Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3200 words
Summary: The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 23
Draco had just enough time to throw on some Muggle clothes and check the bathroom mirror to make sure he didn't look too dishevelled. The footsteps he now heard in his bedroom weren't Potter's.
Draco peeked out of the bathroom and saw Biggs, as expected. "Oh, it's you," he said with careful disinterest. "Potter's down the corridor."
Biggs hooked his thumbs into his belt loops. "I hope you weren't putting on make-up," he said. "We're just going to visit a professor."
"Har har," said Draco without enthusiasm. "Is every wizard in America this witty or are you the unfortunate exception?"
"Hi, Biggs," said Potter from the doorway. Draco's lower belly gave a traitorously hopeful squirm. Potter had changed into a pair of jeans no less scandalous than the ones Draco had so recently destroyed. "Sorry it took me a bit -- I was just getting out of the shower when you showed up."
Draco noticed Biggs glance at Potter's hair -- not the least bit wet, obviously. With the most infinitesimal of shrugs, Biggs produced a grin Draco had come to call The American -- lots of teeth, crinkled eyes, the works, but still somehow unnatural. Nobody was supposed to be happy enough to smile like that. Ever.
"It's almost ten in California," said Biggs. "The professor's asleep, so we'd better get going." He pulled a small plastic container from his pocket and proffered it. Draco realised that the Portkey would take him out of this house, which meant a chance at freedom. He grasped the edge of the container eagerly.
When the customary Portkey nausea dissipated, Draco reached into his pocket, but his wand wasn't there. He whirled round and saw Potter tucking Draco's wand into the inside pocket of his jacket. He had the absent-minded look of a man tucking away an appointment book after making certain he wasn't late for anything. Draco did his best not to grit his teeth. They stood behind a large, foul-smelling shape that Draco couldn't see properly in the gloom, but he was certain it was a Dumpster. Whereas normal people Apparated to secluded, unused areas, American wizards preferred Muggle rubbish bins. Typical.
"You'll get it back when we're at the safe house again," said Potter. It struck Draco as odd that Potter was actually looking at him; the whites of his eyes glittered in the murky greyness. After what Draco had done, he had expected complete avoidance. That was the normal way of things, certainly, especially for someone who was supposed to have a Quidditch star girlfriend. Trust Potter to turn out as practically the antithesis of normal. Draco met his gaze evenly.
Biggs, who had ducked out to make sure no one was around, stepped behind the Dumpster again. "All clear," he said. "Let's move."
He led them through a busy car park, and then through a series of shadowed alleyways redolent of cat piss. Potter walked at Draco's heels, and he doubted he could get away. He didn't know if the alleyways belonged to the wizards or the Muggles, all that mattered was that they were narrow and had no arterial routes, so no way to escape on foot. With his wand, he could have simply Disapparated before Potter or Biggs could do anything, thought Draco bitterly. He fancied he could feel Potter's breath on his neck.
They arrived at their destination -- a bungalow nestled in a copse of odd-looking trees -- after fifteen minutes. The house's windows were dark. There was no car outside, which struck Draco as odd -- from what he had seen of America so far, there seemed to be an unspoken law that Thou Who Owns a House Shalt Also Own an Auto. He felt a nudge against his lower back and realised he'd stopped to stare at the empty drive.
"Move," murmured Potter. Biggs was already at the front door, but he had moved into the shadow of an ornamental plant that took up half the porch. What was with all the cloak and dagger secrecy? Draco had been under the impression they were going to talk to this professor, not murder him in his sleep. He walked cautiously towards the door, though apparently he wasn't quick enough about it, for Potter kept giving him the occasional infuriating push.
"I can see you like touching me, Potter," he hissed, fed up. "But I'd rather you didn't."
Potter fell a couple of paces behind, and Draco walked into the shadows that hid Biggs feeling rather pleased with himself. He promptly bumped into someone. "Uh, sorry," he muttered.
"No worries," came the reply, and though the voice whispered, it was certainly not Biggs's voice, unless Biggs normally went into shadowy corner to turn himself into a female.
