Thanks to my dearest wife Sam, for the idea for this chapter. She's perfect, you know.
Thanks to the entire viber group (you know who you are… even though none of you are reading this) for helping me name my newest character.
Previously: "…because now that he's committed himself to trying he is realising how much he wanted to in the first place."
They sit in silence on the floor of the Ministry hallway for too long.
Both of them spell in late — not exceptionally so, but still.
"Some things are more important," Harry murmurs in a pitch so low Draco isn't entirely sure he was meant to hear it. Either way, he doesn't respond, and they shift into work mode.
"Do we even have anything left to go on?" Harry asks. "Family gave us nothing, we have no clue about friends, the neighbor didn't even know he was a wizard… where else do we look?"
Draco shakes his head. He's as out of ideas as Harry is. They don't even know where to begin looking for the mysterious wife who was not his wife. They have zero leads.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Draco's wand pulses. Both their heads snap up to stare at it where it sits in the holster around his wrist.
"That's the ward around Phineas Burke's house."
After a moment of shock, Draco snatches up his cloak, Harry just a half a beat behind him, and they both dart out the office door, making a beeline for the Atrium.
When they arrive at the house, they find a man banging on the newly replaced front door, apparently oblivious to anything that's happened recently. "Come on, Burke! Open the damn door; I know you're in there! I know you've got her, too! Yesterday was the agreement. You know how it works!"
"Know how what works?" Draco murmurs, voice low, close to the man's ear — he snuck up beside him easily, amidst the banging and the yelling.
The man's head jerks up, sights Draco, looks him up and down once. His eyes widen and his shoulders turn, as if he intends to bolt. He doesn't even make it to a half turn, because Harry is standing opposite Draco, wand up.
The man turns back to Draco, who smiles. It's not a welcoming smile.
"We'd like to ask you a few questions, if that's all right."
The words say that it is a suggestion. The tone says that it is not.
"It isn't, actually," the man growls.
Draco's smile grows into a smirk. "Then we're going to have to arrest you on suspicion of involvement in the murder of one Phineas Burke. After all, those were some angry words you were yelling. Sounds like you might have motive."
The man recoils. "Burke's dead?"
Shock, but not sadness. A faint lacing of irritation, and a frustrated glance at the house. Not a friend, clearly. Probably not their killer, either, but still worth talking to.
"He was murdered two days ago."
Another glance at the house, this one conflicted — irritated, angry, frustrated, and almost… concerned.
"There are two ways we can do this," Draco reminds him. The man just shakes his head.
"I ain't goin' anywhere with you." He glances back at Harry and his gaze hardens.
Draco sighs, nods. Harry, taking the signal, casts a binding spell on his wrists.
"Very well," Draco says, allowing a hint of disappointment to seep into his voice. "You are hereby under arrest for suspicion of involvement of the death of Phineas Burke. I am obligated to inform you that you have the right to legal representation during questioning should you wish it."
The man growls, and Draco takes that to mean that he doesn't, in fact, want any representation.
On their way past the Apparation wards, the man throws one last glance back at the house. Draco stores this in his mental files of things to examine later. They've done the preliminary run through of the house and it came up clear of any leads, but they haven't done a deep run yet. Judging by the man's fixation, they should.
The journey back to the Ministry and the interrogation rooms is a silent one. The man, who has still not offered his name, is sullen and glaring and silent. Harry and Draco are both mentally preoccupied.
To Draco's utter surprise, the man walks along side them with little prodding, calmly enters the interrogation room, and takes a seat without being asked.
It isn't until Harry starts asking questions that the expected rebellion occurs.
"Could you tell us your name?" Harry asks calmly.
And then, abruptly, the man spits at Harry. Harry recoils instinctively, appalled. Draco quells the rage attempting to rise inside of him. "I'm going to ask that you not do that again." His voice is calm, even, polite — but there is a deliberate undercut of steel. It isn't a choice. It isn't a suggestion.
"I ain't talking to him," the man growls. "I won't do it, and there's nothin' you can do about that."
Draco and Harry exchange a glance, all questions and answers and opinions, and then Draco turns back to the man and nods. "All right."
Harry leaves the room. Draco assumes he takes a position on the other side of the glass.
"Why don't you want to speak with him?" Draco asks, his voice soft.
"That son of a bitch is the reason my brother is dead. Him and his damn rebellion."
Draco wants to argue, wants to say that Harry never wanted anyone dead, wants to say that Harry feels guilty enough for the deaths that were not his fault, wants to say that that "damn rebellion" is the only reason they aren't bowing foreheads to the floor to a psychopathic megalomanic right now — but he suspects that won't endear him to the man, so he stays quiet on that front.
Instead, he restates the original question. "Could you tell me your name?"
"And your relation to Phineas Burke?"
"He's an… associate."
"A business associate?"
"Of a sort."
"Which means what, exactly?"
"We're in the same… line of work."
"And what line of work might that be?"
Gregory looks down at his hands. Slim, with tapered fingers. Musician's hands, Draco would say. The hands don't quite match up to the rest of him. He's got broad, thick shoulders. Oft-used biceps. He looks like a man used to barreling through life on pure physical force. But there's a spark of cleverness in his eyes that Draco can't disregard.
Something about Draco's last question has momentarily silenced him, though. And Draco knows, by the length of time it takes him to respond, that his next answer is either going to be a refusal, a half-truth, or a lie.
"…storage and shipping," he says finally.
"Storage and shipping of what, precisely?
"That's classified information."
A half-truth, then.
"You do realise that by keeping information from me, you are only making yourself look more suspicious."
Gregory nods. "I am aware of that. You are not what I am most afraid of."
"What are you afraid of, then?"
Gregory smiles and shakes his head. Another thing he isn't going to say.
"This is bigger than me," he says eventually, and Draco wonders why he offers that up, because he didn't have to.
As a distractor, perhaps. If he were the killer, perhaps his thought process would be that setting them on the trail of something bigger would allow him to slip through the cracks?
But Draco doesn't legitimately suspect that he is. If he were, why would he have come back to the house? Why would he have been yelling for someone he knew would never show?
"Bigger than you how?"
But that's all Gregory has to say on that subject, so Draco changes tack. "What were you doing at Phineas Burke's house? You said something about him having 'her' and yesterday being the agreement. Care to tell me what you meant by that?"
"Burke had borrowed something of mine. He said he'd return it yesterday, but he didn't. Obviously. I know why now, apparently." There's a lacing of sarcasm in his tone that Draco doesn't appreciate but isn't worth fighting about.
The man goes silent. He looks down at his hands. Draco figures this is his tell, and awaits another half-truth or another lie.
"He stole her from me." And there's a note anguished grief in his voice.
"My wife." A sound that is almost a half choked sob. "He stole her!"
"He kidnapped her?"
The man shakes his head. "He… She… She left me for that son of a bitch!"
But it doesn't match up. "I know you've got her" and "Yesterday was the agreement" were related sentences on that front step. That they would be a part of two completely unrelated squabbles between the two men… it doesn't fit. It just doesn't quite make sense.
After a moment, Draco stands.
"Where are you going?"
"I need to confer with my partner for a moment, and considering you kicked him out…" Draco trails off and leaves the room.