Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 4400 words
Summary: For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 29
Jake and Sean resembled a pair of cougars poised to strike. Harry took a deep breath. He wasn't worried, but he had to say something, and he knew he was going to have to set his beliefs aside. This wasn't, after all, personal.
"No problem," he said. "I was just surprised."
Jake seemed to relax a bit. "Really? My friend told me that no one cared about fags here. In a good way, as in, you know, whatever, it's a thing, nothing to get worked up over."
"I don't know about the Muggles," said Harry. "The Auror force doesn't accept homosexual recruits, though." He realised he'd forgotten to say "non-magicals". Well, whatever. He wasn't in America.
"Ours didn't used to, either," said Sean. "Biggs changed all that."
"So you're both from Colorado?" asked Harry, eager to steer the conversation in any direction other than where it was headed.
Jake and Sean exchanged glances. "We're from all over," said Jake. "Special Division doesn't have a home state."
And then it dawned on Harry. Biggs's high security clearance, the way he'd spoken to the prison wardens down south, his instant familiarity with cases that were obviously not local... "Biggs isn't just the Colorado Subdivision Chief, is he?" he asked.
Sean glanced at Jake, who shrugged. "No," said Sean. "He'll string me up for this, but you were supposed to find out anyway. Biggs runs the entire Auror Bureau. They told you he was a subdivision chief to put you at ease."
"Figured you wouldn't stand at attention the whole time that way," said Jake. "Biggs hates formality."
Harry couldn't believe how stupid he'd been. He'd never even questioned why the Americans would appoint the equivalent of a Team Leader to investigate a nuclear attack. No wonder Biggs was able to get things done in the fraction of the time it would have taken anyone else to do them.
"Jake? Hey, Jake," called Singh from the two-way.
Jake picked it up. "Why the long face, lady?"
"Blood curse on the manor house. I tried breaking it, but it's one of those where the bloodline needs to end before you break it. Nobody's coming in there that isn't a part of the family. That's why the Librarians can't come out. They're trapped."
"Blood curse? Jesus," spat Sean. He turned to Harry. "Are those legal here?"
"Not exactly," said Harry mechanically. "It's a branch of Dark magic that's technically forbidden but never prosecuted. There are too many old families here to criminalise it."
"Welcome to the Old World, baby," said Jake to Singh. "You might as well wrap it up over there. Set triggers around the perimeter and go get some rest. Tell Stace I said hi."
"She says go fuck yourself," said Singh. "She's still mad at you about Baltimore. Later."
Jake rolled his eyes and snapped the two-way shut. "Well, that's that. At least we know he's in the country?"
"Been in the country," Sean corrected him. "He could be anywhere by now."
"I doubt he'd go anywhere else," said Harry with some reluctance. "If he came here at all, I think I know what he's trying to do."
"Get revenge. The Death Eaters as good as killed his parents, and they killed his, um. Boyfriend." Harry didn't care what Zabini's technical term had been. Still, fresh guilt filled him at the memory of Malfoy's empty eyes. He had only ever thought about poofs in terms of what they did, never what they felt. A part of him resented Malfoy -- and now Sean and Jake, too -- for changing that.
"Don't look so glum," said Sean. "Biggs does trust you, or we wouldn't be here."
Harry nodded. "I'd better get back to Knockturn Alley," he said. "My smugglers are waiting." He didn't really care about the smugglers, but he did need time to process what he'd just learned.
The cupboard door opened. Draco, who hadn't been expecting it, half-stumbled out into the sitting room.
"Is it true? About your boyfriend?" asked Jake.
"He wasn't my boyfriend," said Draco glumly. "It's too complicated for Potter's simple mind."
"No love lost, I see," remarked Sean. "Why don't you tell us your side of the story?"
And Draco did.
He had come here after realising that these two Aurors had no reason to like Potter or obey him, and Draco understood that working alone wouldn't get him very far in his designs. He needed an ally. Stumbling into these two on the aeroplane had been the stroke of good fortune he'd been wishing for all these weeks. After taking Dusty into his service again and securing the Manor, Draco had come back to the London safe-house and knocked on the door. The worst that could happen was that they'd turn him over to Potter. Draco had evaded Potter once. He could do it again. But they hadn't turned him over. They had concealed him, whatever their reasons, and Draco felt a measure of gratitude.
