Pairings: Harry/Draco, Harry/Malfoy house-elves (implied).
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 8K words
Summary: What is Draco Malfoy doing in Hungary? What do zombies have to do with it all? And why the hell is there a plot?
Note: All the glaringly obvious references to ab epistulis are totally intentional.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Draco should have remembered that Su Li's plans tended to have disastrous results.
However, hindsight is always twenty-twenty and so June 2004 found Draco sitting in a lounge chair in the open-air section of a café on Liszt Ferenc square, waiting for Li to show up. It was still early afternoon but they were well into the tourist season; the square, which housed over a dozen different cafés and bistros, was filled with chatter in all sorts of different languages.
Draco tuned them out, gazing down at the menu in front of him. He couldn't decide whether he should order lunch or just get something to drink while he waited, then order food when his illustrious business partner got there. He finally decided on having just a drink and ordered elderflower fizz; it was refreshing and reminded him of his mother's house-elf-made elderflower wine.
The waitress brought out the drink almost instantly, flashing him a dazzling smile as she departed. Draco smiled back automatically, then pursed his lips when she was out of sight. He really needed to find another café to patronise; this one employed no males, but dammit, their lunch lineup was the best of them all.
He sipped his drink and stared at the boarded-up doors in the building across the square; if there was one thing about Budapest he would never get used to, it would be how naturally decay and progress coexisted in virtually every corner of the city. Metal-and-glass monoliths towered alongside rickety old two-storey buildings with crumbling roof tiles. Gaudy neon signs flashed above centuries-old cobblestone pavements in the Old Town. Turn a corner, and you'd find yourself looking at the old, seventies-style shop signs with their Technicolor-inspired designs and wavy, uncertain letterings.
Perhaps that was what made the city so inherently desirable to live in, for Draco -- at least he could never say it was boring. Here, at the undiscovered meeting point of East and West, the clash of cultures and colours was ever so subtle. There were no entire districts dedicated to foreign cultures. KFC and McDonald's franchises beckoned alongside traditional Hungarian restaurants, with Chinese, Greek, Arabic, and Turkish dives bringing up the rear. Italian gelato was sold alongside that machine-dispensed crap the locals called ice cream, and the mornings always smelled of exhaust fumes and smoked bacon.
When Draco's wand tip had randomly landed on the map of Hungary during a dark June evening in 1998, he'd had no idea just how much he would like living there.
The other Slytherins were holding a Future Eating of Death Society (F.E.D.S.) meeting, or orgy, or a dark revel, check all that apply, but Draco couldn't be bothered to join them. He'd told them all in no uncertain terms that he would be leaving the country because really, who had time to fight wars for or against evil overlords these days? All that Draco needed to do was pick a place to go, but he was having trouble deciding.
While the others were engaging in whatever it was that made Nott scream "CHICKEN! CHICKEN!" at regular intervals, Draco was in his dormitory. He was deeply absorbed in the highly scientific pursuit of poking at a map of Europe with his wand. This is no mean feat when your eyes are closed, make no mistake. The Aegean Sea and the Black Sea were definitely out of the question as places of permanent residence; much too wet, plus the whole lack of stable shelter thing. Besides, the seagulls would surely drive him batty.
He shut his eyes tightly, willing himself not to think about his last confrontation with Potter with whom Draco had been, of course, having a torrid affair for most of seventh year. Really, it made sense. Potter. Malfoy. Enemies since their first day and as it turned out, very gay enemies. Really very gay. The only gay boys in their year. Black versus white-blond, green versus gray, Gryffindor versus Slytherin. In the Quidditch stands, by the lake, in the Forbidden Forest, in countless broom cupboards and once in the Great Hall. Sex. Angry wall-sex, even. Malfoy. Potter. Pottermalfoy.
"So you're going to go off and leave me then?"
"Leave you, Potter? I'd have to be with you in order to leave you. As I'm not--"
"Not with me, are you?"
"Aaah, stop that, Potter! Stop -- oh -- don't you dare stop."
"So what was this about not being with me?"
"Well, I won't be once I leave, will I?"
"Don't call me that! Get off-- get off me! I'm leaving, and that's final. It's not up to you to save me, Potter."
"You know what, Malfoy? Do whatever the hell you want. I'm through with trying to talk sense into you."
Draco jabbed angrily at the parchment in front of him, then opened his eyes. His wand had gone right through the map and put a gaping hole in the middle of Europe. Draco pulled it out, muttering, and peered at the damaged area. Hungary. He didn't know much about it, other than what he'd read in the World Wizarding Atlas as a boy, and of that he recalled very little. All he remembered at this point was that the wizarding quarter in the Hungarian capital was underground.
He hated having to go underground for anything, but now was not the time to tempt fate. It was Hungary or seagulls. His parents had been thrown in Azkaban following a Shock and Awe operation by Ministry Aurors last Christmas. Draco had gone to collect all the gold in their Gringotts vault during Easter break. His trunk was filled with nothing but money as a result, but money could buy all the things he needed when he got to his destination. For the first time in weeks, Draco had fallen asleep with a contented smile on his face.
During their last trip aboard the Hogwarts Express, Pansy tried once again to talk him out of leaving the country. She even showed him her special green armband and her Dark Mark, which wasn't so much Dark as it was Pink.
