Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3000 words
Summary: Opposition is true friendship. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 05
"Died?" asked Biggs with a frown. "None that I know of. But if there were a suspicious death, the protective enchantments on nuclear and biological weapon facilities would have been modified immediately."
"They wouldn't have made it a suspicious death," said Harry, though he felt somewhat deflated.
"The Death Eaters. The group we suspect is behind this whole mess."
"Death Eaters?" The corner of Biggs's mouth twitched. "Did they have death for breakfast or for dinner?"
"They were the followers of Voldemort," said Harry, unsmiling. "You may have heard of him."
"Oh, the Dark wizard who took over your Ministry a few years ago, right? The folks at Special Division could've taken care of him for you, but no one asked. Unlike the non-magicals here, we don't get involved in foreign conflicts."
Biggs's dismissive tone rankled, but Harry decided now was not the time or place to educate his American colleague about British wizarding history. "Yeah, him," he said instead. "He and his followers sought to defeat death, hence the name."
"Huh, well, Death Defeaters just doesn't have the same ring to it, I guess," said Biggs, half-grinning again. "So his followers are still around?"
"Some of them," said Harry, mentally preparing for the inevitable Special Division would have caught them all by now, but Biggs only nodded for him to go on. "Those who escaped after the war went abroad, mostly; we suspect some are in hiding. The Minister agrees that no one but the Death Eaters had any motive to attack Britain."
"Why use our nukes?"
"The nuclear bombs," said Biggs, enunciating in a way that made Harry feel approximately twelve. "Why didn't they use your own?"
"Because of the protective enchantments," said Harry. "We have some, too."
"But why didn't they just break through yours like they broke through ours?"
Harry raised an eyebrow. "I suppose ours are not as easy to break."
"Right," said Biggs, but he didn't sound either convinced or abashed. "Is there any other reason you suspect these... Eaters?"
"Not really," Harry admitted. "That's part of the reason I'm here. For all we know, there could be people here who want to wipe out Britain."
"There isn't one that I know of," said Biggs, frowning. "There are nuts in every state, but I can't think of any anti-British groups, at least not ones with the resources to pull this off. The major criminal cartels wouldn't want to lose Britain. Too much of their product flow to Europe is through Hard Knock Alley."
"Knockturn Alley," corrected Harry, bristling. He'd been working on organising a team of Hit Wizards to put the smuggling rings out of business when the attacks had happened, and he'd had to leave that project with McKenna. "And if there isn't anyone here, we're back at the beginning. A hunch is not much of a lead, but it's better than nothing."
"All right, let's say it's the Eaters," said Biggs. "You said that if they killed someone from Special Division, they wouldn't have made it suspicious. But the soldiers who died on the twelfth--"
"They were Muggles," said Harry, ignoring Biggs's mild frown. "The Death Eaters have no respect for Muggles; they used to kill them without pause during both wars, not caring if it caused suspicion. They think the Muggles are like animals."
"They're just a barrel of laughs, aren't they," said Biggs. "We have some of that breed here, too. Fuckin' lunatics."
"That they are," said Harry. "With wizards, though, they would have been more careful. They would've known that US wizarding crime rates are amongst the lowest in the world, and they would've assumed that a murder -- especially of someone from the Special Division -- would be treated with extreme suspicion."
"You're damn right it would be," said Biggs. "So what you're saying is we're not looking for murder at all."
"Neither murder nor suicide. We're looking for natural deaths or obvious accidents."
"Gotcha," said Biggs, and undid the clasp of his briefcase. Out of it he took a large rectangular mirror and pointed his wand at it. The mirror began to give off a faint, greenish glow.
"Identify yourself," said a raspy voice, strangely familiar, when the glow subsided.
"Andrew Biggs, Auror, Colorado Subdivision, three dash five." Biggs's wand, pointed at the ceiling, emitted a thin zigzag of swirling black smoke smelling of burning parchment.
