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Chapter 34 : A Tangled Web
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His eyes snapped to the man at the words.
"My names Mark. I remember you from when you were this big."
His heart was beating slowly - almost fearfully - in his chest as the man brought his hand to illustrate a tininess that Dubhán no longer could remember being. The words rung eerily in Dubhán's ears, so reminiscent of the man behind the bars.
Harry looked up and Dubhán scrambled to make his mind stop whirling.
"Hello," he said, as he watched Harry close the folder. There was a newspaper on the table. The sort Harry thought was rubbish. Dubhán inched closer. Cleverness had always made him forget his fear. "Are you an Auror?"
The man obliged him with a smile. Harry frowned, but then he must have smelled the burning meat at last and jumped up to tend to the billowing crispy things.
"Yeah," the man said, and he pulled out a badge and handed it to him as if this was something he regularly did. Dubhán held it between his fingers.
"My dad has one like this," he said, inching closer as he made to hand it back. Harry was too busy to react to the name, or perhaps too used to Dubhán using it around others but not at him.
He could see the paper now and it took all of his self-will to work his body: hand the badge back, settle into the chair, glance but do not stare.
Draco Malfoy had been arrested. He couldn't read the rest of the article (the Auror's elbow was cover it), but there was a perfect little picture of him with his wife and a blond boy that had to be Dubhán's age. The boy had gotten bigger.
"Mark!" Harry said, glancing at them over his shoulder. Mark took one look at him, one look at the paper and snatched it off the table to be tucked in his robes. Dubhán stared at him cooly.
"You don't need to read this rubbish," Mark said pleasantly. "Hey, do you remember all those little magic tricks you used to do?" He smiled as if he were thinking of something especially funny. Dubhán shook his head. "You used to draw secret pictures. I remember when you gave me one I said I loved it, but I thought it was just, you know, a blank bit of parchment. Harry told me before I left, but I never got to tell you how cool that was. It's still in my office. You drew a mean dragon for a six year old."
"He also used to erase parts of books he didn't like." It was Alexandra, entering into the kitchen with Emma in tow. She kissed him atop his head and hummed with interest at the smoke surrounding the griddle.
"Well I better be off, Harry. I'll firecall you later, alright?" Harry nodded from his smoke filled bubble where he had contained the mess to and was working at vanishing it all. If Dubhán had noted any weaknesses of Harry's since he'd been here, it was that he was terrible with cleaning spells. Dubhán thought this was mostly laziness, since Harry seemed perfectly happy to clean up the muggle way.
After breakfast, which ended up being cereal because apparently both Harry and Alexandra were rubbish at cleaning pots with magic and Alexandra had told Harry 'not to bother' when Harry seemed to almost obsess over the ruined skillet. There had been a hand on his arm that had seemed far too attentive for such a burnt pan. Dubhán watched curiously.
Emma was going to a friends house, which mean inevitably so was one of them, and since they didn't leave him alone, it pretty much secured it would be Harry with him - the most obsessive about his constant minding. He stayed at the table as Alexandra and Emma got up to get ready, and so did Harry.
"You saw it, I'm sure," Harry said softly, smiling a sort of defeated smile. In his brilliant green eyes there was a hungriness that unnerved Dubhán.
"Yes," he said simply, but he let the distaste linger on his tongue, because they both knew he wasn't pleased. "He'll get out. He has too many connections."
He shrugged, half reassuring himself that his justice would prevail.
"Who else would Voldemort send after you?"
Dubhán wondered what that book would have to say today, but he hadn't dared to open it since he'd talked to Vincent.
He stared cooly at Harry, unanswering.
"Even if I knew, I wouldn't tell."
"I need to keep you safe, Devlin." There was a deep hurt in his voice.
"Then don't make me betray him."
He stood from the table and left Harry there to think.
There was an older lady where at the kitchen table, sipping at tea that afternoon when he came down to sneak a cookie. He froze in the doorway, the hairs on his arms prickling with the same sense of foreboding.
