- 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:
- Please be aware that this story contains
The queue shuffled inexorably forwards towards the goal.
"Can I take your order, sir?"
Harry slapped a five pound note on the countertop. "Make it a Big Mac, large fries, black coffee, also large."
The assistant jabbed at the little pictograms on his till. "Eating in or taking out?" he asked.
"Take out," Harry said, blearily, shifting uncomfortably. The floor was sticky underfoot, the air thick with the smell of frying chips and sweat, and heavy with the shouts of a hundred foreign tourists.
Harry collected his food in a brown paper bag, and squeezed out of the restaurant. He stood outside for a couple of minutes. It was getting on for midday, and Leicester Square was already crammed with people. The snow was melting, and what wasn’t melting into slush was being swept aside by street cleaning machines. Harry opened the bag, and plucked a handful of chips from their red cardboard holder. Then he went in search of a bench, eventually finding one outside the Odeon. Banners advertising the latest premiere (Disasteroid! II, starring Bruce Willis and Sandra Bullock) were draped across the boxy, grey front of the cinema. Harry bit into his burger. It was foul beyond compare. He ate hungrily, licking his fingers in between each bite. A passing mime artiste was attracting a small crowd of bemused Americans.
Harry took the little plastic lid off his coffee, and sipped at the steaming liquid.
He had been walking around this little corner of the West End all morning, since leaving Draco’s at about nine. Wrapped up in his jacket and gloves, he made several circuits along Coventry Street, down Haymarket, across onto Trafalgar Square and back up Charing Cross Road. Each time, the Leaky Cauldron stood out like a sore thumb. Harry had paused on the pavement ... waited whilst a passing bus temporarily obscured his view ...
A couple of people walked up to the front door. They appeared to be dressed normally, in smart suits. Harry watched as they swung the door of the pub open, and stepped inside, their sharp suits becoming robes as they did so. Not one of the passing people ... Harry stopped himself, Muggles, gave them a second glance.
He popped the last bit of burger into his mouth, licked his lips one last time, and dabbed his sticky fingers clean on the paper napkin. Then he stood up, left his bag in a nearby litter bin, and walked off towards Charing Cross again.
This time, it took him a couple of minutes to find the Leaky Cauldron. It seemed to have an annoying habit of shifting its position, so that one day it might be up at Shaftsbury Avenue, opposite the Palace Theatre, another day it might be all the way down the southern end, near St Martin-in-the-Fields. Today it was outside Foyle’s, a vast and apparently devilishly complicated and archaic bookshop. Harry had never had any cause to visit it.
He leaned against one of the pillars outside the shop, looking across the road at the slanted, half-timbered structure, with its sign swaying in a non-existent wind. How odd it looked, he thought, crammed in between a modern office block and a tiny bureau de change.
As he watched, a lone, elderly man stepped out, hobbling slightly on a cane. He was wearing what appeared to be a green, floor length coat. Harry blinked. Now the coat was a flowing robe. The man hobbled off towards Trafalgar Square, and in a moment was lost in the crowds.
"It’s now or never," Harry said to himself. He walked a little way down the street to the nearest pedestrian crossing, pressed the button, and waited. The Leaky Cauldron flickered slightly. A plane flew low overhead and a herd of buses lumbered slowly by.
The lights went red, and Harry crossed the road, avoiding a crocodile of schoolchildren crossing in the opposite direction. He turned back towards the Leaky Cauldron, and immediately walked straight into the old man he had seen earlier.
"Ever so sorry, mate," he began.
The man looked at him strangely.
"Think nothing of it, my boy," he said, in a quavering voice. He was looking at Harry oddly. "Heading to Diagon Alley?"
Harry nodded. How could he have possibly known that?
The man jabbed Harry in the foot with his cane. "Scrumptious toad-in-the-hole on the specials board inside. You must try it."
"I already ate," said Harry, "but thanks anyway."
"Never mind. Nice to see you again, Harry."
The man waddled off, leaving Harry standing rather bemused. He shook his head. The man was hobbling along, swinging his cane from side to side. He was dressed as a Muggle again.
Harry turned and gave chase. This didn’t take long, for the old man was very wobbly on his feet.
"Excuse me ... excuse me!"
The man stopped dead in his tracks, and turned around slowly.
"Um ..." Harry suddenly found himself completely unable to speak. "Um ... um ... you ... you called me Harry ..."
The man peered owlishly at Harry over the rims of his ancient, crumbling spectacles. "Is that not your name?" He looked Harry up and down.
"Well ... yes ..."
"Well then," the man said. "There’s no problem. If you’ll excuse me, Harry. I have business to attend to. Good day to you, boy."
And he waddled off again.
Harry turned, and walked back up the street to the Leaky Cauldron. He could, if he thought very hard, picture the scene inside. There would be a crudely chalked blackboard advertising the day’s specials, posters for travelling shows and theatre companies, and seated in the shadows round and about, the usual mix of the weird and fantastic that he could remember from the first day he went in there ...
He stopped on the front step. His heart was beating so quickly it felt he was about to do himself in. He could hear the music coming from inside.
"Steady on, Harry," he said to himself. "It’s nothing. You can go right back out again if you feel like it."
He pushed open the door, and something happened that had not happened to him for many years.
His scar burned white hot. Instinctively, he cried out, and his hand flew to his forehead. The pain faded, gradually, and he was able to open his eyes again.
