Bring Out Your Dead
Full Summary: Draco only had to hide his father's death for a week to collect on a dirty Quidditch bet, but Hermione caught him in the act. Now, she has to find Lucius Malfoy's body before she can report the death, and it could be anywhere in the house. Malfoy Manor is larger and more powerful than she ever thought possible, and there are secrets and horrors buried inside that even Draco's never imagined. Trapped in a semi-sentient house without a master, there's nowhere to hide from the ancient Dark Magic or the Malfoy family's gruesome past.
Chapter One: Light as a Feather
Pansy had never been good with levitation spells. As he watched her mess it up, Draco had this weird flashback to Flitwick's class in his first year, which was funny. It wasn't funny-ha-ha, though - more of the hysterical "laugh so you don't cry" variety. She'd failed at lifting a feather back then, and now she was failing to lift his father's corpse.
"Let me do it," he said. He was trying to keep his voice as even as possible: it might've felt good for a minute to yell at her, but they were in this situation together, and it wouldn't help to bicker amongst themselves.
"Don't talk to me like that," she said, and he pinched the bridge of his nose and began another lap around the living room. Apparently, his tone still wasn't quite ingratiating enough. "And stop pacing. I swear I'm walking this thing straight into the Ministry Headquarters if you don't stop that! I don't care about the money!"
He slowed down and came to a leisurely stop, so she wouldn't think he was at her beck and call. When he turned around, her eyes were wide and she was baring her teeth like an angry animal. It was extremely unattractive, and he was sick of spending so much time with her. She was okay when her husband was there, but Marcus was busy practicing with the Falmouth Falcons. It was all very ironic, really. Well, actually it wasn't. It was just one horrible coincidence after another.
It was a bit ironic that Marcus was too busy with practice to help them clean up the mess, though, because the Falcons were going to lose their next match anyway. That was the whole point. The rest of the team didn't know they were throwing the match, though, so he had to keep up appearances.
"Yes, you do. That's all you care about, just like me. This is what we have in common," he ground out, once he felt calm enough to talk. "I'll stop pacing if you'll let me take over the levitation." He rose his wand, and she sighed and dropped hers.
"Fine. I'm going to get some more tea - this whole business is below me!" She threw up her hands and turned on her heel toward the dining hall, and Draco felt better as soon as she was out of the room. He was above this, too, but it wasn't the sort of thing a person could ask house elves to do. That seemed wrong; like this was something he should do himself out of respect for the dead. His respect for his living father had been limited at best, but he had to admit that Lucius was a duty-bound man. He'd died in the process of doing what was necessary to bring money back into the Malfoy family, even if that meant insanely complex schemes.
Nobody had expected his father's thorny heart to give out so soon. It had beat its last at a most inconvenient time, because this particular insane scheme was only half-way finished. Once it was done, the Malfoys would be getting fifty thousand galleons, and Draco just had to keep repeating that number to himself in his head so he wouldn't go completely out of his mind. Fifty. Thousand. Galleons.
Twenty thousand of it was going to Pansy and Marcus for their end of the deal, but fifty thousand sounded better in his head, so he was sticking with that for motivational purposes. With Pansy gone, he refocused on his father's remains. Fifty thousand galleons. Then, he relaxed his grip and flicked his wrist as he said the spell, causing the corpse to float obediently up to waist-height. His father's eyes were closed, which made it easy to pretend he was asleep: for the time being, Draco was fueled by caffeine, adrenaline, and denial. When he had his fifty thousand galleons, he'd deal with his father's death. Even the emotions. (fifty thousand galleons)
An unfortunate side effect of living on chemicals and lies was that it could make somebody crazy. Crazy people sometimes hallucinated, which was happening to Draco just then. He was hallucinating that Hermione Granger had walked out of the Floo into his living room. He knew it wasn't real because so many bad things had already happened to him in the past week, and there was no way that his life could realistically get any worse. Even he didn't deserve this.
