It was a miserably wet London afternoon, damp and dank, and the sidewalks were
covered in salty slush. Harry breathed in the soot and air that smelled of
cheap fried foods, before wrapping his coat around him tighter and sinking deep
into the scarlet warm folds of his scarf.
He had grown accustomed to wearing sunglasses no matter how dark it was
outside, in order to avoid suspicion. He saw his picture in the papers with
dark, heavy warnings printed below it far too often, and his eyes were unique
enough to warrant a second look. Through them, he could see the wet brick and
brownstone boxes rising from the street, decorated with a scattering of
gargoyles and long lamplights that threw funny shadows.
A light snow was falling. Harry wished it would stick for once into that
gloriously white layer but as soon as it hit the pavement, it melted into
slush. He watched a few snowflakes fall onto his dark coat. It was warm and
expensive (that sort of thing seemed to come in pairs) not that Harry would
have known or cared. This little item had been filched out of a boutique in
Knightsbridge. He enjoyed strolling through the lingerie shops but that had
grown tiresome after a while and the coats on the rack at Connolly's had looked
He could easily have removed the security tag but had wanted to have some fun.
He had strolled out of the shop, the buzzing of the alarm leaving a pleasant
ring in his ears. It was a petty thing to do since he could easily have
afforded to buy all the clothing in the store but a cheap thrill was necessary,
every once in a while.
There was a tramp on the street, huddled up into a ragged little ball. Harry
took some change out of his pocket. The Christmas spirit could kiss Harry
Potter's arse but occasionally he felt the need to repent for his sins. The
priest would die of old age before he finished listing them, anyway. Maybe it
was the slush, or the fog, or the coat he had got away with, but he made his
charitable donation of the year. He leaned over and tapped the tramp on the
shoulder. The head rose up from its fetal position like a long necked turtle.
The man's face was unshaven and smudged with grime. There was a tired, resigned
look on his face, as if he was being forced into an arranged marriage. His face
was made up of a few clean lines, the quick strokes of his jaw and the set of
his mouth. The hair was thrown about in salty stiff shocks of blonde, some of
its length tucked into the collar of his clothing.
"All right?" Harry started. "Merry Chris-" he stopped mid-meaningless phrase.
He had seen those eyes somewhere. They had once been cold and arrogant and gray
as the winter sky. It couldn't be.
The hand in his pocket fingering his change went limp. Everything told him it
was impossible, completely impossible. He was imagining this.
But his mouth seemed to open and speak of its own accord. "Draco Malfoy?"
The gray eyes automatically registered an instinctive animal fear that all
creatures drew on, if nothing else - the one emotion that all beings
shared. "Who the fuck are you? Look, I didn't do anything. Alex made all those
crackpot stories up. You have to believe me." There was a desperate whine in
his voice, and he wore a helpless look that his face was not made for. Had
never been made for.
The chip shop was warm, if greasy like all the rest. The walls were decorated
with cheap tinsel and plastic Santas and the tables were cracked. Draco stared
carefully at the plate in front of him before savagely spearing a potato.
"So," Harry feinted. "How've you been?" He had opted for coffee instead. He
loosened his muffler.
Harry did not answer. He studied Draco carefully, running his gaze up the fine
line of his jawbone covered in stubble, the cheekbones so sharp they looked
like they would cut through his skin, the fine white arches of his eyebrows.
His hair was greasy, dirty and in oddly placed licks and it reeked of onions
and sweat. Draco shifted uncomfortably. He seemed to have lost the arrogance in
his speech and some of the Malfoy confidence but he still had his trademark
drawl (somewhat polluted with the hint of Cockney in his accent) and the
defiant sharp glint in his eyes.
The smell of vinegar and salt was making Harry salivate. He went up to the
counter and his knees felt weak. He rested his elbows on the countertop, where
there was a matronly woman with hard blue eyes wiping the formica clean with a
"Wot would ya loike, dear?" She looked up from her work. He could taste the
vinegar already. He felt faint.
"Another order of fish and chips."
Blimey, I'd forgotten how good this stuff is, he thought, munching his food and
washing it down with his drink. The coffee was abandoned while he and Draco
settled into a neutral silence. Harry's mind went blank on what to say, nothing
was graceful enough for the thoughts he was thinking and the questions he had
bottled up. Realizing it must be difficult to be in Draco's position, the
champion liar for once was quiet.
