“Nothing is more intolerable than to have admit to yourself your own errors.”
― Ludwig van Beethoven
The early autumn sun fell in through the manor windows and across the desk. An untidy stack of papers teetered on the edge of overbalancing, beside a mostly empty inkwell and several broken quills. Draco sat at the desk in the study, checking over the finances for the estate. Ink stained his hands.
He heard the door creak open, and Franny edged into the room, closing the door again behind her. He glanced up at her. She wasn’t carrying a tray of tea, which was odd; she didn’t usually interrupt him during the day like this unless it was the bring him food or tea. The house-elf stood, wringing her hands together nervously. “Master Draco, there are people at the gate,” she hissed.
Draco shrugged and looked back at the sums. He couldn’t get the totals for some of the rents in town to add up quite right, which meant that either he had made a mistake somewhere or one of the tenants had underpaid. He was hoping it was the former. He’d already had a row with one of the tenants the week before about the rent, and he didn’t want relations deteriorating further. “Who is it?”
“Aurors, sir! And very serious.”
Draco looked up irritably. “What do they want? Is it about my wand?”
“Franny doesn’t know, sir. Franny thought it best to ask Master Draco.” The house-elf scowled a bit. She was more than a little territorial over the manor these days, and didn’t like unexpected guests. Come to think of it, she didn’t like expected guests all that much either.
“Yes, all right. I’ll go see what they want,” Draco said. He set down his quill beside the inkwell and pulled on a jumper. A fire burned cheerily in the corner of the study, but it was too much effort to keep the entire manor warm, and the weather had turned sharply cold in the past week or so. “Bring tea to the small library and light a fire,” he said, after a moment’s thought. There was a fine line he walked these days: welcoming but not overly so, polite but not simpering, and never risking the appearance of showing off. Humility was a lesson learned late but learned well.
Franny held the door open for him, and he paused and smiled down at her. He really was quite fond of her. She nodded back, before disappearing down the corridor.
Draco sighed and adjusted his collar under the jumper. He ran a hand over his hair. He was sure it was a sight—he had run his hands through it absently as he did the sums, and in the past couple months he had let it grow a bit unkempt—but he didn’t have the time now to hunt for a comb. Settling for pushing it back and out of his face, he navigated his way through the winding corridors and to the front hallway.
The Aurors would be waiting at the gate, which had gotten stubborn these days about letting unfamiliar people into the grounds. Traumatized by the occupation, Draco reckoned. But then, who wasn’t? The portraits had been skittish for months after he reclaimed the manor, hiding in unused rooms. He’d had to bring in an expert to restore several smashed frames, which he hadn’t really had the money for, but it had seemed so disgraceful to leave the portraits in disarray. He’d left the gate as it was, though. Draco liked the control it gave him over who was allowed in and who wasn’t, although he knew it bothered the Aurors who popped by every so often to let him know they hadn’t forgotten about what his family name meant.
Outside was not all that much colder than inside. A stiff breeze rattled the overgrown shrubbery. He ought to get someone in to prune them back, he noted mentally. Or perhaps he might look up some gardening spells himself. He wasn’t completely inept at herbology, and he might be able to save a hundred or so galleons doing it on his own. The white gravel of the drive crunched under his shoes. Two Aurors stood at the gate, looking as serious as Franny had made them out to be.
“Draco Lucius Malfoy?” one of the Aurors asked.
Draco raised his eyebrows at the use of his full name. “I apologize for the gate. It’s a bit temperamental.” He touched the gate, and it swung reluctantly open, its hinges squeaking the entire way. He shot it a wry glance. “Is this about my wand?” he asked.
“I’m afraid not, Mr Malfoy,” the other Auror said. Draco’s eyes flickered uncertainly between her and the first Auror.
“I’ve had my house-elf prepare tea, if you’d like to come inside,” he said.
The first Auror shook his head. Draco recognized him from some ball or other as a man named Owsley. Halfblood, if Draco recalled correctly, although he hated himself a little bit for remembering that before anything else. Owsley was fingering his wand far less subtly than he thought. Out of the corner of his eye, Draco caught the other Auror smile briefly.
Owsley said, “Draco Malfoy, you’re under arrest.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Draco snapped, drawing the Malfoy haughtiness up around himself to disguise the sudden way the bottom of his stomach dropped away and yawning pit of dismay opened before him. “I was acquitted. Potter himself vouched for me.”
“Not to do with the war,” Owsley said. “A muggle down in the village was found dead two nights ago. It was the killing curse, and your wand was found at the scene.”
