Weasley frowned at his smart button-up. “I think the middle button’s dark grey.” He glanced up at Draco, carrying the frown with him. “The rest are black though, aren’t they?” He squinted down at the buttons, fiddling with one of the lower ones to watch the play of sunlight over its face.
Draco didn’t bother looking up from where he was organising Weasley’s schedule with his own colour-coordinated system. He licked his finger, shuffling through pages, and said idly, “You’re only noticing the middle button because it’s more prominent these days.”
Weasley leaned back in his chair, pacified for the moment before the words caught up to him. “Oi! Are you calling me fat?”
Draco’s brow crinkled. “I’d hardly call you fat, Weaselby.” Weasley sniffed, mollified. “Pudgy’s cuter, and more accurate besides.”
Weasley scowled and threw an eraser at him. Draco dodged it and stuck out his tongue. He’d been Weasley’s assistant for the better part of three years. He knew how to handle his moods.
“I don’t think anyone will notice it,” Draco told him generously, “not with the milk stain you have on your tie.”
Weasley opened his mouth to retort, distractedly looking down and changing tack. “Oh bloody hell!”
Draco grinned and opened his second drawer down, finding a cobalt tie amongst the multitude of options that would go well with the charcoal suit Weasley was wearing. He got up from his desk, humming under his breath as Weasley yanked off his tie like a prehistoric beast.
“Ties are stupid,” he muttered as Draco held out his hand for the stained and wrinkled mess Weasley was holding. He’d take it for dry cleaning during his lunch break, along with a few of Weasley’s shirts and trousers that had been similarly affected.
“You’re stupid,” Draco responded happily, “luckily we’ve accounted for that reality.” He lifted Weasley’s collar and slid the silk fabric around his neck. He could let Weasley tie it himself but the last time he’d allowed it, Augusta Longbottom had demanded to know if he was suffering some sort of palsy. Weasley’s face had gone so red the rest of the staffers had worried he was in the throes of some sort of heatstroke.
Weasley shifted the Windsor knot so it sat at the hollow of his throat and muttered, “Thanks, Malfoy.”
Draco patted his cheek and Weasley slapped him away angrily. “I live to serve, Marty.”
Weasley waved him off. “No more of that,” he huffed.
Draco skipped back over to his desk, avoiding Weasley’s boorish mitts. He hadn’t always helped Weasley like this. The man was fair professionally, but personally he’d always been a mess. Draco had only started to take pity on him after that first year. Pansy maintained it was because they were now more friends than co-workers.
Both he and Weasley adamantly denied that. And probably would until the bitter end.
They’d vaguely known of each other in school but they’d only shared one or two courses and their circle of friends never interlinked. All Draco knew was that every time he turned around he seemed to be running into someone with red hair and freckles. He swore a few of them were clones of each other. He’d assumed Weasley had something like 36 brothers. He now knew there were only five others and a sister to boot – and two of them were identical so he hadn’t been completely barmy.
He’d always thought of this particular Weasley as more of a jock than a brain and it’d irked him that he’d gotten farther in the company than Draco had. Of course, that was because Draco had no idea if this was what he wanted to do with his life whereas Weasley was fairly settled to this course.
A knock at the door interrupted Draco’s musings. He could overhear the floor’s receptionist, a lovely woman by the name of Susan, saying, “Sir, this simply isn’t done. You have to make an appointment and then—”
“Oh poppycock,” said a jovial voice and both he and Weasley froze. A shiver snaking down Draco’s back.
“I’ve scheduled an appointment with his assistant at least a half dozen times and every time he seems to have something come up last minute. I’ll just pop in, won’t be a minute.”
Draco pushed Weasley towards his side of the room, his hands forceful against his back, while he hissed at him, “Hide!”
Weasley didn’t need to be told twice as he dove beneath his desk and Draco composed himself, pulling on a sleeve to fix the way it fell and pushing back his hair. He took one last look over in Weasley’s direction, making sure he was truly out of sight. He opened the door with a grateful smile at Susan, who looked nothing short of harassed. “I’ll take it from here, Susan, thank you.”
She looked at him, half-exasperated, half-questioning. Silently asking if Draco was sure he didn’t need her to stay. Draco’s smile widened a little as he nodded at her. She turned around back to her desk while Draco took the hand being proffered to him and gave it a weak shake.
“Mr. Fudge, how lovely to have you back,” Draco lied through his teeth.
Fudge tittered and said in that high, squeaky voice of his, “As good as it is to see you, son, I was actually hoping to get in with your boss today.”
Draco affected a frown. “Oh, what a shame. You’ve only just missed him. He’s in Zurich today, working with the Plantech Corporation on their new campaign. He’ll be out of the country till at least the rest of this week.”
Fudge fiddled with his signature lime green bowler between spindly fingers. He shuffled forward a bit, clearly trying to surreptitiously get a look around Draco. “Just my luck, it seems,” he said with a gummy smile. Draco hoped it wasn’t obvious the way his skin crawled at the sight. “Have I told you the one about the taxi driver yet?” he asked as Draco ushered him back over the threshold.
Draco rolled his eyes. “With the nun, yes. It’s a gut-buster, that one.”
“Yes,” he chortled to himself, letting himself be led back to the lobby. Susan shot a dark look at his back as Draco walked him to the lifts, a guiding hand between his hunched shoulders. Fudge frowned slightly. “Was it Kenneth or Kevin, dear me. I can’t remember.”
Draco refrained from rolling his eyes a second time. At great personal cost. “I don’t think the name is what made it so hilarious, Mr. Fudge.”
That brightened him right up. “No, no. You’re right, of course.”
Draco offered him a tight smile as Fudge backed into the lift and hit the button for the main floor.
“Horrid little man,” Susan said as soon as the lift doors closed.
Draco tipped his head agreeably in her direction, relief sweeping through him. Weasley was standing up on the other side of his desk, trying to brush out the creases in his jacket and trousers when he returned. No doubt Mrs. Longbottom would have something to say about that as well. Weasley looked up as Draco closed the door behind him. His eyes flicked up and down Draco before he said gravely, “I could kiss you, Malfoy.”
Draco grinned. “I’d rather a pay rise, less likely to lead to my head over the toilet for the rest of the day.”
Weasley snorted and threw his stamp at him. Draco wasn’t as successful at dodging that as he had been the eraser.
Pansy was Draco’s closest friend. They’d orbited each other in school but never quite been the type of mates they were now. He held up his spoon and Pansy held up her fork instantly, crossing them together like knights at a joust, thus beginning another episode of the League of Snarky Secretaries. “You do too much for that man, you know?” she said, spearing a few sad leaves of her salad.
Draco all but guffawed. “You’ve wiped Longbottom’s nose. I’ve seen it.” Longbottom was even more hopeless than Weasley, but his Gran ran the firm so nepotism will out and all that.
Pansy flushed and tried to choke down her laughter. “Well, he’s hapless, isn’t he?”
Draco and Pansy both burst out laughing. Longbottom was something of the office joke though Pansy could regularly be seen shouting down those who treated him that way. He had occasional flashes of brilliance, even Draco could admit to that. He was a lovable fellow all the same with a tyrant for a grandmother who had no difficulty showing her disappointment. Even Draco had told off a bloke or two for taking the piss.
“Weasley had me iron his slacks this morning,” Draco told Pansy, leaning across the table. Everyone knew assistants had the best gossip and that gossip had to be earned, Draco wasn’t about to blab it out for anyone to overhear. Pansy either.
Pansy looked scandalised. “He didn’t.”
“There might have been a desk rabbit incident.”
Pansy threw back her head and laughed. “Under the desk, again? Who was it this time?”
Draco affected a shiver. “Fudge.”
Pansy’s face went dark. “I’ll give Weasley a pass on that one then.”
Pansy and Weasley were worse than even he and Draco when it came to sniping. They lived to humiliate one another, but Draco thought there was a chance that there was some degree of ‘like’ between them. Passive tolerance at the very least.
Pansy pointed a manicured finger at him. “I want you for drinks tonight.”
Draco shook his head. “Can’t. I’ve been roped into babysitting the toddler terror for Andromeda tonight. She has a date, can you believe it?”
Good gossip always struck Pansy dumb for a second. She pulled herself back together and gasped, “No. Who? Tell me now, don’t leave me to this painful curiosity, Draco!” For some reason, Draco found her melodramatics endearing.
“Ludo Bagman,” he said in a stage whisper. Pansy did not disappoint.
She went into her ‘vapors’ reaction of waving at her flushed face with a delicate hand and going boneless, which both of them enjoyed thoroughly. They’d seen it in some horrible American film where they all talked with hems and haws and goofy elongations of their words and it’d been their go-to overreaction since. She exaggerated it a bit further before pulling out of it. “The video game designer?” she said back in a comically hushed tone.
Draco nodded seriously.
“Your aunt’s going after big game there,” Pansy said, impressed.
Draco wasn’t similarly affected. He tutted. “A drunkard with a vast fortune.”
Pansy frowned. “He’s just finished rehab though, hasn’t he?”
Draco scoffed. “For the fourth time.”
“You’re sure this isn’t too much to ask?” Aunt Andromeda asked. Again.
“The answer’s still no, tetushka,” Draco called back with only a touch of exasperation. Andromeda’s face softened at the moniker; the only thing he’d kept from his six-month relationship with the Russian. The rest had been tossed out with the rubbish, much like the man himself. He bounced Teddy in the space between his legs, picking him up by his armpits while Teddy babbled. Andromeda walked into the room and Teddy, resentful at the interruption to Draco’s attention, tugged hard on his hair and shouted out happily, “No!”
Draco scowled at him playfully and got him on his back so he could bite at his toes while Teddy laughed and mis-clapped his tiny hands. Draco looked back up at Andromeda now that he had hold of Ted’s feet. “Wow. Someone’s gone all out tonight.”
Andromeda blushed and put up her hand to smooth back her hair before lowering it to her side so she wouldn’t muss up her bun. “It’s all right?” she asked nervously.
The sequins on her purple, tapered dress had completely diverted Ted’s attention, his eyes wide and focussed as he reached out for the shiny bits with grabby hands. Andromeda plucked him up on autopilot. Draco grinned at the picture they made. “That’s approval if I’ve ever seen it.”
