Disclaimer: Do I give off the impression that I own this series? If so, I'm terribly sorry for misleading you.
Notes: If you're here looking for some sweet sweet Harry/Ron slash, this isn't it. Both characters are hetero, as will be made abundantly clear in this chapter, and they both have girlfriends (though I use the term lightly). The reason why they're the listed characters is because Harry and Ron are the main characters rather than the main pairing. Basically, I got sick of seeing the bashfest most authors on FF seem to love to do to Ron. He's Harry's best friend for a reason, and this fic is supposed to showcase it.
THERE ARE A FEW MAJOR DIFFERENCES TO CANON:
- Tonks lives, but Mr. and Mrs. Weasley bite it in the Final Battle. Remus still dies.
- Ginny and Harry do not immediately get back together after the War.
- Harry's small circle of friends from Hogwarts are expanded, including Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and a select few Slytherins.
Part I: Punch-Clock Hero
1. Guy Ritchie
"It's Been Emotional"
What do I know about boxing? Not a whole lot, actually. Sure I understand it as a concept: you have a punch-up with another bloke until one of you falls over, too exhausted or too punched-up enough that he couldn't continue. No, it was the rules of it that didn't make much sense: Apparently there are places you can't punch; you can't kick; you can't grapple. Sounds mighty limited to me.
Thankfully, unlicensed bare-knuckle boxing doesn't concern itself with rules. It's just "beat the snot out of the other guy in any which way until he's down". I happen to be very good at that. Beating the snot out of other people, I mean. And in some cases, beating the snot out of very bad people.
My name is Harry, and apparently I was named after a famous Broom-racer who died in a flaming wreck. I don't know many people who've been named after crisped broom-racers, and I probably should be thankful for that. Everyone here calls me Mickey, though.
I don't know why, I just think they like nicknames.
The bloke I am in a punch-up with at the moment is an unlucky, but generally good chap named James (coincidentally, my middle name), but everyone calls him Gorgeous (it's one of those ironic nicknames, because he's got a face like a bag of spanners), and his nose is currently being broken by my fist.
It's not a pleasant sound, though it's one I've become used to over the past eight years. A broken nose makes exactly the noise you'd expect it to: a wet crunch, like corn cereal and milk.
A distant roar registers in my ears as Gorgeous Jimmy staggers back into one of the small wooden boards enclosing us in a makeshift hexagonal ring. He stumbles into the waiting arms of the encroaching crowd behind that small wooden board and is promptly thrown back to center-ring. I feel wet blood running down my nose, courtesy of a vicious headbutt from Gorgeous.
But the fight is very close to over now. He's seeing stars, I can tell, only because I feel much the same way. Gorgeous looks up at me with hazy, unfocused eyes, and makes one last charge toward me.
For a second, everything slows down: I can see the dirt on the concrete floor shifting underneath Gorgeous' feet; I can see everyone of the crazy, bladdered, roaring crowd behind him, waving their arms and screaming; and his right haymaker is projected miles away. I feel as if I have all the time in the world when I sidestep the punch and drive my own fist into his gut. He sinks and stands motionless for a second, the inertia from stopping so much weight makes my arm quiver in protest.
But, nevertheless, he stays for that split second. Enough time for me to raise my left fist, and let loose a vicious hook to his temple.
The crowd roars again. It's good to be me.
I head home that night to a modest two bedroom, two bathroom Birmingham flat two thousand quid heavier. I pass several concerned neighbors inquiring about my bloodied forehead, black eye, and bleeding lips with a careless nod and enter the flat.
Waiting there for me is a brown-haired surprise.
Hermione Granger is one my oldest friends, and possibly the person I feel safest confiding in. That, however, never means I will confide in her, a fact that she handles gracefully, if not a little sulkily. Add to that, she is an insufferable worrywart. I've been doing what I've been doing for eight years now, and yet she's afraid it's the end of the world every time I come home with a cut lip.
What's ironic is that she showcases less concern for on-again, off-again boyfriend than me.
"Harry!" She exclaims, bringing her hands to her mouth as she gives me a once over. "What in Merlin's name have you been doing all night!? It's two in the bloody morning and you show up like you've gone on a bender!"
Ah, Hermione, bless her soul. She really knows how to be excessively loud in the wee hours of the morning.
