Unlike many others like him, Harry Potter didn't choose to become what he eventually became. He never wanted it and, if he was honest with himself, he didn't even know it existed. Mostly, he thinks later on, because he didn't want to know. Even when he suddenly finds himself being it, he can't believe it - the concept rolls around him like tidal waves and while he is supposed to try and control it, he can only barely manage to understand it all. He can't see it, but then not many can. It is intangible and great.
And beyond undeniable.
There lies the trap of it. Harry knows, when he sits down and thinks it through, really thinks, he knows. It is what Voldemort thrived for and almost accomplished, what Lucius Malfoy for a short little while possessed, what Cornelius Fudge never even knew existed - and what Albus Dumbledore, for nearly forty years, almost was. There had probably been many others - maybe Croaker had once been it, maybe Amelia Bones, maybe Rufus Scrimgeour. Or maybe not; most likely it had been someone he had never heard of, someone in the shadows - someone who really knew what they were doing, to the point where no one else had a clue.
Harry doesn't, he really doesn't - which, in a way, makes horrible sense even while it paints the whole thing in colours of impending doom. He doesn't know - he didn't want it, he doesn't understand it, he is so ill-equipped to it that there isn't a word bad enough to encompass it. He most definitely didn't ask for it.
And yet there it is, the position of trouble and excitement and endless tedium wrapped in the bloody gauze of responsibility, a position many, many people all over the world crave, because of its power, more power than most people can imagine, more than most people could ever hope to handle. The starting and ending point of every command, the ultimate controller behind every clause, every role, and every act put into motion.
No, that isn't quite right. Not a controller, no. That was what all the others had thought and that was where Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy had failed - and Albus Dumbledore only almost succeeded, but in end fell short of, because he too reached too high. They wanted to control, they wanted to dominate and overpower.
Harry didn't and maybe that was exactly why he became It.
The British Ministry of Magic.
He doesn't realise it until he's been the British Ministry of Magic for almost two months - and even then he scoffs and doesn't really believe it.
Later he thinks back to it, and realises.
Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, visiting him before heading off to work, showing him a piece of legislation he is thinking of pushing forward at the Wizengamot meeting, that would restore muggleborn rights with a little bit of extra. Harry offers him tea and suggests that the wording might be better and maybe he should add a thing or two about parents of muggleborn children - and really, Kingsley should show it to Hermione, she could iron the wrinkles out of it.
Hestia Jones, the new Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, sitting across from him at the kitchen table, asking if he thought it was really okay that she became the head, she had barely finished the academy, and what did Harry think she should do first. Should she try and cement her command or try and appear better than Scrimgeour or the other previous heads, should she try and be strict and try and round up the remaining dark wizards. Harry listens, nods here and there and suggests she starts with cleaning house, weeding out possible spies and flaws and then concentrating on hiring - Merlin knew how low the Auror forces were.
Another Department Head visits him one dark Saturday, Agnus Croaker of Department of Mysteries. Except he isn't the head, he used to be before Voldemort and the war. He doesn't really know what he's doing, meeting Harry. Harry points out that the Department of Mysteries is probably needed now more than ever and he should go back to work - and see about getting the old Unspeakables back, maybe even some new ones. The Ministry needed its magical backbone, whether it knew it or not. And maybe Croaker would like to come by for some tea later, tell him how things were going.
Then there were the others. Xenophilius Lovegood comes to apologise and grovel and ends up writing an article - not about Harry, though dictated by him, about the war and future and what they should do next, what the people should do. Be strong, he writes for Harry, be strong and brave and help your neighbours because the whole nation needed a helping hand.
After Xenophilius publishes it, the Chief Editor of the Daily Prophet asks Harry for a meeting and they sit in his office for four long hours, talking and drinking tea. The editor wants to launch a series of Articles about Harry, from him, with his words in them. He thinks it will do good, to have the nation's hero speaking words of courage and hope. Harry thinks otherwise, and instead suggests a string of articles and letters, first about war and then its aftermath - about what people can do for themselves and for each other - all sprinkled with some patriotism and loyalty for the new, better government. They need unity desperately, Harry says, and more than that they need good people to fill the empty positions in the ministry, the Wizengamot and everywhere else where the war left gaping holes and tears behind.
Harry's visit to Gringotts to sort his affairs concerning the Potter, Black and all other accounts he possibly owns ends up with him playing chess and talking about the economy with Lord Ragnok. The affairs between goblins and wizards are steady, but they would only remain so as long as people could trust in the power of gold - and right now, that was wobbling. Too many businesses were shut down, too many people left poor after funding or trying to escape from the conflict. Diagon Alley is but a shadow of what it used to be, Harry says, they need more businesses, new shops. New businesses meant new jobs, jobs meant money and people who had money used that. All they needed was a push - perhaps Gringotts could consider taking an example from muggle banks and start handing out loans?
Kingsley visits him again and again, and eventually with the new Chief Warlock of Wizengamot, Augusta Longbottom, who starts their tea party by throwing down all the files and rules and legislations set in motion by the Dark Regime. The three of them sort through them all, cross out some and underline others and work to remake the laws of their society. Augusta intends to rule with a firm hand, and she appreciates the younger eyes taking a look at things. Kingsley is relieved, because now he can concentrate/focus on foreign affairs - trying to repair them after Voldemort torched every political bridge Magical Britain had.
In accordance, Harry goes with him to the International Confederation of Wizards, intending to stand behind Kingsley and keep giving his suggestions because they seem to be doing a god job so far. Talk to this ambassador, apologise for what has happened to another, empathise with that diplomat… make your opinions known. Right now Britain needs strong opinions Harry whispers in the Minister for Magic's ear, it needs strength.
And then Harry meets Apolline Delacour for the second time and doesn't see the half-Veela he had seen from a distance at Bills and Fleur's wedding - but the impossibly powerful entity she really was.
"Ah," she says, offering her hand to be kissed, smiling a sharp smile, that hides behind it power and schemes and watchfulness that spans so much farther than her field of vision. "Britain's finally got its act straight. It's about time."
Harry spends two hours talking with Madam Apolline. Her husband is a minor politician in the French Ministry of Magic, and only present at the ICW ball due to a small mix up - but then, she says, he always is. And though she doesn't say it out loud, Harry can see why - Monsieur Delacour is there because Apolline must be.
"It has been a great long while," the woman says in perfect English, as she and Harry make their way through the crowd, in a way unseen among all the people and yet present in every conversation. "I imagine it was because of that man Tom Riddle. And Albus Dumbledore didn't help, certainly not. They divided the nation into factions and for a long while it's been all too fractured."
Harry doesn't ask what she means, just walks at her side, holding his hand for her to link her arm to. He wants to ask, but refrains, because some part of him can't permit the weakness and another already knows what she's talking about. He just nods, as she continues. "War is a horrible thing of course," Apolline says. "But it has a knack for setting things to rights. It is all very dirty, but in the end there tends to be a victor. And I must say I'm pleased it was you, and not the other one."
Harry feels like he's in a slight daze, maybe day dreaming - he wants to ask what other one, but he already knows the answer, so he doesn't. Tom Riddle, he thinks. If the war had gone the other way, it would be Voldemort wading through the crowd now, in ICW, making or breaking relations through whoever was the British Minister for Magic.
"It is a terrifying thought, I'm sure," he says out loud, and knows it is about the right thing to say as she nods at him.
"Indeed," Apolline agrees, shifting to the side to avoid being hit by a nearby politician who is in midst of an energetic explanation about the foolishness of muggle government officials. "You have a lot of work ahead of you," she continues. "But you've gotten to a good start already. I didn't expect to find your Minister to be so strong minded so quickly. That is very good."
Harry nods. He is proud for Kingsley, though he can't quite yet figure out why. It's almost parental, in a way. "I don't suppose you would be willing to offer any pointers?" he asks instead of trying to figure out where the feeling comes from.
"That is an opening for a world of trouble, and I suggest you don't leave yourself quite so vulnerable to others - especially not the Ministry of Magical Affairs of United States, he will chew you right up," Apolline says with a soft chuckle. "Regain your strength and build up as much as you possibly can without starting a war doing so. Take care of your nation. And, as soon as you can manage it, link arms with your Muggle Government, try and make allies. You need that backup, now more than ever."
Harry frowns at that, and doesn't answer - because the feeling of knowing and not knowing persists and he can't quite figure out what to say. After a moment, he decides to see if Kingsley was taking care of their muggle relations as soon as they returned to Britain. That would have to wait, though, he mused and smiled at Apolline. "Is there anything I can do for you, my lady?" he asks.
Madame Delacour eyes him for a long while before lifting a hand and brushing aside a wild curl of blonde hair. "Perhaps," she admitted with a sharpness about her eyes again, the strength of an entire people at her back. "There is a magical artefact your people have been hoarding that belongs to mine. I think it would do a great deal of good, if my people could have it back sometime soon."
"I will see what can be done," Harry promises, both aware and unaware of what he was promising to and what it entailed, and making plans to get it done shortly.
Kingsley leaves the party tired after a lot of talking, some tentative relations are reopened, some channels rebuilt - with a surprising amount of backing from the French Ambassador. The relations with the French only grow warmer when, about a week later, Kingsley and the French Minister for Magic negotiated the hand-off of the Staff of Dame Blanche, a relic that had once belonged to the founder of Beauxbatons.
By then he sort of knows, but has yet to accept or comprehend it. But he begins to notice it more - the people who talk to him, those whom he talks and writes to and exchanges few words with, and who then go and do things he realises he doesn't just want them to do, but needs them to do.
He stokes the fire of the Magical Law Enforcement with his words, prodding at the Daily Prophet to write this or that article in a certain manner. Hestia comes to him and he suggests how she ought to handle the situation, what she ought to do. Make this change to the academy, hire some people from abroad maybe, to teach, or send some people away to learn, they need the expertise.
He meets with Croaker and points this and that out and the Department of Mysteries booms into action and strength, becoming the unseen supporting force behind every other department. They bind and spell the offices of the Magical Accidents and Catastrophes and the Regulation and Creature Control Departments, they whisper in the Magical Law Enforcement offices and give suggestions to the Goblin Relations officials and International Magical Cooperation - and every word and decision at some point visits Harry's hands for his finishing touches, for his approval.
And in return new offices turn up. Spell and Potion Development gets offices in the Ministry's second floor and the Department of Muggle Affairs with its many new branches takes over the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office completely. Magical Creature Cooperation and Integration gets its own offices as well, and it's just a little after that when the Department of Magical Education takes its first steps.
Harry talks with Arthur Weasley who becomes the head of the new Muggle Affairs office, maybe he should do this and that and make that rule - and really doesn't the department need a new branch for blending muggle technologies with magical, shouldn't there be innovation? The Magical world could use some phones at least - it would be so much handier, didn't Arthur think so?
