Title: In Which Harry Potter Discovers a River In Egypt (3/3)
After being an Auror for three years, Harry did not find Knockturn as terrifying as when he was 12. For one thing, he was over a foot taller now, and knew a lot more hexes. For another, one look at his famous face and people on the seamy side of the law slipped into back alleys to avoid him.
The former Borgin and Burkes storefront had no windows anymore – just red brick, the same colour as the other bricks in the building, of course, dirty and sooty as if they hadn’t been cleaned since the 18th century. Unexpectedly, its door was gone as well. Harry slipped his wand out of its holster and walked slowly around the building. On the alleyway in back, there were two hand carts parked against a wall, and two idlers chatting to each other and leaning on them. They looked at Harry and stopped their conversation abruptly.
He walked past them, and the back of his neck prickled. There was something strange about their presence here. No door was visible in back either – why were their carts here, then? He slowed, trying to let his instincts give him enough information to act.
“Want a lager, mate?” one asked, unexpectedly just a metre behind him. Harry jerked, then turned.
A large man with a forehead just this side of baldness, a bulbous nose, and watery blue eyes, was smiling at him with a grin that didn’t look quite genuine. He was holding out a bottle of Muggle lager, and Harry saw five others on the cart. He hadn’t particularly noticed them before.
“Muggle beer? Ummm, thanks but no,” he said, and waited for them to approach with whatever the lager was an excuse for.
“Have it your way.” The man grinned and twisted the top off. The sound nearly masked heavy feet near him – as Harry whirled, ready for magical defence, he saw a large body hurtling toward him. It slammed into his chest, and he went down, pinioned by that embarrassingly non-magical means.
The next thing he knew, the lager – which tasted nothing like lager, or anything even vaguely palatable – was being forced down his throat by the one who had offered it to him. He squirmed, looking for a way free, even while choking and swallowing the awful liquid.
To his surprise, the larger man rolled off him, though still holding his wand. They think I’m helpless without it? Harry thought. Surprise! He focused to call the wand to him, or tried to. He realised the words were not forming clearly in his head. In fact, he couldn’t recall the command. “Wwwwwand,” he finally tried, out loud in case that would help. The men laughed. His wand wiggled in its captor’s hand, then stopped moving.
“Welcome to Karma, Mr. Potter,” one of them said, as Harry’s eyes glazed over. “You’ll be an amusing little addition to our Inferi collection.”
His head felt as though someone had shattered it. The cause might have been the extraordinarily off-key singing which had tormented his brain into wakefulness. Or it might have had something to do with the “lager” which had been forced down his throat -- there was a nasty taste in his mouth. The familiar shape of his wand wasn’t pressing against his right arm. And someone was singing off-key. The first thing Harry thought was that he’d drunk an awful lot the night before, and it was probably time he grew up. Then, slowly, it dawned on him that it might be too late for that – he might already be dead. If so, he didn’t like the afterlife at all.
He cautiously raised his head. Pieces did not drop off and bounce across the floor. His hands were shaking, but they held him up. Harry felt hopeful for perhaps six seconds, until it became clear to him that whatever they had given him definitely disagreed with his system. He gagged, retched, and emptied his stomach.
Afterwards, he felt a little better. Harry staggered to his feet and leaned against the wall. He appeared to be surrounded by dead bodies. If clothing were an indicator, they were all Muggles. “Shite,” Harry said, unable to think of anything more original. He began turning them over and looking at them carefully. They were all young; mostly women, a few men. They were all definitely dead, except for him.
Harry returned to the supportive wall, and thought as well as he could with the potion sliding through his system. Muggles died – but Evelyn had not died, and Harry wasn’t dead yet. So far as he knew, the only thing they had in common was that they were both from wizarding stock.
He staggered to the door, and found it locked. He was not without some wandless magic, but in the shape he was in, he doubted it would work. “Alohomora!” he demanded. The door remained closed and locked.
They would be coming back, that much was certain. There were big men and scary vampires. He didn’t want to be an Inferius, or whatever the singular was. He had to either escape or hide.
