Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3100 words
Summary: What is the price of experience? Do men buy it for a song? Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price of all the man hath, his house, his wife, his children. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 02"Not to Colorado?" asked Hermione. "Then where?"
"Whoever did this didn't expect to get caught," said Harry. "They weren't expecting to be stopped."
"They wouldn't have been, if it weren't for the Transsieve," said Hermione with a little shudder.
Harry nodded. "So I was thinking about the Death Eaters and how they operated. When Voldemort was still around, they were all clamouring for the chance to become his right hand. It didn't matter who got hurt, even their fellow Death Eaters."
Hermione stepped away from the map of the world, which darkened as she lowered her wand, seeming to melt backwards into the wall. "I'm not sure what you're getting at."
"That's because I'm not there yet," said Harry. "The only thing all the Death Eaters cared about were their families. Maybe not to the exclusion of all else, but it would make sense, given their ideas, wouldn't it? Maintain pure-blood society and all that rubbish."
Hermione sat down at a low desk heaped high with parchment and picked up a quill, her eyes absent. "So?"
"So if it's Death Eaters we're after, then those who still have families here would've wanted their families safe, wouldn't they?"
"That's right," said Hermione, brightening. "That's a really good point, Harry!"
"Always the tone of surprise," mumbled Harry, but he grinned. "I was thinking -- lots of the Death Eaters who escaped at the end of the war left families behind. Maybe it would pay to find out which of those families hadn't been here at the time of the attack."
Hermione began shuffling through the pile of parchment nearest her just as Kingsley walked back into the War Office.
"Steven wasn't talking to Russia," he said. "Someone's sabotaged the Conferencing Globe."
Harry, who had fully expected it, merely grunted. Hermione's expression was so fierce, however, that he contemplated running away before she decided that one of them was responsible. She was very protective of her inventions.
"We'll have to replace it," she said in the strained tone of someone trying desperately not to shout.
"I disagree," said Kingsley, sitting down next to the map wall. His bald head gleamed in the semi-darkness. "I think we should leave it where it is."
"But what about keeping it as evidence--" Harry began, but Kingsley cut him off.
"We don't know who's sabotaged it," he said. "Replacing it with another Globe would announce that we know it's been compromised, but it would get us no closer to finding out who did the tampering."
"Is there a way to make it tell us without having the saboteur touch it?" asked Harry, looking at Hermione.
She shook her head.
"What about eavesdropping?" asked Kingsley. "Can we listen in to what's going on inside?"
"Of course not," said Hermione, scandalised. "That would be against all the agreements we've made with the US, Russia, and India. Not to mention that Brazil and Australia would stop even considering putting Globes in place near their borders."
"There's got to be something we can do," argued Harry. "That Globe's possibly involved in a near-outbreak of nuclear war. Shouldn't there be a provision for that sort of thing?"
Hermione went back to shuffling through the parchments in front of her. "I'll think about it," she said. "Oh, here it is." She turned to Kingsley and told him about their suspicions, clearly considering the topic of Conferencing Globe eavesdropping closed for the moment.
Kingsley folded his arms and tilted his head to one side. "The idea has merit. At the very least, we know who they aren't."
Hermione lifted the roll of parchment she'd pulled out and read from it. "Travers, Rookwood, Yaxley, the Carrows, Greyback, Runcorn, Dolohov, Higgs, Rowle, Lestrange, Bole, to name a few."
"All in Azkaban," said Harry, understanding. "Unless they've convinced the Dementors to take up delivering the post..."
"Unfortunately, the list of those who escaped is longer," said Kingsley.
He and Harry looked at each other. Harry knew that they were both thinking the same thing. After Harry had finished Auror training, Kingsley and Robards had given him a choice: track down the fifty or so escaped Death Eaters or help restructure the Ministry. For the former, he would've been given a team of Aurors to lead, and free rein with Unforgivable Curses if necessary. But Harry had chosen the latter. It had seemed to him at the time that it was more important for the wizarding world to have a competent government. How was he supposed to have known...?
"What about the Malfoys?" Hermione asked, breaking Harry's train of thought.