Draco hadn’t taken his hand away from the gate, and he clenched one of the metal bars reflexively, and so tightly that his knuckles went white. The coldness of the iron was the only thing keeping him grounded. “I reported my wand stolen a week ago,” he said. His voice sounded amazingly steady. He had learned, at Hogwarts and then again after, to keep everything he felt off his face and out of his voice, but Pansy once told him it left him looking and sounding cold and dead. He couldn’t sound like that now. He couldn’t sound like his father, casually denying something of which he was clearly guilty. He wasn’t sure how else to sound.
Owsley narrowed his eyes at Draco. “Yeah, awfully convenient, that. You can tell us all about it back at the Ministry. We’ve a warrant for your arrest, and I would much rather you come quietly.”
“I wouldn’t,” muttered the second Auror.
Draco stood a moment longer, the early autumn breeze chapping his pale cheeks red, the iron gate clutched in his hand, weighing his options. He could, he supposed, close the gate on them. The wards on the manor were strong, and they would not be able to get in, at least not without considerable effort. But he had no wand, and the manor would not last that long under siege with just him and a house elf. And, anyway, that would only make him look guilty.
“All right,” he said. “I— Yes, all right, but let me tell my house elf.”
Owsley pursed his lips, but nodded.
Not taking his eyes from the Aurors, Draco called out, “Franny!” There was a pop, and the elf was standing there. Draco didn’t wait for her to speak. “Franny, I’m being arrested. They think I’ve killed a muggle down in the village. I haven’t, obviously, but I must go with them. I need you to go get Mother and tell her what’s happened. Understood?”
Franny trembled, gazing at the Aurors hatefully with her huge brown eyes. “Master Draco didn’t kill anyone!”
The second Auror frowned at her. Draco said sharply, “Franny, I need you to go to Mother, now!”
Franny looked at Draco and nodded. “Franny will get Mistress Narcissa.” She disappeared again with a loud crack. In any other circumstances, Draco would have smiled at it. Franny only ever made that much noise when Apparating when she was being spiteful. As it was, he turned back to Aurors. “Well, I haven’t my wand. You needn’t disarm me.”
He let go of the gate, finally, and to his surprise, he was able to walk steadily forward. The second Auror, the one who didn’t like him, grabbed his arms and pulled them behind his back, binding them with a charm. “Is this all really necessary?” he asked.
“Shut up,” the Auror hissed in his ear. She grabbed his arm in preparation for a side along Apparation, holding on much harder than was strictly necessary. Draco twisted his head around to look back at the manor again.
The manor stared back at him, imposing and dark as ever. It didn’t look particularly stately, anymore, nor particularly homelike, but like an abandoned wreck, slowly falling to ruin.
For all that it felt like he had walked out onto a precipice over some terrible abyss, and the precipice was rapidly crumbling underneath him, he felt remarkably calm. He’d never thought it entirely right that he be acquitted for his actions before and during the war, whatever that self-righteous git Potter might have said about how Draco was a minor and had been in an impossible position. Draco hadn’t been a child and had known what choices he had been making, and, as much as he regretted it later on, he had walked into the whole thing with his eyes open. Putting aside notions of legal justice and specific guilt, being arrested now for the death of a muggle he had had nothing to do with felt an awful lot like his past finally catching up with him.
The Auror Disapparated, and the manor disappeared as Draco went with her, pulled into the black, oppressive dark.
Harry had been away for the past several weeks, working with the Latvian magical government to smoke out the last of a dark artefacts smuggling ring that had been trafficking illegal objects into Britain. If he hadn’t been away, he would have heard about the whole thing before it happened from office gossip, rather than from a week out of date Daily Prophet that a bedraggled screech owl delivered to the safe house before nipping at his fingers and falling asleep beside the fireplace.
Ron had attached a note, most of which was news about plans for Hermione and his wedding. But at the end, in a couple of brief lines written with different ink he had added:
“Don’t know how much British news you’re getting out there. Thought you ought to see this, mate. Guess they got the smug bastard in the end, though I didn’t think he had it in him to actually kill someone. You were right about him all along.”
The story dominated the first page, written up, naturally, by Rita Skeeter, so as he read it, Harry discarded all of the details and focused on the basic facts. On the 27th of September, 2002, Draco Malfoy was arrested at Malfoy Manor for the murder of a local muggle named Albert Shrew, whom he had had an argument with the previous week. Malfoy’s wand had been found at the scene and had performed the killing curse. He was being held at Azkaban until his trial. An accompanying mugshot stared accusingly into the camera and kept brushing a strand of overly long hair out of his eyes.
