300 REVIEWS YOU GUYS I LOVE YOU ALL. Even the anon who reviewed in Swedish. Which made me giggle.
(also, to my Swedish guest — no, Draco is probably not going to start smoking, if Google translated that right… and I have no clue how many chapters there will be)
Thanks to my dearest Sam, for letting me bounce some ideas off her for this chapter.
The Outtake will continue into the next chapter. I've got plans for it.
Previously: "Harry takes a breath and then says, "Because you matter to me." He holds Draco's eyes for another instant and then his gaze shifts back to his feet. / Draco isn't really sure what to say to that."
[outtake –– Harry James Potter]
Harry looks determinedly at his shoes, but he can see Draco's expression faintly in his peripheral vision. He watches it flicker through more emotions that Harry has ever seen the aristocratic features display in a lifetime, all in the space of a few moments — shock, confusion, disbelief, and then something that might possibly be pleased — before closing off completely.
"Oh, don't," Harry says.
Draco frowns, allowing annoyance to show through — probably because annoyance is acceptable, Harry thinks. "Don't what?"
"Don't do that."
"That. That thing you always do — you're shutting yourself off. Shutting down. Don't."
"That's not any better! Now you're distancing yourself. Merlin, Draco, emotions aren't a bad thing, okay?"
Because that, Harry realises, is a large part of what it is. Draco is afraid to feel. Afraid to care, because caring can hurt.
"Harry, then! Merlin, does it matter what I call you? Either way, I'm just trying to say that I need time, all right? I need time to process these sorts of things," Draco snaps.
Something that might be surprise flickers across Draco's face as Harry stares at him. He seems surprised that the words came out of his mouth. Harry barely keeps himself from recoiling from the acid in the words, and Draco suddenly seems to find the floor tile pattern far more intriguing than it previously was.
"I'm sorry," Harry murmurs softly. And he is. Sorry for pushing Draco, sorry for forgetting that they are different, that they process things differently. Harry can process emotional information in an instant but sometimes takes time on strategic things — Harry has seen Draco digest tactical information in seconds, but apparently it takes him a while to process emotional things.
He's reminded of Waters saying that their differences were good, that they balanced each other. He remembers the phrase, "Opposites attract."
He makes a decision.
Waters walks out of the interrogation room.
"Went just like King said the first time — sang like a canary. Seemed proud. Damn, I hate bigots." He sighs. "Got enough to put him away for a long while. We were right about him having another target, too." A small smile flickers across his lips. "There's some irony in who."
Draco raises an eyebrow in question, and Waters grins. "You, Draco."
Draco blinks. Waters nods. "Yup. Claims he knows how to get through your wards. Don't know how, but you might want to get that looked into, just in case."
Draco merely nods. Harry is almost furious at how calmly Draco takes the news that he was the next target of a psycho.
"The brother, then?"
Both Harry and Draco nod. "Did Herring say anything about the brother's involvement?" Draco asks as he falls into step next to Waters as they walk to the other interrogation room.
"Yes, but… it was weird," Waters says slowly, stopping outside the door. "It was… I don't know quite how to explain it. Protective, I guess. He insisted several times that his brother — Jesse, his name is — wasn't involved at all, didn't know anything, was just taking him in because he asked. Weird part was, he told me all of that, and I hadn't even asked about Jesse."
He frowns thoughtfully. "Thing is, he's not a crap liar. Can't be. Works in the service industry, he interacts with people he despises all the time. He's good enough to bluff his way through those interactions without arousing a single suspicion, but he can't lie to save his life? No, it doesn't make any sense. It just isn't logical."
"Maybe he's a good enough liar that he told the truth and made it look like a bad lie, knowing you'd catch it? Maybe he wants to take Jesse down with him?"
Waters shakes his head at Draco's suggestion. "No, I don't think so. You heard Harry describe their body language. They were perfectly at ease with one another. They meant something to one another. In some ways I think Jesse may have been the only person that Davis actually cared about. I don't think he'd be so petty."
"Panic, then," Harry puts in. "Panic… it can blind people to logic. Maybe he cares enough that the thought of Jesse in trouble was enough to make him lose his ability to think logically about it?"
Waters looks contemplative at this. "While I don't like to say probable, it's certainly more likely than the alternative, I suppose." He purses his lips. "Not enough information to truly tell, I don't think. Guess we'll just see what Jesse says and go from there."
Draco and Harry both nod at the proposed course, and Waters leads the way into the interrogation room.
"It's, ah, Jesse Slater, actually," the man at the table interrupts. The blonde leans forward, resting his elbows on the table. "Davis is my half-brother," he explains at Harry's puzzled expression. He laces his fingers together and rests his chin on them carelessly. "What am I doing here?" he asks, and there's a sort of insolence to his voice.
"Being interrogated on suspicion of conspiracy to property damage." Waters answers flatly and promptly.
Jesse shakes his head. "You don't have anything on me. My brother was staying at my house for a bit; that's not a crime. I can't have helped him, obviously, so the only thing that's even still a maybe — and an awfully big maybe it is — is that I might have known, and I'm not even sure that's severe enough to warrant prosecution."
"Excuse me, but why, exactly, is that obvious?" Waters asks.
Jesse laughs. "You people don't do your research, do you? Jesse's half-blood. On his dad's side. I'm his half-brother — on our mum's side. I'm Muggle."
"So instead of conspiracy to property damage, we have you both on blatant disregard for the Statute of Secrecy? Brilliant, that's a longer sentence anyway."
Laughing again, Jesse says, "Try again, old man. I've got a sealed exemption. Growing up with Davy, it was pretty hard not to realise magic existed."
Waters is becoming visibly more frustrated by the minute — to Harry, at least, who knows the man's tics by now. He suspects that the average person wouldn't notice any of the signs.
Waters nods to both of them, gesturing with his head to the door. All three stand, leaving Jesse and his smug smile behind them. The door slams a bit when Waters closes it, and then suddenly the ex-Ravenclaw throws his fist into the opposite wall.
"Dammit!" he swears. "I hate cases like this. Hate them." He shakes his hand gingerly, appearing to debate healing it. He decides not to.
"Why?" Harry asks carefully.
"Because the smug bastard is right, that's why! Because there isn't a thing we can do to touch him, despite knowing that he's involved. We can't touch him, and he knows that damn well."
He closes his eyes and steadies himself. "It's not a lesson I liked learning, and it's not one I like to teach, and it damn well sucks that you have to learn it on your first proper case, but… look, sometimes, we lose. This isn't a storybook. Good doesn't always triumph in the end. And it sucks. Losing is never fun. But it happens, and there isn't much we can do about it."
"So, what? That's it? You're just giving up, just like that?" Harry asks. He can't believe this, won't accept it.
"It's not giving up, Harry. It's knowing when you've already lost."
"But we haven't lost yet! We haven't even investigated Jesse at all!"
Waters sighs. "Look, Harry. Jesse is a Muggle. Muggles… don't get sentenced in wizarding courts. It doesn't happen. Even if they're Muggles that know about magic, they're still Muggles. I don't know where the rule stems from, or if it's even a technical law or just a tradition, but you can't sentence a Muggle for a wizarding crime."
"What d'you do, then?"
"You try them in a Muggle court. Which is damn hard to manage, since you can't show Pensieve memories, can't give wand evidence, have to censor your every word for magical terminology. I've never once seen a sentence go through." He sighs again. "It's… entirely inane. But it's our system."
"So that's it, then? He just walks?"
"Someone needs to fix this system."
"You go right ahead. Might as well do it now, while they're already rebuilding the Ministry from the ground up."
And Harry files this information for further consideration when he's less busy sorting out his entire life.