Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3000 words
Summary: A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 24
Oh, no, thought Harry. This is bad. He kept his expression flat as he looked at Biggs. "That's not unexpected."
"The Secretary isn't having it," said Biggs, taking a seat on the living room sofa. "Your Minister knows he can't push too hard, but he's doing all he can." He gave Harry a shrewd, inquisitive look.
Harry sat down next to Biggs and shrugged. "I did tell you there was trouble."
"That bad, huh." Biggs scratched his nose absentmindedly and gave Harry another sharp glance. "Might it be said your Minister isn't... himself, these days?"
Harry stared into the television's empty screen, flat as blank canvas. His reflection had no face. "It's always a possibility." To say more would be treason, and he was sure Biggs realised that.
"Look," said Biggs, and cleared his throat. "There are things you aren't telling me, things that most likely are none of my business."
For some reason, Harry's mind flashed back to a few hours earlier, when he sat bound to the armchair in his bedroom, and Malfoy was on his knees before him. But he couldn't think about that, loath as he was to admit to himself that he wanted to think about it. Badly. "Biggs, I--"
"No," said Biggs. "I know how the game is played. I just thought, if the Secretary could get a few of the Special Division boys on the ground in London, they might make themselves useful to you." He placed extra emphasis on you, which Harry took to mean not Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"I can't make that kind of decision," said Harry, somewhat relieved -- he had been worried that Biggs would try and get more information out of him. "The idea isn't bad. I'll talk to the Head Auror."
That might've been too much; Biggs could easily infer that Robards knew something was off with Kingsley. But Harry didn't want the Americans to think him a renegade, so he had to give them something. They could probably piece together the situation with what they had now, but they wouldn't know about the King of Kings. They wouldn't know about Malfoy's role in the whole thing, why it was so important to protect him.
Biggs was eyeing him expectantly, and Harry realised he must be waiting for Harry to call Robards. "Not over two-way," he said, patting his pocket. "I'm going back in less than a week; I'll let you know what he says."
Biggs nodded, and then Harry's pocket erupted with Hermione's voice. "Harry? Please be there, Harry, this is--"
Harry flipped the two-way open. Hermione looked a bit surprised. "Oh. Hi. Did I wake you?"
Harry glanced at the digital clock above the fake fireplace. "A better question is, why are you awake? It's what, five in the morning?"
"Iceland," said Hermione. "I just heard. They caught a Muggle in Eva Kay's flat. They couldn't use much Veritaserum -- Muggles can get permanent brain damage from it, you know--"
"Get on with it, Hermione," said Harry. "What did they find out?"
"Before she turned up in England, Eva Kay was part of a Muggle mercenary ring."
"She was an assassin?"
"Not really." Hermione sighed with obvious frustration. "It's hard to explain. These people fight for whomever pays best, be it an organised crime unit or a government. They call themselves the Knights of Walpurgis."
"The Knights of Walpurgis," murmured Biggs. His eyes glinted with recognition. "Eva Kay is a pseud."
"A what?" asked Harry, looking up. Hermione hadn't said anything too important yet -- Biggs was entitled to information about Eva Kay -- but this was a perfect opportunity for Harry to warn Hermione that he wasn't alone... he had to wonder if Biggs had spoken up on purpose.
"Pseudonym. Her name is Eva Konungsdottír, right?"
"It is," said Hermione from the two-way. "Who's that with you, Harry?" Somewhat subdued.
"Eva Kay," grunted Biggs, shaking his head. "Hiding in plain sight, the clever old hag."
"Andrew Biggs," said Harry to Hermione. "The Colorado Head Auror? We found out tonight that Crabbe and Lestrange are definitely involved."
"Crabbe?" Hermione blinked at him. "Vincent Crabbe senior?"
"Brisbane," said Hermione. "He must have been Brisbane. In the conferences. The Crabbes fled to Australia after the war."
"I want to know what your Eaters have to do with Eva," said Biggs. "That woman's got a lot to answer for."
"How do you know her?" asked Harry.
