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Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at http://archiveofourown.org/works/2031204.

Rating:
Mature
Archive Warning:
No Archive Warnings Apply
Category:
M/M
Fandom:
Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling
Relationship:
Draco Malfoy/Harry Potter
Character:
Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter, Original Female Character(s), Original
Male Character(s)
Additional Tags:
Romance, Humor, Mystery, Con Artists, Aurors
Stats:
Published: 2014-07-27 Updated: 2014-09-04 Chapters: 6/? Words:
18244
The Auror Method
by Lomonaaeren
Summary
Draco has constructed the perfect cover for his activities as a con-man specializing in thefts
from a distance: Draco Malfoy, the redeemed Death Eater and Recluse of Malfoy Manor.
But now theres evidence that some people are onto him, and as a consequence of the
death threats issued to him, he gets an assigned Auror guard. Maybe Harry Potter, their
leader, could be a problem when it comes to Dracos latest con. Although how could he,
when hes getting all distracted by Dracos fluttering eyelashes?
Notes
This is a mostly humorous story that will probably be between twelve and fifteen chapters.
The Exploding Scroll
The owl posed in the middle of the large oak table that Draco had chosen as a decoration for this
particular room of the Manor, its wings spreading further and further as if it wanted Draco to see
the walls and windows of the Manor only through its feathers. It was a beautiful bird, Draco
thought, probably the most beautiful he had ever seen. The only color other than black on it were
in its gleaming golden eyes, which were so startling that Draco might have used the owl simply to
surprise visitors to the Manor if he owned it. And then it lifted its foot, and the scroll that was
bound around it showed scarlet, startling.
Draco nodded in approval as he reached out to retrieve the scroll. Whoever owns you has a
fitting sense of drama, he muttered. That might almost prompt me to listen to him.
The owl gave him a single, steady gaze, then leaped off the table and flew over to the perch that
Draco kept in a corner of the room. Its wings made the perch thrum and list. The owl balanced
easily, and dipped its head to bathe its beak in the water bowl, never taking its eye off Draco as it
did so.
The scroll contained the same message as all the others, with only one change in the last line.
Draco scanned it, a small, pleased smile tugging at his lips.
You have been noticed. You are being warned. Do not try to break into Gringotts. You have ten
days to change your mind.
Draco sighed and laid the scroll down. The messages had started coming a fortnight ago, so the
count had shrunk from twenty-four to ten days.
What he couldnt understand was, if someone knew about the truth behind his disguise and his
plan to break into Gringotts, why would they give him such a long period to change his mind?
They could have waited until three days were up and then attacked, or gone to the Aurors at once.
Along with all the drama of the scrolls and the countdown and the owl that this person sent, a new
one every day, Draco was beginning to think that his courteous enemy had a hidden agenda.
He turned to the owl, who was still watching him with its wings folded behind it in a way that
spoke of wordless disdain. Or perhaps your master cant make up his mind about what he really
wants. I usually despise people who do that, you know, but I might be willing to make an
exception for people who send me
He had turned around completely in his chair to speak to the owl, and that saved his life. The
sudden explosion from the middle of the table sent the shards of wood and metal over his head
and to the side instead of straight into his face.
Draco dropped immediately to the floor. He had no former training like some people had got in
the Aurors or as part of the Recidivus Guard, but he knew what to do with a sound like that when
he heard one.
The flying shards were already settling. That explosion had been powerful but small, and was
already contained. Draco lifted his head cautiously. The first thing he did was look at the perch.
He wondered if the writer had taken the chance of sacrificing his owl along with Dracos life.
No. The owl was flying heavily towards the window it had come in by. It had left nothing more
than a small swirl of dark feathers behind.
Ah, Im afraid I cant permit you to do that, said Draco, and drew his wand. At his command, a
subtle mesh of white light sprang up across every window in the Manor, and across some of the
doorways that didnt have doors, as well. It still permitted light and air to flow through, but it
wouldnt allow any more solid body. The owl bounced off the mesh and let loose a baffled
screech. Private compunctions, you understand.
The owl circled back down, diving at his head. It could have caused a lot of damage if it had
landed and buried its talons in the back of his neck, as it obviously intended to do, but Draco had a
constitutional dislike of that, and his wand was ready. Again a mesh formed, this time into a net
around the owl that bounced it back towards the ceiling and then held it in midair, looping
furiously around and around.
Now, said Draco, and gestured a little with his wand. The mesh net floated down towards him,
while Draco carefully checked himself over to make sure that he hadnt taken a wound he hadnt
noticed. But no, his arms and even his face, when he reached up and felt around with one hand,
were unmarked. Draco nodded and focused his attention on the owl in front of him. I wonder
what you can tell me about your owner?
The owl jerked its neck forwards and snapped its beak. Draco ignored that, instead sending a
house-elf for a jewel that he had stolen last year as part of the seduction of an American witch
whod been briefly visiting England. It had taken him a while to work out what the jewel did, and
he still wasnt entirely sure that that was the only thing it did. But it was interesting and powerful
enough that he wouldnt hesitate to use it now.
When the elf brought the jewel, a large ruby with a hole pierced through the center, Draco held it
up and looked at the owl through it. He could see spells that were meant to defend the owl from
curses and speed its flight, traditional ones that were woven into the feathers of post-owls almost
from their birth. He could see a few added charms that would get the owl through windows that
should have been too small for it to pass through, and one or two that made him raise his
eyebrows. They were protections against fire and water, something most owls wouldnt meet in
any case.
But he didnt see the long, fragile golden thread that most owls also picked up, at least when they
were owned by a single person instead of manythe one that led off like smoke into the distance
and connected them to that owner. Draco would have been able to use the ruby to follow the
smoke-trail, and another of his treasures to get a name from it. Without it, though, he really had no
hope of tracing the owl back.
Well. Draco lowered the ruby thoughtfully. He couldnt believe that someone who owned this
magnificent bird would be content to share him with others, but on the other hand, he had never
heard of a spell that could remove the thread of magic, either. This opponent of his was clever.
I think Ill just keep you for a while, he told the owl comfortably, putting the ruby back into the
velvet-lined box the house-elf had carried it in. Until your owner comes looking for you,
maybe?
The owl snapped at him hard enough that Draco knew he would have lost a finger if it had been
within the owls reach, and let out a truly horrifying screech. Draco nodded slowly. I wouldnt
like losing my freedom, either, he told the owl as he floated the mesh net over to a cupboard in
the side of the dining room. But your owner should have sent a less valuable possession if he
didnt mind losing it.
The owl screamed once more before it vanished from sight. Draco told the house-elves to bring a
perch and a dish of food into the cupboard in about an hour, then stood.
The death-threats were becoming annoying. And skilled. When Draco examined the middle of his
table, he couldnt tell what spell had blown open that particular explosion. He shook his head and
clucked his tongue.
He had spent years building a reputation as someone permanently scarred by the war, someone
who had retreated into his ancestral home and pleaded for peace. People who were on the
underside of the black market knew better, of course, but the reputation had kept him safe.
Perhaps it was time to make it pay off in another way.
*
The Aurors arrived precisely three days later, when Draco was busy drinking some soup out of a
cup of gold-chased unicorn horn and wondering if it had been a mistake to apply to them at all.
They must have a lot of death threats to deal with, he thought as he stood up; he hadnt even
received a reply to his owl.
But there were enough Aurors at his gates, waiting patiently for him to lift the interior gates of
silvery enchantment that protected his home, that Draco was well-satisfied. It might take them a
while to respond to threats, but they obviously came in force when they did come.
He sent another elf to take away the cup of unicorn horn and bring him his enchanted telescope as
he watched the Aurors walk slowly up the drive. He had thought there was something familiar
about the one in the lead
With the telescope, it was easy to make out the wild black hair, the green eyes, even the scar on
his forehead that he thought was hidden by his lamentably tangled fringe. Draco lowered his
telescope and allowed himself half a minute of laughing until he couldnt breathe. It would take
the Aurors longer than that to follow the guidance of the house-elf through to this room, anyway.
Harry Potter had a reputation as a dogged investigator, and a very good bodyguard. Of course
they would send someone like him when a call for help came in from someone they couldnt trust.
Draco wiped his tears away and shook his head. He had to be serious when he saw them. This
wild rejoicing wouldnt fit in with his mask.
But it was perfect. The assignment of Harry Potter to the case would convince a bunch of people
outside it, who might be inclined to doubt Draco, that this was a powerful series of threats. It
would keep Draco safe even from an enemy who had the magical capabilities that his enemy had
shown so far (which was the reason Draco had asked for Auror protection in the first place). It
would also give Draco a slight hindrance, in that he would have to make sure Potter didnt find
out his plot to break into Gringotts, but Potter, although stolid and prone to get results when he
labored on a case for a long time, didnt have the reputation of sterling intelligence. Draco was
sure that he could dance circles around such an Auror.
He could even have some fun while he was doing so. Draco sat back in his chair and put on the
sober mask that they would expect from the Recluse of Malfoy Manor, while he planned for what
he would actually do.
*
Were here, Malfoy.
Draco turned his head, and blinked. Then he dragged himself to his feet out of his chair, leaning
on a cane that hed modeled after his fathers. He knew from the flinches of the Aurors behind
Potter that his glamour, of a pale face with heavy lines running from the corners of his mouth to
the corners of his eyes, was doing its job.
Potter didnt flinch, of course, only looking at him with calm eyes. Draco schooled his
disappointment after a second. He knew that Potter had seen far more alarming things, and it
would be silly to expect him to run screaming, anyway.
This is about the death threats? Draco dropped his head and stared at the floor. They just cant
leave me alone.
He knew eyes were rolling above his head. That was good. His pretense had been designed to
allow those eyes to roll. He looked up at last, and found Potter gazing at him thoughtfully, while
the other Aurors muttered to each other.
What was the last threat like? Potter asked. Your complaint mentioned an explosion and an
owl, but that was all.
Draco sighed a bit and turned to the cupboard where hed kept his enemys owl imprisoned. The
scroll was delivered by this bird, and then exploded, he said in a quavering voice, waving his
wand to open the door. The screech of the owl from inside actually made one of the other Aurors
jump, which Draco had to admit was satisfying. I managed to stop the owl before it escaped.
Two female Aurors moved forwards and ducked in to look at the owl, but Potter didnt. You
seem rather frail, physically and magically, he remarked, still watching Draco as if he was the
interesting one in all of this. How did you manage to entrap the owl?
Draco smiled mistily at him. Oh, the wards of my ancestors, the wards of my ancestors, he said,
and waved his hand vaguely at the windows. They do come in useful from time to time.
