- 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.
- Chapter 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. 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!
CHAPTER THREE. ENTRAPMENT.
The Cauldron turned out to be a below-stairs club in an alleyway just off Old Compton Street, right in the heart of Soho. As Cardwell and Bones had insinuated, it was, indeed, very discreet. In fact, one would hardly have even noticed it was there without being told. The entrance was adorned with a single pink awning over the type of door more commonly found on suburban housing, and with the legend 'The Cauldron - Gentlemen's Club' picked out in black lettering.
Technically, the place wouldn't open for another hour, but there was already music blaring from inside it, and so they pushed the door open, checking that the Berettas were in their place. As Harry had said, 'You never know what the buggers might be planning.'
Draco was inclined to agree. Harry's description of Bones and Cardwell had not been flattering, and he was naturally suspicious of men who wore sunglasses in midwinter.
There was a bouncer standing at the bottom of the stairs, watching the proceedings on the dance floor with interest. He turned around at the sound of their footsteps.
"Got a reservation?" he asked, his voice gruff and uncompromisingly nasty.
"We're not really customers," began Draco hastily, before being glared at by both Harry and the bouncer.
"We have an appointment to see Mr Bones and Mr Cardwell," said Harry. "This is my card."
The bouncer, who was twice as big as both of them, surveyed the card with the air of one surveying a daughter's phone bill. Finally, he pronounced himself satisfied, and tucked the card into the pocket of his jeans.
"Right, Mr Potter. Would you like a booth, or a table?"
"Booth, please," said Harry.
They were led into the club. Slap bang in the centre of the giant room, and occupying everyone's attention, was a stage, bathed in a dim blue light, with a single, metallic pole in the centre of it, the ensemble completed, of course, by a young woman, tanned and lovely, with dark hair cascading down her bare back; an effect reminiscent of a thundering waterfall.
Harry was looking at her, his mouth wide open, as he slid onto the red leather seat. The table had an ashtray on it, as well as a tariff card, and a list of cocktails. There was also a pile of flyers for other clubs, which Draco looked at with evident interest.
"Can I get you Gentlemen anything?" asked the bouncer.
Harry had the sudden feeling that Draco was about to ask for something extravagant, with more than one type of drink in it, and an umbrella sticking out of the top. He jumped in before Draco had a chance to. "Two lagers," he said. "Carlsberg."
"Right you are."
"I hate lager," hissed Draco, as the bouncer disappeared into the smoky darkness of the club. The air was thick with the stench of stale tobacco, mingled with something else, something stronger. Some of the men sitting round the stage were cramming ten pound notes into the woman's red lace underwear, and whooping with thinly disguised delight.
"We have to create the right impression," said Harry, taking his mobile out of his pocket, and setting it down on the table in between them. It was not switched on; it usually never was. Harry did not like to give clients the impression that he was the sort of man they would want to get in touch with. Besides, the ring tones embarrassed him.
"The right impression precludes drinking warmed up urine, does it?" asked Draco. "Carlsberg, Harry. It's almost as bad as Budweiser."
"Be quiet and concentrate on the stripper," said Harry.
"I don't want to concentrate on the stripper," said Draco. "She's the wrong sex."
A different man, taller, with sandy blond hair, came back with their drinks, which he set down before them without ceremony. "Mr Bones will be along directly, sir," he said, curtly. Then he strode off to be brusque with somebody else.
"Charming man," said Draco. "I almost wish I had a daughter so I could forbid her to marry him."
As it turned out, they didn't have to wait much longer for Jack Bones. He was wearing a dark Italian suit, cut very fine, and the material seemed to shimmer slightly as the different coloured lights fell upon it.
"I took the liberty of not ordering a dancer over," said Bones, sitting down next to Draco. "I didn't think you Gentlemen would be especially interested," he smiled, a particularly smarmy smile, which made Harry ache to punch him in the mouth.
Draco smiled. "News travels fast, eh?"
"You could say that," said Bones. "And you could not. Anyway, we're not here to talk about that sort of thing. We're here to discuss money."
Harry sipped his foul lager. "It seems nice," he said.
"Would you like the Grand Tour?" asked Bones.
Harry shook his head. "Why bother, when we can talk here?" he said. Bones looked slightly defeated, but was doing his best not to show it.
"Why indeed? Well, Mr Potter ... may I call you Harry?"
"Be my guest," said Harry. "Everybody else does," he noticed with slight disdain that Bones seemed to be very interested in his scar.
"Car crash," said Harry, causing Bones to give a start and look away hurriedly.
"I'm sorry," he said. "It was just, rather obvious. A bad accident?"
Harry nodded. "I was a baby," he said. "It killed my parents."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Not as sorry as I was," said Harry. "Still, ancient history."
"Harry, I want you to listen to me very carefully," said Bones, leaning forward, the shadows on his face constantly shifting due to the revolving disco lights, as if he was about to disclose that he had once been caught in flagrante delicto with a young sailor. "I brought you here under, ah, somewhat false pretences."
"You didn't want to talk business?"
"Oh, business is foremost on my mind, as it should be on yours," said Bones. "But not that kind of business. We really have no use for your money."
"Why are you interested in me then?" asked Harry.
"I would have thought that was a silly question," said Bones. "Isn't everyone?"
Alarm bells were very definitely ringing in Harry's head. "Um, maybe so."
"I'm going to offer you a little ultimatum, Harry. You had something we want. Earlier today, we sent some of our chaps over to get it. You reviewed the tapes yourself ..."
