In the seven years since Harry Potter had joined the Aurors, he had never once asked for a favour.
He had put his head down, worked hard, trained harder, made cups of tea for everyone when they were stuck doing late-night paperwork and quite frequently remembered his co-workers’ birthdays. When sundry papers and Wireless shows ran their semi-regular Boy Who Lived specials, he put up stoically with his colleagues’ teasing and began a genuinely funny campaign for Ron Weasley to retrain as a Dark Overlord so someone else could defeat him and take the media attention.
So when he demanded the Malfoy case, and refused to listen to any suggestion that it might be a bit of a mistake for him to get involved, everyone in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement breathed a great sigh of relief, and went home to tell their families that Potter wasn’t just one of the lads, he was also human, after all.
‘This way, Auror Potter.’
Uurija Evald Kask had worked with Potter twice before, but they had been active cases, where Potter had been on the trail of a bad ‘un. Those cases had seen the two of them flying over the Baltic scouring islands in the soft light of dawn, then laughing in the Ministeerium at the conclusion of the chase, sharing bottles of whatever was to hand.
Then he had been Harry, and nothing like the papers. Today, he was a grim and serious official, and had greeted Evald with a dour ‘Uurija’, before handing over the paperwork for the prisoner transfer.
Evald’s English was as good as his Russian, French and German, so the formal tone of Potter’s language was not lost on him. He escorted him through the ancient building that housed their Law Enforcement offices, and left him in the official visiting room, with promises to return swiftly.
He had sent Potter’s paperwork on ahead, and the prisoner’s advocate had been informed, too. A memo flew down from the paperstream above Evald’s head as he entered the secure area to let him know that the advocate would be able to join them within the quarter hour.
Anu and Feliks were guarding the main doors today, lucky for Evald, as Feliks still owed him for last week’s card losses, and Anu was always good for a laugh. Later, of course, after the Potter business had been squared away.
‘Uurija Kask for the British prisoner,’ he declared for the record.
‘Uurija Tamm will escort you to his cell,’ Anu replied, with a wink as she opened the security door.
The inspector on the other side of the door held a clipboard and quill and had clearly just finished signing the top form as the door opened.
‘Evald,’ he said, looking up with a smile.
‘Hi, Veigo. I’m here to collect our guest.’
‘Right this way. I’m almost sorry to see him go, he’s been quiet as a lamb. Not like the usual lot we get in here.’
‘Harry Potter is here to pick him up.’
Veigo’s eyebrows expressed surprise. ‘I thought he was their Deputy Chief Auror?’
‘I think there is something going on. Potter is …’
‘Did you say Potter?’ A voice rang out from behind the wooden door they were approaching. ‘Come on, Veigo, you know I only have six words of Estonian. It sounded for all the world as though your friend’s just said Potter. Twice.’
Veigo Tamm opened the door and switched to English. ‘Yes, Draco. He did. Harry Potter will be your escort back to England.’
‘Bugger.’ Draco Malfoy sat down heavily on the not-uncomfortable bed that occupied a good portion of his cell.
Evald exchanged a glance with Veigo. That would certainly explain Potter’s tension, as well as Malfoy’s obvious dismay.
‘By which I mean “bloody hell, damn and blast”,’ Malfoy added, correctly interpreting the Estonians’ expressions.
‘Well, you can petition against the extradition,’ Veigo reminded him. ‘Your advokaat is on her way, we can delay your meeting with Potter until she gets here. There is no need for you to see him without legal representation.’
Malfoy smiled weakly. ‘Of all the legal systems to be entangled in, I’m very glad it ended up being yours, Veigo. But I should probably have a word with Potter before Advokaat Ruohonen arrives. I suspect it will be for the best.’
Tamm gave a friendly smile in reply. ‘All right, Draco. I’ll keep your room ready for you if you want to come back. This is Evald, Uurija Kask, he’ll be taking over your custody.’
‘You’re a decent person, Veigo. Many thanks. Despite the circumstances, it’s been a pleasure meeting you.’
Evald wasn’t surprised when Veigo shook hands with the prisoner. Being held by the Ministeerium did not equate to being tried and convicted, and they had had many an innocent wizard and witch pass through their cells. By all accounts, the Englishman had been a model of decorum. Evald found himself half-hoping he was innocent. The alternative was … well, he did not like to consider the effect it would have on Veigo. Or Potter, for that matter.
They did not chat on their journey to the visiting room, but Evald thought it only fair to give Malfoy warning.
‘The visiting room is at the end of this corridor,’ he announced. ‘Auror Potter is already waiting inside. You can still choose to wait for Advokaat Ruohonen, or I can accompany you in and stay with you, if you desire.’
Malfoy pressed his lips together for a moment, but then shook his head. ‘No, I’ll be fine alone. Thank you.’
They covered a few more steps before Malfoy stopped, suddenly.
‘Is he angry?’ he asked.
‘I don’t think so,’ Evald answered, honestly. ‘Upset, I would say. Are the two of you friends?’
‘Merlin, no,’ Malfoy replied with a bleak laugh.
Evald opened the door, and walked in beside the prisoner.
Potter looked up, but did not rise from his chair. ‘Murder, Malfoy?’ he asked in a defeated voice. ‘After everything that happened, you finally kill someone and it isn’t even me?’
Draco nearly laughed. If the Estonian official had not been there, he wouldn’t have been able to hold it in, and he wasn’t entirely sure that would have been a good idea, because Potter’s face did not seem to contain any of the levity of his words.
Instead, he took the seat opposite Potter’s, put his hands palm-down on the table, and waited for Uurija Kask to depart.
