vii. Just Deserts
“Are you certain?”
“It was right there in black and white.” Harry ran a hand through his hair as he paced the sitting room. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
Severus watched him from his armchair. “Then ask him.”
“No kidding, Severus. I can’t just drag the Forensics wizard assigned to the case into an interrogation. Not without causing an inter-departmental incident.”
“Draco would not have helped them.”
“I want to believe that, too, but they could have blackmailed him. Threatened him.”
Unmoved, Severus said, “I will not pretend that Draco is the most stoic of men. But he would suffer any torment before he would assist the wizards who murdered his parents.”
In his heart, Harry knew that was true. He sighed.
Draco Malfoy appeared in the middle of the room.
Severus was on his feet and they both had their wands drawn before they registered the identity of the intruder. Malfoy was bone-white and shaking, eyes wild, clothes in disarray. He had his wand in his right hand, though it was pointed at the floor, and his left hand was clenched into a tight fist.
“Please,” he said, and Harry was shocked by how hoarse his voice was. “I have nowhere else to go.”
Harry’s eyes fell to Malfoy’s throat, which was ringed with deep, livid bruises. His lips thinned in anger. He should have arrested Corner when he’d had the chance.
Severus lowered his wand. “Draco, how did you get in here?”
Malfoy opened his left hand to reveal Harry’s snake Portkey. It had left a deep impression in his palm.
Harry had forgotten to tell Severus that he’d given it to Malfoy. “I thought he might need a safe place to go,” he said when Severus raised his eyebrows. “And lucky I gave it to him, too. Come on, Malfoy, sit down.”
Very carefully, he took Malfoy’s elbow and led him to sit on the couch. He tipped Malfoy’s chin up to get a better look at his throat.
“Did Corner do this to you?”
“What?” Malfoy blinked rapidly. “Oh, yes, but that’s not why – I mean, that isn’t – ” He broke off as shivers wracked his body.
Harry looked at Severus, who had remained standing and was staring at Malfoy’s neck. His grip was white-knuckled around his wand.
It took a moment for Severus to tear his eyes from the bruises, and Harry would have recoiled when they met his own if he hadn’t known the violent fury there was meant for someone else.
“He’s in shock. Can you get a blanket?”
Severus nodded, flicking his wand to Summon one from their bedroom while Harry took the Portkey and wand from Malfoy’s hands and set them on the coffee table. Malfoy didn’t resist.
“What happened?” Harry asked.
“He’s been giving them money. This whole time, I never knew…”
Severus sat on Malfoy’s other side and draped the blanket around his shoulders. He brushed a lock of hair out of Malfoy’s eyes in an uncharacteristically tender gesture that made Harry falter for a second.
Clearing his throat, Harry said, “Why don’t you start at the beginning?”
Malfoy’s story was rambling and at times borderline incoherent; every now and then he would repeat the same sentence several times or trail off in the middle of a word and stare blankly into space until Harry or Severus nudged him to get him going again. But even that shock-jumbled account told Harry everything he needed to know.
Corner was not only an abusive arsehole, but a terrorist conspirator – and exactly the break in the case that Harry needed.
“Gods, I let him fuck me.” Malfoy rocked back and forth, eyes glazed over. Harry thought he might not be totally aware of where he was, because he certainly wouldn’t be saying such things otherwise. “My parents are dead because of him, and I let him come inside me.” His entire body shuddered. “I’m going to be sick.”
Severus conjured a basin and had it in Malfoy’s lap just in time. Malfoy hunched over, so violently ill that Harry’s stomach turned in sympathy. Severus held the basin steady with one hand and stroked Malfoy’s hair with the other. He and Harry looked at each other over Malfoy’s bowed head.
“I have to go,” said Harry.
“They might come here for him.”
“You’ll keep him safe?”
Something dark and unnameable flashed in Severus’ eyes. “Yes.”
Harry’s heart clenched at the thought of the danger he was leaving Severus in, but Severus was more than capable and other people would die if Harry didn’t get moving. He stood, drawing his wand in preparation for casting a Patronus.
Malfoy spat weakly into the basin and sagged against the back of the couch. Severus vanished the mess before conjuring a glass of water. When Malfoy couldn’t hold it without slopping water all over himself, Severus took it back and held it for him while he drank.
Harry averted his eyes and hurried out of the sitting room into the adjoining foyer. Malfoy wouldn’t want Harry to see him like that.
Separate Patronuses to Ron and Robards alerted them to the situation and the need for a team at One Thousand Rosehall. Harry couldn’t wait, though – Corner had a lot of resources at his disposal. He could easily flee the country if he managed to recover from Malfoy’s Stunner and clear out before Harry got there.
Harry had his hand on the doorknob when the sound of sobbing from the sitting room made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. His mind was inescapably dragged back to sixth year, to that abandoned girls’ restroom and the memory of a frightened boy seeking comfort from a ghost. Malfoy had sounded then just like he did now.
“How could I be so stupid?” he heard Malfoy say between sobs. Severus’ quiet murmuring was doing little to calm him.
Harry let himself out onto the front porch, sealing the wards behind him. Corner would get what was coming to him if Harry had to track him to the ends of the earth.
He jogged down the path until he’d passed the anti-Apparition field and then Apparated to the lobby of Corner’s building. While he caught his bearings, he checked out his surroundings with growing disdain. The lobby was two stories tall and seemed to be constructed entirely of marble, glass, and steel. Everything was hard-edged; the light from all the reflective surfaces was blinding. Harry hated soulless, pretentious places like this.