The off-key singing was still in his ears. Harry tried to clear his brain enough to hear better. It was coming from behind what appeared to be a solid wall. He staggered toward it, for lack of a better direction.
The words became clearer as he came closer. The tune was no truer, but the voice sounded familiar.
They’re not making the leaves so strong this year,
Wish you were here.
And why have the birds lost their song this year?
Wish you were here,
All the colours don’t seem so new,
Brand new as they did with you.
Wish you were here, wish you were, wish you were here.
They’re not making the skies so blue this year,
Wish you were here,
And why am I feeling so blue right here …
“I would have thought you’d sing musical numbers to keep yourself amused,” Harry observed through the wall. “I always thought you only knew musicals.”
There was a short silence. “Potter!” Mill’s voice was a trifle weak and wobbly, but recognisable. “What the fuck are you doing here? Unless you came with backup, get out!”
“No backup,” Harry said regretfully. “Unless you can.”
“I’m totally surrounded, in case you haven’t noticed, with a foot thick of stone and no wand,” Mill replied. “Is Lila all right?”
“She’s with Ron.”
“Oh well. That’s good, then. And you?”
“Horribly sick. I’m also in a room full of dead people.”
“Shit. You’re the second one who’s survived that poison today. You’ve got to get out of there – they’re making Inferi, and if you won’t die one way, they’ll try another.”
Harry slid down the wall till he was sitting on the moist stone floor. “I can’t get out the door,” he stated. “They thought the guy who got out was dead. I may be safer if they think I’m dead.”
“You’re a bit more of a prize, you arse. Think they won’t recognise you? These are baby Death Eaters we’re talking about – they were probably given a dart set with your face on it in first year.”
“Oh, they recognised me.” Harry looked around, trying to find a weapon. The piles of naked bodies did not look promising. “Why are you still alive, Mill?”
“The leader had a crush on me in school. Apparently he still does. Nott was always romantic – probably thinks the Death Eaters are a way to save the world. All I do is say scary sexual things and he has to go jerk off.”
“Too much information, Mill,” Harry said.
“Well, Ted’s convinced I’ll come around if he just tells me how right they are, and how wrong people like you are. Apparently there are people other than you who never got over school loyalties, Potter. Damn. I thought I’d have help by now.”
“Well, I came to help.”
There was a snort. “I know you did. But I was counting on Draco. He was the best in our year at Slytherin Hunt and Seek. He wouldn’t have come in prone.”
Harry didn’t want to ask. At least, about Hunt and Seek. “You thought he’d come looking for you?”
Mill’s voice was growing a little slurred. “Yeah, why not? We’re friends, and he knows I wouldn’t skive off and leave my daughter. Besides, he’s got his own problems with these folks.”
“Well, I told him to stay behind.”
“So you could come in without backup? Good choice.”
“We’re not supposed to involve civilians,” Harry said stiffly. “You know that.”
“Since when do you follow rules?”
Harry thought, since they involve Draco, and then was shocked at himself. “How’d you get involved in this?”
“Stupidity, I suppose. I started a safe place for sex workers to hang out when it gets cold or rainy or they don’t have enough money for food. Some of them started disappearing. Asked around and… it’s a long story, but it ended here.” Her voice was almost a mumble.
“Mill, are you all right?”
“I’m fading, Potter. Nott gives me some nasty potion to keep me from trying to escape when he’s not around. First I get a bit drunk, and now… now I go to sleep. Good night, Harry.”
Harry tried to resist the loud yawn, but he felt too ill. He curled up against the wall and let his eyes close.
The Ministry of Magic
02:07 Friday morning
I swore I’d never ask a favour after the amnesty deal, but this involves two of your own Aurors.
I can return the favour you so kindly arranged for me, by telling you how to rescue
Gawain, I know we’re not supposed to be in contact publicly, for fear people will know that your wife’s my dad’s cousin and the Death Eater stain will rub off on you, but this is an emergency. …
Auror Robards: please send at least three, preferably more, Aurors to Knockturn Alley, the site of the old Borgin and Burkes store. There you will find a fully operational Dark Lord Avengers’ unit, which has been killing Muggle prostitutes to convert to an Inferius army. Vampires are involved as well. Your Auror Potter
I will meet you there. Please do not delay. The life of at least one, and perhaps more, of your Aurors is at stake.
