Title: All Our Times Have Come
Pairings: Snape/Harry, Draco/Michael Corner, Snape/Draco/Harry
Word Count: ~41,800 (!)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter characters are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Warnings: Explicit, graphic depictions of domestic violence, including mental and physical abuse and partner rape, non-sexual violence and gore, and a brief mention of mpreg (there is no actual mpreg in the story)
Summary: The return of a murderous vigilante group changes three men’s lives forever.
Author’s Notes: Title comes from Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. A million thanks to uniquepov and literaryspell for their fantastic beta work – I can’t express the depth of my appreciation!
i. The Reapers Return
“Not these fuckers again,” Ron said.
Harry stared down at the mutilated body, careful not to get close enough for his magical signature to contaminate the crime scene. “I thought the Reapers dropped off the map years ago.”
“Looks like they’re back. Unless you think it’s a copycat?”
“No.” Harry’s eyes were fixated on the dismembered left arm, cut off at the elbow and set half a metre from the body, the victim’s own heart resting in the palm. The Dark Mark was clearly visible on the forearm. “No, it’s them.”
“Shit, what’s Malfoy doing here?”
Harry tore his eyes from the corpse and looked up to see Malfoy striding up the house’s front path, dressed in the simple grey Forensics robes, a black satchel slung over his shoulder. “I don’t know. I specifically requested McCarroll.”
“He’s going to lose it, Harry.”
“I’ll take care of it.”
Harry hurried down the path to intercept Malfoy halfway.
“Malfoy. Where’s McCarroll?”
Whatever expression Harry made at that must have offended Malfoy, because his eyes narrowed and his voice became icy.
“I’m perfectly competent, Auror Potter. If you have a problem with the way I do my job, you can take it up with my supervisor.”
“It’s not that,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. He and Malfoy had been thrown together on dozens of cases over the past three years. They weren’t friends by any means, but the hostility and antagonism between them had been replaced by neutrality.
Malfoy pushed past Harry and continued up the path. Harry swore and caught his arm, trying to stop him, but it was too late. Malfoy saw the crime scene and stopped in his tracks, body going rigid.
Harry moved to stand between Malfoy and the corpse, blocking his view. “You should recuse yourself.”
Malfoy said nothing. Harry wasn’t even sure the man had heard him – his eyes were glassy and vacant, his face even paler than usual.
“Malfoy. Go back to the Ministry. You shouldn’t be here.”
At that, Malfoy seemed to come back to himself a little, looking at Harry rather than through him. “Why not?”
“Why not?” Harry repeated, nonplussed. “These have to be the same people who killed your –”
“My parents, yes, I can see that. It only gives me more incentive to stay.”
“You must know the answer to that.”
Harry did. He didn’t like it, but he understood the need that had firmed Malfoy’s jaw and put a stubborn glint in his eyes. The people who had killed his parents – as well as five other acquitted Death Eaters – had never been caught. For whatever reason, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy had been their final victims; there had been no more attacks after that, and the case had eventually gone cold.
A fresh crime scene meant fresh evidence – and another chance to catch the Malfoys’ murderers. Malfoy wasn’t going to walk away from that. Harry got it, though he thought it was a horrible idea.
He said as much. “I don’t think you should work this case. You’re too close to it.”
“You’re not going to stop me.”
Harry sighed and stepped out of the way. He didn’t have the authority to remove Malfoy from a case against his will. Malfoy walked by without another glance at him. Harry rejoined Ron, who was watching with raised eyebrows.
“He wants to stay.”
Ron shrugged. “Can’t say I wouldn’t do the same.”
The various law enforcement personnel milling a safe distance from the body drew even further back as Malfoy approached. Nobody was allowed too close to a confirmed murder victim before Forensics arrived; the magical fields that surrounded every witch and wizard could taint the evidence.
Malfoy opened his bag and withdrew a compass. He placed four small silver discs in a one-metre radius on the grass around the body and dismembered arm, one at each of the four cardinal directions, then tapped the northern disc with his wand. A golden barrier sprang up over and around the body, anchored by the discs.
It looked like a circular dome, but Harry knew it was actually a sphere, extending into the earth below. Malfoy set a flat rectangular screen into the side of the barrier at chest height. Inside, the air began to shimmer with a rainbow of colours as the device sorted through the unique magical signatures of everyone who had been present in the area within the last twenty-four hours.
Now that the barrier had been established, Harry and Ron could get closer. They drew up to the edge.
“Who found him?” Malfoy asked. His voice was calm, with only a hint of strain, but the absolute whiteness of his face and the stiff set of his shoulders belied his composure.
“Neighbour. Hit wizards were first on the scene, but they recognized the MO and referred the case to the Auror Department straightaway. We’ve only been here about ten minutes.”
Malfoy nodded, eyes on his screen. The numbers and runes scrolling across it were completely incomprehensible to Harry. “Time of death three-fifty-three a.m.,” said Malfoy.
Harry checked his watch. It was a little after ten.
“Victim was alive when the arm was… detached.”
“So what was cause of death?” Ron asked. “Blood loss from the wound?”
