Rating: Light R
Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3000 words
Summary: Great things are done when men and mountains meet. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 17
After twenty minutes of uneasy silence, Malfoy spoke.
"What day is it today?" he asked. His voice was hoarse and so quiet that Harry had to strain to hear him.
Harry frowned. "Monday."
Malfoy sighed heavily. "What date?"
"August eighteenth, but what--" Harry began, but then he saw Malfoy begin to sit up. He did it slowly, as though every movement pained him.
Cautiously, Harry approached the cell. Malfoy's skin was ashen, his eyes sunken yet bright with a feverish gleam that Harry couldn't identify. He leaned his back against the wall and stared at Harry. "Here's how it's going to be," he said, still in that weak, tired voice. "You will dispose with this mockery of an arrest. I will agree to your protection, but not to imprisonment. You will go to my flat and bring me clothes and... items of personal care. You will return my wand."
Harry gaped at him. "You're not in a position to be making demands, Malfoy."
Malfoy smiled. It was a wan, pitiful ghost of a smile that made Harry think of Snape for some reason. "Oh, but I am," he rasped. "I am. It's noon, Potter. You have two hours or so. After that, it will be too late."
"Too late for what? What the hell are you talking about?" demanded Harry. Was Malfoy raving?
"You will do as I say," murmured Malfoy. "Or you can die."
"You're threatening me," said Harry, a sense of inexplicable awe filling him. "You really are mad."
"Oh, no," whispered Malfoy. With a sinking feeling, Harry realised that the gleam in his eyes was neither triumph nor mockery. It was fear. "I'm not mad. But I won't help you like this. I won't say a word. And then things are going to... change."
"You're mad," repeated Harry, shaking his head.
"The King of Kings," began Malfoy, and started to laugh. It was a horrible croaking sound, like a death rattle, and Harry fled. He didn't understand why, but he had the overwhelming feeling that if he didn't get out of there, he'd go as crazy as Malfoy. Malfoy just went on laughing even as Harry locked the door. Though the safe house was sound-proof, Harry imagined he still heard Malfoy's fey cackling pursuing him as he turned around and faced the August sunshine.
And then things are going to... change.
Harry wandered down the street, past an ice-cream shop where an old man smiled at him, but Harry heard Malfoy's laughter behind that smile and sped up, wanting to get away, as though infected by Malfoy's fear. His instincts cried out for him to go back, to listen to what Malfoy had to say, but he didn't need to. He understood, with those same instincts to help him, that Malfoy knew something terrible, something so important that everything depended on it. Something was going to happen today that would make things change, somehow, and Harry could only prevent it if he agreed to Malfoy's conditions.
Harry Apparated to the now-familiar playground not far from Malfoy's flat. He materialised behind a rubbish bin, belatedly realising that he wasn't wearing his Invisibility Cloak. Luckily, the playground was deserted except for a small boy who sat in the sandbox, a look of deep concentration on his face as he poured sand onto a conical pile out of a tiny fist. As Harry began to walk past him, the boy looked up.
"You weren't here before," said the child accusingly. "Are you a gremlin?"
Harry grinned at him. "Nine," he said. German was an odd language -- nine was nine, but here it meant "no".
The boy gave him a suspicious scowl and went back to his handful of sand.
Still grinning, Harry made his way to Malfoy's building, once again thinking about George Weasley's genius. It was really too bad he wanted nothing to do with the Ministry; he could probably make all of the people in Experimental Charms useless just by showing up. With these Translatable Ears, Harry could go anywhere in the world and understand what people said. Surely George could come up with something that would let people speak in other languages, too.
Malfoy's floor was quiet -- in fact, the entire building was. It was Monday morning; everyone would be at work or school. All the better for Harry, who let himself into Malfoy's flat -- the Hit Wizards had dismantled all the protective enchantments around the place, and in any case, it wasn't as though Malfoy could do anything about an intrusion. He hadn't really made up his mind to heed Malfoy, Harry told himself. He was just here in case. He would get the things Malfoy wanted and bring them back -- just because he was a prisoner didn't mean he had to be given the Azkaban treatment from the start; there would be time for that.
