Harry Potter had always (somehow) managed to find himself in the most surreal situations. From living in a cupboard beneath a stair to defeating the world's most evil wizard, he prevailed. So while the following events came as little surprise to him on the whole, the journey was (as per usual) a grand adventure.
He knew how quickly five years could pass. He'd seen seven of the best and worst years of his life fly by at Hogwarts like a passing thought. He'd made the finest of friends and the worst of enemies, albeit the worst of those enemies were long since vanquished. And the lesser of them had become...well...sort of friends.
Take for example Draco Malfoy. The smarmy blonde Slytherin boy who had made Harry's formative years a hassle or a Hell had grown and changed into a smarmy blonde Slytherin man who made nearly every day a humour or a haggle.
Today was a good example of both.
Harry winced slightly, but halted in the busy Ministry of Magic hallway. Plastering a smile, he turned. "Draco!" (He enjoyed using the Malfoy's first name now. Knew it was a bit of a prick to the prick and enjoyed the snakey scowl.) His red auror robes (still new and relatively crisp) snapped at his ankles as he turned. "How are you on this fine day?"
Draco scoffed, recovering gracefully from his rush to catch up to Harry. "Fine? Hardly. I've just spent three hours in a room full of miserable old twats as ancient and dried up as time immemorial. Sweltering in there, too. My bollocks are melted to my arse cheeks. We're obviously having two very different days."
Harry could help his chuckle. If naught else, Draco had a way with colourful euphemisms. "Ah. Well. I'm pleased I opted for the less boring and stuffy career choice."
"Absolutely." Draco dusted a a nothing from his shiny silver tie. "Must be refreshing getting stray spells slung at you every five minutes and dragging drunken Druids out of gutters every evening. Thanks for keeping our city clean, Potter."
"You're welcome." Five years since the war had mellowed the pair. Five years had taught them there were far more important things in life than petty rivalries. "Speaking of clean, I heard you apportioned quite a large sum of money to Hogwarts for new supplies this year."
"Oh, not me!" Draco blushed as though any good deed somehow made him less...Malfoy. The shadow of his executed father lingered large. "It was the board's decision."
"Right." Harry nodded. "Because those stuffy old governors have always had Hogwarts' best interests at heart."
Draco shrugged. "Well. There was a rather large sum of money left over from last year's budget. I simply manage it better." He sniffed. "Besides, that magical orphanage in Surrey got the biggest stipend."
"Hard to say no to orphans," Harry nodded solemnly.
"Actually my original suggestion was to use the money to pit the orphans against one another in a fight to the death on a deserted island off the coast of Orkney, but that was voted down."
"You're not serious."
"You don't know that."
"True." Harry pushed his glasses up. "Did you need something? I'm on my way to debriefing."
"I'd rather you kept your briefs on, Potter." It took the joke a moment to fall, but Harry caught it. "But...I suppose I do need something."
This was not an unheard of situation. Several times since the young men had worked together (somewhat) within the Ministry, they'd done each other favours. A rather unspoken pact between war veterans. Not to mention there had been a time when no one other than Harry Potter would favourably touch a Malfoy. Though that had changed since Draco's true colours (ones he hid as best he could) began to cast him as the decent person he was.
"Sure." Harry gestured openly. "I'll help if I can."
"It's um...It's a bit sensitive."
"Yeah." Draco clapped Harry's shoulder, glancing about at the bodies milling past them. "In fact, stop by my office after you get your kit off. I'll explain then."
Intrigued, Harry agreed. "Alright. I'll see you in a bit." He watched the Slytherin walk away, hands in pockets, cool as Christmas. Wondered what could be so...sensitive.
Ron was at the debriefing, already slouching in a chair by the window. "Oy," he greeted Harry.
"Hey." Harry sat, too, produced his charmed notebook. "I just had an interesting run-in with Draco Malfoy. Weird."
"Any run-in with Malfoy is weird," Ron said. "What did he want?"
"I don't know. I'm going to stop by his office when we're done here."
Ron scoffed derisively. "That git gets a swank corner office, and for what? Buying his dead dad's position on the board? Bollocks to that. You and I worked for four hard years for our jobs. How's that for fair?"
Harry shrugged. "I think he's suited for it, though. Just like we are for this." Other aurors had arrived. The shift was changing, and the room was restless with new and exhausted energy.
"Well, whatever he wants, it can't be good. Don't get involved in anything that will endanger your job. Right?"
Harry smirked. He had no intentions of endangering his job. And he had every idea Draco knew that. He would have told Ron so, but Chief Inspector Norris had taken to the podium, and debriefing began in earnest.
Harry knew his place on the auror totem. He was a rookie. Less than a year out of training. His badge was still stiff. He took the good-natured ribbing of his seniors in stride, and simply did as he was told. He was eager for the more exciting field work, but knew that patience was key. Meantime, he tried to enjoy his life while he still had one. So after debriefing, he stowed his robes in his locker and made his way to Draco's office. He had a pint at the Leaky waiting, and a Ron who wanted details.
Malfoy's office was indeed swank. A corner affair with huge windows overlooking the Thames. It was quiet and carpeted, charmed for privacy. An obnoxious desk sat center of the room with various chairs and lounges strewn about as if worshiping the central furnishing. A wingback snapped to attention when Harry entered. The door had swung open before he could knock, clearly implying he was expected.
Malfoy was standing before a window, looking far off and visionary. "Thanks for coming, Potter," he said without turning. "Still have your knickers on?"
Harry sat in the attentive wingback facing the massive desk. "Yeah. Just for you, Malfoy. So. What's sensitive?"
Now Draco turned. Sat. The casters on his plush chair creaked a bit. His face was passive, but something around the eyes showed a bit of tension. "I have a dilemma."
"I see. One I can assist you with?"
"I hope so." Draco steepled his fingers. "You're aware that I'm...courting Astoria Greengrass."
