Like A Dream

Nothingness coalesced into a hazy, sunlit meadow. The chirps and warbles of birdsong came from the trees fading into existence around his retreat, a stream trickled gently, and bees hummed around the wildflowers somewhere nearby. Harry inhaled and sat down in the soft grass forming beneath his feet. The sound livening around him tasted like treacle, sweet and thick; scents of honeysuckle and lavender wafted through the air like a passing kiss from a lover. Reality was gone, and warmth seeped into Harry’s bones like a pleasing balm. He closed his eyes and nestled in the grass, serenity blanketing him, and he smiled as the dream came together around him, obedient to his will.

It was his idyll, a place where his sleeping mind could drift and be free from the nightmares that had never ceased plaguing him. When counselling had failed and the mediwizards had warned him off Dreamless Sleep, the only option left had been this: lucid dreaming. Just living with the nightmares had been unthinkable from the outset, not so much because of the sheer unpleasantness but because Harry had started acting out his nightmares while his mind was still in them – not his body, but his magic. He had been confined to St Mungo’s for his own protection after the ninth midnight fire at Grimmauld Place. Learning the art of shaping his dreams had been arduous but worthwhile, and he settled in peacefully to enjoy a night of cloud-watching.

And then there was… something. Harry sat up, focusing on the unreal world around him. It was unchanged, as it should have been: the birds still called, the brook still ran, the bees still hummed, and the breeze still wafted. He frowned and, actively searching, found it – hovering just on the edge of his awareness, something… foreign. He felt the probing, then; something tugging at the fabric of his dream, and he reacted on instinct. He yanked himself from the dream and plummeted into wakefulness like a half-brick dropped in a well, snapping his eyes open to stare, panting, at his bedroom ceiling.

His nightmares didn’t usually knock.

###

Three nights in a row, Harry ripped himself from his dreams when he felt the invasive presence, earlier and more insistent every time.

On the fourth night, he decided not to wake himself up but to wait to see what happened: running away clearly wasn’t solving anything, and if someone were trying to break into his thoughts – which had occurred to him as a possibility, unlikeliness notwithstanding – a direct confrontation on his terms should be enough to dissuade them from further attempts.

Sure enough, mere moments after he settled into his dream of the meadow, it turned up again: a sharp, metallic presence that was no longer probing but actively pushing. He smiled grimly to himself and invited it in.

A figure formed. Harry stared. The newcomer opened his mouth to speak, taking half a step forward, and Harry wrenched himself out of the dream to glare at his ceiling. Whether it was someone’s idea of a practical joke or his own psyche playing tricks on him, Draco Malfoy in his dreams was not cricket.

###

A week of abrupt awakenings and recourse to Dreamless Sleep later, Harry decided that enough was enough. If he was going to get back to his usually peaceful nights, he needed to find out what was going on. The only way to do that was to wait until Malfoy appeared again and try to pry it out of him – or whoever it was whose mind invaded Harry’s dreams wearing his face.

It took a while, but eventually Harry fell asleep, creating his meadow; he constructed it like a master painter: first just the outlines and background, as always, then more details to complete the scene. It didn’t take long for his dream to become his haven. Only moments after he’d settled on the grass, listening to the brook, did that… feeling come over him, and before him stood the image he’d run from, steaming like he’d been out in the winter working all day.

“Is that actually you, Malfoy?” It seemed like a reasonable question to start off with.

“Yes!” Malfoy’s shoulders dropped and he exhaled.

Harry frowned. “What do you think you’re playing at?”

“Just listen, please!” The desperation in his tone made the hair on Harry’s nape stand on end. “I’m trapped; I think I’ve been cursed. And I wasn’t alone - there was a Muggle with me. I can’t find him. He must be hurt; you need to find him.”

Ten impossible things shot through Harry’s thoughts. Then the more sensible side of his brain turned over like an old car’s engine. Reality check: he was still dreaming – he knew that much; Draco Malfoy stood in front of him looking half-terrified and half-desperate, and another half-knackered. Harry dismissed outright the possibility that Malfoy had been with a Muggle to do that Muggle harm: he wouldn’t be next to insane with worry if he had been, and he certainly wouldn’t have battered his way into Harry’s dreams to beg for help. It could be a convoluted plot to get at Harry himself, though Harry had built the dream and was the master of it; all he had to do was wake up, if someone were after him. He bit his lip, his mind positing and rejecting scenario after scenario until Malfoy’s agitated repetition of his name recaptured his attention.

He shook his head. Unconventional or not, it was a distress call to an incident that had probably involved Dark magic, and Auror protocol was very clear that any such summons was to be taken at face value until the division had a reason to dismiss it. “Alright. Where were you when it happened?”

“Froggatt Edge. Derbyshire. We couldn’t have been more than about three quarters of an hour out of Grindleford.”

“I’ll get a team together.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Any landmarks you can remember before you... were cursed?”

Malfoy shook his head. “Nothing specific. We were heading to Baslow. We weren’t hurrying.” Colour spread on Malfoy’s face, a light pink on his cheeks and down his neck.

Harry twitched his wand to conjure a notepad and regulation enchanted quill. He could just have dreamed the materials, but he needed the notes to exist in the real world: using magic rather than the fabric of the dream itself ensured that they would. He repeated the details Malfoy had already provided for the benefit of the transcription and checked the script out of habit. “Who was the Muggle with you?”

“David Greensmith. He’s from Manchester, an actor.”

“Address?” The quill recorded it as Malfoy gave it to him. “Anything else you can give me?”

Malfoy ran a hand through his hair; Harry noticed the tremor. “It was late morning on Tuesday the ninth.”

Harry closed his eyes and thought for a moment. Breaking bad news was never easy. “It’s Monday.”

“What?”

“Well, Tuesday, now.” It had been a week, and Harry had to suppress a shudder, knowing now that it had been Malfoy all along trying to get into his dreams to ask for help; a week of a man living in fear, certainly lost, probably injured, possibly dying. He shoved the thought aside, and looked at Malfoy. His skin had gone from its usual semi-normal milky white to an unnatural grey that made Harry’s stomach lurch. Malfoy was genuinely scared. And Harry had run away, into the waking world.

“Then we’re probably dying. Oh, God, he’s probably dead! I can’t find him; he must be.” The panic was visible as well as audible: the manifestation started to waver and fray around the edges.

“Alright, calm down,” Harry put as much of the ‘reassuring yet authoritative Auror’ into it as he could, but he was painfully aware that his people-skills weren’t up to the level of the specialist victim liaison officers’. “We’ll do what we can. Okay? Just let me do my job.” It must have worked: Malfoy nodded. Harry managed a small smile. “I need to wake up to alert the Division, so I’m going to have to leave. There’ll be a team mobilized and in the search area within half an hour. I need a description of your bloke.”

Malfoy wrapped his arms around himself, fingers whitening with his grip on his elbows as the quill took down his description. “I just hope you remember this when you wake up.”

“I will. I control my dreams.” Harry noted, to his mild amusement, that the quill was still merrily recording every word of the exchange. He refocused on Malfoy, who had folded to sit on his heels in the grass.

“Do we have permission to search your home? We’ll need something of yours for the dogs, with a scent.”

Malfoy nodded, but it was off-kilter, as if his thoughts were somewhere else. “Anything you need.”

Harry controlled his expression, though Malfoy probably wouldn’t have noticed a reaction anyway. The wording of the answer gave Harry far wider permission than he’d asked for: if the Division suspected Malfoy of culpability in the matter, his home could be disassembled down to atoms in the search for evidence, and he had just consented to it. “Where are you living these days?”

“Marnhull. Dorset.” Malfoy shook his head slightly. “The cottage is the old vicarage; it’s close to the church.”

“Alright. I’ll go there myself and I’ll meet the team in the field. We’ll find you. Trust me. And your mate.”

Malfoy’s head bobbed and he faded away like a tendril of smoke after blowing out a candle.

Harry woke himself and yanked one of his official robes off a hanger in the wardrobe. The first twenty four hours were the most critical in missing persons cases and they had a week-cold trail to pick up. He smashed the rising negativity. They would find Malfoy and his mate and the pair of them would get whatever medical treatment they needed; then the responsible person would be found and arrested, in accordance with the law and his oath as an Auror in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He nodded firmly to himself, just once, and Apparated.

###

The old vicarage turned out to be more a manor than a cottage, with its seven bedrooms and sprawling garden. Harry spent half a moment torn between envy and amusement, but dismissed them both and set about his search of the house. He noticed almost immediately that there was nothing in it to mark it as belonging to a wizard. It was un-warded, and the usual measures of Muggle-Repelling and Notice-Me-Not charms were conspicuous by their absence. None of the fireplaces was connected to the Floo network, none of the paintings or photographs were in any way animated, and the contents of the fridge and dishwasher made it very, very clear that no house-elf had ever set foot in the place. Malfoy lived like a Muggle... which made sense, if he was... well, he had gone pink, so he and this David Greensmith must be dating. Malfoy dating a Muggle. Harry tried to wrap his head round that one, but he couldn’t. Yeah, they had grown up and changed, but Malfoy and Muggles? That was like Malfoy and Harry: didn’t mix, didn’t blend, didn’t work. But the evidence contradicted him: Malfoy mingled with Muggles and was in a romantic relationship with one. Harry blinked as an additional piece of information presented itself for consideration. Malfoy was gay. Never a thing he’d have thought they’d have in common.

He located the master bedroom – the only one showing any signs of occupation – rapidly and checked it for anything that could be useful in the search or investigation. There weren’t any photos of Malfoy and his bloke anywhere, no photos of the other man at all, in fact. Harry looked around further. He decided not to notice that the box of condoms in the top drawer of the bedside table was half empty or that Malfoy apparently also used the brand of lubricant that Harry himself preferred, and moved on to the en suite, where he found the washing basket. There were enough clothes in it that the dogs would easily be able to get a good, clear scent. He bagged half a dozen items from the top and Disapparated to meet the team.

###

Froggatt Edge looked haunted in the late-night darkness, with mist and Lumos charms creating will-o’-the-wisp lights and shadows. A team – not his usual squad, but still Aurors and DMLE officers he recognised – waited for him. He could smell the dogs, and hear them panting, ready to go. There was a lot of rock, a hint of grass changing the texture of the ground. It was a bit slippery underfoot, and where there wasn’t grass, there was gravel, and he knew that he was close to the edge of a cliff that posed a danger to all of them, even though he couldn’t see it. He hoped they would find Malfoy quickly.

“Inspector Potter.”

“Sergeant Lewis.”

“We’re briefed and ready to go when you are. Lyons and Rowntree are the specialist climbers, and we’ve got a caver on standby to Apparate from Wales. We had to take the corpse dog off because he scented as soon as he arrived – not one of yours,” the man added, to Harry’s relief. “ A woman. There’s a Muggle Liaison Officer on her way in to deal with that, but she won’t notify the police until we’ve cleared.”

