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14 July 2010 @ 11:57 pm
LJ Anniversary, and Fathers part 3c(i)  
It is my third LJ Anniversary! And I was going to post all sorts of insightful things about fandom and LJ and the Potterverse, but I am so disgustingly behind with comments in conversation posts as thing stand that I thought I would just go with fic instead.

So more Fathers, and there is actual physical contact of an amorous sort in this chapter! No, not smut, it's me. Er, there are also lorries and explosives ...

Just a reminder to new readers that this was begun so long ago that Asteria/Astoria did not exist in those days and so the role of Scorpius's mother is played by a nice French witch named Helene.
Part one is here
And the AS/S prequel is here

Title Fathers, Who Could Do With a Spot of Sinning, Part 3c/3d or possibly e if things get out of control. Brevity is not one of my middle names.
Author blamebrampton
Characters Harry/Draco (eventually), Ron, Hermione, Narcissa, the next-gen crew and sundries.
Rating PG
Words 11,139 (this part)
Summary After their sons fall in large amounts of teenaged love at school, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter decide it's finally time to talk like adults about their own ties to each other. If only they could. Meanwhile, events of national importance conspire to distract them.
Notes Absolutely nothing to do with Jo Rowling, Bloomsbury, Scholastic or any other media titans. But affectionately nicked from all of the above.
My undying gratitude to jadzialove  who manages to do a wonderful job of beta-ing while I do an appalling job of meeting any deadlines, and then go and introduce error afterwards. All the ghastly things should be blamed on me entirely, as my mentis has not been compos for years.
Thanks to libby_drew  who kicked this all off, norton_gale , who is also responsible, and raitala  and everyone else who nagged cheerfully. Special thanks to treacle_tartlet  who did an emergency beta on the last part of this when I was far too tardy to get it to J in time! ETA: Now with added beta-ing! Thanks Jadzia! You're a star! And poor treacle, working under duress and baby! As always, all errors are mine and concrit and typo mentions are quite welcome.



Ron is not in his room when they finally make it to St Mungo's. Draco is not concerned, the bed sheets are thrown back and there is a marked absence of Weasleys, which can mean only a jaunt into the garden. A duck-line of offspring follows him through the twists of the hospital's corridors to its centre, where they dive out into the sunlight of the Tudor courtyard.

Ron is sitting up in a wheelchair, parked in the dappled shade beneath an apple tree. On the chamomile bench beside him Hermione and Helene are discussing whether the more complex spellcraft required to make a three-dimensional object two-dimensional at the same time as a folding it into a packing spell is worth it for the extra capacity it grants. Molly and Arthur Weasley are tracing the lines of a thyme maze, with Molly comparing it unfavourably to other mazes she has known.

Two other patients are strolling about; happily both are ambulatory enough to dodge the stream of young people who run past.

"There was a robbery!" Albus announces.

"At Uncle George's!" Hugo adds.

"Dad's there now, with Unspeakables, and Uncle George is fine, but the burglars whapped him over the head with something, it's an outrage!" Lily finishes.

By virtue of angles, Draco is the only one looking directly at Ron as the news spills out. He sees the Auror's hands clench and his legs not move, despite the urgency that tenses through his frame. "George was working on research projects for Mysteries," Draco says, going straight to his colleague while the children are snaffled by parents and grandparents and ordered to report. "They're among the stolen goods."

"I'm not a fan of coincidences," says Ron.

"I don't leap straight to conspiracies," Draco replies, with a smile.

"Three scenarios," Ron says, grinning back. "One: it's a completely unrelated robbery that just happened to pick up a swathe of your materials. Two: there is a far more complex conspiracy afoot than anyone has yet uncovered and it all ties together in some hideous fashion. Three: you've got an opportunist out there who knows that most of the MLE and half the Unspeakables are tied up with the Barrier case and is taking advantage."

"I like three," says Draco.

"It's where I'd put my money. Now, the question is: did this opportunist have some prior knowledge, or were they able to put the whole thing together in 48 hours?"

"You could pull together a blag like that quickly, but it would be better to have more time."

Ron grins. "Listen to him. 'Blag'. Bless, you Malfoy, you're so easy to corrupt."

"Be taught by experts, Weasley, not corrupt. And if you're right, we should be starting our search with connections of the Barrier set. Someone who will have known when to swing their own plan into action."

Ron frowns a little as he thinks. "Do we have all of them, yet? Every time you or Harry comes in, it seems the list has grown."

Draco nods. "From what the lads have pulled together out of that ridiculous paper trail, I think we're still looking for where the money starts, but all of the actual actors in the plot seem to have been hauled in. The Aurors and Legal are well into questioning our lot, I'm told the Muggles are at the same point."

"Good, one less thing to worry about."

"You should be worrying about getting well," says Hermione, who has left Helene with Scorpius and quietly joined them.

Ron reaches out and takes her hand. "I'm not going anywhere – obviously – but I would like a chance to put my brain to use."

She kisses the top of his head. "How could I refuse that?"

Ron pulls her down into his lap, despite the awkward angle the chair forces. "No question as to what brain? I must have really worried you."

"You did," she says, almost playfully enough to cover up the truth of it. "I worry about you constantly. But someone has to keep the world in check, and you have Harry and Malfoy to keep you in reasonable shape."

"I have an entire department," Ron corrects her. "They're just slower than those two. I blame their training."

