Title: Long Uneven Lines
Word Count: 12,500
Warnings: Slash, light angst, frottage. Appearance of Scorpius, past Draco/Astoria.
Summary: Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, attempt to write history textbooks.
Disclaimers: Everything belongs to J.K.Rowling, I’m just taking the boys out for a ride. No infringement intended and no profit being made.
Notes: Written for the hpvalensmut 's Valentine Smut Fest and reikokatsura. Titles comes from the Larkin poem "MCMXIV".
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Nodding to the guard by the door, Harry Potter strode across the gleaming marble floor of the Ministry’s grand atrium, heading straight for the lifts on the far side. Lunging for one that was about to close, he jammed his foot in the crease and leaped, breathless, into the lift. There was a great deal of shoving and knocking shoulders as he squeezed in between voluminous robes and briefcases. The irritated looks he was given quickly dissolved as the other Ministry employees realized who he was. Even nearly a decade after the end of the war, people were still left slack-jawed when he was sighted.
“Floor?” One mousy woman in purple robes squeaked.
“Third please,” he replied pleasantly. He patted his left pocket to make sure he had what he had brought. It was still there and rustled and crinkled in response. The lift moved jerkily and groaned to a stop at the third floor. Harry grinned as a flock of internal memos buzzed impatiently near his ear, zooming out as the lift opened on the third floor while more flew in. The woman in purple robes jutted her head out from behind someone’s briefcase to wave merrily at him as the lift doors closed.
A plaque reading Department of Magical Education and Other Pedagogical Affairs: Third Floor, West Wing greeted Harry as he stepped out into the beige carpeted corridor.
“Afternoon Doris,” he said cheerfully to the Department secretary as he rounded the corner.
“Mr Potter,” she replied politely, her fierce blush lightening up her face. “I trust you’ll be replacing all the office supplies you’ve taken this month.”
He grinned back at her. “It’s just memo paper, Doris. Is Draco here?”
She shook her head fondly at him. “Yes, he’s in. You know, one of these days the Minister is going to complain about you disrupting our work environment.”
“Good thing I only come ‘round once every week then,” Harry replied cheekily. He thanked her and continued past her desk to the Education Ministry’s workspace that was crammed with people and desks.
Smiling as he saw Draco’s lean form hunched over his desk, Harry reached into his pocket and withdrew a blue Ministry memo clumsily folded into the shape of a crane. Setting it on his palm, it immediately flapped its wings and fluttered over, albeit awkwardly, on top of Draco’s desk.
Draco sighed and peered blearily at the parchment in front of him. The general strain of working a thankless job in the Ministry, of fighting his way through the bureaucratic nightmare only to be met with endless red tape along the way thanks to the “Former Death Eater” sobriquet he had never managed to shake off—it had begun to show over the years. Draco tore off his glasses (all that fine print paper-work, he thought resentfully), and massaged his throbbing temples. Fine crow-lines radiated from his eyes and his hair was slightly unkempt from running his fingers through it all day.
Frowning at the fluttering distraction, Draco set down his quill and glanced at the paper crane before plucking it off the desk. Lunch? was scribbled in cramped handwriting on the inside.
Draco laughed and brushed his slightly stringy blonde hair out of his eyes to get a proper look at Harry. Harry rounded the cubicle and rested his arms on the low flimsy partition that separated Draco from the rest of the gray cubicles. He ducked as the memo refolded itself and started flying lazily over his head, and rested his chin on his forearms.
“Lunch?” Harry repeated brightly.
Draco could hardly suppress his amused smiled at the pleading expression on Harry’s face. “Where did you get the memo paper?” he said, reaching up to touch the paper crane. It trembled in the air before settling on his inkpot with a crinkling sound.
“Charmed it off Doris.”
“You’re impossible,” Draco remarked, pressing his lips together in a futile effort not to smile. “You know those are strictly inter-Ministry memos, right?”
“Right.” Harry grinned and lifted his head to peer at the parchment Draco had been scribbling madly on. “Come on, Leaky for lunch? It’s been a long day and I made the trip all the way over here to your woefully drab office.”
