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Chapter 7 : Chapter 7
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Snape wasn’t exaggerating about trying to convince everyone I had not purposely overdosed on his potion. Admitting I hadn’t followed Snape’s directions took a hit on my pride but at least nearly everyone accepted that answer. Fred on the other hand, started checking up on me hourly. I had to sit him down and candidly tell him about not sleeping then becoming upset with Dumbledore and just wanting to rest afterwards before he accepted that I was not actively trying to harm myself. The only other people who seemed less than reassured were Mrs. Weasley and Lupin. They were both more discreet about making sure I was still fine. Yet I did eventually notice their pattern on the third day back to cleaning.
Dumbledore, well I hadn’t seen him at all. After Mrs. Weasley found out about us listening, or at least trying to listen in on Order meetings, she started putting an Imperturbable Charm on the kitchen door so we couldn’t hear. That took away any reason for me to stray anywhere near Order meetings where Dumbledore would be.
Kingsley Shacklebolt I had seen a couple more times at dinner. He didn’t talk to me yet I thought I saw him glance my way a few times, I suppose that could have just been wishful thinking on my part. Why did it matter so much to me if he was guilty? Why did I care if he regretted standing aside and watching some Ministry official give me to the Malfoys? I couldn’t help wanting to talk to Shacklebolt but I wouldn’t do it in front of everyone and I didn’t have enough nerve to ask to speak to him alone.
Over a week after my…er, accidental two day power nap, the Weasleys, Hermione and Black were upstairs cleaning. I was taking a quick break to use the loo when the door bell rang. The portrait of Mrs. Black started screaming and I heard someone, probably Black, run down the stairs. As I walked out of the bathroom I could hear Black telling the visitor not to ring the door bell. Well that’s what it sounded like, it was a bit hard to hear with all the insults being shouted. Whoever it was must have helped close the curtains over the portrait because the yelling stopped after a minute.
“…not with work,” I heard a deep voice say. Shacklebolt. “I’ll leave Dumbledore a report.”
“We’ll let him know,” Black replied before starting back up the stairs. I quickly hid in the bathroom and he passed by without noticing me. The thud of the kitchen door made me realize something. The Weasleys, Hermione and now Black were upstairs. Lupin was on guard duty. Nobody else was here. It was my chance to talk to Shacklebolt alone. What were the odds of this happening again?
Just do it.
I headed down after a peek up the flight of stairs to make sure no one was there. At the kitchen door I paused. ‘You’re supposed to be a bloody Gryffindor,’ I mentally scolded myself.
When I opened the door, Shacklebolt glanced up at me. After a moment he returned to writing on a piece of parchment as he sat at the table. I walked over to the sink and slowly washed my hands. I thought it was a decent cover until I could think of how to start a conversation. You can’t exactly start with ‘Hey, know that whole sending me to live with the Malfoys thing from thirteen years back? How’d you feel about that?’
“Nobody washes their hands that long,” Shacklebolt said as he continued writing. Well that’s one way to strike up a conversation, I could work with that.
“I never read the book on stalling tactics.”
“That’s because they teach it to you first hand in Auror training.”
“Since I’ve never had the desire to become an Auror, I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“I imagine you see enough dark wizards as it is.”
“There is that.” I sat across the table from Shacklebolt. He looked up at me for a second before going back to his report.
“You’ve been watching me for over a week, how much longer are you going to put off whatever it is you want to say?” Bloody hell, was I really that obvious?
“Why did you become an Auror?” This made him pause but he didn’t answer. “Too personal?”
“Why’d you only ask about your mother?”
He already knew about the connection to my father, I didn’t see how giving him an honest answer would hurt anything. “I already knew my father was still in Azkaban,” I said, tapping my head.
