Warning: date() [function.date]: It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /home/draco3/public_html/modules/displayword/displayword.php on line 77

Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/draco3/public_html/modules/displayword/displayword.php:77) in /home/draco3/public_html/modules/displayword/displayword.php on line 77
Broken Chalice of Patience by serinah
Story Notes:
Disclaimer: I own a flat, a laptop, and a phone. Even my car belongs to my husband. So no, I don't own Draco, Ginny or any other characters of the book. Plot is mine in a way, but I don't really believe in originality.
Chapter 1 by serinah
Author's Notes:
A/N 1: If it helps, it's now year 2007. Harry and his year graduated Hogwarts in 1998. The canon of books 6 and 7 is not important, though it might have happened just as J. K. Rowling writes, but there are some minor changes. For example, I don't think Harry and Ginny ever dated in my universe. Other than that, just know that Draco, while often thought of having secretly been Voldemort's supporter, is still remaining an upstanding citizen.
b>A/N 2: My undying thanks goes to Lii, Merle and especially Akalei for betaing this. Kisses :*
PROLOGUE




To feel the warm pulsing flesh between one's fingers just as the life was flowing out of the weak, too beautiful for its own good, body. To feel the blood pumping away and out onto an expensive Persian carpet... To see the glassy glint in the eyes that just a moment before held so much passion... It felt... empowering and yet... meaningless.


I would never have thought that I'd be the kind of person who kills a woman out of hatred. So many years of love and devotion, and for what? Just because of one small silver piece of crockery, a small ornate chalice with a filigree design, holding symbols of loyalty and forgiveness... but the placement of the cup spoke of lies, pain and betrayal. It was the wrong place for this cup. Very wrong. It smelt of treachery and death.

It felt so good to bring the knife to her body and see her bleed, hear her scream. And groan in satisfaction as the life flowed out of her. Then I kicked her. I kicked her again and again. And I told her to stand up, because I wanted to do it again, but she was just lying there; her body broken, lifeless, dead.

But in the end, it was no use because the hate didn’t go anywhere when the object of it was gone. It isn't possible to exorcise hate like that. Hatred is a constant; if you allow it to make a nest into your soul, it stays and it never goes away. It only feeds on your loneliness and grows.

Now that she's dead and I am alive, I still hate her. She’s dead and my hate is powerless. I am powerless. Only my hate has the power. Over me. Yet, she had to die. There was no other way.




CHAPTER 1




Draco Malfoy stared at the woman with cold disdain.


“Are you going to talk or not?” Ginevra Weasley asked, slightly exasperated. “Because I can leave you here for a night if you insist on keeping mum.” The woman leaned over him, trying to be menacing, but he only sneered at her.


When she backed off, Draco saw that her nails were almost all chewed short, except for the left pinky that obscurely had managed to retain an acceptable length for a lady (which she was not, so it didn't really matter). In fact, all her appearance was something between cheap and worn-out. A high-class pro-skirt indeed! How the hell had he missed that at the pub? He must have been more drunk than he realised.


“Well?”


“I. Will. Only. Talk. To a real Auror.”


Draco cursed his bad luck. Of all the seedy little drinking facilities he just had to have chosen the one that the Moral Squad was raiding! And of all the whores in the world, he managed to hook up with a pig. And, to make it worse, it was a Weasley! He remembered the slender legs that had first captured his attention. He looked the girl up and down. Yes, they were still the same legs. Apparently only her hair and the shape of her eyes had been charmed, plus he hadn't noticed the freckles. Draco didn't think she'd had freckles earlier. He cursed himself again for his idiocy – he should have recognised the woman!


Now, he was sitting in what was apparently called 'interrogation three' with his hands bound behind his back and waiting for someone with some authority to get him out of here. Because it was all just a misunderstanding. If he could just have that one Floo call, his representative would clear it all up in no time. But no! The she-weasel just had to make it difficult for him!


For a beat, the woman tried to look intimidating in her barely-there skirt and flimsy top, but despite her more than dubious clothing, she just looked young and innocent. Draco lifted his eyes to hers and tried to stare her down, but as she leaned her hands on the table, her irresistible bosom was suddenly right in front of him. And he was a bit drunk. Draco heard her make an annoyed sound and move away from him.


“All right, Malfoy, have it your way,” she said tiredly as she turned to leave.