"Yes." It was possibly the best thing that could have happened to Draco. Everyone knew this. The Greengrasses were a fine pureblood family with a stellar reputation untainted by darkness. Not to mention Astoria was a good person. The wizarding world that was even remotely familiar with Draco had every hope her goodness would be contagious and infect the notorious prat.
"Well." He licked his lips. "I'm afraid this gets rather complicated. So do bare with me?" Harry nodded. "Story is a singular girl. That's why I like her. She would rather go to a quidditch final than shop for shoes, and she curses like a dragon tamer on furlough. All of this unbeknownst to her family, of course. However, as this is unbeknownst, she is still expected to follow certain rules and obey certain...etiquette. You follow?"
"...Yes." Harry did follow, but wasn't seeing his place in this arrangement yet.
"Good." Draco continued. "Long story abridged, we've been gifted an evening in London by Story's dreadful Aunt Viviane. A boring restaurant with stuffy sommeliers and unpronounceable main courses, followed by an insufferable three hour long play that's basically tantamount to torture for us both. Still tracking?"
"Yes, Malfoy. What do I -"
"You're sharp, Potter. It's good that you've gone into law enforcement. Tea?"
"No. Can you just -"
"Get to the point?" Draco asked. "Thank you. I will." He flicked his sleek black wand and a tea tray skittered over. The magical set there began preparing a cuppa. "You're asking yourself, what does any of this have to do with me? And I intend to tell you. But first, let me tell you what this has to do with my mother. You recall my mother?"
Harry swallowed. "Of course I do." Plenty of unresolved issues there.
"Of course you do!" Draco enthused. "The woman who lied to Voldemort's noseless face to save your bony arse. 'An uncelebrated heroine,' as you called her at our trials, I believe. 'The Witch Who Lied,' the press called her after that. All very dramatic. She despised it."
"Anyway." Draco sipped his tea. It was too hot. "Mm. My mother utterly adores all that claptrap. Boring plays and fancy food and wine you have to taste before you drink it. And now that she's been a dismal lonely widow for nigh on five years, she's chomping at the bit to get out of the manor. Still with me?"
"Perfect. Now. If my mother discovers I have these play tickets or these dinner reservations - oh, and she will discover these things, Potter. Trust me. My mother solves more mysteries in a minute before morning tea than you will in a lifetime of auroring. When she discovers these things, and learns that I am not involving my future wife, she will both expect and insist that I involve her instead. And I simply cannot allow this to happen as Astoria and I have already made plans to visit the broom testing facility in Germany that weekend. However, if Astoria's family learns that the tickets are unused and the reservations unfilled, they will be both disappointed and keen to the secret life of unrepentant normalcy that their daughter and I live together. Savvy?"
"Potter. You look a bit glazed. Care for a biccie?" He offered a biscuit.
"No. I'm fine. I'm just…"
"I'm basically asking you to take my mother for an evening." Suddenly he paled. "I mean - not like that! Just...to the dinner and the play. I'm going to give you the tickets and you tell her...that a co-worker gave them to you. It's technically not lying so your Gryffindor heart should remain intact. Understood?"
He did understand. It was simply...odd. "I do. I just -"
"I understand there's your ginger...fiance now? Are you engaged yet? But surely she'll understand you're accompanying my decrepit old mum in my stead on a dull evening out. And if she doesn't understand, surely she can be bought. All women can be bought."
Harry scowled at the generalization, and at the implication in general. "Actually, Ginny and I are… no longer an item." Too much to go into. Too complicated. He felt his ears burning red and hoped Draco would drop it.
Unspoken man things swirled. Draco squinted at his companion, then dropped it. "Good then. I can assume you don't have plans,"
He didn't. Embarrassingly, his weekends were generally spent drooling asleep on his couch or drinking at the Leaky with fellow drooling friends. "Well, no not really, but-"
"Excellent." Draco reached into his suit jacket. Produced an elaborate envelope. "These are the tickets and the restaurant information."
"But Draco -"
"What, man?" Malfoy threw up his hands.
"What the hell would ever possess me to ask your mother out to dinner?"
Draco blinked. "Ah…"
"Yeah, ah." Harry held the envelope. "I'm glad to help you, Draco. In fact, I probably haven't had a real meal in ages. But don't you think it's going to be odd that I suddenly appear out of the blue asking your mother out to dinner? She'll suspect something immediately."
Draco sighed. "Gods dammit, Potter. When did you start to make sense?" He drummed long fingers on his desk. "I have no choice, then."
"I'll have to take my chances and lie to her."
"Isn't this all a rather elaborate lie? I mean, why can't you just tell her the truth?"
"We're Slytherins, Potter. That never happens." He set his jaw determinedly. "I'm going to tell her that you won the tickets off me. In a bet. And that I played on your Gryffindor compassion by saying I had intended to take her, but…"
"Now, she's stuck going with me? And you think she'll believe that?"
"She'll believe I have dreadful luck and my father's unfortunate gambling habits. Yes."
"I feel...awkward about it."
"I do, too!" Draco, realizing he was getting his way, was more than happy to placate by empathizing. "I mean, I'm very sorry that you and Penny have gone your seperate ways, but -"
"Ginny," Harry corrected flatly.
"Right. And it's too bad the know-it-all is busy...reading something that weekend with her...hair. But I'm glad you'll have appreciative company, after all."
Harry stared at the envelope. He turned it over in his fingers. "I'll do it on one condition."
"You have a condition?" Draco seemed dumbstruck. "Potter. I'm giving you a golden ticket for a free weekend of fattening food and a glorious three hour nap in a crowded theatre. You've no life and we both know it."
"I have to make conversation with your mother."
Draco winced. "Damn. You're right. Ok. Fine. What's your condition?"
"Hogwarts needs a new greenhouse. And Madam Pomfrey -"
"Oh, sweet goddess!" Draco groaned and fell upon his desk as though faint. "Is this about more money for Hogwarts, Potter? Shall I just go and snatch it from the grubby, skeletal fingers of snot-faced orphans myself? Would you have me take the very gruel from their desperate quivering lips, as well?"
