Thanks once more to everyone who has read and reviewed Conspiracy of Blood. I appreciate it more than I can say. Ongoing special thanks to my beta reader, sophie_hatter.
As always, the characters herein belong solely to JK Rowling.
Harry appeared in front of the Burrow shortly before three o’clock on Sunday. He took a deep breath, opened the door and waded into the chaos. In the living room, he found half a dozen children chatting, giggling and playing exploding snap. He spotted Charlie talking to Freddie in the doorway to the kitchen and made his way over.
“Hello, mate. How are your dragons?” Harry asked.
“Sweet and lovable as ever,” Charlie replied. “I was just telling Freddie about a nice little burn I have on my back.”
“So you’re not thinking about retiring or maybe taking up something safer?” Harry asked.
“Not on your life,” Charlie answered with a smile. “I’m having more fun than ever.”
“Blimey,” Freddie mused. “Why didn’t somebody tell me that growing up was optional before I went and did it?”
“It hasn’t slowed your dad down any,” observed Charlie, nodding towards the far corner of the living room. George was whispering something to Roxie’s younger son Michael and his cousin Charles. They shot George a look across the room, getting a slight shrug of “who, me?” in return. George was doubtless up to something. Harry just hoped that he wasn’t the intended victim.
“How is the law enforcement business, Harry?” Charlie asked. “Bill says you and Ron have a live one on your hands.”
“That’s one way to put it,” Harry replied. He didn’t really feel like talking about the case. It made him think about Hermione and how badly he felt for her. The way he left things the day before was still eating at him. He had been making up excuses not to go see her all day.
After listening to Charlie talk lovingly for ten minutes about a Romanian Longhorn that he was raising, Harry made his way into the kitchen. He found Molly doting over a pair of toddlers while the potatoes mashed themselves on the stove and a large ham slowly rotated inside the oven.
“Harry, dear,” she called out to him. As soon as he got within range, she wrapped him in a rib-crushing hug. “So wonderful to see you. Have you been to see Hermione today?”
“Not today, Molly,” he replied, tickling baby Amelie from behind. “I was with her yesterday, though. She still wasn’t feeling very well. She couldn’t talk very loud or open her eyes too much.”
“Ohh, the poor dear,” Molly fussed. “Such nasty, awful magic. Are you and Ron having any luck finding out who attacked the Ministry?”
“We’re trying,” Harry replied. “They didn’t leave us a lot to work with.” He decided to leave out the part about the prison break. No sense making everyone nervous.
“‘Ugo eez still at zee ‘ospital with ‘is father,” Fiona chimed in as she tied a bib around Amelie’s neck. “Zey were supposed to be ‘ere by now.”
Harry grimaced. Molly was not going to be pleased if Ron didn’t at least make an appearance. At the same time, he could understand Ron’s feelings. Eating and socializing with his family would be very awkward when his wife was lying in the hospital. There wasn’t anybody to keep her company in his place. Like Harry, all the family that Hermione had left in the world was part of the Weasley clan.
Molly seemed to have reached the same conclusion. “If Ron needs to stay with Hermione, there will always be another time,” she said with a touch of sadness.
Harry nodded in agreement. He felt a hand clap him on the shoulder and turned to find Arthur standing behind him. Age had taken a toll on his father-in-law, leaving him a little shorter and with less hair, but his eyes still sparkled and his smile was irrepressible.
“Hello, Harry. How have you been?”
“Busy,” Harry replied with a tired smile. No matter how he felt, he always found Arthur’s smile to be infectious. He just couldn’t hold onto a frown around the man.
“Could you spare a moment to help me look at something out in the shed?” Arthur asked.
Harry stared at him while Fiona harrumphed under her breath. Molly said nothing, which Harry took as his cue that Arthur’s request had her tacit approval. “Sure, Arthur. Lead the way.”
They waded through the crowd of children coming in and out of the back door and made their way to Arthur’s dilapidated old shed. Harry couldn’t suppress a grin as they entered. It smelled faintly of old grease and burning electronics and was filled with fond memories of helping his father-in-law dissect, repair and often demolish muggle gadgets. Harry also liked the fact that the shed didn’t make him think of Ginny, owing to her general disinterest in her father’s hobbies. The back of the shed, where two young lovers couldn’t be seen from the kitchen window... that was a different story.
“What can I help you with?” Harry asked.
“Well, for starters, you could, ah, make sure that we’re not overheard,” Arthur replied.
