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Rumor has it that the old crowd is coming together again. They've been talking about it since the Minister, but it's always been a few words here and there, a couple of whispers. This time it sounds like everyone is whispering the same thing. Some kind of political or business opportunity, I don't doubt. The Prophet is printing rumors about a new rise of the Death Eaters, a new Dark Lord, that kind of nonsense, but they're looking in the wrong direction. Secretly, they were all glad to see Him fall. That's the great irony of it. His most loyal followers were also the most grateful to be done with him, even the ones who landed in Azkaban. I'd like to see what the Prophet would write about that. Maybe I'll owl them.

I haven't heard anything definite yet but I can see where the wind is blowing. Hell, the country's falling apart, first the Minister, then the elections, the economy- it's fertilizer for anyone with gold to spend and an agenda to push. Things happen fast around here now, too fast. The ones who aren't in prison certainly have the gold, and they don't have any problems with cursing a few uncooperative noses to get whatever they want. Somebody loses power, somebody gains it. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what grows.

Once again, it's raining. The water hits his shoulders and runs off in slick patterns, the sky's blood and tears dragging him down like the world is trying to hold him back from the arena he's about to enter. But he shakes it off as he stalks the night streets. He's in no hurry. They're not going to run away from him now. Tonight, someone is going to answer for the sinful games they're all so fond of playing. Joel Davis stands at the door again as though no time as passed. He gives Draco a nod, but doesn't speak tonight. Maybe he senses that the other man is not in the mood for chitchat. Maybe he knows there's nothing to be said. Draco passes through the doors with all the confidence of a man entering the gates of the Minotaur's layer but outwardly he keeps his hands steady and his smirk smooth.

The house is full tonight. It's the rain that brings them in. Everybody likes to feel the warmth of a good fire, company, the smell of smoke and the soft tickle of a beautiful girl's perfume. When the rain and snow fall, when the sky burns and the buildings topple around them, they will shelter here. The room opens up below him like the den of some dark beast, pulsating, writhing with the gentle and graceful movement of the bloodthirsty elite. Draco is content to sit at the bar and do some observing before he tries anything rash. He doesn't have much of a plan, but then again, he never really does. He has the name of his prey and he's quick with a wand and he'll either come out of this with Rose Zeller, or in some very serious trouble. It's a risk. It's always a risk. But a man learns soon that there is nothing to do but continue forward.

He's just about to get up to begin his inquiries when a complication arises, caught in the corner of his eye. It's wearing a nice dress and a bad attitude. He allows himself a sigh before making his way through the crowd to her side. She couldn't make it easy, of course not.

"I don't see your mother in this crowd," he points out to her.

"If you did, you'd need your head looked at. But by all means, continue to point out the obvious, it just sends me," she says lazily, and he lets out a strange kind of angry chuckle.

"What are you doing here, Pansy?" he asks her seriously, raising an eyebrow at the bold and unapologetic stare she gives him in return.

"I got bored," she replies simply, glancing up at him through her eyelashes, and the sweetness of it makes him want to shake her.

"You got bored?" he repeats, dropping his voice low as someone passes close to them. "Do you really enjoy the Club so much that you want to get yourself locked up here like Rose Zeller? Or do you just like doing everything you're told not to do?"

Her gaze is too earnest on his face when she answers. She's a perfect picture of sincerity with none of the innocence. "I couldn't let you come alone, Draco, I couldn't sit at home and think of you here, not knowing what was going to happen. It was killing me," she says with broken grace. A better actress would have squeezed out a tear but she can't quite make it that far. Nor can she fake tenderness, instead she adopts a radiant glow of angelic devotion. He understands. She's punishing him for the audacity of challenging her, for his parting words the last time they met. Maybe there's a hint of truth to her words or maybe he just likes to think that there is, but either way she's doing a fine job of putting both of their necks in the wand's way. She sees the anger glow hot in his eyes and the curtain falls on her performance. Just like that she's soft and sorry.

"Maybe it's time we quit," she says enigmatically, her eyes glancing down at the floor

"What, cigarettes?" he asks her sarcastically.

"Each other," she clarifies quietly, raising her gaze to him. Her stare is simple and sincere and demanding. "There's a lot of things that can come of you and I and not one of them ends with 'happily ever after'," she observes.

He knows that she's right in the same moment that his fist tightens with reflexive tension. Sure, she's got a point, but there's no logic in her and he knows, as she does, that she won't walk away. If she doesn't love him- and whether or not she does is not a simple answer- than she needs him, for the simple reason that he's the only honest thing left in her life.

"I'm not sure happily ever after was ever in my storybook, love," he observes. "And to be honest you're no fairytale princess either."

"You don't think your life would be simpler without me in it?" she questions.

"Simpler? Sure. Easier, too. And it would certainly improve my work, save me having to waste time mucking through what you tell me to find what's truth and what's your twisted version of it. Save me having to waste my time talking to you in these tight little circles. You just couldn't listen to me, could you?"