This was not the Leaky Cauldron. This was a trendy wine bar. The unadorned walls were painted a uniform shade of pale New England blue. The floor was polished wood. The tables were topped with glass, the lights were tiny little halogen spots, and the bar was chrome, and polished to a tee. And the eyes of a whole roomful of patrons were staring at him as if he was quite mad.
Harry contemplated running, but figured that that might make him look even more of an arse than he already did, so, making as if he had been planning to burst into the bar at lunchtime and yell all along, he made his way over to the bar. There were hundreds of wine and spirits bottles on display behind it, but he was relieved to spot the familiar brass taps as well. Good, he thought. They have beer.
Harry leant on the bar, and almost immediately had made eye contact with one of the staff, who wiggled her way over to him.
"Afternoon," she said. She flicked long, blonde hair back over her left ... bare ... shoulder. Her sparkly top was stretched tight across her breasts, and Harry drooled mentally.
"Pint of nipples," he said.
Harry shook his head to clear the sudden mental blockage. "I mean ... just ... lager, any lager you’ve got ... pint of ... please ... I would like."
The girl nodded, and set to pulling the pint for him. Another customer came up and stood next to Harry at the bar. He appeared to be wearing a violet robe. Harry eyed him cautiously.
The girl slid his pint across the bar to Harry, and mumbled something that sounded like, "Two pound sixty, please?" Harry fumbled in his pocket and handed her a fiver.
She looked at it oddly.
"Um, what the hell is this?" she asked.
"Five pound ..." Harry began. "I’m sorry, love. I don’t have anything smaller ..."
But the girl was surveying the note in the manner of an archaeologist holding up the Holy Grail.
"Are you some kind of weirdo or what?" she asked. "I’ve never even seen one of these before. This isn’t money ..."
The man in the violet robe looked over. "That’s Muggle," he said.
The girl rolled her eyes at Harry. "We don’t take Muggle money," she said, gritting her teeth angrily. "Six Knuts please?"
Harry panicked. "I’m ... I ... that is ... I don’t have ..." he began.
The man in the violet robe chuckled kindly. "Let me help you out, young man," he said. "Six Knuts, darling. And a pint of whatever this whippersnapper is having."
"You’re lucky," the girl said to Harry spitefully. "Usually Mr Lockhart makes people like you wash up for a month without magic." Harry got the impression she would have happily put him up against a wall and used the Killing Curse on him ... she would’ve denied him a last cigarette, too.
He put his hand to his forehead again, masking the scar. "I’m sorry," he began. "I really don’t know what’s wrong with me today. Is this the Leaky Cauldron, then?"
The girl snorted ... clearly she considered Harry below her contempt. "Bit out of touch, arncha? This hasn’t been the Cauldron for three years. We had a corporate makeover, didn’t we, Gilderoy?"
The man in the violet robe simpered at the mention of his name.
"Yes, indeedy," Gilderoy Lockhart said. "I bought Tom out, closed the bar down, and then re-opened the Leaky Cauldron as the Pentagram - Diagon Alley’s only Muggle theme pub. The new ways are the best, my boy ... the way forward ... the future. Nobody likes to drink in seedy wizarding dens anymore. The times they are a-changing." He chuckled at his own joke. It wasn’t funny. At all.
Harry surveyed the pub as he sipped at his lager. It was a pretty damn accurate impression of the interior of the kind of pub Draco liked to drink in. As he looked closer, he could see that most of the customers were wearing wizarding robes, most of them in varying states of shabbiness. They looked very out of place as they sipped at their premixed Muggle drinks, grimaced, and generally looked very unhappy.
Lockhart didn’t appear to have noticed.
"But you can still get onto Diagon Alley out the back?" Harry blurted out, with no idea of what made him say that.
"Of course not," said Lockhart. "We updated that, too. Now all you do is walk into that telpephone booth and dial a number. We felt it was more authentic. It appears, you see, that when Muggles want to leave a pub, they dial a number for something called a ta-xi. Ingenious, the ways they have found of managing without magic."
"Quite," Harry agreed. As he watched, an elderly, dark-haired, angry looking man walked into the phone booth, picked up the receiver, and jabbed his gnarled fingers at the buttons. Then he vanished.
"If only," Gilderoy Lockhart went on, "we could persuade the Diagon Alley Shopkeepers and Trades Union to update their practices. We need automation ... PCs ... faxes, email. I offered to design a website for Ollivander, but he told me to shove my wand somewhere rather personal ... then again several of the shopkeepers on Erotic Alley have expressed interest in ..."
But Harry had gone ...
Hermione sat listlessly in her seat on the Oxford train as it streaked northwards across open countryside. Trees and hedgerows and villages flashed by, each rendered blurred and streaky and unidentifiable.
Unable to concentrate on her book (Towards a Sustainable Wizarding Foreign Policy) which was dull and lifeless, to say the least, she returned the offending tome to her handbag, and withdrew something else. It was a slim, leather-bound volume ...
Ron came clattering down the stairs from the Gryffindor boys’ dormitories, waving something above his head.
"He forgot this!" he said, his face a mask of concern for their friend.
Hermione, who was re-reading ‘Hogwarts: A History’ for the umpteenth time in her favourite chair beside the fire, looked up.
"What is it?" she asked, as Ron sat down on the arm of her chair.
"His photos," Ron was babbling. "He left his photos ..."
"Not his parents? He never lets that out of his sight!"
Ron shook his head. "No, Hermione. The other one ... us."
