Draco Malfoy was still slightly amazed that he was standing on the doorstep of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. He never would have thought that Harry Potter's very public and very sweary emotional explosion would have led to him offering Draco, of all people, a job.
Draco was an in-house reporter for the Daily Prophet, a career choice that had surprised a great many people. But, he had always been fascinated by the control the media had over the public. One disparaging article in the Prophet and the subject of said article was ruined; three hundred words between hero and pariah. It certainly seemed to Draco to be the best way to mould the world he lived in.
In the five years since the Dark Lord had been killed by his own rebounding curse, Draco had worked tirelessly to gain a reputation of presenting both sides of every story he submitted for print, to prove that he would not be swayed by public opinion or fear mongering. And it was working, he was the most requested interviewer the Prophet employed.
The irony of a former Death Eater striving for the fair presentation of facts was not lost on Draco. But the truth was that if he hadn't seen the public at their most manipulated and frightened, mostly through media coercion – with a side of torture and kidnapping – he would never have applied for the position. He was determined to raise the tone.
It was not purely for the good of the wizarding population that Draco strove for a higher quality of newspaper, he had been in Slytherin for a reason after all. But the benefit to himself was not something he would share willing with anybody, and thankfully his occulmency skills were still strong enough that he would never have to. Providing the truth was his private penitence. His way of apologising for all the evil he took part in, and with apology came the easing of his guilt – a rather large benefit he thought.
After completing his house arrest – handed down for Death Eater offences committed while under age, he'd never thought he'd be grateful for being stupid enough to take the Dark Mark, and commit his only recorded crimes before he turned seventeen, but he most certainly was – he had begun his employ with the Prophet. That had been three years ago, and in that time, among the truth revealing exposés and tell-all interviews Draco had found something new to worry about - the press storm tracking Harry Potter's every move.
Not that he cared of course, but he found it distasteful that Potter had no privacy, even five years after he saved the bloody world. 'But why should he?' was the common argument Draco faced every time he mentioned how uncomfortable he was with the level of intrusive reporting that went on in the offices of the Daily Prophet. But, as old bully hacks like Skeeter were fond of saying, 'Potter is our saviour, so he's public property.'
Draco was obviously in a small amount of personal debt to Potter; Potter with all his heroic life-saving from deadly fires and sentence-reducing testifying to the Wizengamot, et cetera, et cetera. But Draco's mother's actions at the end of the war had helped – Draco felt – to reduce the debt the name of Malfoy owed Potter. This debt might also have something to do with Draco's decision to raise the expected standard of reporting at the Prophet, but it wouldn't do to speculate.
Draco had been looking forward to the annual celebrations to be held on the second of May. Five years seemed something of a milestone. It was long enough ago to be only thought of occasionally, and Draco did like to forget that part of his life as often as possible. He was attending a party held at Greengrass Moor, the home of his in-laws. He didn't know that Potter – through some connection of his Weasley girlfriend – had also received an invitation.
Draco had found himself at a party with more ex-Gryffindors than he was comfortable with, and had spent most of it away from the main crowd chatting up the exotic coat-check boy – out of sight of Greengrasses Senior of course, who were as unaware of Draco's penchant for cock as they were of their daughter's – Draco's wife Astoria – and her love of fanny. Theirs was a marriage for the purposes of parental placation, and it suited them fine.
Draco had consumed enough of the Greengrass's liquor to be wondering if this smiling foreign coat-boy would do a bit more than grin at him if he got him somewhere more private when it had happened.
The event that had brought him to Potter's front door.
Potter had stormed passed Draco and the coat boy, telling his Weasley girlfriend in an annoyed slur to leave him alone. Draco could not help but admire Potter a little, even drunk and in a grouch he was pleasant to look at these days.