“No, that would be the removal of the heart.” Malfoy’s voice shook a little as he spoke.
Harry and Ron both winced. “He was alive when they did that?” Harry said.
“Yes. And I can tell you it was done with a knife, not a spell.” Malfoy paused, studying the screen, then frowned. “Make that several knives.”
Fuck, this was painful to watch. Harry had seen Malfoy at plenty of gruesome crime scenes, and Malfoy was always professional and detached, never showing a single sign of disgust or even discomfort. But now his breath was short and his hands were trembling minutely.
“Malfoy, come on. You –”
Ron intervened. “So there were definitely multiple assailants?”
“Yes. At least three, perhaps more. I’ll know for sure in a few minutes.”
“They’ll have used sig dampeners,” Ron said to Harry.
“Probably. Unregistered wands, too.”
A sudden commotion drew their attention to the gate between the front path and the street. There were a few hit wizards there, guarding the scene from the small crowd of curious onlookers who had gathered. A stout, balding man was shouting at one of the hit wizards, waving a camera about as he gesticulated wildly.
“Reporter,” said Ron, voice thick with disgust.
“We can’t let him see the body. Do you want me to –”
“I’ve got it.” Ron trotted down the path.
Harry turned back to Malfoy, whose focus had never wavered from the screen. Inside the spell bubble, the haze of colours was separating, forming several thick, distinct bands. Malfoy attached a series of small glass vials to the barrier, popping the long necks through the golden membrane.
“Are you absolutely sure this was done by the same people as – as before?” Malfoy asked.
“Yeah. All we told the Daily Prophet back then was that the victims were acquitted Death Eaters. We never released any details about what had been done to the bodies. Or about the mark they left.”
He and Malfoy both looked down at the grass where the arm lay holding the heart. Underneath it, a symbol had been scorched into the earth. It was identical to the Dark Mark in every way, except that the skull was cracked down the middle and the snake that hung from its mouth was unquestionably dead.
Within the barrier, a dark blue band of light shot into one of the vials. Malfoy removed and sealed it, placing it carefully inside a small box he had set out on the grass. He tapped the vial with his wand and a label appeared, elegant cursive writing forming a long line of numbers and then the victim’s name: Jeremy Greene.
“I don’t remember telling you his name,” said Harry.
“You didn’t. I knew him.”
Harry blinked, surprised. It hadn’t occurred to him that Malfoy would… but, of course, it made sense. Most of Voldemort’s Death Eaters had passed through Malfoy Manor at some point during the war. Maybe there was more than one reason this case was difficult for Malfoy.
Malfoy glanced sideways at Harry. “Don’t stress yourself, Potter. He was an arsehole. He didn’t deserve to die like this, but I’m not going to mourn him.”
Two more vials were filled with light, one yellow and one green. Malfoy repeated the process with them, though he left the labels nameless.
“These probably belong to the first responders. I’ll double-check in my lab to be sure.”
Harry recognised the light that was pouring into the fourth vial – vibrant red, shimmering with gold and silver flecks, a thin line of dark green running through it. He cringed.
“How many times do I have to tell you that you, of all people, have to be especially careful not to get too close to the bodies? Your signature is so strong that it overwhelms everything around it. Merlin.”
“I didn’t get that close,” Harry said, pointing to the vial. It was barely one-fourth full, whereas the other three had been full to the brim.
“It doesn’t matter!”
“I’ll be more careful next time.”
“That’s what you said last time.”
Fortunately for Harry, Malfoy was distracted from his irritation by the last four bands of light wavering inside the spell barrier. They were all thin and murky brown, with none of the colour, vibrancy, or texture of the other four lights – telltale signs that the wizards they belonged to had been wearing signature dampeners.
“I’ll do what I can with these,” Malfoy said as he collected the four final vials. “Don’t expect any miracles, though.”
Harry nodded. It was almost impossible to get any useful information from dampened signature traces.
Malfoy tapped the northern disc with his wand again and the spell barrier receded, absorbed into the discs. Malfoy gathered them up and packed everything back in his bag. “Body’s yours, Potter. I should have at least a partial spell record within a day or so.”
“Thanks.” Harry hesitated before adding, “You know, if you want a protective security detail, I can arrange that for you.”
“Why on earth would I want a security detail?”
“If the Reapers are really back in action, they might come after you.”
“They could have killed me five years ago. Why would they change their minds now?”
It was a fair point. Malfoy had been home, asleep, when wizards had broken into Malfoy Manor and killed his parents. They hadn’t overlooked him; in fact, one of them had warded Malfoy’s bedroom so that his parents’ screams wouldn’t wake him.
The Malfoy double homicide had been Harry’s first case as a fully fledged Auror. One of his worst memories was not of Lucius and Narcissa, dead and mutilated on the drawing room floor, but of Draco, sitting between their bodies and rocking silently back and forth. The house elves had been the ones to call the Aurors; Malfoy hadn’t been able to speak or even move. He’d spent weeks in St. Mungo’s afterwards, completely catatonic.
Back then, Harry had been sure Malfoy would never recover. He was secretly impressed that he had.
“It never hurts to be careful,” he said now.