"No! But -"
"I'll do what I can." He sobered. Seemed so sincere. "I really will. At the next board meeting, I'll bring up the greenhouse. And...whatever menstrual pads need restocking in the sick wing. Alright?"
Harry regarded the Slytherin suspiciously. He wanted to believe. Had to take the chance. "Alright, Malfoy." He stood. Tucked the envelope into the back pocket of his jeans. "I'll distract your mum while you...do whatever. So long as you think you can make this work…"
"Thanks, Potter." Draco was standing, shaking his hand. "It's going to be fine, really. Trust me. I've written down all the details in the envelope. She'll be expecting you so be prompt, alright? And wear something that isn't made of industrial grade denim or from a muggle thrift shop where you dug it out of a makeshift bin that's really a shoddy old kayak."
Harry couldn't understand how he'd just agreed to do a favour for someone who crafted such insults. He also couldn't understand exactly how it was possible he was taking Narcissa Malfoy to dinner. But then, in an instant, he recalled how surreal his life was on a daily basis. How the unexpected seemed to find him no matter how well he thought he'd hidden. And suddenly, it was just one more thing.
Draco saw him to the door. There was much shoulder clapping and more hand shaking. "I'm sure I'll see you again before the weekend, Potter. So if anything comes up, I'll let you know."
"And don't fret. She's really not all bad. Just...quiet. I'll even prepare a list of things my mother likes to discuss and owl it to you."
"Or more importantly, I'll send a list of topics to avoid."
"Just mind your manners and you'll be fine."
"I will." The door opened and Potter was free. Standing in the hall. One step closer to drinks at the Leaky. One step further from surreality. But Draco had one parting shot.
He leaned pleasantly in his doorway. "I know it isn't necessary to mention, and it's just me being quite silly really, but…" He laughed rather self-deprecatingly. "If you fuck my mother, I'll kill you. And all the orphans, too."
The door slammed shut. Harry gulped.
Ron was waiting at the Leaky. He'd saved Harry a ratchety stool at the bar. He slid onto it slowly, looking troubled. Ron shoved a pint in front of him. "Must be bad," he said.
Harry drank for a moment before answering. "Not...bad. I don't know. Just odd."
"Well? What was it?"
"I'm taking his mother to dinner and a play next weekend."
Ron blinked. His face darkened. He turned away slowly. "Gods. That's awful…"
Harry's beer went bitter on his tongue.
More surreality awaited him at home. Grimmauld Place was open to visitors. It was a second home to most of his friends. So it wasn't surprising to find people in his kitchen. But the people themselves were rather surprising.
"Ginny! Hermione." He stared at the women. They bustled about the kitchen, obviously tidying from a meal they'd eaten without him. "Luna?"
"Hi, Harry!" Lovegood stared at him through two holes cut in a muggle poster from Sirius' old room. It was quite pornographic, and now the model's nipples were Luna's eyes.
"Where've you been?" Ginny asked. "We put your dinner under a warming charm."
"I went by the Leaky. Saw your brother."
"Is he at our apartment?" Granger asked.
"Well, in that case I'll be getting home. I hope he's gotten his dirty socks up from the side of the bed. If not…"
"You'll be sure to get nargles that way." Luna offered. Her nose poked through the naked girl's navel.
"Yeah," Hermione muttered. "Among other things. You coming with me?"
"Yep," Luna chirped.
"Nah," Ginny replied. "I'm going home to the burrow tonight. Told mum I'd stay up with her playing witch's bridge tonight with Edith and her niece."
"Her niece that's pregnant or the one that's not pregnant?" Hermione asked.
"The one that's not pregnant," Ginny clarified.
"Well that sounds fun."
Ginny laughed. "Could be worse."
"Come on, Luna. And do leave that hideous homage to misogyny."
Luna set the poster on the table, frowning. The girls exchanged hugs, and Hermione kissed Harry's temple. "Later," she said.
"Bye, Hermione. Luna." He heard their chatter echo down the main hall. Heard the pops of their apparation. Silence and awkward settled. Ginny leaned against his stove. Harry leaned in the kitchen doorway.
"So. How was work?" She asked.
"Still boring," he said.
"You'll get those exciting cases soon enough."
"I know." He chewed at a dry spot on his lip. She kicked a stain on the floor. "I did have an interesting discussion with Draco Malfoy."
"Oh?" A thin brow arched. "I doubt anything good came of that."
"Actually I'm getting Hogwarts some of the money it needs."
Ginny looked surprised. "That's great! But what did he want in return?"
"Apparently I'm taking his mother to dinner and a play next weekend."
Ginny winced. "Oh, dear." She shook her head. "That's dreadful, Harry."
Frustration hit. He was rather weary of hearing how bad a situation he'd found. And not to mention… "Why are you here, Gin?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean." He gestured. "You told me months ago you wanted to see other people, but you're here all the time. I don't know what to think anymore."
She looked sad. "I'm still your friend, Harry."
"Hard to think of you that way," he admitted. It still stung a bit, her decision.
She nodded. "You're right." Shrugged. "I think perhaps I'm just...used to you. And I want to make sure you're alright. I know you don't eat. And the den was a mess when I got here today."
"Ginny." He stopped her. "You're not my mum. You never were. And if we're going to be apart, I think I need to be apart."
She smiled. The most understanding person he knew. "I see." She stepped toward him. "And you're right. Best for both of us, really."
"I'm sorry, Gin."
"Don't be." She cupped his chin. Grinned. "Besides...you're moving on up in the world, it seems. Rich widows…"
He laughed. "Hardly." There was a kiss between them, lingering, waiting. But it didn't happen. He looked down and she turned away.
"I'll see you around, then?"
"Yeah." He found his dinner waiting under its warming charm. Chicken. It mocked him.
"Take care, Harry."
"You too." She was gone. So was his buzz. He stared at the chicken, and into the vacant, empty nipple holes of a naked muggle porn star.
The next morning, there was a neatly rolled missive waiting on his desk. "Draco had that delivered," Ron informed from his neighboring desk.
