Hemp Flowers Meant Fate
This chapter isn't edited in any way, shape, or form. If ya' see a mistake, help a pal out and drag me in the reviews? :'D No doubt there are a lot of them cause my eyes are blurry, haha
Warnings: Rushed writing. General. Slow-build (exposition). My attempt at politics.
A/N: Yo! Long time, no see! It's been two years since I updated this fic, and for that, I am sorry! :'] Out of all my fics, this is the one I'm the most insecure about, to be honest, so thank you everyone who was patient enough to stick with it! ^^
I never expected people to like this fic so much, it kinda scared me. Orz
This fic originally started out as an over glorified vent fic, because it reflected my feelings and thoughts on the depression I was going through at the time. So writing a recent update was a bit hard, as I'd had to be vibin' with it.
But I really want to get the ball rollin' again on this fic. So I apologize beforehand for any inconsistencies, errors, or weird writing styles 'cause this was written in sentences and chunks over a two year time span, lmao. And despite what people may say, I never considered myself a good storyteller, lolololol.
That being said, I hope you enjoy!
Harry stared at them, having shamelessly hacked them up into his napkin and laid them out on the dining table. Shamal stared as well, though mostly at him with an aghast expression, and slowly lowered his fork back down on his plate. Apparently done with his meal, he pushed his plate away and pulled the research he was doing off to the side more firmly in front of him.
After a few moments, Shamal asked, "well? Do they mean something?"
"Shh," Harry mused, contemplatively. "I'm thinking."
"You can do that?" Shamal bit out, and Harry slanted him an irritated look before going back to staring intensely at the flowers he graced the world with. They were peonies, the soft petals stained with mucus and blood, shining with spit and staining the napkins he sacrificed.
He couldn't tell if they were naturally pink, or if they were white and were dyed pink with his blood. Then again, it didn't really matter that much—peony's meaning differed quite a lot depending on the culture and myth, though he was mostly knowledgeable in Victorian flower language.
In China, peonies were considered good luck. In Victorian flower language, they meant shame based off of a Greek myth involving nymphs. There was also another Greek myth that he couldn't recall very well, though he was sure it had something to do with Zeus and medicine.
A pointed cough brought Harry out of his musings, and he blinked at Shamal. Then, he realized that he must have been mumbling for quite a bit and flushed lightly with embarrassment. Harry rubbed the back of his neck as he let out a weak attempt to laugh it off.
It was a bad habit he had grown of his two years of self-isolation, speaking to himself. While he mostly had the pride and self-awareness to not do so in front of other people, because merlin forbid his friends judge him more than they already do—Shamal has been privy to a lot of Harry's weirder habits lately.
"How do you know all this?" Shamal inquired, tone incredibly dry. There was genuine curiosity though, which Harry appreciated.
Harry snorted at the question, leaning back in his seat. The burn lingered in his chest, which felt cracked open; his throat stung with bile and blood, mouth tasting sour. "I read up a lot on it when they first started to appear. I've also been interested in flower meanings for a while now." At Shamal's judging look, he bared his teeth in a wan smile. "What, it's a hobby."
"Seems like something an old woman would be interested in." The mafia doctor carefully scooped up the hacked up peonies with care, before getting up to toss them into the bin. He scrubbed his hands clean with sanitizer afterwards, unperturbed despite Harry's slightly disgusted look shot his way.
"Excuse you, I am an old woman." To emphasize this, he held up his warm cup of tea and shrugged the comfy shawl tighter around his shoulders. "And you know what that means? I'm older than you, so respect your elders, brat."
"God, you're so lame," Shamal lamented. He sat down back into his seat, pulling his journal close to him to reread his earlier handwriting. With a barely concealed eye-roll, he continued, "and you're a few years too young to be lecturing me, kid."
"Oh, right. Forgive me, I sometimes forget you're the old one."
Shamal's affronted glare was scalding, but all it succeeded in doing was causing Harry to laugh. Apparently too insulted to reply, Shamal swallowed the rest of his coffee and returned to his research pointedly, leaving Harry to grin lazily at him.
After a few moments of silence, Harry picked the conversation back up. "My mother's family has a history with flowers, for some reason. My mom's name was Lily, and my grandmother's name on my mother's side was Cassia, which is technically a tree—but it produces a flower that can substitute as cinnamon." After a pause, Harry wrinkled his nose in slight distaste and added, "and my aunt was named Petunia."
"Petunia?" Shamal raised an eyebrow. "Lovely flower, I think—but rather unfortunate name for someone to have. Makes them sound stiff as hell," he snorted, and Harry snickered slightly. Stiff was underrated for his aunt.
"Interestingly enough, petunias were believed to ward off underworld monsters and spirits. At least, according to Maya and Inca culture." Harry researched a lot in his free time. And he had a lot of free time the past two years. Despite a common meaning of petunias (resentment), this little tidbit of information had made something within him ache with amusement when he first read it.
Ward off monsters, huh? The blood wards Dumbledore set up for them due to their blood relations were a point of contention he had with his late Headmaster. Mostly because they were one of the main reasons Dumbledore routinely forced him back to the Dursley's every summer break, because it was safer.
Harry hardly ever felt safe in his life, much less with the Dursley's of all people.
"So you were a walking encyclopedia of flowers even before all this," Shamal drawled, giving him a long glance. He then returned to highlighting a text entry in a worn medical journal Hermione managed to snag from a few of her connections. "A bit ironic considering the ailment you came down with," he muttered.
Harry's whole life was built on irony and fallacy, with stories of fate, heroes and villains to spice things up a bit. A story he felt ended with the war, and now here he was, a couple of years later, struggling to pick up the pieces of everything, wondering if it was worth it or not.
Then again, this wasn't some story—he was a person, as much as he didn't feel like it at times. Life wasn't like the stories with a happily ever after that will go on forever and forever, without a thought. Maybe Harry was a bit too disenchanted with it, expecting everything to fall into place after the war—except that it didn't, and at that point in time, Harry was so fucking tired.
