By Blythe & Circe
Harry wasn't at school any more, nor was he fifteen.
He was a successful merchant banker with a flat to die for and an owl who loved him.
He wasn't going to get into a pissing match with a stick-fiddler who'd always driven him mad.
Note: This story was conceived and begun before Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows were published.
Certain details deviate from that canon while others borrow from it.
Note the second: Circe is now writing erotic romance as Rachel Randall. If you enjoy Currency, you can find more of her stories set in London through her website.
Harry just had a feeling that biotechnology was the way to go.
"Absolutely fucking brilliant," he said, gesturing emphatically to his empty office. Suresh was in Delhi, sitting outside his hotel room on the balcony, and Harry could hear the honking clamour of the street over the telephone. Either that or it was a very bad line, but LSB paid a small fortune for decent satellite connections. Harry liked to think he was getting some South Asian atmosphere in his working day.
"And you're back when — next month, yeah?"
Suresh's Brummie drawl sounded again in his ear.
"Great," said Harry. "I'll give you a call in a few weeks to make sure it's going through and when you're back we'll have a paperwork party and blitz the details." He laughed. "Yeah, fair enough, I'll get Julie to block out the day and we'll cap it off with a dozen well-deserved beers."
The job was a venture capital sideline; not the firm's usual bread-and-butter, but they let Harry dabble in new investments as he wished because of his perfect track record. He'd never missed an opportunity or made a bad deal — his clients always came in under their asking price, his contacts were always generous with Exchange gossip, and Harry seemed to have a knack for knowing the market mood six months in advance. His colleagues had taken to calling him the Wiz, but sometimes the irony made Harry wince.
Harry twirled his wand between his fingers. The wand was a great conversation piece with new clients, and Harry wasn't going to disillusion them that his little idiosyncrasy actually clinched a significant number of his business arrangements. Tricks of the trade, after all.
"Suresh, pass on my regards — it's namaste, isn't it? — to our new colleagues. Yeah, you too. Cheers."
Harry rang off. His wand rolled off the desk when he swivelled around, trying to extract the phone headset from his collar, but he barely noticed; he was already tapping out numbers into a fresh spreadsheet, engrossed in the possibilities for the new investment.
The company Suresh was negotiating with was well-established in delivering industrial applications for enzymes, but they'd bought a patent from an organic chemistry student at Imperial and were launching what they termed "adaptive body solutions". A lot of it was speculative, but Harry was interested in anything that could be possibly be marketed as a smart drug. Just the words doubled the asking price when a company went public. Not that Harry knew anything about that kind of stuff — the last time he'd heard about enzymes it had been on a commercial for clothes detergent, and if they'd been mentioned in Potions, he'd most likely had his mind elsewhere.
They would have been cheap at twice the price, given the research location in Delhi, but Harry had convinced the investment director at Clinique — cosmetics companies were always on the lookout for new science — to chip in with capital in return for first options. He'd only resorted to a slight Intensification Charm, so he felt quite inclined to grant himself full credit for scoring that particular success.
Pleased with a few basic projections, Harry leaned back in his chair and swung around to gaze out the windows. The Gresham Street offices were his favourite. They were small and old-fashioned compared to the swank minimalism of the Leadenhall premises, but there his window looked out on the Gherkin, all glass and steel. Here at least his view skimmed the tops of the Georgian and Victorian buildings that had survived the Blitz, rising to the magnificent gothic façade of the Guildhall beyond.
Harry supposed the architectural resemblance to Hogwarts gave him some feeling of familiarity and comfort, but most days Hogwarts seemed a very long time ago, far away. Pigeons made a sporadic attempt to flock along the window ledges, but Hedwig hated them, and even though she was getting older, she still terrorised any sky rats that hadn't been scared off her territory.
It was beginning to get dark out there, finally. It was early August and even though half the office was on hols, Harry found himself working late regularly, continually tricked by the long days. Leaving on the high note of a new investment sounded like a good plan, and there were a few cold beers in the fridge at home that would do nicely out on the terrace. He spun back around and—
The crack his wand made as the heavy chair wheeled over it and snapped it was as ominous as it was impressive. His wand, already invisibly patched up in places, lay sadly on the floor in three splintery pieces. Harry could have sworn there was a silvery haze around the bits, like a Christmas cracker that was overloaded with explosive powder.
Gingerly, he picked up the shards and laid them out on the front page of the Financial Times. "Fuckity fuck," he muttered, trying hard not to give into the cold sweat that threatened. His magic wasn't wholly predictable, granted, but it was pretty much buggered now unless he could get this fixed.
Which meant going to Diagon Alley, which was just below skinny-dipping with piranhas on Harry's to-do list.
"Argh." Harry put his head in his hands and sighed, trying to think, trying not to think. He stared blankly at the bookshelves until Benjamin, a junior financier, tapped lightly on Harry's door.
"Got some mail of yours, Harry," Ben said. "Again. I think someone at reception is dyslexic."
Harry took the envelopes. "It's the B and the H, yeah?" Benjamin's last name was also Potter, but Ben was from Newcastle, and absolutely no relation that they knew of. "Ta."
