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Chapter 21 : Secrets Hidden Within Secrets
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Chapter 21 – Secrets Hidden Within Secrets
As the flames subsided, the trio walked boldly from the large fireplace in the West Wing of Malfoy Manor. Hermione froze as she took in the enormous lounge, dripping in shades of soft silver and deep green. Intricate carvings crept up the dark mahogany columns that lined the walls while dim candlelight cast an eerie glow, which did nothing to make the Manor feel welcoming.
Astoria took a few cautious steps into the room and whispered something to the air. A ‘crack’ resonated through the room as a small house elf appeared, standing nervously in the shadows of the great room. Hermione and Charlie moved closer, hoping to be included in the conversation.
“Mitzi,” Astoria whispered, leaning down a bit, “slow down and tell me what happened.”
Between the hiccups, and the bursts of sobbing, the house elf squeaked, “She gone, Mrs. Astoria! Gone.. and I can not find her!” The little elf threw herself to the floor sobbing at her Mistresses feet, colored ribbons floating in small pools of tears.
“Gone?” Hermione cried, a bit louder than she meant to, causing Mitzi to jump from her position on the floor to hide behind Astoria. “What do you mean she’s gone? Are you talking about Nyah?” Hermione continued to glance around Astoria’s legs, trying to talk directly to the house elf.
“Hermione, stop” Charlie said, pulling his sister-in-law gently away from Astoria and Mitzi. “You'll frighten her and we'll never know what happened,” he said, glancing at Astoria.
With a nod, Astoria turned to Mitzi, and whispered, “These people are family of the little girl. With regard to the child, you may speak.”
The small house elf peeked from around her Mistresses cloak, her large round eyes taking in Charlie and Hermione. With another glance to Astoria, she shuffled her feet until she stood in front of the strangers, fidgeting nervously at the frayed hem of the barely-pink pillowcase she wore.
Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but Charlie touched her arm and spoke instead. “Mitzi,” he said gently, his voice taking on a gentle tone, “my name is Charlie. My niece is here, trapped and possibly very sick. Can you help me find her?” He knelt down closer to the house elf, watching as she turned slightly towards him with her head down.
“Mitzi is a bad elf, Mr. Charlie,” the house elf squeaked, shaking her head slowly as the pastel ribbons whipped across her face. “Mrs. Astoria tells me to watch her, and – and then Mr. Malfoy…” whispers Mitzi, shaking out of fear, “he comes and is mean to the little Miss, and…” The silence in the room is only broken by the sound of large tears hitting the marble floor.
Softly clearing her throat to rid her voice of the panic that was rising, Hermione quietly asked, “Please, what happened… what happened when Draco came?”
“Oh no, not Master Draco… Mr. Malfoy,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper. “Little Miss meant no harm, but he was shaking her,” Mitzi continued, her eyes pleading to Charlie to understand, “I had to help – had to get him away. When Mitzi came back, the little Miss was gone.” The small house elf glanced to Astoria and waited silently, tears lingering in the crevices of her face.
Thoughts of Nyah rushed through Hermione’s mind as she set herself to pacing. He was shaking her! Why didn’t she fight back? And now, lost – lost, in this horrid house. Hermione’s gaze fell on her own reflection in a nearby window and she whispered, “Please be all right…”
The distinct ‘crack’ of the house elf disapparating jolted Hermione from her own thoughts and she turned to the empty space Mitzi once stood. The silence of the room crept around them, taunting them with its unspoken stillness.
Astoria stood unmoving, her statuesque figure blending seamlessly with the room. Distant mumblings carried through the stillness of the room, and like marble turning to sand, Astoria turned to the large double doors and whispered, “Hurry!” She didn’t stop to wait for her companions and ran from the room as though pursued by an invisible fear. Her cloak billowed in her trail and her feet were silent as she disappeared from the lounge and down a darkened hall. Hermione and Charlie rushed to keep her in sight, barely avoiding the various statues and large plants as they slid on the polished marble floors.
Moments later, Charlie came to a stop near a stairwell, unsure as to which direction Astoria had gone. “Great!” he cried, the sound reverberating in the hall. With a stern look from Hermione, he lowered his voice, whispering, “It’s a trap, and we fell for it! Come on, we need to…”
“Shh…” Hermione whispered as she placed her hand over his mouth, the sound of heavy footsteps carried in their direction. She motioned back down the hall and turned quietly hoping to find her way back to the lounge and the fireplace. A tall tapestry fluttered at her side and a long pale hand grabbed Hermione’s wrist, pulling her through a concealed door in the wall.