No longer was he the runty boy Draco remembered from school, but a broad-shouldered man with a dusting of ever present stubble on his cheeks and chin. His glasses had been updated too, but the same untameable hair made him recognisable anywhere. He was not as tall as Draco was, he realised as Potter blew by, trying to shoo Ginny with one hand and throw back his drink with the other. His green dress robes billowed enough for Draco to see, to his amusement, that the man wore lace up canvas high-tops instead of the expected dress shoe. Draco looked down at his own hand stretched Italian leather and smiled, muggles really did make better shoes than wizards. Potter had disappeared around the corner into the main party and Draco had heard the metaphorical fireworks erupt.
"I don't give a fuck if you think the public has a right to know, Cuffe!" Harry shouted at Draco's boss Barnabas Cuffe, Editor in Chief of the Prophet. Draco had poked his head into the ballroom to see Potter gesturing wildly with his now empty glass, "they don't! I saved the whole damn lot of you and this is how I'm repaid? With bullshit stories and rumours spread about my life? Don't I deserve a little fucking privacy? The lot of you, nosy fucking wankers!" his glass exploded in his fist on the last word and Draco was rather impressed with the theatrics. The crowd had gone deathly silent as Barnabas cowered under Potter's furious rage. Draco had seen Granger tottering as fast as her heels would allow in Potter's direction. She grabbed him by the arm and steered him from the packed room, Potter had still been ranting, albeit at a much lower level.
This was the last time Harry Potter had been seen in public, it was now the middle of July and Draco was not the only person to have been curious of Potter's whereabouts. Every day there would be some farfetched article printed about Potter – that he was locked up in St Mungo's spell damage ward, or that he had fled the country after what Draco's colleagues called his "disgraceful behaviour." Draco found that he actually didn't resent Potter nearly as much as he used to, it was nice to know the perfect git was human after all.
Draco had been very surprised when an owl he recognised from Hogwarts as the pigmy bird belonging to Ron Weasley delivered to him, a tightly rolled slip of parchment from the supposedly mad, or perhaps country fleeing, Potter.
I would like to meet with you to discuss a possible business venture, it will benefit your career like you won't believe. Send your reply via return owl and we can go from there.
Draco found this odd and suspicious, but Potter was, well Potter, and now Draco had a reason to talk to him. The Daily Prophet would sell out if Draco could get some proper information on the man and write a decent article. Not just the "a source close to Mr Potter" rubbish they'd been printing for the last ten weeks. Draco therefore replied quickly to Potter's note.
This better not be a joke, I can meet you a ten on Tuesday morning. Take it or leave it.
It wouldn't do to seem eager.
Potter had agreed to the time, and this was how Draco came to be standing at Potter's front door. Draco knocked the brass knocker on the door of Number Twelve Grimmauld place at precisely ten am.
There was a clicking and grinding of many bolts and locks and the door swung inward to reveal the most decrepit elf Draco had ever seen. Its greying skin hung in folds from his bones, and there was a very large amount of snow white puffy hair growing from each ear that made Draco wonder how he could hear the door knocker at all.
"Master Malfoy," the elf said, forcing his creaking bones into a low bow, "it is an honour to have you in this house."
Draco felt that this was an odd greeting, even though for some reason the house was familiar to him. Not so much what he could see inside the entry way with its light coloured wood staircase and pale walls, but the when he had stood on the front step he had the most bizarre déjà vu as he looked up at the soot-stained frontage.
"I am here to see Mr Potter, I have an appointment at ten." Draco said.
"Yes of course, please follow Kreacher," the elf said stepping aside and allowing Draco to pass him into the entrance. "Master Harry will not be long, he asked me to make sure Mr Malfoy is comfortable while he waits."
Draco bristled, he did not want to give Potter the upper hand in this meeting, whatever it was for Draco would be the one in control. "I'm am a busy man," he said. "I do not have time to sit waiting until Potter sees fit to meet me. You can tell Master Harry to contact me at my office." He spun on his heel and marched out the front door again.
He was only half way along the front walk and regretting every step, when the door behind him opened and a voice said, "Malfoy! Sorry I was trapped talking to – never mind, do you still have time to talk to me?"
