but really wtf though. this has been on my computer so long finally I was just like, fuck it, I'm just gonna put it up.
Meeting Bruce Wayne wouldn't have been such a calamitous occasion had he not been smack in the middle of his midlife crisis.
And by midlife crisis, he really meant sexual identity crisis.
But when people constantly ribbed him on his recent breakup with Ginny, either jesting, snooping, or genuinely curious, that's generally what he told people. It was easier to brush off the laughable fact he wasn't anywhere near approaching midlife, rather than explain to the public at large that he wasn't sure anymore if he was into girls as much as he thought he was. Or rather, if he was into them at all.
"I saw this coming." Ron was quick to interrupt his fumbling attempt to explain it to him, looking vaguely triumphant at this. "I totally saw this coming. Since fifth year."
Never mind the fact he'd just broken up with the bloke's sister because he may or may not be gay. He'd let Ron have this small victory—it was rare for the inherently oblivious and slightly dense redhead to predict anything at all—in gratitude of him not making a bigger deal out of this. Judging from how viciously Dudley would accuse him of being gay in their youth, he assumed it was something forbidden, or at the very least unfavorable.
Judging from the reaction of his two best friends, it seemed more of a competition on who knew him best.
"Oh, Ronald." Hermione scowled, rubbing delicately at her hair. It had long stopped its reign as an untamable mane of curls, but occasionally if she brushed it wrong it gave her the appearance of a raccoon. "This isn't a competition."
Funny, she'd been arguing over how she'd known since Fourth Year's Yule Ball up until now.
She turned to him at that. "Harry, I'm glad you've figured it out." And then, added, "Or at the very least, have admitted it to yourself. …It was beginning to get a bit painful to watch."
Harry groaned, feeling all the love and gratefulness he'd felt for his friends moments ago drain out with exasperation. "Okay, this conversation's over." He said, getting up and heading for the floo.
"Harry please, I was only joking!" She apologized, though clearly knew he wasn't offended for she was smiling slightly. "Oh, don't throw a tantrum!"
"It's just a bit of fun, mate!" Ron agreed, chortling. "C'mon… you've given us like five years of suspense! Can you blame us for being relieved after five years in that closet? Five years, Harry."
"There's no closet!" Harry insisted, rounding on them. "And I was never in a 'closet'!"
"Once you come out you can't go back in!" Ron disagreed.
He made a derisive noise, turning back to the fireplace and grabbing a handful of floo.
"It's not a two way door!" Hermione chimed in, laughter seeping into her voice.
Harry debated flipping them both the bird, but thought better of it. He doubted Ron knew what that meant anyway, and Hermione would only pretend to find it scandalous. Truthfully, he was relieved they were even teasing him at all. It was a good sign, he thought, as he hopped into the green flames. If they were cracking jokes about him, that meant they were okay with it.
And if they were okay with it, then maybe he was, too.
Malfoy seemed to have hopped onto the bandwagon as well.
"Of course I knew." He scoffed, looking righteously affronted at the very thought of ignorance. Mostly Harry supposed the blonde just refused to admit Weasley knew something before he did. "Potter, you're as transparent as an empty pensieve. Why, it's a shame it took you so long to notice—you spent an awful time dawdling with the Weaslette."
"Hey…" Harry defended, mildly. "She's better than you give her credit for."
"I suppose." The blonde sniffed. "Fortunately I never had much opportunity to test the credulity of this sentiment."
The brunette huffed, toying with one of the many magical office items laying about Malfoy's garishly vast desk. Unfortunately, not even the desk could compare to Malfoy's ego. "Was there an actual reason you called me; or would you prefer to indirectly insult me for the rest of the afternoon?"
"While the latter sounds rather entertaining, it's with lamentable digression that I must confess to the former." He eyed the other wizard curiously, looking content, leaning against the back of his extravagant office chair. A part of Harry wondered if he intentionally looked so condescending, or if it was actually just a misfortune of his genetic code. "You wouldn't happen to be leaving for the Wizengamot convention this week, would you?"
"This week?" Harry blinked, thoughtful. "I thought the hearing wasn't until the end of the month?"
"It's not." Malfoy agreed. "However, the summit itself is a grand, whole month affair, as I'm sure you're aware. People are coming from all over—the whole thing is becoming such a riot."
Harry could imagine the entirety of Sweden—the location of this particular Wizengamot summit—decked out in sprawling, luxurious hotels, the finest of the Wizarding World mulling about in palatial ball gowns and pretentious hats, as was prone when the highest of the Magical world gathered together. Harry had never been to a global Wizengamot meeting. He knew, of course, that other countries had one of their own, but had never seen them all gathered together.
He could imagine it being a tedious affair he'd greatly like to avoid.