"Oh." Harry sat. They resided in the 'rookie pool.' A cluster fuck of twenty or so desks occupied by new aurors. Here one's mettle was tested with menial, trivial and demanding tasks. Here one's patience was established.
He could tell Ron was curious, but he stored the parchment in his desk drawer until later. Turned his attention to his list of tasks for the day and gritted his teeth. He transcribed some interviews using a Dictoquill. He filed some files. He delivered some things to various departments. He picked up some deliveries from various departments. At lunch, stolen away in a little known courtyard, he opened up the missive.
Harry - here are those lists I mentioned. If you have any questions, you know where to find me.
Safe to Discuss with my Mother: Unsafe to Discuss with my Mother:
shoes/shopping/clothes my father/your father/any family really
the play (or any play) the war/Voldemort
your dinner (or any dinner) Death Eaters/death
other people (acerbically) dark magic/blood purity (see family)
poetry what happened in the forest (I know you
books want to but
poetry books DON'T)
history (bit dodgy this one) sex or anything relative to sex
furniture/home decor me
I can tell you she's currently reading a book called "The Comfort" by Naheem Aheeri. I've no idea what it's about but it won some awards. Mum loves books that win awards. Also you should know she thinks I'm taking her for now. I won't tell her how you won the tickets from me until Thursday. So you're covered on that front. She might be a bit sulky about it but the way I see it the less conversation the better, right? You're welcome.
Harry's face screwed up. Ridiculous. He didn't read any poetry to speak of. Not since muggle school. And he'd never heard of Naheem...he consulted the list...Aheeri. But after seeing the list of unsafe topics, he was inclined to believe he should do a little homework.
Hermione was stunned to find him reading a book when she came over. He tried not to be offended. "Is that...is that Naheem Aheeri?"
It was obvious it was. She was staring at the cover. "Yes," Harry answered defensively. He crossed his legs and shifted his pillow.
She sat on the edge of the couch where he lay. "What in the world made you pick that up?"
He shrugged. Draco was right. Her hair was quite uncontrollable. She shrugged, too. "Well. Whatever the case, I'm glad you're reading. Here." She'd made him a cuppa. He sat up and took it, laid the Aheeri across his knees. "Ginny said you finally asked her to leave."
"Not exactly," he said.
"That's what it sounded like to me."
"I just need to know where I really stand."
"I know." She nodded. "I really do. She wasn't upset. Just a little sad." He didn't say anything. He'd been sad, too, dammit. "What's this about taking Narcissa Malfoy to dinner?"
He rolled his eyes. Told her the tale. "And don't say it's awful," he finished. "I'm bloody tired of hearing that. As if I don't already feel awkward enough."
Hermione held up a hand in surrender. "Sorry! I wasn't going to say it was awful. Just that it's… different."
"Thanks," he groused.
"It could even be good."
"Don't be sarcastic."
"I'm not, Harry." She sighed. "It could be a good way to make new connections. Face it. The Malfoys are still important. As much as we might hate that, it's true. They know all the right people. Could benefit you in your career."
He hadn't thought of that. "Hm."
"What play is it?"
"Hmph." She pursed her lips. "I suppose I'm a little jealous. I rather want to see that one. It's a wizarding play loosely based on Shakespeare's tragedies.'"
"So you'll get to see a good play, too. You know. Culture."
"True." He was feeling better about this.
"And a nice dinner, I imagine."
He nodded. "Place called The Gilded Goose."
She whistled low. "Yeah, more than nice. Best food in wizarding Britain."
"Really." She sipped her tea. Watched Harry's nerves settle. Looked innocuous. Then: "Not to mention you're guaranteed a hot desperate shag."
He nearly spilled his tea. "Hermione!" She was snorting at her own joke. "That's not bloody funny!"
"Sorry! Sorry." She controlled herself. "I couldn't resist."
He sat back on the sofa. "Not in a million years anyway," he murmured. "Too many orphan lives depend on it."
On Thursday he stopped in Draco's doorway. "What should I wear?"
"Hell, Potter. Don't you own a suit?"
"It's a few years old."
"Shall I buy you another?"
He bristled. "I have money, Malfoy! I just need to know...like a formal tux? Or just a tie? Help me out." A check in the hallway assured they were not overheard.
"Be understated," Draco offered. "Trust me, my mother has already acquired a couture frock. She'll look like a bag of newly minted galleons. Everyone will be looking at her anyway. Just wear black and you'll be fine."
He nodded. "Right."
Madam Malkin was more helpful. "This one is a cotton and silk blend. Very fetching!"
Harry turned in the mirror. Smiled. "I like it!" He did like it. It was trim. Sleek. Understated. Somehow, it made him look a little taller even.
The old witch chuckled, waving her tailoring wand about all his seams. "Quite pricey. She must be a special lady."
He blushed furiously. "Just a friend, really." If that. "But...I do need a new suit."
"Well this one will be versatile for you, dear. You can dress it up or down as needed." She patted his bum affectionately. "I'll toss in a couple of shirts and ties, Harry. We'll have you looking the handsomest!"
"Do remember to comb your hair."
Friday he was...nervous. He made a few deliveries to the wrong departments. Chief Inspector Norris gave him front desk duty for the rest of the afternoon, so he directed floo calls. "Auror department. How can I direct your call?"
"Someone's stolen my silver cauldron!"
"One moment." Wand flick. "Auror department. How can I direct your call?"
"I might have killed my husband."
"One moment." Wand flick. "Auror department. How can I direct your call?"
"Yes, I'd like to report a bespectacled git planning to seduce my mother. His discerning features include a scar on his forehead and an unfortunate Gryffindor earnestness."
"Hello, Potter. I was told I could reach you this way. Excited about tomorrow?"
Harry ducked a bit behind the desk, hoping to hide this private conversation. "I'm a little nervous."
"Don't be! I've told mother about my ill-thought loss and she's simply too gobsmacked to be upset. She may be as nervous as you are now. It's brilliant!"
That didn't make him feel better. "Five o'clock, right?"
