Title: Interregnum [Chapter 10]
Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3000 words
Summary: Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid courted by incapacity. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 10
Neville was feeling torn. It was unfair and impolite not to focus on Hannah, but he couldn't stop his eyes from seeking out Eva at every moment. He had always felt somewhat drawn to older, more experienced women -- his hopeless schoolboy crush on Professor Sprout should've been his first clue, really -- but this was getting ridiculous. Eva Kay was his grandmother's friend. Having impure thoughts about her was as inappropriate as it was ultimately useless -- he certainly would never dream of acting on them. Truth was, sex didn't really enter the equation; as with Professor Sprout, it was an afterthought. Neville just wanted to be near Eva, to look at her, to listen to her talk. Pathetic, really.
"You were saying?" Hannah prompted, and Neville blinked rapidly as he tore his gaze from the group surrounding the Minister.
"Sorry," he said. "I was looking for the right word, you know?"
"Uh-huh," said Hannah, smiling slightly. "Neville, we were talking about geese. There's only one word for those. What's on your mind?"
Neville, not about to reveal to Hannah that he was suffering the effects of an ill-timed crush on one of his grandmother's friends, went for the other thing that had been on his mind since they'd got there. "Well," he said, and lowered his voice. "This is like Former Death Eater Central, isn't it?"
Hannah nodded. "Noticed," she said. "And with the Minister here, too. For a really nasty row to start, the only people missing are Zacharias Smith and his liberation front."
"A bit ironic that he's the one behind it," remarked Neville, glad to have steered the conversation away from his mind and things on it. "Remember Dumbledore's Army?"
"Excuse me," said Eva's voice, and Neville's face grew hot. "I couldn't help overhearing -- you two went to school with the young man who's organising all these leafleting campaigns?"
"Hannah, this is Eva Kay," managed Neville. "Gran's friend."
"Zacharias was in my house," said Hannah, apparently quite immune to Eva's beauty and so not turning ten different shades of red in the span of thirty seconds. "He was a bit of a prick, if you ask me."
"I was just saying it's strange he's doing it," said Neville. "We had a... um, well, a secret society of sorts. When the Ministry was trying to interfere at Hogwarts, stop us from learning proper Defence Against the Dark Arts..."
Eva tilted her head to one side. "You mean in Dolores Umbridge's Headmistress days, don't you?"
"Yeah," said Hannah. "Dumbledore's Army. Harry Potter and his friends started it."
"And Neville kept it alive," said Gran, walking up behind Hannah. All three women looked at Neville, and he wanted to disappear through the floor.
Fortunately, Kingsley Shacklebolt hurried past them at that moment, and Eva's gaze turned from Neville's face to the Minister's wake. Millicent and Patrick were walking a bit behind the Minister, looking more like conspirators than newlyweds with their heads close together and looks of intense concentration upon their faces.
"...about an appeal," Millicent said and stopped, obviously realising that she had an audience other than her husband. "He'll be back shortly," she said to Eva, who was still looking at the doors where the Minister had gone inside the mansion. "Then we'll cut the cake."
"Are you going somewhere special for your honeymoon?" asked Hannah.
"Special?" repeated Millicent with a slightly blank look. "You could say that."
"Where are you going, then?"
"Peru," said Patrick. "The Inca Trail."
"You're going as Muggles?" asked Eva, and for the first time Neville had reason to think of something about her as ugly. Her tone left no question as to what she thought of Muggles.
"We're both fans of extreme sports," said Patrick, slipping an arm round his wife's shoulders. Millicent looked startled.
"Is that why you asked for all those strange things on your gift list?" asked Gran. "Is it all in preparation for your trip?"
"Yes," said Patrick and Millicent together.
The cake had been cut, the champagne had been drunk, and though the band still played a wistful melody, like something out of a slightly detuned wireless, the dancing had ended, too. The wedding guests trickled steadily out, and Patrick Vaisey was nervous as hell.
