Everywhere Draco turned, all he could see were the bright flashes of curses, hexes and spells. He sprinted from the seventh floor, down the stairs, following various students as they ran for an exit. He trembled a little in the cool air, still able to feel the burning heat from the Fiendfyre on his skin. He’d been so close to it that the hem of the school robe he was wearing was singed. Potter was around somewhere, having just come back from the dead. A remarkable feat, if a little predictable for someone like the Gryffindor. Gregory huffed next to him as they ran down the carpeted stairs and narrowly avoided missing their way as the flight of stairs shifted.
The marble staircase leading to the entrance hall was littered with debris and he stumbled a few times, keeping a death grip on the railing. Next to him, Greg fell, letting out a hiss as he cut his hand on a sharp piece of broken glass. Wondering where all the glass came from, Draco looked up to see that the hourglasses on the wall were completely destroyed. All the gems that tallied the House Points were scattered across the floor where people had kicked them as they ran. He had just paused long enough to pull Greg up when he heard the Dark Lord’s voice. A sliver of dread echoed up his spine, like a learned response. God, he hated that voice. The wizard had been in his home for months now, ordering his parents about, behaving as if he owned the place. Draco had felt equal parts happiness and guilt when he could leave the Manor in September, but every time the Dark Lord was around, Draco felt sick.
At the bottom of the steps, he was talking at Potter, goading him into a fight, hurling curses at him, but Potter was avoiding them all. That was some skilful dodging.
Just as he was wondering where the boy had learned how to dodge curses like that, he heard something behind him. He turned, pointing his mother’s wand in fright, to see Sybil Trelawney ambling down the stairs. She was muttering something under her breath, her eyes looking vacant, but she was heading down and out of the castle. Having got Greg back onto his feet, he decided he would follow her. If anything, she would serve as good cover. Trelawney passed him, smelling of the old sherry his father kept in his study, running down the steps. He made to follow her, but was suddenly slammed in his chest by her body. Wide eyes stared at him, making his heart skip in terror. He could feel her pulse on his shoulder she was gripping onto him so tight. Draco stared at her as she spoke, not hearing a word she said.
There was a sharp pain in his back and suddenly he was on the ground, staring upwards into her wide eyes. Hers were dead; empty, but she still spoke. The ache spread down his back, where his spine had hit the unyielding stone. His hands were scrabbling at the ground around him, bright spots blocking his vision. He could hear Greg yelling at him to get up while pulling on his arm. The tugs felt sluggish and barely there, almost as if his arm had gone numb. Greg’s voice sounded far away and muffled, like he was in a separate room and Greg was on the other side of the door. “Inside” of the room, he could hear Trelawney’s voice, a low monotonous whisper that didn’t really make sense. Then it stopped and, suddenly, the door broke down. The echo of duels and Greg’s screaming increased in volume. On top of him, Trelawney’s body was a relaxed, dead weight. He turned over and her body rolled off him with Greg’s help. Just as he managed to get up, he stumbled again. Greg put his arm around his shoulders and began dragging him bodily.
He couldn’t see.
As soon as that thought registered, a series of pictures flashed in his mind’s eye, faster than he could keep up. He felt like he was travelling through the air, he couldn’t feel his feet on the floor. He wanted to see what was going on around them, but all he could see was himself, older, in a white room, staring at himself in a mirror. His hair had grown to his neck, much longer than he usually kept it. His clothes were a plain white colour, it looked like a uniform. Was he incarcerated? Even through the random pictures, he could hear Trelawney’s voice, steady and monotone. As his vision cleared and he was once again able to see the dark grey stone of the castle around him, he turned and saw that Potter and the Dark Lord were gone. Trelawney was still laying on the stairs, her body lifeless. She’d been dead since they were sent careening through the air with the force of the Dark Lord’s stray Avada Kedavra. Her soul was gone, but the vision she’d been having remained. Her body was just a vessel for her gift.
He looked down on his shaking hands. The ones he’d seen in the white room had looked like his, but older, more mature. He knew he’d seen his future. In his mind, the picture was still there.
It was raining outside. Harry looked out the misted window of the poky little flat in Diagon Alley, using a cloth to wipe off the condensation. Just down the Alley he could see the outline of the bright, white building that was Gringotts Bank. Around the corner, was The Daily Prophet. It had been the bane of his existence for so long, he never really thought of the people who worked there as... well, people. Let alone Rita Skeeter.
Turning around, Harry cocked his head to the side to watch the body at a different angle. Her tight blond curls hung lank and her light green eyes stared unseeing at the ceiling. Someone had slit her throat with a straight edged blade. There was blood pooled around her, some of it tinted her blonde hair a dark rose. The room around him was ransacked. There was parchment and paper – actual A4 ink jet printing paper – scattered around the floor. It was a break-in then, a robbery gone wrong and Skeeter was in the middle of it. Question was: Did they get what they were after? Harry sighed. He never thought the day would come when he would actually feel sorry for the bint.
As Head Auror, he wasn’t really meant to be there. He wasn’t meant to be investigating anything. Period. But he’d got the bug when he was called in to consult on the kidnapping of a small boy two days ago. The boy’s father, Mr Gregory Degouville, had wanted Harry Potter on the case, even though it was not part of his job anymore and Harry could have turned him down. The other Aurors on the case weren’t exactly happy with it, but, as Harry said once they got back to the office, he would only go with them when they had face time with the parents, other than that the case was theirs. He was beginning to understand why Kingsley had given him this job. Minister of Magic couldn’t be any more challenging than this.
“So, same old same old or best day of your life?” Harry turned to Seamus with a wry grin that he hid from their department’s resident conscience. Owen Cauldwell was a short, but severe, man. He was a Hufflepuff who graduated from Hogwarts three years after Harry and Seamus did, but his attitude to his work and personal life would steer anyone into thinking he was years older than all of them combined.
“Poor woman. You’d think after she was fired, people would leave her alone, wouldn’t you?” Owen said.
Harry rolled his eyes and left him with Seamus. Owen was nice and all, but Harry could only take him for a couple of hours at a time. Looking around, he took in the pictures on the wall. There were groups of blondes and brunets in the stills, smiling in that posed way people did when the camera was ready. Harry was still looking at them all in wonder when Seamus finally broke free of the morals lecture he was receiving from Owen and came over.
“I swear no one would look twice if I were to drown him in the sink at work.” Seamus paused. “Harry? Harry!”
“Seamus,” Harry said quietly, eyes still roaming the photographs. “Do you notice anything strange about the pictures on the walls here?”
Seamus looked around, really taking in his surroundings. He walked up to the photographs and stared at them. Then it hit him. He turned back to Harry. “They’re not moving.”
Just over a decade ago, Harry never would have thought that sentence strange at all. Now, it seemed it was a strange piece in a Rita-shaped puzzle. Why would she have Muggle photographs? he thought to himself and began running through some of the mail on the short entry hall table. He looked closer at the address of a letter in an open envelope. The stamp above it had the Royal Mail emblem on it, as well as a red First Class Mail stamp stuck unto the top right corner. Frown deepening, he turned the envelope around to pull out the letter. The letter was halfway out of the envelope when Harry noticed two things. The first was the bright blue cluster of stars in the letterhead. It was one he’d come to know intimately, but knew absolutely nothing about because of all the dead ends he’d hit along the way. He’d lost a partner because of their investigation into it two years ago and had taken the hint to back off. The second was the acid-green ink that Rita’s Quick Quotes Quill was noted for. It wasn’t the ink he was looking at though; it was what the ink spelled out.
Draco Malfoy, Ward 49
Harry knew what Ward 49 meant. He’d been there in 1995 with Ron and Hermione and had run into Gilderoy Lockhart when they turned onto the ward of St Mungo’s by accident. Ward 49, otherwise known as the Janus Thickey Ward, was for patients whose brains were permanently damaged by spells. What was Malfoy doing there? Harry hadn’t heard a lot from the man since he’d locked himself up in his Manor in Wiltshire. The rumour was he’d become a paranoid mess and never left it. After a while, even the newspapers got tired of him and left him alone. Was this why? Had he been committed?
“What’s that?” he heard and turned to Seamus, shoving the letter back into the envelope.
“Rita has another address.” It was true. The address on the front of the envelope he’d picked up had Rita’s name on it, but the address was for some place in London. “We’ll have to check it out, maybe there is some clue as to why anyone would actually take time out of their day to do this.” He gestured to the body behind him as the forensic team from the Ministry began packing away and made way for the St Mungo’s coroner.
“What?” Harry sighed and stepped aside when Owen walked over, a frown of disapproval on his face.
“She wasn’t exactly the nation’s favourite, Cauldwell,” Harry said in a long suffering voice. “What’s more surprising is that someone actually went through with it, especially after all the campaigns that Shacklebolt has been running about the punishment for murder.”
“Do you have to be so crass about it, though?” Owen said with disappointment in his voice. “She hasn’t worked in years Harry. I would think someone who’s seen as much death in their life as you would know you should honour the dead, instead of speaking ill of them.” The short man walked away shaking his head.
“And suddenly I feel six years old all over again with my hand in me ma’s biscuit tin.” Harry smiled at Seamus’ words and rifled through the rest of Rita’s mail, feeling accountably guilty. He’d go back to the Ministry for now and write up a preliminary report. They had some leads to cover tomorrow, but it was late now and it was time to call it a day. He waited for the coroner to apparate out with Rita Skeeter’s body before apparating to the atrium of the Ministry and making his way downstairs to the DMLE.
Hours later, Harry collapsed on the sofa in his home in front of the fire. He was kicking off his shoes when a tap tap tap made him snap his head to the window of his flat. He stood, walking cautiously through his living room. He blew out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding and lowered his wand when he saw it was just an owl. He opened the window and was surprised when the eagle owl flew straight through to his kitchen and sat calmly on the edge of the island like a roosting hen. Harry cocked his head and walked towards it. As he got closer, the owl stood straight and bent a little for balance as it lifted its leg. Harry nodded as he took the missive attached and moved to his kitchen drawer, where he kept his owl treats, as he opened the short letter. He stopped though, when he actually read the words on the parchment.
Hello there Potter,
Forgive D’Artagnan, I told him to sit and wait for you. So he may have been there for a while, since I was unsure whether you’d stay to work or go straight home. I know you just got in and have a long day tomorrow, but I think I can help you if you’d let me. Now that you know where I am, come over and see me.
What the... He looked up as the Owl on his island began to shuffle along the edge to where he was standing, his talons hooked around the lip of the counter. It was almost comical. If he’d had half a mind to spare after reading a letter from Draco Malfoy, he would have laughed. “I suppose you’re his owl, then?” He shook his head and closed the drawer with his owl treats when D’Artagnan simply blinked at him. “I guess you have a more sophisticated pallet, yeah?” He turned and opened his fridge. He took out his bottle of Bacos, bacon bits he discovered when shopping with Ron one day, which he used to make his cheesy pasta more of a balanced diet. He shook out a handful and put them into a small plastic container. Looking around, he sighed. There was no way he was going anywhere near that beak. He spotted the potted plant that Ginny had given him a while back. He disliked it, mainly because it required constant attention. The only reason it survived was because Neville was a frequent visitor. He took out his wand, using the plant’s natural base structure to transfigure it from a thick deep green stalk to a smooth bark and pulled out a branch thick enough to support the owl’s weight. A sticking charm was enough to balance the container and he stepped back as the owl moved immediately to devour the bacon pieces.
“When you’re done, the window is that way. I’m going to bed.” This was far too bizarre. First, Rita Skeeter being killed, then the reminder of the botched case that got his partner killed, followed by the connection to Malfoy. Was it a coincidence that the blond man suddenly took time from his paranoid ramblings to write a coherent letter to him?
No, Harry didn’t believe in coincidence. Taking a final look at Malfoy’s owl, he figured he could find out tomorrow.
St. Mungo’s looked the same as it always did. White and bare. Harry never had taken a good look at the Janus Thickey Ward, but he was sure the people in it should look a little more ‘crazy’ than the very lucid, blond man staring at him now. “Malfoy.”
Draco Malfoy stared at Harry Potter as the orderly let him in. Pentberry nodded to Draco and shut the door behind him. “Potter.” He stood from his cot in the corner and gestured to the small table in his room. “Please, sit.”
Harry eyed him warily, walking toward the lone chair pushed against the table’s side. Once he’d sat down, he leaned back and interlaced his fingers. His eyes ran from top to toe of Draco, taking him in. He hadn’t seen the man in person for nearly five years. Newspaper photographs didn’t count. “You look different. Your hair’s grown.”
Draco leaned against the wall and stared at the wall opposite. He grinned wryly. “They don’t allow me near sharp objects. Or wands.” He still stared. “One cut every two months. It’s part and parcel, really.” He turned to look at him. “When I get out, first thing I’m doing is chopping it off.”
Harry looked down to the hard surface of the table. He was very sure now that he’d been an idiot to accept Malfoy’s ‘invitation’. “Hmm. I never figured you would be crazy.”
Draco’s eyes widened momentarily. He grinned at Harry, leaning forward. When Harry leaned away, his grin widened. “Everyone’s a little crazy.”
Harry huffed, displeased he’d let Draco get to him. “Everyone’s not in the loony ward at St. Mungo’s.”
A slow smirk arose on Draco’s face. “Touché.”
Harry cocked his head to the side. “Care to tell me why you’re here? Last I checked you weren’t eligible.” Though really, according to the articles in the Newspapers, Malfoy hit all the prerequisites.
Draco stared at him. “Last you checked I was seventeen.”
Harry shrugged. “Not that much can happen in five years.” Even as he said it, he knew it was a lie. A whole lifetime could change in just a few days, depending on the days.
Draco’s eyes narrowed in pleasure, obviously pleased with something Harry wished he understood. “Oh, you are naïve.” The blond crossed his arms. “No, I’m here for a more subtle reason. Fate.” Harry laughed. Draco’s eyes narrowed again, this time in censure. “I was behind you, in the final battle, after you pulled me out of the Fiendfyre.” There was a subtle change in Draco’s demeanour. If Harry hadn’t been staring at him, he wouldn’t have noticed. Draco’s eyes seemed far away, though he was staring straight at him. Harry felt a little on edge as Draco described the scene in detail. “We were running and You-Know-Who was in front of you. I ran into Trelawney. She touched me and started to say something. She was speaking in a strange voice and I didn’t catch it all. Then she died, in my arms. He’d cast the killing curse at you and you’d dodged. It hit her instead, right in the middle of her prediction. I didn’t hear the end, but I saw it.”
Harry was almost afraid to ask. He had no idea prophecies and visions could be transferred. “Saw what?”
Draco’s eyes were glassy now. “I saw...” he said again, in much the same voice as before his eyes cleared, and Harry felt Draco was now staring at him instead of a memory. “I saw myself in this room. I knew I would end up here and I drove myself crazy with the notion trying to avoid it. I got paranoid, eccentric. Crazy even. I put myself in here.”
Harry had seen the paper, had known that Malfoy had been locked away in his home with wards stronger than Azkaban. When he’d read that small note on Rita Skeeter’s mail about the blond being put into the psyche ward, he’d not believed it. “Wait – you put yourself in here?”
Draco eyed him as if Harry were the crazy one. “How could I not? It’s a damn good thing, though.”
Harry couldn’t see one reason as to how. “Why?”
Instead of answering, Draco gestured to the ground on the other side of the table. “Would you? There’s only one chair.” Harry sighed.
“They took my wand.”
Draco smirked at him, as if he knew something Harry didn’t. “Very well, if you choose not to share your gift with others, it’s your prerogative, Auror Potter.” With a cocked eyebrow, he left Harry feeling stunned and moved over to his cot to drag it across the room. Harry felt a bolt of distrust run down his spine. He couldn’t know. How could he know? Draco continued as if he couldn’t see the blatant hostility radiating from the Auror in front of him. “As to your question, I see and hear things all the time.” He sat at the foot of his cot. “Things I should not see or hear.” He waved his hand through the air. “They sent me to a Mindhealer and he told me to write a journal. I made the mistake of telling him one of my dreams and when he read about it the next day in the Prophet, he called in the Aurors.” Harry blushed at the penetrative stare. Draco felt a little gratified, comfortable with the fact that Potter at least felt contrite about ‘Auror Methods of Persuasion’. He was sure Potter didn’t need to guess how that line of interro– er, questioning went. “Or I should say Auror. He questioned me, with and without Veritaserum. I’ve been helping with your cases for about three years now.”
That, Harry hadn’t expected. If he hadn’t heard of visions being transferred, then the mere idea of a Seer’s entire gift changing vessels was out of the question. “Who?” Someone in his department was using a... what was Malfoy saying anyway, that he could see into the future?
Malfoy shook his head. “He doesn’t tell me his name and… the Powers That Be haven’t been very giving on the name front. It’s not fun.” His eyes became serious, with an edge of flint to them. “I saw your friend die, my condolences.” Harry’s back straightened, his own eyes taking on an edge of their own. “I told him. I told him to tell you.” Those grey eyes narrowed again. “But judging from the look on your face, I don’t think he did.”
Harry gritted his teeth, his jaw working back and forth to keep in the anger he hadn’t been able to let go of yet. Those words, sympathetic or not, reminded him of the real reason he came here. That group of stars, Rita Skeeter’s note. It was connected, but he didn’t know how. “Why did you want to see me?” he asked instead, reining it in.
Draco bit his lip. It didn’t seem as if he wanted to let go of that information. “I had to tell you myself.”
When it didn’t look like he had anything more to say, Harry bit out, “Tell me what?”
The blond licked his dry lips and just let it out. “You’re going to die.”
Harry frowned. “What?”
“I said you’re-”
Harry held up a hand to still and silence the man before him. “No, I heard you. Why are you telling me this?” It was like Trelawney all over again. It seemed her transferred gift hadn’t relented on predicting his death after all.
Draco let out a breath and sat forward, interlinking his fingers much the way Harry had when he sat down. “Because you can help me.”
Dark brows furrowed, creasing Harry’s forehead. “With what exactly?”
Draco laid the edge of his hands against the table’s surface, parallel to each other. “You’re on a path that will lead to your destruction.” Both his hands travelled slowly towards Potter. He could see Potter’s death clear as day as his hand slowly trekked forwards. “The only way to stop it is to venture onto another one.” He let his left hand swerve to meet his right and joined them as if in prayer.
Potter had followed the line of motion with his eyes. When Draco’s hands joined, he looked up. “Another one?”
Draco nodded. His eyes were alight with determination. “Mine.”
He’s crazy, Harry thought to himself. The man had obviously been on the ward for too long, or alone for too long. Something along those lines. “Explain to me why I would want to help you.”
Malfoy leaned back, his back straight again. He could still see the essence of the boy he’d known in school. Malfoy seemed to see that he was losing Harry’s interest. “If you don’t, you won’t live past Monday.”
Harry narrowed his eyes at the blond and snorted. “That’s tomorrow.”
Draco sighed and nodded. “I want to chuckle and say ‘I know’, but that’s bad humour, I suppose.” His hands ran up his arms as if he were cold. The white outfit given to the patients on the ward seemed to make him look very pale. Harry stared down at his hands.
“Is it the case I’m working?” he asked, testing him. He looked up when Malfoy didn’t answer.
Then he froze. A milky white colour had covered Malfoy's eyes like a thin film. Thin enough that he could still see where the irises began but opaque enough that the grey and the black of the pupil was completely gone. The eerie covering bled out into his usual grey, slowly, and the blond looked distant for a split second before he lucidly stared at Harry. “The little boy stuck in his parent’s home? Yes.”
Harry would have gasped if he hadn’t been so surprised. The kidnapping had not gone public yet, and no information had been given to the press. Hell, some of that hadn’t been given to the Aurors. His scowl was angry. “You know where he is?” He let anger colour his voice. “Haven’t you told anyone?”
Malfoy looked affronted. “Of course I have. He was here yesterday. My guess is, he’s been coming to see me and then utilising my statements as a part of his clever deduction.” Malfoy shrugged then, his thin shoulders making the jerky movement as he looked around the room. “It’s clever, but redundant. If he just tells them he’s using a Seer, it would make everything simpler.” A long finger tapped his lips as he pondered. “Then again, he is a Muggle-born. He probably thinks people wouldn’t believe him.” His arms dropped to the coverlet on his cot. He leaned back on them and grinned. “Plus, you know, I’m not registered yet and I’m me. Who wouldn’t want to cover me up?” He gave a slightly hysterical laugh.
The laugh unsettled him, but Harry tried his hardest to disregard it. “If you’re only consulting on a case, then it shouldn’t matter. You’re only required to be registered if you’re a fixed part of the investigation.” A thought occurred to him. Malfoy was far more cognizant than any other patient he’d seen on his way in. Those eyes of his were almost hyperaware of what was going on, when they weren’t clouded over. “If you know you’re not crazy, why are you still in here?”