Draco blames their training, too. The war kept them all on edge for years, shouldering adult responsibilities when they should have been children. These two had been caught up in Harry's plans to first save, then rebuild the world, while he, he had spent years rebuilding himself before Harry's plans caught him, too. None of them came out of school exactly normal. Luna travels the world looking for wonders, Neville travels the bedrooms of a generation of witches and Hannah travels her own strange path.

That these two should be able to sit here, smiling at each other, still filled with affection after so very long is nothing short of miraculous.

"Draco?" Ron is looking at him. "You've gone to the vague place, mate."

"Sorry. Was wondering about the case."

"Ah," says Ron.

"It's the Muggle involvement. It still doesn't make sense to me. Why bring them in?"

"More money?" Ron guesses. "It's a lot easier to scare up a large amount of financing from Muggle banks than from Gringotts."

"Better reason than any I've come up with," Draco admits. "I think I'll be happier when there's an established link. Fawcett's liaising with the Muggle coppers today while they do their interviews. Fingers crossed something will come up out of his report."

"I'm sure it will," Hermione says.

"I just keep thinking I've forgotten something …"

Ron laughs. "You're developing case brain: that feeling that you almost have the whole picture and just need to make sense of one last piece."

"Yes!"

"I'm cutting you off. Lunch with your own department. We need your brain to be inventor brain, there are more than enough Aurors already!"

Draco pulls a face, but Ron is right. He has spent all week trying to solve mysteries, and devoted not a moment to any of his actual research. Which reminds him … "Did Harry tell you I had an idea about a stasis spell thanks to you?"

They bounce ideas back and forward until Ron is claimed by his children and parents. Hermione and Draco take a turn on the chamomile bench while Helene is escorted on a loop of the garden by Scorpius and the Potters.

"He looks well," Draco says.

"He is, every day he's stronger." She keeps half an eye on her husband the whole time they talk.

"You look more rested today."

Hermione smiles at that. "I am. I had a lovely lunch out with Helene and she made me laugh the whole time. Thank you for insisting she come."

"She wanted to anyway, she was just nervous. Hospitals aren't her favourite places."

"They're not anyone's," Hermione agrees. "But if we're lucky, they're going to let Ron out tomorrow. Which brings me to a tiny favour. I hate to ask, but you're on holiday, and everyone else seems so busy. Would you be able to pop by the house in the morning and just check that we're good for groceries, general tidiness so we can get the chair through places for the next few weeks, and all that sort of thing?"

A long moment passes.

"Draco?" Hermione turns her gaze away from her husband. "Is that all right?"

"Yes, of course, happy to help." He has his face well under control before she sees it. She need never know that her favour is a gift. This is what Harry cannot understand, Draco thinks, the preciousness of such a gift, and that it cannot be risked, not for anything. No matter how desirable the temptation.

"You're miles away," Hermione teases him. "Thinking about the case again?"

"Thinking about twists and turns," Draco agrees.

"It must be coming together, you have such a smile on your face."

It is coming together, Draco thinks. And he is even beginning to have a few thoughts on the case.


***************************


Friday morning sees Draco stop dead halfway through the kitchen door due to an unexpected Harry Potter at the table inside.

"Morning," says Harry. "I'd half-planned to head home last night, and was just going to pick up my things, but by the time I had had a wine or two with your ex-wife, and a cup of tea with your mother, and some of Lily's pot of hot chocolate, it was too late to bother going home."

"That's fine," says Draco, making it all the way inside. "You're welcome to stay for as long as you like."

He turns to the countertop as the grin spreads across Harry's face. The kitchen is more notably clean than it had been the day before, as though the house-elves have given it a thorough scrubbing. This has happened before. "Did Scorpius try to cook something?"

"Worse," says Harry. "Lily. Pancakes and dozens of them. It was like a Catholic holy day, but with more mess. Sorry about that. We did tidy things as best we could."

"I'm sorry I missed it."

"You got in late."

"Dinner with friends," says Draco, bringing his cup of tea to the table.

"Your monthly dinner with Goyle?"

"Sometimes, your Auror habits can be distinctly unappealing." Draco takes a sip of his tea before he goes on. "As it happens, yes. Pansy and Blaise were in town, too. They're well. Their little boy starts at Hogwarts this year."

"Oh." Harry returns to his breakfast, though Draco can see him biting back words.

It is appreciated. Draco may no longer be close to his old schoolmates, but they are a part of his life. And Greg needs the outside world to come to him if he is not to drift off altogether. Once a month, Draco brings the world into that too-lived-in house. And if he leaves out some of the names of the Aurors who appear in his adventures, it is a kindness, not an evasion. Greg does not deal well with change these days.

"Fawcett asked me to give you a copy of his report," says Harry, moving on. "I left it in your study."

"Excellent. I have a few things to get done this morning, but I'll read it over lunch."

"Ron said he was talking with you about the money."

Draco nods. "He thinks the Muggles were brought in for financing."

"Exactly," says Harry. "The house was in the name of Patrick Tanner, a senior broker. He's the one who put together the funds and made the investments in construction firms, as well as a few choice properties and insurance packages. He brought a lot of his clients into it, sold it as a high-percentage return."

"So he's our man?"

Harry shrugs. "He's denying things at the moment, says he was only operating on orders, but can't tell me who they came from."

