Title: Harry's Project
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and her associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione, past Pansy/OMC.
Warnings: DH Spoilers, EWE. Sex, swearing, lots of long conversations, characters learning things.
Summary: Harry is bored after the war. When he accidentally finds a file indicating that the Ministry was less than just to the Malfoy family, he decides helping them can be his next pet project. Whether they will become more than that is up to Harry—and Draco—and, for some reason, Pansy Parkinson.
Author's Notes: Technically this is a WiP, but this will be a short fic, probably around seven or eight chapters, the length of a long one-shot.
Chapter One—Harry Is Bored, Draco Is Pathetic
"Quidditch," said Harry triumphantly.
"And?" Hermione put a hand on her hip and raised her eyebrows.
Harry frowned at his fingers. "My job."
"I already told you that wasn't an acceptable answer, Harry." Hermione held up a hand, and Harry resisted the temptation to comment snidely on how much like a professor she was behaving at the moment. "Now. What elsedo you talk and think about? What else does your life revolve around, beyond Quidditch and your job?"
Harry sat back in his chair and tried desperately to think, but he couldn't come up with any other answers. He frowned at Hermione, who nodded sternly.
"You're bored," she said. "And it's driving Ron mad—"
"Why are you here talking to me, and not him, if he's so upset with me?" Harry muttered, and kicked the bottom of his desk. He felt like a sulky little boy, and the glance Hermione was giving his desk, covered with crumpled sheets of parchment, ancient tea spills, and ink splotches, wasn't helping. He kicked the bottom of the desk again. It was better than kicking Hermione, surely.
"He didn't trust himself not to yell," Hermione said tranquilly. "According to him, you start arguments lately whenever you get bored, because fighting at least gives you something to think about."
Harry opened his mouth, then shut it again. He really couldn't deny that, though he wouldn't have pegged boredom as the reason. He just knew his life seemed more shiny and exciting when he was fighting with someone. He had insults to plan, pranks to watch out for, and the eventual reconciliation to look forwards to. His fights with Ron were nowhere near as vicious as his fights with Snape or Malfoy used to be; they weren't even as bad as the argument that had driven Ron away from him and Hermione during the Horcrux hunt. Harry used them as a game, a diversion.
"Holy shit," he said, awed. "I am bored."
"Yes, you are," Hermione said, and leaned towards him, threateningly enough that Harry had to fight to hold his comfortable, relaxed pose in the chair. "And Ron's sick of it, and I'm sick of it. I know that you don't want to date someone—"
"That will come," said Harry airily. The fact that nothing had "come" for a year now except a few hurried one-night stands was none of Hermione's business. Harry had been left absolutely flat-footed when Ginny told him, gently, they had nothing in common anymore, and left him. He'd tried dating a few people, but no one worked out. That was boredom, too, maybe, Harry admitted. He just felt like he knew everyone already, because the people most eager to date Harry Potter were always of a certain type. And then they fawned on him and told him nothing new or interesting.
"Well, if you don't want a life of your own because of the person you're dating, then you'll just have to get one some other way," Hermione said firmly. "You're driving everyone in your Department mad, too, from what Ron says. These are the people you work with, Harry. Just because you caught the last Death Eater doesn't mean there aren't more Dark wizards out there."
"We never seem to run into them," Harry muttered.
Hermione's hand hit the edge of the desk, causing Harry to jump. "You'd probably use even that as an opportunity for excitement," she said dryly. "I think I might know why your superiors are keeping you from those cases."
Harry slid down in his seat, folded his arms, and sulked.
"Go find something to do," said Hermione. "You still like helping people, don't you?"
"Yeah, but I do that in my job," Harry said, peering up at her through his fringe. "You got upset when I worked too hard at that last year." He still couldn't see why Hermione had thought herself justified in cracking his office door down the middle and dragging him away from a rape case six months ago. Harry had only spent three days in his office, and he'd used Sobriety Charms and Cleaning Charms to be sure he was awake and clean. Food really wasn't all that important, not when he had tea ready to hand.
"Charity work," Hermione practically growled at him. "Go help orphaned Kneazles. Or war orphans. That would be even better." She took a few deep breaths, and then said in a calmer tone, "I know you don't mean to do this, Harry. But you need something to do that isn't Quidditch. Go find it."
"Or you'll find it for me?"
"I know someone with a lot of orphaned Kneazles," Hermione said threateningly.
Harry raised his hands placatingly. "All right, Hermione. I'll try to think of something over the weekend and let you know on Monday. Okay?"
"Monday," said Hermione with a sharp nod, and then turned and walked out of the room like a queen in coronation robes. Harry made a face at her back.
"Don't think I can't see you rolling your eyes back there."