"Great," said the voice. "Mr Biggs, my name is Wedge. How may I be of assistance?"
"I need a list of Special Division agents who died in the last five years," said Biggs. "Names, designations, and circumstances of death, please."
"Right away, sir." There was a faint popping sound, and Biggs placed the mirror, no longer glowing, face-up on the table.
Suddenly, Harry realised that the voice in the mirror had sounded just like Kreacher, only without the slightest deference. "Was that a house-elf?" he asked, and was immediately taken aback by the expression of shock on Biggs's face.
"A house-elf? Slave labour is not condoned in the United States of America, Mr Potter."
"Sorry," said Harry, flushing. "It sounded like a house-elf."
"Same species," said Biggs stiffly. "But the elves in America are free. They are our Librarians, and highly respected."
The elves in America are free. Harry thought of Dobby in his little grave at Shell Cottage. "I knew a free elf once," he said. "He would have liked hearing that."
"What happened to him?" asked Biggs.
"He was killed by a Death Eater while helping me and some friends escape," said Harry. "I buried him." He felt oddly defensive, as though facing Hermione during one of her tireless lectures about Kreacher. It wasn't Harry's fault that Kreacher wanted to stay in Grimmauld Place.
"I'm sorry to hear that," said Biggs. "Are there many free elves in Britain these days?"
"No," said Harry. "I only know one other, and she became an alcoholic after she was freed."
There was a brief but awkward silence. Outside, a cloud drifted across the sun, briefly dimming the room's shadowless radiance. Auror machismo aside, Harry had to wonder how he and Biggs were supposed to get along well enough to see the mission through when Harry didn't know when the next thing he said would offend his partner's American sensibilities.
Finally, Biggs said, "I apologise for losing my temper, Mr Potter . I assumed you would have been briefed on elf rights. Most Americans find the idea of house-elves appalling."
Harry opened his mouth to tell him not to apologise, but the mirror on the table glowed green again.
"Thank you for your patience, Mr Biggs. Do you have blank parchment ready?"
"Yes," said Biggs, and took a thick roll from his briefcase. "How much?"
"A foot should be enough."
Biggs tore off a piece of parchment and held it above the mirror. As Harry watched, words formed on the blank surface, blue letters written in a precise hand, like Invisible Ink revealed. Hermione would give up her copy of The Unspeakable Lexicon to know how this was done.
"Finished," said Wedge. "Will you require further assistance?"
Biggs glanced up, eyebrows raised, and Harry nodded. If they found something worth investigating, the Librarian elf would be needed again very soon. "Possibly," said Biggs. "I'll just keep this on standby, is that okay?"
"Perfectly fine, Mr Biggs."
"Thank you, Wedge."
The glow across the mirror didn't disappear this time; it faded to a barely perceptible shimmer. Biggs studied the list. "Four," he said. "There are four."
"Am I allowed to know--"
"Yes," said Biggs. "I'll skip any details you aren't cleared for."
Harry nodded and motioned for him to go on and read.
"Alex Da Silva, equipment and logistics, natural death at one hundred and thirty, four years ago. Serena Vasquez, no special designation, accidental poisoning..." Biggs frowned, lips moving as he scanned the parchment. "An investigation reconstructed her day -- she got distracted while making a potion to help herself sleep and put twice as much belladonna into the cauldron. She died in her sleep. This one is from two years ago."
"How do they know she hadn't been Confunded when she did it?" asked Harry.
"I can't say," said Biggs, managing to look uncomfortable and challenging at the same time. "But the evidence is rock-solid."
"All right," said Harry unhappily.
Biggs looked down at the list again. "Buck Fallon, deep undercover, stray Killing Curse in a fight over a dragonhide shipment."
"Dragonhide?" asked Harry, confused. Since when did people get killed over dragonhide?