"Imperiused?"

"Or lying. Won't know for a day or two. Some of your lads are running tests, you really need to come up with something faster there."

"I'll add it to the list."

Harry looks up brightly. "You have a list?"

"Of Auror requests? It's three feet long. You are by far the most annoying department in the Ministry."

"We thought you would appreciate the intellectual challenges. It's all to keep you interested in your work, really."

Draco throws a bread roll at Harry's head.

"That's better," says Harry. "Nothing says I care like airborne objects."

There are running feet in the hallway outside and Scorpius, Albus and James appear at the door, each claiming victory in the race.

Draco considers bustling them all into the breakfast room and summoning house-elves, but since the boys have already put together another pot of tea and begun toast preparations, he retakes his seat at the kitchen table instead. The house-elves can go off and polish something.

"We thought we might get a scratch Quidditch game up before we go to visit Uncle Ron," James says. "Three a side and Scorpius's mum said she'd ref if you're busy. No Snitch, just Catchers and Keepers."

"What are you going to use as hoops?" Draco asks, afraid he already knows the answer.

"I thought the yew topiaries in the Old Garden," says Scorpius.

Draco forces himself not to frown. "If you damage them, play is suspended immediately until you repair the tree. And I want a perfect repair, even if one of you has to call in Professor Longbottom."

"Yes, Mr Malfoy!" James promises. "Thanks!"

"And you'll need to start with Helene at least, I have an appointment this morning, but should be back by lunch."

"Mysteries?" Harry asks.

"Hermione asked me to check in on their place," Draco replies. "Everyone's been caught up at the hospital." He leaves out the possibility of Ron being released today, that's Weasley's good news to share.

"Off to water their flowers?" Harry smiles.

"Something like that," says Draco. But he smiles, too, because Harry can be taught.

The Granger-Weasley family home is easy to Apparate to. A former farm, it was made over by the previous owners into a sprawling family residence, and Ron and Hermione have kept up the tradition. Several fat ginger cats – Kneazles now Draco looks more closely – are littered about, basking in the bright sun and cheerfully ignoring him.

He pulls the key out of his pocket and goes to the back door – which is open. Draco puts the key away and pulls out his wand instead.

Chances are that it's a Weasley who's popped in to do a spot of tidying off his or her own bat, but then, Ron is one of the nation's leading Aurors. Still, operating on the theory that it is never good to stun the relatives of one's friends, Draco sings out a cheery hello.

"Hello?" a voice calls back, followed by footsteps. "Ah," says the voice from within the dark house. "Malfoy."

"I thought you were off doing something to puffins," Draco says as Ginny Weasley opens the door.

She pauses. "You make that sound tremendously wrong somehow. I got in last night. Thought I'd come around and make sure the house is ship-shape, then lie low until Ron wants me to see him."

"He's doing very well," Draco tells her.

"So they say. And what are you up to? Guarding my brother's demesne?" She points to the wand still in his hand.

Draco hurriedly stuffs it away. "Hermione asked me to pop in and make sure everything was fine here. But you're more than capable, I'll head off."

Ginny smiles at that. "Hermione asked, did she? Well, you'd best come in, then,"

"No, it's …"

"Malfoy, you're fine. I could do with a hand."

And though Ginny is shaking her head at him, she is also holding the door open, so Draco walks through and into a large family room, with an even larger kitchen off to the side.

There is a pervading sense of tidy clutter to the place. Piles of books are neatly stacked beside many of the chairs, strips of parchment and paper protruding at places the readers have marked in most. A basket of bright orange wool balls and what looks like the start of a scarf has been appropriated by one of the Kneazles, who is sleeping soundly around the knitting needles.

Draco feels the smile bloom across his face. He could drop the Granger-Weasleys into this scene with absolute accuracy, helped by the fact that Hugo has left his second-best broom and polishing kit draped across his chair.

Ginny looks about the room. "I thought that if we moved the books back onto the shelves, or even just one consolidated pile, then we could shift the furniture a little. Three feet should be ample for pathways."

Draco nods. "And if we turn this table, there'll be room for him to get through the door."

"Exactly." Ginny takes herself through the door and they begin to wander through the house.

"The hall is fine, plenty of space, even with all the shelves. I've already moved most of the spare brooms and kit out to the lumber room. I was thinking we could ensconce Ron and Hermione in the good spare room until he's able to do the stairs rather than see about tackling them in that bloody chair. No matter how good a floating charm we put on it, there's always the risk of gouging either wall or knee."

She opens up a door off the hallway and they step into a light, bright room that Ginny has obviously aired. There are bunches of blue and white flowers in the vases scattered about and a selection of books and Quidditch magazines on the bedside tables.

"This is lovely," says Draco. "It will be like holidaying, only downstairs."

Ginny laughs. "Yes, I was going for Cornish seaside. I did bring them some fluffy towels from my place …"

"Ah."

"You too?"

"My former wife insisted. Along with scented candles and some toiletry items. I don't want to know what she thinks they are planning for rehabilitation …"

"Malfoy!" Ginny's laughter is accompanied by head shaking this time. "Oh, that's horrible. I am going to get a start on clearing up the books."

"I'll check he can make it in and out of the bathroom and loo safely, I can widen the door a bit if needs be, and put in a rail. Then I'll come out and give you a hand."

"Good plan. See you shortly."

