Tick Tock


"Pink! Why, for the love of Merlin, would you choose pink?"

If there was one thing that Draco Malfoy had never, ever imagined, it was living to the ripe, old age of thirty-two without ever having been married or, indeed, even successfully engaged for longer than a fortnight.

Sadly, there were a growing number of things that Draco Malfoy had never, ever imagined that he was now being forced to take under consideration.

For instance, he was at present coming to terms with the fact that no amount of wealth, good breeding, or acrobatic sexual prowess could persuade him to suffer even one more day of cohabitation with Miles Bletchley. Not one more.

"Shut up, Miles."

This was actually effective for several long, blissfully quiet moments during which Miles ceased his tirade and appeared to wonder whether he had heard Draco correctly.

"Excuse me?"

"I said, shut up, Miles. I don't actually give a rat's petrified arse what Clarice Bonneville thinks of the colour of my door. It's my fucking door."

"Our door," Miles said, sniffing angrily.

"No, Miles," Draco said, drawing the name out with open irritation. "Actually, it isn't. I bought the flat, I pay the bills, I pay the housekeeper, I fix the drain when you clog it with wax—which, by the way, is disgusting—and I do the painting. Which includes the fucking door. Which means I will paint it any fucking colour I like."

"It's pink, Draco! With orange trim!"

"Fuchsia," Draco corrected. "With tangerine trim. And you needn't concern yourself with the humiliation of living behind it any longer."

"Oh, thank Merlin! I don't think I could have taken one more of that woman's pointed looks. Can we repaint it right now? Have we got normal paint?"

"No, that's not what I meant." Draco sighed. "I meant, you don't have to live behind it anymore. I meant, I'd like you to leave."

"What do you mean, leave?" Miles asked, voice rising to a whine. Or, more accurately, an even higher pitched whine. "I've only just moved in. Where am I supposed to go?"

"As you've just pointed out, Miles, you've only lived here for a couple of weeks. I imagine your mother hasn't had the time to convert your rooms into a third parlour just yet. Might be good to send an owl ahead, though, just in case. Oh right, the owl's mine, too. You may borrow him for the afternoon."

Draco almost felt guilty when Miles' lower lip trembled visibly, but he was cured of it through the simple device of Miles speaking again.

"You can't be serious? You are a complete bastard, you know that, Draco?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact I do. It's a common sentiment around this point in the proceedings." Draco levelled an icy stare at him. "Good thing you found out sooner rather than later, don't you think?"

Miles slumped and glanced plaintively around the room, no doubt taking a longing last look at the gaudy baroque dining set he'd insisted Draco buy. After a few terribly uncomfortable moments of silence, Draco took the initiative and summoned the owl himself.

* * *

The whoosh of the Floo and the telltale clickity-clack of impatient, high-heeled footsteps alerted Draco to the presence of the absolute last person he wanted to discuss the situation with. He sighed loudly and fumbled in the sofa cushions for his wand.

"Hello, Pansy." Draco made a wobbly flourish with his wand, summoning what was left of his Firewhisky and a fresh glass for his tormentor. "You should know—I refuse to be comforted."

He frowned as the decanter halted in mid-air and began an invisible tug-of-war between his location and returning to the bar cart.

"Stop that," he hissed, waving his wand at the whisky again. "I want it."

Pansy pocketed her wand, grabbed the crystal jar physically, and carried it back to the cart. The extra glass fell with a sad thunk to the carpet.

"And, still, you may not have it. Isn't life cruel?"

"If by 'life' you mean you, then yes. It is a terrible, cruel, bitch."

"Shut up, Draco."

Draco tried to smile, but it actually made his lips hurt from lack of practise.

"Yes, dear." He watched with mounting adoration as she produced from her handbag a container of Black Chocolate gelato, two bowls, two silver baby spoons, a box of waffle biscuits, and a fresh bottle of Old Ogden's.

"I've obviously stopped by the shop. They're all wondering if they are ever going to see their boss again." She frowned when she caught him eyeing the whisky. "Not now. You've had enough of that particular cure for the moment. Ice cream now."

"Yes, dear," he repeated, slumping over to rest his head against her shoulder. "May I have raspberry sauce?" Pansy allowed him a very small smile and reached into her bag to retrieve a jar of raspberry preserves.

"You may. I also popped into B&B. I think the staff there may be planning a coup."

"Fine, fine. I'll go in tomorrow."

She served them each a mound of gelato, topped them with a huge dollop of raspberry, poked a biscuit into the crown of each of them, and flourished the tiny spoon with the Malfoy crest on the handle at Draco.

"Go on, you big baby."

Draco wrapped his hand around hers when he reached for the spoon, pulling her down to him and planting a messy kiss on her forehead.

"Mock all you like, you vicious creature," he said through a watery grin. "You'll be next. That Knightley fellow looks like a poor catch, if you ask me."

"I'm not mocking, you bastard," she said kissing him back on the nose. "And he's already gone. Booted him on Thursday last while you were too busy moping to even notice."

Draco blinked, suddenly taking in the dark circles under her eyes. Her hair was in a severe bun and she was dressed in three different shades of black. He felt like an arsehole.

"I'm sorry, Pans," he said, leaning his forehead against hers, and watching her eyes merge into one as he tried to look into them from too close a distance. "I really am a bastard."

"Yes, true. But you're my bastard, and here we are now. Get away and let me drown my sorrows in fat and sugar."

"Of course, my love." He sat back and pressed an errant hair away from her eye, took a deep, steadying breath, and reached for their bowls, sticking the spoon with the Parkinson crest into the top of her sundae.

"I wondered why you'd got your favourite flavour for my breakup. It makes much more sense now."

"I'd have brought you your favourite if it weren't so disgusting. I can't stand that rainbow-coloured rubbish. I have tried and I have tried, but no matter how many times we've repeated this pathetic little ritual, it remains utterly vile. Also, Flint was working and I didn't think you'd like him renewing his pathetic attempts at wooing you. I don't think I have to mention how sad it is that your employees can tell you've had a breakup by your ice cream selection."

"I'll have him fired if I ever leave my sofa again," Draco promised.

"Good." She sniffed. "Speaking of vile rainbows, what on earth have you done with your door? It's hideous."

Draco laughed out loud for the first time in a week.

* * *

Correction: Pansy was the person he had not wanted to admit he needed to talk to. Now Draco was experiencing the arrival of the person he really, truly did not want to discuss the situation with.

"Hello, Mother." Draco didn't bother groping around in the overstuffed sofa for his wand this time, since his mother had already summoned the whisky and two fresh glasses before she had even finished crossing the threshold.

"Hello, dear," she replied brightly. "Driven away another one, have we?"

"I did not drive him away, mother," Draco said, sniffing loudly. "He was an insufferable twat, and once I realized I was about to kill him and spend the rest of my life in Azkaban, I politely asked him to get the fuck out."