Harry cast a muffliato charm over the shed, mumbling the incantation just loudly enough to be heard. “Alright, what’s on your mind?”
“Harry, I’ve been hearing bits and pieces of what happened at the Ministry and at Azkaban and Molly and I are a little worried,” he began. Harry stared at him impassively, but he was impressed by the apparent reach of Arthur’s sources. The Minister had yet to officially acknowledge the prison break. Harry guessed that no more than a dozen people outside of the Auror office were even aware of it.
“I know this isn’t the first time that some dodgy bunch of nutters has come along trying to claim Tom Riddle’s mantle,” he continued, “but there’s something different about this. Attacking the Ministry in broad daylight is way out of the ordinary. There aren’t many of us still living from the old Order, but we wanted you to know that we’re all still ready to help if you need us.”
Harry wasn’t sure what to say. At times, he felt a little old to be doing what he was doing. Arthur and Molly were in their nineties. He was sure that they still had many good years ahead of them, but the rigors of battling dark wizards were best suited to witches and wizards in their primes.
“I think the Aurors have the situation pretty well under control, at least as far as the investigation goes,” Harry replied, trying not to sound dismissive. “You and Molly have already fought two wars. Are you sure you want to keep volunteering?”
Arthur gave him a fatherly smile. “Harry, if it were up to me, nobody would ever lift a wand in anger again. But if anything is threatening the family, we’ll be the first in line to volunteer. For now, let’s just say that we wanted to remind you that we’re available.”
“I appreciate it,” Harry said, returning his smile.
Just then the door flew open and they saw Octavia staring at them, looking excited and slightly confused. Harry removed the muffliato charm so she could hear them.
“Uncle Harry! Papa Arthur! They’re gonna play Quidditch in the orchard before dinner! Come on! Come on!”
Harry and Arthur let the little girl take their hands and lead them to the orchard, where a four on four match had already broken out between the school-age children. Naturally, Harry’s sons were in the thick of things. James was calling out plays to the majority Gryffindors while Al rallied on the Slytherins, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs of the family. They were both shouting like madmen, waving their arms and pacing the sidelines. Harry shook his head and chuckled. The rivalry between James and Al went back as long as he could remember. When Al became the Slytherin seeker, it had risen to a whole new level. Now another generation of the Weasley family had become players in their never-ending game of one-upmanship.
He noticed that Hugo had arrived and was standing next to Fiona along the sidelines. Harry watched him try to discuss the game with her, but she simply stared off towards the trees with a cross expression on her face. He was clearly in trouble. Ron was nowhere to be seen and Harry felt fresh pangs of guilt. He promised himself that he would make amends to Ron and Hermione somehow.
Above the orchard, children on brooms whizzed to and fro, dodging and weaving among the trees while narrowly avoiding collisions. The quaffle moved from hand to hand in a dizzying display of speed and finesse as the sides alternated between advancing, shooting and falling back to defend. Neither side seemed able to seize the advantage for very long and the lead changed frequently. Players on both teams worked together with a familiarity built over many summer days of carefree play.
Harry was lost in the magic of it all when Al bumped his side. “Hey, Dad. James and I flooed to your house and grabbed a bunch of brooms from the shed,” he said, never taking his eyes off of the game. “I hope you don’t mind -- ALBERT! STAY TIGHT! -- Nanna and Grandpa’s brooms are shite. Not fit to sweep the --- ANGIE, WATCH OUT FOR ARTIE ON THE WING! -- sorry, Dad, gotta go...” Al hustled back up the sideline to accuse James of orchestrating a Hard Left Pick Line, which was considered bad form in four-on-four play.
After half an hour of hard, physical play, both teams stopped to take a break. Much to James and Al’s dismay, Molly and Roxy commandeered a couple of brooms to take the small children on rides around the orchard. Octavia and Calliope seized the opportunity to swipe two more brooms and cruise low to the ground under the watchful eyes of Rose and Dominique. Soon the game was forgotten by everyone except James and Al. With their grudge match prematurely ended, they sulked and bickered until dinner.
It was just past seven when everyone finally sat down to eat. The family gathered around long tables in the back yard while enchanted lanterns floated and flickered overhead. Molly sent tray after tray gliding forth from the kitchen and Fleur and Bill helped to guide them to the tables. The family rolled up their sleeves and feasted. When Molly emerged from the kitchen, everyone expressed their appreciation with roaring applause.
