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Harry left the tent in a daze, still half asleep, and when he saw Draco squatting in the low grass with his wand angled downward, burning an even circle into the foliage, Harry thought he might still be dreaming. Shaking his head, not really wanting to get into whatever the fuck was going on there until he’d had some caffeine in him, Harry wandered away to take a piss. The tent was a joke, that was basically the only explanation he could come up with as to why The Aurors would send he and Draco on a several-month mission with only their most basic model. Once, when Harry had been on one of the big ones, the kind of mission where there was a little Auror camp out in the wilderness, twenty or so tents all pitched practically on top of each other, he had slept in one with two stories . Actually it was more of a mezzanine level, but still. Their current one didn’t even have a fucking toilet. And if Harry were allowed to communicate with anyone other than Draco then he would definitely be lodging an official complaint right about now.

As he did up the zipper on his jeans Harry surveyed their current surroundings. All he could think was exposed, which wasn’t a very comforting feeling when they were firmly into Death Eater territory. Well, not firmly, more like mildly into Death Eater territory. More like right on the very periphery of Death Eater territory, close enough to the edge of the anti-apparition charms that they could just make a run for safety if they really needed to. Harry had raised what he thought was a pretty valid point at the last meeting. Why don’t we just set up camp outside the apparition charms they have up? It was shot down, obviously, for some reason like Potter, let us do the planning and you just stick to what you’re good at. Blushing deeply, Harry had just nodded. It was bullshit, the fact that the higher-ups thought the only thing he was good for was essentially force , listening to instructions with his head bowed and then following them, down to the fucking letter, making use of his sheer power but nothing else.

It was a sunny morning, thankfully, though Harry thought that might be liable to change any minute judging by the ominous grey clouds sitting right on the horizon. God, he hadn’t even thought about what he might do if it rained. Harry tried to remember if he’d packed any books or not, and with a sinking feeling remembered tossing them aside, labelling them as unnecessary. He’d brought some fucking Quidditch brooms though, imagining somehow that he and Draco could play seeker’s games with one another all day. Not if it rained though. It was only the thought that Draco had probably brought a whole bloody library with him that stopped Harry from sauntering right out of the wards, right into safe territory, and apparating directly into the Hogsmeade bookshop.

They were in the highlands, very far north, mountains on all sides. The ground was that weird mixture of grass and heather that was probably the hardest thing in the world to walk on except for wet sand, and underneath that the dirt was uneven and lumpy. It had made for a terse few moments last night while they’d looked for a place to pitch the tent. Eventually Harry had become sick of Draco constantly kneeling on the floor and patting his hands around as though he was looking for lost glasses, so Harry had put it up behind his back in about thirty seconds while Draco was off beside the lake, seeing if there were any promising sites down there. The tent, basic as it was, still had beds at least, so it wasn’t as though they’d be sleeping on the rough ground. Draco had whined for a few minutes about ‘ruining the structural integrity of the base’ but Harry had mostly tuned it out, while he ate a mars bar and tried to put his pyjamas on at the same time.

When he returned to camp Draco was apparently done with setting fires, and was standing in the middle of a slightly charred circle of earth, scuffing at it a bit with his shoe. “You were gone for ages,” he said, frowning, before picking up a small rock and chucking it over his shoulder without looking.

“I was just taking in the scenery,” Harry replied, and walked over to stand beside Draco. “Will you do an aguamenti for me please?”

“Not in here,” Draco said, aghast, apparently talking about his weird circle of dirt. “We’ll ruin it.”

“Right,” Harry agreed, nodding as if he had any fucking clue as to what was going on, “Of course not, sorry, yeah.”

“Come on,” Draco said, stepping onto the grass and setting off unsteadily for what was apparently a better situation. He cast a terse “Aguamenti,” sounding incredibly put out.

Jesus,” Harry exclaimed, putting his hands underneath the freezing stream before taking them right on out again, “Could you possibly fucking warm it up a bit?”

Draco rolled his eyes and a wisp of steam started floating up from what Harry assumed was now boiling water. He put his hands on his hips before remembering they were wet. Draco started laughing, the insufferable prat.

Fine,” Draco said eventually, and when Harry put his hands back under it was this perfect warm temperature that made him feel all content and happy about everything. “Soap,” Draco yawned, “Soap? Are we doing soap or are we just rinsing your hands off in some nice hot water? Because you know that doesn’t kill bacteria.”

Accio,” Harry said, and the little bar of rose soap he’d brought from home came flying at a high velocity out of the opening of the tent. Harry managed to actually catch it, which he thought was quite impressive with wet hands, and he looked to Draco for some sort of acknowledgement. Harry was utterly unsurprised when Draco just slowly raised one pale eyebrow as if to say hurry the fuck up, I have much more important shit to be doing than playing ‘catch the soap’ with the Boy Who Lived.

“I know you apparently think it’s cool to be unimpressed about every single thing ever, but can I just say that I think it’s really pretty great how you can do different aguamenti temperatures? I can’t do that,” Harry told him, rinsing his hands off.

“Yes,” Draco said, with a small sniff and a blooming redness in his cheeks that betrayed him, “Well.”

*

“What’s with the dirt?” Harry asked, when they were back outside the tent and Harry had made them both a cup of very strong, sweet coffee. They had decided, by mutual agreement, that they would bring out the soft old armchairs from inside, where they could sit and watch the sun rise higher in the sky. As soon as Harry had sat down with his mug he had wriggled himself as firmly as possible into its clutches, and thought he might not be leaving for a good long while.

“Haha,” Draco muttered, then took a long sip of his coffee, apparently not willing to elaborate beyond that. “Wait,” he said, and glanced over at Harry with a look on his face that Harry was pretty fucking used to seeing, unfortunately. It was Draco’s you’re joking face. “You’re joking,” Draco promptly said.

Harry felt pleased with himself for a split second before saying, “No?”

“I have no idea why I’m bothering to ask,” Draco said, “But you didn’t read the file, did you?”

“Which file?” Harry asked, thinking about the thick pile of papers currently strewn over his bed inside the tent. “There’s a lot of them.”

Draco sighed, “The one that recounted the briefing meeting we had. The meeting you fell asleep in and I didn’t wake you because we’d had about forty minutes sleep the night before, but then afterwards said you’d better read the notes from that fucking briefing before we get out there, Potter.”

Harry grimaced, the dark green file then, the one that he’d told himself last night that he’d get around to reading first thing in the morning. “I didn’t quite make it to that one yet,” he confessed.

“I don’t know why I’m surprised,” Draco said, “You are constantly fucking unprepared and I genuinely think if you weren’t such a good Auror I would have put in for a partner transfer already.”

Harry wasn’t entirely sure if that could be counted as an insult or not. He pursed his lips. “I was going to read it this morning, and anyway I pretty much get the idea that I could be out here for a month with no clue what was going on and it wouldn’t make any difference to the mission. We’re basically just waiting for instructions, aren’t we?”

“Yes,” Draco said slowly, “But those instructions could come tomorrow. Can you just read the fucking file? Please? For me.”

“They said it would be a month,” Harry argued.

“They said it would probably be upwards of a month, Potter, which means we think it’ll be that long, but you never know, so keep on your toes about the whole situation just in case.”

“I am on my toes,” Harry said, “I’m definitely on my toes. I got the basic gist of the whole thing, like, I wouldn’t worry about it or anything.”

Draco pinched the bridge of his nose firmly and frowned. “The basic gist,” he echoed. “Okay, fine. If you can tell me right now what I made that circle for, I’ll cook dinner for a week, and if you can’t then you’re doing it for a week.”

Fuck,” Harry said feelingly, casting his mind around. “I actually have no fucking idea.”

“Take a guess,” Draco encouraged, “There’s no limit on guesses, I’m not a monster.”

Debatable,” Harry muttered, then perked up and said “Is it so we can do that thing they always do in movies where they draw maps with a stick on the ground? Like, in sand or something, to show where we’re going to be attacking the enemy?”

“Why would we do that?” Draco asked.

“I dunno,” Harry replied, “Aesthetics? So we could feel like we’re on a real mission?”

“I’m a little worried,” Draco started, “That you just said that. Because I feel like we’re on a real mission, because we are on a real mission. Do you think this is some sort of… pleasant jaunt in the countryside?”

“Shut up,” Harry told him, “Nobody says jaunt anymore. Just tell me what the fucking dirt circle is for, since you’re so obsessed with it.”

“It’s for brewing Polyjuice,” Draco said smugly, “I need a very stable surface for my bench and cauldron.”

“Okay,” Harry said slowly, the gears in his brain turning, “Polyjuice potion takes like, an entire month to brew.”

“Yes,” Draco agreed, “You’ve told me something a first year Hogwarts student could. I’m stunned.”

“Fuck off,” Harry said, “You’re an arse, I’m trying to make a point here.”

“Oh alright,” Draco said magnanimously, “Go ahead and make your little point, I’m all ears.”

“Ugh,” Harry said. “Polyjuice takes a month to brew, so we’re obviously supposed to be here for at least that long, otherwise they wouldn’t have had you fucking make it in the first place, so what I’m saying is that I’d estimate I have about twenty-nine days before it becomes vitally important to read that file.”

“No,” Draco countered, “Wrong.”

“Yes,” Harry replied. “Right. Totally right, you just said it.”

“First of all,” Draco said, “I hate you.”

“Noted,” Harry replied dryly.

“Second of all,” Draco continued, “The Polyjuice isn’t essential to the mission, otherwise they’d have given us some, rather than have us brew it in the fucking wilderness as though it’s the medieval ages. Although it could be argued that the effectiveness of the potion does decline over long periods of time like that--”

“Not important,” Harry interrupted, flapping one hand around in the air, “Save the potions lecture until I’m really bored.”

