Author's Notes: I did not know anything about The Blacklist prior to H/D Smoochfest this year, but the prompt sounded intriguing. Additionally, Taradiane demanded that I write for it, so I started watching the show and was instantly yanked in and hooked for life. I LOVE IT SO HARD. Therefore, I tried to imbue Draco with a bit of Red's brilliant, adorable personality whilst still keeping him essentially Draco, and since Harry already has many of Lizzie's qualities, well, that bit was easy. Some scenes will be recognizable from the series, but I hope to have altered them enough to cause surprise. Anyone not familiar with the series need not know anything about it to enjoy this fic, and if you choose to seek it out afterwards-and you totally should-then the spoilers herein are minimal. Thank you, Tara, for giving me a new obsession and I hope you enjoy this tribute I've written to the amazing show. The title was my tongue-in-cheek working title and I meant to change it, but I grew to like it so well that it now remains.
13th June, 2005 - Monday
Their footsteps rang on the pavement as they walked. Draco thought the sound was decisive, confident, and not at all hesitant or nervous. Of course, the echoing, not-quite-in-synch clomping could not really be assigned an emotion; it was simply a sound, after all, and yet it comforted him all the same, despite the fact that the echo was muted due to the pelting raindrops.
"Are you sure about this?" Blaise's features were indistinct due to the Umbrella Charm that surrounded his upper body, but even with the droplets dribbling down between them, Draco could picture the dark look sent his way. He smiled and his footsteps slowed. "When have I ever been uncertain about anything?"
Blaise eased his pace to match Draco's. "Not in a bloody long time, but this is insane."
"Well, you know insanity runs in my family."
Draco punched him lightly on the arm, although Blaise didn't budge at the gesture. His slenderness was deceptive; Blaise was built like a granite statue. "Oh, do lighten up! This will be a lark!" He turned and started away, but Blaise's fingers snagged at his sleeve.
Draco offered him a steady stare, meeting Blaise's dark eyes though the haze of the Charm. "Blaise. Trust me. I know what I'm doing."
Blaise let go of his wet sleeve with a heavy sigh. "I'll visit you in Azkaban."
Draco's grin returned and he tsked as he turned away and headed for the entrance. "Such scepticism! I could drown in it!" He gave Blaise a jaunty wave and went to meet his fate.
Draco's footsteps rang as he walked the length of the Atrium. It wasn't particularly busy, as he'd purposely chosen 1:15 in the afternoon. Most of the staff would be back in their offices, lethargic from consumption of their lunches and not quite ready to tackle their waiting workloads. A few lesser employees scurried past and their disapproving looks were more likely because of his cloak shedding water on the wooden floor than from recognition of his face. He hadn't set foot in the Ministry in years. Not since his fateful trial, actually, nearly a decade prior.
When he reached the security counter he took off his hat and dropped it onto the countertop. "Hold onto this for me, won't you, Mrs Dearborn? I'll be wanting it back, as I'm rather fond of that one."
The bushy-haired witch blinked at him and put down the scroll she'd been scanning. She frowned. "Do I know you, sir?"
"Probably not, but you will in a moment." Draco deposited his wand in the golden analysis device and watched as it began to vibrate. A slip of paper spat out and she took it.
"Ash. Twelve and one quarter inches. Centaur-hair core. Been in use… six months? Is that correct?"
"Indeed. I had an incident with my last one. Broom accident. It was spectacular. I was nearly killed. My leg mended, thankfully, but my wand was a total loss. Such a pity."
"If you would stand on the scanner, please." She indicated a square upon the floor that glowed with a faint yellow outline.
Draco nodded as he unfastened the frogs of his wet cloak and shrugged out of it. He draped it over the counter next to his hat, ignoring her frown of dismay, and walked over to stand upon the square. As he did so, he held out his arms and crossed his wrists as if waiting for the application of bonds.
Two heartbeats later, the Atrium lit up like a holiday parade. Lights flashed, alarms blared, the Welcome Witch squeaked and dove behind the security counter, and three Aurors appeared next to Draco with wands held threateningly.
