My Mother Told Me Life Was Like A Box Of Weevils
By Kissaki and Libertine
Dither, dither, went Harry Malfoy with his spoon. "I said to him once, I said to him twice, it doesn't matter if it's cheesecake or a bloody English muffin. There has to be a dollop of cream. It's an old charter, or something. If I don't see any cream, I'm naturally forced to assume that corners are being cut. And this spoils my dining experience."
Dither, dither, went Harry.
"And of course, when I approached him he had the audacity to challenge my view. He said that no steak in his kitchens would ever be served with cream. It would be a dishonour to his profession, he said. A dishonour to my stomach, I told him. As if I'd mince words with the help, ha ha."
Draco, the fucking gourmet. Harry dithered more.
"I made father fire him. That should teach the little upstart a lesson. Naked chef he may be, but not in my kitchen, he won't. And he won't be getting any other offers from upstanding members of the wizard community in the near future, let me tell you. Revenge is a dish best served cold, Harry, wouldn't you say?"
Draco grunted in frustration at Harry's lack of verbal response. "Stop that," he snapped. "You're slopping your soup everywhere."
"Mm." Harry made no attempt to cease his dithering. It was taking him a great deal of effort to keep his hands occupied in soup-slopping. The more interesting and far more satisfying alternative to this facile occupation would have been to wrap them around Draco's neck.
Tomato soup was likely to be a lot easier to remove from the tablecloth than blood. Less trouble in the long run, then, for all parties involved. Harry had taken up this attitude to everything involving Draco in recent months. It would bring Harry a great deal of pleasure to say, lock Draco in the basement for the term of his natural life, but the aftermath, the screaming and Lucius' severe response wouldn't be worth it.
Not that Harry didn't love Draco. He loved Draco plenty, with that same selfless adoration of a dog for its master. Harry just loved Draco a lot more when Draco had his mouth shut.
"What's wrong with you, anyway? You're so terminally moody these days. What has father got you doing now? Something underhand, I bet. Well you don't have to take out your job angst on me, Harry. I've had an equally terrible day."
Yes, Harry thought grimly. The Wizardean catalogue didn't stock your size in puffy shirts, and the pizza place down the road ran out of anchovies. Oh, by the gods, Draco, my heart bleeds.
"Who ever heard of a pizza place running out of anchovies, anyway?" Draco complained, throwing himself onto a chaise lounge. It creaked miserably under Draco's considerable weight. "That's like Bertie's running out of jellybeans. Which reminds me - do you think Bertie's has a home delivery service?"
Harry's spoon broke his bowl, and the metal scoop cut a shallow groove in the solid oak table. Harry gritted his teeth.
"Oh dear," said Draco, pleasantly. "Mother will be so unhappy you broke that piece of china. Thousands of African slave-wizards molded that with their bare hands. It was terribly expensive.."
Think of happy things. Think of kittens and puppies playing and the feel of the wind through your hair as you fly, think about Quidditch and think about the olds days at Hogwarts, think about sex and fucking Draco and fucking - fucking Ron fucking - fucking - fucking - fucking ..
Harry stood up, abruptly, sending the spoon flying across the room. It narrowly missed a shelf of Narcissa's slave-crafted china, and skittered into the wall, bouncing from one antique piece of furniture to another until it slid under a glass fronted case of family photographs.
Draco watched, impassively, and knitted his fingers over his stomach. Harry twitched.
"I was only saying-" Draco began, in a conciliatory tone.
"..shut the fuck up," Harry grated.
"Oh, go be miserable somewhere else," Draco drawled, tiring of Harry's theatrics. "Today's Thursday, anyway. Which means it's Ron's day for Draco-time. He'll probably be over any minute now, so you'd best make yourself scarce."
Draco's voice contained an assurity it was clear he didn't feel, though. Harry smirked internally. If there was one consolation he could derive from the Draco-Ron liaison (Harry still wasn't capable of considering it a relationship), it was the fact that Ron didn't seem to give a damn about Draco, any more than Draco gave a damn about Harry. Most often, Ron forgot what day it was he was supposed to meet Draco - which meant that Draco had to leave the manor (shock horror!) and seek out Ron amongst the ground staff.