"That's the witness," whispered Biggs. "Maco Dralfoy. Dralfoy, this is Babs. She's an Obliviator."
"Draco Malfoy," muttered Draco.
Biggs's teeth flashed in the dark. "Same difference."
Potter stepped onto the porch. For a moment, his face stood out clearly in the glow of a nearby streetlamp, and Draco felt improbably like he used to when Blaise would unexpectedly appear in his kitchen. Which was completely ridiculous, because the only thing Potter and Blaise had in common was that both were nice to look at. Maybe getting so personal with Potter had been a bad idea.
The door creaked open, and Draco chased the unpleasant thoughts away, following the others inside. This time, Babs walked behind him, not Potter. An inquisitive waow came from the depths of the house, and a sleek black cat walked into the faint circle of Biggs's wandlight. "That's Muffin," whispered Biggs. "She's harmless."
Draco rolled his eyes. Of course it was harmless. It was a cat. He wanted to ask if the local Aurors always learned the names of Muggles' pets before they broke into their homes, but he wisely kept his mouth shut. "Nice kitty," he muttered instead as he walked past Muffin, who had in the meantime hopped atop a sofa.
In the back bedroom, the professor was snoring gently when they trooped in. Biggs conjured up a ball of white light and set it to hover near the ceiling. Babs -- who reminded Draco a little of Daphne Greengrass, now that he'd actually seen her face -- stooped over the bed and murmured an incantation.
"He's out," she reported and unslung a large bag from her shoulder. From its depths she drew a rectangular box and deposited it on the bedside cabinet. "It'll be a few minutes while I find the fractured memory." She paused. "Then a few more to reassemble it."
"Take your time," said Biggs, and sat down on the floor, since there was nowhere else to sit.
Draco remained standing near the door, wondering if he should run for it. On one hand, despite his distaste for Biggs, not to mention his loathing of Potter, he wanted to find out who had ordered his parents turned into unthinking lumps. On the other hand, he could do nothing whilst Potter had him by the short and curlies, and this was his best chance -- he could always get a new wand. It would mean some initial difficulties, but Draco almost looked forward to those. It would be so very easy to simply bolt, hammer on the doors to the nearest Muggle house and pretend to be chased by hooligans. Unlike Britain, America still had to uphold the Statute of Secrecy. Biggs and Potter couldn't do anything, and Draco could make sure he was always in the presence of Muggles... It could work. Even if it didn't, what was Potter going to do -- kill him? What a laugh. He had to try.
Draco looked up to see what the others were doing. Potter now stood leaning against the windowsill across the room, and he was watching Draco. Watching him in a way that had nothing to do with worrying about escape attempts. It was unnerving; never before had anything like this happened with the straight men Draco liked to seduce. Potter was supposed to be looking everywhere but at Draco, especially after Draco's remark outside. He seemed perfectly at ease, too, which made Draco decidedly uncomfortable. The chase was part of the fun. Put it in your mouth, whispered Potter's voice in Draco's mind. Draco smiled and let his tongue dart out to the corner of his mouth. Potter tensed visibly. Draco ran the tip of his tongue along his bottom lip, keeping his eyes on Potter, who looked away instantly. Good. Draco knew many ways of doing suggestive-yet-mostly-unobtrusive things with his mouth if the occasion called for it.
"Got the sucker," announced Babs. "Civilians," she added with some contempt. "Didn't wipe it, just scattered it all over the place. Piece of cake."
"Great," said Potter, who now appeared to be studying Babs's bottom as she continued to lean over the unconscious professor. Draco fought the urge to laugh. He had a suspicion he'd find a half-naked Babs or another likely lady in the safe-house some morning in the not-too-distant future. Things were going to remain predictable, after all.
A few minutes later, Babs straightened up, pulling a silver strand from the professor's temple. The memory didn't have the usual even glow -- it pulsated oddly as Babs fed it into the box she'd taken out. "It's all mangled," she explained to Draco. "Gotta let it fuse." She grinned at him, and Draco grinned back, fighting to suppress a snigger. He wondered how Potter liked that.
