I'm visiting a friend in the UK and I'm not back until next Sunday, so it's likely that next week's update won't happen, either. But after that I shall be back to the usual weekly posting schedule. :x
Title: Interregnum [Chapter 08]
Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3000 words
Summary: The eye altering, alters all. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 08
"Not what?" asked Biggs, turning to Harry with a look of exasperation.
"N-O-T-T. Nott. That's the name of one of the Death Eaters."
The prisoner sniggered. Harry gave him a cursory glance and turned his attention back to Biggs, who wore a thoughtful frown now.
"Guess you were right about them, then," said Biggs. "You may go," he added, nodding to the prisoner. "Supervisor Hudson is waiting outside."
The prisoner's chair scraped the floor as he got up and, with a final sullen glance at the two Aurors -- as though expecting them to change their minds and stick him with some crime -- ambled out. As soon as he door whispered shut, Harry looked at Biggs. "It was never a question of right or wrong. I knew they were involved."
"The other possibility is that Avilar really did mean to say that the guy's name was not something."
"If that's true, we have no lead. I'll take this over a dead end."
"I agree," said Biggs, nodding. "So where to now? You know where to find this Nott guy?"
"No," said Harry. "I'll need to get in touch with London. I have Conference Globe privileges--"
The door opened and Hudson poked his head in. "Will you require any further assistance?"
"Not at this time," said Biggs. "But we need to use this room for a few. That OK?"
"Perfectly fine," said Hudson. The door closed.
Biggs pulled his briefcase out of his pocket and enlarged it. He took out the two-way mirror he'd used to communicate with the Librarian elf and pointed his wand at it. This time, the mirror glowed blue.
"Identify yourself," said a heavily slurring voice from the mirror.
"Andrew Biggs, Auror, Colorado Subdivision, three dash five." The air filled with the smell of scorched parchment as Biggs zigzagged his wand over it. Harry sat in the prisoner's chair and leaned forwards, peering into the mirror's smoky surface.
"Thank you," said the voice. The smoke cleared, revealing a dark-skinned man with slanted eyes. He reminded Harry of someone, but he couldn't remember where he'd seen the face before.
The man spoke. "San Francisco Subdivision. I'm Stewart. What can I do ya for?"
"Do you have clearance for the Conference Globe link-up between us and London?"
"We have clearance but there's no guarantee a link would work. We're too far from the Atlantic device, and the Pacific isn't in place yet. Where are you?"
"That'll be a no go. Sorry."
"Not your fault, Stewart. Thanks anyway." The mirror's surface flared with blue light and grew dark. Biggs closed his briefcase. "Looks like we'll have to get back to the mainland."
"That's disgusting, Theodore."
Draco sniggered at Blaise's horror-struck expression. Theodore, who was supervising the house-elf as it made him a sandwich consisting almost entirely of mayonnaise, shrugged. "I think what you two get up to in the bedroom is disgusting, but you don't see me walking in on you to inform you of it."
Blaise squinted. "Are you quite sure you think it's disgusting? That's a lot of creamy white substance for someone who--"
Theodore clapped his hands over his ears. "You are so not going to ruin my lunch again."
Chuckling, Blaise took a seat next to Draco. "No, I'm not. In fact, I am going to make your lunch three hundred per cent better."
"What, have you two finally decided to stop being a pair of flamers?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Really, Theodore, does my father pay you to be an arse or do you volunteer?"
Theodore bit into his sandwich and shrugged.
Blaise gave a little cough. "I've got us tickets to the Harriers - Harpies game."
"You're joking," said Draco, but Blaise produced four bright green squares of thick parchment from his pocket and fanned them out. How Theodore managed not to choke on his mayonnaise, Draco would never know. They had tried to buy tickets a few days ago, only to find out that the game had been sold out for months.
"I had to call in a favour," said Blaise, clearly very pleased with himself.
"Did you fuck some sad wonk from Magical Games and Sports, once upon a time?" asked Draco, keeping his tone light.
"No," said Blaise. "I let him fuck me."
