Title: Not So Far A-Field
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, implied past Harry/Ginny
Summary: Change can be a good thing.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Deathly Hallows compliant? Deathly Hallows compliant, set before the epilogue
Word Count: 3,737
Author's Notes: SO MANY thanks to beta A!
Outside, the sky droops. It is grey and it droops. Water pours down from the heavens and causes the familiar drab London landscape to melt and turn into an all-encompassing – and rather wet – splodge of colour.
When I step outside, and immediately find myself shin-deep in a puddle, it is confirmed that someone out there is conspiring against me. Perhaps several someones, which would explain the debacle which has only been my, oh, entire life.
Despite the miserable weather, I make it to work before I finish my morning coffee. The streets are unclogged; most people are probably warm and indoors, choosing not to expose themselves to the miserable weather.
Five minutes after entering the Ministry, I catch Shacklebolt passing by, who is somehow managing to convey the impression of a harassed granite statue. "Potter."
"NO, I mean, don’t tell me I am ‘practising the important task of organising the official documents recording the activities of our illustrious Auror department’ again because if I see another white and red form I will throw up. Everywhere. And me filing is already bad enough, and the paperwork keeps ending up in strange and, and unnatural places. Places where paperwork was never meant to be found."
Currently Shacklebolt looks like a harassed and surprised granite statue. I am feeling somewhat shocked myself; not because I might quite possibly be fired (it’s very hard to tell whether Shacklebolt likes you or not, unless you have the third eye) before I even properly start my job, but because I haven’t lost my temper at a superior since I was eighteen and trying to fight the entire world. Of course, back then I would have thrown some furniture around, but right now I just concentrate on not crushing my styrofoam cup.
Shacklebolt blinks slowly, like a movie clip of a rock fall crashing down, then rewound. "The filing process of official documents in the department is something which a surprising number Aurors neglect and or struggle with –" here he sends me a quelling look, which is completely unnecessary anyway since I’m not actually going to throw my coffee at his stupid head, "– but I suppose you have done your fair share. I’ll assign you to a straight-forward case with an experienced Auror."
He sits down. "You start … now. Here he comes," and it may be my imagination, but he sounds almost resigned.
I turn around and immediately get horrible flashbacks to my second year at Hogwarts. My partner – oh god, at least it’s temporary – has sparkling blue eyes, cascades of golden hair, and has somehow managed to get a regulation Auror robe in a deep eggplant colour. Even though they only come in black or black.
It’s pre-memory charm Gilderoy Lockhart, back from the dead.
He smiles, and it’s like the sun rising above the gloomy clouds. "Hello, Shacklebolt! You wouldn’t know where the requisition forms have been moved to? Someone keeps shifting them, practically every day!"
Shacklebolt appears to slump a little, "Ah, good morning, Featherhead. No, I’m afraid I don’t know, perhaps you should check the … bathroom. What are you looking to requisition?" Shacklebolt definitely sounds resigned now.
"Oh, well last week whilst performing my usual night shift I managed to apprehend two dangerous criminals – thieves, the pair of them! – but along the way I seemed to have mislaid my gold-leafed Sneakoscope! Which was quite pretty, really..."
I look at the ceiling and think of England.
Later on, I sidle up to Shacklebolt, when Featherhead is distracted and talking animatedly about … something … and gesticulating wildly. "Is that really his name? Featherhead?"
"Yes," Shacklebolt sighs.
"...I was actually the spokesperson for Sorcerers’ Smile Serum for a while, but that was before my uncle offered me a position in an accelerated Auror preparation course, which he said would allow me to benefit society more."
"The old Head of Department, Bilius Fogle."
"Ah," I say.
Featherhead beams beatifically and continues to walk down the hall, cutting a very fine figure against the black-clad bodies of the other Ministry worker, which was no doubt his intention when he dressed this morning. "Now, I am extremely surprised you were assigned such a difficult first case! As your temporary – but no less commanding! – new boss –"
"– And wise mentor, you must listen to me very carefully and must obey my instructions to the letter."
He fills me in on our assignment case. As Shacklebolt promised, it sounds fairly straight-forward; the Devondale Diggers are looking to file a lawsuit against the Seeker of the Tutshill Tomatoes, claiming malicious assault during a match.
All we have to do is step in, ask a few questions, and the whole thing should be wrapped up in no time.
It’s strange to think that after something like the second Wizard War – and that’s what they’re calling it these days, in history books with dry, strictly factual language and numbers and absolutely no mention of the families, the children, the loved ones lost, and those who remain behind – the wizarding world hasn’t changed that much. Not really. The Ministry is still as ineffectual as ever, though continually improving with Shacklebolt as the interim Minister, and people have routines.