However, he was one of the unlucky few of Britain's Wizengamot in attendance. Mandatory attendance, to his dismay.
Of course, such a grand event was somewhat predictable; rarely did the entire magical community come together for anything—certainly the last time was as far back as the Dark Ages. Most likely over some veritably crucial affair, like the Black Plague, or perhaps the fall of Rome.
Or, in this case, the integration of Muggle and Magic.
"I have no intentions of being involved in any of that month long spectacle." Harry glowered. And no one better force his hand on that. He eyed the blonde in front of him, suddenly struck with the thought. If Malfoy thought he could somehow coerce Harry into going early, he'd well and truly curse the blonde. And then kick him in the face.
The latter was more for retribution, though.
Alternatively, Malfoy beamed at him. "Excellent! I have a favor to ask."
The brunette's relief was quick, eyes narrowing warily. "…What sort of favor?"
"It's not common knowledge—not even in my own company, so don't think of relaying this to Weasley, or god forbid Granger—but I've recently started the tentative beginnings of a deal with a rival company."
"Oh?" Harry raised a brow, wondering how this pertained to him. What Malfoy did with his company (the very idea of Malfoy leading people at all still served to amuse him) was entirely up to him. Harry supposed it was a good thing the blonde had turned his cunning ambition to something more favorable, or at the least, to a practice where it was acceptable… and even considered inspirational.
Malfoy noted his disinterest, retorting flatly, "It's not a Wizarding business."
At this, Harry did give pause.
And then, after appraising the blonde's serious demeanor, "Oh. You're serious?"
"Of course I'm serious!" The blonde balked. "Honestly Potter, would I have called you over here to pull your leg?"
Harry debated this.
"That was rhetorical." The blonde deadpanned, irritated.
"You've to admit it's… somewhat laughable." Harry pointed out, wry. "Truly, you're the last person I'd have thought would voluntarily associate with muggles. In fact, don't you hate them?"
"Indubitably I do." Malfoy agreed, only furthering Harry's point. "Must I remind you that Wizengamot votes on this case, this month?"
How could he forget? The controversial topic was all anyone talked about these days. Harry missed the days when the only things his friends debated with personal fervor was Quidditch, or the state of Fudge's hair, depending on the level of inebriation.
The realization dawned on him. "You're trying to get ahead of the game?" It was less of a question and more of an accusation.
And, characteristically, the blonde had the audacity to look smug. "It's how you win." The blonde reminded, as if Harry cared about that at all.
"Just by doing this you're breaking about two dozen Ministry rules." Harry cautioned.
Regretfully, he couldn't be fully mad at the blonde. Regardless of how shallow or superficial the reasons, this was actually… a step in the right direction for Muggle-Magical relations. For once, he had no snide or callous remark about Malfoy-… aside from the fact that his reasons were predictably vain and self-centered, and entirely made from monetary value. Harry was willing to overlook this, however.
Malfoy shrugged. "I'll admit it's a gamble."
But clearly he assumed the odds were in his favor.
Harry wasn't so sure.
Even he, a Muggle-accepting, liberal wizard was hesitant at the idea of unveiling magic to the muggle world. The very idea instilled within him a vague sense of apprehension—muggles rarely acted favorable to anything they thought threatening, and while many he'd found accepting, or at least tolerating, they were certainly a minority.
"So you'll help?"
Harry shook himself out of his reverie. Malfoy apparently was taking his silence as acceptance. "I'm sorry?" And then, balking, "Malfoy, I'm not that dim! You haven't even told me what the favor is."
"Oh, I didn't?" The blonde feigned ignorance with a slight smile that only made Harry doubt his innocence further. "Well, I'm meeting with the Wizarding Chinese Prime Minister in an hour, and won't be here for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, I had made prior arrangements with Wayne Industries… it wouldn't do to reschedule so late—rather rude, actually—so I was hoping for you to take my place—
"Take your place?" Harry sputtered, utterly blindsided. "I don't even know anything about what you do!"
And to that end, they weren't even close. Or friends at all. Most tabloids considered them 'begrudging friends' at best and 'detested enemies' at worst; the reality was somewhere subjectively in the middle. Occasionally he considered Malfoy tolerable, and even came to enjoy his presence; the blonde was witty and clever, if not entirely pretentious. But never would he call them close. Certainly not close enough to pull a favor like this.
"That doesn't matter." Malfoy waved him off. For a moment, he looked somewhat vulnerable. But Harry could have imagined it, as almost immediately he smirked. "You're the renowned Harry Potter—surely they've heard of you. And at any rate, you've much more experience with Muggles than I. I'm sure you'll do fine."