Harry nodded. “Thanks, Lewis. I’ve got some scent items. Let’s get these to the dogs and move.” It would have been redundant to warn Lewis about the need for care in that treacherous terrain or the urgency of the search, so he didn’t; instead, he handed the bag over and let the sergeant do his job. Harry had worked with him before: he was a good, solid Auror. One day he’d make a fine Inspector.

Staff from St Mungo’s were already there, and Harry knew when his team found something, they would be the second ones on the scene. He needed to co-ordinate, even though he wanted to search. But he was in command, and that, he’d learned, sometimes meant standing back while others did the job and he waited for news.

###

The signal Harry was waiting for went up in no time, carving a long white streak through the sky. Harry Apparated with a crack like thunder, hoping he wasn’t going to the burial site for Draco Malfoy or his Muggle lover.

The dog was barking and dancing in place on his lead.

Rowntree lowered his wand and looked at Harry. The residual feeling of the Notice-Me-Not spell sat thickly in the area; a cool gust of wind sent it flying like dandelion fluff.

“Didn’t find t’ Muggle, Inspector.”

Harry breathed measuredly and considered the possible motivations: revenge on Malfoy himself by kidnapping his lover, or Malfoy’s Muggle boyfriend wasn’t a Muggle and it was still revenge, possibly war-related bollocks, or something to do with his sexuality. One certain thing was the involvement of a witch or wizard. They had cast a Notice-Me-Not charm after hiding the body - Malfoy’s body, clumsily concealed but definitely alone. Damn, that wasn’t good. Dying, wet autumn bracken covered Malfoy. A few stray rusted orange and phlegm-yellow leaves with browning holes that looked like blood-stained bullet wounds lay scattered on and around him where the September winds had blown them. Harry squatted and scraped the wet mess aside as the Healer started casting diagnostic charms. He tried not to look at Malfoy, not to take in any of the details as he uncovered the man. Malfoy, his skin like wax, lips blue. Malfoy, chest barely rising. Malfoy, dying because Harry hadn’t let him ask for help.

The Healer cast a couple of stabilising charms and stepped aside to let her assistants conjure a stretcher and prepare to Apparate Malfoy to St Mungo’s. “He’s barely hanging on, Inspector Potter,” she told him. “I need to take him now. We’ll keep you informed.”

Harry nodded, knowing that if Malfoy died because of his inaction, guilt would tear him apart. “I’ll come see you when we’re done here.” He turned to his team. “Alright, lads, let’s get started. It’s going to be a long one.”

###

Harry sat down heavily in the chair beside Malfoy’s bed and looked him over. He had been cleaned up and some colour had come back to his face and lips. It had been touch and go for a while, according to the Healers, but Malfoy had stabilised and was no longer felt to be in a critical condition. His chest rose and fell below an endless roll of parchment being scratched by two quills, showing his vital signs. At least he was calm. In the course of his ten years as a serving Auror, Harry had never had to give the sort of news he was going to have to give to Malfoy to anyone else. He sighed. He was knackered from eighteen solid hours of search and investigation work; he should have been looking forward to a few hours’ tranquil sleep. Instead, he was dreading the conversation he was about to have.

He closed his eyes and began building his dream-meadow. By the time the details of his surroundings were in focus, Malfoy was there.

“We found you. You’re at St Mungo’s and stable.”

“And David?” Malfoy asked.

“No trace of him We found you covered up with leaves and under a Notice-Me-Not charm.”

Malfoy nodded slowly and sank into a chair; a thought seemed to conjure. “So we were cursed.” His eyes snapped to Harry’s. “You have to find him. Please.”

Harry inhaled and steeled himself. “I went to the address you gave me. Nobody called David lives there. Just a Muggle called Carl who spends a lot of time away on business. There’s still a group looking for your bloke, but there wasn’t any evidence of him with you at all. And then the Muggle Liaison Office did some checking for me and no-one matching the description you gave me by the name David Greensmith is in their database.”

Malfoy stared at Harry. “What?”

“There are plenty of blokes with the name, but none of them match the description you gave me. Brown hair, brown eyes, six two...” He tried a reassuring smile. “The MLO databases aren’t comprehensive; they don’t update with the DVLA and passport service all that often, but they’ve got enquiries out to them. It just means it’s going to take a bit longer to verify his identity and check for changes of address. Things like that. Did he spend a lot of time at your house?”

Draco coloured. “Quite a lot, yes. We’re... romantically involved.”

Harry nodded, diplomatically choosing not to indicate that he had worked that much out for himself. “Alright. Do you mind if I do a more thorough search of your home? Maybe I’ll turn up something with DNA.”

Draco’s face became flaming red. “There’s a used condom in a tied-up blue rubbish bag in the black dustbin at the back of the house, unless Brenda put the bins out for me on Thursday.” He looked down.

“That helps. Er... Malfoy, there’s no need to be embarrassed. If it helps any... well, I’m gay, too.”

Malfoy nodded, but his gaze never shifted from his knees.

“The investigation will be treated with respect. I’ll make sure of that.”

“Thank you.” Then Malfoy looked up, paler than usual, his voice choked as he said, “Potter, I think...that is, I’m fairly certain that he’s dead.”

Harry wanted to be able to tell Malfoy that Greensmith was alive and well, but Harry’s gut told him that he was chasing a shadow rather than unravelling a simple misunderstanding about addresses. He would have reached out to comfort Malfoy, but something stayed his hand. Instead, he tried to be reassuring with his words. “We’ll find out. I promise. I’m going to go and get the bag you mentioned and I’ll hang around the department until the results are in. I’ll come back when I’m done, alright?”

Malfoy nodded and disappeared, his misery a tangible thing.

As much as he needed to sleep, Harry knew that he wouldn’t sleep peacefully until he had more information for Malfoy. He yanked himself out of his dream and left Draco’s side to find the bin he’d mentioned.

###

There was a note on Malfoy’s front door from the local police constable. Harry read it, feeling like he was prying into Malfoy’s business, but it was his job to do exactly that, in the circumstances. It was just a quick note of concern; apparently Malfoy had missed some church fundraiser that he’d helped put together. The PC just asked Malfoy to check in with him soon; a lot of people were getting worried. Harry frowned. He needed to get a Muggle Liaison Officer to speak to the constable. It meant he also needed to get to know Malfoy better if he was going to give them anything worthwhile to work with. He pocketed the note and let himself in and headed out back first.

Harry went through the bin bags first. When he found what he was looking for, he bagged it and then went back through the house.

Malfoy’s house was a home, not a showcase. It wasn’t sparklingly neat with the work of house-elves who ironed their ears. In the sitting room, there were a few photo albums neatly stacked under the coffee table, which was itself littered with notes and magazines, and an answer phone perched on a cluttered bookcase, with its light blinking. Harry listened to the messages to make sure their other victim hadn’t phoned, but they were all from people in the village, initially just reminding Malfoy of dinners or local events he had promised to attend, but then expressing increasing degrees of concern. Interestingly, more than a few asked after his mother’s welfare. Harry made a mental note to look into that: Narcissa should be notified in any case as Malfoy’s next of kin, but if she needed care or support, the division would be able to make arrangements. There was nothing from Greensmith. Harry could not quite bring himself to be surprised: every instinct he had prickled, and he found it increasingly difficult to shake the growing certainty that ‘David Greensmith’ was no more than a front. He glanced through the photos conscientiously, just in case one of them included the man. They were all Muggle pictures, labelled in an elegant, flowing script, of Malfoy with various members of the village, at what was obviously several years’ worth of village events from garden parties and gymkhanas to bonfire nights and Christmas lunches at the local old folks’ home. Malfoy smiled in all of the photos – attractively – and seemed genuinely happy: philanthropist now sat on his CV, along with ‘all round good egg’, it seemed. Not that that was a bad thing. It was nice to see Malfoy as a good bloke. This was a Malfoy he could like. This was a Malfoy that Harry could see having a relationship with. He shook his head – full of silly ideas - and returned to the job.

The photos were interesting, but there was nothing in them to help the actual case. Harry closed the books and wandered around. He found a wand in the master bedroom, another at the back of a drawer in the desk in the study, and after checking the car – nice but not top of the range, young but not new; a suitably sturdy Land Rover for country living, complete with the mud-spatters and general grime which confirmed that it belonged to a countryman rather than a school run mum – he found a third. Harry thought Malfoy might like them nearby, even if he did appear to treat them very casually in day-to-day life, so he held onto them; he’d leave them on the bedside table at St Mungo’s. He gathered a few other things that he thought Malfoy might like or need once he woke, and then did a quick round of turning off electricals: nobody needed a mobile phone charger to overheat and burn down their house. He finished in the kitchen to check the fridge and pantry, and found a few things that had gone off or were on the turn, so he binned them and took out the rubbish. When he was done, he locked up with the keys he had taken from Malfoy’s coat pocket at St Mungo’s, and braced himself to visit Narcissa Malfoy.

###

“Hey,” Harry said, when Draco stepped into his dream.

“Potter.”

Harry glanced at him. “Talked to your mum today. Spent some time at your house.”

“Did you? That must have been a treat.” Draco sounded tired. He even looked tired, like the separation of body and mind was taking a real toll on him.

“She took it well enough.” Harry didn’t want to say that she had shown indifference rather than sorrow or what he thought he would feel if his only child had been hurt and manipulated so cruelly. Draco didn’t press for more information about his mother, so Harry changed subjects. “I brought your wands. They’re on the bedside table. Have a seat and stay a while.”

“You must have searched thoroughly.”

“Standard procedure. Mostly. I admit, I was trying to get to know you a bit better.”

“Did you succeed?” Harry had made the admission with slight trepidation, as some people would consider it an intrusion; Malfoy clearly did not. His interest seemed barely lukewarm, and Harry found himself wondering whether Malfoy’s early indifference to his own condition was giving way to apathy as his ordeal ground on.

“I think so, yeah. The people of the village like you quite a bit. They're concerned that you haven't been home. A Muggle Liaison officer will be in contact with the local PC. It seems like you have a lot of friends and are comfortable there. Nice car, by the way.” He sat down on the grass of his meadow and looked at Draco. “Do you rest at all while you’re dream-walking?”

“Yes. It’s difficult to explain, but I do.”

Harry nodded and waited. He’d learned that sometimes if he didn’t talk, people offered more information. He had all night to wait for Draco to talk to him. Unless he felt like leaving again, which Harry didn’t want him to do. He was worried about how long Draco had been separated from his body now, and he wasn’t alone in his concern. They were nearly at two weeks and the Healers and Unspeakables were getting nowhere.

Draco rubbed his face. “More so if I just drift than if I control it, I suppose, but I do rest.”

“How much control do you have to use to stop in here?”

“None at all. Why?”

“Rest, then.” Malfoy half-smiled. Unbidden, the desire for Malfoy to smile fully rushed through him. “Anything I can do to help?”

The smile left and a wry look replaced it. “Tell me it’s all a figment of my imagination and I’m safely tucked up in bed at home before any of this started?”

Harry looked away, knowing he couldn’t say that no matter how badly he wanted to. “I wish I could.”

