Title: Thoughts of others

Author: Aristide Cauquemaire

Pairing: HP/DM

Rating: M for grown-up language and a teensy bit of violence

Hello there! This is the second piece of fanfiction I send out into the world. This time, I had help with the rearing – Nia, your comments and advice truly made me all giddy and happy, and made the story better. Thank you very much for your help.

This story doesn't need much of an introduction at all. Enjoy! (and leave a comment, that'd be grand and give me warm and fuzzy feelings.)

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-/Chapter 1/-

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"I'm going to say this... only this one time. One time, Malfoy. Better listen up."

The whites in Potter's eyes were criss-crossed with red. Coffee was strong on his breath, among other things.

Draco set his jaw until his molars hurt and fought against the panic that usually came with being violently shoved up against a wall by one's throat and strangled with one's own shirt collar. By someone who wasn't exactly stronger or taller but still came out on top due to sheer anger.

He would have told Potter that he appreciated the hands-on approach. He would have told him how he had come to admire wizards who put aside their wands, rolled their sleeves up and got things done by more conventional, straightforward means. He would have, but he couldn't breathe.

Potter's conventional, straightforward means were clamped so tightly and powerfully around his neck that he was starting to see black spots with bright coronas flitting about between those red veins in the whites of Potter's eyes. Against this dimming backdrop, his green irises seemed to glow from within, like pieces of green ember or pieces of stained glass in the sun.

"You will never speak of her in this manner again. Never. Is that clear?"

Good thing he wasn't really waiting for an answer. Giving one required oxygen and he was all out of that.

"And while you're at it, I suggest you never speak of any member of the Weasley family again."

Just before he kicked out in an ill-advised attempt to make Potter let go, Potter hissed another "Is that clear?" at his face and finally unhanded him.

Funny how he had always thought the character in the films to be a total wuss for not fighting back right away when the big baddie was distracted for a moment and had lost his hold. The truth was that the first breath he had greedily sucked into his painfully empty lungs had taken an entirely wrong turn somewhere. He was on all fours, coughing and retching at the linoleum floor, feeling like he was disgorging his windpipe until tears were streaming down his face and out through his nose. He was shaking and completely useless.

Before he had succeeded in properly composing himself again – even before he had got back up on his two feet again – he croaked out "crystal clear", tiny and just barely loud enough for Potter to hear.

The Auror hastily gathered the papers he had previously scattered about the table, flung the case file he had brought with him shut and left the room at the smart pace of someone who doesn't want to stay where he is and has somewhere else to be anyway.

Harry Potter, Auror 1st class. Always busy and sought after. Probably had someone else to choke into submission.

Rubbing his sore throat that still felt like it was being strangled, Draco figured that this experience was something of a privilege. Potter certainly didn't lay hands on ever run-of-the-mill criminal like this – no, that was something his ginger sidekick with the stupid complexion whose name Draco wasn't allowed to utter any more was for, he'd wager.

Draco coughed again, fought himself onto two very unsteady feet and further figured that he had got himself into this mess with his big mouth and that it'd get much worse very soon before it could possibly get... well, slightly less worse. Especially if the recording Potter was so very pissed about was a full memory of that night. The things he had said that night- he whispered a pointed "shit!" under his breath. His heart clenched in his chest at the thought. It made him nervous. Afraid.

Draco didn't have much hope that the gods would be on his side and keep Potter from watching it until the end eventually. Or that Boot had been too smashed to remember.

He rubbed his sore throat. The place where Potter's fingers had almost touched him. His pulse was still racing, he could feel it drumming in the carotid just below the skin.

Oh no, things would get worse. They rarely ever got "better" in his life these days.

/

/

He had made a habit of biting the tip of his thumb. One of these days he might just bite it clean off.

He should never have let himself be talked into that smoke abstinence spell by Hermione. After months of resistance he had finally given in to her, and only two weeks in it felt like the withdrawal was slowly killing him. Coffee wasn't helping, not even in abundance, not even when it was strong enough to bend the spoon with which he stirred. Work wasn't helping. Not when the reason for his yearning for cigarettes was omnipresent here as well.

And she was. Her name was like a smell that permeated the air wherever he went. Like the cloud of stale cigarette odour he was carrying around with him now that Hermione's ghastly spell was expelling the residues of eight months of chain smoking from his body. Ever since last Wednesday, she was everywhere. Everyone was talking, whispering about her, and about him, and their – well, marriage.

Their carcass of a marriage.