"Hello, Mr. Potter," the older lady said, kindly. Her whole face was stern and wizened and she had a steady almost palpable magic.
"Hello, Mrs. Bones." She was older than her historic photos, but he had a book at home filled with the picture of anyone who held a seat on the Wizengamot. She arched her brow and took another sip.
He nodded his head towards her, wishing he was wearing a vest or some robes instead of these blue pants and pull over shirt.
"I've heard a lot about you," Bones said kindly. Her eyes warmed but her face remained firm.
"Anything good is absolutely correct. Anything you would deem unfavorable I will have to argue the validity." He smirked.
"Is that so?"
He smiled his most charming smile.
"Yes, it is absolutely true."
"And what about the things Voldemort would appreciate? Are you not than capable of those things since I would deem them unfavorable?"
His eyes creased around his smile and his cheeks dimpled. He snuck his hands into his pockets and slouched against the doorframe.
"Why are you here?"
As the head of the whole of the Department, she would be his father's overseer.
"I came to have tea with Harry. He's been out of work for a while and I wanted to check in with him."
"He's far too overprotective of his son. Maybe you can convince him he should just hire a sitter."
"My son is too clever for a sitter," Harry said, coming up through the hallway carrying papers. "Why, he would probably con them into feeding him nothing but cookies."
Dubhán did not need to fake his smile. These dances of half-truth and half-lies were always one of his favorite.
"No. Not cookies, sir. Cheese pastries!"
He smiled his best boyish and disarming smile, the one that would have made Geoffrey chuckle and Bella scowl with dislike.
"What a wonderfully creative boy you have, Harry," Bones said, her whole face serious, and she looked at him with that certainknowing that was there to make sure he knew she knew he was acting.
"You've had your tea. But you haven't left. So what are you here for?" He pushed himself off the wall, unpocketed his hands, and stood up straight. His face was cool and quiet, but he kept the smile there, to offset the firm set of his jaw.
"There are whispers that you may be able to help me," she said kindly, her face wrinkling around her smile.
"How would a nine year old be able to help you?"
She smiled again.
"Hmm, almost ten, isn't it?" Dubhán pursed his lips, but nodded. "I hear you have met Draco before."
"Yes. I saw him with my father at Hogwarts."
She laughed and glanced at Harry, who was preparing to cook lunch. The stack of papers sat before Bones.
"He is clever, Harry!" Harry hummed in acknowledgement. She turned back to him, leaning forward just slightly. "I am not asking you to testify. Indeed, your father has gone to great lengths to make that an unfavorable path for me to take. So long as you keep what you did with Voldemort - with him - we will have no issues. The information you hold, however, would be beneficial to me. There would be no need to know where it had come from. I have a wide network of whisperers."
"What makes you think he told me anything?"
"Because trust goes both ways and Voldemort knows the importance of this - and mimics it well. For you to trust him, he needed to make you feel valuable. To make you feel valuable, he needed to share something with you."
"Too bad he took the more practical route, because that sounds far more pleasant." He tried his best to smile again. "I have nothing to tell you. I don't whisper in peoples ears."
It was a lie, of course. That was exactly what Voldemort had done, and the idea that she could so easily see it - when he himself had been blind - made his stomach knot unpleasantly.
Harry might not believe in the That Rubbish Newspaper, as he frequently referred to it, but Sirius still ordered it. "I don't think much of it, but they keep great Quidditch scores," he had said, weeks or months ago - Dubhán could not quite remember.
He found it between the sofa cushions, where a lot of rubbish could be found in Sirius' house. He hadn't exactly gone looking for it, but Emma had lost a small 'princess ring' and he had found it in his search.
Draco's face was crumpled. His wife, Astoria, looked as calculating as always. She reminded him a lot of Bellatrix - determined with a tense constant hum around her at all times, except she wasn't insane. There wasn't that crackle in her magic or her voice. Maybe Astoria actually reminded him a bit of Alexandra. He moved his eyes away from her and onto the blond boy. He looked small. Dubhán rather disliked pictures of children for this very reason - they looked small and they reminded him that to everyone he looked small too.
