Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Harry/AU!Draco
Warnings: Violence, sex, angst, manipulation, profanity, alternate universes. Ignores the epilogue.
Summary: Being an Auror didn't work out, so Harry is in training to be a lawyer and actually enjoying it. Then two things happen at once: Draco Malfoy approaches Harry to help him with Quidditch, and Harry starts visiting an alternate universe in his sleep.
Author's Notes: This is going to be a novel-length story. Other than that, I have no idea how long it will be. It could be anywhere between twenty and forty chapters.
Chapter One—Into a Nightmare
"Well, I don't understand how it can be an exception." Harry bent over the parchment in front of him and frowned fiercely at it. He could feel sweat forming on his brow and knew it would spot the parchment if he didn't move. But he didn't want to lose track of what he was reading right now, which he always did if he moved, so he twitched his head enough that the sweat landed harmlessly on the table.
Hermione leaned over his shoulder, sighed, and stuck her fingers into the middle of the next long paragraph that Harry hadn't looked at yet. "It's an exception because of the complicating factors that Wineberger introduces here. You can't try someone who was under the influence of Veela allure in the same way that you can try someone who was under the influence of the Imperius Curse, because Veela allure doesn't actually take away your free will; it just brings your impulses to the surface. You can order someone to murder someone else under the Imperius Curse, and they'll do it, even if they would never practice violence ordinarily. But you wouldn't kill a rival for the Veela's attention under the influence of the allure unless you had the capacity for murder."
Harry scowled and folded his arms. He had to admit that made sense, unlike far too much in the law books that Hermione was having him study, but—"It still sounds to me like you're trying them for their character, not for breaking the law," he muttered. "Without the allure, maybe they never would have done that."
Hermione gave him a shrug and a small smile. "Well, the person under the Imperius Curse is still tried, too. The difference is that they're more likely to be acquitted."
"Oh. Yeah." Harry closed his eyes. He had learned about trials for use of the Unforgivables last week. His head was pounding and bursting with information, and he sometimes felt as if his brain would leak out his ears.
When it does, they'll find writing on it.
"Come on," Hermione said, and touched his shoulder sympathetically. "We should go home. Ron probably has dinner waiting, and you've had enough of the law books for one day."
Harry gave her a look of disbelief—directed, he had to admit, more at the pile of law books in her arms than at her face.
Hermione flushed. "Well, I know how to deal with the addictive effects of reading," she said, hitching her chin up. "You don't. It was a passion that came to you late in life."
Harry shuddered dramatically. "Please don't say that word when you've just been talking about Ron, Hermione. I don't need to know about your sex life."
She looked as if she was thinking about trying to hit him, but her arms were too full, and in the end she shook her head at him and went to lock the door of her office. Harry made sure that the windows were locked; any amount of people were mad to get in here, not because there was anything valuable in this building but because the Great Harry Potter worked here.
Or should it be "studies"? It was going to be a year or more before Harry was prepared to qualify as a lawyer. It was like being a Hogwarts student again.
But it was still the right decision, Harry thought as he followed Hermione downstairs, past doors that led to a public relations office for the joke shop, a room that Hermione rented out to down-on-their-luck advocates of magical creature relations, and a small office that Bill sometimes kipped out in when he was on his way to or from Gringotts (or, more to the point, when he had stopped over to give Harry and Hermione instructions on goblin law and it had got late). Harry hadn't been happy trying to become an Auror. They would have kept him from field work, and by the time that he'd finished training, the most important Dark wizards from the war would be mopped up. There was no one who needed him.
In law, there were people who would. The Death Eater trials were done, but they had seen their share of injustice as well as justice. Harry wanted to prevent that next time. He couldn't clear everyone with personal testimony, no, so he would see what else he could do to fight on the side of the accused innocents.
His "saving-people thing," Hermione still called it, rolling her eyes. And Ron had started talking about Harry's need to be needed like it was some sort of pet, requiring regular care and feeding.
Harry didn't mind. Law was working out because his stubbornness and desire to help was carrying him through the dense prose and all those "exceptions" that Hermione was so fond of pointing out to him. If it took him longer than it took her, well, that didn't matter. Hermione was out there now. Harry liked following her into the courtroom, watching her in action, and then telling her what he would have done differently himself. Hermione liked the critique, even if she disagreed vehemently with half his suggestions.
No, probably more like three-quarters, Harry thought, grinning as he remembered their last row. Ron had prudently gone to bed when it was midnight and Harry and Hermione were still shouting obscure legal terms at each other. That sense of community with his best friend wasn't something Auror training could give Harry.