"Yes. Be at the Manor on time. The gates will admit you. And do apparate smoothly. She can't abide having her hair mussed."
"I know how to apparate, Malfoy!"
"Course you do. One last thing, Potter. It's important."
"What?" His palms broke a sweat.
"I've seen her in the frock. It's diabolical. Don't look at her tits or you're done for."
"Wh - what?"
"Good luck, Potter! I'm off to Germany. Remember the orphans!"
"Malfoy! Malfoy!" But the call was disconnected. The floo flamed green for another call. "Auror directment. How can I depart your call?"
He'd never spent so much time dressing in his life. Not for any occasion. Even the Yule Balls at Hogwarts. He shined his shoes. Donned new socks. New suit. Turned in the mirror to admire his bum. The new shirt was trim, cuffs stiff. He draped a black tie beneath the collar and descended the stairs.
Hermione was trying to look casual, but failing. She bit her lip when she saw him. "Gods, Harry."
"You clean up alright." Ron snapped into a celery stalk.
"She's a very lucky witch." Hermione set about helping him with the cuff links. "I think you look as dapper as her dead husband ever did. If not moreso." She made quick work of his tie. "And you did a good job with your hair."
He was blushing. Grinning. "Thanks. I imagine apparation will just ruin it."
She patted his shoulder, giving him a final once-over. "Just give it a quick de-frizz charm before you go in. Like I showed you. You can step away and use it when you need to."
"I will." He looked at Ron. The ginger sported a smirk that irked. "What?"
"Nothing!" Ron smiled. "Just a lot a trouble for a favour, seems. And for a witch who threatened to kill you when you were a child."
"Ron!" Hermione swatted him playfully. "There's no reason Harry shouldn't have a good time tonight. After all, it's a one off. Right?"
"Hm? Oh, right." Harry nodded. "I should be going. It's nearly five."
"Good luck, man." Ron gave a formal salute.
"D'you have protection?" Hermione asked, then snorted again. She could never resist laughing at her own jokes, even when they were dismal.
Harry rolled his eyes and bypassed his friends, knew they were laughing when he prepared to apparate.
Surprisingly, his hair survived the journey still tamed. He touched it to be sure. It was a cloudy day in Witshire, but didn't suppress the stunning, intimidating beauty of Malfoy Manor. In the daylight, its Gothic spires were less foreboding and more enchanting.
The wrought iron gates were open, expecting a visitor. He made his way up the walkway, across a manicured courtyard and onto a marble stoop. One last breath check. He cleared his throat and raised knocking knuckles.
But the double doors swung open before his could even tap. An elf looked up at him. Hardly a beleaguered creature the likes of Dobby, this elf seemed almost regal in a black velvet apron. It gave a little bow. "Master Harry Potter, sir. I is Nib."
Harry smiled. "Hello, Nib."
"Mistress is expecting you. Enter, please."
Nib took him through a sunny foyer and into a small drawing room. Well, small for the Malfoys. It had a towering ceiling painted with images from what Harry assumed was bygone wizarding legend. "Master Harry Potter will please to sit." He sat on a rather stiff brocade chaise lounge. "Nib is getting sir a drink?"
"That'd be great," Harry breathed gratefully. Already his throat was a little dry.
Nib snapped grizzly fingers and a tumbler of something amber appeared in the hand. The elf offered it to Harry, backing away. "Mistress arrives soon for sir."
"Thanks, Nib." Harry toasted the elf as it popped away. He could hear the heavy ticking of a clock somewhere. It echoed. He looked back up at the ceiling, studying the impressive painting. Several witches tended a cauldron in one tile. In another, a woman held aloft a knight's severed head. A third tile featured a wand battle between a wild witch and a weary wizard. And then there was the nearly pornographic representation of a naked woman climbing atop an equally naked young man. His brow quirked.
He sipped his drink as he studied. It was a heavy, sweet libation, obviously alcoholic. But it was good, so he drank it probably too quickly.
"Mr. Potter." Her voice - calm and cool - scared the piss out of him and he shot from his seat.
"...izz Malfoy!" He squeaked. Cleared his throat. "Ms. Malfoy." Better.
"I appreciate your punctuality. Thank you for your patience." She stood warily in the drawing room's archway, graceful in delicate silver silk.
Draco was right about the frock. It hugged every curve of her and - quite honestly - he hadn't expected there to be quite so many curves to hug. And yes, it dipped quite lowly into a 'v' between a pair of breasts gloriously firm and high for any witch, age not withstanding. He looked away quickly. "I didn't mind. Nib was a gracious host."
"I'm certain," she drawled. They blinked at each other. Awkward draped like the cashmere shawl on her creamy shoulders, spilled into the moment like the flossy thick curls of black and white hair tumbling simply everywhere.
Harry couldn't remember her being so tiny. Perhaps because he remembered her as the beanpole bitch who'd always looked down a prim nose at him in his youth. But she was in actuality quite small. A few inches shorter than him even in the frightening heels he saw on her feet.
They were...nice. He'd never thought of feet before but there they were. The dress was shorter in the front, showing just ankle and...feet. It dropped to the floor in the back, offering a solid backdrop for him to view her...feet.
The shoes were menacing, strappy things. All intricately wrapping pale porcelain appendages in what appeared to be thick silk webbing. And her little toes were peeping out. They were painted to a high gloss and appeared edible.
"Er…" He'd just imagined sucking on her toes. This situation was careening out of control. "I like your ceiling."
She looked up. He did, too. "Thank you. The victories of Morgan le Fay."
"Yes." An elegant finger pointed. "Her training as a priestess at Avalon. The murder of Gawain. The battle against Merlin. And, of course, the seduction of the boy king."
"Oh." There was a lump in his throat. When he looked back at Narcissa, she was looking at him. Critically. Or expectantly. He couldn't quite decide. "You look stunning," he blurted.
That surprised her. It barely showed on her schooled features, but her wide eyes widened just a bit more. "Thank you," she murmured. "You also cut a rather fine form, Mr. Potter. I like the suit."
And that made everything alright. "Thank you."
