Harry wasn’t certain how long he sat alone with his grief, but at last he got to his feet and wandered aimlessly until he ended up in the Gryffindor common room. Ron was already there, playing both sides in a game of wizard chess.
“That was brutal,” Ron said after a muted greeting. Harry nodded and Ron continued, “I’ve been thinking, though. How did Dumbledore know to send Hagrid to Godric’s Hollow? Sirius should have been the first one there. It was him that discovered Wormtail gone and suspected something was wrong. So, who told Dumbledore?”
Harry didn’t want to think about it. He was drained of emotion and wanted something to take his mind off the terrible memory. Ron was right, though. It was a curious question. Unfortunately, the only two people who could have answered it were gone.
“Pettigrew must have told someone else,” Harry said. “Someone else was watching.”
“They must have left right when You-Know-Who got there, then. They didn’t stay to help.”
Harry pondered the thought and suddenly had a very bad feeling about the identity of the informer.
“It was Snape,” he said with finality. “Wormtail probably told him before he told Voldemort. The greasy git probably watched it all. He wouldn’t have lifted a finger to stop it, though, would he? As much as he hated my dad.” Harry sneered. “He probably stood out there and cheered, until it went bad and his great master was vaporized. That’s when he ran to Dumbledore with his warning. I bet he sounded so sorry that he couldn’t do anything to save them.” Harry slammed a fist down on the chessboard, sending pieces scrambling to escape. “How could Dumbledore have believed him?”
Ron shook his head. “Maybe we’ll find out in another memory he saved for you. Hopefully not right now, though.”
“Not right now,” Harry agreed. “I’ve had enough for one day, I think.”
“Let’s go nick some food from the kitchen, then. I’m starving.”
The kitchens were ominously quiet due to the lack of activity. The house-elves had only the sparse staff members to cook for. Harry wondered what the house-elves did the rest of the time. Was there a house-elf recreation room? Did they go on holiday? Enough house-elves were present; however, that Harry and Ron were soon loaded up with more food than they could carry. Harry wondered where Dobby had gone. Perhaps Lupin had sent him on a secret mission.
“Hello! Fancy meetin’ you here.”
Harry smiled at the astonishing sight of Fred and George Weasley walking into the kitchen as though it were an everyday occurrence.
“What are you doing here?” Ron mumbled around a mouthful of biscuit.
“We heard Harry was here,” George said.
“So we thought we’d stop by,” Fred continued.
“We have some new tricks.”
“Cooked up ‘specially for you, Harry.”
“How did you get here?” Harry asked.
“Came through the tunnel from Hogsmeade.”
“You know they can’t keep us out.”
The Weasley twins joined Harry and Ron in their feast and then guided them to an empty Charms classroom.
“Fitting, this is,” George said as he looked around.
“Yeah, most of our spells are Charms.”
“Harry, remember when you said it would be nice if Canary Creams could be used as a spell?”
“Well, it got us to thinkin’. Usually we work our spells onto objects, like the Canary Creams or Shield Hats. But, it really wasn’t that hard to convert them.”
“Takes a bit more effort, but not as much finesse.”
“Like this,” Fred said and pointed his wand at Ron. “Aviana!”
Ron instantly became a yellow canary that chirped angrily as it twittered around the twins’ heads, trying to peck them. Fred waved it off and terminated the spell.
“That wasn’t funny!” Ron snapped when he was himself again.
“Of course, they can still fly around and peck at you as a bird, obviously. Plus, the spell doesn’t last very long. A few minutes only,” explained George.
“This one is more effective,” Fred said. Ron threw up a hand to ward off the next spell, but he was enveloped in a huge bubble. He relaxed when he saw it wasn’t doing anything to him, and then scowled and prodded at it sharply with his wand. It did not pop. It looked like Plexiglas to Harry.
“I hope he doesn’t cast a spell in there,” George commented.
“Yeah, it just bounces around. Thing’s darn near impenetrable.”
“Eventually, whoever is in there will run out of air.”
Fred sent the counterspell and the bubble disappeared without a sound.
“At least that one didn’t hurt,” Ron said grumpily. “Hot in there, though.”
“This next one doesn’t quite cross the line into the Dark Arts…”
“But it stands next to the line. Maybe with one toe over.”
