Where Angels Fear To Tread

Chapter six: Truth in Deception

Disclaimer: Not mine. So not mine.

A/N: This chapter is dedicated to my two wonderful beta readers, Sajasma Lee and Blade Mistress. They both put up with me in various ways when other people would have run out of patience a long time ago. That goes for the readers too, those who have stuck around. Hopefully your patience will be rewarded. Thanks to DistressedMoonchild, MIforever, and Kerry Leprechaun for leaving comments. I love any type of review, but give me constructive criticism and I'll love you forever. ^_^

* * *

"Why won't you just die?"

Draco dreamed.

* * *

"Why?"

He glanced up from his drink to see Potter leaning against a wall, that perpetually unaffected expression making him look cold and judgemental.

Damnable Gryffindor. What does he know? Draco schooled his face into a mask and glared.

"Why let someone else." Potter paused, as if searching for the right word. "Own you like that?"

Of course Potter would never understand, he had no concept of authority and no one he had to please. But that wasn't right, was it? No, wait.

"You say that like you don't grovel at Dumbledore's feet." He raised an eyebrow, the contemptuous expression perfected throughout the years.

The other boy smiled, then bit his lip and tried to turn it into a frown. The words had amused him somehow, but he did not want to show it. It annoyed Draco when he did not know the source of Potter's amusement. He did not like the possibility that it might be himself.

"Why do you follow that Mudblood-lover, then?" Bitterness and hate, that he could do well enough.

Potter stood up carefully, calm eyes looking straight at him.

"Other than the obvious?"

Draco nodded, and was infuriated to find that Potter had almost caught up to him in height. He wasn't awkward, though - that period had passed infuriatingly quickly for Potter, as with everything else. He'd always be quick and lethal.

Sometimes, he was even good with words, even though he was not graceful or skilled with them. He was just lucky.

"I don't appreciate torture when I make a mistake. Nor do I like kissing the hem of my superior's robes. I don't like to think that you might."

Draco winced - not at the words, oh Merlin no, he'd said the same in his head so many times that it had lost meaning - but -

I don't like to think that you might.

Words delivered in a monotone, clipped, precise. So blank and expressionless that he might have been talking about the weather, about nothing that mattered.

Words are powerful. Magic is, after all, nothing more than words and thought and will.

"What made you think that I would care about what you thought?" Never mind that even he could see the hypocritical nature of his retort - hadn't he asked Potter the question?

Harry didn't seem to hear him, absorbed as he was in twirling his wand around his fingers.

Draco polished off his drink in frustration. One-sided conversations with Potter were not, and had never been one of his hobbies. It was just his luck that when he had come up here to be alone, Potter had the nerve to show up, and he couldn't exactly curse the bastard, could he?

"You like the winning side, Malfoy? All Slytherins do, I think." A deliberate pause, as he took a step forward. "Although I've also been told that Slytherins don't like to be led, so I guess hearsay isn't that believable." Another step. He was right in front of Draco now.

"Or is it?"

Quick, nimble fingers closed around his wrist, one hand causally brushing back the sleeve of his robe. The Dark Mark was clearly visible, the demonic skull grinning repulsively up at him. Draco winced, waiting for a typically Gryffindor reaction. Potter only sighed softly, the sound curiously like a snake's hiss.

"Ah. Careless, aren't we?" That glacial calm was becoming difficult to shatter. Draco longed to get through to him, stir up something, anything within Potter's dead eyes and dead voice and dead smile. And to think, he used to be so easy to rile up.

He saw himself straighten haughtily, shrugging off Potter's hands and saying something scathing. Something clever, perhaps. Tailor designed to hurt and prove his own superiority.

All his clever, hurtful words were scattered to the wind when he glanced down and found the tip of Potter's wand barely half an inch from his throat.

In retrospect, it was probably the look in his eyes. Not alive, no, never that, never after all that had happened, but filled with a mania that would remain beyond the grave. He saw that look in his own eyes sometimes, when he looked in the mirror. It hurt somewhat to think that he was not the object of Potter's obsessive hatred.

He spoke carefully, spitting each word out as if he was barely restraining himself. The change was startling.

"The Dark Lord can give you nothing but ruin. You should know that." He paused, the corner of his mouth turning up in a vicious little smile. "Look what happened to your father."

