Twixt Naught and Never by Emma Grant
Summary: A decade after the defeat of Voldemort, Draco Malfoy works in the Misuse of Potions department of the Ministry of Magic and is assigned to investigate a London pub suspected of being involved in illegal potions trade. To his surprise, the pub is owned by none other than Harry Potter.
Categories: Harry/Draco Characters: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: Yes Word count: 20813 Read: 29379 Published: 08/04/2010 Updated: 08/05/2010
Story Notes:
This was written three years ago for the [info]serpentinelion Secrets & Wishes Fest (in 2007). I felt like it had big problems, and at that point, HP&tDH was about to be released. So I set the fic aside with the intent of coming back to it after reading the end of canon, and never did. I was recently inspired to get it done, and after much rewriting (and multiple reads by [info]pir8fancier, whose concrit was invaluable in the process), it's finally at a place where I'm happy with it. I'll put the original fest request (#46) at the end of the fic. In case it even matters anymore, heh. Oh, and this is EWE, baby!

1. Chapter 1 by Emma Grant

2. Chapter 2 by Emma Grant

3. Chapter 3 by Emma Grant

Chapter 1 by Emma Grant


Draco's afternoon had been going rather well. His workload had been heavy these last weeks, but the case he was working on was at a standstill, and he'd taken great advantage of it. He'd just come back from the break room with a cup of tea and a copy of the Prophet and propped his feet up on his desk, with every intention of ignoring work for the rest of the day, when there was a sharp rapping at his office door.

Unfortunately, he knew that self-important knock well. The door opened and a sleek ginger head popped through.

"Malfoy."

"Weasley." Draco didn't bother looking up from the paper. Percy Weasley found it maddening to be ignored, and Draco always did his best to be maddening.

"I've got a task for you."

"Of course you do."

"I'm reopening the Cockatiel investigation, and I want you to work on it."

Weasley was the assistant head of the Misuse of Potions department, and with Aldon Taryweather, the head of department, out of the country on an extended holiday, he'd been doing everything he could to usurp the man's position. He'd reopened investigations long closed, tried his best to prove his personal theory that Taryweather was personally involved in illegal potions trade, and generally had worked the entire staff to the brink of mutiny.

Draco tossed the paper on the desk. "Don't you have someone else to pick on today? I'm busy."

Weasley's eyes narrowed. In addition to being ignored, he despised having his authority challenged. "As acting head of this department, I have the authority to assign anyone to any investigation I wish."

He was right, of course, which made Draco's jaw clench. It was humiliating enough to have been passed over again and again for promotions while Weasley brown-nosed his way to the top of the department, but to have to take orders from him as well was simply unacceptable. Father must be spinning in his grave at the very idea. Of course, Father had left them homeless and knut-less, so his opinion of the situation would hardly matter.

"Then assign anyone else. I'm working the Rawlings case."

"I've put Smith on it. I need someone with anti-potions training on this one, and you're the only one with all the right credentials."

"That investigation was closed by Taryweather himself over a year ago. Why reopen it now?"

Weasley's chest puffed out like a peacock's, and Draco kicked himself for giving the man an opening to proselytize. "The Cockatiel has long been suspected to be involved in the potions trade, but one of our informants recently reported seeing Glitteratus being exchanged in plain view, and suspects that the current owner takes a cut." Weasley smirked and pushed his hornrim glasses a bit further up his nose. "He may even be a big player in the trade, with connections to Taryweather himself. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Taryweather closed the case last year because he was protecting someone important."

Draco rolled his eyes.

"Come on, Malfoy, this case is exactly what you've trained for. I've reviewed the entire staff's files, and I'm convinced that you are the best wizard for this job. I'm sending you out into the field -- today. I thought you'd jump at the chance."

"Into the field?" Draco repeated, his attention fully on Weasley now. "Are you serious?"

Weasley's smile was smug, and he nodded.

Draco had been fighting for a chance to work in the field for years, but had always been given excuses: he wasn't ready, this one was better suited for someone else (invariably younger and less experienced), he didn't have the proper training, and so on. But Draco knew it was his name and his family's role in the war that kept him trapped in this horrible dead-end office job. They'd only given him the position in the first place because hiring reformed Death Eaters had been in vogue at the time, after Saint Fucking Potter the Super Auror had made a big deal about giving people chances to redeem themselves.

But after all these years, it was clear that no one really wanted him there, and that they had no intention of letting him do anything important. He'd got his hopes up when they let him do the anti-potions training a year ago, but nothing had changed.

Until now. Though the circumstances were less than ideal, here was finally was a chance, perhaps the only one he'd ever get. At the very least, he could sabotage Weasley's plan to bring Taryweather down. Taryweather might reward him nicely for that.

Not to mention that this job involved spending the better part of the next week in a pub, on the department's bill. After what he'd put up with these last few years, Draco could use a good drink.

He gave Weasley an appraising look, doing his best not to let his excitement show on his face. "All right, I'll go check it out. But I'll need to go undercover, and it could take a while. I'll be out of the office for weeks."

Weasley's face lit up nearly as much as it had done when he'd been given that Office Busybody Award at the Christmas party -- before he'd found out it was a joke, of course. "Excellent, Malfoy. This could be just the break I've been looking for. I want you to drop everything else and work on this, starting right now. Check in with me on Monday and let me know how it's going." He headed for the doorway, then paused and turned back to Draco. "Stop by the Finance Department to get a per diem to cover your expenses. I'll sign off on whatever you need." He nodded approvingly at a poster of a scowling wizard peeking through the words Hawthorn Ravener, Britain's Most Wanted that hung on the wall by the door -- Draco had collected the whole set of "most wanted" posters in an attempt to appear to be interested in the work of the department -- and then disappeared through the door.

Draco slid down in his seat, grinning with excitement. He was going into the field, at long last. Maybe Weasley wasn't such a stupid git after all.

.:::.

Draco stared up at the pub's entrance, re-checking the address Weasley had written on a scrap of parchment. He'd floo'd home, changed into more casual clothes, cast a reasonable glamour charm, and made his way here, per diem galleons jingling in his pocket and already thinking about the pint he was about to drink. And now here he stood, in front of a doorway emblazoned with rainbow flags, the roar of music that sounded suspiciously Muggle audible through the closed door.

"A fucking gay bar?" he said under his breath -- though apparently not so much under as he'd intended, as a young man on the way in turned to glare at him. Weasley must have set him up for this, to get back at him for the 'award'. How had he found out Draco was behind that?

But worse, Weasley had implied Draco was especially suited for this case, so -- Draco paled -- did this mean Weasley thought he was gay? He wasn't gay, for fuck's sake. Sure, he'd never had a girlfriend for more than a couple of weeks, and yes, he'd just broken off with Pansy Parkinson, whom he'd only dated to shut his mother up anyway, but it didn't mean he was gay. Just because most wizards his age were getting married and starting families didn't mean he had to do it too.

Draco looked up and down the busy street. He could just dash in, order a pint at the bar, look around, and head out again. He could just go back to work in the morning and tell Weasley it wasn't worth investigating. He frowned, uncertain which was worse: returning to the office defeated or having to spend the foreseeable future infiltrating a gay bar.

He took a deep breath and walked through the door, prepared to see men having sex on every available surface. To his surprise, it looked a great deal like an ordinary pub. It wasn't yet busy at this time of day, with just a few groups of men sitting at tables in the far corner. It was dimly-lit and seemed to have been magically enlarged, but was actually rather pleasant, even cozy. Draco exhaled and headed towards the bar.

Behind it and busy polishing glasses was a young man who perfectly fit Draco's gay stereotype: slim, attractive, with a tight-fitting dark shirt and perfectly coiffed hair shining in the sparkling lights suspended mid-air above him. He smiled as Draco approached him, and Draco recognized him: he'd gone to Hogwarts and was just a few years younger, and a Hufflepuff, maybe.

Absurdly grateful for the glamour, Draco forced a smile and ordered a pint. He paid for it and retreated to a corner table to watch the activity. There was nothing much to watch though, and Draco's pint was empty before he knew it. He headed back to the bar for another one, at which point he learned the young bartender's name was Max -- short for Maximilian, which Max said he'd always thought sounded positively dreadful.

"And yours?" Max asked as he pulled Draco a new pint.

"Nev-- Nigel," Draco said. "It's Nigel, actually."

Max squinted at him. "Were you at Hogwarts?"

"No," Draco said, then realized that could be interpreted the wrong way. "I'm not a squib, mind. I… went to Beauxbatons, actually. My Mum went there, so…" He raised his pint in thanks and backed away before he could bollix up the situation any further. Thank Merlin he was in disguise; he could always come back tomorrow and start afresh if things went badly tonight.

By the time he returned to the bar for his third point, it had grown dark outside and the pub was busier, and he had to wait a bit to get Max's attention. Max, who had winked at him from down the bar where he was mixing something in a cocktail shaker, seemed to like him, so he might be a good source of information. Of course, Draco hadn't seen anything unusual yet -- but the night was young.

He didn't have to wait for the fourth pint. Max came to his table with two glasses in hand, and slid into a chair beside him.

"I didn't know there was table service," Draco said, trying his best not to squirm at the look Max was giving him.

Max grinned. "My shift is over. The boss tends bar for the rest of the night. This one's on me, by the way."

"Thanks." Draco looked toward the bar to see if he could spot this mysterious 'boss', but it was surrounded by people. All he could see was the back of a dark head through the crowd.

"So," Max said, leaning closer. "Can I get you anything else?" He raised an eyebrow.

Draco stared at him for a moment, uncertain if he was being propositioned for sex or for potions. He wasn't sure which made him more uncomfortable, but either way, it was probably his best chance to start investigating, which was, after all, what he was here for. "What are you offering?"

"What do you want?"

Draco indicated the pint glasses with a nod of his head. "Something a little stronger than this would be nice."

Max's eyes glittered. "I might be able to help you with that. But it'll take a few minutes. Stay right here." He slid off of his barstool and brushed against Draco, who stiffened, thinking Max was going to try to kiss him, or worse. But Max just walked away, taking his pint glass with him.

The crowd had grown while Draco had been nursing his four -- or was it five? -- pints. What had seemed a sleepy little pub a few hours ago was now full of life -- and now quite obviously full of gay wizards. They were everywhere, talking in close circles, catching samples of drinks off of trays that floated just overhead, ducking the occasional scantily-clad go-go dancer on broomstick who swept a bit too close to the crowd. In the center of the pub a dance floor had materialized, and groups of shirtless wizards were moving to a thumping beat. The room had enlarged itself to accommodate the size of the crowd, and the air was hazy, almost as if it were full of smoke, making the people on the other side of the pub appear blurry.

But even through the blur, it was clear that this was a place wizards came to meet other wizards. Men were dancing close, and couples touched each other, and here and there he caught glimpses of men kissing and pressing naked chests against each other.

Draco swallowed down the apprehension that was building in his stomach. He was a very attractive straight wizard in a room packed with gay men. He had little chance of making it out unscathed. He was a gay wizard's fantasy come true, after all. They had a thing for bad boys. Or so he'd read.

He sat there for another five minutes, fingers wrapped tightly around his rapidly emptying pint glass, but nothing happened. No one came to chat him up, and none of the men brushing past him attempted to grope him in any way. In fact, no one around him was even giving him a second glance. No one had noticed him at all -- except for Max, but then maybe Max had thought he was desperate. Or maybe Max was really just trying to sell him potions all along.

Draco drained his beer and pushed back from his table, scowling. He was hot, damn it. All the girls at school had thought so, and several of the boys as well. These blokes should be falling over themselves to hit on him. Not that he wanted them to hit on him of course, but still.

He caught a glimpse of his unremarkable reflection in the mirror as he headed back to the bar, and then remembered the glamour charm. Relief swept through him. Of course -- if he'd been looking himself, he'd be fighting them off with a stick. Maybe he should find a quiet spot to drop the glamour, and then--

Wait, what the hell? He'd had far too much to drink, and something in this place was fogging his brain.

