Severus Snape tossed in his sleep, the last vestiges of a prophetic warning lingering on his tongue as he drowsily spoke the words. He could taste their cloying bitterness, just as he could the tobacco from his pipe. Together, the tastes threatened to sour Severus's stomach, and he woke with a start, clapping a hand over his mouth
A message, inked in scarlet and out of focus, was scrawled on the wall before him. Severus willed his churning insides quiet. A base instinct of fear grew. With lightning-quick reflexes, Severus grabbed for his wand and his monocle on the bedside table.
Placing the circular glass over his right eye, he read the message and nearly choked on a sharp intake of breath.
The stronger marked, a mix of bloods.
Our undoing draws nigh.
Out of the corner of his eye, Severus noticed movement. With a deft flick of his wrist, he hurtled the Killing Curse towards the window. The panes shattered and fell to the cobblestones. Laughter, not unlike a sidhe's shriek, rented the night air before disappearing on the wind.
Snape withdrew from under the duvet for a closer inspection. He nearly tripped on the gutted rat in his path. Picking it up by the scruff of its neck, Snape noticed the rat was missing a finger.
In its place, embedded in the soft grey pad, was a tiny clockwork hand.
Time Is On (Harry's Side)
There was love, there was hate, and then there was Draco Malfoy.
Harry observed the time on his alarm clock; 9:59 p.m. The inconsiderate arse was late, an hour to be exact. Harry was just about to close his textbook when Draco came strolling into the bedroom, a lop-sided grin on his face. One of these days, Harry would remember to have the locks and the wards changed.
"Ready to go, swotty? I believe there's a pint of bitter with my name on it. And I--"
Their eyes met only a moment before Harry returned to his studies.
"All right, so I'm a little late," Draco said, picking an infinitesimal piece of lint from his cashmere jumper. "I was delayed. Let's not make an issue of it."
The needle on Harry's phantom meter flickered. It was highly attuned to bullshit. "You're an hour late."
Draco pulled a watch from his trouser pocket and studied it a moment. "Fifty-nine minutes and fifty-eight point two seconds really. Since we're being precise."
Harry underlined an important passage in his text. The pressure with which he applied quill point to page made a scratchy sound. "You have a watch, and you're never on time. Why are you always late?"
Draco gave a half-hearted shrug of his shoulders, like being nonchalant was even too much work. "It makes the day go by faster."
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," Harry said, finally closing his book with a dramatic whoosh. His cat, Sir Reginald, took this as a sign his master wanted to play, depositing a toy mouse in Harry's lap.
"We going, then?" Draco asked with an exasperated sigh.
"I should study. Not all of us are at the top of our classes. Some of us actually open our books on occasion."
"I prefer the 'wing and a prayer' method to cramming myself." Draco straightened a cufflink. "Not even if I buy?"
Harry narrowed his gaze.
"Three rounds and…?"
Draco threw up his arms, exasperated. "Three rounds and a chip buttie. Happy, porky?"
Harry grinned. "Only if you choke yourself with that stupid, silver chain."
Draco rolled his eyes. "To the casual observer, it's silver. To the trained eye, it's electrum, and this was a gift from mother, so mind your attitude. Besides, how else am I going to show off my third-year Caduceus?" The twin snakes on Draco's charm hissed, darting their tongues out at one another. "Gets my dick sucked every time."
"That's just because they don't know you like I do," Harry said, tossing the toy mouse onto the floor. Sir Reginald padded after it, the bells under his chin tinkling. Harry picked up and smelt the first shirt in his path.
Draco followed, screwing up his face in disgust. "Hey, I took good care of you, Harry."
"Right, like you took really good care of Sir Reginald." He silently nodded his approval at the first shirt that didn't require a Freshening Charm. "You give up on anything that requires even a bit of work. That cat still hasn't forgiven you for dumping him on my doorstep."
Draco pulled the shirt from Harry's hands. "You're not wearing that. And rubbish, Reginald still loves me. Look-see."
The cat took a swipe at Draco when Draco came to pet him. "All right, so Reginald hates me. What's your point?"
"That it's nearly a quarter past ten, and we'll have a bit of a time finding a table?" When Harry held up another shirt, Draco stuck a finger down his throat and made a rude noise.
"Here," Draco said, removing his cashmere jumper. He tossed it to Harry. "I'll manage without it. You, on the other hand, need all the help you can get."
Draco grinned. "Here's hoping."
And they Apparated out.
The Olive or Twist was always busy on Wednesday nights. The University's fresh-faced made it their haven.
They found a table somewhere in the middle of things, close enough to people watch but far enough away from the usual drunkards to enjoy themselves. The bitter poured from rusty taps, the food was questionable and the service was at best inhospitable. Harry wouldn't have traded his pub for anything.
Draco's eyes followed a willowy blond to the loo. "Been at the books much?"
"Too much," Harry said with a deflated sigh. "I'm not cut out for Field Mediwizardry, Draco. Why is this even a required course for Aurors?"
Draco's gaze drifted over to a table housing a party of handsome students. "Not so. All it takes is a little persistence and my help."
"Yeah, and together with a Knight Bus token, that will get me nowhere." Harry took a long pull from his pint, spilling sloppily onto Draco's jumper.
Draco took the glass from Harry. "Hey, easy there. We have all night."
"Not with your flirtatious behaviour. I'll be lucky to get two pints down."
"Jealous much, Harry? I'm just looking. Besides, you were the one who dumped me. I believe that reinstates my shagging other men privileges."
"S'ppose, you're right," Harry said, waving the barmaid over. "What's going on with whatshername?"
Draco gave Harry a funny look. "Astoria. And nothing. Pans has had the sit-down with her, too. Told her I was so far in the back of the closet that I was with the Christmas presents."
Harry snorted. "Bit much, don't you think?"
"Not if it shuts her up about us getting married. Be nice if Pansy took her off my hands for the moment. That way I'd have one off my back and the other out of my hair. Besides, the only way I could get hard for Astoria would be with you standing behind her."
A warm, alcohol-induced tingle trickled up Harry's spine. "Is it any wonder I keep you about?"
Draco preened imaginary feathers. "What about the Weaselette? Who's she slumming with?" Draco's eyes flashed suggestively at the dark-haired bloke with the dick-sucking lips. As was Draco's luck, the student replied in kind.
Harry's eyes narrowed. "We parted on amicable terms. There's no need to be nasty on my behalf."
Draco stood, smoothing the creases of his button-down. "That's nice, Harry. Excuse me a moment, won't you."
"Fine, you shirt-lifting tosser, leave me to my misery. You could at least leave--"
Draco turned a moment and tossed two twenty quid notes on the table. "Don't wait up."
Harry exhaled noisily, blowing the overgrown fringe into his eyes. At least now, Draco wouldn't supervise his drinking. And just what did Draco think he was accomplishing? He couldn't pull better than Harry.
An hour later, Harry was barely cognizant, facedown in his food basket.
Draco lifted Harry's head by the longish ends of his hair. "Salazar's Scrote, I leave you for a short while--" Draco made a noise of disgust as he picked a chip off Harry's cheek stuck there with a smear of butter grease.
"Told you I was having a chip buttie," Harry said with an obnoxious burp. "I had a chip buttie, and you had a chipper butt." He snorted loudly which made the burp seem charming in comparison.
Draco rolled his eyes. "You're completely pissed, Potter." He wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulder and carried him out. "You owe me, you drunken sod."
Harry moaned at the feel of the chill breeze. "How was your blow job?"
Draco readied his wand and held onto Harry tightly for a Side-Along-Apparition. "He scraped if you must know. And he was a sloppy shoot. You'll have to polish my boots now."
"Like hell," Harry smirked. The cool air was somewhat sobering. "You really can't pull better than me, y'know."
"No, it would seem I can't." Draco said with a scowl and a flourish of his wand.
And they Apparated out.
Harry woke with a groan. His mouth was dry as if it was lined with cotton, and his temples were throbbing from an oncoming headache. It didn't help matters that his breathing felt constricted, Sir Reginald perched on his chest.
"What time is it?" Harry croaked, feeling blindly for his glasses. When he found them, he put them on hastily, reaching for the alarm clock. It fell with a thud at his clumsy grab.
Harry shooed Reginald away before reaching for the fallen clock. He felt an overwhelming draught when the coverlet slipped. Last night was a blur. How had he made it home in one piece? Why did he smell like chips and…
Why the fuck was he naked?
Draco was asleep in the bed next to him, facedown in the pillows and sighing softly. A peek under the coverlet confirmed Harry's suspicion. Draco was naked, too, damn him. In that legs akimbo, arse-up way he slept naked after an agreeable shag. Fuck.
Harry had vowed never to sleep with Draco again, and in a moment of drunken weakness, he had managed to further complicate their already complicated relationship. Harry was fuming. He found himself wishing for something to shove up Draco's perfect arse.
As if reading his thoughts, Sir Reginald came padding over to him, dragging Draco's pocketwatch with him by the chain. He dropped it in Harry's lap and proceeded to bathe himself noisily.
Draco opened an eye. "You needn't worry. I was a gentleman."
"Gentleman, eh?" Harry asked. "Then why am I naked?"
"I told you I was a gentleman," Draco said, rolling onto his side. "I didn't say what kind. What time is it?"
Thumbing the clasp open irritably, Harry replied. "It's after eleven. I have things to do. You can't sleep here--" Harry did a double take. "Hang on, why's this watch have a nought and a thirteen on its face?"
Draco tugged the chain through Harry's fingers. Inspecting it, he furrowed his brows at the discovery. "No idea. Nicked it from my old man. It's been in my family a while, though." Bored with the thought, Draco tossed it back to Harry. "What's for breakfast?"
Harry's stomach flip-flopped at the mention of breakfast, but he reasoned that some tea and dry toast might make him feel better. Harry was about to fling the coverlet aside when he noticed Draco was watching him. "Whatever's left in the kitchen," he said with a dramatic twirl of his finger.
"Oh, for Salazar's sake," Draco huffed. "It's not like I haven't seen your bits before."
"My bits are none of your concern now."
Draco's only response was to smile. And wickedly at that.
Annoyed, Harry rummaged through his tallboy for some clean clothes. He paused mid-dress to peer over his shoulder to see if Draco was still watching him. Much to Harry's surprise, Draco was busy threading a leg through his stylish underpants, unconcerned for anyone but himself. Harry was absolutely not admiring the curve of Draco's arse. Nor was Harry noticing the dimple winking at him from Draco's left buttock. Shit. He grabbed his wand and nearly skewered himself, distracted.
Harry's cupboards were mostly bare. He did manage to find four pieces of bread unscathed by mould and some leaves in the bottom of the tea tin. During the preparations, there were hardly ten words between them.
Unease settled in the pit of Harry's stomach. "We should talk…about last night." He sat across from Draco and stared sullenly, scraping the char from his toast. He wanted to clarify things, but he was silenced with a paper wall when Draco chose The Daily Prophet over conversation.
"Nothing to talk about. You needed my assistance last night. I gave it. Simple as that."
"It's just that," Harry began, fidgeting with the pocketwatch. "I don't want us to slip into our old routine."
"Won't happen." Draco turned to the Quidditch scores. The obits followed, as if to symbolise the death of their relationship. "I've moved on."
There was a hint of regret in Harry's voice. "Have you?"
A pregnant pause followed as Draco brushed the crumbs from his sweater. "It's what you wanted, isn't it?"
"Yes. No. I don't know. Maybe." Harry thumbed the glass encasing open, unable to settle on an answer.
"You've said it many times over. We're better off as friends. Shagging just gets in the way."
"Still want you," Harry said, barely above a whisper. His thumb came to rest on the zero as he closed his eyes. "Nought to thirteen. What is now and what has been--"
Draco dropped his paper. "What did you just say?"
"That I still wa--"
Draco gave Harry a funny look. "No, no, the other thing."
Harry depressed the zero angrily. "What 'other' thing? That you're a puffed-up, self-centred wankstain?" There was a click and a hatch opened up in the back of the watch.
"That's not what you said."
"It's what I was thinking."
"Right. More like you were wishing me flat on my back. My cock in your mouth. And be careful with that. It's an heirloom."
"Oh, yeah?" Harry said, lobbing it across the room. "Fetch."
They both looked at one another before going after it like they were vying for possession of the Snitch. Draco found the shell, but parts of its innards were missing. Harry held the small device in his hand triumphantly. Only when he realised what it was, did he blink in utter disbelief.
"Give it here, Harry. It's not to be trifled with."
"You knew all along, didn't you?"
"Yes. I wanted to fix things between us. At least, that was my original intention. But then-- You had the right of it, breaking things off."
"They were destroyed by the Ministry. All of them. Where did you get this?"
"I told you. It belongs to my father. Beyond that, I have no idea." Draco held out a hand. "Harry."
"It has three axes like a normal Time-Turner, but why does it have two hourglasses that crisscross?"
"I told you I don't know. Now give that device to me!"
"No," Harry taunted. "You give me the watch, or I'll chuck them both out the window." He dashed to the window as if to make good on his threat.
"Stupid, four-eyed arsewipe! You had to go asking questions about it."
"Well, you brought it."
Harry clicked the device back into place. "You wanted to change things between us?"
Draco nodded. "A month. A week. Fuck, even last night."
"So you could break my heart a second time?"
"It's not like that, Harry, I--"
"I wish we'd never agreed to a relationship."
The pocketwatch's hands began to rotate widdershins.
"Harry." There was a soft pleading to Draco's voice.
"I wish we'd never become friends."
The watch hands spun faster, continuing their backward rotation.
"Harry, please." The apple at Draco's throat bobbed.
"I wish we'd just gone our separate ways after Hogwarts."
Faster still, the hands counted back the hours.
"You don't mean that." Draco's voice trembled, teetering on the edges of grief and fury.
"Don't I? Truth be told, I wish we'd never met."
The watch hands blurred, moving faster than sight or magic could detect.
Draco's eyes widened, and the anger inside him swelled. "Fine then. I wish we never existed."
A flicker of light popped above Harry's head. Then another. Still another. A shiver ran the length of Harry's spine. Draco's face went ashen.
Sensing danger, Sir Reginald hopped into Harry's arms just as Draco latched onto Harry. The world around them was breaking apart, shapes and shadows appearing then disappearing.
Time whirred around them, faster and faster, busying itself with everyone but them. There seemed to be no end to the shifts as they travelled back through the years. The colours around them faded to grey, and one by one, their senses deadened.
A dizzying burst of speed preceded a sickening jolt. And when all fell still and silent, they were left standing on a deserted street lit by gaslights.
In a world that appeared far more wicked than their own.
The piercing blow of a whistle shattered their calm and seemed to bring the night to life around them. Sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing came flooding back, and the sensory overload was too much for Draco. He leant over some potted conifers and emptied the contents of his stomach, retching horribly.
Rustling noises caught Sir Reginald's attention, and he bolted from Harry's arms into an alleyway, jostling the pocketwatch from Harry's fingers. It rolled into the cobblestone street and lay there, sparking magic. Harry forwent its rescue and rushed to Draco's side.
"The watch, you idiot," Draco managed between retches. "Before it's--"
The whir of a motorbike engine caught their notice as it roared past. There was an awful crunch, and Draco groaned, triggering another bout of sickness.
"You were saying?" Harry winced.
Draco wiped his lips with the back of his hand. "Brilliant. Just brilliant."
Harry picked up the injured timepiece and cradled it in his palms, delicately poking at its jutting innards. "So much for the indestructibility of Wizarding devices. What's it going to take to fix this?"
"Nothing short of a fucking miracle," Draco snapped. He took a nervous look around. "Where are we?" He persuaded the watch from Harry's hands and wrapped it gently into his handkerchief, pocketing it.
"No idea. Can't be too far from home, though. Look." Harry pointed to the sky. Big Ben loomed in the moonlight.
"That merely confirms we're still in London. We might be years from home. Nothing looks familiar to me."
Harry glanced from one end of the street to the other. "Nothing looks familiar to me either," he confirmed.