Andromeda shot a relieved smile at him as the bell rang. “That’ll be him,” she said, turning on the spot as she looked about for her purse.
Draco stood up and reached for Teddy, who she undoubtedly would have left with given half the chance, the way she was swirling about like a chicken with its head cut off. “I’ll take that, shall I?”
Andromeda offered him an embarrassed half-smile as she handed back over his cousin. “The numbers are all on the fridge. Dr. Delbert’s is on the speed dial, number five.”
Draco presented his cheek as she leaned in to kiss it. “I have done this before, remember? Ted and I can handle a few hours on our own. We’ve already had our first, second and third seizure adventure together and we’re both still standing.”
Draco bounced Ted a little as he said the last. He hadn’t really been standing so much after the second one as much as moaning in a collapsed heap. It had been a terrible thing to watch – the worst he’d witnessed to date – and he’d spent much of the next day in his bed with his hands digging into his eyes trying to forget it. Blaise had spent the whole time frowning at him, running a finger up and down his side and whispering soft reassurances into his collarbone. It was one of the few times he hadn’t acted like a complete prick when he was around.
“By the way, you should mention to Dr. Delbert that ‘Delbert’ is the unsexiest name a medical professional can have. It’s like giving a pants model the name Melvin.” Draco paused and tilted his head, his voice raising an octave. “Most unsexy?”
Andromeda covered a laugh with a cough and said seriously, “The former, certainly.” She kissed Teddy on the side of his head, aiming for the crown, but he was busy tugging at Draco’s collar as though trying to rip it away. She glanced at them both worriedly before Draco pushed her towards the door.
“We’ll be fine.”
“Of course you will,” Andromeda answered, looking far more confident than she sounded. She opened the door on a dapper-looking Bagman. His hair was combed, which it hardly ever was in his press coverage, and he was disguising his robust midriff with a dark v-neck. He looked appropriately awed by his Aunt’s attire and Draco silently awarded him a few points for that.
“You look lovely, you do,” he said amiably, a few decibels louder than was considered normal.
Andromeda blushed and turned back to Draco and Teddy for one last check, which was met with Draco rolling his eyes and waving Ted’s fat little arm at her. “Say bye-bye, babushka.”
Ted tilted his open and eager face up to Draco’s and said brilliantly, “No!”
Draco nodded. “Precisely the right answer, Ted.”
“Be good, boys,” she half-scolded. She hated when Draco encouraged Teddy’s terror toddler behaviour.
“I suppose we’ll have to put off the cocaine and tramps until another night then,” Draco said morosely, looking truly put out while Bagman boomed out a good-natured laugh. It helped that Ted mirrored Draco’s frown with an exaggerated one of his own.
Andromeda whacked him with her bag, mock scandalised.
“Would you get out of here already?” he insisted, nudging her towards Bagman. “I expect you to be on your best behaviour, Mr. Bagman. My Aunt’s not to roll in here with hickeys and her skirt on backwards in the middle of the night.”
Andromeda’s mortified, “Draco!” and Bagman’s genuine laughter followed by a cocky salute was abruptly cut off as Draco closed the door on them. He turned to Ted, putting their foreheads together, and asked seriously, “Can you say, ‘babushka’s a hussy,’ Ted?” He squinted at his cousin while Teddy chewed on Draco’s hair. “It’s a phrase you’re going to need a lot over the years.”
Teddy grinned happily back at him and spouted loudly, “No!”
There were no seizures. Thank Christ. Only a massively difficult two-year-old who refused to say ‘Draco’s the best, number one forever,’ despite over an hour being devoted to the lesson. Draco was also pretty sure he’d been left with some impressive bruises on his shoulders from where he’d been pelted with Teddy’s toy planes for the better part of the evening.
Andromeda had strolled back in after eleven with a few hairs out of place, and looking like she’d used an entire tin of rouge on her cheeks.
“Good date then?” Draco had said cheekily, Teddy asleep on the couch next to him.
Andromeda had flipped him the bird – which Draco had laughed uproariously about, especially after she’d coloured further and admitted she hadn’t done that since Narcissa had puked on her slippers while they were at university. She went on to call him a ‘horrid child’ and chase him out of the house.
Draco counted that as a win.
He’d been hoping to be home earlier, knowing he’d have to be at work around half six the next morning, but it was worth it to see his Aunt socialising again. Unfortunately his goodwill meant he slept through his alarm and showed up fifteen minutes late to the office. Weasley still wandered in about a half hour after him.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Draco said with a groan. “You’re a mess, already?”
Weasley shot him a dark look. “You just—hush up. I am not in the mood for any of your shite today.” Weasley was shrugging out of his jacket, tearing into his tie and pulling off his coffee-stained shirt. “Tell me you’ve got something for this?”
Draco sighed. “You are lucky I plan so expertly for even your unprecedented idiocy.”
Weasley scowled. “Shut it. Do you have something or not?”
“You’ll have to change your slacks too,” Draco told him resignedly. “I don’t have anything that’ll match those.” He pointed at Weasley’s navy trousers with a wrinkled nose. “So, how’d it happen? What epic tale of woe do you have for me today? Who are you going to put the blame off on this time?”
Weasley looked conflicted for a moment before he deflated and gave in to revealing the circumstances to Draco. He always got there sooner or later and he was learning it was best not to fight it. His features darkened and he hissed, “It was that horrid Vane woman.”
Draco let out a victorious shout. “I told you. I told you she was a harpy that takes great pleasure in twisting your testicles about until they more resemble parade floats.”
Weasley cringed. “Vivid imagery, truly.”
“You should have listened to me,” Draco said, sing-song.
“I did listen,” Weasley put in stoutly, seeming offended by the accusation otherwise. He lowered his head and grinned a bit sheepishly. “Only, I’d mentioned Romilda to you after I’d already taken her out once—”
“I’ve told you to let me pre-screen all your dates. It would have saved you at least a dozen horrid ones. Hannah, Tracey, that batty Luna woman—” Draco said, counting off on his fingers.
“Yes, yes, you’re smarter than I am, stuff it,” Weasley said quickly, waving him off. “Well, I told you eventually. Before I’d gone out with her again at least and after you mentioned what she’d done to Dean – poor bloke,” he added with a sympathetic frown and Draco nodded stoutly, “– I told her I couldn’t see her again. She seemed to take it all right at the time. I mean, not nutters at least, then she got hold of one of my accounts last night and she went right off the deep-end. Called me an unfaithful cad as soon as I showed up.” Weasley looked more confused than resentful. “How on earth was I unfaithful, mate? I mean, you explain it to me because next thing I know I’ve got a chest full of hot squash.”
Weasley had ripped out of his stained shirt to reveal a red, freckled chest. Draco offered him a commiserating wince.
“I’ve got some tablets in my desk, I think.” He bustled over to it and used Weasley’s ruined tie to empty half his water bottle into. He passed what was left, along with the aspirin, off to Weasley while pressing the makeshift compress to his inflamed skin.
“Pay rise for you; I mean it this time,” Weasley said gratefully. “I’ll give you my bonus if it comes down to it.”
Draco rolled his eyes in exaggerated fashion. “I’ll believe that when I see it, Marty.”
Weasley shoved him back by the shoulder and Draco nearly dropped the tie, grinning. “Why do you have to do that? We were having a nice moment and then you have to go and ruin it with that.”
Draco leaned into Weasley and batted his eyelashes. “Aw, were we having a moment, Weaselby? Will we tell our ginger children about this one day?”
“I bloody hate you, you know that?” Weasley growled, snatching his tie out of Draco’s hands and dropping his head back as he pressed the cool silk to his stomach.
“Weasley,” Draco started seriously. “If you were at all attractive this would be downright pornographic.”
Weasley kicked him in the shin, nearly losing his balance. Draco heard him murmur, ‘worth it,’ while Draco walked back and rummaged around in the armoire he kept in the corner on his side of Weasley’s office just for these occasions. “The grey tweed or the deep blue?”
“You know if I pick one, you’re only going to choose the opposite,” Weasley said, not even bothering to open his eyes as he pressed the balled up tie to his sternum.
“You realise how this would look if anyone walked in right now, don’t you?” Draco said, unable to keep the grin out of his tone.
“How’s that?” Weasley asked carelessly.
“Like you’re trying to seduce me.” Draco affected an over-the-top gasp. “Why, Mr. Weasley, are you trying to seduce me?”
Weasley threw the tie at his head. Draco easily caught it and dropped it into the laundry bin next to the armoire. “Shut up and get over here.”
Draco presented the grey suit to Weasley while he shimmied out of his trousers. “I’d stay out of a shirt as long as I could,” Draco told him. “It’s going to be hell not being able to let that breathe.” Draco nodded to his chest.
Weasley was buttoning up the sleeves of the striped coral blue shirt as he shook his head. “I’ve got to be in Conference A in fifteen. High profile client apparently.”
Draco’s brows quirked. “How high profile are we talking?”
Weasley’s expression grew sober. “Highest we’ve dealt with, I’m thinking. We’re internally bidding on it. Me and Zabini and Wood are all presenting.” Shite. They were notoriously the best in-house PR agents at Longbottom Relations. “We meet with them this morning, make our pitch, and once they’ve narrowed it down to one of us, then we’re trying to woo them away from the other giants – Umbridge Communications, King & Pres., Snape + Co. just to name a few.”
“Who the hell is it to warrant that kind of attention?”
“You’ve heard of Biorg?”
Draco’s eyes widened. “Enough capital to be considered a small nation: Biorg?”
Weasley winked. “That’s the one. They’re coming out with a new seizure medication, could be beneficial to cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, celiac,” Weasley tossed a sly glance Draco’s way as he did up his shirt, “epilepsy.”
Draco grabbed his forearm. “You’ll get this.”
Weasley grinned at him. “For you, love, anything.” Draco gave him a stern nod as he stepped away back to his desk. Weasley yanked him back by the elbow. “Oi, I’m not going in there without moral support. Normally that wouldn’t be you but you’ve only just admitted you’re rooting for me this time.”
