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Chapter 7: Strange Bedfellows
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As always, the characters herein belong to JK Rowling.
Astoria watched her sister flounce around Sorcière Parisienne, rifling through the clothing racks and ordering the employees around like she owned the place. Ordinarily she would have been a more active participant, but her heart wasn’t in it today. She wasn’t sure exactly what she had expected Hermione to do. Maybe it wasn’t jumping right up from her desk and charging off to the Auror Office, but couldn’t she at least have smiled reassuringly and said, “don’t worry, dear. I’ll take care of it”? Wasn’t that what Potter and his friends did, take care of other people’s dark wizard problems?
Her contemplation was interrupted when a sheer silk evening dress landed across her head. “Astoria, dear, you must try that on. It would look simply darling on you!” Since Daphne’s husband had been thrown into Azkaban, she’d developed a renewed interest in dressing Astoria. It reminded her of the way Daphne used to pick out clothes for her when they were little girls. She pulled the dress from her head and studied it for a moment. It would probably fit her. Her sister, on the other hand, appeared to be enjoying the house elf’s cooking a little too much lately. It seemed that Daphne was experiencing high fashion vicariously through her.
She smiled wanly at her sister, trying to reengage. “Thank you, dear. Where is the fitting room?”
“It’s behind that door,” responded an employee who gestured weakly from beneath an armload of clothes that Daphne continued to add to.
Astoria made her way to the fitting room and closed the door behind her, locking it with her wand. She removed her clothes and shimmied into the dress that her sister had picked out. Turning from side to side, she admired the garment in the mirror. It certainly accentuated all the right curves. Draco would absolutely hate it. He was very possessive and despised the notion of other men leering at her. This dress would come in handy the next time she wanted to make him a little jealous. It brought out some of his best qualities, she mused, both in public and in private.
She was about to change back into her own clothes when she heard a commotion outside the fitting room.
“Astoria! Astoria, dear,” came her sister’s voice from outside the room.
She released the locking charm on the door and stepped into the hallway. Daphne stared at her for a second, admiring the fit of the dress.
“Daphne, what is it?”
“What is what?”
“What was it that you needed to tell me?”
“Oh, that,” Daphne snapped out of her distracted state. “There’s been an attack on the Ministry. People were killed. Father sent an owl telling us to stay here until he sends somebody to come take us home.”
“An attack?” Astoria snapped. “Where?”
“The Ministry, of course,” her sister replied, once again staring at the dress she was wearing.
“Daphne, where in the Ministry?”
“I don’t know. Father didn’t say.”
Astoria reconstructed the timeline in her head. If father had already found out and sent an owl, the attack must have happened at least an hour ago. It had been just over two hours since she left Hermione’s office. If Marcus Flint and his so-called friends had found out about her visit...
“I have to go,” she said to her sister, spinning on her heel. She grabbed her traveling cloak from the fitting room and started towards the front entrance.
“But father told us to wait here. Where are you going?”
“I have to find my husband,” Astoria replied.
“You said Draco was at home.”
Astoria was no longer listening to her. The one thing she was quite sure of was that her husband was not at home searching the bloody attic. She recalled the steady stream of owls that her husband had been receiving from Gringott’s. It seemed to her that there was more going on than simple estate issues. It was possible that he was taking advantage of her shopping trip to pay the goblins a visit.
“Ma’am, will you be purchasing that dress?” cried one of the store’s employees.
“Yes, please send me the bill. And my clothes.” She disappeared through the front entrance and hurried towards Gringotts.
“Hermione, dear? Can you hear me, love?”
Ron’s voice sounded very distant, as though he was talking to her from several rooms away. She must have overslept. Was it a work day? She couldn’t remember. She tried to open her eyes, but she found that it was impossibly bright. He must have opened all the shades when he got up. What was he doing up so early? Maybe Harry had called him in to work on a case.
Harry! There was something important that she needed to tell Harry. She focused hard, trying to remember what it was. She was working on that treaty with the Egyptians, and for some reason Astoria Malfoy had been there, too. She had needed to look up some things about the current treaty. Yes, there was something in Magical Records that she needed to tell Harry about. There was a wizard with a petition...