“I think they mostly told us to brew it to give us something to do,” Draco admitted, “Terrible idea, obviously, since I could make it in my sleep, you would inevitably fuck it up, and it sits for twenty or so days to brew, which isn’t exactly the most interesting thing in the world.”

“Right,” Harry sighed, “I would fuck it up, wouldn’t I?”

“There’s really no question in my mind that that would be the outcome,” Draco agreed.

“So it’s not essential to the mission,” Harry confirmed, just making sure he had everything straight.

“No,” Draco replied sympathetically.

“Which means our orders really could come at any time.”

Draco hummed into the lip of his coffee mug.

“Which means I really do have to read that fucking file,” Harry sighed. Draco just nodded silently, bumping the back of his head against the chintzy fabric of the armchair.

Harry was a pretty brilliant Auror, mostly. He knew that sometimes it didn’t seem like it, what with the fact that he was quite bad at the stuff like reading files and filling out post-mission paperwork and writing down everything everyone said in an interview, but he was great at the other stuff. The things like reassuring people when they were scared, and coming up with tactics, and he was fast and pretty powerful and a quick thinker. Plus, he had Draco for all the other shit he found himself unable to handle. Not that that’s all Draco was there for, obviously, but they did have a different set of skills.

When Harry had joined the Aurors it had been right after the Battle of Hogwarts and he’d barely had time for a single day of rest before he’d seen one of those We’re Still Fighting posters in Diagon Alley and joined up that very hour. It had got to him badly, that phrase. The Death Eaters weren’t all dead, not all of them had even been at the bloody Battle in the first place, and the only thing Harry could really think of doing was to sign up and help. Over the last five years he’d completed his training, gone into the field, and become partnered with Draco Malfoy, of all people. There were still Death Eaters out there, even now, except unfortunately the ones who had made it this far without being found out tended to be the properly bad ones, the ones who were really fucking sly and slimy, and clever in the worst ways.

That’s what Harry and Draco were doing out here in the middle of the north of Scotland, hunting the worst ones, the ones who refused to be fucking quiet after the death of Voldemort and instead kept on doing things like kidnapping Muggles and murdering Muggle-borns and doing pretty much generally terrible things to anyone who wasn’t one of them. They’d been tracking this particular lot for almost a year, from England into the South of France, then to Belgium where they had apparently lain low for a while. Seen the sights or something. The Aurors had lost them for a while after that, before they’d resurfaced in the middle of the day in Edinburgh and cast morsmordre over the fucking high street before apparating away with three Muggles in their disgusting grasp.

Harry was sort of… unoptimistic… about the fate of those three Muggles, judging by what he’d seen of the group. Which was an awful thing to think, really, that there was absolutely no hope at all. But there wasn’t, actually, in this case, and Harry found it difficult to conjure up even a little glimmer of optimism about the entire enterprise. So the Death Eaters left Edinburgh. (It was difficult to tell how many there were, some reports said five, some said up to eleven. A lot, though, was the general idea.) They’d been significantly less quiet than usual in the weeks following that. Somehow, quite without The Ministry’s permission or foreknowledge, anti-apparition charms had gone up, in an area of the Highlands miles wide. Wards had gone up too, and then down, and then up again, and down again, as if they were trying to draw attention to themselves.

It was a fucking trap, that much was obvious, so because everything was terrible and apparently nobody in the Aurors thought about anything ever , four of the senior guys had been sent in to scout out the area and report back about anything weird. They’d drawn a blank, which had struck Harry as suspicious. Then, with no information, no surveillance, no fucking idea of how many people they were even supposed to be looking for, Harry and Draco had been posted here, as if that was a smart idea. They were supposed to be deeply, deeply incognito, which meant repelling wards as thick as the walls of an old house, muffling spells of the like Harry had never cast before, and that one charm Draco was always in charge of that made sure nobody could see them.

What Harry had understood from the briefing (before he'd fallen asleep at the back of the room) is that he and Draco were basically playing a waiting game. They were here, fine, just in case something really odd went down, sitting patiently while The Aurors and The Ministry and even branches of Muggle law enforcement frantically scraped up as much intelligence as they could muster. Once they had, and a plan had been formed, Harry and Draco would be given a set of instructions along the lines of ‘ the Death Eaters are in this weird old mansion, go get them’ or possibly ‘ the Death Eaters are holed up in this weird old shack, wait for backup and then go get them’ or maybe even ‘ we have no idea what’s going on and you’re probably sick of each other’s company by now, come home for a nice hot meal and a cup of tea.’  Harry wasn’t quite there yet but he could definitely imagine throwing himself into a duel out of sheer boredom at the end of however long they were supposed to be out here.

“I think you’ll find this really exciting,” Draco said, pulling Harry out of his thoughts.

“Find what exciting?”

Well,” Draco said, rising gracefully from deep in the armchair as though it had been absolutely no effort at all, “We have a pretty interesting dilemma on our hands.”

“Yeah?” Harry said, struggling to pull himself upright with one hand still holding his mug. Draco eventually took pity on him and snatched it away.

“Do you want more coffee?” Draco asked, heading into the tent still holding Harry’s mug, apparently not bothering to wait for an answer. “And yes,” he said from inside, over the sound of the coffee machine gurgling. “You know how we have enough rations for one hot meal a day and one sandwich a day?”

“Yeah,” Harry said again, more warily this time.

“We now have the pleasure of deciding if we should have the hot meal for lunch or for dinner,” Draco said, sounding not sarcastic in the slightest, and as if deciding something like that would actually be interesting to him.

“I don’t give a shit,” Harry replied. “Do you think it’s odd how the tent comes with a coffee machine but not a proper toilet?” he wondered, more to himself than anyone else.

“I find it deeply suspicious,” Draco deadpanned. Harry rolled his eyes, taking advantage of the fact Draco couldn’t see him doing it. “And I also thought you’d be a little more concerned over the lunch versus dinner thing, since you’re the one who’s cooking it.”

“Oh yeah,” Harry said, wrinkling his nose. “I still don’t really mind though, I have to make it either way, don’t I?”

“Maybe you can do it while you read the file,” Draco suggested, passing Harry a fresh cup of coffee along with his own. Harry held onto them and warmed his hands, while Draco tugged for a few minutes at his heavy armchair, until it was tucked right up close to Harry’s. Draco slumped into it and curled his long legs underneath him, resting his feet on the arm of Harry’s chair, right beside his elbow. Harry barely restrained himself from commenting, and instead just obligingly handed over Draco’s coffee when an expectant hand was extended.

“Can we stop going on about the file?” Harry pleaded, closing his eyes. “I feel like we’ve really beaten that particular subject to death.”

“I just cannot believe you wouldn’t read a mission briefing before we went into the field,” Draco told him, nudging at Harry’s arm with a pointy shoe.

Harry started laughing. “Brilliant,” he said.

“Brilliant what?” Draco asked, before huffing slightly at himself. “What’s brilliant, I mean.”

“That pun you just made,” Harry explained, resting the hot cup on his belly and sighing a tiny bit at how warm it made him.

“Went into the field.” Draco sighed, “Because we’re in a field. Fuck I didn’t even mean to.”

“It was pretty good for an accident,” Harry told him. “I liked it. Ten out of ten.”

“Stop it,” Draco groaned, “Because I’m actually feeling really bad about the fact that I just made a pun, even if it wasn’t on purpose. Malfoys don’t make puns, you know.”

“I didn’t know that,” Harry said, “Being as you definitely just made that fact up right this second.”

“I did, yes,” Draco said, with a small smile, before tilting his head back to look directly upwards at the darkening sky. Harry watched his pale throat be bared slowly, in increments, before swallowing hard and averting his eyes.

Every single thing Draco had done after the war had surprised Harry in one way or another. First there had been Hogwarts, and even now Harry could still conjure up a little remnant of the shock he’d felt, hearing that Draco was going to go back for Eighth year. Harry hadn’t, of course, since he’d been far too busy hurtling head first into Auror training with people who were all basically ten years older than him. Harry didn’t know much about what Draco got up to in that year, but he was under the impression it had been difficult. Ginny, who never really noticed anyone who wasn’t Luna half the time, had told him Draco was subdued, had never made eye contact, had never put his hand up in class anymore. Sometimes Harry felt a little sad for that quiet Draco. Other times he had to tell himself not to think Draco had probably deserved at least one year of hardship.

Draco had joined up the year after Harry so they’d never really run into each other very much, except for sometimes in the hallways or in the lift, where they’d just nod at each other curtly. Harry did it because he thought that the alternative would probably be just to totally break down and start hurling insults and hexes all over the place, and he found out later that Draco used to be civil for the exact same reasons. So when they’d been partnered Harry had almost had a heart attack. He’d got one of those little memos at the desk he shared with three other trainees, the pale yellow colour of promotion, and he could almost feel the stares of the others when he'd opened it up. He’d definitely felt everyone’s eyes on him when he’d spluttered fuck off at the top of his voice and stormed out to have some serious words with Erin, his superior. Harry had returned after fifteen minutes and angrily packed everything on his desk into a small cardboard box, before stomping up two flights of stairs to the attic offices, the ones most commonly given to new partners because they were tiny, and shit, and five whole minutes away from the bloody break room.

That had been a year and a bit ago, five months maybe, Harry thought. And it had been fucking awful at first, of course, living on top of each other and constantly bickering and perpetually vanishing the other person's cup of tea when they left to go to the bathroom. Then, almost without Harry even realising it, he started to become used to Draco being there, early to meetings and clutching a file Harry inevitably wouldn’t have read, complaining to each other about their respective hangovers the morning after the all-Auror Tuesday-night pub-crawl, making one another cups of tea when they went to the break room because it was five whole minutes away, and you can just get me one next time. After that Harry had realised that the whole time he had been trying to pretend Draco didn’t exist, he’d been missing out.