"Draco Malfoy!" one yelled over the din. "You are under arrest for… well, for a huge assortment of crimes. Fraud, burglary, attempted murder, coercion, bribery—"
"Oh, stop. You are making me blush. If you don't mind silencing this racket, I would like to speak to Kingsley Shacklebolt, at once."
"You would, would you? Well, we'll see if he's of a mind to speak to you. You're coming to Auror lockup." The Auror, a man Draco vaguely recognised from his school days—a former Gryffindor, no doubt—gripped his bicep roughly.
Draco hissed. "Gently! This is an Endovanera original! It was not designed for wrestling and probably cost more than your annual salary. Hershberger is a genius with pleats, don't you think?"
The Auror gave him a disbelieving stare, but he let go and then cast a Cuffing Charm. Metal bands appeared around Draco's wrists, glowing with a silvery light that would not be easily countered. The Auror's wand snapped towards the lift in a rough gesture. "In you go. And don't try anything or you'll be in a Full-body Bind before you can blink."
Draco gifted him with a condescending smile and entered the lift on his own. The three Aurors crowded in after him, each of them looking as though they would prefer to cut him down where he stood. He shook his head sadly. Such animosity. What had he ever done to them?
Ron Weasley's ginger eyebrows nearly concealed the piercing blue currently stabbing into Draco from just beyond the iron bars.
"Well the hell are you up to, walking in here like that?"
Draco crossed one leg over the other and adjusted the pleat on his pale grey trousers. The cuffed hem was slightly damp above his black designer shoes. He probably should have used an Umbrella Charm, but he'd always thought that wearing a hat and using a charm together to be redundant. He would rather be damp than unfashionable.
"I am only speaking to Shacklebolt, Weasley. In case they forgot to send you the memo."
"I'm Head Auror here and you'll talk to me whether you like it or not."
"Head Auror, indeed." Draco smirked.
Weasley took the bait. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Draco gave him an enigmatic look and examined the bindings on his wrists. They weren't particularly tight, which was a bit of a surprise. The Auror— Finnigan, Draco finally remembered—apparently hadn't as much reason to hate him as some of the others.
"We've got enough on you to toss you into Azkaban and throw away the key!"
"Do shut up, Weasley." Draco leaned his head back against the stone wall and closed his eyes. "And let me know when Shacklebolt gets here. It's been a long day and I'm rather tired." He waited for Weasley to retort, but he heard only a muttered oath and then angry footsteps stamping away.
What had to have been more than an hour later, Draco was dragged from his cell by two different Aurors, a hard-faced woman and her burly companion. Without a word, they ushered him to the lift where they descended to level ten. Draco did not think they would have had time to convene the Wizengamot, so he was not surprised when they bypassed the ancient courtroom for a metal door some distance down the rough-hewn corridor. Inside, a single, rectangular stone table occupied the centre of the room, with a stack of files thereon, edged with several uncomfortable-looking wooden chairs. A lone chair sat to the left side of the table and a scattering lined the opposite side. Ron Weasley was stood next to one and Quentin Quartermain—the Minister's Undersecretary—waited behind another.
The Aurors shoved Draco into the single chair, disconnected his handcuffs with a spell, and bound them to each of the chair arms. Draco smiled. "Is this really necessary? I don't plan to leap across the table and throttle Weasley, tempting though it might be."
Quartermain nodded at the Aurors, who departed. The door clanged shut behind them and Quartermain took a seat. He was a tall, distinguished-looking man with cropped silver hair, steely blue eyes, and a nose like a hatchet. "Draco Malfoy. Would you like to explain why you waltzed through the front doors and turned yourself in? You have been a wanted criminal for quite some time. Rather high on DMLE's Most Wanted list, if you did not already know that."
"Your list." Draco snorted. "We'll get to that later. I'm not here to talk to underlings. Where is the Minister?"
Quartermain had a cold smile that reminded Draco unpleasantly of his own father's. "The Minister cannot be bothered with petty criminals such as yourself."
"Hardly petty if I'm 'rather high on the Most Wanted list', wouldn't you say?"
"Regardless, we will not be bothering Kingsley with your foolish demands."