Harry clamped his mouth shut, stirred his fingers restlessly through the papers on his desk, and at last picked up the file on Dark magic in the early twentieth century that he'd been meaning to return to the Ministry archives for the last week. It wasn't going to lead him to any miracles where Hermione was concerned, but it would give him a chance to stretch his legs. And maybe Ron, who had stayed away since the middle of the morning, would feel able to creep in. Harry would do his very best not to pick a fight with him when he got back.
He burned and stewed with resentment at Hermione on his way to the lifts. I'm twenty-five years old. Surely that's old enough to decide my life on my own?
His anger drained away when he remembered that he hadn't been even able to recognize his own boredom until Hermione pointed it out to him.
All right, so maybe not.
Harry held his breath as he stepped off the lifts, the way he always did.
And, as always, it did no good. He sneezed explosively, and the dust gathered around the files, bookcases, stacks of parchment, ledgers, tattered books, and cabinets of the Ministry archives flurried into the air and danced around him in a storm that would make Harry look as if he'd been crawling through attics for weeks by the time he finally went back to the office.
Muttering, he looked around the immense room, but of course none of the few employees who worked on this section of level ten were available. Harry couldn't even make out their desks under all the loose paper. He rolled his eyes, aimed in what he thought was the general direction where he'd found the files on Dark magic, and stumbled off.
Three painful collisions with hidden desks, two near-fatal falls, and one sight of a chained, snarling book later, Harry finally arrived at shelves that looked familiar. He scanned the few packed files that had their spines pointed towards him, and then relaxed. Yes, these looked familiar. Dark Magic in the Nineteenth Century…Dark Magic in the Eighteenth Century…
Well, they weren't in order. Feeling virtuous enough and deciding it didn't particularly matter what order the damn things went in, Harry shoved the file he held under the bulging mass of the others and then turned to make a graceful exit.
A piece of parchment on the floor didn't agree with his notion and slid wildly under his foot. Harry yelped and went down on a knee, which made a cabinet near him wobble. He whipped out his wand and cast a Lightening Charm on the cabinet, then tried to stand, only to hit his elbow on a shallow pile of folders. That toppled over and sent up a thick mist of dust that completely covered his glasses, which made him sneeze, sneeze, stumble, and carom sideways into a number of books.
Several books bounced down and hit him on the head in seeming punishment for being so disturbed. Harry flung an arm over his face and found himself cradling a book precariously on his chest and forearm. It stayed there, and as no more fell, Harry cautiously poked his head up.
He warned himself not to make any sudden moves that would attract the notice of the rampaging book hordes, carefully deposited the book he "held" in his lap, and took off his glasses to wipe them. It wasn't easy to find a patch on his shirt not already covered in dust, so in the end he cast a Cleaning Charm, though with his glasses gone he couldn't see where he'd aimed the wand very well. It seemed to work when he put the glasses cautiously back on, though; he could see the title of the book in his lap.
And he could see a torn edge of paper poking out of it.
Harry winced and opened the book to the torn page, wondering if he could repair it. Of course, he could probably put it back and no one would notice until the next time someone needed the book, but the keepers of the Ministry archives supposedly had spells that would let them track down those who did damage to their precious files (although why they couldn't clean up all the dust was a mystery).
Or maybe he was so bored that even repairing torn books with spells he barely understood was better than going back to the office right now and trying not to pick a fight with Ron.
He caught his breath when he realized the projecting piece of paper wasn't a page at all. It was a folded, separate parchment, stamped on the back with the official seal of the Ministry. Harry flipped it over, and found himself staring at a long list of numbers, which seemed to be amounts of Galleons.
He focused on the writing at the top, but it turned out to be just a list of names he'd never heard of. He wasn't even sure what they were, other than the names of places. And wait, wasn't that the name of a Muggle city in Scotland?
He focused on the paragraph under the numbers.
Above property transferred to Ambrosius Holdings, from the vaults and possessions of the Malfoy family, as of May 24, 2000.
Harry blinked and stared. He knew Ambrosius Holdings. They were a company that had come into existence after the war, supposedly to help rebuild the wizarding world. Led by an older half-blood wizard, Hector Ambrosius, they had struggled for a year, until they suddenly received an anonymous donation from some rich wizard.
Harry could also remember the fuss the Malfoys had made over suddenly losing most of their Galleons and their possessions, including Malfoy Manor. They claimed the Ministry had tricked them out of their rightful property using laws that only came into existence after the Wizengamot decided the family didn't need to pay more than a paltry sum in the way of reparations. The case had been splashed all over the Daily Prophet for weeks, and diligently investigated, but no evidence in favor of the Malfoy claim had ever turned up; it was assumed they'd made a deal that had gone sour and were trying to escape the blame. In the end, the papers had lost interest, and the Malfoys had to move into a small house in Hogsmeade, where their neighbors barely tolerated them.