"That was you?"
"They were our operatives," said Bones. "Each one a highly trained man. Very skilled in the arts of deception. The trouble is, though they found a great deal to interest our Head of Department, they failed to find the one thing that you still hide from us."
Harry's hand was creeping to his inside jacket pocket, and he could see Draco was doing the same. Bones, noticing what they were doing, gave a wry chuckle.
"The guns won't work, Harry," he said. "We have put up every Ward we could think of. We are unassailable in this place ..."
At these words, the men sitting in the next booth stood up, and so did several others, seated at tables around the club.
"So you see, I'm holding all the cards, at this time."
"You want to watch you don't get sweaty hands then," said Harry. "You might find you drop them."
"Touché," smiled Bones. "Good form, Harry."
"Wards, you mean, Magical ones?" asked Harry.
Bones nodded. "Very useful, they are," he said. "No Muggle weapon can hurt us in this place. If you'd played it safe, and brought along your old wand, Harry, you might have been able to wound some of us, perhaps even kill a couple. But we would have got you in the end. You see, we have known your every move for some months. Our Department has been watching you."
"What Department is this?" asked Harry. "I washed my hands clean of you people. I want nothing more to do with you. And I don’t have a wand."
"Perhaps you would like to accompany us back to our offices. They're only a couple of minutes walk from here," said Bones.
"Tell me now, or I won't step foot outside this place without having drawn your blood," said Harry. "I want nothing more to do with you ... with any of you. You abandoned me!"
Bones shrugged. "If you do not wish to come, I will, of course, understand. But I think you owe us the truth, Harry. Don't you?"
"Who are you really?" asked Harry.
"Oh, my name really is Bones," said Bones. "But then, I'm not the one who's been hiding under a falsehood. Both of you have been living a lie. Well, the powers that be dictate that lie must now end. Are you ready to come with me, or do I have to force you?"
Draco was on his feet. "Your world threw us out," he said. "Why do you think we left? It was because I knew I could never gain acceptance in your world. Not being who I am, the son of my father, and not being what I am. Wizards are bright, but they're bigots too. Neither of us is leaving this club with you."
"Why contact us now?" asked Harry. "I thought I was free of it all."
"You can never be free," said Bones. "We will always be watching you. Didn't you know it would just be a matter of time?"
"Hogwarts was an interval," said Harry. "A blip in my life. I have no business there. And you don't seem to understand. We like being Muggles."
"You presume to insult the memory of your parents, Harry," Bones hissed. "Even I could not believe the Boy Who Lived would ever do that!"
"Well, perhaps you should start looking for the boy," said Harry. "He's obviously the one you want. Too thick to know any better. Stupid enough to get drawn into your fantasy of a world ..." he rose from the table. "Understood?"
Bones was a little lost for words. "I really don't think you want to run, Harry. We have this place surrounded."
Draco was now on his feet too, an ugly expression creeping across his face. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw what he was planning to do before he did it, but did nothing to stop him. Draco's hand was going for his gun.
"Surrounded with what, exactly?" asked Harry, calmly, stalling for time ...
Bones opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by a flurry of movement, as Draco whipped out his Beretta, and quick as a flash, whacked Bones on the head with the butt of his pistol. Bones let out a noise like a punctured football, and fell to the ground.
For a moment, everyone just stood there. Even the music had stopped, and the stripper, who had been in the process of removing her bra, was trying to hide behind the pole.
"Well, fucking run for it then!" yelled Draco.
They charged out of the booth, Harry catching his beer as he did so, sending the glass crashing to the floor. Harry could hear shouts from the other men as they jumped to their feet, and the next thing he knew, someone big and heavy had grabbed him round the shoulders.
It was the bouncer. Someone else was yelling. "Don't just stand there, you bloody idiots!"
Harry delved again into his pocket, his fingers seeking, and eventually finding the gun; he tugged it free and whirled round, twisting out of the bouncer's grasp. The other man wound up with his arm twisted round behind his back, his face was contorted with pain. Harry jabbed the barrel of the gun into his back.
"Give me a reason to fucking do it, and I swear I will!" he roared. "Keep back!" he added, as the others tried to close in on him.
"Harry, come on!" yelled Draco, who was standing at the top of the stairs, by the exit.
Harry's hands were shaking as he flipped off the safety catch, and rammed the gun deeper into the man's fleshy back.
A tortured cry escaped his lips. "Please! Don't."
"Fuck you," snapped Harry. He looked up. Several of the wizards were now standing a few feet away, their wands drawn.
"I'm going to back up these stairs, and you're not going to make a move until I'm out that door. You are not going to follow me, you are not going to try and stop me. Once I'm outside, if I see that one of you has disobeyed me, I'll shoot this fucker in the head, God help me I will."
He forced the bouncer to his feet, and began to walk backwards towards the staircase, sweat dripping off his body. He heard a faint click as Draco took the safety catch off his pistol, keeping the bar covered. Harry hauled the man up the stairs, and finally, out into the open. The street outside was not crowded, though the restaurant opposite was crowded with smart-looking patrons.
Harry kept his hand tightly round the other man's neck, and the gun pressed deep into his back, as he walked him across the street to where he had parked the Mercedes. Draco opened the back door, and together, they heaved the bouncer's weighty form onto the back seat. Draco kept him covered with the gun as Harry walked around to the driver's door, and climbed in.
"Where are we going now?" asked Draco, clambering into the back seat, slamming the door behind him. Harry activated the electronic locks on the doors, and then put on his seatbelt.