"How've you been?" said Draco through a mouthful of fish, choking slightly. He
was shoveling down the food in staccato bursts of a world class eater. Specks
of pinkish gray splattered the table. "Sorfy," he mumbled.
"Not too bad, really. Where are you staying?"
"Oh, you know, here and thereabouts." Draco made vague motions with his hands,
punctuated with swallowing sounds.
Harry drained the rest of his bitter. He felt much better and cheered up
somewhat, even though Christmas decorations usually irritated him and he had
urges to deck the perverts in Santa suits. He studied Draco's clothing
carefully, noting the stains and tears. The Draco he had known was immaculate,
precise, and would throw a fit if one hair was out of place. The Draco he had
known was calculated with all the Slytherin cunning of 7 years put into an 11
year old body. He had never questioned it or tried to change him, it was as
much a part of Draco as lightning shaped scars, Voldemort and glasses were a
part of Harry.
And now Draco was here again, within touching distance, footsy distance,
groping distance for fuck's sake. Draco was here in a tattered jumper that
vaguely resembled a chewed up Molly Weasley original, and his once eerily
perfect hair (which had still managed to look perfect in its imperfection after
intense snogging sessions) was long and shaggy.
"What have you been doing since..." Harry didn't want to finish the sentence.
Draco shrugged. He had finished the last few crumbs and the last drops of his
meal. He began to look shifty again, his foot hitting the chair legs as he
swung it back and forth. "Odd jobs and such. I still have the pieces of my
wand." He grinned wolfishly, a lean and hungry smile he had obtained from hard
living. "What's the fabulous Mr. Potter been up to?"
"What sort of business?"
"I do some dealing here and thereabouts." He mimicked Draco's gestures.
Draco decided to drop it.
"Look, why don't we go to my flat for the evening to catch up some more?"
"Peanut butter and mango sandwiches. But we can order out for Chinese if you
"Say no more."
Somebody was prodding her.
"Ermph," she said sleepily. She was in a field of wildflowers, wearing a
gingham frock and skipping lightly through the grass.
"Ms. Granger, wake up." Somebody was shaking her shoulder with a quiet urgency.
Her eyelids cracked open a fraction of an inch. There was a soft gold-green
light shining (sadly, not the sun beaming down on her daisies and dandelions) -
the emerald desk lamp Niall had given her for her birthday. Along with Tiffany
"Shit," she swore softly. The fuzzy numbers on the clock swam into view. They
couldn't be right, they simply couldn't. She checked her watch and shook it.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
"I didn't want to wake you up but I knew the report was due..." said Neville
You really shouldn't have woken me up. Would Niall understand? It wasn't as if
this was the first time she had stood him up. She felt a migraine setting in, a
harsh buzzing in her ears. Hermione rubbed her temples clockwise. Fuck, fuck,
fuck. Coffee was no longer helping her much due to the huge amounts she already
drank like youth elixir.
"Open the blinks- I mean blinds," she croaked. Neville did so, twisting the
metal rod with his palms. She got up out of the chair. It creaked, the unoiled
mechanism groaning. She liked the chair; its cracked red faux-leather seat
reminded her of different days.
It was black outside. The dark clouds smothered any starlight that might have
been seen and a howling wind ripped through the street signs and occasional
tree. The windowpane shuddered as Hermione leaned her head against the cool
glass. One fingertip lazily traced circles on the window. How different it was
outside. How free.
"Ms. Granger?" Neville coughed nervously. "Did you finish the report?"
"Fuck the report."
"Is there a Time Turner around?"
Hermione had turned around. The color had come back into her cheeks like
expertly applied rouge and the imprint of her sleeve on her cheek was fading
like yesterday's memories. Even with her hair frizzing up at the ends and her
eyes pink-rimmed with fatigue, she looked oddly vibrant and triumphant with a
few loose strands flying about her face.
"A Time Turner? They're in a safety deposit box, number 54, I believe. But you
need a few small forests of release papers to-"
"Get me one."
There was a pause. "Er-"
In a few quick strides, Hermione was standing very close to him. He could see
the silver cogs and wheels turning behind her eyes and smell the black coffee
on her breath and oozing out of her pores as she breathed in rapid-fire bursts.
She pushed a strand of hair impatiently out of her eyes. Neville stared,
"Do. Anything. Just. Get. Me. One."
He nodded dumbly, later wondering what lapse of sanity had caused him to do so.
