by blythe (byblythe) wrote,
by blythe
byblythe

[hp] currency 3

Currency

By Blythe & Circe




PART ONE
~ PART TWO ~ PART THREE ~ PART FOUR



:: ::

CHAPTER EIGHT

:: ::



Harry was attempting to enjoy the Saturday morning summer sunshine. He was also fervently wishing he'd never explained venture capital to Malfoy.

"Did you cut them a tiny percentage or did you just move the manufacturing to the Far East?"

"They don't exactly come out of this poor, you know." Harry jammed his mobile in the crook of his neck while he rearranged himself more comfortably on the lounger. "What do you care?" He squinted up at the sun and idly watched the sparks dance against the blood-amber of his eyelids. Catching some rays in usually rainy London. All those partners who'd gone to Lanzarote for the weekend would be pissed.

He could hear Malfoy's sniff down the phone line. "I am the proprietor of a small business while you lot are always trying to screw over the little guy. Someone's got to rein in your rampant capitalism."

Harry laughed. "You're having me on, aren't you? You of all people are not insisting on social and economic equality."

"Don't be absurd. I'm merely pointing out that the rich should be allowed to get richer without filthy middlemen like yourself skimming from the top."

"I haven't even asked you how much this wand is going to cost me. We'll both be glad of that skimming when that bill comes."

"Oh, I think you'll find I'm good value for money," Malfoy said airily. He looked happy with himself.

"Fuck! How the hell did you get up here?"

Harry sat bolt upright. Malfoy had apparated onto his roof garden, just a couple of metres away. Malfoy tapped the screen on his mobile before shoving it in a pocket. "Traceable in more ways than one," he announced.

"I think it's frightening, you embracing muggle technology," Harry said. If Malfoy was going to be smug, he sure as hell wasn't going to give the man the satisfaction of being embarrassed.

"I own a mobile and a hi-fi system. I've hardly dabbled. And you're naked." This last came with a fair amount of heat, and Harry felt his skin flush.

"And you're early. I wasn't expecting you for hours."

He stretched, deliberately taking his time. Through slitted eyes he watched Malfoy watching him. Harry didn't say anything more. Served the bugger right.

"Hmmm," said Malfoy. He was wearing a cream linen nehru and faded khaki cargo shorts. His hands were jammed into a set of pockets; a battered brown leather satchel was looped over one shoulder. The scruff was very appealing. Malfoy gave him one more lingering once-over then wandered over to the railing. He peered over the edge and took a quick step back. "This is all a tad over-the-top for a bit of greenery."

While Malfoy's back was turned, Harry grabbed a towel from a nearby deckchair and wrapped it around his waist. "I'll take my urban jungle as high as I can find it," he said, "just as long as I get a tree or two."

"Since when was a potted palm a tree?" Malfoy was staring at him again. He wore a complicated expression that was several parts interest and more than a little consternation.

Harry liked it. "Since I moved to Wapping," he replied shortly and stood up, towel bunched loosely in one hand held against his hip.

Malfoy appeared to be fixated by the towel. "For a second there – well, let's just say you're reviving fond memories of the Quidditch change rooms."

"Thank you and fuck off, Draco Malfoy, for completely ruining my own fond memories."

"I'll wait here then, shall I?"

"You could come in." Harry surprised even himself with the flip invitation. He hadn't expected it, hadn't fully realised he had it in him.

Draco's eyes widened, happy interest flickering across his face. Then he grinned. "Harry, today won't be that bad. I promise — it's quite easy to avoid the new age weirdoes at these things."

Relief and disappointment and anticipation, all at once. "So you say," Harry joked, playing along.

Malfoy was still standing by the edge of the roof when Harry re-emerged, dressed casually in red trainers, jeans and the tightest black t-shirt he could find.

Oh well. He wasn't that mature.

"I thought I might drive," Harry said, swinging the car keys in Malfoy's face.

Malfoy looked at him aghast. "Drive? In a car? Are you mental — no, I know you're mental, don't answer that. Are you completely self-absorbed, still?" Malfoy plucked the keys from Harry's hovering hand and tossed them over the side of the building.

"Oi!"

"Oh for the love of Mordred." Dracio slid his wand out of his leather sleeve holster and accio'd the keys back. "If you're going to be a girl about it."

"What's your problem with cars?" he parroted Malfoy. "It can't be the muggle technology … You've got a hi-fi. I'll bet you're even a Morrissey fan."

