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SH Entry: The Best of All Possible Outcomes (Part II of III)

Okay, Part II of My Scratched Hearts Challenge entry:

Title: The Best of All Possible Outcomes (2 of 3)
Author: Colibri Vert
Author's email: colibri_vert@earthlink.net
Beta: Erin & Erin
Rating: NC-17 for graphic m/m sex and violence, not necessarily in that order
Challenge Scenario(s): B) Assassin!Harry - In this, Harry must be a highly skilled and experienced assassin; he meets someone who makes him reconsider his path. This *must* include a sympathetic original character who is later killed in action. Also included, per the rules: A duel or a fist fight between Draco and Harry; and a scene where one character cross-dresses to spy and communicates a message to his contact through fan language.
Summary: The year is 2010, and someone's been murdering prominent figures in the British government. Auror Draco Malfoy is tapped to solve the case. But things have a way of getting complicated.
Warnings: D/ofc, OMC/h, D/h. Graphic sex, (perhaps gratuitous) violence, lack of value judgments. Fic done for the "Scratched Hearts" challenge at Crossing the Line.

"The Best of All Possible Outcomes" (Part II)
By Colibri Vert

Harry has spent the last several days overdosing on sex. Stephen works extreme hours and so Harry'd spent most of Friday alone, at first going out to train, then returning home to recover from the previous night's sport. Stephen happens also to have quite an impressive collection of pornography, which Harry had sampled at length with...well, somewhat embarrassing results. His prick had been sore and Stephen had laughed at him, but in a nice way. The weekend had been spent mostly in bed, though Stephen had helped him move furniture in the sitting room so he'd have space to perform his katas. Stephen had, predictably, quite enjoyed watching that, and it had led to even more sex.

But now it is Monday, and Harry has a meeting with Janus. He is leery of going, and finds he'd much rather continue his fling with Stephen, than begin preparations for another hit. They've been so all-consuming lately, with the targets getting so very prominent. Harry has a niggling feeling that something is going on he'd rather not be a part of, though he never asks whom or what the jobs are for.

Stephen insists on giving Harry a lift to Camden Town on his way to the health club, though it's in the completely opposite direction. So Harry is very, very early for his meeting. Of course, he'd simply told Stephen he needed to fetch a few things from his flat. So he goes to train at the dojo before his meeting instead, and has time to shower in his flat's horror-of-a-loo before meeting with Janus.

Perhaps it is his generally fresh feeling that gives Harry the courage (or stupidity) to answer Janus's courteous 'Mornin', Henry--all right?' with a, 'Yeah, been considering a bit of a holiday,' instead of keeping to the pleasantries.

"Holiday?" Janus says, and Harry feels the air cool. It is not a good thing. But now he's said it, so....

"Just for a bit. The last two jobs were a bit of a strain. I thought, perhaps a month."

"Ah," says Janus, then nods curtly. "Something change in your life, Henry? Something you need to take care of? You've never asked for time before."

"No--" he says, perhaps a bit too hastily. "Only that the last two were parliamentarians, yeah? And I'm slightly concerned that taking on another hit of that magnitude so soon, will serve to give the Yard too much evidence. I've had such smashing luck so far, but...." He thinks that sounded reasonable. In fact, it should be true. He is only more concerned with spending time with Stephen because he's a bloke and addicted to sex.

Janus spends several moments observing Harry, and Harry is reminded of certain figures from his past who also had such all-seeing eyes. Harry hopes Janus has less skill than those others had. "All right, Henry," he says. "Have a holiday, and we'll see you in, what, a month? Monday, fifteenth of November."

"That's brilliant, Janus. Thank you!" Harry can't believe it's been this easy, but he shan't complain. He jogs to his flat, exhilarated, and showers the acrid sweat from his body. He'd not been trembling during his meeting, but it had been close. He dresses again in another set of black, then heads to the barber shop for a touch-up, before replacing his beanie on his head and spending another day at the bazaar. He's been dead for so long, he can't even place the feeling that makes his heart skip and his skin overly sensitive. And though he feels quite alert, his accustomed level of paranoia seems somewhat diminished. Unfortunately, the minutes snail away, with Harry checking his mobile seemingly hundreds of times before it is finally 18.30, and he feels justified in jogging back to Stephen's flat.

