Title: The Hogwarts Clerks
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, with Hermione/Ron and Luna/Pansy
Summary: Harry is dragged from melancholy to help out his hard-up friends and reform the choir they begun after leaving Hogwarts. But a vital group member is missing…
Rating: PG-13 (I think, I’ve never before written a not NC-17 fic!)
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? No
Word Count: 3,600
Author's Notes: A huge thanks to her modly self bryoneybrynn, who alternately kicked my ass and petted my ego until I finished this. Oh, and then beta’d it wonderfully for me! And thanks to all three of them for not beating me up when I missed my deadline.
Harry glared at his friends. He’d been lured here under false pretences.
‘Harry, mate, come on! You’d be brilliant at this,’ Ron urged, while Hermione nodded encouragingly. They’d just ambushed Harry with a battered clipping taken from the Daily Prophet - an advert for the much-coveted carol singing gig in Diagon Alley over the Yule season.
Hermione leaned her elbows on the scarred wood of the Leaky table, an earnest expression on her face. ‘Harry…we’re kind of worried about you. You haven’t worked for ages. Not since…’ She stopped and tried again. ‘It can’t be good for you to just sit about at home…’ She trailed off once more as Harry’s face lowered.
‘Why shouldn’t I?’ he asked carelessly. ‘Not as if I need the money.’ His face twisted as he recalled the vast heaps of gold deep below Gringotts, which were the means by which his idle lifestyle was maintained. Not indolent, by any means. Just…indifferent.
‘No, but - ’ Ron managed to start the sentence before Hermione interrupted.
‘The rest of us could really use it, Harry,’ she commented gently. She tried not to sound accusatory as she continued. ‘I don’t know if you know, but it’s been a pretty hard year for a lot of us. Weasleys’ is having financial problems, Luna and Pansy’s adoption application didn’t go through, and Neville…’ Harry held up her hand to stop her. It was likely that the whole wizarding world knew how devastated Neville had been by his grandmother’s death.
Harry tried to recall the past dispassionately. Hermione was right, The Hogwarts Clerks, the ensemble they’d formed five years ago, had been good. Intended to keep them socialising after leaving school, and to be an outlet for a common, if previously undiscovered interest, it had turned into quite a major source of income. In fact, for some people, it had actually become something they relied on.
Hermione’s voice came through the reverie. ‘Harry, if we got back together, with you as director again, and applied to the Committee, I think we could be in with a great chance.’ She was almost pleading, but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t. Hermione and Ron knew why, he supposed. But he didn’t want them to know how much he just couldn’t.
‘Because of my famous face, you mean? The Saviour Who Sang? No thanks.’
He knew that wasn’t fair, and regretted it when Hermione winced but soldiered bravely on. ‘Please think about it? Like I said, it’d be a big boost for people just now.’
Harry started to soften in the face of Hermione’s admittedly pathetic appeal. He wouldn’t give in yet, of course. Too much manly pride at stake.
‘The twins’ll be up for it,’ Ron offered, almost offhand, as if he didn’t really care either way. ‘They’re always good fun.’
Harry looked up briefly, a quick half nod and a slight glint in his eyes betraying the interest that had begun to form.
The answering look in Hermione’s eye told him that she’d seen his give-aways. ‘And Luna and Pansy? They’re so good together.’ She tutted at Ron as he sniggered, presumably imagining all the ways Pansy and Luna Parkinson were good together.
When Harry raised his head again his face was carefully schooled into mock resignation. ‘Fine. But you’ll have to ask people. I’m just turning up. And don’t blame me if they don’t want to, or if the Committee turns us down.’
Hermione rolled her eyes at that, but passed over it, the fire of imminent planning springing up in her eyes. With a quick wave of her wand she Transfigured a grubby beermat into a small piece of thick parchment and produced a quill from her bag.
