Title: His Actium
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Sex, infidelity, manipulation, angst. EWE.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Harry/others implied.
Summary: Harry learned the skill of reading people in sheer self-defense after the war. He became good enough at it that the Ministry uses him as an unusual part of its Auror force: he goes undercover and seduces the powerful or suspects whose guilt is in doubt. The Ministry assigns him to Draco Malfoy, widely suspected of smuggling without the proof to back it up, and Harry assumes it will be another challenge in a long string of them. It doesn't quite work out that way.
Author's Notes: This fic was inspired by an anonymous commenter who, some months ago, suggested a story where Harry seduces men for the Ministry's sake. Accordingly, it's not very romantic, at least at first. The title refers to the decisive battle between Antony and Octavian for control of the Roman Empire. This story should have nine or ten chapters, and with some luck, will be updated every Saturday evening.
Chapter One-Assignment Given
Harry woke up slowly, and stretched equally slowly. It wasn't often that he had a day just to himself. If he wanted to laze around and enjoy it, he could.
Oh, and I intend to, he thought, as he rolled out of bed. The bed stood next to a huge window, one of the few luxuries in this room-he didn't spend a lot of time there-and Harry looked out on its vision of bright green hills with the sun rising behind them. The vision was real, as it happened. Harry had wanted a home in Hogsmeade at first, but his own property, peace and privacy, had proven irresistible in the end.
Harry wandered from the bedroom into the bathroom before he got bored watching the sunrise, since no one wanted him bored, and took a shower as long and leisurely as his waking up. He ducked his head to scrub his fingers through his hair, paused a second, and then snorted and resumed the scrubbing. Just because he wasn't going to work today didn't mean he had to have dirty hair. There was a statement of rebellion, and then there was inconveniencing himself.
By the time he'd got all the way through the shower, the water was running cold, the steam had utterly clouded the mirror, and there was a loud, impatient screeching from the rear of the house. Harry rolled his eyes and stepped out of the shower, making sure he had a towel beneath him. He liked the blue tile that made up the bathroom, but one time slipping on it when it was slick had been enough.
"Coming, Fovea!" he called out.
The screeching only got louder. Harry rolled his eyes again and dried himself off, then draped a loose robe around himself and left the bathroom without bothering to shave. He was the only one in the house today, and Fovea didn't care what he looked like, as long as he came bearing food. He snatched up some peanuts from the bowl of them on the table in the main drawing room and stepped into the back, through the door to the aviary.
The large room rippled with wind that spells channeled from the outside, enough to stir the large fronds of the ferns and tropical trees that Harry had decided to plant here. There was greenery everywhere he looked, and blue sky visible through the gaps in the glass and wire-well, except for the one place where a spot of white, topped with yellow, bounced in agitation, and screeched, and yelled.
Harry whistled and lifted his arm. In two instants, the sulphur-crested cockatoo was across the room, perching on his arm as she greedily devoured the nuts from his other hand. She never stopped clucking and screaming and beeping at him as she did it. Harry wasn't sure how, when her mouth was full, but if there was a way to make noise, then Fovea was going to find it.
Hermione had asked Harry, when he first got Fovea, if he wasn't worried about someone stealing her, since she mostly flew around the aviary instead of staying in a cage. Harry had pointed out that he only needed to look for the thief covered with flying feathers, making undignified noises of pain, and missing several fingers.
Fovea finished the last nut and screeched at him again. Harry tossed her back into the air and made his way through the greenery to inspect her major perch. Cockatoo crap covered the ground; he looked at it closely to make sure she wasn't sick, then Vanished it. It didn't take long to scrub her bowls or change out the old water and the fruit in them for fresh. This was something Harry did every day, even when he did have to go to work, and he listened with half an ear to Fovea's top-of-her-lungs complaints, advice, and admonitions while he watched her perform acrobatics from one tree to another.
She came down to his shoulder and insisted on some scratches before she flew back to the perch to start in on the fruit. Harry shook his head. "I think I should have named you Noisy," he told her. "Much more succinct." Hermione had been the one to suggest Fovea, when Harry admitted that he had no good ideas and she'd pointed out that the Latin word for "trap" was rather pretty. It was based on Harry's job, and Hermione had looked half-sorry after she suggested it, but Harry had accepted it. He'd made his career, and his life, since the war by taking what others offered him and using it to make himself stronger.
Not that his friends were his enemies, and not that it was healthy to think like that. He shook his head to clear it.