With an inward scowl, Draco laughed. "Why did you get four?" he asked, wishing to change the subject.
"One for you, one for our repressed homosexual friend, one for me, and one for my date," said Blaise.
"Who's your date?" asked Draco, already berating himself for having asked. If things continued as they had, soon he wouldn't be able to hide his displeasure with Blaise's side entanglements. That just wouldn't do. Blaise already had far too much power over him. If Draco wasn't careful...
"The aforementioned Games and Sports wonk," said Blaise, looking nonplussed. "Who else?"
Theodore put his sandwich down, his eyes wide. "You whored yourself out for the tickets?"
Blaise grinned. "It's not whoring if you enjoy it."
"Oh, don't look like a scandalised virgin, Teddy," said Draco. "Like you've never smiled at a girl you didn't like because she had something you did like."
Theodore scoffed. "That's not the same. I wouldn't have sex with someone to get Quidditch tickets.
Blaise and Draco stared at him.
"All right, maybe I would," said Theodore. He gave his sandwich a baleful glare and bit into it with a werewolf's ferocity.
"So next week's the wedding," said Draco, turning to Blaise. "Then it's the game. Are you going to Krause's party?" He had almost said "we" instead of "you". He needed an intervention.
Blaise studied him, the ghost of his earlier smile still lurking across his lips. "Are you?"
Draco shrugged. "Thinking about it. The game's on Saturday morning, long before the party."
"I'd be bringing my date," said Blaise, his eyes firmly on Draco's face now.
He knows. Draco raised an eyebrow. "And?"
"Nothing," said Blaise, looking over at Theodore. "Thinking about it. Isn't August supposed to be the lazy month? When you get to lie around with your hand down your underpants."
"Or down your underpants," countered Draco, also looking at Theodore, who mimed choking on his sandwich. "Was that what last August was like?"
"I don't even remember anymore," said Blaise. "It all sort of blurs together after a while, doesn't it? Almost makes you wish you were back at Hogwarts..."
"Doesn't make me wish anything of the sort," said Draco, who did his best not to think of Hogwarts these days.
Why had he felt so curious upon receiving the Vaisey-Bulstrode wedding invitation? What could he possibly have to say to any of the people from his past? Blaise and Theodore didn't count, obviously, because they were a part of his present. As for the rest, Draco was content to pretend they no longer existed. Thinking about Hogwarts inevitably brought to mind his last year there. The war. His family, disgraced. Draco scowled down at the house-elf, who promptly scurried out of the kitchen.
It had turned out all right, considering. His parents were free -- currently on a cruise, which had been the reason Draco's father had asked Narcissa to bump up her Berlin visit. Father. One day, Draco would marry a girl from a good family, and the last four years would be forgotten. For now, though, as far as Lucius Malfoy was concerned, his son was away on another planet. But in time this, too, would turn out all right. It had to.
"You look like you've seen a ghoul," said Blaise.
"You could say that," said Draco, wondering if he could back out of attending the wedding without upsetting his mother. "Hogwarts is not high on my list of places to re-visit." He followed it up with a pointed glance at Blaise, who gave a little half-shrug.
"Wedding's not at Hogwarts, is it? When are you going to stop being so afraid of the past?"
"I'm not afraid," said Draco, glaring. "I don't care for it, that's all."
"Well, we aren't travelling to the past," said Blaise with an impatient air. "Just Wales."
The Transsieve lay on Hermione's work desk, useless. This was one conference she knew wasn't illicit because she was participating in it.
"Hi, Harry," she said, after Kingsley's greeting.
Harry's disembodied voice hung in the air next to her. "Hermione."
"I understand you've got some news," said Kingsley.
"A possible lead," said Harry. "I'm here with Andrew Biggs, Colorado Auror Subdivision chief. We uncovered a suspicious death in the American Aurors' Special Division, and our investigation led to the Nott family."
"Nott?" asked Hermione. "Theodore Nott was a Slytherin in our year, wasn't he?"