Ben wished him a good night and left, and Harry turned over the envelopes in his hands, smiling. It was gratifying when a solution presented itself, he thought, even if he was a bit thick for not having remembered the whole concept of owl post.
Halfway through typing his letter, Harry paused. What exactly was the etiquette here? He'd never really been well-acquainted with Ollivander, so to speak; aside from the few, necessary visits to the shop, and the visit the old man made at the beginning of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Harry couldn't recall seeing him more than two or three times. Back at school, Harry had asked Dumbledore whose side Ollivander was on.
Dumbledore, inscrutable as ever, had shaken his head. "Difficult position for a person to be in, Harry."
"So," Harry had persisted, "you think he's alright, then? He's just keeping customers?"
"Ollivander has friends and relatives in many walks of life," Dumbledore had said. "And I do not think he would declare allegiance to any one person. Besides, he is very old. He was a friend of Mr Flamel's, who you will remember. I doubt he sees our present conflict as anything more than a passing trouble."
Now, remembering, Harry paused and deleted what he'd written. The least he could do was write the note the old-fashioned — wizarding — way.
The stationary cupboard was locked, and Harry had to hunt through the ring of keys on Julie's desk to get it open. Experimentally, he tried using a pen as a wand, but even Alohomora wouldn't work for him.
Just another reason why he saved doing magic — if he could — for when he had to.
"Wow," Harry blinked, confronted with all the bound notebooks, heavy-duty watermarked paper, two-tone financial ledgers and embossed pens in the cupboard. No wonder this was kept locked away from the rabble. Next time he got given some flimsy spiral-bound jotter from the Viking catalogue it was going straight into the bin.
Back at his desk, Harry found his Mont-Blanc (a golden hello gift from LSB) and tested it out on a scrap of the heavy paper he'd pilfered.
6 August 2008
Dear Mr Ollivander,
As evidenced by the enclosed, I require your assessment of my wand for repair. The wand met with a simple physical accident; no magic was involved in its breakage. Is repair possible?
I would be most grateful if we could conduct communications via owl-post, as business matters detain me from visiting you personally. In addition, I require my wand as soon as is possible, and will recompense you accordingly for a speedy repair.
Wishing you good health and the continued success of your ventures,
Lees, Sattersthwaite, Brassey & Co
Harry wrapped up the letter and the pieces of the wand in the Financial Times. He stuck the ends down with sticky tape, but when it came to attaching the packet to Hedwig's leg, she hooted indignantly and dug her claws into the little parcel.
"Fine," Harry glared, "If you drop it, don't bother coming back."
The owl had grown even more cantankerous in her old age, and seemed to strongly disapprove of his exile from the world he grew up in. It was like having a crochety great-aunt who clucked and disapproved but then showered you with sweets and the occasional hug. Like now, when Hedwig tilted her head to let Harry tickle her feathers, and Harry smiled, because it was very simple and very sweet. "You know where you're going, love, but don't come back here. I'm off home."
The owl flapped her wings impatiently, the tip-feathers swiping Harry's glasses down his face. He straightened them as she took off from the window ledge, flying west. "And wait for an answer!" he shouted, amused when a few stragglers in the courtyard turned up to see who was yelling. He waved at them, and one waved back enthusiastically.
Christ, he thought, ducking his head back inside. It really wouldn't do for the firm to hear their star investment banker was yelling at birds and waving to Japanese tourists.
Definitely time to go home.
There was still a distinct smell of barbeque lingering in the house. He'd left a note for the cleaner to leave the windows open to get the air through, but the charcoal meat odour remained. At least the trays were clean — the burnt-on bits scrubbed into oblivion by Mercia, bless her — and the spare sausages were presumably what was under the tinfoil in the fridge. Ah, yes.
Harry pulled out the plate and squirted some brown sauce over the sausages. He hadn't meant to use the new outside cooker so soon, but Toby and Ahmad had shown up last night after their arty film club at the Barbican, freezer packs in hand, and demanded Harry cook their meat. The nibbles at the cinema had been vegan, moaned Toby, and it just wasn't natural. So they cranked up Harry's new hotplate, and set to burning the shit out of steaks and sausages.
Seemed like a good idea at the time. In retrospect, Harry thought he might have to read the instruction manual, or at least ask Julie. He was sure she'd said all Australians were born knowing how to work an outdoor grill.
He took the plate, a bottle of Becks from the fridge, the manilla folder with his projection print-outs, and a fork, and shouldered open the doors to the terrace. His second summer there, and the plants were starting to flourish in their pots, making the terrace garden look a little more permanent and less like a hotel.
He'd fallen in love with this place as soon as he'd seen it. The converted development at St Katherine's Docks overlooked the Thames; the flat was on the top-floor, Tower Bridge was on the right, Canary Wharf to the left, the City behind, and a good view of the restaurants along Butlers Wharf strung out in front of him.
He felt surrounded by people but not intruded upon; part of the City yet able to leave it behind, and it suited him perfectly. Harry didn't really like the ocean but he loved the riverside, with the regularity of the tides and the busy, predictable flow of boats to the Pool.
