Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3000 words
Summary: When a sinister person means to be your enemy, they always start by trying to become your friend. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 18
"You're going to kill him," said Millicent flatly. "Kill Kingsley Shacklebolt."
Hermione reined in an urge to point out that Millicent was stating the obvious, because Robards's unrelenting gaze wavered at the words. It was easy to talk in gestures and use words like "threat" and "suspect" and "collateral damage" but that didn't change anything: they were talking about murdering Kingsley Shacklebolt. Kingsley, who had built his career under Robards's tutelage, who had twice fought for the Order of the Phoenix.
"We can't," she whispered. "We just can't."
Robards heaved a sigh and glanced in her direction. "We can," he said. "But I don't reckon we will."
"Malfoy," said Millicent. "He's alive, isn't he? Draco, I mean."
Hermione turned to her. "You heard his voice when Harry called, I suppose."
Millicent made a noncommittal grunt. "He used to talk about this King thing when he wanted to show off. Back when we were kids. Real proud, he was -- the Malfoys were its guardians, or some such."
"Some guardians," said Patrick, looking thoroughly unhappy. He was sort of Kingsley's protégé, Hermione recalled vaguely. Some family connection or another...
"He would make a big deal out of it, too. At the start of third year, he insisted on introducing himself as 'Draco Abraxas Malfoy the First, Future Guardian of the King of Kings'. All the girls thought it was impressive."
"Are you saying Malfoy might know something?" asked Hermione, deciding she was not fond of Millicent's brand of talking around the topic rather than about it. "Something that could help us stop this Kay woman?"
"Obvious, isn't it?" returned Millicent, raising an eyebrow.
Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but Robards interrupted her. "And now Kay knows that he's alive."
"No, she doesn't," said Hermione. "When I saw that I was too late, I told Kingsley that Malfoy killed himself this morning. I pretended that was the reason I followed him."
Robards gave her a piercing look. "That was well done."
"Thanks." Hermione sniffed.
"Why did the papers say that Malfoy died?" asked Millicent, glancing from Hermione to Robards.
"He was supposed to," replied Robards. "There was a trap set for him after the Death Eaters stole the silver lion, but Blaise Zabini walked into it instead."
"With all the Malfoys out of commission, no one would have known that the Death Eaters had the silver lion," supplied Hermione. "We were hoping to lull them into a false sense of security while Malfoy told us what he knew."
"Perhaps," said Patrick, straightening up, "It isn't what he knows. Maybe there's something he can do."
Suddenly, Hermione remembered that she hadn't told Harry what had happened. He could be talking to Kingsley right now, telling him things! She rushed over to the chair she'd vacated earlier and fell to her knees on the floor, fumbling for her two-way. "I've got to tell Harry what happened," she explained to the others as she dug the mirror out. "Harry Potter," she said clearly, and waited.
"You were too late," said Draco. He sat atop the kitchen counter after having finished with the largest sandwich in existence. It was making him feel a bit ill, and he wondered if he hadn't eaten too much after a two-day fast. Needling Potter made him feel better, however, so he decided that was what he would do.
Potter scowled at him. He sat with the curious communicator device clutched in both hands, staring at it as though that would make it bring news. "If I was too late, it's your fault," he muttered. "Had you spoken up sooner--"
"Fuck off," snapped Draco. "You treated me like a piece of filth, not as befits a source of valuable information. Didn't they teach you about catching more flies with honey in Auror school?" He wiped his fingers on a napkin. "Anyway, I did tell you well in advance. It's not my fault you were so slow."
Potter made to get up, but a voice from the communicator froze them both. "Harry Potter. Harry, are you there?"
"Yes, Hermione," said Potter. "What--?"
"Bad news, Harry."
Potter's expression of anxious hope crumbled, sending a weird little thrill up Draco's spinal cord. Oh, it was terrible news, indeed, but it was such a treat to see Potter deprived of his usual smug superiority. "They've got him."