When the door shut, he looked up, and then away from Potter’s intense stare. ‘I didn’t do it,’ he muttered. ‘Not that I expect you to believe me, but I didn’t. For all that I could sometimes have throttled Pansy, I could never have hurt her.’
‘Her father found you with the body.’
Potter’s voice was quiet, and not accusing. Draco looked up again. ‘We were meant to be going out, I Floo’d to her room. She had the fire waiting, as usual, but she was …’
‘There was blood all over you, your fingerprints were on the knife.’
Draco shrugged. Of course he had gone to her, held her, tried to help her … ‘I didn’t know what to do …’
Potter nodded. ‘You were in shock.’
Draco lifted his chin. ‘I was, actually. I still am, really.’
‘But her father says the two of you had fought, because she wanted a relationship, and you were gay.’
‘That is total, complete and utter bollocks.’
‘All of it?’ Potter looked slightly surprised.
‘My sexuality is none of your business.’
‘It goes to motive.’
Draco sighed. ‘Fine. She knew I was as gay as Albus Dumbledore by the start of Sixth Year. She loved having a secret about me, and if I’m being honest, she was actually a really good friend to have at that time. She protected me and helped me where she could – it was not a good time …’
‘It was not,’ Potter agreed.
‘And she stuck by me,’ Draco continued. ‘She was loyal and kind and even straight after the war she was there for me.’
‘But you fought,’ Potter interrupted. ‘Her father and two house-elves testified that they heard a loud argument the day before.’
‘Because my mother was insisting I should marry to protect the family name and Pansy was convinced I should marry her to shut everyone up, while I didn’t want her to throw away her chance at a real marriage to a real husband who could be … proper …’ Draco’s voice wound down. ‘What she deserved. What she should have had …’
He looked up at Potter again. Potter was nodding.
‘I should have stayed.’ Draco wiped his face, unsurprised to find tears there. He couldn’t even think of Pansy without tears, yet. ‘I should have just let Mr Parkinson curse me on the spot. I wouldn’t have minded, except that then everyone would think I did it, and no one would ever have looked for anyone else.’
‘So you Apparated away …’
‘I went home, and I told my Father, and he told me to run.’
A tense smile crossed Draco’s face. ‘Oh, Potter. He thought I was guilty, of course.’
‘He should have believed in you.’ Potter looked almost as surprised as Draco to hear the words.
‘Why start now?’
Draco had meant the phrase as a joke, albeit a bleak one, but its effect on Potter was profound.
‘Are you telling me the truth?’ he asked. ‘Quickly, before your lawyer arrives.’
‘Yes.’ Draco realised where he had seen the expression on Potter’s face before. On the last day of the War, in the Room of Requirement. And afterwards, when he had told the Aurors to let the Malfoys be. He felt … beholden.
‘Look, I don’t blame you for bringing me in. You’re doing your job. I’ll have to rely on the Wizengamot seeing sense.’ Draco hoped his tone wasn’t too overtly cynical, he was fairly sure Potter had friends on the Wizengamot.
‘If I walk out of here with you in custody, I’ll have to take you in,’ Potter said.
‘Yes, obviously. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?’ Potter’s lack of mental acuity had clearly not improved in recent years.
‘Ask your lawyer to appeal the extradition,’ Potter urged.
‘We’ll lose the appeal.’
‘Yes, but …’ Potter lowered his voice and looked meaningly at Draco. ‘It won’t be held here.’
There was a knock at the door. Potter called out that the interloper could come in, and Uurija Kask escorted Advokaat Ruohonen into the room.
‘Auror Potter, this is most irregular. Draco, I hope you’ve not said anything you oughtn’t. Now …’
Draco was glad Meeli Ruohonen was his advocate. She was so organised and controlling that he didn’t need to say a thing, which was just as well, because what he would have said was ‘Have you just suggested I escape from official custody?!’ which was almost certainly not helpful.
Instead, he nodded when Ruohonen suggested they would be petitioning against the extradition, and again when she said that she would be demanding the first available court date, and further, that if he wanted her to petition to have Potter removed from the case she would most certainly do so as, given their history, it was obviously another indication of the British Wizengamot’s bias against her client …
‘What? No, no, we can keep Potter. Keep Potter. He’s not … I don’t mind Potter.’
This elicited a minuscule smile from Potter, and a momentary pause from Ruohonen. It was only a moment, though.
‘Yes, of course. Auror Potter is famously incorruptible. It is hardly his fault that there are conspirators against you, he is merely doing the right thing as he sees it and we apportion no blame …’
And she was off again. Even through the whirring thoughts in Draco’s head he could only admire her smooth handling of Potter as she outlined the appeal she intended to make and berated him for not waiting on her before he visited the prisoner. Potter was polite and agreed with her plans and promised that he was more than happy to be delayed if it meant that legal processes were upheld and by the end of a quarter hour everyone was getting along swimmingly, after which hands were shaken, farewells given and he was handed back into the firm but fair custody of Uurija Kask.
Clearly, Draco decided, he had hallucinated the whole thing.
‘One moment, Uurija Kask,’ Potter said before Draco could be escorted from the room. ‘I just want to make sure of the protocols at this point. Malfoy will remain your prisoner and you will bring him to the appeals hearing?’
‘Yes,’ Kask replied. ‘That is correct.’
‘Which will be held where?’
‘In the Old Ministeerium. We will Apparate there with the prisoner in custody.’
‘Excellent. I’ll meet you in the lobby before the Appeal so that we can all go in together.’