And Filius Flitwick makes an excellent head for the Department of Magical Education, even if it takes him some time to realise it - and under his rule the new Board of Hogwarts Governors begin to do their job, with Harry murmuring to Flitwick about physical education and splitting potions classes and Transfiguration into sections and adding a month of introductory courses to everything but the strict academics. They remade the muggle introduction pack without Harry needing to point it out, and Harry is satisfied with Flitwick's work as he stamps it with his approval.
It's around that time, when Harry begins to see it all for what it is. His handprint is seemingly everywhere - and he suddenly seems to know everyone of importance - and a whole lot of people who aren’t. And yet, no one else seems to see it. Not even Hermione who, thanks to Harry's suggestion, is now Kingsley's personal secretary and well on her way to becoming the new Undersecretary, or Ron who is studying at Hogwarts and who Harry thinks will do well in the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Or anyone else, for that matter.
Maybe the fact that though he now works in the Ministry but only from the lowly position of assistant in the Department of International Magical Cooperation masks him, disguises him. He is Harry Potter, the Chosen One, but the further he goes, the more people seem to forget that. He is suddenly just Harry, as in "Harry, take a look at this," and "Harry, could you proof read this for me?" and "Harry, come here for a second, I need a hand." He is not even Mr Potter anymore, not even to those who had seemed awestruck by him, and somehow that makes him more powerful.
He knows that in couple of years, the title of Boy Who Lived will be absolutely obsolete and people will forget that he ever was. He has outgrown it so explosively, that people can't see him for what he was - and will never, he suspects, see him for what he is. Except for the others like him.
And there are others. Apolline is just one, the French magical one. At Kingsley's side - and one way or another he is always at Kingsley's side when it's needed - Harry meets some of the others. His counterpart from the United States leers at him and tries to trick him into contracts, the German one is cautiously distant but very sly, the Italian one spends most of their meeting trying to tempt Harry into a political bed, the Greek one dances around him and tries to tempt him into a precarious economic exchange…
But he has taken Apolline's words to heart, and stays his ground. He's becoming more and more aware of what he is now, and that helps too, a bit. He isn't just himself anymore, and while his own pride makes his back straight, it's the other one that keeps him distantly compassionate towards his peers. He has a nation's welfare to look after - and a nation's pride and independence thrumming in the back of his head. That helps him keep his ground.
He is almost comfortable with it all, when Kingsley feels certain enough in his position to finally present it all to the Prime Minister. By then they have been working for months and the British Ministry of Magic is standing, even if somewhat unsteadily, on its own feet once more. The Death Eaters have not only been caught but they are well on their way to repairing the damage, and their front is, somewhat, strong again.
"Feels a bit better, meeting with the man now that I have something to show," Kingsley admits to Harry, as they step through the portrait to the offices of the Prime Minister. Harry knows it's not the first meeting between the two ministers - but it is the most important one because now they are not so broken, so shattered. Harry feels stronger too, though whether it is because the magical nation is too, or whether the magical nation is because he is, he isn't entirely sure.
While Kingsley talks with the Prime Minister and they go through the past year or so of the Magical Nation, Harry approaches an elderly man in the side of the room, and cautiously presents himself to the British Government.
The man's name is Edward and he isn't much like Harry had expected. The ages of… their types varied - Apolline for one was past her middle age while the Greek one was a bit younger, and the Ministry of Magical Affairs was just some years older than Harry. Harry himself was amongst the youngest, if not the youngest. This man however, Edward Smith, was possibly the oldest one he had seen.
And without doubt the most powerful.
"Well," the man said, without bothering to get up or offer his hand, and instead was eyeing Harry somewhat suspiciously. He had white hair and a wrinkled face - and power of true armies in his eyes, with planes and war ships and missiles, and the experience gained from facing enemies greater and worse than Voldemort. "You certainly took your sweet time."
"I'm sorry sir," Harry answered quietly, shrinking a little to himself and knowing what the man meant. There hadn't been one like Harry in Britain for almost fifty years, for who knew what reasons. Too many magical sects fighting each other for any one person to become what Harry had found himself becoming.
"Well, you're here now, and at a rotten time too. Sit down, boy," the British Government orders, pointing at the chair across from him. "We have a lot to talk about and not as much time as I would like to do it. Let's start with the death of your predecessor."
Edward knows more about it than Harry has been able to find out, because beings like them - the true ones - didn't get written into history books. Harry's predecessor's name had been Helena and she had been a cook in the Ministry's cafeteria - and much too old to withstand the divide between Purebloods and half-bloods when the Second World War had begun - in both the muggle and magical worlds.
"I don't know much about it - it was a rotten time - but she died and then it was like that," the old man harrumphs, snapping his fingers. "Complete disconnection - hell, we didn't even hear from your Minister for a couple of years. Since then I've been waiting for the next one, but no one ever came. A couple of times I thought there might be, but people get tangled in personal affairs too much."
Harry nods. He has figured that was why he has become the Ministry of Magic, rather than someone like Kingsley or Arthur. He isn't really… personally invested in it. On the whole, he wants and needs the Ministry to flourish… but he doesn't have anything to personally gain from it, there is no position he wants, no money he needs, no prestige he feels he must have. It helps, though, that he had the hero thing to kick him into a good start.
"Tell me about it all, then, what have you been doing?" Edward asks, and Harry does, explaining the rebuilding and reforming, the rules and legislation and political avenues and diplomatic relations. He even tells the man about Hogwarts and how it is branching out and expanding and how the goblins are well on their way to breathing life into the magical economy.
"Good, good," the old man nods, seeming satisfied. "You seem to know more or less what you're doing. Still need some honing here and there, but not bad considering you didn't have your predecessor to guide you. Keep that initiative, boy, you're going to need it."
The old man coughs heavily into his hand and waves Harry's concern aside. "No beating around the bush. I'm going to die soon - a year or two is all I got. I already have my eye on a couple of people who seem like the right sort for taking over, and I'll soon make my decision. I don't have the time to teach both of you - hell, I probably can't teach my own predecessor as much as I ought to, so you will probably have to learn together. You up to that, boy?"
"I guess I'm going to have to be," Harry answers with a nod. He wouldn't have any choice, he knows, now also knowing why beings like them were called Ministries when they were magical and Governments when they were muggle. The difference in sheer power was staggering.
"It's always a rocky thing, when one like us changes over," Edward muses, leaning back and coughing again. "Politics change, economy shifts, it can get messy - like your lot found out, when yours got killed at a bad point. You've completely upturned your side of things when you took over, didn't you?"
"For the better, I hope," Harry nods.
"For better or for worse, it is always better to have one, than not," Edward says grimly. "Nations wither out and die without us, you know. I'm surprised yours didn't."
"Lucky coincidence of a lot of powerful wizards, I guess," Harry mused. Dumbledore, then Voldemort, they had kept Britain strong and independent - even if it hadn't exactly been good for the whole. "Um, sir," he started. "Why… I mean, what are we - why are we here, like this?" he asked. "How?"
The old man lets out a chortle and shakes his head. "Who the hell knows," he mutters. "Old theory is that when a body of people grow plentiful enough, they need a pinpoint - and that's what we are, the nexus of it all. Lynchpin, if you will," he says, and snorts. "Some call our sort personifications and such too. It doesn't really matter in the long run, though. We're here and we’ve got a job to do. Are you going to do yours, boy?"
"For as long as I can," Harry nods, and Edward snorts again, sounding satisfied.
Harry and Edward exchange letters and meet every Sunday for tea for two years, before the old man finally departs from life. In that time, things roll on and change, and Magical Britain regains its strength and standing in the world, and Kingsley becomes the most celebrated Minister for Magic in almost fifty years.
Harry remains as a forgettable assistant in the diplomatic section, who reads a lot of reports and meets a lot of people. He watches from the sidelines while the magical world of Britain blooms into a new era, guiding every step. Hestia Jones becomes a well-loved Chief of the Aurors, Croaker becomes an even better Unspeakable than he was before, Arthur Weasley is a frequent visitor at the Prime Minister's office after the politics settle into their new courses, and Hogwarts booms under the management of the Head of the Department of Magical Education. It is the same in all the other departments, with all the other heads and chiefs and commanders thriving in their positions - all of whom still consult Harry - or are consulted by him, whether they know it or not.
The downside of it all is that while Harry feels himself getting stronger, spreading farther, truly becoming what he now is… the less he is the person he once was. He doesn't mind it, not really, because being the Ministry of Magic feels right in ways nothing ever has before. But as his friends and loved ones move into the slots he wants and needs them in, they too, like just about everyone else, become blind to him. They know him, of course, they still talk to him and spend a moment or two exchanging pleasantries, but nowadays they see the same thing everyone else does - if even that.
Sure, there is the odd person or two who visits Harry in the late evening, with heavy folders and keen looks in their eyes - who look at him and for a moment seem to know him for what he is. They are few and far between - special individuals with nothing really combining them, who come and then go and probably do their best to forget him. But the ones who he once wanted to know him for what he is… not so much.
Hermione becomes the youngest Undersecretary in history whilst Ron finds his calling in Magical Games and Sports, organising events and finding game creators. Ginny becomes a rising star of the Auror Corps, and somewhere along the line Neville has already completed, mastered and flown to fame with his Herbology expertise. It even happens to Luna, who becomes the co-founder of the International Rare Magical Creature Preservation Committee.
Though Harry still sees them often enough, they don't see him - and if they do, they forget it soon enough, too intent on taking heed of his latest suggestions and whispers about what to do, where to go, what they should accomplish. Harry lets them go with a somewhat wistful air, knowing they will be great and needing them to be great and realising that, in the end, he can't really spare the time and attention for friendships anymore. It's all for the best, really, and in the end no one was hurt so that was good.
And really, all Harry had ever wanted from life was the ability to blend into the background. He has that now - and then some.
The only relationship he holds onto tooth and nail is the one he has with young Teddy Lupin. Andromeda has long since fallen to the dismissive obedience every other magician exhibits towards Harry without realising it, listening to his every word and ignoring his existence otherwise, which makes it all very difficult, but Teddy is still Harry's godson and no matter what he is and what he does, Harry takes his duties seriously.
Little Teddy doesn't really understand why the strange man in official looking robes keeps coming to see him and why grandma keeps forgetting that the man is there.
"Maybe one day you will inherit my position. You'll understand then," Harry says to the boy, when Teddy turns three and people are celebrating, and Harry is like some sort of extra guest, a gate-crasher whom everyone knows and talks with but wasn't actually invited. He doesn't care and instead leans in to kiss the confused boy's forehead. Teddy doesn't know it, and maybe never will, but he is the most protected wizard in all of Britain - should anything ever happen to Teddy every resource the Ministry of Magic has at his disposal would be directed towards protecting him. Well, nearly every.
Everyone else though… not so much. Even the ones who sometimes see beyond the part of Harry that fades into the wall behind him. But they prefer not to say anything and so Harry smiles at them and reads through the folders and files they hand in his direction, putting his signatures here and there. The name Harry Potter transforms into whatever is needed, and sometimes it's Kingsley and sometimes it's Hestia and a lot of times it's completely unintelligible and still everyone understands it.