"I'm only famous in the Wizarding World." Harry pointed out. And even then, it was more infamous. He did have a point on the latter, though. Harry could imagine Malfoy attempting civility with another Muggle business—even in his head it looked disastrous. Though alternatively, he doubted he'd do much better. He'd probably only make a mockery out of Malfoy's company (which according to the paper's was a 'work of brilliance') whatever it may be that it does. To that end, he'd at least be polite.
Malfoy seemed to study him. "Well, I suppose if you truly don't want to…"
Harry gritted his teeth, knowing he'd lost. "I never said that."
"So you will?"
"Yes, but don't throw me under the bus in this." Harry was quick to reply. "If you're serious about me… gallivanting as you, I'd think you'd have enough self-preservation to at least give me a chance to do it well. Unless you'd rather me make a fool of you."
"Of me?" Malfoy echoed cheerily. "Oh, no, certainly not. You'll be going as yourself!"
Harry choked. "What do I know of business?"
"Whoever said you need to know anything?" Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Potter, believe me when I say it physically pains me to admit this, but it's an unfortunate talent of yours to inspire within others the most unbelievable of things. The most I expect you'll need to do is be you're inconsolably guileless, transparent self. The rest, I suppose, will work itself out from there."
For a moment, Harry thought he may be complimenting him, then he exploded, "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Well, he didn't have Hermione's almost incomprehensible, bookish intelligence, nor did he have the cunning, manipulative brilliance of Malfoy; but apparently there was something to be said of his simple, candid speech, for more often than not people listened to him. Perhaps it was because he was frank about it, or just simply hadn't the time nor wanted to make the effort of making it complicated—if he believed in something and wanted others to believe in it too, he said so. For some reason, his arguments always ended up solid.
"It means Shacklebolt is fortunate you had no intention of running against him—you'd make an awfully shrewd, if not naïve politician."
"That's…" Harry faltered. "Somewhat kind of you to say. But mostly, I think you're insulting me and don't really appreciate it."
Malfoy smiled at him enigmatically.
It was debatable whether he was truly mocking him or not.
"That's really what Malfoy does?" Harry peered over Hermione's shoulder.
The witch had amassed a small archive of Malfoy-related articles from recent posts of the Daily Prophet, which now littered across her long table, or rather, her dining room table turned office desk. At least Hermione had a veritable reason for such a sprawling piece of wood… for holding Weasley family Sunday night dinners, it was necessary.
The majority of them were… rather flattering, That being said, none of the writers, aside from Rita Skeeter, seemed legitimately willing to write the benign words on paper where the public could read them. Aside from flaming his outrageous personality, they had little else to criticize. His incredibly flattering cover shoots weren't helping much.
Dear god, did he really just think that?
"Yes." She said, like she'd come to hold Malfoy with grudging respect—but was still unhappy about it.
Harry appraised the blonde with a new set of eyes. "He's really turned his life around."
"I suppose. Considering the dire straights his infamy had left him with… it's a true success story. Even more so; his empire is made directly through himself and no one else." Hermione admitted with great reluctance.
Harry nodded absently, reaching for the cover of some sort of Egyptian Business column Bill had left here. As the words transformed back into English, the majority of them hailed Malfoy as some sort of financial prophet. His stocks were doing well, whatever that meant.
"Though it should be noted that his success can be attributed to his ruthless, manipulative personality." She went on to say. "He really is a prat. Unfortunately, that's praised in the business world."
"Is it?" He asked absent-mindedly. He'd moved around the table, surveying the many newspapers with some instance of Malfoy. Though in reality he wasn't thinking much on the blonde's fiscal sagacity at all. Rather, he was tossing around papers and eying up the other celebrities plastered on the pages, coyly moving about in their pictures. Most of the women he thought looked somewhat pretentious. Some of the men, like Doyle Mcgowell, self-proclaimed god and infamous playboy, only made him shrivel his nose. Others like Kristo Karalova, a suave and darkly-handsome entrepreneur from Bulgaria who rose his magical transportation empire off of his income as a tailor, drew his eye like a moth to a flame.
Maybe it had nothing to do with gender at all? Maybe it was an intelligence thing. The men he seemed most attracted to were handsome yes, but sharp. Smart, powerful, and confident. Arrogant, even, if it seems he could quietly approve of Malfoy's good looks. None of the women in any of these magazines had those, the majority of them being vapid celebutants.
He looked to Hermione, studying her closely.
She was a girl, and incredibly smart, powerful, and confident. Regrettably she was also his closest friend.
"Are you really that interested in Malfoy?" She asked skeptically, looking up from an article she was browsing. "It's rather sudden."
"Interested?" Heat rose to his face. "What? No!"
Hermione's brows creased, fighting a smile. "Oh, Harry. I didn't mean it like that."