Hermione burst into a smile. She started laughing, spinning on the heels of her
pumps. "Really?" Her eyes were sparkling as if he had just told her a good joke
and she was on her second glass of champagne. But coffee was Hermione's hard
liquor, and it was Neville's job to supply the addict with whatever she needed.
And what she needed was caffeine. Gallons and gallons of it.
Hermione dropped onto her seat, spinning freely around on the chair. It made a
predictable creak, creak sound. She placed her elbows on top of a stack of
"You must think there's something wrong with me."
Neville shook his head. You might find her occasional moods a little odd, a
gossipy assistant had told him. Just be quiet and ride them out. He shook his
head again. It was a programmed reaction. He scuttled away to procure the Time
Turner, already thinking of looking a new job over his raspberry Danish and
herbal tea the next morning.
Half an hour later, Neville had filled in the forms (albeit, messily) and was
standing in front of a green box that resembled a filing cabinet with the
number "54" inscribed on its surface. He attempted a number of spells.
"Alohomora." He pulled on the handle. It didn't budge.
"Antomara." It was a breaking-in spell of Hermione's own invention, one for
more difficult locks and a thousand times trickier to perform.
"Got it open yet, Neville?" She had appeared noiselessly and seemingly out of
nowhere. Most wizards Apparating announced their entrance with a small pop like
an opening of a Coke bottle.
She pointed her wand at the lock and closed her eyes. Her brow furrowed up in
concentration. "Antomara," she said quietly and the door swung open. Neville
was hardly surprised. He took out a miniature hourglass on a fine golden chain.
Hermione snatched it from him. He had a bad feeling about this.
"Careful, Hermione," he warned, dropping his formal front for once. But he
found himself just speaking to the wall. She was gone as noiselessly as she had
There were little white cartons that had once held their dinner littered around
the room. Draco burped appreciatively.
"How do you eat so much?"
He shrugged, a gesture he had taken a liking to. "When you don't eat very often
and most of your meals a rat wouldn't touch, you learn to take it as it comes."
He looked at the leather sofa he was sitting on, seeming to notice it for the
first time. "Bloody posh flat you've got here, Potter."
"Thanks." And then he added, through no anticipation on his own part, "You can
stay for a while if you like."
Draco sat up. In the firelight Harry had conjured up so effortlessly, he could
see something like surprise and hope on Draco's face. It softened his
"Yeah, we'll go shopping for some decent clothes for you. No one in my flat
wears dirty knickers." It was Harry's weakest attempt at a joke thus far, but
it didn't seem to matter.
"Thanks." Draco flopped back onto the couch. He wasn't sure how to express all
the things he was thinking but Harry seemed to understand. He always did.
"Wait until you see what you have to do to earn your keep here, though, you
might not want to stay."
"What? Be your sex slave?" Draco smiled at his own joke. Harry hit him over the
head with a maroon cushion that shed feathers on him.
"I'll tell you in the morning."
"...after I have ravaged you..."
Draco shrugged again. He looked like an old rag doll, but even through that,
there was something distinctly Draco about him - the slight curl of his lip or
the way he raised his eyebrow 2.7 degrees when making a joke. Harry used to
call him Snowman because he was always so pale, but his face was even bonier
than before (if such a thing was possible) and he had a ruddier complexion
accompanied by a hungry, starved look, as if there was a large cut of meat
hanging in front of him that he couldn't quite reach.
There was a half empty bottle of Bacardi on the mahogany coffee table. Draco
poured himself another glass. Harry noticed his hand shaking. Draco had never
been able to hold his drinks for all his boasting in Hogwarts, Harry
remembered. He felt relaxed now, a rarity.
"So, Malfoy, what have you been doing since Hogwarts?"
With their tongues loosened and their shoes off, Draco settled into a wobbly
"Well, Lucius and Narcissa were under Crucio for a bit too long and they're in
St. Mungo's now." Draco waved away the sympathetic noises Harry should have
been making, not seeming to notice that he wasn't making them. "And on account
of them being Death Eaters, those fucking Ministry wankers decided to seize all
our money and properties to help pay off their shitload of legal fees from all
the wizarding families that were suing them, and to pay off the other victims
to keep them from suing," said Draco bitterly.