"We ought to get out of town," said Harry. "Maybe for a day or so, till this blows over. Keep chummy in the puffa jacket well covered."
"I'm on it," said Draco, jabbing the bouncer in the ribs with the Beretta. The man whimpered slightly.
"Don't fucking hurt me," he groaned. "I won't be no trouble. Just don't fucking hurt me. I've got a kid, for Christ's sake."
"What's the kid's name?" asked Harry, sticking a wad of chewing gum in his mouth and turning on the engine.
"David," squeaked the bouncer.
"Alf ... Alf Butcher."
"Well, Mr Butcher. We're just going for a little drive out to the country. Maybe you'll see David again, if you behave. If you don't behave, I might shoot you, or I might set Draco on you."
"Nah, he's not my type," said Draco. "Too Rubenesque, I like them slim and delicate, nice abs ... a bit like you, Harry."
"Worth a try," huffed Draco.
Harry sighed, and, checking the mirror for any signs of hordes of armed wizards charging out of the club, pulled away from the curb.
Not far south of Crawley, where the main London to Brighton road began to pass over the South Downs, it went suddenly from being a six lane motorway to a much narrower, unlit road, winding through forests and diving over switchback hills in close succession. Driving along there at night, the orange tungsten glow that hung over London dispersed very quickly, as the stars came out to play.
It was in a dark wood not far from Hayward's Heath that they left Alf the bouncer, dumping him at the side of the road, his pride bruised but otherwise physically unharmed. Harry and Draco continued on to the south coast, arriving in Brighton at about eight thirty on Thursday, January 9th.
Thursday was always a big night on the south coast; it wasn't quite Friday, but it was almost the weekend, and a palpable sense of excitement hung over the town. Groups of drunken teenagers congregated in bus shelters, and the post-Christmas crowds of revellers made their way to the seafront clubs.
Harry got behind a bus heading round Old Steine, and by the time they finally overtook it as it was heading up North Street, past the shops, he was in quite a foul mood.
"Get out the fucking way!" he swore at a group of partygoers trying to jaywalk on a red light.
Draco sat very tight in the back seat. He knew better than to ask Harry exactly where they were going. He knew Harry had connections in Brighton, a town so inextricably linked with the capital that people referred to it as 'London-on-Sea,' however, he had never been here before in his life. He also knew Brighton had a vibrant, cosmopolitan gay scene, although as they drove down Western Road, passing identical shops selling identical things - newsagents, clothes, and the ubiquitous kebab joints - he saw no sign of it, and was vaguely disappointed.
Harry's friend Steve 'Godzilla' Wilkes kept a fourth storey flat in one of the Georgian townhouses on Brunswick Square. Of course, one of the down sides of having a sea view and a vast, towering house, was that there was nowhere to park. Not that Harry let that bother him. He boxed in Steve's red Nissan Skyline, flicked off the Mercedes' headlights, and then picked up his mobile.
"I suppose it'd be polite to give him a bell if we're crashing on his floor for a couple of days," said Harry. Draco was about to make some comment about hoping there was room for his exfoliating skincare products, but did not.
Harry drummed his fingers on the dashboard as he waited for Steve to pick up the phone. Finally, after about ten rings, he did.
"Steve, it's Harry."
"Harry ... fuck, man, where the hell are you?"
"Outside, in the car," said Harry. "Look, Steve, we're in a spot of bother in London, can we hide with you for a couple of days?"
"Yeah, fuck, no problem, man. Are you really outside my flat?"
"Look out the window," said Harry.
Draco stared up at the house. After a few seconds, someone appeared at one of the fourth storey windows, scanning the street. Harry waved.
"Yeah, I gotcha," Steve's voice. "Who's the guy on the back seat? Are you picking up rent boys again, Harry?"
"Kind of," said Harry, trying to ignore Draco, who had dissolved into fits of helpless laughter at overhearing this, and had fallen sideways on the back seat. "He's a friend."
"Any other friends I should know about?" asked Steve.
"Nope," said Harry. "There was someone else, but he was unable to accompany us beyond Gatwick."
"I'll buzz you up," said Steve. "See you in a minute."
Harry switched his mobile off, and tucked it back in the pocket of his jeans, then turned to Draco.
"We could always pretend I am a rent boy," said Draco, in between giggles.
"We're meant to be on the run," said Harry. "Innuendo will be kept to a minimum, else I really will give you a smack."
They climbed out of the car, and climbed up the front steps to the house. Harry put his weight against the door, and it clicked open. Draco trailed after him into the building, letting the door slam shut behind them, and followed Harry up the stairs. It was quite a climb, and there was no lift, but eventually they fetched up on the top floor landing, where Steve was waiting for them.
Draco's first impression of Steve was of a gruff, forty-something who bore a faint resemblance to the actor he always forgot out of 'Eastenders.' His head was bald, though looking closely, Draco saw that his hair was actually cropped very short. He had a thick neck, and a tight black shirt was stretched across his stomach. He had forced himself into a faded pair of stonewash blue Levis, which must have looked very fashionable back in the days when Culture Club hadn't split up yet. Around his neck hung a gold pendant on a chunky chain, and in his hand he was holding a bottle of Gordon's gin.
"Fucking hell ... it's Harry!" he bellowed, upon catching sight of them. "How's life in the Smoke?"
"Bearable," said Harry, shaking Steve's hand. "Bearable."
"And who is your young friend?"
