Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3000 words
Summary: General good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for art and science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 06"Sacrificed?" repeated Niagara. "If you mean the Dark Lord, in hindsight, it wasn't a great loss..."
"This is new," drawled New York. "You weren't so keen on Potter's safety whilst we planned the strike. He lives in London; he would've been killed with the rest--"
The harp stopped playing, though an echo of its music resonated faintly within the golden walls. "Potter was protected," said Queen, voice harsher than ice. "As were a few others."
"If you're able to shield people, why did we need to send our families out?" demanded Niagara. "Now there's a trail."
"Magic has limits," snapped Queen. "Potter is to be left alone. Nothing stronger than a Memory Charm." The harp resumed. For a few moments, the Conference Globe was silent.
"Incendio," muttered Siberia. "Damned fire keeps going out. Do we know how the Ministry found out, yet?"
"No," said Queen at once. There was something like relief in the voice, almost gratitude for the subject change. "Our source has no idea."
"Do you think it's possible that they'd eavesdropped?"
New York piped up. "If they had, wouldn't they have tried to prevent the strike, rather than wait until the last moment to react?"
"It isn't possible," said Queen. "Not unless they've got a genius on staff."
Hermione sat on the toilet and stared at the Transsieve, which had been quiet for the past fifteen minutes. It wasn't a usual sort of quiet, which was the problem, really -- when inactive, the device would appear to be a misshapen thick rod, like a lump of metal that didn't get hammered into anything. It was a misshapen rod now, but there was an air of... anticipation about it. As though it were waiting to burst into sound at any moment, but was prevented from it by some unknown force.
She and Ron had been in bed when the Transsieve had gone off; Hermione had raced to the bathroom and cast a Muffliato charm. Just in case. Her work often followed her home, but she couldn't afford to have Ron find out what she was doing now. She had listened as the Host initiated the conference and asked for credentials. Then the Transsieve had fallen into this eerie silence.
Hermione shook it again, and checked that the lever was set to Magic. Why wasn't it working? She had at first thought it had something to do with being so far away physically from the Thinkers -- she had always suspected that the inhabitants of the Brain Room augmented and enhanced any magical devices in the vicinity just by existing. But that didn't explain why the Transsieve had worked at all. It had also worked in the street, on the night of the attack, though that had been closer to the Department of Mysteries than she was now.
The silence shifted, and Hermione looked down to see -- and sense -- that the Transsieve had switched off. A distant ringing in her ears was all that remained. Well, now she had proof positive that someone had sabotaged the Conference Globes, but as angry as she wanted to be at that person, she was angrier at herself for not knowing right away how they did it. A few more hours, and she would be furious that someone else apparently understood her invention better than she did. The only explanation for what had just happened was that the saboteur anticipated eavesdropping and protected the Globe against it somehow. But how?
She flushed the toilet unnecessarily and walked out, trying to hide the Transsieve behind her back as she edged into the bedroom. Ron sat propped against the headboard with a large roll of parchment in his lap, but he was watching the doorway instead of reading.
"What was that about?" he asked, tilting his head a bit and looking straight at Hermione's right arm, bent at an odd angle as she tried to keep the Transsieve from view.
Hermione gave up. She showed Ron the Transsieve. "You heard it," she said. "I thought maybe another attack--"
"Really, Hermione," said Ron. "That was your voice coming from that thing. Have some faith in my observational skills, for Merlin's sake. Even I can tell the difference between Muggle police and my own girlfriend."
Hermione offered a tiny smile as she switched the Transsieve back to Muggle and shoved it into her beaded bag. "I can't really talk about it," she said. It was true. Ron knew -- or was supposed to know, anyway -- that Hermione couldn't talk about her work as freely as he could.
Ron clicked his tongue and glanced down at the parchment in his hands. "'Course you can't," he said. "How silly of me to ask."
"I won't need to carry it around much longer," said Hermione. This was the fifth time the Transsieve had gone off in the last three days, and the second time it had interrupted them in bed. It wouldn't have been so bad, but today they'd sneaked away for an hour to be alone together, and the mood was ruined. All she wanted now was to get back to the Ministry and start working on the Globe with the Thinkers, and it made her feel incredibly guilty.
Ron didn't seem to have heard her -- he appeared to be more interested in his stock list. "These people ordered twenty Deflagration Deluxe boxes, and we've only got twelve on hand. George will kill me for accepting the order."
"Is he still working on... whatever he's been working on for the past six weeks?"
"Yeah. Verity and Jezebel take turns listening at the door, but he must be using Imperturbable Charms."
Hermione, who disliked Jezebel so much she hated being reminded the woman existed, hastened to steer the conversation away. "How long does it take to make a Deflagration Deluxe?"
"If George would let me buy that assembly unit from the Italians, we could put out more fireworks and Skiving Snackboxes in a month than we could sell in a year. But no."
Hermione sat down on the bed and leaned in, peering at the stock list. Product names ran down the left side of the parchment, printed in large block letters. On the right side stood numbers corresponding to inventory counts -- as Hermione watched, the number opposite Patented Daydream Charm - Dragon Ride changed from 17 to 16.