The concierge jumped up from his desk and hastened towards him. His footsteps echoed loudly in the cavernous room. “Mr. Potter! How can I help you, sir?”
Nervous eyes flicked over Harry’s Auror robes, which he fortunately hadn’t taken the time to change out of when he’d gotten home from work.
“I’m here to arrest one of your residents,” said Harry. “Michael Corner. I need access to his flat immediately.”
“Do – do you have a warrant?”
“It’s in process.”
“I’m not sure – ”
“Corner is wanted for questioning in connection with nine murders,” Harry snapped. “Show me to his flat or I’ll find it myself.”
The man wrung his hands. “I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t have the ability to bypass the security wards on the lifts. They’re the only way into or out of the flats. I’ll have to call the building manager.”
The concierge all but ran to one of the Floo grates. Harry huffed out a frustrated breath. One Thousand Rosehall was infamous in the DMLE; its security was nigh-impenetrable and its staff and residents notoriously resistant to law enforcement. This was the first time Harry’d had to deal with it personally, though. He found himself wanting to just storm the lifts and tear the wards down.
Only the thought of Robards’ reaction to the inevitable lawsuit kept Harry still. At least he knew that Corner would have to pass through the lobby if he tried to leave. He could have already
left, of course, but if that was the case Harry was screwed anyway.
Ron popped into the lobby by Harry’s side. He gave the room the same contemptuous onceover Harry had before saying, “Run this past me again.”
Harry explained the situation in greater detail than he’d been able to with the Patronus, omitting any mention of Corner’s abuse of Malfoy. The concierge remained by the Floos, casting occasional anxious glances towards them. He grew increasingly concerned as Harry and Ron were joined by several more Aurors who Apparated in one by one.
They ended up waiting over half an hour for the building manager. The unsubtle power play infuriated Harry – but not as much as it did Ron, who took to stalking up and down the lobby while giving dark glares to everyone passing through. Every witch and wizard coming off the lifts had to be stopped and scrutinised, since Corner was likely to use glamours or Polyjuice in an escape attempt. All protested the intrusion vociferously. Harry’s head started to pound.
“Auror Potter,” said a voice behind him. He turned to face an attractive, dark-skinned woman in tailored robes. “I’m Gayle Simmons, the building manager. What’s all this unpleasantness about?”
Harry thrust the warrant at her without a word. He was afraid that if he opened his mouth he wouldn’t be able to halt the vicious diatribe that wanted to spill forth.
Simmons scanned the document, eyebrows drawing together as she reached the list of murders Corner had been connected to. She looked up at Harry. “These names… these people were killed by that vigilante group. The Reapers.”
Harry raised his eyebrows.
“Mr. Corner isn’t – ”
Simmons went rigid. “Merlin,” she said. “Come with me.”
She led the Aurors onto one of the mirrored lifts and touched her wand to the security panel. It sped upwards. Harry took a deep breath, preparing himself both for the possibility of confrontation and the less-pleasant possibility that Corner had already skipped town.
The lift opened directly into the flat, which was as beautiful as a posh hotel – and just as sterile. Harry couldn’t imagine living in that cold, silent showroom.
He gestured for the Aurors to fan out and search the flat. Shouts of “Clear!” resounded through the marble hallways as each room was found empty, until Banks called out, “In here!”
Harry and Ron tracked her voice to a wood-panelled study that would have been lovely if not for the fact that it was completely destroyed. Scorch marks and curse scars pitted the walls. Everything breakable in the room had been shattered; shards of glass, china, and porcelain littered the floor. What had once been a desk was now a pile of splinters.
Slumped against one wall was the body of Michael Corner.
For a heart-stopping second, Harry was sure Corner was dead. Part of him exulted. Corner was scum, and Malfoy wouldn’t be prosecuted for killing him in self-defence. But if Corner was dead, so was the case.
Then he saw Corner’s chest rise and fall. Corner was alive. He was just still Stupefied.
“How long ago did you say Malfoy showed up at your house?” Ron asked.
Harry checked his watch. “Over an hour.”
Ron nudged Corner’s shoulder with his foot. The unconscious man didn’t stir. “Impressive.”
It took two castings of Ennervate
for Harry to revive Corner, and even then he was bleary and confused. He looked from Banks to Ron to Harry with bewilderment that soon morphed into fear.
“Michael Corner,” Harry said with perhaps more glee than was appropriate, “you are under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder.”
Corner didn’t put up a fight; he could barely walk a straight line. They got him to the Ministry without any problems and left him alone in an interrogation room so that he could sweat it out for a few minutes.
“I want to do this one myself,” Harry said to Ron in the corridor.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No. I think he’ll crack faster if it’s just me and him.”
Ron studied Harry’s face in silence. Harry was prepared with counterarguments to all manner of objections, but he was caught flat-footed when Ron said, “Do you have a thing for Malfoy?”
? No! Why would you even think – ”
“You went mad when Kirby talked about killing him, and now you’re all gung-ho to be locked alone in an interrogation with his boyfriend. It just seems like… you’re taking this a little too personally.”
“I would never be unfaithful to Severus.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“Stay out here in case I need backup,” Harry said, and let himself into the room.
The only furniture inside was two chairs, one of which Corner was bound to at the ankles and wrists. He glared as Harry dragged the other chair across from him, not quite within touching distance, and sat down. He returned Corner’s glower with a level stare.
The minutes ticked by. Harry continued to say nothing. Corner’s expression faltered and he started to get restless, breath speeding up and fingers tapping nervously against the arms of the chair. His eyes wandered around the room, returning every now and then to Harry’s impassive face.
