The next two hours were some of the most hurried and nerve-racking of Harry’s life. He stepped out of the fireplace, secured the room and then immediately told Kingsley the warning Draco had given. Kingsley sent a message to Arthur, putting the elder Weasleys on alert. Ron disapparated to Andromeda’s house and found that she was out. Ron returned, worried about the fate of his family’s friend.
“We can’t panic yet,” Kingsley said in his soothing voice. “Harry you said that Andromeda frequently runs errands while Teddy is at the Weasley’s right?” Harry nodded “Well then I will send a team of aurors to Diagon Alley to keep a look out for her,” Kingsley said. “In the mean time I want you two to go to the Burrow and get Arthur, Molly and Teddy to their designated safe house. you two stay at the Burrow and see if you can apprehend the suspects if and when they arrive.”
Harry and Ron rose to approach the fireplace. “Keep me up to date on the situation,” Kingsley said, looking Harry in the eye. “I will stay here to get feedback from the other team.”
Ron stepped into the flames first and shouted “the Burrow!” Harry looked over his shoulder. “You should probably send Robards and a team to Andromeda’s. They can seek shelter in her building on the southwest corner of her property.” Kingsley nodded and watched as the future head of the auror department disappeared , off to save the ones he loved once more.
Harry stepped out of the Burrow’s fireplace and into the cluttered sitting room he loved so much. Molly was sitting on the sofa, looking worried while Ron kept Teddy occupied with a forever continuing game of wizard’s chess. Ron had been slowly teaching the seven-year-old how to play for the past year.
“Harry!” the young boy cried when he saw his Godfather. The boy’s grey eyes and dusty brown hair quickly turned to bright green and jet black, as it always did when Harry was near. “Hi Teddy,” Harry said, tussling the boy’s hair. “Do you remember what I told you about emergency situations?” Teddy nodded, his face suddenly flooded with fear. “We go to our safe place and we send a secret message to our safety partner,” Teddy said in a shaky voice. “Right buddy,” Harry said with a small smile. “Mr. and Mrs. Weasley are going to take you to the safety house with them, please listen to what they say I I promise I’ll come get you soon.” Harry watched as his Godson’s eyes filled with tears.
“Where’s Nana Tonks?” he whispered. Harry closed his eyes briefly to collect his emotions. “Nana went to Diagon Alley to run some errands buddy. We are gonig to have some aurors get her to the safe house too.”
Arthur entered the room at this moment. “The wards are reinforced now,” he said, wiping sweat from his brow. “They should hold almost anything out. If you boys need to call in reinforcements you will have to alter the allowance wards to let non-family members in.”
Arthur helped Molly off the sofa and the pair took Teddy’s hands in their’s. “Good luck, we love you,” Molly said. With a loud “crack” they disappeared to a destination no one ever spoke out-loud.
“All right, let’s set up a perimeter,” Harry said. “I am going to close the Floo Network to incoming transmissions, even to family, so they don’t step in the middle of a battle if there is one.” Ron agreed. “I think you should stay down here under your invisibility cloak Harry,” he said. “I can go to the top tower and keep watch from up there. We can use these to communicate.” He pulled an extendable ear out of his pocket. Harry pulled his cloak and a hunk of fleshy string from his robes. Normally Harry gave the orders, but this was Ron’s birthright, his family’s home. At the Burrow, Ron called the shots.
Harry took his position in front of the window over the sink, the cloak making him invisible even to his own eyes. Harry heard Ron take his position on the fifth story, and then they waited. Minutes crawled by and turned into hours. As the sun began to sink in the sky, Harry’s frustration mounted. he had sent three glowing stags to Kingsley with the same message: “Nothing yet.”
When the last ray of light had disappeared from the sky, Harry finally saw something. His mind jumped back to his memory of Bill and Fleur’s wedding as he watched Kingsley’s patronus appear in front of him. Dread filled his body. The lynx faced harry and spoke in Kingsley’s deep, booming voice. “Harry, we have had word of a disturbance at Grimwauld Place. Come to my office immediately.” As the glowing animal faded away, Harry’s breath caught in his throat. His heart seemed to stop completely. While he and Ron had been so busy working about the safety of Andromeda’s house and the Burrow, the enemy had attacked Harry where he was most vulnerable, his home.
Harry called for Ron and together he and his best friend, his brother, went through the fireplace once more to the minister’s office. An instant later, Harry spun into Kingsley’s office, followed closely by Ron. There on the leather sofa, sat Ginny and James, both crying. Harry felt relief wash over him at the sight of his wife and child. He looked around the room and came to a sudden realization as he felt Ron drop to his knees beside him: Hermione was not was not there. Kingsley looked grave as he approached the men. “Ron I’m afraid they have Hermione,” he said. Those simple words forced Ron’s bravado to break and he succumbed to tears.
“What happened?” Harry asked the question eh knew his friend couldn’t bear to ask himself.
