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[DM/HP] The Best of All Possible Outcomes (end) by colibri

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发表于 2009-8-16 17:51:54 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Author:colibri
Website:http://www.thesilversnitch.net/tss1/viewuser.php?uid=2295
E-mail:colibri_vert@mac.com
Permission:
All right, sounds good :D
Colibri


Author's Chapter Notes:
Unsurprisigly, I do not own anything HP related. It all belongs to JK Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Inc., Warner Bros., and any other entities involved. None of those entities meant for the things that occur in this piece of fiction to occur to their characters.

This fic was written for the Crossing the Line (D/h) Scratched Hearts Fic Challenge. The challenge requirements will be given at the end of the fic.

Additional Warning: This fic contains non-D/h sex.



"The Best of All Possible Outcomes"
By Colibri Vert

Nothing....


Warm flesh beneath his fingers--slick with sweat, and acrid. The softness of fat and solidity of bone beneath.

Inhale.

"Please," the man says, and grunts. A struggle, a dance.

A lance of pain through his gut, through his heart. His fingers press deeply into the fleshy face, about the heavy head, gaining purchase. Hair keeps them from slipping.

"No," whimpered.

Exhale.

His muscles contract deliciously and the wet, popping sound of fused vertebrae snapping, reports like a gunshot through his head.

Inhale.

The man is too portly to lift so he is left there, on the bed, whilst his killer fetches a wet bath flannel and makes quick work of wiping the man's sweaty face down. He is still warm.

Nothing.

He tucks the dead man in, pulling up the sheets, then slips away into the night.

*//*

"Surely, it can't mean nothing, this long-standing cooperation between us."

"Of course it means something." He's so very tired, Mathilda had been sleeping terribly for an entire week, now, her pregnancy wearing on her in this, her eighth month. "But the Edict of Separation was put in place for a reason, and the fact that your...Inspectors are unable to rid you of this threat, is none of our concern. Surely you can't have forgotten that we've never assisted you in these types of cases before."

"Well!" Indignant. The man puffs himself up like a cockerel, though he is no youth and already commands quite a presence. Donald thinks the man was elected more for his face than his mind, though the latter is nothing to sneeze at, either. It's simply taken a somewhat secondary position to his libido, over the years--the five years Donald has held this office, and has known Leonard Ainsworth.

"Convince me, then, Mr Ainsworth! Or take your tantrums elsewhere. Why has this anything to do with us?"

Ainsworth seems satisfied with the opportunity, though he hides it well. "This man has eluded us for nearly a decade, Durkiss! And his targets are becoming increasingly prominent. The last two have been Members of the House of Lords, for God's sake! Two months apart, and both poisoned whilst in the open, with people milling about! It's not natural. We have CCTV recordings of both simply walking, then putting a hand up to their necks, then dropping to the ground. Surely you can see why I think this may have something to do with...your people."

Donald can admit that it sounds a bit peculiar, but, "What are CCTV recordings?"

Ainsworth is surprised, but overcomes this quickly and with all attendant grace. "I'll show you," he says, well accustomed to the other minister's Luddism. Their acquaintance has been the longest such between British Prime Minister and Minister for Magic in modern history. He loads the disc into the player and switches on the screen. It takes only moments for him to navigate to the time stamps he wishes to display.

"Ah, yes," mutters Donald, moving closer to peer at the still photos appearing on the telly-screen he has seen many times, but never thought over-much about. It stands just across from the enchanted portrait.

"Here, now," says Ainsworth. "This man walking here, this is Lord Attwood and his wife." He steps through to the next still. "Here, you see his hand travelling, then against his neck. Here, he falls to the pavement, his hand covering his neck there. There are too many people about for a projectile weapon to have been used, say our inspectors. But the site indicates some sort of poison-laden dart pierced the skin perfectly, above Lord Attwood's carotid artery. His death was nearly instantaneous."

"There seems to be a bit left out...?" Donald finds it fascinating, this technology, but he's uncertain why they would choose to capture so few photos, if they are looking for a murderer.

Ainsworth waves the comment away negligently. "The stills are captured once per second. We should have been able to see the assassin in one of the frames from one of the many CCTV cameras throughout the area, but we cannot. He may as well be a ghost."

"It's unlikely a ghost would have access to poison darts," Donald says thoughtfully, "nor the capability of utilizing them." He is intrigued. Could it be there is some renegade wizard, who has been terrorising Muggle London for the past decade? Merlin knew there had been enough malcontents after Voldemort's too-ambiguous demise. Without a final, decisive, publicised victory, the wizarding world had drifted back into a sort of half-life, marred by fear and overcompensation.

Donald himself has had many assurances, by former Death Eaters turned to the Light, that Voldemort is dead. Three years after the final battle, the Dark Marks had simply faded from his followers' skin. But most regular folk had no understanding of these things, and life was only slowly returning to the uneasy normalcy that had reigned prior to Voldemort's last rise. A goodly number of Death Eaters had simply disappeared, presumably into the Muggle world, though most had been impossible to locate, and resources for the hunt had been drastically cut, even before Donald's appointment. There was simply no indication that a new witch or wizard had the ambition to take Voldemort's place, and so, it was not a priority.

Ainsworth barks an uncomfortable laugh. "I wasn't serious," he says, then more weakly, "about the ghost."

"Oh...well, I suppose if you'd like to give me the information you have on this assassin, I will pass it on to the Department for Magical Law Enforcement and see what they can do."

"Excellent," says Ainsworth, immediately moving behind his desk to open a drawer. "I've printed hardcopies of the information, since everything's online in our secured network and I know you haven't access."

Donald has no idea what the man is talking about, but he takes the black-bound...well, it looks a bit like a book, though rather shoddily bound, using metal rings and unsightly covers. It must be obvious he's never seen the like, for Ainsworth takes it back and places it on the table.

"Here," he says and snaps the rings apart.

"Oh, dear!" Donald exclaims, too startled to be embarrassed.

"You can take the pages out and replace them as needed."

"Oh, all right...." He takes the book from Ainsworth's hands when it is re-proffered. "I'll just be going, then."

"You'll keep me apprised, of course," Ainsworth hints.

"Of course," Donald agrees, then floos home.

*//*

Harry stands in the shower for five minutes, scrubbing at his hair, then skin, with a bar of white soap. He uses the single white towel to dry himself, from the top of his head down to his feet, then fastens it about his waist. He shaves, using an expensive disposable razor and a travel-sized shaving foam, then reaches into the shower to retrieve the soap and washes his hands again. He removes the disposable contact lenses and tosses them in the bin, then snakes a hand out to retrieve his glasses from the table, just outside the toilet door. He listens for silence, nearly a minute passing, before he emerges to the flat's single room.

Two steps forward to the bed, ten from one end of the room to the other. One small window sits above the kitchenette's sink, looking out to a red-brick wall. There are two entry-points to the room, including the window, and no one ever passes the window. Harry sets water to boil in the microwave, then opens the foil cover on his chow mein Pot Noodles. He stands and waits the two minutes, then opens the door before the beep, because he hates the noise. Unfortunately, he has little control over life outside his studio flat. The silence is broken by passing traffic round the other side of the house, by the telly a storey above, by a crying baby. Inside, there is only the gentle, seeping sound of boiling water against freeze-dried noodles in plastic.

He leaves them to steep, pulling out black jeans, a black tee, and black socks from his duffle bag. They are all relatively new and little-washed, the colour remaining deeply black. He stirs the noodles a bit, then returns to find his mobile. There is only one message--"Pmt x-frd. Mtg 18-10-10". That's days away, so he scrolls through the headlines instead and finds one of interest. "Lord Carlton found murdered in hotel room. No suspects taken." It's the third Member of Parliament so far, and it had gone off perfectly, just as the others. He sits on the bed, feeling nothing, then stands again to retrieve his supper.

*//*

"You must be joking. I can't stomach Muggle relations."

"I'm not joking, and neither is Minister Durkiss. He's asked that I put my best man on this assignment."

"Could we possibly, for once, pretend that someone else can approach my level of proficiency? After all, there is a renegade werewolf pack out there which is not capturing itself."

"While that may be true, would you also concede that you haven't caught it yet either?"

He can feel the colour staining his cheeks, but it is a flush of anger, not embarrassment. "It's been one day," he says tightly.

"Ah, yes, then you've not done much work on it yet, have you." She drops the book on his desk and retreats with a smirk. "The sooner you nab him, the sooner you can resume your usual assignments."

Draco hasn't a large cache of insults that apply to wealthy, attractive, pure-blood witches like Auror Hazelton, but his feelings toward her are quite negative anyway--except while he's fucking her. She is bloody perfect while he's fucking her.

He turns to the decidedly Muggle-looking book and opens it, crinkling his nose at the complete lack of aesthetic appeal in its hard, black cover and metal rings. The paper is thin and white and tasteless, the typeface uninteresting. It is, however, exceedingly easy to read, though surprisingly boring, given what it says.

Apparently, a multi-agency task force has been tracking a certain assassin for the better part of ten years, and while they aren't certain every killing is his, they are certain about many--twenty-two in fact. They suspect the assassin has been working for even longer than this, though his targets at that time were so obscure, as to fade into the already appalling death toll of Muggle society.

As he reads on, he is struck by the task force's proficiency. Considering their lack of useful tools, (not even a wand!), how they've managed to find a pattern to even link together the twenty-odd murders is beyond him. In many cases, there had been no traces left at the scene, and there'd been no witnesses thus far. A few times, hair or other DNA (Whatever that is) had been retrieved and those times, the samples had matched. 'Subject is Caucasian with black hair. No other physical data known.' Well, that certainly narrows it down a bit, Draco thinks irreverently. And if the 'subject' is a witch or wizard...well, the information is nearly useless.

The victims' profiles are somewhat more interesting. The earliest had mainly been middle-tier heads of crime syndicates, moving on to higher tiers and culminating with two actual bosses. An apparent hiatus had followed, during which several related murders appeared to've taken place in America. The task force had posited warring heads offing each other in turf wars.

Next on the list is an international businessman, apparently of some renown in Britain, murdered three years ago. The dates indicate that another hiatus follows, though there is apparently no similar relocation, and now there is this re-emergence, with two members of the Muggle parliament murdered in close succession, in public. There had been hundreds of witnesses in one case, and yet no one had seen the killer.

Draco is intrigued. "Jules?"

"Drake?"

"Don't call me that," Draco says, standing and taking the Muggle tome with him to Jules' desk.

"Don't call me Jules, then."

Draco has heard this many times before, but he really doesn't care. He would much rather be called 'Drake' than accommodate Julian's preference to be free of that particular moniker. "How many outstanding Death Eaters are you tracking now?"

Julian snorts. "Now Draco, why on earth would you ask about something as completely boring as that?"

Draco tends to deride Death Eater clean-up as the very basest of base assignments, and to chide Julian mercilessly for allowing himself to be stuck with it. He sighs melodramatically. "Because I've been forced to assist the Muggle Prime Minister with an international murder mystery," he says, with all due self-importance, though he makes it sound frightfully dull. "It appears some witch or wizard has decided to terrorise the Muggle world for the past decade and the police have been unable to capture him."

"Ah, I see," says Julian, who happens to be Muggle-born.

"Apparently, this person has offed two Muggle Secretaries or some such, in the past months."

Julian seems confused for a moment, then understanding dawns. "You mean those two Lords of Parliament?"

"Of course," Draco says, though he's not entirely certain. It seems they would be the same, though he has no idea how many Muggle parliamentarians are offed daily.

"Well you know, there was another murder just last night," Julian says excitedly, then pulls out one of those grey, lifeless Muggle newspapers and shows him the front page. "This morning's edition of the Guardian," he explains and points to the top headline, which says, 'Third Peer Found Murdered'. "Lord Carlton was found murdered by cleaning staff in a room at One Aldwych. It's a posh London hotel."

"I know it," Draco says distractedly, already assuming this murder is related. "So you've known about these murders already?"

"Well, I certainly didn't know they were related," he says with a shrug. "The papers haven't said it, though the first two were too similar to seem a coincidence. I honestly can't figure why anyone would bother with them, though. None of these three are names I even recognise."

"Did you ever consider it might be a wizard murdering these Muggles?"

"Not at all," Julian admits. "They haven't any relation to the wizarding world either." He takes a deep breath, then pulls out a scroll. "Fifteen Death Eaters on my active roster," he says, "and I've found no traces of any of them in the UK. Most fled to Eastern Europe initially and have kept on the go."

"And how do you manage to trace them from your desk here, hmm?" Draco asks, without the least show of respect.

"You know as well as I, the level of priority of my assignment."

"Ah yes," Draco agrees. "None. Shame, that. I suppose those Death Eaters shall remain safely out of Ministry hands unless one of them happens to be our fabled assassin." He pulls out his wand and mutters a quick duplication spell over Julian's roster. "I'm off," he says, then unfurls the roster to place it inside the Muggle book.

"I'll be certain to inform the Head Auror," calls Julian after him.