Finally, Corner said, “I don’t know what he told you – ”
“Draco. He’s lost his mind. He came home ranting like a madman and then he attacked me.”
“He attacked you.” Harry crossed his arms. “Is that why you strangled him?”
Corner’s jaw clenched. “I was just trying to knock him out. He was going to kill me! I wouldn’t have really hurt him.”
“The bruising on his neck says otherwise.”
“Gods, he went running straight to you, didn’t he?” Corner said with disgust. “Guess he knew the victim routine would really get you going.”
Harry’s hands tightened on his elbows. He wanted to grab Corner by the throat and throttle him so he could see how he
liked it. You’re taking this a little too personally
, Ron’s voice repeated in his head.
He took a deep breath. “This isn’t about Malfoy. If he chooses to press charges for assault, that will be a separate case. I want to hear about the money you gave to the Reapers.”
“I never gave those psychos anything. I told you, Draco’s mad. He’s been in St. Mungo’s before, you know.”
“I remember. He had to be sent there because he couldn’t function after his parents were murdered by the terrorist group you
“Are you trying to score points with him with this big bad hero act?” Corner’s smile was ugly. “You’re wasting your time. Just tell him to bend over and he’ll do it.”
Harry leapt from his chair and grabbed the arms of Corner’s, leaning over him. “Shut your fucking mouth,” he said in a low, tight voice. “You think I haven’t seen a hundred men and women just like you? You took advantage of a shattered man and you ripped away everything that mattered to him except for you. You made him depend on you for everything so that he couldn’t leave you, and then you used him to make yourself feel stronger.”
Corner’s eyes were wide. Harry straightened up but didn’t sit back down, choosing instead to tower over his captive.
“You’re going to tell me the name of every Reaper you know. You’re going to tell me where Riley Ellison is. And you’re going to sign a confession admitting that you gave the Reapers the money they needed to afford signature dampeners and unregistered wands.”
“Why would I do any of that?”
“Because if you don’t, our time together will make everything you’ve done to Malfoy look like playful roughhousing.”
Corner’s jaw dropped. “You can’t!”
“No! You can’t use violence in an interrogation. It’s against the law.”
“It’s against the law for you to terrorise your boyfriend, but that didn’t seem to give you much pause.”
Harry had been bluffing, of course, but as he spoke, he remembered what he’d seen yesterday – Malfoy’s battered face, his kicked ribs. He thought about the angry bruises on Malfoy’s throat. And he knew he could do it. He could unleash violence on this man who had hurt someone who should have been able to trust him, and he would feel no remorse.
That knowledge frightened him.
“I don’t believe you,” Corner said, but the tremor in his voice belied his words. “You’d never get away with it.”
“I’m Harry Potter. You’re an abusive piece of shit. There’s nobody here who would take your side against mine. They’d protect me.”
Harry didn’t know where the words were coming from. He’d never abused his name or position like this, but the awareness that he could
must have been somewhere in the back of his mind, or he wouldn’t have been able to say such things so easily. Every word of it was true. By the look on his face, Corner knew it, too.
“I…” Corner opened his mouth, closed it. Sweat beaded on his forehead and dripped down his temples.
Something dark inside Harry hoped that Corner would refuse to talk. It was a sickening feeling, one that Harry physically cringed away from.
Corner must have interpreted the movement as threatening, because he yelped. “Okay! Merlin, please, I’ll tell you everything!”
He did. Within half an hour, Harry had a list full of names, the location of the Ellisons’ safe house in France, and a signed confession. Looking a little shell-shocked, Corner was led away to the holding cell where he would await trial.
Harry was ready to rush an international Portkey – or just Apparate straight across the Channel – but his plans were brought to a screeching halt by Robards’ stern, “Absolutely not.”
“We don’t know how long they plan on staying there. If we don’t move fast – ”
“Potter, we have no jurisdiction in France. You go in there wand blazing and you’ll set off an international incident – not to mention that your arrest of the Ellisons would be illegal and could jeopardize the case against them.”
Harry groaned in frustration, skin itching with the need to act
“I’ll alert our counterparts in Paris. They’ll arrange for the Ellisons to be extradited.”
“I guess I’ll just sit on my hands, then.”
“You have over a dozen names on that list you’re holding,” said Robards, patience wearing thin. “If you don’t bring in as many Reapers as possible, it won’t matter if Riley Ellison is arrested or not, because another leader will just rise up to take his place. Get going
Harry stewed over Robards’ chastisement all the way to the conference room, where every on-duty Auror had been called in. As they walked, Ron said, “Their kids will be there. You know you hate that.”
Nothing was worse than arresting parents in front of their children, no matter what said parents had done. The Ellisons’ kids had already lost their brother; now they were about to lose both parents. What would happen to them?
Harry pushed the thought away as he opened the conference room door. That kind of thinking made it impossible for him to do his job. His duty was to bring criminals into custody; he had to concentrate on that.
He and Ron split the Aurors into teams and divided the list of Reapers amongst them. Since it was imperative that the Reapers not be able to warn each other, they had to hit them hard and fast. There weren’t enough teams to arrest everyone simultaneously, but they would round them up as quickly as possible.
The first two arrests that Harry, Ron, and Singh were responsible for went off without a hitch. It wasn’t until they went after the third and last name on their assignment that things went south.
Regina Grey lived in a tiny London flat. When she didn’t answer the door, Harry forced it open with magic. He had only a second to register the petite woman pressed against the wall on the other side of the sitting room before the floor between them erupted in flames.
