- Story Summary:
- SLASH. London, 2003, and two old enemies have become partners in crime. But the wizarding world is out to disrupt Harry's none too peaceful existence ... sex, guns, rock n' roll, drugs and bad language abound in a fast paced romantic thriller.
- Author's Note:
- The rating is, as usual, justified. This would be rated 15 in the UK, but I'm putting it as R to be on the safe side. This story also contains considerably more explicit language and situations than my previous works. And there are gay characters in it, and the implication of slash. If you find this in any way offensive, I beg you not to read on. (Original note which Alex asked to have removed but which Heidi thinks should remain for archival purposes: Out of respect for any younger readers (I know I must have some) I really do recommend you stick with Dracaena Draco and its sequel, The Time of Trial, which are both more traditional fanfics. I respect you guys enough to be sure you will keep to your word, and therefore I feel I can post this here. Please do not prove me wrong!)
A SLASH ROMANCE IN SEVERAL CHAPTERS, OR MAYBE MORE.
CHAPTER ONE. INDECENT PROPOSALS.
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 8TH 2003.
A LITTLE AFTER NINE O'CLOCK
(JUST ABOUT TIME FOR BREAKFAST, ACTUALLY)
A dense mass of slate grey cloud covered London, hugging the ground like a damp and happy dog. It was going to be day just like the last one. That is to say without sun. But it was January, so nobody really cared anyway.
A single commuter, on his way to work at a small television production company emerged, blinking, out of Goodge Street tube station onto Tottenham Court Road, looked around, worked out that it was actually raining quite hard, and then made the unfortunate discovery that he'd left his brand new umbrella on the 8:15 from Surbiton.
And in a flat, somewhere several soggy miles, but barely a single non sequitur from Goodge Street, Harry Potter snuggled down underneath his duvet and had a wank. For Harry, it was going to be a day that would stick in his mind for longer than, say, the previous five hundred and twenty three days had done. Naturally, he didn't know any of this at that point. He was fantasising about deflowering Angelina Jolie with a cucumber.
Bleary-eyed, tired, yet sated and happy, Draco Malfoy wandered round the kitchen in his underwear, collecting the fixings for breakfast. Even though it was now well into January, and Christmas was, in fact, long over, he still had more than enough leftover turkey to get through.
He might be a vegetarian now, but his friends certainly were not, and because Draco considered himself the sort of person who accepted the lifestyle choices of others these days, he had quite happily bought and cooked an enormous eighteen pound bird, despite the fact that defrosting the damn thing in the bath had taken hours. Also every time he looked at it he got tearful and needed to have a lie-down.
He hummed a song to himself as he worked. It was 'Hard Day's Night' by the Beatles. An odd choice, maybe, but if there was one thing that Draco knew these days, it was music (and possibly sex). His job as a music critic for a large Muggle magazine had taken him all around the world; to Australia, the US, Thailand (he had especially liked Thailand for some reason). He had twice met the living God that was Paul McCartney, he had eaten in the world's most exclusive restaurants, and bedded some of its most beautiful men. And he was still only twenty-two years old.
And now, he unscrewed the lid off the jar of cranberry sauce, and spooned the contents into a mixing bowl. Then he added mayonnaise, and whipped the whole until it was pink and creamy. This was what the servants had always done for him Ã‚... back when he had had servants.
Draco could hear stirrings from the bedroom. His companion of the previous night was waking up. Hurriedly, he opened the bread bin, flung a large white loaf onto the breadboard, then set to cutting it with the electric carving knife Marcus had given him for Christmas. He spread it liberally with butter, and was just arranging the slices of turkey on top when the bedroom door opened, and his partner emerged, blinking in the dim sunshine that was pouring in through the enormous picture windows.
"Lovely day," said Draco, spreading his cranberry and mayonnaise mixture generously over the turkey.
"Lovely sex," said Julian, smiling at him. He was wearing a slate grey vest over matching pyjama bottoms. Slowly, he crossed the open plan flat to the window, and stared out across the Thames, the icy waters glistened in the weak sun. The tide was going out and the barges were marooned on the mud flats. The dome of St Paul's rose above the city blocks. Over to the right was the Tower and over to the left, the new Tate, the Wheel, and the wobbly bridge, which Draco had run across several times, just to see what it was like. You couldn't buy a view like that, although Draco had managed it, obviously. In the summer, it was rather pleasant to sit out on the balcony with a few bottles of Jack Daniels, a few special friends (preferably nice young men who wanted to shag him), a few joints, and just while away the hours with Moby playing on the stereo.
