"The funeral's tomorrow as well," Zacharias says. "Tony's office rang as soon as the body was released. Dawlish asked me to give this to you."

Harry reaches for the rolled letter from Zacharias; he notes the embossed wax of John's personal seal.

Zacharias doesn't let go at first, forcing Harry to meet his eyes. "He'd like you to sit with him."

Harry nods. There's really not much he can say. If the Head Auror has summoned him personally, he'll perform his duty. It's not as if he has a choice in the matter. He's learnt that much during his years as an Auror.

"We'll be late for drinks," Bradford says to Zacharias, with a sideways look at Malfoy. He's not a fool, Harry notices; he's well aware his DCI is about to throw a monumental strop. Harry grudgingly respects him for that. It must be difficult to be Malfoy's superior officer, particularly for a man like Bradford who actually cares about the politics of the job.

Zacharias turns back towards Harry. "Make certain to keep Dawlish posted about the case. He looks forward to your reports."

That's not bloody likely, and Zacharias knows it. Harry's never filed a non-essential report without Dawlish hounding him, and, frankly, John's not here to annoy him. He wonders why Zacharias is being more odious than usual. He must be miffed about the seating arrangements tomorrow. "Thanks, Zach. Richard." He nods to Bradford.

When the door closes behind Bradford and Zacharias, the room's silent. Harry runs his hands over his face, his fingers slipping under his glasses to press against his eyes. When he drops them, Malfoy's in front of his desk, jaw tight, mouth a thin, sharp line.

"What the fuck was that about?"

"Nothing," Harry starts to say, but Malfoy cuts him off.

"That, what I just saw with my own eyes, was not nothing, Potter. It was fucking political interference in an active homicide investigation is what it was." Malfoy's mouth contorts into a snarl. "I can't believe you fooled me. I can't fucking believe I fucking believed you for a single fucking instant."

He whirls then, after pushing his face so close into Harry's that he's nearly spitting on him with the fs. This is the Malfoy Harry remembers, the one shaking with fury, the one who could never trust that someone wasn't out to bugger him, the one caught in a trap and ready to gnaw his own arm off to get out.

"You know as well as I do," Harry says, his own anger rising, "that Tony Goldstein's not giving us any reason to either caution or charge him. Fucking hell, I've said flat out that I don't have him down for it. Don't make this mistake, Draco—"

"Don't call me Draco," Malfoy snaps. "Not after everything you've done, you miserable, spineless bastard."

Harry pushes up from his chair. "Don't be so dramatically fucking self-important, Malfoy. This is not, and I repeat, not the fuck about you. I've tried to spare your feelings, I respect the hell out of your policework, but you're barking up the wrong fucking tree, and it's about to have actual fucking political consequences at the Ministry level. You have no idea what you've waded into."

"Then why didn't you fucking tell me? Why did you lead me on? You stood there in that morgue today next to me—" Malfoy breaks off, his face flushed, his eyes sparking with rage. "Fuck it. You can take your sodding state secrets—"

This isn't just about the Ministry, Harry realises. This is about something more, something personal. "She's dead, Malfoy," he says quietly. "Hannah's dead and we can't bring her back. We've lost so, so much, and it hurts every time, doesn't it?"

Malfoy doesn't say anything. He just stands there, fists clenched, knuckles white. Harry thinks he's going to punch him for a moment, and he's half a mind to let him. Instead Malfoy reaches for the buttons of his shirt.

"You want to know why I'm angry, Potter?" Harry glances at Lee, who's sitting silently at his desk, his eyes fixed on his guv. Malfoy slides a button through a buttonhole, then another. "You want to know what hurts every time? I knows what it feels like to have someone hate you enough to Sectumsempra you and watch you bleed. I know what that feels like, every single fucking sick tear of it through your skin. I know how much it hurts, and how you can't breathe while the flesh is literally being cursed away from your bones." Malfoy's shirt falls open, and Harry can see the web of ropy, white scars that criss-cross Malfoy's pale chest. He's never seen it before. Every time they'd fucked, Malfoy'd left his shirt on and pushed Harry's hands away when he'd tried to slip fingers underneath. "You don't forget this kind of shit, Potter. No matter how long it's been. No matter how many times the person tries to say they're sorry."

Harry can't speak. Every time he tries, his throat tenses, closing off his words. He sits down again, hard, unable to look away from those terrible scars. He'd done that. He'd watched Malfoy bleed, watched the crimson spread across his white shirt. He remembers the horror of it, but also the fascination and the anger, the poisonous fury that led him to think that Malfoy deserved cursing. He could have become a killer that day. Easily. Only Snape had stopped him from it.

Malfoy buttons his shirt again and puts on his jacket. His hands are still shaking. "I need a pint," he says, not looking at Harry. "Lee?"

"In a moment." Lee touches Malfoy's sleeve as he passes. "I'll be right behind you." He waits for Malfoy to leave before he looks at Harry.

"I—" is all Harry can get out.

Lee shakes his head. "He's a good guv'nor, you know. One of the best I've worked under. He comes into this office every bloody day, and he does his best to track down killers. He never stops caring and he never gives up. Do you know why, Harry?"

He doesn't wait for Harry to answer. "Because every bloody day he's trying to make amends for what he did when he was fucking sixteen. For the lives destroyed by his actions. Twenty-six years later, he still can't forgive himself. He can't forget. The rest of us have. I don't give a fuck that he has that Mark on his arm. I don't even notice it any more. Whatever went on between you two, I don't care. I just want you to know that I will take Draco Malfoy's side over yours and the Ministry's any time. No questions asked. Because outside of this office nobody else will. So, frankly, you and your London mates can fuck right off."

"Lee," Harry says, but he's already standing and reaching for his coat.

"I've a round to buy," Lee says. "I'd suggest you leave us be tonight."

Harry nods. "Fair enough." He doesn't know how else to say he's sorry. Still, he doesn't think he's wrong. "Tony's not the best suspect," he says, as Lee strides to the door.

Lee looks back, his hand on the doorknob. "I know. But we haven't anyone else. Not yet, at least." His mouth tightens. "We will."

The door thunks shut behind him.

Chapter Text

"You look smart," Pansy says to Susan as they meet outside of Ollivander's. "I thought you were going to stand with us." She gestures at her own red dress robe with the stripes of detective sergeant black slashes against her shoulders. Even after spending last evening drinking with Mandy Brocklehurst in the Broomsticks—Rosmerta still hadn't been around, and her new barman had a heavy hand with the wine—Pansy looks bright and fresh.

Susan plucks the dark sleeve of her formal mourning robes and shakes her head, wincing from the pain of her hangover. Not that last evening's indulgence had done any good; Mandy hadn't really had anything more to add to what she'd told Draco before. Susan's spent nearly an hour this morning in her closet, trying on half her clothing before finally settling on the first outfit she'd picked out. "Tony's asked me to sit up with the family, and I didn't want to look official." She's got a hat too, tucked away in her sleeve. It's a black thing with netting and ebony feathers.

Pansy looks sceptical. "You're certain that's a good idea?"

She's not, but when Tony had firecalled late last night to let her know about the funeral arrangements, she hadn't been able to refuse. She's not looking forward to this morning, but it'll be over soon. She's attended too many funerals since she was a child; she'd hoped after Auntie Amelia's she'd have a reprieve. The remainder of the war had taken that from her.

"Let's get this done," Susan says with more courage than she feels, and she pushes the door of Ollivander's open, the bell jangling as they enter. The shop's warm and musty, and Susan can't help but remember how excited she'd been when her aunt had brought her here to pick out her wand for Hogwarts. The high walls are still lined with wand boxes, and the floorboards creak and moan as they step further into the shop.

"Creepy as ever," Pansy says behind her, and Susan glances back. Pansy shrugs. "My parents prefered Gregorovitch."

Of course they did, Susan thinks, and immediately feels guilty. Pansy's been good to her in recent years, and she tries to forget the nasty girl Pansy'd been in school. It's hard sometimes, she'll admit. Susan's not used to the sharp bickering between Pansy and the guv. It's taken her years to stop flinching when they argue.

"Well, well," a voice says from above, and Susan looks up to see Garrick Ollivander descending the circular staircase. "An Auror in my shop. Have you broken a wand, girl?"

"Two Aurors," Susan says as both she and Pansy show their warrant cards. "DS Bones and DS Parkinson from the Edinburgh CID."

Ollivander harrumphs. "Two broken wands then? Or have you lost them?"

"Neither," Pansy says, and Susan's grateful for her to take the lead. Ollivander's always unsettled her a bit. "We're investigating the murder of Hannah Abbott-Goldstein—"

"Terrible business, that," Ollivander says. His grey-plum robe hangs from his thin frame. He brushes what little white hair he has left away from his eyes. "Eleven inches, vine wood, dragon heartstring."

"Pardon?" Pansy asks.

"Her wand," Susan says. "Hannah's."

Ollivander nods. "I never forget a wand."

"Don't believe him." A man comes from the back room. He's older, but not as old as Ollivander himself, and there are wood shavings on his blue wool robe. He wipes his hands on a rag. "Gerhart Ollivander," he says. "Dad's mind isn't as sharp as it once was."

"Rats' bollocks," Ollivander snaps. He taps his temple. "Solid as a Gringott's vault up here."

Gerhart sighs. "And what'd you have for breakfast?"

"Nothing to do with wands," his father says. Gerhart gives Susan a pointed look.

"What we need," Pansy says, "is the list of customers who might have purchased a particular type of wand from you since, say, 1960?"

Gerhart scratches his beard. "What specs?"

Susan hands over the paper on which she'd carefully copied down the wand configurement from the medical examiner's report. "Let me know if you can't read it."

"Give me a quill, Gerry," Ollivander says, trying to peer over his shoulder, but his son waves him off and reaches for a thick book that's been set behind the counter.

"We're automated now," Gerhart says. "Took me dragging the old bastard kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, but…" He flips the book open and sets a quill and pad of parchment next to it. "Since 1960, thirteen inches, cherry wood, somewhat flexible, unicorn hair core…" He taps his wand against the book pages, and they start to flip quickly. The quill pops up and begins to scrawl a list of names across the parchment.

"Cherry wood's not common." Ollivander eyes the quill with disapproval. "There shouldn't be that many names."

Gerhart snorts. "Remember those orders that came in, what was it? 1988? 1989? Mahoutokoro school? That year the Japanese wandmakers had a wand shortage?"

"Ah, yes." Ollivander shuffles towards Susan, peering at her. "Cherry's quite prized in Japan, you know. It's a very powerful wood, particularly when combined with dragon heartstring. All cherry takes a great deal of self-control to wield properly."

Susan steps back, uncomfortable. Ollivander's clouded eyes look like they're looking past her. "Does it?" She wants to get out of the shop as soon as she can; Pansy's not half wrong about the creepiness. She feels Pansy behind her, solid and strong, and she's relieved. She's not alone, thank Merlin.

"Indeed." Ollivander sits in one of the rickety chairs lining the wall of wand boxes. "Was that wand used on Miss Abbott?"

Pansy's hand settles on Susan's back. "We can't really say. Enquiries still in progress, you know."

"You're not the first Auror I've had in my shop, young lady." Ollivander leans back in his chair and closes his eyes. "Terrible to think of one of my creations being used against someone innocent. Nearly broke my heart in the war, you know." He sighs. "Eight and a quarter inches, yew, dragon heartstring." He opens his eyes and looks at Susan again. "That's your wand, yes? Surprisingly strong will you have, and I'd wager a protector of others?"

Susan nods as if spellbound. It's a very personal thing, a wand, like a part of your soul. Strange to have it revealed for all the world to see.

"And the wand that took your Aunt Amelia was yew as well." Ollivander's voice is raspy. "Thirteen and a half inches, phoenix feather core, with a brother wand made of holly. We all know who wielded those two."

"Enough arcana for today, Dad." Gerhart breaks the spell of Ollivander's voice. He lifts up the parchment and hands it to Pansy. "We've got your list."

"Ta," Pansy says, and she hands it to Susan. The parchment is crisp and cool against her fingers. She folds it and tucks it into her pocket. It'll be safe there, for now.

"Always happy to help out the Aurors," Ollivander says as they head for the door.

Susan can't get out of there fast enough. The sunlight blinds her as she stumbles out of the gloomy interior, and she nearly stumbles into a plump witch carrying a woven basket, out early to do the day's shop at the greengrocers.

"All right there, Bones?" Pansy catches Susan's elbow and steadies her.

Susan nods, unsure of what to say next.

Pansy tucks her arm in Susan's. "You get biscuits at Gregorovitch's," she says brightly. "Custard creams in the London shop, and all the tea you can drink." She sidesteps a broken cobblestone. "Wands aren't quite as good as Old Ollie's, I'll grant you that, but at least you don't have to undergo a thorough Divination before they'll take your Galleons."

Somehow Susan's able to crack a small smile. It fades quickly as she remembers where they're going. "This'll be a shit day."

"It will." Pansy stops on the corner next to Gringotts. "It'll be awful, and you'll hate it, but it'll be over soon enough, and we'll all be back in Edinburgh away from this bollocks. You'll have me there in the back with Lee and the guv. You can count on us. And when it's all done and dusted, I'll spot you the biggest glass of merlot the Hebridean has, yeah?"

Susan wants to cry. "Yeah." She doesn't know what she did to deserve friends like these. All they have is each other, really, the whole lot of them. Still, it's more than she's ever had. They're her family now, her misfit, fucked-up family, the only ones she has left.

"Let's go bury your mate," Pansy says gently. "It's time to say goodbye."

Susan isn't certain she can.

***

Harry stands silently at the edge of the narrow earthen path in Brady Street Jewish Cemetery, John Dawlish at his side. The cemetery'd been closed in 1858 to Muggle interments, but the Jewish wizarding population of England still buries their dead here, in the middle of the East End of London under the stark shadow of council flats and a Muggle car park. It's been a week since Hannah was killed, five days since the case first crossed the murder team's desk. Those first few days are the most important in investigation, and Harry's afraid Malfoy's stubborn focus on Tony Goldstein has cost them valuable time. He watches as Hannah's plain wooden coffin is carried between the rows of grey tombstones, each one carved with inscriptions in both Hebrew and English. Tony holds up one end of the small coffin along with his father. Harry doesn't recognise the other men in dark robes that crowd beside them, taking Hannah to her final resting place. They're from the shul the funeral has just left, he expects. Rabbi Schapiro follows, and behind him are the older Goldstein girls, solemn and shell-shocked still, their Aunt Lila in between them, holding their hands. Tony's mother holds the youngest, Betsy, who has her face pressed against her Gran's shoulder, her dark frock visible beneath the hem of her grey coat. The wind ruffles her blonde curls, and Harry feels a pang of recognition that she'll grow up with only the barest memories of her mother.

Members of the shul gather around the family, filling up the small spaces between graves. The rest of the mourners hang back, still on the path, allowing the community their space to grieve. Harry watches as the coffin is lowered into the ground with Rabbi Schapiro chanting prayers in rapid Hebrew that the cold wind carries over the still graves. The rabbi stops, and the sudden silence is almost overwhelming. Harry's transported back to the funerals he'd sat through, numb and exhausted, just after the war. You never quite get used to burying the dead, he thinks. It never gets easier.

The rabbi moves towards the family and, going to each one in turn, casts a Severing Charm at the collar of their robe. Together they pull at the fabric, and the rending of cloth echoes through the silent cemetery. Somewhere a woman muffles a sob. Rabbi Schapiro nods at Tony who steps forward, along with his father and a few other men. Harry thinks one might be Tony's older brother, who'd Floo'd in from Amsterdam the night before. They stand at the foot of Hannah's grave, and Tony's father reaches for his son's hand, gripping it tightly.

"Yis-gadal v'yish kadash," the men chant together. "Sh'may raboh."

"Omayn," the rest of the mourners reply, quiet and low.

Harry feels his throat tighten as he watches Tony recite the Kaddish with his family. The grief on the man's face, that utter sense of loss and devastation, is something he recognises. He's felt it himself, and he's seen it etched across the features of every family member who's violently lost a loved one. His gaze drifts to the line of red-robed Aurors blocking the gate that separates the wizarding graves from the Muggle. He sees a flash of pale blond hair beneath the line of black caps and wonders if it's Malfoy. It must be; Harry knows Pansy and Lee volunteered to stand guard. Susan surprised him, though, by appearing in the shul, face pale above her black robe. He glances over at where she's standing now, just off the earthen path between two graves. She hasn't joined the shul mourners closer to Hannah's grave, but she looks towards them, brow furrowed and eyes wet. It surprises him, but she's not the only Hufflepuff from their year here. From where he's standing Harry can see Ernie MacMillan and Gayle Pocklington, and Justin Finch-Fletchley—now the new potions master at Hogwarts—is just down the path between his colleagues Neville Longbottom and Pomona Sprout, Hogwarts' latest headmistress. Harry catches Neville's eye and nods, but Nev just looks away. Harry frowns.

The chanting stops. Rabbi Schapiro gestures towards a shovel thrust into a small mound of earth beside the grave. Tony reaches for it, then uses the back to lift a small scoop of dirt from the pile and tosses it into the grave. He sets the shovel back into the mound and steps back, letting his oldest daughter reach for it. Slowly each member of the family scoops dirt into Hannah's grave, each shovelful landing with a soft thud on the wooden lid of Hannah's coffin. Lila helps the youngest girls, tears streaming down her face. She wipes them away, and sunlight sparkles on her thick, knotted gold ring. They step to the side afterwards, and the shul moves forward, quietly queueing for their turn with the shovel.

Dawlish turns to Harry, speaking to him for the first time since Harry'd sat beside him in the shul. "How's Edinburgh?" he asks, voice low.

"Challenging. Different. I'm enjoying the field work." Harry watches as Tony's daughter Ruthie presses herself against her father's side, turning her wet face into his robe. Tony's hand settles on her shoulder, squeezing gently. He looks stunned, drained. He barely notices the line of people queuing behind the family members, waiting to contribute their shovelful to the grave.

"Don't get too comfortable up north," Dawlish says. He steps back, letting a well-dressed witch pass them to join the queue. "You've a choice to make, young man. Gawain is fading, and we're going to be drawing up succession lists soon."

Harry doesn't want to talk about this. Not now. The Minister's health has been a topic of office gossip since late spring; Harry doesn't think it has a place here. "I'm very sorry to hear that, but I don't see how that affects me."

Dawlish, as usual, doesn't pick up on his cue. "The Deputy Head Auror position is still yours for the asking, despite your best intentions to ruin your career. You know that, I think. Zacharias and Cormac'll be happy to crawl over your body for it, if you'd rather not get involved."

Harry lets out a breath, eyes ahead. The queue is moving steadily forward; the other mourners are stepping off the path now to join it. "I'm not ready to say yet, John. I just need to give it some thought." He's aware that Dawlish isn't pleased. His superior sighs.

"The next time we talk, I'll need answers. And the failure to give an answer is the same as an answer. Do I make myself clear, Harry?"

Harry nods, his stomach churning. This isn't a decision he wants to make. He's put it off twice already this year, much to Dawlish's annoyance. "Perfectly, sir. Thank you."

He steps forward, moving towards the queue of mourners and leaving Dawlish behind. When he finally reaches the shovel, he pulls it from the ground and tips a scattering of earth into Hannah's grave. "We'll find him," he promises her. "Sleep well."

A gentle breeze ruffles his hair; he can almost imagine he hears Hannah's laugh in it. He sets the shovel back into the turned earth and walks away, back towards the path.

"Harry."

He turns around, and Hermione's there, hair twisted back in a neat knot at the nape of her neck, her grey wool robe belted at the waist with black leather. He smiles at her. "Didn't know you'd be here."

She's clutching a white handkerchief in one hand, and her eyes are a bit damp. "Hannah and I worked together on the board of Seeds of Magic. You know, that Muggleborn children's charity I planned the Christmas ball for last year?"

"Right," Harry says. He only remembers because Ron'd spent most of the holidays complaining that his wife was absolutely mental about the stupid event. It's not as if Hermione hadn't had enough work piled on her in the CWPS as it was. She's the hardest working barrister in the unit.

"We saw each other at board meetings. I missed the October one, though, because of work. Terrible how things happen, isn't it? You never know when the last time you'll see someone might be." Hermione sits on an empty bench beneath a bare-branched oak. "How's working with Malfoy?"

He sits next to her. "He hates me." There's a faded England flag fluttering from one of the windows of a council flat. Judging by its frayed edges, Harry suspects it's been up there since the footie World Cup in the summer.

Hermione gives him a sympathetic look. "Chin up, Harry. It can't be that bad." She lays her hand over his and squeezes. Harry's grateful for her; Hermione's always been there during the difficult times, more so than anyone else. The night he'd broken it off with Gin, she'd sent Ron off to comfort his sister, brought Harry into their flat, and plied him with bottles of beer until he'd fallen asleep on their sofa. The rest of the Weasley family's been a bit cool towards him since then, but not Ron and Hermione. They've been solid, through and through. Harry's rather certain he has Hermione to thank for that.

"Oh, but it is." Harry sighs. "Yesterday I had him showing his scars from sixth year on the office floor and shouting at me." Hermione knows how he's angsted about that Sectumsempra over the years. It's part of why he'd walked out on Malfoy, if he's honest. He hadn't been able to take the guilt of what he'd done. Not when Malfoy couldn't even bear to let him see the scars, despite what he'd whispered that night.

"Jesus." Hermione brushes a wayward wisp of hair out of her face. "How awful. What did you do?"

Harry watches Susan step up to the grave, shovel in her hand. She looks devastated, more so than an old school chum should be, which he finds odd. Then again, funerals seldom bring out the best emotions in people and she had lost a lot. "Not much. I let him say his piece and felt wretched about the whole thing." He gives Hermione a wry smile. "You know me, always articulate in a pinch."

She pokes his arm. "No, I mean what did you do to get him to react that way? Malfoy's always been a drama queen, but that reaction seems a bit excessive."

"Oh," Harry says. "Zacharias came by." A lorry rumbles past on the side street. The Aurors must have begun dropping the Muggle-Repellant Charms. They can only leave them up briefly in London pathways, outside of the usual wizarding spaces. They'd reached that agreement with Boris Johnson's office during the Olympics ten years ago.

Hermione makes a face. No one in the DMLE with any sense can stand Zacharias. "Enough said. Are the rumours true then?"

"I'm sure I wouldn't know." Harry still doesn't want to talk about it. Hermione's scolded him more than once for not going after the Deputy Head position, pointing out that he has a responsibility to save them all from an Auror force run by Smith or McLaggen.

"Don't play coy, Harry." Hermione turns that barrister gaze on him. No wonder she's a terror in the courtroom. "My secretary plays Quidditch with McLaggen's."

Of course he does. Hermione has spies throughout the Ministry. Sometimes he thinks she would have made a brilliant Slytherin. "Well, you likely know more than I do."

Hermione raises an eyebrow. "Not after you've just spoken to Dawlish, but nevermind. This isn't the time. Just know that I'll hide any bodies you need me to." She stops, her cheeks flushing as she looks around to see who might have overheard her. "Or, well, another appropriate metaphor given the circumstances."

"I'm grateful for your support," Harry says dryly. "I'm sure I don't deserve it."

Hermione squeezes his hand. "You do, Harry. Especially if you get your head out of your arse." She looks over towards the gate where the Aurors are dropping the interior wards. Harry can definitely see a blond head among the sea of red robes. Hermione shades her eyes with one hand. "Malfoy's looking fit, isn't he? Especially in a dress uniform."

Harry knocks her shoulder. "Shut it, you."

She just smiles at him, then holds out her hand. Three long, red scratches mar her skin. "These are from Annabel by the way." Harry's left his thirteen-year-old, incredibly cranky Kneazle with Ron and Hermione while he's in Edinburgh. He'd thought it for the best, all things considered, even though Annabel only likes Harry and hasn't a tolerance for any other members of the human race.

Harry frowns, feeling guilty. He'd thought Annabel would spend most of her time hiding under the spare room bed. "Why haven't you healed them?"

"I heal them every day." Hermione drops her hand back into her lap. "And then she gives me new ones. I think she wants you home."

"Soon," Harry promises. He looks up as Rabbi Schapiro's voice echoes across the cemetery, calling the mourners into two lines for the family to process through. Harry stands and helps Hermione up. As they rejoin the crowd on the main path, Harry looks back towards Hannah's grave. Neville's standing there alone, and Harry—against all of his wishes—makes a mental note to check that out.

***

Draco sits at the bar in the Leaky, an untouched ploughman's in front of him and a half-drunk pint of New Town Nosetwister next to two empties. Millie sets a glass of water down.

"Drink up," she says, leaning on the bar. "You'll have a hell of a headache later if you keep downing those."

"I'll thank you to keep your nose out of my drinking," Draco says, but he picks up the water anyway and downs half of it at once. He hates it when Millie's right. "How's Hestia?"

"Complaining about fourth year mostly." Millie wipes a rag along the battered wood of the bar. Midafternoon sunlight filters through the paned windows looking out on Charing Cross and all its Muggles rushing about, not a one of them noticing the ancient pub tucked between two secondhand bookshops. Sometimes Draco wishes he'd never been born a wizard. He envies the comfortable ignorance of the Muggle world. "Although her owl yesterday was all about how terribly tragic poor Abigail Goldstein was. I hate to say this about my own child, but I think there might have been a bit of jealousy mixed in there."

"Teenagers." Draco smears a bit of pickle across a slice of bread and bites into it. "They do love their angst."

Millie perches on a stool behind the bar. There's almost no one in the Leaky right now, for which Draco's grateful. The whole morning had been exhausting; he's only now had a chance to sit down for lunch. "How's the enquiry?" Millie asks.

"You know I can't say." Draco picks up a scrap of ham and drapes it across his bread, taking another bite.

"Rumour has it you've Tony down for it," Millie says, and at Draco's reproving look, she shrugs. "That's what the Prophet's reporting."

"The Prophet," Draco says, reaching for his pint, "is nothing but a salacious rag printing pure codswallop."

Millie props her chin on one plump fist. "I'll let Blaise know we expect better the next time he's in."

Draco huffs. "Traitorous arse, that one is. Trying to sabotage my case—"

"I'm sure." Millie pushes the water glass towards him. "Still seeing much of him these days?"

"Not as much as he'd like," Draco says. "Although he's really only interested in my information." He can see his glum face reflected in the mirror behind the bar. "My brain's more use than my cock lately, Mils."

"Payback for our time at school, I'd say." Millie sits up as someone approaches the bar. "What'll you have?"

"A Peruvian Porter," Potter says as he slides onto the stool next to Draco. He looks ridiculously good in his stupid black robe with his stupid hair all rumpled and mussed.

Draco picks up his pint and takes a long swallow before setting it down and motioning to Millie for another. "Harry Potter, as I live and breathe. My day's been made. How about yours, Mill?"

"Sorry. He tends to be more of a shit when he's wanting to get trolleyed," Millie says to Potter as she hands him a glass of ale. She pours another glass of water and sets it in front of Draco, taking his empties.

"Hey," he says with a frown. "That's not a Nosetw—"

Millie cuts him off. "Brilliant powers of observation. They teach you that in Auror school?" Her smile takes the sting out. Mostly.

Potter snorts into his beer. "At least Malfoy needs a few pints to be less observant. Definitely better than most of my DCIs."

"That's not saying much," Draco points out. "McLaggen, for example? I've seen more astute sheep." He glares at Potter. "At any rate, I'm not speaking to you, so go find another pub to annoy."

"Thanks, but I'll stay here," Potter says easily. "How's the shepherd's pie?"

"Almost as good as mine." Madam Rosmerta leans on the bar beside Potter. Her long grey hair falls in curls around her shoulders. "Millicent gives me a run for my money on weekends. Give me a firewhisky, neat?"

Millie reaches for a bottle behind the bar. "You look well, Rosie. How've you been?"

"Better." Rosmerta sighs. "Mum's not doing so well lately: she's been in Mungo's since Sunday—" Millicent clucks at that, shaking her head as she opens the bottle of firewhisky, and Rosmerta gives her a small smile. "Ta, love, but she'll be fine in the end, I hope. And I went to Hannah's funeral today." Rosmerta glances over at Potter. "Saw you there." Of course she did, Draco thinks uncharitably. The whole fucking wizarding world saw Potter there. He'll probably be the lead photograph in tomorrow's Prophet, him and Dawlish, which'll start Rita Skeeter speculating again about Potter's future as Minister of Magic. It makes Draco ill, although Potter does look well fit in his black dress robes.

"Really?" Potter asks. "Were you in the back?"

Rosmerta nods. "Didn't want to be too visible. I don't think the family'd like remembering Hannah's time in our trade."

Millie scowls as she sets the glass on the bar. A curl of steam rises from the glass. "It's on the house. And Hannah herself didn't mind it a bit. She came back to visit rather a lot after she sold me this place. Said some of her happiest memories were here."

"She always loved coming into the Broomsticks as well." Rosmerta picks up the glass and holds it. "She and Neville Longbottom and Susan Bones had a grand time there."

Potter raises his pint. "To salad days. And happy memories."

Even Draco clinks his glass and drinks.

Rosmerta hands her empty glass back to Millie. "Wasn't just salad days, though," she says. "Susan and Hannah always had lunch together at least once a month or more. Sometimes Nev'd join them, if it was on a Saturday, especially in the summer."

Draco can feel Potter tense next to him. Shit. "Potter," he starts to say.

"Susan and Hannah were still friends, then?" Potter asks, deceptively calm. Draco recognises the strategy of leaving room for witnesses to speak. "And Nev?"

Rosmerta nods. "Best of, I'd say." She takes the second glass of firewhisky Millie offers her. "Last time they were in was a fortnight ago?" She considers, giving Potter a thoughtful look. Draco wants to swear; Rosmerta's no fool. She knows exactly what she's doing. She's seen something from behind her bar. "Yes. That's about right. They were laughing about some bloke Susan'd gone out with. I was surprised to read about her being on the enquiry."

Fucking Prophet. Draco's going to have words with Blaise. Vicious ones, this time.

Potter turns slowly, looking at Draco. "Loo. Now."

"If you want a tug, Potter," Draco says, voice higher than he'd like, "I'm sure there's a bird who'll—"

"Now." Potter grabs Draco by the scruff of his robe and hauls him off the chair.

"Oi," Millicent snaps, but Potter's already shoving Draco towards the gents.

It's empty when Potter throws open the door and pushes Draco inside, sending him crashing against the stall.

"What the fuck, Malfoy?"

Draco stands up, smoothing his robe. "Don't manhandle me like that ever again, you tosser—"

"Susan Bones is best mates with our victim, and you've kept her on your team?" Potter's shaking with fury. "Have you lost your mind? What do you think's going to happen when this case goes to CWPS? Everything she's done will be discredited. The defence will have a field day and toast the idiot who left her on the case. Are you trying to get sacked? You know Bradford already hates you for making him look bad, and he's gagging for a reason to take you down a peg."

"Her friend was murdered," Draco shouts back. "Are you telling me that if Weasley was killed, you wouldn't do everything you could to stay on the team?"

Potter falls silent. He's breathing hard as he stares into the mirror over the line of sinks. There's a faded flyer tacked to the wall advertising a reunion concert tour for the Weird Sisters last year. Draco's never felt so old.

"I would want to," Potter says after a moment. "But I'd trust my guv to keep me from compromising the enquiry."

"You're a liar." Draco leans against the stall. He's tired. "You'd do exactly what Susan did. You'd beg to find the bastard who did it. You'd beg to be useful. Somehow. In some way. All so you didn't have to think about it."

Potter starts to protest. "There are some things a friend shouldn't—"

"Knowing is horrible," Draco says. "Not knowing is worse."

He watches Potter in the mirror, sees the way he's struggling. Lines can be hard to draw in these investigations. The wizard world is so small; they've all had moments of crossing over or coming close, of not being able to walk away, even when they know they should.

"She has to go, Malfoy." Potter's voice is soft but firm. He looks up, catches Draco's gaze. "I can understand, barely, that you've let it come to this. But she has to go. I'm saying this now, and do not make me pull rank because I'll do it. For your own fucking good. This case is too high profile not to play by the rules."

Draco knows Potter's right, as much as it pains him to admit it. He's known this day was coming, even warned Susan himself that he couldn't protect her if someone came after her. It's still different to be faced with it, half-pissed in the loo of the Leaky.

"Fine," Draco says, curt and bitter. It's always been like this between him and Potter. "Whatever DSI Potter wants, DSI Potter gets. Quelle surprise."

Potter just looks at him, slow and steady. When he's convinced something is right, Potter's unmovable. He doesn't care what you throw at him, Draco remembers well.

"I'll tell her tomorrow," Draco says, the fight going out of him. "Not today. Not after she's just buried Hannah."

"All right." Potter's voice sounds almost gentle. He raises a hand and, for a moment, Draco thinks Potter's going to reach for him. He steps back, and Potter looks away.

"I'm going back to Edinburgh," Draco says, opening the door, startling a young wizard, barely twenty, who brushes past him and heads for the urinal, his hand already on his zip.

Potter ignores the newcomer. "It's been a long day."

Draco doesn't need his sympathy. Doesn't want it. He leaves Potter standing at the sinks and strides towards the Floo in the back. He doesn't even care about paying his bill. Millie will put it on his tab. He wants to go home, to sit in his favourite leather chair with early Celestina Warbeck on the record player and a glass of proper Scottish whisky in one hand and a fag in the other as the rain pours down the windowpanes. He's not a Southerner any longer, perhaps he never was. Scotland's always been a place of safety for him, and it's finally beginning to feel like home. Maybe it's time to accept that.

He steps into the Floo and disappears.

Chapter Text

"It was incredible, Suse," Pansy says, leaning back in her chair. She stretches her hands above her head, remembering the way Ewan had gone down on her the night before. "I mean set-the-bed-on-fire incredible. The things that man can do with his tongue alone—Circe."

Susan sets a mug of tea on Pansy's desk before returning to her own, another steaming mug cupped in her hands. She sits down and sips it. "Are you going to see him again?"

"Maybe?" Pansy warms her hands over the cuppa, considering. Ewan'd chatted her up after the funeral as they'd brought down the wards around the cemetery. That'd ended up in afternoon drinks at his Finsbury Park flat and Pansy writhing in his bed by dinner, her legs wrapped around his hips as he pounded into her, taking away—for a few short hours at least—all the tension and worry of the investigation. "He's fit, and not a completely illiterate twat, given he's in the London services." She lifts her tea. "I suppose I wouldn't mind a proper dinner out with him. One with silver cutlery and nice china."

Susan gives her a wan smile. "Maybe you should owl."

"Might do." Pansy scans Susan's pale face. There are dark circles under her eyes, and she's just piled her ginger hair on top of her head in a messy bun. Pansy's not sure it's even washed. "You all right?"

"Just tired." Susan sets her mug down. "Didn't sleep well last night, what with the funeral and all." She pokes at the stack of files on her desk. "Came in at midnight to take some of these back home. I figured if I couldn't sleep I might as well try to be productive."

Pansy doesn't blame her. She'd have done the same. "Any joy?"

Susan frowns. "I think so, but the guv's not going to like it. Neither will Harry." She rubs the back of her neck. "What's up with the two of them, by the way? I know they hated each other in school, but this is a bit ridiculous, wouldn't you say?"

"Foreplay," Pansy says. She's known Draco most of her life; she can see past that facade of annoyance he likes to hide behind. At Susan's wrinkled nose, she smirks. "What?"