“Shit!” Harry leapt backwards, pushing Ron and Singh behind him and out of the way. The heat was overwhelming, sucking the oxygen out the room. Harry cast a Shield Charm to protect them, but then realised that the fire wasn’t spreading. It just cut a line across the flat that separated them from Grey.
He could see her through the flickering flames, small and very pale, but her jaw was set and her wand hand steady.
“I don’t want to hurt you, Mr. Potter,” she called out over the roar of the fire.
“Then put down your wand and come with us.”
“I can’t do that. I thought that you, of all people, would understand.”
Surprise made Harry’s spell waver. “I understand your anger, and I understand your pain, but I will never understand what drives someone to cut out a person’s beating heart.”
“They’ve done worse.”
On either side of him, Harry heard Ron and Singh whispering as they tried to extinguish the fire. He needed to keep Grey talking. “So this is your answer? Sink to their level?”
“You don’t have children, Mr. Potter.”
Agony distorted her face. “I did.”
While Harry was searching for a response to that, Grey noticed that the flames were beginning to die down. She stiffened, putting more energy into the spell, but it was two against one and Ron and Singh were experienced Aurors.
“Please don’t make this harder than it has to be, Ms. Grey,” said Harry.
“I won’t be punished for avenging my children.”
The flames dropped lower. Grey was shaking with strain.
“Vengeance isn’t justice – ”
Grey’s eyes met his. Harry saw fear there, and grief, but what struck him most was the bone-deep expression of disappointment.
“I’m not sorry.” She turned her wand on herself. “Diffindo
The spell caught her across the throat, opening it up in a gruesome spray of arterial blood. The fire went out, but even as Harry raced to her side, he saw it was too late. Grey hadn’t just cut her own throat; she’d nearly decapitated herself. Her head and neck were connected by only a few centimetres of skin and bone.
Harry’s stomach heaved. He turned away, covering his mouth with one hand. Ron and Singh approached the corpse. The three of them stood in silence for a few long moments before Singh said, “I’ll send a message to St. Mungo’s.”
She left the flat. Harry moved towards the door as well, leaning against the wall so he didn’t have to look at Grey’s body. Ron joined him. His freckles were vivid spots of colour on his dead-white skin.
“We couldn’t have stopped her.”
Harry knew that. He didn’t feel guilty. He just couldn’t stop replaying that look Grey had given him – as if she’d expected him to sympathise with her. To agree that she had done the right thing.
Just hours ago, he’d been ready to beat Corner to a bloody pulp, and he didn’t fool himself that it had been out of passion for the case. If Harry reacted that strongly to the abuse of a man who wasn’t even a friend, what if it were his own child? Could he kill his child’s murderer? Yes
Harry glanced back at Grey. Yes, he would kill someone who took his child from him, but torture them? Dismember them? No. That went beyond even vengeance and into the realm of madness. And chances were that the Death Eaters Grey had helped kill hadn’t been involved in her children’s murders at all.
His brooding was interrupted by the arrival of a Healer, two hit wizards, and a witch from the Forensics department. Harry pushed off the wall and turned his focus back where it belonged.
Due to the mess of Grey’s suicide, it was near midnight by the time Harry returned to the DMLE. Most of the Reapers Corner had named had been successfully captured; only three had slipped the net. Harry initiated customary search protocols for them before dragging himself up to the Atrium to Floo home. The rest of the Reapers would have to wait until the next day to be sorted through and associated with the appropriate victims, as the group members seemed to have taken turns committing the actual murders. Harry hoped Malfoy’s new procedure would work on five-year-old signatures as well as it did on fresh ones.
Come to think of it, he hoped Malfoy himself would be able to work. It wasn’t implausible that the trauma of the night’s discoveries might push Malfoy into the same catatonia that had claimed him after his parents’ deaths.
Harry wasn’t surprised to find Severus not in bed, but in the hallway outside the spare room. Severus took one look at his face and said, “You found him.”
“Yeah.” Harry let himself smile a little. “And sixteen Reapers besides. I don’t think we got them all, but it’s definitely enough to cripple them.”
Severus pulled him into a hard kiss. Harry savoured the feeling of Severus’ arms around him, the warmth of his mouth, the earthy potions smell that always clung to his robes.
“You didn’t have any trouble?” he asked.
“Not from the Reapers.”
Harry glanced into the darkened spare room, where he could just make out the form of Malfoy huddled on the bed. “At least he fell asleep.”
“I had to sedate him. He was becoming so hysterical that I feared he would harm himself.”
“Fuck. Do you think he’ll be all right?”
Harry had only asked because he needed the reassurance, but when Severus hesitated, his heart plummeted.
“You were correct in thinking that Corner beat him,” Severus said slowly. “I believe the abuse ran much deeper than that. Draco was very upset and I couldn’t understand everything he was saying, but I heard enough. Recuperation may be… difficult.”
“He recovered from finding his parents’ bodies.”
“After months in hospital.”
Harry looked back at Malfoy. He couldn’t help recoiling from the thought of sending the man back to St. Mungo’s. It was difficult enough for the patients there who had friends and family to support them – Malfoy had nobody. He’d said as much himself when he’d Portkeyed into their sitting room.
“He should stay here,” Severus said, his words so closely reflecting Harry’s thoughts that Harry narrowed his eyes, suspecting covert Legilimency. “At least until the Reapers have been tried.”
Harry nodded. A revenge attack by any Reapers who had managed to slip the net wasn’t out of the question. Plus, it would be easier to keep an eye on Malfoy’s mental state if he were close by. The case needed him self-aware and functioning.