Malfoy's face was a picture of sufference. "Get. Over. Yourself. I know you move money around for a living, but surely you must have a modicum of social conscience. Wasn't there some talk about you saving the world at one point? What did you do, decide to give that away with magical society, as well?"

The Harry of a few weeks ago would have jumped on that, probably hit Malfoy then walked away.

Maybe Malfoy sensed that, because he quickly added, "I'm only agitated because of the fossil fuels, you understand."

"You're cracked."

Malfoy shot him a calculated look. "How's your magic today?"

"Better as soon as I get that wand off you."

"Then we'd better get going. Can you Apparate?"

Harry thought about it and grew queasy. "I'd rather not."

"I suppose we'll have to take the car then. I'll bet it has a sun roof. You're just the type." Malfoy looked resigned, then suddenly hopeful. "Oh, can we put the roof down?"


:: ::



Malfoy adjusted his satchel across his shoulders. "It's a nice day. Let's make this quick and grab a beer. You owe me one."

As they walked across the vast parking lot toward Alexandra Palace, Harry commented, "I didn't know they had anything but fireworks here."

Malfoy glanced up at the old BBC signal tower in the distance. "Fireworks, skating, granny dances, you name it. They also have an antiques fair here every month. I flogged off all of Mother's hideous china here for a small fortune." Malfoy looked pleased with himself, as usual.

Harry felt that urge to smack him again. "I did not agree to come antique shopping with you, Malfoy. You said we were getting stuff for my wand!"

"We are." Malfoy pushed open a set of ornate double-doors. Inside the foyer there were posters proclaiming the Summer Rock and Gem Show.

Malfoy led him over to a reception desk where he flashed a card and was handed two badges by a blowsy woman who quite clearly liked the look of them. Malfoy winked at her.

"Stop that," muttered Harry, pinning his little badge to his shirt.

They went through another set of doors to the exhibition hall, and Harry was greeted with a high Victorian ceiling underneath which sprawled a bewildering spread of trestle tables. Some were groaning with mineral specimens, sparkling crystals and sliced geodes, while others were an orderly array of gemstone boxes or bead-strands laid out in piles. A few stalls exhibited fossils, with ammonites and sandstone prevailing. The table nearest Malfoy had a sign proclaiming Shark Teeth: 40,000 Years Old.

Malfoy made a small noise of displeasure and flicked imaginary dust from his sleeves. "Ick. All these zealots in one place. Come on. Please don't make small talk with anyone wearing anything dangly or purple. Or both." He dragged Harry by the elbow toward a table at the rear of the floor.

"Ah, Draco." A tall, middle-aged man with a ginger beard and a rather leonine hairdo called to them in an accent straight out of Benelux. "I did not know if you would make it. Do you have anything for me?"

Harry stood by as Malfoy shook hands with the man. "Anton. Good to see you. I do have something for you, this time." He rummaged in his satchel, pulling out a package that lessened the bulky bag considerably. "How's business? Anything new?"

"I just went to Hong Kong last week, did you forget? There is nothing new. It is all treated this and dyed that. No quality turquoise for you this time."

Malfoy scowled. "Bugger. I really have to go out there myself, don't I?" He rubbed at his forehead. "Well, I need some alexandrite. Uncut, gem quality, nice and clean."

Harry coughed, pointedly.

"Oh!" Malfoy looked sheepish, which was an interesting soft touch to his sharp features. "Sorry! Anton, Harry, et cetera. The alex is for Harry."

Harry, who spent most of his working life being introduced to European men in specialty trades, made with the small talk until Draco's impatience became visible. He left them to it.

He meandered around the vicinity, picking up quartz crystals, selenite pebbles (a lovely blue), animals carved from different rocks. There was a mottled black-and-white carving of an owl that he quite liked. Thinking of Hedwig, he turned it over. Twenty-seven pounds, snowflake obsidian.

"Could I get this?" The woman behind the table was wearing a purple t-shirt with a celtic design.

"Course you can," the woman said in a thick West Country accent, "do you collect?" She fished around underneath her table and pulled out a wooden box.

"Me? No," Harry said, "I just like owls." He pulled two twenties from his wallet and gave them to the woman.

"Wise and judgemental," she said, sliding his box into a bag, "a bit unlucky, too, if you're to believe old stories."

Harry smiled. "So I've been told — thank you — but I've been lucky so far." He turned around, looking for Malfoy. "Cheers."

He found him by a stall laden with what looked like copper and iron ore, sifting through a bowl of coins and keys. Malfoy reached behind him, not even looking up to grab Harry's arm.