Im sure they do.
Well, maybe Potter would be harder to trick than Draco had thought. The way he frowned and
considered seemed to mean that he was more intelligent than the rumors said. Draco concealed a
sigh. That would be tiresome if it was true.
He couldnt start his plan to have fun with Potter until they were alone anyway, though. So he
stood patiently smiling when the other Aurors brought the flailing and shrieking owl out, still
inside its mesh, and began casting spells on it. Draco kept his head bowed and his hands clasped
around the cane, watching the spellcasting from the corner of his eye. He would consider that
memory in a Pensieve later and see what he could learn of the magic that the Aurors supposedly
kept for themselves, away from ordinary wizards.
You dont know why someone would threaten you? Potter asked, drawing Dracos attention
back.
Draco was too old a hand to be caught out by that trick. He widened his eyes. But I told you that,
in my complaint about the threats. Old hatreds. Theres someone out there who hates me for what
I did during the war.
Many people might, but most of them wouldnt send you threats years later, said Potter. I
thought most of your money went to reparations after the war. Youre sure you dont have any
idea who this is?
An enemy, Draco said, and gave Potter a blinking look. Someone who hates me. I already told
you that.
Potter placed his fingers next to his lips, as if he was actually considering the answer this time.
What have the threats said?
Theres been a countdown, Draco said, and lowered his voice and glanced from side to side. He
knew the other Aurors were buying his cowardly act; one of them had actually said the word
coward, although it was too muffled for Draco to be sure which one of the three it was. They
said that I had twenty-four days at first to stop.
Just stop? Potter pressed instantly. Not stop anything in particular?
What am I doing in particular, said Draco, and lowered his voice still further, other than
living?
Potter nodded, although Draco didnt think he was entirely convinced by that. He wished he could
have known if he was convinced. But he didnt want to drop the glamour or show anything
different until they were alone. He waited patiently, and eventually Potter asked another question.
How far did the countdown get?
Ten days as of the scroll that exploded the day I contacted you. Draco widened his eyes and
rubbed his hands together. Do you think that means I have seven days to live?
Well try to think more positively than that, said Potter, with a faint smile. Draco could think
positively, of course; he thought that smile was positively inane. Well. Its not much to go on, but
well find something.
Im sure you will, said Draco, and stood back and bowed when Potter looked down the corridor
that led to the dining room. Please feel free to search anywhere youd like. Complicated
glamours and spells hid Dracos treasures, his workroom, his potions lab, and everything else that
he needed in order to conduct his cons. The Aurors wouldnt find anything. Draco had learned
well from the regular checks hed been subjected to after the war; the Aurors had a procedure, and
Dracos spells would foil that procedure.
Potter gave him one more meaningless smile and stalked away on his rounds. Draco watched him
go, smiling slightly.
This might be more of a challenge than hed imagined. But he thought hed like that.
The Hidden Gem
Youre utterly unable to think of anything that would make someone threaten you?
Draco looked down at his cane. The top of it reflected the walls around him, which included a
panel that hid one of his greatest collections of rubies. If they found them, the Aurors would be
immediately suspicious.
It pleased Draco, to stand there talking to someone that a lot of people praised as the best Auror of
all, and know he had no more idea of what Draco was concealing than an ordinary Auror would
have.
Nothing?
Draco blinked and looked up. I can think of plenty of people with grudges, he whispered
tiredly. But you told me that most of them are shut away. Is it surprising that after weve gone
through a list of prime suspects and eliminated most of them, I would have trouble thinking of any
of the rest?
Potter was silent, frowning instead of talking. He turned and lifted his wand so that it pointed at
one section of the wall that constituted the outer edge of the panel. Dracos heart gave a great
bound, but he stood still. If Potter found the hidden gems through his own effort, then Draco
would take the challenge and deal with it. He wasnt going to be cowardly enough to reveal it
because of his reactions, though.
But Potter said only, Memoria.
The walls glowed briefly, along the edges of panels and in the center of them alike. Draco
straightened his shoulders. At least this spell wouldnt help Potter uncover the location of anything
Draco had hidden.
It did bring to life memories of things the house had seen. If that included some of Draco admiring
his gains, then Draco would have to act quickly.
But instead, the pale blue light that poured from the walls formed into delicate, etched white
images that showed Death Eaters parading through the corridor, clutching a bloody heart in front
of them. Draco didnt have to feign his shudder or his pulling back.
Potter, he noticed, was watching him. Do you see something that could be the face of your
enemy? he asked softly, gesturing with his wand at the memories.
Draco had to sneer. You were the one who told me that all of the Death Eaters I could name
were dead or in prison, he said, and didnt care if it was pettish. Potter would probably expect
him to be pettish, anyway. There were people that Dracos guise of completely reformed Death
Eater worked on, but not him.
Potter raised his eyebrows a little, and his expression altered. Is it hard, living with those
memories?
Draco spent a moment only making rapid calculations in his mind. This sympathy was probably
false, the sort of trick that Potter used to lull suspects, but on the other hand, Dracos persona
would respond to it in a certain way. Draco just had to keep on his guard against taking Potters
soft tone seriously.
So he let his head droop and his shoulders slump, and he nodded. Sometimes it is, he
whispered. When wewhen I came back to live here, I realized that every place in the Manor is
associated with a memory of death or torture. He glanced at the memory, which had changed into
a vision of the Dark Lord addressing some Snatchers. He turned his head to the side, genuinely
uncomfortable now. Well, let that strengthen the pretense. I dont want to look at it anymore.
Potter banished the memory spell with a flick of his wand. I was just trying to call up memories
of people who might have been in the Manor and threatened you in a way you dont remember,
he said soothingly.
Draco laughed wearily. Trust me, I remember all of it.
Potter hesitated and reached out one hand. Draco had no idea where it would settle. He stood still,
wondering if Potter would touch him after all.
But then one of the other Aurors, who Draco had learned was called Jordan Mytherian, yelled
from the dining room. Sir, we need you to look at the owl!
Potter pulled his hand back, gave Draco one more cool look, and walked back to the dining room.
Draco lingered, staring sadly into the head of his cane (and incidentally making sure that all of his
secret panels were still shut and sealed in the reflection).
He was thinking, too, of Potters expression and apparent desire to touch him, thoughts he could
hardly indulge in front of the other Aurors.
He was shocked by his own desire to receive that touch. And that altered the plan he wanted to
use with Potter. Two such desires should not go unused.
*
This owl has been scrubbed clean of personal magic.
Draco settled heavily back into his chair and lifted a hand to his mouth. He didnt have to conceal
laughter; his control was too perfect for that. But he had to admit, he was glad that he had lived to
hear such incredulity in the voice of an Auror. They had never sounded anything but certain when
they were arresting his parents.
What does that mean? he asked, in a quavering voice, and thumped his cane on the floor when
no one looked at him. I said, what does that mean? I dont understand.
Auror Mytherian glared at him. Mytherian had clear brown eyes, brown hair that fell to his
shoulders in windswept waves, and an honest-to-Merlin cleft in his chin. Draco wondered, idly, if
Mytherian resented that he had diminished chances to be a hero as long as Potter was around.
It means, he said, voice mocking, that this owl has been scrubbed clean of personal magic.
Jordan.
The one word from Potter, uttered as absently as Dracos thoughts while Potter held the Stunned
owl on one fist and carefully examined its wings, and Mytherian shrank like a whipped puppy. He
turned away from Draco and made a little bow towards a far wall. As much of a compromise as
he can make with his pride, Draco decided.
Just like that, a plan for dealing with Mytherian bloomed in Dracos mind. It wouldnt be
necessary if Potter was the only Auror who stayed, but it might be amusing if Mytherian did.
It means, said another of the Aurors, Sarah Crystal, who seemed to have decided that it was her
job to be sympathetic to Draco, that whoever owns this owl has gone through the trouble of
having all sorts of magical signatures removed. Not only hisor hersbut the signature of
anyone who owned the owl, who bred it, and who enchanted it. She gave a thoughtful glance at
the bird. She had blue eyes, and a firm grip on her wand that Draco thought was wiser than she
could have known, if she was wasting sympathy on him. Ive seen that done, but only on
inanimate objects. Weapons, mostly. I wonder how a living one survived it.
Its clear that it did, said the third Auror, who stopped prowling around the dining room long
enough to glance over his shoulder. Who cares how?
This Auror, Elian Greengrass-Rosier, had dark eyes and a hateful glare for Draco every three
steps or so. Draco kept his eyes down, and acted tame and meek. He would know how to handle
Greengrass-Rosier if he needed to, and that would have to be enough.
Any bit of knowledge could be critical to this case, said Potter, with a look round that would
have damped Draco if was an Auror. He could only be glad that he wasnt. We need to
remember that.
Greengrass-Rosier straightened his back and clasped his hands behind it. Of course we need to
remember it, sir, but
The owl has nothing to tell us, said Potter, and turned away from Greengrass-Rosier with an
aplomb that made Draco lick his lips. That was permissible. His persona was such a coward that
they could well be chapped and in need of licking. Do you have any other clues to the identity of
your enemy?
I didnt know the owl was a clue, Draco muttered, and blinked, and grasped at the head of his
cane for a moment. He thought about it, letting the whole, agonizing effort of the thought be
visible on his face, and then shook his head. No. Nothing.
Potter was silent for a moment, fingers drumming on his wand holster.
He hasnt received any other threats since then, either, said Greengrass-Rosier, giving Draco
another glare. I dont think this enemy has been active enough to warrant the attention of four
full-class Aurors, sir. I suggest we leave.
Well do that after we find out whos threatening Malfoy, Potter said, and Draco thought he
would continue, but Greengrass-Rosier interrupted.
With all due respect, sir, who cares about a threat to Malfoy? It would only be someone doing
what should have been done during the war! If its an assassination, I would be tempted to help
the assassin
Elian.
Potters voice had more echoes than it should have. Greengrass-Rosier went still and pale and
tilted his head back, a muscle jumping in his throat. His skin was so pale that Draco was tempted
to reach out and touch it, to feel the warmth draining away. He managed to restrain himself, but it
was hard.
I know full well that Malfoy was supposed to marry your sister, and did not. Potters voice had
dropped an octave, and it sounded impressive. Draco wondered for a moment why Potter didnt
use this voice in his day-to-day life. I didnt question your assignment to this case because I know
that you have a lot of experience with death threats and tracking anonymous owls to their sources.
Now I see that I should have questioned it. Youre dismissed.
