Draco's Escort Service


Adult, 10 chapters. Slash (Harry/Draco). 

Summary: Draco Malfoy's job is to escort travelers through territory made perilous after the war. Harry Potter is forced to hire him, but his destination isn't quite what Draco had in mind. Fluffy slash romance. This has nothing to do with Vegas style escorts!

Draco’s Escort Service

Chapter One

Harry was livid.

“No! Absolutely not!” he yelled. “There has to be someone else!”

“He’s the best,” Lupin insisted. “And he checks out.”

Draco Malfoy checks out?” Harry thundered. “By whose standards?  The bastard has done more to make my life a living hell than anyone other than Voldemort!”

“He was a child, Harry. He regrets his actions and has redeemed himself time and again. For pity’s sake, Harry, he lost everything to Voldemort!”

“SO DID I!” Harry bellowed. “At least Malfoy got to grow up with parents!  He had a fucking decent childhood!”

“Don’t you think that would make his loss even harder to bear?” Lupin yelled back.

“I DON’T CARE!”

Lupin threw up his hands.  Harry glared.

“I’ll go alone,” Harry decided adamantly.

“You can’t.”  Lupin’s words were like a slap in the face, though true.

“Watch me,” Harry gritted.

“I can’t talk to you when you get like this,” Lupin snapped.  “Call me when you retrieve your maturity.”

Lupin stalked out. Harry made a rude gesture behind his back and then sank into a chair.  He propped his elbows on the table and put his head in his hands in frustration.  After a moment, he got up and took the stairs to his room.

Number 12 Grimmauld Place had changed markedly in the four years since Harry had inherited it.  After a year of cleaning, polishing, and stripping the place nearly bare, it hardly resembled the former dark, gloomy residence of generations of Blacks.  One day in a fit of overwhelming rage Harry had taken a sledgehammer to the wall that held Mrs. Black’s portrait.  He had pulverized wall, frame, and painting, hammering away long after the shrieks of Sirius’s mum were silenced forever.  Remus Lupin and the Weasley twins had found him sitting in the rubble, exhausted but satisfied.

He had left the wall open and later removed the one separating the kitchen and dining room.  When time allowed, he removed as much of the dark wood in the house as possible, replacing it with pale oak or painting over it in white.  He knew Sirius would have approved.

The master bedroom had been completely redone—floors, walls, curtains, furniture and bedding.  The room gleamed with pale neutral colors and creamy bedding accented with Gryffindor burgundy and gold.  Harry threw himself on the bed.

He glared at the ceiling as he thought of Draco Malfoy.  The only person he had ever hated more was Severus Snape.  Even Voldemort had come in a pale third to those two.  Things had changed so much in the wizarding world since Dumbledore’s death three years prior.

The war had begun shortly thereafter.  They already referred to it as The Great Wizarding War, although there had been nothing great about it except the scale of destruction.

Lord Voldemort’s motives were never clear.  He seemed content to wreak carnage and destroy everything he could find.  Werewolves and trolls had multiplied like rabbits.  There were so many werewolf attacks that the Muggles branded it some sort of disease epidemic.  Death Eaters killed every Ministry member they could locate.  Those that were left fought a losing battle trying to contain the werewolves and keep Muggles in the dark about the wizarding world.

Harry Potter concentrated on finding and destroying Voldemort’s Horcruxes, leaving a handful of demoralized Order members to try and stop the Death Eaters.  None of them understood why the Chosen One had deserted them in their time of need—none but Lupin, to whom Harry had finally confided.

Excited by victory after victory, Voldemort became giddy with power. He recruited new Death Eaters to the cause and somehow they discovered a way to control the Floo Network.  Travel by fireplace halted nearly overnight when one chance in four would send the traveler to a fireplace in Timbuktu, or Siberia, or to a cave in Peru.

Voldemort set his sights on Apparition next.  It took a year, but he finally managed to contaminate the very forces of nature—not just those used to Apparate, but nearly every magical factor.  Pockets of Dark Magic hovered over many areas, especially those with a large number of wizards.  It became dangerous to cast spells in those regions—the effects could be nullified, magnified, or twisted.  Wizards had been blown to pieces, sent hundreds of miles from their intended destination, or Splinched into objects.

As transportation became nearly impossible, the Ministry fought for control by trying to regulate creation of Portkeys—the only remaining method of instant transportation. Rufus Scrimgeour and the remaining Ministers cast a Nullifying Spell around all of London to prevent entry by Portkey.  Then they did the same to every common destination in Britain under the guise of keeping Voldemort from tampering with Portkey transportation.  It worked.  Voldemort had no need to disrupt Portkeys as the Ministry had made them nigh unto useless.

Much diminished, the Order and all others opposed to Voldemort fought a pitched battle near Hogwarts, which Voldemort was determined to destroy.  After throwing giants, trolls, and magic at it, he managed to breach the walls and invade the castle.

Harry and his friends arrived at last and the battle ranged far through the empty halls.  The school had closed to students after a derailment of the Hogwarts Express had killed five students prior to Harry’s seventh year—that had been the act that began the war.

Harry and Voldemort confronted one another, but Harry was no longer a child. He had learned a lot during the search and destruction of Horcruxes.  He threw every spell in his arsenal at the evil incarnation of Tom Riddle and he was not alone.  Ron and Hermione were beside him tossing everything they had. They were joined by others—Neville, Luna, Dean, Angelina, and most of the other members of Dumbledore’s Army.  During the battle, Ginny Weasley threw herself in front of a killing bolt meant for Harry, who completely snapped.

By unknown means, Harry absorbed the magical energy from everyone and everything around him before blasting Voldemort into pieces so small he resembled powder. Harry’s last conscious recollection was of Voldemort’s laugh.  They had always assumed Voldemort had created seven Horcruxes; seven that Harry knew were destroyed.  They were wrong.

The strange effect of Harry’s magic left him drained.  He could barely produce a simple Lumos spell.  They all believed the effect would be temporary.  After six months, they stopped relying on it.

As Voldemort was back in vapor form and the Death Eaters were either dead or imprisoned after the battle at Hogwarts, everyone tried to go back to their lives.  It wasn’t that simple, however.  The Dark Magic lurked and grew.  Apparition was beyond risky.  The Floo Network was abandoned.  Horrible creatures multiplied and spilled out from the forests.

The school reopened, but the Hogwarts Express ran only twice per year, closely guarded by an army of Aurors.  The Ministry stayed locked away in London, safe and isolated.

Harry, now practically a Squib, continued his obsessive search for the missing Horcrux, praying that there was only one.  His friends humored him for a long time, but eventually they deserted him to live their own lives.  Ron and Hermione married and moved to Ottery St. Catchpole near the Burrow, now the home of Bill and Fleur and their brood, since the deaths of Arthur and Molly in the war.

Lupin and Tonks, also married, had moved in with Harry.  To keep him from getting lonely, they said, but he knew it was to keep an eye on him.  To keep him safe.

ooOoo

Now, Harry finally had a lead on the last Horcrux, but he didn’t dare tell anyone—they would all forbid him to go.  Instead, he told Lupin he wanted to return Gryffindor’s sword to Hogwarts, which had sparked enough controversy.  Lupin insisted he wait until school began so Harry could take the train.  Harry fought mercilessly until Lupin agreed he could go by broom, but only with an escort.  And now this.

Draco Malfoy had survived the war.  His parents and his house hadn’t been so lucky.  Malfoy Manor had been seized by the Ministry, who summarily burned it to the ground.  Snape had killed Lucius for reasons unknown and accidentally murdered Narcissa when she went wild with grief.  Neville Longbottom had killed Snape during the final battle.

Harry cursed.  Draco had turned on the Death Eaters in the end.  He had single-handedly brought in Mulciber, Goyle, Nott, and McNair.  He had killed Bellatrix Lestrange, who went even crazier than usual after Voldemort’s apparent destruction.  After the war ended, Malfoy had started an escort service—guiding those who traveled by broom through dangerous areas, bypassing pockets of Dark Magic and eliminating threats.  Several others had started similar lucrative ventures, but apparently none of them were satisfactory enough for Remus Lupin.

