A/N: This story has nothing to do with either We, Alone or The Last Enemy. Instead this is, as is all of my fanfiction, me writing (or trying to write) the things I wish I was reading. Hope you enjoy!
Harry woke up to the sound of Ron and Hermione squabbling. He tried to ignore it, tried to roll over and put a pillow over his head, but it was no use. He was awake now.
He went into the living room, the morning light slanting through the bay windows making him squint. Ron and Hermione stopped talking as he entered and flopped down on the sofa opposite them.
Ron turned to him, "Harry, don't you think that…"
"No, I don't think. Also, don't drag me into whatever fight you're having."
"But mate, she won't listen to reason and I…"
"Won't listen to reason? Really? Really? I think I know who's the one not listening here."
Hermione crossed her arms over her chest, a bad sign if there ever was one. Harry groaned and stood up again. "Who wants some breakfast? I'll do a fry up."
Ron turned to him, a smile breaking over his agitated face, "Really, what for?"
"I'm going to be gone for a while, remember?"
Hermione uncrossed her arms, looking a little sad. "I can't believe you have to hang around that odious man for however long."
"I think he's kind of funny, and at least he's not some berk stuck on being a pureblood."
"If by funny you mean incredibly materialistic, then I agree with you."
"Even when you agree with me you don't actually agree with me."
Hermione laughed, her response drowned out by Harry closing the kitchen door.
Harry tapped the wireless with his wand, turned down the clashing guitars of the Weird Sisters until they were just background noise. He turned to the refrigerator to get ingredients, gathering this and that in his arms. He didn't have to be into work until noon, so he could take his time.
As he was heating up the beans, he heard Ron's voice raise, though he couldn't quite make out the words, followed by Hermione's, which sounded like she was saying, "Oh honestly."
Harry turned up the radio a little and started unpacking the sausages, smiling to himself. Some parts of Ron and Hermione's relationship haven't changed since they were eleven.
A short while later, he set the table, placed the food in the center and walked into the living room again, only to jerk back as Hermione and Ron broke apart from their passionate kiss.
"You two are horrendous to live with. Breakfast is ready."
Turning around and entering the kitching, he heard them shuffle in behind him. They all sat down, Ron immediately plucking a rasher off the plate and popping into his mouth. Hermione looked at him with wide, worried eyes. "You don't mean it do you?"
Harry considered them for a long moment, "I suppose not."
Grinning, Ron took another rasher, "Good, that would be sad, what with how much we love you."
Hermione nodded in solemn agreement while reaching for the toast.
Leaning back in his chair, he smiled at them. "You two are alright, too, I guess."
"There is some genuine humour in you being my bodyguard." William Oak slammed his large, ring covered hand on Harry's shoulder, his voice booming down the concrete and glass hallway. "But that's why it works you see, no one would think you would be able to do anything, what with you being a bit of a bean pole. No offense meant of course." He laughed a barking rough laugh and then patted Harry on the back twice before turning abruptly down an almost invisible side hallway, his pace picking up as they got closer to their destination.
William Oak is the richest wizard in all of Europe, ousting the Malfoys from that title even before their fall from grace. It shows in his walk, in his clothes, in his fake easy smile, in his impatience. His short silver gray hair and closely shaved beard align more with muggle fashion than with wizard. He is famously quoted as saying, after the war was over, "That's why the Malfoys fell. They hated muggles. Who can hate muggles? They have so much money." He once wrote in an article that he identified more with capitalist than wizard.
Harry didn't know what to make of him. Some part of him was reminded of Vernon, of Lockhart, all bluster, ego, showmanship. But other parts of him thought of Mr. Weasley, and, oddly, of Hagrid. There was an open curiosity about Oak that made him more charming than Lockhart, a gentleness to his massive frame that made him more Hagrid than Vernon, but still, he couldn't get a read on him, couldn't settle into a conclusion.
