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Chapter 1 : Mission Impossible
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A fresh coat of paint had been applied to the walls, which were now a stunning sky blue. Directly above the main entrance were huge yellow letters that read 'MINISTRY OF MAGIC,' which of course was only visible to the wizard's eye. Muggles who happened to walk by would only see a plain stretch of blue, though Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt had, for some weeks now, been considering a charm that would show a cautionary message to the nonmagical community. This wasn't entirely necessary, for any Muggle who attempted to open the door would find it impossible to move. In fact, it wasn't a real door at all.
It was the phone booths lined up on either side of the door that allowed ministry employees to enter their workplace. Every one of them had an out-of-order sign taped to the glass, but anyone who wore a blue-and-yellow badge knew to ignore the warning. The young man that now slid open the door had no badge, but nevertheless he picked up the receiver and dialed 64224. It was two numbers shorter than the average phone number, but that didn't seem to bother the man. He waited patiently until he heard a cool female voice.
"Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and business."
"Harry Potter," said the man, "responding to a message from the Head Auror."
"Thank you." There was a soft whirring noise, and a badge slid down the coin return chute. Harry Potter picked it up and pinned it to his robes. It read 'Harry Potter, Auror business.' As with any badge, he pinned it to his chest so that people could see it, even though he knew he would be recognized anyway.
Harry smiled as he remembered the day Arthur Weasley had first brought him here. He had been nervous and sick to the stomach, terrified of the upcoming hearing in which it would be decided whether or not he could continue attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. How long ago that all seemed now.
Making sure the streets were deserted, Harry pressed the operator button. With a jolt, the London scenery disappeared, and a small girl who was walking by hand-in-hand with her mother could have sworn that the now empty telephone booth had just had a man in it.
When using the booths, there was a always a risk that Muggles might notice the Ministry visitor vanishing into thin air, but as Harry still to this day detested Apparating, he had no other option. Inette Westley always insisted he was being ridiculous, but he ignored her; comfort over convenience, he always replied with a pleasant grin.
"Mornin', Harry," a bored-looking man greeted him as he stepped out of the phone booth. "I thought you were off work today?"
"So did I," Harry replied with a half-shrug. "Something important came up, I expect. Can't imagine what -- we've rounded up most of the Death Eaters, and I doubt I'd have been called to office if there was an attack. Probably Churchwell got wind of some rumor that she wants us to look into."
Vivian Churchwell, the current Head Auror since Kingsley became Minister, looked deeply into any whisper of Dark magic and the wizards that performed them. Harry was on call much more often than Ginny Potter would like, but that couldn't be helped; nine years since he had first been allowed to train as an Auror, and already he was highly respected and trusted with some of the top jobs. Of course, it might have had something to do with ridding the world of the most evil wizard ever to live. That could have contributed to a small portion of his career success.
Harry rode the elevator to the second level, stepping out into the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. A few people nodded his way as he ambled down the hallway, careful not to run into Astoria Greengrass, who was bustling past with a monstrous stack of papers in her hands, or step on Herbert Lansling, who appeared to be searching for something on the floor, all the while muttering to himself a long list of curse words and threats.
"Morning, Harry!" one wizard said cheerfully from inside an office. Harry smiled back at him and turned left through a door bearing a plaque that read "Vivian Churchwell: Head Auror."
Churchwell sat behind a desk, sorting through a small pile of unopened letters, running a hand through her dark, frizzy hair and making it all the more unattractive by doing so. Crumpled-up papers and quills and empty ink bottles were strewn haphazardly across her desk, laying both on top of and under the sheets of parchment and paper that were important enough to remain relatively unwrinkled, but decidedly not enough to be stacked neatly.
Across from her, occupying one of two chairs, sat a tall, pale man with white-blond hair and a pointed nose. Draco Malfoy had changed little over the years, save for an almost unnoticable thinning of the hair. It was hard for Harry to refrain from smirking at the knowledge that Draco was set on the path to going bald, while he, Harry, felt that his thick hair could never disappear entirely.