"How do you do that?" Harry couldn't decide if it was showing-off or charming.

"Slytherin survival skill. Look at these, do any of them look funny to you?"

Malfoy had laid a line of the metal objects on the table. Harry peered at the keys — they were flat ironwork with intricate motifs worked into the handles and the flange. They were obviously very old (Harry thought they might be medieval, he had seen some keys in the Museum of London that looked similar), but he couldn't see what Malfoy thought was interesting. The coins at least he knew something about, having spent a summer interning with the private bank attached to Lombards. They were Roman and Tuscan coins, typically marked, the sort the little showcases in the Lombard foyer had proudly displayed.

"Dunno about the keys," Harry began, "but the coins are third and fourth century Italian states." He picked one up and examined it, turning it over. "They look pretty standard except—"

He looked at Malfoy, who was nodding and looking pleased. "Except for goblin markings around the edge, which are something peculiar to, well." Malfoy dropped his voice, "Guy who runs the stall isn't one of us. I think we should take these and donate them to the BWM."

Harry shrugged. "If you think so."

"You really are a heartless capitalist, aren't you?"

"Through and through," Harry grinned back, amused by Malfoy's treasure-hunting glee. "What's with the keys then?"

Malfoy picked one up and held it up so Harry could see the tracery. "Alchemical symbology worked into the motifs, it's all very complicated. I'll have to decode it all — what?"

Harry snickered. "And you think I'm the one with the esoteric numerology? You're just as dull as I am, Malfoy, admit it."

He only got a sniff in reply as Malfoy picked up the keys, shoved his satchel into Harry's hands, and started haggling with the booth owner.

Harry was examining the alexandrite — letting it sit in the palm of his hand, running his fingers along the edges, feeling that drugging warmth seep into his skin — when Malfoy finally rejoined him.

"Well?"

"Yeah," Harry said. There seemed no doubt now that Malfoy was onto something with this wand business. Fuck. He hoped so. He stowed the gem carefully away in the satchel once more and reluctantly gave it to Malfoy.

"Right, drink?"

"Absolutely."


:: ::



CHAPTER NINE


:: ::



The following Wednesday, Harry bunked off from a staff meeting to nip out to the West End. He passed the driver twenty quid and turned to give Petunia a hand out of the cab. Across the street, in front of Harry Winston's, a tall bloke in a blue suit held open the door of a Bentley while an older lady wrestled her fur coat out into the sunshine. Harry gave him a nod of camaraderie, musing that if one's type was expensively-dressed Eastern Europeans, Bond Street was rapidly becoming ground zero.

"Thank you," Petunia brushed down her skirt, "I know you could have driven us but I just get so nervous since—"

"It's fine, Auntie P. Honestly." Harry buttoned up his jacket, motioning Petunia in front of him. She wasn't as protective of Harry as she was of Dudley (for which he was profoundly grateful) but she was superstitious and didn't like him driving.

"Don't call me Auntie," she whispered over her shoulder as the Sotheby's doorman greeted them good afternoon. "You never know where you might meet a nice man."

Harry grinned. If there was one thing he'd never expected to share in common with his aunt, it was an eye to the main chance.


:: ::



Stepping out of the elevator, Harry ushered Petunia into the foyer for the main sales rooms. He wasn't an auction house regular; usually he was here for expensive catch-up lunches with the leggy brunette in the black minidress, waiting for them with catalogues and a boarding-school smile.

"Afternoon, Harry," Mina said, kissing him on the cheek.

"Jesus, you're gorgeous," Harry kissed her back. "Why is it that you won't marry me, again?" Gay he might be, but he'd always been a sucker for a glossy ponytail.

She laughed and held up the fuck-off ruby on her left hand.

"I hate him," Harry said. "Petunia, I'd like you to meet my friend Mina Hafiz. We did the MBA together at Manchester, and now she advises the big international buyers here. Mina, this is my aunt Petunia, who's here to see the Chinese ceramics." He stopped, turning to his aunt. "Is that right?"

"Nineteenth century furniture and crafts is first," Mina said, shaking hands with Petunia and giving them both a substantial catalogue. "Ceramics is at four, and I must say that it is all," she dropped her voice, "fantastically under-valued."

"Really?" Petunia flicked the pages of the catalogue, already making notes with her pen. "Oh, look at these adorable little elephants."

"Mina," Harry cautioned, "don't lead my aunt astray. She has a very nice Edwardian terrace house, but there's no room for Ming vases in the front room."

