Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco eventually, also Harry/OFC, Blaise/Astoria, Ron/Hermione, Ginny/Luna, Pansy/Theodore, and past Draco/Astoria and Draco/OMC
Warnings: Sex (slash, het, femmeslash), angst, violence, profanity. Ignores the epilogue.
Summary: Harry Potter is the perfect Auror, Jared Sandborn is the perfect Minister, and they control the wizarding world between them. One late night at a Ministry gala, seven years after the war, Draco Malfoy finds out why-and what it might take to change things.
Author's Notes: This is going to be a fairly long story, with hopefully lots of action, but also lots of angst. At this point, I think it'll be between thirty and forty chapters long.
Chapter One-One Night at the Ministry
Draco was bored.
Not that that was anything unusual when one was at the Ministry without a partner to dance with or talk to and when no scandal swirled in the air, but the boredom didn't usually take on this marble weight, sitting in the bottom of his stomach and poisoning the canapés he'd eaten. Draco shifted his weight from one foot to another, leaned against a pillar, and sipped from the glass of wine he'd picked up two hours ago and still hadn't managed to drain.
Blaise and Astoria were here, but they had danced almost the entire time and didn't want to talk to him. Pansy had been supposed to come, but Theo had had some bloody explosion in his lab at the last minute, and of course Pansy had to stay home and help him clean up. There were other people Draco knew, but none he could talk to.
Three days ago, of course, there would have been Peter. But. Now there wasn't.
Draco turned around the pillar to distract himself from that thought, allowing himself to look at the portion of the room he had consciously avoided the entire evening. He was just in time to see Potter leave his date, a tall blonde witch who had enough resemblances to Astoria in the face that Draco knew she had to be a distant cousin, and duck down one of the corridors that led out of the large, echoing hall.
Draco followed without thought. No one was paying him any attention at the moment, he was bored, and there was something intriguingly furtive in Potter's movement.
The last was the most important, of course. According to the papers and the Ministry press releases and the conferences and the speeches and the gossip, Potter had become a perfect statue of a hero since the war: unbending, smiling slightly, making the speeches that the Ministry wanted him to make. And no more.
Draco didn't believe it. No one was that inhuman. Sure, he might marry a Ministry-approved woman and have a Ministry-approved career and act calm and cautious in public. But he had to have a valve somewhere. An inappropriate lover. A gambling habit. An addiction to Pepper-up Potion.
Draco did not believe in a world where even Potter had become boring.
The corridor bent several times, which helped. Potter also walked with his head bent, not deigning to look up. Draco had to swallow lemon-tinged irritation at that. Perhaps not boring, but certainly incautious.
Then he had to consider whether Potter had ever acted without risk. But that distracted him from the task in front of him, and he wasn't in the mood for introspection. He shook it away and continued ducking from wall to wall, grateful for the carpet beneath his feet that muffled his steps, unlike the echoing, brilliant blue tile of the gala hall.
Potter halted before what looked like an empty patch of wall. Not that that would fool anyone who had grown up in Hogwarts. Draco paused behind the latest corner and cast a spell that would allow him to track minute changes in magic in the corridor, so he would know where the secret door was when it opened.
But no door opened. Potter waited, now and then ducking his head. His mouth was set. He looked like someone about to have a tooth extracted, Draco decided. He frowned. He could at least look excited about his illicit habits.
More footsteps sounded, sharp and brisk despite the muffling carpet. Draco edged his head around the corner again, and then saw a swirl of brilliant red robes draping a tall, lanky figure he recognized without thought.
It only made Draco blink harder. Sandborn and Potter could have met in the Minister's office to discuss whatever they wanted to discuss. They did it all the time, said the conspiracy theories that alleged they ran the wizarding world.
Unless this meeting concerned someone at the gala, of course. Draco felt the marble in his stomach melt at last, and pulled his head fully back behind the wall, casting another charm that would create a small mirror in his hand, and a third that would bend the light from around the corner and route it to the mirror. He wanted to watch this without as much danger of showing himself.
The small glass in the palm of his hand sparkled like a mirage, and then the figures formed. Potter stood as upright as a soldier now, his hands folded behind his back, his legs unnaturally still. Even in his official press photographs, he usually had a hand tapping or his fingers toying with a corner of his sleeve.
Sandborn faced him, smiling. Draco shook his head and wondered again how Sandborn's personality and competence had shone through his looks enough to persuade anyone to vote for him. He was tall, yes, nearly seven feet, but ordinary-looking otherwise: gaunt, pale face, unexciting brown eyes, and a shock of dark hair, much like Potter's except for being utterly straight. Not the sort of man Draco would have chosen to lead him, or credited with much power.
"Auror," said Sandborn.
"Minister." Potter's voice was edged in glass.
Draco blinked. They spent so much time together, they understood each other so well...he had assumed they would be on friendly terms in private.
