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10 January 2009 @ 11:56 pm
For the Public Good, part 2  


Malfoy appeared just before lunchtime the next day, just as Harry was strapping on an ankle holster.

‘You could just ask me to leave,’ he joked.

Harry ignored the attempt at humour. ‘Sorry, Colin’s off sick, so I’m with Mike on post-PMQs. I’m wondering if it’s overkill to take pepper spray?’

‘Ooh,’ Malfoy sympathised. ‘Tough luck. They tried to rope me into that one for media management, I claimed an allergy.’

‘Anyway, I can’t do lunch, sorry.’

‘Not at all, I was actually going to ask if the delightful Emily was available.’

‘She is!’ Em sang out cheerily. ‘And she has two hours before she needs to be back, so it can be somewhere expensive!’

Harry shook his head at the betrayal. He turned to Malfoy. ‘You behave,’ he warned.

‘I shall be a model of decorum. She will have no desire to shoot me, and will end the meal speaking highly of my courtesy,’ Malfoy assured him.

Emily laughed. ‘No need to be completely perfect. A spot of goss, secrets from Harry’s dim dark past, game of footsie under the table, all perfectly within the boundaries of a successful lunch.’

‘I may be in love,’ Malfoy assured Harry.

He left with Emily on his arm, and Harry couldn’t resist calling after them that revelations of dim dark pasts could work both ways. He took Malfoy’s extended middle finger as a token of farewell.

Harry met up with Mike at the gun locker, where they both deposited their weapons before heading into the House proper towards the Commons chamber. They fell into step with each other, Mike smiling reassuringly at Harry. ‘Don’t let it worry you. I imagine you’ve faced more terrifying things than a gaggle of journalists.’

‘Yes, but you make this lot sound almost as bad,’ Harry confessed.

‘If things look grim, one of the uniforms usually ducks out and phones through a hot story from somewhere else in the city,’ Mike confessed. ‘And if worse comes to worst, I have pepper spray.’

‘I nearly brought some,’ Harry confessed.

‘You’re a natural at this job,’ Mike congratulated him.

They were outside the doors with minutes to spare. Two of the Palace of Westminster Division officers were stationed there, and Mike took the opportunity to introduce Harry.

‘He’s new, so if he comes running back this way in ten minutes, it’s just because he hasn’t had met the full parliamentary press gallery before. Hide him until I can collect him.’

Constable Peters and Sergeant Rae agreed they would, and Harry was pleased that he was welcomed enough to be patronised.

‘Did the PM have a good day at the Dispatch Box?’ Mike asked.

‘There was a certain air of “please let this be over with so I can go on holidays”,’ Sergeant Rae admitted. ‘And they’re winding up. Here they come.’

The officers of the house escorted the PM to the door, where he was handed over to Mike and Harry. They fell into step beside him, eyes peeled as they strode through the halls. The PM tapped his foot as Harry and Mike retrieved their weapons, but smiled, to show it wasn’t directed at them.

The actual doorstop was fairly painless; three questions on Iraq, one on the leader of the Opposition and when the PM felt he was likely to retire, one on the PM’s holiday and one on the inquest into the shooting of the innocent Brazilian. The PM handled them all smoothly, then walked to his car, Mike climbed in after him, Harry had run to the other side and took the rear reverse seat opposite them.

‘That went well, I think,’ said the PM.

‘Yes, sir,’ Harry and Mike agreed.

‘So, Mike, how is young Harry settling in? He did well yesterday, I thought.’

‘Yes, sir. Quite well.’

‘That was baffling weather. Still, global warming and all. I hear that you’re staying behind to protect Prescott, Harry, is that right?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Don’t let his sentences confuse you. Pick out the subject and the verb, then just rearrange the rest to fit.’ The PM appended a broad grin to show this was a joke.

‘Yes, sir, have a good holiday,’ Harry replied.

‘Relax, Harry, I’m sure you’ll do a splendid job, I’ll be thinking of you while I am snorkelling.’ The PM appeared to play that sentence back in his head, and added, ‘Though not in any dubious fashion. Strictly a professional concern.’

‘Yes, sir,’ Harry replied with a smile.

The rest of the ride back to Number 10 passed uneventfully, it wasn’t until they were inside the residence and listening to the PM’s wife calling out a welcome that Harry realised it was going to be one of those days. There was a cloud of fairies flitting up and down the staircase.

At the base, beside the newel post, Leo, the youngest Blair child, was watching in quiet fascination.

The PM stood still and calm. ‘Are they dangerous?’

‘No,’ Harry assured him. ‘Just annoying. They’re like butterflies with slightly more brains.’

‘Try not to upset Leo, would you, Cherie need never know.’

Harry nodded, and moved to the step beside the child. ‘Hi Leo. My name’s Harry and I have to take these fairies home to the woods. Do you want to help me?’

Leo nodded enthusiastically.

‘Right. Well, do you have a water pistol?’

Leo looked between Harry and his father. The PM nodded. ‘I do,’ Leo confided. ‘But don’t tell Mummy, because she doesn’t like guns.’

‘Right. Well, I have a very special gun that’s like a water pistol, except instead of spraying water, it sprays sleep. Do you want to see it?’

Leo nodded cheerfully, quite convinced this may be the best day ever. Following Harry’s instructions, he put his hand on the gun beside Harry’s own, and followed the movements of the disguised wand as Harry put the fairies into a bewitched sleep.

The boy laughed as the small, bright creatures all fluttered slowly to the floor and began to snore gently on the steps. ‘I thought they weren’t true,’ he told Harry. ‘But they are!’

‘They are,’ Harry agreed. ‘But you must keep it very quiet because they’re meant to live in the woods and there aren’t many of them. If everyone knew, they might be endangered.’

‘Like tigers,’ Leo nodded sagely.