In his heart of hearts, though, Harry still felt the chill he'd experienced at seeing the fear in Malfoy's eyes and hearing the note of desperation in Malfoy's laughter. If this silver lion was a weapon of some kind, Harry couldn't afford not to know. Even if it meant letting Malfoy walk free after attempting an Unforgivable Curse. Some things were more important. He had never been much of a negotiator, much to his instructors' chagrin. The Aurors weren't like the Muggle police, Harry had been told over and over. Diplomacy was important. A sense of self-preservation was even more important. Harry had developed a fairly functional sense of self-preservation, but he'd been pants at diplomacy, and now it was the former that drove him. Malfoy knew something dangerous, and if Harry didn't do as Malfoy said, he might be too late. Besides, if it turned out that Malfoy's purported danger didn't exist, Harry could always arrest him again.
He dug through the wardrobe in Malfoy's bedroom, liberating Muggle and wizarding clothing alike; it all made a decent-sized heap on the unmade bed. Harry picked out a blue shirt and went into the adjoining bathroom, where he used the shirt as a sack for Malfoy's "items of personal care". As Harry had suspected, Malfoy had more of those than Ginny, and Ginny's bottles and vials had taken up most of the shelf-space in the Grimmauld Place medicine cabinet, back during better days. Harry grimaced at the thought, and remembered Malfoy's wild-eyed accusation that Harry wanted him. Harry didn't, of course, but he couldn't deny that the pictures in the magazine he'd bought excited him, just as the scene between Malfoy and Zabini had done. He didn't, however, need to admit it to Malfoy. He tied the sleeves of the shirt securely and placed it on top of the pile of clothes. Not too bad; he could carry it all under one arm.
But, ugh, he'd forgotten about underwear. Sighing, Harry crouched next to the bedside cabinet and pulled out the bottom drawer just as he remembered that the undergarments were in the chest across the room. It was too late, though: he'd seen the contents of the drawer. Glossy magazines where people moved -- wizarding porn. A stack of photographs. An enormous bright purple dildo. Revolted, fighting a curious longing to pick up the topmost magazine, Harry closed the drawer with a hefty thunk.
He opened it again and picked up the stack of photographs. They were wizarding photographs, and the topmost picture showed Malfoy with his mouth round a thick dark cock, his laughing grey eyes staring up at the camera. The whole picture wobbled a little, and Harry understood that Zabini had taken it while Malfoy was... ugh. Blood surged down to Harry's cock even as revulsion rose up in his gullet. Malfoy grinned a little around his mouthful and closed his eyes, his expression taking on an intensity that made Harry's balls ache. Malfoy's eyes opened and looked straight at Harry again, laughing at him. The grin again, and back to that intense concentration -- what could he have been thinking? What did it feel like? Ginny had certainly never looked at Harry like that; she had usually preferred to hide her face altogether, as though ashamed. Not Malfoy, though. Malfoy looked like he was on cloud nine hundred and ninety-nine.
A slice of a different time, Harry thought savagely. Malfoy would never enjoy that particular treat again. He tossed the stack back into the drawer, but slid that topmost photo into his inside pocket, not really understanding why. Evidence, his mind offered feebly. He didn't think Malfoy would miss it, in any case.
When Harry returned to the safe house, Malfoy still sat with his back to the wall, his eyes blankly impartial. Even as Harry dissolved the cell bars and turned his armload of clothes and toiletries out onto the bed, Malfoy remained perfectly still.
"I agree to your terms," said Harry after a long pause. The picture in his inner pocket felt like it was burning a hole right through his jacket. "Talk."
"I'm sorry I'm late," said Hermione, taking a seat in one of the chairs in Gawain Robards's office. "I keep forgetting I can Apparate inside the Ministry now, and waited for the lift for five minutes."
"You'll get used to it soon enough," said Robards, unsmiling. "We appear to have a situation."