"So ask me to leave," she dares him, and for a moment he's silent, considering her, while she avoids his eyes by staring into the icy depths of the water in her hand. There's no winning with her. Even when he's right she turns the tables on him until he doesn't know which way is up, until he's arguing backwards, and he's tired of it. He's angry and he's about to say things he'll regret.

"No, Pansy, I'm not going to," he says darkly. "So this is what your little rebellion is really about. You want me to throw my hands in the air and tell you that I'm in love with you, Pansy, that I'll do anything if you'll stay safe. You want to hear me beg you to go so you can tell yourself you've won something. So that you don't have to admit that maybe you've lost your grip a little, let go of some of that control. So I'll do it for you." He moves closer to her and places his hand on the side of her neck, his thumb pressing against her jaw. "You love me, Pansy, you're absolutely mad for me and you can't stand it. That's why you lie, why you like to play these games that you know very well don't work on me. That's why you're here. But you shouldn't have bothered, angel," he says, releasing her with bitter sharpness. "All you've done is put both of us in danger and piss me off, reminded me of what a goddamned fool I am for letting myself get twisted up in you. Maybe you're right, we should quit," he finishes, his jaw clenched.

He doesn't have time for this. He can't turn around but he can't be trying to keep her in sight while he's working, either. Rose, innocent and virtuous, is waiting somewhere for someone to help her and here is wasting time with this dark angel, a woman whose good deeds can be counted on her fingers and whose bad intentions are as numerous as stars in the night skies. But he's fallen into the fool's net that is Pansy and he's tangled now, or maybe he always was. So she wants to dance around him like he's ones of the saps in suits who comes to gaze at her with sparkles in his eyes, well that's fine. He's got a well of anger to draw from and he's recently found the tap.

He is cold and quick and she doesn't have time to say a word before he has turned away from her and begun to stride away. But he catches a glimpse of her face and he can see where remorse is making cracks in it, spilling out the frustrated sorrow beneath. She's genuinely sorry and he doesn't care. He doesn't have time to care. He leaves her there and hopes that she'll find her way out on the right path.

They say if you love something, let it go, and if it comes back to you then you're meant to keep it. But he never had her in the first place. Maybe he never will.

And now, to business. Somewhere in this room is a man with a secret and that secret is Rose Zeller. So where do we keep our secrets? Draco asks himself. Buried as deep as we can.

There's a door behind the bar from which the occasional figure emerges. No one appears to be watching it but Draco doubts that no one is. He doesn't have much choice in the matter unless he wants to wait around for another opportunity and his instincts tell him time is running out. In a second he's made up his mind. He crosses the room quickly and ducks behind the bar. The barman's back is to him as, with deft and practiced hands, he twists open a bottle. Draco eyes the room for pursuit, sees none immediately, opens the door with one hand behind his back and slips around the threshold.

Behind the door, the gentile noise of the room outside is cut off abruptly. He can hear nothing but the sound of his own coward's heartbeat, which is mounting with each step he takes down the plushly carpeted hall. There are doors on either side, some open, some shut tightly, and the end of the hallway another passage opens. It's a maze and he's the rat scurrying through in search of his treasure. He scurries fast. There's no telling what's behind each door and he doesn't like the odds that come with opening them, so he skips the closed, hoping that somehow he'll get lucky enough to find some direction. It's only a matter of time before someone comes into this hall and when they do he doesn't think he'll be welcomed with open arms. The first few rooms are deserted- just a few dark storage rooms for the booze, a lounge where a fire crackles merrily for no one, and somebody's office. The level of quiet here sends a shiver of discomfort across the back of his neck.

Nothing. At least nothing on the surface. He isn't sure exactly what he's looking for, but he'll know it when he sees it. They'd never be so crass as to leave a girl chained up to somebody's desk, no, they're much cleaner than that. He doesn't know Teddy but everything about this whole operation speaks to his caution, his clever manipulation. Draco thinks back to what the Auror said about Teddy seeing him coming. He doesn't like that, not one bit. His mind darts back to Pansy in the other room and he shakes his head. There's nothing he can do for her now.

He turns the corner at the end of the hall into the other passage and finds himself facing another row of doors. The place is a goddamned labyrinth. He takes no comfort in the fact that he hasn't seen anybody yet, in fact, it makes him suspicious. Something's off here. His best chance is to find the girl and get out as quickly as he can, forget Teddy, come back another day to close the door on this business, maybe out in front of some witnesses. He doesn't like being in another man's territory. He slides around another door frame and finds himself in yet another empty room and his palms begin to sweat. He's reminded of a coiled serpent, sliding up behind him silently, waiting to sink it's teeth into his flesh. Immediately he snaps his head around but sees nothing and he presses his palms to his eyes, tired as an old man, reminding himself to shake it off, man, shake it off. He's got a job to do.

But perhaps there was something to the feeling after all. He senses movement in the shadows behind him, near the door. He stills, tries to see from the corner of his eyes, his hand sliding toward his pocket and his wand. A slight draft brushes his cheek as the door moves slightly. He tells himself he's imagining it. But he tenses, waits half a second, and whips around with his hand already drawing his wand, just in time to see the burst of red light in his eyes before the curse hits him square in the face, and the world goes peacefully dark.

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