Down the darkened corridor, Sir Reginald meowed, chasing after his prey. "Let's just collect that stupid cat of yours and get out of here." Draco delicately wrinkled his nose. "There's a stench to the air that's not quite safe."
They started down the alley towards Reginald when they heard a set of voices. The first was female, soft and pleading, followed by a series of Sectumsempras. Red light flooded the passageway. Harry was the first to draw his wand. He tensed visibly when a sickly green light followed.
"Filthy Muggle whore," came the highborn voice. "Spread your diseases in Hell." The stranger bent down and did something Harry could not make out from so far down. The man stood up and seemed to inspect his handiwork. He was just about to depart from the other end of the alley when Draco sneezed. Fearful, Harry fell flush against the brick of a nearby building, pushing Draco back with him.
"What are you doing?" Draco whispered, patting himself down for his wand. "There's two of us and only one of him. We can overpower him, and-- Shit."
"Shh," Harry whispered back. He placed a Disillusionment Charm on them.
The man walked towards them, his face hidden behind a steel mask. When he was just in front of them, he checked the time on his watch. His sleeve, ruddy with gore, fell back and the bottom edge of a skull burned with residual magic. With a loud crack, he Apparated away, and Harry dispelled his charm.
"Did you get a look at the Dark Mark? Death Eaters."
"No, not Death Eaters. Knights. Knights of Walpurgis. The predecessors of Death Eaters. Their Marks are only slightly different." Draco patted himself down again for effect. "I've left my wand back home. We've one wand between us. We'll have to stick close."
"Well, then I guess that leaves me in charge." Harry wanted to smile at that, but their situation was too grave for one-upmanship. "Death Eaters…Knights of Walpurgis. Makes no difference. They're all like cockroaches. Where there's one, there's sure to be a horde close by."
"Right, let's get out of here. We still need to figure out when we are."
"Hang on," Harry said, edging down the alley. "The woman."
"She's dead. You know as well as I do what that green light means."
The harsh tweet of the whistle was getting closer.
"Harry, you stupid fool. Come on."
Harry stood over the woman's body, horrified. She had been cut from stem to stern, some of her organs removed. Harry put a hand to his mouth to keep from vomiting.
Draco called after him again. "Harry."
Harry held up a finger to indicate he needed another moment. Slipping his wand through a belt loop, he knelt before the woman and closed her eyes. It was the least he felt he could do as she was beyond saving.
He stood and said a silent prayer, bidding her soul safe travels.
Harry whirled around impatiently, his wand falling with a clatter. "A little louder so the whole of Britain can hear you. What already?"
"We have company." Four constables held him at bay.
"All right, lads. Your story, one more time, from the top."
Harry regarded the Chief Inspector over the tops of his glasses. "Well, sir, we were on our way to uh, er--"
"To the pub," Draco concluded. "Rough day, you see. But we had to make a detour."
"Into an alleyway?" The Chief Inspector arched a brow in question.
"Well, you see," Harry began. "I had to uh--"
"Relieve himself," Draco said, wrinkling his nose a bit. "Whereupon we overheard a conversation. At first we thought it was just a couple having a knee-trembler. But then we heard her plead for her life. She was dead before we had a chance to intervene. Her killer ran off."
The Inspector's moustache twitched in disbelief. "And did you get a look at this killer?"
The two of them glowered at one another.
"Well, lads, which is it?"
"It was dark, sir. The man wore all black."
"And a steel mask," Harry added.
"Inspector Bell discovered no evidence of a third man on the scene. Mr James was found hovering over the body. Dumbstruck, I might add. Still consumed in the throes of rage?"
Harry stood, his chair scraping the floor with the force of his sudden movement. "THAT'S A LIE!"
"Inspector," Draco began. He gently laid a hand on Harry's arm and eased him back into his seat. "You recall the state of the body. Wouldn't his clothes be terribly soiled? Why, my friend here can't even have his tea without spilling."
Harry kicked Draco in the shin. The little prick had made him out to be a slob who couldn't control his bladder.
"True enough, I suppose," the Chief Inspector said. Though, he still didn't look convinced. "Might I add, your clothing style is unusual. Like nothing I've seen before, Mr Morehead."
A proud smile tugged at the corners of Draco's mouth. "Paris fashion. Hasn't quite made it here yet. Are we free to go?"
One of the four constables interrupted the Chief Inspector before he could answer. He stood and excused himself without warning.
Draco eyed the room inconspicuously to make certain no one was listening. "I can't believe you left your wand in the alley."
"I can't believe you didn't grab Sir Reginald," Harry said, gnashing his teeth.
"It's a cat, Harry. We're talking about your wand. What if it's not there when we go back?"
"It'll be there. Besides, I couldn't risk having it confiscated. Contrary to what you might think, not all of these policemen are Muggle-borns."
Draco looked bored. "And how do you know that?"
"When Constable Kensington fingerprinted us, I noticed his hands. Swelling of the digits. A green tinge to the nails. Pronounced veins. He abuses Polyjuice."
Draco tried not to appear impressed. "That a fact, Mr James?"
"Yes, it is, Mr Morehead." Now, it was Harry's turn to look unimpressed. "'Standard Book of Potions and Their Misuse,' page three-hundred and twelve."
"Christ, if you had breasts, I'd swear I was standing next to Granger. And they say I'm a shit influence?"
"Mr Morehead?" Harry repeated.
"What? It was the first name that crossed my mind. What every bloke needs; more head."
Harry was just about to speak, just about to protest that fact, when the Chief Inspector returned with the Superintendent.
"Evening boys, I'm Superintendent Smythe. You're free to go."
Draco folded his arms across his chest. "What? No apology?"
The Chief Inspector glared at Draco, pointedly eyeing the monogrammed 'M' on his cufflinks.
"I think that's fair," Harry said, taking Draco by the arm. "I seem to have dropped something in the alleyway, might we trouble you for an escort back and to an affordable inn?"
The Superintendent and the Chief Inspector exchanged glances before he agreed begrudgingly. His look indicated that he wanted to accomplish this quickly and quietly.
On the way out, something elementary suddenly occurred to Harry. They still had no idea when they were. Harry needed to know the date.
As if in response to his silent wish, Draco snatched a paper and a half-eaten sticky bun from the hands of a fresh-faced constable. "Need some real food," Draco said before tearing off the bitten end and taking a delicate bite.
As punishment for being an insensitive ponce, Harry made Draco carry Sir Reginald to the inn. The cat protested most of the way, and Harry knew that Draco's skin would suffer as a scratching post.
The walk to the Ten Bells was a relatively short one, and Harry was thankful for the prospects of a cold pint, a hot meal and a warm bath. He didn't know exactly how they were going to pay for the lodgings, but he was sure his agile brain could conjure up some idea by the time they made it there. There was no possible way to pass modern Muggle monies, and the laws of magic prevented its Transfiguration. Perhaps, Draco would have a solution.
They were gawked at, two strangely dressed boys and their cat. Quite a bit, in fact. And while it embarrassed Harry, Draco was pleased by the extra attention.
When they approached the bar, Draco handed Sir Reginald over to Harry, melodramatically brushing the hair from his clothes. Harry peered nervously over the tops of his glasses as the barkeep and the Chief Inspector whispered to one another. When they finished their conversation, they were both smiling. Neither of their smiles was inviting.
Harry stepped forward. He knew his offer of a promissory note was suspect, but in his defence, he had an honest look about him. Fuck's sake, he wore glasses and was carrying a large feline. "I'm told you can accommodate us, sir."
The barkeep spat into his towel to remove a stain from the glass he was drying. "As luck would have it laddie, I've a room to rent above the bar. Price is six shillings for the week."
"That sounds reasonable. I don't suppose we could leave with a promissory note until we're, uh…paid." Draco was quiet up to that point, finally whispering something into Harry's ear. "We're gentlemen, you see. I know it's customary."
The barkeep's moustache twitched. "Of course you are. Nigel?"
At the barkeep's calling, a burly giant of a man stood up from behind the bar. He had more muscles on his arms than he had teeth in his mouth.
"You have until tomorrow evening to get me my money, or Nigel here's going to hurt you." And if the barkeep's words weren't enough, Nigel smashed the freshly dried glass against his head, grinning like a madman. "I'll need some collateral, and don't even think to offer up that bloody cat, boy."
"Here," Draco said, unclasping his necklace and setting it down on the bar. "It's more than enough to cover a night's stay, a few pints and dinner. You'll have your money by tomorrow afternoon."
The barkeep picked up the necklace and inspected it. Satisfied, he motioned for Nigel to show them the room.
Draco had given Harry very implicit instructions not to disturb him for a few hours so he could try and fix the pocketwatch. When two hours had elapsed, Harry returned with dinner and two pints. His brow crept up into his fringe at the sight of Draco's cool analysis. He was staring at the pocketwatch, just inches away, as if willing the damn thing to fix itself.
"I'm here with dinner, and I've some ne--"
Harry was met with an irritated shush. "It's alive. I can hear its thoughts."
Harry flopped on the bed and kicked off his shoes. He was exhausted. "Fuck's sake, Draco, it's a pocketwatch. It's not alive."
"It is, I tell you. And it doesn't want to be put back together."
"Rubbish," Harry said, helping himself to a meat pie. "Did you get it back together or not?"
Draco stood, stretching. "Mostly."
"Mostly?" Harry peered over at the makeshift worktable. "Then why are there parts leftover?"
"Sod you sideways. I'm not a fucking horologist. There just are." Draco's stomach made a rude noise. "Meat pies?" he asked. His nose twitched hare-like in disgust. "This is the best you could do? I can't eat this. Transfigure it into capon or something edible."
"Capon? Just eat it, Draco. You're not going to die if you eat commoner's food."
Draco eyed the meat pie suspiciously before taking a bite. He made the weirdest expressions Harry had ever seen. Incredibly, one of them actually resembled Draco's orgasm face. The thought made Harry's stomach flip-flop.
Harry blanched a little. "We should, uh, discuss a plan of action."
"There's not much to discuss. Tomorrow, we'll find a buyer for these cufflinks, shop for new clothes, pay the barkeep and find this clockmaker." Draco held up the pocketwatch and snapped the lid closed.
"This clockmaker?" Harry asked. "You know who made it?"
"Well," Draco began. "Clock making is considered an art form, therefore--" Draco eyed Harry's half-eaten meat pie. "Are you going to eat that?"
Harry laid a hand over his stomach. "Ugh, help yourself."
Draco shoved the rest of the meat pie into his mouth with the heel of his hand. "Therefore, most horologists engrave their initials somewhere. There's an S on the back. I can't make out the first initial, though. Watch took quite a beating. Could be an R, or maybe another S. Hard to tell." He smiled. There was meat pie stuck to the fronts of his teeth.
"How do you ever manage to get laid?"
"You can't possibly think I'd behave this way in public. It's all for you, Harry."
"Lucky me," he grumbled, feeding Sir Reginald the scraps. Harry stifled a yawn. "Time for bed."
"Too right," Draco agreed, shedding his clothes. He slipped into the smallish bed starkers.
Harry shook his head. He carried the paper to bed and slipped under the duvet clothed. Unsurprisingly, Draco's arse made contact with Harry's hip.
"You never did tell me the date, Harry. Though, I'd estimate sometime between 1875 and 1890. Style is unmistakably Victorian." Draco rolled over onto his side at the rustle of the newspaper. He nudged Harry's thigh with his prick.
Harry lowered his gaze, his glasses slipping down the bridge of his nose. "16th November 1888. And don't get any ideas. If I have to draw an enchanted line down this bed, so help me Merlin--"
With an exasperated sigh, Draco flipped back over. "Can't blame a bloke for trying. Salazar's scrote, that's over ninety years before we were born. Anyway, couldn't we make our way to Hogwarts or something? There has to be someone who can help us on the odd chance that watch can't be fixed. We can't be stuck here forever."
"I've thought about that. But until we know more about where we're at and what we're up against, we're better off on own. Besides, we can use the time difference to our advantage."
"Suppose you're right," Draco said, batting the shabby pillow for comfort. "Don't forget to extinguish the light."
"I won't," Harry sighed. He read the paper until his eyelids grew heavy.
Sometime during the middle of the night, Harry was awoken by Draco's fearful whimpers. Reaching over, he took Draco's hand and drew tiny circles in the palm to soothe him.
Sir Reginald nestled between the two of them, curling up on the grisly front page of the daily. The cat nudged Harry's hand for attention.
Conditioned to oblige, Harry scratched underneath the cat's chin and whispered, "I'm scared, too."
Sebastian and Spencer Clothiers were reputed to have the latest fashions. Giving it a second thought, Harry thought it might be easier to Transfigure their old clothing, but Draco insisted that Harry allow him his indulgence.
"Sucks you had to sell your cufflinks," Harry said, kicking a stone. He felt guilty he had nothing of value to pawn. "Weren't they a birthday gift?"
"Were and will be again. I'll try and act surprised this time." The smile on Draco's face betrayed nothing.
"New clothes should lighten our moods."
"Merlin, yes. I feel positively grotty. Like I haven't bathed in a day."
"You haven't exactly," Harry chuckled.
Draco rolled his eyes. "Well stated, Captain Obvious." He held open the shop door. "Shall we?"
Two hours later, Harry and Draco emerged, looking quite unlike themselves. Smartly, yet conservatively dressed, they both wore fustian and corduroy waistcoats with corduroy trousers. Harry sported a four-in-hand necktie while Draco chose a more style-conscious Ascot. Unable to tame his wild locks, Harry wore a bowler hat. Draco, on the other hand, opted for no hat. It was something, Harry had overheard, about hats being responsible for premature balding that prompted his refusal. In charge of their monies, Harry counted the coins in his palm.
"That was a little pricey. We have a debt to pay, y'know."
"I'm well aware," Draco said, straightening his Ascot in a storefront window. "It was the best I could do. He wouldn't come down much. And you see, someone's being quite selfish with their wand."
Harry smirked. "Not my fault. So much for your superior Veela influence. What was it you said you were? One-sixteenth?"
"One-eighth. And if you persist in making fun of my Veela heritage, I will pee in that stupid hat of yours."
Draco steered Harry down Baker Street. "Not now, no. My bladder's not nearly as full as I'd like it to be." The dazzling smile that followed rivalled that of Gilderoy Lockhart's.
Harry quit while he was ahead.
They were about four blocks down Baker Street when Harry spied the Clocksmith's. "The Face and Hands Clockworks. Think that's the one?"
"Mr Sebastian did say this was the best place for watch repair. I suppose there's only one way to find out," Draco said, pushing open the door. The shop bell chimed their arrival.
A handsome man in his early twenties emerged from the back room. His smile was charming, if a bit toadying. "May I help you gentlemen?"
Harry started to speak, but Draco laid a hand on Harry's chest and pushed right past. "We are looking for the Clocksmith. Might that be you?"
"Who me?" the man laughed. False modesty poorly masked his arrogance. "Goodness no. I am his assistant. He is quite busy now. Is there something I can help you with?"
Draco smiled in that predatory way he did when he thought to exercise his Veela charms. "Maybe later. But it's imperative I speak with him."
Harry rolled his eyes and made to tinker with a mantel clock.
"That won't be possible, I'm afraid. Perhaps, if I knew more about the nature of your business?"
Draco took a few steps forward, leaning against the counter. "I really need to speak with the Clocksmith."
The man swallowed nervously, the apple bobbing at his throat. "I'll see what I can do." He excused himself and slipped through the door to the back, leaving it slightly ajar.
A sharp slap resonated from the opening followed by a succession of strident footsteps. Wiping his hands on his apron and looking quite homicidal was Severus Snape. The monocle fell from his right eye, and he bared a row of uneven teeth the colour of buttermellows. Spittle was hanging from Snape's jowls in rabid irritation.
Draco let his mouth hang open a second longer than was gentlemanly, but he was quick to recover. Harry, on the other hand…
There was a discordant clatter as the mantel clock crashed to the floor. If there was any chance for reasoning with Snape, it was lost in Harry's clumsiness.
"GET OUT! OUT!" Snape spat, threatening Harry and Draco with an accusing finger.
They left without so much as a protest.
