"I want to be beautiful."
"True beauty resides inside of us, my dear lady."
"No, no, it doesn't. Make me beautiful. I know it's just for the day, but it's all I want."
The tent flap billowed and a shaft of sunlight speared the gloom. The woman shrank from it like a vampire and tugged at her too-tight dress. "I want to be beautiful and desirable."
"I'm not sure there's enough magic in the world," Draco muttered. Louder he chanted, "Your wish is my command," and raised his wand. The woman squealed, leant forward, and pinched her eyes closed.
He tried (and failed) to stop from shuddering. "My fee first, if you please. Twenty-five pounds. Just set it on the table."
"Oh, of course." She slapped the wrinkled notes onto the black cloth. "Now?"
He tapped his wand on the table and it began to glow. The parlour trick earned him a squeal.
"Close your eyes, Madame."
Draco spoke an incantation under his breath and a cool mist filled the tent. It refracted the light from his wand – a quite impressive effect – and sent shadows dancing around them.
"Are your eyes closed?"
"Oh! Yes," the woman lied – much to his satisfaction. Special effects were meant to be appreciated, after all.
The light show reached its peak, and his last customer of the morning – thank the Founders (even that insufferable git, Gryffindor) – finally obeyed and closed her eyes.
Draco yawned. "Stay very still."
"Yes, of course, Mr. Dragon."
He sighed and rubbed his left temple, where a migraine was struggling to life. His definition of beauty wouldn't fit the bill – unless she fancied a thick cock and hard muscles. Improvisation was in order. A mental image of Fleur Delacour helped things along. He closed his own eyes as he prepared to cast the glamour.
"Will I have red hair?"
Draco peeled one eye open. His head took up a steady throbbing. "What?"
"I want red hair."
The throbbing shifted to his jaw. "If you wish," he said, "though it hardly matches your sallow, acne-ridden complexion."
"Not that it will be an issue while you're under the spell."
The woman shifted and her chair creaked. Draco hoped it held. "May I continue?"
At her nod, he refocused, then cast. Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes. Success. A slightly podgy Veela look-alike (but for the requested red hair – how droll) was seated across the table.
"Are you finished yet?" The woman fidgeted with the straps of her purse. The chair groaned again, straining to hold its occupant. It wasn't fooled by Draco's glamour.
"Yes. But if I may explain a few things—"
The woman leapt to her feet, examining herself as best she could.
"Yes, yes. Thank you! Goodbye!" She ran from the tent, forgetting to fasten the flap behind her.
Draco watched it flutter in the breeze. Starting that afternoon, he was doubling his fee.
Lunch consisted of hot tea. He found, despite his busy morning, that he had little appetite for anything but a few minutes of solitude and some strong Earl Grey. Lethargic in body and spirit, he sat on his bed and watched the teapot, listening with half an ear to the hundreds of people congregating beyond his canvas walls.
He brought the first perfect cup to his lips and breathed in. More often than not, this was the pinnacle of his day.
Draco groaned into his cup. "Closed! Come back this afternoon."
The curtain separating him from the main portion of the tent shimmered. Draco scowled. The wards wavered again as the intruder tried to pull the heavy cloth aside – unsuccessfully, of course. "Hullo?" the voice rang out again.
"Bugger." Draco slammed his cup onto the table next to his bed.
He rose, grabbed his wand (twenty inches long and encrusted with gems, the very sight of it made some Muggles wet themselves), and swept the heavy material aside. "Who dares disturb The Magic Dragon?"
"The Magic Dragon?" Potter asked. He straightened his glasses. "Seriously?"
The element of surprise had never much worked on Draco. He was a Slytherin, after all. Potter received a diffident shrug for his unexpected appearance, though his presence rocked Draco to the core. "It appeals to the proletariat."
Potter grinned. "The lion's share of your clientele, most likely."
"Must it always be about lions with you?"
"Sorry for interrupting your lunch," Potter said, though it was obviously a lie, "but you were all booked up for the day – at least the bloke outside said you were – and this really couldn't wait until tomorrow."
Draco quietly mourned his miserable, but peaceful existence. Trouble followed Potter everywhere; this situation wasn't likely to be the exception. It was a wonder people didn't run screaming when the man stumbled into sight. "Official business, I presume?"
"It's not a social call."
"There's that, at least."
The corner of Potter's mouth twitched. He glanced around the tent, taking in the black-clad table, two chairs, and crystal ball. "A bit overdone, don't you think?"
Cheeky bastard. "Muggles like ambiance."
Potter took a great breath, then let it out slowly – a low whistle between his teeth. "Malfoy, I had no idea. I thought—"
"Why are you here?" Draco cut him off before the idiot embarrassed them both. Their shared past was water under the bridge – even if Draco had drowned in it.
He watched Potter clear his throat and run a hand down the front of his shirt. "Can we sit?"
Draco glanced behind to his meticulously steeped tea. Then threw his wand on his bed, jerked the curtain closed, and gestured (as rudely as he dared) to the table. "You've ruined my lunch."
"You've ruined my whole day," Potter shot back. "I wasn't even supposed to be working. It's Friday and I had plans to—"
"Gah!" Draco covered his eyes. "Don't. I'd rather have my fingernails ripped off. Just get to the point."
Potter's hands clenched on the black silk tablecloth. "You're doing magic here."
"Did you somehow miss my elaborate signage?"
"I'm the Magic Dragon."
"I meant real magic," Potter growled.
An actor by nature and trade, Draco affected a perfect gasp. Not overdone or underdone. Just right. "I would never. You know the terms of my release. This—" he spread his arms, "—is all for show."
An angry flush crept up Potter's neck. Fascinated despite himself, Draco watched it fill in around his cheeks and ears. He almost expected Potter's hair to stand on end – the half that wasn't already, that is.
"Look," Potter said. "We're not going to begrudge you the occasional wandless charm or spell, but you just used an Unforgivable on someone!"
"I most certainly did not. I don't even have a wand."
Potter's gaze darted to the curtained area, and Draco rolled his eyes. "Let me clarify for the half-wits in the room," he spat. "I don't have a real wand. Though I'm quite fond of that one. I ordered it from Wicca Weekly. It has a certain…jé ne sais quoi. It's…."
Potter's eyes narrowed. "Crass? Gaudy? Tasteless?"
Draco crossed his legs and sighed. "I would say it has charisma. But what isn't in dispute is its authenticity. It can't do magic. It's made of metal and plastique."
"Right. It's hardly going to channel an Unforgivable."
"Someone cast the Imperius less than an hour ago. Here at this fair. Who else if not you?" Potter's temper stuttered to life. He pushed to his feet.
Still attractive when provoked, Draco thought. That hadn't changed in the least. He snorted. "Prove it."
"I could – with a dose of Veritaserum."
Draco shuddered, but covered it with a shrug. "If you must. I say, some witch went mad when her little angel didn't win at the hoopla stall and cursed some poor gaff-lad. Start looking for a brat carrying twenty giant cuddly toys and leave me the fuck alone."
Potter shook his infuriating head. "No. The spell didn't come from a registered wand. It may not have come from a wand at all."
Implying Draco was guilty without saying so, the spineless coward.
Draco lowered his voice and met Potter's eyes. "It wasn't me. I know the consequences for such a thing. And after everything that I went through during the trials, I resent your implication that I would do harm in such a way."
That should work. Gryffindors – and by extension, Potter – were suckers for quiet sincerity.
Potter's expression softened. "Then who?"
Too bloody easy. Draco added 'predictable' to Gryffindor's generous list of faults.
"Who else here can work such strong magic?" Potter pressed. "Who could bend people to their will without a wand?"
Draco pretended to ponder. His next appointment was a full twenty minutes off, so he might as well play Potter's game. These days, his pleasurable pursuits were few and far between.
"Well," he drawled, "Kel, over at the dodgem cars," he pointed loosely, "can suck cock like a god. I know I'm willing to do anything to get his tongue wrapped around my prick. Have you tried him?"
Potter's blush returned, splotchy this time. He shifted in his seat. "You…fuck you."
"Sorry. All booked up today."
The table rattled when Potter shot to his feet. "I'll be watching."
"So, I want to be able to…you know…."
Draco arched a brow.
"Get it up ten times in one night."