He didn't really know what happened next. It's all a blur, even now. What he did know was that Potter ended up with a black eye, and he couldn't use his left hand for days.

It had been quite a potent curse. The hand is a delicate part of the body, extremely sensitive to pain. His lip was bleeding for days from biting on it to stop himself from screaming. Draco didn't know that Potter was capable of such cruelty.

That had been their last day at Hogwarts, before everything fell apart.

* * *

The Fourth Day, 2008 The Leaky Cauldron

With a start, Draco woke. His first instinct was to grab for his wand; his second was to look for the source of the sound. He relaxed back against the couch he had been dozing on as he realised that it was a Ministry owl.

Draco had not had this dream for a long time.

He ripped open the brown envelope stamped 'Urgent' almost before the owl left. He was prepared for bad news, but the words still had the power to shock him.

Malfoy:

Second Death Eater murder. Report back with Remus immediately.

N. Longbottom

P.S. If I catch you drinking and sleeping on the job again we might have to see about that vacation of yours.

He did two things immediately after reading the note: first he fixed himself a stiff drink, and then he threw the note into the fireplace.

Draco watched it burn calmly. Another murder. Longbottom was a smug, annoying motherfucker. They were nowhere close to catching Potter or the murderer. His leg was hurting again.

Look what happened to your father.

"Fuck you, Potter. Get the hell out of my head."

Outside, the rain poured down.

* * *

Remus had been waiting for him outside. Draco nearly tripped over him as he opened the door. After they straightened themselves out, they stood staring at each other in the corridor.

Remus' eyes were bloodshot, just like his own, and he looked just as ready to rip someone a new one. There they stood, seriously contemplating the ridiculousness inherent in the situation.

Remus started laughing first. The sound was not forced, but it bordered a little on the edge of hysteria, all the same. Draco spared a moment to wonder about his sanity.

Contemplating, my ass. Draco laughed too.

Why not? The world was absurd. He was sure that wherever Potter was, he was laughing too.

He was right, of course. He often was about these things.

* * *

10 minutes later Neville's Office, Ministry of Magic

Longbottom waved at them as they entered his disgustingly cheerful office, painted and draped in splendid red and gold. Draco did not wave back. Remus nodded at Longbottom, but his smile was strained. The lines around his eyes appeared more pronounced than ever.

Draco looked outside at the pouring rain to avoid the Gryffindor colours.

For a while, Neville shuffled papers around while Remus looked at Draco and Draco looked out the window. Longbottom jumped when Lupin spoke, breaking the silence.

"Excuse me, Neville, but just what is going on?" He didn't sound angry, just concerned. Draco raised an eyebrow and turned back to the conversation. This was getting interesting.

Longbottom looked up from shuffling his papers and sat back in his chair with a great sigh.

"What? Oh, nothing's wrong, it's just business as usual, you know, case pressure and all that..."

Remus snorted. "Don't feed me that crap, Neville. Something's up and if it has anything to do with this investigation, I'd like to know."

Neville sighed. He started shuffling the papers again, then stopped abruptly and seemed to come to a decision. He looked straight at Remus.

"You know I wouldn't keep anything from you that would help you in your case, Remus. It's just Fudge, being his usual self. Bode and I are under a lot of pressure to recapture Ha - Potter."

"You don't want Harry back behind bars anymore than I do, Neville. We can be honest about that."

Longbottom's smile was bitter.

"I don't know - how much do you want Harry to be back in Azkaban?"

The silence this time was weighted with unspoken words.

"You know Harry, Neville. You know him just as well as anyone does."

"Did we know him at all, I wonder." He looked troubled. "I can't help it, Remus. You know what he did."

Remus gripped his armrest very tightly. "'Don't listen to Fudge. Don't ever listen to him.' Do you remember that?"

Neville nodded, his tone suddenly brisk as his face. "Let's get on with it then. I'm not sending you to the scene of the crime - I'm not allowed to, you're supposed to be hunting Harry. Victims were Mr and Mrs Carlston and their son. We're lucky someone was visiting them - the bodies were fresh when we got to them."

Longbottom handed his folder over to him.

Draco did not open the folder. He simply passed it on to Lupin and went back to staring at Neville.