Or maybe gay really was contagious, like his father had always said.

He pushed his way through the crowd at the bar and waited to catch the new bartender's attention. The man was working fast, pointing his wand at bottles and directing them to glasses, making cocktails shake themselves with a flick of his wrist, and somehow managing to flirt with every customer as he did so. They were all clamoring to get his attention, and seemed to take longer than necessary to order their drinks, yelling things like, "Come on now, give us a smile!" and "Isn't it about time you took your shirt off?"

It was a monstrosity of a shirt too: black with the words I can't even see straight! written in sparkling letters that changed color, fading in and out of every shade of the rainbow.

"Too early for that!" the man replied, and with a start, Draco realized the voice was familiar. The man was turned away again; Draco had been so focused on the shirt that he hadn't looked at his face. He waited what seemed like several minutes, and felt a strange sinking sensation when the bartender finally turned to face him.

It was Harry Potter. Harry Potter was here, in this gay club, tending bar like a man born to it and chatting up men by the dozen. Draco felt a strange flush creep over his face. Harry Potter was gay. That shouldn't have surprised him, but somehow it did. Potter, the hero of the Wizarding World just ten years ago, vanquisher of the Dark Lord, the man whom every teenaged witch had fingered herself thinking about at one point or another (including Pansy, as she'd once admitted whilst drunk) -- was a queer.

And before Draco could give it another thought, Potter was standing in front of him, asking what he wanted to drink.

"Pint of Warbler's," Draco replied, and saw Potter do a slight double-take at the sound of his voice. He lowered it slightly. "And I'd also like--" But Potter had already turned away to direct a pint glass to the tap.

"Seven," he said when he turned around again.

Draco leaned over the bar and did his best to smile. "When do you get off? There's something I'd like to--"

Potter gave him a condescending smile and slid the pint toward him. "Sorry mate, but you're really not my type." And with that, he took Draco's money and moved on to the next customer.

A wave of emotion hit him then: anger and confusion and jealousy -- all the emotions he'd always felt around Potter. They'd barely spoken since that day in the castle, the day Potter pulled him out of a fiery hell, the day the Dark Lord was finally finished. He hadn't been able to meet Potter's eyes then, hadn't been able to say anything to him. There had been a day a year later in Diagon Alley when they'd run into each other on a side street, and Potter had made small talk before Draco excused himself and fled home to the flat he and his mother shared after they lost the Manor. He'd done his best to avoid Potter and his friends for a decade, to rebuild his life, to redeem his family name, and now here he was again, pitted against his old school nemesis.

Why'd it have to be Potter?

"There you are," he heard a voice whisper in his ear. He turned to see Max standing behind him, grinning. "I've got something for you. Come on." He nodded for Draco to follow him.

They wound their way through the crowd and across the club, which was now even larger than before and completely packed with men. They passed through a shimmering curtain into a small dark room in the back.

Merlin, Draco thought as his eyes adjusted to the light. There were men draped on low couches around the edges of the room, half of them in the process of ingesting Glitteratus and the other half already showing the effects -- their eyes sparkled in the darkness.

How the hell Potter had got himself mixed up in something like this was going to be an interesting story to uncover. Not that Draco was surprised, really. Potter had always skirted the edges of darkness, was always breaking the rules and getting away with it. After offing the Dark Lord, he could do anything he wanted, no matter how illegal, and the Ministry would turn a blind eye.

Draco swallowed down a stab of jealousy. He had work to do this week, and he might as well get started.

Max produced a small vial and a dropper from his pocket, and held them up. "It's 13 sickles a drop. What do you want?"

Draco felt in his pocket as if he were counting his money, though he was really looking for the Glitteratus anti-serum tablet he'd picked up before leaving the office. He found it and pulled it out with a handful of coins. "Just two -- I don't want to go blind, you know."

Max smiled. "You don't go blind unless you do it all day."

Draco resisted the urge to argue as he handed over the money. He crossed to the empty couch Max gestured to, slipping the tablet in his mouth as he did. Max settled into his lap, straddling him, and Draco did his best not to squirm as Max came uncomfortably close.

"Do you want me to suck you while you're going under?" he whispered, gazing at Draco with an expression that indicated he was half-stoned already.

Draco was glad for the dim light, sure he'd just blushed crimson. "Ah… no, that's fine. Really. Just the…" He gestured at the vial.

"Maybe next time," Max said, and put a hand on Draco's chest, pushing him back against the cushions.

Draco let his head fall back and tried to relax, concentrating on the tablet dissolving on his tongue. He'd only done this once before in a controlled training situation, and he couldn't help but be nervous. What if this particular mix was too strong for the tablet to overcome? What if it was tainted with another potion that he didn't have an anti-serum for?

Max held each of Draco's eyes open in turn with his fingers and released a single drop of the potion. Draco closed his eyes, already beginning to feel as if he were floating. His limbs were tingly and light, and his mind began to drift, unable to focus on anything. He opened his eyes and all he could see was color: broad strokes of light, peaceful and beautiful.

And then the tablet started to work at last, and all of the color faded away. He became aware of Max's hand on his groin, stroking his hardened cock through his trousers, and he had to struggle not to flinch away. Erections were a common side effect of Glitteratus, but he should be otherwise catatonic at this point -- Max would know something was up if he resisted. He waited, and after a minute more, Max slumped onto the couch beside him, and seemed to be dropping potion into his own eyes. Draco waited until he was sure Max was down before turning to look at him. Max was lying still, eyes sparkling in the darkness.

He probably only had minutes to investigate the room before someone else came in, so he jumped to his feet. There were at least eight people there, most of whom had vials of potion still clutched in their hands. Draco took one from a man stretched out on the floor and examined it. There were no obvious markings, but the lab back at the office could analyze the contents and get an idea of when and where the potion was made.

Draco pocketed the vial and continued around the room, examining the addicts. Some were young and some were older, but all had the symptomatic sparkling eyes of Glitteratus ingestion. Their eyes sparkled in varying shades of green and blue, which generally indicated the amount they'd taken; overdosing users sparkled sunshine yellow. He was fishing in the pocket of a particularly large bloke when he felt a tap on his shoulder. His heart jumped and he braced himself before looking up. Potter was standing over him, pointing a wand at his head.

"Up," Potter growled, and Draco clambered to his feet, hands held in front of him. "What did you take from him?"

"Nothing," Draco replied. "I was just looking for something that was taken from me, and that's all."

"Right." Potter's eyes were hard. "No one's allowed back here if they aren't using, got it? Empty your pockets."

Draco hesitated, and Potter cast a wordless charm that caused the contents of his pockets to fly through the air and into Potter's hand, including his wand and the confiscated vial. Draco could only watch helplessly as Potter started to rifle through his wallet, stopping wide-eyed when he found Draco's identity card.

"Finite incantatum," Draco said, letting the glamour fall away. "Wait Potter, I can explain--"

But before he could say another word, Potter seized his arm and apparated them both away. A moment later, they were standing in what appeared to be Potter's office, windowless and doorless. Potter shoved him roughly into a chair next to his desk and glared at him. Draco pushed himself to sitting, his mind racing. For all he knew Potter was some kind of potions lord and Draco was now a defenseless prisoner, about to be tortured to death. He swallowed -- he'd avoided the whole career fourth-level Death Eater thing all those years, even survived his house being occupied by the Dark Lord himself, only to be tortured by some warped version of Harry Potter now?

"Draco Malfoy," Potter said, folding his arms over his chest. He looked menacing despite the colorful shirt. "I certainly never expected to see you in a place like this. That was a pathetic glamour charm, by the way."

"It worked, didn't it?"

"Only because I was too distracted to notice something wasn't quite right. But still, no glamours allowed. There's an obscurus on the place, so you can only recognize people in close proximity anyway. And trust me, no one who hangs out in the back room gives a shit who you are. Why are you here?"

Draco wasn't sure how to answer that. Did Potter know what he did for a living? He shrugged. "Why is anyone here?"

Potter gave Draco a calculating look. "You work for the Ministry. Potions police. You're some sort of paper-pusher, from what I hear."

Shit. Draco slouched in his chair and tried to look as disaffected as possible. "I prefer Parchment Technician, actually."

"I just caught you robbing some of my most defenseless patrons. I should call the Aurors."

"Into your illicit potions den?"

Potter smirked. "You think they don't already know about this place? Taryweather and I go way back, Malfoy. Which means you aren't in a position to refuse to answer any questions I ask."

Draco's mind raced. Had Weasley been right about Taryweather all along? He hated the idea of giving him the satisfaction of proving his harebrained theory, but on the other hand, this could make Draco's career. If he brought down Taryweather and Potter, he could write his own ticket. History would change. It was an exhilarating thought.

He couldn't let his emotions get the better of him, not now. He focused on the floor in front of his feet and sank into character.

Potter spun Draco's wand in his fingers. "How long have you been using?"

"I don't use. I was just curious."

"Right," Potter replied, skepticism dripping from his voice.

"We can't all be you. You're a fucking hero, aren't you? You can do anything you want, but I don't have that luxury. I have a job I hate, a name everyone hates, and… well, surely you understand how hard it is to hide who you really are on top of it all. So what if I take my fun when I can get it?" Potter just stared at him, face as unreadable as stone, and Draco sighed. "It was Max's idea. He practically dragged me back there."

"And as soon as you had a chance you decided to go through everyone's pockets?"

Malfoy shrugged and stared at his hands. "I was looking for gallera weed, all right? I reckoned someone in there had to have some. Nothing but fucking Glitteratus, though."

Potter shook his head, as if in disgust. "I'm willing to forget this entire incident, but only if you promise not to act like a lunatic criminal in future."

"And?"

Potter raised an eyebrow. "And what?"

Draco gave him a lazy smile. "Surely there's something you want from me in exchange for your oh-so-magnanimous offer."

"Don't flatter yourself, Malfoy. It's in both our professional interests if we let this go. I shouldn't have to explain that to someone like you."

Draco wasn't sure if that was meant as a compliment, but thought it best not to push. "So you run this place?"

Potter leaned back against the desk. "Own it, actually. Have done for a year now."

"I didn't know you were gay," Draco said, then winced. He was generally good at small talk, but something about Potter always threw him off. "I mean, I knew you left the Aurors, of course, but I didn't know you were running an establishment of this sort. It seems like a rather drastic change in career plan from Savior of the Wizarding World."

"Yeah, well," Potter replied, turning to sort through Draco's things on his desk. "This sounded like more fun than being a hero. And it pays better, I can assure you."

"I wouldn't have pegged you as the type to let all this potions dealing go on in your place. I can't imagine Granger approves."

Potter's expression became intriguingly dark, and it sent a shiver through Draco. "Well… I'm a complicated person." He pushed off the desk and gestured to Draco's belongings. "Go home. If you want, come back tomorrow. I'll buy you a drink and introduce you to a few of the boys, and you can get yourself laid. What happens after that is up to you."

Draco resisted the urge to protest his heterosexuality. "Erm, all right. Tomorrow."

Potter's eyes narrowed. "This is new for you, isn’t it? You've never even had sex with a man."

Draco felt his cheeks flush. Was Potter a Legilimens? He had to be far more careful with his thoughts if he was going to continue with this investigation. "I have."

"No, you've not. But you've come to the right place." He held up the vial of potion. "I'm going to return this to its rightful owner. If you really want galera weed, talk to Max -- he's the one with the connections. But if I were you, I'd stick to the ales. It's not something you want to get mixed up in."

"Then why are you mixed up in it?" Draco asked.

Potter held out his arm to apparate them both out of the office. "Who said I was?"

Draco took a deep breath as he stood: This was either going to make his career or make him a laughing stock. No one was going to believe that Harry Potter was involved in something like this, not even if he managed to photograph Potter handing out Glitteratus potion himself. But Merlin, if he could build this case the right way, his entire life could change.