“Wait,” he said, slightly panicked. He had heard the tired finality in her voice once before. “You are not really going to leave me here for a whole night are you? I have my rights!”


He wasn't completely happy with the level of disdain in his voice. Or the lack of it. Draco did a quick reassessment of his situation and almost decided to give in, but thankfully he was spared humiliation by the door opening.


“Auror Weasley, a word please,” a voice rang out.


The woman stepped out and Draco groaned mentally. While the voice he heard was full of authority and definitely not female, Draco also felt that he was now ready to talk to Weasley. The thing was, he knew all too well who the other voice belonged to. He closed his eyes and prayed that the man would leave.


After a moment of hushed whispers, the two figures entered and the newcomer smiled delightedly.


“Mr. Malfoy.”


“Potter,” Draco grunted.


This night was turning out to be a total disaster. He should have aborted the whole plan. He hadn't. In theory, it had been simple - go out, find some friends. He had just needed a bit of company, damn it! Was that a lot to ask? In particular, Draco had needed the company for this night at that particular hour, and who the hell had he pissed off in heavens that it all had led to this? He might as well make a full confession now!


Something of his desperation must have reflected in his eyes because Potter's smile grew wider.


“So,” the boy-who-smiled-too-much said. “Let's begin with why you are here.”


“I want a lawyer.”


A raised eyebrow from the brunet and a smirk from the redhead. They know.


“And why would you think you need one?” Potter asked.


Draco composed himself. “I have a right to have one,” he answered calmly.


“Let's start with when did you last see your wife?”


Draco felt cold sweat on his skin. “I'm not talking until I have my lawyer.”


Potter gave a fake sigh. “Acting guilty, aren't we? I do suggest you start talking before the lawyer gets here. If you really have nothing to hide...” He shrugged.


Draco didn't move a muscle, waiting.


“Fine,“ the Auror grunted out after a minute. He gestured his wand towards the dead fireplace and in a second a small flame sprung to life. Potter opened the box of Floo powder. “Name?”


After the call was made, both Aurors sat down across from him. They were staring at him and it was all Draco could do not to squirm.


“All right.” He feigned an extreme boredom. ”Fire away.” Draco felt gratified to see a fleeting surprise on both Aurors' faces. He thought that he could show a bit of cooperation now that he had gotten what he wanted. He'd give exactly the same answers whether his representative was here or not anyway.


“When did you last see your wife?” the superior Auror repeated his question.


“Tonight at half past eight. What's that got to do with anything?”


“Just answer, please. I'm sure you already know anyway. Where did you see her and what did you do or talk about?”


Draco frowned. “I saw her at the Manor when I was going out. I was walking past the library, when she asked me where I was going and when I would be back. I told her that it wasn't her concern. She asked me to leave her alone and I was only too happy to oblige.”


“And then you left the Manor?”


“Yes.”


“Did she tell you if she was going out or expecting any guests?”


“No, but yesterday I heard her talking with Pansy. Something about their plans together. I assumed they were going out tonight.”


“What kind of plans, exactly?”


“I have no idea. What is this all about? I thought this was about me purchasing services of your girlfriend here.” He nodded towards Weasley.


“I'm not his girlfriend!”


“But you are a whore?”


“Why you, piece of-!” Weasley started saying as her wand hand rose.


Potter put a calming hand on her shoulder and turned back to Draco. He continued in a controlled, almost disinterested, voice. “How would you describe your relationship with your wife?”


“Why are you asking these things? Look,” he paused. “She doesn't care about what company I keep; she has her life, I have mine. Yes, I tried to pay a woman for certain services. Just give me a piece of parchment, I'll write you a confession, and then we can all go home.”


“Just answer the question, please.”


Draco sighed, annoyed. “I despise her and she hates me. Aside from that, we get on smashingly. Can you at least release my hands? They are beginning to cramp.”


“Did your wife have enemies?” Potter intoned on.


Draco's eyes narrowed for a moment and then he opened his eyes wide. “What?” he asked softly. “What do you mean by 'did'?” There was a buzz in his ears and he didn't hear the answer.