"The Dark Lord loves us, he really does!" gushed Pansy. "Look, he let me have butterflies with mine!"
There were several mauve butterflies tattooed on Pansy's Marked forearm, but Draco had seen them approximately fifteen hundred times by then.
"I told you, Pansy, I'm leaving, and that's final," said Draco and turned away to look out the window.
They were just passing Edinburgh and for a fleeting moment Draco thought that maybe he could just settle down there, and perhaps open a bookstore. He banged his head against the window, causing Gregory to jump in his seat and choke on a Chocolate Frog. Ignoring Gregory's sounds of strangulation, Draco rubbed his forehead. He could not stay in Britain, he had to go to Hungary. It had been decided by a poke of the wand.
It took all the third-year Slytherins and two unfortunate Hufflepuffs to load Draco's trunk onto a trolley when the Hogwarts Express arrived at Kings Cross. Draco stood by and buffed his nails against the sleeve of his Muggle jacket. He wondered what the weather would be like in Hungary; would he need a jacket at all? Pansy attempted to attack him with the green armband one last time, but Draco would not hear of it.
He pushed his trolley into a convenient dark alley that led away from the busy street outside the station.
"Hey, Malfoy, wait up!" came a breathless voice from behind him.
He turned around and saw Su Li hurrying towards him, pushing his own trolley like his life depended on him. Draco scowled.
"What do you want?"
"I heard you were leaving."
Draco raised an inquisitive eyebrow. Su Li was a Ravenclaw who occasionally hung around with Theodore Nott. He and Draco had hardly exchanged two words during their seven years at Hogwarts. "Please don't tell me Theodore has sent you to try and convince me to stay and -- ah -- fight for my birthright?"
"No, nothing like that. I want to go with you."
Draco blinked rapidly at him. "What?"
"Yeah. Um. My parents, see, uh. My parents, they were Death Eaters," said Li in an urgent whisper, looking pained. "They were killed in the last Auror operation. And I'm afraid to go home because I'm sure they'll take me and torture me to give up all my family's secrets!!11"
Draco smirked. "You have family secrets?"
"Well, actually, I don't. But they'll torture me anyway!!1!! You've heard the stories, I'm sure. Those Aurors, they're animals!!11!" Li said, flailing slightly. "I'm too young to die!!11"
Draco glanced over at the street beyond the alley entrance. Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe. He could see a familiar figure standing just outside the entrance to the train station. Potter. He was looking around, occasionally carding his fingers through that messy black mop of his. Saint Potter, whose greatest ambition was to become an Auror. Well, if he could make Potter's life difficult by helping Li escape, he surely would.
"Fine," Draco said. "But I'm going to Hungary."
"Yes. Eastern European nation, temperate climate, mix of lowlands and mountainous regions?"
Li flushed slightly and tapped his handy-dandy Ravenclaw badge. "I know where it is, I just... why Hungary?"
"My wand made me do it," said Draco in a matter-of-fact tone. Li's eyes widened and he made to back away, looking slightly panicked.
"Oh, no, you don't. You've talked me into taking you with me, now you're going to come with me whether you want to or not."
Li sniffed in a disdainful manner and drew himself up to his full, though unimpressive, height. "All right. So... do you have a plan?"
"Of course I have a plan. I'm a Slytherin. We know plans."
"So what's our plan?"
"We're going to go to Hungary," said Draco in a triumphant tone and gave Li a snide look.
Draco buffed his nails against his jacket sleeve again. "Now, let's get one thing straight right away. You can't expect me to be climactic all of the time."
They looked at each other for a few moments. Draco took in the other boy's small frame, shoulder-length hair and pinched face. "Well, since you have decided to be climactic with me, I suppose it's only proper that we use our given names. Shall I call you Su?" he said finally.
"Er, no, it's Li. In my culture, we say the surname first and the given name second."
Draco should have realised right then that someone with an ass-backwards name like that would only mean trouble.
"A Knut for your thoughts?" had to be the most irritating way to be startled out of reminiscences.
Draco glared up at Li, who had, apparently, arrived in the meantime. He was sitting across from Draco with a huge grin on his face and a look that said "I know something you don't know." Draco especially hated it when Li looked like that, because that always meant Li had a plan. Li's plans were usually Scary and Not At All Cunning.
"I was just remembering my last evening at Hogwarts, if you must know," Draco said in a crotchety tone. "What are you so happy about?"
Li's grin got even bigger, making his eyes narrow to slits. "We, my friend, are in business," he declared in a jovial kind of voice that reminded Draco of all things twee. Yes, all of them at once.
Draco wrinkled his nose and took another sip of his elderflower fizz. "You mean you got the operating permit."
Li nodded and shoved a stack of papers across the table at him, nearly upending Draco's glass. Draco scowled at him and studied the documents. Everything seemed to be in order, though he was more concerned that some careless oaf -- probably Li -- had smudged the fancy loops on the bottom of Draco's signature.
"Have you told Zoltán and István about this?"
Li looked extremely shifty for a moment. "No. I don't think we should tell them."
"Good plan," said Draco, not entirely missing the irony of that statement.
The waitress came by to take their orders. Draco ordered some Hortobagy pancakes -- thin pancakes filled with a seasoned minced veal stew in a paprika-sour cream sauce -- and tuned out the chatter between Li and the waitress. Li was practically a married man, but such a sucker for female attention. It was a good thing Draco had been the one with all the plans and the iron fist, otherwise Li would have spent all of his time and money on women.