Ginny turned her tear-stained face to Harry. “Andromeda showed up at the house for a visit this evening,” Ginny said slowly, taking deep breaths. “I think she was imperiused or something. She didn’t quite act right. I asked her if she was feeling well or if she needed a cup of tea, but she just seemed a bit off.” Ginny’s voice faltered a little. “Then...the next thing I knew Marietta was pulling off an invisibility cloak and she had a wand at Hermione’s throat. She grabbed Hermione and Andromeda and disapparated.” Ginny choked the last bit out amidst sobs.
“I didn’t know which mission you were on, so I cam straight here,” she whispered. Harry took his wife and son into his arms. “Shhh,” he said. “It’s OK. There was nothing you could have done.”
He turned to face the man he trusted the most at the ministry next to Ron and Arthur. “How could this have happened? Why would Narcissa write a coded message to Draco warning of an attack on Teddy if the attack was really going to be on Herimione?”
Kingsley sighed. “We believe that Narcissa Malfoy was forced to write the letter by someone, maybe someone her husband sent.. Possibly the imperius curse. We had Draco check his family’s safe house. She’s not there.”
“We’ve got to find her,” came Ron’s voice, thick with tears. He stood up and came face-to-face with Kingsley. “We have to find Hermione.”
The Minster’s face was drawn and tired, but his jaw was set and his eyes were determined. “I assure you Ron, the full force of the Magical Law Enforcement and the auror teams will be on this,” he said. “We are going to start with a thorough search of Malfoy Manner.” The minister sat down behind his desk. “Ginny, normally I would ask you to leave, but considering the circumstances, you may stay if you wish.”
Ginny glanced at her husband. “Ginny, your parents are at the safe house with Teddy. They don’t know what happened. Can you take James there and update them all?” Ginny nodded. “I know you want to stay here Ginny, but Teddy needs you there with him.” Harry looked at his wife with pleading eyes. He couldn’t risk being distracted by worrying about her safety. Ginny knew Harry was right and agreed to stay at the safe house with her parents and the two children for now.
Harry hugged and kiss Ginny and James good-bye and then watched as Ginny sheltered James in her chest and spun on the spot. With a “pop” they were gone.
“Right, the Malfoy Manner,” Harry said, taking the lead. “Can we get past the wards?”
“Well we have sufficient evidence to use a ministry order to get in, but then a ministry notice is sent to the homeowner. We don’t wan them to know we’re on to them yet.”
“So how the bloody hell are we going to get in then?” Ron demanded. Harry put a calming hand on his friend’s shoulders. “Draco,” Kingsley said simply. “His mother was taken because he refused to help Marietta. Now he wants to do anything possible to take her and Lucius down. Kingsley called the other aurors that were on duty into the office for a meeting.
“Robards, Harry, you two are going to lead this effort together. Ron you can join Harry’s team, but if you need to take a break, you do it. Finnegan and Otkins, you two will continue protection of the Weasley’s home once they return from the safe house, in the mean time, please check on the rest of the Weasley’s family as well as Mr. and Mrs. Granger. Perkins and Marcus, you two grab some polyjuice potion and see what you can pick up in Knockturn Alley. Robards, Potter, Weasley and Jones, you go to Malfoy Manor. As always, keep me informed.”
The aurors stood and made their way to the auror department to stock up on the supplies they would need. Harry and Ron remained in the minster’s office while Robards and Jones prepared for the mission with the others. “Harry please go to Hogwarts and get Draco,” Kingsley said. “We want you in that house as soon as possible.”
Ten minutes later Harry returned with a very pale Draco Malfoy. Robards and Jones re-entered the office just as the pair returned from Hogwarts. The other two aurors shook Draco’s hand before Kingsley pulled out a glass bottle from under his desk. “Portus,” he muttered and the bottle glowed blue. “This will take you to the wooded area on the edge of the property,” the aurors and Draco each placed a finger on the portkey and a moment later Harry felt the familiar tug at his navel, and he watch as Kingsley’s office spiraled away in a dizzying blur of color.
Harry and his companions landed with a thud on the ground. The aurors quickly performed disillusionment spells and muffilato before staking out the area. “Draco, how far are we from your father’s house?” Robards asked. Draco squinted into the darkness. “It’s about a quarter of a mile west of here, you can’t see it because of the trees and hedges around it,” Draco answered. “We are really close to the edge of the wards so I will have to approach first, I need to make sure they haven’t added anything new to prevent me from bringing people into the protection of the manor.”
“All right, Draco, you proceed with Harry,” Robards said. “When you are inside the wards and know you can bring us in safely, come back to the edge of the wood and get us.” Draco reached waved his hands through the air until he found the slightly blurry spot that was disillusioned Harry.
Harry pulled out his invisibility cloak and put it on. “Disillusionment charms aren’t perfect so I’m going to use this just in case,” he explained. Harry took hold of the edge of Draco’s traveling cloak and the pair made their way through the sparsely wooded lot, toward the 15-foot hedges. Draco stopped suddenly and Harry had to avoid running into the back of him. “This is where the wards begin,” Draco said. Harry tried to see what Draco was doing, but the slight flickers of movement in the air told him almost nothing. “The wards seem to be the same. Let’s try going through them together to see what happens.”
Once more, Harry followed Draco slowly. The auror felt a sensation like ice going down his back and he knew he must have entered the wards. Nothing happened. “Looks like it worked,” Harry said. “Now let’s go back and get the others.”