"Here's to- to us! And to my good friend Gregory who I thought would be too strong to succumb to the wiles of the woman, but alas-"

Zabini made a show of slapping Goyle's big shoulders while the rest of the table roared with boozy laughter about the word 'strong' and what Zabini had actually meant.

"To us!" the Italian repeated and the entirety of the group echoed, raising glasses to already slightly slurring lips. Silence fell for a moment as alcohol was gulped down.

A Glenn Miller song was playing at low volume. Glasses were clinking and thunking down on wooden tables. Somewhere a door fell shut with a squeak, cutting off a hissing sound from an unseen kitchen. The buzz of general conversation lay underneath it all. The epitome of a pleasant night.

Harry turned away from the oval plate of silvery glass the thoughts were magically projected on. The picture wasn't as clear as it would have been had he visited the thoughts in a Pensieve. The view was limited, it was much like he were sitting in Terry Boot's head and looking out through his eyes. The sound rattled rather badly and spurred his headache. Still, he wouldn't dive into the memory, not unless he could help it.

He hated doing that. His history with Pensieves was an unhappy one.

He tried to get some paperwork done – his report over the citation and interrogation of Draco Lucius Malfoy this afternoon, in particular – while in the background the happy bachelor's party went on, its volume increasing with every pint as the bar was lowered further and further still.

In the background of the cheery inebriation, at the left edge of Terry Boot's vision and slightly lost in the fuzz of intoxication, a meeting of two men took place. One was tall and wore a very fashionable robe, the other was smaller, hunched and concealed by a tattered cloak. They had a table for six in a separate booth to themselves and appeared to be talking amicably over a pint of beer and a steaming mug of tea.

This meeting was the reason why Terry Boot's memory of that night had been confiscated by the Ministry, and why every Auror in the Ministry had seen it, sometimes repeatedly.

One of the two men – a youthful gentleman with the short, brown hair on the left, known to the Ministry under the empty name of Mr Notherday – was under strong suspicion of being responsible for a series of potion poisoning that had St Mungo's buzzing. Two people had died already. Pharmacies and potion shops were being raided and closed. Shacklebolt was currently giving it 48 hours until details of the story would come to public attention and cause mass panic.

The man across from him, stooped, thin-haired, dirty and ragged, was what was left of Fenrir Greyback. No one could be sure what the Americans had done to him in their laboratories – just like no one could say how they had captured him in the first place, or how he had escaped from them afterwards, or how he had made his way back to England – but it surely hadn't been pleasant.

"... ridiculous is that? Eh?"

Harry sighed and peeled the little attention he had given his papers off of them and redirected it to the screen. He knew that the crucial scene would start soon hereafter.

"No cheating, Malfoy. Hands where I can see 'em!"

Truth or dare. Such harmless fun until you mixed it with magic. Spells were said to bind the players to their oath. Hands were shaken to fix it into place. And the game began.

Pansy Parkinson shriekingly admitted to having had fantasies about a Hogwarts teacher when she was young but was saved from disclosing names. At least until next round.

Blaise Zabini shrugged and admitted to a foot fetish. Parkinson seemed very intrigued by this. Malfoy asked him if it wasn't more of a shoe fetish, and people cackled.

Millicent Bulstrode chose dare and snogged Zacharias Smith. Both of them pulled faces and theatrically wiped their mouths in the end but even the drunk crowd wasn't fooled.

The bachelor himself, Goyle, blushed to an unpleasant shade of blotchy beet red as he vainly tried to wriggle his way around a confession of virginity.

"He's saving himself, people. Have some respect for this man, eh?! It's admirable and romantic and everything!" Parkinson admonished the audience over its roaring laugh although she was clearly as amused as everyone else was. Goyle's shoulders were slapped again with vigour while he drowned his humiliation with long gulps of butterbeer.

In the background, Fenrir Greyback's hand shot out to grasp the wrist of his opposite. Both men were taut as bowstrings now. Aggression lay in the set of their shoulders.

Marcus Flint admitted that he preferred bums over boobs which got him appreciation from an obviously like-minded Zabini and raspberry noises from Smith who promptly attempted to convert him, citing the names of various Muggle underwear models and actresses to plead his case. The name Christina Hendricks was repeated several times.

Another pitcher of Firewhiskey was brought into their midst. Boot's attention latched onto it so intensely that Greyback and his partner vanished in a grey haze of non-awareness, as did the answer of Blaise Zabini to a question concerning a favourite sex position.

When Boot tuned back in to the conversation, it was Draco Malfoy's turn.

"Truth, naturally," Malfoy sneered at Zabini as if he were stupid to even have proposed a 'dare' and implied activity of any kind.