"They loathe each other," Susan points out.

The warming charm on the radiator kicks in with a rumble and a whoosh of hot air that fills the room. Pansy wishes operations would fix the damned thing. It's either freezing or subtropical in the office this time of year. She peels off her black cardigan, leaving her in a strappy white tank that she knows does nothing for what little's left of her fading tan from two weeks in Mykonos in late July. "Loathe is a relative term," she says. "I spent seven years in a common room with Draco Malfoy during his adolescence. I can still smell the lust on him a kilometre away."

Susan laughs then, and it's a welcome sound. "You're mental."

"I reckon we start a pool." Pansy smiles at her. "Take wagers on when they crack and end up shagging against the door." She doesn't know if that'd even happen, but if it amuses Susan she'll spin it out. Besides, the way Draco's eyes follow Harry's around the room, even when he's furious with him...well. Pansy'd seen that happen when he fell for Astoria. It worries her, if she's honest. It took a full year for Draco to glue himself back together after that debacle, and Pansy can still see the chips and cracks.

"Put me down for five Galleons," Lee says from the doorway. There's a box from Peter's Yard in his hand, and Pansy doesn't hesitate before she flicks her wand towards him and levitates the whole box over to her desk. She's ravenous. An extended fuck session'll do that for you. The box is a bit damp—the rain's started back again unsurprisingly—but when she opens it the scent of cardamom, cinnamon and confectioner's sugar wafts up. She holds it over towards Susan, who picks one of the cherry bakewells.

"For or against?" Susan asks through a mouthful of jammy pastry.

Lee drops into his chair, rain dripping from his dreadlocks. "Against," he says, "but mainly because I think they'll hex each other's pricks off before anything comes of it."

Pansy snorts and picks out a cardamom bun.

The door opens again, and Draco walks in. He looks tired behind his glasses, Pansy thinks, and she's fairly certain he wore that same shirt earlier in the week, which isn't like him at all. "Morning," he says, shrugging out of his raincoat and hanging it on the coat tree beside the door. "I would say good, but it's pissing outside and I'm in foul mood, fair warning, so we'll just leave it at that, yeah?"

Pansy exchanges a wary look with Lee and Susan. It's never good when Draco actually admits he woke up on the wrong side of the bed. If this is because of Potter, she'll string him up when he comes in. "The kettle's still on," is all she says for now, and Draco heads for it, reaching for his favourite mug and digging a tea bag from the nearly empty box of Yorkshire Gold. Pansy reminds herself to stop by Asda on the way home and pick up some more. The office can't function without decent tea—coffee's just not the same when you're on an investigative roll.

They're silent while Draco makes his tea. Rain taps at the window panes, and Pansy fiddles with the Gringotts key on the chain around her neck. It's her last tie with her family, really. She only speaks to her mum every few weeks, usually because she avoids Iphigenia's firecalls as much as possible. They've never been on the best of terms; Pansy wasn't the daughter Idgie Parkinson had hoped for, and she still can't understand why Pansy preferred to stay in Britain, working with the Aurors, rather than emigrating to New Zealand for a fresh start. Pansy can't ever explain; she's not certain why she made that choice herself. All she knows is that she wants to be here, in this room, with this ragtag team of overworked Aurors. They're hers, and she loves them.

Lee hands Draco a raspberry jam tart, his favourite. "Rough night?"

Draco drops into his chair, only sloshing his tea slightly. The scent of a cigarette or twenty lingers around him. So much for giving up, Pansy thinks. He pulls the tea bag from his mug and bins it beneath his desk. "You could say."

Potter walks through the door. He's in a olive tweed jacket today with jeans and boots that make him look as if he stepped out one of those Muggle films Susan's always dragging Pansy to on weekends off--the ones with the perfect young girls with their perfect teeth and hair who spend most of the time complaining about how plain they are and therefore no one will ever love them, especially not the fit bloke who's already eyeing them up as a potential fuck partner. Pansy hates those with a passion.

"I'll make you a tea," Susan says to Potter, and Pansy wants to roll her eyes. She doesn't, but she catches Draco in the act. He looks away, hiding behind his tea.

"Thanks." Potter glances at Draco as he eases himself into a rolling chair next to the murder board. Pansy watches as Draco pretends not to notice, despite his furrowed brow. He takes another swallow of tea and slumps in his seat.

Susan pours the last of the hot water into a mug, adding the milk when she's done. She and Pansy argue constantly about the right procedure when it comes to making a milky tea; Pansy thinks it's gauche to add the milk at the end. Potter doesn't seem to care. He takes the tea with a nod, then sits silently, dunking the bag a few times into the milky mix.

"So there's something I found last night," Susan says, sitting back at her desk again. She pulls the folded Ollivanders list from the top file jacket along with another set of papers. "I noticed something when I went through Ollivander's sales—"

Potter cuts her off. "Malfoy." He's looking at Draco, eyes somber. Susan falls silent.

"Fuck it," Draco exhales, and he sits up in his chair, putting his mug down on his desk blotter. A drop of tea runs down the side of the mug and lands on a scrap of paper, blooming out across the white surface until it hits a scrawl of ink. He rubs the back of his hand against his jaw. "Susan," he says, then stops.

Susan stills. "This is it, isn't it?" She doesn't look at anyone but Draco. "The end of the line."

Draco nods. "It's only temporary. But yesterday…"

"I know." Susan pulls at the sleeve of her thick, green cabled jumper. "I shouldn't have been so obvious at the funeral." She glances at Potter. "That's when you found out?"

"Yeah." Potter's voice is gentle. He cups his hands around the mug of tea and stares into it. "I know why you want to be here, but if it jeopardises the investigation…" He trails off. It doesn't need to be said; they all know what he means. This is the kind of job where the greater good comes before the individual. Pansy looks at Lee. The expression on his face is sombre. They've both been expecting this; they'd just hoped they'd be closer to the end of the case when it came. Pansy doesn't know what she'll do without Susan in the room. She hadn't realised how much she's come to rely on her—not just for her investigative abilities but also for her emotional support. It's not easy being a woman in the Auror force, much less in the CID.

Susan doesn't say anything for a moment, then she sighs. "I'm not being sacked, am I?" Pansy's stomach twists. She hadn't thought about that.

"No." Draco looks up then. "Just taken off this case. I've spoken to McMurty, and he says he could use your insight on some of his cold cases. You'll come back to us when we wrap this one up." He sounds clipped and curt; Pansy knows that's his way of holding back what he's feeling, of bottling up how he truly feels. He doesn't want Susan to go. None of them do.

"People are already making the connection, Susan." Potter takes a sip of his tea. Pansy wants to dash the mug in his face. "They'll remember when we take a suspect to prosecution."

Susan looks like she's about to cry. Fucking hell, Pansy thinks. Don't do it, girl. Not in front of that tosser. Susan glances at her, almost as if she can hear the shouting in Pansy's mind, then she lifts her chin. "All right," she says. "McMurty's waiting for me then?"

"You could take the day off." Draco shuffles a stack of papers, his discomfort obvious. "He doesn't expect you in today."

"I'd rather not." Susan picks up her rucksack and drapes it over her shoulder. "I'd rather work, if you don't mind."

They watch as she gathers her jacket and her scarf.

"Suse," Lee says as she passes him, and he grabs her wrist. "You'll be back soon, love."

Susan blinks back tears. "Yeah." She squeezes his hand, then glances over at Pansy as she pulls away. "You better tell me if you ask Ewan out."

"Like I wouldn't." Pansy's throat is tight. "Don't worry about us. We'll find the bastard."

Susan stops at the door. "Check the list," she says to Pansy. "I think you'll be surprised at what you find."

And then she's gone.

Pansy sinks back into her chair. The room's quiet.

"It had to be done," Potter says after a moment, and Draco pushes his chair back with a scrape of metal legs against the worn wooden floorboards.

"Just shut it." He stands in front of the murder board. "Where are we? Possibly Goldstein, possibly not—fuck." With a swipe of his hand, he knocks the quill off the board, sending it skittering across the room. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck."

Pansy stands up and walks over to him. "Guv." She pulls him against her, leaning her head on his shoulder. Even from here she can hear his heart beating, hard and fast, and his body is tense against hers. He presses his cheek against her forehead.

"Fuck," he says quietly.

Pansy can hear Potter moving behind them. He places the quill back on the board. "We need to look past Tony," he says, and then he standing beside her, his hands in his pockets, staring at the photos stuck to the board. Lee'd added Kirsty Lennox to the side just before they'd Apparated down to London for the funeral. She looks out at them with wide green eyes and black, curly hair that falls across her olive skin. She couldn't have been more different from Hannah if Tony'd tried. "We need to find Hannah's lover."

Draco lifts his head. "The one no one seems to know anything about?" He sighs. "Just one break is all I'm asking for—"

"Guv," Lee says. They all turn to look back at him. He's holding the Ollivander's list. "I think Susan really did find something."

Pansy reaches out, her breath catching, and she takes the parchment from him. Her eyes skim the list until she finds the name Susan's circled. Twice. "Fuck," she murmurs, and she hands the list to Draco. This changes everything. Suse was right. Neither Draco or Potter will be happy with this lead.

"Neville Longbottom," Draco reads. He looks up, his eyes meeting Potter's. "He's on here once in 1996 and once Friday last."

"What?" Potter pulls the parchment from Draco's loose grip, scanning the list for a long moment. "This has to be wrong."

"They knew each other," Draco says. "Rosmerta made that clear yesterday."

Pansy gives him a sharp look. "You interviewed Rosmerta?"

"She came by the Leaky." Draco's distracted. He's watching Potter. "Longbottom works at Hogwarts. It wouldn't be difficult for him to have met up with Hannah at the Hog's Head."

Something niggles in Pansy's mind from her latest perusal of the case notes. "Didn't the primary school headmistress say that Hannah would stay to help out when Hogwarts teachers were presenting at the school?"

Draco nods. "And that Herbology was a favourite presentation with the kids."

"What's the likelihood that he'd buy the same wand twice, though?" Potter frowns down at the paper. "This could be a glitch in the records."

"It's not that uncommon," Lee says. He tugs at his dreads the way he does when he's lost in thought. "Orla had to replace her wand a few years back when her brother sat on it. The same configuration picked her."

Pansy takes the list from Potter, eyeing the two spots where Susan's circled Neville Longbottom's name. "Most of the other possibilities are Japanese. I doubt they're likely to have come looking for Hannah."

"No, they wouldn't." Draco's too preoccupied to recognise her sarcasm. "The other names we'll need to eliminate, but Longbottom's the primary—"

"This is Neville we're talking about," Potter says, but he doesn't sound convinced.

"You just said we need another suspect to look at." Draco picks up the quill and writes Longbottom's name on the murder board next to Hogsmeade lover, followed by an enormous question mark. "Do you want to talk to him or should I?"

Potter takes a deep breath and crosses his arms over his chest. "I'll do it," he says. He doesn't sound happy. Pansy refuses to feel sympathy for the bastard. "Jesus."

"Isn't it a bit rich that Potter should get to talk to Longbottom when Suse has just had to leave for being too close Hannah?" Pansy finds herself speaking up without really planning to. Damn, but her swift mouth doesn't half get her into trouble. Draco shoots her a warning look.

Potter's face is pale and his jaw has a mulish set. "You're completely right, of course. It is crossing a line, although Neville and I aren't as chummy as we once were."

"And Potter plans to use his past closeness to the suspect to help get him in for proper questioning. Isn't that right, Potter?" Draco's elaboration comes out like a threat. Pansy knows Draco will hang Potter out to dry if he fucks this up, and from the grim look on his face, Potter knows it too.

Pansy hands him the Ollivanders list. "Well, then. No tampering with the evidence." She means it. She doesn't trust him, not after what Lee's told her about the Ministry jerking the reins on the Goldstein enquiries and the visit from that bell-end Smith.

"Fuck off, Parks," Potter says, but there's no ire in his voice. Only exhaustion. She can understand that; they all can by now. Potter tucks the list in his jacket pocket. "It better not be raining in the Highlands."

She'd lay good money it is.

***

Harry sloshes up the main path to Hogwarts Castle, the mud sucking at his boots when he steps into too deep of a puddle. He's numb at the moment, partially from the rain the wind blows beneath his black umbrella and partially because he's dreading the conversation coming up. Lee'd offered to come with him, but Harry'd turned him down. This is something he needs to do alone. He wants to look Neville in the face and ask him about Hannah, and he wants to be able to draw his own conclusions without them being coloured by the others' observations. He owes Neville that, at least. Hannah too, if he's honest.

The greenhouses are nestled beneath the shadow of Gryffindor Tower, seven long rows of sparkling glass and serpentine dragons slithering across the peaked roofs, worn to a pale green patina over generations. Beyond them he can see the empty Quidditch pitch and the lake glistening in the midday sunlight. Harry's put this interview off as long as he can, even stopping off in Inverness for an early lunch in a Muggle cafe as far from the wizarding quarter as he could find.

It's been a few years since he's been on Hogwarts grounds. The last time had been on the twentieth anniversary of the battle when Sprout, then Deputy Headmistress, had asked him to give a speech honoring not only the fallen but also Minerva McGonagall's retirement. He'd stood on a podium in early May, luminaries and faculty behind him, House banners crackling in the breeze over the students in their formal black robes, children who'd never lived in a world of war, children he hoped would never know the pain and grief of losing their loved ones in such a violent and senseless manner.

He thinks of Abigail Goldstein and her empty bed in the Ravenclaw dormitories, and a deep sadness settles over him. She'd been so small and silent walking between her father and her aunt after the funeral, her sister Ruthie's hand clutched in hers, her face pale and set. She's too young to deal with losing her mother like this. It's bad enough for the other two, but Abigail's old enough to remember her mother more clearly as she ages, and to know and understand the horror of her death. No twelve-year-old should have to endure that.

A bell rings, marking the end of lecture, and a swarm of laughing students tumble through the door to greenhouse three, book satchels bumping against their hips, Weasley Wizarding Wheezes' newest auto-quills flying behind a few of them, trying to catch up in a flutter of bright blue and purple. Harry lets them stream past; he's old enough now that none of them stop and gawk, even upon seeing the scar on his forehead. He holds no interest for any of them, other than being yet another boring chapter in their History of Magic book. He likes it that way.

Neville's in the greenhouse, tidying up. There's a smear of dirt on his left sleeve, and he's humming the Weird Sister's Do the Hippogriff as he moves around the student tables, uprighting pots and sending spilt soil back into them with a flick of his wand. Harry's not sure when the soundtrack of his youth moved from Wireless One on the WWN to Wireless Two, replacing Molly Weasley's beloved Celestina Warbeck, but it has. He supposes he should keep up with the younger set now--he at least managed to procure front-row Five Seconds of Magic tickets for Rose's last birthday to Hermione's relief and Ron's horror--but Teddy, who was always his tutor in hip wizarding culture, now lives in Los Angeles, and Harry barely sees him outside of Christmas hols and the occasional trip home in the summers. Harry keeps promising to visit, but he's not sure he's ready for America yet. It seems too brash and bright for his tastes.

"Nev," Harry says, and Neville looks up. His smile fades when he sees the warrant card Harry's holding up.

"This is official then." Neville summons a cloth and wipes his hands, sliding his wand back into his pocket. It's still shining and new, with none of the nicks and scuffs wands get with daily use.

Two older Gryffindor students saunter into the greenhouse, books in hand. Harry looks at Neville. "We need to talk," he says, voice low. "I'd prefer to do it discreetly here without sending for Aurors to come escort you."

"That sort of official. I see." Neville turns to the students. Another few Ravenclaws have joined them. "No lecture today, you lot. Do a check-in on your projects, leave me a three- or four-inch update on your progress, and we'll call it a day, yeah?'

None of the students object: one of the Gryffindors has the audacity to whoop with joy as the others head to the back of the greenhouse where the student plants are kept. Neville motions for Harry to follow him. They wind their way through greenhouse four and five before Neville stops in front of a round, green-painted door. He opens it with a heavy brass key that hangs from his pocket watch.

"Careful for Trevor," Neville says, as Harry steps into a glass panelled room that looks out over the lush foliage and bright blooms of greenhouse six. There's a small fire crackling in a hearth on the one non-glass wall, and framed photographs are hung all over the crumbling brick.

"I thought Trevor passed on?" Harry eyes the photos; he can see himself in one with Hermione and Ron, all dressed in their school uniforms during sixth-year. If he remembers right, Colin Creevey took it. Harry feels a pang at that. They look so young and naive, untouched as of yet by war and death. It's odd to see them here; he and Neville haven't been terribly close for the better part of the past decade. You fall away from friends sometimes; life takes you on different paths. Harry'd been swallowed by the Ministry, while Neville had escaped to the Highlands. Harry envies him that.

Neville closes the door. "Trevor Two," he says. "But he's on his last legs, so I think I'll be looking for Three in a few more months." He squats beside a small wooden crate lined with a puffy cushion. Trevor's sitting in the middle, his eyes half-closed. Neville scratches beneath Trevor's jaw, and the toad's leg bounces slightly. "They don't normally live more than twelve or so years. Two's about to hit eighteen."

Harry doesn't know what to say, so he sits in one of the two threadbare yet overstuffed brocade chairs. A fanged geranium on the shelf behind him sniffs at his hair, then snaps at it. Harry scoots the chair away, and the geranium wilts slightly.

"Don't mind Gussie," Neville says. He brushes dirt from his trousers and stands, slipping his robe off and hanging it on the back of the door. "She's mostly gums now. Pomona gave her to me for passing my O.W.L. Can I offer you tea? I'm afraid that's the strongest I've got. I've spirits, but they're back in my quarters."

"I'm fine, thanks." Harry watches Neville as he takes the other chair. Nev grew up well, Harry realises. The awkwardness of youth faded into a handsome face and poised self-confidence. He wonders why Neville's never married, but he supposes some could ask the same about him--and probably do. The marriage proposals have died down a bit since he crossed onto the wrong side of forty, but there's still occasionally an article questioning his availability in Witch Weekly that Hermione cuts out and owls to him for a lark.

Neville looks at him. "So."

"Yeah." Harry's lost all his articulateness. This is different when it's someone you know. Someone you grew up with. "About Hannah."

Trevor croaks once, then falls silent. Neville glances over at him. "What do you want to know?"

"You were sleeping with her, weren't you?"

Neville doesn't answer. Trevor shifts on his pillow, then hops, landing onto the floor. Another hop and he's on Neville's knee, one leg scrabbling for purchase. Neville picks him up and holds him, one finger smoothing over Trevor's green head. He closes his eyes and breathes out. "Yeah," Neville says finally. "Had been for a while. Off and on."

"How long?" Harry asks.

"Long enough that we worried that Ruthie was mine." Neville looks at him then. "She's not. Hannah had a test run to make sure, or so she told me. Sometimes I still wonder."

"Back on, then?"

Neville snorts, and Trevor's back leg jerks before he settles back against Neville's thigh. "For a little over a year and a half, if that's what you're asking. We'd stopped seeing each other for a while after Betsy was born. Hannah was trying to smooth things out with Tony again."

Gussie nuzzles Harry's hair; he pushes her away. "Again? This was a cycle then?"

"You could say." Neville smooths a finger over Trevor's back once more. Harry's not certain if he's calming the toad or himself. "Family was important to Hannah. She kept trying to make it work." He falls silent, then sighs.

Harry crosses one leg over the other. It's warm and stuffy in the office, and there's a slight bit of condensation on the glass. "You ignored me at the funeral."

"Do you blame me?" Neville's finger stills on Trevor's back. The toad shifts, watching Harry with cloudy dark eyes. "I knew you'd show up here eventually."

"Then why didn't you come in?" Harry's anger slips out. "Your lover gets murdered practically in your back garden and you don't say a word to anyone? What the fuck, Nev? How did you think that would go over with the Aurors?"

"The only woman I loved just died." Neville leans back in his chair. He's composed--too composed in Harry's opinion. It's unsettling. "What did you want me to do? Appear on your doorstep all hail fellow, well met, and oh, by the way, I've been arse over tit for a married woman for a decade now?" He stands up and puts Trevor back on his cushion.

"It doesn't look good."

"I know." Neville stops beside the fire, his back to Harry.

Harry leans forward, elbows on his knees, and presses one fist to his mouth. He doesn't want to ask, but he has to. "Did you kill her?"

Neville turns around, mouth tight. "No. I never would."

"I don't know if I believe that." Harry looks up at him. The fire casts dark shadows across Neville's face. Harry's reminded how impossible it is to really know someone. Everyone keeps secrets; everyone has something to hide. Neville could have killed his lover. Harry has no doubt. Anyone can become a killer with the right push. He almost had. "Did you meet her on Wednesday?"

Neville's composure slips. His face crumples, twists into a mask of grief. "Yes. But I didn't kill her."

The fire crackles and pops. Harry can hear children's shouts, muffled and far away. "You know I have to ask you to come in."

"Yeah." Neville wipes his knuckles across his eyes. "I know." When he drops his hand, his eyes are wet and bright. "I have a N.E.W.T.s class this afternoon. Their projects will be ruined if we don't repot them today."

Harry hesitates. He should just grab Neville by the collar and drag him back to Edinburgh. He doesn't want to. "Tomorrow morning," he says. "You have to be there first thing."

"Pomona will look after my Friday classes, I'm certain." Neville looks a bit ill, as if he's just realising what he'll need to confess to his employer—and mentor. "You won't keep me, will you?"

"It's just questioning," Harry says. That's mostly truthful. It depends on what Neville has to say. He stands up. "If you're not there, Nev, I'll send Aurors to find you. You don't want that."

"No." Neville runs a hand through his short, brown hair. "I'll be there, Harry. Word of a Gryffindor."

At one time, Harry would have believed that. He's just seen too many people's dark natures over the course of his career. He nods. "Right." He knows Neville can see his scepticism. He's not certain he cares right now.

Harry walks out of Neville's office, heart heavy. He doesn't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but he's fairly certain he's not going to like it.

***

Draco's alone in the murder room for the first time all day, pacing between desks. It's taken him until nearly half-four to rid himself of Pansy and Lee, finally sending them both off to the pub early with a promise to catch up. He won't, though. He just wants some space to think.

Longbottom's picture is on the board now, taken from his latest Apparition license. Draco's surprised at how fit he is even now, although he'd noticed during that horrible seventh year how broad and strong Longbottom's shoulders had become. Good thing, too, he thinks. Circe only knows how he'd have sliced the head off that damned snake otherwise. He shudders, remembering how terrified he'd been when he'd encountered Nagini slithering through the halls of the Manor. Yet more fodder for his nightmares tonight.

He stops in front of the board, his eyes sliding from connection to connection. Goldstein. Lila. Hannah. Longbottom. None of it makes sense. Even he's not entirely certain Longbottom will pan out. It's not that Gryffindors don't snap and suddenly murder their loved ones—he's worked a good seven or eight cases that would prove that point already in his career—it's just Longbottom. He'd always been so, well, Longbottomy. Draco honestly doesn't know any better way to put it.

People surprise you, though. There'd been Snape, hiding all those years under the Dark Lord's gaze. Draco's not certain that's actually a parallel, but he supposes it doesn't contradict the possibility of Longbottom going mental and bashing Hannah's head in. There's plenty of stone around Hogwarts, after all.

Still, the Sectumsempra doesn't seem like the man.

He bites his lip and groans. Why couldn't it be an open and shut case? Domestic fight gone bad; nasty husband tossed into Azkaban for the foreseeable future. He looks at Hannah's photograph. She smiles at him, a calm, easy curve of her full lips. She's neat and elegant, and in many ways she reminds him of Astoria—which surprises him, to be honest. Mainly because he hasn't thought that much about Storey since Potter arrived. He knows he should probably examine that fact, but he refuses to. That way madness lies.

"What were you up to?" he asks Hannah's picture. She just smiles again, caught in an endless, lifeless loop.

Draco turns as the door opens behind him. Potter comes in, his hair damp, his eyes slightly unfocussed.

"Have you been drinking?" Draco asks, surprised by how dishevelled Potter's hair and clothing are.

"No," Potter says, walking up to the board and frowning at it, then looking over at Draco. "Maybe a little."

"Circe," Draco says, and, annoyed, he goes to heat the kettle up. Potter pulls a chair out from behind a desk and straddles it, his chin resting on his folded hands. He stares up at the board.

"Neville's coming in tomorrow morning," he says. He sounds tired.

Draco watches steam curl from the kettle spout. "Do you think he's down for it?"

"I don't know." Potter twists in his chair, glancing back at Draco. "Milk in first."

"Not a Philistine here." Draco pulls the carton of milk from the small shelf beneath the sink where the cooling charms hold best. He pours a splash into two mugs, then adds the tea bags and the boiling water, watching the milk swirl into the tea. "What'd he have to say for himself?"

Potter's back to studying the murder board. "He was fucking her. Long-term-ish relationship. Lots of on-again, off-again."

"Oh." He's not surprised, except he is. Draco carries the tea mugs over. It's not a proper cuppa the way his mother had trained him to make, but it'll do for now. He hands one to Potter. "Hidden depths there."

"Yeah." Steam from the tea curls around Potter's glasses. "I went to a pub."

"Obviously." Draco sits beside Potter. "Whilst on duty."

That earns him an annoyed glare. "I didn't get pissed," Potter says into his mug. "Two pints. That's all. Jesus, you're such a tight-arsed tosser."

It's not that Draco cares. He just enjoys winding Potter up. He always has. He sighs. "The Broomsticks?"

Potter shakes his head. "Muggle. I needed to think." He sets his mug down and turns in chair to face Draco. "I don't know if I should be here."

"Potter, I was joking about the pints. I don't give a fuck if you can still stand."

"That's not what I mean." Potter huffs softly, then pushes a hand in his hair, the way he'd done so often in the years Draco had known him. It was his way of focussing, of grounding himself. Draco hadn't even realised he'd missed that—until now. "I'm not sure I should stay on this case. Not now with Neville…" He lets his hand drop. "I made you send Susan away."

For a moment, Draco almost agrees. It's his chance to be done with Potter, out from under the self-righteous twat's thumb. He stops himself before he can get the words out, and he looks away.

"What if it was him?" Potter asks.

Draco nearly slaps the tit. "So?"

"We were friends."

It takes everything Draco has not to roll his eyes. "You're an idiot."

"I'm trying to be honest here." Potter slumps in his chair.

"Bollocks," Draco says, and he takes a swallow of hot tea. It nearly burns the top of his mouth. He swears again. "You're just trying to fall on your Gryffindor sword, which might I point out is one of the more stupid things you've attempted in recent years."

Potter eyes him. He starts to open his mouth, but Draco cuts him off with a sharp tut.

"Are you seriously trying to tell me," Draco asks, "that you're willing to walk away from this case because you were once school chums with one of the suspects? Because if that's the case, half the Aurors in this building would have to turn in their warrant cards. You're being ridiculous, and you're just pissed enough not to realise it. Or maybe you do, and you think I'm a fool who'll agree with you."

Potter sighs. "Possibly the latter."

"If Longbottom did it—and I'm not entirely convinced he has it in him—then you'll deal with that." Draco watches the Neville on the board blink at him. "There's no easy way out of this one, not even the way that looks like self-sacrifice."

"I suppose not." Potter pushes himself out of the chair and walks over to the murder board. After a moment, Draco follows. "Why'd you take on this job anyway?" Potter asks.

Draco folds his arms across his chest. "Boredom."

Potter snorts and looks over at him. "Lee says you're trying to make peace with the past."

Lee needs to keep his sodding mouth shut, Draco thinks. "Why'd you stay with the force?" he asks, turning the tables. Potter could have had any job in the Ministry, including and up to Robard's, and they both know it.

Potter doesn't answer right away. "I didn't have anything better to do. You saw me at eighteen, nineteen. I was a mess. I thought fixing things once they were broken might save me."

"Did it?" Draco already knows the answer to that.

"I'm still trying to figure that out." Potter reads the board, peering at the new data from today.

Draco can feel Potter next to him, solid and strong. He always knows where Potter is in the room, he realises. Just as he had in training. That's what had made them so good at sparring—-and in their fledgling case work. They always knew how to anticipate each other's movements, could even sense each other blindfolded. It'd made the sex amazing as well.

"Potter," he says, turning at the same time Potter does. They're inches apart. Potter's breath ghosts against Draco's cheek as those deep green eyes catch his. His stomach clenches. He knows what Potter wants. He wants it too. Potter leans in, and Draco's pulse quickens. He can almost feel the press of Potter's lips on his, the heat of Potter's body against his chest. He licks his lips. This is such a mistake.

Draco pulls away, his heart thudding hollowly in his chest as his sense of self-preservation gets the upper hand. "You reek of beer," he says, more roughly than he intends. He's still breathing quickly and he prays that Potter doesn't reach for him again because he'll break this time.

"Yeah," Potter says, but he's still standing there, blinking at Draco. He shakes himself. "I should probably…" He trails off.

"Lee and Pansy are down the Hebridean," Draco says, stacking file jackets. He's talking too fast, he knows, probably putting files out of order too, but he can't help himself. "If you're interested in another pint."

"You buying?" Potter sounds calmer than Draco feels. But then that'd always been the case with them, hadn't it? Draco'd felt too much, pushed too far. Wanted more than Potter was willing to give. He'd wrecked himself on Potter, and the bastard had walked away whole. He can't do this again.

"Yeah." Draco can't look Potter in the eye right now. He pretends to go through the file in his hand.

Drinking in a pub is safer than this. He can't afford to think about Potter and his soft mouth and how close to being hard he is right now just at the thought of a single kiss. He doesn't want to be alone, doesn't want the temptation of wanking to the memory of Potter's warm breath, of that look of want in Potter's eyes and his own willingness to lay himself bare for it.

Potter steps back. Draco's hands are trembling as he sets the file jacket back on his desk.

"Ready?" Potter asks, heading for the hallway.

Draco knows he never will be.

Chapter Text

Tamlin Wynne is an attractive, dark-haired young solicitor with a lovely arse apparent through his closely tailored Italian robes. He breezes into the Auror office as if he owns it, walking with Longbottom firmly in his wake.

He barely looks at Draco to greet him, but after he shakes Potter's hand, he gives him a slow up and down. Potter looks more bemused than anything else. Draco wants to rip both their faces off.

"What are you doing here, Wynne?" Draco's never liked the man much, but today he despises him. This was supposed to be a simple questioning, sans legal counsel. Longbottom's just complicated things immensely. If he's guilty, they'll never get it out of him today. Not with Wynne about.

Longbottom looks apologetic. Almost. "Pomona suggested I bring Tamlin along."

"Aunt Pommy's always looking out for our Nev," Wynne says cheerfully, which only makes Draco hate him more. "So shall we sit down and have a bit of a friendly chat? DSI Potter?"

"You'll actually be speaking with me and DS Parkinson," Draco says with a tight smile, and Wynne's face falls. "We thought it might be better if the Gryffindors on our team take a back seat on this one."

Pansy waves from across the room. Wynne looks a bit more interested, the slag. Draco scowls. He really hates the legal profession at times.

"See you later, Nev," Potter says, and he hands Draco a file jacket, then walks back to the desks where Lee's pretending to write up a report. Draco'll be surprised if it lands on his desk this morning. Lee hates paperwork more than the rest of them. Usually he can convince Pansy to do it for him, but she'll be otherwise occupied shortly.

"Shall we?" He leads Longbottom and Wynne back towards the interview rooms. Pansy brings up the rear, her heels clicking on the wooden floor.

"Morning, Trask," Draco says to the constable on duty. He's leaning against the wall, tea mug in hand.

"DCI Malfoy." Trask raises his mug in greeting. He eyes Wynne with distaste. "Will you be wanting me in the room?"

"Not at the moment, but thanks." Draco opens the door to one of the interview rooms. "After you, Longbottom."

The room's cold. Normally Draco would complain and cast a warming charm or two. Today he doesn't really care. Pansy shuts the door behind them as Wynne ushers Longbottom to the uncomfortable chairs on one side of the table.

"I thought Harry'd be a part of this," Longbottom says as he sits down.

"Potter thought it best not to, given your relationship in school." Draco knows he's making it sound more salacious than it was. It's worth it, though, when he sees the flash of annoyance cross Longbottom's face. Draco's always done his best interviews with the suspect perturbed.

He flicks his wand at the recording device. "Interview with Neville Francis Longbottom, 8:19 in the morning, Friday, twenty-first of October, 2022. DCI Malfoy and DS Parkinson present, along with Tamlin Wynne, Mr Longbottom's legal counsel." He opens the file jacket in his hands.

"We would like to note for the record," Wynne says smoothly, "that Mr Longbottom has not been cautioned, nor has he been charged with any wrongdoing."

"Of course not." Draco tries to tamp down on his annoyance. The bastard's only doing his job, after all. He looks down at Potter's notes from yesterday. They're brief and slightly disjointed—not surprising since Potter'd handed them to Draco the moment he'd stalked into the murder room this morning at ten past seven. Evidently he'd woken up at four to prep them, which Draco finds impressive given the mood Potter'd been in down the pub last night.

Draco lets the silence build in the room. He flips the page of notes, pretending to study it. He knows it practically by heart now. There's not a lot. Pansy sits beside him, slouching in her chair just enough to let her red silk blouse gape open to show the edge of her black lacy bra. It's her usual procedure with men; Draco has to admit its effective in distracting them even if he's suggested its lack of feminism before. Pansy'd just flicked him on the forehead with purple polished fingernails and told him to shut up.

Both Longbottom and Wynne are trying not to look at her and failing.

"So." Draco closes the file jacket and leans back in his chair. "Let's talk about Hannah, shall we, Nev?"

"My client is willing to admit to a relationship with Mrs Goldstein, but nothing more," Wynne says. Longbottom looks nervous. That's a good sign.

"Shut it, Tamlin," Pansy drawls. "Let Neville speak for himself. He's a grown man."

Wynne exchanges an even look with Longbottom, and the latter nods. "Hannah and I were having an affair," Longbottom says. "Like I told Harry yesterday, it'd been going on for a while, off and on. We'd break it off—" He stops himself, then clears his throat, his hands twisting together. "Sorry. I promised myself I'd be honest about it all with you. She'd break it off from time to time."

"Which made you angry." Pansy leans forward. "Right?"

Longbottom looks at her. "I didn't like it, yeah. But I understood." He puts his elbows on the thick wooden tabletop, scored with years worth of scratches and graffiti done with fingernails and quill nubs. "I never thought Hannah would leave her husband, okay? She loved him, and she loved their girls. It's just she loved me too. We would agree to stop seeing one another, and then I'd get a message a few months later telling me to meet her somewhere, and I would." He rubs the side of his neck. "I'd tell myself I wasn't going to, but I'd end up there with her anyway."

"Having sex," Draco says bluntly.

Longbottom sighs. "It wasn't just that." Wynne touches Longbottom's arm, but Longbottom shakes his head. "I want to do this, Tamlin." He looks back at Draco. "It was sex, but it was more, as well. I loved her. She loved me. But it was complicated, and I was never going to ask her to walk away from Tony. Not even when they were having a row."

"Did that happen often?" Draco can't stop himself from asking. He knows Potter thinks he's mad for pursuing Goldstein, and maybe he's right, but still. He has to push.