The Hogwarts Clerks
She wrote, scrawling a flourish underneath. ‘Um…is that ok?’ She looked up anxiously. None of them had actually said the name aloud yet. Harry nodded, keeping his expression as blank as he knew how, and watched Hermione’s quill scratch across the parchment.
Director: Harry Potter.
Sops: Hermione Weasley + Luna Parkinson
Altos: Pansy Parkinson + ?
Tenors: Fred Weasley + George Weasley
Bass: Ron Weasley + ?
‘Only two spots to fill. That’s pretty good.’
‘Yeah, and one of them’s easy,’ commented Ron. ‘You’ve forgotten Nev.’
‘Hermione poked herself in the forehead with her quill. ‘Of course.’ Bending over the parchment again she scribbled ‘Neville Longbottom’ next to Ron’s name.
Harry pulled the parchment across to study the list. ‘Remember you’ve got to ask all of them first.’
Hermione and Ron looked at each other. A silent, telegraphed marital conversation elected Ron spokesperson.
‘Well, actually, Harry mate, we asked them already. They’re all in, if you are.’
Ron’s green-tinged visage gave away his terror that Harry was actually going to explode over this news. He had to stop himself from snorting; not wanting to let the interfering pair off the hook.
‘Fine,’ was all he said. ‘But…we still need…’ he couldn’t finish the sentence.
‘An alto.’ Hermione whispered it flatly. This was what they’d been tiptoeing around. This was the reason Harry had stopped working. This was why Hermione and Ron had set the whole thing up so carefully.
Draco had been their alto.
The gig was theirs. However much Harry hated it, the Alley Committee had fallen over themselves in their eagerness to accept. And Hermione and Ron had come up with a new alto, although they hadn’t told him who it was. Apparently, he wouldn’t like it. He’d responded that anyone would be better than… but had had to stop, because he still couldn’t say the name. The part of him that gently mocked himself found it amusing that he could say the name of the most feared wizard of all time, but not the name of his ex. If he was honest with himself, he was panicking not a little. It had been over two years since they’d been together. What if it had all changed? What if they were no good? What if Harry was no good? What if it didn’t work without…him?
And so Harry found himself closeted in this dingy, cold rehearsal room on a gloomy Tuesday evening, only a week after the ambush, in the company of most of the people he’d spent much of the past two years avoiding. The expressions on their faces when they looked at him were fascinating; warring between the urge to mob him with questions and concern, and cautious restraint less he disappear from their lives again. He noted with shame that Hermione hadn’t really been exaggerating, they mostly looked thin, and a bit shabby. He could have done something about that, however much their muso pride resented it. And, a small voice whispered, if he’d been working with them it wouldn’t even have needed to be charity.
‘Ok everyone, let’s make a start.’ Harry raised his voice slightly to carry over the chatter in the room but it wasn’t really necessary, they fell silent instantly, looking at him expectantly. Watching them watch him, he felt a familiar but long-absent calm fall over him. This was what he did. He was good at this.
‘We’ll start with some standards. The stuff everyone knows inside out. I hope no one brought music?’ he joked, and they laughed softly but appreciatively. Hermione’s face was glowing. He met her eyes, and nodded very slightly. Thank you.
They shuffled into a loose semicircle around Harry, and it was only then that they noticed what they’d missed in the delight of catching up with old friends, and surreptitiously watching Harry - they only had one alto.
‘No worries Harry, I can carry it.’ Pansy spoke quietly from under her jet black, brow-sweeping fringe; her voice lacked the strident tone it had used to hold.
He smiled at her, and saw that Luna also turned towards her and their fingers loosely twined together. The ash blonde and the black of their hair contrasted perfectly.
‘I know you can, Pansy. Thanks. But I need to make sure whoever it is - ’ Harry paused to glare at the Granger-Weasleys ‘ - blends with you. Damn it, where is this person of yours?’