“If I feel like I’m in danger, I’ll let you know. But I’m surprised that you’re concerned about me, when you should be worried about someone a little closer to home.”
Harry frowned, puzzled for a moment, before realising what Malfoy meant. “You think they’ll come after Severus?”
“He was a Death Eater.”
“He was a spy. Everyone knows that now. He even has an Order of Merlin.”
Malfoy lifted one shoulder. “The people they killed five years ago had all been declared innocent by the Wizengamot. I don’t think the Reapers put much stock in logic.”
Harry still didn’t think it was likely that they would have it out for Severus, but he appreciated Malfoy’s concern. “I’ll make sure he knows to be on his guard.”
“More than usual, you mean?” Malfoy said, the tiniest ghost of a smile crossing his lips.
Harry chuckled. “Yeah.”
“Give him my regards when you do. I’ll have a preliminary report on your desk by tomorrow morning.”
Draco leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, rubbing them with the heels of his hands. He had a beastly headache, thanks to hours spent trying to glean even the slightest information from the dampened magical signatures he’d collected.
He had set the four discs up in the corner of the lab, suspended in midair so that the entire sphere was visible. The golden bubble hummed quietly as it attempted to recreate a record of all the spells that had been cast within its area. It operated on a similar principle to Priori Incantatem, though it worked off of spell traces left in the air, rather than on a single wand’s core.
A ghostly image of Greene’s body floated inside the sphere. Draco’s eyes were repeatedly drawn to it against his will. He wished he could put a curtain up to block it from sight, but he couldn’t bring himself to admit that kind of weakness.
So the bubble remained uncovered. Taunting him. Reminding him.
The four clear signatures he’d gathered had been checked against the Ministry’s database and duly processed as belonging to Jeremy Greene, Hit Wizards Savidge and Irving, and Auror Harry Potter. All that remained were the signatures of the murderers, which seemed hell-bent on frustrating him to death. The only thing Draco could say for sure about them was that there had been three men and a woman, all probably under the age of 100.
Not very helpful.
A knock sounded on the closed door to the lab. “Come in,” Draco said, staying slumped in his chair.
He straightened up immediately when the door opened to admit Severus Snape. The instincts ingrained in him at Hogwarts had never entirely left him, even after all he’d been through since then.
“Severus. This is a surprise.”
“I was in the building. I thought I might ensure that you have not yet blown yourself and your laboratory to kingdom come.”
Draco smiled and waved for him to sit in the chair across from the desk. “You were in the building?”
“My sense-heightening potion is entering the testing stage,” Severus said. “My presence was required to observe the effects on the Aurors who volunteered.”
“All Gryffindors, I assume.”
“There was one Ravenclaw.”
“Of course.” Draco ran his fingers against the smooth edge of his desk. “Severus, you’re at the Ministry every week and you’ve never visited my lab before. Potter told you what happened this morning, didn’t he?”
“He did. He also told me you refused protection.”
“There was no need for it.”
“Did you accept protection?”
Severus stopped short. “No.”
“They’re more likely to come after you. After all, they already passed up a golden opportunity to kill me.” Draco hated the bitterness in his voice, but he couldn’t hide it.
“We were never able to discover the reason for that. It may no longer be applicable. Until we know for certain, it would be imprudent to allow yourself to remain unguarded.”
“I work at the Ministry, and when I’m not here, I’m with Michael. The Reapers have never been known to harm someone un-Marked. Michael’s never had the slightest ties to the Death Eaters. I’ll be safe at home.”
There was a horrible irony in saying that he was safe at home, where his boyfriend was far more likely to hurt him than some shadowy terrorist group. But Severus couldn’t know that.
“I think you’re being foolish.”
Severus’ thunderous scowl was obviously meant to intimidate, but Draco had faced far worse over the past few years. He lifted an eyebrow and stared back until Severus snorted and waved a dismissive hand.
“On your own head be it, then. What have you learned so far?”
“Not much. There were four of them, three men and a woman, but they used signature dampeners, so anything more than that…” Draco hesitated, then decided that it was safe to confide in Severus. “There’s something I’m working on, a new process that would make it easier to read dampened signatures.”
Severus leaned forward, interested. “Indeed?”
“Yes. It’s loosely based on the work Muggles have been doing with DNA…”
For the next half an hour, Draco explained the theory behind the procedure, which he had yet to put into practice. This was the first time he’d even spoken about it aloud; there was nobody else he trusted to listen to his ideas without trying to steal them. Well, nobody who would have understood them, anyway.
He’d almost forgotten the mental exhilaration of discussing new thoughts with a similarly scientific-minded person. Severus listened intently, asking questions and making suggestions that made Draco look at the obstacles he’d encountered from a whole new perspective. It’d been so long since he’d talked to anyone like this – his co-workers didn’t care for him much, and none of his friends were all that interested in potions or spellcraft. Conversations with them were more along the lines of who was bedding whom and which of the latest clubs had the most exclusive guest list.
A sudden chime made Severus stop mid-sentence, reaching into his robes and drawing out a pocketwatch. “Loathe as I am to cut this short,” he said, looking down at its face, “I’m due to meet Harry in the Atrium at six.”