By the time he'd worked through the projections, prioritising them for discussion with Suresh, it was fully dark. The lights inside provided enough illumination to see, but Harry lit the big citronella candle as well, hoping to keep the bugs away. He picked up the crossword he'd started that morning with breakfast and was engrossed in the last few clues, writing out the possibilities, so he didn't notice Hedwig until she flapped once, heavily, above him.
"There you — hey!" Hedwig dropped the envelope she was carrying and snatched up the last sausage, retreating up to the roof. "That was my sausage," Harry said, but she ignored him and munched happily.
"Spoilt brat," he muttered, reaching for the envelope. "Hope you hate the sauce."
He tugged open the envelope with his fork — parchment was tough — and pulled out the contents. A folded note, a clipping of some kind, and a business card fell to the table.
For a moment Harry looked at the business card suspiciously. It was flipped over and all there was on the back was an 07 number. Sure, Ron had told him that wizards were more comfortable with Muggle technology, but a mobile?
He picked up the card, turned it over, read it, and put it down.
The owl hooted cheerfully.
"Did you go to Ollivander's?"
Another cheerful hoot.
He picked up the card again. It was slightly textured, expensive. It also had Draco Malfoy's name on it.
"Um," said Harry, and opened the note.
Your wand is well and truly beyond repair. Not even the old man could've helped you. Speaking of, he's been dearly departed these past seven years. Surprised you hadn't heard.
Am afraid you will have to tear yourself away from seclusion and come get a new wand. Don't go near the mail-order jobs, they're crooks and thieves; besides, mass-produced wands are rubbish.
Presuming you want a bit of privacy, so I look forward to seeing you at your earliest convenience, as long as your convenience is tomorrow evening at six-thirty.
Thanks for the kind regards re: business, have enclosed Time Out's bumpf FYI.
PS: Assuming by the address you are either a lawyer, dentist, or a banker. The mind boggles.
Yeah. The mind did boggle. The last he'd seen of Malfoy was when Andromeda Black hauled him off in the aftermath, trunk in tow. Someone had mentioned that Malfoy and his mother had moved to Switzerland, and then Harry had been too involved in other things to ever think of him.
Malfoy was a shopkeeper?
Harry thought he'd better get another beer.
The door closed behind him with a bang; he'd have to get someone in to fix the loose hinges. The last decorators Petunia had employed were a bit slipshod with details.
"Yeah, it's me." He dropped his briefcase under the hall table and swiped the wet from his hair and shoulders where the sudden downpour had caught him. Tubby, a ginger tabby that was starting to live up to his name, sprang out and raced past Harry for the kitchen. "Bloody cat."
His aunt's voice came from the front room. "It's only Thursday, dear. I thought you couldn't get a booking until Sunday?"
Harry stopped on the second step and peered through to where Petunia was sitting on the couch, book in one hand, television remote in the other, looking like she'd been caught with her fingers in the pie. Richard and Judy nodded mutely in the background. He rarely saw his aunt laze about in front of the telly; she was always just off somewhere, just back from something, four projects on the go.
Not for the first time Harry thought life had done her a roundabout favour.
"Just getting some old stuff from upstairs," he said, "Sunday's still on, promise." He flashed her a grin and she nodded.
"Running late already." He took the stairs quickly before she could ask questions. The flat had two bedrooms, one of which Petunia had converted into a sewing room. And then into a place to dry flowers and herbs. A darkroom, although that hadn't lasted long. At present she appeared to be dabbling in rug-making, although Harry wasn't quite sure. They looked like rugs. At any rate, he was perfectly happy to indulge her hobby-of-the-month, whatever it might be.
Shifting aside a contraption that looked like some kind of loom, Harry pulled down the stepladder to the crawl-space in the roof. It wasn't quite an attic, but there was room enough for the three trunks and a platform across the beams to hold his weight.
The trunk at the back (his school case; peeling stickers and dented everywhere) was so heavily strung with protective charms that Harry felt immediately queasy at the magic resonating in the claustraphobic confines.
The other two trunks weren't spelled so he popped the locks on the middle one, hoping the mothballs had worked. Camphor wafted out from the piles of clothes and sports gear, and Harry stared for a second, feeling the blood rush in his ears.
Heavy weather cloak. And he could go.
Harry thought longingly of his invisibility cloak, but quickly quelled the desire. No point in wishing, not when a bloody third year charm on a piece of luggage made him want to chuck his guts.
No, there'd be no easy route through the gauntlet of Diagon Alley to Ollivander's. Harry rummaged in the trunk, musing. Why had Malfoy kept the name? He'd never seemed the kind of person to run a business without his own name plastered in huge sparkly green letters above the door.
But then, come to think of it, he'd never seemed the type to actually earn a living, so who the hell knew?
Underneath everything was his blue cloak. He hadn't grown that much taller since he was seventeen, and then it had skimmed the ground. It had a hood, too, and the rain meant he could pull it up without getting funny looks. In seventh year it wasn't the done thing to go around with your face shrouded, but maybe suspicions like that were something that only occurred in wartime.
Harry closed the lid and dropped the cloak through the hatch. For a second he was tempted to lean over to the far trunk, just to see what would happen to the recognition charms. He could feel the spells, like an internal hum, but this morning his magic had been so bad that he couldn't even summon his toast. Being rejected by his own trunk was really not going to be good for his self-esteem.