His question was conspicuously answered as Romilda Vane swept through the door, chattering loudly into her phone as she did so. What was that thing? A Raspberry? Harry wondered. Glancing around Romilda opened her mouth into a wide and blatantly unapologetic ‘O’. Hanging up the phone without so much a goodbye she swept through the group to Harry. She threw her arms around him, smothering him in cashmere shawl and cheap perfume. Over her shoulder he could see the twins making matching retching motions.
‘Harry, darling! It’s been so loooong. How aaare you?’ Before he could gather wits to reply she kissed him ostentatiously on both cheeks and finally on the mouth before stepping away with a cheeky wink.
Luna, as ever, was the first to recover.
‘Hello Romilda,’ she remarked, sounding as cool and collected as always. Marriage to temperamental Pansy had only exaggerated that characteristic. ‘Harry’s gay, you know. There’s no use in winking at him.’
This appeared to baffle Romilda, and she gawped for a moment before backing into place in the line-up with a somewhat bemused look. Clutching her shawl around her she shivered exaggeratedly. Harry could see Fred and George fighting with the urge to hex her, and shot them a warning glare.
‘Right, now we’re all here, let’s start with God rest ye merry hippogriffs - just take it easy and let’s see how you sound together.’
Raising his wand, Harry muttered ‘Herzia’, and for a few seconds a single quiet note sounded through the room. A low, harmonious humming began as each member of the small choir picked their own note from Harry’s. Another murmured spell; ‘Tempora’, and the wand began to move in the air, free of Harry’s hand, up and down in a simple two rhythm. This left both of Harry’s hands open to direct his singers as he wished, his musical mind easily keeping the wand moving in the right tempo. His spirits rose even more as they began. The notes came easily, smoothly, and perfectly together. He had to admit that even Romilda, usually an affected sounding voice when he’d heard her in concert, was making an effort to match Pansy.
The entire rehearsal went forward utterly effortlessly. They sang for an hour; every eye watching for the smallest movement of Harry’s eyes, hands or mouth. Each tiny change in tempo was observed as he wished, every ‘t’ sounded exactly in unison. He couldn’t have wished for a more perfect choir. His own feelings were reflected on their faces - flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes, mouths that turned up in smiles as they sang. Even the room seemed to become less cold and dank as they sang their way through their memorised repertoire of Christmas standards.
The last notes of O Little Town of Bethlehem died away, leaving a somehow rich, satisfied silence. Harry broke it. ‘That was…that was wonderful, everyone. Take ten minutes, then we’ll have a shot at some new stuff. Just a first look, for today, then we’ll finish, okay?’
There were murmurs and nods of assent as the group dispersed to the sides of the room to grab water, bits of food, extra items of clothing. Harry followed Hermione and Ron. None of them spoke, still slightly under the spell of whatever it was they’d just created. It hadn’t been much, just a few Christmas carols, but there was somehow a sense of something coming back together which had been broken apart for too long.
The others were chattering happily, except for Romilda, who had her phone pressed against her ear once more. Pansy leaned over and whispered something in Luna’s ear, cupping her cheek as she did so. Luna smiled dreamily, nodding, and Pansy responded with a wicked twinkle. Didn’t take much to guess what they were talking about, Harry thought. Or maybe not. He changed his mind as he saw Pansy flick her wand in the tiniest movement towards Romilda and her phone. He frowned, but there didn’t seem to be any immediate consequence.
They reassembled, this time clutching copies of Harry’s own arrangement of I Saw Three Ships. After divvying up the parts, of which there were eight, they began. The effects of Pansy’s spell became immediately apparent. Upon opening her mouth, Romilda was able to produce nothing more than a strangled sort of croaking noise. She dropped her music and looked around frantically, a panicked expression on her face which turned instantly to anger when she noted the Parkinsons’ identical smirks.
‘What the….’ she began furiously, stopping when the words emerged with the same dying cat tones as before. Casting a final murderous glare at Pansy and Luna she stormed out, pausing only to snatch her throw and ludicrously oversized handbag from the chair where she’d carelessly tossed them.