In order to fulfill some perverted, ancestral fantasy, Draco had pestered Lucius into hiring Ron as a poolman. Ron was currently living in a small shack at the sound end of the manor grounds, while that infuriating blue dragon friend of his waddled about outside. Narcissa had initially objected to letting the dragon stay - she still had a hang-up about her sacred roses. But Ron had made it clear to Draco that he wasn't staying without the dragon, and Draco was forced to make it clear to his mother that he wouldn't stop whining until he and Ron got what they wanted.
Ron wanted, very simply, a job, a place to stay, a place for his fifty foot long friend to stay, and a relatively short distance between his house and the nearest off liscence. Sex was optional in Ron's mind - but it remained surprisingly easy for him to obtain. At six foot two, with his fiery red hair, his tan and an abdomen you could bounce rocks off (not that Harry had ever considered trying it. Oh no. Never.) Ron got more offers than he could keep track off.
Draco, on the other hand, wanted only to keep Ron as close as possible. This was only partly, Harry suspected, because of the sex. It was probably more to do with Draco trying to find out exactly how far he could go before Harry lost it.
Harry was only barely keeping his cool. In the past week he'd snapped twice at his clients, leaving them scurrying to Lucius for help while Harry bounced off the walls, yelling obscenities and threatening to turn anyone who came near him into a dildo.
Lucius wasn't impressed, but - in his own way - understood where Harry was coming from. He'd popped his head into Harry's office after the last tantrum - by this point, Harry had been a gibbering wreck in the middle of the floor, gnawing haplessly at the edge of his wastepaper basket with his teeth.
"Time for a cigarette break, Harry?"
"Don't- fucking- smoke-"
"Telling Mrs. Goyle that you intend to stick small gerbils up her, ah, snatch is not particularly condusive to furthering business relations," Lucius warned him. "No matter what Ron and Draco may have led you to believe."
"Fucking - Ron - fucking -fucking.."
"Not today, Harry. Monday is, as far as I'm aware, your turn for Draco loving."
"Of course, I still fail to see why it's worth your effort, any longer. You might as well try making moves on a beached whale." A contemplative pause; Lucius stroked his chin. "Come to think of it, I believe I have a distant cousin who rather likes making love with underwater mammals. He has his own website on the subject, as far as I recall-"
"Do stop widdling on the carpet, Harry. We only recently had those dry-cleaned after Narcissa brought those squibs home. Stand up - let me see you."
Harry rolled around on the floor for a few minutes, until Lucius reached out with the cane he'd taken to carrying around with him (Harry had the vague idea it had something to do with the Veelas) and hooked Harry to his feet by the collar of his shirt. While Lucius' new arm was gradually being regrown, Lucius was forced to wear a mechanical brace around the slowly forming bones and muscles. Reminiscent of the defunct Wormtail's destroyed arm, the brace gave Lucius phenomenal strength - more than enough to hoist Harry from his recumbent position without breaking a sweat.
Lucius let Harry dangle a while, until Harry's mumbling became more lucid.
"Are we finished, Harry?" Lucius asked, dryly.
Harry flushed, and hung his head. "Yes, sir."
"Get yourself cleaned up, son. I will send Mrs. Goyle back to you within the next hour, and you can discuss in a sane way how you intend to deal with her current - ah difficulty with the ministry. Do mention how many galleons it will cost her - I suggest you pick a number between fifty and a hundred thousand."
"But all you'll do is send Hermione over for a session with Fudge," Harry said, frowning.
"My stars," said Lucius, wrinkling his nose. "How do you think the Malfoys go so rich over the years? It certainly wasn't by telling the whole truth about anything."
For the hundredth time, Harry had been forced to admit a grudging respect for Lucius. He was thankful, too, that Lucius wasn't holding his impromptu bouts of self pity against him, though Harry wasn't sure how long Lucius would put up with a right hand man who had the tendency to throw himself onto the floor and scream in what Harry had to admit was a rather.. teenage fashion.