‘Exactly.’ Harry took off his jacket and fashioned it into a bag. ‘Want to help me collect them all? I’ll make sure they go home where they belong.’

Leo, Mike, Harry and the PM all scooped up the snoring fairies, and deposited them gently in Harry’s suit jacket.

‘Are you going to make him forget?’ Mike whispered.

Harry shook his head. ‘I don’t like Obliviating children, and people put down anything odd they say to imagination, anyway.’

‘Good.’

With the last of the fairies collected, Harry thanked Leo for his help and carefully lifted the bundled jacket.

‘You should probably deal with that now,’ the PM told him.

‘I agree.’

‘Report when you get back,’ Mike ordered. ‘I want to know how they made it in here. I’m assuming they don’t frequently take up residence in buildings.’

‘Sometimes, at Christmas, if you promise them whisky and honey,’ Harry explained in the interests of honesty. ‘But not generally.’

‘So this was a security breach. That’s two in two days. One of your lot is up to something and I want some answers.’

‘Me too,’ Harry sighed.

The PM scooped up his son and began to climb the stairs. ‘Goodbye, Harry!’ Leo called over his father’s shoulder. ‘Goodbye fairies!’

Harry waited until they and Mike had climbed the stairs before he Apparated away. A half-hour later, as he roused the last of the fairies and sent it into the woods near Ottery St Catchpole, he wished, not for the first time, that Ron and Hermione were not on holiday. His quick Floo call with Kingsley had not set his mind at ease.

‘Who in their right mind sends fairies as a political statement?’ he asked the nearest tree.

If it had an opinion, it kept it in.

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

Emily was still at lunch with Malfoy when Harry made it back to the office, so he went straight to Mike’s to report. Colin, who shared the office, was on holiday duty, with Karen, Shanti and six others, so there was no reason to talk in code.

‘Has one of your lot gone mad, or is this some sort of campaign?’ Mike asked.

‘Not sure yet,’ Harry admitted. ‘If it’s a campaign, it’s by one of our less frightening members.’

‘You’re just assuming that because it’s been low-key so far,’ Mike interrupted.

‘No.’ Harry sighed. ‘We’re not good at subtle. If this was someone who wanted people dead, they’d be dead by now. He or she just wants us noticed. From our perspective, that’s a disaster, from your perspective, it’s a manageable situation provided you have some useful cover stories in place to explain mass hallucinations.’

‘Do you have people investigating?’

‘Yes. Kingsley has a team on it, and Malfoy and I are keeping our eyes out, too’

‘Report to me when you have details, then.’

Emily was just sitting down when Harry returned to their office. ‘Do not speak to me for at least five minutes, my tongue is still too happy for work,’ she declared.

Harry raised an eyebrow in surprise.

‘Food, you pervert!’ she declared. ‘Delicious, lovely, yummy food, with only the tiniest amount to drink because I am responsible.’ She closed her eyes and smiled for a moment. ‘Though I suspect that they put something addictive in the desserts.’

‘So you had a good time?’

‘An excellent time. He spoke very highly of you, by the way. Said that he was beastly to you at school, but when he and his family were in awful trouble, you went to enormous lengths to help them out.’

Harry fell the last few inches into his chair. He had received two politely worded notes from Malfoy, the first straight after the war in thanks for saving his life, the second some months later in thanks for the return of his wand and Harry’s testimony that his family had been largely coerced in their involvement. He’d never imagined that Malfoy still thought about it.

‘Was it tax evasion?’ Emily was asking somewhere in the distance.

Harry roused himself. ‘Not at liberty to discuss,’ he replied, with a smile.

‘From the way he was describing it, sounded as though Russian gangsters were holding them all hostage. That’s it, isn’t it? Something like that?’

‘Something like that.’

‘Anyway, he’s definitely gay, not a single attempt on my virtue, and he complimented me on my shoes. Still! Someone to go shopping with! I shall ingratiate myself to the point where he buys me a pair of Louboutins for Christmas.’

‘Maybe he just liked you as a friend,’ Harry suggested.

Emily gave him a look of dark meaning. ‘I don’t think I’m his type at all,’ she assured. ‘Which is fine, god knows I’d be insane to start sleeping with people from Whitehall; it’s not as though I’m a minister.’

‘Good point, you should find yourself a handsome shoe designer.’

‘Or chef!’

‘Or massage therapist!’

‘Or quiet billionaire!’

‘All good options,’ Harry agreed.

‘I just want someone devastatingly handsome, smart, funny and not completely evil,’ Emily sighed.

Harry nodded. ‘Don’t we all?’

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

Surprisingly, nothing went wrong for the next eighteen hours. Emily was rostered on for one of the early shifts with Prescott, leaving Harry alone in the office, which was a perfect opportunity to read through The Daily Prophet and see if there were any clues worth following.

He was down to the Quidditch results when he heard the hurried footsteps outside the door. Stuffing in the paper into a drawer, Harry watched as the handle turned quietly and the door opened. Malfoy slipped panickedly into the office and shut the door firmly but silently behind himself.

‘What’s wrong?’ Harry asked, reaching for his wand.

‘He who must not be named!’ Draco whispered.

‘Voldemort?’ Harry was frankly sceptical.

Draco rolled his eyes. ‘Nearly. Peter Mandelson.’

Harry opened his drawer to retrieve the Prophet, trying very hard not to smile. ‘Why’s he after you?’

He didn’t look up as Draco flumphed into the cushioned visitor’s chair on the other side of the desk.

‘Please,’ said a smug drawl. ‘Even you can’t deny that I scrub up well.’

Harry glanced up with mild surprise. ‘No, I suppose not. So, why are you hiding? Wouldn’t he be useful in climbing the political ladder around here?’

‘Mandy?!’ Draco sputtered. ‘Merlin, no, they hate him! And besides, he’s old. I can’t see myself taking up toyboydom for this job, but if I had to, it wouldn’t be with a geriatric.’

