The next couple of weeks passed by seamlessly and without event. Apart from Ginny arriving back at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, things were as usual which was especially frustrating for Harry. His mind had occasionally drifted to images of Flamel, the suspicious message and the memory of his parents, not knowing what to exactly make of all of it. Though he was happy that Holyhead had won their last two matches on the road, Harry was just glad to have Ginny back at
home; he thought he would have gone mad if she had been away for another week.
On the day of the first snow of the winter season, Harry had been presented with a makeshift calendar of some sort by Ron who assured Harry it had been given as a gift from George and that no payment was necessary. Seeing the symbol of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes emblazoned on the back of the frame, Harry conceded, noticing that the single frame of the calendar featured a great number of tiny doors of assorted colours and textures. It was this calendar that Harry had placed on his desk at the Auror Office.
‘I’m almost sort of scared to open it,’ chuckled Ron as he examined his own calendar, a dark green one compared to Harry’s scarlet.
‘Let’s give it a go then,’ responded Harry through a smirk.
It seemed as if Fudge’s restrictions at the Ministry had been successful thus far; there had been no attacks nor had anything else occurred that was noteworthy for the Aurors since they had been put in place. It was because of this that Harry now resorted to opening up miniature doors on strange calendars for his entertainment at work.
Harry found the tiny door with the number ‘one’ printed on the door handle and after glancing at Ron briefly, he opened it. Instantly, three tiny figures popped out of the door. Hovering the entire time, a boy and a girl figure dressed in vibrant scarlet stood together while a third male figure dressed in green sniggered loudly a couple of inches away. The green clad figured dangled a candy cane in front of the female, Harry watching as she slowly tore away from her partner and followed the green figure. Noticing this, her red robed partner seemed to grow angry, chasing the sniggering green character around the calendar in a circle. After a few quick laps, the green figure stopped and stood beside the female character who now held the candy cane in her hand, the red, male figurine continuing to rapidly circle the characters. After a few more laps without realizing that he was chasing no one, he suddenly stopped, retrieved his wand, pointed it at his former partner and the green figure and shot sparks in their direction, a loud banging noise catching Harry off guard, making him jump in his cubicle chair. After Harry had opened his eyes again, he saw the three figures standing in a line in front of their door, each of them looking upwards with their eyes closed as they sang in small, squeaky voices.
‘We wish you a Merry Christmas!’ they sang loudly. Another shower of red and green sparks exploded from their wands, a few Aurors turning away from their cubicles to see what was going on. Harry smiled weakly as he saw the three figures zoom back in to their door, the door itself closing and changing colour. A small print appeared out of nowhere on the frame that read ‘twenty-three more days until Christmas!’.
‘Bloody hell! Why does he have to make those things so loud?’ Ron whispered as he smirked embarrassedly and waved to a couple of cross-looking Aurors who passed by.
‘I thought you were opening yours,’ Harry said who roughly thrust the calendar back in his cubicle drawer.
‘I did. But nothing ever –’
The slightly contorted voice of George erupted from the door that Ron had opened, loudly booming throughout the Auror Office with great force.
‘Only twenty-three more days until Christmas Ron, so get me something good alright? Not anything like those stale cauldron cakes... you know, like the ones you got me last year?’ Ron shut the door that now had the same message imprinted on its frame as Harry’s advent calendar.
‘Git,’ Ron muttered to himself as he too stuffed his calendar in to one of the desk's drawers, hiding it from view. Just as he had closed the drawer, Williamson appeared seemingly out of nowhere, startling Harry and Ron with his presence. His thinning black hair was askew and upon his first words of speech, he appeared to be slightly out of breath.
‘It’s time to get going Potter... Weasley,’ he stated panting, looking intensely down upon Harry and Ron from his great height. Harry did not need any more prodding from his Head nor any further information to understand what Williamson was alluding to; he had thought about this moment ever since Williamson presented him with the idea of trying to recruit Draco Malfoy over to their side.