"Profile match?"

"Yes. Former Death Eaters who've escaped conviction. Their daughter was in the Malfoy Manor defence group. Still the Hunter's Mark."

He's killed again.

Draco decided to dispel his unpleasant thoughts by being nasty.

"Weren't you a Hunter, Longbottom?"

Neville laughed, sharp and quick.

"None of your business, Malfoy."

Lupin looked up from reading the file. "Have you got photos of the crime scene?"

Longbottom nodded, opening a drawer with one of his many keys.

"Took me quite a bit of effort to get these, I can tell you, seeing as you're not supposed to have them. Ended up buying off the Eagle's photographer. Good shots, almost as good as Creevey."

The photos were indeed very good. Well taken and well developed. Draco frowned at the static picture. Corpses never move in photos.

He sifted through them, picked out three shots and handed the rest to Lupin.

The first one was of the exterior of the house. It was a good sized one, almost a mansion, one might say, and would have looked splendid in its better days. Draco peered at the sky and the lawn. It had rained.

"Lupin, when did it start raining?"

"About five or six hours ago, why?"

"Longbottom, what's the estimated time of the crime?"

"It's on the report, have a look yourself," snapped Longbottom, busy composing a memo to the Prophet.

Lupin shook his head lightly and passed the report back to Draco.

Estimated occurrence time: 2-3 PM

Match.

He set aside the first photo. The second and third were snapshots of the family left as they were found, shot from different angles.

The Carltons lay in the study, bloodied and almost unrecognisable. Draco stared hard at the carnage.

Come on, this is a gift, there's something here, use it. Don't you dare look away.

At last he allowed himself to shift his eyes onto the report, uncomfortably aware of Lupin's single eye following his hand across the pages.

Cause of death: careful gunshots to the chest. (Note: for more on Muggle weaponry, consult Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office.)

The bodies were moved and mutilated later.

It didn't fit. Calculated and yet out of control.maybe there's more than one person behind this.

Remus spoke. "The Crime Scene team did a good job with this one."

Draco nodded absentmindedly. "Yeah, they're good for something for once." There was something wrong with this picture.

Suddenly, a large leather-bound book, lying open on the floor caught his eye. He slammed the photo down on the table.

"Tell me what that is." Longbottom's eyes narrowed as they focused on the book. "Don't lie to me, Longbottom. I'm warning you."

Longbottom let out a great sigh. His shoulders were slumped and he looked tired.

"You know what it is." He sat up and stared straight at Draco. Backing down had long become a thing of the past for him.

Of course Draco knew what it was. He had seen it a thousand times. He'd never forget it.

Remus raised an amused eyebrow. "Well?"

"It's the Malfoy Manor library's visitor's book," Longbottom replied wearily. "Automatically records the entrance of any being. I have no idea how it got there, though."

"That's fairly simple. There are two possibilities. Either the Carlstons somehow got hold of it or the killer bought it with him."

Draco stood up and began to pace. "Lupin is right. Where is it now?"

"I'll pull the inventory of the house we did and find out." With that Longbottom took out a piece of parchment and began scribbling.

"Wait a minute. The killer wouldn't have bought it with him if it automatically records anyone's entrance. Wouldn't it write his name down?" Said Lupin, frowning faintly.

Draco shook his head. "I don't know if it works outside of the Manor. Besides, the killer certainly didn't enter as a guest there to borrow a couple of books."

Thoughts played a furious game of catch-22 in his head.

Intent of entrance.visitor's book.the Manor.library, study.visitor's book.dining room.visitor's book.

Two things occurred to him at once. He filed the first away for later discussion with Lupin and went onto the second, which was more relevant to the moment.

Baddock was in the Manor siege.

Longbottom was frowning at the inventory he'd just been sent. Draco took two long steps towards his desk and tapped him on the head.

"Don't worry about that inventory, Longbottom. It's not going to be there."

"How did you know that?" Neville asked, slightly peeved.

"Never you mind, I need to see photos of the first crime scene and I need them now."

Longbottom, long used to Draco's work habits, was unfazed by his sudden request and proceeded to open another drawer. Remus simply raised an eyebrow.