"You once said America was where the world came to wage underground war on itself," said Biggs, folding his hands in his lap. "Remember? I told you it was true for the non-magicals. Most of what these so-called Knights -- and people like them -- do these days is help whatever side's willing to pay the most. They're very active in the US underworld, and since they've had a witch on the roster, they've become unstoppable as far as non-magical law enforcement goes. She's been using magic to help them, and we've been after her for fifteen years now."
"Colorado's a pretty happening place, to borrow a local expression," remarked Harry to no one in particular.
Biggs shrugged. "She doesn't do any of the fighting, as far as we know -- a wrinkled old thing like her--"
"But that's the thing," protested Hermione. "Eva Kay is not old. I've never seen her, but all our information agrees she's in her late thirties at the most."
Harry's jaw dropped. "Anti-Aging potions," he breathed, looking at Biggs. "She must be using them, too."
"But they're illegal," said Hermione.
"Illegal in England," said Harry. "Not in America. Are they illegal in Iceland?"
"It's illegal to blow up half your country, but she tried it anyway. I don't think she'd balk at breaking a few Non-Tradeable Substance laws," said Biggs.
Harry frowned. "So we're looking for an old woman. Have you got information on her?"
"Us and half the world," said Biggs. "Come to think of it, she's never done anything in England that we know of. We've seen her hand all over the place -- like that time an entire police department's minds were wiped in Novosibirsk, or when a Puerto Rican outfit's weapons stockpile vanished and reappeared in Beijing... I could go on. She's done a lot of damage, and I'm not even talking Statute of Secrecy stuff here."
"But never England, before," muttered Hermione. "Interesting. That's interesting."
"Malfoy's seen her," said Harry. "He was at the wedding."
"Wedding?" asked Biggs, but Harry was already halfway up the stairs, having deposited the two-way on the coffee table. He rapped on Malfoy's bedroom door, not sure why he couldn't bring himself to simply walk in, like he would have done only yesterday.
"What?" Peevish, but not thick with sleep.
"Come downstairs," called Harry. "We need to ask you a few questions about Eva Kay."
"Oh, are we playing detective again?" The door opened, and Malfoy was right next to him, and Harry's heart began to beat to a different rhythm.
He pulled back sharply and turned towards the stairs. "Come on."
Malfoy meandered down the stairs with a look of mild curiosity. He leaned against the railing, a good distance away from the sofa, and folded his arms.
"You've actually seen her," said Biggs, regarding Malfoy with something like apprehension. "Talked to her."
"Talked to her? Hardly," said Malfoy. "She was too busy blowing smoke up Shacklebolt's arse. Or trying to get Zacharias Smith to overthrow the Ministry, or something. Is that all?"
"Eva Kay had something to do with Smith's smear campaign?" squeaked Hermione from the two-way, which Harry had picked up and brought closer. "Are you sure?"
"That's what Blaise told me." Malfoy's mouth twisted, bitter. "Maybe that's why Blaise is dead: knew too much, said too much. Maybe I shouldn't tell you anything."
"Was Blaise your girlfriend, son?" asked Biggs in a careful tone Harry had never heard him use before.
"No," said Malfoy. "He wasn't even my boyfriend. Can I go now?"
Neville couldn't sleep. He had awoken some time earlier and lay in bed with his eyes closed, but they kept opening, seemingly of their own accord. It was like being back in seventh year, lying in his dormitory -- so oddly lonely without Harry and Ron -- his limbs tingling with exhaustion whilst his mind refused to give up even a moment's awareness. His thoughts kept wandering to Harlan Kellandy, a timid fifth-year Hufflepuff who had suddenly become so aggressive that he was serving nightly detentions in the greenhouses.
Neville watched Harlan prune the Abyssinian Shrivelfigs. One snip with the shears in the air near the bulging roots to divert the plant's attention, followed by a quick upward snip to prune the errant branch. Toss the branch into the bin, wait for the plant to stop thrashing about. Repeat. The boy's movements were quick and sure, but a bit too mechanical.