Sandborn leaned against the wall next to him and sighed. "Auror," he repeated. "You knew we would need a meeting like this when you came to me about the job."
Job? Draco shook his head. This was getting odder by the minute. Potter had never shown a sign of wanting to be other than what he was: stolid, stupid, good, a hunting dog. An Auror.
Unless perhaps he was secretly the Ministry's assassin, and that was the sort of job they were talking about? Draco licked his lips to hold back the drool and listened as carefully as he could. He wouldn't take the chance on another charm to conduct sound to his ears right now.
"I knew it," Potter said. "And you knew about my unhappiness. Can we move past this now?"
The eyes of his mirror image rose to meet Sandborn's, and Draco stilled. If anyone had ever looked at him like that, he would have run in the other direction.
Sandborn only nodded. "Very well. I know what you want, but I must confess, I had some trouble thinking of something you could pay me back with." He scratched his chin, where shaggy black stubble had gathered. Draco had never seen that, either. Sandborn must use heavier Shaving Charms than Draco thought he did before appearing in public. "Then I thought of it. The bargain you refused before."
Potter stood so straight it must have been painful. "What I want isn't enough-the payments aren't equal," he said with a hiss.
Draco knew he would place this all in a Pensieve the moment he got home. He would have to go over the words, over the nuances. He had no idea what they were talking about, and it was fascinating.
"Why not?" Sandborn looked him over lazily. "You receive companionship, loyalty, a boost in the eyes of the public. And your friend receives his job."
"Mr. Weasley is only going to stay in the Ministry a few more decades before he retires." Potter looked as if he had swallowed poison. "I'd be married to Callia for the rest of my life."
Draco didn't breathe. His lungs ached, but he didn't care. He had to work hard to keep his fingers from closing on the edges of the mirror and making it crumble into dust and air.
"True," Sandborn conceded after a moment. "Then think of something else you want. There's always something else," he added, as Potter half-flung up his head and gritted his teeth. "I know you. I know what you'll ask for. Not in detail, of course, but in outline. There's never going to be enough to satisfy that bottomless craving you have for a better world. So, ask."
Potter closed his eyes and rubbed his right temple with his palm. Then he nodded, a movement that made it seem as if lead weights hung from his neck. "All right. I want you to promise that you won't seek re-election after twelve years."
Sandborn's smile disappeared. He searched Potter's face, craning his neck forwards to do so. Potter kept his eyes closed.
"That you would ask for that," Sandborn said, voice soft, a bare thrum that Draco had to hush his own heartbeat to hear. "When you know what the source of your gifts is. When you know what it will cost you if I vanish."
"You know what your every request costs me," Potter said, his eyes more steady than Draco had ever seen them. After seeing some of the photos where Potter never looked anyone in the eye but beamed benevolently into the space over the heads of the crowd, he had assumed there was some Gryffindor rot about not wanting to favor certain people with a glance there.
But Potter had no trouble looking straight at Sandborn, despite the muscle jumping in his jaw. And, unglazed and narrowed with hatred, Draco thought, those green eyes really were almost handsome. If he had ever shown a trace of this deep, thunderous emotion, than Potter could have run for Minister himself.
"You know what this marriage will cost me," Potter said. His voice softened but not, Draco thought, out of respect for Sandborn's sensibilities. "And there will a second gift, if you like, to match the job for Mr. Weasley and your retirement on your side. I'll give you an oath that I'll remain with Callia and-in the position that you've tried to put me in."
Sandborn considered him, quiet and sober, the way he had looked in the Daily Prophet when rumors of a new Dark Lord started circulating two years ago. Those rumors had come to nothing, Draco remembered, but Sandborn had taken them seriously because Potter did. He had rolled his eyes at the time and scoffed to Astoria, since they were still dating, that it was as if Sandborn felt some brotherly concern for Potter, some need to give weight to everything he said simply because it was Potter saying it.
Now, Draco thought the bond that tied them rather different.
"A large sacrifice," Sandborn said at last.
Potter's shoulders shook a bit, his mouth open. It took Draco a moment to realize that he was laughing without a sound. When he could calm his wheezes down, he said, "And the ones I've made so far haven't been?"
"You've earned large gifts in return," Sandborn pointed out. "Or do you think that the Wizengamot would have just happened to exonerate every younger Death Eater without your interference?"
Something crept up Draco's throat and covered his eyes for a moment, interfering with his sight and hearing of this meeting. It took him another moment to recognize it as rage. He swallowed and blinked furiously and kept listening.
"No." Potter pulled the laughter back into himself, and his words became glass-edged again. "My marriage and oath in return for the job and your oath. Agreed?"
Sandborn spent some more time looking off into space, as if splitting it up into increments of time and deciding how much more he could accomplish with twelve years spent in office. Then he looked back at Potter. "Agreed."