Vaguely, Draco sensed the Floo activating and some kind of discussion going on around him, but his mind was elsewhere. For some reason, a string of different smiles were flitting before his eyes. He remembered the way Astoria had smiled at him at one prefect's party and how she had smiled at Blaise before the engagement. Then there was the smile she had given him and Pansy in his seventh year at one Slytherin party. And the one she had given him the first time he ever saw her. And then, he suddenly remembered Ginevra Weasley smiling at Harry-bloody-Potter.


The real world crashed into his musings when he felt his hands being released. Draco rubbed his wrists and tried to think of what it all would mean for him and if he had perhaps said anything incriminating. Thank Merlin, all that time his solicitor was droning on and on about his – Draco's – rights and Aurors' tendency of using unnecessary force.


“So, let me get this straight, so far my client is charged with-”


“I already told you, Mr. Briggs. He paid for sex and resisted arrest. Neither of which is important at this point since Mr. Malfoy is being questioned in relation to his wife's murder.”


Draco resisted closing his eyes and assumed a relaxed position. “What happened?” he asked Potter.


“You don't know?”


“No. I just told you, the last time I saw Astoria...” His voice faltered for a moment. “She was fine when I left.”


“She was found by your house elf at half past twelve tonight by the foot of the stairs near the library. She sustained several stab wounds to her upper body.” Potter's voice sounded dispassionate and clinical. Draco clinically hated that tone. “The murder weapon hasn't been found yet. Where were you at the said time?”


Draco sat, unmoving. After a while he said, “At the King and Dragon's, where your colleague here tricked me.”


“I didn't-” Weasley wanted to interfere, but the other Auror's look silenced her.


Potter continued, “What time did you arrive there?”


“It must have been around ten.” He heard Weasley exclaim triumphantly but continued just the same. “After I left home, I visited the Montagues for a while and then went straight to the pub.”


“How come I saw you come in just before 1am then?”


“Are you sure it was me? The place was awfully packed.”


“Of course, I'm sure!” the bint said, smiling knowingly. “I'm also sure that you didn't arrive until way after midnight.”


Draco didn't bat an eye. “I must have stepped out for a moment and come back in. That's why you saw me entering later.”


“And why would you do that?”


It seemed that Weasley had taken over the interrogation. Draco's eyes narrowed in put-on annoyance. “Auror Weasley, do you even have an authority to ask me these questions? Aren't you with the Morality Guard, flitting around the entertainment facilities of dubious nature? Terrorising the unsuspecting populace with that unseemly, tiny, little skirt and invisible top?”


The she-weasel's cheeks and tips of her ears turned pink from an obvious embarrassment, which to Draco's surprise didn't make her any less attractive.


“Auror Weasley is here by my request, Mr. Malfoy,” Potter interrupted the tense silence. “Please, answer the question.”


Draco sighed, acting bored again. “I don't remember exactly. I might have thought I saw an acquaintance on the street and wanted to say hello.”


“How did you know there was someone for you to say hello to?” Weasley jumped in again.


“I don't know. I might have seen someone through the window?”


“In a place as awfully packed as that?”


“Well, I might have sat by the window!”


“No, Malfoy, I sat by the window and you. Weren't. There.”


She spat the last words in his face and Draco had no idea how he managed to not hex her. The fact that his wand happened to be confiscated might have had something to do with it. And maybe the fact that she looked rather cute when she was angry.


*



“Nice office,” Ginny said as she entered the small room. “I want a reassignment into your unit.”


Harry sighed. “I know you do, but I can't just-”


“Yes, yes, I know. First I have to prove my worth or some such rot.” She pulled a face. “That is why you are letting me help. You told me.” Ginny sat behind Harry's desk and gave the chair a twirl; he had a really comfy chair. “He doesn't seem very crushed though, does he?” she said, her thoughts back on the case.


“No, not really.” For a beat Harry looked annoyed that his seat was taken, but then he leaned on the file cabinet and crossed his hands on his chest. “So, Auror Weasley, what do you say - guilty or not?”



Ginny thought for a moment. “Well, he did tell us that there were no fluffy feelings involved in their marriage. And his alibi is clearly rubbish, but aside from that, it's really difficult to say.”


For some reason, the idea of Malfoy being guilty didn't sit well with her, but she'd go with Harry if he told her otherwise. He tended to be right in these matters. But Harry didn't tell her anything; he just rubbed his chin, opened the door, and asked someone to fetch them two cups of coffee.


“What does your gut tell you?”