By the time he has showered and shaved, Stephen is (finally) home. He does not at all mind that Harry is randy as a goat and draws him into sex before any words are spoken. Only after the deed is done, does Stephen laugh breathlessly, and offer a belated, "Well, good evening to you, Alex."

"Sorry," says Harry, but he doesn't feel at all sorry this time. He's quite pleased with himself, actually. "Should I make supper?"

"You needn't cook--"

"I'm quite a passable cook, with the proper motivation. You shower, I cook. Seems fair."

Stephen chuckles, then turns up onto his elbow and props his head on his hand. "If that's what you desire, then that's as it shall be."

Harry beams, kisses Stephen quickly on the lips, then slides on his underpants before heading to the kitchen. Even the heating works perfectly in Stephen's flat--though Harry supposes if the shower works, the heating should be expected to work.

Harry finds left over rice from Saturday and decides they'd best eat it today. He takes out lamb steaks, which also need to be eaten, and fresh coriander. Fresh tomatoes, one onion, garlic, vegetable stock. He heats the stock in a fry pan until it is very hot, chopping the onion and garlic as he goes. They go in the pan first and he sautes them until they're soft, adding more stock when the other runs out. He cubes the steak as he waits. Once the onions and garlic are caramelised, he adds the lamb and more stock, then chops four tomatoes, which he adds a few minutes later, along with curry paste. An additional five minutes and he turns off the heat, adding a cover to the pan. The rice goes into the microwave for one minute. He has exactly enough time to chop the fresh coriander, load the plates and place the coriander atop, before Stephen appears. His timing could not have been better, and he finds himself disproportionately satisfied. His satisfaction nearly turns to preening, when he sees Stephen's pleased surprise.

"Well--I suppose I shouldn't doubt your skills," Stephen says, and they sit down to eat.

Harry hadn't realised how starving he'd been, until he takes the first bite. He'd entirely forgotten to eat today, what with his anxiety over this morning's meeting with Janus, and then his altogether strange mood the remainder of the day.

"How was work today?" asks Stephen. He is always attempting to (gently) draw Harry into conversation. It works only occasionally, but those occasions have grown more frequent in the past day or two.

"Smashing, actually," Harry says and beams. "I've asked for a bit of time off and he gave it."

"Did you have plans, then?" Stephen asks warily.

But Harry is only confused by his reaction. "Well...I...." Indeed. What had he thought? He'd simply wished to spend a bit less time on the murdering and more on the sex. "Mainly I thought it might be nice to..." how to put it? "spend a bit of time learning you."

Now Stephen looks incredulous. "You want to go on holiday?"

Harry shrugs. "I think your flat is very nice."

But Stephen laughs. "How much time have you taken?"

"Until the fifteenth of November."

"Well that's brilliant for you," says Stephen with a smirk, but it's apparent to Harry that he is only teasing, for it's also quite apparent that he's chuffed that Harry wishes to spend time with him. "I can't go this week. We've a deadline. But hold a mo'." He retrieves his mobile, presumably to go through his schedule. "I can take next week. We need to be back for Halloween, though. There's a fancy dress party at Wilde's I never miss. It's fab, truly."

Harry has traditionally skipped any fancy dress parties, in favour of hiding in whatever bedsit he's hired at the time. He thinks he will wait to see whether he and Stephen are even on friendly terms by the time Halloween arrives, before he will be overly concerned about altering his habit.

"Or, hang on. If you can wait until after Halloween, I'll take two weeks. We can go someplace warm and exotic. Brazil?"

Harry has never been to Brazil. "Whatever you like. As long as great mounds of fucking are involved."

Stephen laughs and laughs, and assures him that it shan't be a problem.