Draco leafed through the Baddock photos, picking out two and handing the rest back to Neville. He placed the photos on the table, the Baddocks next to the Carlstons. Remus, standing next to him, could not see what he could. He wasn't comparing the photos with each other. He was comparing them with snapshots of his own memory.

Come on, I need to remember.

For once, his stubborn mind cooperated and he saw what he needed flash before his eyes.

The Malfoy Manor dining room, after the siege.

The Baddocks, bloodied, lying around their dining room.

Match.

Malfoy Manor library, the dust and ink disturbed by death and carnage.

The Carlstons, broken like dolls, arranged carefully around their study.

The visitor's book.

Match.

Draco took a deep breath and grabbed for the desk to keep himself upright.

"I know what he's doing, Lupin." The Manor siege. Fuck. He closed his eyes to calm himself. "He's picking out Death Eaters involved in the Malfoy Manor siege. He's arranging his victims according to what happened at the Manor. He's."

He trailed off, something else occurring to him for the first time.

'It may rain again tomorrow.'

"He's killing them on rainy days because."

'The Manor holds memories.'

"Because the Manor siege occurred on a rainy day."

He opened his eyes as he finished, triumph flowing through him to meet the shocked yet thoughtful gaze of Lupin. He knew they were both more or less thinking the same thing.

What the fuck, Potter? Are you or aren't you?

* * *

An Hour Later The Hanged Sphinx

Draco took a grateful gulp of his drink. They had made a breakthrough, but the experience had drained him. For once, Remus did not attempt to stop him from getting himself drunk.

In fact, Remus had been strangely quiet ever since their arrival in Longbottom's office. Draco frowned and put down his glass.

"What is it, Lupin?"

Lupin laughed, his remaining eye sparkling with a strange mirth. "I was about to ask you the same thing."

Draco feigned innocence. He knew that he was rather crap at it, but he was in the mood to try.

"I have no idea what you mean, Lupin. Absolutely no idea."

Remus' poker face was almost perfect - almost, except that one could see a tiny smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.

"Alright then. I have something to tell you, Draco."

He could do surprise well enough.

"Oh, what's that?"

"You're not as good a liar as you think you are." He could see Remus reigning in laughter at the indignant look on his face. "Tell me what you didn't want to tell Neville."

Draco faked a comical look of horror.

"You think he noticed?"

Their eyes met and they both laughed.

"Cheers." The crisp clink of their glasses of fire whiskey as they met midair was almost musical.

It was nice to laugh after what they'd just seen.

"So, what is it?"

There was that flash of triumph again, sweet as rum and just as potent.

"I know how Potter got out."

In an instant, he had Lupin's full attention.

"How much have you found out?"

He sat back, a smug grin creeping across his face.

"I know when, how, and even who. The only missing piece is why. I can't for the life of me figure that out."

As if I've ever been able to figure him out.

Remus leaned back in his chair.

"Go on."

"The visitor's book reminded me. Azkaban keeps separate records for normal visits and other types of visitors - say the press."

Comprehension dawned on Remus' face. He nodded, smiling.

"So you went and pulled the records while I was with Bode."

"Right. Turns out that a reporter for the Prophet interviewed him - or rather, tried to - about three weeks ago. I think it's far more likely that he interviewed her. He can plant suggestions, I've seen him do it before - no don't you argue with me here, I know what I'm talking about - so he gets her as his puppet and uses her to get someone else in there - someone who can help him out."

"And this someone that Harry went to for help.You know who this person is." Remus prompted.

Draco continued, tapping the table for emphasis. "Think about it. This person needs to be able to visit Azkaban without leaving records behind. He or she also needs to have the skill and knowledge necessary to break Potter out. That narrows it down quite a bit."

Remus smiled. "There's only one type of people who can visit Azkaban without a permit or a record."

They both spoke at the same time, the satisfaction of having solved a problem evident in both their voices.

"Healers."

In the ensuring silence, Draco polished off his drink while Remus frowned in thought.

"It's really bad for security, if you ask me, but some of the old money family members fought for it and so Fudge isn't willing to touch it."

Lupin nodded absentmindedly, his attention obviously elsewhere.

"I'm not so sure.Dean's the only Healer Harry knows well, and he was in Australia, last time I checked. There isn't really anyone else, unless."

He looked up, eyes widening in surprise.

"Couldn't have been."

