Title: Anarchy as Art
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Flangst, violence, sex, UST.
Summary: Draco is a master thief who also sells Dark Arts lessons and illegal potions on the side. Harry is the Auror assigned to catch him. The chase turns into a cat-and-mouse game. With sexual tension.
Author's Notes: At the moment, I don't know how long this story will be. It will be fairly light, with short chapters, but this could also mean that it'll be fairly long.
Anarchy as Art
Chapter One-Anarchy's Inner Workings
Ron yelled that a moment after Harry had already broken down the door and charged in. Harry didn't mind, though. The shout should add to the confusion and make Valerie Linton's escape all the more impossible.
Bright colors exploded around him, accompanied by puffs of smoke. Harry heard Ron holding his breath and then letting it go to call out a warning, but he ignored that. He had studied Linton extensively, and she relied on illusion and confusion charms to get what she wanted. He was prepared to ignore most of what he saw until it proved that it could physically hurt him.
He saw a bright robe flicker out of the corner of his vision, and dived after it. Something physical and solid-seeming shone in front of him, but Harry smiled; he had seen this web spell in action once before, at the site of Linton's last escape, and it could never deceive him now. He simply spun forwards, to the side, as he cast a sight-enhancing enchantment on his eyes, and the web seemed to break apart in half-sliced glittering strands.
It had never been there. But now it was unlikely to trip up Ron, either, who was scrambling into the corridor behind him. Harry ran ahead, after that robe that was now turning corners towards the back escape route they had identified before surrounding the house.
He ran straight into a glamour of absolute darkness. But the Aurors had undergone blind-fighting training for a reason, and Harry shut his eyes and listened. He heard rapid breathing to one side and whirled towards it, lashing out with his wand in much the same way he had when he cut the glamour of the net.
Linton shrieked as his Stunner caught her along the side, though from the shriek itself and the thumping footsteps, Harry knew that his spell hadn't hit her straight on. But she was stumbling as she ran, and he called, "Expelliarmus!" in the comfortable knowledge that he was close enough to her for it to work.
The wand that flew into his hand a moment later hummed with hostile magic, but from the moment he had stolen his first wand, Harry had never let that bother him. He wielded both together, and the last remains of the glamour tore away.
Ron stepped forwards beside him and cast a Tripping Jinx at the fleeing Linton, now fully visible.
She fell, and Ron bound her. Harry grinned at him and then looked up abruptly as he smelled smoke. There was another room down the corridor, from which fire was flaring up against the walls. This was an older manor, the sort that got abandoned as pure-blood families died out and also tried to conceal their property from the Ministry, and made of wood.
Harry and Ron traded a single glance that set up their plan in seconds, and then Ron knelt down on Linton's back and made sure the ropes around her wrists were tight while Harry leaped towards the fire.
He was already chanting Moistening Charms as he came through the door, but he stopped when he saw the source of the fire. A single, glowing ward was coiled around several trunks full of papers. It was burning only them, ignoring the wooden furniture scattered around the trunks and even the scarred table with potentially explosive Potions ingredients on it.
Harry had seen wards like that before. They were the inventions of a particular accomplished thief.
Well, an accomplished thief whom he believed existed and whom the Ministry kept insisting was only rumor.
With a slight, grim smile, Harry cast the spell he had invented that would disrupt the ward by getting underneath it and biting it in half. The fire stopped at once, and while the stink of singed paper filled the air, Harry was sure that some valuable things had been left undamaged. It would be good if Linton's Potions recipes were among them, he thought as he stepped forwards. The Ministry had been unable to duplicate a few of her potions, even knowing which Dark ingredients she was stealing.
He picked up the first sheaf of parchment after making sure there were no hexes on it, and went still.
Not recipes at all. Letters. And with a particular dashing, curling signature at the end of them, the signature of the man Harry was sure was behind the most high-profile thefts in modern wizarding history, either directly or by training other thieves like Linton in his methods.
Harry licked his lips. He had to be careful. He had to be certain. Some people in the Ministry had accused him of an "unfortunate obsession" the last time Harry had brought up that name. He turned the paper to the side and began casting the charms that should reveal whether the signature had been charmed or changed in any way.
By the time Ron had searched Linton and removed all the lockpicks, false wands, timed charms, potential Portkeys, and knives she carried with her, Harry knew the signature was real, and that he was holding the evidence that he might need to persuade the Head Auror that a targeted chase would yield real profits.
The paper shook in his hand, and he closed his eyes and shook his head in return. When he looked again, his hand was steady.
This was too important. He wasn't going to lose the chance. He would act like a rational adult, and let Ron present the evidence.
Despite the primal, roaring thing in his chest that demanded he be the one to do so.
