Title: The Same Species As Shakespeare
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and her associates own these characters. I am writing this for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Draco/Harry, Hermione/Ron, Lucius/Narcissa
Warnings: AU; ignores DH except for a few minor details. Violence, profanity, sex, major angst, major creepiness, WiP.
Summary: Harry has been casually fascinated by Draco Malfoy for a long time. Draco has wanted to get one over on Harry Potter for the same length of time. When a person who seems intent on getting Draco in trouble for crimes he didn't commit throws them in each other's way, neither is exactly averse to the situation. But obsession, whilst perhaps a good idea in the abstract, is going to prove a very ugly reality.
Author's Notes: Dedicated to hpstrangelove, who made a very generous contribution to the fight for marriage equality as part of the LJ community livelongnmary, and provided me with the prompt for this novel in return. The title comes from the following quote by Aldous Huxley: "Single-mindedness is all very well in cows or baboons; in an animal claiming to belong to the same species as Shakespeare it is simply disgraceful." The chapter titles come from various Shakespeare plays; the name of Tudor Palliser is a play on Anthony Trollope's character of Plantagenet Palliser.
The Same Species As Shakespeare
Chapter One—Though This Be Madness
"You're certain." Kingsley rapped his fingers on the desk for long moments before leaning back in his chair. He looked as though he was a few minutes away from folding his arms and pouting. Harry worked hard to smother a grin. He could understand Kingsley's reaction. Until Harry had told Kingsley what he'd sensed, it seemed certain they had proof that Draco Malfoy was involved in the release of a wild hippogriff.
Among a long series of minor crimes that he appears to have been involved in, Harry thought, but shook his head. No, what he'd felt this afternoon simply didn't admit of Malfoy actually having been present at the crime scene.
"I am, sir," he said. When Kingsley scowled at him, Harry did let a small smile slip out, but added, "Sorry."
"Explain to me again what Ollivander explained to you." Kingsley drew a piece of parchment and a quill towards him. Harry hoped he would write it down this time. Kingsley forgot the wording each time Harry explained, because the world would be so much simpler if it weren't true.
"Yes, sir." Harry stared pointedly until Kingsley gave the sigh of a martyr expected to contribute to his own stoning and started writing. "He told me that I could use Draco Malfoy's wand during the war, after I acquired it during the Battle of Malfoy Manor, unusually well. I asked him why. He said that the affinity in this case came through the wood, just as the affinity between my wand and Voldemort's came through the cores. The hawthorn tree that made Malfoy's wand and the holly that made mine grew close together."
Kingsley gave him a skeptical look. "And that's really enough for you to tell when Malfoy is nearby?"
Harry gave a little shrug. "Ever since the war, it has been. I never stopped 'listening' to his wand, as Ollivander puts it, once it taught me how to listen—though as far as I'm concerned, the feeling I get from the wand isn't really audible. And I was close enough to the suspect this afternoon to feel the vibrations when he cast the Tripping Jinx at Ron. That isn't Draco Malfoy's wand."
"He might be using another," Kingsley said without much hope.
"Because he knows I can sense his?" Harry shook his head. "Ollivander swears that he hasn't given him that information, sir, and I believe him. It's not something that can be known unless it's told, or unless Malfoy had handled my wand in return, which he never did."
Kingsley added a final ferocious scribble to the end of the parchment and stared at it as if it would do him the courtesy of bursting into flame. When it didn't, he turned to Harry. "The Department Head is getting rather insistent that I find the perpetrator of these crimes, as you know," he said. "Whoever he is, he's been moving steadily closer to Muggle areas."
Harry nodded solemnly. After the Battle of Malfoy Manor, which had very nearly revealed the existence of the wizarding world to half the Muggles in Britain, paranoia about secrecy was higher than ever. Wizards and witches now went to Azkaban for crimes like Muggle-baiting that once would have carried only a minor fine. Without Harry to give evidence that Malfoy hadn't been there this afternoon, Hit Wizards would already have descended on Malfoy Manor.
"But if you say it's not him, it's not him," added Kingsley. "The last thing I want is to arrest innocent men and women."