The last word might have been poison, from the way Greengrass-Rosier reacted. He was paler
than ever, and stretched out one hand as though he assumed he could touch Potter and have his
mistake redeemed. Pleasesirif I receive another reprimandyou know whatll happen
So do you. Potter stared at him with eyes as pitiless as Naginis, and Draco knew something
about that, from the number of times the Dark Lord had forced him to stand before the swaying
snake as punishment. That should have let you keep your tongue still, but it didnt.Get out of my
wards house.
You cant even call him your ward yet! You havent determined whether you need to protect
him, whether theres a bodyguard case here, instead of Malfoy just exaggerating or trying to play a
trick on us
Im glad that I didnt marry into his family, Draco thought fervently, although his face only
expressed a little stupefied surprise, his mouth hanging open and his eyes blinking
frantically. What an idiot. And its probably hereditary.
I determined that theres enough of a threat when I saw the presence of utterly unknown magic
on the owl, said Potter. And you know as well as I do that its the Auror in charge of a case
who makes that decision. He moved a step forwards, and Greengrass-Rosier retreated, even
though Potter hadnt drawn his wand. Yet, Draco added mentally, watching the way Potters
hands twitched near his waist. Dont try to use procedure against me. Not when procedure
demands your reprimand. Go back to the Ministry. Now.
The last word wasnt even particularly emphatic, but Greengrass-Rosier flinched and nodded. He
did turn his back and stalk towards the doorway.
But as he passed Draco, he tried to cast something. It was probably as harmless as the Tripping
Jinx. Draco could easily have resisted or bypassed it, even in his persona, and not taken much
harm.
He didnt get to find out what the spell was, though, because before the first syllable had slithered
out of Greengrass-Rosiers lips, Potter moved. There was a long, complicated moment that Draco
backed away from without thinking, and which he knew he would have to watch in a Pensieve
later to make complete sense of.
But it ended with Greengrass-Rosier on his back, squalling, and Potter standing above him with
one boot on his chest and one on his windpipe. His left hand held the wand Greengrass-Rosier
had been drawing. He looked down, and when Greengrass-Rosier tried to open his mouth to
complain, Potter merely shifted his weight forwards. A warning crackle came from the trapped
Aurors throat, and he shut up, his eyes widening.
Sir, said the Auror named Crystal. Draco looked at her and saw her studying the scene with
some appreciation, but the moment she saw him looking, she veiled her eyes and glanced at the
floor. This will give Greengrass-Rosier more evidence against you if he does decide to report the
conflict to the Ministry.
So? Im not worried about what I might say under Veritaserum, let alone what the Pensieve
memories would show. Potter tilted his weight delicately back, and Greengrass-Rosier went from
fearing for his neck to fearing for his breath, from the expression on his face. Besides, the minute
I show this conversation to someone, hes not an Auror anymore.
Thats true, sir, said Crystal, and stretched out a placating hand. But I still think it would be for
the best if you let him go.
Potter considered that, then nodded. Youre probably right. I think hes learned his lesson. He
jumped to the side with a long, arcing motion, landing smoothly on the floor and turning around to
eye Greengrass-Rosier. Get up. Get out of here. Wait outside. When I decide whos staying here,
Ill send the other person whos leaving to you with your wand.
Greengrass-Rosier stood up and glared hatred. It had no obvious effect on Potter, leaving the
departing idiot to stomp outside without his wand, but with a grudge big enough to last a lifetime.
Draco had watched enough of them form that he should know.
Potter turned to speak with Crystal and Mytherian. Draco blinked at his back. He could get away
with simply maintaining a bemused response all through this, since he had already established
himself as not particularly smart.
Inside, he was reeling.
Potters competent. Hes intelligent. Hes a good fighter. Hes a good leader. Why would anyone
report otherwise?
Draco paused, making a connection he never had before. Some of his first contacts in the Ministry
and Knockturn Alley had told him about Potters incompetence right before they got arrested or
disappeared. He wondered now how many of them had run afoul of Potter or other Aurors
because of inaccurate information. Maybe Potter only seemed formidable when you saw him in
battleand few of them would have had the opportunity Draco had, to see him there after
becoming his new ward.
So. This is another chance for me. Im going to need a powerful distraction, though, one thats
different than the little flirtatious statements I intended to bewilder him with.
Another plan, one hed only half-considered, slid forwards and took that discarded plans place,
and by the time Potter turned back to Draco from issuing crisp orders to Mytherian and Crystal,
Draco was deep enough into it to peer shyly up, then let his eyelids descend again.
Im sorry you had to see that, Potter said, shaking his head. Not even a personal grudge should
ever make an Auror behave like that in front of someone hes supposed to protect.
Its all right, Draco whispered, and glanced timidly up at Potter. So long as someone as strong
as you is here to protect me, I dont care about the others.
Potter blinked and looked at him closely for a moment, as though he suspected Dracos timid
exterior hid something more. Since that was exactly what Draco wanted him to think, Draco gave
him three more seconds of a bright smile, then wriggled back in his chair and looked at his feet.
What happens now? he whispered.
Potter paused for a second and looked keenly at Mytherian and Crystal. Draco expected him to
dismiss Mytherian. Any fool could see that that one would cause some of the same problems for
Potter as Greengrass-Rosier had, although his motive was hatred of and jealousy of Potter instead
of hatred of Draco.
But instead, Potter said, Sarah, Im going to send you back to the Ministry with the initial report,
and to take Elian his wand. Someone should be there to give a fairly objective summary of what
happened, and report to the Analysts about the magic on the owl.
Draco managed to hide a twitch. The Analysts were a relatively new branch of the Department of
Magical Law Enforcement, one that Potters friend Granger had founded. They specialized in
tackling obscure spells, artifacts, and magical effects and tracking them to their origins, or at least
comparing them with other spells and artifacts and magical effects they had encountered in the
past.
Crystal seemed to have some of the same reservations that Draco did. She looked straight at
Potter, not letting her eyes pass to the side to touch Mytherian, and said, But sir
I need Hermione to look at your memories of that owl, Potter interrupted. Thats the real reason
Im sending you. Can you do that? He tossed Greengrass-Rosiers wand to her as he was
speaking, and Crystal caught it out of the air without trouble, although she still looked disturbed.
But then she said, Yes, sir, in a colorless voice, and gave a single bow. When she straightened,
it was to frown at Mytherian and Draco in turn before she spun and walked out of the Manor.
Good, said Potter, turning back to Draco. Let me explain to you how our schedule of guarding
you will work.
Whatever you come up with will be wonderful, Im sure, Draco said, and looked up at him with
shining eyes.
Potter twitched much the same way Draco had kept himself from doing a few minutes ago. Of
course, he said, and then turned and beckoned Mytherian over, drawing his wand. A transparent
map of the Manor flashed into existence between them. This is where Im going to position us.
Draco sat there and sneaked shy glances up now and then. From the way he kept twitching, Potter
hadnt the slightest idea of how to deal with them.
Yes, actual physical flirting is the best way. Distracting for him, fun for me, and encouraging him
to protect me even more.
Who knows? There are certain situations where I might need someone competent and ready to
sacrifice his life for me, and this could well be one of them.
Curving Up
Mask? Mask, is that you?
Draco could find his tolerant smile fairly easily, when he was dealing with someone like the
young man who had almost given Gringotts into his hand. Yes, he admitted, dipping his head
and crowding close to the fireplace so he could whisper. And so that the edges of the black velvet
mask he wore, lined with silver around the eyeholes and nose, wouldnt flip up and reveal
anything of his face that he didnt want revealed. Im sorry I couldnt speak to you for a few
days. The goblins were onto me.
No, really? Jared Mindmirror came close to the fire on his side, eyes flaring. He was a
handsome enough young man, black hair and grey eyes and half-blood, that Draco found he had
no trouble playing his role as the mentor who admired the young mans innate talents with
money-making magic enough to offer him an apprenticeship. I didnt think I did anything that
could have betrayed you! Im sorry!
Perhaps the most irritating thing about Jared was his tendency to speak almost exclusively in
exclamation points and question marks. It was nothing you did, Draco said soothingly. A few
people interfering where they shouldnt have been, convinced they needed to protect the goblin
stranglehold on wizarding wealth.
They did? Jared was all but bouncing on his heels now, and Dracos mask hid a grimace. If his
plan did get betrayed, and not through his mysterious enemy who somehow knew he was
persuading Jared to hand over goblin secrets, then it would probably falter because of Jareds
noisiness during what were supposed to be clandestine conversations. Thats terrible! Who was
it?
Draco shook his head. Just the usual pure-blood suspects, the ones who think that all goblins
should have dominion over the money of all wizards. Malfoy, Greengrass, the like.
Its still terrible! Jared leaned forwards, getting his head under the curve of the fireplace and
revealing the short stature that marked him as half-goblin and trusted to work in the bank. What
can I do to help?
Give me the last few spells on the vaults as quickly as you can, said Draco, not needing to try to
sound grim. We need to make sure that we have at least some money beyond their control as
quickly as we can. He grinned. And to make it better, Ill take money mostly from the pure-
blood vaults as a demonstration of what we can accomplish, before I put it back.
Thats good! said Jared, with a firm nod. We need to have control of our own finances!
We do, said Draco, and thought, With a different definition of we, you poor bastard. Now.
What about those last few spells? Were you able to write them down for me? He knew Jared
knew what they were. This whole campaign of seduction, from the time that Mask had
contacted a young, bored half-goblin and whispered that the goblin control of money in Gringotts
was tyranny and they needed to fight against it, had been aimed at actually getting Jared
comfortable enough to tell him what those spells were.
I did better than that, said Jared, and beamed at him. The subdued sentence should really have
told Draco what was coming, he acknowledged later. I memorized them myself! So I can come
with you!
Draco hid a groan, and sighed. But that would involve putting you in danger, Jared. The mentor
isnt ever supposed to do that with his apprentices.
But I want to go with you! I have talents, you said so! I can help you right on the front lines!
I could never forgive myself if something happened to you, Draco said simply. Except getting
reprimanded by your superiors once they figured out that you were the one who betrayed their
defenses. Im sorry, Jared, but I cant allow it.
Jared folded his arms and looked around. Then I wont tell you what the final spells are, Mask!
Draco sighed again. Then I suppose that Ill just have to go in and try to free the money anyway.
This goal is more important than a single life. As Jared swung around with his mouth open, he
added, Im glad to see that you feel the same way. So the next you hear of me will be showing
the goblins how easy it is to breach their defenses, and how theyre better off letting some wizards
into positions of influence over their money. Or perhaps youll be the one to find my body.
I couldnt stand that, Jared whispered, and buried his head in his hands.