"I rather enjoyed it myself," said Draco, arranging the turkey sandwiches on a plate, and carrying them over to the dining table. "But then, I always do.Ã‚Â”
He looked at Julian for a minute, and thought that maybe, just maybe, this might be the start of something.
Ã‚Â“Come on,Ã‚Â” Draco said. Ã‚Â“You need feeding up. You're stick thin. And you have very bony elbows.Ã‚Â”
"I never noticed," said Julian, rocking backwards and forwards on his heels.
"Well, they weren't prodding you in the arse all night," said Draco. He strode back into the kitchenette, took the coffee pot off its ring, and brought it over.
"I adore your view," said Julian, sitting down, and pouring himself black coffee. This done, he began to roll the first cigarette of the day. "I could happily live here."
"Eat ... we need energy," grinned Draco, spreading a napkin across his lap.
"Then we can have another go," said Julian.
"We ought to read the papers first," said Draco. "Then sex."
"Sod the papers," said Julian, sipping his coffee. "You not eating, darling?" Draco shook his head.
"I don't ... you know that ..."
"Must have slipped my mind," he said, stuffing a sandwich almost whole into his mouth. "You really should try these," he said, spraying the table with bits of turkey. "They're truly divine! A bit like your left thigh."
Draco was eyeing him across the table again. He could feel one of Julian's feet running up and down his leg, and it was making him shiver all over. He picked up the paper.
"I have a very bad idea," said Julian, standing up. He had a very upper crust accent, which made him sound a bit like a horse. It probably came from his days at Eton. Draco had never told his boyfriend that he had been to boarding school as well. Actually ... he had only been his boyfriend since New Year's Eve ... before that he had been a dancer ... a very good one, too.
"Marcus will be here soon," said Draco. "You ought to meet him. We ought not to wear me out too much. He's brilliant in be ..."
But Julian had scrambled forwards, and clapped his hand across Draco's mouth. "Say nothing," he said. "How cold is it outside?"
"Brass monkeys, I should imagine," said Draco.
"And the hot tub on the balcony ... how hot does it get?"
"Very hot?" suggested Draco, grinning wickedly ...
"You'd better go and switch it on then," he said. "Or you might just find I get carried away," he added, running his hand slowly down Draco's chest, making him squirm.
"I might just do that," Draco whispered.
SOMEWHERE ELSE, LATER THAT DAY.
Harry opened his eyes, blinked heavily, forgetting whatever dream he had been having instantly. There were two men standing in the office, black-suited, severe looking men, in sunglasses, which struck Harry as odd, as it was midwinter.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
"Your secretary said to go straight in, sir," said one of them, who was holding a black leather briefcase. "She said it would be okay. We didn't mean to disturb you ..."
Harry shook his head, partly to dispel their fears, and partly to dispel the haunting images in his head. He delved into the pocket of his suit jacket, and withdrew a packet of cigarettes. He pulled one out, and offered the pack to both of them.
"Thanks ... I ... don't," said one of them, shaking his head.
"I've just given up," said the other. "New Year's resolution."
"You don't mind if I do?" asked Harry. Both men shuffled their feet, as if nervous. A TV on a wall-mounted bracket was showing highlights of the weekend's cup games, including, much to Harry's chagrin; Fulham getting slaughtered by Manchester United.
"Go ahead, sir," said one of them.
"Thanks," said Harry, pulling a cigarette from the packet, lighting it, and taking a long puff. "Sit down, please, gentlemen. Don't stand on ceremony."
The two men both looked to one another, as though they were seeking reassurance. Then they sat down in front of the desk. Harry crossed his legs and leaned back in his chair, to be better able to see the telly. The other men watched him expectantly.
"I could have played professionally, you know," he said, after a moment's silence had past. Harry liked to let his clients sit in silence ... something to do with building tension; he'd read that in one of those self help manuals. It made people more inclined to agree with him.
"Football, soccer," said Harry. "Or something very much like it," he went on. "Anyway ... I have a feeling neither of you came here to talk sport with me," he took another, long puff on his cigarette, and expelled the smoke through his mouth in a thin plume ... wraiths of grey, second-hand smoke, dissipating into the air before him, and making the other men look like he was seeing them through a cloud of dry ice. Very atmospheric, he thought.
"No," said one of them. "We came to offer you a deal. Business. You understand?"
"I like the sound of it already," said Harry, staring at them over the rims of his spectacles. "May I have your names, gentlemen?"