I wake up. I go to work. I talk to Ron – and Hermione – when I can. I go home. I poke at the nest of owls in my fireplace, which I don’t have the heart to evict even though it means I can’t Floo anywhere.
I write another letter to Ginny.
Today I finally received my first case …
I glance at the case file and frown at Featherhead. "Well, it sounds pretty obvious to me."
"Oh, no! We must investigate this further! There could be evidence of foul play; there could be a conspiracy!" Featherhead’s eyes become larger than ever and his arms flail to demonstrate how truly he believes in further (completely unnecessary!) investigation.
I hold the files up for Featherhead, "Well, let’s see. The Diggers’ Seeker and the Tomatoes’ Seeker were neck-to-neck chasing the Snitch. The Tomatoes’ Seeker sped up and caught the Snitch. The Diggers’ Seeker flew into a goalpost."
Featherhead is nodding vigorously before I even finish talking. "Exactly. We’ll need to consult several eye-witnesses, and try to find any recordings of the incident, magical or in memory-form … ."
I agree that we do need to at least talk to a few people before closing up the case, and Featherhead seems eager about interviewing witnesses. I decide to let him do the interrogating, partly because I figure he can’t do much damage by just asking some questions, and also because I’m afraid of what he’ll do if he’s in charge of transcribing the interviews to text.
But then, after he delivers the tiny, silver-white filled bottles of interviews for me to write up, I realise I’ve forgotten (I’ve known him for all of two days, but I am fairly certain that his is a nature predictable and not prone to change) that this is Featherhead I am dealing with, and nothing is safe.
"Please state your name and age."
"My name is Margarite Thornbranch, age for – ah, thirty-eight."
"Where were you on the thirteenth of April?"
"I was at the Diggers versus Tomatoes game – Quidditch, you know – with my son. It was terribly exciting."
"And at this game – oh, I say, that is a nice jumper you are wearing! Would you say it is a more lilac or mauve colour?"
"I’ve always thought it to be more of a pinkish taupe colour, to be honest. And I knitted it myself, of course! I knit many of my clothes. I have a clothing business which I run from my home, if you’re interested in buying … ."
My partner is an idiot.
(Of course, later, Featherhead says: "But it was all a clever ploy! To make the witness relax and reveal all she knew without censoring herself!"
I cut my eyes to him. "You two talked about jumpers for twenty minutes.")
Ron stops by my desk, for once not following Hermione around the entire Ministry building – no one knows for sure what she does. It is quite possible that she herself doesn’t either, but walks around in a perpetual state of stress and shames us all with her productivity, seemingly doing the work of every department – and interrupts my work.
"Hey, mate. How’re you holding up? How is the case going? Is it exciting? Shacklebolt’s letting me take a break from filing and assigned me to help Hermione –" Ron looks a bit like he’s been hit over the head with something heavy when he says her name, "– who he says does seem to need the help more. And also, that is all I do anyway. Which isn’t true; sometimes I refill the coffee!"
"I’m okay. The case is going fine, but no, it’s not very exciting at all, unfortunately."
Ron looks at his watch. "Are you going home soon? It’s getting late. Don’t tell me you’re staying in again, you’ve got to look after yourself," and, bless him, looks concerned, but ruins it by saying, "I don’t know how you find so much work to do anyway, I always find myself empty-handed."
I shake my head. "I promise I won’t stay in too long, I just need to finish these up. Go home to Hermione, Ron."
To think: they’ve been after each other since they were eleven, and now that they’ve got it together and have been sharing a flat for a while, they’re still the same as ever. Ron still seems vaguely shocked that she’ll have him, and Hermione still turns the same shade of pink around him.
The second Wizard War, and nothing’s changed.
Ron shuts the door behind him, boxing me in my dim and empty office. I set down the half-completed transcript and bring out a fresh piece of parchment.
How are you? I’m getting by. The weather’s still dismal. I think your brother’s going to propose to Hermione soon.
I miss you.
I shove the papers into Featherhead’s arms. "I’ve finished the transcripts. What are we doing now? I think it has been pretty firmly established that the injury was an accident, and nothing more."
He frowns. "Well, I suppose it does slightly appear to be indisputable. All that remains is to interview the parties involved and have them sign the official paperwork." He brightens, "I’ll do the Diggers’ Seeker! That is, err, I’ll interview her. Yes.
Hearing herself mentioned, the Seeker giggles and waves. I have to half-close my eyes against the shine of her teeth.
"Right," I mutter. "Where’s the paperwork I need?"
Featherhead is already halfway to the Seeker – and halfway into her bed, I think, and I have to scold myself for being uncharitable – but he waves his hand vaguely in the direction of a desk with two teetering towers of paper on it. "Take the second pile."