It was a shame that Lucius' self awareness and regal demeanor hadn't been passed down to his son, Harry thought now, staring at the plump figure on the chaise lounge, who was currently very involved in his own cuticles. A pity that Lucius wasn't, say, seventeen years younger and very much in love with his wife. A real crying shame..
"Are you still here?" said Draco, glancing up.
"Is Ron still not?" Harry retorted, unable to keep the smug note from his voice.
"He'll be here," Draco replied, shortly. "He always comes."
"Mhm. Just not always by your hand," Harry smirked. As Draco's features registered a pained statement, Harry stuck his hands in his pockets - it was just about time to move on, he felt, now that he held the conversational upper hand. He made for the door.
"Yes. Off you go. Draco has a date," Draco snarled.
"But does the date remember?" Harry shot back, and snapped the door shut quickly, in order to avoid any further debate.
So Draco had Ron. But, thought Harry, smiling faintly in face of his pain, did Ron really give a damn?
"So here we are," said Severus.
"Mm," said Remus.
"Building a new garden," said Severus.
"Mm," said Remus.
"A rose garden," said Severus.
"Mm," said Remus.
"Carting fertiliser-" Severus began, but Remus, who'd had enough by this stage, interrupted him.
"Would you please," the werewolf grunted, "give it a break. I understand that carting shit about isn't perhaps the most enjoyable pastime, but you and I don't have a choice, and I'd prefer you didn't remind me of it. Ever. Again. Please."
"What's that? Can't hear you there. Don't speak wolf, don't you know?"
"You fucking - "
"As I was saying - "
Hermione, watching the duo from the porch, sighed, her arms folded across her chest. She'd just paused in her liaison with Cornelius Fudge - Lucius had been kind enough to lend her his dungeon when he wasn't using it, in return for small, social favours - and was waiting for the man to regain consciousness so she could go back and have at him again. A quick breath of fresh air outside had seemed a good idea at the time, but now she wasn't so sure. She'd expected birdsong, not two grown men, who should have known better, bitching over shit and bygones.
"Do you mind?" she called, leaning over the railings.
"I'm carting shit," Remus hissed, in a voice that surprised him. "I'm a fully fledged wizard with at least nine degrees in as many subjects as you can name, and I'm carting shit. Do you think I mind?"
"Oh, but you look good in overalls," Severus sniped, behind him.
"Please, Severus. I'm trying.. very hard.. not to break down, here. Could you possibly, please, possibly.."
"I'm sure you could pick up another degree here," said Severus. "A fecal analyst. It'd look very nice on your resume. Right above, 'I'm a man eating psychopath every full moon, please don't take offence'."
Remus closed his eyes, and concentrated very hard on counting to three thousand, backwards, in multiples of fourteen.
"You're like an old married couple," Hermione said, from her verandah vantage. "An old, and rather dysfunctional, married couple."
"I resent that," Severus snorted.
"One hundred and fifty four," Remus murmured.
"I do service couples," Hermione offered them, wryly. "Of course, it does mean an extra charge. Though my rates are negotiable, if you're interested.."
"Put down the whip and back away from the werewolf, Granger," Severus snapped. "I think I speak for both of us when I say we'd rather spend a day in a Veela's lair, than spend a night with you."
"Veelas are really quite nice people," said Hermione, tapping her riding crop against the bars. "If you approach them in the correct fashion."
"Shuffling backwards on one's knees?" Severus snickered.
"Two hundred and eighty," said Remus.
"Is he blushing?" Hermione asked, frowning at Remus. "Hasn't he ever seen a naked woman before?"
"Oh, he's seen plenty of naked women," Severus assured her. "But none with 'If you are reading this, you aren't close enough' tattooed across their crotch."
"He he," said Hermione.
"Leave us alone, Granger," Severus advised, in his most authoritarian tone. "Much as I hate to say this, but I do believe that your presence may make our predicament seem a whole lot worse." He'd reached the edge of the rock garden by this stage, and let his bag of fertiliser fall from his shoulder. "If I were at Hogwarts, now, you'd lose a great deal of -"
"House points. Mhm. But we're not. You're in my world now," Hermione smirked, in her most menacing fashion. "Perhaps I'm just paying you back for never calling on me in class. Girl's got to get a little attention somehow."
