Disclaimer: I don't own HP.
Events depicted here are referenced to the Dramione prequel "Misconceptions".
The letter began in Hermione's careful cursive.
As you know, life has been somewhat hectic as late in Wizarding England. It's been a difficult couple of months since the Ron incident, and while he asked me to get back with him I gave him a quite mature "no" (and I MIGHT have hexed him--I was too flustered at the time to be sure if those fish gills had been on him before he'd come to see me at Wizard-N-Muggle or not. Still, we have decided that since we have so many friends in common we will try to be civil around each other.
I'm thinking about taking a vacation and going to visit you in the Amazons. I don't care about the dangerous wildlife and whatnot--give me ravenous crocodiles, give me schools of razor-toothed piranhas, give me bloodthirsty anacondas--but please, just TAKE DRACO MALFOY!
Harry smirked, when Hermione had written to tell him of Ron's infidelity and Malfoy's sudden show of humanity, he'd been suspicious. Sure, the war was over and the Malfoys had fought for the light, but Harry didn't trust any Malfoy, he didn't trust any Slytherin at all.
But while Hermione's letters were filled with her annoyance of the Malfoy heir and his too-frequent visits, Harry knew his best friend better than she knew herself, and although he knew that she would prefer to go up single-handedly against bloodthirsty anacondas rather than admit it, Hermione was beginning to reluctantly enjoy Malfoy's visits.
As you know better than anyone else, we've suffered a loss of many wizards after the war. Not only did the fighting kill off so many of our numbers, but many have defected and gone to live amongst the muggles like one of them!
If one can trust anything that comes out of the mouth of a Malfoy, the ministry is in a tizzy. We're losing wizards and witches every day, and if things continue the way they are we are running a risk of going extinct. Squibs are being born more and more every day, and that is something that the ministry is looking into trying to avoid.
On a good note, Wizard-N-Muggle is thriving. I'm enjoying what I do--whenever Malfoy doesn't ruin my peace and tranquility of course--and I have gotten back into contact with Victor. I saw him the other day at a ministry function Malfoy somehow (I'm still trying to remember HOW he got me to agree to it) attend with him, and I was so surprised to see Victor.
Remember that he had to leave Quidditch after that horrible accident? Well, according to him he was lost for a while and then he was approached and asked to be the Bulgarian Ambassador to the United Kingdom! He is such a well-known figure they figured out that he was the bets person for the job.
Oh well, I must leave you, I see a head of shocking platinum head through one of the shelves and if Malfoy is in my shop once again and HASN'T come to bother me right away, that spells trouble in my books.
Pun not intended.
Well, love you Harry, and try corresponding quicker this time!
"Hanson!" Harry's boss, Mauricio, called as he hurried towards where Harry was reading Hermione's letter out by one of the river's by the trail guide's hut.
"Yes boss?" Harry answered in fluent Portuguese. After the war he'd disappeared from the Wizarding world and gone to live in Muggle Brazil under the name of Xavier Hanson, and the only one who knew where he was and what he was doing was Hermione.
"Rodrigo can't make it and his clients just arrived." Mauricio announced angrily. "This is the third time this month that he ducks out of work without even telling any one of us!" He ran he fingers over his bald head before turning to Harry once more. "I know you just got back from the trail, but this foreigner is paying good money and I promised him the best guide we had. And if Rodrigo isn't here that's you."
Harry nodded, folding Hermione's letter and placing it in his pocket. "Sure. I'll just have to restock and all of that, but I'll take him."
"Thank you Xavier." Mauricio smiled. "He's over in the parking lot. First foreigner I see who wasn't idiot enough to rent one of those useless expensive cars and got an older, 4wheeler."
Smiling at that, Harry hurried off towards the parking lot to meet the man he'd be spending the next couple of weeks in the wild of the Amazonian jungle with. Who would have thought that his love of Care of Magical Creatures would end up in him being a tour guide for the Amazons?
He was so engrossed in his thoughts, he didn't really pay attention to the man leaning against the 4wheeler, who'd frozen once he'd come into sight.
Freezing in mid-stride, Harry looked up in horror, recognizing that voice immediately. "Zabini."
It had been a while since they'd seen each other; the last time had been after graduating after the war. They'd still bee teenagers at the time. Now both young men were 20 years old, and Harry had to admit that Zabini looked as different as he was sure he looked.
Always tall and lean, Zabini's caramel skin seemed to have gotten a little darker from time out in the sun. His once boyish figure was gone and now Zabini's arms sported muscles one only got from constant work outside. His black eyes were still harsh, yet they weren't the eyes of someone to beware of, but of someone who'd lived through more things than one should have lived through at his young age.