Harry and Ron both got up quickly, following Williamson to the fireplaces at the back of the Auror Office, Williamson nodding at a few Aurors as he passed them. Harry had to catch himself from running in to the backside of Williamson as he stopped very suddenly in order to speak to a particularly tall Auror with long brown hair.
‘Mosteban would like to see you right away Crawford,’ Williamson mumbled. Crawford looked quite taken aback by Mosteban’s apparent request, but he nodded stiffly and quickly changed his direction.
‘Mosteban’s been meeting with the entire Office today it seems,’ Williamson said over his shoulder to Harry and Ron who had resumed their pace.
‘Know what he’s up to?’ Harry asked. He had tried to pose his question nonchalantly – which he did, Harry thought – but he cringed at his poor word choice a fraction of a second after the last word had left his lips. He sounded as if he was questioning Mosteban himself, Harry’s true feelings concerning the Head of the Aurors accidently protruding to the surface.
‘He’s not up to anything, Potter,’ Williamson said gruffly, his eyebrows scrunched together. ‘Being the Head of the Aurors, Mosteban does not need some sort of justification. He marches to the beat of his own drum... and he’s been quite successful with it.’
‘Well... of course, sir,’ recovered Harry, glancing over at Ron who gave Harry a small nod.
Williamson grabbed a handful of Floo powder from a small cup on the fireplace’s mantle, glancing back at Harry and Ron through a narrow stare. Turning to the roaring fire, he said ‘Cellar at the Leaky Cauldron!’ and vanished in a gulf of emerald flames. Ron’s eyebrows rose in surprise.
‘I wouldn’t mind a Butterbeer before being reacquainted with an old slime ball like Malfoy...’ he said, repeating the words of his Head and vanishing in to the fireplace as well. Quickly, Harry did the same and soon found himself in the dingy cellar of the Leaky Cauldron, not having the faintest idea of what they were doing there.
‘Tom should have placed it around here somewhere,’ Williamson muttered to himself, a faint dripping noise echoing throughout the cellar. ‘Aha, here it is...’
Williamson seized a broken glass mug from behind a large wooden barrel, carefully inspecting it before placing it on top of the barrel. Without even asking, Harry knew this was their portkey that would take them to Draco. Having just had a chance to collect himself after his travel, Harry dusted off his robes, glancing behind him to see an old, formerly boarded up fireplace behind him that was barely large enough for him to fit in. Harry saw the beams of wood that had been taken down – probably by Tom the innkeeper – lying innocently next to the eroded, darkened and lifeless fireplace.
‘Sir,’ Ron said hesitantly, ‘Is there any specific reason why we’ve been brought along? Or am I just looking too far in to it?’ Harry had wondered about that very same question for quite some time now. Williamson turned and paused before responding.
‘Not looking close enough rather than too far, I’d say,’ he said with a slight smile, Harry taking a seat on one of the overturned barrels beside the fireplace, a faded ‘Butterbeer’ word mark emblazoned on an angle on the barrels’ side. ‘It is imperative that you two be brought along... you have a history with Draco that may be the deciding factor in to pulling him to our side... that is unless the Death Eaters have got to him already, which I somewhat expect.’
‘Is that the reason why we want him then? Because he might know something about the Death Eaters?’ Harry asked quietly.
‘Partly, yes. Though I am almost certain that he has been contacted by the Death Eaters, if there is a slight chance that he has not, then he could be used as a spy with us taking the offensive. Someone like Draco – a former Death Eater, not incarcerated and having a less than firm loyalty to them – is an extremely rare find. It’s something we need to exploit.’
‘Why would he just join our side then? Just because he is not on the Death Eaters’ side doesn’t mean he will gladly walk over to ours.’ Williamson nodded at Ron’s speech even before he was finished.
‘True but we have many things over him that can be used as bargaining chips... His father in Azkaban... his family’s all but lost fortune... and there’s something that you have on him that we can use as a last resort...’
‘What is –’ Harry started, but was interrupted by Williamson who snapped his fingers and pointed at the now faintly glowing mug.
