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14 July 2012 @ 01:02 pm
Fic: The Consolations of a Summer's Day, part four  
Part three



Kreacher had grown fond of Master Harry.

True, he was no Master Regulus – no house-elf had two Master Regulus’s in his life – but he was entertaining and fair and not a great deal of work to keep in line. He did have his little obsessions, like the Malfoy whelp, and forbidding Kreacher to beat himself with anything firmer than a lettuce leaf. But he was a simple wizard with simple needs that Kreacher found easy to meet, and Master Regulus would have approved of his passions for flying and defeating snake-faced half-bloods.

So it was no hardship for Kreacher to traipse around the Ministry on his Master’s errands. The Minister had gone so far as to offer Kreacher tea and biscuits – biscuits from his very own personal tin! – to pass the time while he made investigations and then wrote a lengthy missive to Master Harry.

Even the Floo Regulation Panel, which was very likely the slowest institution in Great Britain, had very comfortable chairs in their waiting area, and no one seemed inclined to sit beside Kreacher, so he had a sofa entirely to himself.

‘Knife and a chicken!’ he muttered happily to himself, relishing the memory of Young Malfoy’s look. The wizard on the other sofa remembered he had somewhere else to be, and the two young witches who had been sitting beside him were suddenly very interested in the ceiling mouldings, and not at all curious as to why an aged house-elf would be peering at himself in a shard of mirror.

Kreacher didn’t mind. He was on a mission, which would assist Master Harry, and which would see confusion and dismay sown in the houses of their enemies. Whoever they were this time.

It was quite a long time before the wizard who had taken Master Harry’s letter reappeared. He made a show of looking around.

‘Kreacher is the only house-elf here,’ Kreacher said, emphatically.

‘Ah, there you are. Auror Potter’s elf, yes?’

Kreacher didn’t dignify that with a response.

‘Well, we’ve had a dig through the records, but I’m afraid that Auror Potter’s request was very broad, so we’ve not been able to narrow it down to anything specific for him.’ The wizard indicated the large pile of files in his arms. ‘I mean, we were running a full diagnostic of that area, as it happens, and so these are all the records for the Network connections for the time in question, but …’

‘Kreacher will take them to Master Harry,’ Kreacher said, reaching up.

‘What? Oh, no. I couldn’t possibly, these are original files, you see …’

‘You will make copies for Kreacher.’

‘Ah. Well, I suppose we could make copies, but it’s a time-consuming process, and I’m afraid it’s rather late in the day, that’s the sort of thing you should ask for before lunch, really.’

Kreacher beckoned.

With an expression that clearly indicated he wasn’t too happy about it, the wizard bent over.

‘Harry Potter will be very unhappy!’ Kreacher yelled.

The two witches on the other sofa fled the office.

The wizard’s colleagues picked him up from the floor and promised Kreacher they would have the copies with him in but a moment.

Kreacher sat back and cheerfully hummed a few choruses of the Chudley Cannon’s Team Song, which he was practising for Auror Ron Weasley. Ten minutes later the younger wizards appeared with a sheaf of papers, neatly wrapped up in brown paper and tied with string. They had even fashioned a little handle from the string and wrapped it with an old dishcloth so it wouldn’t cut into Kreacher’s hand.

‘We’ve checked they’re all correct and in order,’ one said.

‘And that they cover everything Auror Potter asked for,’ the other added.

‘My Master will be very pleased with you,’ Kreacher said, magnanimously, emphasising the latter pronoun perhaps a little more than was necessary.

Making sure he had the Minister’s letter tucked safely under his arm, he set off home. The clock had just gone a quarter to four when he got in, which meant it was time to check if Master Harry was in need of him yet.

There was nothing in the mirror, and Kreacher was about to put it away when he caught sight of a rummaging hand. Sure enough, it was followed a few seconds later by a wild-haired head and bespectacled face. Kreacher smiled and gathered his papers to him.

For some reason, Master Harry and the Malfoy boy were standing in another forest. Kreacher shrugged. Master Harry had never been predictable. Not like Mistress Walburga. There was a witch for routine.

‘Hello Kreacher, sorry for dragging you all the way to Belarus,’ Master Harry said.

‘Those are oaks, and hazels. It’s Langley Wood,’ Young Malfoy muttered. ‘I don’t even know where Belarus is.’

‘Near Latvia,’ said Kreacher, who had once helped Master Regulus research hiding places.

‘Is it the big country behind Poland?’ the Malfoy asked.

‘I think so,’ said Master Harry. ‘I was never very good at geography. Where’s Langley Wood, anyway?’

Kreacher cleared his throat. ‘I have Master Harry’s papers.’

‘Brilliant! Thank you.’ Master Harry smiled at him, and Kreacher passed the papers over cheerfully.

‘Are there any other tasks required? Only Kreacher was going to sharpen some of the knives this afternoon …’

Young Malfoy glared at him. Kreacher grinned.

‘Actually, yes,’ said Master Harry. ‘Can you pop over to Luna Lovegood’s and see if there are Estonians waiting to arrest us?’