"Yes," said Granger. Draco hopped off the counter and began to walk closer, curious if the communicator would have an image to go with the voice.
"Do they know you know?" asked Potter.
"No," replied Granger. "I pretended that I had news. My news was that Draco Malfoy killed himself this morning."
"I would never kill myself, you stupid sow," called Draco, chagrined. Who the hell did these people think they were?
Granger let out a humourless chuckle. "Nice to hear your voice again, Malfoy. I see the years have done nothing for your manners."
Draco spluttered, which was all he could do, of course, being lectured about manners by a Mudblood. He was about to say so, but Potter gave him a look that promised violence. "Leave off," he said quietly. Draco crossed his arms and pretended to examine the nonexistent wall decor. A wave of nausea ripped through him, and he sat down quite abruptly onto one of the unoccupied beds. Sandwiches, he decided, were bad for you.
"We're in a fairly interesting situation here," Granger was saying. "The only people aware of the change are you, me, Mr Robards, and two rookies who haven't even seen the Compound yet."
Potter frowned. "Who are they?"
And that was when Draco knew that the communicator did have an image to go with the voice, for Potter glanced furtively at him and made no further inquiries about the rookies, whoever they were. Clearly Granger didn't think Draco ought to know their names.
"Rubric C?" asked Potter. If Draco weren't about to be violently sick, he would have wondered what that meant. As it was, he was deciding whether he ought to throw up on the floor and refuse to clean it up or make a dash for the bathroom.
"No," said Granger. "I refuse."
Potter nodded. "We ratified it without considering that we might actually have to invoke it."
"The question is: can we get Kingsley back?"
"Since my father cannot do magic, I'm the guardian now," interjected Draco weakly. "I can stop the King of Kings if it's restored to my possession."
And then he was sick. On the floor.
"Ugh," said Hermione. From her two-way emerged the sounds of someone throwing up with great enthusiasm.
"Malfoy never did know how to hold his alcohol," quipped Millicent, and Patrick grinned at her. Strange excitement thrummed through him after the morning's events -- he was a part of something, something important. It was far more than he could ever have hoped for with the Obliviators. He didn't care that Hermione Granger seemed to think him and Millicent barely capable of anything; what did she know? She wasn't the one who got on Eva Kay's trail, after all.
Then again, trilled a voice inside his head, You were pretty sceptical about Millicent's ideas, too.
Patrick ignored the voice; Hermione had slammed the two-way shut. "Well, you heard him," she said, an expression of disgust still marring her features. "It can be stopped."
"All we have to do is take the silver lion away from Kay," said Robards with a grimace. "Piece of cake."
"We can't stay here," said Patrick, picking up a thread of thought he'd abandoned when Hermione had been speaking with Harry Potter. "Kingsley knows Millicent suspected Eva Kay."
"And now the Kay woman knows that, too," said Hermione, nodding. "No, you can't stay here."
"Iceland," said Robards. "You're going to go to Iceland. You were Obliviators."
Patrick looked at Millicent, who was positively beaming. She really did like getting her own way, even if the world happened to be falling apart around her ears.
Patrick sighed. "Yes," he said. "I assume you want us to cover our tracks the old-fashioned way." Many years ago, the Ministry's Obliviators had had carte blanche to use Memory Charms as they saw fit, but these days there were several committees overseeing "unnecessary" uses and meting out punishments as appropriate.
"Won't Kingsley wonder why they aren't here?" asked Hermione.
Robards shook his head. "If he asks, I'll tell him I sent them to the Compound. Had this not happened, that's exactly what I would have done, regardless of their information. Rookie Aurors don't belong in the field."
"What if she decides to check if we're at the Compound?" asked Patrick. He was growing quite weary of being called a rookie. He wasn't even an Auror yet, technically speaking.