Draco shrugged. "Then it will be on your head. Some unpleasantness is coming your way and you would be wise to take precautions. But if you'd rather not accept good advice when it's offered…"
"What sort of 'unpleasantness' and what sort of precautions?"
Draco gave him a condescending smirk. "Well, now, there is a snag. I'm afraid I won't be simply coming out and telling you all about it. I will only speak to Shacklebolt or Potter."
Weasley, who had sprawled in a chair next to Quartermain, made a sound of disgust. "Yeah, right. I should have known you had some deeper plot in mind."
"Auror Potter is on a personal sabbatical."
"He'll return when he hears what I have to say. Feel free to fetch him now. I will wait."
Weasley barked a laugh. "You're dreaming, Malfoy. We're not fetching anyone. You'll talk to us and you'll do it now." He pulled a vial from his Auror robes and placed it on the table.
"Veritaserum? Really? I haven't even been formally charged."
"We have enough evidence to bring you in for questioning," Quartermain countered.
"Bring me in? I walked in of my own accord. I am here to offer you idiots a mutually beneficial arrangement."
"The only beneficial arrangement you're getting, Malfoy, is life imprisonment." Weasley's tone was derisive as he got to his feet and snatched up the vial.
"Are we skipping trials these days and going straight to sentencing?" Draco frowned at Quartermain. "Undersecretary, I am disappointed."
"Open up, Malfoy," Weasley said.
Draco considered resisting, but given Weasley's tense stance, he was hoping for such an eventuality. He probably couldn't wait to pry Draco's jaws open by force. With a single roll of his eyes, Draco tipped his head back and opened his mouth. The Veritaserum tasted vile. He didn't even need to swallow it for it to be effective; within moments he could feel the potion numbing his tongue and stealing warm fingers into his brain.
Relax, he told himself, and keep your wits about you. This was expected.
Weasley sat back down. "Lie," he said. "When I ask, tell me your eyes are orange. Now, what colour are your eyes?"
"Ora—grey." The answer bubbled forth, unrestrained.
"Brilliant." Weasley reached for the stack of files and opened the first one. "Did you know Jameson Newark?"
"Personally? No, I did not."
"But you know who he was."
"I read the Daily Prophet. Of course I know who he was."
"Did you kill him?"
"Of course not. I was in Bulgaria at the time."
"Did you pay someone to kill him?"
"No, I did not." Draco felt a bit smug about that one. "Pay" suggested the transference of funds, whilst "trade" was just different enough to keep his negative response from being restrained as a lie.
"Do you know who did?"
Draco was curious how the Veritaserum would handle that one. He couldn't suppress a slight relaxation of his shoulders when he replied, "No." He had known, of course, but he'd conveniently left that memory at home in a small vial and, at the moment, he hadn't the faintest idea of the killer's identity. Veritaserum had its failings, something the Ministry tended to ignore with their obstinate reliance upon it.
Weasley frowned and shoved the file aside to grab another one. "Dartmouth. Did you know that the Chillabuck Tavern was a front for a potions smuggling ring?"
Fuck. "Yes." The drawback, of course, was that he couldn't possibly remove every memory.
"And how did you know about that?"
Draco sighed and let the words come. "Ashleigh Greene was an acquaintance. How long do you intend to ask these ridiculous questions?" Draco looked at Quartermain. "I came here in good faith to offer you vitally important information and you are only interested in old news and two-knut cases. I can give you bigger fish than Ashleigh Green and his ilk. They are minnows in the cesspool and you don't even know about the sharks."
Weasley opened his mouth and Quartermain lifted a hand to silence him. "What sort of information?"
Cursing the Veritaserum, Draco replied, "Information on crimes that haven't been committed yet." He glared, knowing that even his skill would not prevent Quartermain and Weasley from clawing at the data that was Draco's Golden Snitch. He had wagered everything on the hope that Shacklebolt would be honour-bound to meet with him. He hadn't counted on the Minister's underlings keeping Draco's presence from him completely.
"Tell us what you know about—" Quartermain's words were cut off when the door banged open.