Hermione glanced at the Vaiseys. Millicent met her gaze evenly, and Hermione had an absurd recollection of hating her in school -- for letting her stupid cat shed all over her clothes, of all things. Even the headlock in fifth year hadn't hurt as much as reaching for her face and finding fur where smooth skin should have been. A tiny, vindictive part of her hoped that Millicent had done something wrong and that they were here to decide upon her punishment. It was a silly thought, but mildly gratifying.
"Eva Kay," said Kingsley. The words weighed heavily in Hermione's mind, but she wasn't sure why. She had no idea who the woman was.
"You're Muggle-born, aren't you?" asked Patrick Vaisey, tilting his head a little. He was quite good-looking. Hermione didn't understand what he saw in Millicent, who resembled an overfed chipmunk.
"That's right," she said, her tone somewhat defensive.
"That bears out your theory," said Robards, nodding at Patrick.
"Hermione's quite highly placed for someone so young," said Kingsley. "And yet Ms Kay has made no attempts to ingratiate herself with her. Based on what we've discussed, she's tried with everyone else."
"Everyone except the Muggle-borns," said Robards, tapping the side of his nose thoughtfully. "That in itself is not a crime, but it's certainly suspicious."
Kingsley turned to Hermione. "Millicent and Patrick here have dug up some information on a woman who's calling herself Eva Kay. They believe she's a Death Eater, and they also believe she was somehow involved in the July attacks."
"It's not a matter of belief, Minister," said Millicent stiffly. "Patrick and me grew up in Slytherin; we can spot trouble of her sort when it comes."
From her chair, Hermione noticed Patrick put a soothing hand on her thigh under the table. Neither Kingsley nor Robards seemed to see it, or perhaps they chose not to. Still, it was quite inappropriate.
"Well, all right," conceded Kingsley with a slightly impatient grimace. "She's trouble. The problem is, we don't know what kind of trouble, and we have no basis to investigate her."
"That's why Millicent thinks we should--" began Patrick, but the door opened, interrupting him.
Emily Stangerson looked in. "I'm sorry to interrupt, boss," she said, "but I just got word that some woman's in the Minister's office, demanding to see him this instant."
"What's her name?" asked Kingsley.
"Uhm..." Stangerson consulted a sheet of parchment she held. "Eva Kay."
Kingsley and Robards exchanged looks, as did Millicent and Patrick. Kingsley rose. "I'd better see her," he said.
Hermione suddenly had a very bad feeling. If Eva Kay was a Death Eater... "Kingsley, are you sure?"
"She's in my office," said Kingsley. "That means her wand's with security. What can she do, hand-wave me to death?"
"Maybe I should come with you," said Hermione, rising as well.
"No," said Kingsley. "You stay here. She might not talk in front of you, as we discussed."
Hermione felt an ugly stab of resentment in her chest. If she hadn't been Muggle-born, this wouldn't be happening.
Kingsley walked out, Stangerson closed the door, and Hermione sat back down, looking around at the others. "Can we start from the beginning? I admit I'm a bit confused."
"Hermione? Hermione!" Her two-way. Harry. She took it out, flipped it open.
"Can you talk?" Harry asked. "Never mind, it doesn't matter. Kingsley. I can't reach Kingsley. Is he with you?"
"No, he just stepped out -- Harry, you look terrible." He did. He was pale and there was terror in his eyes.
"I was just worried that it was too late. Listen, I need you to find Kingsley right now. Don't let him out of your sight."
"I can't; he's gone to talk to some woman named Eva Kay in his--"
"WHAT?" That wasn't Harry's voice -- it was Malfoy's. Hermione winced, wondering if Millicent would know it. Hermione hadn't actually recognised it, but she knew Harry wasn't alone in the Berlin safe house, and she knew who was with him. But Malfoy was supposed to be dead to the world -- excepting her, Harry, and Kingsley Shacklebolt.