Throughout dinner, Harry noticed a quiet undercurrent of activity among the youngest generation. It was subtle, but very little escaped his notice after years of surveillance missions. Every so often, he caught a glimpse of something small and blue being passed from hand to hand. Once again he fixed his gaze on George, who was innocently devouring a plate of chicken and potatoes. A little too innocently, by Harry’s estimation.
Desserts followed on the heels of the entrees and Harry crammed himself with treacle tart. In between bites, he swiped at a bowl of fig pudding with his spoon as it went floating by, managing to capture a healthy dollop. Pretty soon, he was envying the young children sleeping in the upstairs bedrooms. By the time Dominique and Victoire began passing around glasses of brandy to the adults, he was thinking wistfully of his own bed. A sudden clinking of glassware caught Harry’s attention and his mind went on full alert when he realized it was coming from George’s glass.
“Good evening,” George announced over the low rumble of questioning whispers. “While we’re all gathered together over this wonderful feast, I wanted to take a moment to say a few words in honor of my brother Fred. It’s been almost fifty years since Fred gave his life defending Hogwarts castle from Voldemort and the Death Eaters. He was a brave lad, but all that needs to be said about his courage has long since been said. Aside from his bravery and his dashing good looks, Fred was a man who loved a good joke. So on this evening when we gather to celebrate family and friends, I could think of no better way to honor his memory. Kids, NOW!”
All around the tables, the children pulled mysterious blue cylinders from their pockets and sleeves and aimed them at the nearest adult. Harry turned to find Octavia grinning devilishly as she pointed hers towards his face. He was almost able to raise his arms before nineteen small hands yanked the pull cords attached to the cylinders in unison. Loud cracks echoed off of the nearby hills as puffs of white smoke filled the back yard. Harry looked at his shirt and felt his face, surprised to find nothing burned, discolored or transfigured.
It didn’t make sense until he realized that Octavia’s face was covered with black soot and her hair, which was blown straight back from her face, had turned a blaring shade of neon green. All around the tables, the children were wiping their eyes and staring in horror at their cousins. Howls of laughter went up from the adults as the true nature of the prank became clear. In the middle of it all, George sat back, calmly staring into his glass as he swirled his brandy. “That was a good one, Freddie,” he murmured to himself. “Not our best work, but a good one.”
Everyone took a few minutes to appreciate the subtle brilliance of George’s prank. The children were far less appreciative when the hair color jinx turned out to be surprisingly resistant to their attempts to reverse it. Aside from Fiona and Audrey, few of the adults seemed to be feeling sympathetic.
A second clinking of glassware brought everyone’s attention to a different table. Teddy was standing in front of his chair, his eyes looking a bit glazed from the combined effects of too much food and drink. Harry noticed that he had changed his hair to a familiar shade of purple. It was his mother’s favorite hue.
“As long as we’re remembering those we lost in the war, I’d like to ask everyone to raise a glass to my mum and dad. Like Fred, there really isn’t any more to say about their bravery. They were a pair of outcasts, a metamorph and a werewolf, who became part of the greatest group of friends in the world and then found each other. They died when I was only a baby, but thanks to the people around these tables I have had a chance to know them. Mum, Dad, thanks for giving me the best family that an orphan could ever have.”
Teddy downed his brandy to a chorus of agreement and clinking glasses. As soon as his glass was drained, Al began to look around for his father. Following George and Teddy’s tributes, it seemed appropriate that somebody should offer a toast to their mother.
“Lil,” he managed to catch her attention as she, too, appeared to be searching the area. “Where’s Dad?”
“He was right over there by Rose and Dom,” she replied, still searching. “I don’t know where he went.”
James walked up and propped his elbow on Lily’s head. “You guys know where he went?”
“No,” she replied irritably, elbowing him in the thigh. “Should we go look for him?”
“I’d say not,” Al replied, pondering his last bite of tart. “If he wanted to talk about it, he’d still be here.”
The Malfoys returned home late on Sunday evening. Two days under the same roof had turned out to be too much for Draco and his sister-in-law. Their simmering animosity had boiled over during dinner, eventually leading him to storm out of the house. They hung up their cloaks while the house elf disappeared with their bags. Astoria strolled down the hallway lighting lamps with her wand while Draco continued to grumble.
“Stupid, insufferable, obdurate, recidivist cow!” he vented to nobody in particular as he poured himself a rather large glass of firewhiskey.
