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‘They had it coming.’

That was the prevailing attitude after the war. The Death Eaters, and everyone who had supported Voldemort, deserved the worst possible treatment.

Somehow, Harry didn’t quite feel comfortable with this.

And yet he seemed to be the only one who felt like this. Even the Weasleys, who were closer to him than any of his blood family, thought that they deserved the harshest penalties. And really, he couldn’t blame them. The Burrow still felt empty without Fred there. Harry had caught George turning slightly as though to glance in his habitual way at his twin, only to find blank space and heartbreak.

But did those petty Ministry Officials, the people who had done terrible things out of fear, even those who got sucked into the cult that Voldemort had built, deserve the absolute misery and horrifying despair of Azkaban?

 

‘He had it coming.’

Harry had never liked Lucius Malfoy. But he had seen his face at Hogwarts on the day of the last battle, and he had been terrified. But now he was due to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban. He had seen Draco Malfoy’s face when his father was sentenced. But it no longer had the sneering expression that he had become accustomed to seeing through their years at Hogwarts. Instead it seemed to hold raw, dark despair.

That was the main reason he had testified for Malfoy and his mother in the end. They got lighter sentences than they could otherwise have imagined getting in even their wildest dreams, and that did something to make Harry feel better about himself. At least for a while.

He had no idea really what to do after the war, so he just began to follow the simple trail that people expected him to take. He entered the Auror training programme, as it had been decided (considering the circumstances of the last year) they would take trainees without NEWTs. He tried to resume a relationship with Ginny.

Ironically, that, which had been the one part of his life he had been sure would go back to normal if he survived, was the one part which was not panning out as he expected. Ginny and he had crept around each other for a while over the summer, until eventually she sat down and told him that she was moving away. She had no intention of going back to Hogwarts, and she didn’t expect or want him to wait for her. Hogwarts now held too many memories of the horrors of her previous year. She had been offered a position as a reserve Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies, and she was going to go and live in Wales.

Harry had gone through the motions of being upset, but inside, he didn’t have room to care. All he felt was emptiness, apathy, darkness.

He started Auror training – eight months in one of the four separate centres that the Aurors had for this. (The aim being that all the centres would give you slightly different skills, and when you finished training you would be partnered with someone from a different group, so that between the two they would have more diverse skills.)

Ron and Dean Thomas were both with him in his training centre. Ron would expound at length about how he wasn’t sure whether this was a good thing or not. This way, they got to train together, but when they became full Aurors they couldn’t be partnered together.

Harry didn’t really care.

 

*

Six months later, when he and Ron arrived at the Ministry with all the other new Aurors after training, he still didn’t care. He regarded the Auror offices with apathy, and stood silently while they all waited to be assigned partners and duty schedules.

Nothing aroused any interest until he caught sight of a flash of white-blond in the corner of his eye. He whipped his head round sharply, and there was Malfoy, standing in the corner of the room. Ron noticed his sharp intake of breath and nudged him with an inquiring glance. Harry shook his head and turned back to listen to Dawlish, who was now lecturing them on the importance of the Auror handbook.

His emotions were, for the first time in a long time, in turmoil. How dare Malfoy turn up here, like any other person, as though he had a right to be there? But then again, at least he was trying to become a useful member of society. Unless he had some kind of nefarious plan? Yes, of course. He always did, after all. He always had done, ever since he had tried to Harry and Ron into detention by tricking them into a duel in first year. That seemed a very long time ago, now.

Harry was jolted back into the moment as Dawlish, now Deputy Head Auror, finished talking about the grave importance of paperwork. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘You have all been assigned partners for the near future. I must impress upon that these partners are fixed until we decide to reassign you, which is unlikely to happen in the near future. Each pair has been assigned a cubicle, and a senior Auror who will supervise you initially, to whom you should take any concerns.’ He surveyed them with narrowed eyes. ‘Any questions?’ he added, in a tone suggesting that there had certainly better not be.

The assembled people gave a low mutter of ‘No’s, and Dawlish smiled thinly. ‘Good. Assigned partners and supervisors are posted on the noticeboard and the end of the trainees’ corridor. You are expected to report to your supervisor at eight thirty sharp tomorrow morning.’

His face dropped back into its customary disgruntled expression. ‘Now, get out, all of you.’

Slowly, the crowd of people began to troop out of the door. Harry glanced round at Malfoy again. He seemed to be holding himself slightly separate from those around him. Did he still think, after all that had happened, that he was better than everyone else?

Ron’s voice cut through his musings and Harry jerked his head back round. ‘I hope I get paired with someone good. I don’t want to get stuck with somebody who will drive me up the wall in two minutes.’ He looked at Harry, and said, with a concerned note in his voice, ‘You ok, mate? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

Harry nodded briefly. ‘I’ll tell you later. Let’s go and find out who we’ve been assigned.’

Ron agreed eagerly, and they followed the others down the hallway. There was a large crowd around the notice board, as people hunted for their names on the list, and chattered eagerly.

Ron peered over several other people’s heads, as he and Harry struggled to get closer until they could just about read the writing. Harry squinted at his name, in the leftmost column of the sheet, and his heart dropped like a stone.

He supposed he should have expected it. It was inevitable, really. Malfoy was always inevitable.

He tugged on Ron’s elbow, and motioned behind him. Ron nodded back, and together they pushed towards the exit.

‘I’m with Susan Bones,’ said Ron as they cleared the crowd. ‘Not bad, I suppose. She was quite nice, as far as I remember. I’d rather have been with you, though.’

‘Yeah. It’s a shame we can’t be partners. It’ll be weird, fighting without you.’

Ron grinned at him. ‘You too, mate. Who’re you with, anyway? I didn’t see your name.’

Harry sighed. ‘Three guesses.’

‘You don’t sound too happy about it,’ said Ron. ‘Ernie Macmillan? He’s always been a pompous git.’

Harry shook his head.

‘I don’t know then. Tracey Davis?’

‘Nope.’

‘No idea. I give up,’ said Ron with a frown. ‘Tell me.’

‘Draco sodding Malfoy.’

Ron’s mouth dropped open. ‘He’s an Auror? Who the hell let him into the Ministry?’

‘I don’t know. He is supposed to be reformed now, I guess.’

Ron snorted. ‘Bloody likely. Poor you. You’re going to have to put up with him every day now.

Harry groaned. ‘Don’t remind me.’

*

Malfoy was nothing like what Harry had expected.

When Harry arrived in their small office to dump his cloak at twenty-five past eight, Malfoy was already sitting behind one of the desks, doing what looked like a newspaper puzzle. He glanced up briefly as Harry walked in, but looked down again at once before Harry could meet his eyes. His desk had already been neatly organised, with a stack of parchment on one side, and a small pot of quills and a single silver-edged picture frame that had its back to Harry on the other.

Harry hung his cloak on the peg behind the door, and sat down in the chair behind the other desk, facing Malfoy. He looked down at the bare wood with a frown. He should probably bring some pictures for his own desk. Maybe one of the Ron and Hermione, or all the Weasleys.

He looked up as Malfoy picked up his paper, turned it back to the front page, and folded it meticulously in half. He tilted his head up and met Harry’s gaze, and turned away as he stood up and moved towards the door.

He spoke for the first time that Harry had heard in a while. His voice was as refined as ever, but there was an edge to it that Harry didn’t remember from before.