‘And find out how they got there!’ Young Malfoy added.

‘They’re tracking us down exactly as I would,’ Master Harry said. ‘Evald’s their version of me. The question isn’t how they made it to Luna’s, the question is why? It should be the Aurors after us. If it’s Evald and his offsider, then there’s a possibility they’re keeping a lid on things for us.’

‘Well, then ask that,’ said the Malfoy whelp. ‘Are they planning to arrest us or are they just as mad as Potter?’

‘I’m not … Honestly, Malfoy, why would you even say …’

‘Kreacher will be back in a moment.’

They were still arguing as he left.

Miss Luna’s house was a short step through space for Kreacher. He appeared outside, as it was rude to turn up inside unless invited, she had told him. She was there on her steps with two tall men in black robes, the Estonians Kreacher assumed.

All three had turned at the sound of his Apparation, Kreacher smiled a greeting, and reminded himself to practise smiling when the Estonians flinched. Miss Luna smiled back.

‘Hello, Kreacher! Has Harry sent you?’

‘Master Harry wishes to know if the Estonians are waiting to arrest him,’ Kreacher reported. Then, to be fair, added, ‘And that other boy wants to know if they’re insane.’

‘No to both,’ Luna said, cheerily.

Kreacher hazarded a glance at the Estonians, who were frowning in confusion. He supposed he couldn’t judge Miss Luna’s parameters for sanity, given the people in his life.

‘So it will be safe for my Master and … and his guest to come here?’

‘Yes,’ Miss Luna answered. ‘Evald and Veigo are on the case with me, and we have lots of information for Harry and Draco. Can you go and fetch them? And you’d be welcome to stay for tea.’

Kreacher managed to Disapparate before the expression evoked by the idea of Miss Luna’s cooking made it to his face.

Master Harry was still arguing with the Malfoy whelp.

‘Can’t you just accept help when it’s given to you freely?’

‘It’s never free, though, is it? There’s always a catch somewhere.’

‘Sometimes people just want to do the right thing. Because it’s right,’ Master Harry insisted. ‘If you can think of another reason why I’m running around Europe trying to keep you out of Azkaban, I’m all ears.’

‘I wish I could,’ said the Malfoy. ‘I don’t trust altruism, it usually just means the price is hidden.’

Kreacher coughed gently, scaring birds from the nearby trees. ‘If Master Harry wishes, Miss Luna says that it will be safe for you and … him,’ he glanced at the Malfoy boy, ‘to go to her house. We are all invited for tea. I would be very grateful if Master Harry asked Kreacher to make the tea, so that it isn’t made of herbs.’

‘Fabulous,’ said the Malfoy. ‘More tea.’

‘You can wait here,’ Master Harry offered.

The Malfoy glared at him, so Kreacher glared at the Malfoy.

‘Luna’s then, Kreacher,’ said Master Harry. ‘Off we go.’

Kreacher waited until Master Harry had Disapparated before he turned to the Malfoy.

‘I don’t know why my Master worries about what happens to you, but you should be grateful he does. He shouted at Auror Ron Weasley for your sake. Stop causing problems and let my Master fix things so you can go away.’

The Malfoy stared at him silently.

Kreacher Disapparated and left the Malfoy to follow. With any luck, he’d Splinch himself.

****************************

The appearance of Estonian officials at a Kentish knifemaker’s had not overly surprised Luna. It was her experience that strange things happened so regularly that one was better off expecting them and saving one’s surprise for days that ran exactly to plan.

They had been startled to see her there and had attempted to pretend they were tourists, but she had seen the close look they gave the photograph in her hands, and when she turned and asked if they were looking for clues to Pansy Parkinson’s murder, they had given up all pretence and introduced themselves.

She had thanked Elsie Alder, the knifemaker, and promised her a free advert in the next Quibbler, then escorted the Estonians from the shop to the nearest cafe and bought them tea.

Over beverages and cream buns she had proposed they share information and resources, and extracted promises that they would not arrest Harry and Draco. They confessed they were attempting to avert an embarrassing political incident and that quickly establishing Malfoy’s innocence – if he was in fact innocent, which they were yet to prove as such – was in everyone’s best interests. She confessed that both Harry and Draco were due back at her place when they finished their current investigations, and suggested they may as well wait there, where the chairs were comfier.

Veigo had bought a bag of cream buns for all.

It did not take Harry long to appear after Kreacher’s visit. Luna was still waiting on the stairs for him, though she had sent the Estonians back inside. Kreacher and Draco followed, with Draco looking subdued. Luna looked quickly from him to Harry, and guessed that a fight was more likely the cause of his expression than abject failure with the case.

‘I have news!’ she declared, hoping to hearten them. ‘And you have a terrible disguise!’ she accidentally added when she caught a proper look at Draco.

‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ said Draco.

‘Sorry. Stand still for a moment,’ Harry apologised, and returned Draco’s hair to its usual blond with a flick of his wand.

‘Evald Kask and Veigo Tamm are inside. They say they know you both and promise they’re not here to arrest you.’