Harry flicked his eyes to the paragraph above the list of numbers. And yes, now that he knew what he was looking for and could concentrate to read the scrawling, nearly illegible hand, he could make out Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire, England, among the list of properties deeded to Ambrosius Holdings.
Against the will of the Malfoy family. By someone in the Ministry who probably had fuck-all legal authority to do that.
His heart pounding, Harry rose and pressed the parchment to his chest, dust and all. He had a criminal to track down—a criminal in the Ministry, who probably wouldn't be easy to find. He had a family to help, a family that had somewhat helped him; he still remembered Narcissa's lie to Voldemort in the forest and Draco's refusal to identify Harry when he showed up at Malfoy Manor. They wouldn't thank him for his help, but that was all the more reason to do it, to show that Harry, at least, had got over the wounds inflicted on him before the war.
He had something to do.
Really, it was that, more than the thought of someone criminal in the Ministry or the expression that would be on Malfoy's face when Harry showed up at his front door, that gave his step its bounce as he went back to the lifts.
Malfoy's expression really was quite good, Harry thought. He looked as though Voldemort outside his door would have been preferable to the sight of Harry Potter in the same place. Harry leaned on the doorframe, grinning, and resisted, just barely, the temptation to reach out, catch Malfoy's chin, and tilt his jaw shut again.
He felt vaguely surprised that Malfoy had answered the door himself, but then, of course, they wouldn't have house-elves anymore. Those had been on the list of transferred property, too.
Harry cleared his throat politely and raised his eyebrows. "Can I come in?" he asked, trying to convey through his tone that he thought it the height of rudeness to leave him waiting on the stoop, and that that rudeness said bad things about Malfoy's breeding.
"What the fuck are you doing here, Potter?" Malfoy with control over his tongue sounded no better than he ever had. He was still an expert at the sneer, and he was still pointy. Harry felt his enjoyment growing. He really didn't need to feel guilty over rowing with Malfoy, since he was trying to help him, and the row promised to be a good one.
"I've uncovered evidence that your property really was stolen from you, the way you've claimed all along," Harry said casually, and bit his lip savagely to keep from laughing when Malfoy's jaw fell open a second time.
He did utter a yelp of protest when Malfoy seized his arm and dragged him into the house, barely giving Harry time to duck the ugly trellis that clung above the door. "Malfoy, damn it—"
Malfoy looked out, glanced up and down the street with a savage twist of his head, and then slammed the door. Leaning on it, he stared at Harry and cast several complicated spells that made Harry tingle from head to toe, but didn't appear to have any ill effect. He let out a rush of breath and shook his head, then shook it again. Harry raised an eyebrow, wondering if the trials he'd endured in the last few years—or the justice, as Ron would have it—had addled his brain.
"You really are who you say you are," Malfoy muttered, and then brushed past him and into the next room. "Come on. I'll have to bring Mother and Father down here to listen to this."
"Not so fast, Malfoy."
The other man whirled around to confront him. Harry blinked. Everything about Malfoy seemed whipcord, taut, frantic. Harry didn't think his announcement had caused all of it. Malfoy's forehead was wrinkled with habitual lines of strain, and his hands were clenched in front of him.
"Potter," he said patiently, "my parents have the right to hear what happened to their Galleons and the house they've lived in since childhood."
"Your mother didn't live there," Harry felt compelled to point out. "I've seen one of the houses your mother lived in. It wasn't pretty."
Malfoy's hand gripped his wand again, but he held back, maybe because of what Harry had said before, maybe because he'd just thought of what his record would look like if he attacked one of the Ministry's Aurors. He bobbed his head twice, then said, "You want to talk to me alone first?"
"Because I trust you more than your parents," Harry said. "I know you better, anyway," he amended, when Malfoy's eyes widened. God, his eyes were sunken. A little pity blossomed to life in Harry, but only a little. So far as he knew, Malfoy didn't need or deserve more than that. "I think I can make a deal with you to keep quiet about this for right now. Your father—I don't know. Do you think he would? Or would he immediately take off and try to force the Ministry to right everything?"
Malfoy hesitated for some moments, then nodded shortly. "I—you heard the newspaper reports, of course."
Harry nodded back. The newspaper reports had included Lucius Malfoy trying to hex Shacklebolt for up to two years after the Ministry had decided that the Malfoy property had not, in fact, been stolen. He'd finally been sent to St. Mungo's for treatment and come out subdued but still brooding.
"I can't blame you," said Malfoy, with a sad dignity that Harry never would have expected of him and which he'd probably had to have forced into him at wandpoint. He gestured to the small drawing room that lay off the entrance hall. "Let's sit here."
The entrance room was—green. Green curtains, green walls, green carpet, green couches, and pillows so bright a green that Harry considered them a hazed to vision. Malfoy sat down on a plush chair and leaned forwards. Harry hesitated, then chose a stool that was slightly less green than the rest of the room.