They'd both been extremely frustrated when they'd arrived in Hungary. And no, you perverts, not sexually. The blasted language was impossible to learn. Sure, many people here spoke English but one couldn't really get anywhere without speaking Hungarian. Draco thought it linguistic snobbery at best, patriotic nonsense at worst, but there it was. Sometimes, however, having a Ravenclaw on your side had benefits. They had good ideas.
Li was full of ideas; Draco was full of workable plans for their implementation.
The idea that had made them both ridiculously wealthy was the concept of the Linguasieve. A modified version of the Pensieve, the Linguasieve stored languages. Someone using the Linguasieve got a native-level grasp on a language for a limited amount of time. The device could store many copies of a language in memory form and was infinitely re-usable.
Draco glanced at Li, who was still chattering with the waitress. She was sniggering into the palm of her hand and stealing looks inside the café, as though worried her boss might see her schmoozing with the customers. It would serve her right. Draco took a sip of his drink and tuned them out again.
Li had developed and perfected the device along with the memory-duplication technique. Draco had found language-donors among the local wizards. To cut costs, he'd made sure that none of them had actually remembered having been donors; memory charms were dead useful in such situations. Besides, you couldn't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
After a year of research and development, Li and Draco were ready to take the device public. By then, Draco had established a handy social network amongst the local wizarding community, all of whom knew him as Kelemen Varga, complete with fake family tree stretching back to the times of the country's founders. The prototype Linguasieve had enabled Draco to speak Hungarian as well as any native, and the locals had bought the ruse hook, line and sinker.
Draco cast a bored look at Li and the waitress, who were still at it, then looked to his side. A curly-haired short woman was glaring at the yammering waitress from a nearby table. Draco gave her a lazy grin and rolled his eyes, as if to say "tell me about it". The woman blinked a few times then sat back, looking slightly less cross. Ah, the Malfoy charm in action.
Li, with his obviously Asian looks, could not even dream of trying to fit in with the locals, unless he claimed to have some rare disease. Draco simply didn't have time to come up with a proper cover story for this rare disease, and so Li had stayed in the background, working on their first batch of Linguasieves. He had originally wanted to donate his research to the local Ministry's Department of Magical Artefacts and Innovations so they could perfect it further, but Draco wouldn't hear of it.
He had seen right away that the real utility of Linguasieves lay not in their actual usage, but in their infinite re-usability. Empty Linguasieves could be refilled for a fee, and Draco would have eaten paint chips before he'd let anyone else charge that fee. The two of them had started Lingua Franca, appointing two local wizards as figureheads. With Zoltán Szabó and István Kovács at the helm, the business was considered Hungarian-owned, there was much less red tape to deal with, and they all rejoiced. The end. Not quite.
Zoltán and István, usually referred to fondly as "the puppets", knew Li -- Draco had to introduce them since he couldn't pretend he understood the technical mumbo-jumbo pertaining to the Linguasieves. Lingua Franca had become an overnight success; they now offered Linguasieves in fifteen hundred different languages, with some eight hundred more, plus dialects, in development.
The puppets were being hailed the world over as innovators and bringers of light into the realm of international magical co-operation. Draco's vanity often smarted when he read about "the genius Hungarian wizards" but he reminded himself that they needed to keep a low profile. Li was, after all, on the run from the British authorities, and Draco simply didn't want to be found. The only other person who knew that Draco and Li were behind Lingua Franca was Blaise Zabini.
Blaise, too, had fled from Britain, as it happened -- he and Daphne Greengrass had eloped to Palermo, Sicily. They were now married and in charge of a restaurant that had been in the Zabini family for generations. Blaise's owl had found Draco in Budapest three years after Lingua Franca had taken off. Draco had been surprised how glad he had been to hear from his old schoolmate.
Li and Draco visited the Zabinis in Palermo several times during the summers that followed. La Stazione was a lovely restaurant with an authentic selection; the Zabini family used it as a front. They were an ancient wizarding clan but appeared to be mere mafiosi to the locals. Blaise still had connections with the British Ministry of Magic by virtue of his extensive family. He always assured Li and Draco that they'd be the first to know should the hunt for Li ever get close to home.
Of course, Draco hadn't been able to resist telling Blaise that he and Li were behind Lingua Franca.
His mobile rang then. Draco cursed under his breath, snatching it off the table. He'd had the contraption for years, but he still couldn't get used to it. Muggles were clearly masochists, to allow such an intrusive form of communication.
He flipped the phone open. "Hello?"
"Oh, hello Blaise. I was just thinking about you."
Drakie-poo was really a genius code name, because no one would ever suspect that Draco Malfoy answered to such an ignominious moniker.
"Did whatever you were thinking involve anal lube? Because if so, I'm not interested."
"Shut up, Blaise. What news from the North?"
"None whatsoever, I just wanted to hear your manly voice, lover."
Draco rolled his eyes. Blaise's gay jokes were nothing new, he'd kept up a litany of them throughout their Hogwarts years, but they tended to get irritating after a while.
"Spare me, Blaise. What's going on?"
"Oh, just letting you know that Daphne and I shall be coming for a visit in July. Keep you lot on your toes."