Harry tapped a few keys on his desktop computer. ‘He’s only fifty-one,’ he announced after a few seconds’ search.

‘Potter!’ Malfoy protested. ‘There are limits to my commitment to the cause. Besides, that’s more than twice my age. If I have to schmooze for information, it should be with attractive people, such as the lovely Emily. Anyway, Prezzers hates Mandy.’

‘Prezzers?’

‘JP, the acting PM. And since he only barely tolerates me, I should side with him in the hating Mandy stakes, for now at least.’

‘You’ve met him?’

‘Prezza? Of course. He’s always popping into Communications, which is ironic, I know.’

‘What’s he like?’

‘Big, growly, and an incredible chip on his shoulder about his upbringing. The two of you should get on really well, actually.’

‘Did he have an evil genius trying to kill him throughout his formative years?’ Harry asked wearily.

‘No.’ Malfoy thought for a moment, then added, ‘He failed his Eleven Plus exams, but it’s not really in the same category.’

Crisp footsteps came closer outside. ‘Merlin’s balls, it’s Mandy!’ Malfoy exclaimed and leapt from his chair to run around the other side of Harry’s desk, which he promptly ducked under.

‘Get up, you idiot, it’s just one of the uniforms walking by.’

‘Sssshhhh!’

The door opened again, and a tall, well-dressed man popped his head in. ‘Hello,’ he greeted Harry with expensive vowels. ‘Just looking for someone. You alone in here?’

‘Utterly.’

‘Thought I heard you talking to someone.’

Harry began to sense that Malfoy had been right to flee. ‘Radio comms. Can I help you? Only this is a secure area and you really shouldn’t be unescorted.’

‘Oh no, that’s fine, I’ll keep looking.’

‘Not at all.’ Harry reached forward and pressed a buzzer on his desk.

A police constable appeared beside Mandelson. ‘Can I help you, sir?’ he asked Harry.

‘This gentleman has lost someone and is wandering about alone, could you escort him to a public area?’

‘That won’t be necessary, I’m a former member of the House,’ Mandelson explained patiently.

‘Do you have a visitor’s pass and security clearance?’ asked the constable.

‘I’m a European Commissioner, you’d think they’d brief you lot on us.’

The police constable nodded politely. ‘You would, sir, but I am afraid that as the rules stand I will have to escort you. We can look for your friend on the way. Was it a gentleman or lady that you were looking for, sir?’

And with a hand on Mandelson’s elbow, the Constable directed him away, closing the door behind them.

Harry became aware that Malfoy was tugging on his trouser leg. He pushed his chair back and looked down. A look of pious devotion was directed back at him. ‘I love you,’ Malfoy averred.

‘Get up, you idiot.’

Malfoy clambered to his feet and resumed his seat. ‘Seriously, I owe you. What about lunch tomorrow? And this time I’ll pay.’

‘Tomorrow’s Saturday, we’re not at work this weekend,’ Harry reminded him.

Malfoy shrugged. ‘I live in town these days, I thought you had a place here, too.’

‘How do you know I don’t have other plans?’

‘Because every date you’ve had since you broke up with the Weasley girl has been listed somewhere in the paper.’

‘Not all of them,’ Harry muttered. ‘Besides, I could be planning to go on a ramble, or have a game of Quidditch, or something else.’

‘Excellent. Nothing you can’t cancel, then. One o’clock? I can pick you up, you’re at Grimmauld Place, aren’t you?’

‘Do you ever do anything other than lunch? We do have a case to work on, two actually.’

‘And we will discuss them over lunch!’ Malfoy rose to his feet. ‘You always wanted me to learn about Muggle culture, Potter, you should be thrilled that I am embracing it.’

‘Thrilled,’ Harry echoed. ‘Come on, I’ll walk you out, I’m on the afternoon shift. And you owe Constable Rhys Jones a bottle of something decent.’

Malfoy had emailed his secretary and arranged for a bottle of decent whisky before the two of them separated. Harry would have hated him, but he was too busy planning to buy a phone that could email.

Harry was paired with Mike this time. The Acting PM’s schedule was a doddle compared to the normal workload: parliament, a few lunches with ministers, three or four public occasions over the next fortnight, and three diplomatic functions.

‘How’re you holding up?’ Mike asked him. ‘Still enjoying it all?’

‘Not what I’m used to,’ Harry confessed.

‘I welcomed all the paperwork when I got here,’ Mike laughed. ‘Made a nice change.’

The two of them met with the rest of Prescott’s security team and swapped positions with the bodyguards going off duty.

‘Easy day, he’s in a good mood,’ the older guard said in passing.

A few minutes later, the door they were standing outside burst open and a large, red-faced man followed by a flock of public servants stormed out.

‘They can pull their heads out of their arses for one minute and think about the working man, can’t they!’ he blustered, as the security detachment took their places around him. ‘Because not everyone in this country grew up with a silver spoon on his feet! It was bad enough when Thatcher pulled this sort of crap, but when we have a Labour government in power and young men are still joining the army because it’s the only way they can finish their schooling, it’s time we hung our heads in shame.’

Harry was astonished. He had thought Malfoy was speaking hyperbolically, but Prescott lived up to the warnings.

He trotted along with the group, scanning the ground ahead as he had been taught. They were halfway to the cars when the warning spell that he had renewed that morning gave an alarm.

In the air above the small yard where the drivers waited was a message picked out in fiery letters – ‘MAGIC IS REAL!’

The Acting PM took one look at it and shook his head. ‘This is what it’s come to. Half the nation living in slums with no decent schools, and some overprivileged twat with a laptop thinks this is an appropriate message to send to government. Well let me tell you, sunshine,’ he yelled to the general surrounds. ‘You’d be better off spending your time looking for ways to fix health and education in this country and making those fuckers in the City pay their taxes, or some hoodie is going to come along and whack you over the head for that computer. Clever stuff, though, I’ll grant you that!’