"Jack, Jack Bones," said one of them. "This is my financial advisor, Morris Cardwell."
"Bones and Cardwell," smiled Harry, writing the names down on a post-it note, and sticking it to the underside of the desk. "And what can I do for you?"
"We represent a concern of ... investors, looking to move into the club business in London. We already have a large property just off the Charing Cross Road."
Harry raised his eyebrows. Charing Cross was a part of London that he tended to steer well clear of, for reasons that were very personal indeed. He had no real cause to ... he would not be recognised down there anymore. He could walk right in, and nobody would know him for what he had once been ...
"Carry on," he said. Over ... it's all over, he thought, and wistful thinking won't put it back the way it was.
"It's called the Cauldron," said Bones. "We've been doing it up for about a year now. Got it all nice inside. It's a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of modern urban life," he sounded as though he was repeating chunks of a brochure. "A cosmopolitan yet relaxed retreat for the connoisseur who knows what he wants, where he can get a cocktail and a decent burger, and also partake of some of our fine entertainment."
"That kind of club?" said Harry. "Or is it an American theme restaurant ... with line dancers pretending to be from the Deep South, who are, in reality trying to scrape together enough cash for a RADA scholarship?" It is worth mentioning at this point that Harry's conception of the Southern US did not extend much beyond moonshine, people called Zeke and Huck Finn books.
Bones shook his head. "Oh no ... very definitely a club. It's very discreet of course. Membership cards, but no names ... dancers six nights a week. Theme nights, that kind of thing. Extra services on demand. We have some lovely girls as well. You should see some of them."
Harry smiled. "Sounds nice," he said. "What type of clientele are we looking at?"
"Regular punters," said Bones. "City gents, that kind of thing. Tourists too."
"And the girls?"
"Yugoslavian," said Bones, "mostly. They'll do anything for a tenner."
Harry smiled, politely, though privately more than a little disgusted by their attitude. Of course, his own clubs, all six of them, were just as bad ...
"We were wondering if you'd be interested in investing?" said Cardwell, leaning forwards. He was drumming his fingers on the edge of the desk in a gesture Harry found deeply annoying. "A small down payment, of course ... then, say, a fifty percent stake in the business ... a cut of all monies earned, obviously ..."
"Goes without saying," he said. "Well, Gentlemen ... it certainly sounds as though you have an interesting little earner here. I shall have to come down and see it."
The music was thumping outside in the gym, seeping underneath the door, causing Harry's polished, matte black desk to vibrate perceptibly. Bones seemed to relax.
"When can you come down?"
"First I need to check you out," said Harry, drumming his fingers on the desk. Bones shuffled his feet nervously, betraying what Harry had suspected. Something was up. "After all, I can't just lend my support to any old club. This needs to be legitimate, above board, on the books. I'm quite sure you understand," Harry stubbed out his cigarette.
"Of course," said Bones. "Goes without saying ... a respectable businessman like you. Nothing sleazy."
Harry nodded his head. "I'm glad we feel mutually," he said. "Are you quite sure you don't want a cigarette?"
Bones shook his head. "Perfectly happy as I am ... thank you, Sir."
"Well ... said Harry. He pulled from inside his Armani jacket a silver cigarette case, shaped like a bullet, and set it down on the desk in front of him. Bones eyed it suspiciously ... and Harry wondered why he would be worried about a mere cigarette case.
"Tomorrow night?" he suggested. "I'd need to bring some of my boys along."
"By all means," said Bones. "Here's our card. Six o'clock?"
"Make it half past," said Harry, tucking the laminated card into his breast pocket. "I have rather a lot of business on tomorrow."
"Till half six, then," said Bones. Both men stood up, and Harry rose to shake their hands in return. As soon as the office door shut, he pressed the intercom button.
"Put a tail on them, find Herschel, and make him follow them," he said. "I want to know where they're going, and what they're doing. I want a report every hour too. Give him my mobile number."
"Right away, Mr. Potter."
Harry released the button, picked up his mobile, and dialled a number. It took a while for the person on the other end to pick up ... but finally he did.
"What's the matter?" the other man's voice was breathless, as though he'd just run a marathon. "Can't it wait? I'm a little tied up right now!"
"How many guns do you have, Meakes?" asked Harry, drumming his fingers on the desk.
The other man sighed. "I dunno," he said. There was a thudding sound, and the sound of a female voice protesting about something.
A few seconds later, he came back on the line. "About five," he said. "Berettas ... with silencers."