‘When we get there, do not say much and keep calm,’ he said quickly as he seized the handle. ‘Be careful when you touch it.’
Harry felt the cold glass in his hand, being careful not to touch the jagged, broken edges. After Ron seized the opposite side of the glass, Harry felt the all too familiar sensation of travelling by portkey, whirling around for a moment before plopping down on hard ground once again.
Harry, Ron and Williamson appeared in the shadow of Malfoy Manor. Its iron gate was swinging back and forth in the light breeze, a small squeaking noise touching Harry’s ear with each pendulum-like swing. The manor itself seemed to be in shambles; the hedges were growing wildly out on to the walkway which featured weeds of various sizes protruding from beneath the stone. Some of the windows on the first and second floors had been smashed and many of the bricks seemed to have been somehow blown to pieces, debris littering certain areas along the overgrown grass. As the three began to walk towards the gate, Harry was amazed at how different the house of Malfoy looked compared with his last visit. Even though Harry had not paid astute attention to the house’s features on that unfortunate stay, it was clearly apparent how far the house had sunk in to utter uncared-for decay since then.
‘What this place really needs is a house-elf. Too bad you freed him, eh Harry?’ Ron asked quietly as the three Aurors walked through the iron gate and set off towards the manor. Harry smiled back, thinking fondly of the Malfoy’s former house elf Dobby.
‘Be at the ready,’ Williamson whispered calmly. ‘I’m not exactly sure what to expect once we get inside.’
Williamson’s warning seemed to permeate through Harry and Ron, instantly making them rigid, subconsciously clasping their wands from the inside of their cloaks. As they approached the door, Williamson extended his arm to knock, holding his fist a few inches away from the door and pausing.
‘When we do talk to Draco... don’t wait for my lead. I have the feeling that the two of you will be the difference in convincing Draco to join our side.’
Before Harry could reply, Williamson knocked on the door three times. Harry’s heart rose to his throat as he heard footsteps slowly make their way to the door. After a moment’s pause, Harry heard the lock of the door click, the heavy door slowly opening.
‘Who’s there and what do you want?’ a man’s voice whispered very directly. Harry noticed that the sun was beginning to disappear now.
‘Name is Williamson. I work for the Ministry of Magic, Auror Department.’ Harry could sense the man stiffen at Williamson’s response, especially when he mentioned his occupation. ‘We wish to see Draco Malfoy.’ The door opened an inch or two more. Nothing was said for a few seconds.
‘Whose there with you?’ the voice finally asked.
‘This is Mr. Weasley and Mr. Potter,’ Williamson said, arching his head slightly in an effort to look inside the house through the crack of the door. As if the man had sensed this, the door closed suddenly with a sharp crack. Harry looked over at Ron, Williamson looking straight ahead rigidly and unmoving.
Just then, catching both Harry and Ron off guard, the door swung open quickly. Standing on the threshold was a man of average height, a dark cloak encompassing his body. He had long dark hair tied in to a long pony tail, a fairly large nose and eyes like small pieces of coal. He surveyed the Aurors, Harry following the man’s eyes and eventually, locking himself in a stare with the dark cloaked man.
‘Mr. Malfoy has agreed to see the three of you... briefly...’ he said, placing emphasis on his last word. Williamson stepped past the man who was now holding open the door, Harry and Ron following closely behind. The man closed the door sharply. ‘Follow me.’
The inside of the house mirrored the manor’s outside image. So much dust had been collected on the tops of the little end tables that it looked as if a calm, soft snowfall had somehow taken place indoors. The man led them down the grand hallway after taking an immediate left, guiding them in to an adjacent drawing room. Harry was being extra careful to watch his step; he could barely see his feet in front of him in the pitch black darkness, only a few orange rays of daylight making their presence felt through the mostly closed shutters. Luckily, a couple of worn down candles had been lit, enveloping the drawing room in its faint glow. Then, from somewhere in the near darkness, Harry heard a voice.
