ravenclaw

Have A Drink On Me

Forget about the check, we'll get hell to pay.

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
FIC: All Our Times Have Come (3/5)
ravenclaw
gypsyflame


v. Getting Warmer

Hours of effort combing through the financials yielded only one real lead: Quinn Bennett, a woman who had testified at several Death Eater trials, including Greene’s, and whose bank records showed some suspiciously large withdrawals. Harry applied for permission to bring her in for questioning the following morning, along with a man named Edgar Kirby who had been heavily fined for perjury five years earlier after the discovery that he had provided false testimony at over a dozen trials.

The calling cards proved to be a dead end. Harry met Ron in the Ministry cafeteria, where they compared notes over lukewarm meatloaf and weak tea.

“They all got one,” Ron said, dropping a full evidence bag on the table. “All eleven. Twelve, if you count Snape.”

“Shit. So, either the Reapers are planning to go after every single one of them…”

“Or they’re just fucking with their heads.” Ron leaned back in his chair. “That’s what I’m putting my money on. I talked to seven of the surviving DEs who were acquitted five years ago, and they all got calling cards too.”

Harry frowned. “Seven? Who didn’t you… oh. Malfoy?”

“He’s on the case. Questioning him isn’t like questioning the others. Besides, you’ve seen how committed he is to bringing these bastards down. If he knew anything that would help with that, even just a little, I can’t imagine him keeping it to himself.”

“Maybe he can’t remember. Or maybe he did get one, and his parents hid it because they didn’t want to frighten him.”

“That’s all possible. But I don’t think he was ever sent one at all. Don’t forget, the Reapers were in his house. They killed his parents without touching a hair on his head.”

“You can’t seriously be suggesting that Malfoy is involved with them.”

Ron shook his head. “I’m not. I don’t think that at all. What I do think is that the Reapers didn’t ignore Malfoy by accident. They want him alive for some reason. It doesn’t make sense that he wasn’t killed along with his parents, but nobody ever followed through on that.”

“He was in St. Mungo’s for so long, and by the time he was released, the case had been dropped.” Harry traced the edge of his teacup, mulling it over. “Don’t you think Malfoy has asked himself that question a thousand times? You said yourself that he would come forward if he had anything useful.”

“It could be something he hasn’t considered. He’s not exactly the model of objectivity in this case.”

“Neither are we.”

They parted on that gloomy note, making plans to meet to discuss strategy before questioning Harry’s suspects the next morning. Harry’s feet were much heavier on the trip home than they had been when he’d left.

The acrid smell of smoke hit his nose the second he opened the front door. Harry’s heart skipped into overdrive. “Severus?” he called out.

“In the lounge.”

Harry found him reclining in an armchair with a glass full of whiskey. His muscles went weak with relief. “Why does the house smell like smoke?”

“There was a small accident in my workroom. I was able to minimise the damage, but the smell has proven frustratingly resistant to freshening charms.”

“Blew something up again, huh?” Harry sank onto the ottoman in front of Severus’ chair, drinking in the sight of his lover safe and sound.

“In a manner of speaking.”

There was a bandage on Severus’ left arm. Harry reached out to touch it, then realised that it was trembling minutely. He looked up at Severus, surprised.

“Must have been a serious accident if it shook you up this badly.”

“It was decidedly unpleasant, yes.”

“Budge over.”

Severus shifted to make room and Harry settled next to him on the chair, half-in and half-out of Severus’ lap. He took the glass of whiskey and drained a long swallow, grimacing. He wasn’t a big fan of whiskey, but anything that settled his nerves right now was a good thing.

Severus watched him with amusement. “Bad day?”

“Horrid.” Harry handed the glass back to him, then touched Severus’ face. “I love you,” he said without planning to.

“I know.” Severus sounded puzzled. He set his whiskey on the sidetable and took Harry’s hand, pressing a kiss to the back of it. “What’s wrong?”

Harry thought of Malfoy, of how he’d been beaten black and blue but had still been so desperate to stop Harry from arresting Corner. “I would never hurt you.”

“Harry. What is it?”

“I think Malfoy’s boyfriend abuses him.”

Severus’ brow furrowed. “Nonsense.”

That was not the response Harry had been expecting. “Why do you say that?”

“After what he suffered at the Dark Lord’s hands, Draco would never stand for abuse from another person. Particularly not from a wizard as weak as Michael Corner.”

Harry had thought the same thing just that morning. “I saw him today. He was… he’d been badly beaten.”

Severus’ fingers tightened on Harry’s hand. “What?”

Harry told him everything – the way Corner had treated Malfoy at the fundraiser when Harry had spoken to them, what he’d seen when he’d dispelled Malfoy’s glamour, how Malfoy had panicked and insisted that the damage had been mutual. By the time he’d finished, Severus had emptied his glass and his expression was as dark as Harry had ever seen it.

“Draco does not engage in physical confrontation,” he said. “It is not his strength. He relies on magic to defend himself.”

“Well, if he did, he waited until after Corner had beaten the shit out of him.”

“I cannot believe that. Draco would never allow himself to be abused.”

“I don’t think it’s a question of allowing it,” Harry said. “It can’t be that simple. You didn’t see how upset he was when I wanted to arrest Corner.”

“You should have.”

“There was no point, if Malfoy wasn’t going to press charges.”

Severus blew out a breath. “What you are describing sounds very unlike him.”

