Title: The Pursuit of Happiness (Part 1/2)
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco (with a side of Ron/Hermione and Harry/OCs)
Summary: Harry Potter has great friends, a job he loves, and a peaceful life for the first time in years. So why can’t he just be happy like everybody else?
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Character deaths, language
Word Count: 19,841
Author's Notes: The title is obviously from the movie of the same name, though without the misspelling :”> Many, many thanks to my awesome beta and friend, J, for all her help and encouragement, and to nqdonne and jamie2109 for being amazingly patient mods.
To celandineb, I really hope you like this! This idea/plot has been in the back of my mind since Lumos :D
Harry Potter was happy.
Well, okay, maybe not happy. Content was probably a better word. But still, he was living a pretty good life—he had a job he loved, many close friends, and he generally felt more at peace with the world than he ever did growing up.
It hadn’t always been that way, though, especially after the war had ended and Harry often found himself slipping into a dark depression. Voldemort had taken a toll on him—on his mind, his heart, and his body, and it took Harry a long time to figure himself out. Not long after the war’s end, Harry packed his bags and left the country. He had to get away, and though Harry now knew he’d been escaping his problems, he needed to do it.
He’d traveled to America first, because being separated by a large ocean seemed the best way to avoid his former life, and spent a little over a year living in a miniscule flat in New York City. He worked at a chain coffee house that had a sister store across the street, and while he preferred to be alone most of the time, Harry did manage to make a few acquaintances. Well, one, actually. His name was Bernard.
Bernard had been working at the coffee shop for “a fucking eternity,” and for some reason immediately took Harry under his wing, showing him around the city, introducing him to friends, and then taking him to some very gay nightclubs.
Needless to say, Harry learned a lot about himself those first few weeks, and the months to follow.
Bernard was also the reason Harry had left the city a year later, though Harry didn’t blame him, of course. He knew he was running again, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. Besides, Panama was supposed to be beautiful that time of year.
So for nearly four years Harry traveled the world, seeing all the sights he never thought he’d get to live to see, and during that time he learned a lot about himself, about his actions, the war, relationships and Harry’s apparent inability to maintain one, and so forth.
During that time, Harry had been determined to remain in contact with Ron, Hermione, and a few other good friends back in England. So when he received an invitation to Ron and Hermione’s wedding—he hadn’t even realized they were that serious—Harry decided it was time to stop running from his problems and face this new and frightening world he helped to save.
It has been two years since his return home, and while rocky at first (reporters were especially problematic), Harry had slowly adjusted to life as a celebrity and national hero. For a while, he’d avoided working. He didn’t want to be an Auror—he’d had his fill of Dark wizards, thanks; nor did he want to play Quidditch professionally. He loved being a Seeker, of course, but he didn’t want any more fame or fortune. A quiet life was all he required anymore, and he had a perfect job that all but fell into his lap.
With a smile, Harry sat back and admired his handiwork. The wood was smooth, with only a few knots that gave the finished product character and performance enhancement. It was unusual to work with elder wood, but it was one of Harry’s favorites. There was so much mythology and legend surrounding it, and despite himself, Harry found it quite fascinating.
Smiling, Harry shook out a specially designed handkerchief and began to polish the wood, which hummed warmly in his hand.
Just then, a bell on the shop’s door jingled. Harry stood and popped out from behind the curtain that separated the front and back room, and watched as a familiar young boy accompanied by his mother approached the counter. Harry inwardly sighed.
“Mrs Bakerson, how are you today?” he said politely. The woman gave him a brusque nod before nudging her son forward with her wand.
“Go on, Jonah. You know what to do,” she said.
Jonah, a boy of no more than eight with bright blue eyes and a head covered in straw-colored hair, bit his lip and fiercely wiped away a tear that had leaked out the corner of his eye. Jonah glanced up at Harry only once, then lowered his eyes and toed at the floor.
“Hold out your hand, Jonah,” snapped Mrs Bakerson. A severe woman no older than forty, Harry had decided over the past six months since the two of them had been coming into his shop that he didn’t much like the woman. Strict, not a little rude, and much too obsessed with her bloodline. Jonah’s, more specifically.
Frowning, Harry shook his head and said, “Madam, please, I really don’t think—”
“I don’t care what you think, Mr Potter,” she said coolly. “Just hand him a wand, that’s all I require. Anytime, now, it’s not as if I have anything better to do.”
Harry gritted his teeth but produced a tester wand from his back trousers pocket, placing it gently into Jonah’s tiny out-stretched hand.
As had happened every single previous time, no magic occurred, not even the smallest of sparks. Jonah sniffled loudly and wiped his free hand across his nose. Mrs Bakerson’s face was growing more and more strained as time moved on. Finally, she strode forward and snatched the wand out of her son’s hand and threw it at Harry.
“Thank you,” she growled through gritted teeth. Grabbing Jonah’s hand, she turned around and stomped out of the shop.
“Cow,” Harry muttered under his breath, and stowed the wand back into his pocket. Mrs Bakerson and little Noah had been coming into Harry’s shop every other Monday since the beginning of May, testing to see if Jonah had any magic in him at all. So far, the multiple wand tests had all failed, suggesting that Jonah was mostly likely a Squib. At first, Harry had objected vehemently, but he soon realized that that only made things worse for Jonah, so he eventually conceded, though not without remorse.
With a sigh, Harry sat down at his workbench and admired the elder wood wand perched before him. The process of creating the new wand was nearly complete; all Harry had to decide now was which magical core he should place inside. Coring was the most complicated and time-consuming act in wandmaking, but the first of September had long since passed and he had nearly a whole year to make new wands. That was by far his favorite part of the job.
Leaning back, Harry examined the wood from another angle. The wand would most likely be for a male, given its longer length, since wands typically matched with a person’s height. Elder wood had great regenerative properties and tended to represent the beginning and the end of a cycle. Standing abruptly, Harry strode deeper into the back of the shop, scattering some rats, and pulled out a long, thin box, which thrummed in his hands.
He was just returning to his worktable when the bell to the shop jangled and a familiar voice shouted out his name.