"Would someone like to tell me what is going on here?" Kingsley Shacklebolt entered with a billowing of official red robes. He was trailed by a tall, dark figure and Draco nearly sagged in relief.
"Just… questioning a prisoner, Minister." Weasley's voice sounded strident.
"What has he been charged with?" The question barked forth from the man accompanying Shacklebolt, and Weasley looked decidedly uncomfortable. Quartermain merely looked angry.
"This is Solicitor Flint. Mr Malfoy's legal counsel."
Draco was pleased to note that Marcus Flint looked even more intimidating in expensive, professional robes than he ever had in Quidditch gear back at Hogwarts. His brown hair had been slicked back and his bushy brows nearly hid his black glare, currently spearing Weasley to his chair. "Indeed I am. And I repeat, what's he been charged with?"
Weasley indicated the stack of files, but before he could speak, Draco said, "I haven't been charged with anything. Apparently they found it necessary to force a confession out of me via Veritaserum rather than do any tiresome Auror work and dredge up some actual evidence."
"We've got enough on you to hold you for suspicion in a dozen cases!"
Shacklebolt's expression was thunderous. "You two will face disciplinary action for this breach of procedure! Auror Weasley, I believe you are allowing your emotion to cloud your professional judgment. And Quentin, I am appalled. What were you thinking?"
Quartermain still seemed unruffled. He shrugged. "Sorry, Minister. I got a bit overzealous with Malfoy, here. I'll take these up to Robards and have him file some formal charges. We called the game before the Snitch was caught, I admit." Quartermain got to his feet and Summoned the files with a flick of his wand.
Flint's snarl was venomous. "You did, indeed, you smug bastard. And you'll be getting a bloody letter from my office about it, I guarantee you that." Draco thought it sounded impressive, despite the fact that a letter demanding recompense would get buried in Ministry red tape until Draco was ninety and everyone present knew it.
Quartermain ignored Flint. He inclined his head. "Minister."
"I'll speak to you in my office when I'm finished here, Quentin."
"As you wish." Quartermain strolled out. Draco maliciously hoped the lift malfunctioned and slammed the bastard around until he resembled mincemeat. He filed the idea away for future consideration.
"You may stay, Auror Weasley. In an official capacity, although I would prefer you not speak to Mr Malfoy." Shacklebolt took the seat that Quartermain had vacated and Weasley halted in the act of escape. He glanced at Flint and then walked back to sit down.
"Thank you, Marcus. You may go." Draco gave him a fleeting smile.
Flint paused, looking uncertain, but then he shrugged and started out.
"But don't go too far. I may need your services," Draco added.
"I'll be in the Atrium." The door closed behind him, finally leaving Draco with the person he'd needed to meet with all along. The bloody Ministry and their fucking inefficiency.
"Well, this has all wasted quite a lot of time. Thank you for that, Weasley." Draco gave him an absent sneer. "I am here to warn you, Minister, that someone is planning to do severe harm to someone on your staff."
The Veritaserum wanted Draco to reply, but the question could have referred to either "someone"—the harmer or the harmee—and his response came out as a strangled "gah" sound. Kingsley frowned.
"I realise it is unethical to question you under Veritaserum. However, considering the circumstances, I doubt that you walked in here to simply turn yourself in out of a sense of overwhelming guilt, so I would like to know precisely what it is that you want."
"I want protection. And I want to talk to Potter." Both of those things, at least, were perfectly true.
"Protection from what?"
"Protection from whom would be more accurate. Although a specific answer has not yet revealed itself. Let us just say that I am willing to give you information—quite a lot of information, actually, but in the process of doing so my enemies will begin to crawl out of the woodwork in an effort to stop me."
Before Shacklebolt could ask, Draco held up a hand. "Since I am currently under the influence of Veritaserum, you might ask me any number of questions and I might spill all sorts of valuable information right now, but it will be grudgingly given and I will do my damnedest to thwart such an attempt. I leave it to you to decide whether it will be wiser to extract what I know in dribs and drabs by drugging me and asking random questions for hours while I attempt to prevaricate as best I can—and believe me, I can—or if it will be easier to simply listen to my request and allow me to elaborate in a fashion that will be mutually beneficial to us all."
