Author's Note: I'm so happy to be contributing to Fandom again! I've been working on this fic for some time now, and while it's not finished, it's at a point that I feel comfortable beginning to post it. I don't have a Beta at the moment, so please pardon any errors you find within and I hope you enjoy.
Chapter 1: Unspoken
The familiar feel of bristles brushing against his teeth made Harry want to yawn, but he resisted the urge until after he spit the residue of toothpaste and water from his mouth. A long yawn escaped him then, and there was little he was able to do about it. Blinking at his reflection in the mirror, he noticed it had gone a little soft around the edges, so he leveled his wand at his eyes and cast the vision correction spell Hermione had taught him a few years back. He had to admit that it was far more convenient, not to mention practical, to forgo his glasses, but part of him missed being able to hide behind the thick black frames. Although truthfully, his trademark glasses seemed to be more of a hindrance than a help with avoiding recognition these days and only Polyjuice would allow him to go anywhere completely unnoticed as the Boy-who-Conquered.
His fringe helped somewhat, affording him some anonymity as he strolled the streets of Diagon Alley or the corridors of the Ministry. His black hair hung in shaggy tendrils around his face, curling slightly at the tips and looked as unruly as ever.
Toweling off, Harry padded into his bedroom, tossing the sodden terrycloth onto his bed as he made his way to the looming wardrobe in the corner. He pulled out a pair of black trousers, a simple cotton jumper and a set of Ministry issue Auror robes and hung them on the canopy surrounding his bed. After slipping into a pair of nondescript boxers, Harry journeyed downstairs for breakfast. He'd learned years ago that if he ate after dressing in his exhausted state, he'd end up wearing his breakfast, and Auror Fledgecraft frowned upon wizards who couldn't keep their robes pristine. Ron hadn't figured out how to manage it yet, probably because he insisted on snacking throughout the day. His robes were constantly stained with sugary powder or sticky jams and Fledgecraft was always glowering at him for it…among other things.
The scent of cheddar eggs, sausage and whole wheat toast met his nostrils as he rounded the banister and into the kitchen. He wrinkled his nose in a confused frown, sighing when he saw Ginny hovering over the stove, her wand outstretched and flicking over several pans. "Harry, you're up! I've made your favorite," she cooed upon seeing him, tapping her cheek for a good morning kiss.
Harry obliged, snagging a cube of cheese from the bowl she was using the sprinkle on the eggs. "Not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing here, Gin?"
"Making you breakfast, obviously," she chimed, giving her wand a flick and sent the eggs onto a plate and levitating it over to the seat Harry had taken at the table.
"I see that," Harry noted with only a mild roll of his eyes. "I guess I meant, why?"
"Why not?" Ginny turned her back on the food preparation momentarily to level Harry with a critical stare.
Harry ducked his head and gave a small shrug. "Don't know. I just don't see the point is all. I'm just going to be rushing around getting ready for work," he offered, taking a bite of his eggs. She was partly right. He loved these eggs, although the wheat toast that hovered over next he could do without. He preferred sourdough or nothing. She knew this of course, so Harry didn't bother to complain. She'd only light into another speech about eating healthy and then Harry would groan and she'd get offended and then he'd have to apologize for hurting her feelings but she would still storm out in a huff and then Harry would have to go to that florist she liked again and buy her something nice and…uhg. Relationships were more work than catching criminals.
"I wanted to see you," she quipped. "Is that so wrong?"
"No. I suppose not," he agreed.
"Did you not want to see me?" she asked, bottom lip trembling slightly.
Harry fought the urge to roll his eyes at the display and rushed to correct her, knowing it would be his bullocks if he didn't. "Of course I did. I just don't want you to feel put out, having to come over here for such a short visit."
"Well," she said, turning back to the stove, but not before Harry caught the triumphant grin on her face. He'd fallen right into her trap. "If we moved in together it would be no bother at all."
Harry sighed and pushed his half-eaten plate away. Rising from the table, he hooked his arm around her waist and pressed another kiss to her cheek. "Sorry love, I can't talk about that right now. I have to run," he said and all but sprinted to the door.
"Harry James Potter, you cannot keep running away from me," she said firmly, in a voice that sounded every bit Molly Weasley and void of any of the mirth she'd once held.
"I'm not," he sighed, turning partially to face her from the doorway. "Look, how about dinner? I'll take you somewhere nice tonight and we can talk," he offered with the crooked grin that always seemed to make her back down. "I promise."
She seemed to think about it, the choice of making a stand and fighting or letting it go for now battling across her features until a sweet smile won out. "Fine," he sighed at last. "Tonight. Dinner….but Harry, it had better be romantic, because you've been too distant lately and it's time to grow up and-"
Her last words were cut off by Harry's hand and a dismal shake of his head. It already throbbed dully behind his eyes and they hadn't even gone to dinner for 'the talk' yet. "Feel free to stay and eat. You know how to let yourself out when you're done," he called over his shoulder as he turned and bounded up the stairs to his room, dressing for the day in record time. As he Flooed into the Ministry lobby, he only felt an inkling of guilt for leaving her so abruptly. After all, she had tried to corner him.
Maybe she was right. Maybe it was time for things to change. Merlin knew Harry's life had been stagnant since the war, and they kept having the same fight over and over, and he was the only one refusing to budge. Hermione and Ron were engaged already, a night that Harry remembered as 'the day Ginny went mad'. Ever since their announcement the Burrow had been filled with cheer instead of mourning and Ginny's head had been filled with ideas of how her life should be and how her relationship with Harry should be progressing.
Harry pondered the many reasons why he felt hesitant to let Ginny move into Grimmauld place and tried to rationalize what Hermione kept calling 'commitment issues'. There were obvious issues, like the fact that he still hadn't renovated the musty old manor or that his being a public figure and Auror made him a target for Death Eaters and other random criminals, but the main reason was that it just didn't feel right yet.