“Oi, Harry, get your pale arse out here!”
Grinning broadly, Harry wiped his hands on his trousers as he walked towards the front of the store. Inside stood Ron Weasley, just as tall and red as ever, grinning and holding a brown paper bag.
“You forget something?” Ron asked with a smirk.
Harry’s mouth dropped open and he glanced at his watch. “Shite, Ron, I’m so sorry! I completely—”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Ron, plopping the bag down onto the counter and straddling a stool. A delicious aroma rose from the bag. “I figured you’d be so into your wandmaking that you’d lose track of time. So I reckoned I’d bring lunch to you. Fish and chips, mate, your favorite.”
Harry’s stomach rumbled loudly just then and he quickly summoned some silverware from the back room. The two dived in, and soon the smell of greasy but tasty food filled the store.
“What’ve you been up to?” said Harry around a mouth full of fish.
Ron swallowed thickly, then took a swig of butterbeer before replying, “’M on assignment in Italy starting Friday. Apparently the trolls are giving the Italian Ministry a run for their money and they need some help. I’m supposed to be gone the whole week.”
“Bet Hermione wasn’t too happy about that,” Harry replied with a grin.
Ron snorted. “That’s an understatement,” he muttered. “Had a pretty good row about it, shouting about how could I leave at such a crucial time and how I was leaving her forever—she’s been pretty emotional, you know,” Ron added, ears reddening. “Been taking a lot of…er, hormonal pills or something, to get her, er, cycle…thing right and I’m supposed to be gone when she’s, um, ready.” Ron’s face blossomed with color.
Harry held up his hands. “I get it,” he said, and Ron sighed in relief. “You two all right now, though?”
“Oh yeah, we’re fine,” said Ron, perking up, and then shoved a handful of chips in his mouth. “Had an amazing make-up fuck, so all’s forgiven.”
Rolling his eyes, Harry said, “Thanks for sharing.”
Ron grinned cockily. “No problem mate,” he said. “Though there is something else I need to tell you. Ah, you might not like it.”
“That’s a great way to warn people,” Harry said. “Well, what is it?”
Ron shifted on the stool and sucked on his fingers for a moment to remove the last traces of salt and vinegar. Harry was annoyed at himself when he found the sight somewhat arousing.
“Thing is, you’re gonna be called in on a case again,” Ron said at last.
Harry raised his eyebrows. “I don’t—”
“It’s a cold case,” said Ron quickly. “It’s been unsolved since the war, apparently. I don’t know too many details, besides that a girl went missing during the war and the parents want closure.”
“I didn’t know the Aurors were that involved in cold cases,” said Harry, and Ron shook his head.
“We generally aren’t, but this is a…special situation, I s’pose.” Ron took a swig of butterbeer. “Family’s pretty well off so they hired a private investigator to have a look at our files, and the Muggle police files as well. The parents are heavily involved in the Muggle world,” Ron added at Harry’s quizzical look.
“So what’s this got to do with me?” said Harry, an uneasy feeling creeping into his stomach.
Ron crumpled the empty bag and threw it in a wastebin. “The only item recovered from the missing girl was her wand. It has a lot of enchantments on it and a couple of spells preventing Priori Incantatem from being performed properly. The PI wants your expertise. He, ah, asked for you specifically.”
“I doubt I’d be much help,” said Harry, scratching the back of his neck. “I make wands, I experiment with them sometimes, but I dunno how well I can be at breaking some of those spells…”
“Will you give it a try, at least?” asked Ron. “I think you and the PI will get along pretty well. He’s a…friend of mine.”
“Why did you pause before ‘friend’?” Harry said quickly.
Ron ignored him. “Just give it a try. I know you don’t usually like working for the Aurors, but trust me on this one…I really think you can help.”
Harry sighed. He’d never been able to refuse Ron’s pleading looks.
“I hope Ron knows I’m going to kill him,” said Harry cheerfully the following Saturday. He had agreed to meet with the PI in charge of the girl’s disappearance, and at the time it had all seemed really simple. Ron had set up the lunch meeting, but he conveniently kept forgetting to tell Harry the PI’s name. Harry now knew why.
Across the small table in a small, public tearoom, Draco Malfoy scowled. “Weasley could probably kill you with those freakishly large hands of his,” he said snottily. “Trust me, Potter, you’re no match for him.”
Harry gripped the handle of his tea mug and swallowed half of the scolding beverage in one gulp. Draco Malfoy, Private Investigator. Merlin, it was unbelievable. No wonder Ron didn’t tell him the entire truth, and now the bastard was in Italy, far away from Harry’s vengeful wrath.
“We might as well talk business, Potter,” said Malfoy in that annoyingly superior way that always had a way of ruffling Harry’s feathers.
It was such a bad idea, Harry thought darkly, pairing the two of them up in an investigation. They hated each other, and hate often wasn’t conducive to working relationships, as Harry and Juan-from-Panama could attest to.
“What, you aren’t even going to talk to me?” Malfoy said loudly, drowning out Harry’s thoughts. “I thought your ego would enjoy the nice stroke it got when Weasley told you that I requested you.”
“Ron’s wrong about a lot of things,” said Harry, shoving a scone into his mouth. Malfoy looked disgusted.
“Ugh, honestly, Potter, didn’t anyone ever teach you any manners?”
“No,” Harry snapped.
Malfoy rolled his eyes and leant back in his chair, elegantly crossing his legs. He hadn’t really changed much over the years, Harry noticed. Malfoy’s hair was still white-blond, though it was longer now, falling into his eyes; his face had rounded out somewhat, though it was still far too pointy; and his grey eyes were just as condescending as ever.
His body had changed, though. Malfoy had grown a bit over the years, yet still only a little taller than Harry now, which irked him for some reason. Malfoy’s robes were tailored, fancy, and obviously expensive. In short, nothing had really changed, in Harry’s opinion. Though why Malfoy was a private investigator was completely beyond him at the moment. It wasn’t as if Malfoy ever willingly did anything for other people. Except for that one time during the war when he saved Ron’s life…
“Will you at least read the damn case file?” said Malfoy irritably. Harry looked up to see Malfoy waving a thin manila folder in the air.