He told them all of it: Potter breaking into his flat to look for clues, Potter finding him and Blaise at Die Hitze, Blaise dying, Potter spiriting Draco away and telling him about his mother's illness, Potter provoking and then arresting him, Eva Kay using the King of Kings on Kingsley Shacklebolt, the flight to America, the monotonous drudgery of the Boulder safe-house, the trip to Berkeley, and finally, Draco's escape and his subsequent movements. He left out the part where he'd volunteered to follow Potter to America. It didn't seem relevant, not after Potter had double-crossed him and tried to leave him behind. He also left out everything regarding his and Potter's... dalliances, for they were threads of the wrong colour woven into a tapestry, nothing more. Nothing.
Sean rubbed the back of his head with both hands and leaned backwards on the sofa. "Why does he hate you so much?"
Sean nodded. Draco shrugged. "We've hated each other since we were children. The Dark Lord killed his parents. My father served the Dark Lord."
"So you're one of those Deathly Eaters?" asked Jake with a keen edge of disapproval in his voice.
"No," said Draco. "My father was, but we switched sides before the last war ended." It was sort of true.
"So why does he still hate you?"
"Dunno," said Draco, keeping his tone casual. "Maybe because I'm gay."
Sean leaned closer. "You're not just saying that, are you?"
"No," said Draco. "He told me that Blaise and I were disgusting."
Jake looked like he was about to say something, but Sean gave him a sharp look, and Jake bent down over his guitar again.
"So what brought you here?" asked Sean. "You never did make that very clear. Other than betraying your country by telling us exactly what's happened to your Minister."
"I don't give a toss about this country," spat Draco. "I just want my family safe."
"Is that all you want? Potter seems to think you want revenge, but we deal in justice, not revenge."
My job is catching Dark wizards, not killing them. I serve justice, not vengeance.
Draco doubted either Harry Potter or Sean Cook would be so high-minded if the Dark wizards they hunted threatened someone they loved. "I have no interest in going to Azkaban," he said out loud. "But I'd like to help send some people there, if it's all the same to you."
Jake's fingers paused over the guitar strings. "Why did you run away, then?"
"Potter was going to make me stay in America," said Draco patiently. He knew now how to hook these two. "Force me to wait until he needed me -- and that's just it. He needs me. So do you."
Sean leaned forward. "Why?"
"I told you, I'm the Guardian. I'm the only one besides Eva Kay who can control the King of Kings." He paused, watching their faces. A frown played across Jake's features whilst Sean's eyes narrowed. Draco went in for the kill. "I don't want the local Aurors to have me. I'm the trump card; anyone who has me gets to stop the Kay woman. After the way Potter treated me, I don't want him to win. So I want you to take the credit."
Sean's lips twitched in a near-smirk, but the gleam in his eyes told Draco he'd said the right thing.
"You're naive if you think they'll give us any credit in the local papers," said Sean.
"Oh, that won't matter to Potter. He'll always remember."
Sean looked at Jake. Jake let his arm dangle over the guitar and gazed back. An ugly, senseless envy rose from a deep place inside Draco. Silent words hid behind that long look, but Draco couldn't read them, couldn't know them -- this was theirs, something that belonged just to these two men with Auror eyes and American smiles. They were married -- a Soul Bond linked them. Draco's envy was not for either of their affections, but for that bond, the bond he would never share with Blaise. The envy also sang for the impossibility of such a bond for Draco -- if he dared marry another man, his father--
Your father is dead to the world.
His father would get better. Draco would see to it that he got better, even if it meant Draco's own continued unhappiness. Jake and Sean had something he could never have. It stung.
After what felt like an hour but actually had lasted less than a minute, Sean turned to him. "There's a bedroom upstairs that no one's going to use."
Knockturn Alley never ended. It existed in a paradoxical pocket of space shaped like a three-dimensional, tipped-over number eight. When you stood at the entrance to Knockturn Alley, you could see an end to it, but that was just one of the bends in the eight. If you reached that bend and looked back, you would see Gringotts looming in the distance. The bank would stay behind you even if you followed the bend's curve all the way around -- the only way to get out of Knockturn Alley was to tell yourself you were leaving. And suddenly, Gringotts would pop out ahead of you like the world's biggest bank-in-the-box.