*//*

It's taken Draco nearly two weeks to get this far, but he's finally found Harry. Or, at least, he's found the place he shall find Harry. It's a pub, a bit darker than most, with a clientele that ranges far more severely than most of the other queer pubs he's seen, (and he has now seen many). There are more women, for one thing, and the publican seems to prefer dressing as a lady, though he doesn't make a particularly attractive lady. Draco had shown the photo first, as usual, then watched her face (he still has difficulty thinking of the publican as a 'her') go curious. "Missing, you say?" she'd responded, with a certain degree of mistrust. "And who are you, his keeper?"

Draco generally has little patience, but after this lady's particular reaction, he'd had even less patience than usual. He'd raped her mind as quickly as a thought, then Obliviated the deed. His pillaging had been extraordinarily fruitful. Not only had she seen Harry recently; but she'd also seen Harry less recently, and even longer ago than that. From what Draco could make out, Harry had been a regular customer for years, always sitting alone in the back, attempting to avoid notice; always in black, his head covered by a knit cap. She'd known him as 'Henry' but had never asked his name, and only recently, had been embarrassed to find out that his name was Alex. Her own name, at least in drag, is Sue. Draco thinks it likely Harry had gone by both, for it is rare for people to get that bollocksed up about names.

Regardless, it seems that Harry had been in here not two weeks ago, but at that time, he'd left with a bloke named Stephen, another regular customer. In fact, Stephen was an even more regular regular than Harry--a nearly nightly regular--yet neither had been back since. Sue had decided that they were an item. Draco has not punished her for her folly, but only because he's particularly pleased by the information she has provided.

"Can I help you, luv?" Sue asks now, as if she's not already asked it before.

But Draco is expecting this. He sits down at the counter and says, "Bread of Heaven."

"Sorry, luv. We haven't got the Brains special brews."

"Dark, then."

He turns round to watch the patrons, but it takes only seconds to assure himself Harry is not here. He pulls a note from his pocket without looking at it and places it on the counter. "When's the best time to meet blokes here?" he asks conversationally.

Sue sets down his ale and smiles knowingly. "Depends what types of blokes you're interested in now, doesn't it? We get all kinds. Even get a few mixed pairs looking for a third. We're very open, here."

"I'm new to the Scene," Draco hints. "Haven't been to many pubs in the area before."

She looks surprised, but only mildly so. "Well then, we're a safe place to start--not so standoffish, here. Though I would suggest not approaching those who linger in dark corners. Some of our regulars vehemently prefer their privacy. Oh, and do watch for the bhivarings, if you prefer men who are HIV-negative. We encourage you to get one if you're positive. Openness and education have been our saving grace."

It takes Draco a moment to place the name HIV, but it still doesn't mean much to him. He tends to remain out of the Muggle world as much as he can, whilst still maintaining his ability to blend in. He nods noncommittally. None of this is particularly interesting for him. But then--

"Oh! And I nearly forgot! Halloween night we hold a fabulous fancy dress party," she gushes. "There will be thousands of blokes here." Draco thinks that might be a but of overstatement. "Our guests always overflow the house and spill out onto the pavement."

"Halloween? Will Stephen or Alex be here?"

There's a look of confusion, as she wonders how Draco could have known the two, but then Draco is ploughing through her mind again and finding his answer. By the time his Obliviate clears, he is on his way back to the Ministry. He has a Halloween fest to prepare for.

*//*

"What's wrong with my jeans?" Harry asks. "They're still black, yeah?"

"It's not that there's anything wrong with them, Alex. It's only that I want to help you. And it pleases me to give you things. Surely you can understand that."

"You pay for everything! Even when I try to take the cheque, you give them your card!"

"Alex, love... Please don't be angry with me."

Harry can't help it--he's furious. He's never felt so coddled. He's never been so coddled! And part of him fears that he's losing his ability to care for himself. Two weeks with Stephen and already he's losing his independence. He's been back to his flat twice since his meeting with Janus, and the first had been that same day.

Now Stephen wishes to take Harry shopping at some designer clothing boutique or some such, and Harry is having none of it. He has plenty of clothing already--three pair black jeans, two black polo-neck shirts, three black tee shirts, one black knit jumper and two black knit caps. Plus his training gis and undergarments. He can fit everything in his duffle, which is exactly as it should be.