Harry doubted Hermione knew he felt responsible for the nuclear attack, but he was grateful for the interjection anyway. "Narcissa Malfoy could've ended my life and ensured Voldemort's victory once," he said. "She chose not to do it then; why would she want to move against us now?"
"Her husband is still alive, as is her son Draco."
"I dunno," said Harry. He hadn't thought of the Malfoys in years, not since their post-war trial, but he'd been under the distinct impression that Narcissa ran things in the Malfoy family. "Lucius Malfoy didn't even try fighting when Voldemort attacked Hogwarts. He and Narcissa were running around screaming for their son. I doubt that impressed any of the other Death Eaters very much."
Kingsley, who had been listening to them with a considering frown, cleared his throat. "I agree with Harry. I believe the Malfoys left the country shortly after their trial, and I know they weren't the most popular amongst the other Death Eaters. They were the only ones who got off scot-free, and that was for Narcissa's aid to you."
"Lucius Malfoy was a slippery character, though," said Harry. "Let's not rule the Malfoys out just yet. Who else?"
"The Notts, the Cappers, the Goyles, the Burkes, the Selwyns, the Derricks, the Mulcibers, the Averys, the Puceys, the Crabbes, the Warringtons, the Flints, the Borgins, the Gamps." Hermione rattled off the names as though reading from a shopping list.
"Half the pure-blood families," said Harry, frowning. "I won't possibly have time to talk to them all -- it could take weeks..."
"And these are just the pure-bloods, the most fanatical," said Hermione, indicating the length of the parchment she held.
"I don't think it would be wise for you to talk to them in any case," said Kingsley. "You're Harry Potter."
"Well, they wouldn't talk to any Auror, really," Hermione pointed out, setting the list down on her desk.
Harry exhaled, disappointed. "So..."
"So I've got someone in mind to question the Death Eater families without making it look like questioning," said Kingsley.
Hermione looked up. "Who?"
"Patrick Vaisey. You might know him, he--"
"He was two years behind us at Hogwarts," said Hermione promptly.
Harry squinted, trying to remember. "Slytherin Chaser, wasn't he?"
"Now he's an Obliviator," said Kingsley. "And seeing as the Obliviators are all about to be made redundant, I think Mr Vaisey will see the prudence in agreeing to help us."
"You're going to hire him?" asked Harry.
"Robards will contract him."
"Did you just say the Obliviators are about to lose their jobs?" asked Hermione.
"Not really lose them," said Kingsley. "I'm working with Baddock to absorb them into the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes as painlessly as possible..." He trailed off, examining his robe sleeve.
Harry and Hermione exchanged looks. Kingsley had been taking a beating in the Daily Prophet for his decision to reveal the wizarding world to the Muggles. Every issue -- and in the past forty-eight hours, there had been eight of them -- contained a new article outlining yet another way to prevent catastrophes whilst still adhering to the Statute of Secrecy. Harry thought it was a load of rubbish, really -- it was easy to sit in an armchair and pontificate when you didn't have to make a life-or-death decision at a time when every second was against you.
Harry broke the silence. "If this Vaisey bloke will go around questioning the Death Eater families, some of them are bound to get suspicious."
"We're working on a cover story for him," said Kingsley.
"That'll do," called Gwenog Jones from her broom, and the other team members began to land on the Holyhead Harpies' practice pitch. They had played four three-a-side games that afternoon whilst the team's manager, one-time Seeker Glynnis Griffiths, ensured that the anti-Muggle charms still held and that none of the balls could travel past the enchanted pitch boundaries.
Ginny Weasley shouldered her broom and approached Gwenog, who looked annoyed. "I don't even see why we're doing this," Ginny said. "If we let the Muggles watch the games, the League would make more money from ticket sales. I reckon they'd fly in from all over the world."
Gwenog's expression didn't alter, but Ginny could see a glint deep in her eyes. "The Ministry'd never allow it," said Gwenog.
"Why not?" asked Ginny. "The Muggles know we exist."