“I know. I’m having trouble believing it myself, but I’ve seen this kind of thing at work before. Abuse changes people. It can make them unrecognisable. And I think Malfoy needs help.”

“I will owl him tomorrow and ask him to meet me for lunch this week. Draco could never hide the truth from me.”

Severus sounded so certain that Harry let himself relax. It would be better for Severus to handle this; Malfoy had known him all his life, trusted him, looked up to him. His intervention was more appropriate than Harry’s.

Harry kissed Severus’ neck, his jaw, his lips. He rested his head on Severus’ shoulder.

“Harry,” Severus murmured against his hair. “Harry, you know I love you.”

It was so rare for Severus to say that aloud that Harry was instantly breathless. He kissed Severus hard, pressing their bodies together so that Severus could feel how much he wanted him, needed him. Severus pulled them both to their feet.

As Harry slid his hands down Severus’ arms in anticipation of Apparating them upstairs, he accidentally grazed the bandage on the left one. Severus hissed.

“Sorry,” Harry said, kissing his cheek in apology. “Did you burn yourself in that accident?”

“Glass shards,” said Severus. “It’s nothing.”

***

It worked. It had worked.

Draco detached the signatures from the interface in his laboratory. Three of the six had been identified by the Ministry database. Draco labelled them with the appropriate names and reference numbers, then flagged the other three to be compared to any incoming samples.

He held up one of the vials, half-empty now that part of its contents had been absorbed into the database, and stared at it. For all he knew, he was looking at the name of one of his parents’ killers. His skin prickled.

The meeting was scheduled for ten; if he didn’t get moving, he’d be late. Draco packed the vials into a small case. He felt rested and refreshed, his body humming pleasantly.

Michael had fallen all over himself the night before trying to apologise – arranging a special dinner, plying Draco with expensive presents, giving him a full-body massage, catering to his every sexual desire. He had even cried, begging Draco not to leave him. None of it was new, but if Draco allowed himself to forget that particular fact, it had been quite an enjoyable evening.

He grabbed the case and headed for the DMLE conference room, struggling to maintain a sedate pace instead of the undignified skip his feet wanted to break into. The Aurors had just begun filling the room when he arrived, including Potter and Weasley, both of whom looked morose.

Draco couldn’t help grinning as he sat down across from them, setting his case on the table.

“What are you so happy about?” Potter said with a scowl.

Unfazed, Draco replied, “Wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, Potter?”

“We just spent two hours in interrogations that went absolutely nowhere.” Weasley crossed his arms. “You should try it sometime.”

Draco just shrugged. They’d be eating their words in a few minutes.

He squirmed in his seat as he waited for everyone to sit down, fingers tapping the table impatiently. He noticed Potter giving him an odd look and put his hands in his lap, clasping them together in an attempt to contain his nervous energy.

How did the Aurors get anything done when they were so bloody slow? It seemed to take a lifetime for Robards to call the meeting to order.

“Potter, do you want to update us on what you learned this weekend?”

Before Potter could say anything, Draco cut in. “Excuse me for interrupting, Auror Robards, but I have vital information I’d like to share.”

Robards and Potter exchanged a surprised glance. Potter nodded, and Robards turned his attention to Draco. “What is it, Mr. Malfoy?”

“The names of three of the assailants.”

The room went silent. Robards stared at him. “I beg your pardon?”

Draco popped the catch on his case and opened it, setting each signature on the table as he named them. “Malcolm Vance. Joanna Bennett. Edgar Kirby.”

“Kirby!” Weasley slammed his fist against the table. “That dodgy bastard, I knew he was hiding something – ”

Weasley’s outburst triggered mayhem in the conference room. Everyone began to speak at once, barraging Draco with questions and exclamations of disbelief. He bit the inside of his cheek, knowing this was a wildly inappropriate moment for a giddy smile.

“That’s enough!” Robards shouted. “Quiet down… everybody shut up!

Robards was an intimidating man when he put his mind to it. The Aurors subsided into restless quiet.

“Malfoy, where did you get these names?”

“I uncloaked the magical signatures I collected at the crime scenes. Three of them were already in the Ministry database for prior offenses. As for the other three, I’ll have to wait to compare them to the signatures of any new suspects.”

“You were able to reverse the dampening?”

“It’s a procedure I’ve been perfecting for some time. Patent pending, of course.”

“My God,” said Potter. “Do you have any idea what this means for the DMLE?”

“No, Potter, I did it for fun.”

“Are you absolutely certain these results are accurate?” Robards asked.

“One hundred percent. I can explain the procedure, but it’s rather technical – ”

“No need.” Robards’ voice became brisk. “Potter, Weasley, re-question Kirby. He might crack now that we can prove he’s involved. The rest of you split into teams – I want Vance and Bennett sitting in interrogation rooms within the hour.”

The excitement in the air was palpable as the Aurors stood and began speaking amongst themselves – moving, Draco noticed, much more quickly than before. Potter and Weasley all but ran from the room.

Draco packed up his case and got to his feet. Robards stopped him before he could leave.

“Mr. Malfoy,” he said, “I want to thank you. If I understand what you’re saying, your work will be invaluable not just to this case, but to all of our cases. You have my gratitude.”

Robards held out his hand. Draco shook it. “You can thank me by finding whoever killed my parents.”

“We will. That’s a promise.”