His hair, which had been sort and spiky in school was now chin-length and smooth, held back away from his face by a leather band, and instead of the fancy robes he'd used in Hogwarts, Zabini wore faded jeans, trekking boots, and a long-sleeved shirt that was thin enough to keep him from dying of heat yet still covered him enough to offer some protection from the mosquitoes.
He looked like a man used to 'roughing it', and that clashed horribly with the image Harry had cultivated of the Slytherin throughout his years at Hogwarts.
"I can't believe it." Zabini announced, voice odd. "What the bloody hell are you doing here?"
"Working." For some reason, Harry felt defensive around the man who'd never done anything wrong other than being sorted into Slytherin. "What are you doing here?"
"Working." An amused smile touched Zabini's face as he chuckled. "Who would have thought that I'd see you again in the middle of nowhere? Small world, both the muggle and the Wizarding one, I never would have believed that my guide would be the great Harry Potter." He smiled brighter, white teeth showing between his lips. "Don't have to worry about being eaten by an anaconda while on the trail then."
Harry blinked, surprised at both the fact that Zabini knew how to smile and that he looked nice when he did. "Who would have ever guessed a Slytherin would be frightened of a snake."
Zabini grinned brighter. "Well, just so you know, the Sorting Hat had seriously considered putting me in Ravenclaw."
That was intriguing information. "So, how does your work bring you to muggle Brazil?" Harry asked, trying to decipher the strange equation that was Blaise Zabini. "What kind of job takes you to the rainforest of the Amazons of all places?"
"You wouldn't know, you left right after graduation." Zabini announced easily, smile still in place. "I work for the ministry, in the Magical Creature Division (MCD). I study the magical creatures around the world and whenever there are rumors of a magical creature somehow straying into the muggle world I'm sent to retrieve it."
Harry blinked. The job sounded interesting. "So what exactly will we be tracking?"
"The Mapinguari." Zabini announced, shifting the weight of his backpack onto his other shoulder. "There have been reports of an adolescent one somewhere close to here and the Ministry has sent me to sedate and collect it before it's discovered by any muggles."
Harry frowned. "Mapinguari? Here?" He'd heard about the creatures from some of the natives, but hadn't really paid much attention to the stories.
The Mapinguari were legendary ground-dwelling sloth-like creatures with red fur that lived in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil and Bolivia. According to some of the native accounts it had a series of unnatural characteristics, like long skin, caiman skin, backward feet, and a second mouth on its belly…
"Yeah." Zabini nodded. "It should be easy to find because I have a rough idea of where the creature was seen, and that's considering that it avoids being around water--and most of the rainforest is covered in water."
The handsome, dark man pulled out a folded map from his pocket and unfolded it, showing it to the shorter man. The map was obviously Wizarding, and it was obviously well-used. It showed in red the area that Zabini believed the Mapinguari to be hiding.
Harry was confused, and he hated it. He knew that Zabini had a fortune that could rival Malfoy's, so what was he doing in the Amazons? Why was he working? Why was he apparently nothing like Harry had been sure he was like?
It read in Draco's regal cursive.
Things are going too slow. It's only because I'm able to recharge by touching her now and again that I'm still alive to complain to you in this letter. The Veela curse is taking its toll, and while Hermione is no longer with that weasel, and doesn't ask me to leave the moment I go to visit her in her shop, it still isn't enough.
The pain is getting too hard to bear now without some sort of magical help. My father is getting worried because I might actually be entering the critical stage of mate-hood and my mate is STILL stubbornly persisting that she has given up on men (apparently we are all pigs, and various other offensive terms I had never even heard of before) and she wants nothing to do with the male species in general.
Blaise leaned closer to the fire, frowning as he read Draco's current letter. He'd thought that with Weasel out of the way and Draco finally able to have something of a friendship with Granger. Things would work out for them, and quickly, but apparently the man with the reputation as a 'Casanova' in school couldn't get his mate to notice he was there.
"Something wrong?" Harry asked, eyes on the fish he was cooking over the fire.
They'd been on the trail for almost two weeks now and they'd finally made it into the territory that Blaise was more than sure his elusive Mapinguari was hiding. They'd had to do the whole trek by foot considering that there were no trails, and even if there were any the ground was way too muddy.
During their walks through the dangerous rainforest, machetes in hand as they cut their own way through the bushes and hanging vines, Blaise and Harry had been surprised at how many things they actually had in common and had to talk about.