Hell, he was tired right now. Though, the thought of napping wasn't appealing; lately, he's been enjoying conversing with others a lot more. Especially with Shamal, who came from a whole different world than his, and with his dry humor—it offered something more to Harry's day that felt… natural.
Harry only hummed in reply, leaning back in his seat and pressing his eyes closed to rest for a moment. While tired, he wasn't hurting for once. The potions Alfie was working on was only in low doses, in order to gauge how they affected him without killing him, and how well they worked on the flowers in his chest. While his chest still felt tight, it wasn't overbearingly so as it was becoming.
It worried Harry how much strain he was under without him realizing it. Only when he was relieved of the congestion in his chest that he noticed how much pain he really was in all the time.
The pacifier that hung around his neck was leaking warmth, and Harry greedily fed into it, letting it wash through him. It soothed the tired ache, and made him sigh slightly. Honestly, if this thing wasn't killing him, Harry would consider it his own little personal heater. Though, why it suddenly started to become warm all of a sudden when it was only a glimmer before was a bit bewildering.
Then again, it could just be settling itself more into Harry's Flame. Subtly inquiring about it to Viper and Verde had made it seem like the constant warmth or flicker from it was a normal thing.
"Hey, Shamal," Harry prodded, which Shamal gave an absent hum at. "Tell me more about Harmonization." If the warmth his pacifier was leaking was this warm for everyone, then Harry could somewhat understand why some people might go nuts for it.
At this, Shamal huffed and shot him an incredulous glance. "Harmonization, why?"
Harry shrugged. "Just curious. And I'm bored," he offered. That, he did like Shamal teaching him more of the mafia and the elusive Flame Lore. No matter what Shamal insisted, he was a decent teacher—though, the matter of if he wanted to be one or not was on the table.
"Not much to say that we haven't already went over," Shamal mused, rubbing his chin. "You already know that all the elements belong within a Sky. A Sky doesn't necessarily need a full set of elements, but it is highly recommended because they won't be left alone otherwise."
Harry hummed, pressing his fingers over his pacifier. "And I don't need one because I'm the Sky Arcobaleno?"
"That, and you're not fully Active." Shamal shrugged. "You're too powerful, and a powerful Flame will likely burn out other weaker Flames if they even try. Not saying that it isn't possible, but they'll probably be only secondarily bonded. A primary Flame that matches the strength of the Sky will be needed to help regulate and help the Sky bond with other Flames of the same type." At this, Shamal snorted and shook his head. "Not that that will happen, considering elements are possessive bastards."
"Is there a process?" Harry knew that there was a bridge from bonded to Guardianship, which was—well, something Harry was iffy but curious about. As if bonded wasn't enough, there was an extra step beyond that.
"A courtship?" Shamal sniggered, and Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, there is a process, but it's called a courtship. Harmonizing is a lifelong commitment, and can seriously mess someone up if they don't do it correctly. They fall into what we call Discord, and that ain't pretty."
"Well, I figured," Harry said with a laugh. "A name like that doesn't bode well for anyone." After a few moments, Harry tilted his head and asked, "do you have to be Active to be bonded with someone?"
"Any bonds a non-Active Sky can make will be weak, so it wouldn't really matter," Shamal dismissed flippantly. He paused and shot Harry a considering look, quirking an eyebrow. "Why, do you want to be bonded with people?" Despite the careful way he phrased it, Harry could see the furrow of his brow and a lecture coming soon.
To be bonded meant to be Active, and an Active Flame will kill Harry faster.
To prevent his rambling lecture, Harry waved him off. "I'm fine," he admitted with a shrug. "Like I said before, just curious." Despite how much he loathed the thought of forcibly committing people to himself with his Sky drug, or whatever—it was a curious thought. He remembers always wanting friends and family when he was younger, when he was stuck with the Dursleys.
He did end up getting them, but they still felt so distant. Or maybe it was Harry who was the distant one.
Shaking away his morose thoughts, Harry gave Shamal a mischievous smile. "Though, if I were to Harmonize with anyone, I wouldn't mind if it were you," he teased, only meaning to joke with the doctor. It only settled in after he said that he realized that it was true, to some extent.
His words however had Shamal jerking back, eyes blinking wide. His previously suspicious yet indulgent look faltered and he opened and shut his mouth, eyes darting around. "I, uh," he stammered, and Harry couldn't help but snicker slightly, despite the slight concern that bubbled up at the doctor's reaction.
"I'm kidding, I'm kidding," Harry appeased, only a tiny bit worried. "I know it's impossible, right?"
Shamal gave him a blank look, an immeasurable emotion lingering in his dark eyes. Then, at last, he seemingly shook his head and gave him a stiff nod, managing to say, "right. Right!"
A bit more worried, Harry sat up straighter and asked slowly, "Are you okay, Shamal?"
Shamal hastily gathered his stuff, shooting him a tight smile. "I'm fine. I think I'm going to head to bed." Harry raised both of his eyebrows, knowing full well that it was only a bit after noon. Despite this, he refrained and nodded, watching with critical eyes as Shamal left.
Ah, he had a feeling he made things awkward between them.
Shamal felt fucking ashamed.
He was a mafioso, a trained hitman, for god's sake. Though, with how he acted with Harry— he might as well have been a 12 year old girl confronted with a crush. He did what he always did when confronted with something like this, denied and disengaged, pulling his wandering Mist flames tight to him as he made his escape.
Because that's all someone like Shamal could do when faced with a potential Harmony. Wasn't that a kick in the balls? Harmony, the thought was absurd. Harmony was a one-off dream most Flame Actives could only ponder about, because Skies were rare.
And the thought of a Sky choosing one out of hundreds, of actually being synched with one well enough to even consider Harmony—it was almost impossible.
It was out of the question for Shamal.
And here comes fucking Harry.
Honestly, Shamal didn't know what to make of the kid when he first met him. A defeated sort, the heavy weight of the sky on his shoulders, a Sky cursed to die.
In other words, currently the worst Sky in existence to consider Harmonizing with. Which Shamal wasn't going to do. Because that was a bad idea. Hell, that was a million bad ideas wrapped up into one major ball of fucked that Shamal felt speechless at confronting it.