“Draco, dear,” Astoria replied, rolling her eyes at him, “I think you’re reading too much into it. She didn’t mean to insult your mother directly. I think the insult was meant to call your parentage into question more generally. And I don’t see how you can feel so put out after some of the awful things you were saying about Daphne’s husband.”
“That's nowhere close to the same,” he shot back. “My mother was a charming, respectable lady. Gamp is a bloody donkey who tried to break into Azkaban with two undercover Aurors and the village twit at his back.”
She followed him into the study where they found a box sitting on his desk with “transfigured items” written on the side. They both almost jumped out of their skins when they heard a voice coming from inside.
“Who goes there? I say, somebody take me out of this bloody thing!”
Draco cautiously opened the top of the box while Astoria peered over his shoulder. They discovered a small, golden bust of Phineas Nigellus Black staring back at them.
“Ah, finally. A proper son of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, come to restore me to my rightful place,” the bust said in a slightly squeaky rendition of the Headmaster’s high, reedy voice.
“Did the spell breakers find you somewhere in here?” Draco asked suspiciously.
“Not the brightest, I suppose, but you’ll do,” the old headmaster replied dismissively. “Now, before I was confined to this wretched box, I saw a nice spot on the mantle that would be an appropriately reverential location for my likeness.”
“Draco,” Astoria said, ignoring the headmaster’s rambling, “you still haven’t told me what we’re doing about Flint. He’s out there somewhere, you know.”
“Potter assured me that he has a team of Aurors guarding the house around the clock,” Draco replied, glancing around the room. An old, golden chalice that his father had used as a bookend was missing from the shelf. The chatty bust of Headmaster Black was approximately the same size. “Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”
“I’d still feel safer at father’s house,” she pouted. “You need to make up with Daphne. Mother hates it when the two of you bicker.”
“I will not apologize to that miserable old trout!” Draco snapped, daring his wife to suggest otherwise.
“Here, here!” cheered the bust. “Take no guff from that trifling woman. If I had arms, I’d have a good mind to teach her the price of her insolence. Lad, there may be hope for you yet.”
“Shut up!” Draco shouted. “Before I turn you into a chamber pot!”
Astoria stormed out of the study with Draco close behind, half arguing and half pleading with her to see his point of view.
“I say, dear boy, don’t trip on the hem of your dress,” Black taunted him.
Harry sat on the dark hill, feeling the cool Autumn breeze in his face and the cold granite of Ginny’s monument against his back. He raised the bottle of firewhiskey to his lips and took another drink, feeling the burn in his throat. The pain was therapeutic in a way, distracting him from the ache in his chest as surely as the alcohol dulled his senses.
Far down the hill, he saw the light of a wand bobbing towards him. He thought for a moment to disillusion himself. It would do no good, though. He was pretty sure they knew where he was. He wondered which one had been appointed to collect him and deliver his inebriated carcass into bed. He hoped for Al, since his younger son seemed to best understand his need for solitude. The possibility that it might be Lily filled him with dread. His daughter would give him the what for that he deserved. She was so like her mother.
When a voice finally joined the bobbing light, the identity of his visitor surprised him.
“Hi, Uncle Harry,” Rose said, plopping to the ground in front of him.
“Hi, Rose,” he responded listlessly. “Fancy a drink?”
“I have to be at work early tomorrow,” she replied. “So only one or two.” She grabbed the bottle from him and took a long pull off of it.
“Now what’s this disappearing act about?” she asked, repressing a cough.
“Don’t wanna talk about it,” Harry replied, reaching for the bottle.
She pulled it away from his reach. “Nuh uh. No more until you tell me what we’re commiserating about.”
“Just give me the damned bottle, Rose,” he snarled, reaching for his wand.
If she was frightened in the slightest, she didn’t show it. She hugged the bottle tightly to her chest, wrapping her arms around it. “Go ahead. Hex me into oblivion if you think it will make you feel better. Because that’s the only way you’re getting this back.”
Harry scowled at her for a long moment, then he looked away and let out a long sigh.
“There’s nothing to tell. I’m just an old fool who can’t let go of the past.”
“Try me,” she replied.
Harry continued to stare off into the distance. "I'm not sure you're ready for this one, Rosie. Unless you want to watch your brave uncle cry like a little girl."
"You used to wipe my bum. I’d say we have a long way to go before we’re even."