In haste, Draco Malfoy
Someone was shaking him hard. Harry moaned and turned his head away. “It’s too early. It’s Saturday.”
“Try, ‘I’m not in school anymore,’ Potter. That would be more accurate.”
Harry blinked, and opened his eyes against his own best judgment. The overhead lights hurt his headache.
Draco Malfoy had his hands on Harry’s shoulders. He looked worried. It was not an expression Harry had seen on Malfoy’s face before.
“Did they knock you on the head or what, Potter?”
“No, they gave me some Karma…” Harry trailed off as Malfoy blenched.
“Potter, it’s going to be all right. I’m getting you out of here and to St. Mungo’s. You’re going to pull through this.” And Malfoy actually manhandled Harry to his feet, apparently to hold him for side-along apparation.
Harry squirmed. “Malfoy, it’s all right. Malfoy, let go of me!” And when that didn’t work, he leaned against Malfoy’s shoulder. “Draco, I’m all right. Really. I’m not going to die from Karma.” He noticed that Malfoy’s arm was shaking a little, where it was wrapped around him, and added, “Really.”
Malfoy was hanging on to Harry with his left arm. Harry was dimly grateful to see that Malfoy’s right hand was gripping a wand. He thought of snatching it, but his hand seemed too shaky for that. Besides, presumably Malfoy was not alone.
“Where are the others?”
Malfoy’s paleness receded a little; possibly, he was blushing. “Oh, they should be here soon.”
“You came in without backup?”
“I don’t need your opinion, Mr. Pot. Where’s Mill?”
Harry waved at the wall. “Through that.”
Malfoy aimed his wand at it. “Evanesco.” The wall disappeared.
Harry saw his roommate curled up on a ragged and dirty couch, an equally ragged and dirty blanket wrapped around her. She was either asleep or unconscious, and an arm trailed off the side of the couch limply. As he came closer, he saw a drop of drool at the corner of her mouth. Despite his own drugged senses, he felt furious. Mill was always so self-contained. She would hate being seen like this.
“Is she poisoned too?” Malfoy asked, sounding concerned.
“No, sleep potion with a kick, I think. Nott doesn’t trust her alone.”
Malfoy studied Mill, and Harry was astonished to see affection in his face. “She’d kill us if she knew we were seeing her like this.”
“I won’t ever tell if you won’t.”
Malfoy turned his head. His expression didn’t change. “And you really expect to live?”
“Karma doesn’t kill wizards. Only Muggles.” He’d worked that out while throwing up. First Evelyn, then himself, both ill, neither dead. “The stupid idiots don’t seem to have figured that out yet.”
“Probably think they made a bad batch. Or whoever’s the brains of the group hasn’t been told yet.”
“You are mistaken.”
They whirled around. A tall, weedy man in black robes with light green piping was standing a few feet from them, wand aimed at Draco.
“Drop your wand, Draco. Or you die first.”
“Fine, Ted. I don’t even want to die second.”
“Don’t,” Harry began, but it was too late. Malfoy opened his hand and the wand fell out of it.
“Accio.” It flew to Nott, who caught it with his left hand.
“Draco was a Slytherin, Potter. And you clearly have no sense of preservation.” He smirked. Nott’s smirk was eerily like Draco’s, but Harry did not find it in the least attractive. “Or you would have kept your mouth shut. You’re distracting me.” He swung his wand toward Harry, narrowed his eyes, and said, “Avada Ke….”
The second word was broken off suddenly as Malfoy’s body hit Nott’s knees and threw him backwards. Harry’s reaction time was off, but he had been forcing his body to leap toward Nott since the wand aimed at him. He arrived half a second after Malfoy and on top of both him and Nott, who was buckling as his knees betrayed him.