Draco bristled ... for one thing he was eight months older than Harry. "My name is Draco Malfoy," he said, in his frostiest, most imperious voice, which he usually only used on shop assistants in Harvey Nicks.
Steve gave him a look that said 'weird fuck,' but said. "Draco ... that'd be Latin for dragon, surely?"
"My parents were very into all that strange stuff," said Draco. "Wicca, magic, witchcraft, that sort of thing. Weirdoes, if you ask me."
"Well, you're very welcome, Draco," said Steve. "Step inside, make yourself comfy, " he turned back to Harry. "Is he your new shag then? Finally come out of the closet?"
"Hardly," said Harry. "We had a brief fling once, many years ago," he followed Steve into the flat, and kicked the door shut behind him. "I think we were both in it for the sex, mainly," Draco was making himself comfy on Steve's white leather sofa. There was an ultra-violent Kung Fu movie playing on the TV, dubbed from Chinese into English, so that the movement of the characters' lips did not synchronise with what they were saying, and the scary effect of the shirtless men circling one another in a disused warehouse was diminished.
"Just in it for the sex, mainly," said Steve, somewhat dreamily. "Harry ... he's a fag's dream. I'd sell my Grandmother to Osama Bin Laden just to be able to lick his thigh. I'd sell state secrets to the Russians for ten minutes with him in a vat of strawberry jelly."
"You don't know any state secrets," said Harry.
"I know the Queen doesn't go to the toilet ... ever."
"Well, have you ever seen her?" asked Steve, grinning.
"Anyway, you did sell your Grandmother," said Harry. "Back in 1999 ... you bought a Ford Escort Cabriolet and a new set of spark plugs."
"I've another one somewhere," said Steve dismissively. "How many times did you do it then? If it isn't too personal?"
"Six or seven," said Harry. "I am not gay, Steve, despite what you, and half the male population of Brighton apparently think. So leave off. I was experimenting. Everybody experiments."
"But you can't deny you do have a very sexy and humorously placed scar. Look, can I get you a drink, Harry?"
"I need something very strong," said Harry. "Give me a double vodka."
Harry followed Steve into the living room. It was furnished in typical working class boy made good style ... there was a lot of white, a massive wide-screen TV, a stereo with speakers that could have been taken from Stonehenge, and in an attempt to appear arty, an Andy Warhol print, the one with the different coloured Marilyn Monroes. He sat down on the sofa next to Draco, and it creaked under his weight.
Steve came back into the room, holding several tall, thin shot glasses and a bottle of Pierre Smirnoff's finest, which he set down on the coffee table, scooping several back issues of the Guardian out of the way first.
"Name your poison, Gentlemen," he said, flopping down on the sofa. "There's vodka or vodka."
"That'll do nicely," said Draco, picking up one of the glasses, and filling it almost to the brim. Then he knocked it back in one gulp. He swallowed, and his face creased up in disgust; he closed his eyes and gnashed his teeth.
"I swear that not in a million years will I ever get used to this stuff," said Draco.
Steve smiled. "Yeah, well," he said. "I can get you some Coke to go with it, if you like?"
"I don't like Coke," said Draco. "Unless Malibu is involved in some way."
"Here is a man who knows his mixers," said Steve, turning to Harry, who nodded. "So, tell me, boys. What brings you down here at such a time?"
"Harry got into trouble," said Draco, who had overheard their conversation. "Didn't you, Harry?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, trouble," he said. "Some blokes wanted me to invest in a club. Turned out to be a trap, so we had to make a sharp exit. Thought it'd be best to come down here for a few days, till the fuss dies down. There might be a lot of people looking for me up in town. I'd rather not give them any reason to think they can find me."
"Suits you to be here then?" asked Steve.
"Very much," said Harry, pouring himself a shot of vodka. "Is that okay?"
"I have a perfectly acceptable guest bedroom for you boys to use," said Steve, not noticing the look Draco shot Harry at that point. "I am, as you know, a sad and lonely bastard, and am always happy to have some company ... as long as you don't try and stop me drinking my arse into happy oblivion."
"I spend rather a lot of time myself doing that," said Draco. "Amongst other things."
"Draco is not only gay, but notoriously so," said Harry. "Isn't that true?"
"A notorious homosexual in my flat?" said Steve. "I am honoured. I'd love to take you clubbing."
"I wouldn't," said Draco. "I can't be held responsible for who I might have sex with."
"You have to come clubbing in Brighton," said Steve. "It's all people come here to do. Just pick your genre; trance, cheese, UK garage, house. We cater to most tastes."
Harry downed his second vodka, and reached for the bottle again. "Just don't let him take you to the Event," he said. "It's crap. Especially on Fridays."
"I'll bear that in mind," said Draco, shifting his weight on the sofa.
BACK IN LONDON …
"A monumental snafu, quite frankly," said Ron, glaring at the others. "That's what I think. You had them under your noses, and they got away."
The addressees looked at their feet, and shuffled them.
"It was the most simple thing, the tiniest little thing, and you let them get away!" Ron continued ranting, his face redder than usual, and his hair aflame under the soft office lights. "I couldn't have made it much easier for you if I'd given you a fucking net and told you to catch them in that!"
"Sir ... we're, with respect ..."
"With respect to what?" roared Ron. "You don't deserve any respect! They've fucked off. They're nowhere in London, we've had Chevron checking all the normal places for a good half hour now ... if they were anywhere in London, we'd know! So fuck knows where they've gone. In five minutes ... five minutes of appallingly bad work, you have blown what chance we had of getting them in here."