There were a few reasons—
One, Shamal was a loner. He didn't wish to be Harmonized, no matter what. He wasn't like some other desperate Flame Actives, chasing after Skies. While he wasn't much better with women, it wasn't the same when they rejected him—a Skies' rejection could drive someone mad.
Shamal was better than that.
Two, even if he did Harmonize with Harry (no, no, no), the fact that Shamal couldn't make any promises with his attempt at cracking the Arcobaleno curse was haunting. Harmonization with a dying Sky… that would do more than drive someone mad, it would destroy them.
And last, but not least—if any type of active Harmonization were to happen, Harry's own Flames would activate just a bit more. Which meant the more Flame for the pacifier to suck upon. Which meant Harry would die a lot faster—
Shamal wasn't avoiding his problems by holing himself up in his room the past few days. If it seemed like that—that wasn't his problem, was it? Shamal was throwing himself even more down the rabbit hole of curing Harry by any means possible, analyzing Viper's and Verde's notes over and over again until the horrendous mix of Russian, Italian, English, French all blurred together.
Not even fucking mentioning the code they both enciphered their fucking notes in, because mafioso were paranoia personified at the least of times.
If Shamal wasn't giving it all before, he was like a man possessed now.
It was nearing the middle of the night when he ventured out of his room, rubbing his tired eyes. While he was grateful that he wasn't alone now in researching a cure, the arrangement had him confined to his room more often than not considering Verde's vicious hoarding of Harry's library and study room. Not that there weren't more in this huge mansion of a place, but Harry seemed hesitant to let them wander without supervision and—
Well, a lot of rooms were empty and desolate, filled with dust and the stale air of long ago memories.
Viper was creepy in that they blended right in, along with Harry—Harry seemed to be like a ghost himself, wandering the halls and sitting in rooms, sometimes lost in thought. His expression then would be melancholic, and Shamal felt as if he was someplace out of reach despite often just sitting across from him.
And Verde- well, the scientist set up shop in one room and refused to leave. Harry let him at it for a few nights before resulting in inviting him and Viper to dinner, in order to be kept up to date. How he managed to get Verde to actually listen was beyond Shamal.
Shamal entered the study after giving the door a soft knock as a courtesy. And a safety precaution, seeing as of that Verde was unpredictable and Shamal didn't know if he managed to construct some type of security system while roosting here.
As expected, the baby was found crammed over a crowded table. The table was jammed pack with equipment and a computer, the room filled with a soft bzzz. Shamal felt his skin prickle as he shuffled in, keeping his eyes trained on the baby that had yet to acknowledge him.
Verde's little pet, Keimon, peered at him with too bright eyes underneath the table Verde was perched at. He blinked at the doctor slowly before letting out a silent yawn, showing off his sharp teeth, before settling down again.
Shamal stood still in the doorway, waiting. At last, Verde made a sniffing noise and glance at him. Then, just as quickly, dismissed him and returned to his research. There was a book he was scribbling in, before typing away at his computer. Various windows and documents were pulled up, and were in Cyrillic script.
Still, the acknowledgment was enough for Shamal to venture more into the study without fear of being struck down by the baby. "Where are you at?" Shamal inquired tiredly as he ambled over, keeping a respectable enough distance away while trying to make sense of some of Verde's notes that he left laying around.
Verde made an annoyed noise. "I'm currently investigating runes," he replied shortly. Shamal raised an eyebrow, shooting the baby a look.
"Is that it? You're still researching only magic?" Shamal questioned, annoyance tinging his voice. He was restless and impatient, feeling as if he didn't solve this whole thing soon, something horrible will happen.
(It was horrible. Harry dying was horrible. Horrible-)
Verde scoffed in his general direction. "I need to know the limits of everything before I even start my hypotheses. While I know you're nowhere near my level, at least use your head a bit." Verde snapped out, giving the doctor a bland look. "If even one slight valuable is wrong, if I, highly unlikely, make even the slightest miscalculation, it could mean life or death."
Shamal felt a hot rush of anger at being insulted but bit his tongue, quieting. Verde was right, though it pained the doctor to admit it—mostly cause he knew that Verde knew he was right, and the Lightning's subtle smug attitude was irritating.
The slight smirk to his face, even more so.
"You can always ask Harry for help, if he is willing," Shamal offered, because he knew Harry was often bored with nothing else to do. Plus, it might ease his anxiety and his simmering resentment at being 'left out' of the research.
Maybe if he helped contribute actively in it, he'll feel better.
"I would, but it's hard to find him awake nowadays," Verde shot back. Shamal pondered at that, slightly alarmed—Harry often slept a lot, though no more than 8-9 hours at time. While Harry could use the extra sleep, it was also alarming in the fact that his body might be needing more sleep.
Shamal gritted his teeth and hurried over to one of the bookshelves, scanning the titles almost frantically. From what he had gathered, the pacifiers worked mostly on the users Flames rather than the users Flames. He briefly wondered if it was possible if they could find a similar enough substitution to replace the energy source of a Flame, something the pacifier could feed off of without draining a user's Flame.
Didn't he read something about souls, or something somewhere? His head was all scrambled, both from lack of sleep, worrying about Harry, and doing nothing but gathering information.
He pointedly ignored Verde's piercing stare on his back.
At last, the scientist broke the silence with a derisive snort.
"Idiot." Verde muttered, turning his attention back to his own research. He was much more intense in his pursuit than Shamal, which wasn't surprising. "If you came in here to mope, keep your Flames to yourself. They're distracting."
Shamal blinked and forced his limbs to relax, focusing on his Flames and carefully pulling them in from their wandering.
"Thank you." Verde didn't sound at all thankful. He gave him a glance afterwards, pushing his glasses up so they glinted in the dim light. "Though, I can think of something useful for those Flames if you do choose to let them wander—"
"No, thank you," Shamal bit out, interrupting the Arcobaleno quickly.
The Lightning pursed his lips, deadpanned expression flattening even more. Shamal held his breath, because pissing off an Arcobaleno was never wise. At last, the Lightning returned to his research, the static ringing that was rising in his ears dying off as he did so.
