Chapter 27 : Chapter 26 Skirmish at the Shrieking Shack
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Their arrival back in Tetbury nearly sent Harry to the ground, his unsteady legs almost buckling beneath him. Watchful of the house and who would see them arrive, Ron quickly took Harry's upper arm and kept him moving, walking around the side of the house together. Harry had never regretted drinking more than he did in the moment that Ron shoved him through the laundry door, slipping in ahead of him to close the door to the kitchen. Dizzy now that Ron had let him go, Harry clung to the laundry sink as he sank down onto the floor, resting his head against the cold metal of the washing machine.
Before he knew it, the few drinks he had consumed began to hit him hard, and the only thing that had gained his attention was the barman's refusal of another drink. It was then that he had realised what he had done, then that he had begun to listen to Ron's instance that he drink some water. Despite this, the alcohol continued to absorb, and with it came the poor frame of mind that he normally silenced with more and more drinks. Four years of sobriety had been wasted in minutes...Ginny was going to kill him for this.
As Ron bustled around him doing something, Harry closed his eyes and tried to think through the dizzying swirling of his stomach, his brain trying to find some sense of sobriety. There wasn't time for sleeping off another binge...there were things to do...he needed to be looking for Teddy. Merlin...where was he? Had he missed an opportunity?
Harry groaned in despair at this thought, realising the true extent of what he had done. Ron was saying something, but Harry ignored him as he pulled himself up while hanging onto the sink. Bending over it he took slow breaths before finally vomiting, the action immediately settling his blurry head. Ron turned on the tap to wash the mess away, allowing Harry to absently catch the water in his hands, washing out his mouth and then taking a long drink. As he swallowed more and more water, he became distantly aware of Ron saying something- and of Ginny's voice coming through the kitchen door, demanding to see the both of them.
"What's wrong with him?" she was demanding to know. "What happened?"
"Nothing!" Ron was insisting, looking between the door and Harry with great concern. It didn't need to be said that Harry didn't want Ginny to know he had been drinking alcohol.
"Ron?...Is he hurt? Are you?"
"No!" Ron insisted. "We-we stopped for something to eat, and he had some bad seafood, that's all!"
"I don't eat seafood," Harry muttered under his breath, knowing Ginny wouldn't believe Ron now.
"He doesn't eat seafood!"
Ron swore under his breath, taking Harry's arm and making him look up. "You alright?" he asked quietly.
Harry nodded, allowing Ron to steer him back to the floor where he sat leaning against the cupboards.
"Stay here," he said, turning off the tap now. "I'll bring you something to settle your stomach."
Ron left without another word, slipping into the kitchen without allowing Ginny to see inside the laundry. Listening to the two of them argue, Harry shivered as he pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them as tears began to spill from his eyes. In the darkness, he checked his watch to see that it was almost two o'clock...he had wasted two hours getting drunk...two hours in which Teddy could have been dead and buried somewhere, never to be found.
"What do you need that for?" Ginny was asking as Ron rummaged through the cupboard, finding what he needed. "Has he been drinking?" she asked next, her voice full of dread.
"No," Ron denied.
"Oh..." Ginny said quietly, interpreting Ron's denial. "How much did he drink?"
"Nothing!" Ron insisted, getting more and more frustrated. "Look, just give us a minute, alright?"
"Wait, Ron?" Ginny said quickly, catching him as he came to the laundry door. "I'm glad you're alright."
"Yeah, alright," he said awkwardly, slipping through the door and returning to Harry. He crouched down next to Harry, removing the flask on the hangover potion and giving it a sniff. That potion hadn't been used since before Ginny had fallen pregnant, a remedy to cure her the morning after Hannah's Bachelorette party. "Sorry, it's a bit old."
"Thanks," Harry said quietly, taking the potion and taking a small sip. It took effect immediately, his head beginning to clear even more. "Is she pissed?"
"No, mate," Ron shook his head, looking at him in concern. "Just worried about you."
Covering his mouth, he choked back the tears that were threatening to fall, the two hours wasted bearing down on him. He couldn't take this anymore...it had been a week. He just wanted his son back...there was nothing he wanted more.
"I've really screwed this up, haven't I?" he said sadly, his eyes brimming.
"No, you haven't," Ron encouraged, truly believing it. "You've done all the right things...you've looked in all the right places."
"Then why isn't he here? They haven't called," he said next, pleading for Ron to give him a solution. Ron ought to know what to do...this was his job...how could he not have a solution? "It's been hours...they should have done something by now."'