Ginny shrugged. “I'm not sure. My first instinct screamed innocent, but the more I think about it, the more I realise that whatever happened there, was nothing like the premeditated killing of a dying old man. I think Malfoy really could have done it.”


Harry nodded. He looked just as tired as Ginny felt. It was nearly ten in the morning; they had interrogated Malfoy until four, then Ginny had gone with Malfoy to the morgue for identification, while Harry left to talk to the Medi-Auror. Then they had all returned to the crime scene only to hear that nothing was missing and, aside from the safe in Malfoy's office being broken into, nothing else was even misplaced.


“What did the Medi-Auror say?” she asked.


“Seven stab wounds to the upper body, five of them lethal. Delivered with considerable force. The first wound indicates that the attacker was right-handed and taller than the victim, which is no wonder, since Astoria Malfoy was a rather short woman. It could be a wizard or a witch.”


Harry leaned over her to open a drawer. He fished out an empty file case and dropped it on the desk. “So, you are the one learning the ropes here. Start working.”


“What? I know how to fill out a form! You miserable slave driver, you are using me to get your paperwork done!“


“Yes, yes; I am a mean, little man and you will do my bidding.” He grinned. The smile could have passed for devious, if Harry hadn't looked so worn-out himself. “What? Thought I made Chief Investigator by working hard, did you?”


Instead of answering Ginny smiled ruefully and started filling the title page. For a while, Harry observed her working but then interrupted her, “What do you think then, Auror Weasley? Give me your gist of the case.”


Ginny pushed the file away from her. Trying to look professional, she settled back into the chair, her body relaxed. “The fact that the safe was opened and the wards had an unauthorised entry alert on, seems to indicate that there really was an intruder. But, on the other hand, nothing was missing including the noticeable amount of cash in the safe and a number of expensive trinkets lying about.”


“Perhaps the intruder panicked when he realised what he had done and just left the loot?”


“Could be, but then again, I can't imagine a regular burglar going into such a rage or hysterics that he stabbed the poor woman seven times in the chest. If it were a simple AK or a blow to the head, there would be no question, but right now I think that the burglary part of the crime was staged.”


Harry nodded. “So then why stage a burglary where nothing is taken?”


“Maybe he had time to open the safe and create a mess but, because of all the screaming, no time to hide things?”


“That's possible. But there is one more possibility.” He looked at her as if waiting for her to catch on. When she didn't, he said, “Think, Ginny. What if there really was an intruder? Why would Mrs. Malfoy be killed in a way she was?”


Ginny's eyes opened wide in surprise. “You mean... The intruder might have been someone who knew and hated her? Oh! You are right. Then it would make even more sense because the murderer was so upset that he left the loot!” She paused to think a bit. “But then it would mean that whatever he or she was looking for wasn't money, and is most likely still there.”


“Unless it's Malfoy and he's lying about nothing being missing.”


Ginny felt deflated. “Yeah, that's a possibility too.”


At that moment, the door opened and a harried looking wizard poked his head in. “Mr. and Mrs. Zabini are here.”


*



Pansy sniffed into her handkerchief. Her nose was a bit red and her eyes bloodshot.


“As Blaise was going to have–” A sniff. “–a boys' night out, Astoria and I were going to-to... have a sleepover. She promised to come at nine, but she never showed.”


Blaise was rubbing her back soothingly and Ginny felt a twig of envy at such a display of marital felicity. “What did you do when it became apparent that she wasn't coming?”


“I...” She tried again. “I...”


“Take your time, Mrs. Zabini,” Harry said.


“Pansy.” She took a shaky breath. “Call me Pansy. We were the same year, weren't we?”


“All right, Pansy,” Harry amended. “Just take your time and tell us everything you remember about that night. Then we'll go over what else we need to know.”


“No, I'm fine. Everything's fine.”


Pansy visibly pulled herself together, trying to be brave, while Blaise continued sliding his hand up and down her back in a circular motion. They were sitting in Harry's office and at that moment, Ginny felt bad about forcing the Zabinis to come to the Ministry.


Pansy continued, “Astoria not coming wasn't really an unusual occurrence.” A hiccup. “So I did nothing.” A pause. “I did nothing,” she added so low that it was barely audible. Then Pansy started sobbing and Blaise took her into his arms. She stopped only after a couple of minutes.