Draco sighed. “I believe that you mean that. Thank you.” His sincerity reached into Harry and tugged at something in him that he couldn’t explain.

“We’re working on a few options.”

“Do any of them include David being David?”

“I’m afraid I can’t answer that yet.”

Draco nodded.

Harry did not want him to linger on that line of thought, so struck out on the first change of subject that came to mind. “Are you not on speaking terms with your mother?”

Faint surprise registered on Draco’s face. “No. Ah, that is, no, I’m not not on speaking terms with my mother. We just don’t have a great deal to say to one another these days.”

Harry was not particularly surprised to hear it, or particularly keen to inquire into the back-story, but the gambit had at least cleared the gathering air of despondency. He made a sound of polite sympathy. “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that. She said she’d call round to see you. I told her you wouldn’t know she was there, though. You had a few messages from people in the village. They’ll be contacted and given a cover story. Once I know what it is, I’ll let you know.”

“I’ve told them that my mother is housebound in Wiltshire. They would readily accept that she’d fallen unexpectedly ill and I had to drop everything and be the dutiful son.”

Harry Summoned his regulation quill and notebook and dictated, then put it away. “That’ll be helpful.”

Draco gave another half-smile. “It’s true, unfortunately. In effect, at least. She seldom leaves the Manor, these days, and I do occasionally have to present myself for inspection.”

Nodding was becoming his standard response, he realised, when he had nothing helpful to say. “Er, this isn’t really standard procedure, but...if you want to lie down with me, I would be okay with that. If it’d help you relax.” Harry paused and blinked, appalled by the words coming out of his own mouth; he knew the implications could be catastrophic. He could be sacked. But if he could do something, however small, to ease Draco’s suffering, Harry wanted to do it. Draco was important to him.

Draco’s eyes widened. “No, I can’t imagine that is standard procedure.”

Harry thought of a futon. It formed and he lay down.

Draco, though, made his opinion clear when he created a hammock and hopped into it elegantly.

“Would you rather I stay over here?”

“I don’t mean to be offensive, but I’m not really a cuddler of people I barely know.” It wasn’t unfriendly or even unexpected, but Harry was still mildly disappointed.

“No worries.” He shrugged it off. “Not much to know, really. I live alone, have done for years. I go to work and spend a lot of time doing that since I have nothing better to do.” Harry knew his life was boring.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Could be worse, I reckon. Being around you has been a nice enough distraction.”

Draco paused. “There’s more than one way to take that.”

“It’s not a bad thing,” Harry said quickly.

“Hm.”

He had a strong feeling that he had missed a point somewhere, and floundered on. “It’s nice to talk to someone who isn’t at work, you know?”

“Some people would consider going out and finding a hobby rather than waiting for someone to be cursed into perpetual sleep and left to wander the dream world looking for help.”

“I reckon you’re right. I have hobbies... Quidditch in the park. Mostly, I do stuff in the Muggle world, where nobody knows my face: cinema, things like that.”

“Which is always a blessing.” Turning his head, Draco regarded Harry. “You don’t look much different without the scar. Or the glasses, come to that.”

“Mm. I’m glad it’s fading. Reckon with the Horcrux gone, the curse didn’t need to leave a mark any more. Or at least that’s what the Unspeakables said.”

“I suppose they would know better than anyone else,” Draco murmured agreeably, shifting comfortably in his hammock.

This was the first time Harry had felt relaxed at all since Draco had popped up in his dreams. “I don’t miss the glasses, or the scar.”

Draco smiled. “The glasses would have been impractical.”

“Mm. They always were. Amazing what you find out is available when you don’t have family making decisions for you.”

“I didn’t think contact lenses were advisable for children.”

“I’m not wearing contacts. And I could’ve had some when I got older. But it doesn’t matter now. I take care of myself.”

“Mm. One of the benefits and drawbacks of adulthood.”

“I’ve been doing it long enough.” Harry turned over on his stomach and watched the brook slip by. “I don’t want to talk about that. That’s not my life any more. I help people the right way and I’m good at what I do.”

Draco smiled. “Yes, you are.”

Harry couldn’t help smiling back. “You have a nice smile.” The discomfort on Draco’s face made him realise what he’d said. “Sorry. You’re attached to someone.”

“I am. But thank you anyway.”

Harry inhaled and didn’t speak, pushing away the strange feelings attached to this case. He was already getting too deep in, and it was with the victim. He knew he shouldn’t do things this way; it trod painfully close to an actionable breach of the DMLE code of ethical conduct. Harry dropped his head onto his arms, taking in the peaceful meadow.

“I’m at your bedside. Just didn’t think it was right for you to have to be alone.”

“I’m never alone when I’m in people’s dreams.”

No, Harry imagined not, but that wasn’t the point. He sighed. He didn’t really want to take Draco back to the question of David, but he was obliged to keep the man informed of the progress of the investigation, so he said, “The Department’s working the DNA so we can get a fix on your bloke.”

“I think he’s dead.” Draco sounded even more exhausted and lost.

“Don’t think the worst. We’ll find him.” For an irrational moment, he hoped they didn’t. Corpse, hostage or perpetrator, it wouldn’t be pretty whichever way it turned out.

Draco nodded. “He isn’t dreaming. If he were alive, he’d dream sometime. You’re looking for a body.”

“Not if he was given or took Dreamless Sleep.”

“You think someone may have abducted him?” The way Draco brightened at the notion of the man being alive - and genuine - made something in Harry’s chest ache sharply. “But why would they bother with Dreamless Sleep?”

“There isn’t any possibility I’m willing to rule out. There are still wizards who try to take the law into their own hands, and there are still wizards afraid of us mixing with Muggles.”

Draco snorted. “I know.”

“Like I said: I’m not willing to rule out any possibility until the DNA work comes back and we can look for your bloke.” He paused. “I’ll find him.”

Harry’s shoulder shook; in the distance, beyond the brook and trees, he heard his name bouncing through the boughs and realised someone was trying to rouse him.

“I’ve got to go. They’re trying to wake me. I’ll come back soon.”

###

The outline of Harry’s dream had barely begun and Malfoy was already there. His heart felt heavy and he nodded in response to Malfoy’s nod of greeting. He sat down on the forming grass and sighed.

“I don’t know how to tell you this.”

“You’ve found the body.” Draco said it flatly, as if he’d been expecting that the whole time.

I wish, Harry thought. “No, it was Dreamless Sleep. I’m sorry, Malfoy; but he’s not a Muggle. He’s David Burbage, the nephew of Charity Burbage. He’s responsible for your condition.”

Malfoy blinked. “No.”

“He’s currently in a holding cell at the Ministry. Two of my best are questioning him.”

Shaking his head, Malfoy insisted, “You must be mistaken. David is no more a wizard than I am a Muggle.”

Harry pulled a photo he’d had taken from his pocket of the man being taken away by two of his team members and showed it to Malfoy. “This is him, correct?”

Malfoy looked at the photo for a moment, then his face went pale, his body ready to double over like he’d just been kicked in the balls. He nodded slowly.

“As you can see... he’s not a Muggle. He’s admitted to cursing you and even told us what he used, but unless you have a one true love somewhere... you’re going to be like this for a hundred years. It’s the Sleeping Beauty Curse - or Hundred Years’ Curse. Whichever you prefer to call it.”

“I’m sorry, I need to—” Malfoy disappeared in a blink.

###

Back at Grimmauld Place, Harry distracted himself with research in the library. He needed to know more about the curse, for his own peace of mind. He got that Burbage wanted revenge, but it was over ten years since the war had ended. Blaming Malfoy for what had happened to his aunt made about as much sense as... well, anything else criminals did half the time. He shook his head. Burbage was going to Azkaban for a very long time, there was no doubt. He’d confessed and Harry had made sure that the git would get a hearing quickly. The Wizengamot would convene in the morning for Discovery, and Harry needed to be there. He wasn’t tired, though. All he could do was think about Malfoy and how betrayed yet resigned he’d looked before he disappeared. It was though Malfoy felt that he deserved what had happened to him, and the reality was that he didn’t. No one did.

If being close to Draco brought him to Harry’s dreams, then he would sit by Draco’s side every day until he woke.

They had to get Malfoy’s mind and body reconnected soon or he would die. The Healers and Unspeakables had been very clear on that point. There was only so long that the mind and body could go without being together, like air and no lungs, or heart and no veins. He would be worse than the shell of a person after being Kissed. Harry wondered if it was a way to atone for the past, or if Malfoy just didn’t want to be around witches and wizards. No matter what the reason, he didn’t deserve what Burbage had done. The cold, calculated way in which he’d sought to crush Draco from inside out was inhuman. Harry wished he could do something. Calculated heartbreak...

Burbage’s plan truly was cruel – brilliant, but cruel. He’d identified a curse that anyone could cast, but only one specific individual could break: the victim’s one true love. He’d made himself that to Draco in one of the most appalling acts of sustained deceit and manipulation the Division had ever encountered, cast the curse, and left his victim to die. Any hope that he could be made to break the curse after his arrest had been short-lived; an obscure node in the spell’s construction acted, according to the Unspeakables’ ortholomancy specialist, as a ‘freedom of choice clause’: if the kiss bestowed upon the victim to break the curse was not freely given, it would have no effect and the curse would stand. The Unspeakables had expressed grudging admiration for the man’s thorough planning. Harry ground his teeth; his stomach churned, jaw aching. He hoped Burbage rotted slowly in Azkaban, or Hell.

Harry stayed awake all night doing paperwork. He sat in the audience during Burbage’s trial. There was enough evidence without his testimony for the prosecutor to do his job.

When Burbage was sentenced, Harry smiled as the Aurors took the bastard from the chamber and led him out, wandless, his magic bound. He’d never be able to hurt anyone again. No Dementors kept them in line, but the prisoners still had nothing to be happy about, locked away with only each other for company.

###

Harry sat at Draco’s bedside and held his hand. The skin was warm, and Malfoy’s chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm; it was like he’d been Kissed the way he lay there, eyes closed – no movement under his eyelids. Harry supposed that some people presumed only pity brought him to Draco’s side every day, but it wasn’t pity – and they could think what they wanted. Harry knew differently.

He wanted Malfoy to wake up.

###

A week went by and Malfoy didn’t come to Harry in his dreams. Every night, Harry sat holding his hand. He missed Draco in his dreams. Throughout the whole ordeal, Draco had shown strength of character that Harry rarely saw. He admired it. It didn’t hurt that Draco was attractive, but that wasn’t why Harry was interested in him.

After everything, Harry hoped they could be mates, maybe more. If he ended up with just a mate, Harry could be content with that. There were no guarantees; just because Draco seemed inclined to trust him and they maintained amicable conversations that he had any interest whatever in Harry beyond friendship.