"Drink up mate," Ron said, gently pushing the flask back towards Harry's mouth.
"He's dead, isn't he," he muttered, his breath shuddering around each word. "They'll kill him now...They won't bring him back."
Ron didn't say anything, his silence telling Harry that he somewhat agreed. "We'll stop them," he said after a long moment. "He'll be okay."
"You won't even tell me who has him," he accused, staring at the wall opposite.
"It doesn't matter," Ron said quietly. "We won't find them anyway."
"What if I know?" Harry insisted, finally looking at Ron properly. He was pleading now, desperate to know. "I might know where they are."
Ron shook his head. "They'll have gone by now...he will have run. Knowing who it is will only upset you."
Harry took a deep breath, putting aside the potion and getting to his feet. "That's not what will upset me," he said sharply, pulling his phone out of his pocket. Had they called him?
"Wait, Harry," Ron said hastily, following him. "Have a bit more of this."
"Is your dad here?" Harry asked quietly, looking at his phone. There were three missed calls from Arthur's mobile phone, which was his pride and joy. Checking the time on each call, he saw that they had been made in the last hour.
"Yeah, I think I heard his voice. Why?"
He didn't reply immediately, his heart beginning to pound. Wiping his cheeks, Harry stared at his phone, trying to think. Why would Arthur call him...three times? A strange feeling came over Harry, and he suddenly felt the need to keep these calls a secret. Breathing deeply, his head cleared even more, and he began to think.
"Can you distract Ginny for me?" he asked under his breath.
"We-yeah," Ron replied uncertainly. "Why?"
"I just need to talk to your dad for a minute."
"What do you want me to say?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't care...just get her to go upstairs...just a few minutes."
"What's going on?"
"Just do it!" Harry snapped, putting the phone into his pocket and standing aside. "Please."
Ron was surprised, but he quickly nodded, trusting Harry despite his recent behaviour. Moving past him, he slipped out of the laundry and into the kitchen, and Harry listened intently as he spoke to Ginny, making sure she took the bait.
"Harry needs a change of clothes...can you show me?"
"Why?" Ginny asked, immediately setting off towards the staircase.
"He's just a bit grubby, that's all," Ron replied, his voice fading.
Harry waited until he heard their heavy footsteps on the stairs, and then he slipped out of the laundry and into the kitchen, walking very quickly. The kitchen was empty of anyone else, neat and tidy just the way it normally was. Passing through, he went in immediate search of Arthur, and was relieved to find he and Kingsley sitting in the lounge room. They appeared to be talking quietly, a manilla folder on Kingsley's lap.
"Harry," Kingsley said in surprise, standing up and hastily closing the file. "Where have you been?"
Ignoring him, Harry turned straight to Arthur. "Can we talk?"
Arthur looked just as surprised to see Harry as Kingsley did, and he looked at Harry open mouthed before he finally spoke. "Well I..."
"Please," Harry said urgently.
Apologising to Kingsley, Arthur stood up from the couch and motioned for Harry to follow him. He did so quickly, and Arthur led him into Ginny's office and closed the door behind them.
"What is it?" Harry asked. "Why did you call me? Did something happen?"
Shaking his head, Arthur took a deep breath, wondering how to start. "It's about that man, from last night. The one who attacked you."
"Oh?" Harry asked, growing worried. Arthur had been there when Fallacks had attacked, he had seen Harry with blood on his hands, and immediately leapt forward to help him cover it up.
"He's...I, err...I took care of everything, alright?" Arthur insisted, putting his hands into his pockets. "He's all taken care of."
"I didn't know if this mattered or not," Arthur continued, pulling a small slip of parchment out of his pocket. "But I found this in his robes....I wasn't going to show you until I figured out what it meant, but for the life of me I don't understand."
"What is it?" Harry asked, his hands shaking as he took the folded piece of parchment.
"Just an address, it's the only thing he had on him."
Harry opened the parchment and looked, frowning as he immediately recognised the handwriting...he had seen it written across his Potions homework for years, red ink correcting his mistakes. The small slip of parchment contained only a date and address.
5PM Saturday. 77 Spinner's End. Cokeworth.
"Oh, shit," Harry swore, unable to hold back his shock. The bottom fell out from his stomach, the address immediately registering in his mind. Snape...what had he done?
"You know the address?"
"Who else have you shown this to?" Harry asked, feeling nauseated again. His hands were shaking, his heart pounding with the startling revelation...Why would Snape give his address to Luther Fallacks?