‘Bernard,’ it said softly. Harry recognized it instantly. Though it sounded distant and weak, Harry knew that the voice belonged to Draco Malfoy. Sure enough, as Harry scanned the leather couches, he could make out the figure of Draco. Not taking his eyes off of him, Harry found his way to a leather seat on the opposite side of the coffee table, Williamson and Ron sharing a much larger sofa beside him.
No one spoke. After surveying the scene for a few moments, Bernard left the room with a hesitant nod at the indication of Malfoy. Though Malfoy had not looked at Harry since the time he had entered the room, Harry was fixated on his former Hogwarts nemesis. His appearance looked disheveled, his eyes very red and his hair looked somewhat thin and overly greasy. He was not looking at anything in particular, staring someplace between Williamson and Ron, not wavering in his stare. The silence of the room was growing louder and louder by the second, Harry wanting to say something just to stop the nearly overwhelming tension.
‘As you’ve probably guessed, we are from the Ministry of Magic’s Auror Department,’ Williamson said calmly not taking his eyes off Draco. ‘My name is Henry Williamson. This here – as I’m sure you know – is Harry Potter and beside me, Ronald Weasley.’
Draco barely moved, slightly nodding his head as a twang of loathing crept on to his face.
‘I hope that we have found you in good health Mr. Malfoy,’ Williamson continued.
‘I’m fine,’ Draco spat softly. Harry was drawn to Draco’s face as if he had drunken a love potion of Draco Malfoy’s essence. It was not because Draco was nearly the only thing Harry could make out in the extreme darkness, but because of the obvious wall that his former classmate had seemingly erected.
‘Just fine?’ Williamson continued with a hint of playfulness. ‘Being “fine” is not an emotion nor a state of health, but rather a simple declaration of one’s own reluctant acceptance with their situation.’
‘And what situation am I in?’
‘Well, I’m not sure if I know enough to speak on your behalf Mr. Malfoy, but regardless, having understood a little about your hardships, you now understand why I good-naturedly asked of your wellness.’ Draco took his time before responding flatly.
‘I’m... besieged with joy.’
Williamson looked down in to his lap, letting out a short, whispery laugh. He shook his head as if to reset himself.
‘I do apologize for taking up the bulk of your evening Mr. Malfoy – times at the Ministry are... how should I put this... interesting, to say the least.’
‘How much longer are we going to play games, Auror?’ Draco said suddenly, briefly looking directly at Williamson for the first time. ‘You come to my home unannounced – the least you could do is get down to your business or come back another time.’
Though he was not showing it in his expression, Harry could see the anger boiling underneath the surface of Draco. Williamson eyed Draco playfully, putting his hands on his knees as he spoke again.
‘Very well. Do you have any idea why we’re here?’ Williamson pressed softly. Draco’s eyes flashed in Williamson’s direction again before resuming his stare in to nothingness. After a few moments that felt like much longer than what they actually were, Draco kissed his teeth before speaking very hoarsely and coldly, seemingly putting great thought in to every word he spoke.
‘Well I’m not a Seer, so obviously there is no way of me knowing... but if I were to hazard a guess, I would think it would have something to do with my... er... position.’ Draco still did not look at Harry as he spoke softly with a hint of sarcasm and annoyance. Still not wavering in his sitting position, Draco’s eyes met Williamson’s as he tilted his head slightly to one side. ‘I assume you have heard of the bowtruckle before?’
Harry was surprised at the change of pace. Williamson, however, seemed to be amused, firmly locked in his stare that Draco was now reciprocating. Williamson smiled slightly before responding.
‘Yeah. I have Mr. Malfoy.’