"And you couldn't relay this by way of owl post... why?"
"Owl post is so last century, Drakie-poo. I'll call again when I have exact dates."
Draco listened to the short beeps for a while after Blaise had hung up, then shook his head. Across from him, Li had got rid of the waitress in a hurry and was eyeing him suspiciously.
"What's going on?" Li asked in a small voice.
Draco put the mobile back on the table with deliberate slowness. He gave Li a condescending look, then smirked. "Blaise and Daphne are coming to visit next month."
"You scared me there for a second."
"Yes, I know."
"Takes one to know one."
The waitress arrived with their food and they were silent for a while. After the meal, Li leant back in his chair and stretched.
"So?" Li asked, nodding at the papers he'd brought.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "So what?"
"Did you tell Blaise?"
"Of course I didn't. I'm still hoping I'll be able to talk you out of it."
Li beamed at him. "Never."
Li was, by all accounts, a little crazy. When they had first visited Blaise's restaurant in Palermo, Li had casually remarked that a Muggle restaurant as a front for their shady business dealings was just what the Mediwizard ordered. Draco's insistence that they didn't have any shady business dealings was met with stony silence. Li had been on fire.
He'd wheedled and begged and prodded until Draco gave in and signed the papers. The two of them were going to open a restaurant. Draco had agreed to sign on the condition that Li would be the one to do everything else. He should have known better, really, but hindsight and all that.
The grand opening of the restaurant was scheduled for July 12th, a week before Blaise and Daphne were supposed to arrive. As Draco and Li made their way to the site, Li kept bouncing up and down and rubbing his hands together. Draco suspected that Li had a serious case of restaurant envy, but knew better than to mention it. Li was sensitive about things like that.
Draco hadn't participated in preparations for the grand opening, if one didn't count forcing the previous owners of the site out of business. Such trifling details were nothing, really. The restaurant was situated on the third floor of the Duna Plaza shopping centre, next door to the Plaza Café, which happened to be Draco's favourite place to get an espresso.
They entered the shopping centre from the street, made their way past an information booth and several cosmetics counters. A lift took them up to the third floor. Li was positively squeaking with excitement when they arrived in front of their new restaurant. Draco looked up at the sign.
Draco couldn't help it; he began to giggle.
"Li, you do realise how absolutely ridiculous this looks, right?"
Li looked affronted. "I think it's clever. And look, Ravenclaw colours!!11!"
Draco stared up at the sign for a while. "Well, it fits you," he said finally. "But why did you even bother translating it into Hungarian?"
Li wrinkled his nose. "There's a law that requires all foreign-language business signs to feature Hungarian translations for the business name."
"Snobs," Draco muttered. "I hope you realise Kristal's going to laugh you off the face of the planet."
Kristal was Li's steady girlfriend of four years. He'd found her during a trip to Canada and refused to lose her.
Li beamed. Draco shook his head.
"Barking," he muttered, then pulled open the restaurant door and walked in.
The interior was all Ravenclaw colours as well. The walls were painted a faint yellow with orange dragons in various positions. The tablecloths were blue, with candles floating in small orange bowls in the middle of each. Even Draco had to admit it looked very nice. A petite waitress ran up to them and hustled them towards a large table.
Draco studied the orange-and-blue menu in front of him. It featured the usual selection of Chinese dishes. He settled on ginger beef with egg fried rice and placed his order with the madly grinning waitress. Li ordered Szechuan chicken with plain white rice, then turned to Draco. He opened his mouth but didn't get a chance to speak -- loud giggles sounded from the front entrance. The two men turned around.
Kristal and her entourage had arrived. Draco scowled. His disdain for Kristal was rivaled only by his irrational Hufflepuff hate. He could not understand what on earth Li saw in the petite witch. She was catty and her giggling girlfriends, who followed her everywhere, were infernally irritating.
"Boo-ya!" cried Kristal with a chortle. "Li, darling, what an inspired name! Boo-ya!"
Draco cast a sidelong glance at Li, who was unsuccessfully trying to suppress laughter. Indeed, the Hungarian word for 'wanton', buja, was very close to 'boo-ya' in pronunciation. Draco suspected that Li had deliberately picked that word among the quintillion synonyms the Hungarian language was rife with. Kristal was irrationally fond of Muggle rap music.
They were making their way towards their table now, Kristal in the lead. She was followed by Marie, a French witch who insisted on being called Countess. Hanging off her arm was Kitty, an obnoxious American witch with fire-engine red hair that always reminded Draco of various Weasleys. The only Hungarian in the group was Flo, a tall, black-haired witch who never took off her sunglasses. She was bringing up the rear, her ever-present laptop computer case slung over her shoulder.
Draco stared at her disapprovingly. A pure-blood witch, playing with Muggle contraptions. What was the world coming to? The women greeted Li and Draco and settled around the table. Kristal immediately began to natter about some vapid subject Draco had absolutely no interest in. Kitty and Countess were whispering to each other, stealing the occasional glance at Draco. He rolled his eyes. Honestly, they were so obvious.
Flo took out her laptop, put it on a chair next to her, and started typing away furiously at the keyboard. Her most recent obsession was some sort of game that involved "murdering the alphabet". Stupid Muggles and their violent video games. The waitress arrived to take the women's orders. Just as she was leaving, Draco's mobile rang and he jumped.