"No one," Arthur replied.
"Don't tell anyone," Harry said firmly, still looking at the parchment. There were footsteps on the stairs, alerting him to Ginny's presence. "Saturday...what's special about today?"
"Well," Arthur began uncertainly. "Saturday the third of January...nothing particularly special...the month of Aquarius...full moon...excellent time for Unicorn hunting...could it have meant last Saturday?"
"Maybe," Harry muttered, already making plans as he slowly opened the office door and peeked out. It was empty, and so he stepped out and moved to the front door. "Don't tell anyone about this, okay?"
"Alright," Arthur agreed, trusting him. "But where are you going? What do I tell Ginny?"
Harry shrugged, not really caring. "Tell her I’m still looking for Ted, just don't tell her about this."
Leaving before Arthur could even say good-bye, Harry took off at a run, heading back towards the apparation point before anyone could see him departing. Taking refuge in the trees that lined the long driveway, Harry looked at the parchment again, trying to decipher the true meaning. He couldn't just go running off to Cokeworth...he could be running straight into a trap, but on the other hand he couldn't ignore the evidence before him. This was Snape's address, and Snape's handwriting. Nevertheless, Harry needed to be prepared...he needed to be ready for anything.
Remembering what Ron had said earlier in the week, Harry raised his wand and summoned the handgun he had hidden in the top drawer of his bedside table. It came zooming straight into his hand, the metal heavier and colder than he remembered. He fumbled to strap it around his ankle, praying that he didn't stuff up and shoot himself again. He needed it...the first thing any Death Eater would do was require him to give up his wand, but the likeliness of them expecting him to carry a gun was low. Even if the APEs who had seen him wielding it told the Death Eaters, there was the slim chance they may not realise he had it. A slim chance was good enough for Harry...he would risk it.
He apparated straight to Cokeworth, appearing on the very corner to which Tonks had taken he and Hermione to so many years ago during the war. The area had not changed since then, the houses and street still looking as gloomy and unkempt as they had back then. Putting his hands into his pockets he walked with his head down, turning on to Spinner's End and walking quickly. He calmed himself down as best he could...Snape had helped him during the war, had stuck his neck out and nearly lost his life. But he was still in contact with the Death Eaters, Ron had told him so. The two met almost monthly, Snape informing him of anything he needed to know. Harry couldn't afford to make presumptions...maybe Snape was playing double agent again.
Arriving at number seventy seven promptly, Harry hesitated at the foot of the stairs before ascending them. He didn't know what he was going to say. He hadn't sought contact with Snape at all. The last time he had seen him was in a vision from Voldemort's perspective, when Snape had still been playing double agent against him. There was a lot to be said between the two of them, a lot of loose ends, Snape's love for Harry's mother being just one of many. What was he supposed to say?
Before he could hesitate any longer, the front door opened, surprising Harry. Snape stood in the threshold, looking at him expectantly. The two men looked at each other for a long moment, before Snape stood back and held the door open, inviting Harry in. He had obviously been expecting him, awaiting his arrival. Feeling no sense of danger or malevolence from the wizard, Harry entered the house, reminding himself to stay calm.
Little had changed in the few years since Harry had first visited Snape here, to demand an explanation for his actions and Dumbledore's death. The front hallway was still dark, as was the sitting room to their right, though the distinct lack of dust at least made the house seem lived in. Closing the door Snape brushed past Harry and walked down the hallway, leading him towards the kitchen where they had spoken the last time. Following him, Harry entered, his eyes first falling on the kitchen drawer where Snape had kept the letters Lily Evans had sent him throughout their friendship.
"Burn them," Harry had spat angrily, after Snape asked him if he would like to keep them.
"I didn't burn them," Snape said, sensing that Harry recalled their first discussion.
Harry ignored this, glancing around the kitchen that was now dominated by a large work bench, where a pewter cauldron sat bubbling. On the wall above hung a large bundle of aconite flowers, partially dried out and ready to be added to the potion which exuded a gentle blue smoke.
"Wolfsbane?" Harry asked.
"How perceptive of you," Snape commented dryly.
"A potion of growing demand," Harry commented in reply, knowing that the number of Werewolf bites had increased since the war had ended.
"And yet, I sell it at cost price."
"How generous of you."
Snape didn't reply, studying Harry with curiosity. If he wondered why Harry had come he didn't show it, his skill of keeping his cards close to his chest never fading. Harry waited impatiently, wondering if Snape was going to tell him outright how he had come into contact with Luther Fallacks.