Shacklebolt sat back in his chair. His expression was unreadable. "I'm listening."
"Excellent. Now, here is what I want. First of all, as I said, I am willing to give you information that will lead to the capture of many rogue Death Eaters, murderers, thieves, and wretched villains of whom you are not even vaguely aware. You have a list of people you would love to see in Azkaban. I have my own list. In some instances the names thereon are interchangeable. In others, you do not even know that these people exist and those are the ones you need to be concerned about."
Shacklebolt said nothing. Draco glanced at Weasley, somewhat surprised that the ginger Auror had managed to hold his tongue for an extended period of time.
"With that said, I will only impart this information to Harry Potter."
The truth was multi-layered and several potential answers warred for release, threatening another undignified sound, but Draco selected the strongest and forced it to the forefront. "Because I trust him." Draco fixed a cold stare on Shacklebolt. "I cannot say that about anyone else in your organisation. Present company included."
Weasley sat forward, apparently spurred to comment at long last, but Shacklebolt's raised hand stopped him. "Harry is on leave and has implied that he might leave the Auror Department for good. What if he refuses to return?"
Draco let a smirk slip through. "Let me talk to Potter for five minutes. He'll be back."
Rain hammered on the window, drawing Harry's attention from his handful of cards. "Merlin," he muttered, "is this rain ever going to stop?"
"Wettest year in ages," Eddie said and dropped a two of hearts atop the pile.
Harry considered the card and decided against picking it up. He took one from the deck instead and made a petulant moue of disgust as he tossed it onto the discard stack. A useless six of clubs. He should have taken the two.
"Least it's warm and dry in here." Eddie smiled at him and Harry grinned. He was lucky to have found Eddie, who was patient and kind, and had allowed their relationship to progress as glacially slowly as Harry needed. Harry's coming out had been unpleasant, to put it mildly, and had left him with little more than the urge to lock himself away in Grimmauld Place and never make a stupid attempt at finding love again. Thankfully, a random encounter with Eddie Carmichael at Quality Quidditch Supplies had changed his mind—and his life.
"Indeed it is. And it could get warmer yet." Harry placed his cards face-down on the table and got to his feet. He sidled around the table and joined Eddie on the sofa, sitting close and dropping an arm over his shoulders.
"Cor, is this a ploy to get a look at my cards, sly one?" Eddie clutched them to his chest and gave Harry a sidelong grin.
"Maybe I'd rather play a different game," Harry said, trying to sound suggestive.
Eddie's brown eyes went soft and dark and he tipped his head to meet Harry's kiss. Harry's pulse jumped and he fought down a spike of nervousness. Eddie had been so bloody patient. It was time. Harry was finally ready.
A whoosh from the fireplace startled them both. They pulled away as a face appeared in the flames. "Harry, are you here?"
Harry blinked and got to his feet. "Ron?" He hurried to the fireplace and knelt. "Is everything all right?"
"Yeah, mostly. We've got a bit of a situation at the Ministry. Kingsley wants to see you."
"What sort of situation?" Harry frowned. He had been having second thoughts about being an Auror, and meeting Eddie had only added to those doubts. Eddie sold Quidditch supplies and he had been trying to coax Harry into joining his business rather than remaining with the Ministry. Eddie hated to worry about him, and Harry's long hours and terrible stories had added such strain to their growing relationship that Harry had finally taken leave in order to sort out his priorities. Things had become so much better between them that Harry knew he'd made the right choice.
"Top secret, I'm afraid. Shouldn't take long. You'll be home by supper, probably."
Harry glanced at Eddie, who was frowning. His cards were still clutched in his hand. Harry tried to reassure him. "I don't think they would ask if it wasn't important."
Eddie nodded. "You should go. I'm sure they need your expertise." He smiled and did not sound in the least sarcastic. Harry felt a surge of affection.
"You're the best, Eddie." He turned back to the fire. "I'll be right there, Ron." He stood and went to find his shoes. Whatever it was, he would deal with it and then come back and reward his boyfriend properly. And after that he would be done with the Aurors and he and Eddie could move on with their lives. Together.