###

The Muggle Liasion Officer spoke with the village constable. Harry greeted a few of Draco’s neighbours during a visit to his house to pick up some of his belongings – the Healers had suggested that familiar sounds and scents might help to draw Draco’s mind back to his body, and Harry had volunteered immediately to fetch bedding and CDs – and explained that he and Draco were old friends from school and he was looking after the house while Draco was away. They accepted his explanation with a readiness which suggested that the MLO had been at work with the suggestibility charms, and asked him to pass on their best. He looked again at things left in the open; he didn’t want to pry too much into Draco’s personal things, but the surface told enough of a story. The man was active and well-liked in his community, a competent cook but an indifferent gardener, first choice holiday cover among local dog-walkers and cat-feeders, reliable provider of lifts to transport-less neighbours and acquaintances, occasional babysitter, and stalwart supporter of local good causes. He looked at the photos again, at Draco’s smile and how much he’d changed since school. His face was less sharp and angular; some people – Harry among them – would have called him handsome. He had the air of someone who would always provide sound advice, or at least calm reasoning to unpick a problem, and a solid shoulder to lean on. Everything about him suggested a pleasant, straightforward man who could be trusted and respected, and Burbage must have known it. That made the curse all the more vile, in Harry’s mind. What Burbage had done was despicable. Pretending to love someone who you’d rather hurt...

Harry sighed. He couldn’t do anything at Draco’s house or at his bedside, and they were running in circles trying to engineer a new counter-curse. He got up and Apparated to St Mungo’s; he wanted to be at Draco’s side, useless or not. Even if Draco didn’t know he was there, Harry felt better with him, touching his hand. He wanted Draco in the real world, where he could ... fuck, he didn’t know, but he wanted something. To get to know the man properly, be his friend, help him through the aftermath of what Burbage had done, maybe even find out, finally, if the little voice he didn’t acknowledge in the back of his mind was right when it insisted that he could be the partner Draco deserved.

Harry settled in, maintaining his hold on Draco’s hand as he fell asleep – to dream.

###

The usually peaceful meadow didn’t have the same feel to it, and he knew it was because he was irritated. He hadn’t seen Draco for over a week and he’d been sick with worry. He couldn’t tell Draco that, though; Harry didn’t think he was ready to hear that sort of thing. He paced on the brook bank, watching the water, trying to let his thoughts slide into the flow, but they wouldn’t go. They sat heavily in his mind and, as time went on, his heart.

When Draco slipped into his dream, Harry felt it, and he stopped his wearing path and looked at him.

Malfoy’s eyes were dark-rimmed and his pallor ghastly. He looked like a dying man. Of course, his body was being fed, but his mind was drifting, becoming nothing.

“I spoke to the Healers this morning,” Harry said gruffly.

“Did you?”

“Yeah. Your body is just... there. Even though Burbage told us what he did, there isn’t a counter-curse we can use yet. They say your mind and body are completely separated. You’re mostly a vegetable.”

“I thought as much.” Malfoy rubbed his hands over his hair, and Harry couldn’t help feeling that there was that resignation again. “My mind’s been Wandering for... what day is now?”

“The twenty fifth. You were gone for a while after I told you about what happened.” There was no change in Draco’s bearing. “Can I do anything for you?”

Malfoy shook his head. “No. Thank you, but no.”

“We’re doing what we can. I promise you that.”

Malfoy nodded.

“I’ll be here to talk to. You know. If you want.”

“’Talk’?”

“You’ve been through something traumatic. Sometimes it helps to talk about it.”

“It’s still happening.”

Malfoy was right, of course. “It is. Listen, is there anyone you fancied at school? Or in the village? Particularly close friends who could come to St Mungo’s and talk to you. I mean, maybe strong feelings of attachment give us something to work with. I don’t know. They’re trying to work up a way to re-establish the mind/body connection while the Unspeakables are on the counter-curse; the presence of someone you’re fond of might be a stronger pull than your own bedding and stuff.”

“Not particularly. I...had other things on my mind, for the most part, at school.” Harry understood that; of course, he’d been trying to date Ginny and that had turned out to be a disaster. “There hasn’t been anyone in the village. My orientation isn’t a secret, but I seem to be the only one within miles, and I haven’t been out looking. Before David,” his voice quavered only very slightly, “I never really felt the need for, ah, that sort of companionship.”

Harry looked at him carefully. Under usual circumstances, he would never even attempt any kind of mental health assessment, but the circumstances were about as far from ‘normal’ as he had encountered in his professional life, and Draco was not behaving in a way that made him think that he could dismiss the Healers’ concerns without actually asking Draco the question. “Are you holding up alright? You don’t want us to give up finding a way to bring you back, do you?”

“Do you plan to?”

“No. I’m not giving up.” There was enough death on his conscience; he wasn’t about to add Draco Malfoy to the list.

Draco nodded. “Thank you.” Harry took that as a ‘no’ with considerable relief. Draco accepting that there might not be a counter-curse was one thing, and Draco not seeming to care whether there was a counter-curse or not wasn’t too far removed from it, but Draco actively wanting them to stop looking for one would have been something else entirely. Harry didn’t want to have to contemplate that.

“I’m doing my job, Malfoy,” Harry said quietly. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. How long were you seeing one another?”

“Months. Since late February.”

“In love?”

Draco shifted back and forth and didn’t meet Harry’s eyes. “It’s probably safe to presume that he wasn’t.”

“You were?” Harry asked, knowing the answer without Draco saying a word, and the weight on his heart increased.

“I... thought I was.”

Harry nodded, careful to keep his expression and body language neutral. The wild surge of – irrational, irresponsible, self-centred, he chided himself – hope that he hadn’t been, that Harry might have some sort of a chance at a relationship with him was something that he knew he couldn’t share with Draco until he was released and the dust had settled.

The analytical part of his mind not rejoicing at the implication of Draco’s words found it odd that the man sounded uncertain of his feelings – and a little worrying: if Draco was not in love with Burbage, then even if Burbage did by some miracle decide to relent and kiss Draco awake, the cure wouldn’t work.

He had to distract himself. “So... what were you doing with your life before this happened?”

“Minding my own business.” He smiled wryly. “Living quietly and largely succeeding in keeping out of harm’s way.”

“It’s not your fault he lied to you,” Harry said before his brain caught up with his mouth.

With a sigh, Draco said, “It isn’t that black and white.”

“Do you mind explaining that?”

“That it’s not black and white? Well, if I hadn't tortured his aunt, he wouldn't have felt the need to embark on this... convoluted plot to kill me, and if he hadn't been working towards my slow and helpless death, he wouldn't have lied to me. So there is, in fact, a degree to which it is my fault." He paused. “Arguably. I mean, obviously you would simply have strolled into my garden and hit me with a blasting curse as soon as I opened the front door, but he clearly didn’t feel that straightforward was the way to go.”

“I don’t want to kill you.”

“Seventy seven.”

“Er, huh?”

“I’m sorry, I thought we’d started saying unrelated things to one another.”

Harry sighed. “Sorry. That wasn’t my intention.”

Malfoy nodded. It wasn’t long before he faded away. Harry closed his hand into a fist and clenched his jaw, the feeling of something heavy sitting on his heart growing.

###

Touching Draco’s hand while he sat with him at St Mungo’s made Harry feel better. He stroked the curve of knuckles and fine lines of bone through Draco’s hands. There was no Dark Mark on his forearm or any sign of it having been removed. Harry smiled. If only he could have been in Burbage’s shoes... he wouldn’t have taken Draco for granted – still wouldn’t if he had a chance in future to be with Draco.

Harry stopped stroking the line of Draco’s thumb and blinked. His heart thumped, stopped, then became a riot in his chest. He shivered.

He was falling for Draco; it was far beyond simple attraction... and if anyone asked him why, Harry didn’t have an answer. Somehow, being with Draco at the end of the day, or seeing his smile, had become more than just wanting to help or doing his job. He looked at Draco, and ran his fingers again across the pale hand in his; he wanted to make him smile, laugh... and just be with him.

Love, or at least the beginnings of it. Harry acknowledged it with a sigh and drew Draco’s fingers to his lips. He wanted more than was right to ask from Draco, but he couldn’t help the feelings of longing and desire that now had a carved ledge to sit on like special trinkets. Harry tried to smile. Falling in love should be a good thing.

It should be, but Harry became increasingly aware of what would happen when Kingsley found out and what they would do to him for allowing such a lapse in judgement. He sighed.

###

“I’m sorry, Inspector, but we’re running out of ideas. None of the treatments we have for deep unconsciousness have been able to reach him, and the experimental models we’ve run all carry a significant risk of misfiring and reinforcing the separation rather than forcing a reintegration.”

“Okay, look, he’s going to be lost for good, if we don’t do something soon.” Harry looked at the man. “Are you ruling out the possibility that breaking the curse will get his mind and body back together?”

The Healer grimaced. “There’s no simple answer to that. The known counter-curse consists of a physical element and a mental element. Our difficulty is that we know that we can wake up his brain in the literal sense of changing the patterns of electrical activity in the lump of physical matter in his skull, but that won’t necessarily affect his mind

Harry ran his hand through his hair and gripped it for a moment. “Alright, what have the Unspeakables come up with?”

“Sod all,” Lewis said, characteristically blunt.

Rowntree chuckled deeply. “He’s just got t’ fall in love, aye?”

Harry nodded.

“Little potion just for that sort o’ thing. Mightn’t be permanent, mind. Couldn’t never tell him owt about it, neither. It’d break t’ spell.”

Harry stared at Rowntree, and wondered whether he was trying to be funny.

“Actually...” there was a thoughtful note in the Healer’s voice that made Harry’s stomach lurch unpleasantly, “...there might be something in that suggestion. Particularly if…” His eyes glazed over for a moment as he mumbled to himself. Harry gazed at him, aghast.

“Are you out of your f—?”

“Yes. Yes, I think that could very well work, in the circumstances,” the Healer interrupted, apparently unaware that Lewis had even begun to speak. “Inspector Potter is uniquely placed to effect the cure.” He smiled beatifically at the startled faces around him. “As you know, Amortentia acts to cause the recipient to fall in love with the giver. If the good inspector were to give Mr Malfoy the potion and the kiss, here in the waking world, and then create the image of Mr Malfoy having been given the potion in the dream world, and induce Mr Malfoy to, ah, allow himself to occupy the image, which would of course already be under the influence of the potion, and then kiss Mr Malfoy in the dream world, that should theoretically satisfy all the requirements of the counter-curse in both realities, and between that and the justly famous power of love as a magical phenomenon in its own right, the odds would seem to be very good that the mind/body issue would be overcome.”

Harry blinked. The man hadn’t even paused for breath.

His mind took a moment to catch up and untangle the happily blinking Healer’s monologue, and then he was too stunned by it to speak – not that he needed to: Lewis set up a flurry of expostulation. The Healer actually seemed to be suggesting that they feed Draco Amortentia, make him fall in love with Harry, that it was the best if not the only chance of survival Draco had. It sounded almost like something that he might have come up with as an adolescent fantasy.

Harry thought for a moment while Lewis bellowed about ethics and unreasonable expectations of DMLE personnel. He would do it, without doubt or question. Guilty elation slithered around him. Draco would be his, the way he wanted, and he’d live...

Rowntree gave him a look that Harry had learned over the years that meant he knew something but wasn’t going to point it out; people just had to sort it for themselves. “Happen it’d not be that much o’ a hardship for you.”