‘We know a lot of people who didn’t do it,’ Draco said.

‘And I have all the reports from the Floo people here,’ Harry added. ‘Plus a letter from Kingsley. Though I haven’t read it yet, I was too busy … arguing with Malfoy.’ He had the grace to look embarrassed at this last.

‘Well come in and read it,’ Luna said, leading the way.

Evald and Veigo were already at the kitchen table, notes spread out in front of them.

‘Harry, Draco,’ Evald greeted them. ‘You gave us quite the surprise this morning.’

‘Sorry about that,’ Harry apologised. ‘I didn’t want to get you into trouble, so it seemed best to leave you out of the loop.’

‘Well, we didn’t want to get you into trouble, so we have stepped into the loop with you both,’ Veigo said with a grin. He reached out his hand to shake Harry’s as Luna introduced them properly.

‘Meeli is covering for us back home,’ Evald explained. ‘We think that if we clear everything up before tomorrow lunchtime, then it is possible that people will believe Draco is very sick and under guard at Meeli’s holiday house and we will all keep our jobs.’

Draco shook his head. ‘You shouldn’t be risking them. None of you should.’ He stood up. ‘I’m going back to Tallinn and Meeli can send me back to the Wizengamot. Potter thinks he can prove I didn’t do it, that’s more than enough.’

‘Shut up and sit down, Malfoy,’ said Harry, not even looking up from the letter he was reading.

Malfoy did, but Luna could see he wasn’t happy about it.

‘What does the Minister say?’ Luna asked, trying to ease tensions.

Veigo handed out cream buns with the same intention.

Harry glanced up from the letter. ‘He says he hopes I know what I’m doing, and that he can’t find any evidence for a comprehensive plot against any of the targets we’ve suggested, though they have caught the stalker who’s been bothering the Weird Sisters for the last five months thanks to today’s surveillance. Apparently, unless someone attempts to off me soon, our invisible assassin theory is looking weak.’

‘Bugger …’ Draco whispered.

Harry nodded agreement.

‘Well, I have information,’ Luna said. ‘And so do Evald and Veigo. And you have a giant pile of papers from the Floo Regulation Panel. So stop looking so miserable. Kreacher, would you like a cream bun?’

Kreacher declared that he would prefer to make everyone tea and a light snack and Luna gave him the run of the kitchen, which seemed to please him.

‘I went and spoke to Elsie the knifemaker, and she said that the type of knife we were looking for was historical and very rare and that only a handful of people have ever had the skill to craft them properly. Most were made by the Quillion family, between 1580 and 1810. She said that this one looks like a genuine Quillion, probably from the later part of their production period, and it’s very unlikely to have been bought in the last century, since they’re practically all held in private collections and very highly valued.’

‘So the killer comes from an established wizarding family,’ Harry mused.

‘Or is a thief,’ Draco countered.

‘Most people would have reported a theft like this,’ Harry said. ‘There was nothing in the MLE case files when I left yesterday, and I feel certain Kingsley would have mentioned it if a report had come in today.’

‘They may not have even noticed,’ said Draco. ‘Some houses are so full of stuff that it’s easy for things to go missing.’

‘Missing from humans,’ Kreacher croaked to himself over by the cooker.

‘What’s that, Kreacher?’ Harry called out.

The little house-elf waddled over to them. ‘Witches and wizards miss things,’ Kreacher said. ‘But house-elves don’t. We send word to each other when something is lost, we look out for each other’s things so that our Mistresses and Masters can have them back if another elf has found them. Only when bad wizards take our things do we lose them for good.’

Luna smiled at Harry, who nodded his agreement. ‘Have you heard anything about a lost knife?’ he asked.

‘Not a word,’ Kreacher said decisively, then stumped back over to his cooking.

‘So an established family without house-elves,’ Harry said. ‘That narrows things down.’

‘I’m assuming you checked out Weasley’s alibi at the same time you checked your own,’ Draco said.

Harry ignored him and reached into his bag. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘This is the list of people we know were connected to Pansy. Let’s leave the ones we’ve already crossed out for now, we can recheck if we draw blanks everywhere else. This pile is a piece of luck,’ he patted the sheaf of papers from the Floo Regulation Panel, ‘it tells us everyone who was travelling on the Network in the region of Pansy’s Floo within the time frame of the murder. Let’s work our way through and see if we can find any matches.’

Harry divided the Floo papers into five piles, while Luna made four copies of the contacts list and handed out quills. They set to work, silent except for the slurping of tea and chewing of bun.

After half an hour, Luna insisted they all get up and walk around in the garden for five minutes to refresh themselves. After an hour, Kreacher interrupted with a treacle tart and a rhubarb pie, which he declared Mistress Walburga had once insisted on for visiting dignitaries from a Baltic nation, and if this wasn’t the right one, Kreacher couldn’t be blamed for trying.

Luna shooed everyone out into the garden to eat, bringing jugs of cream and custard.

‘My eyes are crossing,’ Evald complained. ‘If we were back at work, we could have minions do this for us,’ he told Harry.