Perhaps more importantly, however: expensive clothing shops always have CCTV cameras, and Harry wants as little of that as he can manage. It's bad enough they have them in nearly every public place, now. They've become a plague throughout the city and even through to the outer city. When he needs to use his Invisibility Cloak for a job these days, he has to wear it the entire way from his flat because there's no safe place to put it on! "I don't want anymore clothing, yeah?" Harry says, firmly, but with a bit less vehemence than he had before. He's willing to forget this row, but he's not willing to change his mind.

"All right," Stephen says, holding his hands out a bit--it's a slightly defensive gesture, as if Harry is some skittish (or perhaps rabid) animal that needs to be calmed. "I'm sorry."

Harry shrugs and works harder at calming his breathing. In through the nose, out through the nose. In--

"Would you prefer going to Wilde's without a costume?"

"I'd rather not discuss this just now!" Harry exclaims, then is immediately embarrassed by his lack of control. "I need air," he declares, and leaves Stephen to sigh and stew. But it's better this way. Far better. Remaining in Stephen's presence is only provoking Harry further. He needs some time alone. He needs to think--to somehow cope with this sudden deluge of...of feelings. He is drowning. He is completely out of his depth.

He walks the streets he knows, (managing to have not a single useful thought the entire time, despite his best intentions), and eventually comes to his bedsit. The place is poorly lit, one of the street lamps flickering fitfully whilst another just in front has given up the ghost. He steals inside and to his rooms, then looks about whilst throwing the bolts behind him.

Nothing has changed. There is still nothing here but the linen on the bed. Everything else of his, he'd put into his duffle and taken to Stephen's. It's so very convenient...owning nothing more than an armload of things.

He heads to the kitchen and opens the fridge, wherein he finds exactly one litre of spoilt milk and a half-eaten packet of Hob-Nobs that smell a bit like the spoilt milk. He tosses both in the bin, then takes the liner for disposal when he leaves--which he does presently.

Stephen is a good person. Harry starts thinking, and that is the first place his mind goes: to the fact that Stephen is a good person. And then it moves on to the fact that Harry is not. A good person, that is. Harry has become, in this his second life, a very bad person, in fact. He hasn't killed as many as Voldemort had, certainly, but...well, it's very near now, isn't it? If one were to only reckon Voldemort's total by those he killed with his own magic. Harry has used many weapons to kill since entering Janus's employ, but those murders he feels were most foul, are those he committed with his own two hands. Like Lord Carlton.

And so, there is the fact of murder. But even more damning, is the fact that he's not entirely certain he hasn't enjoyed the killing. Lord Carlton had disgusted him as a person, and he'd certainly felt no remorse since killing the man. He'd found the challenge of offing the other two lords quite invigorating. And there had been a large number of truly worthless people whom he has (permanently) relieved of their daily burdens. In fact, there's been no assignment too taxing for his conscience so far, and he thinks that while that likely has something to do with the men (for they've all been men) he's been assigned; it may also have something to do with the quiet erosion of said conscience.

The importance of these thoughts is this: Harry's fall from of grace has made him entirely undeserving of someone as good and sweet and kind and gentle (and attractive and lustful and wealthy) as Stephen Heay. Only then...

Then, he is abruptly reminded of Draco Malfoy, and his stomach decides to implode. It is fortunate that he's not eaten in hours, for he is in the centre of some darkened alleyway whose name he did not mark in passing, and is now dry-heaving against a wall. Even better is the fact that he is not alone.

"Aw, that's bloody luvly, chief. 'Ere's an idea--how about you gip in yer own gaff next time, righ'?"

Harry stumbles away as quickly as he can, deciding that he's done quite enough thinking for one night. Unfortunately, it always takes more than a desperate decision to get Draco from his mind. In fact, it normally takes several hours at the dojo. Draco's is a presence far larger than any ordinary mortal's--uneclipsable, unignorable, indescribable. And Harry had revelled in his attentions for years--three peerless years--shamelessly delaying the inevitable denouement of his tale. The tale of Harry Potter and the Demon Inside Him. He'd thought himself deserving, then, (on some level, at least), of Draco's affections, if not love. But he is no longer the hero he once was. There is nothing left of his soul that is deserving.