"Theodore Nott lives in Berlin," said Kingsley. Seeing Hermione's puzzled glance, he clarified, "I have it from the people I've got on finding out which former Death Eater families weren't here on the night of the attack."
"He's lived there since the attack?" asked Harry. Hermione could practically see his eyes light up.
"No," said Kingsley. "He moved there some years ago to study music, or so our files indicate. His father, Alexandre, disappeared after the war. It was curious, because his involvement with the Death Eaters was never proven. I can name at least three Aurors who'd like to have a chat with him about that."
"So we don't know where he is." Harry's voice sounded resigned.
"No, but we have an address on file for his son," said Kingsley. "I would find it difficult to believe that his father hasn't been in touch."
"So how do we do this?" asked Harry. "We can't just drag Nott back to London for questioning; he's under German jurisdiction, and I've got nothing tying him to any crimes committed within our borders."
"If the mountain doesn't come to you, you must go to the mountain," quoted Kingsley.
"But whom can we send?" asked Hermione. "Harry's in America, and we're keeping this investigation secret..."
"Not a problem," said Harry. "I think this is the strongest lead we're going to get here. Biggs and I went over our progress just now, and it looks like I'm done in America for the time being. I will stay another week to make sure we really haven't missed anything--"
"But the attack," interrupted Hermione. "Surely you don't think it originated from outside America?"
"I don't think so. But they've covered their tracks so well that there's literally nothing we can do except talk about it using many big words and complex expressions. The one somewhat sure thing is Nott's name -- we need to know which Nott, when he was here, how he orchestrated the death of Buck Fallon, and why he gave his real name to one of his pawns. I doubt I'll find those answers here."
Hermione shrugged and felt very silly, remembering that Harry couldn't see her.
"I think Harry's right," said Kingsley. "But what about people around this pawn of Nott's?"
"Biggs is going to sound them all out," said Harry. "He doesn't need me for that."
"This is, after all, a joint investigation," piped up a cheerful male voice on Harry's end.
"All right," said Kingsley. "Harry, finish things up and come back to London. I can't guarantee you'll have free rein in Germany but I'll see what I can arrange with the Minister there. We can't give them any details, so I don't imagine they'll want to be very helpful. England's not the most popular country in the world at the moment."
"See you in a week," said Harry.
After a series of clicking noises, the air in the War Office discharged as the conference ended.
"You didn't tell him about Smith's little movement," said Hermione, glancing at Kingsley.
"Couldn't," replied Kingsley. "That American bloke was with him. Besides, that's not an issue for the Auror office." He peered on the wall map. "We'll need surveillance on Theodore Nott until Harry gets a chance to talk to him. Possibly after."
"Can you spare anyone?" asked Hermione, fiddling with the lever on the Transsieve. The device continued to frustrate her: she was no further along in finding out who'd compromised the Conference Globes.
"Hard to say," said Kingsley. "If Nott is involved, he'll know who the Aurors are."
"One of the Hit Wizards?"
"They've got their hands full with Smith's goons. I'll talk to Robards."
Hermione nodded absently as she stuck the Transsieve into her purse. Things were unravelling quickly, despite the Ministry's best attempts to maintain business as usual. This week, there had been a veritable flood of leaflets accusing the Ministry of duplicity, of misappropriating taxes, of permitting high-ranked officials to trade in forbidden goods... The worst thing was, people were starting to listen. Percy Weasley rarely left his office except for loo breaks, and he walked around muttering to himself whenever he wasn't answering letters that started with Pursuant to a leaflet I read regarding the Ministry's taxation practices...
She didn't realise that Kingsley was gone until she rose and turned to say good-bye to him. A vague impression of "see you tomorrow" rang in her ears -- she had been so lost in thought that she'd tuned out reality. This wasn't going to end well. Sighing, Hermione clutched her purse tighter under her arm and made her way towards the lifts. For once, she was leaving work early -- she would have time to catch Ron before the joke shop closed. Maybe they would have dinner at the Leaky Cauldron; they hadn't done that in ages.