“OK,” he replied. “just remember, you asked. You know when Teddy was offering his toast to his parents?”
“Yeah, that was sweet of him.”
“Well right in the middle of it, it dawned on me that everyone was gonna expect me to do the same for Ginny.”
She stared at his silhouette in the darkness for a moment. “So what’s the problem?”
“Rose! I can’t talk about Ginny. Not in front of people,” Harry answered as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I just can’t do it. If I try, I’ll come unhinged.”
“So in the years since Aunt Ginny died, you’ve never talked about her to anyone except me?” Rose asked in disbelief.
“Well, of course I have. A little,” he replied. “To your mum and dad, of course. And to Teddy and the kids. I come up here a lot and just talk to her. I feel close to her here. But that often ends... badly.”
“Well do you reckon that’s part of the problem?” she asked. “You never really talk about her. Instead you come up here and have make-believe conversations with her and bawl your eyes out. Not judging, mind you. I’d be doing the same thing if we were talking about Scorpius. But what would you do if you caught me pining over his grave? I mean, assuming that it wasn’t me who killed him?”
Harry thought about it. “I reckon I’d drag you into the house for some tea and sweets,” he replied, sounding mildly ashamed.
“And?” she persisted.
“And I suppose I’d keep you there until you talked it out of your system.”
“Exactly. But you won’t let anybody do that for you, Uncle Harry. You remember when Aunt Ginny used to say things like, ‘Potter, why do you have to be so bloody noble?’ That wasn’t meant as a complement, you know.”
“But, Rosie,” he protested, “I can’t just break down in front of everyone. We’re talking about my children. My grandchildren. I have to be strong for them. What are they gonna think if I crumble into a heap in front of them?”
“That you’re human?” Rose shrugged. “Uncle Harry, nobody can understand the connection you had with Aunt Ginny. You fought a war for each other. You died for her and then you came back for her. You two were meant to grow old and, I don’t know, die hand in hand while saving the world or something. Nobody in the history of love got screwed worse than you two.
“So you’re gonna crumple into a blubbering heap?” she continued. “So what? Every one of us would crumple into a heap if we were in your place. We all love you, Harry. And not because you’re the Famous Harry Potter who defeated Voldemort. No offense, but that happened before any of us were born. You’re Uncle Harry who taught us how to fly on a broom and took us camping. Any one of us would feed you tea and sweets until you puked if we thought we could help you.”
Somewhere, he could imagine Ginny crossing her arms and nodding at him. The feelings of dread still haunted him, but the ache in his chest had subsided somewhat.
“You have to get past this, Uncle Harry,” she said, leaning to the side to meet his gaze. “Aunt Ginny deserves better than this. You deserve better than this.”
They sat quietly for a long moment while Harry turned things over in his mind. “I made a right show of myself tonight, didn’t I?” he asked, handing her a cork that had been sitting on the base of the monument.
“Yep,” she replied, stoppering the firewhiskey bottle and handing it back to him.
“I better tell the kids I’m OK,” he mumbled as he tried to stand up. He made it halfway to his feet before losing his balance and tumbling forward, landing in a heap on the ground next to Rose.
“Harry, why don’t we just get you to bed?” she asked, suppressing a giggle. “If you really want, I’ll get a message to Al letting him know you’re alright. He can tell the others.”
“Um, yeah,” he replied, straightening his glasses and picking the grass off of the side of his face. “That would be good.”
She helped him to his feet and they started to walk down the hill towards the house. “Is Octavia at home with Scorpius?” Harry asked.
“No, he’s still in the States on a business trip,” she answered. “Octavia should be in bed by now, but I bet she’s still playing cards with Hermys. Oh, by the way, we’re staying at your house tonight. What’s for breakfast?”
Bernard Singleton shifted his weight, trying to find a more comfortable position atop the wall overlooking the Malfoys’ garden. A grey squirrel started to run down the top of wall towards him, then stopped halfway as it seemed to sense that something was blocking its way. From beneath his disillusionment charm, Singleton let out a small hiss, scaring the creature away.
This was his third straight overnight shift at Malfoy Manor and he was tired of the place. The Malfoys hadn’t even been home for the first two nights and on this night they had arrived shortly after dark, argued for an hour or so and then went to bed. His Auror team didn’t have clearance to eavesdrop on the inside of the house, so Singleton amused himself by imagining what they had been arguing about. It was possible that Mrs. Malfoy was upset about the spell breakers finding those leather unmentionables inside her bedroom. That certainly would have brassed his wife off.