Harry spends the night at the dojo, training until he collapses with exhaustion, then curling up into a corner to sleep away the rest of the dark hours of morning.

*//*

"What." It's not that he hasn't heard; it's that he can't accept it.

"You haven't made any progress, you said. She thought you'd be pleased."

"When exactly did that harpy become--"

"Draco!" Jules whispers harshly. "Do calm yourself. I'm not that bloody horrifying to work with."

For the first, Draco can't believe the man interrupted him. But mainly, he has no idea why Jules would think this has anything at all to do with him--with Jules--when in fact, it has only to do with Draco's work and that bleeding cunt who thinks she's worth enough that she can tell him what to do. Draco isn't head of the bloody Department only because he enjoys field work. At this particular moment, he is not enjoying it very well.

He thinks very quickly, and not for very long, before he devises a way to salvage this. "We're off to Madam Malkin's," he says and leaves, not caring a whit if he's followed, though, of course, he is. They floo to the Leaky Cauldron, then make the not-so-leisurely walk to Malkin's in a silence that would be strained, were it not for Draco's complete lack of concern with how Jules feels.

"Malkin!" Draco calls, once he is inside, and she is instantly there. "Costumes for a fancy dress party," he says curtly, then hands her a piece of parchment with drawings on. "This was going to be for me, but now we need it for that one, instead," he says, indicating over his right shoulder toward Jules. I'll make do with a ball mask."

Malkin looks over the figures on the parchment, then nods and indicates that Jules should step up on the pedestal. "Ministry business?" she asks.

"Yes," Draco agrees. "Halloween." The Department shall most certainly pay for this. In more ways than one. He peruses the collection of masks and finds that he is partial to those full of raven feathers. He is quite possibly the loveliest man alive, but even when he holds one of the exquisite raven masks to his face, his striking silver eyes and rosebud lips would be enough to make men fall weeping at his feet. He decides that using Julian is a necessity, for Harry could never look upon even the tiniest sliver of his face and fail to recognise him. Jules, however, has never met Harry.

Draco leaves Jules in Malkin's capable hands and heads to Gringott's, where he has other, more important business to attend to. He will ensure that he returns before Jules is finished with his fitting.

*//*

"Alex...please come home." His voice says that he'd been concerned, but he doesn't say it.

"I'm downstairs," Harry admits. He'd forgotten the key.

He hears the tell-tale click once Stephen has disconnected, then the buzz of the security door being opened. He reaches Stephen's open door, looking far more like a drowned rat than he realises. It's raining out and, of course, he'd trained in his jeans, then slept in his clothes on the floor.

"Why don't you freshen up before breakfast?"

"I'm not staying," Harry mumbles, but he does head toward the shower.

"Please, Alex," Stephen appeals. "Please don't walk away from me like this--in anger."

"I'm not angry," Harry disagrees, then closes himself in the loo. He showers efficiently, mainly because he feels he doesn't deserve such a lovely shower, then stands in front of the fog-free mirror and shaves. When he finally exits the loo, Stephen is standing there, no longer so meek and accommodating, his arms crossed over his chest. Harry has to stop, because Stephen is in his way.

"Tell me why you want to leave, Alex," he says.

"No," says Harry.

Stephen is surprised. "Why not?"

"Because you can't say anything to convince me to stay. It's not important why I'm leaving."

"It is," Stephen counters. "I've a right to know why you're breaking my heart."

It is Harry's turn to be surprised. He's too surprised to say anything intelligent at all. "I'm not...doing that," he says.

"You are." Stephen softens a bit, but only slightly. "I care so deeply for you, Alex. I'd like to spend the rest of my life with you. And now you decide to walk away, without even an attempt at reconciliation. And all because I've paid for too many things? I can stop doing that, you know. I'd far prefer having you about, to choosing you a new wardrobe. Surely you can see that."

"But...you don't even know me," Harry says. It's the closest he can get to the truth. "You don't know me at all." He sounds so very small when he says it. Like he's breaking. Like he's weeping. Like a child. Harry has already lost.