The hallway opened into a massive modern ballroom just as abruptly as it appeared at the other end. Oak didn't slow his pace at all and headed like a missile towards the table in the middle, something in his posture becoming almost aggressive. "Christopher, Christopher my wonderful man!"
Christopher, a man in his late forties and a crisp suit stiffened in his chair before slowly turning around. He groaned. "Christ, what do you want?"
"Your answer of course! Why haven't you answered any of my calls? My emails. It's starting to feel personal, you know."
"That's because it is."
"It shouldn't be, this is about money and if we can make it. Now, hold on," Oak turned to Harry, who was lingering awkwardly behind him. "Go sit at that table with the other assistants, if you don't mind?" Harry raised an eyebrow and smirked, but nodded and began walking toward the table at the far end of the room where there was a group of young people with piles of papers, notepads, and mobile phones, antennas out. Everywhere was coffee, paper, and people talking over one another.
Harry could hear Oak's booming voice behind him as he crossed the room, his eyes scanning for anything odd and finding plenty, just not of the dangerous variety. He sighed as he sat down next a small young woman with a massive amount of golden wavy hair.
Across the room Oak was gesturing wildly while Christopher looked more and more red faced. Harry couldn't quite make out what they were saying. He felt a tap on his arm. The girl with golden hair smiled at him, her dark eyes crinkling at the corners. "Are you new? I haven't seen you around."
"Hmmm, yes and no." Harry smiled back briefly before turning back to the room and looking for any strange behavior. Christopher jumped up suddenly, making Harry stiffen a little, but he just turned on his heels and stormed from the room, while Oak threw his head back and laughed. He looked over at Harry and made a thumbs up.
"Oh, you're working for Oak? That must be rough. I hear he can be okay too sometimes, though. What's he been for you so far?"
It was the girl again, not taking the hint apparently. It didn't matter too much, Oak's next target was at a closer table and he was able to keep him easily in his periphery. "It hasn't been very long yet, so I can't honestly say, but so far, rough but sometimes okay seems close enough. Who's yours?"
She sighed and gestured to a woman with black hair in a bob and a red power suit with massive shoulder pads. Something in her sparkling eyes made him think of a spider. "Is she worried she's going to get tackled?"
The girl snorted and then laughed, covering her face with her hand, her fingernails painted a summer sky blue. "It's supposed to be from some Italian designer and I just 'don't understand the complex world of fashion'. My fault for saying anything, I knew it wasn't going to go well."
She leaned closer, her smile mischievous. Suddenly he felt like a primary schooler again. Or would, if he had anyone to share secrets with in primary. "You know something funny? You can't get mobile reception in here, the glass and concrete is too thick."
Harry raised his eyes at the five or so people who were having loud, ongoing conversations on their phones. He leaned in forward too, "Then what are they doing?"
She shrugged, grinning, "Who knows. This place is like a Hieronymus Bosch painting, the longer you look, the weirder it gets."
Harry smiled wider and looked back into the crowd. Oak was practically standing over a man who was slumped over in his seat, his red face trying and failing to look unintimidated. At the same table was a man with a walrus mustache, a monocle and a polka dotted suit. "Is that an Italian designer too?" He nodded his head in the man's direction.
She shook her head in rueful sort of way. "That's Mr. Abbot. He's old, old money. I think at some point old money people just completely lose any attachment to reality."
Harry nodded, scanning the room again. At least she was giving him a good reason to look around.
"My name's Sophie, yours? Oh, look at the back table by the windows."
"Mine's Harry. Is she wearing ... I … is that ...?"
"Yes, a purple feathered cape."
"I bet that's a French designer, then."
She started laughing again before abruptly stopping, "Oh shit." she muttered under breath, circling around the table, walking in front of him. He could see the woman in red watching her walk closer with a displeased look on her face. This Sophie was quite short, barely needing to lean over to have the woman in red furiously whisper in her ear.