Robards got out of his chair and peeked into the corridor outside. "Stangerson? Get me Dawlish. I've got two units headed for the Compound this afternoon." He sat back down and, seeing Patrick's astonishment, grinned broadly. "No one goes inside the Compound except for the trainees and instructors. Kingsley knows that. Kay will know it, too, and she won't want Kingsley trying to do something he should know he can't do. Not yet, anyway. Dawlish will take you to the Compound and leave you there, but by tomorrow morning you'll be on your merry way to Iceland. I'll arrange everything."
"Evanesco," said Harry, pointing his wand at the remains of Malfoy's lunch. "You all right?"
Malfoy gave him a sullen glare and drank deeply from the water-glass Harry had brought him. "Let's see," he said in acid tones, setting the glass down on the floor. "My mother and father have been turned into vegetables. My best friend is dead. An artefact of immense power entrusted to my family for centuries has fallen into the wrong hands. The Ministry's golden boy tried to arrest me for a reaction to clear provocation. And now said golden boy is asking me if I'm all right. I don't even know what to say."
Harry sighed. "There was no provocation. You didn't need the Cruciatus Curse; you could've just tried to Stun me if you were so damned upset."
"Whatever," said Malfoy. "Desperate times call for desperate measures. I was under duress and you used that against me."
"Harry?" Kingsley's voice boomed from the two-way. Harry motioned for Malfoy to stay silent and flipped it open. Kingsley didn't look any different -- there was no vacant glaze in his eyes, no indication that he might not be himself. Harry wondered, for a wild moment, if this were all some trick of Malfoy's. Maybe he made everything up and was now quietly laughing inside at the turmoil he was causing. But one glance in Malfoy's direction told Harry that he was wrong: Malfoy had moved as far back on the bed as he could go, his legs drawn up. He looked terrified as he stared at the two-way in Harry's hands.
"Hi, Kingsley. I was hoping you'd call."
"Hermione told me what happened. What did you do with the body?"
"Protocol," said Harry. Witnesses who died when they were supposed to be dead anyway were made to disappear completely. The Auror Office didn't like inconvenient bodies.
"Good, good," said Kingsley. "Knew you'd do your job, Harry."
"There's not much more to do here," said Harry. "I'm thinking I ought to close up shop and come home, though I do have a lead in East Berl--"
"No, Harry, no more leads. The case is closed."
Harry gaped at him with genuine shock. Could the Death Eaters be so audacious already? "What?"
"We will not investigate this matter any further."
"But Kingsley, why?"
"We've got bigger problems now, Harry. The International Confederation of Wizards is breathing down my neck -- I just got word that they want to expel us."
Harry frowned, knowing he had to make this good to keep Kingsley from suspecting he knew something was amiss. "But the Death Eaters--"
"Look," interrupted Kingsley. "For weeks now, we haven't been able to so much as catch wind of the bastards aside from the small progress Hermione made with her clever little device. If I continue throwing my best resources at chasing phantoms, we might find ourselves cut off from the international wizarding community, and I don't need to tell you how that will impact wizarding Britain, do I?"
Harry had no idea what such a situation might do to wizarding Britain, but clearly whoever controlled Kingsley was unaware that Harry wasn't all that involved in politics. "No, you don't," he said. "But what if they try it again?"
"Nonsense," said Kingsley. "America is on full alert now, and so is every other power with a nuclear arsenal. They would fail."
You mean they no longer need to try, thought Harry, fighting to keep a bewildered expression on his face. They've got us right where they want us. Too bad we don't know where that is.
"But what about this silver lion thing?" he insisted. "What about the Malfoys?"
"Ah, yes. I have it on fairly good authority that those incidents are completely unrelated to the July attacks. I can fill you in when you get back home -- it's an interesting situation and will certainly bear investigating, but I can't pay attention to it just now." Kingsley paused, and something in his eyes shifted. "Look, how about this -- take a couple of weeks off. Go travelling for a while. You haven't had a holiday since you started in the Department, and we've obviously worked you too hard."
Harry just stared at him, stunned. Hadn't Kingsley just finished complaining that he needed his "best resources"?