Severus closed the door with his wand, drawing Harry’s attention back to him. He slid a hand into Harry’s hair and bent to kiss his neck. “You’ve done the wizarding world a great service tonight, Mr. Potter,” he murmured, his rich voice making Harry shiver. “Allow me to reward you.”
Draco knew it shouldn't be so difficult to open his eyes. He recognised the effects of Dreamless Sleep when he felt them. He only wished he could remember how the potion had come to be in his system. He'd learned his lesson about using it to alleviate his insomnia early in his relationship when Michael, frustrated by his inability to wake Draco in the middle of the night for sex, had gone ahead and fucked him anyway.Michael
The sudden memory of Michael's betrayal was a knife in the gut. Draco's eyes flew open and he sucked in a painful breath. Gripped by the sudden fear that Michael was in the bed beside him, Draco let out a closed-mouthed squeal and thrashed aside the bedcovers, throwing himself over the side of the bed before spinning around with his heart pounding wildly.
There was nobody there, of course. Draco rubbed his face with one hand, cursing the residual muddiness of his sedated sleep. He had a throbbing headache that he knew was the result of hours of crying. Merlin, he'd made such a fool of himself in front of Potter and Severus – especially Severus. He couldn't even recall half the things he'd said, but he'd definitely said more than he should have.
A shower. That would clear his head so that he could decide what to do next. He wondered if Potter had been able to catch Michael in time.
Fortunately, the bedroom had an ensuite bathroom, so Draco wasn't forced to wander the halls. His wand had been left on the bedside table and his robes were folded on a chair with his shoes placed neatly beneath it. Draco transfigured one of the pillowcases into a towel and brought it with him into the bathroom.
The room was obviously seldom used, barren as it was of any toiletries other than a bar of soap. Draco didn't care. He hung up the towel, turned on the shower, and stepped beneath the spray.
The warm water sluicing over his skin reminded Draco of how much Michael had liked to fuck him in the shower – and even worse, how much he’d
enjoyed it, how he’d braced himself against the tiled wall and spread his legs so eagerly. He grimaced and turned the water up hotter.
It was no use. Every path the water made on his body felt like Michael’s fingers skating over his ribcage, caressing his hips, dipping between his arsecheeks. Michael had sometimes pushed his fingers inside Draco when he had no intention of fucking him, just to show them both that he could. Had he ever felt guilty about what he’d done? Had he ever thought about how he’d been indirectly responsible for Draco’s parents’ deaths while he was fucking Draco’s brains out? Had it amused
Draco gagged, twisting the knob to get the water as hot as it could go. He would never be able to wash Michael’s filth from his skin. He’d never be able to get clean enough. His parents must be rolling in their graves knowing how he’d defiled their memory and the Malfoy name.
The water was searing now, a welcome distraction from his thoughts. Draco slid to the shower floor and pulled his knees up against his chest, letting it beat against his back. The pain was purifying. Steam billowed around him, making it difficult to draw a deep breath.
A knock on the bathroom door made him groan. Did Potter know the meaning of personal space at all?
“Malfoy? Hey, er, when you’re done, we need to talk.”
Draco dropped his head on his knees. “Go away,” he tried to shout, but it came out as a faint whisper. He felt suddenly lightheaded.
“Malfoy? Can you hear me? I really need to go to work.”Then go
. Dark spots danced in Draco’s vision. He was so hot
; the wetness on his body was as much sweat as water. And he still didn’t feel clean.
“Look, I know you’re upset, but we’re trying to help.” There was the sound of the door opening, and then Potter said, “What the fuck? It’s like a sauna in here. What are you doing?”
Draco opened his mouth to answer and coughed instead on the steam that filled his lungs.
“Malfoy!” Potter wrenched aside the shower curtain and made the mistake of reaching through the spray for the knob. He withdrew his hand with a curse and changed his angle so that he could shut the water off without getting burned.
“No, I need it – ”
“Oh my God, your back.” Potter knelt by the side of the shower and took Draco by the elbows, trying to get him to stand.
Draco twisted away, gasping when the movement sent pain ripping through him. “No! Please, I need to be clean. I can feel him all over me.”
“Okay. We’ll get you clean. Just come with me, all right?”
Draco allowed Potter to pull him to his feet and help him out of the shower. Every step he took was an agony that muddled his thoughts even more.
“He’s still inside me,” Draco muttered to the floor.
“Severus!” Potter bellowed as soon as they crossed the threshold into the bedroom.
Severus Apparated in a second later, taking in the scene with a baffled look on his face. Draco latched on to the sight of him with hope. Severus would understand. Severus could help.
“Get him off me!” said Draco. “Get him off.”
“For Merlin’s sake, Harry, let him go.”
“He’s not talking about me,” Potter said grimly. “Come on, Malfoy, lay down – no, not on your back – there you go.”
Stretched out on his stomach, Draco plucked anxiously at the bedsheet. His back throbbed in time with his heart.
Severus drew closer to the bed. “What happened?”
“Scalded himself in the shower. I’m no good with burns. Do you have anything?”
“In my workroom. Anesthetise his skin first or he’ll find it very unpleasant.”
There was the pop
of Disapparition. Potter cast a spell on Draco’s back that made it instantly numb. Then he pulled the top sheet up far enough to cover Draco’s arse. Draco almost laughed.
“Malfoy.” Potter settled next to him on the bed. His Auror robes were marred with damp splotches and his glasses were dripping condensation. “Please tell me you didn’t do this to yourself on purpose.”