"Why did Luther Fallacks need your address?" Harry asked, enjoying the look of surprise on Snape's face. "What's happening tonight?"
Considering the questions, Snape cleared his throat. "How did you come by this information?"
"How do you think?"
Snape raised his eyebrows at this. "He came for the Dark Lord's wand?"
"I killed him," Harry said bluntly, not elaborating. There was a long pause, Snape looking at him critically.
Before he could anticipate it, Harry fell to his knees as Snape intruded his mind, his experiences of the past week rushing around in his head for Snape to view. Agonising grief filled Harry's chest as he re-experienced everything all at once, the sound of Teddy's voice playing over and over again. He was flushing the fifty thousand galleons, pacing his cell in Azkaban, holding James for the first time. Then Fallacks' blood flowed over his hands as he tried to save him, pleading for information until Snape stopped. Coming back into control, Harry looked up, his breath shaking as he observed Snape. He too was on his knees, shaking just as much as Harry until he very quickly pulled himself together and got back to his feet.
"Satisfied?" Harry asked, following suit. Snape ignored this, looking away as he pocketed his wand. "Why did Fallacks need your address?"
"Because I had agreed to a temporary exchange," Snape said, his demeanour changing to one of utmost cool. He now knew exactly what Harry did and did not know, and he was being careful not to reveal too much.
"Of your son. He was going to bring him to me this evening."
"Why?" Harry demanded, increasingly surprised.
"Circumstances were changing," he answered, suddenly turning away and adding something into the brewing wolfsbane potion. Using his wand, he set the cauldron to stir. "They were not expecting to still have custody of him."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, that they were not expecting this to go on for so long."
"Well what's so special about tonight?"
"Nothing in particular. It's merely a matter of convenience."
Frowning, Harry considered this, but there was no way to tell if Snape was lying or not. He was too good at hiding the truth to be found out, and so Harry would just have to take his words at face value.
"And what were you going to do with him?" Harry asked angrily.
"I hadn't decided."
"You're supposed to be a part of the Order."
Snape ignored this accusation of betrayal. "I'm still a double agent."
"Who works for the Order!"
Snape turned back to him, his face hard and decisive. "I’ve been ensuring your family's protection for the last four years"
"Bull shit! You've known all along what was going to happen to Teddy."
"Some parts, yes," Snape confirmed. "Other parts, not so much. I did exactly what you would have asked me to do."
"What's that?" Harry questioned angrily.
"I turned my attention away from you, and onto your son. I have been working to protect him, as best that I can given my awkward position. The Death Eaters no longer trust me as they used to...they suspect me of providing Weasley with information."
Harry paused, knowing that this was true. Ron had accidentally let slip a few months ago that the tip off about Lucius Malfoy had come from Snape.
“You have caused quite a lot of trouble,” Snape commented, folding his arms across his chest and cocking his head.
“How so?” he asked nervously, wondering how much damage he and Ginny had caused by going public.
“You’ve forced their hand…they panicked quite severely. They still are.”
“What else was I supposed to do?”
“For what?” Harry burst out desperately. “I killed Fallacks! They were expecting him to tell me where to find Teddy, I couldn’t exactly go back to them and ask.”
Shaking his head in frustration, it was clear that Snape still had his own opinion as to what Harry ought to have done. “You put your son’s life at great risk,” he said sharply.
“I know,” Harry replied quietly.
“It is by pure chance that he is safe.”
Those words were exactly what Harry needed to hear, and he immediately breathed a sigh of relief, his shoulders sagging. “He’s safe?”
“For now. The Death Eaters were too slow in trying to take him into their own hands.”
Harry nodded gratefully, realising that Ginny’s plan must have worked. “So – whoever’s got him ran?”
“It is not for you to know their identity,” Snape cut him off, his tone making it absolutely clear.
For some reason, Harry accepted this without argument. No matter who Snape was, or what he had done, Harry trusted his judgement as much as he had Dumbledore’s. He slowly nodded.
“He is trying to do the right thing,” Snape continued. “However, I fear this may do more harm than good.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Death Eaters are not ready to give up their leverage over you. They are pursuing Teddy just as desperately as you are.”
This came as no surprise to Harry, yet there was still the lingering question in the back of his mind. “What else do they want from me?”
Snape cleared his throat, pausing for a moment. “They want your complete surrender, and your assistance in further infiltrating the Ministry. Then they’re going to kill you.”
“Well tell them I’ll come!” Harry said loudly, wondering why they were continuing to waste time. “Tell them I’ll do it! They can have me!”