If Skeeter was to be believed, Narcissa Malfoy, who had been away for the majority of the past three years, was now back in England and pulling every political string she had left in order to try and get the charges against her son dropped.
Harry had put the paper down, feeling rather ill, and hadn’t mentioned it to Ron in his reply.
By the time he wrapped up the Latvia case and made it home to England, he found the whole thing more difficult to ignore.
When he got into the office on Thursday morning, just back from Latvia the night before, there were the usual congratulations on a case well done, which he accepted with a shrug and a smile. He settled into his desk, and eyed the paperwork that accompanied the closing of an international case with distaste. Latvia had ended badly. They had arrested most of the traffickers, but some of the Latvian wizards had been hurt, and there would be inquiries into that now that he was back.
He used to like the moments like at the end, in Latvia, when they had burst in, wands blazing, and taken down the ring. These days, though, those moments of the thoughtless adrenaline rush were overshadowed by everything that accompanied them. He hated what came after: Apparating the wounded to hospitals and hoping that it wasn’t too late. He had hated the waiting before that, tailing people and skulking around corners. He hated the impersonality of it all, the moment he was expected to walk away once it was closed, or deemed cold.
And, most of all at this particular moment, he hated the blasted paperwork at the end of it all, when he had to justify every decision he had made along the way, in triplicate.
Electing to let the paperwork ripen on his desk for a while, he stood up and wandered off in search of a cup of coffee.
On his way back, a good fifteen minutes later, coffee in hand, and nursing a building headache, he nearly collided with the Auror who sat at the desk between him and Ron, an absentminded muggleborn named Monica Welling. She was a year or two younger than him but rising fast.
“Sorry, Welling,” he said, grabbing his coffee out of the way.
“Don’t worry about it, Potter.” She grinned at him. “Nice job with the Latvia thing.”
“Thanks,” Harry said. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “You don’t happen to have any potions for a headache?”
“No potions, but I’ve got some ibuprofen.”
She ducked back to her desk for a moment and rummaged in the drawers for a minute or two. She returned with a couple of pills. “Never understood why most wizards are so scared of muggle medicine.”
Harry shrugged and swallowed the pills with a gulp of too-hot coffee. “Don’t you hate potions?”
Welling shuddered. “That’s different. Potions have, like, all sorts of bits in them.”
He chuckled. “What have you been working on lately?”
She waved her hand vaguely. “This and that. Some barmy bastard out in Dorset was trying to sell defective charms. I closed that one by myself. It was just a fine, but people had been getting all sorts of curses put on them. I think they should have at least given him some sort of community service. And I helped MacMillan catch some bloke in the city who was mistreating house elves. I think that was Granger’s pet statute, wasn’t it? Oh!” Welling’s eyes lit up. “I’m so stupid, I forgot you were away for this! I’ve told everyone else. They sent me out with Owsley to arrest Draco Malfoy.”
Harry, mid sip of coffee, sputtered for a moment, startled. He coughed, recovering himself. “Yeah, yeah Ron sent me the write up in the Prophet. I skimmed though, I hadn’t realized you were part of that.”
Welling nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah, they didn’t mention our names in the paper. We went up to his manor, one of the old places, you know, like all the pureblood families have, and arrested him right there. Owsley let me sit in on the interrogation. I didn’t say all that much obviously, it’s all a bit above my pay grade at the moment, but it’s a really good sign! I think they might start giving me more serious cases soon.”
“You think he did it then?”
“Who, Malfoy?” She snorted. “Potter, he’s Lucius Malfoy’s son. We all know where You-Know-Who was staying during the war. We all know who his father is. It’s not surprising, really. Anyway, we found his wand at the scene. He’d hidden it behind one of the baseboards, which might have fooled the muggle police, but we caught it pretty quickly.”
Harry sipped his coffee and hummed noncommittally.
“Well, anyway. I’ve not had any new big cases since then, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.”
“It seems careless though, doesn’t it? To leave his wand behind like that? I mean, Malfoy’s never been entirely meticulous, but he’s never been that careless.” Harry thought of Malfoy in sixth year, and the various convoluted but persistent plots on Dumbledore’s life. He thought of Malfoy doggedly working on the vanishing cabinet, hidden away in the Room of Requirement.