His thoughts were interrupted by several loud grunts and a tell-tale shimmering of the air at the far end of the section of wall he was perched on.
“Windsor, is that you?” he whispered.
“Who else would it be?” came the reply. “Like there’s anyone else in the world who gives two hoots about the Malfoys.”
“You’re supposed to be at the east gate,” Singleton objected. As the senior Auror on the team, he felt an obligation to keep people on task, even if they were all bored out of their minds.
“Elgin can see both gates from her corner,” Windsor replied. “Why not give the rookie some more practice?” Eileen Elgin was a first-year Auror who had just completed the training program. In spite of her high marks, Singleton wasn’t prepared to put two-thirds of the surveillance mission on her shoulders.
“Just go back to your post, Windsor,” he sighed. “It’s going to be another long night. Don’t make me have to start if off by yelling at you.”
“Come on, Bernard,” Windsor whined. “You know as well as I do that nothing is going to happen. The view is better from over here. Maybe we’ll catch a peek of Malfoy’s wife in that leather getup the spell breakers found. She’s quite the looker for a witch my mum’s age.”
The sound of a twig snapping in the woods nearby caught both men’s attention. “Elgin, is that you?” Singleton whispered. “We can’t all be here on this bloody wall.”
An instant later, a jet of green light pierced his disillusionment charm, striking him in the side. His lifeless body tumbled from the wall and landed with a thud. Windsor rolled off of the wall as a curse flew over his head and landed in a defensive stance on the inside of the Manor grounds. He heard yelling coming from the other side of the wall. There were multiple attackers and they were splitting up and moving towards the gates on either side. Suddenly his location was looking extremely vulnerable. He turned to apparate to a better strategic position near the house. Nothing happened.
“Bloody anti-apparition jinxes!” he cursed, and sprinted towards the house. Several curses struck the ground around his feet. One of the attackers must have come over the wall. He heard more yelling and curses coming from Elgin’s direction and realized that she was also under attack. A curse struck him in the calf as he ran, sending him crashing to the ground. He desperately crawled towards a planter as curses tore up the turf around him. His only hope to save himself and Elgin was to find cover and send a patronus for help.
He made it just as a curse struck his ankle, sending new pain shooting up his injured leg. He didn’t even dare to look at how bad the injury was. He needed a happy thought. He tried to recall his first kiss at Hogwarts. She was a blond, green-eyed Ravenclaw third-year with a funny last name and a pumpkin-shaped birth mark just behind her left ear. They had just commenced a proper snogging session when Peeves yanked away the tapestry they were hiding behind and burst into a bawdy song. He raised his wand and the silvery myst began to emerge. Suddenly, a fat wizard in a dark, hooded robe was looking down at him over the planter. He saw a jet of red light emerge from the wizard’s wand and then he felt nothing.
The Malfoys were jarred awake when a curse shattered their bedroom window and ricocheted off of the wall. Draco leapt out of bed and grabbed his wand from the nightstand. He cast a powerful shield charm over the ruined window which was immediately struck by two more curses from somewhere in the courtyard. He looked over his shoulder and saw Astoria pulling on her bathrobe, wand already in hand. He loved her for her bravery, but there was no way he was going to allow her to risk herself.
“Kriffin!” he shouted over the loud cracks. The elf appeared by his side and bowed, seemingly oblivious to the firefight going on outside. “Take her to her father’s house, now!”
“Draco, no! Wait!” she shouted, but it was too late. The elf apparated across the room, grabbed her arm and they both disappeared with a loud pop.
Draco slowly backed towards the door, focusing his defenses on the window. He opened it just a crack and peered into the hallway. He could hear voices coming from the direction of the front door. He slipped into the hallway and slid along the wall, trying to stay out of sight. A skinny, scruffy-looking wizard appeared in the middle of the living room carrying the box of formerly transfigured items from his desk. They locked eyes for a second and the intruder tried to turn so he could aim his wand from underneath the box. Draco stunned him and heard Headmaster Black protesting loudly as the box crashed to the floor.
There were more shouts coming from the living room and Draco realized that he had given away his position. He took cover inside the doorway to his mother’s old room as curses began to fly down the hallway. He cast two curses back, including the nasty Sectumsempra spell that old Snape had taught him. He felt a small measure of satisfaction when he heard a yelp of pain coming from the other end of the hall. A furious hail of curses came flying back at him, causing showers of plaster to erupt from the walls while two of the lamps exploded into balls of flame above him.