Hermione was on her feet immediately, the discarded copy of ‘Hogwarts: A History’ falling to the floor of the Gryffindor Common Room. Ron handed her the book, and she flicked it open.
"Why would he leave it behind?" Ron asked.
And Hermione thought, but did not say aloud. Because he thinks we betrayed him.
She opened the book, and flipped through the pages. The album had been her fifteenth birthday present to Harry, delivered to his prison at the Dursleys’ by owl post, during the summer between the Fourth and Fifth Years. From every page Harry, Ron and herself, occasionally sandwiched between various combinations of Weasleys and, or Gryffindors, beamed, waved and larked around.
Hermione snapped the book shut. She could feel the onset of tears.
"Why did you come back?" she asked, softly, tucking the photo album back into her handbag. "What does it all mean?" The man on the seat opposite looked at her as if she was mad, and disappeared behind his Daily Mail.
It was suddenly clear to her where she needed to be ...
When the train pulled into Oxford Station some twenty minutes later, she disembarked, strode right over to the ticket office, and bought herself passage back down to London.
"Hello, this is Harry Potter’s fridge. Harry’s answer-machine can’t come to the phone right now, but if you’d care to leave a message and a number where you can be contacted, I will gladly write it down and stick it to myself with a magnet."
Remus hung up the phone again. It was getting on for half past twelve, and he had been trying, without success, to raise Harry at his flat in Islington, since arriving at the IBME Building earlier that morning.
He was just about to give up and go and grab a bite to eat at the canteen, when there came a knock on the door.
"Come in," he said.
The door opened a crack, and Ron poked his head around it. "Um ... hi," he began.
Remus nodded. "Hello," he said. "Look, I’m afraid there’s been no joy on raising Harry - I’m awfully afraid he’s done another vanishing act. Do you fancy heading down for some lunch ... there’s a spinach and ricotta pastry I want to sample ..."
"Won’t be necessary," said Ron. "Maybe another day. Anyway, I don’t know what you’re phoning Harry for. He’s here now."
Remus was on his feet in an instant.
"Well," said Ron, "he’s been wandering around downstairs for about ten minutes. I just came up to find you ..."
"How did he get in ... I mean ..." Remus spluttered.
"I imagine he just walked into the Pentagram," said Ron. "It’s not that hard to do, Remus. Hundreds of witches and wizards do it everyday ..."
"Stop taking the mickey," Remus said. "How could he have gotten in without anybody noticing. I mean, this is Famous Harry Potter we’re talking about ... Famous Dead Harry Potter," he added.
"Nevertheless," said Ron, "he is here. Come along. I’ve put him in Briefing Room 6."
Briefing Room 6 turned out to be on the seventh floor, between, respectively, Briefing Rooms 23 and 118. It didn’t help that every single floor plan of the IBME building included several large and obvious red arrows loudly proclaiming, ‘Well, you are not here.’ Thankfully, Ron knew his way around better than most of the other Operatives, and they were able to find it without too much difficulty.
Harry was sitting in a comfortably upholstered, red armchair, next to a large, leaded light window which afforded a generous view along the entire length of Diagon Alley. There was a large, silver coffee pot steaming gently on the table, and a plate of Hagrid! brand biscuits (now with added grit). Harry had touched neither of them.
"Good morning, Harry my boy," said Remus jovially, offering his hand. Harry didn’t take it.
"You’ll excuse me if I don’t get up," he said. "Sitting down was painful enough as it is, and I’d rather not move around too much."
Remus looked at Harry oddly. "Yes ... um ... quite," he said. "Thanks for coming today - it means a lot to be able to talk to you without having to resort to armed backup."
"Who said I wasn’t armed?" Harry began.
"You’re not ..."
Harry nodded. "I never leave home without a gun," he said. "You need to do something about security here, Remus. Someone could just walk in off the street one of these days ..."
"Oddly enough, it’s never come up before," said Remus. "Besides, I assure you that the Wards in place around the IBME Building are so strong that they slow the speed at which the gun operates ... if you even tried to shoot me, the bullets would move like they would through ... through ... oh ... say strawberry jelly."
Harry smiled. "I see," he said. It was interesting, Remus thought, to see him today, after having witnessed the edgy, slightly dangerous and confused Harry of yesterday. Was it possible that all Harry had needed was a decent night’s sleep?
"Let me pour you some coffee," said Remus. He stood up, picked up the coffee pot, and poured out three cups. "Harry," he went on, as he handed Harry the steaming beverage. "I think I owe you, if anything, an apology for yesterday. Ron explained what was happening, and ... well ..."
"I don’t want to talk about it," said Harry coldly.
Ron put his cup down on the table, and fixed Harry with his gaze. To Remus, it was like the meeting of two equals. The last time he had seen them together, Harry had been a good foot shorter than Ron, and weedy with it. But now, both men of equal stature, in ... good jobs. Remus was forced to admit that there were worse lots in life than running clubs and gyms. Harry hadn’t exactly done badly for himself. But then, at the back of his mind, there was that knowledge that he could have done so much more.
"I don’t know how I can convince you that I don’t mean you any harm," Ron began. "I don’t know how I can make you believe that all I wanted ... all I ever wanted was to have my friend back."
Harry folded his arms, and stared at Ron impassively.
"Well, let’s just say that yesterday was a pretty piss-poor start, Ronald," Harry said, at length.
Ron nodded. "I know that," he said. "It was entirely our fault."
Remus got up. "I should leave," he said. "Ron. I’ll be right outside if you need me."