Draco grit his teeth, "Yes Potter, I have time." He muttered as he turned and walked back towards the house.
"Oh good," Harry sighed. Draco scowled at him as he passed, Harry just smiled nervously and Draco wanted to hit him. "I'm grateful you came," Harry said, stepping around Draco to lead him up the staircase, "I didn't think you would, thought you'd be laughing all the way to Gringotts with the crap your lot could print about me now."
"That's why I'm here," Draco said. "Because whatever the reason you have asked me here is, I'm now the only reporter you have spoken with in nearly three months. Even if we just have tea and crumpets I will have accurate information to print about you."
"Accurate," Harry said with a little nod, "exactly." He pushed open the door to a long room, lit by long sash windows that looked out over the small and unkempt square outside, there were framed photographs of Gryffindors all over the walls and Draco felt for the first time like he was on enemy territory. The elf was already present and pouring tea, and Harry gestured for Draco to sit.
Striving to appear unruffled and at ease despite tens of pairs of unfriendly eyes watching him, Draco sat on one of the wide couches and accepted his tea from the elf, he took a sip and then placed it on the table in front of him. Then he took his notebook and quill from his satchel, flipped it open and looked expectantly at Potter.
The elf had delivered Harry a cup and saucer too, and he murmured, "Thanks Kreacher, we'll be fine for a while, I'd like for you to have a rest now."
"Yes Master." Kreacher said, and he bowed again in Draco's direction before he vanished with a resounding crack.
Draco found the whole scene to be completely odd, and it must have shown on his face because Harry said, "He's not feeling well, but the silly git won't rest unless I order him too, so," he shrugged, "I order him to."
"Noble Potter," Draco said, barely catching the sneer before is slipped out. Why should Potter being nice to his elf make Draco want to roll his eyes? Lots of people were nice to their house elves, it was just so Potter of him. "We're here for business," Draco said, forcing his voice to sound pleasant once more, "What can I do for you?"
"I've had an idea," he said, "You were there that night, at Greengrass Moor, when I …" he trailed off looking embarrassed
"When you told everyone they ought to be fucking grateful and leave you the hell alone? Yes, it's one of my fondest memories." Draco wasn't trying to annoy, it was true, and the image of Potter swearing at Draco's idiot, fame-whore of a boss was something that never failed to make him smile.
Harry flushed, "I didn't mean it, not in the way it came out, and certainly I didn't mean to shout it at the editor of the Prophet."
"Potter," Draco said calmly, "if you want me to write and print an apology from you I'm sorry, but I won't. I've spent to long earning a reputation to ruin it with that sort of nonsense."
"No, no, that's not what I want." Harry said shaking his head and causing his hair to flop about, "I think I was poisoned at the reception, I would never normally say those things –"
"Merlin, that's the worst excuse I've ever heard!" Draco snapped his notebook shut, feeling irked that Potter was mad after all, "absolutely not. Go and see Xeno if you want someone to print tripe for you."
"Malfoy, just listen please, this isn't about that, the poison, or whatever happened that night – I promise."
"I'm listening," Draco said, "get a move on Potter, I have things to do."
"Okay, okay," Harry said, flapping his tea free hand at Draco, "it won't take long. Alfred Worple approached me about doing an auto-biography last month," Harry said, "I'd love to know how he found me, but anyway, he seemed to think if people were reminded just how … er, saviour-y, I was once upon a time then the hate mail might die down. I told him no because I don't know him, but I think he may have had a point, not that I want to appear saviour-y but I was sick and tired of the badgering before the anniversary, and of the lies printed about me, and all the bullshit." Draco nodded, he already knew he and Potter were on the same page when it came to that.
"I thought that if I commissioned someone to write my life story, the real one, no embellishments, just the facts, then maybe people wouldn't be so keen to fill in the gaps with nonsense."
Draco stared for a moment, "Are you serious Potter?" He fought to keep his face impassive, Draco could see quite clearly where this was going and it was a million times better than his article about the fallen saviour and his crumpets.