"Shall we depart? I believe our reservation is…"
"Six." He offered his arm. "If you're ready."
Her skin was smooth and cool to the touch. The edges of glistening lips curled upward ever so slightly. "I am."
The Gilded Goose was one of those restaurants where one has to be mindful of which fork one must use. Harry was pleased that Hermione had given him a refresher course.
The elegant, sprawling establishment stretched across a generous corner of Diagon Alley. Tables were spaced for privacy and chairs were plush velvet. There was soft music and flowers. It was meant to be a romantic dining experience and Harry recalled these reservations were originally made for a courting couple.
Narcissa was entirely in her element. She'd obviously eaten here often, and every server felt the need to welcome her back. She had a most gracious smile, and Harry stared at her openly whenever she looked away. "What are you having?" She asked, perusing a hand-scribed menu.
"Um…" Harry squinted at the menu. Draco was right again. Everything was unpronounceable. "I'm leaning toward the filet." He took a stab in the dark. There was always a filet.
"Oh, that is good," she breathed. "I think I'll have the same. With the foie gras stuffing. Mmm." Her little delicious sound was unexpected. Also the excited shimmy of her shoulders.
She'd handed her shawl over to the maitre d' when they arrived, thusly bathing her expanse of bare skin in soft candlelight. It was enchanting.
They ordered an oyster appetizer. They shellfish arrived on ice, still in their shells and Harry followed Narcissa's lead on the etiquette involved. Surprisingly, she seemed less concerned with social mores when it came to eating. It helped that they were relatively isolated at their cozy corner table, but obviously this woman simply enjoyed food.
She spilled the first slimy cold sea treat down her throat smoothly. Harry watched the graceful bob of her neck. "Those," she announced after swallowing, "are perfect." She handed him one.
"Thanks." He doubted he was as graceful as she, but she was right. The oyster was fresh and salty.
"Incredible how such a disgusting looking creature can be so bloody delicious," she said.
"True." Harry laughed. "And considered an aphrodisiac!" His laugh evaporated quickly, remembering Draco's list of topics to avoid. Sex or anything relative to sex "Er…"
But his companion's eyes sparkled when they met his. "Indeed."
He attempted to volley, save the civilised conversation. "So. Have you seen this play before?"
"No. It's new. Although I have seen work from this particular playwright. Except for his last one. It was during the war and apparently quite controversial."
Alarm claxons sounded in his head. Avoid the war! "Oh. Hermione tells me this one is based on a Shakespearean play."
"Is it?" She sipped her wine. "The muggle?"
"Ah…" Blood purity "Yeah. Him." He poured her more wine. "Do you read the plays you see? Or just watch them?"
"I abhor reading plays," she answered quickly. "I'm too distracted by the stage direction and such. But I do love to read."
Books! Books were on the safe list! And he was prepared. "Oh? I read a bit, too. When I have the time. What are you reading now?"
"I just finished 'The Comfort' by Naheem Aheeri." She dabbed at her lips, then folded her serviette in her lap. A discrete server wand-whisked away their empty plates and delivered another wine bottle.
"Don't tell me how it ends," Harry said casually. "Although I'm pretty certain Healer Vechy is planning to commit suicide on his wife's birthday. Which is too bad for his daughter, although it will free her from having to confess her lesbianism."
She froze. He sliced through their breadloaf and offered her a piece. "You're reading 'The Comfort'?" Those icy blues were so sexy when suspicious...
"Mmhm." He chewed his bread. "This is good, too."
They were quiet when their entrees arrived. The witch focused on eating, which made Harry more than happy. He was able to enjoy his steak without self-consciousness. And it had been forever since he'd eaten anything so tasty. He even ate the asparagus, sopped his plate once it was cleaned and thrilled to see Narcissa do the same.
They leaned back in their chairs thoroughly satisfied. Bellies full and wine-lulled. "That was… befuddlingly good." Harry smacked his lips.
Narcissa chuckled. "It was." She smiled in contentment. Her eyes drifted to a neighboring table where another couple was sharing a sumptuous souffle. "The play begins at eight, correct?"
"Time for dessert, I suppose." At the mention of 'dessert' another elegant menu materialised at their table.
"Always time for dessert," Harry agreed.
Narcissa chose a mousse. Harry chose a pie. They sipped their coffees and enjoyed their sweets more slowly than dinner. This - perhaps unfortunately - left a great deal of empty space for conversation.
"How are your friends?"
Narcissa smiled. "Yes. You do have friends, don't you still? Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger?"
"Oh. They're fine." She was waiting for more. "Ron is an auror now like me. We work in the same department. I mean, still rookies and all. And um...Hermione is working at Hogwarts for now. Helping McGonagall and teaching a bit."
"That's good. Sounds like they've found their callings."
"I think so."
"And what of the Weasley girl? Shouldn't she be the one in my seat right now?"
His pie was good. The coffee was good. Thinking of Ginny at the moment… "Ginny decided she wanted some time apart a few weeks ago. It was a little confusing for a while."
He paused with his fork just at his teeth. "What?" He hadn't expected this candid personal conversation. Certainly hadn't expected her genuine interest.
"How was that confusing?"
"Oh." He set the bite of pie back on its plate. "Well. I suppose because she told me she wanted us to be apart, but then she was always around."
"That is rather confusing." She licked mousse from the back of her spoon and his cock twitched.
"Ahem." He shifted in his chair. "I...I told her just this week that if she truly wanted space that… that she needed to leave."
She left two or three bites of mousse, defeated by the rich dessert and leaned back with her coffee. "That must have been very difficult."
He shrugged. "I suppose I didn't really think about it. I just knew I needed to do it." She nodded, studying him. It was an unsettling feeling. He finished his pie in silence. "It's a bit of a walk to the playhouse from here, but if you fancy a stroll I know I could use one."
"That sounds lovely, Mr. Potter. I believe I'll freshen up first?" She stood.
He caught her by the elbow just before she left the table. "Ms. Malfoy. I'd really prefer if you call me Harry."