Still, even being stuck with that pompous, arrogant jerk was better than being stuck in London one more day.  Harry pounded his fists on the bed a few times and then went to find Lupin.

Chapter Two

So it was that Harry Potter stood on a largely barren road on the outskirts of London with a broom in his hand and a large sword strapped to his back.  He also wore a pack and a long black cloak.

It was dusk, and cloudy, so it wasn’t long before a broom dropped out of the sky to disclose Draco Malfoy.  He hopped off his broom light as a feather and the two old enemies observed each other through narrowed eyes.

Malfoy looked different than when he was younger.  He seemed taller, leaner, and more muscular.  His platinum hair was longer, brushing his shoulders and draping over his forehead to nearly conceal his grey eyes.  His face was as coldly beautiful as ever.  He wore an outfit obviously inspired by Quidditch:  Black breeches with leather trim tucked into high black boots.  His emerald green shirt had leather patches at the elbows and over that was slung a hooded cape, though the hood was thrown back at the moment.  His hands—encased in black leather gloves—gripped his broom.

“Potter,” he said finally with no inflection.

“Malfoy,” Harry said in the same tone.

“Going to Hogwarts, then?”

“Not exactly.”

Malfoy cocked a brow at him, but said nothing.

“I need to go to Norwich.  Or near there, anyway.”

“Dangerous region, that,” Malfoy said carefully.

“I’ll pay you double whatever you and Lupin agreed on.”

“Triple.”

Harry scowled, knowing Malfoy did not need the money.  He was simply being a typical ass.

“Fine,” he snapped.

Malfoy shrugged and stepped over his broom.  Harry kicked off on his own and for a fleeting moment felt the old indescribable joy of flying.  Thank god that ability hadn’t deserted him.

They headed toward the northeast and it almost immediately turned into a race.  Soon they were hurtling side by side over treetops and hills, bushes and ponds.  Harry could not seem to maintain a lead and they passed each other several times until Malfoy motioned to him and halted.

“It can get a bit dicey ahead.  Stay low.”

Malfoy sped off again after delivering that cryptic warning.  Harry hurried after him and they both maintained a height no more than two meters from the ground.  The ride was uneventful for the greater part of an hour, thus Harry was unprepared when his broom was suddenly yanked out from under him.  Harry went flying—sans broom—and landed hard in a patch of heather.

He lay still for a moment trying to regain his breath.  Malfoy’s face appeared above him.

“Alive, Potter?” Draco asked curiously.  Harry glared, but got to his feet.

“You might have mentioned ‘dicey’ meant the broom was likely to be torn from my hands,” he snapped.  He stalked back to get the broom, face flaming with the realization that he couldn’t simply Summon it back into his hand.

Malfoy hovered.

“It doesn’t.  Sometimes it shoots you straight up.  Or sends you into a spin.  Or flips you upside down.  Sometimes nothing.  It’s unpredictable.”

Harry was actually somewhat surprised at the rational response.  He had expected catcalls and hilarity.  Harry mounted and they started off again.

The next time Harry was prepared.  The broom suddenly bolted sideways three meters, but Harry barely shifted position.  He glanced ahead at Malfoy, who fought his own battle.  The broom made three full forward flips, looking like a fan blade for a moment.  Malfoy miraculously stayed on and brought it under control.  Draco could really fly, Harry had to admit.  Malfoy looked back over his shoulder at Harry, nodded curtly, and proceeded.  When they reached an unknown landmark, Malfoy shot higher into the air without a word.  Harry assumed the danger had passed and joined him.

They flew until the darkness was complete and it was difficult to see even large landmarks.  Malfoy drew back to fly beside Harry and made a chopping motion.  Harry followed him to the ground.

“The moon won’t rise for a while.  Once it does we should have enough light to see by, if you want to go on.  Have you eaten?”

The question was cursory.  Harry knew Malfoy didn’t care, but he seemed determined to treat Harry like a normal client.

“I’m fine,” Harry said, looking around.  They were in a hollow through which a small stream flowed.  Harry knelt near the bank and washed his hands.  He stood and glanced at Malfoy while drying them on his cloak.  Malfoy had removed cloak and pack and was stretching the kinks from his shoulders.

Harry followed his lead and yanked off his own cloak.  He slung his pack on the ground and unbuckled Gryffindor’s sword.  Malfoy turned at the thunk.  Harry suppressed a sigh of relief.  The bloody thing was heavy.  He sat cross-legged on the ground and let his head sink to his chest, pulling and releasing his neck muscles with one hand.  He was glad they had stopped.

ooOoo

Draco looked at Harry, slumped on the ground like a tired shadow.  He did not look like the Hero of the Wizarding World.  Practically a Squib.  The werewolf had mentioned Potter’s loss of power.  Draco wondered if Harry thought it was worth it.  Sure Voldemort was gone—but the cost… it was unimaginable.  Perhaps it was easier for Potter, who had lived as a Muggle for the first eleven years of his life.

Draco shook his head.  Regardless, it was awful, but at least it couldn’t have happened to a better person.  If Draco could have requested anyone lose their powers, Harry Potter would have been top of the list.  The bastard could still fly, though.  Draco had been holding his own but it hadn’t been easy.

Potter stayed where he was, head bowed in a Zen-like state.  Draco pulled a waterskin from his pack and took a long drink before he walked over and refilled it from the stream.  As he passed Potter, the dark head raised and Harry watched Draco without speaking.

Draco stoppered the waterskin as he stood and watched a sliver of moon cresting the horizon.  He sighed.  It was going to be a long trip if they couldn’t even speak to each other.  Not that he really had anything to say to the Chosen One, but it was annoying that he couldn’t even give him a good insult.  How would Potter fight back?  Stinging Hex?  It was sad.

When the moon was nearly clear of the horizon, Draco shrugged on his pack and topped it with his cloak.  Potter rose without comment and did the same after first buckling on the sword.  Draco stepped over his broom.  He wondered if he should warn Potter—they had some dangerous terrain to cross and hours yet left to fly.  It would not be an easy trip.  He pictured the stubborn glare Potter always threw at him and knew it would be a waste of breath.

They took off into the night without a word.

Draco felt something… off.  He slowed, having learned the hard way never to ignore a premonition.  He hadn’t been this far east in a long time and was not as familiar with the dangers.

He gestured sharply to Potter, who slowed without question.  At least the spill Potter had taken had taught him to pay attention.  Malfoy slowed further.  His strange feeling had grown to real trepidation; he stopped and dismounted.  Potter did the same and still he did not ask questions, which was fine with Draco, because he did not have any answers.

Draco set his broom on the ground and gestured at Potter to stay back.  Draco walked forward cautiously.  Six meters, then ten, and then a gaping chasm opened at his feet, stretching away in the moonlight like the mouth of hell.  Draco could feel something calling to him—pulling at him from below.  He frowned and returned to Potter.

“This is bad,” he said without preamble.  “I’ve seen something like this once before.  It’s a magical canyon with something nasty—and hungry—at the bottom.  I don’t know what because I never cared to get close enough to find out.  It will try to pull us down by any means.”

“Can’t we go around it?” Harry asked.  Draco shook his head.

“Now that it has a fix on us, it will follow.”

“A canyon will follow us?”

Draco said nothing.  Apparently, Potter had been quite sheltered from some of the nastier magic that had cropped up in the past couple of years.

“What’s to keep it from following us if we manage to get across?” Harry continued.

“The forest on the other side,” Draco admitted.  “It has something of a reputation.”

“A bad reputation, I suppose?”

“You’re the one that wanted to go this way; Potter.  A trip to Hogwarts would have been a piece of cake.”

Harry sighed explosively.  “I don’t have any choice.  How do we cross?”

For reply, Draco slung off cloak and pack.  Potter wasn’t going to like the answer any more than Draco did.

“By doing the unexpected.  Give me your broom.”

Potter wordlessly handed over his broom.  Draco cast a few spells and bound the two brooms together before he lashed his pack to the front of the tied handles.  He did the same with Potter’s pack, placing it to the rear.  He levitated the contraption to check the balance.  Harry Potter looked far from pleased.

“You expect us to ride together?” he asked flatly.