The man, who bore a striking resemblance to Longbottom (but wasn't him, damn it, now that would have been fodder for extortion) jiggled his leg nervously. It bumped the table and upset Draco's crystal ball.
Draco grabbed it before it rolled away. "My apologies, sir. But aren't there Mug—medical alternatives for that type of thing?"
"'Course," the man said, scratching his thinning hair. "But you're cheaper."
"Is that so?" Surely his smile couldn't be any more brittle. "I shall have to remedy that."
"Can you help, Mr. Dragon? I want to bang her all night long."
Draco's stomach flipped. First Potter had ruined his lunch, and now this imbecile was going to put him off his dinner. He swallowed back his disgust with a groan.
"Is that a yes?"
"It's a yes. For fifty pounds."
"Oi, that's over the top!" The man licked his lips and leant forward. "How long will it last?"
"I believe your request was for one night."
The man chewed it over. "Fifty pounds for just one night of fucking doesn't sound fair."
"If you'll notice, my impotent friend, the sign reads The Magic Dragon, not The Fair Dragon. Now if you want your cock at attention for hours on end, I suggest you lay the fee on the table."
Despite the grumbling, the money appeared in record time. Draco looked at it with both longing and revulsion before counting it carefully. "Very good." He slipped the notes into his pocket. A moment later his hand re-emerged with a vial of blue liquid.
Draco handed over the potion. The man grabbed for it. He held it close to his face, eyes crossed, and examined the swirling liquid.
Disgusted, knowing what was coming, Draco gritted his teeth.
Sure enough, the vial was next given a noisy and thorough sniff. "Do you want the bottle back?" The man pulled it from beneath his nostrils and shook it at Draco.
"That's not necessary. My fee covers the cost of packaging."
"It damn well better, at that price!"
"A word of warning, sir." Though Draco wondered why he should bother giving it. Anyone who desired a twelve-hour erection lacked all manner of higher brain function. "The potion must be ingested orally."
"Drink. It. Do not rub it anywhere."
"You mean…oh." The man narrowed his eyes at the potion. "What'll happen?"
Draco sat back and flicked some lint from his robe. "It could explode."
"You mean the…." The man gestured at the vial.
He couldn't have stopped the smile for anything short of an Avada Kedavra. "No. I don't mean the…." Draco pointed at the potion.
The man choked.
"Good day," Draco said.
It had been good, at any rate, until he swept his curtain back and found Potter lying on his bed. In hysterics. It would have been a waste of breath to ask how he got past the wards, so Draco didn't bother. He shook off his robe before cancelling the Silencing Charm. Immediately, the sound of Potter's laughter filled the tent.
He had mussed Draco's bed with his flailing and caterwauling, though Draco felt strangely ambivalent about it. He kept his eyes on Potter as he lowered himself into his rickety chair – the only other thing besides the small nightstand that fit into the cramped area – and said nothing.
Potter covered his face with one hand and held his midsection with the other as he laughed. It wasn't a true Gryffindor laugh, Draco realized, discomfited. Too much perverse pleasure rang through. Apparently, Potter had enjoyed Draco's cruel little joke. Which he confirmed a second later.
"You're horrible," he managed to say between snorts.
Appealing as it was to see Potter panting into his pillow, it also fuelled his anger. "You're trespassing."
Potter shook his head and struggled to sit up. With visible effort, he composed himself. "No, I—" Then the laughter erupted again. "Ah fuck," he gasped. He fell back to the bed, shaking. "Explode?"
"It's a valid cautionary measure," Draco mumbled. But his own lips betrayed him and curled upwards.
"Oh, Malfoy," Potter gasped. He rolled over, making himself far too comfortable in Draco's opinion, and threw an arm over his face. "You—" he peeked at Draco from behind his elbow. "Reminds me of the pranks you and I used to pull on Percy. You were brilliant."
Potter went on to say something else, some ridiculous reminiscence, but Draco couldn't hear it over the thudding of his heart.
"Good times," Potter wheezed, wiping the tears from his eyes.
"Right." Draco reached for his robes and withdrew the notes. He crumpled them in his fist, then shoved them into his one drawer. "Good times."
Potter ceased snuggling Draco's pillow and sat up. He pointed as he straightened his glasses. "Is that your only drawer?"
"Do you see any others?"
"Well, no." Potter scratched his head. "Where are all your clothes?"
Really, this was too much. Draco stood up and shooed Potter off his blanket. "In a box under the bed." That was true, actually. "With my dignity." He supposed that was as well. "Now get out. I'm tired."
"Wait." Potter stood firm despite Draco's ungentle shove. "Why don't you live in the caravans with the other showmen?"
"I prefer my privacy. As well as the illusion that I'm not—" He caught himself in time.
Potter blundered forward with his usual lack of tact. "About that. I didn't think the Ministry would take everything – snap your wand – especially after your testimony against the others. But at least you're free, right? And some bad people are locked up in Azkaban. You did the right thing, and …thank you."
Draco pointed at the curtain. Potter ignored him.
"When you said you'd be okay, we just assumed…." Potter sighed, looking utterly miserable. At least that was something.
"You just assumed that I knew what I was talking about," Draco finished for him. "Why, Potter? Why trust me on that one point when you'd never trusted me before?"
Draco held up a hand and pushed the curtain aside. "It was rhetorical."
Potter ducked through the opening, but turned at the last moment. "I'm going to have to ask you to stay close by, until we know what's going on."
"I shall cancel my holiday at the seaside."
He took great pleasure in jerking the curtain closed and sealing Potter in darkness. The oaf stumbled a few times as he picked his way past Draco's table and other props, but didn't fall.
Some people had all the luck.
At some point in the darkest, loneliest part of the night, Draco returned to his tent. Most people feared the fairground after closing, with all the unnatural looming shapes and strange noises. What did it say about him that he found it comforting?
Potter was waiting, of course.
"Where have you been?" he greeted Draco in a furious whisper.
Draco squinted and thought he could make out Potter sitting at the table, cradling the crystal ball in his hands. "Some light, please?" he asked.
Light spilled from the tip of Potter's wand -– so easily, so thoughtlessly – and Draco spoke before jealousy got the better of him. "That's not real, in case you were trying to scry my whereabouts."
Potter flushed. "I know that."
"Of course you do."
Potter fumbled the crystal ball back onto its stand. "You never could resist sneaking about at night. You wandered all the time when you were at Grimmauld. It's like you never slept."
Draco sniffed. He hadn't been the only one. It'd been him and Potter and brandy-laced tea more often than not, burning through candle after candle in the draughty kitchen. Though that was where the similarities in their insomnia had ended. Potter had been unable to quiet a mind used to months of war.
Draco had been in hiding while he sent his friends and their parents to Azkaban.
Potter stood, breaking Draco's reverie. "You said you'd stay close."
Draco brushed past the table and ducked behind his curtain. "I said I'd be close by. I wasn't under the impression that meant I was to stay tied to my bed." Something crashed out in the main room, and Draco grinned.
Potter appeared a moment later. "So where were you?"
It would have been so satisfying to tell Potter to fuck off. Or that it wasn't his business. But Draco still had his wits about him (if little else), and wanted no trouble with the Ministry. Although at the moment, Potter seemed more interested in Draco's body than his mysterious whereabouts.
That was nothing new either, of course. He'd just been more surreptitious about his ogling in years past. Awkward wouldn't have begun to describe things had Ginny noticed her precious love lusting after cock. Especially Draco's.
"Malfoy?" Potter pressed. "Where were you?"
"I was with friends."
Draco began to undress. Slowly. Testing the waters. "Friends, Potter. Close acquaintances that you rely on for emotional support, among other things. I don't expect you to understand the concept."
"Could you be any more bitter?" Potter snorted.
"I could try, but would no doubt fail." Draco stripped off his shirt and went to work on the rest. The well-worn button holes on his jeans gave with a soft tug.
Potter's eyes were glued to him now. "Were you with him?"
"Who?" He shimmied out of his jeans, and Potter actually licked his lips.
"Kel," Potter said, making a face like he'd bit into a vomit-flavoured Botts bean.
Potter's jaw clenched, and Draco hid a smile. Forget about evil Unforgivables. It should be illegal to manipulate a person so easily. Potter was a hazard to himself.
Two steps took Draco across the small room and into Potter's personal space. "So tell me…how long have you been sitting out there thinking about him sucking my cock? An hour? Two?"