Fovea tossed a scrap of peel at him to show her opinion of his musings, and Harry chuckled and walked back to the house. He was already wondering whether he should catch up on his reading or his sleep, or possibly visit Ron and Hermione because there could never be enough doting on Rose, when his Floo connection chimed.
Harry halted and glared at the large, marble-decorated fireplace that he used for work. This was going to happen now? They had promised him a holiday. His last case had been harder than usual, both in the sense that he'd had to spend more time seducing the bastard and because said bastard had held him captive and threatened to torture him before the rescuers arrived, and he deserved a holiday.
The chiming repeated, this time with the pattern that meant it was coming from the Head Auror's office. Harry sighed and knelt down in front of it, touching the rose petal on the fireplace that signaled to someone from the other side that the Floo was open.
Robards appeared behind his desk, nodding a brief, distracted greeting. "Potter. Good to see you."
"Sir," Harry said, and let the tone of his voice convey no doubt about how he felt at seeing Robards.
The Head Auror had grace enough to shrug, but no more than that. "Sorry to disturb you," he said, mostly for form's sake. "But there's been another cache of dragons' eggs found, and this time there was a supplier alive to be questioned."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Really." The fools who smuggled dragons' eggs usually incurred their own punishment, as they almost inevitably kept the eggs too warm and the hatchlings piled out early, eating and burning everything in sight. The hardest part of such cases was making sure that they didn't take innocents down with them. "Who did he name?"
Robards drew his hand across his face in a gesture that seemed designed to conceal the snake-like twist to his lips. It didn't work. "Malfoy."
Harry blinked. "Really," he said again. Not much he could say, when he hadn't thought to link Malfoy to the eggs pouring into Britain, and as far as he knew no one else had either. "I thought he'd stayed clear of trouble since the war?"
Robards laughed sourly. "That sort always find their way back to tainted water, Potter. You'd know that if you'd been in the Auror business as long as I have."
Harry rolled his eyes, but said nothing. He and Robards had fundamentally opposed views of human nature. Harry had become the kind of Auror he had because he'd learned how to read body language, and hearts, and tempers, in the mob of people that surrounded him immediately after the war, so that he could know who wanted to use him, who would be a true friend, and who wouldn't care if he disappeared or continued existing. He'd had enough surprises to suspect that his first judgments of people were often at fault, whereas Robards believed that an Auror's task was to make snap judgments as fast as possible and ask questions later. "Fine, sir. You want me to go after him?"
"I wouldn't be here if I wanted you to treat him to dinner and a kiss, Potter," Robards said, his exasperation leaking into his voice like steam from a boiling kettle. "Do what you have to."
Harry scowled openly. He was allowed. He'd got the best results for the Auror Department out of any they'd employed so far, the highest number of arrests, even if his methods were unconventional and his playboy reputation increased as a result of each arrest. "Yes, sir," he said, and shut the Floo connection before Robards could see the exact nature of the salute Harry was flipping him.
He stood up and sighed for a second, considering. "Do what you have to" meant Harry was authorized to sleep with the suspect, instead of simply flirting with him, making someone else close to the target jealous, or luring someone into confessing secrets with the hope of more, the tactics he used most often.
It wasn't that Harry hated sleeping with men, or even objected to using his body that way for the Ministry. If he had, he never would have taken up this particular way to convince people and make arrests in the first place. What he despised was being rushed into that particular situation without being able to judge for himself it was needed or not.
He hadn't seen Malfoy in ten years, since he returned his wand to him, and felt little but indifference for him now. He couldn't count on Malfoy feeling the same. He might hate Harry, feel contempt for him due to his supposedly endless procession of lovers, or take this as a chance for a little revenge.
But he had his assignment, and the first step was always research, no matter how quickly Robards might want this done. And Harry knew that time was of the essence. Malfoy would dispose of any evidence that might be lying about connecting him to dragon eggs as soon as possible-the trade carried a term in Azkaban for a conviction-especially if he knew that one of his minions had been captured.
Doing something fast was worse than not doing it at all, though. Harry reluctantly dismissed the idea of a relaxing holiday and went to activate his network of informants, some of whom knew they were working for him and enjoyed the challenge, others of whom thought they were just trading gossip for "exclusive interviews" or an autograph.
Fovea screeched violently from her perch in the aviary, and there came the splattering sound of something, probably an orange, hitting the wall.
"My feelings exactly!" Harry called back.