And so the magical world changes.
The Auror forces grow strong and the economy begins to stabilise and eventually they can even start paying back the debts they owe. More things happen too - Hogwarts graduation rates go up at Harry's slight manipulations, and the efficiency and capability of the ministry workers rise with it. Harry also takes some pains to ensure that they always have competent department heads and that Kingsley's head stays straight and no one who tries to take advantage actually manages to do so. Janus Greengrass does not manage to pocket any of the trade agreements he so dearly would like to buy and Charles Crabbe doesn't get the Wizengamot seat he wants and Madame Zabini is put under investigation for bribes after she nearly manages to convince an important department head to marry her.
All in all, things seem to be going well enough, and Harry is getting more confident in his job. It is strange and still overwhelming. And yeah, there are downsides to everything, but he knows what he is doing, more or less, and though he knows there is still a lot to learn, he is getting there. He even has allies now - though he can't ever trust any of them, except maybe Edward and he can trust the British Government only because they share the same soil and the same Queen. He has it mostly figured out now, and he's figured that most of all, he rather likes it.
Then, in the year two thousand and two, Edward Smith dies and at the side of his death bed Harry meets his new muggle counterpart, Mycroft Holmes.
It'll take him a couple of years to figure out whether things went up or downhill from there.
Mycroft Holmes is some years older than Harry is, and though he has only been the British Government for five or so minutes when they met, he is already more comfortable with his position than Harry has ever been - and infinitely more suited for it, as Harry later finds out. The man is very unassuming, however, in his generic muggle suit with an umbrella of all things on his arm and a somewhat dismissive smile on his face.
"I guess it is true then," the man muses, eyeing Harry up and down and frowning slightly at the ragged jeans Harry wears. "I must admit, I saw what he did, I saw his influence, but until the very end I didn't really believe. It was easier to convince myself that he was only a manipulative sly old bastard, than what he really was. The Human mind is a funny little denial organ like that."
That is, as far as Harry can tell then and years later, the only moment of doubt the new British Government has about it all. And it's no wonder really. Harry can feel what he himself is - in a way he has always felt it, even when he ignored it. And when he can feel it and distinguish the sensation as something special from all the magic and power he otherwise has, the change between being and not being what he now is, for Mycroft Holmes who has never been magical, it must be astonishing. And utterly unbelievable.
It is almost fascinating - and terrifying - to watch the power settle upon the muggle man's shoulders, how it makes him straighten his back and lift his chin and just slightly alter his expression, and then it is there. The power shines out of his eyes and his fingertips seem to glow and as Harry looks into his eyes he sees technology and information and surveillance and lightning fast power.
Edward had been powerful - yet very much weakened by age.He now seems almost pitiful in comparison to the new younger and healthier one.
"And what is your agenda, sir?" Harry asks, because two years into his job he knows how things stand - Ministries are the underlings of their Governments, and whatever Mycroft would decide to do, how he would wield the power he had, would affect Harry and his side of things greatly.
The man doesn't answer at first, just looks at him and then smiles before swinging the umbrella down and leaning on it absently. Then he looks down to Edward Smith who lies still in the bed between them - a memento of a bygone era. "I could use some dinner, don't you think?" the man then says and turns to leave, calling to the hall; "Mrs Smith, you can go in now, we're done here…"
As Edward's rather young wife rushes in, Harry follows the British Government, still trying gauge the man. Edward had been hard to read too, but at least the old man had had the courtesy of letting him know what he was thinking. Mycroft - and Harry isn't entirely sure he's permitted to use first names yet - doesn't, and it seems like his entire physical form is nothing but a mask for all the things he now is, thoughts and opinions included.
Eventually they sit down in a muggle restaurant where the waitresses frown at Harry's ragged appearance and pander to Mycroft without knowing why they were really doing it. The British Government orders for them both, partially because Harry can't read the foreign menu and partially because that's what he does.
"Is it always going to be like this?" Mycroft asks, leaning back and sipping his wine as they wait for the food.
"How do you mean?"
"This," the man says, pointing at his temple and then scratching his hairline somewhat delicately, like trying not to make a headache worse. "Are they always going to be there? I know we remain more or less human, Edward told me as much, but I didn't realise my head would get quite so crowded."
"Oh," Harry murmurs and then shakes his head with amazement. It had taken him almost a year before he had been able to really feel them, the people, in his head. "You can turn it off," he says. "Just put a barrier there, concentrate on other things. I've found that thinking about ordinary, everyday things help."
The muggle man nods and then stares at his wine glass intently for a moment, before the slightly irritated look in his eyes eases. "Marvellous," he murmurs, and takes another sip. "I imagine that will be useful when arranging elections," he then says and leans back to look at Harry again. "If you don't mind me asking, old boy, why are you dressed like that?"
Harry blinks and glances at himself before snorting softly at his ragged old clothing. "Personal preference," he answers. "It's comfortable."
"Hm, yes, well. It lies about you," Mycroft muses, whirling the wine, still eyeing Harry's clothing. "Everything about you lies, in fact. Is that intentional?"
"In a way, yes," Harry shrugs. His clothing doesn’t reflect his power as much as it does with most of their sort - because British wizards don't know much about muggle clothing, they wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a thousand quid suit and the rags of a homeless person. And in the muggle world, clothing like this allowed him to blend in very well - because no one wanted to look to people dressed like him, not to mention getting to know them. "I wear a neat set of robes at work, if that helps."
"Hm. Well then," Mycroft murmurs, and looks up as the waitress brings the first plates. "Thank you, my dear," he says, with a brief and almost real smile. "I imagine looking like ourselves all the time would be somewhat detrimental to us," the man says while spreading the napkin onto his lap. "Well, no matter. Tell me about yourself."
The demand seems to come from nowhere and Mycroft says it nonchalantly, almost making Harry wonder if the man thought they were on a date. But there is strength behind the words and Harry's back stiffens on its own, as what he is reacts to what Mycroft is. And then he starts talking - telling the man about Helena and the period his nation had gone without a proper Ministry, and how Harry had fought in a war at first and then gained his position through the influence he had gained through his actions. Before he can launch into explanation about what he has done since, Mycroft stops him.
"You just… became, you didn't work towards it?" the man asks, hiding his surprise well.
"Almost all of us do, yeah," Harry agrees. "And usually we're chosen by our predecessors like you were. But there was no one to choose me - I became… this because I was suited for it, I guess."
"I've worked my whole life to get here," Mycroft murmurs, leaning his elbows onto the table and frowning at Harry over his crossed fingers. "My whole life. Everything I've done and studied, every action I've taken…"
"Do you want me to apologise for being what I am?" Harry asks, now a bit amused - because the muggles always want that, and wizards never do.
Mycroft's eyes narrow before his expression eases back to the amiable mask. "Oh, I see now," he says and then shakes his head. "Not at all, I am merely surprised," he says with a smile and leans back. "Please, continue your… thrilling tale."
The dinner only gets worse from there.
Harry doesn't know much about what his muggle counterpart does - the muggle side of things has gone past what he can understand long ago, and even if he hadn't gotten used to the slower pace of the magical world, Mycroft’s speed still would've left him in the dust. The man isn't just it, after all, but so much more than it. Edward had chosen Mycroft for a damn good reason, and the reason is that the era that was dawning was, without any doubt, Mycroft's era.
And the only thing more terrifying than the power Mycroft has is the intelligence with which he wields it. Harry has met brilliant and intelligent people before - and a couple of genius personifications too - but nothing like Mycroft. The man is beyond brilliant, beyond intelligent, beyond fast. And beyond conceited too.
Not to mention the fact that the man refuses to believe that Harry isn't there to be his personal assistant.
"It doesn't actually work that way," Harry says, time and time again after Mycroft has called him to deal with something he himself doesn't have the time or the energy or the interest for. "I have my own job, and doing yours is not included in it."
"You're part of my government," Mycroft argues back. "An Extremely important part of it."
"If I was part of it, I wouldn't be here," Harry answers. "The reason why countries have two of us is because there are two nations too. We work together, we cooperate, we occasionally bump heads or rub elbows, but we are not, in fact, a single unit."
"Hm," the man answers, giving him a slightly annoyed look. "Don't you think it would be ever so much easier for everyone if we were?" the British Government asks and holds up a hand when Harry starts to argue. "The possibilities of magic combined with the possibilities of technology could create an era of unseen power and prosperity. Magical medicine, transportation, mixed in with those of the more mundane sort… if the nations hadn't split we would be inhabiting the moon by now, and more."
"Or destroyed in the fires of a couple of wars," Harry answers darkly. "You're not the first to think that or the last - and that's good, that's our job, hell, most of what I do these days is amalgamating muggle means with magical ones. I know how powerful the mixture is. But you do know that there is a war there, in that concept, just waiting to break out?"
"Your magical means of fighting are no match for ours," Mycroft points out. "Surely even you understand that."
"No, they aren't. Unless we throw some Imperiuses at the people holding the missile launch codes and create infective curses and unleash hordes of dementors on your people," Harry answers, snorting. "And then you drop bombs on us and yeah, that will be ever so much fun, won't it?"
Mycroft smiles crookedly at that, and folds his arms, leaning back on his chair behind his desk. He, much like Harry and most of their kind, works for the thing he is, in some minor capacity. His office is almost as modest and small as Harry's is - and it gets even less traffic, thanks to modern technologies being Mycroft's preferred means of communication. He has a much more comfy looking chair than Harry ever did, though.
"So I should just forget you even exist and let you run around, doing whatever you want?" he asks. "Forget that there is a whole other race of people in this country and just stick to my job?" Mycroft shakes his head. "It doesn't seem like I would be doing my job to the best of my ability if I did that, don't you think, old boy?"
Harry frowns. "If you start some sort of cross-split immersion plan, you do realise that the others will either step in to stop you, or they will do the same within their own borders? We're not the only pair out there, you know - and as far as nations go, we're not even that big, or that powerful. You open that door and you open it to everyone, not just yourself," he says. "The status quo is kind of tedious, but it works."
Mycroft sighs. "The thought had occurred," he murmurs and swings his chair lazily to the side, to stare out of the window. "As has the fact that as things stand, trying to keep it all quiet will be borderline impossible soon."
"What do you mean?"
"Each year our information technologies are becoming faster. Mobile phones, digital cameras, personal computers, internet connections - it seems like a lot now, but it's only the beginning," Mycroft says. "One day we will have all of that in one single little device that just about every person on the planet carries in their pockets, and all those people will be connected by invisible wires. All it will take is a wizard in the wrong place at the right time, and it will all be exposed."
Harry frowns and folds his arms. Had muggle technology really gotten so far already?
"You may think that I am being overly manipulative and controlling, but the fact remains. We need to work together as much as we possibly can, if we want to keep the peace - whether it be in order to try and combine the worlds quietly or to keep your tedious little status quo," Mycroft added, turning back to Harry. "I need to know how much cooperation we can manage and what muggle and magical means can accomplish together, before the borders begin collapsing. Do you understand, old boy?"