‘There is no need …’
‘Nonsense. I’m sure Draco will be pleased to have a friendly face there, won’t you?’
Draco fervently hoped that his face showed none of the confusion he felt. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Absolutely. Long way from home and all that.’
‘Excellent,’ said Potter. ‘See you tomorrow, then.’
Draco nodded and meekly followed Kask out into the hallway.
‘English Aurors are very strange,’ Kask muttered quietly.
‘I agree,’ Draco said, nodding. ‘I don’t begin to understand them myself.’
The following morning, Draco was relieved to be flanked by Uurijas Kask and Tamm. He knew that Viego was fond of him, and suspected that Kask would hesitate before seriously stunning him, which quite probably improved the chances of surviving whatever Potter had in mind.
The Old Ministeerium was a beautifully preserved mediaeval building and the atrium was filled with light from the surprisingly tall windows. Potter was standing there, sun gleaming in his still-stupid hair. He’d probably positioned himself to take advantage of the surrounds, knowing him.
‘Evald, Draco,’ Potter greeted them, smiling at Tamm, whom he clearly did not know. ‘Advokaat Ruohonen is …’
And Draco never did find out what Meeli was, as Potter was interrupted by a wave of squeals and shouts and running Estonians, pursued by what appeared to be furry black – Doxies!? Draco turned to stare at Potter. Surely even he wasn’t mad enough to …
‘Behind me, Malfoy!’ Potter shouted, grabbing him and pushing him into a corner of the room, then adopting a protective stance in front of him, wand drawn.
Familiar-looking wand drawn …
‘Hey! That’s my …’ Draco began
‘Grab it,’ Potter hissed from the side of his mouth, as Kask and Tamm threw their packed lunches at the greedy marauding fairies and shouted for Doxycide.
‘You thieving wanker!’ Draco shouted, and launched himself at Potter’s back in what he hoped was a convincing manner.
Potter staggered and flung his right hand back to protect his head. Draco triumphantly snatched the wand from it, keeping Potter between himself and the other drawn wands in the room.
Potter turned, arms out to attack.
‘Go!’ he whispered, making a too-slow grab for Draco’s right hand.
Draco needed no further urging. He grabbed hold of Potter’s arm and Apparated.
The shouts of the Old Ministeerium disappeared, replaced by a single, closer voice.
‘What in Merlin’s name are you thinking, Malfoy? Why on earth did you drag me along?’
Potter’s ranting voice hadn’t changed, then.
‘You were standing there, telling me to go,’ Draco explained. Honestly, you would think the man would know his own plan.
‘Telling you to go,’ Potter corrected him. ‘I was meant to stay behind and look like an idiot for losing you.’
‘Well how was I meant to know that?’ Draco snapped. ‘Go back, then.’
‘Without you? How will I explain that?’
This was the worst rescue Draco had ever experienced, even including the one where Snape killed Dumbledore for him. ‘Then don’t!’
‘And look like a criminal conspirator?’
Draco put his hands over his ears and sat down on the leafy ground. Potter was still rabbiting on, so he started to hum tonelessly in a bid to drown it all out.
After a minute, Potter sat down in front of him and looked worriedly at him.
Draco stopped humming and put his hands down.
‘Are you … Malfoy, have you completely lost it?’ Potter asked, in what he probably thought was a gentle tone.
‘Pansy is dead,’ Draco told him.
‘Yes … um. Sorry?’
‘And since you believe me that I didn’t do it, you have to help me find who did.’
Potter started to shake his head. Draco went on.
‘Because at the moment, the only possible explanation for what just happened is that I’ve taken you hostage. And if I’ve taken you hostage, then I’ve done that for a reason. So that reason is I’m forcing you to help me. And if we find who did it, then you’re in the clear, and I’m free. And we can kill them.’
‘Fine. I’ll Crucio them and you can arrest them.’
‘Just Stun me and go,’ Potter said. He sounded almost kind.
Draco shook his head. ‘Don’t you get it? I need you to help me. I’ll beg if you want. I don’t know how to do it. You do.’
‘Please.’ Draco hoped he wouldn’t have to actually beg. Admitting he needed Potter’s help was demeaning enough.
And there it was. Potter didn’t know that yet, but Draco did.
‘Where are we, anyway?’
‘Hiiumaa Island, I stopped here while I was on the run. People were kind and fed me, even though they were Muggles and I couldn’t understand a word they were saying.’
‘They didn’t capture you–‘
‘In Tallinn, they caught me in Tallinn. I was careless. We should be all right here for a bit.’
‘OK. So, we’ll go back and …’ Potter went on.
‘If we go back, they’ll arrest me and I don’t fancy my chances against the Wizengamot.’
‘It’s improved …’ Potter began, then stopped. He sighed. ‘But maybe not enough. Look, we should be able to establish your innocence from the blood on your clothes. Even if you were holding Pansy’s … body,’ he faltered over the word, ‘the pattern will be different from the spatter that would have covered … covered the killer,’ Potter finished quietly.
Draco’s shoulders slumped. ‘I burned the clothes,’ he admitted.
‘Argh!’ Potter covered his face with his hands. ‘What is wrong with you, Malfoy? I was convinced you were innocent from the start, but you’re starting to look suspicious to even me!’
‘They were covered in Pansy’s blood!’ Draco took a deep breath and prepared to explain why that meant keeping them had not been an option, but Potter just nodded, and Draco recalled a day Potter’s clothes had been drenched in the blood of his friends, and a wave of sorrow hit, fresh and strong. He grasped for distraction.
‘What do you mean you were convinced I was innocent? You interrogated me yesterday!’