“Long day? It’s half-eleven Harry!” Draco exclaimed, snickering. “It’s a miracle you’re so free.” Draco raised his eyebrow. Harry smiled at the familiar gesture that had lost all of its scathing contempt over the years the he had grown to know Draco. Still leaning against Draco’s cubicle wall, he took in the blonde man’s frame. Standard black robes that opened to reveal pressed trousers and a blue button-up that made the man’s gray eyes brighten. Or perhaps it was just the lighting in here.
“I resent the sarcasm. Being assistant librarian is a demanding job.”
“Yes, directing hormonal adolescents to The Intricacies of Mermaid Intercourse, Part II (now with full illustrations!) all day long. How taxing,” Draco said playfully, most of the bite taken out of his words. It had taken a long time for them to reach this point, where easy banter said so much about their familiarity and friendship. It was more than he could have possibly imagined ten years ago. Hell, even five years ago. The carefully cultivated air of icy aristocracy during Draco’s schooldays had dissolved into a fierce dedication for his work. The lingering sadness that had permeated his movements in the years immediately following the war had largely dissolved, thanks to his friendship with Harry and the demanding hours at the Ministry.
“Does Pince still glare reproachfully at you?” Draco added airily, absently brushing the underside of his chin with his quill.
“Whose ever idea it was to put up portraits of former Hogwarts librarians clearly never met the woman. Or Albert Corntattler, for that matter. You wouldn’t believe the obscene looks I get sometimes working late at night.” Harry raised his eyebrows in mock-horror.
Draco laughed at this and rolled his shoulders back to ease some of the ache in them. Sitting at a poorly-lit desk for nine hours plus had resulted in lingering pains and cramps in the four years he had worked at the Department of Education. He lifted his arms in a luxurious stretch and closed his eyes, not noticing the way that Harry’s gaze was suddenly riveted to the pale expanse of skin just above his trousers.
“Must be the sexy librarian thing,” Draco remarked lightly. “It draws balding, paunchy former librarians to you in two-dimensional hordes. As for me,” he said and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, “we all know the pointy, bags-under-the-eyes Ministry-type is irresistible.” He smiled thinly, a self-disparaging turn of his lips that disappeared as quickly as it came. It was one that caused Harry’s chest to ache a little just seeing it.
“Come off it, you’re not—” Harry started but was quickly interrupted.
“Anyways, I’m rather busy at the moment, Harry.” Draco bit his lip apologetically, and gestured to the towering stack of parchment on his already-overflowing desk. “Goodfeather’s arranging a pan-European Magical Education conference this month in Copenhagen with all of our Ministerial counterparts in some ridiculous attempt to streamline magical education across the continent—gods, don’t ask me why. I’ve just received an owl from the Russian Minister for Education not-so-politely declining the invitation, our Minister thinks this might have catastrophic Anglo-Russian diplomatic consequences, and the paperwork is a absolute nightmare.” Draco sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair. The paper crane fluttered to a stop above his head.
“So, no lunch.”
Draco laughed, despite himself. “No, you persistent wanker.” He threw his quill at Harry, who promptly ducked and grinned.
“Coffee, then. Come on, I’ve sampled the pisswater you call coffee here, and it won’t do, especially if you’re missing lunch. There’s a small café across the street—and, for goddsakes, don’t forget your coat.”
Draco finally relented. He stood up from the unyielding chair, his back creaking ominously for someone who was only 27 years old. He unbuttoned his loose Ministry work robes and grabbed his coat from the back of the chair, wincing a little at the slight ache along his shoulder line that the movement caused.
“Where did you learn to fold paper cranes anyways?” Draco asked, adjusting the collar of his wool coal as they rounded his desk.
“Second year Ravenclaw. She needed help with an essay on mermaids.”
They walked out of the office with their shoulders touching, Draco’s barely-suppressed laughter sounding down the long hallway.
