Chapter Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Length: 3000 words
Chapter Summary: The weak in courage is strong in cunning. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 01Draco breakfasted peacefully in his kitchen when it happened.
He didn't choke on his tea, or his scone, or his own spit, which would have been his expectation under normal circumstances. He merely stared, dumbfounded, at the headline, wondering if perhaps he'd taken up sleepwalking and had inadvertently wandered into somebody else's elaborate nightmare.
BRITAIN BREAKS STATUTE OF SECRECY
Late last night, the British Minister for Magic issued a Priority Nine Executive Order for reasons as yet undisclosed. Armed witches and wizards flooded the streets of four major UK cities immediately afterwards, and had cast Shield Charms at an unknown threat from the sky. Less than ten minutes later, monstrous explosions sounded from the sky, and the majority of Muggle electrical equipment in and around the four cities inexplicably stopped working.
Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister for Magic, and the British Prime Minister gave a joint statement to the Muggle news sources early this morning, revealing the existence of wizards and witches and thereby jeopardising Britain's position in the International Conclave. Shacklebolt has invoked Article XVII of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and has given numerous statements to the effect that wizards only exist in Britain. It remains to be seen if
A faint pop sounded, and Blaise Zabini appeared in the chair opposite Draco's, immediately pulling the teapot towards himself. "I see you've read the paper."
Draco set the newspaper aside, scowling. "I thought we had an agreement about this week."
"I'm not here for untoward reasons," countered Blaise, and spooned more sugar than was strictly healthy into his tea. Draco watched him, scowl deepening, until Blaise finished stirring and looked up. "What?"
"I am waiting," gritted Draco, "for the explanation. Of your not untoward reasons."
"Well, the news, obviously," said Blaise, looking perplexed. "What are you going to do?"
Draco crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair, and studied Blaise's face, smooth and dark like a carving of some lesser god. Bemusement suited him: his eyebrows were two perfect arcs just below the middle of his forehead, and his dark eyes were a bit out of focus. Bemusement? Everything suited Blaise. It was impossible to look at him and remain furious, so Draco stared at his teacup instead. "I," he said, "do not need to do anything."
"Aren't you curious about what happened?"
Shrugging, Draco snapped his fingers for the house-elf. "Not in the slightest."
"Bring another Kurier for the mistress, please." Draco looked up at Blaise again.
"Scowls and glares don't flatter you," said Blaise, amusement glittering in his eyes. "You can't tell me this leaves you completely cold."
"Yes, I can," replied Draco. "I never plan on going back there, so why would it bother me?"
"My mother is here," said Draco. "I'm sure she'll decide to stay this time."
"Does that mean I'll never get to see you for untoward reasons?" asked Blaise. He blew gently on the surface of his tea.
A flush crept into Draco's face, tingling heat like the touch of a noonday desert wind. "I'm sure we can work out a new arrangement," he said, his voice somewhat unsteady.
"This is a surprise," said a woman's voice from the doorway, and Draco looked up to see his mother, wearing the robes he had bought her, just a touch darker than the blue of her eyes.
"Madam Malfoy," said Blaise, rising as Draco did the same.
"Please, sit down." Narcissa waited for the house-elf to pull out a chair for her. The elf proffered the newspaper Draco had asked for with a murmured, "For you, mistress." She took it with a look of sceptical confusion. "I do wish you'd teach your elf English," she remarked, leaving the Kurier folded in her lap. "It's unsettling not to know what he's saying."
"I might just do that now," said Draco, nodding at the newspaper. "Take a look at the headline."
Narcissa raised an eyebrow but pulled out her wand all the same. After casting a Translating Charm at the paper, she unfolded it and gasped. Draco and Blaise remained silent as she read the article, her eyes growing ever wider. "Oh, but this is terrible," she said. "I must go home immediately. Can you arrange a Portkey, Draco?"
Draco frowned at her. "What? Why would you want to go back?"