"Hello, Potter," barked Churchwell without looking up from the parchment on which she was scribbling away furiously. "Take a seat, will you? I'll be back in a moment." She snatched up the parchment, muttered a drying spell, rolled it up untidily and half-jogged from the room.
Malfoy reached out to grab an empty ink bottle and began twirling it between his fingers. "Any idea what she's brought us here for?" he asked, following the bottle's every move with his eyes.
"Not a clue." Having been working together for four years, Harry and Malfoy had no real choice but to be on speaking terms. "Speaking terms" was the most progress either had deigned to make; it was all that was required on the job, and even then it could be avoided with the proper precautions.
After a few minutes, during which Harry watched Malfoy's facial expression deepen with disgust the longer he stared at the desk, Malfoy finally pulled out his wand and muttered a spell. The less wrinkled papers all rose into the air and shuffled themselves neatly into an organized pile, falling lightly back down to settle in the only corner free of ink stains. The bottles that had once contained said ink swept themselves into a personal-sized garbage bin next to the desk, a bin that looked as though it had only ever been used to house the chewed remains of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum.
Looking slightly more satisfied, Malfoy settled himself against the back of his chair again, just in time for Churchwell to come bustling in. She frowned slightly at her desk, as though she couldn't figure out what was wrong with it, then shrugged and took a seat.
"How are you today, gentlemen?" she asked, and ploughed on before either could take a breath to answer. "I know I promised you both the whole weekend off, but promises are made to be broken, so here I am, fulfilling its purpose. Fact is, I have a job for the two of you, and that job's gonna mean you don't get any days off in the near future. In fact, look at freedom as an incentive; the faster you can crack this guy, the sooner you get to take a break. Mind, not a long one, we still need you."
Neither Harry nor Malfoy had the slightly clue what she was talking about. From how it sounded, though, Harry didn't have much inclination to learn, either. He hated rejecting missions, but this didn't sound agreeable to him in the slightest so far. Not to mention, he couldn't see Ginny feeling too happy about the "no days off" thing. Oh, she would let him go and pretend it was all well and good, and she understood about work and its responsibilities, but that didn't mean she would like it.
He didn't get a chance to say any of this, though, because Malfoy did it for him.
"And what about our personal lives?" he inquired dryly. "And what the hell are you going on about, anyway?"
One thing to be said in Churchwell's favor was that she handled bluntness and full-frontal rudeness quite well. Encouraged it, actually, which was very lucky for people like Malfoy, who cared little for the emotional well-being of others.
"Your personal lives will be put on hold for a while," she said dismissively. Okay, so the full-frontal rudeness thing wasn't always such a wonderful trait, if utilized by Churchwell herself. "And I'm talking about a mission that will become your life for the next... well, however long it takes you to nab this witch." She said "witch" like an insult, even though she was currently polishing her wand with the sleeve of her robes. "Inconvenient for you two, I know. But you're the only ones for it, and we really need to find out what she's up to, because whatever it is, it's definitely no good."
Harry looked at Malfoy. "And why does it have to be us?" he asked, wondering how in Merlin's name he and Malfoy were the two best suited for this. Anyone could handle what sounded like an under-cover mission, and he couldn't think what he and Malfoy had in common that would make a difference.
At this Churchwell managed to look uncomfortable, pitying, and exceedingly evil all at once. "Well," she said, resting her elbow on the desk and somehow managing to upset a few of the remaining ink bottles, which Malfoy had presumably left because they still had some ink in them. Well, not anymore. "You see, the thing is, she... doesn't really warm up to most people. Feels like the general population will judge her; or so she says, I think it's more the other way around, but people these days tend to use prejudice to their advantage."
"And your point is?" Malfoy prompted impatiently.