Harry paused for a moment, but then nodded and held out his hand. Upon opening the file, he saw a Muggle picture of a smiling young woman with brown eyes, curly brown hair, and a nose covered with freckles.
“Her name is Elyse Caldwell,” said Malfoy, as if Harry couldn’t read. “She disappeared around early August, 1998, just a few months before the downfall. Barely eighteen and just out of Hogwarts.”
Malfoy leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. “She’d been working as a drone at the Ministry, and on the night of her disappearance, she was on her way to meet a friend at the Leaky Cauldron. She never showed up, obviously. Elyse was reported missing by her parents early the next morning when she never returned home. Upon initial investigation, the primary Aurors on the scene—Roger Dawlish and Noah Williamson—discovered Elyse’s wand planted on her bedspread. Her parents claimed it had not been there the night before.”
Malfoy took a sip of his tea and watched Harry turn the pages in the report. Frowning, Harry flipped to the front of the file again, then let out a frustrated snort. “It doesn’t say what kind of wand she used.”
“No,” said Malfoy, shaking his head. “Her parents told the Aurors, but they were too stupid to write it down. When we met for the first time, they told me the wand was hawthorn, twelve-and-three-quarter inches, with a unicorn hair core. Elyse had apparently wanted to be a Healer, but she hadn’t earned the marks in school.”
“Where’s the wand now?” asked Harry, staring at Elyse’s unmoving picture.
“Locked down at the Auror division in the Ministry. I have authorization, though, to retrieve it, as well we any other files we might need. So does that mean yes in hero language?”
Harry snapped the file shut. “Yes.”
Later that evening, Harry returned to his shop, feeling drained and hungry. He and Malfoy had discussed the Caldwell case for another four hours until they had finally parted ways. Though Harry was tired, he wanted to visit his shop one more time before he’d close it to the public while he was helping with Malfoy’s investigation.
Malfoy had said that they couldn’t get access to the Ministry until Monday during regular work hours—although the gleam in Malfoy’s eyes told Harry that that hadn’t stopped him before—and Harry was to meet him at the new Fountain of Magic at 8 AM sharp.
The backroom of his shop, since renamed Potter & Ollivander Wands, felt dusty and unused, despite Harry being there just the previous day. Preserved inside a protection spell stood the elder wood wand, its magic humming low and pleasant in Harry’s ears. He wanted badly to be able to finish the wand, to add the final element—a phoenix feather. Even though Harry had Sunday free, it still wouldn’t be enough time to cast the proper spells. It would simply have to keep. A rat scurried across the floor, but Harry paid it no mind.
Stumbling out of the Floo, Harry lurched forward and began to half-jog towards the new fountain located in the center of the rebuilt Ministry of Magic. He had fallen asleep Sunday night on his sofa while watching the telly and had only woken up twenty minutes ago.
Malfoy wasn’t hard to spot, his white hair practically beaming, and Harry approached quickly. Upon seeing Harry, Malfoy scowled and said, “You’re late.”
“Ten minutes isn’t that late,” Harry protested. Malfoy stared at him for a moment, then leaned forward and gave an audible sniff.
“Have you bathed at all since our last meeting?” he said with a sneer.
Harry felt himself flush. “Yes,” he snapped, tugging on his shirt self-consciously. “Let’s just get this over with, okay? I hate coming down to the Ministry.”
“I’d think you’d love all the attention,” said Malfoy as they queued up for a lift.
Harry gave him the stink-eye. “You know I don’t,” he said, already feeling the heat of dozens of gazes on his back and hearing the whispers of fans and admirers.
Malfoy merely shrugged elegantly, then stepped into the lift. He pushed the button for their floor quickly, not allowing anyone else but Harry on, and soon they were on their way to the Auror division’s evidence room.
“We just need to breeze in and out,” Malfoy was murmuring. “Afterwards I want us to visit some of Elyse’s friends and roommates, talk to them, see what she was like. I don’t expect it’ll take more than a few hours.”
“Er, we?” said Harry. The door to the lift suddenly opened and Malfoy strode into the dark corridor, leaving Harry no choice but to follow him.
“We?” he repeated once he’d caught up.
Malfoy ignored Harry again to say, “Her evidence box is through door 11435. Since this is door…17, I’d say we’ve a ways to go. Come on, Potter.”
Harry was horrified with himself for obeying without protest. About thirty minutes later, he and Malfoy, both sweating and breathing heavily, heaved themselves to door 11435, and Malfoy then took what felt like another bloody thirty minutes to enter the passcodes into the strange-looking phonebox located next to each door.
Finally, with an ominous clang, the large steel door creaked open, and Malfoy entered without a backwards glance.
Harry paused for a moment, then followed. Inside, the room contained hundreds—possibly thousands—of evidences boxes, all magically preserved and all, apparently, open and unsolved cases. A knot formed in Harry’s stomach at the thought that all these witches and wizards had been killed or gone missing and no one ever knew what really happened.
The room itself was larger than the Great Hall at Hogwarts, containing a space Harry didn’t think was possible even with magic. The rows containing the boxes were well over thirty feet high, jutting up towards a ceiling obscured by shadows. Lanterns lined the rows, dimly lighting the room barely enough to avoid accidents, but just dark enough to give Harry a headache. It was the kind of place a person could get lost in for weeks. Harry, needless to say, wasn’t too keen to stay for much longer.
Malfoy, thankfully, hadn’t strayed far, and Harry was able to catch up in time to watch as Malfoy magically lowered a small box from an alphabetized row section.
“Here it is,” he breathed, the lanterns creating odd shadows on his face.
“It’s the wand, then?” said Harry, coming to stand besides Malfoy, who nodded.
“We can’t perform any spells or anything on it while in the Ministry, so we’ll have to take it back to your place,” Malfoy said, and shrunk the box to fit into his trouser pocket. “Come on,” he said, gripping Harry’s arm and tugging him towards the door. “I want to start as soon as possible. We’ll pick up some lunch on the way to your flat.”