Diagon Alley teemed with activity despite it being nearly out of hours. A new racing broom at Quality Quidditch Supplies had drawn an enormous crowd of people -- mostly younger kids -- waiting to get inside and have a look. Ogden, the old vampire who had turned up in London a few years ago claiming to be the harbinger of change, stood surrounded by his usual gaggle of onlookers.
"Merlin shall return!" cried Ogden in his high, reedy voice. "And he shall put things right! As foretold!"
"We're going to need a lot more than Merlin," muttered Hermione as she passed. One of Ogden's audience -- a young woman -- gave her a scathing look.
Hermione peered through the window to Ron and George's shop, and saw Ron perched atop the counter, talking to Jezebel and Verity, the two saleswitches. Jezebel reached for Ron's arm and squeezed it, her mouth curved into a suggestive smile. Ron turned scarlet and hopped off the counter at once. Scowling, Hermione pushed open the shop door, causing Ron and the two women to turn at the sound of the bell.
"Oh, hi," said Hermione brightly, forcing herself to smile. "I'm off work early, so I thought we could have dinner at the Leaky Cauldron after you close up."
"Yeah," said Ron, looking far too guilty for his own good. "That sounds great."
Verity looked amused, whilst Jezebel simply took in Hermione's appearance with those beady little eyes of hers. "I know a great potion that'll keep frizzy hair down," she said in her soft, breathy voice. "Would you like me to write down the name?"
Hermione turned to Ron. "Are you having the hired help offer unsolicited personal grooming advice? Can't say it's a very wise business move."
Ron glared at Jezebel, who tossed her sleek dark hair to one side. "Just trying to be helpful," she said.
Hermione picked up the little bell on top of the counter and shook it gently. "I'll ring this when I want your help." She looked at Ron again. "Is George about?"
"Locked in the back," said Ron, his tone gloomy. "He's still angry about the Bulstrode-Vaisey wedding order."
"I didn't take or place the order, so I reckon he'll talk to me," said Hermione, realising that she'd had the answer to her Transsieve problem under her nose this entire time. There was no one who knew more about tampering with magical devices than George Weasley, and he had a fairly high security clearance thanks to some of the projects he'd completed for the Ministry.
Saturday, August 2, 2003
"I look like a cow," observed Millicent, staring at herself in the mirror.
"Don't be silly, dear," said her mother. "You look lovely."
"A lovely cow," said Millicent, nodding. Her mother was usually pretty good at skipping the whole bit where she thought her daughter was the prettiest of them all, but perhaps that was too much to expect on said daughter's wedding day. Millicent turned and looked over her shoulder to ascertain that her backside was still the size of a small country. A small country in frilly white robes. "Moo."
"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself," said Millicent's mother. "Patrick Vaisey's quite a catch. Did you know his mother is dating the Minister for Magic?"
"Yes, I know that," said Millicent as her mother fussed with the hem on her dress. If Patrick's mother hadn't been dating the Minister, the wedding wouldn't be happening. Not for the first time, she felt incredibly guilty: her mother didn't know that the wedding was a ruse. Millicent had put off worrying about how to break it to her parents, but soon enough she was going to have to tell them.
"You are a lovely bride." Her mother was tearing up again.
"There, there, Mum," said Millicent, giving her an awkward pat on the shoulder. "I'll stop calling myself a cow."
"You had better," said her mother with a sniff. "Or you might end up saying 'I'm a cow' instead of 'I do'. That would be embarrassing."
Millicent couldn't help but agree with that observation. The door flung itself open and Mrs Tofflesby, he wedding organiser, bustled inside.
"Why are you still here?" she squeaked. "Everyone is waiting, the officiator is waiting, oh, the women, it's always the women--"
"You told me to wait until you came for me," Millicent pointed out. She put a restraining hand on the shoulder of her mother, who appeared to have grown several inches out of pure indignation. "Mum's keeping me company."
"Oh, well, go on then!" said Mrs Tofflesby. "Let's go, hurry, hurry!"