Ron nodded. "Very good," he said. Both of them turned to watch as he walked to the door and slipped quietly out of it, closing it behind him.
For a moment, both men stared at the door. Harry looked as if he was expecting it to open again at any moment.
"Why did you come here today?" Ron asked, at length.
"I had to swallow a lot of my pride to do this," said Harry. "I did a lot of thinking last night. Draco and I went home together, and well, one thing led to another and we wound up ..."
"I find that quite a disturbing image, Harry," said Ron. "I’d rather not discuss it ..."
"Oh, would you not?" Harry began, his tone rising in anger. "Because the whole sex-with-Draco thing is what caused all this in the first place, so if it makes you uncomfortable then you can send in someone else. But for now, hear me out because this is me and this is my life and you can’t really want me back if you don’t want to accept every part of me. Even the parts you don’t like!"
There was silence.
"I’m not gay, Ron. I don’t think I ever was," said Harry.
"It’s not that ... it really isn’t that ..." Ron began.
"Then what is it?"
"I don’t know," Ron admitted.
"Draco said to me last night," Harry went on, "that it was my choice. That I should do whatever made me happy. I’m not sure if this is going to make me happy, but compared to what I’ve got, it can’t make things any worse, can it?"
"I suppose not," said Ron.
"So what do I do now?"
"Harry ... I don’t want to discuss business with you. I really don’t. I don’t think this is the time, or the place," Ron began.
"But I do," said Harry. "I can’t think of any better time or place. Why don’t you want to talk about what I want to talk about?"
"Because I don’t think you’re ready for it," said Ron. "I don’t think it’d do either of us any good. All I think is that right now ... we just need to ..."
"Calm down, act logically and rationally?" asked Harry, neatly anticipating Ron’s next sentence. "I have to say that, Ron, nice as logical, rational thought is, it isn’t exactly great at solving immediate problems. Now quit ducking the issue and sit down ... we’ll have a drink."
"It’s up to you, Harry," said Ron. "It’s entirely up to you ..."
"Yes, I was aware of that," Harry said in slightly irritated tones. "But it has to do with this Malone fellow you told me about, am I right?"
Ron nodded. "Have a seat, Harry," he said. "We might as well get this over with ..."
"I’m up for it," said Harry. Like Remus had been, Ron was very much amazed by this sudden personality shift that Harry seemed to have undergone.
"We wanted you back," Ron began, speaking slowly, deliberating and choosing his words very carefully, "because we knew you have designs on Malone’s empire - as it were."
Harry nodded. "Why should that be a problem?" he said. "It really has nothing to do with the wizarding world if I get into a gangland war or not ..."
"We’re on Malone’s tail, too," said Ron. "And believe me, it is our business, Harry. We have moles everywhere ... the IBME knows more than you give it credit for ..."
"Are you trying to tell me that Malone is trying to kill me? You did all this to tell me something I’ve known for nearly two years? You want to offer me protection?"
"Not exactly. We want to protect the wizarding world ... that’s our prime objective," Ron said. "Certain information you might be able to come by could help us in that field. Muggle gangsters who also happen to be wizards could cause us a great deal of harm. We want you on side so that we can work against more dangerous elements in the gangland scene ... there would be certain privileges, mind ..."
"Stop right there," said Harry. "So you’re lying to me again, is that it?"
"Well ... no ... but ... I mean," Ron burbled.
Harry rolled his eyes. "You’d make a bloody brilliant comic actor, Ron," he said. He got to his feet, and Ron instinctively winced, but Harry merely crossed the room to the window and looked out of it. The famous Diagon Alley Sales were in full swing, and even though it was Monday, crowds were surging along the street below, seeking out stealthily the canny bargains.
"I’m sorry?" Ron began.
"You have such an incredible talent for fucking up," Harry went on. "I mean, to be quite frank, I’m amazed you got this far. You’re like a Two Ronnies farce ..."
Ron didn’t catch the reference, but flushed bright scarlet anyway.
"I assume that’s not good, Harry," he said.
Harry spun round, his eyes flashing with anger. "Too fucking right it’s not, Carrots!"
Now Ron was on his feet. "What did you say?"
"I said, too fucking right it’s not, Carrots," said Harry. He removed his glasses, and polished the lenses upon the front of his shirt.
"My name is Ron Weasley," Ron said. "Perhaps you’d forgotten that - but I used to be your friend ..."
"That’s nice," said Harry. "Look, if there’s nothing else, you clearly have nothing of any consequence to say to me, so I’m just going to be on my way, and I don’t expect to see you again ..."
"Ginny would like to ... " Ron started. "See you again ..."
"It was once," he said.
"Mum would like to see you," said Ron.
"I’m meant to be dead," Harry said, putting both hands to his forehead, as if he was suddenly in pain. "I’m meant to be fucking dead! How can I just waltz back into your lives as if I’ve never been away, because I have ... and that’s something we can’t change ..."
"You owe it to my family, don’t you think, Harry?"
Harry goggled. "You selfish fucking prick, Weasley! You lure me back in here with all this friendship shit ... which you actually believe ... which frankly is beyond belief. And all you want is me to help you nail some creep, or something. Well fuck you! You never wanted me back anyway. You just want me to play ball so that you can protect a bunch of witches and wizards! Well fuck them! And fuck you! No deal, Weasley!"
"Harry, please listen to me! I know what you want! I know it isn’t what you’ve got. Think of what you could’ve done!"