"Bareknuckle boxing match again, Harry?" Another voice growls out from the hallway, apparently having been woken from sleep.
That's Ron Weasley. My red-head best mate. The left hand to my right, the yin to my yang (he's definitely the more feminine of us two). A lot of people, at first glance, would wonder why it's Ron that's my best friend and not Hermione. Hermione never outright 'betrayed' me by leaving me during the Triwizard tournament or in that tent. But I would say to them that while my friendship with Ron has been more tenuous than mine with Hermione, it has been made stronger through strife.
In any case, he's like my older little brother. A little too gung-ho, a little too overzealous. I keep him out of trouble so he can come home to Hermione and complain about not getting enough sleep.
"Be merry, Ronald, for I have secured rent for the month," I reply.
A redheaded man steps out from the darkness rubbing his eyes and yawning. "How much did you make?"
"Two thousand quid. Nothing to sneeze at, and worth a black eye or two."
Ron smirks. "But that face is your only asset. Whatever will you do now?"
Hermione glowers. "How many times have I told you two to get real jobs?"
Ron glares back. "And how many times have we told you that the Aurors pay jack-shite?"
"And it's not like we don't need the money, given that I'm destitute and Ron has to be a professional youngest brother," I snort. "Bloody Goblins."
"Harry!" Hermione admonishes loudly.
"What? They're pricks!"
"Harry!" Hermione repeats with emphasis.
Ron is quick to jump to my defense. "Well, they are."
Now, before you jump to conclusions and start saying I'm a goblin-hating racist, I implore you: hear me out. No doubt many of you have heard of the great Gringotts' Break-In of '98 and the damage it caused to our esteemed bank. You probably would think that I would have to pay for it, a reasonable request.
No. Not so reasonable.
Because Gringotts fucking bankrupted me.
You see, apparently Voldemort found a way to cut into my bank account during that wonderful, wonderful year on the run and used it for parks and recreation funding or something because I have not seen where that money has gone. Easy fix, right? I save the wizarding world, so you'd expect the money that was stolen from me to be restored, right?
You guessed it! Wrong.
The Ministry claimed that the Goblins had a security leak and so they should give me my money back. The Goblins told me it was the corrupt Ministry that stole my money, therefore they should pay me. The Ministry told me to fuck off because they didn't have any money when I came back, and the Goblins threatened a war should I bother them again.
As I'm leaving that cursed bank, one of them has the gall to tell me I owe them a quarter million galleons for the dragon and damage to the vaults. All this after admitting they lost 4-and-a-half million galleons of my money.
I held my tongue and walked away... until he informed me I also owed 20 galleons for owning a vault with no money in it.
Now, I'm no pacifist, but I don't think myself as being homicidal either. But in a lapse of judgment, I cursed the little blighter and nearly started another Goblin War. Worth it, though. Bill tells me about the Goblin who starts belching up turds between February 5th and 20th every year.
It took a lot of arse-kissing to get back on the goblin's good side from my dear friend Hermione here while she was working for the Department for Regulation of Magical Creatures. They told her they wouldn't rebel if I never entered Gringotts again. And strangely enough, Hermione, who is usually so thoughtful, agreed. Of course, she didn't realize she'd been outplayed by the little wrinkly-skinned knobs: being banned from Gringotts meant that while they didn't get paid for the damage caused by the dragon, they also didn't have to reimburse me my due.
Naturally, Hermione was apologetic, but I waved her off. It wasn't her fault; it was the goblins. 'Course, however, seeing as how I was broker than broke and the Aurors don't pay much of anything until you've gone through their three-year training program, that 'dream' went down the toilet. There was the possibility of working at George's joke shop, but I guess it wasn't really for me. Then one day, I was in Diagon Alley with Ron and we saw a flyer that stated Lord Darrow, Head of one of the Ancient Houses, would pay for anyone who could recover his missing daughter who had been kidnapped by raiders wishing to ransom her.
On a whim, Ron and I took the bounty and tracked the kidnappers to Dover.
Long story short, one grateful young woman and a couple of dead raiders later, we were heading back to London to collect a five-thousand galleon reward.
And from then on, that's what we did. We became bounty hunters, mercenaries, private investigators... anything a client needed. More profitable than being a junior Auror, I think. Hermione doesn't quite know what we do (although she knows it's probably illegal), nor does she approve, but, well... fuck her, she lost my money.
