Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Angst, profanity, manipulation. Takes place fairly far in the future after DH, but ignores the epilogue.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione, Luna/Neville, Lucius/Narcissa.
Summary: Draco has become a successful writer by novelizing the lives of heroes from the war with Voldemort. He's managed to charm the most difficult and reticent into talking to him. Now he thinks he's ready for the ultimate challenge: persuading Harry Potter, who's notoriously close-mouthed, to give him both the material and the permission for a novel based on him.
Author's Notes: This is intended to be a fairly short novel, probably around 50,000 words (12 or 13 chapters), but I won't rule out going longer.
Chapter One—Irresistible Force
And as she stood within the arms of the man she loved, Selene understood, finally, that she, and not he, was the one who had made her darkness yield to the light.
Draco sat back and took a deep breath, letting his fingers relax. He'd been busy with the ending of The Hope-Well all morning, and scribbling over a thousand words with a quill was no easy task. For long moments, he did nothing but sit in his desk chair and flex his hands.
At last he opened his eyes and looked with calm pride at the complete manuscript in front of him.
Done on time according to both my internal clock and Murray's ridiculous deadline. This deserves some celebration.
He turned and walked three strides across the small tower room to pick up a waiting bottle of Fairyflower. The pale golden wine bubbled and hissed as it poured into the glass, and a fragrance of lavender filled the room. Draco sipped, enjoying the first bitterness that faded almost at once into the kind of fuzzy sweetness that gathered along the tongue and lingered.
He had a garden immediately beneath the tower window that was filled with perfectly ordinary blossoms: daisies, morning glories, and sunflowers. Draco leaned an elbow on the window and stared for long moments, enjoying the combination of wine on his tongue, warm stone beneath his skin, and brilliant colors in front of his eyes.
Then he whirled around and flicked his wand to call his owl, Justice, who lived in an owlery on the roof. The great horned owl landed on the table and looked at the manuscript in distaste, not deigning to notice him. Draco chuckled and cast a copying spell—he would never trust the only copy of one of his novels to owl post again after what had happened to Fairest Morning—and then bundled the original manuscript carefully into a special pouch Murray had given him years ago. Back and forth the pouch went from Draco to his publisher, and it always came back intact. It was made of toughened leather enchanted against any weight and any puncturing instrument, including an owl's talons.
"Careful with it, now," Draco said, as he said every time.
Justice turned his head, blinked his eyes once at him in admonishment, and then turned and leaped out the window. Draco stood there watching him fade into the gold and blue of the June morning.
Then he turned about, humming, and stretched his arms in front of him as he considered his next project.
Really, there weren't many people he hadn't already interviewed for his Heroic Lives series, which told the fictionalized stories of heroes who'd fought Voldemort. The Hope-Well was based on Luna Lovegood, and it had taken Draco the utmost care and skill to get the necessary interviews with her—after all, she had been his family's prisoner—but he'd succeeded. He had the notes for a novel on Ollivander waiting, but he'd never been able to muster up much enthusiasm for that project; it didn't have a title.
He considered Professor Snape. Then, as always, his mind shied away. He thought he needed to be a better writer than he was to do justice there.
Not to mention the argument I'll have with Murray over including a former Death Eater in a series titled Heroic Lives.
He thought a few more minutes about it, then shrugged. No doubt the intuition would come to him as it always did. Maybe even the deep interest he needed to tug him through the account of Ollivander's activities.
He turned to pick up the Daily Prophet, which he hadn't had time to read that morning in his intense desire to get The Hope-Well finished. He scanned the front page idly; he had an authors' lunch to attend in an hour, and he needed a few harmless items of news to talk about.
Then he blinked, and found himself narrowing in on the single photograph the Prophet had placed even above the headline.
The photograph was of Harry Potter, and he was training his wand on a large man with yellow teeth and fingernails, who snarled and snapped at him. Magical bonds must have held the man back, but memories made Draco shudder anyway. He knew exactly who the man was, without needing the headline to tell him.
HARRY POTTER CAPTURES FENRIR GREYBACK!
"Well done, Potter," Draco muttered. "And it only took you, what, sixteen years?" But the words were absent as his mind leaped into motion.
Why in the world had it never occurred to him to do a novel on Harry Potter?
It was practically required for a series called Heroic Lives. It was the natural culmination to such a series. Potter's life presented enough material that Draco could wring two or three books out of it without trying. There was darkness and light, humor and drama, last-minute escapes and desperate triumphs. Draco wondered if someone had knocked a gap in his brain that was filling back in only now.