"Bones, you are on a charge. Cardwell, I don't even want to speak to you. Bugger off, and pray I'm in a better mood when your review comes up. Now, get out of my sight!"
They left his office, and the other occupant of the room, a woman, stood up. "Don't you think that was unnecessarily harsh?" she asked.
"Not in the slightest," said Ron, picking up his wand, which was lying on his desk, and tucking it inside his robes. He crossed the blue carpeted floor over to the window, which commanded a spectacular view of the vast parkland at the centre of wizarding London. However, not being in the mood for views, he drew the curtains shut hurriedly, and turned back to his desk.
"Why don't you go home early?" said Ron. "There's nothing here for you to finish off."
Jo Samways, his new secretary, gave him a withering look. "I thought we were going to go home together tonight. You said you were going to make me coffee, in the loosest possible way. You said your coffee was to die for."
"Hot chocolate," said Ron. "Look, I'm not sure it's such a good idea. I'm very tired, I got no sleep last night, and Cameron will be there, and Ginny too."
"You're concerned about your sister ruining your sex life?" said Jo, looking disappointed.
Ron shook his head hurriedly. "Not as such," he said. "I'm just worried about the kid. What'll Hermione think?"
"By all accounts, Hermione has been pretty busy since the divorce came through," said Jo. "And I don't mean work wise. You don't seem to realise that you aren't tied to that woman any more."
"But I have a kid, I have responsibilities," began Ron.
"And ... you think Cameron is going to care who you're shagging? Besides, I want to meet him. The way you're always going on about the poor boy, he sounds charming."
"Well ... he is ... I just don't want him thinking you're his Mum."
"Does he think that about every strange woman you bring home, Ronald?" asked Jo.
"No, but ..."
"Ron, I may be many things, but I am not out to hijack your child," said Jo firmly. "Now, you have been working for nearly thirty-six hours and have had only four hours sleep. We are going home and I am making you a nice hot drink. Do I make myself clear?"
Ron sighed. "Let me just clear my desk ..."
They walked down to the staff car park. The IBME building had numerous exits and entrances; besides the one on Diagon Alley, it also opened directly into the Muggle world, the entrance disguised as a garage door in a modern-looking office block just off Charing Cross Road, through which those officials, operatives and workers who lived amongst Muggles, arrived for work; it being more convenient than getting into wizarding London via any of the other routes, none of which could accommodate a car.
Ron's eyes were practically closed as he unlocked the door of his Saab, so Jo shooed him around to the passenger side, and she drove instead. He fell asleep as they were going over Hammersmith Bridge, which made changing gear slightly awkward, but she didn't mind. He woke up again as they drove through Richmond town centre.
"Nearly there," she said to him. "You live in Teddington, don't you?"
Ron nodded. "I'll direct you once we get through Twickenham," he said.
Jo turned left onto Richmond Road. An R68 bus pulled out directly in front of them, causing her to brake sharply.
"Arsehole!" she yelled, thumping the steering wheel.
Ron said something that sounded like, "Wrstfgl."
Jo said nothing for a couple more minutes, then she spoke. "You're pretty cut up about Draco and Harry, aren't you?"
Ron nodded. "It isn't the fact that we lost them, it really isn't. It's the fact that those two incompetents, who don't even work for me, who don't have any idea what this operation means to me, fucked up and ruined it."
"There's something else though, isn't there?" Jo went on. They were driving through central Twickenham.
"Yeah, kind of," said Ron. "I don't know if I ought to tell you."
Jo realised she was in the wrong lane, and hastily dived across to the far left of the road, causing the car following to hoot in indignation. "Shit, sorry!" she swore, bringing the car to a halt at the lights.
"Mind my car," said Ron, frostily. The car they had cut up drew level with them, and the driver gave them a very dirty look.
"Sorry, Ron. You were saying."
"I said I don't know if I should tell you," Ron repeated. The lights went green, and the traffic moved off.
"I might not be able to do my job as well as I should do if we don't have an honest working relationship," hinted Jo. "And I certainly won't be up to my usual high standards in the bedroom."
Ron sighed. "Okay," he said. "Look, this goes no further ... did you ever find out the reason they expelled Harry from Hogwarts?"
Jo shook her head. "Well, it was all hushed up. Didn't they say he attacked another pupil or something?"
"That wasn't strictly true ..." began Ron.
"Of course," Jo went on, oblivious to him. "None of you did anything to quash the rumour that he died. I was as surprised as hell when they told me ..."
"Speaks volumes for the indoctrination process ... why else do you think the IBME operates in such secrecy?" said Ron. "Trust me, nobody outside of my Department, except a few of the bigwigs upstairs knows that Harry is still alive. And it works out better for us that it stays this way. For now, anyway. The bigwigs certainly aren't letting on, but that's because they want the media coup of saying Harry is alive and we've got him."
"You mean he's working for you too?"
"We hoped he might agree to," said Ron. "It would be useful to have an operative who can slide gracefully to the wrong side of the law should we need him to. And Harry has a wealth of experience of Muggles ... actually, we have some work planned for him."
"I have a wealth of experience," began Jo. "I'm only half witch ..."
"That's not the point," said Ron. "Harry has experience where it counts. Anyway, as to his expulsion, well, the rumour mill went into overdrive. The official reason, the line the school toed, and expected us to as well, was that it was general appalling behaviour. But Harry was by no means appallingly behaved at any point ... sure, he'd break a few rules to suit his purpose, but he wasn't an inherently bad kid. Not like Draco Malfoy. Now, the underground rumour was rape."
