makai: Castle home (for luck)
[personal profile] makai
Author: [livejournal.com profile] silyara
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] annafugazzi
Title: The House Elf Liederkranz Performance
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione, mostly.
Summary: Harry's matured, he promises. There's just something suspicious about those damned carolers.
Rating: G
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Implications of violence, possible lack of making any sense, and crack as a first cousin once removed.
Epilogue compliant? EWE implied, could be compliant if you squint and stare really hard.
Word Count: 3330
Author's Notes: [livejournal.com profile] annafugazzi, you asked for slow build up (if this fic had been properly done for the exchange, it likely would have been 3-5 times longer), humor, curse-breaking, aurors, professors, silk ribbon, owls, and oh so importantly, and what inspired the story, house elf choral society. I wanted to write a story for you because, though you don't know me, I really owe you big time for H/D all together. See, once upon a time, five and a half years ago, I hated H/D as a ship. A friend of mine loved them, and I gave her a challenge: send me a link to ONE H/D fic of her choice, and I would read it. If I wasn't convinced, she'd never mention H/D to me again. She chose well, she chose very well. She sent me to read Bond, and the rest, you could say, is history. So it really pleases me to write a fic for you, and while it's short, I hope you enjoy it.


His house was cold. His dinner was cold. His arse was cold. And Kreacher was nowhere to be found. Grumbling to himself about the lack of a heating charm on the otherwise tasty soup, Harry started a fire, for warmth, and heated the soup in a microwave. The sturdy machine was one of the few muggle appliances that still lasted in Grimmauld Place’s kitchen. Kreacher wasn’t a fan, but Kreacher wasn’t there. His eyes closed because it had been a sixteen hour day, it was two weeks until Christmas, and Harry had no idea when he’d have time to shop for so many Weasleys.

Whistling, it sounded at first, came through the window – that explained the draft – and prompted Harry to stand again. His arse was still stone cold. Being an auror was about as exciting as living in the forest looking for horcruxes at times. His fingers settled on top of the sill, but they paused. The voices were clear on the wind, unlike any carolers Harry had heard before. The angle was too tight to see them, so he went to the living room to lift up one of the curtains. A pack of about twelve children were singing for his neighbors. Their hair shimmered, like the angels they sang of, and Harry rubbed his eyes. No, it was still there, possibly his tired brain going haywire.

It was the third night in a row for carolers that he’d heard in his house. It was the first he’d bothered to glance at. He was turning into an old man, growling about the behavior of short children with no adult supervision. His sense of adventure was during the day, not the night. The night was for his creaky bed upstairs, slightly oversized. His food was lukewarm as it was, and the thought of bed turned Harry upstairs. He missed the knock on his door but heard the carolers even in his dreams. The children really ought to have their parents present, at least a choir director.

The next night, at least, Harry wasn’t at home but splitting a meal enough to feed five men or Ron Weasley and himself on the other side of London. Hermione’s hair frayed out of the messy bun, as she used Mrs. Weasley’s Christmas sweater from last year as a kitchen apron. There were a few stains, but the food was amazing, and warm. Harry sat back in the glow of a happy meal and the best company he could think of.

“How’s life, Hermione?” Harry asked.

“Please, you know that means ‘How’s work?’” Ron complained around a large bite of roast.

“I have six more cases than I should at this time,” Hermione sounded tired too, though Ron hadn’t helped her cook, “Malfoy’s used all of his vacation days and his sick days end tomorrow. He’s going to be sorry he spent them before the holidays. Gladys and Edward are leaving early, and he’ll get their load for dumping on us like this. I’m already elbow deep into the house elf rights acts, and I have to help with his cases that aren’t even my department.” Harry knew she’d volunteered because her desk overflowed during dry spells. But still, it was a funny point.

“Draco Malfoy a barrister,” he laughed, “Who would have guessed?”

“It doesn’t pay just to be a Malfoy anymore,” Ron smiled. He dished up another mound of potatoes and drowned them in gravy.

“He’s slow to answer my questions, but the owls always come back,” Hermione shook her head, “Green silk ribbon around the notes and all, every time.” She pulled one of them out of her pocket. The material was soft, expensive. It spoke of luxury Draco Malfoy hadn’t quite let go of.

“Have you had many caroling groups in your neighborhood?” Harry asked, happy to move on from the last topic. His hard feelings were gone toward Malfoy, but so too was all his interest in the man. It wasn’t sixth year or anything. Malfoy didn’t have evil plots in his early twenties. Even the jabs sounded dry in his mouth.

“Not much,” Hermione paused in thought afterward.