"Ignore him," Mina said to Petunia, "the one time I let him have a bidding paddle he nearly paid fourteen thousand for a stone wheel from the Pacific Islands."

"It was stone money!" Harry protested. "A giant, three metre high coin. It would have looked fantastic in my living room."

"You would have needed a builder's crane to get it into yours, darling. Now we must move along; I have seats reserved for you both."


:: ::



As they waited for the auction room to fill, Harry flicked through his catalogues while Petunia and Mina enthused about Victorian butter knives. The Asian vases and statuettes did nothing much for him, though the jade was quite beautiful. He wondered what Malfoy thought of jade; all week he'd been surreptitiously poking about the internet for information on alexandrite, but Malfoy was right — it was so bloody rare there was no point in pursuing it in any commercial investment sense.

He came across a long thin object that was labelled as a porcelain tea stirrer from the fourteenth century, but given his newfound knowledge, Harry reckoned on it being some Shanghai wizard's wand.

Realising he might as well get used to it, another Malfoy-related thought crossed Harry's mind, and he leaned over to Mina. "Do you have a coin person here?"

"We have a whole department of numismatists, Harry." Mina's expression reminded Harry just why she'd kicked his ass on their degree: she was cleverer than everyone else and you never forgot it. "Why?"

"I found some bits and bobs at a fair," Harry whispered, as a hush fell for the auctioneer.

"Later," Mina mouthed, winking.

Harry sat back, letting the bustle of the sales slip in and out of his attention. The coins were sat on a bookshelf at home, giving off the faintest echo of long-ago trade every time he touched them. He'd have them appraised, maybe raffle them off at LSB for the prestige of the museum donation. It was all tax-free, everyone would win.

He shifted, slipping his hands in his jacket pockets; it was cool in the climate-controlled room. Right at the bottom was a warm object, and he remembered it was the snitch from Malfoy's workshop just in time to stop himself taking it out. He closed his hand around its gently snoring surface, wondering if it were something precious to Malfoy, something that needed to be returned in kind.


:: ::

CHAPTER TEN





Poppy ushered him through with few questions, the anticipatory sparkle in her eye as she pulled on her cloak making it clear that working late was the last thing on her mind. The bell tinkled merrily behind her as she locked him in.

A handful of times in this new shop and it still felt strange that Ollivander was gone. Funny how certain aspects of the Wizarding world felt immutable. He wondered sometimes if it was because his first adventures in magic had been protecting the philosopher's stone. Live forever, never change.

Well, it hadn't done Tom Riddle any good, had it? Maybe that's why Harry'd gone into finance; most prospects had a short life span and experience taught you to get out while the going was good.

It was getting easier, though. Maybe familiarity bred the contempt of whatever usually made him feel so crap; the magic didn't bludgeon like it had the first few times. Which was good, because Harry needed to be able to think, here. Malfoy—

What about Malfoy?

It still seemed so strange. Malfoy of all people, doing this for him — really doing it, as in, going above and beyond. Sure it was his business, but there was good service and then there was helping a mate. It had been a long time since anyone had done something for Harry without expecting anything in return.

He reached into his pocket and gently touched the snitch.

Malfoy was seated at his workbench. A silvery birch branch was resting on the countertop; runes were marked with black ink against the bark and a small handsaw leaned against it. Next to it, a darker wood glowed faintly green with magic. Some kind of preservative, Harry guessed, though he didn't claim to be an expert.

Piles of parchment surrounded Malfoy, who was busily scribbling away. He didn't look up but said: "Pull up a stool if you want, but for Mordred's sake, don't skulk. Serious thought is going on here and the last thing we need is another Porlock."

Harry could tell without looking that the alexandrite was on the far table in the corner. Excited, he started to say something to this effect, then decided that it would a bit redundant.

Malfoy crossed his final 't' with a flourish and beamed up at Harry. His hands were covered in ink and, as he rubbed his nose distractedly, it transferred in a dark streak.

"You've got—" Harry leaned over and wiped it away. Then he sat back, feeling rather stupid.

Malfoy paid the moment no attention whatsoever. His eyes shone with the sort of fanaticism that Harry remembered quite well from years at boarding school with a houseful of Slytherins.

"I've just written an absolutely scathing Bad Magic attack on the current trend for wizards to seek muggle treatments for cancer. Oncology is a highly complex medical science and the affect of radiation on wizard physiology is, well, shall we say, it's not a good idea. But no, because St Mungo's is overstretched as it is, those dimwits at the Quibbler are publishing story after story about witches with breast cancer taking muggle medicines. Absolutely shocking. Government policy will have to change, of course, but the Ministry is so wrapped up in the post-war infrastructure developments that the issue's all being passed over for something sexier. Bloody Shacklebolt."