‘I thought so. As you know, the bowtruckle is a small, insect-eating tree-dwelling creature,’ Draco began, speaking in a low voice at a drawn out, meticulous pace. ‘Now, as well as its appetite for the insects found inside a certain tree, additionally, the bowtruckle unconsciously feasts upon the tree itself and all of the nutrients that enables it to grow. It feeds and depends on the tree so greatly, that gradually, the tree begins to decompose and eventually, it ultimately ceases to be. But here is the ironic and interesting part. The bowtruckle will defend its tree to any human wishing to chop it down in order to produce lumber or wood used in wand-making, defending it to such a great extent that it will aggressively and violently fight off any intruder. Funny... the bowtruckle will defend the very thing that they themselves are slowly killing, using it only for its own personal gain. It does not care one bit for the tree, but only for the resource that the tree is to them. In the end, the only thing that the bowtruckle should be defending their tree from... is themselves. I tell you this because bowtruckles – in my experience – are in no way different than Aurors. Feasting upon the tree –’ Draco indicated himself, ‘and not caring one bit about it until finally, the tree is destroyed forever... the bowtruckle venturing off to a different tree; the process starting anew. See if a tree is ever to live their life the way they want it – without pain, torment or untimely death – then associating themselves with a bowtruckle is something that they... that I can’t... and won’t do.’
No one spoke nor moved a muscle for a few moments, the flickering candle illuminating Draco’s pale face. Harry had never remembered Draco act in such a way in all of the years he had known him; even when he was under strict and constant pressure from the Death Eaters and Voldemort himself, Draco seemed to crack, nowhere near this calm, cold and calculating demeanor that he was putting forth.
‘Very well,’ Williamson said softly. ‘I see there is no way in convincing you... but if I may... my superior would be quite cross with me if I told him – after coming all this way – that I arrived yet did not even tell you what I have been instructed to propose this evening. So... if you will indulge me?’
Draco retracted, still not even acknowledging that Harry and Ron were in the room. Draco’s audible exhale was apparently the signal that meant that Williamson could continue.
‘I look at you Mr. Malfoy... your most recent past, your family and their connections... and the first thing that comes to mind is your extraordinary predicament and place in this post-Voldemort world that we are so fortunate to live in. To clarify... an ex-Death Eater, proven to be guilty of such a charge, being free to live as they please. It’s not something that many – if any – ex-Death Eaters can boast about.’
Williamson surveyed Draco carefully. Harry, having come to know Draco over the years, could see the first few signs of anger rise up from his heart to his face, but surprisingly, Draco kept that anger repressed when he spoke.
‘My mother... she took the fall for me. Because my crimes were – in the minds of the Ministry – minor... my mother’s presence in Azkaban sufficed their need for two Malfoys to be captured.’
‘I’m aware,’ Williamson responded stiffly. Harry saw Draco’s head sink, his eyes unfocused for a moment as if he was about to pass out, his chest rising and falling at a quicker pace in the candlelight. Harry could sense what Williamson was methodically doing. ‘But to continue... we are here today to offer you a chance at redemption. The Death Eaters in their current form are on their last legs. Though they are resilient, their group in sheer numbers is minor. However, being devoted to catching Death Eaters for years now, I know that it is foolish to judge a Death Eater’s strength on volume alone. That is why we need your help. We need your help to infiltrate the Death Eaters and to see what they are planning. They are becoming increasingly difficult to track. A detrimental factor in there being so few Death Eaters left is that there are far less leads to go on. I promise that you will be properly rewarded for your help to the Aurors.’
‘Help? You want my help?’ Draco asked somewhat incredulously and with a more aggressive tone. ‘I don’t care for any personal redemption Auror, I assure you. And another thing, what makes you think I can just stroll in to a Death Eater’s meeting and fit right in again? Even if I knew where to look for them, you can’t just expect them to allow me right back in to the fold after all that has happened!’
Draco was breathing heavily now though he had still not met the eye of Harry as if Harry had secretly put on his invisibility cloak and not known it. Williamson shifted in his seat so that his head was now closer to Draco’s as he leaned out over the coffee table. Hearing something from behind him, Harry turned his head slightly and saw that Bernard had now re-entered the room.
‘We know that you’ve been contacted by the Death Eaters Draco,’ Williamson said softly yet with force, forgetting the use of his surname this time. ‘If I wanted, I could bring you in to the Ministry for questioning right now, but I hope to avoid such un-pleasantries with you.’
‘That’s right, threaten away,’ Draco said coldly. ‘You have nothing to threaten me with. See, you can’t threaten someone who has nothing left to lose.’