Down the ladder, Harry brushed himself off and shook out the cloak. "Going now," he called, bundling the cloak into a plastic bag. "Don't get up — I'll ring you later, shall I?" He leaned on the doorframe for a second. Antiques Roadshow was on, and Petunia was scribbling in her notebook. Harry guessed that rugs were on the way out and car boot sales were on the way in.
"I have a friend who works for Sothebys, Auntie P. Can get you admissions to the big sessions, if you'd like."
"Ooh. That sounds terribly professional." She tapped her pen. "Perhaps I should just start with the school fetes, work my way up to it."
"The offer's there. I've got to go. Taking an umbrella, I'll give it back to you on the weekend." Harry clicked the door shut, knowing her attention was already back on the telly and the Edwardian cake-stand some girl had picked up for a fiver.
Diagon Alley was like a bad dream. The rushing in his ears when he'd opened the trunk was nothing compared to the virtual panic Harry felt now, trying to skirt the central thoroughfare, head down, focusing on his shoes. He had no curiosity to look in shop windows, to see what had changed. It all made him feel resolutely ill. Getting through the Leaky Cauldron had been terrifying enough. He'd blanked out twice at the brick wall and would have still been there, frantically tapping stones, if a young bloke hadn't come along and offered.
"Sequence is a bit old, mate," the wizard had said. "Gets changed every season now."
"Been out of town," Harry had muttered. "Thanks."
Trudging past Gambol & Japes, doing his best to avoid puddles, Harry pulled out the clipping Malfoy had enclosed with his note. It was from Time Out: Magic London, Harry hadn't known there was such a thing. It was weird. Intriguing, but weird.
GEM OF AN IDEA
Sick of the old stick? Wand need some pizazz? An old establishment with new ideas may be what you need. Drawing on recent developments in magical gemology and alchemical physics, Ollivander's is offering a new range of bespoke wands that claim to be highly attuned to the individual. The core of your new wand may contain the standard hair, feather, sinew or scales, but it will be supplemented with other materials chosen in conjunction with the Wandmaker to create an efficient and sympathetic level of magical resonance. What Time Out finds exciting is how Ollivander's new wands integrate gemstone materials in the tip, to concentrate your wand's focus and precision and decrease the level of energy required for spells. We were treated to a fascinating consultation session (S15 for up to two hours) in which we tested over twenty different gemstones and core-alchemy combinations. Our staffer's verdict: "It lives up to the hype, and looks terrific with my new robes!"
Ollivander's, Diagon Alley, London ML1.
Nearest PubFloo: Diagon West or Belfry
Open Monday–Friday 12–6, other times by appointment.
All very well and good, but Harry hoped he could just luck on some inoffensive off-the-shelf jobbie that would do the trick. Wands were ridiculous anyhow; not small enough to shove in your pocket without doing yourself a damage, and not long enough to feel like you were brandishing something threatening. Harry certainly didn't want anything encrusted with rhinestones.
The outside of Ollivander's was just the same as Harry remembered; a new window display, but the rain was near to driving now and he certainly wasn't going to get soaked appraising at Malfoy's advertising strategy. The door made a distinctive bell-tinkle when he pushed it open.
"You must be Harry Potter," said a female voice in a strong Welsh accent. A woman in a strange white jacket like some sort of medieval lab coat nodded at Harry from behind the counter. Her hair held streaks of colour in londonpaper purple and she looked the type of witch who wouldn't have a clue what he was on about were he to make the joke. She jumped off her stool and picked up a bunch of keys. "Draco said you'd be here about now."
"Is he here?" Harry glanced around the shop, which had lost the ceiling-high ramshackle shelves, and now sported a couple of low couches and a coffee table in one corner.
The woman turned the keys in the front door and gestured for Harry to sit down. "He's with a customer, taking longer than he thought. I'm Poppy. D'you want a cup of tea?"
"Cheers. Do you mind if I?" Harry unclasped his cloak, which was dripping on the wooden floor.
"Course not," Poppy said. "You not have rain-repelling charms then?"
Harry shrugged off the heavy cloak and handed it to her. "Must've worn off, I guess."
"Aqua vici. There you go, while you're wandless." Poppy hung up Harry's cloak on a stand behind the door. "Have a seat. He shouldn't be long." She buttoned up her dusty jacket and disappeared down the stairs behind the counter.
Harry sat on the squishy couch. A cup of tea clinked into existence on the table, accompanied by a plate of biscuits a moment later. Harry took a piece of shortbread, dunked it in his tea, tried to judge whether the nausea he was feeling might preclude the refreshments, and set everything back onto the table. Deciding abstention was the better part of valour, he looked around.
Behind the counter, the high shelves from Ollivander's day were still standing, but they appeared to be rather well-organised and labeled with the names of wand woods. The counter itself was glass and contained a lit display of what looked like crystal specimens. A big old-fashioned till sat on the glass top, brass gleaming.
It probably counted as modern technology in Diagon Alley, Harry thought.
On the opposite wall a tastefully framed poster showed Harry What's In Your Wand?, but instead he thumbed through the pile of magazines — Witch Weekly, The Prophet, Sorted! — on the table, battling the anxiety he'd felt since entering the Leaky.
