Bad Faith - Chapter 1: Uneasy Gratitude

Author - Ace
Genre - Novel-length, Adventure, After Hogwarts
Keywords - Draco Malfoy, Muggle, London, violence, cars
Spoilers -
All books,
including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Rated R
 Summary - Set around or before 2010 in Muggle London, a
chance encounter between Draco Malfoy and the infamous
Harry Potter is on a collision course to disaster. Sin, fraud,
deception, generous throwing about of money...
Disclaimer - Harry Potter belongs to JKR, Warner Brothers and Bloomsbury.
Author's Notes - This fic contains hints of slash, language,
crude humor, and things you Probably Shouldn't Do. If that's
not your cup of tea, please hit the back button.


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

rather tempting.

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.

"Shit, you?"

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

pink washrag.

"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

diamond earrings.

"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."

"Excuse me?"

"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

features. "Really?"

"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

narrative account.

"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

his eyes.

"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

landmine-ridden territory.

"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 voice.

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

stopping again.

"Stay here."

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

it out.

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?"

"750 Euros."

"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.

"Radio off."

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."

"Hold it."

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