Chapter 24 : Invisibility is the Key
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Fred leaned against the wall of another building while he watched the apartments that Bill had told them about. He wasn’t worried about anyone seeing him since he was trying out their new line of Invisibility toffee. It was still in the experimental stage at the moment, but he was invisible. Though to be safe, he had taken care to change his looks, just in case it failed. He didn’t want Percy to actually see him.
His long wait was rewarded when he noticed a woman leaving the apartment with a very young child that clearly had the Weasley hair. He remained where he was, especially since they were still working on the visibility portion of the toffee. Causing a scene and being taken away by the people in the Beings Department just because people thought him a ghost wasn’t very high on his list to accomplish for today. Even lower on that list would be explaining why he was invisible.
The woman, who didn’t look like Penelope, passed him without a second glance. However, the young child looked directly at him with great curiosity. Fred waved, wondering if the young child could see him, and was surprised when the child waved back.
“Molly? Who are you waving to?” the woman asked.
Fred was fairly certain that this lady wasn’t Penelope and listened as Molly began to babble in her own language as the woman continued walking down the street. When they were out of sight, Fred allowed himself the luxury of considering what he’d seen. How had Molly seen him? That would be an interesting tidbit to share with George. Perhaps there was something wrong with their formula?
However, that was the least of what he had learned today. He wasn’t happy with the information and he didn’t expect that Bill or George would be thrilled either. Whoever the lady was, it was becoming very clear that Percy had secrets that he wasn’t telling them. Why wouldn’t Percy tell Mum about his child? That made no sense to him.
He shook his head with disbelief before Apparating back to the joke shop where he entered through the back door. There was no point in alarming the customers and having to deal with the Beings Department. He ate the other half of the Invisibility toffee, hoping that today’s formula worked.
“Gred?” George called out softly, not wanting to call attention to their new line. “Is that you?”
It didn’t surprise Fred that George knew. Once the new orders had appeared, they’d made a few changes in their protections. “Can you see me?” he asked.
George looked around before smiling with relief. “Good, it worked.”
Fred grimaced as he looked in the mirror to see for himself. “Well, let’s say it works mostly. I still feel a bit strange.”
“Strange how?” George asked, crossing the room to stand next to his twin.
Fred only shook his head. “I can’t quite describe it. Just that something’s not quite right.”
George considered as he looked through the notes again. “That one should have fixed everything. Amazing how Murtlap essence fixes quite a bit.”
Fred couldn’t keep from sighing. “It might also have something to do with I know what Percy’s hiding.
George stared at him with disbelief. “Percy? Not following the rules?”
Fred chuckled wryly. “I expect he’s following the rules, Feorge, he’s just not telling his family.”
George’s frown deepened. “Not telling…”
“We should tell Bill.” Fred interrupted George before he could say something that might haunt him. “Probably should tell him tonight.”
“What is he hiding?” George asked, very curious.
“Bill? Don’t know.” Fred answered with a smirk. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Feorge, I’m going upstairs to see what isn’t right.” He turned to walk up the stairs to their apartment but stopped when George began laughing. He turned back to face his twin. “What?” he demanded.
“You’ve got a tail!” George managed to get out while still laughing.
Fred looked over his shoulder and rolled his eyes. “That changes everything. I’m going upstairs and take care of the tail.”
“It’s a unicorn tail at that!” George couldn’t stop laughing.
Fred looked at him regally before walking up the stairs without saying another word as George’s laughter followed him.
George nudged Fred when Bill walked through the door. “Gred, why don’t you take him upstairs while I get Lee to watch the place?”
Fred nodded, weaving his way through the crowded room to tap Bill’s shoulder, “This way.” He led him up the stairs that had to finally be charmed so that their customers wouldn’t go into their apartment. “George will be up in just a bit.”
Bill gave him a curious look. “Perhaps I’ve been too busy, just when did you decide to grow a tail?”
Fred looked over his shoulder with a sigh. “It wasn’t planned and it’s proving just a little obstinate to remove.”