Draco returned to his lab to work on the backlog that had accumulated while he’d been concentrating on the Reaper case. To his pleased surprise, there was a letter from Severus in his inbox, asking him to lunch at his convenience to discuss his research further. Draco penned a quick reply arranging a meeting the following afternoon, then set it aside so he could post it on his way home. He couldn’t wait to hear what Severus would have to say about his success.

It had just gone one o’clock when his supervisor, Susan Seward, strode into the lab without knocking. “Malfoy, I just received a very interesting letter from Patents. Won’t you join me in my office?”

Without waiting for a reply, she turned and stalked out the door. Draco rolled his eyes and trotted after her.

Seward’s office was as plain and austere as the woman herself. She took a seat behind her desk, leaving Draco the uncomfortable, straight-backed chair in front of it, and folded her hands on its barren surface.

“It’s quite intriguing, this procedure you’ve developed.”

“I’m glad you think so.”

“I must admit to some… disappointment… that you neglected to include your colleagues in the department in your research.”

Draco’s lips twitched. Of course she did. It meant that neither she nor anybody but Draco himself could take credit for or profit from the results of his work. “I didn’t wish to be accused of wasting the department’s resources if things didn’t pan out,” he said.

Seward narrowed her eyes. Draco returned her gaze with the look of wide-eyed innocence he had perfected as a child.

After a moment, she snorted and opened the top drawer of the desk, withdrawing a roll of parchment and passing it to Draco. “The DMLE wants to arrange an exclusive lease of your patent.”

Draco sucked in a breath. He had been expecting something along those lines, but not nearly so soon. He unrolled the parchment and skimmed it, jaw dropping when he saw the number of Galleons the Ministry was prepared to pay him in royalties. No wonder Seward’s face was more pinched than usual.

“The Ministry’s solicitor asked if you might be available to meet with him at Gringotts this afternoon. Naturally, I told him how busy you are –”

“I have time,” Draco said.


vi. Revelations

Edgar Kirby was a thoroughly unpleasant man with sagging jowls and beady little eyes that were in constant motion. Harry felt twitchy just looking at him.

“Look here, you pillock,” said Ron, face red with frustration. “We can put you at both crime scenes. You’re going to Azkaban no matter what, but if you tell us who else was involved, maybe we can cut you a deal.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“No?” Harry frowned in mock confusion. “So you weren’t at 398 Mirfield Street in Liverpool Thursday morning around four a.m.?”

“I already told you I was at home. Asleep.”

“How about 23 Warren Way in Basingstoke? You weren’t there around ten a.m. last Friday?”

“No. I was working.”

“Then perhaps you’d like to explain to us how your magical signature was collected from both places just a few hours later.”

Kirby looked supremely unimpressed. “It wasn’t.”

“This isn’t your signature, then?” Harry put a small vial filled with a sickly pea green light on the table in front of him. It was the sample of Kirby’s sig from the Greene crime scene that Malfoy had logged into the Ministry database.

Kirby stared at it without speaking.

Harry set the sample from the Myers homicide down as well. “How about this one?”

“N-no.”

“See, that confuses me, because they both look an awful lot like this one…” Harry laid out a third vial. “…which was collected from you when you were convicted of perjury in 1998. In fact, they’re identical.”

Kirby’s throat worked. “Impossible.”

“Not anymore, mate,” Ron said.

“One of our Forensics wizards has figured out how to reverse signature dampening. We have fully usable samples – not just from you, but from the other five Reapers who were there with you. Do the names Malcolm Vance and Joanna Bennett ring any bells?”

The sudden whiteness of Kirby’s face was answer enough.

Ron folded his arms. “They’re being interrogated right now. You really think they won’t roll over on you when we tell them what we’ve told you?”

“You’re bluffing,” Kirby said weakly.

“We’re not.”

Kirby reached out a tentative hand to brush over the three vials as if testing their authenticity. He lifted his gaze, wandering eyes suddenly focused and intense. “I’m not telling you shit. You think because you got a few of us, you’re going to bring down the Reapers? There are more of us then you can possibly imagine. You got me. So what? You’ll never find us all. The Death Eaters’ll get what’s coming to them, and nothing you do is going to change that.”

His utter conviction dimmed Harry’s triumph in the confession. Ron shot Harry a sideways frown that made his own unease clear.

Kirby wasn’t going to budge. Harry had enough interrogation experience to recognise a true zealot when he saw one; neither rationality nor self-preservation would convince Kirby to betray his fellows. But his admission of his involvement with the Reapers might mean he was open to another line of questioning.

“Do you remember Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy?”

“Remember them? They were the worst of the lot.” Kirby’s face twisted into something even uglier. “Should’ve been left to rot in Azkaban for the rest of their lives, but they got off with a slap on the wrist.”

“Were you there the night they were killed?”

Harry could see the gears turning in Kirby’s head. They already had him cold on two murders. Considering his refusal to cooperate, confessing to two more wouldn’t make a difference. And, like many passionate fanatics, he craved recognition for what he’d done.

“Yeah, I was there. Proudest moment of my life, giving those two what they deserved.”

From the corner of his eye, Harry saw Ron shifting tensely from foot to foot; few things angered him more than a killer’s unrepentant glee. Harry held up a stilling hand.

“Their son, Draco, was also Marked. Do you know why he was left alive?”

“Fuck, no. If it’d been up to me, we would’ve killed the spawn with the parents. We had orders to leave him be, though. Shame – I would have liked to do him myself, bloody up that pretty white skin – ”

Harry’s fist connected with Kirby’s face before he’d fully registered his intent to hit the bastard. Pain blossomed through his hand, but it was worth it to see Kirby’s head snap back and hear the satisfying crunch of his nose breaking.