“It’s not real caroling season yet,” Ron added judgmentally.

“Just some kids,” Hermione continued, “They had remarkable voices. I barely caught the sound down the street when I came home two nights ago.”

Harry nodded and let the conversation shift to gift shopping and what Ginny was likely to want for Christmas, now that she played quidditch professionally. Her career was really taking off, which – according to Ron – meant she wanted for nothing. Harry was woefully aware of the state of his Christmas shopping.

Though no one had been home, Harry found the children – same as the night before by the clothes they were wearing – singing outside his front door. Gently nudging through the crowd, Harry almost knocked one girl over, blond with large blue eyes like saucers. His hand caught her shoulder to steady her. It was thin, even under the jacket. Seeing no adults, again, Harry questioned them from his doorstep. “Who are you with? Where are your parents?” His eyes looked around.

They stopped singing. All their eyes looked up at him; then, the crowd slipped away into the foggy evening so quickly it was like they vanished in a shimmering of the light. Shaking his head, Harry told himself to quit being paranoid about everything before going to bed. It wasn’t until lunch the next day that he realized the children, all dressed like muggles, shouldn’t have been able to see his door. Most witches and wizards couldn’t see his door.

Seized in a fit of concern (paranoia Ron called it between bites of baloney sandwich), Harry spent the rest of the day calling choral societies, muggle and magical. He got nowhere, and his palm was slowly boring through his forehead when a flyer slid into view on his desk. The House Elf Liederkranz Performance was that Friday night at 7:30 pm. It was open to the public. Harry looked up quizzically, “What’s this, Hermione? What’s a Lieder- what’s that word?”

“Liederkranz is a singing group, originally made up of men. It’s German,” she explained. “Ron said you were looking for choral societies and weren’t giving up.” Her eyebrow quirked toward the teetering pile of paperwork Harry currently was in the process of giving the cold shoulder to.

“They were at my door,” Harry explained, “Who could do that? Children cannot get through the wards.”

“House elves can,” Hermione smiled. “Come on, Harry. You would have gotten there eventually. They’re third from the bottom on your list.” She pointed to the list of a hundred and fifty groups, somewhere around sixty-five of which had lines through their names.

“House elves,” Harry repeated, flabbergasted. Why hadn’t he thought of that?

So there he was, on a Friday evening – date night, not that he had gone on a date in the last four months – waiting to hear house elves sing at the St. Pancras Parish Church London, only a brief walk from his home, and he was seriously wondering if he had gotten any better with his obsessions than he had in Hogwarts. Sure, plenty of those had been spot on the money, but what did he think house elves were doing?

Their voices were eerily reminiscent of the children, enough that Harry felt sure in his gut that they were the one and the same group. But cleaning his glasses, Harry stared in shock at the house elves, who certainly didn’t look like children now – magical only crowd. There, front and center, was Dobby, with a beautiful tenor voice. Standing nervously beside him was none other than Winky. These weren’t just house elves – they were free house elves, who all worked at Hogwarts. When he reviewed the program, Harry pinched himself. Instead of waking up, he bit his lip not to yelp, it had been a hard pinch, and stared at the bottom of the last page: arranged by Draco Malfoy.

Something didn’t feel right. That’s how Harry justified himself for standing on the doorstep of a mansion he had never wanted to see again. His last visit hadn’t gone terribly swell, to put it mildly, but Draco Malfoy still lived at home. So said his work papers, and Harry was determined, which explained why he was awake at such an ungodly early hour on a Saturday morning.

The Malfoys, as he figured, were early risers. Only Narcissa saw him in the parlor: the one where Hermione had been tortured and where Draco Malfoy had failed to identify him. “Er,” Harry cleared his throat, “Mrs. Malfoy, I came here to see Draco, if that’s alright. I don’t mean to be rude, but could I see him?” A house elf bowed deeply, offering him tea, but Harry didn’t do more than look at the cup.

“I must apologize,” Narcissa Malfoy had a quiet tone, which surprised Harry. Her armchair nearly appeared to be eating her. Things hadn’t been easy for the Malfoys, but Narcissa had always held her head up high. “He’s not home at the moment. If you had sent an owl, I could have saved you the trip. If you would like to leave a message…”

Harry frowned, remembering his last conversation with Hermione. “Is Draco okay, Mrs. Malfoy?” he asked, “He’s taking unpaid leave from work. I stopped by his office. I really should speak with him.” Everything sounded fishier and fishier as he remembered how long Malfoy had been away from work.

“I am sure he is well,” Narcissa set her tea down. Her hand rested on a letter on the table next to her, a green silk ribbon trailed off the side, secured in the wax seal, broken. “We have kept in touch.” Her heart hardly sounded in her words.