"I really wish I didn't," Harry sighs.
The muggle relations change and shift then, and Harry moves from working in the International Magical Cooperation to the Department of Muggle Affairs. As the amount of muggle officials in the know about the magical world goes up, he can't afford to be any further away from the nexus of things, and since international relations have gotten much better, he can afford the move. He even gets a little raise out of it, though that is beside the point.
Suddenly, there is so much to do. The picture Mycroft painted about the future had been brutally true, and Harry knows he needs to prepare for it, more than he has ever prepared for anything else. With the era of information technology looming ahead, his people need to learn new security measures - and there is only so much time to cement those measures.
And so, new courses at Hogwarts start, ones that teaches muggle etiquette better than Muggle Studies ever did. The Daily Prophet adds a new daily column about what is going on in the muggle world with tips and hints about how to dress and what to do when interacting with muggles. Eventually some muggleborns begin giving classes with the Ministry's funding, about how to blend in and act as muggles, and how to work their technology.
It all comes a bit too suddenly, though, even if it can't be helped, and the pureblood side nearly lashes out. Arguments break out about the values of tradition and how muggle behaviour would only lead to the diminishing of good old wizarding codes of conduct, and so forth. A new political party nearly began; the magical conservatives, before Harry smoothes things out by arranging the flipside as well, and adding wizarding etiquette and such to the agenda too, to keep the balance. It's not perfect and there is grumbling, but there is no other choice. The Future wasn't a distant thought anymore, after all. It was just behind the corner now.
It also makes him really wish someone else had gotten his job. Trying to keep it all under wraps is starting to become a real headache for him. So much to do, small bush fires to stop, relations to smooth over, civilians to soothe, to teach, to control. And Mycroft, with his demands for daily meetings, isn't helping.
Harry is tired - there was a class and a meeting and another meeting and a party where wizards wore muggle clothing and tried to make it look natural and somewhere along the way he had been showing the Goblins how to operate computers he himself isn't entirely sure how to use and then there was another meeting with the French ambassador and so forth. And then, at the end of a very long day, he stumbles into the restaurant to meet Mycroft, for the umpteenth time.
"Long day?" the man asks kindly but completely without empathy.
Harry rubs a hand over his forehead, trying to block out the opinions and thoughts of his nation, some of whom are excited and others worried and there was a craze brewing in there somewhere, because for wizards being muggle was in fashion right now. Just like he wanted it to be, but on the flipside, there are the furious pureblood and traditionalists, who are scheming their counter strike and that's why Harry can't block it all out, because he needs to be prepared.
"I could use a holiday," he murmurs in answer and wonders what would happen if he used a time turner to get himself the time to sleep and rest his head. What happened, when there were two of the same personifications running about?
"Perhaps you need an assistant," Mycroft mused while eyeing his wine glass studiously. "I have been considering getting one, or a dozen. I have performed some tests with the transference of our influence, and a whisper thrown at the void works just as well if you use a proxy, it seems."
"They're all proxies in the end," Harry agrees and wonders if a junior assistant at the Department of Muggle Affairs could get an assistant. Maybe an intern or something like it… "Was there anything you really wanted, Mycroft?" he asks, shaking his head. He could be asleep by now, if not for this meeting. He should be.
"There are some minor concerns I wanted to discuss, yes. Mostly concerning the history of things, and the foot prints your people have left upon the history books and in records and logs," the man agreed, lifting his wine glass and taking a sip. "Because there are plenty of those and one day someone will put it all on display and then someone else will connect the dots and discover a pattern. Internet databases have gotten… frighteningly popular as of late, you know."
"There is no safe way to change recorded history, no magical rewrite button. But the occultism ruse ought to work there," Harry answers, yawning. "With little work most events can be twisted into looking like it was the work of muggle occultists and such."
"Hm. Yes," Mycroft agrees. "I was afraid that would be the case, but I wanted to make sure. We should coordinate the cover stories, however, so that whatever I install as the cover up will work with any possible future events your lot might cause."
"Yeah, I can do that," Harry nods, leaning his chin to his knuckles and eyeing Mycroft thoughtfully. The man looked as impeccably forgettable as always - and disgustingly comfortable. No dark circles around his eyes, definitely not. "And how are things on your end?"
"Well enough, thank you. You know how it is, arranging resignations, suspending assemblies… it's all very routine," the man answers with slight smile. "Just normal every day things, really. Quite ordinary."
"One would think it would take you a bit longer to get bored with being the British Government," Harry muses with a slightly amused shake of his head.
"Oh, is that what they call you now, Mycroft?" a new voice asks, and glancing over his shoulder Harry sees a tall dark haired man striding towards them. "I always knew you were pompous, but isn't that a bit much?"
Harry raises a single eyebrow and glances at his counterpart whose eyebrows twitch just slightly before he breaks into a stiffly polite smile. "Sherlock, how nice of you to stop by at my private dinner," he says with an undertone of irritation in his voice. "Is that what you do these days, crash into people's affairs? I thought the title of, what was it, consulting detective entailed some other more… philanthropic purpose."
"Keeping you from your second dinner is one of the more humanitarian things I could possibly do - or is it the third? It's hard to tell with you, these days," the tall man answers, glancing at Harry and lifting a single eyebrow at him before turning to pull out a chair and sit down at the table. "And you called me, or has the advanced aging already started to affect your memory?"
"I remember very well - and I also distinctly remember that I called you two weeks ago. The case I wanted you to look into has been solved already - and you know that well enough. The only reason you are here is because you are bored, peckish and too lazy to bother trying to come up with a restaurant you have yet to visit," Mycroft snaps stiffly and then glances at Harry who leans back in his seat, smiling with slight amusement at the sight of the British Government getting all miffed. Mycroft sighs and motions at the lanky, long coated man. "Allow me to introduce my somewhat estranged brother, Sherlock Holmes."
"A pleasure," Harry nods with a chuckle, reaching for his wine glass.
"I'm sure," Sherlock answers, giving him another look and then looking slightly put upon.
"He's annoyed because he can't read you," Mycroft explains to Harry while waving a waitress over. "Be a dear and bring another menu for the late member of our party, would you? Thank you."
"Read me?" Harry asks curiously, as the waitress brings Sherlock another menu.
"You are a paradox of poor clothing and perfect posture, of casualness and polite manners, of comfortable familiarity and distant aloofness. You are, in a sense, sending so many mixed signals that you can't be understood easily," Mycroft explains. "Useful trait for one like you, but as a whole your cover is utterly shallow and obvious. I learned to see through it fairly quickly."
"Hm. Maybe I ought to put some effort to it," Harry muses and looks up as his and Mycroft's meals are brought.
"So you're, what, Mycroft's newest pet hit man?" the younger of the two Holmes asks, giving Harry another look.
Mycroft laughs at that, a brief degrading sound. "Oh, how I wish," he answers, shaking his head. "Do order something to eat, Sherlock, since you went through all the trouble to come here. You're all skin and bones."
"Your concern for me is absolutely heartening, Mycroft," Sherlock snaps back with narrowed eyes.
"Well, someone must look after your best interests - you certainly don't seem to be doing much good at that front yourself."
Shaking his head with amusement, Harry turns to his food. As he eats, a rapport of half sniped insults mixed in with back handed compliments breaks out between the two brothers, and he watches it with fascination. Mycroft's words don't have the sort of influence over Sherlock, as they have over no doubt every other British citizen - and Mycroft seems to know it too. He doesn't even try to sway or order his brother because Sherlock Holmes is, by the looks of it, completely immune to the power of a personification.
Interesting. Familiar relations save a person from falling under their thrall. Chewing a piece of his very excellent steak absently, Harry wonders if that meant that Sherlock is immune to them all, or just Mycroft.
He decides not to test it; the British Government might get more than miffed if Harry went about ordering his brother around.
The problem Harry has with it all, he realises sometime along the way but doesn't really acknowledge it, isn't that he's overworked. Or that, frankly, it's Mycroft who keeps him over worked. Before the man came along Harry had had frankly rather slow days - magical Britain was tediously slow in its turns and the plans Harry flung out at it usually took days if not months to turn into actions. That had been pleasant enough, especially in comparison to how it seems to be with Mycroft, like there isn't enough hours in a day.
But that isn't the problem. It's actually a good thing, in the end, because with Mycroft there, Harry feels like what he had been doing before had been just half of his job, using half of his brain power, half of his potential. With Mycroft it's a hundred percent and more, a hundred and fifty at the very least, and Harry loves that. Blending into backgrounds or not, he has always been a wizard of action, rather than waiting. And really, he isn't losing as much sleep as it feels like at times.
The problem isn't the new, constant worry about it all splitting open like a dragon egg dropping from a hundred feet and crashing into the pavement. Harry thinks about it constantly, imagines worst case scenarios and plans contingency measures, and does all he can to stop it… but inside he admits that if, if it ever came to where the magical was revealed to the muggle one, he would've loved it even more than working at a hundred and fifty percent. The wizard he was quailed away from the concept and the Ministry of Magic felt sheer terror, but somewhere in midst of them there was something in him that couldn't help but think of how glorious it would've been. Muggle and magical world combined, with magic and technology and all the entailing sciences and powers entwining to create something incredible.
That part of him, he thinks, is probably the same as the thing that makes Mycroft wonder about it so often too. It is a bit idealistic of Harry - and especially of Mycroft, the man was smarter than to think that it could ever turn out the way it does in their heads - but maybe that's the allure. They are entities of administration and management, and managing their respective nations into that sort of fantastic glory gets probably all of their sort hot and bothered. It was practically in the job description
That isn't the problem either - though it probably should've been.
The problem is that the more Mycroft does, the further he goes, the less Harry feels sure of his ground. The plans to cover up historical mishaps are just the beginning. The meetings Mycroft arranges between them and between their nations and between their governmental leaders are another, but then there is more. Suddenly there are meetings between little people, and then between researches and scientists and spell researchers, and somewhere along the way the British Government somehow entwines his Diogenes Club into Ministry of Magic's Department of Mysteries, which, after Harry figured out what the Diogenes Club is, he realises is a heady mixture indeed. And terrifying beyond anything he has ever encountered before.
And as Mycroft does all of that, and more, coming around to it somehow sideways and making Harry wonder over and over again just when had that or this happened and why hadn't he noticed… the less he finds himself minding it.
"We're not the only ones changing things," Mycroft says, after managing to convince Harry that, yes, he really needs a mobile phone, and the sooner Harry can have his people develop ways for them to work with magic, the better. "The US has entire branches and departments dedicated to this type of… mingling. The same with the Russians and Germans and definitely your friends, the French. We are, in fact, behind our foreign counterparts, or so I've observed."
The way Mycroft says it is like the mere concept of his observations being even the slightest bit wrong is absurd. Of course. "Well, no wonder it feels unnatural as hell," Harry mutters rolling his eyes, but somewhere inside him something squirms with anticipation and, oh Merlin, wasn't that scary?