Harry wasn't to be outdone. "I didn't vote for him."

Malfoy stared at him, clearly caught about to launch into another rant. He laughed. "No, neither did I."

"I mean, I liked him and all, but he was a copper. Police shouldn't run the state."

"How much did you drink today, Harry Potter? I've heard about you City boys."

There was something so loose and relaxed about Malfoy like this. It made it easy to remember why he'd come.

"I've got something for you."

"Oh?" Malfoy asked, still amused.

Harry corrected himself. "No, actually, it's more something I want to show you."

Malfoy leaned in. "Will I like it?"

"I think, yeah, you will."

"Well?"

This was the awkward part. "It's not here. Exactly. The thing is, we need to Apparate."

"But you can't—"

It was one of the things that Harry was always wary of; the way his magic faded in and out was probably likely to get him splinched if he could even muster the strength in the first place. "Not such a good idea, no," he replied.

"Floo then," Malfoy said, motioning to the squat little fireplace in the corner. "We're past the rush hour."

"Actually, we'll need to Apparate. And I've got to take you."

Malfoy caught on quickly, thank god. It wasn't the sort of thing Harry felt comfortable spelling out; he was barely comfortable doing it in the first place.

"Ah." Malfoy rose from the table, paced around to Harry and linked their arms. He smelled like woodsmoke. "Tell me when, then."

Harry took a deep breath and focused very hard on the place he'd visited only once before. He pictured it exactly, pushing everything else — tomorrow's meetings, Malfoy's scent, everything — to the back of his mind.

"Legilimens," Malfoy murmured against his ear. There was a fleeting, ticklish touch inside him, warmth so warm, the sensation of spinning as Malfoy yanked them into the quick circle-step, then—

Flung unceremoniously out of the spell, they were pushed by momentum into a jog across the scrub. Malfoy came easily to a halt but Harry staggered, falling forward roughly onto his hands and knees. The dead grass itched at his sweating palms, prickled painfully through his trousers, but he didn't have the strength to get up.

"Harry?"

Harry didn't reply; he couldn't, not yet. Not with the grit of magic sandpapering its way through his veins. He let his head droop as he fought to control his breathing and swallow down the bile.

Malfoy's hand was cool against the back of Harry's neck. It helped. It was good to focus on something else.

"Harry? I could cast rennervate if you'd like."

"N-no," he managed. "Just give me—"

Malfoy gave him the time he needed, and he didn't say a word until Harry was finally able to totter to his feet. But the second Harry was upright, he started in. "You're an idiot. A total wanker. You should have told me how sick that would make you."

Harry shook his head. Arguing was too much effort.

"Of course, I should have known because I'm not as big an idiot as you, but that's not the point."

Harry managed a weak smile. He was starting to feel a bit better. "No. That is."

"What?" Malfoy asked, half-turning to look behind him. "What could possibly be worth making yourself ill for? Hold on, don't tell me. You've lured me out here, you madman, probably to kill me and hide my body in some latent adolescent revenge scenario, though it does give me some solace that you'll have to dig the hole the muggle way as your wand isn't ready yet. I suppose ..."

Malfoy's voice trailed off and his eyes widened. He glanced quickly at Harry, who was careful to keep his face expressionless. "Wait," Malfoy said. "Where are we?"

Harry just stepped back a bit, enjoying the melodrama, and gestured for Malfoy to precede him. The path was rough, stones jagging out at the edges of the worn dirt track. It led up an incline choked with thick weeds and strewn with vicious nettles.

Malfoy gave him one bright, suspicious look before picking his way up the hill. Harry followed at a more moderate pace, letting himself adjust to the high levels of magical energy battering at him. He was three-quarters of the way up when Malfoy crested the summit. Harry stopped, watching as Malfoy's back straightened and his slight figure went rigid.

He smiled.

When Harry reached his side, Malfoy leaned over and thwacked him solidly across the chest. "You fucker. Bless you. You fucker. How the fuck did you get us here? I love you. How?"

A slender stone obelisk rose from the ground ahead of them. Beyond it stretched a wide field of perfect, luminous green. The velveteen grass shone in the moonlight, each blade glistening with dew that reflected the night back at the endless sky.