He took Potter's arm and let himself be pulled away.

.:::.

Draco walked through the door of The Cockatiel at 8 o'clock sharp the next evening, this time as himself. He'd applied shrinking charms to his favorite silk shirt and black trousers, thinking it would help him blend in better, and had even spent more time on his hair than usual. He was a bit worried about being chatted up so much he couldn't do his job -- because he did look fucking smoking, by the way -- so he'd practiced a few versions of a direct-but-sexy "Bugger off" in the mirror earlier, just in case.

Draco had spent the morning at the office doing some research on what Potter had been up to since the war, but found dead ends everywhere he turned. There was no information in his official Ministry file pertaining to the cause of his resignation from the Auror ranks a year ago; there was only a copy of his resignation letter (which cited "personal reasons") and a stamped form from personnel indicating it had been accepted.

He knew the unofficial of the story well, of course. Potter and Ron Weasley had become star Aurors early in their careers, and when Potter left there was wide speculation of a rift between the two men. The papers were full of suggestions of a love triangle gone wrong, of Hermione Granger caught in the middle, of the two former best mates hurling hexes at each other in dark alleys. Draco had read everything he could find at the time, of course, but had dismissed most of it as hyperbole. After all, he knew how Rita Skeeter acquired much of her information.

But still, he would never have expected Potter to venture so far into the shadows so quickly, and with such great success. It was almost shocking, and more than a little annoying. Must Potter be so damn good at everything he did?

He headed straight to the bar where Max was polishing glasses and pasted on a sly smile. "Hello, Max."

Max looked up and his jaw dropped. "Draco Malfoy? Merlin, what are you doing here?" He clearly hadn't realized who Draco was the other night.

"What does anyone do here? Pull me a pint, would you?"

Max's eyes kept darting up to Draco as he poured the lager, and he was grinning from ear to ear when he brought the glass over to the stool Draco had settled on.

"I have to say," Max began as he placed a paper disc on the bar and set Draco's pint atop it, "that I'm surprised you remember my name after all these years. I had such a crush on you at school, but I didn't think you ever noticed me."

"Of course I noticed you," Draco lied. Max's eyes were getting starry, which would probably make him helpful in the next few days. Max was the best place to start this investigation, considering Potter's comments about Max's connections. Not to mention that his past with Potter was a bit of an obstacle at the moment. "How long have you been working here?"

"Almost a year, tending bar mostly. I keep telling Harry -- Harry Potter, he runs the place, you know -- that I'd make a great assistant manager, but you know how he is. He has to run everything himself."

Draco nodded, though he didn't have a clue how Potter was, really. The interactions at school had been limited to hurling insults and the occasional fistfight, after all. Everything else he knew was what he'd gleaned from the papers.

"Bit of a control freak, he is. It's annoying at times, but that's the way it goes." Max gave Draco an appraising look. "So, I didn't know you were gay. I thought you were seeing Pansy Parkinson or something."

"I was," Draco said, shocked that his social life was that well followed by someone he hardly knew. "I promised Mum I'd try it the other way, and so I did. With predictable results."

Max's eyes lit up like it was Christmas, and he shifted forward. "Well, since you're available--"

"Malfoy," a voice said from behind Draco. He turned to see Potter standing there, a smirk on his face. "How nice of you to grace us with your presence this evening. Take good care of him, Max."

Max almost leered. "Oh, I will."

"Potter," Draco called after him, "when you have a minute, I'd like to--"

"Not tonight," Potter said, turning away. "This is our busiest night. Lots to do."

Draco turned back to Max. "I see what you mean."

"And I see what you want."

Draco gritted his teeth, but said nothing. He must be playing his role well if that was Max's impression.

"Don't waste your time. Harry doesn't fuck around."

"Oh?" Draco watched Potter's form become unrecognizable as he disappeared into the obscuring charm. "He has a boyfriend then?"

"Not anymore," Max said, his voice suddenly tight.

"You and Harry, really?"

Max looked wistful. "It was great while it lasted." He grinned and lowered his voice to a whisper. "He could suck the polish off of a broomstick, if you get my meaning. Merlin, he's a great fuck."

Draco looked over to where Potter's lean form had disappeared. "That's too much information, Max."

"Is it?" Max laughed. "Sorry, I forgot how much you two hated each other at school."

"Yeah, well, that was a long time ago, wasn't it?"

Soon the pub grew so busy Max didn't have time to talk between orders. Draco'd had at least four pints of beer by the time Potter took over behind the bar. Max pecked Draco on the cheek before leaving and said he check in on him later, and Draco settled in to watch Potter work.

He was a decent bartender, chatting with customers, flirting with some, and efficiently making a variety of drinks. He laughed, he smiled, he shouted greetings across the bar, he cast charms Draco had never seen before, and generally looked like he was enjoying every moment. And he ignored Draco completely, as did the rest of the bar's clientele. Draco began to wonder if there was an elaborate joke being played on him. Surely he stood out as a beacon of handsome wizarding manliness in this crowd?

Yet another attractive young bartender took over the bar after half an hour, and Draco watched Potter as he began to move from group to group, laughing and talking with people, kissing some on the cheek in greeting, shaking others' hands. As far as Draco could tell, it was all entirely professional.

He kept his distance, looking for an opportunity to get Potter alone, but it seemed that nearly everyone else had the same goal in mind. He saw at least a dozen men stare longingly as Potter walked away, or exchange knowing glances with their friends. What was it about Potter that they found so interesting? Sure, he was good-looking, though not nearly as attractive as Draco himself. He had that whole roguish hero thing going for him, and that certainly attracted a certain set of people. He was well-built, rather fit, and his clothes seemed to be tight in all the right places. Even Draco had to admit the man looked good walking away -- and hey, he was absolutely, positively straight.

He spotted Potter heading into the toilet, and reckoned this would be as good a chance as any. As soon as he stepped through the door, it became clear that this wasn't so much a toilet as a sex parlor: there were multiple pairs of feet visible beneath each stall door, and the sounds emanating from them left no doubt as to what kinds of activities were taking place inside. Draco wrinkled his nose -- he was sure he could smell sex in the air. Had these people no flats to go home to?

Draco crossed the room to stand next to Potter at a row of urinals. "You were right," he said, trying to smile in a charming way when Potter turned to look at him. "It is busy tonight."

Potter didn't look surprised to see him, nor did he look very pleased. "I hope you're enjoying yourself, then?" he said as he finished and zipped up.

"I am, but I was wondering--"

"Oh, of course -- I said I'd introduce you to a few blokes, didn't I? Sorry about that. I completely forgot."

"No, I mean, do you have a minute? Could we talk? Someplace private?" He did his best to give Potter an alluring smile.

Potter cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Look, I don't date. My life is far too complicated as it is to get involved with anyone, especially… Let's just keep this friendly -- as friendly as the two of us can manage, at least. All right?"

Draco felt a wave of annoyance at being brushed off so quickly. "You can't tell me you haven't thought about it. That you're not a little bit curious?" A particularly enthusiastic coupling a few feet away culminated in some moaning that momentarily distracted them both. He stepped close enough to whisper in Potter's ear. "After everything that happened between us in school, wouldn't you like to give it to me, hard?"

Potter turned away so quickly that Draco couldn't see his reaction. He moved to the sink to wash his hands. "It has nothing to do with any of that. It's just not my thing."

"Not your thing?" Draco gestured to a particularly noisy stall. "You own this club, don't you?"

Potter gave him a scathing look. "Contrary to popular belief, not all gay men have casual sex constantly." The stalls grew silent. "No offense, of course," he called, and then took Draco's arm and tugged him across the room. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "If that's what you want, then I'll introduce you to some blokes who'd be happy to give it to you. I'm not interested in being your maybe-I'm-gay experiment." He dropped Draco's arm and turned to the door, but Draco managed to get an arm between to block him.

"So you are interested in me, then?"

"I didn't say that."

"You didn't have to do." Draco grinned triumphantly. He'd known he could get under Potter's skin if he could get him alone for a bit.

Potter leaned back against the door and lowered his voice to a whisper so soft that Draco had to lean in close to hear him over the noise in the bathroom. "Maybe I'm a bit interested. But only because of that whole schoolboy rivalry thing, of course."

"Of course," Draco repeated, and started to feel a touch of panic at having his bluff called so quickly. Potter was looking at him with real interest, which was what Draco had wanted -- but he hadn't thought this thing through, obviously.

"Have you ever even kissed a man?"

"Yes," Draco whispered, trying to look insulted. "Of course I have."

"Who?"

"No one you know."

Potter's green eyes were wide, and the smirk on his lips was downright Slytherin. "I know everyone. Big Gay Hero, remember?"

Draco struggled for a witty retort, but nothing came to him. He'd forgotten how much he hated Potter. When had Potter become so fucking hot, anyway? Merlin, how he despised him.

"So are you going to kiss me or not?" Potter's hand was on Draco's shirt, tugging him forward.

Draco swallowed. "Yeah. Sure." And before he could change his mind, he dove in and planted a rather chaste kiss on Potter's lips.

He started to pull away, but Potter slid a hand to the back of his head and kissed Draco so soundly he felt his knees go weak. It was a moment or so before his brain registered what was happening. As kisses went, it was a damn good one, and for the full second that he forgot whose lips were locked on his, he almost enjoyed it. Potter's chin as rough, but his lips were soft, and his tongue was doing this swirling thing that immediately made Draco think about what Max had said earlier and… fuck, that was hot.

He moaned before he could stop himself, and Potter broke the kiss and pushed him away. "Liar. I knew you'd never kissed a man before." He patted Draco's cheek and slipped to the side, enough to open the door and walk through it.

Draco retreated to the only vacant stall in the room and leaned back against the closed door. He resolutely did not think about the kiss, about the fact that his mouth had just been full of Potter's tongue. He'd deal with that particular horror later, but for now he was at a loss as to what his next step should be. Seducing Potter was apparently not going to work. And besides, his job description did not include giving Potter blow jobs in filthy bathroom stalls, and Merlin's saggy bollocks, why did that thought just enter his mind? What the hell?

The sound of a yet another enthusiastic climax, complete with incredibly descriptive expletives, drove him out of the toilet again. He circled the pub, looking for either Potter or Max, and finding neither. He slipped into the back room again, which was about as busy as the night before. He was stunned for a moment -- it was still hard to believe Potter let this go on in his establishment. He didn't know how to reconcile his image of Golden Boy Harry Potter with the man he was now investigating.

He turned to walk through the curtain again, but stopped when he heard Potter's voice on the other side.

"--don't want you here, and I want you to leave now."

"Now, now, Potter," a male voice replied, sounding amused. "We've as much right to be here as anyone."

"It's my establishment. I can refuse entrance to anyone I like, including the likes of you."

"Your partner was the one who invited us in, actually. He thought we'd like to see what's been done with our money."

"I bought him out, and you know it. Any money he's taken from you was a personal loan. I paid off his other debts a long time ago." There was a touch of righteous anger in Potter's voice -- he sounded like his schoolboy self for a moment.

"Then he's been keeping secrets from you, hasn't he? He's in over his head, much too deep to get out this time. If we don't get our money by next Friday at midnight, we're taking this business as payment and leaving him in the gutter. So I think you're going to have to learn to get along with us, aren't you?"

Potter laughed, and the sound of it was low and sinister. "I won't be intimidated so easily, and you know it. If you want a fight, bring it on. I've taken down the darkest wizards in the world. A few Death Eater reject gangsters are hardly going to make me lose sleep at night."

Draco couldn't help but grin at that. He peeked through the curtain, but could only see a bit of the back of Potter in the shadows. Whoever he was talking to was hidden around the corner.

"We've warned you," hissed the voice of the hidden man. He sounded even angrier than before. "You have until Friday."