Potter shrugged. ‘I was just confirming my instincts. You’re not a killer. I know that better than anyone. After eight years of blameless post-War frippery, you’re not going to suddenly murder your best friend.’
It was possible that Potter was not actually dreadful at this Auroring business after all. ‘No,’ said Draco. ‘I’m not.’
‘So the question is, who wanted Pansy dead?’
‘Well, all of your fanclub for a start.’
Potter refused to rise to the bait. ‘Would have happened long ago, eight years is far too long to wait.’
‘Then I have no idea.’
‘All right. All right, look, we’ll go back to England, we’ll take a look around, see what we can find out. If we work quickly, we should be able to smooth this whole thing over as just a misunderstanding, and when we hand over the genuine culprit, you’ll be fine.’
‘Aside from the fact I’ve taken Harry Potter hostage …’
Potter started to argue the point, then stopped. ‘That might complicate things, yes.’
‘So I think we probably have about 24 hours before there’s an international incident underway. Do you agree?’
Draco smiled suddenly. ‘At least having you on side means Granger, too. She’ll come up with something bright.’
Potter shook his head. ‘We can’t involve Hermione, she’s just had a baby. Last week. If things go wrong, we can see if she can help at the Wizengamot.’
‘So it’s just you and me, then. Right. Well, we’d better solve it within 24 hours, or we’ll both kill each other and the whole thing will remain a mystery.’
‘We won’t kill each other,’ Potter sighed. ‘Oh, all right, I might kill you.’
‘Right. Are you better at this Auror thing than you are the rescuing thing?’
‘Thank Merlin for that. So where do you think we ought to begin?’
Potter thought for a moment. ‘My place, then Pansy’s. See if we can pick up the trail from there. I’ve got a portkey that will get us back home, we should arrive there before anyone starts looking for us. Can you Apparate us close to her place from London?’
‘Good-oh.’ Potter undid the belt of his red Auror trenchcoat and fumbled through the internal pockets.
‘You have your own wand,’ Draco said, spotting it inside the coat’s left breast.
‘What? Oh, yes, of course.’
‘Good. I wouldn’t want you thinking I was harmless.’
‘No, of course not. I was ready to Stun you at any time.’
‘Which means that you brought mine with you before you were certain I didn’t do it.’
‘I was already certain.’
‘Which means the whole time, you were planning to bust me out.’
‘Not the whole time, I needed to be …’ Potter gave up. ‘Anyway, shut up. I meant to give your wand back to you ages ago, but it would have involved talking to you. Here’s the bloody Portkey. Hang on. Three, two, one …’
Kreacher had seen many strange things in his long life. His master appearing in the study with Young Draco Malfoy was barely worth raising an eyebrow at.
‘Get your kit off,’ Master Harry insisted, tossing the Portkey on top of the mantel.
That was worth an eyebrow, Kreacher decided. Young Malfoy gave it two.
‘Are you insane?’
‘You’re wearing prison clothing, even a Muggle will spot that,’ Master Harry pointed out. ‘I’ll be back in a minute. We’re about the same size, you can wear something of mine.’
‘Something remotely decent!’ Young Malfoy shouted after him.
Kreacher stood and watched. The Malfoy whelp took mostly after his father, but there were strong touches of Black blood to compensate for it. Though what he was doing wearing prison stripes was a mystery rivalling what he was doing wearing them here.
Young Malfoy began to remove his clothes, tossing each piece towards Kreacher. Kreacher looked at them, grunted, and took a step away from the pile.
Young Malfoy looked as though he was going to say something, but stopped himself before any words came out. He reached his pants and paused with his thumbs in the waistband, before thinking better of it, to Kreacher’s infinite relief.
Master Harry returned quickly, carrying clothing and a bundle of scrolls. ‘Right, here we g—’ He stopped, staring at Young Malfoy, who slumped over in what appeared to be a bid to hide as much body as possible behind his remaining undergarment.
‘Where’s your tattoo?’ Master Harry demanded.
‘Your Dark Mark. On your arm. Where is it?’
Young Malfoy looked down at his left arm, and seemed relieved to find it pale and unscathed. ‘I never had one. Voldemort never trusted me enough.’
‘But in Sixth Year …’ Master Harry’s voice was insistent.
‘My family was already on the outer, thanks to …’ Young Malfoy stopped speaking with an effort. After a moment, he resumed. ‘We were no longer a part of the trusted inner circle, and as you saw for yourself, we never regained a position within it.’
‘But you kept pulling down your sleeve.’
Young Malfoy blushed. ‘I may have inked a facsimile of the Mark onto my arm as a jest …’
‘As a …’ Master Harry appeared to be about to lose his temper, if Kreacher was any judge. His ears had that touch of red that traditionally foretold shouting and ill-advised spells.
Young Malfoy shouted over him. ‘I was young and very, very stupid, all right?’
Which was apparently the right thing to say. Master Harry put his bundles down on the desk. ‘All right,’ he said, with a sigh, and passed the clothes over.
‘What are they?’ Young Malfoy asked, pointing at the scrolls.
‘Your case notes, and all the investigation into … the crime,’ Master Harry said. ‘We’ll need to go through them today, see what leads we can find.’
Young Malfoy began to dress without complaint. He frowned as he looked at the scrolls. ‘Open them up, we may as well start now.’
‘Not here. The news will probably be reaching the Ministry in the next 15 minutes or so. They’ll be here within the half hour. I’ve packed a change of clothing each, coats and a Portkey to Mauritius in case everything goes pear-shaped.’