Rolling his eyes, Snape turned away and checked on the potion. “Of course you’d say that.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Harry said scathingly. “He’s my son, I’ll do anything.”
Snape didn’t respond to this, looking deep into the cauldron. His face was blank as he raised his wand to it, concentrating momentarily. Harry waited impatiently, knowing that Snape would only continue when he was ready to. Meanwhile, his head was spinning with all of the information he had just learned. Teddy was safe, for now, and he finally knew what the Death Eaters wanted next. Luther Fallacks had double crossed them…rather than bring Harry back to them, he had tried to kill him for Voldemort’s wand. Now that Teddy’s captor had panicked and run after hearing Harry’s plea over the radio, the Death Eaters were even more determined to regain their upper hand, to find Teddy and reclaim their leverage.
Looking up from the cauldron, Snape flicked back his sleeve and looked at his watch. “You’ll need to leave now.”
“Alright,” Harry said eagerly, needing to act. “Where do they want me to go?”
“Do not turn yourself in to them,” Snape said firmly. “It’s not necessary just yet.” Folding his arms again, he turned back to face Harry.
“Well, what then?”
“Draco Malfoy will be at the Shrieking Shack in twenty minutes,” Snape said slowly, his voice low. Reaching into the pocket of his black robes, he removed something and held it in his palm before offering it to Harry. “So will your son.”
In his hand he held the red plastic cowboy hat that belonged to Woody, Teddy’s favourite toy. Stepping forward Harry took it back, studying the minute connection to his son. How long ago had Teddy lost this hat? He’d be devastated surely. Looking back to Snape, he tried to determine if he was being truthful…it sounded too go to be true.
“Teddy will be there?” he confirmed, his voice just above a whisper.
“For a short time, yes.”
Snape didn’t need to explain. This could be the only opportunity for Harry to find Teddy himself, the last chance before his captor was punished for his defection. Draco Malfoy would take Teddy then, returning him to the Death Eaters where they would continue using him as leverage. The thought of Bellatrix Lestrange being around Teddy made him want to be sick.
“What are you going to do next?” Harry asked, needing to know Snape’s next move.
“Do you recall nothing of your education?” Snape asked with an obvious sneer. “The Wolfsbane draught-”
“-must not be left unattended,” Harry concluded, realising his intention. He felt disappointment and a twinge of betrayal. If Snape was so set on protecting Teddy, then why wasn’t he doing anything to help him?
Pocketing Woody’s plastic hat, Harry turned and left without another word, not wasting his breath on undeserved gratitude. Letting himself out the front door he closed it loudly, setting off down the street with a quick stride. For the first time in days, a sense of calm and relief came across him, a sliver of control resting in his hands. Teddy was at the Shrieking Shack…right this minute. For the first time, he had a clear location in mind for his son…he knew exactly where he was.
But he couldn’t go rushing off…the kidnapper would still be there with Teddy, and Malfoy would be joining them in a short while. His first instinct was to call Ron, to ask him for help, to alert absolutely everyone that would help him find Teddy safely. But for now he held off...Ron would bring with him an army of Order members, ready to fight...Ginny would come too. If he went alone, there might be the opportunity for negotiations, which could not be made while Draco Malfoy was surrounded by the Order of the Phoenix. For now this was something Harry needed to start himself. Ron would be waiting for contact from him...if Harry called he would come running.
He apparated to Hogsmeade, appearing in the middle of the alleyway beside the Hogs Head. Checking his watch, he estimated he had fifteen minutes or so before Malfoy arrived at the Shrieking Shack, but he couldn't risk apparating straight there. Even after years of apparating he hadn't perfected the art of a silent arrival, and he couldn't risk alerting anyone in the shack to his arrival. Pulling the collar of his cloak up he bent his head low and walked out onto the street, putting his hands into his pockets. The streets were deserted due to the cold weather, which suited Harry just fine, and he quickly made his way down the road that would take him to Teddy.
Passing by the Weasley Wizard Wheezes, he chanced a glance inside, realising he probably should not have walked by. But he was unsurprised to see that the joke shop was closed. Continuing on down the road, he turned left and continued walking, sections of Hogwarts Castle coming into view down the valley. A heavy fog hung around the top most towers, making the castle almost invisible from Hogsmeade. On a clear day one would normally be able to see the entire castle, to make out the different areas of the grounds.
In that brief moment, Harry made a deal with himself, promising whoever was listening that he would finally return to the castle, as long as he got Teddy back safely.