He approached the roped-off pavilion, where Millicent sat inside one of the carved arches, clearly unconcerned that she was probably getting her wedding robes dirty.
"Almost time," said Millicent, glancing at him. Then she turned back to watch her mother say good-bye to the Mulcibers. "Mum's going to kill me," she added sullenly.
Patrick took a deep breath. "Listen, maybe it can wait."
"If we wait, she'll kill me more quickly but no less painfully," Millicent pointed out. "Why do you think we should wait?"
"Well, are you in a hurry to marry someone else?" asked Patrick. Shit. This wasn't going well.
"That's not an answer," said Millicent, but she was looking at him now, expectant.
Patrick's heart was going double-time and he was falling prey to the exact same teenager bullshit at which he was so fond of scoffing. "I thought, well, maybe we could. Thing."
Patrick sighed. The words he had so carefully prepared -- a cloak-and-dagger plot he'd filched from a comic book about a husband-and-wife team of assassins -- scattered through his brain like so many apathetic sheep. When at a loss, tell the truth.
"I've wanted you to be my wife since we were in Obliviator training."
Patrick fought an inexplicable urge to shuffle his feet.
After the longest pause in the history of the world, Millicent cleared her throat. "That," she said, "is the most bizarre confession I have ever heard."
Patrick made a helpless gesture with his hands. "I know."
"It's also the only confession I've ever heard," said Millicent, more quietly. She looked at him. "You tricked me."
"It's not like that," said Patrick. "Look, what would you have done if I'd proposed to you? Seriously?"
Millicent said nothing.
"Smacked me, that's what you would have done. Told me to stop being an arse."
Millicent looked away.
"We don't have to-- you know. We can still call it off like we planned," said Patrick. "I'm not going to--"
"So this was my wedding day," interrupted Millicent. She didn't appear to be talking to him, however. A moment later, she began to laugh, softly at first, but soon she was holding on to the carvings in the arch with her hand, her other hand covering her mouth as she guffawed. "P-P-Patrick V-V-Vaisey," she managed, "you... are... the... most... ridiculous... man--"
Patrick stepped closer and pulled her down from the arch. "I know," he said, and kissed her. She was not a pretty girl, and quite an armful besides, but she was the only girl in the world who didn't make him feel like he had to be somebody else.
"There you are; I've been looking--oh. Sorry."
Patrick turned around, still hugging Millicent tight, and saw Kingsley staring at them.
"Awkward, isn't it," remarked Millicent, and then both she and Patrick were laughing, holding on to each other to keep from falling over.
Kingsley just stood there, looking utterly bemused. Once their laugher abated, he gave a little cough. "I suppose this means you aren't going to horribly disappoint your mothers this evening."
Patrick looked at Millicent, who smiled at him. It was an easy smile, nothing like her usual close-mouthed smirk.
"No," said Patrick. "We aren't. But the other part of our deal still stands."
Kingsley nodded. "You've done good work. Auror headquarters will be opening formal investigations soon. Your training begins in two weeks' time."
Well. Maybe Patrick's comic-book plot about the husband-and-wife team wasn't entirely without merit. Only they'd be Aurors, not assassins.
"Congratulations," said Kingsley. Patrick wasn't sure if he meant the marriage, the new job, or both. They shook hands, and Kingsley walked off, leaving them alone once more.
"For all that, we have a problem," said Millicent.
"Going to need a place to live."
"You always want to top after seeing your father; why is that?"
"Don't be filthy," said Draco, and swatted Blaise's bottom with a lazy backhand. They'd had sex twice since getting back from the wedding; sure, Draco had topped both times, but that didn't mean anything. He'd just felt like it. And he hadn't heard Blaise complaining. "I've told you to spare me your Muggle psychic analysis."
"Psychoanalysis," said Blaise. "And I've told you you're missing out. It's fascinating. For instance, did you know that women hate men because they wish they had cocks?"