She settled herself primly on the edge of the monstrous goose-down sofa that Miles had also insisted on and waved her wand at the Firewhisky bottle, which promptly began to pour each of them a large glass.

"Let me guess." Narcissa sighed. "Did he, perchance, dare to object to that very artistic treatment you've given your door?" She lifted her glass with a dainty, gloved hand and downed nearly the whole thing without the slightest sign of distress.

"Yes," Draco snapped, bitterly aware that his tone was the very embodiment of petulance. "As a matter of fact, that's exactly what happened. That, and this stupid sofa. What sort of a man wants a white sofa? How the fuck is one supposed to keep it clean?"

"To be clear, Draco, you have now expended your allotted uses of the word 'fuck' for this particular meltdown. Use it again, and I will be forced to act as your mother."

"Understood," Draco mumbled, staring into his untouched drink. "Sorry." He was already deeply regretting using up all his fucks this early in the conversation. He had a strong feeling he was going to be struggling to express himself effectively as the situation progressed.

"Drink that, dear," she said as she polished off her own drink and gestured at the bottle for a refill. "We're going to have a discussion now that I don't think you want to have without it."

Draco took a dutiful sip and winced. In truth, he had never quite grown in to Firewhisky—it always stung until he'd had a few. His mother cleared her throat, and there was something so uncharacteristically nervous about the sound, that Draco reflexively choked down the rest of the glass, bracing for the worst as it burned its way down to his belly.

"Right," said Narcissa quickly. "Here it is, Draco. Your father is not getting any younger. You are his only son. You have known from childhood that you would be required to marry and produce an heir. Your time, as they say, is up."

"Up?" Draco echoed stupidly.

"Your father is executing his right to arrange for your marriage and the production of an heir. In recognition of your preference for the company of men, and in the hope that you might eventually find some happiness with your assigned spouse, your father has agreed that he will arrange for a male partner and honour either a natural or an adopted heir to the estate, so long as the child is magical and shares some connection to our bloodline."

"Preference for the company of men?" Draco parroted, indignantly.

"Hear me, Draco. Now is not the time to start an argument over semantics. I am delivering a message. Please focus on the most pertinent information, and do not start picking apart your father's words. He is trying his best to assure that you are not made miserable by your obligations. See and hear that part of the message."

Draco opened and closed his mouth several times before sinking back into the ridiculous couch with a moan.

"I can find someone, mother. Please just tell him I need another year."

"Your time is up, Draco. A short list of candidates is already being contacted and interviewed. You've a few weeks, at best, before the decision will be sealed for you. You will, of course, be allowed to meet with them and express your opinion, but this is going to happen. You should anticipate a Solstice wedding."

Draco stared out the window with unfocused eyes, still clutching his empty glass. The low angle of the sun snapped him from his haze and drew his attention to the clock on the mantle.

"I apologize… would you care for tea, mother?" he said automatically, years of grooming finally kicking in.

"Don't be ridiculous, Draco. You haven't even got an elf here." Narcissa rose, kissing him on the cheek as she did.

"I can put cakes on a plate and make a pot of tea, mother."

"Of course you can, dear," she said, in a placating sort of tone. She patted him on the head and started for the door. She paused with her hand on the knob and spoke over her shoulder, not quite meeting Draco's eyes.

"You know," she said quietly. "Your father and I were arranged. I won't say it's always been a smooth ride, but we do love one another, in the end. It doesn't have to mean there isn't love."

She stepped through the door without looking back, and closed it quietly behind her.

"Fuck," Draco breathed out, sinking back into the depths of the sofa.

"I heard that, Draco." Narcissa's voice carried back through the door. "We'll speak about that mouth of yours when I see you next."

* * *

Because Draco was going to have the worst week in the history of weeks, his attempt at going for a walk to clear his head was dashed by Mrs Bonneville lurking in the common garden as he stepped out of his door.

He forced a grin around his gritted teeth, and an intentionally false cheer into his tone.

"Good evening, Mrs Bonneville," he said, with a nod so perfectly civil it could only be perceived as rude. "Lovely weather, don't you think?"

His smile turned vicious as he watched her stiffen with annoyance and her eyes flick pointedly towards his vibrantly painted door.

"Mr Malfoy," she returned. Her voice was so icy, he was surprised he couldn’t see her breath on the warm fall air. "I suppose that's the sort of thing your kind thinks of as festive? It’s an eyesore, is what it is."

"Festive, fun…one might even say gay." Draco watched with pleasure as the corner of her eye literally twitched.

"I'm afraid I'll have to report you to the owner's association, Mr Malfoy. We can't just have everyone doing anything they like. This is a respectable neighbourhood."

"Please do, Madam. It will provide me an opportunity to inquire with the board as to the regulations regarding neighbourly voyeurism. Surely there must be some rules on the books?"

"If you're going to parade your aberrant behaviour around in full view of your windows—"

"A window, Madam, which you cannot possibly have had a full view into without both perching tippy-toed atop your stove and employing omnioculars. I checked by trying to find the same view from my flat to yours."

Mrs Bonneville sputtered loudly and turned an unpleasant shade of bluish-red.

"How dare you?" she hissed under her breath, eyes darting around. "How dare you peer into my bedroom?"

"Exactly," Draco said levelly. "I'm glad you've finally come to see my point of view. Good day, Madam Bonneville. I suppose I will see you at the next board meeting?"

Feeling enthusiastic about something for the first time in recent memory, Draco let a little spring into his step as he continued on his way.

As one might have guessed, this sense of whimsy was not to last.

* * *

"So, Christiano… what is it that you do?" Draco asked dutifully, eyeing his date's "vegan" supper with suspicion.

"Well," he began, in a thick, but unidentifiable, accent that reminded Draco of one of Blaise's many fathers. The fourth one, if Draco remembered correctly. "I enjoy reading and painting. And I travel home frequently, whenever I find I'm getting too pale." He grinned and flexed a bronzed forearm, as if seeking approval of his tan.

"How fascinating," Draco said slowly. "But, I meant, what do you do for a living?"

A look of total confusion crossed his date's face, and Draco reflected that he was perhaps not the fastest broom in the shed.

"Do you mean labour?" he finally asked, as if Draco could have suggested nothing more absurd. "Oh, no. As my mother always said, I was not cut out for the ravages of the working class. My talents are for creating beauty and living artfully, not toiling in a cage." He said all of this with a perfectly straight face.

Draco took a moment to envision his later life, running his enterprises from the Manor with Christiano tripping about underfoot making everything lovely. He raised his hand to summon the check.

* * *

Draco felt that, at the very least, the universe owed him a good night's sleep, since he had completed this most recent date with unprecedented efficiency and had arrived home at a very decent hour. Not so.