"I—" Potter said in a gruff voice.
"I needed it tonight. God, I needed it." Draco closed his eyes, reliving the sharp flash of orgasm. He caught his breath at the memory and his prick began to fill, straining up and towards Potter.
Fingers skimmed his face, coaxing his eyes back open. Potter was touching him. "Did you?" he asked. He ran the pad of his thumb over Draco's lip. "Tell me."
Draco leant into the touch, nipped at the wandering finger. Potter gasped. He pulled his hand back, but swayed closer. "Tell me what he did."
"So you can get off on it?"
"So I know what you like."
His cock jumped and his heart stuttered. Fucking traitorous body. "You want to know what I like?" Draco focused on Potter's wide, dilated eyes. "Why?"
Potter's thumb returned to his lips. Ungentle, it swept back and forth. Draco snagged it with his teeth and bit, harder this time, and Potter retreated with a hiss of pain. "Why do you think?" he asked.
"You picked a hell of a time to become unrepressed."
"I…just tell me." Potter peered at him through lowered lashes. "I know you want to."
No point denying that. "Fine." Draco shuffled forward one last step and pressed their bodies close. Potter's dark, stubbled chin tempted him, and he scraped his nose against it, then leant to whisper in the proffered ear. "He's quite good. It's not all about cock with him. Not at first. And it's best if you don't rush him through his routine. Because, you see, if you're patient," Draco shuddered and Potter moaned quietly, "he'll give your balls the royal treatment." He stopped there, savouring the sense memory.
Potter swallowed heavily. His hand crept to Draco's naked hip. "And you like that?"
What an absurd question. "He'll go at you for as long as you can stand it. And his tongue's rough, it's not fucking natural, I'm telling you. It's so rough you want to scream each time he swipes it over your skin. Makes my balls ache." He paused. "But from the inside, you know? Like they're so heavy, so full, you can't wait to come." Rather like they felt at the moment.
He expected Potter to attack him then. He wouldn't mind a second ravishing, even if it was Potter – desperate and clumsy, and probably good for no more than thirty seconds of full-on fondling before he came in his pants.
Instead, Potter stepped back. Leave it to a Gryffindor to bollocks up a perfect plan. "Are you telling me the truth?" he asked.
Poor, clueless Potter. "Your idiocy is appalling. Still with the Weaslette?"
"I – No. We…no." He stumbled over his words, then bit his lip.
Draco hissed in a breath. Where did Potter get off being such a little tease? "That's for the best, I suppose. How would you explain to your little tart that talking about my cock gets you hard?" He skimmed his knuckles over the bugle in Potter's jeans.
Potter choked on his tongue. His t-shirt stretched across his chest as it rose and fell, pulling his dark, erect nipples into sharp relief every few seconds. Draco's mouth flooded with saliva. He thought of how they'd feel under his tongue. How Potter would arch his chest and groan Draco's name.
Potter saw him staring. "You wanna play with them?" he whispered under his breath. He reached to flick at one through his shirt.
Quite beyond embarrassment of any kind, Draco straddled Potter's leg and rocked against his thigh. "Fucking tease. Being unrepressed suits you."
Potter's other hand slid over Draco's arse and coaxed him into a steady motion. "Yeah? Really?"
"Stop fishing for compliments, you slut." He searched for and found Potter's denim-covered cock – not a difficult task since Potter was taking no pains to hide it. "What do you want?"
"You really want to know?"
Potter's cock got a sharp squeeze for that. "Don't make me ask again."
"Okay." Potter sighed and pressed his lips to Draco's ear. "I want to kiss you."
Draco waited for more. In vain, apparently. "That's it?"
A ten-year-old would have been more imaginative. "Or I'm losing my touch," he said, mostly to himself.
"No." Potter slid his palms around Draco's face. "Not in the slightest."
For all the thrumming tension, Potter's kiss was almost chaste. He slipped a hand behind Draco's neck and eased close, then brushed their mouths together. A tremor went through Draco at the gentle contact. Potter smiled against his lips, then returned, harder this time, sampling texture and tracing lines with his tongue. His other hand curled around Draco's back.
A soft sound escaped Draco's throat. He opened wider, inviting Potter to take more and take it harder. The bastard didn't, though. He wrapped his tongue over and around Draco's – first with languid grace, then with more intent – sliding over every surface he could reach, tasting, sampling, learning. Completely unrushed.
"Draco," he said in between nipping kisses. "Want you."
That had been the ultimate goal, though Draco found, to his disgust, that Potter's kisses had distracted him from it. "I suspected as much," he said. He began to walk backward, pulling Potter with him.
But after several steps, Potter planted his feet. "Wait."
"I shouldn't be doing this."
Draco nodded. "I'm sure you're not the only one who thinks so. I am a bad influence. But I really don't give a fuck." He tugged at Potter's sleeve. "And neither should you."
"No!" Potter backed away. His eyes, rampant with confusion and desire, travelled the length of Draco's body. "I'm sorry," he said when his gaze reached Draco's feet. "I'm sorry." He Disapparated without another word.
Draco huffed. Cold all of a sudden, he reached for his shirt and jeans. "Sorry, sorry, sorry," he scoffed as he pulled them on. "You're not the only one."
He was looking for his pants when the tent flap was pushed aside. Draco cursed under his breath. Morning customers were always early, a phenomenon he'd never understood, but which often made him itch to kill something.
He threw back the blanket, found nothing, then ducked to look under his bed. Still no pants. "Bloody fuck." He yanked his trousers on and up and stabbed his arms into the sleeves of his robe. "How may The Magic Dragon assist you?" he asked as he slipped into the main portion of the tent.
Luna had already helped herself to a seat. Draco groaned when he saw her. "Never mind. You're beyond help."
Luna smiled. "Hello, Draco."
"I'm busy. Go away."
Luna's smile never wavered, even when Draco snarled at her. Instead, she tucked her legs underneath her and gestured at the crystal ball. "I didn't realize you were gifted in Divination."
"Oh yes, indeed. And I foresee great suffering in your future." He straightened the collar of his robe and began to button up. "Unless you leave now, of course."
The crystal ball shimmered when Luna ran a finger across its surface. "I'm afraid I can't. Ministry business."
A button missed its hole, and Draco cursed his shaking hands. He hated this. Hated feeling like a criminal – as ironic as that was. "Do tell?" he asked with a sneer.
"I'm here on behalf of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. This morning, you used an Unforgivable – the Imperius, to be exact."
Draco froze. "No. I did not."
She stared, pinning Draco with her damnable creepy eyes. "Where were you at half-eight this morning?"
It irked that he'd already been tried and found guilty. So much for the 'all's forgiven' shite. He finished fastening his robe before he replied. "At half-eight? Sleeping. Or maybe wanking. Can't say for sure, since I can't afford a watch. Or a decent meal." He fell into the other chair, grimacing when his trousers pinched where they normally didn't. "Or pants, for that matter."
Luna gave a wise nod. "I've some spares at home. I'll send them to you."
Draco blinked at her, speechless.
"Don't worry. They're men's. And new, if you were wondering."
He most certainly had been. He wasn't that desperate.
"Draco." Luna leant forward. Her hair, more yellow than his own, but still similar, spilled forward. "Someone at the fair is using wandless magic to cast spells. Unforgivables. So far it's only been the Imperius, but can you understand our concern that the activity will escalate now that it's begun?"
"I share your concerns. Obviously." And he did. Two incidents in two days. Wandless magic, which was a rare talent and impossible to trace – except to a general geographical area. This one.
He was so very fucked.
Luna's voice broke into his quiet panic. "Are you saying you aren't responsible?"
"Yes. It wasn't me. I already told Potter that."
The mood shifted at Potter's name. A sly smile crept over Luna's face. "About that…."
"What did you say to him? To Harry."
Luna continued to stroke the crystal ball. "Early this morning, when he came back all flustered."
Flustered. How satisfying. Almost worth enduring Luna's visit.
Draco shrugged. "Oh that. Just discussing the merits of a skilful blowjob. Potter mistakenly believed it was an all-practice, no-talent sort of endeavour. I set him straight on the issue." He fought the smile for a few seconds before giving in.
After one last affectionate stroke to the crystal ball, Luna replaced it on its stand. "He needs more of that."
"Don't we all."