His brain wasn't very good at making up fake Grangers, though, because this one was looking much too attractive. Pretend Hermione would have been even cuter if she closed her mouth, which was hanging open in shock as she stared at his peacefully slumbering father. Meanwhile, Draco was trying to figure out his mind's angle - what was his subconscious trying to tell him, he wondered. What could an image of Hermione Granger possibly mean for his psyche? He hadn't seen her since the last spot-check from the Ministry, and that was almost six months ago.
Then Draco connected the dots, and his mouth fell open along with hers, making them both equally unattractive. This was seriously happening to him. This was his life. This was a spot-check from the Ministry.
That was almost sort of ironic, too, since the Malfoys didn't do Dark Magic anymore. Wicked deeds were nowhere near as profitable in a post-war society, and the Ministry was constantly breathing down their necks anyway. In the five years since the Final Battle, fixing a Quidditch match was the worst thing any of them had done, and hiding bodies hadn't been part of the original plan. The bet his father had placed on the match was non-transferable and would be canceled in the event of his death, and it was too close to the match to withdraw bets and place new ones, so Draco and the Flints just had to keep up the charade until the day after the Falcons lost. Really, it wasn't that bad. Just a little white lie, and this was the one day that Granger had to show up for an inspection. If she'd come by an hour later when Lucius was tucked away safely in the freezer, Draco would've been more than happy to show her around the whole damn place.
"Oh, my god," she said, finally snapping her jaw back into place. Draco had heard of the Muggle 'god,' and he wished it was real at times like this. It would be so useful if some old bloke with a beard could send a lightning bolt hurtling straight into Ministry inspectors, and then Draco could get his money and laugh all the way Gringotts.
"Who do you think you are?" he asked. "You are not welcome to barge into my home unannounced." She went from shocked to angry very quickly. "My father is trying to sleep," he improvised, gesturing to the floating corpse. "He's very - ill," he added, and his voice cracked a bit, and it really wasn't convincing at all.
He couldn't come up with any more words to say, so he waited for her next move. If he could've had one wish in that moment (fifty thousand galleons), it would've been for her to look at his father's remains and say: 'Oh, my mistake. I hope he feels better soon. No Dark Magic here. Good day, Malfoys!' Then she'd turn around and walk back into the Floo and never come back. Unfortunately, that didn't seem likely to happen. She was still fixated on Lucius's body, and Draco tried to shift himself uncomfortably in front of it, like that would help or something, but he knew it only made him look more suspicious.
"Well," she began, and then there was a long pause. Her voice sounded faraway and strained, and Draco reckoned she was having a hard time grasping the situation, too. Of course, she was - perfect little Hermione Granger was so used to everybody doing The Right Thing that she probably hadn't dealt with anything like this since the War, and now she was out of practice. She'd probably come straight from tea at the Weasleys, hugging gross Muggles and not placing dirty bets. "First of all," she continued at last, "I have the right to enter your property at any time as a Ministry official. I'm sure I don't need to explain the spot-check procedure again, as I have made it abundantly clear to you and your family in the past. Second, I don't - " another long pause - "I don't think your father is just ill. Is he alive?"
Her expression was a cross between anger and confusion, but anger appeared to be winning, and he bit the insides of cheeks. "Yes," he said. "Do you have any more ridiculous questions, or will you finish your inspection and be on your way?"
"I think I'd like to take a look at your father first," she said, stepping forward. Draco pulled the corpse along with him as he backed up. "Are you certain he's breathing?"
"Oh, are you a Mediwitch now?" he asked, stretching his arms out to block as much of his father as possible. She kept trying to move closer, and he kept trying to move away, and soon they were going to run out of space in the living room. He had absolutely no fucking clue what he was going to do when that happened.