The fool assistant followed. Presumably without his pay…or his bits.
When Draco returned to the room, Harry was pacing like a caged beast. "Where have you been?"
Draco put on his necklace, tucking it inside his shirt for safekeeping. "I was settling our debt with the barkeep, or had you forgot?"
Harry seethed in silence.
"Right, and I've just spent the remainder of our money on tonight's dinner. Shall we go a round at that?"
"We are screwed, you realise?" Harry groaned. "Snape is the Clocksmith, though I don't see how that's possible." Harry's stomach made a loud noise at the sight of food.
Draco sat down on the bed, spreading Stilton on a heel of rye. "Let's sit down and think this through."
From out of Draco's outstretched hand, Harry stole the piece of bread and popped it into his mouth inelegantly. "Go ahead. I'm listening." He allowed Sir Reginald to lick his fingers clean.
There was a moment of quiet disgust before Draco greeted the Stilton again.
"I think it's safe to assume we travelled backwards and sideways in time. Rare, but obviously not unheard of. We're in an alternate universe."
"Any chance Snape faked his own death and hid here?"
"As a monocled Clocksmith? That's not my godfather. There wasn't a speck of recognition in his eyes. He has no idea who we are."
"We'll need his help, y'know? To get back."
"I'm well aware. When we return tomorrow, leave everything to me."
"Right then, I'm having a bath," Harry said, nicking a larger piece of bread on the way out.
Draco's smirk was ingratiating. "Don't forget to wash behind your balls."
Not a moment later, the cheese wheel hit Draco in the back of the head.
That would teach that impossible arse.
Harry was still half-asleep when Draco dragged him back to Snape's shop. He shuffled next to Draco like a drunken Inferius, occasionally groaning for coffee or the nearest bed. Whatever Draco had said about catching Snape before hours had went in one ear and out the other. Finding the door locked, they rang the bell.
The assistant from the previous day answered their call, though Harry swore the man looked a testicle lighter. A polite argument ensued, and the commotion they caused brought Snape forward. Instead of the workman's apron, Snape wore flowing black robes. His smile brought Harry to life quicker than the strongest cup of coffee. The assistant fled in terror.
Draco cleared his throat. That was Harry's cue to fall back.
"You two again?" Snape looked pointedly at Harry, unblinking. "Come to break another clock, have you?"
"If you please, sir, we've come to talk business."
The thought made Harry queasy. It was something in the way Draco's words were both sweet and sour. Like the sickening taste of a blood lolly.
"Not here," Snape said, with a wary glance at the doorstep. "Inside." He turned on his heel, locking the door behind them with nothing more than a glance over his shoulder. Harry hadn't even spied his wand.
When they were far enough out of earshot, Snape paused, fixing them both with an indignant stare. "Speak."
"Bold move there, using your wand in front of strangers. How did you know we were wizards?" Draco began.
Snape folded his arms across his chest, stroking the tip of his wand with a finger. "I penetrated your friend's mind. Nothing too deep. I just skimmed the surface. I'm cautious, not invasive. For now."
Harry's stomach lurched at the implications. He sat down on a crate and removed his hat, setting it on the counter. His brow was dampened with perspiration. Harry nervously wondered how much Snape had seen. Draco continued, seemingly unaffected.
"My friend here would like to make recompense for his clumsiness by perhaps, replacing your assistant. He'll work for free until his debt has been paid."
Snape smirked. "Replace one bumbling imbecile with another?"
Harry made sure to note that Draco did not object to Snape's calling him an imbecile. Cheese wheels be damned, Harry was going to find something larger to strike Draco with later.
"I'll make certain he stays in line," Draco promised. "By staying on as your apprentice."
Snape's laugh was deep, resonant. "You're a little old for indentured servitude. Apprentices serve for a period of no less than seven years usually at the age of thirteen. You look to be in your early to mid-twenties."
"I'm a fast learner. And I'm good."
"And, not least, modest," Snape said, arching a brow. "You remind me of someone I know."
Harry nearly choked on his laugh. Snape glared down the long slope of nose at him.
"Let me see your hands, Mr--?"
"Black." Draco offered his hands without hesitation. "Draco Black. And this is Harry James."
Snape took the hands in his own, studying them. "Manicured nails, unmarred skin, not a day's worth of hard labour in your life."
"I'm not afraid to get them dirty."
Another laugh rumbled in Harry's chest, and he tried like hell to push it away. Luckily, Snape ignored him.
"We shall see," Snape tutted. "Be here at eight a.m. sharp tomorrow. If you, or your counterpart, are even a moment later, do not bother knocking on this door."
Draco laid a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Understood."
"You will address me as Mr Snape."
"Not 'Master Snape', sir?"
"Titles are merely conceits for self-important fools. One cannot master what one cannot control. Mr Snape will suffice."
Draco's face twitched cat-like, phantom whiskers his feelers for bullshit. Harry thought bemusedly that Draco must've learnt that from Sir Reginald.
"As you wish," Draco said.
"Now then, I've more important matters to attend to. See yourselves out and do not forget to lock the door behind you." And with one last scrutinising look at the both of them, Snape turned on his heel with a dramatic flourish.
They headed for the door. When they were outside, Harry exhaled sharply.
"Are you mental? Giving Snape false names?"
"Relax, will you. Snape's not going to go snooping about unless we give him a reason." Draco's expression tightened. "So don't give him a fucking reason, all right?"
"Fine," Harry said with a laugh. "It's just that your ego needs deflating now and then."
Draco took Harry by the arm. "We need to get moving. We can't continue sharing one wand."
"We have no more money. Were you going to pull one out of your arse?"
"No," Draco huffed. "I suppose I'll have to pawn my necklace again, because you own nothing of value."
A smile spread across Harry's face. "I own you."
"Correction. You did. And I may have owned you as well. On the odd days of the week."
Harry ran a hand through his hair. Just like he always did when Draco flustered him. He supposed he'd set himself up for that. "Fuck. Forgot my hat inside. I'll be right back."
"Hurry up, would you," Draco sighed. "We've a schedule to keep."
Harry treaded as light-footed as he could, assuming the quietness of a dormouse. He grabbed his hat, freezing in place when he heard voices. He cast a Sonorous and then lowered the volume with a Quietus Minima. For safe measure, he cast an Invisibility Charm.
"Do you think it's wise to trust them?"
"I don't, that's why they are in my employ. So I can keep an eye on them."
"But if they hadn't come back?"
"Then I would have tracked them down. The dark-haired one was fool enough to leave behind his magical signature on the clock he broke. A simple Scrying Charm would have sufficed."
Harry made a face at being called a fool.
"How much do you think they know? About the pocketwatches?"
"Nothing. For now. You'd do well to keep your eyes open and your mouth shut."
"But what of the prophecy? Shall we con--?"
"I will contact His Lordship when the time comes. Moreover, I have yet to see the telltale mark this prophecy speaks of."
Having eavesdropped longer than was safe, Harry turned to leave, the floorboard creaking noisily underfoot. He winced and took off at breakneck speed, practically crashing through the door. Wand hidden up his sleeve, he cast a hasty Locking Charm to reinforce the door. The adjoining alleyway provided ample cover to undo his Invisibility Charm.
Draco was across the street, fishing what looked like a discarded newspaper out of the rubbish bin.
"We need to get out of here now," Harry panted, grabbing onto Draco.
Draco was busily scanning the front page. "So let's go. We have lots to do."
Harry hurried them both along. "No, Draco, I mean now. As in today now. You need to fix that watch."
"You heard something, didn't you?"
"More than I should've."
"And they noticed you?"
"I was cloaked, so no. But they heard me, I'm certain. I cast a Sonorous and then counter-cast a Quietus to minimise the volume, but it must've echoed my movement."
Draco sighed. "Fucking brilliant, Potter. Have I told you lately that you are pants at stealth without that stupid Cloak of yours?"
"Just-- Let's get working faster."
"Right," Draco said with another sigh. He dropped the newspaper into the rubbish bin. The letters that made up several headlines rearranged themselves.
Harry and Draco continued arguing, too caught up in their own machinations.
Across the street, a paperboy sang out the day's headlines.
"Another woman found gutted in Whitechapel! Killer still at large!"
The rest of their day had gone by smoothly, Harry mused, as he glanced around the Bells. They'd taken a walk along the Thames to clear their heads. They'd procured a new wand for Draco. They'd splurged on shoeshines. They'd enjoyed six pints between them.
Only one thing was scratching at Harry's brain.
"So, um." Harry said, removing an undercooked carrot from his stew. "You just found the five pound note?"
Draco licked his lips. "Some luck, yeah?"
"Oh, yeah, that is some luck. Five pounds. That's, wow… That's like more than a month's salary for the working class."
Draco took a long pull from his pint. "About that."
Harry was definitely calling bullshit. He slingshotted the carrot at Draco with his fork. The carrot landed squarely in Draco's lap.
"Would you please stop throwing food at me?"
Harry watched with a smirk as Draco's nostrils flared and his cheeks pinked in annoyance. Draco's anger had the opposite effect on Harry. It made Draco a little less repugnant to see him knocked down a peg from Godlike to human.
"All right, so I may have come across it by means other than--," Draco paused, searching for the right word. When it didn't come, he shrugged.
"You lifted it, you prick." Harry drank deep from his pint, as if to drown the severity of his words.
Draco made a face at his bowl's watery contents. "Yeah, I did. Look, that smarmy bastard I lifted it from was probably going to spend it on a knee trembler with some cheap whore. He should be thanking me for saving his dick from certain death."
Harry drained the last of his pint, wiping the spill from his lips with the back of his hand. "That is the pure-blood way of thinking, isn't it? And no calling change of subject."
Draco nudged his stew at Harry and buttered a heel of bread. "You're going to need that to coat your stomach if you plan on drinking through the evening. And change of subject."
"Fine," Harry said, even though things between them were not fine. "Shall we talk about how we really shouldn't go back tomorrow?"
"We have to. We have no choice."
Harry tucked into his stew. "Why?"
"Because we have an arrangement with Snape. And because this," Draco said, setting the pocketwatch on the table a little too loudly. "Is irreversibly broken."
Harry waved the barmaid over for another round. "Wait a minute. A moment ago you confessed to lifting a fiver from some rich tosser. And now you're bent on honouring our agreement with Snape?" He hid the watch with his hand when the barmaid obliged them.
Draco ordered tea for a nightcap. "Yes. And?"
"That doesn't make sense. And please, Draco, spare me the 'you wouldn't understand' shit."
"Well, you wouldn't and besides, we need Snape for the parts and the blueprints. I'm building another pocketwatch."
"Oho? Since when?"
"Since he's not going to just give us one."
Full, Harry shoved the bowl aside and went back to enjoying his new pint. "And you think this is going to be easy building such a device, do you? I'd imagine there are complicated Tempus Charms involved layered with more Tempus Charms interwoven with still more Tempus Charms. And his notes are not just going to be lying about. Provided he even has any."
"Need I remind you, Mr Sectumsempra, that Snape's not as secretive with his inventions as he is with his loyalties. If he has notes, I will find them, and I will decipher them." Draco stood. "Come on, we should get a decent night's rest. We have a long day ahead of us." Draco contemplated the dregs in his cup and arched a pale brow.
"What?" Harry asked. He finished his pint in three swift gulps. He stood with a slight wobble.
"Nothing, I just thought I saw-- Never mind. Salazar's sake, Potter, are you drunk?"
"I might be." A hiccough followed. "A bit."
"So help me, if I have to carry you."
Harry's brain felt waterlogged, and his back teeth were practically floating. "No, but I could do with a bit of a lean on."
"All right," Draco huffed. He helped escort Harry out to the jeers of some of the patrons. When Harry flipped them two fingers, some of the older men blew them congratulatory kisses.
Once inside their room, Harry fell slack against Draco. Harry inched his way up Draco's body and dug his fingertips into Draco's shoulders for support. He held Draco's gaze for a moment before Harry leant in for a kiss. Draco turned his head.
"Your breath smells like an arse and cheese sandwich, and you're drunk."
"Fine. Whatever," Harry sulked. He slid down Draco's legs and landed in a heap on the floor. "I'll just suck you off, then."
Harry fumbled with Draco's flies. He curled warm fingers about the soft flesh of Draco's foreskin.
Draco shifted his weight to his knees, resting his hands on his buttocks. He pushed his groin forward.
Harry pleaded. "Hands. Hair." His stomach tightened in anticipation.
Draco's hands hovered above Harry's head. He moaned in approval at the tentative arch of Draco's fingers.
A tiny voice inside Harry's head was screaming you're a drunken cockslut. A tentative tongue snaked between red, swollen lips.
Draco pushed Harry away with a growl. "Fuck, I can't do this. Fuckfuckfuck!"
"Oh, God," Harry whimpered. He clung to Draco's ankles.
"Christ. Don't tell me."
Harry retched. A warm splash wet the tops of Draco's shoes. Harry collapsed there with a groan.
It was, perhaps, the devil-come-lately in Harry that permitted Draco to attend to him. But the pointy bastard took great care in cleaning Harry up and seeing him to bed. Harry wasn't for certain, but as Draco spooned against him and closed a hand about his, Harry thought he heard Draco mumble; "You're an arsehole. Except for the times when you're not an arsehole."
Harry woke with a groan. His temples throbbed when he moved his head, and the bright flash of the morning sun made him about as light sensitive as a vampire. He, in fact, hissed and bared his teeth when Draco opened the curtains. "What time is it?"
"Seven a.m. Time for you to get your arse up."
Harry threw the duvet over his head. "Twenty more minutes."
"No, now," Draco said, dripping shaving cream on Harry's face.
Harry sat up and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Why did you let me drink so much last night?" He fumbled on the bedside table for his glasses.
"Shut up and get dressed. If you hurry, we can make a stop at Slug and Jiggers. Though, it's only fair I should make you suffer for vomiting on my shoes last night."
Harry stumbled out of bed, searching for his clothes. He needed to Transfigure them; a different style, fabric and colour. It was an easy alternative to wearing the same clothing every day without the unnecessary spending. "I made myself sick? Christ, tell me that's the worst of it?"
Draco's smile was that much more sinister in the cracked cheval glass. "I'd just be lying."
Harry stepped into his trousers. "Listen, Draco, it didn't--"
The straight razor scraped alongside Draco's cheek. "Mean anything? Yes, I know. Consider it forgotten." He finished up in a few more strokes and wiped the excess cream from his face. Stroking his chin, Draco smiled at his reflection in admiration. "What do you think?" he asked, turning around.
"My grandfather Abraxas wore sideburns. I think they make me look distinguished."
Harry did a quick comb-through with his fingers before putting on his hat. "If you say so."
"I know so. And at least I don't wear a hat to hide a flock of nesting sparrows. When was the last time you properly tamed that mess?"
Harry patted Draco's shoulder. "I've never seen someone so fond of hair growth. Did mummy bronze your first pube?"
Draco did a little patting of his own, caressing his Mokeskin pouch. "Just for that, no hangover potion."
Two fingers preceded a tongue-out. Harry made a face. His mouth felt as though Sir Reginald had used it for a litter box. He'd make do with a Breath-Freshening Charm, but not before he kissed Draco. Full on the lips.
Along the way, they stopped at Bartlett and Bartleby Silversmiths and did a bit of window-shopping. Harry watched as Draco stared wistfully at a dragonhead walking stick.
"I could get used to this, you know. The style, the sense, the era. Frock coats were made with Malfoys in mind."
"You mean you'd stay if you could?"
"I'd consider it. You wouldn't?"
"Draco, I have a life back home. Friends, family. And so do you for that matter."
"I know. I just--" The second look was just as longing.
"Never mind," Draco said. He delicately dotted the tips of his fingers with saliva to smooth a sideburn. "Snape's expecting us."
Not ten minutes later, they found themselves under the scrutinising gaze of the hook-nosed bastard. Per usual, he was dressed all in black. And so he would remain, until they invented a darker colour.
"Well, well, look what the Hippogriff's dragged in." Snape mocked. "And on time. Come, we haven't a moment to spare. There are papers to sign and wages to discuss. Follow me."