"Ha! Get this. Clearwater. Patil. Granger. Weasley." Zabini listed them slowly, with an emphasis on every name. Especially the last one. People hooted as he said it.

Blonde, black, brunette or ginger. Funny and witty in drunken people's brains.

"Is that supposed to be a question?" Malfoy asked with an exaggerated rolling of the eyes. "You know, questions usually require interrogative pronouns, Blaise. Try to form a complete sentence, will you, you ineloquent peasant?"

"Kill, date, marry and fuck, Malfoy," Zabini answered his taunts with a nod of his head. "Which one of them?"

People oooh'ed. Goyle congratulated Zabini on a good question.

Mr Notherday yanked his hand out of Greyback's grip while his jaw and his lips were moving very fast as he talked insistently to his opposite. In reaction, Greyback hunched over a little further, speaking a deeply feral body language, like a dog about to pounce.

"Kill Granger, of course," Malfoy began his answer without much hesitation. His audience half groaned, half tittered. Boot himself mumbled a 'that was to be expected' while Smith sneered 'surprise, surprise' into his beer.

The decade between their collective past at school and that evening and the fact that, technically, none of them had been Slytherin or Gryffindor for quite some time had changed nothing about Slytherin-Gryffindor animosity. Their irritation with Hermione Granger in particular was as strong as it had been before they graduated. Maybe because she had been or still was responsible for some of their or their parents' cases.

Hermione, true to her potential and her nature, had quickly risen to the post of Undersecretary of the Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt. Harry had to admit that she cut quite a figure as she hurried around the Ministry in her functional two-piece suit, looking all bossy and official. Had she not been the wife of his best friend and essentially like a sister to him, he would've also remarked that she had grown up to be an immensely attractive woman. Something the Slytherins obviously didn't much care about and which did nothing to take the edge of their loathing for her.

"Date Patil," the blond continued with a theatrical flip of his hair that imitated the one Parvati always sported in her advertisements. The crowd guffawed.

In the course of last year, Parvati Patil had become Wizarding England's first shampoo model, advertising a line of 'All-magical! All-natural! So wonderful!' products. The long, supernaturally glossy mane flowing down her shoulders like a stream of black ink was the new standard for hair beauty ever since.

In the background, the brown-haired man suddenly had Greyback at wandpoint. Very surreptitiously so that the wand itself was hardly visible to any spectator except those who were specifically looking for it and following the exchange. The werewolf backed off in his seat very slowly.

"Marry Clearwater. If I have to."

Since she graduated from Hogwarts, Percy Weasley's ex-girlfriend Penelope Clearwater had become the youngest witch to ever be a chosen member of the Wizengamot. Pictures of the beautiful young woman beaming at the camera in her judge's gown which, although it was essentially a bag with wide holes and sleeves, didn't manage to hide her curvy figure, had been in every newspaper.

The moment he said it had been the moment that Harry's stomach had flipped over as realization of what was about to happen dawned. Other people had been present that time, just like him, confronted with the material for the first time. Even in the solitude of his office right now he could feel the looks they had given him, the looks they had shot at him like poison darts. His neck prickled.

"So boring, isn't she?" Zabini fingered his glass and grimaced. "Pretty enough, but SO yawn. No wonder I don't even remember her from school."

"But they'd make perfect little blond babies," Parkinson remarked.

"As long as I have a say in the matter, no, we most certainly would not," Malfoy retorted and Parkinson shot back, "Good! Actually, for the sake of mankind, Malfoys shouldn't reproduce anyway. The fewer insufferable, entitled brats with ridiculous names, the better."

The banter carried on for another minute, until the topic was worn and Malfoy finished his oath-bound answer. As Harry had dreaded he would.

"And fuck Potter-Weasley, I suppose."

The audience of the memory hooted and whistled. When Boot looked at him again, Malfoy was leaning back in his chair, obviously complacent.

Ginny Weasley. She had become star chaser of the Holyhead Harpies and looked stunning in her emerald garb, with the bronze cape flapping wildly in the wind and her bright red hair trailing after her when she shot around the field evading bludgers, passing around quaffles and scoring wonderful shots.

Ginny had refused to take on the name of Potter or even make a double name when they got married four years ago. Still, the newspapers – and Malfoy, apparently – liked to refer to her by double name as if people needed to be reminded who she was married to from time to time.

Harry had thought nothing much of her insistence to stay a full 'Weasley', and her shrugging off his offer to take her name instead.

"Names are not important to me, Harry," she had said and added with a mild smile that "Harry Weasley sounds atrocious anyway. Also, 'Harry Potter' is a brand. It needs to stay."