There was silence after that, and Draco leaned back against the wall. So it really wasn't Potter who was running the potions trade; it was someone else, this partner Draco hadn't heard about before now. Which meant Potter was fighting this battle on two fronts -- one against these gangsters to whom his partner was indebted, and the other against the partner, who was clearly in a great deal of trouble. Like a typical Gryffindor, Potter wasn't cutting his partner loose and saving himself, and in the process was probably going to wind up in even deeper trouble himself. Draco would have to stick around long enough to throw him a rope when he decided he needed a way out. It might be his only hope of breaking this case.

.:::.
Chapter 2 by Emma Grant
"This is all you've got?" Percy Weasley tossed the roll of parchment onto his desk and shook his head. "You've been in the field for an entire week."

Draco massaged his forehead: he'd been up all night at the club and had stopped by the department to write up a report before heading back to his flat to go to bed. Unfortunately, Weasley had intercepted him in the lift and dragged him into his office.

"You know as well as I that it takes time to do undercover work. You can't just stroll in and demand to know their darkest, most illegal doings."

"You must have leads, Malfoy. You must have something more than this." He unrolled the parchment and scanned it again, as if checking to see if he'd missed an important detail. "This Max character, for example -- haven't you done a full background check? Surely there's more to him than male, homosexual, slight build, sorted into Hufflepuff 1994?"

He'd been meaning to get around to that background check, to a lot of things that needed doing in the office, but the week had gone by more quickly than he'd expected. He'd spent every night at The Cockatiel, arriving around 10:00 when Potter's shift started and staying most of the night, even hanging around past closing to chat with Max and Potter while the staff cleaned up.

"Give me a fucking break. It's not like I can just walk into a gay bar and fit right in." He ignored Wealsey's snort of disbelief. "It's going to take time for them to trust me."

"I would have thought this sort of thing would be right up your alley."

Draco looked up from his contemplation of his nails. "What the hell do you mean by that?"

"I think you know what I mean, and from what I hear, I'm not far off the mark."

"What you've heard? If you're implying--"

Weasley cut him off with a wave of his hand. "But more importantly, one of the reasons Taryweather hired you in the first place was because he assumed you had connections to certain segments of society, certain, shall we say, shady organizations. Connections that could come in useful. I hope he wasn't wrong about you."

"Since when do you care what Taryweather thinks? I thought the whole point of this exercise was to discredit him."

Weasley ignored the question. "My informant was very clear about having seen Harry Potter there. Are you sure he isn't involved?"

"Like I said, I'm still working on it. I'll let you know as soon as I can link him to the potions trade there." He hadn't yet told Weasley anything about Potter, much less the complicated picture of Potter's involvement with all of this that was just starting to unravel. He wanted to keep those bits of information all to himself, for now, lest Weasley get overexcited and fuck it all up for him. "Actually, I've been meaning to owl Taryweather, to ask if he has any insight into the situation that I could--"

"Results, Malfoy," Weasley spat. "I need results, and I need them soon. Give me more than this by next Monday, or you'll find yourself sacked."

"Oh, please," Draco spat, "You don't have the authority to sack me and you know it. You gave me a job to do and I'm doing it. Now bugger off and let me work."

Weasley sputtered something that sounded like, "We'll see who has authority," and gestured wildly toward his office door. Draco pointed his wand at Weasley's desk and the parchment there flew into his hand as he walked out, head held high.

Ten minutes later Draco stepped out of a Muggle phone booth near his flat, still swearing under his breath. It was a testament to his very impressive self control that Weasley hadn't been cursed on the spot for implying that Draco was gay. He wasn't gay, for fuck's sake. He was… open-minded. The idea that Weasley might be spying on him at the club was a bit disconcerting, though.

He'd been drinking far more than he should have -- it helped him ease into the role he was playing -- but he really needed to be more careful, to keep his mind clear. He'd found himself in several uncomfortable situations in the past week, all of which he blamed entirely on inebriation.

After an entire week of being generally ignored by the regulars in the pub, a handful of men had begun to chat him up nightly. It wouldn't have done to rebuff them all, so he would flirt with the best looking of the bunch, and even once allowed himself to be led to a dark corner for a snog and a grope. He'd only escaped further molestation when Max had happened by and Draco had made an excuse to go with him.

Another night he'd wound up sandwiched between two shirtless men on the dance floor, both of whom were intent on grinding their erections against him. His own erection was just a result of alcohol and so much physical stimulation, of course -- and when they'd dragged him to the toilet he'd been able to convince them he preferred to watch while they had sex. He'd had to pull himself off while watching, otherwise they would have been suspicious. He definitely didn't appreciate the look Potter gave him on the way out of the toilet that night.

Wanking while watching one man suck another's cock didn't make him gay -- everybody knew that. And besides, he was definitely not gay.

The following week, Draco focused his attention on finding out who Potter's mysterious indebted partner was, but had little luck. He even spent some time trying to flirt it out of Max, who seemed delighted to have Draco's attention at last. By Friday night, Draco was desperate, and after a few more drinks than usual he let Max pull him into a dark corner of the pub. Max's hand found its way into Draco's trousers and he stroked until Draco was aching to come -- but he pushed Max away at the last moment. If he didn't come, it didn't count.

"C'mon now," Max whispered, pulling Draco back against him. "I'm dying to hear you come." One hand slid down Draco's side, inching its way back toward his groin.

"Not here," Draco said, catching that hand in his and glancing around. "I'm not into this public display of gay thing."

"Then come home with me tonight. I get off at four."

"I can't," Draco said, and tried his best to look frustrated. It wasn't difficult -- after all, he was running out of time. Whoever Potter's partner was, he had either paid up by now or was about to meet a sticky end. Draco planned to be around to see what would happen.

Max pulled him into kiss, then licked the shell of Draco's ear -- damn, but Draco loved that -- and whispered, "You won't regret it. I'm very good with my mouth." As if to prove his point, he sucked one of Draco's ear lobes into his mouth and began fellating it.

Draco felt the floor drop out from beneath him. Pleasure was pleasure, and it hardly mattered the source -- right? As long as he didn't suck any cocks himself, enjoying it didn't make him gay.

"Okay," he heard himself say.

Max planted one more kiss on his lips before leaving him standing in the corner, erection straining against the front of his trousers. Draco groaned -- he was going to have to do something about that before he could get his mind back around work.

He made his way to the toilet and slipped into an empty stall, and tried to block out the sounds of skin pounding on skin in the next stall over. He sat on the toilet seat and opened the front of his trousers, and fisted his stiff prick. It didn't take long, and he didn't even try to stop images of Potter on his knees from dominating his thoughts as he wanked. He came with a grunt, cleaned himself off as quickly as he could, and headed out to look for Potter.

Potter wasn't behind the bar, and it took Draco another fifteen minutes to find him. He was standing at the top of a spiral staircase that led to a small loft area that wasn't open to the public. Draco climbed the stairs and leaned against the railing beside him, looking down over the crowd.

"No one's allowed up here," Potter said, his eyes still glued to the floor below.

"I can see why," Draco replied. The obscurus charm didn't cloud the room from this angle, and Draco could see everyone clearly.

"You should go and have a drink," Potter said.

"I've had too many. Another one and I'd be going home with Max tonight."

"Why don't you?"

"He's not my type."

"He looked your type when you were wrapped around each other in the corner."

Draco smiled. "Jealous? How sweet."

Potter snorted. "I'm not jealous. Max and I go way back, that's all. I'd like to see him happy. And he really likes you."

"I doubt it," Draco replied with a snort. "He just wants to fuck me. Doesn't everyone?" He winked at Potter, who rolled his eyes. Draco felt an uncharacteristic stab of emotion at that, but pushed it aside. "So how far back do you two go?"

"We were lovers for a while, years ago. But we're better as friends. He's not the monogamous type."

"And you are?"

"Yes."

Surprised by his candor, Draco turned to look at him. Potter's expression was tense, and he looked as if he hadn't had much sleep in the last week. Draco wondered if he'd spent it trying to bail his business partner out.

"Why do you own a club, then? You have to spend every night watching people chat each other up and go fuck in the toilet before moving on to the next one. Why not own a restaurant instead? Someplace where couples go?"

"I like clubs," Potter replied. "I like watching people do the dance of meeting and hooking up. I like making drinks. It’s so fucking mindless compared to everything else I've had to do in my life. A restaurant would dredge up too many bad memories of playing house-elf to my aunt and uncle for my entire childhood." He paused for a moment. "Besides, why would I want to spend every night watching people who have something I don't?"

Draco waved his wand and conjured a tiny violin that hung in midair before them and started squeaking out a sad melody.

Potter almost smiled. "Very funny. What about you? You've spent every night here for a week. Won't your former Death Eater friends start to wonder where you are?"

"Don't you know? I don't have any friends. I'm a pathetic loner, trying to make something of myself after my family was humiliated and destroyed in the war." He snorted. "Or something like that. I haven't read the gossip section of the Prophet in a while, but that's the story, isn't it?"

"You should have seen what they wrote about me when I left the Aurors."

"I can imagine." He'd read every bit of it, of course.

"I think you probably can."

Draco turned to look at Potter, and saw a flash of something in his eyes. They stared at each other for a moment, and Draco felt an odd compulsion to kiss Potter, which he swallowed down.

This wasn't like him, and this whole investigation was starting to send him round the bend. He was starting to forget what was real and what wasn't. He and Potter weren't friends, and they never would be. He was just doing his job, working undercover. This night might end with Potter being arrested, or worse. Draco couldn't afford to be mixed up in this any more than he already was.

He headed down the stairs without another word, found an empty corner table, and settled there with a pint, watching and waiting.

Midnight came and went, and nothing happened. Draco kept waiting, but there was no obvious tension hanging in the air. He looked up to the loft, but Potter wasn't there.

The bartender shouted the last call, and the crowd stirred in response. Draco started circling the room, looking for anything suspicious, but saw nothing. The back room was quiet, the toilets were quiet -- everything seemed too quiet, in fact. He headed toward the back of the pub and slipped into the small kitchen, which was empty after midnight. The back door was open, and he headed toward it.

"What are you doing back here?" He turned to see Potter standing just inside the kitchen door, looking as tense as ever.

Draco shrugged, trying to look innocent. "I was hungry. Thought I might nick a sausage or something."

Potter's eyes were focused on the open back door, though. "Was there anyone in here when you came in?"

"No," Draco replied, turning to the door. "Does it open from the outside?"

"Not without the security spell." Potter started toward it with his wand in his hand. Draco pulled out his own wand and followed into a dark alley that smelled like piss and rubbish. "Lumos," Potter said and turned slowly, shining his wandlight around them.

They both gasped: There was a crumpled form lying not ten feet away. Potter rushed to it, dropping to his knees, and swearing loudly.

"No, no, no," he said, sounding panicked. "Oh, fuck, no."

Draco stepped forward and cast a lumos of his own. It was Max. His eyes were open and blank.

"He's dead," Potter said, his voice sounding hollow.

"It wasn't an overdose," Draco said, studying Max's lifeless face. "Look at his eyes."

"It was the killing curse," Potter said. "Oh god, I told him this was going to happen. I told him to stick with you tonight, not to go outside, to--" He stopped, apparently realizing he was babbling.

And then it all clicked. Draco stared at Potter. "Max was your business partner, wasn't he? The one who was in debt to those men who came by last week."

Potter looked up at him, shocked. "How do you know about that?"

"I can't explain right now. But I have to bring the authorities in. It's a murder case now, and it's out of my jurisdiction. Do you want to be here when they come?"

"Out of your jurisdiction? What are you talking about?"

Draco flicked his wand and a silvery figure escaped and rushed into the night. "You've got a minute to decide."

Potter stood, glaring at him. "You-- You're not just a paper-pusher, are you?" When Draco didn't reply, Potter stalked toward him, backing Draco against the damp brick of the alley. "You lied to me. You've been casing my place for the last few weeks."