"Drakie-poo. We got trouble."
Flo gave a loud screech. "WHAT? YOU CAN'T POISON ME, YOU ASSHAT! I AM A FUCKING ZOMBIE!" she yelled at her computer screen.
"What the hell?" came Blaise's voice from the mobile.
Draco gave Flo a murderous glare and got up, his chair scraping the floor loudly. "Hold on," he muttered to Blaise, and hurried out into the corridor outside the restaurant. When the door closed behind him, he spoke again. "Yeah."
"What was that about zombies?" Blaise wanted to know.
"Never mind, just some friend of You-Know-Who's, she's barking," said Draco. "What's up?"
"Bad news, mate. There was a tip that You-Know-Who is in Hungary."
"What?" Draco almost yelled.
"Yeah, I know. They're sending Aurors after him."
"Any idea who?"
"None. All I got was that they got a tip and were sending someone straightaway."
"Thanks," said Draco and flipped the mobile closed.
So the puppets had decided they'd get rid of their benefactors. Draco clenched his fists. Imbeciles. They probably had no idea that they were the only people to know of Li, aside from Draco. No matter, he'd deal with them later. Now he needed to focus on keeping Li safe.
He hated added responsibility. Responsibility was for Hufflepuffs. Ugh.
Draco was not at all happy with the new development; it meant that he had to check in on the restaurant periodically to make sure everything was going smoothly. Li was holed up in his flat. Kristal and her giggling girlfriends kept him company on most days. Draco stopped by with food every odd day but otherwise pretended that it was business as usual.
One Sunday afternoon, after closing the restaurant promptly after lunch, Draco decided to break from routine and have a cappuccino at the Plaza Café next door. His weekly Quidditch practice with the local amateur team was cancelled because both their Beaters were on vacation. Draco settled into one of the corner booths and stretched out his legs, staring fixedly in front of him.
Living among Muggles wasn't so bad, after all. They tended to not meddle in one another's business quite as much as wizarding folk did. Draco occasionally missed the Manor and wizarding London, but he didn't allow himself to dwell on such things. Both his parents were still in Azkaban and he had no one to go back to. Well, almost no one. Draco stared at Potter's face and pursed his lips.
Draco blinked. Potter's face didn't disappear. Draco blinked again, several times. Still nothing -- Potter's irritatingly green eyes were laughing at Draco from behind those awful glasses.
"Hi," Potter said, his voice slightly hoarse. He coughed.
Draco stared at him, blinking very rapidly now. "What, er, Potter? Who? Um, why? Where the hell did you come from?"
Draco took a deep breath, telling himself to calm down. Potter looked unfortunately improved with age. His hair was still messy but he no longer looked underfed. In fact, he now boasted a set of shoulders Draco would have killed for. Potter wore a thin short-sleeved shirt and looked no different from any Hungarian Muggle. Draco noticed that Potter was grinning in a very suggestive manner and realised he'd been staring.
"What are you doing here, Potter?" asked Draco finally.
"Waiting for you to notice me."
"No, you daft prat, I mean what the hell are you doing in Budapest?" said Draco, frowning.
"Is that how you pronounce it? Boo-dah-pesh-t? I thought it was pronounced with an 's'," said Potter in an infuriatingly conversational tone.
Draco gave him a withering look. "I, unlike you, happen to speak the local tribal dialect. Stop dodging my question, Potter. What are you doing here?"
"It's good to see you again, Draco," said Potter, appearing supremely unperturbed.
"Gah! Don't call me that! It's Malfoy to you, in case you've forgotten."
Potter leant forward a bit. "I haven't. I just don't care what you want me to call you. You'll always be Draco to me."
Draco nearly choked on his cappuccino. "Excuse me?"
"Apology accepted. I'm here on business. What are you doing here?"
Draco couldn't believe he was having this conversation. "What kind of business?" he heard himself asking, as his mind rifled through various methods of torture that would be fit to punish Potter for his cheek.
Potter cocked his head to one side. "Auror business."
Then it clicked. Potter was here for Li. Draco felt warmth creep up his spine. How very excellent. He gave Potter an indulgent smile, which seemed to take the other man aback.
"Exciting," said Draco in a deliberately breathy voice. He watched with satisfaction as Potter's smirk was replaced with a look of pretty bewilderment. "How's that working out for you, being an Auror?" He put his elbows unceremoniously on the table and linked his fingers together, then put his chin atop his hands.
Potter's earlier bravado seemed to evaporate. "Uh," he offered, rubbing the back of his neck. "Okay?"
Draco smiled. "Do tell, Potter. What kind of business does a British Auror have in Budapest?"
"You know, you're really sexy when you say Budapest like that," said Potter with a deadpan look.
Draco spluttered. "Really, Potter, how very crass. I'll have less of the familiarity, thanks."
"Is everything all right, Mr. Varga?" said a voice in Hungarian from above Draco.
He looked up to find Robert, the proprietor, leaning slightly over his shoulder with a look of contrition. Draco shot Potter a look full of malice. Potter's eyes were unreadable, but he looked slightly less cocky. Draco smiled.
"It's fine, Robert, thanks. He is my guest, from England; we went to Oxford together, you know. Would you bring him a Gin Fizz, please?"