Harry nodded as he stood. "Is there anything else, sir? Only I need to finish the report on the crime before I forget important details."
Kingsley simply looked at him. Harry stared back as long as he could, then stuffed his hands into his robe pockets and looked away.
"You should have let me arrest her," Kingsley said quietly.
"It was a personal matter," Harry snapped, and then tried to soften his voice. Kingsley was a friend, even if he was being an interfering busybody right now. "The last thing I need is the Daily Prophet trumpeting that I use the Aurors as my own personal wand to curse anyone I don't like."
"You'd rather they trumpet what she told them instead?"
Harry grimaced. No, it had not been a fun two weeks in his life whilst Penelope Armitage told the Prophet everything she knew about Harry's sexual preferences. Harry had dated her for six months and tried a few things with her he wouldn't have tried with a less adventurous partner. And he had been paying for that trust ever since.
But still, having Kingsley arrest Penelope wasn't the answer. Harry had suffered through the storm of laughter, scandal, and faked outrage until he and Ron arrested Ernest Paddington, the notorious 'Child Catcher.' Photographs of the arrest, and then of the victims, had displaced the news of Harry Potter's sex life from the front page rather quickly. And then the parents of the victims had sued the Prophet for printing those pictures without permission, and Rita Skeeter had to employ her quill in her own defense for once.
"I'd rather they ignored me entirely," said Harry, forcing a lightness he didn't feel into his tone. Penelope wasn't the only lover of his who had betrayed him like that, but she'd done it more thoroughly, and had hurt him more than—well, more than anyone had since Joshua, the very first. The Prophet pounced on the revelations like a ravening wolf each time. Harry had kept his attention to admiring but not touching for a long time before Penelope, and it looked like he would have to do the same thing again now. "But that won't happen, so at least I can avoid giving them more fodder."
Kingsley sighed again, in that way that meant he disagreed but didn't intend to press the issue. Harry had learned everything about Kingsley's sighs that he needed to survive during three years of Auror training and two years' work as a full Auror. "All right, Harry. Then go write your report, and have a good weekend after that."
Harry managed a real smile this time, and wandered out of the Head Auror's office back in the direction of the one he shared with Ron. He felt glances on his back, envious and admiring and everything in between. He ignored them. At least staying out of office politics was less difficult than finding a lover who wouldn't tell all his secrets.
It helped that he had something to occupy his thoughts during his every spare moment.
Finding out he could sense Malfoy's wand had led him to write to Ollivander, and Ollivander's answer had made him observe Malfoy more closely during the last few years. Of course, everyone knew Malfoy was fabulously wealthy and successful, so articles about him were in plentiful supply, and Harry could learn what he needed to know without getting too near. And if he kept those newspapers a little longer than normal, or sometimes mentioned Malfoy to his friends in unrelated contexts…it wasn't as though he would ever do anything about it. Harry might respect what Malfoy had made of himself since the war; he was certain Malfoy still felt the same as ever about him.
When he ambled into the office, he found Ron confronting an owl. Harry raised his eyebrows and leaned against the wall to watch.
The owl was a large gray bird with white edges to its feathers and rings of black encircling its golden eyes. It sat with wings spread and talons splayed across Harry's desk. Whenever Ron took a step towards it, it gave a series of soft but threatening hoots, and darted its head forwards to snap and bob. Ron would mutter curses, among which, "Stupid bird," could be heard most prominently.
"Am I interrupting something?" Harry asked at last.
Ron leaped straight up in the air and yelped. Since the war, he was rather easily startled. Harry made sure his grin was in place when Ron landed and whipped around, glaring. Of course Harry was gentle with his friend's startlement and its consequences when it got really bad, as Ron was always sympathetic about Harry's lovers betraying him. On the other hand, a certain amount of teasing about such things had always been necessary and natural between them.
"That owl is the most malevolent, stubborn, stupid bird I've ever met in my life," said Ron, and pointed a finger dramatically at Harry's desk. "It hasn't given me that letter even though it's been here for ten minutes."