"Alex," Stephen whispers and touches tentative fingers to Harry's smooth cheek. "Please, let's try again?"

Harry is so full of fear, he can't even respond. He only weeps silently into Stephen's shoulder and wishes he'd never said yes to the man that first night at Wilde's.

*//*

"Well why can't I be the bloke and you wear this...this silly frock??"

"Because you don't look queer at all, and you're going to a queer pub to attempt contact with a very skittish suspect. You will seem far less out of place if you dress a lady. Even straight men look vaguely queer when they cross-dress well and, of course, with my assistance, you are cross-dressing very well, indeed."

Jules sighs, continuing to be not-so-very helpful whilst Draco attempts to paint the man's eyes into something resembling attractiveness. It's very difficult with his eyelashes fluttering so, and the Ministry bath isn't exactly a salon.

"If you can't keep still, you'll end up uglier than you are as a man," Draco warns, a certain edge of smugness to his voice. He can't help that Julian is so unfortunate-looking. Of course, nearly everyone is dreadfully ill-favoured to Draco, and if he were to relax his standards even slightly, Jules might not be as desperately unlovely as most.

"Well it's not me wants to look like a bloody cow, is it."

"Don't sulk. This is very important work we're doing." Besides, only Draco is allowed to sulk. Ever. Why hadn't Harry returned to him?? "Have you practised the signals?"

"Of course," Jules agrees, perking at the mention. "It's the only bit worth thinking about, isn't it." Draco thinks the gown itself is quite worth thinking about. It took even Madam Malkin nearly three days to reproduce. It's Scarlett O'Hara's claret-coloured ball gown, from that dreadful American film classic Gone With the Wind. He hasn't actually seen it, but Draco isn't fairy enough to love that film.

Regardless, the gown is fab. It's mostly French silk velvet, even the train; Swarovski crystals are concentrated at the gown's bodice but also scattered throughout; and ostrich plumes cover the shoulders, the back bustle, and are artistically arranged throughout the back of the dress. Jules also wears matching gloves reaching to high on his forearms, matching velvet slippers, and a net shawl. Draco has magicked Jules's hair to match Vivian Leigh's coiffure from the film as well, which required a bit of growth as well as the styling. Overall, the entire ensemble had cost the Ministry a fortune.

And then, there is the fan: it is of black lace with claret-coloured silk trim woven in.

"One might be inclined," Draco drawls distractedly, as he finishes the final touches of Jules' makeup, "to say that the signalling would be the ponciest bit of all."

"It's not! It's a miniature language; and I love languages, anyway."

Indeed, one of Jules's few talents is his aptitude for languages. He speaks six fluently, though his Dutch is only barely so. He's wrong about the signalling not being fairy, though. "Show me, then," Draco commands, having just finished with Jules's eye-makeup. It is quite artfully done, if he does say so himself. Which is good, because the gown is breathtaking. Only Jules's too-masculine features detract from the overall effect, and that, not much. Draco could have launched a thousand ships in that gown, had it been fitted to him. Of course, he might be able to do in Muggle jeans and a tee.

But he watches as Jules runs through the signals without difficulty. They've only gone through ten different phrases, after all. Most of the fan language wasn't particularly useful for their aims, but a few were more so--'I wish to speak with you', 'Yes', 'No', and the numbers, among them--and Draco had thought it a charming idea, since Harry would certainly feel any magic being performed from as near as Draco is hoping Jules will get. Draco, however, will communicate with Jules using a charm. "All right, then--that looks perfect."

"So...will I get a photo of this suspect any time soon?" Jules asks, then plucks one of his own hairs from Draco's collar. Draco is wearing a dinner jacket, though he's gone with a claret-coloured cravat and waistcoat. His mum would have hided him for it, but it's hardly a formal event and, in any case, she's dead. He's only dressing to match Jules, though he may not even be seen with 'her'. Still, he could never not dress when he has the opportunity to look this spectacular. He's even coloured his hair black to match. "

No," says Draco. "I haven't a photo. But you'll learn all you need to know once we get there." He holsters his wand, then takes the mask in his left hand. "Wand?" He accepts Julian's as well, since there is no place to keep a wand in that gown. "Ready, then?"