Mike raised an eyebrow at Harry, who shrugged his shoulders in reply. The message was already fading, and he couldn’t see where it had come from. There seemed no point in holding back, so he climbed into the car and peered from the windows as they drove away.

After dropping the Acting PM at his home, the two bodyguards took up positions outside. There was a period of comfortable silence before Mike leaned in Harry’s direction to attract his attention.

‘Your people just don’t have the hang of political protest, do they?’ he asked.

‘Not as such,’ sighed Harry.

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

Harry woke late the next morning, and spent his shower calmly contemplating the beauty of the summer day that he could see through the top half of his bathroom window. Then he remembered he was having lunch with Malfoy.

It wasn’t, he told himself as he dressed, as though he disliked Malfoy anymore. In fact, the man had gone out of his way to be pleasant over the last week. It was just that … Malfoy was a work person, and Saturday was a day for friends. But then, if Malfoy was taking him out for lunch on a Saturday, did it mean that he considered Harry a friend?

Or did he want something?

‘That’ll be it,’ Harry told himself.

‘What’s that?’ Kreacher asked from the doorway.

‘Just worked something out, Kreacher. I’m out to lunch with Draco Malfoy today, so no need for you to cook anything.’

‘Narcissa Black’s son? Horrible boy, used to pull Kreacher’s ears,’ the old house-elf grumbled.

‘That’s the one. He’s improved a bit with age.’

‘Harry will warn Kreacher if he brings the Malfoy home?’

‘Harry will,’ said Harry, pleased. The loss of ‘master’ had been his birthday wish this year, and a week later the honorific was still gone.

‘There is toast, yoghurt and juice if Harry would like some breakfast. And Harry was going to fix the moving picture box for Kreacher.’

‘Of course, I’ll do that first.’

Harry had bought a television after the war, and Kreacher had found it a diverting entertainment. Harry hadn’t the heart to tell him that it wasn’t a case of wizards aping Muggles. Every now and then the level of magic around the house caused the power to surge, Harry let Kreacher believe he had to re-do the spells, rather than click the circuit-breaker.

At about half past twelve, Harry suddenly rushed back up to his bedroom and changed his shirt to something more formal. Then he grabbed a jacket to match. Then, appalled at himself, he changed his new glasses for his old ones. At five to one, he changed them back.

Malfoy was waiting outside. ‘I was just about to give you a call.’

‘If I’d known you were running early, I’d have come out sooner,’ Harry said. ‘Where are we eating?’

‘A great little Thai place I’ve discovered. You’ll love it. You do eat Thai, don’t you?’

‘I’m surprised you do,’ Harry confessed.

‘Research, Potter, research! I’ve been studying Muggles for years!’ At Harry’s look, Malfoy shrugged. ‘Well, nearly a year, at any rate. Long enough to form some insights and develop some tastes.’

‘I know for a fact that you only learned how to order a cab last week,’ Harry told him.

‘Yes, but that’s not something that anyone thinks to cover in the theory,’ Malfoy explained. ‘It’s quite easy to miss. I was going to catch one here to show you how quickly I mastered the technique, but I’d rather Apparate if that’s all right by you.’

‘Too far to walk?’

‘Too hot.’ Malfoy took Harry’s elbow and led him into a dark corner of Grimmauld Place. ‘Hold on,’ he instructed.

Space shifted, and when Harry’s feet hit the ground again, it was in a chaotic part of the city smelling of spices and with loud street chatter banging on close by. He looked at Malfoy in surprise.

‘I told you, research.’

They emerged into a small street market, where a young man tried to sell them sunglasses, crossed the road and walked into an incense-filled fairytale of South-East Asia. Gold elephants and a mile of silk dressed the foyer, beyond which were rooms full of tables covered in beaten metal, with cushions instead of seats.

They were shown to their cushions by a dainty Thai girl, who advised them that the specials of the day included basil chilli duck and whole-baked salmon with green curry.

Malfoy sat cross-legged and indicated for Harry to take the cushion opposite.

‘It’s not exactly dignified, is it?’ Harry noted.

‘You were always on at me for being too concerned with ceremony,’ Malfoy pointed out. ‘I thought you’d like this sort of thing.’

‘Mostly I’m looking forward to watching you meet curry,’ Harry admitted.

‘I’m thinking the pad thai,’ Malfoy replied.

‘Coward.’

Harry said it lightly, but Malfoy’s face and shoulders tensed.

With an effort of will, he put a smile back on his face. ‘You can’t goad me into things anymore,’ he said pleasantly. ‘We’re not at school.’

‘Hang on.’ Harry was confused. ‘When have I ever goaded you into anything? You did all the goading as I recall.’

‘And I cannot be goaded into an angry debate, either,’ Malfoy stated, serenely.

‘I’m not angry,’ Harry protested. ‘I just want to know why you think I was the one doing all the goading when you were the one who actively made my life miserable.’

‘Oh, I think we both went some distance down that path,’ Malfoy replied, with just a hint of testiness. ‘You-Know-Who saw the Malfoys as easy prey once my father was in Azkaban.’

‘Your father tried to kill me,’ Harry pointed out as reasonably as he could.

‘He did not. Maim at worst.’

The waitress returned and forced a temporary cessation. They ordered a set of small dishes to share as starters, Harry chose the duck and Malfoy asked for a tofu in red curry. Then both of them cast spells to disguise their conversation to passers by.

‘Besides, you broke my nose!’ Harry whispered as reasonably as humanly possible.

‘You attempted to eviscerate me, I hardly think a broken nose compares.’

‘I had no idea that would happen. Anyway, you were about to Crucio me!’

‘Oh, I was saying it. It wouldn’t have worked, I was too upset.’