Harry took his own bite of a strawberry, ignoring Fovea's begging from her perch in the corner, and scanned the collection of information he'd received about Malfoy. It was impressive, everything from official records to old newspaper clippings to "reports" from spurned lovers and former friends. The last, Harry knew from experience to sift heavily for the gold.
First, the undeniable facts: Malfoy ran his own potions supply business, and he did sell a lot of people rare ingredients, or at least ones that were rare in Britain, which they'd otherwise have to collect themselves. Despite numerous investigations by the Ministry when he began, and some anonymous complaints and rumors since then, there was no evidence that he sold anything illegal. That would make proof linking him to dragons' eggs explosive.
Harry paused and ignored Fovea's loud suggestions that if he had a piece of cheese, she should have a piece of cheese. And it makes it all the more likely that it's something someone wants to see happen, instead of something that really did. He sighed and returned to his reading. He'd dealt with plenty of murky cases in his time, especially when going after someone under official suspicion but not official arrest, but he already knew this would be one of the murkiest.
Malfoy had made donations in the beginning, to St. Mungo's and to a few of the orphanages established after the war, but he'd stopped when the donations were rejected. Harry could hardly blame him for that; he'd done the same thing when it turned out one of the charities he'd chosen didn't want donations from "the son of a Mudblood." It did make him grin faintly when he read some of the more recent articles that claimed Malfoy lived extravagantly and could easily spare some of those Galleons for people who were starving.
The photographs of Malfoy down the years showed him growing more confident. He stopped trying to duck out of frames, as had happened at first, and stared boldly at the camera, or smirked. The few most recent showed a relaxed smile. Harry nodded. He hadn't anticipated less, since many of the people he handled for the Ministry were like this. If it was easy to rattle Malfoy or get information out of him, then the Ministry wouldn't have needed Harry on this case.
After he looked once through the pictures, noting in passing that Malfoy favored pale, cool colors and outdoor settings as well as fancy restaurants, he went back through them again, this time paying attention to the people around Malfoy. Gregory Goyle was there for the first few years, then faded away. Harry found only one picture with Pansy Parkinson in it. Then came a few with Blaise Zabini, standing with his arm around Malfoy's shoulders in a way that made Harry smile wistfully. They looked comfortable with each other. He winced a little for Malfoy when he found the article that said Zabini had betrayed him and tried to sell some of his secrets to another apothecary business. Malfoy looked no more than mildly exasperated in that photo, which made Harry wonder if he had known and allowed Zabini to play on a long line to see what would happen, or if he was just that good at hiding his emotions.
Harry rolled his eyes at himself, then. He couldn't be either too sympathetic or too suspicious at first. He would partially have to wait and see how Malfoy responded to him before he could decide on his strategy.
Still, it was good to know that Malfoy had been betrayed once before. He would be looking out for something like that, then. Harry scanned the photographs once more, noted that none of the dates he had with him-all pretty blonde women with bright green eyes, a hopeful sign-seemed to last more than one article, and finally put the newspapers aside and turned to the personal testimonies.
There were a few from people who had known Lucius Malfoy, tried to renew their contacts with his son after Lucius went to prison, and been rejected. Harry snorted at the terms used in those and shoved them over to join the articles. They were less useful, colored by the old bitterness of the war.
A few more papers proved to contain nothing more useful than notes from reporters who had tried to get inside Malfoy's business and had been escorted off the premises by firm but smiling guards. One piece did have a map, but Harry studied the sketch and found it useless. It was only of the outside of the building. He would gain more himself by going on a scouting mission.
If I have time. And always assuming that Malfoy is foolish enough to keep some of his secrets in his shops instead of in a secure vault at Gringotts.
Harry smiled slightly as he turned the map over and pushed it to the far side of the table. There were plenty of people who weren't that sensible, even the clever ones the Ministry had had trouble finding pretexts to raid. They simply couldn't trust goblin security as much as they trusted themselves, or they had lingering paranoia from the war, and they would keep sensitive information as close as they could.
Harry had made at least five arrests because of those attitudes.
When he reached the next report, he sat up and took note. This one had small, cramped handwriting but a signature that flowed across the page as though the writer had signed his name in water. Blaise Zabini.
Harry read his way through. Zabini referred to Malfoy as "Lord Malfoy" at all times, which Harry considered as a mode of address and then regretfully decided that he couldn't depend upon; Zabini might have been doing it to mock Malfoy, even if in a way that he would never know about.
