Umm... OK, this is probably going to be one of the weirder things I'll ever post. I hope. Right up there with the time I posted a songfic drabble (yes, 100 words exactly) in the Law & Order fandom, to the tune of Avril Lavigne's "Complicated."
I'm hoping that, since I wasn't kicked out of that fandom over that post, I won't be kicked out of this fandom for what I'm about to do here.
Pairing(s): Harry/Ron, Harry/Draco, but not all at once - and not at all, if either Harry/Ron or Harry/Draco squicks you. Also Ron/Hermione, past Harry/Ginny in the background.
Summary: It all started with a stupid interrogation. Or: Don't ask a question if you're not prepared to hear the answer.
Word Count: 32,202 or 24,127
Warning(s): Can't think of any.
Epilogue compliant? EWE, baby :)
Author's Notes: If this fic looks familiar, that's because you've read it before. Because I posted it before. Sort of. If you remember reading it before, go down to the very end of "Day 2" and it'll all become clear ;) Thank you so much, taradiane, for the prompt, and thanks to scrtkpr, naatz, tree00faery, authoress_girl, and schemingreader :) :)
And I'll Tell You No Lies
Harry's breath caught in his throat as the alarms went off, their shrieking only adding to his panic and bewildering jumble of emotions. Damn, they were supposed to get so much farther - he growled in frustration and pushed away the hand reaching for him.
"No! Get out!" Harry stepped back as the Floo powder burst into flame uselessly. "But you'll get- "Doesn't matter! I'll slow them down!" "NO! Come with me!" Harry couldn't suppress a grim smile. "You're the one who didn't want me too involved."
"No! Get out!" Harry stepped back as the Floo powder burst into flame uselessly.
"But you'll get-
"Doesn't matter! I'll slow them down!"
"NO! Come with me!"
Harry couldn't suppress a grim smile. "You're the one who didn't want me too involved."
"To protect you, you idiot! They'll catch you!"
Harry swore under his breath and threw another handful of powder into the Floo, then shoved and shouted, "Little Whinging!"
Harry swore under his breath and threw another handful of powder into the Floo, then shoved and shouted, "Little Whinging!"
"Bastard!" was the last word Harry heard as the Floo powder flared again, just before a spell he'd only just learned in training hit him and he froze and toppled over.
"Did you know Malfoy was going to try to enter the building?"
"Did you know what he intended to do once he was inside?"
"Did you give him the password?"
Well that was quick. Harry blew out his breath. "Yes."
Ron's eyebrows went up. "Why did you give him the password?"
"You know why," Harry muttered.
Ron nodded and went on. "Did you know what he was going to do in the Department of Mysteries?"
Ron nodded again and scribbled something onto his parchment. "Did you go with him?"
"What did he do in the Department?"
"I'm not sure."
Ron narrowed his eyes. "All right, then, what did you see him do?"
Harry bit his lip. "He walked to the end of the corridor."
Ron nodded and looked down at his parchment, writing rapidly. "What did he do there?"
"I don't know."
Ron looked up again. "Why not?"
"I didn't go with him."
"What did you see him do?"
Harry tried to suppress the image of a blond head disappearing around the corner of the corridor- "He went around the corner."
Ron's eyes gleamed in triumph. "What was around the corner?"
"I don't know."
"Really," Harry said, irritated. "What do you expect me to say?"
Ron's eyes narrowed again. "I expect you to tell me the truth, Potter," he said curtly.
"Fine." Harry crossed his arms. Ron scribbled a few notes on his parchment, and Harry took a few calming breaths.
Time. He needed time, he needed to block as much as possible, because whether what he'd done was called 'trespass' or 'break and enter' or 'aiding and abetting,' he knew he was in the right, because he had to trust... but then, he couldn't trust, could he? His mind said one thing, his heart said another, and he couldn't share his confusion with Ron, and a part of him distantly told himself he should also be observing this internal tug-of-war for some later use, but that was really putting far too much on his plate right now. And Ron was looking up again.
"Why are you protecting him?" Ron asked.