"What?" Snip, snip, toss.
"Not 'what', but 'yes, sir'," said Neville, frowning. "Or 'what is it, sir', if you like."
"Whatever, sir." Snip, snip, toss.
"Do you enjoy these detentions, Harlan?"
"I don't care. Sir." He was staring at the Shrivelfig, which shook its branches at its unseen attacker. The plant seemed to think the shears had come from the left, though Harlan stood right in front of it.
"Surely you would rather be doing something else with your time."
"I don't care." Dead, wooden voice. Resignation. Snip, snip, toss. "Sir."
"If you're in some sort of trouble, maybe you should talk to your parents--"
The shears slapped hard against the earthen floor. "My parents, sir? You want me to talk to my parents, sir? My dad left when I was eight, and by now my mother probably doesn't know she has a son. Sir. I'm Muggle-born, sir. Please and fuck you, sir."
The boy's face twisted horribly. He sank down next to the pruning shears and began to sob, as though his outburst had pried the tears loose from wherever they'd been gathering for the last few weeks. Neville sat down next to him and patted his shoulder awkwardly. He didn't know what to do when people cried, even though he was supposed to be an authority figure now, always in charge, all-knowing.
Neville's eyes were open again, staring at the ceiling above him, where a large feather hung from a piece of string. The feather was the colour of a dawn horizon, its edges fringed with palest pink. A gift from Luna, who was somewhere in Brazil right now, catching winged fish and water ants. Watching it twirl with the draught that seemed to fill Hogwarts every night had never failed to help him nod off, but not this time.
He had signed Harlan's detention slip and let him go early, told him to get some rest. The boy had hidden his eyes, ashamed of his earlier tears. Neville hadn't been able to offer him any reassurance: for all anyone knew, Mrs Kellandy might very well not know she had a son. That was the worst thing about it. Confusion seemed to be taking a permanent hold over the very air Hogwarts denizens breathed; the Board of Governors had banned the Daily Prophet owls from the school, and an unsmiling Ministry man was screening all other post. This was supposedly in the best interests of the students, to avoid disrupting their studies, but it had the feel of Umbridge and the Carrows rolled into one. Everything felt wrong, and no one talked about it. Talking about it made it real, and contemplating that sort of reality was frightening.
On his way upstairs after seeing Harlan off, Neville had stopped by the Headmistress's office to tell her what had happened.
"There must be something we can do, Headmistress."
"Minerva, please, Neville. You're not my student anymore."
"Minerva, then," said Neville. The name tasted funny to him, like the guilt of a boy with his hand in the Honeydukes box.
"I don't see what we could do," said McGonagall, leaning her elbows on her desk with a heavy sigh. "We have to trust that Kingsley Shacklebolt knows what he's doing."
"The children are scared. It's not right, keeping them in the dark like this."
"I do not enjoy it any more than you do." She glanced at the portrait of Dumbledore, but the frame was empty. Dumbledore had taken to spending his evenings helping Sir Cadogan chase his horse. "We must do the best we can with what we've got."
"It almost feels like Voldemort's back," blurted Neville. He hadn't meant to put it quite so bluntly, but it was too late now.
McGonagall took off her spectacles and set them on her desk. "I wish I could say it was a silly idea."
Neville shut his eyes, opened them again. Luna's feather twirled gracefully above him.
It was taking all of Draco's self-control to pretend he was just fine, thank you very much, as he walked back upstairs. He had listened to the conversation between Potter and Biggs before Potter had tromped upstairs to summon him. Princess Twinkletoes, was he? Straight men were so uniformly vicious in their hatred of people like Draco. How had Biggs known, though? Had Potter told him? A part of Draco's mind toyed lazily with the idea of leaning over the railing and telling Potter he'd finish sucking him off later. No, he doubted Potter would have told Biggs. Biggs was simply better than Potter at reading people. He walked into his bedroom and shut the door. A moment later, he heard the front door slam shut. Biggs had gone.
