The Sugar Quill
Author: Ciircee (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Strange Meeting  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Harry felt sick

Disclaimer: Based on the works (as of 2004) of J.K. Rowling.

Time: Set several many years after the end of book seven.   Please note that the characters might reference a common ‘past’ that the reader has not been party to…and neither has this author.  Nobody wants to talk about some things, darn it!

Additional Disclaimer: The title comes from a poem of the same name by Wilfred Owen, as does the story summary.  Certainly worthwhile.

Dedication: To all the CCS writers who threw up their hands at me and asked me to come back.  Sorry?  Soon? 


Strange Meeting


Harry felt sick.  He sat down on the grimy sidewalk, head and hands dangling over the gutter, and wondered why he didn’t just Apparate home.  He wondered why he was sitting in the smog-tainted sunlight of London staring at his own shoes.  He rubbed at the scar on his forehead until it stung, hoping that maybe he just needed the bracing snap of wind to clear his head before he went home.  Behind him he heard the sound of an ancient lift rumbling and the dull clattering of a glass door as it opened. 


“Chang’s ruling bothering you, Scar-head?”  The door rattled shut.


He didn’t look up.  Karel,” he corrected. 


“That’s right; she married that Dutchman, didn’t she?”  Draco’s voice was oozing with false emotion and Harry heard the sounds of somebody settling into place.  “Maybe that’s why she’s Chief Warlock.  I mean, her sister-in-law was a Death Eater, wasn’t she? Pity about that, that the International Council put the girl to death, isn’t it?”


“Leave Noach and his sister out of this,” Harry said warningly as the wind picked up.


Draco ignored him, continuing on as though Harry hadn’t spoken.  “Maybe they thought she’d go hard on the Death Eaters because of her poor, poor husband and his poor, poor family?  Tragic mistake.  Really.”


“Screw you, Malfoy,” said Harry.  He thought about going for his wand, but didn’t.  “I don’t care what you have to say about anything,” he glanced over his shoulder to where Malfoy leaned against a decrepit, red telephone box with his hands in his pockets, untouched by the swirling drafts, “so just sod off.”


As Harry watched, Draco’s shoulder lifted and fell in a lazy shrug.  “Quite charitable, aren’t you, Potter?  Cha—so sorry—Karel’s ruling isn’t too lenient for you, then?  Not bothering you at all?  No lifetime in Azkaban for the last convicted Death Eater?  The last Death Eater on the Auror master-list, the last to be caught and convicted…and she gets a nice, long stay at a high security facility with nary a Dementor in sight.” 


“Sometimes charity and decency are enough.  Sometimes it means pity, Malfoy, pity.”  He looked away.

“Oh, perhaps,” Draco said with a mirthless laugh, “but don’t lie to yourself, Potter; that ruling wasn’t meant as a slap in the face.  The decision doesn’t strike either of us as fair, you know,” he continued conversationally.  “I abhor stupidity.  Karel’s one, tragic flaw is the same as that of any other altruistic idiot: compassion.  A harsher sentence would serve your type better in the long view of things, but I suppose most people feel that that would be one step too close to the side of Dark magic.   Not you, however.  You’re special, Potter.  You’re different.  You understand ruthlessness.  You’ve been it.  You don’t pity me.  You hate me.”


Malfoy,” Harry sighed.  It was terrible that he and Draco could understand each other so well.  Draco wasn’t wrong about him; he could be ruthless and Cho’s ruling wasn’t sitting well with him.  He was too drained to argue about it or deny it.  Malfoy, I’m tired.”


A rustle of fabric and then Draco was at his shoulder not looking at him, but out into the streets of Muggle London.  “So am I, Potter.”


Harry looked at the shabby pub across the way and watched as a discarded hamburger wrapper reeled by in the wind near the entrance.  For a moment he wondered what he and Malfoy must look like to the Muggles within; it had been so long since he’d been one that he had to think hard.   Formal robes in front of a graffiti-covered wall, Draco’s expensive and exquisitely severe and his own of good quality and charmingly serviceable.  Both of them with dark deeds to their names and accomplished in the pursuit of divergent ethics.  But really, what could Muggles see of that? 


“I tried like hell to bring you in.”


“Oh, I was aware.  I tried to have you killed.”


With a snort of pure amusement Harry looked up at Draco.  “You’re such an ass.”  Draco regarded him with a haughty look and Harry sighed.  “What do we do now?”  He gestured for his nemesis to have a seat beside him.