He had no sooner settled with a happy sigh into his pillow, than a loud thump occurred directly overhead, followed by muffled cursing and the long, dragging scrape of a trunk being moved by hand. Draco narrowed his eyes at the clock. It appeared that someone had purchased the unoccupied flat above his, and chosen to move in at ten in the evening. On a Friday, yes, but still rude. Draco huffed into his pillow.

Several minutes went by without further commotion and Draco relaxed back into the edges of sleep, smiling when he recalled that he didn't need to be up at any particular time the following morning. He tugged his duvet up around his ears with a satisfied little hum.

Just as he drifted away, there came a tremendous crash from above and what could only have been a box of fine china or crystal by the sound of it. This time, Draco distinctly heard the word 'fuck' carry right through the floorboards.

"Do you mind?" he yelled upward, already prepared to send a broomstick up to hammer at the ceiling if the insensitive newcomer didn't cease his bumbling move-in immediately.

Silence greeted him in return, disturbed only by a short interval of sweeping and tinkling. Beyond that, the new idiot upstairs finally shut the fuck up.

* * *

His father must have had a sense of foreboding about Christiano, because Draco already had a new date scheduled for the following weekend—someone who went by the unfortunate moniker of Sebastian Sweetman. Draco could certainly see, on the off chance that it really was his given name, why he might be interested in a marriage that would provide him with a new one.

Draco dressed carefully, little as he cared about impressing any of his father's gold-digging, mail-order husbands. He was simply incapable of looking less than his best, even if it gave his dates the wrong impression. Besides, there was the obscure possibility that he might actually like one of them, albeit extremely obscure.

As he was to meet Mr Sweetman—just thinking the name gave him a shudder— in a popular Muggle establishment on Raphael Street, he hadn't bothered to change out of his suit following his afternoon meetings at his shops. He did, however, change to a peach-coloured silk tie that had belonged to a previous lover who had been an American underwear model.

After all, a shot of confidence was never a bad thing, and nothing gave him a boost like wearing a tie that said, "I sometimes fuck Calvin Klein models". He checked the mirror and ran a quick hand through his hair to loosen a few strands (the same model had taught him the merits of "bed head"), collected his wand and billfold from the hall table, and started out to walk the few blocks from his flat to the restaurant.

Because he was actually in a pretty good mood, he naturally walked smack into Harry Potter's chest not three steps out the door.

"Malfoy?" Potter's insufferable voice demanded.

Draco didn't answer straight away, since he was too busy trying to reason how it was that he had come to run into Potter's surprisingly solid chest whilst exiting his own doorway. The evidence pointed to Potter coming down the stairs from the flat above his and stepping onto the landing just as Draco turned to leave his flat.

Potter coming down that flight of stairs pointed to another unfortunate conclusion.

"You bought the flat," he said numbly, addressing Potter's collarbone.

A moment ticked by before Potter's response. "And you live here."

"For several months, yes," Draco snapped, barely suppressing the urge to point out that he had been here first.

"You'd think someone would have mentioned that before I'd signed all the papers," Potter said, sounding inexplicably amused.

"These properties are known for privacy and discretion, Potter. Surely that's what drew you to purchase here in the first place. It wouldn't be very private if they'd given you the identities of every witch and wizard in the area, now would it?"

"I suppose not," Potter agreed. "But I think they could have let slip that the infamous Draco Malfoy would be directly underfoot." He looked at Draco with a little smirk. "Literally."

Draco stepped up eye-to-eye with Potter, watching with satisfaction as Potter had to visibly control the urge to move back.

"Don't worry, Potter. Time and experience have tempered my difficult disposition." He leaned even closer and this time Potter did pull away just a little. "I don't bite unless asked very nicely these days."

He pasted his most deliberately evil grin on and brushed past Potter with an indelicate shoulder bump. He'd left Potter gaping in his wake, and was just beginning to smile in earnest when Potter's parting words caught up to him.

"Nice door, Malfoy. Is that fuchsia?"

* * *

Sebastian Sweetman was horrifically, aptly named.

"Oh!" he trilled happily, sucking down another slimy, pink piece of fish with green paste on top. "The ahi is to die for!"

"If I thought that were true, I might actually eat some of that," Draco muttered under his breath, sipping at his salty little bowl of soup and eyeing the bobbing little white things with suspicion.

"Sorry?" Sebastian asked sweetly, batting his obviously dyed eyelashes at Draco in what was probably supposed to be an alluring manner. "Would you like to try some?"

"No, thank you, I'm allergic," Draco lied, spearing a bite of teriyaki chicken with his fork. There was no way he was admitting to being disgusted by something as bloody expensive as sushi.

Sweetman chewed and swallowed a gob of rice and seaweed, looking perplexed, then genuinely abashed. "I'm sorry, I didn't know. We should have gone somewhere else."

"Not at all," Draco said, with a dismissive wave of his fork. He stabbed another piece of dry, sugar-sauce coated chicken. "This is fine."

His date looked unconvinced, but he returned to shovelling a hundred Muggle pounds worth of raw fish into his mouth nonetheless. Draco got the distinct impression that Sweetman was no longer really enjoying himself now that he was aware that Draco wasn't. For some reason, Draco found this more annoying than anything else.

"So, you're in advertising?" he asked, hoping to salvage some kind of interest in this overly accommodating and agreeable individual. After all, ad men were supposed to be rotten to the core, right?

"Mmmm," Sweetman hummed around a mouthful of what appeared to be tentacles. Draco swallowed back a lurch in his stomach. "I do work with an advertising agency. I'm not in retail adverts, though. I develop campaigns for charities and foundations."

"So, Save the Giant Squid? That sort of thing?"

"Yes, I suppose," Sweetman said, with what could only be called a titter. Who responds to an obvious dig like that with a titter, Draco wondered. He felt like flicking one of the little white blobs from the soup at him. "Although, there's no current campaign for saving squid that I'm aware of."

Draco then remembered that this Sweetman hadn't attended Hogwarts, and had no idea who the Giant Squid was. He watched as his date selected another of the tentacled rolls, popped it in his mouth with a grin, and washed it back with a little cup of sake.

Huh. Maybe he wasn't entirely sickly sweet, after all. Draco could work with a closet bad boy.

"So, what are you trying to save?" Draco asked, pouring each of them another drink.

"At the moment? War Orphans. I'm working on an awareness campaign for the Fawkes Foundation."

The, ah, that—that's Harry Potter's charity, yes?" Apparently it was fucking Harry Potter Day.

"He's the face of it, yes. I think a lot of the early money came from him, too, but it's actually headed by Hermione Granger. Unbelievable bitch, but she knows how to get it done, I'll give her that."

"So you spend a lot of time with Granger and Potter, then?" Draco asked, genuinely intrigued for the very first time in what had now been eight dates.

"Virtually none," said Sweetman. "Potter's only been in to record a couple of spots for the wireless, and I make every effort to stay well out of Granger's sightline."