"Harry," Ron begins, ignoring Hermione's outrage, "we've got a prospective job tomorrow. I need you up and able by nine. No, not ten, not half-nine, nine."
"What's the job?"
Hermione huffed. "I really wish you two wouldn't talk about this in front of me."
I never look away from Ron as I speak to her. "I say this with all the love I can muster, Hermione, please shut up."
Ron ignores Hermione again. "Well, you see... it's kind of... not something you'd want to talk about in front of a Public Defender, if you know what I mean?"
"Is it illegal?" Hermione deadpans.
Ron shrugs. "Only in some countries."
Hermione raises an eyebrow. Ron ignores her again.
I don't know he does it. When Hermione raises an eyebrow, it almost inevitably means pain, but Ron shrugs it off like she's child throwing a temper tantrum. I'm practically terrified of that eyebrow. It amazes that he isn't.
"So is that a yes or no?" Ron questions.
"Okay," I reply. "Nine on the dot. Now I'm going to take a shower. My face fucking hurts."
The next morning I wake up, brush my teeth, shower, and walk out into our living room to find Ron watching a cartoon on telly and Hermione sizzling rashers of bacon. I suppress a groan: Hermione is an amazing woman with many talents.
Cooking is not one of them.
Thankfully it's bacon, not even Hermione could ruin that. I settle into one of wooden chairs around a small eating table and look up at Hermione, who turns from the bacon, wearing an apron and having haphazardly thrown a dishrag over her shoulder, and gives me a worried once over:
"How's your face, Harry? Not hurting you too much, is it?"
I smile. Hermione's always been a nurturer. It's probably why Ron took to her so much, especially after his own mother, Molly, was murdered by Bellatrix Lestrange in that last battle, struck by an errant killing curse intended for her daughter Ginny.
"I've had much worse, Hermione. A few punches won't do much of anything to me."
"If you're sure," she begins dubiously.
"I'm sure," I reply softly. She merely nods and returns to the bacon.
"Oh, shite," Ron mutters as he walks into the kitchenette.
Hermione whirls on him, alarmed. "What is it, Ronald?"
"I thought it was Harry cooking. Face it love, you're a poor cook."
"I'm a poor cook!? Oh, I'm so-rry 'ye who never gets off his bloody arse'!" Hermione shrieks, obviously insulted. She rants something at Ron, whose ears turn red and he rants something back and pretty soon they're arguing over nothing and everyone loses, especially my fucking ears. But I can't help but grin: some things never change.
Later that day, I find myself staring at a building in the middle of muggle London with Ron standing at my side. Hermione went to her depositions or whatever it is Public Defenders do, and we aimlessly wandered to this slightly decrepit office building. But, nevertheless, we went inside and found a bustling department of... something or another. People moving this way and that for reasons completely unknown to me. I can't honestly say I know why we're here or even what 'here' is.
The Office is pretty standard, cubicles, typewriters, the whole caboodle. A blonde woman walks by and gives me a suggestive wink. I nod. Ron grouses about how I get all the attention.
We're greeted by a strange man in a three-piece suit who takes us into his office and gives us a job: we're supposed to kill a man who is to be coming into London through Heathrow as the vanguard for a group of blood mages in two days.
We're given a file that has a picture of a blond-haired man with a goatee who apparently has an Auror's license and a name we recognize. The man in the three-piece suit notices us giving that bit of information the stink-eye:
"He's a turncoat. We sent him in to expose the Bloodies, and now we have evidence he is, indeed, working for them."
Blood Mages are nasty little blighters, sacrificing their own life force for powerful magic. I was protected by blood magic once, but most blood magic is far more dangerous and far more destructive than my mother's sacrifice. And boy, are they destructive! They can curdle your blood in the veins, and even control people's thoughts. This comes at a cost, though. While powerful, they're not exactly what you'd call sane. Blood for brains, I suppose.
We've axed several of them, and I reckon that's why Ron and I have been called to take out the trash.
We accept, and leave. When we're a suitable distance away, I ask Ron who those people were, and he merely tells me they are government-affiliated. That's enough for me, I don't like to know more about government hits than I have to.