"Why thank you, Jules," Draco replies, before he is out of ear-shot. It is always most satisfying to have the last word.

*//*

The noise is somehow soothing in this context, though he never finds it so in any other. He avoids crowds and open spaces. He avoids eye contact with strangers. He wears black leather gloves on most days, and a black beanie covers his crew cut. He sits in a dark corner, nursing his first (and only) lager of the evening. He cannot bear the thought of being impaired.

"Would you like some company?" says a soft voice, but it startles him nonetheless. He had seen the man's approach--had watched it, even. He'd never expected the man to halt here, before him, and speak. The man indicates the empty chair across from him and quirks an eyebrow. He is well-dressed, well-groomed, and has a little cross earring in his right ear. It's very discreet, in silver. He is also someone Harry recognises as a regular here.

"No," Harry replies, but his voice is too unused and sticks in his throat. He blushes and feels like he should be beyond this stage in his life. He's been thirty years old for several months, now. He clears his throat, then says, "All right."

The man's face breaks into a smile of such radiance, it takes Harry's breath and makes his stomach churn. He immediately wishes to escape, his eyes skirting the room behind his new companion, counting the number of pissed patrons pottering about between him and the egress. There are four, but it is only 8 o'clock.

"I'm Stephen, by the way," says the man, still smiling, though not quite so radiantly as before.

"Alex," lies Harry.

"Pleased to meet you, Alex," says Stephen and holds out his hand for several seconds, whilst Harry merely stares at it. He has not removed his gloves, and the beanie remains on his head. He blinks wide, innocent eyes at Stephen, who seems to find him strange but charming, and draws his hand away again. "So...I've seen you here before."

Harry doesn't show surprise, but he is uncomfortable with the fact that someone has noticed him. He will never return here again, certainly. "Oh," he says.

Stephen snorts, then shakes his head in answer to some internal thought, Harry supposes, before saying, "A man of few words, yeah?" He leans forward then, and Harry is compelled to lean slightly away from him. "I've come over to meet you because I find you irresistibly attractive," he says conspiratorially, as if the only party he might wish to hide this information from isn't the one he's just told it to. "We needn't talk to fuck," he says.

And so that is how it begins. Harry is completely dumbfounded by the man's boldness. "What?" he asks, his voice now sounding the twelve-year-old he is feeling.

Stephen's smile only grows. "I suppose I should first ask you whether you realise this is a gay pub," he murmurs, as he remains perched on his elbows, halfway across the table.

Harry's eyes flit about the room again, and he notes the rather even mix of men and women in groups, and the way the couples are all homo. But he had known it was a gay pub. After all, it's called 'Wilde's' and has an etching of the great libertine himself beside the door. "Yeah," he says unthinking.

"Ace," says Stephen, "not that it isn't blindingly obvious you're blue." Another winning smile tinged with desire blinds Harry. "It remains only to decide whether you'd enjoy a bit of good-natured sport for the evening. And before you answer, I must inform you that I play exceptionally well with others; and that you shuffling off alone tonight would be a spanking great waste."

Harry's jaw has gone slack. He's actually too shocked to remember his fear. But he's also too shocked to speak.

"I'm really a very handsome bloke, when you get past the boorish exterior."

"Er," manages Harry, as ever, the model of eloquence. His speaking skills could never have made anyone proud.

"I've a flat not far from here," says Stephen.

Harry thinks he can't remember the last time he'd been laid, outside of work. The need did occasionally arise in his work. His looks were a weapon in his arsenal, along with all of the others, and sometimes the most powerful of them all. Sex was a brilliant way to build trust, even for men. Still, it had been years since he'd slept with a mark.

Thinking about work calms him. He is breathing now; inhaling, exhaling, and feeling nothing. He measures Stephen from crown to ribs and is not disappointed. "I think," he says, "I should enjoy having you in my field of view for the very short term."

And so they leave together, Harry listening to the night and marking their passage, as they walk the short distance in silence. He is smaller than Stephen by several inches and must weigh several stones less. It is unsurprising, because Harry is small for a bloke and Stephen is an inch or three over six feet.

The apartment house has security, and Harry ensures that Stephen is between him and the CCTV camera. The flat is on the third storey and posh, with wooden floors and Scandinavian furniture and a wall-mounted, flat-screen display, nearly as wide as Harry is tall. "Would you like anything?" Stephen offers, as he removes his brown leather jacket and hangs it on a peg behind the door. It matches his couch. "The bar's there," he says and points to a well-stocked bar in the far, sunken corner of the flat.

Harry turns to see it behind him. He thinks Stephen must pay thousands per month for this place, unlike the hundreds he pays for his own. He startles when Stephen is suddenly against his back, hands closing, gently, about Harry's shoulders. "Or I've ecstasy or coke if you'd prefer."

Harry cringes internally at the thought, but manages to keep his reactions hidden. "I'm all right," he says and gently extricates himself from Stephen's grip so he can turn and face him.

Stephen smiles again, though this time thoughtfully, and his eyes flick upward from Harry's eyes to his beanie. "Can I remove this?" he asks, and brings a hand to rest against the soft wool.

Harry saves him the trouble by pulling it off himself, then scrunching it up between his gloved hands.

"How old are you, Alex?" Stephen asks, then takes Harry's hands in his own and begins to remove the gloves, letting the beanie drop to the floor.

"How old do I look?" Harry replies. His life has become a long string of evasions, over the years.

"Twenty-four, twenty-five," says Stephen.

"Good guess," says Harry. It's the age he would have given anyway. "You?"

"Thirty-seven," says Stephen. It makes his lifestyle that much more impressive.

"Finance or management?" Harry asks.

Now Stephen's lightning smile returns. "Both," he says. "Finance Manager for Guardian Media. You?"

Harry remains impressed. "Clerk in a music shop," he says, which isn't true, certainly, but at least is work he has done before.

"Indeed," says Stephen, then tosses Harry's gloves onto the sofa. "Do you prefer beds or...?"

Harry shrugs. He'd never really thought about it. Sex was a fine thing all round, generally. It had been quite some time since he'd had much choice. Glory holes and back rooms are not the dens of safe, exploratory play one might guess. "I'm rather...inexperienced," Harry says and Stephen darts his tongue out to lick at suddenly drier lips. He is getting hotter. Soon he will be hot enough that Harry will be able squelch his overreaching paranoia.

"May I kiss you?" Stephen asks, and Harry wonders what world he has ended up on, that a man would ask permission. So he pulls Stephen close, until their lips touch tentatively, until they are kissing, until Stephen is devouring his mouth, and Stephen is reaching under the hem of Harry's overlarge, black, woollen jumper, then pulling it up and over Harry's head. They separate only for the split second it takes for the jumper to disappear onto the couch, then again as his tee is unceremoniously added to the rest. He feels Stephen's greedy hands travel his torso, and then--

"Holy bloody hell," Stephen groans into his mouth and pulls away.

"Wha--?" Harry is in a daze. It's been so long, and his cock is a pulsing bar of iron in his pants. There is no blood left for higher brain function. This would worry him if he weren't already in such a state.

Stephen barks a laugh--short but truly amused, it seems. "My God, Alex. You're perfect," he says, then pulls in to devour him again, this time even more enthusiastically than before.

Harry quickly sinks into abandon, enjoying the soft-skinned hands pressing against skin grown accustomed to pain. His own hands are bony and callused and very, very strong, and right now they are wrapped about Stephen's so-tender neck. He can feel the powerful, speeding pulse of blood through arteries and the slick wetness of lust-fuelled perspiration. Stephen is moaning against his neck as he bites and licks and attempts to remove his own shirt. Harry hears a button skitter across the wooden floor-boards and Stephen whispers a delighted, "Fuck," against his skin. It tickles, distracting Harry from his own lust to squeeze. "I'm sorry, I need a bed," says Stephen, still breathless, and pulls away again, taking Harry's hand and pulling him ungracefully through a door, into a bedroom as posh as one might expect, considering the bar.

It is still dark when Harry lands on the bed, propelled there by Stephen's lust alone, he thinks, but then the glow of recessed track-lighting suffuses the air and he sits up onto his elbows in order to watch Stephen undress. "You must spend every free moment training, yeah?" Stephen says huskily, his eyes shining with his want. Harry thinks it feels nearly oppressive, that gaze--that it's difficult to breathe under the onslaught of that desire. But he's flattered, certainly. And Stephen obviously uses a great deal of his money on health clubs, for he is perfectly cut. "Do you use the YMCA?"

"Dojo," Harry offers--one of a very few truths he will offer tonight. "You?" He begins to open the buttons of his own fly, as Stephen is so obviously driven to distraction by Harry's looks, and can't lose his own kit fast enough. Stephen's trousers finally fall and he stands in grey, conforming silk shorts. His tan is too perfect for nature, as is his physique.

"Personal tuition," he says with a smirk, "five days." The man has more money than he knows what to do with, apparently.

But Harry's jeans are opened, now, and he rises, gracefully this time, from the bed to let them drop. His own black boxer-briefs have been washed a few more times than they were made for and are now unattractively greyish.

It hardly matters, for they are at his ankles in a heartbeat and then he is back on the bed, drowning in hands and tongues--there must be fifteen, at least, of each--and gasping as a mouth closes round his fiery prick and he...just...comes. "Bugger," he sighs, then, "sorry."

Stephen's face appears above him in a moment and there is no indication he has just been sorely disappointed. What a nice man. He is smiling. "Dry spell?" he says sympathetically.

"As I mentioned," Harry agrees.

"Well..." says Stephen, then squeezes one of Harry's buttocks gently, whilst taking a deep breath through his nose. "Might I fuck you anyway?" he asks.

Harry nods. He'd also been a nice man, once. Long ago. A nice boy, at any rate.

Stephen kisses Harry gently again, though Harry knows it is a struggle for the other man to slow himself down. He can feel it in the tension of Stephen's body, beneath the pads of his fingers. But he also notices that Stephen reaches into a bedside table and comes back with condoms and lubrication, which he merely places on the bed beside Harry's head, before kissing his way down to Harry's balls and lavishing them with attention. It takes several minutes before he realises Stephen is massaging his perineum, and he is quite thoroughly languid before Stephen's tongue strays further down.

Harry pulls his knees up under his arms to give Stephen better access, then melts into the deliciousness of having a tongue lapping at his entrance. Yes, yes, yes, he thinks, and then the tongue breaches him, and he remembers why he's missed this. This, the rimming and this, the sex and this, the not being alone every bloody second of the day. He rolls over onto his stomach when coaxed, and enjoys the lubed fingers pressing into him, allowing the anticipation to grow in his belly. It's been so long, his prick is already perking again. He thrusts it languidly against the silken sheets beneath him.

When Stephen presses his slick cock into Harry, it is a most welcome intrusion, and though he can barely breathe through the pain, it is a most wonderful pain--the sort of pain your mind remembers as pleasure. It's the sort of pain that makes his cock throb in time, and he is even more grateful when Stephen coaxes him up to his knees, then reaches round to pull him off in time to the thrusts, murmuring unimportant, comforting nonsense in his ear. "Alex," Stephen whispers, "perfect Alex. So tight."

As the thrusts speed, Stephen becomes more vocal, his whispers turning to moans and grunts. The pounding seems to last forever, and Harry feels no pain halfway through, numb and too focussed on his own impending climax. Stephen has to let go of Harry's prick in order to increase his speed, so Harry takes over his own masturbation, the room thick with musk and come, and the duelling sounds of Stephen's pleasure and the percussion of skin against skin. Harry is rushing now, his blood screaming through his veins, and then he gasps and spasms and erupts, ribbons of pearl arcing through the air, then staining the burgundy sheets. Stephen growls in triumph, then speeds to his own release, his final thrust so forceful, only his own hands grasping Harry's hips keep Harry from landing in his own come with Stephen atop.

"Fuck, yes!" Stephen exclaims, then pulls out of Harry and leaps to his feet, suddenly all energy. "Yes, yes, and yes, Alex!" He is walking away, toward a door. To the toilet, Harry assumes. "Yes!" Water runs, the toilet flushes, water runs again. Harry collapses to the sheets, no longer concerned about the spunk. He is nearly asleep when Stephen returns, not fifteen seconds later. "Bloody brilliant," says Stephen. Harry thinks Stephen may just talk in his sleep, so that he never needs to stop talking. At least he doesn't say anything offensive.

Harry manages to get up, then. "Do you have a flannel, or...?" and he indicates his belly.

"So, so lovely," Stephen says and shakes his head musingly.

Harry waits a few moments, then says, "Flannel?"

"Oh, sorry. In the loo. Have a shower if you like. Do feel at home."

Harry thinks he can feel Stephen's eyes on him as he passes on the way to the loo. It's a small WC but perfect, really. It even has a bidet, though he has no idea how to use one. There is a towel-warmer which holds three yellow towels, three hand towels and three flannels. Obviously, Stephen has a maid service. Harry closes the door, then avails himself of a flannel and the inexcusably gorgeous shower, all polished chrome and white ceramic and frosted glass. He takes a warm towel and is slightly uncomfortable with how thick it is. It feels unwieldy and unnecessary, and adds to his discomfort at having his routine broken. He has to control his breathing to calm himself, but he leaves the loo as quickly as possible, doing his best to fasten the towel about his waist.