"I don’t much care to," said Harry. He retrieved the battered, leather jacket he had slung over the back of one of the armchairs, and pulled it on. "I’m leaving now," he said. "Make one move against me and I’ll blow your brains all over the floor. Don’t think I wouldn’t!"
"Oliver’s army is on their way, Oliver’s army is here to stay-ay ..."
Draco, one hand on the handle of his new Dyson, waltzed across the lounge, humming to the song playing on the radio.
"And I would rather be anywhere else, bu-ut here, with yoouuuu ..."
The volume was turned up so loud that he almost didn’t hear the faint, chirruping, farting noise his telephone was making. He turned off the hoover and cast his eyes about the flat for the phone. Telephones pissed Draco off. He’d have given anything to have some vast, steam operated device that was so large it needed to be kept in the garage, and that actually rang. This pathetic little buzzing sound was almost impossible to locate with audio alone.
It was somewhere close. Draco began to pat himself all over, before realising that, as he was naked, the telephone probably wasn’t hidden on his person.
Chirrup ... chirrup ... chirrup.
Draco located the telephone down the back of the sofa cushions. It stopped ringing as he picked it up. Sprawled halfway across the sofa in a very uncomfortable, and rather revealing position, he swore.
"Shit, shit, fuck and bugger."
The phone started to ring again. This time, Draco pressed the talk button immediately.
"Yup," Draco said. "What can I do for you?"
"Malfoy ... um ... Draco. This is Ron ... Commodore Weasley, sorry. We’ve had a little situation ..."
Harry drove. He didn’t care where he went. He just had to get far away from London. That was what was important. The car sliced through the afternoon traffic, under clear, blue skies. Music played on the radio. The M4 became the M25 ...
The sun was beginning to set - the shadows were getting longer. Soon it would be dark, cold and wintry. Last night’s snowfall still lay in slushy piles alongside the motorway. The sunlight was glinting off it. Harry was suddenly mesmerised.
He became aware that the traffic was passing him by on both sides, and that his speed had dropped alarmingly. He judiciously sped up a little, keeping pace with the other cars. Overhead, strung out in a line, he could make out the glittering silhouettes of aeroplanes, queuing to land.
His mobile phone rang, suddenly. He reached down into the glove compartment and retrieved the unit. His face fell as he read Draco’s name on the display.
"Fuck off," he whispered to himself, and flung the still bleating telephone onto the passenger seat. "Fuck the whole fucking lot of you."
He could feel tears welling up behind his eyes again, and wiped them away with the sleeve of his jacket, blinking rapidly, utterly failing to notice that he was drifting across three lanes of rapidly moving traffic.
"Fuck the lot of you! Fuck the whole lot of you!"
Harry assumed that the other drivers were hooting at somebody else. A silver Citroen C5 veered wildly in front of him, brake lights flashing. It barely even registered in Harry’s mind. I must get out of here ... go somewhere warm ... somewhere nice ... Hawaii ... Florida ...
The sound of a horn blaring very close jerked Harry back to his senses. He glanced suddenly over to his left.
The left flank of the Aston grazed lightly against the tinny little Nissan Micra that had been pottering along in the slow lane alongside him. Harry flung the steering wheel round, veering the bigger car suddenly away. The front wheels contacted a patch of treacherous black ice, and Harry lost control. He panicked. His brain was telling him to steer into the skid, as he had been taught, but the steering didn’t seem to want to respond. He tried steering the other way, his foot pumping the brake pedal ineffectively. The front of the car swung round. Harry fumbled for the handbrake, missed, and knocked the car into reverse. There was an agonising crunching of gears and a squealing of tyres, and Harry just had time to see the front of the oncoming juggernaut, headlights blazing, before it struck the drivers’ side of the car.
Harry had taken the Aston with him, so Draco headed up into London in his Lotus, cruising through the late-afternoon traffic.
"... a very serious road accident on the M25, just past Junction 12, Heathrow, at the busiest hour of the day. Up to ten vehicles are believed to have been involved, one of them, a huge lorry, is jack-knifed across the central reservation. Police, ambulance and fire crews are on the scene as we speak. However, this does mean that the southbound carriageway of the motorway has been closed at Junction 12 ... there’s a diversion in operation but it is still absolute chaos in that area. The northbound carriageway is down to two lanes, and that’s moving slowly as a result of drivers slowing down to have a look ... please don’t do that ... it is very dangerous indeed. Doesn’t look like it will be cleared up for a long time, that one. As soon as we know anything more we will let you know, of course. Moving on, a burst water main in Bethnal Green means traffic is flowing very slowly ..."
Draco slipped a CD into the player. He hoped nobody had been too badly hurt.
Harry came to with a start. He could hear the sound of an engine rattling very close by ... the hiss of pneumatics. Somebody was shining a torch in his face.
"I think he’s all right ... I think he’s fine. Hello, son ... can you hear me ..."
"Swish car for such a little lad ..." someone else was saying.
"Yeah, his insurance premium will go through the roof."
Harry tried to murmur something, but the words didn’t seem to be coming. He suspected these people were police. He hoped they didn’t find the handgun.
"Can you hear me. What’s your name?"
"Harry," he burbled.
"Okay, Harry," the other voice said. "We’re going to try and get you out. Okay? Just sit tight, lad. You’ll be fine ..."
Another voice, a woman’s. "Harry ... can you tell me if you’re in any pain?"