‘We should go to see Proudfoot. It’s nearly half past.’ And he swivelled abruptly on one foot, his regulation robe swirling behind him as he passed through the door.

Harry sighed again. He seemed to be doing a lot of that lately. He heaved himself to his feet, and followed Malfoy through the department corridors.

When he reached Proudfoot’s office, Malfoy was standing outside it tapping his foot in an almost nervous manner. But no, Malfoy would not let anyone know if he were nervous. His icy little heart was unlikely to even feel nervous. He gave Harry a cursory glance, and then knocked twice on the door.

‘Come in,’ came a voice from inside.

Malfoy glanced at him once more, and opened the door. Harry took a deep breath, and followed him in.

*

Surprisingly, Harry and Malfoy quickly settled into a routine. The cases they were given were mostly small, routine matters – nothing interesting or out of the ordinary. Part of Harry couldn’t help but feel disappointed that he didn’t get to do those cases. He was, after all, the saviour of the wizarding world, and though all the other new recruits were on the dull cases too, in some ways he had expected to get better cases. Most of him, though, just didn’t care.

Every morning when Harry came in, Malfoy would be sitting behind his desk. At eight thirty precisely, he would fold up his paper, and take out the files that were today’s work. He never said anything to Harry that wasn’t about a case, and in his lunch break he would meticulously complete all the puzzles in his newspaper. Eventually, even Harry, paranoid as he had always been about Malfoy, could find almost nothing to complain about.

‘I don’t know what it is,’ he said to Hermione one evening, sitting at their customary table in the corner of the Leaky Cauldron. ‘But something doesn’t feel right.’

Ron snorted. ‘Mate, it’s Malfoy. You’ve always had a thing about him.’

Harry glared at him half-heartedly. ‘I have not!’

Hermione smiled gently. ‘You did stalk him for the whole of sixth year, Harry.’

‘Yes, and he actually was up to something then!’ he protested.

‘He probably isn’t now,’ said Ron. ‘Look, I can’t say I trust him, and I think he probably should be in Azkaban, but you heard Dawlish. You’re stuck with him, so you might as well not bother us with your complaining.’

Hermione rolled her eyes, but nodded in agreement.

But that was the thing. Harry wasn’t so sure Malfoy did deserve Azkaban. And for some reason, the thought that he might not be up to something worried him even more than the thought that he was.

*

Harry didn’t know what to do about Malfoy. So he decided eventually that he should probably just talk to him.

That was harder than it sounded.

Malfoy showed no intention of ever acknowledging Harry outside the bare minimum necessary for their work. So Harry took the leap.

‘What newspaper are you reading, Malfoy?’ he asked the next morning, and immediately winced. Too banal. Too obvious. Now he sounded like he was suspicious of Malfoy, questioning something like that, when there was only really one newspaper in wizarding Britain. He was sure Malfoy, being who he was, probably owned half the Prophet anyway. Or had owned, at least.

Malfoy’s head came up slowly. His grey eyes gleamed almost silver, as he regarded Harry impassively. Harry stared back, attempting, and failing, to work out what he was thinking. After a moment, Malfoy’s head dropped back down, and he answered quietly, but clearly, in his clipped aristocratic tone.

‘The Times. Not that it matters, Potter.’

It was all Harry could do to keep his mouth from falling open. A muggle paper? Malfoy? Malfoy?

‘You needn’t look so surprised,’ Malfoy continued, without looking up. Harry frowned. He hadn’t looked at him. How did he know what he was feeling?

‘And do stop scowling. You’ll get wrinkles early. Merlin knows the wizarding world couldn’t bear to have a prematurely aged saviour.’ He continued to read, as Harry looked at him, baffled.

Eventually, Malfoy looked back up. ‘No, Potter, I don’t have secret mirrors installed so that I can watch you. You are simply infuriatingly predictable.’

‘But… I-,’ Harry began.

Malfoy waved one pale hand vaguely. ‘You must have realised by now that I don’t really give a shit about Muggles anymore.’ He raised a single elegant eyebrow. ‘After all, they wouldn’t have ever let me in here if they thought I did.’

He went straight back to his paper, leaving Harry lost for words, and did not say another word until they started work again.

*

Gradually, Harry started to talk to Malfoy more. The odd word there, a question here, anything that was not related to their work. Malfoy would always reply levelly, insult Harry vaguely, and never initiated the short conversations.

‘Malfoy, why is it that you read the Muggle papers?’ Harry asked one day. Malfoy lifted one eyebrow lazily. ‘I mean, I know you’re not a bigoted twat any more – you’re just an average twat instead – but even I don’t read Muggle news, and I grew up with them.’

‘I’ll have you know, Potter, I am far better than average,’ replied Malfoy, leaning back in his chair. ‘And if you must know, it’s because they have better puzzles in.’

‘Puzzles? Really?’ asked Harry in surprise. Malfoy always seemed to manage to surprise him.

‘Yes. The ones in the Prophet are shite.’

Harry could find nothing to say to that, and let the conversation die, until later, when they were walking down a street in a village in Norfolk for an interview about their latest case.

‘So which puzzles do you particularly read a Muggle paper for?’

Malfoy snorted. ‘Really, Potter? Your attempts at conversation starters get progressively worse.’

‘Come on, Malfoy. At least make an effort to be civil.’

He whirled around on him. ‘Civil? Oh, I do apologise. It isn’t as though you have been the exact model of civility over the years.’

‘Ever since the war, I have been perfectly nice!’ cried Harry.

‘Oh, yes. You think I don’t see those looks of suspicion you give me. Just because you appear to have gained enough sense to realise that there is no point antagonising me does not mean I don’t know how you think about me.’ Malfoy’s face was furious. ‘I’m sick of it. This tortured façade of politeness to attempt to make me tell you what I’m doing here is even worse than the insults.’

Harry stopped. How did Malfoy know so exactly what he thought? It was uncanny. Unless Malfoy really did know him as well as he seemed to think he did. Now that was a disturbing thought.

Malfoy paused for a moment. ‘You want to know what I’m doing here? Fine. I’ll tell you everything, since that’s what you seem to want,’ he began in the most scathing of tones. ‘I am attempting to rebuild my family name, which has been dragged through the fucking mud, by actually doing something worthwhile in the distant hope that people will see that I am a human being too, not an untrustworthy, selfish Death Eater. I no longer give a single flying fuck about the things I was brought up on, and I haven’t since before the end of the war. Only please explain to me how exactly I was meant to tell the fucking murderous Dark Lord that when he was living in my fucking house, with my parents, ready to kill us all at the slightest sign of disloyalty?’ He sighed heavily, and a look appeared on his face as though he regretted his outburst. ‘Just fuck off, Potter, and keep your sanctimonious attitude to yourself.’

Harry felt a little shocked. He hadn't expected an outburst like that. They stood in silence for a moment, and Harry started to kick the ground with the toe of one scuffed shoe. Fuck. When he put it that way, Malfoy actually seemed like a reasonable person. ‘Look, Malfoy,’ he began. ‘I – I’m sorry. I think I might have managed to misjudge you.’

Malfoy sniffed, returning to his normal haughty air. It seemed curiously false, now that Harry had seen him without it. Maybe it always had been, and he just hadn’t noticed before. ‘You don’t know me at all, Potter, much as you may think you do.’