"From time to time." Longbottom meets his eye. Draco knows he's telling the truth—or the truth as he knows it, at least. "All couples do, right? Comes with the territory of being close to another human being. I think it's more fucked-up when someone doesn't have a row every now and then with their partner."

Draco can't discount that. It's been his experience as well. "You met Hannah on Wednesday the twelfth. Take me through that. Did she send you an owl?"

Longbottom shifts and his chair squeaks. He's tall now, nearly as long as Draco himself. "No. We didn't use owls or firecalls. Too easy to trace or be walked in on." His lips twist in a bitter smile. "Things you learn in an eleven-year affair." He pulls out a Galleon and drops it on the table. The gold coin clanks dully as it flips over, and Draco realises it's a fake. "That's from the war. We both had one as part of Dumbledore's Army. Hermione Granger placed a Protean Charm on them. Ask Harry if you don't believe me. We used them to communicate times of our meetings. Hannah and I just tweaked the charm a bit. When we wanted to meet at the Hog's Head, the dragon on the back would turn to silver and the date would change."

"Complicated," Pansy says. "I thought you two had a standing date every Wednesday." She arches an eyebrow. "That's what Aberforth seems to think, at least."

"Not always." Longbottom flushes. "Sometimes one or the other of us couldn't get away. But in recent months, yeah. It's mostly been Wednesdays."

"And last Wednesday?" Draco asks.

Longbottom draws in a heavy breath. "Usually when we meet—" He stops and swallows. "Met. When we met, we'd confirm it by eleven so I could plan on skipping lunch in the Great Hall."

"Using the coins to confirm," Draco clarifies.

"Yeah." Longbottom glances over at Wynne, who nods at him. "Last week she was late with the confirmation. I only had a half hour to make it. I'll admit I was annoyed, but Hannah's usually not like that. So I met her a bit after one. We didn't have a lot of time." He hesitates, twisting his hands together, then he looks up at Draco. "She wasn't herself. Something was upsetting her."

Draco leans forward. "Such as?"

Longbottom scratches at the stubble on his cheek. He hadn't bothered with a shaving charm this morning, obviously. "She tried to break up with me. Said that Tony knew something was wrong and that she was frightened. But that was ridiculous, really. She'd been telling me for weeks that Tony was shagging someone at the Ministry, and she was happy with that. She didn't mind him having someone on the side because that meant he'd be distracted from us. I tried to talk to her about it, but she was so irrational that all I could do was…" He breaks off, looking away.

"What'd you do, Longbottom?" Draco's voice is quiet. He keeps his focus on Longbottom, ignoring the way Wynne presses his fingers against his client's forearm in a silent warning

"I kissed her," Longbottom says finally. "I just wanted to calm her down."

"Did it? Pansy asks. She sounds sceptical.

"Yes and no." Longbottom bites his lip. "We fucked. I'd like to say it was making love or some euphemism, but it wasn't. She hadn't been like that for a long time. Just...mad for it, really." His face is entirely pink. "When we were done I went to the loo, and when I came back she was just sitting on the edge of the bed, looking like she wanted to cry. I tried to talk to her, but she just told me to go. I didn't see her after that."

Longbottom breaks then, silently, his shoulders shaking as tears slip from his eyes. He looks away.

Draco just watches him for a long moment. He doesn't know what to think. The tears are effective, but he's seen murderers sit across from him before and sob in grief. It's nothing new. Longbottom's performance is one of the best he's come across, that's for certain, but he doesn't trust its veracity. He can't.

"I have to ask this," he says finally. "Did you rape her?"

"That's out of order—" Wynne starts to reply, but Longbottom cuts him off.

"God," Longbottom bursts out, and the look he turns on Draco is both horrified and scathing. "No. No. I didn't. I kissed her. She's the one who pulled me into bed." He lifts his chin. "I didn't kill her either."

Draco nods. "Okay." He lets his scepticism tinge his tone.

"I didn't," Longbottom says, leaning forward and ignoring Wynne's tug on his robe. "I loved her, Malfoy. I knew she would never leave him for me, but I loved her anyway. I'd never hurt her. Never."

That's what they all say, isn't it?

"We're done here," Wynne says. "My client's been more than helpful." Pansy snorts, and Wynne's mouth presses into a thin line, ruining his attractiveness, Draco thinks. "If you have any further questions, I'll thank you to direct your enquiry towards my office." He stands. "Now unless you're ready to caution Mr Longbottom?"

Draco shakes his head. They aren't, more's the pity. "I think it's safe to say we'll be wanting to speak to you again, Longbottom." He gives him an even look, then opens the file jacket in front of him and pulls out a photo of Hannah's mutilated body. He sets it in front of Longbottom, watching him flinch, and yet Longbottom doesn't turn away from it. "You want Hannah's murderer brought to justice, yes?"

Longbottom's pale now. Shaking. He nods, then his eyes flick away from the photo and back towards Wynne. "I'd really like to go, if I can."

"One last thing," Draco says. "Your wand. You bought a new one the Friday after Hannah died."

"I…" Longbottom looks at his solicitor again, his uneasiness apparent. Wynne himself seems surprised by this information. Draco would wager Longbottom hadn't mentioned it the previous evening. "I lost mine—"

"That's enough," Wynne says sharply, cutting Longbottom off.

Draco tries not to smile. If the solicitor is that concerned then there's something there to push on. "It's just interesting, isn't it? A lost wand, a dead lover who was killed by said lost wand, a new wand purchased immediately after, but in the same configuration as the old one. It's hard to let things go sometimes, isn't it, Nev?"

"Circumstantial." Wynne's cold. "You haven't anything solid, or you'd already have Professor Longbottom in a holding cell."

"Maybe," Draco says. The arsehole's right, but he doesn't mind Longbottom sweating it out a bit. However, he can tell he won't get anything more useful out of him today. "Interview terminated at 8:27." With a flick of his wand towards the recording device, Draco pushes back his chair and stands. He leaves the photo of Hannah on the table. "Just check in with Trask outside the door. Mr Wynne knows the procedure. We'll need fingerprints and a reading of your magical signature." He raises an eyebrow. "If you're willing to co-operate."

"Yeah." Longbottom pushes himself up. He's a bit unsteady, Draco notes. He looks back down at the photo and hesitates. He swallows. "She was wearing a necklace when I saw her that day. It was a family piece, from my mother. I gave it to Hannah just after Ruthie was born."

Draco's taken aback. "All right. Can you describe it?"

"It was a blue topaz in an angular cut with a fine gold chain. It's just…." Longbottom looks at the picture again, even though he obviously would rather not. "She's not wearing it there. So if Hannah was killed sometime after she saw me, what's happened to the necklace?" He turns and walks out of the room, Wynne on his heels.

Draco picks up the photograph and studies it. Hannah's broken body is lying beneath the thicket, and he can see the movement of shadows and the flash of a camera above her. Nowhere does he see the glint of a necklace. If Longbottom is telling the truth, this is a major inconsistency.

"Shit," he says, and Pansy peers over his shoulder at it.

They go through all of the scene photographs together. There's no necklace to be found.

***

Lee strides down the corridor, a takeaway box from the Canongate Oink clutched in one hand. He's been wanting a hog roast roll with sage and onion since yesterday, only Orla'd nixed that idea when he'd come home from the pub. Said the thought of it made her want to gag, so he'd promised her he'd have it at the office instead. At least Pansy's at the Healer and won't be about this afternoon to whinge about the smell.

He's nearly made it to the murder team door, when he hears his name being called. He turns around to see Susan hurrying towards him, an archive box of parchment in her arms.

"How's McMurty?" he asks.

Susan's slightly out of breath. "Well enough. Nowhere near as organised as the guv, though."

Lee makes a face. Draco's not the most meticulous of superior officers, so McMurty must be awful. "Sorry?"

"It's not that bad." Susan gives him a smile. She looks a bit better, he thinks. Not as shattered as she had been earlier in the week. "I'm mostly just sorting through files at the moment. Could be worse."

"Always." Lee doesn't know what to say. It's awkward in a way he'd never expected to be with Susan.

She seems to feel it as well. "I should probably…"

"Right." Lee's sandwich is starting to seep through the box. He switches hands and licks one finger. "I'll see you about, yeah?"

"Lee?"

He turns back around.

"Neville came in, didn't he?" she asks, clutching the archive box to her chest. "That's what everyone's saying. The guv must have seen what I marked—"

"Suse, you know I can't talk about the case with you now." He hates that fact, but there's nothing he can do about it. The murder room's closed off for a reason.

"Do you think he did it?" Her voice is rough and uneven. He can tell she needs this. And a part of him feels like she deserves to know.

Lee glances around. Sod it. The corridor's empty, but he's not taking any chances. He pulls her into a supplies closet and casts a Lumos, lighting up the shelves filled with envelopes and stationery with a bright white glow. There among the empty file jackets and extra quills, he breaks protocol and says, "Harry thinks he might have done."

Susan draws in a quick breath. "What does the guv say?"

"Nothing much yet," Lee admits. "Pansy thinks he's keeping his cards to his chest for now. He let Longbottom go, though. Bastard brought a solicitor along."

Susan's brow furrows. "Neville? With a solicitor? He must've thought he was likely to be cautioned."

"Yeah. That's what it looks like." Lee leans against a shelf filled with blank interoffice memos, all flattened and stacked together, waiting for the charm that wakes them. "Getting legal counsel this soon might indicate he's something to hide." He shakes his head. "Still. Neville, you know?"

"I do know. Why him?" Susan lowers her voice as they hear laughter from down the hall. He's forgotten that she doesn't know the whole story; she only knows about the wands.

Lee waits until the laughter fades. "He's the Hogsmeade lover."

"No." Susan looks ashen. "Hannah and Nev? I mean, they were always handsy but I thought it was for laughs."

"He's confirmed it under questioning. Years, it looks like."

Susan shakes her head slowly, and Lee has a profound sense of pity. It's bad enough to lose a mate, but to learn that your best mates haven't been straight with you? That's absolutely devastating, and Susan looks the part.

"You did not hear that from me," Lee says, touching her arm. "Yeah?"

Susan's knuckles are white as she clutches the archives box. She's washed out and tired in the flicker of his Lumos. "Lee, I've got to do something. This is awful!"

"No, you don't." Lee holds up his hand. The last thing they need is Suse running around bollocksing things up for them out of some desire for vigilante justice. "You need to do what the guv said and focus on McMurty's cases right now. As soon as this one's done, he'll bring you back in. You know that, right?"

She nods slowly, but he recognises the belligerent look on her face. He's seen it more times than he's comfortable with right now.

"I mean it, Suse."

"I know." She steps back. "I need to get these to McMurty soon."

Lee doesn't like the way she avoids looking at him. "Susan."

But she's gone, sliding out of the closet, with the barest of smiles and a thanks, Lee still hanging in the air.

Fuck. He thunks his head against the shelf behind him. If the guv finds out about this, he's going to be so bloody screwed.

***

Pansy's never liked going to the Healer much, particularly not one who specialises in the vague and generic realm of witches' health. The first time her mother had dragged her into her own Healer's office Pansy had been thirteen and home for Easter hols. Dear old Idgie had discovered a contraceptive potion in Pansy's bag, one Millie had brewed from one of the potions books in the Restricted Section on a whim. Pansy hadn't even had sex yet—that would happen the next year just after her fourteenth birthday on the floor of the DADA classroom with a flustered Terry Boot, who'd spend most of the time rutting against her, rather than in her. To say the loss of her virginity hadn't been the spectacular romantic moment she'd hoped for was an understatement. Still, it'd been better than her first trip to a cold and sterile room like this one, where she'd been instructed to strip, then spread her legs for a crotchety old wizard to prod about her fanny with the tip of his wand. Terry'd at least been able to get her off eventually. Healer Standthrope'd just hemmed and hawed and finally told her she was perfectly healthy, then sent her out of the room, most likely to inform her mother her hymen was still intact.

The next day her mother'd presented her with a book about sexual intimacy that implied masturbation would swell you up like a Stinging Hex—too late for her to believe that one, sorry—and that sex should be reserved for procreation between a pureblood wizard and his pureblood wife. Honestly, Pansy sometimes wonders how Idgie could have been shocked by her rebellious streak. Growing up with that shite practically guaranteed she'd run the opposite direction.

Healer Milligan sits back on her stool, bringing Pansy's legs back together. "Up you go," she says cheerfully, and Pansy sits up, her cotton robe bunching at her hips.

"Well? What's it like down there?"

The Healer dips her wand in a jar filled with blue sterilizing potion, swirling it around until the liquid turns a bright orange. She lifts it out and taps it against the edge before drying it on a clean, white cloth. It leaves behind a paler orange streak. "Not bad," she says. "You're right to come by; at your age, conception'll be more difficult, and it'll only proceed to get harder. But insemination's still an option." She sets the wand down. "You're wanting to do this on your own, then? No da in the picture?"

"No father, no." Pansy tugs the robe further down her thighs. It's bloody freezing in the examination room. "But I haven't made my mind up one way or another yet."

Milligan nods. "It's a difficult decision. Have you always wanted to be a mum?"

Pansy hesitates. "I didn't think so, but…"

Healer Milligan just looks at her, waiting.

"It's stupid, isn't it?" Pansy's laugh is sharp and bitter. "Wasn't thinking about it until my ex got married, and his new girl popped one out. And I couldn't help but think that might have been me, you know? Pathetic."

"Not really." Milligan turns in her chair, picking up a quill and Pansy's file. She scrawls something along the side of a parchment. Probably judgmental, Pansy thinks. Healers always are. "That's basically why I had my daughter."

Pansy's surprised. "Oh."

Milligan gives her a cheeky grin. "My girlfriend at the time thought I was mental, but she got over it. Now we're married with an eight-year-old." She eyes Pansy. "Be certain you really want an eight-year-old down the road."

That makes Pansy laugh. "I'll keep that in mind."

"Right, then." Milligan scrawls something else on a pad, then rips it off and hands it to Pansy. "That's the name of a Mind Healer," she says. "Not that I think you need one, but it's good to have someone who you can talk this through with. Especially someone who's not family." She makes a face. "Or friends. Sometimes they're worse, with all their opinions. Enough to make you want to hex in them in your sleep. Not that I'd ever advocate that." The grin comes back, dimpling Milligan's cheeks.

Pansy thinks she might actually like her, even if she's a Healer. First time for everything, she supposes. She folds the paper in her hand. "Tell me about it." She doesn't add that working with your childhood pash who also happens to be one of your closest friends and an occasional shag can drive you round the twist. "So I'm not entirely mental here?"

"Not in the least." Milligan stands up. "You have still have time for choices. It's up to you to decide which one's best for you." She squeezes Pansy's shoulder. "Clothes back on, and if you want to make another appointment, Gracie'll do that for you down the hall. Otherwise you can just firecall later."

When the door closes behind Milligan, Pansy slides out of her robe and reaches for her clothes, dressing slowly. Her mind's whirling. She still doesn't know what she wants, and she thinks she's more confused now. It'd have been so much easier if she'd come in and been told she didn't have a chance. She could have lived with that, she thinks, as she buttons her purple blouse and tucks it into the tight black cigarette trousers her mum had bought for her when they'd met up in Paris for her birthday. She frowns into the mirror that hangs on the back of the door and presses her palm against her flat stomach. Definite mark against getting up the duff: she'd have to give up not only these trousers but also a rather large chunk of her wardrobe, which doesn't bear thinking about.

She grabs her jacket and heads down the hall as she slips it on. She turns the corner, prepared to sidestep Gracie's desk, when she catches sight of the woman standing there, looking frightful, her dark curls caught back in an elastic at the nape of her neck. She's not wearing much makeup—certainly not the way she'd been in her photograph—but Pansy's been sitting in front that face for the past twenty-four hours, and her to-do list has had a note to track down Kirsty Lennox for the past few days. She's starting to wonder if a drop of Felix Felicis managed to find its way into her coffee this morning.

"Kirsty?" she asks, and the woman turns towards her, curiosity lighting her face. "Kirsty Lennox?"

"Yes?"

Pansy pulls her warrant card out of her pocket, watching as Kirsty's face falls. "DS Parkinson. Can we talk?"

Kirsty wants to say no, Pansy can tell, but her shoulders slump and she gives in. "Is this about Hannah?"

"A bit, yeah." Pansy slides her warrant card back into her pocket. "Buy you a tea?"

Kirsty just follows her out of the clinic.

There's a tea shop down the street; Pansy remembers it because she'd smelled the pastries when she'd Apparated in. The clinic's on the edge of Edinburgh's wizarding sector, and for once Pansy's relieved for the distance as they step into the tiny shop. There's no one here she recognises, thank Circe. She waves Kirsty to a table by the window and orders two teas, carrying them carefully across the small sitting area.

"Well done, you," she says, taking a seat across from Kirsty and pushing a tea towards the other woman. "Didn't pull a runner."

Kirsty gives her a faint smile. "Thought about it. Figured you'd just track me down."

"Probably." Pansy studies her. Kirsty's dressed in loose black trousers and a red cabled turtleneck that's seen better days. The dark circles under her eyes are pronounced, much more so than in her photograph back on the murder board. "You look tired."

"It's been a hell of a week." Kirsty cups her tea between her hands and blows on it. "Didn't expect to run into an Auror at my Healer's, though."

Pansy shrugs. "Edinburgh's a small world."

"Yeah." Kirsty takes a sip of tea. She stares out the window, the light warming her skin. Pansy's a bit jealous; even tired she looks better than Pansy does after a spa day. "So you want to know about Tony, I suppose."

"We know you've been shagging him," Pansy says. "He's already admitted that."

Kirsty sets her mug down. "He said."

Pansy stirs her tea and watches the milk swirl. The bell on the door jangles as an older gentleman comes in, his white hair sticking out beneath his wool cap. She looks back at Kirsty. "Are you preggers?"

Her bluntness seems to amuse Kirsty. She snorts, then turns her head back towards the window. "Not anymore." When she looks at Pansy again, her face is resigned. "Three-week checkup after the procedure," she explains. "To make sure nothing went wrong."

Pansy knows the drill. She'd had an abortion the year she turned thirty. The only person who knows about it is Millie, and she's never told a soul. A kid hadn't been right, not then. She'd already broken up with the father, and she'd still been on foot patrol, eager to push further in her career. She'd have been a shit mum at the time; she's fully aware of that. She leans her elbows on the table. "Your idea or his?"

"Both." Kirsty rubs at the bridge of her nose. "My mum's Spanish, and a Muggle and very Catholic. Dad said she nearly bricked it when he told her he was a wizard. Took him two weeks to get her to go out with him again. He wouldn't have cared a whit about me being up the duff, but she'd have been upset, what with Tony being married. She won't be happy with this either, but she won't have to know about it, will she?" There's a spark of defiance in Kirsty's tone. Pansy likes it.

"Not mine to tell," she says.

Kirsty watches her for a moment. "It just seemed the right thing to do all around. And then his wife turns up dead—" She swallows, hard. "Merlin's tits, I swore I'd stop with all the damp." Pansy hands her a paper napkin. She presses it against her eyes. "Sorry. Hormones. They're supposed to take a while to come back into balance." She takes a deep breath and settles back in her chair. The small gold drops hanging from her ears swing gently. "He didn't do her in, you know."

"Why not?" Pansy's intrigued.

"He was going to leave her, wasn't he?" At Pansy's raised eyebrow, Kristy shakes her head. "I'm not some delusional slag, Detective. I left Hogwarts with top marks. Six N.E.W.T.s, all of them Outstanding."

That doesn't mean you can't be hoodwinked by a man, Pansy thinks, but she knows better than to point that out. Now's not the time.

Kirsty huffs, annoyed. The serviette's crumpled in her hand now. "He'd made plans. Next summer, after Abigail was home from Hogwarts, he was going to tell them."

"He was going to leave his wife for you?"

"Not me, per se." Kirsty looks up at her. "I didn't know if I'd still be interested by then. He knew that. But he wasn't happy, and he thought maybe it was time, especially if he could move down to London. They were talking about it, you know. The Minister had spoken to him personally about whether he'd be interested in restructuring magical transportation from there. He's supposed to be unveiling a new proposal right now that'll revolutionise how we travel, so tell me, Detective, exactly how killing his wife would fit into that plan?"

The old man at the counter looks over at them. Pansy doubts Kirsty's aware of how her voice has risen. "So you don't think he did it."

"No." Kirsty's answer is swift. "And trust me, I've thought about it. I'm not a fool."

Pansy doesn't expect she is. "Tony's assistant thinks you were at his house on Monday morning."

"Ophelia?" Kirsty laughs, a bit bitterly. "She hates me. Always has. She's one of those women who sees another pretty face as competition. If you ask me, she was setting her cap at Tony as well before we started up again."

"She seems to have liked Hannah."

Kirsty twists her tea mug between her hands. "Everyone liked Hannah. Even me."

A woman passes by the window, a few colourful masks hanging from her hands. Pansy assumes they're for the Samhuinn Festival on the thirty-first—only a week away now. Even the wizarding population of Edinburgh's taken up the celebration: the Aurors are on full duty that night, walking through the crowds and fires thronging Royal Mile to make certain wizards and witches don't get too out of hand.

"Were you there on Monday?" she asks Kirsty.

The clank of dishes and murmur of voices from the other tables fills the space between them. "Tony needed me," Kirsty says simply. "Regardless of whether or not we're sleeping together, he's my friend. Wouldn't you do the same?"

Yeah. Pansy has to say she would.

Kirsty pushes her mug away. "I need to get back to the office," she says, even though Pansy's rather certain that's not where she's headed, given how rumpled she looks. "Are we done?"

"For now." Pansy watches as Kirsty gathers her bag. "You should probably expect another visit."

"I'm sure." Kirsty stands up. "Thanks for the tea." She leaves as quickly as she can, moving through the tables with the grace of someone who'd been a Quidditch star in school. Pansy's seen a few of those, hasn't she?

With a pang of regret, she wonders how Viktor's doing. Only Draco and Millie know the true story there, how Viktor'd proposed and Pansy'd turned him down flat, terrified that she'd end up like her parents, dull and boring and hating each other within five years of their wedding day. She'd wanted things to stay the same, just the two of them, bumping into each other when they'd made Sunday breakfasts in her tiny kitchen or lying curled against one another, her head resting on Viktor's broad shoulder as he read that morning's Prophet to her before she rolled out of his bed and dressed for work. He'd wanted more, and Pansy wasn't ready to give it to him, so he'd found someone else. She can't blame him for that. Even if she wants to.

Fuck, but she's becoming maudlin in her old age, Pansy thinks, pushing away her cold tea. She ought to go back to the office; she just doesn't want to. She wants to sit here, alone for as long as she can, and not think about Hannah Abbott-Goldstein and who might have done her in. Just for a little while.

She stands up with a sigh.

Chapter Text

There comes a point in every investigation where the team's too close to breaking. Too many hours staring blankly at a murder board. Too few leads. Too much emotion swirling about. Too little sleep. At that point, Draco's learnt, mostly the hard way, the only thing to do is to send the lot of them home to rest and eat and shower. Friday night had been the tipping point: Lee'd given Pansy a bollocking for not bringing Kirsty in for formal questioning, and she'd shouted right back at him, pointing out that he'd have done the same if she'd fallen into his lap. Potter'd just watched from the sidelines as Draco'd stepped between them both, pushing them apart and strongly suggesting that they get their sorry arses out of his murder room and not show their faces for at least a full day. He hadn't cared if they worked from home or on their own, but he needed a bloody break from them both.

Neither had been happy, but they knew the score. No pub, Friday night or not. The four of them had scattered, each going their own way. Draco'd picked up a curry and two bottles of Fuller's 1845 on the way home and had spent the whole evening sprawled on the sofa, listening to the WWN coverage of the Harpies match against the Wasps. To be honest, he'd needed the mental break. There's a limit to how much one can immerse oneself in the world of murder and violent death.

Still, he can't keep away from the murder room. He lasts most of Saturday, mainly by going for a run up through Cannongate into Holyrood Park and through its crags and valleys until he reaches the rocky, volcanic rise of Arthur's Seat. The view is spectacular, and he stops to rest and look out over the city before winding his way back down along the shores of Dunsapie Loch. Draco loves running, loves the burn in his lungs and the ache in his thighs as he pushes himself faster, farther. When he runs, he doesn't think; it's just the steady rhythm of his trainers slapping against the asphalt of the road. On the way home he stops for a jacket potato, heaped with cheese and onion, eating it as he walks down Cockburn Street, enjoying the sunlight that's breaking through the grey clouds. His mother would have had a fit if she had ever seen him eating in public. He feels a brief pang of loss, followed by a swell of happiness at his defiance of the rules he was raised to obey. He bins the bits of the tattie he can't finish and decides to Apparate home. A shower and two chapters of the new Matheas Vall novel later, he's sprawled in his favourite chair, bored out of his mind. A fictional corpse found by puffin researchers in the Faroes can't compare with the real body waiting for Draco to find its killer. Besides, it's obvious that the boat captain did it. He really does hate shit plots.

Also, no actual detective superintendent is that attractive. Not even Potter.

He pulls on jeans and a black jumper and Floos into the Edinburgh MLE building. Almost no one's around. This is Draco's favourite time to be in the office. He likes the solitude and the silence, the way his footsteps echo down the quiet halls. The spaciousness of the building when it is empty gives him more room to think.

When he pushes open the door to the murder room, the last person he expects to find there is Potter himself, his stockinged feet propped up on Draco's desk and a file jacket open on his lap.

"What the bloody hell are you doing here?" Draco demands, and Potter jumps, startled. A sheaf of papers slides from the file jacket, scattering across the floor.

"Fuck it." Potter leans down to pick them up. "I thought you weren't coming in today."

Draco pushes Potter's feet off his desk. "Bored."

"Me too." Potter closes the file jacket and sets it aside. "Not much to do in a hotel room."

The obvious doesn't need to be said, although Draco's mind's gone down a dangerous path there. "You might have gone home," Draco points out. One of the overhead lamps is flickering. He'll have to call building maintenance about that. It'll probably take another six months to be fixed.

Potter yawns and stretches. "Thought about it. Annabel's probably narked that I'm not back yet." At Draco's blank look he clarifies. "My Kneazle."

"I always pictured you more of a Crup fellow," Draco says, sitting at his desk. It's odd being civil to Potter again, like stretching a muscle tight from disuse. He's not certain he likes it.

"Too much work, all that walking," Potter says. "Besides, I'd always been cleaning up shit in my flat with all those late nights in the office. A Kneazle's much easier. Clean the litterbox once a day and throw down some kibble and water and you're set. Annabel doesn't even mind not seeing me much, as long as I let her sleep on my coverlet and don't forget the food. She gets a bit shirty then."

Draco snorts and props his chin on his fist, watching Potter as he flips through another file jacket. "Married to the job, are you?"

"Easier than the other." Potter pauses on a page, filled with Lee's scrawls. He holds it up. "Christ, I'd have thought his handwriting would have improved from school."

"You develop a talent for deciphering it after a while."

"I'd hope." Potter drops the parchment back into the file. "So, what about you? Crups, Kneazle, job marriage?"

Draco arranges the quills in the Pudd United water bottle sat on his desk. "Astoria took our Crup in the divorce."

"Oh," Potter says. "Rough luck, that."

"You could say." Draco can't seem to stop fiddling with office supplies. He starts in on the bowl of binder clips next, not even caring when they nip at his fingertips. "My divorce wasn't what one would call amicable, I'm afraid." He drops a particularly vicious clip back into the bowl before it clamps on his finger for good. "Evidently I'm not an easy person to live with."

Potter pushes the stack of file jackets away. "Shocking."

"I would have thought by the time we married she might have figured it out," Draco says dryly. "I don't really hide my difficult side."

That makes Potter laugh. Draco's forgotten how bright and warm Harry's genuine amusement sounds, how it brightens his face and wrinkles the corners of his eyes. He looks away, suddenly dazzled.

"I should work," he says.

"No, you shouldn't," Potter says affably. "You just can't think of anything else to do."

"I'm a bit annoyed about that necklace. It's not turned up anywhere, and if I didn't know Longbottom, I would think it was a red herring. But I do know Longbottom."

Potter nods slowly. "I can't quite imagine that detailed a side diversion, but you do never know."

They sit for a few moments in silence, Draco back to pretending that he's sorting his quills—Merlin, they don't look half shoddy, now that he's up close. His favorite one is wrecked. He draws a thumb over the white pheasant feather to test it. When he looks up, Potter is watching him.

"I'm more worried about the semen," Potter says. He's looking right at Draco.

Draco's stomach lurches. "Excuse me?"

Potter coughs and his face gains a bit more colour. "Er, in the diagnostics I mean. That's missing as well. Moira didn't list any other DNA or sign of sexual encounter in the report."

Draco turns the words over in his mind, reviewing the details and materials he's amassed. "You know, I think you're on to something there. If Longbottom's telling us the truth about the sexual encounter, and it was not a flattering account, so I'm inclined to accept it for the moment, where is his DNA? We should have found him much sooner via his genetic material and not just with a wand crosscheck."

"Condom?" Potter asks. "Even if they're not common in wizarding relationships, it's still possible they might have used one. We should definitely ask for further tests on Monday. Moira was looking for markings of sexual violence, not consensual sex. And perhaps explore the other ways that semen can disappear." At Draco's flabbergasted look, Potter shrugs. "Maybe it's been a while since you've been a gay club, but I still remember those particular spells."

Draco shrugs. "I haven't any personal experience with those spells and a vagina, but I do know what you mean."

"What works on an arse, works on a fanny," Potter points out. "Same magical theory." He cocks his head and eyes Draco. "You and your wife never used anything like that?"

"We were trying to conceive. For a while." Draco's breath is leaden in his lungs.

"Oh," is all Potter can say. He hesitates, then adds, "She must have taken it very hard. It's unfair how much social pressure is placed on women and their ability to conceive. Especially in the post-war years." There'd been a certain element of society intent on replenishing the wizarding population, especially purebloods who were always hungry for heirs; Draco disliked the lot of them.

Draco sighs and can't help closing his eyes, shielding himself from the look in Potter's eyes. He needs this distance to tell the truth. "It was me, actually. The Healers couldn't find any functional reason. They finally chalked it up to all of the exposure to forbidden and experimental spells during the War." Draco secretly suspects a curse put on him, either Voldemort or his mad aunt. He'd failed them, after all, and so had his drunken father. He wouldn't put it past them to find it just to force the Malfoy line to die with him. Astoria hadn't been able to accept it. She wouldn't even consider the possibility of other avenues of motherhood; she'd been raised within the stratosphere of highborn pureblood families who placed too damned much importance on the bloodline of their children. To be honest, though, it'd taken a Healer bluntly telling Draco he'd be childless for those scales to fall from his own eyes.

He knows his marriage had fallen apart for other reasons as well: his job, for one. Halfway into their marriage, Astoria had wanted him to move to a Ministry position that required him to work fewer hours and offered the opportunity to repolish the Malfoy name. He'd refused; they'd begun arguing. His inability to father a child had only been the proverbial straw on the Hippogriff's back. If the rows hadn't got worse, if they'd still been in love, he thinks she might have stayed. But Astoria had still been young enough—only thirty-six back then—and she'd heard far too many of her father's lectures on blood purity before and after the war. Daphne had died; she was the only Greengrass daughter left. So one evening he'd come home to a note propped on the kitchen counter beside a glass and a bottle of wine, telling him she was done. He'd drunk the wine, stayed up all night, and come into work the next morning hungover and heartbroken. He doesn't know what he'd have done without his team. They'd kept him afloat the next few months.

Astoria's remarried now, to some rich American wizard in New York, with two sprogs to match. Twins, even. Her father must be thrilled.

"Malfoy?" Potter says softly, and Draco blinks at him. "You all right?"

"Yeah, sorry." Draco pinches the bridge of his nose. He's starting to get a headache. "We should definitely have Moira check her readings for spellwork. And lets look into any possible spells someone having an affair might use to hide any signs of intercourse from their significant other."

Potter nods. "Put Lee on it. If anything like that exists, he can track it down."

"Orla'll be thrilled."

That makes Potter smile. Draco looks away quickly, a shiver of want going through him. He reaches for Pansy's brief writeup on her conversation with Kirsty. Might as well see if anything interesting popped up there.

"Feel like supper a bit later?" Potter asks after a moment. "My treat since I owe you something for barging into your investigation."

Draco glances up. Potter's eyeing him over the top of the file jacket, his dark hair wild and messy above the thick creamy paper. He surprises himself when he says, "All right" with enthusiasm. Even Potter looks a bit astonished before his eyes wrinkle into a smile.

"Good. Think about where you want to go." The file jacket goes up again, hiding Potter from view.

They fall into a companionable silence.

Draco's appalled by how much he likes it.

***

"This is mine," Malfoy says outside of a tall grey stone building in Dean Village. They've walked back down Princes Street from the restaurant, a twenty-minute stroll in a chill breeze that's left Malfoy's cheeks pink under the lamplight. After three whiskies and a haunch of Perthshire venison, he's relaxed and cheerful. It was worth every Galleon, Harry thinks. He'd enjoyed the dinner and the way Malfoy's reserve began to slip. It'd felt like old days, back when they'd go to the pub after a long day of training, then fall into one bed or another, unable to keep their hands off each other.

Well. Except for the latter. Christ, he wishes he hadn't thought about that part.

"I'll see you tomorrow, then," Harry says, and he steps back, his body tingling in ways with which he's not entirely comfortable. For a moment he thinks he's going to get away, but then Malfoy's hand closes over his arm, stopping him. Harry looks down at Malfoy's fingers on his tweed jacket, surprised, and Malfoy pulls back. Harry thinks Malfoy's cheeks might have flushed more.

"You could come in for a drink, if you want." Malfoy's already half up the steps leading to the heavy wooden door. "Up to you."

Harry's had enough whisky, that much he knows. But Malfoy's offering—something. Harry doesn't know what, but he's fluent enough in Malfoy-speak to know that if he refuses, it won't be on the table again.

"Why not?" He follows Malfoy into the hall. It smells like beeswax and dust, and if he closes his eyes, he could almost imagine himself in a Hogwarts hallway. He sees why Malfoy choose this building.

The flat itself is tiny, but when the lights snap on with a quick Lumos, Harry thinks it's charming. Antiques that are obviously from the Manor are mixed with a few pieces Harry's fairly certain might be from IKEA's wizarding catalog, and he wants to laugh at the thought of Malfoy barrelling through the Marketplace, wielding his trolley like a weapon. He realises then how much they've both changed. Malfoy's not the prickly tosser he'd once been, and Harry—well. Harry's lived most of his life in the bright glare of celebrity. It's made him wary of everyone, even his closest friends at times. As much as he loves Ron and Hermione, there are a few moments, usually whisky-fueled, when he wonders if even they'd have drifted apart years back if he hadn't been the Boy Who Lived. He generally comes to his senses soon enough.

Malfoy's already shrugging out of his jacket. "Wine, whisky or tea?" he asks. "If it makes a difference to you, I'm going for the whisky, myself, but I've all three. Might even have some Ribena that Blaise left in the refrigerator." Harry laughs at the last, and Malfoy looks resigned. "He basically has the food tastes of a Muggle six-year-old at times. I blame his profession. Journos are practically overgrown children, after all."

"I'll take the whisky, thanks." Harry frees one arm from his jacket, then the other, and drops it on the sofa. He sits beside it; the leather creaks beneath his thighs. The half-open curtains in front of the bay windows are an ivory linen, lit warmly by the lamps in front of them. "Nice place."

