Chapter 20 : Chapter 19 - Discoveries
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Remus sighed. It had been almost a week since his visit with Father Stephen. He had read and reread the note from Harry numerous times. Finally, he had contacted Bill to share what he had discovered. "I don't know. At first I thought it might just be a ruse to explain them being together."
"But you don't think so now?" Bill asked.
"Father Stephen described Ginny as wearing a diamond and emerald ring. I can't see anyone buying that as a ruse." Remus peered out Shell Cottage's kitchen window into the gloomy rain soaked afternoon. "I just don't see how it is possible for a sixteen year old to get married without parental permission."
Bill nodded as he absently stirred his tea. "I…I don't know what to think. I'm glad that Ginny has been with Harry and that he hasn't abandoned her as my mother feared. That just never seemed right to me. Harry wouldn't do that to anyone, but especially my sister. Fleur is positive that Harry is in love with Ginny and would never do anything to hurt her."
"Fleur said that?" Remus asked in surprise.
"I was a bit surprised as well, but Fleur and Harry get along really well. He doesn't seem to be affected by her at all, just treats her like a good friend." Bill smiled. "Do you know about the Horntail?"
"Dragon? Like in the Tri-Wizard Tournament?" Remus asked.
"Yeah." Bill nodded. "Fleur and Viktor Krum both got dragon tattoos to honour Cedric Diggory after he was killed. Fleur has a tattoo of a Welsh Green and Viktor has a tattoo of a Chinese Fireball. Those were the dragons they had to get past in the first task. They wanted to bring Harry with them when they got them, but he was only fourteen and…well with everything that happened, they didn't think he would be allowed to go with them. Fleur took him this summer to get his Hungarian Horntail tattoo."
Remus started laughing. "I bet he liked that."
"He did," Bill confirmed. "He and Fleur talked quite a bit over the summer. When Ron and Hermione showed up, Fleur became quite angry at them. At first, they made it sound like Harry had gotten jealous of Ron and Hermione." He chuckled softly at the memory. "Fleur was very upset that they would say that. She knew that Harry was in love with Ginny. He talked about her to Fleur a lot. Fleur hadn't told me that at the time. I mean I knew they were talking, but I didn't know about Ginny until Christmas. Harry was torn up about breaking up with her and Fleur didn't know how my brothers and I would react to that knowledge."
"I can understand that," Remus said. "It can be scary to face the family of the woman you love…especially if you've hurt her. Andromeda has only now started being friendly toward me. Your family has done so much for Harry. I'm sure he wouldn't want to jeopardize that relationship." Looking over at the younger wizard, he said, "I wondered last Christmas if Harry liked her. He kept watching her and at times I was reminded of his father mooning over Lily."
"Ginny's friends at school are quite convinced that she and Harry were still involved, even if Ron and Hermione are not," Bill replied.
Remus snorted. "I don't think that Ron and Hermione are very objective about Harry right now."
After a short pause, Remus laughed. "You know, Sirius was positive that Harry would end up with Ginny. I was rather surprised as at that time I didn't see anything between them. The only thing I saw was the rough resemblance to Lily and James. I mean Ginny doesn't look that much like Lily, but the red hair and of course Harry looks a lot like James. Sirius laughed at me. He hadn't meant that at all. He just thought they would be good for each other. I never really saw it, but he said that Harry used to watch her and Ginny would sneak looks at him as well."
Bill smiled. "I never noticed that. All I knew about was the crush Ginny had on him when she was younger."
"Sirius was a lot more perceptive than most of us gave him credit for," Remus said sadly. "And he loved that boy like he was his own. I have to say I was always a bit jealous of their relationship. Harry was always a bit reserved with me, but he loved Sirius. That summer and Christmas we spent at Grimmauld Place, I would see them laughing and talking together. I know your mum was worried that Sirius was confusing Harry with James, but that wasn't it. He just loved that boy and would have done anything for him. I am positive that he died in peace because he died to protect Harry."
Remus swallowed the lump in his throat that had developed as he talked about his friend. Bill eyed him compassionately. "It must have been a shock to see that stone for him at Godric's Hollow."
"Shock?" Remus smiled. "I'm not sure if that is a strong enough word for what I was feeling. I'd thought about doing something for Sirius, but I didn't know what would be best. Harry knew though. The stone is a perfect memorial for Sirius." He smiled at the thought. "Sirius would be thrilled for Harry, if he is indeed married."
"I can check at Gringotts and see if she's been added to his vaults," Bill said. "I don't know that we can verify it another way."
"That would be great if you can check on that," Remus replied. "I don't want to ask someone to check with the Ministry and alert them to the fact that he might be married. I have no idea how to check Muggle records."
