Harry approached the gates of Malfoy Manor and paused, wondering how to go about gaining entrance. The house was nearly invisible from this vantage, especially with the morning mist mostly concealing it in the distance.
He pulled out his wand, thinking an extremely loud Sonorous Charm might work, but a voice issued from the air near him. "Who seeks admittance?"
Harry cleared his throat. "Um. I'm here from the Bankins Agency. To do some renovations."
"Very good, sir. Please approach the front doors. Do not stray from the path or we will not be responsible for the consequences. Be prepared to provide your credentials prior to entry."
The gates swung open soundlessly and Harry stepped onto the gravel path. His eyes darted to either side, wondering what sort of heinous fate would meet those careless enough to stray from the path. He decided not to risk it; after all, he was here to complete a job, not to entangle himself in Malfoy Dark Magic.
The front steps were different from his memory, although admittedly his face had been quite swollen at the time and he had been barely able to see. The door opened as he lifted his hand to knock and a house-elf stood in the doorway, wearing what appeared to be several lace doilies strung together to form a toga.
"Please to be providing your certification," the house-elf said tonelessly and held out a hand. Harry thought it might be a female elf, if he squinted just right. He handed her his letter of authorization provided by Bankins.
"Very good, Mr Potter, sir. Please to be following this elf into the parlour to be waiting for Master Draco. This elf is being called Wooly."
Harry studied her again and thought Wooly to be a pretty odd name for a nearly hairless elf, but then, they all seemed to have bizarre names. She hovered near the door after guiding Harry to the parlour. He debated sitting down, but thought it might be best to be alert and have wand in hand when Malfoy arrived. He was not completely sure his presence would be welcome.
"Potter. What the fuck are you doing here?"
Harry turned to see Draco Malfoy glaring at him, also with wand in hand. The same wand Harry had returned to him without a note shortly after the end of the war.
Harry gestured to Wooly. "I was sent by the Bankins Agency. My letter is there."
Malfoy snatched the parchment from the elf and scanned it quickly before a sneer decorated his pale features. "Is this some sort of joke? Did the Ministry send you here to spy on me?"
Harry frowned. "The Ministry can't send me anywhere. I resigned from the Auror Division six months ago."
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Yes, it was in all the papers for weeks. Everyone seemed to think the entire Wizarding World would crumble and fall without you at the helm."
Harry clenched his jaw. "It didn't," he said shortly.
"I'm sure everyone was suitably surprised. And now you are working as a handyman?" Malfoy's tone was dry.
"Yes. I started renovating my house and decided I liked it, so I signed up as a contractor with Bankins."
"And this has nothing to do with some secret Ministry spy mission?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Why? Are you doing anything worth spying on?"
Malfoy glared at him. "Certainly not."
"Then what are you worried about?"
Malfoy looked like he wanted to argue. Harry could see him mulling it over and he took the opportunity to study Malfoy more closely. The blond looked far different than Harry had imagined. He had secretly hoped Malfoy had ballooned up to immense size, or lost all of his hair, or broken out in incurable acne. None of that had happened, of course. Malfoy looked quite fit, if possibly a bit too thin and pale. His hair looked better than ever, draping over his forehead in what should have been a waifish manner, but instead resembled something a magazine model might wear. No acne, either. His skin was smooth as marble, and nearly the same colour. He had dark circles beneath his eyes and Harry wondered if he had trouble sleeping.
He realized Malfoy was watching him with a frown. "What?"
"I said I have nothing to worry about. I suppose since you're already here I can show you what needs to be done. Come along. Do be careful not to touch anything, although I'm sure you can afford to replace it." His sneering tone made him sound disappointed that he couldn't ridicule Harry for a lack of finances.
Harry smiled and followed Malfoy, who was dressed differently than expected, also. He wore robes that resembled velvet. At first Harry thought they were a dark lavender shade, but whenever Malfoy moved they seemed to shift into different colours, from blues to pinks. It was fascinating.
It was also fascinating they way they hugged Malfoy's arse as he mounted the stairs. Harry studied that particular view and mused that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Malfoy had always possessed a fine arse; if anything, it had only improved.
Malfoy stopped suddenly and turned, and Harry snapped his eyes upward guiltily. Malfoy did not seem to notice, although he stared at Harry with a severe expression.