Hermione let out a choked, groggy yelp as she struggled to sit up in bed. She immediately felt strong arms surrounding her.
“Shhh! It’s OK, love. You’re safe. You’re at St. Mungo’s. Everything is going to be OK.”
The sound of Ron’s voice soothed her. She relaxed and let her body collapse into his embrace. It was all coming back to her. The mysterious witch and wizard. The firefight. The wizard with the bad toupee.
She tried to speak, but her words came out garbled and slurred. “Don’t try to talk,” Ron’s voice sounded closer now, but she still felt like her head was wrapped in a blanket. “The healers say that you were hit with a very dark spell. It will be a while before you’ll be able to talk and move around.”
She felt Ron gently lower her back onto the bed. “There are some people here who want to see you,” he said. “I’ll be back in a second.”
Somewhere in the distance, other voices started to make their way to her.
“So she’s going to be OK?” she recognized her son’s voice.
“Yes,” came Ron’s reply. “But she needs to rest, so please... Rosie, wait!”
An instant later, she felt two slender arms wrap around her shoulders and a mane of bushy hair brushing against her face and neck. “Oh, mom! You’re gonna be OK. We were so scared.”
Instinctively but with tremendous effort, Hermione lifted her arm onto her daughter’s back, managing a weak embrace.
“Mrs. Malfoy,” came a voice that she didn’t recognize, “I’m going to need you to get off of my patient.” It must be one of the healers. As much as she wanted to hold her child closely, she was also finding it hard to breathe. She felt Rose’s weight disappear from her chest. Focusing all her concentration, she was able to open her eyes just a sliver. She could make out four hazy shapes surrounding her bed, two of which had orange hair and one of which was dressed in green robes.
“Rose, Hugo, why don’t you two go send a message to Grandad and Nanna? Let them know that your mum’s starting to come around. They’re going to want to see her.”
She felt the bushy hair tickle her neck again as a kiss landed on her cheek. “I love you, mom. I’ll be back with Aiden and Octavia to see you when you’re feeling up to it.”
Next she heard Hugo’s voice close to her ear. “I’ll see you soon, mum. Fiona and the kids send all their love.” She felt a second kiss on her other cheek before she heard his footsteps leaving the room.
Ron’s voice was once again close to her. “Hermione, I’m going to leave for few minutes and check in with Harry. He’s leading the investigation at the Ministry. The wizards who attacked you managed to escape before the Aurors arrived. We have a security detail here at the hospital to protect you and the other victims. Oh, Ernie’s fine by the way. But the clerk who was closest to them when the fighting started was killed. I’ll be back in a few minutes. I think Healer Gelbard needs to check your injuries and give you some potions anyway.”
She felt his weight rise from the bed and then she felt a very tender kiss on her forehead. “Sweetheart, I am so sorry. I should have been there to protect you,” he whispered. She could hear his voice cracking with emotion. “We are going to find whoever did this and send them to prison for good.”
He lingered a bit longer, holding her hand tightly. She felt one last kiss on her cheek and then his footsteps slowly left the room. Immediately she longed for his comforting presence. She was sure that he had made sure that she was safe, but she still felt safer with him in the room. Through the sliver between her eyelids, she saw the green shape of the healer approach.
“Just relax, Mrs. Weasley, this won’t hurt a bit,” the voice said soothingly. She felt a hand beneath her neck tilt her head back and then a potion was gently emptied down her throat. After a few seconds, darkness overtook her again.
Astoria moved along the sidewalk as quickly as her dignity and the cut of the flimsy dress would allow. After one block, she was beginning to sincerely regret not taking the time to change back into her own clothes. The thin material allowed the cool fall air to chill her skin in spite of her cloak. She increased her pace, sacrificing a measure of dignity in the process.
Ahead, she saw Gringotts looming over the busy street. She scanned the crowd but saw no sign of her husband. If he was inside the bank, she wasn’t sure whether the goblins would tell her. She silently cursed herself for not paying more attention during Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons. One of those patronus charms would certainly come in handy if she knew how. She was almost ready to go back to the dress shop and wait for her father when she felt something poking her in the back.
“Come with me very quietly if you want to see him alive again.”