"Made a friend then?" Oak was suddenly in front of him, glass of something dark in his hand. He moved very fast and quietly for a man of his size.
"I think she might be the only sane person here." Harry shrugged, giving him a short grin.
"Everyone else is mad, including me?" Oak's face was suddenly impossible to read. He couldn't tell if he was looking to joke or wanted him to suck up. Harry was never much of a suck up.
Oak's rough booming laugh filled the area around him. A few of the assistants forgot to pretend to speak into their phones in their surprise. He clapped his shoulder again, nodding his head towards the door. "We have to go now, to the next thing."
"Yes, I hate wasting time at these things. I drank, I ate, I networked, now onward."
"I can see why you said you didn't want to cart around a team of people."
"I hate corralling people, worse than cats they are."
They were already walking towards the door. Harry glanced back to find Sophie moving back toward the assistant's table, shoulders slumped. She looked around after seeing his empty seat, spotted him leaving, and they waved. Her grin already slipping into a frown as they they turned the corner, and she was out of sight.
It was midnight and Oak didn't seem to have any less energy. He burst into events, prodded, poked, wheeled and dealed, joked and intimidated. He was a force of nature and just watching him work made Harry feel tired. He could also see how he had credible threats against his life, as he clearly didn't appear charming to everyone he descended upon.
"I have to say, when I requested the best from the ministry for protection, I didn't think they would give me you. Shouldn't you, I don't know, be doing something more… big scale?"
They had just flooed into Oak's living room. Harry had a bag with him as he was going to stay until they could find the people making threats on Oak. He felt his throat clench at the question. How many times had he asked the same thing to himself?
"It can't always be killing dark lords and fighting death eaters, can it?" He felt like he was saying it more to himself than Oak, but Oak nodded, his first silent response of the evening, and gestured toward the door at the beginning of the hallway.
"There's the guest bedroom. I need to glance over some paperwork, so don't be alarmed if you hear me thumping around."
He nodded, pulling out a sneakoscope and his wand. "I know you have protections up already, but, frankly, mine will probably be better."
Harry placed his bag on the ground. He went through the familiar movements of protection charms, defensive hexes, and alarms. Oak watched, his eyes sharp and dark in the dim lighting, until he was finished. "You learned all that in Auror training?"
"Oh, here and there." Some of them were from his horcrux camping days, some new additions from his time as an Auror, some picked up from people he knew, like Bill. Those tended to be the most useful.
Moving swiftly across the large, open living room, Oak was already at his office door. "Well, then, Goodnight."
He wondered how Ron and Hermione were doing without him there to make dinner. He left a note on the table that he put a few meals in the freezer for them, but he could picture Hermione being stubborn.
He double checked his spells and, picking up his bag as he went, pushed the door open to the guest bedroom. The room was three times as large as his back at the flat, one wall was floor to ceiling windows, one wall all white closet doors without handles, one wall with a plain white door to what he assumes is a WC, and the wall where the head of the massive bed rested was a dark, chalky gray.
The view from the enormous windows seemed to be of a forest or a park, all dark shapes shifting slightly in the breeze.
Oak's question, shouldn't you be doing something more large scale, seemed to lie upon him heavier in the silence.
After triple checking the alarms, he went to bed, resting his glasses on the side table. As he drifted off in the impersonal, cold room, he wondered where, in the last three years of his life since he defeated Voldemort, all his bravery had gone. He was too afraid to really try to even think about the answer to Oak's question anymore.
The next day was all board meetings and conferences rooms he had to sit outside of. His muggle suit felt tight and claustrophobic. He missed his auror robes or jeans. He hoped the investigation was going quickly so he could be done doing this.
After a short lunch that consisted of Oak eating a sausage roll and walking very quickly towards another building for another meeting, Harry was sat on stiff brown cushioned benches outside the black gleaming doors of the conference room.