"No, I mean—" Luna laughed lightly. "He needs someone to set him straight on things. Oral sex isn't a bad start, though. Thank you." She rose and smiled at him. "I'll send those pants along. Is owl post acceptable?"
How was it possible, Draco wondered, for one to turn a conversation in so many circles and not be dizzy?
Muffled voices outside the tent alerted him that his first (paying) customer had arrived. Distracted, he peered through the gloom towards the entrance. Luna threw her mane of hair over her shoulder and snapped her fingers. "Draco? Owl post?"
He wondered what a barn owl bearing pants would do to his reputation. Nothing hideous, in all likelihood. "By owl is acceptable," he mumbled.
Luna inclined her head. She turned to leave, but spun back at the last moment. "Are you okay, Draco? In this place?"
He looked around the tent. At the decrepit table, the Divination ball, the display of crystals, the crudely painted runes, and the unobtrusive curtain than led to his tiny cloth prison. He laughed, mirthless and bitter. "What do you think?"
"I'm sorry. None of us realized. I thought—"
Draco waved her off. He'd had his fill of martyrdom for the week. "You didn't think at all. Don't beat yourself up, Lovegood. I'm alive." When he stood, the fabric of his trousers bunched up around his balls, and he winced. "After a fashion."
If was safe to say that in the three years Draco had lived in his tent, no one had ever Apparated into it. Potter's sudden appearance and accompanying loud crack shot enough adrenaline through his heart to rouse him from deep sleep to full battle ready in less than two seconds.
"Hey, Malfoy. Wake u—"
Draco tackled him. They hit the floor together, Draco still mostly wrapped in his blanket.
Potter's annoying voice penetrated Draco's brain the same moment he noticed the state of his now filthy bedding. Potter's stomach took the brunt of his anger. He pulled the punch at the last moment, but still heard a pained grunt.
Draco struggled out of the tangle. "Look what you've done!" He yanked the blanket and Potter tumbled off onto the packed dirt. "You inconsiderate sod!"
"You attacked me," Potter growled as he rubbed his abdomen. He squinted at the blanket, then lit his wand and took a closer look. "Just Scourgify it."
He hated Potter. Hated him. "Easier said than done." He balled up the blanket and threw it on the bed.
"What's the problem? You do wandless magic every day."
"To survive!" Draco hissed. "Do you think it's easy?"
Potter brushed himself off as he eyed Draco. "Headaches?" he asked. At Draco's glare, he nodded. "Me too. If I'm not careful. I'm sorry…." He held up a hand. "I'll fix it. But there's been another surge of untraceable magic. That's why I'm here."
For the first time, Draco noticed Potter's laces weren't tied and his shirt was only partly buttoned. Half of his hair was sticking up – as per the usual – but the other side was squashed flat. "You still sleep on your left side," Draco said inanely.
Potter sputtered and ran his fingers through his fringe. "It's because…it's the—"
"—only way you can fall asleep. I know."
Potter's wand appeared in his hand. "I can't believe I ever told you that," he mumbled as he Scourgified Draco's blanket. "Now about the wandless spell…."
"It wasn't me."
Potter pointed to the mess of bedding. "Obviously. But I got pulled out of bed at half-two because of it. So you're going to help figure out where the hell it did come from."
"Forgive me for finding fault with your idiot's logic, but why the hell should I?"
Potter bent down and came back up with Draco's shoes in hand. "Cause it's your head on the chopping block if we can't come up with another explanation." He threw the trainers. "Still finding fault with my logic?"
Draco caught them against his chest, then bent and shoved his feet inside, ignoring Potter's smug smile as best he could.
Nothing was ever easy. It'd been his roughest lesson to date.
The fairground was dead. Just like Potter was going to be for wasting two hours of Draco's precious sleep. "There's nothing out here." He planted his feet when Potter tried to drag him forward again. "Nothing. I'm going back to bed."
Potter gave in with a sigh and a filthy look.
They walked back in silence. Draco pushed through the flap without looking back, but the rustle of canvas alerted him that Potter had followed.
He had no energy for games. "Please go," he said, keeping his back to Potter. "I want to sleep."
"I will. I just want to make sure…."
Draco ground his teeth and waited.
"Is there anything…? Do you want anything?"
Where to begin? He couldn't even speak for all the wants he had. "No." He kicked his trainers into a corner and shuffled towards his niche. When he reached the curtain, he turned. Potter was still standing by the table. Staring.
"Did you want something, Potter?" A taste of what you had a few nights ago? was on the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed it back.
Stupid, adorable Potter just stood there. Draco watched his shoulders droop, heard his sad sigh, and cursed up a silent storm in his head. Because as luck would have it, Potter looking stupid and adorable (and now deflated) was hands down the sexiest thing he'd ever seen.
Life was a cruel, unfair bitch.
Draco sagged against a tent pole and tipped his head until it met the dull, dented metal with a clunk. "I abhor this," he whispered. He felt no need to specify his hate. It applied to pretty much everything anyway.
Potter started at Draco's words. His mouth opened and closed twice before any sound came out. "I'll be going, then" he finally said.
Draco caught his arm before he'd taken two steps. "Not yet."
Potter may have deserved an explanation, but Draco wasn't inclined to give one. He curved an arm around Potter's waist and jerked him forward. When they crashed together, Draco's blood sizzled.
"So right and yet so wrong," Potter said.
"We'll immortalize it in a song," Draco promised. "Now shut up."
He sealed his mouth over Potter's. With no distracting nakedness – not that he approved of Potter's wardrobe – Draco was free to concentrate on returning Potter's sexy, sloppy kisses and still have plenty of energy left over to deny how they made him feel.
As soon as Potter's hands wandered, Draco pushed him away. "Go home."
"Home?" Potter swayed back and forth. He pressed the back of his hand over his lips.
"It's where the heart is," Draco said. He retreated behind his curtain and didn't breathe until he heard Potter Apparate away.
The Ministry bred its owls to look evil, Draco was sure. The one waiting for him the next morning boasted two reddish horns, one missing eye, and a screech that would wake the dead. It was also moulting – not the most normal of traits for bubo virginianus.
They stated at each other across the tent.
"You could quite possibly be the ugliest owl I've ever seen," Draco said.
The owl shook its head and screeched.
"The truth hurts," Draco replied. He removed the official-looking scroll and cracked the seal. The missive to present himself for questioning wasn't surprising, though he'd expected Potter to have the balls to deliver it himself.
"Eric!" Draco shouted. The young gaff-lad stuck his head through the tent flap, and Draco sighed. "I'm not opening today. Please change the sign accordingly."
"Sure. What do you want me to tell people?"
Draco pretended to think. "That I'm closed?"
"But they'll want to know why."
"In that case, tell them I'm needed at the Ministry of Magic."
Eric's face lit up. "Cor, that's a good one! Aren't you clever?" He disappeared back through the flap.
"Oh yes," Draco mumbled to himself. "The cleverest fish in the net."
"You took your time, didn't you, young Mr. Malfoy."
Draco let the comment slide. It had taken close to two hours and three modes of public transportation to reach the closest establishment with a Floo. Something he was positive his escort knew.
The guard escorted him to an interrogation room. "Welcome back to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I'd offer a tour, but I suspect you already feel very much at home."
Draco folded his hands on the table and said nothing.
The guard snorted. "They'll be along shortly." He left, locking the door behind him.
When 'they' did show up – two hours later – Draco barely hid his shock. "What are you doing here?"
Auror Hobbs took a seat opposite Draco and spread his hands. "I work here," he said with evil glee.
Draco adjusted his chances of surviving the day from likely to improbable. Hobbs hated Malfoys, and he detested Draco most of all. He'd done everything in his power to reverse Draco's pardon.
His campaign had failed, but not for lack of trying. The man was unbalanced.
Draco thought he'd put his abandonment issues behind him, but knowing that Potter was letting him face this alone – fully aware that Hobbs was heading the investigation – sent a fresh stab of betrayal coursing through him.
Hobbs pulled a bottle of Veritaserum from his pocket. "I've been waiting for this moment since you walked out of Azkaban – freed for your so-called cooperation. You're not getting away this time, Malfoy. Ready?" He withdrew the dropper from the bottle.
As if he had a choice. Draco stuck out his tongue. Expecting three drops, he choked when Hobbs squirted the entire contents of the dropper down his throat. His mind fogged. The tips of his fingers went numb. Woozy, he bent forward until his head rested on the cool table.