He had just started reading an interview with the Catapults' manager when he heard a door open.
"You're looking at three to four weeks for sourcing—" Harry couldn't make out what Malfoy was saying, but he hadn't lost the clipped tones that had grated so badly in school.
"That's fine, Mr Malfoy, thank you ever so much for your help," simpered a wispy lady's voice. Harry got to his feet and barely quashed the impulse to slip out the door, rain or not, before they saw him.
Malfoy's customer was wearing an enormous hat that reminded Harry painfully of Neville's grandmother and her taste in millinery. Malfoy — or at least his feet, the woman's hat blocked Harry's view — ushered her to the door.
"You'll owl, of course."
"I'll be in touch, Mrs Feversham," Malfoy said. "It's always a pleasure to see you." Malfoy was using the same tone of voice Harry employed when he wanted to get rid of difficult prospects. Insufferably polite with a firm hand to the door.
"Draco!" Poppy reappeared and Harry grinned; he knew the assistant-to-the-rescue drill well. She jerked her head in Harry's direction. "Six-thirty?"
"Ah." Malfoy stepped back from opening the door for his customer and glanced over at the waiting area. Tow-headed and supercilious, he looked just the same as he had at school, save the work-coat and a mad-professor kind of scruffiness.
Harry couldn't help but feel the familiar irritation at Malfoy's smugness masquerading as a smile, but then Malfoy gave Harry the kind of appraising look that forestalled any need for an inquiry after Mrs and Junior Malfoys.
Which was surreal. And, well, not entirely impossible, but still. Flattering, and surreal. By the time Harry had recovered Malfoy had already turned back to Mrs Feversham. "You'll excuse me?" He ushered her out the door and locked it behind him, dropping the keys in his pocket.
Harry took the offered hand as a reflex.
"Harry." Malfoy was obviously going to be a grown up.
"Malfoy." Strange, bizarre. Malfoy looked grubby on closer inspection. His coat was covered in smudges and there were feathers stuck to his trousers.
"Sit, sit." Malfoy shrugged off his jacket, pocketed his glasses and brushed at his trousers. "Sorry about the wait. Daft old bat likes a wand for every occasion and her bloody grandchildren indulge her with more weddings and babies every year."
Harry sat back down in his seat as Malfoy clicked his fingers. The biscuit plate doubled in size, bringing with it another cup of tea and a pot.
"It's fine—" Harry started, queasily wondering if it would be rude to ask Malfoy to stop it already with the macaroons.
"S'cuse me," Malfoy said, gulping down tea until the cup was finished.
He poured another, during which time Harry gave him a more surreptitious checking out. Malfoy'd always been so pointy that he hadn't any baby features to lose. There were crease lines about his eyes, too, and they were not unappealing. But he was still short.
"So which was it?" Malfoy leaned over the table and picked a HobNob from the bottom of the plate. He sat down on the couch opposite Harry.
"Which was what?"
"My guess." Malfoy brushed away crumbs. "I'm veering towards a barrister. That's a bloody nice suit, and you were famously one to believe your own hype."
"Wrong." Harry found himself grinning. The onslaught of magic in the shop hadn't lessened, but he thought maybe he could cope with it now. Building up a tolerance? Or maybe Malfoy was just that distracting. "Although my line of finance requires a particular sort of pushy arrogance."
"Stockbroker," Malfoy mused. "Qu'elle bizarre."
"Banker. Investment. The suit's Paul Smith."
"Am I supposed to be impressed?"
"You expressed interest." The back-and-forth gave Harry an odd kick; this was Draco Malfoy, for fuck's sake, and ten minutes ago he'd been giving himself an ulcer with nerves over the whole thing.
Malfoy regarded him from over his teacup. Harry couldn't see if he was smiling or not. "All the other accountants okay with you being queer?"
"About as happy as your customers are with you, I'd guess."
"You being my customer, would you like to come down to the workshop?" Malfoy's face was a perfect blank, but maybe there was a teasing tone to his voice? "Bring the biscuits."
Imperious as ever, Harry thought, but he followed anyhow.
"You're not going to give me a little cup and ask me to give a sample as well, are you?"
The remark obviously didn't translate, because Malfoy didn't look up from the notes he was making in his ledger. "Hmm? Nearly done."
Harry hoped so. The questions were innocuous enough, if not exactly information he ever thought he'd be sharing with Malfoy. He'd never even really thought about what kinds of spells required more concentration, which ones didn't need the incantations. He just did it.
When he could. And that was the problem — explaining how unpredictable his magic was now. Harry could think of about five million other things he'd rather tell Malfoy about himself, including embarrassing sexual experiences and how he'd cheated on his accountancy exams.
He glanced around, waiting for Malfoy to finish scribbling. The workshop was the kind of unrestrained chaos that gave Harry screaming fits. A bit of mess he could cope with, but every single available surface was piled high with ... stuff.
Malfoy had spread out a huge ledger and a set of scales, and he piled the forlorn scraps of Harry's broken wand into the balance, adjusting the weights. "You ever get worried that it was completely gone?"