"It occurs to me that this job might take quite some time. Are you prepared to travel back and forth between London every single day?"
Harry nodded. He had already considered the transportation issue. The Malfoys had been disconnected from the Floo Network, so Harry had Apparated in stages to reach the grounds of the Manor. He had no intention of doing so every day, however. That would have been exhausting. "I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to complete the job."
Namely, he planned to take up residence at an inn or hotel in Salisbury for the duration and Apparate from there.
Malfoy shrugged and continued on. Harry made an effort not to study his arse. After a long meander through the mansion, they reached a door and Malfoy gestured him through it.
"This is my sitting room. As you can see, it has rather childish décor, plus something happened in here that disturbs me and I would like to erase the image from my brain forever."
Harry looked at him and wondered what sort of horrific thing Malfoy did not want to be reminded of. He remembered that Voldemort had taken up residence in the house, along with an assortment of mostly-crazy Death Eaters. He decided he would probably rather not know. Malfoy was still speaking.
"...wall needs to be taken down. It is in the wrong place. These ridiculous alcoves need to be removed. Apparently they were installed originally to house two suits of armour. Thankfully, those were removed long ago, but as you can see the spaces are useless now."
Harry nodded, examining the wall carefully. There was a door in the centre. "What is on the other side of this wall?" he asked.
"My bedroom, of course."
"Can I see it?" Harry asked.
Malfoy looked taken aback. "My bedroom?"
Harry chuckled. "The other side of the wall."
Malfoy blinked and visibly recovered his aplomb. "Yes, of course," he replied, but his cheeks were tinted pink. Harry wondered what the blond had to hide in his room.
Apparently nothing, for he walked forward and pushed the door open before gesturing at Harry to enter. Harry tried to be professional and not ogle Malfoy's bedchamber, but it was difficult. He quickly took in the huge four-poster bed, draped with half-open curtains of emerald green, and then forced himself to look away. The furnishings were dark wood, as was the wall panelling. The window curtains matched those on the bed. All in all, it was a rather dark, somewhat gloomy room that did not seem to fit Malfoy's personality at all.
He turned resolutely to look at the offending wall, which jutted into the room in two places, evidence of the alcoves on the other side. The wall was nearly devoid of decoration, but for four medieval-style pictures in heavy gilt frames.
It seemed more like the room of an elderly baron than a man barely out of his teens.
"This whole wall needs to come down?" Harry asked and Malfoy nodded.
"It will have to be replaced, of course, with something more suitable. And no alcoves."
"Are you keeping the artwork?"
Malfoy cocked his head critically and observed the paintings. "No, but Mother might want to keep them for some atrocious sentimental reason. We can put them in the attic."
Harry moved forward and grasped a frame. "Want to help me move them?"
Malfoy stared at him as though he'd sprouted a troll's head. "Certainly not. I hired you to do the job. If you require an assistant, by all means, bring one in."
Harry scowled, but bit his lip before spitting out an irritated retort. Malfoy was his client, now, not an obnoxious fellow student. "Never mind," he said and pulled out his wand. He cast several spells in quick succession and the paintings flew from the walls and stacked themselves neatly in the centre of the room.
Harry returned to the sitting room and repeated the process with the paintings lining that wall - noting their boring similarity - and then looked at Malfoy smugly. The blond shrugged and rolled his eyes.
"Right then," Harry said. "Reducto!" He flicked his wand and an explosive BANG rocked the room. Dust billowed around them.
"What the fuck?" Malfoy yelled and Harry conjured a quick whirlwind to sweep away the dust. Malfoy gaped at the wall - or at the space where the wall had stood. Said wall was now a scattered pile of kindling-sized wood chips.
"You said the wall needed to come down," Harry commented simply. "It's down."
Draco tried not to gape at Potter, but the sheer power behind the spell Potter had uttered was mind-boggling. He surveyed the space, noting that the supporting upright beams still stood, as did the door. They had not even been scratched while everything around them was rubble.
It was incredible.
Draco forced his voice to function. "Lovely," he said dryly. "Can you clean up the mess, now?"