Malfoy watched him, amused, and then swung his arms forward dramatically to fold them on the table. He rested his head on them and looked up at Harry through his lashes. “If he knew I was here of my own volition,” Malfoy began, his head bobbing up and down as he kept his jaw on his arms, “he would find a way to make sure I signed myself out.” The blond’s tone reminded Harry of Hermione when she was trying to explain something in layman’s terms for him to understand. Harry resented it when she did it. Somehow, when Malfoy did it, it was entertaining. “If I did that, the Ministry would want me under lock and key to make sure I don’t wander off anywhere. He’d be assigned to my care.” Malfoy shuddered. He then sat up as if he was done with his tale and simply leaned a little on his arms instead. “Besides, I’ve been waiting.”
The entertainment was over. Harry glared. “If you say you’ve been waiting for me, I’m going to hit you.”
Malfoy grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “Then I won’t.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “How do I even know you’re telling the truth?”
Draco laughed again. “Okay. Come back here Tuesday morning.” He shrugged when Harry raised his eyebrows. “I’ve waited for this day for eighteen months. I can wait two more days.”
“And how do you propose I do that, if I’m dying tomorrow?” The sarcasm wasn’t needed, but he couldn’t help it.
Draco raised his arms and his mouth opened slightly. His eyes became brighter as he stared. Harry waited. “Esperanza.”
Harry still waited. When nothing else came, he felt his body sag and his mind suddenly comprehended that he’d been waiting for something more exciting to come out of Draco’s mouth. He was shocked to find he was disappointed. “Is that supposed to mean something?”
Draco’s eyes were bright with excitement and pleasure. “His favourite word. His family’s favourite word.”
Harry didn’t get it. “Whose?”
Draco gave him an obvious look. “Gregory Degouville.”
Harry became interested again. That was the name of the missing boy’s father. He decided Draco didn’t need to know how interested he was. “Why would I need to know that?”
Malfoy seemed to know regardless. “It’s the password for the room of the house that little Gregory Jr is trapped in. He’s rather the spitting image of his father when he was that age.” He stared at the far wall as he spoke. Harry was beginning to hate that. “Hmm,” Malfoy added on as his eyes ran over the wall.
Harry looked over there, almost as if he expected to see a picture of the small boy he’d been searching for, for days now. “Malfoy, do you mean to tell me that this man has had us searching for his son and he knows he’s inside his home?”
Malfoy looked at him, the gaze still penetrative. The hardness in them faded a little as they cleared. “No.” Harry let out a heavy sigh. “His wife does though.”
Harry came to attention again. “Junior’s mother?” That was surprising.
Draco looked confused. “She’s not his mother.” Harry looked upset. No one had known this. “Gregory Junior came from the wife before her, if Gregory Senior dies, her son gets nothing.” Malfoy frowned at him in confusion. “I told all of this to the Auror yesterday. Do none of you speak to each other?”
Harry would rather not be lectured on the failure of communications in his department, nor the fact that whoever this Auror was, waited until Harry was called onto Rita Skeeter’s crime scene to sneak off to see Draco Malfoy. He needed to find that Auror. “Malfoy.” He was frustrated. He didn’t even know why he said the man’s name. “Well, I suppose I don’t need to go to work then, since the case is solved.”
Draco’s smile was sly now. “Oh no, it’s not.”
“I didn’t tell yesterday’s Auror the password. I was saving that for you.” He smiled. “If you don’t go, the little boy is going to be stuck in there. He’s already severely dehydrated and the house-elves... oh they’re just about killing themselves trying to keep this secret.” The blond ran his hand through his hair and let it stay mid-comb to hold up his head. Harry watched as the blond strands parted for his fingers.
“What?” he said snapping out of it. “The house Elves know?” Slowly the anger was returning. Could house-elves lie?
“Oh Potter,” Malfoy said, looking and sounding the epitome of disappointed. “The house-elves always know,” he said ominously. Before Harry had a chance to bite back a retort, he noticed Malfoy’s eyes staring off again, his irises paling, bleeding out all traces of grey to a colourless white. “You will go to the house tomorrow and you will search. You will find the room and you will open the door.” Draco paused and then shook his head. “No,” he said softly, a slight crease to his brow. “No, make sure you let the father open the door. Before anyone else has a chance to enter, the door will slam and lock. It’s a Treasury Room. And like most Treasury Rooms in ancestral Manors, it doesn’t stop people going in, but it does stop people getting out.”
“A safeguard against thieves?”
Eyes clearing, Malfoy nodded. “Malfoy Manor has one. When the heir is of age to learn the ins and outs of the household finances, the password is shared. But the rooms aren’t typically used anymore, not since the opening of Gringott’s in London in the 1600s.” The blond sighed. “But, evidently, they still work. It’s the only place that locks after you’ve already opened it, it’s the only place that would keep him safe and out of the way. He’s only ten, he wouldn’t know the password yet, and the room won’t harm him because he has Degouville blood. She trapped him in there and then had the elves search the house, every room except that one. She could then state truthfully that she’d had them search the house.” Harry nodded along with Malfoy’s theory. He’d asked that of Mrs Degouville, and she’d answered the same. He’d asked the elves and they’d nodded to the question also. “No one doubts the thoroughness of an elf,” Malfoy stated shaking his head. “They know your home better than you do.”
Harry couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He also couldn’t believe that he believed it. “So I go into that room and become trapped too. Nothing is in there except Gregory Jr, I don’t understand.” How would he die?
Draco’s face took on a fond expression, like he was watching a toddler tripping over himself and couldn’t decide whether he found it funny or endearing. “That’s the half-blood mind-set you have.”
Malfoy held up a hand. “Bear with me.” Harry was brought up short. The matter of fact way he said it made Harry pause. For the first time since he could remember, Malfoy had commented on his blood status without a derogatory undertone. He’d officially entered the Twilight Zone. “Half-bloods and Muggle-borns, especially those who’ve spent the majority of their lives outside of Wizarding culture, are prone to scepticism. A Muggle-born sees a Seer to help with a case,” he began, raising his left hand and holding it up to the side, “he tries to hide it. A pure-blood comes to a Seer,” he concluded holding up his right hand on the other side, “he writes it in his case notes.” Malfoy folded his arms on the table and leaned forwards. “I tell a half-blood he’s going to die if he allows himself to get trapped in an empty room, with a ten year old boy, he asks ‘How, by whom?’. If I were to tell this to a pure-blood,” Malfoy continued, his eyes narrowing and serious, “Weasley, for example, if he wasn’t out making those delicious cakes that he does. Rest assured, he wouldn’t ask that question.”
Harry felt pinned in place by those eyes. “What would he ask?” he whispered.
Malfoy looked satisfied that Harry was finally getting it. “He’d ask me how long he had between the door closing and death.” He leaned forward, solemn. “Unless you have Degouville blood, you don’t survive what the room can do, Potter.” He pointed to himself. “I know you won’t, I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty.” Suddenly, he leaned back and stood up, pushing his cot back into the corner. “I’ll see you Tuesday morning.”
The abrupt end of the tension had Harry snapping back to attention and, most likely, reality. Harry opened his mouth to retort, but the door sounded with a heavy knock and opened. Orderly William Pentberry informed him that his time was up as Malfoy had an appointment. Harry turned back to Malfoy, wondering if he’d known they’d be finished by then.
Malfoy only smiled.
Monday morning, Harry took some time before he got into work to prepare himself. He was either going to live or die today, which was pretty much the same as every day, except now he knew for sure death was a surer possibility. He called a meeting as soon as he got in, calling all the Aurors who’d been participating in the Degouville case. He told them it was to bring them all up to speed, but really he was trying to find out who had been visiting Malfoy for three years and effectively keeping the blond in the loony ward when, honestly, Harry didn’t think he belonged there.
“Does anyone else find it strange that they still don’t want anyone to know their kid is gone?” Harry turned to take in the solid stance of Williamson. He was an exceptional Auror, very smart, cunning. All of them were, but after his ‘discussion’ with Malfoy yesterday, the seed of distrust was growing into a full blown tree of doubt. Everything everyone said felt like a round of Clue. The object of the game: ‘find out who spoke to Draco Malfoy, Saturday, in room 5680 on Ward 49, with the notebook and quill’.
He zeroed in on Williamson. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, doesn’t that seem strange to you?” the Auror repeated.
“What – you think the parents are in on it?” Seamus asked. Harry turned to him. Surely Malfoy recognised Seamus Finnigan? It hadn’t been that long, and Seamus hadn’t changed so much that he couldn’t be recognised as the Irish prat he was in school. Besides, the Auror Malfoy had spoken to was Muggle-born. Seamus was a half-blood and Williamson was a pure-blood
“What makes you say that, though?” Harry asked underhandedly.
“Well, we’ve been talking-”
“Who?” he asked quickly.
Williamson frowned, like he couldn’t understand why he was suddenly being interrogated for discussing a case with his colleagues. Harry wasn’t going to enlighten him. “Sloper and I.”
Jack Sloper, fresh out of training three years ago. Muggle-born. Sloper had shown remarkable skills in deduction once he got out of training. It was the reason he was put with Williamson in the first place. Draco had said he’d been helping with cases for three years too. Harry tried not to let his eyes narrow. It could be a coincidence. But Harry really didn’t believe in those, not after seven years of coincidence leading to one of the most notable wars the Wizarding world had ever seen. “And what did you discuss?” Most likely something about the mother. After Draco told him Mrs Degouville was not the boy’s real mother, the distant attitude she had towards him – that Harry, ashamedly, assumed was the norm for pure-blood families – became that of a stepmother with a plan.
It might have been Harry’s Muggle upbringing, but he’d watched Disney, he knew how stepmothers could be.
“The mother,” Sloper said. Apparently, he watched a lot of Disney too. “She seemed detached from the conversation unless we asked her a direct question.” Harry tried not to look too knowing. “I did some digging, turns out; she’s not his real mother.”
Harry nodded. “Good deduction skills, Sloper. Anything else?”
Sloper looked torn on whether he should give any more information, especially since Harry didn’t seem very surprised. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you noticed this four days ago when we spoke to the parents last and you waited until now to bring it up. There must have been a reason for that. What is it?” He sat at the edge of a desk looking interested. “Williamson, what about you? You’re Sloper’s partner, why didn’t you share it with everyone? This and the Skeeter murder are the only top priorities for this week gone and the Minister wants them solved as soon as possible. You know this; you were there for the meeting. What held you back?” That meeting Kingsley called Saturday afternoon had set him back some. He was unable to get to Skeeter’s other address, and if he was going to interview the Degouville parents again, he’d have to put off visiting Rita’s place until tomorrow. If he lived that long.
“I honestly didn’t think anything of it until my mum called me yesterday. I just thought, ‘If only Degouville Jr had a mother like that, one that wasn’t so distant, you know?’” Sloper rubbed the back of his neck and looked away embarrassed.
It would have been enough to convince him, if Harry didn’t know any better. “Okay then. Let’s go. We’ve got a mother to question.”
It happened exactly as Malfoy described it. Harry sent Sloper and Williamson to speak to the wife while Harry put in his face time with the Head of House. He then asked roundabout questions to figure out if the wife had any claim to the Degouville money and received the rather intriguing information that she would only gain any if she gave him a child, but wouldn’t get a substantial amount unless her child was his heir.
Mr Degouville had paused after informing him of that and a look of foreboding had crossed his face. Harry had then asked him if there was anywhere his wife could have put his son that no one else could get to, somewhere where he couldn’t leave, even if it was in the house. The Treasury Room had been the first place out of Gregory Degouville’s mouth.
“What’s so special about a Treasury Room?” Harry asked on the way there.
Flustered, Gregory Sr stuttered out, “It’s only accessible to blood relatives. Anyone else in there... it’s not pretty.” Harry followed him at a brisk walk. Not even Malfoy had been able to put into words what a Treasury Room could do. “There is a password; it’s passed down to each generation. If you don’t speak it... you can’t come out.”
As soon as he mentioned ‘Password’ harry felt his stomach turn as he realised he’d forgotten it. Fuck, what was it Malfoy said? They turned the corner to see a large black wooden door. It looked dense. Harry put his wand away as they approached and called his magic to his skin. Since defeating Voldemort, he’d found his magic was more responsive to his needs when he didn’t use his wand. He didn’t need words to direct it either, it simply did what he wanted. He reached up to pull on the handle.
No - make sure you let the father open the door.
Harry froze and stepped back. He turned and gestured for Mr Degouville to open the door, following him in.
“Mr Degouville!” they heard and Gregory turned to see his wife. An angry scowl crossed his face and he stormed back outside. Harry called to him as the door began to slam shut and Gregory Degouville turned, a look of horror on his face as he called out, “Esperanza!” The door slammed, heavy and ominous, and the room went completely dark. Instantly, an overwhelming sense of pressure came at Harry from all sides, knocking the wind out of him.
“What do you need help with?” Harry asked Tuesday morning.
Malfoy looked up from his magazine behind the nurses’ station. He smiled brightly as Harry walked up to him. “Potter! You came back.” He took his feet down from where he had them crossed on the desk. The pretty blonde woman next to him filing her nails moved over to give him some room.
Harry blinked, momentarily distracted by the smile that seemed to brighten the whole of Malfoy’s face at once. Once the cobwebs cleared, he snorted in derision. “What, big Seer didn’t see that coming?” he said derisively.
Malfoy tossed the magazine into the Out Tray of the Nurse’s Station and leaned forward to look up at the Auror in fascination. The short pony tail he’d tied his hair up into bobbed a little as he shook his head. “I saw two outcomes.” He cocked his head to the side, his clear eyes simply staring. “You forgot the password and I wasn’t sure if you’d forget to let the father open the door too, he wouldn’t have had the few extra seconds to call it out to you if you did.”
Harry held out his arms. “Well, I’m here.”
Malfoy continued to stare, contemplative. “I see that.” He linked his fingers and rested his chin on them. “But are you here to help me, or did you want another reading?” he said knowingly.
Harry caught himself. He’d been thinking that in the lifts. This was going to get annoying, he just knew it. “I believe I started this conversation with your answer there.” Malfoy was staring at him still. Harry wanted rid of the tension he could practically feel all over him. It reminded him of that room. He shuddered. “You took a chance telling me how to save my life and that little boy’s. It left you with nothing to bargain with.” Draco gave him a small grin. Harry eyed him warily for a minute before it became clear. “It wasn’t a chance at all, was it?” Malfoy gave him a private smile and got up. He began walking in the direction of the private rooms. Harry followed him with his eyes for a few paces before he rolled them and made to follow him properly. “You saw me come back here, didn’t you?”
Malfoy turned to watch Harry over his shoulder. He shook his head. “No. You’re a Gryffindor. I didn’t need to see that.”
The white room was sparsely decorated; exactly the same as he’d left it. The table was still against the wall and the small cot was back in its corner. If the walls weren’t in such good condition, he’d say it looked just like their holding cells in the DMLE. Malfoy was bent over, digging under his pillow. “Malfoy, what do you want?” Harry asked, staying by the door.
“I’m a Gemini, you know.” The statement caught Harry off guard and he frowned, lost for words. Before he could come up with a suitable answer, Malfoy beat him to it. He straightened up. Harry saw the small leather-bound book in his hands. “I keep dreaming of the constellation. I have it in my journal hundreds of times, sketched.” He handed him the journal and went to sit on his cot. Harry froze at the multiple sketches of stars. Some of them were joined like makeshift dot-to-dot puzzles he’d get in Puzzle books once Dudley was done with them all. It was that cluster of stars, from his investigation years ago, from the letterhead in Skeeter’s Diagon Flat. “I see it so many times; I’m beginning to think I’m obsessed,” Draco was saying, his words a backdrop to Harry’s thoughts. His laugh had an edge of desperation in it and Harry paused in his perusal of the pages to look up through his lashes at the man. “This gift... this curse is trying to tell me something and I have no idea because I don’t know the rest of her prediction.”
Coming away from the doorway, Harry shut the door and closed the book. He leaned against the table. “I don’t understand.” He really didn’t, but now that he had more clues, he wasn’t letting this go any time soon.
That laugh returned and Malfoy raked his hands through his hair, messing up the miniscule pony tail behind his head. “Neither do I.” He glanced around the room. “I saw this, I saw myself as I am now – in a white room, with a cot and table, staring at myself in a mirror to see how I looked.” He looked up at Harry, his eyes wide and bright. “I saw it, like I was there. And here I am.”
Harry nodded delicately, hoping not to set the man off. “Here you are.”
Malfoy shook his head, like he was frustrated, like Harry didn’t get it. “But it’s not right. I haven’t stopped dreaming of it and it’s... well, excuse the pun, but it’s driving me insane. It’s not right.” His voice was thick now. He whispered the words as if he was fearful to say them. Harry felt like he was getting a glance of how Malfoy was when he’d been at home, locked away behind his wards. It’s not right. He could imagine the man repeating it over and over again.
Against his better judgement, Harry came to sit next to him on the cot. “What isn’t?” He matched the level of his voice to Malfoy’s, like he was afraid to startle him.
Malfoy stared ahead at the blank piece of wall next to the table. “According to her prediction, everything is as it should be.” He looked around again before his eyes fell on Harry’s. “But it’s not the same. Look around. What’s missing?” Harry looked around the room. A hell of a lot was missing if he had to say. He’d seen hamster cages more furnished than this. Draco stood, taking the small rubber band out of his hair with a wince. “I walk up to this table and look around the room, and then I bend to look into the mirror.” He bent and stared at another empty piece of white wall.
Harry sat up straight. “Malfoy, there is no mirror there.”
Malfoy turned and stared him knowingly, as if Harry had finally caught up. “No. There isn’t. I’m – in your words – on the loony ward. They don’t allow any potentially dangerous items in our rooms.” His eyes were almost beseeching.
Harry looked up at him. “So what does that mean? You’re not where you’re supposed to be?”
Draco simply smiled. And then Harry got it.
Harry led Draco into his spare bedroom. “Okay, I guess this is your room then.” Draco looked around the bedroom and took in the muted colours. Nothing was too bright or jarring. It was very different from the hospital room he’d been in. Harry walked in behind him and planted his other bags down on the bed. It was a wonder the man had anything else, considering he’d been given clothes when he got to the hospital in the first place. Harry thought the blond had asked his house-elves to pack for him. He’d have to ask.
When he turned back to Draco, it was to see the man looking around the room. “You didn’t decorate,” he said. It sounded like an inquiry, but Harry took it as a knowing statement.
Harry frowned and took another look around. What? “Yes I did,” he said affronted. It wasn’t too late to send him packing to the Manor he’d thoroughly declined revisiting. It was enough he was now ‘in charge’ of the former patient, having to put up with veiled insults about his interior design style may just be the line he would draw in the sand.
Draco put down the bag he was carrying and sat down on the bed. “Oh. Colour me surprised.”
Harry wasn’t sure how to take that comment. What was wrong with it? “Why did you-” He held up a hand. If he let Malfoy get to him, he’d never have any peace of mind. He could hear Hermione’s lectures already. ‘Just ignore him, Harry. He’s trying for a reaction, Harry.’ “No, never mind, I don’t want to know. Just – make yourself comfortable, like your owl did two days ago, since he hasn’t left since,” he added meaningfully.
Draco shrugged. “Yeah, sorry. I should have written down not to feed him bacon.” The blond was running his hand along the duvet cover, probably taking in how different the texture was to hospital sheets. “D’Artagnan gets attached to people who feed him bacon, especially when you hand-make him a home-away-from-home like you did. Inside your living room. Next to a fireplace. That’s like – marriage – to him. It’s hard to get rid of him after that.”
“I wonder where he gets that from,” Harry said under his breath, but loud enough for Draco to hear.
Draco looked confused. “You haven’t fed me bacon.” Harry was shaking his head and left the room. “You will though. In cheesy pasta.”
Harry paused and turned back in time to see Draco’s eyes clearing away the misty veil that covered them sometimes. He sighed and chose his words carefully, his right hand gripping the bridge of his nose. “So this is going to become a thing, right; a thing that you just do?” he asked, gesturing vaguely in Draco’s direction. He’d have to get used to the visions coming and going during a conversation.
Draco seemed amused. He tried not to let it show and failed miserably. “I suppose,” he said nodding in commiseration. Harry could guess it would be a work in progress for Draco too, since he’d not been around anyone long enough to have a conversation in between visions, besides his Mindhealer.
Harry nodded and left again. “Okay,” he said resigned as he walked out to the hall and into his living room.
Harry walked into his department on Wednesday afternoon to see Ron sitting at his desk at the end of the row of cubicles. At least, Ron was the first thing he saw. The small tray of brownies was the second, and what he zeroed in on. “Oh, triple chocolate hazelnut brownies. Mine!” He paused and retracted his fingers from the cellophane. “Mine?” he asked with wary hope.
Ron grinned. “Yours. Here.” He handed them over, grinning at the enthusiasm with which Harry tore apart the cling film on top and took in a deep breath through his nose. The chocolate scent was just what he needed. “Yeah. I’m great, by the way, thanks for asking.”
He shooed Ron off to the side with his hands and sat down. “Yeah, yeah, move, I want to devour my brownies in piece before everyone gets back.”