It had been tentative at first, and a little shaky, both of them having to work at it, both of them utterly unsure about every single thing the other person might do or say. So at first Draco had done things like take them out to the kind of very expensive restaurant that never failed to make Harry uncomfortable, or invite Harry to have dinner with his parents at the Manor. At the second thing Harry had laughed for about five minutes and then said, very firmly, no thank you. And Harry in return had taken Draco to the pub with all his friends, and watched as Draco fell silent in the face of the sheer talkativeness of everyone else. It had been weird, seeing a person like Draco back down in an argument about the best pancake toppings, of all things. They were better at being friends now, they kept to themselves a little. Sometimes they went to Luna and Ginny’s place to play board games, sometimes they went over to lunch at Ron and Hermione’s, but mostly they went to the cinema, or to bookshops, or art galleries. It was nice, Harry thought, having a friend that he’d had to work for, and for that work to be rewarded with something so lovely.

It was what made the fact that he was probably a tiny bit in love with Draco Malfoy such a fucking inconvenience.

*

“Harry,” Draco whispered, panicked, later that evening while Harry was leaning over the saucepan over the fire and tasting the soup he’d just made. Harry froze, spoon halfway to his mouth, before lowering it slowly back into the pan. Draco never said his first name. Ever.

“What?” Harry whispered, trying not to move any more than he just had.

“Look over there,” Draco said quietly, sounding a little less scared now but still shaken. Harry glanced up at Draco’s pale face then followed his gaze to the darkening lakeside, heart thumping in his chest when he saw what was out there. Standing, facing them as if Draco and Harry were visible, was a tall figure in an obnoxiously long coat, the hem resting on the ground behind them. The person was dressed in black, so dark that they looked like a silhouette, the absence of something rather than the presence of it. They were terrifying, outlined against the dark water, no other signs of human habitation visible on the horizon.

“Death Eater,” Draco said, putting his finger over his lips for absolutely no reason that Harry could think of.

“Yeah,” Harry agreed, it was the only explanation. Also that coat. Only a fucking Death Eater would wear something so overtly evil-looking. He watched as it flapped in the breeze. “They must know we’re here,” he said, not as scared as he probably should be by that thought.

“They can’t,” Draco argued, “My wards are fucking impenetrable, you know that.”

“Yeah,” Harry repeated, unable to keep a note of mild terror out of his voice, “Except why is that person there, then, fucking looking at us?”

“There’s lots of possible explanations,” Draco started, then stopped talking and squatted beside Harry, a warm weight at his shoulder. “They’re probably just scouting out the area.”

“Right,” Harry said, “In the most creepy way imaginable.”

Draco snorted. “There’s no fucking way they know we’re here. Their territory is fucking massive, and we’ve been here for one day, they don’t know.”

Suddenly, and practically in slow motion, the person melted downwards and inwards until all that was left was a crow, floating there in the wind, flapping it’s wings lazily. It took off after a second, wheeling upwards in ever-expanding circles, before veering off over the water and into the mountains beyond. Harry tried to track where it was going but lost sight of it after a few seconds, the sun setting over the lake not helping matters.

“Well that was horrifying,” Draco said succinctly. “But honestly Potter, if they knew we were here then they’d have fucking done something about it, I swear you you.”

Harry was shaking, watching animagus transformation always made him feel a little queasy. “It was just a coincidence,” he said, more to reassure himself than Draco, “You’re right, they definitely would have done something.”

Draco stayed where he was, kneeling in the grass beside Harry, definitely soaking the front of his trousers. Harry was already apprehensive about the fallout from that later. If there was one thing Draco Malfoy was precious about, it was trousers.

“Hey,” Harry started, “Can I ask you something?” Draco nodded, eyes still searching the empty landscape in front of them. “Do the Death Eaters have a dress code? Like, was there some sort of memo sent out at the beginning of everything saying that, while there was no official uniform, it would be much appreciated if everyone could wear their most ominous black formalwear?”

I don’t know,” Draco murmured absently, thinking about something else, definitely not really listening. “I wasn’t really around for the start of everything, was I? When they decided about things of that nature.”

Harry rolled his eyes, then felt a drop of rain on the end of his nose, then saw another one splash onto his glasses. He looked up at the sky and at the breaking clouds, a dark, angry grey. “We’d better go inside,” he said. Then it started raining, heavily, and it didn’t really stop for six more days.

*

“Draco?” Harry said, three days into the never-ending storm, late in the evening and past their bedtime, “What would happen if we abandoned this post and went home?”

“We’d be fired,” Draco said from across the room. Well, not so much from across the room as from a meter away on his own bed, where he was lounging upside down with his feet against the canvas wall, holding a book above his face.

They’d been doing regular patrols of the area, despite the fact that it was permanently chucking it down, and that , combined with the fact that they’d not really anything to do, was making them both a little restless and Harry a little grumpy

“Isn’t that really uncomfortable?” Harry inquired, dropping his own book onto the floor, the most bored he’d ever been in his life.

“If it was,” Draco replied coolly, “I wouldn’t be doing it.”

The one room inside the tent was actually a lot more pleasant than Harry had thought it would be. It was sort of like a very basic hotel room, like from a Holiday Inn or a Holiday Inn Express. Void of any colour, it was neutral to a fault and utterly lacking in anything close to personality. The sheets were bright white and the walls were a sort of taupe colour that someone must have chosen by going into a shop and saying I’ll take a can of the most dull colour you sell, please and thanks. There were two single beds with a small bedside table between them, on which rested a lamp and a generic alarm clock. Neither of them were plugged in but somehow they both still worked.

At the end of the tent was where things got more interesting, depending on your definition of interesting. There were the two aforementioned armchairs, that the decorator had clearly got from an old person’s estate sale, along with small shelves containing all their rations, as well as a tiny microwave and a coffee machine. No kettle, obviously, because the person who had designed this had been drunk at the time. No toilet either, and every time Harry or Draco needed to go, which they’d been trying desperately to keep to the bare minimum, they had to fuck off outside into the pelting rain and do their business in the middle of a fucking storm. Umbrella charms could only do so much, Harry had found out.

“I’m bored,” Harry whined, before wriggling around in his bed, trying to get more comfortable, thumping his limbs all over the place. “Let’s talk about something.”

Draco sighed deeply and crossed a page in his book, before setting it aside on the duvet. He regarded Harry from upside-down. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Dunno,” Harry said, “Anything. Whatever you want.”

“You’re being very unhelpful right now,” Draco pointed out. Which Harry could tell was true. But then also he couldn’t really bring himself to care. “We could just go to sleep,” Draco suggested hopefully.

“Remember that tent we were once in with the mezzanine level?” Harry sighed dreamily, ignoring him and thinking instead of exactly that thing, about the massive loft bed he and Draco had shared, with the red sheets and the fluffy pillows. “Wasn’t that just the best mission you’ve ever been on?”

“That was a training exercise,” Draco said dryly, “So no. Since it was a training exercise.”

“Wasn’t that just the best training exercise you’ve ever been on?” Harry amended, before laughing when Draco just shrugged, trying desperately not to stare at the way his trouser legs were falling down a little, exposing his thin ankles and a tiny bit of his calves. Harry was honestly sick of himself, actually, and his fucking brain, for finding Draco Malfoy so attractive.

“What book are you reading?” Harry asked, before he did something terribly ill-advised, like going over there and kissing every single part of Draco’s body.

“It’s called Franny and Zooey,” Draco said, apparently unaware of the massive internal crisis Harry was currently having. “You can borrow it after I’m done if you want.”

“Is it any good?”

“I’ve read it a couple of times before,” Draco told him. “It’s about this huge family, and the children when they were young were all very clever and they were on this radio talk show where they had debates and discussions. It’s about their lives after they’ve grown up a bit, it’s one of my favourites.”

“It sounds like that film we watched ages ago,” Harry said, remembering it, New Year’s Eve, all his friends there, everyone wearing their knitted-by-Molly jumpers, and Draco, turning up late, shivering from the cold and demanding a glass of white wine. Harry hadn’t kissed anyone at midnight that year and neither had Draco, and when Harry had gone to bed in the morning he’d lain awake thinking about what it would have been like to kiss him. Amazing, probably. Ill-advised, definitely.

The Royal Tenenbaums,” Draco murmured, sounding tired and nearly-asleep. “We watched it on New Year’s Eve. Nobody else except for the two of us thought that the tennis player with the beard was pretty.” Harry laughed again. “Hey,” Draco said, revolving his entire body until he was lying down, his face opposite Harry’s, his voice soft, “That was such a good party, you should have one this year too.”

Harry hummed in agreement, not really wanting to talk anymore, content to just lie there in Draco’s company. He leant his head back until he could see out of the little window at the top of his bed. Rain was beating hard against the pane. “I will,” he said, then, “Do you want to go to sleep?”

“Yeah,” Draco said, because the only time he allowed himself to say that word was when he was drowsy, Harry knew. “I need to go to the bathroom though,” he finished, sounding wounded at the thought of going outside.

Harry sighed. “Alright, let’s go,” he said, and swung his legs out from underneath him, feet on the warm carpet, the only good thing about the otherwise completely shitty tent.

“I don’t need a monitor,” Draco complained, “I’m perfectly capable of going out there by myself.”

“Yeah,” Harry said slowly, “I know that, but I need to go too. Is that okay? Do I need your permission? Should I wait until you get back?” Draco scoffed, and let Harry go with him.