"Draco Malfoy?" Repeating the name for the third time hadn't given Harry any clearer understanding of what Malfoy wanted.
"He asked for you specifically. Says you're the only one he trusts. That sounds like a load of malarkey to me, but whatever. The Veritaserum's worn off by now. Pity, that. Now we won't know if half what he's saying is true, but Kingsley insists on doing this by the book, especially after my little fuck-up, although I only dosed him because it was Quartermain's idea. Did you know Marcus Flint is a barrister?" Ron shook his head. "Wouldn't even have thought that one could read."
"I still don't understand."
"Malfoy's got information that he'll only give to you. It's ridiculous, really, since you're just going to pass it straight on to us and then go home, but there you have it."
The lift doors pinged and then opened. Harry followed Ron past the courtroom that held too many memories and into a small, cold room beyond. Draco Malfoy sat in a hard-backed chair, looking relaxed despite his wrists being manacled to the chair arms. His gaze snapped to Harry when he walked in, but he gave no sign at all that he even recognised him.
"Hullo, Malfoy," Harry said as he dragged out a chair on the other side of the table and sat down. Malfoy looked tired and… different. His hair had been cut short. It stuck up in attractive tufts that were probably considered "artful" or something. Harry decided he preferred it the way he'd last seen Malfoy, peering out fearfully from under his blond fringe. Harry remembered it had been just long enough to brush the collar of his robes in the back; he'd admired Malfoy's hair often enough in school, although not much else about him. There was no trace of animosity in Malfoy's stare now, and his formerly-pointy features had hardened into what seemed to be porcelain, or granite. If anything, the years had made him even handsomer, short hair notwithstanding.
"Potter. Nice of you to drop in."
"Try anything at all, Malfoy, and you won't leave this room in one piece."
Malfoy's stare did not waver from Harry's at Ron's words. "Thank you, Weasley. Your empty threats have been duly noted. Goodbye."
"I'll be right outside the door, Harry." Ron whirled and stomped out. He slammed the door behind him, leaving Harry alone with Draco Malfoy.
A smile curved Malfoy's lips, upping his attractiveness even more. Harry made himself remember Malfoy's many alleged crimes. According to the files, he'd been instrumental in a ridiculous number of offences, from potion smuggling to fraud to murder. Evidence, however, had been difficult to nail down. Mostly it was circumstantial.
"Don't you look like the very picture of health?" Malfoy's voice was cheerful and had a deeper timbre than Harry remembered. "Apparently the softer life agrees with you. I almost feel like a heel for dragging you away from sweet Eddie's arms."
Harry's lips thinned. "What do you want, Malfoy?"
"Oh, I'm quite sure they explained it to you, so I'll get right down to it. I have information that there will be a kidnapping sometime this week. I don't know who the victim is, so don't bother to ask. The perpetrator, however, will be Fenrir Greyback."
Harry shook his head with a tight smile. "Is that really what you've brought to bargain with? Greyback is in Azkaban, and has been since the war."
"Is he really?"
"I think we would have got word of a breakout."
Malfoy made a noncommittal sound. "Indeed. Would you have got word if someone had smuggled in an imposter and then had that imposter take Greyback's place under the guise of Polyjuice, whilst setting the werewolf free with no one the wiser?"
Harry allowed that to sink in while he weighed it for validity. "That's impossible. The imposter would have to keep taking Polyjuice to maintain the disguise!"
Malfoy tipped his head back and looked at the rough-hewn ceiling as if bored. "You might check the medical records for Fenrir at Azkaban. I'm fairly certain someone has authorised a daily medicinal potion to 'keep his werewolf side suppressed' or something to that effect. Feel free to send someone out to check. I'll wait. Again."
Harry got to his feet and hurried to the door where he had a quick, muted conversation with Ron before returning to the room. "Why would someone do that?" he demanded. Ron was confident that Malfoy was having them on just to be an arsehole and send them all running amok before he was sent to Azkaban, but Harry wasn't so sure. It would be foolish for Malfoy to turn himself in unless he had a serious motive. His explanation to Kingsley had seemed disturbingly rational.
