Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3500 words
Summary: Prisons are built with stones of law, brothels with bricks of religion. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 19
"America?" Malfoy looked confused. "Why there?"
"That's where it all started," replied Harry. "Before we go, you'll need a different name. Draco Malfoy is dead, after all."
"Marvin Miggs," said Malfoy, looking pleased with himself.
"Marvin Miggs the Mad Muggle?" said Harry, exasperated. "Don't you think that's a little bit obvious?"
Malfoy made a face. "Let's see you do better, then."
"Bond," said Harry, fighting an inexplicable urge to giggle. "James Bond."
"I like it," said Malfoy, clearly delighted.
"Forget it," said Harry. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. "James Bond is a famous Muggle character. How about... um. Eric Stangerson." He had no idea if Emily Stangerson had any relatives, but an Auror's surname ought to be enough if anyone were checking his movements. He had no doubt that eventually, someone would be checking. They would need to take the long way to Boulder...
"Eric Stangerson," repeated Malfoy.
"Yes." Harry opened the ceiling trapdoor above his bed, reached into the compartment, and threw Malfoy a canvas rucksack. "Pack your things."
Thirty minutes later, Harry left the Berlin safe-house for the last time. He only hoped that Malfoy wouldn't do anything stupid, like run off with Harry's Invisibility Cloak -- they'd agreed that Malfoy would keep the Cloak on until they were in Denmark. Their ultimate destination was the wizarding port authority in Copenhagen, and Harry was rather vexed that he didn't have any of George's Translatable Ears -- it made bargaining for passage much more difficult. The undersea vessels were fast, though, and whilst Harry would have preferred a Portkey, it was impossible without immediately alerting the Danish authorities -- and, potentially, Kingsley's captors -- to his whereabouts.
The Tiny Swan took them to the Bahamas through the Bermuda passage, and from there it was just a few hours to Tampico. Malfoy spent most of the three days clinging to his rucksack; it turned out he'd never travelled by sea before and though it was impossible to get sea-sick aboard a wizarding ship, he looked quite green all the same. Harry gave Malfoy little thought; he needed the time to formulate a plan, and he spent most of his waking hours belowdecks, gazing out at the ocean's dark water and thinking.
They came ashore at Tampico on Thursday afternoon. Harry gave his name and Malfoy's alias to the wizard on duty in the cramped Port Authority office, and communicated via gestures and scribbled location names that they intended to spend their holiday making their way south to Mexico City and from there on to Mérida, where they would board a ship called The Sea Unicorn for the return voyage. As part of his planning during the trip, Harry had studied maps of the region and questioned those crewmen who spoke English about local customs and frequently voyaging vessels. The Tampico - Mexico City - Mérida pilgrimage was popular with European wizarding folk, and the Port Authority man waved them out after informing them that the local equivalent of the Knight Bus would take them as far as Mexico City, if they wished it.
Harry and Malfoy did board the dusty, weather-worn bus just outside Miramar, but they headed for Monterrey, and from there to Chihuahua. Four Apparitions through a strange combination of forest, desert, and yellowgrass prairie took them to Ciudad Juárez. They crossed into El Paso on foot, Malfoy under the cloak and Harry using a Disillusionment Charm. He had no intention of letting anyone know he was in America until he'd had a chance to speak with Andrew Biggs.
Map-guided Apparition was not easy, and by the time Harry and Malfoy reached Albuquerque, they were both exhausted. However, Harry was determined to press on. His two-way had remained ominously silent throughout the journey, and he couldn't sleep another night without knowing what was going on back home. Their journey had not brought them in contact with any new information -- but here, all the way on the other side of the world, that might not mean much. What were England's troubles to these lands of eternal sunlight?
They were having a late supper in a Muggle diner outside Colorado Springs -- Malfoy taking each bite with the look of a man who might be poisoned at any moment -- when Harry decided it might just be prudent to call Biggs out instead of showing up at the Boulder Auror HQ. He didn't know how kindly the locals would take to Harry's illegal border-crossing; from what he'd read during his Foreign Operations training, he understood that it was done quite frequently by civilian wizards. But he wasn't a civilian, and Malfoy didn't count. Harry cast a quick glance around the diner -- empty, save for two burly men in blue work shirts -- drew out his two-way, and transfigured it into a mobile phone.
"Hermione Granger," he said into the receiver.
He had to repeat the name several times until Hermione's voice said, "Harry? I can't see you."