"So ol' Malfoy Manor is overrun with Ministry pinheads shagging penny whores
against the marble statues, claiming to be conducting 'official Ministry
business'. As for me, no one seemed to want to hire a Death Eater's son that
those Auror sonofabitches hadn't managed to lock up in Azkaban. Got a lot of
doors slammed in my face." Draco drained the last of his Bacardi and poured
himself another half glass.
"So, I did some errand work for Big Bads who wouldn't have cared if I had three
dicks and the rap sheet of Voldemort. Delivering bodies, shredding documents,
the usual shit. Paid okay, enough to rent a rat infested flat in Camden, to get
hopped up on acid and hash once in a blue moon and to get good and plastered
every once in a while."
His words were slurring. The flickering firelight played across his features
and Harry waited for him to continue.
"Soon they figured out I knew a few tricks. I could still do some magic with my
wand, remember. So I started to move up in the world, did a few Crucios and
some Imperios. That was their favorite - I made some blokes do an Irish jig or
two for their amusement and it kept them happy. I thought I was getting pretty
Draco's face darkened at the memory, as his fingers traced the scars on his
cheek and his ribs seemed to draw in from the remembered pain. "Well, things
didn't work out too well with the assistant pillock, a shifty little weed with
five bodyguards even during sex. Not that he got much."
Draco lit up a cigarette with some difficulty (Mayfairs, Harry noticed, a brand
he wouldn't have touched) and took a deep drag, then calmed somewhat. "He ran
to the Head, made up a few stories, and the next thing I knew, I had a team of
hitmen after my skinny arse. Almost got me, too. I managed to work enough magic
to get myself out of that tight spot before they blew my brains out and had my
testicles for lunch." Draco took another deep drag, blowing smoke at the
ceiling in a blue-gray nicotine stream. He was silent for a few moments.
"And then I found you?" Harry prompted. Draco cocked his head to one side and
squinted, trying to focus on Harry's face. He used to be so readable, thought
Draco sadly. Was bloody horrible at poker. I could have drowned somebody with
the Galleons I won off him. Harry's face was like a mask, even with his bloody
sunglasses off. Silly things, why does he wear them?
"Not quite. I slept in a few parks during the summer and when the cold nights
on the street hit, I found a shelter or two, ate stale bread and watered down
soup. Did a little begging when I could be arsed, along with some
pickpocketing. You'd never guess what people keep in their purses. I sometimes
got more than five quid for my efforts. Every fucking person's got credit cards
nowadays, I'm not stupid enough to use those." Draco sighed. He held his hand
in front of his face, watching the long trails of pluming color. It was the
last thing he remembered before passing out into a blissfully empty black.
It was late morning when Draco woke up to the worst hangover since Tony Blair
had been elected. Last night's events were giant, vague ideas that were
floating away from him into an alcohol abyss. He felt like somebody was
squeezing his temples with a vise and his jumper was crusty with vomit. He
groaned, wondering how many drinks he'd had. Harry was nowhere to be seen, just
a dent on the seat cushion. There was a biting chill in the air and the cinders
were dead gray.
Draco staggered up. "Bloody fucking hell," he said hoarsely, rubbing his
temples and wishing for a cold compress. What time was it? He pulled himself
toward the window drapes, opening them a fraction of an inch before snapping
them shut. The sun was blinding and he automatically raised one filthy arm to
"G'morning," said Harry.
Draco turned around. He did it too quickly and the world spun out of control
again, as nausea rose up his throat in sour lurches. Harry had those goddamned
sunglasses on again. Draco squinted, trying to readjust his eyes to the dim
"Just wake up?"
"No shit, Sherlock."
Harry yawned, raising his arms above his head and pulling his hands down his
face. He was already dressed in a designer tracksuit and trainers. Judging from
his flushed face and the glistening sweat that clung to his nose and forehead,
Draco would have said Harry had just gone jogging.
"Wait a sec," said Harry, disappearing for a few moments. Draco heard a door
slide open and the jingle of clothes hangers. Harry returned with a bundle of
white cotton in his hands. "Take off your jumper," he commanded brusquely
before tossing the bundle to Draco, who caught it with a great deal of
fumbling. He pulled his top off and poked his head through the neck of the
shirt. It reminded him of spring breezes and the hum of warm dryers.
"Incendium," Harry pointed his wand at the grubby wool heap on the Oriental
carpet. It went up in flames and burned in a contained fire, the flames eating
and licking away at it until all that was left was gray ash.
"Hey!" yelped Draco with a rather indignant look on his face. "That was my only
"I can tell."