Because this was too important. At this point, Harry knew, the bastard probably trained half the thieves that the Aurors pursued for the most important thefts, and more who traded their skills for others or sold illegal potions on the sly or Potions ingredients on the black market. The evil that he did spread around him in concentric rings. He did nothing as intensely Dark as Voldemort had, but that didn't really matter, at least not to Harry. He had learned about the harm that other people could cause without meaning to. This was someone who knew what he was doing, but did not care, as long as the Galleons flowed into his account.
Someone with a respectable public reputation to this point, at least on paper.
Well, here was the paper that proved he might not have it for long, Harry thought as he gazed at the signature of Draco Malfoy.
"Linton isn't talking."
Harry glanced up from the paperwork in front of him and gave Ron a faint, hard smile. "Well, she wouldn't, would she? Not when she tried to burn that correspondence. Malfoy probably threatened her with being chopped up and posted back to her relatives over several years if she didn't conceal their connection."
Ron sighed and took his own seat. Harry turned back to the report. He didn't particularly like "justifying the use of Ministry resources," as the Head Auror thought was the purpose of these reports, but anything was preferable to another of Ron's lectures about how some criminals would escape, and they should concentrate on the ones they were able to arrest and not the ones they weren't.
This time, though, Ron surprised him.
"I thought your obsession with Malfoy was just that," he said slowly. "You thinking that he was still just as bad as his father had always been, only without a You-Know-Who to serve. But I have to admit, those letters..." He shook his head. "It's all there. The answers to questions she asked, and giving her information about sources of illegal trade goods."
Harry lifted the report to his face this time to hide his grin. "Don't worry, Ron," he said. "I will still remember all three times that you were right about Malfoy and not hold this against you."
"It's just that it seems stupid for him to take those risks," Ron said. He fussed with the papers on his desk, and then dropped them and stared at the wall. Harry knew he was doing that without looking at him, because Ron always did when he thought about the war. "When he was barely acquitted and there are still people in the Ministry who'll always be suspicious of him and his family."
Harry lowered the report and stared. "Besides me, who was suspicious? That's what you told me, that no one had a right to suspect him because he'd kept himself clean since the war."
Ron fussed with the papers some more. Then he said, "It's not-it does seem awfully convenient that we found the letters in the first place. Why would he write to Linton? Why not contact her by firecall?"
Harry shrugged. "Perhaps he never wanted her to see his face. Perhaps it would have told her too much about his house. Look, Ron, if you can prove the letters aren't real, then we could concentrate on other things. But at the moment, it's evidence. We can't ignore it just because we don't like it or it doesn't make sense. We couldn't figure out what dragon eggshells were doing in Dominetti's manor either, remember? We couldn't think anyone would be stupid enough to actually hatch them."
Ron leaned back, hooking his feet under the desk in the way that Hermione hated when he did it with the tables at home, and stared at Harry. Harry stared back, raising his eyebrows slightly.
"You must be thrilled with this," Ron said at last. "You've never trusted him."
Harry gave him a thin smile back. "Because there were one too many sly remarks, and he kept the Dark Mark when he could have removed it with that potion they invented a few years ago. And those owls he sent me for the first two years after the war?" Harry shook his head. "I would have understood insults hurried at me. It can't be easy for him that I testified to save his arse. But all those hints about crimes that happened the next day? Deniability or not, I still don't believe that much in coincidence."
"You really are a suspicious bastard sometimes," Ron said, but it might have been admiration.
Harry raised his teacup to him and turned back to finishing the report. A moment later, Ron did the same thing, and the companionable scratching of quills filled the silence.
Harry was glad he had a lot of paperwork to finish this afternoon, all of it relevant to Linton's capture. It would keep his hands from shaking, or itching to toss in a handful of Floo powder and call the Head Auror's office every few minutes.
Is it enough evidence for us to go after him? When will we know? Can you please hurry up and give us an answer?
Harry snorted and laid the report aside to dry before he took it across to Ron to get his counter-signature. Asking questions like that would only make Head Auror Thorin view Harry with more suspicion than he already did about why he was so eager to see Malfoy dragged down.
Harry knew that he couldn't share the real reasons. Those were private and silly and had a lot to do with disappointment that Malfoy hadn't wanted to do something else with his life after the war, rather than repeat his father's mistakes. But as long as Harry didn't have the proof, he couldn't move against him, and his Auror ethics were stronger than the personal reasons.
You fucked up, Malfoy.
"I'm granting you your wish, Potter."
Harry just nodded, and said nothing. That was the best course when dealing with Head Auror Thorin, really. He was so slow and cautious that it took him forever to make up his mind, but when he did make it up, he fell too heavily in that particular direction for anyone to change it. He wasn't the best choice for a Head Auror, but he had been the most senior Auror after the war who wasn't implicated in serving Voldemort or casting Unforgivable Curses on people, and once such people were in such jobs, they tended to stay there.