But Auror training had given him some things, and Harry touched Hermione's elbow and nodded towards the doorway of the building opposite when they got out on the street. She nodded back and mouthed, "Death Eater?"
"Can't tell yet," Harry breathed, drawing his wand. On the other hand, most people with a legitimate reason to seek them out didn't linger in doorways this late.
"Of course not," Hermione said, and said no more as Harry stepped around her and walked slowly towards the shadow that stretched from the doorway.
The shadow moved as he watched, and then the man who cast it stepped into the middle of the street and lifted his hands. He had a mocking smile on his face, but Harry could almost pretend, if he tried, that it wasn't directed at him and Hermione. "Easy, Potter. I'm here to ask you a favor, nothing more."
Harry paused, breath expelled hard from his nostrils as he stared at Malfoy. He had a set of formal Quidditch robes on, though it took Harry a minute to identify them; the Ministry had added a few new Quidditch teams to the League. Yes, that's right, the Exeter Eagles. They're the only ones that have that cross-eyed bird on the front.
"Fine," he said, and he knew his voice was curt, and he couldn't help it. Malfoy had taken his acquittal during the trials with nothing more than a nod, as if he had always thought he would get off, and turned away when Harry had come up to speak with him. Harry had ended up tossing his wand at his back and walking away. Hermione had told him that he couldn't expect Malfoy to be enthusiastic about needing Harry's testimony, but Harry would have settled for common courtesy. "Hermione's right here." He started to step aside. Hermione, as the fully trained lawyer, would be the one Malfoy had to speak to.
"You're the one I need, Potter."
Harry stared. Oddly enough, Malfoy's face showed no resentment of the fact he'd just proclaimed. He simply leaned one arm on thin air—and how did he do that without falling over?—and regarded Harry with the air of someone determined to wait until Doomsday for compliance if he needed to.
Harry shook his head to banish the image that wanted to come to mind when he thought about that. "Fine. What?"
Malfoy looked around as though he thought this small side-alley in Hogsmeade would be filled with people longing to know his secrets. But Harry had to admit that it might be filled with people wanting to know his secrets, so perhaps the caution wasn't unwarranted. "You might have known I was recently taken on by the Eagles," Malfoy said, and touched the middle of his chest.
"I heard," Hermione said, her voice warm and sincere. Harry knew he would never be able to do that in a thousand years, but he would have to learn if he wanted to go into the courtroom. He had to be gracious in the face of defeat, Hermione had told him. "Congratulations."
Malfoy ignored her, staring at Harry. "But they don't want to let me play," he said, and his voice was thick. "Not good enough. I'm being kept as reserve Seeker only."
Harry shook his head. "I don't see what I can do for you. I won't go to a professional Quidditch team and pressure them to put you on the pitch."
Malfoy gritted his teeth for a single moment before his face smoothed back into its smirky self. "But I'm better than the man who plays right now. He's already ruining himself with drink and too much attention on his girlfriend instead of the game. I know that I'll be a Seeker long past the time that he's retired with wrists sprained from wanking."
Harry barked with laughter, and then caught himself and scowled. Malfoy's smirk turned to a smile for some reason.
Harry shook his head. "There's still nothing I can do. I would have had to have seen him play and then be convinced there was actually some injustice. And there's no guarantee that your coach would listen to me anyway." Some people had taken violently against Harry after the war, especially since he'd had the bad taste to quit the Auror program.
Malfoy shook his head in return. "I want you to play with me," he said. "Train me. You're the only Seeker I've found who can make me play my best. I look lackluster in comparison to this idiot Falming when we're on the pitch only because he doesn't challenge me. When Falming retires, I'll want to be so good that there's no way that they can justify keeping me in reserve and hiring someone else as their playing Seeker."
Harry blinked and looked more closely at Malfoy. He was pale and solemn, his attention fixed on Harry, both smirk and smile gone.
Harry wished he could turn and ask Hermione if it was only him, or if Malfoy was making sense. But he had to make some decisions for himself.
"You could find someone else," Harry said at last. "You're among professionals. I'm sure someone else would be happy to help you improve your game in return for—well, in return for having a better opponent, if Falming's as awful as you say."
Malfoy laughed harshly. "You don't understand much about professional Quidditch, if you think they value the challenge over the damage they would be doing to their own teams in the future, by helping me become good," he said. "Besides, I don't put it past them to tip me off my broom because of their own prejudices. You don't play for a team, you're skilled, and I trust your Gryffindor honor."
"What are you offering Harry in return, Malfoy?" Hermione asked.
Malfoy spread his hands. "Nothing but my friendship."
