January 21st, 2009
|01:24 am - Alibi|
Summary: Harry interrogates Draco Malfoy.
Genre: Romance ficlet. On the angsty side, maybe.
Harry turns from the cell in high proper motion, bearing the weight of a stone-colored stare. He knows the detainee is watching; he feels it in his spine, in the small bones of his neck, in the slow deep thrusts of the heart in his chest. Every lockstep breath descends and ascends in metronymic time, the tock of a clock, steady and measured as the questions he asks. Where were you, he says in regulated tones, on 30 July?
Draco Malfoy is the detainee, and the detainee has no reply, so Harry steps through the steps a step at a time. There are many, uncounted; they start broad and shallow and they wind all the way up, to a point, to a room, narrow as a pin and close as a shave, with space enough for a man and an airy Dementor. Harry treads the path with a fluent foot, won by repetition in preparation and practice. He asks and he asks and he never misses a mark, his voice never registers more than what's prescribed; his eyes never light (rage) or dull (fatigue). Where were you? he asks, on 30 July?
The detainee dislikes the pouring of the serum. Harry only knows by the flicker of his eye, twitching as the liquid flows into the spoon, for though Legilimency is indicated clearly on the route, he isn't there yet. He will follow the signs. Where were you? Harry raises the serum to the pale mouth. On 30 July? The spoon's bowl is new and bright as it passes dry lips. The detainee swallows, reluctant, without Imperius. It's too soon for that, as well.
Harry asks once more and now the detainee must answer. He must be as honest as the day is long. The day will be long, for the answer Harry is given is I'm not at liberty to say.
You aren't at any liberty at all, Harry could remark. That is a fact, and while Harry is here to make determinations of fact (by coaxing or lying or prying or force), that is not in the sequence of steps; that is not a link in the chain. The detainee wears chains, but he shan't forever, because as they near the middle of the road, in the middle of the night of the first endless day, Harry is required to remove them with his wand. He does it. Behind the transparent screen enclosing him, the detainee is bare in his prison-issue smock. Harry notes, but doesn't comment, on the aubergine stripes indented in his skin.
Where were you? he asks, and the detainee simply answers, I'm not at liberty to say. He says it mildly and his response is prompt, but at this stage it's appropriate for Harry to deem it non-cooperation. Harry draws in air through his nose, out through his mouth, readies his wand, his intent, and takes his aim.
Crucio, he says. Ministry guidance indicates that this should begin in sparing bursts, to be extended as necessary over a period of time. Restrictive implements (e.g., waist and leg chains) on the prisoner's person are to be removed prior to casting specified high-risk spells. Harry watches the convulsions of the detainee, whose eyes are flared and glistening. Harry's pulse is rapid and faint and everything in him tightens, but unlike the detainee, he can refrain from expression. The detainee stops shaking and doesn't fall from his chair. Harry had administered a small dose, as appropriate. Now he is to offer an opportunity for reprieve.
On 30 July, he asks, where were you?
The detainee shifts to sit up; the skin beneath his eyes is dark but there's a flush to his face from the pain of the curse that appears wholesome, a sign of vigor. Perhaps the detainee is aware of this and is also considering the irony, for his mouth arcs up on one side as he responds to the question. The answer permits Harry to raise his wand again.
The night ticks to day, the same day as yesterday; there's no rest for Harry or his detainee until they finish. They are much nearer to the Dementor now, though there is always, always, the chance for retreat. The rules stipulate this in absolute terms, and Harry observes the rules with great rigor, choosing solid gray when no black or white lines are presented, acting fully within the legislated boundaries. The detainee is infinitely worse for the wear, as intended. He is leaning against the side wall, back flat to mortar, legs splayed before him at visually interesting angles. His hair clings to his skin, his skin clings to his bones, and he's no longer mild or calm but he remains resistant. Harry stands over him, on the other side of the shield, willing himself to conceal the anger and frustration that now blurs his vision, dampening his shirt.
Where were you? Harry asks, his wand up and firm, though his words—he can't quite deliver them without a trace of strain. 30 July. Where were you? A trace is allowable; a trace is expected. Even the best are only human, after all. Ministry regulations acknowledge it with a procedure for relief of the interrogator, little-known and less-used. It certainly will not be invoked here today, not when Harry is so very close to the end, the end of the line, the end of the list, the end of the steps that will lead the detainee to the kiss.
The detainee refuses the choice to turn back; silently, with a vague shake of his head, for he cannot utter a sound to save his life. It will not be worth saving, as far as the detainee is concerned, after Harry is through with what he must now undertake. Harry gathers himself without shutting his eyes, lest the guards see and mistake his meaning. They're watching more closely than ever before, prepared to usher in a new Auror at the drop of a sigh.
Harry expels his last breath violently and strides through the shield, which parts for this act, only this act, like a feather from a wing. His eyes are fixed on the detainee's face. It is blanched and blackened in disorderly shapes; it is low to the ground and it does not stop Harry, it does not stop Harry, it does not stop Harry from pointing his wand or swooping down on his knee or gripping the raw neck beneath the swelling jaw for Harry is tasked with uprooting the lock that locks in the truth, whether it be Fidelius or a Vow or something equally delicate and irrelevant in a man stripped of magic.
Harry presses in fingers and snaps the lock wide. He vanishes, with Draco.
"I'm sorry," he says. No he doesn't say, he hasn't air to say. He cries it, breathes it; his blood beats it; his wrists ache it as they rise around Draco's head. His mouth sobs and his head sings; his wet face meets Draco's damaged one and he floods, he crashes Draco with what strength is left to him.
Draco is small and dirty in Harry's embrace but he has the grace to smile, a little. "Apology accepted."
The patchy sound from that throat has Harry's heart inflamed. "You should've told—you could've stopped it—"
Draco's dark-soaked hair quivers as he musters a miraculous coughing laugh. "No, ah!" he shudders. "No." His eyes are beginning to droop in exhaustion, but they meet Harry's, with love. "You'd be a crap alibi. Where are we, anyway?"
They are far away from Azkaban. They are far away from home. Harry couldn't tell a single person he was leaving, or that he'd never see them again.
"A safe place," he murmurs. "You'll have to get used to Muggles," he adds, with a cracked smile like Draco's. Draco doesn't see, because consciousness has stretched past him for the moment, but when he wakes up Harry will be next to him, and when Harry wakes up too they will be amazed (a bit dazed) at their free-and-clear escape. They will yawn together, and stretch, and then they might get up to eat something, or they might go back to sleep, or they might do anything else that pleases them in the world, and they will have no use for alibis, ever again.
This was hard to read, but well worth it in the end.
Thanks so much for giving it a try and reading through to the end! ♥ I'm so glad you liked how it turned out.
Whoa. I got the creepy chills as Harry interrogated Draco, and it seemed that the Ministry had a torture protocol like unto RL. What's the magical equivalent of waterboarding?
And then you made it ok.
Well done! =)
*laughs* Wow, I totally never thought of that!! Thank you so much for reading--I'm glad the ending made things better!