"I see you're stunned by the very thought of a holiday," said Kingsley with a wry smile that was so like him it made Harry's heart clench. "Which only proves my point. Go on, Harry. Take a few weeks. Take a month."
"But won't you need me to--"
"Oh, this will take far longer than a month. I'll be able to use you when you come back." There was a noise in the background and Kingsley nodded to someone unseen. "Look, I'm sorry, but I've really got to go. What do you say?"
"Fine," said Harry. He didn't need to pretend to look unhappy. "I'll see you in a month."
"Good lad." Kingsley vanished from the mirror. For a few long minutes, Harry could only stare at the dark glass.
Malfoy broke the silence. "Now what?"
Harry looked up at him, and his earlier helplessness morphed into irritation. All this was Malfoy's doing. Had he not refused to talk, Eva Kay would not have got within two miles of Kingsley. Harry didn't care that Malfoy's sensibilities were offended -- he was nothing but a... a...
My best friend is dead.
"You heard him," muttered Harry, restraining his temper. "I'm going on a holiday."
"And after that? You're going to go back? Go along with them?"
"Why are you so concerned about my future plans?" snapped Harry.
Malfoy got up from the bed, a bit unsteadily, and approached him. "They killed Blaise. They might as well have killed my parents." His pale eyes were hard.
Harry shrugged. "I'm no happier than you are about what happened to your family and your, um, friend. But why am I supposed to care?"
A sardonic little smile graced Malfoy's lips, and his eyes flashed. "I'm just trying to pick a side."
"A side, Potter. There are always two." Malfoy's voice shook a bit, but suddenly Harry found himself staring stupidly at a wand-tip. "One side will let me have vengeance, and the other is the wrong side. Which one is yours?"
"Put your wand away," said Harry, staring at it as though hypnotised. "You know I can disarm you. And you can't get out of here without me."
Malfoy backed away a few steps. "You won't get a chance to disarm me this time. And I think if I dug a hole in the ground and dragged your dead body through with me, the protective enchantments would let me go. It's your Mark that matters, doesn't it?"
Stunned, Harry fingered the back of his neck, where his Auror brand -- a red letter A, its horizontal bar in the shape of an inverted eight -- was tattooed. "How--"
"I saw it when you came out of the shower yesterday," said Malfoy. The thought of him watching Harry walk out of the bathroom in nothing but the towel round his hips brought to mind the obscene photograph in his pocket, of all things. "Which side, Potter?"
"For someone who just complained about being under duress, you're awfully insistent," murmured Harry, glancing up at Malfoy.
He had allowed himself to get sloppy, and Malfoy had puzzled out the secret of the safe-house. It was true: a dead Auror would serve just as well as a live one, though it would be difficult to drag a dead body through the front door. Harry had underestimated Malfoy; he really needed to stop doing that.
"If you're talking about murdering the Death Eaters, you might as well make good on your threats," he continued slowly. "My job is catching Dark wizards, not killing them. I serve justice, not vengeance."
"Murder," said Malfoy, pocketing his wand, "Is the last thing on my mind." There was something in his eyes that made Harry shudder: at that moment, Malfoy didn't quite look human at all: it was as though his skin were stretched over a liquid being made of steel. "If you're going after them, I'm going with you."
Harry couldn't have planned it better himself. He knew he had to keep Malfoy with him -- like it or not, Malfoy was the only one who could help Kingsley. Malfoy going along of his own accord was just fine by Harry, professionally speaking. Personally speaking, he wanted to leave Malfoy far, far behind.
"You'll wear my Invisibility Cloak," he said. "The house is probably still being watched." The idea of using the Cloak had occurred to him multiple times over the weekend, but it hinged on Malfoy's willingness to go along, otherwise it was too risky.
"Where are we going?" asked Malfoy with a measure of apprehension. The fight seemed to have fled from him for the time being; he looked pale and scared once more.
"America," replied Harry. "Come on."