Draco sets about his work. The small bathroom off the guest room has a separate WC, which is simply hopeless, so Draco charms the dividing wall back against itself, leaving the loo in the corner of the bathroom. A rail along the folded wall, and another for getting in and out of the bath, plus a fractional widening of the doorway is enough. The basin was apparently left at its original low height – Draco can imagine a household full of basins at this level, with Hermione and Rose using them comfortably, and Ron and Hugo never complaining about the need to stoop.

Adding Helene's towels to Ginny's, and leaving the basket of suspiciously scented jars and bottles on one of the bedside tables, Draco does a quick lap of the rest of the ground floor. Hugo's bedroom is nearby, and it is hopeless, but Draco imagines Ron avoids it at the best of times. The large family bathroom is so very large that Draco can't imagine anyone crashing into anything there. The formal sitting room on one side of the front of the house, and less formal on the other, are both mostly fine, though he folds away a few of the more extreme rugs and tablecloths that could otherwise come to grief with a wheeled Ron. That leaves only the study and the library, and the rooms are near-mirrors: lined round with shelves and scattered with comfortable chairs. The only difference is the large desk in the former and the smaller writing tables in the latter. Draco adjusts a few chairs and considers his work finished, so goes in search of Ginny.

"Done?" she asks.

"There wasn't a lot to do. Can I give you a hand?"

"Grab Hugo's bits, would you. I'm nearly done with the books."

Draco packs away Hugo's broom polishing kit, and bundles it and the broom into a corner, where a pile of Quidditch gear is already neatly stacked.

"It's like cleaning up after the Harpies in here," Ginny grouses.

"I had no idea the team was so literate," Draco jokes before he can help himself.

To his relief, Ginny laughs. "Wasn't much else to do in the middle of training," she says. "Coach frowned on boys. Even Harry had a hard time getting in to see me before a big match."

Draco smiles at her. "I am sure he was the picture of patience."

"He disguised himself as Augusta Longbottom once."

Draco barks with laughter. The redoubtable Mrs Longbottom has been planning her centenary of late, despite it being a few years away, and caterers the length of England are considering careers in Dangerous Animal Training in a bid to escape her inquiries. He is not sure whether to hope she heard about Harry's escapade, or hope she never does.

"It would have worked," Ginny continues, "except Madam Marchbanks was visiting her granddaughter that day. Even she was playing along, but Harry panicked and fled, declaring he had an appointment to have his vulture re-stuffed."

Draco sits on the floor, holding his ribs, and trying very hard to breathe.

"There," says Ginny. "That's done. Shall we see if we need to bring anything in in the way of food or drink?"

"Give me a moment."

Ginny pauses to help Draco to his feet before continuing into the kitchen.

"I hear Hermione went to the Manor," she says, with her head in the pantry.

"Yes, she dropped the children off with Ron."

"We need more oranges. And got on very well with your mother."

Draco makes note about the fruit. "You have good sources."

"You need them in this family. Bread, bacon, some fish and eggs wouldn't hurt. Definitely sausages. Most of the veg are still good, but some little squash and tomatoes. Oh, and milk and cream. So … So falls the last bastion."

It takes Draco a moment to realise that the conversation has gone back a step. "Ah," he says. "Not quite the last."

Ginny smiles. "No, the last. I have been resigned to you for years, Malfoy. And anyway, your mother did save Harry, which to my mind cancels out your father trying to kill me."

Draco does not say anything.

"Should we have a cup of tea? It seems as though we ought."

"That would be lovely, thank you very much."

Ginny favours him with a smile. "Sit down, Malfoy, and stop looking so nervous. If I was going to hex you, I would have done it years ago."

"I seem to recall you did, at least once."

"Oh! So I did. Well that's taken care of, then. Milk? Sugar? Lemon?"

"Just lemon thanks."

"Here you are. So how are the boys?" She sits opposite him and blows gently over the lip of her cup to cool her tea.

"Albus and Scorpius?"

"Unless there's something you haven't told me about Hugo and James."

"James still with Rose, Hugo still looking hopefully at most girls. No, Albus and Scorpius are doing well. Disgustingly in love, but also still good friends. It's unnatural seeing such happy young people, but I suppose life is better when you grow up without constant civil war."

Ginny smiles wryly. "Regular near-death is not conducive to good mental health. Really, we're all masterpieces of coping."

"I've heard the boys say something similar."

Ginny clears her throat. "You know, I used to say such awful things to Harry about you. I know they weren't true. It was just so much easier than saying horrible things about the two of us."

Draco gives a measured answer, not sure how honest he should be. "It's all right. I know exactly how hard it can be facing the truth when things are going poorly. I let Helene blame everything on me, though if truth be told, that woman holds a grudge!"

"Well, she's French, of course you're at fault."

Draco laughs again. He had not expected Ginny Weasley would ever care about making him laugh.

"That and she could never be sure if you were going to cause an international incident."

"It has been years!"

"Another cup?"

Draco shakes his head. "I should go home, the kids have a scratch Quidditch game planned, and I promised I'd ref."

"Fair enough."

"Do you want them to come over to your place for the weekend?"

"I can wait till Monday. Rose and Hugo will want to spend a bit of time with their dad, so it's best that my lot be distracted at your place over the weekend. If you can keep quiet about me being back early, they won't be put out. Come on, I'll see you to the door."