The fusing-box flared white a few times, then Babs placed it on the floor in the centre of the room. Muffin wandered in, rubbed against Draco's leg, and sat down.
"Shouldn't we get rid of the cat?" asked Potter. He seemed to have decided that the floor was the safest place for him to look at.
"Naw, I told you she's harmless," said Biggs. "Some non-magicals keep part-Kneazles without knowing it, and that could get us in trouble if someone knew what to ask the Kneazle. Muffin's all cat, though."
"You guys ready?" asked Babs. She didn't wait for a reply. A column of light streamed out of the fusing-box, flowing over the ceiling like a bizarre waterfall. Then the light began to fall down, droplet by droplet until it became a steady stream and Draco was standing in a handsomely outfitted study. At the desk sat the professor, bald patch gleaming in the afternoon light. Across from him sat Rodolphus Lestrange and Vincent Crabbe, Sr.
The last time Draco had seen Crabbe had been in the Manor's downstairs drawing room a day after the Battle for Hogwarts. He and his wife were fleeing to Australia, but he had wanted to see the Malfoys before they left.
Draco felt too small in the presence of Crabbe's dad, not to mention half-terrified. It was like seeing Crabbe's grownup ghost. A very angry ghost.
"With all due respect, Crabbe," said Lucius, stepping in front of Draco as if to shield him from Crabbe's glare. He didn't appear to believe Crabbe was actually due any respect, but his tone was polite enough. "Draco didn't ask your son to unleash Fiendfyre in a room full of inflammable objects."
"Who taught it to him, then?" demanded Crabbe, stepping towards Lucius. "Who told him about it? Wasn't me, I'll tell you that much."
"It's hardly Draco's fault you've been a neglectful parent," snarled Narcissa, springing from her armchair. "If you had only paid attention to your son, none of this would be happening. You have no right to come into our home and accuse Draco--"
"Rights, I haven't got, I'll grant you," said Crabbe gruffly. "But don't think he'll be getting away with murdering my boy."
"He's gone and disturbed the dust," said Millicent, levitating their unexpected visitor's immobile figure from the floor. "Put it back, will you?"
Patrick, who was still glowering, obeyed. New dust settled over the roughly man-shaped imprint in the old layer, and Millicent conjured up a chair that hovered a few inches from the ground. She bound the formerly gun-toting Muggle to it and then said, "Ennervate."
"Who the hell are you people?" the man asked immediately. "How did you--"
"We ask the questions," snapped Patrick. "Who told you we were here? Who are you? Who do you work for?"
The man stared at him. "You're cops," he breathed.
Millicent sighed. Sometimes Muggles could be so stubborn. What she did next went against the Obliviator Code, but she wasn't an Obliviator anymore so it only bothered her a little. With Memory Charms, the trick was to imagine a tiny hook grasping the relevant strand of memory and pulling it gently away -- gently, because one didn't want to break it and leave bits of it lying around to resurface during sleep. With the Speak Easy Charm, the hook transformed into a prod, just as gentle but no less effective. The spell was officially illegal, but Obliviators used it as necessary, because sometimes they didn't know what it was the Muggle needed to forget. Just another hazard of field work. It was also dead handy when you wanted to know things people didn't want to tell you.
"Never mind who we are." She flicked her wrist delicately. "What's your name?"
"Ace," said the man, obviously quite surprised to have spoken.
"How did you know we were here?"
"Motion detector over the door hooked up to a silent alarm."
"What the hell's the point of an alarm if it's silent?" Patrick wanted to know.
Ace said nothing. With a sigh, Millicent cast another Speak Easy at him. An indulgence and even more unprofessional than she was already being, but Patrick was her husband.
"It's silent here and not silent where I'm at," said Ace, looking even more bewildered.
"Novel idea," said Patrick. "I should write this down."
Millicent rolled her eyes. "Do you know who we are?"
"Whom were you expecting to find?"
"I'm supposed to kill her."
"Why are you supposed to kill her?"