Despite himself, Draco was impressed Biggs had deduced that he'd been thinking about escape. How had he put it? A sick kind of desperation. It was as good an expression as any for describing how Draco felt. Crabbe. Crabbe had hurt his mother and father. Crabbe had left the Garrotting Gas in Draco's flat and thus murdered Blaise. He had never been bright, no more than his late son, but he'd had cruelty in spades, and the Dark Lord hadn't wanted many of his followers to be smart. Right now he probably thought he'd had his revenge on that pestilent Malfoy boy, the boy Crabbe blamed for the death of his son. He would be allowed to think so until Draco turned up on his doorstep.
Draco knew now the identity of the man responsible for destroying his life, and he didn't need Potter or his cronies anymore. The world could burn for all he cared, but Crabbe would burn first. Burn... and then live to see the rest of it turn to ashes. Death would be too merciful for Crabbe, and Draco didn't think he'd be any better at casting Avada Kedavra now than the last time he'd had a chance to kill. No, Crabbe would live. He simply wasn't going to enjoy life very much at all.
The problem remained, however, of being trapped inside this house. Draco sat down heavily on his bed, thinking. He had no recourse but to try and find out what Potter and Biggs were planning -- Potter had to leave here soon, and Draco assumed he'd be leaving, too. If only there were a way to walk out of here with his wand still in his pocket. He would Disapparate before Potter could blink; Draco was never very good at fighting, but he was great at running away. He reached into his pocket, but his wand wasn't there -- Potter still had it.
There was a knock at the door.
"Enter," said Draco, wondering how long Potter's newfound politeness was going to last. He wasn't behaving in the way Draco had expected. It would have been unsettling, but he had more important things to think about.
Potter walked inside, his face gloomy. "Your wand," he said, handing it to Draco.
Draco pocketed it and stared up at Potter, waiting for him to leave. But Potter reached into his jacket's inside pocket again. He drew out the ill-fated photograph. "This is yours, too."
"So it is," said Draco, snatching it out of Potter's hand.
He glanced at the photograph, where an earlier, happier incarnation of Draco helped himself to a pretty mouthful. What did Potter see when he looked at this? What had made him take it? What had made him keep it all this time, taking it out and staring at it when he was alone in bed? Did it go beyond the morbid curiosity so familiar to Draco, with his questionable hobby of sending straight men round the bend in more ways than one? Did Draco care?
"Why did you lie to Biggs?" asked Potter.
"Why are you still here?" returned Draco.
"Just answer the question."
"I'd have to know what it was I lied about," replied Draco. Maybe Potter liked listening to him talk?
"You said Zabini wasn't your boyfriend."
"He wasn't." Draco watched, fascinated, the careful etch of frown forming between Potter's eyebrows. "You wouldn't understand." What had Biggs said, earlier? That Potter knew Draco better than he did. What a laugh.
"I saw you," said Potter. "With him."
Draco crumpled the photograph in his fist. "I know you did. Leave me alone."
But he didn't really want Potter to leave. The photograph's edges dug into his palm, and his heartbeat pulsed around the parchment; for a moment, Draco felt that if he looked down at his hand, he'd see blood dripping painlessly to the floor. He looked. No blood, just bits of the photograph sticking through pale fingers. His heart still hammering, he glanced up at Potter, who stared somewhat dazedly at Draco's white-knuckled fist. A thought bubbled to the surface: if Draco were to move his hand, Potter would follow it with his eyes, like a cat with a dangled piece of coloured yarn.
"Do you want it back?" Draco heard himself ask, unclenching his fingers. Blood pounded at his temples, and he didn't understand.
Potter shook his head with some effort, lifted his eyes to Draco's face. Green eyes, cold. Draco wanted to see them darken, helpless. Every other thought was fading. He let the ruined photograph roll down his hip and to the floor. He rose, and Potter actually backed away a step. "Weren't you leaving?" asked Draco. His voice still sounded foreign. He had the peculiar sensation of watching all this from above. "Still want to come in my mouth?"