"Any number of reasons. Fenrir is a fairly loyal employee when given the right motivation, as evidenced by that whole Dark Lord business; he's fairly talented with a wand; and he's utterly unscrupulous. Also, he has a thing for children."
Harry dropped into his chair, fearing he wouldn't like the answer to his next question. "And what do you mean by that?"
Malfoy leaned across the table as far as his bonds would allow, as though imparting a dark secret. "Because Fenrir is planning to kidnap a child. Given his particular history, I assume the victim will be between six and eleven years of age. I also suspect it will be the child of a Ministry employee, since I've spent the past few days analysing the data."
"What data? Where did you hear about this? And how do you know about Greyback, assuming what you've said is true?"
Malfoy returned to his former relaxed position. "One of my reliable contacts is a former member of Fenrir's pack of renegade werewolves. I supply him with Wolfsbane Potion and he supplies me with information. He came to me with a ridiculous tale that Fenrir had returned. Believe me, I was as sceptical as you, having kept up with news both printed and unprinted. But it checked out. And Fenrir, being Fenrir, had to brag about his upcoming plan, hence the titbit about the kidnapping. Frankly, we're lucky he has such a big mouth."
Harry watched Malfoy. "Why wait for me? Why couldn't you have told this to Kingsley and Ron?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Weasley wouldn't have believed me and Shacklebolt is on my list of suspects."
"Honestly, Potter, your knowledge of politics is as abysmal as your ambition. People who live and breathe in the political realm are either seeking power or attempting to hold onto it. One must not only fear those scrabbling and clawing for a foothold at the bottom, but also those at the top of the mountain waiting to kick the others down before they reach the summit."
Harry glared. "Kingsley's not like that."
Malfoy only smiled. "Why did you allow Weasley to take the Head Auror position?"
"I didn't allow him. He applied for the job and got it."
"Because you did not apply."
"I didn't want it. And there is no guarantee that I would have got it over Ron even if I had applied! That sort of twisted thinking is one reason I'm leaving the Auror Department."
"Are you?" Malfoy's tone of amused disbelief rankled.
"Yes, I am."
"Because everyone expects you to act like the Chosen One or because they are beginning to expect it less and less?"
Harry scowled. "How certain are you about this child?"
"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't certain."
"Fair enough." Harry rose and went to the door again, more to escape Malfoy than to impart the information. Harry thought they should take him seriously, even if Ron turned out to be right and it was an elaborate game on Malfoy's part. Ron was no longer in the hallway; he'd been replaced by Seamus Finnigan.
"Hey, Seamus. Can you tell Ron to run a check on all Ministry employees with children between the ages of six and eleven? Malfoy thinks there may be an attempted kidnapping on one of them."
"That will be a pretty big list. I can think of three offhand."
"Yeah, but I think we'll need to start somewhere. If we find out Malfoy's right about Greyback, we'll need to move quickly on this."
Seamus nodded and trotted towards the lift. Harry went back inside.
Malfoy grimaced at him. "Say, Potter, is there any chance of you taking these off?" He lifted his hands and waggled his fingers. "I've been in this chair for hours and I'm getting one devil of a cramp in my lower back."
Harry considered the ramifications. Malfoy was wandless, so even if he managed to somehow subdue Harry and escape the room, there was no way he would get out of the Ministry. The lifts had been warded against him and Apparition wasn't possible from most of the lower levels. Harry shrugged and flicked his wand to release the magical shackles.
Malfoy heaved a sigh and frowned as he raised his arms and began to massage his wrists. The white shirt he wore had loose cuffs and as they slid back, Harry could see the merest edge of Malfoy's Dark Mark before Malfoy stretched his arms apart and rotated his shoulders. "Merlin, that feels better. Now I could use a glass of wine and a visit to the loo. I don't suppose you lot plan ahead for things like that?"
"Um… I've never been in this room before. I'll see about your loo request. Pretty sure he'll deny you the wine, though."
Malfoy sniffed. "Likely it would be undrinkable swill, anyway."