“Where is he, Mrs. Malfoy?” Harry asked, leaning forward in his seat. Her fingers trembled and pressed down against the letter.

“Last I saw him, he was visiting Blaise Zabini,” she replied.

“Professor Zabini,” Harry pressed, “Potions master at Hogwarts?”

She nodded and refused to meet his eye.

No matter how many forms of stupid Ron called him, anyone who knew Harry halfway decently could have predicted his next stop. Professor McGonagall – who did not ask him to call her Minerva – welcomed him to her office when Harry called in advance. Storming the castle so close to exams had felt a touch extreme. The headmistress’s office looked wholly different both from when Dumbledore occupied it and Snape. Harry noticed a sallow-skinned portrait tucked into a high corner, clearly not a place of honor. Harry stared as McGonagall made tea.

“You’re here to call on Professor Zabini,” she stated, eyes sharp behind her square frames. Something in her face was unconvinced.

“Actually, I’d like to talk with Draco Malfoy,” Harry explained, feeling acutely like he was a student again, “Blaise Zabini’s the last person I know who’s seen him. I’d just like to ask him a few questions.”

“Is this an auror matter, Potter?” Snape’s voice drawled before McGonagall began replying.

“No, Professor Snape,” Harry replied. The man, and his portrait, weren’t exactly easy to get along with, but it was impossible not to respect his bravery, “Er, at least I don’t think so. Nothing yet.” The portrait snorted, as if he didn’t believe Harry. Harry had grown past his school grudges, he had. Dying and coming back had put plenty of things in perspective. Draco Malfoy cowering in the Great Hall after the battle had just been one of them.

“Professor Zabini has a break in classes in a little under an hour,” McGonagall didn’t even consult a schedule, “Try not to get the students too excited while you wait, Potter.”

He nodded. A few fifth year girls had made eyes at him, and a fourth year almost swooned, but the first years barreled past him to escape the dungeons when he went to find Zabini at the appointed time. Class had gone late.

Embers smoldered. The ruins of a clearly failing student’s cauldron made a mess along one of the rows. Smooth skinned, Zabini was collecting papers at his desk, with an uncommon scowl of dislike on his face. A failing grade was scrawled across a paper in large fine strokes. A hand pushed it sideways, where it brushed a roll of parchment on the desk. That rolled until it caught on the wax seal, and the ribbon lay limp against the wood.

“Blaise Zabini,” Harry greeted the man, clearing his throat (that was getting to be a bad habit, Hermione said). The other man looked up. His eyes widened for a second; then, his posture improved – perfection. It showed off his dark skin in a grace rather different from what Harry had seen in Zabini before. The professor had kept strong social ties, despite his career in a castle. Harry had seen him around, often in the company of his mother.

“How may I help you?” the man asked, as if it were a student staying late after class. His eyes didn’t leave Harry, and for that, Harry didn’t look away. He was rarely the first to look away.

“I’m looking for Draco Malfoy,” Harry stated, coming closer, until he was in front of all the student desks. Still, he kept his distance. Zabini’s desk was cluttered with paper, quills, some potions ingredients on one clearly segregated side, ink, wax, and a seal.

“He’s not reported missing,” Zabini replied in a huffy tone. He wasn’t his friend’s keeper from the sound of it. His arms crossed, but still, he didn’t look away. The look was like a dare, like he dared Harry to do something – what? Harry didn’t know but felt like he should.

“No,” Harry rubbed his forehead in frustration, “But I’m looking to talk to him. It’s – er –” Important wasn’t the right word, “Can you just tell me where he is, Zabini? Then I’m off your hands, I’ll be out of your hair. You can go back to grading essays.”

“No,” Zabini’s arms came down to rearrange some items on his desk, like it was busywork. Harry was really getting frustrated.

“When was the last time you saw him?” Harry came closer. This time, his hands were on the desk, his back slightly hunched, and he looked over. Zabini was taller than he remembered.

The other man’s mouth twitched, but he didn’t say anything.

“Hey,” Harry grabbed the rolled parchment on the desk. It was wrapped with green silk ribbon. The seal was the same as the one sitting not six inches away. His hand reached out to grab Zabini’s wrist. The man’s pulse was racing. He looked… determined, terrified, frozen, and hopeful. It was a powerful look, to say all that. “Malfoy?” Harry asked, questioningly.