“It’s not my fault it’s near impossible to side against Wood and those abs,” Draco told him dreamily.
Weasley held up his hands. “You’ll get no argument from me.”
With him in tow, it meant Weasley wouldn’t be five to ten minutes late. In fact, they were a full minute early. Draco held the door open for Weasley and was nearly shocked stupid when he closed it to find Harry Potter sitting on the client side of things. He hadn’t seen the boy since their last year of school when he’d pathetically admitted to a long-standing crush. Potter had awkwardly turned him down and Draco had made the heroically stupid decision to have a one-off with his notoriously flaky mate, Blaise, to feel better about himself.
It was absolutely the worst way to end his secondary school career ever – with a hangover, a painful rejection from the boy he’d mooned over for the better part of four years, a pounding arse and the beginnings of an off-and-on relationship with Blaise that would eventually destroy even the friendship bit they’d had at the start of things. Blaise reminded him of that now as he sneered at Draco on his way in.
Draco ignored him. It was much harder, however, to do that with Potter.
Potter still looked unfairly gorgeous. His hair still had that I’ve-just-been-shagged – hard – rumpled edge and there were still those pieces that curled around the backs of his ears in that long but not-too-long way. His eyes were those brilliant, breath-stopping shade of green that had drawn Draco in to begin with, though they were no longer hidden behind the oval atrocities Potter had worn all through school. Now he had smart-looking rectangular frames with wire rims that made him look like a savvy
, sexy professional. His jaw had gotten stronger and he had a bit of stubble that made Draco’s mouth go dry and, probably most impressively, he had learned how to dress himself. He was wearing a sharp charcoal grey suit and a plain cream shirt with the top two buttons undone so a lick of his tan collarbone was showing.
Potter’s gaze flicked up to Draco in a cursory and uninterested fashion as though Draco was nothing more than motel art before focussing on the stack of papers in front of him. Draco’s blood pressure spiked as he internally raged before reminding himself that it was a long-forgotten crush, not a torch. He wasn’t Weasley with that Granger bird.
He probably still had knobbly knees anyway, just like in school. And that was still the absolute best imperfection Draco could come up with even after all these years.
The rest of the meeting was like white noise to him but he was sure Weasley would crush it. When he was giving 100% to something, it was hard to beat him out for top spot and Weasley would do that for him, Draco was sure of it.
The call came in while Weasley was having lunch at his desk, which meant Draco was having lunch at his desk.
“I’ve won the battle then,” Weasley said as he hung up the phone. His brows furrowed as he stared down at it. “That Potter bloke, went to school with us, didn’t he?”
Draco pursed his lips and feigned polite confusion. “Did he? I wouldn’t know.”
Weasley pointed an accusing finger at him as the name clicked. “He’s the one, the bloke Zabini’s gone on about a half dozen times! The one you tried to have it off with at end of term.”
“Why do you even know about that?” Draco whinged, half-heartedly pounding his forehead into his desk.
“Zabini’s a piss-poor drinker. My sister holds her alcohol better.” Weasley snorted, obviously thinking that was the ultimate insult but Draco had spent Boxing Day with the Weasleys more than once. He knew exactly how much Ginevra could put away. “I’m hurt you didn’t want to tell me yourself.”
Weasley said it with an exaggerated pout but Draco knew there was a kernel of truth to it. The same way he’d been hurt when Weasley hadn’t told him about Romilda straight away. But they were men and they didn’t talk about that. Not seriously. Besides, they weren’t even mates.
This was veering into dangerous, feelings-type territory. “Are you going to win this Biorg campaign then?” Draco expertly misdirected.
Weasley rolled his shoulders in that way that anyone who didn’t know him would think meant he didn’t know or care. Draco knew it meant that more than a part of him wanted to shrug out of his skin. “It’d be nice chunk of business, sure, and there’s Ted, of course.” Draco nodded his agreement. “But, I don’t know, they don’t seem like my kind of client.”
“Meaning?” Draco asked archly.
“Weren’t you listening to that Potter bloke?” Draco couldn’t exactly say no, not when he’d spent the whole conference staring at Potter’s mouth. Which was just as lovely as Draco remembered.
“Either him, or the company he’s representing,” Weasley backpedalled graciously, “they seem more interested in the bottom line than actually making their product available to the largest selection of people. I’m not sure I can get behind advertising that only means to be attractive enough that they can ratchet up the price.”
“You’ll just have to convince them otherwise,” Draco told him confidently, even as something soured in his gut. It seemed Potter: the man, resembled Potter: the boy, in nothing other than appearance.
Weasley tapped his biro on his desk mat. “You’re dead set on me getting this then?”
Draco nodded. “I am.”
Weasley sighed and leaned back in his seat, chewing on his lower lip. That’s how Susan found them a minute later when she knocked and poked her head in. “Mrs. Longbottom would like to see you in her office.” Weasley straightened up immediately, nearly falling over with the rush movement. Susan’s gaze slid over to Draco. “The both of you.”
Draco managed to restrain his yelp. “Both of us, you’re sure?”
Susan offered him an empathetic look. “Mrs. Longbottom was quite clear.”
Of course she was, the old bat. Draco waved her away. “We’ll be up in a few minutes.”
Susan tipped her head and withdrew.
“How do I look?” Weasley asked nervously from across the room.
“You’ve managed to keep your lunch off your front for once,” Draco told him with a critical eye. “Tighten up your tie, you laze-about.”
Weasley tilted his head and said, “You look posh as always.”
Draco suppressed a relieved half-smile. He wasn’t about to ask Weasley for his opinion even though Weasley was all he had to ask. And Weasley had been clever enough to figure it out without Draco having to drop any hints. They truly were a well-oiled machine at this point.
Augusta Longbottom was a horrid old woman who was brilliant and insightful and who inspired the most twisted of nightmares. Draco had only had the displeasure of meeting her twice. Once when he was hired and once when he had been moved from Flint’s office over to Weasley’s. Weasley had met with her far more than that and he always came back with a bad case of tremors afterwards. She was a scarily self-possessed woman. She beckoned both Draco and Weasley inside with a claw-like hand as soon as they reached her office door.
“How nice to see the both of you again, Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Weasley,” she said sharply, nodding to them both in turn. Draco had the feeling she’d reacquainted herself with their names only moments before they entered.
“Ma’am,” Weasley said, inclining his head. Draco echoed him.
“Well done wooing the representatives from Biorg, Weasley,” she said in clipped fashion, the same way one might say, ‘oh, it looks like it might rain then.’
Weasley eased into the visitor’s seat. “Thank you very much, ma’am.”
Mrs. Longbottom’s eyes flashed over to Draco. “It seems you’ve made quite an impression as well, Malfoy.”
“Me?” Draco blurted, and then cursed himself for sounding like a clueless prat.
Weasley cleared his throat obtrusively. “How’s that, ma’am?”
Mrs. Longbottom’s gaze slipped down to the file folder spread out on her desk before she answered. “It seems Mr. Potter is in need of an assistant during his stay. Apparently good gossip travels just as well as bad around here and he’s chosen you for the job, Mr. Malfoy. I assume it must have been the gossip,” she added darkly, “as you hardly showed your best today in conference.”
Draco winced a bit, realising she must have caught the way he’d stared at Potter with a glazed expression for more than half the meeting. He saw Weasley’s fingers tense around the arm of his chair while Draco felt like he’d taken a blow to the gut as the words sunk in. Potter had requested him? “I realise this will put you out an assistant for at least the next week or so, Weasley, and I’m willing to let you have your pick of the litter.”
Weasley strove not to look over at Draco. He mostly succeeded, too. “I’ll take Greengrass then, I suppose, ma’am.”
Mrs. Longbottom waved a wrinkled hand. “That’s settled then. Mr. Malfoy, you’ll start tomorrow. For now you can meet Potter in the lobby at seven sharp.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Draco said automatically, feeling so far removed from everything that was happening. Weasley grabbed his elbow and turned him around when Draco continued to stand there dumbly.
He and Weasley didn’t talk all the way back to his office. It wasn’t until Weasley pushed him inside and closed the door behind them that he exploded, “Who the hell does this Potter bloke think he is? Swooping into town and stealing my assistant? The fact that I’ve the best means I’m less likely to want to give him up, not more. That entitled, pompous prick, I’ve half a mind to—”
“Weasley, shut up already.” Weasley’s jaw closed with a snap. “You’ve managed not to be a total prat by picking Greengrass. She’s a fast learner and I can give her a rundown of your appointments and clients tonight before I head out. You’ll be all right.”
“I know. It’s why I’ve picked her. She’s the only one I’ve ever heard you say anything positive about.” Weasley slumped back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling. “I know I’ll be all right too,” he huffed out exasperatedly. “I just. I. This is stupid. Potter’s a berk.”
Draco smirked. He wouldn’t have argued that one even if he could’ve. “It’ll only be a week. Two at the most. Think of it as a nice little vacation, Marty.”
Weasley grinned at that. “Well you certainly know how to get me pleased about getting a break from you, prat.” Weasley hit him in the back of the head with a block of Post-Its on his way out after teaching Daphne the lay of the land. “Oi, now it’s your job to convince Prat Potter to care more about the product than the profits.”
“I’ll be far better at it than you ever would’ve been,” Draco shot back at him, trying very hard not to care about the fact that he wouldn’t be working with Weasley for the foreseeable future. It was a stroke of brilliance rather than rotten luck.
Weasley stared down at his desk, tapping his fingertips nervously against the wood. “Just don’t go and fall in love with the bastard and run back off to England, yeah? It’ll be hell to train a new assistant.”
Draco snorted. “Weasley, we both know how much you hate anything that resembles work. I’m hardly going to be responsible for piling a crap-ton more on you, not when we both know how poorly you handle it.”
Weasley sat back down and said stuffily, “Well. So long as we’re agreed then.”
Potter wasn’t the only one waiting downstairs in the lobby when Draco arrived the next morning. (Draco noted his still-knobbly knees with vicious pleasure.) Weasley was there as well, with some flimsy pretence about meeting a client for coffee. Potter was as severe today as he had been yesterday – and as gorgeous – and he held out his hand for Weasley to shake, saying, “It was nice meeting you yesterday, Mr. Weasley. I hope we get the chance to work together in future.” It sounded like a challenge.