Harry and Draco followed Snape to a small antechamber off the back room. There wasn't a chair to be found, and by the looks of things, Snape was going to make them stand for his hour-long diatribe. It was unbearably stuffy in the back, and after thirty minutes, Harry found himself yawning. It was only after Draco had discreetly heeled Harry's instep that he snapped to.
Snape, of course, did not miss a trick. He leant in close and burst Harry's bubble of personal space. The breath under Harry's nose was warm and stale. He coughed in spite of himself.
"Mr James, you will work for free until your obligation to me has been satisfactorily met. After which you will earn one pound per week. Both your dues will be paid in Muggle monies, and any business you wish transacted at Gringott's will be on your own time. Room and board will be included in your salary. I highly suggest you make use of the flat upstairs. There's a slight roach problem, but the doxy infestation should take your minds off that. Questions?"
Harry opened his mouth to say something, but was cut short by Snape's withering look. The telescopic view into Snape's soul blurred when the greasy bastard let the monocle slip from his eye. Harry gave a slight shiver as Snape handed him a special quill to sign the work papers.
"No questions?" Snape drawled, passing the quill to Draco. "Excellent."
Snape took Draco by the arm and departed with a sickening smile, leaving Harry alone with Snape's assistant. The hard, flat t of Snape's disapproving excellent could still be heard long after they'd vanished from sight. A hand curled around Harry's shoulder, the fingers tightening in mock concern.
Now that Harry was faced with the prospect of spending some quality time in the man's company, Harry gave him a stern reassessment and decided that Snape's assistant was what Harry would best describe as a smarmy twat. Nicholas Darling had eyelashes longer than any bloke had a right to and cheekbones so sharp they might be classified as lethal weapons. But that wasn't the worst of it. Darling had a 'to do' list so long it hit the floor and rolled away for parts unknown.
Darling ran Harry ragged, up to and straight through a lunch break Harry had hoped he might share with Draco. But there were invoices to be stamped and sorted, customers to be helped and communications to be answered. Muggle parcels were hand delivered while Wizarding posts were sent by mechanical owl. There was even a small rookery up top to house them, obscured with a brick chimney Glamour.
After what seemed like forever, the corner longcase chimed seven times. The day was at a close, and Harry could scarcely think of anything beyond relocating from the Bells and tucking into some dinner. He wondered how exhausted Draco would be having spent the day under Snape's tutelage. Harry thought for once he might have been the luckier sod until he saw Draco, looking just as fresh-faced and as wide-eyed as he did eleven hours ago. Harry pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose angrily, using two fingers to emphasise his point.
"All right, then?" Harry asked.
Draco polished an apple on his coat lapel and smiled. "Fine, just fine. You've some blisters on your fingers."
The subsequent crunch made Harry's stomach rumble, and he imagined the juice on Draco's lips to be blood from a sucker punch. "Lookit, while you were somewhere schmoozing Snape, I was busting my arse out here on slave labour."
The look Draco gave Harry would've singed the whiskers off a Chinese Fireball "Schmoozing Snape? Don't make me laugh. And while you were doing nothing of importance, I was procuring this." A small key made of clock gears dangled from Draco's fingers
"Only the key to Snape's precious shop."
Harry took the apple from Draco's hand and made a glutton of himself. Well, he thought between inhales, Draco was apparently good for something, the rotten, pointy git.
Time Is On (Draco's Side)
Draco was certain his brain would've short-circuited by night's end. He'd spent the entire day in Snape's company, and what he needed now was to dumb down his cerebral processes for the evening before he started spewing prophetic Arithmancy algorithms.
As it turned out, conversation with Harry was perfect for such a thing.
At least it gave him something to do whilst he and Potter cleaned up years of disgusting foulness.
Snape had greatly exaggerated the habitation conditions in their favour. One Lumos sent countless roaches skittering across the floorboards. Rat droppings covered almost every surface, and the doxies looked like they were about to stage a coup. This was going to take them hours, days if Draco had anything to say about it.
No wait, he thought, what reason had he for boorish internal monologues? He should act in accordance to his station, even in his head. He never spoke or thought like this before, not until Harry entered the picture. And just look at the silly berk smiling benignly and making the best of shit situations. Why did he bring out the best in Harry when Harry brought out the worst in him?
Draco paused, certain he'd heard a synapse crackle. He pinched the bridge of his nose to try and suppress the oncoming migraine. Too late, Harry spoke.
"So, um, Snape just gave you the key to his shop? What aren't you telling me?"
Draco grimaced as roach armour crunched underfoot. An agitated flick of his wrist sent a particularly brutal Scourgify hurtling towards the bed linens. Sir Reginald, who'd been dozing there peacefully, protested his departure with a hiss. "What? You think I'm keeping secrets from you? We worked. He hummed something I recognised from a long time ago. We ate mushy peas in silence. He might've mentioned what an idiot you were."
A cyclone of dust was swallowed up by Harry's spell. "You bonded over mushy peas and lullabies? How sweet! Any why in Merlin's name were you two even discussing me? I don’t think I like that."
"Christ, you're jealous that Snape likes me over you."
A cooperative spell banished the last of the doxies. Harry sat down on the bed exhausted. "Don't be ridiculous. I may be jealous of the fact that you don't suffer allergies or have sneezing fits that last ten minah--"
Draco counted patiently back from ten. He tried to reason his panic attacks were just as annoying.
"Or that your arse is so tight you could bounce a Galleon off of it. But I could care less that Snape likes you better. I just want to know why he entrusted you with the key to his shop. I suspect an ulterior motive."
Draco flopped down on the bed next to Harry, yawning. "Ulterior motives are like arseholes. Everyone has them. I suspect Snape's will come to light sooner or later. But I'm not fool enough to question his logic, so let's just drop it, all right?"
"Fine," Harry said, joining in the chorus of yawns. "I'm starving. What are we doing for dinner?"
"I'm too exhausted to eat. Think there's another apple in the pocket of my coat, though."
The bed creaked as Harry stood. "I'm so hungry I could eat an entire cow including the moo."
Draco smiled. Harry did have his endearing moments, he supposed. Waiting for his body to wind down for the night, Draco folded his hands behind his head and started to organise his thoughts, outlining the more important ones. His eyelids were growing heavier as he arranged his thoughts by sets and subsets. Curiously, though, he felt a shadow creep past. One eye popped open. Harry was standing over him, lips aquiver and wand trained at the corner.
"Don't. Fucking. Move."
A black, bat-like creature emerged from the corner angle, flicking its hollowed tongue in a gesture of mocking. Harry fired off every known defensive spell, circling as the creature traversed the shadows. When Draco finally drew his wand, the creature retreated to the adjacent corner, leaving a trail of ichor behind. Before Draco could utter a word, it was gone. The ethereal fluid slithered along the cracks to form its cautionary tale.
I'm the Hand of Tindalos.
Bleak Kali, dance on Shiva
Send forth the demon host.
For when you play with history
And cause a paradox.
It shall be from ME you flee
Like rabbits from a fox.
Time must be inviolate
And history, unflawed.
You say that I am wicked?
I say that I am Law.
Draco's heart felt like it had stilled a moment before it began to beat again with the thrum of a scattershot snare. His hand shook as he cast an Evanesco at the blue ooze. He stared at a knothole in the floorboard, mentally willing his nerves away.
Harry broke the icy silence. "That was completely mental. What was that thing?"
"No idea, but I'm certain it will return. That was merely a warning. I-I'm sorry I wasn't quicker. I'm just so--"
"Tired," Harry finished. "I know. You go on ahead and get some rest, and I'll keep watch. Just in case."
Draco kissed Harry's cheek in thanks. He slipped from his clothes and crawled into bed, watching as Harry stood vigil.
As his head hit the pillows, Draco smiled at the thought of Harry having his back. That smile widened, however, at the thought of Harry having his front.
Draco was almost finished fitting together a pair of gears. It was delicate work, and he imagined himself a skilled surgeon, removing a blood clot or repairing a severed artery. Perhaps, even saving the Minister's life. Just a few more adjustments with the tweezers, and--
The tome hit the worktable with a great thwump.
"See here. The Hounds of Tindalos."
"Christ, could you please get that out of my way?" It was not a request.
And it was just like Harry not to listen.
"Don't get your knickers in a twist. This is more important. I've been doing some research on that creature from last night."
Draco folded his arms across his chest. "Well, now that you've interrupted my work, let's hear it."
Harry's finger travelled along the page. "The Hounds of Tindalos are said to inhabit the angles of time, whereas humankind and all other creatures common descend from curves." His lips moved in silence as he read along the less pertinent snippets of information. "Once a human becomes known to one of these creatures, the Hounds of Tindalos will pursue in earnest and do anything to reach their quarry. One risks attracting their attention by travelling through time."
Draco sighed. "This little voyage in time just keeps on getting better and better, doesn't it? It was a mistake to bring that watch to your place."
Harry slammed the book closed, disturbing a pile of semi-rolled parchments. "You think?"
"Well, you touched it first."
"Well, you were going to touch it before me."
They glared at one another competitively before Draco looked away in disgust. Normally, he took great pride in winning, but today he just couldn't be bothered. "I need to get back to work. Don't you still have things to do? I saw the length of that list. You could bandage a mass of mummies with it."
Harry snorted. "I'd love to wipe my arse with his list."
An obtrusive ahem rented their calm before Snape's shadow darkened Draco's workspace. Draco bowed his head the moment he fell under Snape's watchful eye. Harry could have his hollow victory and the arse-chewing honours.
"Mr James, what's this I hear? You've finished my list? I marvel at your expediency, truly."
"It's five minutes to close, sir," Harry answered.
Snape tutted. "Is it? Not by my time. Did I not specify that closing occurs when all assigned tasks have been completed?"
"Didn't I?" Snape bent so close to Harry's ear that even Draco could smell the sarcasm on Snape's breath. "Well, then let me make myself perfectly clear. Slowly, so your addled brain has time to catch up. You. Will. Not. Leave. This. Establishment. Until. You. Have. Finished. The. Day's. Tasks. Is. This. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Harry answered through gritted teeth.
Draco made a mental note to laugh at Harry later. Nobody. Enunciated. Their. Words. Quite. Like. Snape.
Harry was still mumbling imprecations under his breath when Snape levitated a box before him. "You will separate the 6s from the 9s, Mr James, and you will do so without error." A cloud of dust encircled Harry's head at touchdown. "Mr Black, you will supervise his progress. You may lock up once you have finished and not a moment before. Good night, gentlemen." He disappeared into the back with a satisfied smirk.
Draco breathed a sigh of relief.
"That utter, oily bastard!" Harry growled. "Separate the 6s from the 9s? They all look alike!"
Draco laughed. "I think you're missing the point. Far be it for me to question his reason. Do you think it's possible that there's a universe in existence where Snape doesn't despise the very sight of you?"
"Sod you sideways, Draco."
Despite the cheap theft of one of his better insults, Draco remained stone-faced.
Harry was the first to crack a grin. "Touché, you've won that round."
"I shouldn't offer, really, but it's painful watching you flail about helplessly. Here," Draco said, pushing Harry aside to make room for himself.
They worked together until the longcase chimed half past eleven, puzzling out the last of the numbers.
"That's a nine."
"No, it's a six. There's a ledge, see. For a speccy git, you're sure blind."
"Oh, ha ha," Harry said, removing his glasses to rub at his tired eyes. "We've been at this for hours."
Draco stood up to stretch. His bones creaked in protest. "You're telling me? Imagine where you’d be without my help."
"Somewhere on the fringes of insanity. I've had it. I give up."
"I could use a drink myself."
"Best thing you've said all night," Harry said. "Wonder if the slave driver keeps something in the back?"
Draco laid his head down on the worktable. "You go look. I'm too exhausted." He tried to get at least five-ten minutes of shut-eye before Harry returned, but there was far too much shuffling about. He stiffened suddenly at the crashing of bottles, wrenching his neck. Harry was giving him a massage later like it or not.
Harry emerged from the back victorious, a fat-bottomed, dusty-labelled bottle in his arms. There was a fine sheen of sweat dappling his brow.
"What was that crashing noise?" Draco asked with a groan.
"Just a few inkpots. It's too bloody hot back there. I'll clean them up later. Look what Snape had lying about."
Draco arched a brow. "Absinthe?" He tapped the bottle with his fingertips. A flutter rose to the surface. "There's a faerie inside as well."
"What do you suppose the label says? It's not in any language I've ever seen."
Draco took the bottle from Harry for closer inspection. "Looks like Veela to me."
"It's in Veela?"
"Think I would know."
"Yeah, but you're only one-sixteenth."
"One-eighth," Draco hissed. "And I warned you. I'd keep an eye on that ridiculous hat of yours."
"What exactly does it say?"
Draco pushed Harry away at the chest two-fingered. "Salazar's scrote, give me some breathing room. And please try sweating in a different direction."
"Sorry, it's hot back there. Well?" Harry pressed.
"It says Drink Me."
Harry reached over and unstoppered the bottle. "No time like the present." An awful screeching noise sliced through the quiet of the room.
Draco clapped his hands over his ears. "Stopper that now!" he shouted over the din.
Harry shoved the cork back in the bottle's mouth. "What the hell was that?"
"If faeriespeak is anything like Mermish, then we're incapable of understanding their language in its purest form. That note is no coincidence. We're meant to drink that absinthe. Here, let's have the bottle."
Harry handed Draco the bottle without preamble, uncorking it for him.
Shooing the faerie aside, Draco took a long pull from the bottle. The world around him submerged into verdigris, and he struggled against the sink or swim feeling overwhelming his senses. The faerie's shrieks softened into lyrical verse, and the taste of wormwood bittered the metallic tang of brass on Draco's tongue. He tipped his head back for a second pull, but was intercepted by Harry who drank twice as deeply.
The faerie perched on Draco's shoulder, preening her wings.
Below the tangle of the wormwood's roots
Below dashed hopes and abandoned dreams
A place that seethes with screams and steam.
The longcase chimed the witching hour, breaking them from their stupor. Draco sneered at the flirtatious she-devil on his shoulder, attempting to shrug her off like a pirate would an incorrigible parrot. With teeth as sharp as sewing needles, the faerie bit into Draco's neck, leaving twin puncture wounds. He gingerly dabbed at the blood with his fingertips, leaving the clean up to Harry.
"C'mere you," Harry snarled. He caught the faerie's wings with a Snitch-like snare and dropped her back into her bottle. She flashed them an obscene gesture with all the sauce of a drunken sailor. "Don't think she likes us much."
Draco cursed at the blood on his fingers. "She can hate us all she likes so long as she serves a purpose."
"Any idea what she was trying to riddle out?"
"Not what but where. And that, my dear Harry," Draco grinned, throwing an arm around Harry's neck. "Could only be beneath the streets. No Underground here, I'd wager. Not like back home. Just a labyrinth of steam tunnels."
Harry disentangled himself from Draco. "Problem being, how do we get below?"
"So glad you asked that." Draco's smile was ingratiating. He was still floating on a cloud of poison green. And to further prove this, he dragged Harry into the backroom by his shirtfront.
"It's hot back here," Harry complained.
Draco brandished his wand and pointed it at the floor. "Precisely my point. Revelio!"
Borromean rings appeared on the floor bearing the words tempus rerum imperator. One by one, Draco blasted the floorboards away until a sewer grate appeared. Steam rose from the grate, clouding the room with sigmoidal curls. A ladder fell to the bottom.
"After you," Draco said. "Age before beauty."
"You're older than me, arse."
"True, but I'm still prettier."
Despite the toxic look Harry shot Draco, Harry slid down the ladder first with all the ease of an aerialist. Draco followed, a little less gracefully, silently cursing the years he'd been broomless. Wands wielded, together they cut a path through the shadow and steam.
They followed an aqueduct out of the narrow tunnel until they came upon a sign. Draco read aloud. "As Above, So Below - Hither and Thither, To and Fro. Heaven and Earth, Up and Down - the bottom drops in London Town."
"What does that mean?" Harry asked.
"It means that while Here and There are parallel to one another, the damned end up Here. Come on. We have a lot of ground to cover and nary a clue as to what we're looking for."