“Wait—” said Harry, as Malfoy manhandled him. “What? My flat? Malfoy, it’s not even eleven yet, it’s too early for lunch.”
“No time for dilly-dallying, Potter, I’ve got a job to do,” said Malfoy.
“Did you just say dilly-dallying?”
“Once we reach the Atrium, just Side-Along us to your flat,” Malfoy continued as if he weren’t a lunatic. “We’ll order Chinese.”
Harry had had enough. Yanking his arm out of Malfoy’s grip, Harry shook him off and said, “First of all—I hate Chinese, so no way. Second, why the hell do you need me around for any of this?” Harry vaguely waved his hands around. “I only need to see the wand. I don’t need to go investigating and asking questions and—and investigating. Wands. I just work with wands.”
Malfoy smirked, and leaned against the opposite wall, folding his arms across his chest. “So you like working with wands, Potter?”
Harry growled and Malfoy grinned widely, teeth clearly visible, even in the dark corridor.
The two stood staring at each other for several minutes, Harry’s heart beating in his chest, before Malfoy sighed and dropped his arms.
“Look, Potter,” he began, staring at a point beyond Harry’s left shoulder. “I just need some assistance with this case. Usually Weasley’s around to help, but he’s in Italy consorting with trolls, so you’re the next best thing.”
The hall got very quiet as Harry stared at Malfoy waiting for an answer. Somewhere water dripped steadily and only their breathing could be heard in the silence.
Malfoy sighed, then, and dropped his arms. “Come on, Potter,” he said in a low voice. “You’ve probably been waiting your whole life to hear me say that I needed you for something. So let that course through your system and let’s be on our way. I want to solve this case. The Caldwells…they’re decent people. Strong, pureblooded family. I knew Elyse, all right?” he admitted, and Harry’s eyebrows disappeared into his hairline.
Malfoy pushed off the wall and approached Harry. “Our parents associated often, before the war and—and when things happened.” When my father was imprisoned was what Harry heard. “We weren’t friends,” he went on, “but we got along and I’m doing this for her parents. Free. So let’s get to your flat, check out that wand, and order some Thai.”
Harry’s lips twitched in the corners, but he pursed his lips, appalled at the idea of finding something Malfoy said funny.
“All right,” Harry said at last, and he barely heard Malfoy puff out a breath. “But we’re getting fish and chips.”
Harry hadn’t stayed in Panama for long at all. His and Juan’s relationship had become pretty awful towards the end, and Harry had taken the first opportunity to jump broom and head for Brazil. When he first met Juan, though, things had been pretty damn great.
Harry arrived in Panama City on a Thursday, and by Saturday night, he’d already found a job, a flat, and a seedy underground gay club. He was introduced to Juan the Bartender that night, as well as margaritas, and by the evening’s end, they’d ended up snogging rather enthusiastically.
Juan had been amazing, especially in bed, but soon enough the only activities the couple engaged in were sex and rows. Near the end, it was more rowing than anything. Harry had usually understood those kinds of relationships that involved bickering—he was best friends with Ron and Hermione, after all—and for a while there, he had convinced himself that it was normal, that it was okay for them to be fighting so much, because…that happened sometimes in relationships.
But the fighting only got worse, and one night, it got a little too physical for Harry when Juan pushed him against a door. Harry left the next morning.
Which was why Harry was a little wary as he and Malfoy bickered all the way to his flat about the lunch menu. He told himself not to worry—it wasn’t as if they were a couple. But still, something felt…familiar to Harry, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
Harry’s flat was located in Diagon Alley above an outdoor market and right down the street from his shop. It was small, but that was all he needed, and he was quite proud of it nonetheless.
Malfoy, on the other hand, was not so much so. “Oh my God,” he said as they walked into Harry’s living room-cum-kitchen. With a look of horror, Malfoy pointed at a plush red and gold sofa against the back wall. “That is the ugliest sofa in existence, Potter,” he said. “Did you steal it from the Gryffindor common room?”
“No,” Harry lied. “It’s comfortable, Malfoy. It won’t kill you to be a little more polite, you know.”
Malfoy sniffed. “I’m always polite and courteous.” He approached the sofa and touched the fabric on the arm cautiously. Apparently satisfied that it wasn’t going to give him a case of the Gryffindors, Malfoy sat down and primly crossed his legs.
For a while there, Harry had almost forgotten Malfoy was a flaming poof, but it all came rushing back to him now. A dark room, mouths coming together, the scent of arousal wafting through the air…
“If you’re done staring at me, I’d like to get started,” said Malfoy, bringing Harry crashing back to reality.
“Er,” he said. “Let me just Floo the Leaky and have them bring us some lunch.”
Malfoy’s head snapped up. “The Leaky Cauldron doesn’t deliver,” he said quickly.
“Sure it does,” said Harry, striding towards his fireplace. “They do it for me all the time.” He paused suddenly, then turned his head. “Don’t they?”
Lip curling, Malfoy leaned back into the sofa and crossed his arms. “I’ve Flooed them at least half a dozen times beg—demanding they deliver me dinner after I’d been working on a case for ages, and they always refuse.” Malfoy sneered. “Trust me, Potter, if they deliver food, it’s only to you.”
Harry’s stomach lurched uncomfortably. “That’s not true,” he protested weakly. Harry stared down at the pinch of Floo powder in his hand and suddenly felt nauseous. He hated it when people paid special attention to him. He just wanted to live a normal life, with a normal job and normal boyfriends and normal take-away. Honestly, was that too much to ask?
Malfoy sighed loudly and stood from the sofa. “I’ll Floo them myself and ask, if you don’t believe me,” he said, moving towards Harry.
“No,” Harry said. “Er, I don’t want fish and chips anymore. I like Thai. Thai sounds good, you Floo them.”
Malfoy looked viciously amused. “They’re Muggle, Potter,” he drawled. “Somehow I doubt they’d appreciate a floating head popping up in their fireplace. Don’t you have a telephone?”
Harry gaped. This was getting to be too much. First, Malfoy was being way too nice to him, asking for help and being genial and not a prick. Second, the Malfoy he knew would never condescend to eat Muggle foods, or talk on a Muggle telephone, or even speak of Muggles without a regulatory sneer and air of superiority. Malfoy hated Muggles.