There was a curious expression of sympathy on Malfoy's face. The direct gaze unnerved Harry and he looked away, but then felt ridiculous at his own foolishness — he stared people down in meetings all the time, he was a bloody expert at intimidating gazes, so why did Malfoy have to make him feel all of thirteen again?
He settled for halfway, and watched Malfoy's hands.
"Hmm," Malfoy said, putting down the quill and weaving his fingers together, turning them over and flexing the knuckles. It made Harry think of Incy-Wincy Spider.
"So you presumably saw all the relevant experts and Healers and that kind of—"
Harry sighed. He really didn't want to go through this, again. The entire Weasley family had gone on at him. Ron had grilled him. Arthur — Arthur! — had lectured him. "Yes," he said shortly. "Nothing can be done. It's all very predictably unpredictable."
"You're not simply bipolar, are you?"
Harry snorted. "I wish. At least there's potions for that."
Malfoy was regarding Harry like an interesting specimen, a kind of detached eagerness on his face. "And Granger couldn't come up with any grand plan for you?"
The mention of Hermione made Harry blanch. Surely Malfoy knew.
"Ah, sorry. I read about the accident and honestly forgot." Harry got his staring ability back and gave Malfoy a hard look. There wasn't any indication that he was less than genuine, but his gaze was still focused on Harry, unwavering. "My apologies."
Malfoy didn't seem inclined to pursue the matter much further, so Harry just nodded, relieved to have the subject dropped.
"Well, I can certainly make you a much better wand, and calibrate it to your, as you say, weirdo magical fluctuations as much as possible," Harry watch Malfoy scribble in his neat handwriting something that looked like fourier transform. "But that won't help the real problem."
"Leave it. It's fine."
Malfoy just raised his eyebrows and sat back in his chair. "Harry, you've been greener than Millicent Bulstrode's fourth-year dress robes since you stepped in here, but whatever you say. I'll have to have a think about this tonight and get back to you tomorrow. "
A sudden thought occurred to Harry. "You don't live here, do you?"
"Hmm?" Malfoy brushed his hair off his face distractedly. "Wait ... and twelve is thirty-nine grams." He returned the slider on the scale balance to the centre and dusted off his hands. "Live? Here? Good grief no."
Harry waited for him to go on, but Malfoy just gulped a mouthful of his tea, eyes narrow and considering. He made a show of placing the cup on the saucer and turning the handle around before looking up at Harry and grinning.
"You're fishing for details, Harry, it's vaguely flattering." Harry made a strangled sound as he continued, "I'll give you a ring tomorrow."
He may have been scruffier than Harry remembered, but Malfoy was just as irritating as ever. "Thanks," Harry said ungraciously, and stood.
Malfoy was chasing biscuit crumbs around the plate and didn't look up.
"—you won't get a straight answer out of Harry on that one, mate."
"Hmm? Sorry?" Harry tuned back into the conversation, realising he'd been staring blankly out over the silvery swell of the river. They were seated by the windows on the top level of the Tate Modern.
Sebastian forked up a mouthful of the guinea fowl and chewed, swallowed, grinned. "David wanted to know where you went to school."
It never ceased to amaze Harry how much the City thrived on the old boys network. The first few months of bluffing his way through financier meetings and client events had been excruciating until he'd overheard one of the partners at the Gordian Group boom that his alma mater was St Botolphs Institute for Buggery and Business, and he'd decided then that a bit of eccentricity went a long way and the truth about where he went to school was probably the best way to go. Now he just loved the reaction he got.
David, however, appeared to be one of those unfortunate blokes with no sense of humour who got into financial law because they were too dull to think of anything else. He blinked blankly at Harry's response.
Harry sighed. "Private school. Very small. You'd never have heard of it."
Still a frown.
"Scottish," Harry offered. Seb snickered and Harry kicked him under the table.
"Ah," David said, understanding dawning. If one could count on anything it was the provincial prejudices of City bankers. "My sympathies."
"I had counselling," Harry said, but David just nodded sagely as if that were entirely appropriate, and Seb choked on his G&T.
Halfway across the Millennium Bridge, Harry demanded, "Remind me again why I had to suffer through that?"
Seb looked pained. "He's a bloody good advisor, Harry. And you should be making vast amounts for yourself with your portfolios, but you piss all your tips away for the company."
"Yeah, and they give me gratifying big chunks of it back every January," Harry said, "besides, you can't tell me he doesn't make a killing out of his clients. And what does he do? Look stuff up and write letters. Lawyers are just glorified librarians with ego issues."
Seb held up his hands. "Fine, fine. Don't say I didn't give you the opportunity, when you're begging me for an Iberian summer on my new Beneteau 50."
"You don't even sail."
"I'll hire crew. Young, pretty, willing crew."
"Enjoy your fantasy life a lot, don't you?"
"One has to, living in Belfast."
As they passed underneath the shadow of St Pauls, Harry felt an itch between his shoulder blades and a buzzing at his nerve endings. Bloody Christopher Wren, he thought. Whether it was the architect himself who was the wizard or some overeager fuck of a sorcerous stonemason, all of Wren's churches set him on edge.
As if starting the Great Fire wasn't bad enough.
Harry shuddered as the old magic tickled at him again, and Seb cast him a concerned look. "Forget to sell short, old man?"