Harry looked up at him. He was standing with his head held high, but there was a slight nervousness in his eyes that he hadn’t seen before. ‘I know. I’m sorry.’ He held out his hand. ‘Truce?’

Malfoy regarded him warily, but reached out to take his hand. ‘Fine. Truce. And, ah, sorry I sort of… ranted at you.’

Harry laughed slightly. ‘Don’t worry. I do it to people all the time.’

Malfoy smiled reluctantly. ‘Impulsive Gryffindor git. And for your information, I like reading The Times because they have both an excellent crossword, and a particular unique puzzle that no other papers have. It's called Cell Block.’

‘Cell Block?’ Harry snorted. Malfoy still sounded as snooty as ever. ‘Bit ironic, considering our job.’

‘I’ll have you know, Potter, that it is a highly engaging intellectual puzzle,’ Malfoy said loftily.

Harry raised an eyebrow. ‘I’m sure…’

*

After this, work became a lot easier to manage for Harry. Of course, it took him a while to get used to the idea that Draco Malfoy was not entirely awful, but he managed, and working with him became far more enjoyable.

For Malfoy’s part, he was not quite sure how to handle not fighting with the Boy Who Lived. They had been at each other’s throats since they were eleven, and now Draco began to feel like there was something missing – a strange lack of antagonism that was oddly uncomfortable, yet refreshing.

As for the actual work, slowly they began to be given more interesting and complicated cases – no more petty thefts, even the occasional actual murder. So, slowly, Harry’s life started to return to the way he thought it should be.

Except for the fact that everything was completely different. It wasn’t Ron and Hermione he laughed with over lunch, it was Draco sodding Malfoy, which was a thousand kinds of weird. Somehow, their reluctant truce began to turn into a friendship, and Harry felt like there was no longer a hole in the middle of his life. He had friends; he was happy.

The friendship he had with Draco was not quite how he had ever expected any friendship to be. Draco insulted him in every other sentence, but Harry began to find a joy in coming up with creative things to throw right back at him. While working on cases, Draco’s analytical mind seemed to be second only to Hermione’s – something Harry had never been particularly good at, nor had he particularly enjoyed. Surprisingly, after the years of rivalry, they worked well together.

So when he and Draco were called to Proudfoot’s office one gloomy February morning, Harry was unusually nervous. While she was nominally still their supervisor, Proudfoot rarely now, after nearly a year of being full Aurors, had much to do with them.

Proudfoot was a tall, stern-faced woman, whose age it was impossible to tell – she could have been anything from her late thirties to a young-looking 60-year-old. When Draco knocked on her door, she pulled it open almost immediately, and pointed them wordlessly to the two wooden chairs sitting in front of her desk.

‘Right, boys,’ she began as soon as they were seated. She always called them that, and she liked to pace around the room when she spoke, something which made Harry feel almost nervous, especially since he could never gauge her reactions. ‘I expect you’ve heard talk round the department about the new Death Eater case.’

Harry saw Draco stiffen out of the corner of his eye. This case – the murder of three separate people who had had ties to Voldemort’s regime, either through family or through being active but minor supporters – was the most interesting thing to happen in the department for a while. Not least because there were very few clues as to whether the murders were even linked, but many also felt that perhaps they had deserved to die. Either way, most details of the case were being kept secret, and everyone wanted in on it.

‘It’s your lucky day. Another body was found last night, and we’re pulling you two in on it.’

Draco seemed to have frozen next to Harry, so before Proudfoot could question his lack of response, he asked, ‘Who was the new victim?’

‘Almira Rosier. Sister of Evan Rosier. Thought to be sympathetic to Voldemort during the war, but never active for his cause.’ The strange fear of Voldemort’s name had gradually receded after his defeat, though there were still those who, often out of habit, never used it. ‘And,’ Proudfoot added looking straight at Draco, ‘Your cousin.’

‘Distant cousin,’ he replied coldly, his face held in an icy mask

‘Indeed,’ said Proudfoot. She took two files off a pile on her desk and handed one to each of them. ‘Read these. When you’re done with them, go and talk to Savage. She’s in charge of the case, and you are to follow her orders. You are the juniors on this case, boys,’ she glared at them slightly. ‘Don’t forget that.’ They both nodded back fervently. ‘Now go. Get out of my office. I have things to do.’

*

Harry glanced up from his copy of the case file at Draco, sitting at his desk across the room.

‘You ok, Malfoy?’ he asked. ‘You looked a bit shaken in there.’

Malfoy looked up to meet his eyes. ‘Of course I’m fucking shaken. What do you think they’re trying to do here? They’re bringing the ex-Death Eater in on the case that seems to be all about Death Eaters. They’re testing me, yet again, because nobody in this fucking place fucking trusts me.’

Harry raised his eyebrows. ‘You do know you swear too much, don’t you?’ he said mildly. ‘And you could at least try to expand your vocabulary. You basically just use fuck all the time.’

‘Fuck off, Potter,’ he shot back.

‘Look, Draco. It’ll be fine. We just have to solve this case, and win such great glory in the Auror department that no-one will ever dare to question us.’ Harry grinned.

‘Don’t get so cocky. This may be funny to you, but it certainly is not to me. Even if we solve the wretched case, people will always think, oh, maybe he did it to protect his old Death Eater pals. And if we don’t, they’ll just question my loyalty and commitment to this fucking warped Ministry. Either way, I lose.’

Harry had no answer to that.

*

Draco really started to work with a vengeance that afternoon. He read through the case file they had been given at least three times, each time making copious notes of all the possible hints that the information could provide. When Harry asked to see what he had written, Draco raised a sarcastic eyebrow at him. He picked up a stack of sheets, and pushed them across to the edge of his desk, which was covered in scraps of parchment, broken quills, and empty mugs of tea.

Harry got up from his chair, and went across to Draco’s desk. He picked up the sheets, and started to question whether he had them the right way up. ‘Is this meant to be writing?’ he asked in horror.

‘It’s shorthand. I took all my notes in it all the way through Hogwarts,’ Draco replied. ‘Much easier.’

‘Yeah, for you maybe, but how the hell is anyone else meant to read this?’

Draco grinned, his mood lightening for the first time that day. ‘Maybe they’re not meant to. Maybe it’s my secret Death Eater plan for world domination.’

‘Oh, and how are you going to do that? Win the world in a crossword competition?’

‘Hey! I’ll have you know I am extremely good at crosswords.’

Harry laughed. ‘Yes, yes. And your funny little puzzle with the squares.’

‘My funny little puzzle has a name, you know. And I bet you’d be shit at it,’ Draco shot back.

Harry pulled a mock pensive face. ‘Well Malfoy, I’ll have you know that anything you can do, I can do better.’

Draco snorted. ‘I’d like to see you try.’

‘And I will. And I will win.’

‘I’ll believe that when I see it.’

Harry smiled patronisingly. ‘Don’t worry, Draco dear. You’ll see it.’

‘Why do I ever even bother talking to you,’ Draco muttered, pulling his sheaf of notes from Harry’s hands, and replacing it with his daily paper. ‘There you go.’

Harry looked down at the puzzle page, which was folded open, in puzzlement. ‘What are you waiting for? Scared, Potter?’ asked Draco gleefully.

Harry’s eyes shot up, recognising the old challenge. ‘You wish, Malfoy.’

*

The next morning, the two of them set out for the house of Almira Rosier. Draco still seemed unusually subdued to Harry, and was without his usual sarcastic comments. The house stood alone, in the shadow of trees that concealed it from any passers-by.