Young Malfoy stopped dressing. ‘Why do you have a collection of Portkeys, Potter?’
‘They’re not that expensive, and it’s a better option than braining Rita Skeeter with a brick whenever the Prophet gets too intrusive.’
Malfoy nodded thoughtfully. ‘Better for you personally, I’ll agree. Probably not for the world at large …’
Kreacher turned away so no-one could see him smile.
‘Right.’ Young Malfoy pulled a light jumper on over his shirt. ‘I’m ready. Should we go to Pansy’s next?’
Master Harry shook his head. ‘No, I’ve changed my mind. We should read through the evidence together first. You might be able to shed light on some of the more confusing aspects. Then we can look at the crime scene with an idea of what we’re looking for. Do you have anywhere we’ll be safe for an hour or two?’
Young Malfoy shook his head. ‘We can’t go to Wiltshire, it’s the first or second place they’ll look.’
‘Do you have any hiding places left over from the war?’
‘No. What about you, any holiday hideaways?’
Young Malfoy snorted. ‘Don’t be ridiculous. What about friends? You’ve got loads of friends.’
‘Who’d all hex you on sight. You?’
‘Only Goyle. Same problem. And your lot will look there.’
Master Harry paused. ‘Maybe Luna? Kreacher, do you know where Miss Luna is this week?’
‘She wrote to you on Monday,’ Kreacher reminded him. ‘She said she would be at home working on her book, and that you should visit her.’
Master Harry grinned. ‘So she did. Thanks, Kreacher. Well, Malfoy? What do you think? Of all the people I know, she’s the most likely to give you a chance. She makes a point of saying that you were decent to her when she was trapped in your cellar, which is more of a concession than any of my other friends make when it comes to you.’
‘Do I have a choice?’
‘Sounds ideal. Merlin knows she can’t hurt the situation. It’s not as though things could get any weirder than they already are.’
‘That’s the spirit.’ Master Harry waved his wand over the scrolls and shoved their rapidly shrinking forms into a bag tied to his belt. He transferred his wand to his belt, then took off his Auror coat and tossed it to Kreacher.
‘There’ll be other Aurors here soon, Kreacher,’ he said. ‘They’ll be looking for me, and for Malfoy. Don’t tell them you’ve seen us, and make sure they don’t find my coat. If you don’t hear from me within 48 hours, go straight to Ron Weasley and tell him what’s just happened. Tell him I went with Malfoy of my own accord and thought he was innocent, but if I disappear, too, he should probably go back on the suspect list.’
‘Oi …’ Young Malfoy began to argue, then changed his mind. ‘No, I suppose that’s reasonable.’
Master Harry turned back. ‘And Kreacher, if I come back alone and people later ask what happened to Malfoy, you never saw him here, right?’
‘No Malfoys in this house, Master,’ Kreacher said loyally, enjoying the look of shock that crossed Young Malfoy’s face almost as much as the glare that followed it. ‘Would you like some supplies for your journey?’
Kreacher trotted downstairs with Master’s Auror coat, muttering happily to himself. It was good to see the Master getting out and about rather than sitting at home and reading scrolls of an evening. And there had very nearly been shouting with that Malfoy whelp. Master was never happier than after a good shout. And now they were headed out on some form of adventure that could possibly culminate in homicide. It was beautiful to see how the spirit of the house was rubbing off onto Master Harry at last.
Kreacher opened up the cold store, hid the coat behind the pickles and selected two large pies, a treacle tart, a loaf of bread, wheel of cheese, block of chocolate and a bag of apples. As an afterthought, he added a large knife, just in case, before wrapping the whole lot well.
‘A plain but nourishing feast, Master Harry,’ Kreacher announced as he carried his parcel into the study.
Young Malfoy looked at the size of the linen-wrapped bundle. ‘I thought we were only going for a day.’
Kreacher glared at him. ‘Master Harry’s plans have a habit of taking longer than he expects,’ he declared stiffly. It was one thing for a house-elf to allow his Master to escape unfed for the best part of a year once, but never let it be said that he was the type to let it happen twice.
‘Thank you, Kreacher,’ his Master said, taking the food and shrinking it down to add to his other luggage. ‘I’ll be back as soon as I can.’
‘Safe travels, Master Harry!’
‘Cheers. Hold on Malfoy, here we go.’
And with a small pop and inward rush of air, the two of them were gone again.
Kreacher stared at the small pile of prison clothing Young Malfoy had left behind. For a moment he wondered if he ought to hide it, in case it was a treasured souvenir. Then, half-hoping that it was, he vapourised it into ash and swept it neatly into the fireplace.
Luna Lovegood had seen quite a lot of Harry Potter traipsing around after Draco Malfoy. Usually, he had been wearing a scowl, or an expression of deep suspicion. But occasionally, as now, it had been a look of frustration and concern.
‘Hullo, Harry,’ she sang out, getting up from the front steps of her home and leaving her notebook behind her. ‘And Draco, how kind of you to visit. I was sorry to hear about your friend Pansy, I know how close you were to her. She and I didn’t like each other, but I was still very sad to hear about it.’
Draco made a little bow and said, ‘Thank you, Luna.’
She patted his arm, then stepped past him to hug Harry. ‘What brings you here? Would you like some food? I’m running late today, I was about to have breakfast. The kettle’s on.’
Both young men smiled at her and started to accept her offer, Luna led them inside, picking up her notebook on the way. She had never known any of her male friends and acquaintances not to be hungry, save in the very worst crises. It was heartening that this didn’t appear to be one.