“I’m not thrilled with the idea, either, Potter.  But this thing will pick us off like flies over a toad-infested pond if we try to cross alone.  This way, our abilities will be combined.  You will, of course, need to follow my lead.  Even with both of us working together, it won’t be easy.”

When the brooms were secure and Draco was satisfied with the apparatus, he looked at Potter.

“Make sure that sword is strapped tight and won’t fall out of the scabbard if we end up upside down.”

Harry frowned, but tightened the sword.  When he could not delay any longer, Draco stepped over the brooms.

“Let’s get this over with,” he said resignedly.

Chapter Three

Harry reluctantly moved over and stood behind Malfoy.  Frankly, the idea of being so close to Draco was almost worse than the thought of facing whatever lurked below.  The brooms rose and Harry found himself gripping Malfoy gingerly on the shoulders for balance.

“You’ll have to do better than that, Potter, or we’re both dead,” Malfoy said dryly.  The taunt in his voice geared Harry into action more than the words.  He swore and shifted himself forward until he was pressed tightly against Malfoy’s back and Draco’s thighs rested atop his.  He shifted his hands down to hold Draco’s waist.  Thankfully, Malfoy kept his patented commentary to himself, for once, and they started across the yawning chasm.

It was a nightmare beyond belief.  Within moments, a tangible force tried to yank them into the depths.  Harry and Malfoy strained to keep the brooms aloft and on course.  They were suddenly released and shot upwards.  Before they could recover, they were tossed sideways and spun in a dizzying circle.

Harry found his arms wrapped tightly around Draco’s waist as he clung to the Slytherin like a baby koala.  His face pressed hard against the back of Malfoy’s neck.  He could feel every shift of Draco’s weight, thankfully, for he could anticipate his movements.

They pulled out of the spin and then Draco sent them in a looping, high-speed circle that he suddenly halted.  They plunged straight downward.  The malevolent force seemed just as surprised as Harry, who felt the pressure against them release for the barest instant.  Harry lent his strength to Malfoy, suddenly trusting him implicitly.  Draco responded by launching the brooms upward toward the canyon lip at a speed faster than Harry had ever flown.

They hurtled out of the chasm and Harry felt a tangible cloud of frustrated rage follow them.  They blasted over the trees and then Harry was shocked by the feeling of weightlessness.  They began to fall, still traveling incredibly fast.

Draco snatched out his wand and managed to cast a spell before they slammed into the trees.  They stopped as if crashing into a snow bank.  It was jarring, but not painful until they hit the ground.

Harry and Malfoy landed side by side and lay still for a stunned moment.  Harry trembled with exertion and dripped with sweat.  He closed his eyes and tried to catch his breath.  Next to him, he heard the labored panting of Malfoy.

“Potter?” Draco asked after their breathing had nearly returned to normal.  Harry opened his eyes and looked at the treetops visible above and the stars beyond.

“Yeah?”

“You’re on my hair.”

The words jolted Harry with the knowledge that he was still disagreeably close to Malfoy.  Their heads were touching and Malfoy’s silvery hair was trapped beneath him.  Malfoy’s cloak was bunched under Harry’s back.  He quickly rolled over and staggered to his feet.  Malfoy got up slowly.

“You untie the brooms while I figure out where we are,” Malfoy ordered as he dusted himself off fastidiously.  Harry’s eyes narrowed at the tone of command.  Draco caught the look and smirked at him—the first time Harry had seen the familiar expression in years.

“Unless you want to ride with me some more?” Malfoy drawled suggestively.

“Arsehole,” Harry muttered and started working on the knots while Malfoy disappeared into the trees.

ooOoo

Draco walked carefully into the forest, taking care to note his path in order to retrace his steps.  He did not sense any danger—leaving the chasm had apparently taken care of the threat.  He hoped to find a decent clearing so they could camp for the night.  The trip across the canyon had exhausted him.  Draco’s day had been busy long before he had met up with Potter.

A soft sound caused him to freeze.  He turned and cast a bright Light Spell with his wand.  A girl stood nearby, leaning against a tree.  She not not flinch at the light.  She wore the merest slip of a green dress and her honey-brown hair looped down to her slender waist.  A smile curved her lips, the color of red currants.

“Hi, handsome,” she purred.  Draco did not relax.  It was beyond suspicious to find a delicate-looking maiden lurking in the forest in the middle of the night.  She pushed herself away from the tree.

“Hello,” Draco said warily.  “Who are you?”

“I am Betula,” she said and halted.  “Come here so I can see you better.”

Draco stepped closer, holding his light high.

She smiled.  “You are handsome!  Why are you here?”

“Just passing through.  I’m looking for a place to camp, at the moment.”

“You can rest with me,” she offered and held her arms open as if to welcome his embrace.  “Come.  Kiss me.”

Draco felt an overwhelming compulsion to do just that.  He fought it.

“Just let me build a quick fire and I’ll stay awhile,” he said quietly.  She shrank back with a gasp.

“Oh no!  You mustn’t!  No fire.”

Draco chuckled.  “Dryad.”

Betula stamped a bare foot and gave him a pretty pout.  “No kiss?” she asked.

“Definitely no kiss,” he replied flatly.  He relaxed and dimmed his wand slightly.  She was no danger as long as he stayed away from the circle of her tree.  “Are you the most dangerous creature in this forest?”

She paced on a vaguely curved path a short distance from the tree trunk.  “I’m not dangerous at all, handsome.  Come here and I’ll show you.”

“No thanks.  You won’t tell me anything about this place?”

“No.”  Betula was petulant.

“All right.  Goodbye, dryad.”  He turned and started away.

“Wait!” she cried.  Draco suppressed a smile as he turned to look back.  “Deeper in the forest, take care to eat and drink nothing you find there.”

“My thanks, Betula.  That bit of advice is nearly worth a kiss.  Nearly.”

“Maybe you’ll come back someday?”

“If I ever get the urge to be eternally trapped in a tree, you can count on it.”

He blew her a kiss and went back to Potter, who was slumped on the ground like the very picture of exhaustion and despair.  Draco’s eyes narrowed as he critically examined Potter.  He was paler than Draco had ever seen him and almost too thin.  He needed to eat and get some rest or he’d likely pass out.  The present locale was far too enclosed, rocky… and close to dryads.

Harry seemed to sense his presence and his dark head snapped up.  Potter got to his feet quickly.

“We need to move on a bit,” Draco said.

“Can we fly?”

“No.  Couldn’t you tell when we fell?  This forest nullifies flight.  We’ll have to walk out.”

Potter made no comment.  He just nodded and slung on sword and pack, and picked up his broom.  Draco did the same, sans sword.

He led Potter back toward the dryad tree, intending to pass through and beyond.  A girl suddenly appeared in front of Potter and snagged him in an embrace.  Her hair was vibrantly red and her body was lithe and beautiful.

“I’m Ilex,” she purred.  “What’s your hurry?”

“Don’t kiss her unless you feel like growing a trunk and leaves,” Draco warned, but Potter had already recoiled.  Poor Dryad—red probably had not been the best choice of hair color to use on Potter.  “In fact, it’s probably a good idea not to kiss anything in this forest.”

“No fair, handsome!” Betula called from behind them.  “You did not tell me there were two of you!”

Draco tucked away his wand for a moment, plunging them into darkness, and reached back to grab Harry’s wrist.  He pulled Potter away from the red-haired dryad.

“You can let go now,” Potter said after a few steps.

Draco released him and retrieved his wand.  He cast another Lumos and led Potter on a circuitous route past the trees.  They avoided more dryads in that fashion.

Chapter Four

The undergrowth grew thicker and Draco alternately used his wand to light the way and cut a path.  He hoped they would find a decent place to camp soon—he was bloody exhausted.  At that point, anything without brambles or dryads would suffice.

An odd sound caused Draco to pause.  He instinctively doused his wand and reached back a hand to silence Potter, who probably would not have spoken anyway.  Harry seemed to be moving in a trance.  He stopped when Draco’s fingertips touched his chest.  His face shone pale in the dim moonlight that filtered through the trees.

“Stay here,” Draco breathed.

He pushed his way out of the latest set of sticker bushes and froze, alert for every sound.  A barely audible hiss warned him and he dropped to one knee.  An arrow thunked into a tree as it whisked over his head.