"Smart," Draco agreed. "She's an absolute terror, that woman, if she isn't on your side."

"Even when she is," Sweetman muttered, reaching for his cup. Draco grinned. Yes, he was starting to like this one.

* * *

Three bites of sugary chicken and a small cup of broth were no match for two large carafes of sake. Draco found himself leaning into Sebastian with a little more than intent to catch his balance and not really caring if it was inappropriate.

"You really don't have to," he slurred, pressing into Sebastian side. "I'm only just up the way. I can make it on my own."

"Nonsense," Sebastian countered. "What sort of a rotten date would I be if I didn't see you to your door?"

"Honestly? That's probably my job, right?" Draco asked, sobering up a bit. "I mean, I'm the inquiring party here. Or, my family is, at any rate."

"Perhaps, but you're the prettier one. I'm far less likely to attract unsavoury types on my way home."

Draco snorted. "Please. I am the unsavoury type."

"Ah, well. I guess that ruins that theory, then." Sebastian was suddenly a lot closer than Draco remember him being. They had also stopped walking, and had apparently arrived at his front door.

"So," Draco said, still leaning a bit unnecessarily into his side.

"So," Sebastian repeated with a grin. "This is the place, is it?"

"Yep." Draco tilted his head up hopefully and Sebastian leaned in readily. Draco let his eyes fall closed and gripped at the other man's coat.

"Sweetman?" Draco's eyes popped open in horror. Sure enough, just at the bottom of his stairs stood the unwelcome visage of Harry Potter, wearing an even more lemon-sour expression than usual.

"Go away, Potter," Draco snapped, tightening his grip on Sebastian's lapel. To no avail, unfortunately, as Sebastian pulled away sharply, running a quick hand through his hair.

"Hello, Harry," Sebastian said, in a strained version of a professional tone. He cleared his throat and tried again. "I didn't know you lived here."

"Just moved," Potter said, sounding clipped. "Got sick of my last flat. Bad memories."

Sebastian shifted from foot to foot, glancing over his shoulder as if marking his available exit routes.

"Too bad. You were in a great neighbourhood," Sebastian said, getting even more obviously uncomfortable.

"I don't know," Potter said, fixing Draco with an odd pointed look. "This is a pretty posh area, as well. Most people would covet either one, I imagine."

"This is really fascinating, and I hate to miss the bit where we start talking about the unseasonably warm weather we've been having, but if you don't mind—" Draco cut in, when he'd had just about enough.

"Actually," Sebastian said, and Draco's heart sank. "I've got to be in the office quite early tomorrow."

"Tomorrow is Sunday," Draco said quietly.

Sebastian's eyes darted to Potter and back to Draco. "I should go. Thank you for a lovely evening, Mr Malfoy."

He ducked his head a bit and backed up several steps before turning and quickly walking off back through the gardens and out of sight in the darkness.

"That was bloody fantastic, Potter," Draco spat, spinning around unsteadily to point an accusing finger at his nemesis of a neighbour. "I was so hoping that you would not only move into my once peaceful building, but cock-block the only decent date I've had in a month with nothing more than your insufferable presence. Well fucking done."

Potter narrowed his eyes at him. "You never did know when to say thank you, Malfoy."

Potter turned and stomped up the steps towards his flat.

"Thank you?" Draco shouted after him. "You're mad! You've actually lost your fucking mind, Potter. Stay away from me!"

"Gladly," Potter tossed over his shoulder, before slamming his door shut with force. Draco continued to stare angrily up at Potter's windows until he extinguished his lights and Draco was left standing in the pitch dark and fumbling to find his wand and get inside.

* * *

Draco woke up on his couch with an unfamiliar sort of hangover and the high-pitched whine of a boiling teakettle assaulting his eardrums. He concluded that sake was not his drink.

"Leave me alone," he called out feebly toward the kitchen.

"No," Pansy called back, cruelly clanking cutlery and china together in a manner that could only have been deliberate. "I don't think I will."

"I'm not going to be any fun to torment today," Draco whined.

"Nonsense," Pansy chirped, setting the tray down with force and grinning when he winced. "Tormenting you is always fun. And I've got Swiss chocolate."

Draco perked up and leaned over the pot, which was emanating the glorious scent of proper hot cocoa. "All right," he sighed over the steam. "You may stay. For a few minutes."

"So accommodating. No wonder you're beating suitors away with a stick," Pansy said, shoving him aside with a pointy elbow.

"I was doing perfectly well last night," Draco whined, folding his arms around himself and flopping back onto the sofa. "But then the story of my life happened again. Harry Potter just happened to arrive and ruin everything."

"Potter?" Pansy asked with sudden heightened interest. "How did he get involved?"

"You will not believe this, Pansy, but he's purchased the flat above me. And he chose a critical moment to pop down the stairs and pull some kind of work-related power play with my date. I guess Potter's all for equality until it's someone working on his damned publicity team. Fucking hypocrite."

Pansy paused in handing him a cup of chocolate and raised an eyebrow in obvious disbelief.

"Your date was Sebastian Sweetman, yes?"

"That's right," Draco said archly, swiping the cup from her hand.

"I thought so. When your mother mentioned the name at tea yesterday, I thought I'd better come around and check on you this morning."

"I wondered if you'd ever run into him at the agency. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint, but I haven't got any juicy details for you."

"So, you liked him and then Potter popped up and ruined everything?" she asked with obvious incredulity. "Because he's a closet bigot."

"Typical Potter," Draco fumed, drowning his sorrows in a long, soothing sip of hot chocolate.

"You really did stop reading the gossip pages after the underpants model, didn't you?"

"You know I did."

"Right, well you missed a few pertinent items. The first is that Potter probably doesn't have a problem with your affinity for the boys. Since he shares it."

Draco set his cup down with a clack against the saucer.

"Second—and you wouldn't have seen this in the papers—for once, I don't think it was you he had the problem with at all. Word around the agency is that he and Sweetman have a history. Not a pretty one, either, from the sound of it."

"That absolute prick," Malfoy spat, shoving his cup across the table and standing. "It makes total sense now."


"Pardon me, Pansy. I need to go borrow a bowl of sugar from a neighbour."

"I would like to point out that this is a terrible idea."

"You'll see yourself out, won't you?"

"Don't I always?" She sighed.

* * *

Draco pounded on Potter's door so sharply he bruised his knuckle. He had just drawn the painful digit into his mouth when the door swung open.

Potter, Draco could not help noticing, was dressed in Muggle jeans and nothing else, as if people just opened their doors like that. His eyes strayed to the finger in Draco's mouth and lingered there for a moment before he spoke. "What do you want, Malfoy?"

"Merlin's tit, you really are queer, aren't you?"

Potter frowned. "What do you want? It's a simple question."