"I'm in a Muggle restaurant," explained Harry.
"If you can call this a restaurant," muttered Malfoy, stabbing a steamed carrot, which fell apart.
Harry rolled his eyes. Ever since they'd left the ship, Malfoy's faculty of speech had been returning in bursts, and right now he could have almost believed he was with the same old Malfoy from Berlin, save for the angry sunburn that blazed across his nose and cheeks. "I'm in Colorado Springs. I need you to tell me how to contact someone in Boulder using this thing."
"Um," began Hermione, and then her voice sounded slightly distant as she said, "No, Ron, it's Harry. Go back to bed."
"Sorry for waking you up," said Harry, belatedly realising what he'd done.
"You can't see him because he's in a Muggle place and can't use the mirror," said Hermione, a tinge of exasperation in her voice. "I'll tell you later." Her voice became clearer and she said, "Ron says hello."
"Same," said Harry, glancing at Malfoy, who seemed to be trying to listen in to the conversation.
"Is your communicator a Mark I or a Mark II?" asked Hermione. "I forget."
"Mark II," said Harry.
"Oh. It's authorised for overseas use, then. You just need to know the other person's full name."
"Is there any way for Kingsley to find out it's been used in America?"
"Yes, but you don't have to worry about that," replied Hermione. "I'll take care of it in the morning."
"You're brilliant," said Harry, grinning though she couldn't see him. "Any news?"
"Nothing," said Hermione, speaking in a lower voice still. "But I haven't seen him since you left."
"Doesn't anyone think that's strange?"
"Not so far. I've been doing my best to pretend it's business as usual. Malfoy's with you, right?"
Harry deliberately didn't look at Malfoy -- he couldn't hear Hermione, and Harry wasn't about to let him know they were talking about him. "Yeah."
"What are your plans?"
"I think I can pick up the trail if I can get in touch with this man Biggs."
"Are you going to tell him what happened to Kingsley?"
"I don't know," said Harry. "He's an honest bloke and an Auror. I don't know if he'll help me if I lie to him."
"Concealing the truth isn't lying," said Hermione. Harry frowned at Malfoy, who had given up all pretence of nonchalance and was staring at Harry, his sunburned face making him look like a hapless tourist.
"I'll think about it," said Harry. "I'd better call him, though; it's getting late. I'll keep you updated."
"Bye, Harry. Good luck."
Harry snapped the fake mobile shut and stuffed a forkful of mash into his mouth, ignoring Malfoy's inquisitive stare. After he finished with his food, he took up the communicator again. "Andrew Biggs."
Biggs answered right away. "Biggs. Who's this? Show yourself."
"I can't," said Harry. "It's Harry Potter."
"Well, I'll be damned. I'm still looking into--"
"This isn't about the research I asked you for," Harry interrupted quickly. "I'm in Colorado Springs. I could use your advice."
"Sure thing," said Biggs, his voice not changing an iota. "Where exactly are you?"
Harry told him. Five minutes later, Biggs walked through the diner's front door, smiling when he spotted Harry. "When did you get in?" he asked, shaking Harry's outstretched hand.
"Earlier today," said Harry. "It's a long story." He gestured at Malfoy.
Biggs's eyes narrowed slightly. "Your partner?"
"My witness," said Harry. "The only material witness in the bombing case."
Biggs whistled. The waitress ambled over to their table, her mouth methodical around her chewing gum. "What'll you be having?" she asked with slight impatience.
"Just a Coke, thanks," said Biggs. She walked off, and he looked at Malfoy again. "Your witness got a name?"
"Draco Malfoy," said Malfoy, but didn't extend his hand.
Biggs didn't seem to notice Malfoy's rudeness. "You're on the run," he said, looking at Harry.
"I guess if I ask the Border Authority boys, they'll have no record of either of you."
"Good guess," said Harry. "I'm in a spot of trouble."
"What kind of trouble?"
"Bad," said Harry. "Is there any other kind?"
"Not for our folk, I guess not," murmured Biggs. The waitress returned with an enormous plastic glass of Coca-Cola and set it down carefully on a coaster. "Thanks." He drained the glass in several enormous gulps. "On a hot day, this stuff's better than magic."
Harry's appetite was gone, so he laid his knife and fork across his plate and pushed it away. Malfoy had not touched his food since Harry's conversation with Hermione. He knew Biggs wouldn't give him anything until Harry gave him something; that was just how these things went. "We need a place to stay," he said. "Without your boss knowing."