The whole hallway was lined with such benches, people sitting briefly, writing quick notes, making fast, hushed phone calls. At the other end, he saw a golden gleam of hair, and, looking around an obese man making sharp gestures and whispering furiously, he saw Sophie from the day before. Her eyebrows were drawn together in intense concentration as she compared two pieces of paper, sometimes moving a pen quickly along a notepad in her lap. Her mass of thick, wavy long hair was wrapped up close to the crown of her head in a neat, large bun.
Glancing around, keeping his eyes moving back towards the conference room doors where Oak was, Harry moved down the hallway, sitting down next her. She glanced up briefly from her work and back, unthinkingly, before double checking him. "Henry!"
She blushed, wincing. "I'm absolutely terrible with names, I'm sorry."
"No worries, Sandra."
She smiled widely, "I deserve that." She shuffled her papers into a neat stack, still grinning, before pausing and glancing back at him. "Oh, um, you do know that it's actually…"
"Sophie, yes, I'm very good with names myself."
"I'm glad you are, it's generally an important skill in an assistant, as my boss tells me all the time, usually just as I'm feeling a little happy." Her wide grin was a little more strained now.
"How is working for your boss anyway? Is she still expecting to be tackled?"
"No, today she looks like she is ready for ancient Greece. Her dress is bizarrely toga-y. And Angela is, well, she requires a high standard. I'm just not sure if I can meet it."
"That's the politest way I've ever heard anyone call their boss a nitpicky bint before. Impressive."
Sophie beamed at him.
"Sophie. Flirting on the job again I see. We need to go in five, be ready, for once."
Her sparkling dark eyes met Harry's for a long beat before she entered back into the smaller conference room doors she had stuck her head out of.
Sophie looked a little pale. "I hope she didn't hear any of that."
He shrugged. "She doesn't seem like the type to let an insult slide, does she?"
Biting her lip, she nodded, gathering all her things together. "When she says five minutes, she usually means one. I hope to see you around some more. Oak and her run in very similar circles, so…"
"Yeah, I'll see you." Harry stood as she did, her smaller frame stopping it's rise much faster than his. She was at least a head and a bit more shorter than him.
Angela burst out of the room, barely glancing back at Sophie to see if she was following and sped down the hallway, her toga like white dress billowing behind her. For some reason Harry remembered Snape, his cloak flapping behind him as he hunted down some person or another having fun.
Shaking his head, Harry moved back down the hallway, sitting by the room doors again, already bored.
Hours that felt like slow days later, Oak exited the conference room, his pace slower, his energy lower than Harry had ever seen it.
"Why don't you take the evening off tonight, hmm?" Oak said, walking toward the lifts. There were too many people around, swarming this way and that from the meeting that just ended, for Harry to reply in a direct manner.
"You know I really can't."
Oak sighed. "When we get back to the apartment, could you ask them how things are going?"
"Yes, I'll let you know whatever I can."
The lift was smooth and silent in its descent, Oak's usually borderline hyper energy changed to an equally distracting brooding, his presence a tense dark cloud in the corner of the small space.
People got off and on, some whispering to each other, sometimes the crowded space dead silent as they reached lower and lower into the building, eventually arriving at the lower level multistorey car park.
Rounding a column and glancing around to see that they were alone, they apparate away, appearing just inside the front door of Oak's apartment. He still looked deflated.
"Bad meeting?" Harry waved his wand, checking to see if there had been any disturbances. There hadn't.
Oak considered him for a long moment as he moved to sit on the low gray sofa by the window. "It was. I won't go into detail but I was rather betrayed. Also, I think I might know who has been sending me death threats."
Harry turned, surprised, looking at him directly. "Who?"
He pulled out an very long light wood wand and flicked it, apparently casting a accio as a crystal decanter half filled with dark liquid and two short glasses flew to the table, landing with a small scraping sound and some sloshing.
"I can't, not while working."
Oak stared at him for a long moment, "Right, well," he poured himself a generous amount and sipped, "have a seat."