"We're also nearly out of Decoy Detonators, mumbled Ron. "Need to bulk up the stock, with the school year approaching." He looked up from the parchment suddenly. "Do you think it's normal to put Decoy Detonators on a wedding list?"
"W-wedding?" asked Hermione, not sure if Ron had chosen this time to discuss their as-yet-unknown future plans.
"Yeah," said Ron, frowning thoughtfully. "Got a list earlier, from Patrick Vaisey and Millicent Bulstrode. Getting married in August. They've listed Decoy Detonators, Extendable Ears, all sorts of Demiguise-hair clothing... I'm no romantic, but those sound like odd wedding presents even to me."
Millicent Bulstrode was getting married? To Kingsley's Death Eater investigator? "Yeah," said Hermione. "That's weird." But her mind couldn't have been further from presents Millicent Bulstrode allegedly wanted to receive at her wedding. That Millicent should get married before Hermione seemed so unlikely, somehow. It was a silly thing to think, really, even if Millicent did look like an overfed bullfrog. And it wasn't as though Hermione was in a hurry to get married, but...
"Mind you, we don't really get wedding lists in the first place," said Ron. "Loads of orders for wedding fireworks, but they usually give more notice than this. Bloody Slytherins." He picked up his watch from the bedside cabinet. "I'd better go and see if George is taking a tea break. Then I can tell him the good news."
He gave Hermione a perfunctory kiss and walked out with the stock list under his arm. She stared at the empty doorway for a few moments, wondering if she had at some point crossed that threshold into "the rest of her life" without realising it. Her work, Ron, and Harry: they were all she had. She couldn't remember anything else being important. But somewhere out there, people were starting families, fighting for causes, travelling...
Shoving the thought firmly away, Hermione hurried into the fireplace, back to the Department of Mysteries.
Draco opened the sitting room window, and Berlin roared into his flat. It wasn't even that much of a roar -- more of a steady hum, really -- but after the flat's previous silence, it seemed deafening. Cars whizzed along the nearby thoroughfare, a train whooshed into the station next door, a group of teenage Muggle girls laughed as they raced down the street, shouting about missing the train. A few houses away, raucous pop music thundered from a window.
"It's six," rasped the grandfather clock behind him. "You haven't left the house all day, you lazy excuse for a wizard."
Draco ignored it. Ever since he had moved the thing out of his mother's bedroom -- the guest bedroom, really, but Draco's usual guests slept in his bed -- it had grown increasingly ornery. Three owls alighted on the windowsill at once: the German Owl Post was very efficient. Lately, it had been making Draco think of Hogwarts.
Relieved of their burdens, two of the post owls departed, and Draco took the letters with him to the sofa sprawled in the far corner. The first was from his mother.
I hope this letter finds you well. I've had the Manor's protective enchantments strengthened, though frankly, I don't think I need have bothered. According to the WWN and the Daily Prophet, the Muggles are contenting themselves with talking about us and proposing all sorts of sine typic studies to the Ministry (I'm not certain what sine typic means, but it sounds horrid -- apparently, it involves bloodletting). Some have taken it upon themselves to look for the wizarding community, but, being Muggles, they cannot find anyone who doesn't wish to be found.
Xenophilius Lovegood, of course, has been talking to the Muggle newspapers, telling them about Crumpled Horncakes and who knows what else. For once, his inane babblings might actually serve a greater purpose than the utter waste of ink and parchment: the more false information we feed the Muggles, the easier it'll be to continue hiding from them. And they know nothing about magic, so I'm sure they'll believe anything. I just hope they don't kill him with their sine typic studies, because then there will be no one left to spread misinformation.
Most people in cities are going on as before, though a few predominantly wizarding villages -- Godric's Hollow, for example -- are in talks with the local Muggles to establish mixed communities. Mark me, if they're seriously planning on using magic in the open, it's only a matter of time before the Muggles get angry. They can't handle not being masters of the universe.
Eva Kay stopped in for a chat the other day -- she spent many years amongst the Muggles, you know -- and she agrees that it's all quite mad. She says Muggles are very dangerous when their perceived superiority is threatened -- they consider themselves the crowning achievement of nature, imagine. By the way, have I told you about Eva? I met her this spring at Agrippa Parkinson's. A delightful woman, though a bit too mysterious for her own good.
Nothing else of note has been happening lately. The roses still miss you and so do I.
Draco re-folded the parchment carefully and placed it on the side table. It seemed like everyone on the planet was acquainted with Eva Kay, including Lovegood's Crumpled Horncakes. When had Blaise met her? Sometime in the past year. He'd heard Theodore mention her -- or had it been Theodore's aunt? Now his mother, too. The more Draco thought about it, the more it seemed that Eva Kay was just a really determined social climber. A half-blood, most likely.