"What evidence do you have?" Malfoy's face was a little more guarded, but his eyes still burned and blinked and watered and stared. Harry felt a surge of very agreeable and enjoyable power. Yes, he was going to help Malfoy because that was what he did and because he was bored, but there were things he could have found to take up his time which wouldn't satisfy this way.
Harry drew out the parchment he'd found and extended it. Malfoy took it with trembling fingers. Harry kept from rolling his eyes and snorting, but it took a lot of effort.
Malfoy read the words carefully, slowly, as if they were the food that would keep him from starving. He leaned back and stared at Harry when he was done, the hand that held the parchment curling it towards his chest as if it were a baby. "You haven't found out who did this yet," he whispered.
"Actually," Harry said, "I used a spell Hermione taught me—"
And yes, there it was, Malfoy's lip curling. Really, couldn't he abandon his stupid blood prejudice when he'd lost everything else? Apparently not, Harry thought irritably. Malfoy would rather not admit that Hermione was doing better than he was, in every sense, right now. He would cling to the fact that his ancestors had been a bunch of inbred wankers and gloat over it when he had nothing else left to soothe him to sleep.
"Potter?" Malfoy prompted impatiently.
Harry shook his head and returned to the topic. "Right. I used a spell Hermione taught me that analyzes handwriting. The person who wrote this document was called Chester Flutefog. But he transferred to the Brazilian Ministry five years ago, apparently right after your money went into Ambrosius Holdings. He can't be reached. And I can't track down anyone else who was associated with the transaction."
Malfoy cursed weakly and bowed his head. "Why come here, then?" he demanded. "If you can't get us revenge—"
"I didn't say I could get you revenge," said Harry. "I think I might be able to get your properties and Galleons back. I would have assumed you'd want that more."
Malfoy blinked at him, then said, "Go on."
"Hector Ambrosius died two years ago," Harry said briskly. "Since then, his widow's made a fortune of her own breeding house-elves. Ambrosius Holdings barely exists anymore, and it's shut down most of the former outposts it established—which I suspect used your homes and properties. I think there's a chance I might be able to talk Mrs. Ambrosius into giving back your properties, and probably a good portion of your Galleons, if I smile charmingly enough."
Malfoy threw back his head and began to laugh. His voice sounded like a sob at the end of it. Harry frowned and pushed his glasses up his nose. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. Malfoy was supposed to be grateful and all but fall at his feet.
"You didn't bother to look up the first name of Hector Ambrosius's widow, I reckon?" Malfoy was mopping at the tears on his face. He hiccoughed and shook his head. "She was Pansy Parkinson before she married him, Potter. Now tell me why you think Pansy Parkinson would be at all willing to talk to you, to give us back our property, or basically to do anything that doesn't benefit her, her little son, or her immediate family."
Harry licked his lips. It was true he hadn't bothered looking up the name of the widow; all he'd really known was that Hector Ambrosius had married a witch much younger than himself, and she was in sole control of the current money and property. "Er. Didn't she have a crush on you, in Hogwarts?"
"She never got over my rejecting her in sixth year," Malfoy said. His fingers writhed over each other like worms. "She'll take every chance to hurt me." His breath was practically squeaking out his lips now. "It's worse to know this now than never to have known who robbed us in the first place."
He started to stand, but Harry blocked his exit, shaking his head. He hadn't realized how much he would have to make the Malfoy cause his own, but he'd do it. It was still better than sitting around the office and teasing Ron. "Stop it, Malfoy. It is not. It's true that she probably wouldn't listen to you. But I might be able to offer her something."
Malfoy stared at him a moment, then snorted. "Believe it or not, Potter, there are some people in the world who don't want to fuck the Savior."
Harry laughed. "There would actually be a problem if she wanted that, since I tend to prefer men these days."
Once again Malfoy disappointed him. He narrowed his eyes, and lightly flushed, but said nothing at all, instead of exploding into a rant about how unnatural Harry was and how he should get the fuck out of his house.
Disappointment or not, Harry had started this, and he was going to finish it. "Let me talk to her," he said. "So she might not give me anything on the first try. Maybe she'll eventually get tired of my always coming around and agree to give you a pittance." He paused a moment, then added, "How could you not have known that Ambrosius Holdings owned Malfoy Manor?"
"We were forbidden from going within a mile of any of the houses we'd owned, and apparently the Daily Prophet only saw fit to report the new names they'd given the Manor and the others," Malfoy muttered. He was staring at Harry's face as if fascinated. "Why are you doing this, Potter? The truth."
"I'm not tired of having you owe me yet," Harry said. "And I'm bored."
Malfoy sneered. "So we're just a diversion."
"Got it in one." Harry leaned back a little and cocked his head. "So. What about it? Should I go talk to Parkinson—er, Ambrosius, or not?"
Malfoy agreed, of course. He didn't have a choice. And Harry was warm with anticipation all the way home.