‘She had no children. Her brother was the really nasty one, and she never went out in society much,’ Draco said as they approached.

‘How exactly are you related to her?’ Harry asked.

‘My father’s first cousin married her husband’s brother, and my mother’s aunt by marriage was her father’s sister,’ Draco replied absently.

Harry’s eyebrows shot up. ‘How well do you know your family tree, then?’

‘Off by heart,’ Draco glanced at him in a faintly puzzled way. ‘I could recite everyone with six or fewer degrees of separation from myself by the time I was ten.’

‘All… right then,’ said Harry perplexedly. ‘And do all purebloods know their family trees that well?’

‘Most of them. I think the door is round the other side.’

Harry had to jog slightly to catch up with Draco as he marched briskly round the house.

‘So were you related to the other victims?’

Draco stopped and gave him a long look. ‘Harry. You may have noticed from this conversation that I don’t particularly want to talk about my family, so far as I actually call them that. Of course I’m related to them. They were purebloods.’ And he turned abruptly and walked towards the entrance again.

Harry stopped. Fuck. He had probably really pissed off Draco now. Then he noticed something, and called after him. ‘Did you just call me Harry? Without being patronising?’ He was faintly shocked.

Draco sounded mildly annoyed. ‘Of course not. Now hurry up.’

He shrugged, and followed him into the house.

From the inside it was fairly small, but well-furnished with items that looked a little antiquated, but also barely used.

‘What exactly are we looking for?’ asked Harry.

‘Did you not read the file properly?’ asked Draco, as patronisingly as possible.

‘Yes, but I was in a rush,’ protested Harry.

Draco sighed. ‘Anything unusual, any other signs of intruders, anything that seems suspicious.’

‘Suspicious? Other than the fact that this woman got stabbed in her living room?’

Draco snorted. ‘Oh, so you did read the file? The forensics team couldn’t find any signs of forced entry, or a murder weapon, or anything.’

‘Fine, that is odd.’

‘Precisely. Now start looking.’

*

They returned to their office later that day disheartened. Nothing they had found seemed to be of any import.

‘We have to write a report for Savage now,’ Draco said.

Harry groaned loudly. ‘Gah. I hate reports.’

Draco smiled thinly. ‘I’ll write it then, while you go over the case files for the related murders.’

‘No, you should do that,’ Harry sighed. ‘You’re better at picking out stuff like that.’

‘Why thank you, Potter.’ Draco was smiling fully now. ‘How charming you are.’

Harry rolled his eyes and picked up his quill.

Half an hour later, he threw it down again in disgust. ‘There. Everything I could think of.’

Draco glanced up. ‘Excellent. Do you want to hear what I found in the files?’

‘Go on, then,’ Harry replied, leaning back in his chair.

‘Right. Well, the important thing is to work out what they have in common. The most obvious thing is that they have Death Eater ties.’

Harry grimaced slightly.

‘Almira Rosier was suspected of assisting her brother in the first war, hiding him and so on, and in the second she almost certainly fed him information. But she wasn’t important enough to bring to trial. Next, we have Isabella Selwyn. Invalid niece of Marcus Selwyn. Lived throughout the war in a similar manner to Almira Rosier. She was known to be very close to her uncle, since her parents died in the first war when she was fairly young. Thought to have planned a lot of Selwyn’s more complicated plans. He was never very clever.’

‘And why wasn’t she charged?’

‘No evidence that she did anything whatsoever. Next, Thaddeus Thoreau. I know, awful name. Rookwood’s brother-in-law, almost certainly fed him information, and probably helped him on raids and so on. Known Death Eater supporter, and nobody’s quite sure how he escaped trial, but everybody seems to have forgotten about him until he got murdered.’

‘How convenient for us, then,’ Harry said bitterly.

Draco raised an eyebrow. ‘Indeed. And finally, we have Simon Travers. Son of Caleb Travers, who mostly kept him hidden away during the wars, and was only about sixteen when his father was imprisoned at the end of the first war. Seemed to hate the Ministry for that, but always kept quite quiet, and nobody ever saw much of him. We have no idea what he was doing in the war, but he probably joined his father in the Death Eaters, but he was smart enough to not let many of the others know who he was.’

‘Minor supporter, then? The inner circle all got taken in.’

‘Yes. So, they were all implicated in Death Eater business, but there was never evidence.’

‘So it looks like somebody is trying to improve the justice system for us,’ said Harry dryly.

Draco sighed again. ‘The problem is, we can’t tell who.’

‘Any other similarities between the cases?’

‘All of them were killed in places that you would expect them to be. Two in their houses, one in their garden, and one on a street in the local village. In the houses, there were no signs of forced entry, and the wards on both those houses, and Selwyn’s (the one found in the garden) were intact.’

‘What does that tell us? Whoever it is is amazing at breaking wards?’

Draco shook his head. ‘Wards weren’t broken at all. They were entirely as you would expect them to be.’

‘Who found them?’

‘All of them different people. Selwyn was found in her garden, just inside her wards, by a passing Muggle, who saw her and was mystified when she couldn’t get in. Thoreau was found by a friend who came to visit, and Rosier by her house-elf. Travers was found dead on the street.’

Harry pulled a face. ‘Where was Rosier’s house-elf? Did he notice anything that day?’

‘He’d gone to the market. He went every week on the same day.’

Harry sat up. ‘Did he? And Rosier just happened to be murdered when he was out? That looks to me like somebody knew he wouldn’t be there.’

‘My thoughts exactly. And that would suggest that it was somebody who knew Rosier, which fits with the wards not being broken. She must have let them in herself.’

‘And the same with the others? That seems unlikely, though. That one person knew all of them well enough to get invited into their houses?’

‘I know. And none of them were exactly sociable people. The interesting thing, though, is that Travers was basically a recluse. He hardly spoke to anyone, and only visited the village occasionally.’

‘So it would have been hard for someone who knew him to get into his house, so instead they killed him on a street?’

‘Exactly. More risky, as somebody might see them, but maybe there was no other way.’

‘So now we just have to find who knew all three of the others well enough to visit them, when none of them knew that many people.’

‘Shouldn’t be too bad,’ replied Draco, smiling. ‘And one more thing. All of them were killed by Muggle means.’

Harry’s eyebrows lifted. ‘Really? I suppose that reduces the chances of magical tracing, though that’s always unreliable, so there’s little point. Why do that?’

‘My idea was some kind of retribution.’

‘What, kill them with things made by the people they hated?’ Harry shivered slightly. ‘That’s nasty, but it makes sense in an odd kind of way.’

*

They spent the next few days searching for anyone who knew the victims. Savage had listened to their conclusions, and nodded vaguely at them before telling them to go and look for suspects. They trawled through the address books of the three, and interviewed everyone they could find.

But they drew a blank. Nobody seemed to know all of them.

‘Unless it wasn’t just one person,’ wondered Draco on the fifth day.

Harry shook his head. ‘They’re too similar. They have to be linked. And anyway, did you notice, they all took place with exactly eight days space between them.’

‘I know. But that doesn’t give us any clues.’

‘How many days has it been since Rosier?’

Draco’s eyebrows lifted. ‘You think there’s going to be another one? Well, if we take the day she died as day one, day two we went to her house, and this is now day… seven. Oh Merlin.’