"Because of the potions, not because of you. It's my job."

"Call them off," Potter retorted, his wand pressed into Draco's chest now. "I'm warning you, Malfoy, you're about to get in over your head here, and I won't be able to help you out of it."

Draco could only stand there, all of his self-defense training completely inaccessible. "Max is fucking dead! Don't you care about anyone other than yourself?"

It was a moment before he realized that what had connected with his jaw was Potter's fist. He staggered as pain flared through his face, and a trickle of blood tickled his lip. "Hit a nerve, did I?"

Potter looked to be somewhere between panicked and furious. "I can't believe I fell for this! After everything, all the hard work, I let someone bumble in and fuck it all up."

"It's not my fault he's dead!" Draco spat. "I've only been doing my job, and as a former Auror, you should know that."

Potter bent over Max's body again. "Oh god… Max… Why didn't you listen to me?"

Three men apparated into the alley then, cutting off the conversation. Potter fell to his knees, staring blankly at Max's body. They stepped out of the shadows, and one of them rushed forward, a look of near-panic on his face. With a start, Draco realized it was Ron Weasley.

Weasley grasped Potter by the shoulders and pulled him away from Max's body. Potter was visibly emotional now, and Weasley whispered something to him, something that Potter nodded in response to. The other two Aurors examined the body carefully, casting detection spells and talking quietly to each other.

Draco heard his name mentioned and looked over to see Weasley staring suspiciously at him. Potter shook his head and whispered something Draco couldn't make out. Weasley squeezed Potter's shoulder and crossed the alley to Draco.

"You sent for us?" His tone was unreadable, but Draco couldn't help but feel as if he was being mocked.

Draco nodded, uncertain what else to say. He hadn't been trained for this, and had no idea what the protocols were.

"Go home," Weasley said. "Someone will contact you in the next day or two to make a full report." He turned back to Potter then, and none of them spared so much as a glance for Draco after that.


.:::.

Sunday, 11 May 2008, LONDON: Aurors were called to a pub in Soho early Saturday morning in response to an apparent murder. The victim was Maximilian Reginald Dougherty, 26, of Warwick, who was reportedly one of the owners of the pub at which the crime occurred, along with Harry Potter, hero of the Last War and vanquisher of He Who Must Not Be Named. The cause of death was determined by Aurors on the scene to have been the Killing Curse. There are no suspects, but an investigation is underway. Mr Potter was reportedly 'traumatized' by the death of his business partner and was taken to St Mungo's for evaluation.

.:::.

"I just don't understand how Harry Potter could have got himself involved in Dougherty's potions dealing," Percy Weasley said, for the fifth time in the last hour. "It doesn't make sense."

Draco rubbed at his face, exhausted. "I've told you, he wasn't involved. I spent a lot of time working undercover there, and the potions dealing was all Max."

"But Potter let it go on, didn't he? Why would he let illegal activities happen at his business if he wasn't taking a cut?"

Weasley had a point, and Draco didn't know why he felt so compelled to cover for Potter. Nor why he felt nothing but emptiness over Max's murder. Shouldn't he have felt something more for the man he'd spent a week dating, for lack of a better word?

Weasley sighed. "I don't want Potter to go down for this either, for what it's worth. But if he's broken the law, it's our duty to deal with it. Those hero types are never what they make themselves out to be, you know."

"There's something going on here that I don't fully understand," Draco said. "I know Potter wasn't directly profiting from the illegal potions. I just don't have a way to prove it."

Weasley shook his head. "I'd never have pegged you as the sort to fall for Harry Potter."

"What the hell are you going on about now?" Draco snapped, looking up at him.

"Isn't it obvious? You're in love with him, and it's completely blinded you to the facts of this case."

"The fuck it has!" Draco retorted. "And I'm not in love with him. I'm not gay, remember?"

"Of course not," Weasley said. "It's completely normal for a straight man to obsess over another man like this."

"I'm not obsessing over him! You assigned me this case, and I've put in a hell of a lot of effort."

"So I hear." Weasley stood and headed toward the door. "It's not over yet. Even moonstruck, you're still our man on the inside. I'll need you to interview Potter and try to figure out what the hell is going on. And if you can link any of this to Taryweather--"

"Look who's obsessed now."

Weasley turned red in the face. "I just want to get to the bottom of this, and that's all."

Draco smirked. "I'll bet you do."

Weasley glared at him, but before either of them could say another word they were interrupted by a knock on the open door. They looked up to see Harry Potter standing there.

"Sorry to interrupt," he said, looking uncomfortable. "The witch downstairs told me to come right up."

"What are you doing here?" Draco asked, his eyes darting to Weasley to see if he was salivating yet.

"I need to talk to you."

"About what?"

Potter sighed and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "I thought you wanted my help with this case."

Weasley leapt out of his chair and clapped Potter on the shoulder. "Of course we want your help, Harry! You are a highly respected member of the Wizarding community, and your cooperation in this matter is greatly--"

"Thanks, Weasley," Draco said, shooing him out. "I'll let you know if I need anything, all right?" Weasley shot him a mutinous look, and Draco lowered his voice to a whisper. "Let me handle this, all right? You can have a shot at him later."

He closed the door and turned back to Potter. "Have a seat, then."

"Why are you protecting me?" Potter asked, without moving from the spot.

"I'm not protecting you, I'm--"

"Yes, you are. I was interviewed by the Aurors before they released me from St. Mungo's, and it was pretty clear that you told them nothing of what you know about the club, or the trouble Max was in, or the potions. I don't understand why."

Draco leaned back against the door and sighed. "I know there's something more going on here, something you haven't told me. And I also think I might be able to help you."

Potter gave him an appraising look. "Maybe you're right. Maybe there is something deeper going on here. But I don't think you can help me. No one can."

"Try me."

Potter shook his head and looked away.

Draco tried again. "The goal of this entire department is to keep enough pressure on those gangs to keep them underground. We have resources, and I can put them at your disposal. You used to be an Auror, so I know you can put together an operation. We can help you."

Potter settled into the proffered chair now, his forehead furrowed. He stared at his hands for a moment, and then looked up at Draco. "All right. But you should know this isn't about going after common gangsters. The man at the bottom of it all is Ravener."

Draco's eyes drifted automatically to the poster hanging on his office wall. Hawthorn Ravener was the most wanted wizard in Britain -- bagging him would make Draco's career. He could imagine Weasley's face turning green already.

He folded his arms over his chest and grinned. "When do we start?"

.:::.

"I want you to put this on," Potter said, holding out what was possibly the gayest shirt Draco had ever seen.

"No fucking way. I'll look like a poof."

"Which is the point, isn't it?"

Draco grimaced at the purple monstrosity. "I can't believe this is actually in your wardrobe."

"I've been meaning to get rid of it, actually. Clashes with my eyes."

"That shirt clashes with everything."

Potter's expression was one of utter patience. "So you've got it all, right?"

Draco sighed and took the shirt. "Yes. I'm your boyfriend, my name is Charles, and I'm from France." He switched into his best French accent. "You are trying to convince me to leave Paree and move in wiz you, and so you show me a good time, no?"

Potter wrinkled his nose. "On second thought, maybe you should be a deaf-mute."

"This was your idea."

"And I'm regretting it already."

Draco turned around and pulled off his t-shirt, then tugged the purple one over his head. It clung to his skin, highlighting just how little he worked out these days. "Do you think Ravener will be there?"

"Not a chance," Potter replied, recasting the rainbow spell on his I can't even see straight shirt. "But people who know him will be. The goal is to arrange a meeting."

"And set a trap."

Potter's lips firmed into a thin line. "Let's just hope we haven't forgotten how to be good spies."

Draco had grown used to the mild debauchery of The Cockatiel in his weeks of being a regular, but Paparazzo, magically sandwiched between two Muggle clubs on Charing Cross Road, was unlike anything he'd ever seen. It was an enormous space, magically enlarged, and packed with witches and wizards of all sexual orientations, ages, and predilections. Scantily-clad men and women were dancing in huge colorful bubbles that floated above the dance floor, and were pushed back up again by the crowd when they sank too low. The colorful lights throughout the space were provided by actual fairies, which darted about giggling and flirting with each other as much as the patrons did. And his purple shirt, garish and shiny as it was, looked as casual as an old Muggle t-shirt next to what most of the patrons were wearing. Draco thought about asking if there was some sort of naughty costume party going on tonight, but decided he'd rather not know.

Potter slipped an arm around his waist and pulled him close. "You're tense. Want a drink?"

Draco forced a smile. "No."

"Gin and tonic it is." Potter headed toward what might have been a bar, except for the fact that a naked man with a very formidable-looking erection was stretched across it, bound ankle and wrist, while a curvy woman dressed in shiny red latex stood over him brandishing a whip, her job apparently to keep him hard for as long as possible.

"Oh god," Draco muttered, and wiped away the little beads of sweat that refused to stop forming on his brow. He was torn between following Potter and taking his chances that the giant prick would blow, or staying here and continuing to endure to leers of the other patrons. Potter had insisted on casting an extremely attractive glamour on him (despite Draco's protest that he had enough trouble fighting them off the way he usually looked), and everywhere Draco turned there were eyes on him.

And hands too. He turned to glare at the owner of the pair who'd just tried to examine his prostate through his trousers.

"Hello, there," the man said, wasting no time and grinding against Draco provocatively.

"Boyfriend!" Draco spat in panic, before he could stop himself. "I have a boyfriend."

The man smirked and loomed over him. "He's invited too."

Since it was at eye level, Draco found he couldn't drag his eyes away from the man's sleek bare chest, which was rippling with muscles. He really must start going to the gym again. "I don't… I mean…"

And then there was warmth behind him and arms around him, and he heard Potter's voice in his ear. "Making friends already, Charles?"

Draco winced -- he'd forgotten his accent. "Perhaps so." He leaned back against Potter, feeling safer with his proximity.

"Potter," the man said, his smirk settling into an expression of resentful respect. "Didn't know this one was yours."

"All mine, though I'm not averse to sharing, of course."

Draco felt a nudge on his back, an indication to play along. He tried to look relaxed, but the feeling of Potter's lips tickling his neck didn't help.

"Charles, this is Marcus Rolf, an old acquaintance of mine. Say hello, darling."

"Hello darling," Draco repeated, his mind reeling. Rolf was one of the men Potter had hoped to find tonight, one of the important wizards in Ravener's gang. He hadn't expected such an evil wizard to be quite so attractive. In the old days, they were fairly revolting to look at. He'd never once looked around at a meeting of Death Eaters and thought, That one's rather fetching.

Rolf leered. "You only come here with such pretty boys when you want something."

"Am I so transparent?" Potter's hand slid around to Draco's chest, holding him almost possessively. "You're correct, though. I want to talk to Ravener."

Rolf laughed. "Oh, really? What about?"

"He made a mess at my club last week and scared all of my customers away. He owes me for that."

"Your club," Rolf said with a nasty smile. "I heard he'd taken it from you, after that spot of trouble your partner gave him."

Draco felt Potter tense behind him, but his voice projected none of it. "It's still very much my club. If he wants back in -- and I know he does -- he's going to have to make me an offer."

"Maybe he doesn't want to do business with someone as famous as Harry Potter anymore. You attract far too much attention."

Potter laughed, as if the previous comment had been a joke. "You know how I love the spotlight, Rolf. But I still want a meeting."

Rolf's smirk returned. "Ask me nicely."

"I thought I wasn't your type."

Rolf turned his gaze to Draco. "I meant him. You said you would share, didn't you?"

It was all Draco could do not to squirm. He was sure Potter had just felt his entire body go stiff.

Potter slid a hand up the front of Draco's shirt; his fingers found a nipple and began circling it. "I haven't had a chance to break this one in properly. I'm not ready to share him just yet."