Draco was forced to duck back into the bedroom. He couldn’t apparate inside the house and this bedroom had no fireplace. He ran to the window and saw several dark shapes stalking around the yard. It appeared that he was surrounded. The intruders’ angry voices were moving into the hallway and he ran back to the door and fired several more curses towards the living room. It was only a matter of time before they cornered him. Just as he was about to make a desperate bid to reach the kitchen at the far end of the hall, Kriffin reappeared beside him.
“Mistress requests the pleasure of your company,” the elf stated with a deep bow.
“Get me the hell out of here,” Draco replied, holding out his arm. Kriffin grabbed his arm and Malfoy Manor spun out of view.
As soon as Goyle and Gamp’s teams had the Aurors pinned down, Flint led Nott and the three wizards from the Ragged Fang to the front doors of the Manor. When an unlocking charm failed to gain them entrance, Nott blasted the doors off of their hinges.
“They’re in the bedroom,” Flint directed, “down the hall. Keep them pinned down while I retrieve the journal from the study.”
Nott followed his orders precisely, taking up a position just to the side of the hallway where he had a clear shot down the length of it. The other three wizards all but ignored Flint, beginning to dump out drawers and rifle through cabinets in search of loot. Pelfry actually beat him into the study, seizing a box from the desk that contained a very talkative gold statue among its other contents.
“The hallway, Mr. Pelfry!” Flint boomed, attempting to restore some semblance of discipline. Pelfry made a rude gesture towards him and carried the box of loot out of the room.
Flint cleared his mind for a second and raised his wand. He began to recite the incantations that she had taught him, trying to remember the wand movements that accompanied them. It all seemed rather long and tedious, but eventually a copy of Gilderoy Lockhart’s “Magical Me” came flying off of a shelf into his waiting hand. Flint stared at the book in disbelief. This was what he had been sent to retrieve? Then realization dawned upon him. The Dark Lord was wise, indeed. He had transfigured his secret journal into the one book that prying eyes were guaranteed to ignore.
Flint exited the study and found a full-fledged firefight going on between the living room and the hallway. Pelfry lay stunned on the floor, his box of loot scattered around him. Burloch’s other companion was trying to staunch the bleeding from a deep cut on the side of his face while he swore and traded curses with their unseen opponent. Suddenly, they heard a pair of loud cracks coming from the hallway and the spells flying in their direction ceased.
“I have the Dark Lord’s journal,” Flint announced triumphantly. “It’s time to leave.”
Burlock and his friend revived Pelfry as Flint strode through the door with Nott close behind. The fight outside the house was over. The Aurors were all defeated.
“Victory is ours,” he shouted. “Now out of here, all of you. We will rendezvous in two hours.” He then turned and disapparated.
Lady Tenabra was waiting for him in the alleyway when he appeared. He held the book triumphantly over his head.
“Well done, Flint,” she said. “Give me the Dark Lord’s journal and meet me at the rendezvous point along with the others.”
“Now you wait just a bloody minute,” Flint replied. “I don’t even know what you look like. If I hand the journal to you and you up and disappear then the next thing I know I’m gonna be on the outside of this revolution looking in. I’m not a bloody fool, you know. Whatever secrets the Dark Lord wrote in this book, we’re gonna see them right here, together.” He gestured menacingly with his wand to emphasize his point.
“Very well,” she sighed. “If you must see the Dark Lord’s journal to find your faith in our cause then so be it. Hold the book out in front of you.”
Flint continued to grip his wand but did as he was told, holding the book at arms length in front of himself. She drew her wand, keeping it in a non-threatening position. Slowly, she began to recite cryptic incantations while waving her wand over the book. After a moment, the book began to glow slightly. Flint stared at it with greedy eyes. His dreams of power and glory were finally within reach. As soon as he took his eyes off of her, she pointed her wand over the book at the center of his chest.
Magical Me tumbled to the ground next to Flint’s lifeless body.
She calmly levitated him into a nearby garbage bin and cast muggle-repelling charms on it. When she was done, she turned and picked up the book from the ground. She looked at the picture of Gilderoy Lockhart smiling smugly at her from the cover, snorted and tossed the book into the bin with Flint. Then she turned and disappeared with a soft pop.
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