Title: The Conservation of Fame
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione
Warnings: Angst, some violence, mind control and manipulation, sex, EWE.
Summary: Harry has secured some peace from the wizarding world the only way he can, using a spell that makes all but his closest friends remember the concept of the Boy-Who-Lived but forget about him as a person. It's a nice life—until Malfoy stumbles through his wards, pursued by mysterious enemies, and Harry finds himself unable to refuse him help. Help that, in the end, could teach Malfoy that Harry isn't the stranger Malfoy thinks he is, and make things unforgivable between them again.
Author's Notes: If the spell sounds confusing, it'll be explained further in the story. I anticipate this one being somewhere between 12 and 18 chapters, most likely.
The Conservation of Fame
Chapter One—A Wonderful Life
Harry looked up with a smile. He'd been sorting through the flowers on the stall in front of him, trying to decide which ones would look best in his garden. He would never have Neville's level of skill in Herbology, but since the war, he'd picked up enough of the art to make plants bloom where he put them.
The young woman in front of him flushed when she saw him looking, and licked her lips. "I—I hate to bother you," she squeaked. "But you look so much like someone, I just had to ask you if you were."
"Now that you can see my face, you know that I'm not, right?" Harry asked, with a broader smile that he hoped hid the chaos of his heartbeat. The spell worked to protect him, day and night, winding through the minds of everyone in the wizarding world who had known him as an idea and not a person, but still there was always the fear that this would be the day it failed, that he would meet someone who stared at him and blurted out his title instead of his name.
"I, of course," the woman in front of him said, and her blush deepened. "But people must have told you that you look like the Boy-Who-Lived before now, right?"
"Yeah, I get that a lot," Harry said, and held out his hand, performing a quick Cleaning Charm on it before she touched it. Between the calluses and the dirt and the scars from Potions knives that crossed his palm, he must look horrid. "But no. My name's Harry Potter."
There was no flicker of recognition in the girl's eyes, but she shook his hand with enthusiasm. Harry relaxed a little. The spell had separated his name from his ideal, which he was grateful for. He reckoned he could have taken a different name, but he liked his real one, the connection to his parents. He ought to honor his mother in his own memory even if only a few other people in Britain now knew she had been named Lily Evans.
"Glad to meet you," the woman said. She was older than he had thought at first, Harry noted; there was even a touch of grey in her dark hair as she turned back to the clusters of roses, lilies, irises, hollyhocks, daisies, and others on the stall. Blooming out of season, of course, but that was nothing for a skilled Herbologist, as Harry knew; Neville had brought an enormous train of blooming roses to Ron and Hermione's wedding in the middle of last December. "I'm Esmeralda Duncan, the owner of this stall. What were you thinking of buying?"
"Flowers that look colorful and that are easy to take care of or alter with spells," Harry said firmly. "I'm still an apprentice in Herbology, really, and without even a formal teacher to guide me."
Esmeralda laughed. "One of the ones who wants to do it all yourself?" She picked up a tall, gorgeous flower that Harry had ignored because it looked like an orchid and they were hard to take care of, and grinned at him.
Harry shrugged, unabashed. After the war, he had decided that he wanted to live, and his particular case of it had taken the form of trying to learn everything he could, all at the same time, including most of the subjects he hadn't cared about in school. Hermione said it made his house and probably his mind look like they were trying to grow in six directions at once, but Harry was happy that way.
"I don't think I could take care of one like that," he said, and nodded to the snow-white orchid in Esmeralda's hand. "I know that it's beyond me."
"You'd think it would be, but a flower like this actually needs commitment more than anything else," Esmeralda said, and stroked up the stem. The blossoms on top, which resembled a springing pair of bridges, swayed in response.
"Yeah, commitment to learning all the different kinds of sunlight and soil and water it requires," Harry muttered, shaking his head. "No, thanks."
Esmeralda eyed him curiously. "You don't care enough about flowers to learn that much about them?"
"I'm in this out of interest," Harry answered, meeting her eyes and smiling again, so that she wouldn't think he was being stubborn for stubbornness's sake. "The more like a chore it becomes, the less I'm interested."
"Or like an essay," Esmeralda said, and shuddered. "Were you at Hogwarts when Professor Snape was teaching Potions? Those three-foot essays he used to assign on the properties of dreambane? Ugh. Those were the worst."
It still wasn't easy for Harry to talk about Professor Snape, but on the other hand, he could hear the war and the most important figures in it mentioned in casual conversation and not sweat about it. It was at least easier than having the people around him think he was one of those figures. He nodded. "And the ones about the differences between asphodel and wormwood, and why they were important to the bases of potions."
"There was someone who never would have thought Potions could be a hobby," Esmeralda muttered, and shuddered again. "He would have said that it was a calling and nothing else." She glanced up and down the part of Diagon Alley that had become more or less a continuous open-air market since the war. "I think I can hear him now, raving about what dunderheads he had to teach."