"The Manor," said Narcissa. "I'll have to make sure the Muggle-Repelling Charms are still working; the last thing we want is curious Muggles wandering our grounds. Why, for all we know one of them will get himself caught by the Devil's Snare patch, and the Ministry will surely claim that we'd lured him there on purpose."
"You can't be serious," said Draco. "You can't want to live there still, can you?"
"Malfoy Manor is my home," said Narcissa, lifting her chin. "I was not chased away by Lord Voldemort and I shall not be chased away by Muggles! The Portkey, Draco?"
"I'll do it after breakfast," said Draco, doing his best not to show his dismay. "But Mother, are you sure--"
"Of course I am," said Narcissa. "I can't imagine things will be that different, will they? Just because the Muggles know we exist doesn't mean all the enchantments we've put up against them will fail."
Blaise set down his teacup. "I agree with Mrs Malfoy. Frankly, I don't even understand why Shacklebolt decided to tell them anything. Whatever the circumstances of the Priority Nine order, the Muggles don't believe in magic. He could've worked with the Muggle government to convince everyone it was all some sort of a military experiment. Some Muggle technology works better than magic sometimes."
Draco scoffed. "You mean like the interweb and Saturday lights?"
"Internet. Satellites. What magical equivalent do you know to having access to information instantly, without the need to look through hundreds of books?"
"Legilimency," said Draco and Narcissa together, and smiled at each other.
"In order to use Legilimency, you first must find someone who knows what you need, and that's time-consuming," countered Blaise. "Anyway, that isn't my point. The Muggles don't want to believe in magic. It would've been easier to tell them there'd been an invasion from space, for instance."
"Don't start with the Martians again," said Draco with a touch of irritation."At any rate, it's done, isn't it? I doubt Shacklebolt's going to share his reasons with the likes of us." He turned to his mother. "I do wish you would reconsider. The place will be crawling with Muggles. At least come back after you've ensured the Manor's security, and stay until things calm down."
"I'll think about it," said Narcissa, rising. "I had better pack."
"You haven't eaten," said Draco with a frown.
She leaned down to press a kiss to his forehead. "You worry too much," she said, smiling. "Your mother is not so old and frail that she can't skip a meal sometimes."
Draco stared after her and didn't realise Blaise, too, had risen, until Blaise was behind him, winding his arms around Draco's shoulders. "It's too bad I made other plans for tonight," Blaise murmured against the back of Draco's head.
"Unmake them," said Draco, shutting his eyes, "or don't say it's too bad."
"Your pragmatism offends me."
"It always has." Draco extricated himself from Blaise's embrace and together they rose to their feet, Draco turning to look up into Blaise's face. "Don't tell me your plans involve a jaunt to London."
"London?" Blaise looked perplexed. "No. Glasgow. But how did you know--?"
"I don't need Legilimency or the Muggle interweb to know how you think, Zabini. You will always be your mother's son, and there is profit in this somewhere."
Blaise smiled down at him, and Draco's heart started to do that stupid thing again, with the too-hard beating and sending his mind into a dizzy tailspin. "Would you like to come with me?" asked Blaise.
"No," said Draco, forcing himself to look away. "I don't understand why you can't get your information through the Floo, or--"
"I tried. They've shut down the international Floo outlets," said Blaise. "England's so barricaded against magic from abroad, you'd think the rest of the world broke the Statute, not them. Only Portkeys work."
Draco wished that Portkeys wouldn't. Then his mother would be forced to stay, and perhaps he could convince her not to go at all. Then Blaise kissed him, and Draco wished his mother would have left already, and perhaps he could convince Blaise not to go anywhere tonight. A faint pop sounded.
"Oh, get a room," said a male voice. Theodore.
Draco broke the kiss with extreme reluctance. "This is a room," he said peevishly. "And I'm beginning to feel like my flat is a bloody inn." Blaise was glaring at Theodore over Draco's shoulder.