Welling eyed Harry. “I don’t really see why it matters. There’s no one else it could have been.” She paused for a moment, thinking. “Oh! Oh, he said! You vouched for him, didn’t you? After the war?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, I did. I thought he deserved a second chance.”
“Well,” Welling said, shrugging, “It’s not your fault if he was given a second chance and blew it.”
Harry was silent for a long moment. “No, I suppose not.” He sighed, shook his head a bit, and smiled at Welling. “You should get back to work, Welling. Cases don’t solve themselves.”
Welling grinned at him. “Let me know if you need any more painkillers.”
Harry waved her off and returned to his desk. Sighing, he searched through his drawers until he found the folder with the forms for international work. He tried to focus his mind on the scratching of the quill and on recounting the details of the investigation and subsequent arrests, but his mind kept refocusing on the image of Malfoy, haughty as ever, flicking a lock of hair from his face in his mugshot.
Twice, Harry filled in something wrong on the paperwork, and had to start entirely over, and the day dragged on impossibly long and dull.
Ron had been out that day, called up to Scotland about some dark artefact that had resurfaced in the home of an ex-Death Eater, but at half five he wandered back into the office and over to Harry’s desk.
He sat down on the edge of the desk, and then nudged Harry’s chair with his foot when he didn’t look up. “Mate, is your paperwork really that interesting?”
Harry startled. His glasses went askew, and he sat blinking and running his hand through his hair. “Think I fell asleep,” he said blearily.
Ron laughed and looked down at the paperwork in front of Harry. “’We entered the building at approximately 4:30 in the morning. The Latvian wizards went first, wands drawn, and fired several stunning spells. The head of mission was hit by a cutting curse from one of the traffickers.’” Ron looked up. “Bloody riveting. How do you make something so exciting sound so unbelievably dull?”
Harry groaned. “Do you know, Ron? Do you know how many times I have been written up for reckless endangerment during combat? There’s bound to be inquiries on this, even though it was the goddamn Latvians! About the only thing I can do at this point is make the whole thing sound bloody fucking boring and hope to Merlin that no one catches on that what actually happened was, we heard a scream, so we ran in and hoped for the best.”
Ron stood up, stretching. “Coming to dinner at me and Hermione’s? We’ve still got some of that firewhiskey George gave her for her birthday.”
“That sounds brilliant.” Harry pushed away from his desk, and they made their way into the lift and up to the atrium, chatting about nothing. “Floo or Apparate?”
“Hermione’s been on about the dangers of smoke inhalation in the Floo system, so better Apparate,” Ron said. Somehow, it sounded less like a complaint and more like fondness.
Harry grinned despite himself. “Has she found a new crusade yet?”
“Just trying on a bunch for now. Smoke inhalation this week, the plight of pixies the next. You know how it goes.”
“Yeah. How’s the wedding planning going?”
Ron grimaced. “Mum and Hermione’s mum are doing most of it. Hermione holes up with them for a while, comes out, announces I’ll be wearing lilac, I say I will bloody not, she huffs and goes back in.”
Harry laughed, picturing Ron’s fourth year dress robes, but in light purple. “Really? Lilac?”
“That’s what I said! Ginny teased me for a week, said it would bring out the undertones in my skin, whatever that means.” Ron sighed and shook his head, looking put upon. “I missed you, mate. Glad you're back.”
“Yeah,” Harry said. “Latvia was…” He hesitated, remembering the way one of the Latvian wizards, a man with whom he had become, if not friends then at least drinking buddies, had bled out on the floor after a particularly nasty curse had caught him across the stomach. “I think I’ll stay in Britain for a while,” he amended.
Ron thumped him on the back. “George’s firewhiskey,” he repeated. The lift opened up into the atrium.
“Separate or side-along?” Harry asked.
Ron glanced at him like he was crazy. “Separate, are you kidding? Do you know how much higher the chances of Splinching are with side-along?”
“Hermione?” Harry guessed.
“Hermione,” Ron agreed. “See you there.”
“Right,” said Harry, and Disapparated with a faint pop. There was the dizzying, nauseating moment in the dark, which no matter how many times Harry Apparated he could never quite get used to, but before he had much time to think about it, he popped back into existence next to the dumpster behind Ron and Hermione’s building. He wrinkled his nose at the smell. A moment later Ron appeared as well.
“One of these days,” Harry commented, “there will be some poor muggle emptying the bin, and we’ll scare the shit out of them and have to pay a secrecy fine.”