Malfoy's free hand pulled out a small figurine of a bishop, granite from the looks of it. Harry looked at it, reached for it but stopped when Zabini – no Malfoy – raised his eyebrows again. From an inch away, Harry felt its power, like a current of electricity. “Can I destroy it?” Harry asked, “Will blasting it, work?”

The other man sighed and pulled free to grab a textbook from a desk drawer. “It would if you did not want to have remains for evidence,” Malfoy drawled with disapproval in his voice. He pointed to one page, “Are you still a quick study for powerful spells, Potter? How about counter-spells?”

Harry read a paragraph, his finger speeding along as he read the explanation with it. Curious, he looked at the spine of the book. It was a rare copy even the Ministry didn’t have. Hogwarts only had it in the Restricted Section. Standing back, he recited the words to himself then cast. The bishop shook so violently Harry thought it would break into smithereens. It released a green light that made his eyes go wide. Jumping over the desk, Harry tackled Malfoy to the floor. The light hit the other man anyway, and Harry repeated, “No. No. No. No.”

Holding Malfoy’s Zabini-looking cheeks in his hands, Harry held his breath, waiting for a sign of life. Malfoy coughed right in his face as his skin paled, sweating. At the groaning, Harry sat back to look for other injuries. It was definitely Malfoy now, with blond hair, grey eyes, and his angular face. “What was that for, Potter?” Malfoy sat up slowly, rubbing the back of his head. His hand didn’t come back red, thankfully.

“I thought it was going to kill you,” Harry crossed his arms, “A secondary curse of some matter. The book didn’t say the light was going to be green.” It had looked exactly like a killing curse, only coming from an object.

“That’s for my spirit,” Malfoy grumbled, “Trust you not to pick up the finer details in thirty seconds. I’ve had four weeks to figure it out.”

“Why didn’t you do it yourself then?” Harry asked.

“Second paragraph, third line,” Malfoy replied, “The subject of the curse cannot cast the counter-curse. Besides, it wouldn’t have done any good.”

“Why not?” Harry asked.

Think, please,” Malfoy sighed, “Granger swears you have a brain in there somewhere.”

He stared at Malfoy for a few moments. Everyone had known he had called in sick. Given he was teaching here, Harry supposed he couldn’t come to work. But why was he teaching at Hogwarts? “Where’s Zabini?” Harry asked, looking around the classroom in alarm, for clues.

“Thank you,” Malfoy replied, “Now can you bring your auror friends to the Zabini estate? There’s a wedding to stop and Blaise needs to be rescued.” He was all business now, in the flowing robes that all potions mastered seemed to wear as a mandated uniform.

“A wedding? Oh,” Harry remembered the announcement in the papers, “I thought it was a bit funny Mrs. Zabini was marrying Goyle. Isn’t his wife still alive?”

“Not Sr.,” Malfoy rolled his eyes, “Jr. Merlin, even if you’re this slow, I thought Granger would have picked up on the house elves.”

“Oh, she did. She showed me the flyer for the concert,” Harry grinned.

“If this is you at your best, I have no idea how you beat You-Know-Who,” Malfoy commented, half under his breath. “Think, again, if you can.”

“The House Elves Liederthingy Performance,” Harry replied.

“Liederkranz, it’s German,” Malfoy corrected.

“Whatever.”

“Indeed, whatever.”

“The…HELP!” Harry laughed, “That’s clever since they- oh.”

“Yes, oh. Big burly aurors now. Amusement at my cleverness later. Blaise will give up his mother, now she’s gone after Greg.”

The fight was short if fierce. Mrs. Zabini moved wicked quick in a wedding dress. The carnations were destroyed. Gregory Goyle cried and hid behind the altar. A weak but grateful Zabini was taken to St. Mungo’s, to give his statement to Ron. And Harry found himself standing by the sea with Draco Malfoy, who still wore Zabini’s clothes.

Harry didn’t say anything for about five minutes. “If you came to me directly, she’d have taken it out on Zabini. But you knew, you knew if you made the hair rise on the back of my neck I wouldn’t give up until I figured it out. Even your mother practically shoved me your way without saying anything at all. And you had to save your friends, both of them. It was about them, not you.” Harry looked over. He’d always thought of Draco Malfoy as a fair bit selfish. Zabini too, for that matter, was selfish and had seemed independent enough from Malfoy in school. It had all been sly and shifts of hand, but it had worked. “You’ve really grown up, Malfoy.”

“I grew up years ago,” Malfoy replied, “You just never noticed.”

There was something to his voice that made Harry look over. “Do you want to get coffee next Friday?” Harry asked. The way he looked at Malfoy, he knew the man caught on.

“You’re- oh,” Malfoy smiled, “Yes, I’d like that.”
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