Ron looked around. The DMLE floor was suspiciously vacant. “I noticed. Where is everyone?” He brushed his hair back from his face and leaned against the desk so as not to disturb Harry’s brownie-to-hand-to-mouth movement.
Harry savoured the first bite and sat back moaning. God bless Molly Weasley for teaching her son how to bake. Ron was so good Harry and Hermione had convinced him to open a bakery in Hogsmeade. Business minded like his brother George, the small town was the best place to open a bakery of sweet cakes and tarts. The student body of Hogwarts kept him happily rolling in galleons. “Oh, God,” he praised and Ron smiled at his dreamy-eyed expression. “Sensitivity training,” he finally answered. “Someone tried to drown Owen Cauldwell in the break room sink.”
Oh, my God is that coffee, too? he thought as the flavour burst on his tongue. “Yeah, it was long overdue.”
Ron gave him a considering look. Harry didn’t seem worried. “The training, or the drowning?” he asked warily.
Harry shook his head and picked up another brownie. “Pick one. I don’t care.”
Ron wasn’t sure what to say. “That’s-” He stood up. “Right, so I’m going to visit Hermione now, before all of my morals get eaten by whatever ate yours.” Harry stood up with him.
“Mm.” He dusted off some crumbs and put his treats in his drawer, locking it with a strong stinging hex. “I’ll walk with you. I only came in to get some photos of a crime scene.” He grabbed the envelope of photographs and picked up the letter with Rita Skeeter’s other address on the front, tucking them into an inside pocket.
“Oh, yeah, Skeeter, right? I heard about that. Any ‘leads’.” Harry refrained from rolling his eyes. Even after five years, Ron still found some sort of childish enjoyment in using the Auror terms he chose to forego after a month of training. Harry wasn’t upset anymore, not after he tasted the first cinnamon roll Ron baked as a way of explaining that he was dropping out of Auror training for good to open his bakery in Hogsmeade. It was sinful, like those brownies he was walking away from.
“No,” he said, focusing on the elevator. When it opened, Ron walked in, not noticing the minor pause Harry gave to seeing Sloper in there before he followed. He turned to the buttons, the two long rows were empty of lights except for the top left button for the eighth level, the Atrium. Harry raised his eyebrows. “Isn’t there a training session going on right now? Are you not a part of the working community, then, Sloper?”
“Yes, Sir, I was on my way back now. There was another guy, he was going to the atrium and got out on the first instead.” Sloper swallowed. Ever since the Degouville case, Sloper had been avoiding him. The young man had set it up spectacularly, questioning the wife until she cracked and told him and Williamson where the boy was and rushing to the scene, only to see Harry get trapped in the room when Mr Degouville had walked back out. He, no doubt, had been hoping to rescue the child from the Treasury Room and upon hearing of the fact that there was a password to go with it – that Mrs Degouville had not known – he’d blanched white and taken the lecture Harry had given him about rushing ahead to be a hero. After all, he would know.
Harry nodded, taking the lie for what it was. “Oh, good.” He ignored Ron’s questioning look. “I’ll ride down with you. My friend here was just visiting his wife, Mrs. Weasley. Your trainer today.” The Lift pinged and announced the floor as they walked out. Harry and Ron walked with the young Auror to the training room, opening the door ajar to look inside. Hermione stood at the front calling on everyone’s attention; they’d been on a break, apparently. Harry cleared his throat and she looked over. A bright smile lit her face and she excused herself from the class.
“Harry!” She gave him a hug and then gave Ron a kiss. “Who’s this?” she asked directing her question to Sloper.
The young man blushed when Harry turned to him. On your way back, huh? “This is your new helper. Go on in, Sloper. Hermione will need you shortly.” The Auror walked in, suitably chastised, and took a seat in the room with everyone else. “Tried to run away.” He shook his head. “They always try to run away.” The question was, where was he running to? He must have been on the prowl for another case to solve. The only other high profile case they had was the Skeeter break-in-gone-wrong. The lift had been on its way up when they got in, despite Sloper’s claim otherwise. He could have been on his way to see Malfoy. An inexplicable sense of anger filled him and he narrowed his eyes.
“Mmm, I know. It’s like they don’t know I keep a register. It’s ridiculous. So, what’s the visit for?”
“I just came for him after I caught him in the lift, Ron is here for you. Though, now I think of it, where can I get registration forms for magical beings?”
Hermione got a thoughtful frown on her face. “That depends on the being. Is it a creature? Human?”
“Human. A Seer.”
Hermione gasped. “You’ve found a Seer? A real one? Where?” she asked, excited. Seers, true ones – like Trelawney – were rare and hardly ever sane. Hermione still found using all sorts of methods to see the future completely ridiculous, but even she couldn’t deny the truth behind a prophecy and the vessel who spoke it. “She isn’t registered? You can’t use unregistered Seers for cases, Harry.”
Harry nodded. “Well, technically, Sloper found a Seer. He’s been using him for three years now to solve crimes and not telling anyone. I went for a consult, so that’s alright, but he’s proven really helpful so I’m going to register him.” He carefully left Malfoy’s name out of it. They didn’t need to know yet. Nor did they need to know Malfoy was staying in the spare room in his flat.
The thoughtful frown turned reproachful. “Really? And he has the balls to skip a day of training? Any kind of training?” she added with a baleful stare when Ron was about to interject that Sensitivity training didn’t really count.
Ron shrugged from his position against the door jam. “Well, it’s always the idiots, isn’t it?” he said instead.
Thursday morning was a disaster. Harry went into work with the purpose of taking a few men with him to Skeeter’s other home and then going down to Records to register Malfoy as a Seer, legally, so he could help on the case without any problems. He was looking forward to Sloper’s face when he did it. However, it was not meant to be. He’d managed to file the paperwork, but before he could call on Seamus, he got word of another homicide. Malinda Robbins, a clerk that had been with the Ministry for going on thirty years now, was found dead in an alley off Diagon, next door to a bakery and opposite a stationery and book store. To make it worse, a young girl had found her, screaming her head off in the middle of the shoppers.
Seamus looked up, shielding his eyes with his hand from the mid-morning sun. There was something about mid-November sunlight that made it blinding. He didn’t understand it. Up on the third floor, the window was open and the patterned curtain moved lazily in the light breeze. “Who would want to push Robbins out a window?” he asked Harry, who was looking down at the body on the ground as the Ministry forensic team and the hospital coroner examined the oddly positioned body.
Harry turned to look at the bakery Melinda’s tiny flat sat above. The scent coming out of it was divine. He turned to the front of the shop. “Let’s go and see if she left us a clue.” Passing through the small bakery, they took the stairs up. Her son was by the till, inconsolable. He sat staring straight ahead through the shop window, ignoring all the pastries and possibly what was going on outside. Harry sighed and called on Williamson to sit with him and perhaps try to get some information while he went upstairs with Seamus.
“Just like Sarah’s place. That’s weird,” Seamus said and began looking around. Harry understood what he meant. Sarah Plumstead was an accounting clerk who was appointed there after thirty years on level four of the Ministry. She went on holiday last year and got killed in an accident. When her husband came home, he realised their flat was thoroughly cleaned, though he had not hired anyone to do it. It was odd, but nothing had been stolen and there was no clue to who would have done it. The only thing untouched had been the calendar that proclaimed ‘HOLIDAY TO SPAIN FINALLY’. Malinda’s home was like Sarah’s all over again. It was clean, far too clean; even a woman who was busy all the time, and didn’t have room in her schedule to be home, wouldn’t have a house this clean. He walked up to the window and looked down. It was a daunting drop. He wouldn’t want to attempt it.
“Harry.” His name sounded solemn coming from Seamus this time, and he walked over to the writing desk where Seamus was waiting. Looking down at the short sheet of parchment, Harry frowned as he read through the missive. He looked around again, this time in deep suspicion.
“No fucking way.” There were many things that Harry didn’t believe in, in his line of work. One of them was that no one was either black or white in their views, actions and beliefs. The world was all shades of grey. It was something he strived to remember when dealing with suspects. Another thing he didn’t believe in was successful people killing themselves over trivial nonsense. He didn’t believe in mothers and grandmothers wanting to put their families through needless grief for such a selfish reason as, he bent over to read it again, ‘...no one truly understanding what it’s like’. His eyes circled the room once, looking for anything out of the ordinary, because there was no way - no way - that a woman close to retirement, who lived upstairs from a family owned business, which her successful son – and her grandchildren, occasionally, during summer vacation – ran on a daily basis, would suddenly decide that life was not worth living and take a running jump out of a window. But, since he didn’t know her, he didn’t know if anything was out of the ordinary. On the desk sat a diary. He opened it. The last entry was six days before. Harry felt himself freeze as he read the quickly scribbled note.
Harry also didn’t believe in coincidences. He’d lived a life too full of events with hidden links to ever truly believe in them again. Holy fucking Merlin. “Question everyone she worked with, question neighbours, business competitors of her son, everyone she’s in contact with – there is no fucking way this woman suddenly decided to kill herself by landing in front of her own family business during opening hours.”
Seamus nodded succinctly. “Got it. Where are you going?”
Harry couldn’t believe this, but he was going to Skeeter’s home after all. And he was bloody taking Malfoy with him. “I’m going to procure myself a Seer.”
Harry walked out of his bedroom carrying a t-shirt and a pair of his jeans. “You can put this on.” The two items of clothing were dropped in Draco’s lap. “We’re going to Rita’s other address. It was on the letter sent to her and it’s somewhere Muggle, so you’re going to have to wear something Muggle.” Draco stared at the items with confusion. When he held them up in his hands, he paused. It was the t-shirt, the one with the collar and the emblem of the rose on the left breast. His eyes turned to the kitchen. It wasn’t a vision this time, but he could recall it, he’d seen it so many times. He could see where Harry had him pinned while his hand worked in his pants and his mouth burrowed beneath the collar to bite, kiss and lick at his neck. He shivered.
“You okay?” Snapping out of it, Draco looked up. Harry was watching him in concern. The brunet made a vague gesture to his eyes. “Vision? Your eyes didn’t go all milky, so...”
Draco shook his head. “No, simply thoughts. Distracting thoughts. This shirt would be too big for you, why are you giving it to me?” He stopped. “Wait, milky?”
Harry shoved his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, er... when you have a vision, like a future one, your eyes go all white all over. It’s only for a few seconds and then they go back to grey. But sometimes when you trail off and see something, they stay the same, but vacant, or...” Harry shook his head, like he knew he wasn’t making any sense. “It doesn’t make any sense, I know, but...” He shrugged. Draco simply stared at him. No one had mentioned that to him before. Besides, it wasn’t like he ever had visions of himself having visions, so he knew there was no way he could have known on his own. Harry had picked up quite a few things in the last few days. “Anyway, it’s a rugby shirt,” he heard the brunet say, snapping out of his thoughts again. “It’s supposed to be loose, unless you have the physique to fill it out. Don’t worry, no one will look at you funny.” Draco was still lost to what he’d just found out, though, and it must have shown. “Hey, if you’re not up for it, I can go alone.”
“No, I’ll go. I might find out something about that constellation. You say it was on a letter sent to Skeeter?”
Harry nodded. “Then let’s get going.”
“This is actually rather normal for a woman her age, you know,” Draco said looking around. “Especially if she was never here.” And the flat at the address Harry had on the letter looked exactly like that. The entire open plan flat looked as if no one lived there. Honestly, it reminded Harry of those furniture catalogues with a token couple and perhaps a dog, letting the buyer know how the room might look if people were in it. Harry was sorting through some of the mail in the entrance hall when he heard the glass break. Rushing into the living room, he saw Draco standing still, staring straight ahead, his eyes clear but watchful. Realising he was occupied, Harry looked down to what he’d dropped. It was a picture frame. He picked it up and turned it over to see a still photograph of Skeeter and another blonde haired woman grinning at him. They looked happy and so very young. Standing up from his crouch, he jumped when Draco grabbed his bicep and turned around, his eyes following something around the room. “Come with me.” Draco’s grip was tight on his forearm as he dragged him around through the bedroom to stare at a closet. He opened it to find it empty. His forehead creased and he closed it. “Open it.”
“What?” Harry asked, perplexed.
Draco gestured to the door. “Open it.”
Harry frowned. “Why?” He turned to toss the picture frame on the bed. “It’s empty.”
“That’s not the real one. You need to open the real one.”
Harry looked back and forth between the closet and Draco. “What’s in it?”
Draco shook his head and shrugged. “I don’t know yet. But she went in there a lot. It has something to do with the woman in that photograph. I don’t have a wand, you have to open it. Be careful, there’s a hex or two.” The blond walked off and sat on the edge of the bed to give Harry room to work.
Harry sighed and took off his jacket. “Fine.” He moved closer and felt out the closet. A snap had him stepping back and suddenly the closet was vibrating with the amount of hexes and curses on it, almost as if it could sense his intention to get into its hidden compartment. He recognised the stinging jinx, but he was not prepared for the cutting hex that sliced through his palm. Fifteen minutes later, while he was healing it, Draco walked around him and into the closet. Inside was much larger than the outside and looked lived in, like Rita spent the majority of her time in there.
“You need to see this, Potter.” Harry stepped inside, looking around in awe. The walls of the room were wallpapered in newspaper articles, pictures, documents and notes. Coming closer, Harry read through a couple that held dates and times. On the far wall, where Draco stood staring, was a picture of the same blond woman from the broken frame outside. “It looks like she was investigating something.” Harry stood next to him. There was a note on the wall in different handwriting. He frowned at it.
“What do you think that means?” Draco asked him ominously.
Harry shrugged, his eyes tracking over more notes hastily scribbled on scraps of paper. “I have no idea.” He looked down at the table in the middle of the room. There was an old Daily Telegraph newspaper dating back to 1968 open at page five. The Headline read ‘TO BREED A KILLER’ and a quick scan of the first paragraph told him about a company fronting as a family planning agency, that sold the ‘leftover sperm samples’ to the highest bidder. The journalist’s picture stood amidst the article with her name underneath it, Penelope Coran. Harry turned to the picture on the wall. It was the same woman. Other sheets of parchment were filled with typed print, likely from the typewriter at the end of the table in front of the desk chair. He read through a few lines and felt the surprise hit him as he was drawn into the story on the page. This couldn’t be real. His eyebrows rose steadily on his forehead. He sorted through a few more, picked up another one at random and read through it. A list of names, articles and laws. “It’s an article. Unpublished.” He checked the date mark. “These are recent. Skeeter wrote these.”
Draco walked over, distracted from his meandering. “So?”
“So, they’re good.” His eyes never left the page, but he handed the page in his other hand to Draco. “Citations, reputable sources, she did her research on this. What the hell, I thought she was a vulture.” He looked up at Draco as he read through the list of sources, books and laws that were outlined and handed him the article in his hand. “She was building a story.” He rifled through more sheets on the table and paused.
“About what?” Draco said as he read. He looked up when he realized Harry was staring at something. “What is it?”
Harry turned the sheet around. On the parchment was a series of small crosses. They looked random, but Draco knew them by heart. It was a constellation. “Gemini.”
Harry nodded and looked around the room at the endless amounts of paper. “We need to get this out of here.”
The next day after work, Harry took the lift to his flat, nodding to the little old lady from 23B, who eyed him warily as he stepped out onto his floor. Being a wizard, Harry didn’t usually use his front door, preferring to use more immediate methods. As such, his neighbours never actually saw him all that often and, apparently, that gave him quite the reputation. He turned back in time to catch her hastily ducking back inside. He shook his head, wondering what kind of rumours would spread about him now. He figured it couldn’t be any worse than the ridiculous articles Skeeter used to write about him.
He paused, hearing arguing. Since becoming an Auror, he’d become much more aware of his surroundings. Being Head Auror had its advantages, including a larger salary for more responsibility and less physical work (so he didn’t almost die every day), but he missed some of it, like scoping out a room and using all his senses to pinpoint a location. His gait slowed and he tilted his head. Then he frowned.
It was coming from his flat.
He hurried along and fished out his keys. Once the door was open, the arguing didn’t stop, but Harry became distracted by two things. First was the fact that the room was a mess, filled with paper on every available surface. The second was that Ron was standing in his kitchen yelling at Draco with a baking pan in his hand. He prioritised. Draco was alive, though obviously frustrated; Ron was red, but far from peril. The pan in his hand was tilting. It looked like he was about to throw it. Baking pan that is. It might even be more brownies. He walked into the kitchen and took it out of Ron’s hand, putting it on a counter and standing in front of it.
“What the hell is going on?”
Ron turned to him after he relieved him of his weapon, noticing him for the first time. He stopped yelling. “You’re asking me that, when you have him in your home? Unattended?” Ron exclaimed incredulously.
Harry turned to look at Draco, who was standing amid a sea of parchment with his arms crossed. He didn’t look surprised to see him in the middle of the day. Then again, he was a Seer, so Harry let it go.
“Mind telling me why he’s here?” Ron said, an edge to his tone.
“You remember the seer I was telling you about? The one I registered?” Ron nodded. Harry gestured to the blond in his living room. Draco simply cocked an eyebrow at the acknowledgement.
“Him?” Ron said, his voice cracking a little in surprise. “Since when?” His gaze travelled between the two, looking for an explanation and, at this point, he didn’t care who it came from.
Draco answered him quietly. “Since the war.”
Like a Pavlovian response, Ron’s eyes narrowed on Draco. “The war. The one where you got that fetching tattoo?” he said scathingly.
Draco sighed. “The very same.”
Ron crossed his arms to match Draco’s stance. “And how exactly did they outfit you with this ability? Dark magic? Ritual murder?” he added in a meaningful tone.
“Ron.” Harry’s call fell on deaf ears.
Draco’s voice made him pause. “No, Harry. It’s true.” Harry froze and turned to Draco. “I didn’t go through a ritual, but an Unforgivable was used and Trelawney died while her gift was transferred to me.”
Ron snorted and rolled his eyes, turning away, as if he just couldn’t be a part of the conversation. “Fucking Trelawney? They wanted you with the Gift and they chose hers? No bloody wonder you lost.”
“Ron, that’s enough.”
Ron turned and glared at his best friend. “No, Harry. It’s not. My brother died because of him.”
“Ron, your brother died because he was saving Ginny’s life from a Death Eater.”
Ron narrowed his eyes dangerously. “People like him then.” He practically threw on his jacket and picked up the messenger bag he’d torn off in a fit when he’d walked in to see bloody Draco Malfoy sitting down, cosy as a cat, on Harry’s couch in his living room, reading through an old Muggle newspaper. He shook his head at Harry. “I’m gone. Call me when he is.”
“Ron, come on. I need him. This case, it has links to Russell’s death. Please.” Harry pleaded as Ron continued to walk towards the door.
“What would you have done?”
Ron turned livid eyes on Draco and took a step toward him from his rigid stance at the front door. “What?”
Draco was staring at him, refusing to back down. “He had my mother. He was going to kill her. If someone had your mother, what would you do? Would you fix a broken cupboard to stop the Dark Lord from killing her?”
“Would you?” Draco pressed.
Ron’s eyes narrowed. “I wouldn’t have to, because I don’t join murderers.”
Draco nodded. “That’s a yes, then.” He turned and sat back down.
Throwing down his bag, Ron crossed the span of the living room in four easy strides. “Don’t compare me to you. I didn’t let a madman carve his ownership of me into my arm and kill innocent people.”
“I never killed anybody.”
“Not directly.” And, really, Draco couldn’t say anything to that. He let out a sigh. Seeing him defeated, Ron stared in satisfaction.
“Ron. I think you should go,” Harry said watching the two of them. He stepped around the redhead, putting Draco behind him, blocking him from Ron’s view.
Ron turned his glare on Harry. “Mmm, I think I should too.” He cast a disgusted look at Draco and whatever he was pretending to read now and turned away to walk back over to the door. His pause had Harry staring at him warily. It looked as if he were about to vault back over to the couch to strangle Draco in plain sight of an Auror.
“Ron?” he asked his best friend carefully.
Ron turned back to the living room and stared at the coffee table with a frown. He walked over. Harry followed him closely, but didn’t try to stop him, having noticed that the redhead was more focused on the papers on the table than the blond man sitting next to it. “I’ve seen these names before.” He pointed down at a list of hastily scribbled names in Rita Skeeter’s acid green handwriting.
Harry frowned and picked it up. “These? Where?”
Ron took the list from him and read through them, a look of recognition on his face. “Hermione. Remember? She used to work in the Accounts Department, Finance Division for the war effort. She quit after that big scandal with the Leveret family, you remember?” Harry did remember. Arnold Leveret was a warden at Azkaban in the first war, turned filing clerk at the Ministry. He handled the filing in Accounting for agencies employed and used by the Ministry in a section called ‘Paybranch’. He worked from nine until five-thirty every day, was never late, and was two years away from retirement when he was found guilty of espionage for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Harry remembered the trial only lasted three hours, one of the eight shortest trials during the war after the Ministry was relinquished of Voldemort’s hold and all his spies were being rounded up and sentenced. Harry had been in the hospital during most of it, but he’d heard of the scandal from Hermione. After he received the kiss, Leveret’s wife went public with the accusation that the Ministry was using the trials as a cover up. He hadn’t really paid much attention to it, but when he became an Auror, his partner shared the fact that his sister had been tried and given the Kiss too. He believed that she was innocent and began his own investigation on the side. Harry had been vaguely aware of what he was doing, but since he was doing it in his own time, he didn’t see the need to report him or give him any grief over it. He’d been over for dinner one night when Russell, his partner, had shown him the symbol. The Gemini constellation. He said it was all the information he could get before all his channels of communication were cut off.