‘If we were back at work, you’d have me do it,’ Veigo agreed. ‘Which is why I am glad we’re here with the lovely Luna and this excellent pie.’

‘Can’t you just use one of your library spells,’ Draco asked Harry.

‘That one only works for sorting lists,’ Harry replied. ‘First we need to make the lists. The Floo information isn’t very well organised, if we tried to automate it, the spell would miss too many names. I’m afraid it’s a case of work rather than magic.’

Draco’s turned-up nose showed exactly what he thought about that. Luna wondered when it would finish returning to its normal shape, since Harry had clearly forgotten about it.

‘We’re halfway through,’ she said. ‘It will all go a bit faster with full bellies, and there’s still plenty of light left in the day.’

They finished up their food and headed back in to research. This time they worked a little faster, buoyed by the rapidly diminishing piles of uninvestigated paper.

It was only a little after five-thirty when Veigo put down the last sheet of paper from his pile and they declared the work done.

Now was the time for cataloguing and cross-referencing by spellwork, and Harry and Evald took over, quickly transforming hours of labour into a few short lists.

Harry picked up the first one as the quill stopped automatically writing. ‘This is everyone who was travelling in Pansy’s Floo Network Zone at the right time and who we know she knew. About forty names. This list,’ he indicated the second sheet of parchment that still had the quill scratching rapidly across its surface, ‘is everyone travelling in the zone who Pansy had some connection with, from school to known shopping habits. It’s looking quite a bit longer. OK, nearly two-hundred names on that one, I’d say. Let’s see if we get anything on the third …’

A fresh sheet of parchment fluttered its way to the top and waited, ready, under the quill. There was a pause, then a name was scribbled onto the parchment. Luna took Draco’s hand and squeezed it.

‘Who is it?’ he asked, and Luna felt his hand shake.

Harry picked up the paper. ‘Herbert Crouch. He’s the only one travelling at the right time, who we know Pansy had contact with, and who has a record of violence on file.’

‘Herbert?’ Draco sounded shocked. ‘But he’s just a lonely old weasel. He was Pansy’s third or fourth cousin on her mother’s side, and he’s my fourth or fifth on mine, I can never keep track. Used his distant relationships as an excuse to invite himself to every party and then disappeared back into his hole the minute there was any trouble in either of the families. We all laugh at him. He’s nobody.’

Harry and Evald exchanged a look. Luna squeezed Draco’s hand again. ‘Maybe he knows that’s what you all thought?’ she suggested. ‘Maybe that’s why he targeted Pansy?’

Draco pressed his lips together tightly, then looked at Harry. ‘Let’s get him.’

Harry shook his head. ‘I can’t take you, Malfoy. He’s dangerous. He spent time in Azkaban in the 80s for an unprovoked attack on another wizard. If he was happy to kill Pansy, chances are he’ll be happy to take a shot at you. I’ll take Evald and Veigo, you wait here with Luna.’

Draco opened his mouth to argue, but Veigo was faster. ‘Please wait here,’ he said. ‘Our government believes you are under our protection and if we return with you battered or dead, there will be some very serious questions asked. Not everyone has Auror Potter’s history to protect them.’

Luna could see that it cost Draco, but he nodded his head and sat back on his chair, quiet and withdrawn.

‘We’ll go now,’ Harry said. ‘ We’ll be as quick as we can, and we’ll come straight back.’

‘Good luck,’ said Luna.

Draco said nothing, but glared at Harry, who opened his mouth to speak, then thought better of it, shrugged and set off with Evald and Veigo in tow.

‘GAAAAAAAH!’ said Draco, dropping his head onto the table and banging it three times.

‘I know what you’re thinking,’ Luna said.

‘I doubt it very much,’ Draco muttered into the table.

‘You’re thinking that Harry is extremely annoying and you’re wishing you didn’t find him attractive.’

Draco sat bolt upright and stared at her. ‘What on earth? Luna, sometimes you horrify me.’

‘Well, he is quite good looking, and I was watching you when he stepped in to put his cloak around you both, and you had this expression on your face, which made me think …’

‘Stop thinking it!’ Draco shook his head, eyes wide.

‘All right, I’m sorry. It just seemed to make sense. And it wouldn’t be the first time the two of you … No, I’m stopping. See, quiet! Like a mouse!’

Draco kept shaking his head. ‘It’s not that at all. Really. Truly. It’s just, he’s so annoying, but here he is, saving me again and he’s going to disappear again afterwards as though it never happened and I’m going to be left sitting around, alive and free, and back in my little box while Super Auror Harry Potter saves the world on a weekly basis. And he makes you think you’re in it together, and then he leaves you sitting at the table because it’s dangerous.

‘And it’s just … everything works out well for him. And I can’t even begrudge him that, because, well, Voldemort. But I’ve had ten tortured years of coming to terms with my sexuality and the best I’ve managed is a quick handjob in a back alley from a friend who subsequently pretended he was drunk, and he shags Charlie Weasley without even trying, and that sort of thing is … Oh Merlin, that sounds every bit as pitiful as I think it does, doesn’t it?’