Weasley was obviously gritting his teeth and Draco wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a bit of bone crushing in that handshake. He vaguely remembered how close Potter and the Granger girl – the one Weasley had been hung up on for literal years – had been in school. Maybe Weasley had remembered that as well since their brief meeting the day before.
Potter grinned for the first time since he’d arrived and pulled his hand back. It was a man’s grin now though, rugged and emphasising the square of his jaw, rather than the one he’d had as a boy that highlighted his innocence and youth. “Sorry to steal your assistant out from under you, by the way, but he’s a bit of a catch, isn’t he? Did you headhunt him yourself from Snape + Co.?”
Draco cleared his throat and stepped in. “I left the company voluntarily actually.” To get away from Blaise. Who had followed him three months later like the possessive arsehat he was.
Potter frowned over at him, like he couldn’t understand why Draco would insert himself into a conversation that was about him.
Weasley’s smile was more of a grimace. “No hard feelings. I’ll have him back before long, I’m sure.”
“I’m sure Marty could use the break though,” Draco put in, mainly because it seemed to annoy Potter when he spoke.
Potter’s brows furrowed a bit. “Oh. I thought your first name was Percival or something.”
Weasley pulled a face. “Wow. No. That’s my brother Percy.” Draco sniggered but quickly covered it with a cough. He couldn’t think of a worse Weasley to be compared to. “It’s Ronald, actually. Ron.”
“So ‘Marty’ comes from?” Potter asked, screwing up his face.
“A prick who lives to make my life miserable,” Weasley growled.
Draco shot him an obnoxious grin.
“Still. It’ll be nice to have him back when the time comes,” Weasley added, sending a significant look over at Potter, smiling grim.
Potter smiled back but it was much sharper than before. He turned to Draco and said dismissively, “I’ve been given a temporary office up on twenty-five, back left corner. I’m sure you’ll be able to find it.”
He didn’t even wait for Draco to respond before he was stepping onto the lift.
“I hate that guy,” Weasley snarled after him.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Daphne’s not great at putting together outfits so please try not to get any jam, tea, ink, or whatever other mess you usually muck up your top half with on your clothes. You have that meeting with Scrimgeour at three and he will show up at least a half hour early so no long lunches today. There’s a bottle of antacid, aspirin and a surplus of pens in my bottom drawer, use them at your discretion. Rely on Daphne and Susan and you’ll be fine. Pansy, too, if you can stomach it.”
Weasley ran a hand through his shaggy hair. “I won’t fall apart at the seams without you, you know?”
Draco ran a doubtful eye over him, prompting Weasley into an infantile and obscene hand gesture. Draco adored his ability to push people into that. “Try not to act like a tosser without me.”
Weasley snorted. “It’s a constant struggle.” Draco took a step towards the lift and Weasley called after him, “Hey, Potter seems like a complete arse to work with but we need his business and you need access to his company’s pharmaceuticals as soon as they get released so, just, think of Teddy if it gets to be too much.”
Draco inhaled sharply, giving Weasley a grateful nod. Think of Teddy and not Potter rubbing the back of his neck, not meeting his eyes and saying, ‘sorry, Malfoy, I’m just not interested in you that way.’
Potter was a boor of a man. He was short with Draco, treated him like inconvenient furniture and he all but barked his every command. He was nothing like the kind-hearted, strong, slightly naïve boy who’d played flanker on their school rugby team – the only reason Draco had gone to those idiotic matches. Draco was almost pleased at how quickly his crush morphed into genuine distaste. Potter may have still had the body that had popped up in more of Draco’s teenage fantasies than he’d like to admit, but the personality was long gone. It made working with Potter annoying but not in the least bit distracting.
They had a meeting with Weasley scheduled for late in the afternoon so they could collaborate with him on the pitch and Draco would be doing the same with the other bidders, Umbridge – foul woman, (Kingsley) Shacklebolt of King & Pres. – gorgeous, dark eye candy, and Snape – Draco’s former boss, who was more than unpleasant but whom Draco was immensely fond of regardless.
“Weasley will be prepared, won’t he?” Potter shot at him surprisingly as they left for the sixth floor. He hadn’t spoken to Draco in anything that wasn’t a direct order the entire day, let alone asked his opinion on anything.
Draco rallied to Weasley’s defence. “He’ll be brilliant. I can’t promise there won’t be food stains on his cuffs but he’s the top agent at Longbottom Relations for a reason.”
Potter actually snorted at that. “If he’s half as good as you seem to think he is then maybe this won’t be a waste of my time.”
Draco ground his teeth together and gritted out, “It won’t be.” Pompous dick.
Weasley was prepared. He asked all the right questions, made great input, was insightful without sounding pretentious, and he only had one coffee stain on his lapel. He came at it from a creative, modern perspective that focussed more on reinventing the corporation as a charitable one rather than zeroing in on their newest product. Draco breathed a sigh of relief when the informal meet-and-greet was over. Potter had taken a phone call halfway through and Draco chatted to Daphne for a moment before making his way over to Weasley.
“Miss your mouth again there, Marty?” he inquired under his breath.
Weasley frowned. “Daphne said it wasn’t that noticeable.”
Draco tutted. “You’re going to have to break her of the instinct to lie to spare your feelings.”
Weasley looked downright depressed. “You think Potter’s noticed?”
Weasley swore and was in the middle of asking him which suit would go with the shirt and tie he was wearing when Potter breezed back in, saw their heads bent close together and scowled. “Malfoy, if you could get out last year’s promotional materials so Mr. Weasley here has something to reference.”
Potter may have been an impatient arse but that didn’t mean Draco wasn’t good at his job. So far not a single one of Potter’s demands had been met with anything less than exact precision and this was no exception. Potter had yet to offer so much as a single thank you.
Luckily for the both of them, Draco didn’t expect one.
“You didn’t have to do this again.”
Draco huffed. “You’re saying I don’t have to be here? You couldn’t have told me that before I drove over?” Draco picked up his coat, saying, “I’ll be off then,” while Andromeda tsked.
“All right, all right, you’ve made your point, you little hellion.” She grabbed his nose and he wrinkled it in response. “How your mother ever put up with you I’ll never know.”
Draco preened. “I was an angel and we both know it.”
Andromeda barely suppressed her snort. “How you choose to remember your childhood and what actually occurred are drastically different. You are aware of that, aren’t you?” Draco pretended not to hear her and went off to play peek-a-boo with Ted.
Andromeda called after him, “The numbers are—”
“Let me guess,” Draco cut her off, “buried in the backyard under three meters of solid rock?”
Draco could practically hear the roll of her eyes. “I’ll have my mobile with me, call if anything happens. I love you both.”
Draco stuck his tongue out at Teddy and made a face while Ted dissolved into a fit of giggles. “Teddy say, ‘babushka’s getting lucky tonight.’”
Draco could hear the sound of Andromeda stamping her foot as she howled lowly, “You are the worst nephew in the world, Draco. I don’t know why I even bother with you.”
“You adore me, tetushka!” Draco shouted after her, the slam of the door cutting him off mid-word as he grinned to himself.
Teddy had his fourth seizure in Draco’s presence that night. It was still the worst thing Draco’d ever witnessed, a two-year-old’s body wracked with convulsions, and he would have given anything and everything to stop it but instead all he could do was lay Teddy down and watch helplessly as he rode it out. He turned Teddy over onto his side once the tremors stopped, placing his hand over the cymbal crash of Teddy’s heartbeat and letting his chest press up against Teddy’s back as he breathed deep and even, encouraging Teddy to match his rhythm. Teddy never remembered his seizures after he had them, he’d come to feeling lethargic and confused but nothing worse than that.
Draco called Dr. Delbert who told him, for the fourth time, that he’d done all the right things and that he should take Teddy to hospital, just to be safe. Which Draco did. He debated calling Andromeda and waited until what he guessed was about the dessert course to let her know what had happened. She immediately wanted to drop everything and see Teddy but Draco convinced her it was under control and to finish her night. She agreed though they both knew she’d be cutting it short.
Ironically, even though Ted’s convulsions only lasted fifteen minutes at the outset, Draco would be shaking until well into the next morning. He really needed this business with Potter to end favourably. He decided, in that asylum-white hallway of the hospital wing, that he would do everything in his power to ensure Potter and Biorg worked exclusively with Longbottom Relations no matter the cost.
Draco did the best he could with the dark circles under his eyes the next morning. He never slept well after one of Ted’s episodes. He was going to meet Potter in the south-end of Glasgow and take him out to Tinderbox while they strategised the meeting with Umbridge. It was one of the best-known cafés across Scotland and Draco had noticed during their business yesterday that Potter was a bit of a rabid coffee drinker.
Potter met him with his usual sneering expression but he let Draco pick out his blend for him. Draco noticed from his periphery while he stood in line the way Potter glanced around approvingly at their surroundings. The interior was modern, streamlined, a pleasing mix of wood and glass, and less claustrophobic than the other shops in town. It looked more like a pub than a café, which had always called to Draco.
Potter took a first sip and shot a wide-eyed look of surprise at Draco. “Bloody brilliant,” he said. “I didn’t think you Scots knew what coffee was, let alone how to make it.”
Draco tried not to look too pleased with himself. It was one of the very few places in Scotland that gave the impression of knowing what coffee was at all. Draco wasn’t about to admit that however. He pushed his cake halfway between them with an intrepid finger and Potter stared at it a second before stealing Draco’s fork and taking a bite. Apparently it was too early in the morning for him to commit to his bastard routine just yet.
“Lot of students about,” Potter noted with his brows raised, pointing at the cake with a heavenly expression.
Draco sniffed. “Be grateful for that. I could’ve taken you to the one in the West End where business arsehole is an actual class of customer.”
Potter snorted. “Surprised you think I don’t belong there then.”
Draco leaned back in his seat. “I don’t remember saying you didn’t.” He let his eyes slide away from Potter’s. “I, however, do not.”
Potter laughed and covered his mouth against the cake crumbs threatening to spew out. He sighed a bit and said wistfully, “I went to school here, you know.”