"I wouldn't hurt him. Much."

Draco ground the heel of his shoe into Potter's shin. No fucking way this man was touching him, no matter what he promised.

To his credit, Potter didn't even flinch. "You're frightening him, Rolf. He's a small-town boy, new to the fairy lights of London." Potter's hand stroked Draco's chest reassuringly. It didn't help.

Rolf scowled and started to turn away, but Potter slid his hand out of Draco's shirt and down to cup his groin, and Rolf stopped to watch as Potter's fingers began stroking Draco's cock through the fabric. In the midst of confusion, embarrassment, and a touch of horror, Draco began to get hard.

"But perhaps you'd like to watch," Potter said, voice low. Draco nearly jerked away at that, but Potter managed to hold him tight. "He's such a sweet thing. You'll like it."

Potter took Draco's hand and led him away, winding through the club. Draco looked back to see Rolf following them, his eyes ablaze.

"What are you doing?" Draco whispered, frantic.

"Just trust me," Potter replied.

Draco felt his stomach roll. Potter must have a plan of some sort. They'd get around the corner and hit the bloke over the head or something. Draco would just have to follow his lead.

Potter led him into a maze of corridors that branched off into alcoves of various sizes, all of which were occupied by mostly naked people in various arrangements. It wasn't until Potter pushed him into an empty one that Draco began to feel real panic. He could only glare at Potter, afraid to say anything. Rolf hovered in the doorway, drink in hand.

Potter pushed Draco back against the wall and knelt before him, then looked up and mouthed the words Trust me. Draco had no idea how to respond to that, but when Potter reached for the fly of his trousers, he closed his eyes.

Just a blow job, he thought, swallowing down his anxiety. A mouth was a mouth, after all. Potter's mouth would feel no different from Pansy's or Millicent's, or that girl-who-was-really-a-bloke that one night in Brighton.

Except that it did. Unlike Pansy, Potter was not only very good at giving head, he also seemed to like doing it. Quite a lot, apparently -- he took his time, licking and sucking until Draco was on the brink of orgasm before pulling back again and planting little kisses at the base of his cock before starting again with long fluid licks from base to tip, tongue teasing the slit mercilessly.

Harry Potter was on his knees, sucking Draco's cock. In what universe did that statement make any sense?

He had to open his eyes then, had to see if Potter was really enjoying this as much as Draco was. Potter was careful not to look at him though, and stayed focused on the hard cock before him. Draco watched his prick disappear into Potter's mouth again and again, and didn't think he could bear it much longer. He finally relented, tangling his fingers in Potter's hair.

"That's it, boy," Rolf growled from the doorway. "Fuck his mouth. Fuck him hard."

Potter's eyes flicked up at that, and Draco took it as signal to comply. He moved his hand to the back of Potter's head and held him still, moving his cock in and out as slowly as he could bear.

"Harder," Rolf said.

Draco bit his lip and moved faster. Potter's hands were gripping Draco's hips now, and he seemed not to mind. Draco was close though, so close that he couldn't hold off much longer, and he angled his strokes down a bit. Potter shifted with him, to Draco's surprise, and didn't even gag.

With an embarrassing sort of yowl, Draco came. He slumped over Potter, pressing his cock in until he felt Potter's nose buried in his belly. He heard a grunt by the doorway and looked up in time to see Rolf come into his own hand. Draco released Potter and leaned back against the wall, sliding down with his trousers still around his knees.

Potter's hair was mussed and his lips were red and swollen, but he was smiling. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and winked at Draco before turning to Rolf. Draco's ears were ringing too much for him to hear the whispered conversation. He just sat there on the floor and waited until Rolf finally left. Potter helped him to his feet and mercifully said nothing until they were outside the club again, shivering in the cold.

"Are you all right?"

Draco nodded, though he wanted to say no, he wasn't all right. He'd just had the best blow job of his entire life, and it had been with a man. And not just any man, of course, but the one man he'd spent a good portion of his life hating. And a good portion of the last few weeks fantasizing about, truth be told.

"No," he said at last. "I can't believe you didn't warn me that might happen tonight."

Potter shot him a quizzical look. "You've been flirting with me for weeks now. I thought this was what you wanted."

"I don't… I'm not even gay, you know. I was just pretending. It was all part of the investigation."

Potter gaped at him. "Merlin, I'm sorry. I thought… I really read you wrong, didn't I?"

Not really, Draco thought, and was surprised by it. "It's fine, really. It was just a blow job, right? No big deal."

Potter's face clouded for a moment, but the expression disappeared again. "Right, no big deal."

Draco cringed. "I didn't mean that. It was fine. Bloody fantastic, actually. Best blow job I've had in years. Only blow job in years, but still. Well, not only, but I haven't exactly dated much lately, and you have to give head to get it, and I've never really liked eating pussy all that much but anyway, I wasn't lying about that part, just the gay part. Anyway. Erm, thank you."

Fucking hell. Could he be any more of an idiot?

"Anytime." Potter smiled at him, and Draco was relieved. "Rolf's going to set up the meeting with Ravener and contact me tomorrow with the details. I'll owl you when I get word, we'll make a plan."

They left the club and found a quiet spot to apparate away, Potter to his flat above the club and Draco to his own flat.

He took a long hot shower before sliding into bed, but still he lay awake for hours, unable to stop thinking about the image of his cock sliding into Potter's mouth and out again, slick and rock-hard, while Potter looked up at him with eyes full of desire. He had no idea how he would ever be able to look at Potter again without that image filling his mind. His cock ached, but he didn't touch himself, for fear of where else his thoughts might go.

Maybe he was gay only for Potter. That could happen. Right?

.:::.
Chapter 3 by Emma Grant
It was actually two days before Draco heard from Potter -- two angst-ridden, soul-searching days that he spent sitting at his desk and pretending to work, but really trying to ignore the erections that plagued him constantly.

This time it had started with a scent he'd caught in the corridor passing a colleague, a whiff of something that he later realized was the scent of Potter's aftershave potion. It had made him hard so fast he'd dashed back to his office and shut the door in a panic.

Even now his prick was aching between his thighs, and no amount of trying to focus his attention elsewhere helped. His mind kept drifting back to that dark little room at Paparazzo, to the sight of Potter on his knees.

I'm not gay, he told himself over and over, as if making a mantra of it would make it true. But it was rather like telling someone not to think of a kneazle. All he could think about was the fact that he might indeed, despite his proper upbringing and a life of learned homophobia and vast (well, perhaps not vast, but respectable, certainly) array of sexual experiences with women, be gay.

"Fuck it," he said at last. He closed his office door with a flick of his wand, then leaned back in his chair and opened his fly. His cock nearly sprang into his hand, and he stroked hard and fast, trying to get it finished as soon as possible. He gave up trying not to think about Potter and just let go, letting his mind go where it wanted, to thoughts of Potter on his knees for entirely another reason, with Draco fucking him the way he'd always wanted to fuck Pansy, but never had done, despite his pleading and offers of jewelry.

And just as he was about to come, there was a knock on his office door. "Bugger, shit, and fuck," he spat, and was just about to reach for his wand when the door opened. He squeezed his prick and gaped -- it was Potter's head poking through his office door.

"Can I come in?" Potter asked. His eyes narrowed a bit as he took in the sight of Draco, red-faced and huddled over his desk. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, just…could you…?" Draco waved his free hand.

Potter had the decency to be embarrassed, and took an immediate step backwards. "I'll just… pop into the toilet for a moment. Be right back." And with that, he closed the door.

Draco exhaled and leaned forward, banging his forehead on his desk. His prick was wilting already from sheer embarrassment, and a few spells later he was back in proper form. Potter knocked from the outside before opening the door again.

"Sorry I didn't owl you," he said, a bit pink-cheeked himself. "I think my post is being monitored by Ravener's people, and I didn't want to take any chances."

Draco decided it was best to completely ignore the fact that Potter had walked in on him having a go at himself. "Are you sure you weren't followed here?"

"As sure as I can be. I took seven apparition skips all over town, then popped right outside your office door. Sorry if I interrupted--"

"Let's just move on to the business at hand, shall we?" Draco gestured to the chair in front of his desk. His cheeks were warm again, to his horror.

Potter sat, pulling a folded piece of parchment from his pocket. "It took some negotiation, but Ravener has agreed to meet with me tonight at midnight to discuss the terms of our new business arrangement. I have the legal documentation that shows the property is all mine, but Ravener will want a share of the general profits and the freedom to use the place as a base for his potions trade. He probably won't consider Max's debt paid off, either."

"How did Max get himself in so deep in the first place?"

"It started before we became business partners. I did what I could to dig him out a few times, but I couldn't keep him from going back to Ravener in the end. There was just so much money to be made in potions, and he couldn't resist."

"And you could?"

Potter looked tired, as if he hadn't been sleeping well. "Money was never that important to me. It was more about having that pub, a place of my own. I live in a flat above it, you know."

Draco nodded -- he understood what it was like to want something of his own, after losing his family estate to war reparations and being forced to work for a living. His ancestors were probably looking down on him in horror this very moment. For a variety of reasons.

Potter tossed the parchment onto Draco's desk. "Anyway, this is a map I've drawn of the meeting place. I have a few favors I can call in to get us some support, if needed. How many Aurors do you think you can get?"

"For Ravener? As many as we'll need." He unfolded the parchment and studied Potter's hand-drawn map. "We don't have much time, but I think we'll be able to make this work. Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Why wait until now to do something like this? I mean, you're Harry Potter, hero and all. Why spend all these years dealing with thugs and criminals and just taking it from them?"

Potter took a deep breath and released it slowly, then looked up at Draco. "I wish I could answer that."

.:::.

"Are you ready?"

Draco looked up and tried not to seem surprised. Potter was dressed differently than he had even seen him before, in dark, stylish robes that reminded Draco intensely of the way his father dressed when he was a child. He looked like a real wizard, the way wizards hardly ever dressed any more after the war and the Ministry's efforts to integrate better into the Muggle world.

"You look the part," he said at last.

"That's the idea," Potter replied, straightening the collar of the shirt he was wearing.

"Here," Draco said, and stepped forward to do it for him. "You've got it all wrong. It goes more like…" He trailed off and worked to adjust the fabric, folding it carefully into position, trying to ignore the fact that Potter's mouth was just inches away from his.

"Thanks," Potter said, smiling at him.

Draco paused for a moment, unable to tear himself away. He cleared his throat and struggled to think of something to say, but his mind had gone blank.

"So everything's set, then?" Potter stepped back, giving Draco space to breathe.

Draco stepped away. "Yes. Everyone's in position. We just have to wait until you give us the signal to move in. Are you sure you want to do this alone?"

"I work best alone." Potter turned to examine his reflection in the mirror.

"Of course." Draco sat on the edge of Potter's bed, then thought better of it and stood again.

Potter frowned at him. "You're a nervous wreck tonight. You're making me nervous."

"Sorry."

"Are you sure there's nothing wrong? Is there something else you're concerned about?"

"No. I mean… no. Definitely not."

"Malfoy, we don't have time for this."

Draco gritted his teeth. Potter was right; they didn't have time for this, for Draco to act like a lovesick schoolboy with his hormones out of control. "I'm sorry. I should probably go."

"You can't. It's not time yet."

"I know. I'm just going a little crazy after being in here all afternoon." All alone with Potter, with nothing to do but watch him get dressed. Merlin.

Potter sighed and sat on the bed. "Can we just stop this, please?"

"Stop what?"

"We've been avoiding it all day, but it's clear that you're uncomfortable being around me after what happened at Paparazzo. You act like you're afraid even to touch me, afraid that I'm going to do something. I get it. You're not gay. I'm completely capable of controlling myself, so really, you have nothing to fear."

Draco made a sound between a laugh and a whimper, which came out sounding a bit strangled. "Oh… god. Right. So the thing is, maybe I am gay."

Potter said nothing in response; he just stared at Draco.