Instead of making another trip to the door, Harry cast a Patronus and sent his stag galloping through the wall and off to Kingsley. When the afterimage had faded, he sat in growing silence until he thought anything might be better than staring at the table in order to keep from studying Malfoy. He attempted conversation. "So, what have you been up to since Hogwarts?"
Malfoy stared at him for so long Harry thought Malfoy had misheard. He opened his mouth to repeat the question, but Malfoy said, "I'm a criminal, Potter. Surely you know that."
Harry flushed. "I meant when you aren't doing… whatever it is you do as a criminal. The evidence in that regard is rather sketchy, as you might know. Do you plan to confess?"
"Interesting segue. From small-talk to asking for a confession in one baffling statement. Well done, Potter. And no, I do not plan to confess. If you and your Ministry masters want me in Azkaban, you can work for it."
Malfoy looked away and Harry stewed in the awkward silence, unable to think of a way to open a conversation that wouldn't lead them eventually to blows. Thankfully, the door opened to disclose Kingsley.
"Well, Mr Malfoy, one part of your story checks out. The man in Fenrir Greyback's cell was not Greyback, after all. When fed the counter-agent to Polyjuice, he was revealed to be a petty criminal we've had in and out of Azkaban so often he practically has a dedicated cell. It seems he was only too happy to take Greyback's place and receive three meals a day and shelter from the elements in a familiar place. Additionally, he was offered a hefty sum when the game was up."
"Does he know who hired him?"
"A young woman, who appeared to be about nineteen with amazing thighs, according to him. Obviously, the perpetrator has a goodly supply of Polyjuice and isn't sparing in its use."
"How long has he been pretending to be Greyback?"
"That's a lot of Polyjuice. We could start tracking down the ingredients through various dealers."
"Don't bother," Malfoy said. "They know how to hide their tracks. Even if you find an order for a cauldron full of boomslang skin, the paper trail will lead to a foreign company whose headquarters mysteriously burned down and none of their employees can be found. Obviously, a front."
"How do you know that?"
"Because I've already done that. It leads nowhere. The only way to find Greyback is by getting to his victim before he does. If you waste precious time backtracking will-o-wisps, you will fail."
Harry hated to admit that Malfoy was right. He exchanged a glance with Kingsley and a small smile at the corner of the Minister's mouth told him that Kingsley had already sent out people to follow the potion trail anyway. At this point, it was impossible to tell if Malfoy was being truthful or if he was actually the ringleader of the plot—if one even existed.
"Mr Malfoy, I prefer it if you remain in this room for the time being. There is a toilet and sink there that you may use—" Kingsley swished his wand and a door opened out of the blank stone at one end of the room. "The door will remain open until you exit, but it has some semblance of privacy. Additionally, I will have a meal brought down to you. If there is nothing else you're willing to give to us this evening?"
Malfoy shrugged. Harry thought it looked unnatural on his frame, as though his usual grace fought such a common gesture. "I have nothing more, at the moment. But if a message should come for me, it might be wise for you to deliver it."
Kingsley seemed to ponder that for a moment and then he nodded. "All right. I have little doubt that I will be talking to you soon. Do not bother attempting to leave. This room is as impenetrable as we can make it. There is a bed and a change of clothes if you wish to sleep." He cast another spell and a section of wall swung down to reveal a thin mattress, flat pillow, and several folds of material that were likely blankets and sleeping robes. Harry thought it looked more comfortable than the holding cells in the Auror Division. "Harry, come along."
Kingsley headed for the door and Harry trailed after him, glancing uncertainly from Malfoy to the Minister. He wasn't completely certain why he was involved. Malfoy's voice halted him in his tracks. "Potter."
He turned to see Malfoy still seated. His arms rested on the chair as though his bonds had never been freed. "Malfoy?"
"I won't talk to anyone but you. I will see you tomorrow. And keep a close eye on Eddie, won't you?"
"What is that supposed to mean?"
Malfoy rose and walked towards the doorway that led to the loo. "Just keep your wits about you."
Harry scowled at his back, shook his head, and went out.