The crowds were greater than Draco expected. All manner of peoples were congregating; purebloods, Muggles, highbrows, lowborns. Draco took Harry by the elbow and moved swiftly through the throngs.
The Underground thoroughfare was a black market bazaar, retailed by rejects and riffraff. If it could be found, it could be sold. The commons were lined with drinkeries and betting houses. Traders of Skin and Slave pedalled their wares, recruiting from runaways. Unlicensed Mediwizards ran surgical chop shops and backdoor Apothecaries sold tinctures of laudanum, phials of Felix Felicis and drachms of Childsbane, the illegal abortifacient. Dragon Chasers filled the opium dens and corrupt policemen, armed with blackmail and Veritaserum, met their informants in back alleyways.
There were even Donor dens for vampires; places where feedings could be exchanged for worship - or information. It was not the sort of place Draco would have chosen to patronise, but it was as good a place as any to start. Considering Harry's dumb luck.
"S'cuse me, sirs."
Draco looked down to find a dirty urchin tugging on Harry's pant leg. She carried a one-eyed dolly underarm, its lips sewn shut with catgut.
Harry smiled down affectionately. "Are you lost?"
She shook her head. "Can I have tuppence-ha'penny for a kick to the shin?"
Draco arched an eyebrow in disgust. "No!"
Needless, the little girl kicked Harry in the shin and ran.
"Fuck," Harry grumbled, clinging to Draco as he walked off the injury. "You tell her no, and I still get kicked."
Draco laughed. "You had that coming. Consider that revenge for my shoes." He searched the crowd for the little girl, instead catching sight of Snape's lickspittle, Nicholas Darling. Draco patted Harry's shoulder and jerked his head in Darling's direction. "Six o'clock."
Harry turned around just as Darling slipped into the Donor's den. "There's our tail."
"Exactly my thought," Draco said, eyeing the dark sigil just above the door.
It was loud inside the Donor's den, a hundred thoughts broadcast simultaneously, amplified by some ancient evil. The air was thick with the cloying scents of pipe smoke and incense. Fear and adrenaline permeated the nostrils of human and vampire alike, masking a foul triptych of blood and sweat and candleburn. Almost every table was occupied, transcendental whoring satisfied over cheap spirits and empty goblets waiting to be stained scarlet. A corner table close enough to observe but just far away to appear unobtrusive suited them. They ordered drinks to dampen suspicions.
A heavily scarred man came for their order. He bore an inverted Romanian cross on his hand. "Lovely, a couple of UTs. What'll it be, ladies?"
The lingo was foreign to their ears. "UTs?" they both asked.
"Untaints," the man said. "Virgins. I've not seen the likes of you two before."
Harry feigned horror. "We're hardly virgins."
Chubby fingers took Draco roughly by the chin, tilting his head back. "No fang marks there. And only whores and queers bare their thighs for bloodsuckers."
Draco shrugged from the man's grasp. "Maybe we prefer the wrists."
The man smiled, several of his teeth rotted to their roots. "Let's hope. Now where's the pretty polly, laddie?"
Draco set a stack of coins on the table, shuffling through them. "Just bring us whatever swill you're passing off as house wine and be quick about it."
When the man went to take them, Draco knocked the coins to the floor. The clatter turned several heads. "And don't ever touch me again."
One by one, the coins flew into the man's outstretched hand. "Cunty little cock tease, you are." Laughing, he disappeared into the darkness.
Harry leant back in his chair, regarding Draco. "Is there anyone you can't beguile, seduce or intimidate?"
Draco grinned. "No."
"So, what do you suppose Darling's down here for? Running an errand for Snape?"
"No idea. Hopefully he won't stay long. This places makes my skin crawl. I don't fancy a flea dip with Sir Reginald."
"I've been to worse places."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?"
Harry discreetly slid his wand out from the sleeve of his robe. "Perhaps, we might persuade him to leave sooner rather than later?"
"Put it away. Something will come to me. Something always does."
As if on cue, a figure stepped out of the shadows. His eyes were the colour of burning coals. "Good eve, gentlemen. I couldn't help but overhear your dilemma. Perhaps, we might be able to assist one another. May I join you?"
Before they could answer, the man returned with their drinks. He exchanged a few words with the vampire in a language Draco could not interpret.
"What do you want?" Draco asked.
A dark chuckle followed. "You waste no time, mortal, therefore, I shall return the favour. A drink, if it pleases you. In exchange for a look into the dandy's head."
"Rubbish. I could invade his mind with a simple Legilimens."
"Could you? He keeps company with the elders Ambrose and Aldaric. That might prove difficult."
Draco poured himself a glass of wine, running the goblet under his nose. He sniffed in disgust. "No thanks. I don't sully myself with vampires."
The vampire looked straight at Harry. "We prefer the term Methuselah, and frankly I find the taste of Veela blood…unpalatable. However slight the taint."
"You mock me, sir. What do you know of Veelas?"
"I know that they make poor bedfellows."
Draco tossed his wine in the vampire's face, standing when the vampire hissed.
Harry quickly intervened, coming between them. "Enough! You want to taste me? Fine. Consider it a fair trade in exchange for information. But you will apologise for insulting my friend."
The vampire inclined his head in apology. Harry rolled up his sleeve and offered his wrist.
Unable to bear the intimacy, Draco left, pacing outside like a caged beast. As punishment for his sins, he allowed himself to imagine the bloodless lips grazing Harry's pulse point. A sympathy pain radiated from Draco's wrist up to his elbow, and he cradled his arm to his chest, shutting his eyes at the feel of a phantom tongue suckling the wounds. When the sick feeling dissipated, Draco opened his eyes to find the vampire standing over him.
"You were a fool to let him go."
"He left me," Draco corrected.
"Then for your sake, hope remains."
The door opened and Harry stepped out. The vampire departed in a blur.
"What was that all about?" Harry asked, fixing his sleeve.
Draco turned his head. "Nothing. Nothing at all. Do you know where we're going now?"
"Yes, but we've a bit of walking to do. And it's like a maze down here, so stick close."
Between them, the walk was silent. Draco's heart, however, prattled on in the form of irregular heartbeats. By the grace of Circe, he wished that some madman would take pity on him and pluck the cursed ticker from his chest, possibly hiding it under some floorboards so he didn't have to think about it. When he couldn't stand the silence any longer, he stopped dead in his tracks. "Wait."
Harry paused, then turned around. "Yeah?"
"You know, you didn't have to… I mean, it wasn't necessary… Christ, I'm rubbish at apologies."
"No need to apologise, Draco. It was my decision. You've made loads of sacrifices since we came here. It was the least I could do. Besides," Harry insisted, "now I can cross that off my list."
Draco rolled his eyes. "What, a vampire encounter?"
"Making you jealous."
Draco didn't know whether to smile or frown at that, so he settled for a nice, even line of mouth. He would let Harry come to his own conclusions. The conversation diverted to surface commonalities until they came to the point of a triangle with two corridors leading in both directions. Draco chose the left hand path. It seemed oddly appropriate.
There were three doors for the choosing. Borromean rings, identical to the ones on the backroom floor of Snape's shop, appeared under a Revelio next to the third door. The letters K, O and W shimmered in the centre of each ring. Draco opened the door. Harry's Fuck! reverberated off the four, stone walls. The room was empty.
"I don't understand," Harry said. "His instructions were explicit."
"Not the first time you've been lied to. Certainly won't be the last."
Harry scowled. "And aren't you a shining example of that?"
Draco waved his wand about like he was conducting a symphony. "Relax. It's probably under a Glamour or a Fidelius." No inner doors materialised, but a strange motorbike appeared in the corner. The engine pinged as it cooled, and the exhaust pipes were still emitting steam. The seat was even warm to the touch. "Well, someone's about."
"What the hell is such an advanced-looking motorbike doing here?" Harry asked, running his fingers along the sleek, brass curves. "A Vector Victor?"
Draco flashed back to the day they arrived and the destruction of the pocketwatch. The engine scream had not been a figment of his imagination. Whoever owned this bike had destroyed their chances of getting home that night. The thought made Draco homesick as he rummaged in one of the bike's saddlebags. "The same thing we're doing here ninety-two years before our time. Someone obviously travelled ahead and brought knowledge of the future back with him."
"I don't want to think about all of the ripples in time we've collectively created."
Draco held up the evening's Prophet. "Well, throw another pebble into the pond, genius. Look."
Harry took the paper from Draco's hands. Third Victim Found in Back Alleyway. Strange Markings Left on Body. Killer Continues to Elude Police. "How many does that make so far?"
"Three, I think, since we've been here."
"Are you implying we're responsible?"
"Maybe not directly. But our presence here affects the natural course of events. We're creating a time shift that stretches Circe only knows how far across."
Harry leant against the bike, flipping to the Society pages. "Well, fuck me."
Draco peered up from his bag search, a strange piece of chalk in his hand. "Hmm?" He read over Harry's shoulder.
British Horological Society to Honour Severus Snape for Lifetime Achievements. Holiday Gala to Follow.
"We should be there."
"We'll need an invitation," Harry said, flipping to the Quidditch scores. Ron would be thrilled to know that the Cannons were not in last place.
Draco poked the piece of chalk in his palm. It glowed with a faint magical signature. "Leave that to me."
Draco crouched down. "About to find out." He drew a circle on the ground. The outline shimmered green before it left a sizeable hole.
They looked at one another in astonishment. Draco strode to the back wall, his intent made clear by the determined look on his face. He chalked a small circle on the wall the size of a Galleon. The brick disintegrated and voices, though distant, could be heard from the other side. Draco glanced over his shoulder at Harry with a lopsided grin. He tossed the piece of chalk up into the air and caught it deftly. Harry joined in his glee.
Draco cast a Voice Amplification Charm, and together he and Harry huddled around the opening like two perverts vying for a peepshow. Twelve men were seated about a round table. They were all wearing brass masks with gears for eyes, nose and mouth holes. All except for one man; a tall, elegant blond. Draco strongly suspected he was the leader of this secret society.
"Gentlemen, it appears we have an egoist amongst us. A man who skirts the boundaries of bravery and stupidity. And he must be dealt with. Here," the blond man said, walking around the table and stopping behind a man with long, red hair. "Now."
A wand was drawn slowly from the blond man's sleeve like a sword from a scabbard. The red-haired man trembled visibly. "You've been found guilty by a jury of your peers, therefore, punishment must be served. Have you anything to say, turncoat?"
"They are coming! The stronger marked, a mix of bloods! Our undoing draws nigh!"
A blinding, flash of green light illuminated the room. The red-haired man slumped forward, dead.
"Remove this disgusting conniver from my sight." Several men jumped to help. "Severus?"
The reply was swift and subservient. "Yes, My Lord?"
The blond man laid his gloved hands on Severus's shoulders. "Your progress has slowed somewhat. I'd hate to see that lovely lady of yours punished for your slothfulness. You are working steadily to finish your pièce de résistance?"
"Excellent. I know that you are too proud to ask for help, Severus, but should the task become too great--"
"It will not," Snape said sharply. At the blond man's disapproval, Snape thought better of his tone. "Be a problem."
Snape's place remembered, the blond man continued. "It's rumoured you have two apprentices in your employ?"
"One, My Lord. The other is a clumsy lackwit."
A dark chuckle fell from the blond man's lips. "I should like to meet this young man. Expect a visit this week."
"As you wish."
A Finite Incantatem put an end to Harry and Draco's eavesdropping. They thought it unwise to linger.
"We are neck-deep in kneazle shit, my friend." Harry said, scrambling to his feet. "We are defenceless here. I don't fancy being a rat in the serpent's den. I say we leave and find a quiet corner to try and find our way home." He gave Draco a hand up, and then took off running. "C'mon!"
"Wait!" Draco panted, sprinting to catch up. "I have a plan!"
Harry glanced over his shoulder at Draco. "I was afraid you'd say that." He raced further ahead.
"Rotten prick," Draco huffed, willing his legs and his lungs to keep the pace.
His father, bless his poor rotting soul, had a dictum. If you couldn't find a way out, find a way deeper in.
And Draco planned to do just that.
The Christmas hols were steadily approaching, and orders were coming in left and right. Draco saw only flashes of Harry during the day. No doubt Snape was working him to the bone as well. Draco's long, slender fingers were beginning to callus and dark circles were forming under his grey eyes. After returning to the flat exhausted on so many nights, he was thankful for his easy lifestyle and family fortune back home. Two aspects he was sorely missing.
Today, Draco was assisting Snape on a particularly delicate timepiece for Mr Longhollow. The Mrs had commissioned the pocketwatch with very descript non-standard specifics and was notoriously picky. The brass casing was inlaid with exquisite seraphic detail and the numerals were Enochian in origin. Snape had been very thorough in his research to ensure the timepiece was precise. Like everything he created.
It was only now, near the close of business, that Snape allowed Draco fifteen minutes' respite from the arduous hours of perfecting minutiae. Draco laid his head down on the worktable, not caring one iota about inhaling metal shavings. He was asleep within three minutes, well on his way to dreaming about a four poster, a pert bottom and a fine plum sake when he felt a taptaptap on his shoulder. Reluctantly, he opened one bloodshot eye. "You," he moaned.
"Of course me," Harry said. "Haven't seen you all day. What's Snape been making you do?"
Draco rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. "Only bloody this all day." He held up the Longhollow watch.
"Christ, you look a mess. I'll secure dinner tonight, and if you're nice to me," Harry teased, "there may be a massage in it for you."
It was all Draco could do to squeak his approval. Harry was just about to smooth an errant strand of Draco's hair behind an ear when an oily voice made Harry practically jump out of his skin.
"Finished attending the owlery so soon, Mr James? If you are free, I'm certain I could busy you separating the 1s from the 11s. I know how tedious work pleases you so."
Draco managed a very tired laugh. He didn't envy Harry. Even mechanical owls bit.
"No, sir," Harry forced through clenched teeth. "I'll get on that straight away." He left with footsteps heavier than normal.
"See that you do," Snape said to Harry's retreating back. "Your friend, he is quite insolent. Whatever do you see in him?"
Draco was just about to answer when the door chimes pealed musically. It was the elegant blond man from a few nights ago attired fashionably in a cloak lined with miniver.
Snape bowed his head. "My Lord, I was not expect--"
The blond man held up a gloved hand. "Severus, dear, dear Severus. Did I not invite you to address me by my name when you are not immediately in my services?"
"Forgive my carelessness, Aloysius."
Aloysius moved past Snape to Draco. "And this must be your new apprentice?" He offered his still gloved hand to Draco. "Aloysius Malfoy."
Draco sharpened at the family name. "Sir," he said, taking the hand. "I'm Draco Black." Mentally, he skimmed through his family tree in search of the name Aloysius. Lucius. Abraxas. Septimius. Renatus. Mahometus. There was no Aloysius that he remembered. Math permitting, Aloysius should have been his great, great grandfather - or perhaps his great, great, great uncle?
"Of the fallen House of Black?" Aloysius let their hands part.
A confident smile twisted Draco's lips. "We're making a steady comeback." He lifted his left arm discreetly so that his sleeve fell back, exposing the burn of his Dark Mark.
"Indeed." The grey of Aloysius's eye did not miss that. "I'm having a reception in honour of Severus's achievements. I'd be pleased if you attended."
"Of course, sir."
Aloysius smiled, quite satisfied. "You may bring a young lady as your guest. Severus will give you the details."
"Thank you, sir." Draco's skin was heating under Aloysius's hot and heavy gaze. He took a step back when Aloysius took two steps forward. "If it's no trouble, I'd like to bring my friend Mr James as my guest."
"If you would prefer." Aloysius frowned at the implication but said nothing to the contrary. "Are you certain you're a Black? You have the angular features of a Malfoy. You could cut glass with those cheekbones." He sniffed the air delicately. "Do I sense Veela influence?"
"Quite sure I'd remember otherwise, sir." Draco tried to swallow around the lump in his throat. "And yes, I am one-eighth Veela."
Aloysius gave a polite nod to accompany his devil-may-care smile. "Severus. Mr Black." The door chimes tinkled again at his exit.