"I'll let you know what I find out," Bill said.
Seamus looked up from his lunch when Demelza joined them at the Gryffindor table. He smiled and wished not for the first time that this was a normal year and he could ask her to go to Hogsmeade with him. Demelza was a fifth year, so he hadn't really gotten to know her until she and Ginny started becoming friends. He had spent a bit of time with Demelza last year when Ginny and Dean were still dating, but this year something had just clicked between the two of them.
Offering a smile, Demelza picked at her plate of fruit and sandwiches. Seamus poured her a glass of pumpkin juice, which she accepted with a smile. He knew she'd just come from Defence class. While Nott was not as cruel as the Carrows, he was still a Death Eater and still tended to use the Cruciatus as a method of discipline.
"Nott giving you problems?" Seamus asked after Demelza had eaten some of her sandwich.
She made a face. "Not him. Harper is the 'helper' for our class. He's rather an idiot so he's not too bad. He's not very good at the Cruciatus, although he thinks he's great. Unfortunately, he's taken a fancy to my friend Rachael. He tried to corner her in class today, but luckily we got away fairly quickly."
Lifting her glass, she started to take a drink, but quickly slammed her juice down. "Damn!"
"I left my book sitting on my desk," Demelza replied. "I meant to throw it in my bag, but when Harper started in, I just left it there."
"I'll go get it for you," Seamus said as he stood. "Where do you sit?"
"Seamus, no. It's okay. I'll go."
He reached out and put his hand on her shoulder. "Demelza, it's okay. You eat. I'll be back in just a few."
With a nod at Neville, he headed off toward the main stairs. As he neared the classroom, he heard the sounds of a heated argument from the partially opened door. Pausing, Seamus frantically tried to decide what to do. After a brief moment of indecision, the Gryffindor seventh-year cast a Silencing and Disillusionment Charm on himself and crept closer to the door.
Peering into the partially opened door, he saw Professor Nott talking to his son, Theodore, as well as Draco, Blaise, and Pansy.
Seamus flattened himself against the wall. It took him a moment to place who was talking. He was so used to hear Draco's confident and often condescending drawl that he did not recognize the scared sounding voice as Draco's immediately.
"Sir, do you know what the plans are for Easter Break?"
Professor Nott eyed the young boy scornfully. He didn't like the Malfoys and he didn't like the fact that they had the honour of having the Dark Lord in their house, even after all of their mistakes. He was certain that if his son had been accorded the chances that Draco had, he would not have screwed up so badly. "All I know is Theodore, Blaise and Pansy will be taking their Marks. The Dark Lord has decided the ceremony will take place at Malfoy Manor on Monday."
Seamus flattened himself against the wall as the Slytherins left the classroom, his mind racing. He waited a good five minutes before reversing the Silencing and Disillusionment Charm and knocking on the door to the classroom.
Professor Nott looked up from his desk. "What do you want, Finnegan?"
"Demelza left her book on her desk. I came to get it."
Nott looked around the room and spotting the book, sent it flying toward Seamus. The young wizard grabbed it and hurried back up to the Great Hall.
Ginny slid into the booth opposite Harry at the small pub where they had stopped for lunch. They were just off the beautiful green in the town of Marlborough, the town closest to Malfoy Manor. Thanks to the information shared with them by both Dobby and Kreacher, the couple had a fairly extensive knowledge about Malfoy Manor and the surrounding area. They had spent the morning walking the perimeter of the estate.
It was a relatively warm spring day, sunny without a cloud in the sky. Ginny smiled at her husband as she reached across the table to squeeze his hand. It was so easy on a beautiful day like this to just be a happy newlywed on a day trip with her gorgeous husband. She thought it was funny to see Harry so oblivious to local girls eyeing him up. He never seemed to notice the girls flirting with him. She was glad that their waitress today was a slightly older woman, at least old enough to be his mother.
"There was a lot of activity there this morning," Harry said quietly after placing their order and setting Privacy Charms. "I think something big is happening."
Ginny nodded. "I didn't recognize anyone, did you?"
He shook his head. "No, I would guess that it is just low-level Death Eaters on guard duty. I can't imagine Bellatrix standing guard."
Ginny laughed at the image. "I can't either."
"Guess what?" Ginny said after a minute. "I think it's almost Easter. I saw signs for candy and Easter services."
"Really?" Harry asked in surprise. "It is so easy to lose track of time."
He smiled over at Ginny. "It was Easter two years ago that I first realized that I might fancy you."
"You never told me that," Ginny said in surprise. "I thought you said it was when you saw me and Dean."