"Very well." She smiled mysteriously down at him. "Harry. Will you return the favour?" Her elbow slipped through his grip until just her hand lingered in his - not quite a grasp.
He felt flushed at the thought. At the feeling of her cool fingers in his hot ones. "I suppose...Narcissa."
"Indeed." Her fingers left his entirely. "Excuse me?"
The play was hardly what Draco had made it out to be. Magical plays were nothing remotely similar to muggle plays. In fact, it was a shockingly violent production involving remarkable make-up, brilliant effects and more arcing blood than Voldemort's entire army could have produced. Harry was impressed to say the least.
"That was amazing!" He enthused. "I mean really amazing! Like better than some muggle films I've seen! The part where her husband came in, and the lover sliced him open with his own samurai sword? That was...that was just great! And I liked the dragon at the end that swooped through the audience. That was real fire! Brilliant! The whole thing was - "
"Harry," Narcissa chuckled. "Was this your first wizarding play?"
"Yes." He admitted. They walked along the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley, hoping to come across a coffee vendor. Other nicely dressed patrons milled past, obviously having come from the same play. "Draco told me it was going to be boring."
"Mmhm. I'm sure he did."
Harry turned to face her, walking backwards as they talked. "Did you like it?"
"I loved it." She smiled, twisting her shawl between her fingers. "It was exactly what I wanted."
"What was your favourite part?"
"I liked when the necromancer brought the wife back to life and made love to her corpse."
Harry grinned. "Yeah, that was…" He cleared his throat. "It was good."
"Hm?" He fell back into step beside her.
"I believe we've missed the last of the coffee."
"Looks that way." He stopped, frowning. "I suppose I should see you home."
"I suppose you should." She took his arm, and they stepped into a nearby alley between two shops to apparate. "But if you'd still care for a coffee, I'll gladly have Nib prepare us one?"
The skin inside her elbow was smooth. He stroked it discreetly as he envisioned Malfoy Manor. "Er…that sounds perfect."
The spring night had grown a little chilly, and Harry was grateful for the fire in Narcissa's drawing room floo. "Nib," Cissa called. "Coffee."
Almost instantly the elf appeared with a service and set it upon the tea table. It bowed before popping away as quickly. "That elf is good," Harry murmured.
"Yes, I acquired him in Morocco," Narcissa explained. She sat on the chaise beside Harry and began preparing their coffees. "Moroccan elves are notoriously pleased to serve."
Her arm brushed his every time she shifted, and by the time he took his coffee, he was sporting an erection. "Thank you." She sat back - lounged, actually - and Harry watched her legs cross. He sipped his coffee. "Mm. This is good coffee."
"Thank you." Her eyes looked so dark beneath her feathery lashes.
"Is it Moroccan, too?"
This bought him a full fledged laugh. "No, Mr. Potter. I'm afraid it is of the French persuasion."
Her cheeks went very pink when she laughed. "Well. Merci, then." A quiet fell while they drank. Narcissa studied Harry over the rim of her cup. He squirmed under her scrutiny. Watched her fingers dally on the back of the chaise, tracing the paisley in the brocade. He warmed up quickly. Felt a little sweat pop at his hairline.
"Are you warm, Harry?"
"Take off your jacket. No need to be uncomfortable."
That was true, he supposed. He set his coffee on the table and slid out of his jacket. He laid it across the back of the chaise and her fingers drifted over to it. She picked at a few bits of detritus and he swore he could feel the touch on his skin. "Harry?"
"Yes?" He took up his coffee. She wasn't looking directly at him, but at his jacket.
"Where is Draco this weekend?"
He tensed. "Er...what?"
"I know that he isn't working in London. Just like I know he didn't lose his play tickets to you in a bet. As well timed and detailed as his convoluted tale was, I do see right through it." She looked at him directly for the first time since they'd sat. "Draco forgets that although he is a Slytherin, I am the Slytherin who birthed him."
He shifted. "Ah." He nodded, smiling. Made perfect sense, really. She was a sharp witch. "Apparently, he is in Germany. At a quidditch broom testing facility." He didn't mention Astoria. Could at least keep that much secret for Malfoy.
"With his future wife?" Narcissa probed gently.
"Ah…" Her fingers danced from his suit jacket to his shoulder. She touched at a flyaway tuft of hair above his ear. "Yes," he squeaked.
"I can guarantee you they are not in Germany, Harry." She said lowly. Her fingernail barely skimmed the shell of his ear. "What do you know about pureblood courting traditions?"
"Mm. You see, my brash young son has disregarded those rules in favour of scandalous romance. I am quite certain he and Astoria are...intimately involved prior to their as of yet unplanned marriage. A fact that would be most undesirable to the girl's family."
Harry's forehead creased. It seemed Draco had played him a bit. "I see."
"Yes, I think you do." She sat forward. Discarded her empty coffee cup. Removed her sapphire earrings. They made a heavy jingle in her empty saucer. "I imagine he mentioned the Naheem Aheeri book I read?"
"And prepared you a list of safe topics for conversation?"
"Yes!" Harry leaned forward, too, increasingly upset at Draco's duplicity. But also...amused at Narcissa's insight.
"Did he suggest the suit?"
"Sort of," Harry said. "I picked it."
"You've good taste."
"What did he do for you?"
Here, Harry balked. "He apportioned some extra money to Hogwarts." She nodded, seemed pleased. "But...but I had a really nice time tonight, Narcissa." He clasped his hands between his knees to resist touching her somehow. "I think even if he hadn't given the money -"
"Nonsense, Harry. You played the game and you won in your own way. On behalf of Hogwarts. A positive result, I'd say." She cut eyes at him. "But I confess I had a lovely time, as well. Truly."
"I'm glad." And he was glad. Irrationally glad. And slightly hypnotized by the smell of her, warmed by the fire and her nearness.
"So." She leaned back again, more relaxed now that the truth was out. Again her studious eyes seduced him. She pulled her feet onto the chaise, toed at the back of one shoe. "Do us a favour?"