"May as well get this finished."

They traverse the short distance from the Ministry to Wilde's, and find that Muggle London is as completely infatuated with Halloween as the wizarding world is. Only, the Muggles are a bit more pissed. Draco is impressed to note that though it's only 8 p.m., Wilde's is as popular as Sue had promised.

Draco assures himself Harry is nowhere to be seen, then makes his entry, Jules on his arm looking--well, as lovely as she can. He sighs, then prepares to put on a smile. "All right, Jules," he whispers into her ear. She's his height in her heels, though normally Julian is a few inches shorter. "You're looking for Harry Potter. Best of luck," and he pushes Scarlett further toward the back of the room.

She gapes at him for several seconds--perhaps half a minute--before she snaps her mouth shut again and a look of focus dominates her mien. Draco brings his hand to his mouth, whereon he wears a charmed ring, and murmurs, "Can you hear me?"

Scarlett lets the fan rest on her right cheek, smiling secretively. Yes. Unfortunately, the smile does not reach her eyes very much. It is one of the reasons Julian had not looked particularly queer. He smiles like a straight bloke.

"You know his face, yeah?"

This time, Jules just shoots him the finger and says, "Fuck you, Rhett, daaahling," and moves away. Draco feels a glimmer of pride, that he's created such a drama queen. But then he edges into a corner from which he can see the door, and settles in to wait.

For an entire three minutes. He might have missed them, if he'd not recognised the tall bloke--Stephen--who is dressed in some strange, white, full-body suit with what seems to be white plastic armour guards. He carries a large, full-face helmet under his arm and smiles as if this day is the happiest of his life. His left arm is threaded protectively round the waist of his much smaller companion, who is dressed as a ninja. Only the ninjaÕs eyes are visible, but even had they not been enough, shining in their emerald brilliance, the way Harry moves is unmistakable. It is...poetry. Draco suddenly wishes to kill Stephen, and realises that this means Harry and Stephen are, indeed, a couple. He only now believes.

"They've just entered," he whispers discreetly into his ring. "The white...thing and the ninja."

Jules looks toward them, then makes eye-contact with Draco and touches the fan to his right cheek. Yes. Then he holds the fan over his left ear. Disappear.

Draco stands again and leaves, sure to avoid running into the two who are still at the door, attempting to press themselves into the throng. Only, just as he passes, he can't help glancing...just to see those lovely eyes again.

But oh, inconstant Fortune! Harry chooses that exact moment to look into Draco's eyes as well. Draco's breath catches--he is caught, and time stops.

Harry's eyes go wide for just a moment, but then they travel up to Draco's jet-black hair and Harry looks away, shaking his head slightly. Draco rushes out, mentally apologising for what he'd thought about his luck. He needs to wait a bit before entering again and taking up a post out of the way, yet still where he can see Jules. He'll use that time to calm himself.

*//*

"Oh, there!" says Stephen and directs Harry away.

Harry is still shaken. That man's eyes had been so like Draco's, he'd been nearly paralysed with the sight. Sometimes he misses Draco so much it scares even him, despite the fact that he's quite used to it. Still, Draco is long gone, and Stephen seems to care for him, (despite Harry's thoroughly undeserving nature). Harry does not love Stephen the way he'd loved Draco--the way he loves Draco--but he does care a great deal for Stephen.

He follows Stephen to the table where theyÕd first met each other, which has magically cleared for them. It's at the far corner of the room, of course, and Harry feels relief as he slides into the chair abutting the back wall. The teeming mass of people here is playing havoc with his paranoia.

"Isn't this brilliant?!" Stephen nearly shouts, to be heard over the din.

Harry nods, though he most certainly does not agree. Granted, Stephen's costume is rather brilliant. He's a Star Wars Storm Trooper. The costume was custom fitted and everything. Harry prefers Stephen naked, but the uniform is a good compromise. Harry himself had refused to shop for a costume and had simply lied to Stephen about it, claiming he wished to go alone. Instead, he'd used one of his own job kits. It was a bit worn, but not so much that it was noticeable or very faded. Stephen had liked it and had been ecstatic ever since Harry had put it on. Harry had supposed, at the time, that Stephen had taken it as a sign, that Harry had been willing to dress at all. Harry prefers not to dwell on it.