With the pain and the oppressive heat gone, Draco’s mind began to clear. Would he ever stop humiliating himself in front of Harry Potter? He closed his eyes and said, “I was just trying to feel clean again.”
To his shock, he felt Potter’s fingers in his hair, tentatively pushing the wet strands off his face. “I arrested him. Corner. He confessed to funding the Reapers. He won’t ever hurt you again.”
Draco pressed his lips together and said nothing.
Severus returned with a jar of salve that he applied while sitting on Draco’s other side. Draco could barely feel the pressure of his fingers through the anesthesia spell, but he was highly aware of Potter’s hand still on his head, stroking through his hair almost absentmindedly. Both men were silent as Severus worked. Some of Draco’s tension began to bleed out of his muscles; he felt almost sleepy.
“You may remove the spell,” Severus finally said to Potter.
With the spell lifted, Draco felt a little tightness and warmth in his back, but nothing like the pain of earlier.
“Some stinging upon movement is to be expected while the skin heals. It should resolve itself within twenty-four hours.”
“Thank you,” said Draco. “I’m sorry you had to – ”
“Nonsense.” A slight hesitation, and then, “Do you require another potion?”
“No.” Draco twisted around and sat up, keeping the sheet bunched around his hips. “I don’t need to be sedated. I’m fine, really. Potter told me that Michael is in custody. I can go home now.”
Potter and Severus exchanged a glance. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Potter said. “You shouldn’t be alone.”
“I’ll have someone stay with me.”
“Who?” Potter asked, calling his bluff.
Draco flushed and dropped his eyes to the bed.
“Enough,” said Severus. “Draco, you and I will go to your flat to retrieve your clothing and personal effects. You will stay here until the Reapers are in Azkaban so that Harry and I can ensure your safety.”
“But – ”
Draco sighed, pretending annoyance so that he could hide his secret pleasure at Severus’ concern. Then he caught the smile Potter was giving Severus and suddenly felt like a voyeur.
“You said before that you need to speak to me,” he said to Potter.
“Oh, yeah. I’d understand if you don’t feel up to going to work, but I do need you to at least come to the Ministry to give an official statement about how you found out about Corner. And… to be honest, we really need you on the case. Nobody else knows how to strip down the sigs from the old murders.”
Draco clenched his hands in the sheet. He had absolutely no desire to step foot in the DMLE, where everybody knew what an idiot he’d been – sharing five years of his life with one of the very men he’d been dedicated to tracking down. But hiding out would be just as bad. He would be admitting his weakness and delaying the Reapers’ prosecution.
“All right. I’ll start training the other Forensics wizards today so that we can get through them faster.”
“Brilliant.” Potter slid off the bed and dried his robes with his wand. “I’ll wait downstairs while you get dressed.”
The thought of being left alone in the Ministry while Potter went about his business made Draco’s stomach churn. Walking past all those people who were pitying him, perhaps laughing at him… What if they tried to talk to him about it?
He could feel Severus’ eyes on him. Before he could lash out, Severus said, “I will come with you.”
Draco closed his mouth on the nasty remark he’d been about to make. “What?”
“I would like to observe this technique you’ve developed. We can stop by your flat afterwards.”
Though he didn’t doubt Severus’ interest was genuine, Draco knew it wasn’t the impetus behind his offer. He let his gratitude show in his eyes. “Okay.”
Potter and Severus left the room. Draco had to use spells to freshen up the clothing he’d worn the day before, as he certainly wasn’t going to do something as intimate as borrow clothes from one of the other men. They wouldn’t fit him without magic, anyway.
He joined them at the Floo. Potter picked up the box of powder and hesitated.
“You know, Malfoy, when you give your statement, you could press charges against Corner for the… other stuff.”
Draco stiffened. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“The, er, abuse.”
“Absolutely not.” Draco’s hand curled around his wand. It took everything he had not to curse Potter’s face off.
“He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with – ”
. Everybody already thinks I’m an idiot for being practically engaged to a man responsible for my parents’ deaths. Do you think I want them knowing I let him slap me around and rape me, too?”
Potter shrank back. Draco had assumed that Severus would have told him everything, but the look on Potter’s face suggested that wasn’t the case. Fuck.
Making a valiant effort to speak through his shock, Potter said, “You didn’t let
him – ”
“Harry,” Severus interrupted. “Leave it.”
“But – ”
. Corner will spend the remainder of his life in Azkaban regardless.”
Potter sucked in a breath as if to argue, but then suddenly deflated and nodded. Severus took a pinch of Floo powder, tossed it into the flames, and Flooed to the Ministry. Just as Draco started to follow him, Potter grabbed his elbow and made him turn back.
“Nobody thinks you’re an idiot,” he said.
Draco pulled his arm out of Potter’s grasp and stepped into the fireplace. “I do.” viii. Limbo
Harry was amazed that Malfoy hadn’t snapped yet. It was clear the man was walking on the razor’s edge of his self-control. Every time another pitying glance was sent their way or somebody walked too close to them, Harry half-expected him to either start throwing curses left and right or run screaming from the Ministry.
He felt guilty for pressuring Malfoy to go out in public when he obviously wasn’t ready for it, but the case had to take priority. Malfoy could fall apart all he wanted to after he’d trained the rest of the Forensics department.
Robards took Malfoy’s statement himself in his office. Harry was surprised when he allowed Severus to accompany them with only a single raised eyebrow.