"Well, I knew for sure then, when I wanted to rip Dean's head off. But I think it really started at Easter when you brought me those Easter eggs. I was so…"
"Grumpy?" Ginny offered. "Prat-like?"
"Grumpy," Harry said with a smile. "You just…you just really knew how to help me. That should have been my big clue. Ron and Hermione were tiptoeing around, probably talking behind my back, but you came right to me and confronted me and found a way to help me."
The waitress brought over their food and Harry smiled his thanks before turning back to Ginny. "I never told you why I wanted to talk to Sirius, did I?"
Ginny stilled, her sandwich in her hand. "No."
Harry took a bit of his pie before he explained. "I had seen a memory of Snape's. I-I thought he was hiding something and I j-just dove in when I had the chance." He explained what he had seen in the Pensieve as they slowly ate. "I was so upset. My mum was so upset with my dad that I just couldn't imagine them falling in love. Sirius and Remus tried to tell me that he was just young and immature, but I couldn't imagine that. I'm so glad that I've been able to stay in their house and see pictures of them happy and in love."
Ginny laid her hand on his arm. "They were very happy. That much is very obvious from the pictures in their house. They were very much in love and they loved you very much."
He smiled at her. "They were. I hope they were as happy as us." He laughed. "Anyhow, what I was going to say is I really like Easter. We should do something fun for the day."
"Do you want to go to Godric's Hollow or do you want to stay in London?" Ginny asked.
"I don't know. I kind of like the idea of staying in our own place," Harry replied. Taking another bite of his steak and kidney pie, he commented, "This is really good. I need to learn to make it."
"I see you didn't even think about me learning to make it." Ginny laughed.
Smothering a laugh, Harry replied, "Didn't you tell me when I first mentioned marrying you that you couldn't cook? I'm just taking you at your word."
Laughing, Ginny leaned over to kiss him. "This is why I love you so much."
Settling back against the booth, Ginny asked, "So do you think they are planning? Do you think it has something to do with Easter Break?"
"Maybe," Harry said, gazing out the window. "I wish I knew if it would be taking place here or somewhere else."
Before Ginny could respond, the door to the pub opened.
"Peacocks! Can you believe we found another bloody peacock?"
The couple turned toward the voice. The speaker was a young man in his late twenties, who was approaching a table with three other young men. His mates started laughing as he approached.
A waitress distracted the couple when she came to check on them. After settling their bill, Ginny asked the waitress about the peacocks.
"Some crazy, rich blighter out past town keeps peacocks as pets. Peacocks! What kind of pets are peacocks, I ask you? Foolishness."
Ginny giggled at the thought of Malfoy's peacocks escaping. The waitress looked closely at Ginny. "You aren't from around here, are you?"
"No, ma'am. We are just visiting for a few days. This is such a beautiful part of the country."
The waitress looked over her shoulder before turning back to the young couple in front of her. "It is beautiful, but please be careful out past town. Pretty girls like you have a tendency to disappear, especially around this time of year."
Harry fell silent as they left the pub. Ginny looked over at him questioningly. "The peacock escaped," he said.
He laughed at the look of confusion on her face. "We've seen the wards they have up around the manor. If the peacocks are getting out, they must be getting around the wards, right? I want to go take another look. There may be a way in or out that Malfoy doesn't know about."
Thirty minutes later, the couple found themselves in the heavily wooded area facing the back of Malfoy's property. This was the most likely escape route for the peacocks to have gotten out without anyone realizing. This also appeared to be the area that was not as heavily guarded as the rest.
Standing well within the tree line, Ginny looked out toward Malfoy's property. A wooden fence marked the edge, while wards protected the property from magical attack. From their vantage point in the woods, they could see a large pond, two smaller outbuildings that Ginny took to be some sort of workshops and the large main house. The peacocks were grouped around one side of the pond. She had to admit, it was a beautiful home, but there was an almost palpable sense of evil that came from the house.
Glancing over at her husband, she asked, "Do you think he is here?"
"Tom?" Harry asked. Ginny nodded her head. "I don't think so. For one thing, my scar doesn't hurt any more than normal. The last couple flashes I've gotten from him, he's still been overseas."
"Maybe that's what all of the activity is," Ginny said. "They are expecting him back."
Harry nodded. "That makes sense. I've been thinking about what that waitress said, you know about girls going missing." Ginny nodded and Harry continued, "I wonder if they are planning some type of …I don't know ritual or ceremony and that's why they take local girls. I don't know of any rituals or haven't seen any, but I imagine there must be, right?"