Snape, who'd been unusually quiet during the entire exchange, cleared his throat. "Clean up, Mr Black. You may leave once Mr James has finished his rounds." Snape left out the front this time, a jingle of bells behind him.
Draco sat down on his chair at the worktable and smiled. It was Abraxas's saying this time that he remembered. Make certain you know which bridges to burn and which bridges to cross.
He would tread cautiously, yes, but an Incendio was perched on the tip of his tongue. Just in case.
The night of the gala was particularly snowy. The moon hung frozen in the velvet sky. Draco stared out of the window, fogging the panes with his heated breaths. He leant his forehead against the glass, relishing the cold that snaked its way down his face. The bustle of early evening traffic was now coming to a close. Draco checked the time and sighed. He wondered what was keeping Harry when the hypocritical tosser came bursting through the door, a tiny box from the tailor's in hand.
"Sorry I'm late."
"You're cutting it very close. We're to meet Snape downstairs in twenty."
"I shan't be a moment." Harry said, practising his snobbery. He charmed the box back to its normal size.
"You realise we'll have no time for drills."
Harry tore the box open, hurrying to change into his finery. "I'll manage. I always do."
"That's what I'm afraid of. Just start at the outside and work your way in."
Harry almost fell putting on his trousers in the rush. "How many pieces of cutlery could there be?"
"As many as there are courses. Careful, I spent the entirety of my paltry commission on these clothes."
"Cor, these trousers are tight," Harry said, slipping the dark waistcoat on over his crisp white button-down. The tail coat went over it with a silly Ta da!. "How do I look?"
"Well, for starters, you're missing your bowtie. And secondly, your collar is more crooked than a used broom salesman. Barring those faux pas," Draco said stepping back. "You clean up rather nicely."
Harry grinned. "I'll take that as a compliment."
Draco stepped forward to fix Harry's tie. "I think it wise. I don't hand them out liberally."
Harry's shoulders sagged a bit. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Is what a good idea?" Draco asked, nudging the side of Harry's foot. "Stand up straight. Chin up."
"This. All of this. Taking me as your escort. Playing both sides."
"There's nothing to worry about."
"Yeah? Caesar thought that just before Brutus stabbed him."
"There," Draco said, fussing a bit. "You look almost as dashing as I do."
Harry pulled Draco to him by the tail coat. "Cut the shit, Draco. I mean it."
"Why Harry, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you cared."
"I do. I always will." Harry's lips brushed Draco's.
Draco swallowed around the lump in his throat. "Snape's expecting us. He is the guest of honour."
"Right," Harry said, securing a flower on Draco's lapel. He grabbed their top hats and offered Draco his arm.
Draco took it, patting Harry's hand. With a flick of his wrist, Draco Accio'd their travelling cloaks.
Downstairs, Snape was fuming. "What kept you imbeciles?" He proffered a silver invitation. The Portkey.
Draco's lip curled in amusement. "My escort was just pinning me."
Spare me the nauseating details preceded a pull at Draco's navel.
The Manor was always a wondrous sight in winter. The rooftops were snow-covered, and the tree boughs glistened with hoarfrost. Freshening Charms kept the grounds pristine. Even the cold, wan moon was unblemished in its stretch of never-ending sky. Draco's stomach tightened. He silently wondered if he'd find his way home again.
Inside, the ballroom ceiling was charmed to mimic the Wiltshire skyline. Christmas trees, tinselled and bowed, stood tall as giants in the four corners. And the dance floor was as glassy as a skate pond, dozens of couples waltzing in time with the orchestra. All in all, it was a grand occasion.
Draco and Harry sat with Snape at Aloysius's table, though the host and his wife were curiously absent at dinner. The feast was exquisite. Pheasant under glass with larks' tongues in aspic, candied saffron custard and fugu. Harry made a face.
Draco, however, tucked in with vigour. He washed it down with several glasses of wine, stopping before the inevitable stupor. He'd need his wits about him to greet Lord Malfoy. Spotting Aloysius, Draco headed over, Harry following close behind.
At the sound of his name, Aloysius turned around. "Ah, Mr Black. Your ears must be ringing. We were just talking about you. Join us for a brandy?"
"Of course, sir." Draco smiled, pulling Harry toward him by the elbow.
Snifters of brandy were brought by platinum tray. Draco took one and passed one to Harry.
"Let me introduce you," Aloysius said. "Nicodemus Nott, Lucifix Lestrange, Julian Vector, Cadmus Carrow, Vittorio Zabini and Erastus Rosier - may I present Mr Draco Black?"
A chorus of pleasures sang in greeting. Harry cleared his throat.
"The pleasure is all mine, gentlemen. And may I present my companion, Mr Harry James?"
Aloysius took Harry's hand. "Companion? How quaint." A few of Aloysius's associates tittered at that.
Harry's features darkened. "Wasn't there a red-headed gentlemen in your company before, or am I mistaken?"
Draco's stomach bottomed into his shoes. Just what was Harry playing at? He watched helplessly as Aloysius's grip on Harry's hand tightened.
Grey eyes met green in a battle of wills. "If you are referring to Archibald Weasley, he's on African safari with Paracelsus Pettigrew."
"Pity I won't get to meet either," Harry said, letting go of Aloysius's hand after an equally threatening squeeze. The stare down continued.
Draco breathed a sigh of relief when a round-bellied man with a walrus moustache averted Aloysius's attention and whispered something into his ear.
Aloysius looked upon Draco with fatherly disappointment. "If you will excuse me, Mr Black, I have a speech to deliver. Do enjoy the rest of your stay." He turned on a heel, heading for the podium.
"C'mon," Harry said, nodding towards the ballroom doors. "Let's get out of here."
Draco tutted. "And go where? Besides, that would be rude to leave now. Ten minutes. We'll wait it out."
"Your call." Harry's expression was smug.
A hand came to rest in his. Draco's anxiety slowly began to ebb away. They'd lasted nearly eight minutes when Draco squeezed Harry's hand. The remaining two minutes could kindly bugger the fuck off.
Structurally, the Manor was the same, but the rooms were in different locations. It was rather disconcerting, Draco thought, to get lost in your childhood home. A half a dozen wrong turns later, they ended up in the Armoury. It was considerably fuller than the one his father had kept. Several suits of armour creaked in welcome.
The walls were lined with charmed war hammers and axes and maces. A quiver of cursed arrows hung next to its accompanying crossbow. Goblin-made swords dating back to the Founder's era glinted menacingly from their displays. There were shields pitted by spellfire and full-dress suits of chain mail charmed to weigh no more than a single Hippogriff's feather.
Draco gravitated to the fencing equipment. He withdrew the sword furthest to the left and relished the feel of it in his grasp. He was a natural sabreur. "Still remember what I taught you about swordplay?"
Harry withdrew a second sabre. "Avoid getting touched?"
"More importantly?" Draco laughed.
"Avoid being cut?"
Draco removed his tail coat. "You’re such a philistine, Harry."
"We're not exactly dressed for this, y'know," Harry said, removing his own coat. " I could hurt you."
"You’d have to land a blow first, but we'll play it safe and dull the points," Draco said, removing his wand. "You're such a girl when you’re injured."
Harry smiled. "This should be quite interesting." He made a dramatic bow.
Draco mirrored the goodwill gesture, and then straightened. "En garde!"
More of an offensive swordsman, Draco lunged at Harry. The strike fell short and Harry countered with a seconde parry. Harry then jabbed at Draco, but was expertly countered with a sixte, following through with a circular swordstroke. Harry may have been quicker, but Draco boasted superior dexterity. His riposte caught Harry by the waistcoat, ripping it slightly. Draco grinned at that, not to be outmanoeuvred.
"HALT!" Harry stopped to inspect the damage. "Weren't you bitching to me just earlier about being careful with these dandy suits?"
"Nothing a good Repairo can't fix. Now, are you going to stand there and natter at me like a sissy, or are we going to fence?"
"I lost, didn't I?"
"Nonsense, no one's keeping score. There is no referee."
"You just want to touch me twice," Harry winked.
"Don't be daft. No one who's touched you once wants another go." Draco flunged, aiming high for the shoulder. Harry countered with a tierce parry, immediately striking with a remise. The sword point scraped Draco's cheek. The sabre dropped with a clang as Draco protectively cradled his injured flesh.
Harry dropped his sabre as well, rushing to Draco's side. "Shit, Draco, I thought we'd blunted the tips well enough. Are you all right? Let me see."
Draco's fingers came away bloodied. "I'm fine. It's fine, really. I just don't want it to scar. Excuse me." He fled for the master bathroom, leaving a stunned Harry in his wake.
Once upstairs, Draco splashed cold water on his face, blotting his cheeks dry on the guest towel. A fine line about an inch long cut across the bone. Thankfully, the cut was not too deep. His breaths, however, were coming in short gasps. He was having a panic attack, flashing on the Sectumsempra incident his sixth year. The bathroom, spacious as it may be, was claustrophobic to him. He needed to lie on the bed and calm himself before he attended the cut. He was no good to himself panic-stricken.
He entered the master bedroom, surprised to find Snape there, caught red-handed with a pocketwatch in his hand. Draco tried to speak but couldn't. Snape aimed a Calming Charm at him. Draco collapsed in the seat at the dressing table, fervently trying to catch his breath. For the moment, Snape's indiscretion was ignored. "Thank you."
A curt nod acknowledged the gratitude.
"Over quick enough. Really, I hate to be fawned over. That cut," Snape said. "You're marked."
"And you have what we need to get home."
Snape's upper lip curled into a sneer. "We should talk."
"Indeed we should," Draco smiled, eyeing Snape's wand. "But first, you will heal my cut. You're good at that."
The Face and Hands was respectfully closed on Sundays. The British Horological Society and the Church apparently saw eye to eye when it came to the Sabbath. However, that did not excuse Draco and Harry from their slave labour. Draco was bent over the Wolcott family clock, and Harry was only Gods knew where on an errand.
Home. School. Work. Travelling. Lost. Hospital. Prison. Mortal Peril. And Indisposed. Draco theorised Indisposed was Preston Wolcott's way of having his illicit affairs with the whores in Whitechapel without having to lie. Sometimes, clockmaking was a thankless fucking job.
Draco was making the last of his adjustments to the seven hands when Snape appeared in the doorway. Behind him levitated two mugs of steaming pumpkin cider. The smell of fresh ground cinnamon made Draco reconsider his body aches. Stretching, he reapplied the Cushioning Charm to his stool. Shooing Sir Reginald from the other stool, Draco did the same with its match. The cat relocated to the worktable, settling noisily on a stack of parchments. The whisker twitching it gave Draco was almost threatening.
"Forget that," Snape said, setting a mug down in front of Draco. "We have a more important task at hand."
"You wanted to talk. Let's talk."
Snape levelled his gaze at Draco. "First the task. Then the talk."
"Screw the task. I want answers. You owe me… us that much."
Snape heaved a great sigh. "Fine. We'll do things your way, Mr Malfoy. I haven't much choice in the matter, really."
"You knew our names? How long?" Draco asked.
"Yes, and you will keep this a secret. Since before you arrived. There was a Prophecy."
Draco warmed his hands with the mug. "Hidden in the Department of Mysteries?"
"It's more complicated than that, and the explanation's not really necessary at this point."
"Go on," Draco insisted, blowing on the steaming liquid to cool it.
"Your arrival was foretold. Indicated the stronger of the two would be marked. How is that scar healing?"
"It itches if you must know. What about the pocketwatch? Why were you stealing it?"
Snape arched a brow. "I am many things to many men, but I am no thief. I was planting it. Hoping someone like you would retrieve it years from now."
"You left it for me?"
"For your father, actually. In several universes. I was a good friend to your family in my reality."
Draco smiled a bit. "In mine, too. You were my godfather."
Snape frowned. His shoulders sagged a bit at hearing his fate.
"You died saving our world from a madman. Bravely, I might add."
"Then let us hope that history does not repeat itself."
Draco took a sip of the cider. It thawed his insides nicely. But there was a chill in his bones the liquid couldn't stave. "The pocketwatches? They allow travel in every direction?"
"Yes. Aloysius and his followers use them to rid the universes of those with inferior blood. They've eradicated hundreds so far. I can't be far behind."
"You have a watch," Draco pressed. "The last watch, I presume, since ours was destroyed."
"I can't run. Not yet at least. Not until I find out what's happened to her."
"I am forbidden to speak or write her name. If I linger on her memory too long I--" The cords in Snape's neck tightened, and he worried his lip in pain.
"Aloysius has you under a powerful enchantment, no doubt." Draco thought about Harry a moment. "She is important to you." It was more a statement than a question.
"Very." Snape's answer was terse, but the anguish in that one word was palpable. "She disappeared six months ago. Aloysius claims he knows of her whereabouts. Says he will tell me when I deliver this." He held up a clock face, his hand shaking.
"What is that?" Draco asked.
"His crown. My crowning glory."
"I'm afraid I don't understand."
Snape sighed. "As well you shouldn't. But its purpose will reveal itself in due course."
Draco allowed his mind to wander. He thought about the bottle of absinthe and its riddling occupant. It was to be his bargaining chip. "Harry and I could find out what's happened with your missing friend."
"You think you can find out in weeks what I haven't been able to find out in months?" Snape asked, arching a brow. "I think you overestimate your ability."
Draco laughed. "Do I?"
"Provided I was to entertain your silly notion, what are you asking for in exchange?"
"I think you know."
Snape considered this. "Very well. I will take you both home, then."
"There is one other small matter. It's hardly worth mentioning."
"Proceed," Snape said, a slight rise in irritation to his voice.
The sounds of approaching footfalls interrupted their words. Harry had returned from his errand. "Hullo all."
"We'll continue this later," Draco said, under his breath.
Snape nodded. "It's later than I expected. Lock up. We shall set to work early, Mr Black." He turned and left, leaving Harry and Draco to their privacy.
When Snape had vanished, Draco took Harry in his arms.
"What's this for?" Harry whispered.
Draco merely shushed him and held on tightly. When Draco finally pulled away, he took Harry's glasses with him. They fell to the floor in a clatter.
All it took was one step.
"Shit," they both grumbled.
Draco bent over to pick them up, mindful of the glass. "You go on up. I'll fix them. Perhaps, I'll give them some stylish new frames? They could do with a bit of finessing."
"Thanks," Harry said. "But hurry. You know I can't see dick without them." He gave Draco's cheek a chaste kiss before Apparating up.
Twenty minutes later, glasses like new in his hands, Draco returned to their flat. His cheek still burned from Harry's kiss, that was, until a cold spell chilled his blood.
Draco's face went ashen and his breathing shallowed. There, on the floor of their room, lay Harry.
His body was covered in ichor.
Draco dropped to his knees to check Harry's pulse. It was faint. Harry was near death. Crippled by the constraints of his own panic attack, Draco stumbled down the hall to Snape's rooms. He used both fists to pound on the door.
Snape answered in his grey nightshirt, wand at the ready. He was clearly livid at the intrusion. "What is the meaning of this infernal racket?"
Draco shook his head. He couldn't speak.
Snape aimed a Calming Charm at Draco and helped him up. Draco clutched at his throat and tried to speak. He felt as though he had swallowed a jagged piece of glass. "Please," he croaked. "Harry. Tindalos."
At the mention of Tindalos, Snape's mouth fell open. They rushed down the hall together. A small sphere the size of a firefly was perched on Harry's lips. His soul was leaving his body.
Snape stilled. "It's too late, I'm afraid. No spell can call the soul back."
Draco crumpled in grief. "No, he can't die! You can fix this, Snape! The watch! Give me the watch!"
"Don't be a damned fool!" Snape spat, hauling Draco to his feet by the elbow. "That would only call its attention!"
"He's going to die, you bastard, do something!" Draco struggled to free himself of Snape's grip. He draped himself over Harry's body.
Snape gave Draco a pointed look and fled from the room. The coward was leaving Harry to die. Damn him!
"This is all my fault," Draco whispered. Fat tears were streaming down his cheeks. "Everything is always my fault. I'm so sorry, Harry. I'm so sorry."
