This was written three years ago for the 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 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!
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.
"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."
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."
"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.