Hobbs smacked his lips. "Shall we begin?"
"No, thank you," Draco slurred.
"That wasn't a question."
Draco lifted his head a few inches off the table. "I beg to differ."
"How many times did you use an Unforgivable Curse during the war?"
Draco managed to raise his head enough to look Hobbs in the eye. "Aren't you interested in more recent events?"
"Not in the slightest."
The loud crash of the door being thrown open made Hobbs jump, but Draco didn't have the strength.
"What the hell is going on here?"
"Excellent timing, Potter," Draco said. "Most excellent."
He felt a supporting arm slide round his waist and a cool hand brush his forehead. "I said," Potter growled, "what the fuck is going on here?"
"Actually, you asked what the hell is going on here," Draco said. "But that's splitting hairs really."
"This is unacceptable," Potter fumed. "No witnesses to the interrogation? No recording? How much of that did you give him? He can't even hold his head up! Has anyone even informed him of his rights?"
"Of course!" Hobbs sputtered.
"No," Draco said. He strained to turn his head and ended up with his face buried in Potter's hip. "But you smell nice."
"This meeting is over." Potter hauled him to his feet.
"Wait!" Draco cried. "I want to say, for the record—" He stumbled sideways, but Potter steadied him. "I have had nothing to do with this casting of Unforgivables that your office is alleging. There." He turned in Potter's arms. "Now it's over."
Hobbs knocked his chair over in his haste to rise. "I don't believe it! You've beat the potion somehow. Next you'll tell me you're fucking Potter!"
Potter's elbow slammed into his ribs, and Draco doubled over with a groan. "Sorry," Potter said, squeezing his waist. "Sorry." He led Draco from the room. "You'll be hearing from my Section Head about this," he shot over his shoulder.
Draco let Potter support him all the way to the Atrium, and spoke up only when they passed the Floos.
"Slow down. You missed my stop." He tried to turn them, but Potter resisted.
"No Floo for you. We're Apparating. It'll get you home much faster."
So Potter was an idea man. "Capital suggestion," Draco agreed. He wrapped himself around his saviour. The Ministry faded out.
He'd never been so happy to see his tent.
He contemplated the side effects of a Veritaserum overdose, took note of his current fragile emotional state, and squirmed out of Potter's arms. Now was not the time for weepiness; such behavior could trigger Potter's cuddling instinct.
That he didn't cringe in horror from the thought was a dire sign.
He stumbled toward his chair and fell into it just as Eric poked his head through the flap. "Draco! I thought I heard something. You're back early."
"And—" Draco held up a finger. "Alive."
Potter followed him to the table and hovered. Draco sensed his intense stare, felt the tension, and groaned quietly. The potion had better wear off in short order. He had no desire to get honest with anyone at the moment. Especially Potter.
Eric bounced on his toes. "So you'll be wanting to see customers this afternoon?"
"I'd rather gouge my eyes out."
Behind him, Potter made a soft dismayed sound.
Eric laughed and ducked back outside.
"I'm sorry," Potter said, obviously not talking about the interrogation.
Draco shrugged. "It's worse some days than oth—" The potion refused to let his tongue eject the last word, miserable lie that it was. He laughed under his breath. "No. No, they're all bad."
"If I had any idea you'd end up…here."
Now that rubbed the wrong way. He struggled to his feet. "These are good people, Potter. Good for taking me in." When everyone else had forgotten him.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean—" Potter scrubbed at his face. "I wondered about what had happened. Where you'd disappeared to."
"Did you? It's not as though I was deliberately hiding."
Potter was silent. Trying to ignore the proverbial elephant, was Draco's guess. "Don't lose sleep over it. You weren't the only one." Eventually, anger had become resentment, resentment had become acceptance, and now all he wanted was for Potter to stop reminding him of everything he'd lost. "Thank you for your assistance this morning. I suppose it would be too much to hope that the issue is closed?"
After a long pause and a deep breath, Potter replied, "I doubt it. I'm sorry."
"You already said that."
"Potter," Draco said, warning clear in his tone.
"I'm so sorry." Potter reached out with one hand and snagged Draco's arm. He hauled him close until they were a clumsy press of elbows and knees. One of his hands gripped Draco's shirt at the waist; the other tangled in his hair. He set his face against Draco's throat.
"Potter?" Draco's voice shook.
"I want to kiss you again."
Did he expect a protest? "If you must," Draco breathed.
Potter pressed his lips to the skin below Draco's ear. They stood that way, barely touching, yet weirdly intimate, until Draco's impatience got the better of him. "Did you mean now or next year?" he snapped.
Potter slid his mouth over Draco's ear, across the line of his cheek, and let it hover over his lips, a hair's-breadth away.
Finally, Draco thought.
But when he tried to close the last few inches, Potter lowered his head and licked at Draco's neck, lightly at first, then with broad strokes. "Impatient?" he whispered.
Draco jerked Potter up by his hair and claimed his mouth in a hard kiss. This time, when Potter tried to re-exert control, he got his arm twisted behind his back for his trouble.
"Ah fuck. You bastard," Potter said. But his hips jerked forward and his mouth opened under Draco's demanding tongue.
Draco revelled in Potter's lust. He fed it with his mouth, drove it higher with words, and held Potter at the peak, teetering. "I am not your toy," he hissed against Potter's lips. "If you want me, then take me. Touch me, lick me, suck me, or fuck me, but do something." He yanked on Potter's pinned arm.
Potter gasped, then groaned. "Okay." Using one of his damn fancy Auror manoeuvres, he jerked his arm free and spun them round. Draco's world tilted. His back met the hard wood of the table a moment later.
"Nice move," he admitted.
"I'll do something," Potter said, speaking under his breath. "I'll suck you." He pushed Draco's robe aside and fumbled with his trousers.
Draco slapped his shaking hands away. "Oh, let me." He ripped the placket open and guided Potter down.
Potter wasted no time getting Draco's prick in his mouth. He swirled his tongue over the crown and lapped up the leaked fluid with beautiful enthusiasm.
"Ngh," Draco said with a pat to Potter's head. The table had been a stroke of genius. Boneless, he let his legs fall open and his eyes close. Potter approved with gentle stroking hands that tickled over Draco's stomach and thighs. Then he sucked Draco's cock down his throat.
Sweet, wet, perfection. Potter had talent.
"You're in luck!" Eric's voice penetrated Draco's fogged senses. "He wasn't supposed to be open today, but he managed to wrap things up at the Ministry of Magicians earlier than expected." The tent flap rustled. "I'm sure he'd be ecstatic to see you."
That boy was getting something nasty in his pudding tonight, Draco decided.
"If you're sure…."
"One hundred percent. Right this way, Madame!"
Something very nasty. "Customer," Draco gasped. He smacked Potter's cheek.
Potter pulled back with a growl, and linked his arms behind Draco's back. "Hang on." He yanked him off the table and propelled them across the tent, supporting ninety percent of Draco's weight the whole way.
Draco purred in his ear for his chivalry.
They stumbled into the curtained alcove and fell onto the bed. Draco cringed and tried to ignore how the springs gave an alarmed groan at the extra weight. Ignorant of the distressed bed frame, Potter paused to rip open his jeans then crawled up Draco's body to meet his eager mouth.
"Oh! He's not here!"
"He's just getting himself all meditated for you. Don't you worry one bit. Just have a seat here and he'll be along before you know it."
"Silencing spell," Draco whispered.
"Already cast it."
Potter got a kiss for that. "Well done." He ran his hands through Potter's mop of hair. "Still wanna suck me?"
"No." Potter lifted up and removed Draco's trousers in one yank. "Wanna fuck you."
"I'd love that."
Potter's bemused look took the edge off Draco's need. He'd curse Potter if he laughed.
He didn't. "Is that Veritaserum still working?" was all Potter asked as he accepted the vial of oil Draco slapped into his hand.
Draco considered. "Do you want it to be?"
"Yeah," Potter breathed. He bent to suck Draco's nipples, first one, then the other. His ragged breath tickled the few hairs on Draco's chest, and his body trembled as he waited for Draco's answer.
"Okay, it's still working."
Potter rewarded him with two oil-slicked fingers in his arse. Draco hissed. "Easy." He gave Potter's cock a soothing stroke. "Slow down."