Two days later, Russell was killed in an accident.
“She used to ask me for help with the formulas for payroll and stuff ‘cos of the bakery and that. She could handle Arithmancy, but old-fashioned Accounting, she had no idea,” he smiled. “George taught me a little about bookkeeping so I had a working knowledge of it. Anyway, the Accounting Department was transferring extra money to Azkaban because of all the trials going on and the extra hours the wardens had to work.” Harry nodded in understanding. “She couldn’t work out some of the math and when I checked it over, I realised the mistake she had made. Each prisoner scheduled for the Kiss, needed a warden on shift, but the hours they worked coupled with their salary and bonuses for extra hours didn’t add up, the figure they were supposed to get was less than the figure on paper. Hermione was convinced she had the right numbers and something had to be wrong with the formula I gave her.” Ron shook his head in exasperation at his wife. “But the math was sound. There was a list of prisoner numbers to correspond with each warden on shift responsible for them. To double check, I helped her go through the Kiss Logs from each warden that listed the names and prisoner numbers they were responsible for. One warden had a couple of names with no numbers and I wrote them down so Hermione could hunt down the numbers the next day, since I told her that’s probably where the math went wrong.”
Harry couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What do you mean?”
Ron looked at him like it was obvious. “I mean that with the extra people, the numbers balanced. But Hermione couldn’t include them in the formaula because they had no prisoner number. No number means you aren’t a registered prisoner, so she had to get that sorted first.”
Draco was staring at him. “Did she?”
Ron glared, but it was more out of necessity, since he was about to tell them anyway. “No, she finally got that training job she’d been after for ages.” He turned to Harry. “It offered more pay for less hours and she got to do what she did best, boss people around and teach them new things that she knew all about,” he said, smiling fondly. He handed back the list.
Harry took it. “Was it ever sorted out?”
Ron looked up in thought. “I don’t know, she never mentioned it again. The job was stressful as it was anyway. I don’t blame her for wanting to forget all about it.”
Harry nodded absently. “Thanks, man.”
“So, the next step?” Draco asked him.
Harry picked up Rita’s letter and turned to Draco. “Well, we know this company has something to do with whatever you’ve been dreaming about and Skeeter. This Penelope Coran’s articles back in the sixties are obviously links too, or else Rita wouldn’t bother collecting them. I’ll need to get in touch with my contact at the Met about her. Skeeter had maps of London and the Gemini Corporation address is circled here, so we know where it is, but nothing here suggests that she actually stepped foot there. She did her research first, so I think we should do the same. We have to speak to some of these families. If I remember correctly, Leveret teamed up with other families to protest. I need to speak to Kingsley first though. He took over for Scrimgeour after the war, so he may be able to spread some light on the situation.” He looked up at Ron. “You staying for dinner?” he asked casually.
Ron stared and then rolled his eyes. “By staying, I assume you mean cooking?”
“No, I can order in.”
Ron’s face screwed up in disgust. “That Muggle crap? No. I’d rather starve, Harry.” He looked over at Draco. “Look, I get what you get out of this, Harry, but what about him? What’s his aim in all this?”
Harry sighed and gestured for Draco to talk. It was his story after all. “It’s the symbol,” Draco said. “The constellation symbol. There’s a link among it, Skeeter, me and all of this,” he added, gesturing to the piles of paper on the coffee table and on the floor. “I’m just trying to figure it out.”
Ron simply stared. “I have no idea what any of that means.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Sit down, Ron. I’ll get you a drink.”
Ron stood for a moment and, after a long suffering sigh, took off his jacket and sat down on the single chair opposite of Draco. “Get me a brownie as well.”
“My brownies?” Harry said in dismay.
Ron rolled his eyes again. “I’m right here, Harry, you’ve got them on tap, just put one on a bloody plate and make me a cup of tea.” He turned away from Harry and eyed Draco as he leaned over the table to read an article. “I suppose you had better start from the beginning.”
Kingsley was a dead end. Since Harry knew most of his time during the wars was spent saving people’s lives and generally being busy trying to stay alive to do so, he left the man alone to continue his Minister of Magic duties. On his way out, he called over Seamus and picked up Eugenia Leveret’s address. He’d retrieved it earlier in the day from records.
“You do know that Eugenia Leveret is more likely to slice off your head with a spoon than talk to you, right?” Seamus said as he pulled on his robe. They’d spent the majority of the day in the office going over the evidence he’d picked up from Rita Skeeter’s second home. No one could make any sense out of it so far. He’d bring Draco in tomorrow. He couldn’t wait to see Sloper’s face.
Harry turned, frowning at the imagery as he stared at his friend in bemusement. “I do know. But it’ll be different this time.” He Apparated to the coordinates on the parchment, landing on one stoop out of a row of townhouses that stretched out on either side of him. It was late afternoon, and approaching December, so the sky was darkening already. Behind him, on the street, stood Draco, with his hands in his pockets staring at him. Harry had used a Ministry owl to send the blond a message to meet him there at this time and he gestured to the door to get Draco moving.
“How so?” Seamus said, Apparating in seconds later to continue their conversation. He took in the blond man standing behind him with surprise and suspicion.
Harry knocked on the door. “Because this time, I actually believe her.”
Before Seamus had a chance to respond to anything, the door opened to reveal a woman who stared at them so hard, Harry almost turned to stone in reaction. She took in their robes and her eyes turned flinty. “Aurors. What do you want? Here to desecrate my family name even more?”
“No, Mrs Leveret. We’re here to find more information. We have reason to believe that the same group who conspired to kill people during the war are doing it again and making the deaths look like accidents,” Draco said from behind them. Harry turned to tell him to shut up while Seamus stared at him in disbelief. Draco ignored them both, but Mrs Leveret watched him, her eyes staring him down with consideration instead of blatant hate. Harry, noticing this, took advantage of it.
“Mr Malfoy is correct, Mrs Leveret. He came to us a week ago with evidence collected by an anonymous source that gives us reasonable doubt for your husband’s and countless others’ guilt. May we come in?” Mrs Leveret had them on the stoop for a moment longer before stepping back and opening the door wider. “Thank you,” he said as he walked past.
“It took you long enough to believe me. Who was your source?”
Draco turned to her and without batting an eyelid said, “Rita Skeeter.”
But Mrs Leveret nodded in acceptance. “I thought as much. She was heartbroken after Penelope passed. I knew she would keep investigating, but everyone she spoke to ended up dead somehow.”
Harry turned away from Draco to stare. Seamus too. “I’m sorry, what?” He turned back to Draco in time to catch the smirk on his face. His eyes narrowed while looking at the blond. “Apparently, Mr Malfoy is more trusting of you than he is of us. Shall we sit?”
Mrs Leveret led them to her living room and directed them to chairs. “We grew up together, Rita, Penelope and I. Frightful children we were, but Penny and Rita were good at heart and so clever. They put me to shame a lot of the time. Penelope married Phillip when she was nineteen. I don’t think their parents ever forgave her.”
“Penelope Coran was Rita Skeeter’s sister?” Harry said in muted amazement, feeling something slot into place that he hadn’t been aware was bugging him.
“Oh, yes. She was a journalist too, went after the big stories. Rita was so proud of her, always emulated her since they were small. Then Penny died in that accident.”
“The car accident?” Draco said out of the blue. He spared a glance at Harry before settling his gaze on Mrs Leveret. “I read the article that Rita kept on it. It was tragic.”
“Yes. That car came out of nowhere. It was a one way street too. Absolutely ridiculous Muggle drivers in London.”
“But Rita didn’t believe it was an accident.” Draco leaned forward as Mrs Leveret frowned. “Just three weeks before she died, Penelope wrote an article exposing a family planning company for selling leftover samples to the highest bidder.” Mrs Leveret gasped, her eyes going wide. “You didn’t know?”
She shook her head, but got up and walked into a small room off the corridor. The three men were left staring at each other. “You kept some of the articles that I expressly told you to leave alone.” He didn’t bother to phrase it as a question. “They’re evidence, Draco. We’re going to talk about this when we get home.”
“Home?” Seamus said.
Draco turned to him. “I live with him.”
“Do you now?” Seamus said, his eyebrow cocking. Harry wanted to stop the smirk before it grew.
“It’s not like that.” He glared at Draco when he muttered something under his breath, though he didn’t catch it.
The smirk didn’t stop. “If you say so, boss.”
Before Harry could reply to that, Mrs Leveret came back into the room, carrying a handful of papers. “I’d never heard of Rita’s suspicions, but a lot of what she came to me for now makes a lot of sense.”
“What do you mean, Mrs Leveret?” Draco asked her.
“Oh, Eugenia, dear, please.” Draco nodded, smiling a little. Behind him, Seamus and Harry shared an eye roll. “She wanted to ask me some questions about my accusations to the Ministry and about a company called Pollux Incorporated. She wanted to know how Arnold behaved before he was taken. My husband behaved very oddly in the days leading up to his arrest and subsequent Kiss. He was paranoid, kept telling me there were people following him, that I was to tell people I didn’t know anything if they ever came calling.”
“Do you know why?”
“No, but he gave me a key, told me to use it as insurance if anyone ever threatened me, or if I thought there was no other way out.”
“Do you still have it?” At that, Eugenia Leveret reached for the heavy chain around her neck. She pulled it out of the vee of her dress and held up the key at the end of it.
“I never take it off.” Harry smiled at her as she finally did and handed it to him.
Gringott’s bank was full when they arrived. Mrs Leveret led the way to the vault entrance submitting her documents and gold key to the goblin in charge of the door that day. Harry did his best to ignore the scorching looks he was receiving from the goblins that spotted him. Honestly, you release one dragon... The travel to the vaults was just as stomach curling as ever. Harry was happy to step out of the cart when it finally came to a solid stop and turned to help Mrs Leveret out. She opened the vault door and let them in.
“Any idea what we’re looking for?” Seamus asked him, looking around at the various pieces of furniture, gold, statues and silver.
“It would be where he kept all his documents. He had a chest of drawers. Ah! Over here, Auror Potter.” The chest of drawers was majestic. Harry could tell before getting too close that there was a curse or two hidden in the lining. He felt his way around it to find a weak spot. Furniture always tended to have one when it had been left alone for too long. Finding one, he applied the counter curse and opened it to find a sheaf of documents and files tied with a leather thong. He pulled them out and put them down on the nearest desk. The top few sheets of parchment held the Gemini logo. Further down, there were receipts from another company. At the top of the receipts was an icon that spelled out Pollux Incorporated Harry frowned as he studied it, Eugenia had mentioned it earlier.
“That’s the place. Merlin, that was ages ago,” Eugenia said, noting the date on the top of the page. She had a wistful smile on her face.
“What is it?” Harry asked, confused. Perhaps this Pollux Incorporated was connected too.
Mrs Leveret shook her head, as if it was inconsequential, but relented when Harry didn’t turn away. “Pollux Incorporated was a place Muggles thought up in the sixties. A lot of the boys from our year who’d heard of it went there.”
“To do what?”
“Erm, make a deposit.” She giggled. “I believe the term wank bank was coined from it.” She shook her head. “Silly boys. The only reason they went was to say they’d done it. Plus, they gave you money for donating. I dread to think of all the children they sired. There are a whole class of half-bloods and Muggle-borns out there with their names on.”
“Merlin...” Harry turned around. Draco was holding one of the Pollux Incorporated receipts. His eyes stared at the page, but Harry knew he wasn’t actually seeing anything there. The blond looked up and towards Harry when whatever he’d seen was gone. “She didn’t report on Gemini, she reported on Pollux. That’s why there aren’t any documents with that logo on it past the year 1968. Penelope had them shut down. They likely reinvented themselves and constructed another company from the ground up.”
Harry took the receipt. “I’ve seen something like this before.”
“Me too.” Harry turned to him. “You first.”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, come on.”
The Black Vault was several storeys below and the further they got to the bottom, the deadlier the glares from the goblins became. Inside looked just the same as it had before. Harry ignored the large piles of gold around him and went directly to the desk at the back and pulled out a ledger.
“Bloody hell,” Draco said, spinning around as he walked to take it all in. “Hmm, I need to get to know you better, Potter.”
Harry was looking through the ledger when Draco walked up to him. He didn’t miss a beat, though. “Buy me dinner first, Malfoy, and we’ll talk about it,” he joked. “Here it is,” he said not noticing Draco’s stare. He pulled out a thin sheet of paper. “Look, the receipt, but it has a Gemini Corporation Logo instead. Made out to an S. Black for a ‘healthy’ deposit worth sixty galleons.” He paused. “Why would a Muggle company give out a receipt in galleons?”
Draco shrugged. “It’s not uncommon. My father dealt with a number of companies that deal between both worlds but kept the same practices in all transactions.” When he caught the look Harry was giving him, he rolled his eyes. “Muggle or pure-blood, money is money, Potter.” He took the receipt in Harry’s hand. “Sixty?” Draco said taking the receipt from him. “Wow.” He grinned. “You think it’s because he was a wizard, a pure-blood, or a Black?”
“What?” Harry said.
“Pollux Incorporated was a Muggle establishment and Gemini Corporation is obviously following in their footsteps if their mail to Rita is anything to go by. This is an absurdly high price for some sperm, Potter, even you have to admit that.”
Harry shut the book and put it back down on the desk. “It’s the chance for a child, Malfoy. People probably paid twenty times that, or more, just to have the procedure done.”
“Perhaps, but that’s profit, why pay out more than you have to for deposits? The only people going there are the stuck up ones who want to ‘carry on their line’ and the desperate ones that are hard up for money.”
Harry had to admit Draco had a point. “You said you saw it before, too. Do you remember where?”
Draco shook his head, raising it as he spoke. “I’m not sure you’ll believe me.”
Draco still seemed hesitant. “I dreamed it.” He gave a considering expression. “It was an odd dream, but I’ve seen that receipt before and it had my name on it. I recorded it in my journal. I was snooping in a room and I found it with some documents I was looking through, it ends when my father comes in to yell at me for meddling with things I didn’t understand. I thought the dream was a message of some kind, saying that I’d maybe bitten of more than I could chew, or that I’d never pay back for all the bad I’ve done.” He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Well, let’s find out. We have to get Mrs Leveret home and I have a Pensieve at home with your name on it.”
“Malfoy you’re like thirteen in this. You’re much younger than I thought you would be.”
Draco was walking around the room, ignoring his younger self as he rooted through his father’s files. “I’ve never been in this room.” He finally looked down at the small boy with the slicked back hair and tilted his head, frowning. “What is that?”
Harry had been caught up in staring. It was far too surreal seeing the two versions of Malfoy in one place. Tuning back in to what Draco was saying, he said, “What?”
Draco pointed to the back of his younger self’s neck. “That mark.”
Harry walked over and caught the small translucent line as the thirteen year old boy paused to read something. He leaned over his shoulder to see it was the receipt Draco had spoken about. It had Mr. Malfoy written on it. “You didn’t know you had that mark?” he asked, looking up at the older version.
“I don’t,” Draco insisted, his hand moving to the back of his neck to feel the area. He couldn’t feel anything.
Harry walked around him and pulled back the hair that the blond still hadn’t cut. “You’ve had this since you were in school. I remember it. I saw it during our fight in the corridor fourth year.” Draco’s eyebrows knit together as confusion spread over his face. Harry didn’t blame him. “Why would you dream up a feature you never knew you had in a place you’ve never even seen?” He looked around the room one more time and jumped a little when Lucius Malfoy stormed into the room. He felt something tighten around his hand and looked down to see Draco’s fingers wrapped around his wrist in a vice-like grip. Draco was staring, like he was reliving something he’d rather forget all about. And suddenly, it all made sense. “It’s not a dream.” Draco turned to watch him. “It’s not a dream. It’s a memory.” He turned back to the memory Draco, who’d dropped the receipt and stood up as if the ground was on fire. He pulled them out of the Pensieve. “Where was that?”
Draco shook his head and shrugged. “I – I don’t know. That room, I’ve never seen it before.”
“Maybe it’s a room in the Manor?” Seamus suggested. He’d stayed back to wait for them, in case any major leads came up that needed investigating immediately.
“I was in that Manor for three years straight before I checked myself into Janus Thickey. I’ve never been in that room, Finnigan. Unless it’s been Obliviated from mind, I have no idea...” he trailed off. It was plausible, and it made sense that if it were an Obliviated memory that it would choose to return as a dream he would never take seriously.
Seamus smiled. “I have someone who can help with that.”
Two days later there was a standoff in Harry’s living room. Harry had come home to find Ron and Draco alone again, but theirs wasn’t the standoff. They were actually behaving civilly, physically able to be in the same room as each other and everything. Draco was in the living room studying some of the articles he’d illegally chosen to keep with him and Ron was in his kitchen. “Harry, you need to get in here,” he heard Draco call to him and he stopped cutting up onions to duck down to see through the space between the cupboards into the living room only to see him staring straight ahead at the wall. He frowned and stood up, turning back to Ron.
“There’s nothing there.”
Ron shrugged from where he was cutting up something green. “It’s probably to do with the case. Maybe he’s had a brainwave that will solve it so he can finally leave.” He finished his speech with an innocent grin that Harry didn’t believe in the slightest. He jumped when he heard the tell-tale crack of Apparition and ducked down again in time to hear Seamus Finnigan introducing Draco to someone. The standoff happened when he walked around the cupboards towards the murmuring he could hear, and then suddenly paused when he saw who it was Seamus was quietly talking to.
“You want me to perform and anti-Obliviate on a Seer?” Zacharias Smith said sternly to Seamus, who was standing sheepishly to the side. Smith was an Obliviator for the Ministry and worked a floor above DMLE Headquarters. They sometimes shared cases where Muggle interference was needed. Harry didn’t particularly like working with the man, but apparently Seamus had other ideas.
The blond man turned his head to stare at Draco Malfoy sitting on a couch in Harry Potter’s living room. Draco didn’t seem all that bothered about him being there, which probably meant he’d known he was coming. Too bad, he didn’t get the same message. “You didn’t tell me this when you invited me out, Finnigan.”
“Invited you out?” Harry said as he too stood in his living room. “As in a date?” He turned to Seamus, who looked elsewhere. No help there, then.
Zacharias ignored him. “Do you have any idea how dangerous it is to perform something like that on a Seer?” he added to his argument, glaring at Seamus from the other side. “Let’s forget for a moment that you lured me here under false pretences. The fact that you thought I would do it at all, with no preparation, is nothing but insulting.”
“Zach, please. We really need to find out about what Malfoy saw. He was in a room he doesn’t recognise-”
“I don’t care,” Zacharias said deliberately.
Zacharias shook his head, sighing heavily as he looked around the room and at the men that stood around him. His eyes fell on the redhead in the kitchen. “And what was your role in this, Weasley? You here to ply me with food?”
Ron stopped what he was doing and looked up. “Er, no. I’m actually here because my wife and I tend to stock Harry’s fridge and cupboards when he’s not looking. I was meant to be gone before he got home.” He eyed his best friend. “Only, he’s been coming home early for some reason.” His gaze drifted to Draco before he resumed his task. “Can’t imagine why.”
“Zach, please. It’s for a case.”
Zacharias frowned at Seamus, but Harry could tell he was curious now. “What case?” he asked.
“Rita Skeeter’s death.”
That did nothing to explain anything. Zacharias only frowned more. “The break-in?”
Harry shook his head. “We don’t think it was a simple break-in gone wrong anymore. There is minimal evidence that suggests she was killed to stop her from investigating further on a link between the Ministry and a company called The Gemini Corporation.”
Something on Zacharias’ face changed. “How do you know about that company? What do you know about that company?”
Harry eyes narrowed in question. “What do you know about that company?”
Zacharias looked at them all, then down at Draco. “I think I will perform your reverse Obliviation.”
Harry crossed his arms over his chest defensively. “No, you tell us first.”
Zach crossed his arms over his chest to match Harry’s stance and stared the Auror down. “No,” he said with the air of someone who knew they had the control. “I will reverse Malfoy’s Obliviation first, so I know for sure my suspicions are correct.” He looked at Draco. “It’s up to you, of course, since it’s your mind I’m going into.”
Draco was simply staring at him. Harry recognised the stare, so he didn’t say anything. He simply watched as Draco’s eyes followed something around the room before stopping on the floor. “Yes. Go ahead.” His voice sounded gravelly, like he’d just witnessed something that was closing his throat with tears.
“Draco. What are his suspicions?”