"Yes?" His cock ached suddenly, hard. Left him a bit dizzy.
"Take these off?"
"Oh." He nearly spilled his coffee, he set it aside so eagerly. Her feet slid easily from the shoes. The dainty toes curled and stretched their freedom.
"That's much better." She moaned softly. Harry shifted again, tried to ignore the witch feet unfurling in his discomforted lap. "Did he tell you not to fuck me, Harry?"
He coughed, nearly choked. "He um - he did."
"Hardly seems fair." Her sinful toes had found out his erection, stroked ever so gently. Harry let his head roll on his shoulders, watched her brows arch high when she reached the head of his cock. Tried to envision orphans.
"Yeah…" His fingers traveled from foot over ankle and just up leg, still hesitant, still just slightly frightened. Images of orphans grew fainter and fainter.
"Shall we break the rules, as well, Harry?" She asked breathily. "Or am I misreading you entirely?"
Orphans dissipated entirely. "Bloody hell not at all," he gasped. Embracing surreality like a long lost friend, he leaned toward the witch. She met him halfway and suddenly he was kissing her; passionately, open-mouthed, coffee-tasting kissing.
This wasn't the wary witch who'd surgically interrogated him over dinner. This was a wild woman with teeth and claws and a feral body he couldn't grope enough. Like in the muggle movies they shed clothes all the way up her perilous stairs, bumped bruising through doorways until they fell into bed.
He wasn't a virgin. But Narcissa rather made him feel like one. Hardly the questioning, polite and sometimes halting sex he had with Ginny, this was more like making love to a tamed beast. Barely tamed. Narcissa was sure. Confident. Aware of her body and pleasure. Whether this was a product of age and experience or that the witch was simply born a succubus, he wasn't certain.
Her hands frequently guided his, showed him how to make her sigh, growl or moan. But she seemed to know his body as if she'd designed it. Unless perhaps (he considered in a second) all wizards were dismally designed the same way: predictable and dull. He hoped that wasn't the case and doubted it if the reactions of his lover were to be trusted.
She rode him quite hard, intent on her goal, and her body was fantastic in the dim lighting. "You're fucking gorgeous," he said, mindless.
"Mmmhm, keep talking, Harry…"
But something terrifying was happening around his cock. Tightening. Suction. And he couldn't speak - only tumble into the mouth of madness with the temptress, both of them clutching her headboard like a furnishing banged loudly against the wall, keeping time with the witch's manic pace. "Oh, hell yes!" She threw her head back on a victory shout, shuddered through a strong, prolonged orgasm.
Harry stared up at her, vision blurred, bollocks pumping his astonished seed into decompressing witch. Her arms shook. He caressed them. "Hey." He pulled. She allowed him to embrace her, to tumble them. Still inside her, he stroked her quivering legs. "You alright?"
She groaned. Grinned. Blew overlong fringe from her forehead. "Sweet Circe, Harry. I'm glorious." A deep chuckle. "You?"
He laughed, still catching his breath. "I'm...yeah."
"I'm sorry." She traced delicate designs on his back, drawing gooseflesh. "I was quite selfish."
"No, no. That was amazing," he said quickly. "I'm just… I hope I didn't disappoint."
"You were perfect," she said. Her hair was a fantastic mess. He imagined his was, too. Without releasing the witch, he fumbled on a bedside table for his wand. "Accio glasses!" The spectacles slithered from somewhere near the foot of the bed as though frightened. He put them on and flopped into her luxurious pillows. Sighed.
"Mmm." They made contented sounds. Touched each other. Within moments Harry was at half mast again, and the witch noticed. "You've a fabulous cock, Harry."
"Thank you." No one had ever told him that. He wondered if he should pay a likewise compliment. "You have a nice...you know…"
She laughed. "I thank you, too."
He shrugged, blushing. "Well. Tastes good, anyway."
She laughed even harder. "Harry."
"Can you stay for a while?"
"As long as you'll have me."
"Mmm, then you may never leave." She pulled him atop her, gently removing his glasses yet again. It was alright - he could see her and that was all that mattered. "Let's try things this way, shall we?" Her legs slid like liquid sin up his hips.
"Absolutely." He kissed her, nuzzled her neck and breasts. Lovely breasts… "Better for your headboard this way, I think."
"Oh, this isn't my headboard."
He paused, palming one nipple and suckling the other. "It isn't?"
"No. This is Draco's bed."
She shrugged. Undulated against him. "Vengeance is mine…" Hers was Slytherin thinking he could handle.
"How was the play?" Right in his ear.
Harry coughed and spluttered, nearly choked on his coffee. "Damn, Malfoy!" He sighed, whisking his wand over soiled robes. "Scare me next time."
Draco grinned, rocked on his heels in the Ministry lobby. "Sorry. I just thought you might want to keep a low profile. You know. Since you TOOK MY MOTHER ON A DATE." Heads turned at his boisterous announcement and Harry blushed profusely.
"If you must know, the play was excellent." He sipped his now cooled coffee. Nodded. "And so was dinner."
Malfoy eyed him. Squinting. Calculating. "Huh." At last, he shrugged. Accepting. "Well, mother said the same. She was happier than I've seen her in a long time. Genuinely."
"I hope so," Harry replied. "I'd hate to think I didn't entertain."
More squinting and nodding from both parties. Draco's lips worked. "She said something about the probability of more...plays...in the future, Potter."
"We enjoy plays."
"How was the...broom-testing?"
Draco's squint went even squintier. "The new brooms portray remarkable agility."
"Wonderful. Perhaps there is the probability of more broom-testing in the future?"
"Perhaps." A lift gate opened. Witches and wizards spilled out. "Potter?"
Harry turned in the open lift. Witches and wizards piled in around him. "Yeah, Malfoy?"
"Am I going to be murdering orphans this week?" Harry grinned and sipped his coffee. The lift gate closed again and shot upward. Draco stood still in the lobby, staring at the place where Potter had been. "Huh."
AN: Thanks for indulging me. This little pairing is still my guilty pleasure.