Malfoy’s recounting of the events that had led to his discovery of Corner’s deception was far more coherent than the story he’d told last night. His voice quavered only slightly when he spoke of how he'd confronted Corner at their flat and things had devolved into a duel. Instead of telling Robards that Corner had strangled him, though, he said that Corner had tried to wrestle his wand away from him.
The Auror in Harry protested the lie, but he kept his mouth shut. There was no point in making Malfoy feel worse than he already did. Severus had long since healed the bruising, anyway.
“My people tell me you hit him with quite a Stunner,” Robards said.
Malfoy hesitated, unsure as to whether or not he was in trouble.
“Good on you.” Robards grinned broadly. “That bastard is still having headaches.”
Once Robards had everything he needed, Severus and Malfoy left for the Forensics wing. Harry was glad Severus had offered to accompany Malfoy – first, because he could protect Malfoy against possible retaliatory strikes from the Reapers still at large, and second, because no spiteful arseholes wanting to twist the knife a little would dare approach Malfoy with Severus standing over his shoulder like the Grim Reaper.
Ron brought him a mug of tea while he was watching them walk away. “Is Malfoy really staying with you?”
“He has nowhere else to go.”
“Don't even say it.”
Ron shrugged. “My lips are sealed.”
The rest of Harry's day was consumed with processing and interrogating various Reapers. He knew that there were others still out there and that Corner couldn't have been their only benefactor. The Ellisons’ extradition, which had been arranged for that afternoon, was a huge blow to the organization, but Robards had been right last night. If the DMLE wasn't proactive in stamping the Reapers out now, someone else would assume leadership.
When he got home, Severus and Malfoy were waiting dinner on him in the dining room. “How'd it go?” Harry asked as he slid into his seat.
Malfoy still looked like a raw bundle of nerves, but he'd gotten some of the colour back in his face. “Better than I expected. They're picking it up quickly – it may not take as long as I thought.”
“Great. It's going to be a bitch to go through all those old sigs. What are there, four or five for each crime scene?”
“Some have more. I wish there was a way to strip them faster, but I've already sped up the procedure as much as I can without sacrificing accuracy or increasing the risk of self-destruction.”
“It's really quite impressive,” Severus said.
Malfoy glowed like a candle had been lit inside him. The transformation was so startling that Harry dropped his fork. Severus and Malfoy both gave him an odd look.
“Sorry,” he said, trying not to stare at Malfoy's flushed cheeks. “So, er, tell me more.”
After that, they settled into an easy routine. Harry walked Malfoy to his office every morning under the pretence of wanting an update on his progress. Severus retrieved him each afternoon. If Malfoy understood what they were doing, he showed no sign of it. His terror of being left alone was palpable.
The Wizengamot fast-tracked the Reaper trials, so the entire DMLE was thrown into a flurry of preparation. Several more Reapers and their supporters were rooted out and arrested. Every day, Malfoy and his co-workers logged a few more signatures so that each Reaper could be matched with the murders he or she had committed. The biggest frustration they ran into was that the three Reapers who had escaped the first wave of arrests couldn’t be found anywhere; they must have had foolproof plans in place, because it seemed like they had disappeared off the face of the earth.
Harry was surprised by how comfortable it was having Malfoy living with them. He hadn’t realised how infrequently he and Severus ate dinner together – due mostly to Severus’ habit of locking himself into his workroom when he was caught up in a project – until Malfoy’s need for constant company obliged Severus to take regular breaks. It was nice having something to look forward to after a long day at work.
Malfoy was too quiet, and he flinched whenever anybody raised their voice or lifted a hand near him. Harry found himself doing everything he could to make Malfoy smile and even purposely provoking him to anger – anything to put the light back in his eyes. It worked little by little. Every argument in which Malfoy didn’t immediately back down was another small victory. Every display of arrogance that would have annoyed Harry before now filled him with relief.
The first time he called Malfoy by his first name, about a month into their new living arrangement, Harry corrected himself right away. But as the days went past and it happened again and again, he stopped fighting it. It was silly to insist on calling him Malfoy when Severus called him Draco, after all.
Though Malfoy never returned the gesture, Harry saw the way his eyes softened and his shoulders relaxed every time he heard his name from Harry’s lips, and soon it was as if he had never been anything but Draco.
The night before Michael’s trial, Draco stared at the ceiling above his bed, unable to sleep.
He’d already testified at several trials. Because each Reaper was being tried separately, Draco was obliged to take the stand again and again to explain how he’d stripped down their dampened magical signatures. His co-workers were able to shoulder some of the burden for the ones they’d stripped themselves, but Draco had done the majority of them personally – trapping himself in this unique hell. The way Riley Ellison had looked at him at his trial would give Draco nightmares for the rest of his life.
Draco wasn’t complaining. It was worth it to be able to watch the Reapers who had murdered his parents be sentenced to life in Azkaban one by one, even though Severus had needed to physically restrain him several times during the killers’ remorseless testimonies.
Michael’s trial was different. Draco wasn’t being called to deliver a dispassionate scientific explanation – he was going to have to stand in front of the Wizengamot and tell them all about how his boyfriend of five years had betrayed him in the worst possible way. And he would have to do it with Michael sitting right there, watching him.
During the past couple of months, Draco had at first been bewildered by the way he would sometimes wake in the middle of the night reaching for someone who wasn’t there, how certain scents or snatches of music put a lump in his throat, the sudden shortness of breath he experienced when he saw a stranger who resembled Michael. Eventually he’d had to admit the truth: those things weren’t caused by anger or fear. They were caused by grief.
He missed Michael.