Of course there were arguments against his attempting it. He and Potter had been enemies. Plenty of other people had written books about him, and continued to do so, because somehow Potter had managed to remain as inspiring as a thirty-three-year old Auror as he had been when a young hero of eighteen. Draco had suffered some humiliating reversals and rescues at Potter's hands during the war, and would have had to conquer his own pride and memories to begin an interview.
Now that Draco was considering them head-on, all those arguments puffed away to reveal themselves as the barriers of dandelion fluff they were.
So what if he and Potter had been enemies? He had persuaded Ollivander and Lovegood into interviews, and they had more reason to hate him. A schoolboy rivalry was nothing compared to the tortures that Draco had been part of inflicting on them. If he was really more worried about his years at Hogwarts than what he had done as a slave of Voldemort, he could point to successes in interviewing Neville Longbottom and Hermione Granger, too.
Yes, other people had written books about Potter, but not with the skill and the insight that Draco would. He'd begun writing to heal his own wounds left over from the war; he had continued because he was good at it. His novel on Potter, or his novels, was a masterpiece waiting to be born.
The last reason was the most insubstantial, and Draco could not believe he had seriously let it stand in his way. He rolled his eyes. If I can't overcome my own insecurities and weaknesses by this point…
He knew this was the right project to choose for his next one. Energy surged through him, roiling and billowing like a wave. He could feel his fingers twitching—with desire to pick up a quill rather than with spasms or aches.
He smiled as he sat down to write a letter to Potter. It would have to wait until Justice had returned from delivering the manuscript to Murray, but then it would be delivered. Potter would doubtless agree to a meeting, if only because he was curious about what Draco wanted.
Once that was agreed to, Draco had him. None of his subjects ever wanted to escape him, once they found the opportunity to pour their cases into a sympathetic ear.
And Draco was curious as well—wildly curious. He'd read a few of the Potter biographies and glanced often at the newspaper articles, but they didn't represent the real man Potter was. What would he say? What did he look like when not showing off for the cameras? How had he dealt with the burden of becoming the symbol and focus of an entire generation's hopes?
Draco smiled when he realized that the questions so occupying his mind had caused him to put on his shirt backwards. That was an excellent sign that his next novel was the right one.
"…And then we found out that Catherina had submitted the entire manuscript of a Muggle play called Much Ado About Nothing instead of the play she'd contracted with us for." Angela Ellback sighed and swallowed half the glass of juice she held. "She knows that we employ readers familiar with Muggle culture. She's not the first witch or wizard who's thought they could plagiarize some classic our world is unlikely to be familiar with. Why would she try that?"
Draco smiled over his own glass of juice and picked up one of the small sandwiches from a passing plate held by a house-elf. He liked Angela, who was not only a reader for Murray's but a copy-editor who returned his manuscripts looking as if she'd bitten into them and drawn out the inky blood. Someone had to find and correct the mistakes, and Draco was just as glad that he wasn't left to discover them after his book was in print.
"Catherina is good at writing light tales about princesses in glass towers," he said. "It's a shame she didn't stick to that."
"She claims that there's much money but no respect in that." Angela snorted rudely, and hard enough to move her rather large glasses down her nose. She tilted them back into place. "There are two kinds of writers: those who deserve respect, and those who deserve everything else. Why she couldn't be content with her place in the second category, I don't know."
Draco chuckled and leaned back against the wall, looking around happily at his colleagues. Half of the most prominent writers in wizarding Britain were there, mingling with editors, publishers, printers, and high-profile spellcrafters whose magic helped the industry roll along. Rita Skeeter was attempting to pitch a new biography of Dumbledore, by the sound of her undertones, to a thoroughly bored-looking Pamela Waterstone. Draco wouldn't count on that market lasting much longer. Even Skeeter's readers had exhausted most of the interest to be found in the sex scandals of a wizard almost twenty years dead.
Terry Boot was reciting a tragic poem to an enthralled assembly. Draco rolled his eyes. There was someone he had investigated as material for a novel and as hastily backed away from. Boot hoarded his small amount of suffering in the war and doled it out in slender poetry books, to the point that there was no room for anyone else to make a profit on it.
Denise Bellanthe, her long blonde hair wound over her left shoulder, was talking with another representative of Murray's, Edgar Bullion, who looked like a frog but was one of the deadliest negotiators Draco had ever dealt with. Not quite deadly enough to corner Denise, though, who so far wrote her best-selling Goblin Wars historicals independently of any publisher and sold them to the highest bidder. Edgar had been trying to win her for Murray's since Draco sent in the first volume of Heroic Lives. What ten years hadn't done, an afternoon was unlikely to.