Potter inclined his head and looked around, as if he expected a house-elf to appear with a glass of wine. Sandborn snapped his fingers and flicked his wand at the same time, and a small table appeared in front of Potter with a sheaf of papers on it. Potter picked up the fancy quill, tipped with gold, that lay next to them and began to flick through them, reading the legal language with a practiced eye that rattled Draco further. The day Potter demonstrated some experience with legalese was, he thought, the day that Draco began to look beneath his mask of perfect heroic nobility.
Then he remembered he had seen beneath that mask already, and his intuition that no one could be as perfect as Potter without special help was correct.
"You realize that this limits my power to help you," Sandborn said softly, when Potter had signed three pages and was pressing the quill into a fourth. "With my influence gone from office, the next Minister might not be so willing to give you the gifts you've come to expect. Or the Wizengamot, for that matter."
Potter gave another one of those soundless laughs without looking up from the parchment. "You're misunderstanding the reason I agreed to take on this contract, as always," he murmured, and signed his name with a flourish that made the quill spark brilliantly in the light. He flipped through a few more pages, then tapped them neatly into order and held out both contract and quill to Sandborn.
Sandborn took them, but his eyes were still fastened to Potter's face as if he could compel him to listen that way. "Then tell me the reason," he said, with the earnest desire to learn that Draco heard in most of his speeches. "I'd like to understand you better. We work so closely together, and yet, I would say that we know each other less than you and Callia do."
Potter uttered his flat laugh aloud this time. "I would hope so, when Callia and I are going to be married." He spoke as if he were being marched to the altar and the Bonder instead of walking there. Well, Draco thought, still fascinated, he would have reason to do so. If he hadn't heard the words and seen Potter accept the bargain himself, he wouldn't have believed that Harry Bloody Potter would ever sell his soul and body to the Ministry.
"You know what I mean, Harry." Sandborn swayed forwards on his toes, eyes locked to Potter's. "There's nothing you can tell me about this? Nothing to make me understand why you sought freedom and glory and security for others, instead of power for yourself?"
Draco nearly snorted and gave away his position. Even he could have answered that question for Sandborn. Potter made deals like this because he was ridiculously noble, of course, and because he wouldn't have the first idea what to do with power if offered.
But Potter paused, observing Sandborn with a quiet ferocity that finally seemed to worry the Minister. At least, he turned away to sign the contract, his gaze sliding from Potter like oil from water.
"No," Potter said. "There's nothing. Not at this stage." He began to move back down the corridor towards Draco, his steps as quiet as before.
Draco crushed the tiny mirror in his palm and cast a Disillusionment Charm without thinking. Potter walked past him, eyes and face set. When he vanished around the corner, Draco took a slight breath and turned to check that Sandborn was also gone.
He was. Draco shook his head, mind buzzing. He wanted to get back out into the gala hall and consider what he'd heard. It would take some effort to settle these thoughts into their proper place.
As well as decide what to do about the debt that he apparently owed Potter, for binding himself by promises and oaths to ensure Draco's freedom.
A wand rested on his shoulder, and Potter's voice was in his ear, quiet and controlled. Draco froze, staring at the part of the corridor where the Minister and Potter had chatted. The wand moved back and forth, as though estimating Draco's height, and then Potter whispered Finite, mouth still close enough to his shoulder to make the tiny hairs on the back of his neck shift back and forth.
The Disillusionment Charm broke. Potter drew in a harsh breath. Draco lifted his eyebrows. "Surprised?" he asked the wall he was staring at.
No, there was no real surprise in his tone, Draco realized, not past the first minute. He turned around and found Potter leaning with one arm against the nearest door, his face lined and his eyes, this close, bloodshot.
He said nothing. Draco rubbed his shoulder where the wand had rested and tried for a joke. "I'll have you know that of the many spells cast on these robes, none renders them impervious to drool."
"You heard," Potter said. "Overheard."
He didn't sound upset about it, which made Draco look harder at him. But there seemed nothing else to see. Hair raked down so the fringe hid his famous scar, sure. Robes impeccably neat as they had been since he began doing what the Ministry wanted him to do-since he became Sandborn's pet, Draco mentally decided-of course. Stance full of self-assured power, his magic brimming beneath his skin like a full cup of water, check. He looked as though this was nothing important for him, no life-changing event but a mere stop in the road.
"Well?" Draco asked, when the silence between them felt firm enough to walk on.
Potter shrugged with one shoulder. The weariness remained in his face, but already a change was coming over his expression, sealing it away. He looked now like the man Draco had seen at the gala, smiling at the people who spoke to him, flirting with his date-his fiancée, as of two minutes ago-and dancing with a grace that Draco knew the Ministry must have hired people to teach him. "Well? Nothing. You could tell someone if you wanted, of course, but there's so much deniability here that you'll make no headway. Besides, why should someone take the word of a former Death Eater over the word of the Heroes of the Wizarding World?"