“I'm so sorry.” Pansy hiccuped again. “It's just so... so terrible. All of it. And all the time I keep thinking: what if I had Flooed to the Manor? What if...?”


“It was only natural that you didn't,” her husband crooned. “There was nothing you could have done anyway.”


“Bu-but what if...?”


“Your husband is right, Pansy. It is more than likely that you could have been hurt yourself. It's probably a good thing that you weren't there,” Ginny added, wanting to comfort her.


“Yes, you are right, of course.” Pansy sighed shakily. “Well, after I realised that she wasn't coming, I went to sleep. At eleven maybe?”


Harry nodded. “You said that her not showing up wasn't an unusual occurrence. Why?”


Pansy shrugged unhappily. “I really can't say. Astoria never explained, but I think these were the nights when she had a confrontation of some sort with... with Draco. Sometimes she just Flooed in to say that they had decided to have an evening in, or that they had an argument and she wasn't in the mood for our plans, but I think...” She shook her head slowly. “Never mind, this is stupid.”


“No, no. Go on, Pansy. Even if it's not true, tell us what you think. It might help,” Ginny assured her. She noticed Pansy glancing at her husband.


“No,” she uttered quietly. “It's nothing.” Then, as if changing the subject she said, “You know, Draco used to be very jealous the first couple of years. Almost possessive.”


Blaise sighed. “You are being ridiculous, Pansy. Of course he was a bit jealous at first. They were newlyweds and she always flirted around on him.”


“You don't know what he can be like, Blaise. I've dated him you know. Fifth year.”


She shuddered, but Blaise just rolled his eyes.


“You have a good imagination, Pansy, always have. Draco wouldn't have done anything to her. He might have run his mouth and blast her things, but he wouldn't hurt her.”


“When you talk about Mr. Malfoy 'running his mouth', what do you mean by that?”


“Oh nothing really,” Blaise tried to backpedal. “You know Malfoy. He says things he doesn't really mean when he's angry.” He shrugged nonchalantly.


“He said he would have her killed!” Pansy cried out but then calmed down. “But you are right, Blaise. If he'd wanted to kill her, he'd have done it himself. Close and personal-like.”


Her last sentence was filled with venom, but Blaise's face was a picture of disinterest, and he shook his head to show what he thought of his wife's opinion on the matter.


“You don't like Malfoy much, do you?” Ginny asked the other woman.


“I used to. But that was before...” She shuddered again. “No. No, I don't. He made Astoria miserable. She wanted a divorce, but he wouldn't consent.”


“How do you know about it? Did Mrs. Malfoy tell you this?”


“Yes, but it was also common knowledge. Draco used to say that she would get her divorce only over his dead body. Oh, how I wish it was him that happened upon the intruder!”


Blaise was now rubbing her shoulders up and down, saying 'there, there' in a rather silly but sweet way, Ginny thought.


“Why do you think he refused to grant her divorce?”


Pansy shrugged. “Because he's a sadistic bastard? I really couldn't say. He did make a good show of hating her, but I think it was all an act. I think he was obsessed with her. I remember how head over heels Draco was for her when they just started dating.”


“You said something about blasting things, Mr. Zabini,” Ginny said. “What exactly did you mean?”


“Oh, a couple of years ago,” Pansy interrupted, “when I went to the Manor, I found Astoria in tears because Malfoy had sliced all of her clothes up in a fit of rage! It was all in tatters!”


“How do you know it was him?” Blaise asked, a hint of irritation colouring his voice.


“Because she told me!” At his insistent stare she corrected herself. “Well, all right... She didn't actually say it, but she didn't have to!”


“But it was you, Mr. Zabini, who mentioned blasting things,” Ginny noted. “So what were you thinking of if not Astoria's clothes?”


“Just the general understanding of Draco's character. At school, he often vented through blasting things up, but it was never directed towards an individual. And I've never seen him being as malicious or petty as to tear up someone's clothing.”


Harry nodded his understanding. “Just one more question then. We ask everyone their alibis, so don't take it personally, but where were you last night at a quarter past twelve?”


Blaise's eyebrows shot up. “I thought it was a case of failed burglary? Surely you don't think that Pansy or I...?”


“No, of course not,” Harry assured him. “It's just for the paperwork.”


