Finally, Part III of My Scratched Hearts Challenge entry:
Title: The Best of All Possible Outcomes (3 of 3)
Author: Colibri Vert
Author's email: email@example.com
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.
Draco had been watching Jules's performance, ever-so-impressed. Jules had managed to ingratiate himself with Stephen in seconds, (though honestly, that was more Draco's doing, since he'd picked such a fabulous costume for the occasion). Stephen had almost immediately led Julian back to Harry, and they'd joined Harry at the table. But it had been obvious to Draco from the start, that Harry felt uncomfortable. Even without being able to see his face, Draco could feel the tension in Harry's posture. As Draco had watched, he'd seen Harry go from vague unease to alarm. And then Jules had signalled with the fan, finger to tip: Need to speak with you.
It turns out to be an easy request to accommodate, since Harry suddenly stands and, within seconds, mind, he and Stephen have left. Draco is furious. What has Julian done?? How could he bollocks this up??? "What the bloody fuck just happened?" Draco demands, as soon as he slams himself down into the chair Harry has just vacated. "Why did they leave?"
Jules looks highly pleased, though he shouldn't. "Doesn't matter," he dismisses. "We need to get back to the Ministry."
They practically run back to the office, despite the fact that Julian is wearing heels. And once they're inside, Julian rummages through a storage cupboard before leading them on to his desk. It's a pensieve he's found, and Draco thinks this is even more convenient than he'd expected. "What happened in there?" he asks, calming already, until Jules says--
"I read him."
Draco blinks, then says, "You what?"
Julian starts pulling silvery strings of memory from his temple until the little portable pensieve is nearly full.
Draco waits until Julian is finished before restating his question.
"I used Legilimency on Potter," Julian says. "He had no reaction at all when I probed him as I shook his hand. So I was a bit bolder on the second attempt, and this," he holds up the bowl gently, "is the fruit of my labour. Care to have a go?"
Draco doesn't even think before diving in. He lands in a posh hotel room, where a corpulent older gentleman sits in a dressing gown, watching the telly and enjoying his cigar and whisky. Draco sees it's a bottle of Laphroaig 40, which they haven't had available for purchase since 2007--three years ago. He knows because he'd purchased a bottle of it himself, and it had run him one thousand pounds. There's a carafe of water as well--the glass dry, as it should be. It means the water is at room temperature. Draco wonders what the occasion is, but then he sees Harry.
Harry had been hiding in the shadows, but now appears, dressed in the very same kit he'd been wearing tonight, virescent eyes flat in the dim, instead of that shimmering emerald Draco knows as quintessentially Harry. "Lord Carlton?" Harry says, his voice as soft and flat as his eyes.
The lord startles, then places his snifter on the salver with the bottles, before turning to see who has intruded. Draco is amused to see the man's priorities. "Am I next, then?" he says, full of bravado, though he's already starting to sweat. The cigar stench is impenetrable, but the smell of fear only makes it worse.
"Yes," says Harry.
Harry just shrugs, but even that is graceful to Draco's eye. "Move over to the bed," he says.
The man does as he's told, though Harry has no weapons of any kind that Draco can see. Still, that seems unlikely, now that Draco thinks about it, and Lord Carlton likely agrees. When the man has reached the bed, he turns round to see that he's alone again. "Wha--?"
But it is only momentary, for suddenly Harry is behind him, standing on the bed, and has his arms around the man's head.
"Please," the man whimpers. "No." But then Harry tenses and twists the man's head sharply to his right. Draco hears a wet pop and his nose scrunches in disgust as he watches Harry let the man gently down onto the bed.
He is suddenly wrenched to another memory--Jules must have been looking for something else at this point. He lands at a posh Soho apartment house and memorises the address, then follows Harry inside. It must be Stephen's place. Draco has no desire to see anything further, and so he pulls himself out again.
"Eh?" says Jules, obviously very pleased with himself.
Draco takes the contents of the pensieve and magicks them into a storage phial, then banishes the pensieve back to its cupboard. So convenient, that his wand is already out. "Obliviate!" he cries, taking far more memory from Julian than is prudent, or even safe. In fact, Julian falls, insensate, at his feet. So Draco Apparates his partner home, before going home, himself. He still has many, many preparations remaining to complete before the night is out.
Harry can't believe they're back. The flat feels somehow completely different, now that he's returning to it with Stephen. It doesn't feel quite like home, but it does feel safe, somehow, and that is worth a great deal. It also feels like Stephen, and he's got quite fond of how Stephen feels over the past two weeks. It had also been brilliant to go from nearly winter to nearly summer in only a few hours. The weather had been perfect in Rio.