"You're very kind."

"Not at all." Ginny pauses as she walks him through the back door. "Malfoy, thank you. It was kind of you to come and help, and you were very pleasant to work with."

"We're not going to be friends are we?" Draco asks carefully.

"Merlin no!" Ginny declares. "That would be wrong."

"I agree. But not enemies, either."

Ginny smiles. "I was thinking polite disdain, with occasional amicable periods, like this one."

Draco grins. "Perfectly judged. It was a pleasure spending time with you, Ginevra."

"Do call again, Draco."

And he is about to leave when he remembers there is something he always meant to tell her. "For what it's worth, I could always see why he chose you."

And she is clearly surprised, but she is a Weasley, so she gives an honest reply. "For what it's worth, we ran our course. Harry's ready to move on, and you could do a lot worse."

Draco can't reply to that. Instead, he panics. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Go ahead."

"You and Luna Lovegood … are you really …"

Ginny laughs merrily. "Of all the questions! Luna and I are just good friends. Travelling together has been enormous fun, and I've been able to help her with her work."

"Of course. Right. Well, see you."

She waits until Draco has taken a few steps before she adds: "The occasional sex is just a brilliant bonus."

After Draco has finished coughing, he turns an appraising eye on her. "I should have known. Lily had to get it from somewhere."


***************************


There are young people terrorising Draco's topiaries when he returns to the manor. So far the yews seem to be surviving, but it is a close-run thing.

Helene is allegedly refereeing, but is in fact sitting in a striped deckchair to one side of the garden, with a glass of Champagne in her hand. Occasionally she blows her whistle and makes vague hand gestures in an upward direction. Draco tells her that she is a terrible influence and takes the whistle.

James and Lily have Rose in goal, so even though Albus and Scorpius are wildly outflying them, the two boys are mostly being stopped before they can score. At the other end, despite the fact that Lily and James are giggling like four-year-olds, they have had more success thanks to Hugo being as attentive as a crup with fleas.

Draco calls 50-30 and Hugo throws the Quaffle back into play. Albus, thrilled to be out of keeping for once, snatches it from the air and performs a rather impressive roll to bring himself soaring down on Rose's goal from above, and is able to pitch through the top of the yew before she can shift position. Rose returns the Quaffle to play, but Lily fumbles the catch and Scorpius sneaks in a quick goal, levelling the scores, at which point Draco blows a decisive final whistle and calls them all down.

"Mr Malfoy!" James complains. "That's cheating! We're even. Give us another five minutes!"

Draco mentally concedes that he could have stopped the game before his son's goal, but chooses not to address the issue. "Sorry, it's closing in on lunch, we need to get you all cleaned up and ready for the hospital, I thought we could take in something nice for Ron and Hermione to eat."

General excitement greets the idea and Rose hurries ahead to ask the house-elves for her parents' favourites. In under a half hour, all six young people are ready to leave, and Helene has thrown on something stylish and is topping up the picnic basket with wine.

"An extra bottle for the Weasleys," she says with a smile.

"Make it two," Draco says, quietly. "I think they will have good news today."

At the hospital they are waved through impatiently by the Welcome Witch, who mutters something about being overrun by Weasleys – which Draco thinks is hardly fair. Ron's room does have its door open, and they can hear Percy and Bill laughing as they make their way down the corridor, there are at least three members of the family not in attendance.

"Good news!" Ron declares as his children traipse through the door to find him sitting, dressed, on the side of his bed. "They're letting me out!"

Rose and Hugo both leap onto the bed and into their father's arms, though Hugo quickly sits back and pretends he was only there to support his sister. Draco is close enough to see the genuine relief on the lad's face and is not fooled.

"Do you have time for lunch in the garden before you go?" Helene asks. "We've brought plenty, and it is all good."

Ron assures her they do, and he and Bill start questioning the menu, and praising Rose and Helene's choices. Draco takes a moment to whisper an update on the state of the house to Hermione, and she squeezes his hand in thanks.

Scorpius sees them and sidles in alongside his father as the group files out to the garden. "You knew!" he says.

"I hoped," Draco corrects him.

"But we were going to have a film night. Now Rose and Hugo will be off home, and James will sulk and Lily will be uncontrollable. Albus and I will have to spend all our time separating them. Can we invite some other friends round instead?"

Draco is never sure how 'some other friends' translates to a good dozen or more Hogwarts students, but that evening, after they have packed and escorted Rose and Hugo home and spent the afternoon shopping for snacks and treats, he finds the manor over-run with young people. Scorpius has filled the projector room with sofas and divans and has an old Basil Rathbone film flickering away. The Muggle images of nearly a century ago captivate the young people as they fall into the mystery, and Draco decides to leave them to it. If Lily is in the lap of that young man whose father is a musician and Albus is slipping his hand along the waistband of Scorpius's trousers, it is nothing that needs adult supervision. In fact, it's best not thought of.

Helene and Narcissa have taken possession of the conservatory and are gossiping about men, so Draco retreats to the kitchen and waits at the table browsing through the Prophet while a house-elf cooks a light supper for him. He is not surprised when Harry joins him, in fact, he has ordered supper for two on the expectation.

"I said stay as long as you like," he says as Harry drops into the seat opposite.

"I intend to take full advantage," Harry replies. "I'm saving a fortune on food, for a start."