"Absolutely, Mr. Varga. Will you be showing him your restaurant?"
"Tomorrow, perhaps. Thank you, Robert."
The proprietor went off with a little bow and Draco turned back to Potter, who was smirking.
"Oxford?" he asked, leaning back in his chair.
Draco's eyebrows shot up. "You understood us?"
"Haven't you heard of Linguasieves?"
Draco snorted, unable to help himself. "Yeah, I've heard of them," he said. They stared at each other for a moment.
Robert brought out Potter's Gin Fizz, deposited it on a coaster in front of him and quickly departed.
"So, what's your restaurant?" asked Potter, staring after Robert.
"It's next door," said Draco, then took a sip of his cappuccino.
Potter snorted Gin Fizz out of his nose. "The Wanton Wonton is your restaurant?" he asked after his coughing fit subsided.
Draco glowered at him in what he hoped was a threatening manner. "It's clever. Shut up."
He would kill Li after this was all over.
Draco wasn't sure whose idea it had been to go back to his flat. He told himself that he needed to get Potter away from the vicinity of the restaurant so he couldn't get at Li. If Potter were to sniff around the restaurant, surely someone would tell him who really ran the place.
They were on their fourth bottle of wine and what felt like the millionth Auror story when Potter sat up straight and gave Draco a piercing look.
"You still haven't explained why you picked Hungary of all places," he said, slurring his words a little.
"Explaining is for Hufflepuffs, Potter."
Potter fingered the stem of his wineglass and gave Draco a mischievous look. Draco rolled his eyes.
"Well, I'd better get back to the hotel," Potter said suddenly.
He didn't actually sound like he wanted to go anywhere, but Draco was relieved. Potter rose, but overbalanced and nearly crashed into the coffee table. Draco sniggered. Potter looked up with an impish grin. He had some trouble walking to the door. Draco followed behind him, enjoying the rear view despite himself. At the door, Potter retrieved his jacket from the hook and turned to Draco, still swaying. Draco was leaning against the wall near the doorframe -- he was having trouble standing up straight, too.
"Are you sure you don't want to use the fireplace?" Draco asked politely. It was a reasonable question.
Potter was trying to button up his jacket. "No fireplaces, 's a new building," he said in a raspy voice. "And I wouldn't trust myself to Apparate right now."
Draco nodded, watching with fascination as Potter brushed his hair out of his face. It looked like slow motion in Muggle films.
"In fact," Potter continued, taking an unsteady step towards Draco, "I don't trust myself to..."
Potter was face to face with him now, and Draco began to feel queasy. "Yes?" he croaked.
Instead of replying, Potter grabbed Draco's face in his hands and kissed him. Under the circumstances, Draco decided that he didn't really want to know what else Potter didn't trust himself to do. He let go of the wall and tried to put his arms around Potter, but overbalanced and they both toppled to the floor in a tangle, Draco ending up partially on top.
"Ouch," said Potter, pulling Draco fully on top of himself. Draco could smell the wine on his breath. They were close enough now that he could see the tiny birthmark on Potter's cheek, right above a small white scar. He, Draco, had given Potter that scar during a particularly enthusiastic wall-sex episode six years ago. An annoying little voice in Draco's hazy mind told him that perhaps this wasn't a good idea. Draco told it to shut up and bent further down to kiss Potter again. He'd always liked kissing Potter, and he'd forgotten how much he had missed kissing Potter.
The other man tasted like wine and Draco supposed so did he, after the absolutely obscene amount of the beverage that they'd consumed. He sucked on Potter's tongue, eliciting a low moan that sent shivers up Draco's spine -- he'd forgotten how responsive Potter was, too. Potter's arms circled around Draco's lower back and pushed, pressing Draco's rather substantial hard-on into Potter's lower abdomen and Draco squeaked in a way that certainly did not become a Malfoy.
Potter arched up into him and Draco's mind went blank temporarily. He closed his eyes and tried to steady his breathing. Things were moving really quite fast, especially things contained in Draco's underpants... and Potter's, by the feel of it. Potter thrust up once again and rolled him over with a grunt. He took off his glasses and threw them blindly on the little table near the door, then stared down at Draco with an unfocused look.
Draco could only stare back. Potter's eyes were glinting from beneath his fringe, his hands were splayed out on either side of Draco's head. The smirk was gone, and Potter's face was so very serious. Draco didn't like it when people looked this serious. It usually meant they were about to say or do something serious, and really, nothing was a worse turn-off than something serious when you were hard and just wanted to get off.
However, Potter did not do or say anything serious, he just began fumblingly unbuttoning Draco's shirt. Draco started to reach over in order to help him, but Potter swatted his hands away with something that sounded suspiciously like "Mine." Draco busied himself with Potter's shirt instead. He found that he wasn't any more successful with the button business than Potter; they seemed to constantly slip out from under his fingers.
Everything after that happened so very fast that Draco didn't even have time to gloat over Potter's ridiculous Snitch-patterned boxers.
Draco shivered a little at the way his name sounded in Potter's voice. It didn't sound like that when anyone else said it. It made Draco want to touch Potter inappropriately, just to hear him say it. It was a bit like getting off, only with less physical exertion.
"Mmm?" he said instead, opening one eye to find Potter leaned on the pillow with his elbow, head propped up on his hand.