"It suits me." Malfoy conjures a fire in the hearth, then heads towards a bar cabinet in the corner. It's immense and heavily carved. Harry assumes it's been in the family for generations. Malfoy opens the upper doors and pulls out a bottle of Laphroaig and two cut crystal glasses. He sets them on the battered school trunk between the sofa and the armchair, pushing aside a stack of books and a glass bowl filled with some sort of decorative balls as he sits down in the chair.

Harry picks up one of the books. "You read Matheas Vall?"

"When I've nothing better to do." Malfoy pours two fingers of whisky in each glass then sets the bottle aside. "Cheers."

Harry clinks his glass against Malfoy's. "The boat captain did it."

"So I assumed." Malfoy sinks back in the enormous armchair. "But thank you for keeping me from the tedium of discovering that on my own."

"Thought I'd save you some valuable time." Harry takes a sip of the Laphroig. It nearly makes his eyes water. This is why he prefers Speyside to Islay. The peatiness is almost too much. Malfoy watches him in amusement.

"I did say I had wine."

Harry lifts the glass again and takes another sip. There's still a swampy taste to it, but its abating. Somewhat. "Wine's for ponces," he says with a smile. He can tell Malfoy remembers as well. It'd been his reply when Malfoy'd offered to buy the first round at the pub after finishing their first day as training partners.

"You always were a tit." The look Malfoy gives him is almost fond.

"I've mellowed a bit," Harry says. "Might even have a couple of bottles of merlot hanging about the flat back home."

Malfoy shakes his head. "You really do need some wine instruction. You're a terrible queer. We're supposed to have that sort of taste inborn."

"Blame it on the occasional flashes of heterosexuality in my life." Harry settles into the corner of the sofa. "And you should talk. You were married for a whole decade."

"Touché." Malfoy lifts his glass in salute. "How ironic is it that I'm straighter than the Chosen One gracing the pages of Witch Weekly. Which witch will you choose in the end, O Confirmed Bachelor?"

Harry grins. "Probably none of the ones they suggest, lovely as they are."

"Last I heard they were trying to put you back with my cousin. What were they calling the both of you? Haruna?" Malfoy shudders. "I weep for the children."

"Rolf thought it was funny, given it was published on their eighth anniversary." Harry crosses his ankle over one knee, resting his whisky on his thigh. He runs a thumb over the rim of his glass. "What do you think they would have called us if they'd known we were together? Harco? Palfoy?"

Malfoy's hand shakes slightly as he lifts his whisky to his mouth. "More like poofs, perhaps. Or benders? Pillow biters. Arse bandits. Should I go on? God forbid they have to encounter the mind-boggling paradox of bisexuality, poor bastards." He tilts his head and the light from the lamp beside him shines on his hair. "We weren't exactly shagging during a pro-gay moment in wizarding history, or have you forgotten?"

Harry hasn't. There are many things about his and Malfoy's fling—for lack of a better term—that Harry hasn't forgotten. Like the way Malfoy licks his bottom lip when he's nervous. And how intoxicating he is to kiss.

The street lamps glow through the bay window, small flickers of light against the dark shadows of the buildings. Harry knows he's entering dangerous territory here. Malfoy's skittish, wary. And with good reason. Harry'd been a tit all those years ago. He knows that. But in his defence, he was, at the time, still struggling with the grief and trauma of the war, and he'd been bloody nineteen, for Christ's sake. He'd lost people that he'd considered family; what innocence he might have had was shattered, never to be rebuilt. All he had wanted was to fight and fuck, and Malfoy had given him the opportunity for both with few questions asked.

The last thing he'd expected was for Malfoy to fall in love with him. It hadn't been what he'd wanted, and when Malfoy had said those words, in the afterglow of sex, he'd been utterly terrified. He hadn't wanted anyone to love him at that point. He'd even pushed Ron and Hermione away. He'd hated who he was, what the war had forced him to become. It wasn't safe to love, especially not Malfoy, who'd got too deep under Harry's skin already with his caustic public edginess and astonishing openness in private.

In a way, Harry still hates the man he's become. Only now he's old enough to live with it.

"I never meant to hurt you, you know," Harry says after a moment. "Back then."

Malfoy shrugs a shoulder. "Water under the bridge, Potter."

It's not, and Harry knows it.

There's a swoop of headlights from a Muggle car as it rumbles up the street. Malfoy stands and walks over to the antique wireless sitting by the bar. He charms it on and a single from Myron Wagtail's latest solo album booms from the speakers. Malfoy lowers the volume with a wince.

"Pity he left the Weird Sisters," he says, returning to his chair and picking up the bottle of Laphroaig. "The band never really recovered, did they?" He holds the bottle towards Harry. "More?"

"I like the new bloke." Harry finishes his whisky and holds his glass out for Malfoy to refill, then leans back into the sofa. "But they're not what we knew, no." He pauses, watching Malfoy as he splashes another few fingers of whisky into his own glass. "I've heard good things about you, you know. Down in London."

Malfoy snorts and downs a swallow. "I rather doubt that."

"Your solve rate's high," Harry says. It's true. There are detectives beneath him who envy the number of cases Malfoy's managed to close.

"That's not what matters." Malfoy sets his glass on the trunk. "Nearly twenty-five years later and I still haven't lived down my adolescence. Or my family." The gilt DLM on the side of the trunk is faded and worn, but still visible. Harry can feel the trunk's heavy presence between them, almost as if it's a visible reminder of how separated they were not only during school but also by the war. Malfoy gives Harry a tight, bitter smile. "Never fear, Potter. I've become accustomed to my fate."

Harry knows he's right. There will always be people for whom the Malfoy name will hold echoes of betrayal, prejudice, and treason. He's not one of them. "You're not your father."

"But aren't we all?" Malfoy meets Harry's gaze evenly. "I'm still a product of Lucius's parenting. I buried the bastard years ago, and I still find his poison seeping into my thoughts. I go out among Muggles, Potter, because I still don't like them. Because my father taught me to fear them and hate them. And every time I find myself thinking that, I make myself walk into their shops, past their houses and parks, so that I can remind myself that my father was wrong. That the only thing that separates me from them is a spark of magic that Fate could bestow upon on any of them, just for a whim." He looks away. "I spend every day trying not to be the boy I was. Trying not to loathe Gryffindors and find Hufflepuffs tedious. Why do you think Lee and Susan are on my team? I might have surrounded myself with Ravenclaws and Slytherins instead. Circe knows members of those houses are all around me every time I walk in that building. But I won't be Lucius. So I gave my team a chance to prove me wrong, and they did." He reaches for his whisky. "And I'm glad."

"You've changed," Harry says quietly.

"I had to. Change or die. What else is there?"

Harry watches Malfoy for a long moment, then he stands, walking over to the window and looking out onto the street. A couple walks down the pavement, laughing and leaning into one another, and Harry feels an odd pang of regret. He doesn't really long for that, not any more. He's comfortable with his platonic friendships and his casual sex in clubs and parties. It works for him; it always has. So why is it that he feels as if Malfoy's undoing him? Spiralling something out that Harry's hidden away, something he's convinced that he no longer needs, making him want again?

He draws the curtains closed, blocking the couple out.

"Potter," Malfoy says, voice raspy and yet somehow gentle.

Harry turns and looks at him, slouching there in the leather chair, his knees spread and his hips canted forward. Malfoy's usually perfect hair is rumpled, slightly windblown, and Harry's never thought receding hairlines could be sexy until now.

He moves then, his feet barely making a sound on the plush rug, and somehow he's between Malfoy's knees, sinking to the floor between them. Malfoy's eyelashes flutter slightly, belying his calm.

"What are you doing?" Malfoy asks, but Harry's hands are already on the buttons of Malfoy's shirt.

"I want to see," Harry says, his courage fueled by wine and venison and the earthy aftertaste of the whisky still lingering in his mouth. "You never let me see before."

Malfoy stiffens, then holds still, barely breathing as Harry pushes his shirt open. The scars are laid bare, smooth and white in places against Malfoy's pale skin, pink and ropy in others. They criss cross one another, but they spiral from a central wound just below Malfoy's left nipple. Harry touches the thickened, puckered skin there gently, and he hears Malfoy hiss.

"Does it still hurt?" Harry asks.

Malfoy's silent, then he says, "Sometimes. Not as often now."

Harry lets his fingertip trace one of the longer scars over Malfoy's chest, up over his clavicle and onto his throat where it disappears, fading into his skin. "Has anyone ever seen these?"

"Astoria," Malfoy says. He hesitates. "She didn't like them. Thought they marred me."

They do. No one could think the web of scars beautiful. They're a reminder of pain and cruelty and a child's foolish hate. Harry lets his finger trail down another scar, this one a ragged jag across Malfoy's flat, muscular belly. It ends beneath the waistband of his trousers, just above his zip.

Malfoy catches Harry's hand. "Don't," he says, but he's breathy and his scars stand out in the flush that's spreading across his skin.

Harry nudges Malfoy's knees wider, moves closer between them. Malfoy's hand settles on Harry's shoulder, and Harry thinks he's going to push him away. Malfoy doesn't.

Another scar is beneath Harry's fingertip, slick and smooth and warm. Harry's stomach shivers and flips as he realises this is his mark on Malfoy. "Do you think of me?" he asks softly. "When you see this?"

He thinks Malfoy's not going to answer, and then he hears a quiet yes above him. Harry looks up. Malfoy's eyes are dark and bright, his cheeks pink. Harry knows if he flattened his hand on the placket of Malfoy's trousers, he'd feel him swollen and hot. Malfoy swallows. "Every day," Malfoy whispers, as if the admission costs him the world.

It's almost too much for Harry, the nakedness of this truth, the thought of Malfoy thinking of him every day, the weight of his shame. His cock's heavy and hard, pushing against his trousers, dampening the cotton of his y-fronts. He leans in and presses his mouth to the centre of Malfoy's scar, nearly shuddering at Malfoy's ragged moan. His tongue flicks against Malfoy's skin, dragging across it until his lips hit the flannel of Malfoy's trousers.

"No," Malfoy says. His fingers tangle in Harry's hair, pulling him up. "We can't."

Harry wants Malfoy, wants him to keep pulling his hair, wants to go further down this slippery slope with him and see where they hit bottom. He stops instead, open-mouthed and near panting. "Why?"

"You know why." Malfoy sits up, and Harry can see the swell of his cock against his trousers. He looks perfectly in command, despite his flushed skin and the shirt hanging off his shoulders. It makes Harry shudder with want. "You won't want this in the morning."

Harry will. He knows that, even if Malfoy doesn't. The thought sobers him. He's never wanted anyone past a few hours at most.

But he's wanted Draco Malfoy for so long he feels like he's etched into his bones.

He pulls away, reluctantly, his eyes fixed on Malfoy's scars. He would like to touch them again, to press his lips against them as Malfoy pushes into his arse, hips pinning him to the mattress.

"You should go," Malfoy says, and he's standing, pulling Harry to his feet. "You can use my Floo."

"Right." Harry knows he's acting a fool. Malfoy doesn't want him, whatever his prick might think. It's for the best, he knows. He's so close to cocking everything up right now, he doesn't know what's come over him. They're in the middle of an case, for Christ's sake, and he's technically Malfoy's superior. The last thing he wants is to be called into Dawlish's office on an ethics violation. He looks at Malfoy. "I can Apparate."

Malfoy seems sceptical. "I rather doubt that." He runs a hand through his fine blond hair and sighs. "Floo to your hotel, Potter." He leads him through an arched doorway and into a tiny kitchen. There's a small hearth on the back wall, magical embers burning in the ashes. "This one's less dodgy than the sitting room," he says, "but mind you don't knock your head on the chimneypiece."

There are photos on the mantel, ones of Malfoy and his mates in their twenties and thirties. Harry catches a glimpse of Astoria Greengrass in one of them, leaning in to kiss Malfoy on the cheek. They look happy in the photograph, he thinks, as Astoria flashes a bright smile towards the camera. The photo-Malfoy watches her, obviously besotted.

"Here." Malfoy's hand pushes past him, reaching for an unusually fine, round alabaster box in the middle of the mantel. He opens it, and Floo powder sparkles silvery against the creamy sides. Harry takes a pinch.

"The thing is," Harry says, looking back at Malfoy, "I'll still want you in the morning. And the morning after that. And the morning after that." He wants to touch Malfoy, to reach for his hand. He doesn't. "But you're right. We can't."

Malfoy looks away, his lip caught between his teeth. "Go," he says. "Please."

Harry throws the powder in the Floo. "Good night, Malfoy," he says, stepping into the green flames.

He doesn't look back. He speaks the name of his hotel and is gone.

***

Monday's a shite day, and no one can convince Pansy otherwise. There were no knickers left in her drawer, so she's had to spell an old pair clean with half-arsed scrubbing charm. She breaks the buckle on her posh new coat by getting it caught on a door handle as she's leaving and the Reparo leaves a warp in the plastic. There's nothing fit for breakfast in her flat, her favorite café is entirely out of decent pastries, and the barista put hazelnut syrup into her flat white by mistake. Pansy stalks the rest of the way to the office, only to realise halfway there that she's wearing chocolate boots with black trousers. When Trask tries to greet her in the hallway, she quells him with a look, and he holds up his hands and steps back. And then there's the Prophet article. Today's going to be brill. Really.

Slamming her disgustingly sweet coffee on her desk, she bins whatever the hell that sweet bun was that she'd selected from the display. After thinking for a moment, she bins three pounds worth of coffee as well. There's always tea, she thinks, and that'll hold her until she can pop out for a mid-morning bite.

All of this is small beer, however, compared to the look on Draco's face when he comes in. Pans has no idea what happened—they were all supposed to take the weekend off, after all—but Draco does not look rested and he brings a thundercloud into the room with him. When she tries to say hello, he glares at her and stalks off, throwing himself into a full sulk in the corner. A few minutes later Potter comes in and greets them casually—too casually—and sits without saying anything more. When she looks over to Draco, he's got his head turned in the opposite direction so his eyes can't possibly intersect with Potter's. Pansy shakes her head. This doesn't bode well.

Lee walks in and immediately cottons on to the dynamic between Potter and Draco. He comes over to Pans, asking her without really saying anything, "What's going on?" They've learnt to speak eyebrow, if only out of self-defence with Draco as their guv. Pans answers with a quirk of her own eyebrow that suggests, "Fuck if I know." Lee nods then and telegraphs, "Nothing to do but wait" with both eyebrows raised high and a shrug. Pans nods to acknowledge this sentiment, and Lee goes back to his desk. Not a word has been exchanged. Draco turns at one point and scowls at them, but he's missed too much of the exchange to decipher it.

After another ten minutes, Lee clears his throat and his voice sounds impossibly loud in the too-quiet room. "Are we not going to talk about the Prophet, then?"

Both Draco and Potter look up, surprised. "What are you on about?" Draco asks, and Pansy's floored. It's the first time in any case she's been on that the guv hadn't been two steps ahead of them all.

"The article?" she says. She and Lee exchange another look, and Draco glowers at them both.

"Stop that." Draco looks like an irritated Hogwarts prof with misbehaving first years, only a bit pointier than most.

"Stop what?" Lee asks, with another raised eyebrow at Pansy. Draco huffs, but before he can start in again, Lee pulls out a copy of the morning's Prophet and tosses it onto Draco's desk. Potter approaches warily, rather like a scalded Kneazle, Pansy thinks.

The bold headline reads Under-Cover Lover: New Suspect in Goldstein Murder. Beneath it, Longbottom blinks into the flash of a camera, ferns furling and unfurling in the background behind him. The photog appears to have snuck into a Hogwarts greenhouse. The article is not only above the fold, it's also lengthy. To crown it all, Blaise's name appears on the byline.

Draco's sharp intake of breath surprises Pansy. "I thought he must've spoken with you," she says in a low voice.

"No." Draco's voice is too crisp. He's squinting in cold fury now, and the tension in the room ratchets up.

Potter picks up the paper gingerly, as if Longbottom might bite him. "Did one of you leak this?"

"Jesus fuck, Potter." Draco rounds on him, rage spilling out in a wave. He pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Do you have to be so fucking pompous all the time or is twatfaced moron just your natural setting? Of course we didn't fucking leak it, you fucking inflatable cock—it's our own bloody fucking case."

Draco is right in Potter's face, finger jabbing the air near Potter's shoulder. Pans worries he's going to deck Potter. Not that the interfering bastard doesn't deserve it, but still, it would look messy in the reports to London.

Potter doesn't back down. Pansy has to give it to the man—he's no common sense. Draco's occasional outbursts of profanity can sometimes leave even hardened Aurors cowering in the corners or crying in the loo. Potter barely blinks as he drops the newspaper on the desk again.

"Are you done?" he asks, and for a moment Pansy imagines Draco might actually pick up his mug of quills and throw it at the arsehole, but instead he just sits down with a thump of arse against fake leather.

"We'll be hearing from Twatlin Wynne soon," Draco says, staring at Longbottom's face. "That'll be marvellous."

Potter ignores him. He looks over at Lee and Pansy. "Did either of you leak this?" he asks again, the picture of calm.

Lee shakes his head. Potter's gaze flicks to Pansy. "Do you think I'm mad?" she asks bluntly. "Draco'd have my guts for garters. Not to mention, it'd be unbelievably stupid to leak a case you've any hope of solving."

Potter nods. "All right then." He sits back down. "Zabini got it somewhere else. Probably in this building."

"I'll talk to him." Draco sounds ominous. Pansy watches as Draco scrawls a note in thick, vicious quill strokes, then, with a flick of his wand, sends it zooming out of the room and towards the owlery upstairs. She wouldn't want to be in Blaise's shoes when that owl arrives at the window of his hotel room.

Lee leans forward, elbows on his desk. "I found something over the weekend that's a bit odd as well."

"You weren't supposed to be working," Pansy points out, and Lee shrugs.

"Gave me something to do when Orla was sleeping." He pulls a sheaf of papers from his satchel. "Still working on those adultery-hiding spells, guv, but I finally had a chance to go through the family Gringotts accounts." He looks between Draco and Pansy. "I know neither of you two like that sort of work, so I figured I'd have a go at it."

He's right, Pansy has to admit. It's standard procedure to take at least a quick look at the victim's financial records, just in case there's a motive for murder hidden away there. Pansy can barely keep track of her own Gringotts vault, much less unwind the complexities of other people's, so she's usually fine with Lee doing that sort of poking around.

"What'd you find?" Draco asks. He's still radiating fury, his words clipped and tight.

"Some rather large chunks of money going into Hannah's personal account, then out right away." Lee hands him a piece of parchment with several numbers circled in red ink. Potter looks over Draco's shoulder, and Draco steps away, putting a bit more space between them, his cheeks flushing slightly. Pansy's eyes narrow at him, but he ignores her.

Potter takes the parchment out of Draco's hand. "Money laundering?"

"Doesn't seem likely," Draco says. "Not with Hannah."

"You never know." Potter hands him back the parchment. "They're all coming from the same entity."

"M. Renaldi." Draco looks over at him. "Was she blackmailing someone?"

"Don't know," Lee says. "Same amounts, always a day or two apart. A transfer from the Renaldi Gringotts account, then cash out."

"What's the likelihood of Gringotts giving us information on that account?" Draco asks Potter, but they all know the answer even as Potter's shaking his head.

"Not without a Wizengamot order, and that'll be hard to get on just this evidence."

They all sit in silence.

Potter breaks it with a sigh. "Good work, Lee. We'll figure out where it'll lead us."

As Draco walks up to the murder board, attaching the Gringotts statement with a removable sticking charm, Pansy wonders if Hannah's murderer might just get away with it. It makes her want to shatter the windows around them.

Her gaze falls on Neville Longbottom's face in the Prophet, his eyes blinking over and over again.

Or, she thinks, maybe he won't.

***

As predicted, Neville's solicitor shows up shortly after lunch with a furious-kitten look on his handsome face. He oozes over to Potter, and Draco stands up and grabs his jacket. It's only half an hour until he's to meet Blaise in East Princes Street Gardens, and the walk will clear his head. Besides, he thinks, Potter deserves dealing with Wynne, all things considered. Pans had given him the stinkeye when he left, but he couldn't bring her with—he's going to have trouble enough keeping his own temper. Pans would likely rip Blaise's lungs out. She has a very medieval notion of loyalty.

It's brisk outside, and Draco walks quickly through the cobblestoned streets of Old Town. He's relieved to be away from the office, if he's honest. He's still a bit thrown by Potter's actions on Saturday night, and he doesn't know what to think about any of it. He's done his best not to think for the past thirty-six hours, failing miserably most of the time. He can still feel Potter kneeling between his thighs, his breath featherlight on Draco's bare skin. It's enough to cause a bloody vicar to pull his prick off, really, and Draco's nowhere near as virtuous. The first time he'd wanked—moments after he'd watched Potter disappear into the Floo, ripping his flies open the moment the green fire had subsided and leaning against the kitchen worktop—he'd come in under a minute. The climax was like being hit by a Stunning spell. It'd been two further times that night and three more on Sunday.

Now, here, on the familiar cobbled streets, brisk air and not being around Potter is helping him clear his head. He stops to buy a currywurst from a street vendor on South Bridge, before heading towards Market Street and the Waverly train station. The sausage roll warms his hands as he eats, and by the time he's perched on a bench in the Gardens, the breeze rumpling his hair, he's down to just chips and some leftover curry sauce.

"That's foul," Blaise says as he sits beside him, Wellington coffee cup in hand.

Draco drags a chip through a thick splotch of curry on the paper plate and pops it in his mouth. "You're a shit," he says.

"Seen the paper then." Blaise has the grace to look apologetic. "Look, I tried to firecall this weekend, but you were out."

"And you've never heard of owl post?" Draco sets his empty plate between them and wipes his hands on the paper napkin he'd been given. He looks at Blaise, mouth tight. "You fucked us over with this one."

Blaise looks out over the swathe of still-green grass towards the statue of David Livingstone. "I have a job to do, Draco."

"So do I!" Draco clenches his fists between his knees. "Don't talk to me about journalistic integrity. All you lot care about it selling papers—"

"Like you're doing a bang-up job of finding Hannah's killer?" Blaise glances at him. "Do you even have anything to pin on Goldstein or Longbottom right now, Draco? Anything that CWPS could actually use to win a conviction?"

Draco's shoulders tighten, and he can feel the furrow in his brow deepening. He's out of sorts, and it's not just Blaise's ridiculous article. The whole case is coming down around him, and he doesn't know why. Nothing's connecting, nothing's making sense. He's never had a case that's failed to slot together the way Hannah's has. He doesn't want this one to end up on his unsolved pile. He'd promised her better. He wants to punch something. Or someone.

Blaise sighs and rests a hand on Draco's back. "You're doing the best you can."

"Yeah," Draco says. He stares out in front of him. It's not true. He's barely hanging on right now. The case is getting to him, and then there's Potter. He rubs his hands over his face, then leans back. Blaise's hand slips away. "Where'd you get your information?"

"Anonymous tip." Blaise crosses one leg over the other. His trousers are new and perfectly pressed Italian wool, too well cut for Blaise to have paid for himself on his Prophet salary. His mother must be back in town. He reaches into a pocket and pulls out a folded slip of paper. "Floo coordinates. I tracked it down."

Draco takes the paper and unfolds it. His eyes widen. "Edinburgh MLE building."

Blaise nods, not looking at him. "Did a bit more digging yesterday evening and found out that they originate from your Bradford's office. Or more specifically his antechamber."

Natalie. Draco feels ill. He'd always liked her. Almost trusted her, even. "You're certain?"

"Positive." Blaise takes a sip of his coffee. "And since I fucked you over this morning, I've come with a peace offering. A little titbit, if you will, although I've no idea how useful it might be."

Draco watches him, uncertain. "What?"

"In the course of my enquiry," Blaise says, and he knows how much that particular phrasing gets on Draco's tits, "I've uncovered an interesting little social club that some of our illustrious leaders, political and otherwise, are involved in. They call it Fiendfyre—ever so original—and they're very naughty little witches and wizards in it. Lots of drinks, lots of cards, lots of backroom dealing, all in the midst of some very interesting sexual gatherings. Kinky sods." He snorts. "Or playing at being, I'd suspect. You'd have to go a generation back from ours to find the truly disturbing orgies, but I'd wager you'd know more about that than I do."

He's not entirely wrong. Draco's never told anyone all of what he'd seen at the Manor that last year of the Dark Lord's power, but Blaise knows enough to be certain that there'd be very little of a sexual nature that would truly shock Draco. His Uncle Rodolphus had been a wicked old bastard. His parents had tried to hide him from it as much as possible, but Draco still known. He still has nightmares about the night Uncle Roddy'd brought Fenrir into his room, both of them reeking of his father's best brandy. He doesn't know what he'd have done if Severus hadn't followed them down the hall, interrupting the werewolf before he could touch Draco and sending him and Rodolphus out of the room with a furious whisper while Draco'd laid there pretending to be asleep. He shudders at the memory.

"So how does this tie into Hannah's case?" Draco asks after a moment. His heart still thuds an erratic staccato against his chest.

Blaise just looks at him. "I assume you've seen the Gringotts accounts by now since they were delivered last Friday." Draco doesn't ask how Blaise knows, or how he's access to the records as well. Blaise is a bloody good journo with a network of sources that are utterly loyal to him. Instead, he nods. It's useless to deny it. "M. Renaldi ring any bells?

"Yes," Draco admits warily. He takes a package of fags from his jacket. "Do you mind?" At Blaise's shrug, Draco taps a cigarette out onto his hand and lights it up. He inhales deeply, letting the nicotine calm him, then breathes the smoke out with a soft huff. "You know who it is?"

"Mistress Renaldi," Blaise says. He takes a sip of his coffee. "The nom de cravache, if you will, for a professional domme."

Draco taps ash off the end of his fag. "What the hell would Hannah be—" He breaks off, remembering he's talking to Blaise, not Pansy or Lee. Or Potter, his mind whispers, but he does his best to ignore himself.

"Exactly my question." Blaise smiles as a dark-haired Muggle woman passes by, her eyes drawn to his long and lean form. He glances over at Draco. "Did my best to track Renaldi down. Not a clue as to her non-professional identity, but I did discover she's growing in popularity among a certain portion of Britain's wizarding elite. Terribly difficult to get an appointment with her—I tried—but from what I hear underground, there's a very good chance she'll be at Fiendfyre's next do, which happens to be this week."

"And you can't get into it yourself?" Draco asks, voice dry. He knows Blaise very well.

Blaise raises one shoulder. "Alas, even my well-placed sources aren't willing to smuggle a member of my profession in. There are privacy charms and such, it seems. So I thought you might be interested. If you're wanting to track down Renaldi." He looks at Draco. "Which of course you are, yes?"

"What do you get from this?" There's always a tat for Blaise's tit.

"Talk Potter into sitting down with me. On record." Blaise's dark eyes gleam with greed. Everyone knows Potter avoids the press as much as possible, rarely giving official interviews.

Draco snorts and takes another drag off his fag. "Fine." Potter'll refuse, Draco's certain. He doesn't care one way or the other, to be honest. "So how do I get into this mysterious club?"

"Same anonymous minx who sent me Longbottom's information," Blaise says easily as he stands. He laughs at Draco's scowl and bins his empty cup. "Your lovely Natalie has hidden depths, Demmy." Draco hates that childhood nickname Blaise'd constructed during their primary school days from his initials, and Blaise knows it. "Must dash. Actual enquiry tasks to tackle, unlike yourself."

"Fuck off," Draco says.

But Blaise is gone, with a quick swirl of his black coat and the soft pop of Disapparition.

Draco swears. He ought to bring the bastard in on improper Apparition charges, but he won't. Blaise knows him too damned well.

He sinks back down on the bench, watching as two young Muggle schoolboys in blue wool uniforms kick a footie ball along the green, their satchels bouncing against their hips. He pulls the packet of fags out of his pocket and lights another one, inhaling deeply before breathing out. The breeze blows the smoke away from him.

Nothing is ever what it seems. He remembers Severus telling him that late in his seventh year, when the winds of war were howling not only outside the castle but inside as well. He'd been terrified, unable to sleep, certain that he or someone he loved would be killed at any second. The whole world had felt hopeless, and he was sat in Severus's office, scared witless to admit to his headmaster that he feared the Dark Lord, that he didn't want to live his life under that madman's rule.

He'd expected a Cruciatus at best. Instead Severus had knelt beside him, his hand over Draco's and said those words. Nothing is ever what it seems.

There's something he's overlooking, some crucial clue he's yet to uncover that will unravel this entire Gordian knot. It's there. He just has to find it.

He smokes the whole of the cigarette, lost in thought, his mind focussed entirely on Hannah Abbott-Goldstein and the tangled threads of her life. Tony. Neville. Lila. Kirsty. Renaldi. How did two affairs and a professional dominatrix tie together?

Nothing is ever what it seems.

Draco drops the fag to the dirt beneath the bench, grinding it out with the toe of his boot. He sits still, elbows on his knees, watching the Muggle boys race after their ball.

It doesn't make sense. Not a whit of it.

The breeze ruffles Draco's hair as he stands. All it takes is one thread, he knows. One piece of evidence that he can tug at, loosening it until the whole ball unwinds. Renaldi just might be the start of the end.

Draco walks down the path, a spark of hope blossoming inside for the first time in two weeks.

He can solve this. He knows he can.

Chapter Text

Although Draco tries to catch her in the office, Natalie is already gone for the day when he returns, so he wanders back down to the murder room—still irked with Blaise and Natalie both—to check in. According to Pans, who stops him in the hallway just outside the door, Potter had given dearest Twatlin—Draco's becoming rather fond of that nickname—quite the dressing down, though Wynne's response had been to flirt with him, and Pansy thought maybe Potter might have been flirting back by the end. (Of course he had. Sodding bastard.) Draco doesn't even say goodbye to the others, just packs up his things, such as they are, and Floos home for a night of crap telly and worse takeaway. Pansy tries to firecall at half-nine, but he doesn't answer. He's not interested in discussing his irritations. He just wants to eat wretched mushy peas and battered cod, have a wank in front of whatever inane quiz show is on the Beeb, and go to bloody bed.

His mood hasn't improved in the morning. He's barely slept, alternating between nightmares about Hannah watching him from the corner of the room and dreams about Potter that leave him breathless and hard. When dawn finally breaks he rolls out of bed and stands in the shower for a good twenty minutes, just letting the water rush over him. He feels as if his skin's stretched too tight when he's around Potter, as if he might implode if Potter brushes past him. Draco doesn't like feeling out of control; it puts him off-kilter. He turns the water off and stands in the tub, gooseflesh on his wet arms from the sudden chill. He doesn't understand why Potter's making him feel this way. He's forty-two sodding years old, for Circe's sake, not some wet behind the years cub. It's ridiculous, is what it is, and Draco's tired of being made a fool.

He pulls on jeans and a dark grey cashmere jumper. He might as well be comfortable today whilst once again sitting around, failing to solve a murder. If he has to sort through another bloody transcript, he'll hex his own eyeballs out, he will. This is the part of policing that he despises.

A flat white doesn't help his mood, sadly, and Draco bins the half-empty paper coffee cup as he enters the MLE building, ignoring every cheerful good morning sent his way. He stomps up the staircase, making his way to Bradford's office. Natalie's there when he pushes open the door to the antechamber, bent over one of the filing cabinets at her desk. She smiles at him and straightens.

"I don't think he's expecting—"

"Don't," Draco says sharply. He sets his satchel on one of the uncomfortable chairs on which Bradford forces his appointments to wait. "We need to talk. Now. You've been keeping some things from me, and I'm done with it."

Natalie's clever. He can tell the moment the penny drops. She turns and leads him down a small hallway into Bradford's conference room. "Private enough?"

"It'll do." He waits for her to sit, then follows. "You went to the Prophet."

Natalie twists the gold bangle on her narrow wrist. "Yes."

"Fucking Christ, Nat!" Draco bangs his palm against the table. "What the hell were you thinking? If Bradford finds out—"

"He told me to do it," she says, and Draco's shut down. He blinks at her, and she nods. "Him and Zacharias both. They want Goldstein's name out of it, and Longbottom's a good distraction."

Draco's head aches. "So you sent in an anonymous tip."

"Except nothing's ever truly anonymous any more is it?" she asks, her lips thinning. "Not in this security state of ours. Zabini figured it out, yeah?"

It's all too much for him. "You threw a possibly innocent man to the wolves—"

"To protect another possibly innocent man whom you seem intent upon crucifying." Her voice rises to match his. "Don't even start with me about setting the journos off on a witch hunt, Draco. You don't want to go there."

He looks away. His chest is tight, and for a brief moment he wonders if this is it, if his heart is finally giving out on him. He breathes out and it eases. "You've been working for Zacharias, haven't you?"

"For the London Ministry, yes," she admits. "But I'm not the enemy, Draco. I've been telling Dawlish how good of an Auror you are. He's been impressed."

Draco doesn't care. He feels hollowed out. "How long?"

"Since March." Natalie leans back. Her hair's tied back with a bright blue scarf today. It matches the blue stones dangling from her ears. "There've been concerns about Braddy."

"Shocking." Draco pushes his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose. "Embezzlement, treason, gross incompetence?"

Natalie eyes him and bites the corner of her lip. "I can't say."

"You owe me," he says, tired of all the bullshit.

"I can't."

He sighs and rests his elbows on the conference table. He's sat here so many times over the years, presenting cases to his superior officers and the CWPS. "You're killing me, Nat," he says.

Natalie reaches over and squeezes his hand. "Better than Dawlish killing me, Draco."

Draco studies her. Despite being well pulled together, she still looks worn out, exhausted. The skin beneath her eyes is puffy and darker through her slipping glamour. "It's tiring though, isn't it? Being an infiltrator, I mean. It wears on you after a while. Secrets keep breeding secrets."

"Is this going somewhere specific?" Natalie frowns at him. "Because I don't have all day, as lovely as your company is."

He leans forward. All his instincts are on high alert. It's a long shot, but he's nothing to lose at this point. "Tell me what the Fiendfyre Club is."

She seems surprised at first, then resigned. "How do you know about that? Zabini?"

"I've heard whispers for a while now." As angry as Draco is with Blaise, he still won't give him up. Years in the same dormitory during a war does tend to bond friendships for life. He'll kick his arse on the Quidditch pitch next go around, though. That's for damned certain.

Natalie considers, then says, "It's a social gathering. A very, very exclusive social gathering."

Smart woman. Give him the bare basics and nothing more. Draco pushes. "Does the name Mistress Renaldi mean anything to you?"

She shrugs. "No. Why?"

"It's a name that's come up in our case." Draco refuses to give her too many details. Two can play this game, and he's not ready for this bit of information to reach London. Not yet. "I'd like to find her."

Natalie appears to think about it for a moment, but he knows she's just stalling for time. "I would suggest you ask your source for access, but she or he clearly doesn't have it."

Draco waits, keeping silent and letting her decide what to do next.

Finally, she says, "There's a Samhuinn party Friday night in London. Half-nine. People are taking long weekends for the bank holiday on Monday, so they're throwing an early one this year. Bradford isn't using his ticket."

"Braddy?" Draco's more than surprised. He'd never considered his superior officer to be interested in sex at all. The very thought makes him a bit queasy. "You're having me on."