“Not really when you’re two years old and don’t know how to block out the Dementors.” Shacklebolt’s expression was unreadable. “No worries,” I continued in offhand matter, “by four I learned that ignoring them and focusing fully on what was around me helped. As did a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies a day.” A flash of surprise passed over Shacklebolt’s face before quickly disappearing. “Shocked that the Malfoys allowed cookies? The secret was waiting seventeen minutes after Lucius went to bed. And yes it was seventeen because fifteen’s much too short, he’d still be awake and twenty…well who waits twenty minutes for cookies? After that you just sneak down to the kitchen where Dobby the house elf would have a plate of the absolute best chocolate chip cookies and glass of milk waiting. Four years I did that, never once got caught. It’s an impressive streak.”
“What changed after four years?”
“I outgrew it I guess.” There was a silence between us until I risked another question. “Why didn’t you join the Order last time?”
“Didn’t know it existed.” I let out a skeptical scoff.
“The Prewetts and the Longbottoms were both in the original Order, along with Moody. You didn’t know that a fourth of your department, including your boss, was working hand in hand with Dumbledore?”
“We were overrun back then,” Shacklebolt replied, sounding a bit defensive. “As long as they had my back out in the field and weren’t working with you-know-who I didn’t really care what they did on their own time.”
“Why join this time then?”
Shacklebolt definitely took a while before answering this time. “Last time the Ministry was working alongside Dumbledore. This time they’ve got their heads stuck in the sand. They’re more worried about popularity and gold than doing what’s right.” His distaste for the Ministry was genuine but there was something else there too, and I had a fairly good idea about what it was.
“The Ministry was like that back then too. How many Death Eaters got out of Azkaban by claiming bewitchment? How many of those were rich purebloods who happened to loose a sack full of Galleons just before being declared innocent?”
“Not my choice. I would have put them all away.”
“Without a doubt.”
“You didn’t stop anyone from sending me there.” Shacklebolt froze. “I suppose it wasn’t really your choice. It was just some Ministry bloke who needed a bit of gold. Or maybe he thought I deserved it after what my parents did.”
“No child deserves to be used as a pawn, especially by Lucius Malfoy, no matter who their parents are.”
“Is that why you feel so guilty? Because I was nothing but a pawn for Lucius? One that everybody else but you seemed to be blind to?” Shacklebolt let out a sigh and laid down his quill before looking up at me and responding.
“You were only two years old and already afraid of the Lestranges. You’re still afraid, I can see it in your eyes mixed with hate. And you had a chance to escape from it all. A chance at a normal life away from fear and then some Ministry idiot was blinded by Lucius Malfoy’s gold and sent you right back into that life. A bag of Galleons was more important than a child’s future. That never should have happened.”
“I could have easily been sent to my grandmother. You think that would have been better?”
“There were other options.”
“Who?” I asked sarcastically. “The Tonks’?”
“They would have been better –”
“No, they wouldn’t of.”
“You can’t have enjoyed growing up at Malfoy Manor.”
That’s when it clicked. I realized it wasn’t Shacklebolt’s guilt I needed an answer to. It wasn’t even guilt at all, it was regret. My own regret. Did I regret the Ministry sending me to the Malfoys? Did I wish I would have been sent somewhere else? Had all the pain been worth it? Was sneaking down to the kitchen for cookies, a day spent learning to play the piano, jumping off a small dock into a pond, pretending to duel with sticks, playing hide-and-seek in the woods, throwing up small rocks to practice Seeking worth the abuse I’d suffered at the hand of Lucius? Was starting a food fight in the kitchen, making fun of the guests at various parties, learning to slide down the banister, scaring the peacocks then running away from said angry peacocks, picking flowers for Narcissa, staying up till midnight eating Bertie Bott’s Beans, and catching fireflies at dusk worth the heartbreak I’d felt watching it all come crashing down? There was one thing linking all these moments, Draco had been with me every step of the way. The memory of two kids, one with blonde hair the other with black, lying in the grass, staring up at the sky flitted through my mind. We’d spent hours lying there talking about everything we were going to do at Hogwarts and even after Hogwarts when we weren’t going to be under Lucius’ thumb anymore. Draco had made every minute worth it. That was something I would never regret.
“Stop feeling guilty,” I told Shacklebolt. “I don’t regret growing up with the Malfoys.” He looked at me skeptically as I stood up. “Really, I don’t,” I assured him. “I needed to live with them. I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t.”