"But- but-" he spluttered. "My jumper!"
Harry sighed. "Look, if you liked it that much we'll stop at a charity shop on
our way to Compton."
"Mmm. For clothing. Knickers. Novelty leather items. Remember last night? Never
mind, you were probably too pissed to remember your own name."
"I was not!" Draco sighed in defeat. "Alright, I was."
"Bloody right you were. I have to run a few errands first. Care to tag along?"
"I'm game. Could you bung me a jacket, if it's not too much trouble?" Harry
disappeared again, and came back even quicker than before.
"Wear this - it's cold outside." Draco wasn't sure why he was being treated so
kindly but he took things as they came and didn't question people's motives.
That was his philosophy. The jacket was a little worn, but excellently cut, and
it smelled like Harry, a scent that sent little shocks of delight through him,
piercing through the hangover like breaths of air to a drowning man. He had
memorized this smell like the fading photographs shoved in his trouser pocket.
Like Menthols and soap and old leather. There was something else too, like -
no, it couldn't be.
"You really need a fix, don't you." It was more of a statement than a question.
Draco looked up. Harry had pulled his own jacket on, a leather one that could
easily have concealed a number of unsavory things. Harry smiled nastily at the
color rising in Draco's cheeks. "No need to be embarrassed." Harry jerked his
chin in the direction of the door. "Come on, we're taking the lift." Fuck, he
needed a smoke.
A woman in a cashmere sweater with long, varnished fingernails was outside,
holding a bag of groceries. "Hey, John!" she cried, smiling widely.
"All right, Victoria?" Harry replied. Draco turned to Harry with a questioning
look. John? What the bloody hell was going on? Harry just gave him a silencing
glare. Victoria, more astute than appearances gave away, said, "What's wrong?
Who's your friend?"
Harry morphed into Mr. Gracious. "So sorry, this is Draco, an old mate from
Eton. Draco, this is Victoria, who lives across the hall." Victoria rebalanced
her bag to one side and shook his hand quickly, with a funny look on her face.
She recognized John's jacket and had he picked those trousers from a dump?
Grunge hadn't been big the last time she'd picked up a magazine. Not to mention
that he smelled of onions and had seemingly been rolling in industrial waste.
There was a small ding and the lift door opened.
"Ladies first," Harry said. Victoria felt uneasy. She smacked her forehead in
what she hoped was a convincing gesture and almost dropped her groceries, the
loaf of bread teetering dangerously on a carpeted precipice.
"Oh, stupid me. I left my- er- keys in the car."
"Need any help getting them out?"
"No- no. That's okay. Bye, John."
As she turned around, Draco noticed her keys hanging from a cord firmly knotted
to a loop on her skirt. He looked at them for a moment and then turned to
Harry, stony faced.
"I don't think she likes me."
"Women take great stock in cleanliness. After we get you washed up, trim that
hair, and drape you in Gucci, she'll be all over you like your very own lap
dancer. You'll clean up well." He said this with some conviction.
"Thanks. I think." Draco's pride was substantially smaller after having had to
beg during the hard spots. Oh look at the poor tramp, Lucy. Slip him some
change... I don't want to touch the dirty old man... Don't be cruel, Lucy. He
can't help it if he's poor. Kindness, no matter how forced or filled with
disgust, was the only reason he was able to make it. Swallow your pride. But
pride tasted so bitter going down.
The ride in the lift didn't sit well with him. Even with the minimal motion, he
feared he would leave a regurgitated stamp on the marble floor.
As they drove on, the buildings seemed to grow more and more dilapidated until
it seemed a heavy footstep would crumble them. The road grew warped and cracked
and the pubs seedier looking. The sky overhead was still densely cloudy, a
mustard gray like refrigerator remains. The wheels on the road beneath made a
warm whir and the crunch of gravel underfoot. Draco had frequented this area in
his criminal days, he remembered nervously. What were they doing here now?
Harry slowed down to a crawl, scanning the crowded buildings for something. A
group of hard looking boys were trailing the car. Harry stopped in front of a
club with The Grind in neon letters hanging above its door. The "d" was broken,
so it read "The Grin". In its window, Draco could see what looked like red and
blue stroll lights and another sign proclaiming "ALL TOPLESS ALL THE TIME" and
from the open car window could hear an ancient 80s synth pop number playing.