“Harry!” Ron leapt forward, grabbing Harry’s arm and dragging him away. “I think we’ve got everything we need. Let’s go.”

Sparing one last dark look for Kirby, who was clutching his bleeding nose and sputtering about Auror brutality, Harry let Ron pull him out of the room. They shut the door and leaned against the wall of the empty corridor.

“And people say I’m the one with the temper.” Ron watched Harry shaking out his stinging hand. “You’ve never done that before.”

“It won’t happen again.”

It seemed that Ron wanted to say something more, but he was interrupted by Auror Singh coming out of the interrogation room two doors down. She looked frazzled, her usually sleek black hair in disarray.

“Get anything?” Harry asked.

“Just utter certainty that these people are batshit insane and enough visual imagery to give me nightmares for a month.”

“Same here.”

Ron nodded towards the room between them. “Who’s on Bennett?”

“Travers and Banks.”

“Fuck, those two like to take their sweet time. We might as well get some tea while we wait.”

Harry insisted on stopping by his and Ron’s shared office to grab their files on Kirby, Vance, and Bennett. He leafed through them in the canteen while Ron and Singh compared notes on the interrogations. Even if they all refused to talk, there would be some kind of connection linking the three of them, a connection that would eventually lead to their co-conspirators. All Harry had to do was find it.

Half an hour passed before Banks and Travers joined them, faces grim. Banks sank into the seat across from Harry. Travers headed straight for the kettle and poured himself a mug of tea.

“If I never have to interact with that mad bint again it will be too soon,” he said. “Shit, I wish there was whiskey in this.”

“No luck?”

“Just a bit,” said Banks. “While she was ranting and raving about how the Reapers are everywhere and they’ll never be stopped, Bennett said that ‘Ellison’ will never be caught.”

“Ellison?”

Travers sat at the table as well. “I don’t think she even realised she said it. Once she confessed to killing Myers, it was like a dam burst and everything came pouring out – nothing concrete, mostly rambling about Death Eaters and justice and whatnot – but the name Ellison seemed important to her.”

“It’s not much, but it’s all we’ve got to go on right now,” Harry said. “We need to get back to the conference room. I want to run search charms for this name on all three records and the witness lists from the DE trials.”

The records came up empty, void of any links to anyone named Ellison. It wasn’t until Singh’s charm on the witness lists turned up two Ellisons, a man and a woman, that they finally caught a break.

Scanning the page the charm had indicated, she said, “They both testified against Gwendolyn Proudfoot.”

“Proudfoot?” Travers’ brow creased. “That’s not one of the victims or the survivors.”

Harry recognised the name. “No. Gwendolyn Proudfoot was sentenced to life in Azkaban. She was heavy into death magic – using human sacrifices to empower rituals.”

“I remember her,” Ron said. “Killed herself, didn’t she?”

“Yeah. Bribed one of the guards to bring poison to her holding cell. She never saw the inside of Azkaban at all.” Harry took a moment to formulate their strategy. “All right. Ron, Banks, you get a hold of the transcripts of Proudfoot’s trial and see what the Ellisons had to say about her. Travers, Singh, you and I are going to go through their records with a fine-toothed comb.”

Two hours later, Travers tossed his stack of papers down with an exasperated sigh. “This is pointless. If these people are killers, I’ll eat my hat.”

Harry had to admit it wasn’t looking good. Riley and Moira Ellison, who had turned out to be a married couple, led a quiet life in Exeter with their three children. They lived above a small, modestly successful bookstore they owned in the wizarding section of the city. Neither had criminal records nor exhibited any evidence of suspicious financial activity.

“Maybe we should do a Ministry census search,” he said, though the mere prospect of such tedium made his skin itch.

Ron, who had been slumped in his chair with his feet on the table while he perused the dense transcripts, suddenly bolted upright. His feet hit the floor with a thunk. “Holy shit.”

“What?”

“Gwendolyn Proudfoot killed the Ellisons’ son. That’s what they testified about.”

“That’s not enough for a warrant – ”

“It’s not that she killed him, it’s how she killed him.”

Harry raised his eyebrows.

“She bound him on top of a Dark Mark burnt into the ground and cut his heart out while he was still alive.”

Harry shot to his feet. “That’s enough for a warrant.”

Dusk had just begun to fall by the time Harry and Ron found themselves strolling up a charming little street in Exeter. A full-scale strike team was out of the question at this hour, given how many civilians were out and about, but a squad of Disillusioned Aurors and hit wizards were subtly establishing a perimeter around Ellison’s Books. Only Harry and Ron made their presence known, keeping their pace casual so as not to cause alarm.

The bookstore was dark and shuttered, giving lie to the sign on the door proclaiming the shop open until nine o’clock on weekdays. No signs of life issued from either the store or the flat above it.

“I think they cleared out,” said Ron.

“Maybe.” Harry had feared exactly that. It was too much to hope for that the Reapers’ arrests had gone unnoticed by their compatriots. He rapped sharply on the door. “DMLE! Open up.”

No answer.

“They could just be hiding upstairs.” Ron’s tone made it clear he knew that for the long shot it was.

“I’ll go around back. Stay here and spell the door open in three minutes unless I contact you.”

Ron nodded. Harry walked down the gravel path that wound around the side of the building, catching glimpses of his Disillusioned colleagues from the corner of his eye. The path ended in a cheery welcome mat in front of a polished wooden door.