When he returns to the bedroom, Stephen is still naked and lounging prone on the bed, reading from a portable PC. He is beautiful. There are faint freckles on his shoulders atop the salon tan. Harry moves toward the bed to retrieve his pants.

"There's a hamper in the loo, left of the door," Stephen says with a smile.

Harry goes to find the hamper, tosses in the towel, and slips his pants on before returning to the bedroom. His jeans have been hung over the back of a lounge chair at the far side of the room, so he heads that way.

"You needn't go, Alex," Stephen says, then snaps the computer closed. "You're very welcome to stay the night." He places it on the bedside table, then stands, his cock a lewd bit of distraction, still a bit large from their session. "I'd really enjoy the company."

Harry considers it. He considers that tomorrow is Thursday, and that he has nothing pressing until the 18th, five days hence. He considers that a bit of unpredictability added to his schedule cannot hurt. He's nearly due to relocate anyway, and then this will all be moot. Besides, the fact that Stephen wishes to fit in a few more fucks before morning is only to be expected and means nothing. So he approaches the bed, struck again by the man's blinding smile. He has to look away until Stephen turns, to turn down the sheets and climb in. He then beckons to Harry with a smile and wraps him in warm, strong arms as the lights dim to black.

*//*

"Well, your mood certainly has improved," she says, pulling her hair off of her back where it has begun to cling to her perspiration.

"It's a far better assignment than I'd initially expected," Draco says, rolling out of bed and padding to the bath. "I'm convinced it's a renegade wizard. I've a meeting with the Coroner's pathologist in fifteen minutes." He spells himself clean, spells his hair to its usual perfection, then winks at himself in the mirror. His image cocks an eyebrow, but looks impressed nonetheless.

"In Muggle London? At this time of night?"

"Why yes, Auror Hazelton," he teases, returning from the loo. "However shall you get along without me?" He dodges a pillow with grace and bows. "Cassiopeia, then. Is that better?"

"Yes," she says, pouting. "I hate it when you call me Auror Hazelton in bed."

"We're not in bed, darling."

"And I hate it when you say 'darling' with such blatant sarcasm."

"I would apologise, but I simply can't be arsed about you at all." A flick of his wand causes white pants and undershirt to dance onto his body. Another, and a Muggle shirt, suit and tie appear, to join the rest on his (admittedly perfect) form. It would never do, for Draco Malfoy to pull his trousers up one leg at a time. "Don't wait up--I shan't return tonight."

"How ever did I think having a tumble with you would be a good idea?" she mutters.

"I don't believe you were thinking at the time, lovely Cassiopeia, for you knew even then that I am nothing if not a right bastard. Good evening to you." He bows, removing an imaginary hat before straightening and leaving the room. It can be tiring, always performing, but there is really no other way for him. He floos to the Leaky Cauldron, then Apparates from there to just outside the Westminster Public Mortuary in Horseferry Road.

Inside, the pathologist has only just arrived, and he approaches at Draco's entrance. "Mr Malfoy, I presume?" he asks.

"Dr Sonnenfeld. A pleasure."

"Please, Mr Malfoy. If you'll follow me." They travel a short corridor, then move through doors into another, which is more brightly lit. There is an examination room at the end of the corridor, which they enter presently. The smell reminds Draco of a potions laboratory. "I'm told by the Coroner you are to have full access to the cadaver...?"

"Yes. Were there any foreign objects removed from the body?"

"None at all."

"You did perform the post mortem?"

"Yes, Mr Malfoy."

"All right. I will need to perform my own tests, if you don't mind. Do you have a calling card?"

"Of course." He fishes in a pocket, then hands it over. "Shall I leave you, then?"

"Thank you." Draco waits until the doctor has left, then pulls out his wand and wards the doors. From a pocket, he retrieves his duffle and restores it to normal size. Inside there are several scrolls of parchment, as well as glass phials and jars. And a shrunken table, which he restores, to rest his duffle on. He places the calling card beside it.

He holds his wand just above the cadaver's head, then runs it in a straight line toward its feet. It is a standard medical charm and shows him that, apparently, the man's neck's been broken. More useful, is that he can see that there is trauma beneath the skin, indicating handholds. He takes a sheet of parchment from the duffle, then uses a spell to transfer the impressions of those hands to it. Unfortunately, there is nothing more.

On to the next stage, then. He uses another spell to examine the body for anything foreign. Most of it is added since the murder--sutures, primarily. But here and there is a bit of perspiration. He adds the doctor's signature (lifted from his calling card) to his spell to rule out that source and there--on the cadaver's face, seeped into the skin. The killer has left a smear of his own perspiration, and a few cells of skin. Draco summons this foreign matter into a phial, then sets it aside as well.

The next stage is a long-shot. The man's been dead too long, but protocol is clear. Draco attempts a specialised form of Legilimency, to see if there are any memories remaining in the dead man's brain. But there are none. In fact, the brain is highly traumatised, from its removal and replacement into the cadaver's skull. Draco's lip curls in disgust, though he doesn't realise it.

Unfortunately, there are no further tests he can perform on the body itself. The sample he has collected, however, is actually extremely promising. He returns to the phial and his kit, pulling out another phial, though this one is coloured. Then, he removes a miniature pensieve. He transfers the sample to the coloured phial, swirls it once, twice, thrice to the right; once, twice to the left, then drinks it in one go.

A second passes, perhaps two, before he is doubled over in pain. But it is nothing to what follows: A vision of ginger hair in flames, and of a melting face. Two figures intertwined in hideous death. It is a vision he had shared--a vision he remembers, as if it were yesterday. It is a vision of the deaths of Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, and Draco Malfoy suddenly has no doubt who this Muggle assassin is.

*//*

Harry is already awake when Stephen's alarm chimes. It's lovely, like the rest of the flat. The clock has a sun-spectrum light on it, that has been brightening for the past twenty minutes. Now a little Zen-chime is struck by a tiny wooden mallet. Harry could lie here and listen to the sound for hours.

He feigns sleep as Stephen stirs, and places a gentle kiss against the back of his head. An equally gentle hand runs from his hip to his knee, then withdraws. The alarm is shut off as Stephen rolls off the opposite side of the bed, then heads for the loo. Now left alone, Harry turns to lie on his back, staring at the cream-coloured ceiling and wondering whether staying here last night had been one of his better plans. Three times, he'd been awakened by his insatiable host. The first time, Stephen had been kissing his neck and pulling him off. The second and third, the man had actually been pressing into him.

If he were to be perfectly honest with himself, Harry would have to admit that he'd enjoyed the sex immensely; and under duress, he would also admit to enjoying the company. He might even be inclined to admit that he enjoys the accoutrements of wealth--the comfortable bed, for a start, and the shower that gives consistently warm water.

However....

None of these admissions are important in the grand scheme, for in reality, Harry is a murderer, and even in Britain, he would go to prison for a very long time, if he were to be caught. With a successful extradition, the Americans would be able to kill him. So he must remain vigilant, and he cannot draw attention of any kind. Stephen is far too rich, to not draw attention.

Still, it is a tempting dream--he's so tired, and so empty, and sometimes it seems that feeling nothing on a beach in Fiji would be preferable to feeling nothing in a dingy bedsit in Bloomsbury or Camden Town. Certainly, feeling Stephen's cock pounding him into silken sheets is preferable to both.

Stephen emerges in a cloud of steam, naked and radiant, and Harry thinks he may already be getting addicted to the sex. He knows without doubt that if he were to stretch now, and make some little sound of questioning, that his host would be over him in seconds with a jutting cock and a hot mouth. So he lies perfectly still, and watches from beneath nearly closed lashes, as Stephen dresses in extremely expensive Nike fitness gear, then takes a garment bag from the wardrobe.

The man kneels at the side of the bed and lays his burden over a knee. "Alex?" he whispers quietly, and runs the back of his hand against Harry's face. Harry opens his eyes slightly, to see a somewhat less radiant version of Stephen's smile. It is still lovely. "Sorry to wake you...I'm off to my training, then work. I won't return until seven or so tonight."

"Sorry," Harry says, realising with a start that he should have been up as well, and leaving.

But before he can sit, Stephen is pressing a warm hand against Harry's sternum. "You needn't get up. I'm only waking you to say goodbye. There's a toothbrush for you in the loo. And I've left a key here," he says and points out a key on the bedside table. "There's money on the bar, under the mug, if you'd like to order food, yeah? Or whatever you like." He takes a moment to think, then, "If you've work today..... Well, I'd be very pleased if you came back. But if not...." He trails off and searches Harry's face again. Harry can't tell if the man has found any answers, but he accepts the kiss against his forehead without flinching. "It was good knowing you, Alex."

"Yeah," says Harry, so very eloquently he could almost kick himself. Only, he's quite used to it. "Ta."

Stephen's smile broadens again, and then he is up again and sweeping out of the room, leaving only a clean, slightly herbal scent and the memory of his presence. The latter will linger far longer in Harry's mind.

He dozes later than he should, then wakes feeling surprisingly refreshed. Normally, extra sleep only feels detrimental, but he'd got less sleep last night than was his habit (and infinitely more sex). So he goes to the loo, takes a clean flannel, then showers using the same soap Stephen had used. It smells just as lovely now as it had on Stephen, he thinks. He finishes, dries himself, then opens the new toothbrush. It's still wrapped in cellophane and paperboard. He brushes his teeth, then decides to nose about a bit, as he'd been planning to do last night.

He opens the medicine chest and is immediately stunned.

What in bloody--? He thinks, but doesn't get much further. The entire chest is filled with little prescription bottles--like those you'd get from the chemist. Harry doesn't recognise a single name, other than the name of his host. These bottles all belong to Stephen Heay.

He closes the chest carefully, so as not to disturb the contents any more than he already has, then returns to the bedroom to dress. In the sitting room, he finds that Stephen has left lights burning for him and so, Harry has no difficulty avoiding furniture on his way to the bar. There, as promised, sits an overturned mug, and inside is a roll of banknotes. There are ten ten-pound notes, ten twenty-pound notes, and ten fifty-pound notes. Harry's stomach attempts to wrench itself out of his body--it is excruciating. Eight hundred pounds, he thinks. He sets the fortune back under the mug and wipes his hands on his jeans. He wonders whether Stephen perhaps thinks him a prostitute, but it doesn't fit. And it's far too much money. So Harry stops thinking and leaves, only taking the key so that he can lock the door behind himself. He will simply return it in the Post.

He walks the few miles from Soho to Camden Town, finds his training kit and moves on to the dojo. He trains there every day, as do the others in Janus's employ--at least, the others whose work is of a more physical nature. This is not truly an open dojo, though a few classes are taught by the Sensei, as a front. Harry is far earlier than usual, however, and is alone, today. He performs his katas, then trains with a bag and does his isometrics--push-ups, crunches, pull-ups on the bar. Two hours pass by the time he is stretching, and then another half hour is gone and others have come in. None of them say much--most offering only a nod or a grunt. Only Kallas, (and Harry is fairly certain that isn't his given name), says more than two words: "Early today, then, Henry."

Harry simply nods, then waves and heads off again, back to his flat. He does not think about Stephen.

*//*




Part 2 by colibri

Author's Notes:


Please see part 1 for all notes.





Draco is still shaken when he returns to the Aurors' offices in the morning, though neither his mental nor emotional state is anyone else's business, and so unapparent to their eyes. A litany of impossibility plays itself repeatedly through his mind: Harry is dead. Harry has to be dead. He'd left Draco after learning that only his own sacrifice could defeat Voldemort. He'd left despite Draco's insistence there must be another way. He'd left Draco alone, when all they'd had left was each other. Bloody Gryffindor. And Harry hadn't returned. Surely that meant Harry was dead, for why would he not have returned to Draco? It's inconceivable.

"Draco!"

A voice finally breaks through his distraction and he answers without thought. "Yes."

"To my offices, please."

So Draco follows Head Auror Hazelton to her offices and closes the door. He looks at her expectantly, feeling nothing at all for her. It's not so big a change, really. He'd not felt much for her before, either--only lust. Occasionally.

"Anything interesting last night?" she asks, as if he should already have realised she would wish to know this.

"Nothing useful," Draco lies. "Bloody Muggles have taken the entire body apart, then reassembled it again. The pieces are deader than the whole."

She sighs. "It was worth an attempt, anyway...." and then she peers more closely at him. "Are you all right?"

"Of course." His eyes are cold, however, and he does not know that they used to be less so, when looking at his girlfriend. Now, when she looks into his eyes, she sees...nothing. Nothing but a flat puddle of quicksilver. She does not know how she so quickly lost his regard. It saddens her, but she is less than shocked, certainly.