With that deal made, Harry broke out into a run, taking out his wand and covering the tracks he was leaving in the snow. A few short minutes later Hogsmeade was well behind him, and he soon came across the path that would lead him to the Shrieking Shack. Knowing he was close, Harry diverted his route away from the path and into the trees, where he would not be seen. There was only a little snow on the ground here, most of it stuck in the canopy of the large trees, and so Harry took a moment to dry off the jeans he wore, brushing the cold snow out of his hair. He kept moving, always keeping the path just in sight until he finally saw the Shrieking Shack ahead of him.
Despite having been inside the shack many years ago, Harry had never seen the outside of it, though was not surprised to see that it looked as though it were about to fall down. The few windows were heavily boarded up, the low fence surrounding the house itself rotten and crumbling. Much like the Burrow, the first floor was leaning to one side, the structure of the building deteriorating after so many years of not being maintained. From the outside there was no way to tell if anyone was inside or not.
Moving closer, he crouched down behind a small and withered bush, the snow on its branches providing him enough cover. “Homenum Revelio.”
The silhouettes of two people inside the shack were now illuminated. Studying them, Harry smiled despite the situation, immediately able to make out the shape of Teddy. He appeared to be sitting in mid-air, his legs swinging back and forth beneath himself the way they did when he sat for dinner. His figure was hunched over, his hands out in front of him, and judging by the way he was moving them he was likely colouring something. Concentrating, he didn’t look up once in the long minute Harry spent studying him, before moving his attention to the figure seated beside him. Whoever it was sat close by Teddy, but not too close, giving the boy enough personal space to feel at ease. This simultaneously put Harry at ease. Though Draco Malfoy had insisted that Teddy’s captor was no pervert, Harry hadn’t been able to rid himself of the fear of what type of person this wizard might be.
The two of them were sitting quietly, with the figure appearing to check his watch every now and then. Just as Snape had said, he was waiting for an arrival, for Draco Malfoy. Studying the shack for a few minutes, Harry tried to make a decision about his next move, uncertain about what he ought to do. He most desperately wanted to charge into the Shrieking Shack and retake custody of his son, to take down anyone who got in his way, yet he was uncomfortably aware of the trapdoor in the floor. If the captor heard him coming, he would take Teddy and flee. Where exactly was that trapdoor again? Trying to recall the last time he had been in the Shrieking Shack, almost a decade ago, Harry found he could only recall it being on the ground floor. Were Teddy and his captor sitting right by it? Would they be able to hide and then flee to the Whomping Willow?
His indecisiveness cost him the choice. As he was deliberating, Draco Malfoy appeared on the path towards the shack, hunched over beneath his heavy cloak. Just as Snape had told him, Malfoy had come to the Shrieking Shack, though Harry hadn’t thought to enquire about his reasons for being there. Was he expecting to find Teddy and his captor? Was this a planned meeting? So many questions were going through Harry’s mind as he tried to think, watching Malfoy approach. Teddy had been at Snape’s house recently, as proved by Woody’s hat which he had left behind. Had Snape told his captor to meet Malfoy there?
Not wasting any more time, Harry got to his feet and recast the Homenum Revelio charm, seeing Malfoy’s figure begin to glow too, even before he had entered the shack. Creeping through the trees, Harry stayed back as he waited for Malfoy to reach the shabby front porch, and he watched impatiently as he opened the front door and stepped inside. With his figure still glowing, Malfoy shrugged out of his cloak and dropped it to the floor, standing there beside it for a moment. Turning his attention back to Teddy, Harry watched as his captor suddenly ushered him to move, his glowing figure descending into the floor below to where Harry could no longer see him. Just as he had expected, the captor was hiding Teddy from Malfoy, from anyone who had arrived.
Taking his chance, Harry checked his surroundings before darting out from the trees, moving through the thick snow as fast as he could. With the windows boarded up there was little chance of him being seen, nevertheless he moved quickly, lest there be another arrival he was not expecting. Taking each step with utmost care, Harry made his way across the porch, his heart skipping a beat when the wooden floor cracked beneath his foot. The sound was ear splittingly loud, or so it felt to him, but when he looked up it was clear that those inside had not noticed. Withdrawing his wand, he cast a Silencing Charm on the front door, concerned that it may groan and give away his presence.