Luna smiled and patted Draco’s hand.

‘I just wish … Sod it. Where’s my good-looking boy who’ll take my mind of my troubles? Do not give me that look, Luna Lovegood!’

‘I’m wondering if he’d introduce you to Charlie,’ Luna lied quickly.

Draco looked at her suspiciously, but let it pass. ‘I really would like to be able to hate him, it would all be so much simpler, but I just can’t. I miss sixth year. I really, really hated him in sixth year.’

‘I know you did,’ said Luna. And wondered if it would be too obvious if she stuck them in the same room for the evening.

‘You think he’s good looking?’ Draco asked after a little while.

‘Well, he is: all dark hair and pale skin and lean muscle. You must have noticed that. Not that you’re unattractive, Draco. Many the Ravenclaw girl and boy longed after you when we were back at school.’

‘They never mentioned it to me.’

‘No, because you were an obnoxious little tit bent on death and destruction.’

‘There was that.’

Luna smiled at Draco, and he smiled back. There was a loud noise from the other side of the kitchen, like a comb being drawn across a saw. They jumped to their feet and had their wands out before they realised what it was. Then, creeping silently, they went to check. Kreacher was lying on the floor on a pile of tea towels, sound asleep and snoring.

To Luna’s surprise, Draco crept back to the table, took the cloth that they had folded away and brought it in to cover the ancient elf.

‘We should go up to the living room,’ Luna suggested.

Draco nodded agreement and followed her up the staircase. He flopped down on the large sofa, and she took the other end, encouraging him to put his feet up on the low table positioned for just that purpose.

‘I’ve been meaning to paint a mural in this room since we repaired it after the war, but between getting the Quibbler out and trying to keep Dad from losing it, I never seem to find the time.’

‘How is your father?’ Draco asked.

‘Half-mad. Yours?’

‘The same. But with less excuse.’

Luna smiled. ‘I’m surprised Harry told you about Charlie,’ she said. ‘It’s not common knowledge at all. ’

‘I only found out he’d split with Girl Weasley when Pansy showed me the “He’s Back On the Market” souvenir issue of Witch Weekly,’ Draco admitted. ‘What happened? I thought they were going to marry and have lots of babies, like Weasley and Granger.’

Luna laughed. ‘So did she. So did Harry for a bit. But you know him, he’s staggeringly oblivious. Ginny spent a year telling him that he needed to pay more attention to her and their relationship, or she’d leave him for Viktor Krum, and he spent a year saying he was going to if she could just wait a little, and in the end …’

‘She left him for Viktor Krum,’ Draco finished the sentence for her.

‘It was quite friendly, really. She wanted someone who was home at nights, and who wanted children, and she loves the Quidditch circuit, so Viktor’s happy, and Harry wasn’t sad the way I thought he would be, so …’ she shrugged. ‘What about you, Draco? What have you been up to with your life?’

‘Nothing.’

He said it as though he meant it, which Luna found inexpressibly sad. She wanted to tell him that clearly it hadn’t been nothing for all this time, because Pansy had obviously loved him dearly, but she knew that would only make things worse. Instead she tossed him a copy of the current Quibbler.

‘There’s an excellent story on the magical fauna in common fungi, page fifteen. Or you can race me on the crossword,’ she offered.

‘Did you set the crossword?’ Draco asked.

‘Yes, so you can have a twenty-second start.’

It was worth saying something ridiculous to bring that smile to his face.

‘And what about you, Luna? What are you doing with life?’

‘Putting out the Quibbler, taking care of Dad, studying Cryptozoology, and making a new friend,’ she said, leaning over to pat his knee.

That smile was even better.

It was nearly an hour before they heard the pops of Apparition and voices downstairs. Luna beat Draco down the stairs by a hair’s breadth, and was nearly at the door when Evald came in supporting a bloodied Veigo and trailed by a battered Harry.

She felt Draco come to a stop behind her and heard his whispered ‘Potter’. Without turning, she ordered, ‘Draco, wake Kreacher, get water, and we’ll need those tea towels to clean this lot up.’

Evald brought Veigo to the table and lowered him gently to a chair. He was less damaged than Luna had feared, most of the blood came from a single shallow cut at his hairline, and a bruise was spilling down across his forehead. Draco appeared with two bowls of water – one hot, one cold – and cloths.

‘Do you need help?’ he asked.

‘It’s only a bump,’ Veigo insisted. ‘I can clean it up myself, no point getting blood on your hands, beautiful Luna.’

Luna smiled, and kept going.

On the other side of the table Draco took a wet towel over to Harry and Kreacher glared up at his wizard.

Harry half-smiled an apology at both of them. ‘Violent weasel,’ he explained, mopping dirt from his face. ‘Even with three of us there and no chance for escape, he tried to fight his way out. We had the better of him, but he dropped a ceiling beam on Veigo and me. Luckily, we mostly got out of the way in time.’

Draco handed over a second towel. ‘Was it him?’

‘Don’t know,’ Harry admitted. ‘It might be. It’s all being sorted now, I called in Ron. There’s no-one I trust more, and he’s a very good investigator. Really.’