"Because he's doing this for a good reason."
"Are you serious?" Ron looked at him askance. "You think Malfoy is acting for the greater good?"
"Do you know what that reason is?"
"No," Harry admitted. Bloody hell, this did sound daft. And it wouldn't, if he could just explain... what he'd already been told, at all costs, not to explain. Bugger!
"So you don't know why he took the things he did?"
"No." Harry bit his lip. Damn it!
Ron's eyes gleamed again. "Thanks, mate!"
Harry swore under his breath. "No, that doesn't count, you already knew he took something."
"We didn't know at all," Ron said with a smirk. "We only knew he went into a room."
"Couldn't you ask the Unspeakables who were on duty at the time?"
"If they already know, they're not telling us." Ron turned over his parchment. "So, what did he take?"
"A stone, a net, and a leather harness," said Harry dully.
Ron frowned. "How big a leather harness?"
"Big. Maybe three metres across."
"What colour - no, actually: describe the leather harness."
"Grey, leather. Looked like a harness that would hold a large animal."
Ron's head snapped up. "He took something that looked like it could go around a dragon?"
Ron scribbled frantically. "And what did he do after that?"
"He walked out."
"How did he get past the wards on the fourth level?"
"Used my wand."
"Oh Merlin, you're joking." Ron sat back, shaking his head in dismay. "You just gave your wand to someone who'd just broken into the Ministry illegally?"
Harry bit his lip. It did sound daft, and he wanted, so much, to explain to Ron why and how it had seemed so right - and still seemed so right - to trust, even though he had precious few logical reasons to do so. But it would be futile. He couldn't explain adequately, and could vividly imagine Ron's baffled expression, should he try.
Hell, he could imagine what he'd think if he were in Ron's position right now.
Nothing could have prepared him for this, he realized. What he felt, and what he was supposed to feel, were so weirdly and hopelessly muddled that he couldn't really make heads or tails of what was what. And it was so disorientating, the sharpness of the emotions and impulses, good and bad: excitement, uncertainty, trust, confusion, protectiveness-
"Right." Ron looked at him, nonplussed. "So did you honestly think..." He shook his head and forcibly brought himself back to the interrogation. "How long did you think it would take for you two to be caught?"
"I didn't know. I hoped I could get him out of the building at least."
"Did you realize you might be caught?"
"It didn't seem as important as the mission."
"The mission," Ron repeated. "Even though you have no idea what the mission was about."
Harry squirmed. "No."
"Are you daft? What was supposed to happen if you and Malfoy got separated?"
"He'd left a parchment for me."
"At The Three Broomsticks."
"Exactly where at The Broomsticks?"
"The men's, Disillusioned on the ceiling."
"How were you supposed to see it?"
"The password was Rosmerta."
"And it was supposed to show itself to you if you said that?"
"Time!" said Auror Sullivan, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief.
Ron gave him a huge grin. "Thanks, mate. That was very informative."
"Sod off," Harry muttered. "And don't look so bloody pleased with yourself."
"Well, he's got cause to be," said Sullivan. "He got you to admit Malfoy got in with the password you gave him, that he went to the Mysteries floor, took three objects, and that you gave him your wand to get him past the fourth level. Not bad for ten minutes."
"He missed the fact that-"
"Stop," Sullivan interrupted Harry. "You can't tell him anything else about it. Remember, he's doing a follow-up tomorrow." He turned to Ron. "Not bad," he said grudgingly. "Although you missed the why. Why would an Auror help a suspected criminal like Malfoy?"
Ron's brow furrowed. "I assumed... when he said - well it's just the simulation, right? There's no reason."
"He said, 'You know why,'" said Sullivan. "That's a classic evasion. You assumed it was because of the simulation, or because he's been told to believe Malfoy was doing something good, and didn't bother to dig deeper."
Ron nodded, somewhat abashed.
Sullivan turned to Harry. "That was not bad, Potter."
"Not bad?" Ron repeated, laughing. "About the only thing he didn't give up was the colour of his underpants!"