The brass door knob was icy cold when Harry grasped it, and yet it opened smoothly and silently, cooperating with him when he needed it most. Conscious of the cold draught he would be letting in, he opened it just wide enough to admit himself inside, and crossed the threshold in one swift movement. The door closed behind him in silence, and he had made his arrival unnoticed. He stood in the threshold of the Shrieking Shack, his body still as he listened carefully. Alone in the hallway, Harry observed Malfoy’s glowing figure that was standing in the doorway of the room at the end of the hallway. He appeared tense, his hands clenched into fists by his side as he whispered something angrily.
Malfoy clearly had not been expecting to find company in the Shrieking Shack, much less the captor who he had found there. Words were indistinguishable for the moment, but Harry could still see the other highlighted figure, whose body language was just as tense. Still unable to see Teddy’s highlighted figure anymore, Harry took a tentative step down the hallway, moving past the crumbling staircase. Very suddenly Malfoy lurched forward into the room, shouting loudly.
“You’ve got no idea what you’ve done! They’ll kill you for that kid, then what will you do?”
The other figure was backing away, his body language turning submissive as he tried to reason with Malfoy. His voice was frustratingly low, unable to be heard over the wind outside, and so despite Malfoy’s escalating anger, Harry took another step down the hall.
“This was always the plan! Nothing’s changed, except – Don’t tell me to calm down! You’re going to get the kid killed!
Harry’s heart fluttered at this, making him tense. Snape was right…the Death Eaters had panicked when Harry had gone public that morning. But they had played right into the conscience of Teddy’s captor, who had taken Teddy and run, betraying the Death Eaters.
“No, you cannot take him back,” Malfoy reasoned impatiently. “We still need Potter. Take the kid to Luther – are you even listening to me? Do it now before they kill you both!”
There was a low murmur to follow this, the captor’s voice only just audible as Harry moved even closer. Though he couldn’t make out the words, the captor was reasoning with Malfoy, trying to come up with a compromise. Increasingly frustrated, Harry moved closer again, trying to recognise the voice, to hear what was being said. Halfway down the hallway, and he still couldn’t understand the captor’s words, but he couldn’t risk going any further. Standing completely frozen, Harry prayed that they continued talking, that they raised their voices and let him in on what was happening.
“You know what Fenrir will do to him, what he’ll do to Potter,” Malfoy continued, his voice even and calm.
“Of course I know what he’ll do!” Teddy’s captor hissed, stepping forward angrily. “Why do you think I’m doing this?”
Hearing the voice, Harry took a sharp intake of breath, his heart clenching without explanation. His breath froze in his chest, knowing that the voice was familiar. But who? Where had he heard that voice, that sounded as familiar as Teddy’s.
“Then do your job. You’re in this now…there is no backing out,” Malfoy warned. “Take the kid to-”
Malfoy stopped short, Teddy’s captor suddenly raising his hand and looking past Malfoy. The longest silence of Harry’s life followed, all three men standing completely still. He held his breath as he stood there in the hallway, waiting for what was going to happen next. The captor was pointing over Malfoy’s shoulder now, making Malfoy whirl around. Harry’s presence had been detected. Seconds passed, with Malfoy then whispering something to the captor, who suddenly turned around and darted to the other side of the room. As Malfoy took out his wand, the charm that showed Harry where they stood became ineffective, and that single change was enough to prompt Harry into action. Completely blind to where the two men were, he took a small step backward, beginning to raise his wand. Still there was silence, no one daring enough to make the first move.
There was slight movement coming from inside the room, the sound of a chair scraping against the wooden floor as someone moved past it. Fearing that the two men might be fleeing down the trap door, Harry lowered his wand and started forward, intent on making his surrender clear. It was just the three of them, maybe they could talk and figure out what they wanted from him. Before he could speak to announce his intentions a bright flash of red light came soaring through the hallway, Malfoy casting a non-verbal Stunner Charm. Unable to raise his wand in time, Harry leapt away from the charm and crashed against the wall, driving his shoulder straight through the flimsy plaster board.
“Protego!” Harry cried as Malfoy sent another Stunner, emerging out into the hallway ready to fight.
Quickly disarming Malfoy, he thought maybe he might have the upper hand, but fear and determination that things would not go badly drove Malfoy to fight even harder, and so he charged at Harry. Knocking Harry’s wand out of his hand, Malfoy shoved him against the railing on the staircase, which buckled under the weight of the two men, splinters and broken wood leaving scratches and bruises. They werematched in height, but Harry’s strength and Quidditch training worked to his advantage, even as Malfoy tried to take his hands.