Back inside, they stripped off their rain slicked coats and hung them on the hooks on the back of the door. Draco did a drying charm over his whole body, frowning in consternation when his silk pyjamas suddenly became crinkled. “I’m going to claim this on expenses,” he said, tugging at the fabric as if they would disappear with the right amount of force, “These were my nicest pair.”

“I’m sure you’ll live,” Harry said, pulling on a pair of threadbare jogging bottoms that he used to wear to the gym until a sizeable hole had appeared behind the knee. “And if the Aurors can’t spare enough money to give us a proper fucking tent, then I doubt they’re going to replace your bloody pyjamas.”

“Well they should,” Draco snapped, “It’s bad enough that they send us out here on this fool’s errand without the proper equipment or any fucking backup, without having us be utterly uncomfortable on top of everything else.”

“I’m not really that uncomfortable at the moment,” Harry yawned, before collapsing backwards onto his bed and snuggling under the thick duvet, toasty and warm. He closed his eyes for a second before opening them again to watch Draco get into the bed opposite. Draco lay down like a normal person and did not do anything even remotely close to snuggling. It was a little depressing to watch actually, Harry thought sadly.

“Well,” Draco sniffed, “Just wait until you have to go outside again tomorrow morning. You’ll be changing your tune then I’m sure.”

“Okay Draco it’s actually time to sleep now. We can complain all day tomorrow if you want, because it’s not as though we’ll have anything better to do,” Harry said, throwing one arm over his eyes to block out the little green light emitting from the microwave.

“Do you want this?” Harry heard, before he cracked open one eye to see what Draco was talking about. He focused on a sleep mask currently being held about five centimetres from his face. “I have a spare,” Draco explained, sounding not-at-all embarrassed about the fact that he’d apparently brought two sleep masks with him on a fucking Auror mission. When Harry fell asleep it was to total darkness and the sound of soft breathing beside him, and when he woke it was to the exact same darkness, and the exact same breathing.

*

Harry was busy shovelling pasta into his mouth out of a red tupperware box when Draco poked his head through the opening of the tent, his fringe in his eyes and dripping rain onto his cheeks.

“Potter,” he said, “I’ve had a brilliant idea, before you do another scourgify on yourself.”

“Yeah,” Harry replied around his spaghetti, “Thanks for worrying and everything, but I wasn’t about to.”

Draco frowned and stepped all the way inside. “How have you been… cleaning?” he asked, although it seemed very much as if he didn’t want to hear the answer.

Harry shook his head sadly. “I haven’t been,” he lamented, “It’s a formal protest against the lack of bathroom.”

Draco gaped. “Potter,” he started, and then took a very deep breath, as if to calm himself down a bit. Harry was trying very hard not to laugh. “That’s fucking disgusting. As well as being utterly ineffective, since you and I are the only people suffering over your lack of hygiene. Or that even know about it, now that I think about it.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “I’m fucking with you, of course I’m not doing a formal fucking protest. That sounds like way too much work, let’s be real. I literally only meant I wasn’t about to in the sense that I’m currently eating lunch,” he explained.

“Oh,” Draco said quietly, blushing a bit. “Right then.”

“Yeah,” Harry said.

“I’m not the weird one here,” Draco protested.

“Okay,” Harry said mildly, “You just lectured me on my person hygiene, but alright.”

“You just made up that you hadn’t washed for five days, you arsehole. I’m not the weird one.”

“You had a brilliant idea,” Harry reminded him, before they started trading proper insults.

“Yes!” Draco exclaimed, “I’m all about the brilliant ideas and this is a particularly good one, if you ask me, which I realise you didn’t.” Harry nodded and twirled some more pasta onto his fork, chasing after an errant sun-dried tomato. “It might be risky,” Draco allowed, which made Harry snap to attention.

“Risky how?” he asked suspiciously.

“Risky as in it involves going outside the wards,” Draco told him, with a grimace.

“Nah,” Harry said slowly. “I’m alright thanks.”

“It’ll be worth it,” Draco tried, “I think we should go wash in the lake.”

Harry started laughing, and then started choking a tiny bit on a mouthful of food. “Let’s for one second forget about the fact that we’d have to go outside the wards, which I’m not keen on since that weird crow-man incident, it’ll be freezing,” he argued.

“I’m not hearing no,” Draco pointed out, “Which essentially means I’ve already won, grab your towel and the shower gel.” Harry grumbled the entire time he did exactly what Draco had just suggested.

They paused at the rippled edges of the wards. “I’d just like to say that I’m officially opposed to this idea,” Harry said, rain soaking through his t-shirt. Draco was really right though, the half-hearted scourgify charms he’d been using hadn’t been cutting it for about two days.

“Noted,” Draco said with a smirk, before sobering. “There’s been nothing for the last few days we’ve been here, the lake is a three minute walk away, we’ll be back within fifteen minutes and everything will be fine. Got your wand?” he asked briskly.

Harry had been clutching it tightly in one hand and raised it in affirmation, earning a businesslike nod from Draco.

“Right then,” he said, and stepped outside the wards. Harry followed.

There wasn’t a path down to the edge of the water, so they apprehensively squelched their way through the rain-saturated heather. Harry turned around after a couple of meters and looked back at where their tent was supposed to be. Nothing. He could see right through it into the hills beyond. Harry caught up with Draco quickly, water sloshing around in his wellington boots, droplets of rain obscuring his glasses.

At the edge of the lake they stood beside each other in the wet sand, their shoes sinking a little bit into the soft ground, and looked out over the grey water and the grey sky and the grey rock of the mountains in the distance.

“How do we do this?” Harry asked, so uneager to get into the probably-freezing water. “Warming charm?”

“I suppose so,” Draco agreed, with a look on his face that told Harry he felt the exact same way. “I doubt it’ll do much.” Harry cast a callesco on himself anyway, and then on Draco because his charms were always a bit stronger and lasted a bit longer. Draco shot him a grateful look before starting to unbutton his flannel shirt.

As more and more of his pale skin was exposed Harry didn’t know whether to avert his eyes or just full on set himself on fire. It was fucking torture seeing Draco’s neck, the space of skin between his collarbones, his chest, his stomach, the line of dark blond hair leading into the waistband of his trousers, and not being able to touch him. Eventually Harry had to look away, when Draco took his shirt off and turned a tiny bit, so that the scars on his torso glimmered a little in the watery light, the scars that Harry had put there. He’d seen them before of course, but it didn’t get any easier, seeing a physical reminder of his bad choices scattered over someone else’s body, the body of a person he never wanted any harm to come to ever again.

Harry didn’t know what to do about this fucking situation he’d found himself in. Wanting Draco all the time was difficult. And it was making Harry kind of sad, being around him but constantly wanting something different, when their brilliant friendship should be enough.

When he turned back Draco had all of his clothes off and was watching him with this fucking look on his face, like he was a little sad and a little fond and a little confused all at the same time. Draco shook his head before Harry could say something -he didn’t know what- and stepped into the wavering water, rain beating onto his skin and dripping in long rivulets down his back. Harry stepped in behind him, after a moment. Watching Draco’s body be engulfed by the freezing lake, watching him slip minutely on the stones underfoot and then right himself quickly, watching the way his hair fluttered in the breeze, Harry felt as though he couldn’t breath and also that up until that exact moment he hadn’t been breathing properly. It was as though all his life he’d been taking in these shallow sips of air, never filling his lungs, and as soon as he saw Draco in water the same colour as a storm Harry’s whole fucking body had expanded.

“Are you coming?” Draco asked over his shoulder.  

Harry nodded and said “Yeah” at the same time. The stones they trod on were slimy and covered in a thin film of algae, but the lake water itself was clear. The warming charms didn’t do much, but they took the edge off, and Harry walked until the water rose to his chest, his body being pushed backwards by gentle waves.

“It’s not that bad, is it?” Draco asked, from where he was lathering shampoo into his hair. The whole situation was ridiculous.

“It’s fine, yeah,” Harry replied weakly, because his heart was aching a small bit.

“Stop moping,” Draco told him, “It’s really not that bad. Actually start washing, because I want to get back into the wards as soon as possible.” Harry reached for the shampoo silently and Draco passed it over, with a waft of lavender and tea-tree oil. “We should have done this sooner, I felt genuinely disgusting the last few days.”

When that guy flew off--” Harry started, before cutting off and gazing at the mountains. They looked much closer now than they had at the lake-shore. The distance must have been an illusion.

“Yes,” Draco prompted, “When he flew off what?”

“Where did he go?” Harry asked, not for the first time. After the incident they’d brought the maps out and spread them on the floor of the tent, poring over the images for any clue as to where the Death Eaters might be hiding. They’d come up with nothing. “There’s absolutely fuck-all in those mountains.”

“I know,” Draco said. “It’s very odd. My guess is that they have some sort of unplottable safe house.”

“I was thinking that,” Harry admitted, “But even those have to be approved by the Ministry. You can’t just go around planting random houses down without permission.”

“Not to mention that the spells involved are terribly complex,” Draco agreed. “But it’s definitely possible. And even though you’re right in that you have to get the proper permits, since the whole point of an unplottable is that you don’t know where it is, the Ministry allow you to be incredibly general about where the house will go. As far as I know The Manor was built under the proviso that it had to be in Wiltshire, it didn’t have to be more specific than that.”

“So the Ministry could know that there’s an unplottable house in this area but not exactly where,” Harry summarised. “They would have told us.”

“I imagine they would have, yes,” Draco said. “Which leaves another explanation, of course.”

“A camp,” Harry guessed, before he started shivering, and they made their way back to the small sandy beach.