Oh, thank god.
Arcobaleno were a weird bunch, a weird but powerful bunch. They were the strongest in the world. It was unfortunate that they were in the forms they were in due to the curse they carried. If one wasn't Flame Active enough to take them seriously, they wouldn't. A lot of civilians and non-Active mafioso were often left reeling in their presence, and after they left, the memories of the encounter were almost incoherent and looked over.
Which often meant that by a lot of the population, the Arcobaleno were brushed aside.
Even Flame Actives had a hard time dealing with the Arcobaleno. While they couldn't exactly see through the curse per say, it was their Flames that made them take them seriously. Heavy and powerful, choking—in Reborn's case, it was an almost burning inferno. With Verde, it was buzzing and paralyzing, not knowing if it will strike.
It was painful to be in their presence, and that was with them keeping their Flames tightly close to them. Shamal couldn't even imagine if they were to let loose with them, allowing them to fully engulf the world with their presence. It was with only discipline that could allow someone to tightly control their Flames.
That, or Harmony.
A Sky could regulate their elements' Flames, make said Flames easier to control for everyone involved.
There was a lot of benefits one could have from Harmony. At least, from what Shamal gathered. There were a lot of secrets to Harmony that Shamal wasn't privy to, because the mafia guarded those secrets like rabid dogs.
It was lucky that Harry wasn't fully Flame Active. It was bad enough that the pacifier was leeching off of him, coaxing his Flames forward in little spurts, opening the lid enough for a steady trickle to come through. It was enough for Shamal's own Flames to take notice, at least.
And it might be enough for Harry's own to take notice of him too.
God, what a mess.
An electric jolt had Shamal hissing, and he whipped around to stare at Verde. Verde looked irritated. "Stop that," he demanded through clenched teeth. He rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Shamal winced, and yanked his Flames back to himself so fast it hurt. "Sorry," he muttered as he quickly began to search for what he came in for. He needed to focus.
"It is bad enough that I can still feel that annoying hitman's presence. I don't need another's Flames annoying me either," the Lightning declared, eying Shamal down like he was some sort of pest.
"Reborn is still in England?" Shamal blinked, surprised. Verde huffed at it.
"Yes, unfortunately, along with Fon." Verde replied absently. "Both seem intent on sticking around. Both Colonello and Lal left, thankfully." Shamal pondered over this information, and he couldn't help but snort unattractively at his conclusions. Paranoid bastards, but he couldn't blame them.
No doubt, they were doing their own research and diving into the foray of the magical world themselves. Honestly, if he didn't have a history with Alfie and wasn't on such a time crunch, he probably would have done the same.
"Who cares about that idiot?" Verde asked loftily with a heavy eyeroll. Shamal hummed, not disagreeing. Skull was the one with the least Flame discipline out of all the Arcobaleno, causing his Flames to be more abrasive to be around compared to the others. It was as ungraceful and annoying to be around the Cloud, especially for a Mist like Shamal.
"How do you know?" Shamal couldn't help but ask, curious. If Arcobaleno instinctively knew where each other where at, then they wouldn't have had such a hard time finding Harry. So that couldn't be the case, unless it came with age and a close Harmonization.
"I keep tabs on all my fellow Arcobaleno," Verde sounded as if Shamal was dumb for thinking otherwise. Shamal tsked slightly and returned to his task of finding a book, finally locating something higher up that might relate to his research. With a brief thought, he quickly gathered up the surrounding books as well, piling them in his arms.
If Reborn was still in England, maybe he could meet up with him sometime. It has been awhile since Reborn and him chatted together, and it was nearing his checkup time anyways—might as well get it over with before he gets too swept up in looking after Harry's health.
It wouldn't do anyone, mafia or otherwise, any good if Reborn's block gets too loose.
Harry would be lying if he said that he didn't expect something like this happening.
There were always little hints the past couple of months, or more specifically, Ron's insufferable griping about an even more insufferable pureblood. It did come as a surprise, though, when both Hermione and Ron sat him down one evening to explain the situation, and offered him a choice of seeing Draco or not.
Which was… nice. It felt nice.
In a show of good faith, he accepted. Now, as he trudged along to the common room where Draco was waiting at 7 in the morning, he couldn't help but feel a bit cranky and apprehensive. Shamal was still holing himself up in his room, hardly ever coming out if it wasn't research related. In fact, Harry was sure that if Verde hasn't taken residency in the study room near the library, Shamal himself would be living there instead.
As for Viper, well—they were somewhere in the house.
The result of the other two Arcobaleno being in the house was that the pacifier was constantly lit. Harry made sure to hide it securely underneath a few layers of clothes, though it still felt uncomfortably warm, resting against the bear skin of his chest.
Making sure he was presentable as he could be before he entered, Harry straightened and exhaled, ignoring the chill and vague ache in his bones.
Draco was peering at the fireplace mantel, examining the decorates with an almost tense air. Harry observed him from the doorway for a moment, a rush of apprehensiveness going through him before he steeled himself, and stepped forward almost inaudibly. Almost immediately, Draco turned with a stony expression, posture painfully nonchalant.
Once a part of a war, the war never really leaves.
"Good morning," Harry greeted, flicking his eyes towards the wand in Draco's hand. He gave him a wan smile. "If this is your way of finally assassinating me after all these years, I would have hoped it would have been with more flair." Draco bared his teeth in grim amusement, straightening and holstering his wand as he did so.
"Believe me, Potter, I highly doubt you can die at all." Draco replied smoothly, and Harry internally shuddered at the idea. He pointedly ignored the 'Potter' part, ignored the irritated stab in his chest at the name. With a gesture, Harry welcomed Draco to sit across from him as he settled into his own favorite armchair, slumping into it with a grace of a seal.
"Everyone dies eventually," the words were slightly wistful, mournful, and true. Draco's momentary expression of disdain melted then, as he stared at Harry with an immovable mask. Harry only snorted and gave him a raised eyebrow. "Is this something you don't want to hear?"