Draco snapped his coffee stirrer in half. Potter had to be fucking joking. He really didn’t remember Draco at all? “You don’t say?” he put in sourly. It was good to know his utter humiliation wasn’t even worth remembering in the mind of the great Harry Potter. He didn’t let Potter respond before changing the subject. “You’re prepared for Umbridge then? She’s a shark, that woman.”
“I heard it was more of a toad,” Potter slipped in with unassuming humour.
Draco got Loose Leaf tea up his nose as he laughed out loud. It was supremely annoying how charming Potter could be while in the next breath acting like a complete tosser. He left Draco feeling entirely off balance and all the more bad-tempered for it.
The meeting with Umbridge took nearly three hours and the rumours of her horribleness were greatly underreported. Draco felt like filing a formal complaint. She started off the meeting by stating that she could up Biorg’s profit margin by twenty percent with her advertising campaign. Draco resisted the urge to claw her eyes out when Potter perked up. Her style was pinpointed, cutting and it would squeeze every last pound out of their consumer. Once upon a time, the Malfoy family would have been able to afford such overpriced snake oil but that was before his father had gotten embroiled in an FCA investigation into insider trading and their assets had been frozen. He had promptly gotten Draco out of England so he wouldn’t be caught up in the mess, securing him a job with their old family friend, Severus Snape – whom he and Potter would be seeing just tomorrow.
He got the feeling Potter had been as exhausted by the conference as Draco was and he texted Susan to order them coffees from Artisan Roast and have them waiting by the time they got back to Edinburgh. He’d finished the missive by the time Potter’s town car pulled up.
Potter slid into the backseat, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “That didn’t sound half bad,” he grunted out.
Draco snorted. “Naked profiteering,” he pseudo-coughed.
“We’re a capitalist society, Malfoy,” Potter muttered. “Of course Biorg is going to go where the money is.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Right, like your corporation doesn’t have enough of it. Put your profits in terms of economy and you rank higher than New Zealand.” Draco’s gaze tracked the reflective windows of the buildings they passed. “You have the opportunity to do real good with this drug and instead you’re worried about how best to market it.”
He could hear the shrug of Potter’s shoulders where they squeaked against the leather. “It’s the way of the world.”
Draco sighed, letting his gaze cut over to Potter. “And you’re all right with that?”
Those were the last words spoken between them before they arrived at the firm. Susan was her regular reliable self, and she had their coffees waiting for them on the twenty-fifth floor.
“Bloody hell, this is even better than the last,” Potter gushed after he took a swallow of it.
Draco grinned, organising the file folders in his bottom drawer after adding in all the materials Umbridge had dumped on him. “It wasn’t just the pay rise and benefits Longbottom Relations offered that tempted me away,” he said with a wink. “Getting within walking distance of my precious Artisan Roast? Too good to pass up.”
Potter chuckled and Draco figured this was as good a time as any to ask about lunch, while Potter wasn’t actively scowling at him.
“I was wondering if I might pop down to the canteen for a late lunch? I could bring you back something if you like.”
Potter frowned before smoothing his expression into something blank and uncaring. He waved Draco off. “Don’t worry about it, I’ll order something out.”
Draco hesitated leaving. “You’re sure?”
“Quite,” Potter snapped.
Draco didn’t pause even a moment longer before racing down to the lower level where he found exactly what he hoped he would. Pansy was sitting at their table in the corner, eating her wilted salad.
“Draco!” she greeted him eagerly, pushing out his chair with the sole of her heel. “I was beginning to think you were too good for me, now you have Biorg-money taking you out for lunch.”
Draco pshawed at that. “We didn’t even have lunch the first day, Pans,” Draco quickly reassured her. “And I’m nipping down to the canteen at half two today. If this is what Biorg calls treating their employees then I don’t think you’ve anything to worry over.”
Pansy sat up straighter with a pleased little shuffle of her shoulders. “Well. Weasley will certainly be pleased to hear that then,” she said nonchalantly, even while she grinned like a cat that got the cream.
Draco groaned. He had nearly forgot all about Weasley. “Tell me he hasn’t publicly imploded yet.”
Pansy shook her head but assured, “It’s only a matter of time though. He came into the quarterly with his buttons done up in complete disarray.”
Draco dragged a hand down his face with a disbelieving moan. “What is Greengrass doing?”
“Making him dine with bibs,” Pansy suggested.
It took Draco a moment to realise she was serious. “She’s not,” he gasped. Pansy rolled her lips into her mouth, clearly striving for serious before they both lost the battle against their giggles. “Oh lord, poor Weasley.” Draco snorted and pushed out his seat. “I expect all the gossip that’s fit to tell when I get back, shrew,” he said, pointing at her gravely.
Pansy nodded dutifully. “I’ll mentally organise it in order of juiciest while you’re up.”
Draco knew there was a reason he and Pansy had agreed to give one another their kidneys while they were trolleyed and watching Green Wing all those months ago. The line wasn’t so unreasonable this late in the day so he was through it fairly quickly and was paying for his ham sandwich when he felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle. He turned to find Weasley staring at him with exaggerated longing while Daphne talked at him from across their table.
Draco snorted fondly and jerked his chin over in the direction of Pansy. Weasley broke off from Greengrass barely a minute later. Draco noticed his tie and jacket clashed awfully and he winced in sympathy for everyone who’d had to meet with him that morning.
“Murder me now,” Weasley said, drawing out the syllables as he dropped his head onto their table, still standing.
Draco petted his head with a frown. “It’s not gone well then?”
Weasley moaned pitifully. “I called Scrimgeour ‘Rufus’ yesterday.”
“Oof,” Draco offered dutifully in shared misery. Scrimgeour notoriously despised his given name.
“Mama Longbottom asked if I’d gone colourblind over the weekend and I lost my notes on the Riddle acquisition, and I’ve a meeting with their consultant tomorrow morning.”
Greengrass wasn’t incompetent, Draco knew that, Weasley was just a special kind of disaster.
Draco pulled out a scrap of paper and a pen while Pansy poked Weasley in the side of his face with her fork with all the curiosity of a researcher who’d just discovered a new species. Weasley slapped her away with a scowl. Draco handed the paper off to Weasley while he stared down at the list adoringly.
“That should last you through my absence, though why you can’t just remember what I’ve paired together previously is beyond me,” Draco chastised, indicating the list of complementary shoes, suits, shirts and ties with his pen cap. “I’ll get a similar one to Daphne with the alternates before I leave today.”
“You’re a godsend,” Weasley all but whimpered.
Draco sniffed. “I know, and you don’t deserve me. By the way, the Riddle file is on the cabinet behind your desk, even though I told you that you’d forget you put it there as soon as you did it. You can’t even see the top of it from eye level.”
“Six pay rises when you come back, honest,” Weasley told him gratefully before rushing off back to Greengrass.
“It’s pathetic, isn’t it, how little he can actually do without you?” Pansy commented, watching him go. Draco tipped his head in concession. “But also kind of touching too,” she added with a grin and Draco couldn’t deny that one either. “I can’t imagine it’s anything like that with Potter.”
Draco’s face instantly hardened. “He’s little better than a tyrant.”
“And yet we’ve not spent the entirety of this lunch session plotting our fantastical revenge scenarios,” Pansy pointed out with heavy disappointment.
And if ever there was time to remedy that, it was now. They spent the next twenty minutes dreaming up more and more outrageous plots before Draco had to get back. They decided to go with Pansy’s idea, the one involving international cooperation, glow lights, silly putty and seven Mother of Pearl moths. It was foolproof.
Something about Severus put Potter off, Draco could tell. Snape’s strategy was cost effective, functional and spartan – without all the regular frills of the PR industry, as Severus said himself. Draco could certainly understand Potter’s intimidation. It was true that the man was severe, sharp in even looks with the hook of his nose, always in dark-coloured suits and with a disapproving professor quality about him but Draco had always gotten along famously with him. Potter reluctantly waited just outside as they spent fifteen minutes catching up after the meeting was over.
“You planning to abandon another PR firm, are you? You could certainly do worse than jumping ship to Biorg.” Severus sneered, tipping his head towards the door. “Even if their representatives do scare a bit too easily.”
Draco scoffed. “How many times do I have to tell you I didn’t leave because of you?”
Severus snorted. “As if it makes any difference to me either way.”
“Oh, you are a poor liar,” Draco taunted. “You’re the one who refuses to ever make the drive up from Dumfries.” Draco tapped his fingers on his chin and decided, “I’ve Ted two weekends from now, we could meet in Calderpark?”
Severus shot him a dark look. “You mean to torture me, don’t you?”
Draco couldn’t deny he wanted to see how Severus would behave in a place as inherently happy as a zoo. He’d hardly ever seen Severus out of dark clothing and he’d never seen him with a smile that didn’t have a tinge of evil to it. “Sandals are encouraged,” Draco prodded, trying to tamp down on his grin.
“If only I could still fire you,” Severus said wistfully.
Draco grinned sweetly back at him.
Potter looked only slightly disgruntled when Draco rejoined him outside. He squinted over at Draco, the sun glinting off the edges of his glasses. “So, have you got a secretly brilliant coffee shop here, too?”
The curve of Draco’s lips was sly. “But of course.”
Draco asked Potter’s town car to drop them off in front of Brew Lab and ordered them both a cup of their best specialty coffee. Potter actually moaned, licking his lips, as he swallowed. Draco refrained from pounding his head into the table. Barely. It was completely unfair that such a fit bloke had to be a complete wanker.
“Snape’s a bit off-putting,” Potter murmured after they’d sat in silence for a few minutes.
Draco sniffed. He wanted the account to go to Weasley of course but he couldn’t help the surge of loyalty he felt towards Severus. “I won’t argue that,” he said. “But he’s brilliant at what he does.” He tapped his fingers against the counter and bit his lip before deciding to go ahead with it. “Weasley is the only one that will give your advertising even the slightest bit of compassion though. The others will meet your bottom line with more tenacity but he’ll humanise your company, which is not an easy feat,” he added conspiratorially, perking his brow.
Potter’s gaze slipped away from Draco’s and he stared down at the floor as he said, “You think we care about that?”