Draco laughed. "That's what I thought, but it makes sense. He got a Healer license during the war, remember? Has to be him."

"So what are you going to do?" Remus was obviously amused at his expense and Draco couldn't blame him.

He sighed, resigned and long suffering.

"I guess I'll have to pay him a visit then."

* * *

30 Minutes Later

"Evening, Professor."

"You're not very welcome, you realise."

"Yes, Sir, but I."

"Especially at this hour. Mr Malfoy, do you know what time it is?"

"Yes, Sir. I'd like your help with."

"I'd like you to come back tomorrow, or not at all, if possible."

"Professor."

"That title no longer applies to you, I believe."

"Mr Snape, I have the right to question you as a top level Auror. Would you please let me finish a sentence?"

".Do go on, Mr Malfoy."

"Thank you. Now, can I come in?"

Laughter, rich and genuine.

"You may indeed, Mr Malfoy."

Scraping of chairs.

"Sit down. So tell me, what was so important that you had to bother me at this ungodly hour?"

"Not even going to offer me tea? Your hospitality for me has lessened considerably since my father got sent to Azkaban, Professor."

"Very astute, Mr Malfoy. Maybe you have learned."

"Ha, I wish. If I've learned then I wouldn't be here, being the Ministry's fucking henchman."

Sighs.

"I haven't got long, Draco. What do you want?"

"Alright, let's get straight to the point. You helped Potter escape. I want to know why."

Crash of glass breaking.

"Careful there, that tea must have been hot. Are you alright?"

"I'm just fine, thank you. Potter may have underestimated you. Have you shared you discovery with anyone?"

"No one in the Ministry. You're safe for now. Tell me why."

"You never used to be so curious, Mr Malfoy. Just so very intent on Potter."

"Tell me."

"'Some puzzles aren't meant to be solved.' That's what I am supposed to tell you. However, unlike Chang, I am no go-between. I had my reasons for letting Potter out. That should be good enough for you."

"Even if he is responsible for the murders?"

"What do you think, Mr Malfoy?"

"I can't get anymore out of you without a warrant."

"No."

"Damn you.You know I can't get a warrant."

"Why is that?"

"Never you mind. Let me tell you something. You despise this government that you risked your life to keep. You hate Fudge almost as much as you hate Dumbledore. Am I right?"

"Very good, Mr Malfoy. Keep going."

"Here's what I can't figure out - why not let Potter rot in Azkaban? You hate him. Wouldn't it just be sweet irony to have someone you despise locked up by someone else you hate?"

"You said it yourself - I'm not about to explain myself to you. It's late, Mr Malfoy. Goodbye."

"I'm sure I'll hear your 'valid reasons' some time. Goodbye, Professor. You're a double-crossing son of a bitch and my father would be walking free if it weren't for you." A sigh. "Thank you."

"You're quite welcome, Mr Malfoy."

* * *

An Hour Later Draco's House

Draco staggered out of the fireplace, completely drained. He wanted nothing more then to sleep, but he had a report to write. Leaning against a wall, Draco sighed.

Is it just me or are my days getting steadily worse?

He pushed open the door to his study and stopped dead.

Definitely getting worse.

The study's walls were covered with newspaper clippings, each of them telling the story of Death Eaters killed during the war, each of them meticulously cut out by Draco. On each clipping, he had curved out the picture of the killer - the Head of the Hunters, the Boy Who Lived - to avoid the haunted gaze of those green eyes mocking him.

He needn't have bothered.

Studying the clippings with an air of disaffected curiosity was the real thing.

"I told you to come home, didn't I? You just didn't bother to listen."

He turned just as Draco came out of his shock and began reaching for his wand.

Harry Potter held Voldemort's wand in his hand and it was pointed straight at Draco's heart.

"Hello, Draco. How nice to see you again."

Oh fuck.

* * *

To Be Continued

Author's Notes: Apologies for the unholy long delay in getting this chapter out - I hope it was at least worthy the bloody long wait. ^_^

Also I feel like I should apologize for the length of this chapter - it's really quite a bit shorter than my usual, and I feel bad for that, especially after such a long absence.

Next chapter: Vengeance and Honour. 'Let the man who seeks revenge remember to dig two graves.' There is nothing worse than the truth.

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