Draco stood in one fluid movement and cast an assortment of spells toward the origin of the arrow while launching himself forward.  A volley of arrows followed him until they were abruptly cut off by a muffled cry—one of his spells had connected.

He kept moving, not intending to become a pincushion.  He also wanted to draw any potential fire away from Potter, who couldn’t fight back.

Of course Potter, being of Gryffindor persuasion, had other ideas.  He leaped after Draco with wand drawn.  Luckily, Draco’s spell must have incapacitated their attacker, since Potter was not cut down by a hail of arrows.

Draco forced his way through the brush to find an Immoblized centaur glaring at him.  Draco swore.  Centaurs rarely traveled alone.  He turned and pelted back to Potter.

“We need to get the hell out of here!” he said and snatched a handful of Harry’s shirt.  He dragged Potter until they were running pell-mell through the forest.  Hopefully, the horse creature was alone and would stay Immobilized for a while.  Draco was not sure how effective his spells were on centaurs—they seemed to lean toward magical resistance.

They ran until Potter sprawled headlong and nearly knocked Draco over.  He stopped to help Harry to his feet. They both gasped with exertion.  Potter left his broom on the ground.

“No more,” he panted.  Draco tossed his broom next to Potter’s and shrugged off his pack again.  He helped Harry remove his burden.

“You’re bleeding, Malfoy,” Harry commented tiredly.  It wasn’t until then that Draco felt the sting.  One of the arrows must have nicked him.  His bicep was drenched in drying blood.

“Damn.”  Draco looked around carefully.  They stood in a small clearing that was unnaturally quiet.  Draco strained his ears, but there was no sound of pursuit.  No sound at all, actually, except the rasp of Potter’s breathing.  “I suppose we can rest a moment.”  He unbuttoned his shirt.  Potter walked a few steps and then threw himself gratefully on a soft patch of grass.

“What time do you suppose it is?” Harry asked raggedly.

Draco glanced at the sky and peeled his shirt off.  The sleeve stuck to his wound.

“About one a.m.,” he said and yanked.  He winced as the action tore the gash open.  It did not look deep, but it had been serious enough to bleed like the devil.

“Wild strawberries,” Harry commented.  Draco turned at the odd comment, wondering if Potter was getting delusional.  Harry tossed a handful of berries into his mouth and Draco’s blood turned to ice.

“No!”he yelled and bounded across the intervening space to pound Potter on the back with an open palm.

A number of small berries flew out of Harry’s mouth and sprayed on the ground.  Potter coughed for a moment and then glared at Draco.

“Fuck, Malfoy!  What the hell?”

“A dryad told me not to eat or drink anything here.”

“Do you think you might have mentioned that?” Potter burst out loudly.  “Oh no—”

“We’ve been rather busy—what do you mean ‘oh no?’”

“I swallowed one.”

Draco felt sick.  They stared at one another for a sober moment in the darkness.

“Let’s hope we have not yet reached the border of the dangerous area.  How do you feel?” Draco asked.

“Fine,” said Harry.  “Still hungry, actually.”

Draco went back to his pack to find Potter some food.  He carried dried beef, bread, and cheese back to Harry, who lay flat on the grass.

“You know, Malfoy, suddenly I’m not very hungry.  Just tired.  I’m so incredibly tired…”

Draco grabbed Potter’s shirt to haul him upright.

“No, you don’t.  We could have a herd of centaurs on our heels and we have no idea what other dangers lurk out there.  You sit up and eat.  We’ll rest later.”

Potter nodded weakly and ate the food Draco handed to him, but he seemed to force it down.  He swallowed obediently from Draco’s water skin when he finished.

“Time to go,” Draco said after he stowed his pack once more.  He took Potter’s hands and dragged him to his feet, trying not to notice how unsteady he looked.  Draco slung Gryffindor’s sword over his own shoulder.  He helped Potter don his pack.  Draco Levitated the brooms and had them float along behind like trailing dogs.

He led the way and Potter followed, Inferius-like, behind him. Draco turned often to check on Harry’s progress.  After about a quarter-hour, Potter asked, “Malfoy? Do you hear music?”

Draco stopped and listened intently.  Nothing.  Not even crickets or frogs.  No sounds at all.

“No, Potter.  I do not hear music.  Now let’s get you out of this infernal forest.”

They continued on and Draco found himself moving faster and faster, returning time and again to urge Potter onward.

“It’s getting louder,” Harry said sometime later.  “It’s so beautiful… like nothing I’ve ever heard.”

“Don’t listen to it!” Draco snapped as a cold spike of fear went through his chest.  He clutched Potter’s shoulders and gave him a shake.  A sheen of sweat glazed Harry’s forehead.  Draco swallowed hard.  He needed to get Potter to shelter and figure out how to fight this.  He swore roundly.  He had never lost a client yet and he sure as hell wasn’t about to lose the Hero of the Wizarding World.

Draco glanced about frantically.  They had been climbing somewhat and the way was getting rockier.  With luck, there would be a cave or something nearby.

A glint of light caught his eye.  He stared and blinked.  Nothing.  Draco shrugged.  One direction was as good as another.  He sighed and slung an arm across Potter’s shoulders to guide him.  Harry did not seem to notice.  His eyes were far away.

Chapter Five

After dragging Potter across rough terrain for twenty minutes, Draco’s shirtless torso was covered in scratches and his breath came in ragged gasps of fatigue.  He could not believe his eyes when he spotted the cabin.  For a moment, his senses screamed at him not to trust it.

Then he noticed one portion of the roof was caved in and vines nearly covered the entire building.  No phantom structure this, but one long abandoned.

Draco half-carried Potter to the hut and shouldered open the door.  He raised his wand to illuminate the place and frowned when a scurrying sound resulted.  Rats.  The original owner seemed to have disappeared without removing his goods.  A bed with moldering blankets stood in one corner and a small table sat in the other.  An assortment of old utensils lay on the table.  Pots and pans adorned the walls on rusting hooks.  Draco released Potter, who sank to his knees.  Draco lit the lamp that sat on the rough bedside table.  The bed frame was broken, so Draco repaired and cleaned it, then Transfigured the old blankets into a feather-stuffed mattress.

He hauled Potter to the bed and laid him down before covering him with a cloak.

“So beautiful,” Harry muttered.  He was ghost-white.  Draco sat on the edge of the bed and grabbed Potter’s shoulders.

“Potter!  Stay here, damn you!  Stop listening to it!  Remember me?  I’m the one that smashed your nose on the Hogwarts Express!  I’ll do it again if you don’t stay with me!”

Incredibly, Potter’s green eyes returned to sharp lucidity for a moment.  Harry’s hands reached up to grab Draco’s bare arms.  One gripped the arrow wound and Draco winced.

“Malfoy—God, I can’t concentrate!  You need to stop this music.”

“How?”

“You need to sing.”

“I need to—what?”

“Sing, damn it!  You’ve got to drown this music!  It’s calling me and I can’t keep fighting it.”

Malfoy was perplexed.  He tried to remember if he had ever sung aloud in his life.  Potter’s eyes fluttered shut.  Draco shook him again as Potter’s grip slackened.

“Okay!  I’ll sing!”  Draco began a Scottish ballad he remembered his mother singing when Draco was a child.  He started hesitantly at first, but his voice grew stronger as the words came back to him.  Potter’s eyes watched him, half-open, but there was no smile on Harry’s lips.  This was no game to make him look like a fool.

“I think it’s working,” Harry murmured.  Draco kept singing while he cast his mind toward a solution.  He could not sing to Potter forever.  For one thing, he only knew the words to a handful of songs.  For another, it was embarrassing as hell.

A shimmer of light caught Draco’s eyes and he blinked for a moment at the apparition before him.  It was a stunningly beautiful woman glowing like an ethereal vision.  Her hair was a cross between silver and gold and brushed back over ears that were delicately pointed.  Her almond-shaped eyes were huge pools of sapphire blue.

“Who dares to defy the power of Faerie?” she demanded in a voice like silver bells.

“I do,” Draco said evenly, breaking off in mid-song.  A smiled curved her ruby lips.

“Aren’t you the beautiful one?” she purred.  “And strong, too, to bring that one back to you.  Kiss me, beautiful stranger.”