The sound of frantic footfalls jostled Harry's body. The soul sphere tumbled from Harry's mouth like a goodbye kiss. It hovered in limbo.
Snape had returned, a phial in his hand. The request was simple. "Give me some room."
Draco was loath to budge, but he moved aside. Death could not be stoppered. This much he knew. "What is that? Will it work?"
"Shut up and prop his head up on your knee, boy. He'll choke otherwise." Snape uncapped the phial and tipped the contents into Harry's mouth. There was nothing to do but wait now.
A minute or so had passed before the soul sphere gravitated towards Harry's mouth, his will to live drawing it like a powerful magnet. Harry's eyes flew open, and he sucked in a shuddering breath.
Draco's eyes widened in disbelief. "Wha-- What was that?"
Snape's reply was succinct. "Felix Felicis."
"Felix Felicis? But how?"
"Who knows, Mr Malfoy? Perhaps, luck was not on the devil's side this day."
Draco carded his fingers through Harry's hair. "Thanks, Snape. I owe you a life debt."
"Indeed," Snape said. He turned and left with a quiet squeak of the floorboards.
Harry's body groaned in protest when he went to move. "Christ, did you get the number of the Knight Bus that ran me over?"
"There's only one Knight Bus, you twit." Draco smiled down at Harry even though Draco knew his face was just a blur to him.
"Where are my glasses? What happened? And why am I on the floor?"
A gentle push, and they were back on Harry's face. "You had a slight run-in with Death. The Hounds of Tindalos paid you a visit tonight."
"Help me up?" Harry asked, wincing with any movement. "I feel like I was dipped in Gulbraithian Fire and then doused with ectoplasmic goo."
Draco helped Harry to the bed. "That wouldn't be too far off the mark. You're covered in ichorous slime." A Cleaning Charm took care of that.
"You say I was near death?" Harry asked, kicking off his shoes. He slipped under the duvet fully clothed.
Draco peeled off his clothes one by one, leaving just his socks and his pants on. "You literally had one foot out death's door."
Harry could hardly believe what he was hearing. "How'd you bring me back?"
"Snape did," Draco said, yawning. He lifted the duvet and sank underneath. It was as warm as bathwater and just as soothing.
"That git? But h--?"
"Shh. No more talking. Sleepytime." The next words were mumbled. "I get tired saving your arse."
"Wait. What was that? Draco?"
"Draco?" Harry repeated.
A snore, louder than any Erumpent horn, was Draco's only reply.
Why anyone would want an hourglass as a gift was completely beyond Draco's comprehension. But there he was, half past eight filling the glass cylinder with the Sands of Time. One million, four hundred thirty-two thousand, seven hundred and twenty-eight grains later, he added silently. Now all he had left to do was attach the Self-Flipping Charm. Idly, he wondered how much Snape would ask for such a device.
At the finishing touches, Draco heard Harry approach. Snape had generously given Harry the day off to recover provided he worked the next seven days in twelve-hour shifts. Harry just didn't know that yet.
"Good evening," Draco said, turning around in his chair. "Slept well did you?"
"Better than any man has a right to. Have you been in that chair all day?"
"Just about," Draco said. "I haven't been able to feel my arse since five o'clock."
"That's a nifty looking hour--" Harry snorted his disapproval. "What the hell is that in your eye?"
"What does it look like?"
"A monocle. Christ, Draco, you look like a stuffy, old git."
"Not just any monocle. This one's equipped with Aura Sense, Detect Magic and Sight Unseen. Oh, and the lens doubles as a Foe Glass."
Harry arched a brow. "It doesn't cut your meat and wipe your arse, too?"
"Ha ha, how very droll," Draco remarked.
"If you weren't such a pointy swot, I might just be jealous."
"Your glasses are equipped with the same spells and lenses. I snuck them off the bedside table while you were still drooling on your pillow."
Harry took his glasses off to inspect them. What he could see of them. "Are these clock hands for arms?"
"They are indeed. Brass and gear frames. Cushioned with Crush Resistant Charms. I think they're a vast improvement from your last pair."
"So, where's Snape? S'pose I should thank his greasy arse."
Draco motioned with a toss of his head. "In the back. He's been in there all day. I put my ear to the door earlier, and I could swear I heard him chanting."
"Chanting," Draco repeated, setting the hourglass aside. He let the monocle drop, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. "Time for a drink." From underneath the workspace, he retrieved the bottle of absinthe.
"Wouldn't you rather have a pint from the pub?"
Draco uncorked the bottle. The faerie screeched upon her escape. "Cheers," he said tipping the bottle. He passed it to Harry.
Harry plugged his nose. "This stuff tastes like shit."
Draco extended a finger, encouraging the faerie to perch. "I have a question for you."
She shook her head at his insistence.
"I'll let you bite Harry in exchange."
"HEY!" Harry protested.
That seemed to placate her. She sat on Draco's finger, crossing her legs primly at the knees.
"We are looking for a woman. Someone near and dear to the Clocksmith. Sister. Mother. Daughter. Lover. We know not which. Can you help?"
At this, the faerie stirred.
Dust upon the silken shroud that winds her with such care.
Six feet of sour, weeping earth that presses from above.
The cold embrace of death has now replaced the songs of love.
She made a dramatic exit by clamping down on Draco's ear. Snarling, he forced her back into the bottle with his wand. "Little, green bitch!"
Harry laughed at the reversal of misfortune. "Serves you right."
Draco stood up to stretch. Any longer, and he'd require an Unsticking Charm to remove his bottom from the chair. He wasn't certain, but he thought he felt a tingle in his nethers. "Let's think about this for a moment."
"What's there to think about?" Harry asked. "Six feet of sour, weeping earth that presses from above does not sound good."
"No, no it doesn't. I think we can rule out she's still alive. But buried where?"
"Some old churchyard, I'd wager." Sir Reginald, who'd been catnapping on the table all day, came over to Harry for a pat and a scratch. He purred nosily when Harry picked him up. "Would it kill you to show this cat five minutes-worth of attention?"
"That's five minutes longer than I care to spare." Draco peered into his empty teacup. "And do you know how many churchyards there are in London?"
"Hundreds I'd imagine. Let's narrow our search down, then. Cemeteries."
"Tea?" Draco asked. "Up to and including the Magnificent Seven?"
"Merlin, yes," Harry sighed. "Some accompanying shortbread might be nice, too."
"Tea kettle's in the back. I take mine--"
Harry glared. "I know." He set the cat down on the worktable and stormed off.
"Don't worry about disturbing Snape. He's behind a locked door." Draco called after Harry.
Five minutes later, Harry returned with two cups of tea, a shortbread in his mouth. He set Draco's cup down harder, spilling a little. Finishing his bite, he resumed their discussion. "So, Magnificent Seven. Highgate's probably too obvious."
"Hmm, not necessarily. And why are you so angry?"
Harry fished a handful of shortbread biscuits from his pocket and set them on the worktable. "Would it kill you, just for once, to get the fucking tea?"
"That's the assistant's job. Now let's run through the other six," Draco said, counting off on his fingers. "Abney Park, Brompton, Kensal Green, Nunhead, Tower Hamlets and West Norwood."
"I am not your assistant, pratface." Harry settled on a stool indignantly, joggling the way he always did before a brilliant suggestion. "I have a thought. It just needs to come to me."
"Right," Draco said, rolling his eyes.
Unfortunately, it never came. At least, not right away. Three hours and four cups of tea later, they were still without a lead.
Draco stood to stretch again. "Could you, perhaps, have this epiphany already? I'm losing the will to live."
"Fuck. You. I don't see you doing any hardcore sleuthing. And if you say that that's the assistant's job, I will punch that ferrety face of yours."
Sir Reginald, who had settled on a pile of parchments earlier, was unceremoniously chewing on what looked to be an important document. Harry hoped it was not a client contract. "Let me guess? Too busy to feed Reg?" He picked up the cat and took the piece of parchment out of its mouth. The cat pawed in protest. Harry read silently.
"What is it?" Draco asked.
"My epiphany," Harry brightened. He turned the piece of parchment around. "It's a receipt for a plot at Abney Park cemetery."
"You mean the stupid cat's epiphany. Whose name is on it?"
"Unnamed. The date reads 12th May 1888. Roughly six months ago."
"Wait a minute," Draco said. "There's a six month old receipt sitting in a pile of current invoices?"
"The pile is not that current," Harry countered. "There's an invoice in here from January. Darling was a shitty bookkeeper apparently."
"Well, let's not stand here any longer with our fingers jammed up our arses to the third knuckle. Take the stupid cat upstairs and meet me down here in ten."
Harry left to feed the cat and find some warmer clothes. Draco, however, lingered by the door to Snape's office, pressing an ear up against the wood. The chanting had ceased. Now there were voices. Two of them.
Harry was down in ten ticks. He handed Draco his travelling cloak. "Let's go. I don't want to make this an all night affair."
"Right," Draco said. Curiously, he noticed that that was becoming a staple response as they locked arms and Side-Along-Apparated.
Abney Park cemetery might have been beautiful this time of year, a winter wonderland for the deceased, but not at night. There was something sinister in the air. Draco could see what the naked eye could not through the monocle. A haggard looking spirit drifted past him. "Excuse me, sir?"
"Don't talk to the living," it muttered, and floated away.
"Not the friendly sort here," Harry chuckled. A woman with red hair appeared next to a giant tombstone. She smiled at Harry then fled. "Hey!" He took off in high pursuit.
"Wait! Where are you going?" Draco called after Harry.
"Probably best if we split up!" Harry called back. "I'll send up a signal!"
Draco grimaced. Didn't leaving Hogwarts mean that Harry was technically no longer a Gryffindor? Did he always have to go charging off into the night? Sighing softly, Draco examined the more modest headstones, looking for anything peculiar. Three more cantankerous spirits refused to speak with him. Weren't people supposed to be giving around the holidays? Should it matter that they were dead?
A shower of red sparks illuminated the night sky. Harry had found something. Draco was well on his way when he heard a buzzing noise overhead. He looked up into the sky, sprinting for Harry's position. An airship was flying up above, its great propellers cutting through the blackness of night. A barrage of spellfire littered his path. Reds. Blues. Greens. They were firing at him! Draco ran as fast as he could, ducking and dodging when necessary. He dove right for Harry and tackled him to the frozen ground, taking cover.
Harry looked up at him, surprised, glasses knocked askew. "Get off me!"
"There's an Airship out there patrolling. It fired on me!" he whispered harshly. "Quiet."
Harry pushed Draco off. "Well, it's gone now." He wandered away, leaning his head against a tree trunk.
Draco dusted off the debris from his cloak and ambled over to Harry. He laid a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Hey, are you all right?"
"Go look at the headstone."
Draco walked over to the headstone, looking over his shoulder at Harry. Something was wrong. Harry was clearly upset. And then Draco saw why.
Just one word, scrawled in what looked to be dried blood. Lily
Draco wrapped his arms around Harry and held him through the shaking. "I'm so sorry, Harry."
Harry pressed against Draco, leaning his head on Draco's shoulder. The floodgates opened at that moment. "Why do I lose everyone I love?"
"Shh, I'm right here, and I'm not leaving. You’re stuck with me forever."
Harry managed a light laugh. He clung tighter. "I miss my mum."
"I know you do, Harry, but that's not your mother. It's another person from another place and time. Snape must've taken her with him, from his reality."
Harry looked up at Draco. "Some things never change." He pressed for a kiss.
Draco hesitated. "Harry, I--"
"Please." It was the one and only word that could completely undo Draco.
The monocle dropped and fell against Draco's chest. He closed his eyes, and touched his top lip to Harry's, trailing his tongue along the bottom. The kiss was gentle and exploratory and Draco absolutely melted with it. But he wanted more. Needed more.
Draco leant into Harry, pushing him back hard against the tree trunk. Harry slipped his arms around Draco's waist, and they instinctively fell into their old routine.
"I think I want more of you than just your mouth... I want all of you... I will have all of you."
Harry tipped his head back, and Draco worried the long, pale stretch of neck with his teeth, clamping down as if to core the apple at Harry's throat. Draco could feel himself harden under the sturdy woollen placket of his trousers, and he angled his body for that momentary kiss of their hips. Two eager sets of hands collided, fingers fumbling with buttons and zips. Now was not fast enough. For either of them.
Their mouths met in a clash of tongues and teeth as Draco took both their cocks in his hand, languidly stroking. The flesh was hot despite the cool curl of fingers, and this provoked the most delicious eldritch noises from the back of Harry's throat. Hands took root in Draco's hair, manipulating his movements, forcing Draco to drown in the depths of those green eyes, made brighter by the pale of the moon.
Draco pressed their cockheads together, rubbing the crowns around one another, and a jolt of pleasure travelled up the ladder of his spine. Harry's hands were now underneath his clothes, fingers dancing lightly over the scars of a life long past. Jagged nails raked over the sensitive peaks of Draco's nipples, and he thought he might die from the joy of it. His hand sped up on their cocks, and Draco closed his mouth over Harry's, swallowing Harry's precious little moans. Draco came with a whimper the fury of a bang, shuddering against Harry as his hand stilled on their cocks.
The green eyes met grey; love, apology and forgetting perched on the tip of Harry's tongue. Harry would always haunt Draco with his Judas kiss, bring him back to life with his Lazarus heart, and Draco would move along life a little better for it. He held on tightly and didn't open his eyes until he felt the pull at his navel. They would be home for Christmas. And things would change.
The shop was dark upon their return, but there was still a light coming from underneath Snape's door. Draco kissed Harry on the corners of his mouth, relieving him from further burden. "You go on up. I'll talk to Snape."
Harry nodded, smiling faintly. It was clear he didn't envy Draco's task.
Draco knocked on the door and Julian Vector answered it. He gave Snape a small object, which he placed on the shelf for safekeeping. Vector left with a twist of his lips, handsome face made unpleasant with mocking. Draco closed the door behind him.
"I thought you should know that Lily is buried in Abney Park cemetery marked by a simple headstone."
The anger in Snape's eyes was unforgiving, but he nodded for Draco to continue. "We found a receipt for a burial plot underneath a stack of invoices. The decedent was unnamed."
"I thought I was helping a friend. But they took my Lily and buried her there instead."
"You can go back, Snape," Draco comforted. "You can change things."
The response was leaden, morose. "It was not meant to be."
Snape continued his work, holding up the clock face from before. His hands trembled, but Draco could not tell if they shook out of fury or sadness or crippling misuse. Pressing his wandtip to the clock's face, Snape closed his eyes and resumed the chanting.
A strange sensation passed over Draco, and he too withdrew his wand, pointing it at the clock face. The chant fell from his lips with no rhyme or reason, no malice or forethought. It was something that came from deep within. Something that rose from the pit of his stomach and tangled around his heart and spine.
He closed his eyes, and for a moment, his thoughts drifted to his mother.
Draco, my child. If a God is able and willing, then he is omnipotent. If a God is able but not willing, then he is malevolent. But if a God is not able or willing, then he is no God at all.
This world, he hummed, was ruled by all three.
Draco woke Christmas morning with an odd feeling. Harry was still asleep, so he decided to take a walk to clear his head. When he opened the door to their flat, there was a small, plain-wrapped package waiting for him. There was a note attached; As promised, here is the pocketwatch along with explicit instructions. Perhaps, we might all share a dinner of shepherd's pie before you return home? Six o'clock. Happy Christmas. S
He opened and shut the case of the pocketwatch. It pulsed with his touch, all mechanical heart and metallic viscera. In its own right, it was alive, made sentient through Snape's magic. And his. This was Snape's last creation, and like a Horcrux, he had left a piece of his soul in each brass pocket. With a heavy sigh, Draco placed the watch back in its box and closed the door.
At the door's snick, Harry stirred. "What are you doing up so early?"
Draco set the box under their threadbare tree. It was something of a tumbledown mess, like Harry's hair. "Nothing. Go back to sleep. It's just seven."
"Well, I can't now. I'm too wound up. Are there presents?"
Draco smiled. "There may be a few. One we can't open until after six. But there's a little something from me to you."