There was a smirk turning one edge of the boys mouth up, like an ice-cold charm. Like the kind of charm a charmless person learns how to copy. The kind easily cracked at the first sign of danger. He could still remember the look of fear on the boys face.
"What are you doing?" It was Geoffrey, and Dubhán felt an unfounded anger with the man that he had managed to sneak up on him. A pit of something dark and cold was left in his gut, and he willed his heart not to spike. "I told Black to throw that away."
"Are you going to tell them? Will you whisper words in their ears about him?"
"Does my choice either way matter to you?"
He rounded on the man.
"Yes. You shouldn't be a snitch. You're already a traitor. Haven't you any sense?"
Geoffrey chuckled and rolled on the balls of his heels.
"I pride myself with owning a great deal of sense." He leaned forward. "Is it your place, little dark one, to name me traitor?"
"Says you." Maybe it was the glint in his eyes, or the tip of his head, or the tone of his voice, but whatever it was, there was something that made Dubhán pause with a complex thoughtfulness and Geoffrey used that moment to plow his point home. "He told me to protect you no matter what. I did that. You will be strong. You will be whole. And you will be alive. Think of that, before you call me a traitor, little dark one."
Dubhán would have spun on his heel and exited with those words, but Geoffrey had always been far more consistent and patient than Dubhán. He remained standing there, and slowly the frown gave way to bemusement.
"So, what do you think of the picture?"
Dubhán worked his tongue in his mouth and swallowed, willing his mind to catch up and work.
"It's a facade, like all of them."
"The boy didn't seem to have mastered such a facade," Geoffrey said thoughtfully, looking at the paper in Dubhán's hand. It was bent oddly in his grasp, half falling limply, the crease created centered on Draco's body.
"The boy had a stupid father," he argued, his voice chilly.
"Many men boast about their children," Geoffrey said, arching a brow. Informing him, like in the past, of the more typical thought pattern. Telling him things he wouldn't have known. His mind filed it away, like it used to file all his tidbits of information.
"He wouldn't have boasted I could do something unless I could."
"Maybe you're better thinking that," he said, looking toward the side out of the corner of his eyes thoughtfully.
"What do you mean?" His hand curled into a fist around the paper.
Geoffrey looked at him critically, as if he were measuring his value and capability to handle what he was about to say.
"He often told said you could do things he did not know you could. And you - driven by what has always driven you the best - rose to the occasion out of terror."
No one, not even Geoffrey, had ever spoken to him like this inside the camp. His mind was still trying to figure out how to deal with these alternative perceptions, especially from those like Geoffrey.
"That's not true. You don't understand. He might not have seen me do it before, but he never asked me to do something I couldn't. Heknew I could. He believed in me."
"He believed that you believing that was his greatest commodity. Your faith in him that he would not ask you to do something if you could not, meant you convinced yourself each time that you could do it." Dubhán shook his head.
"How would he think to do that?" It wasn't really a question - it was a refusal.
"It's simple, child," Geoffrey whispered, leaning closer. He crouched down before him, legs bent - putting himself in a vulnerable position. "The first time, maybe he expected you to fail. When instead you prevailed, he claimed to have known you were capable, which put him in a position to seem to know you better than yourself."
Dubhán swallowed. The whispered words to Harry about Voldemort being tangled up in his head were reverberating around in his mind, and he was starting to wonder if it hadn't been the both of them tangled together.
"Did you find it yet?" Emma asked, from the doorway. She shifted nervously at the sight of Geoffrey in the room. Dubhán, fueled by the expression on her face, stepped forward.
"No, sorry. Let's check the kitchen." He led her away from Geoffrey and out into the hallway.
"Was he being mean to you?" She asked quietly, peering at him as if the idea were horrifying and worthy of a cuppa tea.
"No," he said flatly, trying to keep her moving.
"You weren't calling our daddy stupid, were you?"
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