Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 2800 words
Summary: Energy is an eternal delight, and he who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 20
"Sacked?" repeated Ron. He rolled his chair towards Hermione and took her hands in his. For some reason, that made Hermione want to cry harder.
She didn't. Instead, she drew a shuddering breath, thinking back to the things she and Robards had talked about. "Well, sacked is a bit dramatic," she said. "Suspended is the word. There is a conflict of interest under this new Muggle-born law, a matter of some small print. Muggle-borns are not to hold positions of authority until the crisis has passed."
"Where's Kingsley?" asked Ron in a matter-of-fact tone. "I reckon him and me have a conflict of interest." He looked rather menacing, and Hermione wanted to hug him, but didn't.
"This isn't Kingsley's fault," she said. It had been Kingsley who gave her the news that morning, but that didn't mean anything these days. Kingsley was just a shell. "Listen, Ron. Something terrible happened at the Ministry last month."
"He's Imperiused. I knew it," said Ron, peering up at Hermione anxiously.
"Wait, wait," said Hermione. "You think Kingsley's under the Imperius Curse? Did you hear this from someone?"
"George said it first," said Ron, shrugging. "We might be just Diagon Alley folk, but all that stuff coming out of the Ministry lately smells a lot like what Umbridge and her goons were doing back in the day. No offence."
Hermione grasped Ron's hands tightly. "Have you told anyone?"
Ron frowned. "No. Hermione, I thought you were joking. Is he really--?"
Hermione sighed. "Let's get George in there. And make sure that tart up front can't overhear us."
With a wry grin, Ron crossed to the laboratory door and slammed a fist against it. "Oi!"
He barely had time to spring backwards when the door flew open and George appeared, wearing a soot-blackened apron, his hair singed at the temples. "Now what?"
Hermione couldn't help herself; she started to giggle into her fist at the sight of George and Ron, staring at each other like two enemy Kneazles.
"The lady finds our appearance amusing," intoned George, stepping down from the threshold and letting the laboratory door click shut.
"Drop it," Ron advised him and walked out into the shop. Hermione heard him laugh, but for once she didn't feel compelled to go and see what Jezebel was doing. A moment later, Ron ducked back inside. "Jezebel's gone, and I've put the closed sign out."
"But--" George started to protest.
Hermione held up a hand. "It's important," she said. Her eyes still smarted and her cheeks were wet, but she wouldn't cry anymore; it was bad enough she'd let herself lose composure in the first place. Robards had agreed that she would need outside help, and she couldn't think of anyone more capable than Ron and George. She filled them in on what had happened with the Malfoys, with the silver lion, and everything else since that wretched woman had started her vile scheming. George and Ron looked thunderstruck when she finished talking.
"So," said Ron after a pause. "I reckon Harry's not really having a nice holiday. Is he?"
Hermione shook her head. "He's in America, with Malfoy. They're in hiding, but Harry's been trying to find any leads that might help."
"Brilliant," said George, beaming. "What do you want us to do?"
"Help," said Hermione. "If you can. I've got several devices in here that I couldn't perfect in time..."
"Wait, what are you saying?" interjected Ron. "You and Robards are still on the case?"
Shrugging, Hermione gestured to her valise. "I took all my files with me instead of destroying them. Shredding has a record, but they didn't know they were tearing up useless scribbles, not evidence."
"So basically, we get to do illegal and potentially dangerous things," said George, nodding somewhat impatiently. "Where do I sign?"
"Just act like you belong here," said Millicent over her shoulder.
"Right," muttered Patrick, trailing after his wife along a deserted deck of the Reykjavik Ministry. It was a ship, not a building, the principal difference between it and other ships in the busy seaport being that it was underwater, well out of the way of regular Muggle traffic. The walls around him creaked and groaned with pressure; they made Patrick nervous. It was easy for Millicent to say that he ought to act like he belonged, but Patrick didn't like ships, he didn't belong underwater, and damn it, this had been a really bad idea. He was just about to say so when Millicent stopped in front of a door and fished her dictionary out of her massive bag.
"I think this means 'chamber'," she muttered, flipping pages faster than Patrick could keep up. "Yes. Here is 'chamber' and here are 'records'. This is it. How do we get in?"
"This," said Patrick, reaching over, "is what modern English calls a 'doorknob', wife." He twisted said wonder of modern English, and the door swung inwards.