The jolting arrival, and the unpleasant jarring at his groin as Malfoy’s head stopped its forward momentum, brought back the queasiness. He found just a little more vile potion in his system to bring up over Nott’s jaw and neck.
As Nott squealed, Malfoy wriggled out from under Nott and prudently acquired both his own and Nott’s wands. He examined his carefully.
“Good thing you wanted me to drop it, Ted,” he commented, as he put it away and snapped Nott’s in two. “I didn’t want to risk breaking it when I jumped you.”
“Blood traitor! I’ll have you, Malfoy! I’ll have you, and then you will die slowly!” Nott snarled.
“Taking Dark Lord lessons, are we?” Harry commented. To his surprise, Malfoy laughed.
“No, just a Slytherin who hasn’t grown up. The Dark Lord would have blathered on for hours before he got to the killing part.”
“Where do you suppose my wand is?”
“Incarcerous. I recommend searching him.”
Harry gingerly put his hands over the logical places to hide a wand on Nott’s body. He found it stuck in one of three wand holsters – the other two empty. Easing it out through Malfoy’s ropes was mildly difficult. However, he approved Malfoy’s caution.
“You would have made a good Auror, Malfoy.”
“Don’t insult me, Potter. Go wake our sleeping beauty.”
With wand in hand, Harry went back to Mill’s bedside and tried a healing spell or two. The old standby Rennervate worked well. As Mill’s eyelashes began fluttering, Harry heard loud cracks and then a series of shouts and spells.
Harry whirled, and looked around quickly. Sounds travelled well, but in the cavernous room, there were still only dead bodies besides the three of them, and the walls remained whole.
“How are we hearing them, Malfoy?”
“Probably an ongoing spell. I presume that’s how Ted heard us here. Don’t know how he sneaked in – couldn’t have Apparated or we would have heard it.”
“What’s going on?”
“I notified the Ministry, as you … requested. I would assume that those are your Auror friends, arriving late but that’s the Ministry for you.”
Harry focused hard, then pointed at the wall. “Evanesco.”
The next room looked like an especially realistic staging of the end of Macbeth. There were Aurors duelling with wizards in black robes with a lime green band around the edges, the same as Nott’s. Avada Kedavra green, Harry thought in disgust. Hexes, jinxes, curses were flying. There was blood on the already-filthy wooden floor.
Malfoy raised an eyebrow, then twitched his wand in a pattern unfamiliar to Harry. Surreally, all the Dark Lord’s Avengers flew into the air and began twirling, their arms straight out, heads tipped with jaws up, and feet pointed downward. Even more surreally, they were in an absolute straight line horizontally. One was kicking, struggling for his wand, and Malfoy twitched his own wand again. The twirling speeded up until there was a blur of black and green. It now looked less like Macbeth and more like some supernatural musical comedy.
“What the fuck?”
“Oh, from my Advanced Chorus Line class. Simpler to have a tech backstage than have each chorus dancer carrying his or her own wand for this, don’t you think? Though I think my classmates would probably have killed me if I whirled them this fast.”
Harry stared at the chorus of Death Eating dancers. Some were moaning, and it was clear that most were motion sick. The inevitable happened, and the Aurors, who were staring up with open mouths, hastily leaped aside to avoid being splattered. Gingerly, they began casting Incarcerus on each dancing Avenger.
“How’d you manage to pick out the Avengers and not the Aurors?”
“Well, conveniently, both sides are wearing a uniform. There’s a specification for costumes in the spell.” Malfoy looked at Harry out of the corner of his eye. “Of course, it’s been known to go wrong, and send up the wrong set of costumes,” he added. “Usually, it’s just a matter of sending up the male dancers instead of the female, or vice versa. Here, it might have been embarrassing. A team of Aurors dancing above their prey.”
“I think it’s brilliant,” Harry said, watching the twirling. When fully tied, each prisoner fell several feet to the floor, presumably because they no longer were in correct costume. The thuds of the DLA mixed with the monotonous “Incarcerous!” of the Aurors, who were taking it slowly. Harry began to snicker, and then sat down, leaned his head back, and laughed till his muscles ached.