"Fancy a drink?"

Harry shakes his head. "I'm all right."

"I'll get a pint," Stephen says, then flashes his smile again before forcing his way to the bar.

Harry takes the opportunity to observe the throng of costumed wankers stumbling round arse-over-tit. Harry had somehow failed to realise that the entire greater London area was participating in some Halloween-themed Pub Crawl. Normally, the patrons wouldn't be staggering until well after midnight, but....

"Alex! Isn't she just divine??!" Stephen gushes, apparently having forgotten all about his pint. Unless he'd meant a pint of woman. Or, no...she's a man. Harry is impressed.

Harry nods.

"She's Scarlett O'Hara, from Gone With the Wind!"

"Oh," Harry says, nodding exaggeratedly, because he's certain he can't be heard over the din. He stands awkwardly, offering a hand. "Alex. Pleased to meet you."

Scarlett smiles demurely. "And you, Alex."

"Wherever did you get such a stunning replica?" Stephen continues enthusiastically, pulling up a chair for her and helping her to sit. It's quite an elaborate gown.

"My da commissioned it for me," she says. "He's having a fancy-dress ball tonight. I slipped away in the confusion," she adds conspiratorially, and Stephen laughs. Harry loves watching Stephen laugh--the way his eyes crinkle at the corners. He's just enough older than Harry that he looks mature.

There is something about the woman, however, that Harry doesn't trust. Her smiles don't quite seem to reach her eyes. Perhaps she's merely a spoilt child. But it also seems incredible that her father dressed a son up as Scarlett O'Hara.

"Which ball is it?" Stephen asks.

"Oh, I couldn't possibly say that," she says. "You might report me."

"Of course," Stephen agrees, playing along. He's so outgoing--everyone loves him immediately. Harry can admire the trait, though he doesn't covet it.

"So what do you do, Stephen?" she asks, and Harry is slightly jarred that he'd never heard Stephen offer his name. Of course, they'd already spoken before coming to Harry's table. He has to take a deep, stabilising breath.

"I work for Guardian Media," he says.

She isn't nearly as impressed as Harry expects her to be. Most would ask if he's a journalist or some such, but she doesn't. She only turns to Harry and asks, "And you?"

Harry has no desire to answer, but finds himself worrying that it would look strange. There is something strange about her eyes, when he looks into them, but he can't place it. They're lovely, though--her eyes. Deep brown, like rich earth or chocolate. Like Hermione's eyes had been. He doesn't even notice when she touches her finger to the tip of her fan.

A wrenching heave in his stomach suddenly propels him out of his daze and he stands. "I'm not feeling well," he says.

Stephen immediately stands, his face etched with worry. "Shall we go home, love?"

"I only need fresh air," Harry assures, with a little shake of his head, and is grateful when Stephen leads him out of there in seconds and they are strolling peacefully down the relatively quiet pavement. It truly had been a circus inside Wilde's. Still, it was less the circus than that Scarlett woman they'd met. Something had been quite off with her. Him. He really had made a lovely woman. Striking.

"How are you feeling, Alex?" Stephen asks after a few moments, solicitous as ever.

"Much better, thank you," Harry assures. "I might be willing to try another pub or club, if you like. Something just felt off to me at Wilde's"

Stephen is instant joy, as usual. He pulls at Harry's mask until he has exposed lips, then takes them unceremoniously in a snog of grand proportions. It seems hours before they separate for breath, and Stephen murmurs, "I wish you weren't hiding yourself so completely. It's a waste of your charms."

Harry looks doubtfully at Stephen's costume. "Stephen, your kit is even more obscuring than mine."

"I'm not nearly as lovely," Stephen counters with a wink, then puts his helmet back on. "We're off, then," he decides, and so they are.

*//*

Tags: author: colibri vert, contains: violence, fic length: chapter, fic length: long, genre: angst, kink: crossdressing, rating: nc-17, type: fic
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