That wasn't the secret, though. The secret was that the lower part of Knockturn Alley's eight was entirely underground, though you'd never notice it if you didn't know. It was in this part of Knockturn Alley that Harry now walked, shoulders hunched, eyes downcast. He looked nothing like himself -- an Auror in Knockturn Alley needed all of his Concealment and Disguise training to remain invisible. Since Malfoy had stolen Harry's Cloak, he was reduced to altering his appearance: lesser Invisibility Cloaks wouldn't fool anyone here. He shambled across the cobblestones, his arms dangling down in a bizarre imitation of Gregory Goyle as Harry remembered him from school.
He had lingered too long at the safe-house; when he'd arrived for the smugglers' moot scheduled for the evening, he'd been too late. The doors to the guild house had already been barred. So Harry had walked away, fuming, but not yet ready to give it up for the night. His mind buzzed with what he'd learned at the safe-house. Those two Aurors looked nothing like fairy-boys -- they were, Harry thought with some dismay, the type of people he would've wanted in his corner if an operation went bad. And there was Biggs. Not some regional lackey, oh no; the top bloke in American Defense. Rationally, Harry understood why that needed to be a secret, but he felt betrayed nonetheless. He'd come to regard Biggs as a friend of sorts, but now he could no more call him a friend than he could nip down to the pub with Robards.
"Hail, wanderer!" cried a reedy voice. Harry glanced to his left and saw Ogden the vampire with his Merlin Lives! sign. The Diagon Alley vendors must've finally chased him away. Ogden seemed cheered by Harry's apparent interest and took a step forward. "Would you like to subscribe--"
Harry shook his head minutely and kept walking. Poor old Ogden had picked a bad place to spread the word of Merlin -- the Knockturn underground was more partial to the word of Lady Morgan le Fay, if the Dark magic bristling from these buildings was any indication.
A cloaked figure stumbled from a doorway just ahead of Harry. A jet of blank light followed, striking the wizard square in the back and tumbling him into a mud puddle. "And stay out, ye bawbag!" cried a woman's voice.
As the wizard began to struggle up to his hands and knees, the woman in the doorway looked at Harry. A whisper rose in the back of his skull, a whisper that spoke in his own voice, yet indubitably foreign. He couldn't make out what it said, but he was aware of walking up to face the woman. She was heavyset, with a handsome face marred only by a wartlike growth on her left temple. She planted her hands on her hips. "Well?"
"I'm sorry," said Harry. The whisper was gone, and he had no idea why he'd come over to her. "I must've--"
"Oh, a new 'un," said the woman, breaking into a smile. A golden tooth shone in the upper row. She pointed to the sign above the door: Philomena's.
Harry backed away a step. Philomena's was a legendary brothel; the building had an ancient spell upon it, a Dark spell that called to lust in a way that couldn't be ignored. That was the whisper Harry had heard -- the brothel, summoning him. As the story went, only those with deeply unfulfilled needs could succumb to the spell, and it was on that basis that the brothel's owners had managed to keep the place open all these centuries with the Dark spell intact. The spell didn't force clients to do anything they didn't secretly want to do anyway, they argued. And the clients always had a choice. They could stay, or they could go. They could ask for anything, and if they were too scared to ask for what they truly wanted, they would go away unfulfilled. Most of them came back.
Harry shook his head. "I'm not interested," he said.
As he began to walk away, the whisper returned, but this time it was his own mind, not magic.
It's a woman you've needed all these weeks. Malfoy led you astray, confused you. You've become sloppy in your work, letting all that pent-up emotion steer you wrong. You don't exactly have time to date right now, so why not try it? Why not? You could get your perspective back -- isn't that worth a few Galleons?
Harry's footsteps slowed. He'd missed the moot. The only reason he hadn't gone home yet was sheer obstinacy; he had to admit that -- he could do nothing else in Knockturn Alley tonight. A part of him wondered if he hadn't ended up here because his subconscious knew exactly what he needed right now. Maybe he'd walked so close to Philomena's for a reason. He turned around. The woman still stood in the doorway, her head cocked, waiting.
Harry walked back towards Philomena's.
The Observer, October 5, 2003
... the hoax originated on the Internet. There are several Internet discussion groups dedicated to the so-called magical community, but the comments are filled with mostly speculation and references to articles that simply do not exist. For instance, the quaintly named "MagicLuvr69UK", a frequent contributor to all of these groups, has continually cited an Observerarticle from July 13. A search through the archives reveals that the front-page headline is not, as MagicLuvr69UK claims, IT'S A MAGICAL WORLD AFTER ALL, but BLAIR TO BUSH: SADDAM BOUGHT AFRICAN URANIUM.