"Have them brought over, where are you ... Kensington?"
"Fulham ... look, I'm very busy," said the other man.
"Now!" snapped Harry. "Is Leticia with you?"
"Actually, Harry ... it's Leticia who's holding me up," the other voice gasped.
"Well, I want you here," said Harry. "It's entirely your business who you want to fuck, but on my time, keep it to a minimum ... who else is there?"
"He's back at the flat ... entertaining ... the guns are there ... look, Harry. I'd need to go across town. Can't you put Snake on it?"
"Snake's in Manchester," said Harry. "Look ... it'll have to be you."
"But, I don't want to go there ... Draco's a faggot."
Harry sighed. "I know you don't approve of people who enjoy an alternative lifestyle," he said. "I'll need him here, too ... you'll have to bring him along."
"I'm not having that poof in my Beemer!"
"Shut your trap, Meakes ... get across town, now. I want you both here by five," snapped Harry. "Make him bring the guns."
A BIT LATER.
The winter light was fading fast as Meakes pulled his brand new, black BMW into a space outside the converted warehouse block where Draco lived. His metallic blue Lotus Elise was parked in its customary place. He'd had the convertible's roof replaced with a hard top after some local kids had slashed the leather. More fool him, thought Meakes, keeping a soft top in central London was asking for trouble, in his opinion.
Lights were on inside the flat. Even though it was January the eighth, Draco had still not taken his Christmas lights down. Meakes pushed open the door, smiled at the guard on duty at the front desk, and ran up the stairs.
The front door to Draco's penthouse was slightly ajar, and from within, Meakes could hear the sounds of people making very merry indeed. He paused. It would be bloody awful if he went in there and found ... he rang the bell.
And then ... "Just a minute ... please!"
He heard someone else laugh ... and another voice, a man's voice. Meakes, who had been raised in a staunch, Thatcherite household, and had therefore been a low-key bigot his entire life, felt his stomach turn.
"Must you go?"
"Might be important," Meakes recognised the voice as Draco's.
He heard footsteps, and then the door opened a fraction. Draco poked his head round. He was wearing a fluffy white bathrobe, tied loosely around his waist. His shoulder length, platinum blond hair was all over the place, and his face red. He shot Meakes a glance of pure hatred. There was ice in those grey eyes.
"Why the fuck do you always have to spoil my fun?" he groaned.
Meakes smiled, maliciously. "It's bad luck to keep your decorations up after Twelfth Night," he said. "Consider me your first bit of bad luck."
"What's the next?"
"Harry wants you."
"You'd better come in," scowled Draco. "You'll have to wait a minute ... I was in the middle of some friends."
Meakes followed Draco into the flat, and kicked the door shut. "What is it he wants?" he asked. "Coke ... hash? E?"
"Guns," said Meakes. "He wants the bloody guns."
"They're in a black plastic sack, in the kitchen," said Draco. "Look ... I'll be with you in a minute. I've just got to finish someone off."
To Meakes' disgust, he slipped off his bathrobe ... perhaps unsurprisingly he had not a stitch on underneath, and disappeared into the bedroom, slamming the door shut.
A moment, later, he heard someone moaning, followed by a shout of, "Hey ... look at my magic wand!"
He shook his head, and walked across the flat to Draco's kitchenette. For someone who was 'inferior' to him in the hierarchy, Draco didn't do too badly. There was a round, white leather sofa ... a huge flat screen TV hanging on the wall ... a Bang & Olufsen sound system, surrounded by piles of CDs ... freebies that Draco got from the magazines he wrote for; his legitimate, public face. There was a glass-topped coffee table, strewn with magazines ... back issues of 'Interiors,' 'NME,' 'Rolling Stone' and 'AXM' ... track lighting, halogen spots, and polished wood floors. Meakes made do with a fleapit in an old Victorian house in Camden Town, and his only CDs were bootlegged down the market by his mate, Ned. And he'd been done in for not getting a TV licence.
Sure enough, the black plastic sack was buried at the back of one of Draco's overstocked cupboards. There were jars of exotic spices ... bags of dried fruit, brown rice, and enough packets of Cup-A-Soup to keep an army marching for a week. Meakes wondered vaguely what Draco actually ate. None of that macrobiotic crap looked nutritious enough, and there was no sign of any meat, anywhere. He pulled out the sack, and emptied the contents onto the floor. There were five Beretta pistols ... silencers to fit them, and several boxes of bullets. There was also a small plastic bag full of what appeared to be some very fine and expensive herbs. A malicious smile on his face, Meakes unscrewed the lid of a jar of curry powder, and tipped the contents in. That'd give the bastard a shock!