‘Right. This is officially the stupidest conversation I have ever had,’ Harry declared. ‘Tell me whatever it was that you wanted to, I’ll update you on the last couple of days, we can scoff the fish cakes and see if they’ll do the mains as take-away.’

Malfoy looked at him in disbelief. ‘You seriously think that the whole reason I asked you out to lunch was to pursue some form of agenda.’

‘Well, it’s not as if we’re friends.’

‘No,’ Malfoy’s voice was suddenly tired. ‘But I was trying to be friendly.’

‘Fuck.’ Harry dropped his head into his hands.

‘Language, Potter!’ Malfoy smiled weakly.

‘Harry?’

There, approaching their table, was Dudley Dursley, his still-impressive solidity covered in decent tailoring and waving a BlackBerry.

‘It is you!’ he grinned. ‘I’ve been trying to get hold of you for days! Wish you a happy birthday. How are things?’

‘Not too bad, Dudley. You?’ Harry’s voice was warm, but he didn’t invite Dudley to sit. He felt a certain measured affection for his cousin these days, too much to drag him into this meal at any rate.

‘Yeah, good. Just lunching with my broker, we’re doing well in the market, though I’m not sure I want to stay in: I see one more good year before America starts going under.’

‘What does that mean?’ Malfoy leaned forward, and seemed genuinely interested.

Dudley looked at him, startled. ‘Sorry, I’m interrupting. You’re that chap working with David Hill, aren’t you? Saw you in the paper. Good to meet you. Good to see you, Harry, I’ll be off.’

‘No, no,’ Malfoy patted a cushion at the table beside theirs. ‘Stay. I want to know why you think America will go under.’

Dudley laughed nervously. ‘Best not, the market might react “adversely” as they say.’

He turned back to Harry. ‘It’s good you’re meeting new people. Nice to see you out and about in the world. Give me a ring some time.’

Malfoy made vigorous pointing gestures behind Dudley’s back, and Harry gave in. ‘Sit down, Dudders, at least have a lassi or a coffee. Malfoy here will apparently die if he doesn’t have a chance to talk with you. And he’s not new, he’s from Hogwarts. In fact, you two would have had a lot in common in the past.’

Dudley pulled up a cushion and sniffed with self-deprecation. ‘What, you tortured him for years and then he saved your life?’

Malfoy gaped like a fish.

‘Oh.’ Dudley bit his lower lip. ‘Sorry. Jesus, Harry never mentioned you.’

Malfoy gaped like an affronted fish.

Harry couldn’t help smiling. ‘You’d have hated each other. Or exchanged tips. Draco Malfoy, this is my cousin, Dudley Dursley.’ He turned to the newcomer. ‘And yes, before you ask, we’re both out and about in the world because something is up.’

‘Like last time?’ Dudley asked, nervously.

Harry shook his head. ‘No, not the same level of thing. Someone’s trying to expose us to the world at large.’

‘Us?’

‘Witches and wizards.’

Dudley snorted. ‘Won’t work! Doomed to failure. Whoever it is has no idea what they’re doing.’

Harry was intrigued, but Malfoy was faster. ‘Why do you think that?’

‘Stands to reason, doesn’t it?’ he explained in patient tones. ‘When we were young, this one was always doing things that were just plain weird, but whenever I tried to tell anyone he was a freak, they’d start making up excuses for him. We make up excuses for anything weird. Sometime’s it’s actual science, and sometimes it’s just us not wanting to think about what it would mean if the excuse wasn’t true.’

Malfoy nodded. ‘That’s quite profound.’

‘Well, I didn’t come up with it,’ Dudley demurred. ‘It’s in books. I read it, and I thought it was a good explanation of things. And you can stop grinning, Harry, I can read, I just choose not to most of the time.’

‘I’m not grinning. Smiling in a sympathetic fashion, perhaps.’

‘Grinning.’ Dudley clambered up from the cushion. ‘It was good to see you, Harry, lovely to meet you, Draco, but I really have to be off. Besides, I’m interrupting. Go back to where you were before I lumbered in.’ He clapped Harry on the back and resumed his way out of the restaurant.

‘Nice fellow,’ Malfoy approved.

‘Now,’ Harry conceded.

‘I believe we were in the middle of a stoush,’ Malfoy reminded him. ‘But food’s here, so we should hold off resuming it.’

Trays of money bags, fish cakes and satay sticks appeared before them. They loaded up their plates and began to eat, each being sure to take less than half of each dish.

After a few minutes, Harry pushed his plate away and took a deep breath. ‘I’m sorry. You’re right, you’ve been nothing but friendly, helpful and professional, I’ve been impatient and judgemental, I apologise.’

Malfoy put down his satay stick. ‘I accept your apology,’ he replied. Then thought for a moment and added, ‘I’m sorry, too. And let’s not go into the list of why, it would take forever and make me look worse than I am.’

Harry laughed. ‘I accept your apology,’ he replied.

They resumed eating. After a few minutes, Harry added, ‘And you’re not that bad. You’ve improved with age.’

After a few minutes more, Malfoy conceded, ‘I haven’t wanted to break your nose for years.’

After Malfoy had made it through half the bowl of red curry and only had to resort to two yoghurt lassis to keep his mouth from exploding, Harry thought they might have actually bonded.

‘You know, we do have business to discuss,’ Harry admitted. He shared the details of the previous two incidents, Malfoy produced a clipping from one of the tabloids that declared: ‘Flying Man On Broom! Witnesses at Rolvenden’s Ewe & Lamb swear they were still sober when they saw a lad larking about above the treeline on Wednesday evening …’

‘He’s getting cocky, whoever he is,’ Malfoy muttered.

‘At least we know it’s a he.’

‘Or a witch who’s good at glamours, or Polyjuice, or flat-chested and with short hair. We’re no closer to running them down than we were at the beginning of the week. I thought you were a crack Auror! Are all investigations this drawn out and fruitless?’