"Well, then," she says. She's never been one to beg for a lover, and certainly not one so hopelessly damaged as Draco Malfoy. Perhaps he's found some new conquest who is more interesting--more beautiful, more cultured, more pure-blood...wealthier, perhaps--though finding another woman more all of these things than Cassiopeia Hazelton, would be difficult in this post-war era. "What is your next course of action, Auror Malfoy?"

"The Muggles claim to have more evidence from previous...events. I will begin there."

She nods, then dismisses him without further comment. He is still the best Auror they have.

Draco is relieved his meeting with her has gone so painlessly. Even he can admit to being too focussed on more important things, just now. Like how he is going to find Harry. But he'd known Harry. Three years, they'd been an item. Three traumatic years. But Merlin, they'd been perfect together. Harry had been Draco's equal in every respect. His perfect match. He'd been furious when Harry left, and convinced he would never forgive the idiot for his heroism. But Harry had died, and ten years had passed, and now....

Draco will comb Muggle London, person-by-person if need be. But he knows where he'll start: Soho.

*//*

He's not certain why he's walked in here, and he thinks he may look slightly disreputable in his beanie and overlarge clothing. He never had got used to the way Draco had wished to dress him....

But thoughts like that are right out. Instead, he considers the twenty-five quid he has in his pocket and ends up at the rear. The place is deserted but for the young woman in a white coat. "Can I help you, sir?" she asks, and smiles.

"Er," says Harry, still at a loss. But then he says, "Can you tell me what Truvada is?"

She cocks her head and looks at him peculiarly. Then she says, "It's a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir. A 2-NRTI. But I think you'd like a simpler explanation?"

Harry blinks at her dumbly.

"It's part of a treatment regimen for HIV."

"Oh," Harry says after several seconds silence. "Thank you." And then he leaves again, his mind reeling. Truvada had been the only name he could recall from Stephen's medicine chest this morning. That means Stephen is HIV-positive...that he's dying....

But...

But he hadn't looked sick. He hadn't seemed sick at all. In fact, he'd seemed far healthier than most blokes Harry noticed walking along the pavement. He saw so much overweight lately, and so many red faces hinting at hypertension to anyone with eyes to see.

Harry wanders to the bazaar at Camden Town and loses himself in fetish and goth shops, shops for club kids, art shops, and smoke shops. He stops in at an Indian restaurant and has a curry for dinner, then wanders the further hours until sunset. It's nothing spectacular, grey as the day had been. The dinginess merely deepens, and then he finds himself moving on again, his mind drawn inexorably back to Stephen and his lot. The man had seemed so...so happy. So warm and affable and gregarious. And so...open-hearted, Harry supposes. He can't recall the last time he'd felt so special; and in a way that hadn't been completely emasculating. Being the Boy Who Lived had always felt more like a death sentence placed on some random fool, than it had like being appreciated for his own soul. It's an unfortunate thing that he no longer has a soul. Poor Stephen. Harry has a feeling Stephen deserves so much more than the husk of a man Harry has become.

And yet. He'd not even noticed himself using the key to get in the security door, nor knocking upon the door before him.

He's noticed it now, though--as well as the look of surprise on Stephen's lovely face as he stands there at the open door, in naught but a dressing gown and a sheen of wet, a towel draped across his left shoulder. "Alex!" he says.

"Er...sorry." Bloody eloquent.

"No, no. Come in. I'd hoped...." but not too fervently. The words remain unsaid, but Harry hears them anyway, and blushes.

"I took the key," Harry says, and holds it up.

"Of course." Stephen is overcoming his shock very quickly indeed, that impossible smile replacing his confusion. "Please, make yourself at home."

"I saw your medicine chest." Fuck fuck FUCK. Why do I speak at all?? It sounds awful, so accusing. And it sounds like an explanation for why he'd left, though he'd needed no such reason at the time.

It stops Stephen, but not in the way Harry is expecting. "Well, if I'd been overly concerned about you looking into my things, I wouldn't have left you here alone, yeah?" He smirks. "Certainly you'd expected no less, though? I'm actually doing quite well. Minimally symptomatic. And the meds are essentially a perfect fit for me. Quite fortunate. Do you mind if I get dressed? I haven't had supper yet--only just got in."

"I don't mind," Harry says, his confusion a nearly palpable thing. There is a little line between his brows.

Stephen notes it and stops. "Hang on..." The smile is gone. "Oh no...Alex." He sounds so disappointed, it makes Harry's belly clench.

"I'm sorry...." Harry says, though he has no idea why.

"You didn't know."

About the HIV. Had Stephen somehow expected him to know? "Did you tell me?"

One of Stephen's hands strays absently toward his ear, but he notices it once it touches. "I thought...you were at Wilde's, and you're queer.... But you don't know. The earring," he says and touches the little silver cross again. "It's a bhivaring."

"A beaver ring?" What's that to do with HIV?

"B H I V A," Stephen explains, a hint of smile returning, though it is sad, now. "British HIV Association. Queer men who are HIV-positive have taken to wearing the bhivarings so we needn't be concerned about how to tell any possible partners. This way, everyone is supposed to know from the start. It's a little plus symbol, you see?"

"Oh. Yeah... I didn't know."

"I feel terrible."

"Don't feel terrible. I'm not concerned. I was only surprised."

"I wore condoms every time I fucked you, Alex. I want you to know that."

"I'm not concerned," Harry insists, because he truly isn't. If he were concerned about his own death, he'd be in an entirely different line of work. "You could fuck me now if you like."

The effect is nearly instantaneous, from concerned gentleman to predator in a heartbeat, pupils dilated and a tongue darting out to moisten suddenly dry lips. "Ah--I believe supper might be--" but he doesn't pull away when Harry kisses him.

"You could have me for supper," Harry whispers against his lips.

But, "I can't skip a meal, Alex.... Constant vigilance. Food, exercise, meds. The triumvirate of my existence." So apologetic.

Harry takes another kiss, then lets him go. "I'll be here when you're ready," he says.

Stephen appraises him with shining eyes, then turns to jog into the bedroom. Harry is left standing alone, completely certain he has no idea what he's getting himself into, nor why. Only, perhaps, that it has something to do with Stephen's guileless nature and easy smile.

*//*

Jules never did ask him about Cassiopeia. It's a single point in Jules's favour. Another is the man's willingness to leave Draco be. This is vital, since their desks are in such close proximity, and since Draco has no intention of telling anyone what he has found (or failed to find) about Harry. He has simply come to work, then left almost immediately after, with his case. The Ministry is practically in Soho, so all he needs to do is change into Muggle clothing, then continue his search. Over the past three days, he's visited some twenty pubs, but he's had no luck so far. He'd been hoping for a glimpse, and so has been using a glamour, but most of the pubs aren't even open this early, and those that are have a different clientele than Draco would expect Harry to seek out. Older queens, mostly.

Today, Draco has come armed with a photograph. It's a wizarding photo, but one he's charmed to look like a Muggle photo. It's frozen in time, but otherwise, shows Harry's face clearly. He will spend today showing it about and hoping for recognition.

He is still dreadfully unsettled by the entire affair, and has begun to think that perhaps Harry's mind had been lost. Certainly, whatever ritual the shamen he'd fled to had forced him to perform, in order to kill him--and thusly destroy the final Horcrux keeping Voldemort from true, irrevocable death--would have taken a lot out of him. In this light, it should be less than surprising that Harry isn't himself. It isn't that he's a murderer--it's simply that he's lost his way, and likely fell in with the wrong people to show him back. It also explains why he never returned to Draco, which is a far more distracting problem for Draco, himself.

He walks into another anonymous pub and approaches another anonymous older man behind the counter. "Excuse me, sir," he says to the publican. "I'm looking for this man--he's been missing for some time," and he shows the photo.

The gentleman takes a glance at the photo, then shakes his head. "Don't think I'd recall if I'd seen him. We get loads of chickens in here, come evening hours."

Draco waits until he has eye contact, then performs a bit of subtle Legilimency. It's not exactly proper, but neither is his entire investigation, at this stage. Despite his lack of qualms, he's been singularly unsuccessful in gaining even a weak lead. This time, however, his ruthlessness has paid off. He sees a fleeting shimmer of someone who can only be Harry, dressed all in black, his forehead no longer bearing that telltale scar. Harry's hair is cut short. Excessively so, in fact. It pains Draco's heart, while somehow, also managing to be oddly attractive. Unfortunately there is only one visit in the publican's mind, and so this isn't a regular haunt for Harry. Still, it's something, and Draco is chuffed.

He withdraws gracefully from the man's mind, then smiles and thanks him before retreating. He'll continue his search with a slightly lighter heart, now that his hope has been restored. In the publican's memory, Harry had most certainly been alive.

*//*

Harry has spent the last several days overdosing on sex. Stephen works extreme hours and so Harry'd spent most of Friday alone, at first going out to train, then returning home to recover from the previous night's sport. Stephen happens also to have quite an impressive collection of pornography, which Harry had sampled at length with...well, somewhat embarrassing results. His prick had been sore and Stephen had laughed at him, but in a nice way. The weekend had been spent mostly in bed, though Stephen had helped him move furniture in the sitting room so he'd have space to perform his katas. Stephen had, predictably, quite enjoyed watching that, and it had led to even more sex.

But now it is Monday, and Harry has a meeting with Janus. He is leery of going, and finds he'd much rather continue his fling with Stephen, than begin preparations for another hit. They've been so all-consuming lately, with the targets getting so very prominent. Harry has a niggling feeling that something is going on he'd rather not be a part of, though he never asks whom or what the jobs are for.

Stephen insists on giving Harry a lift to Camden Town on his way to the health club, though it's in the completely opposite direction. So Harry is very, very early for his meeting. Of course, he'd simply told Stephen he needed to fetch a few things from his flat. So he goes to train at the dojo before his meeting instead, and has time to shower in his flat's horror-of-a-loo before meeting with Janus.

Perhaps it is his generally fresh feeling that gives Harry the courage (or stupidity) to answer Janus's courteous 'Mornin', Henry--all right?' with a, 'Yeah, been considering a bit of a holiday,' instead of keeping to the pleasantries.

"Holiday?" Janus says, and Harry feels the air cool. It is not a good thing. But now he's said it, so....

"Just for a bit. The last two jobs were a bit of a strain. I thought, perhaps a month."

"Ah," says Janus, then nods curtly. "Something change in your life, Henry? Something you need to take care of? You've never asked for time before."

"No--" he says, perhaps a bit too hastily. "Only that the last two were parliamentarians, yeah? And I'm slightly concerned that taking on another hit of that magnitude so soon, will serve to give the Yard too much evidence. I've had such smashing luck so far, but...." He thinks that sounded reasonable. In fact, it should be true. He is only more concerned with spending time with Stephen because he's a bloke and addicted to sex.

Janus spends several moments observing Harry, and Harry is reminded of certain figures from his past who also had such all-seeing eyes. Harry hopes Janus has less skill than those others had. "All right, Henry," he says. "Have a holiday, and we'll see you in, what, a month? Monday, fifteenth of November."

"That's brilliant, Janus. Thank you!" Harry can't believe it's been this easy, but he shan't complain. He jogs to his flat, exhilarated, and showers the acrid sweat from his body. He'd not been trembling during his meeting, but it had been close. He dresses again in another set of black, then heads to the barber shop for a touch-up, before replacing his beanie on his head and spending another day at the bazaar. He's been dead for so long, he can't even place the feeling that makes his heart skip and his skin overly sensitive. And though he feels quite alert, his accustomed level of paranoia seems somewhat diminished. Unfortunately, the minutes snail away, with Harry checking his mobile seemingly hundreds of times before it is finally 18.30, and he feels justified in jogging back to Stephen's flat.

By the time he has showered and shaved, Stephen is (finally) home. He does not at all mind that Harry is randy as a goat and draws him into sex before any words are spoken. Only after the deed is done, does Stephen laugh breathlessly, and offer a belated, "Well, good evening to you, Alex."

"Sorry," says Harry, but he doesn't feel at all sorry this time. He's quite pleased with himself, actually. "Should I make supper?"

"You needn't cook--"

"I'm quite a passable cook, with the proper motivation. You shower, I cook. Seems fair."

Stephen chuckles, then turns up onto his elbow and props his head on his hand. "If that's what you desire, then that's as it shall be."

Harry beams, kisses Stephen quickly on the lips, then slides on his underpants before heading to the kitchen. Even the heating works perfectly in Stephen's flat--though Harry supposes if the shower works, the heating should be expected to work.

Harry finds left over rice from Saturday and decides they'd best eat it today. He takes out lamb steaks, which also need to be eaten, and fresh coriander. Fresh tomatoes, one onion, garlic, vegetable stock. He heats the stock in a fry pan until it is very hot, chopping the onion and garlic as he goes. They go in the pan first and he sautes them until they're soft, adding more stock when the other runs out. He cubes the steak as he waits. Once the onions and garlic are caramelised, he adds the lamb and more stock, then chops four tomatoes, which he adds a few minutes later, along with curry paste. An additional five minutes and he turns off the heat, adding a cover to the pan. The rice goes into the microwave for one minute. He has exactly enough time to chop the fresh coriander, load the plates and place the coriander atop, before Stephen appears. His timing could not have been better, and he finds himself disproportionately satisfied. His satisfaction nearly turns to preening, when he sees Stephen's pleased surprise.