‘I’m sure he is,’ Draco muttered.

Kreacher tsked and shook his head. ‘Master Harry should have taken Kreacher with him if there was going to be violence.’

‘Next time.’ Harry promised.

‘Are you hurt?’ Draco asked.

‘Just a few bruises. Mostly dust. My jacket took the brunt of it.’

‘So he tried to kill you.’

Harry grinned. ‘Told you he was violent!’

‘It’s not funny, Potter.’

‘It’s all in a day’s work. Very Bad People often prefer to drop houses on Aurors rather than come quietly. It’s why we have a two-year training program, and really sturdy boots.’

‘I take it your toes are fine.’

‘Wholly unbruised.’

Veigo hissed, and Luna focussed on cleaning up his cut. He smiled devotedly up at her and called her his beautiful nurse.

‘He’s not concussed,’ Evald said. ‘I checked. I think he’s just taking advantage of the situation to make a move.’

‘Shut up, Evald,’ said Veigo.

Luna laughed at them both.

Once the blood was mopped up, and ice-cubes produced and wrapped in yet more tea towels, to be held to bruised heads and shoulders, Luna led them all back upstairs with the remains of the afternoon’s pies. Kreacher alone stayed behind, promising to cook up something nourishing, despite the fact that Luna had plenty of Plimpy soup she could reheat.

‘I’m very glad that none of you were seriously hurt,’ she told the Aurors. ‘But what happened? There were three of you and one of him.’

‘It started out well,’ said Evald. ‘Harry knocked on the door, Mr Crouch opened it, they chatted politely for a minute, Harry asked if we could come in, he said yes, Harry said we had a few questions, he dropped part of his house on Harry and Veigo. I was standing quietly in the corner, so I was able to get the drop on him while Harry held the beam up. Once we had him subdued, Harry sent an Owl to Ron, and then we had to get out of there very quickly before the Aurors showed up.’

‘Did you have a chance to question him? Look around for any evidence?’ Draco asked.

‘No,’ said Harry. ‘But we could smell what had to be a potion bubbling away somewhere, and he did shout that we couldn’t prove he did it, so I’m cautiously optimistic.’

Draco nodded. ‘Good. All right. That’s that.’

Luna could see that he was breathing rather quickly.

‘Draco, I’ve left my notebook outside somewhere,’ she said. ‘Come and help me look for it?’

He nodded, tight-lipped, and followed her down the stairs and out of the house. She led him down to the back of the garden and took his hands. ‘Breathe,’ she advised. ‘Just breathe for a minute. Everything is easier once you have air in you.’

‘I don’t think I can,’ he said, clinging to her grip. ‘It feels like someone is sitting on my chest.’

‘I know. Just try an easy one, in through your nose, out through your mouth. That’s it. And another. Perfect. Keep going.’

She stood and breathed with him for a minute, remembering an afternoon like this years ago, when the sun had been golden and pollen and butterflies had danced through the air beyond the motes of ash that had once been her mother and when her own lungs had felt as though they would never do her bidding again, and how just filling them and flooding her blood with oxygen had been a miracle, because it meant that she was alive, and that she would go on, and that she could cry and mourn and do everything else, if only she could go on breathing.

Tears began to track down Draco’s face and she let go of his hands and drew him down to her shoulder, then held him, and let him cry.

It was a few minutes before she heard the sound of footsteps on the gravel path. Harry slowed almost to a stop when he saw them, but she beckoned him closer.

‘Are you all right, Malfoy?’ he asked, putting a hand on Draco’s shoulder.

Draco nodded, and used his cuffs to mop up his face. ‘I just …’

‘I know,’ Harry said. ‘I know exactly.’

Luna looked at him with gentle eyes, because she knew that he did. They all did. Draco sniffed, and smiled a little, and managed a ‘Thanks, Potter.’

And then they heard the snap of displaced air and Ron Weasley was standing at the top of the garden, looking around with a frown.

Harry waved to him, and he stalked over, shaking his head.

‘Harry, I swear, if you get us sacked over Malfoy, Hermione will kill you. Hello Malfoy, sorry for your loss. Luna, good to see you.’

‘Ron,’ said Luna in greeting.

‘So?’ said Harry.

‘Good news and bad,’ Ron replied. ‘You’ve caught a murderer, he’s just not the right one. I found pieces of two Muggles in his basement: he was using body parts to make hair-restoring lotion. Sick and twisted, and people were paying him ten Galleons a bottle.’

Draco stumbled, and Luna moved to catch him, but Harry had beaten her to it.

‘But then …’ Draco said.

‘We will keep looking,’ Harry promised. ‘It’s been one day.’

Luna watched, as Draco nodded, and did not move away from Harry’s supportive arm.

‘Harry tells me it definitely wasn’t you,’ Ron told Draco, with what was clearly intended as kindness, even if it came out a little gruffly. ‘I didn’t think it could be, you were always loyal to your friends.’

‘Thank you, Weasley,’ said Draco, without stiffness. He turned to Luna. ‘We should let Evald and Veigo know. And I could do with a cup of tea.’