Harry smiled grimly. ‘Let’s see who dies this time.’

‘That is incredibly morbid, Potter.’

Harry’s face hardened. ‘I know.’

*

That night, Harry told Ron and Hermione about the case. Ron was incredibly curious, having heard all the gossip around the department.

‘You are so lucky to have got pulled in on this one, mate,’ he said as they were eating dinner in Ron and Hermione’s new flat, since they had finally decided to move in together.

‘I’m not sure,’ said Hermione. ‘It’s not a very nice case. I mean, they weren’t very nice people. Obviously killing them was wrong, but just think. The person killing them is probably doing it because they were Death Eaters. It’s hard not to sympathise.’

‘I can’t tell why they weren’t all chucked into Azkaban anyway,’ added Ron. ‘They don’t deserve any better. I’m not sure this person isn’t doing the world a favour,’ he muttered bitterly.

‘Look, Ron,’ protested Harry. ‘They may not have been nice people, but vigilante justice is no way forward.’

He sighed. ‘I s’pose. But I do think they had it coming.’

Hermione shot him a stern look, as though to say, ‘Shut up about that now,’ and continued. ‘Anyway, what’s Malfoy like on this? Did he know any of the dead people?’

‘I don’t think he really knew them, no,’ replied Harry. ‘But he seems to have been related to half of them.’

‘I’m surprised they let him on this case,’ said Ron. ‘You’d think they’d be wary of putting an ex-Death Eater on a case where he probably sympathised with the victims that much.’

‘He thinks it’s some kind of a test.’

Hermione frowned. ‘What, if he doesn’t solve it he’s obviously up to no good, but if he does he’s protecting Death Eaters? Yes, I can see that’s a tricky one.’

‘I know,’ said Harry. ‘But I think we’ll solve it. Draco’s great at finding clues, and working out what stuff means about a case.’

‘Did you just call him Draco?’ asked Ron, sounding disbelieving.

Harry paused. ‘Did I?’

Hermione snorted. ‘They do work together every day. They can’t exactly stay enemies.’

Ron frowned. ‘I’m not sure I like the idea of you being friends with Malfoy, really. Still, I suppose you don’t have much choice.’

Harry sat back in his chair, as the conversation began to move on to other things. Was Malfoy his friend? He supposed there was no other word to describe it. And Malfoy didn’t really seem to have any other friends, at least none that he ever mentioned. Maybe he was almost the only person Malfoy spoke to. That felt as though they really ought to be actual friends.

*

The next day was Harry and Malfoy’s day off. They’d been lucky with shifts this week, and so both had Saturday free. Not that they’d have been doing much, as far as Harry could see. Really, they were just waiting to see if there would be another killing. Harry wandered aimlessly around Grimmauld Place that day, tidying in a rather desultory manner. He had lunch with Neville, who told him excitedly about how he was planning to propose to Hannah Abbot, who had been his girlfriend since shortly after the end of the war, when they had got to know each other working on the rebuilding of Hogwarts. Neville asked if Harry was ok in his usual earnest way when Harry was a little distant in response to his news.

‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ Harry replied. ‘Sorry, I’m just really tired.’

Neville nodded sympathetically. ‘Work being busy?’

‘Yes, new big case. In fact, according to the pattern, someone else is probably going to die today.’

Neville sat back sharply in his chair. ‘Merlin, Harry, that must be horrible. And you can’t do anything about it?’

Harry shook his head. ‘We don’t even know who it’s going to be.’

‘When will you find out if it’s even happened?’

‘Tomorrow at the earliest. I’ll probably have to go in to the Ministry.’

‘On a Sunday? Poor you.’

‘Yeah, well what can I do.’

Neville just nodded gravely.

When he had left, Harry stood in the centre of his kitchen in thought. He probably should have been nicer to Neville about Hannah. He just found that really, deep down, he couldn’t bring himself to have much emotion over it. It all seemed really to be so superficial. Unimportant.

So when his Floo burst into life and Draco’s face appeared in the flames, he was surprised at the jolt of emotion that ran through him.

‘Potter? Are you there?’ he called.

Harry rushed over to the fireplace and knelt in front of it. ‘Malfoy? What’s happened?’

Draco’s face, as far as Harry could tell through the green flames, seemed even paler than usual.

‘We’ve found the victim.’

‘Already? Normally it takes a while for a body to be found and then connected to a case. I wasn’t expecting to hear anything till tomorrow.’

‘Yes, well this one was different.’

‘How?’ Harry asked, perplexed.

‘I found him. It’s Theo Nott.’

*

Harry vaguely remembered Theodore Nott from Hogwarts. He had been fairly tall, with mouse brown hair, and had always kept to the back of classes. And now he was dead.

Draco gave Harry the Floo address of a small flat in the suburbs of London, and stood anxiously tapping one foot on the ground by the fireplace.

‘Thank Merlin, you’re here. Took you long enough.’

Harry frowned. ‘What’s happened? Have you told the Ministry?’

‘No, not yet. I flooed you first.’

‘Well, you definitely need to tell them.’ Harry felt strangely pleased that he had been thought of first. ‘Then we can look round and you can tell me what happened.’

‘All right. He’s in the room through that door,’ Draco said. ‘I’ll call the duty Auror and get them to send an owl to Savage.’

Harry nodded, and went through the door Draco had pointed out. It led to a cramped kitchen, most of which seemed to be taken up by a body lying on the floor. He seemed to have been stabbed in side with a kitchen knife, which lay on one of the countertops. Harry’s nose wrinkled slightly at the smell of blood, but he quickly levitated the knife over, careful not to touch it. Though much of the Auror department looked down on Muggle methods of crime solving, Harry had long ago learned the usefulness of fingerprints, which many wizards never thought of needing to obscure.

As he banished the knife to a space in their office to examine later, Draco walked back in.

‘They’re telling Savage, and she and someone from the mortuary will be here shortly.’

‘Good,’ replied Harry. ‘Now tell me how you found him.’

‘I… I come and see him every few weeks. He’s an old friend, and he hardly ever sees anyone.’

‘Just like the others. But at least this one we’ll probably have a bit more information. Who else did he regularly see?’

Draco frowned slightly. ‘No-one, really. I think he was on speaking terms with a few of his neighbours, but as far as I know they’re all Muggles. He lived like a Muggle himself most of the time.’

‘Really? Why?’

Draco sighed. ‘He was hiding from the world. He was a Slytherin, his father was a Death Eater, and he was forced into supporting Voldemort. But he wasn’t a strong enough supporter to be on the good side of the people who were, and everybody on your side – well. They will shun anyone who doesn’t exactly conform to their disgustingly Gryffindor world view.’

‘But that’s not true of all our side!’ Harry protested. ‘Look, you’ve managed to get on in the Ministry, and you were a full Death Eater and everything.’

Draco turned his back on him sharply. ‘Thanks for the reminder, Potter. Anyway, I have more to fight for than Theo. And he was never very outgoing anyway.’

‘I – I’m sorry, Malfoy. I didn’t mean it like that.’

Draco turned back towards him. ‘I know,’ he said with a sigh. His face held more tiredness than anger. ‘Let’s see what we can find.’

*

Harry felt particularly sombre as he came into the office the next morning. Little though he had known Nott, this case still suddenly felt alarmingly real now that someone he had known a little – and a friend of Malfoy’s, no less – was dead. Draco, too, was in a dark mood, and seemed to wield his pencil with more zeal than usual as he scowled at his newspaper puzzle when Harry finally convinced him to stop working for five minutes.