It didn’t take long for her to serve up tea, buttered toast, nasturtium salad (‘It’s very tasty, really, and healthful!’) fried mushrooms and porridge. Harry and Draco, despite both declaring they were fine with a cup of tea and slice of toast, both ate heartily, not even noticing that the nasturtiums warded off all the Wrackspurts that had followed them into the house.
She waited until they were sipping their second cups of tea before she tackled them. ‘So, you two don’t like each other at all. What brings you here together?’
Draco spluttered, but Harry smiled at her over the lip of his cup. ‘I sprang Malfoy from the Aurors about an hour ago. We’re on the trail of Pansy’s murderer, and we were hoping you might help.’
‘Yes, of course,’ Luna said. ‘Would you like some water?’ she asked Malfoy, who was still spluttering.
He waved a hand to signal that he was fine, so Luna moved away their breakfast things to make room for the scrolls that Harry was pulling from his pouch and returning to their original size.
‘This is everything I have on the case,’ Harry explained. ‘We thought we should start by looking over these with you, then go and see the scene of the crime, and then track down any leads that we develop. I don’t think we have a lot of time. Once the Estonians let on that we’ve disappeared, everyone will be after us and we won’t be able to investigate at all.’
‘And you’ll both be in enormous trouble,’ Luna added.
‘That too,’ Harry agreed.
‘Wait here for a moment,’ Luna said, darting back down to the kitchen. There, in the biscuit tin, she thought … no, at the bottom of the tea caddy, that’s right. She walked back into the living room, disentangling the two cords as she went.
‘Here you are,’ she said, finally separating the objects and passing one each to Harry and Draco. ‘Bunny pendants. They each have strong Concealment Charms on them, should help to hide you from anyone searching by magic.’
‘It’s … it’s very bunny …’ Draco said, staring at the pendant.
‘My father made them for us after the war,’ Luna explained. ‘He wasn’t feeling very well at the time, so he used my old Mr Flopsy as the model. That’s why one ear’s up and one ear’s down, I used to chew on the down one.’
‘I like it,’ Draco assured her.
‘Thanks, Luna,’ Harry added. ‘They’ll help.’
‘Just bring them back when you’re finished. Now, where do we begin here?’
‘With Pansy,’ Harry said authoritatively. ‘She was targeted for a reason. If we can work out what that reason was, it will lead us in the direction of her killer. Sorry, Malfoy, this will be a bit tough on you.’
Luna was surprised that Harry had noticed Draco’s bitten lip and pallor. She was very proud of him for showing empathy to someone not a close friend.
‘There’s no help for that,’ Draco replied. ‘Go on, it’ll all be worth it if we can find the bastard who did this.’
Harry nodded. ‘All right. Well, most murderers target their victims specifically. They’re someone who’s done them wrong, or angered them, or who they love, but in a perverted way that’s the same as hate. They’re representative of everything the killer desires, or everything they want to get rid of. Or they’re the person who stole their husband, hexed their cat, or accidentally blew up their letterbox. So we start with looking at Pansy to see if there are things about her that might give us a reason why someone would target her. Was she seeing anyone?’
‘Not for three years. The last one was Blaise, and they broke up amicably. She was due to be Best Woman at his wedding to Daphne next year.’
‘What about …’ Harry ground to a halt.
‘Lovers?’ Luna suggested.
Harry gave her a quick smile of gratitude. ‘Yes. Any?’
Draco frowned, but clearly decided that finding Pansy’s killer was more important than preserving her modesty. ‘After she and Blaise called it quits, she gave up on relationships. I know there were a few random Muggles picked up and quickly discarded, but she never once brought one home, and it had been a while since the last one of them, she said.’
Harry nodded and shuffled through his scrolls before extracting one. ‘Do you know if she had problems with anyone in her family?’
‘Her parents are separated,’ Luna said. ‘Mrs Parkinson was at the Weary Wizard Health Retreat when Pansy was killed. I know because Dad’s having a month there and he mentioned how upset she was when the news came. He doesn’t think you did it, by the way,’ she assured Draco.
‘Thank you.’ Draco smiled weakly. ‘That’s right. Pansy moved in with her father after her mother kicked him out. She was helping him through the worst of it, she said, but I think she was just making sure he had food to eat and that he remembered to do his laundry. She was very close to both her parents. Her Aunt Marjorie thought she was a painted trollop, but her Aunt Marjorie thinks Potter is a swollen-headed ne’er-do-well who probably orchestrated the whole war for the headlines.’
Luna stifled a laugh.
‘Aside from that, she has a handful of cousins who have always been on good terms with her, her Uncle Thomas, who doted on her, two nice aunts who own the cousins, a doddering Great Uncle and some more distant connections. I think the worst thing she ever did to any of them was pinch one of the aunt’s lipsticks. She was always very good about family, she even thought her Aunt Marjorie deserved credit for being so thoroughly obnoxious, rather than just bigoted against one section of society.’
‘Her Aunt Marjorie isn’t a Muggle is she?’ Harry asked with a frown.
‘Uncanny. Must be something about the name. All right. What about little petty crimes or accidents? Has she ever hexed anyone? Bullied anyone? Stolen someone’s Kneazle? Done something heinous?’
Draco looked up from his folded hands. ‘Do you know what “heinous” means?’
Luna watched them closely, intrigued.
‘The only people she ever really bullied were your friends, Potter. Or some of the other girls from school, but if any of them were the type to hold a grudge, and I genuinely believe they were mostly above that, you’re right and eight years really is too long to wait. Plus they all beat her in the end. She was alone, without many friends, without a job, without a plan. No one wanted to hire the girl who was happy to hand over Harry Potter.