“Frankly, Mum would freak if she knew where we got a lot of our ideas. We nicked quite a few books from the Restricted Section when we were here.”
“After all, giving people black eyes, causing them to faint, and making them puke aren’t exactly what you’d call nice magic.”
“But our spells don’t do any permanent damage,” Fred explained and flicked his wand at Ron again. “Caecus!”
“Hey! Hey, I can’t see!” Ron’s hands waved frantically in front of his eyes and his voice was high-pitched and panicky.
“Calm down, little brother,” George said soothingly. “We know the counterspell.”
“That was a scary one, though,” Fred said.
“Yeah, Fred was blind for three days until I figured out the right spell to reverse it. I had to be both of us whenever Mum came round. It was exhausting.”
“Take it off!” Ron yelled, flailing.
“Aspicas,” said George and Ron sighed in relief before glaring at the twins.
“Stop using me for a test subject!”
“Quit worryin’. We’ve practiced these on each other loads of times. Now, we’ll teach you two.”
The twins showed Harry and Ron the mechanics of the three spells and they practiced on each other most of the afternoon. Harry was pleased to have some new spells in his arsenal that the Death Eaters did not know.
“We’d better get back to the shop,” Fred said finally.
“We’ve got fine employees, but they don’t know our stock the way we do.”
“We’ll come back soon and show you a few more, Harry. Keep practicing those.”
They started out.
“Let’s go visit our swamp before we leave.”
“Good idea. We should say ‘hi’ to Peeves, too.”
“I kind of miss the old place, don’t you?”
“Not really, no.”
Their voices grew fainter as they departed and Harry looked at Ron.
“It’s been a productive day, I’d say.”
Ron nodded and yawned. “Productive and tiring. I’m going to the kitchen and then to bed.”
“Great idea. Remind me to send Hedwig to Hermione.”
“Yeah. What the hell is she doing, anyway? She should be here.”
Hermione released Draco as soon as they arrived at their destination. She leaned close to him as if examining his face.
“What?” he asked with eyes narrowed.
“Interesting. No blood, boils, nor even a rash. You seem to have survived the touch of a Muggle-born completely unscathed.”
“You’ve touched me before.” In that very same spot, now that he thought about it. But definitely not as gently.
She stepped away and laughed at the memory.
“True. You didn’t get out of that one unscathed.”
“You needn’t sound so smug about it.” He took in there surroundings. “Your Muggle house? I could have Apparated her on my own, you know. If someone would return my wand,” he said pointedly.
She held up both wands and wiggled them for a moment before tucking them into her back pocket. He allowed her no sign of annoyance. “Is this the best place you could think of?”
“Do you think the Death Eaters will come back here so soon?”
Draco shook his head. “Probably not. They’ll find other targets.”
Hermione bit her lip at that. “You’re right. Damn, I’ve been running about so much today I didn’t even think… Oh no! Neville! If they went after Luna, he could be next. I don’t know where he lives or I’d go warn him.”
She glared at Draco as if it were his fault. “You know, the wizarding world could learn a bit from the Muggles when it comes to communication.” She lifted the handset from a nearby telephone. “With this, I can reach any Muggle household in the world.” She dropped the headset back into the cradle and pointed her wand at the fireplace. A burst of white light sprang from the end and disappeared up the chimney. She tsked.
“Well, that will take some time, but it’s the best I can do at the moment. Are you hungry?”
Without waiting for his answer, she went into the kitchen and rummaged in the cupboards. He watched her surreptitiously while pretending to look at all the oddities in the kitchen. She was an energetic girl, he had to admit. She flitted around from cupboard to cupboard. He tried to remember if he’d ever seen her wearing Muggle clothing before. If he had, it wasn’t memorable. What she wore now wasn’t memorable, either, exactly. She had on rather form-fitting pale blue jeans and a simple white shirt with short sleeves. An odd word was emblazoned across her chest in pink letters. Draco had examined it in Dover while she had been determinedly transfiguring his clothing. It read ADIDAS. He wondered what it meant.
She absently brushed her hair back over her shoulder with one hand. He noted that it could no longer be classified as “bushy”. Her hair was still rampant with curls, but they were tamer, now. Less frizz and more loops. The ends nearly touched her waist. If he were to be completely honest with himself, he would have to admit her hair was actually rather pretty. In fact, she was rather… He clamped down on that line of thinking immediately. Just because she had developed quite a nice package to put into her ADIDAS shirt and blue jeans… well, damn it, she was still Hermione Granger, the girl he despised more than any other female on the planet.