‘Do you think you could make a list of everyone who was on good enough terms with Nott to be in his house?’ Harry asked him. ‘This might be the best lead we have. We don't know who knew any of the other victims well enough to be let into their houses.’

‘Theo definitely knew this person. I inspected his wards when he first had them up. They were tight – nobody could come in unless they were invited.’

‘So who could it have been?’

‘From the wizarding world, the only people who still speak – spoke to him -  were myself and Daphne Greengrass. But she’s been on an extended tour of the Middle East for the last eleven months.’ Draco laughed hollowly. ‘She wanted to get away.’

‘And you’re sure about that?’ Harry asked.

‘Very. Theo occasionally complained that I was the only wizard he ever saw. He was on quite good terms with his Muggle neighbours, though.’

‘It can’t be a Muggle, though. It’s definitely linked to the others, and only a wizard would want to kill those people.’

‘Wait, though,’ said Draco suddenly. ‘What if one of the neighbour’s wasn’t actually a Muggle.’

Harry’s eyebrows shot up. ‘You think that might be possible?’

‘I don’t know. It’s worth checking, though.’

Harry nodded. ‘I’ll go and get somebody to go through everyone in the other flats in the building and the ones next door. See if anyone’s not as harmless as they are pretending to be.’

*

The duty clerk sighed when Harry handed him a list of names, and asked him to look for anyone who came up on the records, but promised to have the results by the end of the day. So when Harry finally had a thin file with a list of names appear in his in-tray, it was already almost six o’clock.

He sighed, and waved the file at Draco across the room, who was writing up a report on what they had found at Theo Nott’s flat.

‘Records have got back to me,’ he said. Draco’s head shot up.

‘Any luck?’ he asked, as he stood and walked over to stand behind Harry’s chair.

‘I don’t know,’ he replied, opening the file.

The first page of names had had ‘NO RECORD’ written in red next to all of them, but on the second, one name was highlighted in green. Harry heard Draco’s sharp intake of breath behind him, and couldn’t help but shiver slightly as he sensed him lean down to read what the page said.

‘Marjolaine Douglas. Son Henry Douglas, Muggleborn wizard, b. 1977, d. 1998. Husband deceased,’ Draco read aloud.

Harry looked up at him in shock. ‘This is it. It has to be something to do with her.’

Draco appeared stunned. ‘I never thought it would be so easy.’

Harry smiled slightly at him. ‘Nor did I.’

Draco started to smile tentatively back. ‘I’ll get the Hit Squad down there to bring her in.’ His smile grew suddenly vindictive. ‘She can wait in the cells for the night. We can talk to her tomorrow.’

‘Good idea,’ Harry said, though he felt slightly worried at the glee that glimmered in Draco’s eyes.

But Draco’s smile faded. ‘Theo was a good person. He always tried to avoid hurting people. He never agreed with his father. And he certainly shouldn’t have died.’

He looked so alone, so forlorn for a moment, that Harry suddenly realised that he was probably one of the few remaining friends Draco had had. He felt a surge of something – it wasn’t quite pity – in his chest. Draco shouldn’t be friendless like this.

‘Look,’ he began nervously. ‘I know… I know Theo was your friend.’

One of Draco’s eyebrows lifted slightly, as his face snapped back into its usual emotionless façade. ‘Yes. One of the few I had.’

Harry nodded a little. ‘I thought he might be. So – I don’t think anyone should have deal with a dead friend on their own. Why don’t you come for a drink with me and Ron and Hermione?’ He glanced up at Draco, who had moved away from his desk. His eyebrows were fully raised now, in apparent genuine shock rather than his usual sarcasm.

Then his face hardened again. ‘I don’t need pity, Potter,’ he said.

‘No!’ protested Harry. ‘It’s not pity! I just thought that maybe – maybe you could use a friend.’

Draco turned to face the wall, his back to Harry, who stared hopefully at his back. Fuck, he thought. Now Draco was going to despise him. And he couldn’t quite explain the heavy weight that thought seemed to place in his stomach.

Then Draco turned back towards him. ‘All right then,’ he said. ‘Thank you.’ His face was in its expressionless mask, but Harry was sure he could see a glimmer of emotion in his eyes. He couldn’t help himself, and started to grin.

‘Great,’ he said. ‘I’ll just send Ron a message to let him know.’

*

The atmosphere around the small table in the pub that night was tense. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had been coming here as an end of weekend last sigh for more than a year now, and though others had joined them before, it had never been as uncomfortable as this. Hermione seemed a little tense, but was making an effort at civility. Ron, though, was distinctly uncomfortable, even mutinous.

He and Draco could not have made a greater contrast, sitting opposite each other. Draco sat sharply upright, his elegant coat and scarf making him the perfect picture of the gentleman as he sipped his glass of house red, and made small talk with Hermione about her training as a lawyer.

Ron seemed positively dishevelled in comparison, wearing an old raincoat and slouched over his beer. He hardly joined in with the conversation, and spent most of his time scowling down at the polished wood.

When Draco offered to get the next lot of drinks, and stood up, Ron leaned towards Harry, his scowl more pronounced than ever. ‘Why did you have to bring him?’

Hermione prodded him with one finger. ‘Calm down, Ron. He hasn’t been at all bad.’

‘No, maybe not, but I’m sure he will be! He’s Malfoy, honestly.’

Harry shot him a glare. ‘He’s really not the same as he used to be, Ron.’

‘That isn’t the point! And anyway, you can’t be sure of that. Remember what he did in the war, Harry.’

Harry sighed slightly. ‘I promise, he’s changed. Please, just try to be polite to him.’

Ron frowned a little, but gave in. ‘Fine. I’ll give him a chance. But I still don’t see why you had to bring him along.’

Harry glanced up, and saw Draco beginning to make his way back towards their table. He dropped his voice to an urgent mutter. ‘Because one of his only friends was murdered yesterday, and he could probably do with some sympathy. Now be nice.’

Ron sighed. ‘I’m sorry. It’s just, it’s hard to forget what he was like. If he really has changed, I suppose I’ll have to accept it. Just… give me a bit of time.’

Harry smiled in relief. ‘Thanks, mate,’ he said, as Draco sat back down and handed them all their drinks.

Now all harry could do was hope for the best from them both.

*

The next morning, both Harry and Draco arrived earlier than normal. They had been told that their new suspect would be waiting for them in one of the interview rooms.

‘So euphemistic, don’t you think?’ Draco observed lightly as they made their way through the passages of the Ministry. ‘”Interview Room”. Interview is far too polite and restrained.’

Harry glanced at him, faintly concerned. ‘Are you sure you’re ok with this, Draco? You’ll be a little more, ah, polite and restrained than you might want to be?’

‘I’ll be fine,’ he replied.

‘Good,’ Harry said as they came up to the room. ‘Ready?’ Draco took a breath, and nodded.

Inside, there sat a gaunt-looking woman, with light brown hair twisted up into a tight bun. She glanced up as they entered, but looked back down at her hands almost immediately.

‘Good morning, Mrs Douglas,’ Draco began. ‘We’d like to ask you a few questions about the death of Theodore Nott.’

The woman’s eyes flickered up to Draco’s face. ‘I know you,’ she said levely. ‘You’re that Death Eater they let off.’