Draco walked down the drafty hallway, winding his thick scarf more tightly around his neck. He had forgotten just how depressingly cold Hogwarts was during the winter, how the chill seemed to sap all warmth from his limbs despite the waning Warming Charms placed on the castle. His shoes made a sharp clicking sound that resonated against the stone. Ten years after leaving the school his feet still knew which direction to go. Rubbing his hands against each other, Draco turned left and faced the gargoyle that guarded the staircase to the Headmaster’s office.
“Ice Mice,” he said. The gargoyle lumbered aside and Draco ascended the spiral staircase. He knocked twice on the wooden door before entering.
“Mr Malfoy,” McGongall said, her clear, authoritative pitch reverberating in the austere Headmasters room. Well, Headmistress’ now; it had been nearly a decade since Dumbledore walked Hogwarts’ halls as Headmaster.
“Please, take a seat.” She conjured a squishy turquoise armchair for him, which he eyed dubiously before sinking into.
“How are you, Mr Malfoy?” she asked, reaching across the desk to clasp his hand in her cold, bony one. Her gray hair, now shot through with white, was pulled back into a severe bun that made the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth more pronounced. Her sharp gray eyes, as cat-like as ever, followed him as he took a seat before her.
Draco eyed her carefully before responding. There was no way Headmistress McGongall had summoned him to her office in the middle of the day only to make small talk with him. “Fine, Professor,” he answered politely.
“And how is your son—Scorpius, is it?”
So that was it. If she wanted to play Dumbledore’s game of beating around the bush—something entirely uncharacteristic of the brisk Scotswoman—Draco would play along.
“He’s doing fine, Professor. Just turned six last month.” He couldn’t suppress a smile. “Though, I trust you had another reason for personally asking me to have a meeting with you during the week?”
She continued stirring her tea and shot him an uncharacteristically approving look. “You were always sharp, Mr Malfoy.” Draco, unsure of how to respond, looked up at the dozing portrait of Dumbledore, just above McGongall’s left shoulder. It was strange, how just sitting here in this office made him feel young and foolish again, as if time had collapsed like a telescope and come to a shuddering stop here, in this moment when history was being re-written. Draco Malfoy, age 27, back in the Headmaster’s room. Of course, the bowl of lemon sherberts was gone, and everything was considerably more tartan.
“How is the Education Ministry treating you? The Hogwarts curriculum reforms?”
“A Sisyphean task, Professor.”
“I’m well aware, yes.” She was silent for a moment. “I’m aware of the cessation of the curriculum changes, and am gravely concerned about the proposed initiatives. Not just History of Magic, but Defence Against the Dark Arts and Muggle Studies will be seriously and negatively affected by the current Minister’s decisions.”
For the first time in the conversation, Draco saw McGongall’s dormant anger at the situation flare up. The incompetence of the Ministry, the excessive red tape strung about by complacent bureaucrats had interfered time and again in the proper running of Hogwarts.
McGongall sighed and looked him at him with her clear, penetrating gaze. “Mr Malfoy, as an educator and administrator, I ask you with the greatest sincerity to see through those curriculum reforms through the Ministry.” McGongall steepled her fingers and peered at him. Her gray eyes were burdened with the desperation of one who truly wanted to see the truth finally emerge from the chaos of history, but had been disappointed so far.
“Knowledge is power.” McGonagall began again. “There’s nothing quite as magical or as powerful, Mr Malfoy, as the ability to write our history. While the past is irrevocable, history is not.”
“You sound exactly like Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGongall,” Draco murmured, his eyes flickering to the gently stirring portrait. He glanced back at her to find her smiling. There were deep set lines around her eyes and mouth that lent a sort of wisdom to her visage, so that her every expression seemed both determined and jaded. It was a world-weary expression Draco feared to see in the mirror.
“I increasingly find that being Headmistress is an exhausting task; one my body cannot keep up with.”
“Are you retiring, Professor?”
“Yes, I am retiring. This will be my last term at Hogwarts, Mr Malfoy. Perhaps to somewhere with more sun. I hear Phuket is lovely this time of year, and Merlin knows I could use a little sunshine in my life.” Her eyes twinkled behind her prim glasses before she cleared her throat and shuffled some stray papers.