Natalie rolls her eyes. "As I said, it's an exclusive play party. And there's plenty of business that's conducted as well. People go for all sorts of reasons. Bradford went to the Midsummer one, after wheedling an invite from Zacharias. It wasn't his cuppa."

"Smith?"

"You'd be surprised at who attends," Natalie says. "It's not just London elite. There are club members throughout the world who Floo in for the parties. It's been going for nearly a decade now."

Draco feels old and provincial, which annoys him. "How do you know about this? I can't imagine Bradford told you."

"Assistants know a lot more than you'd suspect."

"You're not really an assistant, though, are you?"

She smiles at him. "Not really." That's all he's going to get and he knows it. He nods.

"And you'll give me Braddy's ticket."

"It might fall out of my desk, yes."

"I knew I could count on you," Draco says, although he knew nothing of the sort. He still doesn't trust her, and he won't from now on. Respect, however, is a different matter. "How do I find the location?"

Natalie crosses one long leg over the other, leaning back into her chair. "Each ticket has an embedded disk that serves as a portkey. It'll let you and a plus one into the club. Wear a glamour; it's part of the privacy code. Almost no one goes without one. And if you recognise anyone, for Christ's sake, don't say so. They take anonymity seriously."

"How do I get home?" Draco asks. He doesn't really want to think about what this enquiry will entail.

"When you want to leave, you go to the front and they escort you to a private Floo."

"You'll tell Pansy if I don't turn up on Monday morning?" Draco feels a bit queasy at the thought of doing this alone and without his team knowing. He doesn't want them to worry, but he doesn't know what he's getting himself into either.

Natalie looks annoyed. "It's not that sort of party, Draco." She stands up and walks ahead of him to the reception area. "You're not going to disappear into the ether. Christ."

When she reaches her desk, she brushes a hand across a stack of opened post and casually lets a cream coloured piece of paper with a silver disk fall gently to the floor.

Draco bends to pick it up. It's heavier than it looks.

"You'll be fine," she says.

If only he were sure.

***

It's been an uncomfortable week so far in Lee's opinion. Harry and Draco are still awkward and odd, which makes working with the both of them more annoying than usual. Even Pansy hasn't been able to suss out what they're having a tiff about now, and the few times Lee's brought it up to Harry, he's just shrugged it off and said, "You know Malfoy," which, yeah, Lee does, but still. That doesn't explain what's going on now, or the way that they look at each other.

They've managed to make it to Friday without major incident, although there was a tense moment Wednesday afternoon when he'd walked into some sort of whispered fight in the evidence locker, but Draco'd just fallen silent when he'd seen him, then stormed past, telling him to stop bloody sneaking up on a man, for fuck's sake. Harry'd just followed, with a glare at Lee as if it's his fault the guv's tight as a whip.

Whatever. He's a full plate of his own with the paperwork for the case, since no one other than him seems to have any idea of the rules about filing reports. He misses Susan. She'd have done it for him, complaining the whole time. He hates doing it, but it's got to be done somehow. They've reached the point in the case where it's just easier for him to do it himself rather than try to coax Pansy or Draco to fill out the proper forms to submit with their writeups. Harry's not much better, which doesn't surprise Lee as much as he thought it might.

Idiots, the whole of them, he thinks, walking back towards the murder room after submitting Wednesday's paperwork to the records office. He could have sent it via interoffice memo, he supposes, but he likes being out of the murder room right now. Anything to avoid the tension.

"Jordan!"

Lee turns. One of the forensics Aurors—Mick, he thinks his name is—strides towards him, ginger hair bouncing against his cheek with each step. "Yeah?"

"Reports came in this morning for you. Malfoy'd asked us to bring them by as soon as we had them in hand." Mick holds them out. "I need to get back to the lab, so…"

"Thanks." Lee doesn't blame the bloke for not wanting to stick his head into the murder room. He's not keen on being there himself.

He flips through the reports as he enters, his brow furrowing.

"What's wrong?" Pansy asks, looking up from the files scattered across her desk.

Sometimes Lee wishes the Scottish Ministry would bend with the times and spring for a properly integrated computing system like the one rumour has it they're testing out in London. The paperwork is overwhelming for most - and keeping everything in order is a beast. Sometimes search spells work to categorize information and find things, but they are not as reliable as a good, old-fashioned sifting and reading through. As Lee stoops to pick up a photo from the floor, he sees a few more pieces that have fallen out. Straightening up, he reads the ID stamps, then sorts them back into the right jacket.

"We've got a problem with the ballistics. According to this new Russian diagnostic, the holder of Neville's wand for the Sectumsempra was female." Lee spreads the lab out for Pansy to see.

Pansy's expression hardens. She reads through the lab twice, then pushes her chair back from her desk. "Wow. The guv is not going to be thrilled."

"Where is he? And where's Potter? Have they finally decided to duel each other?" Lee can't wait to see Draco in a worse mood. On second thought, he can wait a long time.

Pansy shrugs. "Went for a coffee, actually. Or something."

"Together?" Lee sits down across from her. "And you let them?"

"Didn't have much of a choice. Potter grabbed him and dragged him out." Pansy hands the labs back over. "What's the likelihood the Russians mucked things up?"

"Possible," Lee says. "But not likely. The new charms coming out of Moscow are pretty solid." He drops the labs on the guv's desk. "Might not have been Nev's wand. Maybe he's telling the truth. Any women on that Ollivanders list?"

Pansy summons it from the murder board. "A few." She starts to write the names down. "Think any of them might match up to this Renaldi character?"

Lee doesn't know. They still haven't been able to track that lead down. All the guv will say is that Zabini'd given him some details, and he was working on it. Frankly, Lee suspects Draco's spending more time glowering at Potter than doing anything really useful. He feels guilty for that thought, but it's the truth.

He's just settled back into write up another strongly worded request to the Gringotts goblins for access to the Renaldi account when a silvery Patronus slips through the windowpanes. The moment he sees the hare bound off the wall and across Potter's desk, he tenses.

"Orla," he says, and Pansy looks up.

"Lee, I need you," his wife's voice says through the hare's mouth. He'd taught her to use the Patronus for communication a few months past, just in case. "I'm Flooing to hos—" The hare gasps, as if in pain. "Hospital. Meet me there. Please?" Her voice rises, and he can tell something's not right. His heart thuds against his chest, and the hare disappears into a wisp of silver mist.

Pansy's already throwing him his jacket. "Leave it," she says as he reaches for the parchment he's been working on, not even thinking. "I'm going with you."

He's grateful. He doesn't know what's going on, and he's terrified. He lets Pansy bundle him into his coat and down the side stairs. Before he knows it, they're in Sophie's nail bar, and Pansy's pushing him into the Floo.

They land in St Mungo's lobby.

"Go," Pansy says, pushing him. "I'll send a message to the guv."

Lee runs, his feet pounding against the smooth tile of the hospital floors. He knows his way; he and Orla'd been to the maternity ward during their prenatal training. It's too early, he thinks, skidding around a corner and nearly taking out a mediwitch in the process. The baby's not due for another three weeks.

Orla's in a levitating chair next to the mediwitch station, her ginger curls wild around her pale face. When she sees him running towards her, she reaches a hand out. He grabs it.

"What's wrong?"

Orla shakes her head. "She's coming." He can feel her fear; he's thrumming with it too.

"It'll be all right," he says, and he hopes he's not lying to the woman he loves.

She nods, and the mediwitches gather around them both. "We'll get you in a room, love, won't we?" one clucks, and Orla looks a little calmer as they push her down the hall.

Lee follows, all thoughts of Hannah Goldstein gone from his mind. He doesn't know what else to do.

***

"You are an idiot," Harry says hotly.

Christ, Malfoy drives him mad. They're sitting in the Muggle pub down the street, having a pint, because, one, he'd had it with Malfoy freezing him out, and, two, he still remembers enough Malfoy-speak to know when the bastard's trying to pull one over on him. And he hadn't been half-wrong, now, had he?

Malfoy gives him that ridiculous stubborn look of his over the rim of his glass. "I didn't have to tell you any of it."

"Yes," Harry says, "you bloody well did, you fucking wanker. What did you think you'd do? Go off on your own to track Renaldi down? Jesus Christ, Malfoy. We're your team."

"Pansy and Lee are my team," Malfoy snaps. "Susan's my team, but you kicked her off. Merlin only knows what McMurty's having her do. He's an arsehole."

Harry wants to hit the bloody little shit. It's not an uncommon urge for him around Malfoy. Hit him or fuck him, and the moment he's not entirely certain which would be more pleasurable. He does so want to wreck that smug face. "You're not going by yourself. End of story."

"You can't tell me what to do, Potter." Malfoy's glass hits the table with a thump, and ale sloshes out over his hand.

"I can, and I just have," Harry says. He doesn't like pulling rank, but there's no damned way he's letting Malfoy walk into some club and go after a possible murder suspect by himself. Not that he thinks Malfoy'll be in danger, mind. It's more that Malfoy's likely to do something bloody stupid and blow the whole damn case. "Besides, have you ever been to a play party?"

"It's not just sex." Malfoy's got that haughty expression on his face again that makes Harry want to tear his bloody hair out. They've been arguing about this for half an hour at least. "It's practically an extension of the corridors of power."

"Look," Harry says as patiently as he can muster. "If this Mistress Renaldi's going to be there, then it's at least a little bit kinky. And you don't exactly strike me as a kinky sort."

Malfoy somehow manages to look even more offended. "Fuck you, Potter."

"You have, or don't you remember?" Harry notices the woman two tables over eyeing them. He lowers his voice. "If you're going to do this, I'm going with you. It's not even a question." He cuts off Malfoy's protest. "One misstep, and no one will talk to you. You'll be out on your ear."

"And you're so well-versed in this sort of adventure?"

Harry sighs. "More than you. I've actually been to a play party, at least a Muggle one." He rather enjoys the shock that spreads across Malfoy's face before he manages to hide it. "There are rules to this sort of thing. As much as you might think it odd, people consider these sorts of gatherings to be a very important aspect of their identity. It's not always just about power. You have to be respectful. Most of the parties I've been in have different levels, depending on what you're comfortable with. If you're looking for a domme, then she's probably going to be a bit further in for privacy's sake."

"You know an awful lot about this," Malfoy says, reaching for his glass again.

One of Harry's recurrent flings had been into the Muggle leather scene and had introduced him to it, taking him to a ball at Torture Garden. From time to time Harry goes back to see Andy for a night or maybe a weekend. There's something liberating about stepping outside of who he is in his day-to-day life, about leaving behind the Harry whose quiet orders are followed immediately and who is widely recognized in the wizarding world and instead becoming the leather-clad Harry who bows his head and says sir.

"Like I said, I've had experience," he says, and Malfoy's cheeks flush. "So, if you want to get in to talk to her, you have to dress the part. Fetishwear is good if you're planning on going into the back room: leather, latex, something appropriate." He eyes Malfoy. "You might be able to pull off black trousers with boots and a heavy belt, if they're really tight and show off your arse. Bare chest, of course, or something diaphanous that you can unbutton."

Malfoy's flush deepens. "Honestly, Potter, if you're having me on—"

"I'm not." Harry circles his hand around his pint. He's trying not to think of Malfoy bare chested, those scars showing across his pale skin. He draws in an uneven breath. "There are dress codes for these sorts of affairs, just as if you're having tea at Claridge's. They don't want gawkers. You have to have a buy-in, have to be willing to be part of the culture."

Malfoy hesitates, then says, "Natalie mentioned glamours."

Harry nods. "That doesn't surprise me. It'd be a courtesy." He's a bit relieved. If he's honest, he's feeling uncertain about this whole venture. On the one hand, it seems wrong to encroach on a private party at which they've no real right to be; on the other they've a killer to catch, and talking to Renaldi might help. Not to mention he knows damned well Malfoy will go himself, with or without Harry. And as long as Harry's being self-aware, he'll admit to really, really wanting to see Malfoy in sexy get-up. It's shallow of him, yes. He doesn't really care.

The fire next to them crackles and pops, warming Harry's face. The pub's fairly quiet right now; the after-work crowd hasn't yet started to trickle in.

"What time are we supposed to be there?" Harry asks, finally.

"Half-nine." Malfoy finishes his ale. "I truly could do this alone, you realise."

"Oh, for Christ's sake, just shut it, you wanker." Harry's already thinking about what he has to wear in his closet in London. He'll have to go back, obviously; nothing he has in his hotel room would work for a party of this sort. "I can be at your flat by quarter after."

"Fine." Malfoy sounds miserable. He stands up. "Another pint?"

Harry shakes his head. "I'm good, thanks." He watches Malfoy stride over to the bar, glass in hand. His arse is truly brilliant in those jeans.

Jesus, what's he thinking? Harry buries his face in his hands and swears. Malfoy, him, and a play party? He's so fucked and in all the wrong ways.

He can almost hear Parkinson's mocking laughter from here.

***

Draco answers the knock on the door at 9:25.

"I can't go," he says to Potter, and he flushes as Potter's gaze travels down his body. He's worn what Potter suggested, and he's sure he looks a fool in the low slung, too tight black leather trousers borrowed last minute from Blaise that don't even cover his hip bones properly, the polished black boots from his dress uniform, and an obscenely sheer black shirt that he'd stolen from Pansy's closet after breaking into her flat forty minutes ago. It's half buttoned, and he's no bloody idea why she'd even have a shirt like this, the little tart. "Pansy owled and said Orla's in hospital—"

"That was hours ago," Potter says calmly, pushing past Draco and into his flat. "She sent me one too. Orla's fine. I talked to Lee through the visitor's Floo, and she's in labour with Healers all around."

Draco closes the door behind them. "Did she also tell you diagnostics suggest Longbottom's wand was actually used by a woman? Or a woman has a wand similar to Longbottom's. They're not entirely clear on that."

"Yeah," Potter says. "So I reckon this Mistress Renaldi's suddenly a lot more interesting."

"I'd say so." Draco finally looks at Potter. He's wearing a black brocade frock coat with leather straps and silver buckles over a bare chest and latex trousers, for Christ's sake, and Draco can definitely see the bulge of Potter's cock when the lamplight hits it. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He'll never make it through this night. "I look like a bloody pirate," he says, to cover his discomfort.

Potter can't take his eyes off him. "You look a bit of alright." His gaze lingers on the scars visible through the deep, open vee of Pansy's lewd, sheer shirt.

Arsehole. Draco feels his cheeks warm and silently curses the Black tendency for high colour at inopportune moments. "Glamour?" he manages to get out, and Potter takes out his wand.

"I'll do you, if you do me," he says in that ridiculously delicious low voice that sends a shiver through Draco's body.

Draco nods, and he can feel the whisper of magic across his skin as Potter draws his wand down along one cheek and across to the other, then over the scarred skin of his chest. His glasses become too strong; Draco slides them off his face and blinks. He'd forgotten what a decent vision charm could do; they never last longer than a few hours for him now, so he's given up on using them. He glances in the mirror hanging above the mantel and can barely recognise himself. Potter's good at glamour charms; he's left Draco blond, but he's squared off his pointiness and shifted his eyes from grey to a deep blue. "Not bad."

"One last thing." Potter catches Draco's wrist with warm, strong fingers and pushes up the sleeve of his shirt to expose the Dark Mark. A sweep of Potter's wand and it disappears, fading into his skin, at least temporarily.

"Thanks."

Potter lets go of his hand reluctantly. "Now me."

With a flick of his wand, Draco takes away that famous scar. A vision charm also takes away Potter's need for glasses, and Draco turns Potter's deep green eyes brown, albeit reluctantly. He's always liked Potter's eyes, if he's honest. He broadens Potter's cheeks and sharpens the angles of his jaw. He looks gorgeous, but he's not Potter now. Draco feels a pang of regret.

Potter checks the glamour out in the mirror, sliding his glasses into the inside pocket of his frock coat. "Ready?"

No, Draco wants to say, but instead he picks up the ticket with the silver Portkey and holds it out. Potter's hand curls around his. "Nearly time now," Potter says, and they both fall quiet. Draco's all too aware of the warmth of Potter's fingers around his, and the way Potter's dark hair falls into those unfamiliar but luminous brown eyes. This is the stupidest thing he's done in a long time, he thinks. It'd damned well better be worth it.

He feels the tug of the Portkey just beneath his stomach, and he grips Potter's hand more tightly as his flat spins around them, the blur of colours fading into nothingness.

They land in a lush, modern entryway done in beige and gold. The light is dim and the noise of voices float from the room beyond the enormous, padded beige doors—an aural mix of shrieks of laughter, catcalls, social chatter, and whispers with the low thud of dance music beneath it. A tall witch with a black beehive and a turquoise corset is waiting off to the side of the doors with a bored but observant look on her face. Next to her is an very tall and muscular witch with a craggy face and an impressive number of protection spells on her person. Her nose has clearly been broken several times and not repaired by magic.

"Good evening, gentlewizards," the witch in the corset says after glancing at them. "Wands out please."

Potter and Draco draw their wands carefully, then follow the witch's motions. "Be fair or foul, but I'll not tell, the Fiendfyre eve in silence leave," they say together, reciting the spell off the small card she holds out for them. With a wave of their wands and a flare of violet sparks they seal the tacita lingua vow.

The witch touches her wand to each of their wrists, and a curl of lavender light coils around them. Potter looks at his, then back to the witch. "Now you're under the tacita veil as well," she says cheerfully. "And I'll be needing to check your wands. You can claim them back out here when you're done tonight."

She holds out a hand, and Potter reluctantly hands his wand over in exchange for a numbered tag. Draco does the same, more naked now without his wand than in Blaise's too-small trousers.

He looks around the foyer, past the first impression of elegance and wealth, and notes the cracks in the corners of the ceiling. Following them, it's easy to see beyond the glamours set in place. "My God," he says. "Are we in the old Moot Hall down Diagon?" He doesn't know whether to be shocked or amused. The shabby hall was rented out for various events from time to time, but for the most part had fallen into disuse.

"Isn't it amazing what a few well-placed spells can do?" the corseted witch asks. She beams at them. "The steering committee's really outdone themselves this time." Still smiling, she nods to the security witch, who opens the door. "Happy Hunting," she calls after them.

It's darker beyond the doors, and loud. To the left, there is a large doorway leading onto what looks like a dance floor with go-go dancers in cages. In front of them, there is a sunken lounge area with rich burgundy velvet banquettes and large round ottomans. Draco's fairly certain that there will be sticky fluids in that velvet at some point tonight, and he's sorry for the hall's elves. Right now, there are mixed groups of scantily clad people in twos and threes laughing and drinking pink and green frothy cocktails with white smoke pouring off of them. Draco rolls his eyes. "Erumpent Fire is so last year."

Potter quirks a corner of his mouth and leans in close to Draco's ear. "We can't all be whisky-soaked savants, Malfoy."

Draco shivers. The room is quite warm, but being next to Potter has him near to breaking out in gooseflesh. He licks his lips, and decides to return the favor, leaning in close until his mouth is nearly on the shell of Potter's ear. "I far prefer Veela Mating Calls, myself. Less sweet, more bitter, and a hell of a kick."

Potter has the temerity to snake a hand around Draco's hips and tuck the fingertips of said hand in Draco's pocket. Draco stiffens, then tries to relax into Potter's grip, realising that Potter is setting up a cover for them as a couple. It's hard, though, when Potter's thumb is smoothing the leather covering his hipbone.

"Calm down," Potter says in his ear. "You want this to be believable, yeah?"

Draco nods, letting his head hang for a moment with his hair in his face. "If I must."

And then Potter's mouth is squarely on his earlobe and Draco nearly jumps out of his skin. The bastard knows how sensitive he is there. "Then stop jumping around like a lacewing about to be tossed in a potion."

"They're usually dead, you fool." Draco relaxes and let Potter line them up hip to hip. It's a bit too easy, if he's being honest, to give in and let it happen. This shouldn't be so natural. "No wonder your Potions marks were so abysmal. At any rate, using live lacewings would be entomological cruelty."

"I stand corrected," Potter says wryly as he draws Draco deeper into the room, among the growing crowd of people between the bar and the dance floor. He's thinks he sees a man in the corner being sucked off by another man, dressed in nothing but a tight pair of black shorts. There's a large group grinding next to the wall to the music from the dance floor—that lot seems to have started their evening already. Everything is lit enough to see and to be seen, but there are also significant shadows in corners to get lost in. Rather a lot of them are moving, Draco notes. He's suddenly hyper-aware of Potter's fingers still in his pocket, tugging his trousers lower on his hip. This is dangerous, and he can't help the frisson of excitement that goes through him. Potter smells like citrus and musk, and it's all Draco can do not to lean over and trace the tendons of Potter's throat with his mouth.

In the end, he gives in and allows himself do it, mouthing, then nuzzling a bit at the end with his nose.

Potter stills, and Draco can feel the thud of his heart in his chest as he pulls back. He's gone too far. Potter's face is inscrutable. "Believable," Draco whispers.

Then Potter reaches out and touches his lips, and Draco nips at his fingers. He could almost get caught up in this, almost believe that Potter's brought him here to press him into one of those velvet banquettes, spread his thighs wide, and fuck him gloriously into oblivion with everyone watching. He's willing to play the part tonight, wherever it leads them.

"Is that Zacharias?" Potter says under his breath, and not for the first time, Draco wants to deck that smarmy little Hufflepuff tosser. Potter's fingertips press into the soft part of his hip as if in warning.

He looks in the direction Potter's facing, and yes, there the twat is, bold as brass tacks, with not a single glamour in place. "I did not need to see that much of him," Draco murmurs, and Potter bites back a bark of laughter.

"Not everyone can look as fit in leather trousers as you." Potter leads him towards Smith, whose trousers are far too tight, though not as terrifying as his glittering silver shirt.

"Flattery, Potter." But Draco's pleased with the compliment. He holds his breath as they draw closer, praying to Bacchus—or whatever deity might still oversee bacchanals like this—that their glamours hold.

Smith eyes them both over his glass of firewhisky, letting his gaze slide down Draco's body. "Interested in a private room? It's a bit early in the evening to settle down, but I'm willing to give the two of you a go. Might be able to find a bird or two to join us, if you like."

A young witch stalks by them in a silver chainmail mini dress and little else, two latex-clad, bendy and slim hipped figures of fluid gender following in her wake. She doesn't let Zacharias catch her eye.

"More interested in another kind of room," Potter says. "I heard Mistress Renaldi might be here tonight?"

Draco wants to roll his eyes. Smooth, Potter. Really smooth.

Smith immediately loses interest. "Back corner behind the statues of the satyr being spanked by the nymph," he says, gesturing with his glass. "She's a whole setup in there if that's your sort of thing."

Potter smiles. "Cheers, mate." He pulls Draco away, then grins at him when they've reached a suitable distance. "Unless you'd rather stay and play with Our Zach? He might be more bearable with a cock stuffed in his mouth and perhaps another up his arse."

"Fuck you." Draco shudders at the unwanted visual image that flashes before his eyes. "Not my type."

"Too blond?"

Draco eyes Potter's dark curls. "Something like that." He sidesteps a tiny woman in a leather corset and mesh knickers. He's trying not to gape at her complete lack of pubic hair. Astoria had always refused to shave, saying with a scandalised twist of her mouth that only a certain type of witch took it all off. Draco's fairly certain the one they just passed would have a rather different opinion. "Too small of a cock, too, I'd think."

"Have you been shagging that many large-cocked wizards, then?" Potter looks at him sideways, and the effect is unnerving with the brown colour of his eyes and the curiosity on his face. "I'd the impression you were playing on the straight side these days."

Draco snorts. "Are you really trying to figure out whether I still take it up the arse?"

"Or give it," Potter says with a shrug. "You did always have brilliant stamina."

Draco tries not to smile. "I like cock, and I like fanny. I've just had more opportunity to shag women recently." He gives Potter a side-eye. "And, you realise, some of them will shag you back as well." Pansy, for instance. He knew for a fact that she'd pegged Viktor more than once, and gladly. She's a whole drawer in her dresser filled with various sex toys, some dating back to their Hogwarts days, and she's quite inventive when it comes to their use. She always has been.

Potter falls silent as they approach the satyr and the nymph. There's a woman in a crimson robe standing beneath the branches of the tree behind the nymph.

"Mistress Renaldi?" Draco asks, and the woman nods towards the opening behind the tree. They step through, into an anteroom lit by fairies fluttering through swathes of red tulle on the ceiling that would make Madam Puddifoot swoon.

Potter eyes it. "Not what I expected."

A young man, barely out of Hogwarts and wearing nothing but a pair of black y-fronts, sits at a table in the corner. "Mistress," he calls, watching them, and a woman steps out of the shadows, dressed in a latex corset and skirt, the latter slashed up to her hip, showing a strip of black lace knickers. Her face is hidden behind a wine-coloured leather mask, tooled with golden curlicues above the eyes.

"Mistress Renaldi, I presume?" Potter asks, with a deep bow. He keeps his eyes down, not looking at her directly.

She watches him. "Some call me that." She's carrying a small lash, made of an ebony handle and black silk braided together, then knotted.

"We're seeking your time." Potter's voice is respectful. His fingers are still pressed against Draco's hip, and Draco knows better than to speak himself. "Should you have any, that is."

"What do you want?" Mistress Renaldi says with a snap of her silken lash. "My list is already filling, so if you're interested…" She walks around Draco, sizing him up. "I suppose we could come to an agreement."

"What about talking?" Potter asks. "Is that on the docket?"

Mistress Renaldi gives him a long look from behind her leather mask, then shrugs and reaches up to brush back a loose blonde curl. "Perhaps."

The glint of her golden, knotted ring through the knuckle cutouts of her vinyl gloves catches Draco's eye. "Not dirty talk," he says, and he glances around before he bends down and pulls his warrant card from the side of his left boot. Potter's eyebrow raises in amusement, while Mistress Renaldi steps back, shaking her head. The boy in the corner slips through a door silently.

"I haven't done anything wrong," she says. "You can't come in here and—"

"We'd like to talk to you about the money that went from your account into Hannah Abbott-Goldstein's." Potter's voice is gentle. Renaldi looks away, biting her dark plum lip. "Was she blackmailing you?"

Renaldi gives him a scornful glare. "No."

"You know we have to ask this," Potter says quietly. "I'd rather protect your anonymity by talking to you here instead of bringing you into the Edinburgh Auror station. It'd make it much more difficult, wouldn't it?"

For a moment, Draco thinks she's going to object, then she sighs, her shoulders falling slightly. She almost looks fragile, then she stiffens and gestures for them to follow her. They step into the darker room, lit only by flickering lamps. There's a woman kneeling on the floor mat, blindfolded, as another woman wraps black rope efficiently around her already bound arms. The rope artist is completing a fourth set of knots behind the seated woman, speaking to her in a slow, soft murmur as she tips her gently to wrap under her right upper arm which has a tattoo of a puffskein. A large iron circle hangs suspended from the ceiling.

They go through another doorway into a room with several small sofas and a few overstuffed chairs. There's a discreet red and black padded X in the corner, but otherwise the furniture is that of a sitting room. Mistress Renaldi sits on the edge of a sofa, her long, pale legs crossed at the ankles. Her knee-high boots, laced in the back, gleam and shine in the soft lamplight. "We have a few minutes," she says as Draco and Potter take the two chairs on either side of her. "But not many. What do you want to know?"

"Who are you?" Draco starts to ask, but Potter cuts him off.

"Hannah wasn't part of your business, was she?"

Renaldi shakes her head. "No. She never worked for me. She wasn't a client."

"Then how did money from your account end up in hers?" Potter leans back in his chair, his knees spread wide. Draco can definitely see his cock outlined in latex. And his balls. Jesus. He looks back over at Renaldi, trying to keep professional.

She's caught him out already, though. A small smile curves her dark lips before she glances at Potter. "She was supportive of my work. And part of that support was her willingness to help me hide the source of my income from certain individuals in my life as well as the general public, some of whom might consider what I do to be, shall I say, unsavoury."

"Like your brother?" Potter asks, and both Draco and Renaldi look at him in surprise. He reaches out and touches Renaldi's knotted ring. "You wore that ring at the funeral."

Renaldi reaches up and unties her leather mask. As it slides off, so does the trace of glamour that's reshaped her nose and jawline. Draco sits back, stunned. The makeup around her brown eyes is dark and smoky.

Lila Goldstein glances uneasily at the open doorway. Potter turns, and with a snap of his fingers, casts a privacy spell. Draco doesn't know whether to envy his ability to use complex wandless magic so easily or the way he'd pegged Renaldi to be Lila. Fucking bastard. He settles for a bitter glare.

"I almost didn't wear it today," Lila says, her fingertip brushing against the knotted ring. "But it was my grandmother's, and I've wanted her close in recent days."

"You're a dominatrix," Draco says, perplexed. "Forgive me, but you don't seem the sort."

That earns him a haughty smile. "That's why I enjoy it. People outside of the scene never expect it of me. I'm the nice, quiet girl. Always does what she's told, yes?" Her nostrils flare in irritation, and Draco's struck by how beautiful she is, how un-Lila-like she seems. He'd thought she had hidden depths that people underestimated. It looks like he'd been right. Too bad he hadn't recognised them himself.

"How long have you been working as a domme?" Potter asks.

Lila shrugs one bare shoulder. "Three years? Almost four? I discovered kink when I dated a bloke who was a sub. The relationship didn't stick, but this did. The moment I took up a flogger I felt like I was finally the woman I was meant to be. It just clicked for me. I'm good at it, I enjoy it immensely, and there's something rather exhilarating, wouldn't you say, to wielding this sort of power when everyone thinks you're nothing but a little mouse?" She smiles again, but there's a bite to it. Her teeth are sparkling white against her dark lipstick. "I know what they say about me. Darling Ophelia for one, and Kirsty, Tony's bit of skirt." At Draco's look of surprise, her smile widens, grows more feral. "Oh, yes. I knew about her. So did Hannah. She didn't care, so why should I?"

"Did you know about Neville Longbottom?" Draco asks. He slides his warrant card back into his boot. The badge catches on a wrinkle of leather, and he shoves it down further.

"Hannah'd been sleeping with him for a while." Lila leans back against the sofa cushion. Her breasts are pushed up by her vinyl bodice. "She told me when she found out she pregnant with Ruthie. She was afraid she was Neville's. She wasn't. Hannah had her tested."

"And you didn't want to tell Tony?" Harry's jacket falls open, distracting Draco with his hard, brown nipples.

Lila laughs. "I love Tony, but no. What good would it have done? Besides, Kirsty wasn't his first woman on the side, whatever he might have said to you. Tony adored Hannah, but he fell bored easily. They had their way of handling their marriage, and I didn't think it any of my business, really."

Draco thinks he likes this Lila even better than the one he'd seen before. "So Hannah kept your secret because you kept hers?"

"I suppose you could see it that way." Lila falls silent for a long moment. "But it wasn't just that. Hannah knew neither Tony nor my parents would approve of my work. It's not all like this sort of party, you know. Mostly it's private clients, and the occasional get-together in some village hall where we all hang about the makeshift bar and gossip about those of our group who aren't there. Still, Tony'd be too certain it'd end his political career, and maybe in the current social climate it might. Mum and Dad would just be scandalised, and whilst that thought seems enjoyable sometimes, I love my family. I don't want to be ostracised from them or by them." She picks up the lash she'd set on the sofa and strokes along the plaited silk. "I like what I do, and I help people. It might not seem like it—"

"But you do," Potter says. "You help people feel something they can't otherwise."

She nods and studies his face. "Something like that. You understand."

"Yeah." Potter gives her a faint smile. "I do."

Lila rubs her thumb along the back of her glove. "Hannah would let me transfer money into the account she used ages ago for the Leaky that Tony'd completely forgotten about and never checked, and then she'd give it back to me in cash. We told my family that she was hiring me to help her organise her time. She was balls at keeping up with things sometimes, so it was plausible. Besides she used that account as well, to hide money from Tony when she needed to."

"To pay for her room at the Hog's Head, for instance," Harry says, and Lila nods.

"I'd assume so," she says. "I know she bought the occasional present for Neville from it, and sometimes things for the girls or herself when she didn't want Tony to know she was spending their money on something frivolous."

Draco can hear the steady, if muffled, thump of dance music from another room. "Did you kill her?"

"No." She meets his eyes, and Draco's nearly positive she's telling him the truth. "I loved my sister-in-law. She was kind and generous and one of the best women I've ever known. She accepted me for who I am, never tried to impose her values over mine. And she tried to protect my business with her old account without hesitation. I wouldn't have hurt her, even though I did worry about her and Tony from time to time."

Draco looks at Potter. He nods. He thinks she's clean too. "Did you know Tony was thinking about leaving Hannah?"

Lila hesitates. "Not until after Hannah was found." Her mouth tightens. "I would have told him he was a fool."

"Do you think he killed her?" Harry asks.

Silence stretches out between them, then Lila breaks it with a sigh. "My heart says no. My head, however, isn't entirely certain."

Draco leans forward. "Why?"

"Isn't it always the husband?" Lila asks, wearily. "Surely it has to be him or Neville. But I just can't imagine either one of them being so angry with her." Her voice breaks. "How could anyone be that angry with Hannah? She wasn't perfect, and she could be a right cow if she wanted to. But can't we all?"

Potter holds his hand out, and Lila takes it. "We'll figure it out."

"It's been over two weeks," Lila says. "You'll forgive me if I don't entirely believe that now." Her hand slips from Potter's. "If there's nothing else, I have clients waiting." She ties her mask back on, the glamour slipping back into place, then stands and walks between them. Just before the doorway, she turns back, pivoting gracefully on her high heels. "I'd prefer to keep my personal life separate from my work life, if you don't mind."

"Your real name will be kept out of the record unless you murdered your sister-in-law," Potter says. "You have my word." He snaps his fingers again and the privacy wards fall.

"That will have to do, I suppose." Lila tilts her head towards them both, and in that one gesture she becomes Renaldi again, authority settling on her shoulders. "Gentlemen."

She strides out of the room, her hips swinging as if she were strutting down Gladrags' Paris catwalk.

Draco watches her go. "You believe her, don't you?" It's not really a question.

"I do," Potter says. "She had every reason to want her sister-in-law alive if she was helping to protect her business, and little obvious motive to kill her. Jealousy certainly doesn't seem to have been in play."

It looks like they've gone on a wild goose chase, although Draco is glad that they made this visit to the Fiendfyre club. He understands a bit more about the Goldsteins, and somehow the secrets he can see comfort him. It's the too-perfect family that worries him in an enquiry.

A discreet cough from Potter lets him know they're not alone. A tall man with impressive musculature, a leather kilt, and leather boots is standing in the doorway. He has leather armbands around his enormous biceps and a small bag in his hand. "Mistress Renaldi sent me."

Draco blanches. He's not sure what this means, but his first instinct is to run. Potter puts a hand on his arm; he can probably read his flight response in his body language.

"That's generous of her," Potter says, looking at the man's boots. "Did she name a specific purpose?"

The man comes closer, sizing up Draco, who tried very hard not to flinch under his gaze. After a few moments, he turns his attention to Potter. "I'm not sure your boyfriend wants to be here, but she thought you certainly looked at home. I can leave, though, if this is something you need to talk about further."

Draco wants to stammer that he's not Potter's boyfriend, but the words stick in his throat.

"May we have a moment?" Potter asks, and the man nods, stepping back.