Harry chuckled. "He gave the same speech to the first-years every time, didn't he?"
"He did." Esmeralda paused for a moment, with a small smile that made Harry wonder if she had been a Slytherin. Then she held out the orchid to Harry a little more insistently. "Anyway. What I meant wasn't that you had to make a commitment to study all the different kinds of needs that a flower like this might normally have. I meant it needs trust. Love. It's a very special kind of flower."
Harry spent a moment considering the ghostly thing, and then filled his mind with its beauty and reached out.
As his fingers skimmed down the stem, it trembled and quivered, and then one of the large white petals, which resembled the edge of a cloud, reached down and curled around his finger.
Esmeralda took a step backwards, and then seemed to remember that she was holding the slender thing, half-pot and half-vase, out of which the orchid grew, and laughed shakily. "There! It likes you, Mr. Potter. Who would have thought it would take to someone who didn't want to commit to it that easily?" She flashed him an arch glance that had more than a hint of wonder in it.
Harry shrugged at her. He had no instinctive talent for Herbology or Care of Magical Creatures, but he had realized, since the war, that he was pretty good with magical animals and plants like this and taking care of things in general. Maybe it was because he wanted a peaceful life, and they generally agreed with him.
"Are you sure that you won't take this flower, Mr. Potter?" Esmeralda urged him quietly, leaning towards him. "It likes you, and I think you're someone who would put in the time to learn anything about it that you didn't know yet." Her smile flashed out like the light in her eyes, and revealed the dimple in her cheek. "As long as it remained an interest for you, a hobby."
Harry nodded in response, his eyes wandering over the flower once more. Its petals had swung towards him, and it no longer looked like a pair of joined bridges, but a rising storm of congealed snow out of a broken globe. "Yes. I'll take it."
Then there was a bustle of bargaining and Galleons and wrapping and instructions, and Harry also bought a few lilies to add to his gardens. It seemed that he was going to have a white theme going this year. Well, the lilies were in tribute to his mother, too. That eased his minor winces regarding the cost.
He walked away from the stall poorer, but more satisfied, and waited to cross a swathe of the alley filled with a crowd watching an impromptu duel. No one turned to look at him for any other reason than the giant orchid hovering above his head in an Unbreakable Bubble, and it was the flower that earned all the stares, not him.
Harry could feel his lips twitching, and bit them before someone could wonder why he was grinning like an idiot.
This was the life he had wanted. No one cared about him unless they already had—and as a person, not a symbol or a savior—before the spell swept in. Yes, it was a form of mind control, and there were times that Harry woke up at night in a sweat about it, because it had invaded his dreams.
But everyone could still remember the proper history of the war. They just didn't know names, and they all assumed that the Boy-Who-Lived was someone else, someone not named Harry Potter. But then, the papers and the people in the street had used his title more than his name, anyway. And the emblem of the Chosen One was his lightning bolt scar. Harry didn't have it, and therefore he couldn't be the one it identified.
The lightning bolt scar had been the anchor of the spell, in fact.
The duel in front of him cleared up, and Harry set out for the Apparition point again, whistling. The flowers bobbed along with him, and all he had to worry about was ensuring that the Levitation Charms on their containers didn't tangle.
A change, he thought, a change indeed from stalkers and people breaking into my bedroom to declare their undying love and the Prophet insisting that my wards needed to be discussed in detail because I belonged to "all of Britain."
Harry rolled his eyes as he thought about that. He could have been a lot safer if the Ministry had acted to restrain the reporters, but of course even in the Ministry there were people who believed in freedom of the press above individual safety, and people who didn't think that Harry was in any real danger from his obsessed fans, and people who plain didn't like him.
Harry rubbed his right arm as he turned the corner and saw the Apparition point ahead of him. A faint scar ran down the length of it, from shoulder to wrist, barely visible even in the light of a bright summer's day like this one. That had come from a Parkinson cousin's curse, someone who wanted to "avenge the humiliation" that her family had allegedly been put through as a result of the Wizengamot's ruling that Pansy Parkinson couldn't return to Hogwarts to repeat her last year.
The curse had been designed to prevent the blood from clotting, so the victim would bleed to death in minutes from a large enough wound. Harry had put up extra wards across his chimney, the way that Louisa Parkinson had come in, or he would have died.
And then, the next day, the Prophet had shrieked that they had a right to know about the extra wards, too, because Harry's life was everyone's life. That story had run right next to the story of the attack.
My life is everybody's, right, Harry thought, snorting to himself, as he dodged around a cluster of people who appeared to be taking photographs of the Apparition point. Hopefully they weren't the first troops of an invading army, but even if they were, it was going to be someone else's bloody duty to stop them. But they didn't think that when it came to facing Voldemort.