"No he didn't," said Sullivan, and Harry smirked at Ron. "He didn't tell you why he was helping Malfoy, or what he thought Malfoy was going to do with the objects he took. He just told you he didn't know for sure; I'm sure he's got some ideas, and you could have explored them. You were good, asking him to describe things instead of prompting with colours and shapes, but completely missed something I think you'd be wise to work on: letting him hang himself with his own words."
"Right, fair enough," said Ron.
"Remember, he's under Veritaserum. He can't help answering. You just have to ask the right questions, and listen carefully to the answers."
"Speaking of which, can I get the antidote now?" Harry said. "This is rather unpleasant."
"Right." Sullivan took a flask out of his briefcase and held it over a small goblet, giving a tsk of annoyance when nothing came out. "Damn, I told Owens to replenish the Veritapara. Sorry, Potter, I'll go get it, I have to go to the Apothecary anyway. I'll bring it to the canteen. You two may as well go."
"You all right?" asked Ron as they made their way to down to lunch.
"Yeah, fine, it's just a bit unnerving, not being able to control what I say. You do all the talking, all right?"
"It's that bad?"
"Remember the Imperio exercises?" Ron winced and Harry stifled a chuckle. Between Ron's involuntary striptease and Seamus' lusty rendition of 'I Feel Pretty', most of their training group was still smarting from that particular lesson. "It's a lot like that. All you can do is try to be vague; you really can't control it at all otherwise."
"How would you know what Imperio was like, Mr. Too Cool to Make a Singing Arse of Himself?" Ron said irately. "Bloody hell. Vague. All right, I can be vague. I'll just pretend I'm dodging Hermione asking me about my studies."
"D'you know who you're paired with?"
"I thought I was paired with you," Ron said, opening the canteen door.
"I was told they try to mix up the pairs for the second round."
"Blast." Ron rubbed his forehead. "I dunno, I don't really want to... I mean, some people wouldn't have much moral reason not to take advantage-"
"You know they said they're being careful who they put together for these exercises."
Ron snorted. "Says the bloke who got paired with Malfoy as a fellow Suspect." He shook his head. "I just hope it's not McLaggen. Or Carmichael."
"That pretty redhead from France seems nice enough," Harry said, then winced. He really hadn't meant to add the adjective.
"Nice enough, yeah," Ron grinned. "Pretty? I'll have to tell Rousseau you said that."
Harry rolled his eyes in a way he devoutly hoped came off as merely annoyed, instead of furtive or shifty.
"So what happens?" asked Ron, loading his tray with fish and enough greasy chips to make Mrs. Weasley proud and Hermione ill. "You're introduced to your partner in crime, given a set of facts, and then what else?"
"You're told why you're helping them," said Harry, picking out his own lunch. "Then you're given the Credulaserum to make you believe it, and then," he sternly willed himself to sound matter-of-fact about it, "you're 'emotionally bonded' to them." Ron's eyebrows went up and Harry cleared his throat. "You commit the crime - well, you try to, anyway. I really thought we'd get a bit farther than we did." He pushed away the memory of the excitement of watching Malfoy calmly and efficiently rip right through wards and past security measures, the thrill of 'we're getting away with it!' - with a little too much emphasis on the 'we' - "And then after you're arrested, you're given Veritaserum so you can't hide what you know."
"So why were you supposed to be help - ah no, never mind, don't answer that," Ron said, and Harry gave him a grateful smile, telling himself his relief was only due to Ron recognizing the seriousness of their training. Once upon a time they wouldn't have hesitated to use any means necessary to ease their way through classwork, but this was a little different. Auror Training was teaching them vital skills they would need in the future. Getting Hermione to help them write essays - or rather, to write their essays for them - was fine for Hogwarts, when they were kids; not here and now.
"D'you really believe it, then?" Ron asked curiously. "That you've got a good reason for helping him?"
"Credulaserum makes it make sense even without the bond thing. I mean, you know it's there, but you still feel like what it makes you believe is perfectly possible. It's a bit confusing."
