Chapter Five: Cold War
None of them knew exactly how long the trial would last.
Snape, looking bitter as ever at the prospect of being a witness in favour of Sirius Black, had told the trio not to bring attention to themselves, not to endanger Muggles and themselves by using magic, and to just generally to stay out of trouble. With his gaze still lingering on Potter after that last decree, Snape had given Helen a Muggle device called a "beeper" and told her to update him using that should she need any assistance. He, in turn, would inform them when the court had finished with him.
Looking uglier than a camel that had just bitten into the world's sourest lemon and was about to spit it right back out again, Snape took them by Portkey from the gates of Hogwarts to the Leaky Cauldron end of Diagon Alley.
"Don't make me come back here before I have to," he warned once they had passed through the Leaky Cauldron and into the streets of Muggle London.
"Oh, stop fussing," said Helen, managing to stand on tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek and pick a piece of lint off his black jacket at the same time. "It'll give you ulcers."
"I have a great deal of experience in curing them."
"I bet you do. But that's no excuse for working yourself into a frenzy."
The sour look turned to distilled ascetic acid. "I do not..."
"You'd better go. Your friends are waiting for you," said Helen, waving to Lupin. She and Black seemed superbly happy to ignore each other today, but she was getting along well enough with the werewolf.
Snape drew himself up with hauteur. "I'd hardly call them my –"
"Yes, dear. Now go and play nicely."
With a snort, Snape turned on his heel and stalked off. Without his billowing robes the effect was diminished slightly.
Helen smiled. "Isn't he fun." She linked arms with the boys. "Now: where shall we go first?"
Draco caught Potter's eye — Potter nodded.
Plan A was about to go into operation.
Draco knew a shop in an old arcade fairly near the Leaky Cauldron that was frequented more often than was admitted by some of the pure-blood families. Ask them about it directly and they'd say they wouldn't be seen dead in such establishments, but Draco knew for a fact that there were some things the Muggle world supplied that the wizarding did not, and Lladro figurines was one of them.
His mother had started a bit of a trend.
He was counting on that trend still being in effect amongst the womenfolk of the Death Eater families, who liked (he knew) nothing better than a chance to catch up and swap gossip while shopping. Mrs Crabbe and Mrs Goyle had fairly rigid schedules and were known to drag their sons along with them when they went shopping.
Today should be Narcissa's day for the Parisian boutiques. Draco was hoping like hell that his mother was sticking to her schedule.
"Oh, what a good idea!" exclaimed Helen, clasping her hands in delight at the sight of all the chinaware. "I wanted to get a tea set, but didn't know who to ask. Severus took me to Diagon Alley, but they didn't have anything nearly as nice as these!" She favoured them both with a brilliant smile that made some of the male passers-by turn their heads.
Not just some of the passers-by. Draco noticed a couple of heavily-built teenagers sitting outside one of the cafés and trying to pass as Muggles.
"Uh — Helen?"
"What is it, Draco?"
"I just need to see a couple of old friends."
"What? But Severus told us to remain in disguise. I hardly think going over and meeting your old pals is being obedient to the wishes of He Who Must Be Obeyed."
"Well, I'm not going to tell them it's me."
"That's a strange way to interact with your friends. Do you think it's emotionally healthy?"
"It's a Slytherin thing," said Potter, while Draco was still trying to work out an answer.
"I'm sure it is. I'm also sure Severus wouldn't approve."
"I'll go with him and make sure he behaves, Helen," said Potter piously. Bastard.
Helen gave him an ancient look. "And who's going to make sure you behave, Harry-chick?"
"If we do anything wrong Professor Snape'll have our hides nailed up in the trophy room," Draco argued. "Harry-chick knows that as well as I do." He smirked.
"Harry-chick" glowered at him. "For once in his life Malfoy wants to do something altruistic. I think we should be supportive since 'good-will to all men' doesn't come naturally to him." He looked sombre, as if a tooth was bothering him. "Helen, there are people out there who aren't happy with Professor Snape. They could be a major problem for you at some stage — if not now, then certainly later. These people have long memories and can pass down a grudge like a treasured family heirloom. If we can start a few counter-rumours now..."
"Ah. So it is a Slytherin thing." Helen smiled archly. "Play carefully, children, if you can't play nicely. I'll be just over here in this china shop."
Draco and Potter eyed each other. They hadn't expected persuading Helen to be so easy.
After making sure that Helen had gone into a shop devoid of Death Eater associates, Draco sauntered over to the table where Crabbe and Goyle were sitting, with Potter stalking behind him, the distrust in the gaze of the Boy Who Lived boring into the back of Draco's neck like flame from a Hungarian Horntail.
Merlin, but Draco's old cronies had grown in the last few months... There really must have been troll in both their ancestries. They looked up sullenly as Draco and Potter approached.
Draco swung a chair around and straddled it. "You guys aren't Vincent Crabbe and Greg Goyle, are you?"
"What's it to you, shrimp?" Goyle. Ever the quick wit when it came to repartee.