Harry raised his hands helplessly. ‘Normally we have clues. Or at least obvious motivations. What do we have here? Someone who doesn’t like the Statute of Secrecy? About the only person I can leave out of the investigation is your father, he loves it.’

‘It’s true. Most of the purebloods do. It’s the Muggleborn and mixed families who have issues with it.’

‘Which means we’re only looking at about forty per cent of the population.’

‘Whoever it is, they’re relatively pleasant.’

‘I’ll remove the three homicidal lunatics from our sample.’

‘They’re really good at Charms.’

‘That’s actually helpful, save that we have no centralised listings of what witches and wizards are good at which magic.’

‘I find it unconscionable that a Ministry which kept tabs on the bloodlines of the population failed to keep track of something so basic. Hang on, that’s my phone.’

Harry picked at his duck while Malfoy took the call, then pushed his plate aside as he watched the expressions on Malfoy’s face.

‘What is it?’ he asked the moment the call ended.

‘Robin Cook is dead,’ Malfoy told him, genuinely shaken,

Harry knew the name but couldn’t place it.

‘The little bearded one,’ Malfoy reminded him. ‘The one with ethics. He spoke out against going to Iraq. He’s had a heart attack climbing a mountain. Dropped dead, they weren’t able to revive him.’

Harry frowned; Malfoy’s eyes were swimming. ‘Did you know him?’

‘I only met him twice. But he was decent. There aren’t many decent people in politics, in our world or the Muggle one. And it’s stupid. If he was one of ours we’d have been able to fix him.’

‘You don’t know that. Sometimes people just die.’

Malfoy sniffed, and used the opportunity afforded by a dismissive hand wave to wipe his eyes. ‘Really, Potter, when was the last time you heard of a witch or wizard dying of natural causes that weren’t extreme old age?’ He popped his phone in his pocket and motioned for the bill. ‘Anyway, I’ll have to go in. We need to have some words on the record and the bloody PM is on hols.’

‘Surely he’ll come back.’

‘Wouldn’t bet on it, they hated each other.’

‘Oh.’ Harry thought for a moment. ‘I’ll come with you.’

‘There’s no need.’

‘I haven’t anything else on. Besides, you look upset, I should Apparate us, or grab a cab.’

Malfoy pulled a set of notes from his wallet and left them on the table. ‘Up to you.’

Harry caught up to him as they walked towards the door. ‘Fine, then I’m coming.’

Malfoy didn’t acknowledge Harry, but fell into step beside him. They walked silently for a few minutes, until Malfoy stopped near a dark corner. ‘I should be at the office,’ he said.

Without a word, Harry took his arm and Apparated them to the one surveillance-free spot that Downing Street still had.

The news was only just breaking, journalists were arriving in cabs and waving at Malfoy as he walked inside.

‘Is it true?’ one shouted.

Malfoy quickened his pace. Harry swapped sides to shield him from the cameras.

Inside Number 12, it was chaos. Two men Harry did not recognise were crying, a young woman was making cups of tea, and David Hill was shouting that the only thing worse than the PM not coming home, was the PM coming home.

Malfoy squared his shoulders. ‘I need a typist,’ he called to the general assembly. Then he turned back to Harry. ‘I’d better …’

‘I’d better go,’ Harry agreed.

Malfoy nodded. ‘Thanks,’ he said.

‘Thanks for lunch.’

‘See you Monday?’

‘See you Monday.’

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

The office was a sombre place when Harry walked in early Monday morning.

‘Dreadful, isn’t it?’ Emily asked.

Harry agreed. ‘At least it was quick, he wouldn’t have felt it.’

‘His poor wife!’

Robin Cook’s wife Gaynor had been on the mountain with him and tried to revive him until the emergency helicopter arrived. Harry didn’t want to think about her sense of hopelessness too much, it was too familiar.

‘I was with Malfoy when we heard the news, he took it hard,’ Harry told her.

‘He would, Robin Cook wrote to him and congratulated him on Drool Britannia, he was telling me how proud he was of that letter when we had lunch.’

‘Oh, cock,’ muttered Harry.

‘Anyway, check your email, I bet you’re on funeral duty with me, so it’ll be off to Scotland.’

Harry fired up his computer. Sure enough, he was rostered to make the Edinburgh journey on Thursday afternoon, then on guard all through the ceremony on Friday.

‘It’s all right,’ Emily assured him. ‘Prezzers won’t be doing much more than standing around looking unhappy. And at least he’ll be sincere. It’s a mercy the PM’s not coming back, really, we’d have to look out for the congregation more than crowd.’

‘That’s depressing.’

Emily shrugged. ‘You ready for Monday morning briefing?’

The MP’s death had cast a pall over everyone, and with a third of their number away guarding the PM, it was a quiet meeting, quickly done with. On the way out, Mike tapped Harry’s shoulder.

‘Are you free today?’ he asked.

‘I’m not rostered on,’ Harry replied. ‘And there are no ongoing investigations current.’

‘Good. Do you think Mr Malfoy from Communications might be available?’ Mike’s tone was pointed.

‘Won’t he be busy today?’

‘Give me a moment.’ Mike pulled out his phone and punched in a series of numbers. ‘Colonel Michael Featherstonehaugh here, could I please speak with David Hill? Thank you. David? Mike. Can we borrow your Malfoy for the day? Terrific. We’ll send a car.’

He put the phone away. ‘He’s free now. I need the two of you to take a little trek down to Wiltshire. The local plods tell me there’s a giant arrow in the sky.’

‘An arrow?’

‘Pointing at a part of the county that apparently no one had noticed before this morning.’

‘Of course it is.’ Harry rubbed his forehead. ‘Has the arrow done anything?’