Harry stalked around the ruined Magical Records office, frustration evident on his face. They had been at it for nearly four hours, collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, analyzing the curse damage and cataloging the items in the restricted vault. He had even resorted to muggle techniques, collecting fingerprints and DNA samples from the overturned table where the mysterious witch had taken cover during the battle. So far, nothing about the attack was adding up.
“Susan,” he called to Susan Bones as she cast a series of revealing spells on a scorch mark near the door, “do you think we should interview Ernie again now that he’s had time to calm down?”
“Harry,” she replied in an exasperated tone, “I don’t think anyone has had time to calm down yet. Ernie has already given us some good leads. If you want him any calmer, you need to be able to tell him that Hermione’s going to be OK.”
She was right, of course. Susan was his best on-site investigator. Calm, patient and thorough, the quintessential Hufflepuff. At the moment, Harry found those traits damned annoying. He returned to his pacing, stopping to study a third year Auror who was carefully levitating a burned shred of parchment into an evidence bag. The poor girl seemed to feel the weight of his stare on her back, and she nearly dropped the parchment twice before she got it into the bag.
Suddenly Harry heard Ron’s voice from inside his pocket. He quickly stepped into Ernie’s office and closed the door behind him. He cast a muffliatio charm and pulled out his half of the pair of enchanted mirrors that he shared with Ron.
“Are you alone?” asked Ron.
“Yes, I’m in Ernie’s office,” Harry replied. “Is she going to be OK?”
“The healers say it’s going to be a few days before she’ll be able to talk, but she’ll recover.”
Harry let out a long sigh of relief, feeling his chest unclench for the first time in hours.
“How are things going there?” Ron asked.
“Not good,” Harry admitted. “Ministerial Security was the first on the scene and they did a crap job of preserving it. Susan is having a hard time separating their wand signatures from the attackers.”
Ministerial security was a special branch of the Minster’s office created in the aftermath of the murder trial. The Minister spun it politically as a favor to the Auror Office, relieving them from the responsibility of protecting the Ministry and the Minister so that they could focus on criminal investigations. The message to Harry and Ron was less than subtle. You are no longer trusted.
“Bloody wankers,” Ron fumed. “How about the witnesses?”
“Ernie gave us a good description of what happened from just before the fighting started until it was over. He said that Hermione overheard part of a conversation between the attackers and the clerk who was killed. It was what made her nervous about them in the first place. We may not be making a lot of progress on this case until she’s feeling up to talking to us.”
“Like I said,” replied Ron with a slightly defensive tone to his voice, “the healers say she won’t be able to do anything for several days.”
There was obviously no point in pressing the issue. “Do the healers know what she was hit with?” Harry asked.
“They think they do,” Ron replied, reaching into his robes for a scrap of parchment. “I had them write it down because I’d never heard of it. ‘Exussanguis’ Mean anything to you?”
“No idea,” Harry replied. Ordinarily, this was the point where they would have asked Hermione to look it up. “I’ll send somebody up to the Auror library,” Harry said.
“Harry,” Ron asked, “please tell me you aren’t stalking around there, looking over shoulders and generally making everyone nervous as hell?”
Harry stared back at the mirror with a slightly guilty look on his face. “OK, I guess you have a point. I’ll leave Susan in charge here and go look it up, myself.”
“Good idea, boss,” Ron replied with a grin. “I’m going to get back into her room. I expect Mum and Dad will be here soon and they won’t let them in unless I’m there.”
“Give her a hug for me when she wakes up,” Harry said, thinking fondly of Hermione. Ron might have been Harry’s best mate, but deep down, Hermione was his best friend. It pained him not to be by her side, but he had learned many years ago that this was Ron’s place and he needed to give the two of them space. “I’ll stop by and visit tomorrow morning before I come to the office.”
“She’d like that, Harry,” Ron replied and then he disappeared from the mirror.
Harry tucked his mirror away and stepped out of the office. A dozen eyes stole nervous glances in his direction as their owners focused intently on their appointed tasks. Ron was right. Being here wasn’t helping.
“Susan,” Harry called, “I’ll be in the office. You’re in charge here. I’ll expect your report in the morning.”