"Oh, very witty," said Millicent, pretending to look cross but grinning. She glanced over her shoulder and went inside. Patrick followed her into a vast chamber -- it looked like the sign on the door hadn't been lying -- filled with boxes of opaque glass. Torches dotted the spaces between shelves with no discernible pattern, and these were the only light source.
Patrick saw movement out of the corner of his eye and whipped out his wand, stepping in front of Millicent to shield her. She made a vexed noise, but Patrick paid her no mind; he was not going to let this decrepit old lady molest his wife. Wait. Decrepit old lady?
This ancient representative of the wizarding race offered Patrick a toothless grin. He lowered his wand, abashed. "Um, hi. We're lost," he said, forgetting all about Millicent's exhortations to act like he belonged here. How was he supposed to act like he belonged when he didn't speak a word of Icelandic? Honestly.
"Oo! English!" croaked the old lady. "Very nice. I speak English."
"You... do?" Patrick pocketed his wand. "Maybe you can help us."
"Hee. I can help everybody. I speak everything!"
"Um," said Patrick. "We're looking for information about our aunt. She lived in Iceland for a while. Is this the right place?"
"I am Record Keeper. I speak all languages," said the old lady, gliding closer to them with a whirring noise. Patrick looked down at her feet: she was wearing roller skates. "Hee. Who is aunt?"
"Her name is Eva Kay," said Millicent, who had until now been studying the walls. "But she might have used another name while she lived here."
"Kay." The roller-skating grandma offered Patrick another sunny smile. "My name Birta. Hee."
"I'm Patrick, and this is my wife Millicent."
Birta rolled back and forth for a few moments, considering them. "I find aunt. You sit."
A bench slid up out of the floor, nearly knocking Patrick off his feet. He sat, pulling Millicent down with him. If this relic was willing to give them information, he wasn't going to complain about it. Birta whizzed about the room, pausing every once in a while to gaze up at this shelf or that.
"Think she'll find it?" asked Millicent in hand-speak.
"Doubtful," signed Patrick. Eva Kay's name practically screamed 'alias'; you didn't have to be an Auror to get it.
"Aunt in England now?" inquired Birta, rolling to a stop in front of them.
"Yes," said Patrick. Birta nodded and snapped her fingers. There was a loud pop, and one of the boxes on the shelf opposite vanished, only to appear in Birta's hands a second later.
"No Eva Kay. Eva Konungsdottír," she said with a hint of reproach. She pressed her palm against the top of the box, and the lid melted at her touch, revealing a single piece of parchment inside.
Patrick gave Birta a questioning look. She nodded at the box. He withdrew the parchment, but, predictably, couldn't read it. It was in Icelandic. There were only a few words on it, though -- maybe if they were allowed to copy it, Millicent could use her dictionary...
Birta saved the day. "Says Eva Konungsdottír. Live with Muggles. Hee. Wand on file. Is all."
"Muggles?" asked Millicent, peering at the old woman intently. "Don't you have any other information -- where she was born? How old she is?"
Birta shook her head. "Live with Muggles, keep Muggle records! You know name, ask Muggles."
Patrick and Millicent looked at each other. This made things easier for them. But why would Eva Kay, confirmed Muggle-hater, ever live amongst Muggles?
"Thanks," said Millicent, rising.
"Welcome. Hee. Now you sign book!" Birta produced a thick, leather-bound volume from the air; Patrick marvelled at how she managed to hold it, frail as she was. The book floated towards them, and Patrick signed to Millicent: Now.
Birta's grin wavered for a moment. She tilted her head.
"What am I supposed to do with this?" asked Patrick, peering down at the book. It looked like a ship captain's log, only the entries consisted of names, row after row. Name searched for, then name of requestor -- it didn't need to be in English to make sense.
"You get information?" asked Birta, frowning.
Patrick shook his head. An Obliviator's job was so much more than casting Memory Charms. A lot of it hinged on knowing how to lie well. "We were lost," he said. "You were going to tell us how to get back to the city."
It was too dark to see out of the window, and Draco rose from his armchair, which he had occupied for the past four hours or so. The safe house was deep in the jungle of Muggle suburbia, and American life was far more fascinating than the telly, Potter's preferred method of entertainment. Draco could sit in his bedroom for hours, staring at the street. The Muggles were so busy all the time: cutting the grass, washing their already-gleaming cars, talking with neighbours, driving to one of the gigantic shopping centres and returning with boots full of everything in the world, putting up hammocks, mending swing sets, cycling-jogging-skipping down the street.