"Well--I suppose I shouldn't doubt your skills," Stephen says, and they sit down to eat.

Harry hadn't realised how starving he'd been, until he takes the first bite. He'd entirely forgotten to eat today, what with his anxiety over this morning's meeting with Janus, and then his altogether strange mood the remainder of the day.

"How was work today?" asks Stephen. He is always attempting to (gently) draw Harry into conversation. It works only occasionally, but those occasions have grown more frequent in the past day or two.

"Smashing, actually," Harry says and beams. "I've asked for a bit of time off and he gave it."

"Did you have plans, then?" Stephen asks warily.

But Harry is only confused by his reaction. "Well...I...." Indeed. What had he thought? He'd simply wished to spend a bit less time on the murdering and more on the sex. "Mainly I thought it might be nice to..." how to put it? "spend a bit of time learning you."

Now Stephen looks incredulous. "You want to go on holiday?"

Harry shrugs. "I think your flat is very nice."

But Stephen laughs. "How much time have you taken?"

"Until the fifteenth of November."

"Well that's brilliant for you," says Stephen with a smirk, but it's apparent to Harry that he is only teasing, for it's also quite apparent that he's chuffed that Harry wishes to spend time with him. "I can't go this week. We've a deadline. But hold a mo'." He retrieves his mobile, presumably to go through his schedule. "I can take next week. We need to be back for Halloween, though. There's a fancy dress party at Wilde's I never miss. It's fab, truly."

Harry has traditionally skipped any fancy dress parties, in favour of hiding in whatever bedsit he's hired at the time. He thinks he will wait to see whether he and Stephen are even on friendly terms by the time Halloween arrives, before he will be overly concerned about altering his habit.

"Or, hang on. If you can wait until after Halloween, I'll take two weeks. We can go someplace warm and exotic. Brazil?"

Harry has never been to Brazil. "Whatever you like. As long as great mounds of fucking are involved."

Stephen laughs and laughs, and assures him that it shan't be a problem.

*//*

It's taken Draco nearly two weeks to get this far, but he's finally found Harry. Or, at least, he's found the place he shall find Harry. It's a pub, a bit darker than most, with a clientele that ranges far more severely than most of the other queer pubs he's seen, (and he has now seen many). There are more women, for one thing, and the publican seems to prefer dressing as a lady, though he doesn't make a particularly attractive lady. Draco had shown the photo first, as usual, then watched her face (he still has difficulty thinking of the publican as a 'her') go curious. "Missing, you say?" she'd responded, with a certain degree of mistrust. "And who are you, his keeper?"

Draco generally has little patience, but after this lady's particular reaction, he'd had even less patience than usual. He'd raped her mind as quickly as a thought, then Obliviated the deed. His pillaging had been extraordinarily fruitful. Not only had she seen Harry recently; but she'd also seen Harry less recently, and even longer ago than that. From what Draco could make out, Harry had been a regular customer for years, always sitting alone in the back, attempting to avoid notice; always in black, his head covered by a knit cap. She'd known him as 'Henry' but had never asked his name, and only recently, had been embarrassed to find out that his name was Alex. Her own name, at least in drag, is Sue. Draco thinks it likely Harry had gone by both, for it is rare for people to get that bollocksed up about names.

Regardless, it seems that Harry had been in here not two weeks ago, but at that time, he'd left with a bloke named Stephen, another regular customer. In fact, Stephen was an even more regular regular than Harry--a nearly nightly regular--yet neither had been back since. Sue had decided that they were an item. Draco has not punished her for her folly, but only because he's particularly pleased by the information she has provided.

"Can I help you, luv?" Sue asks now, as if she's not already asked it before.

But Draco is expecting this. He sits down at the counter and says, "Bread of Heaven."

"Sorry, luv. We haven't got the Brains special brews."

"Dark, then."

He turns round to watch the patrons, but it takes only seconds to assure himself Harry is not here. He pulls a note from his pocket without looking at it and places it on the counter. "When's the best time to meet blokes here?" he asks conversationally.

Sue sets down his ale and smiles knowingly. "Depends what types of blokes you're interested in now, doesn't it? We get all kinds. Even get a few mixed pairs looking for a third. We're very open, here."

"I'm new to the Scene," Draco hints. "Haven't been to many pubs in the area before."

She looks surprised, but only mildly so. "Well then, we're a safe place to start--not so standoffish, here. Though I would suggest not approaching those who linger in dark corners. Some of our regulars vehemently prefer their privacy. Oh, and do watch for the bhivarings, if you prefer men who are HIV-negative. We encourage you to get one if you're positive. Openness and education have been our saving grace."

It takes Draco a moment to place the name HIV, but it still doesn't mean much to him. He tends to remain out of the Muggle world as much as he can, whilst still maintaining his ability to blend in. He nods noncommittally. None of this is particularly interesting for him. But then--

"Oh! And I nearly forgot! Halloween night we hold a fabulous fancy dress party," she gushes. "There will be thousands of blokes here." Draco thinks that might be a but of overstatement. "Our guests always overflow the house and spill out onto the pavement."

"Halloween? Will Stephen or Alex be here?"

There's a look of confusion, as she wonders how Draco could have known the two, but then Draco is ploughing through her mind again and finding his answer. By the time his Obliviate clears, he is on his way back to the Ministry. He has a Halloween fest to prepare for.

*//*

"What's wrong with my jeans?" Harry asks. "They're still black, yeah?"

"It's not that there's anything wrong with them, Alex. It's only that I want to help you. And it pleases me to give you things. Surely you can understand that."

"You pay for everything! Even when I try to take the cheque, you give them your card!"

"Alex, love... Please don't be angry with me."

Harry can't help it--he's furious. He's never felt so coddled. He's never been so coddled! And part of him fears that he's losing his ability to care for himself. Two weeks with Stephen and already he's losing his independence. He's been back to his flat twice since his meeting with Janus, and the first had been that same day.

Now Stephen wishes to take Harry shopping at some designer clothing boutique or some such, and Harry is having none of it. He has plenty of clothing already--three pair black jeans, two black polo-neck shirts, three black tee shirts, one black knit jumper and two black knit caps. Plus his training gis and undergarments. He can fit everything in his duffle, which is exactly as it should be.

Perhaps more importantly, however: expensive clothing shops always have CCTV cameras, and Harry wants as little of that as he can manage. It's bad enough they have them in nearly every public place, now. They've become a plague throughout the city and even through to the outer city. When he needs to use his Invisibility Cloak for a job these days, he has to wear it the entire way from his flat because there's no safe place to put it on! "I don't want anymore clothing, yeah?" Harry says, firmly, but with a bit less vehemence than he had before. He's willing to forget this row, but he's not willing to change his mind.

"All right," Stephen says, holding his hands out a bit--it's a slightly defensive gesture, as if Harry is some skittish (or perhaps rabid) animal that needs to be calmed. "I'm sorry."

Harry shrugs and works harder at calming his breathing. In through the nose, out through the nose. In--

"Would you prefer going to Wilde's without a costume?"

"I'd rather not discuss this just now!" Harry exclaims, then is immediately embarrassed by his lack of control. "I need air," he declares, and leaves Stephen to sigh and stew. But it's better this way. Far better. Remaining in Stephen's presence is only provoking Harry further. He needs some time alone. He needs to think--to somehow cope with this sudden deluge of...of feelings. He is drowning. He is completely out of his depth.

He walks the streets he knows, (managing to have not a single useful thought the entire time, despite his best intentions), and eventually comes to his bedsit. The place is poorly lit, one of the street lamps flickering fitfully whilst another just in front has given up the ghost. He steals inside and to his rooms, then looks about whilst throwing the bolts behind him.

Nothing has changed. There is still nothing here but the linen on the bed. Everything else of his, he'd put into his duffle and taken to Stephen's. It's so very convenient...owning nothing more than an armload of things.

He heads to the kitchen and opens the fridge, wherein he finds exactly one litre of spoilt milk and a half-eaten packet of Hob-Nobs that smell a bit like the spoilt milk. He tosses both in the bin, then takes the liner for disposal when he leaves--which he does presently.

Stephen is a good person. Harry starts thinking, and that is the first place his mind goes: to the fact that Stephen is a good person. And then it moves on to the fact that Harry is not. A good person, that is. Harry has become, in this his second life, a very bad person, in fact. He hasn't killed as many as Voldemort had, certainly, but...well, it's very near now, isn't it? If one were to only reckon Voldemort's total by those he killed with his own magic. Harry has used many weapons to kill since entering Janus's employ, but those murders he feels were most foul, are those he committed with his own two hands. Like Lord Carlton.

And so, there is the fact of murder. But even more damning, is the fact that he's not entirely certain he hasn't enjoyed the killing. Lord Carlton had disgusted him as a person, and he'd certainly felt no remorse since killing the man. He'd found the challenge of offing the other two lords quite invigorating. And there had been a large number of truly worthless people whom he has (permanently) relieved of their daily burdens. In fact, there's been no assignment too taxing for his conscience so far, and he thinks that while that likely has something to do with the men (for they've all been men) he's been assigned; it may also have something to do with the quiet erosion of said conscience.

The importance of these thoughts is this: Harry's fall from of grace has made him entirely undeserving of someone as good and sweet and kind and gentle (and attractive and lustful and wealthy) as Stephen Heay. Only then...

Then, he is abruptly reminded of Draco Malfoy, and his stomach decides to implode. It is fortunate that he's not eaten in hours, for he is in the centre of some darkened alleyway whose name he did not mark in passing, and is now dry-heaving against a wall. Even better is the fact that he is not alone.

"Aw, that's bloody luvly, chief. 'Ere's an idea--how about you gip in yer own gaff next time, righ'?"

Harry stumbles away as quickly as he can, deciding that he's done quite enough thinking for one night. Unfortunately, it always takes more than a desperate decision to get Draco from his mind. In fact, it normally takes several hours at the dojo. Draco's is a presence far larger than any ordinary mortal's--uneclipsable, unignorable, indescribable. And Harry had revelled in his attentions for years--three peerless years--shamelessly delaying the inevitable denouement of his tale. The tale of Harry Potter and the Demon Inside Him. He'd thought himself deserving, then, (on some level, at least), of Draco's affections, if not love. But he is no longer the hero he once was. There is nothing left of his soul that is deserving.

Harry spends the night at the dojo, training until he collapses with exhaustion, then curling up into a corner to sleep away the rest of the dark hours of morning.

*//*

"What." It's not that he hasn't heard; it's that he can't accept it.

"You haven't made any progress, you said. She thought you'd be pleased."

"When exactly did that harpy become--"

"Draco!" Jules whispers harshly. "Do calm yourself. I'm not that bloody horrifying to work with."

For the first, Draco can't believe the man interrupted him. But mainly, he has no idea why Jules would think this has anything at all to do with him--with Jules--when in fact, it has only to do with Draco's work and that bleeding cunt who thinks she's worth enough that she can tell him what to do. Draco isn't head of the bloody Department only because he enjoys field work. At this particular moment, he is not enjoying it very well.

He thinks very quickly, and not for very long, before he devises a way to salvage this. "We're off to Madam Malkin's," he says and leaves, not caring a whit if he's followed, though, of course, he is. They floo to the Leaky Cauldron, then make the not-so-leisurely walk to Malkin's in a silence that would be strained, were it not for Draco's complete lack of concern with how Jules feels.

"Malkin!" Draco calls, once he is inside, and she is instantly there. "Costumes for a fancy dress party," he says curtly, then hands her a piece of parchment with drawings on. "This was going to be for me, but now we need it for that one, instead," he says, indicating over his right shoulder toward Jules. I'll make do with a ball mask."

Malkin looks over the figures on the parchment, then nods and indicates that Jules should step up on the pedestal. "Ministry business?" she asks.

"Yes," Draco agrees. "Halloween." The Department shall most certainly pay for this. In more ways than one. He peruses the collection of masks and finds that he is partial to those full of raven feathers. He is quite possibly the loveliest man alive, but even when he holds one of the exquisite raven masks to his face, his striking silver eyes and rosebud lips would be enough to make men fall weeping at his feet. He decides that using Julian is a necessity, for Harry could never look upon even the tiniest sliver of his face and fail to recognise him. Jules, however, has never met Harry.

Draco leaves Jules in Malkin's capable hands and heads to Gringott's, where he has other, more important business to attend to. He will ensure that he returns before Jules is finished with his fitting.

*//*

"Alex...please come home." His voice says that he'd been concerned, but he doesn't say it.

"I'm downstairs," Harry admits. He'd forgotten the key.

He hears the tell-tale click once Stephen has disconnected, then the buzz of the security door being opened. He reaches Stephen's open door, looking far more like a drowned rat than he realises. It's raining out and, of course, he'd trained in his jeans, then slept in his clothes on the floor.