Biggs's brows drew together sharply. "The Chief or the Secretary?"
Harry sighed. "Both, if possible, but especially the Secretary."
"I'm listening," said Biggs, still frowning.
After Harry finished his account of the last week's events, told as much in expressive grimaces as in English -- it wouldn't do to use words like 'magic' and 'spell' and 'curse' where Muggles might overhear them -- Biggs sat with his elbows propped against the tabletop, supporting his face with his fists.
"I know that name," he said after a few moments. "Eva Kay. I've heard it before, but damned if I remember where or when." He leaned back in his seat and looked directly at Harry. "How long do you have?"
"A month," said Harry. "Give or take a week."
"Not a hell of a lot."
"That's why I went straight to you. If you're willing to help--"
Biggs waved his hand. "No ifs. I'd do the same thing if I was in your shoes. D'you get the same brand we do?"
"Good. Pay your bill and I'll take you to a safe house."
Monday, September 8, 2003
Neville didn't think he would ever get used to sitting with the teachers. Every time he looked up, he expected to be tucked between other students on the benches along the Gryffindor table, having daydreamed the whole thing about him being the Herbology Professor. Invariably, however, he was seated next to Filius Flitwick and looking down at the student tables. The second week of school was just beginning, and the students hadn't quite yet grasped it. Neither had the teachers, really. The Great Hall was in a state of jovial chaos as students jostled each other on the benches, silverware clanging against plates and bowls and tureens.
Smiling somewhat ruefully at how shell-shocked he felt, Neville took up the Daily Prophet. He didn't really like to read the paper -- it was full of lies more often than not -- but breakfast conversation at the teachers' table was frowned upon, and it made Neville feel silly, not to mention slightly inappropriate, to watch the students.
MINISTER FOR MAGIC: ALL WIZARD-MUGGLE RELATIONS TO CEASE
In an unusual press conference early this morning, Kingsley Shacklebolt announced a new wizarding law, ratified by the Wizengamot just hours before, after a week-long debate session. The debates were held in the Ministry's new Berkshire facility, built after rumours of Wizengamot doings were discussed in a Muggle newspaper last month. The new law, signed and sealed into the records just before the press-conference, is a fifteen-page document that in essence boils down to a few relatively simple points:
1. Wizards and witches residing in Britain must not interact with Muggles, except when pretending to be Muggles themselves.
2. The revelation of the existence of magic, witches, wizards, magical creatures, etc to a Muggle, first-hand or not, is a crime punishable by at least six months' imprisonment.
3. Any and all Muggles in possession of knowledge that a wizarding community exists in Britain are to have their memories modified.
The law extends over every witch and wizard within England's borders, including visiting foreigners. We are told that copies of the document have started to go out. By the end of this week, every wizarding household and place of business will be expected to be familiar with the new law.
The move comes after the International Confederation of Wizards threatened Britain with expulsion unless we took steps to reverse the damage done in the aftermath of the twelfth of July. In a historical vote held by the Confederation in mid-August, the vote was 191 to 3 in favour of expelling Britain unless our Ministry cleaned up the mess it had made with the Muggles. Britain herself was not allowed to vote, and the opposing countries were America, Canada, and Russia. Every other member of the Confederation voted that all ties should be cut with Britain if we do not restore order. The deadline for this "restoration of order" was given as July 12, 2004 -- not even a full year. The Minister was required by international law to keep the vote and its outcome secret until a decision was reached by the Wizengamot, which it now has been.
Shacklebolt admits that the debate in the Wizengamot became quite heated at times, but in the end, expulsion from the global wizarding community means we are an island in the midst of an unpassable ocean: all trade and travel between us and the rest of the world would cease. It would mean the utter destruction of our economy, and the Wizengamot felt that this price was too much to pay for a true wizard-Muggle society. We would ultimately end up relying on the Muggles for the survival of our economic infrastructure, and that could have ramifications beyond any of our imaginings.
When asked about enforcement, Shacklebolt says that there will be many new openings on the Hit Wizard force, and the Ministry has no intention to follow a "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- as the law says, mere suspicion will be grounds for arrest, and there will be an increased Hit Wizard presence in all wizard-inhabited areas. As far as the law's final provision, the Ministry is recalling the Obliviators who were made redundant following the events on the twelfth of July, and opening new positions on the Obliviator force. Both the Hit Wizard and Obliviator forces are expected to triple if not quadruple in size, says Shacklebolt, who says one of the secondary objects of the law is to create permanent jobs for hundreds of wizards across the country. "We can't afford another July 2003."