"No," she snapped. "But one doesn't need much medical training to tell whether a person is alive or dead." He kept backing up, and she stopped and put her hands on her hips. "That's enough! I'm not going to chase you around in circles. As a Magical Law Enforcement Officer, I order you to -"
A streak of red light caught her from behind, and she hit the ground with a horrible crack. Clearly, Draco was hallucinating again. The only thing worse than having the Ministry find out his father was dead would be if a Ministry official were attacked in his home. Oh, Muggle god, couldn't Draco please be hallucinating just this one time?
Pansy walked out of the dining room then, and she looked pretty surprised for being the person who cast the spell. Draco was surprised, too. It was a regular shock-fest in that living room. Pansy made eye contact, and Draco felt his pulse build up to a dangerous speed. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been this angry. The blood was rushing in his ears, and he could feel his eyes bulging out of his head, and even fifty thousand galleons wasn't enough to stop it.
"What is wrong with you?" he roared, and Pansy looked away and fidgeted with her wand. "You are so bloody daft! You just attacked an officer! You just Stupefied the sodding Saviour of the World's best friend! How did your brain get so broken?"
"Once again, you can't speak to me like that," she said, still failing to meet his eyes. "I saved you. She was going to check the corpse and report the death to the Ministry, and then it would go to the papers, and then the bet would be off and nobody would get anything! And not only that, but you'd also become the crazy bloke who takes his dead father's body for strolls around the living room. At least now we've got a minute to think. What if we modify her memory?"
"Brilliant idea!" he crowed, with the rage still flowing through his veins. "Why hasn't anyone else ever thought of that, I wonder? Why doesn't every criminal just modify the memory of the officer who catches them?" He gave her a second to respond, but she didn't, so he helped her out. "Oh, I remember now! It's because you bloody can't! It's because the Ministry already thought of that and took precautions, because not everybody in the world is as thick as you!"
She finally met his eyes, but she didn't look overly apologetic, and that just made him angrier. He was all set to keep ranting, but then she said the magic words: "Fifty thousand galleons, Draco. Keep your eyes on the prize." He closed his mouth and counted the money in his head, fixing his gaze on anything but Pansy, Granger, and his father. "We have a limited amount of time before she wakes up, and yelling at me won't help."
It was true: if he wanted that money, now was the time for quick thinking and careful plotting. He knew from experience that everything had a loophole, so all he had to do was find it and squeeze through. He turned away from Pansy and started pacing again, mentally listing everything he knew about Granger. He knew she was a swotty bitch with her knickers in a twist, for starters, so that ruled out both bribery and seduction. He thought about her hanging out with the Weasleys, and that reminded him of her misplaced compassion for lowly creatures. That led him to house elves, and he had it.
"I know how to fix this, but you have to leave," he said. "Summon a house elf and get out, and I'll update you later."
"What are you going to do?" she asked, and he turned around and gave her his most commanding glare, which didn't seem to have much of an effect. He wished every day that Pansy was still afraid of him, like she used to be when they were kids, but she'd gotten this crazy idea in her head sometime around sixth year that all his threats were empty. In actual fact, she'd just been lucky - all his threats to her had been coincidentally empty so far, but one of these days he was actually going to carry one out. Then she'd be sorry.
"I don't have time to explain it to you," he said. She lifted her chin and sneered at him, but then she flounced off and did as she was told. By the time she returned with a house elf and fucked off through the Floo, Draco had the rest of his plan.
"Master calls?" said the elf. He could tell she was nervous, standing between her late master and the unconscious Granger.
"Topsy, I need a favour. I need you to wake this woman up and tell her you were the one who stunned her. Apologize, maybe cry a bit, and she'll forgive you. She loves house elves." He made a face at this, since he really didn't understand it. They were useful, but Draco wasn't about to go making friends with them. "Say you did it because you thought she was going to take my father's body, and we're all so sick with grief that we aren't thinking straight."