"She left the Knights."
Millicent grunted in frustration. Speak Easy was great when you knew what questions to ask, but they would grow old trying to get anything useful out of this man. She turned to Patrick. "You wouldn't happen to have any Veritaserum in your pocket, would you?"
Patrick shook his head, turning to Ace. "Look, we're wizards. Er. A witch and a wizard. We have magic, as you have observed. Eva's pissed off some of our lot and we're trying to find out who she is. You can tell us about her or I could turn you into a toad. What do you say?"
"Lestrange and Crabbe," said Harry after the memory -- in which the two Death Eaters posed as the fathers of two of Professor Norman's students, asking lots of seemingly naive questions about nuclear warheads -- faded. He looked at Malfoy. "You're sure it was Crabbe, not Goyle?"
Biggs sniggered. "Sorry," he said at Harry's sharp glance. "You people have the funniest-sounding names."
"It was Crabbe," said Malfoy. He stood with his head thrown back against the bedroom door. Muffin the cat was making war on one of his boot laces, but Malfoy didn't appear to notice.
Harry frowned. He'd had no difficulty recognising Rodolphus Lestrange, but he hadn't even begun to suspect that Crabbe would get involved with Death Eaters again after what happened to his son. Like son, like father, maybe; the late Vincent Crabbe could hardly be accused of latent genius. That made three: Nott, Lestrange, and Crabbe. Also Avery and Mulciber, if preliminary information from the sham wedding was right. Maybe Selwyn. Why would they want to obliterate their home country? What was the connection to Eva Kay?
"All done," said Babs, handing Biggs the rectangular box -- the local version of a Pensieve. Harry wished he knew how it worked. Actually, he wished Hermione knew how it worked. Babs lifted her bag and glanced at the professor with some concern. "I hope he'll be all right now. I've removed all traces of the thing; he'll think he spent those three hours editing an introductory textbook."
"You're a star, Babs," said Biggs, shoving the box into an apparently bottomless pocket. "Thanks for the help."
"Yeah, thanks," mumbled Harry. Babs was really pretty; not as pretty as Ginny, but someone he would have liked to meet outside work, maybe. But thinking about that made him remember what he'd been doing just before this trip, and his brain invariably short-circuited and made him steal glances at Malfoy. Though of course that had nothing to do with anything. He'd always been rubbish at talking to girls. Malfoy had forced him to... What red-blooded man wouldn't enjoy a mouth around his cock? Didn't really matter whose mouth. Harry hadn't even come. It didn't amount to anything.
They said goodbye to Babs on the porch, and used another Portkey to get back to the safe house. Malfoy immediately went up to his bedroom, and Harry decided that was even better. He could take Malfoy's wand upstairs after Malfoy was asleep, and that way they wouldn't need to talk. He hoped Malfoy didn't get any ideas from earlier.
Right, said a voice suspiciously like Malfoy's inside his head. You just keep telling yourself that, why don't you?
"Looks like we did need the Princess after all," said Biggs. "So this Crab guy is in on it -- does that get you anywhere?"
"Not really," said Harry, drawing the back of his hand across his forehead. "I'm surprised he's a part of it, but that's about it."
"I think Princess is hiding something," said Biggs. "He was planning an escape before he saw those two in the memory. After..." Biggs waved in the general direction of the stairs. "He knows something."
Planning an escape? Harry tried not to look vexed. How had Biggs known Malfoy was planning an escape? How, when Harry had seen nothing?
That's because you were too busy thinking about other things Malfoy could be doing with his tongue.
"Maybe he does know something," said Harry. "He had no chance of escaping, though." He produced Malfoy's wand. "Never get far without this. Wizard to the core."
"You might want to be a bit more careful," said Biggs. "There's a sick kind of desperation in him. I don't like it." He chewed on his bottom lip. "But you know him better than I do. Listen, there is something else I need to tell you, but couldn't with Babs and Twinkletoes there."
"What is it?"
"Your Minister's trying to put pressure on Secretary Farson to shut down this investigation on our end."