Zabini reported that he had dated Malfoy for three months, and tried to learn the names of some of his suppliers in other countries-and how he paid them, apparently a matter of great mystery-so that he could sell them to the competition. He just retold the details with no attempt at concealment, which made Harry have to set the report aside a while so he could pace around the room and relieve the cramps in his legs.
And the impulse that made him want to hunt down Zabini and strangle him.
He halted to pet Fovea, who approved of this by tucking her head against his shoulder and closing her dark eyes. He couldn't go into the job like this. It would show through, that unexpected sympathy, and probably make Malfoy more suspicious. Or it would make Harry slower to notice details that he should have.
Malfoy's life had sucked for a while after the war. It sucked to be betrayed by a lover, as Harry should know. But that didn't mean that he was innocent.
It also doesn't mean that he's guilty, Harry thought, moving back to his chair at last. Well, maybe he could use this sympathy to balance things. There would be plenty of people on the case-assuming that Robards allowed a bunch of them on it, which of course he would-urging Harry to find some proof that could condemn Malfoy whether or not it actually existed.
Harry wouldn't do that. He might be the Ministry's Whore, the named his enemies called him, but he had never lied about his own honest findings. He could make mistakes; anyone could. The last and most vicious argument he'd had with Neville, and the reason they weren't speaking anymore, had been because Neville thought Harry's entire profession was a mistake, and Harry had been adamant that it wasn't. Now Harry wished that he'd spoken more gently. Proving a point wasn't worth losing a friend.
But Harry could say that he had never made a mistake on purpose, or because of pressure from the Ministry. He sometimes wondered if that was one reason he had chosen this position, and not just because it used his skills or because it had proven too dangerous for him to go into the field as a regular Auror. The Ministry had a few other people it used on jobs like this, but they were entirely too prone, in Harry's opinion, to fuck things up.
Pun fully intended.
He sighed and went back to Zabini's report. So many things to keep in mind, so many things to balance. He suspected that his own earlier claim of indifference to Malfoy probably wouldn't hold up under scrutiny.
Harry turned around and looked in his shoulder over the mirror. Then he smiled. Yes, that was perfect.
He looked different from the pale women who had clung to Malfoy's arm in the recent past, but that was part of the point. Harry wanted to be bold and challenging and draw Malfoy in. With some of his targets, he'd acted meek, someone creeping in the shadow of their greatness, willing to be drawn out by them. But Malfoy knew him too well, and he'd always thought that Harry courted his fame. So Harry would stand out among the other people in the restaurant where Malfoy was dining tonight-something announced in the papers for the past week-like a hawk among doves.
He wore royal blue robes, carefully cut to make him appear a trifle shorter than he was. Harry thought he might as well try to appeal to Malfoy's vanity as well as stir up some memories of their Hogwarts days and see how Malfoy responded. They flowed and swirled around him otherwise, which was important. Harry wanted to move gracefully in any dance that resulted, and fast, towards the door, if he needed to.
He was going without his glasses tonight; he'd found a charm that would improve his vision for a few nights at a time. Hermione had urged him to get his eyes fixed permanently, but Harry had rejected the idea. His glasses were too much a part of his iconic image, useful in convincing people that he was (hushed breath) Harry Potter. And since his public jumping from bed to bed was supposed to be due to an insatiable sexual appetite instead of his work for the Ministry, he had to play the part.
But he thought Malfoy would want to see his eyes, always his best feature, and the glasses were probably a bit too strong a reminder of Hogwarts. For the same reason, Harry had enchanted enough individual strands of his hair that it didn't look too different from usual, while still being subtly presentable. He sometimes put in dark auburn highlights that would show up in strong sun, accenting the red undertone that was there as a gift from his mother, but there would be no point in doing so tonight; the restaurant would be dim.
Harry smiled at himself in the mirror one more time, and then turned and made sure that his wand was in the specially-made holster for it, inside his right sleeve, where he could simply shake it and have it tumble into his hand. A slight stretch off to the side, a casual movement of the kind that he might make half a dozen times during the evening, gave him the reassuring weight of the dagger that was likewise sheathed along his left leg. A turn to the side, and there was the dagger to the right. Then he arched his back, and the band of soft cloth along his shoulders tightened. It was wound with Preserving and Cushioning Charms, and contained several vials of potions that would be useful: Calming Draughts, mild healing potions, even a small vial of Veritaserum.
Harry smiled one more time, this time not at the mirror, and drew his wand so that he could Apparate to the restaurant, called simply Venezia's.