"I can hear it," Draco instantly rebutted. "I understand it. But I must admit," he slowed then, tasting the words in his mouth before letting them out. "I didn't expect you to be so…despondent, nowadays. Despite what Weasley and Granger said. It is a bit off putting."
Despondent? Give Harry a break here, he only just now woke up and was dealing with some things. "Gee, thanks," Harry bit out, with a bitter huff. "I apologize in advance if I'm not living up to your standards, Malfoy."
Draco's expression spasmed. "I didn't mean," he snapped, before cutting himself off. He sighed. "Whatever. I apologize. I requested an audience with you for a reason, Potter. I wish for you to hear me out." Oh yes, a reason—Harry made a face, and snapped his fingers, summoning Kreacher who popped into the room soon after.
"Kreacher, would you mind bringing us some refreshments? I'm sure Malfoy here and I would enjoy it," Harry asked the grouchy house-elf. Said house-elf nodded furiously, wiping at his eyes, and looking almost awed in the presence of Draco. It was a bit amusing.
"Of course, master!" Kreacher sniffed before popping away, after giving one last bow towards Malfoy.
Honestly, this pureblooded bullshit was too much—Harry snickered slightly, ignoring Draco's strained expression. "He is too enthused to have you here," Harry offered in a way of explanation. It didn't really explain much. "But yes, I heard that you wanted to speak with me. I assume it must be important, because you never want to speak to me."
In fact, Harry was pretty sure Draco wanted nothing to do with him after the war. After all, his father was imprisoned, and his mother practically blacklisted. The Malfoy named was dragged through the mud, only surviving because of testimonies from Andromeda and Harry. While Harry only felt it the right thing to do, after all they've been through—Draco was sometimes too prideful for his own good.
It had stung him, so to speak. At least, that's what Harry gathered.
"It is important." Draco assured. He opened his mouth, and faltered, clamping his mouth shut and averting his gaze.
Harry observed him before sitting down in his favorite armchair, already pulling the shawl that was resting on its back over his shoulders. When he settled, he pointedly gave the chair across from him a glance, which Draco gritted his teeth at.
Then was the fun part: awkward and stilted silence.
Harry stared thoughtfully at the floor, wondering why Draco was here. Grimmauld Place has been popular as of late, with a couple of new inhabitants moving in. It reminded him too much of when the Order of the Phoenix stayed here, dredging up fond yet cold memories of the past.
It had gotten so bad that sometimes, he could hear Sirius's rough and loud laughter, or Remus's soft and soothing murmurs, echoing through the halls. It mixed with the ambient silence of the house, and it ached.
Draco was just another body filling the empty space of Grimmauld Place, empty space Harry has been roosting in for the longest time in isolation. While he did open his home up for people, he didn't expect to feel so… suffocated, almost paranoid, in his own home at the result of it. And ever since the weird exchange with Shamal, he felt even closer to snapping than before.
That isn't even the stale frustration left over from how everyone was treating him. Of being confined to his own bed and house. Even though that's what he has been willingly doing already, it always rubbed him wrong when people ordered him to do something he was already doing. It was an immature reaction, but Harry didn't let it interfere with his interactions much nowadays.
The heavy silence was broken by Kreacher popping back into the room to serve them tea and little sandwiches with crackers, making sure to leave a small plate of chocolates for Harry to nibble on.
Draco's expression was still immobile, even as he sipped at his tea. Harry was almost tempted to start talking about the weather before the other finally gathered the nerves to speak.
"I came to ask for a favor," Draco spoke evenly, meeting his eyes. Harry raised an eyebrow, mouth quirking slightly. Yes, he suspected as much. Draco's eyes narrowed slightly and he continued with gritted teeth, "and I would really appreciate it if you hear me out."
"I'm all ears." Harry gestured for him to continue, making the pale blond huff lightly.
"Do you remember Astoria Greengrass?"
"Astoria Greengrass?" That was someone he hadn't heard of in a while. He sipped at his tea, as he stared thoughtfully at the floor. "What about her?"
"We're engaged," Draco took off one of his fancy gloves, showing off his engagement ring. Harry felt a bit—weird, mostly because people his age were getting married, while he still felt like a 15 year old kid at times. Like it was just yesterday he watched Cedric die, watched Voldemort return, and thus really kickstarted his life of pure hell for the new few years afterwards.
While his life was shit beforehand, it couldn't really compare to what Voldemort put him through. Hell, his life was shit before purely because of the damned bastard.
"Congratulations." Harry gave him a nod. Draco smiled, though it was small; it wavered. "But I must assume something is wrong?" Harry prompted a bit, as Draco stared at his ring a bit more, seemingly strained and tired. Which, honestly, was a mood.
"The Ministry a year or so ago had passed a few regulations for the families involved on the wrong side of the war to go through." Draco slipped his glove back on, and held his hands together in his lap as he settled back into his seat. His tea sat untouched beside him. "As it is, we are all on very thin ice." His words were laced with icy bitterness, and Harry hummed.
Politics were never something Harry wanted to get involved in. Despite everyone trying to rag him into it, Harry had no such desires, was tired, tired, and tired. Honestly, all Harry wanted to do at the end of the war was to sleep for the next few months and forget everything.
It was probably unfortunate that those few months turned into his next couple of years.
Look at where that got him.
Still, as it was, Harry did know a bit of politics, especially after wallowing in Grimmauld place for so long. The libraries were extensive, and Harry had a bit of time on his hands. As the Wizarding War was a civil war, the years after it were extremely important—basically, whatever it meant to be a wizard of magical Britain was broken down, torn to absolute shreds, and now it was time for reconstruction.
What did it mean now, to be a part of magical Britain?
Rebuilding the sense of what it means to be a citizen of magical Britain, along with focusing on the economy and the infrastructure, was a lot of work. Especially the mindset of all that classist bullshit that dominated magical Britain since practically forever—it was a lot of work, and it would take a lot of time and effort on the Ministries part. A ministry that was also, previously, under the control of Voldemort and his goons; a corrupt ministry that also had to rebuild itself.