Harry laughed again, but Malfoy didn't laugh with him. He just watched Harry with intense eyes and said nothing. Harry fought the impulse to step behind Hermione. He was a big boy now, a lawyer-in-training, and he knew there were people out there who would look at him more severely than this.
Malfoy didn't even look particularly severe, Harry decided at last. He looked as if he knew what a pathetic offer this was to make, at least for someone who had been Harry's Slytherin rival in school, but since he had nothing else Harry could possibly want, he had to go ahead with it.
"But you wouldn't," Harry said at last, when he realized that they would get nowhere unless he took this ridiculous offer seriously. "I mean, you wouldn't be my friend if I helped you. You would probably be looking for ways to tip me off my broom the minute I surpassed you."
"Oh, would I?" Malfoy asked. He jerked his head at Hermione. "Given that I've asked you this in front of your friend, there would surely be an investigation into the causes of your death if you died while you were playing opposite me."
Hermione sniffed. "There would be an investigation into Harry's death no matter what the circumstances," she said. "Ron and I wouldn't be able to escape suspicion for that, if it happened on our watch."
"Yes, I think you're right," Malfoy said. He moved closer, and Harry watched his wand hand, but Malfoy continued not to cast curses at him. "Come, Potter—or should I call you Harry? If we're going to be working closely together, then I should."
Harry sighed. "It just doesn't seem like you, Malfoy," he said. "That you're joking around or that you have something grander planned and this is the means to that end, I can believe, yeah. But that you would approach me and ask me honestly for what you want? No, that's not within the bounds of possibility."
Malfoy hesitated, then gave him a painful smile. "And I can understand why you're having difficulty believing me," he murmured. "But I promise—if that promise is worth anything to you—that I've changed since the war."
Again he moved closer. He was ignoring Hermione now, Harry thought. There might have been no one in the street but the two of them. And his eyes were brighter and wilder, and his hand actually trembled as if he would reach out and lay it on Harry's arm. Harry wondered what would happen if he did. He wasn't entirely sure how he would react, never mind Hermione. There was something intriguing about Malfoy like this, something more fragile and intimate that Harry had never expected to see.
"I would be stupid to hurt you if you agreed to help me," Malfoy said, voice a whisper and a rustle in the shadows. "And I mean it. I have nothing to offer you except my gratitude. That might be worth something someday, but really, right now, with my name on the bottom tier of people despised by the righteous? It's shite. I depend on your honor. I trust you more than I trust some of the people I've had at my back all my life, because I know what they would sell me for. You don't have a price."
"Should I be insulted by that?" Harry murmured, deliberately trying to break the tension that Malfoy was establishing between them.
Malfoy didn't smile, and the joke fell flat. Harry looked away and cleared his throat uneasily. "There's no good reason why I should, Malfoy. My training as a lawyer takes up most of my time. When I'm not in the office or reading law books, then I'm following Hermione into courtrooms and watching how she works. I don't think I could do that and also play opposite you at the same time."
"You should try, Harry," Hermione said. Harry saw the jolt that ran through Malfoy when she spoke. He really did seem to have forgotten that she was there. For some reason, though Harry thought he had to be insane, that made him like Malfoy better. "Remember what I said about the addiction to books that overcomes you once you start feeling it? I would be nothing but an obsessed bookworm if I didn't have you and Ron and the other Weasleys to keep me steady. We can try to be that for you, but we have in the past, and I don't think it's working."
Harry glared steadily at her. That was a reference to his breakup with Ginny, and he had tried to keep Hermione and Ron out of that. They were friends with both of them; it wasn't fair to drag them into the middle of the increasingly violent quarrels he and Ginny had had.
"You heard the lady, Potter." Malfoy was smirking again, but his eyes maintained that intense look. "You need balance in your life, and who better than me to provide it?"
"If you trust me," Harry said, deciding that he would treat this seriously exactly as long as he had to to convince Hermione that it was mad, "then I don't trust you."
Malfoy shrugged fluidly at him. "Understandable. That doesn't mean we need to argue. We can build trust over time. And remember what I said about why it would be stupid for me to kill you, and rely on that to keep you safe in the air."
"Impulses of revenge and anger don't necessarily obey common sense," Harry said, staring into his eyes. "I've worked enough cases with Hermione by now to have seen that. Dead is no less dead because it's a death that you'd think wouldn't have happened."
"I've changed," Malfoy said, leaning forwards on his toes this time, as if he would fall over and bring Harry down with him. "Give me a chance to demonstrate that."
Harry looked again at Hermione, but she beamed and nodded him forwards as though everything was wonderful. Harry sighed hard enough to make his teeth rattle and held his hand out to Malfoy.