Draco hesitated. He might have slinked away, actually, if it hadn't been for the tone behind Potter's last words. He quoted the title as if he was reading it out of the article he'd seen it in, and his voice went limp and dull around it.
That changed things, a bit. Enough for Draco to reply, "You don't think that the wizarding world you're supposed to be the heroes of would be interested in a contract between the Minister and the Head Auror?"
Potter jerked a little, as if he hadn't realized that Draco overheard that much, and then laughed soundlessly again. Draco frowned. He didn't like the sound any better when he was the recipient of it, and it made him wonder if Potter had forgotten what it was like to laugh with noise behind it.
"No," Potter said. "Not really. You can sell the story, of course, but there'll be no proof. You'll ask us, and we'll be ready with our stories, which are more interesting. And then Sandborn will make life difficult for you. What you have, what I've traded for for you, isn't worth risking for this."
Draco leaned forwards. "What did you trade in return for our freedom?" he asked.
"Thinking of yourself as part of a collective?" Potter gave him a faint smile that seemed more genuine than most he'd seen that evening. "I didn't think Slytherins were prone to that."
"I know what the word we means," Draco said. "So do the rest. As in the sentence, 'We don't want to owe a debt to someone who sacrificed himself to save us.'"
Potter rolled his eyes, as if he couldn't tell how much this mattered from the tone of Draco's voice. "You don't owe me a debt unless you already did. There was the little matter of me dying at Hogwarts so that I could save you-collective you. And why does it make a difference whether I paid in the coin of heroism or something else for your freedom? You knew I testified at the trials."
Draco shook his head. He didn't know if he could explain it when Potter didn't see the difference already, but the flat way Potter looked at him said that he would have to try. "That wouldn't have been a personal sacrifice," he said. "When I thought the wizarding world and the Wizengamot gave you whatever you wanted and we were a side-effect-that's one thing. That's acceptable. But you sold yourself."
Potter's nostrils flared. "Traded," he corrected. "And of course I did. What else did I have to trade?"
Draco grinned with all his teeth. "That word sold bothers you, doesn't it? You don't like hearing yourself referred to as the whore you are?"
Potter moved, turning smoothly to the side as he seized Draco's shoulder and flung him against the wall. Draco jolted, breath gone and back of the head banging. Then Potter's hand was behind his head, cradling him against further contact with the stone, even as his wand dug sharply into Draco's windpipe.
"You like what you have?" Potter whispered harshly. "The lack of Ministry guard dogs? The way that you were permitted to keep your property and your money? The return of those artifacts that were seized as Dark and the fucking apologies you got? All that was me. Probe into it, and Sandborn can reverse the gains as easily."
Draco stared. Potter quivered at him, his eyes so brilliant that Draco imagined he could see stars in them. His magic writhed about him in a slow, pale violet wave, climbing and falling back again, a manifestation at once of threat and control that Draco had never seen the equal of.
He licked his lips. This was the Potter he hadn't seen for seven years, not the serene automaton who had spoken at his trial or the tame pet who had accepted the Minister's decrees. This was the man Draco owed his debt to.
"That was all you," he said, to confirm it.
Potter snorted. "Yes. They wanted to send everyone with the slightest connection to a Death Eater to prison. I intervened." He didn't sound proud of it. The light in his face had begun to fade. He watched Draco with simple caution now, like someone keeping an eye on a rat in the middle of a room.
"What did you trade?" Draco asked.
Potter twisted his neck. "What does it matter?"
"Indulge my curiosity," Draco said. "And you have my word that I won't try to undo what you won by going to the Prophet or questioning the Minister."
Potter considered him, hand tightening behind Draco's head. Draco realized how close to the same height they were like this, and licked his lips again.
"Fine," Potter said. "I promised to enter the Auror training program, support the Ministry in its public declarations about the war, give interviews to the Daily Prophet, and give speeches whenever they were required of me."
Draco nodded grimly. "That was for, what, the first year?"
"About, yes." Potter's hands dropped away from Draco, and he took a step back. "Why do you care?"
"Does the contract have any magically binding parts?"
Potter gave him a mocking bow. "No. Nothing but my word and those gifts that can be taken away, and the same on Sandborn's side. Your freely-signed away whore, right here."
Draco winced at the word. He couldn't have said why, and trying to explain to Potter would be too complicated.
"All right," he said, and walked past Potter, one hand brushing at his shoulder. Potter jumped and flinched at the contact, and opened his mouth as if he would ask questions, but Draco was already gone, back to the gala, his cloak billowing behind him the way he so often tried to make it do and so rarely achieved. His mind was churning.
He would have to do something about this.
He was no longer bored.