He had little doubt that he'd be ready one day. Just not today. Besides, why shouldn't he have commitment issues? Practically everyone he'd ever cared about had died, or deceived him or both.
"Potter? Are you even listening to me?" boomed a deep voice, breaking through his inner turmoil. A sharp elbow to the ribs reminded him that he was sandwiched between Ron and Hermione in a meeting with their boss.
"Yes, Sir. Sorry Sir," Harry rushed to apologize, his cheeks pinking slightly from being caught unawares. "You were telling us about the new mission?"
"Yes, while you were daydreaming about Merlin knows what, Potter, I was telling your team about our latest mark," Fledgecraft replied with gruff irritation. "I would have thought this one would interest you, given your history."
"Malfoy," Ron whispered not-so-covertly in his ear, the name sending a shiver of malice up Harry's spine.
"Indeed. Draco Malfoy is your new mission. We've been trying for years to infiltrate his camp, get some kind of dirt on his illegal business ventures, and we've been thwarted at every turn. As much as I hate to admit it, he's a clever crook," Fledgecraft growled.
"So what are we supposed to do if senior Aurors haven't been able to find anything?" Hermione piped in, flipping through the dossier on Malfoy's import/export business and any snippet of information the Ministry had been able to collect on the sneaky Slytherin's exploits.
"You're his peers, his equals. I'll need one of you to form a connection with him, get close and uncover his secrets," Fledgecraft replied.
Harry scoffed, shaking his head. "We might consider ourselves his equals, but Malfoy sure as hell doesn't. He doesn't like us, Sir," he understated. "Never has. Why would he trust any of us?"
"He doesn't have to trust you much. Just enough to let you inside the Manor," Fledgecraft explained.
"Oh! It's like on some Muggle telly show! Hermione can seduce him, and then tie him up and search the Manor!" Ron blurted, laughing at his own joke. Harry chortled along while Hermione grimaced and their boss remained silent.
"That's the general idea, Weasley," Fledgecraft agreed smugly as the boys' cheerful demeanor fell away. "Only it won't be Granger anchoring the mission," he mused, clearly pleased with their reactions. "Our intelligence shows that Draco Malfoy isn't interested in women."
Ron just blinked, with Harry gaping slightly beside him. Hermione shoved the folder in front of them both with an irritated huff, muttering "Really. Don't you ever read the files?" A slightly blurry picture of Malfoy snogging some random bloke in a nondescript alleyway stared back at them.
"Oh," Harry said dumbly, unable to tear his eyes away from the image as much as he wanted to.
"Not it!" Ron shouted, quickly regaining his wits as he threw his hands up in haste, thoroughly retracting his name from the pool for this particular task. Harry paled and shook his head roughly, eyes still glued on the image in the dossier.
"No. No way. First of all, I am not even so much as touching Draco Malfoy. Besides, there is no way he would buy it. You said yourself that he's clever, Sir. He would never believe I was interested in him. Never," he noted resolutely, still in shock as to what his boss was asking them to do.
"Then you had better make him believe it, Potter," Fledgecraft replied with a pointed look.
"Sir, this is truly unreasonable," Hermione chimed in with that stern spark in her eye that she got when she was trying to impersonate McGonagall. "Harry is in a serious relationship. You can't expect him to sully that for this case. I'm sure there are plenty of single men in the program who would be better suited to this task. You might even find someone who would be more…eager to…chat up Malfoy," she suggested, looking dumbfounded as to who in their right mind would volunteer to an evening alone with that prat.
Harry nodded in unison with Ron beside him. "Exactly, Sir."
Fledgecraft leaned back in his chair, his beady gaze wandering between all three companions. "I don't need someone who is interested in the task," he said, his voice dangerously quiet. Fledgecraft was not a man who liked repeating himself, and it was growing obvious that he wasn't asking for any favors here. "The fact that you're not interested only makes you more valuable to the case. Emotions would only muck things up," he explained, as if paraphrasing from their training textbooks. "As for your personal relationships...did you get married to Miss Weasley without it making it into the papers?"
Frowning, Harry shook his head, wincing at the subtle dig. Fledgecraft had always said that Harry's notoriety made him more of a liability in this profession than his mediocre wand skills helped the department. "No. Of course not."
"Engaged then?" Fledgecraft asked, seemingly trying to look genuinely interested.
"No, Sir," Harry sighed, ducking his head, his hand moving awkwardly through his unruly mane. He could see where this was going and he didn't care for it. Not one bit.
"Do you even so much as live together?" his boss pressed and he could feel Hermione and Ron grow taut on either side of him, like he was the limp bowstring in a perfectly honed violin.
Harry hesitated, so close to blurting out that yes, Ginny was moving in with him, but that would mean many things. Sure it might get him out of this mission…might…but it would also mean speeding up his relationship with Ginny to a level he wasn't yet entirely comfortable with. "No, Sir," he answered at last with a shaky breath.
"Well then it's settled," his boss announced with a triumphant grin. "Our sources have put together a list of his common haunts." He slid a new sheaf of paper across the table to Harry. "Granger, Weasley, you'll both back him up on this, make sure he doesn't get into trouble. Potter," he added, rising to his feet, "good luck."
Fledgecraft turned and left the room but not before Harry could take note of how pleased his boss seemed with himself. It was no secret that Fledgecraft didn't trust him, in fact he'd made that plain from Harry's first day of training, but Harry was determined to prove himself. Even if that meant locking lips –or worse- with Draco Malfoy.
Fucking hell he hoped it didn't come to that.
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed the tiny taste of what's to come.