Malfoy clasped it. His skin felt too-warm and sweaty, and Harry flinched back, but Malfoy maintained the handshake when Harry would have dropped it, still studying him. By the expression on his face, Harry thought in irritation, anyone would think that he was the hero, and I was the war criminal barely acquitted.
"Thank you, Potter," Malfoy said, his voice soft and slightly hoarse. "I promise you that you won't have the chance to regret this." He turned and vanished into the darkness.
Harry looked at Hermione with his eyebrow raised. "Is it me, or was that last sentence strangely worded?"
"You're being too suspicious," Hermione said firmly, and herded him back to the house that they all shared, lecturing him on the way about people who needed to reform, people who were trying to reform, and the duty of all right-thinking citizens to help them both. Harry went to bed with his ears ringing and the conviction that he would have preferred to stay up late and study law to that.
He was in the middle of a crowd.
Well, he often was. But for once, they didn't seem to be focused on him.
Harry blinked and looked around. He was in the middle of a large room that had neutral-looking walls, so it might have been either St. Mungo's or a receiving room in Hogwarts, the way they had rebuilt it after the war, to accommodate more frequent Ministry inspections. But he didn't think it was, given that the people around him were a mixture of all ages and types of wizards: older witches in horrible hats with fruit on them, sober and staid Ministry workers in perfectly pressed robes, children who looked like they should still be in school clutching their parents' hands and wearing awed expression, and a few scruffy types with patched robes and evil grins that Harry thought would have been chased out of most gatherings.
Presumably this one, whatever it was, allowed their attendance.
Whatever it was.
Harry shook his head and pushed forwards. The crowd in front of him swayed back and forth, sometimes retreating from and sometimes closing in on the cage on a raised platform in the center of the room, as if they didn't know whether they wanted to stand near it or not. So Harry was able to wriggle and duck through gaps until he got close to the platform.
It only then occurred to him to wonder how he had got here, given that the last thing he remembered was lying down in his own bed. He scratched his head, glanced around again, and decided that he was having a very realistic dream.
Given that, he probably didn't have to care about anything here, including the reason so many people were packed into this room.
But he could care if he wanted, so he turned to glance at the platform again.
A second later, he was choking on his own outrage. In the cage were Malfoy, his father and his mother, their wrists chained together, their bodies bearing marks of bruises and starvation. Harry felt a sympathetic ache under his ribs where he had suffered from the treatment the Dursleys had inflicted on him. You would lie awake in the darkness, and all that would concern you was the emptiness of your stomach.
Several other people stepped up onto the platform. Harry directed his hate at them and saw a wizard with long silver hair and beard in a set of starry robes that might have rivaled Dumbledore's, a tall witch dressed all in white, and—
Harry blurted, "Neville?" but it was drowned under the noise of the cheering from the crowd. Befuddled, Harry stared some more.
This was Neville, yes, but taller and more confident and more good-looking than Harry had ever seen him. He nodded at the crowd as if used to their adulation and turned his head a little. His fringe swayed aside and revealed a perfectly circular scar.
Harry swallowed. I bet—I bet he's the Boy-Who-Lived here. I never existed, or I died when I was a baby, or—or something.
It was a strange dream, especially when the witch began to speak. Harry shook his head and listened to the fantasies of his own mind, wondering what Hermione would say they said about him.
"We have made our decision," the witch said. She had a voice like a bell and a sweet smile, but shrewd eyes. "With the help of our Savior—" She nodded at Neville, and he waved back to the watchers, which meant that the cheering drowned the next words she tried to speak. The witch waited with a tolerant smile until some silence had returned and then continued, "We have decided that these Death Eaters deserve no mercy if their guilt is so obvious to all that no one will defend them. Their execution will therefore take place immediately."
The baying of the crowd in response to that announcement reminded Harry of hounds on the scent. He put his hands over his ears and forced his attention down into himself until the sense of the witch's words became clear to him.
Then he dropped his hands and bounded onto the platform.
The witch, the wizard, and Neville all turned to stare at him. Harry looked hard at their faces, but no one showed any recognition of him. I probably don't exist here at all, whether I'm the Boy-Who-Lived or not, he thought.
"Who are you?" the witch asked, with a cock of her eyebrows that made Harry feel like a misbehaving child.
But there was more at stake here than his dignity. Harry walked swiftly across the platform until he could stand in front of the cages, his arms folded.
"My name is Harry Evans," he said, and his voice shook. He couldn't help that. "I'm a lawyer, and you're wrong about no one defending the Malfoys. I'm going to defend them."