All the hairs on Harry's body were standing up on end. It was that kind of place, the sort to drive a banker to poetic drivel. Harry moved closer to the obelisk and placed one scratched and dirty hand against the smooth stone. The strangest shiver spread across his shoulders as the magic around him transmuted to sympathetic welcome.

Malfoy glanced at him, disbelieving, then flicked his gaze down to the carved inscription.

"Queerditch Marsh," Malfoy breathed. He shook his head in disbelief, his eyes wild with light. "Who the fuck let you in here? It's supposed to be Unplottable!"

"It is." Harry let his fingers trail across the stone, loathe to lift them from the heavy warmth. "But I saved the world."

Malfoy was no longer listening; he was charging down the slope to the field, running headlong with the enthusiasm of a first-year. He paused at the verge, suddenly tentative, then he boldly stepped out onto the grass. A look of utter bliss lifted his face.

"Look at you," said Harry softly. He raised his hand and the pleasant languor stayed with him, wrapping around him as he loped down to meet Malfoy.

"Harry, Harry, Queerditch Marsh!"

Queerditch Marsh. Quidditch was born here, eight hundred years before Harry discovered it anew with a stolen Remembrall at Hogwarts.

Quidditch.

Weeks at the Burrow. Long hours spent leafing through the latest magazines or playing pickup with Ron, the twins and Ginny. Listening to the international matches on the WWN. Reading Krum interviews while ignoring overdue homework and Ron's jealous temper. Flying—

"Queerditch Marsh," Harry answered, and the grin that stretched his mouth was so wide that it hurt. "You're giddy."

"You're giddy, too." Malfoy hooked his arms around Harry's waist, leaning against his back. He bit, once, twice, at Harry's neck where he'd soothed only minutes before, and it was sharp. Brilliant. "I can't believe it. I feel like I could look over my shoulder and see Gertie Keddle herself. This is amazing."

"Mmm," Harry agreed and shifted around so he was watching Malfoy's face. He pulled out the snitch, which woke with a jostle and immediately leapt up to hover happily above their heads.

"Oh." Malfoy took a shuddering breath. "You're welcome," he said.

Harry's hands roughly cupped the base of Draco's skull; his fingers pulled at Draco's hair. "Let's do it," he urged, and his voice sounded harsh against the soft night.

Malfoy's arms tightened around him. His fingernails scraped down the bit of exposed skin above Harry's waistband. "Now? Here?"

"Yeah. You and me."

The broom was crude, transfigured from a tree branch and augmented by the innate enchantments of the place, but it was all they needed to take to the sky.


:: ::



CHAPTER ELEVEN


:: ::




Harry undid the latch on Hedwig's cage, beaming as she shuffled out onto the sill. "Good morning, sweetheart," he told her, and gave her an owl treat before her good-natured nipping turned into a need for Skele-Gro. "No post for you this morning. May be late home, too."

He left the owl preening by the open window. The pink pages of the FT awaited, but he was already late getting to the office; Harry had slept more soundly the previous night than he could remember sleeping in a very long time.

Outside it was still fresh, the day's heat still lingering over the estuary rather than London proper. Harry halted just outside the converted warehouse that housed his flat, gazing up into the brilliant sky.

Overhead, Hedwig flew from his open window, circling in lazy loops before disappearing over the rooftops in a beautiful white blur. He watched her go, knowing she'd be waiting for him at the office. Spending a few minutes stretching, he enjoyed the slow burn in his muscles, tested the eagerness in his feet.

Harry's morning run took him down to the Thames Path and to Tower Bridge, where he wound his way past the Engine Rooms and narrowly avoided commuters. Shad Thames led him to the dueling empires of Red Ken and Sir Terrence, then through to London Bridge, and further on, the twisting cobblestones by the Clink. The usual old-magic itches rubbed at the corners of Harry's consciousness but this morning they didn't seem to bother him as much as usual. He didn't even swear at the cyclists who sped past him like lycra-clad bludgers.

That feeling of flying … not even the sturdy slap of his trainers on the pavement could ground him enough to erase the sensation. Harry closed his eyes, blocking out the sounds of the working river and the chatter of distant traffic. Just the wind on his face and the memory of flight.

Hot muscle, shifting under his fingers, and the curl of a strong back against his breastbone.

Back across at Southwark, then north, until he took a childish pleasure in scattering as many pigeons as possible in the final steps. On his way into the office, Harry smiled at a scholarly type juggling a laptop case and a shopping bag full of photocopies as she headed to the Guildhall archives.