"Very," Harry said. "I like your articles, your style, I've never read anything of yours that didn't come across as believable fact."
Draco was trying very hard not to look too pleased at the praise, or think about why it should feel so good to hear it from Potter. "You make me sound like old Binns, solid believable fact; you won't make any money from a dry, factual account of your life. People won't buy if it reads like an encyclopaedia."
Harry gave him a funny look, the corner of his mouth twitched as though he wanted to smile, "I'll give the proceeds to charity anyway, it's not like I need more money. And my life fact by fact still wouldn't be dry reading; I think you'll remember that I once broke out of Gringotts while riding a dragon?"
Draco snorted in an effort not to laugh, "Well," he said, "you may have a point there Potter."
"So, that's why I asked to meet with you, I wanted to know if you're available for hire. I know it would be quite an undertaking, so I understand if it's not possible but …." he looked hopefully at Draco.
"Just to be clear," Draco said, "You wish to tell your life story in the hope that it will satiate the wizarding world's obsession with you, and make them forgive you for calling them fucking ingrates."
"I never called them that!" Harry interrupted.
Draco flipped a hand in dismissal and smirked, "Well whatever you said, you hope this book will, what? Distract them? Or actually just remind them that technically everything you said was true, and maybe they should treat you and your personal life with a bit more respect?"
"A bit of both," Harry said, "I don't – well, to be honest I'd just like them to get bored with me so I can have a normal life, so hopefully information overload might do that, they won't be able to speculate on my life if there are no gaps, if there is a written record that can't be disputed."
Draco was surprised, Potter was quite possibly onto something. There could be no more rumours about his past if he willing told everyone everything. He tapped his quill against the edge of the notebook as he said, "But I despise you Potter, our animosity at school is famous, why would anyone read something written about you by someone that hates you?"
Harry's forehead was crinkled in disbelieving frown, '"Er, that's exactly why – they all want more reason to hate me at the moment and will assume that you would never write anything flattering about me…."
Draco felt mildly foolish for not realising that himself. "I'm not cheap Potter," he said to cover his embarrassment, "and you'll have to tell me, me every dirty little secret, no matter its relevance to the book."
Harry nodded "Yes I know. Not that I have any proper secrets anyway."
"We'll see," said Draco. "I'll want more than just your version of events where possible, as many points of view as I can get."
"Sure," Harry said, "Ron will be dead chuffed at having to sit down with you."
Draco twitched uncomfortably at the impending gryffin-fest he would have to endure, "My price just doubled."
Harry grinned, "Well, you should thank Hermione for making you so wealthy then, it was her idea to ask you."
"That's a relief," Draco said, "I thought you'd actually developed some intelligence for a moment."
Harry smiled at him, "Heaven forbid," he said. "So you'll do it?"
"I'll have my solicitor draw up a contract, owl me your legal advisors details so they can correspond. If you're happy with my proposal we will begin." Draco stood from his seat and gathered his things. It was unsettling to have Potter looking at him with no disdain or suspicion like at school, Draco thought as he made his way back down stairs, Potter following in his wake. Directly after the war the green eyes had been filled with pity instead of anger in their brief meetings. This was certainly an improvement. It was as though Potter had truly moved on from all of that, something that Draco was not expecting, he had thought Potter would use him for his reputation, put the history aside, rather than just ignore it completely as he seemed to be doing.
Draco turned as he reached the door and held out his hand, Harry shook it and Draco said, "I know we progressed passed the hexing and name-calling a while ago Potter but I was not expecting to enjoy our meeting, I was mistaken."
The swallowing of twelve years' worth of one-upmanship and pride was quite worth it to see the stunned look on Potter's face. He rubbed his hand over his messy hair and stuttered, "Er… good. Me too?"
Draco found the surprised expression somewhat endearing, so he smiled properly at Potter for the first time, possibly ever, and said "My solicitor will be in touch." Before heading down the front steps and into the sunny July morning.