"I think you managed that when you took off all your clothes," Severus replied. He rubbed the sweat from his brow, and stared away from her, towards the gates. There seemed to be an awful lot of people there, wearing black. Lucius must be throwing a party of some description, he surmised. Something to do with the end of Voldemort - not that Severus believed any of Lucius' stories about the 'great fight to the death' and the 'triumph of the one armed man'.
If Severus knew anything about Lucius, it was that Lucius wasn't the sort of person to willingly take centre stage in any affair, especially not one that might result in him being unceremoniously disposed of, in the most fatal sense of the words. Still, Voldemort was dead, and no one else had claimed responsibility for it..
Severus hissed through his teeth. The whole thing reeked of conspiracy.
"This whole thing reeks of shit," Remus mumbled. He'd reached one thousand, four hundred and fourteen by this stage, and lost his incentive to start a fight. "What's happening over there?" he added, dusting off his hands as he followed Severus' gaze toward the tumult at the gate. Voices were being raised, now, and the guards seemed to be backing away.
"I don't remember Lucius penciling me in any more clients," Hermione offered, frowning. "Hey - aren't those Death Eater robes?"
Severus turned pale.
"I think you're right, Hermione," Remus was nodding. "Quite certainly Death Eaters. Probably intending to destroy all heretics and those who'd dare to oppose Voldemort."
"And those who swapped sides in the middle of battle," said Hermione.
"Traitors," Remus agreed.
They both turned to stare at Severus, who was backing away, taking small but sure steps towards the edge of the manor.
"If anyone needs me -" Severus mumbled.
"You're in the shower," said Remus.
"In the basement with the Veela," Hermione offered.
"Not here," Remus agreed.
"Exactly," said Severus, and ran.
Squatting on his haunches outside his shack, Ron played chess. His opponent, being rather too large and scaly to adequately manouver the human-sized pieces from place to place, was giving Ron directions. The only problem with the situation was that Sally's ideas of the rules of chess were slightly different from Ron's. Being fifty foot long had given Sally a skewed understanding of tactics.
/Are you sure I can't just drop that castle on your king?/ she asked. /I mean, if I were a king, and a big lump of rock dropped on me../
"It doesn't work that way," Ron sighed, for the hundredth time. "For one thing, I've already knocked both your castles off the board."
/Can't I use one of the white ones, then?/
"No. Those are mine."
/Look, how about I borrow one. I promise I'll give it back once I'm done squishing that king./
The chessboard king was looking distinctly nettled by all this, and kept looking up toward Ron, hopelessly. Ron patted him on the head with his finger.
"No, Sally. It doesn't work like that."
The dragon huffed. /I think you make up the rules as you go along,/ she complained. /This game is stupid, anyway. I can't even have my bishop light a fire to smoke your guys out./
/Am I winning yet?/ Sally asked.
Ron looked at the chessboard. "No," he told her.
/I don't want to play any more. I should be winning. I'm bigger than you - oh. What's that?/
The dragon turned slightly, to view the small figure who was stumbling towards them across the grounds. Ron followed her gaze, and sighed again. As Draco drew closer, Ron saw the man's face appeared more than a little annoyed. In fact, if Draco was any more pissed off, Ron would have expected to see clouds of steam puff from Draco's ears.
/It's your boy,/ said Sally, helpfully.
"He's not my boy. He's just some guy I fuck in order to stay here. In order for us to stay here," Ron reminded her.
/It's your sugar daddy,/ Sally tried.
"Ew," said Ron, making a face.
"Ron Weasley," Draco spat out, as he reached them. "Have you any idea what day it is? No, wait. Let me tell you. It's your day for ME, Weasley. And you stood me up - again. Anyone would think you weren't actually interested in being with me at all, you know.."
/Such a temper on him,/ Sally mused.
"..after all I've done for you," Draco continued, ignoring the dragon's condescension. "I won't have it. You and I are going back to the manor, right now."
"Mm," said Ron, non-committal.