Great. Now he'd only embarrassed himself more, jumping to conclusions like that…
"It's just, you've never really cared about him before." She paused. "Wait. You don't really—
He shook his head, quick to cut her off. "He asked me to meet with one of his clients yesterday. I dunno… I guess I was just curious about what he actually does. His office is really nice, and that building he put up is a real piece of work."
Hermione rolled. "Oh, yes. That. Honestly when you think he can't get more self-absorbed he erects a monument in his honor." She huffed then, pivoting smartly on one foot and folding her arms. "What's he thinking, I wonder? Do you know this client?"
"Don't think so."
She looked vaguely disapproving, and mostly concerned. "I really hope this isn't some sort of mean-spirited joke…"
"I'm pretty sure we're over that." Harry chuckled, though secretly he'd been thinking something similar. However, Malfoy had seemed genuine (but that didn't mean much) and hadn't been any more condescending than usual. Perhaps he really just needed help and thought Harry the perfect man for the job, however outlandish that may be. "But, I get where you're coming from. I mean, I don't even know what he does!"
"He's pretty much monopolized the energy industry." Hermione explained. "Before, Magical Folk all got electricity on their own, either by negotiating with Muggle companies or finding ways to make it themselves—and the vast majority of them simply not using it at all. He's implemented it into the Magical Community now… and he's the only one who provides any kind of service like that."
Harry paused, thinking back. "Is that why Hogwarts has lamps now?" He vaguely recalled a few back in his school days, but he remembered seeing quite a few lamp posts on the grounds and many in classrooms and teacher's offices.. And not gas lamps, but real, genuine electricity.
Hermione nodded. "All of Diagon Alley buys from him too."
"So that's what he does…" Harry paused. He wondered why he'd want to invest himself into a Muggle company then, considering how much legal trouble he could get into if the Ministry found out. Maybe it was some kind of new energy resource? "He must really make a lot of money."
Hermione chuckled darkly. "Of that, you have no idea."
Whatever the sum may be, it was probably too much for Harry to ever wrap his head around—or want to, for that matter. He'd never been one for riches, preferring to live a comfortable but modest life. Most applauded him for that, but occasionally he heard the rude comment referring to him as 'rather homely'. Or at least, he assumed it was rude—Hermione always got huffy when she read it in the Prophet (which still wrote about him, incredibly enough). But, things of great luxury, and therefore great monetary value, never held his interest.
At any rate, as he inspected the vast columns that held up Malfoy's building, he had to laud the man—clearly he'd dumped quite a bit into this tower. It was opulent, yet not wasteful. Though it looked elegant and extravagant, Harry could tell every refined pillar and chiseled marble had a purpose in the foundation of the building.
Perhaps the reason he was studying the foundation so seriously had nothing to do with the architecture though, and everything to do with his nerves.
Harry cursed himself for them, shaking his head. There really was no need for them; he was meeting a muggle, for Merlin's sake. Not only that, but he'd been raised by muggles. It wasn't like he was Ron or anything, baffled by even the existence of the pencil sharpener. He'd charmed more severe foes than some muggle business man—and not only that, why did he care of this man's opinion anyway? This wasn't his company. He thought on being an arrogant prick, just to mess with Malfoy. It was the blonde, after all, that had forced him into this situation in the first place.
He broke out of his musings by the subtle hum of an engine, and turned around to watch as a dark, nondescript car glided over the pavement walk leading to Malfoy's building complex.
It was exactly the kind of car Harry could respect.
Sleek, elegant, yet simple. Made entirely of smooth contours and polished, glossy black lines streamed with sunlight. Nothing was particularly flashy or garish about it, yet it caught his eye all the time.
He wondered at the man inside, and was suddenly struck with a terrible thought he was surprised hadn't come to him before; if he was anything like Malfoy—which undoubtedly he would be, considering he was picked by Malfoy—Harry wasn't sure how he'd possibly manage an entire afternoon in his presence. After all, there was only so much politeness he could muster at any given time before his patience ran thin, and Malfoy on the best of days wore through it in less than an hour or two.
And he was a muggle, for Merlin's sake.
He'd have to do something incredible to catch Malfoy's eye—and in this case, incredible was synonymous with terrifying. Maybe he enslaved entire countries, or secretly funded some kind of terrorist army. Maybe he was a terrorist. Maybe he was a member of some foreign royalty. Or a foreign dictator. Maybe he was an arms dealer, Harry thought with rising hysteria. Maybe he was an arms dealer and Malfoy was attempting a shot at Nuclear energy. The very idea in and of itself wanted him to buy a bunker in Botswana.
Or maybe, he had, quite literally caught Malfoy's eye.
As Bruce Wayne suavely stepped out of his car, Harry lamented his life.
For clearly, not only was he gay, he had a type.
And that type came tall, dark and handsome.