Chapter 2 : Joining of the Forces(Part One)
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Harry woke with a start as a very familiar, and very unexpected voice, hissed into his ear. It can’t be…I’m dreaming. He told himself firmly, slowly opening his eyes. What he saw made him close them again.
“What’s wrong with him?” Came Ron’s voice.
“Oh I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we just materialized into a cell he’s been locked in for who knows how long,” Ginny said sarcastically.
“Harry, open your eyes, it’s just us,” Hermione whispered, ignoring the other two.
Harry slowly opened his eyes, pushing himself into a sitting position and staring in wonder at the three. “What are you doing here?” He asked incredulously. “And how did you get here?”
“Well, you see…” Ron began, but trailed off when he realized that he didn’t exactly know. Hermione took over.
“We found out you were missing this morning. Dakota sent us a letter. Then later, Draco Apparated into the living room while we were in it, and he told us that you were locked up in his house somewhere…That’s all he would say-“
“Ungrateful git,” Ron muttered, but Hermione ignored him.
“-And then I remembered this spell I’d been reading about, that lets you talk to someone very close to you for a limited time. So we tried it, and here we are,” She finished, looking anxious.
“But…You’re stuck too now aren’t you? I mean, how are you going to get back?” Harry asked, looking alternately between the three of them.
Ginny glanced uneasily at Hermione, wondering if maybe the spell had gone wrong.
“We’re not really here. Our bodies are still back at the Burrow; we’re just projections. And we’ll be sent back whether we like it or not in about five minutes, so we’d better not waste any time,” Hermione explained.
Harry stared at her for a moment. “Ok…Why did you need to talk to me? I mean, there isn’t much I can tell you. All I know is that I’m somewhere in Malfoy Manor, and Lucius Malfoy is planning to hand me over to Voldemort. Oh yeah, did I mention that I’m going to be tortured until I beg for death? But how is that gonna help you?”
“Because now, at least, we know that you’re alive, and that you’re in Malfoy Manor,” Ron pointed out.
“We knew that before from Malfoy,” Ginny muttered, but was ignored by her brother.
“What happened last night? How did you end up here? Do you have a specific idea of where you are in the house?” Hermione asked urgently.
Harry closed his eyes tight, trying hard to recall the previous night’s events. “All I remember is flying to Hogsmeade on my Firebolt, and then someone coming towards me really fast…I think they were on a broom too. And then…I woke up here. Lucius Malfoy came in earlier, but all he told me was that I’m in his house,” He said slowly, wondering if this would help them at all in freeing him. Either way, it was good to see his friends after being locked up completely alone, with only the occasional rat for company.
A moment of silence followed his little bit of information.
“Hermione, Ron, Ginny…You…You’re fading!” Harry gasped, and indeed it was true. Their forms were becoming transparent, and it wasn’t happening slowly either. They’ll be gone in less than a minute at this rate. He realized.
“Hold on Harry, keep them off you as long as possible!” Ginny told him, biting her lip.
“We’ll get you out, I promise,” Hermione said earnestly, and Harry noticed that her eyes were a bit watery.
Ron spoke next. “If you see Malfoy, give him a good kick up the-“
“Bye,” Harry said miserably, as the three forms of his friends faded completely. Will I ever see them again? He found himself wondering, as he slumped back against the wall.
Draco Malfoy wandered through the corridors of his enormous house. The twisting hallways that branched off in all sorts of directions didn’t seem to confuse him at all. In fact, he knew exactly where he was going. Thinking back to the conversation with his father only ten minutes ago, he narrowed his eyes.
”Father, you wanted to see me?”
”Yes, Draco…I trust you’ve heard who we have locked up under our house?” Lucius’ voice was full of glee.
“I have. I believe it is Harry Potter,” Draco replied carefully, keeping his voice neutral.
“Harry Potter indeed. I thought I would give you some practice in torture, specifically on the boy.” The tone of Lucius’ voice suggested that Draco would get his ‘practice’ whether he liked it or not.
Draco nodded, a small smirk making its way onto his lips. "Thank you, father. You are too generous to me." He replied, appeasing his father's wishes by feigning to be delighted with his little 'present'.
Lucius gave a slight nod, seemingly pleased with his son’s reaction. “His cell is in the Secret Room, below the others. Use the Cruciatus Curse and any others you may choose, but be sure not to damage him permanently. It does not do to hand the Dark Lord a broken toy.”
Draco, however sickened by his father’s words, nodded as he stood. “Very well father.” Without another word, he left, heading for the Secret Room.
Draco stopped at the next turn, pulling aside a tapestry to reveal a slightly darker area beneath it. Pressing his right hand against the smooth stone, he furrowed his brows in concentration. A moment later, the ‘wall’ disappeared with a sound like rushing wind, revealing a voluminous staircase, moving downwards.