“Exactly,” Draco said, “It’s very rough terrain in those mountains though, if there is one it couldn’t be very large. Either that or it’s spread out over a few different locations.”

“If they’re camped out there,” Harry said, pulling his boxers on, “They must have a load of fucking supplies, because the fact that they’ve put all those anti-apparitions up makes me think they’re planning on holding this area for a while.”

“They’ve got to be planning something big,” Draco said. And even though they’d both probably been thinking it, that had been the first time either of them had voiced it, because the thought was terrifying. “They’ve never been off the grid for this long before.”

“We have no idea who they are,” Harry started, and Draco nodded. “We don’t know how many they are, we don’t know where they are or what they’re planning or what they’re doing here. Why were we fucking sent here?”

Draco sighed and shook his head, and Harry would only really let himself be worried in times when Draco didn’t have an answer for something. So since this was apparently one of those times, he started panicking a tiny bit. A healthy amount.

“Come on,” Draco said, before throwing his towel over his shoulder. “We’ve been out here long enough as it is.”

*

That evening, once they’d eaten dinner with their plates in their laps, sitting in the armchairs across from one another and listening to the radio, Harry got into bed and started babbling about the way that onions went sort of translucent once they were cooked and how it had always unnerved him.

Draco hummed in what might have been agreement, sitting there and eyeing Harry speculatively from his own bed.

“Don’t feel like talking?” Harry asked the ceiling of the tent, “Do you want me to shut up?” The radio was still playing faintly in the background, a Paul Simon song that Harry always sang along to when he was a little tipsy.

“What did you want to be if you hadn’t been an Auror?” Draco asked after a moment, the rain on the canvas roof of the tent almost drowning out his words.

Harry made a surprised sound and pushed himself up onto his elbows. “Why?” he asked.

“I’m interested,” Draco answered, which was as good a reply as any, Harry supposed.

“I dunno,” Harry told him truthfully. “From pretty much the first time I found out about the Aurors I wanted to be one, I thought it seemed so fucking cool, hunting down dark wizards.”

“So you never wanted to be anything else?” Draco asked, and Harry was forced to think about his time at the Dursleys for the first time in forever.

“Well,” he said, “When I was a lot younger I wanted to be a teacher, because the ones I had in school were always so nice to me.”

“You would have been a good teacher,” Draco said quietly, “A really good one.”

Harry didn’t even know what to say to that. “Thanks,” he tried. Then, when Draco smiled, he said “What did you want to be?”

“Nothing,” Draco replied. “I just wanted to continue being rich.”

“You just wanted to lounge around The Manor,” Harry laughed.

“Exactly,” Draco agreed. “I wanted to lounge around The Manor and drink champagne for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I wanted the most pressing issue I would ever attend to to be what dress robes to pick out for the next function my wife and I would attend.”

“You wanted a wife?” Harry asked, genuinely shocked. Draco had never really mentioned being attracted to anyone, ever. He’d never had a date as far as Harry knew.

“I was told I would have a wife,” Draco explained. “There’s a difference.”

“I can’t really imagine you with a wife,” Harry confessed, “I can’t really imagine you as anything except an Auror.”

“I was really good at Potions,” Draco said, more to himself than to Harry. “I could have done my Potions mastery.”

“Why did you join the Aurors?” Harry asked, because somehow they’d never talked about this before, it had always seemed too intimate, but apparently something had changed.

Draco made a little sound in his throat that Harry didn’t know how to interpret, before saying “I just wanted to do some good. I knew it wouldn’t change any of the things I did during the war, but I just wanted to try and make things better instead of worse for once in my life.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, “I get that.”

“Sometimes I really hate it,” Draco told him, in a way that sounded as though he was admitting something he felt guilty for.

Harry laughed. “About ninety percent of the time I’m wondering why I didn’t choose literally any other career ever.”

“And the other ten percent?”

Harry shrugged underneath the duvet. “The other ten percent I never want to do anything else. And it kind of cancels out the rest of it, the times when I’m dissatisfied, because it’s so brilliant. I love working in the same building as Ron, I love putting really shitty people in prison, I love being partnered with you.” Harry had always loved the feeling of doing something he knew was good. He’d always loved the feeling that came from helping people.

Draco was silent for a few moments before he said “Let’s go to sleep,” and turned out the light before Harry could reply.

*

Nineteen days later Harry woke to absolute silence, and orange light hitting the white sheets on his bed in the outline of the window panes. When he left the tent Draco was already out there, standing beside a makeshift bench with his shining cauldron already set out, roughly chopping something dark green and tough. The lake was on fire, the bright red sky reflected onto it’s utterly still surface. Even though it hadn’t rained for a while, today was the first time in a long time that Harry had stepped outside and not been battered by wild winds. He took a deep breath, the air was clean and crisp and quiet.

“Are you starting?” he asked Draco through a wide yawn, stumbling over and leaning one hip against the wobbly bench.

“Don’t lean,” Draco told him, brandishing the knife in Harry’s direction. It had a pale bone handle. Harry stood up straight and folded his arms, shivering a little in the clothes he’d worn to bed. “The lacewing flies just got done stewing this morning.”

“Can I help?” Harry asked.

Draco frowned minutely, and then unscrewed a small jar, before holding it under Harry’s nose. “What do you think?”

Harry looked into the black, writhing mess and took an unconscious step back. “What the fuck is that?” he managed to spit out.

“Leeches,” Draco said shortly, “I’m not sure we have enough. It’s difficult to know because these are particularly small ones.”

“That’s disgusting. Do you want some breakfast?”

“I already had it,” Draco said absently, opening a small wooden box and drawing out a long tendril of some plant or another. He ripped the leaves off before wrapping the stalks around three of his fingers in a circular motion until they were entirely covered. He trimmed off some of the excess before repeating the entire process. Draco chucked the two small bundles into the cauldron and picked up a glass stirring rod. “Cereal,” he told Harry, stirring the potion four times and setting the rod aside.

“Okay well--”

“Pass me my wand?” Draco interrupted, from where he was peering into the copper cauldron. “This needs to stew for sixty minutes.”

When Harry touched Draco’s wand he still got that flutter in his stomach, the one that came after he had mastered it that awful day in The Manor. Draco brushed their fingers together when he took it, and Harry’s stomach started fluttering for a totally different reason.

“I’m going to go and--” Harry started, before cutting himself off and gesturing in the general direction of the tent.

When he emerged a few minutes later with a bowl of corn flakes Draco was lying on his back in the purple scrub, staring up at the sky with his eyes wide open. Harry went to sit down beside him, and as soon as he was settled Draco shifted until his head was in Harry’s lap, and as soon as he’d done that Harry’s heart pretty much stopped beating. They touched all the time, but never like this, never this casual fucking affection that made Harry want it all the time, for the rest of his fucking life.

It was possible to become desensitised to beautiful things, Harry knew. Like Hogwarts. The first time he’d seen it he didn’t think he’d ever become immune to the high turrets and the verdant grounds, and then by the middle of first year he’d been running around the place as though his surroundings hadn’t been plucked straight from a fairytale. It was the same when he’d got rid of the blanket silencing spell over Grimmauld Place, the one that drowned out the sound of traffic and the sounds of the city. Harry had woken up on a Sunday morning to a peal of high bells from the church around the corner, echoing through the dusty corners of his bedroom. On Sunday mornings more recently he could barely hear them, had somehow become used to the sound and started tuning it out. Harry had been looking at Draco Malfoy for years now, and didn’t think it was possible to get used to a single thing about him. The way he looked was shocking and aristocratic, as though he’d been carved from marble, all pale skin and thin wrists and delicate features that could turn firm and stony at the first sign of danger. Harry found it difficult to tear his eyes away a lot of the time.

“Stop looking at me like that,” Draco whispered, before closing his eyes. Harry’s world tilted for a second, before he righted himself.

“Like what?” he asked, although he was pretty sure he knew exactly what Draco was talking about. He had always been shit at that sort of stuff, keeping his emotions off his face.

“Don’t play ignorant Potter, it doesn’t suit you,” Draco said, his voice sounding much more steady than it had a few moments ago. Harry pushed his head away and Draco sat up, looking much more wounded than he had any right to be.

“So you know, then?” Harry asked, the corners of his mouth turned downwards.

Draco scoffed. “You’re not subtle.”

“Oh fuck off actually Draco, I don’t know why you chose right now to be a fucking arse,” Harry said, itching to stand up and get away from this conversation. Would Draco actually ask for a partner transfer now? All the times he’d said it before he’d been joking, but what if this changed it for him? Harry didn’t think he could bear to work with someone who wasn’t Draco, it was pretty much the only thing that made his job tolerable. He didn’t think he could bear to not be around him all the time.

“That’s not what I mean,” Draco said tiredly, rubbing a hand over his forehead and leaving a smear of what Harry thought might be dew behind, from where he’d been resting his palm in the damp heather.

“Let’s not ever talk about it,” Harry suggested, brushing his hands off on the corduroy of his trousers. There was a spider right at the center of where his legs crossed over, trying to get out of the fabric valley. He put his finger out for it to step onto.

“You’ve got to stop looking at me as though I’m the best person you’ve ever met,” Draco said, “It’s making things very difficult for me.”

Harry wanted to laugh or scoff or maybe punch him square in the nose, but he didn’t do any of those things. “Is that a fucking joke?” he asked, “Difficult for you? You’re not the one who-- he cut off, unable to really finish.

“Okay,” Draco soothed, as though he was talking to a wild animal or something, “I can see now how that might have come out wrong. I didn’t mean it like that, at all.”

“Brilliant,” Harry said, “You’re making things very confusing, on top of everything else. So can I just suggest you fucking tell me what you mean.”