Ron waved him off, unconcerned. “Come on.”
Hermione and Ron lived on the seventh floor of a muggle building, in a heavily warded flat. Ron was absolutely delighted by it, and so was his father, as it had all of the muggle modern conveniences, including central heating and a washer and dryer. Hermione’s parents had even bought them a television when they moved in, and while you couldn’t perform any magic in the flat while it was on, Ron was slowly working his way through Hermione’s favorite movies.
When they stepped inside, Hermione poked her head out from the kitchen. “Harry! How was Latvia?”
“No work talk!” Ron said. “If you’re going to ask about work, you can go find him at work.”
Hermione smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, Harry.”
Harry waved her off. “Latvia was fine. I’m glad I’m back.”
Dinner at Ron and Hermione’s was always good these days. Neither of them had started off as particularly good cooks, but Molly Weasley had undertaken to teach them both several basic cooking charms, the result of which was simple but very good food. After weeks of bland take away in Latvia, just having a change was hugely refreshing.
After they finished, as the dishes washed themselves and put themselves neatly away, they passed round the firewhiskey in the living room. “You saw the Prophet I sent you?” Ron asked, unexpectedly.
Harry nodded slowly. “The thing about Malfoy?”
“Yeah. You never mentioned it, I wasn’t sure if you’d seen it. That screech owl seemed reliable, but you never know with rentals.”
“No, I saw it. Welling told me today she helped take him in.”
“She’s been bragging about that to anyone who’ll listen,” Ron said, rolling his eyes. “Thinks it’ll land her a promotion. I told her that if arresting former Death Eaters was all it took to get a promotion, you and I would be co-Head Aurors.”
Hermione sipped at her firewhiskey thoughtfully. “It seems odd though, doesn’t it? I mean, I ran into him at a few charity events, and he’s always been perfectly civil. Did you know, he actually told me not long ago that he supported large aspects of my house elf treatment bill?”
Ron snorted, “Hermione, do you remember how his father treated Dobby?”
“Well, that’s rather the point isn’t it? It was unexpected."
Ron looked at Harry, grinning conspiratorially. “If someone treats their house elves well, then they must be all right, whether or not they’re accused of murder.”
“As it happens, Ronald,” Hermione said hotly, “I do think that the way one treats their house elves is a fairly good indicator of character.”
“Relax, Hermione,” Ron said, reaching over and taking her hand. “I’m just teasing.”
Hermione, looking somewhat mollified, squeezed his hand back. “I know that, I just didn’t really think he had it in him to murder someone.”
“Me neither,” said Harry.
“Come off it, mate,” Ron laughed. “You spent all of sixth year convinced he was trying to murder Dumbledore, and you were right.”
Harry shrugged. “He couldn’t do it in the end, though.” He sighed and shifted in his seat. “Merlin, I don’t want to talk about Malfoy. We’re not fifteen anymore, and it’s not our case.”
“Harry’s right,” Hermione said. “Ron, did I tell you I spoke to Molly again? And Fleur stopped by, and she had some ideas about the bouquets for the tables.”
Harry, finishing his firewhiskey stood up. “All right, if this is turning to wedding talk, I’m leaving.”
“Hermione, you’re driving him off,” Ron teased.
“No, it’s almost half ten, and I should get home.”
Ron grimaced. “When did we get to be such old people?”
“Yeah, remember the good old days, sleeping in a tent, running for our lives?” Harry grinned.
“I meant more like staying up all hours in the common room, but sure, that too.”
“Molly’s having Sunday roast at the Burrow this weekend,” Hermione put in. “Everyone’ll be there.”
“Sure, see you then,” Harry said. He took a pinch of Floo powder off the mantle, and ducked into the grate.
“Oh, Harry, there’s so little research on smoke inhalation with the Floo system,” Hermione said anxiously.
“Twelve Grimmauld Place,” Harry said clearly, grinned at Hermione, and then whooshed off through the chimneys in a flash of green flame.
It took a full excruciating week to wrap up the paperwork for the Latvia case. There were debriefings, and questions on his written report. He gave memories of some of the more important moments of the case, and sat in front of no less than three different tribunals, justifying his decisions. In the end, it was decided that everyone had acted as well as could be expected under the circumstances, and there had been no wrongdoing. The higher ups were able to close off the relations with Latvia with a sigh of relief: apparently the Latvian minister had been getting rather short with Kingsley Shacklebolt about the whole thing, much to everyone’s annoyance.