Draco stiffened. “What time is it?”
Draco leapt to his feet, propriety and discretion forgotten in the face of sudden horror. “Gods, I’m late.”
“Late for what?”
“I –” Draco floundered. He couldn’t possibly explain how angry and suspicious Michael got when Draco arrived home from work any later than five-thirty. “I’m just late. I’m sorry, Severus. I really have to go.”
“Of course.” Severus stood, looking baffled as he watched Draco frantically gather his belongings and cast a stasis charm over the spell bubble in the corner. “You’ll keep me updated on your progress, I trust.”
“Certainly.” Draco ushered Severus out of the lab, trying not to be too rude about it, and locked the door behind them. “Thank you for stopping by, Severus. It’s always a pleasure to see you.”
Without waiting for a response, Draco hurried to the stairwell. He couldn’t afford to wait for the lift. Thank Merlin he was in good shape.
The Floo lines in the Atrium were too long. Draco took the less-used phone booth lift to street level and Apparated. Michael’s flat – Draco still thought of it as Michael’s, even though he’d lived there for more than three years – was in an exclusive wizarding building with extensive security. Apparition and Floo travel were only possible through the main lobby; all the flats themselves were warded against Apparition, and their fireplaces could only be used for communication. Draco usually appreciated the extra layer of protection, but now he cursed it as he raced across the lobby to the lift.
There was only one flat on each floor of the building, and the lift would only stop at a particular flat if it detected the magical signature of one of its residents. Draco pressed his palm against the sensor and tried to calm himself as the lift sped silently upward. Michael would interpret obvious fear as guilt.
When the lift doors slid open on the fourteenth floor, Draco stepped out into the marble foyer, breathing even and face as composed as he could make it. “Michael?”
Draco flinched at the irritation in Michael’s voice, but he steeled himself as best he could and headed for the dining room. Dinner was already laid out on the table, compliments of one of the two house elves that came with the flat. Michael sat in his chair at the head, posture deceptively relaxed, a glass of wine in his hand. Draco hoped it was his first; as bad as Michael could be, he was ten times worse when he’d been drinking.
“I’m sorry I’m late. I lost track of time.”
“I’m sure you did. Kind of hard to see a clock when you’re bent over some Auror’s desk.”
If Draco hadn’t been so anxious, he would have rolled his eyes. “Michael, please. You know I’d never be unfaithful to you.”
Michael slammed his glass down on the table, making Draco jump and sending wine sloshing onto the tablecloth. “Do I?” he snarled. “You think I don’t notice the way you look at other men when you think I can’t see? You think I don’t know what a whore you are?”
Michael got to his feet, and Draco couldn’t stop himself taking a step back. “Tell me where you were, and it’d better be the truth.”
“I was at work. I got caught up in it and didn’t realise what time it was.” Draco didn’t mention Severus. Michael knew about the massive crush he’d had on his Head of House at Hogwarts; it would only add fuel to the fire. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to – to worry you.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Michael advanced on him. Draco backed up, mind working furiously. He’d long since subdued the reflex to reach for his wand when he felt threatened by his boyfriend. Michael was powerfully built and physically stronger, but Draco was by far the better wizard. If it came down to a duel between them, there was no question that Draco would be the victor. Michael wouldn’t be able to stand that – he’d cast Draco aside without a moment’s thought.
It hadn’t always been like this. When Draco’s parents had been murdered, he’d shut down. He’d been completely isolated – no friends, no job, nothing to do but rattle around a Manor that was empty of everything but bad memories.
Michael had saved him. They’d met at Gringotts, one of the very few places Draco dared to venture on his rare forays into the outside world. Michael was funny and charming and devastatingly handsome, not to mention newly (and fabulously) wealthy, thanks to his cushy job at the bank. He’d gradually drawn Draco out, coaxing him to parties and symphonies and fancy restaurants, introducing Draco to his equally beautiful and wealthy friends. He’d showered Draco with gifts and affection, pampered him, doted on him.
Though Michael had been jealous and possessive from the very beginning, Draco had found it more flattering than threatening. It wasn’t until they’d started living together that Michael had gotten violent – and Draco, to his shame, had stayed anyway. As much as he sometimes feared Michael, he feared going back to the empty life he’d had before a thousand times more. The very thought of being so alone again made his blood run cold.
No, there were better ways to avert one of Michael’s violent outbursts than fighting back. Draco ducked his head and looked up at Michael through lowered eyelashes. “The people who murdered my parents killed someone else,” he said in the soft, quiet voice he’d crafted over years of learning what Michael responded to best.
Michael stopped moving. “What?”
Draco described the events of his morning as briefly as possible; even now, it was painful to remember and even more painful to talk about. By the time he’d finished, Michael’s expression had done a complete turnaround from furious to compassionate.
“Oh, baby. Why didn’t you just say so? You poor thing. Come here.”
Michael held open his arms, and Draco went to him willingly. It was ridiculous, after everything, but Draco still found comfort in his embrace.