Harry rang the bell mounted beside it, waited fifteen seconds, and rang again. When no response was forthcoming, he drew his wand to dispel the security wards… and paused, skin prickling.

There were no wards.

For a wizarding family to leave their home unprotected by at least basic wards was inconceivable. Was it a sign that the Ellisons had fled with careless haste, or just a risky gamble intended to make Harry believe such?

A simple Alohomora took care of the lock. Harry eased the door open and headed up the steep staircase with his wand at the ready, alert for possible traps. He reached the door at the top of the stairs safely and knocked.

“Mr. and Mrs. Ellison, this is Auror Harry Potter of the DMLE. I have a warrant to search your shop and flat. Please open the door.”

He waited the appropriate amount of time for an answer, though by now he was certain that there wouldn’t be one regardless of whether or not there was anybody inside. Then he cast a second Alohomora, grasped the knob, and opened the door just wide enough to slip his wand through the crack and send a nonverbal Homenum Revelio into the flat.

The results were negative. Harry breathed a little easier, but he remained wary. There were ways to fool the spell.

Keeping low, Harry slid inside and quickly scanned the darkened room. There were no movements in the shadows. He silently lit a lamp on the opposite side of the room; the resultant light revealed a comfortable lounge with no human inhabitants. Below his feet, he heard the shop door open as Ron let himself inside. Harry straightened up and touched his wand to his badge to signal the others to join them.

Within minutes, the Ellisons’ shop and flat had been cleared and were crawling with DMLE personnel. The family had definitely taken flight – and they had done so in a hurry. Cabinets were standing open, drawers overturned, closets a jumbled mess. Nothing of great or sentimental value was left. The Ellisons were gone.

“I want every centimetre of this place searched,” Harry said to the assembled team. “Anything that even hints at involvement with the Reapers, or to where the Ellisons are headed, needs to be brought to my or Auror Weasley’s attention straightaway.”

“Hell, just the fact that they took off is pretty damning evidence,” Ron said to Harry as the Aurors and hit wizards scattered.

He was right, but it wasn’t enough. The Ellisons were the only lead they had in the Reaper case, and it was a thin one at best. If it dried up, they had nothing unless they could convince the Wizengamot to order Veritaserum interrogations for the Reapers they had in custody – and that would take weeks.

Harry sighed. “Let’s get this done.”

The flat held few surprises. It was a standard three-bedroom, nothing fancy, just a cosy family home. The cheerful murals and scattered toys in the children’s rooms made Harry’s throat hurt. He left them to the others and took the master bedroom instead.

Aside from the mess, Harry found nothing unusual until he encountered a pocket of concealing wards in the wall near the corner of the room. The spellwork was impressive – it took Harry ten minutes to unravel the wards, and another five to crack the safe that lay underneath. He held his breath as he swung the door open, only to find...

Nothing.

Harry frowned and drew his wand. “Specialis Revelio!”

The spell shot into the safe, but instead of lighting up the interior with glowing tendrils of magic, it hit the middle and then abruptly fizzled out.

“Huh,” Harry muttered, perplexed. He'd never seen the spell act that way. A second casting yielded the same results.

It was almost as if the spell were being swallowed. Harry peered closer, a sudden suspicion gripping him. The darkness in the safe fluctuated in a way natural darkness never did.

He searched his pockets until he found a Knut, then enchanted it to glow with a soft light before tossing it into the safe. The coin didn't disappear, clattering to the bottom as one would expect, but the light was sucked out of it with a quiet whoosh. There was a magical null in the safe – and quite a large one, at that.

Harry straightened up, satisfied. A magical null of such size and strength was clear evidence that the safe had been used to store a number of signature dampeners, which absorbed the magic out of the very air around them when kept in one place for too long.

He cast a stasis field around the safe and left the master suite in search of the photographer whose responsibility it was to document physical evidence. As soon as he stepped into the hallway, however, one of the Auror trainees – Harry couldn't remember her name – came barrelling up to him.

“Auror Potter! I think this is something you need to see, sir.”

She was holding a large, leather-bound book. He shielded his hands before taking it, pleased to see that the trainee had remembered to do the same.

“It's the account ledger for the shop. I thought I'd check to see if they had any investors, you know, because that would be a good way for them to funnel money to the Reapers –”

“Smart,” Harry said as he flipped to the marked page.

She flushed with pleasure. “As you can see, the largest contributor by far only invested about six weeks ago. It seems suspicious, especially considering who, er...”

Harry didn't have to ask her to finish her sentence. He knew the end of it the second his eyes fell on the line attesting to a fifty thousand Galleon investment made by Draco Malfoy.

***

Draco hadn’t seen such expert fawning from a Ministry official since the days before the Dark Lord when his father had still held some clout. He half-expected the solicitor to spring a nosebleed from the sheer effusiveness of his praise. Not that he was complaining, of course.

“The higher-ups at the Ministry are simply in a tizzy,” said the man, whose name was Caulfield, as they sat in the private office of the goblin who handled Draco’s accounts. “Just between you and me, Mr. Malfoy, I’ve heard that the Minister has plans for an Order of Merlin.”

Draco kept his expression neutral, not wanting to show how deeply the words affected him. Everything Caulfield said had to be taken with a grain of salt. He had surely been instructed to flatter Draco as much as possible to ensure that Draco wouldn’t take his procedure to another buyer.