Another tremor raced through Potter. He twisted his fingers and added another, rutting into Draco's hand the whole time. "Don't want to," he panted.
"Hullooooo! Mr. Dragon?"
From the corner of his eye, Draco saw his curtain twitch, but ignored it. Let the customer wait five minutes. It'd be less, in all likelihood. If Draco's handmade Potter shudder and spit profanity and kiss like he was about to blow apart, the main event would be over in short order.
"Come on, then," Draco chanted. "This is what you want, isn't it?" He pulled his legs back and apart.
Potter nodded as he clumsily spilled the rest of the oil over his cock, then knelt between Draco's legs. Draco threw all his concentration into staying open and relaxed, and Potter slid home in one smooth stroke. Back arched and mouth open, he froze, eyes wide as saucers. "Oh fuck. I—"
"No!" Draco yelled. "Don't you dare!" He curled up, grabbed Potter's chin in his fingers, and gave it a sharp jerk. He growled when Potter's eyes refocused on his. "Not without me."
With a groan, Potter lowered them both back to the bed. He folded Draco in half and set their foreheads together. Still edging, he did little more than pant raggedly into Draco's mouth.
Draco nipped along Potter's bottom lip and licked at the corners. He led him into a slow, calming kiss. Soon, some of the tension in Potter's shoulders eased. Draco examined him with a critical eye. "Think you can fuck me now?"
"I could've fucked you before.
"I mean for more than five seconds." He scowled when it came out more needy than sarcastic.
Potter pulled out and hovered, his cock just skimming Draco's hole. "I think so." Then he slammed forward.
Draco's breath left in a rush. He'd barely sucked it back in when Potter did it again.
"Hullo? Mr. Dragon? Are you feeling well?"
"Go away," Draco whinged. "Please go away." He tossed his head in time with Potter's thrusts and realized – with dawning horror – that he was going to come. Imminently.
Potter was sure to call him a hypocrite for it.
But he was being covered and filled and pressed down and it was Potter and knowing that propelled him over the edge with nothing on his cock but the press and friction of Potter's slick skin. His hands slipped from where he had them locked behind his knees, his back arched, and his orgasm rushed over him, scalding him from the inside out. He bit his lip to keep from yelling out – to little avail. His sharp cry made Potter gasp and stiffen. Then his fingers dug into Draco's thighs as he thrust twice more and climaxed with a long drawn out moan.
He was still shuddering though his orgasm when he tried to pull away, but Draco blocked his retreat with his arms and legs and coaxed him down. Potter went willingly, heavy and limp. His hands stroked and petted whatever skin they could reach.
Draco concentrated on catching his breath. "What an extraordinary day," he mused.
"It has been that." Draco's shoulder muffled Potter's words.
A shadow at the base of his curtain caught Draco's attention. A set of dainty shoes waited, and one tapped impatiently against the packed dirt. "Shame I have to get back to work," Draco said, watching as the leather sole kicked up a small dust storm.
"Mr. Dragon? Will you be much longer?" The shoe began to tap at a furious rate.
"Kill that Silencing spell," Draco muttered.
Potter mumbled something that may have passed for "Finite" then returned to nuzzling Draco's neck.
"I'll be out shortly," Draco called. "Just another minute."
"Can't move," Potter grunted.
Draco shoved at him. "Your stamina could use some work, that's for bloody sure."
Draco wriggled free. His legs protested taking his weight, but he ignored the shake and set about putting his clothing to rights. "I have a customer," he said as the last button slipped into place. He started to pull the curtain aside.
"Draco?" Potter's voice, heavy with confusion, floated towards him from the bed.
Draco ignored him. Sex he loved, post-coital cuddling he tolerated, but impassioned, orgasm-induced speeches were dread anathemas.
He almost tripped in his haste to escape.
Shadows on the moon meant danger with the dawn, his mother had always said. She'd been a superstitious sort. Draco stared at the glowing crescent and thought about his parents, safe and happy (or so he assumed) in their modest home. Somewhere.
Their amnesty had been Draco's one demand. An end to all communications had been the Ministry's reciprocal stipulation. He often thought about breaking it but lacked the means. With two owls at his disposal, his father had no such difficulties.
Yet it had been three years with no word. Which was a clear message in itself.
When he'd hinted to Potter that others had abandoned him, he'd been quite serious.
A flash of movement to his right yanked him back to the present. Next to the big wheel, less than fifty feet away, a figure stepped out of the shadows. Draco crouched low and crept forward. He darted from booth to booth, tracking his prey with a stealth and a precision he'd never let deteriorate.
With Potter's group too inept to resolve this matter, his only hope was to put an end to it himself. His freedom was on the line, which was something he took very seriously. Better to be miserable in a tent than miserable in a cell.
He expended so much energy staying hidden that when his own tent came into view, he froze, surprised to find himself back where he'd started. The hooded figure reached out and touched his hand to the canvas. Beneath his fingers, flames sprang to life and began to spread.
Draco couldn't be sure who he shocked more with his angry, "No!" – himself or the arsonist. But watching his last few measly belongings burn wasn't an option. The man ripped his hand away from the tent and the flames died. Draco sprang forward, but not quickly enough. The hooded man turned and raised a wand. "Everte Statum!"
Draco's Protego never passed his lips. His next thoughts, when he finally regained consciousness, were that he was freezing cold, and also that Potter's gorgeous eyes still stole his breath.
"Don't move," Potter said. "I think you cracked a few ribs."
Maybe not the eyes after all, then.
"Ugh," Draco said, and Potter nodded.
"I know. I was watching." He held up a piece of shimmery fabric. His Invisibility Cloak. "I thought you might take matters into your own hands. Lucky I was here, huh?"
Draco winced and added 'predictable' to Slytherin's (short) list of faults.
"Stay still." Potter ran his wand over Draco's chest and murmured a spell. The crushing weight on his lungs disappeared.
Draco took a deep breath in celebration. "Just trying to help," he said. He sat up gingerly and looked around. "Did you get him?"
"No. I was…I wanted to make sure you were okay."
"An evening wasted then."
Potter hauled him up by the collar. "Don't worry. It'll be your last," he growled.
"You—" Potter tried to shake him, but Draco batted his hands away. "Don't do it again, Draco. With no wand, you have no way to defend yourself. Stay out of it! I don't need your help."
"That's not the tune you were singing a couple of days ago."
Potter stared at him, mouth clamped shut, and Draco suddenly wondered what they were talking about. "It's over," he chose to say. "I'm safe."
"For tonight. Now whoever this is knows about you."
Draco jabbed a finger at the scorched canvas. "That's my tent, Potter. It's a safe assumption he knew about me before I…."
Potter was looking at him with pity, and that was something Draco wouldn't stand for. "I did, didn't I? And a rather nasty one at that. Perhaps a more thorough physical examination is in order. Up for a quick fuck?"
Heat flared in Potter's eyes. "I think…no."
"No," Draco repeated, surprised at how much that one word hurt. He turned away to brush at his clothes. "Then this is go—"
"Not a quick one."
Draco's hands stilled.
"Not a quick one. And not over that table, either." Potter slid up behind him. "In your bed."
Idiot romantic. "My bed, and I use that term loosely, won't stand up to any more punishment. And you do recall its size, or lack thereof, do you not?" The tip of Potter's wand teased up the inseam of his jeans. Draco held his breath as it circled the outline of his swelling cock. "Be careful with that," he muttered.
Potter laughed and wrapped his other arm around Draco's waist in a loose embrace. Draco had forgotten how carefree he could sound. It brought back a dozen memories he had no business revisiting. Time to move things along.
"Let's go, then. Regale me with your Transfiguration skills."
Potter squeezed his waist. "I'll do that. I've a fondness for a good bed. It's a…long story. I won't bore you with it."
"Oh, thank God."
Chuckling softly, Potter hooked a finger inside Draco's waistband and drew him inside.
Autumn had been his favourite season up until a few years ago. After the trials, it lost its magic. (Much like Draco, though not in so dramatic a fashion.) Autumn's new legacy was ice-cold mornings, the kind where huddling under the blanket to stay warm was little more than a farce – just as the so-called walls of his home were – and watching his breath condense in the air as he dressed was the rule rather than the exception.
This morning was different.