Jo nearly crashed the car into a tree. "Rape?" she spluttered. "Come off it!"
"No, seriously," said Ron. "There were a lot of rumours flying around after Harry left. They say he was caught with another boy ..."
"That's not rape," laughed Jo. "That's just experimenting ... I thought most teenagers ..."
"Not true," said Ron. "Not how the Hogwarts governors see it, anyhow. Rumour has it the other boy's Father walked in on them."
Jo was still shaking her head in disbelief. "I refuse to believe Harry turned out to be gay," she was saying. "And you seem to be basing rather a lot of these assumptions in rumour, don't you think?"
"Well, that was all unproven," said Ron. "Truth is, there was no real evidence, this boy's Father just happened to wield rather a lot of influence ... couldn't take the fact that his precious son was the one leading Harry astray, rather than the other way round. The other kid was taken out of school shortly after, though at the time we were told he'd been expelled, too ..."
"This other kid would be Draco Malfoy, right?" asked Jo.
Ron nodded. "Yeah, you saw the photo of him?"
Jo nodded. "He could snap knicker elastic at fifty paces," she said.
"If he was straight," said Ron.
"You mean they really were sleeping together?"
Ron nodded. "I didn't find out until the other day ... shit, love. I don't even know why I'm telling you all this. But, well, I wanted to believe it wasn't true. Draco and Harry were ... sworn enemies," he stumbled to find the words. "They hated each other's guts. I was Harry's best friend, and then suddenly there were all these rumours flying around that they were having sex together. I didn't want to believe it. I kind of blanked it out ... went through my last years at Hogwarts in a sort of deniale d'affaire, to coin a nonexistent old French phrase I just made up," he added.
"So tell me how you found out," said Jo. "This is steamy stuff. It would make a good trashy romance novel."
"When we raided Harry's office, up in town, the other night," said Ron. "They brought back his old school trunk. He'd been keeping it there, and there were things that we wanted out of it. Important things, that Muggles shouldn't be allowed to have."
"Harry's hardly a Muggle," said Jo.
"Yeah, but, anyway. They brought the trunk in, and the stuff we were looking for wasn't there," said Ron. "Inside I found an old notebook of his. They didn't find any evidence of ... of his indiscretion at the time, purely because Harry made sure he took the evidence with him. It was all in there."
"How do you mean?"
"Drawings, scrawled notes, bits of poetry, turn left here," said Ron. "You know, the sort of thing."
Jo turned left. "You mean, kind of like a secret diary?" she said.
"Yes. Harry was always very good at drawing, see," said Ron. "He used to sketch us, up in the dormitory, or playing Quidditch, or doing whatever. Well, he'd been, how shall I put this, sketching Draco, too."
Ron nodded. "They left very little to the imagination," he said. "I think that's when it finally hit home. All that time they were having a torrid affair right under my nose. That's what's pissing me off."
"Don't let it," said Jo. "They were just having some fun, I expect. Nothing came of it."
"I wish I had your confidence," said Ron. The car drew to a halt outside Ron's house. "It isn't just the sex, though I don't like it as much as the next man ..."
"That's not very open-minded," said Jo.
"That's how I think," said Ron. "I think it's disgusting ... I don't object to them doing it ... I just, no ... nowhere near me, thanks."
"If that's what you think," said Jo. "If it isn't the sex, what is it?"
"The deceit," said Ron. "The fact Harry couldn't have told me about it. The fact that he lied to me."
"So you have personal reasons for wanting to see him, as well as professional ones? Don't you think that kind of ... well, should put you off the case?"
"I guess. But I'm not saying anything," he suddenly gave her an imploring look, as if afraid she was about to pick up the nearest phone and shop him to his superior.
"Don't worry. My lips are sealed. But what," Jo asked, turning to face him, "will you do when you finally meet him again?"
"I hadn't thought that far ahead," Ron admitted.
"Evidently," said Jo. She opened the door, and climbed out of the car.
Ron lived in a pleasant, tree-lined avenue, handy for the shops, and filled with substantial semi-detached homes built between the wars, with bay windows, double garages and pebble dash walls. The street was deserted, but the lights were on in most of the windows, including those in Ron's house.
He climbed out of the car, and led Jo up to the front door. Ginny opened it just as he was about to unlock it. She was wearing Ron's slippers, and carrying a half-drunk mug of coffee.
"You took your time," she said grumpily. Then she caught sight of Jo, standing behind him. "Oh, shit, sorry ... I didn't realise you had company."
"S'okay," said Ron, stumbling groggily into the hallway and slipping off his shoes. "Is Cameron in bed?"
"I read him two chapters of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," said Ginny. "But he still wanted more. I only got him off to sleep about an hour ago. I've been watching Muggle telly ... some of the stuff they put on really is crap, isn't it?"
The living room door was open, and through it Ron could see what programme was on. Carol Smilie and Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen were messing up some poor sod's house again. Sometimes he completely forgot that his familiarity with Muggle life was something completely alien to most magical folk.
"Yeah," he agreed. "That particular programme is, indeed, crap. But sometimes the others are good."
"I don't have a telly at home," Ginny explained to Jo. She drained her coffee. "Look ... I expect you two will be wanting to spend some time alone, so I'll be on my way."
"Yeah, thanks," said Ron. "I'll drop in tomorrow. Tell Mum I have to cancel my trip to the States this weekend. So I will be able to come for dinner."
"Oh, did your work fall through?"