Theodore picked up an orange slice from the table and popped it into his mouth. "I see you've read the paper."
Draco rolled his eyes. "I wish my unexpected morning visitors would change their tune," he said with a glance at Blaise, who was wearing a look of mixed exasperation and amusement.
Blaise cocked his head to the right with a grin that did not bode well for Theodore. "Well, to tune a wireless, you have to fiddle with the knobs..."
"I'm eating!" screeched Theodore, and Draco laughed along with Blaise. Red-faced, Theodore swallowed the last of his orange and sniffed. "Ingrates."
"We love you too, Teddy," said Blaise.
"I've got to arrange Mother's Portkey," said Draco when their laughter subsided.
"She's going back too?" asked Theodore, plucking another slice of orange from the plate. "My aunt left an hour ago, all a-dither."
"Your aunt was here? I thought she hated Berlin," said Draco.
"She does," said Theodore. "But apparently Father wrote and insisted that she spend this weekend with me."
Narcissa appeared in the doorway, and Draco took another tiny step away from Blaise. "Hello, Theodore," she said, seeming completely unperturbed at yet another visitor in her son's kitchen. "I couldn't help overhearing you -- what a strange coincidence! Lucius asked me to begin my visit with Draco this weekend instead of next, too."
Draco frowned. "He actually asked you to visit me? Has he decided I'm his son again, then?"
"Oh, Draco," said Narcissa, her eyes miserable. "I wish you wouldn't say such things about your father."
"Why not? They're true, aren't they?"
"I'll write to you as soon as I'm back at the Manor," said Narcissa with a quick glance in Blaise and Theodore's direction.
Draco only grunted and led them all out of the flat into the sun-drenched street.
The golden sphere of light floated high above the cloud cover, unseen by all, undetected by even the most sophisticated equipment. There was an eerie calm around it, impervious to winds and the occasional airplane's roar. Inside the sphere, an unseen harper plucked at invisible strings, playing a soft melody that harkened to a long-forgotten past. Eddies of other sounds began to appear inside the sphere -- the quiet murmur of a sleeping city, the crashing thunder of a waterfall, the indistinct muttering of a large crowd, the harsh blaring of car horns, the soothing whisper of leaves on grass, the wailing song of wind in a mountain pass.
A loud, high voice spoke, diminishing the harp music. "This is Queen. What went wrong?"
The mountain voice replied, "Alpine here. They were forewarned."
"Impossible," said a third voice, the one from the waterfall. "They couldn't have been. This is Niagara"
"What makes you so certain?" demanded the sleepy city voice. Grudgingly, it added, "I am Brisbane."
"The Muggles we used are dead. All fourteen of them. We did not let them out of our sight for a moment," Niagara said.
"The wizards, then," said Queen. "The ones who removed the protective enchantments at our persuasion."
"Begging your pardon, but they're also dead," said the voice with the whispering leaves. "This is Siberia."
"Jerusalem. One of our families?" suggested a voice, drowning out the sound of the crowd's mutter.
"Inconceivable." The car horns resumed after this voice spoke, seeming to underline its point. "New York."
"None but us seven knew what we planned," agreed Siberia.
"Now they're all targets," said Niagara. "Shacklebolt has many bad qualities, but stupidity is not one of them. He'll be wanting to know who was out of the country at the time of the attack."
"What of our Ministry source?" asked Queen. The harper in its background switched to a livelier tune.
"Silent for now," replied New York. "They've cut off all communication. The only way in or out is by Portkey."
"We'll have to find out how they knew and try again, won't we?" Alpine sounded unconcerned.
"Fool," hissed Queen. "Shacklebolt has broken the Statute of Secrecy. Do you think he did it for a lark?"
"They can use magic openly now, thanks to him," said New York. "They're preparing for more attacks. Obviously they know it was not a Muggle strike. That's the only explanation."