“Oh, of course. Well, like Pansy said, I was out with my friends from seven until about...” He looked up, calculating. “I think it might have actually been one o'clock or a little after. There were four of us – Theodore Nott, Terence Higgs, Marcus Flint, and I. We sat at the Leaky at first, and later went to Terry's place to play poker. We do this a couple of times a month.”


“Does Mr. Malfoy ever go with you?” Harry asked.


“He has done so a couple of times but not in recent years. We have never been very good friends, and other than at public balls and some charity functions, there hasn't really been a reason for us to see each other.”


“That's weird,” Harry said. “I always thought you were rather close.”


Blaise shook his head. “For a bit in seventh year maybe, but it didn't work out that way.”


Harry nodded and turned to Pansy. “What about you?” At her confused expression he elaborated, “I know you already said that you were at home at the time of death, but I was hoping you might give us any confirmation via other witnesses?”


“No, I was alone.”


*



Ginny Flooed in after five as Harry had told her to. She was still a bit tired but felt fit enough for work.


“Do you believe her?” she asked the question that had plagued her since they'd spoken to the Zabinis.


“You mean Pansy? She seems to be a bit of a drama queen.”


“That's certainly what her husband thinks. She is obviously upset about her friend being murdered, but the things she said about Malfoy... I'm not sure I can believe her.”


For a second, Harry's face was a mask of concentrated thinking. Then it relaxed. “That's not what I meant, actually. I can easily believe Malfoy being a controlling bastard. It's Pansy's grief that was off.”


“You don't think it's genuine?” Ginny asked, surprised.


“No, it's genuine, but there's something weird about it.” He shrugged as if to show that he couldn't really explain it. “I'm not sure if Pansy really thinks Malfoy offed his wife, or just that he's a violent bastard?”


“I don't know what Pansy thinks, but he's not violent towards women,” Ginny said resolutely.


“How do you know?”


“I'm a girl, I would have heard about it.” At Harry's questioning gaze she elaborated, “Hogwarts. Rumours.” She waited for him to get it. “Girls talk, Harry. Draco was quite popular at Hogwarts and his dating and mating habits were all over the place. Yours were as well, by the way.”


She grinned evilly when Harry squirmed in embarrassment.


“But these are rumours, Ginny. You can't know what he's really like until you actually date him.”


Ginny sighed. “Harry, I know.”


Harry looked shocked. “You didn't actually...?”


“I was curious. We had a... a thing at the end of the fifth year - your sixth. Briefly, only a couple of weeks, all very secret. He's not sexually violent or even controlling. If he did kill his wife, it had to be about something else.”


*



”Enjoying the dance, Ginevra?”


“You wish!” she said, even as she couldn't stop smiling.


They were dancing again. Ginny had no idea how it had happened that Malfoy got into habit of asking her to dance at least once per party. And that was
so not the reason she crashed every secret house party she happened to hear of.


Why he asked her the first time Ginny wasn't sure. It had been some kind of a grand joke at first, she supposed, but the expected punch line hadn't come. For Malfoy it might have been worth it if only to see Ron puffing with anger like a bright red steam engine. It felt good though, to be held in his arms so firmly and yet gently as if she were the finest piece of china.


“Still not enjoying the dance?” He smirked as they passed Parkinson who had a baffled expression on her face.


“It's getting better.”



*



Potter nodded in greeting. “Mr. Malfoy, thank you for coming. Mr. Briggs.”


It pissed Draco off that Potter insisted on being so woodenly professional. “Did I have a choice?”


“But of course, Mr. Malfoy. You could have chosen to be dragged here instead of coming yourself.”


The git-who-enjoyed-power smiled. Ginevra Weasley wasn't in the room and Draco thought of the possible reasons behind it. Was she removed from the case? Did it have anything to do with him? Was she sick?


“So where's your feisty colleague? You sicced her onto some other unsuspecting victim with loose morals?” Draco asked, but Potter ignored the question.


“We looked through the contents of your safe,” he said instead. “There were some curious documents in there.”


Draco waited for Potter to continue. He knew exactly what kind of documents had been in the safe. He only wished he could have gotten his hands on them before the Aurors.


“A few real estate reports, some business documents, your Hogwarts diploma.” He was shuffling through the papers as he named them. Draco wondered where he was going with this. “It seems that there was nothing really important there. Why is that?”