"But men do have cocks."
"I mean the women."
"The women want cocks."
"It's called penis envy."
"Why, don't men have twat envy? Self-lubrication must be nice," said Draco. Then added, "Though not if it means not having a cock."
"See? Exactly. Everyone wants a cock." Blaise freed a hand from under the pillow and twined his fingers with Draco's.
"That doesn't follow," muttered Draco. Outside, a car rumbled by with a blast of music so loud the curtains seemed to twitch from it. "Are you staying?"
Blaise stroked the inside of Draco's palm with his thumb. "Do you want me to?"
"That's an odd question," said Draco, his guard rising. "Why wouldn't I want you to?"
"Dunno," said Blaise. He let go of Draco's hand and turned to face him, propping his head up. "You've been acting oddly lately. Thought maybe you found yourself a boyfriend and didn't know how to tell me."
"Boyfriend?" said Draco, affecting a laugh. "Not likely."
"Good." Blaise reached for Draco's hand again and pulled him closer. "So what did you think of Eva?"
Good? Did that mean Blaise didn't want Draco to get a boyfriend at all or that he didn't want Draco to get a boyfriend other than Blaise? Not that Blaise was his boyfriend.
"What was I supposed to think? She spent most of her time hovering round Shacklebolt." The words came with difficulty. Draco couldn't stand being this close to Blaise without losing his mind a little bit.
"True. I'm not sure what she's up to now, but she has something to do with that liberation front, or whatever, the one with Zacharias Smith as its poster-boy."
Draco scooted backwards a little bit and looked at the clock. Two thirty. "What's in it for her?"
Blaise shrugged. "If I knew, I wouldn't be so fascinated with her."
Harry had only spent a few weeks in America, but it still felt like ages had passed since he'd been gone. The Leaky Cauldron had put up extra anti-Muggle security measures; it was no longer accessible from the street at all. Harry had to squeeze into a narrow passageway next to a bookshop and tap his wand on a sturdy new door before a harried-looking Tom ushered him inside.
"Sorry about this, Mr Potter, terribly sorry. Some louts told their Muggle neighbours about the place two weeks ago; they were all set to turn my tavern into a bleedin' tourist attraction. Will you be wanting lunch?"
"Thanks, Tom, but I'm just going through to Diagon Alley," said Harry. "No Muggles there?"
"None, sir. Leastways not yet."
"I take it you're not happy with how things have been since July," said Harry.
Tom looked a bit shifty. "I'm only an innkeeper, Mr Potter. I have nothing to do with laws and things."
"But you aren't happy."
"I'm an old man," said Tom with a sigh. "We don't weather change well at all, I'm afraid."
Just before going out into the courtyard behind the Leaky, Harry turned. "We're trying to find out what caused this all, Tom," he said. "Once we do, maybe life will go back to normal."
"I don't think so, Mr Potter," said Tom, shaking his head with a wistful look upon his wrinkled face. "I think we might've gone too far this time."
"I think that's everything," said Ginny as she and Eddie trooped out of the Apothecary.
"You'd think you were leaving for a week with all the stuff you've been buying," said Eddie with a slight grin.
Ginny punched him in the arm lightly. "Don't start."
"Ready for the match, then?"
Ginny took a deep breath and glanced up at the sky, which, as usual, held no answers. "No. But it's always like this. Come Saturday, I'll be fine."
"I can't wait to see you," said Eddie. He looked about to say something else, but closed his mouth rather abruptly, staring past Ginny's shoulder.
Ginny turned to see Harry walking along the other side of the street, either not noticing them or doing a great job of pretending he hadn't noticed them.
"Hi, Harry," she called.
Harry looked over and smiled brightly, in a way that told Ginny he hadn't been pretending not to see them. Then he saw Eddie, and his grin faltered. It broke Ginny's heart a little bit. This kind of thing probably always would, until Harry finally moved on and stopped looking so gutted whenever he was reminded that they were no longer together.