Harry sat, leaning forward. If Oak had a genuine idea, this all might be over a lot sooner than they all hoped.
"His name is Robert Able. He isn't on the list of possible suspects that I gave you at the beginning of all this, as I thought he was my friend. But today he took our ten year friendship and lucrative partnership and sold it all down the river for short sighted piles of cash from some losers that will eventually screw him over just as he's screwed me." His voice became increasingly bitter as he spoke, finishing it off by downing his drink with a grimace.
Harry stared at him. "Did he say anything threatening to you? What makes you think he might be making the threats?"
Oak poured himself another drink, swirling it in his glass a little. "No, but I didn't have you all check him out because I thought he was my friend. That's no longer the case, so I would like you to."
Harry sat back, frowning. "I can't investigate people based solely on them making business deals you don't like."
Oak leaned forward, elbows on his knees, glass dangling from one hand. "Have you ever been betrayed, Mr. Potter?"
He raised his eyebrows at him but didn't respond.
"I imagine that you have considering how much went on in your early life. So you should know that once a betrayal is realized, it throws everything they've done into question. I don't think it's unreasonable to have him checked out."
Harry shoved the image of Dumbledore's smiling portrait hanging in McGonagall's office firmly from his mind and considered Oak's words. "I'll ask the team, then."
"Thank you, there is a secure floo fireplace in the office, if you'd like?"
Harry nodded, walking to the office, leaving Oak in sitting with his head in his hands.
Pinching the powder, he tossed it into the fireplace, contemplating who to ask for as the flames burned emerald green. Leaning down and sticking his head into the fire, he said, "Auror department reception."
A sickening moment of twirling confusion and discomfort from his head being far away from his body later, he saw the lobby of the auror depart. It was quiet and dark because of the late hours, except for the night receptionist who squeaked as she saw his head in the fire, dropping her magazine on her desk.
"Mr. Potter! Wh-what brings you around?" She knelt by the fireplace, looking worried.
"Can you make sure that first thing in the morning that Lisa, who's working on the Oak case, knows to investigate a former partner of Oak named Robert Able? I'll also send a memo, if you can get me a spare one?"
"Sure thing Mr. Potter." She stood back up, her heels clacking she walked toward her desk, grabbing one of the memos off of her pile and walking back. Harry pushed his arm through, extending a hand. She delivered him the memo, her lightly shaking hand lingering against his. "Anything you need." She held eye contact a beat too long.
"Um, thank you." He pulled out of the fireplace, feeling uncomfortable now in more ways than one.
Rubbing his neck as he entered back into the living room, he saw Oak sprawled on top of the couch, the decanter holding significantly less liquid than it used to. He moved to walk passed but Oak's voice stopped him. "Would you like some unasked for advice from an old man?" Despite his disheveled appearance Oak's voice was as strong and clear as ever. Harry turned fully to look at him, eyebrows raised.
"You've been a good kid all your life, I'd wager, trying to do the right thing, even when it was hard. You could have told the whole world to fuck off all the times they changed their mind about you but for some reason you still fought for us. And we're all grateful. But however grateful we all are, it will never be enough. People will take and take from you, run you dry and then complain when they can't take any more. My advice is to stop."
Despite his apprehension, he couldn't help but ask, his voice low, "Stop what?"
Oak loosened his tie further, placing his glass on the table as he stared at the ceiling. "Stop being the good kid. Stop seeking approval. Stop sacrificing and doing a good job even though it's hard. You've got spunk, go take what's yours."
He put his hands in his pockets, "And what's mine to take?"
"I dunno, whatever you want. Get yourself a life, a girlfriend now that that Weasley girl has left you, a hobby of some sort. Go take some happiness and stop being so bloody serious all the time."
"You don't even know me. I'm just at work right now, I'm not always serious."
Oak give him a slow grin, "Somehow I doubt that."
Harry sighed, turning on his heel. "Good night."
Oak's chuckle followed him as he closed the guest bedroom door behind him.