In the rearview mirror, Draco saw the boys stop behind the car, the leader
appraising it carefully. The group leader was a wiry looking bloke with blue
inked tattoos covering both arms, his knuckles callused and scarred. He wore a
tattered vest even in the winter air. Draco could see the gooseflesh covering
the exposed skin from a good six feet away.
Harry opened the door and Draco followed suit. He stepped out onto the damp
gravel, still feeling wobbly. He needed a meal. The tattooed leader slouched
over to Harry and gave him what he thought was a menacing sneer. "Hey, big
britches, nice wheels you got there, I wouldn't leave it around unprotected if
you catch my drift."
From inside the car, the boy had looked lean and tough, someone to avoid when
you had a car the price of a Caribbean island at stake. But standing in front
of Harry, Harry easily beat him in height by a head and a half. He looked so
young and vulnerable, like a sheep facing down the big bad wolf. And it was
apparent that Harry's lack of reaction was unnerving him. He was used to some
sort of expression - fear, annoyance, reaching into a bag for Mace. With the
feeling that the power balance was grossly unfair, the boy carried on foolishly.
"My gang and I could watch your car," he offered, "for a price." There was
still no reaction on Harry's part. Harry was biding his time carefully, waiting
for the right moment to speak. The boy's eyes narrowed and the tendons in his
arms stood out like embedded electrical wires waiting to short circuit. Losing
his cool, he poked Harry in the chest with his index finger. "Look here, you
fucking overpaid arse, I could take apart your car in 30 seconds flat. How
would you like that?"
"Mmm," said Harry, noncommittally. The boy's gang reluctantly gathered around
him in a loose circle. Feeling that he'd won somehow, the boy grew cockier.
Draco, meanwhile, was watching from under the overhang of The Grind with a
terrible sort of fascination.
Harry was standing there, tall and groomed. Even with Harry's ubiquitous
sunglasses, Draco could almost see the cold amusement in his eyes. "Now, let's
not do anything rash," he drawled, an impressive imitation of the old Draco
Malfoy. With a strangled cry, the boy jumped on Harry, his fists flying. He
caught Harry square on the jaw and his left hand swung at his nose, as he bit
and spat and kicked.
Harry caught the boy's wrist (his right hand held a jagged switchblade produced
from his trousers) and tackled the boy to the ground. He quickly kneed Harry in
the groin. Draco winced inwardly.
"Why, you little fuck-"
The leader took the opportunity to escape from his grasp but Harry recovered
quickly, grabbing one ankle and pressing on the knee on the same leg.
The boy hit the pavement with a gasp. Harry straddled him and with a painfully
efficient twist of the wrist, the switchblade clattered harmlessly to the
ground. Harry rolled around so the boy was lying on his stomach, grabbed the
boy's right arm and twisted it in a full rotation. The boy screamed, his arm
breaking with a satisfying sound like splintering wood.
His friends scuttled off into the Tarot parlor next door.
Harry smiled. It had a full measure of loathing. "Fool," he spat. He didn't
need to say anything more to prove his point.
"Weren't you a little harsh on the kid?" Draco inquired, studying him carefully
for any sign.
Harry shrugged. "For his own bleeding good. Bugger will think twice before
biting off more than he can beat in future."
They drifted through the smoke-filled air, not stopping to chat or to have a
drink. Harry's strides were long and purposeful and Draco had to take a few
quick steps for every one of Harry's. Harry opened a door at the back
labeled "Staff Only. The room was cold and dusty with deserted brooms, (how it
reminded him of Quidditch!) buckets, mops and half-empty bottles of cleaning
solutions. They climbed a rickety flight of steps.
Draco found himself looking down a long hall, paneled in fake wood, smelling
like cigarettes and mold. A few tasteless prints were hung up on nails that had
been hammered into the wall, fake flowers in castaway pots set up on tables.
Harry ran his fingers across the wall, stopping in front of the third door on
his left. He rapped importantly.
He heard a creaking and then advancing steps. "Who is it?"
The door cracked open and he could see a rapidly blinking dark eye. The man on
the other side of the door opened it up all the way. "Harry, what brings you
here?" His voice was deeper than expected; he looked young, broad-faced and
smooth skinned with a pair of dark eyebrows riding low on beetle bright
eyes. "Haven't seen you since Farrington. Come in for some tea?" It was only a
pleasantry - he motioned toward a tin teapot that spouted lazy tendrils of
"Oh, this is Draco Malfoy." Draco tried to hide in the shadow of the door but
those black eyes rooted him out like a hawk.