Draco licked his lips in a sudden show of nervousness. “Excuse me if I sound,” he paused, “impertinent, Professor, but why appeal to me of all people? There are much more influential people in the Ministry, in Board of Governors who could exact the change you’re looking for.”
McGongall was silent, and her gaze seemed to linger just above his head. Before she spoke, she shot him an inscrutable look over the rim of her glasses.
“Why did I appeal to you?” She stopped, letting the silence linger for a moment longer. When she spoke, her tone was different, lighter with a hint of challenge in it. It was one Draco remembered well from his Hogwarts days.
“There are those in the Education Ministry that would claim naïvity isn’t a crime,” she said softly. Her lips thinned and the lines around her mouth became more pronounced as she frowned, clearly expecting an answer.
“No, Professor, neither is ignorance. But apathy is.”
McGongall leaned back in her high-backed chair and regarded him with approval. A small, almost imperceptible smile appeared at the corner of her mouth. “Mr Malfoy, I believe you’ve answered your own question.”
The force of Apparition still left him a little breathless, and as Harry stumbled onto Draco’s front porch he had to grip the knocker for support. Righting himself he knocked twice and made a face as the snake-head knocker hissed at him.
“Hello there Score,” Harry said, grinning at the small boy that answered the door.
“Harry!” Scorpius replied cheerfully, beaming up at him. Harry bent down to tousle with Scorpius’ blond locks and let himself be lead inside the sunlit hallway.
“Is your father here?” Harry asked, peering around the corner.
“Yep, I think he’s upstairs changing. Guess what Harry? Daddy’s buying me a potions kit!”
“Oh?” Harry said, stifling a laugh. “Is that so?”
“Starters potion kit, Scorpius.” Draco appeared around the corner, breathless and tangled up in scarves and coats. “Hey Harry, thanks for coming. It’s a bit mad, as you can see; Score has been jumping off the walls all day waiting for you to come.” Draco smiled gratefully at Harry, who suddenly felt a lot dizzier than when he had Apparated.
“Harry! Can I show you my potion Daddy helped me make?” Scorpius tugged insistently on Harry’s hand.
“He’s only arrived a minute ago Scorpius,” Draco chided. “Let’s not terrorize him just yet, alright? Here, put your coat on—no love, you cannot walk around with it on backwards—yes, like that, thank you. There, don’t you look smart? Do you want your Cannon’s scarf today?”
Having wrapped the bright orange scarf around Scorpius’ neck—a jarring clash with his white-blonde hair—Draco linked arms with Harry and his son and Apparated the group to the entrance of Diagon Alley.
“A potions kit?” Harry asked inquisitively as the trio strolled down the packed shopping lane.
Draco smiled fondly at his son, who was straining against his hand holding him firmly in place. “He’s been dying for one ever since I took him to the Apothecary’s last year. He’s secretly fascinated by mixing everything in sight together—you wouldn’t believe the messes I’ve cleaned up after breakfast. He even made one this morning.”
“Oh, not like that! It was just pumpkin juice, my best shampoo, and a hair from the neighbor’s cat, Boris.”
Harry laughed, leaning a little on Draco for support as they made their way between throngs of shoppers. As they approached the potions shop, Scorpius slipped from Draco’s arm and pressed his nose against the window of the display case. Now that it was just him and Draco linking arms, Harry felt a little foolish and so slipped his arm from where it was hooked around Draco’s.
They entered the dank-smelling shop; its shelves lined with jars of unidentifiable things and cases of rare potions ingredients. The sour-faced Apothecary eyed them warily from where he was weighing bat’s toenails on the counter. The Harry and Draco were content to let Scorpius explore the store before anything was bought. The store was relatively empty except for their presence. They leaned their elbows against the countertop, watching Scorpius inquire very seriously about the cost of dried scarab beetles and unicorn.
“I never got a chance to ask you, how was your meeting with McGongall?” Harry asked, shifting his body and turning his head to face Draco’s. In doing so his nose nearly brushed against Draco’s ear and he unconsciously took a deep breath of the other man’s cologne. Citrus, and the musky scent of dried asphodel root on the counter behind them. An unnerving, heady combination.
