Title: Changing of the Guard
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and her associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: DH SPOILERS, ignores epilogue. Profanity, language, slash sex, perhaps some violence, cross-dressing (but not as a sexual kink).
Pairings: Harry/Draco, (apparent) Draco/OMC, Ron/Hermione.
Summary: Need a perfect stranger? Ask Metamorphosis. Harry Potter runs the business secretly and becomes whoever's needed for each occasion. He's not sure whether he should be more surprised, worried, or amused when Draco Malfoy comes to Metamorphosis and requests an actor who can play his boyfriend so that his parents will disown him. Yet Harry has even more dangerous choices after he creates Brian, Draco's "perfect" boyfriend. Draco doesn't know who Brian is, but he's trying to find out—and now so is Harry.
Author's Notes: Another novel-length WiP. At the moment, I have absolutely no idea how long this will be. It contains a fair amount of humor, as you can figure out from the summary, but also its fair amount of angst. If you don't like "mistaken identity" types of stories, you probably shouldn't read this. Also, this story is set in a deeply homophobic wizarding world.
Changing of the Guard
Chapter One—Metamorphosis In Action
Harry, staring critically into the mirror, smiled when he saw his forehead begin to bend. The skin tautened even as the edges of his forehead folded inwards, tucking around his temples and leaving the bones of his skull more prominent.
And the lightning bolt scar, which was unusually resistant to glamours of most kinds, bent and shrank as the angle changed, becoming nothing more than a thin line down the center of his brow—easily mistaken for a straight scar or a worry line.
Harry chuckled and spun away from the mirror. Ordinarily, he would have just used Muggle makeup to conceal the scar, but Lucille had warned him the dinner party they were attending tonight would be held in the overheated main room of her parents' manor house. There was a slight chance that the Muggle makeup would smear off with sweat, or simply the warmth if Harry got too close to one of the fireplaces.
Only a slight chance, but Harry didn't intend to risk it. The caution he'd learned since the war was the reason Metamorphosis had not only survived, but throve.
Another reason, of course, was that there was no other business like it in the country, and probably not abroad, either. But Harry didn't intend to rest on his laurels there, either. He fully expected competition to Metamorphosis to open someday, and his best hope before that happened was to keep increasing his own skill and the range of services that he could offer, so his patrons would be happiest to keep using him.
He held his wand above his hair for a moment, calculating whether he should use glamours after all. Then he shook his head. Transfiguration was much harder to detect than glamours, and Lucille had told him her parents were already suspicious—which was why she had hired him in the first place. Better to use Transfiguration just in case someone "accidentally" sent a spell at him designed to remove concealment.
He spent a moment considering the wigs hanging on empty heads in the room around him, then plucked the nearest one. It was made of pleasant, unobjectionable, straight brown hair, and Harry knew it well, which meant he stood a good chance of reconstituting it as itself and not a rag when he was done with the Transfiguration. Facing the mirror again, he set about tucking his hair under the wig, carefully, methodically, making sure not a single messy black hair escaped.
"Implico comam," he murmured, and spun his wand in a circle above the center of his scalp.
The brown hair of the wig rustled, then began to creep about and entwine with his own. Harry stood still throughout the process, wincing now and then as the wig jerked or tugged on a follicle. Since the wig had been made of human hair in the first place, no one would be able to tell where it ended and his own hair began by the time this spell was done. Even if someone suspected he was wearing a wig, they wouldn't be able to tear it loose.
That done, he considered his face in the mirror once more, then modified the line of his jaw with a few taps. Combined with his bent forehead, it gave him a rather haughty look—not to mention an inbred one. But Harry was playing a pure-blood, somewhat dim wizard from the Continent tonight, so that wasn't a problem.