After a few minutes of this, he was breathing slowly, feeling much better, and looked up to see his loathed boss standing next to Malfoy.
“So you really did need the backup,” Robards commented.
“A bit. Potter did most of the work already.”
Robards’ cool eyes roved over Harry’s face. “Oh?”
Harry opened his mouth to defend himself, and felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. Mill had joined them. Harry knew that hand signal – she used it at parties. It meant “shut up and listen”. He closed his mouth.
Malfoy, however, was obviously not intending to shut up. “Apparently, it was your assignment, Gawain – good work. The DLA had kidnapped one of your Aurors, presumably for questioning, maybe for ransom – and Potter put that together with the disappearances and did some footwork. He told me when he ran into me that he was concerned about innocent people dying while he went through proper notification procedures, and asked me to owl you and your office while he scouted ahead.”
“Your letter did not make it clear that the matter was so urgent, Draco.”
“Didn’t it? Sorry. Not exactly a professional Auror, am I? Still, it turned out well.”
Robards looked at the last DLA member being levitated out, and nodded grudgingly. “Who’s this one?”
Harry spoke, still a little dizzy from Malfoy’s covering him. “That’s Theodore Nott. He was in my year at Hogwarts. He’s the leader, I think.”
Robards appeared to be struggling with something in his throat. Finally, he got it out. “Good work, Potter. This will get you another Order of Merlin, I think.” And, just in case Harry might think Robards was softening toward him, “Not first class, of course.”
“Of course not,” Harry agreed.
“See you tomorrow, then. Seal off the place; we’ll follow it up tomorrow. Lot of paperwork for this one.” Without waiting for a reply, Robards followed the other Aurors out of the old building.
“How do you think they got in?” Harry said, more to avoid Mill’s questions than anything.
“Blasted a hole in the wall, probably,” Malfoy said. He glanced at Harry, and took a step closer. “You all right, Potter?”
“Still feeling sick from that potion,” Harry said evasively. That was true, but the really bad part was thinking about going to work tomorrow.
Mill hauled him over to the couch she’d slept on, and pushed him onto it. “Harry, we have to talk.”
“Can’t it wait, Mill? I have lots of questions, but you heard Robards – I’ve got a short night ahead of me, and I could use some sleep.”
Mill glanced at Malfoy as she sat down on one side of Harry. Malfoy sat on the other.
“So tell, me Potter, do you like being an Auror?” he asked. “Get off on seeing justice done, that sort of thing?”
“I would, if it were,” Harry said grumpily. Leave it to Malfoy to rub his nose in how much he hated his job.
“Why don’t you do something else, then? Something that suits you better?”
“What? Rent myself out by the hour, like you?” Harry snapped. Then he stared at the floor, ashamed. Malfoy had always pushed his buttons – and apparently that hadn’t changed.
Mill jumped in. “Draco, is there something you haven’t been telling me?”
After a silence, Draco said, “Mill, I owled you, but you never got the owls. Trust me, it isn’t the way it sounds.”
Harry started to speak, and then was silent. He did owe Malfoy his life, after all. Not to mention an improvement in Robards’ regard. If Malfoy wanted to keep how he made a living secret, Harry would back him up.
Mill seemed to be looking at them both. Finally, she nodded, as if she’d decided something. “Why not wait for Draco to make his point, Potter? He usually has one.”
Harry glared at Malfoy, the best he could do. “What’s your point?”
Malfoy, oddly, looked uncomfortable. “You’re not cut out to work for the Ministry, Potter. You never followed rules, not from the day the Dark Lord tried to kill you and vaporised for a while. You don’t follow rules about living, you don’t follow rules about dying, and you certainly never follow rules about doing what you’re told. The Ministry is all about rules and paperwork.”
“I don’t hear a point, Malfoy.” What Harry did hear was a series of insults, which would have made him less furious if he didn’t happen secretly to agree.
“I’m… tired of what I’m doing now, Potter. I figure I’m quite competent to do something else – and I was telling the truth about no one hiring a former DE. No one with regular work, anyway. But consulting work pays, and desperate people aren’t too fussy about the past. The two of us could make a good team there – I’d pull in the Dark side and you’d pull in those who worship the Boy Who Lived.”