Draco actually stood up and took a step toward her before he caught himself and shook off the impulse.

“I don’t think so,” he said.  She smiled prettily, but her blue eyes glinted.  Draco continued, “You can’t have him.”

“He’s important to you, then?” she asked.  Draco considered.  Potter wasn’t important to him personally, but losing him sure as hell would be.

“Yes.”

“Will you sing to him forever, then?”

“There has to be another way.”  His voice contained a question.  Hell, he was on the verge of begging for an answer.

“There is one way, beautiful.  I won’t tell you, of course.  But maybe I’ll give you a hint.”

“Do I have to pay for this hint?”

She laughed, a sound so beautiful it was almost painful to hear.  “You would never willingly give me that which I desire from you, beautiful mortal.  So here is your hint—what is the strongest magic in Faerie?”

“That’s my hint?” Draco asked dubiously.  She smiled.

“That which you withheld from me, perhaps you will grant to your friend.  More than that, I cannot say.  Good luck.  I’ll take good care of your handsome friend, should you fail.”  With that she winked out, leaving only a bright spark of light hovering in the air before that, too, disappeared.

Draco looked back at Harry and pondered her words.  What is the strongest magic in Faerie?  How the hell should he know?  He tried to approach the problem from a different angle.  What was the strongest magic in the wizarding world?  Spells involving… what?  Blood?  Sacrifice?  He thought about Potter’s magic, granted by his mother’s death.  What was the root of the sacrifice?  Draco snapped his fingers.  Love.  Of course.  The strongest magic in any world, as far as he knew.

He recoiled at the thought.  He certainly did not love Potter!  He merely did not want Potter’s soul sucked into Faerie, leaving Draco to explain what had happened to the Chosen One on his watch…  There was no time to flit about looking for someone that did love Potter, either.  He raked a hand through his hair.  There had to be a solution.

That which you withheld from me, perhaps you will grant to your friend.

Draco looked at Harry in dawning horror.  Potter’s eyes were open, but his features were strained, evidence of his effort to hold onto reality.  His gaze was questioning.

That which you withheld from me  A token of love.  The strongest magic in Faerie.  A kiss.

Malfoy said bluntly, “Potter.  To save you, I have to kiss you.”

“You’re joking,” Harry said weakly.

“Afraid not, sport.  They’re big on kissing around here, in case you haven’t noticed.”

There was a long, silent pause that grew longer.

“What are you waiting for, Malfoy?” Harry finally asked.

“I’m thinking.”

Potter groaned.  “Come on, Malfoy.  I swear I’ll never mention it as long as I live.  God, do I swear it.”

Draco sighed.  There was no escaping it.  He sat on the edge of the bed again.  Potter shut his eyes, which made it easier.  Draco pulled off Harry’s glasses and set them aside.

He steeled himself.  Bloody hell.  He leaned over and placed his hands on either side of Potter’s head.  Harry’s skin was warm, almost feverish, and his hair was soft as down.  The feel of it surprised Draco for a moment.

Harry was surprisingly handsome without the spectacles marring his features.  His nose was straight and slender.  Thick black lashes rested on beautifully chiseled cheeks.  Damn, Potter is almost as good looking as me, Draco thought in amazement.  Suddenly, kissing him didn’t seem quite so horrifying.  Draco lowered his face and touched his lips softly to Harry’s, but he had learned never to do anything in half measures.

Hold onto your hat, Potter, he thought wickedly and slanted his mouth over Harry’s.

Chapter Six

The music faltered.  Harry felt as if he were two places at once.  He was only vaguely aware of his conversation with Malfoy, though he clung stubbornly to the melodic sound of Draco’s voice… odd that he had never noticed that quality before.

The stronger part of him seemed to be in a tunnel sparking with color.  At the end of the passage were a dazzling glow and the source of the beautiful sound that called to Harry like a Siren.  Come away, come away, come away  It promised peace and joy and blessed forgetfulness.  He took another step toward the light.

Part of him spoke to Malfoy.  The other part strained to reach the music, wanting more than anything to race down the tunnel.  Come away…  The fading part of him felt Malfoy’s hands slide into his hair—an unexpected caress.  Then Draco’s lips touched his and the music hesitated.  Harry halted in the passage between worlds.

Malfoy’s mouth twisted, pressing almost painfully over Harry’s.  His tongue entered the fray and the kiss became demanding, ravishing, hot and incredible.  Harry snapped back into his body with a suddenness that was almost painful.  The dreamlike quality of Malfoy’s kiss fled, leaving the overwhelming reality of Draco’s mouth searching, tugging, and teasing at Harry’s reawakened senses.  Harry felt the crushing weight of pure desire flooding through him and would have gasped if he could breathe.

He reached up to push Draco away.  One hand touched Malfoy’s bare chest—the other plunged into the gossamer softness of Draco’s hair and froze.  At Harry’s touch, Malfoy’s kiss changed.  The rough, demanding strokes were replaced with gentleness, playful teasing of tongue against tongue—lapping erotically.

To his horror, Harry felt his body respond.  His hand tightened in Draco’s hair, but not to push him away.  Malfoy caressed the roof of Harry’s mouth, sending shudders of delight pulsing through his body.

Draco’s teeth tugged at Harry’s lip gently when he finally ended the tortuous kiss.  Harry’s hands fell away weakly as Malfoy sat back and looked at him.  To Harry’s intense relief, Draco looked as shaken as Harry felt.

“Are you back?” Draco asked hoarsely.

After that?  Hell, you could call a soul back from a dementor’s kiss.”  Harry groaned and flung a hand over his eyes after that admission, not willing to see the satisfied smirk on Draco’s face.  Harry’s body was still inflamed with desire.  He shifted slightly, hoping to hell Malfoy wouldn’t notice.  God, he’d never been kissed like that.  Not ever.  Not even by Ginny, who had loved him enough to die for him.

What the hell was Malfoy playing at?  A simple tap on the lips probably would have sufficed.  He kept his arm over his eyes.

“Get some rest, Potter,” he heard Malfoy say.  “We’ll stay here until morning.”

Draco’s voice was laden with fatigue and Harry suddenly felt his own exhaustion.  Malfoy had to be just as tired, if not more.  Harry felt a tug as the cloak was drawn up to his chin.  For a moment, he thought he felt a hand brush the hair back from his brow, so softly he decided it must be his imagination.

Harry drifted into a deep—but thankfully mortal—sleep.

ooOoo

Draco watched as Harry’s breathing grew slow and even.  He raked a hand through his own silvery locks and set about preparing a bed for himself.  The bed Potter slept in was plenty big enough for two, but he sure as hell wasn’t going there.  He was still feeling a bit shaken by the kiss.  It had started as a playful game and then exploded out of his control.

A whisper of sound made him turn to find the fairy hovering in the room once more.

“Well played, handsome,” she said with a pert smile.  “You are as smart as you are beautiful.  How did you know a brotherly peck would not have been adequate to save him?”

“I didn’t,” Draco admitted.  She looked at him speculatively, but made no reply other than, “All gifts have a price.  I wonder if you will have the strength to pay for yours.”

Draco rubbed his temples.  He was far too tired to have esoteric conversations with ethereal beings.

“I wish you well, beautiful mortal. If you ever tire of the human world, we will welcome you in Faerie.”

She was gone.  Draco transfigured another mattress, tossed it on the floor, and collapsed on it.  A herd of centaurs could have broken in and neither of them would have awakened.

Chapter Seven

Draco woke sometime after dawn, still tired, but the hard edge of weariness had softened to a bearable level.  He rose and gathered firewood from a stash near the rear of the hut.  A fire was quickly laid and started in the ramshackle fireplace.  Draco could not hunt and had no fresh food to prepare, but he made some strong, hot tea and gratefully drank two cups.  He ate some dried fruit and cheese and grimaced when a twinge reminded him he had never tended the slash on his arm.

He hated to waste water, but he did not need the wound to get infected.  He poured some water onto a cloth and began to wash the gash.

Potter groaned and stirred.  After a moment, he sat up and blinked at Draco.  He slipped his glasses on and tried again.