Being without his wand was making Harry jumpy. It was ridiculous. "Remembered an errand," he said. "Meet you back at the office?"
"Conference call at four," Seb warned.
As soon as the coast was clear, Harry dug into his pockets for his mobile. Scrolled through to M. Jabbed the call key. Harry let it ring eighteen times, enough to wander all the way to other side of Paternoster Square, before hanging up in exasperation. Fine. So Malfoy had become acquainted enough with Muggle technology to get himself a mobile, but not enough to put a bloody answer service on it. Typical.
He watched a group of tourists, trying to decide when to try again.
The phone buzzed in his palm. Private number. Yeah, right.
"Harry Potter." Just in case.
"Do you treat all your clients like this?"
"Hold on one second."
"Sorry about that, things were threatening to explode. Hello." Malfoy was all pleasantness. It annoyed Harry, who wanted to be annoyed.
"Hello," he said tightly. "Today would be Wednesday. Three business days later."
"Excellent observation — ah. I was meant to call you, wasn't I?"
"I realise that the pace of life is a little slower for you, Malfoy, but some of us have busy workloads. Were you planning on getting back to me at some point this century?"
There was a clinking sound in the background. "Are you always this polite?"
Harry took a deep breath. "Rarely. Look. Can't you," he dropped his voice, the tourist group were moving near, "owl me some sort of temporary replacement? I don't care if it doesn't work as well as my old wand. It just has to work, end of story."
Malfoy made a tetchy sort of noise down the phone. "Harry. You're not exactly a one-size-fits-all man these days, if you catch my meaning."
Patronising git. "Thanks."
"Regarding your new wand. Would next Tuesday evening suit you?" More clinking.
"What? No. Fuck. I suppose it'll have to, won't it?" Harry tipped his head back and huffed out a breath.
"The only other out-of-business-hours appointment available is Friday fortnight," Malfoy said cheerily. "Take it or leave it."
"There's a Mr Weasley here for you, Harry, but he's not in your diary?"
Harry looked up, highlighter in hand, from the two trend forecasting reports he was comparing. They were totally, utterly different, even on the blue-chip keepers. The forecasters themselves always made Harry cringe with their earnest presentations; Trelawney would have been terribly proud of their conviction. "Sorry, Julie?"
"Mr Weasley. Downstairs in the foyer." Julie shifted her feet a little, tapping the phone handset in her palm. "Shall I tell them to send him up, or are you ..."
Her eagerness was obvious. He bit back the urge to grin and replied, "Busy? Yeah, but we wouldn't want to keep Ron waiting, would we? Tell him to come up."
Julie nodded and turned back around in the doorway, speaking softly to reception. Harry marked his place with his green highlighter and kicked back his chair to get up. He always liked to watch this bit.
When the lift made its soft chime announcing a floor stop, Harry leaned back against the wall by the water cooler and surveyed the open-plan office. About twenty of the secretarial and research staff were there, in various states of busy endeavor, and two of the three office doors besides his own were open. Plenty for an audience, Harry thought.
Ron wasn't halfway across the thirty strides to Harry's office before the head-turning began in earnest. Harry counted six nudges and two hand-pressed-to-mouth gestures amongst the stares. He was shaking with silent laughter by the time Ron reached him.
"Alright, Harry?" Ron clapped him on the shoulder gently, and up close Harry saw he wasn't oblivious to all the attention. There was a faint blush under his freckles.
"Good, mate, you?" Harry steered Ron through the door and turned back quickly to assess the state of the floor. At least half of the women and not a few men had their eyes fixed on Harry's office. Julie had her mouth open and a glazed look on her face, and Harry leant over to tip her jaw back up. "Catch flies, you will," he said, and gave her a little wink.
Door safely closed, Ron straddled a chair, picked up an apple from the fruit bowl and started munching. "What are they like, then?" He gestured with a nod to the outside offices. "Thought I'd grown an extra head."
Harry burst out a laugh. "Christ, Ron, do you even look in the mirror? It's Nob Central in here most days and then you waltz in looking good enough to eat, what'd you expect?"
"'m no' foll'win," Ron said through a confused mouthful of apple.
Harry laughed. "You're all tall and broad in that t-shirt and jeans, and they get whiney little eggheads in off-the-rack suits from Debenhams if they're lucky." He paused. "Except me, of course, but tailoring is wasted totally on this lot."
Ron made a long-suffering face. "Don't try and fool me with your poncy rubbish. I knew you when you couldn't tell a dress robe from a dressing gown, and I know you're still a monumental fucking slob. Mum would have a fit if she knew how often you had your cleaner round."
"Yeah, well, housekeeping charms are a bit beyond me, some days," Harry meant the comment to come out lightly, but it had a bitter edge. Some conversations were still painful, and in his present predicament Harry was a bit short-tempered about the whole idea of magic.
Ron winced and opened his mouth, presumably to apologise, but Harry waved it away. "It's alright, really." Harry plonked himself down on the couch and put his feet up on the table. "How are you, anyway? Speaking of domesticity, how's things with Iris?"