Despite the part of his brain telling him to shut up, that this was neither the time nor the place, Draco's mouth decided to forge bravely ahead. "Because I've been thinking about you for days now, and I can't stop. I mean really, it's been hell being here with you all day, because I really think I want you, but I have no idea why, or what that means."

"You want me?" Potter asked, still expressionless.

"Maybe. Oh, all right -- yes." He met Potter's gaze again. "I have a shitty existence and a dead-end job that I hate with a fiery passion, and I can barely pay my rent, and I'm tired of being alone, and to top it all off, I'm probably fucking queer." Saying it out loud actually made him feel worse.

"Draco, look at me." Potter was standing in front of him now, his expression guarded. "I don't have a solution for any of that, but I do know that you can't go through life pretending to be someone you aren't. If you hate your job, find another one. Hell, you could even work for me for a while, if you want."

Draco stared at him, wondering how a washed-up hero who'd been running a bar for the last couple of years could seem so content and sure of his place in the world, of what he wanted from life. Draco would be thirty soon, and he had no idea what he wanted. Was he supposed to know?

Other people had told him what to do for most of his life. Father had it all mapped out for him, but then the world had changed, and there was no map. He'd been fumbling in the dark for years, with no idea where he was going.

He sighed. "I don't even know what I think I should be."

"Happy," Potter replied. "You should be happy. And let everything else come second."

"Happy. Right." And before he could lose his nerve, he kissed Potter. It was a long, wet kiss, full of more emotion than Draco had let himself feel in years. He pulled Potter against him, sighing at the feeling of all that exquisite elf-woven fabric, and tangled his fingers in it.

"You have some sort of robe fetish, don't you?" Potter said against his lips, sounding amused.

"God, yes," Draco replied, and kissed Potter so soundly neither of them could do much more than groan.

They collapsed backwards onto the bed, and Draco surprised himself by not feeling a bit shy about grinding his erection against Potter's. Gay, then. Definitely gay.

There was a shrill sound, and they both looked up to see an owl standing on the headboard, staring down at them quizzically. It held out its leg. Potter climbed out from under Draco long enough to take the note tied there, unfolding it carefully.

"It's time," he said, looking up at Draco.

"Perfect." Draco rolled off of him and readjusted his swollen prick in his trousers. "Great timing. I finally work up the nerve to kiss you, and off we go."

Potter bent down to kiss him before pushing himself off the bed. "If we're successful tonight, we'll have all the time in the world."

Draco sat up and watched him straighten his robes, feeling a shiver of anticipation.

.:::.

Draco took eight apparition skips to get to his prearranged hiding place. He signaled to the Aurors already stationed there that it was almost time and settled in to wait, trying to stay focused on the task at hand.

He ran through the plan and the alternate plans several times, just as he and Potter had spent much of the afternoon doing. Potter hadn't yet appeared in his line of sight, probably still hanging back and making sure Ravener's men weren't trying to ambush him. Draco had been reluctant to let Potter go alone, but they didn't have much choice. This had to be done on Ravener's terms.

The moment a group of figures appeared on the street below, Draco signaled the others. Eight sets of omniculars were focused, and Draco heard a low whistle through the bug in his ear. "That's Ravener all right. He's lost some hair since the last time I saw him."

Draco smiled. "He's going to lose a lot more before the night's over. They're… Hang on." The figures moved in a direction he didn't anticipate, not into the restaurant they'd cased and set up, but continued down the street.

"They're mobile, heading north," Draco heard in his ear.

"Copy that. We go to plan 4." Plan 4 meant Draco and two Aurors would follow on foot while the rest of tried to keep visual on the targets. It was the version of the operation he'd most hoped to avoid carrying out. "I'm on my way."

He made his way to the street below, moving quietly and avoiding using magic in case Ravener's men had cast sensing spells in the area. One of the Aurors with visual fed them the current location, and he walked casually, dodging through pedestrians in the busy street and trying not to worry. He saw the other Aurors out of the corner of his eye, both walking casually along the pavement.

He caught sight of Potter surrounded by Ravener's men, just as they disappeared into a pub they hadn't checked out. Draco tried not to panic, but it was the worst thing that could have happened. He had no idea what the interior of this place looked like, nor what he might find inside.

"I'm going in," he said, gritting his teeth. He couldn't even cast a glamour on himself; the range was too close. He'd just have to do his best to stay out of sight.

It was a Muggle pub, which was something Draco hadn't expected. Their intelligence had suggested Ravener despised Muggles, but the place was full of them, smoking cigarettes and hoisting pints of beer. Surely a group of men in wizard's robes would be easy to find in this place.

They weren't there, though, and when questioned, the patrons didn't seem to have seen anything unusual. Draco pulled his wand out then, casting quick spells to look for magical barriers, but found nothing. Potter had vanished into thin air.

.:::.

"You can't do this," Draco snarled, barely resisting the urge to point his wand at Weasley. "He's out there somewhere, and we've no idea if he's being tortured, or worse. You can't just continue to sit by and do nothing!"

Percy Weasley leaned back in his chair and sighed. "For the last time, Malfoy -- my hands are tied. Taryweather himself said to drop the case. My job is on the line here."

"You're willing to sacrifice Harry Potter to save your own skin, then?" Draco shook his head in disgust. "Did Taryweather take your bollocks as well as your office when he came back?"

"I can't help you find your boyfriend," Weasley snarled. "Take it up with Taryweather himself if you like, but I've done all I can. I'm very busy, so if you don't mind--" He gestured sharply to the door.

Draco glared at him a moment longer before storming out. It had been more than a week since Harry Potter's disappearance at the hands of the criminal potions lord Hawthorn Ravener, and it seemed that Draco was the only one who cared. There had been no word from Potter himself, and no evidence of him anywhere. For all Draco knew, he was dead. That thought made him feel like throwing up.

But he couldn't be dead -- there would have been a body, placed somewhere very public -- that was Ravener's style. And that could only mean that Potter was being held prisoner somewhere, and that he was doing everything he could to escape. He needed help, Draco's help.

Draco had spent the last week calling in every favor he had, talking to everyone in the department who owed him in some way, however small it was or unimportant they were. And every time, the same thing had happened: they'd agreed to help him almost immediately, and then later backed down, saying there was nothing they could do, that their hands were tied, that even for Harry Potter they couldn't take the risk of helping Draco. In less than a week, Draco had spent all of the social capital he'd built in the years he'd worked for the Ministry, and had nothing to show for it.

It just convinced him all the more that he was in the wrong fucking job. What had happened to these people to make them such Ministry cogs? Why were they so afraid of resisting the authority of Taryweather and his lackeys?

Some were convinced that it had all been a set-up, that Potter had been playing Draco all along. Draco ignored that theory for the most part, because really, what did Potter have to gain by creating such an elaborate disappearance? But it niggled at the back of his mind anyway. Potter knew what the alternate plans were, but he didn't do anything to prevent himself from being abducted. Maybe it had been a scam all along, to find out how the potions department worked so they could avoid getting caught in the future.

He didn't believe it. This was Harry Potter, after all; it just wasn't possible.

He walked by The Cockatiel every day, but its doors remained locked, its 'closed' sign firmly planted in the window. He missed the place far more than he would have expected, but he missed Potter even more. He regretted wasting so much time, spending so much of the last few weeks in denial of how he felt about Potter, of who he really was.

Now that he'd finally admitted to himself that he was gay, so much of his life became clear. He'd always pushed away feelings for other boys, crushes on certain (potions) professors, particular predilections that Father had scorned, his uneasiness at sex with women, and his lifelong obsession with Harry Potter -- all of it made sense now. It was as if he had finally admitted to himself something he'd always known to be true. How had he lived almost thirty years without being able to be honest with himself?

He had no one to share these revelations with, no one to talk to. Mother would be devastated, and he had few friends -- certainly none who would understand. He felt more alone than ever before.

Two weeks to the day after Potter's disappearance, he pressed his nose against the door of The Cocktiel, and was surprised to see someone inside. He rapped his knuckles against the door, and after a few moments it opened. One of the bartenders -- Jared, if Draco recalled correctly -- smiled at him through the doorway.

"Draco, good to see you. It's still closed. Just came by to pick up some of me things. I was hoping I might be able to get paid for that last week. You haven't seen Harry, have you?"

"No," Draco replied, crestfallen, but still happy to see someone familiar. "I was hoping you'd heard from him."

"Came to work a couple of weeks ago to find the place all locked up. No one else knows what's going on either." He paused, and then opened the door wider. "The cooling spells are still in place on all the kegs of ale. Fancy a pint?"

"Absolutely," Draco replied.

They spent an hour sitting at the bar, talking and drinking. Jared was quite young and their paths had never crossed at Hogwarts, but he was also a Hufflepuff and had known Max well. Jared and a few of the other employees had been passing by the pub rather frequently, and none had seen a sign of any suspicious types lurking around.

If Ravener was going to take over the pub, surely he'd have done it by now. The thought gave Draco hope that Harry was still out there somewhere, was still working against Ravener.

After half a dozen rounds, Draco was able to charm from Jared the security spells for the doors of the pub, and when Jared headed out for the night Draco promised to close up after him. He did, but instead of leaving the pub decided to try to apparate into Potter's flat. He was mildly surprised when it worked -- Potter must have recast the wards to allow him access -- and disappointed to find it empty, as he'd harbored a fantasy of finding Potter holed up there, in hiding.

Everything was left just as it had been that night. Even the bed-clothes were still rumpled where they'd… No. Draco wouldn't let himself think about that, just in case Potter didn't come back.

He slept there that night, unable to bring himself to leave.

The next morning he went to work to find that he'd been sacked. There was an owl waiting for him, perched on his desk clutching a note written by Taryweather himself. Draco supposed he should have seen it coming. Oddly, it was a relief to know he wouldn't have to come back to this place again. He briefly considered storming into Taryweather's office to give him a piece of his mind, but decided against it. Making a scene wouldn't help Potter. He packed up his things, stopped by personnel to pick up his severance galleons, and then left without saying goodbye to anyone.

But without a job he wouldn't be able to pay his rent for long, and the thought of trying to find another position at the moment was utterly unappealing. What he really wanted to do was to continue looking for Potter. Of course, without his Ministry connections, he'd lost most of his resources.

He decided to move into Potter's flat for a while, and when no one came by to bother him or try to take over the pub, he decided to stay. On Saturday afternoon, he wandered down to the pub and sat at the empty bar, which was already collecting dust from disuse. He went behind it and located a glass to pull himself a pint -- the taps were working, their cooling spells still firmly in place. He flicked his wand at the lamps to turn them on, and stared around the empty room, pint in hand, and sighed.

There was a tap at the window, and he looked up to see a group of men standing there, peering at him curiously. He walked over to the door and opened it.

"Are you open?" one of the men asked.

"Well," Draco began, and then stopped. This perfectly good pub was just sitting here collecting dust. If -- when -- Potter did come back, wouldn't it be better if he had something to come back to? Draco nodded and smiled. "Yeah. We're open. Come on in."

The men grinned and filed past him, and headed to the bar.

"Is it under new management, then?" one asked.

"It is," Draco replied. His path was suddenly very clear. Why hadn't he thought of it before? He flipped the 'closed' sign to 'open' and turned back to face them. "But there's no illegal goings-on anymore. No more potions in the back. If you want that sort of thing, you should go to Paparazzo."

The men laughed, and one said, "That's fine with us, you know. We liked it better before all of that mess started anyway."

"Good," Draco said, and smiled genuinely for what felt like the first time in weeks. "Now what can I get you to drink?"

.:::.

The following week, he committed himself to becoming a full-time pub manager. He struggled a bit at first, but when a few of the old staff members showed up in hopes of getting their positions back, things began to run more smoothly. When staff and patrons asked about Potter, Draco said he was on holiday in Australia and would be back soon. He told the story enough that he started to hear it told around town; he even read it in the Prophet, along with a few tales about the scandalous things Potter was apparently up to down under.