Draco hated himself, but when he gave it more thought, it wasn’t that surprising. Ever since the first time Michael had struck him, Draco’s mind had made a distinction between Good Michael and Bad Michael. Good Michael was sweet; he loved Draco, took care of him. Bad Michael – who was around much less often – was the angry, violent one. All of Draco’s energy had been spent ensuring that Bad Michael made as few appearances as possible. When it had been just him and Good Michael, the real
Michael, Draco had been deliriously happy. He’d been in love.
What Draco feared more than anything was that when he saw Michael the next day, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from running right into the man’s arms.
“Stop it,” Draco whispered harshly, and then cringed with embarrassment at reprimanding himself out loud.
to get some sleep tonight. Facing Michael would be all the more difficult if he were sleep-deprived. Draco rolled out of bed and headed into the hallway, intending to fetch some of the Dreamless Sleep Severus kept in his workroom. Severus had said he could use it whenever he wished, but Draco tried to limit his consumption to those nights when his insomnia was truly unbearable.
He padded silently past the door to Potter and Severus' bedroom. A flare of jealousy twisted his gut as he thought about the two of them wound together in bed, sleeping peacefully. He didn't begrudge them each other's company; he just wanted what they had. What he used
to have. They never so much as kissed in front of him, but the intimacy in every glance and brush of their hands was a painful reminder of what Draco had lost.
The Dreamless Sleep was in a large cabinet that Severus kept stocked with a number of household potions. Out of habit, Draco skirted the ugly pitted section of the workroom floor. Severus had been vague about how it'd happened – some kind of explosion – but for whatever reason, it couldn't be repaired.
Potion in hand, Draco made his way back up the stairs. He frowned as he heard a rhythmic creaking noise. Though it sounded familiar, he couldn't place it. His shoulders tensed up and he moved a little faster.
The noise got louder as he walked down the hall. Just as Draco was passing Potter and Severus' bedroom again, he heard a soft moan, and everything clicked into place.Bedsprings
Draco almost tripped as he stumbled to a halt, eyes flying towards the closed door. Those were bedsprings creaking at that rapid, steady pace. Severus and Potter were fucking.
A confusing jumble of arousal, jealousy, and loneliness swamped Draco with the force of a tidal wave. Staring at the door, he couldn't help but imagine what was going on behind it. Was Severus fucking Potter, or was it the other way around? Either way, it would be... Draco took a shaky breath.
“God, Severus.” Potter's voice was barely audible. “That's so...”
He trailed off into another moan. Draco couldn't hear Severus making any noise; without meaning to, he moved closer to the door.
Potter suddenly let out a much deeper, much louder groan that went straight to Draco's cock.
“There?” Severus asked.
Draco bit his lip. Severus' lust-roughened voice sounded exactly the way he had always fantasised it would.
“Yeah, fuck, don't stop – ”
“Show me, Harry.”
Draco didn't know what it was Severus wanted Potter to show him, but the noises Potter was making became desperate, as if the pleasure he was feeling was too much. Draco could imagine Potter sounding like that above him, gasping and groaning while he worked Draco's arse...
Clutching the potion vial so tightly he was surprised it didn't shatter, Draco fled back to his room. He shut the door as quietly as possible and sank onto the bed, disgusted with himself. Severus and Potter had protected him, opened their home to him, and here he was sneaking around their house, listening to them making love like a pervert.
His cock ached with the need for release, something he'd experienced only rarely since Michael's arrest. Draco ignored it. He took a larger-than-usual dose of Dreamless Sleep and passed out within minutes.
The next morning, Draco couldn't bring himself to look either Potter or Severus in the eye. They seemed to chalk it up to anxiety about the trial.
“It'll be okay,” Potter said as he sent the breakfast dishes to the sink with a charm. “Corner will be under heavy guard. He won't be able to hurt you.”That's not what I'm afraid of
, Draco thought, but he nodded as if reassured.
Severus and Potter went with him to the Ministry. They stood on either side of him like bodyguards, but Draco knew he was much safer with them than he would have been with any paid lackey. He relished the stares of the people they passed on the way down to the courtrooms, knowing they were wondering what Draco Malfoy had done to merit the protection of two of the most powerful wizards in Britain.
They took seats near the front of the courtroom and waited in silence while others gradually filed in. Draco's stomach felt like liquid. Needing an outlet for the unbearable tension building inside him, his left leg started up a restless bouncing. Severus let it go for a few seconds before grunting in annoyance and putting his hand on Draco's knee to stop him.
Without thinking, Draco grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly. Severus went still for a moment, then relaxed, turning his hand palm-up and lacing their fingers together. On Draco's other side, Potter began to gently knead his tense neck muscles. Draco closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
When he opened them, Michael had entered the courtroom.
Seeing him was akin to being punched in the gut. Even flanked by two burly hit wizards, dressed as a prisoner and sporting a scruffy beard, Michael was devastatingly handsome. Draco's heart skipped a beat when their eyes met.
Then Michael's focus shifted from Draco to the men lending him support. Face twisting into a sneer, he shot Draco a glare of such poisonous hatred that Draco recoiled.This is the real Michael. This is his true face.
With an ache that went right down to his soul, Draco forced himself to face the truth: the Michael who he'd thought had saved him, the Michael he'd fallen in love with, had never existed. Good Michael was only a mask that the real Michael wore to hide the sickness inside him
Michael tried to stare Draco down, the way he'd done countless times during their relationship. Draco lifted his chin and stared back.
Michael looked away first.
On to Part Five
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