He follows Stephen up the stairs, already getting randy from watching that arse in khaki pants. He pinches it.
"Oi, Alex!" Stephen scolds, but he is laughing, and it does speed him up the stairs.
"Wha'? It wer'n't me, guv'na."
"Yeah, all right then, you little hooligan. In with you!" and he stands aside so that Harry can precede him into the flat.
Inside, nothing is out of place. The maid always comes on Mondays, but otherwise, Harry doesn't feel like anyone else has been here. His instincts are generally quite good in that way.
"Back to work tomorrow, then," Stephen sighs, suddenly wrapping his arms about Harry's waist and kissing him on the top of his head. "I'll miss fucking you from sunrise to sunset."
Harry snorts, but he can't deny that the thought has him instantly...intrigued. "I shan't complain about having had the opportunity to watch you train either," Harry admits.
Stephen groans lustily, then sets to biting at Harry's neck. "You're so beautiful," he husks. Stephen is a perfect health club specimen, but he had little experience with martial arts, and had been completely obsessed with watching Harry train. Things had got a bit more than slightly interesting, on occasion. Late-night training on the strand by firelight had more than once become naked training.
"Unpack or fuck?" Harry murmurs, certain there is no choice.
Stephen quite obviously agrees.
Draco has been nearly mad with worry. For two weeks, Stephen's flat has been sitting empty, with no sign at all of its owner, nor of Harry. But now, suddenly, they return, and Draco is green with envy, then black with fury. He had planned so carefully. He'd been quite ready to fetch Potter after the Halloween debacle, but then Potter had disappeared before Draco had got there. Now he returns, and it's quite obvious he and Stephen are even more together than he'd been willing to believe. Has Harry somehow convinced himself that he is in love with this Muggle Methuselah?? The man must be pushing forty, and that's practically ancient for a Muggle. Besides which, he isn't even as attractive as Julian. Harry deserves far better. Harry deserves Draco, in fact, and even more importantly: Draco deserves to have his way in this, and he wants Harry.
He sits on his broom, an Obscurus charm hiding him from view, where he hovers fifteen feet from Stephen's sitting room window, and watches as that man begins to grope his Harry. And Harry is enjoying it!! Draco can hardly breathe through the rage. When the windows start rattling slightly, however, he has to admit defeat and fly off to vent elsewhere. He's waited a decade. This is worth doing correctly.
Harry is terrified, but he's made his decision, and so he gains strength from his resolve (and from the image of Stephen's face smiling from the car window). Stephen had given him a lift to Janus's actual office today, though Harry had made him promise to leave straight away. He'd confided in Stephen that he wished to give up his old job and perhaps look for a new. Stephen had brightened considerably, then said, "You're staying, then."
Harry had nodded tentatively, but then felt more confident when Stephen had embraced him. "Take as long as you like finding a new job, yeah? Perhaps you should take additional education? Study at a University?"
Harry hadn't answered that one, uncertain how he felt about the idea of further schooling. Hogwarts had been an unmitigated disaster by the end.
"Ah, Henry. Punctual, as always. Did you enjoy your holiday?"
"Yes, sir," Harry replies.
"Rested and recovered and ready for your next job, eh?"
"You see, I think that I'm about ready for a career change--it's been eleven years now, yeah?"
"Ah, I see," says Janus, then looks at his mobile. He puts it to his ear and holds out a finger to Harry, as if to say, 'Just a moment'. "Excellent.... Yes, immediately. Thank you." He folds the sliver of metal closed again, then looks back to Harry. "You were saying?"
Draco is breathing himself to calm. It's become a habit, now. Watching Harry and Stephen together is sickening. A lesser man than Draco would not have been able to cope, certainly. Even Draco is having substantial difficulty. He'd watched their almost newlywed antics this morning, then followed them to this dodgy section of Bloomsbury. He'd taken a risk, putting a listening device on Harry, but Harry had seemed oblivious to any magic so far, and though it disturbs Draco to admit that, he has, now, and so here he sits, listening to Harry's conversation.
"Ah, Henry," says someone else, his voice and pronunciation screaming of ill breeding and thuggishness. "Punctual as always. Did you enjoy your holiday?"
Harry's answer is meek and nervous. The man he is meeting is quite obviously his handler, and whether or not the man is the top boss or some underling, this man is certainly more responsible than Harry, for the murders that have been committed. And apparently, he has been for the entirety of Harry's infamous career.