“You hate Muggles,” Harry blurted. Malfoy gave him a nasty look.
“As shocking as this may seem to you, Potter,” he spat, “people can change.” Malfoy stomped back to the sofa and bent down to pick up the files he’d thrown on the table earlier. “When you’ve stopped being a dick, let me know.”
Harry dashed forward and grabbed Malfoy’s arm, spinning him around. “Don’t pull that shite with me,” Harry hissed. “So you’re telling me that you don’t think wizards are better than Muggles now? That purebloods are better than the rest of us? That’s such shite, Malfoy. People like you don’t change.”
Malfoy wrenched his arm out of Harry’s grip. “Fuck you, Potter,” he said angrily. “What does this have to do with anything anyway?” He waved Elyse’s files in Harry’s face. “What do my beliefs have to do with the Caldwell family? Or being an investigator? It doesn’t matter one bloody bit, you giant arse, so just shut your mouth about it!”
Harry and Malfoy glared at each other, chests heaving, and Harry was once again reminded of his relationship with Juan. Only then, those fights hadn’t felt like this one. Those fights hadn’t sent a jolt of pleasure straight down Harry’s spine when Malfoy stared at him, or accidentally brushed up against him. Those fights had never resulted in Harry saying, “You’re right.”
“What?” barked Malfoy.
“You’re right,” he repeated. Malfoy’s face slackened and his lips parted slightly. “It doesn’t matter,” Harry continued. “But that doesn’t mean that…that I don’t believe you, but—I know you want to solve this case, and I want to help, so—just go into my bedroom, use the telephone to call the Thai place, and I’ll—I’ll take a look at the wand, how’s that?”
Blinking slowly, Malfoy nodded and dropped the files back onto the table, then reached into his pocket for the miniature box. With a tap of his wand, the box swelled in size, and Malfoy thrust it into Harry’s hands.
“I’ll be right back,” he said, not looking into Harry’s eyes, and disappeared into the bedroom, which he managed to locate down a short hallway.
“Why does my life always have to be so difficult?” Harry said aloud.
Malfoy emerged from the bedroom five minutes later looking a little flushed. “The food’ll be ready for pick-up in twenty minutes,” he said, sitting down opposite Harry. “Do you have anything to drink? Or were you just going to let me die of thirst over here?”
Harry rolled his eyes and rose from the sofa to grab two butterbeers from the icebox. When he sat back down, he saw Malfoy was examining Elyse’s wand. “Have you found anything out, then?” Malfoy asked.
Harry shook his head and said, “No, but I need to pop over to my shop for a minute to pick up something. I didn’t want to leave before you’d come back from ordering.”
“What, you didn’t trust me alone in your flat?” said Malfoy snidely.
“No,” said Harry, “I just didn’t want you to think I’d left for no reason.”
He didn’t wait for a response before Disapparating, appearing in his shop a second later. Everything looked the same, and he wasn’t really expecting otherwise, but it felt good to be back, even for a few minutes.
Oswald Ollivander had gone missing before the start of Harry’s sixth year, and had been presumed dead by most. Ollivander hadn’t been dead, though, but actually taken captive by Death Eaters upon Voldemort’s orders.
Harry was in Ireland searching for the Ravenclaw Horcrux when he encountered Voldemort for a third time since his search had begun, and this time, Voldemort had a trick up his sleeve: a new wand, courtesy of Ollivander. That was the first time Harry had been able to truly fight his nemesis without Priori Incantatem and Harry had been lucky to get out alive.
His survival had all been thanks to Ollivander. After his kidnapping, Voldemort had ordered a new wand, and Ollivander had complied, though it had taken him nearly a year. That had been no accident, for Ollivander had made a faulty wand, one that would malfunction and make the user helpless. Voldemort and Harry had only been dueling for mere minutes before the new wand had backfired, and Voldemort had been forced to retreat.
Less than a day later Ollivander’s body had turned up in Diagon Alley, mangled nearly beyond recognition.
Even after leaving England after the war, Harry always felt a connection to Ollivander, a man who sacrificed his life to save another. So when Harry returned home four years later, he decided to visit the famed shop and see if it was still operating.
To his surprise and delight, the shop was open, and curious as to who was now running everything, Harry entered and met a man he’d never seen before.
“What can I do for you,” said the man gruffly.
“Er.” Harry looked around the shop and noticed that the walls seemed a little bare. “I, er, just wanted to come and see how things were going…since, since Mr Ollivander had passed away.”
The man eyed Harry suspiciously. He had nary a hair on his head, with beady dark eyes and a large scar running across his nose. Though quite a bit shorter than Harry, the man nonetheless had an authoritative air about him.
“M’name’s Ollivander, too,” he said. “Orson Ollivander. I was Oswald’s brother. Took over the shop after he died. I’m no wandmaker, though,” he added. “I just take care o’ the business.”
“Oh,” said Harry uselessly. “So how do new students get wands, then?”
Orson waved a gnarled hand. “They have to get what’s available,” he grunted. “Wandmaking’s a dyin’ art. Not too many young people interested in it nowadays.”
Harry looked around the shop, at the empty shelves and dusty workbench, and felt something inside him warm. His heart swelled and for the first time in years, Harry felt like he truly belonged somewhere. “I’m interested,” he said quietly.
“What?” said Orson.
“I’ll buy the shop from you,” said Harry, determination settling into him. “I’ll study, I’ll apprentice—whatever it takes. I want to be a wandmaker.”
It only took a month for all the paperwork to finalize, and although Orson wasn’t hesitant to sell, the shop still hadn’t come cheap. But to Harry, it was worth every Galleon.
The shop was now entirely Harry’s, but even still, he didn’t often give away Ollivander’s well-kept secrets. After Harry had recovered from Apparating from his flat, he walked towards the back of the dim shop and into a small office area. This was where Harry kept all his paperwork and one very precious item.