Sorry about this; I just need to get it out of my system.
Of course, if I felt the urge to participate in some healthy self-harm before, I feel the same urge tenfold after I set eyes on the Tomatoes’ seeker.
"BLAARGH! Oh, come on. Give me a break," I speak desperately to the ceiling, even though I haven’t been to church since I lived with the Dursleys, and haven’t truly believed in a higher power since ever.
Malfoy sits upright. "Potter!"
This morning, my alarm didn’t go off, and I had to go to work without dropping by my usual coffee shop. This should have tipped me off as to what sort of day this was going to turn out to be. My daily newspaper, which the paperboy forgot to place in plastic wrapping, was drenched by the time I reached the Ministry – as was I.
I clear my throat uncomfortably, and have to get angry at him for making me wish I was wearing something other than my second oldest, but most comfy, set of Auror robes. "Draco Malfoy," I say, and hope it doesn’t come out as stiff as it sounds to myself.
He leans forward, and confirms he is quite as bratty as I remember him to be. "And here I thought they told me to wait until an Auror came for me." He sends a derisive eye around the interrogation room, which I now feel an affinity for whereas before I didn’t really give a damn.
I nod slowly. "Yes … I am that Auror."
Draco leans back insolently. "Oh, I don’t think so. Come on, where’s the real Auror? I won’t talk to a boy in dress up clothes."
"Right," I stand up, knocking my chair over. "FEATHERHEAD, I’VE CHANGED MY MIND. MALFOY IS GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY."
A split-lip, nosebleed (Malfoy has two black eyes and just about looks like an albino panda, which makes me feel better about myself), and stern talking-to from Shacklebolt later, I pinch the bridge of my nose and look warily over at Malfoy. His arms may look spindly, but he can pack a surprising punch, not that that’s something I’ll be telling him any time soon.
"So what’s the deal, Malfoy? How come you’re not in gaol with the rest of your Death Eater friends?" I ask meanly, masking my genuine curiosity.
I see I’ve struck home when he flinches, but it doesn’t feel as good as I anticipated. "There was a trail, yes," he says quietly, "but as my crimes weren’t severe – comparatively, at least – and due to my age, I only served two years in a moderate-security prison.
"After – afterwards, it was hard to get a job. No one wanted a former Death Eater on their payroll, and for a long time, it was all I could do to get by. But Roger – Roger Davies, an old Ravenclaw Quidditch captain at Hogwarts, a few years above us – he found me again, and he offered to let me try out for the Quidditch team he played for. There was a lot of resistance, but he got through," Malfoy says with a slight smile I’ve never seen before.
I’m surprised. "Roger Davies? How come you’re friends with him?"
Malfoy frowns. "Potter, the Davies are a respectable pureblood family, of course I know them. Our parents are – were – close friends. The Davies were neutral during the war."
I stay silent, mulling over this new information. Malfoy’s voice interrupts my thoughts.
"So, Potter? I thought you had an interview to get through?"
Surprisingly, Malfoy is quite civil for the rest of the day, answering my questions in a very matter-of-fact way and without any remarks. We get halfway through the paperwork before deciding to call it a day, and continue it later.
"Okay,"I say, and slide a sheet of paper across the desk to him. "You need to sign … here, here, and here."
Malfoy quickly scans the sheet and scribbles his name as requested. "Done. Anything else?"
"Umm," I hand him the second sheet. "Sign this too."
Malfoy signs. "Any more?"
"Well, since you asked." I heave the pile of paper onto the table. "I’ll need you to fill out the rest of these, as well."
His eyes bulge a little. "Oh, Merlin’s beard." And I can’t help but laugh at his dismayed expression.</i>
Since Hermione has to attend some high-level (what does she do?) Ministry function, Ron comes back to my place to have dinner. I tell him about the owl family in my fireplace, and we both look at the little white fluffy balls, and the bigger fluffy ball which is their mother. She looks back at us with sharp eyes.
"I call her Hedwig," I tell him, a bit gruffly, and he looks like he understands. "You’ll have to stay the night since it’ll be late and you can’t Floo home."
Dinner is take-out Chinese food, and we slump on the couch afterwards in companionable silence, greasy and sated. The white boxes and wooden chopsticks spread out across my coffee table. Ron fiddles with his watch.
"Hermione and I have been together for a while, now," he says, looking at the empty grate. "Well, obviously not as long as some other couples – but that’s only because we took so long to actually officially get together.
"Anyway, I was wondering … since we’ve already moved in together, and – and she knows I love her," he looks up with a fierce kind of shining joy in his eyes, "and I know she loves me. D’you think – d’you think it’s time I, you know, ask her the question?"