Yolanda Timpany leaned against a wall by herself and drank a tall glass of juice with a sardonic expression, occasionally fastening her cat-like golden gaze on a guest and staring at him or her for an exceptionally long time. Draco shivered in spite of himself. Yolanda wrote surreal, savage short stories from the eyes of house-elves, centaurs, merfolk, madwomen, and similarly damaged people. She also had a well-deserved reputation for slashing portrayals of people she didn't like. She'd caused the loss of at least two elections for Minister and more money than Draco cared to think about. He never wanted to attract her attention.
She glanced over at him as if she'd felt him think that. Draco hastily returned his eyes to Angela's face and asked the first question that popped into his head. "What's the market for books on Potter like these days?"
Angela had never been slow on the uptake, even when Draco was struggling to explain the particular twists and turns that a chapter should take to her. She peered at him through one side of her glasses and said in a sly tone, "Why, Draco Malfoy, have you managed to decide on your next novel?"
"Women your age shouldn't be arch," Draco told her firmly. Angela laughed. "And yes, I'm setting up an interview with him, though whether he'll agree I don't know."
Angela stopped laughing with startling abruptness and looked at him with an expression Draco had never seen from her before. "If you don't have an interview yet," she said, "and if he hasn't actually agreed to talk to you about his experiences during the war, then I don't think that book will get written."
Draco folded his arms and stared at her incredulously. "Do you doubt my work ethic that much? Or my ability to charm someone?"
"It has nothing to do with your charms." By now, Angela looked the way Draco imagined she would if someone had died. "It has everything to do with the fact that Potter doesn't talk about what happened during the war. With anyone."
Draco sighed, the sigh that he often used when Skeeter tried to interview him. "I never thought you had such a poor memory. Potter did plenty of talking after the war was over, remember? He talked about his experiences during the Battle of Hogwarts, and he practically gave us the whole history of how he managed to defeat Voldemort during that monologue when he dueled him—"
"That's all old news," Angela said. "Of course you could write some of that into the book, and it would be a graceful retelling of a worn-out tale." Draco glared at her; he hated being accused of unoriginality most of all. "But no one has ever managed to find out exactly how he learned what he had to do to defeat—You-Know-Who." Unlike Draco, Angela had never managed the leap to calling Voldemort by his actual name. "It's one of the greatest mysteries in the contemporary world. How did he know that he would survive the Killing Curse a second time? That the sacrifice he made for the people at the Battle of Hogwarts would protect them? Dumbledore was almost a year dead at that point, and all our sources agree that there was no contact between Potter and Snape before Snape died, either. No, there's a mystery hiding in the Forbidden Forest and the memory of Harry Potter, and that's what he'll never tell anyone."
Draco could have purred. Angela was staring off into space now, her eyes wide and her voice rambling dreamily. The signs were excellent that he'd get a superb price for the book, if one person at Murray's was already so interested in the plot. He congratulated his own business instincts before pressing onwards.
"Angela, have you ever known me to leave a subject before I had the full details? Even the ones that are the most difficult to talk about, as in the details of rape or torture?"
She came back to herself at the question and looked closely, critically, at him. "No," she said. "But the people you talk to are usually less well-armored against you than Potter will be. Not only does he have those years of hating you to think about, but also the fact that everyone under the sun has tried to get this secret out of him before now. I don't think your previous successes will make a difference here, Draco. I really don't. In fact, if anything, they might tell against you. I've heard that Potter doesn't like Heroic Lives. Says it's voyeurism."
"He's just disappointed that he's never seen himself in there." Draco finished off his juice with a snap of his head. "By the time I'm finished with him, Angela, he'll be begging to strip himself naked before me."
Angela closed her eyes. "Draco—"
"In words, dearling, in words." Draco raised his empty cup in a toast to her. "My letter is just the beginning. I also know how to listen, and to ask the right questions. If Potter hasn't talked to anyone about this, that's all the more sign that he must be inwardly dying to talk about it, right? Why shouldn't I be the one he chooses? He'll never encounter anyone more persistent or better fitted for the job than I am."
Draco spent some time staring at the letter that he'd received back from Potter. There could be no doubt that it was from Potter, despite the absence of a signature, because it had come back with Justice, and that was the last errand he had sent Justice on.
Draco looked up at the owl, who was preening himself on the table after Draco had handed him a dead mouse. Justice flashed a yellow glance at him that reminded Draco of Yolanda's, stood on one foot, paused significantly, and then switched over to preening the other wing.