Draco waited for a moment in a posture that implied he was turning away. Then he faced the
fireplace again and gently shook his head, making sure that he was still shaking it when Jared
looked up. Its all about what needs to be done, he said. About goals bigger than ourselves.
Not what one person can or cant stand.
But you need my help. You said so.
Draco glanced at the floor and shrugged. But youve chosen to sacrifice helping me to childish
ideas and grudges. Im afraid that I cant count on you anymore.
Jared gave a hysterical gulping sound that had heralded a flood of tears in the past. Draco had
been able to stop him with a harsh word then; he would probably be able to do the same thing
now. But instead, he waited, and Jared brushed away incipient tears and nodded to him.
Youre right, Mask. This is bigger than any of us. Were going to set up our own bank, and the
goblins cant stop us.
Draco gave Jared a full-on, approving smile, not least because of the lack of exclamation points.
Exactly. Now, can you tell me what the final spells are, and in such glowing detail that I dont
even have to write them down? Ill remember them just from the way you tell them to me.
Jared blushed and looked up at him. Well, fine. On the Malfoy vault are
*
Where did you go?
Draco looked up at Potter, who was standing in the doorway of his bathroom with his arms
folded. Here, he said, and yawned, and took another drink from the heavy crystal cup that sat on
the side of his sink. Sometimes I really have to piss, you know. Comes from the pressure on the
bladder from the bad leg. He picked up the cane, which had been leaning against the wall, and
nodded to Potter. And now Im for bed.
You werent in the bathroom, Potter persisted. I knocked on the door and called you, and you
didnt answer, and I couldnt hear any stream of pissing, either. You went somewhere else,
you must have. Potters face was slightly red, his hand gripping his wand. Do you have any
idea how dangerous that is with someone trying to kill you?
Merlin, he sounds like Jared. Draco hated having to drop his eyes and cower in front of someone
who was abusing him like this, but it was what his persona would do. Im sorry, he whispered.
I didnt want to tell you.
Didnt want to tell us what? Potters voice was quieter now, and he had advanced near enough
to meet Dracos eyes on the level, at least if he stooped. Anything that matters to the case
This doesnt matter to the case, except affecting how well I can run if I need to, said Draco, and
let a blush overspread his face as he looked away. Im sick, Potter, not just injured or depressed.
The disease means that I have to use the bathroom. A lot. He gestured to the loo, which was
indeed full, the result of a nonverbal charm Draco had become proficient in. And I have
convulsions sometimes.
Potter strode right up to him. Draco cringed, until he realized what Potter was doing: digging his
fingers into Dracos hair and tilting his head. Are you injured? Did you hurt your head at all?
Scalp injuries bleed even when theyre shallow.
Draco blinked at nothing in the sideways position Potter was holding his head, then sighed.
Theyre minor convulsions, Potter. Im probably dignifying them too much even calling them
that. What they mostly mean is that I jig and shake a bit, and then fall asleep. Or unconscious, if
you will. I was sittingI was sitting on the loo and asleep, and I didnt hear you calling me.
Draco knew his blush was hot enough now to consume most of his face. Im sorry to be talking
about it like this, its so embarrassing.
Its not embarrassing, Potter said in a surprisingly gentle voice, and tilted Dracos head this time
so that Draco was looking at him. If Id known you had this sickness, we would have made other
arrangements for your protection. We still might have to make them. What happens if your enemy
attacks while youre unconscious and cant run away?
Well, yes, thats what I meant when I said that it would affect my running speed, Draco said,
peacefully. He had slipped out of the bathroom down a secret passage that led from there to the
disused room in the north wing of the Manor where he usually contacted Jared. But you dont
need to trouble yourself at all, Potter. I think youve already troubled yourself enough.
This is my job, Malfoy. And believe me, Ive protected plenty of people with more embarrassing
problems, and who tried to obstruct us more. For a second, his fingers dug more into Dracos hair
as if he was remembering those people.
Draco decided that now was the best way to test some of those conclusions he had come to about
Potter earlier. He moaned a little, and Potter moved a hasty step away. Only Dracos grip on the
cane saved him from crashing to the floor. Whats the matter? Did I hurt you?
Quite the opposite, Draco said, and buried his flaming face in his hands.
Potter paused, then came towards him. I didnt intend to do that, either, he whispered as he knelt
beside Draco. Im sorry. Sometimes its hard to remember that youre no longer the boy I
despised so much in school.
Draco sniffled into his hands, and did his best to lift his head a little. Its not your fault, he
insisted valiantly, scrubbing at his face. How could it be your fault?
I want to be clear, so there are no misunderstandings, said Potter, his face and voice desperately
earnest and noble. I cant date or sleep with people I protect. I did it once, and it was the worst
mistake of my life.
Draco was glad that his hands were wrapped around his cheeks, so his jaw couldnt drop open.
He had never heard that gossip. What in the world was wrong with his spy network, that they had
never thought to pass such delicious rumors on to him?
Potter was, meanwhile, pursuing his misguided mission of trying to make Draco feel better. I
know youve changed, and tonight was my reminder of that, if I needed one. I dont want you to
think that you need to subdue your natural reactions around me or change who you are because of
me. I just wont be responding, thats all.
Draco made a sound that could have been a laugh or a sniffle or anything Potter wanted to take it
as, and then leaned back and looked up at him. I understand, he whispered. Thank you for
being so clear and honest. It helps me greatly. It at least helped him estimate Potter as an
opponent, and think that it probably wasnt real stupidity that had handicapped him in the past, in
battle with some people Draco knew as competitors or colleagues. They had mistaken intense
devotion to a code of Gryffindor principles for lack of general intelligence.
Draco still thought the code of Gryffindor principles could be rather stupid, himself, but he
wouldnt make the mistake of thinking it was always so.
Good. Potter pressed lightly down on his shoulder, then glanced around the bathroom. Auror
Mytherian will be on guard outside your door for the first part of tonight, until two-oclock. Then
well switch, and Ill be there.
Youre not going to be near me all night? Draco was rather proud of the gasping choke he
introduced into his voice, and the pathetic hand that reached up towards Potter. But I trust you
more than I trust Auror Mytherian!
Potter shot him another keen glance. I thought you knew. We discussed this earlier. One of us
will be outside your bedroom door, and one inside. Its just that well switch positions so that we
dont fall into too established a routine. Both of us will be awake all night.
Draco nodded and let his eyes convey his relief, while he kept his laughter inside.
The perfect opportunity to seduce Potter, noble principles and all. He certainly doesnt have any
trouble touching me. And having him stand next to my bed
For a moment, Draco considered whether Potter would tell Auror Mytherian if Draco did seduce
him, since he seemed so committed to honesty. Then he snorted a little.
It wouldnt matter if he did. Mytherian would report the incident, and rid me of part of the
problem. Or he would keep silent and try to figure out a way to use the information against Potter
later. And that will be after theyre out of the Manor and away from me.
Is something wrong with your throat? Potter had heard the snort, and reached towards him.
Not at all, said Draco blandly, and grasped the cane to help him to his feet. I am tired, though.
Can we go to bed now?
Potters eyes narrowed a little at the innuendo, but all he did was nod and lead Draco to his room.
*
Draco leaned back into the embrace of his bedwide, white, fluffy, with pillows piled up at the
head and edged in lace, as befitted his assumed personalityand sighed. Potter gave him a
curious glance, which Draco thought was tinged with envy, as he paced slowly around the
bedroom, setting up wards and charms and traps. Draco watched out of the corner of one eye, but
the information he could gather was limited; Potter performed most of his incantations
nonverbally.
Is it that comfortable?
Draco twisted himself around and gave Potter a whimsical smile. Well, a lot of it is being able to
get the weight off my bad leg, you see, he whispered. But Im surprised. Does someone who
could surely buy anything he wants deny himself the pleasure of a nice, big bed?
Potter smiled slightly. I dont see much point in buying what Id rarely get to sleep in.
You have that many calls on your time? Draco folded his arms behind him on the pillow and
gave Potter an expression of absolute wonder that he didnt have to feign. Potter had seemed able
to command his time to him, to choose his cases, although up until that point Draco had assumed
that was a function of his status as the Boy-Who-Lived rather than any inherent competence as an
Auror. Perhaps not, though.
Yes, said Potter simply, but he had turned around and stood with his back to Draco, gazing
towards the door. You dont have to worry, though. I can concentrate on cases, and while that
business with Elian Greengrass-Rosier might have given you a poor idea of me, youll be my
primary charge for as long as you need protection.
It didnt concern me, Draco said, and made his voice as gentle as a wind swaying grass. It
impressed me.
Potter twisted back to him, one eyebrow raised. Well, its good to know that youll trust me to
fight for you.
More than that, Draco said, and let his eyes linger and burn. I would trust you with
every part of me.
Then he turned away again and wrapped one arm around his head, sighing. Im sorry. I forgot
that you dont want to hear something like that from me. I promise Ill be quiet.
Potter said nothing. The silence settled on the room, and Draco knew that he needed to do
something else, that innuendos by themselves werent enough to make Potter abandon his
annoying self-righteous stance and come to bed with him.
Draco moved his arm gently up under his pillow until his wand was aimed at his templebut with
his pillow in the way, Potter would have a lot of difficulty seeing that. Then he whispered the
incantation of a certain spell he hadnt used in a long time, and then mainly for revenge against
difficult people.
He fell asleep smiling, a swift, sweet, natural sleep that he knew would be broken later on that
night. But breaking it was the plan, after all.
*
Malfoy!
Draco came awake thrashing and gasping. Potter was standing over him, his wand lit and his
expression strained.
Are you all right? Potter was sweeping the bed with a professional gaze. You were groaning as
if you were in pain. Are you subject to nightmares usually? If not, we have to consider the
possibility that this was a sorcerous attack from your enemy.
Draco felt the blush lighting his face on fire, but even that was a natural consequence of the spell.
It wasnt a nightmare, he whispered, and drew his robes tighter around his groin. It wasa
natural occurrence. But I do need to cast a Drying Charm.
Potter certainly understood him, but he couldnt keep his eyes flickering down to the wet patch on
Dracos groin anyway. Then he blushed himself and nodded. Its nearly time for me and Auror
Mytherian to switch places, he murmured. Ill alert him, and he can escort you to the bathroom
if youd like.
Thank you, said Draco, not trying to disguise the huskiness in his voice that the Wet Dream
Charm usually created.
Potter turned away. Draco watched the stiffness in his back muscles and smiled. First point to me,
I think.
Displays of Vengeance
A quiet night, said Mytherian, his attention on the breakfast in front of him.