"Could get pretty messy," said Gwenog, leaning on her broom. "A Muggle getting hit by a stray Bludger..." She didn't need to finish. Magical healing wouldn't work on Muggles because it relied on a witch or wizard's own magic in addition to spells and potions.
"We could have a separate section for the Muggles. Put a barrier in place to keep the balls out."
Gwenog glanced in the direction of the team's Seeker. "Cho would moan like a ghoul. You know how Seekers are about Snitch trajectories."
Ginny watched Cho as she stood talking to Glynnis. Not for the first time, the realisation that she was living her dream rendered her momentarily speechless. Ginny Weasley, Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies and actually having a conversation with Gwenog Jones herself -- as an equal! "If you think it's worth it," she said finally, "I'm sure Cho can be persuaded to see sense."
"If not," Gwenog said, her grin feral, "I could always shout at her. I doubt she'd enjoy existence as a woodlouse..."
Ginny laughed. Gwenog's temper, whilst certainly legendary, was always exaggerated by Quidditch commentators.
"Anyway, I don't think we should be the first to open up our games to the Muggles," said Gwenog. "Let one of the men's teams do it. Then they can deal with the uproar and we'll only need to reap the rewards. See you next week." She took off towards the changing rooms, and Ginny watched her walk, spry and limber despite her advancing age.
Ginny and Cho ate a light supper at the Leaky Cauldron before Apparating home. The two of them had tried out for and made the team at the same time two years ago, and had since then become friends of a sort they couldn't have been while still at Hogwarts. They'd been in different houses, and there had been the problem of Harry having fallen for Cho for a time. Ginny had to laugh at herself for it now; the memory of not wanting Cho to show Harry the Ravenclaw common room on the eve of the Battle for Hogwarts still made her cringe inwardly. She'd been so stupid.
"How was practice?" asked her mother when Ginny walked into the kitchen. "Will you have dinner?"
"I ate with Cho," said Ginny, plopping into her usual seat. "And practice was fine. Is that apple tart?"
"Not ready yet," said her mother. "Oh, I almost forgot, dear. Chauncey brought a letter this morning."
Ginny sighed. Chauncey was Harry's owl, and her mother was giving her a piercing look. "Where's the letter?"
"On the mantelpiece," said Mrs Weasley. Ginny could feel her mother's eyes on her back as she walked out of the kitchen.
I'm going to America for a few weeks, maybe months, for work. Leaving in two days. I was wondering if we could meet up before I left, maybe have dinner or drinks? I haven't seen you in ages and wanted to catch up.
"Maybe have dinner or drinks" was Harry-speak for "end up at Grimmauld Place and have get-back-together-sex", or Ginny was a Merperson. They'd broken up two years ago. When Hermione told Ginny that Harry could be a little obsessive, Ginny didn't realise just how obsessive. He wasn't too obnoxious about it, but his quiet persistence at trying to come back into Ginny's life had had an effect quite opposite from what he'd no doubt intended.
Even thinking about him annoyed her, and it made her feel incredibly guilty, because he was Harry; he was a good person and he'd never treated her badly. She'd simply become disillusioned, two years into the relationship, and though she'd tried for a year to fall back in love with him, it hadn't worked. Ginny winced, thinking of the "it's not you, it's me" conversation she'd had with him, of Harry's shoulders slumping. She still cared about him a lot, but she didn't love him anymore.
Ginny would see him, though. She would see him tomorrow, and she would tell him that she was in a relationship with someone else, because she was sick and tired of hiding Eddie from everyone in fear that Harry would do something stupid. She would tell Harry about Eddie tomorrow, and he would just need to come to terms with it in America.
The Mad Kneazle was packed more than usual for a Sunday as witches and wizards from all over Glasgow congregated to discuss the news. The Statute of Secrecy, broken. Shield Charms cast into the night against bombs that no one had seen hair or hide of. The Muggles in the streets talking about magic and looking round as though expecting a wizard to jump from behind a bush. Millicent wondered how long it would take for the hubbub to die down. Maybe it never would. She took a measured gulp of ale and glanced at the entrance.