"That means there will be an investigation," said Siberia. A wolf howled from its direction. "They've been keeping the bombs quiet from the rest of the wizarding world, but the Americans know what happened. Not the Muggles, the wizards."
"Will they cooperate?" asked Jerusalem.
"Of course they will," said New York. "They'll want to prevent this from happening again."
"It's a good job we've killed the wizards who helped us, then," said Brisbane. "Though it's a pity to diminish the pure-blood stock so."
"We have to assume they might find us," barked Queen.
"Impossible," drawled New York. "Everyone who saw us is dead."
Queen laughed. "Always so cocksure, New York." There had been a slight hesitation before "New York", as if Queen had meant to use another name. "There were plenty of Muggles who might've seen us during the initial stages. People we've talked to, who've answered our questions. What of that teacher in California?"
"We can still kill him," said Siberia.
"No need to be so bloodthirsty," countered Niagara. "A simple Memory Charm might do the trick."
"We can't afford to kill anyone else right now," said Jerusalem. "We don't know who might be watching."
"Whom do you think Shacklebolt will send to Colorado?" asked Alpine.
"Potter," said New York, Queen, and Brisbane together.
Siberia chuckled. "Oh, this will be delightfully interesting, then, won't it?"
The golden sphere began to emit a harsh buzz, and a pleasant, mechanical female voice said, "Sweepers approaching the area. Please vacate the Conferencing Globe in order to avoid spell damage. You may resume your conference after the Sweepers have passed."
"Forget it; it's too dangerous right now," barked Queen. "Next week, same time." The harp music vanished. One by one, the other vortices of sound disappeared, and then the sphere shrank rapidly into itself, turning into a small, Snitch-sized ball. The ball remained afloat even as two streaks of slowly glittering sparks prowled through the sky on either side of it.
"Anything?" asked Harry, watching anxiously as Hermione moved her wand across the large world map on the wall of the War Office.
"We've interrupted a Transoceanic Conference," said Hermione, peering at a pulsing green dot on the map. "Between the American and Russian wizarding governments, it looks like. But that's it so far. If they had any follow-up planned to the nuclear strike, it'll not come from the sky."
Kingsley walked over to the map and looked at the green dot. "I will contact Steven to see if he had anyone talking to the Russians at this time. If he did, I'll apologise for the inconvenience of our Sweepers interrupting them."
"And if he didn't?" asked Harry.
"Then we'll have a lead," said Hermione. "If the Conference Globes have been sabotaged somehow, if they're being used for non-government reasons..."
Kingsley nodded. "Conference Globes have flesh memories."
"I didn't know that," said Harry.
"Security clearance," said Hermione. "You weren't classed as an Unspeakable until yesterday."
"But how would we know it wasn't just some American kid using the Globe to talk to his Durmstrang girlfriend or something?" asked Harry, feeling a bit put out that Hermione hadn't told him this even though he had told her about the nuclear arsenal protection before she'd had the necessary clearance.
"We wouldn't know," said Kingsley. "But we can replace the sabotaged Globe and keep it, in case it's useful."
"And every time we arrest someone, make them touch the thing to see if it'll remember him?"
"Better," said Hermione. "The Globe will expand and play back every conversation that happened after the touch."
"That's brilliant," said Harry, almost hoping for the globe to be in Death Eater use. "Who came up with the idea?"
Kingsley looked at Hermione, who coloured but looked very pleased with herself. "I got the idea from your Snitch, the one with the-- you know. The stone."
"Yeah," said Harry, uncomfortable.
Kingsley looked from Harry to Hermione. "Right then. I'm going to talk to the American Secretary."
The awkward silence persisted for a few moments after Kingsley left, but then Harry shrugged. "It's fine," he said. "Doesn't matter, anyway. I reckon it's been trampled on so often by centaurs that it's just like any other rock."
Hermione nodded but did not look at him. "Have you got a plan yet?"
"An inkling of one," said Harry. "For one thing, I'm not going straight to Colorado."