‘Just pointing.’ Mike clapped him on the shoulder. ‘Go and pick up Malfoy. You can take the BMW, it will get you there fastest of our fleet.’

‘Um …’

‘You have some secret way of getting about, don’t you?’

‘We may have.’

‘Does it involve brooms? Don’t tell me. Pick him up in the car and then do what you will, just sort this and report back to me.’

‘Will do.’

‘And Harry?’

‘Yes?’

‘Really brooms?’

Harry grinned and trotted off. The BMW was the team’s joke, as it was a large and completely unsubtle vehicle, useful only for speeding through streets in an impressive manner. It made the whole drama of obtaining a driver’s licence completely worthwhile.

Malfoy raised his sunglasses to peer into the tinted windows when Harry pulled up outside Number 12, and rolled his eyes when the passenger window rolled down.

‘I hope you don’t expect me to let you drive me anywhere?’

‘Islington, then we ditch the car and Apparate,’ Harry reassured him, reaching across and opening the door.

‘Where are we off to?’ Malfoy asked as he clambered in.

‘You have to promise to stay calm.’

‘Well, now of course I am starting to panic.’

‘Our friend has struck again in Wiltshire.’

Malfoy gripped the dashboard tightly. ‘Drive faster,’ he ordered.

Harry did.

They parked the car on Grimmauld Place, then Apparated to the top of the Malfoy’s driveway.

Harry looked up, Malfoy followed suit. A giant red arrow, seemingly made of smoke, pointed downwards.

‘I,’ Malfoy announced, ‘am going to commit homicide.’

‘We,’ Harry corrected, ‘are going to disperse that.’

They sent up wind spells, then walked away from the house in search of witnesses.

It didn’t take long to find someone from the nearby village with a video camera.

‘Did you see that?’ Harry called as they came up behind him.

‘Been filming it!’ he replied, brandishing his camera.

‘Bloody amazing. I hear it’s a test of a new type of flare.’

‘Really?’ the villager nodded in understanding. ‘That’s brilliant that is. What’ll they think of next?’

Harry and Malfoy kept walking. ‘Now what?’ Malfoy asked.

‘We Apparate a little way round the boundary of your place, find the next conveniently positioned gawper, and repeat the performance. I reckon five or six people ought to be enough to get the news out.’

Malfoy nodded. ‘It’s manipulative and dishonest. I like it. Give me a moment.’ He stopped and took out his phone, then punched a message into it. ‘Just told my mate on the Wiltshire Times that was not a military test and that the press office has no official comment, though if he is desperate for an angle, the safety of our round-the-world yachtsmen and women is a major priority for this government.’

‘Nice. Shall we?’

They found a further fifteen people in their next four stops, including six members of the local constabulary. Harry was very pleased with the flare excuse; it had the advantage of sounding plausible at the same time as allowing for a raft of military functions that would see people naturally divert their attentions away from this area.

Within a quarter hour the smoke had blown away and the skies were clear again. Harry smiled at a job well done.

Malfoy sighed. ‘I suppose I should go and check on my parents.’

‘Merlin, do we have to?’

‘No, we don’t. You can go back. I, on the other hand, will be throttled if they learn I was here and didn’t stop in.’

Harry shook his head. ‘Will they hex me on sight?’ he asked.

Malfoy looked at him, surprised. ‘I shouldn’t think so.’

‘Then let’s go.’ Harry started walking back towards the Malfoy driveway.

‘You don’t have to,’ Malfoy called from behind him.

‘No, but I feel I ought to.’

Malfoy caught up to him. ‘This is a gesture, isn’t it? Because you’re feeling badly about the other day.’

‘It’s nothing of the sort.’

‘It’s very nice. I appreciate it. Though if you’re going to come over all Gulf War Syndrome, you should stay outside.’

‘I am not going to come over all … Where did you learn that phrase anyway?’

‘I keep telling you, research!’

‘Anyway, I can’t imagine your parents are thrilled that you’re working for Muggles.’

‘Working with Muggles,’ Malfoy corrected. ‘And it’s for the greater good.’

‘So they’re not impressed.’

‘They pretend it isn’t happening.’

‘So I’ll be a diversion, then.’

‘Good point. Warn me if you start to come over all faint and I’ll whisk us back to town.’

‘I’ll try to vomit on you, rather than the carpet.’

‘Much appreciated.’

And then they were at the gate. The wrought iron rearranged itself into a face and began to ask the purpose of their visit.

‘Open or I’ll Apparate past you,’ Malfoy replied.

‘Welcome home, Master Draco,’ the gate replied.

‘It doesn’t sound happy to see you,’ Harry noted.

‘It’s never happy, it’s a gate,’ Malfoy pointed out.

Happy or not, the gate must have alerted the house. They were no more than halfway down the drive when Harry spotted the two elder Malfoys walking swiftly towards them.

‘Draco, darling! A visit! And you’ve brought a friend!’ declared Narcissa. ‘Oh, it’s Mr Potter,’ she added when she drew closer.

Harry and Narcissa regarded each other with the polite manner of two who had been instrumental in saving each other’s lives, but saw no reason for that to interrupt years of studied and mutual disdain.

Lucius, on the other hand, laughed when he saw who it was. ‘You go off to be the saviour of the Muggle world, and you bring back a role model. Was there ever a more diligent boy?’

‘Ignore him,’ Malfoy muttered. ‘He’s turned to sarcasm in his old age.’

‘Mrs Malfoy, Mr Malfoy, good to see you both,’ Harry greeted them with politeness.

‘And you’re here because?’ Narcissa asked.

‘We work together, Mother,’ Malfoy reminded her in tones that suggested they had been through this. ‘Mummy’s in denial,’ he told Harry archly. ‘But they’ll both feel a little silly when I tell them there’s been a big red arrow in the sky pointing at the Manor for the last hour.’

Narcissa and Lucius both looked up immediately.