Potter looks over to Draco and bites his bottom lip, a faint flush warming his cheeks. "I'd like to do this. If you don't mind. I…" He hesitates for a moment, then says quickly, "I need it right now, I think. What with the case and all." His gaze falls to the open plackets of Draco's shirt, and Draco knows Potter's thinking about those scars, now hidden, that cross his chest. "You can stay if you'd like. I wouldn't mind."

A frisson of something inexplicable goes through Draco at the suggestion. He knows he should run away, that what Potter's offering him is too intimate for him to bear right now. If he had any damn sense he'd leave Potter in this room and go down a Veela Mating Call or four.

Instead, Draco nods. "All right," he says, and his voice is raw to his ears.

"Thanks." The smile Potter gives him is genuine before he looks back over at the well-muscled man in the doorway, who's studiously pretending not to listen. "We're fine," he says, and the man steps back towards them.

"What is it that you'd like to do then?" The man speaks to Potter but watches Draco.

Potter's flush deepens. He looks at the floor. "I've only had a little experience with Muggle flogging, but I'd not be adverse to a round or two." Draco glances over at Potter in surprise. He doesn't know what he'd expected. This is new to him.

"That's okay with you, then?" The man is not exactly challenging Draco, but he is maintaining his authority.

Draco nods slowly. "If that's what he wants."

Potter flashes him a grateful look. Draco doesn't know what he's got himself into, but he suspects this will be a far different night than either of them expected.

"It's what I want," Potter says, and he holds Draco's gaze. Draco can feel his entire body flood with a warmth that he hasn't felt in a while. It's more than arousal, more than mere want. Potter can make his stomach flutter with a quirk of his mouth, and Draco doesn't entirely know what to do with that.

"You'll have to take care of him afterwards," the man says to Draco, walking slowly around Potter in a circle. "Have you seen people in shock before?"

Draco eyes the man. "Yes?"

The man nods. "Endorphin crashes from scenes can come close to that. He'll need to be kept warm and comfortable. Are you willing to do this?"

"Yes," Draco says.

Potter keeps his eyes down the whole time as they're discussing him. Another twinge, this one pure excitement, shudders through Draco. He's fascinated by this side of Potter, even as it unsettles him.

"So flogging." The man turns back to Potter. "For safety's sake, I'll only strike from here to here." He marks out an area on Potter's back.

"I'd prefer that, sir," Potter says.

"I'll begin with an elk flogger. Less sting and more thud with that, and then, if you're still amenable, I may switch to oiled leather. How high is your pain level?"

"Fairly high," Potter admits. "I like to build up to a moderate sting. Maybe a bit more."

"I can work with that," the man says. "You're familiar with green-yellow-red?"

Potter just nods.

The man looks over at Draco. "If you look like you're uncomfortable with what's happening or tell me to stop, I'm going to stop." He prods Potter in the calf with the toe of his heavy boot. "If he faints or says the word red, I'm going to stop. Otherwise, I won't stop until I'm ready." He squares his shoulders, standing directly behind Potter. "Do you consent to that?"

"Yes, sir," Potter says quietly. His eyes already look a little glazed to Draco, as if he's thinking about something inside of himself rather than outside.

"Got it," Draco says, and his voice is dry and tight in his throat. "Er, but what should we call you?"

"Liam," the man tells Draco. "But only to you. The other one calls me sir."

Potter shivers. His frock coat should be keeping him warm, Draco thinks, so it's not from cold. "Yes, sir."

Liam puts a hand between Potter's shoulder blades and shoves lightly. "Over to the frame, then, if you're going. Leave your coat with your boyfriend."

Potter comes over to Draco and shifts his shoulders to slide his frock coat off. He's sculpted and lean for someone as high up in the Auror ranks as he is, Draco thinks. In fact, he looks quite edible. Draco takes the proffered coat and folds it over his arm.

Potter goes over to the corner and stretches himself out over the saltire cross, arms up and legs spread. Draco looks around for a moment, then decides to sit on the sofa nearest the frame. It's covered in pillows and surprisingly hard to find a solid perch on. When he braces himself on the arm, it's very comfortable.

Liam's small bag appears to have an undetectable extension charm on it. He reaches in to it and pulls out one black padded leather cuff after the other, setting them on the low table next to the frame. Potter doesn't look at them. Then he pulls out a long, supple elkskin flogger and a thicker bundle that looks to be some sort of oiled hide.

"What colour?" he asks Potter.

"Green," Potter says.

Draco wonders if Liam would be as nonchalant as he seems to be, cuffing Potter to the frame, if he knew that he had the Savior of the Wizarding World trussed up. Then again, Liam appears to be quite self-assured, so it might not change a thing.

Potter's latex trousers show the curves of his arse, which Draco's not ashamed to admit he's enjoying thinking about it. He's watching it closely enough that he misses the first stroke that Liam takes, only registering belatedly as he hears the thud of the flogger against Potter's skin and sees the muscles of Potter's back clench. It doesn't leave a mark.

Liam adjusts his stance and swings again, this time a little bit harder. Potter flinches then, exhaling between his teeth. Liam strokes the soft elkskin of the flogger along Potter's flank, then swings again, this time impacting the left side of his upper back but jerking back at the end. Potter tenses, then relaxes.

"What colour?" Liam asks.

"Green," Potter says. Liam looks over to Draco, and Draco nods.

Liam begins to warm up Potter's back, alternately stroking him and flicking him with the tips of the elkskin. The quiet thuds are bringing up colour on Potter's golden skin, and Draco is slightly hypnotised watching the rhythm build and subside. Potter wriggles his hips from time to time, but mostly he is still, marking the sequence of light blows only with breath expelled from his body.

After a few minutes, Liam stops. He goes to the table, and surveys his equipment, selecting a longer elkskin flogger from his bag. He adjusts his stance behind Potter again. This time he swings through, and Potter gasps as the strips of leather thud against his body. He does it again on the other side, and Potter's breath quickens. At first, Draco must admit he is slightly alarmed, but then he realizes that Potter is going deeper into his trance-like state. His body is calm, and Liam clearly knows exactly what he is doing. Draco sits back, and Liam nods without looking at him.

Liam follows with an impressive sequence of strokes, always hitting Potter precisely on his upper back, always leaving an interval of pause, and varying the place of impact and the timing minutely. His physical control is admirable, and Draco begins to worry less about Potter and more about the way his own body is beginning to react to Liam's work. There's something both voyeuristic and intensely intimate about watching the elkskin strike Potter's skin over and over again. Draco's aroused, but it's different than he's ever experienced, more internal and detached, and yet strangely more consuming.

At the next pause, Potter is breathing heavily and flushed. Liam watches him for a moment, then comes over to Draco. "Do you want to me to stop?"

Draco looks over to Potter and swallows. "Perhaps we should ask him. I'm all right as it is." He knows Potter can hear the tremor of desire in his voice, but he doesn't care.

Liam goes back to Potter and sets a gloved hand on his forearm for attention. "What colour?"

"Green," Potter says, still panting. Sweat's beaded lightly on his forehead.

Liam gives him some time, trailing the elkskin tails along his legs and across his shoulders. Potter shifts and adjusts his stance. When Liam starts again, Potter is still. The pattern of blows lands evenly across his back, and Draco watches the red streaks bloom in colour. It's amazing to him that Potter can be so still under controlled but clearly punishing force. By the end, Draco is almost on the edge of his seat.

The soft sounds of Potter's breathing fill the air of the room. Everything contracts to here and now. Draco's almost forgotten what time it is or why they are here. All he is aware of is Potter and Liam and his own fascination with watching this play out. Liam walks over to the small table and exchanges the elkskin for the oiled leather bundle. When he comes back to Potter, he rubs it against his latex clad hip.

"I'm only going to hit you a few times with this," he says. "But it's okay if you make noise."

Potter nods, and then Liam is behind him again. "What colour?" Liam asks.

"Green." Potter's voice is breathy.

The rich brown of the leather leaves white marks in the red of Potter's skin as Liam strokes him with it. Potter's back expands with his breathing. The thud of the blow, when it comes, is shocking after the stillness that preceded it. Liam is braced in a solid stance, his arm extending again before Potter can recover. The strokes are more spaced out, but heavier. Draco is shaking a little, wondering how Potter can withstand this. Every stroke Potter receives Draco perceives in sympathy, which is both arousing and terrifying in equal measure.

Potter is crying out, and Liam switches back to the elkskin flogger, placing three, two, one blows, slowly, evenly, and then one again. And then he stops. At the end, he talks to Potter, telling him that he did a very good job while spreading a cream on his back that smells like dittany and takes away the red welts and bruising. Potter asks him in a whisper to leave one mark, although it takes him a while to say it.

Potter is shaking and Liam leads him over to Draco, who makes room for him on the sofa. Together they wrap Potter in his frock coat, and Liam conjurs a soft wool throw for them before leaving the room with his innocent looking bag of earthly delights.

Draco is wrung out himself. He can only imagine how Potter feels. It can only have been about half an hour from Liam's entrance into the room, but it's like time has been stood on its head. He takes the pillows off of the long sofa and lies with Potter, gentling him in his arms and holding him until he's more present again.

"So," Draco says, after a long while, and he feels odd stretched out like this, Potter draped over him. He's grateful for their glamours, for the pretense, at least, that they're not themselves tonight. He can tell himself it wasn't Potter who aroused him, even if he knows he's lying.

Potter turns his head, even though the movement must cost him. "Yeah?"

"Was this all about relieving you of your stoic manpain tonight, Potter?" Draco keeps his voice light.

Potter laughs, then winces. "No. It just felt good." Draco just hmmms, and Potter rests his head back on Draco's shoulder. He draws in a slow breath, then says, "Thanks, Malfoy. For understanding."

Draco's not certain he did, entirely, but he doesn't know if it's something he can put into words. He just lies there silently, enjoying the press of Potter's body against his.

He wakes a short time later to a gentle hand on his shoulder. It's the half-clad boy from Mistress Renaldi's anteroom. He has a glass of sparkling juice in his other hand. "For him," he says, nodding towards Potter, and Draco helps Potter sit, slowly.

"Drink," Draco says, and Potter does, his eyes sleepy and warm. The glamour's beginning to slip, and Draco manages to bundle him into the private Floo after retrieving their wands with both number tags in his hands and an arm wrapped around Potter's waist. Potter clings to him like a limpet.

It's only after he's got Potter to his hotel and Draco's standing over him, Potter collapsed facedown across his bed, that Draco realizes Lila—Mistress Renaldi—gave them a gift. For the first time in years, Potter is closer to him than breathing, so close he can still feel him if he tries. Draco shuts his eyes and all he can see is the expanse of Potter's back and the rhythmic strokes of the expertly wielded tails.

Draco takes the sofa near the window, watching Potter sleep.

He stays until dawn.

Chapter Text

Harry walks through the hallways of the London Ministry with more calm than he's had in weeks, no extra thoughts or worries crowding his conscious mind. He slept beautifully last night, not even stirring when Malfoy left, given the fact that he woke alone, and if he's still a bit internally raw, most of his welts have been healed. He's glad he made Liam leave one purpling and bloody bruise high on his upper back: the ache of it roots him to the ground.

Dawlish has agreed to meet with him this afternoon, even if it is a Saturday and John would rather be spending it puttering around his cottage in the countryside. Harry's not entirely certain he's doing the right thing—he's less detached now, but it might be a little early for serious decisions. He doesn't really care. Malfoy will probably call him a sad arse for what he's about to do, but he wouldn't even be considering it if it weren't for him. He tries not to think of Malfoy in those leather trousers last night, and how they clung to the slight curves of his arse, how Malfoy had held him while he was in the room and cared for him afterwards with a mixture of disdain and naked concern. Malfoy'd been pretty when they were younger, all loose limbs and long torso, but he was spectacular now. Harry wanted to run his hands over those lean, solid muscles and that soft, pale skin, to bury his face against the firm jut of Malfoy's hip bones. Christ. It was enough to hypnotise him with longing even here.

"Potter." Zacharias Smith's voice jerks him out of his reverie. Whatever flare of lust might have been about to embarrass Harry evaporates instantly. Zacharias has a way of doing that to a bloke.

Harry turns around and his shoulder smarts, giving him courage. "Jesus, Zach. Are you lying in wait?"

Zacharias leans against the doorframe of his office. Even on a Saturday he's dressed in wool trousers and a jumper; his eyes slip down to Harry's jeans and well-worn trainers. "I just happened to see you passing. Did you enjoy yourself last night?"

"I'm not sure I understand." Harry steps closer. His feet sink into the thick, plush carpet. It's a reminder of how different the London DMLE is to the Scottish.

"Last night." Zacharias's eyes narrow at him. "Really now, Potter. Did you think your glamour that impenetrable? How charming. But then you and Malfoy did seem a bit intent on one another, especially when you disappeared together into the back room."

Harry feels his face warm. If Malfoy thinks that his glamour slipped at any point in the evening, he'll be furious with Harry—not because anyone recognised him, but because Harry would have done a shoddy glamour spell. He scowls at Zacharias. "If you have something to say, Zach, say it."

"You were specifically told," Zacharias says, lowering his voice, "to leave the Goldstein family be. That includes the sister."

That surprises Harry. "You knew Lila was Mistr—" He stops, unwilling to out her in the middle of the Ministry. He'd promised her privacy. He's also not sure how far the tacita spell obtains. "Then you know why we were there last night."

"I make it my business to know things." Zacharias's keen eyes watch Harry's face for a reaction.

Harry refuses to give him the satisfaction. "And then Lila told you when you asked who had come to see her and you figured it out. You're good, Smith, but you're not that good."

Sometimes Harry doesn't understand how Zacharias ended up in Hufflepuff. He's fairly certain the Sorting Hat'd lost its bloody mind when it came to the bastard; as he recalled Smith'd run like a coward from the Battle of Hogwarts, all those years ago, not a single shred of loyalty towards his fellow D.A. members intact. It's almost as if he ought to have been Slytherin—and then Harry feels a twinge of discomfort at that particular thought. He's spent enough time with Malfoy and Parkinson these past two weeks to know there's a depth and a sense of loyalty peculiar to Slytherin House he'd never understood as a child.

Zacharias frowns as he tugs at the cuffs of his jumper. "This association with Malfoy won't do your career any favours, Harry. You know that as well as I."

"In that case, I'd expect you'd be encouraging it," Harry says, and Zacharias looks up at him, mouth tight. "But then John's not a really fan of yours, is he, as much as you've tried to scheme and connive."

"I've no idea what you're on about," Zacharias says, and that's a fucking laugh, isn't it?

"I think you do." Harry steps forward again, sending Zacharias across the threshold of his office door. "Back the fuck off, Zach, and that's a direct order from a superior officer."

"You're not my superior—" Zacharias starts, and Harry smiles, but it's more of a taut grimace. He glances down at his watch.

"Give me a quarter-hour, and then we'll see about that, won't we?"

Zacharias stills, and the look he gives Harry is vicious. "You shit."

"Keep your fucking arse out of my case, Smith, or I'll have your warrant card on charges of obstructing justice. Do I make myself clear?" At Zacharias's angry nod, Harry turns his back on him, fully aware that he's just made himself a dangerous enemy. "Now if you'll excuse me, I've a meeting with John."

He can hear Zacharias sputtering the entire way down the hall.

Harry turns the corner towards John's office, feeling absolutely brilliant.

***

Draco nods to the mediwitch on duty as he enters the maternity unit. Orla's bed is down near the window; Potter'd pulled some strings according to Pansy. Draco finds he doesn't mind at all, which surprises him. He might just be getting used to having the speccy bastard around.

The unit's nearly empty, but when Draco reaches Orla's bed, he stops in surprise, an Auror-level privacy charm shivering across his skin. Papers and file jackets are spread between the floor and the bed, and Lee's sitting crosslegged beside Pansy on the cold tiles, pouring over the documents. They barely look up at Draco, although Pansy does manage a wave.

Orla laughs. "They've been at it all morning." She looks tired, but happy, her red hair messy and bright across the white pillows. A little bundle is in the bed beside her, pale brown and swathed in thick yellow and white blankets printed with cheerful ducks. "Come say hello to Lucy. She's a bit tired at the moment. Nursing'll do that to you."

Draco sets the flowers and large stuffed bear wearing a Slytherin tie on the ledge beside the bed—it's already nearly overflowing with brightly coloured blossoms in vases and pottery bowls—and leans over Orla. A tiny hand waves and a full pink mouth opens and closes as Lucy Jordan settles back into sleep. "She's lovely."

"Damn right she is," Lee says from the floor. "Proper Jordan, that one."

Orla rolls her eyes. "At least she's the Quirke ears." She grins at Draco. "That's why he wears the dreads, you know. Ears like a bloody Erumpent."

Lee flicks two fingers his wife's way. "Hey, guv. Where's Harry?"

Draco'd like to know that as well. He'd barely slept at all, even when he'd made it back to his flat this morning, thinking about Potter stretched out, the leather strips of the flogger leaving their marks on the golden skin of his back. "Don't know."

Pansy stretches, reaching her arms as far back behind her as she can. She looks exhausted, and she's dressed in jeans and a ridiculously expensive cashmere jumper he'd bought her last Christmas. Practically loungewear for her. Her feet are bare—her heels are set aside at the foot of Orla's bed—and she's hardly any makeup on. Definitely no eyeliner. She must be feeling like shit. She yawns. "Anything new?"

"Only that Lila Goldstein's the Renaldi we were looking for," Draco says, taking the one chair beside Orla's bed. Both Pansy and Lee look up at him, surprise writ large across their faces. Draco snorts. "Doesn't mean a thing. I don't really think she did her sister-in-law in."

"Why not?" Orla asks. She shrugs when Draco glances at her. "As if you don't think Lee's telling me everything about the case anyway."

Draco can't really argue with her. "Suffice it to say her business dealings are in order, and Hannah'd been helping her keep her money clean. No real motive."

"She's a domme," Pansy says. She untwines her legs and stretches them out in front of her as much as her tight jeans will let her do. "Surely if that got out it'd embarrass Tony. Wouldn't Hannah have wanted to put a stop to it?"

"Evidently not." Draco watches the baby rub at her eyes, then fall back asleep. "At least according to Lila."

"And you believe her?" Lee asks.

Draco considers. He doesn't know why, but he does. "Yeah."

Even Orla looks sceptical. "What if Hannah threatened to expose her? I can think of at least twenty brilliant plots that could revolve around that."

"She didn't, and this is real life, Orla. Not one of your romance novels." An empty potion bottle nearly beans him in the temple. "Bloody fuck, woman!"

The bottle gets caught in the curtain around the bed and drops to the floor, bouncing on its No-Shatter Charm. "That," Orla says calmly, "will teach you not to denigrate my life's work. There's not a damn thing wrong with romance."

"Hear, hear," says Lee, and Draco shoots him a dirty look. Lee shrugs. "I sleep with her, guv. Whatever she says I agree with, and anyway those dirty stories of hers pay for my house."

"How very capitalist of you." Draco eyes Pansy and Lee. "What the hell are the two of you doing down there? Or should I ask why half our office is spread across the floor of St Mungo's, violating four or five procedural rules in the process?"

"Lee found something, and we're trying to corroborate it," Pansy says as Lee passes Draco a scrap of paper.

"Tell me what I'm looking at," Draco says, frowning down at what looks to be a photograph of a diary page.

Lee unfolds himself and stands. Draco can hear his knees pop as he does. "That was stuck to the back of a piece of parchment one of McMurty's men filed. It's Hannah's diary page for the day she died."

Draco looks down at it. "There's a meeting with Mandy Brocklehurst at half-nine; we knew about that one. Potch is written in at eleven—do we know who or what that is?"

"Trying to find a mention of a Potch." Pansy leans her head back against the wall. "So far no luck."

"Sounds like an early lunch date to me," Orla says.

Draco nods. He thinks she's right. "Restaurant, maybe?"

"Nothing wizarding by that name I can locate," Pansy says. "And Rosmerta says Hannah wasn't in the Broomsticks that Wednesday."

"Try Muggle next." Draco glances back at the photo. "What's this at half-one? Seeds of Magic board meeting?"

"That's what's odd," Lee says. "That's one of her charities, but there's no interview with them on missing persons' end or ours. I reckon Susan didn't get a chance to talk to their director before Harry pulled her off the case; she mentioned she was still working on that before the funeral. Haven't had any luck today either. He's still out of the country, according to his wife, and his staff's not in on weekends."

Draco drops the photo on the foot of Orla's bed. "And now you're thinking what exactly?"

"If she wrote it down in her diary," Pansy says from the floor, "wouldn't she have been there, instead of Hogsmeade shagging Longbottom around the same time she ought to have been at that board meeting?"

"Maybe she didn't go," Draco says. "She can't be in both places at once."

All four of them look at each other, falling quiet.

"Unless," Orla says after a moment, "one of them wasn't actually Hannah." Her eyes sparkle. "That'd make a great story."

"It's more likely she changed her mind about attending the board meeting." Draco looks back down at the photograph. "Why don't we have the actual diary?"

Lee shrugs. "Haven't found it in any of the documents from missing persons."

"Talk to McMurty first thing Monday morning. See if it's still in his department." Draco glances over at Pansy. "The Prophet covers charities, don't they?"

"Sometimes." Pansy scratches the tip of her nose. "Society page might have had a picture from it. It's a long shot, though. I can see if Blaise can track it down for me tomorrow, if they have one, but he'll want something in exchange."

Draco heaves a sigh. "Tell him the new diagnostics suggest a female killer. Maybe it'll help flush whomever it is out if Maggie has him on the front page again."

Orla summons the photograph. "I still like the body double idea," she says. She looks at Draco. "If you're not going to go with it, can I steal it for a book?"

"Be my guest," Draco says. He likes Orla, even if she's a bit mad. Also, she has just given birth.

And the result has just woken up. He rubs one little bootie-covered toe that Lucy Jordan flings up at him. Maybe she'll go into footie instead of Quidditch.

He smiles down at her, listening to Lee and Pansy argue about what exactly to tell Blaise. His thoughts drift back to Potter again, and he feels his face warm.

Things might possibly be looking up, he thinks.

He really should know better.

***

Pansy always feels a bit out of place in the bullpen of the Daily Prophet, even on a Sunday afternoon when half the journos are off work or out chasing down a story. Still, she takes the seat Blaise offers her, along with the hot pumpkin juice laced with a splash of brandy that he pours from the thermos tucked away beneath his desk.

"How's the case going?" he asks.

Pansy crosses one leg over the other. Her shoe slips off her foot and dangles from her toes, its stiletto heel tapping against the chair leg. She knows it annoys Blaise. "Well enough."

Blaise snorts. "And that's why you're here."

"Fuck off," she says easily. "We need a favour from you, and Draco's authorised me to give you some information in return."

"I'm listening." Blaise casts a Muffliato Charm, and Pansy feels a sharp pang of loss. Snape had taught every Slytherin first-year that charm within days of their arrival at Hogwarts. It hadn't been until well after his death that she'd learned he'd authored the spell during his own time as a Hogwarts student. It doesn't matter that it's been nearly twenty-five years since his death; she still misses his gruffness sometimes. He'd been their protector, and even if not all of her House had all loved him for it, they'd respected him, every last one of them.

She takes a sip of the doctored pumpkin juice. It's spicy and sweet. "If you've put Veritaserum in this," she warns Blaise, and he grins at her.

"Wouldn't dare."

She believes him. He wouldn't try those journo tricks on her. They had too much history. "We need to know if Hannah was at a board meeting for a charity the afternoon she died."

"Which one?" Blaise asks.

Pansy hands over a copy of the page from Hannah's diary, carefully blurred to show only the two o'clock entry. "Seeds of Magic."

Blaise studies the page. "You're hiding something." He looks up at her. "What's on her schedule before the meeting?"

"Can't say." Pansy reaches for the page; Blaise pulls it away. "We're asking about a specific function at a specific time. Can you find out if a Prophet photog was there?"

Blaise hesitates, then nods. "Give me a moment." He reaches for a thick book on his desk and flips it open, finding a calendar page for October in the middle. "Shared diary," he says to Pansy's unasked question. "The whole office uses it to keep track of assignments and what-not. If someone was there, it should be listed here. Twelfth October, right?"

"Yeah."

Blaise taps a finger against that day's box on the calendar, and a list of neatly printed names rises up into the air, all colour-coded. "Here you go," he says, nudging a scarlet name with fingertip. It expands to reveal details of the assignment. "Dicky was there, taking photos, but we only published one of the director and Emmeline Fawcett." He peers at the note; it's too small for Pansy to make out from where she's sitting. "Fawcett was giving a donation that day." With another tap of his finger the words fly back into the calendar. "Dicky took a full roll though. He might have caught Hannah on film."

"Can you find out?" Pansy asks.

"In the morning, yeah." At Pansy's huff of irritation, Blaise holds his hands up. "Not trying to fuck you over again. Dicky's not here and neither is the photo editor. Earliest I'd be able to talk to them is tonight, maybe, and things get mad here when there's a deadline for press. I doubt they're going to want to go digging through unused photo files then."

Pansy uncrosses her legs, sliding her shoe back on. "Fine. I suppose one more night isn't going to kill me." She starts to stand, but Blaise grabs her wrist, tugging her back down.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" He picks up a notepad and quill. "Info?"

"Right." Pansy leans back in the chair. It's terribly uncomfortable. "Forensics says the Sectumsempra was cast by a woman, so that at least partially clears Longbottom. Unless he has an accomplice. Always possible."

Blaise looks disappointed. "Old news."

"What do you mean?" Pansy demands. "That hasn't been released yet. We only got it on Friday."

"Like I haven't already paid off a source in MacRandall's lab," Blaise says with full scorn. He sets the notepad down. "I shouldn't tell you this, but you'll be getting the report tomorrow anyway. Maybe even tonight." He lowers his voice, despite the Muffliato. "That giant hole in the back of her head? Caved in with a stone? My source says they think it might have been the corner of a stone chimneypiece."

Pansy stills. "The Hog's Head has stone hearths."

"And chimneypieces." Blaise meets her gaze evenly. "Could be her place of death."

"Forensics didn't find traces of blood in the room she hired."

Blaise shrugs. "Plenty of spells to get around that, if you know them."

Yeah. Pansy does. "Keep this to yourself for a bit, Blaise?"

"I can give you twenty-four hours, but that's it," Blaise says. He twists his quill between his fingers. "Maggie's still not happy you've dropped Goldstein from the front pages."

"Who knows. He might jump back on." Pansy hesitates. Draco'll murder her for this one, she knows. "We might be looking at the sister."

Blaise sits forward, eyes lighting up. "Is that official info?"

"Not a bit." She stands again, knowing full well he's going to let that titbit drop in the morning paper. She feels a slight bit of guilt, but she pushes it down. It's more important to see what happens, she thinks. If Lila did it—and Pansy's not sold on Draco's belief that she didn't—the suggestion of her involvement might break her. They're running out of female suspects, and Pansy's damned certain Kirsty Lennox shouldn't be one of them. "Thanks, Blaise."

"By the way," he says as he drops the Muffliato, "congratulate Potter for me. The WWN's reporting that he's taken on the Deputy Head Auror position."

Pansy looks back at him. "Deputy Head Auror?" Shit. Draco's going to be furious, even if he'll pretend he's not. Pansy's seen the looks he's been giving Potter the past few days. As much as he thinks he's subtle, Draco wears his heart on his sleeve, especially when it comes to Potter, and he's got used to Potter being there. She can tell. She hasn't wanted to remind him Potter'll be going back to London at the end of the case. He's not part of their team, as much as Draco might want otherwise.

"Definitely." Blaise grins. "Skeeter's out working on the story for tomorrow, bitching about being scooped by the wireless. Right old cow."

"Yeah," Pansy says absently. "Thanks for the info. I'll pass it along." She hands him the half-empty glass of pumpkin juice. "You're the best."

"I try. Hey," Blaise says, and she turns around. "You going to Millie and Theo's Samhuinn party tomorrow night?"

"Probably not. Too much work to do."

Blaise leans back in his chair, propping his feet on his desk. "Draco?"

Pansy points a finger at him. "Stop fishing. Besides he's pashing on someone else right now, so you're out of luck for a shag, I'd say."

"Please tell me it's not Potter," Blaise says, and at Pansy's raised eyebrow, he groans. "Merlin's tits. It's been years, and he's still holding on to that torch? I blame Astoria, you know."

"It's not her fault Draco has terrible taste in men." Pansy eyes Blaise. "Present company definitely included."

Blaise stretches. It's a pity he's so shockingly good looking, Pansy thinks. And so very, very interested in cock. "I could mention his bad luck with women," Blaise says, "but I wouldn't want to make you cry."

"Get stuffed," Pansy says with a smile. It's a good-natured argument they've had since they first discovered they'd both shagged Draco—within the same week. She blows a kiss at Blaise, and he pretends to avoid it, but he waves her out of his cubicle with a laugh.

Pansy doesn't know what to tell the guv yet, but she thinks she's going to sit on this new information, at least for the night. In the morning she'll knock up Aberforth Dumbledore, bright and early. She wants another look at Hannah's room, once she goes over the forensics report for the umpteenth time.

She sighs. It's going to be a late night.

***

Harry takes a deep breath and knocks on the door of Draco's flat. It's late, really, and, if he's honest, he's a little tipsy from the celebratory drinks Ron and Hermione had pushed on him when he'd popped over to tell them his news. It's all over the wireless, and he probably should be in London advertising his new title. Still, he wants to talk to Malfoy. Needs to, actually.

He knocks again and waits. He's almost about to turn and leave, when he hears the locks click as the wards come down. The door opens, and an annoyed, bare-chested, pyjama-clad Malfoy's standing there, glaring at him.

"What the hell do you want?"

You, Harry wants to say. Instead he holds up the bottle of wine he'd nicked from Hermione's well-stocked bar. "I don't know if you've heard, but I'm the new Deputy Head Auror."

Malfoy just looks at him, utterly unmoved. "Congratulations." He starts to close the door, but Harry puts his foot in the way.

"Can I come in?"

He sees a flutter of something cross Malfoy's face. Irritation? Disappointment? Fear? He can't tell. Harry used to be one of the best readers of Malfoy out there. "Please," he says, and with a sigh, Malfoy opens the door wider, stepping back.

The flat's warm from the fire crackling in the hearth. Harry hands the wine to Malfoy and shrugs out of his jacket, draping it over the back of one of the chairs in the sitting room. He settles on the edge of the sofa, pushing aside the thick-knit charcoal cabled throw Malfoy's obviously been using there, along with the Matheas Vall novel.

Malfoy comes back with two glasses and the uncorked bottle. He hands a glass to Harry, and half-fills it with the rich red wine before pouring his own. He sets the bottle on his old school trunk, and takes the other side of the sofa. "I assume we're toasting to your new position?"

"Might as well." Harry clinks his glass against Draco's, then drinks. "You don't seem thrilled."

"It's not my job."

Harry studies him. Malfoy has that slightly petulant look he gets when he thinks someone's about to do him a disservice. "I thought you'd be happy to get me out of your hair."

"Of course I am." He doesn't sound like it, Harry thinks. Malfoy takes another sip of wine, then looks away. "Besides, I'm quite used to you walking off, aren't I?"

And there it is. Harry twists his wine glass between his palms, watching the wine swirl up the curved sides. "I was a tit back then, you know."

"Obviously." Malfoy's still not looking at him.

"Draco," Harry says quietly.

Malfoy drains his wineglass and sets it aside. "Promotion celebrated. You should go—"

"I was scared." Harry cuts him off. "The only people who'd ever got as close to me as you did that year are Ron and Hermione, and I never shagged either one of them. You terrified me when you said what you did that night. I was young and stupid, and I'd just seen nearly everyone who professed to care about me die. I panicked."

Malfoy looks at him then. "You don't think I did too? How do you think I felt letting Harry bloody Potter, the bane of my existence for seven years and the boy I was told to hate, know that I'd fallen for him? I knew how to keep secrets, I survived by lying, and I never meant to say that—" He breaks off, shaking his head. "I was completely broken, Potter. When you walked out."

Harry pours himself a bit more wine. "You married Astoria."

"After nearly ten years of what basically amounted to celibacy, with the odd shag here and there." Malfoy settles into the corner of the sofa, pulling the blanket over his chest and lap. Harry wants to object, but he doesn't. "You know damned well my marriage wasn't happy in the end. I thought I loved Astoria, but it wasn't the same." He scowls at Harry. "It's all your fault, you know."

"Is it?"

Malfoy eyes him. "Don't be coy, Potter. It doesn't suit you."

Harry feels out-of-place, almost out-of-time. Malfoy does that to him, makes him feel as if he's that nineteen-year-old boy again, awkward and numb, absolutely uncertain about what to do next. "I shouldn't have walked out that night," he says. "I'm not good with intimacy. I never have been."

They're quiet for a moment, then Malfoy says, "You don't let yourself be. That's different. You don't trust yourself enough to trust someone else." He shrugs. "Understandable."

"Can we leave it at I'm sorry for being a giant wanker?" Harry shifts uncomfortably. He doesn't like talking about his feelings. It's a trait that drives Hermione mental sometimes.

"Accepted," Malfoy says. "Although I'd like it in writing on your official Deputy Head Auror stationery. Harry Potter admits to being a giant wanker. I'm fairly certain I could sell that for a nice pile of dosh. Rita Skeeter would cream her knickers."

Harry smiles and stretches. "You're mad."

"You won't say that when I sell Blaise my thrilling story of how I shagged, then lost, the Deputy Head Auror." Malfoy looks wistful, then says, "I'll leave out the part about watching you get flogged at a private sex party. Blaise doesn't deserve that little kinky bombshell."

"Thanks."

Malfoy's smile makes Harry's stomach flip. "I figure having that hanging about might get our office a few perks from London."

"Scheming arsehole," Harry says, but he smiles back.

"I try." Malfoy looks gorgeous in the firelight, his silver-gilt hair shining, his pale skin warmed by the flicker of the flames.

Harry finishes his wine, then sets his glass on the floor. "Malfoy," he says, with as much courage as he can muster. He can't believe he's going to say this, but he has to try. "I'd really like to kiss you right now, if that's something you'd like as well." He's certain he's going to be tossed out on his ear.

To his surprise, Malfoy doesn't stand up and start yelling. Instead he sits forward, letting the blanket drop into his lap. He reaches for Harry, twisting his fingers in Harry's shirt, and hauls Harry onto the sofa on top of him.

"Merlin, I thought you'd never ask," he mutters, and then his mouth is against Harry's, his fingers twining in his hair. Their lips meet and they kiss like this for a few moments, awkward and straining with Harry bending over him, one knee on the sofa.

Malfoy breaks the kiss enough to pull back. "Are you certain you want this?" he asks.

Harry catches his mouth again, flicking his tongue against Malfoy's teeth. "Absolutely," he says breathlessly. He's already hard in his jeans; he's been thinking about little else since Friday night. He can still feel the ache of that one last bruise on his back. He wants Malfoy's mouth on it.

"It's just," Mafoy says, putting his hand on Harry's chest. "I'm not certain what you want. I mean…" A flush spreads over his cheeks. "I'm not as familiar with certain ways of having sex…" He trails off. "You know what I mean."

Harry laughs, suddenly understanding. "Look, I'm just gagging for your cock in my arse. If you want to play with other things later, I'm very keen to explore then, but tonight…" He kisses Malfoy again, eagerly, reaching for Malfoy's hand and pulling it towards the swell of his cock in his jeans. "Tonight I just want you to pound me until I'm shouting."