“That would be an honour, but I’ll be satisfied knowing that the DMLE is putting my work to good use.”

Caulfield clapped his shoulder. “So modest! You’re a credit to the Ministry, my dear boy. Have you examined the terms of the contract?”

“I have. They’re quite generous.”

“Nonsense. Think of all the resources that will be saved in terms of wasted manpower! The Ministry wants to make its appreciation clear.”

Draco allowed himself a small smile. “Of course.”

“Do you think the time allotted for training is sufficient?”

Besides the royalties for the lease of the dampening-reversal technique, the contract stipulated that the Ministry would compensate Draco for two weeks of training his co-workers in its use.

“Yes. The procedure is complex, but there aren’t any wizards in the Forensics division whom I believe incapable of learning it.”

“Splendid, splendid.” Caulfield beamed. “Shall we sign?”

“Let’s.”

Draco turned to the goblin, Nasumk, who was absolutely beside himself. From what Draco had learned at Hogwarts, the hierarchy of Gringotts’ goblins was based on the size of the accounts they managed. Nasumk was already highly placed due to his executorship of the Malfoy estate. This new infusion of Galleons would catapult him into the stratosphere.

Nasumk’s wrinkled hands trembled with excitement as he laid the thick sheaf of parchment in front of Draco. “I’ve marked the places for your signature in blue, Mr. Malfoy.”

Draco took the offered quill and dipped it in the inkwell. As he set tip to parchment, he was suffused with a fierce, wild triumph. His name would be in history books. New Aurors would learn about him in training. Countless criminals would be brought to justice, dozens of cold cases solved, and everybody would know it was a Malfoy who was responsible.

He signed his name with a flourish, then handed contract and quill to Caulfield. Nasumk signed last, as witness, and stamped the parchment with the Gringotts seal. “The transfer will be effective immediately,” he said.

“I’d like a statement, please,” said Draco.

“Certainly.”

“I’ll give you your privacy.” Caulfield stood, and Draco stood with him to shake his hand. “A true pleasure, Mr. Malfoy.”

“Likewise.”

Caulfield left the office with an obvious spring in his step. Draco resumed his seat, waiting for Nasumk to finish rifling around in his filing cabinets. He hadn’t so much as glanced at his accounts in months. He trusted Nasumk to manage them competently, and on top of that, Michael paid for almost everything they owned and did. It was a point of pride for him; he hated any reminder of the fact that Draco was far wealthier than he.

“Here you are, sir.”

“Thank you.” Draco scanned the parchment automatically, his mind already straying back to the DMLE, wondering if the Aurors had made any progress with the Reapers. Then his eyes caught the balance on one of his accounts. A frown creased his brow.

Draco’s holdings were vast. Not only did he maintain the vault his parents had opened for him upon his birth, but he had inherited both the Malfoy ancestral vault and his mother’s share of the Black vault when they’d died. His inheritance had also included over a dozen properties and other investments scattered across the globe, all of which were monitored by Nasumk.

On the rare occasions when Draco needed to pay for something himself, he always took the money from his personal vault; he hadn’t touched the others in the five years he’d possessed them. Consequently, his own vault was the only one with whose contents he was intimately familiar.

And its balance was far, far lower than it should have been.

“This can’t be right,” he said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“This account.” Draco put the parchment on the desk between them and tapped it. “The balance is tens of thousands of Galleons too low.”

Excitement eclipsed by concern, Nasumk peered over his glasses. “Are you certain, Mr. Malfoy? It has been quite some time since you’ve inspected your vaults – ”

“I think I would remember spending this much money,” Draco snapped.

“Hmm. Allow me to fetch a more detailed record.” Nasumk spun in his chair, towards his enchanted cabinets, muttering unintelligibly to himself as he opened drawers and rummaged through folders. He extracted a roll of parchment and turned back to Draco. “This specifies every transaction concerning that account over the past twelve months.”

The brevity of the statement testified to how rarely Draco accessed the vault. The monthly interest deposits were both larger and more frequent than the withdrawals, with the notable exception of a cheque for fifty thousand Galleons issued a month and a half earlier to a bookstore Draco had never even heard of.

“What on earth… I never wrote this.”

“Ah, no. That transaction was authorised by your joint account holder.” Correctly interpreting Draco’s expression, Nasumk asked, “He did not discuss it with you?”

His voice was laced with thinly veiled scorn. Goblins disapproved of couples, even married ones, sharing vaults, and didn’t understand wizards’ insistence on doing so. Draco himself had only put Michael’s name on his account because Michael had put Draco on his, and he’d felt the need to return the gesture. Even then, he’d limited Michael’s access to just the one vault.

“Why in Merlin’s name would he spend so much money at a bookstore?” And why Draco’s money?

“An investment opportunity, perhaps?”

Draco became abruptly aware of how inappropriate it was for him to expose so much of his personal life to Nasumk’s scrutiny. The goblin’s obvious censure irked him. He drew himself up, pocketing the scroll. “Your assistance is appreciated, Nasumk.”

“I am always at your service, Mr. Malfoy.”

When Draco left, he found himself heading not for the exit, but for Michael’s office. He almost ran into Anita, Michael’s secretary, as he opened the door.

“Mr. Malfoy, what a pleasant surprise!” she said, adjusting her purse strap on her shoulder. Anita was such a beautiful woman that Draco would have felt threatened by her if he hadn’t known Michael had zero interest in witches. “I’m afraid you’ve just missed Mr. Corner.”