“A – a team? For what?”
“Private investigations. Work against the Dark. And, just for the hell of it, you know, we could work for the people who’ve been screwed by the Ministry as well.”
Harry knew that list would be a long one. His name was somewhere on it. “I’m not convinced it’s a good idea.”
“It won’t take a lot to get started. A place to work and some word of mouth. We can just sit in a lot of pubs at first.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not broke, Malfoy. My parents and my godfather left me money. I even have a house we could meet in. I was thinking more of the problem of… you and me working together. And leaving the Aurors. That’s all I ever wanted to do since 4th year.”
“That’s news to me,” Mill commented. Harry jumped. He’d been watching Malfoy so intensely, he’d forgotten she was there. “Why?”
“Mad Eye Moody said I’d be good at it.”
“No,” Malfoy said. “He never did.”
“What? He told Ron and me …”
“For Merlin’s sake, Potter, a bloody Death Eater who wanted to kill you recommended that you be an Auror, remember? Any other Aurors say it was a good idea?”
Harry thought about that. “Well, actually, no. But….”
“I doubt they thought you’d like it, either. But it must have been a hoot for Crouch, thinking how miserable he could make you and your colleagues, all at once. Not that he planned you to live long enough to do it.”
“I’ll start warding the place,” Mill said, stretching and standing up. “You need to go home to bed, so don’t worry about Robards’ orders. For what it’s worth, Harry, I think Draco’s right. I also think you two might work well together. You don’t seem to be punching each other quite as much as you did at Hogwarts.”
“Need my wand?”
“Naaah. If I know Ted, he’s got mine in the bottom drawer of his desk. Going to have to clean it well, I suspect.” She stretched and sauntered out.
“So, what do you think, Potter? No bosses, no regular hours, no rules about what you can and can’t do to get the job done….”
It sounded beautiful to Harry. “How soon should I quit?”
Malfoy stood up and dragged Harry to his feet. “I think you should send them an owl when you get home. Say you’ve sustained injuries – you’ve been poisoned – and you need to work at something less destructive to your body. So you’re resigning for health reasons, effective immediately.”
“What? Without filling out the report?”
“Which would you rather do – lie, or quit?”
Harry scratched his head, stymied at the logic.
Then Malfoy drove his bargain home. “I’ll let you tie the bow on my pants.”
Harry felt his face heat. “You said we’d never have sex again.”
“Yeah, well, this is such a pretty bow.”
Harry thought about this. Not very long. Stupid Malfoy and his underwear fetish.
“Louie, I’ve got the feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” he said, happily certain Malfoy wouldn’t understand the reference.
“Sorry, Potter, that’s my line. I’m the hero of this story.”
“Fine words from someone studying for years in Russia just to learn how to be a drama queen.”
Malfoy shoved him, lightly. Harry shoved back. They walked into the mist of Knockturn Alley and disappeared.
Thanks for backing me up, Mill. You’re right – what I’m doing makes a lot more sense with the owls you never got. Can’t believe they all showed up at Sasha’s place. You must be serious about her. You could do worse. Although she plays her cards close to her chest. Never once mentioned my owls. I strongly suspect she read them, however.
As to Potter, he’s not precisely a one-night sort, but I have no idea if it will work. Finding out you’re madly fancying a bloke you thought you hated is an unpleasant surprise. But as working partners, there may be some room for exploring a relationship. At least, I think so.
I’m glad you understand that I’m not working for the money. I had fears you’d start wanting to pay me back for your flat. You and Lila really need a comfortable home. One must do something with one’s time, and I strongly suspect romancing Potter while frustrating him madly will be quite amusing. And, of course, there will be wrongs to right, and we will do so, just to ensure that you keep speaking to us.
Wish me luck. I’m going out to acquire a set of pants with bows. I may need to have them designed and handmade. Potter doesn’t seem to realise that most knickers have their bows sewn down, these days.