The next letter was from Gerhardt Krause; an invitation to a "quiet birthday celebration" in Saint Goarshausen. Snorting, Draco put it aside. Last year, the quiet celebration turned into a bacchanalia of epic proportions, and he doubted this year would be different. He would decide later -- the celebration fell on the same weekend as the Heidelberg Harriers vs Holyhead Harpies match, which Draco had made tentative plans to attend. He hadn't seen a proper Quidditch game in years: all-German matches tended to lack excitement, because no one ever broke the rules.
The third letter was rolled up, not folded; Draco had to hold it with both hands to read.
request the honour of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Patrick Sebastian Vaisey
at the Bulstrode Mansion
Saturday, the second of August
Seven o'clock in the evening.
Draco remembered Vaisey, somewhat -- he'd been a Chaser on the Slytherin Quidditch team during Draco's last few years at Hogwarts. He was marrying a woman two years his senior? For shame. Then again, from what Draco remembered, Millicent Bulstrode couldn't exactly afford to be selective if she hoped to marry at all.
There was a crash in the kitchen, and Draco rolled his eyes. "I'm in the sitting room," he called, snapping his fingers for the house-elf. "Go and straighten up the kitchen."
"Yes, master." The elf bowed out as Blaise walked in, wearing a sombre grey Muggle suit.
Draco wrinkled his nose. "What's with the monkey clothes?"
"On my way to Hackescher Markt," said Blaise. "Meeting someone my mother doesn't want to."
"I see," said Draco. "What brings you here, then?"
"Remember how I ran into Bulstrode in Glasgow?"
Draco held up the invitation. "The wedding?"
"Yeah. That Vaisey bloke was in the pub, too. They didn't even look like they were dating, let alone planning to marry."
"Some people have a distaste for public displays of affection," said Draco, who thought private lives belonged inside four walls, never in the open. "Even though you might not agree."
"It's just odd," said Blaise, shrugging. "We're going, right?"
"We? I'm not going anywhere," said Draco, and placed the invitation next to Krause's. A hoot came from the window, and he turned to see the remaining post owl still there, staring.
Blaise dropped onto the sofa and pulled Draco down next to him. "The place isn't overrun with Muggles, I promise you."
"I don't care about the Muggles," said Draco. "I live in Muggle Central, in case you haven't noticed. But I don't care about Vaisey or Bulstrode, either."
"It's a wedding," said Blaise. "They're fun. I'm sure everyone from school will be there -- even Theodore was invited. Aren't you just a little bit curious?"
Draco, who, in truth, was a lot curious, shook his head. "Not in the least."
Blaise enjoyed convincing Draco to do things, and Draco usually enjoyed being convinced. He would go to the stupid wedding. But first, he was going to make Blaise late for his meeting.
Neville stood outside Flourish and Blotts, where his grandmother had just gone in to ask if they had a request list for the Vaisey-Bulstrode wedding. Diagon Alley's business day was winding down; more people were leaving the shops than entering them. Rosalind Fortescue stood outside her ice cream parlour, smoking a pipe and occasionally glancing inside the shop window.
A familiar figure emerged from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, and Neville grinned at George, who was looking slightly shell-shocked, his hair dishevelled, the front of his robes bearing a bright green stain.
"Hi, Neville," said George. "Have you seen my dear brother anywhere on your travels through our illustrious shopping district?"
"Ron? No," said Neville, shaking George's hand. "I haven't seen Ron in ages."
George sighed. "Whenever I'm busy, he's in my way. Now that I want to talk to him, he's vanished. Never get a little brother, Neville my man." He strode off towards the Leaky Cauldron just as Gran came out of the bookshop.
"Strangest wedding request list in the world," she said, her entire stooped form radiating disapproval. She didn't elaborate, and Neville didn't ask. Every shop they'd gone into had had rather odd things on the Vaisey-Bulstrode lists, and Madam Malkin's had been the only shop without a list so far.
They made their way towards the Garden, a tea shop that had recently opened next door to Gringotts, in silence. Gran had grown increasingly irritated during their shopping trip, and Neville couldn't wait to get back home and hide in his bedroom, maybe see if Seamus or Dean wanted to go out later. He needed to find a place of his own to live -- he had put aside money for that purpose -- but it seemed silly to buy a house all to himself when he would only live there for two months every year.
The Garden was relatively empty despite the time of day. It was a low-ceilinged, circular room with tables scattered randomly across the floor. The neutral-coloured walls bore still life paintings framed in silver, and crisp white curtains hid the street from the tea shop's many windows. Neville recognised a sixth-year Hufflepuff in the corner; she sat hunched, scribbling in a thick notebook, and didn't look up as they passed.
"There she is," said Gran, pointing at a table in the far back, where a woman in cream-coloured robes sat with her back to the doors.
At Gran's voice, the woman turned round, smiled, and Neville's breath caught. It was hard to put an age to her, but she was certainly not the little old lady he'd been imagining from Gran's accounts. Her dark braid rested heavily on her left shoulder, and her large eyes seemed unnaturally black in contrast with her pale skin. She was even more beautiful than Ginny Weasley.
"Why, you must be Neville," said Eva Kay in a musical voice. "Augusta's told me so much about you."