‘It is not my intension for us to bring you in to the Ministry,’ Williamson said quickly and firmly. ‘Having you appear at the Ministry will be picked up by the Prophet and that sort of publicity is crippling to our efforts to have you remain incognito. But I have to disagree with your last statement. Nothing to lose? Draco... people like you have everything to lose.’
Draco put his head in to his hands as he let out a long muffled sigh. Harry turned to look at Ron who was eying Draco with a mix of pity, anger and sorrow. When Draco looked back up again, Harry could see the tears beginning to form in the corners of his bloodshot eyes.
‘You have no idea what it’s like!’ Draco exclaimed, his frowning face twitching as if it was taking a great strength to suppress his emotion. ‘The guilt... that comes with knowing that your parents are slowly dying when you know it should be you in there with them and not off scot-free!’ Draco shook his head, the anger in his face turning to a look of fear and of loss. ‘I-I don’t know how often I’ve thought about going back to when I was younger... wishing I could tell myself and my parents to just... just... stop! To tell them to just move away from all of it! By the time they wanted out it was too late! And then you come in here... wanting me to help the Aurors who sealed our fates that we started all those years ago? Wanting me to return to the Death Eaters – the thing that destroyed my life forever? You do not understand and you will never understand...’
Harry had never heard Draco talk like that with such raw emotion and regret before. To him, it did not seem real; the words that Draco spoke did not match the face that was speaking them. And as he thought this, all of a sudden, as if a bolt of lightning had struck him in the head, Harry’s feelings changed towards Draco. Though he had spent most of his life hating him, something inside Harry seemed to be reaching out at Draco as if for the first time in their lives, the Gryffindor and the Slytherin were not so different after all, even if it was in just a small, insignificant way.
‘You think that you’re the only one?’ Harry found the words escaping his mouth before he even realized it. Draco looked up slightly at the sound of Harry’s voice but did not meet Harry’s stare, still looking out at nothing in particular. ‘You think that you’re the only one who has lost any sort of connection with their parents? How about having your parents – your only family – killed by a madman! And on top of that... having it be entirely your fault!’
Ron was looking at Harry wide-eyed while Williamson solemnly looked down in to his lap as Harry roared. He was bubbling over in anger and frustration at the sight of Malfoy who was now beginning to quiver.
‘Save it!’ Draco said sharply, still not looking at Harry. ‘Don’t try to sell me with your sob story now Potter! You’ve been surrounded by hundreds over the years, bending over backwards for you, interested in you, liking and admiring you without even meeting. I’ve had none of that! I’ve been here alone being constantly ignored unless it concerns the gain of others! You’ve got friends who are practically family – I’ve got none of it! Nothing like the famous Harry Potter ever had!’
‘Then that is why you must help us! Set your mistakes and your family’s mistakes right – get your family out of Azkaban so you can live out the rest of your life without being alone!’ Harry was on the edge of his seat, glancing sideways slightly as he saw Bernard pass by him on his left. Draco shook his head as Harry pressed on. ‘There’s no use sitting and getting angry about it. Trust me, if there was an opportunity for me to get my family back, I would take it... but there isn’t... not for me anyway. But there is one for you. You have it much better than you think so stop sulking about it! Don’t you want to get back at the Death Eaters? We are so close to ending them forever – what better way to erase your family’s mistakes then by –’
‘SHUT UP POTTER!’ yelled Draco. ‘You have no right to speak of my family in that way!’
‘Now Draco, there’s no need to scream – let’s all keep our heads here –’ Williamson began slowly before being interrupted by Draco again.
‘NO! No dirty half-blood is obliged to talk ill of my family – not in the house they built!’
Draco was quivering violently now. Having made it to the side of the sofa where Draco was sitting, Bernard looked down upon him, eyeing Harry intensely. Tears began to cascade down Draco’s face, his whimpers making up the only noise in the otherwise quiet drawing room. Finally, by the time Harry had thought of what to say, Draco spoke, but this time he spoke much more clearly and softer than before.