"Why don't you freshen up before breakfast?"

"I'm not staying," Harry mumbles, but he does head toward the shower.

"Please, Alex," Stephen appeals. "Please don't walk away from me like this--in anger."

"I'm not angry," Harry disagrees, then closes himself in the loo. He showers efficiently, mainly because he feels he doesn't deserve such a lovely shower, then stands in front of the fog-free mirror and shaves. When he finally exits the loo, Stephen is standing there, no longer so meek and accommodating, his arms crossed over his chest. Harry has to stop, because Stephen is in his way.

"Tell me why you want to leave, Alex," he says.

"No," says Harry.

Stephen is surprised. "Why not?"

"Because you can't say anything to convince me to stay. It's not important why I'm leaving."

"It is," Stephen counters. "I've a right to know why you're breaking my heart."

It is Harry's turn to be surprised. He's too surprised to say anything intelligent at all. "I'm not...doing that," he says.

"You are." Stephen softens a bit, but only slightly. "I care so deeply for you, Alex. I'd like to spend the rest of my life with you. And now you decide to walk away, without even an attempt at reconciliation. And all because I've paid for too many things? I can stop doing that, you know. I'd far prefer having you about, to choosing you a new wardrobe. Surely you can see that."

"But...you don't even know me," Harry says. It's the closest he can get to the truth. "You don't know me at all." He sounds so very small when he says it. Like he's breaking. Like he's weeping. Like a child. Harry has already lost.

"Alex," Stephen whispers and touches tentative fingers to Harry's smooth cheek. "Please, let's try again?"

Harry is so full of fear, he can't even respond. He only weeps silently into Stephen's shoulder and wishes he'd never said yes to the man that first night at Wilde's.

*//*

"Well why can't I be the bloke and you wear this...this silly frock??"

"Because you don't look queer at all, and you're going to a queer pub to attempt contact with a very skittish suspect. You will seem far less out of place if you dress a lady. Even straight men look vaguely queer when they cross-dress well and, of course, with my assistance, you are cross-dressing very well, indeed."

Jules sighs, continuing to be not-so-very helpful whilst Draco attempts to paint the man's eyes into something resembling attractiveness. It's very difficult with his eyelashes fluttering so, and the Ministry bath isn't exactly a salon.

"If you can't keep still, you'll end up uglier than you are as a man," Draco warns, a certain edge of smugness to his voice. He can't help that Julian is so unfortunate-looking. Of course, nearly everyone is dreadfully ill-favoured to Draco, and if he were to relax his standards even slightly, Jules might not be as desperately unlovely as most.

"Well it's not me wants to look like a bloody cow, is it."

"Don't sulk. This is very important work we're doing." Besides, only Draco is allowed to sulk. Ever. Why hadn't Harry returned to him?? "Have you practised the signals?"

"Of course," Jules agrees, perking at the mention. "It's the only bit worth thinking about, isn't it." Draco thinks the gown itself is quite worth thinking about. It took even Madam Malkin nearly three days to reproduce. It's Scarlett O'Hara's claret-coloured ball gown, from that dreadful American film classic Gone With the Wind. He hasn't actually seen it, but Draco isn't fairy enough to love that film.

Regardless, the gown is fab. It's mostly French silk velvet, even the train; Swarovski crystals are concentrated at the gown's bodice but also scattered throughout; and ostrich plumes cover the shoulders, the back bustle, and are artistically arranged throughout the back of the dress. Jules also wears matching gloves reaching to high on his forearms, matching velvet slippers, and a net shawl. Draco has magicked Jules's hair to match Vivian Leigh's coiffure from the film as well, which required a bit of growth as well as the styling. Overall, the entire ensemble had cost the Ministry a fortune.

And then, there is the fan: it is of black lace with claret-coloured silk trim woven in.

"One might be inclined," Draco drawls distractedly, as he finishes the final touches of Jules' makeup, "to say that the signalling would be the ponciest bit of all."

"It's not! It's a miniature language; and I love languages, anyway."

Indeed, one of Jules's few talents is his aptitude for languages. He speaks six fluently, though his Dutch is only barely so. He's wrong about the signalling not being fairy, though. "Show me, then," Draco commands, having just finished with Jules's eye-makeup. It is quite artfully done, if he does say so himself. Which is good, because the gown is breathtaking. Only Jules's too-masculine features detract from the overall effect, and that, not much. Draco could have launched a thousand ships in that gown, had it been fitted to him. Of course, he might be able to do in Muggle jeans and a tee.

But he watches as Jules runs through the signals without difficulty. They've only gone through ten different phrases, after all. Most of the fan language wasn't particularly useful for their aims, but a few were more so--'I wish to speak with you', 'Yes', 'No', and the numbers, among them--and Draco had thought it a charming idea, since Harry would certainly feel any magic being performed from as near as Draco is hoping Jules will get. Draco, however, will communicate with Jules using a charm. "All right, then--that looks perfect."

"So...will I get a photo of this suspect any time soon?" Jules asks, then plucks one of his own hairs from Draco's collar. Draco is wearing a dinner jacket, though he's gone with a claret-coloured cravat and waistcoat. His mum would have hided him for it, but it's hardly a formal event and, in any case, she's dead. He's only dressing to match Jules, though he may not even be seen with 'her'. Still, he could never not dress when he has the opportunity to look this spectacular. He's even coloured his hair black to match.

"No," says Draco. "I haven't a photo. But you'll learn all you need to know once we get there." He holsters his wand, then takes the mask in his left hand. "Wand?" He accepts Julian's as well, since there is no place to keep a wand in that gown. "Ready, then?"

"May as well get this finished."

They traverse the short distance from the Ministry to Wilde's, and find that Muggle London is as completely infatuated with Halloween as the wizarding world is. Only, the Muggles are a bit more pissed. Draco is impressed to note that though it's only 8 p.m., Wilde's is as popular as Sue had promised.

Draco assures himself Harry is nowhere to be seen, then makes his entry, Jules on his arm looking--well, as lovely as she can. He sighs, then prepares to put on a smile. "All right, Jules," he whispers into her ear. She's his height in her heels, though normally Julian is a few inches shorter. "You're looking for Harry Potter. Best of luck," and he pushes Scarlett further toward the back of the room.

She gapes at him for several seconds--perhaps half a minute--before she snaps her mouth shut again and a look of focus dominates her mien. Draco brings his hand to his mouth, whereon he wears a charmed ring, and murmurs, "Can you hear me?"

Scarlett lets the fan rest on her right cheek, smiling secretively. Yes. Unfortunately, the smile does not reach her eyes very much. It is one of the reasons Julian had not looked particularly queer. He smiles like a straight bloke.

"You know his face, yeah?"

This time, Jules just shoots him the finger and says, "Fuck you, Rhett, daaahling," and moves away. Draco feels a glimmer of pride, that he's created such a drama queen. But then he edges into a corner from which he can see the door, and settles in to wait.

For an entire three minutes. He might have missed them, if he'd not recognised the tall bloke--Stephen--who is dressed in some strange, white, full-body suit with what seems to be white plastic armour guards. He carries a large, full-face helmet under his arm and smiles as if this day is the happiest of his life. His left arm is threaded protectively round the waist of his much smaller companion, who is dressed as a ninja. Only the ninja's eyes are visible, but even had they not been enough, shining in their emerald brilliance, the way Harry moves is unmistakable. It is...poetry. Draco suddenly wishes to kill Stephen, and realises that this means Harry and Stephen are, indeed, a couple. He only now believes.

"They've just entered," he whispers discreetly into his ring. "The white...thing and the ninja."

Jules looks toward them, then makes eye-contact with Draco and touches the fan to his right cheek. Yes. Then he holds the fan over his left ear. Disappear.

Draco stands again and leaves, sure to avoid running into the two who are still at the door, attempting to press themselves into the throng. Only, just as he passes, he can't help glancing...just to see those lovely eyes again.

But oh, inconstant Fortune! Harry chooses that exact moment to look into Draco's eyes as well. Draco's breath catches--he is caught, and time stops.

Harry's eyes go wide for just a moment, but then they travel up to Draco's jet-black hair and Harry looks away, shaking his head slightly. Draco rushes out, mentally apologising for what he'd thought about his luck. He needs to wait a bit before entering again and taking up a post out of the way, yet still where he can see Jules. He'll use that time to calm himself.

*//*

"Oh, there!" says Stephen and directs Harry away.

Harry is still shaken. That man's eyes had been so like Draco's, he'd been nearly paralysed with the sight. Sometimes he misses Draco so much it scares even him, despite the fact that he's quite used to it. Still, Draco is long gone, and Stephen seems to care for him, (despite Harry's thoroughly undeserving nature). Harry does not love Stephen the way he'd loved Draco--the way he loves Draco--but he does care a great deal for Stephen.

He follows Stephen to the table where they'd first met each other, which has magically cleared for them. It's at the far corner of the room, of course, and Harry feels relief as he slides into the chair abutting the back wall. The teeming mass of people here is playing havoc with his paranoia.

"Isn't this brilliant?!" Stephen nearly shouts, to be heard over the din.

Harry nods, though he most certainly does not agree. Granted, Stephen's costume is rather brilliant. He's a Star Wars Storm Trooper. The costume was custom fitted and everything. Harry prefers Stephen naked, but the uniform is a good compromise. Harry himself had refused to shop for a costume and had simply lied to Stephen about it, claiming he wished to go alone. Instead, he'd used one of his own job kits. It was a bit worn, but not so much that it was noticeable or very faded. Stephen had liked it and had been ecstatic ever since Harry had put it on. Harry had supposed, at the time, that Stephen had taken it as a sign, that Harry had been willing to dress at all. Harry prefers not to dwell on it.

"Fancy a drink?"

Harry shakes his head. "I'm all right."

"I'll get a pint," Stephen says, then flashes his smile again before forcing his way to the bar.

Harry takes the opportunity to observe the throng of costumed wankers stumbling round arse-over-tit. Harry had somehow failed to realise that the entire greater London area was participating in some Halloween-themed Pub Crawl. Normally, the patrons wouldn't be staggering until well after midnight, but....

"Alex! Isn't she just divine??!" Stephen gushes, apparently having forgotten all about his pint. Unless he'd meant a pint of woman. Or, no...she's a man. Harry is impressed.

Harry nods.

"She's Scarlett O'Hara, from Gone With the Wind!"

"Oh," Harry says, nodding exaggeratedly, because he's certain he can't be heard over the din. He stands awkwardly, offering a hand. "Alex. Pleased to meet you."

Scarlett smiles demurely. "And you, Alex."

"Wherever did you get such a stunning replica?" Stephen continues enthusiastically, pulling up a chair for her and helping her to sit. It's quite an elaborate gown.

"My da commissioned it for me," she says. "He's having a fancy-dress ball tonight. I slipped away in the confusion," she adds conspiratorially, and Stephen laughs. Harry loves watching Stephen laugh--the way his eyes crinkle at the corners. He's just enough older than Harry that he looks mature.

There is something about the woman, however, that Harry doesn't trust. Her smiles don't quite seem to reach her eyes. Perhaps she's merely a spoilt child. But it also seems incredible that her father dressed a son up as Scarlett O'Hara.

"Which ball is it?" Stephen asks.

"Oh, I couldn't possibly say that," she says. "You might report me."

"Of course," Stephen agrees, playing along. He's so outgoing--everyone loves him immediately. Harry can admire the trait, though he doesn't covet it.

"So what do you do, Stephen?" she asks, and Harry is slightly jarred that he'd never heard Stephen offer his name. Of course, they'd already spoken before coming to Harry's table. He has to take a deep, stabilising breath.

"I work for Guardian Media," he says.

She isn't nearly as impressed as Harry expects her to be. Most would ask if he's a journalist or some such, but she doesn't. She only turns to Harry and asks, "And you?"

Harry has no desire to answer, but finds himself worrying that it would look strange. There is something strange about her eyes, when he looks into them, but he can't place it. They're lovely, though--her eyes. Deep brown, like rich earth or chocolate. Like Hermione's eyes had been. He doesn't even notice when she touches her finger to the tip of her fan.

A wrenching heave in his stomach suddenly propels him out of his daze and he stands. "I'm not feeling well," he says.

Stephen immediately stands, his face etched with worry. "Shall we go home, love?"

"I only need fresh air," Harry assures, with a little shake of his head, and is grateful when Stephen leads him out of there in seconds and they are strolling peacefully down the relatively quiet pavement. It truly had been a circus inside Wilde's. Still, it was less the circus than that Scarlett woman they'd met. Something had been quite off with her. Him. He really had made a lovely woman. Striking.

"How are you feeling, Alex?" Stephen asks after a few moments, solicitous as ever.

"Much better, thank you," Harry assures. "I might be willing to try another pub or club, if you like. Something just felt off to me at Wilde's"

Stephen is instant joy, as usual. He pulls at Harry's mask until he has exposed lips, then takes them unceremoniously in a snog of grand proportions. It seems hours before they separate for breath, and Stephen murmurs, "I wish you weren't hiding yourself so completely. It's a waste of your charms."