Blaise Zabini stood there, looking resplendent in robes of dark green cut in the German fashion. There's something you don't see every day thought Millicent. She hadn't seen Zabini since the escape from Hogwarts five years ago -- she'd assumed he and his mother had left the country. Madam Zabini had not been a Death Eater, but she'd certainly sympathised with their cause, and the trials after the war made few distinctions between Death Eater and sympathiser.
Millicent's family had been in no danger of trial. Her mother was a Muggle-born witch, and only her father's money had kept her from the Muggle-born Registration Commission's clutches. Because of Millicent's parentage, the likes of Zabini and Malfoy had never had much use for Millicent and other Slytherins like her. Half-bloods were defended to outsiders just like any other Slytherins, but within the house, they were merely tolerated, accepted only when they could be useful.
Millicent's mean right hook had been very useful, particularly to Pansy Parkinson, and she'd been so proud to be included that she hadn't cared whom she hurt. She wondered if she would ever stop feeling ashamed to think back to her school days, and what a bullying twat she had been. So lost was she in this impromptu trip down memory lane that she did not notice Zabini sit down across from her until he was smiling at her in that "I want something, and you look stupid enough to give it to me" way.
Millicent waited for him to speak.
"It's been a long time," said Zabini, that winning smile still playing across his lips. He always had been a charmer when he'd wanted to be.
"What do you want?" asked Millicent, and watched with small satisfaction as the smile wavered.
"Come now, Millie, is that how you greet old friends?"
Millicent wrinkled her nose. "Name's Millicent," she said. "Bulstrode. And I don't remember being your friend."
Zabini stopped smiling. "Well, aren't you just a ray of sunshine, Bulstrode."
"Much better," said Millicent, grinning at him for all she was worth. "What are you doing in Glasgow?"
"Looking for information," said Zabini, and immediately looked surprised to have spoken. Under the table, Millicent tucked her wand back into her pocket. Obliviators had all sorts of tricks. She could make him tell her anything she wanted, if she chose to.
"Information about what?" asked Millicent, donning her best expression of mild curiosity.
"Whatever happened here," replied Zabini, frowning a bit, evidently still puzzled why he'd spoken in the first place. "All the papers abroad are silent, and it's impossible to get anything out of anyone."
"Muggle bombs," said Millicent. "We stopped some."
Zabini looked at her as though she were a lunatic. "Sorry?"
"Some wizards over yonder," -- she waved her arm in the approximate direction of the Atlantic Ocean -- "tricked the Muggles into lobbing some huge bombs at England. The Minister issued a Priority Nine Executive Order for us to stop the bombs, and we did."
"But why isn't it all over the Muggle news?" In his confusion, Zabini evidently forgot to be haughty and condescending.
"They've hushed it up, haven't they? About the last thing the world needs is Muggles panicking that wizards might take over their weapons."
Zabini frowned. "Are you talking about nuclear bombs?"
"Yeah, that's them," said Millicent. "Nukular. The Muggle electricities were out for hours after they exploded."
"They exploded," repeated Zabini, looking as gormless as Greg Goyle.
"Up in the sky somewhere," said Millicent. "Didn't really do much except kill the electricities."
"Electricity," corrected Zabini. Millicent raised an eyebrow, but he continued speaking. "How come you're talking about it so freely?"
Millicent shrugged. "If it's not on the news, it's a rumour. The Muggle government is telling everyone that it was a prank we fell for, that there were never any bombs, and that it was us who caused the electriticies to die because we were trying to save them."
"And the Muggles are believing it." Zabini looked sceptical.
"Do they have a choice?" asked Millicent. "They'll be less scared of wizards than the possibility of nukular war. And the Minister used some new contraption to amplify his voice, so the whole damn country heard him, didn't it? Better call it a prank and make us look stupid."
"Do we know who did it?" asked Zabini.
"The Law Enforcement wonks probably do," replied Millicent, and jumped as a swift shadow slithered into the seat next to her.
"Ick, Millicent," said Patrick, late as usual, "What did I tell you about associating with the pure-bloods?"
Both of Zabini's eyebrows made a slow, laborious trip to the top of his forehead. "And who are you?"