“Good morning, honey,” Draco called companionably.  Potter flushed scarlet.  No question about the clarity of his memory, Draco mused.  At least in relation to the kissing incident.  Draco frowned.  Had Potter really kissed him back, or was his memory already changing with time?

Harry swung his feet off the bed and slid a hand through his hair.  Draco swallowed, recalling the silky feel of it.  Bloody hell, what was wrong with him?

“The tea is hot,” he commented and managed a fairly normal tone.  Potter padded over and knelt next to Draco, who poured him a cup.  Potter sipped it gratefully and wrapped his hands around the cup.  Malfoy noticed his cheeks were still tinted with pink.  He grinned sardonically and went back to tending his arm.

“I used to be able to heal something like that,” Potter commented.  Draco nodded.  Harry’s green eyes fixed on him.

“Want me to try it?”

Malfoy met his gaze.  He knew Potter’s powers were mostly gone, and healing magic was difficult.

“Knock yourself out,” he said softly.

Potter pulled out his wand and shut his eyes for a moment.  Then he took a breath and hovered his wand over the slice on Draco’s arm, which oozed blood now that Draco had soaked it.  For a long time, nothing happened.  Draco seriously did not expect it to, but then he felt something, as if a warm compress had been placed over the wound.  Draco watched in amazement when it began to knit together.

Harry sagged when it was done and his wand fell away.  Draco stared at him in surprise and Potter grinned.

“Sometimes it works.  Looks like today is a good day,” he said.  Draco looked at the wound.  It was jagged and raw-looking, but closed.  Draco raised a brow at Potter, impressed.  Harry’s eyes met his, glinting happily, and Draco suddenly felt like kissing him again.  He stood abruptly, disturbed by the thought.

“Eat something and we’ll get moving.  I want to get out of this damned fairy forest as soon as possible.”

Draco quickly dragged on a shirt.  He stowed his pack while Harry ate and soon they were shouldering their way through the forest, brooms in hand.

ooOoo

Harry followed Malfoy and tried not to notice how graceful the Slytherin was; Draco barely stirred a leaf when he walked and he stepped over fallen logs and skirted brambles like a creature born in the forest.  Harry felt slow and somewhat clumsy tripping along in his footsteps.

Malfoy slowed and looked back often to check on Harry’s progress.  Something had profoundly changed between them.  Harry found it hard to believe one stupid kiss could cause a complete shift in behavior, but he supposed it had been more than that.  Draco had saved Harry’s life—saved his soul.  That wasn’t something Harry could take lightly, but he had rather expected Malfoy to shrug it off.

If only Harry’s mind would stop backtracking to the kiss.  A dozen times, the question sprang to his lips to ask why Draco had felt it necessary to kiss him like that, but he did not want to hear Malfoy’s flippant response.  What did he want to hear?  That Malfoy had kissed him because he wanted to?  Because he couldn’t resist?

Harry cursed himself and tried to concentrate on his ultimate goal.  He just needed to get out of this ridiculous forest, find the Horcrux, and put Draco Malfoy behind him forever.

Malfoy pushed them relentlessly until after midday when he finally halted abruptly.  Harry ran into him.  They both went down in an unexpected tangle of limbs.  Harry sprawled atop Draco and their faces were inches apart.  Their breath mingled for a moment and Harry found himself marveling at the color of Draco’s eyes in the daylight—like the bright edge of a storm cloud touched by the sun.

A grin quirked Malfoy’s lips.

“As much as I might be enjoying this, Potter, we should probably continue on.”

Harry blushed scarlet and quickly pushed himself to his feet.

“You’re the one who stopped,” he muttered.  Damned Malfoy.  As much as I might be enjoying this.  God.

“True,” Draco said as he climbed to his feet and brushed himself off.  Harry reached out and removed a leaf that clung to Malfoy’s hair.  Draco froze at his touch for a moment, eyes wide, until Harry held up the offending object.  Malfoy’s silver gaze slid away.  “Thanks.  I want to test something.”

He barked a command and his broom suddenly hovered in midair.  Malfoy looked at Harry and smiled in genuine pleasure.  Harry laughed, so happy he could have hugged the Slytherin.

“We can fly again!”

“And eat,” Draco added.  “We can hunt now that we’re out of the fairy forest.”

“Forget it,” Harry said flatly.  “No more forest food for me.  Isn’t there a Muggle town nearby?  I want real food.  I’m starved.”

“You plan to walk into a Muggle town carrying two brooms and a sword?” Draco asked dubiously.

Harry smiled.

“Trust me.”

Chapter Eight

A small town was quickly reached and Malfoy uncertainly followed Harry’s lead, though he most likely kept one hand clutched around his wand in the pocket of his cape.  Harry did exactly as Draco had sardonically suggested—marched straight into town and stopped at the first open pub.

The barkeep looked at them curiously, but said nothing when Harry ordered two pints of best and sat down at a small table in the corner.  The barmaid was more talkative when she brought them their ales.  She looked from one of them to the other in approval.  Her eyes lingered on Malfoy.

“What’s with the brooms and capes, mate?” she asked pleasantly.

“Renaissance Faire,” Harry said.  “Car broke down.”

“Couldn’t you have left the brooms in the car?” she asked.

Harry snorted.  “You’re joking!  These are handmade, they are.  Impossible to replace.”

She laughed.  “All right, don’t get your dander up.  You need a lift back to your car when you’re done here?”  Her eyes sparkled suggestively.

Harry shook his head.  “Got a ride coming.  Thanks, though.”

She took their order and left.  Malfoy raised a brow at him as though impressed.  Harry grinned in an I-told-you-so manner.  They ate a huge lunch and drank far more than they should have.  Harry was in a celebratory mood after escaping the forest intact.  He had prepared for the journey by carrying both wizarding and Muggle money, so he paid for the meal and they departed, albeit somewhat unsteadily.

They meandered through the town a bit before heading out on what looked to be a little-used road.  They could not take to brooms until the danger of being spotted was past, which meant a quick walk to the far outskirts of the village.

“That barmaid wanted me,” Draco said suddenly.

“I thought you didn’t touch Muggles.  They’re tainted and all that.”

“I might make an exception for that one.  She was bloody cute.”  Draco slanted a silver gaze at Harry.  “Almost as cute as you, Potter.”

Harry flushed.  “Very funny.”

Draco laughed.  “It’s ridiculously easy to make you blush, you know?”  Draco reached out a hand and brushed a thumb across Harry’s cheek.

Harry knocked his hand away in annoyance.

“Are you drunk?” he asked sharply.

“No.  Just pleasantly tipsy,” Draco replied.  “Those Muggles make pretty good ale.”

Draco tripped suddenly and Harry instinctively caught his arm to keep him from falling.  He dragged Malfoy upright, though Draco’s broom smacked into the dirt.  Draco closed both fists in Harry’s shirt.  He swayed forward and Harry braced himself to keep them from toppling backward.  Malfoy’s lips brushed Harry’s neck as he leaned forward to whisper to Harry with a chuckle.

“I knew you’d catch me.”

“You are drunk!” Harry exclaimed.  Draco slid both arms around Harry’s neck despite Harry’s efforts to dislodge him.

“No, no, no.  I’m fine.”  Draco steadied himself and pulled back slightly to look into Harry’s face.  “Want me to kiss you again, Potter?”  His silver eyes sparkled with merriment and he smiled in wicked delight.  Harry almost smiled back—God, but Malfoy was irritatingly charming in this state.

“Of course,” Harry snapped, hoping to snap Malfoy out of it with sarcasm.  “I live to be kissed by you.”

Draco took him at his word.  He leaned forward again and clamped his lips to Harry’s.  His eyes opened in surprise—he hadn’t expected Draco to actually do it!  Thankfully, the kiss wasn’t as ravishing and molten as Malfoy’s last attempt—this was more of a sweet tease and Draco actually chuckled as he nibbled at Harry’s mouth.  Malfoy’s hands reached up to touch Harry’s face and his thumbs pressed the corners of his mouth.

“Loosen up, Potter,” he breathed with his lips still brushing Harry’s.  “Learn to have a little fun.”