Harry saw Draco’s face stiffen out of the corner of his eye, and spoke hurriedly. ‘If you could just answer our questions, please.’

Her eyes whipped to Harry, and flicked straight up to his scar in the way he had grown accustomed to seeing people do. Then she nodded sharply. ‘Did you know Mr Nott at all?’

‘He was a neighbour of mine. I used to speak to him sometimes.’

‘How well did you know him?’ asked Draco.

She shrugged minutely. ‘We occasionally had tea together. We were on good terms, but I didn’t know him that well.’

‘Would you mind taking us through your actions on Saturday,’ Harry continued.

Her mouth hardened slightly. ‘I went to the library in the morning, then I spent the rest of the day in my flat.’

‘And was anyone else there?’

‘No,’ she said curtly.

Harry sighed. ‘All right. Mrs Douglas, what do you know about Almira Rosier?’

‘I’ve never heard of her.’

‘Really,’ said Draco flatly. ‘And what about Thaddeus Thoreau?’

A brief shake of the head. Harry glanced to Draco, who nodded back at him slightly. Harry stood briskly and walked out of the room.

‘Where’s he going?’ Marjolaine Douglas asked, displaying some animation for the first time since entering the room.

‘To get some Veritaserum,’ Draco said grimly. ‘A wonderful thing about the recent developments in Potions is how we’ve managed to make many of them work on Muggles.’

Her eyes widened, but she said nothing  as Harry returned, holding a small bottle of clear liquid. ‘If you would open your mouth, please. Three drops is all that is necessary.’ She sat completely still for a moment, then opened her mouth reluctantly.

Harry carefully dripped in three drops, then returned to his seat next to Draco. ‘Now. Please give me your full name.’

‘Marjolaine Tessa Douglas,’ she said, almost robotically.

Draco smiled slightly. It appeared to work. ‘And did you kill Theodore Nott.’

Her mouth worked for a second. ‘Yes.’

Harry took a sharp breath. They had actually done it. They’d found their culprit.

‘Did you murder Almira Rosier?’

This time the answer came easily. ‘No.’

Draco glanced at Harry in puzzlement. ‘Thaddeus Thoreau? Isabella Selwyn? Simon Travers?’

‘No. none of them,’ she said again.

‘But do you know who did kill them?’

The expression on her face was not quite the same now. ‘Not any more.’

‘What do you mean, not any more?’ Harry asked quickly.

‘My memory was modified so that their identity is not known in case anyone was caught.’

Harry’s heart sank. Draco’s usual façade seemed to be in place, but when Harry looked at him he could tell that underneath, he was seething.

‘Tell us why you killed Theo Nott, then,’ continued Draco reluctantly.

‘He had it coming. He killed my son.’

*

‘I can’t believe that Theo actually killed that man,’ Draco said as he paced furiously up and down their office.

‘Draco, there was a war on,’ Harry said. ‘He may not have wanted to, but sometimes people have no choice.’

‘Fine,’ he said angrily. ‘But we still need to work out how the whole thing fits together. There’s more to this than just Theo.’

‘I know,’ said Harry desperately. ‘Calm down. Hopefully Savage will have got more out of her. Come on, since you’re so impatient we may as well go and wait by her office for when she finishes with Douglas.’

Draco sighed haughtily, and marched out of the room ahead of Harry without a word.

They reached Savage’s office just as she returned to it herself. ‘What else did you get out of her?’ asked Draco bluntly.

Savage gave them a small frown, and ushered them into her office. ‘Sit down. She’s been obliviated of all the names of the other conspirators. But we know that there were multiple ones, and they all used the same method to get close enough to kill them, except for Travers.’

‘But why?’ asked Harry. ‘Why these particular people? What had they done to deserve being murdered?’

‘She seems to think Theo killed her son,’ added Draco.

So far as we can tell, he did,’ said Savage sternly. ‘It seems that a group of Death Eaters ambushed a group of Muggleborns and half-bloods who were on the run during the war.’

‘What, Isabella Selwyn killed someone? She’s hardly left her house in years,’ protested Draco.

‘No, but Marcus Selwyn killed someone, as did Evan Rosier and Caleb Travers. The idea is not just to punish the people who actually were there – the only ones who were there were Nott and Thoreau – but also their families.’

‘Oh,’ said Draco. ‘And… and do we know who the people who they killed were?’

‘Unfortunately not,’ said Savage grimly. ‘That would be far too easy. It’s been obliviated from her memory, to protect the identities of the other killers. They seem to all be Muggles, though, except for one – who did the obliviation.’

‘Well, if we ask around, hopefully we can find out who the others were,’ said Harry eagerly.

‘I’ve got people doing that already. You two were in yesterday, weren’t you?’ she asked.

They nodded. ‘And Saturday afternoon,’ said Draco.

‘Right. You’re both going to go home and get some rest. At the moment, there’s nothing you can do here.’

Draco opened his mouth to start to protest, but Harry nudged him. ‘All right. As long as somebody tells us as soon as there’s any news.’

Savage nodded.  ‘Now, go, both of you.’

As they trudged back to their office, Draco cleared his throat a little nervously. ‘I, ah, was wondering, since you invited me yesterday, if you’d like to come and get a drink? Or maybe lunch?’

Harry glanced at him. He was getting quite good at seeing through Draco’s façade now, and this time he seemed worried, and a bit nervous. Not at all like Draco Malfoy. Harry smiled back at him. ‘Sounds good. They serve food at the Leaky Cauldron?’

And Draco smiled back at him; one of his rare, full, absolutely genuine smiles, and Harry’s breath almost stopped in his chest for a second.

*

Harry knew he was drinking a little too much beer over their lunch, but he’d stopped really caring. It meant that he didn’t have to worry that he was laughing a bit too hard at Draco’s dry humour, or staring at him for a little too long, because if he was then, well, it obviously wasn’t his fault. It was just the alcohol.

Draco had disparaged Harry’s taste, but drunk beer with him all the same, and now his smiles came more easily.

‘Draco,’ Harry said solemnly, late into the afternoon.

‘Yes, Harry?’ replied Draco, with a mocking gravity to his tone.

‘I think… I think,’ Harry started to say. ‘I think I might be a bit drunk.’

Draco nodded solemnly. ‘I think I might be too.’

They lapsed into a comfortable silence for a few minutes.

‘Being drunk is better than thinking about Theo,’ Draco said quietly.

Harry looked up at him. ‘Was he your only friend?’ he asked contemplatively.

‘I s’pose,’ Draco replied. ‘I don’t have many friends left.’

‘Can I be your friend?’ Harry asked slowly. ‘I think I’d like to be your friend.’

Draco started to laugh. ‘Imagine that. When I was, you know, little… I wanted you to be my friend. And then you were mean to me so I was horrid to you and… I’ve forgotten what I was saying.’

‘That’s all right,’ Harry smiled uncontrollably. ‘You’re my friend now.’

*

They were both awoken the next morning by owls from Savage. Harry dressed hurriedly and Apparated to the Ministry. In their office, he found Draco rummaging through one of his desk drawers. He slumped down behind his desk with a groan.

‘You don’t happen to have any hangover potion, do you?’ he asked.

Draco straightened up. ‘That’s what I’m looking for.’

‘Mmmm. Good idea.’

‘Ah. Here,’ he said, finally pulling two small bottles from the drawer. He passed one to Harry, who downed it with a small shiver as Draco did the same.