Bending over, Harry tapped his wand to a hidden door on his desk, springing it open. Inside sat a large, thick ledger covered in a thin layer of dust, since Harry hadn’t needed it since before September.
Without a doubt Ollivander’s memory for remembering wands and their matches was legendary, but Harry wasn’t quite so lucky, so after every sale and every time he made a new wand, Harry wrote it down in his ledger. But it hadn’t always been his—it had belonged to Ollivander, and to his wandmaster before him. Despite his memory, Ollivander still wrote down every sale and creation, and Harry thus did the same.
It had been his best kept secret, and now Harry was going to show the ledger to Malfoy of all people. With a sigh, and realizing he’d stayed much longer than he’d intended, Harry clutched the thick book to his chest and Disapparated.
Inside his flat, Malfoy was stuffing his face with rice. He looked up at Harry in horror, cheeks puffed out, and then swallowed. “I got the food,” he said thickly.
Harry allowed himself a smile as he gingerly placed the ledger onto the coffee table, then began to help himself to lunch.
“I’ve been reading over Elyse’s file,” said Malfoy, eyeing the ledger. “She wasn’t the most popular girl in school, having only a few close friends, so I don’t think it will take us too long to interview them. How do you get electricity to work here?”
Faltering at the sudden change in topic—and also the fact that Malfoy knew the word ‘electricity’ when Ron still couldn’t say it right, despite having lived in a Muggle house for the past two years—Harry took a thoughtful bite of spicy chicken and chewed it over. “I’ve charmed everything,” he said after swallowing. “There’s no electricity in the flat, no outlets or plugs or anything, so I just…spell the telly or whatever to do what I want.”
Malfoy frowned and furrowed his brow. Harry thought it made him look rather striking. “But how is the telephone able to work then? I mean, how can it connect to the Muggle world?”
“Well, I’ve charmed it not to need electricity,” said Harry, actually enjoying the conversation, “but I’ve wired it into London’s cable lines. That was, ah, a bit tricky, but the connection is hidden from Muggles, so there’s no need to worry about it being found out.”
Malfoy leaned back into the sofa and wiped his mouth with a napkin, looking impressed in spite of himself. “That must have taken some time,” he mused.
Harry shrugged. “It’s not like I needed any of that stuff right away,” he said. “Took a few months, and I had some help.”
“Whose?” asked Malfoy, narrowing his eyes slightly. “I mean, that’s some advanced magic. Must’ve been a rather powerful wizard.”
Powerful was one word for him, thought Harry as he shoveled rice into his mouth to buy some time. Malfoy, however, seemed to have learned the value of patience over the years and merely waited for Harry to finish chewing.
“Er,” said Harry. “George Weasley.”
Malfoy pursed his lips and hmmed. “That was nice of him.”
Harry merely smiled. “Yes, very nice. He’s a good guy.”
Malfoy made an annoyed noise, then went back to prissily eating his food.
They ate in silence for several minutes, the sounds of Diagon Alley drifting through an open window. When they were finished, Malfoy banished the trash and then opened up Elyse’s file.
“One of her former friends lives just outside London,” he murmured. “She’s currently living at home taking care of her mother who was bedridden after the war.”
“Should we Floo first?” said Harry, and Malfoy shook his head.
“It’s best if we catch her off guard,” he explained. “If you warn people ahead of time that you’re coming, that an investigator is going to be asking them questions, they clam up, come up with tales and lies and half-truths. I find the best way to getting real answers is to turn up unannounced.”
Harry didn’t remember Sarah Fawcett from school, and said as much to Malfoy, who didn’t seem surprised.
“She left after her sixth year,” Malfoy was explaining as he and Harry approached a small blue house located at the end of a winding street. “Her father had just died and she decided to get a job at the Ministry to help support her mother. She and Elyse kept in contact, and then got even closer once Elyse began her own job at the Ministry in the same department. The Caldwells say the two were very close.”
As they got nearer to the house, Harry could better see the peeling paint on the front door, the many weeds growing in the small front lawn, the missing shingles on the roof. The whole area, actually, was rather run down and somewhat eerie. Wind whipped through Harry’s hair, disheveling it even more than usual, and clouds blanketed the sky, darkening the already dimly lit street.
Malfoy knocked briskly on the Fawcetts’ front door. “Let me do all the talking, Potter,” he said out of the corner of his mouth. Harry turned to scowl, but paused upon seeing Malfoy’s face.
At Hogwarts, Harry had become accustomed to seeing Malfoy’s sneering visage wherever he went. In fact, to Harry it seemed as if that were Malfoy’s one and only look. But now Malfoy looked…almost pleasant. His face wasn’t blank and cold, but open and professional. It was a little unnerving.
Moments passed before the door creaked open and a young woman with tired eyes peered out at Malfoy. She stared at him for a moment, then turned her gaze on Harry. Her eyes widened considerably and her mouth dropped open.
“Miss Fawcett?” said Malfoy. The woman’s head snapped back towards him.
“Yes?” she said softly, hands clenching the edge of the doorway.
“Miss Fawcett, I’m Draco Malfoy and this, as you may know, is Harry Potter.” Malfoy withdrew a shiny badge from the inside of his robes. “I’m a private investigator. I was hoping I could speak with you today in regard to the disappearance of Elyse Caldwell in 1998. May we come in?”
Sarah’s hand covered her mouth. “Elyse?” she whispered. “Oh…Oh, yes, please come in.” She opened the door entirely, and after a quick glance at Harry, Malfoy strode into the house. Sarah’s eyes followed Harry as he passed through the door and trailed after Malfoy into a dingy living room.
“Please, sit down,” said Sarah. “Can I offer you a drink? Tea, perhaps?”
Harry opened his mouth to refuse, but Malfoy placed his hand lightly on Harry’s knee.
“Tea would be lovely,” said Malfoy, smiling. Sarah nodded and bit her lip, then disappeared into the adjacent kitchen.
Meanwhile, Harry’s knee felt like it was on fire, the heat from Malfoy’s fingertips seeping through his jeans, searing Harry’s skin. Malfoy leaned towards Harry then, fingers digging deeper into his knee.