Harry’s jaw hurt, the combination of guilt and happiness and additional flux of irritation with Rowntree for deciding to be insightful at the worst possible moment. “That’s completely inappropriate, Rowntree.”

Lewis seemed to have shouted himself out and was glaring at the Healer, who ignored him and addressed Harry instead “Please consider it, Inspector. It does seem to tick all the boxes, as it were, and there’s no actual requirement that you reciprocate. But you could never tell him; there’s a strong possibility that he’d end up in the coma again. Unless he did fall in love with you of his own accord, of course, and then it wouldn’t matter. I think.” His smile faded. “Of course, there would be some administrative complications. Permissions from your Head of Department and psychological assessments and so forth, I should imagine, and the obvious practical delicacy of obtaining the potion itself…”

Harry looked at them all dumbly. “This can’t really be the only option.” He glared at Rowntree and his knowing look.

“I’m afraid it is at the moment,” the Healer said.

###

Harry paced the sitting room at Draco’s house. So far, the only viable course of action seemed to be Rowntree’s Amortentia cure. It was that or sit and wait for the ortholomancers to have a breakthrough, and Draco was out of time. The Equality and Ethics Committee at St Mungo’s was deadlocked, but the hospital director had intervened unprecedentedly to rule that the patient’s best interests, defined in Draco’s case as his cure, superseded the moral implications of interfering with his right to self-determination; Harry suspected that the argument would keep the Wizengamot occupied for months. Kingsley had initially been inclined to veto the suggestion out of consideration his own Auror as much as the victim of the crime. Harry had eventually persuaded him not to.

It had been one of the more uncomfortable conversations in Harry’s long history of uncomfortable conversations. He had admitted to his attraction and growing affection for Draco, and spoken candidly about his hope to form a relationship with him in the real world, once the ordeal was over and an appropriate amount of time had elapsed; Kingsley delivered a firm reprimand concerning his lapse in judgement over failing to mention any of this to any of his superiors, and asked a number of painfully searching questions. The end result had been authorisation - subject to clinical and occupational psychologist approval - to proceed with the plan.

Harry sat with the psychologists through separate and joint interviews, in sessions even longer and more intensive than those he’d had to undergo before he’d been allowed into the field in the first place. It was a long day. There wasn’t much time, but everything still had to be done by the book or else Kingsley would revoke his authorisation. For the first time in his life, Harry was grateful for all the gruelling hours of therapy he’d had after the war and before he’d been able to get beyond probationary status as an Auror: his attachment, abandonment and Voldemort issues would have ruled him out if they hadn’t already been addressed.

The other problem, of course, was guaranteeing the secrecy about the Amortentia. A solution had been thought up fairly quickly, but it had implications that Harry would have preferred to avoid, though Kingsley seemed to derive some sort of ironic satisfaction from them; unfortunately, nobody had been able to come up with a viable alternative, so the official line was to be that he had become involved with Draco during their interactions in dreams and actively concealed that involvement, putting him in breach of the DMLE Code of Conduct. That particular breach carried an automatic suspension on full pay for investigation by the Head of Department and a Fitness For Service interview before he would be allowed to return to active duty.

The true facts of the case would be entered into a sealed record to protect Harry from any real professional repercussions; Lewis and Rowntree would see to it that all he had to contend with when he returned was a certain amount of matey ribbing from his colleagues.

No matter what the personal consequences, though, Harry knew it was the right thing to do.

###

“How’re you holding up?” Harry asked, as Draco slid into his dream. The psychologists had given him the all-clear and Kingsley had made the administrative arrangements: they were only waiting for the Healers’ confirmation of readiness. Draco could be awake within hours. Awake and in love with Harry. He tried not to think about it.

Draco looked even more tired than the last time Harry’d seen him. “I’m worried out of my mind, and I can’t wake up.”

“We’re working on something,” he said and rested a hand on Draco’s shoulder. Draco didn’t move, but whether it was acceptance or indifference, Harry couldn’t tell. He chose to take it as a good sign that Draco wasn’t actively pulling away.

“Did I ever apologise for breaking your nose? I meant to.”

Harry frowned slightly and looked at Draco. He didn’t want to ask if Draco had said that because he thought he would die. “Don’t worry about it. Rest. We’ll find a way out of this for you.”

“I’m not sure that there is one, any more.”

“There is,” Harry promised.

“The mind wasn’t meant to be separate from its body for this long.”

“The Healers and Unspeakables have been working on something.” He said it firmly and with confidence.

Draco sighed.

Harry wanted to tell him right then that they were about to wake him up, but his job was to keep Draco calm and present in his dream while the Healers made their preparations. He was going to have to wake up to feed Draco the potion and kiss him in the waking world; he needed to be confident that Draco would come back to him so he could finish the cure, and the Healers felt that there was too much of a risk that Draco would be made skittish – and therefore possibly disinclined to return – if Harry told him anything. “There are options. Right now, I just need you to be positive. Forget about Burbage. Think about what you’re going to do when you’re awake.”

Sighing again, Draco said, “Die of embarrassment?”

“I’m not going to let you die. I swear to you.” Holding Draco’s shoulder felt as natural as breathing. He changed the subject. “I was at yours earlier. A few of your neighbours came by. I said I’d pass on their best. I just told them I was an old friend looking in on the place while you were gone.”

Draco nodded. “Thank you. They’ll appreciate that.” He smiled wryly. “Of course, I’ll be interrogated about you as soon as I get back. Assuming that I do get back.”

“You will get back.” Harry said firmly. “They talked a lot about you. Things you’ve done for the village. Repairing the school and helping business and things like that. You’re a good man, Malfoy, and they know it. They appreciate all that you do and miss you.”

Draco rubbed his face. “Potter, if I do wake up, if they are able to put mind back in my body, how much of me will be left?”

Diverting his mind onto less grim subjects was clearly not going to happen, Harry realised. “All of you. I don’t understand the details, but there are some ideas the Healers and Unspeakables are really, really positive about.”

“I’m sorry. I’m being difficult, and your job is hard enough as it is. You don’t need to deal with my cowardice as well.”

“No, you’re not. You’re frustrated and alone and I reckon scared. And I’m the only sod you can interact with regularly.”

“You’ve been very kind. Far kinder than I had any right to ask of you.”

Harry set his jaw. Irrespective of his feelings for Draco, he was an Auror; even if the pastoral care of victims wasn’t his area of expertise, doing the best to provide support he could was part of his job. “I did say from the outset that nobody deserves this. I like you. I miss you when you don’t come to my dreams.” Harry squeezed Draco’s shoulder. “I won’t let you down.”

Draco smiled. “Thank you.”

Harry couldn’t help smiling back. Letting go was difficult; he tried, but his hand just ran down the back of Draco’s arm, only releasing his hold when their fingers brushed and there was a slight reaction from Draco – reflex, perhaps, Harry thought.

There was a pregnant pause during which Draco looked at Harry as if he had never seen him before, and Harry had to remind himself forcefully that this was not the moment to make declarations. He summoned another smile, attempting to behave as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. “If I do anything odd... just believe that it’s meant to be helpful, okay?”

Draco frowned faintly. “That sounds ominous.”

“It’s not. You trust me, don’t you?”

Draco blinked. “Yes.”

Harry was just as surprised by the admission as Draco seemed to be, and far more heartened. He would have said something else – he didn’t know what – but he felt the tugging from outside his dream and nodded, smiling. “Good.” It was time.

“There’s something I need to do. I won’t be gone long.”

Draco nodded. “I’ll find you again when you get back.”

Smiling, Harry could only let himself say, “Good,” as his dream dissolved around him.

“Is everything ready?” Harry asked the Healer. She was one he hadn’t seen before; apparently the usual man had been replaced by his head of specialty for the treatment.

“Yes, Inspector. The potion is ready; it isn’t one of ours because we don’t hold a stock of Amortentia and we don’t have time for or own brewers to prepare and mature a batch for optimum potency, but we went to a highly reputable potion master. He often makes the more obscure philtres for us.” Under almost any other circumstances, Harry would have been amused by how anxious she seemed to be that he accept the potion’s credentials. “He was a little surprised that the requisition form was under your name, but he’s very discreet. Now, don’t pour too fast when you give Mr Malfoy the potion: we’ll be helping him to swallow, but it’s very easy to choke someone. When you go to sleep, remember to recreate the room exactly like it is now. Don’t take too long: he’s already likely to have sustained permanent damage.”

“And you’re absolutely certain this will work?” Harry asked.

The Healer looked at him for a moment. “No, but it’s the only hope we have. There’s more than one problem, here, Inspector. The Sleeping Beauty Curse is actually the lesser of the two. We haven’t encountered it in a very long time, and the victim wasn’t saved then, but the Healers at the time didn’t have a dream-wanderer for the victim or a lucid dreamer to act as an intermediary, let alone a lucid dreamer willing to go to these lengths: that’s what makes this a medical conundrum rather than an inevitable tragedy.” She shook her head. “No, the termination of the curse itself is theoretically quite straightforward. The real problem is that his mind has been Wandering for far too long; we can’t contact or track it independently, and even if we could, we can’t trigger a natural reintegration: the window for that is only a handful of hours after initial separation. The pathways between his mind and body have degenerated to the point where we can’t even locate them precisely enough to flag and support them; that’s where it all becomes speculative.” She paused, and must have seen a glaze in his eyes. Again. “It’s not breaking the curse that we’re worried about; it’s whether or not breaking the curse will be enough to get his mind back into his body. We think it should be, but we can’t be certain. The only way to find out is to try it, and time is not on our side.”

Harry nodded. He took the vial from its packing on the instrument trolley beside the Healer, who opened Draco’s mouth and poised her wand at his throat to trigger his apparently dormant swallow reflex. The potion went down smoothly, and Harry handed the empty vial to the Healer. It clattered against other things in her pocket as he leaned down and kissed Draco gently. There was no change, but he hadn’t expected one: the consensus among the Healers and curse-breakers had been that the encounter in the dream was the one that would cement the cure. Harry understood that it was something to do with the mind/body disconnection and the nature of love as a psychological phenomenon more than a biochemical reaction, but he had lost the thread of the explanation shortly after that. Harry sat down then, and closed his eyes, inducing sleep with the ease of long practice.

The dream came together slowly, the hazy outline of the meadow Harry had trained himself to create almost without thought shimmering and shifting to become an exact replica of Draco's room at St Mungo's - omitting the attendant Healers and Aurors out of consideration for Draco's inevitable embarrassment. He felt Draco slip in and turned to look at him, smiling a welcome. The other man smiled back a shade hesitantly, almost bashfully, and Harry’s stomach twisted. The evidence was there in his expression and bearing: the Amortentia had taken hold. Harry wondered whether that really boded well for the chances of reuniting Draco’s mind with his body. A twinge of guilt for the manipulation was drowned in a surge of wistful longing that it could be real rather than drug-induced, but Harry had been briefed and was steeled for it. He had to be, or else he would fail Draco, when he’d promised he would get him out alive.