Stepping through the open space, Draco didn’t even look back as another woosh of air signified that the wall had returned. The staircase was dimly lit, but engravings of snakes were well illuminated along the walls. Ignoring the occasional hisses coming from inside the walls, he continued on down the stairs.
Once at the bottom, he paused for a moment. There were three different…paths he could take, and two led to pits; one of venomous snakes, the other of lion-like creatures who ate only humans; which were invisible until one fell inside. His father kept the prisoners well guarded, and later, well disposed of.
Remembering that the path to the Secret Room was darkest, he took a sharp right turn, once again completely confident in where he was going.
The path wound and twisted endlessly, at times sloping steeply downwards for a while, before evening out again. Finally, after what felt like an hour of walking, Draco was led to a seemingly solid, stone, wall, much like the section behind the tapestry, except that there was a miniature bowl sticking out of the center of it. The bowl was of the purest silver, and Draco knew exactly what to do.
Reaching a hand into the pocket of his robes, he pulled out a small knife. The blade glittered maliciously, as if hungry for blood. Gripping the dark green handle, he brought the blade to his left wrist, making a tiny cut, before returning the knife to his pocket.
Next, he extended the cut hand, carefully, so that the blood dripped into the little silver bowl. Then he stood back, and waited.
For a moment, it seemed as if nothing would happen. Then, a thin line of flames slithered down the center of the wall like a snake, and it melted away.
Draco was immediately faced by more stone, but this time it was a door, which he simply pushed open with a slight creak. He slipped inside, closing the door behind him.
Harry Potter sat in the center of the room, staring blankly up at him.
When Ron opened his eyes next, he was back in the living room of The Burrow. Hermione and Ginny sat next to him, and the three had their hands linked, just like they had started out. “That was…different,” Ron commented, examining his hands, as if to make sure they were real.
“It was,” Ginny agreed, but Hermione seemed to have other thoughts.
“That was awful! I can’t believe where they’re keeping him…I couldn’t even breathe in that place!” Before anyone could reply to that, however, the kitchen door opened (though they couldn’t see it, only hear it), bringing along a jumble of voices.
“Are you sure you don’t have any idea where he may be, Arthur?” Mrs. Weasley’s worried voice was the first Ron could make out.
“I’m sorry Molly, but it’s really not that easy to locate one boy, no matter how well known he is. There’s just too much going on at the Ministry right now, and there aren’t many people to spare,” Mr. Weasley sounded tired, which made sense, of course. As Ron glanced out the window, he himself was surprised to see that the light of day was already fading.
“I’ve sent owls to everyone I know, asking them to keep an eye out for him,” The last voice wasn’t as familiar, at least not to Ginny.
But Ron and Hermione looked at each other, eyes wide in recognition. “Sirius!” They whispered together, jumping to their feet and rushing into the kitchen. Ginny quickly got to her feet and followed, looking confused.
By the time the three came into the kitchen, Mr. Weasley and Sirius were seated at the table, while Mrs. Weasley bustled around making tea.
“Hullo!” Ron greeted them, attempting to sound cheerful. Sirius, who had been staring down at the table, looked up, and Ron grinned at him.
This brought a small smile to Sirius’ face, adding a bit of life to it. The deadened look in his eyes that Azkaban had given him had never left them, though his hair was in much better order now, and he had managed to fill out a bit since his name was cleared.
Hermione and Ginny both smiled at Sirius, though the latter did so more shyly.
“Hey Dad…Where’s Percy?” Ron asked suddenly. He’d expected his brother to come home with his father, but evidently that hadn’t happened.
“He’s doing a bit of extra work at the Ministry,” Mr. Weasley said simply, as he took the cup of tea his wife handed him.
Ron bit his lip to keep from replying with some snide remark, just as Hermione spoke.
”Sirius, can we talk to you for a moment?” She asked, and in turn got a surprised glance from each of the adults, and a less surprised one from Ginny and Ron.
Sirius nodded, pushing himself to his feet and silently following Hermione into the living room. Ron and Ginny exchanged dubious glances before going after them.
“You know something don’t you?” Sirius asked quietly, looking between the three of them.
Hermione nodded, hiding her surprise. “We talked to him. To Harry,” She replied, just as quietly. “And…” She hesitated, “Before that, Draco Malfoy told us a bit…”
Ron and Ginny looked expectantly at Sirius, but he didn’t at all seem surprised. “Tell me everything.”
Harry didn’t speak, only stared blankly at Draco, not taking his eyes off him as he walked towards him.
“You’ve gotten yourself into a tight spot now haven’t you, Potter?” Draco said finally, stopping directly in front of the only other person in the room (who was sitting on the floor).
Harry’s eyes narrowed slightly, and he took his time in replying. “I don’t think flying to Hogsmeade at a perfectly decent time of the night should result in me being locked up in YOUR house. I really don’t think I deserve that.” His voice was completely void of emotion, just like his deep green eyes, which seemed to have dulled considerably.