"Why'd you name your restaurant The Wanton Wonton?"
Draco closed his eye again. "'twas Li's idea," he mumbled sleepily and his insides immediately turned to ice. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
"Who's Lee?" asked Potter. Draco began to breathe again, just a little.
"Business partner," he offered without opening his eyes. Telling lies with your eyes closed was so easy.
"Man or woman?"
Draco opened his eye again. "Jealous, Potter?"
Potter grinned. "Maybe."
"I'm not sleeping with my business partner, if that's what you're wondering," Draco said and closed his eye as it was once again time to lie.
"I was just curious."
"Woman, then. Will you let me sleep now?"
The noise of something hitting the neighbouring pillow told Draco that Potter either had lain down or was pummelling the pillow into submission. He couldn't decide which option he liked best, so he snuck a peek. Potter was still staring at him with that goofy, boyish smile, but his head was on the pillow.
"Good night, Draco."
"G'night. Potter. Harry. Oh hell."
Potter laughed quietly, eyes shining with something very dangerous. He looked almost affectionate. Draco trembled. Potter's arm came around Draco's back and he was being pulled -- entirely against his will, mind -- into an embrace. Potter kissed him, and it felt like he was being branded. Draco's cock decided to take an interest in the proceedings and they did end up going to sleep, only it was an hour later and in much stickier conditions.
Li called in the morning, which was, of course, a bad idea and a rotten plan all around. He didn't call the mobile like Draco told him to, but instead used the Floo. It was lucky that Draco was an early riser and Potter was snoring happily away when Li's head appeared in the fireplace. Draco told him to call the mobile in the afternoon, promising to explain everything later. He was just turning around to go back to the bedroom when he saw Potter standing in the doorway, wearing only his jeans. He looked stern. It didn't become him.
"Accio glasses," Potter barked and put them on after they came zooming into his hand. He gave Draco an accusing look.
"What?" said Draco, pretending to look innocent.
"Don't play dumb. I saw him. You told me last night you hadn't seen him since we finished school."
"You asked if I'd seen Su. I don't know a Su. I only know a Li."
"Very clever," said Potter with a bitter undertone.
"He's my friend. I can't let you have him. I shan't," said Draco. He looked away, sticking his chin out defiantly.
Potter blanched. "So... you seduced me because you wanted to keep me away from him? Is that it?"
Draco's head snapped around so fast, his neck cracked. "How dare you, Potter? How dare you suggest I'd whore myself around, you... You probably used me to get to him. I know your kind, the Aurors. Just... get the fuck out. Get out, Potter."
Draco's eyes attempted to pop out of their sockets at the rudeness, but Potter continued.
"No, Draco, I can't do that. First of all, if you would stop being hysterical for a moment, the Aurors don't want Su Li himself. In case you both have lost your mental faculties while opening bizarrely named restaurants, he was just a boy, and no Death Eater, when he'd left the country. All we need is to ask him how to find his parents' house."
Potter ran a hand through his hair and licked his lips. Damn, he really knew how to captivate his audience.
"Second of all, I had no way of knowing that you of all people had taken up with Su Li in some hare-brained business scheme, though I suppose I should have suspected. You always were a crazy bastard."
Somehow the insult sounded affectionate, though perhaps it was the way Potter was looking at him. Draco continued to glare.
"Third of all, if you think I'm going to just walk out now that I've found you, you're an even crazier bastard, because I'm not going to do that."
Draco's heart skipped a beat.
"You have no idea how many times I've shown up at that posh mansion of yours--"
"Manor. It's called Malfoy Manor, Potter--"
"Whatever. You have no idea how many times I went there just to have your house elves tell me that Master was still on vacation, and can they do anything for me while I'm there. I've missed you, you great prat."
Draco suddenly wondered where his knees had gone. He grabbed the edge of the sofa to steady himself, unable to tear his gaze away from Potter, who looked frighteningly earnest and very dangerous. Get-under-your-skin kind of dangerous. Potter closed the distance between them in a few steps and put his hand over Draco's. His hand was warm and rough and while Draco was trying to decide whether to whimper or flee, Potter kissed him.
What worried Draco most was that he was beginning to really like having Potter kiss him like that. This was the kind of thing Draco usually avoided. He broke the kiss, panting, but that just gave Potter the opportunity to attack his neck, and Draco bit his tongue accidentally. It hurt.
"Draco," Potter whispered against his skin.
Draco shivered. Potter's hand was guiding his to the bulge in Potter's jeans and Draco whimpered. This was worse than unfair. He pushed him away, watching in fascination as the other man's gaze travelled to his own crotch. Potter's eyes snapped up, and there was something slightly resembling a wild animal lurking behind that look. He took a step towards Draco, pulled him forward again, and nuzzled behind his ear.
"You're obsessed with me," Draco accused, trying to disentangle himself.
"That's not what the books say." Potter licked his neck carefully.
"Oh, please. You know as well as I do that the woman lies. You were all up in my grille by fourth year. Not that I'm surprised." Draco gave up the struggle and threw his head back.
"I bet." Potter forced him down onto the sofa, so that Draco's legs dangled from the edge.
"I am, after all, irresistible." Draco ran his tongue along his bottom lip as Potter pulled his dressing gown open.
