Tea In Florence

Montanelli was utterly hopeless, and Harry had four hours before his Portkey to Newark-on-Trent.

Had he taken Barrowcliffe up on his offer to come along, they would likely, right at that moment, have been drowning their disappointment in sangria by the sea. But that morning it hadn't seemed worth the trouble and Barrowcliffe had better things to be doing than trailing about after Harry for a day.

If Barrowcliffe had been there, Harry wouldn't have been stuck dodging tourists in Florence, who spoke too loudly and jostled and elbowed and stopped to stare at every bit of stone older than they were. But he was, and he had four hours left, and so he ducked down a narrow alley as soon as he was able, emerging onto another street that was just as loud and just as busy yet much more comfortable for the sheer lack of historical attractions.

Harry wouldn't even have noticed him if he hadn't been people-watching.

It was an occupational hazard: he couldn't help but notice the way people moved, the way they reacted, constantly judging who would be good at his sport and who would be dismal, if they hadn't all been Muggles who'd never ride a broom.

But he did notice him, and he thought 'graceful' and 'quick' and 'alert' and had him pegged for good seeker material. After a few more moments' observation Harry suddenly realised that was because he had been.

He wasn't at all sure what to do. He knew what Barrowcliffe would have done -- marched right up and demanded to know what he was doing there and where they hell he'd been all these years. But Harry was quite happily not Barrowcliffe and ultimately continued quietly up the street to the outdoor café, until he was nearly at his side.

"You've finally come for me then."

"Draco," said Harry quietly, and didn't quite know what else to say.

"I hope you'll do me the courtesy of letting me tie up a few loose ends. I did do you a favour myself, some years back."

"May I sit?"

Draco squinted up at him, shielding his eyes with one hand, then shrugged. "I don't suppose it makes much difference now."

Harry took the empty seat across the table, and sat in silence for a moment while Draco stared out into the street. "I hadn't any idea you were here," he admitted finally. "I'm here on business."

Draco sipped from his snowy white teacup. "I would have thought this was your business, Potter. Isn't that what you do? Save the world from people you don't like?"

Draco didn't look like Harry had imagined he would, when he had imagined it. He hadn't aged flawlessly like his father, with flowing hair and smooth skin and manicured nails. Draco looked older, worn, short-cropped hair and lines on his face. But Harry would have sworn, if asked, that some of those lines looked like they might have been from smiling.

"So what business then?" asked Draco, enduring the silence for only so long.

"I'm a scout for the Arrows." Harry waited for the inevitable noise of disbelief. "I was here to look at a player."

"So you're not with the Ministry and you're not playing Quidditch," said Draco, finally looking at him again. "And you just happened to come across me here. I should call you a liar and be done with you."

"I broke my back during the war. It was bad. I'm shocked you didn't already know. Or did you?"

Draco shrugged and looked away again. "This player. Any good?"

"Abysmal," said Harry. "Not worth the trip. I've seen better flyers among the Hogwarts first years. Draco, what are you doing here?"

"Does it really matter?" said Draco. "You've found me after all. And just my luck that it was by chance. That's almost insulting, you know. That after all this time you just stumble over me; I'd imagined an Auror manhunt."

Harry frowned and stared down at the table, stared at the palms of his hands for a moment before closing his fists. "No one's after you, Draco."

That, finally, seemed to startle him. Harry had begun to wonder if anything would. Draco's eyes flew open, then narrowed in suspicion. "I have to admit," he said, "I'd expected you to hex me on sight."

"I more than half expected the same of you."

"This civility is unnerving. What do you mean they're not after me? Do they think I'm dead?"

"No," said Harry. "They think you -- how did they put it? -- gave invaluable assistance toward the apprehension of many of the fugitive followers of Voldemort."

Draco snorted. "One list," he said, "stolen off my father's bureau. Foolish of him to keep names; I suspect he was planning to use the list himself, if cornered."

"Ultimately useless. To him, at least. Not to us."

"The Ministry didn't seem very appreciative of it at the time. At least, not coming from me. I can't imagine they've had a change of heart."

"After the Sirius Black-Peter Pettigrew debacle," said Harry, carefully quelling any and all memories associated with that bit of history, "every Death Eater was questioned under Veritaserum. There are no less than five sworn statements indicating that they all consider you a traitor."

"Charming," said Draco dryly. "That would explain why they've been hunting me down all over Europe. Why, I hadn't any idea, Potter, thank you for that insight."

"That... explains a lot," murmured Harry, watching him closely again. It was all well and good to question the prisoners, but sometimes one had to know what questions to ask.

"So the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Draco went on. "Is that the Ministry's reasoning? Fools."

"There's also this," said Harry, and pulled a well-worn bit of parchment out of the pocket of his trousers. The only one he'd kept of the dozen or so received, as a token of faith, a reminder that help could sometimes come from the least expected places. A reminder not to hex Malfoy the Younger the moment he came across him. He pushed it across the table toward Draco.

Draco barely even looked at it. "I haven't any idea what you're talking about."