“Sometimes,” Draco started, “I look at you the same way. So when you watch me as though I’m literally all you can focus on, it makes it hard for me not to--” he took a deep breath, as if he wasn’t making Harry’s world fucking implode. “It makes it hard for me not to kiss you. Which would be a very bad idea, since we work together.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “You love rules.” He realised after he'd said that second thing just how little sense he was making. It was probably warranted, he thought.

“Yes,” Draco said, and smiled. “That, and I’m not sure what you see in me. I mean, I’m brilliant, obviously, and anyone would be lucky to have me. But you’re you.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Harry Potter and the former Death Eater? It doesn’t really--”

“Stop talking,” Harry said, “And stop pretending you think all you are is a former Death Eater. Or as if that even matters to me anymore.”

“Right,” Draco said weakly, his face softening. “That’s lovely of you to say. I still think that starting something would be a terrible idea.”

“Oh obviously,” Harry said, “There's really no question about it. But everyone knows I’m all about the terrible ideas.”

He didn’t really know why Draco had chosen this moment to say anything, why he’d waited so long, why he’d waited for this perfectly fucking unremarkable day when they were a few steps into brewing a Polyjuice, on a dangerous mission right in the exact center of nowhere. Harry looked forward to asking him at some point, not now, of course, because now they were going to kiss.

Draco was shaking his head and smiling wryly at something when Harry leaned in, which admittedly made it a little difficult to catch his mouth. Then Harry put one of his hands on the side of Draco’s neck and he froze and his eyes went wide and shocked. Harry pressed his lips against Draco’s gently at first, just to gauge the reaction. He was kind of a little self-conscious about how chapped his own were from the cold weather. Harry pulled away a bit and Draco chased him, apparently not minding in the slightest about Harry’s lip situation. Draco shifted closer, knocking their knees together, and he parted his mouth slightly.

Draco’s mouth was warm and wet and entirely amazing, and his breath was coming in little pants and Harry wanted to fucking inhale him. Their lips moved softly against one another and Harry could tell how fucking apprehensive they both were. He squeezed his eyelids shut, blocking out Draco’s grey eyes, and deepened it, licking into Draco’s mouth, tracing the edges of his tongue. Harry put both of his hands on Draco’s waist and pressed down firmly, as if to reassure himself that Draco was really there, that this was really happening.

Draco pulled back and bit his lip, frowning. “I’m quite cold.”

“Okay,” Harry said, and pressed a firm kiss against Draco’s adam’s apple. “Want to go inside?” he asked, unable to form a better sentence than that. This was definitely in the top five things that had ever happened to him

“Yeah,” Draco said, and apparently he let himself say that when he had just been kissed, also, which was information that Harry stored away for later. "Yeah alright."

*

Draco took his clothes off slowly, Harry noticed, at the exact same pace he did when he was getting undressed for bed. “Hold this,” he said, and passed Harry his wand while he took his trousers off slowly, folding them, smoothing the creases out. He rested them neatly on the blanket at the end of his bed. His hands hovered for a few seconds over the waistband of his briefs, before he sat down on the edge of Harry’s bed with them still on, apparently having come to a decision. Draco extended a hand out for his wand, and Harry returned it like he had so many times before.

Harry started unbuttoning his own shirt, his hands shaking, and Draco watched him unblinkingly. “We only have about forty more minutes,” he said, with a slow smile. “So hurry it up.”

Harry smiled back at him, lazily, because he was physically incapable of not doing that. “Shut up,” he said, throwing the forest-green shirt onto the back of one of the armchairs. He took his wand out of the waistband of his jeans and set it on the small table in between their beds. “If you can manage to not insult me for the entire time we do this, I’ll give you--” he trailed off, then took his trousers off in one impressively swift motion. “I don’t know,” he finished, “Something that’ll be worth it, anyway.”

“I’ll manage it,” Draco told him with a raised eyebrow, “Come here.”

Harry stood in front of him, a little bit nervous. It wasn’t as though they hadn’t seen each other naked pretty much every single day of this month, but it was so different now. They were going to touch each other, Harry couldn’t get over it.

Draco pulled him further in, until his nose bumped against the line of hair on Harry’s stomach. He felt his cock start to harden in anticipation of where this was going. Draco rested his forehead against Harry’s bare skin. “What do you want to do?” he asked.

Anything,” Harry said, shaking his head. “Literally anything you want to do would be good.”

Draco started mouthing at the soft fabric of Harry’s boxers, his hands slipping up to grasp Harry’s thighs firmly, running his hands up and down, through the hair there. “Alright,” he said, no trace of a waver in his voice, and looked up. “I want to eat you out.”

Harry swallowed. God. When he’d said anything it had really been more along the lines of a blow job, or a mutual hand job, or maybe even fucking. But now that Draco had suggested it Harry couldn’t get the image out of his brain, it was all he could focus on. He nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

“Yes?” Draco confirmed, apparently needing a proper answer.

“Yeah,” Harry breathed. “You’ll have to do cleaning charms though.”

“Well,” Draco started, “I was definitely planning on it, glad I have your approval though.”

Harry laughed. “You’re such a prat,” he said wondrously, “I don’t know why I expected anything different while we were doing this.

Did you expect something different?” Draco asked curiously, before kissing his belly. “I don’t know what gave you the impression I would cease to be a prat just because we’re about to have sex.”

“I know,” Harry agreed, “You’re really not at fault here, it was all me.”

“Lie down,” Draco said, “We’re on a time limit here, remember?”

“I doubt I’ll have a chance to forget, what with you bringing it up every other minute,” Harry replied, pushing Draco out of the way a little until he had the space to lie down on his front, his head resting on the thin pillow. All traces of his previous nerves were gone, this was just Draco, this was a person he knew better than basically everyone on the planet. He trusted Draco with his life.

“You want these off?” Draco asked, “Or am I expected to just ignore them?” He snapped the band of Harry’s pants against his skin gently.

“You can take them off, I suppose,” Harry sighed. He lifted his hips up a small amount until Draco could drag them down his legs and off his feet. He heard the soft sound of fabric hitting the floor.

“My hands are freezing,” Draco warned, before he put them onto Harry’s arse and started pressing down firmly, kneading at his flesh. Harry clenched unconsciously and huffed out a short laugh. He had always felt weird about doing stuff like this, a little embarrassed that another person would be looking at him in such an intimate way. He had expected to feel like that again, now, but he didn’t, only felt sharp anticipation and heady arousal. His dick was half-hard and he could feel it resting in between the crease of his hips and the firm mattress. He shifted a little and felt the fabric rub against his sensitive skin. He barely suppressed a gasp when Draco started to pull his cheeks apart a little bit, when he started nosing at the soft skin where Harry's arse met his legs, pressing kisses against the back of his thighs.

“Can you move this up a bit?” Draco asked, nudging Harry’s right leg with his knee. Harry drew it up until it was level with his torso, feeling really fucking naked all of a sudden. He felt Draco bite one of his arse cheeks, really lightly like he didn't even want Harry to feel it, and he couldn’t stop himself from laughing, properly this time.

“Is the biting too much?" Draco asked, "Because I don't know if you're supposed to be finding this funny."

“It's not,” Harry said, although the fact that he was still giggling probably undermined his point a little bit. “It felt nice, come here though,” he said, and patted one hand against the pillow underneath his face. Draco leant around, pressing his whole body against Harry’s. He was hard. Properly hard, entirely hard, from kissing Harry’s arse. Harry thought that any minute his brain might start dribbling out of his ears.

Draco kissed Harry firmly on the mouth, before laughing himself. “Is that what you wanted?”

“Yeah,” Harry smiled, “Do it again.”

Draco did, and then he stopped and did it again, until all Harry could focus on was the taste of his mouth, and the heat of his breath, and the way that Harry had wanted this for such a long time and now it was finally happening. “I could kiss you for hours,” he slurred, once Draco pulled back, further this time, his lips swollen and damp.

“We should do that,” Draco agreed easily, and it made Harry’s heart melt. “But I don’t have to remind you that we had plans, and there’s not very much time left until I have to go and so some awful things to some leeches.”

“Gross,” Harry said succinctly. “Let’s do the thing we were going to do.”

“The rimming,” Draco summarised.

“That, yeah,” Harry murmured, feeling probably the most content he’d ever felt in his life.

He jumped a little bit when Draco did a wandless cleaning spell, and Harry felt really cold inside for a second until it dissipated. It was similar to the way that his mouth felt when he drank a glass of water after he’d been chewing gum, and he’d never liked it but it didn’t last long. “I’m going to do a protection spell,” Draco told him. “Is there any particular one you prefer?”

Harry smiled. “No, I can never really tell the difference.” He’d heard that some spells felt different from others, in the same way that some condoms felt different than others, but Harry had never noticed it.

Draco was silent, then he said “I just nodded, by the way,” and cast the spell. Harry clenched for a second around it, before relaxing again almost immediately. “Is that okay?” Draco inquired from behind him. Harry moved his head against the pillow in some sort of tired imitation of a nod.

The next thing he knew, Draco was licking his arsehole. Harry didn't really know what he’d expected, but just jumping straight in there hadn’t exactly been it. Draco took his time after that initial touch though, licking hot stripes up from Harry’s balls, over his perineum, the part that always made him writhe around a bit, and right over his opening. He just repeated that fucking motion until Harry was fully hard, more from wanting more than anything else. He was about ready to beg, when Draco pressed the pointed tip of his tongue against Harry’s hole and started working it inside in short, wet, thrusts.