His words jolted Harry more than Draco could have known.  Harry could not even remember the last time he had done anything remotely fun.  He scowled and dropped his broom, then grabbed Draco’s face with both hands.  If Malfoy wanted kissing, Harry would bloody well oblige him.

He slanted his mouth over Draco’s, which seemed to be what Malfoy was waiting for.  His hands twisted into Harry’s hair and his tongue began an assault that made his kiss in the forest seem like child’s play.  Harry felt reality slanting away as pure pleasure washed over him. His hands slid from Draco’s face into his silken hair as Harry was overcome by sheer animal need.  Part of him was screaming at the wrongness of it, but he found he didn’t care.  He wanted… he needed… god, he must be insane.  Draco’s mouth left his to blaze a wet path down Harry’s jaw to the hollow of his collarbone.  Harry shuddered.

Malfoy’s hands left Harry’s hair gently and gripped his shoulders as he pushed himself away forcibly.  He was panting, but he grinned weakly at Harry.

“I think that’s enough fun for one afternoon,” he said shakily.  He bent down and picked up his broom.  Harry drew a ragged breath and did the same in a shocked daze.  Malfoy started jauntily down the road and then glanced back briefly.  He paused, waited for Harry, and prepared to mount his broom.

“Hey, Potter?”

Harry reluctantly met the fathomless grey eyes, to find them gazing at him in perfect clarity.  A wide grin curved Draco’s lips.

“Yeah?” Harry asked.

“Malfoys never get drunk.”

He chuckled and soared into the air.  Harry felt pole axed.  The bastard had engineered the whole—!  Harry furiously mounted his broom and took off in pursuit.

Chapter Nine

It took Potter a while to catch him.  Draco made sure of it, figuring the Gryffindor would be rather annoyed.  In that, he was right.  Draco halted finally and hovered in the air.  When he glanced over, he met Potter’s stormy green eyes.  He smiled pleasantly.

“Why did you do that?” Harry demanded.

“Do what?” Draco asked innocently.

“You know very well what!”

“Because I wanted to,” Draco said levelly.  Harry flushed and dropped his eyes.  Malfoy waited, but Potter seemed at a loss for words.  Draco grinned.  If he’d known it would be so easy to disconcert his rival he would have started kissing Potter years ago.

“Behold, Norwich,” Draco said and waved expansively.  The city was visible on the horizon.  “Where do we go from here?”

Harry scanned the area.  “North,” he said finally.  “There’s a ravine…  I’ll know it when I see it.”

“Fly north, look for ravines.  You Gryffindors make such excellent plans,” Draco said.  Harry ignored him and took off.  Draco chuckled and followed.  For some reason, he was in an excellent mood.

They flew low and carefully in order to avoid Muggle onlookers.  Draco suggested waiting until evening, but Potter was afraid he wouldn’t be able to find what he sought in the dark.

Finally, they traversed a large sheep pasture and skirted the edge of a hill until Potter cried out, “There!”  He dropped like a shot to what looked like the crumbling remains of an old well.  Which turned out to be exactly what it was, Draco discovered as they dismounted.  Potter peered down into the darkness.

“What exactly is down there that would cause you to risk dryads, centaurs, fairies, killer canyons… and my company?” Draco asked.

Harry met his eyes soberly.  “The object that is keeping Voldemort alive.”

“I thought he was dead.”

“Gone, but not dead.  He reverted back to the vaporous state he was in during the first eleven years of my life.  I’d like to prevent his return.”

“Yes, that was quite annoying last time.”  Draco thought Harry might be a bit off his rocker, but he decided to humor him.

“Okay.  So, we go down into the well,” Draco said.  “Another delightful day in the life of a Gryffindor.”  He leaned over and cast a Light Spell.  It revealed nothing but stone stretching away into the darkness.

“I’ll go first,” Harry said.  Draco ignored him and hopped lightly into the hole.  He cast a Levitating Charm to slow his fall and then lit his wand again.  The well was hellishly deep and when Draco finally landed, he was hip deep in brackish water.

“What am I looking for, Potter?” he called.

“I’m not sure.  A passage, most likely.”

“Not sure,” Draco muttered.  “Lovely.”  He pressed on various stones.  After five minutes, he started losing the circulation in his legs from the cold water.

“I’m not finding anything, Potter!”  A stone hurtled down, barely missing Draco’s head, and splashed into the water.  Draco glared upwards.  “Bloody hell!  Are you fucking trying to kill me?”

“Sorry!  I’m coming down.  Ah… can you slow me down?”

“No, I’d rather you knock me cold landing on my head.”

The light suddenly blocked out and Draco quickly cast upward to slow Harry’s fall.  Potter splashed down next to Draco.  It was a tight fit, and dark again until Draco cast another Lumos.

“Okay.  So now we’re in a well.  Wet.  And cold.  Are you sure this isn’t just a ploy to get me alone?”

Harry pulled at his hair in customary annoyance and then spoke in a strange, hissing language.  Part of the stone wall fell away, taking the water with it.  A passage was revealed and the well water washing along the floor caused something to stir.  Draco stepped forward and brightened the light from his wand.

The entire place seemed to shift.

“Snakes,” Draco said, trying to suppress his horror.  The walls and floor were practically covered with snakes of all types and sizes.

“You’re a Slytherin.  I thought you liked snakes.”

“Not all of them at one time.”

A cobra reared itself and bared its fangs at them.  Others were slithering quickly toward them, stirred by the water, light and motion, no doubt.  Draco stepped prudently behind Potter.

“Fine, I admit it!  I’m a horrible Slytherin.  I hate those nasty, scaly, slithering, poisonous horrors.  The thought of actually touching one makes my skin crawl.”

Harry actually laughed, which annoyed Draco because it was definitely not the time for laughing.  Not when a horrifying mass of reptilian hell was looking at them with dead-flat eyes and pointy dripping fangs.

Harry talked to the snakes.  Draco had quite forgotten that Potter knew how to do that.  The reptiles halted and seemed to be listening to him.

“Voldemort put them here.  They’ve been breeding and feeding upon each other, unable to escape.  It’s horrible.”

“Horrible,” Draco repeated, although he didn’t really see a downside to having a large herd of venomous snakes safely contained in an underground pit.

“Can you free them?” Harry asked.

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Malfoy!” Harry snapped.

“All right, bloody hell.  But they had better not fucking bite me.”

Draco raised his wand and found the connected magical points in the room that contained the serpents like an invisible cage.  It was a simple matter to dispel them.  The mountain of snakes writhed and shuddered.  Almost instantly, they wriggled and slithered through holes and cracks in a mass exodus.  Some of them slithered past Harry and Draco and Malfoy found himself pressing close to Potter in disgust.  Harry chuckled, but thankfully made no comment.

When the chamber was empty of loathsome reptiles, Harry walked forward.  There were no exits from the room, but a few choice words in Parseltongue caused a section of wall to grate sideways.

Harry started forward, but Draco shoved him aside and pushed his way into the space revealed with lit wand held high. Harry followed, muttering.

They entered a large cavern with a small black pool in the center.  Beyond the pool stood a jutting pillar of stone from which a niche had been cut.  Resting in the recess was an object that curiously resembled an egg, although it was burnished silver in color and about the size of both Draco’s fists together.

He took a step forward and cast his gaze into every shadow, alert for anything.  There was an odd smell in the room and his instincts were screaming.

“Stay back, Potter,” he murmured.

Draco took another step and instinctively ducked when something launched itself at him from the upper reaches of the chamber.  A rush of wind lifted his hair and he felt the brief touch of smooth scales on his forehead as the creature passed over him.

What the hell was it?  A winged snake?

That seemed to be negated as the thing twisted in midair and sank sharp claws into Draco’s shoulder.  He yelped in surprise and cast Avada Kedavra at the thing, which released him and flapped away with a squawking hiss.

Great, a magic-resistant giant flying snake with claws. Occamy, he thought suddenly, recalling the name of the creature… but they were not usually resistant to magic.  Which meant Voldemort had altered it.  They were not normally venomous, either, but Draco could not count on that.

The creature attacked again and Draco slammed it into a wall with a sharp blast of force.  It recovered with lightning swiftness and flew at him.  Draco sidestepped at the cost of a slashed cheek.  Bloody hell, the thing was quick!  Draco followed the beast with several deadly spells that bounced off the scaled body.  One of them nearly hit Potter, who skirted the edge of the pond, heading for the egg.