That done, he breathed deeply to clear his mind and held his wand over his eyes. This was the trickiest Transfiguration, since he had to change not only his eye color and their size, but how well he saw. Occasionally he played a character who needed glasses, but not often. Every sign that connected the "employees" of Metamorphosis to Harry Potter needed to be eliminated before he ventured out in public, or else they needed biographies that gave them a good reason to wear glasses.
"Viridis ad caeruleus," he began, and saw with a surge of excitement that tendrils of blue had begun to snake through his green eyes. He was giving Osiris Grant brilliant blue eyes. Use of striking details like that was important; the blue eyes were what observers remembered, not the man.
More carefully, clamping down on the excitement, he reshaped the skin around his eyes, until they no longer looked too large for his head—the color and brilliancy of the eyes changed the way people perceived them, so he would have to make accommodations for their sense of proportion even if he could still see with no physical pain—and then altered their angle of sight. There came the momentary, piercing pain he always experienced, and suddenly he was blinking and stepping back from the mirror. It was hard to meet his own gaze, at least in the moments before he grew used to his new appearance.
But the man staring back at him was undoubtedly Osiris Grant—scion of a very obscure English pure-blood family who had moved to the backwaters of Germany during the war with Grindelwald, a jolly bloke, fond of his liquor, but prone to talk for far too many hours about Goethe. Of course, those character details would matter far less to Lucille's family than the fact that Osiris was pure-blooded, comfortably well-off, and male, but Harry liked to get them right anyway. It was his right to take pride in his work, considering how painstaking he was to get it correct.
He pitched his voice a little lower. "Charmed to meet you, Lady Larentis." Then he nodded in satisfaction. That would do. He had taken lessons from one of the numerous Muggle voice teachers he'd worked with over the years until he could produce passable German-accented English. An auditory glamour was always usable, of course, and far less likely to be detected than a visual one, but Harry was a craftsman.
He turned to fetch a pair of boots that had slight platforms in them. Those boots would alter Osiris's walk, making it dainty and mincing and utterly unlike the free-swinging stride Harry Potter used. Harry intended to practice with them before he met Lucille tonight. It had been months since he'd had a stumble, but still.
Lucille Larentis met him at the door to her parents' manor house, a delighted smile touching her lips. Part of the delight, of course, came from knowing that he worked at Metamorphosis. She didn't know he was Harry Potter; no one did, and it was going to stay that way if Harry wanted to run a successful business. But he was here for the purpose of fooling her parents, she had hired him with her own money, and that was enough for her to share a gleeful sense of conspiracy with him.
"Lucille." Harry took her hand and bent to kiss it, knowing they were already under sharp-eyed scrutiny from inside. But he had played many Continental wizards before, and he understood their manners, from the proper place to kiss a date's hand to the exact angle to bend his neck whilst he was doing it. He straightened up again and tucked his hand into Lucille's arm. "I trust you are well?"
She lowered her eyelashes and smiled. She was a tall, slender, blonde witch with piercing green eyes not unlike his own in their natural state, and Harry understood why her family had simply believed, for a long time, that she intimidated any potential suitor who tried to court her. But they had not believed that forever, and so she had hired him.
"You only saw me a few hours ago, Osiris," she said, which of course wasn't true at all, but which was part of the charade Harry had told her to play. He was pleased to find out that she remembered her lines word-perfect. He had worked with people who were very far from being as good, and it always irritated him. If they were going to hire him, at least they could add the minor touches to the pretense that were all he asked of them, once their Galleons were handed over. "Have you forgotten my assurances of health that fast?"
"I will always like to look at you for myself, and assure myself of how well you are," said Harry, in Osiris's fussy voice. "When we are married, I intend to care for you as you never saw man care for woman."
Lucille laughed and escorted him into the Larentis manor house. The front doors were carved with stone wyverns that formed part of the pure-blood family's crest, or at least had in the days when they were important enough to make their own coat of arms matter. It had been a very, very long time since the Larentis family had had Galleons to be proud of. In isolation and genteel poverty, they clung to their pride.