"Yes, Master," Topsy said, fretting with her hands. Draco used his wand to levitate Lucius's corpse over onto the couch, taking care to place him in the most natural position possible. Topsy bit her tiny lip and stepped in front of the stunned body, and then she put her hands over Granger's chest until they glowed green. She started to stir, and Draco tried not to panic. This had to work.
Granger eased into a sitting position, placing a hand to her head as her eyes locked on the elf hovering over her, which Draco would have found extremely creepy. She appeared to find it calming, though.
"Miss, Topsy is so sorry," the elf said. "Topsy is thinking that you is trying to take Master Lucius's body away from us! We is so sad, so very sad that he is gone, and we does not know what we is doing. Topsy doesn't mean to hurt you. She doesn't know any better." She hung her head in shame, and Draco was pretty sure she was starting to tear up from the stress of the situation. Perfect.
Granger took a few careful breaths and gave Topsy a resolved smile. She reached up to touch the back of her head, and then she looked at her hand and frowned at the blood on her fingers, and Draco almost started raging again when he saw it. It was too much to handle: his father was dead, he was trying to pull off a complicated plot of highly dubious legality, Hermione Granger was in his house, and then Pansy had to start cracking skulls. It was one of those days.
Granger seemed pretty dazed and disoriented, which was good and yet bad. It would probably make her more likely to believe his flimsy house elf lie, but she might be really mad once all her cognitive functions returned.
"Is your head all right?" he asked, trying to sound as concerned as possible. That seemed to confuse her even more, and she opened and closed her mouth a few times, rubbing the blood between her thumb and forefinger. "Our house elves are very protective of their masters," he added, placing an arm around Topsy. The elf resisted a bit as Draco pulled her against his side, since she wasn't used to being hugged, but she didn't say anything.
"Er, I think it's okay," Granger said, blinking rapidly.
"Hold still - I'll heal that for you." She dropped her hand and turned her head so he could see the wound, and he tapped it carefully with his wand. The skin knitted together, and he used another spell to clean the remaining blood out of her hair. She turned to face him and touched the back of her head again, nodding.
"Thanks," she said uneasily. She stood up, brushed some imaginary dirt off her skirt, and fixed her hair, and Draco waited patiently to see what she would do next. He even dared to hope that she might have incurred some memory loss, so that he could convince her that she'd already completed her investigation and found nothing to be amiss.
He couldn't stop twitching, though. It felt like there was an itch on his brain somewhere behind his left eye, and the ocular nerves were stabbing each other. Twitchy guys were suspicious guys, and he placed a hand over the left side of his face to try and hide it, even though that just made him look like a nervous pirate.
"Now, where were we?" she asked.
"You were just finishing up your investigation," he said, studying her with his good eye. He tapped his right foot a few times and tried to smile, and she appeared to be fairly terrified.
"Hm," she said, gripping her wand. She paused to shake her head, and then she scowled at him. "No, no. I remember now. I just got here, and you gave me a concussion the second I walked in. I am most certainly not finished with my investigation."
"That wasn't me," he said. "That was Topsy, and she's very sorry." He could see Topsy nodding out of the corner of his eye, and he gestured toward the elf with his free hand.
"Yes, I know, but I'm still holding you accountable for her behavior. It's not her fault that she's been living in a violent environment," Granger scolded. "I'll let it go this time, but the rest of this Manor had better be squeaky clean. And there was something else we needed to discuss…" She trailed off, trying to remember, and Draco crossed his fingers behind his back for good luck. Fifty thousand galleons if she can't remember. Come on, galleons!
"Master Lucius," Topsy said, trying to help, and Draco almost kicked her. He took his hand off his face and gaped down at the elf in horror, and Topsy seemed surprised by his reaction. Maybe Granger was right about this house elf liberation thing: they were way too useless to keep around.
Meanwhile, he could tell from Granger's face that her anger was approaching critical mass. "Yes, of course," she said, grinding the words through her teeth. The combination of absolute exhaustion and anxiety must've been getting to him in that moment, because Draco was actually afraid of her. "Your father. Where is he?"