Potter had conjured a heavy mantle of blankets and added himself to the mix. He was draped over Draco's back, one leg tucked between Draco's bent ones, face buried in Draco's hair. But even more pleasing, his body gave off a furnace-like heat.
He wasn't snoring, which was a minor blessing.
Draco wiggled deeper into the nest of fine linens and wondered if Potter was a morning sex sort of fellow. It seemed right to offer, since he had shared his unnaturally warm body. And blankets. And down pillows. And feather bed.
"Such a princess," Draco mumbled into his pillow. To ease the sting of his accusation, he kissed Potter's fingers where they curled around his.
Potter whispered something tender into his hair.
Draco rolled his eyes. "And sentimental to boot. I can't wait to rid myself of your vexatious company."
"You and your gilded tongue," Potter muttered. He stretched and rubbed his nose along the back of Draco's neck. The snoring began soon after.
He endured it as long as he could before he pushed Potter away and climbed out of bed. The cold air stung. His penance, he supposed. Fucking Potter was bad karma, and if it didn't soon come back to bite him on the arse, then his name wasn't The Magic Dragon.
Despite all that, it would have been as close to perfect as a morning could be – but for the woman he found waiting for him in the main portion of the tent.
Small, but sturdy, and with the longest hair Draco had ever seen on anyone (even the Patil twins), Marguerite didn't leave a lasting first impression. But it was rare for anyone to underestimate her more than once.
Draco froze. A visit from the fair's matriarch was akin to an audience with Dumbledore. He'd done his best to stay beneath her attention these past few years, not that he'd been successful. She was as all-seeing as the old man had been. And just as particular about how she ran things.
Marguerite gestured to the second chair at his table. She wore her usual ensemble of worn jeans and t-shirt – nothing amiss there – but her thoughtful frown did little to ease his mind. "Join me, Draco," she said in her usual solemn voice. She tucked her greying hair behind her ears.
He pulled his robe around him and obeyed.
"I've been hearing things," she said. "Rumours. There've been some strange goings-on these past few nights."
Draco tried unsuccessfully to push an intelligent response past his lips. He nodded.
"Would you know anything about that?"
His stomach twisted in on itself. Being treated like a criminal by his own kind had lost its sting over the years. But losing Marguerite's confidence would slice deep. He had little choice, unfortunately; he had to lie. The last of his good mood evaporated.
Marguerite folded her arms over her ample bosom. "I only ask because we're worried about you. Myself especially."
Draco's denial died on his lips.
"We take care of our own. So I want you to be upfront if you need our help."
Draco heard a rustling behind him – probably Potter swimming in his sea of blankets. Marguerite must have heard it as well, but her gaze never wavered. Instead, her red-painted lips turned up in a crafty smile.
He fell a bit in love with her then.
"I may be in a spot of trouble," he said in a low voice. "I'm working on it."
Marguerite pursed her lips. No more immune to its strange charms than the next person, she stroked the crystal ball with her finger. After another moment, she nodded. "Keep me appraised."
Not that the power to save him was within her grasp, but at the moment, it somehow didn't matter. He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Thank you."
Marguerite nodded and left.
A moment later, Potter emerged fully-clothed from behind the curtain. He gave Draco's shoulder a squeeze and, after a long, gentle kiss, Disapparated without saying a word. Draco didn't begrudge him the silence. In fact, he preferred to keep the romantic drivel to a minimum. He had no time to argue over who cooked the meals or who got to be called 'poppet'.
There were more pressing matters at hand.
His head throbbed. He finished incanting the spell with a smile, even though the pain made him nauseous.
"Hey. You okay?"
Draco nodded at his customer. "Yes. Now—"
"Draco? Are you here?" Luna pushed through the tent flap. "I've brought your pants. I hope black is acceptable." She deposited a wrapped parcel on the table.
Draco hoped his look conveyed his annoyance. Not that it would matter. Luna communicated on a different plane of reality than most. As predicted, body language failed – she stayed rooted to the spot despite his angry glare – so he fell back on words. "I'm with a customer."
The man jerked a thumb at Luna. "Who's that?"
"That," Draco improvised, "is my assistant."
"Your assistant buys your smalls?"
Draco blinked innocently. "Of course."
The man slouched backward and scratched at his scalp. "Mine doesn't do that," he said to himself.
"Well good lord, man, get rid of her!" Draco barked. "And train the next one properly."
The man leapt from his seat at the command. "Ye—yes, Mr. Dragon. So it worked? I can—?" He gestured to his fleshy throat.
Draco rubbed his temple. "Like an angel."
The man gave a whoop of joy that had Luna backing up a step. "I'm going to serenade her tonight, Mr. Dragon. Under her window."
"Thank you for the warning." Draco pointed to the exit. "Goodbye."
"Goodbye! Thank you!"
Luna settled into the vacated seat and tapped her wand on the table, watching as Draco massaged his forehead. "Do you have any headache potion?" she asked.
"No, I don't have any headache potion," Draco snapped. "Brewing requires magic."
Luna blinked. "I know that."
"Magic hurts. Bit of a vicious circle."
"Ahhh." She twirled her wand between her fingers. Draco stared, unable to help himself. It temped, like water to the thirsty.
"If it hurts so much, why do you do it?"
The spinning wand was distracting and stole some of the bite from his answer. "It's all I know." And it was. Though there were always the stinking side alleys of Knockturn. He hadn't sunk that low yet.
Luna didn't comment on his answer. "Do you know why things didn't work out between Harry and Ginny?"
Draco tore his eyes away from the wand and shook off a sudden lethargy. The lack of pain in his head registered a moment later. He shot a look at Luna, noting how her wand had come to rest in her lap. "Clever," he muttered.
"Did it work?"
"Yes." He rubbed the base of his neck. "Thank you."
"Standard hypnosis, with a small nonverbal spell thrown in. I've been perfecting it on my cats."
Draco pretended he hadn't heard that last part.
"So. Do you know why?"
"It's a conundrum, I admit. Oh!" He slapped his thigh. "Unless you take into account that he's gay."
Luna giggled. "No, that wasn't it."
"I assure you it played a part."
A slight breeze set his display of hanging crystals swaying. Luna breathed a sound of delight and rose from her seat to investigate. She touched each one in turn, lingering over some as surely as she dismissed others. "No, it wasn't that," she repeated as she browsed. "He needs an equal."
"Good luck finding one of those."
"I wasn't talking about magical ability, though your power is nothing to sneeze at." She removed a light purple crystal from its string and turned. "Your auras match, you know."
Draco nodded. "Yes, and mental. Most people would say Potter and I are complete opposites."
"Opposite doesn't mean not equal." She held the crystal to her heart and smiled. Even several feet away, Draco felt the ripple in the air that signalled compatible magic. Luna returned to her seat, cradling her treasure to her breast. "You used to be friends. You were," she insisted when Draco shook his head. You were friends. Good ones. Maybe even mo—"
"Friends don't abandon one another," he interrupted.
Luna's laughter tinkled, not unlike his crystals. "Of course they do. People aren't perfect. But they never mean to leave you alone. And they're always sorry." She held up the amethyst. "How much?"
Draco watched it glitter in her palm. "Nothing. Take it."
Luna smiled and closed her fingers around the crystal. "Enjoy your pants."
It wasn't so much a sound as a feeling that woke him. He listened, keeping perfectly still, but heard nothing. Yet the sense of wrongness persisted. Habit had him reaching under his pillow for his wand, to no avail, of course. He whispered a curse and eased from his bed, certain trouble was on the way, if it wasn't already close at hand.
There was no need to dress; Potter hadn't come round in two nights, and the chilly air had driven him to bed fully clothed. Blood pounded in his ears as he eased his curtain aside and peered out into the main area of his tent. His instincts screamed that he wasn't alone.
He crouched low as he eased through the curtain, but in the end his precautions proved useless. A Stunner, followed a split second later by a binding spell, flew from the corner of the tent and enveloped him.
He came awake to a ringing, "Rennervate," and waves of pain.
"Potter," he wheezed, spitting dirt from his mouth, "you kinky bastard."
"Not Potter. I've made sure he's otherwise occupied."
It was all he could do not to groan. "Hobbs."
"Yes! It warms the cockles of my heart that you guessed it in one. Proving, yet again, that I am quite unforgettable."