Harry glanced away for a moment, nodded sharply, and looked back at Hermione. His eyes were even wider with fear. "Stop him," he said. "Stop him, don't let him talk to her. It must have been her. She's got this silver lion, Hermione, this King of Kings."
Someone gasped. Hermione vaguely registered that it might've been Millicent, but she was too focussed on Harry. "What will it do?"
"Let her establish total control over anyone she wishes. Malfoy says it can only be used once per century and only at a certain time. That's right now. Anyone wanting to see Kingsley right now--"
"You mean the Imperius Curse?" asked Hermione, getting up and walking to the door. She felt terribly cold.
"Worse," said Harry. "This isn't something you can throw off. He won't even know he's being controlled. I was hoping they'd go after the American Secretary, but--"
"I'll call you later," said Hermione. She flung the door open and looked out, hoping that Kingsley was waiting by the lifts, but of course he wasn't. She Apparated to Level One with a small prayer of thanks for remembering this time. Kingsley's office door was just slamming shut.
"KINGSLEY!" cried Hermione.
The door opened, and Kingsley stuck his head out, bewildered. "Hermione, what--?"
There was a low humming noise, and Hermione saw a burst of sickly yellow light fill the office behind Kingsley. It faded quickly, and Kingsley stepped out, still looking confused. "--is it?"
He won't even know he's being controlled.
"You weren't answering your two-way," said Hermione, drawing herself up. "Harry called to tell you that Draco Malfoy killed himself this morning. I thought you would want to know right away." She wanted to congratulate herself on her quick thinking, but another part of her wondered how she was going to explain herself to Kingsley after it turned out that he wasn't being controlled by anyone or anything. He couldn't be; it was just too audacious to believe.
"Right, right," said Kingsley. "Good riddance to bad rubbish, then. You go on back to Gawain's office, dear. I'll catch up with you in just a few moments."
Hermione turned around and walked stiffly towards the lifts. Never in his lifetime had Kingsley Shacklebolt called her "dear". She had done the right thing by lying about the purpose for Harry's call. The Ministry was in the hands of Death Eaters again, and this time there was no Fudge, no Scrimgeour, no Umbridge. They had Kingsley, which made everything so much worse.
There was protocol -- things to do if the Minister's position ever became compromised, but Hermione had a nasty feeling that what Kingsley was doing right now was beginning to tear those rules down under the watchful eye of Eva Kay, whoever the bitch was. After all, Kingsley had been the one to suggest most of that law, designed to prevent another Muggle-Born Registration Commission. And besides, to follow protocol, someone needed to know that the Minister's position had become compromised, which was really a fancy way of saying he'd been placed under the Imperius Curse. Or, in this case, something worse than that.
The lift dinged to a stop in front of her and she headed to Level Two, back to Gawain Robards's office, which currently held the only three people in the Ministry who could know what had happened. It was just Hermione's luck that two of them were Auror rookies without a day of training.
She walked into the office without bothering to knock. "Harry was right," she said, leaning against the door and letting the tears she'd been holding fall.
Robards furrowed his considerable brows. Patrick Vaisey bit his lower lip and leaned backwards in his chair, back and back until it looked like he was going to fall right off.
Only Millicent remained still, her face impassive. "Does she know you know?"
"No," said Hermione. "I didn't even see her. But Kingsley--" She sniffed. "I know it."
"But she doesn't," said Robards, tapping the side of his nose again. "What do we do?"
"Our only advantage is knowledge. We have to pretend we don't realise it," said Hermione, still leaning against the door. Her knees felt so weak she didn't think she could take the three steps to her waiting chair. "How can we stop her?"
Robards shrugged, his expression hardening, and drew the edge of his hand across his neck.
Hermione whimpered and turned away. That was Rubric C. Kingsley's idea. When all else fails, exterminate the threat. She turned a withering look to Robards nonetheless.
"Do you have any other ideas?" he asked, straightening up. "In the past fifteen minutes, I went from having a possible suspect in the year's biggest case to a Minister for Magic under the control of that suspect. Remove the Minister, and the Death Eaters are helpless again."