That had been when the hypocrisy finally got to be too much for him and he simply walked away. Turned his back, said good-bye to all that, marched. And the spell had covered his tracks, had ensured that people knew what had happened and even who had done it-in theory, in idea. They just didn't name names to themselves, and tended to focus more on those people who had done other recognizable, identifiable things. Hermione. Ron. Neville. Ginny. Even Ollivander, who had been in the Malfoys' dungeons.
And Harry was pleased with that. They had all done more than he had, endured more trials, either at Hogwarts or struggling with their own doubt and faith along the journey. Harry had been sure he knew what he was doing up until the point he had to walk into the Forbidden Forest and die, and in the end, he had survived that, too. He deserved a little peace.
It was always a delicate task, Apparating with several different kinds and weights of plants, but Esmeralda had put some protective spells on all of them, and Harry managed. He settled down to an afternoon of working in the garden with a faint smile on his face.
He ate dinner outside, since it was a beautiful day, a little rain that morning and nothing since but the sky still covered with clouds. He lounged in the back garden, which had a piled-rock wall around it and herbs and flowers of several different kinds exploding in all directions, while he watched the sunset. The cottage sat behind him, wrapped in wards snug enough to make the stone hum and comfortable enough to ensure that Harry would sleep anyway.
Harry sipped the soup he'd made earlier that afternoon from a china bowl that had been a present from Mrs. Weasley and counted the clouds he could see that were shaped like something. There, a swinging anchor, outlined in purple and orange. Here, a dissolving horse's head with big blue eyes that appeared through tattered patches in it. Almost overhead, a curling figure that Harry could see as a sleeping dragon with its head on its flank, above its coiled tail, if he squinted. The chicken soup finished, he set the bowl aside and put his hands behind his head.
Ordinarily, he would have been eating dinner with Ron and Hermione tonight, but Ron had had a rough week among the Aurors-which translated, Harry knew from Hermione's careful words, to someone almost killing him-and they needed time alone. That was all right with Harry, too. Since the casting of the spell, he had relaxed so much that sometimes he thought he was a different person, at least to himself. Someone who could put up with a lot, change his plans at a moment's notice, and learn hobbies without caring if those hobbies were going to be useful for a fight.
He let his head droop sideways and closed his eyes against the light that made dancing spots in the air, humming under his breath.
The next moment, he had bolted to his feet and was staring around the garden, his wand in his hand faster than it had been since the days when he was still trying to be an Auror, his breath and heartbeat shaking him like a rag between them.
Something had battered against his wards.
That should not have happened, no matter what else did. No one knew he lived here except friends Harry thought could be trusted with the secret. His enemies had no reason to attack a random house in the middle of nowhere; his enemies, like the rest of the wizarding world who didn't really know him and love him at the time the spell went up, no longer knew he existed. And even if someone had conceived a grudge against Harry Potter the potterer, the dabbler in hobbies neither exotic nor threatening, they couldn't have followed him back or come close to the wards without him noticing.
Harry paused and listened, waiting. He reckoned it could have been an accident, in a way. The Ministry occasionally took its Auror and Hit Wizard trainees out into the middle of unfrequented hills and downs in order to instruct them in dangerous spells. Maybe-
No, there it was again. And this was a targeted attack, a hurled curse that made Harry's bones and teeth ache. Someone had come here with the intention of destroying his home.
Harry stalked into his house, through the dining room where he usually lingered to look through the large windows, and the drawing room that had a cheerful fire always burning, and the front room that he had turned into a combination potions lab and conservatory. The wards that had taken the blow were at the front of the house. Already boiling with fury, with disturbed peace, with magic, Harry flung open the door and burst out into the open with murder on his tongue.
His glorious charge came to nothing when he tripped over something invisible and crashed heavily to the ground. But even that kind of surprise couldn't dull his instincts, and all his instincts had come back with a vengeance. Harry rolled and came back to his feet, literally hopping up with his wand aimed and his teeth bared.
Nothing. The front garden, where he grew vegetables for his dinner and his more and more skilled attempts at cooking, was as quiet as the back. Harry could feel the wards shaking from the blast unleashed against them, but he could see no crack in them, large or hairline. It was as if his enemies, whoever they were, had taken the time and courtesy to repair them on their way out.
Harry turned his head in a slow circle, nostrils wide, scenting as well as he could what had happened. Then he remembered what he had tripped over and whirled towards the doorway, casting a Finite nonverbally.
The air in front of the door solidified, wavered as if considering whether it was wise to do so, and then snapped into being. Harry was looking at a wizard who had been under a Disillusionment Charm, a wizard with his arms wrapped around his head and his legs tucked up to his belly as though still trying to defend himself.
He was unconscious, Harry reckoned, from his deep, slow breaths. Still reluctant to touch him, Harry worked himself around until he could peer between those entwined arms and see the bloody, averted face.
That done, Harry felt a blow to his peace that was quite as large as if he had stumbled and literally hit his head.
What the fuck was Draco Malfoy doing on his doorstep?