The bedroom door opened, and Draco came back out. He was in the process of pulling on a black v-neck T-shirt with '$1,000,000' picked out across the chest in gold. He blew whoever was still in the room a kiss, and then turned to face Meakes.
"What's with the shirt?" asked Meakes. "This is a business ... not a rave."
"Oh, you have to have a million dollars to have me," said Draco airily, doing up his trousers. "Did you get the guns?"
Meakes nodded. "What's with all the vegetable crap?" he asked.
"I've gone vegetarian," said Draco. "Didn't Harry mention it to you?"
"Why on earth would you want to do that?"
"Makes me taste nicer," said Draco. "And it makes me less aggressive too ... no toxins swirling around my bloodstream," as he said this, he unscrewed the cap off a bottle of Stolichnaya, and poured himself a generous measure. "Can I entreat you to some?"
Meakes shook his head. "I'm driving," he said.
"Course you are," said Draco. "Look ... I've got to sort out something," he downed the vodka in one gulp. "Sure I can't get you something ... Advocat ... Bailey's?"
"Got any proper drinks?"
Draco nodded. "Got some beer somewhere. Anyway ... I'll be right back."
He slipped back into the bedroom. "Look ... Marcus, Julian ... have some vodka or something. There's a microwave moussaka in the fridge if you get hungry. This won't take long."
He came back out, smiling at Meakes. "Okay ... you take the guns then."
Meakes picked up the bag with the guns in ... and followed Draco out of the flat, pulling the door closed.
"Which car did you bring?" asked Draco, leading him down the stairs, and fumbling in the pockets of his trousers for his packet of rolling papers.
"The Beemer," sighed Meakes. They walked out across the foyer, and Draco smiled at the security guard, who was reading a copy of Penthouse stuffed inside the Daily Telegraph.
Meakes walked round to the driver's door, opened it, and climbed in. Draco ran his hand along the roof. "New?" he asked.
Meakes nodded. "Only got her last Thursday ... so don't you go giving my upholstery anything."
Draco sighed as he closed the door, and put his seatbelt on. "Arthur ... you can't get AIDS from sitting on a seat," he said. "How many times do I need to tell you? Anyway ... I've had tests and I'm fine."
"Just, don't try anything funny," said Meakes, starting the engine, and flicking on the headlights.
"Why would I try anything with you?" said Draco. "You have the most supremely unattractive arse I have ever seen. You should work out or something. Hasn't Harry offered you membership?"
Meakes shrugged. "I decided against it. I'm not letting them queer gym instructors get their kicks off of Arthur Meakes. Anyway ... Raquel likes my buttocks."
"Oh, please," said Draco. "One ... Raquel is a complete slut ...and two; any man who wanted to get off with you would have to be blind or desperate."
"Be quiet," snapped Meakes.
"And there's only one gay instructor," said Draco. "His name's Jonathan ... he's the one with the ponytail. I've had him ... twice ..."
"... on the exercise bike," Draco went on. "Well ... it was after hours, and Harry had gone home ..."
He didn't hear Meakes' next words, though it sounded like he said, 'fucking faggot.'
"I've no objection to homophobes, per se," said Draco. "I just wish they'd be homophobic behind closed doors, where I can't see them. Mind if I smoke?"
Meakes eased the car out onto Southwark Road. The traffic was moving swiftly, and it looked like they would have to wait a while for a gap. Draco, taking Meakes' silence as a yes, set to rolling a cigarette. "I'm thinking of upgrading, you know," he said.
"I fancy a Lexus," said Draco. "One of those sports ones ... with the funny rear lights ... disc brakes and alloys. Leather interior. Beautiful. My mate Darren has one. Actually ... he imports them. Off the books, from Germany."
"You know a fair bit about cars," said Meakes.
"Straight people don't have a monopoly on cars," said Draco, lighting his rollup. "I like playing sports too, and I could drink you under the table anytime ... as long as you're drinking Bacardi and Coke."
Meakes shook his head.
"Oh yeah, I forget ... one mistimed snog with another bloke is enough for you," said Draco. "So ... what should I go for ... two point five litre, stick shift? You can have a lot of fun with a stick shift."