"Someone fouled up," said Ron. "So there's no point in us going if we can't supply the Yanks with the goods. Anyway, we won't miss anything."
Ginny struggled into her coat, and kissed Ron on the cheek. "I'll see you Sunday then," she said. "Bye."
She raised her wand, and with a puff, she Disapparated.
Ron turned to Jo. "Bloody Harry. Do you still want some hot chocolate?" he asked.
"I thought hot chocolate was a euphemism," said Jo, sliding her coat off her shoulders and giving him that seductive glance; the one she knew from two months of lovemaking that he could not resist.
"Hot chocolate is a euphemism, as I don't ... actually ... have ... any," said Ron. "Is that technically legal?" he asked, taking in the flattering contours of her dress.
"I'm your secretary, you tell me," said Jo, slipping a bare arm slowly around his neck. "If you think it violates our professional relationship, then I won't wear it again."
"I think I can cope if you do," said Ron. "Would you like me to go and buy some hot chocolate? There's a twenty four hour Budgens round the corner."
"Skip the drinks," said Jo. "Do you have any Haagen-Dazs?"
"Sorry, Cameron only likes Ben & Jerry's," said Ron. "Chocolate chip cookie dough, to be exact."
Jo smiled. "We'll forego the part where you lick melting ice cream off my stomach, then," she said. "Never mind, there's always next time. Now, what I would like would be to spend the next two hours making passionate love to you on a fluffy sheepskin rug in front of a roaring fire ... the kind you get in Alpine resort hotels. However, you don't have a fire."
"I don't have a sheepskin rug, either," said Ron. Jo ran a hand through his red hair, then down his face to his shirt. Her fingers were light and delicate against his skin.
"It doesn't matter," she said. "I'll just take the passionate love bit," she undid the top two buttons of his shirt. Ron reciprocated by undoing the zip on the back of the dress she was wearing. He ran his fingers down her back
"That feels nice," she whispered, brushing his hair out of the way and kissing him on the neck.
"Not here," said Ron, slipping the dress slowly off her shoulders. "Cameron might wake up."
Jo moaned indignantly. "You're so conventional," she said. "What's the strangest place you've ever done it?"
"On a broomstick," said Ron, truthfully. "It was quite hard to balance, though, and there was nowhere to hang our clothes."
Jo undid the rest of the buttons on his shirt, and slid it gently off of him. Then she rested her head against his chest. "If I said I wanted you on the kitchen table?"
"I would suggest there are better places," said Ron. "Now kiss me, and then we can go upstairs."
They put Harry to bed in Steve's spare room; he was drunk beyond compare and mumbling something incoherent about lumberjacks being okay. They peeled off his clothes, and tucked him in under the duvet. Draco stayed on to make sure he didn't do anything stupid whilst Steve went to set up the sofa bed in the living room. Eventually, Harry drifted off, and eventually, so did Draco, sitting in a chair over by the window. When Steve looked in twenty minutes later, he thought it best not to wake either of them, and so went off to bed himself.
Draco woke up again at about two thirty in the morning. Harry was snoring softly to himself, one hand draped casually across his own chest, and the other hanging limply off the side of the bed. From somewhere nearby, he could hear fire engines, sirens blaring, but it did not concern him. The clouds had cleared, and there was moonlight slanting in through the sash window.
His back ached, and he felt dizzy, although the dreaded hangover he was anticipating had failed to materialise yet; a good thing, on the whole. He stood up, his shadow falling across Harry's face, which appeared milky white in the moonlight.
Harry slept on, oblivious.
Draco, thought to himself; what harm could it do? He sat down on the bed next to Harry, causing the mattress to sag and the whole structure to creak alarmingly. Hurriedly, he stood up again. He had a thing about creaky beds.
The movement caused Harry to stir. He rolled over, taking most of the duvet with him, and mumbled. "That you, Victoria?" he mumbled, his voice slurred, the words not coming out clearly.
Draco sat down on the bed again. "Um, you okay, Harry?" he asked.
"Fine thanks, darling," slurred Harry. "Why you awake?"
"Someone got a bit drunk," said Draco, softly. "I'm just making sure you don't do anything silly."
"Oh, okay," said Harry. "Do that thing you do," he said.
"Um, what thing?" asked Draco, his voice trembling slightly, it never entering his head for a moment to disillusion his friend that he was not Victoria.
"You know," slurred Harry. "That thing, with my ear."
"Tell me what I like to do with your ear, Harry," said Draco, heat rising in his body at the very thought of just what Harry might like to have done with his ear.
"Are you being silly?" snorted Harry. "You like to nibble on it."
"Oh yes, I do," said Draco, whose heart was pumping fit to bust. Slowly, and strangely feeling almost as sick as he had done that first time, all those years ago, he leant over Harry, and gently applied his lips to his ear, licking the smooth skin.
"Mmm," murmured Harry. "That's very nice."
"Oh yes," agreed Draco, tickling the earlobe with his tongue. "Very nice indeed."
"You don't sound like Victoria," murmured Harry, the muscles in his shoulder and back relaxing a little.
Draco eased his own T-shirt over his head, and shifted his weight on the bed.
"How do you mean?" Draco asked, his voice slightly muffled - having a mouthful of Harry's ear might have had something to do with that.
"You sound more like Draco," giggled Harry. Draco froze, suddenly feeling very guilty, and wondering, as he did at moments like this, whether Catholicism might be an option. "Are you Draco?"