“What are you doing?” he snapped, annoyed at the train of his thoughts and happy to take it out on her as she traipsed around the kitchen compiling food, pots, and utensils.
“Cooking, of course.”
“Are you a witch, or aren’t you?”
She stared at him for a moment as if wondering what he was talking about.
“I see. It must be odd for Mr. Pureblood to watch someone do manual labor. I was only recently allowed to use magic here, so I’m used to doing everything the old way. My parents weren’t very comfortable when I used magic. Besides, it’s two steps to the cupboard. Rather a waste to use a wand. You can sit down, you know. The chairs won’t eat you.”
Draco tugged a small black book from the pocket of his trench coat before tossing the coat over a nearby chair. While Hermione grilled ham steaks and toasted crumpets, Draco flipped through his book and sat gingerly in the chair.
“Have you heard of a Horcrux?” he asked her suddenly.
Hermione nearly dropped the jug of milk she was holding as she gasped. She set the container on the counter carefully.
“Where did you hear that word?”
“So, you do know what it is.”
“I know what it is,” she snapped. “Do you know what it is?”
She watched him warily, as if seeking a sign of weakness. He did the same to her.
“Do you know where they are?” she asked.
“No. Do you?”
Hermione looked instantly disappointed, which confirmed that she did, indeed, know what a Horcrux was. Dumbledore must have figured it out and told them.
“Have you destroyed any?” he asked.
“Why do you want to know?”
“You know, I really don’t like you very much.”
“The feeling is more than mutual!” she snapped.
He glared at her and she glared back. She turned and slapped the ham steaks on the toasted cheese crumpets and topped each with a pineapple ring. She joined Draco at the table and they ate in stony silence. The sandwich was actually quite good, but Draco would rather have torn out his own tongue than admitted it. Hermione ignored him completely.
“How long do you plan to keep me here?” Draco asked when the tension had grown thick enough to wade through.
“Until I hear from the Order of the Phoenix,” she said abruptly.
“Lovely,” he sneered. He was trapped in a Muggle house until Little Miss Gryffindor saw fit to let him leave. He wondered, not for the first time, what had possessed him to help her in the first place. He got up from the table and walked away. He moved around lounge looking at the strange, non-moving family photographs and bric-a-brac. Hermione returned the dishes to the kitchen and dispensed with the “manual labor” in order to clean the dishes with a quick spell. She also zipped them back into their places with barely a clink. Showing off, most likely.
“Why did you ask me about Horcruxes?” she asked.
His lips curled into a wicked smile. He said nothing. Her expression of frustration was immensely satisfying.
She joined him in the lounge and sat on the couch. She gestured to a nearby chair.
“Let’s play a little game called quid pro quo. It means—“
“I know what it means,” Draco snapped. “Who goes first?”
He thought he heard her teeth crack as she clenched them together.
She gritted, “I’ll go first, of course, because I know you’d rather have all your fingernails torn out than volunteer, correct?”
Draco sat in the chair with no comment. He smirked, though, because he knew she hated that.
“A Horcrux is a storage device for a part of one’s soul,” she began.
“Voldemort’s soul,” Draco admitted.
“Horcruxes are the reason he did not die. He cannot die unless the Horcrux is destroyed first.”
“You and your friends plan to destroy them.”
“All seven of them.”
He was shocked and actually gaped at her. Snape had left out that tidbit of knowledge. “Seven?”
She nodded. “Two of them are already gone. Hopefully one other, although we can’t confirm it.”
Bloody hell. Seven. “I may know where to find one,” he admitted.
To her credit, she kept her features carefully blank.
“Will you tell me where?”
He pulled a slip of paper from his black book and handed it to her. It read: Go to the house of Tom Riddle Sr.
“Who gave this to you?”
“Severus Snape. Right after he told me about Horcruxes.”
She blinked at him.
“Snape? Who’s side is he on?”
“As far as I can tell—Snape’s.”
She shook her head. “Where is the house of Tom Riddle, Sr.? Only Dumbledore knew.”
“Turn it over,” Draco said dryly.
On the back was a map.
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