The thing was, Michael wasn’t always cruel and angry. Not even most of the time. Quite often, he was the same sweet, charming, affectionate man that Draco had fallen for in the first place. And when Michael held him like this, stroking his hair and murmuring soothing nonsense, Draco could almost forget that he was ever that other person.
“Come on, let’s sit down,” Michael said. He led Draco to his chair and sat, pulling Draco onto his lap. “You must have had an awful day.”
“Yes,” Draco allowed himself to admit. The memory of finding his parents’ murdered bodies, which he’d believed he’d processed and dealt with, had come flooding back that morning. It was a throbbing ache in his throat, a leaden weight in his stomach.
“You should quit. I don’t like seeing you so unhappy.”
“I can’t,” Draco said, his hand tightening on Michael’s arm. Michael had been suggesting he stop working more and more often lately. Draco knew that one day he would simply insist, and he dreaded that day like he dreaded his own death. “I can’t. If there’s any chance I can help find the ones responsible… I have to do this, Michael. Please say you understand.”
“Okay. Okay, baby. Whatever you want.”
Draco let out a relieved internal sigh. He couldn’t have dealt with that argument on top of everything else.
“You should eat something. I’ll bet you haven’t eaten all day.”
That was true, but Draco knew that if he tried to eat right now, he’d bring it up again minutes later. “I’m not hungry.”
“You really should – ”
Draco kissed him, twisting in Michael’s lap so he was straddling him with his feet on either side of the chair. Michael returned the kiss enthusiastically, arms tight around Draco’s waist. His cock hardened against Draco’s arse.
“Is this what you need?” Michael asked, his lips roving over Draco’s throat.
They undressed quickly, and within minutes, Michael was sweeping aside the dinner plates and laying Draco back on the dining table, hand working between Draco’s legs. Draco lifted his left leg and draped it over Michael’s shoulder, giving him a better angle.
He closed his eyes and moaned in pleasure as Michael teased his prostate, opening him up with two slick, agile fingers. Michael was so good at this when he took the time, so good that it was hard to imagine ever not finding sex with him enjoyable. He kissed Draco as he stretched him, mouth soft and sure, stopping every now and then to stroke Draco’s cock and fondle his balls.
Michael played with him until Draco was panting and begging, moving his hips restlessly in search of what he really wanted. He pulled his knees up to his chest and cried out when Michael’s cock pushed into him, thrusts steady and strong and so so good.
“Beautiful,” Michael groaned, his arms hooked around Draco’s thighs and pulling him into every stroke. “My beautiful boy.”
He let go of Draco’s legs and leaned forward, biting Draco’s shoulder and getting a hand between them to take hold of Draco’s cock. Draco gasped as the change in angle and the hand on his cock caused an abrupt upward surge in his arousal.
“Michael – oh, gods, yes – make me come, I need –”
“I’ve got you, baby. Come on.”
Michael’s grip tightened, pulling Draco’s cock just right. Draco climaxed with a wail, hips surging up to meet Michael’s, fingers digging into his shoulders. Michael followed him seconds later, grunting as his cock pulsed inside Draco’s arse.
Michael slumped on top of him, covering his face and neck with kisses. Draco tightened his legs around Michael’s waist, wanting to keep Michael inside him, wanting this moment – this Michael – to last forever.
Knowing that it wouldn’t.
ii. Blast From the Past
“Fuck, Severus, you –” Harry braced himself against the shower wall, unable to form a coherent sentence. He’d been showering for work when Severus had joined him, wordlessly dropping to his knees and taking Harry’s cock in his mouth.
Harry threaded his fingers through Severus’ wet hair, careful not to pull – Severus didn’t like that – but needing to touch him. He loved watching Severus do this. Severus always closed his eyes when he sucked Harry’s cock, concentrating on his task with characteristic single-minded intensity. His left hand was tight around the base, mouth and throat wickedly hot, right hand rubbing and squeezing Harry’s balls.
It was too good. Harry couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. He let his head fall back against the tiled wall, pleasure mounting in his spine. There was no need for a warning. Severus could always tell when Harry was nearing orgasm; Harry knew, because whenever he was getting close, Severus got more excited, breath speeding up and movements becoming more urgent. Now he sucked Harry’s cock with incredible force, seeming to demand that Harry come for him.
Harry did, his shout of completion echoing through the bathroom as he emptied himself down Severus’ willing throat. Severus pulled off and kissed his thigh.
“Come up here,” Harry said, tugging on Severus’ hand.
Severus rose to his feet, his large, thick cock bobbing temptingly. The sight of Severus hard never failed to excite Harry, and the feel of that magnificent erection in his hand never failed to thrill him. Harry was rather well-endowed himself, but there was just something about Severus’ cock that demanded worship.
He pumped it fast and hard, warm water easing the way, his eyes intent on Severus’ face. Severus tended to be a silent lover, aside from the surprisingly filthy words that came out of his mouth at times. He never cried out or so much as moaned; the only noise he ever made was a soft grunt when he came. Harry lived for that noise.
He was rewarded with it minutes later when Severus stiffened, come washing away as he spilled over Harry’s hand. Harry pressed a kiss against his panting mouth. “That was a nice surprise.”