Harry’s bones felt as if they weren’t attached to one another, or maybe as if he just didn’t even have any anymore. He sank further and further into the mattress, gasping at the firm press of Draco’s hands on him, pulling him apart, and the feel of his tongue, curling inside, working him open. When Draco’s thumbs came to rest on his rim and started tugging really gently, as if he was trying to make more space, to get further in, Harry felt as though he’d been liquified. He became aware of this low moaning noise, continuous and ragged, and then in a sharp moment of clarity realised he’d been making it himself. Harry thought absently that maybe he’d like to stop making that sound but he genuinely couldn’t. Draco’s tongue was impossibly far inside his body and the languid thrusts were tearing him apart, he’d never felt this close to anyone before.

“More,” he whispered, and felt Draco try and smile. Harry started laughing again, breathless and light. Draco pulled away. “No,” Harry moaned, “Seriously no, I’ll stop laughing,” he said nonsensically.

Draco snorted. “You can laugh,” he said, “I just wanted to ask you a quick question.” Harry groaned, rubbing himself shamelessly against the mattress, fucking desperate for Draco to come back. “How do you want to come?” Draco asked. “Like this?” he said, and gently pressed the flat part of his tongue against Harry’s arsehole. “Or another way?” he wondered out loud, after moving his head away an inch.

“Like that,” Harry whispered, “Oh my God, the first thing.”

“Right then,” Draco said, in a brisk tone, before working one of his hands underneath Harry’s stomach and grasping the length of his dick, working his hand up and down in tiny movements, brushing his thumb over the slit. Harry could feel the wet spot on the mattress underneath him, and couldn’t bring himself to be even a little ashamed of the way that the back of Draco’s hand was probably resting in it.

Fuck,” Harry mouthed silently, when Draco put his tongue back inside Harry’s body. It was better now than it had been before, what with Draco wanking him off at the same time, and it wasn’t long at all before Harry was circling his hips mindlessly, concentrating on the way that his whole pelvis was thrumming and aching, so ready for release.

“Christ,” he said, and came onto Draco’s fist, after a few more minutes of that overwhelming pleasure. Harry felt his orgasm slip through his entire body and he curled his toes, groaning loudly into the pillow at his face. Draco laughed softly, at the way Harry couldn’t stop panting.

“You alright?” he asked, easing his hand out from under Harry’s body and wiping it off on the duvet.

“Never better,” Harry said, trying for casual but also knowing it was definitely the most serious he’d ever been about anything.

“Good,” Draco said, apparently satisfied. “I have to go and do the thing I said before, about the leeches,” he told Harry.

“What about you?” Harry asked, turning onto his back and eyeing the front of Draco’s briefs, the obvious erection, the damp part where he’d been so fucking turned on by doing what they’d just done. Harry was practically vibrating with how much he wanted to make Draco come, make him as pliant and soft as Harry currently was.

“I’ll be back,” Draco promised. “It’ll be about thirty minutes, just stay here.”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed, “I doubt I could move at this point. Also there’s not really that wide a selection of places I could actually go.”

“Well that wasn’t very clever of us, was it?” Draco asked, smoothing his hand over Harry’s hair. “What if something happened and you couldn’t walk with how great of an orgasm I just gave you?”

“Dunno,” Harry replied, before stretching, relishing the way Draco’s gaze flitted over his body, as though he didn’t want to choose only one spot on which to focus his eyes. “It was probably worth it.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “I’m going to be so quick brewing this potion, you have no idea,” he said, pulling his trousers on hurriedly.

“I have some idea,” Harry replied, resting his hand on his stomach, his pinky finger just touching the tip of his softening cock.

“Don’t do anything without me,” Draco said sternly, with one last lingering look at Harry, before he left the tent, the canvas swinging closed behind him.

Harry was sort of on the verge of being asleep when Draco returned, because coming that hard always really took it out of him. Draco pulled up the corner of the duvet, his clothes all off, and elbowed at Harry until he moved over, making room for Draco to slip in beside him.

“Go alright?” he asked, flipping onto his side and pushing his face against Draco’s cold neck.

Draco hummed in agreement, before putting a freezing hand on Harry’s bare hip and pressing their bodies against each other. Harry groaned against Draco’s skin, and felt him shiver in response.

“I’ve been thinking,” Harry started, his tone conversational. “And I don’t want to presume anything, but I think you should fuck me.”

“Oh,” Draco said shakily.

“Only if you want to,” Harry elaborated, “Or we could do it the other way around, but I already feel quite prepped from earlier. From the part where you rimmed me and also from while you were gone when I fingered myself a bit.”

Merlin,” Draco breathed, apparently lost for words. “Fuck.”

“Alright,” Harry said, “It seems like that’s settled then.”

“You’re making my brain not work,” Draco said, wrestling them until Harry was lying with his back against the mattress, his knees pulled up, Draco in between them with their erections rubbing together. “It’s very inconvenient.”

“Oooh,” Harry said, “Big words from Draco.”

“Fuck off,” Draco laughed, reaching two fingers down to push them easily inside Harry’s arse. Harry arched his back when Draco brushed firmly against his prostate on the first fucking try. Harry fucking knew he would be good in bed. He had fucking sensed it.

“You really did,” Draco breathed.

“You thought I was joking?” Harry managed, moving against the deep thrusts of Draco’s hand. “Why would I joke about that?”

“I don’t know,” Draco said, and kissed his throat. “I think the thought of you in here fingering yourself open short circuited my brain a bit.”

“It’s lucky I didn’t tell you what I was going to do before you went outside to make a tricky potion,” Harry said, before it declined into a long moan.

Draco pushed himself up onto one elbow and frowned. “It’s not a tricky potion,” he said, sounding actually offended. “Granger made it when you lot were in second year.

“Let’s not talk about Hermione right now,” Harry suggested.

I could have made it in that year,” Draco protested, “If I had stolen the ingredients.”

“I believe you,” Harry told him, “Let’s get back to the sex now shall we?”

“Oh,” Draco said, and looked down at the way his hard cock was resting on the dark skin of Harry’s stomach, flushed and red and leaking, and the way that his fingers were disappearing into Harry’s body. “Let’s do that, yes,” he said, as though he’d genuinely forgotten what was happening.

Draco pushed inside him easily, like it was nothing, since Harry was so relaxed and soft around him. “Merlin,” he said, in the exact same voice he’d used before, as though he couldn’t quite believe what was happening was actually happening. “You’re so fucking good,” he said, resting his head against Harry’s forehead.

“Fuck,” Harry replied, and couldn’t stop saying it when Draco started moving inside him, these long strokes in and out, the tip of his cock pressing against Harry’s prostate on every pass. Harry wrapped his legs around Draco’s waist, pulled him down until Draco could barely thrust and was pretty much just grinding into Harry, circling his hips and panting. “You feel amazing,” Harry told him, between these little grunts that he couldn’t really help himself from making. “You feel amazing,” he repeated, so Draco wasn’t in any danger of not realising how fucking wonderful Harry thought he was.

Oh,” Draco kept saying, quietly and gently, into the skin of Harry’s neck. “Oh” he said, when Harry stretched his legs out and came in between their stomachs, his cock pressed between their bodies. “Oh fuck,” he said, when he thrust his hips a few more times, off-rhythm, and came inside Harry with a single gasp, otherwise silent.

Harry kissed his cheeks, and the side of his nose, and his closed eyelids, and nosed into his fine hair to kiss his temples, utterly incapable of either movement or speech. Draco rolled off him, his soft cock slipping out of Harry with a rush of liquid that made Harry squirm. “Sorry,” Draco grimaced, and cast a wordless cleaning spell, the one that made Harry feel minty inside.

“It’s alright,” Harry told him, and tugged at Draco’s shoulders until he was lying against him again. “That was really nice,” he said, and felt lovely when Draco nodded against his bare skin and said I agree. They lay there until Harry’s arm went numb and he had to get up for a glass of water and a piss. He put his shoes on and went outside naked, just because there was nobody around to see him anyway. There was a rippling ward around Draco’s cauldron, and when Harry tried to put his hand through it just to see if he could, an invisible barrier sent pins and needles all up his arm.

“Who exactly are you protecting that potion from?” he asked, once he was back inside and perched on the end of the bed, watching Draco put clothes on. Which was basically the exact opposite of everything Harry wanted right now. “Did you think I would fuck it up?”

“No,” Draco huffed in laughter, “Of course not. It’s to protect it from the weather. If that potion somehow got rainwater in it then we’d all be fucked.”

“Fucked how?” Harry asked.

“Fucked like I actually have no idea what the effects would be,” Draco replied. He pulled on a sock before stepping over Harry’s abandoned clothes to put a hand in Harry’s messy hair. “Are you getting dressed again?”

“I don’t see why I should,” Harry protested. “It’s only you and I out here isn’t it? And I feel as though we’re sort of past stuff like modesty aren’t we?”

“I really want to argue with you,” Draco started, “Just because I think it’s odd that you would want to walk around naked, but I really can’t fault your logic.”

“Also you want to stare at my arse?” Harry said hopefully.

“Sure,” Draco said, “Let’s go with that.”

*

They had sex exactly seven more times. Harry fucked Draco against his wobbly potions bench the minute the polyjuice was finished. Draco fucked Harry against the shaky wall of the tent then left Harry to deal with the cleanup while he wandered off to do some charcoal sketches. If anyone was to ask Harry what got semen out of canvas he actually still wouldn’t be able to tell them, and hoped maybe the Aurors wouldn’t realise. The next time they went down to the lake Harry pushed Draco into the sand and blew him right there, smiling at the way that Draco half-heartedly protested about getting sand on his arse and then practically cried when Harry stopped to ask if he was actually being serious or not. He fingered Draco so thoroughly one morning after they’d woken up, made him come so many times, that Draco could barely stand, and tottered about on unsteady legs like a newborn foal for about an hour afterwards, which Harry tried very hard not to find adorable.