The house-elf takes the opportunity to serve a plate of trout and salad, and conversation halts for a moment while it is consumed.

"That's delicious," Harry says after a few mouthfuls. The house-elf smiles cheerily in reply.

"Malfoy's Home for Hungry Potters," Draco says, trying out the shape of the words. "I think I need to work on it, but am reasonably sure I could register as a charity."

"I knew you'd finally see sense and ask me to move in. Oh, hello, Lester!"

Draco doesn't even bother to turn his head, it's inevitable that someone would be there.

"Hello, sirs," Lester replies. "Am I intruding?"

"No!" Draco assures him quickly. "Mr Potter was just speaking nonsense. Do come in. News?"

Lester joins them at the table and carefully avoids looking from one to the other. "Sebastien thinks he's onto something, and I think he might be onto something, too, but the problem is we can't prove it."

"So you want me to come in and have a look?" Harry asks.

Lester pauses for just a moment before replying, "Yes. And Mr Malfoy, too, if possible."

"Do you need us right now?" asks Draco.

"It can wait until you finish your meal," Lester says.

"And you came all the way to Wiltshire to tell us this," Draco says, with only a slightly raised eyebrow.

"Actually …" Lester is embarrassed. "Scorpius sent me an owl inviting me to film night. Seb's waiting back at the Ministry but said he had other things to do as long as you can be there before eight."

"Go, they're in the projector room watching ancient mysteries."

"Excellent!"

Draco waits until he can no longer hear Lester's quick footsteps before he allows himself to laugh.

"We forget he's still young," Harry says. "It was the same with me after the war, every now and then I would have to run off for a weekend and do something hopelessly irresponsible."

"It's hard to imagine Lester being irresponsible," Draco muses.

"Does he ever make you nervous?" Harry asks around bites of fish.

"Not at all, he's clearly after your job."

"Mine?" Harry pauses with a fork halfway to his mouth.

"Absolutely: I think he sees himself combining the Aurors and Legal properly so he can run both fully as head of MLE, though he'll wait until Hermione thinks about retirement or moving to the Wizengamot before deposing you. Your son will be Minister of Magic and mine Prime Minister, or it's possible I have that the wrong way round, and Fotherington will by then have made up his mind whether it will be easier for him to send me off or keep me around to do the things that don't interest him."

Harry is so startled he puts his cutlery down. "But they're all children."

"I give us ten years." Draco shrugs. "By then we'll be welcoming a quieter life. And besides, we can trust them all to get rid of us in a dignified fashion. There won't be whispering campaigns in the Prophet or poisons in the Butterbeer."

"And we can count on full pensions, as our lot are so mercenary about gifts."

"Exactly! Not such a dreadful fate, really. Come on, finish up and we'll go and set Fotherington free for his weekend."

The two of them make quick work of the rest of their meals and pause only briefly to let the younger set know they are heading into the Ministry and grab their work robes before heading off across the manor's garden to a convenient point for Disapparation.

Draco is about to comment that it's just as well Lester has no talent for evil when there is a sudden movement in the viburnum ahead of them. He goes to draw his wand and push Harry behind him, at exactly the same moment that Harry attempts to draw his wand while pushing Draco behind him. As a result, the two of them are tangled and pushing each other when Narcissa walks out from behind the tall bush with an armful of flowers.

"Don't let me disturb you two," she says, gliding back towards the house. "It's a lovely evening for it."

“I have had an epiphany,” says Draco, watching her go.

Harry watches with him. “Oh yes?”

“Yes. The masterminds behind all of this are my mother and our ex-wives. It is the only explanation for why the two of us are consistently being thrown into mortal peril – they're hoping my response will be to leap passionately onto you.”

Harry grins. “Usually you just try to knock me over. But I like the way they – and apparently you – think. There is only one flaw: the utter impossibility of them all working together.”

“Sadly true,” Draco agrees.

“Any other suspects?” Harry begins to walk again and Draco follows.

“Alas, that's it for my suggestions this evening. Do you have any?”

“I suggest snogging.”

Draco pokes out his tongue at Harry's back. “You always suggest snogging. Besides, we've established that's only for dire situations. Are we facing certain death?”

“No.”

“Then no snogging.”

Harry stops and turns about, grinning. “We could be facing unexpected certain death. Asteroids fall and lorries career out of control all the time.”

“I promise to Apparate you away to safety in time,” Draco says.

“You’re a good friend.”

"I am. Come on, we're expected."


***************************


Fotherington is busy working when they arrive at the Ministry. "Good evening, sirs," he calls out as they walk through the door to the Room of Futures. "Thank you for coming in."

"Not at all," Draco says, heading over to the table at which his employee sits. "Lester says you have a probable lead."

Fotherington nods enthusiastically. "I think so. You see, the problem with everything we've pieced together so far is that we couldn't find all the money. If you've looked at Fawcett's report you will have noticed that there is a sum of approximately £30 million missing when you add up all the investments and all of the accounts and purchases."

Draco nods. "I glanced at it this afternoon. But Fawcett wrote that Tanner hadn't told everything he knew."

"He's the one they think might have been Imperiused?" Harry asks.

Fotherington hands them identical parchment scrolls. "I'm fairly certain he has. Jonathan Lemberg, forty-five, I've copied a brief biography to the top of each report."

"Never heard of him," Harry mutters.