Harry looks doubtfully at Stephen's costume. "Stephen, your kit is even more obscuring than mine."

"I'm not nearly as lovely," Stephen counters with a wink, then puts his helmet back on. "We're off, then," he decides, and so they are.

*//*

Draco had been watching Jules's performance, ever-so-impressed. Jules had managed to ingratiate himself with Stephen in seconds, (though honestly, that was more Draco's doing, since he'd picked such a fabulous costume for the occasion). Stephen had almost immediately led Julian back to Harry, and they'd joined Harry at the table. But it had been obvious to Draco from the start, that Harry felt uncomfortable. Even without being able to see his face, Draco could feel the tension in Harry's posture. As Draco had watched, he'd seen Harry go from vague unease to alarm. And then Jules had signalled with the fan, finger to tip: Need to speak with you.

It turns out to be an easy request to accommodate, since Harry suddenly stands and, within seconds, mind, he and Stephen have left. Draco is furious. What has Julian done?? How could he bollocks this up??? "What the bloody fuck just happened?" Draco demands, as soon as he slams himself down into the chair Harry has just vacated. "Why did they leave?"

Jules looks highly pleased, though he shouldn't. "Doesn't matter," he dismisses. "We need to get back to the Ministry."

They practically run back to the office, despite the fact that Julian is wearing heels. And once they're inside, Julian rummages through a storage cupboard before leading them on to his desk. It's a pensieve he's found, and Draco thinks this is even more convenient than he'd expected. "What happened in there?" he asks, calming already, until Jules says--

"I read him."

Draco blinks, then says, "You what?"

Julian starts pulling silvery strings of memory from his temple until the little portable pensieve is nearly full.

Draco waits until Julian is finished before restating his question.

"I used Legilimency on Potter," Julian says. "He had no reaction at all when I probed him as I shook his hand. So I was a bit bolder on the second attempt, and this," he holds up the bowl gently, "is the fruit of my labour. Care to have a go?"

Draco doesn't even think before diving in. He lands in a posh hotel room, where a corpulent older gentleman sits in a dressing gown, watching the telly and enjoying his cigar and whisky. Draco sees it's a bottle of Laphroaig 40, which they haven't had available for purchase since 2007--three years ago. He knows because he'd purchased a bottle of it himself, and it had run him one thousand pounds. There's a carafe of water as well--the glass dry, as it should be. It means the water is at room temperature. Draco wonders what the occasion is, but then he sees Harry.

Harry had been hiding in the shadows, but now appears, dressed in the very same kit he'd been wearing tonight, virescent eyes flat in the dim, instead of that shimmering emerald Draco knows as quintessentially Harry. "Lord Carlton?" Harry says, his voice as soft and flat as his eyes.

The lord startles, then places his snifter on the salver with the bottles, before turning to see who has intruded. Draco is amused to see the man's priorities. "Am I next, then?" he says, full of bravado, though he's already starting to sweat. The cigar stench is impenetrable, but the smell of fear only makes it worse.

"Yes," says Harry.

"Why?"

Harry just shrugs, but even that is graceful to Draco's eye. "Move over to the bed," he says.

The man does as he's told, though Harry has no weapons of any kind that Draco can see. Still, that seems unlikely, now that Draco thinks about it, and Lord Carlton likely agrees. When the man has reached the bed, he turns round to see that he's alone again. "Wha--?"

But it is only momentary, for suddenly Harry is behind him, standing on the bed, and has his arms around the man's head.

"Please," the man whimpers. "No." But then Harry tenses and twists the man's head sharply to his right. Draco hears a wet pop and his nose scrunches in disgust as he watches Harry let the man gently down onto the bed.

He is suddenly wrenched to another memory--Jules must have been looking for something else at this point. He lands at a posh Soho apartment house and memorises the address, then follows Harry inside. It must be Stephen's place. Draco has no desire to see anything further, and so he pulls himself out again.

"Eh?" says Jules, obviously very pleased with himself.

Draco takes the contents of the pensieve and magicks them into a storage phial, then banishes the pensieve back to its cupboard. So convenient, that his wand is already out. "Obliviate!" he cries, taking far more memory from Julian than is prudent, or even safe. In fact, Julian falls, insensate, at his feet. So Draco Apparates his partner home, before going home, himself. He still has many, many preparations remaining to complete before the night is out.

*//*

Harry can't believe they're back. The flat feels somehow completely different, now that he's returning to it with Stephen. It doesn't feel quite like home, but it does feel safe, somehow, and that is worth a great deal. It also feels like Stephen, and he's got quite fond of how Stephen feels over the past two weeks. It had also been brilliant to go from nearly winter to nearly summer in only a few hours. The weather had been perfect in Rio.

He follows Stephen up the stairs, already getting randy from watching that arse in khaki pants. He pinches it.

"Oi, Alex!" Stephen scolds, but he is laughing, and it does speed him up the stairs.

"Wha'? It wer'n't me, guv'na."

"Yeah, all right then, you little hooligan. In with you!" and he stands aside so that Harry can precede him into the flat.

Inside, nothing is out of place. The maid always comes on Mondays, but otherwise, Harry doesn't feel like anyone else has been here. His instincts are generally quite good in that way.

"Back to work tomorrow, then," Stephen sighs, suddenly wrapping his arms about Harry's waist and kissing him on the top of his head. "I'll miss fucking you from sunrise to sunset."

Harry snorts, but he can't deny that the thought has him instantly...intrigued. "I shan't complain about having had the opportunity to watch you train, either," Harry admits.

Stephen groans lustily, then sets to biting at Harry's neck. "You're so beautiful," he husks. Stephen is a perfect health club specimen, but he had little experience with martial arts, and had been completely obsessed with watching Harry train. Things had got a bit more than slightly interesting, on occasion. Late-night training on the strand by firelight had more than once become naked training.

"Unpack or fuck?" Harry murmurs, certain there is no choice.

Stephen quite obviously agrees.

*//*





Part 3 by colibri

Author's Notes:


Many thanks to the wonderful Erin and Erin Dischord for their beta work. And, of course, to my dearest Pestilence, who came up with this challenge. For additional notes, please see the first Part.

Draco has been nearly mad with worry. For two weeks, Stephen's flat has been sitting empty, with no sign at all of its owner, nor of Harry. But now, suddenly, they return, and Draco is green with envy, then black with fury. He had planned so carefully. He'd been quite ready to fetch Potter after the Halloween debacle, but then Potter had disappeared before Draco had got there. Now he returns, and it's quite obvious he and Stephen are even more together than he'd been willing to believe. Has Harry somehow convinced himself that he is in love with this Muggle Methuselah?? The man must be pushing forty, and that's practically ancient for a Muggle. Besides which, he isn't even as attractive as Julian. Harry deserves far better. Harry deserves Draco, in fact, and even more importantly: Draco deserves to have his way in this, and he wants Harry.

He sits on his broom, an Obscurus charm hiding him from view, where he hovers fifteen feet from Stephen's sitting room window, and watches as that man begins to grope his Harry. And Harry is enjoying it!! Draco can hardly breathe through the rage. When the windows start rattling slightly, however, he has to admit defeat and fly off to vent elsewhere. He's waited a decade. This is worth doing correctly.

*//*

Harry is terrified, but he's made his decision, and so he gains strength from his resolve (and from the image of Stephen's face smiling from the car window). Stephen had given him a lift to Janus's actual office today, though Harry had made him promise to leave straight away. He'd confided in Stephen that he wished to give up his old job and perhaps look for a new. Stephen had brightened considerably, then said, "You're staying, then."

Harry had nodded tentatively, but then felt more confident when Stephen had embraced him. "Take as long as you like finding a new job, yeah? Perhaps you should take additional education? Study at a University?"

Harry hadn't answered that one, uncertain how he felt about the idea of further schooling. Hogwarts had been an unmitigated disaster by the end.

"Ah, Henry. Punctual, as always. Did you enjoy your holiday?"

"Yes, sir," Harry replies.

"Rested and recovered and ready for your next job, eh?"

"Well, sir...."

"Henry?"

"You see, I think that I'm about ready for a career change--it's been eleven years now, yeah?"

"Ah, I see," says Janus, then looks at his mobile. He puts it to his ear and holds out a finger to Harry, as if to say, 'Just a moment'. "Excellent.... Yes, immediately. Thank you." He folds the sliver of metal closed again, then looks back to Harry. "You were saying?"

*//*

Draco is breathing himself to calm. It's become a habit, now. Watching Harry and Stephen together is sickening. A lesser man than Draco would not have been able to cope, certainly. Even Draco is having substantial difficulty. He'd watched their almost newlywed antics this morning, then followed them to this dodgy section of Bloomsbury. He'd taken a risk, putting a listening device on Harry, but Harry had seemed oblivious to any magic so far, and though it disturbs Draco to admit that, he has, now, and so here he sits, listening to Harry's conversation.

"Ah, Henry," says someone else, his voice and pronunciation screaming of ill breeding and thuggishness. "Punctual as always. Did you enjoy your holiday?"

Harry's answer is meek and nervous. The man he is meeting is quite obviously his handler, and whether or not the man is the top boss or some underling, this man is certainly more responsible than Harry, for the murders that have been committed. And apparently, he has been for the entirety of Harry's infamous career.

"...Excellent.... Yes, immediately. Thank you," Draco hears, then suddenly, a man appears from round the side of the building. He is nondescript from the top of his head to the tips of his shoes, and Draco has to move quickly out of the way to avoid being bowled over, since he's invisible. The man walks up to Stephen's car where it sits at the kerb. Inside, Stephen is having an engrossing conversation on his mobile. Evidently, he hasn't got round to fulfilling his promise to leave, yet.

"You were saying?" says Harry's handler, and Draco is torn--stay near Harry, or see what this new bloke is up to? He fears that Harry is in danger and wishes to be close. He hesitates, but then decides to follow the other bloke. He can still hear Harry's end, after all. And he can Apparate in blindly if he absolutely needs to.

"I wish to be relieved of my duties with you," says Harry quietly, and Draco stops, holding his breath. Only before him, the man has reached Stephen's Jaguar XK and taps on the window. It all happens in a heartbeat--a series of split seconds that draw themselves into an eternity. The man is blocking Draco's view of Stephen, but one moment, there is silence; while the next, there is a strange percussive crunching sound.

"Surely that won't be necessary," says Harry's handler. "You certainly haven't anything better to do."

When the man walks off to the right, down Hertbrand Street toward the tube station, Draco can see that the window is shattered and that Stephen sits slumped inside the car, a bullet-hole in his forehead. Draco's jaw drops in his shock. He'd not even seen a pistol. And he'd not heard that tell-tale report either.

"What do you mean?" asks Harry, his voice going suspicious. Only silence follows his question. "Janus, what do you mean??"

Janus, thinks Draco. The handler's name is Janus.

"I've no problem with your sexual proclivities, little Henry," says Janus, "but let this be a lesson to you. Never let your prick interfere with your work. I own you, and that's forever."

"Fuck," says Draco, and not five seconds later, Harry is barrelling out of there, straight toward Stephen's car.

"Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck," Harry is chanting with each footfall, then suddenly stops, as if pulled by a cord round his chest. "No." He reaches toward the shattered window, but his hand never touches before it falls to his side again. And then he turns, and Draco sees a look of cold-blooded hatred he'd never seen on anyone before--not even Voldemort--and it terrifies him. Has Harry finally broken?

Draco reveals himself only moments before Harry would have run into him anyway, and then he grabs Harry round the waist and Apparates them away.

*//*

Either Harry has forgotten how terrible Apparating feels, or he's no longer properly built for it. As soon as he squeezes out into reality again, he falls to the floor and chucks up his breakfast. He is reminded how he came to be here, when all traces are magicked away.

It takes about fifteen seconds for Harry to recover, and then he stands, turns to his kidnapper, and kicks him in the face.

Draco falls backward but is propped up by the wall at his back. He is properly stunned when he asks, "What the bloody hell was that for??"

Harry doesn't answer. He only approaches swiftly, punches Draco in the face, then drags him closer by the collar so he can knee him in the groin, then watch him collapse to his knees. "Take me back, before I kill you."

Draco groans and it's several seconds before he can manage an outraged, "What!?"

Harry rushes Draco this time, pulling him up by the collar, slamming him against the wall, then taking him off balance, so he tumbles to the floor. Harry straddles his chest and punches Draco again, a sickening thud to his left cheek. "You're getting uglier by the second, Draco luv. Take me back or you'll not have a face left."

"Incarcerous," Draco manages, and suddenly, Harry is against the opposite wall, bound there with ropes. He is completely helpless and knows it. What had he been thinking? Starting a fist-fight with Draco Malfoy? The frustration mounts so quickly, it's actually a struggle not to weep. "I'm not taking you back," Draco says, then conjures a mirror to take in the damage Harry has done to his face. He moves to a duffle that sits near the room's only window, and riffles inside it until he comes out with a jar of ointment. He spreads this across the damaged portions of his face and they heal instantly. Now Harry really does weep. "I can't believe you cared that much for him," Draco says.