Harry thought maybe that Draco would try and pretend that what happened between them hadn’t happened, because he sort of assumed that was how it was supposed to go. Fuck your Auror partner when you were both in the field, have a few awkward exchanges of it was a one time thing and it won’t happen again and let’s not talk about it, and then just ignore it until you both died. That hadn’t happened though. Draco had been so fucking affectionate afterwards, couldn’t keep his hands off Harry, couldn’t stop telling Harry how fit he was and how much he loved what they were doing. Harry was confused, to say the least, really fucking happy, but confused. All he could think was that maybe Draco would stop after this mission was over, that they would go back to being professional around each other all over again and Harry would go back to being a little sad all the time again. But that was only because Harry would always find something to be pessimistic about. In truth, Draco had given Harry absolutely no indication whatsoever that he would forget about this when they both returned home, sort of the opposite, actually.

The way he touched Harry was gentle, as if he was holding something really precious and really valuable and really breakable. Harry was none of those things, obviously, but he kind of appreciated being treated like he was. Draco was wonderful, always pulling him into his lap and kissing every single part of his body, always making them sleep in the same bed, always acting so fucking happy, happier than Harry had ever seen him. Draco read to Harry out of his favourite book, and Harry told him some stories about Auror training because he hadn’t brought his favourite book with him. They turned on the radio late at night and had sex while Stevie Nicks sang about a Welsh witch. It didn’t feel like a mission at all, until suddenly one evening it did.

*

The shadows were dark blue and long, although there weren’t many of them, and Harry was lying with his head pillowed on Draco’s stomach watching the sunset, when the first crow arrived. He didn’t spot it until it started circling, beating up and down around the outside of the wards like it knew exactly where they were. Harry sat up and Draco tried to pull at the edge of his jumper, tried to tug him back down.

“It was so warm,” he moaned. “Come back, my stomach’s gone cold.”

“Draco,” Harry said, trying very hard to stay calm. “It’s back.”

“What’s back?” Draco murmured, before the words sank in and he snapped his eyes open, searching until he focused in on the black bird, currently on its third lap. “Fucking hell,” he said, and he’d got that expression from Harry.

“What do we do?” Harry asked, “Do we go outside? Try to capture it?”

Before Draco could say anything the crow completed one half circle and flew into the distance again, apparently done with surveying the landscape.

Fuck me,” Harry said feelingly, “This is a fucking disaster. It’s gone for fucking backup, hasn’t it?”

“That would be my guess, yes.” Draco said slowly. “Because that’s definitely not a real crow.”

“A crow wouldn’t do that,” Harry agreed, even though they both already knew. “It was testing to see where our wards ended.”

“We should have got it right then and there,” Draco hissed. “Fuck.”

“There wasn’t enough time,” Harry said, and they both already knew that too. “I don’t know if we should get out of here or not.”

“We can’t just abandon our post because of one fucking Death Eater,” Draco said, “As much as I really want to, I think our superiors wouldn’t be very pleased by that at all.”

“This might be our only chance,” Harry reminded him. “They might come back with five more people.”

“We can take five people,” Draco said calmly, “Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve done it.”

“Alright so we’re not leaving,” Harry said, just to confirm. “Should we send a patronus for backup?”

Draco nodded, and they did, whispering their message to his Border Collie and then setting it off into the dark night. When a snake materialised beside them the message was short and succinct. Wards have gone back up, not just the anti-apparition charms, we couldn’t get in even if we tried walking to you. Hold off as long as you can. Keep us apprised of the situation.

Fuck.” Harry said again, kicking at a clump of purple heather with his heavy boots. “Fuck that.”

“Stop,” Draco said, and put a hand on his arm. “We need to go and burn those files, just in case something happens.”

“They knew we were here this entire time,” Harry said, following him inside and holding the flap of the tent wide open for Draco to carry out an armful of confidential files. He set them down on the ground. “They want information. Or something. They’ve trapped us in here. The Aurors couldn’t have fucking told us that the wards had gone back up? That would have been too much?”

“I don’t know,” Draco said, and set fire to the the small pile of colourful paper. It spread quickly to the damp heather below, and thick grey smoke started billowing out, seeping into their eyes, setting into their clothes. “Go and pack up your stuff, just in case we actually have to make a run for it.”

“Are you staying out here?” Harry asked, suddenly sick at the thought of letting Draco out of his sight for even one second.

“Yes,” Draco said firmly, “I’m going to watch for if they come back. Will you get all my things as well?” he then said, as though he was asking some sort of great favour.

Obviously, Harry wanted to say, but didn’t. Instead he just nodded, and forced himself to leave Draco kneeling beside a pile of smouldering case files, watching the sky for danger.

Back inside the tent he was frantic, throwing his and Draco’s possessions into the same small backpack, the one he’d got Hermione to do her undetectable extension charm on, since she was still the best person he knew at doing that spell. He picked up Draco’s pyjamas, the ones he hadn’t worn in days, and held them for a second. Harry was panicked. He shouldn’t be this panicked. He should be used to this sort of stuff by now, shouldn’t he? But he wasn’t , because his heart was thumping loudly in his chest and all he could think about was getting as far away from this fucking situation as physically possible.

Draco shouted from outside, and Harry took one last look around the tent, took one last look at the crumpled sheets of their beds, the horrible fabric of the armchairs, the sleeve of one of his jumpers poking out from under the bed that he literally did not have time to go and grab. He’d be glad to get out of here, if they had to, he thought. Shitty fucking tent.

When he stepped out into the golden evening the sky was full of crows. Well, not quite that many, actually, but almost. Twenty, thirty, he couldn’t keep count. They were circling the wards aimlessly, as if they had all the time in the world, as if Draco and Harry were the eye of a particularly awful tornado. Draco was standing with his hand above his eyes to block out the last of the setting sun, and he was watching them composedly, not shaking even a tiny bit. Harry thought that Draco was probably the best Auror he’d ever met.

“God,” Harry said, for lack of anything else. “There are so many more than we thought.”

They were slowing down, coming closer and closer to the ground with every pass, until eventually one crow exploded, tore itself open, and in its place was a tall, dark-haired woman. More and more started landing, started hurtling into their human forms, and all Harry could think was how come they all had the same Animagus?

“Dark magic,” Draco said, as if he’d heard Harry’s question. “Really old, really dark magic. Sort of a group-mentality thing. Binds them to one another.”

“What do we do?” Harry asked. “We can’t fight them.” That much was obvious.

“I don’t know,” Draco said, and turned to him, his grey eyes reflecting the orange sky, his white hair messy and wild, and Harry thought he’d never seen anyone more beautiful in his entire life. “There’s no way we can get past that many of them, either. And the charms end too far away, they would catch us so easily.”

“Right,” Harry said, “We’re both of the same mind though, that staying here would definitely end both our lives, in a probably very--” he cut off at the sound of a knife tearing into fabric.

They had formed a circle while Harry was busy panicking and thinking about how in love with Draco he was. It was like the Battle of Hogwarts, ages ago now, still fresh in his memory. They were shooting spells off rapidly and viciously and the wards were weakening, he could see it happening.

“Yes,” Draco said, “I think that we’re definitely both about to die.” He looked around himself, bewildered, then pulled his wand out of his pocket.

“I have an idea,” Harry said, while it was still forming in his mind, “As long as we both don’t mind not being noble about the whole business.”

“Have I ever in my fucking life been noble?” Draco said incredulously, and Harry sort of wanted to get into an argument about that later, because the answer was obviously yes. He rolled his eyes instead, and pulled two broomsticks from his backpack.

“You fucking piece of shit,” Draco said, grabbing one of the brooms, “You are so fucking brilliant I don’t even know what to say.”

“Right,” said Harry, slinging his backpack on and sitting astride his own broomstick. He kicked off the ground gently. “We’ll just go up, yeah?”

They rose into the cold air, following the smoke upwards and upwards, until they came to the top of the wards, until the tent was far below them, the Death Eaters surrounding it, dwarfing it.

“That clump of trees,” Harry said, and pointed into the distance, the opposite direction of the lake. “That’s just beyond where the anti-apparitions end. So we’ll make for that.”

Draco was panting. “I thought we were going to die,” he exclaimed. “I full on thought we were going to die. How were you so fucking calm?”

Harry thought maybe if they weren’t in mortal danger that he might have laughed at that. “Draco,” he said, “We’re not going to die. We’re going to sneak away and then we’re going to get told off by our bosses for sneaking away, in probably less than an hour.”

“I feel as though that thought shouldn’t be so comforting,” Draco mused, wavering a little on his broom, the dark material of his Auror cloak flapping in the breeze. “Disillusion yourself,” he advised, “And then do me.”

They flew fast and the Death Eaters never even caught sight of them. Harry couldn’t see Draco up ahead of him, but could hear his fast breaths, could hear the way that his clothes whipped in the night air. Harry turned around to watch the lake retreat behind them and he caught sight of Draco’s copper cauldron glinting in the last of the sunlight.

They landed in the dark, in a copse of sweet-smelling pine trees, and Harry couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so relieved. He hovered on the edge of apparition for a second, just to check that he could.

“I suppose we should go to The Ministry,” Draco said reluctantly, shoving his broom into Harry’s backpack. “I really don’t want to.”

“It’s not going to be the same when we go back, is it?” Harry asked, unable to even think about anything else, unable to even try and conceal how much he wanted Draco. “I don’t want things to be the same as they were.”

Draco laughed from behind him and Harry could hear the smile in his voice. He put his hand on the back of Harry’s neck, just above the collar of his jumper. “Harry,” he said, “I promise you it’s not going to be the same.”