Draco held up his hands in mock-surrender. "Sorry. Didn't want to bother you. Just a friend of mine, Draco, described two guys who looked like you. I thought I'd just check, 'cos he's been worried about those guys."
Crabbe and Goyle sat up straighter, their stupid eyes lighting up with interest. "Draco? Draco Malfoy?" asked Goyle.
"Yup. You sure you're not those guys?"
"Yes — I, ah, I, ah, I mean no, we are those guys," stammered Goyle. "Sorry. Didn't know you were friends of Draco's..."
He was babbling. Draco cut him off with a wave of his hand. "I understand." He leaned forward conspiratorially. "We have to be careful, after all. Things have been a bit... tense lately, if you know what I mean."
His former cronies scowled. "We do."
"But," said Crabbe, who had always been the brighter of the two, "how do we know you're friends of Draco's?"
"Let's see... something he'd know that..." Draco smiled a truly evil smile. "How about the way you, Crabbe, thought that Draco didn't know that you were descended from Uric the Oddball's daughter and a troll until that day you hassled him about the Malfoys not being pure-bloods because they have a bit of Veela in them? Didn't Draco tell you, and I quote, 'I wouldn't be too quick with the slander, or you'll find your family tree displayed on the Whomping Willow'." Crabbe's complexion oscillated rapidly between pale and puce. "And Goyle, you —"
"That's okay," the other boy babbled. "We believe you, don't we, Vince?"
"Um, yeah. Sure we do."
"Good." Draco smirked, then remembered he was meant to be someone else and smiled instead. "Anyway, my name's Deacon. This — " he jerked a thumb at the transformed Potter "— is Bob. Say 'hi,' Bob."
"Hi," said "Bob" with his teeth gritted.
"Draco heard we were going to be in London today. He asked us to keep an eye out for you and find out if you guys were okay."
"Really?" asked Goyle, thick eyebrows raising.
"Uh-huh. He's been worried about you and your families after all the you-know-what over You-Know-Who."
There was a pause involving two pairs of lips moving silently while they worked it out.
"Oh." Crabbe and Goyle's faces darkened again sullenly. "Yeah. That wasn't great. Who would've thought that Snape of all people would be a traitor?"
Draco raised his eyebrows and hoped Potter was doing the same. "You're joking right? Severus Snape, a traitor?"
"Well, he was there when the Dark Lord fell. He helped Potter to..." Goyle trailed off as Draco shook his head sadly. "What?"
"Don't you know what really happened?" Draco sneered. "Honestly. I thought you two would be right in the midst of all the information."
"Well, we are..." said Crabbe in a sullen voice.
Draco snorted. "Obviously not. Haven't you got any idea of what happened — well, no, you can't have," he added disgustedly. "I don't know how our Lord ever got as far as he did without better support." Sorrowfully he shook his head. "I suppose it was only because he had people like the Malfoys and Severus Snape helping him that he even had a hope of not being tripped up by the morons on his own side."
"Hey, are you calling us —"
"Morons? Yes, I am," Draco sneered, hoping he wasn't pushing these two dunderheads too far. "Obvious morons, if you believe the tripe that Severus Snape was a traitor."
"But he —"
"— Led Harry Potter straight to the place of sacrifice just as the Dark Lord wanted. It wasn't his fault that Dumbledore showed up with Aurors just as he got Potter there. It turns out that some idiot got hold of Potter's owl and used her for a tracking spell, which made the old Hogwarts fool suspicious."
By their looks of chagrin he guessed they'd known something of the plot to find Potter. Bingo, as the Muggles said.
"Snape got knocked out in the first volley — and by someone on our own side, too," Draco said, his voice dripping with contempt. "Luckily it looked like Snape'd been trying to protect the beloved Potter and, being the genius that he is, managed to avert suspicion. They think he's their hero now, rather than the Death Eater he is." Draco shook his head again, this time in admiration. "And as for the Malfoys..."
"Yes," said Goyle.
"What happened to Draco?" said Crabbe. Both were leaning forward eagerly, absolutely captivated.
"Well, and this is the weird bit, when Draco left Durmstrang —"
The muttered insults came thick and fast, surprising Draco, who had been expecting a little vitriol. Just not this much.
"Ran away, cowardly little ferret..."
"Little worm never had any backbone. Always got us to do his dirty work..."
"At Durmstrang he spent all his time getting into trouble with the teachers so's he'd get detention and get to spend time alone out in the snow playing girlie games like building snow-wizards..."
"Ferret-features thought he didn't need us anymore."
Potter turned a snigger into a cough. Draco's face had gone rigid. "My, my, what a lot of bile. I recommend Banscroft Thistle as a liver tonic, myself. But as for Draco running away? Tut, tut, tut. That's what you were supposed to think," he said, barely keeping a lid on his anger by reminding himself that he was talking to these hippogriff-ends to help the Snapes. "You remember that week when he left Durmstrang? That was just after you'd gone on your first Muggle-baiting expedition. You must remember it. The teachers weren't supposed to know about it, of course, but Professor Fowley turned a blind eye. All in the gallant school tradition, of course."