"Oh, where to begin?" Draco snapped. "I would like to have had really fantastic sex last night, for one thing. I would like to be spending this afternoon reporting to my father that one of his endless suitors is actually a match. I would like to have some small hope that the rest of my life isn't going to be forcibly spent with someone who makes me want to vomit on first contact."

Potter frowned even more, the big idiot.

"In short, Potter, I would like access to a time-turner and I would like to go back to last night and to witness, for the very first time in history, Harry Potter minding his own fucking business!"

"Look, Malfoy, I'm sorry if you think I ruined a great thing for you. Believe it or not, I was trying to do you a favour. He may not make you want to vomit right now, but it won't take long, I guarantee."

"Yes, I've heard the rumours. Saint Potter got burned and if he can't get laid, nobody can. Is that it?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Malfoy."

"You're ridiculous, Potter!" Draco crowded the bespectacled bastard back through his own doorway, causing him to draw a sharp breath. "I'm supposed to believe you've suddenly developed this interest in my personal life because you're worried about me? It doesn't quite have the ring of truth, I'm afraid."

Potter didn't back up in the least. He even leaned in a bit, scowling furiously. "So, I should have let you sleep with a gold-digging, publicity-seeking con artist? In the interest of minding my own business?"

"Yes! Well, no, don't be an arse. But how am I to know that he's any of those things? Simply because you say so?" Draco poked an accusing finger into Potter's chest. "You could say he has a polka-dotted willy, for that matter. Everyone knows you split up badly."

Potter smacked Draco's hand aside and shoved him roughly against the doorframe. "So why did he run off so easily? I did little more than say hello. That doesn't seem odd to you, Malfoy?"

Perhaps it was the shirtlessness, but Draco was suddenly very aware of the incredibly short distance between them. It wasn't at all difficult to imagine Potter's bare chest closing that space and pressing up against his own when he had such a detailed view of it. Horrified, Draco stared at Potter's collarbone while he spun his brain for a response to the question. Honestly, it was a very nice collarbone, regardless of owner.

Potter caught the direction of his gaze and snorted.

"Who's really queer now?"

"Both of us," Draco said, pressing infinitesimally closer. "Come to think of it."

"Are you fucking serious?" Potter laughed harshly, but he didn't move away.

"Absolutely." Draco closed the space between them with a false bravado. He knew he wasn't turning back now. Offense was his only option. "The way I see it, you owe me."

"I owe you nothing," Potter said in a low tone. By contrast, he slid a knee between Draco's thighs and pressed him harder against the entryway, preserving a barrier with a hard hand against Draco's chest. "If anything, I'm the one who's owed a debt."

"Not a chance." Draco grabbed at the stupid little loops on the waist of Potter's jeans and yanked him forward by the hips.

Because he was a master at doing the absolute most annoying thing possible, Potter began to laugh. Loudly.

"Oh, don't pout," he said in response to Draco's expression.

"I am not pouting. I'm glaring, which is often followed swiftly by kicking or striking. Watch yourself, Potter."

Naturally, Potter laughed again. At least he had the good sense to push his knee firmly up between Draco's legs, making kicking a difficult option. Draco flicked the side of Potter's head instead.

"Sorry, sorry," Potter muttered, pulling himself together. "I'm really not laughing at you, Malfoy. Not only you, anyway. It's just, you must admit, pretty strange. This…us." He pressed carefully with his thigh at Draco's erection. "I was caught off guard, that's all."

"You started it."

"Interesting interpretation of events," Potter muttered, bending down to run his nose along Draco's jawline.

"It should be impossible to find you attractive," Draco gasped, riding Potter's thigh slowly. "You're so fucking annoying."

"I agree," Potter huffed into his ear. "It's hard to reconcile how much I want to throttle you with how much I want to make you come on my thigh."

Draco failed miserably to control the moan that rose up in his throat. "Perhaps we can combine the two somehow?" he gritted out, allowing Potter to get his hands under his arms and shove him up the doorframe a bit.

"I think it's a bit soon for throttling, even between us, Malfoy." He could hear the humour in Potter's voice and caught himself smiling against his will.

"Surely we can skip the formalities, Potter. Given the number of times we've both genuinely tried to kill one another, a little kink play shouldn't be too forward, I think. Oh, fuck. Harder."

At least in this regard, Potter actually came through. He had managed with some combination of thigh and arms and torso to nearly lift Draco off his toes and was driving his hips forward with perfect rhythm and pressure. So perfect.

Draco tensed and clawed at Potter's shoulders for something to grip.

"Oh, fuck yeah," he heard Potter moan under his breath. "Come on, Malfoy."

He wouldn't ever have imagined it, but that was what did it. The desperate, needy little sound in Potter's voice when he said Draco's name. He twisted a fist in the back of Potter's ridiculous hair and held on tight while, for the first time in years, he came in his trousers without ever even thinking about getting them off first.

Just as he was about to lose his grip and tumble to the floor, Potter drove up against him full-body, pinning him in place and coming with a series of harsh gasps that made Draco's cock give one last nearly painful throb in his pants.

They were still clinging to one another and the doorframe, panting harshly, when Potter lifted his head to look out the door and quietly said, "Fuck."

Draco craned around and followed his line of sight to the most unfortunate vision of Mrs Bonneville, standing frozen in the garden below clutching a pair of omnioculars. Meeting Draco's eyes seemed to snap her out of her stupor. She spun on her heel and made for her door in a flurry.

"Well," she called out, loudly enough for every flat off the garden to hear. "Let's see what the board thinks of this, shall we?"

Draco dropped his head back against the doorframe with a thud. "Fuck, indeed."

* * *

Draco stumbled into his kitchen to a rather unwelcome sight the following morning.

"Hello, mother."

"Hello, dear. Drink?"

"It's not half-ten. Isn't it a touch early?" Draco waved his hand to indicate both his mother's and the whisky's presence.

"Suit yourself," said Narcissa. Her voice held a light, sing-song tone that made the hairs on the back of Draco's neck stand up. She smiled brightly and knocked back several fingers of Old Ogden's finest without so much as a grimace.

"Drinking alone is bad enough, mother, but don't you think—"

"I'm not drinking alone, dear. You're here. Now sit down."

Draco deposited himself limply in the chair opposite his mother and briefly considered the bottle in front of him. If his father had somehow already heard about the indiscretion upstairs, he'd need a fuck of a lot more than a little whisky to get him through.

He cleared his throat twice, but didn't seem to be able to start the conversation. His mother saved him the trouble after the second aborted attempt at speech.

"Here is the truth of it, Draco. There was a limited pool of acceptable candidates, and you've run through them. In point of fact, there is only one good option left and one possible last-ditch effort in the works. I strongly suggest that you try very, very hard with this next one, as you may not like the final option. And, frankly, barring an appropriate male candidate, your father will move on to witches."

"I won't do it," Draco said stubbornly.

Narcissa simply stared at him.