The hall they emerged into was hot, as Lucille had promised, and already crowded. Harry swept an expert gaze over the room, so fast and practiced that he had already identified the exits, entrances, and several potential threats before he looked anyone in the eye.
The hall was floored with gray marble, but the walls were wood. Several hearths blazed here and there, and more guests were arriving from them all the time, with the whoosh and roar of green flames that marked Floo travel. Harry grimaced to himself. The one thing he had never managed to shed as he slid from identity to identity was his discomfort with fireplaces. But he was determined that he would work it out someday, and soon enough to create multiple personas who loved Floo travel before he was ready to retire.
Gold banners and scarlet ones hung from the rafters; nearly all of Lucille's family had been in Gryffindor House, and they claimed descent from Godric's brother. The guests included other poor pure-blood families, a scattering of Lord Larentis's business associates—he trained and bred winged horses of all kinds—and several contacts from the Ministry. Harry saw two Aurors, and pretended not to see them. They were recognizable to him, in their sharp movements and too-alert sensitivities, but probably not to most of the other people around them, out of formal robes as they were. And they were among the few people he had to worry about when he was disguised like this.
On the other hand, there was no particular reason they should pay attention to Lucille's fiancé, even if they were friends of the family. Harry had studied Lord and Lady Larentis very carefully before he agreed to accept Lucille's Galleons. They were the kind of people who had long ago bored even those who wished them well, and their best friends would greet Harry as briefly as possible, then try to escape before the Lord or Lady could descend and make their eyes glaze over.
And here came Harry's first big test. He straightened and smiled. He had not changed his lips—he sometimes didn't get it right, and he would have to appear as Osiris several times—but he had changed his smile. Osiris smiled shyly, adorably, innocently. He had never been through a war and sacrificed his life to save the wizards of Great Britain, after all.
Harry pushed the thoughts away. They shouldn't have been so close to the surface whilst he was playing Osiris.
Lady Artemis Larentis came to a stop in front of him and studied him doubtfully. She was tall, but had only passed her height on to her daughter. Her eyes were gray, and her hair a rather wispy brown tangle even beaten into shape with a brush and several charms. But she wasn't stupid, just average, and it was important that the man her daughter was going to "marry" impress her.
"Lady Larentis," Harry said, and sounded deeply impressed and just a touch anxious, the way Osiris would sound. Osiris was in his late thirties, and had begun to despair that he might ever get married. He didn't want to muck this up. He accepted her hand and kissed it in the Continental manner. "Enchanted."
The lady narrowed her eyes as she studied him. Harry kept his real emotions effortlessly off his face, and knew Lucille was probably doing the same thing. She didn't have Harry's practice at switching identities, but deception of a different kind came naturally to her.
"Mr. Osiris Grant?" Lady Larentis murmured the words. But then she began to smile, and Harry knew he had surprised and relieved her—exactly the reaction he had hoped to elicit. In one way, despite their suspicions, Lucille's parents were doing half the work for him. They wanted so badly to believe their daughter was engaged that they would overlook faults in their potential son-in-law, and that included overlooking niggling doubts about how he looked.
If there were any. There shouldn't be, but Harry had long ago accepted that he couldn't control everybody's perceptions—just those of most people, most of the time.
"I'm so happy to meet you," Lady Larentis said, and clasped his hands, beaming. They were very neatly manicured hands, and Harry had no fears about them. For some reason, Transfiguring his nails and his fingers came easily to him. "Lucille has mentioned you, of course, but she never said you were so handsome." She sent a scolding look at her daughter.
"Mum," said Lucille, in the helpless tones of a teenage girl—a role she had told Harry she often played with her parents, though she was thirty-five. She ducked her head into Harry's shoulder, blushing. Harry put a protective arm around her.
"Well, she didn't!" Lady Larentis glanced up at Harry, her eyes laughing now. "You are welcome, Mr. Grant, very welcome. Just let me fetch my husband. I know he's longing to meet you." She bustled away.