So many plans and inspirations would dissolve if he simply let this go, Draco thought, sliding his fingers along the top of the table where Potter's note lay. Not to mention that he had all but promised Angela that this would be his next novel, and he hated going back on anything he'd said to his publishers. Murray's had been good to him.
Potter was used to dealing with people who rolled over and did as they were told. Or people who ignored him and went ahead and published anyway, Draco thought, thinking of Skeeter. She had any number of "exposés" on Potter that didn't contain the slightest shred of truth, no matter how much she tried to get it.
He hadn't dealt with someone like Draco before: someone who was a good listener, a gentle coaxer, almost a Mind-Healer, and who combined that with the ruthless observation skills necessary to a novelist.
Draco smiled and reached for his wand. There were many ways that he might try to get around Potter's objections, including writing him other letters. That was what he did for most of his subjects who were initially reluctant to talk to him.
With Potter, the direct approach was best.
"A word with you, Potter."
The man who'd been walking down the Ministry corridor ahead of Draco swung around. Draco had a glimpse of the familiar scar, the Auror robes, the too-narrow and too-tanned face—all the details that he'd expected.
Then he caught his breath, because there was too much that was unfamiliar there, and which jolted him. The lack of glasses that made his green eyes stand out as though someone had lit a lightning flash behind them. The sharpening and smoothing of the angles in his face, so that he actually looked like an adult. The short cut to the dark hair, which tamed its messiness somewhat.
And the intelligence behind his focused, concentrated gaze, which considered Draco as a threat and probed more deeply into his psychology than Draco liked.
He'd let himself be taken off-guard too long. Potter said in a voice deeper than Draco remembered it, "There's only one word that needs to matter to you, and that's no," then turned around again as if he were about to walk on.
Draco leaped forwards and seized his arm. He was aware of people staring at him, some with hostility, but he'd experienced worse walking through hospital wards and funerals. At least these were people who probably realized he had less chance of doing harm to Potter than Potter did of doing harm to him, and they might even include some readers of his books.
Potter spun back to him, made a little dancing step, and slid sideways. Suddenly Draco's hand was empty. The next moment, he was pinned against the wall with Potter's wand gently but firmly pressed to his windpipe.
"I didn't think you'd sink to assault, Malfoy." Potter's voice was gentle, but mocking for all that. "Of course, your books are an assault on most of what's decent about society, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised." He pressed a little closer and lowered his voice to be for Draco's ears alone. "I say that because they expect it of me. They know I don't like parasites. Now, I don't care if you publish intimate facts about anyone who's agreed to it. But you won't be publishing them about me. Why don't you go away and make them up along with the rest of the good little writers feeding the public's appetite for scandal?"
It took Draco a long moment to catch his breath. He'd never interviewed an Auror or anyone else so involved in the physical careers before, and Potter's strength impressed him as much as it surprised him. When he could finally speak, he locked his eyes with Potter's and shook his head.
"I've achieved too many successes," he said. "And there's a thrill when you know that you've chanced on the right story, like a golden arrow shooting up your spine. Much the same thing happens when you know you're on the track of a criminal, I suspect. I can't back out now, Potter."
Potter offered him a level gaze and a slow smile. "Then I'm sorry for you," he said. He stepped away and let Draco escape from the wall. "You seem to have forgotten what disappointment's like. Well, you'll learn." He again turned his back.
"An evening of your time," Draco said, brushing dust from his sleeves and making sure that his voice was perfectly pleasant. "We don't have to talk about your experiences in the war the first time out. We can discuss something else less intimate. The latest case that you've been on, perhaps, or your correspondence."
Potter stopped as if Draco had fired off a Blasting Curse at him. For long moments, Draco had the feeling that he'd scored a point, but not why. Potter stood there, breathing evenly, still not looking at him.
Finally, Potter snapped his head down and said, "One dinner. Tomorrow night at eight. Meet me in the Atrium."
When he moved away this time, an interested, excited murmur ran through the Aurors. A young woman in the bright robes of a trainee winked at Draco and mouthed, "Congratulations. That's more than he's ever given anyone else."
Draco winked back, exhilarated. No one resists the Malfoy charm, even if they're determined to do it.
The feeling of rightness settled further in his chest, unfurling wings like a dragon's. Draco was more aware than ever that this was the right book to write.
He didn't know the title yet, but that title was waiting in him like a golden egg. It would hatch at the proper hour, probably when he'd sucked every last bit of information he could out of Potter.
As he swaggered out of the Ministry, Draco whistled and ignored the odd, sometimes suspicious glances he got. I love my job.