In the back of his mind, the Malfoy case kept niggling at him. At first, he dismissed it as the lingering remains of a schoolboy rivalry. He told himself that he had been right about Malfoy all along, and he should feel, if not triumphant then at least satisfied about it. If anything, though, that only made him feel worse. Then he wondered if the problem was that he had not been the one to arrest Malfoy, but the idea of breaching the uneasy peace that he and Malfoy had brokered over the years was equally distasteful. More than once, he almost asked Welling about it but thought better of it at the last moment. She had seemed so pleased with herself when she talked about it, and he didn’t want to face that either.
In the end, he ended up sending out a request for a copy of the file, and, no doubt helped by the goodwill he had accrued on the Latvia case, the file flapped into his office on Friday afternoon, the week after he had come back.
He glanced at Welling’s desk, but she was off giving a briefing about a suspect in a string of kidnappings in Wales. He flipped open the folder.
The first thing in the file was Malfoy’s mugshot, just as it had been in the Prophet. Looking at it more closely now, Harry was struck by how tired Malfoy looked. He was thinner than the last time Harry had seen him, his already sharp features almost gaunt. His gaze, meeting Harry’s through the camera, held the familiar touch of arrogance, but it was tinged with exhaustion and a faint desperation. As Harry had noticed in the Prophet, Malfoy had let his hair grow long, and a strand of it kept falling across his face. He scowled and brushed it back
Harry put the picture aside and looked at the case report.
Most of it confirmed what Skeeter had written. Albert Shrew was a local shop owner whom Malfoy had quarreled with. The file noted that Malfoy told the police it was over the price of the shop building, which the Malfoy estate owned, and which Shrew had wanted to buy out for much less than it was actually worth. Shrew’s body had been found on the night of September twenty-fifth, dead for only about two hours. Malfoy’s wand was found hidden behind a baseboard that had been pried away, and Priori incantato indicated that it was the wand that had performed the killing curse. Malfoy insisted, however, that the wand had been stolen from him a week before and in fact had reported it so. Owsley and Welling seemed to find it more likely that Malfoy had falsely reported it missing.
Harry pulled out a transcript of Malfoy’s interrogation and glanced over it briefly. Near the top, there was a reference number that corresponded to where a memory of the interrogation would be stored down in the evidence room. He closed the file and shoved it into his bag.
“Where you off to?” Ron asked, as Harry stood up.
“Evidence,” Harry answered, evasively. “Just checking a memory of something.”
Ron waved a hand at him, and returned to poring over a map of southern London, marking off buildings in red ink.
The evidence room was a couple hallways over, and empty when Harry got there. He pulled the file from his bag to check the reference number. Near the front, among the other open cases, a box sat on a high shelf. He took it down carefully, as the things inside shifted.
The vial with the memory was in the box, along with Draco’s wand and various other bagged bits of evidence taken from the scene of the crime. In Harry's opinion, after collecting months of evidence for the Latvia case, it all seemed rather sparse to arrest someone on. He looked through it idly: several photos of the body, some loose change that had been on the counter, the smashed remains of a glass with a bit of dried blood, and a single silver button, that the bag noted had not belonged to any of the victim’s clothes.
He took the vial out of the box and walked over to where a Pensieve was set up in the back of the room. The memory poured out slowly, and swirled in the stone basin. Harry leaned forward, bracing himself for the odd, familiar feeling of entering a memory.
As the memory took shape around him, he landed in one of the black interrogation rooms, down on the lower levels. This particular one, he recognized as number five, from the faint burn marks in the upper left corner, and the wobble of the table. Owsley and Welling sat on one side of the table, neither saying anything, and Malfoy sat, hands still bound behind him, on the other side, looking far too composed for a man in his position. Harry stood between them, looking back and forth.
Owsley spoke first. “Listen, Malfoy, we don’t have any other suspects. You’re going down for this whether you admit to it or not."
“Unfortunately,” Malfoy drawled, “just because you can’t think of another suspect, that does not mean I am guilty. Please, don’t punish me for your poor investigative skills.”
“We found your wand at the scene,” Owsley said, affably enough. “You were seen by multiple witnesses arguing with Mr Shrew prior to his murder.”
“I reported my wand stolen, and Mr Shrew and I had a small dispute over the value of the shop, that is all.”
“Obviously not all, as he wound up dead.” Owsley pulled a photo of Shrew’s body from the folder in front of him and slid it over to Malfoy. Malfoy said nothing, but pressed his lips together and looked away from the photo. “You may have been acquitted for your part in the war,” Owsley said, “but we all know where your allegiance lies, and we all know your feelings on muggles and muggleborns. Did you know Mr Shrew’s mother was a squib?”