It wasn’t a surprise when Draco remained standing.  “I’m appalled at your self-indulgent blubbering.  You’ve won; the world is your oyster.” 


Harry didn’t respond, merely propped his elbows on his still-knobby knees and folded his arms against his chest.  Beside him Draco made an abortive sound of exasperation.


“You can’t expect me to believe you haven’t thought of this, Potter.  We’re both of us well aware of what the future will bring.  Pragmatists like us know that there won’t be another Dark rising within the next hundred years and even if somebody was stupid enough to try, they’d fail miserably.  Within mere days.”    Harry glanced up to find Draco looking down at him, bitterness evident and cloak snapping out at him as another gust kicked up.  “Once the memory of defeat is placed soundly in history, however…”


“We’ll see,” he agreed.  “But I won’t let them forget, Malfoy,” he said fiercely.  “If you’re thinking that your children are going to escape knowing what I know about you and your type, you’re wrong.  I’d come back from the dead to see it happen.”


Venmous cold hardened Malfoy’s face.  “Come near my daughters and you will pay, Potter.  You’ll learn the truest meaning of the word suffering if you dare try anything.”


“There isn’t enough of the Malfoy fortune left to send them away for schooling.”  Harry uncrossed his arms and leaned idly back.


“Hogwarts,” Draco spat.


“Hogwarts,” he confirmed, “Defense Against the Dark Arts.”


“Oh, really?” Malfoy sneered. “And where is Severus Snape, then?”  He didn’t wait for a reply, though Harry would have dearly liked to give him one; comprehension was dawning in his pale eyes and Harry felt a hot stab of anger as Malfoy threw back his head and laughed.  “Headmaster!  So she did die.  Shame.  I always appreciated her formidability.  You’re the new head of Gryffindor, I take?”


Harry didn’t need to rise to make Draco step off, although he did.  His voice was dangerously calm and his eyes were stone-set and steady.  The wind shoved at his back but he didn’t notice it and it didn’t move him.  “Don’t forget that Snape fought for the Order.”


“That means something to you?  Are you mad?  Or did you forget that Snape is just like us?  He knows the value of choosing sides once the outcome is clear.  He knows how and where to choose his allies.”


Rage twisted like a dragon in Harry’s mind; some things that he’d wondered about were now sharp and clear.  “It was you.”


Smug self-satisfaction colored Draco’s smile as he stepped forward, toe to toe.  “Let’s just say that I’ve earned the new Headmaster’s trust.”


Tension tainted the air like a foul potion left to brew, and Harry knew that it would be only moments before the first spell was hurled.  A patrol car turned onto the drive and slowed as it approached.  Harry stepped back.  Draco must have recognized the car for what it was; he stepped back as well. 


“Leave, Malfoy, or one of us is going to have a tremendous amount of explaining to do.” A sweet smile thinly veiled the clenched teeth as Harry eyed the policeman without seeming to. 


Draco’s own smile was handsome and carefree and seething with leashed anger that was probably not visible to the Muggle officer, still driving slowly past.  “You first.”


“Is there a problem, gentlemen?”  The car had stopped and the officer was approaching, the wind nearly taking his hat.  


Harry gestured at his billowing cloak and robes.  “None at all.  I felt a bit dizzy and sat down.  Got my…costume…stained.  My acquaintance is a dry-cleaner and was offering to help.”


“I see,” the officer didn’t sound convinced.  “Sir,” he started to turn to Malfoy, but dropped to the ground in mid-motion.  The officer’s hat flipped and the wind caught it and rolled it away.  Harry looked pointedly at Draco’s wand.


“A dry-cleaner?  As if a Malfoy would be so menial,” Draco rolled his eyes and flicked his wand idly at the tumbling hat.  “Still, I wouldn’t mind having a go at you. ‘Harry Potter Dies in Cleaning Charm Catastrophe’?” 




“No.”  The wand slid smoothly out of sight.  “Sadly, Potter, this is over.”


“As over as it’s ever going to be,” Harry said, nudging the wayward hat beneath the officer’s arm and out of the wind’s way.  He looked up at Draco, who acknowledged the truth of those words with a slight incline of his head; Harry nodded, too.  They both took one more step away from each other.  Apparating space.


Harry offered out his hand across the distance and Draco took it. They shook.


“Good-bye, Potter.  Be fair to my children and nobody is going to have any worries,” Malfoy said, dropping hands.


“You will,” Harry told him, “if it breaks your hold over them.  See you around, Malfoy.”


They Disapparated as the wind murmured mournfully around the rusting dumpster, tipping things out that should have stayed in. 

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