"Mmm-hmmm," hummed Potter around Draco's cock and Draco arched up, drawing a breath in through his nose.
Ten minutes later, they were in Draco's kitchen, eating breakfast.
"So you're not going to take Li away?"
"You know the laws, I can't lie about that. We'd have to release him if you led me to him under false pretenses."
Draco got dressed and used the Floo to get to Li's flat; he told Potter to follow him in twenty minutes.
Li was sitting at the kitchen table, looking morose. Draco took a seat opposite.
"Knut for your thoughts?"
Li's head snapped up. He wore an immensely irritated look. Good. That should teach the git not to interrupt Draco with that infernal phrase.
"I'm scared, Draco!!11!" said Li.
"Don't be. I took it upon myself to intercept the Auror who's been sent here. It turns out they don't want to catch you at all."
Li frowned. "They don't?"
Draco shook his head. "No, they just need you to tell them how to find your parents' old house."
"Yeah, they want to get their mitts on the Dark Arts stuff inside, or something."
"That's it? You mean I've been running from nothing for the past six years?!!11!" Li's cheeks were flushed slightly as he spoke.
Draco gave him a stern look. "They were perfectly good years."
They sat quietly for a while. The only sound breaking the silence was the rhythmical clink of Li's spoon in his coffee mug.
"I suppose we should do something about the puppets," Li said finally. "Tea?"
"Yes, we should, and coffee, if you have."
As Li got up from the table, Potter poked his head in through the kitchen door. Li turned around and froze.
"The very same. Draco told me to, er--"
"Yes, yes, I know." Li Summoned some parchment, a quill and an ink bottle. He scribbled something on the parchment and handed it to Potter. "That's the address. There are no special wards on the doors, but the ghoul in the basement has a temper. His name is Fred, just talk to him for a while, he'll relax eventually. Otherwise he'll drive you mad with the wailing. I expect he'll be quite cross after six years of being alone."
"Thanks," said Potter. He gave Draco a guarded look, then Disapparated.
Draco stared at the spot where he'd just stood.
So much for "I missed you".
Draco was sitting at Li's kitchen table. His friend was spending the day with his girlfriend. Draco was invited but he declined. Stupid Li. Stupid Kristal. Stupid Potter. He frowned, pushing aside the morning paper. He'd spent the week since Potter had left at Li's place. He supposed he should go back to his own flat, but he didn't much feel like facing the mess he and Potter had made. Not even the fact that they'd kicked out the puppets and assumed their rightful places at the helm of Lingua Franca helped alleviate his gloomy thoughts.
He sniffed indignantly, then picked up a piece of toast and prepared to butter it. Stupid Potter. A loud rapping sound came from the window, and Draco dropped the knife with a clatter. He turned around and saw a snowy owl fluttering outside. Why didn't it go find Li? He got up and walked over, opening the window. He untied the roll of parchment from the owl's leg and it flew off abruptly. Draco stared at the address.
Draco's eyebrows rose and he unrolled the parchment.
I didn't get your address but Hedwig's really good at finding people. I was under strict orders to get back to headquarters as soon as I had what I came for, and I'm not going to get a chance to get away in the next week. I realise now that my invitation must have been too forward - just burn it (I'm sure you already did, but in case you didn't). I just suspected that I wouldn't get to talk to you but I realise it would have been better to ask you in person. I know it's useless to ask you to change your mind, but I just wanted you to know. I meant everything I said. I suppose that's the main reason why I haven't heard from you. I can't say I don't hope you change your mind. If you do, you can reach me care of Auror Headquarters at the Ministry. If you don't, well, I guess I've already resigned myself to that, so not much to say there.
Draco re-read the letter several times. What was Potter talking about? What invitation? Potter had left him something that Draco was now supposed to burn? Furrowing his brow, he looked around, half-expecting said item to be sitting on a shelf or peeking out of a cupboard. Remembering that he wasn't at home, he collected his wand from the guest room and Apparated to his flat.
He took a wild look around his living room -- the wineglasses were still there, as was the bottle. He'd forgotten to cork it. Well, no, he'd been too busy undressing Potter to think about preserving his wine supply. Clearly, there was something wrong with his priorities.
Draco shook his head and headed into the bedroom. The stains on the bedclothes had dried during the time Draco had been away. He wrinkled his nose in disgust and looked around the room, wondering what Potter had meant by an invitation. He was just about to turn around and leave the room when he saw it -- a piece of parchment held down by a replica Linguasieve Li had given Draco for a gag.
Draco walked over and pulled the parchment free, pursing his lips. This did not bode well for sanity. Not only had he dropped everything to rush here and find this thing, but he also found he had expectations of what it should contain. He rubbed the tip of his nose with his thumb, wondering if he should just take Potter's advice and burn the blasted thing, then unfolded the parchment.
I'm writing this in case I don't get a chance to ask you in person. Ron and Hermione are going to Ibiza at the end of August. They've invited me, too, and I was wondering if you wanted to join me. You don't have to tell me right away, take your time. I just want to see you again.
Potter's Godric's Hollow address was scribbled below the signature.
If it hadn't been for Li's ridiculous restaurant fixation, none of this would be happening.
Draco should definitely have remembered that Su Li's plans tended to end in disaster.
Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe. -- from Jabberwocky by Lewis Carrol. I couldn't resist.