“Aren’t you getting a little old to be kneeling on shower floors, though?”
Severus growled and bit Harry’s neck – not at all gently. Harry’s yelp of surprise turned into a moan when, rather than releasing him, Severus closed his lips around the bite and sucked hard.
“Fuck, don’t get me going again.” Harry pushed him away. “I’ll be late for work.”
“I’m fairly certain you already are,” Severus said, his expression smug.
“Oh, Christ. We have that staff meeting on the Reapers this morning. I’ll see you tonight.”
Harry gave Severus one last kiss and got out of the shower, drying himself with a spell instead of a towel. Without bothering to look at himself in the mirror, he dashed into the bedroom, threw on his clothes, and grabbed his Auror robes as he made for the fireplace. Breakfast would have to wait until after the meeting; a quick glance at the kitchen clock told him it was already five to eight.
He Flooed to the Ministry, shrugging on his robes while he waited for the lift. It was packed, stopping at every floor, so that by the time Harry was trotting through the halls of the DMLE, he was already a good ten minutes late.
Harry almost ran into Malfoy outside the closed door to the conference room, coming from the opposite direction. “You’re late,” they said simultaneously.
“I most certainly am not,” said Malfoy. “I’m early. I wasn’t asked to be here until eight-thirty.”
Harry rolled his eyes and went to open the door.
“Potter, wait. Unless you want everyone in that room knowing exactly why you’re late, I would do something about that… thing on your neck.”
“What –” Harry’s eyes widened, his hand moving automatically to the spot Severus had bitten not half an hour earlier. “Fuck.”
Harry tugged ineffectually at the collar of his robes, knowing it wasn’t high enough to cover the bruise. “My glamours are crap.”
It went against every instinct Harry had to stand still while Malfoy pointed a wand at his throat, but he knew Malfoy wasn’t a threat. The glamour settled comfortably over his skin without causing any of the irritation Harry associated with glamours. Malfoy conjured a small mirror to float in midair, and Harry could see that the glamour blended seamlessly. It was impossible to tell he even had one on at all.
“Wow,” he said, impressed despite himself. “Good work.”
Malfoy dissipated the mirror with a wave of his wand. “One of my specialties.”
There was something strange about his tone, something heavier behind the words, but Harry didn’t know what it was. He opened the door to the conference room, gesturing for Malfoy to precede him.
“Oh, Mr. Malfoy, good. We were just talking about you,” Gawain Robards said from the head of the large oval table. “And I see you found Auror Potter. Good of you to join us, Potter.”
“Sorry,” Harry muttered as he took a seat to Robards’ right, next to Ron. “Overslept.”
Ron waggled his eyebrows, obviously unfooled, but everyone else seemed to buy it. Malfoy sat down across from Harry, and everybody returned their attention to Robards.
“Right, so, as I was saying, the Reapers – we’re sticking with what we called them the last time they were active – murdered Jeremy Greene at three-fifty-three a.m. yesterday. Mr. Malfoy has been able to ascertain that there were four assailants, three male and one female, and that they used sig dampeners and unregistered wands, confirming our suspicions that the group is well-funded. Is there anything else you’d like to add at this point, Malfoy?”
“The spell record I have is still preliminary, but I do know that Greene was dragged to the site of the murder and bound with multiple incantations of Incarcerous. There’s no evidence of any casting of stunners or immobilization spells.”
“They wanted him to be conscious,” said Ron.
“I agree. And as I mentioned in my report, both the mutilation and the murder itself were accomplished through Muggle rather than magical means.”
“Why not use a Petrificus or something like that?” asked Auror Banks. “It’s got to be hard to cut up someone who’s struggling, even if they are bound.”
“People who are Petrified can’t scream,” Harry said.
Malfoy met Harry’s eyes across the table, and Harry saw the pain there before Malfoy looked away.
“These arseholes gave us the slip last time,” said Robards. “They aren’t getting away again. Is that clear?”
There were nods all around the room.
“Auror Potter will be taking lead on this investigation. Potter, why don’t you run us through what we know so far?”
Harry cleared his throat. “There’s no mystery about what drives the Reapers – they only target people with the Dark Mark. Five years ago, they killed seven of the fifteen Marked people who were acquitted during the post-war trials. We still don’t know why they stopped when they did, but an investigation into Greene’s background has given us a good idea why they’ve returned.”
He flipped open the case file in front of him, tapping his wand against the photograph of Greene so that it was projected over the table.
“Last week, Greene was released from Azkaban on parole. Of all of the Marked witches and wizards who ended up going to prison, five years with parole was the minimum sentence, which means that this is the first time since the war that the Reapers have been presented with a fresh batch of targets.”
“How many others have been released?” another Auror asked.
“Eleven in the past two weeks. That means ten still alive, and they’re all considered to be at serious risk. We’ve notified them of the danger, but we just don’t have the resources to put security on all of them.”
“And why would we?” Jenkins snorted. He shifted uncomfortably when everyone turned to look at him, but held his ground. “Look, obviously I don’t agree with what the Reapers are doing. They’re sick, they need to be stopped, and that’s our job. But are we really going to bend over backwards trying to protect a bunch of Death Eaters? They’re not even acquitted ones this time.”