Draco wasn’t surprised; Michael’s schedule was never the same from one day to the next. “Did he say where he was going?”

“Home, I believe.”

“Thanks.”

A strange pulse beat in Draco’s blood as he stepped out into Diagon Alley, a swirling mix of fear and anticipation. He didn’t know what he was going to say to Michael – only that he had to say something. He couldn’t just let this go like he had so many other insults. Even if Michael had acted with the best of intentions, he had taken Draco’s money without so much as telling him, let alone asking his permission. Draco wasn’t a child who could be treated with such disrespect.

He Apparated to their lobby and took the lift, shifting tensely from foot to foot as it ascended. The parchment burned a hole in his pocket. His stomach fluttered, and it wasn’t entirely unpleasant.

Out of habit, he opened his mouth to call out Michael’s name as he stepped into the foyer. He preferred to know exactly where Michael was in the flat at all times. A flare of irritation made him shut his mouth without saying anything. Let Michael be the one surprised, for once.

He found Michael in his study, absorbed in a stack of parchment at his desk with a glass of scotch at his elbow. Draco slipped silently through the doorway.

Michael let out a shout and jumped out of his chair, fumbling his wand halfway out of his sleeve before he realised it was Draco. He tossed the wand on his desk. “For fuck’s sake, Draco, you almost gave me a heart attack! When did you get home?”

“Just now.”

Draco heard the odd quality to his voice and knew Michael must have heard it too, because his eyes narrowed. “What’s wrong?”

“Explain this to me.” Draco pulled the roll of parchment from his pocket and held it out.

Michael waited for Draco to come closer and hand it to him, but Draco remained leaning against the wall several steps away. After a moment, Michael was the one to close the distance. His jaw tightened as he took the parchment and looked it over.

“A friend of mine owns a successful bookstore and needed capital to expand. It’s a good investment.”

“So you used my money? Without asking me?”

“I thought it was our money.” Michael crumpled the parchment into a ball and binned it. “And I didn’t think you’d mind. You hardly ever touch it.”

“You still should have asked! Who is this friend of yours? I’d like to ask him what kind of bookstore requires fifty thousand Galleons for expansion.”

The tiniest hint of alarm crossed Michael’s face. Draco blinked.

“You’re lying.”

“What?”

“There’s no friend. Why did you take my money, Michael?”

Michael glared at him. “I don’t like your tone,” he said in the dangerous voice that warned of imminent violence. He stepped forward, invading Draco’s personal space with his greater bulk.

Draco pressed back against the wall. His heart pounded. He felt the impulse, cultivated over years of handling Michael’s aggression, to apologise, to make himself appear as helpless as possible, perhaps to drop to his knees and suck Michael’s cock to distract him. But another emotion was quickly overwhelming his fear.

Fury.

How dare Michael threaten him like this? He had no right to hit Draco, no right to steal from him. Draco refused to be treated like a house elf. He was a Malfoy.

Draco drew his wand. “How do you like it now?”

Michael’s eyes widened. Over the entire course of their relationship, Draco had never once raised a wand to him. He backed up. “Baby, calm down.”

“Do not,” said Draco, “call me baby. I hate it.”

His voice shook. His hand was trembling visibly. But his blood raced with the memory of forgotten strength.

“Okay. Okay, Draco. Just take a deep breath, all right? I know you’re under a lot of stress right now – ”

“Shut up! I know you’re hiding something. Tell me the truth.”

Michael said nothing. Draco realised that he wasn’t going to. He didn’t respect Draco at all – nobody did. This afternoon had been the first time since his parents’ death that Draco had remembered what it felt like to be thought worthy of esteem.

Legilimens,” Draco said.

Though rusty from disuse, his Legilimency was still leagues above most people’s. He overwhelmed Michael’s defences in seconds.

Legilimency was not the same as using a Pensieve. Without the clarifying effect of extraction, a person’s memories were hazy, mutable, and highly coloured with emotion. Draco didn’t have to look far to find the one that Michael was trying to hide, tinged as it was with anger, fear, and the slightest smattering of guilt.

He was in his office at Gringotts, looking at a man who sat on the opposite side of his desk. The man was middle-aged and nondescript, but the air around him pulsed with menace and his voice, when he spoke, was much deeper and louder than it could possibly have been in reality. It boomed like a brass gong.

“He’ll be next.”

Michael shivered in the freezing air. “I told you last time –”

“He’ll be next.”

Suddenly Michael had a chequebook – Draco’s chequebook – in his hand. The ink that spilled from his quill was the colour of blood.

The real Michael wrenched his head to the side, breaking their eye contact and ending the spell. Frustrated by the unreliability of what he’d seen, Draco took advantage of Michael’s spell-induced disorientation by lunging forward and grabbing his chin with his hand, forcing Michael’s face back around. The skin-to-skin contact would make things clearer.

Legilimens.”

Draco found a thread from the last memory and followed it. The new memory it led to was at least several years old – Draco could tell from Michael’s haircut – and though it contained the same strange man, it was suffused only with rage. There was no trace of fear.

“I told you to stay away from the Malfoys!” Michael shouted.

The man shrugged, unconcerned. “Your boy is still alive,” he said. His voice sounded normal.

“He’s in St. Mungo’s.”

“That could not have been foreseen –”

“Foresee this,” said Michael. “I’m not giving you another Knut.”