“Everything’s alright,” Harry said gently. “I know this looks odd, but remember what I said about it being a way to help you. I need you to lie down on the bed and close your eyes.”

He had a faraway look, but Draco obeyed. Harry looked at him, eyes closed, completely vulnerable, just as he was in the real world. It was such a familiar gesture to him now that Harry placed a hand on top of Draco’s and stroked it before he leaned down to press their lips together. The response was immediate: Draco’s mouth opened to Harry’s like they’d been doing it for ages. A surge of warmth filled him at the touch of Draco’s lips. A roar of magic blew through and knocked over the imaginary items in the room as Draco reached out to Harry and undulated underneath him, his response possessive, deep. Harry had never felt so needed by anyone. His guilt flared a bright red behind his eyes. He broke away from the kiss. Draco looked at him, smiling, the effect of the potion making him look giddy with delight. Then another flare of colour exploded around them. Draco’s eyes widened and he grabbed at Harry.

It was too late. Harry couldn’t hold him any more than he could water. Draco was gone.

Harry woke himself up and found himself seated beside Draco’s bed. The first thing he saw was Draco, awake but disoriented, his tired eyes glassy and more like polished silver than grey. It had worked. It had actually worked.

Healers shoved Harry aside and swarmed Draco’s bed like vultures. Draco’s eyes went wide, darting around at the various faces hovering over him with rising panic. Harry watched from the back of the room; their eyes locked and Draco relaxed.

Later, Harry sat at Draco’s bedside and held his limp hand. Slight tension came and went with his attempts to move but his mind’s disconnection from his body had been so complete that his ability to control it had been seriously affected. The Healers were adamant that he could make a full recovery with time, treatment, and the right support. Harry reminded himself of their assurances every time a limb twitched or an eye rolled.

Days ran by in a blur. While the Healers wouldn’t let Harry see Draco, he checked in with Kingsley on the progress of his ‘investigation’. The whole suspension and assessment period would take no more than six or eight, but still, he didn’t know what he would do with all the extra time. He was to undergo six hours per week of mandatory counselling with the Healer who had assessed him for approval to go through with the Amortentia cure, ostensibly as part of his disciplinary sanction but in reality to monitor his adjustment to his new circumstances, and he was to undertake a written review of the Department’s ethical standards training, neither of which would exactly fill his days. While the ‘investigation’ into his conduct was going on, he had little to do but kick his heels at home. He missed Draco and he hadn’t seen him in his dreams since he woke up. The lack of contact was starting to get to him, and he waited around St Mungo’s waiting for a chance to see him or talk to him.

Over a week passed before the medical staff would let Harry anywhere near Draco for longer than visiting hours, which they usually cut short because Draco was subject to a rigorous regime of examination, treatment, and enforced rest. They wouldn’t tell him anything. Harry took to pacing the corridors, hands in pockets, scowling at busybodies and nobly refraining from badgering Draco’s treating clinicians. His reward came on day nine, when a smiling mediwitch finally ushered him to Draco’s bedside immediately after lunch with a bright assurance that he could stay as long as he wanted to.

Draco was awake, but had the generally battered air of one who had spent the morning receiving the close attentions of a regiment of physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, mediwizards, and counsellors. Harry had been there, once or twice, after assignments had gone bad: he sympathised.

Harry took hold of Draco’s hand. “Hi.”

Draco smiled, relief in his expression and his response to Harry’s touch, and then grimaced. “God, my head.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. Wish I could tell you what they’ve been doing, but they won’t talk to me. You’re looking a lot better, though.”

Draco returned the squeeze of Harry’s hand; though still weak, it was stronger than when Draco had first woken up. “Mostly various therapies and rehabilitative charm treatment. Apparently it’s likely that I’ll always slur my speech and become clumsy when I’m tired, now.” He looked thoughtful rather than distressed, but his tone became disgruntled when he added, “And they’ve taken to feeding me Dreamless Sleep every time they make me have a nap in case my mind wanders again.”

“I was wondering why you hadn’t popped up in my dreams.” Harry pulled Draco’s hand to his lips and kissed it, then leaned over to kiss him properly. “I’m glad you’re safe.” He smiled.

Draco turned his face toward Harry’s and without thinking, Harry moved in to the silent request for another. Harry closed his eyes and kissed him again, trying to show him everything he was thinking: how much he’d been worrying, how much he wanted him, how relieved he was.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Draco said, when it ended.

“So’m I. How are you feeling?”

“Apart from the headache, weakness and general wretchedness, you mean?” It was good-natured in tone, but it still jerked Harry’s heart that nothing had been done sooner. “Foolish.”

“You shouldn’t feel foolish. You couldn’t have guessed what would happen.”

“Yes and no. I should have known that he was too good to be true.” He looked at Harry evenly. “And I think I should have recognised that my depth of feeling for him wasn’t what it should have been.”

Harry stroked Draco’s cheek. “Don’t dwell on it. D’you think they’d let me help with your physio?”

Draco took a moment before responding. “They mostly just supervise, now. You’re not terribly good at subtle, are you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Harry frowned, trying to work out why asking to help with physio seemed to be a bad thing.

Draco smiled affectionately. “No, clearly. Don’t worry about it; it wasn’t important.” He stretched slightly. “I’m hoping to be discharged early next week.”

“That’s good.” Harry smiled, unable to look anywhere but Draco’s face. He could finally touch him in reality, kiss him, be with him, no barriers. “I love you.” Now that he’d said it, Harry felt the tension and worry of the last two months shed like dead skin.

Draco smiled back. “I love you, too. I don’t suppose you could find some tea, could you? I’m sick of this excuse for orange squash.”

The change of subject made Harry blink rapidly, but he nodded. “Alright.”

Draco was asleep when Harry got back. Harry’s shoulders dropped when he saw the mediwizard closing the curtain around Draco’s bed. He sighed. He understood: Draco was knackered, recovering from a traumatic ordeal. Watching for a moment, Harry gathered his thoughts and went home. He needed to sleep; he hadn’t done so properly in days, not knowing how Draco was doing.

He could wait a little longer.

###

The meadow was dark and cool. Harry lay on the grass, watching the stars. The constellation Draco stood out brightly above him. He sighed. He could dream up a version of Draco, but it wouldn’t be real. Draco had to be in the clear, now, and should be able to dream-walk without any separation of mind losing his way back to his body.

Harry rolled over, feeling a light push against his dream. He smiled, his heart leaping. “Hey.” He looked at Draco who wore nothing and stalked him with a warm smile on his face, his eyes like molten silver.

“Would you think me terribly impolite if I suggested that we talk afterwards?”

“Afterwards? You want to shag in my dream?” He blinked, sitting up.

“You’ve never had a sex dream?”

“Not since I started controlling my dreams, no. I mostly had nightmares before then.”

Draco grimaced. “Something of a mood-killer.”

“Mm.” Harry stood and pulled Draco toward him, placing both hands on his face. He tilted his head and guided Draco’s to the perfect angle and kissed him. It wasn’t like the gentle, loving kiss he’d given Draco when he’d woken; this kiss sent sparks thrilling along every nerve. Draco wasn’t responding quite the way Harry might have imagined he would; he stopped to look at him. “Hey, I’m sorry. Just don’t think about it, yeah?” He stroked Draco’s face and ran his hands down the slope of his shoulders, to his biceps, the feel of his skin setting Harry’s fingers on fire. He was warm, even in the dream, warmer than Harry could’ve expected, and warmer than he was in the bed at St Mungo’s. “I love you, Draco.”

Draco’s expression changed, at that, and Harry’s bones felt like water. The look Draco gave him was a picture of heated desire that startled him as much as made him ache; no one had looked at him as if he were the sole focus of absolute desire before and he didn’t know quite how to process it. Before he could do more than swallow convulsively, Draco jerked Harry to him and kissed him, and it was better – deeper, harder, hungrier – than any of his fantasies had been. Heat flooded him and pooled in his groin; his heart raced and its beat pounded dizzyingly in his ears. Draco’s hands almost burned as they moved over him, demanding, not asking, and leaving electric trails in their wake.

The meadow brightened, and flickered: Draco’s talented fingers had found their way into Harry’s trousers and wrapped around his cock. Harry jerked his head back, tearing his mouth from Draco’s and screwed his eyes shut, fighting to anchor the dream before it could dissipate.

It stabilised and he opened his eyes to look at Draco, struggling to frame an apology. He was met by that same fierce expression of want, so clear that he could have seen it even if he were blind.

“Say that again.”

“I love you, Draco.” He was already leaning in, kissing Draco again, biting at his bottom lip, tasting the corners of his mouth. He ran his hands from Draco’s shoulders to his arse, taking in the muscle and sinew beneath the skin. Draco shuddered under his touch, fingers tightening insistently on Harry’s cock and wringing a deep moan from him.

Harry let his head tip into the curve of Draco’s neck and closed his eyes, checking the fabric of the dream one last time and finally imagining his clothes away. Draco made a feline sound of approval and changed his grip.

Harry’s consciousness fragmented.

Draco surrounded and enveloped him: the sinful hand on his cock, its mate dancing over his chest, mapping the lines of his belly and hips, squeezing and stroking his balls while lips, tongue and teeth wrought delicious havoc on his throat and jaw, and Draco’s voice, breathy and roughened with lust, dripped a litany of marvellously obscene praise and encouragement into his ears. He heard himself moan, lost in a haze of arousal and Draco’s overmastering intentness.

He felt himself slipping, and the haze lifted. To his desire-fogged embarrassment, he realised that his knees had started to buckle, and Draco had had to stop and keep him from falling.

Harry awkwardly guided them to the grass, the blades tickling his skin. “Sorry. It’s been a while.” He suspected that he would have been in much the same state even if it hadn’t been: the man made him feel like a blushing virgin. He propped himself up on his elbows. “You look even better than I imagined.”

Draco didn’t seem to mind either the interruption or the revelation that Harry had imagined him naked before. “You’re not exactly an eyesore yourself. May I?”

He rolled Harry onto his back.

“You can do anything you like,” he said, his head lolling onto the ground. Draco's lips brushed over Harry's to slide down his jaw to his throat. Moist warmth tracked the length of his breastbone and teased his navel, drawing a deep moan from him; it roughened as those nearly-familiar fingers wrapped around his cock. The mouth he had fantasised about for weeks closed on the head, hot and wet, and Harry couldn't keep his hips from bucking. “If you keep on like that, it’ll be over before we get started.”

A soft chuckle vibrated down his cock, an odd but enjoyable feeling. Draco pulled back and smiled; already Harry missed his mouth.

“Turnaround time slowing down, is it?”

Harry didn't bother to respond: Draco knew it had been a while for him. He'd last longer for a second round if the edge had been taken off. He smirked and ran his fingers through the man's hair. “Not at all. Carry on.”