Effective immediately, teams of Obliviators and Hit Wizards will go undercover at local Muggle news agencies to begin destroying all evidence of a wizarding presence in Britain. Most member countries of the International Confederation of Wizards managed to suppress the news from Britain at the time that it broke, but Shacklebolt cautions that the Muggles' ways of spreading information are in many ways more advanced than our own, and so there will be much work to be done abroad after the scouring of British media sources is complete. The Confederation expects Britain to foot the bill for these operations. Shacklebolt had no comment when asked if he was going to raise taxes to help pay for this upcoming initiative.
On the subject of Muggle-born witches and wizards, who would need to sever ties with their families in order to comply with the law, Shacklebolt acknowledges that there would be great difficulties on our path to re-integration into the global wizarding community, and that family situations would be considered on a case-by-case basis. To that end, all Muggle-born wizards and witches who wish to remain a part of the wizarding world must submit full details of their family background to the newly assembled Muggle-Born Registration Commission.
Unlike its predecessor during Lord Voldemort's rule, however, there will be no confiscation of wands or ridiculous accusations of "magic theft", Shacklebolt assures the Prophet. "The Muggle-born witches and wizards are valuable members of our community and it is not our aim to persecute them or make them feel unwelcome. It is a difficult choice that is put before them, but it is no more difficult than the choice pure-bloods and half-bloods who married Muggles are facing. The Ministry will do everything in its power to spare pain and suffering, but we cannot do our best if we don't have the community's full co-operation."
Neville re-read the article, thinking that he'd wandered into another one of his daydreams once again, but the contents were unchanged. He heard a perceptible hush in the jovial chaos below, and was suddenly aware that the other teachers were talking amongst themselves.
"...must be some sort of practical joke," Sinistra was saying.
"It's September, not April, my dear," said Flitwick, bouncing a little in his seat, ostensibly to avoid talking to Sinistra's bosom.
"What about the kids?" asked Neville, blinking at the house tables. Many of those students were Muggle-born, from first-years to seventh-years.
The Daily Prophet held no satisfactory answers.
Hermione waved her wand at the world map and watched the little lights wink out one by one. The hour was late; she thought she might be the very last person in the Ministry this evening. She placed the last sheaf of documents into her valise and snapped it shut; the sound reverberated in the empty War Office, oddly lonely without the humming of the map and the various instruments on the side table next to it.
She picked up the neatly wrapped packet destined for Boulder, Colorado, United States of America, and carried it to the small niche in the wall not far from the darkened map. She whistled twice, and an owl fluttered down a few moments later. It took the packet from Hermione's outstretched hands and flew off. Hermione opened the log-book that hung inside the niche and wrote neatly on the last line:
HJP Evidence / Return to Origin / Sept-08-2003 / File# 91394TAA [Case Closed] --HJG
It wasn't evidence; it was a communicator with the added advantage of being untraceable, and it was going into Harry's hands, not "to origin". But appearances had to be kept up. So far, Kingsley had no idea that Harry was not, in fact, making the Mexico pilgrimage with Emily Stangerson's distant cousin, Eric. Nonetheless, time was swiftly running out for them all.
Hermione picked up her heavy valise and cast a last glance over the War Office. It was a little like looking at a dead giant. "All in a day's work," she whispered to herself, and jumped, startled at how loud her voice sounded in the perfect stillness. With an unsteady little laugh, she stepped out of the office and let the door click shut.
The halls of the Department of Mysteries were shadowed and gloomy as she passed through them towards the lifts. The security clerk half-dozed at his desk in the Atrium, and he barely acknowledged Hermione's friendly wave. She headed for the fireplaces, and from there to Diagon Alley through the Leaky Cauldron.
She walked through the doors of the joke shop, the valise floating behind her. Jezebel gave her an unfriendly nod, but Hermione ignored her, walking right behind the counter and into the back of the shop through a door that would always open for her. Ron sat with his back to the door, his shoulders hunched over a bundle of receipts illuminated by one of the harsh, bright lamps George had invented two years ago. As Hermione approached, she could see his dear face, scrunched into bewilderment as though he were writing one of Snape's famously fiddly Potions essays.
"Hi, Ron," said Hermione weakly.
"Hermione?" asked Ron, looking at her. "You're... what's wrong?"
"I've been sacked," she said, sinking into a chair and letting the tears have their way.