‘As to anything heinous, she panicked when she was a schoolgirl and tried to send you off to your death in front of hundreds of witnesses. I thought it was a reasonable suggestion when I heard about it, but you’d have grounds for complaint. Do you have an alibi?’
‘Eighteen Aurors,’ Harry informed him. ‘I made one of my staff check me out.’
‘Shame, you were my favourite suspect.’
‘Right. So, unlikely to be a revenge motive. What about Pansy herself. Anything special about her?’
Draco didn’t answer this. Instead his cheeks flushed and his lower lip disappeared and Luna stood up quickly before she or Harry could look to see if there were tears coming. ‘More tea, anyone?’ she asked.
‘Yes, please,’ they both answered.
After a slow sip of his fresh cup, Draco replied, ‘Quite a lot, really, but only to those who knew her.’
Luna felt terrible intruding, but that wasn’t entirely true. ‘She was stabbed,’ she said.
Harry and Draco both looked at her.
‘Was it with a knife from her house?’ she asked.
Harry didn’t need to look at his notes. ‘No, it was a silver knife that her father had never seen before.’
‘It didn’t look familiar to me,’ Draco agreed.
‘A lot of dark magic uses blood, so the stabbing itself might be significant,’ Luna suggested. ‘And a silver knife is used in quite a few spells.’
‘But why Pansy?’ Draco asked. ‘She wasn’t a virgin, she hadn’t defeated any Dark Wizards, there was nothing really unusual about her.’
‘She was hardly a traitor,’ Harry added. ‘She was never on my side. And she had the usual number of fingers and toes.’
‘She was brave,’ Luna pointed out. ‘She stood up in front of a school full of people she knew to be on Harry’s side and pointed out that we had a choice about whether or not we died.’
Draco nodded. ‘She was brave. But not strong. It wouldn’t have been hard to overpower her.’
‘Exactly,’ Luna agreed. ‘Most brave people are more resourceful and would make harder targets. There are spells that call for courage, you could try and take blood for them from someone strong, like Harry …’
‘… Or you could choose an easy target,’ Draco finished for her.
‘It’s definitely worth investigating,’ Harry said. He rifled through his papers again and drew out a photograph. ‘This was the weapon used. Malfoy, you don’t have to …’
‘No, I’ll look.’ Draco stood up and moved round the table to hover beside Luna.
She was impressed. More so because she could see the slight shake in his hands that he quickly tried to hide. ‘It’s quite plain, isn’t it?’ she said, so that he wouldn’t have to.
‘The shape’s very narrow, the blade’s quite long and it doesn’t look as though there’s a separate handle,’ Draco elaborated.
‘It’s all made in one piece,’ Harry confirmed. ‘Our research team says that it had an unusually thick tang, which was beaten into shape after the blade was formed.’
‘Sounds ceremonial,’ Luna suggested.
‘Perhaps. Malfoy, have you ever seen anything like this before?’
Draco began to shake his head, then stopped. ‘Hang on … If it was about twice as big, there was a werewolf-hunting dagger at the Black house when I was little. Great-Aunt Walburga used to terrify me with it.’
‘Do you know what happened to it?’ Harry asked.
‘No, I was only four or five. Isn’t it there now?’
‘Kreacher and I spent most of ’99 going through the house from top to bottom. Nothing like that showed up. Maybe it was one of the things Mundungus Fletcher stole. We’ll chase that down later, it might have a clue as to the maker that would help us track down others like it.’
‘The werewolf connection might be significant,’ Luna said. ‘Or perhaps it might be a type of moon magic, silver’s used a lot in moon spells, and silver and blood are both used in some of the darker love spells – well, obsession spells, really, they never end well.’
Harry had pulled a quill from his pouch and was taking notes.
‘And it’s not the sort of thing you could buy easily these days. It’s the sort of thing older families might have held onto as an artefact, or there are a few people who could perhaps still produce this sort of work. There’s a knifemaker in Dover who advertises in The Quibbler, she uses precious metals for some of hers. I could visit her and ask if she knows anything.’
‘That would be great, Luna,’ Harry said.
‘Thank you,’ Draco added.
‘Can I borrow the photograph?’
‘Thanks, Harry. Don’t worry, Draco. We’ll sort this out.’
Draco sat back down, a little shakily, and smiled at her. ‘You’re a very remarkable witch, Luna. After everything my family did to you, you’re still willing to help me.’
‘Well, it’s about the truth, isn’t it?’ she asked, making sure her smile reached all the way to her eyes so that he wouldn’t see the tiny haunted corner that remained there. ‘And your family weren’t controlling events at your house during the war. I don’t blame you for what happened.’
In truth, she thought, she had been safer in that house than any of the Malfoys. As a child, a pureblood and a hostage, she had held value to Voldemort. She’d been fed regularly and treated well, which was more than could be said for Mr Ollivander. Or for Draco Malfoy by the end …
‘So that just leaves a few points to clear up,’ Harry said, reordering his scrolls. ‘Malfoy, you said that you Floo’d to Pansy’s room.’
‘And then Mr Parkinson gave evidence that you Apparated away.’
‘Yes. I panicked.’
‘Was Pansy a tidy person?’
‘Relatively.’ Draco shrugged. ‘She didn’t like a mess, but she wasn’t weird about it. She left her everyday make-up on her dresser rather than put it away every morning, sometimes she left her clean clothes on a chair rather than put them away if she was planning to wear them later. Normal stuff.’
‘What about her fireplace?’ Harry asked. ‘Would she have left spilled Floo Powder lying around?’