“You know you could always ask Madam Pomfrey.” Bill reminded him.
“Then we’d have to give away company secrets.” George said from the doorway. “We’ll figure out the antidote soon enough.”
Bill shook his head. “That must be some company secret. What are you going to tell Dad?”
“It’ll be hard to hide that tail.” George considered the problem.
Fred waved his hand negligently. “He doesn’t need to know everything. Just that we were running an experiment that went awry. After all, he does work with that bloke with horns.”
“You have a very good point there.” George replied as Bill shook his head. “Now will you tell us what you discovered or shall we expire from curiosity?”
Fred didn’t answer him.
“Gred?” George exchanged a worried glance with Bill. This wasn’t like Fred at all.
“Fred? It’s Percy, it can’t be that horrible.” Bill said.
“I’m still having trouble believing it myself.” Fred said, not seeming to have heard either of his brothers.
“What are you having trouble believing?” George asked with impatience. “You’d think he’s hiding a family the way you’re carrying on!”
Fred stared at him in surprise. “How did you know?”
His brothers stared at him in shock. “George is right?” Bill was amazed.
Fred nodded grimly.
George looked at him, stunned. “You mean, he’s helping to hide a family from…”
Fred shook his head. “No…”
“Why not?” Bill asked. “I think he might, considering…”
Again, Fred shook his head. “If he is, it’s his own.”
“What?” George couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Are you sure?”
Fred nodded once. “The baby has our hair.”
Bill and George were staring at him in complete shock, “A kid? Percy has a kid?”
“A little girl named Molly.” Fred said, still looking grim.
Bill leaned back in his chair as he considered the news Fred had given them. He couldn’t believe this is what Percy was hiding. “What about the mother?”
“Definitely not Penelope,” Fred said, smiling at the face the George made at her name.
“Who is she then?” Bill asked.
“That I don’t know.” Fred answered. “I didn’t get to hear that.”
“Mum’s going to have pixies!” George was now shaking his head with disbelief. Fred and Bill looked at him in surprise. “Well? She is. Look at how she reacted to Charlie and Tamsin’s marriage!”
“True.” Bill agreed, “Though I’ll admit to being surprised at the particular shade of red that Ron’s ears turned during that conversation.”
The twins chuckled at that memory. “Best color change he’s had so far.”
“How could he not be embarrassed by that attention?” Fred asked. “So why don’t we go talk to Percy about this? He says he wants to come back to our family, but he isn’t acting like it.”
“I agree with you on that.” George agreed. “We should find out from him why he’s…”
Bill held up his hands to stop them. “Before you two go running off on some half-thought out scheme…”
“It’ll be a perfectly devised plan!” Fred protested.
“One that even Percy will envy.” George was nodding.
Bill shook his head. “We still don’t know what the situation is.”
“How so?” Fred and George wore matching frowns.
“We know that Percy was seen going into that apartment.” Bill started to explain.
“Because you saw it,” Fred said quickly while George nodded.
“We also know what you’ve seen today, Fred.” Bill continued. “That a young lady and baby left the apartment.”
“True…” George agreed slowly, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
“What are you saying?” Fred eyed Bill with a little suspicion.
“The big question is this: are the two really connected?” Bill asked.
“The child had our hair!” Fred pointed out with exasperation. “It’s a pretty defining characteristic, if you ask me.”
Bill held his hands up, as if asking for another moment’s patience. “We need more proof that just hair color.”
Fred tapped his chin as he thought then turned to George. “I believe he’s right, Feorge.”
George was reluctantly nodding. “I have to agree, Gred.”
“We’ll just have to find out more information in a way that doesn’t let him know that we’re looking.” Bill reminded them. “Also, we have to remember his position in the Ministry.”
Fred and George nodded grimly.
Draco looked around at the small stand of trees where he was hiding at the moment. He had returned to the lake where he’d seen Ron and Hermione talking. Only this time, he’d transfigured a rock into a bench. He hoped that the trees would keep the curious people from seeing him. He still hadn’t managed to find anyone who could help him. He’d even gone to the Weasley’s home, the Burrow, and watched them, but Mr. Weasley hadn’t ever been by himself.