Draco curled his lip a little behind the protection of his cup. He knew that the breakfast his house-
elves served was excellent, consisting as it did of hot chocolate, scones smothered in butter and
more chocolate, fresh fruit with chocolate ready at hand to dip it in, and bangers that had, for once,
no chocolate, but it still seemed unprofessional for an Auror never to look around once in five
minutes.
Yes, it was, said Draco, because one had to say something, and Potter was out of the way. He
looked at the Prophet again, flicking idly through the pages. Stories on Quidditch, stories on
music, stories on the latest scandal to break out in the Ministrya secret marriage between a
member of the Wizengamot and another members much-younger daughter. Draco read that with
some amusement. At least the paper wasnt a complete loss.
Malfoy.
Draco started a little and then looked up. Mytherian was leaning forwards, his hands braced on the
table as if he was going to leap over it and come at Draco that way. Draco catalogued at least
seven escape routes in the first three seconds, and then made himself relax and listen instead of
reacting with paranoia.
Yes? he asked, picking up a cup of hot chocolate both to have something to do with his hands
and to have a hot weapon in case Mytherian did come at him.
You have to know that Im a better Auror than Potter, right? Mytherian whispered, and swayed
towards him with feral intensity.
Dracos sense of danger passed away in a flash and scattering of sparks, leaving laughter in its
wake. He did his best to keep that off his face, of course. If Mytherian knew he was an object of
mirth, hed probably attack.
I dont know that, he mumbled into his cup. Everyone always talks about what a great Auror
Potter is.
They dont know him at all. Mytherian climbed to his feet now and stalked back and forth a
little in front of the table. They dont know how many of his victories rely on luck or other
people helping him.
I thought Potter gave plenty of credit to other people helping him, said Draco. It let him sound
innocent and bemused, and as far as he knew, it was actually the truth. Potter was forever bleating
about the way that Weasley and Granger had helped him defeat the Dark Lord.
To Draco, that was an example of Potter going too far. They might have helped him with spells
and fighting individual Death Eaters, but had they walked into the Forbidden Forest with him, or
helped in the final duel with the Elder Wand? No, they had not.
But Potters arse was stuffed up with modesty. It was probably no surprise that he would deny his
own contributions so that his friends could have some crumbs. And if Potter was actually the
attention-seeker Draco had once believed him to be, it was also a brilliant strategy. Modest
disclaimers made people praise you more.
Draco ought to know.
He might give credit to his friends, said Mytherian, with an impatient motion of one hand that
nearly upset Dracos chocolate cup. Draco decided to keep his opinion on clumsy Aurors to
himself for now, and see what transpired. But he doesnt give credit to the other Aurors who help
him with arrests.
And here we get to the heart of the grudge, Draco thought, while maintaining an elaborate
befuddled look. Did you do that? he whispered.
Of course I did, said Mytherian, with a snort that said what he thought of Dracos intelligence.
If you knew the number of cases Ive helped him with, only to see him getting away with
denying that anyone had helped him at all His voice trailed off, and he turned away and kicked
the wall. And this one will be just the same. The press will say that he did all the work.
Draco raised one eyebrow, now that Mytherian was facing away. The press saying that Potter was
the sole one responsible for these cases wasnt the same as Potter saying it. And Draco knew that
Potter had actually begged the press not to say such things, and they kept on doing it anyway.
But why he should want to bring Mytherian to his senses? There was the chance that this could
fall out well for Draco himself, and he was all for encouraging that.
Mytherian scowled at the wall hed kicked, and then turned around and studied Draco intently
again. The same things going to happen again, he said, unless you help me.
Me? Draco looked at his cane, leaning against the chair, and then into the cup, as if an answer
would be there.
Dont play coy. You may not be much, but you have a respected voice now that most people
think youre redeemed. Mytherian snapped his fingers insistently. If you give an interview to the
paper about how much I helped you when I was your guard, then that would be all you needed to
do. One little interview. Consider it?
When youre so charming, how can one resist? But Draco had a lot of practice at keeping sarcasm
inside now, especially sarcasm that would destroy his persona at once. He looked away modestly
instead. Do you really think they would believe me over Potter? That would be the only
problem.
If you put it well enough, and give details, then they will. Mytherian nodded. I just want my
work recognized for once.
Then work harder. But Draco would be the last one to suggest that now. He folded his hands and
murmured, All right. I just hope that no one attacks me in the meantime.
You dont trust me to protect you? Mytherian sounded offended all over again. He turned in a
slow circle around the dining room, apparently studying the windows. I can recommend several
wards and enchantments I could put up that would make your house impregnable.
Which just means that hes not very good at wards, if he cant recognize the quality of the ones on
the Manor that my enemy already got past. But Draco nodded enthusiastically again. There was
the chance that he could learn about special Auror spells from Mytherian in the way that Potter
was so far proving himself reluctant to teach. All right.
Mytherian smiled, pleased, and lifted his wand.
Jordan! I asked you not to add any enchantments until we made the tests that we talked about
earlier, remember? Itll prejudice them too much if were working against our own spells.
Perfect timing, Potter, Draco thought, as Potter strode into the dining room and went over to help
himself to some of the strawberries and the one scone on the table that had butter instead of
chocolate on it. I suppose he doesnt have much of a sweet tooth.
I remember, said Mytherian, and lowered his wand.
The look he flashed at Potter was utter murder. Draco raised an eyebrow and leaned back. It looks
like we have a case of hatred here, a strong grudge, not just resentment of Potters fame.
Interesting. I wonder how I can exploit it?
Good, then dont try it again. Potter turned to Draco. I cant shake the idea that maybe your
enemy is using your own wards against you. That means that I want to take care of some tests
before we add anything to the protections.
Draco squinted at Potter, his personas face and his own instincts colluding for once. What does
that mean? How could someone use my own wards against me?
Potter paused with a strawberry on the way to his mouth, narrowing his eyes at Draco, and Draco
wondered, too late, if he had perhaps sounded certain and strong, things that his persona wasnt.
He fidgeted and dropped his eyes to his plate. If you dont mind telling me, he whispered.
He thought Mytherian snorted in disgust off to the side, but he ignored that. Mytherian wasnt the
one it was important to fool right now.
Potter put the strawberry into his mouth and chewed a little. Then he said, The magical theory
behind it is too complex for a quick summary, but basically, he sends an owllets use that
example. The owl is normal, or perhaps only enhanced by the spell that will take advantage of
your wards, until it actually encounters the protections that are supposed to defend you. Then it
reaches out and sucks power from them, turning the defensive charms into offensive ones. Thats
the only way it can work. Weve never found a case where defensive charms for one person can
be turned defensive for another. He can make a normal message explode, but he cant put armor
on his owl.
Thats dead clever. Contrary to Potters expectations, Draco did indeed know about the magical
theory. He ate his own scone in silence, and then faltered, But you can protect me from things
like that?
If hes even doing it. Potter flashed him a quick, unexpected smile. Ive been told more than
once that I shouldnt set up my own ideas as the end-all and be-all of explanations. He might be
doing something entirely different. But it would give some clues as to why he was able to send
you such a deadly threat that the wards didnt stop.
Yes, it would. Draco intended to do some research on his own. He leaned back and waved a hand
that he hoped looked limp. Then go ahead and do what you need to do.
Potter left the dining room without, so far as Draco was able to determine, having eaten more than
three bites. Mytherian lingered a moment, stare burning into the side of Dracos head.
Draco stared back. You were about to do something that might have made me less safe, he said,
and hunched in on himself. Im not sure that I trust you to protect me.
Potter could be wrong. This time, Mytherians look of utter loathing chased Potter up the
corridor. He has been, you know. In the past. Often.
Is he going to be wrong about protecting me? Draco blinked anxious eyes.
Mytherian bit his lip in response, and charged up the corridor as if he thought that Potter might be
confronting Dracos enemy right now and didnt want to be left out of the action. Draco laughed
into his mind and continued eating, placidly.
So many tacks he could take, he thought. There was Mytherians hatred of Potter to exploit. There
was the information he had on one possible tactic of his enemys, and how he might fight it
himself. There was Potters undeniable attraction to Draco. And there was the way that Draco had
seen Potter go without eating or sleeping now, for over twelve hours. All sorts of interesting
weaknesses appeared when someone did that.
Draco smiled, and finished his breakfast.
*
Nothing.
Draco looked up from the pages of a book that would appear, to anyone who glanced at the cover,
as a history of heroic Malfoy ancestors, while the pages inside it actually contained some of the
complicated magical theory one would need to modify long-standing wards. My enemy isnt
interfering with my protections? he asked, marking his place in the book with one finger.
It was Potter alone who came into the library, and he moved in an intent way that told Draco what
would happen, even before he took a seat across the table from Draco and looked into his eyes.
Are you sure that you cant think of anyone who would want to harm you? Potter was almost
wistful, but Draco didnt think that came from past nostalgia when hed wanted to harm Draco
himself. He took one of Dracos hands and held it securely. The warmth was nice, but Draco was
too old a deceiver to be overcome merely because of physical pleasure. Potter was clever to think
of it, though. This is sophisticated work. Most of the time, we have at least a suspicion by now,
but here, we dont have a clue.
Time to use the second plan, Draco decided. Hed devised several plans during the hours that
Potter and Mytherian had left him alone, with Monitoring Charms in place to alert them the instant
anyone or anythingletter, animal, other human beingappeared next to Draco. Theyd only
had one false alarm with the house-elves, which theyd forgotten to make an exception in the
charms for. Now, Draco traced a finger over the grain of the table and said, Well.
Yes? Potter tightened his fingers a little, and stroked the back of Dracos hand with his thumb.
I still want to know what my spies were thinking, to decide that he was stupid. Draco would have
to do some shaking-up of his spies in the Ministry when this was over, he decided. Idiots, the lot
of them.
There was someone who contacted me a short time ago, Draco whispered. I didnt think
anything of it. There are still people who wont surrender the idea that Im evil, that my family is
doing something wrong simply by continuing to exist. No matter how much I insist that seeing
your Muggle Studies teacher get eaten in front of you is enough of a conversion moment.
Potter was silent, his eyes appealing.
I dismissed him when he said that he had a plan to make me rich again. I said that I had enough
money. Draco swallowed. Usually, people take that as a dismissal and go find someone else to
help them in their little illegal projects. This person, however, sent me an angry owl the next day.
Its possible that he could be the one whos sending me these threats and letters now. Although I
hate to involve you Again, he looked nervously at the tabletop, and could practically feel the
jolt that ran through Potter.
You hate to involve us? But thats what were here for! Potter gripped the side of the table as
though he would rise to his feet. You should have told us this right away!