Psychiatrist Henry Devlin proposes a new kind of mass hysteria brought on by an overload of unverifiable but plausible-looking information. In his upcoming book, he discusses the influence Internet "communities" are having on society...
Hermione lowered the newspaper and leaned back in her chair. It was happening everywhere, and soon things would be back to the way they'd been before. It looked like all mentions of the wizarding community were inexorably disappearing from news archives and most computerised databases. Muggles' minds were being wiped wherever talk of wizards appeared. Those few the Obliviators didn't get would simply be dismissed as nutters.
Despite her fierce hatred for Eva Kay's methods, Hermione couldn't help but admire her efficiency. At the same time, she realised that all this couldn't be Kay's final objective, and the longer the Statute breach remained a breach, the longer it would take for the Death Eaters to get back to their original plan. And what plan was that? It scared Hermione that they were no closer to the answer now than they had been when Kingsley was still himself, when Ron only worried about the shop's inventory, when Harry didn't look so hopelessly dejected all the time, when Ginny flew with the Holyhead Harpies instead of hiding in a safe-house.
If only she could learn what the plan had been with the nuclear bombs, aside from wiping out most of England. If only.
Neville lifted his Butterbeer and yawned. Fun at the Three Broomsticks was just beginning, but he had no taste for any of it. He was only here because Patrick and Millicent had insisted he needed to be away from the castle when they made their nightly trips inside -- to avoid any chance of suspicion falling on him.
Next to him, an important-looking wizard was chatting with Rosmerta; Neville hadn't paid any attention to their conversation earlier, but now he heard the words "Shrieking Shack" and stiffened.
"...so I said to my boy, I said, you're sure it was them? And he said, yes, Dad, the ones from the newspaper. Sleeping in the Shrieking Shack. Saw 'em through the boards, he said. Swore it, even."
"So what did you do?" asked Rosmerta, swiping her rag across the already-gleaming bar.
"Called the Hit Wizards, didn't I? The article didn't mention a reward, so why should I get involved?"
The door to the pub banged open, and a sallow-faced man sauntered in. He looked vaguely familiar, and Neville didn't like the look on his face one bit. "Right, everybody, time to go," the man called over the general clamour. No one paid him any mind. He pointed his wand at his throat and bellowed, "SILENCE!"
A hush fell over the pub. People exchanged bewildered looks as they looked at the newcomer. Neville had begun to rise from his stool, his Butterbeer forgotten. He needed to warn Millicent and Patrick that this buffoon next to him had tipped off the Hit Wizards. Could he slip out the back door?
"That's better," said the man. He grinned. "A couple of criminals are hiding here in your village," he continued. "Hogsmeade is surrounded until the Hit Wizards arrest them, and you all need to go home. These criminals are very dangerous. We wouldn't want any... civilian casualties."
Neville realised where he knew him from. It was Mulciber, one of the Death Eaters who'd fought in the Department of Mysteries. One of the Death Eaters who had got away after the second war. Did no one recognise him? With some bitterness, Neville remembered that the Daily Prophet had stopped running the Wanted notices for this man years ago, and the Wanted posters in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade had slowly disappeared over time. Of course no one recognised him. He was talking about civilian casualties, managing a halfway decent impression of concern. Everyone knew Death Eaters didn't care for any civilians but the pure-blood ones.
But if Neville were to mark him as a Death Eater now, he might end up captured or immobilised, and there would be no one left to warn Patrick and Millicent, for there was no doubt Mulciber was after them.
"It's true," said the wizard next to Neville, who had risen and puffed out his chest, making himself look even more important. "My boy Eric saw 'em this morning. The criminals."
The article had said Millicent and Patrick were being sought for questioning, but of course now they were criminals. Typical.
"You heard the man," said Mulciber. "Now go on. Off you go."
People began to file out the doors, grumbling and muttering. Neville kept his face turned away from Mulciber as he went past. His first priority was to get out of here and warn the others. His second priority was to find out what the hell was going on at the Ministry if Death Eaters were ordering folk around like this. Patrick and Millicent knew -- they'd refused to tell him anything because they hadn't wanted to put him in danger.