"Eh," said Ron, trying for nonchalant but unable to keep the smile off his face, "she's off in Singapore this week, but we just had a lovely weekend in Helsinki. And she wasn't working, for once!" Ron scrubbed his hair. "Just wish I got to see her a bit more, yeah? She has all her stuff at my flat, and she gave up the lease on hers, but it's not like we're living together, even. All her mail gets sent to her office, and she hasn't even complained about the decor." He squinted at Harry. "That's not right, is it?"
"Don't ask me about the fair sex, mate!" Harry put up his hands. "Besides, you've a bit of track record with high-flying women, haven't you? Shouldn't you be an expert at this by now?"
Ron's girlfriend Iris was definitely following the pattern. She was the Head of the Department of Intercultural Magic for the Ministry, as well as being a Special Representative for Britain in the International Confederation on Magic, a global initiative for greater cross-cultural understanding of magicks. Ron was, by his own admittance, essentially her toyboy. Not that Ron seemed to mind; he always gave Harry the impression of being as interested in Iris's work as she was.
Ron sighed. "Yeah, you'd think so, wouldn't you. I mean, it's great having loads of free time and everything, and there's always owls, but ..."
"... you're not getting laid on a regular enough basis?" Harry finished, picking up a banana and peeling it at Ron.
"Something like that, but I guess if I really wanted sex every night after dinner I wouldn't be with her. It's just short bursts of all-day shagging followed by long dry spells." Ron screwed up his face for a second and laughed. His elastic expressions always made Harry warm; they were one of the things he had missed dreadfully in the time he'd been, well, distant from Ron.
They were still a little careful around one another, even after years of slow reconciliation, both conscious of feelings that were sometimes raw and unresolved. Every now and then they'd have a good yarn over a few beers, and they'd chip away at each other's regrets and resentments; speak frankly about what had happened to Harry, about how they'd both been useless to each other after Hermione died, and they'd edge a bit closer to the absolute trust they once had, which made Harry happier than he'd been for a long time.
"So, not that this is related to long dry spells, how'd it go with Malfoy?" Ron smirked at him.
Harry choked quietly on his banana and tried very hard not to colour up. "Ha-ha, good one. Fine." He stuffed the rest of the banana in his mouth, time to compose himself. "Par' fwom," he said, swallowing, "he can't seem to get it done in any reasonable period of time."
"Do what?" Ron had a sly look on his face that Harry really didn't appreciate.
"Fix. My. Wand." Harry glared. Ron looked suspiciously twinkly-eyed, so Harry cut him off before he could say anything. "Don't. None of those jokes are funny. Not one. Anyhow, how come you never told me that Malfoy inherited Ollivander's?"
"You never asked. Besides, I figured a Malfoy update was the last thing you wanted."
"True." Harry very deliberately did not enquire after people in the Wizarding World unless he was in an unassailably good mood.
"He's doing really well, I hear, expanded the business with new inventions. There was an article about it in—"
"Time Out, yeah, he gave me a copy." Harry snorted. "Just seems odd, you know. Why didn't he just buy some mansion in the south of France and slope around Monaco with the rest of the homeless aristocracy?"
Ron looked at Harry curiously, speaking slowly. "Uh. Perhaps he's different, now, not the same as at school? Like ... you?"
"Hmmph," Harry said testily.
"Plenty of that lot turned out to be passable human beings," Ron shrugged and stretched out. "Some of the cases Iris tells me about'd turn your hair grey. Even in my job ... there's a bit more to worry about than class snobs, you know?"
Ron's live-and-let-live attitude was all very well, but the truth was that Malfoy had not conformed to Harry's expectations or his predictions, and that was disconcerting. When he gave it a moments thought, he always assumed that the Wizarding World, and all its inhabitants, would go on pretty much the same as when Harry had abandoned it. It always irritated him when he found out that wasn't the case.
"So anyhow," he swerved back to the topic of his wand, unwilling to get into discussion with Ron about recent history, "I signed up for this super-fancy wand thing, all tailor-made and enhanced and etcetera. Figure it's only going to make things better to have a wand that's more attuned to my magic, such that it is."
Ron gave him a wry smile and pulled his own wand out of his boot. "I'd like to get one, someday, but I'm wholly superstitious about the old stick. If it ain't broke, I'm not fixing it just yet, no matter how many bells and whistles Malfoy's come up with."
"That mean you'll be in Diagon Alley next week? We should meet up for a drink and a game."
"Did we actually finish the last?" Harry tried to recall the muzzy events of the long-past chess night.
Ron grinned. "Buggered if I know. I'm sure I won if we did."
"I'm sure you did, too."
"So, you up for it, then? Ollivander's isn't the only place that's changed. There's a new—"
"Oh. Right," said Ron, wistfully. "Magic."
Harry nodded, staring at the floor for a second. He shoved his Blackberry into his briefcase with his phone and the forecasting reports; he could look at them this evening on the terrace if the weather held. Right now the sun was shining and he couldn't bear to be cooped up any longer. "I'll walk you out."
"Blimey, Harry," Ron said in low tones as they stepped into the office to an audible lull in conversation, "be nice if you had a back entrance I could use next time."
Harry stared. Ron's mouth twitched, and they both burst into laughter. "Ron, I thought you'd never ask."
PART ONE ~ PART TWO ~ PART THREE~ PART FOUR