"There are no dragons native to North America," explained Biggs. "Dragonhide is rare, extremely expensive and its sales tightly regulated. Smuggling is lucrative because the Board of Magical Trade Regulation doesn't have the resources to inspect the stock at every clothing and accessories store, only the wholesale suppliers'. Those are heavily taxed for importing dragonhide, and it's cheaper for the stores to buy from smugglers, who can afford to sell it without a tax premium."
Harry blinked. "Wouldn't it be easier to relax the regulations? If people get killed over smuggling the stuff when it isn't even dangerous or illegal..."
"Easier for whom?" asked Biggs. "There's a lot of money in dragonhide taxes, and taxes pay Department of Magic salaries."
Harry wondered if his Auror salary came out of taxes, too. He'd never really wondered where the Ministry got its money -- he assumed a Gringotts vault was involved, but that was neither here nor there; vaults could only hold so much gold at once. He shook the thought off. "Fair point," he said. "What was this bloke doing in the middle of a smugglers' fight?"
"He was deep undercover, as I said, with the 'Ciegos--"
"Los Angelitos Ciegos -- The Blind Angels. They're a Florida gang that pretends to be of little significance aside from occasionally -- and always unsuccessfully -- raiding our storehouses for rare potion ingredients. They think the Spanish name adds credibility to their cover, but we've known for years that they're the main enforcement arm for the Italians in New York. We suspect they've done some side work for the Russians, too."
Harry sighed. "Spanish, Italians, Russians. Sounds like the world comes here to wage underground war against itself."
Biggs snorted. "Some people say it's what America is all about. But on the wizarding side, everyone mostly gets along, even the criminals."
"Except when they don't," said Harry, gesturing at the list in Biggs's hand.
"Except when they don't," replied Biggs, nodding. "All-out fighting is rare, though, because we have upwards of a hundred Aurors in every state. Two hundred in California. Our job is more about preventing Dark magic from happening at all than catching Dark wizards, and we're mostly very successful."
"Thus the low crime rates."
"But in Buck Fallon's case, there was a fight involving the Killing Curse."
"Yeah," said Biggs, scanning the parchment. "Says here the fight started when a rival cartel's members showed up, claiming a mix-up in communication and that the shipment was theirs. They tried to make off with it before the 'Ciegos heard back from their bosses. Someone got Stunned, and it went downhill from there."
"Is that unusual?"
"No," said Biggs, shaking his head. "These things escalate pretty quickly, especially when long-standing rivalry is involved." He frowned. "The weird thing is, the 'Ciegos aren't really part of the rivalry -- as I said, they're the enforcers, and they keep their noses clean otherwise. Mostly."
Harry's heart began to beat a little faster. Something was off. "When did this happen?" he asked.
Biggs checked the parchment. "Last year. Actually, I remember hearing about it -- one of my boys was down in Florida in early June. He told me that a Special Division operative was killed, and that they'd caught some big-shot Portuguese smuggler over it."
"Is there a list of people who were involved in the fight?" asked Harry.
Biggs tapped his wand against the two-way mirror on the table, and Wedge's tired voice said, "Mr Biggs, how may I be of assistance?"
"Buck Fallon, Special Division operative," said Biggs. "I need to know everything about his death and the aftermath, please."
"Certainly," rasped Wedge.
Harry stared at the mirror. "If Fallon was deep undercover," he said slowly, "How could anyone have known he was Special Division?"
Biggs, who had been tapping out a rhythm on the edge of the desk with his wand, paused. "Good question."
"Who's got access to these Librarians of yours? You're able to get fairly sensitive information from them, I reckon--"
"I'm a Subdivision Chief," said Biggs. "Three dash five security clearance means I have access to all personnel data, including Special Division assignments. It's necessary because I might inadvertently disrupt an operation if I don't know one is going on."
"There's a Subdivision in every state?"
"So you're saying that there are at least fifty people who would have had access to information on Special Division operations."