"People are preparing for the times ahead," Mycroft says, not noticing - or definitely noticing, and definitely ignoring it all at once. With him it was hard to tell. "The Magical side of things will be exposed eventually, it is inevitable. Regardless of whether it happens now, or in a hundred years, the time to start preparing is now. Or rather, it was a decade ago, but then, neither of us was here then, to do our jobs."
Harry shakes his head, but not disagreeing. How creepy that would've been, though, with him being twelve and what he is now? Being the Boy Who Lived had been bad enough. And if this had started then, and like this - Voldemort would've been the least of his problems, and he wasn't sure if that was a good thing. Probably not.
"I know your… training makes you resistant to change, but do try to keep up," Mycroft says and gives him a look. "If you can manage it."
"And be your obedient little toady?" Harry asks flatly, shifting his weight from one foot to another and frowning as the man gives him another look, like an adult berating a child for drawing on the walls. The wizard snorts at that. "Yeah, that'll happen."
And it actually kind of does. Oh, Harry never stops arguing or expressing objections and he never goes forth with complete unquestioning obedience… but Mycroft with a plan is a powerful thing, and so the British Government practically drags the Ministry of Magic forward and towards the light. And even while arguing and disagreeing and digging in his heels like the magical Ministry ought to do when faced with muggle demands, Harry is really helping Mycroft's plans along. He started it before Mycroft even appeared, after all - by having his notions of proper muggle relations take physical shape as a department within the magical administration, not to mention the things he's done since.
Not that Mycroft needs to know all or anything about that, really. It's the principle of the thing - wizards don't bow their heads to muggles. Even ones as insanely powerful and influential as Mycroft. And neither does Harry.
He does bless his lucky stars that it's all a very slow process, though, and where ever Mycroft is dragging him to, it will take a long while to get there.
The scales tip eventually, however. Several months, nearly two years, they spend in a diplomatic dance around each other, in a ferocious tug o' war that involves budget cuts and negotiations and several horrible summit meetings where Harry exchanges fake pleasantries with Apolline and a good four dozen other personifications. Departments and sections, organisations and facilities grow all over the world, shadowy little and big things that mingle and twist the natural order of things, and Mycroft is the architect of the commonly accepted ground rules as far as the study of magical sciences and such go.
Somehow Harry eventually finds himself standing beside Mycroft - rather than standing on his toes - when the Statute is written. It's an enormous and meaningful thing, so much so that even after it's been signed, people are actually only one quarter into writing the damn thing. The Statute of what would happen, what rules would apply, the day when International Wizarding Secrecy would break. Every muggle Government and every magical Ministry signed it - with the British Government's signature on top, the Prime Minister's and the Queen's and the Parliament's signatures all contained within the elegant cursive of Mycroft Holmes. The British Ministry of Magic, with the Minister for Magic and all the Department Heads as well as the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot on the other hand are all contained in the slightly less elegant Harry Potter just below it. And below them everyone else.
But that isn't what changes the game - because as big and important and enormous as the Statute is, it is only a big and meaningful way of preserving the Status Quo, really. And in the end the finishing move - or the starting move of the end game - has nothing to do with Governments or Ministries or politics. It is, in the end, so much more mundane than that - and because of it, much more meaningful.
"I would… gladly offer a counter service, whatever you wish that is within my means to provide," Mycroft starts, his knuckles white and his posture stiff even as he tries to retain a semblance of his usual ease as he leans on his ever present umbrella. "And I mean within my means, as obviously I can't… influence things for my personal gain. But, if you would be so kind as to lend me your, hm… abilities, I would be most obliged."
"Personal gain?" Harry asks with a blink, hands in the pockets of his faded, half torn jeans - the very same jeans he had worn when they had met. Not that it much matters - because, hell, Mycroft? Asking something that wasn't of highest national importance? "You called me here to ask a personal favour?" the wizard asks, just to be sure.
"Yes," the British Government admits, scowling slightly though Harry can't tell if it's for him or the man himself. "If you aren't too busy, of course, I know you have Wizengamot elections coming up…" he looks expectantly at the Ministry of Magic. “Are you willing?"
"I'm not going to promise to do anything before I actually know what it is you want," Harry answers, folding his arms. Months and years spent in a delicate political waltz with this man, he knows better than to submit himself to a blind promise. That had nearly lost him one of the better diplomatic witches he had. "What do you want, Mycroft?"
The man frowns at him and then looks away, swallows, grips his umbrella's handle a little tighter, then lifts his chin, poises himself. A world of communication - and normally all of it is utterly fake, Mycroft organised his expressions the way people organised their windows, for appearances. But there's a hint of truth there - and Harry might not have been a genius polymath like the man before him, but he's known him long enough to discern the reality in the masks.
"My brother… is missing," Mycroft finally admits, smoothly and with a dismissive smile, all the while hissing it out like it was the hardest thing he had ever said. "And for a week now he has been completely eluding me."
"Oh," Harry murmurs, leaning back a little. Me with Mycroft means Me, my underlings, all the security and street cameras in Britain and just about half the rest of the world, all of the people I could've and have hired, plus the entirety of the muggle internet and everything connected to it. So it is no small thing.
Still… "Sherlock is a bit… put upon with your surveillance, if I recall," the wizard says slowly. "Are you sure this is important enough that you need to ask favours from me?" Mycroft must know any self-respecting personification would make the man pay for a plea like that. Counter services could mean many things, after all.
"The longest time Sherlock has ever managed to avoid my surveillance is less than twenty two hours," Mycroft answers. "A day is stretching it, two is unthinkable. A week…" he stops there, and scowls hard.
The wizard eyes him for a long moment. Mycroft looks pale - wild eyed. In all the time they've known each other, he has never seen the man looking like this, so honestly, thoroughly distressed. "I see," Harry says and pushes his hands back into his pockets so that he can reach the handle of his wand. Old habit, and a bad one - carrying a wand in your pocket, he should've gotten a proper holster ages ago - but it is comforting. Mycroft thinks that Sherlock is dead and even if the dread is contained within the part of the man that is still just that, a man, it still feels terrifyingly powerful to Harry.
"Will you?" Mycroft asks. "I need to find him; I need to know that… I know you have the means." Then, while Harry thinks it through, he adds softly. "Please."
Well, when he puts it that way. "Of course," the wizard says and smiles.
And somewhere deep inside him, something starts fracturing.
Harry spends a day and two hours tracking Sherlock down - and it takes so long because he doesn't use any of his more… powerful means to do it. By using the Department of Mysteries and all the power and means of the magical administration it would've been faster, but it was a personal favour, so personal means are all he can use. Thankfully for him, and for Mycroft - and definitely for Sherlock - good old magic does the trick well enough.
"Oh, bugger," Harry murmurs, when he, after a sleepless night and the tireless day before it, apparates into the basement of a long since abandoned house, where he finds Sherlock Holmes, slumped in the corner - shivering with things and substances that the magical world has miraculously enough managed to go mostly without.
"What's it?" Sherlock asks, jerking his head up, staring blearily at the space in front of Harry. This is their fourth or so meeting - Sherlock has the odd habit of bursting into Mycroft's presence at odd times, but Harry doesn't think the man really remembers that. Or can see straight enough to tell that Harry was even there, not with eyes so bloodshot. "Hit man," Sherlock then says - and maybe he can see after all.
"Not quite, I'm afraid," Harry sighs and steps forward to crouch in front of him. The man stinks - the entire room stinks, in fact - of people living poorly and without any modern comforts. Or sense of smell. "Your brother sent me to look for you, Sherlock. He's worried."
"Bah," the man murmurs, curling into himself and pulling his knees up, as if hiding like that would make him less visible. "Tell 'm not home."
"Well you aren't, that much is true, I suppose," Harry agrees. For a while he wonders about the whens and hows and whys, because Mycroft Holmes is brilliant and so is Sherlock and for Merlin's sake, what a waste! Both from the point of a personification and from the point of a human with any common sense, it is nothing but a waste of potential, to see a man like this, burning his brain cells in the altars of a high. What could ever motivate this, what could possibly…?
But, in the end… it isn't any of his business, on any level. And in the end Mycroft is probably more than capable of chewing the wasteful man before Harry for his poor decisions, whatever might've motivated or instigated them. "Sleep, Sherlock," Harry says, reaching out and placing his left hand on the man's dirty and tangled curls of hair to keep his head down and his eyes covered as the wizard aims his wand at him. "Sleep."
Sherlock is still asleep, when Harry apparates to Mycroft's living room with the man in his arms, wrapped in a conjured blanket. "You might want to call a doctor, or a few," Harry says, as the British Government stands with his mouth agape. The expression transforms from shock to horror to disgust and grief before settling into helpless severity and Harry answers it with a grim smile and hands Sherlock over.
"I've never had a brother," the wizard admits, as Sherlock's head lulls to rest on Mycroft's shoulder, leaving stains on the perfectly white fabric of his button up shirt.
"And now you're glad of it?" Mycroft asks, snappish, and turns to carry Sherlock away, to a bed most likely.
"Who knows," Harry muses, staring after him, at the severe line of the back of Mycroft's neck. The man looks so human - even when he's practically radiating with rage and fear and all the power of a technological empire. "You owe me, Mycroft," he says in the end, more thoughtful than demanding. It seems like the thing to say, something he ought to say, as the Ministry of Magic, and yet… he's not talking to British Government, right now.
"It will have to wait," Mycroft answers back and slams the door shut between them, leaving Harry alone in the living room while he encloses Sherlock in the bed. Harry gives another thoughtful look at the closed door, and then Disappears. He is in no hurry to demand his due - and he wants to think this new… development through.
At the end of the day, both Harry and Mycroft are still human. They need to eat and sleep just as much as any other person, and they age - Mycroft is doing it rather more noticeably than Harry so far, thanks to genes and a slight difference in age, but the wizard knows that he will catch up at some point. He too will age and maybe at some point his persistent skinniness will give away to a slight overweight, and eventually he too will slip off, just like Edward Smith had, either due to age or illness or some other thing.
Being a personification of a super power didn't make either of them superbly powerful. Influence was all they really had - insane amounts of it, sure, but still only that.
Harry has always known that… but with Mycroft it has been easy to let it be forgotten. Even when they dine and wine and chat meaninglessly at dinner parties, Harry always meets the man in a certain official capacity - and all those times, Mycroft is the British Government so through and through that that is, in the end, all Harry sees him as. Even after meeting Sherlock, Mycroft has always seemed larger than life due to the power he wields.
Harry had known Edward Smith almost as long as he has known Mycroft Holmes now, but when Edward died, it had been an easy affair. Harry had never formed any sort of true attachment to the man - weekly meetings and talking about gossip and not much more hadn't exactly been the perfect foundation for a lifelong relationship. Not to mention the fact that since meeting Edward, Harry had always known that their interactions on any level had a literal dead line. Mycroft, though, has always seemed without such limit.