"One test passed, then," Harry whispered into Lucille's ear.
She looked up at him, smiling. "And a few more to come," she murmured, barely moving her lips. "And then I can move to the Continent with Mariana, and only visit my parents a few times a year, and this acting will be over." Her hand briefly tightened on his, the only visible sign of disgust she would allow herself.
Harry could not really understand the distaste for acting in general—it had helped him keep both his sanity and privacy intact after his defeat of Voldemort, even before he started Metamorphosis—but he had deep sympathy for Lucille's particular case. Her parents were not ever going to accept, and therefore must not be allowed to suspect, that Lucille was a lesbian and in love with Mariana Rossemeyer, daughter of another poor pure-blood family. She had hired "Osiris" to pose as her fiancé when their suspicions had finally got too intense, and he would pretend to marry her and appear as her husband several times over the next few years, until he would finally die in a tragic accident. And of course Lucille and Mariana would actually be living together in the house with muddled Apparition coordinates that supposedly belonged to Lucille and her "husband." There would be children—but from a contract and by way of discreet spells, not actually from sex with any man. So long as there were grandchildren in the end, Lucille had confided to Harry, her parents would not actually care when her husband vanished.
Harry, closeted himself in a wizarding world that had proven more focused on family and less accepting of human differences than he had ever realized as a child, understood all too well.
"Here comes your father," he said then, and Lucille promptly turned around with a brilliant smile.
Lord Harvey Larentis was a shorter, more masculine version of his wife, leaving Harry bewildered about how Lucille had turned out pretty enough to make him admire her. But he shook Harry's hand and stared at him with eyes a little sharper than his wife's.
"Grant, hmmm?" he said. "Are you sure that you're actually related to the family that left England all those years ago?"
"Daddy," said Lucille, in obvious despair over her father's rudeness.
"Dear," said Lady Larentis. It was just the one word and a touch on his hand, but it made her husband flush.
"Sorry," he said. "It's just—we want the best for our daughter, you know that, and not everyone represents who they are truly since the war. There have even been Muggleborns trying to pass themselves off as pure-bloods." He gave himself a little shake. "Not that there's anything wrong with being Muggleborn, of course not, but why are they so all-fired desperate to claim our heritage, eh?"
Harry held his temper. He had long since become accustomed to dealing with people that held Lord Larentis's particular brand of objectionable views. Lucille wasn't the first lesbian daughter he'd escorted to a party, nor the first pure-blood who had come to him for help. "I understand, sir," he said. "But I assure you, my parents have managed to give me a longing for my homeland." He let the cheapest sort of nostalgia leak into his voice. It was easy. The latest rage among pure-bloods was remembering the "past," by which they meant the days before the first war with Voldemort, when Muggleborns knew their place and so many pure-blood wizarding families had not died out, sworn allegiance to the Dark Lord, or left England.
"Well, then." Lord Larentis grasped his hand and pumped it up and down again. "And of course you'll treat our little Lucille well." Harry wondered how he could know that based on one glimpse of a false face, but kept his opinion to himself. He'd had a lot of practice at that, as well. "Do you like children?"
"I would like to have two or three." Harry smiled down at Lucille. "But my little girl has assured me she will need at least four to content her." That was another thing they had arranged before they came here: Lucille had no objection to bearing several children, as long as she didn't have to touch a man to do so, and her being the one who favored a larger number of heirs would make her parents well-disposed towards her.
Lady Larentis wiped an actual tear from her cheek and kissed Lucille. "Thank you," Harry heard her say. "Thank you for making your mother so happy."
Harry concealed a snort. Of course, since the wizarding community wasn't about to give up its disapproval of people who had sex outside marriage or didn't marry at all, it was important that homosexual, pure-blood daughters and sons remain able to access the only source of income most of them had ever thought to depend on. But it rendered him almost grateful that he had no family himself, no relatives to worry about disgracing, no people who had insisted that he choose between them and freedom.