"...Excellent.... Yes, immediately. Thank you," Draco hears, then suddenly, a man appears from round the side of the building. He is nondescript from the top of his head to the tips of his shoes, and Draco has to move quickly out of the way to avoid being bowled over, since he's invisible. The man walks up to Stephen's car where it sits at the kerb. Inside, Stephen is having an engrossing conversation on his mobile. Evidently, he hasn't got round to fulfilling his promise to leave, yet.
"You were saying?" says Harry's handler, and Draco is torn--stay near Harry, or see what this new bloke is up to? He fears that Harry is in danger and wishes to be close. He hesitates, but then decides to follow the other bloke. He can still hear Harry's end, after all. And he can Apparate in blindly if he absolutely needs to.
"I wish to be relieved of my duties with you," says Harry quietly, and Draco stops, holding his breath. Only before him, the man has reached Stephen's Jaguar XK and taps on the window. It all happens in a heartbeat--a series of split seconds that draw themselves into an eternity. The man is blocking Draco's view of Stephen, but one moment, there is silence; while the next, there is a strange percussive crunching sound.
"Surely that won't be necessary," says Harry's handler. "You certainly haven't anything better to do."
When the man walks off to the right, down Hertbrand Street toward the tube station, Draco can see that the window is shattered and that Stephen sits slumped inside the car, a bullet-hole in his forehead. Draco's jaw drops in his shock. He'd not even seen a pistol. And he'd not heard that tell-tale report either.
"What do you mean?" asks Harry, his voice going suspicious. Only silence follows his question. "Janus, what do you mean??"
Janus, thinks Draco. The handler's name is Janus.
"I've no problem with your sexual proclivities, little Henry," says Janus, "but let this be a lesson to you. Never let your prick interfere with your work. I own you, and that's forever."
"Fuck," says Draco, and not five seconds later, Harry is barrelling out of there, straight toward Stephen's car.
"Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck," Harry is chanting with each footfall, then suddenly stops, as if pulled by a cord round his chest. "No." He reaches toward the shattered window, but his hand never touches before it falls to his side again. And then he turns, and Draco sees a look of cold-blooded hatred he'd never seen on anyone before--not even Voldemort--and it terrifies him. Has Harry finally broken?
Draco reveals himself only moments before Harry would have run into him anyway, and then he grabs Harry round the waist and Apparates them away.
Either Harry has forgotten how terrible Apparating feels, or he's no longer properly built for it. As soon as he squeezes out into reality again, he falls to the floor and chucks up his breakfast. He is reminded how he came to be here, when all traces are magicked away.
It takes about fifteen seconds for Harry to recover, and then he stands, turns to his kidnapper, and kicks him in the face.
Draco falls backward but is propped up by the wall at his back. He is properly stunned when he asks, "What the bloody hell was that for??"
Harry doesn't answer. He only approaches swiftly, punches Draco in the face, then drags him closer by the collar so he can knee him in the groin, then watch him collapse to his knees. "Take me back, before I kill you."
Draco groans and it's several seconds before he can manage an outraged, "What!?"
Harry rushes Draco this time, pulling him up by the collar, slamming him against the wall, then taking him off balance, so he tumbles to the floor. Harry straddles his chest and punches Draco again, a sickening thud to his left cheek. "You're getting uglier by the second, Draco luv. Take me back or you'll not have a face left."
"Incarcerous," Draco manages, and suddenly, Harry is against the opposite wall, bound there with ropes. He is completely helpless and knows it. What had he been thinking? Starting a fist-fight with Draco Malfoy? The frustration mounts so quickly, it's actually a struggle not to weep. "I'm not taking you back," Draco says, then conjures a mirror to take in the damage Harry has done to his face. He moves to a duffle that sits near the room's only window, and riffles inside it until he comes out with a jar of ointment. He spreads this across the damaged portions of his face and they heal instantly. Now Harry really does weep. "I can't believe you cared that much for him," Draco says.
"I hate you," Harry says. "You're an arrogant prick and a bigot and I wish you'd just kill me so I wouldn't have to look at your face any longer."
"I'm certain that'd suit you better than turning you over to the Muggle authorities," Draco drawls, crossing his arms over his chest. "You know, the Muggle Prime Minister called on Minister Durkiss specially, after the second Lord you offed."
Harry is too empty to be properly surprised. He'd truly thought he'd covered his tracks better than this--but here stands Draco, and Harry is well and truly buggered, in a not so pleasant way. He slumps in his bonds and closes his eyes in resignation.
But then Draco is suddenly there before him, touching his face gently. "Why didn't you come back to me, Harry?" he whispers, and Harry opens his eyes to drown in Draco's quicksilver ones. "I thought you were dead."