Draco swallowed and looked away. “Wayne Hopkins.” Harry looked up at Zacharias. The man stood frozen, his body completely rigid. “They used to work together. He died three years ago.”
“He was killed three years ago. I tried to tell that to the Aurors, but no one would take me seriously,” he said eyeing Seamus up and down as he sneered.
“What does his Obliviation have to do with Wayne Hopkins? Malfoy was thirteen at the time of his supposed memory,” Seamus said.
Zacharias walked over to Draco and pushed some of the cut out articles away to sit directly in front of him. He bent forward and rested his elbows on his thighs. “When you think about this memory, does it feel like a dream?”
Draco nodded. “It was a dream, I wrote it in my journal. That’s how I remember it anyway. It keeps slipping away.”
Zacharias nodded and pulled out his wand. “Think about the room you’re in, in the dream. Does it remind you of anything?” he said as he held his wand in his right hand. “What does the room remind you of?”
Draco looked confused. “It doesn’t remind me of anything.”
Zacharias nodded again, his eyes going distant as he spoke. His voice became softer and took on a dreamy quality, a far reach from his usual abrasive tone. He squinted as he caught a glimpse of a young blond boy rifling through paper in a room with wood panelling. The memory was distant, obviously blocked, but he could see enough to lead Draco through unblocking it. “But the room, you are going through documents. Is there any room in the Manor that would hold things like that?”
Draco tried to shake his head, but couldn’t when Zach took a hold of it. “What? No.”
Zach shushed him softly. “Concentrate. Your father has walked in. Logically, the room has to belong to him if he’s angry you’re in it without his permission. Did he have a room in the Manor that was just for him?” he prompted. “You need to tell me the name of the room, Draco.”
“My father didn’t have a room,” Draco whispered. “There is no room that’s just his.”
Outside of their conversation, Harry frowned. Lucius Malfoy didn’t have a room of his own in his Manor? Surely he had an office or a study or something. Then Harry got it. At the same moment, Seamus grabbed his arm. His study, the Irishman mouthed. They both turned back to Draco. Harry had wondered if Lucius had a study of some sort and, looking back, he realised he did find it odd that Draco never named the room he was in. From the sound of it, Draco had forgotten the room existed completely.
“Okay, outside of the Manor, your father had a job, right? Where did he work?”
“He had an...” Draco trailed off frowning. “He made investments for people,” he said instead. Harry and Seamus shared a meaningful look. Why couldn’t Draco say the word?
“Okay. At work, did he have a place he worked from? A room of his own?”
“An...” Draco trailed off again. He frowned in frustration. “Yes, he had an...” His mouth opened, but he couldn’t say it. His face tinted pink as he tried to force the word out, but it wouldn’t come.
Seeing the damaging effort it was taking, Zacharias cut him off. “Okay, okay, Draco, shh, it’s okay. Now, tell me. Do you know any languages?”
“Languages?” the blond answered, obviously confused at the non sequitur. “What?”
“Do you speak any other languages, other than French?” he added.
“Yes. German, Spanish and Italian.”
Zacharias nodded. “Are there any you don’t know well enough to be fluent? Something you were learning, but never got the hang of and tried to forget?”
“Finnish.” He even said the name of the language with a childish frown. Harry couldn’t help but smile.
“When did you try to learn it?”
“Aww,” Harry heard and was mortified to learn it was him who said it. He looked away when Seamus stared at him, even Ron stopped chopping and snorted.
“Good, Draco, that’s very good. Can you name your father’s room in Finnish?” Zacharias said delicately. “Concentrate, bring up the memories. I can help you.”
Draco’s mouth opened, a small group of wrinkles gathering on the bridge of his nose as he searched his memory for a long forgotten language. “Um...T- Toimisto-” He stopped once the word was out and screwed his eyes shut in pain.
“It’s okay. It’s okay, Draco, it’ll be over soon. It’s just the memories returning. Now tell me, what is toimisto in English?”
Amidst Draco’s screaming, he let out the word, “Office!” before he screamed some more. As sudden as it started, the pain stopped and Draco collapsed forward expelling a rush of air. He panted a little in Zacharias’ arms and swallowed down groans as the soreness in his mind made itself known. “Fucking... Holy shit.” His vision was a little bleary and he blinked repeatedly as various pictures resorted themselves as his rightful memories instead of dreams.
Zacharias laughed quietly. “No kidding.” He looked up at Harry as he pushed Draco to sit back against the couch. “Taking memories is a synch. Bringing them back, hurts like a bitch.”
“Merlin’s arse,” Draco said massaging his head as he lay down on a couch cushion. Zacharias stared at him. “Did you get what you needed?” Draco asked him quietly. “I can tell from your face that you did.”
“What were you looking for?” Seamus asked him.
“Wayne’s signature.” He chuckled. “Predictable bastard.” He shook his head and leaned back, resting his weight on his hands. “He was a specialist in our field. The Ministry used him for all sorts of things that he couldn’t talk about, but it’s different when you were in the same House, you know? I’m sure you tell each other everything over casual dinners when you get together. Wayne came to me to tell me a funny story about how Lucius Malfoy donated sperm back in 1979 and nine months later, you were born,” he said looking at Draco.
Draco frowned. “But the procedure is for people who can’t have children, and for women who want a child.” He looked up at Harry. “Right? That’s how it works. They don’t know the name of the donor.”
Harry shrugged. “Yeah, but it’s also a family planning agency. They could have ‘helped’ the process along. I mean, you don’t have any brothers or sisters. It could be your parents had trouble having you.”
Zacharias nodded. “And you were born at St Mungo’s. My mother was on the same ward as yours.”
The confused look on his face didn’t cease. “They didn’t tell me.”
From the kitchen, Ron snorted. “And you’re surprised?” he said taking something that smelled really good out of the oven. He put the dish down on a pot guard. “Your family uses a Muggle procedure to have a kid and you’re surprised they don’t tell anyone about it? No wonder your father was so upset that you found the receipt.”
“But he didn’t erase your memory,” Harry said. “It was done three years ago, after you got onto Ward 49.”
Draco cocked his head at him. “Why do you think that?”
“Smith and Wayne graduated from Obliviator training a year after I signed up to become an Auror. Three years ago, I was appointed Head Auror already when you were admitted to the hospital Hopkins and Smith graduated as Specialist Obliviators a couple of weeks after. Specialists are used for special cases and I had them both on board for a while until Wayne died.”
Draco stared absently at the papers on the table. “But why would he erase that? What would be the point? Me going through my father’s papers?”
“Yeah, look at the papers you were going through. You didn’t think much of it, but he obviously did. He was looking for it,” Seamus said.
Zacharias hummed in agreement. “It’s likely, and you were in his office. Burying memories is tricky on its own and I’m sure you’ve been in your father’s office more than once and you probably called it by another name like study or something. In order to make sure you didn’t remember anything, he would have had to block the terms from your mind completely once the memory was hidden.”
“That’s his signature?” Harry asked.
Zacharias nodded. “He’s good that way. Anyone else mentions the word office, it doesn’t come back, only if he does it himself and he can’t do it if he doesn’t know the word. It’s like trying to remember something on the tip of your tongue, but the more you push, the farther it gets.”
Something occurred to Draco. “That’s why you asked me if I knew any languages.” Zacharias nodded again. “He asked me the same thing.” The memory was clear as day in his mind now, like it never left.
“Yeah and you would have only told him the ones you were fluent in. Finnish is obviously something you found too hard as a child and blocked out completely, but the mind never forgets, it’s like a sponge, you just cut off your cues so that you fail to retrieve it whenever you look for it.”
Harry sat down in an empty chair. “Christ. I have a whole new respect for your field, Smith.”
Zacharias gave him a smug grin. “You damn well should have.” He stood up. “Call me if you need me. I’m going home.” He turned to Seamus. “You are so damn lucky that I fancy you, Finnigan.” He shook his head and Apparated.
Ron laughed form the kitchen as he began spooning things out into the containers he’d brought. “Not enough to shag you, apparently.” He leaned on his hands. “Come on, we might as well eat while I’m here.”
“I don’t get it.” Harry looked up at Ron. He was sitting next to Seamus on the two- seater. He put his empty plate down on the table and picked up two maps Draco had decided to keep instead of giving them up to Harry to take to work.
“Don’t get what?” he asked his friend, refusing to give up his plate without having licked it clean. He’d wait until they left, though.
Ron turned the two maps around to face them. Draco turned the top of his body around, since he’d been on the three-seater with Harry and had his feet up on the cushions. Harry had watched him surreptitiously for the first ten minutes until he was sure he wasn’t going to spontaneously choke or drop dead from poison. He looked at the maps now. One of them was from the sixties and had a circle around a building in biro pen. None of the others had known what it was, or what the word meant, and Harry had had to go and fish one out of his desk in order to explain it. It was missing now and Harry was sure if he checked, it would be in Draco’s pocket or something. The other map was centred on the same area in acid green, but there was nothing there.
“This map is from 1968. This is from an A to Z released last year. Coran’s article was on a family planning clinic that sold their unwanted samples to companies, but after her article came out, they went out of business. Skeeter wrote an article in the eighties and recently about the Ministry utilising funds to irrelevant companies and using the trials during the war to cover up something. She didn’t publish any of them. A lot of her research has to do with Gemini Corporation One: why, if they were shut down for something like that, would they re-open under the same name and two, look.” He pointed to the map. Draco leaned over and gasped.
Harry frowned. “So?”
“So, Harry, look. Look at the maps.”
Harry took the maps from Ron and stared. Where the building was on the map circled in 1968, there was now nothing at all. He was about to comment on that when he suddenly realised that just because there was nothing there, didn’t mean there was nothing there. He’d been thinking with a Muggle mentality again.
“It can’t be a coincidence that Rita Skeeter collected those articles and then referenced the Ministry’s frivolous spending during two wars to a Muggle company that uses Muggle postage yet doesn’t exist on a map.”
“So, what the Ministry is buying samples?” Harry said, not sure he wanted to hear the answer to that.
Draco stood up. “This is it. It has to be.” He took the recent map from Harry. “Where I’m supposed to be is what she was trying to find, don’t you see? She didn’t set foot in the building because she didn’t know how to get in. It’s unplottable.” He stared off. “Maybe if I can get in, I can find out why I keep seeing their symbol.”
Harry sat back. “Alright. Let’s see if we can get in.”
“What do you mean you can’t get in?” Harry asked Seamus as he came back into the office. It was Saturday morning, and he was looking forward to some good news. He was sitting next to Draco, keeping an eye on how he handled the evidence. A lot of it seemed to be making its way back into his flat. He’d let Seamus go in alone because he knew Seamus could handle locating a building without any help, but also because Sloper had been lingering around his desk all day since he’d brought in a legal, registered Seer that Sloper had been using on the sly when he was in the mental ward of the hospital. The little shit had even asked where he came from, expecting Harry to lie. When Harry told them all the truth: that Draco had checked himself into the hospital three years ago because he didn’t feel safe at home, Sloper had gone red and the rest of his team had seemed accepting of the information, even the part about the Seer staying in his spare room until he could find somewhere to go. Since then Sloper and alternated between hanging around his desk when he thought Harry wasn’t around and disappearing completely.
Seamus took off his robe as he spoke, and sat down at his desk. “Exactly as I said. It’s really very unplottable.” He got comfortable. “Hey, Malfoy.”
“Finnigan,” Draco said, reading through one more of the countless articles Rita collected from her sister’s time as a journalist.
“Why? What’s in its place?” Harry asked him.
Seamus snorted. “A train station.”
Harry sat up. “I’m sorry, what?” he said, sure he’d heard incorrectly.
Seamus smiled. Pleased someone else was as surprised as he’d been to be transported there. “A train station, yeah.” He pulled out the map he’d borrowed from Harry’s flat. Harry rolled his eyes. Did no one respect evidence anymore? “You go to this address and get too close – you end up in Moorgate.”
Harry dropped his head into his hands. “I don’t b-”
“Harry. You’re not going to believe this.”
Harry raised his head and dropped it into one hand this time. A young Auror stood with wide eyes staring at him. Seamus turned around completely and Draco finally raised his head from the article. “Aren’t I?” he said.
“Nope. Rystal is dead.”
Now Harry sat up completely. “What?” Rystal Dinemoore was the Permanent Secretary of the Department of International Magical Cooperation. “From what?”
“He fell twelve storeys from the hotel balcony he was staying at. His wife is inconsolable, can hardly speak.”
“That makes so much sense,” Draco said as he glanced back to the article he’d been reading. Harry turned to him. “I thought I picked this at random. I guess not.” He put the article down on the desk for them to see. Harry nodded to the Auror who’d come in and dismissed him, calling on two other Aurors to go to the crime scene. When he turned back to Draco, the blond was watching him. “Penelope Coran wrote this article a week before she died, and a corresponding article – this one,” he said pulling out the TO BREED A KILLER article. “Says a Muggle company Pollux Incorporated lost funding because various foreign investors suddenly started pulling out. It’s all connected, see? Look at the list of people who are either dead in the past week or we can’t talk to because of this Gemini Corporation connection. Sarah Plumstead, an accounting clerk who took over for Granger-” Harry had given up telling Draco her last name was Weasley now. It was probably a way to differentiate between the two in his head or something. “Malinda Robbins, a DMLE filing clerk, Rita Skeeter, who wrote stories on everything including the wrongful arrest and subsequent Kiss of Arnold Leveret, an ex-Azkaban Warden turned Paybranch Clerk, your partner, an Obliviator and now a Permanent Secretary who not only deals with International Law but International Trading Standards.” He sat back. “Putting the Permanent Secretary and the Obliviator aside, what does that list of people sound like to you?”
“It sounds like a convict paper trail,” Seamus said. “How would you know that?” In response, Draco held up his left arm. “Oh. Right.”
“Someone is covering up a paper trail. Who’s?”
“Weasley said he picked out people who had no prisoner number and yet were Kissed during the last war. Leveret was a warden during the first war. Look at his log book.” Harry turned the pages that Draco had earmarked. Prisoners with no number. “All of these people except for Wayne Hopkins were there for both wars. Hopkins found out about it from me after being told to erase it from my mind. Then he was killed, probably for talking about it.”
“Whoa, hold on,” Harry said looking around and lowering his voice. “Are you trying to tell me that whatever connection the Ministry has with these companies, they’re now killing people who knew about it in order to tie up loose ends?”
Draco shook his head “No, I’m not. But Penelope and Rita are. They both documented the fact the our government had something to do with Pollux Incorporated and Gemini Corporation – two companies that sound more and more like they’re the same company renamed – during the two wars and Rita was obviously trying to find it. I don’t know if they were selling samples to various people, or what, but I would love to know what it has to do with me and why, considering everyone that has already died, I am still alive.”
“After what I just heard, I’m beginning to wonder that myself,” Seamus said considering him with a cocked head. “You know what else I’d like to know? Why Skeeter didn’t publish any of her articles.”
“Her story wasn’t finished.”
“Well, Malfoy, she’s not exactly known for using the whole truth and nothing but the truth in her articles, is she, Harry?” Harry didn’t answer, but he had thought about what Seamus was saying before.
“He does have a point, Draco. The Rita Skeeter we know is a woman who doesn’t stop at just the truth, she only wants the story. The headline. It’s all she cares about.”
Draco was shaking his head again, even as Harry spoke. “No it’s not. She cared about her sister. Penelope Skeeter, who she emulated and followed. She knew her sister’s death was suspicious and when no one listened, she began investigating it herself, just like your partner Russell. Being part of the press gives you privileges over being a newbie in the DMLE. It gets you into places. Writing the way she did, it made people who knew the truth not take her seriously. She was an annoying reporter for the Daily Prophet who wrote fantastical articles on Harry Potter to keep her on the front page. But the fact of the matter is, her articles about you made her important enough to still get in to see you. I mean, honestly, have you ever been questioned by anyone besides Skeeter?”
What Draco was saying was unbelievable. “So she wrote ridiculous stories, like that shitty book about Dumbledore, to cover up the fact that she was good at her job?”
Draco shrugged, sitting back. “She was investigating her sister’s death. You saw her closet room. People don’t take you seriously when you behave like a fool. She obviously found her way to the building on her own and no one knew she was related to Coran, either, so they obviously never investigated. Her records, that you didn’t bother to check to see if there was anyone to inform, say she was an only child. We found out through luck, nothing else.”
Harry felt vaguely guilty of that. He hadn’t checked to see if she had family members. “When did you go down to records?”
“I didn’t, Cauldwell did. He said he wanted to know if he had to break the bad news to anyone, since no one else was bothering. This is after he was nearly drowned in a sink,” he added for good measure. “I want to go to this company, see what it’s about for myself.”
“I get that, Draco, I do, but you heard Seamus. You can’t get in.”
Draco rifled through another pile of parchment. “No, you can’t get in.” Harry frowned, Seamus wasn’t far behind. “Eugenia Leveret said that once the boys found out about the company, they all went. When it was Muggle. Your godfather, like my parents had access to people who found it difficult to have children. Your godfather was disowned in the seventies and until he got his inheritance from a great uncle, who didn’t care for the family, he didn’t have any money. The Gemini Corporation would have been unplottable by then. My father wanted a son and would have gone through great lengths to get it. It’s like a Fidelius. You find the secret keeper, or you find the parchment with the secret keeper’s handwriting.” He held up the receipt. “The handwriting.”
Harry took the receipt from him and looked at where Draco was pointing closely. In the letterhead, under the Pollux Incorporated logo, small writing that spelled out the address and telephone number in black typescript. He shrugged and looked at Draco, indicating that he didn’t get it. The blond rolled his eyes and handed him the Gemini Corporation receipt. Harry huffed and looked at it, pausing when he realised the writing there was handwritten in bold, black cursive letters. ‘You will find Gemini Corporation at,’ Harry read along, instantly reminded of Professor Dumbledore’s handwritten message of where to find the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. “Wow.”
“Rita would have gone looking and found the same thing. When she got a hold of Pollux Incorporated’s address, she wrote to them and they wrote her back. Notice the letter head on the letter they sent her.”
Harry did, it was typed, not handwritten. Further down in the body of the letter, the person writing very politely informed Rita that they had no idea what she was talking about, that they had never heard of the company she named and if she would kindly refrain from contacting them in the future. “They didn’t want her there. Wow,” he said again.
“Yeah. Wow,” Seamus repeated.
Then Harry realised something else. “They knew her London address.”
“So?” Draco said.
Harry turned to him and smiled. “So,” he said in very much the same way Draco said the word to him. “Every death we’ve been on site to investigate. What have they all had in common, Seamus?”
Seamus raised his eyebrows at the question. “What do you mean?”
“The crime scene.”
“Oh, well apart from the complete anal attitudes-”
“What?” Draco asked looking between them.
“Their homes were frightfully clean.”
“Almost surgically so,” Harry said, giving Draco a meaningful stare. “Sarah, Rita, Melinda, I’ll venture the Secretary’s is the same. We could ask Mrs Leveret, but I’m sure she’ll tell us the same thing. Thing is, Rita doesn’t live in her second address, she just uses it as a place to work on her investigation. Perhaps that’s the only reason the closet was untouched. Only people who had specific knowledge and intent could even sense she was hiding something. It’s clever.”
“Then how come her normal home wasn’t touched?” Draco asked.
Harry shrugged. “Honestly? I don’t know. Her death was also more violent, and blatantly murder. The flat looked more like it had been torn apart than cleaned.” Harry sighed. “Alright then,” he said standing and gathering his robe. “Let’s go.”
“Now?” Seamus said.
Harry stared. “It’s Saturday. I only sent you to see if you could locate the building Seamus, they wouldn’t be open now. We’re going to the Manor. Gonna see if we can find Malfoy Senior’s study.”
Seamus seemed hesitant. “Er, do you mind if I sit this one out?” he said with a wince.
Harry narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “Why?”
Seamus’ mouth was trying to form a word, but it wasn’t coming out. “Well,” he finally said, “the other night kind of set me back a bit and, since it’s lunchtime, I figured I would take Zach out for something to eat. He never eats on duty, it’s bloody ridiculous.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine, go,” he relented. It was partially his fault his friend was in the dog house anyway. “Come on, Draco.”
Draco got up and patted Seamus on the back. When Seamus looked up, Draco’s eyes were clearing from a milky white and the blond smirked at him. “Order the cherry chocolate cake at Morgana’s Cafe.” He leaned in closer. “Then take the afternoon off,” he whispered and waggled his eyes brows. “Trust me.”
Inside Malfoy Manor looked exactly the same, it was almost creepy. Harry couldn’t understand how Draco could stand being cooped up in here with no company but house-elves. It was depressing. Fortunately, now that the memory had been unblocked from his mind, Draco walked straight towards his father’s study, like he did it just the day before.
By the third drawer that had to be opened by familial blood, Harry had to say something. “Is this a trait that all pure-blood families share, because, really, no wonder you’re all so pale.”
Draco shushed him and he turned to find the blond reading something. “I found it. There’s a whole file here with them.” He frowned and reached down into the drawer he’d retrieved the file from. There were rolls of parchment all with the same seal. A cluster of stars forming the Gemini constellation. “No Muggle envelope?” he said handing it to Harry. Harry broke the seal and unrolled the sheet.