Harry could feel the tension draining from the room as he made his way through the rubble to the door. He paused in the doorway. “On second thought, I’ll be at Hogwarts. Contact the headmaster if you need me.”
Astoria slowly backed around the corner, feeling the tip of a wand poking through her cloak and the thin fabric of her dress. “Walk,” the mysterious voice said gruffly from behind her. They made their way down a side street away from the center of Diagon Alley. Every fiber of her being wanted to run away screaming at the top of her lungs. It was the middle of the day and there were dozens of people around. If her mysterious abductor killed her here, there was nearly no chance that he would escape. But his warning kept her silent. If there was any chance that they had her husband, she had no choice but to comply.
“Turn here,” the voice ordered. She recognized the dark, grimy street as Knockturn Alley. Her husband had frequented some of the bars here before they were married. It was not a nice area.
“This way.” She realized she was being directed towards a grimy, deserted alleyway that led behind the stores. If she was going to be robbed, raped or murdered, it was going to happen back there. This was her last chance.
“Don’t even think about trying to run,” the voice seemed to read her mind. “We’ll kill him.”
She sighed and turned down the alley. If they hadn’t killed Draco already, it was unlikely that they would kill her, either. At least until they had what they wanted.
The man behind her suddenly grabbed her arm, spun her around and shoved her against the wall in one neat motion. She came face to face with a tall, gaunt looking wizard with a pointy beard and dark eyes. Although she had never seen the man before in her life, there was something immediately familiar about him. It only took her a few seconds to make the connection.
“Hello, Flint,” she said dryly, enjoying the poorly concealed look of surprise on his face.
It took him a few seconds to recover. “It doesn’t matter whether you know who I am. Things have already been set in motion. I’m sure you’ve already heard about our attack on the Ministry today. Soon we will be back in control and all of the blood traitors will be dealt with. Your husband is a fool not to see that. Now he is suffering for his lack of vision. How much he suffers is up to you.”
She stared at him for a long moment. “Is this about that book? Draco told you already, we don’t have it.”
“And you believe him?” Flint asked. “You’re a smart witch, Astoria. You know that old Lucius was part of the Dark Lord’s inner circle. He was entrusted with certain items that are vital to our cause. We can only assume that your husband is keeping them from us to try to bargain his way back into our good graces. We are not to be trifled with. Either you give the book to us or he dies.”
“Marcus,” she replied, feigning exasperation, “who is this ‘we’ you keep referring to?” She needed to buy herself time to find a way out of this. Maybe she could get him talking. Flint had always loved the sound of his own voice.
Flint allowed himself a tiny smile at her small token of familiarity. “We,” he began, his voice dripping with self-importance, “are the saviors of our world. The blood traitors and muggle lovers don’t want to see the truth, but our world is dying. Every day, our culture and our very bloodlines are being polluted with muggle filth. If we don’t restore the natural order of things, it will soon be too late.”
“You mean the muggles are going to take over?” she asked, pretending to be intrigued.
“Did you know that the muggles will soon have a technology that allows them to travel to the moon and back, even faster than apparition?” he asked in a conspiratorial tone, leaning closer to her.
Astoria could not believe what she was hearing. Was he daft? This was the same claptrap from wizarding wireless that Daphne was always prattling on about. “Really?” she managed to keep a straight face. “I had no idea that things had gotten so bad.”
Flint nodded gravely. She noted with satisfaction that his wand was no longer jabbing her in the ribs. “So how does the Dark Lord’s book help you put a stop to this foolishness?” she asked, trying to keep him talking.
Flint stared at her for a second. He seemed to be trying to decide how much he should say. “Let’s just say that the Dark Lord recorded certain information so that his work could go on in the event that he was unable to complete it himself.”
“Astoria,” he moved closer now, looming over her. “Can we count on you to help us make your husband see reason? He is a stubborn fool, but you, you are a very smart, very beautiful woman. A woman with your intelligence, beauty and bloodline could go far in our new world.”
She wanted to retch as Flint lowered his gaze from her eyes to her chest. Moments ago he was abducting her and threatening her husband’s life, now he was trying to seduce her? She felt his hand slipping behind the small of her back, and noted that his wand was no longer in it. Had he pocketed it, or shifted it to his other hand? She couldn’t be sure, but she was sure that she was going to knee him in the unmentionables if his hand continued to move lower.
“TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF OF HER!” The familiar voice thundered from the entrance to the alley. Flint spun away from her and dropped into a crouch, aiming his wand. Without a moment’s hesitation, she lashed out with her foot, kicking his arm just as he launched a nasty curse at her husband. His wand spun backwards over his shoulder. Before she could pull her leg back, he grabbed her ankle, pulling her nearly into a split. She struggled to stay on her feet, but she realized that she was preventing her husband from getting a clear shot at Flint, so she allowed herself to fall forward. As she fell, Flint rolled backwards and retrieved his wand from the ground.
“Consider my offer, Astoria. We won’t extend it again. Nice knickers, by the way.” And Flint turned and disappeared.
It dawned on her that her wide stance had combined with the tight dress to leave her in a most compromised position. She managed to get to her feet and compose herself just as Draco pulled her into a smothering embrace.
After a long time, he held her at arms length and studied her carefully. “Are you hurt? Did he hurt you? And where did you get that atrocious dress?”
“It’s a long story, dear. Too long. You’re going to talk to the Aurors. Now.”
Harry appeared at the front gates of Hogwarts and walked briskly to the main entrance. Since school was in session, the doors were unlocked. He entered and made his way towards the headmaster’s office. He passed several students who pointed and whispered in his wake. Peeves the Poltergeist zipped by overhead, chanting “The Boy Who Lived is Back! The Boy Who Lived is Back! The Dark Lord thought that he was dead, but he was smoking crack!” Harry grinned as he hurried along. Nice to see that Peeves was keeping his shtick current. Within a hundred years of current, anyway. He had developed an appreciation for the meddlesome spirit after the affair with Dolores Umbridge. He understood why Dumbledore had tolerated his presence.
As he approached the gargoyle guarding the headmaster’s office, it turned slightly to face him. “The headmaster is not in.”
“I’m not here to see the headmaster,” Harry replied. “At least not the current one. I need to speak to Professor Dumbledore and possibly some of the other headmasters.”
The gargoyle did not respond. Harry began to suspect that it was going to ignore his request. Suddenly it turned aside and the stairs began to move. “The headmasters will see you now.”
He rode the stairs to the top and entered the headmaster’s office. Dumbledore regarded him with interest. “Twice in the same week, Harry? To what do we owe the pleasure?”
Harry took one of the chairs in front of Neville’s desk. “There was an attack on the Ministry of Magic this morning. Hermione was badly injured.”
Professor McGonagall’s eyes snapped open, concern evident on her weathered face.
“The healers believe that she will make a full recovery,” Harry quickly added, eliciting sighs of relief from several of the portraits. “The spell that she was struck by is apparently very unusual. The healers didn’t have a single recorded case of treating a victim. I was hoping that one of you might know something about it.”
“I am relieved that Miss Granger will be alright,” Dumbledore replied. “We will certainly share anything we know about the curse that injured her. Do you know the incantation?”
“The healers said that the curse was called Exussanguis. Have you ever heard of it, professor?”
“I’m afraid not, Harry,” Dumbledore responded, stroking his long beard.
“Ahem,” came an interjection from above. Harry looked up to see Phineas Nigellus Black’s portrait staring down at him. “I am familiar with that particular curse, but I believe that your healers are mistaken.”
“What makes you say that, professor?” Harry asked.
“Because that curse is always fatal. It causes the blood to rapidly heat up. The victim literally boils to death from the inside. A most terrible way to die.”
“Is there any possibility that you could be mistaken, Phineas?” Professor McGonagall saved Harry the trouble of offending the cantankerous old headmaster.
“Do you question my knowledge of the dark arts, Minerva?” Black’s portrait condescended. “That curse always leads to a horrible death. The caster of the spell would have to be shamefully incompetent for the victim to survive.”
Harry caught himself stroking his own chin. He wondered how many of Dumbledore’s other mannerisms he had developed. “Let’s say that the wizard who cast the spell was incompetent. What sort of effect would it have?” he asked.