“Damn it, Potter!  Can’t you wait until I finish this?”

“No… you don’t seem to be doing that well.”

“Thanks for the bloody vote of confidence!” Draco yelled as the creature swooped down on Harry.  Draco’s hastily shot spell deflected the Occamy enough that the claws missed Potter’s head.  Barely.  “Damn it, Potter, can you at least duck?”

“No problem,” Harry said and dove forward.  He reached the base of the pillar and sought for handholds.  His proximity to the egg seemed to enrage the Occamy, who dove at him again.

“Bloody, stupid, reckless Gryffindor…” Draco muttered and plunged into the water, shooting hex after hex at the reptile.  The creature’s fangs narrowly missed Potter’s head.  At least Harry ducked that time.  Draco’s spells finally seemed to irritate the Occamy and it launched itself in his direction—too fast!  The claws tore into Draco’s midsection and bore him down.  The pond was shallow—barely knee-deep, but his head went under water.  Draco held his breath and fought to push the monster away, but it actually lifted him from the water and bore him into the air.  He felt the claws tearing his flesh away with the movement.

Draco tried another Killing Curse while jabbing the wand into the Occamy’s open mouth when it tried to take a chunk out of his head.  The spell seemed to jolt the creature and it dropped him.  The world lurched for a moment, until Draco hit the ground and his breath left him in a painful whoosh.  He struggled to pull air into his lungs, but could not even scream when he felt the claws tear into his back.  In the next instant, fangs brutally drove into his neck and he felt blood spray across the side of his face.

Draco summoned all of his strength to roll over.  The talons tore free from his back and the wings flapped for an instant.  Draco gripped the creature’s neck when it reared back for another strike.  He forcefully shoved the wand down the Occamy’s throat and cast one last Avada Kedavra.  The creature seemed to radiate green from the inside out for a moment and then it lurched and fell over dead.

Draco sagged in sheer relief for a moment before he raised a hand and clamped down on his neck.  Blood streamed from the wound at an alarming rate.  He glanced over at Potter, who hefted the egg.  Harry looked over his shoulder at Draco.

“Malfoy!  God, are you all right?” he yelled.

Draco tried to reply, but a strange, peaceful darkness was slipping over him.  Potter leaped into the water and splashed through the pond.  The last thing Draco saw was Harry’s worried face.  Not a horrible sight, he thought, all things considered.

Chapter Ten

Harry was horrified at the amount of blood surrounding Draco.  He had been shredded front and back by the monster’s claws, but the neck wound was the worst.  It bled profusely.  Draco’s hand fell away as he slipped into unconsciousness and Harry pressed his own hand over the gash to curtail the bleeding.  He could attempt a healing, but by the time he managed it, Draco could be dead.

He glanced at the egg, which he had dropped next to Malfoy’s head.  There might be a chance… slim, but better than none.  Keeping one hand clamped to Draco’s wound; Harry lifted his wand and touched the Horcrux egg.  During the war, he had learned through trial and error the best way to destroy a Horcrux.  Even with his limited abilities, he felt he could manage it.  The trick was to use finesse, rather than force.  Thank god Hermione had figured that out.

He cast a Seeking Spell, looking for weaknesses in the protections surrounding the Horcrux.  Draco’s plight lent urgency to the task that he would not otherwise have felt.  Come on… where is it?

Voldemort must have been in a hurry when he had created this Horcrux.  Harry had nearly been killed destroying the Hufflepuff Cup; so many protection spells had been laced over and through it to guard the soul trapped inside.  This one had several spells, but they seemed weak.  Harry wormed his way beneath them, using his magic in a non-threatening fashion.  They were set to guard the egg from destruction—not inquisitive intrusion.

Once inside, Harry sought for stress points in the object itself.  In this case, it was an egg—bloody stupid move on Voldemort’s part, even if it was half silver—so fracture lines were natural.  Harry merely had to give them a slight nudge.

The Horcrux fell to pieces.

Instantly, a howling wind sprang from the object and the howl quickly grew to a scream of purest rage.  The wind swirled around Harry, picking up dust from the cavern and a spray of water from the pool.  It lashed them about them in a whirlwind.  Such had happened before with other Horcruxes, but Harry was staggered by a force that plunged into his body and knocked him sprawling over Draco.  He lost his grip on Malfoy’s throat and struggled to move through the immense tingling sensation that filled his senses.  Harry was blinded with a glare of white for a moment.  Then all was still.

Harry sat up, feeling oddly whole for the first time in… well, forever, it seemed.  Had his powers returned?  He pressed his wand against Draco’s wound and cast.  Harry felt immense relief when the gash began to knit back together cleanly.  Malfoy’s breathing was still shallow and the pool of blood beneath him was alarming.  Harry’s brow wrinkled in consternation.  There were simply too many wounds for him to heal.

He took a deep breath and reached down to lift Malfoy.  He braced Draco’s head against his shoulder and wrapped his arms around the limp Slytherin.  Harry centered himself for a moment and then cast another spell.

The whole room seemed to be enveloped in light for a moment.  Harry was awash with sensations—he seemed to hear the sound of chimes and smell the clean, heady scent of a sea breeze.  Power throbbed through Harry’s veins.  Light and warmth flowed into and through him and he channeled it into Draco, willing him to heal.

After a long while, the light dimmed and Harry found himself returning to normal—the impression of sound and scent died and the immense flow of power ebbed and faded.  He looked down and then tore open Draco’s already shredded shirt—to find Malfoy’s flesh smooth and unmarred.  He crushed Draco close in thankful relief.

Malfoy’s voice suddenly rumbled against Harry’s chest.  “I know you want me, Potter, but this is a terrible place to make love.”

Harry felt himself laugh aloud.  He released Draco slightly—enough to pull back and look into his handsome face.

“How did you do that?” Malfoy asked seriously.

“The same way I killed Voldemort—only in reverse,” Harry admitted.

“Did you lose your powers this time?”

Harry shook his head.

“No, I think I’m back to normal and Voldemort is gone for good.”

“Pity.  I… rather enjoyed… taking care of you.”

Harry smiled in disbelief.

“Seriously?”

“Yes.”  Draco grinned wickedly.  “You do realize you’re holding me in an extremely affectionate manner?”

Harry flushed, but it did not seem to be the wrong thing to do at all.  He lifted a hand to wipe the blood away from Draco’s healed cheek in a gentle caress and then slid the hand up to brush the ultra-fine hair back from Malfoy’s brow.

“Yeah, I realize that.”

He bent down and kissed Draco.  A small sound of surprise escaped Malfoy before his hand slipped up to caress Harry’s neck.  Harry deepened the kiss, marveling that Draco could feel so damned good and that kissing him seemed like the most normal thing in the world.

A long while later, they pulled apart.  Both were breathing hard.  They gazed at each other in mutual amazement.

“So, what happens now, Potter?” Draco asked quietly.

“Well, first we need to find a softer place than this damned rocky cave,” Harry suggested and then he laughed in astonishment.  “Are you blushing?  Draco Malfoy?”

“Certainly not.  I meant after that.”

Harry felt himself growing warm at the comment, but it was a nice, tingly sort of warm.  He smiled.

“I was wondering if you might want a partner.  For your escort service.”

“You mean… you and me?  Together all the time?  Day and night?” Draco asked, sounding surprised.

“Yeah.  Day and night,” Harry repeated suggestively.

Draco chuckled.  “I can live with that.”  He climbed to his feet and held a hand out to Harry, who took it.  Malfoy helped Harry stand and they started out.  “Of course, you’ll have to learn to take orders.  It’s appalling the way you don’t listen.”

“Wait, I said partner, not minion,” Harry protested.

“Partner.  Minion.  What’s the difference?”

“There’s a huge difference!”

“Maybe to Gryffindors.”

Still arguing, they left the dark chamber behind.

 

Author’s Note:  This was finally edited on 3/31/08 so I hope it's a bit cleaner than the original.  The sequel has not yet received the fine-toothed-comb treatment, so please bear with me...

Draco and Harrys' Escort Service, Sequel

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