"Hey Harry," Ron starts suddenly mid-trek, "isn't today Thursday?"
That brings a smile to my face. "Why, yes, Ron. Yes, it is Thursday."
We turn around and sprint in the opposite direction.
The Horizon Bar is a classy place. Which is funny because it's run by Seamus Finnigan, the least classy man I know. He's a good bloke, but an alcoholic and an unrepentant womanizer. Which makes it all the more amazing that he scrounged up the money to open up this place, a lounge bar with dimly lit lights and leather booths ringing the walls. Truthfully, we shouldn't ever come here, because all the money inevitably funds Seamus' eventual jaundice, but it's too good a place to really care.
Seamus' best friend Dean and the last part of our power quintet, Neville Longbottom, both usually show up on Thursdays. That hadn't always been a good sign. For close to six months, Neville and I couldn't stand to be in the same room over certain... unresolved issues. Said issues have since been resolved and we once again enjoy an easygoing friendship.
Ron and I have already been drinking and eating for close to an hour when Dean and Neville enter the bar. Seamus grins behind the bar, hops over the serving table and runs to the door, closing it behind the newcomers and putting up a closed sign over it, before rushing back to the booth we now all occupy.
I look over the group with a smile.
Dean Thomas is a powerfully-built man, which serves him well as a Hit Wizard. He's proud of that, being the only one out of his five actually in government employ when we had all expressed interest in being Hit Wizards or Aurors. Of course, if he knew how much work Ron and I steal from his department, he wouldn't be so smug. Nevertheless, he's an alright bloke.
While we had all found our respective callings: Seamus in alcohol, Dean in duty, and Ron and I in fast cash; Neville found it in academia. While not teaching at Hogwarts yet, he has written several books on Herbology, two of which are used at the school: one for first years, the other for NEWT-level students. He is currently in a fairly serious relationship with Susan Bones, who is a coworker of Hermione's, but works as a prosecutor.
Every Thursday, we get together for drinks and poker, passing the hours by and mostly complaining about our girlfriends. I hear our girlfriends do the same thing about us every Saturday.
I catch glimpses of the conversation but mostly retreat into my own world:
"Oh, God, it's a good thing you took Hermione off the market, if she and Harry..." Seamus was saying to Ron.
"...Could you imagine their kids?" Dean continued. "Bossy little bookworm knot-heads who grow up thinking they're superior because they listen to Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand? They'd be absolutely fucking intolerable!"
"...she's literally the worst cook in the world and yet she refuses to let Harry cook, right? Harry?" I hear Ron saying, snapping me from my reverie. I look down at my cards and back at Ron.
"Oh, right. Yeah, she's shite at it, though I think it's nice that she tries. It's the thought that counts."
Ron snorts. "Yeah, yeah, I'd prefer sustenance, mind you."
I laugh with the rest of the table. He may not show it all that well, but Ron really does adore Hermione. I'm fairly sure they're much more tender around each other when I'm not around. They could stand to treat each other a little bit better around others, however.
"Well what about you, Pots?" Seamus chuckles, "everything still peachy keen for the couple of the century?"
"Ginny hates it when people call us that, you know?"
Neville shoots me a look.
"Well?" Dean questions. "Any annoying habits?"
I do my best impression of Hermione's eyebrow-raise. "I am a gentleman, sirrah. And gentlemen do not tell."
"No fun," the Hit Wizard sighs. I shrug.
"I'm thinking of proposing to Susan," Neville cuts in quietly.
Ron and Neville both shoot me a sideways glance, as if to see what I'd think of the union. Soon Dean and Seamus are staring as well:
"What are you looking at me for?" I ask nonchalantly. "I'm not the one getting hitched."
An uncomfortable silence descends upon the normally cheerful table.
We stay for a little while longer, discussing the ins-and-outs of proposals, and then tell the other trio that it's been emotional, but we've to take our leave.
Ginny Weasley is a joy, don't get me wrong. She's smart, she's vivacious, she's looks pretty good naked, and she's great company, but she's not it. She's not what Neville sees in Susan. You know? The one. She doesn't have that magic, the kind you see in films. It's good, but not great. She's it, but not it.
I must sound like a moron.