But Neville was sick of being protected from danger -- besides, this was a danger he knew better than Patrick or Millicent imagined. The thought of a Death Eater running free offended and angered him too deeply for him to sit by and let others do the fighting. Enough was bloody well enough.
Patrick crept down the tunnel, clutching his armload of books to his chest. They didn't dare study them in the library, so every night, one of them took books to the Shrieking Shack through the tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow. They hunted through the books until just before dawn, and then took them back to the castle, never leaving the Shack -- Neville brought them food from the Hogwarts kitchens. Patrick was beginning to feel like a really bookish vampire.
Millicent and Neville had managed to strike a deal with Peeves -- the Vaiseys' wedding stash of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes products had finally come in handy. When Patrick or Millicent made their nightly excursions, Peeves would cause mayhem in parts of the castle furthest from the library, drawing Filch's attention. But the poltergeist was not exactly the most reliable business partner in the world. In a week, he might decide he didn't want any more Decoy Detonators. Time was short.
Two days ago, Neville had shown up in the Shack with dinner and the unlikely pudding of the Evening Prophet. A terse little notice in Current Events informed the wizarding world that two former Obliviators who had obtained permission to train as Aurors were being sought for questioning after abandoning the Auror Compound in Essex. The authorities were enjoying the full co-operation of the fugitives' families. Patrick had scoffed at that; his mother would ditch Kingsley before offering any such co-operation. Still, neither he nor Millicent dared contact either of their parents. Just in case.
Millicent was waiting at the trapdoor to the Shack; she took the books from Patrick and carried them to the crumbling sofa, where she immediately sat down and opened Migrant Registry, 1968-1978. She twirled her wand above the book, casting a Word Seeker spell. The pages fluttered with a sound like dead flowers crushed beneath a weight.
"Got her," said Millicent. "Got the bitch." She pointed to an entry dated March 15, 1975.
Eva Konungsdóttir, 40. Citizen of Iceland returning to home country.
"She was forty," said Patrick, flopping down on the sofa. "That means that if she attended Hogwarts, it would have been..." He paused. Maths had always confounded him.
"Nineteen forty-six," supplied Millicent. "We had that school registry on Monday -- where's that list?" She riffled through the stack of parchment on the floor. "Here we go. Fifteen girls started that year, none of them named Eva Konungsdóttir."
"Surprise, surprise," said Patrick.
Suddenly, Millicent clapped her hand to her forehead, hard. "We're idiots. Idiots."
"I will not have you insult my wife in this way," countered Patrick, but Millicent clearly wasn't paying attention -- she'd launched herself off the sofa and to the corner where their few worldly possessions lay stuffed into an enormous bag, in which she began to rummage. A moment later, she held up a book, looking triumphant.
The door flew open, and Neville staggered in, panting. "Death Eaters."
Patrick stared at him, dumbfounded. "Where? How?"
"There's no time," hissed Neville. "Come on."
Millicent asked no questions; she lifted the bag in the corner -- Patrick had a flash of admiration; she must have kept everything there in case something like this happened -- and headed for the door.
"No," said Neville, putting his hands out as if to push her away. "They know you're here, and Hogsmeade is surrounded. You'll hide at Hogwarts. I know a place. The trapdoor -- quick!"
Patrick hesitated another second, but Millicent and Neville were already hurrying to the back. He got up and hastily gathered up the library books -- couldn't very well leave those here if they planned to hide out at Hogwarts. He also grabbed the notes they'd been making. Millicent was standing in the trapdoor, her face pale, her eyes fearful.
Patrick handed her the books and notes. She took them and ducked down into the tunnel, moving aside to let him through. He took his wand out to take care of the trapdoor once he was safely down.
Behind him came a crack.
"Got one of 'em!" bawled a man's voice. "Vaisey!"
Without hesitation, Patrick went down to his knees, putting the sofa between himself and the intruder. There was no time for him to go through without being seen and giving away where they were going. But the Death Eater in the doorway couldn't have seen the open trapdoor yet. One of 'em, he had said. They hadn't seen Millicent.
"Run," he whispered to her. "I'll find you. Go."
Her eyes widened with disbelief, and she reached to grab him, but a wave of Patrick's wand forced the trapdoor down. Then he cast a Vanishing Charm at it. Poof. No more trap door.
Yes, Henry Devlin is totally a shout-out to Stephen King. :D Also, I couldn't access the Observer's actual archives online. ARTISTIC LICENCE! >.>