Malfoy nodded curtly. “Yes, his grandmother worked at the manor in my great-grandfather’s time.”
“Did it bother you? Having a bloodline where magic ran out so close to your home?”
Malfoy scoffed. “My views on blood status have changed significantly since the war. I believe that should be clear from the records of my charitable donations over the past several years.”
“That’s not a ‘no.’”
“No, it did not bother me that Mr Shrew’s mother had been a squib,” Malfoy said, irritably. “It didn’t even particularly bother me that we had a disagreement over the shop. We argued about it, but he was a nice enough man otherwise.”
Harry circled the table, inspecting Malfoy. He was wearing a jumper over a collared shirt, and he looked more annoyed than nervous. Whoever had bound his hands had done it more tightly than necessary. The tips of his fingers were tinged faintly blue. His white blond hair was longer than Harry had ever seen it, and a little bit mussed up, which made him look more human, if Harry had to put a word to it. His slate gray eyes were shuttered. Harry couldn’t read whatever emotion lurked behind them.
“Tell me, Auror Owsley,” Malfoy said, leaning forward toward the table. “Did you actually consider that it might not be me, or was your rather rote thought process more along the lines of ‘Well, it’s a dead man in Wiltshire, so who could it be but that Draco Malfoy?’”
“Your wand was found hidden near the body,” Owsley said.
“That’s not a ‘no,’” Malfoy echoed, with a sardonic grin.
“Do you think this is funny?” Welling asked, speaking up for the first time. Malfoy looked at her, startled, and Harry, observing, did too. Her face wore an odd expression, more intense than Harry had seen on her. Her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes shone, bright and dark and sharp, like bits of flint. “Mr Malfoy, acquitted or not, you have a record as a former Death Eater. Reported stolen or not, it was your wand that was found at the scene of the crime. There is not a court in Magical Britain that will not like you for this. Mummy and Daddy can’t save you from this bind. In fact, I imagine you’ll see your father rather soon.”
Malfoy’s expression changed as she spoke, the smirk fading, and his eyes going steely. He still didn’t look nervous, but Harry imagined Malfoy hadn’t looked properly nervous in years. “I am not my father. And contort the evidence however much you like, I will swear under Veritaserum that I did not do this.”
The memory of the interrogation was Owsley’s and, as such, colored by his impressions of it all. He remembered Malfoy as cold and arrogant, so Malfoy looked cold and arrogant. Therefore, his conviction of Malfoy’s guilt must have flickered, just for a moment, as Malfoy spoke, because in that moment, Harry saw Malfoy entirely differently. There was a hole near the collar of his sweater, as if moths had gotten to it, and dark smudges beneath his eyes. His eyes weren’t shuttered or steely at all, but resigned. His shoulders were uncharacteristically rounded, and his lips were cracked, like he’d been worrying at them before the interrogation had begun. Here was the exhaustion that Harry had noticed in the mugshot. Here was the desperation. Harry felt an uncharacteristic pang of compassion for Malfoy.
Welling spoke. “Personally, I think that the Dark Mark ought to be enough to put you away. It’s certainly enough proof that yes, Malfoy, you are just like your father.”
The compassion vanished. The memory snapped back into focus, as it had been before. Malfoy looked again as he had before, sharp, unforgiving edges and the cool pride of someone convinced they were better than the rest of the world. There was plenty more to the memory, but Harry could read the transcript, and he couldn’t remain in the dark interrogation for a moment longer. He pulled back and up, out of the memory.
For a moment, he didn’t move. He just stood, clutching the sides of the Pensieve and thinking about the interrogation. None of the rest was as important as that one moment when the perspective had shifted. Memories were too subjective, like reading a Rita Skeeter article, and he couldn’t trust the fine details, about how someone looked or acted. But Malfoy’s voice still echoed in his mind.
I will swear under Veritaserum that I did not do this.
He stood abruptly, suddenly annoyed with himself for wasting time on this. It wasn’t his case. It wasn’t any of his business. He had a case, delivered to his desk this morning, one of the hundreds of cold cases left from the war that had to be finished and closed. It didn’t do any good to obsess over Malfoy like he was at Hogwarts again, when he should be getting started on the new case, looking into the death of a pair of muggleborns.