I left the kitchen, heading back to the room I’d been washing. Growing up with the Tonks family or any other family might have been more stable but I wouldn’t trade my time at Malfoy Manor for anything. I’m going to save them all. It would be easier to focus on the people already against the Dark Lord, that wasn’t everybody though. It would be easier to just fall into line behind Dumbledore’s protection but I couldn’t do that forever. The Draco Malfoy I knew, not the Hogwarts bully, not Lucius Malfoy’s perfect pureblood son, was still there. I wouldn’t give up on him until I’d gotten both him and Narcissa out of danger. It wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to be quick but it was worth it. Draco was worth it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE WATCHING HIM!”
The Weasleys, Hermione and I all jumped, startled by Mrs. Weasley’s shouts. We all gave each other a small glance before quickly going to the bedroom door. Mrs. Black’s portrait had started screaming too but we were still able to hear part of the argument taking place downstairs by the front door.
“HE WAS EXPELLED?!” I had a shrewd idea about who ‘he’ was but hoped I was wrong. “I WILL NOT CALM DOWN! HE WAS ATTACKED BY DEMENTORS!”
“Harry,” Hermione gasped.
“They’re having him watched all the time,” Ron began, “how could Dementors –”
“DUMBLEDORE GAVE YOU ONE JOB BUT STOLEN CAULDRONS WERE MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU?!”
“Mundungus was on guard duty tonight,” I whispered. “They’ve got to be talking about Harry.”
“They can’t expel Harry, can they?” Ginny asked fearfully.
“Don’t underestimate Ministry incompetence or malevolence. Fudge is going to have a field day with this,” I replied grimly.
“But there are laws! He’s allowed to use magic in life threatening situations. If he was attacked by Dementors –”
“Doesn’t he live in a muggle neighborhood? Muggles can’t see Dementors, there won’t be any eyewitnesses.” Mrs. Black was silent now and everyone else had retreated into the kitchen. I crept over to the railing, looking down to be sure.
“Extendable Ears?” George asked before him and Fred popped away. Hermione, Ginny, and Ron moved closer to the railing. There was definitely a lively conversation taking place down there, we just couldn’t tell what was being said. The twins popped back holding several Extendable Ears that they immediately passed around. The flesh colored strings were dropped over the railing and moved closer to the kitchen door.
“…Dumbledore will sort it out Molly,” Lupin was saying.
“The law is on his side,” stated Tonks. “Harry has every right to protect himself from Dementors.”
“Why were Dementors even there in the first place?” Black said viciously. “Snape’s been saying Voldemort wasn’t going to recruit them yet.”
“I’m sure Dumbledore will ask Snape the same thing at the next meeting –”
“Come on Remus! How much more of Snape’s information is true?” I let out a growl. Fred wrapped his fingers around mine, probably to remind me not to do something rash, like go down and punch Black.
“What are you going to tell the lot upstairs?” Tonks asked.
“The truth?” Ginny muttered resentfully.
“Not likely,” came George’s reply.
“Harry will tell them the truth anyways,” Lupin responded.
“Or Snape’ll tell her.”
“You think he won’t? How do we know what’s in that little book of theirs? They won’t even let Dumbledore see it –”
“She trust Snape more –”
“We don’t know what they talk about! She could be mining information –”
“She is not working for Voldemort,” Lupin said harshly. “Just because she feels more comfortable with Snape doesn’t mean –”
“Something is off about them Remus! You don’t see the way he looks at her.”
“And you don’t see anything past Bellatrix when you look at her.”
“This has nothing –”
“You know that’s a lie. You’re incapable of looking past Bellatrix and what she’s done. Jade is not her mother. You above all people should know that our parents don’t determine who we are.”
“Don’t you compare her to me –”
“Enough.” I was surprised to hear Shacklebolt. I hadn’t even known he was here. “Molly, tell them the truth about Harry, they’ll learn it eventually anyways. I need to get back to the Ministry, my shift starts in an hour.”