Harry stood at the window and watched as Arthur drove up and down the street, looking for a parking space. Finally, he found one, even though it meant blocking the service entrance to the supermarket opposite. He saw Draco climb sedately from the car, and noted Arthur was carrying the bag with the guns in. They crossed the road ... an old Volkswagen Golf purred by, headlights piercing the gloom of the dank London side street. They disappeared under the porch.
Harry turned on his heels, walked back across the office, and out of the door. His secretary was sitting at her brushed aluminium desk, on the phone to somebody. A plate glass window ahead afforded a view of the gym, where about twenty men and women were working out to Steps, supervised by beefy instructors in vests. Music videos that did not necessarily correspond to the track playing (A Deeper Shade Of Blue) were flashing across the TV screens.
Harry walked down the spiral staircase leading to the foyer ... where there were posters framed on the walls, advertising his many business ventures, nightclubs, and five other gyms across London had been raking in the money since he had set up his first club at the age of eighteen ... and now, merely four years on ... he was one of the most powerful men in London ... and had almost, but not quite, completely forgotten about his past.
Sometimes, he still thought about it. Especially when he saw Draco. Draco had been expelled the same time as he had ... but Harry had not seen him for two years afterwards, until one day in 1998, he had come looking for a job: his family had disowned him, and he had run away.
As for the others ... Ron and Hermione Ã‚... they were just vague shapes at the back of his mind. None of them had stood by him, and so he had left, abandoned his life, and what little family he had left and returned to living in a state of limbo, suspended between the two worlds, Magical and Muggle.
Draco and Arthur were standing outside the doors, waiting to be let in. Harry pressed a button on the wall to open them.
"Evening," he said. "Follow me please?"
The other men followed him upstairs, passing a couple of female punters who were just leaving as they went. Upon catching sight of the gym, Draco let his imagination off its leash.
"Stop drooling," snapped Harry, opening the door to his office. "Hold my calls, Stella," he barked at the secretary.
"What if your girlfriend calls?"
"Fuck her," said Harry, ushering the others into his office, and closing the door. "Take a seat," he said.
"What's this about?" asked Draco, flopping down onto the sofa. Harry turned off the television.
"What have you got?" asked Draco.
"Anything," said Harry, opening his mini-bar. "Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi, Bollinger."
"You couldn't open the Bollinger?"
Harry frowned. "Actually, I was saving that for a special occasion."
"Every time I see you is a special occasion, Harry,Ã‚Â” Draco said.
Ã‚Â“Don't push it, smart-arse.Ã‚Â”
Ã‚Â“I'll have a Smirnoff then," said Draco, annoyed. Harry fished out one of the bottles, opened it, and handed it to him.
Harry tossed him a can of Stella, and took one himself. Draco sipped his cocktail happily.
"Got the guns?" asked Harry.
Arthur handed him the bag, and Harry tipped them out onto the desk. "They're in good nick," he said. "Spit and polish, eh Draco?"
"Something like that."
Both men nodded.
"Good," Harry walked round behind the desk, and sat down behind it. "Smoke, anyone?"
Draco shook his head ... so did Arthur. Harry lit up anyway. "So," he said. "I expect you're wondering why I dragged you both in here."
Draco nodded. "I was ... um, busy."
"He was shagging," said Arthur.
Harry looked disapproving. "I'm all for sex," he said. "In as many different places as possible ... but sometimes, Draco, I wonder how you find the energy. Anyway ... I rather think it's time we paid our chums in Clapham a visit. Don't you?"
"Vince and Greg, by any chance?" asked Draco.
"Yeah, Vince McLean. He imports goods from the Middle East, falafel, hummus and stuff, sells it on to health food shops. There's a market amongst the Knightsbridge set," he went on. "I gather Harrods has gone to him on occasion."
"That's right over our heads, surely," said Draco. "What are you planning ... are we blackmailing Mohammed Al Fayed?"
"That crook ... no," said Harry, smiling. "Though it would be nice," his head was filled with sudden visions of Harrods shop front ... except the green and gold awnings had Ã‚'Harry's' written on them. "We're blackmailing dear old Vinnie."
"What's he done?" asked Draco, sipping his drink. Meakes shifted his weight on the sofa uncomfortably. He had always been Harry's second ... until Draco came along, and then he had found himself being pushed to one side. Harry increasingly confided in Draco, instead of him. Meakes had the suspicion they were quite possibly shagging each other.
"He made the mistake of borrowing a small sum of money off me," said Harry. "Call it an investment ... and I know how much couscous you eat these days, Draco. I thought it'd be wise to have a stake in the business. Vincent thinks not ... he also wants to keep the money. Our job tonight, is to convince the sod that he really wants to give us the money back Ã‚..."