"Hi," said Harry, approaching. "I thought you'd be in Germany already."
"Leaving tomorrow," said Ginny. "By the way, this is Eddie Carmichael."
"I remember," said Harry, shaking Eddie's hand. "You sold me and Ginny's brother some brain powder or something, during O.W.L.s."
Eddie laughed. "Those were the days." He sounded relieved, and Ginny couldn't blame him. They hadn't exactly discussed it, but dating Harry Potter's ex-girlfriend came with built-in issues. She never quite knew if it amused or annoyed her.
"Ready for the match?" asked Harry, turning to Ginny.
Eddie and Ginny laughed."We were just talking about that," explained Ginny. "Not really."
"As always," said Harry, and his eyes were too warm. "I didn't think I was going to make it to the game, but it turns out I have work in Berlin."
"Oh, well, great. Ron's got your ticket," said Ginny. "I didn't think I'd see you."
"All right, thanks. Well, I was just on my way to Gringotts," said Harry. "It was nice to see you both."
"Bye, Harry." Ginny glanced at Eddie and was a bit thrown by the fierce glare he was directing at Harry's retreating back. "Hey, it's all right," she said.
Eddie jumped, and for a moment looked startled to see her. "As always," he mimicked under his breath.
Ginny rolled her eyes. Men could be so catty.
The queue outside the doors to the Berlin Quidditch stadium buzzed with anticipatory excitement. Draco heard English, German, and several other languages he only vaguely recognised. The match had garnered quite a bit of attention because it was the first game for a British team since the Statute breach in mid-July. Everyone was curious if the Harpies would be off their game because of everything that was going on back home. The betting pools had started earlier that week, and many of Draco's acquaintances had veritable fortunes riding on the game's outcome. The excitement was a bit infectious; inside, Draco felt like a little boy come to his first real Quidditch game, and he made a mental note to buy a broom. It was ridiculous that he hadn't flown since the war's end.
Draco tugged at the collar of his robes and stuck his head out to see what was holding up the queue. A small group of people stood in front; they had clearly just arrived and were being let in ahead of everyone else. Too bad Blaise's Magical Games and Sports wonk wasn't anyone important enough for Draco and his friends to do the same.
Blaise touched his arm. "Is that Harry Potter?"
Draco looked again. Sure enough, one of the queue jumpers was Potter, along with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and another man whose face Draco couldn't see, but he knew it was a Weasley by the hair.
Aside from the indignity of being stuck in a queue whilst Potter got to go ahead of him, Draco didn't remember Potter being quite that tall. He also didn't remember Potter being quite that handsome. Instead of the bulky school robes Draco remembered, Potter was clad in jeans just tight enough across his arse to be illegal in several countries, and a T-shirt beneath which Draco could clearly see actual muscle definition, even at this distance. So much for the thrice-cursed hero being a scrawny git in ugly glasses. Well, he still wore the ugly glasses, but glasses were nothing when you had an arse like that. If Draco hadn't hated the little fucker with all his being, he would've been sucking him off in the bathroom within fifteen minutes.
All in all, it made Draco want to master the art of shooting lightning bolts from his eyes, just so he could kill Potter where he stood. "Since when does he look hot?" he muttered, irritated.
"Potter?" asked Blaise. "I always thought he was sort of fit. Though I see all that important Auror work's forced him to put on a bit of weight, and not the bad kind of weight."
"He did not always look like that," said Draco, scowling. He wanted to stop staring at Potter, but it wasn't working.
"Hear that, Theodore? Draco's got a crush on his former arch-nemesis. Isn't it cute?"
"I have not got a crush," said Draco, and forced himself to look away.
"Oh, please. You'd be on your knees for him in about ten minutes if he weren't Harry Potter."
Fucking Blaise and his fucking psychic analysis.