Draco sighed and turned towards Harry. “Alright, I suppose. She asked me to push through with the Hogwarts curriculum reforms—the new Educational Decrees—but really that’s no surprise. The Minister’s being—” he looked around before continuing, “—a stubborn bastard on this issue. Nothing’s going through the red tape he’s strung about the Education Ministry, not if he and his new cabinet can help it. The standard of teaching is in shambles; you know this better than I, you’re privy to all that goes on at Hogwarts. Enrollment’s been fluctuating like mad, teachers and scholars had been killed in the war, and in the rush to restore order in the chaos, rebuilding Hogwarts was overlooked.”
“Deliberately so,” Harry added, eyes flickering worriedly to the frown lines etched around Draco’s agile mouth. When had Draco’s started developing them?
Draco’s face darkened as he averted his gaze. “They had a chance to seize power and so painted the war how they wanted it to be seen. It’s like taking two steps forward, three steps back in this madhouse.”
“Is there any chance of making the curriculum actually change?” Harry inquired.
A cynical smirk edged its way to the corner of Draco’s mouth. “If I built a strong enough case for it, perhaps. I would need access to the kind of information from the war that the Ministry has under lock, key, and Unspeakable-strength wards. The kind they claim doesn’t even exist.” He closed his eyes in disgust and frustration and leaned back against his elbows. “But again, maybe. I don’t know if the Wizengamot is still under the Minister’s thumb, if rampant nepotism has reached that level yet.”
“The Ministry wouldn’t seriously sack you,” Harry said in disbelief. “Not for reforming an outdated Educational Decree.”
“If the Wizengamot were still outside the clutches of the Minister then a case for my sedition wouldn’t legally pass through, although the Ministry could still refuse to rubber-stamp it in the end.” He sighed wearily and passed a hand over his face. “Again, it would depend on how strong my case was.”
“Then, it depends on more research?” Harry asked slowly.
Draco laughed. “Yes, Harry, more research. Exactly what the Education Minister has more or less forbidden me from doing.”
“But can they file a case against you for sedition? That’s absurd.”
“Don’t look so surprised. The first people the Ministry pointed fingers at were holdouts from the previous administration. Tarred and feathered because of their involvement in the war.”
“That wasn’t exactly an option for them, was it?”
“Involvement in the war? No, of course not—especially not at the end. Well, you know that.” Draco smiled listlessly. “Weren’t you following the election campaigns? Or were you holed up Hogwarts library?”
Harry shook his head. “I was trying, as much as possible, to stay away from politics and the Ministry.”
“Well, the Prophet was printing sycophantic political rubbish left and right—they knew that the old administration was on the way out and changed tack, trying to come down on the right side. Minister Goodfeather, I’ll give him that, was devilishly cunning with his campaign strategy. Blame the previous government for involving us in the war, blame them for all the unnecessary deaths, blame them for the weakness of society and people start asking questions. People start questioning why the Ministry didn’t take a more proactive role during the war, why more deaths weren’t prevented—and eventually it’s not longer Goodfeather’s campaign to make sure the government is thrown out, British wizards everywhere are clamoring for it too. The horrors of war make them just as eager as Goodfeather to point fingers. The previous administration had a glaring target on their backs as they scurried out of the Ministry building. Sick, and brilliant.” Draco took a deep breath. “And then, crucial foundations of a new society—like Educational Decrees—are ignored in the Ministry’s rush to disassociate themselves from the previous government.” He closed his eyes in exhaustion.
Harry wanted to lay his hand on Draco’s shoulder or perhaps curl it at the base of his neck comfortingly but fear kept him rigidly in position. He clasped his clammy hands together tightly, just to make sure they didn’t unconsciously wander where they weren’t supposed to. This was getting ridiculous.
The men’s solemn reverie was abruptly broken by Scorpius, who rushed up to them clutching at a transparent bag filled with basic potions ingredients. He tugged eagerly at Draco’s hand with his smaller one, leading him to the cashier while excitedly describing everything he had picked out.