It made Draco feel as though he were a part of something without having to make an effort, and effort was difficult these days. He had thought the state of shock would wear off after a while, but it hadn't. He never wanted to get out of bed. Food tasted the same no matter what he ate. When he did leave his bed, he didn't want to do anything but sit and watch the bit of street he could see. It was his little world, and he didn't want visitors, thank you. He had vague thoughts about going back to England, seeing his mother and father, but he was content to put it off. He was dead in that other world, and so was Blaise.
Potter didn't leave the house much, either, but his reasons were different, from what Draco gathered. He was supposed to be spending a well-deserved holiday trekking in Mexico, and if he were seen anywhere else, there would be trouble from the Kay woman, who now pulled the strings attached to Kingsley Shacklebolt. Potter did go out in his Invisibility Cloak, but only after dark. He never told Draco where he was going, and Draco never asked: he didn't care. He didn't want to be here, but he didn't want to be anywhere else, either. It was as though crossing the Atlantic Ocean had caused things to not matter anymore, at least not to Draco Malfoy.
He left the room, glancing at the remains of his early supper. He ought to take those to the kitchen along with last week's leftovers, but he couldn't be arsed. Let them rot. Potter's bedroom door was ajar, but it was dark inside. Potter must have had another meeting with that Biggs fellow. Biggs didn't like Draco very much, not that it bothered Draco. He wandered the empty house, his thoughts disjointed, formless. He remembered a time when there had been things to look forward to, but that was irrevocably gone. He was alone in the world. A warm body, nothing more.
He sat on the sofa in front of the dead television. The only light was a streetlamp outside the house, and in it he could see himself reflected in the dark screen, and even there he lacked substance: the screen showed a thing without shape, a dark lump that moved when Draco told it to but didn't stand for anything. It was strange, because he remembered having been proud once, proud of his name, of his ancestry, of his knowledge. He wondered if he should mourn those days, but he felt nothing at all. The world lay somewhere beyond a foggy curtain, and Draco was safe here in his own mind. He awoke with a terrible crick in his neck, with no memory of having fallen asleep.
As Draco trudged up the stairs to his own bedroom, he noticed a soft light gleaming from inside Potter's bedroom. Potter must have returned whilst Draco had slept. He walked towards the light as if hypnotised. Its glow made him feel less alone, but he wasn't sure if that was good or bad. Draco peered round the door and saw Potter stretched out on his bed, one arm buried underneath his pillow, the other flung out across the duvet, a careless embrace offered to someone who wasn't there. Why was Draco even here? He must have come in to turn out the light. Yes, that must have been why. He had been on his way upstairs when he saw the light on.
Draco approached the bedside cabinet and reached for the switch at the base of the lamp. A week ago, he had been a bit pleased at discovering how these lights worked: push-buttons, no magic, but there had been no one to share it with. Draco very much doubted Potter wanted to hear it; he was a burden to Potter, an unforeseen circumstance. As his eyes fell upon a square of parchment next to the lamp, Draco's hand began to tremble. His own eyes peered up at him across years, out of a moment stolen from a better life.
"If you keep doing that, the picture won't turn out well," says Blaise, laughing. Draco can't see his eyes, just the stupid camera above his smile.
He spits out Blaise's cock and wipes his mouth. "If you won't just take the bloody picture, I'm stopping and we're going to play billiards. I thought you knew how to work that thing."
"I do know how to work it," says Blaise, putting the blasted thing aside and drawing Draco to him. "But not when you're distracting me."
"I should think I drive you to distraction," murmurs Draco into Blaise's mouth. "Why else would you keep coming back here?"
They end up taking many pictures that night, and they never do make it to the pub.
Draco picked the photograph up, his hand still shaking. If he closed his eyes, he could see Blaise's face above him and then the bright flash. He could hear Blaise's moan drowning out the whirring sound of the camera. They had looked at the pictures together, later, and that was when Draco had begun to fall in love, but why did his eyes burn so? He opened them, and the photograph blurred before him, as did the rest of the room and the lamp's soft, soft glow. His unfelt sorrow burst like a shadow from his mind, taking him over, making his eyes burn and his throat constrict.
Draco let the picture drop. It fluttered back to the bedside cabinet. And then he remembered whose room this was. Draco looked at Potter, who slept on, oblivious. The photograph belonged in Draco's other life. Why had Potter taken it? Why did Potter have it?