Draco also took a moment to respond, though his hesitation wasn’t deliberate. “I’m not the one who locked you up, so don’t go complaining to me! I had nothing to do with this!” The way Harry was staring at him, blankly, as if he’d lost all hope, was really getting to him.
“I never said you did,” Harry replied quietly, finally breaking his unwavering gaze.
“I told your friends, Weasley and Granger, where you are,” Draco volunteered, his voice strangely soft.
Harry still didn’t show any emotion. “I know. I talked to them a while ago,” He said flatly, now focusing on a splash of blood on the wall by Draco’s head.
Draco’s eyes widened, and he stared at Harry in disbelief. “What? But...How? How could you have talked to them? You’ve been locked up here all this time haven’t you?” He asked, incredibly confused by this new piece of information.
“I know I have. I didn’t go anywhere. They came to me, in here, into the cell,” Harry replied, his voice still unnervingly emotionless.
Draco sighed. It seemed impossible to get anything out of Harry right then. “How did they come to you? They couldn’t have Apparated, because you can’t Apparate into any of the underground parts of Malfoy Manor. But then…How?”
“They used a spell. I don’t know what spell, but they weren’t really here…They were just projections,” Harry told him, finally shifting his gaze from the blood to his ‘companion’s’ face.
“You’re not going to die.”
Draco’s abrupt statement shot Harry back to life, and finally, when he spoke, there was emotion in his voice. “What can you do about it? If you try anything, your father…” He trailed off, his tone and eyes suddenly reflecting countless emotions.
Draco looked downward, giving a slight shrug. “I’ll do something. You saved my life; I’m in debt to you.”
Harry nodded, but didn’t say anything, not even as Draco sat down in front of him.
“…And we got back just as you and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley came,” Hermione finished, glancing up at Sirius. Thoughtful creases marked his face, making him suddenly look ten years older.
“We’ll need the cooperation of Draco Malfoy if we want to get Harry out of there alive. I’ve seen Malfoy Manor, at least from the outside, and even then it’s intimidating. Lucius Malfoy has Dark Arts guarding every inch of his land. If you three tried to get through that house, you’d be dead before you got past the front door,” Sirius said matter-of-factly, scratching his chin.
“NO! I REFUSE to work with that-that-THAT!” Ron burst out, crossing his arms stubbornly. “I’m ready to bet everything I own that Malfoy had something to do with this, and that he’s just playing innocent.”
Ginny looked as if she was about to say something to her brother’s outburst, but thought better of it.
Sirius looked wearily at Ron. “Somehow, I highly doubt that Draco Malfoy had anything to do with this, unless his father forced him. Lucius Malfoy will do anything to get his way, and by ‘anything’ I mean threats and torture. I doubt he’d go soft even for his own son,” He said bitterly.
“And we can’t get Harry out by ourselves, so it’s either get help from Draco or leave Harry to You-Know-Who,” Hermione added to Sirius’ comments, giving Ron a look that said, ‘you can’t say no now’.
“You wouldn’t be a very good friend just because you let a childhood grudge keep you from helping Harry would you?” Ginny gave the final words of guilt, crossing her arms and mimicking her brother’s stubborn stance.
Ron opened and closed his mouth several times before he finally spoke. “Fine!” He said finally, admitting defeat.
Hermione hid a smile by pretending to glance at the kitchen. “Thanks Ron,” She said, looking back at him.
Ginny grinned, dropping her stubborn demeanor and plopping down into an armchair across from Sirius. “So, now we need a plan.”
Sirius nodded slowly, the creases in his face increasing as he fell into a thoughtful state. “Right, a plan…I think we’re going to need Draco Malfoy for that. If he’s anything like his father, the boy is clever, I’ll give him that.”
Ron snorted, and Hermione and Ginny shot him looks. “Clever? That brainless git?”
Hermione crossed her arms. “He graduated at the top of nearly every class,” She said, “Next to me.” This was said in a mumble, and a slight flush in her cheeks.
Ron rolled his eyes, but managed to keep from bursting out with any rude comments.
Ginny looked at Sirius. “So…Are we sending Malfoy an owl or something?” She asked him, wanting to get past the bickering between Ron and Hermione, and to the point of this discussion.
Sirius nodded slowly. “Yes, I think that’s what we’ll do. But we can’t mention Harry at all in the letter, or anything else important. An owl is too easy to intercept. We’ll simply have to ask him to meet us somewhere,” He explained.
Ron looked disgusted. “Meet Malfoy? In public? I think I’m going to be sick,” He muttered, shaking his head.
“Go be sick then!” Ginny snapped, and Ron glanced at her in surprise.
“How about the Three Broomsticks?” Hermione suggested, ignoring both Ron and Ginny.
Sirius thought for a moment, then nodded. “Three Broomsticks it is,” he said.
Hermione immediately summoned a piece of parchment, followed by a quill and ink. “I’ll write it,” She declared, placing the parchment on the table, dipping her quill in ink, and starting the letter.