Draco broke the spell and staggered backwards, heart in his throat. Michael shook his head to clear it before grabbing his wand from the desk. He pointed it at Draco, keeping a good metre of space between them.

“It’s not what you’re thinking.”

“That man was a Reaper.” Draco’s own words echoed hollowly in his head.

“I’m not involved with them, Draco. I’ve never killed anybody, I swear. I wouldn’t.”

“You gave them money.”

Michael’s face crumpled. “Death Eaters killed my cousins. They were just kids. They didn’t deserve to die.”

“But my parents did?” Draco’s stomach was a roiling, seething mass. Bile scored the back of his throat.

“No! I told Ellison to leave your family alone. You know I fancied you in school. I was at your trial; I heard your testimony. You didn’t want to be a Death Eater.”

Salt stung Draco’s lips and he realised he was crying.

“They went behind my back anyway,” said Michael. “I stopped giving them money. But then a couple of months ago, Ellison came back, and he was… different. Crazier. He said the Reapers would kill you next if I didn’t pay them off.”

It took everything Draco had not to throw up. His wand hand shook so violently that he knew he would drop it any moment.

“I know it was wrong, Draco, but I couldn’t protect you from them myself and I couldn’t lose you. I love you.”

“You love me,” Draco said. “You love me, so you paid the people who murdered my parents with my money?

The Stinging Hex took Michael by surprise; he didn’t have time to deflect it. It caught him across the cheek and he grunted in pain. “Draco – ”

The second hex was one designed to make the victim feel like he was crawling with lice. Michael just managed to block it, eyes panicked.

“Draco, please.”

Locomotor Mortis!

Michael dodged the Leg-Locker and fired an Expelliarmus. Draco knocked it aside. He couldn’t let Michael disarm him. There was a slowly building rage on Michael’s face that Draco associated with being slapped. Kicked. Raped.

The memories fed Draco’s determination. The longer he and Michael duelled, the more apparent it became to both of them that Michael was outclassed. Draco’s spells were stronger, his reflexes faster, and Michael didn’t even know how to defend against half the curses that Draco had in his arsenal. Draco watched Michael’s wrath battling with fear as he pressed his advantage ever harder.

How far was he willing to take this? All Draco knew was that he wanted to hurt Michael the way Michael had hurt him, the way the Reapers had hurt his parents. He wanted Michael to suffer. Wanted him to pay.

Draco’s blasting curse reduced Michael’s desk to smithereens. He didn’t know if he’d intended to hit Michael with it or not, and wasn’t sure he cared.

Michael let out an inarticulate cry of fury, dropped his wand, and charged at Draco.

Draco was too shocked to react. Michael’s powerful body slammed into his chest and bore him to the ground, one hand grabbing his right wrist and crushing it until his nerveless fingers released his wand. The other hand grabbed his throat.

It wasn’t unusual for Michael to choke Draco, both as punishment and during sex. But this was different. Draco could feel it in the tight grip of Michael’s fingers, squeezing harder than they ever had before, and when Michael let go of Draco’s wrist to get both hands on his throat – something he had never done – Draco was suddenly certain that Michael was going to kill him.

He twisted beneath Michael’s heavy weight, pushing at his shoulders, his chest. Michael didn’t budge. Draco raised a hand to Michael’s face, aiming to jab at his eyes, but Michael’s grip constricted and Draco’s arm fell to his side, useless, as his body was wracked with pain and the mindless animal terror of strangulation. His vision went grey at the edges. His legs spasmed between Michael’s thighs.

With the last of his strength, Draco smashed his knee into Michael’s balls.

The hands on his throat disappeared as Michael screamed and curled in on himself. Draco shoved him off, scuttling sideways until he found his wand.

Stupefy,” he croaked.

The Stunner flung Michael backwards to hit the opposite wall before dropping him to the floor, unconscious. Draco rolled over onto his hands and knees and hung his head between his arms, gasping for air. The sudden return of oxygen to his lungs made him dizzy.

He had to get out. There was no telling how long that Stunner would hold, and if Michael had wanted to kill him before…

Draco slowly rose to his feet, breathing a sigh of relief when his knees didn’t give out. He would be okay. He would go –

Where?

Draco’s mind drew a blank. All of his so-called friends had been Michael’s friends first; he didn’t trust any of them as far as he could throw an Erumpent. He’d rebuffed the advances of his old friends from Hogwarts because Michael hadn’t liked them. The same could be said of his co-workers.

He would die before he’d step foot in the Manor again. A hotel? He didn’t have any money on him, nor time to go to Gringotts, and if he paid by cheque, Michael would be able to track him down. There was nowhere he could go that Michael couldn’t get to him.

Draco turned to stare at Michael’s huddled form. Did you do this to me on purpose? he wanted to scream, but it would have been pointless. He knew the answer.

Perhaps he should just go directly to the DMLE – he had to tell them about Michael’s funding of the Reapers anyway. But he didn’t want the Aurors to see him like this. Potter had been bad enough.

Draco sucked in a breath. Potter.

He turned and ran for the bedroom, stumbling every few steps because he was still woozy and his legs were shaking from fear and adrenaline. His shoulder hit the doorframe hard enough to make him cry out, but he didn’t stop moving until he was standing in front of his bureau. He yanked the bottom drawer out and upended its contents on the floor. The little snake pin he’d hidden there glinted up at him. Draco’s hand closed around it.

Take me home.”


On to Part Four.
Back to Part Two.
Tags: ,

?

Log in

No account? Create an account