Darkness had long since fallen as the Vauxhall Carlton saloon that they used for such operations drew up outside a poky terrace in South Clapham. Vince McLean's elderly, red Toyota Corolla was parked on the opposite side of the road. The harsh, orange glare of a nearby streetlight cast long shadows across the street.
The four men sat in the car for some minutes, watching the house. Lights were on in most of the windows ... and there appeared to be people moving about.
Without a word, Harry removed his gun from the inside pocket of his jacket, and clicked a new magazine into place.
"How much?" asked Meakes.
"Two and a half grand," said Harry. "Outstanding. He had till November to pay me. Then, I told him, we'll send in the big boys."
"Did you?" asked Sam, the driver, who was sitting in the front seat, his hand on the gear stick, ready for a quick getaway. As an evasive driver, he was unsurpassed in all London, which was, of course, why Harry had hired him.
Harry shook his head. "Nah," he said. "It was Christmas ... after all. The man has kids, too."
"Very generous of you," said Sam.
"Just call me good old Father Christmas," grinned Harry. "Are we ready, boys?"
They walked up to the front door, Harry in the middle, Draco on the left, and Meakes on the right, their feet tapping on the slick paving slabs. It was at moments like these that both Harry and Draco felt a tingle of anticipation surge through their blood.
Harry rapped three times on the door. It was opened almost immediately, and Harry was just about to force his way in, when he had to drop his gaze about three feet, where he found a small child of indeterminate sex looking up at him.
"Ah," he said. "Is Daddy in?"
"He's in the kitchen," said the child. "I'll go and get him."
Draco sighed. "Always with the bloody children," he said. "They must know you're coming, Harry."
"Be quiet," snapped Harry.
"For once in your life, wouldn't you like to be able to barge into a house, and scream those immortal lines?"
"What ... this is a fucking robbery ... everyone on the floor?"
"I was thinking more of ... hello madam, I've come to read your meter ... is your husband in?" said Draco. "I mean ... whoever heard of the debt collectors having to wait on the fucking doorstep, freezing their nuts off, for two and a half grand. Guy fucking Ritchie couldn't have directed it better."
Harry spun round. "You really aren't very attached to your reproductive system, are you, Malfoy?" he spat. "One more cheap jibe out of you, and your hand will be waving goodbye to its best friend."
"One more cheap knob gag, Potter, and I'll force you to become my sex slave. You're quite obviously gagging for it. Anyway ... it's common knowledge I've had more sex than you've had hot dinners."
"Who would have thought it ... Harry Potter ... a complete slut! I could keep you in my flat, feed you crackers and have my wicked way with you!"
Vince appeared in the hallway at this point. His face fell as he caught sight of the three men standing on the doorstep. He was holding a brown paper bag with the McDonald's logo prominently displayed.
"Good evening, Vincent," beamed Harry. "Might we come in for a few moments?"
McLean nodded. Harry stepped over the threshold, and wiped his feet on the doormat. "Nice place you've got here," he said, in a low tone of voice. Draco kicked the front door shut.
"I don't have the money," said McLean, wringing his hands and taking a step backwards. Cheesy Euro-pop was blaring out of a stereo somewhere else in the house. "I cannot get you the money. Give me five more days or so. Then you can come back."
"I can't wait five more days," snarled Harry, reaching into the pocket of his jacket, feeling the reassuring bulk of the gun ... cold metal against the warm skin of his hand. "Business is a little tight right now," he went on. "Money is not flowing in as it used to. Fact is, Vincent, my business could be about to go down the toilet."
"Please ... my ... my shop isn't doing well. You understand? One businessman to another. Please, Harry?"
Harry shook his head. "It's a measly two grand, Vincent," he said. "Now ... unless you want to start paying interest, and at ten per cent a week, I really don't think you want that," Vincent shook his head, "I suggest you find me some cash, pronto."
McLean looked panicked.
"Otherwise ...there might be ... a little accident. Your car getting old now is it?"
"Funny how brakes, break," said Draco. "Especially on late '88 Toyota Corollas registered in the Clapham area. There was very nearly a recall."
"There is jewellery," said McLean. "It's all I have."
"Get it," said Harry. "We'll wait here."
McLean disappeared upstairs. The three men could hear him thumping around, a door slammed, and then someone else, a woman, shouted. Harry could hear McLean shouting back. The door banged shut again ... then, the thudding noise of his footfall on the uncarpeted stairs.