That's not even mentioning what to do with all the families and parties that were on the losing side of the war. There was a torn outlook on it, one fraction wanting easy forgiveness so life could continue on as it did before, just without the racist and classist ideals, along with dark magic. Another was bitter and angry, and wanted all the families and parties involved thrown in Azkaban, wanted them punished.
Harry was all for a ending without victories. A war doesn't reward anybody, nobody wins anything; he only wished to forget and move on, and hope the ministry would take steps to prevent it from happening again. While he sometimes traded ideas with Hermione, he wasn't suited for politics as she was, wasn't up to it because he was just so damn tired nowadays.
And he was, apparently, too straightforward and blunt for it. While Hermione told him that if he tried, he could succeed, but that could be applied to everyone to everything.
Back to the matter at hand, Harry remembers seeing a few acts that the Ministry had recently passed. Thin ice was right, Harry snorted. "I assume it worries you?"
"Of course it does," Draco replied bitterly. He slipped his glove back on, folding his hands into his lap and giving him a sneering gaze. Harry was unperturbed by it. "What do you know about the Amnesty Proclamation?"
"A bit," Harry huffed, because he did. The Minister and the press would not shut about it to him, when it was enacted. It was basically an encouragement to end the fighting that was still lingering, even after Voldemort's death.
Despite many people's belief that it was a reconstruction effort, Harry knew it was more of a political movement than that. An effort to douse the fire of the war, it offered those on the losing side a chance at being pardoned and welcomed back into the wizarding world society. Of course, there were terms to agree to, such as the main branch of noble families swearing an oath of allegiance and a 20% donations paid until reconstruction was finished and to pay off settlements.
To disagree meant having your wand snapped, and exiled from Britain's Wizarding society. And maybe a one-way ticket to Azkaban, if their crimes were spicy enough.
Even then, the plan was also a tight leash on those who did agree, despite the leniency of only having the main branch of the noble family swear allegiance. That left the other branches more freedom, but also forced the main branch to speak for them and to keep them in line. It felt like a vicious mockery, in a way: keep yourselves and them on track, like you should have been doing all this time.
The fact that if they didn't, then the whole family was prosecuted and tried, with a heavy leaning towards the previous punishment of wand snapping and Azkaban. Despite the Minister's best efforts to keep it mild, there were a few people on their commission that wasn't so easily appeased.
Harry disliked politics. There were thorns hidden within roses, double-meaning laced beneath promises and actions.
It didn't take much effort to put together the pieces Draco has given him. Astoria Greengrass, and bringing up the Amnesty Proclamation? There must be an branch within the Greengrass family that was causing trouble, though what Draco wanted Harry, of all people, to do about was beyond him.
"What is happening?" Harry sighed, Draco's expression unmovable. His grey eyes were darkened to an almost smeared charcoal, and just as unreadable. "I assume her family is having, ah, issues?"
Draco's smile was thin-lipped. "It is only recently we found that her 2nd cousin's family has defected to join with a couple of other families. I assume it's because they're still trying to rekindle a dying flame," bitterness dripped from the words as he spat out the last part, his expression breaking to show how utterly angry he truly was.
Angry and desperate.
Harry was slightly disturbed at the revelation, shifting a bit in his seat. He felt his mood and countenance souring, because fucking hell, of course there were still people out there causing trouble. It only served to remind him that while he was fine to rot away in his lonesome and forget, other people were out there willing to drag it out.
Ideological wars were harder to extinguish, because ideas and beliefs rarely died with the war.
A surge of frustration simmered through his chest, making Harry want to hit something. Why couldn't people just exist peacefully?
Taking a deep breath to soothe the looming ache of anger that rolled in his gut, Harry pressed his eyes closed and counted to 10 in both English and French. At last, he opened his eyes to meet Draco's and gave him a wan smile.
"I can only assume that you're coming to me because you don't want the Ministry and Wizengamot to know," because that would ruin the Greengrass name. It would ruin Astoria, and thus—ruin his relationship with the girl. Harry let out a low hiss, leaning forward to thread his fingers together in his lap, resting his head lightly against them. He stared at Draco. "You do realize that I'm not some type of hunting dog that you can point in the direction of anything dark lord related and shout 'go' at, right?"
Harry might have been groomed all his life to take down Voldemort, and was now at a loss for everything—but that doesn't fucking mean he was frothing at the mouth for action. Especially now, of all times, while dealing with his own issues.
But Draco didn't -couldn't- know about that.
Draco's expression spasmed. "I know that," he snapped. He blew out a frustrated breath and ran a hand through his hair, mussing up his coiffured look. Strands of pale blond fell in front of his eyes. "You're the only one who can help me, though," he admitted, gritting it out between clenched teeth. A moment passed and the tense line in his shoulders loosened, making him slouch only slightly. "The only one I trust."
Goddamn. Harry's bleeding. Heart.
It wasn't like when they were in Hogwarts, and Draco looking to cause trouble for Harry. It made sense for Draco to come to him, because Harry did have a track record at this point, a reputation. And if he was looking for secrecy, then Harry was also a logical choice because he had experience in hiding from the Ministry and being on the run, add to that the fact the public hasn't seen him/knew what he has been up to in two years.
Currently, they were still up in arms about Harry even showing up to the hospital a while ago.
Still, it was a lot to chew on—Draco was basically asking him for help to take down an operation without the help from the Ministry. That could involve a lot of unpleasant things, and could mostly like appear in Harry's next counseling session with Alfie. Fun, he groused bitterly.
"Do you even know what they're up to? Where they went? And how about the other families that they joined?" Harry questioned, mind roiling with scenarios and plans. Other families. There was a few families that were exiled, forcing the great 28 Noble Families down a few numbers. Was it with them?
Draco grimaced. "They retreated to the muggle world. From what I gathered, the group of them teamed up with muggles." Harry's eyebrows raised, and Draco shifted. "Surprisingly. Not just regular muggles, though; I assume they're a bit of an unsavory type, and probably easier to manipulate."
Pureblood supremacist working with the people they hate? Guess beggars can't be choosers, but it was surprising. Easily manipulated is right, though Harry couldn't discount the use of the Imperius curse. And the unsavory type? They would have to be some type of way they could be considered useful to them. Criminals? Harry felt an inkling of something itch inside his mind, a knowing feeling welling up in his chest, emphasized by the pacifier wrapped around his neck like a noose.