"You wouldn't have," says Fotherington. "He's a Squib. But Aquila and Galium Lemberg are his cousins."

The names are vaguely familiar to Draco, but Harry is nodding. "I've had Gallium in twice for illegal importation of restricted potions ingredients."

Draco is scanning the rest of the parchment. "Father a wizard, mother a Muggle. Raised a Muggle – Harrow School, Merton College, Oxford. Did very well in the City, made his first millions before he was twenty-five, more after, then lost the lot in the crash of '08. This company he worked for, Lehman, isn't that the same one Mr Tanner has on his résumé?"

"Yes, sir," says Fortherington. "He was a young employee when Lemberg was one of their ascendant stars. That's how we uncovered him, Fawcett gave me a full background of Tanner's connections and I extrapolated data from them; if you turn to the end of the parchment you will see that Mr Lemberg has recently seen a sizeable increase in his ready funds."

Draco furls the document to the columns of figures at the end, which represent Lemberg's financial worth through the decades. The figures reach a peak of nine figures in the early part of the century, dropping back suddenly to barely seven, then continuing to fall to the high fives, before making a recovery around 2015 and slowly improving, though to nowhere near the previous heights. Over the past three months some £30 million has significantly boosted the total.

"How did you pull all of this together?" he asks Fotherington, impressed.

"We were certain the money had to be Muggle, because we know most of the people with access to that sort of funding in the wizarding world and we could rule them all out due to lack of connection, or being, er, you. Fawcett had a warrant that allowed him to investigate the accounts of Tanner and his associates, so I designed a spell that would go through their accounts looking for patterns and assembling the information, with any recent increases of the amount of money we were looking for to be flagged: whether that was in one place or spread across several individuals."

Harry is frowning, keeping track of Fotherington's explanation. "But you'd need bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, purchases of jewellery, art or other valuables …"

"Yes, I had to pull in everything from Sotheby's to some very tricky Swiss institutions, and it was almost impossible to get through their encryptions, but then I thought that I could—"

"Wait a moment," Harry interrupts. "You hacked into Swiss bank accounts?"

Fotherington is taken aback. "Of course not, sir. I set up a spell to record incomings and outgoings over the past twenty-four months. I didn't touch the accounts themselves!"

Harry opens his mouth, and then closes it. Draco pats his arm absently. Fotherington appears to be incorruptible, and that will just have to serve in place of being actually within the law. Harry will come to accept it, as the rest of them have. Far easier to keep him busy in ways that will limit the likelihood of his accidentally seizing control of the global economy.

"The problem, of course, is that it's currently all circumstantial," Fotherington goes on. "The money has been routed through so many companies and investments and 'financial products' in the last few months that it will take me days if not weeks to sort it all out. I don't have anything that links him physically to the crime."

"Good work, though," says Harry. "We can set a watch on him and wait until he slips up or you make a connection."

Fotherington mutters that it was nothing, but is clearly pleased.

Draco is scanning the parchment again. "I'm missing something," he says. "There's something I was meant to … Ah."

He flings the scroll out onto the table and jabs his finger down at a paragraph.

"Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Management?" reads Harry. "Honestly, Draco, you can't fault a man simply for being a merchant banker."

Draco pauses. Harry is wearing the look that tells him he is missing a particularly Mugglish joke, but there is no time for that now. "Keep reading," he says.

Harry reads out loud: "Fined for public drunkenness and causing affray at a public house near Oxford, publican spoke on his behalf before the magistrate and said that the young gentleman had already settled all damages handsomely and that it was less a matter of criminal responsibility and more a matter of Bullingdon Club hijinks, no conviction recorded."

Draco is rummaging through his pockets. He pulls out a handful of shiny objects that have become caught up in some wires and cords. Carefully, he ferrets one out of the mess. "Keep meaning to sort this lot out," he mutters. "Here we go."

It is a small silver trinket. "Lester delivered this on Wednesday night, said you found it at the house on Bell Road. I've been meaning to get onto it ever since, but kept forgetting. See, BC."

He points to the etched letters and Fotherington and Harry peer down, nodding.

"May I, sir?" Fotherington asks, holding out his hand.

Draco hands it to him and then follows as he bounds off to the warded corner of the room. There are several small computers there, Fotherington taps one and then starts scrolling for the information he seeks. Soon, a symbol is displayed in the light above the screen and Fotherington holds the little shield up beside it.

"It's so worn, you'd never make it out from what's left, but if you compare it here, then this mark could well be a horse's head, and then over here these lines the stumps and flagpole upright. That definitely looks like the flag. It's all worn in a stripe across, as though someone rubbed it out."

"If you had a habit of holding it and rubbing your thumb over it …" Harry says, taking the item from Fotherington. "Say if you wore it as a fob medal on a watch chain – some Muggles still wear them, mostly as an affectation – or maybe with some worry beads of something equally silly, if the hole is where it was attached to the chain or beads, then you'd rub out all the bits that seem to be gone. And that would explain how it got to the gutter, he could have lost it climbing out the window. We can scan this for traces of people who have held it, and that will tie him to the scene."

Fotherington is nodding, and Draco is inclined to agree, except … "I would pay someone to do it for me," he says. "Why risk yourself setting explosives? In fact, since he's obviously involved his cousins at some point – and that's if he's our man, which is still an if – why not just have them set the whole lot magically and safely?"