At that, Harry jumped out of bed, wearing only a faded grey nightshirt. He almost fell on his face putting on his trousers. "Can I open it now?"
"Well," Draco hemmed. "I suppose." He handed a medium-sized box to Harry and watched him tear it open bright-eyed.
A look of darkness crossed over Harry's face like the moon eclipsing the sun. He'd always been pants at hiding his disappointment. "Socks?" he asked, holding up the bundle. He retreated into a bit of a pout.
"Those are the finest socks in all of London. Scratch-resistant wool. Reinforced toe stitching. Your feet are always freezing, and they somehow always find me." Draco could barely contain his composure. This, of course, was not his only gift to Harry.
Harry scoffed. "They're not that cold." He tried to peer around Draco to see if there were any more boxes for him underneath the tree.
Draco sidestepped Harry, grinning like a madman. "So, anything for me?"
Disenchantment momentarily overlooked, Harry dashed over to their bed and crouched down. He came up with a long package about the size of a broom handle. He handed it to Draco. "I love the socks, Draco, really. Here. Happy Christmas."
Draco ripped at the paper. To hell with composure, he thought. This was Christmas, and they'd be going home, and… Draco's heart thumped madly in his chest. There, resting in his hands was the dragonhead cane they'd seen window-shopping. "Fuck, Harry, I--"
Harry just stood there, hands clasped behind his back, rocking to and fro on the balls of his feet. And grinning like a Cheshire cat.
"Harry, how--? I mean, Snape wasn't paying you. How could--?" He bit his tongue to keep from crying. No, dammit, he would not shed a tear over a walking stick.
"Tips," Harry said. "I may have put a few of those silly mechanical owls out of commission. And wealthy gents who can afford pricey time pieces tip well."
"You showed them your arse, didn't you?" Draco laughed.
"A cheek here, a cheek there. Never a full moon."
"So long as it wasn't a full monty."
Harry slipped his arms around Draco's neck. "My bits are quite spoken for."
"Well," Draco said, twisting his head to glance underneath the tree. "There may be one more gift for you." Not wanting to leave his position, Draco Summoned the box to his outstretched hand. He handed it to Harry. "Here's hoping this warms your hand."
Harry let his arms slip from the back of Draco's neck. His hands were shaking as he slid the bow from the box. Inside was a ring, composed of five clock gears, polished to a high gloss. Brass comprised the outer and middlemost rings, but there was a softer, shinier metal that Harry instantly recognised sandwiched in-between; the electrum from Draco's necklace. Intricate, fanciful letters decorated each of the metal prongs. Each twist of the ring carried a different sentiment.
"All of the things I wanted to say but couldn't." Draco said. "It's in Veela. I'll translate for you."
Harry shook his head. "No, I'd like to translate them myself. It's high time I appreciated the language."
"Veela tradition dictates you wear the ring on a chain, close to your heart."
Harry threaded the ring through his own simple, silver chain, tucking it under his nightshirt. His smile had been all the thanks Draco needed.
"Snape left us something, too."
"He did?" Harry asked.
Draco picked the box up and opened it for Harry to see. "We're going home."
Harry tried to swallow around the lump in his throat. "Where is he? I'd like to thank him."
"Out, but he'll be back at six. We're having dinner with him before we depart."
"That leaves us a lot of free time before we leave."
"It does," Draco said with a slow grin, backing Harry towards the bed.
The look in Harry's eyes was deliberate, burning. "Any requests?"
The grin widened. "Be a dear and wear the socks."
At 5:55 p.m., Draco and Harry were dressed and downstairs for their farewell dinner with Snape. By eight o'clock, Snape was more than fashionably late.
Draco paced the room. "Who is late by their own invitation?"
"Maybe he was unavoidably detained?" Harry volunteered.
"With no owl explaining why? No, something's wrong. I felt something was wrong this morning."
Harry fumbled with his chain. "And you're just saying something now?"
"All right. I fucked up. I should have said something sooner. Look, maybe we should just go. Snape would understand, I'm sure."
"Snape's pretty much a horrendous bastard, but he did take us in. Sort of." Harry screwed up his face thinking about that. "I think we should try and locate him. I'll grab the stupid bottle."
Sir Reginald meowed his approval.
Draco snorted. "Chewed out by a cat. Chewed on by a faerie. Brilliant."
Harry retrieved the bottle from its hiding place and slammed it down on the worktable, jostling the faerie. She shook her fist at them in anger. With the release of the cork, she swam up and out of the bottle, nesting in Harry's hair like a motherless Snidget.
As always, Draco took the first pull. He drank deeply, swishing it around his mouth before swallowing. He handed it to Harry like it was a journey of peace. Harry took his perfunctory quick swig. A cloud of calm passed over them.
Draco's question was direct. "Where is the Clocksmith?"
The faerie stood, digging her sharpened toenails into Harry's scalp. When he went to swat at her, she flew away, throwing her head back with a laugh.
Gears wind time for the hangman's crowd.
Hands on high show how time flies
In London Town, time rides on high.
Before they could capture her, the faerie said something rude and then flew off, leaving her glass prison behind.
"Hope we don't require her services again."
"No," Draco said. "She's played her part. She's gone."
Harry sat down to think, the cat jumping in his lap. "Right. Let's riddle this out then."
Draco resumed his pacing, repeating the verses. He dealt with stressful issues better if he was moving. Not ten rotations in, it came to him. He snapped his fingers loudly in recognition. "I've got it!"
"Well, don't give it to me," Harry snorted.
Draco gave Harry a stern look. "Shut your mouth and listen. You may marvel at my brilliance later. Tell me, oh boy blunder, what is London's most famous landmark?"
"Madame Tussaud's? Did you know Dumbledore was knighted, thus honoured with a wax statue?"
"You’re an idiot."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Well, of course it's Big Ben. Fuck. Big Ben?"
"What better creation than to make a Time-Turner from. You could transport hundreds of people at once."
"Snape's at Big Ben?"
"Only one way to find out. Take my arm."
Harry let go of Sir Reginald and took Draco's arm. No sooner did they vanish than they reappeared, knocked over with such a force that they fell on their arses.
"Fuck!" Harry cursed, slamming his fist on the floor. "An Anti-Apparition Charm. Now, how are we going to get there?"
Draco got to his feet and gave Harry a hand up. "You known that bloke Vector from Aloysius's holiday gala?"
"The one with the weird-looking motorbike?" Harry asked. "The Vector Victor?"
"That's him. He was in Snape's office not long ago. And he left something. The key perhaps?"
"Snape's door will be sealed shut with at least ten different Locking Charms."
"Probably so," Draco said, crouching down. He pointed to the unprotected crack between door and floor. "Accio Vector's object!"
Something cold and metallic skittered its way across the floor. Draco picked it up examined it closely. His grey eyes glittered with mirth. It was the motorbike shrunken down.
"Think it flies like Sirius's old Vincent Black?"
"If not it can be charmed to," Draco said, heading out of the shop.
Harry followed, tightening his scarf. It was going to be a short ride if it couldn't be charmed.
Draco set the bike on a patch of clear cobblestone. "Engorgio!" The bike grew to size, brass accoutrements glinting in the moonlight.
"It'll still need to run on fuel. I think we can eliminate petrol."
"Of course we can. It's steam powered." Draco poised his wand at the fuel tank. "Aguamenti."
"I'll drive," Harry said, straddling the bike. He patted the seat behind him. "Hop on."
Draco rode shotgun, rummaging through the twin leather saddlebags. He held up two sets of goggles in triumph. "Try not to get us killed, flyboy."
Harry kick-started the engine. Steam poured from the dual exhaust. "And miss out forever on that twirly thing you do with your tongue? Not a chance," Harry said, lowering the goggles. He gave the bike equal parts steam and clutch, and they took off.
When they were at a steady enough pace, Draco put a powerful Flying Charm on the bike. With a swift jolt, they were up and airborne, flying over London Town. Big Ben chimed nine in the distance.
"Where are we going to park this thing?" Draco asked over the noise of the wind. He clawed Harry's sides in terror when they hit an air pocket.
"Right outside the face. There's bound to be an opening we can crawl through. They're all up top I suspect. We're approaching the tower now. Might want to consider a Silencing Charm."
Of course, that made the communication easier. Why Draco hadn't thought of that earlier surprised him. He'd already decided that that was Harry's fault when they parked. Draco reinforced his Hovering Charm with a second and third just to be certain. Unfortunately, they had other issues.
"Opening's not big enough. Now what?" Harry asked. "They're bound to notice an outside magical signature."
"For you, maybe. I told you those chip butties would catch up with you. Never fear, though," Draco grinned, reaching a hand into the saddlebag. With his trusty piece of chalk, Draco widened the opening. "You may have the honours, porky."
Harry crawled through the opening. "Christ, I weigh half a stone more than you." He held out a hand to Draco.
"Really?" Draco teased, taking Harry's hand. "Looks like a full stone to me." He sidestepped Harry with a playful pat to the shoulder.
As the faerie prophesised, Snape was there. Aloysius Malfoy and all his followers were there as well, pawns in a grand game of chess.
A glowing red perimeter had been created with an Anti-Apparition Charm. A Finite Incantatem disabled the charm and established their escape route. Draco and Harry hid behind a giant gear and listened as Lord Malfoy's noble plan was being put into action.
"Our dear brother, Severus, despite his inferior blood status, has perfected our means of travel. No longer shall we have to travel in singles or pairs. Now we may traverse vast distances in greater numbers. And you, my brethren, shall all bear witness to his virtuosity as we travel hither and thither. At precisely nine thirty, we will all travel simultaneously and return together."
The men stirred, seemingly apprehensive.
"Well, genius, I flew us here in one piece. Now what?" Harry whispered.
"Need a way to communicate with Snape without drawing attention to us."
"You’re a brilliant Legilimens. Establish a connection."
Draco had to admit that was an ingenious suggestion. If Snape asked later, Draco mused, he might just take the credit. Withdrawing his wand, Draco pointed it at Snape and gently pushed for access. A slight tickle caressed his brain in return. Snape mentally laughed at Draco's cataloguing and delineating his thoughts, the bastard.
"I let Snape know the Anti-Apparition wards were down. He told us to follow his lead. He'll signal us when he's ready."
Harry nodded. "And if this plan fails?"
"It better not," Draco mumbled. "Or we're really screwed." His foot falling asleep, Draco shifted his position, kicking up years of dust that lay dormant. Harry sneezed.
Aloysius was the first to notice them. He glared at Snape before training his wand on him. "Filthy double-crosser. I was going to spare your life, Severus, but now you shall die with your conspirators. Avada--!"
"EXPELLIARMUS!" Harry roared. Aloysius's wand went skittering across the floor. He snarled and dived out of the way of Harry's next spell.
Outside, the minute hand clicked to twenty-five. They had five minutes left to escape and Apparate out of there. It was not looking good.
A barrage of spellfire lit up the clock tower like a fireworks display from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. A few of Aloysius's men went down with Stunners. Others deflected spells like they were swatting at flies. Draco had signalled to Snape to keep Aloysius's men at bay as best he could. Draco wanted to take down Aloysius himself. Spell perched on the tip of his tongue, he raised his wand and whoosh was knocked aside by a force as strong as a pair of rogue Bludgers. Harry was right there behind him with a Rictusempra.
Aloysius went hurtling backwards, headed straight for the opening. He caught the ledge and managed to hang on, desperately trying to hoist himself back up. Harry lumbered over him, kicking the wand from his hand. Aloysius snarled and tried to grab on to Harry's ankle. Harry kicked out and caught Aloysius in the face before losing his balance and stumbling backwards. Draco caught him just in time. "I'll take it from here, Harry."
Aloysius glared at Draco. "Help me to my feet, insolent boy, and I will spare your life."
Draco stepped on one set of fingers. A sickening crunch filled his ears. At least two finger bones were broken. Aloysius snarled in pain. "You’re really in no position to demand anything, are you?" Draco's other foot hovered over Aloysius's uninjured hand.
"You're a filthy blood traitor, and you'll meet with an equally horrific end mark my words." They were brave words from a man who was barely hanging on. One hand slipped. Aloysius's face paled, one knock already on death's door.
Rightly, Draco extended a hand. "I'll save you, but you're going to turn yourself into the Ministry. You may even escape the Dementor's kiss."
"I would rather die than live at the hands of a boy one-sixteenth Veela."
"Suit yourself," Draco sneered. He stepped on the other hand, and Aloysius fell. "And I'm one-eighth Veela, you presumptuous arse!" he screamed down at the plummeting body.
Outside, the minute hand clicked to twenty-nine. One minute left to escape. Draco searched frantically for Harry. He was locked in a duel with Lucifix Lestrange. Swooping in, Draco caught Harry by the elbow and they Apparated out. Just in time to see Snape vanish as well.
The minute hand clicked to thirty. The remainder of Aloysius's followers disappeared, their destinations unknown. It was the most poorly executed plan enacted brilliantly. Draco thought he'd give himself a pat on the back, when he wasn't holding on for dear life with Harry at the helm. Draco pressed against Harry's back, shivering.
There were a lot of stars out tonight. It was going to be a clear day tomorrow.
Back at Snape's shop, the wine and the conversation flowed. Draco helped himself to a second helping of shepherd's pie. Funnily enough, he didn't care if he gained the half stone that brought him back up to Harry's weight. "Where will you go, Severus?" he asked between forkfuls.
"Most likely back to my own reality. It's time I stopped running and made a life for myself."
"But how?" Harry asked. "Big Ben isn't an option anymore."
"There is another pocketwatch, Mr Malfoy. It's been under your noses the whole time."
Draco laughed. "You great, bloody liar. You said ours was the last."
"When I said that I was many things to many men, Mr Malfoy, I never mentioned I was a saint." Snape dabbed at the corners of his mouth. "Where will you two go?"
Draco and Harry exchanged glances. "Home," they both said in unison. Sir Reginald, curled up in Harry's lap, purred at the mention.
Snape sighed. "I'd hoped you two might take over my business. It's never run so efficiently. But I do understand the need for hearth and home. I miss what I've left behind as well."
Draco took a sip of wine. It was inexpensive elf-made made, but he couldn't make himself care. It tasted of freedom. "Where did those men go? That vanished."
"In time," Snape began, tenting his fingers. "There exist cracks, tiny outer walls that divide the pockets, Time's purgatory. Eventually they will slip through these cracks into the void, Time's Hell. Think of it like our Veil. There is no return. But enough talk, gentlemen. You've spent enough time in this old man's company."
Draco and Harry stood as well. Draco handed over the bruised pocketwatch. Snape inspected the damage, peering down The Nose at them. "Mostly useless but there are salvageable parts. I will integrate them into the bike's chronometer. It's why the motorbike was so conveniently available to you. Vector was quite the demanding prick, but his timing was impeccable." Snape offered his hand. "This is where we part company."
Draco shook Snape's hand followed by Harry. "Thanks. For everything."
"And thank you," Snape drawled. "Consider your life debt to me paid in full. Humour an old man before you leave. There's something I wish to know. What's it like loving one another?"
Draco looked at Harry and smiled. "It sucks. Except for the parts that don't suck."
Snape flashed the briefest hint of a smile. He set the pocketwatch and handed it to Draco. "I trust you know what to do with this upon your return?"
"We'll destroy it," Harry promised.
"Thirty seconds, gentlemen." Snape lifted a hand in goodbye.
Draco gripped Harry's hand tightly. Sir Reginald dug his claws into Harry's collarbone, and Harry gave Draco's hand a sharp squeeze in pain. Love me, love my fucking cat. The pinched look on Harry's face made Draco smile.
Vanishing from this world, Draco had a thought of his own; There was love, there was hate, and then there was Harry Potter.
And he was just fine with that.
Author's Notes: A Hound of Tindalos is a fictional creature created by Frank Belknap Long for the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. They first appeared in Long's short story "The Hounds of Tindalos" (1931). Lovecraft mentions the creatures in his short story "The Whisperer in Darkness" (1931).
Fencing scene is loosely based on Rai's lovely, Two of Swords
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