"I'd know your writing anywhere, Draco," said Harry. "You wrote me notes all through sixth year. I could hardly forget."

"You make it sound as though they were tokens of affection," he snorted.

"More like threats against my person," admitted Harry. "But still." He didn't need to push the note any closer; it was still within Draco's field of vision. "Eleven notes over eight years. Each leading the Aurors to a fugitive Death Eater."

"How very convenient for you," said Draco. He stared back out into the street again; it looked almost purposeful. "If you aren't planning to bring me in, Potter, then why didn't you just walk on by?"

"Well... my God, Draco, it was a bit of a surprise, seeing you here. I could hardly ignore it."

"You've done a fair job of ignoring me for large spans of your life already," Draco noted, sipping from his teacup again. He could almost have been bored, if not for the slight shake to his hand.

No, not bored. He looked dignified, chin high and cheeks clear of shame. The years may not have been kind in some ways, but it was best Harry had ever seen him look. It was someone he wished had existed years ago.

"Well, we're hardly sixteen anymore," Harry reminded him.

"You don't say."

"I know you haven't the faintest idea what's happened in wizarding Britain over the past few years, so I can't expect you to know much changed, but--"

"And how do you know that?" Draco interrupted him. "How do you know I don't have someone feeding me all the details I need to know?"

"Your letters," said Harry, finally taking the original one back and tucking it safely away again. "They're still addressed to Mugford. He hasn't headed up the Aurors in four years now; he was taken down by the younger Lestrange before we finally brought him in."

"Oh." Draco put his teacup down. "I suppose I've been a little busy trying to stay alive to keep abreast of these things." If Harry suspected it went deeper than that, well, it wouldn't serve any purpose to say so. "I do hope that, even if you were so keen on discovering who was sending them, you at least kept it to yourself."

Harry gave him what he hoped was an apologetic look, though he wasn't, not really. "I'm not the only one who knows your writing, Draco," he said. "It would have come out eventually. You're not... you could come home, you know."

Draco snorted again. "Thanks, Potter, but I'd prefer to be a moving target. It's so much harder to kill me that way."

"Has it really been that bad?" asked Harry. "Do you really need to... you've been watching that street since I arrived."

"Oh, I'm not watching the street for Death Eaters," he said lightly.

A woman carrying too many flowers stumbled by, and a car honked up the street, and there was nothing Harry found particularly engaging about the scene. A group of schoolboys dashed round the corner, in matching uniforms that were about as neat as one might expect from six- or seven-year-olds, cutting off a bicycle rider who swore and shook a fist after them. Malfoy waved and one of them came bounding up to him.

"Papa," he said breathlessly, not even sparing a glance for Harry, "Papa, may I go to Leo's to play?"

"I'll come get you before supper," said Malfoy, and tugged the boy's tie into place and sent him on his way with the other boys. Harry could only stare.

"Yours?" he said finally.


"And his mother...?"

"Murdered," said Draco shortly. "Years ago."

"I'm sor--"

"Don't tell me you're sorry, Potter. You didn't know her. Neither did I, really."

"That's why you've... and you won't... "

"You sound far more intelligent when you actually complete your sentences, Potter," said Draco, finally turning toward the table, toward his companion. "And really, you need all the help you can get."

Harry almost grinned. "But a Muggle school....?"

"Times change," said Draco bluntly. "Tell me how many of them are left out there, Potter. Surely the Ministry has been keeping count."

Harry nodded. "Two," he said after a moment. "That we're sure of. Castillo and... "



"I thought," said Draco, "you said they were not after me. I thought you said they had finally come to realise I was not a minion of that madman."

"No," said Harry, "not you. Lucius."

"Oh," said Draco after a moment of hesitation. "Oh. Lucius is dead."

"Are you sure?"

"Quite." Draco did not offer any more information than that. Harry didn't ask. "I thought you knew; it was some time ago. So that leaves just Castillo, then. He's slippery."

"And what then?" asked Harry. "What then, when there are none left?"

Draco looked about for a moment, finished his tea. "Perhaps then it will be time to come home," he said finally. "You have four years, Harry."

"Four years?"

"Before my son turns eleven. I should like to return to England for that."

Four years. He could make that work. "I'll be sure to let them know. And perhaps sooner?"

Draco got up from his seat. "If Castillo comes after me and my son," he said, "you'll be sure to hear. Perhaps I should address the next letter directly to you."

"I'm a Quidditch scout."

"You're still Harry Potter," said Draco, "Of all of us, at least I can be sure you'll still be alive. I need to see to my son, Potter. If you'll excuse me?"

Harry rose to his feet as well, and offered his hand. "It was good seeing you, Draco."

Draco looked back, cocked his head to one side as he looked at him. "Yes, it was," he said after a moment, and took Harry's hand. "I'll be in touch."

Harry watched him go, watched the way he moved, hand never far from his wand pocket, eyes sharp, feet light. Still a damn fine seeker, and probably an even better father. Harry found himself very glad that Barrowcliffe hadn't come.

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01mar05. For the birthday of my darling miss Monkeydom.