While some of the Aurors looked appalled, Harry could tell that at least a third of the people in the room were in agreement with Jenkins. They’d run into the same problem five years ago – Aurors not caring about Death Eaters being attacked, unwilling to help with the investigation, even voicing outright support for the Reapers. It was one of the major reasons the case had gone unsolved.
“These people have served their time and paid their debts to society, according to the laws we’ve sworn to uphold,” Robards said, his voice hard. “They deserve our protection as much as any other citizen.”
“You can’t really believe that,” Jenkins scoffed.
Robards’ gaze turned flinty. “I do. And if I see any evidence of Aurors giving less than their full effort and attention to this case, those Aurors will not like the consequences.”
There was a brief moment of silence. Malfoy was staring down at the table, cheeks flushed. Jenkins, along with everyone else in the room, knew full well that Malfoy was Marked, and that he’d lost both his parents to the Reapers. To express reluctance in protecting their potential future victims while Malfoy was sitting right there was the height of insensitivity, and it was only made worse by the way that everyone was very carefully not looking at Malfoy.
When Robards gestured for Harry to continue, he said, “There’s a lot of rage in these attacks. They’re always conducted in the same way: the left arm is cut off at the elbow and placed next to the body on top of this symbol…” He projected the image above the table. “…Clearly a perversion of the Dark Mark. The heart is removed and left in the palm of the hand.”
Most of the Aurors present had been around five years ago for the first round of attacks; they were grim-faced as they looked at the crime scene photographs Harry projected. There was always something particularly difficult about ritualistic killings like these. A crime of passion could be understood, even while condemned. But there was no way to understand something like this. It was inhuman.
“The Reapers do not want these murders to be a secret. They always leave the bodies somewhere they’ll be easily discovered – either in public, as with Greene, or in a private home where they know a living relative will find it.”
Every previously averted eye in the room turned to Malfoy as if magnetised. Malfoy didn’t look up, shoulders stiff and jaw clenched.
“We were able to keep the specific details of the crime scenes out of the press last time,” Harry hurried on, “which is how we know these aren’t copycat killings. We’d like to keep that up this time. That means no talking to reporters, and strict confidentiality spells on all witnesses. We’ve got a couple of Mind Healers working up a profile right now, but I can tell you one thing they’re going to say: we’re looking for people who had loved ones killed or hurt by Death Eaters during the war.”
“Fuck, Harry, that list must be a mile long,” said Ron. “I’m on it. You’re on it. Half the people in this bloody room are on it.”
“I know. The Healers should be able to give us some criteria to narrow it down. Until then, we’re going to start with the people who testified at Greene’s trial. I want alibis and financials for all of them. Look for large, unexplained transfers of money – sig dampeners and unregistered wands are expensive and can’t be bought legitimately. Malfoy, when you finalise the spell record –”
“I’ll send a copy to you immediately.”
“Thanks. Anyone have questions?”
Draco’s brow furrowed in concentration as he painstakingly isolated a strand of Perpetrator A’s corporealised signature, using his wand to transfer it from the main vial to a stoppered test tube. He placed the tube on a stand that held it horizontally and clamped it in place before moving a plate of glass over it. A magnifying charm on the glass made it much easier to see the signature sample, which was barely bigger than a strand of hair.
A magical signature could be dampened, obscured, but it could never be totally destroyed. Somewhere in this generic brown haze, the wizard’s signature still existed. Draco was trying to find it.
This was his fifth attempt. The first four tries had ended, rather spectacularly, in failure. What Draco was doing – trying to do – had never been done before. He didn’t even know if it was truly possible, though it was in theory. The necessary spells required total focus and a steady wand; the slightest misstep caused the signature to react violently, sometimes shattering the glass that held it.
Draco stripped away the outer layers of the strand in miniscule filaments. They fell off one by one, dissolving into nothingness. After what seemed like an eternity, Draco saw a brief but unmistakable purple glimmer. His pulse raced.
A few more layers were peeled away. Suddenly, the strand began to shiver. Draco winced, expecting it to implode like the other four, but instead it rippled and the entire remainder of the brown casing fell off. Left behind was a gossamer strand of deep violet, shot through with black and silver.
“Gods,” Draco breathed.
The signature trace was tiny, far too small to yield any useful data. But it didn’t matter. Now Draco knew it could be done. He could try again with a larger sample. This would change everything –
A loud popping noise made him start and drop his wand.
When he realized it had only been a memo appearing in his inbox, Draco cursed and retrieved his wand before snatching up the paper. It was bright red – Priority One. Draco never got P1 memos. He unfolded it with some trepidation.
Beneath Potter’s messy signature, he’d scrawled a set of Apparition coordinates.
Draco’s stomach clenched. Another one, already? It had only been a day.
He cast a quick Tempus – there were no clocks in his lab, as he found them too distracting. It was four-thirty. Draco bit his lip, considering. He would surely be at the crime scene for more than an hour, and coming home late two days in a row was pushing it. Michael wouldn’t be pleased.
Draco had to go. As much as he feared Michael’s rages, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he sat on the sidelines while the Aurors pursued his parents’ murderers.