Their initial struggle lasted only seconds, with Harry drawing his leg up between his body and Malfoy, driving his heavy boot straight into his stomach and pushing him off him. Leaping back to his feet, he caught Malfoy’s wrist with one hand and his neck with the other, overpowering him as he struggled to catch his breath. Thinking of Teddy, whose captor was probably making an escape towards Hogwarts, he made to slam Malfoy against the nearest wall to interrogate him. But his uncontrolled force instead sent them both crashing straight through it, landing in a heap in the next room. The thin wall fell around them as they struggled again, Malfoy shouting and clawing at Harry’s arms, but Harry quickly gave up, kicking him hard before scrambling away.
Getting to his feet, Harry withdrew the Muggle gun from the strap around his ankle, holding it with one hand as he raised it straight at Malfoy. The moment he saw the gun pointed at him Malfoy gave a shout of horror, and he scrambled away from Harry. Ron was right…wizards feared Muggle guns more than the damage they could inflict with magic.
“Merlin, Potter!” Malfoy cried, holding his hands in front of his face as though they would protect him from a bullet. “Get that away from me!”
Ignoring him, Harry darted towards the door, needing to find the trapdoor, to follow Teddy down the tunnel. But Malfoy wouldn’t have it, and despite the gun he dove at Harry, trying to stop him.
“Enough!” Harry shouted, kicking Malfoy away.
“Wait, just wait!” Malfoy shouted back, cowering again as Harry swung the gun back around to him. “Don’t follow him, it’s a trap.”
Knowing that Malfoy was a skilled Occlumens, Harry was uncertain as to whether or not he was being truthful. He was bluffing for sure, trying to hinder Harry’s attempts to reach his son. But might it be a trap? Might he have brought back-up with him, having known that Teddy and his captor would be there? Wasting no time, he moved his finger to the trigger, making sure Malfoy could see the movement.
“I’ll make this really easy for you,” Harry began loudly, making himself perfectly clear. “Go and get my son, and I won’t shoot you.”
Malfoy swore again, trembling. “Put it down!”
“I’m serious Malfoy, go and get him.”
“You don’t understand,” he plead, his eyes still fixed on the barrel of the gun. “I can’t…not yet. It’s for his own good, okay?”
Impatiently, Harry pointed the gun a few feet to Malfoy’s right and pulled the trigger, which required more force than he remembered. The gun fired with an enormous bang, painfully jolting Harry’s arm as the smell of gunpowder bloomed in the air. Malfoy gave a loud shout, closing his eyes and flinching away. Harry too felt the shock that came from such an action, but there was no time for him to dwell on it. Teddy was here, making his way down the tunnel towards Hogwarts castle where his captor would either escape again or be caught by other Death Eaters.
“Look, your father taught me a lot about getting what you want out of other people,” Harry began angrily, turning the gun back to Malfoy and moving closer. They were mere feet away from each other now. “I don’t like to compare myself to filth like him, but he knew what he was doing!”
“You don’t underst-”
“Go and get my son! You can have me, just bring Teddy back.”
Harry fired the gun again, leaving another hole in the floor. Malfoy shouted again, shrinking even further back.
“I’m running out of bullets,” Harry bluffed, truly having no idea how many were left. “And one of them is for you if you don’t get me my son!”
“It’s not up to me!”
He fired again.
“Two bullets left,” Harry commented lightly. “One of them is yours.”
Despite his terror, Malfoy managed a light laugh. “And the other yours?”
Harry too laughed. “It will be if you don’t bring back my son.”
Malfoy didn’t reply immediately, his chest heaving as he looked at Harry’s gun with trepidation. “You’ve got to understand, Potter,” he said, beginning to stand a little. “This is not up to me…the Death Eaters-they want more from you.”
“They can have me!” Harry shouted, knowing that every second he wasted Teddy was getting further and further away from him. “They can do whatever they want with me, but Teddy needs to go home. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
“I know what you’re saying,” Malfoy ground out from his clenched jaw. “But it’s not my decision! You just have to wait, just-”
“Don’t make me shoot you.”
There was a soft creak from the floorboards in the hallway, the gentle noise immediately seizing Harry’s attention. He whirled around to look into the hall, convinced that it was Teddy, that he was going to be standing there waiting for him. But it was not Teddy, and for a long moment Harry failed to recognise the tall figure standing in the doorway, the sound of his voice aiding his identification.
“That won’t be necessary, Harry,” Remus Lupin said softly, his wand pointed straight at him.
Chapter updated after a kind reader let me know that I had left some notes to my beta in here! Sorry guys!
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