"I won't need to," Draco mumbled, casting his gaze out the window uncomfortably. "I'm sure this next one will go well."

His mother continued her stare.

"And if not," Draco went on, "how bad can this dark horse be? You know what a contrarian I can be. I'll probably like him best." He gave a nervous bark of laughter that caused his mother to raise an eyebrow.

"Give this your best effort, Draco. I am being quite serious."

Draco nodded and took a deep, bracing breath.

"So, you haven't spoken with Clarice Bonneville, lately?"

Narcissa glanced up from pouring herself a second drink. "What on earth would I want to discuss with that horrible, old witch?"

Draco nearly melted with relief.

"No reason. She's just taking me to the board. Hates my door."

Narcissa nodded. "Well, it is hideous, dear."

* * *

Draco somehow managed to avoid both Mrs Bonneville and Potter for an entire week following what he had come to refer to as The Massive Judgement Error. These were bound to happen during post-break up dating under normal circumstances. It only followed that someone under the kind of pressure that Draco was currently experiencing might make a somewhat larger mistake.

He had even managed to convince himself that the physical element of it had been of a subpar quality by the time he was due to go on his next-to-last date. Still, he was glad it had happened. He reasoned that lousy sex was still better than none for mitigating any confusion between actual attraction to his date and the pressing desire to get laid for the first time in weeks. After all, many experts agreed that desperation was a turn-off.

Draco puffed up a bit. Some people might even consider using Harry Potter to take the edge off worthy of bragging rights.

* * *

"So what's he really like?"

Draco stared at his date with incomprehension. "What is who like?"

"Harry Potter, of course! You could have knocked me over with a quill when he popped out of his flat. I can't believe you live right under him. I mean, who would believe it, after everything from school?"

It was then that Draco remembered where he had seen John Harper before.

"You were a Seeker," he said suddenly.

"Uh, yeah." Harper looked stunned. "I was your reserve for two years."

"You were a fourth year."

"When I made the team, yes." Harper was now looking downright offended. Apparently Draco was meant to have remembered all this like they were old friends, or something. He didn't really feel like having to explain why anything that happened to other people during his fifth and sixth years wasn't really going to be memorable for him.

"Do you still play?" Draco asked, seriously unable to remember if he had ever bothered to watch him fly.

"Every Sunday." Harper shifted from unhappy to highly enthused. "I don't suppose you'd like to come? And invite Potter along, you know? The boys in the league would get a right kick out of that. Harry Potter playing in the amateurs."

"I don't think Potter plays in public anymore," Draco invented quickly, suppressing the urge to kick his star-struck date in the shin. "Wouldn't do to ruin the veneer of perfection by getting his arse kicked in a local match, would it? It's been a long time since school, after all."

Harper missed the hint, naturally. "Oh, I don't know. He was pretty good, if my memory serves. I'll bet he can still give most Seekers a fair bit of trouble."

Draco scowled.

* * *

He was still scowling an hour and a half later as Harper was walking him up the path. The four times he had declined an escort home had not penetrated Harper's thick skull, and he even had the nerve to try to slip an arm behind Draco's back as they approached his door.

He had just begun to yawn theatrically when he felt Harper go rigid beside him.

"Mr Potter!"

Draco followed Harper's rapt gaze and found Potter apparently doing a little home improvement on his entryway at ten in the evening on a Saturday. He rolled his eyes.

"Hello," Potter said, setting aside his paintbrush and looking to Draco for an introduction. Well, fuck him, he wasn't getting one. Draco was done with this date, dwindling options, or not. He glared at Potter.

Harper continued in his tradition of total obliviousness.

"Mr Potter&emdash;pardon the interruption, but Draco and I were discussing you over our meal." Potter raised an eyebrow at Draco.

Draco turned a tight smile on Harper and took over before it could get even more humiliating.

"Harper here is a Seeker in the amateur league. He thought you might like to play sometime."

Behind his back, Draco threw up the Slytherin hand signal for 'stop that player by any means necessary'. In Draco's day, it had been reserved almost exclusively for Harry Potter. He could only hope that Potter would both remember it and have the good taste to respond.

Potter grinned. "Thanks for the offer, uh, Harper. You played for Slytherin, right?" Harper shot Draco a look. "I'm afraid I'm truly out of practise at this point. I can't have the public see me fall on my arse off of a broom, can I? It'll ruin their faith in law enforcement."

Draco looked up to find Potter staring right at him, as if trying to telepathically check the synchronicity of their stories. Draco did have to admit that it couldn't have worked better if they'd planned it. He forgot for a moment to scowl.

"Oh yeah, I guess that's true." Harper sounded a bit crushed. Draco took advantage of his low point and slipped out from under his arm, yawning again.

"Well, thank you for a lovely evening," he said blandly. If he were the type, he might have felt a little sorry about the generally crestfallen expression on Harper's face. But he wasn't the type. "Good night."

Good night," Harper said sadly, walking away as slowly as humanly possible. Draco watched until he was certain Harper wasn't going to double back to try his luck with either of them again.

"Polka dots?" Draco asked incredulously, turning back to look at Potter's door. "Seriously?"

"You don't like it?" Potter asked with a smirk. "I thought the lime and magenta offered a nice counterpoint to yours."

Draco just stared at him for a long moment. "I don't get it," he finally admitted. "Are you mocking me? Because it's not really that insulting."

"Hmm," Potter hummed, looking away and making a show of tidying his things up. "Did you know that Mrs Bonneville doesn't like perverts and deviants very much?"

And very suddenly, Draco did get it. "Yes. Yeah, I did know that."

"I figured," Potter said, gesturing at Draco's door. "She called me 'another disgusting poof' and then she spat on your door. You might want to cast a nice Evanesco before you touch anything."

Draco cocked his head at Potter, considering. "Is she watching us right now?"

Potter looked over Draco's shoulder and nodded, grinning. "Lights are all on."

Slowly, so as to give Potter the opportunity to opt out without taking Draco's dignity out in the process, Draco began to climb the stairs. Potter didn't move. By the time Draco arrived at the top step, he was gratified to find Potter breathing a little more heavily than a little painting should require.

"Repeat performance?" Draco asked in a low drawl.

"I suppose," Potter said. "I haven't got any drapes for my windows yet."


"Deviant," Potter answered, pulling him through the door and pressing him up against the large, unadorned picture window just inside. Potter had stripped away his coat and mostly unbuttoned his shirt before Draco had his bearings about him enough to start in on Potter.

Of course, Potter's paint-splattered jeans and t-shirt didn't pose much of an obstacle. Still, Draco made a point of yanking at Potter's fly hard enough to open every button at once. He got a very satisfying grunt out of Potter for his trouble.

"What's the rush, Malfoy?"

"I've no intention of shooting off in my pants again. Do as you like, I suppose, but wouldn't you rather come in me this time?"