Draco sighed, shrugging his shoulders. “More like I hope you do.”
He and Potter barely spoke the rest of the day, though Potter did keep him at the office till half seven looking through the truckloads of information Umbridge had saddled them with. Severus had been much more utilitarian, which Draco appreciated immensely. He was organising their schedule and travel for tomorrow when Potter walked over to his desk, setting down on the edge of it and not quite meeting his eyes. “I was thinking about stopping off somewhere for dinner. You’ve proven to be a brilliant guide so far. Would you like to join me?”
Draco blinked slowly, completely belying the fact that his heartbeat was going haywire. “Is this—Are you asking me out, on a date?”
Potter swallowed, glancing up at Draco before levelling off to the side. “If you like,” he said gruffly. “I guess that’s up to you, right? Depends how far you’re willing to go to ‘woo’ me.” His face was quickly colouring a dark shade of red.
Draco straightened up and said coolly, “Believe me, Potter, aside from a superior taste in coffee, we have nothing in common.”
Potter rubbed the back of his neck nervously and, god, did that ever bring back painful memories. “I’m sorry if I—” He cleared his throat. “You seem interested in the company if nothing else. We could keep things strictly professional if you prefer.”
“My interest in your corporation extends only so far as this medicine you’re releasing,” Draco told him, eyes flashing. “Of course you’re more interested in what will put the most money in your employer’s hands than getting it to those who actually need it, like my two-year-old cousin who has myoclonic epilepsy.” Potter’s eyes widened. “So allow me to repeat, we have nothing of any import in common, you and I.”
Draco rose to storm out and Potter caught him by the elbow as he passed. “Malfoy.” He swallowed. “Draco, I am sorry. The last thing I wanted was to offend you.”
Draco cooled a bit at the sincerity on Potter’s face and he offered the man a stiff nod before he left the room.
Potter was waiting for him down in the lobby with a Styrofoam cup of coffee – which he presented with a cringing smile – and a bushy-haired girl who looked vaguely familiar. It took Draco a second to place her. “Draco, this is my assistant back in London, Hermione.”
Granger stuck out her hand before her eyes lit up. “My academic rival,” she said suddenly, grinning widely. “You and I were always vying for the top in our courses.”
Well at least he wasn’t completely forgettable, Draco thought dryly, shaking her hand warmly.
Granger pulled away, turning a mutinous glare on Potter. She started talking so fast and so high-pitched that Draco could hardly follow what she was saying. “Why didn’t you tell me Draco Malfoy was working here? You must have bloody lost it when you saw him, what with how you were in school over him and then—”
“Hermione,” Potter hissed, his consonants going sharp and his expression murderous, “you probably don’t realise, but you’re speaking out loud.”
Granger turned an apologetic look on Draco. “Sorry,” she said with a frown, looking slightly calculating. “It’s just a surprise running into a schoolmate after we’ve all moved around so much.”
Draco offered her a delicate smile. “I’m surprised you even remembered. Potter, here, didn’t.”
Granger whipped around on Potter so fast it looked painful. She silently communicated something disapproving with her eyebrows. Potter shrunk back a bit, looking abashed. She turned to Draco again, this time with a brilliant smile. “I’m sure it only slipped his mind for a moment.”
Draco cleared his throat, his unfortunate affection for Weasley forcing out the words, “You know, Ron Weasley works here too.”
Granger pinked instantly at the name. “D-does he?” she said, striving for polite disinterest and failing miserably.
Potter put in feebly, “Draco was his assistant before I got a lend of him actually.”
Granger looked a bit hot around the collar and she said stuffily, “How odd we’ve all ended up bunched together. I wasn’t even aware the two of you were mates.”
Draco laughed, completely caught off guard by the idea. “Oh no, we weren’t. I thought his given name was Reginald for years.” Granger snorted and quickly covered her nose embarrassedly. “We work together is all.” Potter eyed him searchingly while Granger blushed harder. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind catching up with you. He was quite... impressed with you if I remember correctly.”
And he most definitely did. Weasley hadn’t seen or heard from Granger since they’d got their GCSE results and he still managed to mention her at least three times a year.
Granger ducked her head slightly. “I wouldn’t want to impose.”
Draco waved her off. “I can guarantee you, the last thing Weasley would consider you is an imposition.”
Granger bit her lip around a wide smile. “Harry can give you my number then, and Ron can call whenever he likes. I’ll be in town the rest of the week for the Biorg convention.” She leaned in and kissed Potter’s cheek, looking downright giddy before she waved to Draco with a flutter of her fingers.
Potter cleared his throat when Draco refocussed on him and dipped his gaze to the untouched coffee in his hand. “It’s swill but,” Potter shrugged, “it’s, you know, a gesture. I’m sorry I’ve been acting like such a berk. There are reasons, I assure you, but they were—misguided.”
Draco raised the cup graciously in mock toast. “All right. I suppose I’ll have to take you at your word.” He took a sip and blanched. “Costa Coffee, really? I’m surprised it hasn’t been shut down by concerned health officials the world over yet.”
Potter’s grin showed off his teeth and only reminded Draco how terribly and unfairly handsome he was. “I can only promise you I didn’t know. I was swindled by their massive amounts of business. I assume now they’re all paid plants as surely no one would actually shop there.”
Draco sniggered. “Rightly so.”
Their meeting with Kingsley happily gave Draco something else pretty to look at besides Potter. Kingsley’s voice was rich, deep and smooth. He presented Potter with a structured and sound tactic that Draco could respect even if it entirely lacked imagination. He handed Draco four fingers worth of papers with an amicable parting phrase before bidding Potter adieu.
“Seems to have a level head,” Potter said approvingly as he buttoned up his jacket.
Draco sighed dreamily. “A good-looking one too.” He coloured when he realised what he’d said. “Not that he—Man’s straight as a level unfortunately,” he said with a weak smile.
Potter’s face had closed off entirely and he said tightly, “Good to know.”
Draco stared morosely down at the paperwork in his hands, paperwork that would likely keep him in Potter’s office until well past eight that evening. “Do you fancy lunch out on the moors?” Draco found himself saying. Potter looked up at him in surprise, and Draco fidgeted a bit. “Only we’ll probably be locked in that stuffy office the rest of the day looking over these and I’d like to enjoy the weather while it lasts.”
Potter squinted. “It does seem like purely sunny days are a rare occurrence around here.” He shrugged carefully. “I suppose it’s not as though I’m going to come up on many other opportunities to sightsee while I’m here.”
Draco grinned approvingly at him. “We could pick up some food from Totty’s, rent a car, drive out to Culloden Moor for the afternoon and you can put your ‘not acting like a berk’ pledge to the test.”
Potter’s mouth reluctantly curved up into an indulgent smile. Draco resolutely did not think about what it might taste like.
The plan went off without a hitch, except for the car bit. The rental business only had manual cars left and Draco had a child’s mastery of that. At best. He refused to admit as much though when Potter challenged him on it. Potter spent the entire drive out laughing, first quietly, and then uproariously as they continuously stalled and ground their way to one of the less touristy spots. Draco smacked him in the arm repeatedly.
“You looked like a newborn calf that was just learning what legs were,” Potter choked out, clutching his stomach as he imitated the jerky movements of Draco’s arm fighting with the satanic gearshift.
Draco knocked him hard enough in the shoulder that he stumbled over his footing. Draco offered him an exaggerated frown. “Now who’s learning to use his legs, Potter? Moors can be tricky to navigate, you know. Careful.”
Potter grumbled after him but he still mostly sounded amused.
They didn’t walk for long before Draco plopped down next to a boulder, leaning back against the moss-less side. Potter settled in next to him, still wearing a grin that looked too big for his face. It was stupidly sexy and Draco wanted to lick it off. He handed Draco the croissant-sandwich he’d gotten from Totty’s before digging into his own.
Draco waited until he was finished chewing to say, “I expect your utmost support in the Weasley/Granger date-a-thon I’ve started.”
Potter did not have the same compunction when it came to food and talking. “Why do you think I forced her to visit me at the firm? I was hoping they’d run into each other since Weasley seems to love bombarding me first thing – before even a gram of coffee – so he can remind me that you’re his assistant and I’m only borrowing you. Honestly, I was beginning to even wonder if it was worth it with how proprietary he seemed over you.”
Draco spent the better part of the next five minutes laughing so hard that his stomach started cramping. “You thought W-Weasley and I—” he gasped, trying to catch his breath. His abdomen really was starting to hurt. “Weasel? Really?” he demanded, still choking from lack of air.
Potter coloured. “It didn’t seem that far-fetched,” he said with a shrug.
Draco broke into another peal of laughter. “D-didn’t seem far-fetched?” he repeated disbelievingly. He shook his head, snorting. “Weasley is just hopeless without me and he knows it.”
Potter nodded, grinning a bit. “Yeah, I’m getting that. You’re nearly as good as Hermione.”
Draco perked a brow, any remaining humour immediately bleeding out of his features. “Nearly?” he said archly.
Potter nodded, striving to retain his innocent expression. “Well,” he drawled. “Hermione did beat you out for top scores more often than not, didn’t she?” he reminded evilly, his mouth continuously trying to pull into a smile before he could stop it in its tracks.
“You are a monster,” Draco said with mock outrage, throwing the hard end of his croissant at Potter’s head while he ducked and threw a chip back at him. The worst part about continuing to spend time with Potter was that Draco thought he might actually like him, when he wasn’t being an officious prick at least. And that did not bode well.
“Why do you call Weasley ‘Marty,’ by the way?” Potter asked after they’d called a detente on their food fight.
Draco grinned to himself. “Oh that’s a good story, that is.” Potter looked over lazily at him and Draco snorted. “Weasley was convinced I was a rich snob before we ever met. So, my first day working for him, he sits me down and gives this grand speech about how he’s my boss and I’m his subordinate and it didn’t matter if I was born with the proverbial silver spoon in my mouth, I was still going to pick up his washing and fetch his tea without the slightest complaint.” Draco waved his arms about to try to encompass the pomposity.
Potter’s lips quirked. “He didn’t,” he prodded.