Malfoy's fingers stroke along the length of zip. "I could do that." He looks up at him. "Harry."

Harry's heart clenches. He cups Malfoy's cheek as he kisses him. "Draco," he says against his mouth, and Draco smiles into the kiss.

"Bedroom," Draco says, and Harry struggles to push himself up out of his contorted position. He's not as young as he'd been, he thinks regretfully, but he tugs Draco up, and they make their way to the arched doorway off the sitting room, stopping for Draco to divest Harry of his shirt. It falls to the floor, and Harry bites his lip as Draco's hands slide over his bare skin and down to the button of his jeans.

Draco's eyes are dark in the shadow of the hall. He kisses Harry breathless and then pulls back. "We're never going to make it at this rate."

The bedroom door is literally five feet away. Harry's not sure Draco's wrong. He gasps for words with Draco's mouth on his collarbone and his hands working the jeans off of his hips. "Maybe we should try harder."

"Mmmm." Draco lips are anchored to the skin of his neck; there is a slide of denim and then Harry's jeans are pooling about his ankles. Harry toes off his trainers and kicks the jeans off his feet. They go skidding down the wooden floor of the hall as Harry pushes Draco up against the wall.

"Why haven't we been doing this for years?" Harry whispers against Draco's hair. He doesn't allow him to answer but kisses him roughly, relentlessly.

When their mouths separate, Draco laughs, lightly and mockingly amused. "Because you were an utter arse at nineteen. It only took you twenty-three years to come to your senses."

"Has it been that long?" Harry bites along the length of Draco's jaw. "Seems like yesterday."

"Bastard," Draco says, but there's no anger in his voice and soon, he's gasping. He pushes his hips against Harry's, and Harry can feel the heated swell of Draco's cock, even through the cotton of his y-fronts. "I really think we should be horizontal for this, but I'm close to giving up."

Harry slides to his knees, kissing down Draco's scarred chest, his lips moving across the puckered skin. Draco groans, and his fingers tangle in Harry's hair, tugging with a delicious hint of pain. "Christ," Draco says, as Harry pulls at the waistband of Draco's black silk pyjama bottoms, pushing them over his hips.

Draco's not wearing pants, Harry realises, and he watches in delight as Draco's prick slips free. Even before the pyjamas hit the floor, Harry's mouth is on the head of Draco's cock, sucking lightly. Draco's hips buck, and his fingers tighten again in Harry's hair. "I'd no idea you planned to be so... hands-on in your new position."

Harry swallows around Draco's cock and pulls back for a moment, the swollen head resting against his lip. "A good Deputy Head Auror should provide tangible benefits to the force, don't you agree?" He strokes with his fingertips lightly behind Draco's balls, just to watch him shiver.

Draco is lovely with his head thrown back, long neck flushed and Adam's apple jutting forward. The huffs of his breath are loud in the quiet hall. "I don't think I've ever seen quite these benefits listed in staff manuals."

Harry places a quick kiss on Draco's thigh, brushing his cheek along the shaft of Draco's prick. "You're in a pilot programme."

Draco snorts. "As long as it's a closed trial."

"Very selective." Harry stands slowly, letting his body slide up over Draco's. His fingers close around Draco's hips. "Up," he says, and Draco wraps his legs around Harry's waist as Harry lifts him with a hand beneath his arse. "Christ, you're heavier than you used to be," he mock-complains, and Draco kicks him with his heel.

"It has been a few years, Potter," he says, and Harry carries him into the bedroom, dropping him on the thick white duvet covering the enormous bed. Harry still recognises the frame; he'd only spent a night or two in the London flat Draco shared back then with Greg Goyle, but he remembers the feel of the dark wood beneath his fingertips.

Harry stands between Draco's spread thighs, looking down on him sprawled across the duvet, a tangle of creamy skin and pale hair against the stretch of white linen. "Fuck, you're gorgeous," he says, tracing his fingertips over Draco's flat stomach and across the indentations of Draco's hipbones. He's not that different from what he'd been at nineteen: a little broader in the shoulders, perhaps, and certainly more muscular from the required training course the force demanded every other year. But he's still Harry's Draco, the one he'd fallen in love with years before, even if he hadn't been able to admit it to himself at the time, the one he'd thought he'd lost forever.

He plucks the glasses from Draco's face and folds the arms in, setting them aside on the nightstand, before doing the same for his own. There's something personal about the gesture, about the intimacy of their glasses nestled together among the objects of Draco's daily life, the stack of books and the box of tissues, the scattered coins and the heavy watch.

"Circe," Draco says, and he sits up, reaching for Harry's pants. "These off. Now." He pushes the white cotton y-fronts over the curve of Harry's arse, sliding them over Harry's heavy cock. "Better," he says quietly, and he leans up to press his mouth against the pulse in Harry's throat.

Harry moans, and Draco pulls him down onto the bed, rolling them both until he straddles Harry's hips. "Tell me what you want," he says into Harry's ear, his teeth nipping at Harry's earlobe as he rocks forward. His cock slides over Harry's, and Harry can barely think.

"Fuck me," he manages to choke out, and he grabs Draco's hips tightly, arching up against his prick. Draco hisses. "Just fuck me."

Draco reaches over him to pull a bottle of lube from a drawer in the sidetable, and Harry gets a glimpse of a thick purple silicone cock before the drawer closes again. That, he thinks, is definitely going to be used at some point. Possibly stuffed up his arse while he pounds into Draco. Or up Draco's while he sucks him off. Either one would work.

The lube is slick and cool against his skin as Draco slides his wet fingers through Harry's crease. "One finger or two?" Draco asks. He slips between Harry's thighs, nudging them apart with his knees.

"Two." Harry's already writhing, ready for the thickness of Draco's fingers inside of him.

Draco hesitates. "You're certain?"

Harry nods, spreading his thighs wider and pushing his hips up. "Come on." He closes his eyes when Draco pushes two slick fingers inside of him, probing deeper with each careful press. It hurts at first—it's been weeks since he's been fucked—but Harry likes the burn and the fact that its Draco has him halfway to coming already. His fingers twist in the duvet, and he pushes his hips against Draco's hand. "Christ, that's good."

The mattress shifts near his shoulder, and he opens his eyes to Draco leaning over him, one hand propping him up as the other presses deeper into him. Draco's slick thumb circles beneath Harry's balls, and Harry's cock tightens, bobbing wetly against his stomach. "Do you know how fantastic you look?" Draco asks. "Harry Potter, spread wide across my bed and begging to have me inside him?" He shifts his hips and his prick slides over Harry's thigh. "You are begging, aren't you?"

"Yes," Harry says breathlessly. "I am begging you, Detective Chief Inspector Draco Malfoy, to shag me rotten across this great bloody bed of yours. And now."

Draco stills, his lips twisted into a smirk. "That sounds more like an order to me, Deputy Head Auror Potter."

Harry arches his back, grinding down onto Draco's hand. Christ, this is glorious and he wants more. "Whatever gets your cock up my arse sooner. I'll say anything you like."

And then Draco's hand is holding Harry's hip down while he gently withdraws his fingers. Harry closes his eyes. "No, look at me."

Harry is surprised by the quiet tone of command in Draco's voice and does as he says. He watches Draco slick his cock in a few, efficient strokes and lets himself be held in place as Draco lines up. He manages to keep his eyes open even as he feels Draco's hard length begin to breach his body, although he can't stop the groan that issues from his lips. "Please."

"Please what?" Draco's mouth is twisted in a smirk. His hips still.

"Please fuck me into the mattress." Harry aches to be filled. "Use me, do whatever you like. Stuff my arse with your cock."

"Look at you, gagging for it." Draco's grey eyes are clear in the half-light. "I should make you beg for it more. Tease you, not let you finish. Leave you like this."

"No." Harry says. He's so close to getting what he needs. He wants Draco so much he can't see straight. "You wouldn't." Draco might leave. Harry knows this. The fear of it shivers through him, his body opening around Draco but in no way satisfied.

Draco leans down, and brushes his cheek with his knuckles. "Since you beg so prettily for it."

Harry's not as flexible as he once was, and Draco can't bend him double, but he drapes his legs around Draco's hips and his hand scrabbles for purchase on the wooden expanse of the headboard as Draco thrusts into him, fucking him up and across the bed, Harry's cries echoing through the room. He finally braces his wrists behind him and pushes back, his body arched between the headboard and the force of Draco's hips. He's trembling with the effort and the sheer, strained pleasure of it, his bruised shoulder red-hot against the sheets. "Harder."

Draco is a blur above him and Harry's all but forgotten his own name, his throat raw and aching. Their bodies crash, collide, joining and unjoining. He could float like this forever, higher and higher on the waves of sensation crashing through him. As some point, he shouts Draco, and then Draco's hand curls around the root of his prick. Immediately, the sum of everything they're doing coils inside him, gathering force, and it all explodes outward from his core leaving absolute nothingness in its wake.

Harry collapses back against the mattress, limp and shaking, and Draco pulls out almost gently, his body tight. Harry watches, eyelids barely cracked open, as Draco reaches for himself, pulling once, twice, his face set almost in a mask. Draco grunts something—Harry's too far gone to make it out—and sticky warmth splatters across Harry's stomach. Draco drops his head, panting like he's just run a mile in pursuit. He lowers himself down next to Harry, and his warmth is welcome against the chilled flesh of Harry's side.

They're silent for a moment, then Draco runs a lazy finger through the strings of spunk across Harry's skin. "I should clean you up."

Harry trails his fingers through Draco's hair. He feels amazing, better than he's felt after sex in ages. All he wants to do is sleep, then wake Draco up with a spectacular blow job. And perhaps, in the morning, eggs.

It's quite a bit colder when Draco moves away. Harry hears quiet footsteps in the hallway, and the sound of water splashing. Draco comes back with a flannel in his hand. Harry sighs contentedly as Draco runs the cloth over his skin, cleaning him. His limbs are so heavy he can't move. "I'm staying here, you know," he says.

Draco slides back into the bed beside him. "Are you?"

"Absolutely." Harry manages to shift so that one arm is draped over Draco, his head on Draco's shoulder. "No running off this time."

He feels Draco's soft kiss on his forehead. "I wouldn't object."

"To the staying or the running?" Harry asks. He's sleepy.

Draco's fingers card through Harry's hair as he curls his body closer. "Staying."

"Good." Harry presses his mouth to Draco's shoulder. "I'm going to want to do this again in a few hours."

"Duly noted." Draco sounds amused. "If you can manage it at your age."

Harry nips Draco's collarbone. "Our age, Malfoy."

He settles against Draco's side, tired and content. It feels like something has been made right with the universe.

Now he can rest.

Chapter Text

"It's too damned early for you to be pounding on an old man's door, girl," Aberforth says, letting Pansy into the Hog's Head. He's still in a nightshirt and a tatty brown dressing gown with a giant gaping hole in the sleeve. "You're keeping Hyacinth from her beauty sleep."

"You're an innkeeper, Ab." Pansy steps into the pub, empty save for Hyacinth, who's curled on a nest of blankets near the hearth. The goat raises her brown and white head and yawns before settling back down into the blankets. "Shouldn't you be up making breakfast for your guests?"

Aberforth glowers at her as he locks the door behind them both. "If they want breakfast, Puddifoot's is down the lane. It's not even half-eight, you little strumpet, so what brings you by at this God-awful hour?" He stomps over to the bar, reaches behind it and pulls out a bottle of firewhisky, uncapping it and drinking straight from the neck.

"I need to see Hannah's room," she says. "The one she actually used, not the one forensics looked at." She gives him an even look. She's been up half the night going over the forensics reports, and the lack of trace evidence is bothering her. "I know you must have shown them the wrong one."

Aberforth takes another swig from the bottle, then puts it down on the bar with a sigh. "This whole damned thing's been bad for business," he says. "Lost half my trade to that cow Rosmerta and the other half's been a bit antsy since you lot have been tramping about. Not exactly fond of Aurors, are they? And that room's my best bloody room." He gives her a mournful look. "Who'd want to stay in a room where a chit got done in?"

"Plenty of people, I'd say." Pansy refuses to feel sympathy for the old bastard. "World's full of nutters. Speaking of, I could have you in for impeding an enquiry, you know."

Aberforth glares at her from under his bushy white eyebrows. "Wouldn't do."

"Show me the room."

Pansy follows Aberforth up the rickety stairs. She still can't quite believe Hannah would have chosen this place for a sexual rendezvous—the romantic ambiance is rather lacking, in her opinion, and she wouldn't have been able to abide Aberforth's tolerance for filth—but she supposes there's always the thrill of the illicit.

Aberforth leads her away from the grim room marked off by shimmering crime scene wards and towards the larger room at the front of the pub. "Best room in the house," Aberforth says, pushing the door open.

If it is, Pansy can't tell. The row of diamond-paned windows across the one wall are grimy, but let in a decent amount of light. The bed is large and wide and actually has clean, if rumpled, sheets on it. At Pansy's raised eyebrow, Aberforth shrugs and scratches his bearded chin. "She liked fresh sheets, and the amount of money she was paying, well. I nicked some off of Hogwarts when she'd come over."

"Are these still the ones from the twelfth?"

"Reckon so," Aberforth says. "I haven't changed 'em, and no one's been up here since you Aurors started tramping around."

Pansy flicks her wand toward the bed and the sheets fold up. She levitates them into an evidence bag. "Need to check for DNA," she says, and Aberforth grunts from the doorway.

"The things you lot are able to do now."

Pansy moves towards the stone hearth. It's massive and takes up most of a wall. The chimneypiece is carved from the same stone as the hearth. If it wasn't in the Hog's Head, it might be impressive.

Another spell causes the end of Pansy's wand to glow with a deep purple light. She shines it on the stones; splotches show up, bright spatters across the hearth and smeared over the pointed end of the chimneypiece. She glances back at Aberforth. "Close this room up now. No one gets in or out, do I make myself clear?"

Aberforth nods, his gaze still fixed on the fireplace. "That's her blood then?" He sounds a bit reedy.

Pansy drops the spell and sheaths her wand in her belt. "Come on, Ab." She touches his shoulder gently, leading him out of the room and closing the door behind them. He needs a firewhisky, and she needs a forensic team.

Following Aberforth down the stairs, she wonders what else they've missed in all of this and whether it's too late to fit all of the pieces together still.

***

The sun's high and warm through the windowpanes when Draco raises his head from Harry's chest. "We're late," he says, and Harry just hmmms deep in his chest, unmoving.

Draco rolls over, taking some of the thick white duvet with him, and Harry protests. "Cold," he says, and Draco laughs, looking back over his shoulder.

"Still nonverbal in the mornings, are we?"

Harry opens one eye. He looks gorgeous naked in Draco's bed, his messy black hair stark against the white pillows. "Is it still morning? As I recall, you kept me up half the night."

"You're the one who woke me up at half-three with my cock in your mouth." Draco sits up, glancing over at the clock on the chimneypiece. It's nearly noon. "Pansy's going to be mental." He thinks he might have heard an owl tapping at the window an hour or two ago, but he'd ignored it.

"Pansy's always mental," Harry says through a yawn. "Do you have eggs?"

"Check the kitchen." Draco watches in amusement as Harry summons his glasses and rolls out of bed, utterly starkers. He pads out of the bedroom, pausing to stretch in the doorway. "Nice arse," Draco calls out, and Harry tenses it, letting his muscles dimple. It nearly takes Draco's breath away. He wants to be between those cheeks again, prick hard and slick, and—Christ on a raft, he needs to get into work.

He slips out of bed and reaches for his wand. A quick Patronus later to Pansy letting her know he and Harry both are obviously late—she'll read the truth into that without a doubt—and he's in the shower, letting the hot water soothe his sore muscles.

By the time he dries off and dresses in a white dress shirt and a pair of jeans, there are delicious smells wafting from his kitchen. Harry's managed to put on pants at least, those low-slung y-fronts that Draco had delighted in removing the night before, and two plates piled high with eggs and bacon, toast and beans.

"Not quite a full English," Harry says, "but the best I could do with your pantry. You need to do a shop, by the way. I'm fairly certain you're down to Irn-bru and salad cream."

"That's what takeaway's for." Draco sits in front of one the plates, and Harry sets a mug of tea in front of him. "If I'd known breakfast was part of the deal, I'd have slept with you a week ago."

Harry grins and takes the other chair at Draco's tiny kitchen table. There's something decadent about having the brand-new Deputy Head of your force sitting across from you in nothing but his pants and looking shagged out, Draco thinks, although he's fairly certain human resources would be appalled if forced to examine the particulars.

"What are your plans for the rest of the day?" Draco asks over the rim of his mug.

Harry swallows a bite of egg before picking up a triangle of toast and slathering it with butter. "Thought I'd go by Hogwarts. I want to talk to Nev about losing his wand again, see if I can find anything else out. I don't know how Lila or Kirsty would have nicked it to use on Hannah, but given they're our two primary suspects at the moment..."

Draco frowns and sets his mug down. "I'm still not keen on either of them, if I'm honest. Tony seems the most likely." He cuts his eggs with his fork; they're fluffy and drenched with butter, cheese and some green onions. He takes a bite and nearly moans. "Your cooking's improved."

"I do a good breakfast," Harry says. "And aren't you forgetting the female signature on the Sectumsempra?"

"You can get around that." Draco scoops some beans on his toast. "Either there were two people, and one cast the Sectumsempra—" Harry snorts at that. "Or maybe Polyjuice or some other physical transformation spell might have been employed. We're wizards, Harry. Or did you forget the whole teapot to tortoise and hedgehog to pincushion spells we did in Transfiguration?"

Harry doesn't look convinced. "Seems like an awful lot of work to go about killing someone. Besides CWPS stats suggest most wizarding murders are done in the heat of the moment—arguments, duels, tempers flare and magic goes wonky, that sort of thing."

"CWPS stats are generalised." Draco finishes off his toast. "And does this murder strike you as being typical?"

"You have a point." Harry stands up. "More tea?"

Draco shakes his head and piles the rest of his eggs and bacon between two slices of toast. "Best be off to the office before Pansy has a meltdown on me. I'm surprised she hasn't shown up, pounding on the door." He drains his mug of tea, then stands himself, leaning over the table to kiss Harry. "Want to stay over tonight?"

Harry's smile is bright. "Obviously." He hands Draco a napkin. "For your sarnie."

Another kiss, long and lingering and full of promise, and then Draco reluctantly pulls away. "Later?"

Harry nods, and Draco grabs his jacket, sliding it on before Apparating away, mouth filled with egg, bacon and bread.

He's still eating as he strides through the DMLE corridors, feeling as if he's floating on air. Who knew a brilliant shag could make even a Monday seem fantastic?

"Draco!" Susan comes out of the women's loo. Her hair's rumpled and limp around her shoulders, and her eyes are puffy and red. "Pansy's been looking for you."

"Are you all right, Suse?" Draco frowns at her. "You seem a bit tired."

"I'm fine." She gives him a weak smile, but Draco doesn't believe her. "Pansy and Lee took a forensic team out to the Hog's Head again this morning." She bites her lip. "Seems Aberforth didn't give them Hannah's room the first time. Pansy found blood spatter on the hearth."

Draco bins the rest of his sandwich with regret. It's time to focus. "Are other trace elements showing up?"

"I don't know," Susan says. "Pansy just said she was looking for you and why. Nothing else."

"Are they still out there?" Draco doesn't care if he sounds sharp. There's something off about Susan this morning. She seems distracted, almost wafty and fragile, and that's not like her at all.

"Maybe?" Susan looks weary. She scrubs a palm over her face, then drops her hand. "Can I go with you?"

He almost says no. He thinks he should, but her pleading look stops him. He sighs. "Fine, but if McMurty complains, you're the one who'll put up with his whinging, not me. Understood?"

"Completely," she says, and she looks brighter already.

Draco turns on his heel and walks back down the corridor, Susan hurrying to keep up with him. "What else did Pansy say?"

"Nothing really." Susan steps through door to the stairwell that he holds open for her. "Just that about the Hog's Head, and something about talking to Blaise about the board meeting?" Her forehead wrinkles. "Not sure what she meant by that."

"Hannah was supposed to be at a board meeting for one of her charities the afternoon Aberforth says she was in the Hog's Head," Draco says, hurrying down the stairs. There's an Apparition point at the bottom, one of the few places in the building where the Aurors could pop in and out at their leisure. "We're considering the possibility that someone might have impersonated her."

Susan nearly stumbles on the last few steps. Draco catches her before she falls. "Why would anyone do that?"

"No idea." Draco opens the door to the hallway. "This is strictly confidential, of course."

"I know."

They stop in front of the room containing the Apparition point, and Draco uses his wand to lower the wards. "Hog's Head?" he asks, leading her into the room. It's empty and sparkling white, save for a silver compass painted on the floor.

Susan nods.

"See you there then," he says with a smile, and just before the room spins away from him, he feels Susan's hand close on his elbow, jerking him against her as the bright white walls begin to swirl. Something strikes his hand, and his wand goes flying.

It clatters when it hits the floor, rolling away, and Draco shouts out for Harry as he spins away into blackness.

***

Neville hands Harry a mug of Darjeeling. He looks tired and worn-out as he takes one of the chairs in his office. There are carved pumpkins piled everywhere; the Hogwarts Hallowe'en Feast is tonight, Harry remembers. He'd forgotten the date. The Samhuinn fires will be burning throughout Edinburgh when darkness falls, with Aurors and Muggle police wandering the streets.

"Hasn't been a great fortnight," Neville says. "Tell Zabini thanks ever so for spreading my face across the front page of the Prophet."

Harry leans against the doorframe. "Sorry about that. It wasn't what we wanted either."

"I suppose not." Neville sighs. "But you don't work with teenagers." He grimaces. "Utter shits, most of them. Half my students think it great fun to call me Professor Murder in lectures, and the other half are terrified every time they come into my greenhouses. Not to mention the Howlers from parents. I'm surprised Pomona hasn't sacked me by now."

Harry takes a sip of tea. It's strong. "Draco's leaked the fact that your wand—or one like it—was used by a woman. That should help." He eyes Neville. "I'm sure Tamlin told you that. It takes our spotlight off you a bit."

"Yeah." Neville shrugs. "But the damage is done now. I'll always be Professor Murder, the same way Snape's remembered as the Death Eater Headmaster. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. Kids don't really pay attention to that sort of thing. Not when it comes to professors." He sounds grim and resigned.

Harry doesn't know what to say. He knows the toll a highly public case can take on the people caught in its spotlight, but this seems different. More personal, in a way.

"It's no matter," Neville says. "I'll finish up this term and spring, if Pomona will let me, then think about what to do. Salem Witches' Institute has made noises in the past about wanting to poach me away. Maybe a year or two in the States will do me some good. Help me get my mind off all this." He waves his hand vaguely, but Harry knows he means Hannah. He can't imagine what it must be like to have lost someone he loved so violently and suddenly. Draco slides across his mind, but he pushes that thought away.

Harry pushes himself off the doorframe and sets his mug on the mantel. "Can I see your new wand?" he asks, and Neville nods and lifts his hips from his chair, pulling the wand from the pocket of his robe. He hands it over.

The wand's s heavy in Harry's hand, and the cherrywood gleams warm and rich in the lamplight. Harry runs a few diagnostic spells on it, nothing elaborate, but he feels oddly uncomfortable as Neville watches him.

"You won't find anything illegal," Neville says after a moment. "I don't know how many more times I can say this, but I didn't kill her."

"Tell me how you lost your wand then."

Neville sets his tea aside. He leans forward, his elbows on his knees, staring at the worn floorboards beneath his feet. The window behind him is cloudy with condensation, giving the light that filters through a watery cast. "I had my wand that afternoon," he says. "I'm almost positive it was tucked away in my cloak when I arrived at the Hog's Head. Hannah and I fought, then we slept together. I didn't notice I'd lost it until later that night, after dinner actually. I met with a student in my quarters who needed help with his Orchideous spell, and I realised then I must have misplaced it. I sent Stephen away and went back to the Hog's Head, but I couldn't find it there, or on the path. I even tried to Summon it several times with Pomona's wand, but it never appeared."

"Could someone have nicked it from you?" Harry asks, handing the wand back. "Hannah perhaps?"

Neville gives him a perplexed look. "Why? To kill herself? You're not that desperate, are you?"

Harry's starting to wonder if Draco might actually be onto something with this Polyjuice theory. "Maybe Hannah wasn't herself that day. You said she was acting a bit off."

"She wouldn't have done that." Neville's vehement. "She loved her girls; she wouldn't even leave them for me, so what makes you think she would have—" He stops, realisation dawning. He looks a bit ill. "You think I might not have slept with Hannah?"

"It's one explanation." Harry bites his lip. He still doesn't like it, but he's starting to wonder. "Was the sex different that day?"

Neville nods slowly. "Hannah wasn't passive in bed, but she wasn't like she was that afternoon. It was almost as if she were desperate. And she wanted me to leave immediately." He looks away, swallowing hard. "It's not how I'd like to remember her." He glances back at Harry. "Funny the things you remember. She smelled like violets that day. It wasn't her usual perfume. Hannah preferred roses. I'd given her a bottle for her birthday in April; it's what she usually wore when we met."

Harry shoves his hands in his pockets. He'd borrowed a pair of Draco's trousers and one of his jumpers this morning. It still smells like him, musky and spicy like cloves. He understands Neville, he thinks. There's something about being aware of your lover's scent. "I should get back to Edinburgh," he says after a moment. "Is there anything else you think might help?"

Neville pauses, then shakes his head. "I don't know what else I can tell you," he says wearily. His grief hangs heavy on him, Harry thinks. Not even in the bleakest part of the war had he seen Neville this defeated. Harry wants to tell him it'll be okay, that he believes Neville didn't do it. He can't. He's too much of an Auror to make false promises.

"Thanks for the tea," he says, and Neville nods.

As Harry lets himself out, he hears Neville draw in a deep, ragged breath. He doesn't look back. Grief needs its own space sometimes.

***

Draco lands on his feet in a stretch of frosted grass. He staggers at first, still a bit dizzy from the Apparition, but he straightens up, looking around. He's not in Hogsmeade, but he's close. The train tracks stretch from north to south, disappearing around the ridge of a rocky outcropping. If he turned to his left and walked a quarter of a mile he'd be at the Hogsmeade station.

When a hand settles on his back, he whirls around. "What the fuck, Susan?" he demands, and then he sees it.

A blue topaz in an angular cut with a fine gold chain… He can almost hear Longbottom whispering in his ear. The necklace swings forward in a flash of blue and gold as Susan stumbles, then nestles back again between the curve of her breasts when she regains her balance. It slips beneath the unbuttoned vee of her shirt, hiding again.

Draco looks away, his mind whirling. He reaches instinctively for his wand before remembering it's not with him. Shit. He takes a deep breath, then turns back towards Susan. "What's going on?"

She looks pale, but resolute. "You know, don't you?"

"Know what?" Draco's been trained to deal with unstable perpetrators. He just never thought he'd face down one of his team like this. "Let's go back to the station, yeah? I've dropped my wand somewhere—"

"No." Susan has a wand out already, pointed towards him. It's not the one he's seen her use for years now. This one is longer and made of cherrywood. Draco's heart sinks further.

"Suse," he says, and his voice is gentle. "What have you done?"

Her eyes are bright with unshed tears. "Why'd it take you so long, Draco? Why didn't you see it was me?"

"Because this isn't you." Draco steps towards her, but she raises the wand higher, holding it level with his face.

"Please don't make me," she says, voice high. "Not yet."

Draco stills. "All right." He studies the distance between them, wondering if he can still take her down, even without a wand. She smiles wryly.

"Don't think about it." Susan flicks the wand, and ropes slither around Draco's feet and hands, binding him. Another arc of the wand and Draco's sat on a nearby rock, next to the thicket he'd first seen Hannah's bloodied body beneath. "I've been through the same training."

"You're an Auror," Draco says. "Not a murderer. We can figure this out. It was an accident, wasn't it? You didn't mean to kill her—"

Susan presses the back of her hand to her mouth and bends over, muffling the shout that wrenches out of her. Her shoulders tremble.

"Susan." Draco strains against the ropes, but they have no give. He stop before he hurts himself. "Susan, let me help you."

She stands up again, breathing hard. Her eyes are wild. "You can't. No one can." She shakes her head. Draco wonders if anyone would hear his scream.

"I don't want to do this," Susan says. She sounds broken, he thinks.

"Do what?" Draco asks. "Susan?"

Susan just shakes her head again. She sits down on the ground beside the thicket. There are still small patches of dried blood on the broken grass stems. Susan pulls her knees up to her chest. "We wait."

Dread pools in Draco's gut, and he closes his eyes. Harry, he thinks. All this time and he's finally found him again. This isn't the way he wants it to end, not with Harry standing stoically beside his grave, nothing but a superior officer in the eyes of everyone else. He wants a chance, he realises. Time to see if they still fit, if they need each other as much as he thinks they might. He wants Harry.

Please, he breathes out, hoping the universe is listening.

***

Pansy's back in the murder room, having left Lee in charge of the constables and SOCAs tramping about the Hog's Head, protective charms glittering over their robes. So far there's nothing tangible to report to the guv when he finally makes his way in. She'd rolled her eyes at his Patronus, and if she was honest, had felt a flare of jealousy. It wasn't as if she hadn't seen it coming. Neither Draco nor Potter had been exactly discreet lately in the way they'd looked at each other when they thought no one was paying attention. But Pansy's still been the one Draco's turned to in recent years, and she's not certain she's prepared to lose that. Besides, she thinks Potter might be the one to make Draco truly get over Astoria. She wishes she could find someone like that, someone who could help her forget Viktor, and that bitterly regretted mistake of hers.

She sticks the photo Blaise had owled over an hour ago onto the murder board, alongside an enlarged copy of the page from Hannah's diary that Lee had tacked up Sunday afternoon. Hannah's smiling out at her, another board member of Seeds of Magic at her side. Pansy'd firecalled the charity this morning to confirm that Hannah'd been at the meeting. The only way Hannah could have been two places at once was with a Time-Turner, and Pansy had a request in to the Ministry to see if, first, they were even back into production yet after the mishap during the war that had sent all of them into an infinity loop, and if, secondly, should the Department of Mysteries have constructed more, Hannah had been issued one. To be honest, Pansy'd be shocked if she hears anything at all.

"Which means," she says out loud to herself, "Polyjuice is more likely an option."

"Agreed," Potter says, coming into the room. "As farfetched as it might seem."

Pansy turns around, arms crossed, taking in Potter's attire in one long look. "Raiding Draco's closet, are we?" she asks, attempting to keep her annoyance in check. It's not her business what Draco drags off the streets to shag, even a Deputy Head Auror.

A small smile quirks Potter's mouth, making him slightly more attractive. "Awkward morning."

"I can imagine." Pansy fiddles with the Gringotts key at her throat. She scowls at him. "If you break his heart, I'll murder you in your sleep, Potter. I know how to get away with it."

"Duly noted." Potter perches on the edge of Draco's desk. "Where is he, by the way? He was on his way in a good hour or so ago."

Pansy shrugs. "I thought he was with you. Maybe he went out to the Hog's Head with Lee and the SOCAs?" At Potter's confused look, she sighs. "If you'd actually received my damned owl this morning, you'd know. Aberforth gave us the wrong room, which explains the lack of blood in the forensics reports from the inn. Right room, lots of blood, forensics as a collective whole is out there practically having an orgasm over the fireplace. Also, the corner of the chimneypiece matches the wound in Hannah's head."

"So she was killed there."

"Or the process was started." Pansy glances over at him, eyes narrowed. "Not enough blood spatter for a Sectumsempra though."

Potter has the grace to flush and look away. Damn right, you arsehole, she thinks. I know what you did all those years ago, even if it's been left out of all the magazine articles. He slides off the desk and walks up next to her, studying the board.

He leans closer, a frown creasing his face. "Why do we have a lunch appointment with Susan on the board?"

"What?" Pansy blinks at him.

Potter points at the Lunch with Potch scrawl in Hannah's diary. "That's Susan's school nickname. Luna used to call her that all the time; evidently it was a joke of some sort between a few of her friends." He stands up, looking over at her. "It's been a while, so maybe I'm not remembering correctly, but I always thought Potch was an odd name for Suse."

Things begin to slot into place. Pansy stills, staring at the board. Susan's behaviour lately, how upset she'd been when the case fell on their desks, how hard she'd tried to stay on the case, even when they all knew it was a conflict of interest. The small things she'd said, shifting the focus onto other people. Like Neville. Or Kirsty. Or—

She reaches for the unopened report from forensics that was waiting on Draco's desk when she came in. The parchment tears under her fingers, and when she looks at the diagnostics, her stomach twists.

"Oh, shit," Pansy says quietly, and Potter looks at her.

"Parkinson?"

"It's Susan." Pansy knows she's right, can feel it deep down into her bones, the way she always does when a case finally makes sense. "The scarf we sent down, the one Hannah supposedly left at the Hog's Head that day? It has her DNA on it."

Potter turns back to the board. She can tell when it falls into place for him as well. "She would have been the last one to see her alive."

"Yeah."

"It doesn't mean she killed her," Potter says. "Maybe she borrowed the scarf at some point."

Pansy looks over at him. He hasn't bothered with a shaving charm today; his stubble is dark against his golden skin. "She didn't tell us she went to lunch with her."

"Still not a sign of guilt." Potter chews on his bottom lip. "She's an Auror. Why would she do anything that stupid? She'd know we'd catch her."

"Maybe she wants us to." Pansy hesitates, then says, "She never knew we found the scarf. She didn't even know she left it, did she? Aberforth said she didn't hear him when he tried to tell her."

They fall quiet, then Potter says with a quiet certainty, "Let's go find her."

Pansy couldn't agree more.

***

The afternoon sun lights up the hills and crags of the Highlands with a golden glow. Draco supposes it would be pretty, if he weren't still tied up and sitting on a rough, cold stone. At least Susan's left him his jacket. It'll do for now, though as the shadows start to lengthen the cold will set in. More than anything, he wishes he could do wandless magic properly. He'll have to get Harry to teach him. If he manages to get out of this alive.

He looks over at her, still crosslegged on the ground by the thicket. She hasn't spoken in half an hour or so. Draco's terrible at time without being able to see his watch. "Susan."

She turns, her face ashen against the backdrop of bare branches.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asks, remembering his training course. Make a connection with the individual. Appear trustworthy. Keep them talking. Of course, he's sure Susan remembers them too, but then, he imagines she must have a deep-seated need to talk after keeping the secrets pent up for so long. He sits still, projecting the willingness to listen.

"You wouldn't understand." She touches one of the bloodied patches of grass beneath the thicket that hasn't been washed out by the recent rains.

He would. He does. He knows a thing or two about guilt and irrevocable consequences. "I might." Draco hesitates. "What are we waiting for?"

"Hannah," Susan says quietly, and Draco stills, a chill settling over him. "It's Samhuinn, and the veils are thin tonight. I need to see her." She bites her lip. "I need to tell her I'm sorry."

"Suse." He doesn't have to fake the sympathy in his voice. "I know you feel guilty—"

"Nonsense." Susan's nostrils flare. "You know nothing."

Draco leans forward, wincing as his shoulders protest. "You don't think I know guilt? I opened Hogwarts to killers, Susan. I stood by, watching, as the Dark Lord used every Unforgiveable on men and women I knew. Professor Burbage was murdered in front of me, on my dining room table. It wasn't Snape who was supposed to kill Dumbledore; it was me. So yeah. I think I know a thing or two about guilt."