In retrospect, he could wildly interpret things into it. Predict, without any help from Sibyl Trelawny, how it would soon all go rotten.

How she would become the joke of the party – and he with her by association.

"Since everybody does, these days, why not give it a go." Malfoy shrugged haughtily and took a long drink from his tankard. Harry wanted to dive into the memory and wring his neck and yell at him, why can't you let it rest? all over again.

Why won't they all just shut up?

"Gotta get in line when it's obviously worth it, eh?" Smith brayed.

"I wouldn't even know behind whom to get in line right now," Flint responded and turned to Parkinson for advice, "Do you?"

"Finnigan? Thompson? Grant? McLaggen? That underwear model with the piercings, whatshisname...? Hell if I know."

"Gee, you're about as helpful as Potter, Pans." Zabini received a stuck-out tongue for that. Harry received a bucket of ice to the stomach, again.

Ginny had been with all of these men, he knew now. It was true and so, so ugly. It was awful because in his head as well as on paper, she was still his wife.

He was still her husband. And yes, he was about as helpful as Pansy Parkinson. He had no idea who Ginny was with right now, or had been with two weeks ago.

"Wouldn't be surprised if that Lovegood woman were queueing there as well." Pansy's voice changed pitch to imitate Luna's strange, dreamy articulation. "How about it, Weasley? Just you and me and the nargles."

Harry remembered how embarrassingly hard it had been not to glance at his colleague at that moment. She had been standing right next to him.

He knew that all the others had stared at her then, shifting their glances from him to her. He knew that, if he had lifted his eyes from the looking glass and looked at his colleague, he might have lifted some of the awful pressure pressing down on him as well. Getting rid of the unwanted attention and heaping it onto her. Knowing that she could take it without even complaining, because she truly didn't care.

But he hadn't. He had stared at the damn screen with hate squeezing his windpipe, hate for himself, for being such a fucking loser and not being able to hold on to his wife, hate for Ginny, for cheating on him in so many ways and letting everyone know, and hate for Malfoy and his mouth and the foul truths that spilled out of it with cutting edges.

"Never took you for someone to enjoy second-hand stuff, though, Drakey," Parkinson piped up yet again and earned herself a disdainful look from Malfoy that only served to make her happy. "And by second hand, I mean something more like twenty second hand, I think."

"And yet I enjoyed you, Pansy." Malfoy toasted her with a curling of the lip. The crowd oooh'ed yet again – Flint blurted 'Oh snap!' – and laughed while Parkinson pulled an affronted face.

"I just had a little experience with Finch-Fletchley, that's all." She illustrated the little by holding up her thumb and her index finger which made Bulstrode snort beer out of her nose.

"Well, so had Weasley a month ago, or so I've heard." Malfoy gestured with his hand as if swatting a fly. "Anyway, there's something about the weaslette that pulls more customers than her brother's shop. So besides the fact that she's not entirely fugly, there must be something wondrous to her... magic cave."

That had the entire group laughing and thumping their glasses on the table.

The two men in the background were lost from sight for another moment, then appeared again as Greyback – his body back to a more normal and human stance – stood up and brought his face very close to his opposite's. One could imagine threatening words being hissed through broken teeth and animalistic growls rattling in the back of a throat. And suddenly, with a superhuman speed, the cloaked figure was out of the door and disappeared into the London night. Mr Notherday slumped visibly in relief but soon put his face in his hands in a gesture of despair. He stayed like that for a moment, pulled some coins out of his pocket to pay for the drink and finally left just as Malfoy tried to reign in the crowd.

"Alright, enough of that." Malfoy talked loudly over the laughter that still went on over his cave remark and now involved the practical effects that racing brooms could have on women, anatomically. "Where were we? Ah, Millicent, your turn again-"

This was the moment that Jones had switched the record off. The silence had been so damning and atrocious that Harry had caught himself talking – to himself and out loud – about the exchange in the background, summarizing everything that had been observed, using and repeating the two men's names over and over again, just to fill the quiet. And to keep everyone else from speaking about the fire-breathing dragon in the room.

When they had safely latched on to that pretend professionalism, he had excused himself to use the rest room.

He had locked the door behind himself.

After shattering every mirror on the wall and cracking one of the sinks, he had locked himself into one of the stalls for over an hour. Maybe he had cried, he didn't even know. If he had, he couldn't even say why he would've done that, either. It shouldn't matter what a bunch of pissed Slytherins, lousy Hufflepuffs and scummy Ravenclaws were talking about when they came together for a binge. On top of that, everything that they had said, everybody knew. He had already known.

He had known for years and years.

/

/TBC

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