“It’s another invoice.” He stooped down next to where Draco had pulled the drawer out. They’d been there for a while searching and Draco had just started pulling out whole drawers instead of emptying them to spread on the desk. It was faster. “Let me see the one you have.” He put them against each other. The one in Draco’s hand was noticeably older, aside from the date typed at the top. The description of the product on the invoice, however was the same.”
“Specimen.” There was that word again. He read from another sheet of parchment. “Gemini Corporation is a branch of private medical companies that specialise in pure-blood ailments... blah, blah... use of blood magic to recreate organs... blah, and the aided conception and production of children.” He looked up at Harry. “Apparently, my father funded a ‘specimen.’”
“Specimen?” Draco nodded and showed him the word on the invoice as if Harry hadn’t already seen it. “What does that even mean?”
Draco was tapping the pad of his index finger against the edge of the page. “I think it means me. He funded me.”
Harry nodded. “Hmm, but every parent funds their kids for a while, you know?” he joked.
Draco shook his head. Harry didn’t get it. “Yeah, but their parents aren’t helped to conceive.”
Harry shrugged and leaned against the edge of the desk. “Oh, you never know, a lot of pure-blood families have trouble conceiving.”
Draco’s face screwed up in disgust. “Oh – oh no, can we not talk about this. I don’t want to think of my parents doing that.” He shook it off, as if the physical movement could move the thoughts of his parents having sex from his mind. He shuddered for good measure and let out a deep breath. He focused on the three sheets in front of him.” He held up a hand. “Give me your godfather’s and Leveret’s receipts.” Harry pulled them out. It was a good thing he’d brought them. He didn’t even bother asking how Draco knew he had. It was pointless. “Okay, they both have the same address. Look, handwritten.”
Harry nodded and looked outside. He stood up straight from his lean. “They wouldn’t be open now, it’s a weekend. Come on, let’s go home. I’d rather be doing this on my couch anyway.” He picked up one of the two boxes they’d packed with documents and stood up. Draco did the same.
“You shouldn’t bring work home, Potter. It’s a bad habit. A place of rest is a place for rest.”
Harry snorted. “Uh huh. Sure. Let’s go.” He draped his robe over the box and made to leave the office.
“Wait.” Harry turned around. “There’s someone I have to see.”
How odd. “Who?”
Draco bit on his lip and Harry wilfully tore his eyes away from the movement. “I’m not sure I should tell you, but he kept me company in the years I locked myself in here.” Draco walked out into the corridor.
Harry cocked an eyebrow. “Is it a house elf?” Harry said following him out.
Draco looked at him like he was crazy. “No, it’s a portrait.” Draco took the stairs and turned left at the top. He opened the seventh door on the right and stepped inside calling out, “Severus?”
Harry’s gaze snapped away from what he’d been looking at in time to see the Potions Master step into the frame. No way. He walked over. “Professor?” he asked stepping up behind Draco. “Wow, unexpected.”
In response, the man simply cocked an eyebrow. “Interesting company you keep, Draco.” He sat on what Harry could only assume was a stool staring out at them. “Is there a reason you called, Draco? I thought you’d gone to get some help.”
Draco nodded. “I did, for three years. I’m better now, I promise.” He turned to Harry. “I want to take him with us.”
The bomb dropped on Harry and, for a very long time, his mouth simply formed words without sound. “Wha-” Harry let out a deep breath, taking in the imploring look Draco was sending him. From his frame, Severus Snape’s portrait eyed them curiously. Finally Harry huffed. “Fine. But he stays in your room,” he said, pointing a stern finger and turned to walk back outside.
Harry watched as Draco walked into the living room from the kitchen. He’d gone for a shower and to hang Snape up in his room on the wall when they got back from the Manor. From there, he’d proceeded to locate Harry’s only bottle of Firewhiskey and poured himself a glass. Harry wondered if all Seers turned to alcohol when they were sad or if it was just those with Trelawney’s special gifts. They’d talked about inconsequential things, including what was on Harry’s television. After a while, Draco started joking about needing it after realising his parents didn’t even have him the conventional way. That was when Harry knew the blond was drunk. Seers, apparently, couldn’t hold their liquor for squat.
He indulged him anyway. “Hmm. Forgive me, but I don’t want to think about your dad... doing that. I’m having a hard enough time trying not to think of Sirius.” He looked over to see Draco’s eyes were blank, the irises white and staring ahead. He wondered what the blond was seeing and waited, staring at him. He had to stop doing that. Draco Malfoy’s face wasn’t that interesting. Not.
Maybe he needed a drink too.
Draco suddenly blinked, turning to Harry. He then looked down at the polo shirt he was wearing, as if now noticing it was there. “Huh,” he said and took a sip of his scotch. His cheeks flushed pink. Harry couldn’t tell if it was because of the alcohol or because of the vision, he’d obviously had. It really must be something Seers just did, drink. Trelawney certainly loved her sherry. Hermione had told him some Seers, known as oracles in their regions, used to get high on opium while having their visions. He could certainly see a trend here.
“What. What did you see?”
Draco shook his head, brushing it off. “Nothing I haven’t seen before. Don’t worry.”
Harry cocked his head to the side, seeing Draco blush again. “Hard not to. You always look so far away.”
Draco snorted into his glass, polishing off the rest of the amber liquid. “Not that far,” he said wryly. He got up and walked carefully into the kitchen to deposit his glass in the sink.
Harry sighed. “Too far. I’m going to bed.”
Draco nodded quickly, walking back over. “Mmm, good idea.”
Harry passed him on his way to bed, brushing his shoulder. Draco gasped quietly at the contact, going cold and blindingly hot simultaneously, as time seemed to slow and the same pictures assaulted him again. Ahead in the kitchen, he could see Harry backing him up against a counter, kissing him to his tonsils and not letting him go. He turned his head to the left when, out the corner of his eyes, he could see them on the sofa in the living room, Draco thrusting against Harry rhythmically. Opposite, he could hear the front door slam and his head turned with a snap to see himself and Harry laughing and kissing with familiarity, their fingers intertwining above Harry’s head.
Turning with the slight pressure on his shoulder, the vision receded a little and time sped back up so Draco could watch Harry walking towards his bedroom down the corridor. As he passed Draco’s door, though, Draco felt the heat return when he saw them again. Draco had his face buried in the juncture of Harry’s neck and shoulder moaning, clinging to the brunet, his fingers tightening in the black t-shirt he was wearing with every thrust, until his knuckles were stark white in contrast. His legs are wrapped around the man and their bottom halves are completely bare. Harry was leaning, using their weight and the wall to his advantage, murmuring things in Draco’s ear that he couldn’t hear, but he figured were dirty because it made the man he was holding up shiver.
Draco stumbled back as the visions dimmed with the close of Harry’s bedroom door, leaving him in the living room alone. He was sweating and panting a little. He could almost feel the echoes of orgasm ricocheting up and down his spine, tearing through him like a serrated blade. He could still feel the heat around his cock as he thrust into Harry on the sofa, could feel the blunt press of Harry’s cockhead as he thrust into him while his back pressed against the cool sturdy wall of the corridor. Shivering in the middle of the room, he took deep breaths, focusing his concentration on lowering his heart beat. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen it, but the images were so vivid this time, they were corporeal. They looked like if he reached out, he could actually touch them, feel the flushed heat of skin.
“Are you okay?”
“Hmm?” he asked the vision of Harry in front of him. He’d apparently walked away from his session with Draco against the wall, put on some pyjama pants and come up to him to find out if he were okay. How odd. His visions hadn’t done that before. “What?”
Harry was watching him in concern now. “I left you like this ten minutes ago. Have you been standing here all this time?” Oh, so not a vision. But then... “Come on, let’s get you to bed.” Draco’s fingers brushed the hem of the black t shirt Harry was wearing.
“Oh.” The word came out in a breath, soft. He bit into his bottom lip, already feeling the phantom thrusts against the wall. This hadn’t happened to him before. He felt like if he moved, he’d come apart. He angled his hips away from Harry, who took it as a defiant move.
“Draco come on, I think you seriously need some-” And now Harry knew he was hard too. “Oh,” he echoed. Draco felt a peculiar mixture of anticipation and mortification. He was curious to discover how Harry would handle this situation, while completely embarrassed that he’d been caught in the middle of the living room with a hard on that could cut through steel. “Erm, yeah, well, let’s get you some sleep.” Harry voice broke on the word sleep and Draco would have laughed, but the feeling of disappointment drowned out any amusement he could have been taking from this. He walked slowly with Harry towards his bedroom.
Unlike Harry, he did believe in coincidences. He’d seen things happen, seen events set up in the same way by coincidence, and then seen his vision come to fruition at a different time. So they were wearing the exact same clothes in his vision. So what? It was bound to happen eventually. The polo Harry had lent him was absurdly comfortable and he slept in it a lot and Harry – well, the brunet only had so many clothes, Draco supposed. The combination was bound to happen. Just not tonight. “What did you see?”
“Hmm?” He looked up at Harry. The man was watching him closely, as if taking in all his features and studying him to come up with an explanation for his sudden slump. “Oh, nothing.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Nothing you haven’t seen before?” he said softly, eyes drifting to the couch, the last place he’d heard Draco say the words, remembered that pink flush on his cheeks.
“Mmm,” Draco answered.
“So far away,” Harry whispered, moving closer, so close that Draco only snapped out of what he was seeing when he felt the cool pressure of the wall behind him. His mind dutifully supplied the words ‘Not a coincidence!’ when he felt the light press of fingers drag across his chin, and up his jaw, followed by Harry’s mouth. He planted his hands against the wall when lips that were softer than they appeared pressed against his once, short, hot and slick. “Did you see that?” Harry asked in a soft breath between them.
All Draco could do was nod, smiling when he heard the Thank fuck breathed out in a sigh when Harry did it all over again, this time prying his mouth open with his tongue. The moan Harry let out when Draco responded was long and low and he pushed forward, rolling his hips against Draco’s. Draco gasped into the kiss, his hands fisting into the dark material at the base of Harry spine, holding on and pulling him in all at the same time. Harry complied, grinding into him and pushing a thigh between his legs to get extra friction.
Draco bit down on Harry’s lip at the sharp sensation of pleasure, unable to stop the groan that came out of his mouth. Harry obviously knew what he was doing, so Draco let go of the T-shirt, rumpled in his fist, and hauled himself up to seriously kiss Harry back. He sucked the man’s bottom lip into his mouth in apology for biting him so hard, but Harry didn’t seem to care, moving his hand from the back of his neck, traversing down his sides slowly to rest over the curve of his arse.
It was the slither of warmth, which started at Harry’s hands and spread into his body that made his mind register the fact that Harry was using his magic. Wandless and, apparently, wordless too, since Harry’s mouth was occupied elsewhere. Then he felt cool air around his legs, signifying his pyjama bottoms were gone. Completely. With continuous motion of his hips, he could feel Harry was the same way.
The feel of skin on skin made him feel hot all over, especially when Harry’s hand came around to work his cock, his thumb sliding over the slit. Draco keened, his hips rocking as a slick finger entered him from behind. Harry’s mouth was on his throat now, laving at the pulse point and biting down in reward when Draco brought up a leg to hook around his waist to give him more room.
Still, Harry was taking far too long. "Okay, enough, enough," he panted against Harry’s cheek. When Harry still wouldn’t let up, he nosed to the juncture of his neck and shoulder, feeling out the spot with his tongue and bit down in punishment for not listening. The brunet hissed, letting go of Draco’s cock to place his hand under his thigh and keep it up against his waist. The hand was sticky, but Draco didn’t care. “I’m ready, get on with it.”
“So romantic,” Harry huffed, kissing him silent so he wouldn’t talk anymore and held Draco pressed still against him as he pushed in slowly.
"Oh, my God," Draco whispered near Harry’s ear. It was so quiet, Harry was sure that was the only reason he heard it. It was said like a revelation and Harry’s inner lion preened at the implied compliment. Draco was tight and so hot he felt scorching. He knew immediately he wasn’t going to last very long and, as Draco’s arms tightened around his neck, he figured he’d enjoy the moment as much as possible. A simple lightening charm he’d learned first year (and he was very sure Flitwick didn’t have this in mind when he taught it to a bunch of eleven year olds) spread from his palms to where he held Draco close to him and he could feel the shift in the blond’s weight immediately. He’d been holding him tight before, but now, when he tightened his grip, wanting every part of him as close as possible, Draco actually rose with his hands. From there, it was easy to lift the back of Draco’s other leg and support their weight with the wall alone. The thrusting came on instinct, since Draco practically sank down on him with the aid of nothing but gravity. Harry groaned aloud, long and deep. He felt lightheaded being surrounded by Draco in this way. He’d dreamt of doing this once before and still couldn’t believe it was happening. Judging from what Draco had said earlier, Harry wasn’t the only one who’d ‘seen’ it, only difference was, Harry’s was a fantasy, Draco’s vision was fate.
He liked how that sounded.
Draco’s hips were shifting over Harry’s, giving tiny, aborted movements in reaction to Harry hitting his prostate on every other thrust. He’d been hard long before Harry even found him outside – hell, with the visions visiting him at night as well as the day, even while he’d been in the hospital, he’d been hard on and off for about two weeks. He couldn’t possibly last any longer. When Harry put his hand back over his cock, stroking it in hard thorough pulls, it was enough, more than enough to send him over the edge.
Harry’s hand tightened on his arse as Draco clamped down on him like a vice, burying his head in his neck and breathing him in as the tugging pull of Draco’s hips milked him dry. He locked his knees to avoid falling over, leaning heavily into Draco until he got his breath back. The charm would start to wear off soon, he’d have to stay aware if they were going to stay like this for a while. Draco didn’t seem like he wanted to move, or like he could move. Harry didn’t mind.
The blond was breathing heavily against his skin, coming down off his high. Harry let his hands run over Draco’s skin. He’d finally got a chance to feel it the way he wanted to, he wasn’t passing up the opportunity. “You saw this happening didn’t you?” he whispered, trying to keep the peace of the moment. It felt fragile, he didn’t want to break it.
Draco nodded against his neck. Harry could feel his eyelashes tickle against his skin as he blinked. “I can’t help that,” Draco said, raising his head.
Harry shook his head. He didn’t care about that. But Draco seemed worried and Harry sought to fix it, tipping his head back so their mouths met slick and slow. “Will it happen again?” was all he wanted to know. Slowly, a smile bloomed on Draco’s face. Draco nodded. “Good. Now then. Time for a shower.”
Sunday morning dawned bright and cold, just like most November days. Harry turned over and found Draco lying down fast asleep next to him. He smiled when he realised the blond was actually drooling. He stored it in his memory, knowing that if he ever brought it up, Draco would likely deny it. He sat up, feeling his stomach growling and wondered if Ron had left any of his muffins in the fridge. He hadn’t got the chance to check the last time he was over. Ron stopped putting his brownie’s in the fridge on the weekends because Harry always had them for breakfast and Hermione, once she found out, scolded Ron for it because he was encouraging the behaviour.
Ron, naturally, took out his anger on Harry, so no chocolate goodness today.
“Banana and walnut. Wicked.” He honestly didn’t know what he would do without Ron. The redhead had left once to attend a culinary arts school in Europe and he’d practically starved. He’d gone to Hermione to see if she could help and walked in on her eating a bowl of cereal and watching television in her living room at four in the afternoon. Apparently she was just as hopeless as him.
Turning around at the kettle’s whistle, he turned off the hob, busying himself with a cup of tea. He was about to go in and ask if Draco wanted one when a moan had him turning around. Draco was standing at the counter with half a muffin in front of him.
“Weasel is a culinary god. I take back everything I ever said about him.” Harry knew Draco was likely still asleep and smiled. Draco winced. “Also, I’m in need of an Anti Vesalgia. Do you have any, my head is pounding.” Draco held his head even as he chewed. It was then Harry remembered Draco was drunk last night.
“Oh. Yeah, okay.” He kept them in the fridge because someone (a woman brought in for being drunk and disorderly in a public place) had once told him in slurred speech that the feeling of the cold potion going down her throat and into her stomach actually helped to sooth the nausea, added to the sensation that she was being healed of a headache, focussed her mind on something besides pain and helped mask the taste of the vile blue potion. Harry had thought she was talking out of her arse because drunks babbled, it wasn’t the first time he’d been subjected to incessant chatter on the job. He worked with Seamus after all.
Thing is, it worked. Point one to drunken people knowing something about curing hangovers.
“How did you sleep?” he asked, tentatively sending out feelers. If Draco didn’t remember anything, he may just go into work to get out of the flat.
Draco got up to deposit the empty phial in the sink next to his liquor glass from the night before. “So much better.” He turned and buried himself into Harry’s back. “I’m tired, Harry. It’s Sunday and I’m sleepy. Why are you awake at nine in the morning? That’s not normal.” Harry turned, the light hearted feeling in his chest bubbling up in happy laughter. One kiss to Draco’s mouth turned to two, turned to five and suddenly he was cornering Draco against the island in the centre of his kitchen.
He stopped. “How many times have you seen this?”
Draco didn’t know why he stopped. It was so rude, the bloody tease. “Enough to drive me mad.” He pulled him back into another kiss, moaning when the brunet’s hands travelled down into the pyjama pants he’d slipped on before coming outside.
“Will it be as good as last night?” Draco nodded. As far as he was concerned, it already was.
“Oh, that’s nice to know,” he said backing up through the living room and to the end of the corridor into his room. He collapsed back on his bed drawing Draco toward him. He’d just got his pants off when a knock sounded on his bedroom door and Ron walked in. “Wake up Harry, I got your- Fucking Merlin, your arse!” There was a silence where everyone stood frozen and Ron stood with his hands in the air, looking up and away. “Oh my... okay I’ll be, outside.” His fingers pointed outside and he shut his eyes tight, slamming the door behind him.
Harry scrambled up to go after him. He paused at the door, turned around and climbed back on the bed to give Draco a, much needed, reassuring kiss and left again with a hurried, “Be right back.”
He found Ron banging around in his kitchen, likely trying to dispel the images he’d just had seared into his brain. Harry may like Draco’s arse quite a bit, Ron probably wasn’t so happy about it. “Hi,” he said lamely and stood with ruffled hair and dishevelled clothes. He looked exactly how he was supposed to look for someone caught doing what he’d been doing. “What’s up?” he added, because he was obviously twelve.
Ron stared at him and took a sip of the tea Harry had made for himself. “I could answer that crudely, but then I’d have a very upset wife that would look upon me with great disappointment.” He looked around. “Where is your flour?” he said.
Harry frowned at the non sequitur. “But really, how are you?”
Ron giggled. Harry figured he was in shock. Ron wasn’t a stranger to walking into his room. He’d done it since Harry moved in. Having a large family afforded no one privacy and Harry was practically his adopted brother if he couldn’t be his brother in law. And since the last time he’d been there Draco had his own room, Harry couldn’t really blame him for doing something he always did. “If there was ever a thing I never wanted to see. Draco Malfoy’s arse would have been it.” He gripped the bridge of his nose, his face red with the effort of erasing the memory completely. “Too late now, can’t unsee it. Like those weird porn sites with donkeys. You don’t look for it, but wham, there it is, and you can’t unsee it.” Ron was staring at him blankly and Harry was letting him ramble, knowing Ron would realise he wasn’t talking sense. “I’m gonna go to work now,” he suddenly said.
“It’s Sunday,’ Harry said, smiling because he and Ron obviously had the same thought patterns. Get traumatised? Run to work, occupy the mind.
Ron nodded once, not missing a beat. “Maybe home, then. Yeah home. I know where everything is there.”
Harry bit his lip nervously. “Are we... okay?”
Ron looked up at him as he searched for his keys. “Huh? Oh! Yeah... I just, need some... therapy. I’ll be back, with baked goods. Give me a couple of hours.”
Harry watched him go guiltily, but couldn’t really feel it too badly, because ‘working-through-a-problem-with-baking’ Ron made excellent scones. He turned back to his bedroom with a grin.
Monday morning came like every other November day so far. They were stood outside in Muggle London looking at the map to make sure they were in the right place. They could feel the buzz of the wards as Muggles walked past them, oblivious to the tall building directly in front of them. The area had been a vacant lot that had built itself into a sleek office building from the ground up once they read from the handwritten letterhead out loud.
“I don’t think that I will ever get used to seeing something like this.”
“Like what?” Draco asked as he walked toward the entrance.
“People, who I used to be just like, completely ignorant of what goes on in the world.” He fell into step with the blond, matching his stride easily. “I can’t imagine ever living my life unknowing of a large scale war going on that could have completely changed my world.” He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the thoughts in his mind as well. “Anyway, this place,” he said getting their focus back. “We’re trying to find out about your parents, I know, but the fact that this company may or may not have sold sperm samples to the Ministry is a priority. We want to know why they sold them and who they sold them to. Why have you stopped walking?” he said then, turning around to see Draco had stopped a few paces behind him to stare at the automatic front doors.