Draco flinched and cowered, pulling his hand away from Potter. It was possible that someone
with his experience could tell through a touch when Draco was lying. Sorry, sorry. I thought it
wouldnt be a big deal when he was dismissed.
What are you talking about?
Draco blinked guilelessly at Potter. He was Elian Greengrass-Rosier. I thought you knew. I
thought that you brought him here as a test or something. Or maybe that someone in the Auror
Department is suspicious of me and thinks that Im still Dark. So they sent him to see what I
would do.
Potters lips pinched shut. He looked as if he would like to take the heads off several of Dracos
ancestors in the portraits grouped around the library. Dracos breath came shallowly. I can tell him
where to start if hed like instructions.
There is no way that we could have known that. Potters words rang like dropped Galleons. He
leaned towards Draco. Are you sure it was him?
If it wasnt him, it was someone using his name. Draco reared back in his chair as though doing
his best to distance himself from what Potter was saying. I dont know. It was confusing. Maybe
Im wrong.
Its possible that he would do something like this, Potter muttered, half to himself. He has a
standing grudge against you. And I know that he was a last-minute substitution on the team. I
objected. Maybe he did manage to get himself invited on when he heard where we were going.
Draco said nothing, but smiled under his eyelids at the table. Hed had no idea that Greengrass-
Rosier was a last-minute substitute for another Auror, but he loved these moments, when a
victims mind would pick up coincidences and use them to weave an explanation he didnt even
have to prompt them with.
We dont have any proof, though, Potter concluded, and spun around to face Draco. Please
dont say anything to Auror Mytherian about your suspicions. Not until were sure.
Draco inclined his head, contented in a way that was difficult to understand. So hes smart enough
to know that Mytherian isnt happy with him. And that last we refers to me and him, I think, not
to him and Mytherian. Of course.
Potter hesitated, one more time, then nodded and said, Ill have to send out owls. I dont dare
leave you alone now, not until we know for sure.
You said that already, said Draco, and stared at him with big eyes. Youre not worried about
your ability to overpower him, are you? You did it once before!
Potter abruptly leaned over the table and took Dracos shoulders in his hands. Draco flinched
before he could stop himself. Potter moved quickly when he was excited, it appeared. Draco
would have to keep that in mind should things come to a fight, and hope that he could experience
it soon in more pleasant circumstances.
Finding him is the problem, not overpowering him, although if he used that scroll spell on you
and removed all the traces of magic from the owl, hes more skilled than I realized, Potter said.
His voice was almost hypnotic, he was so close. But I promise you, I will protect you no matter
what else happens. His hands tightened, in the way that Draco had sometimes had enemies hold
him to force an answer. Do you believe me?
Draco nodded. He had to nod.
Potter broke away and gave him a strained smile. Good. Ill go and find Mytherian, and well
begin a new search. First, we need to find out where he went when he left the Ministry. And he
broke into a run out of the library, pausing only to raise some more protections and Monitoring
Charms at the door.
Draco sank back into his chair, eyes closed. He felt less satisfaction than he would have thought at
managing to trick Potter so that all that strength and ferocity would be committed to defending
Draco alone.
He would have liked
Well, it was impossible, but he would have liked that strength and ferocity dedicated to him
honestly.
Draco sighed. Really, he had already learned not to wish for things he couldnt have. And all the
money he was going to take from Gringotts should be enough of a reward.
Goblin Magic
No one in the Ministry seems to know where Greengrass-Rosier has gone. Potter leaned against
the table in the dining room where Draco and Mytherian were eating, with a frown inscribed on
his face. Mytherian seemed to have decided to ignore Potter in favor of theProphet. If Potter
cared, Draco couldnt tell it from his face, body, or voice. Not even people I thought were his
friends.
Would his friends speak to you? Mytherian muttered without lifting his eyes from the paper.
Potter acted as if he didnt hear that, and maybe he didnt. Draco had noticed that before, the
intense concentration Potter could have for things that concerned him most, like the Snitch, to the
point where he wasnt distracted by the roars of the crowd in the stands. So were back to square
one. He squinted at Draco. You wouldnt still have that letter Greengrass-Rosier wrote to you
talking about that proposed crime?
I burned it, said Draco, and shrank a little. I neverI never would have thought it was
important.
And yet when he gets threats later, he never thinks of it, whispered Mytherian.
I thought you probably would have, said Potter. He touched the side of his right eye as though it
burned from lack of sleep. Draco thought it probably did. Spending so long on his feet had to be
murder on Potter. Oh, well. We have to go on the evidence that we do have, for now. Ill do
double duty tonight.
Draco opened his mouth to ask what double duty meant, but Mytherian inadvertently answered
him with his next hiss. Thinks hes too good to work with me.
Potter spun around, reached across the table, and snatched the Prophet from Mytherian, which left
him wringing his hands. Draco had to admit to watching open-mouthed as Potter tore the paper
across, into confetti, and tossed the confetti up into the air, smiling with a wide and unblinking
focus on Mytherian the whole time.
There, said Potter. Maybe now youll pay attention to what the hell Im saying.
I already heard what youre saying, said Mytherian, and his eyes were ugly and relentless. That
you dont trust me, and we dont have a lead on this case because Malfoy stupidly burned it. So
what do you want me to do about it?
Back me up. Potter took a long step around the table. The way that Auror partners
are supposed to do.
Were working on this case together, said Mytherian, folding his arms and tilting his chair back
from the table with one long leg. Draco wondered at his insouciance for a second, and then saw
the way the position brought Mytherians hand low enough to brush his wand. He probably
thought he would have to defend himself against Potter any second. That doesnt make us
partners the way you were with Weasley.
Were? That was another part of gossip that Draco hadnt heard about.
It means that I expect you to accept my decisions as lead Auror, said Potter, voice lowering into
a growl. And defer to
Youre not the fucking Head Auror! Mytherian had bolted to his feet. He had his wand out
now, but Draco didnt even have to look around to know that Potters wand would already be out
to match it. Maybe Mytherian knew how suicidal it would be to press the attack, although so far
that hadnt stopped him, and he didnt do it. He stood there and flung mere words at Potter as if
they were as deadly as spells. Were supposed to be working together. To listen to you is just a
suggestion. And it wouldnt even be a suggestion if you didnt exaggerate the results that you get
from cases in an effort to be a darling of the papers!
You have no idea what the hell youre talking about, Potter breathed. He had shifted his stance
so that he was capable of springing in a number of different directions. A master of that same
tactic himself, Draco appreciated it without liking it much, since it meant that Potter might be more
of a threat even than he had anticipated. I dont exaggerate it. I downplay it, if anything
No one would believe that who had listened to the way you brag. Mytherians bitterness filled
the room in an overwhelming tide.
Youre an idiot, said Potter, but without heat. His face was red, and he couldnt meet
Mytherians eyes. That made Draco blink. Were some of those accusations hitting home? Maybe
they werent real, but Potter had such a sensitive conscience, and Mytherian might play on it
without meaning to.
Yes, a true and dignified lead Auror on a case would call his partners that, said Mytherian.
Potter opened his mouth, probably to point out that Mytherian had just said they werent partners,
but Mytherian turned and ran away from the dining room, down the corridor that led towards the
outer wards. Potter cursed softly and dropped heavily into the chair beside Mytherians abandoned
ones, leaning his forehead against his wrists.
Draco sat still, enthralled. He had known that Mytherian despised Potter, but he had thought
Mytherian wanted praise for being a good Auror more than he wanted to defy Potter. He had no
idea what would happen next.
Potter finally sighed and lifted his head. Im sorry you had to see that, he said, his voice thick.
It wasnt professional.
But it was entertaining, which is much better. Draco felt sorry for Potter, living in a world with
such different priorities that wouldnt let him believe that.
Potter swiveled around in the chair to face him, eyes a little desperate. Is there anything I can do
to make up for that? he asked. To reassure you that youre safe with me around, in spite of what
I just did? He tried to smile, then seemed to realize it was a pathetic effort and abandoned it.
Anything at all.
Draco seized the chance. He thought that he might not have the chance to exploit the tension
between Mytherian and Potter after all; they were going to destroy themselves before he had
anything to do with it. But one of his other plans needed a push. He bowed his head and looked at
the table. Kiss me? he whispered.
Potter went so still that Draco thought for a moment he hadnt heard Draco and was listening for
more, but then he said, You cant want that. Its not professional, either.
I saw the way you handled Greengrass-Rosier, said Draco, and folded his hands on the table in
front of him. I dont have any worries about the way you can fight. You dont need to reassure
me of that.
But what would kissing you gain you?
That gave Draco an important clue about how Potter thought of him. As someone who only values
people in a purely utilitarian way. Well, far be it from me to disabuse him of that notion in reality.
But Draco let his eyes fill with tears, something he had become good at doing during the war,
when the Dark Lord liked to see a bit of sniveling. He looked away from Potter. It
wouldnt gain me anything, he whispered. It would give me something I wanted. It would
never mind. He let his head hang, and rose to his feet.
Potter jumped up to stop him, reaching out with one light hand. No one, Draco thought, feeling
that hand settle on his shoulder, would have thought there was such strength in it unless theyd
seen Potter fight. Its just that I was unprofessional now, with Mytherian, and kissing you would
also be unprofessional. Do you see? I dont want to do something that would endanger you.
Draco shook his head. Im not that other person you slept with. Im not asking you to sleep with
me. Good thing I learned to lie with a straight face. I just want a kiss.
Potter closed his eyes. I couldnt do that. It would go against everything I am.
Draco sniffled and reached for his cane. Then I reckon that line about being willing to do
everything you could to make up for it was a lie, he mumbled against his arm. Thanks anyway.
He started to shove away from the table.
And then Potter was there, his eyes gleaming with a wild decision, and Draco held still as Potter
reached out and took his jaw and carefully raised his face. A second later, he was kissing Draco
hard enough to hurt.
Draco reeled back and clutched the table with one hand to sustain himself. It was what anyone
would expect of him, when he was being kissed with that much passion and that much intensity.
He couldnt help it. It was the way things were.
Potter didnt put his tongue in Dracos mouth, unfortunately, but Draco could get a sense of the
way he tasted from his lips, and it was wonderful. The heat, the panting breath raking his face, and
the wetness of Potters jaw as he pulled back and stared at Draco were enough.
For now. Draco was fairly sure he would want this in the future, and the only way he wouldnt
get it was if he needed to maintain his distance from Potter for some reason.
For right now, he didnt need to do that. He let his fingers move along Potters jaw, and his eyes
and smile widen in appreciation. Thank you, he whispered.