Potter grinned and set about moving the debris into small, neat piles which he then Vanished. Draco watched his every movement, trying not to notice how fit the bloody Gryffindor had become. His muscles rippled beneath the plain white Muggle t-shirt he wore and his jeans hugged an arse that should have been illegal.
Draco forced his eyes away from his perusal of Potter's hind parts just as the former Auror turned back.
"Now. What sort of wall did you want here?" Potter asked.
"I'm sure I don't know, Potter. You are the contractor, are you not?"
Potter blinked at him. "You're giving me carte blanche to decide what looks best?"
Draco smiled at him in a predatory fashion. "Naturally. If I dislike it, you will know."
"Yeah." Potter frowned and looked at the blank space critically. "Well, since the primary colour in here seems to be beige --"
"I don't need the running commentary, Potter. I'm not paying you for your inability to articulate. Just fix the wall."
Potter scowled and Draco felt a flare of satisfaction at the familiar expression. It was nice to discover that Potter-baiting never got old.
"Fine. I'll need to have some supplies delivered. Can I borrow an owl?"
Potter sent a message using one of the Manor owls, and then looked at Draco sheepishly. "Do you want me to come back later?"
It was logical, Draco knew. It would take some time for Potter's building materials to arrive, but he was strangely reluctant for the man to leave. Draco had been alone in the Manor for three weeks with no one to talk to but the house-elves, and he avoided that whenever possible. His parents were off on their honeymoon - their seventh, actually. The last letter Draco had received from them had been delivered by albatross and originated somewhere in Fiji.
Draco frowned. "Actually, there are a couple of other things you may be able to adjust for me." Inexplicably, Draco flushed at the words and turned away quickly before Potter noticed. "Come along."
He led Potter through the Manor, pointing out several areas for potential renovation: tearing out the wretched fountain in the solar, replacing the stone fireplace in the dining room (although Father would probably have an apoplectic fit over that), and stripping the dark mahogany from the floors in Draco's bath. He preferred lighter tones these days. Everything sombre seemed to remind him of the Dark Lord.
Potter's supplies arrived just as Draco finished the tour, so Draco left him to his task, deciding that watching the man would be damaging to his mental health.
Harry tacked the pale boards into place with a spell, reflecting that Sticking Charms were certainly easier than hammer and nails, but there was something rather satisfying about banging away at something. He sighed and Levitated the next board into place, knowing if he so much as used a single Muggle nail in Malfoy Manor that the blond demon would have his head.
Harry stepped back for a moment and nearly fell on his arse when his ankle caught on something that hadn't been there a moment ago. As he steadied himself, he saw a grey cat watching him with a disdainful expression. It walked a few metres away and sat, curling its long tail around itself.
"Well, hello, Your Majesty. I didn't realize I was intruding on your domain. Next time I shall watch where I put my feet," Harry said.
The cat lifted a paw and began to lick, ignoring him. He smiled, thinking it was definitely an appropriate pet for the Malfoys.
He turned back to the job and kept on until one side of the wall was complete. He looked at it critically, thinking the pale wood looked much better than the dark panelling it had replaced. He turned to ask an opinion of the cat, which had watched him from the comfortable perch of a nearby sofa, but it was gone.
A moment later, Malfoy strode into the room.
"I hate it," he said unequivocally.
Harry felt his jaw clench. He wondered if Malfoy really despised it or if he was simply being an arse.
"Pine, Potter? Honestly? You dared to use pine in the Malfoy ancestral home? In my rooms? I'll never be able to let another soul in here! The very idea. A commonplace wood such as pine in my rooms." His outrage was nearly tangible.
Harry glared as the snobbish tirade wound down, but he said nothing. He had known this particular job would be difficult, but he did not want to botch his first assignment.
Malfoy sighed dramatically. "Obviously, you are new at this. Therefore I will not fire you immediately."
"If you recall, I did ask what you wanted," Harry said tightly.
"I had no idea you were an utter imbecile... Oh. Never mind. I did." Malfoy smirked and Harry's fists clenched. "I should have known, therefore, I will accept responsibility. Please try again and use some modicum of class this time. Pine is fine for Weasleys, but not for Malfoys. Got it?"
"Yes," Harry snapped.
"You know where the owls are." With that, Malfoy breezed out, all fine arse and beastly personality. Harry snarled and began to detach the boards.