"Can you elaborate on the people they're working with?" Harry asked as evenly as he could, though he felt the words rasp a bit out of his mouth. Draco hummed, not noticing Harry's dawning and ebbing realization.
"I think they call themselves mafioso," Draco mused thoughtful, the words foreign in his mouth, and fucking shit.
Harry gave him a blank stare.
Suddenly, he erupted with laughter. There was a hysterical edge to it, as he doubled over and held his stomach, shoulders heaving with mirth. Of course, of course. Harry had long since learned that fate was a tricky bastard, though he believed that one chooses their own destiny. So it had to be his weird fucking luck that everything just happens to him, because of course. He was Harry Potter.
The Potter luck was fucking ridiculous.
(He tried to move on from the name Potter, he really did.)
"Harry?" Draco asked tentatively, sitting straight and alarmed in his chair. His eyes were wide. "Cease such actions, this is not a laughing matter," the pureblood demanded, the edge of concern softened by indigence.
"I know it isn't," Harry assured, settling himself. He was still smiling, his cheeks hurting from it. Draco eyed him warily. "It's just—well, it just is."
Draco didn't look like he understood. He also didn't look like he was willing to pry, despite his narrowed eyes. "Yes," he murmured. "I understand what I'm asking for you is beyond what I deserve, I truly do; if you could please consider help—" Harry held up a hand, interrupting Draco's halting words.
It felt wrong for someone like Draco to plead for help.
"I'm helping," the dark-haired wizard informed his former schoolmate.
Draco gritted his teeth, irritated at being interrupted. Skeptical. "Are you really?"
Harry gave him a wan smile, full of mirth, and slightly resigned. His eyes were lidded with an odd lament, shading over his viridian eyes. "Was there any chance I would not?"
It was wholly rhetorical.
Because Harry Potter had a 'saving people thing', born from the flames of the Dursley's abuse and years of Dumbledore's meddling, of witnessing people who had the opportunity to do something choose not to. If no one else would do it, then who would?
The pureblood's expression was stoic as he stared at him for a moment. He then sighed. "Blaise Zabini has agreed to work with you, if you accepted. He's the one whose been helping me gather all the information." After a moment's pause, Draco hesitated and continued with an awkward twist to his lips, "he will also help deal with them, so you won't have to do much. Just help find them."
Deal with them.
Harry couldn't help the snort of humorless amusement. It sounded like it would get the blood off of his hands, but just because he wasn't actually doing the deed— they're dead anyways. As always, he felt some torn emotions towards it—he hated senseless killing, but a more grittier part of him agreed that if they were killing people, then they should be stopped, even if killing them was the only way.
If people were willing to kill others, then it should only be right that they're ready to die as well.
A callous necessity.
Blaise Zabini would be helpful, especially considering Harry's own limited restrictions on magic. The other wizard came from Italian lineage, so his connections and knowledge of the mafia… wait, would that mean he knew about the Arcobaleno? Harry couldn't make assumptions, because he didn't know how much Blaise knew, but the thought was… sobering. Alarming.
He'll have to find out, and hide his pacifier when he met him to make sure.
"That would be greatly appreciated." Harry mumbled, tired. He stifled a yawn into his fist, and stretched his legs out lightly, stiffening them until they trembled from the tension before he relaxed. He flopped, boneless, back into his seat. "Do you have any particular way you want to approach this?"
The pureblood shifted, digging through his cloak that hung heavy on his shoulders. He pulled out a thick envelop, and tossed it at Harry, who scrambled to catch it and let it flop in his lap. Harry huffed and felt his ears burn slightly, and he pointedly ignored Draco's expression as he tugged the envelop open to peer inside.
"Here is a summary of what Zabini and I gathered. There is also his contact information and address. He'll be the one who'll help you most with the planning of this whole—ordeal," the last word was bitter and drawled, emphasized in distaste. Draco's lip curled. "As much as I wish to deal with this myself, I am still under heavy scrutiny and cannot get away with much."
The Malfoy's were one of the more heavily punished, Harry remembered. Especially because the remaining main branch family was descendants of the Black family. Madness ran hot in Black blood, though Harry highly suspected that they were only using that as an excuse.
And if it did run, it was most likely due to the incest that was goin' on to keep the blood 'pure'.
(Gross, gross, gross.)
Andromeda wasn't discriminated against, nor was Harry or Teddy, due to their Black Blood. Narcissa and Draco only were cause they were on the losing side of the war; it had gotten annoying hearing the Black Madness thrown around as an excuse during their trials, and Harry had quickly put a stop to it.
The packet of notes from the envelope was thick as Harry's wrist, and he thumbed through them idly. He would borrow an owl from one of his friends, but all he could think of was Pigwidgeon. That was unlikely due to the fact that Pigwidgeon was a small owl, used for only local mail. Also, the thought of the squeaky little thing delivering such an important and preferably discreet message wasn't—wise.
Then again, house-elves worked just as well for matters such as these. Dobby was quite a prick in his side when he first met him, stealing all his mail—the thought of the house-elf was a quick squeeze in his chest, and Harry quickly shuffled the papers together to put them back.
"If that is all," Harry declared, putting the packet back into it's envelope. "I'll do my best, Draco, but I also make no promises." He never promised much, because the world was wild and cruel, and all Harry could ever offer was his all and hoped it was enough.
"You'll always have my gratitude." Was all Draco could reply with, sentiment heavy in his statement. They stared at each other, and Harry finally relented with a sigh, smiling wanly at the blond.
It was gratitude for more than just this.
Harry swallowed and nodded, unsure of what to say. Draco didn't seem to mind, as he stood and began to straighten his clothes out. He combed his hair back with his fingers, expression still troubled but it lost a lot of its exhausted weight.
"We'll be in touch," Draco assured before he used his house's Floo Network. The moment he was gone, Harry felt the wards slip close again, his own magic stirring just slightly, and he sighed once again, staring at the envelope in his lap blankly.