"Um," said Draco. His hands eased the duvet slowly off Harry, exposing the lines of his shoulders, the moon casting his body in delicate shadows.
"I've not had sex with Draco for ages," giggled Harry. "Are you Draco?"
"Not usually," said Draco, who was fairly confident that Harry was still too drunk to remember anything in the morning, and was also enjoying himself too much to stop now. He put his hand on Harry's back.
"So who are you now?" asked Harry.
"How about your secret admirer?" said Draco, his mouth finally releasing Harry's ear as he slid his lips down Harry's exposed neck, applying his tongue liberally, and moved closer, sliding his hand between Harry's arm and torso
"I'm too pissed to have sex," mumbled Harry. "And I won't remember any of it in the morning," he moaned.
"That can only be a good thing," whispered Draco, fiddling with the buttons on his own fly. "Isn't guilt free sex wonderful?"
"Yes," agreed Harry. "It is very nice," he hiccupped. Draco wriggled out of his jeans and let them fall to the floor. Then he lifted up the duvet, and slid into bed beside Harry. He knew he should be feeling very guilty. He knew Harry would kill him in the morning, but it didn't seem to matter.
Harry sighed as Draco applied his lips gently to the nape of his neck; he reached over to reciprocate, and ran his hand slowly down Draco's chest to his waist, and lower ...
Ron opened one eye, and checked his alarm clock. It was nearly three in the morning. Usually he was a sound sleeper, but there was something not quite right.
He threw off the covers, and climbed out of bed. He walked over to the window, and parted the curtains, looking out. The street outside was just as it always was; his car was parked at the kerb, the dustbins put out ready to be collected the next day. The whole scene was bathed in a familiar orange glow from the streetlamps.
So what was bothering him? He turned back to the bed. Jo was lying on the side where Hermione used to sleep, her head turned gently round to the left, her hand outstretched on the pillow next to her, palm up, fingers grasping for something nonexistent. She looked very peaceful.
Ron sat down on the bed again, and drew the covers up around himself. He turned to look again at the sleeping form of his girlfriend, and reached out to stroke her hair, which was long and brown and very smooth indeed. He found himself taking it in his hands, and letting it fall through his fingers like grains of sand. She did not stir.
He wondered what Harry was doing right now.
Draco lay on his side, Harry's body pressed against him. The digital clock on the bedside table said four a.m. Harry had simply rolled over and gone right back to sleep afterwards. Draco had not been entirely certain he had been fully aware of what was going on. He hadn't made any attempt at resistance, which Draco assumed meant it was okay.
And he had appeared to be enjoying himself; certainly he had been vocal, his breathless moans adorning the pleasure of doing what Draco had been longing to do for such a very long time.
Draco draped his arm across Harry's chest, sat up, and reached for the glass of water he had placed by his side. He drank deeply, relishing the water as it trickled down his dry throat. Then he set down the glass, and looked down at Harry. Harry looked sated, calm and happy ... his forehead was still covered with a thin glaze of sweat, and marking his neck and chest were the red marks Draco's kisses had left.
Draco had had lovers since leaving school, the first ... he recalled, at least, the first after Harry had been called Sebastian, and despite the sex, which had been wonderful, he had felt that it had lacked something, something very fundamental. Second on the list of boyfriends had been Dave, a gas meter reader from Basingstoke, who had really just been looking for something slender and pliant to be rough and nasty with. This was not what Draco had had in mind, and so Dave had been dispatched with swiftness. His first legal one ... when he was eighteen, had been Jack, who, with the aid of a tub of illegally purloined Viagra, had been responsible for some of the most productive evenings of Draco's life. The list ran on ... Derek, Casey the American student, Graham, Jimmy, all the way through to Julian and Marcus, and of course the countless one night stands and hedonistic fumbling at clubs.
But all of them had not satisfied him. He had always secretly longed to have Harry back. Harry had been his first, after all. If he put his mind to it, he could still recall that very night, vividly passionate, as if it was only yesterday.
He wondered why he felt like this. He'd had so many others since - but none of them had ever made him feel the way Harry did so effortlessly, even when he was very drunk and wasn't entirely sure who he was having sex with.
Why should it be like that? What was wrong with him?
END OF CHAPTER THREE.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Author notes: In part four of Snitch! Ron's still struggles to come to terms with his discovery and his anger. And will Harry find out what happened? Coming soon, to a theatre near you!
Lots of wonderful people reviewed part two, I hooked some new reviewers, which is nice to see... so welcome on board! I am still amazed that nobody has flamed me for this, though I doubt that'll last much longer! In order then, thanks, hugs and schnoogles go out to the following...
The betas... Rhysenn (who upped the slash content here a bit... schnoogles for Rhysenn) and Viola (who I take malicious delight in torturing with multiple fics). The reviewers... Saitaina A. Moricia, Rain in Fire, Parker, pantalaimon, Kei, Simon, Mrs Weasley, Alicia/Sue, Flourish, Catriona Snape, dani, Zoe, Hydra/Serpentese, Cassandra Claire, sherlock03, Melpomene, darkangel, Amanita Lestrange, minx, Karina, heidi tandy, Abby Stiles, Teek, Laetitia Prism, carissa, kath, Crymson Tyrdrop, Lovely Angels, Some person, Jocetta, Gwendolyn Grace, Arnica, Lily, Wynster McG, kinneo Sage, Juniper, Destiny, Noctua, Sachiko Barton, rave, Felicitas, Unicorn Chick, wingedkeys, Lady Neptune, Blue Butterfly, finite and Dervish.