Inside, Harry fumbled to yank his lanyard free of his sweat-soaked t-shirt so the guard on the door could see the hideous plastic. Once, during a reliable week, Harry had transfigured the pass into something a little more tasteful, but the resulting uproar in the post 7/7 security state that was London hadn't been worth the effort.

At this early hour the lift was empty, a fact for which Harry was eternally grateful. He hated the shifting, gormless stares of people waiting for their floor.

He paused briefly at his office to grab his spare suit, then hit the gents'. The shower was hot and strong, kicking his brain back into gear after the endorphin-pumped euphoria of the exercise. Still shaking the final drops of water from his towel-dried hair, Harry bumped into Seb as he headed back to address the rather alarming backlog of email awaiting him.

"Property prices—" Seb began, waving a copy of the self-same newspaper that Harry had shamelessly ignored an hour before. "There's some interesting—"

"Piss off," Harry shot over his shoulder. "No interest in mortgages, now or ever. Boring as hell, and I don't give a toss for prime rates."

"Your loss."

"I'll take my chances." Harry held out his hand, but before he could touch the handle, his office door swung open.

Draco was sitting in Harry's chair, bare feet propped up on the July trading analysis as he nursed a cup of tea with obvious satisfaction.

Eyes widening, Harry glanced back at Seb, but he'd already back into his own office.

Very carefully, Harry stepped inside and shut the door behind him. "Hi," he managed in greeting, feeling as though the planet was off its axis by at least a few degrees.

"I hate mornings," Draco announced. "But today's seemed particularly nice."

"Not bad," Harry agreed and thought again of the night before. "But it would be nicer if you took your feet off my desk."

"All these gadgets," Draco observed, picking up the telephone headset and examining it with clinical interest. "How do you ever get any work done?"

"I don't, generally. I have minions."

Draco snorted and swung his legs down. "You're so full of it. You're a total workaholic. Look at all these filing cabinets, they're all stuffed with your report thingies. Yes, yes," he held up a hand to forestall Harry's protests, "I know you say it's very competitive and unpredictable, but it looks like tedious twaddle to me." He sniffed, flicking through the papers on Harry's desk with pursed lips. "Ooh, crossword. Did you finish it?"

"Seven across, but I thought of it yester—"

"Aplomb. No wonder it took you a while."

Harry took his suit jacket from the hanger on the back of the door, shrugging it on. He had three meetings during the day, all clients, all requiring maximum first impressions and none needing Draco Malfoy. Not when Draco was already the sum total of what was on Harry's mind anyway. "Hurry up and drink your tea so you can piss off out from under my feet."

Draco laced his fingers together and cracked the joints. He rose from Harry's chair with a showy bit of reluctance. "To tell you the truth, I'm hiding from Poppy. I'd promised her the day off, but with school beginning in a few weeks business is mad."

"Then shouldn't you be there?"

"Absolutely, but there's only so many pushy mothers a man can handle. It's not like a first year can master anything more advanced than swish-and-flick anyway — a twig would be of as much use. Oh, stop fretting, I'll be off shortly. By the by, this half-naked thing. It's getting to be a habit of yours."

Harry took a tie off the hanger and slung it around his neck. He didn't even try to fight off the smirk. "I'm told that the weight of anecdote is not data."

"Let me," Draco murmured, stepping forward, his eyes flashing dark for a second as he wound the silk into a windsor.

He was more deft with a tie than any wizard ought to be, Harry thought, watching Draco's fingers create the knot, tighten it and settle it at the base of Harry's throat. The sheer intimacy of the gesture rendered Harry jittery and speechless, his skin prickling at Draco's proximity.

"Very smart," said Draco, stepping back and slipping a hand to Harry's waist. His expression was inviting.

"You are short," was all Harry managed.

"I'm not wearing shoes." Draco scowled, tightening his hand on Harry's hip and pulling him incrementally closer. Harry had to close his eyes in frustration.

"Can't," he said shortly, "not here." The prickle of his skin was now heat, flooding tension and want across him.

Draco bristled. Irritation at the interruption evident, he waved his hand over Harry's shoulder and the door closed properly and clicked locked. Wandless.

Harry's lust hit him in full force, literally staggering him forward until he was pressed tight against Draco, driving him back against the wall.

"Where, then?" Draco rasped.

He looked dazed, and Harry could only imagine how utterly fucking fantastic a compliant and scratchy Draco Malfoy would be in bed. Harry kissed him, all wet heat and addictive. That bit of throat. Right there.

Draco stopped him, breathing hard. "Not here."