On cue, the owl opened its wings, took off from the desk, and landed on Harry's shoulder, taking the time to deliver a nip to Ron's ear as it flew past him. It held out its foot tamely, and let Harry take the letter attached to it. Then it cooed and pressed its beak against Harry's cheek, before swooping out the door into the corridor without even asking for payment.
"It seems you didn't get the letter because it was intended for me," Harry pointed out, and ripped the envelope open. It was a fine envelope, he noted with mild curiosity, and the outside bore curving golden script. Of course, he received such an invitation on an average of once a week. The main curiosity here was that he didn't recognize the writing, and in the past five years he'd learned to know all the charities and good works whose functions he felt like attending. The ones that didn't impress him learned not to keep sending invitations.
"That bird was still malevolent," Ron muttered, and took his seat behind his desk.
"Terrifying," Harry agreed gravely, and stared at the letter.
A moment later, he was still staring. A few more moments, and Ron lifted his head and looked worriedly at him.
"All right, mate?" he asked. "Is it another disguised Howler from Penelope?"
Harry shook his head. "It's—it's an invitation from Malfoy to the Palliser House," he said. Ron stared at him blankly. Harry rolled his eyes. "You know, the new manor house he just designed? He wants me to visit on Sunday, when the owner intends to hold a public viewing."
Harry went back to staring at the letter in wonder. It was one thing to know that Malfoy had become a famous and respected architect of numerous manor houses for wizards who didn't have a grand home but wanted one, and another to find himself commanded in appropriately haughty language to come and see one. And it was clear now why the owl hadn't waited for a response. Malfoy simply assumed he would come.
"You're not going, right?" Ron asked. "I mean, it's probably a trap, considering the way he's always felt about you."
Harry smiled at the letter.
Harry hummed under his breath as he walked over to his desk and sat down, placing the letter in front of him where he could reach it easily.
"Sometimes I worry about you," Ron said flatly, and presumably went on worrying, but Harry was daydreaming and didn't hear him.
"It's grand," said Tudor Palliser, tilting his head back so that he could admire the vaulted ceiling Draco had put in the entrance hall of his home. "Grand" appeared to be the only term of praise that Palliser, a nervous if wealthy and congenial half-blood, could commit himself to using. He turned to examine the far side of the hall, where the ceiling dipped and became part of a pillared walkway open to the wind. "And, ah, you're quite certain that the watchstones will guard me?" He visibly stopped himself from looking over his shoulder at Draco.
"Yes, they will." Draco rocked on his heels and glimpsed the ceiling above their heads again. An enormous vault, precisely balanced on its gleaming marble walls, and decorated with shining mosaic tiles that depicted pivotal events of wizarding history, it deserved better than "grand." But at least Draco would not have to live in this house and hear it deprecated so. Draco always carried away an experience that the people he sold his houses to could never duplicate: he dwelt in them imaginatively for so long that he learned to value their beauty and their strength, their flaws and purely utilitarian features, as parts of a whole. He comprehended it. People like Palliser, who tended to overvalue one room or wing at the expense of others, and find themselves overwhelmed by the very grandeur they had ordered Draco to construct, dwindled into shadows in the house's immense light.
And, of course, the secrets Draco learned during his consultations with the owners, the positioning of private rooms and treasure vaults, the hidden exits they wanted and the fears they revealed by their choices of certain security spells, fed an appetite most of them didn't imagine he had.
"A wonderful invention, watchstones." Palliser sighed noisily. His ginger moustache—and Draco had had to comment on that privately to himself the first time he met the man; what proper wizard grew a moustache instead of a beard?—fluttered in the wind from his nostrils. "They should ensure that we can never be taken by surprise again."
"Yes," Draco murmured. He was less impressed with watchstones, invented in the wake of Voldemort nearly revealing everyone to Muggles. He understood their limitations too well after installing them in twenty of the houses he'd built. They prevented Legilimency, possession, Occlumency, and any other form of mental magic in the houses they guarded, and they would sound alarms that could not be evaded if people with harmful intentions towards the home or its owner approached.