It was surprising his flowers weren't itching at his chest, because he was sure they'd have something to say about this. Or perhaps they already said something about this. Peonies. He briefly wondered what meaning he was supposed to gleam from that; what was the last myth about it?
There was a stillness in the common room that seemingly swelled before collapsing in on itself, and Harry instantly glanced around with a bemused huff.
There was a shimmer of air, and Harry watched with interest as indigo colored mist appeared and slipped away. Viper was seated near the doorway, still and silent. It was almost eerie, and Harry cracked a grin at them, snorting at the picture they made.
"It is creepy that I hardly even felt you throughout all that," Harry commented, because it was. Despite knowing full-well that Viper was there the whole time, and the fact that they were linked by pacifiers—Harry could only feel the faint ebbs of something cold. It reminded him of the cold fingers of death tracing up his spine, raising goosebumps along his skin.
Draco didn't seem to notice anything, though that could mostly be attributed to his own apprehension at being in Grimmauld Place, asking for help. Or that he did not have any Active Flames. Either one.
After a few moments of thinking, Harry pressed his tongue to his cheek and stifled a snicker. "One could even say that we mist ya' there," it was a pun worthy of one of Shamal's annoyed looks, despite the wobbly twitch to his mouth. The thought of the elusive doctor dampened his mood, though, so Harry ignored it.
Viper's reaction was just as amusing, anyways. There was a stiff stillness to them before they let out a shuddering breath, slouching just a bit. "That was… bad."
"I know," Harry replied, satisfied. "Nonetheless, I do have a favor to ask of you, then. I know it isn't really related to what is going on currently, but I'd greatly appreciate it." Who knows, maybe getting out of the nest would do him some good. A lot of emotional sentiment and a few more people in Grimmauld Place tended to pile up on top of each other, crowded and stifling.
He had been looking for a reason to get out of house.
Maybe if he left for a bit, he'd be better prepared to handle everything and clear the air. With Alfie's current batch of potions, the ones that only mildly took some of his flowers away (they were building up the dosage, apparently), he could still have access to his magic if things got spotty.
"Is that really wise?" Viper asked, staring at him.
"In one way or another," Harry shrugged. Wisdom was subjective, though often came from observing the failures. And honestly, as long as something can be learned from a failure, then does it really count as a failure? "And besides, I rather not have Malfoy embarrassed after he struggled so much to force himself to ask for my help."
While still rocky, there was acknowledgement in their current relationship. There were still far too many things that happened between the two of them, though, that Harry doubted could ever really… make it smooth. But the fact that there was one at all, after everything, was good enough for him.
Viper was quiet for a few moments. From what little Harry saw of their face, their mouth was twisted into an uneasy scowl, little jaw clenched tightly. At last, they gave a curt nod and managed to say, "I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks!" Harry smiled gratefully at the baby. And, because he wasn't a heathen, offered, "what is your price?" At this, the baby gave them a sharp glance, which he chuckled at. "It's only fair, isn't it?"
"You don't need to," the Mist gritted with a pursed expression.
"I want to." Harry declared firmly, making sure to keep his stare even on the Mist. The other Arcobaleno was quiet and still, something they seemed to be really good at, before they let out a little 'tsk' and nodded. "Do you want galleons or other currency?"
"Euros will be fine. The down payment for this will be €12,500, and then afterwards when we finish, it shall be another €12,500. All in all, €25,000. Is this acceptable?" Harry nodded absently, mentally running through the calculations. Math was never something he was terribly interested in, sadly. He was in the middle of converting what he thought was the correct and equal amount of pounds into galleons before halting.
"We?" Harry was pretty sure Viper was an informant, so them implying that they're going to actually come along with Harry on this little favor for Draco was surprising. He tilted his head, smiling wanly at the baby. "Are you coming with me?"
Viper sniffed. "If you were planning on going in the Underworld by yourself, especially when a manhunt is on for the current Sky Arcobaleno," the emphasis on the title made Harry grimace slightly. "Then I should have charged extra."
"You can charge as much as you want, I'll still pay," Harry shrugged. It wasn't like he was at a loss for money, with all the vaults he inherited from both his familial line and the war. That isn't mentioning the donations that were still somehow being cycled to him, despite him constantly writing up Gringotts and McGonagall to use that particular vault for Hogwarts.
"You're too kind," the words were bland, and Harry couldn't tell if Viper was being sincere or not. The baby hopped off their seat and headed out of the room. "I'll have more information in a couple of hours." Harry made a humming noise of acknowledge, being left alone with his thoughts in the now empty common room.
For a damning moment, the thought of doing something rather adventurous licked a fire under his skin. Giddiness made him flex his fingers uselessly at his side as he collapsed more into his seat, pressing his eyes closed. It was concerning as it was exciting, because the task ahead of him wasn't… pleasant.
His friends won't be pleased, but he knew that Hermione and Ron at least would be accepting. No doubt they'd try to tag along… no, their wedding was in their future, and Harry wasn't risking that, risking them, for this. No, he'll do this with Viper and whoever Zabini has—it wasn't like he was going to be doing anything. In fact, this might just be an over glorified consultation job.
He tried not to think of what Shamal and Alfie would have to say about this. He'll burn that bridge when he gets to it.
Harry stood and stretched, before hunching in slightly on himself. He began to make his way to his own personal study that was near his room, and absolutely off limits to everyone in the house. He'll need to do his research on the noble families that had fallen out of grace, as well as any specialties that they could house. He'll also need to think of a way to break this to his friends and doctors in a way that won't get them all worried and prissy with him.
He never did like anyone worrying about him, as nice as the gesture was.
Idly, Harry finally remembered the other meaning peonies had that was inspired by the other Greek mythos.
Review, favorite, follow, or whatever you do on fics that you read!
I hope this makes up for a two year hiatus! I'm eager to hear what you expected, what you expect, and how I can improve! :D
I also planned on Draco bringing up this plot point since the beginning, though I didn't plan on it taking basically 8 chapters to get to it, lmao. I hope things get spicy like wine in the next chapter~
See ya' soon!