"I hate you," Harry says. "You're an arrogant prick and a bigot and I wish you'd just kill me so I wouldn't have to look at your face any longer."

"I'm certain that'd suit you better than turning you over to the Muggle authorities," Draco drawls, crossing his arms over his chest. "You know, the Muggle Prime Minister called on Minister Durkiss specially, after the second Lord you offed."

Harry is too empty to be properly surprised. He'd truly thought he'd covered his tracks better than this--but here stands Draco, and Harry is well and truly buggered, in a not so pleasant way. He slumps in his bonds and closes his eyes in resignation.

But then Draco is suddenly there before him, touching his face gently. "Why didn't you come back to me, Harry?" he whispers, and Harry opens his eyes to drown in Draco's quicksilver ones. "I thought you were dead."

Harry doesn't know what to say. He hasn't the courage to tell the truth. He wants this all to have been some interminable nightmare, and for Draco to have finally woken him from it. He wants reality to be different from what it has become. "I did die," Harry says.

"All right," Draco says. "That's good, as it defeated Voldemort." He holds up his arm and shows the pristine spot where the Dark Mark had once been. His eyes stray to Harry's forehead, but he doesn't mention the obvious, there. "It doesn't answer my question."

"When I came back," Harry says, "I couldn't...." He scowls, his face contorting in pain. His stomach is on fire. "I wasn't...whole," he says. A compromise. Truth without specificity.

Draco doesn't even need to confirm this before responding. "You seem to be in a far better shape than you were before you left," he disagrees, and his hand strays to Harry's belly, as if to count the muscular ridges there. There is a shimmer to Draco's eyes that Harry cannot but remember, and he has missed it sorely.

But he cannot look at Draco and tell the truth. When he looks at Draco, he wants nothing but to possess him again. Harry's body would do unspeakable things to regain Draco's perfection, and his regard. But what little that is left of Harry's soul feels otherwise.

*//*

Draco has been beside himself with jealousy for days, and nearly insane with want for even longer. He cannot remove his hand from its happy perch on Harry's abdominals. He wants to banish the bonds and fuck Harry against the wall. And then--

"I've lost my magic," Harry says, and Draco stops everything. Even his breathing. It's as if someone has cast a time-stop hex at him. "I may as well have died that day," Harry finishes, and slowly opens his eyes. He takes one look at Draco's face, then closes them again and turns his face away. "Just kill me," he whispers.

Draco could no sooner kill him than breathe, at this moment. But the moment passes, as moments do, and then Draco takes a breath and draws his hand away to hang limply at his side. "You've lost your magic," he says.

Harry doesn't bother to respond.

"Oh," Draco says, then, "all right. That's...." Draco doesn't know what that is, but it's certainly....something. Something to overcome, in some way. Something to...remedy, perhaps. "You've become a squib," he says.

"No," Harry says. "I've become a Muggle." And then he looks back into Draco's eyes, and there is a spark of defiance. It's the first sign of life since Draco had found Harry those weeks ago. "I died, I was reborn, and now I am a Muggle. I couldn't even find the Leaky Cauldron when I attempted it. That was when I knew I could never go back to you. And that was when I found Janus."

"Janus, your handler."

"Take me back there, Draco. Please. I have to kill him."

Draco searches Harry's face, and finds that, despite everything--despite today's revelation--he still wants Harry. Perhaps looks are more important to him, even, than power. "We have to leave England, Harry," he says.

"Please," Harry says again, a single tear spilling from his left eye.

"Harry, they'll be coming after us in a matter of hours, at best. We can't linger here."

And then it seems to register in Harry's eyes. "What do you mean, 'we'?"

"You're wanted by the Muggle and wizarding authorities, and now that I've assaulted an Auror on your behalf, I'm in a bit of trouble myself. I've changed all of my money and routed it to a Muggle bank in the Caymans, but we need to get out of England."

"You mean you want me to come with you?" Harry can't seem to get past that bit.

"Yes."

"I need to kill Janus, Draco," Harry says, that glimmer of life in his eyes suddenly blazing. "Then we can go."

"If I use my wand, Harry, they'll be able to trace it."

"I don't need a bloody wand to kill him," Harry says with an evil, evil smirk. "Take me back."

So Draco ends the spell imprisoning Harry and Harry lands lightly on his feet. "Isn't this man well-guarded?"

"Of course," Harry agrees. "Normally I could never take him by surprise. But today, I have you."

"Where should I take us, then?"

"To his offices, of course. But considering how well I stomach the Apparition, I think you may have to cover me for a few moments. Do you think you can take us in behind him?"

Draco looks into Harry's eyes and reads him gently, finding the exact location of the offices Janus occupies and learning the placement of furnishings. Draco nods. "I'm very powerful, you know," he says.

Harry snorts but even that is attractive, Draco thinks. He cannot believe Harry is a Muggle--it simply doesn't make sense to him. He's in love with a Muggle. "You haven't lost a single whit of your charm," Harry says.

"I know," Draco says, then envelops Harry in his arms and winks them out with a pop.

When they reappear, Harry immediately collapses to his knees, retching. Fortunately, Janus isn't here. Draco doesn't even notice doing the clean-up. When Harry finally stands, he curses under his breath. "Of course he isn't bloody here."

And then the toilet flushes.

Draco is startled but manages to hide that fact from Harry. It would never do to seem anything less than...well, perfect. He looks to Harry, but Harry is already a step ahead, on his way over to a door in the far right corner of the room. He lifts the right leg of his jeans and pulls a substantial knife from a holster there. He then stands in wait behind the door, legs staggered just so. He is graceful in his anticipation, the energy flowing through him obvious.

The door opens mere moments later, and a burly man, (nearly a foot taller than Harry and three stones heavier) with a shaved head and wearing a tacky day suit, exits the toilet. The man has just pushed negligently at the door to close it behind himself and started back toward his desk, when Harry pounces. Harry has to actually jump to reach the man's neck, but the knife is already in his hand, and Harry pulls it across Janus's skin.

Draco walks toward them and Janus's eyes go wide. His hands go to the wound in his neck, trying to stanch the otherwise unimpeded flow. He can't turn his head.

Harry walks in front of Janus and hisses, "You should have let me go," then twirls, as if in some ridiculous dance, only it ends with him kicking Janus's head backward, and the flow becomes a geyser as that great mountain of a man falls to the floor. Janus is quite dead now. As a doornail. And he lies in a quickly spreading pool of his own blood.

"That is disgusting," Draco blurts.

Harry whirls toward him, as if surprised that he is here. His eyes are full of fear.

"Are you finished?" Draco hints. "We really do need to leave."

Relief. Draco thinks it's like someone has pulled a shade from behind Harry's eyes. One moment, there is fear darkening them, the next: clear relief. "Yeah," Harry says, and he holds Draco a bit tighter than is strictly necessary, whilst they Apparate away.

*//*

"Mmm...yeah, there," Harry says and giggles.

"Here?" Draco asks.

"Sí....más, querido," Harry agrees, then moans eloquently. "Tell me again," he whispers breathlessly.

"I wonder if you aren't growing bored with me, queridico."

"More fucking, less talking."

"It was you, asked me to tell it again."

"Oh yeah," Harry agrees. "So tell it."

"Come with me instead," Draco decides. "In five years you've never made it to Santa Theresa."

"It's a miracle you've got me to visit Montezuma."

"You love Montezuma."

"No, darling--oh, faster!--it's only that one restaurant I love."

"You'll love the surfers as Santa Theresa as well."

"I'm nearly there...."

Draco speeds to catch Harry before they tumble, together, into bliss. They've had quite a lot of practise, now. "Te quiero, mi amor," Draco murmurs. "Pero ahora, vaya conmigo."

"Draco," Harry whines.

"Querido," Draco whines back. "We'll fuck on the beach."

At that, Harry gets a bit more interested. And Draco is right--they've lived in Costa Rica for five years, now, in this tiny, out of the way portion of the southern Nicoya Peninsula. They've attempted to make a new life here, especially since neither of them has anyone left in England. So they've become friendly with the neighbours. They've learnt Spanish. They've even moved into their own (rather large) cottage, now that it's finally been built. It had taken two years, despite Draco's strategic bribery, but it's lovely. "All right," Harry finally relents. After all, things have been better than he'd ever hoped or expected. Somehow, Draco's personality has mellowed over the years. He's still an arrogant bastard, but it's always amusing, now. And his selfishness has expanded to include both of them.

Harry, for his part, has found himself finally believing that he isn't alone, though it's been neither easy, nor particularly consistent--this progress. For years he'd awaken, surprised at Draco's presence, yet terrified at his absence. He still doesn't feel comfortable venturing far from the cottage, and sometimes he finds himself noting exits, counting steps, testing windows...assuring himself of the possibility for escape. But he's never surprised at Draco's presence anymore, and even more importantly, he doesn't panic when Draco isn't there. "Can we swim, there?"

"Yes, we can swim. They don't surf all the way up onto the beach, Harry."

Sometimes Harry is overwhelmed by the evil he's done, and then Draco is there to slap him out of it. 'I should have come with you, Harry,' he would say. 'None of that evil would have happened.' Draco always says the same thing, and it helps every time, though Harry has it memorised and could recite it himself.

But things can get dreadfully lonely, and Draco has begun speaking of children. He's hinted that there is something he may be able to do, but Harry isn't certain what it would be. They could certainly adopt in San Jose, though it might take a bit of creativity on their parts. Draco still has his wand and is extremely competent in its use, though he has erected containment wards all round their property. He'd even tried to get Harry to reclaim some magic, but Harry had failed spectacularly and they'd quickly abandoned that pursuit.

In the end, things are going well and it is more than Harry could ever have hoped for. He'd never even been able to imagine living to age thirty-five, but now he's here, and so is Draco, and they have happiness, and they have each other.

After so much tragedy, Harry thinks, this is the best of all possible outcomes.

fin


* * * * *


For those interested in the details of the challenge requirements that spawned this piece of relative fluff, the first requirement was that we take inspiration from the following verse by Marya Mannes:

Borders are scratched across the hearts of men By strangers with a calm, judicial pen, And when the borders bleed we watch with dread The lines of ink across the map turn red.

The remaining requirements were as follows:

Assassin!Harry - In this, Harry must be a highly skilled and experienced assassin; he meets someone who makes him reconsider his path. This *must* include a sympathetic original character who is later killed in action. In addition, there must be a duel or a fist fight between Draco and Harry; and a scene where one character cross-dresses to spy and communicates a message to his contact through fan language.
发表于 2012-4-25 19:35:10 | 显示全部楼层
Sometimes Harry is overwhelmed by the evil he's done, and then Draco is there to slap him out of it. 'I should have come with you, Harry,' he would say. 'None of that evil would have happened.' Draco always says the same thing, and it helps every time, though Harry has it memorised and could recite it himself
小D果然温柔啊,果然这两人都很孤独啊,只有在一起才会感到幸福啊~~
魏未谓 该用户已被删除
发表于 2012-11-24 20:12:04 | 显示全部楼层
诶为什么看不到?啊真可惜...不过光看回复里的那一小段就觉得有爱至极哪。
发表于 2014-1-5 17:29:50 | 显示全部楼层
Harry is too empty to be properly surprised. He'd truly thought he'd covered his tracks better than this--but here stands Draco

I guess this us what love would/should look like

never unable to hide from lover's eyes. horrible,, yes. also relief
Able to be whoever you are, not pretend to be someone better. this is the greatest gift someone could offer.

如何无论,我热爱爱情所提供的这样的便利:无法也不必隐藏去假装

(我讨厌在说完要发才发现需要再写中文 :( )
发表于 2015-3-11 21:49:27 | 显示全部楼层
啪啪啪啪啪,本来想安安心心的看完的,结果几行发现自己看过中文翻译过的了。不过,很赞啊!很喜欢这种感觉
发表于 2016-6-20 08:13:08 | 显示全部楼层
哪里有这篇文的中文翻译版本吗? 爱或许会因这样那样的原因被隐藏,但永远也逃脱不了爱人的法眼
发表于 2016-7-11 10:26:43 | 显示全部楼层
弱弱的求一下这篇的中译名是什么啊?如果有的话
发表于 2016-8-5 11:50:05 | 显示全部楼层
Love the way the author deals with dialogues! So many attributive phrases!
这个作者的文笔真的好好,印象中跟我好像看过中译 但是忘记了叫什么名字。。。
loisdoudou 该用户已被删除
发表于 2016-10-16 23:39:17 | 显示全部楼层
看了一部分,但是自身英文水平真的有限!
发表于 2016-10-21 21:36:02 | 显示全部楼层
还么看完,感觉文笔不错呀!
PS看这个区的文真的好锻炼英语水平啊_(:з」∠)_
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