“Tea will help her relax,” he whispered into Harry’s ear, breath hot against his neck. “It’s a routine, something comfortable, something she’s familiar with. It is thus inhospitable of us if we were to refuse. So let me handle this, all right?”
Harry swallowed heavily and nodded. Satisfied, Malfoy sat back, though his fingers lingered longer than necessary before finally pulling away. Sarah returned shortly thereafter, saving Harry from spontaneous combustion, and served them their tea.
“I’m…I’m so glad to see something being done about Elyse’s disappearance,” said Sarah in a raw voice. “They never investigated it properly—the Aurors, I mean.” She took a shaky sip of her tea, while Malfoy pulled out a quill and parchment and began taking notes.
“Elyse’s mother told me you two were close during school,” said Malfoy.
Sarah nodded. She looked so tired, her brown hair dull and lifeless, her blue eyes too sad for someone her age. It looked to Harry as if she hadn’t seen the light of day for several years.
“We were in Ravenclaw, I’m sure you know,” Sarah continued, and Malfoy nodded. “I left school early, to care for my mother, but we became close again when she began working as a secretary at the Ministry. I was a delivery girl, and we would meet for lunch and just talk and talk like old times.” Sarah’s hands shook as she took a sip of tea.
“What department did Elyse work in?”
Sarah set her tea cup down and began wringing her hands. Outside the wind began to howl. “International Magical Cooperation,” she said. “She worked a lot with Percy Weasley after he was demoted back to his old job.” She turned big blue eyes on Harry. “You remember him, don’t you?”
Harry could hardly forget. Percy had been brutally murdered a few months before the end of the war, his body dumped on the front steps of the Burrow. Molly Weasley still hadn’t fully recovered from that.
“Yeah,” he said through the lump in his throat.
“Did Elyse like her job?” asked Malfoy. Sarah shook her head vehemently.
“Oh no,” she said. “Elyse hated it. She’d always wanted to be a Healer, but she’d been just awful in Potions.” Sarah gave out a half-sob and said, “I can’t imagine why!”
Snape, Harry thought, clenching his hands.
“Do you know what exactly Elyse did for Weasley?” said Malfoy quickly.
Sarah sniffled and wiped her nose with a tissue. “A lot of errands. Elyse hated that especially. But she also filed reports and made copies, or took notes. She told me once that she destroyed some documents, too, but never said what they were about.”
Malfoy’s quill stopped moving. “But she did have some idea what they were about, right?” he asked.
Nodding, Sarah said, “Elyse was a quick reader and had one of those—those memories, where people can see something once and remember it forever?”
Malfoy gripped his quill. “Did she ever discuss those documents with you? Or anyone else?”
“Oh no,” she said with a shake of her head. “Elyse was always very professional.”
The room suddenly got very quiet, save for the scratching of Malfoy’s quill as he resumed writing. “Sarah,” he murmured, “tell me about Elyse.”
“What do you mean?”
Malfoy looked up and pursed his lips. “I mean…was she happy? Unhappy? Was she dating someone? What were her thoughts on the war? Anything you can tell us that can help uncover why she disappeared.”
Sarah frowned and picked up her tea cup again. “Elyse wasn’t happy or unhappy. She was just…there. She’d get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, read a book, and go to bed. Then she’d do it all again the next day. Elyse didn’t have much of a life, and even when she did hang out with me and Ernie and Penny—we were all friends from childhood—she was so quiet. Not like the Elyse I knew from Hogwarts and before. She was always thinking, always reading the Prophet.
“I’d go over to her flat every once in a while, though,” Sarah continued, “to see if she’d want to grab dinner, but she’d never be in. When I would ask about it the next day, Elyse would always go quiet or she’d get angry and tell me to shut up.”
“Do you think she was seeing someone?” said Malfoy, leaning forward.
Sarah began to shake her head, but stopped midway. “You know…” she said. “I really couldn’t tell you. She was doing something that she wouldn’t tell me about, but I never knew what.”
“Do you think it had anything to do with her disappearance?”
Sarah took a deep, shaky breath. “I don’t know,” she breathed. “The last time I saw her, she was going to meet Ernie at the Leaky, but never showed up. We’d had a fight and she had stormed out of here. I never got to say goodbye.” Sarah hiccupped and wiped away a few stray tears.
Malfoy reached out his hand and patted Sarah on the knee. “Sarah,” he said softly, “I know this is difficult for you, but you’ve already helped me so much in better understanding Elyse. I just have a few more questions and then we’ll leave. Is that all right?”
Sarah hiccupped a few more times, then blew her nose loudly. “Yes,” she said hoarsely. “I want to help.”
“Good,” said Malfoy soothingly. “Now…you said Elyse read the Prophet a lot. Do you know why?”
“She was following the war,” Sarah replied. “She’d become quite obsessed with it.”
Sarah paused, frowning. “Just that she was always reading up about the progress of the war, where Death Eaters were attacking, where Harry Potter had been sighted last.” She gave Harry an apologetic look. “General things like that.”
“Do you know what she thought of the war?”
This time, the pause lasted considerably longer as Sarah wrung her hands, her face anxious and pained. “That’s what our fight was about,” she said, on the verge of tears. “She was so smart, she knew better, but her parents were being investigated for possession of illegal Dark artifacts and she was working this awful lowly position when others—Muggle-borns and half-bloods—were being promoted ahead of her and—”
“Sarah, what are you saying?” pressed Malfoy.
She let out another sob. “I’m saying she didn’t support you.” She nodded to indicate Harry, then pointed at Malfoy and said, “She supported you.”
That night Harry found himself sharing yet another meal with Malfoy, who was slumped over a half-empty pint of ridiculously expensive beer as a wicked storm whirled outside the Leaky Cauldron.
“She wasn’t raised that way,” Malfoy mumbled into his mug. “Her grandfather was Muggle-born, for Merlin’s sake.”
Harry nodded and took another swig of beer. “Did you know any of that stuff about her parents? That they were being investigated?”
“No,” growled Malfoy, slamming his mug down on the table and rattling the silverware. “They left that little piece of information out.”
“Are you going to talk to them?”