It was time for a change of plans. Discretion had failed, and so had scheming and hiding and every other kind of lying, and the only option left was the truth. Well, almost the truth: Draco had to create a truth pie wrapped in a flakey lie crust. Certain sacrifices had to be made, such as his pride and dignity. Being a Malfoy, he knew that everything could be bought and sold, and fifty thousand galleons sounded like a fair price.
"He's passed away," he said at last, channeling all his hopelessness into a burning, melancholy gaze that could melt any heart. When he aimed it straight into Granger's eyes, he could tell the stone was beginning to crack. "He had a heart attack this morning."
She seemed to be equal parts sympathetic, suspicious, and something he couldn't quite name. It was probably joy, considering her relationship with his father, and he was prepared to get that reaction a lot from the general public. "My condolences," she said awkwardly, and he didn't bother trying to figure out if she meant it or not. "Is there a reason you were trying to hide it from me?"
"Yes, actually. A very good reason," he said, improvising. "Our family is currently in a great deal of - emotional turmoil. This was highly unexpected. If the news gets out right away, I don't think my mother could bear it."
"When were you planning to report it?" Granger asked, folding her arms across her chest. "We can't just take your word for it on the cause of death, either. Someone needs to look at the body as soon as possible."
"But they'll leak the story to the Prophet! Come on, just give me a week," he pleaded. "Leave us alone until Sunday, and then they can print the story on Monday and my mother will have a little time to prepare herself before they start celebrating in the streets."
Even as he tried to talk, the panic was edging in and corroding his mind from all sides. This wasn't working. He was going to fail, and then the money would be gone, and then he'd have to really think about it what it meant that his father was dead.
Then, the second he had that figured out, he might have to get a job. All the worst-case scenarios flashed before his eyes: filing papers nine-to-five for the Ministry, waiting tables in Diagon Alley, cleaning up vomit at the Leaky Cauldron, begging in the streets. His rational self knew that none of those things would ever actually happen, but he was temporarily unable to access the logic centres in his brain. He was fifty thousand galleons worth of insane, and he wasn't ready to live like a plebian.
The investigator opened her mouth to speak, and fear clutched at his chest and brought him to his knees before he could think anymore about what was happening or what he should do next. There at her feet, he clasped his hands together and held them up near her stomach, and her mouth snapped shut so hard he could hear it from the floor.
"Please," he whispered, for the first time in years. When his brain went back to normal, he'd probably have to commit ritual suicide to get past the shame of this moment, but for now there was only him and Granger and all that money. Please.
He dropped his gaze to the ground, too scared to look at her in case she said 'no,' and he heard her sigh heavily. "This must really mean a lot to you," she said after a moment, as she edged back to put a few extra centimetres between them. "Fine. You can have until Sunday, but no later, and you'd better not make me regret this."
He let out the breath he was holding, and then he stood back up with as much dignity as he could muster, considering the circumstances. He took his hands apart and stretched out the right one, and Granger shook it and let go in a hurry. It was a good thing his father wasn't alive to see this. Draco couldn't quite bring himself to say anything at all, much less 'thank you,' but she didn't seem to mind.
"I suppose I might as well finish my investigation at that time," she said, glancing at her hand in disbelief. "I think I need a bit of a lie-down."
He nodded once, and she nodded in response, and then she took the Floo back out. He could still feel the sting of the cold floor on his knees, and he decided that he could use a rest as well. It didn't seem so important anymore to move his own father's corpse, so he glanced around for Topsy, who was cowering half-way behind an end table.
"Preserve my father's body and hide it somewhere in this house that isn't a bedroom," he instructed. "And don't tell anybody where it is until Sunday, especially not me, even if I ask you. Understand?"
Topsy bobbed her head up and down and moved quickly around to the couch, using her elf magic to pick up Lucius's remains. Draco pretended it wasn't happening, fixed himself a drink, and went back to bed for a long nap.