The uncomfortable part of Churchwell's expression vanished, leaving pity, a bit of glee, and a whole lot of evil. "My point is, she has a girlfriend, and she refuses to mingle with anyone who even might have a problem with that. So the best way of getting remotely close to her is to send in the only kind of people she's willing to trust."
It was early for a Saturday, and Harry's brain was still adjusting to the fact that it had to work on a day he had promised to let it cool down. Therefore, it took him a minute to realize the implications of what she was saying. And even once he got that far, he still couldn't quite process exactly what he was hearing.
"You mean someone gay?" he said. Churchwell nodded, her lips twitching. "And you brought in us?"
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Malfoy half-shouted, gaping in horror at Churchwell and sliding a disgusted look at Harry. "Of all the men in the world, you think my best potential partner is him? That is the most revolting image I've ever had to witness, mentally or otherwise, in my life. And I was a bloody Death Eater."
Harry didn't have much time to be offended before Churchwell jumped in. "It's got to be you two," she said loudly, so neither could interrupt, and if they did their protests would be drowned, anyway. "Draco, everyone in Britain knows that the Malfoys were supporters of Voldemort. Alternatively, no one outside of people connected to you in some way know or really care what you did after the war. Thus, they'll have no idea that you're working for us."
"And me?" Harry asked dryly. "I think they might suspect that I don't approve of the Dark Arts whole-heartedly."
"Right. Which is why you're not going to be you. You get to make your hair look decent, ditch your glasses, hide that scar, and do something so your skin doesn't blind people when you're in bright lighting."
Harry thought this was extremely unfair, as Malfoy was at least three shades paler than he was, but he decided to take it as merely a means of disguising himself and as nothing to do with a personal attack on his pigmentation. Besides, there was something more pressing to point out.
"If I'm going to pretend I'm not me anyway," he said slowly, aware that words and their meanings didn't always hit his boss like they should, "then why, exactly, does it have to be me pretending I'm Malfoy's gay lover?"
The look Churchwell gave him was patronizing, but her voice wasn't. Harry doubted she could speak with anything other than her straight-forward-if-not-always-sensible style. "You're supposed to be a couple, right? Which means you've accumulated knowledge about one another over the past... say, five months of romance?" Harry flinched inwardly; Malfoy did the same visibly. "No one else in the Auror department really knows anything about Draco, but you two went to school together, spied on each other, know each other's deep dark secrets. You can have laughs about how one of you almost killed the other during Quidditch or something."
She paused, then winked mischievously. "Plus, the chemistry between you is boilingly believable."
Harry chose to ignore that comment, because thinking about it would likely mean he would never eat again without subsequently vomiting. "And no one else can sit down, play 20 Questions with him, learn all his favorites and who he dreams of snogging?" He knew he sounded desperate. He didn't care; he was.
"Not enough time for all that. You two already have a whole history built up; anyone else would have to invent a fake past with Draco. And remember, for all intents and purposes, the person he dreams of snogging is you."
She smiled rather demonically, clasped her hands, and spent a full five minutes deflecting the rest of Harry and Malfoy's arguments, which were getting steadily feebler the longer they tried. In the end, they both walked out of the office, seething and feeling ill and each holding a folder with all the mission details inside.
As far as Harry was concerned, nothing in this folder really mattered. The part of the mission he was most worried about surviving was the part that unfortunately he had already heard.
So wrapped up in his thoughts, he hardly noticed when he really did run into Astoria this time, sending her papers flying and earning a hard glare. He also failed to realize that he was going to have to explain the entire situation to Ginny once he got home.
Because new WIPs are always a good idea, right? Anyway, I started this one about... two years ago. I was suddenly struck with inspiration and wrote the majority of this chapter in one day. In other words, I apologize profusely for typos.
Sorry for any hard-core Drarry shippers, because this is mostly just going to be awkward moments and the like. :) Review if you have anything to say!
Disclaimer: All characters and the general Harry Potter world belong to J.K. Rowling.
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