Hermione always tells me how I'm lucky to have someone who loves me like Ginny (I think she's just grousing about Ron, though), but I don't feel it. Over the past few years, something has withered in me, and I don't think I'm quite capable of loving her back. I had my chance, and I missed it. So I'm half-here, half-invested in this relationship that I don't think I'll ever fully invest in.
It's probably why I'm monologuing to an imaginary audience in my head instead of listening to Ginny talk about the things that move her. She's a sports reporter with The Daily Prophet and she likes quidditch and she... and she...
Nope that's about it. That's really all I know about her. For all people say about us being the couple of the century or my father and mother reborn, we may as well be strangers bumping uglies. I don't know much about her, and I'm not really attracted to her anymore. She's fit, for sure, but as I said: she doesn't have the magic.
"So what do you think, Harry?" Ginny asks suddenly, breaking me from my reverie.
Suddenly, the world seems to return to me. We are sitting in a snazzy restaurant: candles everywhere, roses on the table, and we're nestled into a nice nook where nobody will come by to disturb us. Ginny wears a breathtaking, strapless red dress that just makes it look as though she was born to eat at places like this: a perfect place for a date, an even better place for a proposal. Maybe I'll toss Neville a bone and book him and Susan this table the night he proposes.
"Oh, I'm sorry Gin, I was a bit distracted," I reply with an apologetic smile.
Ginny also smiles, but shakes her head as well. "Puddlemere and Winbourne. Day after tomorrow. I've got box seats and an extra ticket? Can you come?"
"You know I'd love to, Gin," I grimace, "but Ron and I have a job at Heathrow. We won't even be in the same city."
Ginny looks somewhat downtrodden, but immediately covers it up with a grin. "You're always so busy, Harry Potter. One day, you and Ron are going to have to show me what it is you two really do."
"One of these days," I affirm.
I feel bad. I shouldn't lead her on like this.
"Do you know why we make a good couple?" I am awoken to that question. I turn to see a halo of golden hair to my left, her back to me. "It's because we're friends. I think a lot of couples forget they were once friends."
She turns, her angelic face and light green eyes surveying my own. The white comforter atop us both shifts as she moves her arm up to grasp my hand:
I smile. She does, too. And then she says something baffling:
"Don't be afraid."
And then I am awake. Alone in my bedroom in the flat I share with Ron with a black blanket over me rather than the fluffy white comforter I remember from my dream. I look over to my nightstand, compelled to open the second drawer to make sure it is still there. So I pull the drawer open and find the little black box there still. As it was over a year ago when I had first put the box there, hoping to forget about it.
But some things are never forgotten, are they?
I fight back a sigh and survey my clock. Ron and I have to be at Heathrow in three hours. Best to start to getting ready now. I take a shower and brush my teeth, trying to ready myself for the day and rid myself of the dream. My combat attire assists of a stitched shirt that's enchanted to be stronger than the toughest of muggle of kevlar, trousers, thigh-high doesking boots, a gift from an elder on a Native American Reservation for job I did three years ago, and an enchanted, hooded, coat-like robe.
I step into the kitchenette to find Hermione reading the morning news. She looks up and appears to choke on her tea:
"That's your combat robe?"
I chuckle. "Much stronger than it looks. Besides, wait 'til you see Ron."
Said man stepped into the kitchenette approximately six minutes later a dark grey coat, black trousers, and steel-tipped boots.
"Don't you think you two will look out of place in a muggle airport?" Hermione questioned.
Ron shook his head. "We'll be in the magical section. Everyone will look like this."
"So this guy's coming in from where?" Ron asks for clarification as we wait in the arrivals area of M-Terminal (Magical Terminal) 4 at Heathrow's Magical Section. I cross my arms and lean back against a pillar for support:
"Moscow, right?" I reply, "That's what the guy who gave us the job said, didn't he?"
"Moscow, Moscow," Ron taps his chin. "Russia's a silly place, don't you think? What with its Companyism and whatnot, right?"
I chuckle. "Communism, Ron. And the Communist Government fell about fourteen years ago."
"Communism! That's the word!" Ron laughs, "Still, doesn't change that its a silly place. Even the muggles there are backarsewards. Don't even get me started on the magicals."
"Oh, have you been?"
"Yeah, for a little while when you were off in America killing off Bigfoot or whatever it is Americans do."
"Okay, so what's so backwards about the Russians?"