The sound of chairs moving caused us to yank up the Extendable Ears. The kitchen door swung open and we backed away from the railing. As the sound of the front door opening drifted up, I turned, planning on going straight for my room. Before I could take two steps, someone grabbed my arm.
“Don’t listen to him,” Fred muttered into my ear.
“I’m fine,” I whispered back. “I just need a few minutes.”
When I closed the door to my room I let out a shaky breath. Despite what I’d just told Fred, I was not fine. ‘Something is off about them. You don’t see the way he looks at her.’ Staying here for the summer was a bad idea. Black was already suspicious. How long would it be until the others were too? Dumbledore and most of the adults were preoccupied with Order business but the Weasleys and Hermione, and possibly Potter? Well I suppose the twins and Ginny weren’t the real issue, Hermione though? How long would the Order keep her attention? Once we were back at Hogwarts she’d worry less about what the Order was doing and maybe she would start noticing holes and shortcomings with Snape’s explanation for things.
A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. Lupin poked his head in. “We’re meeting in the kitchen. There are some…events we need to discuss.”
“I’ll get it from Fred later,” I responded. For a minute I thought Lupin was going to oppose this but he nodded and closed the door.
There were thousands upon thousands of books in the Hogwarts Library. If Hermione became suspicious and started researching, what were the odds of her finding the right book? A few books might briefly mention it but for anything substantial she would need a very advanced Dark Arts book. Those were bound to be in the restricted section. I could easily warn Snape to check them out discreetly. That would effectively cut off Hermione’s information source. I was fairly confident that would work.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After scratching out what felt like the hundredth mistake, I laid down my quill. I couldn’t focus tonight. Part of it was the upcoming arrival of Potter. Hermione and Ron would likely recap everything going on in Grimmauld Place and everything they learned, including what they now knew about me. That’s why I decided to stay in my room all evening. I’d rather have the others deal with Potter first.
There was also the fact that I was impatiently waiting for the Order meeting to end so I could speak to Snape. After I’d gotten over the idea of Black being suspicious, I processed what happened to Potter. Two Dementors very far from Azkaban don’t just happen to find a wizard in a muggle neighborhood. And the odds of that wizard being Harry Potter? Probably less than a million to one. Had the Dark Lord sent them? Snape had been sure the Dark Lord was waiting to free Azkaban and recruit the Dementors. What if Snape had been fed false information? What if the Dark Lord didn’t believe Snape had been baiting his time at Hogwarts and knew Snape really did side with Dumbledore? Every time Snape met with the Dark Lord there was a chance he might not leave there alive. It was gut-wrenching for me.
The sound of yelling coming from the floor below tore me from my thoughts.
“…I’VE BEEN STUCK AT THE DURSLEYS’ FOR A MONTH!”
I guess Potter’s here. I tried to tune out his ranting, not feeling particularly interested in his whining. I’d much rather have been outside than this house, even if I was being followed. I wonder how Fred and George are going to feel about all the yelling since it would likely interfere with their Extendable Ears. Apparently the Order meeting tonight was a big one and the twins were trying to get some information.
“…DUMBLEDORE MADE YOU SWEAR…”
Well Potter sure didn’t sound fond of Dumbledore. He and Black would get along swell then because Black had recently begun acting moody (well more than normal) if anyone mentioned the Headmaster.
After some more yelling, it sounded as if Potter had got all that built up rage out. Good for him. Screaming at your best friends, real classy.
I moved from my desk to my bed. I sent Snape a quick message, telling him to let himself in if I fell asleep, before I laid down and closed my eyes.
A/N: I made the Prewetts Aurors because well…it fit in nicely. Plus it did take five Death Eaters to take them down, seems like they would have been more than qualified to be Aurors.
I know, it’s moving so slow, we’re only at the beginning of the actual events with Harry. Expect a very long story this time. A very long story. There’s a lot of information to get through.
Harry’s quotes are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 4, Number Twelve Grimmauld Place and the information about Harry being attacked by Dementors then expelled is from Chapter 1, Dudley Demented and Chapter 2, A Peck of Owls.
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