Draco’s mouth slid over Harry again fast enough to take his breath away. The rhythm Draco set at first was slow, a long pull back to suckle at the head, massaging with the flat of his tongue, and glided back, engulfing him to the root in rippling warmth. The sensual languor didn't last long. Harry arched as Draco's pace picked up, swallowing him down aggressively, sucking hard on the withdrawal as if he wanted to drag the semen from Harry's balls. His fingers twisted in Draco's hair and he arched. wishing Draco would shove a finger or three into his arse and let him go, stop making him wait. Sweet agony.

Harry's breath went ragged, heart slamming against his ribs. Draco was sucking him hard and fast, sloppy and hungry and fucking amazing, making noises Harry could never even have imagined. He tightened his fingers and forced his eyes open to look at Draco, and found him looking back.

The expression did it, that look of totally focussed lust and intention; it sliced through what was left of his thinking mind and crashed inwards.

His consciousness fragmented in a spine-shattering orgasm that left him gasping and trembling, boneless on the damp grass while Draco's tongue slid along the inner edge of his hipbone.

He closed his eyes, listening as life came back. It was indistinct at first, but the sounds of night and the outdoors crept into his still-recovering mind. That wanker David Burbage had got that attention from Draco, and still wanted to kill him. Harry wished he could go back and ask Draco out before Burbage. All that time, he’d just taken advantage... Harry swore he never would do that to Draco. It had happened enough. Even if Draco chose to move on and did fall in love with someone for real, Harry would have a clear conscience. His guilt was like iron bands around his heart; shame for letting the potion take control of Draco and make him do things he might not really want to do gnawed at something deep in his core.

Harry’s head lolled to the side. Draco lay stretched out beside him, cock erect. His shoulders, neck and chest were pink, his lips even darker from all of the work they’d done. Harry wanted to return the favour. His mouth watered in anticipation of Draco’s taste and his tongue tingled at the thought of the weight and textures of Draco’s cock against it. He shifted, turning, and settled over Draco. He kissed him first, with lazy swipes of tongue and lip that grew deeper and more heated as his arousal rekindled.

Stretched along Draco’s body belly to belly and groin to groin, he felt every twitch of the other man’s cock; he ground down, drawing out a groan that sounded like it had been torn from Draco’s heart by the roots. Draco’s fingers closed on Harry’s triceps with bruising force and he hooked a thigh over Harry’s hip to keep that friction. Slicked with sweat, pre-come and the lingering traces of his saliva, Harry’s cock moved just enough against Draco’s to set fireworks off behind his eyes when the sensitive spot just below the head found Draco’s thick vein.

Draco moved against him more insistently, and Harry heard himself hiss as Draco’s teeth raked his lower lip.

He lifted himself away, propping himself above Draco’s long body and taking a moment just to drink in the sight. The man was lean but sculpted, toned without being bulky, and flawlessly pale – except for the hectic flush spreading from his chest to his cheekbones, the reddened, kiss-swollen lips, the rosy nipples, and that beautiful quivering cock, darkened with arousal and topped with a glistening bead of pre-come.

Draco growled, grabbed his shoulders, and yanked him back down; he moaned into Harry’s mouth, rolling his hips to recapture the delicious grind. The thoughts he had entertained of sucking Draco’s cock evaporated under that breathtaking pressure.

Draco surrounded him, hands and mouth all over him, licking, sucking, tasting, touching, squeezing: it was enough to make him mindless with want.

Harry groaned and imagined his fingers slick with oil. Keeping their bodies close, he shifted enough to reach between them. Draco’s legs spread without a word, drawing up and out, opening and offering, inviting Harry in. Harry panted, watching Draco’s face, as he pushed his fingers into Draco’s arse. His stomach twisted at the tight, clinging heat and his cock throbbed urgently. A sound of deep satisfaction rose from beneath him, and Harry looked down at Draco, watching his body react. His nipples were hard, and something that had been wound tightly in him visibly started to come undone with each thrust of Harry’s fingers. All Harry wanted to do was get enough lubrication into him and open him up enough not to hurt him: the raw need to be in the man and fuck was too urgent to deny.

Running his hand along his prick left plenty of lubrication. Harry leaned forward and positioned himself. Draco was ready; he didn’t need to ask. He drew his fingers out, guided his cock into position, and pressed smoothly into that welcoming heat. His reward was immediate: a throaty growl and a hard clench that wrung a deep moan from him. He dropped his forehead to Draco’s neck and fastened his mouth to the fine skin over the long tendon there.

“Ah!” Draco bucked, clutching at his shoulders. “Move!”

Definitely ready.

Harry set a steady, powerful pace with the intention of taking his time, but Draco was having none of it, flexing up to meet his thrusts harder and faster, and grinding his cock relentlessly against Harry’s stomach; Harry was powerless to resist.

Draco’s fingers tightened his flanks, doubtlessly leaving bruises, and he let loose a tumult of awed obscenities as Harry found that sweet spot in his core.

Something in the back of Harry’s mind exploded at those sounds and those words coming out of that mouth; it was more than he could bear and he groaned, his hips snapping forward and down as the dizzying rush began to spiral.

“Mm, yes, Draco. Come.” Harry wanted it as much as he wanted Draco. He ached for Draco’s orgasm and said things without thought. “Want to see it cover you. Come. Let go. Let go for me.” It tumbled out like drunken confessions.

Harry saw in Draco’s eyes when he began to unravel. His self-control cracked, his words giving way to raw, visceral sounds. His eyes fell closed, and he arched, yowling. Come splattered against both of them. Draco let out a deep sound of satisfaction, his body going limp. There was a roaring in Harry’s ears. He thrust into Draco and stilled - coming, body so full of sensation he could scarcely breathe. He panted, arms trembling like he’d been training all day.

Carefully, he withdrew from Draco before he collapsed on him, in a warm rush of fluid.

Harry flopped to the grass beside Draco and closed his eyes. He thought of a blanket and covered them, then turned and kissed Draco. His eyes were glassy, sated, and drifting shut. Harry lay an arm across Draco’s chest and rested.

He stayed like that until the far-away sound of his alarm started penetrating his mind.

Harry leaned over and kissed Draco. His eyes fluttered opened and he smiled. He said something garbled, but Harry worked out it was meant to be a greeting.

“I have to go to work. I didn’t want you to get booted out of my dream. Didn’t think that’d be nice.”

Draco blinked slowly. “Mm? No, it wouldn’t. Thank you.” He tried not to yawn. “I suppose I’d better wake up, too.” He smiled again and vanished from Harry’s dream like the Cheshire cat.

When he woke, Harry felt the sticky, cold remains of the dream in his pants and groaned slightly. He’d probably made noise all night. Brilliant. He inhaled deeply and sat up to kiss Draco. “Can I help with anything before I head home to get ready?”

“Nn.” Draco frowned, concentrating. “No, thank you.” The words were a little indistinct, but Harry knew what he’d said.

“I’ll come by at lunch, and then when my shift is over, alright?”

“Mm. Yes.”

Harry smiled and attempted to avoid any Healers or staff before he left for home.

< center>###

It was ironic that Draco had assimilated into Muggle life far better than Mr Weasley ever could have. He was perfectly at home in Harry’s car as they left St. Mungo’s, and had already told him that he hadn’t used magic in four years. One day, Harry would get round to asking about having three wands; for now, he was content to drive Draco home and think about the possibilities when they arrived.

“I’m glad we can touch each other for real, now.”

“Yes,” Draco said, a smile in his tone.

“I changed your bedding and that. Sort of invited myself for the night.” Sharing the bedding Draco had shared with Burbage hadn’t appealed to him. He didn’t want to say that, though.

Draco laughed. “Saves me the trouble of thinking up a pretext to keep you with me.”

Harry smiled, warmth spreading through him. “You wouldn’t have needed one.” He glanced at Draco. Light pink coloured his cheeks.

“It’s always good to have one.”

“How about this: I want to shag properly, since I’m not on the rota for the next few weeks?”

Draco laughed again, a sound Harry found himself wanting to hear often. His happiness since he woke up might have been built on a lie, but he still hoped that it would mean something in the end – something positive, despite the circumstances.

“I knew you were the direct type.”

Harry half-smiled. “You’ve been driving me mad in my dreams for months; it’s only fair that I say what I want. Of course, your neighbours will probably call round once they see us drive up. I’ll make us some dinner so you can get comfortable again. I already did the shopping.”

At Draco’s laugh, Harry’s heart floated. “You’re spoiling me.”

“You’ve been through hell. The least I can do is make your home-coming nice.”

“It already was, Harry.”

“I’m glad. Still. I wanted to do it.”

“I appreciate it. Thank you.”

“Of course.” Harry reached out and squeezed Draco’s hand.

###

Entering Draco’s house with him felt different. The life it lacked without him seemed to rush back in and welcome them. It was a pleasant feeling, one of being right where he belonged. He turned and smiled at Draco, taking his bag, stealing a caress against his thumb as he took it from his hand. It reminded Harry of the first time he’d fallen in love; his stomach danced, and excitement coursed through him, he even felt the heat spread up his neck and face. His heart beat like a hummingbird’s wings.

“Welcome home,” Harry said.

“I’d welcome you, but you probably know the place as well as I do by now.”

“Perk of the situation?” Harry tried for levity.

“If you like.” It seemed to work. Draco looked at him for a moment, and Harry couldn’t wait any more.

Sod the neighbours; Harry smiled and pulled Draco to him. They met halfway. No dream could compete with reality. Draco’s lips were firm against Harry’s. Everything he felt for Draco came surging through him. There were no words to convey it, but Harry tried with every breath and every kiss to express what he felt and would fail to verbalise. He moaned.

Draco pulled him, and Harry pushed. Their kisses became erratic, teeth scraping lips and noses banging together. Harry laughed into Draco’s smile. The rush of following Draco’s current swept him away, snatching him up in the flow. They stumbled up the stairs.

Draco dropped onto his elbows and Harry kissed him deeply, propping himself up with one hand, and running the other through Draco’s hair. He’d had it cut before leaving St Mungo’s; it was springy and smelled like magic. Draco’s head tilted back against the carpet and exposed his neck, drawing Harry straight to the pale column. When he sank his teeth in and sucked, Draco moaned, his hands gripping Harry’s t-shirt and pulling. It was difficult to angle out of the damned thing on the stairs. Harry laughed. Freedom had never felt so good. Draco’s hands moved across his abdomen; he moved up, across Harry’s nipples, panting, his erection teasing Harry’s. Pressing his hips down sent a delicious fire through him. Draco rose up and rubbed against him. Touching and feeling the real Draco was like and unlike the dream: the scents and textures were more strongly defined, the sounds were more animal. It was real.

They scrambled up the stairs to the bedroom, tripping like school boys to get at one another. Draco’s polo shirt hit the floor first; Harry leaned in and kissed him as he fumbled between them to undo Draco’s trousers. He toed off his trainers and didn’t want to pull his hands away, but had to: the clothes justhad to go. Naked, Harry ran his hand up Draco’s lean body, across his abdomen and the dips and curve of muscle that he’d already seen but not been allowed the time to appreciate. He could feel the faint hair that he couldn’t see and goosebumps spreading beneath his fingers.