/Morning to you too, blubber-boy,/ said Sally, cheerfully.
Draco shot Sally a glare. "And you can shut up your dragon, too," he snapped. "I'm not in the mood to hear its smart-alec remarks."
/And there was me thinking you found it a turn on./
Showing an incredible lack of foresight, Draco kicked the dragon.
Sally and Ron watched, bemused, as Draco fell back onto his ass, clutching his sore foot. He cursed loudly, his pale features reddening.
/Not quite the brightest spade in the shed,/ said Sally.
"Or the sharpest light in the tunnel," Ron agreed.
/You'd better go bounce on him for a while, Ronny,/ said Sally. /Otherwise we'll never finish our game./
"Don't get any ideas about watching," Draco hissed at her.
Sally gave Draco a lazy once over. /To be honest, the notion isn't particularly attractive to me any longer,/ she told him.
"And what exactly do you mean by that?"
Sally indicated some point over Draco's shoulder with her tail. /Look,/ she gasped. /It's a chicken sandwich!/
Draco spun around. While his back was turned, Sally rolled her eyes at Ron, and Ron rolled his eyes back.
/What do you two do for foreplay, anyway, Ron?/ she smirked. /Sit on a table and act like a chocolate cake?/
"Shut your dragon up," Draco growled, in tones of low menace.
"She weighs a hundred times what I do," Ron said, with a slight shrug. "Best you don't antagonise her."
/Listen to the man, kid,/ Sally agreed.
"Kid? You have no right to call me- erk." Draco was cut short. Ron, who'd realised this argument was going no where, had hooked his arm through Draco's, and begun to drag the man away before Sally could start thinking about char grilling. "I'm not doing it in that shack of yours," Draco muttered, slightly mollified now that things seemed to be going his way. "It smells dragonishy."
"I smell dragonishy," Ron responded, grimly. "Either in there, or not at all."
Draco opened his mouth to offer some snide comment, but shut it again after Sally let out a warning gust of steam. "Fine," he spat. "But I won't enjoy it."
"You're telling me," Ron grunted, bundling Draco inside. He paused on the doorstep, and gave Sally a half-hearted shrug. "Hey, don't look at me like that," he said. "I'll be done in fifteen minutes, tops, and then we can get back to our game."
/I'm not impressed./
"Sorry, Sal. But hell - shit happens. Could be worse, right?"
/Yeah. He could be a fat, annoying little brat child who - oh, wait. Isn't that how it is now?/
"Sal.." Ron started, but Draco was yelling his name now from inside, impatient to get the deed over and done with.
Sally grunted. /Later, Ronny. And try to keep your hand over his bloody mouth. The things he comes out with.. my stars. If I hear about your love wand again../
Some hero, Sally thought, watching Ron trail miserably inside. Some bloody hero.
A summons from Lucius was waiting for Harry when he reached his office. Harry fumbled with his muggle suit in an effort to look put together as he made his way down the hall to Lucius' study. A house- elf was stationed outside the door. Upon Harry's approach, the small creature hastily bowed and asked Harry to wait while he announced his arrival, quickly disappearing behind the double doors.
Harry fidgeted nervously. Lucius must be upset. Harry had never received such a formal command since he'd begun working for the Malfoy estate. He silently vowed to himself never to throw another tantrum during business hours. After a minute of lip-biting, the house-elf emerged from behind the doors and politely ushered Harry into the room.
Lucius was seated behind a rather ominous desk made of mahogany looking as if he was in the middle of reading the finance report. Upon Harry's entrance, Lucius looked up and put his quill down. Wordlessly, Lucius gestured toward the empty chair in front of his desk. With a feeling of trepidation, Harry sat down. Lucius was silent as he leaned back on his chair, fingers splayed on the top of his desk. Just as Harry was beginning to feel a real sense of panic, Lucius sat up and leaned forward.
"Well, Harry. It seems that I have good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?"
Harry let out a breath,"Give me the bad news first, I think." After that exchange he shared with Draco, he reckoned that it would be best to group all bad things together in a nice bundle.