"What's with the bonding, then? Just to make you feel connected to them in some way, like friends or family or something?"
Harry felt his stomach do a little whoop, not nearly as pleasant as the whoop it had given when he'd seen Malfoy this morning after the bonding. "Erm, something like that, yeah. Depends on the person, I think. I'm not sure; they don't really explain it that much before they cast it."
"Why would they do it, though? I mean, if you've been given Credulaserum, you're already into it, you're already believing you've got to commit the crime, right? What's the point of bonding you?"
"Dunno." Harry paused, chewing thoughtfully. "I think it's maybe because the Credulaserum makes you think you're right in committing the crime, but the bonding makes you... feel it." Feel rather a lot, actually, but he decided he'd rather get polyps than discuss that part with Ron right about now.
Ron gave a cynical snort. "Right. Because Malfoy needs potions and spells to make him feel it's all right to break the law. Waste of good potions, that."
Harry bristled slightly. "Says a bloke who's broken into both the Ministry and Gringotts?"
Ron laughed. "Fair enough." Then he frowned slightly and leaned forward. "I dunno if it's just a rumour or what, but I heard one of us was told they were in love with their fellow Suspect."
Harry shifted uncomfortably.
Ron wrinkled his nose. "Ugh, imagine getting that with Malfoy." He shuddered and Harry squirmed inwardly. "Hope they don't do that for me. The birds in the programme are all fit enough, I suppose, but I would not want to explain to Hermione why I'm mooning over somebody else for a week."
"How would she even know?"
Ron chuckled. "Firecall every two days, mate, she'd figure it out." He shook his head. "You're lucky Ginny's not as strict about that." Harry abruptly became very interested in his kidney pie. "Don't get me wrong, I miss Hermione, and I like talking to her... only, not every other bloody day."
Harry nodded uncomfortably and tucked into his lunch, then looked up in relief as Sullivan came hurrying to their table. "Sorry, Potter, the Apothecary's out to lunch. Literally. You've got cell detention after lunch?"
"Just tell the Aurors taking you down to the dungeon to stop by the Apothecary first. She should be back by then."
"Right." Harry nodded and Sullivan hurried off again.
Ron gave him a grin. "Too bad, mate. Don't worry, I won't keep interrogating." He took another bite of his fish. "Yeah, anyway. I can't imagine getting the fall-in-love kind of bond. Bad enough being bonded at all, if it's to somebody like Malfoy."
"It's not that bad," said Harry.
Ron snorted. "Sure. Malfoy. Arrogant git. Why they let him into the Unspeakables I'll never understand."
"He had to go through interviews and tests just like everybody else, you know," Harry said, and wanted to smack himself. Veritaserum didn't mean he had to let loose with everything coming off the top of his head.
Ron laughed. "Listen, mate, I know, you're still high on your bondy-whatsit and Credulaserum, but please. He's a complete tosser. Always has been, always will be."
"He's competent," Harry pointed out. "You know they'd failed out about a third of his group by Christmas, and almost half by Easter."
"He paid someone off, then. Or used his influence."
"What influence? His father's in Azkaban."
"Right, this isn't the right time to talk about this with you," said Ron, chuckling again. "I'm taking the mickey out of you when this wears off, mate. You defending Malfoy like he's your favourite teddy bear."
"He's not," Harry said irately.
"I know," Ron clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Still. Defending the pointy-faced git. It's hilarious."
"Not that pointy-faced, either," Harry muttered, and Ron, damn him, laughed out loud.
"Oh, you are so going to regret this," Ron said, and took a bite of his fish. Harry looked up gratefully as other members of their training group joined them at the table.
"Harry, how was your session?" asked one of their fellow trainees.
"All right-" Harry began.
"You can't ask him about it, right?" Ron broke in. "If you haven't done yours already."
Cormac McLaggen rolled his eyes. "So if it's something he's not supposed to talk about, he can just say so."
"'Fraid not. Harry here is deep under Veritaserum."
The others laughed.
"Thanks, Ron," said Harry.