“I can only speculate,” Black replied disdainfully. “Dark wizards of my day took more pride in their craft. But I suspect that that the victim would be thoroughly incapacitated. Assuming that the boiling of the blood was incomplete, and that treatment could be administered in time, the damage could probably be reversed.”
“How would somebody learn about this curse?” Harry asked. “It hasn’t been used in so long that nobody alive has ever heard of it, and I don’t believe that it was in any of the dark magic books kept in the restricted section of the Hogwarts library.”
“The section of the library covering the dark arts used to be considerably broader,” Dumbledore answered. “At the same time that I restricted access to those books, I also removed many of them in order to reduce what needed to be protected from the prying eyes of aspiring dark wizards like Tom Riddle.”
“What happened to them?”
“They were placed in the custody of the Ministry,” Dumbledore replied.
Harry rose to his feet. “Thank you very much for your insight, professors. I believe it will help the investigation a great deal.”
“Harry,” Professor McGonagall said as he turned to leave. “Please give our best to Miss Grang... er, Mrs. Weasley.” She was the only portrait who seemed to keep up on current events.
“I will, professor. And thank you.”
When Harry returned to the Auror office, there was an unexpected guest waiting for him.
“Auror Potter is not in right now,” his secretary was explaining, apparently not for the first time. “He will be back later. You can leave a message for him.”
“Where is he?” Draco Malfoy demanded. “I need to speak with him. Isn’t there anyone in this bloody office who knows that patronus charm?”
Harry moved silently behind him. Draco Malfoy avoided the Ministry in general and especially the Aurors to the greatest extent possible. It seemed unlikely that the his appearance on the same day as the attack was a coincidence. Did he know something?
“Come to turn yourself in, Malfoy?” Harry said, startling him.
“Hardly,” replied Draco, quickly recovering. “as you well know, I have done nothing wrong. I assume we can talk in your office?”
Harry led the way into his office and closed the door behind them. Malfoy took a seat as Harry walked around his desk and sat down.
“I’m rather busy right now, Malfoy, so let’s get on with it. What do you want?”
“Not yet, Potter. Do that silencing charm of yours.”
“Malfoy, you’re in the office of the Head Auror. Our conversation will be quite secure. Now tell me why you’re here.”
Malfoy relaxed visibly, his cockiness returning. “Oh, you know, just wanted to catch up. Astoria and I were asking our dear daughter-in-law about you the other day, but the stuck-up little... well, let’s just say she didn’t tell us much.”
“Well done, Malfoy,” Harry replied coldly. “You’ve really come a long way, you know? For a moment there, I thought you were going to call my niece a mudblood, and I was about to remind you how it feels to be a ferret.”
“Really, Potter.” snorted Draco, looking less assured than he sounded. “And how were you going to do that. You haven’t even got your wand...”
Draco fell silent as he realized that his walking stick, which contained his wand, had suddenly appeared in Harry’s hand.
“No need to go showing off,” Draco snorted indignantly as he accepted his walking stick back. “At any rate, I came looking for the world’s most wonderful wizard and I guess this little demonstration proves that I’ve found him.”
“What possible use do you have for me?” Harry asked wryly. He decided to torque Malfoy just a bit. “You need a loan until the fifteenth?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” snapped Malfoy.
“It’s not exactly a secret that your family has fallen on tough times, Malfoy,” Harry replied.
“Look, Potter,” Draco spat, “it’s true that mother didn’t have the knack for managing the family finances that father did, but know this. I will use my last galleon to buy myself a shot of Acromantula venom before I ever accept a knut from the likes of you.”
Harry allowed a look of exasperation to cross his face. “Look, Malfoy, as pleasant as it might be to sit here and keep insulting one another, I’m sure that’s not why you came. What do you want?”
“Like I said,” Draco sneered. “I came here looking for the world’s most wonderful wizard to save my family from the terrible evildoers.”
“You’ve been conspiring with dark wizards again and gotten in over your head?” Harry sighed.
“As I’m sure you know from your endless spying, my dear wife cured me of that wickedness years ago,” Draco replied. It wasn’t exactly correct. The Aurors had quickly lost interest in Draco Malfoy after Lucius died.