"Well... have you ever stabbed a person before?" Ron questions nonchalantly.
I shrug. "Once. But it was a Succubus who was trying to 'steal my seed', so I don't count it."
"Because she was a fucking demon! I don't feel bad about stabbing rape-happy demons!"
"Did you have a knife?"
"Did you put it in her?"
"Don't make it sound so tawdry, Ron," I say cheekily.
"Did you take the knife... and stab her?"
I sigh, knowing I won't get anywhere this. "Yes."
"Then you fucking stabbed her."
"But she wasn't a person. She was a demon." Before Ron can respond, I groan, deciding to change the course of the conversation. "Why, have you stabbed someone?"
"Yeah, for a hit. And I suppose that's a normal request for a hit, even though it'd be much easier to off him with a wand, but they like doing things backwards like that in Russia." Ron begins, stroking his chin with a gloved hand, "I was in Petersburg, and a mobster wanted another mobster dead 'cause the guy shagged his wife or something. They were both scumbags, so I didn't really feel too bad about putting this guy six feet under. But the guy who gave me the job gave me a weird request."
"What was that?"
"To stab the mark in the fucking mouth. Said he wanted to make sure 'the little fucking cunt' never spouted another lie again."
"Hmm... I guess it's poetic."
"That's not even the best part. He wanted me to strip the poor bastard naked and cut off his... his... gentleman-sausage. Said he'd pay extra if I made sure he died knowing he wasn't even a man anymore."
I grimace. "Gross. Did you do it?"
"'Course I didn't fucking do it! There's no amount of money that can justify slicing off some cock's cock!" There was a pregnant pause: "...I did stab him in the mouth, though. But that was mostly because he kept screaming and I couldn't get him to shut the fuck up."
I level a look at Ron from under my hood. "Remind me to never get on your bad side, Ron."
"I don't even think that's possible, anymore," Ron replies; there's a pause, and then: "Did she really say she was going to steal your seed?"
Ron guffaws before perking up:
"Hey. Isn't that our man?"
I turn to see a blond man with a matching goatee emerging from the terminal. I remember him from Hogwarts. I wonder if he's still as big a prick as he was back then.
"That it is," I reply.
Ron chuckles. "Well, it was nice knowing you, Ernie MacMillan."
MacMillan weaves through the crowd awaiting their loved ones and breaks away from the pack. I turn back to Ron and nod:
"Time to go mobile."
Ron nods and we begin following him at a distance.
A/N: I've been stewing over this idea so long that I just had to release it. It will not take over for TKoL, rest assured. This fic is sort of a deconstruction of fanon ideas and I just had to write a fic that features a slightly deranged Harry/Ron bromance. Chapters will likely be longer than this, but I doubt they'll ever get as long as TKoLs. I'm wagering between 7-10k words every chapter.
Of course, this is just to get a feel for a fic. There's a lot I'm not telling you that's going on in this chapter. Just keep your eyes peeled as the fic goes on.
Hermione's Cooking: I'm pretty sure this is a fanon idea, but I find the idea of Hermione not being able to cook hilarious for some reason. Probably because if she was good at it, she'd be a hop and a skip away from a canon Mary Sue.
Guy Ritchie: The chapter title comes from the opening scene, which resembles a boxing match from Ritchie's 2000 film, Snatch. It's expounded upon further by the way Harry introduces characters, in a typically Ritchie-esque style. "It's been emotional" is a line from Ritchie's first film: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
The Goblins: I don't know if canon makes out Goblins to be the 'honorable warriors' they are in fanon, but in anything else, goblins aren't honorable, they're assholes. The kind that would lose your money and outsmart you to ensure they wouldn't have to pay you back. Hermione's unwillingness to join Harry and Ron in hating the Goblins showcases both her tolerance and her naïveté.
Dean and Seamus of Harry and Hermione having kids: I think if Harry and Hermione did end up being the canon OTP, their kids would be mega-hipsters. Don't know why.
My lack of imagination once again is showcased in Harry and Ron's combat attire, respectively. Harry's is based on Connor's Assassin Outfit from ACIII and Ron's is based on The Fugitive's Mantle in Dragon Age 2.
The person in Harry's dream is very important. Keep an eye on that.
Next chapter is called "Franz Ferdinand, or: I'm Just a Crosshair".