"It's a great opportunity, don't you think?" said McLaggen unpleasantly. "You could ask him just about anything." Harry rolled his eyes and Ron gave him a sheepish grimace. "Say, Harry, who was your first crush?"
"Cho Chang," said a half-dozen voices.
"All right, something a little more personal... who was the first person you slept w-"
"McLaggen!" said Seamus hastily. McLaggen raised an eyebrow at him. "Try and remember he's dating a fellow Auror's sister, mate." McLaggen looked at Ron speculatively and seemed to be weighing the costs and benefits of continuing along this line of questioning, but a quick look around the table disabused him of the idea that it might be worth it.
"Don't ask stuff like that," said Seamus. "Say, what's your favourite Quidditch team?"
"The Hornets," said Harry, and winced.
"That's low, mate," said Ron. "Just for that I'm not going to defend you now. What's your favourite Celestina Warbeck song?"
"Cauldron of Love," said Harry, annoyed, as sniggers broke out among their tablemates. "Keep it up and when you go under I'll ask you what Lavender called you when you were going out with her. And I'll do it in front of a supervisor."
"Yeah, Won-won, people in glass interrogation rooms shouldn't throw stones," said Seamus, and the rest of the table sniggered.
"Ooh, is it safe to ask what pet names Weasley's sister has for him?" asked McLaggen, and Ron and Harry traded a quick look.
"Shut it, McLaggen," said Ron. "Come on," he gestured to Harry, and they moved farther down the table to a chorus of good-natured teasing. "That's better. You know, you should go under Veritaserum more often. Then we wouldn't have to sit with him at all."
"Almost worth it," said Harry.
"What can you avoid saying, anyway?"
Harry thought for a moment. "Dunno. Feels like if it's a rhetorical question, you don't have to say anything. And... maybe if the questioner's being sarcastic? It's really weird, though, I'm not sure I understand all of the exceptions."
"Must be. Like, if I ask you what's the meaning of life?"
Harry waited for the Veritaserum to kick in. "You're not actually asking it," he said after a moment.
"All right, then. What's the meaning of life?"
Ron blinked. "True enough, I suppose." He thought for a moment. "How do you know what's rhetorical?"
"Hm... I think if it's something I know you know, and I know you don't actually expect an answer, I don't have to answer."
"I dunno, try something."
"All right, what's the colour of your hair?"
"Black." Ron laughed. "All right, that didn't work," Harry said sheepishly.
"Then how did you avoid telling me why you were-" Ron stopped himself. "Right, no, can't go there." He thought for a moment. "Why did you go into the Auror programme?"
"Lots of reasons."
Ron nodded thoughtfully. "It sounds like you can evade if it's not a definite yes-or-no. If there's only one answer, you can't."
"Yeah, sounds about right."
"All right, which do you prefer, birds or blokes?"
Ron started to laugh, then stopped abruptly. Harry's stomach dropped to the floor.
"... what?" Ron asked after a second.
"It's worn off, has it?" asked Ron.
Ron narrowed his eyes. "What's your middle name?"
"Date of birth?"
"July 31, 1980 stop, please," Harry whispered, closing his eyes.
"You're dating Ginny."
"No, I'm not."
Ron gaped at him for a moment. "Is this why not?"
"Attention all trainees," called out Auror Trainer Sullivan. "Interrogators for this week, report to Room 7. Suspects, please report to the Aurors who will be taking you down to the holding cells." There was a chorus of ribbing as the trainees acting as Suspects groaned and got up, approaching a group of Aurors who smirked good-naturedly and waved magical handcuffs at them.
Ron abruptly pushed his chair back and left, leaving Harry staring after him, his heart pounding.
"Potter!" said Sullivan. "Wake up! You're under arrest, remember? By the way I got your Veritapara, you don't need to go to the Apothecary."
Harry stood up and hurried towards Sullivan, feeling numb. He took the vial and mumbled hasty thanks, and tried to ignore the churning in his gut that had nothing to do with the foul taste of the potion he downed.