‘Pansy…’ Harry began, not sure how to say what he was thinking without screaming at her. He couldn’t, he decided. ‘What the hell were you thinking?’ he shouted.
Pansy was unfazed, and had apparently decided that their deference to Harry’s fragility should stop. ‘Oh shut up, Harry, I know she was annoying you too. That stupid phone, and all that flouncing around and flirting. Sooner or later she would have dug her claws in, and before we knew it somebody would be in love with her. Knowing Weasley’s luck it’d be him again.’ She grinned at Ron, and both he and Hermione grinned back, even though Ron was blushing hotly.
‘But Pans, I don’t care! I mean, I do, but we need another alto. You just hexed the best one there is…ah, apart from you, clearly.’
Pansy raised an eyebrow. ‘Keep digging. But in fact, there is another, far better than me.’ She and Luna exchanged meaningful glances, and without saying a word Luna took a step, turned gracefully, and Apparated away.
Harry was too baffled to say anything. Hermione suddenly gave a squawk which surprised everyone. ‘Pansy! You haven’t?’
Pansy grinned smugly. ‘We have.’
‘But how? I mean, I thought he was more reclusive than Harry? And, he’s coming here? But…won’t they…I mean…surely it’s a bad…’ Words seemed to fail her. Around him, Harry could see faces starting to show signs of enlightenment, with a confusing side order of panic, and almost stamped his foot in frustration; he didn’t understand Pansy and Hermione’s conversation, or what was happening.
Shrugging, Pansy nodded. ‘I won’t say it wasn’t hard. Or that I’m not worried about our immediate future in this world when he gets here. But I persuaded him that if Boy Wonder here could come out of the woodwork, so could he.’
Harry was close to losing his temper. ‘Will someone tell me what’s going on?’ He was near shouting volume again, and he could feel colour creeping up his neck. Hastily he put down his wand; there was much less chance of involuntary magic if he wasn’t holding it.
He looked around the circle. Fred and George were whispering frantically to each other, expressions more serious than usual. Hermione’s face was pale, and she was squeezing Ron’s hand. Only Pansy looked calm. Finally Neville stepped forward. ‘Harry? Remember up until last week you were adamant you wouldn’t work any more? Said it got you attention for all the wrong reasons?’
Harry nodded warily as Neville continued. ‘Can’t you think of the other person who’s not been around, for similar reasons?’
The literal pop of the apparition coincided with Harry’s mental ping of realisation, and he stood face to face with Draco. Nobody said a word.
‘Harry, we just can’t do this anymore.’
‘I don’t care. I want to.’ He remembered being terrified, rigid with fear that being stubborn wouldn’t get him his way.
‘Every time we leave the house, we get mobbed. And half of them are cheering, and half are booing, and we both know who it’s for.’
He had repeated himself. ‘I don’t care. You’re worth it. Draco, please… Please don’t go. Don’t let them get to you.’ Everything else he could have said had caught in his throat. Begging made him feel so stupid.
‘Whatever. I’m not putting you through it anymore. See you around, Harry.’
And that had been it. A working partnership, a passionate relationship, broken off with those simple, cold words. See you around. Logically, Harry knew Draco had thought he was doing the right thing. Even so, it had taken a long time to forgive. He didn’t know if he’d done it, even now.
With a gentle peck to his cheek, Draco had gone. And hadn’t been seen by Harry, or almost anyone else, since. Now he stood, waiting, one pale eyebrow raised questioningly. He looked like all the rest, tired and drawn. Because, of course, Draco hadn’t been allowed access to his family’s money, as Harry had. He wondered absently how Draco had been living. Around them, the silent watchers seemed to have stopped breathing. They all knew the history.