He watched as his wife considered the question. "I don't know. I've heard rumours of what the Death Eaters will do to young girls. Zabini and Malfoy used to…taunt the girls with stories of … assault and what they termed 'fun things' that happened to girls after some of their meetings. Demelza and I thought that maybe they used the girls to reward some of the Death Eaters."
Harry felt his face harden as he thought of the implications of what Ginny had said. "So if they are planning something, they might be taking local girls."
Ginny watched silently as Harry cast several spells at the fence bordering the property, testing the strength of the wards. As she watched him, she suddenly realized that he was using a different wand. "Harry, what wand is that?"
He grinned at her. "This is Malfoy's wand. I've been using it from time to time. According to the books that I got at Dumbledore's house, the fact that it responds to me means it has chosen me. It doesn't really work that great, but I thought this would be a good place to use it."
He pointed to an area under the fence. "It looks like a break in both the wards and the fence. You can see where the ground is dug away. That must be where the peacocks are getting out."
Looking over at her, he said, "Do you want to see what Malfoy's hiding?"
The couple stood and Ginny reached out a hand to stop him. "Wait a minute."
He turned a quizzical eye to her. She smiled and with a sweep of her wand transfigured their clothing into the black hooded robes they had seen on the guards. He grinned in appreciation.
"Good one, Gin."
They made it under the fence and started walking toward the house. As they walked up past the pond, they stopped, alarmed by the sight in front of them. At one end of the pond, some sunning themselves on rocks, while others played in the water were dozens of snakes. A sibilant hissing noise filled the air. As Harry stared at the snakes, he remembered a young Tom Riddle telling Professor Dumbledore that snakes sought him out, but as he looked at the number of snakes in front of them, he knew that would not explain what he was seeing. The Parselmouth could see some common grass snakes, but he saw many snakes he knew could not be native to England. There were some cobras, large pythons, and several more species of brightly coloured snakes he could not identify.
He gripped Ginny's hand tightly. He didn't know for certain, but he thought several of them might be poisonous. Several of the serpents moved to them and Harry raised his wand nervously.
"Hello," he hissed nervously.
The effect on the snakes was electric. One of the smaller brightly coloured black and red snakes reared back. "A s-s-speaker."
"Yess," Harry replied nervously.
A large yellow python moved closer to them.
"You are different from the other s-s-speaker."
Harry glanced up at the house before looking at the python.
"The other sspeaker? Up in the house?"
"Yesss. The other s-s-speaker is different from you."
Harry hadn't even noticed the black adder edging closer to them until he spoke up.
"You are more pure."
"Pure?" Harry asked sceptically.
"Yesss s-s-speaker, you are pure of heart. The older s-s-speaker is not," the adder explained.
A squeak caused him to look over at Ginny. She was staring in horror at the snakes slithering around their feet. Harry reached out and squeezed her hand.
"Iss ssshe your mate?" the adder asked.
"Yesss," Harry nodded proudly. "But ssshe can't ssspeak like me." He glanced up at the house again. "Isss the other s-s-speaker here?"
"No, s-s-speaker," the python answered.
"My mate and I would like to go up to the house," Harry said, gesturing toward the mansion.
A round of hissing greeted this statement. Harry pulled Ginny closer, hoping the snakes would not attack. The black adder reared back. "You and your mate may proceed, young s-s-speaker."
"Thanksss," Harry replied.
Silently, he and Ginny made their way through the snakes. Harry nodded and greeted those that strayed close to them.
Harry gestured toward the door. Ginny nodded silently before the couple opened the ornate wooden door and slipped down the stairs. At the end of the stairs, a short corridor led to a large steel reinforced door. They had encountered a few Death Eaters, but with their black robes, no one questioned them.
Looking over at his wife, Harry whispered, "If we run into a Basilisk, you're taking care of it this time."
Ginny giggled in spite of herself and Harry felt her relaxing slightly next to him. The corridor they entered was markedly different from the rest of the house. The rich décor of the upstairs gave way to grey, cold stone.
Noise coming from further up the corridor attracted their attention. Gripping his wand, Harry cautiously led the way down the hall. The hallway opened into a large room surrounded on three sides by cells with bars on them. There were two Death Eaters standing with their backs to the hallway, taunting the occupants of the cells. Harry did not recognize either of the Death Eaters, but he thought they were relatively young – perhaps only a few years older than him.
With a nod at Ginny, the couple opened fire on the unsuspecting Death Eaters who dropped quickly. Hurrying up to the cells, Harry quickly unlocked the doors. Only two of the cells were occupied. Mr. Ollivander was alone in one cell. He was emaciated and weak, but he was able to walk. In the other cell were two young girls that Harry judged them to be his age or younger. Ginny hurried into their cell to help them. Both girls were scared, but as they haltingly told Ginny, they had not been assaulted.