He had been surprised to see Percy there. His father had been talking with Minister Fudge one day, not that they knew he was listening to their conversation, and he’d heard the Minister say something about Peter being loyal to the Ministry, unlike others in his family. His father had chuckled even though it had taken him a couple of minutes to figure out who they were talking about. He smirked at the memory. Had anyone actually learned Percy’s name yet at the Ministry? Or would he spend his entire career without being called Percy Weasley?
However, Percy had been acting strangely, even for him. Either he was looking around more often as if he expected someone to suddenly appear behind him or else writing in a small book when no one else was watching. Percy’s strange habits had also kept him from approaching Mr. Weasley, should he have had the chance.
Draco sighed as he hung his head, his hands folded in front of him. Camping was a very different experience than what he’d heard from those who had done so with their families. Even as he had been impatient with their tales, he had listened, but now he’d have to disagree with each and every one of them. A small voice reminded him that their camping trips had never lasted nearly a month, a voice that he firmly ignored.
He just couldn’t continue this way, but what were his options? He could go home, but the Dark Lord was there as well as Aunt Bellatrix. Unconsciously he rubbed his left arm where the Dark Mark was. It was fortuitous that he hadn’t been called while he was hiding.
“But your parents are there, too.” The small voice reminded him.
Draco sighed. His mother must be beyond worried about him. He hadn’t been home since he had left for Hogwarts with his mission. Would Snape have told her anything? He had made the Unbreakable Vow to keep him safe for her peace of mind.
He didn’t notice the lengthening shadows as he sat on the hidden bench, considering what his next move should be. Only after dusk had fallen did he stir and look around in surprise. He stood. He had made his decision. He disappeared with a loud pop.
He appeared outside the gates. No one could Apparate inside them. He took a deep breath before walking through the formidable iron gates. He made his way up the paved walkway to the front door where he was let in immediately without question. He ignored the various Death Eaters who were sitting around, eating and laughing at each other’s horrid jokes and stories. His parents wouldn’t be with them. He climbed the stairs and walked to the family living room and knocked on the door, waiting half-impatient and half-anxious.
The door opened. Draco couldn’t believe the worry that he briefly saw in his father’s grey eyes. The door opened wider to let him in.
“Draco?” His mother asked softly, her expression showing her doubt. “Is that really you?”
“Yes, Mother.” Draco replied.
“I thought… when you didn’t return…” his mother couldn’t make herself say her darkest belief.
His father cleared his throat. “Where have you been?”
Draco looked around the room, wondering if it was safe. “I’ve been looking for information that might prove useful.”
“Were you able to find any?” his father looked thrilled at the idea. Being ignored by the Dark Lord had been difficult for him. Even the honor of hosting the Dark Lord had been in truth a punishment for failing at the Ministry.
“What did you find out?” his mother asked, looking tired and scared.
Draco gave his parents a considering look before answering. “Yes, I found a few things that would interest the Dark Lord, but I’m sure he’ll want to hear them from me.”
His mother nodded even though she still looked worried. His father’s eyes narrowed at Draco’s secretiveness.
“Aw, look, little Draco has returned.”
Draco turned to face his aunt. “Hello, Aunt Bellatrix.”
She gave him a crooked smile. “The Dark Lord wants to see you.”
Draco caught the looks of terror on his parents’ faces. He turned back to consider his aunt, who looked terrifying. “Will there be time to freshen up…”
Bellatrix cackled. “He wants to see you now.”
Draco nodded once, “Very well.” He deliberately paused to straighten his collar in the mirror before walking through the door, leaving his aunt behind him. He didn’t want to give her another chance to ruin his image.
However, she caught up with him before he had made it to the doors of the room where the Dark Lord waited. “What have you been doing?”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “If you don’t know…”
Bellatrix froze in place, staring in disbelief. Draco stopped in front of the parlor doors and took a deep breath. They opened before he touched them. He stepped inside the darkened room, “Master.”