"Where, then?"

"Come to the workshop tonight. Around nine."

That broke the spell where nothing else would. "It's finished?"

Draco stepped apart, fingers coming up to brush quickly against Harry's tie then falling away. "It's finished."

"Okay," Harry said. "Okay." Excitement bloomed, mingling with arousal. "Here, let me—"

He turned away for a second, just one, but it was enough. When he turned back, Draco had gone.


:: ::




He couldn't say no, and in the end, he didn't want to. Iris was home and Ron had invited him round for dinner. It was an infrequent enough invitation that Harry hadn't wanted to risk the companionship they'd recovered by refusing and besides, nine o'clock was taking forever to arrive.

Left to his own devices, Harry probably would have stayed at the office, but whether he would have been able to accomplish any work was another matter entirely. He had visions of calling Buenos Aires and thinking of Draco Malfoy, writing reports and thinking of Draco Malfoy, organising next week's diary and thinking of Draco Malfoy. Easy, then, to say yes, and show up at their doorstep with a bottle of Beaujolais and some flowers for Iris.

"Oi," Ron said when he'd opened the door and seen Liverpool Street Station's finest bouquet. "Get your own."

Iris — petite yet rather busty with a razor-sharp mind and bright blue eyes behind designer spectacles — took the flowers in the spirit they were intended and welcomed him in.

Their flat was on the ground floor of a house in the good part of wizarding Hackney. It was just off the canal and surrounded by kebab shops that actually served edible donar with decent hot sauce — magic indeed. Ron's natural inclination toward mess was augmented by Iris's excellent taste and Harry found himself liking them together more and more.

"Who's learning the bagpipes?" Harry asked, eyeing the tartan instrument squatting in the corner.

Iris stuck her head around the kitchen partition. "One of the brothers. I have no idea which."

"She loves my family," Ron said.

"I can tell." Harry propped his feet up on a pouf and looked at his watch.

"Oh-ho."

"What?"

"Come on, Harry. You haven't been round in months. I knew there was a reason you said yes."

Iris poked her head into the room again. "Harry, I realise I should be circumspect but the crostinis are burning and I can't be arsed. Will it bother you if I—?" She brandished her wand in the air.

"No, that's okay. I feel fine, thanks."

Ron beamed. "Really? That's new."

"Yeah. All this stuff about my wand's meant I've been exposed to more magic than usual. Think it's building a tolerance. And Draco — did you know Draco moonlights as some science guy? — he told me to take vitamin C like the muggles do. Apparently they think it builds their immune system against germs, but really it acts like a kind of antihistamine against bad reactions to latent magic."

"Draco, huh."

"Ron."

"Nothing. I said nothing."

Iris came in and plonked herself down on the squashy sofa beside Ron. "I heard nothing."

"I'm getting my wand tonight," Harry told them, already regretting the words before they were even out.

"That's interesting," Iris said with a polite disinterest so seemingly genuine that it would have fooled if Harry hadn't known better. No wonder she was rising through the ranks so quickly. If she hadn't screamed "powerful witch" from every pore, he would have been tempted to recruit her himself.

"Fantastic!" Ron said. "I'll come with you."

"Uh."

"No, it's perfect. I've got to swing by the shop anyway to pick up something from George, and I'd love to see what Malfoy's been up to. I'll just come with, won't be a bother, give you a bit of backup if you need it."

Harry stared at him. Clearly he'd been mistaken. Iris was a very bad influence on Ron Weasley. Ron's grin grew wider at whatever expression he read on Harry's face. Harry sighed. The girls at the office would be fainting into the watercooler by now.

"That'd be great," Harry said. Then added, "You're a bastard, by the way."

Iris burst out laughing. "Crostini?" she offered.

The night was cool yet pleasant when they let themselves out of the flat and headed down to the high street to hail a cab.

"Joking aside," Ron said, loping easily half-a-step ahead of Harry, "I am curious to see the setup. You don't mind, do you?"

Harry thought of how Malfoy had felt against him in his office this morning. "Well—"

"And I know you how it bothers you—"

Ron's freckles were dark against the pale oval of his face. Harry felt a sudden tightness in his chest. Here, then, was the reason for the laughter, the reason Ron would leave his lady on a rare moment at home. At the heart of it, here was his oldest friend.

"Thanks, Ron."

Ron nodded firmly, the matter closed. "S'alright."


:: ::



PART ONE
~ PART TWO ~ PART THREE ~ PART FOUR
Tags: currency, draco, harry, hp, x
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