“So if I’m doing such a good job spying on you, I suppose I already know why you’re here?” As much as he wanted to know what Draco was after, he couldn’t help himself. He enjoyed poking at Malfoy’s insecurities too much.
“I never said you were good at it,” Malfoy snapped back. He sighed when Harry refused to take the bait. “One of my old friends from before the war paid me a visit. For some reason, he believed that the Dark Lord had left certain items at Malfoy Manor for safekeeping. It’s ridiculous, of course, but I’m in no mood to have any of these people poking around my home. They tend to create all sorts of situations that are less than wholesome for my dear grandchildren.”
Malfoy let the last word hang in the air and silently enjoyed the pained look that crossed Harry’s face.
“So help me, Draco, if you’ve exposed Rose and Scorpius or the kids to any of Tom Riddle’s artifacts, I will kill you myself.” Harry spoke slowly and with a complete lack of ambivalence.
"Temper, temper, my dear Head Auror," Draco chided. "Since when did you become so protective of my family?"
Harry fixed a withering stare on Draco. "Scorpius is like a son to me. He and Rose mean as much to me as any of my own children. But I'll let you in on a little secret. When he and Al first took up with each other, I couldn't stand him. I looked at him and all I saw was you, Draco. Fortunately, my son is often a better man than I am. He was able to look past his prejudices. You should try it some time."
Draco studied Harry for a long time before he spoke again. “Well, you needn't worry about it. As I said, nothing of the Dark Lord remains at Malfoy Manor. Mother cleared the place out thoroughly after father died. I’m only here to ask that the Aurors help to keep the undesirable elements away from my home. I have no desire to get a first-hand rendition of the little drama that played out under your nose this morning.”
So Malfoy knew about the attack already. Harry supposed it wasn’t surprising, given the Minister’s dire need to have a press conference.
“I’ll assign a security detail to keep watch,” Harry replied. “But it would obviously help if we knew who we were looking for.”
“The man you’re looking for is Marcus Flint,” Draco told him.
Harry stared at him. Flint was in Azkaban, or at least he was supposed to be. He made a mental note to contact the warden as soon as Malfoy left.
“And what was Flint asking for? I assume he was more specific?”
Draco seemed to weigh his options, then shrugged. “He was asking about a book, Potter. He seemed to think that the Dark Lord kept some sort of journal. After he left, Astoria and I tore the house apart, but we found nothing.”
Harry remained expressionless, but his mind was racing. The wizards who attacked the Department of Magical Records had ransacked the restricted vault. Were they looking for the same book? He repressed a cold shiver. Anything that Tom Riddle thought was worth writing down for posterity couldn’t help but be bad.
“Will you allow me to send a team of spell breakers to your home?” Harry pressed. “If there are any secret places or transfigured items, they will find them.”
Draco stared at Harry uncomfortably for a moment, as though he was swallowing something very bitter. “Fine! Whatever. Just make sure that these miscreants have no more reason to bother me. And if they find any family heirlooms hidden in the walls, they’d better not try to make off with them.”
Harry ignored Malfoy’s outburst. “I’ll have the security team in place by this evening and the spell breakers will arrive tomorrow, if that’s acceptable.”
“It doesn’t matter to me,” replied Draco. “Astoria and I will be staying with her family until this is resolved.”
As Draco rose to depart, Harry asked, “Malfoy, in the time you spent with Voldemort, did you ever see him try to teach his followers about the dark magic he used?”
Draco looked away, obviously recalling something very unpleasant. “Never,” he finally replied. “He never told us anything more than what he expected of us. It used to make Aunt Bella mental... well, more mental than she already was. She worshipped him. She hung on his every word and relished every second of his attention. But I never heard him tell her anything about the magic he was trying to perform. She was just another expendable servant to him. We all were.”
“Draco,” Harry interrupted as Malfoy once again made to leave the office. Draco turned to face him. “Thank you. Thank you for doing the right thing and bringing this to me. I promise that we will do everything within our power to protect you and your... our family.”
Malfoy regarded him for a long moment. “Don’t thank me, Potter. Thank Astoria. As I told you, she cured me of the wickedness I used to allow into my life. If I hadn’t come to see you, she would have left me.”
With that, he turned and walked out.