‘We destroyed it,’ Malfoy declared with a roll of his eyes. ‘Obviously. Potter here is a crack Auror and I am not a complete nong, we’re not going to come sauntering down the driveway saying “Ooh, look! Mortal peril! Someone should do something about that.”’

Narcissa and Lucius frowned at Malfoy for a minute, before they recovered their poise.

‘I just can’t get used to you in those dreadful clothes,’ Narcissa sighed.

‘I hardly think we were in mortal peril, the wards have stood up to worse,’ Lucius clarified.

Malfoy fell a few steps behind them as they walked to the house, and walked beside Harry who was trying very hard not to laugh.

‘It’s nice to see they’re not actively evil anymore,’ Harry said, reassuringly.

‘Oh they are,’ Malfoy corrected. ‘They’ve just narrowed their focus.’

Harry noted that the Malfoys weren’t short of house-elves; two small denizens winked in and out of the sitting room they were shown to, depositing trays of sandwiches and pastries, and jugs of iced drinks.

Narcissa Malfoy served Harry a plateful and a glass of something lemony. ‘Quite safe,’ she smiled. ‘Draco would never forgive me if I poisoned one of his guests.’

‘So you two work together,’ Lucius said conversationally. ‘What are you working on?’

Malfoy’s face said clearly that this question had been asked many times in recent weeks, so Harry took the opportunity to answer it. ‘We’re working with the Muggle government to attempt to lessen the opportunity for and impact of terrorism.’

Lucius sniffed. ‘I think the extent of the problem has been grossly overstated.’

Harry kept his temper. ‘Fifty-two innocent people were killed last month, it is a significant issue.’

‘Muggles. A one-off. And it’s nothing like the number of them who were killed by people who can’t control those cars of theirs.’

‘They don’t kill fifty-two at a time,’ Harry reminded him. ‘There’s a qualitative difference, regardless of the number of dead. Your son is helping to ensure the security of the nation and the seamless cooperation of Muggle and Wizarding governments, which will lead to a safer Britain and a more secure wizarding world.

‘And it’s not a one-off, I remember when I lived with my Aunt and Uncle, the IRA was always blowing things up.’

‘Oh no,’ said Lucius. ‘Half the time that wasn’t the IRA, that was us.’

Harry stopped mid-rant. ‘Us?’

‘My us, not yours.’ Lucius grinned rakishly at Harry’s bemusement. ‘We’d find an Irish Muggle, Imperius them, and have them phone in a bomb alert.’

‘But … but why?’

Lucius regarded him seriously for a moment, then gave a short shake of his head. ‘Explain as I might, Mr Potter, I fear the subtleties of Death Eater humour would be lost on you.’

‘That’s enough.’ Harry turned his attention in the direction of the voice, and decided it was a strange world when Draco Malfoy was the sanest person in a room.

‘We just wanted to check that you were unharmed. Since you’re obviously fine, we should get back to work. Come on, Potter, finish your drink.’

Harry gulped the last of it down and put the dripping glass carefully down on the polished surface of the table. ‘Good to see you both,’ he nodded.

Malfoy’s parents saw them to the door. Lucius shook his son’s hand, and Narcissa gave him a hug and a kiss.

‘Take care, Draco,’ she advised. ‘I suppose you could do worse than be working with Potter, he does have the most astonishing luck. And it is just working. It’s not as though you have to do it.’

‘Yes, Mother, I can stop any time,’ Malfoy replied with resignation.

Harry knew that he should just keep walking, but was unable to resist the opportunity. ‘It’s not just working, though, is it? Draco told me he loved me for the first time last week.’

Malfoy looked at Harry with a brief flash of horror, which melted at his parent’s gasps. ‘In fairness,’ Malfoy told them conspiratorially, ‘he does look adorable in women’s clothing.’ He held out his arm. ‘Shall we?’

Harry took it and pinched viciously where neither Lucius nor Narcissa could see. ‘Indeed,’ he said, with good grace.

They walked a little distance before Apparating. ‘One-all?’ Malfoy asked as they went.

‘One-all,’ Harry agreed.

The news beat them back to the office. Mike couldn’t hold back his laughter as he showed Harry the lead story of the online Wiltshire Times: ‘Brit Boffins On Point!’ it declared, with a blurry photo to match.

‘Of course,’ he said, ‘the next thing you know, the MoD boys will actually develop something like this.’

‘It really would be useful for round-the-world sailors,’ Harry offered.

‘I suppose the Australian navy could do with some help spotting all those capsized French in the Antarctic. Nice work, Potter. Tell Malfoy thank you from me, too. Are you two any closer to finding out who’s behind all this?’

Harry shook his head crossly. ‘I can tell you who it’s not. We’ve constructed a short list of the population who are all capable of actually doing this sort of work, but Kingsley and our police are going to take some time to work through everyone on it. Malfoy and I are keeping our eyes peeled around here, but by the time we spot his handiwork, he’s usually long gone.’

‘Do your best. So far it seems to be under control, and that’s all I ask for.’

‘Thanks, sir.’

‘Oh, and Harry?’

‘Did you have Peter Mandelson escorted from the premises last week?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Good work. We’ll make a proper copper of you yet.’


Part three
 
 
 
Kieranfilmatleven on April 9th, 2009 12:09 pm (UTC)
ROFL *giggles hysterically at below bit
‘Sit down, Dudders, at least have a lassi or a coffee. Malfoy here will apparently die if he doesn’t have a chance to talk with you. And he’s not new, he’s from Hogwarts. In fact, you two would have had a lot in common in the past.’

Dudley pulled up a cushion and sniffed with self-deprecation. ‘What, you tortured him for years and then he saved your life?’

Malfoy gaped like a fish.

‘Oh.’ Dudley bit his lower lip. ‘Sorry. Jesus, Harry never mentioned you.’

Malfoy gaped like an affronted fish.