"No ... m’fine," Harry managed to stammer.
"Okay, sit tight. We’re here to help you."
There was another loud crack as the cutting-gear chewed into the metal of the door.
"Easy as pie!" one of the firemen shouted. Harry could hear the wrenching sound of metal being torn away, and he briefly felt a pang of sorrow for his lovely car.
Someone was fiddling with the clasp on his seatbelt. Harry opened his eyes blearily, registered that he was looking into the face of his Godfather, Sirius Black, and then felt firm hands grasping him by his sides. He felt something stiff being fixed around his neck, restricting his movement, before he was hauled bodily from the wreckage, and then laid down on what must have been a stretcher. Someone was tightening the brace around his neck and gently placed his head straight. Harry looked frantically around for the Possibly-Sirius, but he seemed to have disappeared.
"Is he all right?" someone asked.
"He’s bloody, bloody lucky," another, firmer voice was saying. Where had that woman gone? She sounded nice. Harry’s consciousness seemed to be going very blurry again.
"... not to have been fucking killed," someone else said.
"Harry, Harry," someone else said. "How are you feeling. You must tell us exactly where it hurts ..."
Harry was in surprisingly little pain. From what he could surmise, he had crashed ... the car was upside down at the bottom of an embankment, a few yards from the side of the motorway. He could smell dank undergrowth, laced with the dangerous undertones of leaked petrol. Flashing, swirling blue lights niggled at the fringes of his awareness, but he paid them scant regard.
"I think I’m okay," he stammered.
People, little more than dim shapes in the twilight, were scrambling down the slope towards them. "Is he okay?"
"He seems fine, sir. Shouldn’t you be sitting in the ambulance ..."
"I had to see!" it was a northern accent, Mancunian or something. "Blimey, lad ... he’s nowt but a kid ..."
"He’s lucky to be alive ..."
"Aye, for sure. He just skidded in front of me ... there was nothing I could do. I had to hit him ..."
"Okay, sir. Step back, please. Stuart, can we get you in here ..."
"Okay, I’m here," another voice.
Harry tried to scramble to his feet. "It’s okay ... I ... I think I can walk ..." he began. He couldn’t move ... he was dimly aware of straps tight around his body, but that was all.
"No, best to be sure, Harry. Had you taken anything?"
Why were they asking him such things? Of course not! Harry wanted to say something, but it was becoming very difficult to remember exactly what.
"You seem bleary, Harry ... stay with us! You need to tell us if you’d taken anything ..."
Someone else was kneeling behind him, checking his head for injuries. He felt fingers playing lightly across his scalp, then his forehead, and then someone said, quietly. "Jesus Christ. It is him."
Ron was standing on the pavement outside the Leaky Cauldron as Draco drove past. He looked awkward and out of place in a homburg hat and a full length, beige trench-coat that clashed horribly with his hair (most things clashed horribly with Ron’s hair). Draco got the distinct impression that Ron was trying desperately to live up to some wizarding guide to Muggle crime fighting. Sighing at the thought of any of his exes seeing him alongside such an unstylish combo he pulled into the kerb, reached over, and opened the passenger door.
"You’d better get in, then," he said, stonily.
Ron did so, fumbling awkwardly for the seatbelt. The car was built too low for him, and his knees crunched up against the dash.
"Where are you taking me, then?" Draco asked.
"Docklands," Ron said. "We need to pick up someone who I think can help us."
"Okay," Draco said. He checked his mirrors, registered that as it was rush hour, he would never find a gap, and flung the car headlong into the oncoming traffic anyway. Ron yelped, and grasped the side of the seats.
Draco shook his head, annoyed. "Pathetic," he said. "You always were pathetic, Weasley."
"I just find your style of driving a little alarming," Ron said, as Draco cut into the line of traffic turning left at Trafalgar Square.
"This is London, Weasley," Draco said, as the lights went green and the taxi in front moved slowly off. "You’ll soon learn ..."
"I’ve been driving in London for several years, thank you," Ron snapped, clearly irritated.
"Yes, and I bet you let people in at junctions and give way to buses," said Draco. "Tell me, do you get a lot of road rage?"
They were powering up The Strand now in the wake of yet another taxi. Draco pulled across into a minuscule gap on the other side of the road, and eased gently past it, slotting into a smaller space between the taxi and a large van ...
"You have to learn to drive with the traffic," Draco said, giving the taxi driver the finger in his rear view mirror. "Exploit the slightest weakness, the tiniest gap ..."
"Give your passenger a heart attack," Ron continued. Draco chuckled, and swerved the car back into the far left hand lane, slicing past the van on the inside and causing a cyclist to wobble alarmingly. Someone hooted. The traffic pulled up at yet another red light, and the van drew up alongside them. The driver was winding down his window. Draco rose to the challenge, and did the same ...
"You stupid twat! Get out and push it!"
Draco smiled his very best smile, and replied, "I bet you have a divine arse. Care for a snog?"
"You fucking pouf ... think you can fucking get away with that ..."
Draco revved the engine, and slipped the Lotus back into gear.
"You should really get a haircut," he continued. "That shade of brown really doesn’t work with the colour of your van. Might I suggest a shop I know on Carnaby Street? They’re really very good. Would you like my tailor’s card? He’s a divine chap! We sucked each other off in the stockroom once ..."
"I ought to smack you so damn good ... you fucking wanker ..."
"You need to calm down," Draco said. "You need a good shag and a cuddle ..."