Draco nodded sombrely. “He did. I, naturally, spent the next six weeks punctuating my every sentence with ‘martinet’ so we’d both be absolutely certain of where I stood. ‘Of course, martinet.’ ‘Right away, martinet.’ ‘I live to serve you, martinet,’” Draco reminiscently simpered.
Potter shook his head with a little half-smile. “And that got shortened to ‘Marty’ over the years.”
“Indeed it did,” Draco agreed happily. “Weasley hates it because it serves to remind him of exactly what an arse he was when we first started working together.”
Potter nudged Draco’s knee with his own and said fondly, “Diabolical.”
Draco’s prediction proved correct and he and Potter didn’t end up leaving until well past eight that evening. He made sure to drop Granger’s number in Weasley’s inbox on his way out.
Weasley caught him in the lobby the next morning. He stopped Draco on his way to the lifts, held him by the shoulders a moment and dragged him in for the biggest, most bone-crushing hug Draco had ever experienced. He shoved something up under Draco’s nose the second he pulled away and it took Draco a minute for his eyes to adjust. When they did he couldn’t stop his disbelieving guffaw. In Weasley’s hand was a formal letter, written on Weasley’s stationery, awarding him a fifteen percent pay rise. Augusta Longbottom’s acid green stamp winked at him from the corner. “Thank you,” Weasley said, slapping him on the back and pulling him into his straightjacket hold a second time, repeating into his shoulder, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Draco grinned from ear to ear. He maintained it was all due to the pay rise.
“You leave me for that arse Potter and there will be hell to pay,” Weasley warned when he pulled back, still holding Draco by the shoulders.
Draco huffed amusedly. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“You’d better not,” Weasley told him, eyeing him suspiciously. “Parkinson and I will join forces for the first and only time ever to keep it from happening.”
Draco didn’t doubt it, and that was a dangerous team if ever there was one. He mock saluted as he made his way up to his temporary office with Potter, dutifully ignoring the squirming in his stomach that felt a lot like butterflies.
Draco spent the rest of his morning in the office with Potter, going over the pitches they’d heard and matching them up to Biorg’s stated list of concerns while Potter emailed and called back and forth with their main office. The air between them was more relaxed than it ever had been and Draco regularly saw the line of Potter’s throat as he laughed and the way his eyes lit up when he talked about things that mattered to him.
They had lunch together at the shop down the road and Potter talked about how he’d gotten involved with Biorg, which was actually through a family friend named Peter. It wasn’t because he cared about making obscene amounts of money as Draco had first suspected. Peter’d had a nasty case of hemifacial spasms his entire life when Biorg released Dysentiofax, which all but cured it. One tablet a day and all his symptoms up and vanished. The active ingredient in Dysentiofax provided the building block to their new anti-seizure medication that Longbottom Relations was now bidding on.
Potter was actually proving to be caring and kind. He still had the same brilliant smile that so reminded Draco of the boy he’d spent four years obsessing over. Draco reached for the cheque at the same time Potter did and Potter’s hand landed on top of his. Draco pulled away, dropping his gaze, while Potter cleared his throat, the tips of his ears going red.
“So,” he said croakily, taking out his wallet, “I realise I’m probably pushing my luck, and I know you’ve answered this already but I’m nothing if not persistent.” He smiled ruefully to himself. “Not to mention I’ll likely only be in town for another week so I’ve nothing to lose really.” Potter cut himself off. He was rambling and it was stupidly adorable. “I’m thinking about going to the Theatre Royal tonight, it’s only a few streets over from my hotel and they’ve been advertising some truly godawful-looking play on the history of Scotland that I think the proper company could make worthwhile. And, ah, you are the proper company, Malfoy.”
“I’d love to go,” Draco said, his mouth completely disregarding any input from his brain. The brilliant smile Potter gave him in return was well worth the momentary disconnect.
Thankfully, Draco and Potter ended up working until well after seven that evening and they barely had time to make it to the play before it started, let alone for Draco to obsess over his outfit or what this meant.
Potter was painfully right about how awful the play was, the acting was over-the-top, the plot – which claimed to be historically based – was wildly inaccurate to make up for the boring reality and it was about two and a half hours too long. And it was only three hours in total. It was the most fun Draco had had in ages.
He and Potter were still laughing about it when they hit the street. “If we cannot unite then surely we will perish apart!” Potter said, his voice shaking nobly while he pantomimed holding a sword aloft.
“Your doctrines may not match mine, good lad, but together we shall evade this scourge of disbelievers!” Draco parried, with just as much faux seriousness.
“God,” Potter said, wiping his eyes, “you would think it was bloody World War II the way they went on about it.”
“I feel like you might be doubting the historical importance of the Church of Scotland,” Draco held up a hand, “and the United Free Church of Scotland,” he held out the other, “uniting,” he tangled them both up together, “and, if so, shame on you, sir,” he chastised, his cheeks starting to hurt from how much he’d been smiling.
Potter tugged him back by the hem of his jacket as he made to cross the road without him. “I’ve got to catch my breath first,” he said, pulling Draco into him.
“Breathtaking it was,” Draco said stoutly. “They should put that on the posters.”
Potter snorted. “Can’t turn that off, can you?”
“PR, it’s in my very soul,” Draco agreed with a nod.
Potter grinned widely at him, truly looking a bit winded as he said breathlessly, “I don’t mind it surprisingly.” The hand on the back of Draco’s jacket tightened and pushed him in closer. Draco let himself be pulled and he leaned into Potter more than was strictly necessary, staring at the shine from the streetlamp on his lower lip.
Potter’s thumb smoothed up the curve of Draco’s jaw and Draco’s eyelids fluttered closed just as a taxi honked at a few pedestrians that were taking a bit too long in the crosswalk. Draco startled back and Potter’s eyes flew open. The moment hung suspended between them before they both blinked embarrassedly. Potter rubbed his elbow, letting go of the bunch of fabric in his hand, and he grinned uneasily. “I, um,” he cleared his throat, “I meant to tell you this afternoon, I’m officially putting in my recommendation for Longbottom Relations tomorrow.”
Draco’s smile bloomed slowly but hugely. “That’s—that’s brilliant, Potter.”
Potter ducked his head. “You had the best to offer,” he said, his eyes darting over to Draco while he licked his lips. “One of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made actually.”
Draco woke up happier than he’d been in ages that Saturday. He wouldn’t see Potter again until Monday, unless he called him and asked him to lunch. Or maybe dinner. Or maybe over to his flat. He toyed with his mobile between his long fingers for the better part of a half hour until he realised he was going to drive himself mad before it even went nine o’clock if he didn’t get out of his flat. He rang Andromeda, checking she and Ted were awake before driving over.
Teddy was ecstatic to see him – as he always should be – and Draco faithfully resumed teaching him the universal truth: ‘Draco’s the best, number one forever.’ Teddy was at: “Dayco cat feather.” It was a work in progress.
Andromeda came in with tea and a sympathetic frown after a few minutes. Draco looked up at her with furrowed, questioning brows.
“I’m so sorry, Draco,” she said mournfully, “I know you and Ron were working hard on that account.”
Draco pulled back. “What account?”
“The Biorg one. Wasn’t Longbottom Relations up for that?” she asked, seeming slightly concerned at Draco’s uncomprehending expression.
Draco stood up so quickly that Ted looked completely disoriented by it. “What are you talking about?” he said with uncharacteristic roughness while Andromeda stared at him, wide-eyed.
“It’s in the paper,” she said, slightly combative and clearly off balance.
“What?” Draco rasped out, racing back into the kitchen. And there it was in black and white, a tiny blurb on page ten:
Biorg Pharmaceuticals is said to be looking to Umbridge Communications to market their new seizure suppressant, which will undoubtedly triple the net worth the corporation reported as early as last year. Umbridge Communications has successfully marketed the tycoons Crouch & Son and Prince Publishing, and it stands to surpass its year-end projections with this account alone. A representative for Biorg could not be reached for comment and a high-level Umbridge employee could only be quoted as saying, “At this stage, nothing can be confirmed or denied but we’re hopeful Biorg will recognise U.C. as the opportunity it is, taking into account our past history as well as our future aims.”
The paper shook in Draco’s hands as his fury climbed. “That lying piece of—” He could still remember how genuine Potter had seemed the night before when he’d smiled soft, pulled Draco in close, and to think Draco’d almost—
He pulled out his mobile and deleted Potter’s number with a punctuating jab of his thumb. At least now that the decision was made Potter could go back to England and find some other gullible prat to feed his lines to. He called Weasley and they agreed getting legless at half ten was warranted on days like this.
He apologised to Andromeda, kissed her on the cheek, and spent the next fourteen hours in a pub, ignoring the three calls from the newly unknown number on his mobile.
Draco felt like death come Monday. He and Weasley had cleverly gone for an encore performance the Sunday following and the throb of Draco’s head was a constant reminder what a terrible idea that had been. He stopped off on Weasley’s floor and left an industrial sized bottle of aspirin on the man’s desk, warning Greengrass ‘not to ask’ before she could even open her mouth while he dry swallowed what felt like a handful himself and stepped into the lift. Potter was already in the office by the time Draco reached it, which had never happened in the four days they’d worked together.
Christ. Was that all it’d been? It felt like a year to Draco.
Potter was smiling warmly behind his desk as he indicated the cup of coffee waiting on Draco’s. “Artisan Roast,” he said proudly, throwing out his chest, “I’m figuring out all your secrets.”
“That makes two of us,” Draco muttered as he collapsed into his chair, ignoring the coffee even though he was aching for it.
“What was that?” Potter asked happily.
“Nothing,” Draco murmured. He scowled and raised his voice. “Do you have to talk so bloody loud?”
Potter winced sympathetically. “Oof, one of those weekends then?” He bit his lower lip and Draco hated Potter for it as he was stuck helplessly watching the coral pink bleed into a dark mauve. “I tried to call you a few times.” The blush spreading out over the tops of Potter’s cheeks said it was more than ‘a few’ by anyone’s standards. “Out with anyone special, were you?”
Draco could feel his mood sink to even blacker depths. “That’s not any of your business, is it?” he snapped.