With the tip of his wand, he fished the memory out of the Pensieve and dropped it back into the vial. He reached up to return to the vial to the evidence box, and then hesitated. Perhaps he could take it with him, and look over it again at home over the weekend. See if there was anything more to see from it. He shook his head, feeling stupid and childish. If the vial was discovered missing there would be a whole investigation, and he could get into quite a bit of trouble himself. Besides, he had the transcript.
He dropped the vial back into the box.
At the Burrow on Sunday, Harry sat, curled up in a worn armchair, biting his thumbnail and brooding over the Malfoy case file, which he had found, still shoved in his bag. He was reading through the interrogation transcript for the third time.
It went mostly in circles, Owsley and Welling both pushing Malfoy to admit that he had killed Shrew, and Malfoy steadfastly denying it. It was easier to be objective, reading the transcript rather than observing the memory. Malfoy pushed back at the Aurors often enough, needling them, but for the most part he was polite and direct, and nothing he said gave any indication that he had been involved with the murder. In and of itself, of course, that proved nothing, but Harry was strongly reminded of sneaking into the Slytherin common room, second year, convinced that Malfoy was the heir of Slytherin, only for Malfoy to blithely deny it.
He sighed and rubbed his forehead. Ginny, having come in when he wasn’t looking, raised her eyebrows at him. “What’s wrong?”
“Just looking at a case.” He flipped the folder closed. A mischievous glint appeared in Ginny’s eye, and she reached over and plucked the folder from Harry’s hands. Harry gave it up to her without much protest.
“You know, Mum says no one’s allowed to work on Sundays. She won’t even let me talk about Quidditch,” Ginny complained. She flipped the folder open, and looked in surprise at Malfoy’s mugshot. “You’re on the Malfoy case?”
“I’m not,” Harry said. He reached over and tried to grab the folder back, but she moved back out of his reach, looking over the case notes. “Technically that’s classified, and I could get sacked for showing you it.”
“Yeah, cause I’m running off to show it all to Skeeter.” Ginny rolled her eyes. “Why do you have it if you’re not on the case?”
Harry shrugged. “Just looking into it.”
“What, are you jealous you weren’t the one to bring him in?” Ginny grinned. “Next time, don’t go to Latvia.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, thanks. Anyway, no, I’m not jealous.” Harry pulled out his wand from his pocket and pointed at the file. “Accio.” The file flew out of Ginny’s hand and landed in Harry’s lap, papers ruffling. “It just doesn’t feel right.”
Ginny settled onto the couch, pulling a lumpy afghan around her shoulders. “It’s Malfoy,” she said with distaste.
Something in her tone annoyed him, and he snapped, more sharply than he intended, “Just because it’s Malfoy doesn’t mean he did it.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You think he didn’t do it?”
Harry hesitated. He hadn’t actually let himself think that far along, although it was the logical conclusion of everything he had been thinking. It seemed too convenient, that Malfoy’s wand would turn up, in the same room as the body, no less. Why would any wizard leave their wand behind like that? And there had been something, in that moment when the memory flickered, in the dark circles under Malfoy’s eyes and in his moth-eaten jumper and in the tone of his voice when he offered to swear under Veritaserum, that made Harry want to believe him. Not entirely, but just enough to doubt.
“I’m not sure,” Harry said, slowly. “I think, that if you’d asked me a few years ago, of course I would’ve believed that he did it. But I think regardless, people are just assuming because he’s a Malfoy, and that’s not entirely fair.”
Ginny hummed under her breath, thinking. “Well, what are you going to do about it then?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re not just going to sit around brooding on it, are you?”
“No.” Harry hesitated again. “I suppose I ought to ask to get moved to the case. Welling won’t like that, though.” He grimaced. “And it’ll be a nightmare of red tape.”
“Harry Potter, saviour of the wizarding world,” Ginny said, grinning, “reduced to worrying about bureaucracy like the rest of us mortals. What happened to your guerrilla warfare spirit?”
Harry leaned back in the chair. It was a thought. There was no reason he couldn’t go about investigating the Malfoy case on his own, other than that his superiors might not like it. But Ginny was right. When had he started worrying about what his superiors would and would not like? After Latvia, he should have earned some slack. He’d even managed to file all the paperwork correctly. “Maybe,” he said. “Maybe, I’ll see if I can’t find some time to go speak to Malfoy myself.”
Ginny pulled a face. “Better you than me. If I never speak to Malfoy again, it’ll be too soon.”
Harry laughed, and got up to get a butterbeer.