What no one tells you, Draco thought in contentment as he watched Palliser stare happily at the bulbous gray watchstones studding the sides of the walkway, is that the architect can command them to ignore his own Legilimency.
"And of course you'll be here at the presentation." Palliser turned and regarded him with the haughtiness he'd been trying to copy from Draco's own manners since they first met. Draco had to admit that he came closer this time, which meant his performance was merely embarrassing instead of cause for moving to France and adopting a new name. "It's to be two days from now. I'll need you to escort my visitors around the house and recite all those technical terms I can never remember."
"Surely," Draco said. Then he paused, a small hesitation creeping into his movements which Palliser picked up on at once. If Draco had to make his signals a little broad for someone like Palliser to notice, well, that was the price of dealing with the lesser orders.
"What is it?" Palliser demanded. "I'm willing to pay you extra Galleons to be here, you know that."
"Oh, I know," Draco said. "You've been more than generous with your money." And your confessions. Palliser had less sensitivity to Legilimency than most people, and Draco had been able to stroll through his mind whilst still holding a conversation. "I was wondering if you would mind my giving an extra invitation to a special guest."
"I'm afraid that I can't associate with—" Palliser started, obviously thinking Draco wanted to invite either his mentor or his father.
"I know," Draco said patiently. "One must preserve the reputation and the cleanliness of one's house."
"Exactly!" Palliser beamed at him. Draco resisted the temptation to sneer, with effort. Fool. The Malfoys had built their first manor when your ancestors were starting to think caves might be just the thing to keep off the rain.
"It's Harry Potter I wish to invite." Draco lowered his voice to a confidential tone and lowered his eyes to the floor. "He and I have bad blood between us, but I think it's time he saw I've made a good effort at reintegrating myself into society and bringing beauty, instead of destruction, into the world."
Palliser, of course, ate it up. Like most people who weren't pure-blood, he had a weakness for pretty rhetoric and often didn't think to listen to the content of the words rather than the metaphors. He smiled mistily and clapped Draco on the shoulder. "Of course you may invite him. I'd thought of it myself, but I didn't think he'd consent to come to the private viewing of a house. He's so busy with public good works." Fawning awe tinged his words.
Draco held himself rigidly still, to give the spasm of spite and envy time to pass. Then he inclined his head. "I think he would come if I made it clear that this was a special favor. He likes to see people who fought on the wrong side of the war redeemed. And I have to admit, I presented him with small chance that he'd ever see that from me." He smiled modestly.
"Then let's give him the chance!" Palliser smiled at him, but Draco could slip beneath the surface of his eyes without effort now and see the truth unfurling across his mind. Harry Potter! What a coup! The reporters are sure to come here and photograph the house if they know Potter spent time in it. I'll be able to sell guided tours. There might be a picture with him, if I can coax him to hold still long enough…
Draco broke the Legilimency link gently and turned away, so that he could control his expression.
Draco strode quickly along the corridor that ran beneath Malfoy Manor, where no corridor had run five years ago. It was made of heavily flagstones, piled together and sealed with mortar that had the blood of dragons mixed into it. As Draco walked, small shadows darted and rippled beneath the surface of the stone, keeping pace with him; glittering heads with brilliant red eyes thrust out and flickered forked tongues in the air. They vanished beneath the walls again when no danger appeared.
Draco smiled tightly. This corridor to his own secret room had been his first experiment in magical architecture as well as magical security, if one didn't count the minor wards he'd cast to hide his collection of wanking material whilst still a teenager. He still didn't believe he'd bettered it. Too many of his clients prized beauty over usefulness, and wouldn't listen when Draco suggested combining both. But here he'd been able to follow his own tastes and desires.
The corridor curved as it descended lower, moving in a spiral pattern, though one would have to ignore the subtle distortions of the walls and the overwhelming effect of the monotonous gray color on the walls to grasp that. Draco wasn't above placing glamours and hexes that induced despair to guard his secret. There were worse traps as well, but they didn't trigger as long as a stranger didn't walk this corridor.