And the reminder of the man's humanity - and his mortality via the proxy of Sherlock - makes Harry uneasy. No, it makes him down right ill, actually, and as he examines that feeling further, he realises with something akin to mortification that his relationship with Mycroft Holmes, as official and business-like as it is, is the closest he has with anyone - even Teddy, whom he meets only once a month or so. He and Mycroft meet daily, on some days, hourly. They even know where the other lives - though Harry isn't entirely sure when that information had been exchanged, or if it had been spied.
If Mycroft were to vanish, all of sudden…
One of the things Harry has always wondered with the other personifications - especially with Apolline, who has a daughter married to a British wizard of all people - is their families. Just about all of the personifications have husbands or wives, and most of them have children, even grandchildren. Harry hasn't given it much thought, but only because he never understood it, not really - after all, normal human interactions are… difficult, when people can't see beyond the image he unwittingly projects. He has wondered, sometimes, if the immunity Sherlock has for Mycroft isn't just blood related, but a protection of a mere family bond and if marriage and such could also offer that…
He has never wanted that for himself, because he hasn't realised. Those first two years he had been so busy learning - and then, bam. Mycroft was there, in his life, every day, keeping him busy, and he hasn't realised at all.
If Mycroft would vanish, Harry would have no one. Not even Teddy, for all his love for the boy, could see him - five years of age and so brilliant, and yet the boy keeps asking the same questions every time they meet, and getting bored with the answers again and again. After Mycroft there is… no one.
The realisation is so sudden and dramatic that he can't even feel jealous of the man for his fortune. Mycroft has a family - he has a brother at least, and he even has a couple of assistants of that rare breed that don't turn glassy eyed at the sight of the personifications. Mycroft would probably feel no profound loss if Harry would disappear from the face of the world - though he might be a bit bothered by having to train a new Ministry of Magic to his preferred ways.
The thought runs in circles in Harry's head for a long while, as he sits in the drawing room at 12 Grimmauld Place, alone. Even Kreacher is gone, dead of old age - when did that happen? Did it matter?
Harry knows what all the people he had once loved are doing. Hermione is tearing her way through the ministry - if all things went according to plan, she would be the next Minister. Ron is a supervisor in a branch of the Magical Games and Sports division - he got married some time ago. Arthur Weasley is still head of Muggle affairs - Molly Weasley adoring the first of her no doubt many grandchildren. Luna is making famous discoveries, Neville is writing scientific papers about Herbology, George Weasley is still running a joke shop, Cho Chang is the magical ambassador in China, Hagrid is negotiating between wizards and giants, Flitwick still the head of the Educations Department, and McGonagall the Headmistress of Hogwarts…
They are all happy, they are content - to some extent they are all successful.
And the most horrible thing of all is that Harry doesn't actually feel grief when he realises that he has no idea when was the last time he had talked with any of them - and not just to them.
"I… appreciate what you did for me," Mycroft says the next time they meet, in a fancy restaurant that is lit dimly and serves the very best of cuisines available in London. "Anything I can do in return I will of course --"
"How is he doing?" Harry, for the first time since meeting the man, interrupts him, and Mycroft blinks, for a moment out of balance.
As always, though, the man is quick to gather his usual composure. "He is in for a hellish time. Deservingly so," he says honestly and sighs, grimacing with a mixture of exasperation of fondness. "Sherlock is brilliant, of course, and even intelligent at times, but he is plagued with an absolutely minuscule attention span when he is not in the thralls of something he finds truly interesting. Drugs, apparently, relieve his boredom."
"Hm," Harry nods, and doesn't even pretend to understand - he's not brilliant enough to really get how boredom could ever be that bad. Grief or pain or something like that he could've understood as a motivation, but boredom… well. "I wish him luck," he says after a moment and leans back, sipping his drink and eyeing the other customers. All so human and completely oblivious of the two regimes sitting just a few feet away from them. People don't even frown at him anymore, even when he walks into places like this in rags.
What would it have been like, if he had remained as one of them? Would he and Ginny still be together, him and Ron and Hermione still friends?
There is no point blaming that. He has let a lot of his bonds of friendship and such deteriorate himself - it had been easier, in the end, to let people slip away and let them become extraordinary. And there is probably something he could still do about it, if he really wanted to. Some people can see past it, after all - and friends can be like family members. He could probably do it, if he tried…
"Is something the matter?" Mycroft asks after a long period of quiet.
"I think I want a family," Harry answers without bothering with some veneer of polite modesty or reservation - there was no point, Mycroft can read him like a book and he has long ago lost the ability of feeling embarrassed for himself. Probably because for a long while there hadn't been any point - because for a long while now, he hasn't bothered to live for himself.
"Oh?" the British Government asks, crossing his hands and eyeing Harry over them. "That is… a surprising confession, coming from you. But then again, maybe not," he trails away, making Harry turn his attention to the man.
Mycroft is staring at him so intently that for the first time since their initial meeting, Harry wonders what the man sees. The ragged clothing, probably - cleaned every day with spells and kept intact enough to be worn, but with rips and tears here and there where he has yet to bother to fix them. The messy hair, kept short for convenience but rarely if ever brushed. The glasses that he hasn't bothered to change in years, nearly a decade now. What else? What does he look like?
When was the last time he has looked into a mirror? Harry frowns and then blinks slowly as he realises that he doesn't know.
"Well," Mycroft murmurs slowly and his eyes shine with some other power than that of the British Government - or the brilliant mind of a Holmes. Understanding, maybe. "Good evening, Harry Potter," the man says and smiles. "It's a pleasure to meet you, at long last. Will you be staying for long?"
Harry sighs. "Very funny," he says.
The look Mycroft gives him speaks volumes. "I'm not laughing."
And neither is Harry, really.
How Harry ends up waking up on Mycroft's couch he isn't entirely sure, but considering how his mouth tastes and how his head feels he can guess. He's not entirely sure if he wants to remember, though, because there are monsters there and drunken confessions he probably would do much better without. He rather doubts he and the British Government had talked much politics on the way to his headache and rotten-tasting mouth.
For a long while he thinks nothing, doesn't open his eyes and only runs his tongue over his teeth and lays there, trying not to move in the slightest because the headache is looming just ahead and if he as much as twitches it will attack him. And that will make him regret and think about what's happened and hate it and then he'd remember. Remember what and who and where he was and what he had done.
And then he would have to get up and try and repair any possible political mishaps he had managed to commit.
Harry groans softly and lifts his hands to cover his face - his glasses are missing but he doesn't care because now he's thinking about it. Mycroft, damn him, had taken him to a pub after they had finished their meal and Harry had had a couple of wine glasses too many. And Harry had confessed half of his life story to the man - and if he knew Mycroft at all, the man would definitely make him regret that.
"Whatever is going through your head, don't bother with it," a soft voice says almost kindly and the surface below Harry shifts with the weight of another body. "Open up. I have aspirin and water for you."
"Oh, thank Merlin," Harry says, and opens his mouth obediently - ignoring all that should've made him embarrassed about being fed. Instead he swallows the pills and a gulp of water and then settles down to wait eagerly for the pills to kick in. Potions would've been faster, but right then he'd rather off himself than try and get up to find some.
Mycroft leaves him for a long moment, but Harry senses him - his power, his influence - moving about the house until the man settles to sit nearby some half an hour later. "Whatever was said yesterday was between Mycroft and Harry - not whatever we present," the man finally says, and Harry can hear him drinking something. "Not that anything you confided would be of any use in any sort of political setting, mind you."
"Nothing?" Harry asks, amused despite the pain - because that amount of personal information could be of use in many political situations. Namely ones involving less than polite or gentle methods of persuasion.
"You are not a person who can be easily blackmailed," Mycroft answers with a small, pleased sigh. He's drinking tea, then. "And definitely not a man I would like to anger. Best leave it at that."
"Sure, why not," the wizard answers and carefully peeks one eye open. The curtains are all pulled and the room is nearly pitch-black though he's pretty sure that it is bright and early in the morning. Thank Merlin. "Why didn't you take me to Grimmauld place?" he asks after a moment, because Mycroft, aside from what he exhibits towards Sherlock, isn't a very… generous person. And definitely not a caring one.
"Much use it would've been, with you unable to walk and me unable to pass your wards," the muggle man answers with a scoff in his voice. There is a moment of quiet before the man sighs slowly. "Is there any way I might persuade you to take a shower, or perhaps a bath? I have a most excellent bathroom, and frankly, my dear friend, you stink."
Harry blinks at that and then turns slowly to look at the man. Mycroft faces his confused gaze over the rim of his tea cup without his expression giving anything away, and slowly Harry turns the words, my dear friend, in his head. Dear friend. Really? "Yeah, sure," the wizard says after a moment, and slowly pushes himself into a seated position, reaching for the glasses that rest neatly folded on the tea table. "Um, where…?"
Mycroft points and somewhat falteringly Harry gets up and makes himself at home in the man's bathroom. He takes his time, partially because every muscle of his body seems stiff and every bone heavy and he can't move that fast, and partially because Mycroft hadn't been kidding. Very excellent bathroom didn't only entail a very excellent shower and bathtub, but also a bloody Jacuzzi which, Harry both was and wasn't surprised to find, was filled to the brim with warm water, and bubbling.
Mostly though, he takes his time because he needs to think. Regardless of what the man or what Harry himself thought, he needed to remember. Even if Mycroft was really honest about his intentions of not using it all against him, he needed to know. What had he told Mycroft?
Just about everything, he realises blearily. Starting with how everything had gone all grey-toned since he became the Ministry of Magic, and how people had… slipped away. And how he hadn't realised. How it had been before - his memories paint the time before his sudden rise to unseen power in vibrant colours, with Hermione's smile shining and Ron's bright red hair glowing in the sunlight, all painted brighter by his own fondness. And, beyond all, how Harry had lost it all, and he couldn't even mourn it anymore.
And how all of sudden, the thought of an actual home - not just a house like 12 Grimmauld Place, but a home, makes his insides twitch with painful longing. Of a partner and children, who know him and love him and for whom he never blends into the furniture. He doesn't even think about how or whom, it doesn't matter, he just wants it, desperately. Wants someone to see him for the person he is or maybe for what he had been, rather than what he seems to be.
"How maudlin," Mycroft had sighed, and handed him another shot.
"And what the hell does that mean?" Harry asks under his breath and sinks under the bubbling surface in the Jacuzzi. Because Mycroft had stayed there and kept filling him with alcohol and listening to his stupid stories. He hadn't just left - hell, the man had taken them to the pub in the first place. Why? It wasn't like Mycroft at all! And neither was this, definitely not. Taking Harry to his home, letting him bunk on the sofa, getting him aspirin - for Christ’s sake, the man had prepared a bath for him! In his very fine Jacuzzi!
Dear friend. Is that it? How can it be? Mycroft doesn't seem at all like a man who…
Harry frowns, and then breaches the surface again with a sigh. What the hell does he know about Mycroft Holmes, really? That he has a brother and a nice apartment in downtown London with a very nice bathroom. The rest Harry knows aren't about the man, but about the British Government.
And even that isn't all that much.