The two made the painstakingly slow trip back to the group of men. Harry identified where the invisible men were standing by the unmistakeably blue flames that Hermione used to conjure on the cold days at Hogwarts. Ron must have produced them. “We’re back,” Harry whispered, causing Ron to jump slightly. “We can get in just fine as long as Draco takes us through so everybody grab hold of the cloak in front of them and let’s go in.”
A short time later the four aurors and Draco stood on the outside of the green hedges. “OK, from here we have to go around the corner of the hedges toward the gate,” Draco said. “It should let me in out of recognition of my blood and my wand.”
The five inched their way around the corner until they faced an enormous, gloomy wrought iron gate. The rungs of the gate formed shapes of snakes and serpents. Harry wondered if parsletongue had to be used to open them before they had been taught to recognize the Malfoy family.
As Draco approached the entrance, the gates swung forward, opening to an elaborate path. They made their way through the gates. Harry looked to his right and left, curious if the white peacocks were still there. He saw none of the extravagant birds on the manicured front lawn. Finally, the five approached the sprawling manor. Draco took out his wand and performed a quick, but complicated spell on the doorknob. The knob glowed green and Draco reached for it to allow his guests inside.
“Homenum Revelio,” Robards muttered as soon as they stepped inside. His wand stayed silent and still in his hand. “It’s empty so let’s take off the disillusionment charms.”
“Not yet,” Draco said quickly, holding up his hand. “That spell doesn’t work on creatures. Let me see if the house elf is home. He might know something.”
“Dimitri,” Draco said. Nothing. “Dimitri if you are home come here.” Still nothing. “Must be with father, go ahead and take off the charms.”
Robards waved his wands and all five reappeared in the expansive foyer of the manor. “Draco, where do you recommend we check first?”
Draco thought for a moment. “Well, only I will be able to get into my father’s private study, so I can go there. We should also check the library, the dining room and the dungeons.”
Ron, Robards and Smith went left in the direction of the library and Draco and Harry moved toward the study. “I’ll wait out here for you,” Harry said. Draco nodded and disappeared behind a great oak door that seemed to evaporate as he approached it and become solid once more as soon as he passed through. Ten minutes later Draco re-emerged. “Well father is very good at keeping most of his correspondence and plans a secret, but had left one letter from Rabastan Lestrange. From before my father was sentenced to Azkaban. He is taking my father up on an offer. I guess the old man agreed to help him come out of hiding if he helped him with some business.”
“We can all guess what that business is,” Harry muttered. “Anything else?”
Draco shrugged. “Not really. Everything is pretty clean, so the house elf hasn’t been gone too long or is allowed to return to do household tasks.”
The pair made their way to the dining room and found it spotless and empty. No meetings had occurred there lately. They met back up Robards, Ron and Smith and the five made their way down to the dungeons. Harry’s blood went cold as he remembered sitting on the cold, stone floor, listening to Hermione scream above. Ron’s face grew paler with every step down they took. Draco did an illumination spell, bringing light to the otherwise almost pitch black room. In the light Harry could see the dungeon in its entirety. There were chains hanging from every wall and a wooden, battered table in the center of the room. On that table was the unmistakable stain of blood.
“Is that fresh?” Robards asked, pointing to the stain. Smith approached the table and took a look at the large spot. “It’s dry, but that doesn’t mean it’s old,” he said.
Draco looked closely at the blood stain and closed his eyes thinking. “That was here when You-Know-Who was here. It was from one of those who let Harry, Ron and Hermione escape. I believe the snatcher perished.”
Robards nodded and continued to look around the room. He stopped when he came to the set of chains at the far end of the room. He bent down to look at the shackles. “There are several hairs caught in these shackles, they could be recent, but we’ll only know by using them for polyjuice. I will collect them and we can test them back at the office.”
He stood back up and stared at the wall a moment. “Harry, Ron, come look at this,” he said quickly. The two ran over to their boss and looked at the wall. “What are we looking at sir?” Harry asked, unable to see anything significant on the now dimly lit wall.
Robards pointed at a spot on the wall about halfway up. “Lumos,” Ron muttered. He pointed his wand at the spot and there they saw what looked like scratches. The closer Harry looked, the more the scratches resembled writing. “H....J....W,” he whispered. “Hermione. She was here!”
Ron’s jaw twitched as her rubbed his hand over the scratches. “She was here,” he whispered. “Hermione I love you.”
Robards motioned for them all to proceed back up upstairs. “Well, that’s all we can do here for now, the Magical Law Enforcement Squad will come in and do a sweep of the entire house, I don’t think we’ll find any clues. Draco you’ll need to escort them in as well if you would please.” Draco nodded.
The five exited the house and as soon as they reached the barrier of the wards, each disapparated back to the point on the first level of the ministry. They didn’t have many answers but at least it still looked like Hermione was alive and well enough to leave a message.
As Harry and Ron made their way back to Kingsley’s office Harry watched his friendly closely. He had not seen him this upset since the moment they both realized Fred was dead. Harry only hoped this would not end in same sense of tragedy.
Write a Review More to Live For: Return to Malfoy Manner