Lucius nodded. "Alright. The Board of Directors has shown concern regarding your ability to make sound management decisions. They feel that your personal life may be affecting the way you conduct yourself in a business setting."
Harry frowned, "But you and Nar-, I mean Mother are the only stockholders."
"Hmmm. So as Chairman of the Board, I propose a Development and Performance Management tool to track your progress. I will also be measuring competencies as we plan out your career path. So here you go." Lucius opened a drawer and took out a Palm Pilot, handing it to Harry. "I know it's a muggle contraption, but it's dead useful in this day and age. If anything, muggles do know how to run a business."
"Is that the bad news, then?" Harry asked poking around at the miniature screen, not quite believing that it could be this easy.
"No, that's not all. We are having what is referred to as a one-on- one performance review." Lucius opened a drawer behind his desk and took out a manila folder. "This is a summary of our successes during the last quarter." He took out a few pages that had charts and graphs. "As you can see here, before you assumed the position of Head of Emerging Business, we showed positive growth of about 33 percent. Upon your appointment, our revenue has doubled."
Harry looked over the charts curiously, his mind trying to wrap around the idea that Lucius may have been the one creating them on Power Point. For some odd reason, seeing his adoptive father slaving in front of a computer seemed...wrong.
Lucius looked pleased. "You seem to have a knack for investing in the right small businesses and also have a good eye for advertising. Well done."
Harry flushed, basking in the unexpected praise from his surrogate father.
But Lucius wasn't finished. "Harry, you need to improve your communication methods with our clients. Our official business is consultation services, but if you insult our customers or transfigure them into newts, we have no viable service to offer and our reputation suffers. Of course I can't speak to you about any sort of personal problems you may be having since they can't be an employment issue according to the Labor Laws, I can only suggest certain classes for you to attend, paid for of course, by the company. As I see it, we're investing our time on developing talent from within instead of hiring outside the company."
Harry shook his head, "I'm not sure I'm understanding..."
"Harry, I'm going to send you to an Anger Management Seminar. Now, the reason I've had you wear these muggle suits is because you are going to have to travel to the muggle world to attend these series of seminars. I have several lined up for you, but we'll start with the most important one." Lucius handed Harry a colorful brochure.
Harry read out loud, "Managing Turbulence on the Ground."
"Yes, I think this will be very useful to you. It can help you identify 'trigger thoughts' and will also help you 'halt escalation of angry situations'. I'm particularly interested in how you get to monitor your feelings using the 'Anger Log'. I think that would be something amusing to see." Lucius paused, "Did I say that out loud? I meant to say *interesting* of course, not amusing."
Harry didn't comment, but opened the brochure instead. "It says here that the seminar attendees will employ 'anger control intervention' by using 'model presentations and rehearsal.'" Harry shook his head disbelieving, "Lu-, I mean, Father...is all of this really necessary?"
"I'm afraid it is. I'm only doing this for your own good. You'll thank me later." Lucius said sagely. "So here's what I have mapped out for your career plan." He pulled out another page from the folder, "I've been going over your proposal and I think it's a solid plan. I particularly like the way you worded 'utilizing internal sources'. I think it is a good idea to learn from Severus and Remus. You have possibly the world's best potions master in-house, although you'd never hear me tell that to Severus. He may start demanding a raise."
"But didn't the Ministry say they both had to serve out their sentence here rather than Azkaban?" Harry asked. "Why is Severus getting paid in the first place?"
"Yes, they did say that. It wasn't too much of a concession for them though. When Voldemort fell, the Dementors mysteriously disappeared into thin air. Azkaban isn't much of a threat with Cornish pixies as guards. That defeats the purpose of incarceration unless you mean to sentence a criminal to 'laughing so hard that the stomach hurts'."
"Cornish pixies are the guards?" Harry sneered, "Who suggested that jewel of an idea? Gilderoy Lockhart? He's the only person in history who considered Cornish Pixies as dangerous creatures."
Lucius chuckled, "Very good sneer, Harry. I can see that you're working on the Malfoy trademark."
Harry grinned, "Thank you, sir. But what exactly *is* Snape's situation?"