‘Can we please agree not to talk about how much of a fool I made of myself yesterday?’

Draco grinned. ‘Hah. Fine. Now let’s go find Savage.’

They reached her office quickly, and Harry knocked sharply on the door.

‘Come in,’ she called out. She looked up as they entered. ‘Ah, good, you’re here. We think we’ve dug up a list of the victims of the attack Henry Douglas was killed in. But it’s not pretty.’

Harry glanced at Draco, who frowned back at him. ‘What’s so bad about it?’ he asked.

‘See for yourself,’ said Savage, and handed them a list of names.

Reading down it, Harry recognised at least three last names that were shared with people who had come up in the previous files as possibly having occasional contact with the victims. Then he stopped reading in shock.

Hilda Proudfoot.

‘Proudfoot?’ Draco said cautiously. ‘Surely she–’

‘That’s not the only issue,’ interrupted Savage. ‘There’s a list of the people we think were responsible for this attack.’

Harry flipped the paper quickly and read:

Evan Rosier

Thaddeus Thoreau

Caleb Travers

Marcus Selwyn

Theodore Nott

Lucius Malfoy

*

‘You mean… you think they’re going to come after me?’ Draco said, shocked. ‘No. Proudfoot wouldn’t have anything to do with something like that.’

Savage shook her head. ‘I’m afraid that of the victims, she’s the only surviving relative with magic. It appears that they were all on the run – most were Muggleborn, a few half-bloods with sympathies, – and they were unlucky enough to run into some Death Eaters.’

Harry knew all too well how easy that could be. ‘I’m surprised it was actual Death Eaters, and not Snatchers.’

Savage’s mouth grew thin. ‘It seems that they were out looking for some – for want of a better word – sport.’

‘Oh,’ said Harry, a sudden sick feeling in his stomach. ‘Well, what are we going to do? Obviously, Draco needs protecting. And Proudfoot needs arresting.’

And it all fit together now – the strange little oddities. Of course Muggles couldn’t kill with magic. And if they had all befriended a victim who lived near them, like Douglas had, of course the wards wouldn’t be broken. It worked, just like one of Draco’s little puzzles.

‘I don’t need protecting, Harry,’ said Draco firmly. ‘I’m going to help arrest Proudfoot.’

‘Are you sure that’s wise, Malfoy?’ asked Savage. ‘It is you she wants to kill.’

He sighed. ‘All right. But at least, I want to know if she was actually going to kill me. I need to be allowed to speak to her.’

Harry looked at him in concern, but Savage nodded, and a determined expression settled over Draco’s face, replacing a vulnerability that Harry hadn’t realised was there until it was gone.

*

They didn’t get told they could go down to the cells until nearly three that afternoon. Draco in the meantime chewed his pencils as his finished the newspaper puzzles he hadn’t had time to do before, and paced up and down the small room in long strides. Harry watched him anxiously, feeling helpless.

They walked to the cell block together, but Draco stopped Harry before he could follow him all the way down the line of cells.

‘No, wait here,’ he said. ‘I don’t mind you hearing, but she won’t respect me if she thinks I need to bring you with me.’

Harry nodded, but kept a close eye on Draco as he continued down to Proudfoot’s cell. They all were three-walled rooms, with another wall of bars, so while she could see Draco, Harry would be out of sight.

He heard her voice as Draco stopped in front of her. ‘You,’ she said. ‘I should have known you would be here. What do you want.’

‘I want to know why.’ Draco’s voice was steely.

Proudfoot laughed – an almost deranged sound. ‘Because your father and his little friends took from me the person who mattered most in my life. How can you say that they did not deserve to pay?’

‘Not like this. Not by murdering them. You're no better than they are.’

‘Like you can talk, Malfoy,’ she snarled. ‘You’re as rotten as they were. You deserve to pay. I planned this all so carefully. I obliviated everyone. And even now, I don’t care that they found it was me anyway. Because I made them pay.’ Her face contorted into an ugly smile. ‘I got them to put you on the case so you could see what your kind has coming. My daughter had to watch her friends be tortured and disembowelled because of the vicious cruelty of your lot. So how can you tell me that they did not have it coming?’

Draco regarded her coldly. ‘They are not ‘my kind’ at all,’ he insisted.

‘Do you have any idea how much effort it took to pretend to be your mentor? I specially asked to be assigned to you and Potter, you know. The others all thought I wanted to be able to mentor Potter, but I just needed to keep an eye on you. And look what he’s become now. You think he’s your friend.’ She laughed again and sneered, ‘He may be misguided, but someone like him could never truly want to be near someone like you. I’ve seen the way you look at him, too. When you think he’s not looking. Your poor little vain hopes.’

Draco’s back stiffened, and Harry struggled not to gasp. ‘That’s no concern of yours,’ he said.

‘He will never love you. One day you will realise that, and you will be miserable, and you will only have yourself to blame.’

Malfoy’s next words were so quiet Harry could barely hear them. ‘I know all that. I know that far too well. But that doesn’t mean that I, or anyone else, deserve to die.’

Proudfoot made a noise of disgust. ‘Death is too good for you. All those who killed and tortured – they deserve far worse than death. And you are no different. You are just like your father.’

Draco pulled himself straight. ‘You’re wrong. And I have nothing more to say to you.’ And he turned and marched back down the corridor towards Harry, his boots clicking sharply on the stone.

Harry felt the swish of Draco’s robes as he hurried past him, and turned and ran a few metres to catch up. Draco glanced at him, but refused to meet his eyes as they walked back towards their office.

‘I think she’s wrong, you know,’ said Harry, as calmly as he could manage.

‘About what?’ Draco asked, his eyes still turned rigidly to the front.

As they reached their doorway, and Draco reached out to open the door, Harry reached out to rest his hand on top of Draco’s on the doorknob. Draco slowly turned to look at him.

‘Everything. But especially,’ Harry said earnestly, ‘You are not your father. I believe that, and I can see it easily. And everyone else will come round.’

Draco gave a half-hearted smile and looked back down. ‘But they aren’t coming round. Half the Ministry still hates me, and even your friends still couldn’t see past the person I used to be.’

Harry opened the door, and gently pushed Draco through. ‘I told you, they’ll come round. And I’ll help you convince them.’

Draco shrugged off Harry’s hand. ‘But how? They never believe or trust what I say!’

Harry smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring way. ‘Maybe try not being so remote all the time. You always hide what you’re thinking. That disconcerts people.’

‘It protects me, Potter,’ Draco said coldly.

‘I’m back to Potter now, am I?’ Harry asked, feeling a little defeated. Maybe that was the wrong way to try to convince him. Then Draco’s eyes met his, and the cold grey seemed to soften a little. Harry’s breath caught again, and he slowly moved in towards Draco.

‘No,’ he muttered, not taking his eyes from Harry’s. ‘I suppose not.’

‘Good,’ Harry said, and he leaned in to kiss him.

It was stiff, and a little awkward, and yet it was the most emotion Harry had felt in a very long time. He moved his arms to wrap round Draco’s waist, and felt him relax into the kiss. When they broke apart, cliché though he knew it was, Harry could not stop himself smiling.

‘All right, now?’ he asked tentatively.

Draco sighed, and leaned his head against Harry’s. ‘Not really. But maybe,’ he said, glancing back at Harry again, ‘It will be.’

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