Potter took a deep, steadying breath and dropped to his knees, pulling Draco's trousers down as he went.

"I thought so," Draco said smugly. Moments later, he had forgotten entirely what he was grinning about as Potter began to lightly nose along the side of his cock, pressing feather-soft kisses along the side as he went. When he reached the head, he paused, breathing gently over the soft skin.

"All right?"

"If you don't, I will kill you," Draco whispered, pressing a hand to the back of Potter's neck and letting out a deep satisfied moan as Potter's mouth sank down over his cock.

Not that he'd wondered about it much, but Potter's blowjob skills erased all doubt that he'd been spending time in the company of the lads. Thank Merlin for the having just got off the week before or he'd have been done in a minute. As it was, he was just about done at the three-minute mark.

"Stop." Potter actually froze where he was, swallowing around the tip of Draco's cock. "Oh fuck, I mean—"

Harry pulled his mouth away and looked up at Draco with wet lips and lashes. Draco's cock throbbed so hard he thought he was gone for sure. He grabbed desperately at the base of his cock and somehow kept it under control.

Thankfully, since Draco's brain wasn't forming words at that moment, Potter caught the meaning and rose to his feet. "Full show, eh?"

Draco, who had honestly completely forgotten about Mrs Bonneville, blinked in incomprehension at first. "Oh. Yes, exactly."

Potter stretched out a hand and something flew through the air where he caught it, all without a wand or even bothering to look. He took hold of Draco's shoulder and turned him to face the window. He slid his hands down Draco's arms and took him by the wrists, raising his arms and pressing his hands against the glass.

Outside and across the garden, Draco noticed that all the lights were now out, but he decided not to mention it. Without any lights on, it was unlikely anyone could really see exactly what was happening in Potter's window. He also decided not to examine the part of him that was a little disappointed about that.

Lost in these thoughts as he was, he jumped when a cool, slick finger trailed along the crack of his arse and then pressed firmly inside him. Potter pumped his finger a few times and pulled it out, draping himself over Draco's back and rubbing his already slick cock against Draco's bum.

"Did you Summon that without a wand?" Draco gasped. "That's actually very hot."

"Auror training. You have to master wandless Summoning. Is it hot enough that you'd let me fuck you now?"

"You're a little slow for an Auror, Potter. I told you that you could fuck me five minutes ago when we were getting our trousers off. Oh, fuck."

Potter pushed in deep, not stopping for Draco to adjust until he was flush against his arse. "I'll try not to be so slow in the future," he huffed against Draco's ear. "Is this more your speed?" He rolled his hips and began to make small, shallow thrusts, punctuating each one with a barely audible moan.

Draco found himself without the will to engage in witty repartee. He leaned into the window, bracing himself on his forearms and pushed back against Potter, making no attempt to stifle his own moans.

Later, Draco would feel as if he'd been pressed, writhing, against that darkened glass for hours. In reality, it wasn't ten minutes before Potter was desperately jacking Draco's dick, repetitively pleading in his ear, "So good, so hot, come on, come on, Draco." And then Draco was coming hard across the glass, across Potter's knuckles, crying out loudly enough for all of the garden to hear again.

He was shaking by the time he came back to himself, slipping against the glass with sweaty skin. Fuck.

"Well, that was fun," he said, bending to pull his trousers up as soon as Potter gave him the room. "A better attempt at making your interruptions up to me than the last time, at any rate."

"That's it, huh?" Potter asked, sounding a little put out. "Fun?"

"Don't think you can just interrupt my dates whenever you have an itch you want to scratch or a bigot you want to torment, Potter. This is purely maintenance for me."

"Of course," Potter said, rolling his eyes. "So happy I could be of service."

* * *

"Hypothetically speaking, what percentage of the argument for a relationship should one base on the sex?" Draco lifted his head just high enough to be heard through the sofa cushions and rolled to his side.

"That depends. Was it very good or very bad sex?" Today, Pansy didn't even bother with rattling any cutlery. She simply plopped on to the sofa hard enough to rattle his skull.

"Disturbingly good." Draco moaned and rolled a little further until he could see her evil face around the edge of his cushion. "Why?"

"Well, darling, if the sex is bad it's the entirety of the argument, because it will never work. When it's good, though? Maybe one third."

"One third?" Draco was a bit put out by the low number.

"If that, darling. Try to think rationally for a moment. Now, notice that in the aftermath of this fantastic sex, you are not actually capable of rational thought. You have to take every thought you're having with your penis and throw it out of the equation. That's at least half the argument out the window right there."

Draco slumped back into the sofa with a frown.

"Next," Pansy continued didactically, "you have to consider how forbidden the fruit in question was. I take it this was not one of the Malfoy family-approved dates."

"No," Draco mumbled, crossing his arms around his cushion.

"Well, then, you've got to toss out another ten percent of your attraction due to the likelihood that it stems from a place of infantile rebellion."


"Oh, please. You didn't ask for my opinion in order to be coddled. You know I won't give you anything less than the awful truth, my darling."

"Fine. And the other seven percent?"

"The best sex is usually with the worst men. At least, that's been my experience."

Sadly, Draco could not counter this point with any empirical data.

* * *

Draco awoke to an unnatural silence in his flat. He rose quietly, fixed his hair, and dressed carefully in full robes before starting for the kitchen. His instincts paid off when he found his father seated at the table with a plate of buttermilk scones and a pot of tea.

"Is that clotted cream?" he asked, eyeing the small dish at his father's elbow.

"Popped to Devon this morning," his father replied, pushing a plate towards Draco without looking up from the copy of the Prophet he was reading.

"You… popped," Draco repeated stupidly. If there was one thing Draco had known all his life, it was that his father didn't pop about to pick up breakfast. Ever.

"Some things are worth the effort." Lucius crisply folded over the paper and set it aside, before reaching for the cream himself. "It really is the best in the country. Sit."

Draco sank numbly into a chair, still grappling with the idea of his father serving breakfast in his kitchen. He took a scone in response to a curt nod in their direction, and watched as his father spooned a heap of cream on top of it.


Draco ate. He had managed about half of his scone before his father began speaking.

"I'm not going to waste your time or mine, Draco. You know why I'm here. You've rejected all of the acceptable male suitors I have found for you. There is one more interested party. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine the circumstances under which you would find his interest agreeable."

Draco poked at his food with the edge of his fork, while his stomach lurched horribly.

"If you refuse him, I will have no choice but to accept the overtures of the Greengrass family with regard to their youngest daughter. And nor will you, to be clear. This is not negotiable, Draco."

Draco just stared at the crumbling scone.

"I have no wish to see you unhappy, Draco. Indeed, I think there has been quite enough of that already." Lucius sighed. "I can't say I would choose this man for you, either, Draco. I had hoped you would find a better fit amongst the others. Still, he seems very earnest in his interest and he brings a great deal to the merger."