Business was good, and for that he was grateful. He had to forcibly eject a few shady characters hawking potions out of the back room in the first week, but they didn't come back. He converted that dismal space into a cozy conversation area, with squashy sofas and low tables charmed always to be under your drink when you set it down, and customers began showing up early to claim a corner for the night.

He found he had no skills as a bartender, but was good at managing people. He made enough money to reopen the kitchen, and made a deal with the house-elves' union to staff it. A trio of young wizards trying to make a living as a band approached him for a gig, and he hired them to set up in a corner and play Friday and Saturday nights.

As the place changed, so did the clientele. Though late nights were still dominated by young men looking to hook up, the evenings belonged to young witches and wizards relaxing after work. He took the obscurus spell down and converted the loft above the bar into an office so that he could do paperwork and keep an eye on things at the same time.

Three months after its reopening, the Daily Prophet named The Cockatiel as one of London's top magical nightspots, and after that, Draco's nights were a blur of activity. He spent his afternoons in the loft going over the books and writing out orders, and his evenings making sure everyone was having a good time. Young men chatted him up every now and then, but he always turned them down. He wasn't sure what he wanted, but he knew it wasn't the sort of casual sex they were offering.

He tried hard not to think about Potter. It didn't work.

By late October, the evenings were growing long and the clientele were coming in earlier, which made Draco's life even busier than it had been in the summer. Halloween was approaching and the staff were making plans for a big party. The pub was pulling in enough money that he was considering giving them all a substantial pay rise, though he hadn't mentioned it yet.

He closed for the night, locked everything up, and headed up to the flat. And nearly screamed.

It was Potter, sitting on the sofa dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, as if he hadn't been missing for nearly four months. Draco could only stare at him in disbelief.

"Love what you've done with the place," Potter said, smiling. "Sorry I glamoured myself tonight, but I'd heard you'd completely re-done it all, and I wanted to see for myself. I especially like the new selection of goblin ales you've brought in."

"Where the fuck have you been?" Draco managed to spit out.

"Missed you too." Potter grinned, then stood and walked towards Draco.

"No," Draco said, holding out his hands when Potter leaned in for a kiss. "First you explain where you've been and why you completely abandoned me without a word, for months."

Potter stepped back. "Right. Fair enough. Coffee?"

Draco wanted to punch him. "It's two in the fucking morning!"

"Scotch then." Potter disappeared into the flat's tiny kitchen, and Draco suppressed his growing irritation that Potter was acting as if he owned the place -- since he actually did. Potter reappeared with two glasses and a bottle and placed them on the table before settling himself onto the sofa.

Draco took one, but was unable to sit. "So talk."

"Where should I start?"

Draco pursed his lips. He had so many questions that he didn't know where to begin.

Potter sighed. "First of all, you should know that you quit your job at the Ministry at exactly the wrong time. After that first month, I had earned Ravener's trust enough that I had a chance to send a message out, only to find that you no longer worked there. So the whole undercover operation had to be done without your input, and I couldn't contact you to tell you anything about it."

Draco gestured wildly with the glass, nearly losing his scotch in the process. "First of all, I didn't quit -- I was sacked because I wouldn't stop pressuring them to go after you. But more importantly: what undercover operation?"

"Well, the thing is… I didn't quit the Auror department two years ago. It was made to look that way so that I could get this place going and set a trap for Ravener. I've been trying to get him arrested for four years now."

Draco felt his knees start to wobble and thought it best to sit down on the other end of the sofa. "You were working for us, all this time?"

Harry nodded. "As was Max. He was brilliant, an amazing Unspeakable."

"Max?" Draco's mind was racing. "But what about the potions?"

"We never quite saw eye-to-eye on that, to be honest. I knew he used, and I couldn't stop him. He thought we had to beat the dealers at the game, and it took a lot of negotiation with Misuse of Potions to let us do what we did here."

"Taryweather knew?"

Harry nodded. "He started investigating us two years ago, and we finally had to bring him in on it. He realized that getting Ravener was more important than selling a few hundred vials of Glitteratus in the long run, and so he closed the case and covered for us. Unfortunately, Percy decided to reopen the case, and… well, you know what happened next."

Pieces of the puzzle were starting to fit together in Draco's mind now, so quickly that it made him dizzy. "Yes. I nearly fucking ruined everything."

"Actually, you didn't. Ravener had got wind that something was up that night of the sting operation, but he didn't suspect I was involved. He apparated me away and I had to play along that I was grateful for his protection. The easiest thing for me to do after that was pretend I wanted to stay in hiding. So I became part of his organization. I got further inside than I ever could have hoped to do."

Draco felt a stab of regret. "I thought you were… I don't know what I thought." He should have had more faith in Potter, should have guessed what he was up to. He could have helped him if he'd hadn't given up so quickly. What was wrong with him?

Potter smiled. "When I heard you'd reopened the pub, I was relieved, honestly. Ravener wanted to move back in, but I convinced him it was too public now, too much of a target after what had happened to Max. I got him to focus his attention elsewhere, and that provided the break I needed to get into the very center of his organization."

"Did it not occur to you to send me an owl in the midst of all of this? To let me know you were at least alive?" Draco was vaguely aware of the amount of anger in his voice, but didn't try to stop it.

Potter recoiled a bit. "I tried once, but the owl returned from your office with an unopened message, and I couldn't risk it again. And then it got really busy, and I was in way too deep. That's a shit excuse, I know. I'm sorry."

Draco stared into his almost-empty glass. "So what happened next? You were apparently successful at working your way into Ravener's operation, but how did you get out again?"

"I had an opportunity four days ago to nick a large number of documents and apparate away with them. I've been in a dark room in the Ministry ever since, working with Ron to get it all sorted out. With the information I provided, the Ministry was able to get Ravener and his top associates on a stack of minor charges."

Draco swallowed down his jealousy that Ron Weasley knew what had been going on before he did. "What, like tax evasion?"

"Something like that. It all went down this morning. It'll be on the front page of the Prophet tomorrow."

They stared at each other for a moment, neither of them knowing what to say.

"I've missed you," Potter said at last. "I was counting down the days until all of this would be over and I could see you again."

"I've missed you too. I just…" He shook his head, uncertain how much of what he felt was anger and how much was relief.

Potter nodded and studied his hands. "I see. Well, I'll stay out of your way, if you like. Legally, the pub and the flat are mine, but we can work something out." He stood.

"No, that's not it, wait." Draco caught his hand and tugged him back down, so close Potter was almost in his lap. "Look, I've done nothing but think about you since the night you disappeared. And even though there've been lots of opportunities, I haven't been with anyone else. I--" He stopped, not sure how to express what he was feeling. He'd built Potter up in his mind over these months, and he was sure he was in love -- but was it with Potter himself, or with the idea of him, the memory of something that hadn't quite happened between them?

Potter smiled. "You've been running the most popular gay pub in London, and you haven't taken advantage of it?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "No. I'm a bit of a prude at heart, apparently."

"So am I. Well, with the exception of that one night." Potter winked and then leaned forward a little, as if waiting to see if Draco would push him away again. Draco felt a stab of panic, but leaned in the rest of the way before he could change his mind. It was tentative at first, as if neither of them was sure, but after a minute Draco shifted, pulling Potter on top of him, and the kiss grew more frantic. It was as if they hadn't been apart at all -- Draco felt all of his anxiety melt away in the slide of Potter's lips against his, and after another minute he had stopped thinking altogether.

They broke apart after a few more minutes, both of them panting. Draco grinned up at Potter, his heart feeling lighter than it had in a long time. "For the record, I'm not so much a prude that I'd make you sleep on the sofa tonight."

"Good," Potter said as he sat up and tugged his t-shirt over his head. "Considering that it's my bed anyway, that's quite considerate of you."

Draco didn't have to ask Potter to go slowly; he just seemed to know it was what Draco needed. They peeled off their clothing bit by bit, taking time to explore newly exposed stretches of skin, and by the time they were both naked, any uncertainty Draco had felt was gone.

Potter stretched out over him and took both their cocks in hand, and just stared down at Draco as he stroked. Draco was lost in sensation, lost in Potter's intense expression of concentration and in the feeling of their bodies pressed together.

When Potter seemed to be getting close, Draco reached between them to take his prick in hand, stroking hard and watching his face. Potter shifted off of him to allow better access, and Draco propped himself up on an elbow and smiled down at him.

"What?" Potter asked, stretching his arms above his head.

"I spent of lot of time imagining what I would do if I had a chance to see you again, and to be honest, giving you a handjob wasn't really at the top of the list."

Potter laughed. "We're lucky it's not just going to be the one time then, aren't we?"

Draco grinned, relieved. He wasn't sure how good he would be at giving blow jobs or anything else, but he knew how to wank. It had been his primary form of sex for most of his life, and he was pretty good at it.

Watching Potter's face when he came was a wonder. He was so amazingly expressive, not to mention loud, and the idea that it had been Draco's hand that had caused it was more thrilling than nearly any sexual experience he'd ever had.

He kissed Potter afterward, and then laughed when Potter rolled them both off the sofa and onto the floor, cushioning their fall with a quick wandless spell.

"So what would you like?" Potter asked, planting a line of kisses down Draco's jaw.

Draco closed his eyes and smiled. "What are my choices?"

"Anything. And I do mean anything. I don't usually bottom, but I could be convinced."

"Not tonight." Draco put a hand on the top of his head and pressed down. "There's plenty of time for that."

Potter slid down Draco's body, surprising him by pressing his thighs apart and starting on his balls. Draco had barely caught his breath from the sensation of that hot tongue flicking against his sensitive skin before Potter pushed his thighs up and moved lower.

"Oh god," Draco said, his eyes flying open. Potter's tongue was circling his arsehole slowly, and Draco had no idea if he liked it or not. Then Potter's tongue probed into the center, going just a tiny bit inside him, and Draco decided he did like it. A lot.

His cock was aching by the time Potter moved back up to pay it proper attention, and when Potter slid a wet finger inside him to stroke as he sucked, it proved to be enough to send Draco over the edge.

He was shivering by the time Potter made his way back up to kiss him and stretch out beside him on the floor. Potter produced a blanket from somewhere and covered them both, and he snuggled his head against Draco's shoulder like a cat.

"We should probably get in the bed," Draco said, stifling a yawn. "The floor is dirty."

"Don't you know any decent cleaning spells?"

"Of course not. We had servants for that when I was a child." Potter snickered into his neck, and Draco grinned. "Besides, now that you're back, you can take care of it."

"Let's talk about it in the morning," Potter mumbled.

They had a great deal to discuss -- the pub, living arrangements, their relationship -- and it probably wasn't going to be easy. But they would make it work. Draco was sure of it.

"All right. In the morning." Draco wrapped his arms around Potter, and then listened to his breathing grow shallow as he fell asleep.

For the first time in his life, he felt like he was right where he was supposed to be. He smiled.

.:::.



End Notes:

[info]serpentinelion Secrets & Wishes Fest request #46:

I want something fun. A gay bar, with Harry behind the bar. He's wearing a t-shirt that says "I can't even see straight!" done in rainbow letters. A little mystery maybe. Something light, and yet not short on plot. Straight!Draco being convinced otherwise. Post-War. Adults. Auror!Draco investigating the not-quite-legal goings on at Harry's club. A murder mystery? Harry being guilty until proven innocent. Harry seducing Draco. Hot, frantic sex. Doesn't have to involve actual penetration, but blow jobs and illicit handjobs are hot. I love almost public sex, possessive! H/D, claiming, light bondage, breathplay, rimming, being caught in the act by the other while wanking, shower sex...

I didn't include everything in the request, but I did the best I could! I'm also a bit worried that the plot took over more than she was expecting, but I hope she likes it. :-)
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