She took his arm. ‘I’ll put the kettle on. Harry? Ron?’

With orders for one tea and one cocoa, she headed in with Draco, hoping that he couldn’t hear Ron’s ‘Seriously, Harry, traipsing all over Europe after Malfoy? What do you think this is, Sixth Year?’

The bad news was shared, beverages made, and everyone reassembled in the living room, chased out of the kitchen by Kreacher, whose dinner was reaching epic and delicious-smelling proportions. Luna sat next to Draco on the long sofa, and was unsurprised when Harry took the other side.

‘The rest of the team have taken Crouch back to the Ministry,’ Ron was explaining. ‘He was still groggy from being stunned by you, so our MediWizard gave him a sedative and he’s not going to be talking for at least twelve hours. I’ve told them it was Owled in to me as an anonymous tip, and everyone thinks it was one of Crouch’s relatives who’s stumbled onto the situation, taken him down in a fight and then not wanted to have his name connected with the scene. Which is not entirely wrong.

‘The office received official word about your continuance in Tallinn late this afternoon, so they’re not expecting you back until tomorrow. What are you going to do?’

‘We go back to Tallinn in the morning,’ Draco said. ‘Potter’s right, it’s been one day. It was overly optimistic to think there was a chance of cracking the case in twelve hours, so we’ll go back and go through the proper channels.’

Harry nodded agreement. ‘I’m going to present my findings to the Estonian court and the Wizengamot, see if I can have them both rescind their warrants. They were only granted because Malfoy fled the scene, but anyone could lose their head if they came across the body of their best friend. Mr Parkinson will be a problem, but his evidence points towards Malfoy’s innocence, too, and if we have a chance to talk to him calmly, he might see that and be able to help us look for the real killer.’

‘Good,’ said Ron. ‘That sounds like a normal, sensible, sane plan.’

‘You’ve become very responsible since you’ve been a father,’ Luna said, remembering a month ago when he had run mostly naked through her garden down to the stream shrieking that he was going to have a swim before the sun disappeared for another fortnight.

‘Would you like to see a picture?’ he asked. ‘She’s gorgeous.’

Nearly a half hour later, Ron finally put all the baby pictures back in his wallet and declared that he had to be getting home before his wife started to worry when Kreacher stomped up the stairs to announce that dinner was ready.

It was a brilliant dinner, the sort of thing that Luna had rarely sat down to since leaving school. Somewhere between the soup and the lamb pie, the mood around the table lightened and they began to hatch plans for the continued search.

‘We haven’t followed up any of the knife leads,’ Veigo insisted. ‘There must be families who are known to have items like that, and if we can track the one that was stolen from Harry’s house, maybe it would lead us to someone who deals in that sort of artefact.’

Evald agreed. ‘And there are so many people to chase down who had access on the Floo. We’ve only just begun.’

‘I thought you had Estonian Auroring to do,’ Draco said, with a smile.

‘It’s a very law-abiding country, not like Britain. We will take holidays and help with the investigation. It will be a cross-cultural experience.’

Draco’s smile grew at that, and he even took a second piece of pie.

Over pudding, Luna tried to organise accommodation for the night. ‘I meant to add more guest bedrooms when we rebuilt, but never got around to it,’ she apologised. ‘Someone can have Dad’s room, or two of you could share, and the sofa is comfy …’

‘I could share with you,’ Veigo attempted, ever-optimistic.

‘Don’t worry about me,’ Evald said. ‘I’m going home for the evening to let Meeli know what’s happening.’

‘I’m happy with a sofa,’ said Draco. ‘Or a chair. I don’t think I’ll get a lot of sleep.’

‘And I have a tent,’ said Harry.

‘Marvellous,’ said Luna. ‘I’ll sort out towels for all, we have extras if anyone would like to bathe, the stream is lovely and deep at this time of year.’

And no sooner had she spoken than everyone, including Evald, realised that it was a beautiful warm summer’s evening, and that nothing would be better than to be washed clean by fresh running water.

Which is why, a short time later, Luna felt her skin warm in the late-afternoon sun as she led a line of four wizards and one house-elf down the long hill towards the sparkling ribbon of water that marked her stream. And as she sat on the bank, with her feet in the water, and watched the others flopping into the water in their smalls, she felt certain that it would all work out. Even if she had no idea how.

****************************

Part five
 
 
 
Loyaulte Me Lie: Albert/Regshocolate on July 14th, 2012 12:43 pm (UTC)
‘Harry Potter will be very unhappy!’ Kreacher yelled.

I am seriously enjoying your Kreacher. I do hope he and Luna interact.

Evald’s their version of me.

LOL!

‘No to both,’ Luna said, cheerily.

Kreacher hazarded a glance at the Estonians, who were frowning in confusion. He supposed he couldn’t judge Miss Luna’s parameters for sanity, given the people in his life.


I am seriously unworthy - they should have their own spin off...

‘I don’t know why my Master worries about what happens to you, but you should be grateful he does. He shouted at Auror Ron Weasley for your sake. Stop causing problems and let my Master fix things so you can go away.’