I close my eyes and listen to Ron shift restless next to me, and take so long to answer he almost interrupts. "You could ask her any time you wanted. Any time. And she’d say yes straight away. She’s just waiting for you, you know."
Ron releases the tension in his shoulders and smiles. "Thanks, mate."
"I’ll clean this up. You stay here." I stand to collect the rubbish, and head to the kitchen to put it in the bin. When I come back, Ron is at my desk, looking into the top left drawer. He looks up as I approach. "Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry. But I saw paper poking out, and it had Ginny’s name on it … "
He hesitates, and goes on. "You just have to wait, Harry. It’s been hard for her – well, it’s been hard for all of us, but I don’t think anyone expected how badly she was going to take it. It’s just hard to believe sometimes that Fred’s gone. Even now. And after the war, and she never knew how you were … she’ll come around, Harry. She just needs time."
"Yeah, all right," I sit down heavily. "But maybe I’m getting tired of waiting. It’s so hard, Ron," I trail off into a whisper, and lean into his arm thankfully.
For the first time in what feels like years, the sun is shining. Not weak, pale, English sunshine, but heavy, glorious rays, and the air feels like viscous golden syrup.
Malfoy is drowsing, sprawled over a blanket of paper, all of which is extremely important and probably grass-stained by this stage.
"This is the best idea ever," he says, sounding slurred and satisfied.
I smile contentedly and lean my head against my makeshift pillow of leaves. "I know," I say smugly.
Signing boring documents is always much more fun when you’re not indoors. And the weather is so fine, too. Today would be perfect if only –
"What?" Draco lifts his hand to his face self-consciously, "Is there something on my face?"
"No," I say crossly, and give up on trying to see and just close my eyes. "Your hair."
His hands fly to his hair. "What?! What is it, get it out!"
"No, I mean, your hair. It’s blinding me." I roll over, and get a mouthful of leaves, which I then have to spit out.
He rustles from behind me, and the next thing I know something is blocking my beautiful sunshine. I make a noise of complaint.
"Let’s go out for lunch."
"Nnnngh, later," I roll over again and bang into a tree root. "Ow. Wait, are you asking me out on a date?!" I sit up, finally paying attention.
Malfoy rolls his eyes. "Yes, obviously."
"You’re g-gay?!" My voice actually cracks on the last word, and I wince.
"I’m open-minded. Also, hello, Roger Davies? My ‘special friend’?"
"Open – I – wait – what makes you think I’m gay?!" I have a feeling my mouth is open in a very unflattering way but I’m too shocked to care right now.
Malfoy looks at me sternly, and if this were a normal situation I would be laughing myself sick right about now because Malfoy! Stern! What! "Oh, come on, Potter; give me more credit than that. The entire school knew about your ‘secret’ relationship with Cedric Diggory."
"I’m – I’m not – How could you think I," I can’t even say it, for god’s sake, "That I’m – beating for the other team?"
He presses his mouth into a tight line, and for the first time I notice the fine lines on his forehead, which definitely weren’t there in our Hogwarts days. "You know what? Forget about it. Just forget about it." He gets up and begins walking away.
That is, everything around me keeps going, but it feels like I’ve stopped, frozen in my own little bubble of paused time.
And without even thinking, I jump up and chase after him. People are staring and I think I just stepped on half of our papers, but that doesn’t really matter since they were pretty much a lost cause anyway, and I’m tired after twenty-five feet. I knew I shouldn’t have given up Quidditch, but it just seemed so pointless after, after – anyway.
"Wait!" And miraculously, he does.
He turns around, and I can’t see his face for the midday sun. I have to lift up a hand to shield my eyes. "Yeah. Yeah, okay."
"What?" He looks confused, "What are you talking about?"
"I’m saying – yeah. Let’s go out for lunch."
How are you? I’m fine.
So the weather here has finally cleared up. How has it been at your place? … The same? Lately it’s been pretty bad but it’s a lot better now, which if I remember correctly you seemed to like. Um, the sun, and all.
Sorry, sorry. I don’t mean for it to be so awkward; god, talking about the weather, I’d be better off not talking at all. Look, I didn’t want things between us to get so – it just happened, and it all got kind of out of control, but I think it’s time we talked things over. Put it all behind us.
Well, this isn’t meant to be a long note, so I guess I’ll end it around here. I’ll be visiting the Burrow this Saturday, you should be there, yeah? Yeah.
PS. Oh, you’ll notice I have a new owl. His name is Caligula, and yes he was very expensive; not something I’d normally buy. But he was a gift from some one. I’ll tell you about him (and him) later.