Harry doesn't know what to say. He hasn't the courage to tell the truth. He wants this all to have been some interminable nightmare, and for Draco to have finally woken him from it. He wants reality to be different from what it has become. "I did die," Harry says.
"All right," Draco says. "That's good, as it defeated Voldemort." He holds up his arm and shows the pristine spot where the Dark Mark had once been. His eyes stray to Harry's forehead, but he doesn't mention the obvious, there. "It doesn't answer my question."
"When I came back," Harry says, "I couldn't...." He scowls, his face contorting in pain. His stomach is on fire. "I wasn't...whole," he says. A compromise. Truth without specificity.
Draco doesn't even need to confirm this before responding. "You seem to be in a far better shape than you were before you left," he disagrees, and his hand strays to Harry's belly, as if to count the muscular ridges there. There is a shimmer to Draco's eyes that Harry cannot but remember, and he has missed it sorely.
But he cannot look at Draco and tell the truth. When he looks at Draco, he wants nothing but to possess him again. Harry's body would do unspeakable things to regain Draco's perfection, and his regard. But what little that is left of Harry's soul feels otherwise.
Draco has been beside himself with jealousy for days, and nearly insane with want for even longer. He cannot remove his hand from its happy perch on Harry's abdominals. He wants to banish the bonds and fuck Harry against the wall. And then--
"I've lost my magic," Harry says, and Draco stops everything. Even his breathing. It's as if someone has cast a time-stop hex at him. "I may as well have died that day," Harry finishes, and slowly opens his eyes. He takes one look at Draco's face, then closes them again and turns his face away. "Just kill me," he whispers.
Draco could no sooner kill him than breathe, at this moment. But the moment passes, as moments do, and then Draco takes a breath and draws his hand away to hang limply at his side. "You've lost your magic," he says.
Harry doesn't bother to respond.
"Oh," Draco says, then, "all right. That's...." Draco doesn't know what that is, but it's certainly....something. Something to overcome, in some way. Something to...remedy, perhaps. "You've become a squib," he says.
"No," Harry says. "I've become a Muggle." And then he looks back into Draco's eyes, and there is a spark of defiance. It's the first sign of life since Draco had found Harry those weeks ago. "I died, I was reborn, and now I am a Muggle. I couldn't even find the Leaky Cauldron when I attempted it. That was when I knew I could never go back to you. And that was when I found Janus."
"Janus, your handler."
"Take me back there, Draco. Please. I have to kill him."
Draco searches Harry's face, and finds that, despite everything--despite today's revelation--he still wants Harry. Perhaps looks are more important to him, even, than power. "We have to leave England, Harry," he says.
"Please," Harry says again, a single tear spilling from his left eye.
"Harry, they'll be coming after us in a matter of hours, at best. We can't linger here."
And then it seems to register in Harry's eyes. "What do you mean, 'we'?"
"You're wanted by the Muggle and wizarding authorities, and now that I've assaulted an Auror on your behalf, I'm in a bit of trouble myself. I've changed all of my money and routed it to a Muggle bank in the Caymans, but we need to get out of England."
"You mean you want me to come with you?" Harry can't seem to get past that bit.
"I need to kill Janus, Draco," Harry says, that glimmer of life in his eyes suddenly blazing. "Then we can go."
"If I use my wand, Harry, they'll be able to trace it."
"I don't need a bloody wand to kill him," Harry says with an evil, evil smirk. "Take me back."
So Draco ends the spell imprisoning Harry and Harry lands lightly on his feet. "Isn't this man well-guarded?"
"Of course," Harry agrees. "Normally I could never take him by surprise. But today, I have you."
"Where should I take us, then?"
"To his offices, of course. But considering how well I stomach the Apparition, I think you may have to cover me for a few moments. Do you think you can take us in behind him?"
Draco looks into Harry's eyes and reads him gently, finding the exact location of the offices Janus occupies and learning the placement of furnishings. Draco nods. "I'm very powerful, you know," he says.
Harry snorts but even that is attractive, Draco thinks. He cannot believe Harry is a Muggle--it simply doesn't make sense to him. He's in love with a Muggle. "You haven't lost a single whit of your charm," Harry says.
"I know," Draco says, then envelops Harry in his arms and winks them out with a pop.
When they reappear, Harry immediately collapses to his knees, retching. Fortunately, Janus isn't here. Draco doesn't even notice doing the clean-up. When Harry finally stands, he curses under his breath. "Of course he isn't bloody here."
And then the toilet flushes.