"Malfoy," he seemed to be familiar with the name. "Thought Finnagen's men had
got you. How'd you get away?"
"I have my ways," Draco said, trying to sound mysterious.
He harrumphed sarcastically. "I'm sure." He extended a small hand. "I'm Edwin."
They stepped inside his office, a badly decorated tribute to mismatching file
cabinets and chairs that had cappuccino rings on the armrests.
"Mind if I smoke?" Harry asked. Edwin shook his head. From his coat, Harry
produced a fag and a dark green lighter. With it between his lips, he cupped
the flame. Harry drew in deeply and exhaled. "I need you to do some
investigating on a bloke by the name of Jackal. I have a lot invested in the
gambling ring in Bristol, he seems to be the one running the joint at the
Edwin nodded. "The usual?"
"Dirty laundry. Rep, wife, kids, girlfriend, mistress. Blackmail material."
"I'll do what I can. Sounds like your run of the mill operator."
"I don't take chances like that."
"I know. Come back on Saturday night. We'll meet for a few drinks. Like old
times, if you're not too busy." There was a note of wistfulness in his voice.
"You know I'm always busy."
"I know." Edwin sighed. "It would just be so... nice. Watered down beer and
long rants on politics..."
"Goodbye," Harry said firmly, holding out his hand. Draco watched the exchange
curiously, feeling that he was missing something.
"Is your life always this way?"
Harry didn't remove his eyes from the road. "Sometimes. Sometimes it's
Draco could not keep his curiosity in check. "What do you do, exactly?"
Harry sighed. It had an annoyed, patronizing edge to it. "I do whores. I do
wives. I do animals. I do boys. I do garden vegetables. I do a lot of things."
"You know what I mean."
Harry pulled his eyes off the road. "As far as I can fucking tell, I'm the one
doing you the favors. If I ever feel like telling you, I'll tell you." His face
was as unreadable as ever, the slick fringe of his hair covering up that odd
scar. He might not have been Harry Potter at all.
"Mind if I ask you something?" Draco pressed on. He knew he was entering a
"Depends." Harry sped through a red light, narrowly avoiding a Bentley.
"How come you're involved in Muggle affairs and living in Muggle London? I
mean," Draco added, "I'm self explanatory. My fucking life would be hell either
way, at least Muggles don't give two shits about Malfoys. Works for me. But you-
To Draco's surprise, Harry laughed. "You think- you think that after Ron, I
would be welcome in the wizarding world?"
"You didn't kill him."
"Tell that to everyone else."
"Your little gang, they didn't believe you killed him, right?"
"No. But it wasn't the same. I could tell all they could see whenever they
looked at me was Ron." It was a tiny slip but Draco could hear the pain in
Harry's fingers tightened on the steering wheel, his eyes scanning the road
again. The people and buildings sped by in a blur, as they skipped three red
lights, turned right in a left-only lane and made an illegal U-turn before
Draco sank back in his seat, unbuckling his seatbelt, which zipped back up with
a snap. The Mayfairs in his pocket were squashed but there were still five
left. He found his highly temperamental lighter and willed it to flame. "Come
on, come on," he whispered impatiently to no one in particular. It finally lit,
the tip of his cigarette turning red gold.
The warm smoke rushing into his lungs was an unadulterated godsend, relaxation
running through his bloodstream like a slow burn. He took a few more puffs
before cracking open the window to let out the smoke, his other hand rifling
through the glove compartment.
Maps of every major city in Britain, a pocket guide to the Kama Sutra, condoms,
an unopened carton of cigarettes. He shoved the cigarettes in his pocket
without a second thought. And behind a balled up cardigan and a sheaf of
brightly colored fliers, his hand touched something cold and slick. He pulled
Mr. Potter, Mr. Potter, what do we have here? He turned it around in his hands,
and stared down the barrel (a position he had been in before), fingers passing
over the trigger lightly. It read 'GLOCK 17 AUSTRIA 9X19' and a serial number
was imprinted on the right side. The pistol was lightweight and about 7 inches
long, fitting comfortably in the grip of his right hand. A semi automatic.