At last, he halted before a door made of a single solid plate of polished cobalt, with a dragon's head in the center. A circle of braided gold surrounded the dragon, and rubies marked its eyes. Draco closed his own eyes and stepped forwards, using the same brisk stride he'd used to cover the distance so far. He made sure to breathe noiselessly and to chase fear from the surface of his mind.
Flames flickered around him, or at least their heat stroked the sides of his face and singed his hair. Twisting whispers hissed in his ears, promising treasures and the fulfillment of perverse lusts; listening to them meant insanity. The ground beneath his feet tipped more than once, propelling him forwards further than he would have liked or than seemed possible.
But so long as he wasn't afraid and he didn't look, nothing here could hurt him.
Draco opened his eyes when the whispers and the sensations of heat ceased. He stood now in a room he had copied from his father's sitting room, still his definition of comfort. Cushioned chairs with wide, flat arms perfect for cradling a wineglass sprawled around the hearth, which blazed with a cheerful, self-sustaining fire no house-elf had to tend. The walls glittered and flickered, here mosaic, there tapestry, here polished wood, there black marble with veins of gold, providing stimulation for the brain or rest for the soul depending on the direction in which one looked. The ceiling was a perfect representation of the constellation Scorpius. Draco had liked the symbolism of the scorpion since childhood.
And his collection occupied a series of glass cases in front of the most comfortable chair.
Draco moved quietly forwards and dropped into the chair. At one point, the reverential hush which he always preferred to preserve here had embarrassed him. Then he had remembered that no one living would ever see this room but him, and he could act as he liked.
He absorbed the collection in the cases with silent, greedy eyes. Photographs, most of them newspaper clippings, were the dominant objects, but he also had hairs, old robes, and the shards of a broken broom. Ancient letters lay on crisp beds of velvet, carefully guarded by strong preservation spells. Here and there were rings; at one point, the person who was the focus of Draco's collection had tried them on in shops, when he still seemed to seriously entertain thoughts of marriage. There were souvenirs from the restaurants he'd eaten at most frequently, including some salvaged food that had known the touch of his lips. Cups, napkins, combs, quills, parchment—nothing was too small if it had at one point belonged, or come into contact with, or been in the same room with, Harry Potter.
The centerpiece of the collection was the portrait in the largest glass case, on a platform of jade which lifted it above the rest of the room and let it observe the other objects. It was a portrait of Harry Potter, done privately and at great expense, so that it lived as much as any portrait in Hogwarts Castle ever had. The portrait showed an outdoor scene on a pitch, but as usual, the Harry Potter in Gryffindor Quidditch robes who stood there was hiding in one corner of the frame, his face twisted in a mixture of terror and loathing.
Draco saluted him as he conjured a glass and Summoned a bottle of the wine he kept on a shelf in the corner for moments like this. Sipping after he poured, he closed his eyes and murmured, "There's going to be something else to join you fairly soon."
The portrait would be glaring at him, because it always did that.
"A victory is coming," Draco said softly, opening his eyes, "that I've wanted for a very long time."
The portrait opened its mouth and screamed at him, though the Silencing Charms on the frame ensured he couldn't hear a thing.
Draco smiled. He permitted the pictured Potter to think that one day he would bring the real Potter here and keep him a prisoner forever, because that was amusing. But in reality, Draco had no use for permanent possession of his enemy. What he wanted was at once simpler and less palpable.
Harry Potter had saved his life during the war, not once, but three times. He had taken Draco's wand, defeated Voldemort with it, and then returned it with the same careless ease he did everything. He could raise more money for charity by playing in a single Quidditch game than Draco could earn by building three manor houses. He always, always won.
Draco wanted to win just once, and crush and humiliate Potter in the process, so deeply that he could not grow back from the root.
Just once, and then he could give up his collection and burn the portrait.
He knew it, because he had succeeded at everything else he turned his hand to. Defeat was a heavy weight, but his vengeance would purge it. He would be free and able to turn to the rest of his life without thinking of Potter, whilst Potter would remember him every day.
Draco drank his wine, and smiled.