Draco is startled but manages to hide that fact from Harry. It would never do to seem anything less than...well, perfect. He looks to Harry, but Harry is already a step ahead, on his way over to a door in the far right corner of the room. He lifts the right leg of his jeans and pulls a substantial knife from a holster there. He then stands in wait behind the door, legs staggered just so. He is graceful in his anticipation, the energy flowing through him obvious.
The door opens mere moments later, and a burly man, (nearly a foot taller than Harry and three stones heavier) with a shaved head and wearing a tacky day suit, exits the toilet. The man has just pushed negligently at the door to close it behind himself and started back toward his desk, when Harry pounces. Harry has to actually jump to reach the man's neck, but the knife is already in his hand, and Harry pulls it across Janus's skin.
Draco walks toward them and Janus's eyes go wide. His hands go to the wound in his neck, trying to stanch the otherwise unimpeded flow. He can't turn his head.
Harry walks in front of Janus and hisses, "You should have let me go," then twirls, as if in some ridiculous dance, only it ends with him kicking Janus's head backward, and the flow becomes a geyser as that great mountain of a man falls to the floor. Janus is quite dead now. As a doornail. And he lies in a quickly spreading pool of his own blood.
"That is disgusting," Draco blurts.
Harry whirls toward him, as if surprised that he is here. His eyes are full of fear.
"Are you finished?" Draco hints. "We really do need to leave."
Relief. Draco thinks it's like someone has pulled a shade from behind Harry's eyes. One moment, there is fear darkening them, the next: clear relief. "Yeah," Harry says, and he holds Draco a bit tighter than is strictly necessary, whilst they Apparate away.
"Mmm...yeah, there," Harry says and giggles.
"Here?" Draco asks.
"Sí....más, querido," Harry agrees, then moans eloquently. "Tell me again," he whispers breathlessly.
"I wonder if you aren't growing bored with me, queridico."
"More fucking, less talking."
"It was you, asked me to tell it again."
"Oh yeah," Harry agrees. "So tell it."
"Come with me instead," Draco decides. "In five years you've never made it to Santa Theresa."
"It's a miracle you've got me to visit Montezuma."
"You love Montezuma."
"No, darling--oh, faster!--it's only that one restaurant I love."
"You'll love the surfers as Santa Theresa as well."
"I'm nearly there...."
Draco speeds to catch Harry before they tumble, together, into bliss. They've had quite a lot of practise, now. "Te quiero, mi amor," Draco murmurs. "Pero ahora, vaya conmigo."
"Draco," Harry whines.
"Querido," Draco whines back. "We'll fuck on the beach."
At that, Harry gets a bit more interested. And Draco is right--they've lived in Costa Rica for five years, now, in this tiny, out of the way portion of the southern Nicoya Peninsula. They've attempted to make a new life here, especially since neither of them has anyone left in England. So they've become friendly with the neighbours. They've learnt Spanish. They've even moved into their own (rather large) cottage, now that it's finally been built. It had taken two years, despite Draco's strategic bribery, but it's lovely. "All right," Harry finally relents. After all, things have been better than he'd ever hoped or expected. Somehow, Draco's personality has mellowed over the years. He's still an arrogant bastard, but it's always amusing, now. And his selfishness has expanded to include both of them.
Harry, for his part, has found himself finally believing that he isn't alone, though it's been neither easy, nor particularly consistent--this progress. For years he'd awaken, surprised at Draco's presence, yet terrified at his absence. He still doesn't feel comfortable venturing far from the cottage, and sometimes he finds himself noting exits, counting steps, testing windows...assuring himself of the possibility for escape. But he's never surprised at Draco's presence anymore, and even more importantly, he doesn't panic when Draco isn't there. "Can we swim, there?"
"Yes, we can swim. They don't surf all the way up onto the beach, Harry.
Sometimes Harry is overwhelmed by the evil he's done, and then Draco is there to slap him out of it. 'I should have come with you, Harry,' he would say. 'None of that evil would have happened.' Draco always says the same thing, and it helps every time, though Harry has it memorised and could recite it himself.
But things can get dreadfully lonely, and Draco has begun speaking of children. He's hinted that there is something he may be able to do, but Harry isn't certain what it would be. They could certainly adopt in San Jose, though it might take a bit of creativity on their parts. Draco still has his wand and is extremely competent in its use, though he has erected containment wards all round their property. He'd even tried to get Harry to reclaim some magic, but Harry had failed spectacularly and they'd quickly abandoned that pursuit.
In the end, things are going well and it is more than Harry could ever have hoped for. He'd never even been able to imagine living to age thirty-five, but now he's here, and so is Draco, and they have happiness, and they have each other.
After so much tragedy, Harry thinks, this is the best of all possible outcomes.