Lucius leaned back in his chair, as if contemplating his answer. "Severus is about to be out on early parole for 'Reasonably Good Behavior'. Of course, he presently thinks that he and Lupin are getting a pittance from the Office of Criminal Rehabilitation, but they are in fact, on our payroll. With health benefits and the works. However, once word gets out that he's a free agent, I'll have competing organizations trying to headhunt him out from under us, attempted murder charge or not. So let's use him while we can. And as for Remus Lupin, you could hardly ask for a better tutor on curses even if he does act a bit of a grouch once a month. Just be sure not to plan any client meetings around the full moon."
"Is it really necessary to have them resoil and fertilize Narcissa's garden? I would think that's using talent that's clearly over- qualified for the job at hand." Harry pointed out.
"I agree. However, I'm using my station as Chairman of the Board to place employees where I see fit. Right now I see fit to dress Severus and Remus in overalls and make them shovel dung in the bright sunlight. Did I ever tell you that Severus always hated bright lights? It's more amusing this way. Well, at least until the others show up."
"The others?" Harry asked.
"Yes, an idea of Narcissa's. A brilliant plan, but not integral to your duties at the moment."
"The plans that point to the Good News. Since you've doubled our earnings, we now have enough capital to invest in more small businesses. After you return from your seminar, I have an offsite meeting that I need you to attend in my stead. I think you may find this one rather -- enjoyable." Lucius stated, giving Harry an enigmatic look. "In the meantime, how full is your schedule?"
Harry sat thinking about the meetings he had scheduled the remainder of the week, "I think I'm completely booked. It seems that Mundungus Fletcher enchanted an airplane to fly his pet Griffin to the United States. The problem is, he forgot to make sure the plane was empty. At least 200 muggles were witnesses to the bowel movements of said griffin after it ate most of the airline dinners."
Lucius sat back and stroked his chin, "Yes, I heard about that. Quite a challenge, I imagine. Fletcher may have been one of the supposed 'good wizards' in that exhausting fight with Voldemort, but barely has common sense. Still, he stumbled on a good thing when he invested in the Weasley brothers' joke shop. I hear he's amassed quite a fortune. Tell me, Harry. What account management plan have you set him up on?"
"Well, I was going to use the 'pick a number between 50,000 and 100,000' method that we've been using with a lot of our clients. For his case, however, I've taken the initiative to create a new plan just for his...ah, situation." Harry commented.
"And this plan is?"
"To pick one number from that range and charge 25 percent interest everyday that the situation is not resolved. I've had to double-book Hermione this week just to get Fudge to consider hearing our case. Which reminds me, I need to increase her per-diem. She said something about needing another muggle eggbeater."
"This sounds promising, not to mention profitable. You have my approval to continue. I expect to have a progress report on this account by the end of the week. In fact, you may want to give Granger an incentive to continue her *quality* of work. Any other outstanding issues?"
"Well, I've had to meet with Arthur Weasley every day this week regarding the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts clause, so our plans for importing flying carpets are delayed again." Harry sighed, strangely glad that his contempt for Ron did not extend to the rest of the Weasley clan. "Do you need me to bump anyone off schedule until next week?"
"Yes and no. You'll have to clear off Saturday until Thursday. I'll be assuming your appointments until you return. I understand that you've been very busy, and I think that you are in danger of 'dropping the ball' so to speak on some of your accounts. On further observation, it seems a good deal of your distractions from your duties is simple lack of organization. What you need is an assistant."
Harry sat up straight. An assistant? That would make him pseudo- important, which was a nice thought. "You mean, as in my own personal secretary?"
"Yes. It's almost vital for any manager to have one. I'll take care of that, but you have to show me that your performance will improve before I take on another employee."
"Alright, just when am I supposed to go to this 'anger management seminar'?"Harry asked with more than a bit of distaste.
Lucius frowned and Harry quickly schooled his features to a more amenable expression. "You leave on Sunday morning by muggle means of transportation returning Thursday evening." He held his hand up when Harry tried to object. "Harry, this seminar will help you manage a direct report effectively. Once I've made the justification for increasing our headcount to the Board Members and have made the hiring decision regarding your assistant, I will be sending you both to a time-management course."