Mind made up, Draco grabbed a sheet of parchment and a quill to pen a quick note.
I’ll make it up to you, I promise. Remember your birthday?
Draco hoped the mention of Michael’s birthday would be enough to distract him from his jealous fury. He also hoped that Michael caught his meaning – the man could be quite obtuse at times. Draco couldn’t bring himself to be any more explicit, though. He certainly wasn’t going to write in a letter which anyone could read that he was willing to let Michael tie him up and tease him with a dildo until he begged for release.
Draco packed his satchel and headed for street level so he could Apparate, stopping only to mail his letter at the Ministry owlery. The coordinates landed him in the back garden of a small house. The back door was standing open, and people were streaming in and out. Draco walked inside, stomach roiling with anticipatory nausea. He knew what awaited him.
The body was in the lounge, sprawled on the floor, identical to all the others. Draco didn’t recognise him this time.
He was pleased to see that Potter had stayed well away from the body; he wasn’t even in the lounge, but in the dining room that adjoined it by means of an open archway. Draco began placing the lodestones, which was difficult in the cramped space – he had to put one under the couch and another on one of the bookcase shelves. As he rounded the room to position the final disc, he got an unobstructed view of the dining room. He stopped short when he saw what was really keeping Potter from the body.
A middle-aged woman sat in one of the dining chairs, sobbing quietly, brokenly. Potter was sitting across from her, holding her hands and murmuring in soothing tones, but Draco could see it wasn’t having any effect. He recognized the devastation in the woman’s eyes all too well. It was the look of a person who had found someone she loved brutally slaughtered in her own home.
Though the months following his parents’ murders was a hazy blur to Draco, the actual morning he’d found them was not. He could still remember the mind-shattering shock of finding them on the drawing room floor, blood everywhere, eyes open and mouths frozen in soundless screams. He’d dropped to his knees between them, too choked with horror and grief to scream himself. His entire body had gone numb. That was how Potter had found him.
Malfoy? Malfoy, can you hear me? Fuck. I need a Healer here!
Draco had inadvertently contaminated his parents’ crime scene – not because he had sat by their bodies, but because he had drawn Potter to him. Potter, who was so powerful that his magical signature drowned everything around it. Every other signature gathered from the scene had been worthless, tainted.
It wasn’t Potter’s fault. He just wasn’t the kind of man who could see someone catatonic in a pool of their own parents’ blood and not try to help. Even if Draco sometimes wished he had been.
Draco sucked in a breath, startled out of his painful memories. He had been staring at Potter and the bereaved woman for far too long. Weasley was standing next to him, looking quizzical.
“Weasley,” Draco said, composing himself. “I’m about to raise the barrier.”
“I’ll tell Harry.” Weasley stepped into the dining room.
Draco turned his back, placing the final lodestone and returning to the first to cast the spell and set up the screen. The worst thing he could do right now was dwell on the past. He had to keep himself together, or he’d never be able to handle this case.
After a few minutes, Potter and Weasley joined him, Potter looking particularly haggard. “Got anything?”
“Time of death 10:18 AM. Cause consistent with the other killings.” Draco kept his voice dispassionate. “What was his name?”
“You didn’t know this one?” Weasley asked.
Draco glared at him. “I didn’t know every Death Eater personally.”
“Walter Myers,” Potter said. “Wife was visiting her sick mother for a couple of days, came home this afternoon and found him here.”
“I’ll need a sample of her signature so I can verify it.”
“All right. I’ll let St. Mungo’s know – they’re coming to pick her up now.”
Draco pressed his lips together, trying to ignore the sudden awkwardness in both Aurors’ posture. “Four attackers again,” he said, watching as the signatures separated inside the bubble. “I won’t know if they’re the same as yesterday’s until tomorrow.”
“And am I supposed to believe that you won’t be working on this case through the weekend?”
Potter gave a sheepish shrug. “Probably. Not too much tomorrow, though. Severus and I have to go to that Children’s Welfare League fundraiser.”
“Us, too,” said Weasley. Draco assumed he was referring to himself and Granger. “Feels weird to be going to a party in the middle of all this.”
Potter nodded glumly, his eyes sliding back over to Mrs. Myers.
Draco said nothing. He was in fact planning to attend the same event, but he felt no need to mention it. It was none of their business, and he disliked social chatter at crime scenes, anyway.
Draco turned to see a low-ranking DMLE officer standing behind him with a folded piece of parchment in his hand. The man glanced at the body inside the spell bubble and blanched, quickly returning his attention to Draco. “An owl delivered this for you,” he said, holding out the parchment. “It was rather insistent.”
Draco took the parchment, puzzlement changing to anxiety when he recognized his name in Michael’s handwriting. “Thank you,” he said absently, breaking the seal on the note and flipping it open.
Draco couldn’t suppress his relieved sigh. Promises of sex – especially kinky sex – did wonders for soothing Michael’s ruffled feathers.
Potter and Weasley were staring at him. “Good news?” Potter asked.
“It’s not related to the case.” Draco slipped the note into his pocket.
On to Part Two.