After the bath which soothes some life into his body, the wizard dries himself and wraps one of the fluffy towels sitting beside the sink around his waist. He has his own clothing, and with the wave of a wand they are clean and fresh enough to wear, but Harry finds that he doesn't want to. He had been wearing them seemingly for four years now - with or without a robe over them. Four years of the same ragged jeans and ripped button up shirt from his Hogwarts years.
How pathetic had he gotten?
Scowling, Harry takes the clothing, but doesn't put them on. Maybe Mycroft has something he can borrow. If not, then he'll just apparate to Grimmauld place and see if he has anything there. Once his head settles enough for apparition.
He stops at the end of the corridor that leads to the sitting room, and stares. Mycroft has changed seats and now sits where Harry had slept - and beside him, with his head on the man's thigh, lays Sherlock who is shuddering periodically, curly hair plastered to his forehead by sweat, his knees curled to his chest.
Harry bites back the sting of something while Mycroft smoothes his fingers absently through his brother's hair, looking up at him. "You made yourself comfortable here quickly," the man noted with a superficial sort of smile that doesn't reach his eyes, or even the skin around his eyes. "I must admit, it's a better look for you," Mycroft adds, glancing downwards and smirking.
"I live to please," Harry answers, while Sherlock jolts and glances up with bloodshot eyes. The lanky man scowls at him and then wiggles around to face the backrest of the couch. "One would think you would have professionals care for his… problem," Harry mutters, walking across and sitting to one of Mycroft's armchairs.
"One would think," the man agrees, frowning fleetingly and then looking up to him again. "I have one of the best specialists in Europe visiting him twice a day, you can rest assured that I am not neglecting my brother's medical needs. And where ever my duties keep me away, my people care for him."
Harry smiles crookedly at that, at the whole weird situation, while Sherlock scoffs and mutters something along the lines of bloody nanny. Mycroft rolls his eyes, his hand absently petting the dark fabric covering Sherlock's shoulder, while reaching with his other hand for something on the table beside the sofa. His tea cup.
"Maybe I should leave," Harry murmurs. The whole thing is just… strange. And somehow off putting. Because Harry is jealous - because he knows there is not a person in the world who would do that for him, not from either perspective - no one who would let him care for them, no one who would care for him in return. "I have duties," he adds. "Election."
"There's a week to go before the voting starts," Mycroft answers, lowering his eyes and concentrating onto his tea while his hand, seemingly by itself, scratches Sherlock's neck as if petting a cat. "Take a day off. I am having dinner brought."
"I couldn't," Harry answers, and he doesn't - but by Merlin he wants to. There is an offer there, and Harry wants it desperately, but it's too confusing and too raw and he doesn't really know what to do with himself, or with Mycroft and the man's brother there and so weak and so in need of Mycroft's care and attention… it doesn't help. "Maybe later."
"Very well," Mycroft answers and relaxed a little where he sits. "Let's make it an open invitation, however, in case you change your mind," he adds, glancing up with something strange in his eyes - smoky and elusive and oddly alluring. "Perhaps our next lunch date can be a private one."
"…perhaps," Harry agrees awkwardly and stands up, intending to disapparate. Then he remembers that Sherlock is there and somewhat conscious and probably not in the know about magic. And listening in - looking at Harry over his shoulder, actually. "What?" the wizard asks when the man says nothing and just keeps on staring at him unnervingly.
"Not your usual type, M'croft," the man mumbles in answer and sighs heavily, settling down again, his back to Harry. "Flirting. Hn, dull."
"You think everything is dull, Sherlock," Mycroft sighs and then shakes his head at Harry. "Ignore him."
"Right," Harry agrees with a shake of his head. Probably best he does. Except, flirting, that is… well. Maybe a thought for a later hour. "Well then, I'll just," he motions vaguely towards the door. He can probably disapparate safely in the hall.
"You might wish to put on some clothing first," the British Government points out, amused, glancing at the towel that is the only thing Harry is wearing.
"No," the wizard disagrees, and smiles despite himself, despite everything. "I really don't."
Everything settles onto its usual tracks almost immediately after - because it must and even while Harry wants to stay still for a moment and just think things through, the world doesn't wait for him and the Ministry of Magic must be in motion. So, after raiding his closet and deciding that he needs to go shopping whenever he might get the chance, he's off to work with a head ache and bleary eyes and a somewhat vacant expression.
The stolen moments of deep thought between meetings and decisions and the preparations for the Wizengamot elections bring him nothing new to ponder upon, but when he meets with Mycroft, Harry wears a green hand-knit jumper with the letter H on it, and comfy black trousers. Mycroft lifts an eyebrow at him but says nothing, and for the first time since meeting the man Harry feels almost like himself in his presence. There are still several dozens of issues out there, political and diplomatic and personal, and just as many questions about whatever it is between them that has nothing to do with politics.
But it's something. And even if it doesn't really change anything - Hermione and Ron are still looking right through him and so is everyone else, and at the end of each day, Harry is still more the Ministry than he is just another bloke, and his house is still unerringly empty and seemingly colder each time he stops to rest… it makes him feel a little better.
"Coping mechanism, I suppose," Mycroft muses in their fourth dinner after the night of drunkenness. "You mustn't fool yourself."
"I'm not, really," Harry sighs. The British Government gives him a knowing look and then they talk about already predetermined negotiations they will take part in the next day and a member of the parliament that Mycroft is in the process of burying. It is normal and ordinary - or as ordinary as it ever gets between them - and Harry hates it about as much as he cherishes it.
"I wonder," he murmurs in a break of their not-quite-negotiations, while Mycroft tries not to indulge himself with a dessert and Harry carefully avoids taking another sip of wine. "Can our sort retire?"
He probably imagines the way Mycroft completely freezes for a moment, because the way the man puts the menu away again is as elegant and smooth as ever. "I have yet to encounter a Government or a Ministry who would choose to do it," he answers nonchalantly. "And aside from your own personal history, all of our sort I have so far encountered and investigated only inherited their positions after the deaths of their predecessors."
Considering that Mycroft has probably met all of them by now, that's not very heartening. Harry sighs softly and then looks at the man, who is eyeing him with surprisingly cool eyes. The wizard frowns slightly, absolutely certain that it's all in his face - the longing for a normal life and his old friends, and the freedom from the odd grey tones of his existence as the Ministry of Magic. "I didn't choose to become this. I just did," Harry mutters somewhat defensively.
"No, you didn't," Mycroft answers quietly and instead of calling a waitress to bring him something sweet, he reaches over the table and takes Harry's wine glass, his own having emptied some time ago. He drinks it all in near a single gulp, before dropping the glass delicately to the table. "If you wish to retire, I can look into possible means of doing so, but first you must choose - and train - a successor."
The Ministry of Magic swallows, and looks away. Mycroft sounds cold - something he never does, even when dishing out death threats and promises of cruel and unusual extortion methods. It's the words that hit Harry the worst, though. A successor. Someone to take over his job after he chickens out - someone to continue interacting with Mycroft in the strangely ethereal official capacity. Someone to take his place in the life of the only person who sees him.
It makes Harry's blood run cold, and the wistful dream instantly fades - because, he realises soon enough, as much as he likes the idea of having Ron and Hermione and all the other people he had once called his closest friends, it's not worth losing this. Losing Mycroft.
He shakes his head. "I'm bad at this job," he says somewhat apologetically and leans back, running his hand through his hair and smiling sheepishly at the British Government. "Sorry. Just going through a small identity crisis here, never mind. I'll… sort it out."
The muggle man doesn't answer for a while, just stared at him studiously. "You are… good at this," he then says slowly, awkward in a way he has never been. "I have met and studied many other Ministries and I can say without any doubt that you are among the most efficient ones. You lifted a withering nation into sharp increase in all possible branches and sections, and it is still going. It is my estimate that within the next three years or so, the British Magical world will become the most advanced in the world as far as sciences, philosophy, technology and magical understanding goes."
"Part of that is your doing," Harry points out.
"No, it isn't. I can't affect you or your world, all I can do is cooperate and offer suggestions, it is you who sends them out and brings them to reality," Mycroft answers. "And you do it better than I ever could because you understand your people, your power and your administration, you know how to shape them and guide them. You are good at it - and yet you've only been doing this for so many years."
Harry shakes his head. "You've been the Government even less than that, and you're doing a better job."
"I spent nearly ten years under Edward's guidance. You had nothing of the sort," Mycroft snaps, waving his hand dismissively. "You are fooling yourself if you honestly consider it a meagre success. Half of the world is terrified of you, because you've brought your nation through forty years of development in four years and it's only the beginning."
"You're the one who brought Diogenes Club and the Department of Mysteries together," Harry says, because that's where most of the latest advances have been coming from.
"And you made it possible to do so peacefully," the other man says, scowling. He leans back in his chair with something akin to a huff and folds his arms. "I understand you miss your civilian life, and I understand the reasons. But don't you see what a waste it would be, for you to step down now - or ever?
"My successor could do just as good job - or better," the wizard points out, leaning forward with his elbows on the table. "He or she might be like you, even. You're too smart not to know that - too smart to not appreciate the possibilities."
Mycroft scowls at that. "I have finally gotten you to collaborate with me in the way that is the most efficient of all possible methods of working together," he says hotly - or what for Mycroft passes for it. "Do you honestly think I would throw away all the effort put into this relationship just for the vague possibility of your successor being slightly more intelligent?"
Harry frowns slightly. Slightly more intelligent? He had suggested that his potential successor might be like Mycroft, and the man said slightly more intelligent back at him? "I don't understand you," the wizard finally says, because he doesn't - but in the same time he does. Mycroft is, in his incredibly efficient way, rather lazy, and probably really doesn't want to start anew with someone else. But Harry also knows the man well enough to know that Mycroft prefers intelligent partners in his schemes - even his assistants and lackeys are all brighter than most people Harry has ever met, Hermione included. He should've…
"And I don't understand you. I know you have a brain on you, and it even works, and yet you seem so helplessly idiotic at times. Tell me, what could be more alluring in a normal average life, than the magnificent things we do together? What could be better than the advances we make?" Mycroft snarls back, mocking. "What could possibly be greater, than our work?"
Irritated, Harry immediately begins to rattle out a list, unable to help himself. "Human relationships, companionship, warmth, love --"
He is cut off when Mycroft snorts - actually snorts - with contempt. "All mundane and completely insipid and well within my capabilities," he answers.
The wizard stops and stares at him with shock, his momentum completely halted for a moment. Mycroft wasn't saying -- no, yes he was. The man was actually saying it - had said it - and was staring at him with look of exasperated irritation on his face, like he couldn't believe he was having such a stupid conversation.
"Well?" the British Government demands, and if he had been standing he would've tapped his foot impatiently.