"More than fifty," said Biggs, "But we're the lowest rank with access. There are fewer at the top. I'd say eighty people at most."
"So any one of those people could have told someone of Buck Fallon's involvement with the Blind Angels."
Biggs's mouth twisted, but he didn't protest. The mirror glowed.
"Please provide more blank parchment," said Wedge.
The new information filled two feet of parchment. Biggs thanked Wedge profusely and let him go. Harry could see that Biggs had caught the scent just as he had -- his easy, casual manner had vanished and his jaw was taut. "There is a list," he said. "Not very long -- two dead 'Ciegos, besides Buck. One of the Portuguese guys died and three were arrested. One of them had cast the curse that killed Buck, but it really had been a stray; he was aiming at another guy."
Disappointed, Harry leaned back in his chair. "So what caused the fight?"
"That's what I'm wondering about. All three claimed they hadn't done it, and they hadn't seen any of their other guys do it. The Stunner had come from their side, though. The Portuguese, I mean."
"So that's not even the most interesting part."
"The three smugglers were sent to the Phoenix Islands -- that's where our prisons are -- but all three are now dead. One hanged himself, another drowned in the ocean, and the third -- the one who had cast the Killing Curse -- got a faceful of Devil's Snare while out for the regimented afternoon walk."
Harry sat up very straight. "Bingo."
Biggs was already getting up out of his chair and snapping his briefcase shut. "Trail will be colder than a dead hooker's heart."
Harry grabbed his own briefcase and followed Biggs out. "Cold trails," he murmured, "will have to become my specialty."
Far above the Atlantic Ocean, rays of light began to burst out of the walnut-sized Conference Globe. The air shimmered as the Globe expanded into being, stopping just before it reached the thick white blanket of clouds. The Host's voice filled the golden sphere, echoing faintly in the white-blue silence.
"Initiating Conference LV-X-424. Initiating party, please state your name and affiliation."
In response came a series of hollow whistles and sharp clicks, and harp music coursed through the walls of the Globe, soft and gentle. It played on even as the whistles and clicks stopped two minutes later.
"Thank you. Conference LV-X-424 established," said the Host.
"This is Queen. Brisbane, Alpine, and Jerusalem are on the move; they won't be joining us today."
A car horn blared, followed by indistinct cursing. "New York here. What happened? Have Shacklebolt's goons found them so quickly?"
"Of course not," said Queen. "They're on their way to you, as it happens."
"Siberia. I'll be on my way shortly, as well." With the new voice came the crackling of a fire and the mournful call of a bird.
"Niagara, you will join us, of course?" asked Queen.
"Of course." The water in the background roared so loudly that it was difficult to make out the words.
"Why have you called a meeting?" demanded New York. "I thought we agreed to assume they suspect us--"
"They most likely do, and they'll expect us to lie low. While they're interrogating the useless American Muggles, we can move forward with our alternative plan."
"So soon, with the Ministry on full alert? Not to mention the Americans..."
"The Ministry is not as alert as you might think," said Niagara. "We had thought they would go straight for families with ties to the former organisation, but they didn't. It doesn't sound like they're doing anything locally, in fact. Everyone is too busy sorting out this Statute of Secrecy nightmare."
"I spoke to our Ministry source yesterday," Queen put in. "Harry Potter is currently in Colorado. With any luck, he'll spend a month quizzing the dead Muggles' families before he realises that he's sniffing in the wrong place."
"I wouldn't underestimate Potter," said Siberia in cautious tones. "I understand he and the late Dark Lord shared a connection of some sort. A connection that might've given him insights another Auror couldn't have."
"Fat lot of good his insights will do him," said Queen with a sniff. "We left no one alive. And if one of you has left a trail--"
"Potter is mortal," murmured Niagara.
"We hope," said Siberia with a snort. "I watched him die and come back to life once."
"No," said Queen sharply. "Too much was sacrificed so that the boy could live. He mustn't be harmed."