*squishes him*

‘What does the Minister say?’ Luna asked, trying to ease tensions.

Veigo handed out cream buns with the same intention.


Now I have to bake.

‘You’re thinking that Harry is extremely annoying and you’re wishing you didn’t find him attractive.’

Draco sat bolt upright and stared at her. ‘What on earth? Luna, sometimes you horrify me.’


Ach, she's wonderful.

‘I just wish … Sod it. Where’s my good-looking boy who’ll take my mind of my troubles? Do not give me that look, Luna Lovegood!’

‘I’m wondering if he’d introduce you to Charlie,’ Luna lied quickly.


*snort*

‘He’s not concussed,’ Evald said. ‘I checked. I think he’s just taking advantage of the situation to make a move.’

Awesome.

With orders for one tea and one cocoa, she headed in with Draco, hoping that he couldn’t hear Ron’s ‘Seriously, Harry, traipsing all over Europe after Malfoy? What do you think this is, Sixth Year?’

*squishes him*
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 14th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
Evald’s their version of me.

LOL!


But, you know, with fewer Christ analogies ;-)

About halfway through this story, I kicked myself for having taken all the in-house work I've had over the last few months (and it's not as though they've paid on any invoices as yet, either) because if I had had time to make it three times as long, there would have been room for loads of Kreacher and Luna, much more Ron and even Hermione and baby Rose. If I ever finish up all the stories I haven't written yet, I'm coming back here.

I, too, want cream buns. And there is an all-night baker under a mile away from me. But I need to get up early in the morning to go up the mountains and help a little girl make a frock. :-( Damn my helpfulness!
Loyaulte Me Lieshocolate on July 14th, 2012 02:48 pm (UTC)
I'm picturing a little girl who lives in a cave...

and smelling the banana bread in the oven!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 14th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
I lived in a cave once! But her parents are slightly less hippyish than mine were (slightly).

AM JEALOUS!
being_herebeing_here on July 14th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
Ah, Luna...

It was her experience that strange things happened so regularly that one was better off expecting them and saving one’s surprise for days that ran exactly to plan.

Exactly this!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 14th, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
It's one of the key things I have learned in the first 45 years of my life :-)
suttonwritersuttonwriter on July 15th, 2012 12:03 am (UTC)
Wonderful characterization!
Kreacher beckoned.

With an expression that clearly indicated he wasn’t too happy about it, the wizard bent over.

‘Harry Potter will be very unhappy!’ Kreacher yelled.

The two witches on the other sofa fled the office.


If I had read this bit thirty seconds earlier, I'd've shorted out my computer by spitting water at the screen. Your characterization of Kreacher is awesome.

I like Luna more, though: her quirkiness, her loyalty to the people she cares about, her subtle cunning. All that comes together when she gives Draco an excuse to mourn. Then, there's this lovely sentence:

She stood and breathed with him for a minute, remembering an afternoon like this years ago, when the sun had been golden and pollen and butterflies had danced through the air beyond the motes of ash that had once been her mother and when her own lungs had felt as though they would never do her bidding again, and how just filling them and flooding her blood with oxygen had been a miracle, because it meant that she was alive, and that she would go on, and that she could cry and mourn and do everything else, if only she could go on breathing.

This is what mourning after a sudden loss is (excuse the grammar; I don't know any other way to put it).

You ought to do a Luna-centric story. She's strong enough to carry the whole tale.

Can't wait to see how this ends.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 17th, 2012 01:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Wonderful characterization!
Luna is probably my favourite character. Maybe it's because I lost my father when I was young, or perhaps because I was a bit odd at school (but had ponies, so people teased me less than her), but I just feel an immense fondness for her and connection with her. I love the way JKR wrote her as being immensely sensible and rational, even with the veneer of wackiness that everyone sees first. She made me like Ginny more by having her be such a staunch defender of Luna :-)

And Kreacher makes pies and leads armies, again, canon awesome is impossible to deny ;-) Though I am very glad there was no water damage!

Thank you so much for your support! And I think I may write about Luna one day, once I knock a few WiPs over!
suttonwritersuttonwriter on July 17th, 2012 09:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Wonderful characterization!
What's one more thing on the WiP list (said while looking slant-eyed at my own 20-foot long to-do list).
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 19th, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Wonderful characterization!
I've got this really long one about Muggle Parents … I was going to start posting it before it's finished, but the Sins debacle has warned me off that plan!
suttonwritersuttonwriter on July 19th, 2012 08:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Wonderful characterization!
Cool. Most of us who read your stuff know to be patient (or at least somewhat quiet in our grumblings). :)
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on July 16th, 2012 11:41 am (UTC)
Well, at least one more nasty piece of work is off the streets!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 17th, 2012 01:47 pm (UTC)
All that Auror training finally coming in handy!
quiet dear I'm blooming within: Teen Wolf:  Stilesturnonmyheels on August 1st, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
Your Kreacher is a work of *genius* every time he enters a scene, I crack up

the rest of the fic is stellar as well ;-)