"Another course?" Harry interrupted.
"Another thing," Lucius continued without acknowledging Harry's interjection, "if you are going to be a representative of this estate, you'll need to look the part. Things have been easy so far because you've been under the safety of this manor, but you'll need to be able to wear your position like a suit of armor. I've taken the liberty of scheduling a meeting with a personal shopper on Saturday. You'll be gone all day, so no Draco visitations."
"But he's going to get all pouty and whine all day the next time I see him." Harry complained. "And he'll eat a whole package of chips!"
Lucius arched his eyebrow, "Draco is pouty and whiny anyway. Even more so when I confiscated his Buffy collection after the Naked Chef Debacle. Narcissa is still incensed about that. Honestly, wanting cream with a steak...there's no excuse for that. We raised him to know better. Narcissa is still blaming herself for dressing him up like a girl when he was six. One more incident like that and his Clueless DVD will find its way to the nearest bin."
Harry smirked, the thought of Draco having his Buffy collection taken away was enough to put him in a better mood. "Well, you didn't hear this from me, but he keeps a duplicate set under the floorboard in his closet." Changing the subject, he asked, "But how is a new wardrobe going to help me be a better manager?"
"It will help you in ways that can't be measured. Another Slytherin Rule...if you're going to deal with people, make sure that you're the one who's better dressed."
"Well, that does make sense." Harry admitted. "Which brings up the next subject. We've received invitations to attend another Ministry Function. It seems that Percy Weasley is to be appointed to Head of Magical Games and Sports."
Lucius paused, "That's unexpected."
"Yes it is," Harry agreed, "It's a long way from regulating cauldron thickness."
"And the press?" Lucius asked.
"Well, it looks as if there's going to be photographers from the Daily Prophet of course, not to mention Witch's Weekly and a lot of other foreign publications."
Lucius tapped his fingers on the desk. "I think that it would be a good way to officially present you to the world as a Malfoy. This will be your first public appearance since the Broomstick Incident." Harry held his breath, but Lucius continued, "I think that we'll accept."
"Um, Father?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"Well, the invitation was for all of us, but I couldn't help but noticing...see, the invitations were printed very nicely. The one for you and Mother are engraved as is the one for me and for *Weasley*," Harry spat out the last word, "but the one for Draco.."
"What about the one for Draco?" Lucius asked in that way that suggested that he knew the answer beforehand.
"Well," Harry began, feeling not a small amount of satisfaction, "the one for Draco was a hastily written card that seemed to be shoved into the envelope at the last minute."
"That's not too big of a surprise, Harry. It's one of the oldest rules of hosting a social event."
"It is?" Harry questioned.
"Absolutely. There are certain people that must be invited because they are too important to ignore. It would be unseemly to invite the entire household and ignore one family member. So they use a subtle method of expressing their desire that the person receiving a hand written invitation is really not wanted at their party." Lucius explained.
Harry snickered, "So have you...used this method before?"
"Yes. Narcissa is an excellent event planner. We have used those methods many times and our parties have always been the talk of high society." Lucius sighed, "I suppose Draco's Simpsons collection will mysteriously surface that afternoon. Although I may rethink that if he says 'Doh!' one more time. When exactly is this event going to take place?"
"I think they've set the date as a month from next Wednesday. Percy hasn't officially been appointed yet, but it's in the bag."
Lucius stood, signaling an end to their meeting, "All the more reason to listen to your soon-to-be image consultant. It's settled then. Don't think about how much you're going to be spending on your new look, just keep the receipts and turn your expense report in to Accounts on your return."
"By Accounts, I assume you mean give the report to Remus?"
"Well, he does have a degree in mathematics, so even he should be able to figure out how to tally receipts," Lucius admitted. "Just so you know, I'm going to give you an overall 'Met Expectations' on your development plan." Lucius put his hand on Harry's shoulder, steering him toward the door, "I'll have your travel arrangements made for you and we'll talk more about that offsite when you return from New York." With that statement, Lucius ushered him out the door, leaving Harry in the hallway.
Harry gaped, "New York? As in *America*?"
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