His stomach dropped. If Harry Potter kept a pistol in his glove compartment-
His forehead broke out in cold sweat and he had the feeling ants were running
under his skin. He felt the urge to open the door and make off with a free pack
of cigs while he was still ahead but he just remembered it was as cold as a
corpse's arse out there, no free smokes after this pack ran out, no more
takeaways, no more nights of Bacardis. He briefly wondered what else Harry kept
in his liquor cabinet. He shoved the gun back in the glove compartment behind
the cardigan, hoping Harry wouldn't notice anything.
"How much?" He glanced at the clear plastic bag holding five grams of white
powder on the table. He held out a fat wallet crammed with crisp Euro notes.
"Best I have."
Harry sighed impatiently. "How much?"
"Mmm," he remarked, not giving anything away. His eyes seemed to search out
from behind his sunglasses and Cardona knew that Harry had an almost
supernatural ability to root out dodgy characters on the spot. He leaned on the
flat of his hands, his mind on the coffee he had been in the middle of making.
The room was heavily scented with cedars and pines and the overlying fragrance
of lemon cleaning solution. He was wearing a starched button down shirt with a
pen clipped to the shirt pocket, a maroon one that had a hotel name printed in
gold on it.
"750 Euros," he repeated firmly.
Harry gave him one more glance. "Fifty, one hundred, one fifty, two hundred,
two fifty, three hundred, three fifty, four hundred, four fifty, five hundred,
five fifty, six hundred, six fifty, seven hundred, seven fifty," he counted
clearly, licking his thumb and putting down the stack of notes. Cardona thumbed
through them, satisfied. Harry took the bag and stuffed it into one of the many
pockets of his oversize coat. There was probably a holster firmly attached to
his hip at all times; if there was any man who knew how to shoot a gun, it was
Harry Potter. Cardona treated him more as an equal than as a customer.
"Coffee? Biscuits?" he offered.
"Maybe some other time. I have a few things I have to get done this afternoon."
He turned around, before turning back again. "Hey," he said casually, "Just
wondering, you know anything about Jackal, the one who runs the ring in
Cardona planned his answer carefully, making sure it had a few nuggets of
detail but keeping it general.
"Yeah, a bit. Met up with him a few times, doesn't talk much but not as stupid
as he looks. Plenty of cash to burn. I don't think he lives in Bristol from
what I've heard, more likely somewhere in Chelsea..."
Harry nodded. "Thanks." He pulled out another 50 Euro note. Cardona took it.
"Anything else you want to know, just ask."
Harry nodded again before leaving. Cardona looked at the door swinging shut
behind him. 50 Euros. Not bad.
It seemed Harry was jumpy. His fingers drummed on the dashboard, his leg
quivering. He leaned deeply onto the steering wheel until he could have steered
with his chin. The car sped away from their stop, the traffic sluggish.
They kept on driving out of Hackney and continued north. Draco dozed off, his
chin bobbing gently from side to side.
"Radio on," Harry said, enunciating every syllable. The car radio crackled to
"... fire in Brixton last night left 5 dead and 15 injured. Police are still
investigating the cause of the fire, so far no evidence has been found that it
was anything other than an accident. The fire started in a building housing
over 10 families and quickly spread to nearby buildings. Among the dead were
two small boys, aged 4 and 7. In other news, police are in the process of a
crime crackdown. In a statement issued by Prime Minister Roger Beckham, random
checks of vehicles will be made and more aggressive penalties for violent
crimes are going into effect..." The radio droned on for a while, informing him
of the upcoming weather and of a lawsuit brought against a medical company.
Draco was still sleeping. Harry looked over at him, wondering if he was
dreaming. He didn't have many dreams anymore and those that he did have were
like surrealist paintings of color with cameos by naked Parliament members,
sexy actors and football champions. In sleep, Draco looked young and
vulnerable, the years stripped off his face. Good, stay that way. Harry
remembered the cocaine in his coat pocket and formed a loose plan for its
"Where are we going?" Draco asked sleepily, a while later. Any farther and they
would have been crossing north of the Thames.
"To get your hair cut."
"I need to take a piss."
Draco looked highly uncomfortable. "Fuck, I can't hold it. You're going to end
up with piss all over your nice leather seats."
"You're such a fucking baby, Malfoy."
"Why didn't you go before we left?"
"Don't fucking apologize, help me look for one of those public toilets..."
After Draco relieved himself in some unfortunate person's shrubbery, he
clambered back in and they made good time across the Thames into the parts of
London that weren't featured on EastEnders - nice, respectable, well to do
parts. After stopping for a quick sandwich and coffee in a cheerful little