“I’ve got ginger root and garlic and dandelion roots and a hair from a mermaid from the Baltic Sea and a little bit of a newts’ tail, see, right there! and—”
Smiling indulgently, Draco walked over to the grizzled Apothecary and deposited a handful of Galleons in to the man’s outstretched palm.
“—a pickled rabbits foot and an eye of a duck and a parrot’s feather and petunias and—”
Smothering a laugh, Harry bent down and interrupted Scorpius mid-rant, in an effort to let Draco relax just for one day. “Hey Score, are you in the mood for some ice-cream? And you can show me and Daddy all the things you bought, hey?”
“Yeah! Daddy, can we?” Scorpius turned to Draco expectantly, who nodded and took the bag from him as they strolled towards Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. Diagon Alley’s cobblestone paths and cozy shophouses were painted with the golden hues of late afternoon light that suffused the entire street with glorious colors.
Almost unconsciously, as the three of them laughed and chattered on the way out of the stifling Apothecary’s shop, Draco slipped his free arm through Harry’s. It was such a casual, thoughtless act of intimacy that Harry nearly tripped on his own shoes, but righted himself quickly. Not wanting to appear too eager, he didn’t comment on it but leaned into Draco’s warmth.
Fortescue had disappeared during the war, and the current owners—out of respect or reluctance to change the name of Diagon Alley’s most popular ice cream parlor—had the little café just as Florean had kept it. It was steadily darkening as they wove their way between the packed outdoor tables and chairs. Fairy lights were strung from the lampposts surrounded the outdoor seating area, twinkling down on customers enjoying ice-cream and coffee in the crisp February afternoon.
“You two can grab a table, I’ll go order. Any special requests?” Harry asked genially.
“Chocolate and raspberry!” Scorpius demanded. “And sprinkles!”
Draco raised his eyebrows amusedly at his son. “Just an espresso myself, thanks Harry.” The two meandered to an empty table at the far side of the seating area.
Harry went to the counter to place the order, looking over his shoulder as the fairy lights strung up around Florean’s outdoor terrace played off of Draco’s blonde hair. Draco leaned down to say something to Scorpius, and as the boy’s face broke out into an unabashed grin Harry felt his chest expand. A pleasantly warm feeling, like one glass of mulled wine too many, but, no—better and more perfect than that, rose from his stomach to his throat and finally to the hand that was shakily holding his wallet. He stared at the two blonde figures outside, their silhouettes backlit by twinkling fairy lights. This, Harry felt with a certainty that terrified him, this was exactly what he wanted.
“Uh, Mr Potter?”
The moment was broken, but the jittery, jubilant feeling hadn’t left his body. Harry turned to the nervous-looking girl behind the counter who was holding out his tray with an espresso and two dishes of ice-cream, piled high with color-changing sprinkles and cherries. It was clear that she had been calling his name for some time.
“Oh, right,” he mumbled, fumbling with the tray and a handful of Galleons at the same time. “Er, sorry, actually could I have another spoon please? Great, thanks.”
Carrying the tray, Harry slipped into his seat beside Draco as Scorpius started bouncing at the sight of his ice-cream. Setting Scorpius’ bowl in front of him, Harry placed the second bowl in between Draco and himself. Raising his eyebrows expectantly, he offered Draco the third spoon.
“This,” Harry declared grandly, “is ours.” He liked the way that sounded rolling off his tongue; ‘ours’.
Draco’s eyes darted up to Harry’s, and protested weakly. “I have my espresso, really it’s fine. That’s your ice-cream, and anyways,” he looked away. “I told you—complete lack of Quidditch hasn’t exactly helped my metabolism.”
Harry tapped the spoon against the ice-cream bowl. “Am I going to have to feed you?”
Draco’s eyes flashed for a moment, something like pleasant surprise skittering across his face before it quickly disappeared. “No,” he said indignantly, and accepted the proffered spoon, failing to hide his smile as he dug it into the obscene tower of vanilla and strawberry.
Harry wanted to stay in the moment forever.
Go to | Part 2