In Hogwarts they couldn't have seemed more different from each other, but now, out in the wild and without Houses or peer pressure, Blaise had grown to honestly enjoy the once-Gryffindor's presence.
"No." He lied, because this was Draco's problem, not his own. It'd been hard for his best friend to hide his being a Veela a secret from everyone, and considering that Harry was Granger's best friend and Granger was Draco's unsuspecting mate—well—it was best for Draco's secret to remain just that, even if only for a little while longer.
Blaise smiled up at Harry, who had yet to look up from the fish he'd caught since the supplies they'd brought with them had already run out. "Draco was just telling me how things are in England. I haven't been there for the longest time and if it weren't for his letters the whole country might blow up and cease to exist and I wouldn't know a thing."
Harry smirked. "I know the feeling."
Blaise smiled back and returned to reading the letter.
Not that I've tried anything with her, I'm desperate but not an idiot--although father might very well want to debate that issue.
Don't really know what to do about the situation with Hermione. We have a REALLY tentative relationship and I don't want to move too quickly and ruin the little progress I've made with my stubborn Gryffindor.
Have to go. I asked Hermione to dinner at a restaurant close by and when she gave me a look that told me I was insane I quickly told her it was so that we could discuss a 'business proposition'.
The absolutely bright witch THEN had to ask me what sort of business proposition could come from a sport's store owner to a bookstore owner, and since I was completely blank and without an answer I told her that it would 'ruin the surprise' if I told her right there.
Considering that I now have to come up with some sort of sound business proposition while bathing and changing my clothes, I must go.
Shaking his head, Blaise quickly wrote an answer to his friend and sent it off with the Malfoy owl that'd brought him the letter in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest.
"Here you go." Harry passed him the fish on the banana leaf.
"Thanks." Blowing the steaming morsel, Blaise waited until it wasn't scalding before beginning to eat it with gusto. The first time he'd eaten something Harry had cooked he'd been cautious, yet happily surprised when he'd discovered that the other man cooked wonderfully.
They ate in companionable silence, sharing smiles over the campfire, and Blaise couldn't help but think that he hadn't been so relaxed, hadn't enjoyed a moment quite like this for as long as he could remember.
Ducking under the vines, Harry grabbed the machete from where it'd been thrown out of his hand and into a tree. Pulling the sharp metal out of the tree, Harry twirled around when he heard Blaise cry out in pain.
Their hunt hadn't gone as planned, and instead of the surprising the Mapinguari it'd surprised them by attacking them early morning, drawn by the smell of the remainder of their fish dinner.
Zabini's wand had been broken during the confrontation with the creature that was everything the natives had told Harry--without the mouth in the stomach though--and even more ferocious than it'd been said to be.
Seeing the creature raise on its hind legs like a grizzly bear would, about to bring its body and its long claws down on Zabini, Harry grabbed his machete by the blade and quickly judged distance, wind direction and force before throwing the machete through the air and impaling the Mapinguari in the heart.
The creature roared in pain and collapsed to the ground.
Harry's eyes quickly went to Blaise and he hurried towards the man who was stumbling to his feet. "Are you okay?"
Zabini's eyes were on the dead creature. "I should have been ready. If my wand hadn't been broken we would have been able to sedate him and not kill him."
Harry narrowed his eyes at the other man. He'd nearly been killed and he was sad that the crazed creature had been killed before it could take his life?
Zabini tore his eyes off of the creature and then smile at Harry. "Thanks for the save, by the way."
Harry felt that odd sensation rising in his stomach. Ever since their first night in the rainforest together he'd been having odd reactions to Blaise Zabini, and that smile was causing something to flip around in his stomach.
It was unnerving and confusing.
"I've meant to ask you for a while now." Blaise went on to say, apparently oblivious to the effect he had on Harry. "What happened to your wand? I haven't seen you use it once since we started off."
"It's somewhere safe." Harry tore his green gaze off of Zabini and on the large creature Zabini had assured him was an 'adolescent'. "What are you going to do with it now?"
Zabini sighed. "Well, get rid of its remains, and then we can head home and then I'm off to the Ministry to give in a report." He paused. "And I'll be sure to tell them how my guide, Xavier Hanson, saved me by putting it down."
Harry couldn't help it; he had to look back at Zabini. While he hadn't wanted to approach the subject, he'd been worried about his identity and hiding place being leaked out to the Wizarding world, and he was so relieved and grateful that Zabini not only understood his necessity to be away from the Wizarding World, but he respected it.
"Well, let's start cleaning up this mess." Zabini sighed, heading towards the dead creature.
Harry watched him silently.
Maybe he could clean up the mess that was his life after all.
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