‘No,’ Draco said. ‘Floo powder can cause all sorts of problems, like accidentally catching when you don’t intend it to. It’s unusual, but people have found themselves taking unexpected trips. Pansy would always clean up quickly if she dropped any.’
Harry nodded and ticked off a note on one of his scrolls. ‘Good. And how long were you there?’
Luna poured a fresh cup of tea out for Draco. He took a long sip, then continued. ‘I stepped through the Floo, looked around, saw Pansy. I think I might have shouted something. I fell to my knees beside her and picked her up, trying to see if she was still breathing, but she was all floppy, and then I saw the knife, and I went to pull it out, but it was stuck …’
Luna put the cup of tea back in Draco’s hands. ‘Drink some more. Take your time. You’re safe here,’ she assured him.
‘Thank you,’ he whispered before drinking. ‘I couldn’t move it. So I held her, and I think I started to cry, and then I heard knocking and then her father opened the door and started shouting, and I stood up, and I realised that I had Pansy’s blood all over me, and it was so horrible that I just wanted to go …’
‘Of course you did,’ Luna said gently. ‘That’s not how you wanted to remember her, not growing cold and still. Your Pansy was full of life and energy.’
Draco looked at her with surprise. ‘Yes, that’s it exactly! How did you …’ and she could see the moment he remembered. She remembered telling him, on one of those long, grim afternoons when he had brought lunch down to the cellars and then stayed because it was less dark and miserable down there than upstairs. ‘Merlin, Luna, I’m sorry …’
‘No, it’s all right. You do forget it more as time goes on. You stop seeing it all the time, and you’ll remember her alive again. It just takes some time.’
‘Thank you,’ Draco whispered, and impulsively took her hand.
Harry looked out of his depth. Not for the first time, Luna thought, with affection. He was not at his best when it came to feelings.
‘You were asking Draco about time,’ she reminded him.
‘What? Oh, yes. So it sounds as though it was maybe two or three minutes from the time you arrived until the time you left?’
‘About that,’ Draco agreed. ‘Maybe five at the most.’
‘That’s good,’ Potter said, smiling grimly. ‘Mr Parkinson says that he heard footsteps and talking a quarter of an hour before he went up and found you. I think there was someone there before you, and he or she Floo’d out just before you Floo’d in.’
Draco looked up sharply. ‘It took longer to connect than usual,’ he said. ‘I thought it was just because that area has a busy Network, but perhaps … Merlin … If I’d hurried …’ Horror grew in his eyes.
‘If you’d been a bit earlier, you’d be dead, too,’ Harry said firmly.
‘You don’t know that.’
‘It’s the most likely scenario,’ Harry insisted.
Luna interrupted before they could start to argue. ‘So, we have a rough idea of the time frame, and I have a lead to follow up on the knife. What are you two going to do next?’
‘Go to the scene of the crime,’ Harry said.
‘What about Mr Parkinson?’ Draco asked.
‘He’s staying back at the family home for the moment. We cleared the crime scene last week, so there won’t be any MLE staff there. We can take a look and see if there is any more information to gather, then we can see if there’s any way of tracking the Floo movements.’
‘Is there?’ Luna looked up sharply. ‘All Ministry monitoring was meant to have been lifted.’
‘It was,’ Harry insisted. ‘The Quibbler got that one wrong. But the Floo Regulation Panel keeps an eye on which parts of the Network are busy and runs comprehensive traffic checks to see if there are any problems. It’s unlikely, but we could get lucky.’
‘How?’ Draco asked. ‘We can’t visit them.’
‘I’ll come up with something. I’m the Deputy Chief Auror. I’m good at this.’
‘All right. Should we meet back here tonight?’ Luna asked. ‘My father’s away, so you’ll be safe here.’
‘If we can. I’ll try to get word to you if we can’t.’
‘Do you have money? Food? Supplies?’
Harry patted the bag on his belt. ‘Sorted. Hermione Special packing charm, we’re good for a few days at least.’
‘Were you meant to be visiting Ron and Hermione today?’
‘I went yesterday. Rose vomited on me twice, they told me I could take a day off.’
‘Good baby. I was going to pop by briefly this afternoon. If the alarm’s been raised by then, I’ll go and tell them I know you’re all right. Ron will rant and rave, but I think it will be fine.’ Luna removed her hand from Draco’s, giving it a friendly pat as she did so. ‘You two take care of each other, and try not to fight. Pansy needs you to work together.’
‘Thanks, Luna,’ Draco said. ‘I owe you.’
‘It’s all right. Harry, be careful, all right?’
‘Of course I will,’ he replied, catching her up in a tight hug.
And then they were just nattering, as she walked them outside and they agreed that they should follow whatever leads appeared before meeting up again back at Luna’s. There would be a red scarf on the doorknob if there was danger, or if it was after dark, Luna would leave all the lights on.
‘We’ll see you tonight if everything goes well,’ Harry said. ‘All right, Malfoy, can you get us to Pansy’s?’
‘Wait!’ Luna called before Draco could Apparate them. ‘Shouldn’t you be hidden? Do you have your cloak, Harry?’
‘I thought you said it would be fine,’ Draco muttered.
Harry rummaged through his bag. ‘It will be fine, but Luna’s right. Better safe than sorry. OK, you’ll have to stand close.’
Harry flung the cloak about them, and Luna could hear hissed instructions for a moment before an inrush of air told her they had Disapparated. But that second of tense stillness from each of them before they had stepped close enough to fit under the cloak had been very interesting indeed.
Of course, Luna told herself, it could mean any one of a list of things. But it was not a very long list.