"Yes, master?" Kreacher popped into the cell with Harry and Mr. Ollivander.
"Can you take Mr. Ollivander someplace safe?" Harry asked in concern.
"Where should I take him, master?"
Ginny looked out of the cell where she was with the young girls. "Can you take him to my brother's house? Shell Cottage is outside of Tinworth in Cornwall."
"Yes, mistress." Kreacher grabbed the older wizard's hand and whisked him away to safety.
Ginny brought the girls out into the corridor as Harry exited Ollivander's former cell. He smiled at the girls in what he hoped was a non-threatening manner. They watched him timidly while they crowded around Ginny.
"This is my husband, Harry," Ginny told the girls. Once they had relaxed slightly, Ginny asked, "How are we getting out of here?"
Before Harry could respond, a noise sounded behind them. Harry turned to see the Death Eater they had stunned recovering. Trusting Ginny to look after the girls, Harry fired a barrage of spells toward the Death Eaters.
He jumped back as a cutting curse sliced across his arm. Swearing at the pain, Harry sent a blasting curse at the closest Death Eater sending him flying into the wall. There, he crumpled with a crunching sound before sliding down the wall and not getting up again.
Harry dodged the sickly green of the Killing Curse and sent a cutting curse toward his opponent. He heard a yell from one side and saw a blasting curse speed toward his opponent, blasting the wall behind him. Harry followed up with another blasting curse. He jumped back as the Death Eater's arm shattered, spraying the area with blood and tissue. The young wizard watched in horrified fascination as the Death Eater took his last breath.
"Harry?" Turning, he saw Ginny coming toward him. "Are you okay?" He nodded as he wrapped his arms around her. She held him tightly for a minute before she whispered, "You did what you had to do, love."
"I know," Harry whispered. "I just…I wasn't trying to kill them."
Ginny kissed him softly. "We have to go."
Quickly they transfigured robes for the two girls and they hurried out of the dungeon. To Harry's relief, they made it off the property easily, leaving by way of the broken fence. Neither Harry nor Ginny felt comfortable with memory charms, so Harry cast a powerful Confundus charm on the girls before leaving them at the police station.
Harry headed out to the bedroom, toweling his hair dry. He and Ginny had returned to London after spending a few days in Marlborough. After tossing the towel into the dirty clothes basket, Harry pulled on a pair of jeans. He could smell the stew that was cooking on the stove.
As he headed into the kitchen, his scar that had been burning all day suddenly seared in pain. He tried to suppress a moan as he pressed his hand over the area. Another intense wave of pain seared across his head and suddenly he was standing in a well-appointed sitting room.
Bellatrix Lestrange was on her knees in front of him, bowing down.
"Rise, Bella," he said as he extended his long white fingers.
"Thank you, my Lord," Bella said as she stood.
"What are these creatures doing here?" he asked, gesturing to the Goblins that had accompanied her back from Gringotts.
"Sir," one of the Goblins said angrily.
The Goblin screamed as the curse hit him. He watched the Goblin writhe under the curse for a moment before lifting it. He turned back to Bellatrix. "What is going on?"
"I went to my vault to retrieve the brand to be used in the ceremony," Bellatrix explained nervously as she held out the jeweled brand that had been used to brand all of the Death Eaters. He could have marked them without the tool, but it pleased him to mark all of these Purebloods with his brand. Like a common cattle brand, it burned the Mark into their skin. However, his brand also infused his magic into the Mark.
He reached out and took the brand from her. "Yes."
"My Lord, someone has been in my vault," Bella said nervously as she edged toward the door. Lucius and Narcissa were already near the door. "I spoke to these creatures and they claim they have no knowledge about the break in."
"What was taken?" He already knew, but he wanted to hear it out loud.
"A golden cup," one of the Goblins said.
He dimly noticed Bellatrix and Lucius fleeing the room as he turned on the Goblins.
Harry was suddenly aware of the carpet under him. He had somehow ended up on his hands and knees, retching. Ginny was kneeling on the floor next to him, running her hands through his hair.
"Ssh. It's okay, love."
"He knows," Harry whispered.
Ginny summoned a cup of water from the kitchen and helped him sit up and take a sip. Harry leaned back against her as he told her what he'd seen. He groaned as the pain in his head flared again.
"He just killed them. All those Goblins did was tell him the truth."
"What is he going to do?" Ginny asked after she helped him to his feet.
Harry grabbed onto her shoulders to stabilize himself. "He's going to check on his other Horcruxes. We need to go to Hogwarts."
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