I dont know if you should be thanking me. Potter had already removed his hands, and stood
over to the side, looking distressed. Of course he did, Draco thought, barely refraining from rolling
his eyes. A Gryffindor always would. I did that for you, not becausebecause it was professional
or a good idea or anything like that.
I know that, said Draco, and spent a moment looking at his hands. But you still did it for me,
because I asked, and for that, I have to thank you.
He turned away and limped with some dignity towards the door of the room, conscious that Potter
was still watching him. Are you going to try and make peace with Mytherian? he added over his
shoulder.
I have to. Potter sounded weary. I have to, unless I want to ask for someone else to come and
replace him, and thatwouldnt look good.
No, would it? Draco thought, as he opened the door. Youve sent away two people already, and
now a third? Leaving me with one Auror where four were supposed to protect me? That wouldnt
look good at all.
He was starting to suspect that the reports from his spy network of Potters inefficiency and
incompetence hadnt been lies after all. They had merely emphasized the wrong things. Potter had
problems working with other Aurors, but not all of those were his fault. And he wasnt
incompetent, but he might look that way if you were only studying the results of his cases and had
no other gauge.
Im so sorry, Potter was saying, coming up behind Draco. I justIll do what I have to. Ill
make up with Mytherian, and
A bright, consuming pain stabbed up Dracos hand, making him cry out and shake it. It was a
flare like white fire in the center of his palm, eating the skin, burning him, cutting into his fingers
and up towards his arm.
Potter yelled something. Draco was in no mood to listen to. He drew his wand and stabbed it
again and again at his hand, trying to cast a spell that would ease the pain. It seemed impossible.
The flames were steadily wreathing his arm, and each moment that passed, they hurt more. Draco
had no idea what this was, no idea how to counter it.
He knew he had dropped his wand, but he couldnt really care. The pain was so intense. He
leaned his head against Potter and sobbed. Potter had hold of his hand, but if Draco didnt know
the countercurse or charm for a spell this Dark, then he thought it unlikely Potter would
And then the pain disappeared. Draco raised his head, blinking, and stared at his hand. There were
strong cracks in the skin of his palm, trickling roast-red liquid that didnt look like normal blood,
but Potters wand traced the length of them, and they began to close and vanish. Draco started to
shut his hand into a fist, but Potter shook his head and took out a length of soft silk.
Best to clean it off like this, he explained, and swirled the silk gently over the center of Dracos
palm. It can cause damage if you put it in contact with uncontaminated skin.
Draco shivered, and stared, and didnt have to work fear into his voice to whisper, What the hell
was that?
Potter hesitated, as if he thought that Draco would give up the question. Draco turned his head and
stared at him commandingly. He thought that was okay. Even his persona would be angered and
troubled at a moment such as this, and he would certainly want to know what the spell was. If
Potter knew how to fight it, then he must know what had caused it.
Its goblin magic, Potter finally said.
Draco shook his head, in a daze. I thought the goblins paid wizards to protect their treasure.
That was certainly what Jared had told him, he thought. Draco had wanted to know the names of
the spells on the vaults, and that was what Jared had given him. He hadnt acted as if the request
was strange, the way he might if it wasnt spells at all but something else that guarded the
Galleons. And none of the spells he had named were unfamiliar to Draco, the way this was.
Potter sighed. We dont know much about it. It can be cast from a distance, without a wand. The
goblin has to have something of the targets, but not hair or blood. It has to be knowledge. Thats
not much of a problem for the goblins, since so many wizards have detailed vault information on
file with Gringotts. They can reach across the miles between them, and only rare wards can defeat
them. He glanced at Draco with narrowed eyes. What did you do to anger the goblins?
Nothing, Draco whispered, and shook his head. I was deprived of so much of my wealth after
the wardo you think I would want to anger the people who still guard the greatest part of it?
He shivered and bowed his head. Maybe Greengrass-Rosier was going to propose robbing
Gringotts. I think it would be like his arrogance.
Behind the faade, of course, his mind was racing, but there was no need to show Potter that. If
goblin magic could reach out from a distance, past wards, that also explained how the owl had
found himalthough not why they had relied on an exploding scroll instead of something like this
from the beginning. And that meant someone knew of his little talks with Jared, and maybe his
plans.
No, wait. The countdown makes sense, now. They want to keep my money and me as a client.
They were warning me to back off, and trying to use less lethal traps until they became sure I
wouldnt. Only then did they use lethal magic.
Draco had no doubt that particular goblin spell would have killed him. Which meant that he owed
his life to Potter, again, after years of doing so. He sighed and shook his head.
What is it? Have you thought of some reason?
Potters voice sounded more penetrating than it had so far. Well, he might think that Draco was
lying to him. Draco raised his head and let his limpid eyes and clear face do the work for him.
Potters tone softened.
The goblins do sometimes hire out to wizards who want to eliminate their enemies through them,
although mostly thats rogues, not goblins that work for Gringotts. Potter rubbed gently at
Dracos hand, the way he had yesterday when they were sitting in the library. We know where
those rogues are; the law-abiding goblins help us keep track of them. We could go right now and
start investigating them, with good cause, if youll tell me why you think that they want to harm
you.
But Draco wasnt about to yield now. Not only did he stand to get some important amounts of
money and magical artifacts out of Gringotts if he succeeded, he stood to get some payment from
the goblins themselves, since he would take money from his own vault. And his name in the
papers, and a good deal of sympathy, and more people who would realize the truth and want to
trade with him contacting him. No way that he was going to tell Potter the truth, even when
invited.
Even though his eyes were beautiful.
I think you have to question Greengrass-Rosier, Draco whispered, and shifted fretfully. His
hand looked almost normal again, but he still remembered the incredible pain. Hes the only one
who could tell you what he was planning. I cant tell you. I dont know anything.
Potter continued to regard him for a few minutes, intently enough that Draco wondered if he
suspected the truth and would try threats next. But then he sighed, shook his head, and stepped
back. I hope you realize that the only one youre hurting is yourself, if you keep something
secret.
Draco sniffled a little and looked up at him. And Im not hurting you? You dont like me?
Potters face went through a few complicated changes. Then he said, as if he was trying to get the
message of those expressions across aloud, Its complex, and gave Draco a weak smile. Shall
we go and find Mytherian? Maybe my negotiation with him will go better if youre there and he
hears about the goblin spell.
No, you just have a miracle means of alienating other Aurors and youre hoping that I can help
you persuade him back around, Draco thought. He was coming to understand Potter far better
than he had thought he wouldor than would be requiredboth his strengths and weaknesses.
But once again, what his real self would do and what his persona would do diverged. He gave
Potter a tremulous smile and gathered up his hand. Yes. Ill come with you.
Sometimes, he did wish that he had chosen a different life, and the moment when Potter smiled at
him with relief was one of those moments.
But then he thought, again, of what he stood to gain. And the moment, like all moments similar to
it, passed.
Nighttime Patrols
The negotiation with Mytherian hadnt gone better, much as Draco expected. Mytherian seemed
distantly interested in the fact that Draco had been the victim of a goblin spell, but when he
proposed putting more wards up, Potter shook his head again. You know that we dont have any
tested wards that can withstand the effects of a goblin spell, he said.
Then lets use the experimental ones. They were in one of the portrait halls deep in the Manor,
although as usual when Draco had visitors, his ancestors had arranged to be elsewhere. The
exception was Great-Great-Aunt-Eleanor, who stood in one corner of the frame behind Mytherian
and rolled her eyes at everything he said. Draco couldnt look at her much, because she would
ruin his faade. Mytherian posed like a hero. This is probably the best chance to actually use
them, you know.
The best chance to use something that could kill us, yes, said Potter.
Mytherian stared at him. You only feel like that because I came up with them. Youd be
enthusiastic about them if your little research friend had been the one who did!
Unlike you, Hermione knows what shes doing when she puts together new spells.
Draco, although he pretended to be absorbed in the reflections from the head of his cane, had to
hold back an incredulous snort. Potter was an idiot, and deserved some of the pushback he was
getting from other Aurors, if he handled them all like this. He could see what the core of
Mytherians objection to Potter was. He really did assume that he knew best and he could override
everyone else. And the way he defended his friends
Draco hoped he would never be so foolish. He respected his contacts and other people who had
helped him achieve his comfortable position, and he made sure that people like Jared, the fools he
tricked, were in no position to reveal Dracos complicity without revealing their own.
Potter was never going to get anywhere in life because he didnt have even the
most rudimentary political instincts.
Right now, Potter was lifting his chin in that way he had, the way Draco remembered from
Hogwarts, the way that was going to end up causing them both trouble sooner or later. And she
also gives me the background of those spells, so I can see and perform them for myself.
Mytherian wont tell Potter where those spells came from or the incantations? That was an
interesting new twist. Draco studied the buttons on Mytherians robe, which were more highly
polished than the equivalents on Potters, and managed to keep from coughing. But it was hard.
You dont need to know them, said Mytherian. This time, the glare he gave Potter was more
measured. And yes, I know that I could have told them to you and didnt. I wanted to see what
would happen if you were forced to actually listen to and respect me. Instead of just turning your
back and collaborating with those friends of yours and never anyone else.
Great-Aunt-Eleanor was shaking her finger now. Draco wondered if Potter had noticed her. But
when he chanced taking a sideways look at Potter, he found his face as grave and heroic as ever.
I didnt need to know every detail, no, said Potter. But you admitted they were experimental
and dangerous. After that, is it surprising that I wanted to know what they were?
Mytherian hesitated. It seemed as if he might be on the verge of reconciliation with Potter,
something Draco wasnt interested in.
Sirs, he whispered, is this going to lead to something? Can you protect me from the goblins
magic or not?
Potter turned to him, opening his mouth to spout something reassuring, probably a lie. Draco
cocked his head at him, and Mytherian spoke first.
We are trying, he said, with a bright little smile that didnt fool Draco. Mytherian was on the
verge of yelling. Probably at Potter. I want to use magic that could protect you. But Potter wont
let me.
Draco looked anxiously at Potter, as if he was the sort to be fooled by that bollocks. Potter must
think he was, because he shook his head and waved one hand. If you would let me test it first
and make sure that it doesnt make things worse, then it would be fine.
You have to trust me sometime. Mytherians nose went into the air. You cant guard Malfoy
by yourself.
Maybe not. But I can call someone else in.
And what will that do to Auror confidence in you? Draco wanted to shake his head, but he knew
better than that. He was barely supposed to be paying attention. He maintained a bland faade
instead, with effort. It seems that most of them dislike you already. Are you going to just replace
Auror after Auror until they come to the point where theyre not even going to answer your call?