"I don't know, sir."

"It's a mess," says Harry. "This whole case reads like a series of different crimes, cobbled together inexpertly. If he is behind it, I'm not surprised he lost all his money, only that he made any back."

"So what do we do?" Draco asks him.

"We go and talk to him. And Fotherington goes home and does young people things."

"Do we have reasonable cause to talk to him? He is a Muggle, after all."

"No, he's a Squib. He knows about us. It's a friendly chat."

Draco considers it for a moment. He knows that if Lester were here, he would have something to say, but really, it's one Squib, and Harry is both impatient and Harry, so it's not as though they can get into any trouble. "All right. Fotherington, are you seeing your young lady tonight?"

"Not tonight, sir, I'm taking Alice out tomorrow."

"Off you go home, then, and clean the place up. Fresh sheets on the bed, something nice in the kitchen. A bowl of fruit looks decorative and healthy, while still being manly. Not to presume you'll get lucky, but it can't hurt to be prepared."

Fotherington is blinking at him in horror, so Draco leaves off teasing him and holds up his copy of the Lemberg parchment instead. "This was good work. You've been slaving away all week, go home."

Fotherington smiles at that. "Thank you sir. See you Monday."

"See you Monday."

Draco lets him leave before he turns to Harry. "So. It's seven forty-five on a Friday evening. He could well be out to the theatre."

Harry looks down at the address on his scroll. "He's in Essex, more or less on the way back to your place, so it won't be any effort to go and see."

"Obviously we're going, but do you think we ought to have an excuse?"

Harry grins. "We're both terribly pretty and we thought he deserved a look?"

Draco punches him in the arm and they walk out of the Ministry together before Apparating to Essex.


***************************

Part 3c(ii)
 
 
Current Location: sofa
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: Mika
 
 
 
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on July 14th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
I think I like Fotherington rather a lot.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 15th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
He is half-hoping everyone will catch up to him at some point ;-)
being_herebeing_here on July 14th, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
Oh bliss! I love this story!

Asteroids fall and lorries career out of control all the time.

You're also a bad lady!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 15th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
I couldn't help myself!
Loyaulte Me Lie: stabilisersshocolate on July 14th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
She kisses the top of his head. "How could I refuse that?"

Am I the only person reading for your awesome Ron??

He goes to draw his wand and push Harry behind him, at exactly the same moment that Harry attempts to draw his wand while pushing Draco behind him. As a result, the two of them are tangled and pushing each other when Narcissa walks out from behind the tall bush with an armful of flowers.

Seriously awesome image.

Bullingdon Club hijinks

Dammint - now I am going to have to use my Cameron icon!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 15th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
Yes, you probably are, but since I love him nearly as much as you do, this is no hardship and I am only glad that he has another firm friend in the readership!

And I am so pleased you liked that image: can you imagine either of them giving way in being the Protector? Neither could I ;-)

Am I the only person who longs for a Cameron/Johnson bike race? My money would be on Boris.
(Deleted comment)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 15th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
Oh of course it does. I'm ahead of breath mints, but behind good vanilla ice cream ;-)
(Deleted comment)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 15th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
Obviously not ahead of mint tea or good chocolate-coated mint, but I would hope ahead of the cheap sweets one keeps in one's bag! I would give up at least as much for you ... *Sighs forlornly* *Has been reading too many dragon novels* *And will answer in other thread more fully at some point but, no those books contain no bestiality, and yes the man and the dragon love each other very much in a way that is more romantic than a romance* *Goes to bed*
This Girlthisgirl_is on July 14th, 2010 11:56 pm (UTC)
Glorious, glorious Brammers fic! \o/
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 15th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you, dear!
Meredyth: Slytherinmeredyth_13 on July 15th, 2010 02:53 am (UTC)
Oh, thank lordy! You should know that I've been making emergency conspiracy plans to get more of this written. Don't think I've shelved them entirely, but I'm off to read now and see whether I need to send out the alert signal to the sleeper cell. :D



ps. I really REALLY needed a fix of something wonderful this week. Thank you.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 15th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
You are more than welcome! Put the dogs away, I am working at the end!
Lisbet Karlsdottirlisbet on July 15th, 2010 03:41 am (UTC)
I love this storyline!:D
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 15th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I do like having these characters in my head, too!
Dedicated Escape Artistjadzialove on July 15th, 2010 04:17 am (UTC)
Wait, what? Did I miss an email?? I'm so sorry if I did!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 15th, 2010 09:25 am (UTC)
No not at all! It was ME being tardy! Which is my gift! (Er, it may be that Treacle got the last bit at 11pm on the night of my LJversary ... which I consider only fair given her daughter vomited on me once!)
jolinar_rosha: prettiest one herejolinar_rosha on August 9th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
Friday morning sees Draco stop dead halfway through the kitchen door due to an unexpected Harry Potter at the table inside.

Laughed my head off. :D

As usual,loved all the little moments between characters - and Hermiony asking Draco to check out her house made me squee and wanna hug the both of them.

And I also can't wait to see what the whole mystery is all about; the more complex it gets, the more it makes me chomping at the bit.
And I can't read part cii now, which makes me wanna tear my hair out. aaargh.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 26th, 2010 07:50 am (UTC)
Those tricksy people appearing at breakfast can be a shock! And more apologies for my tardiness in replying, but thank you very much!