"Malfoy!" Ron hissed. "Will you quit that?"
The lights went green, with a final, teasing giggle, Draco put his foot down and the Lotus leapt away from the traffic lights, leaving the van far behind.
"Even though I know I shouldn’t," said Draco. "I do love teasing straight people. Didn’t you enjoy that, Weasley?"
Ginny was sitting late at her desk, toying with a pen and wondering if she should go home ... or not. The trouble was, her flat was empty now. Hermione had, true to her word, moved out most of her stuff to her parents’ house in Oxford - as a consequence the second bedroom was full of boxes. Ginny couldn’t face going back yet. Even though she was loath to admit it, she did miss Hermione badly.
Was I too short with her?
"Bugger, bugger, bugger!" she slammed her hand down on the desktop, causing her little hippopotamus-shaped pencil holder to jump in alarm. "I am not going to let Hermione make me feel guilty about going home. I am not, not, not, not, not going to!"
She glared at the lines of copy for the morning edition of the Prophet, which were winking on her computer screen.
"She slept with my brother, for heaven’s sake!" Ginny said aloud to the walls. "She must’ve known the risks. And anyway, going home would make me think of ... him ... "
She looked at the little photo on her desk. She had kept it for several years. Even when the others had finally convinced her that Harry was dead, she had wanted to hang onto it, just in case he ever turned up again. And now he bloody well had, and it was all too bloody confusing.
The computer pinged. "You’ve got owls!"
Ginny sighed, and waved her wand to open the window. There was a brief blast of cold air as a little barn owl flew excitedly in, hooting, and perched on top of the monitor.
She picked the parchment up. It was still warm. She broke the seal and unrolled the piece of paper.
‘Dear Ms. Weasley.
May have a story for you. Can’t talk now as there are other people here and I’m already getting weird looks from the Muggles. Come here immediately!’
There was the address of a hospital near Staines in Surrey that she knew quite well.
Oh well, she thought. It’ll take my mind off Harry, at least.
The doctor hung up the x-ray for Harry to see.
"Just the two ribs," he explained, pointing them out. "We’ve set them for you, but you will need to wear the bandages for the next couple of weeks. I don’t want you undertaking any strenuous activity ... no visits to the gym, no running or anything ..."
Harry sighed. The doctor smiled indulgently. "Bit of an athlete?"
"You need to be, in a job like mine," said Harry.
The doctor turned around to check his notes, continuing to speak as he did so. "You never did say exactly what you did, Mr Potter ... is that really your name, by the way?"
"Must be awful for you," the doctor said, making further scrawled notes in an illegible hand. "Have you read any of ..."
"I’d rather not ..." Harry said.
"What line of business are you in, Harry?" the doctor asked.
"I run gyms and clubs," said Harry. "Up in London."
"I see," the doctor said. He fixed Harry’s notes to a clipboard, which he left on the bedside table, next to the filter jug.
"Am I to go home tonight?" Harry asked. "There’s ... rather a lot of stuff that I need to do ..."
He stopped, suddenly. Someone else had just come into the room, a tall, well-built man with long, black hair. Harry had not seen him for many, many years, but there was absolutely no mistaking Sirius Black. He looked like an ageing rocker in a black leather jacket, covering a white shirt, and tight Levi jeans. Draco would’ve gone weak at the knees just to look at him.
"Hello Harry," Sirius said.
"’Lo," Harry said feebly.
"Mind if I have a seat?"
Harry shook his head. "Um."
"Thanks," Sirius sat down on the seat next to the bed. The doctor finished what he was doing, and screwed the cap back onto his fountain pen.
"I’ll leave you two in peace," he said. "Harry, if there’s anything at all you need, I want you to use the little bell push next to your bed."
He departed, closing the door of the room as he went. Harry was not foolish enough to rely on the NHS for his healthcare needs, and had registered with BUPA as soon as he was earning enough money ... hence the private room. There was a combination telly and DVD player, a small bathroom, several comfy armchairs and a quite hideous still life painting of a bowl of fruit. The whole room was decked out in foul peach coloured wallpaper, which Harry supposed he was meant to find calming.
"You look a right mess, kid," Sirius said.
"I don’t feel too good," Harry murmured. He thumbed the little button that was clasped between his thumb and forefinger. The drip machine beeped, and Harry relaxed as the morphine coursed into his system.
"I pulled you out of the car ..." Sirius said. "Amazing true coincidence number one."
Harry nodded feebly. The drugs were starting to make him feel slightly woozy.
"Thought you were dead," he whispered.
Sirius smiled, and shook his head. "No," he said. "I work with Muggles now, Harry ..."
"But Ron told me you were dead ..."
"Ron’s been in on the secret since day one ... also he’s a lying fucker, but that’s not important now," Sirius said. "It was very hard for me to go undercover amongst the Muggles, I had to fake my own death to do it ... leave the wizarding world far behind me ... assume a new identity. These days I’m just plain Stuart Black ... Detective Inspector Stuart Black, to be honest ..."
He flashed a warrant card at Harry. Harry froze.
"What is this?" he asked, suddenly feeling wide awake once more.
Sirius tucked the warrant card back into his jacket. "It’s okay," he said. "I’ve acquired a reputation as a maverick, who can’t be trusted ... I’m meant to be making it easy for you. For Ron’s team to get a hold of you, we needed to throw the real police off the scent somewhat. That’s my job. Today I tailed you when you left the Leaky ... the Pentagram ... sorry ... bloody fucking Lockhart ... I saw everything, Harry."