There were still inconsistencies in the reports of his spies that troubled him, but now he understood
something of the reason why. They didnt know what to do with someone who led brilliantly
alone but couldnt work with other Aurorsand who perhaps only hadattained a high position
because of the favoritism that Mytherian attributed it to.
I dont want to be in this situation anymore, said Mytherian. For a moment, he gave Potter a
single, intense look, as if waiting for Potter to realize that this was the moment when he should
give in and plead for Mytherian to stay.
Potter folded his arms.
With a disgusted sound, Mytherian stalked out of the room. Draco turned his head, listening
through the wards. Yes, Mytherian was leaving. The wards told Draco when he reached the edge,
and when he Apparated.
Potter lowered his head. He was shaking.
Draco stared at him without much sympathy. For the sake of having his own way, Potter had
stripped Draco of all the Auror guards that could have helped them both. Draco took a long
second before he spoke, though, because the cringing man he played would hold back from
questioning Potter too much. Does that mean that Im going to die?
Potter looked up at once and gave him a faint smile. No. There are some spells I know that will
let me stay up and get more nourishment from food than normal. Well protect you and lick this
goblin yet.
Draco couldnt resist. We?
Potter hesitated, then said, I meant you and me.
Draco reached out and patted Potters shoulder as if the verbal embrace pleased him, but inwardly,
he wanted to sneer.
Trapped in a house alone with Harry Potter, and someone lurking outside who wants to kill me.
Dear Merlin.
*
Draco woke slowly, slowly enough that he felt the grasping threads of magic dissipating from his
mind, and cursed as he opened his eyes. Someone had enchanted him to fall asleep. And it hadnt
been himself this time.
And he thought he knew who it had been.
Draco smiled grimly as he sat up. Is that your plan, Potter? Im easier to guard if I dont wander?
You want to keep me asleep and maybe dig through my private papers?
Draco twitched his wand beneath his pillow, after one more quick look around to make sure that
Potter wasnt in the room, and whispered the spell that activated some of the internal wards. But
they sang to him with the same steady, contented hum they always had, rather than the shrill
ringing that would have indicated Potter had opened one of his safes or desks.
Perhaps hes after something besides papers.
That was certainly plausible. Given his conflicts with his underlings and the way hed confessed
to sleeping with a victim in the past, Potter was no upstanding Auror.
Draco smiled a little as he stood, although he doubted the smile was one Potter would have liked
to gaze upon. Ways to seduce Draco? Dark artifacts that would prove Draco wasnt as redeemed
as everyone else thought he was? Some excuse to take Draco out of the Manor? Or perhaps he
knew about Mytherians supposedly secret and experimental magic after all, and was ready to
perform it?
Draco slipped into the darkness with a tingling sense of adventure, guided by scrolls of silver and
golden spells on the walls that no one else could see, but which lit up the night for him. He would
find Potter, and steal a march on him. Potter might have put the sleeping enchantment on him to
keep him in one place; Draco didnt think for one moment that Potter suspected him of being
dangerous enough to really interfere, or he would have done more.
Let the hunt begin.
*
In the end, the soft brush of a foreign magical signature against his interior wards led Draco to the
fireplace in the large sitting room. Potter was crouched in front of it, his head thrust into the
flames.
Draco paused, for a second, with his heart beating fast. Had Potter found out about Draco
contacting Jared?
Then Draco sneered to himself. He needed to stop being an idiot. Of course that wasnt it. Potter
would have been up to arrest him already, and Draco had never contacted Jared from this
fireplace, anyway.
He tapped his wand softly against one of the stones next to the door. The vibration ran through the
wall and over to the fireplace and the stones around and above the hearth, bringing the words
Potter was speaking to Dracos waiting ears.
I dont know what to do, Potter said, and his voice was thick with resignation.
Draco didnt recognize the voice that answered, but based on what it said, he knew it for another
Auror. Youve only been there a few days.
I drove Mytherian and Greengrass-Rosier away, Potter admitted, hanging his head. And I sent
Crystal off. I mean, she was needed to provide testimony on Greengrass-Rosiers attack, but
He seemed to fumble for words again. I dont think I can do this alone.
You can, said the voice, and its rumbling, cheerful quality finally awoke echoes in Dracos
memory. This was most likely Kingsley Shacklebolt, which meant Potter was talking to a
superior. Of course he was. He couldnt hide his incompetence forever, and Mytherian had
probably reported him. You were right that Malfoy finds you intriguing. You were right that you
can keep his attention.
Whats this? Draco cocked his head. It didnt sound like they were especially concerned about his
preservation from goblin magic at the moment. Or at least Shacklebolt wasnt.
He doesnt find me intriguing enough to confess more about that supposed letter he received
from Greengrass-Rosier, sir. Potter raised one hand as though to tug at his hair, and then seemed
to remember he had his head in the fire. He lowered it again. And as for any other secrets, like
why the goblins blame him in the first place for a theft that didnt happen, hell never tell me.
You have my permission to do whats needed. Shacklebolt paused as if considering what that
might mean to Potters limited understanding, and then elaborated. Whatever is needed.
Potter stiffened a little. Draco cocked his head. From his position by the door, he could see
everything of Potters body but the head, and honestly, that was almost more revealing than his
words.
Sir, Potter whispered. Do you mean
I mean that you can use any form of magic or questioning or anything thats not torture, said
Shacklebolt. Anything thats not immoral.
Some people would say what I did with Athenore was immoral. Potters voice had oceans of
bitterness in it. Draco licked his lips, as if the oceans would leave their salt on his face.
Maybe Potter would, if Draco asked nicely.
It wasnt, said Shacklebolt. You know why. You went into it with full knowledge of what was
coming, and its not as though you put him under the Imperius Curse. You seduced him, and he
betrayed himself.
Dracos drawing-in of breath was involuntary, but it didnt matter, since Potter kept speaking
anyway, and the sound of his words covered Dracos little noise. If youre sure that you thinkif
its necessary
I think you will have to be the one to determine whether its necessary, said Shacklebolt, and his
voice was almost vicious. You were the one who came up with the strategy for this case, Auror
Potter.
Draco rolled his eyes. Yes, and that makes you trust him because? It seemed that Shacklebolt
either thought Potter needed a lesson, hence why he wasnt sending him any more Aurors who
might shield him from his mistakes, or he was blinded by hero-worship of Potter just as Mytherian
had thought a lot of people were.
Draco felt a sudden and intense sympathy for Mytherian. Not that he wasnt an idiot in his own
way, but at least he saw through Potter like Draco had been the only one to do when they were
children.
So. That last victim Potter slept with was under orders.
Draco nodded a little. That didnt mean he would refuse to participate in Potters little seduction
game. There was the spice of intrigue, of danger, particularly now that he knew what was going
on. There was the undeniable attraction to his man, and the violence and magic and unexpected
sneakiness that he was good at.
But there was no way he was going to let Potter win.
Potter sighed. If you insist, sir. I think that waiting for Malfoy to tell us the truth on his own
would be preferable.
And not an option we have, Shacklebolt said, sharp again. If what you think is going on is
what is actually going on.
Yes, sir, said Potter. I still hold by that opinion. I know it sounds crazy, but
A sudden noise came from down the corridor, a sound like someone tripping and falling against
one of Dracos wards. Draco immediately spun out of the doorway, Disillusioning himself. He
thought Potter would probably hear the sound and go investigate, and Draco couldnt be found
here when he did.
As much for the sake of the game as for anything else.
Theres been a disturbance here, sir, said Potter, sounding unturned, unharried, and professional.
Draco wasnt sure whether he liked that or not. On the one hand, he wanted an unruffled Auror
guardian; on the other, Potter seemed almost as if hed been expecting the noise, which itself gave
Draco some disturbing ideas.
Then go and find out what it is, said Shacklebolt, and Draco heard the quick, muffled sound that
might indicate papers shuffling. And remember to call me back when you can safely do so. I
hope to hear some report of progress.
Even with an enemy potentially breaking through his wards, Draco had to grin. That sounded like
a threat. Even Perfect Potter might not please his boss some of the time.
Yes, sir, said Potter again, passionless for a second. And then he was running past Draco, so
fast that Draco hadnt even had time to cancel the spell that was letting him overhear Potters
firecall. Draco shook his head once and ran after him.
Potter headed straight for the window that the wards were now telling Draco was a weak point.
Someone had come onto his grounds and got near enough to damage the glass itself. Draco
swallowed a little, some of his exhilaration fading. Yes, well, it was bloodyinconvenient if his
enemy had managed to shrug aside his wards like that.
He came around the corner in time to see Potter standing tall in front of the broken window, his
wand stretched out in front of him. A steady stream of words came from him, an incantation so
long that Draco shook his head and moved forwards. The enemy would break in while Potter was
reciting a spell that long.
The spell finished just as Draco was about to extend a hand to the window, though. Potters body
flared with a silhouette of light around it, orange mostly but turning black at the edges. Potter held
out his hand, smiling faintly, and his burning fingers passed straight through the broken glass with
no ill effect.
And they kept stretching. Draco could see a dark figure tearing across the grounds, but Potters
hand flowed out, longer and longer, followed by his arm. The hand finally clamped onto the
figures collar, and dragged it back across the grass, plopping it firmly onto the carpet inside the
house, beneath the sill. The man whimpered in shock, his hands rising as if to cover his head.
Draco had already seen his face, though, and it was almost enough to make him reveal himself
right then. It seemed that his lie had come true, and now Elian Greengrass-Rosier lay nearly
fainting on the floor.
That didnt answer the question of how a common Auror had got through his wards, of course.
And Draco didnt know if he could answer that question, if there was any answer. He just stared
at Greengrass-Rosier and blinked a little, sometimes.
So, said Potter, from the depths of his chest, in a growl that sounded as if he was talking to
himself. Malfoy was right.
That brought another, more minor revelation for Draco, as Potter bent down to shake Greengrass-
Rosier awake. He didnt believe me about the letter that I said Greengrass-Rosier sent. Or at
least, not as much as I thought he did.
Draco leaned against the wall and tapped his tongue thoughtfully against his teeth. He would have
to go back to bed eventually, before Potter could come to wake him up, but he had a moment to
ponder the situation.
Potter was cleverer than Draco had thought. Capable of playing a more seductive game, and
willing to treat it as a game if he was so ordered.
Draco was a little annoyed, but mostly relieved. He was starting to think that Potters cleverness
might be the only thing that actually saved him from the rogue goblins, or whoever was really
stalking him.
The annoyance remained, though. Tomorrow night, he would have to find a safe way of slipping
away from Potter and contacting Jared.
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