Potter actually flinched. “No,” he said bitterly. “I guess it isn’t.” He stared down at his desk and they sat in angry silence for a full minute before he said, “No, you know what, it is my business.” He stood up and took a few determined steps towards Draco. “I—I like you in case that wasn’t painfully obvious and if you’re not having it off with Weasley or Zabini or some other bloke then I’d like to think we’re, you know, headed somewhere good, somewhere where it is my business if you’re off with someone else.”
“Zabini?” Draco parroted stupidly because, honestly, the last thing he wanted right now was to remember that monumental fuck-up while in the midst of another.
Potter sputtered a bit but eventually burst out with, “You were with him in school. Towards the end of school at least and he might have implied there was something still between the two of you when I approached him about it.”
“You—when did you talk to Blaise?” Draco roared, feeling like the world was unravelling out from under him.
“The first day I saw you,” Potter said, colour creeping down his neck. “I figured you were his assistant. Which was when he winked and said fraternising was against company policy. He said he’d hardly be able to keep his hands off you if he worked with you day in and day out, so it was best to keep you on opposite sides of the firm. He,” Potter pulled a face, “said it kept the ‘magic’ alive and that you’d learned forced separation the hard way, while you were at Snape + Co.”
Bastard. Potter had always been a sticking point with Blaise so Draco was hardly surprised. That didn’t mean he wasn’t furious over it though. Hold a second. The first day he saw Draco? That meant he—
“Pansy set me straight on him before too long though,” Potter said with a dark look.
Thank Christ for Pansy. Well. Not that it mattered anymore. “It’s a moot point now though, isn’t it?”
Potter frowned, looking torn between anger and apology. “Why is that?”
Draco pulled out the paper that had been crumpled and recrumpled over the last two days and he slammed it down on Potter’s desk. “Because you’re a lying piece of shite, that’s why.”
Potter’s eyes found the article before blazing up to meet Draco’s, looking leagues past furious. “This is a complete fabrication, Malfoy. I swear.” His gaze ran down the length of the blurb and he muttered under his breath something that sounded like, “Get my hands on that bloody Umbridge woman—”
Draco scoffed, crossing his arms like a shield. “Well-acted, truly, Potter, but I’m not convinced.”
Potter swallowed and fell back a step, looking like he’d taken a blow. “It was obviously planted by Umbridge to try to back us into a corner, force us to deal with them so it doesn’t look like we’re reneging on a deal,” he insisted, eyes going wide and pleading when Draco’s own remained steadfastly icy.
Draco laughed coldly. “Umbridge may be a twat but she’s not a stupid twat. Something like that would burn too many bridges.”
Potter snarled, “Or the potential returns outweighed the—”
“It’s more likely,” Draco said, talking over him, “that you knew you were going with Umbridge by Friday, maybe earlier, and you lied about it with the hopes of getting into my trousers before they reported about it on Monday.”
Potter slumped back against his desk, eyes hooded as he stared down at his shoes. “You really think that’s something I’m capable of?”
Draco smirked. “My mother always told me, you can’t shake a first impression.” Potter’s face grew more desperate and Draco said quietly, “I should never have questioned it. That was always the man you were from the second you showed up here.”
Draco ignored the six calls from the known unknown number that night and moved all of his things out of Potter’s office before he could show up the next morning. He was down to the last box when Potter walked in looking grim, coffee cups conspicuously absent from his hands.
He looked from the box on Draco’s desk up to the closed expression on his face. He swallowed with a little nod of his head as though he’d expected nothing less. “You’re leaving then?”
Draco couldn’t meet the devastated look in his eyes. Neither one of them was supposed to care this much he was fairly certain. For Draco, the sad truth of it was that the two days he’d spent getting to know the real Potter were better than his best relationship. He murmured dispassionately, “I think it’s for the best, don’t you?”
Potter laughed humourlessly and dragged a hand through his shagged-stupid hair. “I’ve just done this all wrong.” He snorted, pinning Draco with bright eyes. “You know you had a type in school, right?”
Draco blinked dumbly at him.
Potter rubbed a hand against his chin and chuckled. “You—you liked jerks, you know? Nott, Smith, Zabini – you always went after blokes who were complete arseholes. It’s why I didn’t believe you when you—I swear it was like the fulfilment of every fucking fantasy when you said you wanted me. Too good to be true, you know?” He shrugged his shoulder, hiccoughing a little. “That’s what my buddy Seamus said at least, that you had to be taking the piss. He was right. I mean, it made more sense than somebody like you actually liking a dorky kid like me. And you got with Zabini so quick after that I felt sure I’d been right.”
Potter rubbed the back of his head, rumpling up his hair, and his eyes slipped from Draco’s face to stare at the edge of his desk. “I saw you enter the conference room and I swear I thought everyone could hear my heart trying to beat its way out of my chest and—Well. I remembered your type,” Potter said with a grimace. “I figured even if you had been messing with me in school, if I was more, I don’t know, suited to your tastes you’d want—Idiotic, I know.”
“I meant it,” Draco said suddenly, surprising even himself with the interruption. “What I said. That I was stupid over you.”
Potter smiled weakly. “Kind of suspected it after Culloden.” He leaned back more heavily against the door. “Can’t tell you what a fool I felt when I realised we might’ve had years to—” he trailed off with a sad tilt to his lips. Eventually he shook it off and said, “I’d convinced myself I’d idealised you, you know? I mean, every single partner I’ve ever had I’ve either consciously or subconsciously compared them to you, and every one of them was left wanting. I only really knew what I could observe so I figured I was playing it up but, fuck, Draco, you were even better than the best you I could imagine.” Potter laughed a little madly. “I’ve completely fallen for you and done absolutely everything in my power to make sure you could never feel the same.”
Draco swallowed and started uncertainly, “Potter, I—”
Potter kicked off the door and took a step towards him, heart so obviously in his throat and Draco swallowed down what he’d been about to say, something else shifting up to take its place. The door burst open and Weasley boomed out, “We got it!” He didn’t even notice Potter as he surged forward and pulled Draco into a one-armed hug.
Potter slipped out the door while Draco was distracted with Weasley. Draco figured that was just as well, as he had no idea what had been about to come out of his mouth.
The new seizure suppressants were hand-delivered by messenger to Andromeda and Teddy the next morning. Andromeda met Draco at the door a half hour later with tears in her eyes. They watched Ted for the first time without a heavy weight, a patient dread, sitting on their chests.
Draco felt his own throat close up when Teddy walked over to him, waving his airplane through the air and enticing him to play. He might never have to see another convulsion tear through this tiny boy he loved so much. He couldn’t think of a more genuinely awesome gift to be given.
He made up his mind about Potter while he stared down into Teddy’s happy and pain-free grey-blue eyes.
Draco hadn’t told anyone, even Andromeda, what had gone on between him and Potter but somehow the masterfully oblivious Weaselby had figured it out. He slapped a plane ticket down on Draco’s desk barely a second after he’d arrived and said huffily, “It leaves in an hour and a half. And if you stay there so help me God I will drag you back to Edinburgh myself.”
Draco quirked a brow at him, trying to bite back his smile. “Really?”
“I don’t get it myself,” Weasley whinged, crossing his arms over his chest, “but Hermione swears he’s an all right bloke and I’m feeling generous in my ludicrously happy state, which I owe almost entirely to you. And that is something I will never admit again so I’d savour it if I were you,” he chucked in informatively. He grumbled a bit before letting his shoulders fall and admitting, “Parkinson chipped in on the fare too, and you know she wouldn’t have supported this unless she also approved of Potter.”
Draco carefully picked up the voucher. “You’re an all right bloke yourself, Marty.”
Weasley made an unintelligible noise and tugged at his hair. “You know I hate you, right?”
Draco patted him on the cheek before Weasley could stop him and slipped out the door, only to find that Susan had already called him a car to take him to the airport. She waved him off with a wink and an exaggerated, “Bon voyage!” Draco grinned and blew a kiss at her.
The traffic was skin-rippingly dead-locked. The flight – which he’d nearly missed – had at least three babies on it. (Draco suspected they’d been given yodelling lessons only seconds before boarding.) The security officer at the Biorg desk refused to let him past, even after Draco promised the man his first-born. (Not such a hardship after his flight.) He was still arguing with the smug bastard when Granger happened upon him, practically squealing as she greeted him. She led him up to Potter’s office with a skip in her step, trying – and failing – not to look too pleased with his being there.
Potter was sitting with his back to the door. When Draco knocked all he managed was a low, “Go ‘way, ‘Mione.”
Draco cleared his throat and Potter’s whole back went ramrod straight. “You’ve completely fucked me over, you realise?” Draco said boldly.
Potter stood up so quickly he nearly toppled his chair and he turned around with his mouth gaping slightly. His stubble had gotten quite a bit thicker and the bags under his eyes were heavier. “You’re here,” he said blankly.
Draco glanced away, feeling like the room was tilting out from under his feet. He kept his fingers wrapped around the door handle behind his back. It was grounding. “You live in London and I’ve practically been threatened with beheading if I leave Scotland. More than once. Only there’s this bloke – kind of stupid, a little dorky, and with these terribly knobbly knees, but that I’m somehow arse over teakettle for. So, you see, you’ve fucked me over. I like my head, I’ve gotten attached really, and I’m messily in love with you so, either way—”
Potter swallowed, biting into his lower lip. “There’s an opening in our Glasgow offices. I may have already put in for it like the hopeful idiot I am.”
Draco couldn’t corral his own stupidly elated smile. “Scottish traffic is horrendous.” He sounded like he’d give a hopeful idiot good company.
Potter stepped around his desk tentatively. “I plan to complain about it, obnoxiously, to anyone who will listen.”
Draco licked his lips as Potter closed the distance between them. “And when this blows up in our faces and you realise you’ve changed your entire life around for a relationship that barely lasts out the month?”
Potter’s grin was blinding. “I’ll have really, really brilliant memories of all the sex we’ve had to remind me it was more than worth it.”
“And if—” Potter caught Draco’s mouth in a bruising kiss, grinning the whole way through it. Draco couldn’t remember a single reason they shouldn’t spend the rest of their lives together by the time they broke apart.