Harry sat bolt upright in bed.
"You all betrayed me!" he yelled. "Is that it? Ron was in on this fucking scheme as well ..."
"Harry, please ... calm down ... we’re your friends ..."
Harry ripped the drip out of his arm. Immediately, alarms began to ping. He could feel blood coursing out of the now open wound, trickling down his arm.
"Harry, relax ... calm down!"
"Oh fuck off!" Harry yelled. "I should’ve known you were all in this together."
He threw off the bedclothes, and swung his legs out of bed, and instantly he felt very dizzy and very sick. His legs seemed to give way underneath him, and he felt himself tumbling to the floor. He was dimly aware of someone ... that doctor, shouting, "Mr Potter!" at him ... and then his head struck the floor, and he blacked out.
Someone was very gently stroking his forehead, brushing the hair tenderly out of the way. He felt lips pressing gently against his scar. But he didn’t open his eyes to see who it was. He wanted to relax, to snuggle back amongst the bountiful pillows that had been placed behind his head. He didn’t think he had ever been so comfortable.
Fingers played gently across his shoulders. Harry heard a sudden rustle of movement, then felt hot breath in his ear, as someone whispered. "You look very sexy, Harry."
Draco’s voice. Harry smiled inwardly.
"I always thought you looked better naked ... but these pyjamas do kind of suit you," Draco continued.
Harry didn’t say anything.
"Please be all right," Draco whispered. "I want you to be all right because I still love you. Pity you’ve got your chest all bound up though ... we won’t be able to shag for several weeks."
Harry’s eyes flicked open. Draco was leaning over him, his eyes closed, his hair dangling, partially obscuring his eyes. The other man did not appear to have noticed this development.
"Can I kiss you?" Draco asked. Harry didn’t reply. He closed his eyes as Draco leaned down and kissed him very briefly on the lips. Harry responded, teasing at Draco’s mouth with his tongue. He heard a gasp of surprise.
"I didn’t know you were awake," Draco breathed, allowing his tongue to play across Harry’s lips. Harry did not reply ... instead he moved one of his hands, running it up the length of Draco’s spine until ...
"I don’t think this is a good idea," Draco said, suddenly breaking the kiss. Harry opened his eyes again. Draco withdrew back to his chair. "It’s good to see you awake again, though."
"Is there anybody else here?" Harry asked.
Draco smiled. "Ginny sent Ron home," he said. "She said she thought he’d done enough damage and that he was being a complete twat ... Sirius too. Hermione called them both insensitive wankers ... it was really fun."
Harry tried to sit upright, but couldn’t muster the energy to make the effort. Instead, he croaked. "Hermione’s here?"
Draco nodded. "And Ginny ... and there’s someone else you might want to talk to ... they’re waiting outside."
Harry rubbed his eyes. "Do I have to?" he asked.
Draco shook his head. "You don’t ever have to see them again, sweetie. It’s entirely up to you."
He picked up a laminated card from the bedside table. "I took the liberty of ordering you some food," he said. "You’re having cheese and pickle sandwiches and a glass of orange juice because I think you’re still delicate. You can always ask for more if you want ... there’s a kettle and chocolate biscuits over there ... and they’ve left you a copy of Women’s Own ... hmm. ‘Eat Your Way To Multiple Orgasms’ ... gosh."
Harry had a sudden mental flash of himself standing before an imposing, Victorian gentleman, holding out a bowl.
"I thought you might like to take a bath, too," Draco went on. "It’s okay ... the doctor says we can undo your dressings for a little while to do that ... this will be such fun ..."
"When can I go home?" Harry asked.
Draco looked crestfallen. "Never," he said.
Draco fished in his pocket, and took out a small, framed photograph. It showed baby Harry and his parents, smiling, waving at the camera.
"This was all they found," he said. "It was underneath a heap of other stuff ..."
"Draco ... what’s happened to my house?"
Draco looked away. "It burned down," he said. "They think arson ..."
TO BE CONTINUED IN CHAPTER NINE ... MY AFFAIR ...
Author notes: FURTHER SOURCES:
Disasteroid II can be spotted screening at the Springfield Googleplex in an episode of the Simpsons - though that version starred Troy McLure. Hermione’s Oxfordshire roots are lifted wholesale, and without permission, from AngieJ’s amazing Paradise series. There’s also a nod to Tony Parsons’ ‘Man and Boy’ hiding in there, somewhere. The IBME building is based shamelessly on several interpretations of a magical law enforcement authority, notably Lori’s. The doctor who treated Harry is meant to be Charlie from Casualty. The Pentagram is based on several real life pubs, including the Brighton Weatherspoon’s and the University of Sussex’s Grapevine Bar (don’t ask).
Aachoo9, Aelwyne, Aurumlupi, AVK aka Anastasia, blpurdom, buffipie, cassandraclaire, Coqui, Evangeline, Fearthainn, Gileonnen, Glitter Flame, Gwendolyn Grace, Hillary Bean, jj the hinkypunk, John of FictionAlley, KarinaR, Kath, LilyLupin, Luxxy, marleystar, msgwyn, phatgirlfics, Poppy P, potterlovingash, Princess Urd, purple scorpion33, Saitaina, Seren H, sheryllings, Shini, SisterSyn, Slytherin Goddess, Smartie984, Sophia181, SugerAngelMantha, Sweetfires, theoretical gutter, twelveeyes, Xintrance.
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