“I don't keep important documents at home. They are either at Gringotts or with the solicitors.”


“Understandable.” The youngest Auror CI nodded indulgently. “So your marriage pre-nup is not really important?”


Draco's eyebrows shot up. “Was it there? Haven't given it much thought after the ceremony.”


“So you had no idea it was there?”


“No.”


“And you claim not to have thought about it recently?”


“I just told you that.”


“Even with Mrs. Malfoy wanting a divorce?”


Draco and Briggs spoke at the same time.


“What does it have to do with Mrs. Malfoy's death?”


“Where did you hear this?”


“I'm investigating a murder here. I will decide what is relevant and what is not, Mr. Briggs. Besides, I already know all about it. I'm just curious what your client has to say about it.”


Briggs nodded to Draco.


“The pre-nup wasn't important since we weren't going to divorce,” was what he went with.


“Even though your wife insisted on it?”


“We did discuss the possibility.”


“Did she give you a reason for wanting it?”


“I didn't ask,” he said, through clenched teeth.


“Why not?”


“Because I didn't care one way or another.”


“So it is true that you refused to grant her her freedom?”


“I was still thinking about it.”


“Why? Didn't you tell us yesterday that you despised your wife?”


It was hard to hold his scoff in but he managed by remaining very still, his body rigid. At this particular moment, he had no idea what he was paying Briggs for.


“You do realise,” Potter continued, “that it gives you a perfect motive, don't you?”


Draco faked a mild surprise. “How so?”


“According to your pre-nuptial contract, Astoria Malfoy would have gotten half of your fortune after divorce, wouldn't she?”


Draco felt his blood pressure rise, but outwardly he managed to remain indifferent. “Are you saying I would have her killed for money?”


“Did you?”


After a few moments of silence, the solicitor urged him to answer. Draco had to press the word out. “No.”


“Or did you kill her yourself?”


Draco inhaled sharply.


“Mr. Malfoy already answered that question.”


But the Auror didn't really want a reply. Instead, he attacked from another angle. “Do you know what your house elves told us?”


Draco could very well guess, but didn't answer.


“Tinky described the last exchange you had with your wife as a loud screaming match but added that it was quite usual in your household. Not exactly the polite version you gave us, is it?”


“I didn't think it relevant to the investigation.”


“At this point, everything is relevant. Especially things the husband of the deceased is trying to hide. Do you know why your wife's body was discovered so soon after the murder?”


He had actually wondered, but he couldn't let Potter know that, so he just waited for the answer.


“It was because you had ordered your house elves to keep out of the living quarters of the Manor 'unless somebody screams murder', you said. And your wife did.”


Draco blinked, dazed, but didn't answer.


“Why did you tell your servants not to go to that part of the house?”


“Do not answer that.”


He didn't even look at the solicitor. “The house elf on duty in that part of the house is very elderly. He tends to mutter and sing to himself while doing the rounds. It's annoying.”


Although the Auror's face remained less, something in it made Draco instantly realise that he'd made a mistake. Potter knew him too well to buy the explanation. Draco could bet his life that the Auror’s nod of acceptance was fake.


“Why not simply assign another elf for that part of the house?” Potter paused as if waiting for a reply, although they both knew that was not the case. “You know what I think?” He paused again, for dramatic effect, no doubt. “I think it's a really silly reason you gave me. Although it is exactly the case in which such a silly reason would actually be plausible. And I would accept it too, except that it is you who is giving it. You see, I know that if it was the truth, you, Mr. Malfoy, would have just sneered and told me that it wasn't my business why you gave your house elves such orders. So I must assume that you are lying.”


There was a brief pause in which Draco decided that he wasn't going to comment. “Are you going to arrest me?” he asked instead.


“No, not yet. Unless we find something incriminating on the Manor grounds.”


Draco sneered. “You won't find anything I hid in there. If I hide things, they stay hidden,” he bragged, unable to stop himself. Draco hated Aurors roaming his home. They had finished with the house the day before, and now were all around the ancillary buildings. “How long is it going to take? Your people have been at it forever.”


“They are hoping to finish before morning.”


That's good, Draco thought. His home would soon be pest free and they weren't going to arrest him. He allowed himself to relax a bit.


But then Auror Weasley returned and everything changed.


TBC


This story archived at http://www.dracoandginny.com/viewstory.php?sid=6676