“I know that, Potter.” Harry winced. He’d made the man angry. “But I may have been born here. Or conceived, whichever. I might not even have been born of my own mother.”
Harry suddenly realised this must have been what had been bothering Draco all morning and some of last night before they... well. They hadn’t done much preparation for today, preoccupied with small touches that led to much larger ones in bed. He walked up to the man. “You don’t know that. Zacharias’ mother-”
“Was in terrible pain and only mentions seeing my mother on the ward,” he interrupted. If the Ministry can employ Obliviators to extract a vague memory from a Seer, then I think it’s plausible this company can get one to plant something as simple as that.”
Harry smiled softly and looked over his shoulder as he moved his mouth closer. “You’re over thinking this. How about we find out for sure?” He pulled away to look Draco in the eye. “Yeah? Five galleons say you were born in a hospital.”
Draco narrowed his eyes. “I’m having an identity crisis, and you’re making bets?” Harry didn’t say anything, simply continued staring at him and waited for an answer. “Your terms are vague. They have a clinic on site, they could have a fully functional maternity ward too.”
“Fine, St Mungo’s Hospital.”
Draco glared. “I don’t need five galleons.”
Harry let out a laugh, seeing and hearing that Draco was calming down from his near panic attack. “Neither do I,” he said and turned away to continue walking. “Come on.”
When Draco caught up to him in the lobby, he cast a sideways glance at the brunet. “Thank you.”
Harry smiled and walked up to the receptionist, who looked up at him and smiled. “You’re welcome,” he said quietly before bidding the young woman a good morning. “We’d like to talk to a specialist.”
She seemed momentarily confused and then visibly paused when she saw Draco sidle up next to him. Taking note of it, Draco held out a hand. “Good morning. I’m a past client, I’d just like to know the status of one of my accounts here,” he said as if he knew exactly what he was talking about.
The young woman continued staring, as if she wasn’t sure she was seeing correctly. Finally getting a hold of herself, she plastered on her business smile and dialled a number on her internal phone. She spoke with a person named Mrs Victor and politely informed her she would definitely need to see the people in front of her, making Harry feel that the receptionist had been told to get rid of them. He shared a glance with Draco. If Rita had got this far, she’d probably have received the same treatment. If push came to shove, though, Harry would pull out his Auror badge. They couldn’t push him out on a whim without causing suspicion, but they seemed to be helpful so far, so he left the law out of it for now.
They were directed to the twelfth floor to meet with Mrs Victor, the Lead Administration Officer of the company. Any past records would go through her before going into archiving. When they stepped out of the lift, they looked around at the corridor they were walking down. The carpet was a muted grey pastel colour and the walls a cream punctuated with posters or reproduction and paintings of fields and children playing. They didn’t have to go far, as Mrs Victor stepped out of her office like she knew they were there. She put her hand out to introduce herself waiting for them to state their purpose for being there. Once again, Harry realised she’d paused when she got close to Draco, but she hid it better than the receptionist downstairs and most of the others they’d bypassed on their way upstairs. Harry wondered if Draco got that everywhere and if that was why he tended to stay inside unless he was accompanying Harry to work.
He sat down in one of the visitors chairs Mrs Victor directed them to and got comfortable as Draco took the lead in answering the questions. They’d discussed this, at least. If Draco trailed off at any point, Harry would try to direct her attention with another question. “What exactly is it that you do here?”
Mrs Victor’s eyebrows knitted together in confusion. “I’m sorry? I was told on the phone that you were a past client.” She eyed the two men before her suspiciously.
“I am, well, my parents were.” Draco took out the receipt and the Invoice and handed them to her. “Twenty-four years ago, my father donated a sperm sample and then subsequently funded a specimen.” He waited. Harry stared. This was not what Draco was supposed to be asking. He internalised his sigh and reined in his glare.
Victor read through both documents and then stared at Draco over the rim of her glasses. Her expression seemed to understand what he was asking, even if he didn’t say it aloud, even if he couldn’t. “This branch of Gemini Corporation is a family planning company, we specialise in bringing children into the world by any means possible through the blend of Muggle genetics and magic and we’ve been doing it since 1975.” She handed back the invoice and receipt to Draco. “From what I can remember, the Malfoy family had an account with us twenty or so years ago, but unexpected events arose and so it was cut from the program.”
Harry leaned forward, unable to help himself. He’d apologise to Draco later. “That – what does that mean? Was he born here?” He’d been so certain Draco was born in St Mungo’s, even Zacharias thought so.
Victor turned her stare from Harry to Draco. The question was in the blond’s eyes too. “You?” she said frowning. She swivelled her chair to face her computer and began typing. “Mr and Mrs Malfoy commissioned a Germination with us when they could not have a child,” she said once some information came up on the screen. It says here we took samples of each of them and their magic and, once the order was conceived, it was held in stasis. Mr and Mrs Malfoy never returned for their order.” She looked up. “It must be because they had finally succeeded,” she said staring at Draco now.
Malfoy was looking a little pale. That meant. No. A germination. A child. That was not him. “What happened to the child?” he said, his voice breaking.
She read through some more information on her computer screen. Her eyes shifted to them and then back. “I’m afraid I don’t know what happened.” Seeing his disheartened look, she sighed. “I can tell you that unless your parents funded the child to be born, it would have been destroyed. The babies are euthanized if they are not brought to term. If they are, they are adopted. They are property, if we cannot afford them, we cannot keep them. Surrogates are expensive, we cannot have them in use if they are not needed. However, law states we cannot kill those who are already born. Pure-bloods are rare as it is in today’s society.”
Draco looked incredibly pale now, Harry was getting worried he would pass out any second. No bloody wonder this company was by member only. The ethical issues alone... Draco was opening and shutting his mouth as if he knew what he wanted to say, but couldn’t voice it. He looked like he’d just lost a child of his own. Having been witness to Hermione having a miscarriage, he knew what question was likely on Malfoy’s tongue. “Was it a boy or a girl?” Harry asked softly.
The woman finally looked sympathetic. She consulted her screen one more time. The clinical tone to her voice softened. “A boy.”
Malfoy inhaled shakily. When Harry looked over, the blond was swallowing convulsively.
“Do you have a bathroom we could use?” Harry asked.
Sensing the reason for his inquiry immediately, she said, “Of course,” and led them to a male bathroom down the hall, instructing them to come back when they felt ready. Harry nodded to her as he entered behind Malfoy, already hearing the sound of him retching in one of the stalls. Harry waited. Running the tap and conjuring a glass, he filled it with water. As Draco walked out, his face red with exertion, Harry handed it to him and stepped aside as he rinsed out his mouth and splashed cold water on his face from the still running tap. Draco was leaning on his hands now, braced against the bathroom counter.
“My family had a child here.” He looked up into the mirror and then at Harry. His eyes weren’t pale, but then he obviously wasn’t looking into the future with that vacant look. “They didn’t know if they could have a child. They created him and then Mother became pregnant with me.” Harry listened. He wasn’t sure where this was going. Malfoy’s voice sounded far away, monotone. He was accustomed to it by now. “They should have ended the contract with the company, but pure-blood pregnancies are fickle and they couldn’t have been sure if I would go to term.” As his eyes cleared, Malfoy blinked and shook his head. “I need to sit down.”
Harry walked with him outside and located a row of three chairs in the corridor. He sat silent, waiting for Malfoy to absorb all the information they’d just heard. He could hardly believe it himself. He sat back and eyed the emblem of the Gemini constellation on the wall next to the Mission and Vision Statement. He thought of all Mrs Victor had said and frowned.
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
“What doesn’t?” Malfoy said, his voice small. Harry turned to him and wondered if he should voice his theory. Malfoy raised his head to him. His face was flushed, but he seemed alert. “What doesn’t, Potter?”
Harry took a deep breath. “She said that ‘unexpected events’ occurred that had your parents cutting their account with the program – which was obviously them having you – and your parents didn’t continue financing their child-” He felt awkward saying ‘order’ as if Malfoy’s brother was some sort of take away at a restaurant. “-and he would have been terminated.” Malfoy looked sick again, so he decided not to continue along that vein.
“So?” Draco asked in a low voice, swallowing and looking away.
Harry turned a little in his seat. “So, why did your father have bills of notice and invoices in his drawers dating up to when he died? There were unopened scrolls there too, but most of what we looked through was recent. Like, last month recent. Those could be additional notices that the elves put there because they couldn’t be opened by him or by you, since their master couldn’t open them. Your father was paying for a service here, Malfoy, and it wasn’t cheap.” He stared meaningfully. “Funding a person’s existence isn’t cheap.”
Draco’s eyes took on that knowing look, laced with an element of hope that Harry prayed he hadn’t put there for nothing. “The service wasn’t stopped.” He turned to Harry. “He’s still alive.”
“What exactly happened after I was born?” Draco asked once he resettled himself in the visitor’s chair. Mrs Victor had welcomed them back in and courteously asked Draco if he was feeling better. Draco was grateful for it, but he wished she would get to the point.
It didn’t look like she wanted to answer. “After you were born, the stipend account set aside for management of the child paid for his upkeep.”
Harry sat forward. “You said you didn’t know what happened to him.” He didn’t mean to sound accusatory, but he couldn’t help it if he did.
Mrs Victor shifted in her seat. Draco moved forward to the edge of his chair. “Please, I just want to know what happened to him.”
Something in his eyes must have swayed her because she sighed, saying quietly, “I should not be telling you this.” She paused, gathering her thoughts and sighed again. “The child was brought to term. Your father, during your birth, sent out an owl for us to continue with the birth because there were complications at St Mungo’s and the Mediwizards didn’t think you would make it. Castor was born that night and his weekly stipend has been funding him since 1980.” It looked like it was physically painful to tell them any information at all, but Draco’s grateful expression eased the frown on her face a little.
“Why have a stipend at all?” Harry asked.
“Throughout our time as practitioners of this science, Mr Potter, we have learned that despite having magic, pure-bloods, especially, have a Code of Behaviour and babies coming out of nowhere, after years of difficulty, are still hard to explain. The usual excuse we hear in the papers is that the mother had gone away on holiday for a while and come back after her pregnancy with a child. The six weeks grace period is simply to allow them some time to come up with a plausible story to tell everyone else. The child is placed into stasis so it doesn’t grow and remains birth age until the parents collect it. Things are easier if clients don’t use a surrogate like your parents did, because the child is in the mother, but it can’t be helped. Castor was going to be transferred to your mother, but you had already taken up residence. It was too dangerous to transfer him then.” She gave a small smile. “You were definitely a fighter.”
Draco, however only heard one thing. “Castor? That’s his name?”
Victor nodded. “Yes. Not many who have children of their own continue payment. Neither do they name their specimen.” She shook her head, as if his entire family were so strange.
Draco didn’t know where to begin with his questions. “Well, what happened to him? He wasn’t euthanized, right? You said if they are brought to term they are adopted? Was he?”
She shook her head. “He wasn’t euthanized, no. His case is a rather large exception to the rule. His stipend was never retracted. Your family is actually still paying for him with a standing order account. So there was no need. We were obligated to keep him until his stipend ceased.” She paused. “Do you wish to discontinue payment?”
Air couldn’t get into his lungs fast enough. Merciful Merlin, this is actually happening. “Can I – can I have him, if I do?”
She nodded. “You can. He is your property. Has been since he was conceived.”
Draco truly hated that word. “You said my father gave the go ahead when my mother was in labour. So, he’s older than me?”
“He is. By two or three hours. Your mother, as I said, while in labour was having difficulties. Their account was in holding, we believe for insurance. You were conceived, we believe, the same day he was. Perhaps a celebration. However he was carried to term and the surrogate went into labour the same time as your mother. It was odd. When it did not look as if you would make it, Lucius contacted us and told us to proceed. Against all odds, Lucius Malfoy ended up with two children that night.”
“How do you know this?”
“I age well, Mr Potter. Thank you for the compliment.”
Harry sat back. “Do they look at all alike?”
Mrs Victor smiled a smile of a woman with a secret. She stared at Draco. “Forgive me, but have you noticed all the staring my colleagues have been doing?”
Draco nodded along with Harry. Draco had noticed, but he was used to that kind of attention by now, for different reasons. “I have.”
She shook her head, sitting back and crossing her arms over her chest. “Then I think you have your answer. We have never had, nor do I believe will we ever have another case like you and Castor. We see your image in the newspapers and can scarcely believe the similarities. We once caught Castor reading an article on you, when you’d been written as a wanted Death Eater. He spent the rest of the day staring at himself in the mirror.
Harry and Draco shared a knowing look. Draco looked a tad desperate at the information. “Does he have one in his room? Wherever he lives.” he finally asked. “Where does he live?” he asked immediately afterwards.
Mrs Victor seemed confused by the barrage of questions, but answered it anyway. “A mirror? Yes. We have our own housing for our surrogates. All the amenities. We treat them well for providing an outstanding service. Castor lived with them in the dorms until he turned eighteen. He lives on the top floor now and renovated a group of rooms into one big one. He paid for it with his stipend.”
Draco swallowed hard. He could feel his eyes misting as he approached his next question. “Pardon me, but what colour are the rooms there?”
Victor cocked an eyebrow, wondering where this line of questioning was going. “Well, white is the main colour. The dorm rooms are all painted that way. Castor’s home on the top floor is miles different to the dorm he lived in before, though. We offered to change it, but he said he didn’t mind. He’s not like the women there, you see, and likes to feel the same in as many ways as he can.” She grinned. “Then he turned eighteen and wanted independence.” She stood. “If you are going to take him, provisions will have to be made, paperwork filed. If you can give us a day or two, we can contact you when we are ready.”
Draco stood, but didn’t move otherwise. He wasn’t entirely sure he could. He wanted his brother. Brother. Fuck.
“Thank you very much, Mrs Victor.” Harry shook her hand and, seeing Draco standing still, ushered him out with a hand to the small of his back. “You’ve been very helpful. If we have any more questions?”
She handed him a card from a holder on her desk. “You can call me directly.”
Harry took the card, knowing he would make full use of it. They hadn’t got to ask any questions about the case, or about Rita Skeeter. Looking at Draco now, he filed it away for another time. He didn’t think the blond could handle any more surprises. He knew how private companies could put themselves on lockdown when they felt threatened. He’d come back on his own at another time, after Draco got his brother.
Bloody hell, he thought to himself. There’s another Malfoy out there.
“Oh, my God,” Draco was saying next to him in the lift on their way down. “I saw him. I’ve been seeing him, it was always him, not me.” Harry felt a tight grip on his sleeve when the lift opened on the ground floor and led Draco out, ignoring the stares. “I’m going to meet him. I have a... brother? Is he my brother?” Harry turned an amused eye on Draco as he walked beside him. Harry wondered if the man even knew they were outside. “He must be, right? We have the same parents and we were born the same day.” Draco suddenly stopped in the middle of the pavement, stopping Harry too. People walked around them, not even paying them any attention. Harry took a moment to relish that. “Oh, Merlin, I have a twin brother!”
Harry laughed. “Draco, calm down. Draco... Malfoy! Calm down,” he stressed, when Draco didn’t seem to be listening. The blond was working himself up into a panic.
He suddenly stopped and looked up at Harry. “What do I say?”
Harry was taken aback by the question. He was silent for a moment. What could anyone say to someone who was made, essentially, as a back-up plan in case you didn’t live? He took hold of Draco and pulled him close, apparating back to his flat. “Shit, I have no idea,” he said once they landed by his front door. “This is all a little surreal for me. I thought I was helping one of you. I don’t think I’m equipped for two.” He pulled Draco close, linking their fingers together and kissed him sweetly, moaning when Draco deepened it, pushing him into the door.
Draco broke it off momentarily. “If you’re thinking of a threesome, I’m moving back to the Manor.”
Harry gasped. “I wasn’t thinking of that!” He paused and looked away for a moment, his eyes going distant. “I am now, though,” he said laughing when Draco started hitting him.
Draco couldn’t keep still and all his fidgeting was driving Harry stir crazy. He put his hand over the man’s knee as it jumped up and down with nerves. The morning had consisted of Draco going through piles of clothes to make the ‘right impression’, he even called for his house-elves to bring more from his closets at the Manor so he’d have a better choice to work from. All the while, Snape smirked from his portrait in the bedroom as if congratulating Harry on his taste in men, since he never could do things by halves. Harry had glared at the man, wondering if Draco would mind if he set the bastard on fire.
“Mr Malfoy. He’s waiting for you in his room.” The voice jarred him out of his thoughts, while Draco practically jumped out of his seat. Harry had sat in the kitchen that morning after Draco got dressed and offered twice to come with him if Draco wanted him for moral support, since Draco had said no on the night before. The blond had left that morning, stating he needed to do it on his own, only to Apparate back three minutes later stating he couldn’t do it at all, listing ridiculous reasons like ‘He’s going to hate me,’ as he slammed his bedroom door. “Do you want me to come with you?” he’d asked again, after knocking softly, and got a sullen “No,” through the door.
“Can he come?” Draco asked the man who’d come to get them, gesturing to Harry. Harry rolled his eyes in exasperation. He couldn’t help it, he grinned.
“If you wish.” He held the door of the waiting room open.
Draco turned to him and Harry switched off his grin like a light bulb. “Will you come with me? I have no idea what to do here.”
Harry’s eyebrows rose, even as he got up. “You think I do?”
Even though Harry was following him out into the corridor, Draco’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t make me beg, Potter.”
Harry rolled his eyes. Perish the thought. They were led to a lift and taken up to the top floor. There was a door already opened on the floor and the young man who’d brought them up pointed to it and left them alone, stepping back into the lift. As they walked up to the door and peered inside, Harry was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to feel his hand in a couple of minutes, Draco was gripping it so tightly. There was a blond man standing by a fireplace, playing with a few small figurines on the mantle above it. Draco knew instantly who it was. How many other blond men could he have been sent to. His breath caught in his throat and he looked across at Harry and at the faint smile on his face. Harry nodded to him and pried off his hand with a wince. He nodded then and nudged him in the direction of the fireplace.
Draco slowly began to walk into the room. The other young man was mumbling something under his breath, but Draco couldn’t hear what he was saying. Each step made the lump larger in his throat. This was his brother, he’d never even seen him before, well… he had, but not in person, so it didn’t count. The few remaining steps felt like a desert to cross. In the infinite space of time, Draco wondered if Castor ever thought of him, or their family. He’d known about Draco since the war, at least. Was he disgusted with him? Did he hate him? Draco had always felt guilty about the person he had become. He’d seen the replay in his mind every night in technicoloured detail and had watched his young, imperious self progress into a petrified mess of a boy who’d bitten of far more than he could chew in the span of a few years. With his father in prison, he’d had to fight it alone. In all this time, Draco wasn’t sure if he could forgive himself for the things he was indirectly to blame for. How could he ask his brother to do the same?
He stopped to the side of a couch that faced the fireplace and turned to Harry, he had been walking at an even slower pace behind him, making sure Draco knew Harry was behind him. Draco knew he needed to do this on his own and he was grateful for Harry being there to push him toward it. Draco was quite sure that if he wasn't, Draco would be running in the other direction. Fear and anticipation crammed him as Harry looked at him and mentally pushed Draco forward with his eyes. He was right, Draco had to do this. In the silence it took for him to work himself up to simply call the man’s name, he realised he was finally close enough to hear what he was saying.
“No, no, that’s stupid Cas. Who says ‘I missed you’ to someone they’ve never met? Just say, ‘Hello I’m Castor’, or something... No. He knows your name, idiot. Oh god, he’s going to think you’re absolutely stupid.”
Draco nearly cried with relief, glad he wasn’t the only one shitting himself. He took a soft, deep breath in.
"Castor?" he called softly.
The young man spun around and looked at him... oh, they were very nearly identical. Mrs Victor was right. Really very right. Behind them, Harry nearly choked on his own surprise. He was expecting an uncanny resemblance, but this was ridiculous.
"Oh, hello." The young man winced at his choice of words and tried again. But before he did, Draco figured he’d show they were brothers in arms.
“I’m Draco,” he said. “But I guess... you knew that.” He wasn’t a Slytherin for nothing. He could instantly see the relieved smile on his brother’s face. His brother. He didn’t think he would ever get over the feeling he had when he remember he had a brother.
“Yes, of course, Castor. Which you knew too, I suppose.” Draco nodded silently and he blinked back the pricking behind his eyeballs. He did not need to do this right now. Or ever, for that matter. Castor’s arms went to his side and Draco gave a small smile at his gesture. He was waiting for Draco to make the first move, to accept or reject him. He’d learned that technique from his father. It was effective when apologising to his mother. Not for the first time, Draco wondered if Lucius ever came back to visit his other son. But Draco wasn’t sure what to do, shouldn't it be him that was supposed to be doing this? He was the one with things to atone for. He felt anxious and stupid for his feelings all at the same time. He’d spent the last two days chatting Harry’s ear off about his want and his fear to see his brother in equal parts. He knew he just didn't want to be rejected by him, he couldn't take it. He’d already lost his father and mother, losing his brother too when he was close to having him just wasn't an option. But if he didn't do this now, he would never know.