"How romantic," Draco muttered.

"I'm not going to humour that remark with a response," Lucius replied. "Perhaps you should turn your thoughts to the merits of a partnership with the Greengrass girl. It would be unnecessary to locate a surrogate if you took a female partner. I believe you got along well enough with her sister, yes?"

"Daphne?" Draco huffed. "I can hardly remember her. I think she's the one Pansy used to say was frigid."

"Then let's hope her sister is a little warmer," Lucius said humourlessly.

"There's still one left, father. How bad can he be?"

Lucius did not reply, but helped himself to another scone.

"Oh, Merlin. It isn't Marcus Flint, is it?"

Lucius looked horrified. "The spotty one that manages your ice cream parlour?"

Draco nodded miserably.

"No," Lucius said, staring at Draco like he was an idiot.

"I don't understand why you won't just say who it is, father."

"You will."

* * *

Draco nearly jumped out of his skin when the doorknocker sounded at precisely seven o'clock.

He reflexively adjusted the peach-coloured tie and ran a shaky hand through his hair. He took a deep breath and tried to resign himself to a life of Astoria Greengrass with a side of the likes of Sebastian Sweetman for the rest of his days. He felt his shoulders slump under the weight of the thought.

He walked to the door and placed a hand on the knob, trying to steel himself for whatever or whomever he might find on the other side of it. Given that his father had been willing to endorse Sweetman and yet had serious reservations about this man did not bode well.

He took a deep breath and pulled the door open.

"Potter. Of course."

"Malfoy." Potter dropped his hand from where he had obviously been about to pound at the knocker yet again, the impatient lout.

"I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to play tonight, Potty. I'm expecting someone and you've got to leave. Now."

Draco had an odd sense of déjà vu when Potter fixed him with a look of disbelief. "Are you seriously this dense, Malfoy?"

Ah, yes. It was the exact same look his father had given him not ten hours previous. When Draco continued to stare at him in silence, Potter put a foot across the threshold and looked pointedly at the wine set out on the table.

"I am your date, Malfoy," he said slowly. "You might want to invite me in."

"You're not a vile, decrepit, old Death Eater with a good family name."

"No," Potter said slowly. "No, I'm not."

"Or a nasty social climber who will probably kill me in my sleep on the honeymoon."

"Right again."

"My father made it sound like I was going on a date with the second coming of Voldemort."

Potter gave him a look.

"Bad analogy," said Draco quickly.

"I've been called worse," Potter said lightly. "By you."

"Okay, Potter, explain immediately. This is making my head hurt."

"Wow, you are this dense." Potter ducked around him and into the flat before Draco could react and kick him in the shin. He crossed to the sofa and sat, summoning the wine with a casual wave of his hand that made Draco shiver just a bit. "Do me a favour, Malfoy? Just have a drink and don't try to hex me until you've heard me out."

"More," said Draco, watching Potter pour the wine. "I have the feeling I'm going to need it."

"The first part is a little embarrassing," said Potter, taking a large swig of the wine for himself.

"I don't see how any of this isn't going to be universally humiliating, Potter."

"Good point. All right… so, that first night. You weren't entirely wrong about my involvement in your date with Sebastian."


"Shut up and listen, please, Draco." The unprecedented use of his given name actually did shut Draco up. "He and I were together for the better part of a year until I discovered him using my name and our relationship to try to secure loans and investments for his projects. We split up, but I didn't trust him not to continue his efforts. It wasn't my finest moment, but I enlisted a couple of junior Aurors to tail him. For practise."

Draco grinned. "Oh, my. You misused Ministry resources to spy on your boyfriend? I am both shocked and dismayed. That doesn't sound like you, at all. Oh, wait—"

"Again. Shut up."

"Sorry. Go ahead." Draco snickered just to irritate Potter a little more.

"During the surveillance, one of my trainees gathered information that Sebastian had set his sights on a new source of influence and revenue. An old and very wealthy family had begun vetting potential partners for their only son and heir."

As much as Draco had been expecting this since the story began to unfold, he still felt a little stab of betrayal. He nodded for Potter to continue.

"I, uh, assigned him to follow up on the lead. What with all those dates, I don't know if you'll remember Christiano."

"The vapid Italian party boy?"

"Pretty good acting, huh? He's on my team now. Ouch!" Potter totally failed to avoid Draco's sharp kick to his shin this time.

"I went on a fake date with an Auror?" At least Potter had the good grace to look guilty.

"We were just trying to find a way to keep tabs on the situation from the inside. I was hoping to catch Sebastian at some attempt at illegal activity. I didn't, in case you're wondering. He's just a using bastard, not a criminal."

"So, he fabricated an interest in me in order to try to get something he wanted. How awful," Draco said dryly. Potter didn't pretend not to understand.

"I didn't fabricate anything."

"You moved into the apartment above me."

"Well, yes, but I really was looking to move into this neighbourhood. That particular flat coming available was just a happy coincidence."

Draco drew his foot back to kick at Potter again.

"I'm not lying, I swear. I can show you my first inquiry from all the way back in August!"

Draco rested his foot and studied Potter. "But you knew I lived there by the time you moved in."


"And you were surveilling Sweetman."


"How many fake dates did I go on?"

"Only that one."

"And this one."

"What? No."

"And I guess we'd have to count Sweetman as disingenuous. So that's three. Don't I feel silly for fixing my hair so carefully."

"Draco, stop. When I contacted your mother to alert her about Sweetman, she asked me if I was aware that I fit the criteria to, uh, compete for you. I got the impression your father wasn't a fan, but I've been on the list since that day. This date was always your last ditch choice, if you really didn't want to marry Astoria. Your father was very clear that you would never consider me seriously, though."

"So this whole time—"

"After that first night, I was sort of hoping he was wrong."

"I'm going to kill all of you."

"Is that a definite no, then?"

"Are you really this dense, Potter? I had sex with you in an open window just to annoy a nosy neighbour. Now you think I'm going to say no?'

"Speaking of that nasty witch, she won't be bothering you anymore. Her complaints have been dropped with the board, as well."

"Do I want to know?"

"I don't even know. I had one of my trainees take care of it. He's on the team now, too."

"I can't believe you have such a reputation for moral rightness."

"Does it bother you?" Potter asked, setting aside his wine and pulling Draco's glass from his fingers.

"Infuriates," Draco breathed, allowing himself to be pulled forward.

"I imagine my reputation could be somewhat damaged by shacking up with a Malfoy. What do you say?"

"Anything to take you down a peg." Draco grinned, crawling on to Potter's lap and straddling his hips. He ground down, relishing in Potter's ruined little moan.

"You forgot to close the door." Potter breathed, rocking his hips up against Draco's.

"No, I didn't," Draco said, grabbing the back of his neck and pulling him up for a kiss. "By the way, what are your plans for the Solstice?"


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