When it began to seem as if Harry wouldn’t react, Draco reached forward, tentatively, and brushed his hand across Harry’s cheek, the spot he’d kissed goodbye. Harry stood, motionless. His face felt stiff, as if no blood were flowing to it. He could barely feel Draco’s hand touching him. After a moment, the hand fell away. Draco took a step back, face lips tight, pale skin becoming impossibly paler.
‘Pansy and Luna are right, Harry. If you can do this, I can do it, too.’
Despite Harry’s fears and doubts, the rest of the rehearsals, and the performance nights themselves, had been spectacular. Even though the sound they had been making before had seemed perfect, flawless, unbeatable, having Draco back added something really special. His beautiful, high, haunting voice blended seamlessly with the rest, occasionally shining out unexpectedly to wow their audiences. As a musician, as their director, Harry hadn’t been able to deny that he was glad Draco was there. As a person, an ex-lover? He still wasn’t sure. It was painful though, not having the old Draco back. He looked and sang like himself, but rarely spoke outside of rehearsal necessities. Harry missed the banter, the teasing, and the rare tantrums – diva behaviour. Slowly, Harry came to realise that he missed him. But Draco remained distant. He wasn’t cold, or aloof, he didn’t make Harry feel guilt for his slow-to-thaw heart. He was just…elsewhere.
On Christmas Eve, the night of their last performance, the Alley had been packed to the limits. Surveying the scene from their vantage point on the steps of Gringotts, Harry didn’t know how anyone would ever get out again. As he lowered his hands at the conclusion of their third encore, and plucked his wand out of the air, the applause of the audience was deafening. He turned, impatiently brushing hair from his face. His face hurt as he swept the cheering ranks a deep bow, and he realised that it was because he was grinning widely enough to split his jaw. Straightening up, he gestured to his singers, standing to one side and applauding with the crowd as they took their own bow. His eyes met Draco’s as the blond head rose, and for the first time in two years, there was something between them that was not blank, pretended indifference. It was real, there was a spark. Harry had no time to think about it, because Hermione was gesturing impatiently at him. He hurried over to place a finger on the old songbook the rest were clutching.
The Portkey landed them in the private parlour Tom had held for them at the Leaky. Hermione had liked the pleasing symmetry. They’d started it there, so they could end it there too, she’d said. A slight young man came hurrying through with a tray of steaming mulled mead.
‘On the house, this lot,’ he beamed cheerfully. ‘You’ve no idea how many Galleons we’ve taken while you’ve been out there!’
It was much, much later that Harry stepped out of the back door of the pub, needing a breath of fresh air. To his consternation, Draco appeared to have sought the same thing. They had avoided speaking that night, an unspoken mutual consent. Now though…. it was awkward, standing there with Draco in the cold, dark yard, lit only by the moon. No friends to hide behind. And now, of course, there was that something that had passed between them earlier. Draco was turned slightly away from him, although Harry was sure that he knew he was there. Tentatively he took a small step, then another, until he was in Draco’s field of view. The grey eyes seemed to be directed at the ground, and as Harry took a step closer Draco slowly raised his head. This time the look that passed between them was electric. Harry couldn’t look away.
Draco raised one trembling hand, eyes still fixed on Harry’s. For the second time, fingers brushed his cheek, but this time, despite the cold, he could feel them, featherlight, so soft as to be almost ghostlike. In a daze, Harry raised his own hand, fumbling fingers encountering Draco’s. Once he’d found them he clung to them, an unspoken promise. I won’t let you go again. They both took a step forward, wordless still. Their free hands came up, mirror-like, to touch palm to palm before their fingers bent and twined together fiercely. Another step, and their bodies were pressed together, noses almost touching. In Draco’s eyes Harry could see sorrow, wanting, fear. He wondered what his own revealed. No more than a second passed before their lips touched, mouths opening hungrily, questing tongues battling.
The spell was only broken when the applause, cheers, and Pansy’s distinctive wolf-whistle sounded from the back door of the pub. Turning, Harry faced their friends, gripping Draco’s hand like he never wanted to let it go again.