"Draco never had much real interest in that kind of thing," Crabbe said slowly, thinking. "But he helped us catch that old man. Wanted to let him go, too, the weak-stomached little —"
"Yes, yes. As he said, murder brings too much attention. You should have listened to him, you know. He told you to stop but, well, you were having fun, I suppose... And then you levitated the old Muggle and you, you clumsy great di— ah, well, you dropped him."
Crabbe shrugged. "Never was much good at Charms." His brow wrinkled. "Draco told you about that?"
"Yes. He said he remembered the sound of the man's head breaking." Draco rubbed at his nose, hoping his hands weren't shaking. Damn. They were. He clasped his hands under the table before anyone could notice. He still remembered that sound. Worse, he remembered it when he woke up in the middle of the night and wondered if it had any part of the person he really was.
Crabbe smiled. "Sounded hollow — that's Muggles for you. I bet a Mudblood's skull would sound the same — maybe we should test it out on that Granger flobberworm sometime."
"Quite," Draco replied with a cold smile, aware that behind him Potter was working himself up to an indignant Gryffindor fury that wouldn't help anyone. A change of subject was in order. "So, as I was saying, Draco left Durmstrang. He knew that it wasn't a good time to leave and that people would assume the worst about him, but he was under orders from the Dark Lord himself."
"Voldemort?" Crabbe gasped.
"No, Darth Vader, idiot," Draco snapped. "Who the hell do you think I'm talking about?" Not that they'd know who Darth Vader was, of course. Draco hadn't until only a month ago, and then he'd been absolutely transfixed for the duration of the movie. Who'd known Muggles had such magic? Voldemort thought he'd been pretty hot, but he'd never had a cool leit motif like Darth Vader... "And don't say his name out loud. You never know who's listening."
Draco shrugged. "Someone wanting money from turning in families of Dark wizards, perhaps? These are bad times for us."
Mutters of agreement.
"But I digress. Draco was sent out on assignment. That's why he kept getting himself detentions so that he could meet up with the Dark Lord's agents outside Durmstrang. Snape was the one who recommended Malfoy for the assignment and our Lord agreed and made the orders. I'm not sure what the details were or who the Death Eaters were who were involved — Draco is fairly close-mouthed about it now, as he should be, but I have my suspicions, and those involve the Dark Lord preparing himself in case the unthinkable happened and he was defeated again." Draco sighed a dramatic sigh. "As we all know, the unthinkable did happen, and we all have to hope that the refuge Snape and Draco prepared for him was sufficient."
"Yes. I mean that we have to do what we've done before. We wait. We conserve our resources. And then, when he rises again, we follow."
Crabbe and Goyle sat back, eyes wide. "Gosh. So Snape's really on our side?" asked Crabbe, still only half-believing.
"Of course. But it's difficult work for him. He's already making some inroads at the Ministry, and Dumbledore thinks he's his tame little Potions master..."
"Is it true that Professor Snape's giving evidence at Sirius Black's trial? That he's helping Black?"
Shredding a paper packet of sugar into a saucer, Draco smirked. "He's good, isn't he?"
"Blimey, yeah," said Crabbe. "So is Draco okay?"
About bloody time you asked... "Well, Draco was worried that your families might have been caught up in the backlash." Let them feel bad for being the miserable short-sighted idiots they are. "It's been hard for him to get word about the people he cares about." Or wants to keep a surreptitious eye on, anyway. "He's been worried about his friends, that I do know. He's fine, otherwise. He was staying with my family in Australia last week, which is how we got to catch up on what had been happening."
"New base of operations, if Snape has his way," Draco replied airily. "Lots of space, somewhere the Aurors won't suspect us of hiding out, and there is already an established network of contacts there."
"Oh." Crabbe looked like he wanted to ask more questions, but Draco had caught a familiar reflection in a shop window.
"Well, it's been absolutely charming to meet you chaps at long last. When the time comes we'll have to swap notes in Australia. I know a lovely little bistro that serves excellent barbequed prawns — run by Muggles and the beer is ghastly, but you can't have everything." Draco shook hands with the bewildered Crabbe and Goyle and stood. "Another time," he said, hoping he wasn't gabbling.
"Sorry Goyle, but I must dash. Urgent business and all — you know how it is. Come, Bob."
Potter, looking bemused, followed Draco after eyeing his two former classmates with a disconcertingly direct stare that promised Bad Things in Future.
Draco approved — Crabbe and Goyle squirmed satisfyingly under it. It was a look he'd have to practise later in the mirror.
"Why the sudden rush?" Potter asked. "Helen isn't back out yet."
"Well, she's an ex-parrot, isn't she?" Draco temporised. "And Professor Snape isn't notoriously keen on flamboyant colours in his presence. I think that's one of the reasons he can't stand the Weasleys, among their more obvious deficiencies, of course. We need to stop her from making some sort of mistake in choice that could cause a divorce."
Potter snorted. "My, you are helpful today. So it's nothing to do with the fact that your mother just walked into that lingerie shop?"
"...And I just saw Narcissa walk into a lingerie shop," finished Draco ruefully. "Come on, let's find Helen."
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