And like that, Harry is pissed with him again. "Alright. Fine. Have it your way," he snaps, and then stands up and leans forward and over the table quickly, making the empty wine bottle fall to the floor and glasses clatter dangerously together. Mycroft's suit jacket feels smooth and rich under his fingers, as he completely ruins the collar in his grip in order to drag the man to him and -
And there is technology and lights flashing in the internet and information within information and all the cameras in London, all the politics in the parliament, all the phones in any network, all the plans under works, treaties and agreements and an endless well of secrets in Mycroft's lips, as they fall open with surprise. And there is the simple, astonishing physical warmth Harry craves, mingled in moistness and the taste of the wine they had been drinking, the dinner they had been eating. It is ethereal and politic and completely human and slightly awkward, and so much better than Harry suspected because he had been making a point, and ended up with more than that.
It feels so good, so real, so human, that Harry moans softly. Then, as he realises what he's doing and that it hadn't turned out like anything he had intended, he makes a different sort of noise - a startled one - and makes to pull away.
Mycroft doesn't let him. There is a crash of glass and the clatter of silverware against the floor as the man pulls Harry closer and onto the table, hands clasping at each side of the wizard's face. Mycroft's lips are moving, ferocious and brutally gentle, and Harry's world tips slightly and irrevocably.
Somewhere in the belly of the Department of Mysteries, Croaker is meeting with a young muggle scientist from the Diogenes club, who will one day change the way people see magic and muggles and politics therein in ways no one can yet imagine - the chemistry between the two is instant. In a handful of years, they will make history.
"Mycroft," the Ministry of Magic mumbles almost by accident, when the kiss ends and the connection stutters. Mycroft's eyes are grey, Harry thinks dizzily. Grey and bright and somehow colourful, and suddenly the wizard doesn't hate the dull tones of grey as much as he did, two minutes ago.
Mycroft doesn't answer immediately, just stares into Harry's eyes intently. Around them the restaurant goes on as if nothing has happened, noisy and cheerful, like the world hadn't just shook and Harry hadn't somehow ended up awkwardly perched on the table, destroying two wine glasses in the process. It is beyond surreal, the noise in complete contrast to the silence around them, between them, and yet Harry barely notices, held in place by the keen gaze of his counterpart.
"We're changing the world for better," the British Government says finally after clearing his throat, and gives Harry a hard look even while smoothing his thumbs down along younger man's cheeks. His hands gentle even as they forcibly keep Harry there, in that awkward leaning position on the crumpled table cloth. "Don't you dare leave now."
Harry laughs, helpless and bewildered and kind of hysteric and more than a bit delirious, and can't find any words to answer. After a moment Mycroft shakes his head with renewed exasperation and kisses him again - probably just to shut him up.
And that's pretty much that. After it's happened once or twice, it never really stops. Whether it is because neither of them can be bothered with trying to establish a distance, or whether it is because of some, cosmic-politic-neo-pagan reason, Harry doesn't know. And frankly, he doesn't much care either.
Every time they meet, Harry greets Mycroft with a kiss. Every time they depart, Mycroft lets him go with one. And between those kisses there are negotiations and diplomatic relations and the sweet sourness of sheer humanity and it's brilliant.
It's not perfect - if anything it is messy and utterly, completely chaotic. Mycroft is pleasantly aloof and Harry somewhat blatantly distrustful and they still wrestle the politics and fight the contracts between themselves, now even more ferociously than before because now they have a new and slightly terrifying amount of leverage over each other that hadn't been there before, and they can't help but abuse that at every opportunity. Most couples fight, of course, but their fights could lead to interspecies conflicts and wars - and Harry thinks that they like that taste of danger a little bit more than they ought to.
But it's nice too. Mycroft is solid and warm and soft - and hard when Harry needs it - and there seemingly all the time now. The man has an immense physical presence when he isn't pretending to be a nobody, and as the man looms over him or stands beside him, Harry feels more human than he has in years, and he adores the man for that. And for all his aloofness and insidiously pleasant unfriendliness, Mycroft can be the gentlest, nicest man on the planet. If he wants to be.
And then there are the other things. Like the fact that, after knowing the man for years, Sherlock is finally able to look at him for more than some seconds and even ask for Harry's name from the midst of his moody fits. Of course, Sherlock goes back to ignoring him almost immediately after, but Harry thinks that has more to do with Sherlock and Mycroft's prickly relationship, than anything he has done.
"I don't see what there's to see in him," Sherlock mutters, glancing at Harry and scowling. "He's smart enough, certainly, but he's… Mycroft. And he's getting fat."
Harry shrugs his shoulders and sips his tea. He wouldn't have cared one way or the other if Mycroft had looked different, but when he does think about it, he finds he prefers the way Mycroft looks, receding hairline and less than chiselled physique and all. Or maybe especially because of it. "I rather like it," he muses. It's not like he's a movie star, himself.
Sherlock scoffs but there is a look of strange jealousy and disgust in his eyes before he storms away to suffer through a bout of withdrawal induced shakes in private.
Another great thing about the whole ordeal is that Mycroft is, beyond any doubt, a bloody genius. And less than a week into it, he presents Harry with a notion that makes him wants to bang his head against the nearest wall - preferably a nice and strong one made of stone.
"I have never thought of it, because I have never had any need for other relationships than those I was born with, and those I made through work. But do consider it, my dear," Mycroft starts, a warm, wide palm trailing down Harry's arm in casual familiarity. "We have some abilities, most seemingly passive in nature, others more active. And take into consideration the ability to feel our people – an ability which we can, after practice, activate and deactivate at will."
"Yeah?" Harry asks, squirming a little and planting himself a bit more comfortably against the British Government's side. Somewhere two politicians, a pureblood wizard and a muggle, are enjoying a quiet chat over warm tea and a game of chess - they will write the first words of an important clause soon.
"If one of our abilities can be turned on and off at will, then, in theory, so should the others," Mycroft says thoughtfully. "Including the one that makes us so elusive to little people."
"… oh bollocks," Harry hisses, and loves the man a little more and hates him at the same time. As Mycroft smiles benignly down at him, Harry hisses again, kisses the man and then bites his lip, before dashing off to try.
A week later, after spending two hours with Ron and Hermione, talking about what they had been doing, and about some wizard at work Hermione is interested in, and the lovely muggle woman called Suzette who is expecting Ron's second child, Harry ambushes the British Government in his office, and snogs the living daylight out of the man. Figuratively and literally - the entire block has power failure by the time Harry manages to wrestle Mycroft out of his comfy chair and onto the less comfy floor.
About a month or so after casual handshakes had given way to less than casual kisses, Mycroft takes him to meet the rest of the family. It is a seemingly simple occasion - a nice little garden party, not all that different from the thousands of others Harry has visited in his career as the Ministry of Magic. But there is meaning there that makes Harry squirm a little with suppressed delight, and pay especial attention to his manners when meeting Mrs Holmes, Mycroft's mother.
He likes her - she's a strong, proud and slightly eccentric woman, and rather far from what Harry had imagined Mycroft's and Sherlock's mother to be like, but spot on nonetheless. She is sharp eyed and witty and more than a little clever - and blissfully immune to both Mycroft's and Harry's more politic presence, both the intentional and the unintentional kind
"And when will I see what I ought to here, hm?" she asks, after examining Harry's hands and noting that using quills was a very interesting practice in the modern day and age and really, he needn't be so nervous, if not for any other reason than because biting nails is an idiotic habit. She holds Harry's left hand up and shows it pointedly at Mycroft, who looks a bit startled for a moment. "Hm?" she demands, shaking Harry's hand at Mycroft like it was some sort of deadly weapon. "I'd like to see at least one of my foolish sons properly set before I depart, you know."
"Ah. Well. Soon," Mycroft nearly stammers, and kisses Harry's hand and then his mother's, while Harry opts to say nothing and smile amusedly instead. The way Mycroft glances at him makes him smother the amusement - but not before the look turns into one of Mycroft's looks, the sort that promises schemes and trouble.
The next day, Mycroft presents him with two nearly identical, rather practical and completely unremarkable golden bands in a simple black case, scowling pleasantly the entire time. Harry spends a moment gaping, and then he shakes his head and laughs before kissing the man - and getting engaged probably quicker than he should, considering that they have only been dating for a month - and two years. Not to mention about doing it with less ceremony than the whole thing probably deserves.
The great ball their respective people throw in the celebration of the ever-warming muggle-magical relations in Britain seems like more than enough, as it is. Though, it's nothing in comparison to the fairly sudden and impulsive fireworks display in London that happens after Mycroft and Harry stumble to the nearest soft surface to seal the deal - this one and that and half a dozen others, all of which last a lifetime of an empire, and more.
But that's neither here nor there, and really, neither Mycroft nor Harry was much for ceremonies - especially ones that have anything to do with them.
"We keep this up, and Mummy will have us adopting her some grandchildren before the year is over," Mycroft sighs later, while Harry stretches himself over his fiancé's warm, solid body and enjoys it with every inch of his being. "And Sherlock will never let me live it down."
Harry smiles, nuzzling his cheek to the man's chest. He wouldn't have minded - the more the merrier, and Mrs Weasley who had, after a handful of years' worth of break, retaken her position as his honorary mother, would probably be about as happy as Mrs Holmes. Which reminded him that he needed to turn the tables on his fiancé and introduce the man to his family in return. As unrelated as they were, family was family - and Harry was rather fond of his, now that he had it back.
"Maybe we should start with Teddy," he muses, and grins at the way Mycroft stiffens. Teddy Lupin is five now, rather smart and impossibly bratty and always asking insipid questions - and constantly changing colours in patterns that even Mycroft can't predict. The few times Harry has babysat the boy, with inordinate amount of glee for having his godfatherly duties reinstated, the boy had spent the whole time trying to irritate Mycroft - and succeeding at it even better than he knew.
Below Harry, the British Government quivers slightly. "Good god, no. Never."
Harry snickers. "Would it be so bad?" he asks.
"Yes," his fiancé answers vehemently, even while petting the Ministry of Magic's hair lazily. "I barely survived Sherlock's childhood, and he was a quiet boy. And in any case, we don't have the time, or the expertise, my dear, and god only knows what kind of children we would raise between us - even if they weren't as bad as your godson."
"Brilliant ones," the wizard answers with certainty - because Mycroft would research the whole affair to the end of the world and back until he was the undisputed master of parenting, and Harry would probably do something similar and really, they were both just possessive enough to make a thing like that work.
"Well. Perhaps eventually," Mycroft answers and inhales deep - intentionally, knowing how much attention Harry is paying to the sounds coming down his chest. "We do need heirs. But not yet."
"Nah, not yet," Harry agrees, and worms his arms around the man. He considers for a moment telling Mycroft that once upon a time a teacher had foretold him having a dozen children. She had been a bit off about him becoming the Minister for Magic, but he is generous enough to forgive her - the spirit of the thing is somewhat close to what had happened, after all. A dozen children seems a bit excessive - but then so does being the Ministry of Magic, and he had made his peace with that, eventually.
Harry smiles lazily to himself and closes his eyes. He doubts he needs to warn Mycroft. The man was a genius - anything Harry could throw at him, he could take. And there was no hurry, really. Not anymore.