"Get it?" asked Harry.
He looked at McLean ... and was shocked to see an expression of cold, calculating anger on his tanned, moustachioed face. Harry looked slowly down. "Clever boy," he said to himself.
"Out," said McLean, putting his hand on the bottom of the banister rail for support.
"A handgun, McLean? In a private household?" Harry went on. "Naughty, naughty. You'll get caughty."
"Ten seconds to get out," said McLean. "Five days ... five days I shall have your money. Now, out of my house."
"You're bluffing," said Harry, reaching into the pocket of his jacket, closing his fingers around his own weapon, and withdrawing it slowly. "Snap," he said.
"You might be bluffing too," said McLean, shrugging.
"Would you care to call that bluff?" asked Harry, releasing the safety catch. "Of course ... the chamber might be empty. Or it might not be. It's rather like the perennial family favourite, Russian roulette."
"Are you going to call my bluff?" asked McLean. "I might be loaded as well."
"I very much doubt it," said Harry. "Let me tell you a funny story about Russian roulette. I am assured it is absolutely true. It seems that back in 1997 a youth from Austin, Texas, took it upon himself to have a game with his friends. Unfortunately, he played with an automatic pistol."
"What's your point?"
"A pistol that automatically inserts a bullet into the firing chamber," said Harry. "Bang ... no more youth, blood all over the garage walls. Pity it wasn't the Governor."
"Ten seconds, Potter. I want you out."
"There is no bullet in that gun," said Harry. He took a step forwards. "Now ... why don't we take a trip upstairs, and collect the family jewel box. I'm sure we can find something of value. If not, the Christmas presents can't have been played with much, yet. They'd probably fetch half retail price. I know a trader over in Camden who can do you an excellent deal."
McLean closed his eyes, and tightened his finger on the trigger. With a start, Harry saw he was not bluffing.
He ducked just in time. The bang echoed around the house. Harry, who was crouched on the floor, stood up, and coughed. Smoke was filling the narrow hallway, and from upstairs came the sound of a child screaming.
"I would say ... I underestimated you, 007," said Harry. "Unfortunately, it would be a bit of a clichÃƒÂ©."
"Two days," said Draco. "You have two days. Next time, you will call our bluff."
Harry nodded, and tucked his gun back into his pocket. "You have two days, McLean ... and you will give us the money. You see ... I always get what I want ... one way, or another."
They turned, stepped over the now lifeless corpse of Meakes, which was lying on the floor, a pool of blood spreading rapidly across the bare floorboards, and left the house, banging the door shut as they went. They left McLean standing over the body, quivering uncontrollably, the smoking gun still in his hands, his fingerprints all over it.
Sam was sitting in the front seat of the Vauxhall, staring dead ahead, a cigarette end dangling from his lips.
"I have a feeling our friend McLean won't leave matters there," said Harry, climbing into the back seat, followed by Draco. "We should make tracks for the suburbs."
"Sir?" asked Sam.
"Ditch the wheels, Norton, you improbably dense man," said Harry. "Draco ... call Herschel ... get him to meet us at the office, in an hour's time. Tell him to bring the Beemer."
"I'm onto it," said Draco, taking his impossibly small mobile out of the pocket of his impossibly tight slacks.
Harry kicked the back of Sam's seat. "Well, drive, you silly idiot. He's probably already called the police. It won't take those effete arseholes long to put two and two together."
"How do you mean?"
"Vincent McLean, respected vegetable wholesaler ... versus Harry James Potter, owner of gyms, seedy clubs, and the largest pornography racket in Western Europe. I think they'll work it out sooner or later." Harry settled back in his seat as Sam pulled away from the kerb, and lit a cigarette. "Pity about Meakes though."
He did not notice the other car ... a black Mercedes, pulling away from the kerb opposite. Nor did he notice the driver. It was Morris Cardwell.
END OF CHAPTER ONE.
TO BE CONTINUED IN CHAPTER TWO.
Author notes: Original Author's Note from Winter, 2001:
Snitch! had its genesis during the long, long period of writer's block that I suffered during the writing of Dracaena Draco, and was prompted in part by a lively discussion over at e-groups (now, much to my annoyance, consumed by Yahoo, without telling anyone ... but I digress). It is NOT the sequel to Dracaena Draco ... Snitch! (the reason for this title should become apparent) is set two years from now, four years after the canon is scheduled to end, making the characters 23 or 24.