Malfoy shook his head. “No…I’ll go to the Ministry early tomorrow morning and see what I can find out. Then you and I are going to stop by Ernie Macmillan’s before dropping in on the Caldwells’ and having a look around Elyse’s room.”
Harry tried to nod, but all his head did was loll forward. “All right,” he mumbled. “I’ll take a look at the wand while you’re doing all that, see what I can find out.”
Picking up his mug, Malfoy clinked it against Harry’s, then swallowed the rest of the contents, his throat muscles moving against creamy white skin. Harry quickly looked away.
“Fuck, I don’t want to Apparate all the way to the manor,” said Malfoy despondently. “An’ I sure as hell don’t wanna Floo. Get soot all over m’clothes.”
Unfortunately for Harry, any kind of alcohol he had would obliterate the link between his mouth and his mind, and he ended up blurting, “You can stay at my flat, if you want.”
Raising his head, Malfoy blinked at Harry, then snorted. “Smooth, Potter…”
Harry flushed and hurried to say, “You can sleep on the couch. Or transfigure it, I don’t care. But you’re a little drunk, and I’m a little drunk, so it’d be a bad idea to Apparate, ‘cause you’ll splinch, or to Floo, ‘cause you might say the address wrong. My flat’s just around the corner, you know. Much safer.”
Malfoy furrowed his brow and looked into his empty pint as if searching for an answer. After several tense minutes in which Harry’s heart felt as if it was going to thump right out of his chest, Malfoy raised his head and smiled. “Sure, Potter.”
The two stumbled into Harry’s flat ten minutes later, laughing their arses off about…something. Harry couldn’t quite remember. Malfoy lurched into the living room and flopped down onto the sofa, letting out a sigh of relief. “Get me some blankets, Potter,” he said imperiously, and Harry was too far gone to be offended. With a shaky wave of his wand, ten blankets appeared from the ceiling and dropped down onto Malfoy, who let out an indignant squawk.
“Thanks,” he said in a muffled voice, then leaned his head against the back of the sofa and began to snore. Loudly.
Harry found this ridiculously funny and laughed all the way to his room. He managed to divest himself of clothing, but putting on pajamas required way too much concentration, so Harry just fell into bed and curled up under the covers in only his boxers. He was asleep in minutes.
The next morning, Harry woke up with what felt like an entire parade marching through his skull, complete with elephants and a 100-person band. With a groan, he rolled out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen. It took much too long, in Harry’s opinion, to find the Hangover Potion, but when he finally did, he sighed in relief as it coursed through his body, relieving the headache and severe dry mouth.
Once the fog had lifted from his mind, Harry suddenly remembered everything that had happened the night before, including inviting Malfoy into his flat. Inwardly groaning, Harry peeked around the corner and saw that the sofa was empty and that Malfoy was gone.
Harry didn’t look too much into why he felt disappointed.
After a quick shower, Harry sat down in the living room and opened up the box containing Elyse’s wand. Peering down at it, Harry frowned as he noticed some odd discoloration in the wood. He grabbed his ledger and flipped to the massive section separating hawthorn wood from the others. After flipping further into the ledger, the magical pages expanding as his search continued, Harry then searched for Elyse’s birth year and then surname, having alphabetized the ledger himself.
He found Elyse’s name quickly, then stared at the ledger for what felt like hours before sitting back and running a hand over his face.
After getting himself a strong cup of tea, Harry sat back down and stared once more into the box containing the wand. He stared down at the grey wood and then with a mumbled incantation, the wand rose steadily from the box. Rotating it gently in the air, Harry examined it closely, noting the unusual polish, the dark patches in the wood, and the overall craftsmanship of the wand.
Just then, the doorknob to Harry’s flat rattled and Malfoy forced himself inside. He seemed momentarily surprised to see Harry, but recovered quickly. And then Harry noticed the suitcase. The very large suitcase. Harry looked up at Malfoy and raised his eyebrows.
Two pink patches appeared high on Malfoy’s cheeks and he coughed. “I went to grab some clothes from the manor after going to the Ministry this morning,” he explained. “It’s a lot easier just staying here in London while I’m still investigating, but don’t worry, Potter, I was planning on checking in at the Leaky or elsewhere. I just thought I could stow this here for now.”
Harry ducked his head and smiled to himself as he lowered Elyse’s wand back into the box. After shoving his suitcase into a corner, Malfoy came to sit by Harry on the sofa. “So did you find anything out?”
“Oh yeah,” said Harry. “This isn’t Elyse’s wand.”
Malfoy went very still and Harry got a bit pleased with seeing Malfoy look so dumbfounded. “What?” he said weakly.
“Yeah, it’s not her wand,” said Harry with a smile. “It’s a decent reproduction, but it wasn’t made by Ollivander.”
“You can tell all that just by looking at it?” said Malfoy, sounding awed, and Harry’s stomach lurched.
“Er, yeah,” he said. He levitated the wand again and pointed to a dark spot near the tip. “See that? Common hawthorn wood shouldn’t do that. At least not if it’s made properly, and Ollivander would not have allowed that rot to set in. This wand has no finish on it, either. Most importantly, though,” he continued, maneuvering the wand around, “it’s only twelve inches long. Elyse’s was twelve-and-three-quarters. Ollivander would never have got the length wrong. So this wand never belonged to Elyse.”
Malfoy, whose mouth had been hanging during Harry’s explanation, leaned forward and stared at the floating wand. “Does it work, though?” he asked. “I mean, does it have a core?”
“I can’t tell yet,” said Harry. “The Aurors were right—there are spells and jinxes protecting the wand from too much examination.”
“But can you remove them?” said Malfoy quickly.
Harry allowed himself a smirk. “Absolutely. Whoever made this wand had some talent, but he sucked at Defensive Spells in general. It shouldn’t take me longer than a day.”
Malfoy let out a breath, looking relieved. “See, Potter, this is exactly what you were needed for.” He frowned suddenly and swore under his breath. “You know what this means, though, don’t you?” he asked, and Harry nodded grimly.
“Yeah. Where is Elyse’s real wand?”