Thorin frowned at the letter in front of him and shook his head. He was a tall man with dark eyes and dark hair that he kept cut absolutely straight; Harry hadn't missed the glances he always got for his own hair whenever he entered the office. He had a long black beard, too, as curly as his head wasn't, that Harry thought he must tuck into his belt. He reached out a heavy hand, with a scar around the ring finger that Harry had always wanted to ask him about, and tapped the signature.
"We've done every spell we can think of," he announced. "Nothing makes the signature change. Nothing shows that it was forged. And it matches the signatures that were current on the donation forms Malfoy turned in last week."
Harry ducked his head to hide his smile. Malfoy had probably taken a risk, the way he had with those owls to Harry in the first two years after the war, and counted on Linton being able to burn the letters in time. He hadn't managed.
"You're to work on it alone, not involving Auror Weasley."
Harry blinked and glanced up, only to find Thorin watching him as if anticipating the objection. Harry didn't make the one that the man would probably have expected him to, therefore. "Are you sure that I'll be safe on a case this dangerous without a partner, sir? Malfoy is clever."
Thorin grunted, the kind of grunt he gave when someone had squirmed out of his traps, and tapped the letter again. "I want to keep the investigation as secret as possible until we know why Malfoy has escaped capture this long. We don't want the Ministry looking like a lot of fools to the public. If you investigate him alone, we can say that's a long-standing grudge and nothing to do with us. But Weasley's forte isn't secrecy."
Harry nodded. He had expected that arse-covering move, really. There was nothing the Ministry did better. "All right, sir. Is there any place that you'd like me to begin?"
Thorin scowled, picked up the letter, and seemed to weigh ripping it up before he threw it back at Harry. "No. Do what you think best. Talk to Linton, interview other people, track the thefts you think he's been involved in. Just find the evidence we need and drag him in. We can't have people laughing at the Ministry."
Harry nodded solemnly back, and then picked up the letter. He would look through Linton's other captured documents and see whether there was anything else there he could use. "Any advice or injunctions, sir?"
"No." Thorin stared at Harry so long that Harry thought he might contradict himself and offer some after all, but he waved his hand at the door and turned back to what looked like his own unfinished report. Harry suspected that he was the only one in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement who enjoyed writing them. They were solid and didn't change much, unlike people.
Harry stepped out into the corridor and half-closed his eyes, feeling his nostrils flare as if he were a hound sniffing along a trail. It was nice to have official permission for his private crusade at last.
All the muscles along Harry's spine stiffened, and he took a step forwards with an effort. Then he thought, Why not? and turned around. There was no reason for Malfoy to know that this encounter between them was any different than normal, unless he already knew about Linton's capture and suspected that she hadn't burned his letters. Making sure to hold the parchment so Malfoy couldn't see the signature, Harry gave him a mocking little bow. "Your Lord High and Mightiness."
Malfoy smiled. Sometime in the last few years, despite being like his father in so many other ways, he had learned to drop the smirk, had cut his hair, and sometimes appeared in clothes other than formal dress robes. He wore some now, a shiny silver set that Harry thought wouldn't have disgraced Dumbledore with a few stars added to them. He stepped forwards and held out his hand.
"You're the only one who recognizes me for what I really am, Harry," he said. "Such a rare honor."
Harry bared his teeth and let his hand slap Malfoy's wrist lightly. No chance of touching his palm and absorbing a skin-contact poison like the one that had nearly disabled him on the Ammler case. "I wouldn't have thought that was a good thing."
"Ah, but don't all of us crave a moment of recognition?" Malfoy took a step closer to him, bending his head in, so that all Harry could see was his face, and especially those bright eyes and bared teeth. "Especially if we go without it so often? Because of the masks others place on our faces? I had thought that you, of all people, would understand that impulse."
Harry had a moment when he felt as if he was standing on the edge of a high building. Sometimes he did that and had the urge to jump over just to see what would happen. His adrenaline choked him-
And if he stood here much longer, he would probably say something that would prove he was hunting Malfoy.
He swept a bow, using the gesture to move himself out of Malfoy's space. "The press does recognize me for what I did," he murmured. "Slayer of Voldemort, hero, Chosen One, best Auror in the department, haven't you heard?"
Malfoy gave him a smile slow enough to make Harry want to lunge at him. "And that's all you are, then?" he asked. "And they never make mistakes? I reckon I must have made one, then. My apologies."
And he turned and strolled away, leaving Harry too breathless for professionalism.
Remember, he told himself as he hurried back to the office, find the right amount of evidence on him and you'll never have to see him again. Except at the trial.