‘Why’d you have to save me, Potter...’ Draco whimpered. Draco looked up and for the first time, Draco’s wet eyes locked on to Harry’s and suddenly, much of the frustration that Harry had built up inside concerning the brooding Malfoy began to dissipate. ‘I should have died in that fire in the Room of Requirement... Then at least I wouldn’t be in your debt. J-Just the idea of owing you of all people a life debt... is overwhelming.’
‘Well...’ Harry began after swallowing, meeting the cold, red-tinged eyes of Draco, ‘you can call us even if you help us now. If there was a way for me to get rid of my guilt... to get my Mum and Dad back... I’d do it – whatever it is. For you... that thing is ridding the world of the Death Eaters – once and for all. Then you’ll be glad that I saved you from the fire... Because then... then we can redeem our parents and... redeem ourselves.’
All of a sudden Harry felt hot, his eyes stinging as his mind wandered to thoughts of his long deceased parents. He looked at Draco, almost hearing the voice inside Draco’s mind mulling over his options. Williamson sat back, putting his fingers to his mouth as he examined Draco. Bernard looked most unsettled as he looked from Draco to Harry, his eyes widening by the second.
‘No... no, no, no, no, no...’ Draco muttered to himself. With each word he grew more intense, speaking louder and louder. ‘No, I can’t do this... it’s not right. No. No! NO!’
Draco stood up so fast that the wind from his movement ruffled Harry’s already messy hair. Swiftly, Draco removed his wand, pointing it squarely at Harry’s head. Half a second later, Williamson was on his feet as well, pointing his wand at Draco. Bernard jumped back a few paces, clumsily retrieving his wand and aiming it at Williamson while Ron had his wand firmly intended at Bernard.
‘Don’t even try it!’ Draco said loudly as Harry went for his own wand. ‘I’ll curse you so fast you won’t even know what hit you!’
‘Calm down Draco! This won’t end well if you go through with it!’
‘Oh, I have no intention of this going well, Williamson. I’ve put a lot of thought in to it.’
‘Malfoy! Lower your wand and aim it away from Harry! NOW!’ Ron said forcefully.
‘Oh, Weasley. True, Gryffindors are known for their bravery... but they’ve always lacked a certain... intelligence.’
‘Put it away Malfoy,’ Harry said slowly. ‘This doesn’t bring your parents back from Azkaban... it doesn’t help you get any sort of revenge!’
‘That’s where you’re wrong Potter! This is the first step in me getting my revenge!’
Harry’s heart was beating very fast. Harry knew Williamson wanted to jinx Draco right away, but he knew Bernard would conjure up his own killing curse the moment that Williamson opened his mouth to speak the incantation. It was all too risky. Harry had no ideas of what to do. He had thought that he was making progress in convincing Draco to help the Aurors but it seemed that he could not have been more wrong.
‘Are you ready Potter?’ Draco said viciously. Breathing very fast, Harry found no words to say to his adversary. Draco opened his mouth, lifting his wand to strike.
It all happened very fast. Draco span around on the spot, aiming his wand directly at Bernard and yelling ‘Stupefy!’. The curse knocked Bernard back into a side table, shattering the glass. A large cloud of dusty smoke rose around the unconscious Bernard as he lay motionless on the floor.
‘He’s a Death Eater,’ Draco said quietly as he slid his wand back in to his pocket. ‘I could not let him see that I agreed to help you. Breathing a sigh of relief, Ron put his wand away, Williamson leaving his out as he checked on Bernard.
‘Good thinking,’ Williamson replied. ‘We’ll get some of our people to drink some Polyjuice Potion in order to impersonate Bernard and maintain the illusion that he has been unharmed. We’ll have to question you to learn as much as possible about him.’
‘Naturally,’ Draco said coldly. He gave Harry a curt and very brief nod before looking at Bernard once more.