"Proving," Draco said with a cough, "ad nauseam, that you are as imaginative as a Kneazle. How fucking predictable. Let me guess…Gryffindor?"
"Certainly not! Ravenclaw, if you please."
Draco gave a barking laugh and heaved himself over, cursing the invisible bonds twined about his arms and legs. He struggled to turn his head toward the sound of Hobbs' voice. "Ravenclaw, you say? And yet you brewed this farcical scheme. You put your House to shame."
"Quiet!" Hobbs strode out of the shadows. Rage twisted his face. "Farcical, you say? Well I say that you're about to commit murder, Mr. Malfoy. And when you're convicted – which you will be – it'll be back to Azkaban for sure."
"Oh please. No one will miss you that much."
"Not me, you snake!" Hobbs dragged a bound Marguerite into view. "Her."
Unharmed so far, at least to Draco's eye, Marguerite stood calm and stoic. Quite impressive, actually, considering Hobbs was raving about her impending murder.
Draco turned his gaze to Hobbs. "Never."
"So sure, are you?" Hobbs slipped his wand into his sleeve and a moment later, closed his eyes. Immediately, Marguerite started to struggle with her bonds. "Draco," she hissed.
Draco ignored her. In a rush, he saw the truth of the mysterious wandless curses, and it made him weak with terror. He was, indeed, going to kill one of the few people he cared about.
Hobbs opened his eyes and focused on Draco. His whispered, "Imperio," hit like a Bludger. The air whooshed from Draco's lungs. His will fled.
Curiously, he found his ability to hate – and love – unaffected.
"Bastard," he said to Hobbs.
"Nonsense. You think I'm brilliant," Hobbs retorted with an evil smile.
His mind screamed a denial, but his head nodded. "Yes." He scowled, and Hobbs erupted with laughter.
"I'd love to spend hours humiliating you." Hobbs stepped forward. "But I have another engagement."
"Afraid your regulars on Knockturn will miss your whoring arse?"
With a snort, Hobbs brandished his wand and lit it. A soft glow filled the tent. Draco caught Marguerite's gaze and was again struck by her equanimity.
Hobbs made a show of looking around. "I only see one whore here." He sighed and fingered a layer of dust off a display of crystals. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen."
"Stop insulting me," Hobbs ordered. "Kill her."
Draco swallowed his expletive. "Certainly," he agreed. "How?"
"I don't care." Hobbs removed the binding spell and Draco climbed to his feet. "Strangle her."
He reached Marguerite in four long steps and wrapped his hands around her neck. It felt thin. Fragile. As insubstantial as his so-called life. So unlike the person she was. He took a deep breath and began to squeeze. Her pulse beat under his thumbs. "Draco," she said. "Resist him."
He tightened his grip.
"Draco," she panted. "You can resist him. Throw off the curse."
He faltered. Unsettled, he squinted at her. "I can't."
"Yes, you can. You can do it the same way you do your other magic. Use that strong will of yours." Her silver-grey hair glittered in Hobbs' wand light. Her eyes pleaded with him.
It hurt so much to disappoint her. "I can't," Draco whispered.
"Who are you?" Hobbs came forward and lifted his wand to Marguerite's face. "Do I know you?"
"You do not," Marguerite spat. "Though I know you."
"How?" Hobbs loomed over them both. Draco eased his grip on Marguerite's neck. He was curious about that himself.
"Does it matter?" Marguerite asked, voice dead calm.
Hobbs considered. "No. Not at all." He nudged Draco. "Get on with it."
Draco screamed profanities and insults in his head, but his hands trembled and tightened obediently around Marguerite's throat. "I don't want to do this," he said. Useless, useless words. Behind him, he heard Hobbs chuckle.
"I didn't want to take you in." Marguerite's calm faltered as she gasped for breath. "But I promised your father I would. He told me I wouldn't regret it. I haven't so far."
The confession shocked him enough that his hands fell away from her neck. "He…knows where I am?" he asked, voice so low he barely heard it himself.
Marguerite's answer was equally soft. Her eyes kind. "He asks after you often."
The moment stretched – the only sound the tinkle of hanging crystals. So, Draco thought. Not forgotten after all.
"Get on with it," Hobbs roared.
Draco's hands flew back to Marguerite's throat while the familiar taste of betrayal rose in his own. "He knew about this. About me. He knew all along." His fingers pinched into her neck, and she gasped.
"You know contact is forbidden. He's obeying the agreement."
Draco laughed through bitter tears. "He makes his own rules. Why start respecting the law now?"
"Everything has a beginning," she said, "and an end."
She thrashed within her bindings. Blue tinged the skin around her lips, and Draco's heart began to pound. "I don't want to do this," he said. "I don't want to do this."
"Fight it!" she panted. "Have you forgotten who you are?"
"A Death Eater," Hobbs yelled. "The son of a monster."
"No, Draco," Marguerite said, struggling for air. "You're none of those things. You are The Magic Dragon."
Draco's fingers relaxed, and Marguerite pulled in a great breath.
"So I am," he said.
Fighting the curse was like wrestling a huge blanket into submission. Yet in a few seconds, Draco had it wrapped into a tight ball. He ejected it from his mind, grunting as pain roared to life across his forehead. With a soft, "Finite Incantatem," Marguerite's bonds fell away, and Draco swung to Hobbs.
The Auror had time enough to gasp, and then Draco's magic was upon him. Never, even in the thick of war, had he thrown so much power into a Stunner. Hobbs hit the ground, unconscious before the echo of Draco's Stupefy faded from the air.
He stumbled over and pulled Hobbs' wand from his hand. Rage bubbled up his throat as he stood over the helpless man, wand poised.
"Draco, no!" Potter's voice rang in his ears, pushing some of the anger away. A hand came into view and gently circled his wrist.
Draco released the wand, and it fell into Potter's palm. Luna brushed past them and knelt by Hobbs. "He's alive," Draco rasped. "I didn't—" He swiped a hand across his mouth.
Luna glanced over her shoulder. "Pity."
"Well," Draco shrugged a shoulder, wincing when it aggravated his headache, "you could leave and come back again. I'd only need another minute or so."
"Don't tempt me," Potter said. Waves of angry magic rolled off of him. He shook with rage, though his grip on Draco's wrist stayed gentle.
"Right, then." Draco pulled away. He stumbled to the table and leant against it. "My work's done. I'm just going to sit down for a moment." Potter and Luna had begun to scurry about, securing Hobbs and his wand, but Draco felt too detached and battered to help.
"Were you alone?" Potter asked from across the tent. His face was in shadow, so Draco figured his own must be as well. A good thing, as he was certain Potter would have read the lie in his eyes.
"Yes," he said, knowing that a dash of dishonesty was the right course. "I was."
Potter stood statue-still for several seconds before nodding. As soon as he turned back to Luna, Draco made a surreptitious search of the tent, knowing he'd find nothing.
Marguerite had slipped away.
Whatever her reasons…whatever her circumstances…her absence proved she didn't want to be involved. There'd be questions later, to be sure. But that didn't matter.
Draco took care of his own, as well.
He couldn't decide if he was pleased or irritated to find Potter in his tent the next morning. Draco sank into the chair across the table and propped his chin in his hand. "Haven't you earned yourself a holiday?"
Potter linked his hands behind his head and tipped the chair back. "Haven't you?"
"Oh, yes. I'm off to my mountaintop chalet later this afternoon."
He'd forgotten how it felt to share a laugh with Potter. Of course, the oaf ruined it immediately.
"I'm going to start working on getting your probation revoked."
"Don't do me any favours." Or raise his hopes. That's how disappointment got a foothold, and Draco refused to let that happen.
The incident with Hobbs had shaken him. Enough so that his tent – with his hard bed and one drawer, tinkling crystals, and seductive crystal ball – left him feeling safe, if not content.
And in the end, he'd found himself far less alone than he'd thought.
"No, I want to do this," Potter said. "Please. I'm going to fix things. Get you a wand. Help you find your parents. Make things better for you." The last was said under his breath.
Draco closed his eyes when Potter's became too bright with promise. "You can't guarantee that."
Thoughtfully, Potter tapped the crystal ball. "You're right. I can't." His hand crept across the table and captured Draco's. "But I'll try my best."
Draco stared at their twined fingers. "Now what are we talking about?"
Potter squeezed his hand and held on tight. "The future, Draco."
Back to Sansa's Page