Susan just looks at him for a long moment, her face still and pale. "It's not guilt, I feel, Draco," she says finally, raising Longbottom's wand. "It's shame."

***

DCI McMurty looks up as Harry bursts into his department, Pansy on his heels.

"Where's Susan Bones?" Harry barks. He doesn't have time for the pleasantries, particularly not for the lanky man behind the desk stacked with file jackets. He's heard enough about McMurty since he's been in Edinburgh to know he wouldn't like him.

McMurty rises, palms flat on his desk."I'm not certain how they do things in London, Potter, but in Scotland it's considered poor manners to—"

"Get stuffed, Alan," Pansy says. "We're looking for Susan. Now."

McMurty's nostrils quiver with fury. It's a bit disconcerting. "I've no idea. Off checking an alibi, I assume."

What a shit guv, Harry thinks. He'd always known where his officers were and what they were working on; he knows damn well Draco's the same way. Tasks are assigned, and communication is maintained. No wonder this department had pissed away valuable time in Hannah's disappearance. If he weren't in a hurry, he'd enjoy taking McMurty apart.

Harry draws himself up, letting the mantle of Deputy Head Auror settle on him for the first time. "Find her," he orders, and McMurty flinches.

"Sir?" A light voice pipes up from the corner. Harry turns, and a young woman, not long out of training, he suspects, stands up behind her desk. DC Anna Hallowell, the nameplate beside her file jackets reads. "I saw them in the hall earlier. Susan and DCI Malfoy, sir." She hesitates. "They were walking together."

Pansy meets Harry's worried gaze. "It might be nothing," she says.

"Maybe." Harry looks back at McMurty. "Put a trace on her wand." All Aurors had to have their wands registered in the Ministry system. Surely they'd be able to find out where she was.

"You heard the Deputy Head," McMurty snaps at DC Hallowell. "Get on it."

Hallowell nods and strides towards the back of the room, her brown ponytail bouncing behind her. She stops in front of a blank white board, pulling out her own wand, and taps it lightly. The board burns bright for a moment, then settles into a faint blue glow. Hallowell casts a spell, weaving the tip of her wand in a complex and intricate pattern across the length of the board. She steps back and waits until a string of bright blue numbers and periods comes up on the board.

"That can't be right," she says. "Those are our coordinates. We use them for testing and calibration—" She breaks off, leaning closer. Her pale skin takes on a blue tinge. "Wait a moment."

"What?" Harry moves towards her, but she's already brushing past him, heading towards a desk in the corner. She jerks the top drawer open and pulls out a wand. Eight and a quarter inches of yew.

"Wand's here, she's not, obviously." Hallowell gives Harry a regretful look. "Sorry, sir."

Pansy takes the wand from Hallowell. "It's definitely Susan's wand," she says as she tucks it in her own wand sheath, behind her ebony wand. "She would have known we'd try to trace her with it."

"Try DCI Malfoy's wand," Harry says to Hallowell, and her gaze flicks towards her guv.

McMurty steps out from behind his desk. "Is there a reason you'd like to waste departmental resources on finding two Aurors?"

"Susan's a suspect now," Pansy says, not bothering to look at him. "And if she's somewhere with Draco without her wand, that doesn't bode well. So run the fucking trace, Anna."

Hallowell nods, and she walks back over the board, casting the spell again. Her eyes scan the new list of numbers, and she frowns. Another flick of her wand brings up a map, glowing brightly in one spot. Hallowell moves in on it, making the map larger until Harry can make out the schematics of a building, then a hallway, then a corridor off that hallway. Hallowell stills, then with a swoop of her wand pulls up an image of an empty room, pure white save for the silver compass in the middle of the floor.

Draco's wand is a dark line across direct north.

"No human signature in the room," Hallowell says.

Harry can't take his eyes off the screen. "That's his wand, isn't it?"

"Yeah," Pansy says quietly, and he feels her hand on his back.

Harry feels like vomiting.

***

"Tell me what happened," Draco says. The shadows are lengthening around them, and his bound arms are beginning to ache. He wonders if Harry knows he's missing yet. Possibly not. A small knot of terror in his chest starts to form as he realises Harry could have gone back to London and might never find out what happened.

Susan gives him a wry smile. "Asking for my confession, are you?"

"Something like that," Draco admits. "But if we're just out here waiting for Hannah's shade to show up, you might as well tell me why you did it." He shrugs, and pain shudders through his shoulders. It helps him keep focus. "You know you can't get away with it. Not after you took me."

"I know." Susan rolls Longbottom's wand between her fingertips. A small blue spark flies from the tip, dissipating before it reaches the dry grass. She sighs. "It's been the three of us for a long time, you know. Me and Hannah and Nev. I thought we were all friends. We'd meet for lunch sometimes, in the Broomsticks, and I didn't know that afterwards, when I left, she'd take him to the Hog's Head for a good shag. You'd think that'd be the kind of thing you'd tell a friend, wouldn't it? Especially when you were close?" She looks at Draco. "Wouldn't you?"

Draco hesitates. "Maybe she didn't want to implicate you in her affair—"

"She knew how I felt about Neville!"

Ah. And there it is, Draco thinks. Love. Sex. Jealousy. Throw a bit of greed and hate in there and you've motive for murder since time immortal. "You loved him then."

"No." Susan shakes her head. "It wasn't love. Attraction, perhaps. But I laughed about what it must be like to shag him, and she just laughed with me, told me maybe I should try. And all the while she was having it off with him behind my back. For years."

She falls silent, and Draco's about to push her to tell him more, when she sighs again and runs a hand through her tangled hair. "She told me about the affair the week before. She thought Tony was going to leave, and she wanted me to know she'd be okay if that happened. She wouldn't be lonely because she had Neville." She laughs, a bitter bark of amusement. "We argued about it. She had no idea why I was so angry with her." Susan looks away, the corners of her mouth turning down. "Perhaps I didn't either."

"Did you plan to kill her, then?" Draco asks softly. His fingers are numb and heavy. He tries to wiggle them. It doesn't help. He reaches deep down inside and conjures up a tiny, wandless flame. It's useless against the ropes; they're charmed to resist fire. Annoyed, he lets the flame flicker out before it burns his skin.

"No." Susan doesn't look at him. A kestrel sweeps through the air high above them, its wings spread wide. "I didn't. I never meant to." She wraps her arms around herself, still gripping Longbottom's wand tightly in one fist. "It was just so stupid of both of us."

Draco waits, his eyes fixed on Susan. The breeze ruffles her ginger hair, and the afternoon sunlight shines red on the curls. Her knees are pulled up to her chest, dark brown twill trousers tight across the curve of her thighs. She looks so bloody young, he thinks. Not forty-two. Twenty at the most. He can almost see the wisp of the girl she once was. Maybe it's being so close to Hogwarts, or Samhuinn, but he's seeing double as well, the past and the present weaving together.

"She asked me to lunch," Susan says. Draco can barely hear her. "She wanted to apologise for telling me all that, but she'd forgotten she had a board meeting. She was like that; she had to keep a daily diary or she'd cock up and forget she was supposed to be somewhere. Lila helped her with it, she said, but I suppose she hadn't put in the Seeds of Magic meeting. Hannah loved that charity; it was one of her favourites." She reaches into her pocket, and Draco tries not to flinch. She pulls out a small diary and tosses it on the ground between them. "I took it from the missing persons file," she says. "I didn't know until this morning when I stuck my head in the murder room that you had that page."

"You're Potch." Draco's getting colder. He wishes he'd thought to wear a scarf, except that'd probably give Susan yet another way she could off him. He's watching the wand closely.

Susan nods. "Hotch-potch, that's what they called me in school because I liked so many subjects. Ended up just being Potch by seventh year."

"So you met with Hannah," Draco says, "and then what?"

"We ate. We apologised to each other. And then she asked me to owl Neville to let him know she couldn't make their rendezvous that afternoon. At the Hog's Head. She'd left that damn coin of hers at home."

A red squirrel dashes along the empty train tracks, pausing to eye them both before he scampers on. Draco can't help but hope perhaps its an Animagus, even though he knows better. As far as he knows there's no red squirrel registered in the Highlands. "That must have been frustrating."

Susan throws him a scornful look. "Yeah. A bit." Her face crumples. "But she trusted me to do that."

"Did you owl him?"

She shakes her head and draws in a deep breath. "Are you certain you want me to go on, Draco? If I tell you everything...." She trails off.

Draco doesn't believe her. "You don't want to hurt me. That's not who you are."

"Tell Hannah that," Susan says, her mouth twisting to one side. She looks up at the sun. It's slipped lower in the sky, but it's not setting yet. "I slept with him, you know."

"I assumed." Draco keeps his voice even. He doesn't want to spook her. "Hannah couldn't be two places at once. You Polyjuiced into her."

Susan looks at the wand in her hands. "Yeah. I don't know what I was thinking. I was just so angry. I still had the long-lasting Polyjuice back in my flat from that stakeout Pansy and I did in August. I just took a hair of hers—it was easy enough when we were leaving the restaurant—and I went by her house after I'd taken it. Found the coin in her jewellery box and confirmed their meeting, then I picked out a dress, and this." Susan fingers the necklace around her neck as she blinks back tears. "She'd told me Neville gave it to her. I had this mad plan, you see. I was going to break up with him as her, and then…" She trails off, letting the necklace drop back against her skin. "I wasn't thinking clearly. I let myself get distracted."

Draco's silent for a moment. He shifts slightly. The edge of the rock is pressing into his thigh. "You met him at the Hog's Head."

"Yeah." He has strain to hear Susan's voice. She scrubs the back of her hand across her eyes, before she continues. She doesn't seem to want to stop talking; Draco's seen this before, the cathartic relief that comes when the truth finally spills out. "He showed up; I told him we—they—were through, and he kissed me." She pauses, then says quickly, "Hannah. He kissed Hannah, but it was me."

She's starting to slip, Draco notes. He hopes he can play that to his advantage. "And you had sex with him."

"It was my only chance," Susan says, looking away. "I'd never have another one. I knew it. And it wasn't as if I had to seduce him. He was ever so eager to show Hannah what she'd be missing if they split." She sounds bitter now. "So I shagged him." Her jaw clenches. "I shagged him, and he called me Hannah, and I hated her right then. She had everything. A husband, beautiful children, everything, and she was throwing it all away to be with someone who didn't even know he had his prick in another woman."

"Did you want him to know it was you?" Draco asks. He watches her, sees the slight press of her lips that hints at a deeper emotion than she's presenting.

She rubs a thumb over the tip of Longbottom's wand, pressing her nail into the wood. "I don't know. Probably not." She's lying, and Draco can tell. "He left so quickly afterwards, though. He told me I was acting odd, and that he'd talk to me later when we were both not quite so emotional. And when he was gone, I looked down and saw his wand on the floor." Her eyes soften for a moment when she glances down at the wand. It makes Draco feel uneasy.

"When did Hannah come into the picture?" he asks, and he tries to loosen his wrists again discreetly. It doesn't work; the ropes just tighten across his skin. Susan's a great Auror, unfortunately.

Susan shakes her head. She doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn't blame her, he supposes. He still can't think about losing Vince in the real Fiendfyre at Hogwarts twenty-four years ago without guilt nearly subsuming him.

"It's okay," Draco says. "You can tell me what happened. It was an accident, wasn't it?"

It takes her a moment, but she nods, breathing out. "I owled Hannah and asked her to come to the Hog's Head. It wasn't difficult to pretend to be Neville. I used to write parchments for him in Potions all the time."

Draco is astonished. "And you sorted Hufflepuff how, exactly?"

Susan rolls her eyes at him. "Slytherins always think they have cunning locked down. You've no idea what went on in my house."

"I suppose it did produce Zacharias, after all." Draco scowls. "The filthy toad."

They look at each other then, united in their common hatred. Draco has no idea what he's doing or how this will end. He can't think beyond this very instant, here, sitting on a rock in the Highlands, listening to one of his detectives tell him how she killed her best friend. If he read it in a Matheas Vall novel, he might think it sounded forced, but now it's all too real. This is Susan, and she definitely killed Hannah. There's no way out of that now.

***

Harry paces back and forth in front of the white board in missing persons, fists clenched and jaw set. He knows Pansy's watching him as she leans against the windowsill, but he doesn't care. McMurty's brought the rest of his team back into the room, and Pansy's sent a Patronus to Lee. Even Bradford's here, peering over Hallowell's shoulder as she tries to find some sort of lock on Draco's location. Susan's done well in hiding them both. The detectives surrounding him are somber and focussed: this is one of their own gone missing at the hand of another of their own.

Lee strides into the room, his dreads bouncing against his shoulders. "Have you found them?" he asks Pansy, and she shakes her head.

It's been over an hour. No one outside of missing persons, Bradford, and the MIT has been notified of Draco's disappearance. There've been too many leaks to the press lately, Bradford'd pointed out. The last thing they wanted was the tabloids mucking the whole situation up. Or getting anyone killed.

And really, that did seem the likeliest outcome at the moment. Harry couldn't imagine that Susan would leave Draco unharmed. For all he knew, she might be holding grudges about the war that had only just now come to light. She certainly had enough reason, although her enjoyment of working with Draco had seemed genuine. Still, in his experience, anything was possible once the first victim was dead. And he couldn't lose Draco now, not now, not like this. He'd only just found him again. And they had to find him now.

Lee steps over to Hallowell's desk, studying the printouts spread across her blotter and held in place by both Susan and Draco's wands. "They Apparated from downstairs?"

Hallowell nods. "We found DCI Malfoy's wand at the Apparition point."

"She'd have to have had a wand to Apparate," Lee says, and he points to Susan's wand. "If she left that there, what'd she use?"

Harry stills, the entire room falling silent around him. He whirls towards Lee. "Fucking hell. Did anyone search for Nev's wand?"

Hallowell doesn't answer; she just hurries back to the white board faster than Harry's ever seen an Auror move. Her wand flies across the board, bringing up a string of bright blue numbers, then two small maps. "Thirteen inches, cherry, unicorn hair?"

"That's it," Pansy says, and then she's next to Harry, her hand wrapped around his, hot and tight.

"I'm showing one at Hogwarts," Hallowell says. She knocks one map aside, bringing the other closer and enlarging it. "The other's just outside Hogsmeade, about a quarter mile from the Hogsmeade station—"

"The drop site," Pansy says. Her fingernails dig into Harry's skin. "She took him back to the drop site."

Harry's already moving towards the door. "Bradford," he snaps, "I want all available constabulary out on this. Order a team of Hit Wizards on my authority—badge number G-5329-HJP, code Myrmidon. If you get any resistance, firecall John Dawlish directly, do you understand?"

"Yes, Deputy Head Auror." Bradford doesn't hesitate; the door's already closing behind him.

Harry looks back over his shoulder. "Pansy, Lee—"

"You're not going without us," Lee says, his hand on Pansy's arm. She still looks shocked, but she shakes herself and nods.

Harry doesn't bother to argue with them. Hallowell shoves a scrap of parchment in his hands. "Apparate here," she says. "It'll give you enough distance so she doesn't hear you come in."

"Thanks," he says. "You'll send these down to the others?"

Hallowell nods. "Already on it."

Lee and Pansy are right on Harry's heels as he runs down the hall, headed for the staircase and the Apparition point two floors below. His heart thuds against his chest, and with each slap of his boots against the slick floor, he hopes that Draco's still alive when he finds him. There's already a column of red robes leading into the Apparition point, and they all make way for him as he passes. He arrives in the room and, cursing Malfoy under his breath and simultaneously begging for him to be still alive, Apparates to the spot near the station that Hallowell had suggested as a muster point. Pansy and Lee pop in right after him.

The forensics team from the Hog's Head should be making their way soon, but valuable seconds are ticking away. Even the Hit Wizards will take a quarter of an hour to deploy.

"I'm going to go ahead." Harry knows in his marrow that he'll never forgive himself if he doesn't go to Draco. In whatever state he is going to find him. His hands shake as he pulls out his wand; he forces himself to steady them. "Stay here and gather the others. I'll send up sparks if I need help immediately. Or you'll see my stag."

Pansy shakes her head. "Potter, you arse. You can't go off half-cocked." Her face is a rictus of fear. Harry understands. He's terrified of what he might discover himself.

Lee catches her arm, pulling her against him. "Go," he says to Harry. "Find the guv."

Harry doesn't look back.

***

Draco thinks he hears the faint pop of Apparition on the breeze. He stills, hoping Susan hasn't noticed. She's still hunched on the ground, Longbottom's wand clenched in her hands. "What did you do when Hannah arrived, Susan?" There's silence then, and Draco wonders if he's imagining things. The shadows have grown longer, and the Highlands seem wilder somehow.

Susan looks up at him. "What do you think? The Polyjuice might have worn off, but I was still wearing her clothes. And she'd thought she was going to walk in and see Neville, not me sitting on the edge of the bed." She pushes herself to her feet, light and agile as a red fox. She cocks her head, listening intently, before she shakes it and turns back to Draco. He breathes out, slowly. "She asked me whether this was some sort of sick joke. I told her what was sick was shagging Neville for years and not telling me. She said I didn't understand, that it wasn't like that between them. I said if it wasn't then he wouldn't have just fucked me raw." Her fingers tighten on the wand. "Suffice it to say she got very angry."

"And you argued." Draco sees a shadow move behind a tree. Please, don't let it be an animal.

"We argued," Susan agrees. "She said some terrible things about me. Things I never knew she thought. Things that should never cross a friend's mind. Sometimes you think you know someone…." She trails off, and looks away, down the train tracks.

Draco knew exactly what she meant. "And it's so much harder when it's an old friend." He could hear something moving in the brush that was definitely larger than a dog.

Susan raises Longbottom's wand. "I know you're there, Harry."

Harry steps out from behind a tree. "Hello, Susan."

Draco didn't know whether to laugh or curse. "What the hell are you doing here, Potter?"

"Finding you." Harry doesn't have his wand out; the idiot's stuffed both hands in his trouser pockets, trying to look calm.

Draco's eyes narrow. "Is that my jumper?"

"Trousers, too," Harry says cheerfully. He looks over at Susan. "Mind if I sit? It's a bit of a hike up the tracks."

Susan keeps her wand fixed on Harry. "They're here, aren't they? The other Aurors."

"Yeah." Harry sits on one of the boulders opposite Draco. "Standard procedure."

Susan closes her eyes and breathes out. "It's not standard procedure to get yourself taken hostage, Harry." She glances at him, then at Draco. She doesn't lower the wand. "I think I envy you, guv."

"Do you want to go on?" Draco asks. "You were nearly there. You and Hannah argued…"

Susan hesitates. She looks over at Harry again. He shrugs. "You're not under caution, Suse," he says quietly.

She licks her bottom lip. "Merlin."

The shadows have stretched across Harry's boulder. He watches Susan, his head turned away from Draco. "How'd you kill her?"

A faint breeze catches Susan's hair, stirring it around her shoulders. "I pushed her," she says finally. "I didn't mean to hurt her, but she was wearing those ridiculous shoes of hers, with the too high heels. She stumbled, and I tried to catch her, I swear I did, but she fell into the mantel and hit her head. There was blood everywhere, and she was on the floor, just looking at me." Susan's voice rises, high and sharp. "I tried to staunch it, but it was too much. Her skull…" She bites her lip. "I couldn't fix it."

Draco remembers Hannah lying here, buried beneath the thicket, her body broken and bloodied. He feels ill, but he has to say, "How'd she get out here, Suse?"

Susan looks at him, but Draco doesn't think she actually sees him. Not right now. She's lost in her own memories. "I brought her. She wasn't dead yet, but I knew I couldn't save her. She was shaking, and there was so much blood…." She turns towards the thicket. "So much blood. We Apparated together. I was holding her. And I was still angry." She looks back at Draco, her eyes wide. "I was so angry, Draco. Still. I didn't mean to push her, but—"

"You wanted her dead," Draco says, and Susan nods.

A tear slides down her cheek. "I wasn't even thinking. I just brought her here, and I laid her down, and I…" She makes a motion with the wand. "I thought maybe it would look like she'd been attacked, but I also wanted to do it. And I wasn't sorry. I should have been sorry."

They're quiet for a long minute, the only sound the soft rustle of the wind in the dead leaves and dying grass.

"Susan," Harry says, his voice gentle. "You knew what you wanted to do the minute you owled Hannah." He slides off the rock and steps toward her. "Maybe you didn't want to admit it. You're not the sort who'd do this normally. But you had Neville's wand. And you waited before you owled her, didn't you? For hours."

"She had everything," Susan says. Her cheeks glisten wetly. "I had nothing. No family. Nothing but my work and her. And she was just going to throw it all away."

Draco presses his fingertips against the rock, pushing himself towards the edge. He can barely feel his arms. "You had us."

"Not really." Susan gives him a small smile. "It was you and Pansy and Lee, wasn't it? I was the odd duck."

"You never were," Draco says. "You're a damn good Auror. Your aunt would've been proud if she could've see you."

Susan shakes her head. "She would've been appalled." She raises Longbottom's wand, and for a moment, Draco's terrified she's going to turn it towards Harry. Instead she points it towards herself. "I'm sorry, Draco. Tell them all I'm sorry—"

Draco can feel the ropes slacken around his limbs with the first syllable of Avada. With all the speed he has, bursting with the force of it, he throws himself at Susan's wand arm, knocking it just as she says Kedavra. He can hear Harry behind him, bellowing, as the spell shoots wild, bathing the thicket in green light. He falls on top of Susan, dragging one limp arm up to shake her shoulder. "Susan. Susan!"

She draws in a ragged breath as Hit Wizards explode through the brush around them, wands out. He can hear Harry shouting at them, telling them to lower their wands, for fuck's sake. Draco brushes Susan's hair back away from her face, his hand still clumsy. "You stupid girl," he says, his heart heavy, and she looks up at him, tears streaming from the corners of her eyes.

"I'm sorry, guv," Susan says. "I'm so, so sorry."

Draco struggles to sit up, pulling her along with him. "It's okay." He strokes her shoulder, her face pressed against his chest as she sobs. "I'm sorry too." He looks out at the Hit Wizards surrounding them, their wands trained on Susan's back. Pansy and Lee are there too, their faces pale and grim. Harry's in front of them, holding Longbottom's wand. Draco nods at him, and Harry hands the wand to Pansy, who presses her way through the phalanx of Hit Wizards. She drops the wand into an evidence bag with a gloved hand and seals it.

"Susan Amelia Bones," Harry says, voice soft and raw, and she looks at him through her tears. "You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?"

She nods. "Yeah," she chokes out, and she takes the hand Harry offers her, letting him pull her up.

Lee steps forward, and with a sad sigh, he casts an Incarcerous on Susan's wrists. "Sorry, Suse," he says, and she just nods, without looking at him as he leads her off, Hit Wizards around them.

Draco pushes himself off the ground. Pansy launches herself at him, her arms tight around his neck. "You absolute arsehole," she says into the curve of his neck. "I thought you were bloody done for."

"It's hard to get rid of a Malfoy." Draco holds her tight, looking at Harry. "We're rather like dragon pox in that regard."

Pansy smacks the back of his head. "Not funny." But when she pulls back she's smiling, though her eyes are bright and watery.

"You are an arsehole, you know," Harry says to Draco as she steps away. "I thought I was about to watch you—" He breaks off and hauls Draco against his chest, not seeming to give a damn about the assembled Auror force.

Draco knows he should pull away. There'll be rumours flying like mad by morning if he doesn't. But right now he's tired and drained, and Harry's warm and solid in a way that he desperately needs. "Someone had to stop you from going off half-cocked," he says. "Wouldn't do to have the Deputy Head Auror killed his first day in the position."

Harry muffles a laugh in Draco's hair. "Twat."

"That's DCI Twat to you." Draco steps back then, but Harry keeps his arm draped around his shoulders. Draco's grateful. He's just started to shiver, and he doesn't entirely think it's from the cold.

"Let's get you back," Harry says.

As Harry leads him away, towards the throng of constables and detectives waiting for his statement, Draco glances back at the thicket. For a moment, he's certain he sees a pale figure in the shadows, a woman with blonde curls and a bright smile. She raises a hand in greeting, her mouth shaping silent words of gratitude, and then she's gone.

You're welcome, he thinks. Sleep well, Hannah Abbott.

He thinks she will.

***

The paperwork alone keeps Draco in the office until half eleven. He's incident reports to file, statement drafts to prepare, and a host of other parchment forms to fill out for the minutiae of the afternoon. Lee goes home to Orla and Lucy at six. Pansy gets them takeaway and stays until Draco sends her home at nine. She's yawning and cross, but she obeys his order to get some damn rest and come in late tomorrow. This isn't a typical case wrap-up. This one hurts too much.

Harry's gone down to London to prepare for the press conference tomorrow. Dawlish will appear personally, as will several of the top Aurors and a representative for the Hit Wizards, who are officially getting the collar—a slight Draco's team would normally have shouted about, but none of them have it in them to protest. Not this time. As Pansy said, let the bastards have it. The three of them have to come in tomorrow to see Susan's desk stripped empty. Bradford, however, had been exceedingly miffed not to have been invited down to London and had shown up in the murder room an hour past to beg Malfoy to impose upon Potter. Exhausted, Draco had apologised for his lack of influence and had attempted to commiserate with his chief about how full of pompous shits London is before Bradford had made some very nasty insinuations about Draco and his apparent close ties to the Deputy Head Auror's office. Draco'd ordered him out of his murder room; Bradford had sputtered and shouted and turned on his heel, slamming the door behind him. Draco'll pay for that in the coming days, he's certain, but to be honest he couldn't care less; he has faith that Natalie's found enough to put the chief into retirement sooner rather than later.

He can't allow himself to feel through all of this, or think about Susan in custody or the fact that she'll be brought up on charges in the morning. His heart is a caged animal in his chest; he remembers this overwhelming sense of hopelessness, and he refuses to go down the path of despair. Instead, he wears down one quill and starts another filling in lines on forms and getting his descriptions just so. Everything is neatly rolled and secured, numbered and properly addressed. He knows he's being almost compulsive about order, but it helps take his mind off of the things he can't change.

He's just finished a wand incident report for the loss of control of his wand in the Auror office when he hears an owl scrabbling at the window and frowns. Normally, they come through the central Owlery at the roof level and are brought to departments. He opens the pane, and a lovely Long Eared Owl glides in through the window, skidding to rest on Lee's desk. His landing is so careful, he barely disturbs the file jackets.

Draco recognises immediately that this is a Ministry Owl. Only the highest level officials have access to these owls, which are sent from a concealed location. Long Eared Owls are prized for their secrecy. He strokes the spotted white and brown wing gently and takes the talon that is offered him. When he touches the roll tied to the owl's feathered tarsus, it comes loose in his hand, and the owl hoots softly, ruffling his wings. This must have been spelled only to open for him.

Have to stay in London tonight. Come to Grimmauld when you get this owl? Please? P.S. His name is Mercury, and he likes being scratched on the back of the neck.

Draco regards Mercury. "May I?" He reaches out slowly, running his fingertips gently over the top of the owl's head and down behind to his neck feathers. Mercury's large liquid eyes close in delight and he flutters slightly. Although he's tempted to send Harry back a note telling him he's indisposed, having just solved a murder case, his heart isn't in defiance any longer. He wants to be with Harry tonight.

"Try the upper floor. They'll have treats." Draco makes an apologetic gesture. Mercury regards him for a moment as if he's an idiot, then unfurls his wings and circles the room twice to get the momentum to soar back into the night.

It takes Draco a bit longer to get on his way. He sets his quills back into their mug and cleans his desk surface. Once he can't find anything else to set in order or procrastinate over, he stands, noticing with displeasure that his back is wretchedly stiff. That's probably from sitting on the damned stone for hours. He gets his jacket and satchel from the rack in the corner, then walks down the empty, echoing halls. The smell of institutional disinfectant and old wood and floor polish is stronger here, and its familiarity comforts him.

He waves to the night guards, Angus and Parsifal, then steps into the duty Floo and gives the address he'd sworn he would never say again. His heart leaps in his chest, and it's not the twists of the Floo tying his stomach in knots.

The hallway is dark when he arrives, a low light spilling from the far room just enough to see by. Draco is hit with a wave of memory. The furnishings are much richer and the renovations look to have been done well, but it's still the same. He has measured this space with his body, knows exactly where the doors are and where to find the stairs and the loo. He has a sudden urge to go into the kitchen and make himself a cuppa. Anything to avoid what's next.

His route to flight is cut off when Harry comes down the stairs in loose-knit pyjama trousers and nothing else. His hair is tousled and his face flushed, as if he'd been sleeping. He reaches the bottom of the stair. "Merlin, come here," he says, opening his arms.

Draco drops his satchel and goes to him, letting Harry fold him in his arms, bare chest hot against the chill of Draco's jacket. Draco buries his face against Harry's neck, breathing in the very smell of him. He could stand like this forever, doing only this, he thinks.

"You okay?" Harry asks against Draco's hair, and Draco nods.

"As well as can be expected." He pulls back and looks at Harry. "I never thought I'd lose one of my team this way."

"You couldn't have known. And it wasn't your fault." Harry pushes a stray lock of hair out of Draco's face. "You did everything you could for her. You even saved her life."

"I'm a bloody hero," Draco says dryly. "I'm sure the papers'll see it that way. DCI Malfoy, so thick he couldn't catch one of his own."

Harry kisses him, hard, scraping Draco's bottom lip with his teeth. "You are a hero, you idiot. Even if it's not in the papers."

"Your bias is so unprofessional." But Draco leans into Harry again, weariness overtaking him. "I'm tired."

"Come to bed." Harry takes Draco's hand, and Draco lets himself be drawn up the familiar turns of the stairs.

It feels like coming home.

***

The Jordan-Quirke house is bright with laughter and fairy lights and Yuletide glee. Evergreen boughs and flickering white candles line the chimneypiece, the glass balls tucked between them reflecting light. There's an enormous tree in the corner of the front room, filled with sparkling baubles and glistening globes, fairies shining in the depths of its branches.

Pansy's perched on the edge of the sofa, in a red velvet dress that's shorter than anything Draco's seen her wear since Viktor walked out. Her black heels are obscenely high, with black satin ribbons that wrap around her ankles, tying in the back. They make her legs look brilliant and her arse fantastic, as she'd already pointed out to him. Twice. At the moment her eyes are on DI Ewan Birch, who's bouncing tiny Lucy Jordan gently on his knee, cooing at her as she waves her arms about. They met in London at the funeral, and Draco's fairly certain Pansy's besotted, even if Birch is seven years her junior. He's broad and handsome and sandy-haired, his face craggy in just the right way. He's also terrified of Harry, which amuses Draco to no end.

"Want a beer?" Harry says, holding out an open bottle to Draco as he drops onto the ottoman in front of his chair. Birch nearly drops Lucy; Pansy catches her and pulls her over onto her lap with a roll of her eyes. Harry grins and lifts his own bottle to his mouth. Draco knows for a fact that Harry torments Birch on purpose. Eventually the poor bloke'll get used to being part of the Deputy Head Auror's inner circle. Just not today.

Draco pokes Harry. "Behave," he whispers. "Even if the floor is cushioned, it's still in bad taste. Besides Orla'll have your head if he actually does drop my goddaughter."

"I would never." Harry leans his head back against Draco's chest. He's wearing a truly hideous jumper, knit for him by Molly Weasley. Draco's never seen so many reindeer rendered in yarn—not since that drunken trip he'd taken to Finland one winter with Blaise, at least. The lounge before they'd gone into the sauna had been ludicrous.

Lee comes into the room, a bottle of wine in his hand. He tops up Pansy's glass, then looks over at Draco. "So you went to see Suse yesterday?" He sits on the arm of the sofa.

"Yeah." Draco hesitates. They don't talk about Susan often. It's still a bit too painful. "She's all right." For now at least. She's in a holding cell at the London Ministry until her trial in January, once the holidays have settled. She hadn't wanted to see Draco, but he'd insisted. She'll always be one of his. He'd left feeling shattered. She's not the Susan he knew any more. She's broken and fearful, living every day with the ghost of her regrets. He understands that all too well; there was a moment in his life when he could have gone down that path himself. He's grateful he hadn't.

Harry reaches back and twines his hand in Draco's, squeezing lightly, calling him back to here and now.

"I should go see her," Pansy says, but they all know she won't. Pansy feels the most betrayed by what Susan did, by the pain she inflicted on another woman for, as Pansy put it, no damned good cause. She turns her attention back to Lucy, smiling down at her. She's finally talked to Draco about maybe wanting a child of her own one day, and he'd been willing to help her arrange everything, if she needed him to, even including taking on Bradford—or whomever his successor might be, given the way the corruption inquiry's going. But he thinks that plan's on hold for a while, at least until she decides where things might be going with Birch.

Draco also has some decisions to make. He's been offered Detective Superintendent, and is considering whether he should stay in Edinburgh and take the promotion or go down to London and work closer to Harry. Harry tells him there's a space for him, but he doesn't want to be in the shadow of the Deputy Head Auror or accused of favoritism. He is going to need to figure out where he's going to live at the very least. Right now, he and Harry tend to be separate for half the week and switching off between London or Edinburgh for the rest. Harry's needing to spend more time on official business filling in for Dawlish as Robards has taken a turn for the worse and the succession planning will likely begin at the New Year. So Draco's barely in his flat on weekends as the balance tips toward London. It's beginning to be difficult to divide his wardrobe and his books between the two locations. Or so he tells himself.

Tony Goldstein'll be staying in Edinburgh for a while, though. Kirsty's taken a job in Magical Sport down in London, and she's ended their relationship for good. Draco'd run into Tony a week ago in the Scottish Ministry, and he'd seemed calmer and more reconciled. He's his children to think about, and for the first time in years, by his own admission, he's putting them ahead of his career. He'd thanked Draco at the end of their conversation, and they'd clasped hands.

Draco watches as Lee takes Lucy from Pansy. She's fussing now and ready to eat. Orla comes out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a tea towel, and Lee hands their daughter over. It doesn't faze any of them any longer—well, with the possible exception of Birch—when Orla unbuttons her shirt and settles Lucy at her breast, the tea towel draped over them both for a modicum of modesty. Lucy's small socked feet kick energetically.

Lila Goldstein has been spending more time in Edinburgh with her nieces as well. At the beginning of December, Draco and Harry had seen her professionally for a consultation—or rather, had seen Mistress Renaldi. Although their personal repertoire is still growing as they're exploring one another, Harry had responded eagerly to the session, and Draco's working to find his own comfort zone. It's oddly fascinating to push his own boundaries and to discover how deceptively simple it is to trust someone else; it isn't only about the sexual dynamic between them both, but the sex is rather extraordinary. This is the most intimate relationship either of them have had, Draco thinks, and that terrifies and elates them both in equal measure. Perhaps it's a good thing they spend half the week apart: when they're together, it's like they're nineteen again and the world is theirs to unlock.

Harry turns on the ottoman, looking back at him. "All right, you?" he asks, with a smile. "You've gone a bit contemplative there."

Draco supposes he has. The others are talking about Orla's latest manuscript; it turns out Birch is rather a fan of her work. "I'm good," he says, and he takes a sip of beer. He nudges Harry with his knee, and Harry leans back a little, resting against him as they watch their friends.

He's more than good. He's actually, dare he say it, happy.