Voldemort didn’t answer immediately. Instead he studied his youngest Death Eater that stood proudly in front of him in spite of having failed in his first mission, “Nagini? The young Mr. Malfoy is far too confident for having failed me.” He reached down to pat the snake’s head, not taking his eyes away from Draco. “Perhaps he has something I might find interesting?”
Draco took a deep breath, reminding himself that he was a Malfoy. “My lord, I apologize for my failure.” When Voldemort remained silent, he swallowed nearly silently. “I thought that I might gain information that you would find useful.”
“Did you manage this feat?” Voldemort asked softly.
“I did, but then when I learned of your victory over Potter, I became concerned.” Draco admitted.
Voldemort leaned forward. “Why would you be concerned?”
Draco swallowed again as he reminded himself again that he was a Malfoy. “The information concerned Potter.”
Voldemort’s face cleared as he leaned back. “This is why you have been away for so long? Not the tales I have heard about you having run away for help?”
Draco managed to keep his face impassive. “I then decided to follow his friends in case they might have information.”
Voldemort didn’t reply. He looked past Draco as the doors opened and Draco’s family entered the room. “I would not believe such betrayal would have come from one of the Malfoy line. What have you discovered?”
“Potter’s friends have apparently run away.” Draco said. Many of the Death Eaters around them began laughing. Bellatrix cackled only until she saw the look on Voldemort’s face. His parents remained quiet.
“Where did you see them?” Voldemort asked, easily heard through the laughter.
Draco considered. He didn’t know precisely where they had been when he’d seen them. He hadn’t even known the date. “They were by a duck pond, talking.”
Voldemort leaned forward as silence fell in the room. “What were they talking about?”
Draco felt fear beginning to blossom. “I stayed hidden in the trees and was too far away.”
Voldemort stared at him for a long time before settling back, tapping his fingers together. “So, you saw his friends in an unknown location and they were talking. Is this all the information you have?”
Draco swallowed, “No, my lord.”
“Indeed?” Voldemort looked surprised. “What else do you have to tell me?”
“I watched the other Weasleys.” Draco said quickly.
Voldemort watched him silently.
“They’re acting odd.” Draco added.
“How can you…” one of the Death Eaters began to say until Voldemort raised a hand.
“Tell me why you believe they’re acting odd.” Voldemort asked.
“I think it’s got something to do with Potter and his girlfriend.” Draco said.
“Potter has a girlfriend?” Bellatrix asked, her eyes lighting up.
“Bellatrix, Draco hasn’t finished yet.” Voldemort reprimanded her. “Now, please explain.”
Draco glanced at his mother who was looking frightened again. “I went to the funeral…” He trailed off because of the laughter.
“Quiet!” Voldemort snapped. “Continue, Draco.”
“I went to the funeral because I wanted to know what was really going on.” Draco said. “The article about it was funny.”
“Precisely how was it funny?” Voldemort asked.
“People didn’t believe that Potter was dead.” Draco managed to say.
Voldemort leaned forward, his red eyes snapping. “Potter isn’t dead?”
“I don’t think so.” Draco said, showing his nervousness for the first time.
Voldemort frowned, considering what he’d been told. “What else have you learned?”
“Something odd happened during the funeral.” Draco said. “It was as if the earth turned liquid and Hogwarts changed.”
“Interesting,” Voldemort leaned back. “Anything else I should know?”
Draco searched his mind for a significant item. “Rita Skeeter is an unregistered Animagus.”
There was complete silence in the room.
“How do you know this?” Voldemort asked him. “By some unknown means again?”
Draco swallowed with difficulty. “No, my lord, she can turn into a beetle and all of us Slytherins were giving her interviews our Fourth Year.”
“Very well, Draco.” Voldemort said, waving his hand. “Why don’t you get reacquainted with your parents? I’m certain you three have much to catch up on.”
Draco bowed stiffly before turning to leave the room. His parents followed him quickly.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this chapter.
Thank you very much for your constructive criticism!
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