In the dream, he had not had a chance to touch Draco’s cock or taste him – he wasn’t going to lose that this time He dropped to his knees, took hold of the base and ran his cheek along the shaft, his eyes closed, soaking in the feel of Draco and his scent. Draco shivered when Harry licked him, then his shoulders hit the wall behind him when Harry lowered his mouth until he couldn’t go any further. Hands worked their way into Harry’s hair, not guiding, just resting as he moved down and sucked back, massaging Draco’s cock with his tongue. Harry’s mouth watered as he moved, making it easier to take Draco deeper. He moaned round his mouthful. Draco panted above him, his hands a steady presence that didn’t demand.

Harry looked at Draco and pulled back. There were so many things he wanted to do. Shag, taste Draco more, feel Draco’s mouth in reality. He rose and walked to the bedside table and pulled one of the condoms out, along with lube. “D’you want to fuck me?”

“Not yet. There’s something else I’d like to do first.”

“Oh, what’s that?”

“Lie down on your side and let me show you.”

Harry lay down and watched Draco position himself so that each of them had a face full of cock and balls, tucking his thigh under Harry’s head as a pillow and tucking Harry’s thigh under his own.

The intent could hardly have been plainer. Lust hit Harry like a tsunami. Panting, he took Draco in his mouth again, Harry closed his eyes and moaned deeply, continuing where he had left off on the floor. He roamed across Draco’s hips with his hands, drifting down his thighs, taking every part of him within reach. Draco did the same, with more precision. He knew just where to put his hands on Harry’s balls, and where to run his tongue after his mouth plunged down around his cock. Harry didn’t match Draco’s rhythm. The position was new to him; between the novelty and the sheer intensity of the sensations, he quickly lost the ability to do more than simply experience.

Wet, pleasured sounds came from both of them. Concentrating on sucking Draco’s cock became more difficult as the pleasure mounted. He moaned again and again, until finally white noise filled his head. He rocked his hips into Draco’s mouth, holding a pale thigh in one hand and the sheets in the other as he came, shivering and unable to do anything apart from murmur Draco’s name into wet skin and light hair. His eyes rolled back. Draco’s tongue and mouth were still going and Harry was free-falling in ecstasy.

Harry lay motionless, waiting for his senses to come back. Draco was still hard as ever, but Harry’s brain had fled. He moved when Draco positioned him - coaxed him into lying on his stomach and spreading his legs. Draco’s hands started at the hollow of his knee and moved up his thighs, then stopped at his arse. The bed shifted and Harry felt Draco’s cock rub against him with the new closeness of their bodies.

Kisses rained over his neck and shoulders, trailing down his spine and over his arse. Harry was ablaze with desire. He panted, a moan slipping from his lips; he kept his face supported by his forearm, unable to see what Draco was doing, but all sensation heightened for the lack of sight.

Draco shifted, and his hands landed on Harry’s arse, spreading him open to expose his hole. His tongue took a slow course round and Harry almost howled. The wet, silky feel of Draco’s tongue in his most private place stole any sense of inhibition. Walls he didn’t know were there crumbled, the pleasure crashing through them like a wrecking ball. Oh, fuck; yes, that feels good. Harry’s eyes rolled back; he exhaled deeply, the moan coming out in a rush.

Harry rubbed against the bed while Draco’s tongue circled and probed. His grip tightened on Harry’s arse enough to keep him open. Teasing became firm strokes around the rim of his arse. Harry floated along in a haze of pleasure, his mind blank of anything but Draco: his tongue and lips, his hands, his ardent attentions... Harry’s cock jerked and he gripped the bedding convulsively.

It wasn’t enough. Draco had a mouth to die for and he was doing things with it that turned Harry’s brain to mush, but it wasn’t enough: Harry craved the shag - the fucking fantastic shag - that he knew was coming. He felt so much saliva that he thought Draco had snuck lube into him, but Draco hadn’t moved. I make his - oh, bloody hell, Draco... I need more.

Like he read his mind, Draco moved and put Harry’s legs together. The crinkle of the condom packet caught his attention.

“You don’t need to use that.” Harry’s voice broke. “I’m clean. You’re clean. I was being respectful.”

“Mm.” Draco dropped the packet and straddled Harry’s thighs. “Relax.”

Harry did. Draco manoeuvred into position and Harry felt the blunt press of Draco’s slicked cock as he pushed inside. He was careful, apparently taking into account that Harry hadn’t been shagged in longer than he could remember.

A long, low groan escaped Harry’s throat: he’d missed the delicious feeling of a cock slowly sinking into him, filling and stretching his body. He grunted to reassure Draco he was alright before he could even ask. There was nothing short of a war in the garden that would stop him now that they’d started.

Draco moved smoothly, rolling his hips and driving himself deep. Harry lost thought and became nerves, sensation, soaking up everything. Colour and sound suffused him, Draco’s moans and the sound of his balls when they hit Harry’s arse - the electric thrills jolting up Harry’s spine as Draco ground and hammered the pleasure out of him.

“Oh, fu— fuck! Tha— that’s it, right there!”

Draco paused, breathed, and pounded straight down, nailing Harry’s prostate. Stars burst behind Harry’s eyes and a sound somewhere between a choked scream and a sob escaped him. Draco did it again, and again, and again; Harry scrabbled at the sheets, pressure building maddeningly in his gut. Draco grunted with effort and gripped Harry’s shoulder to force himself deeper, fingers biting into flesh with bruising force.

Harry’s orgasm exploded; he heard the yell torn from his own throat as if it were coming from light years away. He was only dimly aware of his body jolting with Draco’s powerful, erratic thrusts and his mind was still spinning when the Draco’s strangled whine of completion drifted through the ringing in his ears.

He felt, some time later, Draco heave himself from his sprawl over Harry’s back. The mattress dipped beside him as Draco’s weight hit it, and then there was something cool and soft spread over him, and he passed out gratefully, too sated - too exhausted - even to form a dream.

###

A few weeks later, Draco sat in the living room, staring at the same page of his book. Sometimes he’d look round, then turn the page like a Stunner had finally ended. The frequency increased, and, as it did, so did the tension in Harry’s chest.

“You alright?”

“Hmm?”

“You seem preoccupied lately.”

“Oh, no.” Draco smiled. “I’m fine.”

“Okay.” Harry didn’t want to contradict him. “What do you fancy for dinner?” His knee bounced. “I could make up the fillet steaks.”

“No, no; I’ll cook.” Draco got up and placed a photo between the pages then set the book down.

“Okay, I’m going for a walk. I haven’t been this... I don’t know... relaxed or inactive for a long time.”

“I’m sorry that you’ve got into trouble over me.”

One day, Harry hoped he could tell Draco about it. “It’s alright. I promise.” Harry half-smiled, his nerves jittering. Before he left, he grabbed a coat and scarf and closed the door behind him. The village was small enough to have a pleasant walk around. He greeted Draco’s neighbours if he saw them, but tried not to think too hard about what could be bothering the man. He combed his memory of the weeks since Draco’s cure obsessively for any clues, but there was nothing. They had settled into a comfortable domestic routine of easy companionship and affection punctuated by bouts of fantastic sex; the only disagreements had been over the right way to stack the dishwasher and Draco’s tendency to drink milk straight out of the bottle. Harry had almost been able to dismiss the fear of the potion wearing off, or some spontaneous relapse sweeping Draco back into unconsciousness – but then Draco had started his intermittent spacing out.

The light began to fade as Harry walked back to the cottage. He picked up his pace when the warm glow from the windows came into view, shivering when he stepped through the front door again. After hanging his coat and scarf, he followed the delicious aroma of dinner. He smiled and kissed Draco, who was already shepherding him towards the dining table.

“Thanks.” He smiled again. They talked as they ate, mostly about the village’s plans for winter and Draco’s participation in them, which always involved money and some organisation. Harry was amused to find that most of the various societies and committees concerned had planned for his involvement, too.

“I’ve really liked being here with you,” Harry said.

Draco smiled. “I’ve enjoyed having you here. You’re very good company.”

“Fancy making it permanent?”

There was a pause before Draco said anything; it squeezed Harry’s heart.

“You don’t need to offer me that, Harry.” He put his fork down and took a measured, steady breath.

Harry frowned.

“Amortentia,” Draco said finally.

Harry blinked. “What?”

“Amortentia. It must have been fed to me while I was in hospital; I didn’t ingest anything in the dream.”

Harry stared, terrified that Draco would collapse if he said anything at all – but he had to say something. He sighed. “It was all we could come up with.”

“Yes. I worked that out fairly quickly.”

Harry closed his eyes for a second to shore up his self-control and reboot his brain. The key point, he decided, was that Draco was safe: if the realisation that his cure had been down to Amortentia had been going to cause a relapse, it would have done so already. It hadn’t, so he felt safe to conclude that it therefore wouldn’t. A follow-up point presented itself for his consideration: Draco must genuinely, sincerely love him. He opened his eyes, smiling. “That’s what you’ve been thinking about, isn’t it?”

“Yes and no. I reasoned that you didn’t tell me because the experts were concerned that it might cause a relapse.”

“Yeah. But I’m not here because of that. Or asking to make things more permanent because of it.”

Draco tilted his head and regarded Harry gravely. “You don’t have to say that, Harry. I honestly don’t believe that I’m in danger of a relapse.”

Harry clamped down on his first instinct to demand whether this meant they were breaking up. Then he looked at Draco for a moment, incredulous. “I love you, you idiot.” Even without rancour, Harry realised saying it that way was probably a bit harsh, but the point needed making.

Draco closed his eyes. “I’m...” And there was nothing else.

“Draco, I love you. I have done for a while. I don’t know when it started happening, but it did and I liked the idea,” he said quietly.

Draco just stared at him.

“You don’t have anything to say?” Harry’s heart stopped, waiting, the seconds stretching on too far.

The next thing Harry felt was Draco’s face hitting his, mouth hungry. Relief flooded him as he got hold of Draco’s head and tilted it so they weren’t smashing each others’ noses and were kissing properly. He couldn’t think; Draco had him wrapped up in the moment as though everything depended on this kiss.

Draco pulled back, only far enough to stare at him in a way that felt like his soul was being examined. “Tell me that it’s real.”

It took a moment to process Draco’s words. Harry panted. “It’s real.”

Again, Draco kissed him. “I love you. It’s not the potion any more. I don’t honestly know that it ever was.”

Harry beamed, grateful and stunned by Draco’s confession. He ran his fingers along Draco’s jaw. “I couldn’t really take the chance... you would’ve died. I didn’t want that. I couldn’t have lived with that.”

“I’d rather not discuss it.”

Harry smiled. “I think I have a few ideas about what’ll distract you.”

Draco laughed, and Harry’s heart sang.

“Come with me.”

Harry led Draco up the stairs, to their bedroom. Where words failed, Harry knew for certain what he could do to express what he was thinking or feeling and that Draco would understand. Whatever happened from that moment, Harry vowed he would cherish everything he had with Draco. They could talk about the ‘bad’ things later. For now, Harry just wanted to appreciate what he'd got.

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