Of the Weasleys, only Ron, Hermione, and Ginny knew he was gay. But none of them would ever betray him, and Harry had settled Ron's initial bad reaction by locking himself in a room together with Ron and seventeen bottles of Firewhiskey. He'd let Ron yell and drink and cast hexes at him until his best friend grew tired, and then Harry had managed to reassure him that, yes, Ginny knew; yes, Harry wouldn't give Ron's parents heart attacks by revealing it; and no, Harry had never for a moment desired Ron. Which happened to be true. Harry didn't go in for redheads any more than he did for women, a fact which he had figured out before he and Ginny actually had sex, thank God.
He had supportive friends, instead of complete freedom. On the other hand, he also had a peaceful life instead of complete social ostracism.
And thanks to his business, he stood an excellent chance of fooling the very people who would have disdained him if they knew one secret and revered him if they knew the other. He was the one who dictated the way he was treated.
That was enough.
Lucille drew him further into the room. Harry watched the way her face lit up when she caught a glimpse of her lover Mariana, and reminded himself that his playacting tonight, besides being fun and earning him some serious money, would give the two women a chance to be happy.
Yes, he did love his job.
Unsurprisingly, when Harry arrived to open Metamorphosis the next morning, in his persona of the Manager—a short, thick, heavyset man who looked to have goblin blood—there was a pile of post waiting. Harry picked it up and began to rifle through it, setting aside the obvious jokes and letters that tried to unsubtly pry into his identity.
He closed Metamorphosis for a time once he decided to take a case, preferring to devote all his energies to one complicated situation at once. Since he played "everyone" involved with Metamorphosis, it was the best thing he could have done. He wasn't stupid or greedy enough to handle two cases at once, when he might have been required to appear in two different places at the same time.
However, the most important step of Lucille's case was settled now, and he would only have to appear as Osiris for short periods at set dates in the future. That left him free to consider the pleas that had arrived in the meantime and decide which one he wanted.
Humming, he shuffled the letters into two separate piles—the rubbish and the possibles. The first envelope on top of the second pile was made of thick, creamy paper, indicating a pure-blood client. The crest stamped on the seal made Harry frown thoughtfully. A gray, study-looking M twined with ivy and a single serpent, it looked familiar, but he couldn't remember from where.
When he opened it, he recognized the handwriting in the same vague way, but he refused to hurry himself and glance at the signature before he read the message. Hurry was not part of his business.
May 20th, 2010
To: the Manager of Metamorphosis
I would like to hire you for a job. I am told that you are the best in the business of providing people the wizards they want and need, and after studying your results, I am very impressed indeed.
I am the son of a once-notable pure-blood family. My parents have recently tried to place unacceptable restrictions on me. I wish to hire an actor capable of playing my boyfriend. It does not matter if the man is straight or gay in reality, but he will have to be amenable to playing gay—and not mind the public notoriety that surrounds such openness in our sadly unenlightened society.
I am sure you wonder why I wish to do this; I have been told by those who know that you usually act to convince families that their children are straight.
In this case, I wish to force my father's hand. He will disown me, if I push him far enough. Then I will build up my own fortune and reputation, until he is begging to take me back. This is my idea of the perfect vengeance. My mother will require more pushing and in a slightly different direction, which I will discuss with you if you take the case.
Money is no object. Nor is the blood status or looks of the wizard involved, though I would prefer him not to be utterly hideous. Magical power is irrelevant.
I would appreciate return correspondence by June 1st. June the 5th is my thirtieth birthday, and I would like to make my first appearance with my new partner by my side at the party my parents are holding for me.
Harry felt his lips twitch into a smile. He laid the letter carefully aside and smoothed the paper down with one hand.
Then he made himself reach for the next envelope. He would look over the others. He would not rush into a decision.
But in his heart of hearts, he already suspected what Metamorphosis's next case would be.