‘Ron you should get the body back to the Auror Department immediately – he’ll be knocked out for at least an hour,’ Williamson said. Ron gulped and looked over at Harry but nodded his head firmly to indicate to Williamson that he understood. ‘Take the portkey from the Leaky Cauldron back – Harry and I will go back through the main entrance. Oh... and that was an impressive Stunning Spell Mr. Malfoy.’ Draco nodded as he sat back down on the sofa.
Clutching the body of Bernard with one hand and the broken glass portkey with the other, Ron vanished from view, Harry giving him one final pat on the back before he left. Harry drew his attention to Draco who once again was staring at nothing in particular. The voice of Williamson drew Harry out of his long fixation upon his former enemy turned ally.
‘We’ll be in close contact with each other,’ Williamson said as he stood across from Draco. ‘Until we meet again in a couple weeks, I suggest you lay low and try to maintain normalcy. Tell the Death Eaters if they come knocking what transpired here – leaving out that you have agreed to help us of course. We’ll have a Bernard impersonator along in a couple days and you can then educate him further. Once we have a more concrete plan in place, I will return and we can go over further details then.’
‘Alright then,’ Draco said simply, glancing between Williamson and Harry but being sure not to focus on either one of them for too long. ‘I’m guessing I’ll be unable to get my family out of Azkaban until after your plan has been carried through... but I will not continue on unless I get a normal visitation schedule.’ Williamson nodded.
‘Don’t worry... you’ll have your family back again soon. You made a wise choice today Mr. Malfoy.’
With that, Williamson smiled, nodded again and left the room, Harry stealing one more exchange with Draco before following his mentor.
It was not until nearly twenty minutes later – after Harry and Williamson had apparated back to London and had flushed themselves in to the Ministry – that Harry finally spoke to his Unit Head once more. He had been taking in the meeting the entire time and still Harry was shocked and surprised at what had just transpired. Having sensed that Williamson was deep in thought as well, Harry was having trouble finding the right moment to ask a question that he had no answer for. Finally, as the golden gate of the lift opened to allow them on to the second floor of the Ministry, Harry asked it.
‘Sir, er... how do we know that we can trust him?’
‘We don’t,’ Williamson said simply. ‘That’s why it’s going to be a gradual process. Once we have a firm confidence in Draco, then – and only then – can we put our plan in to action. But as you saw, when you have something over a person that they are desperately clamoring for... it makes the issue of trust all the more easy...’
‘What are those plans?’ Harry pressed curiously as they entered the Auror Department. Williamson smiled as they began to descend the steps.
‘In time it will be much clearer.’ Harry nodded his head and began to walk towards his cubicle but he was pulled back at Williamson’s calling voice. ‘Oh and Potter. You did an excellent job in there. Not that this is ground-breaking in any way but... you’re well on your way to being an excellent Auror. I think it’s just a matter of –’
A bright flash of blue light forced Harry to shield his eyes momentarily, opening his eyes to see Williamson’s body seemingly being quickly pulled by an invisible rope, tossing him across the room and crashing against the pensieves on the far side of the room. Standing about thirty feet away was Crawford, the wizard Harry had encountered earlier that day, his wand outstretched and a sadistic smile crossing his face. Before Harry could take it all in, another bright flash of blue light erupted from Crawford’s wand, Harry hitting the floor of the Department as he avoided the spell. For a moment, though he could see the images in front of him moving in a sort of slow motion, he could not hear anything that was going on. It was as if he had almost gone deaf, a distant ringing being the only thing Harry could hear.
A barrage of Aurors opened fire on Crawford, each of their stunning spells bouncing off the shielding charm he had cast around himself. Harry looked up to see Crawford cast a killing curse at a couple of Aurors, seeing an Auror named Doncaster yelling and pushing them out of the way just before the spell connected with their bodies. Crawford was walking towards Harry with his wand outstretched as he cast countless spells around the Department which flipped over cubicles, knocking over many unprepared Aurors. Crawford was laughing a cackle that seemed to make Harry’s mind go numb. Fumbling in his pockets as Harry looked for his wand, he seemed unable to concentrate any further, rapidly growing nauseous and lightheaded to the point of passing out...
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