Taking a chance, he took the last three steps and threw his arms around the man who really could stand in as his identical twin. He felt the rush of air expel from Castor’s lungs onto his neck. He was touching him. He was touching his brother. Merlin, he could cry, he was so happy. Castor regained his balance quickly, having almost fallen at the force of the hug. He hesitated. He didn’t really do this. Hugging was not something that came about often for him, but when the man in his arms tightened his hold, he sighed, returning the embrace. He figured it wasn’t so bad, having someone hug him.
He chuckled. "I always wanted a little brother. A real one, anyway.” The others who didn’t get homes and ended up in the dorms like he had, he considered family, but it wasn’t the same. This one was his in blood. That couldn’t be taken away. He’d done his research on Draco Malfoy. Death Eater, exonerated, mental hospital. He supposed someone had to be the kooky one in the gene pool.
Draco remembered being told about his duties as the next head of the household. Needing to have a wife and children to carry on the family name. All the rules, all the pressure, the pomp. It was tiring. “What a coincidence,” he said softly in a rush of air. “I always wanted an older one.” He sniffed into his shoulder. Damn it.. He turned his head in toward his neck sniffing him. Mint and leather. Huh. “I missed you, growing up.”
Castor took in a deep breath and let it out in a relieved laugh. He’d heard him mumbling. "I missed you, too," he said closing his eyes.
“My... our father named me three months after I was born.” Draco nodded along, hanging on Castor’s every word and Harry smiled into his food at how adorable it was. Draco had a big brother to look up to. If only he’d been there before too.
“I saw you once before.”
Draco paused. “When?” he asked trying to figure out where he could have been.
Castor cut into his chicken. “When I was sent to kill you.” He paused in chewing when Draco dropped his fork. “You didn’t... know that, did you?” Draco shook his head slowly, his face frozen with his eyes wide. Harry’s was much the same way. “Okay,” he hastened to say, “You told me you knew everything about the company. How much exactly do you know?” he asked putting down his knife and fork.
Harry scoffed. “Obviously not enough. We knew people were being killed, we didn’t know the company had its own killer.” He didn’t mean for it to come out harsh like that and didn’t appreciate the glare Draco turned on him.
Castor didn’t seem fazed in the slightest though. “Killers,” he corrected instead. “There’s a group of us selected for training in every batch of unclaimed children.” He took a sip of his wine. “I had my own funding, but I wasn’t an exception to the rule. Don’t get me wrong, I’m good at what I do, I just... don’t want to do it anymore.”
Draco’s voice was small. He remembered telling Harry, once that he was curious to why everyone had been killed but him. “You were sent to kill me?”
Castor rested a hand on his. “Yes, but I didn’t do it, though,” he rushed to reassure.
“Oh, yeah – okay,” Draco said weakly.
“You’re actually part of the reason I want out. You started the process. The Mindhealer they assigned you at the Hospital, he told an Auror about you, who blabbed to a few people years ago. You didn’t actually know anything though, you just saw a constellation in a vision so I organised for an Obliviator to come and block the memory of it.” He smiled. “That’s where I saw you, in your white outfit smirking at an Auror who should really know better.
Draco smiled. “But he didn’t block the constellation, he blocked a memory of mine from when I found the invoice for you when I was eleven.”
Harry wondered if mentioning the procedure would affect the man. Apparently not. “Really?” Castor said working a piece of chicken out of his teeth with his tongue. “Huh. I told him to block the term Gemini.” He shrugged. “Maybe he though I meant the company and not the whole concept of the constellation.”
Draco shrugged. “My name is a constellation. Maybe if he blocked the concept of the constellation I wouldn’t be able to say my own name,” Draco said laughing.
“Mine is too,” Castor said smiling at Draco’s joke. “The elder son in Gemini. Fitting,” he said bumping Draco’s shoulder with his own.
“You said I was a part of why you want to quit. What’s the other part?”
Now Castor seemed affected, and Harry took note of it. “Lydia.” There was pain in his voice when he spoke the name. “She was two years younger than me, chosen for the same field as me, too. She was like me, a back-up plan.” He covered Draco’s hand with his own when the blond looked away and winked when he turned back to show he was okay. “She fell trying to take out a mark.”
“You loved her.” It wasn’t a question and they all knew it.
Castor nodded. “I did.” He looked down at his hand, still covering his brother’s. “They killed her. She didn’t fall.”
He nodded again. “She missed a previous mark and someone else had to pick up the slack. She missed it because the mark was a small boy, who was the rightful heir to some family fortune and the stepmother wanted him gone.”
Harry’s spine tensed, recognising the Disney storyline for what it was. “Do you know the name of the family?” he asked, trying to keep the incredulity from his voice. It was unreal, but there was a reason Harry didn’t believe in coincidences.
Castor cocked his head to the side in thought. “DeVille?” he said unsure and then shook his head. “No, that wasn’t it, It was like that, though.” Harry, honestly, couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He shut his eyes, shaking his head minutely. Castor, already disregarding him shook his own, too. “I don’t know, the fact she couldn’t kill a small boy is worth praise, if you ask me. But they didn’t and now she’s gone.” He looked up from their joined hands. “I didn’t need to stay here because I got funding from you. I didn’t need to stay, but I did, because of her. And now she’s gone.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, me too.” He put down his knife and fork. “So I’m coming with you. I have everything you need to shut this place down.”
Harry straightened at the sudden change in tone. “What do you mean?”
Later in the day, after Castor moved into Draco’s old room and Draco into Harry’s, he sat down on Harry’s couch talking to Harry, Draco, Hermione and Seamus. Ron had come over with Hermione, but after hearing that Draco had a twin brother who was a trained assassin, he had stated he didn’t trust himself not to piss someone off and retired to the kitchen to find something to keep himself busy. “Skeeter was supposed to be mine, but I’d been monitoring her since the letter she sent and refused the job. I can afford to, because of you,” he said sending a fond smile to Draco, as if Draco had anything to do with it. “She was going public with everything. I had every reason to want her alive, but they just sent someone else. I began compiling stuff then. I have copies and originals of documents from filing clerks who owe me favours. From what I understand, you’ve been following Rita’s articles, yeah? But even she couldn’t figure it out. It was the last piece of the puzzle that held her back from publishing. The solid link to the Ministry during both of your wars.
“Pollux Incorporated started as a simple private family planning clinic. It expanded after a group of wizards decided they were going to try out wanking for profit because, you know, Muggles are weird, but have the greatest ideas sometimes. The thing is, there is a reason why Muggles aren’t allowed to know of magic’s existence and why that knowledge is controlled by the government. It’s because things like Pollux Incorporated and The Gemini Corporation happen.”
Harry shut his eyes. “Oh, my god. Of course, how did I not see that?” He gripped the bridge of his nose with his fingers.
“What?” Draco asked, confused.
Hermione explained it to him. “Muggles have the latest technology. In sperm banks, even if donors are healthy and fit all the standards, the ‘product’ is still checked.” She turned to Castor. “I’m guessing sperm from a wizard looks different under a microscope.”
Castor grinned. “You have no idea.” He sighed sitting back. “They extracted the DNA and injected it into human trials, but nothing happened. Then they realised it only worked if it was infused in DNA, not added to it.”
Seamus shook his head scrubbing his hands down his face tiredly. “So any children that aren’t collected are raised in the dorms? And all of them are magical, pure-bloods, half-bloods, and Muggle-borns?” Castor nodded.
“I’m now the only exception. I never had training with my magic, so I don’t know how to use it like you do, but I do have it. Thing is, if you train a wizard from birth to use something Muggle, he’ll master it, because his magic augments its practical use.”
Hermione clicked on what he was saying. “So teach a bunch of wizards how to hone a gun and-”
“And you get a fleet of super soldiers at your finger tips,” Harry said in amazement. Castor nodded in agreement.
“Before the first war, Wizards coming in to ‘deposit’ sperm samples for money was a coincidence. It was only discovered in the lab. A reporter for the Daily Telegraph found out about Pollux Incorporated and what Staples was doing, she had a source in the company and refrained from leaking the name of the company in her articles, but let out enough details that most of the stakeholders pulled out and rendered the company bankrupt. The CEO Nigel Staples had her taken care of.”
Harry thought back to his first visit to Rita Skeeter’s house with Draco. The article on page five of the Daily Telegraph, the headline screaming TO BREED A KILLER. Some weeks later, she’d died in a car accident by a car going up a one way street. All the cars on the road and hers was the one to get destroyed. He shook his head. He tuned in to what Castor was saying.
“In the first war, Staples forced a meeting with the Minister of Magic. I think his name was Fudge at the time? Anyway, he put an offer on the table and Fudge took it, funding the creation of the first all Wizarding clinic, using magic to conceal the company’s existence. I don’t think Fudge knew about Pollux Incorporated beforehand, or any of the rumours of what had bankrupted the first phase of Staples’ company. But this phase, Gemini was new, one that, instead of catering to Muggles and the occasional Wizard, used a combination of Wizard and Muggle technology to create magical life for Wizards everywhere. Fudge did it to get points during elections. To be seen as trying to expand on his community. The CEO did it because galleons are universal currency to Wizards, made from gold and worth five times as much as pound sterling.” He laughed. “By the second war, the reasons changed. Fudge was sacked in 1996 and Scrimgeour took over, Before Scrimgeour was killed, he found out that the partnership between Fudge and Gemini ran deeper than creating a way for couples to have children. All the left over children that couples didn’t claim after financing to term; it was a shame to waste them. Staples saw the military aspect immediately. He trained us from age five upwards and Scrimgeour took advantage of it to abuse his authority, just like Fudge did.”
“How?” Draco asked him reverently.
“Well, you have a family of suspected Death Eaters that get off on a technicality? You can’t prove they’re evil? Hire your own assassin and Gemini will take care of it for you,” He said, his tone mimicking that of an advertisement on the television. “When Rita started getting suspicious about the Ministry’s hand in the situation, Scrimgeour started covering his tracks, and all the people who knew about Gemini and the things going on under the table suddenly started disappearing or became traitors and sentenced to the kiss with record breaking trials. With the sheer number of people being given the Kiss at the time, the wardens at Azkaban didn’t stop administering even if there were some minor slip ups, like some prisoners not having a number,” he said meaningfully.
Hermione gasped, like a light bulb had suddenly gone on above her head. She shook her head in denial. “No. No tell me they weren’t executing innocent people? Tell me I didn’t have a hand in something like that.” Tears were springing in her eyes as she realised she’d left behind something so terrible that she could have fixed simply because she’d been frustrated with her job. She covered her mouth, feeling like she was about to be sick.
“And now?” Draco said.
“Now?” Castor asked him curiously.
“People are still disappearing and having unfortunate accidents or-”
“-Or suddenly deciding life isn’t worth living and jumping out of windows,” Harry added.
Castor nodded, suddenly understanding. “That has to do with Kingsley Shacklebolt.” Harry felt his heart sink into the acid of his stomach. “For once, it seems like you’ve finally found yourselves a Minister on the up and up. However, it means Gemini has to do its own clean up. Staples has been dispatching people for months to tie up loose ends.”
Harry’s jaw dropped open. Just as his heart righted itself in his chest at hearing he hadn’t put his faith in the wrong man, he learned that. “You’ve got to be joking. How did you find out about this?” He blushed. “I mean, besides being one, this would have happened when you were our age. Surely they didn’t send you out then?”
Draco listened to the talk about hacking into computers and software and mainframes and… he got a headache just listening to all the terms. He got up and walked into the kitchen, looking for something to drink. He didn’t offer to get anyone anything. He didn’t think they’d hear him anyway. He stood at the island and poured himself some juice into a glass. Weasley was in the kitchen whisking something that looked like cake batter in a metal bowl. He ignored him, staring into the living room. Well, don’t they all look cosy, he thought to himself and huffed.
He looked up at the red head. Ron wasn’t staring at him, but Draco knew it was him who’d spoken. It couldn’t have been anyone else. “What?” he said sullenly, glaring at him. They’d been civil the last couple of times Ron had come over, bar the incident of him walking in on them.
Ron feeling his hackles rise, tempered them enough to understand Draco was lashing out. He too was okay with the peace. He’d blatantly blocked the vision of that same night out of his mind, though there were parts of Draco Malfoy that he could never unsee. Maybe he could call up Seamus and he could hook him up with a private Obliviation session with Smith. “Nothing,” he said in a way that let Draco know it wasn’t nothing not at all. “It’s just… now I know what I looked like to everyone else who looked at me, Harry and Hermione in school.” Done with whisking, he took out a smaller bowl and measured out some brown sugar.
Draco’s brows knit together in confusion. “What? What are you talking about Weasley?” he said, taking another sip of juice and looking away.
Ron shook in some cinnamon. He pointed to Harry. “Harry.” He pointed to Castor and Hermione. “Hermione.” He pointed to Draco. “Me.” He used a large spoon to keep adding in flour to his cake mixture until it resembled dough. “The brave, the smart and the seemingly useless.”
Draco scoffed. “You’re being ridiculous.”
Ron floured the counter. “Ah, so you’re on level two of the ‘Deny All Jealousy Scale’. Yeah, I’ve been there. Good times,” he said sarcastically. “Lonely but excellent view.” He eyed the comfortable brainstorming session going on in the living room as Harry, Hermione and Castor worked through the files Castor had stolen and brought with him. Disregarding them after a while, he continued with his baking.
“You don’t seem so useless now,” he heard and looked over at Draco. The man seemed despondent. He knew the feeling well.
“I made peace with my stupidity,” he answered.
Reining in whatever he’d been feeling before, Draco glared. “I’m not stupid,” Draco said before retracting. “Not that your theory has any merit anyway.”
Ron narrowed his eyes in a way he refused to believe was fond. This was priceless. He stopped kneading and leaned carefully on the ball of his palms to avoid getting flour anywhere. He spoke clearly, concisely, since he knew Draco spoke that language the best. “You’re a pure-blood, there are things that people who’ve grown up in the Muggle world will just know better than you.” He went back to his baking, as if he hadn’t just imparted advice to Draco Malfoy in Harry’s kitchen. “Come to terms with that and this,” he added pointing into the living room, “is child’s play.” He chuckled as Draco surveyed the whispers and hushed tones. “Besides it works both ways.”
Draco sat at a stool, watching how Ron effortlessly kneaded the dough on the floured counter. “How so?” he asked curiously, trying and failing to keep his tone casual.
Ron gave him a knowing look. Draco refused to acknowledge his interest. Ron rolled his eyes. He repeated his motions from before, leaning on his hands. “They’re half-bloods and Muggle-borns,” he said clearly. “There are things about us, our culture, they will just never get. Things we’re taught from early ages that come to us as second nature.” Draco nodded along that he understood, proving Ron’s point. “Yeah, I know you can come to terms with that, so I’ll move on,” he said, unable to resist the dig. It spoke a lot about their maturity when all Draco did was roll his eyes. “Just add to the things you can do and they can’t. Believe me, widening the gap makes it easier.” To emphasise his point, he pushed across the bowl of brown sugar and cinnamon he’d just poured and handed him a fork. “Here, mix that. Add a pinch of salt and a little ginger,” he instructed, pushing across the small jars and nodded when Draco did it correctly. “See into the future,” he added nonchalantly, as if it were another instruction in the recipe. Catching Draco’s eye, he winked, “and then add sugar to taste,” he continued, leaning close. “To make the revenge sweeter.”
For the first time in history, the two men shared a knowing grin.
Harry walked into flat through the front door, ignoring the suspicious looks his neighbour in 23B gave him through the slit in her chain-secured door. He heard laughter and walked in to see a sight he never believed would ever be possible. Ron Weasley was sitting at one of the stools of his island, eating spaghetti and meatballs with Draco and Castor Malfoy, while drinking red wine and engaging in conversation.
Humorous conversation, to be specific.
Harry stood still, engraving this moment into his memory. He’d extract it later into his Pensieve and see if he could call up Dennis Creevey to take a picture. He needed this saved forevermore, or no one would ever believe him. He took off his robe. “Ron, don’t you have a home to cook in?” he asked with a grin as he hung his robe on the cloak hook by his door. He was distracted for a moment by Draco’s owl D’Artagnan who hooted at him as he passed by. They’d grown on each other, he supposed. Or, at least, his bacon bits had grown on the bird. He figured as long as they stayed in his fridge, he had nothing to worry about.
Ron looked up, his eyes lit with mirth. “I do. But I spend so much time cooking here, that all my utensils are in your drawers. Plus, Hermione’s working late and it’s no fun cooking for myself all the time. She’s coming over later anyway. Her trainees had their exams today, so she’s using now as her time off before she has to muddle through thirty scripts of utter crap answers. Be prepared for her speech about how her job is worthless.”
Harry grinned. Hermione always complained that based on some of the answers she received, it was as if she was completely wasting her time as a Trainer. Harry sat down at his island-come-dining table. He put down the newspaper in his hand. Draco picked it up immediately.
“Is this it?” he asked reading through the headline of tomorrows Quibbler. Luna had sent him an advanced copy. The headline screamed.
Silenced For The Truth
After all the talking they’d done, they’d realised the best way to shut down the company was to go public again. The sensitive documents that Castor had stolen were damning evidence of clientele purchasing Wizards and Witches grown at Gemini Corporation and used for war and experimentation. If it didn’t make the Ministry, a previous client, tighten security on the Wizarding World, Harry didn’t know what would. They could afford to go against Gemini now, since the company had had all of the questionable workers who knew about the transactions killed. Down to Minister Scrimgeour. They’d decided as a group to send all the documents, including Rita Skeeter’s articles – the good ones – to Luna, who now owned the Quibbler. Sending it to the Daily Prophet would only cause more problems.
Her story explained everything, using Castor’s evidence, quotes from Rita’s articles and showing clippings of them next to Penelope Coran’s articles in the sixties. It told of how the Ministry funded the rise of the second company during the first war and then purchased the services of Gemini’s killers to find and kill ‘Death Eater families’ during the second war; people they suspected but could not prove were guilty. It went on to explain how, when the war was nearing its end, and Harry Potter was in the hospital, Minister Scrimgeour took the people who were ‘in the know’ and lumped them in with the actual prisoners. They tried them with planted memories and other damaging evidence and then killed the Obliviators ‘on the job’ to make it look like a work related incident. It ended with the recent deaths of Ministry personnel, after Rita Skeeter wrote to Gemini Corporation threatening to expose them and their connection to the Ministry. And rounded off with how the company sent out their own ‘clean-up crew’ to tie up loose ends. Clean and precise.
It was masterpiece and took up the majority of the paper. Luna had looked tired when she arrived to drop it off, but proud, stating her faith in journalism had been restored. Harry had grinned when she told him, happy that the truth was finally out.
He watched Draco read the article, fielding questions from his brother who sat opposite him. He and Castor had decided to renovate the Manor, seeking a change from the Terrifying Chic look it was going for lately. As the eldest, it actually fell to Castor to carry on the family name and all that mess so he was in charge of renovations. Draco had taken a bit of satisfaction in casting the whole thing aside. They’d gone to the bank to sort out distribution of funds now that there were legally two of them instead of one. Apparently wealthy pure-blood families preferred children who weren’t twins because of the fighting over money it tended to generate, but Draco, having seen the contents of Harry’s vaults, didn’t see much of a point in arguing, since he wasn’t planning to let him loose any time soon.
Harry paused when Draco had said that a couple days ago, a warm, pleasant feeling surrounding him that made him smile for the rest of the day. He was sure it would go away once in a while, like when they argued, or if he ever took Draco shopping or something, but in that moment he’d been incredibly content with his lot in life. The things people did for love sometimes, honestly.
With that thought in mind, he accepted the plate Ron set in front of him and dug in, eyes drawn to the bold print in the bottom right corner of the series of articles laid out in the quibbler. Luna had made sure that people knew who was responsible for uncovering the truth.
In honour of Rita Skeeter: 1951 – 2003. Journalist, Truth finder, Loving sister.
It still shocked Harry sometimes. Rita Skeeter had spent thirty five years trying to find the truth behind her sister’s ‘accident’, presenting herself as a cut throat bitch of a journalist who didn’t care for anything but the story, so that no one would know what she really cared about. Love like that didn’t come around often, sometimes not even in families. It was rare to find. Like someone who would think ahead twelve hundred steps to make sure you were prepared to survive and fight in a war, he thought, thinking fondly of Hermione. Or someone who would sacrifice themselves continuously so you could live on, his mind reminded him as he looked at Ron’s laughing face. People who would stick with you all the way even when it was clear they could very well die. Or, someone who would purposefully lie about not recognising you when you know he could pick out your face in a room of doppelgangers, he thought, looking at Draco. No, people like that didn’t appear out of thin air.
There was the crack of apparition. Harry grinned when he heard Hermione’s voice. “You won’t believe some of the shit I read today. There had better be some kind of protein on those plates, because I’m in need of it.” Huh his mind supplied, cheekily. Apparently they do.