Charlie stared at the wall as though expecting Hermione to reappear, waves of panic sweeping through him. The sounds of angry voices heightened as a multitude of creatures descending on his location. Charlie was torn between blasting through the wall to find Hermione or running for the fireplace. Taking a deep breath which did nothing to calm him, Charlie pulled his wand aiming for the tapestry and the wall behind. The fabric fluttered in an absent breeze and Astoria appeared, quickly motioning Charlie to follow. Weighing his options, he ducked into the small dusty room. Deep growls grew close, magnified as they gathered just outside the camouflaged door, sniffing and scratching mercilessly.
“What is that?” Charlie whispered, pointing at the door.
Astoria began moving boxes fervently as she said quietly, “Lucius’s werewolves. He keeps recruiting them, encouraging Greyback and the others to prowl, especially at the full moon. The numbers keep growing and they are getting uncontrollable.” She stood, looking at her guests, breathing hard. “But something’s not right. They’ve never been allowed in the West Wing – Draco forbade it. We’re not safe here.”
Hermione stood shaking, as Charlie wrapped an arm about her shoulders. He took a deep breath and asked Astoria, “How can I help?”
“Draco told me of a small hidden stairwell that leads to his father’s office from this room. Lucius used it to hide,” Astoria said, feeling along the wall.
“Hide?” Hermione said quietly, curiosity taking over her fears, “Hide from what?”
Pausing for a moment to choose her words, Astoria said, “The Ministry, Aurors – anyone who might be after him. Lucius isn’t well-liked, you know.”
“Yet you stay,” Hermione whispered, searching the woman’s face for answers as silent tension fell between them.
Astoria stopped her movements and turned to look at Hermione, while Charlie watched from a distance. “Yes, I stayed,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. “For Draco – and for our son.”
“But if you knew... about Lucius,” Hermione said, still attempting to understand the logic of marrying into a family such as this.
“Why did I agree to marry Draco?” Astoria asked, finishing Hermione’s train of thought. She turned and shook her head, before brushing dust from a box to sit on. “Draco kept me shielded from Lucius, never allowing us to meet while we courted. It was only after Lucius was arrested and taken to Azkaban that Draco and I married, with his mother’s blessing. He was finally free,” she said as a large, beautiful smile found its way to her face, “and life was good and calm. Draco was haunted by his father’s past and promised we would raise our son differently, with different ideals. It’s just been in the last year, since Lucius’s release, that our lives have been turned upside down.”
Charlie continued searching the wall, as Hermione took a seat near Astoria, hoping she would continue her tale.
“I hear them talking, Draco and his father, mostly at night,” Astoria whispered, looking at nothing but the floor. “Lucius goes on about the plan… how Draco failed to carry it out in his absence, and that the punishment will be severe. Draco attempts to calm him, but – but there’s no dissuading him.”
Hermione glanced towards Charlie before asking softly, “Have you ever asked him what the plan is?”
Astoria laughed quietly, her eyes sparkling with tears, “All I know is that your niece is the key, and that somehow I am responsible for the plan going badly.”
“You?” Charlie asked, abandoning his search momentarily, “How are you responsible?”
Standing gracefully to her feet, Astoria simply said, “I don’t know.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Mum,” Nyah breathed quietly, reaching out to finally touch the waves of auburn hair she had dreamt of. A large smile crossed her face, but was quickly replaced with fear. “Mum? What’s wrong?” Nyah tried to get Ginny to move, but her body seemed frozen. “Please get up,” she whispered, watching as her mother’s eyes darted around the room frantically, never lingering in one spot for very long.
Ginny’s mouth was clenched in concentration, while her hands were slightly open, the wand discarded by her side. Tears threatened to fall from Ginny’s eyes as she stared at her young daughter, but even the tears seemed reluctant to move as they continued to gather, obstructing her view of Nyah. Ginny’s right foot twitched, and a glimmer hope was renewed in Nyah.
Laying the recovered wand at her side, Nyah reached out to rub Ginny’s legs, trying to relieve the tension. Stabbing pains ran with a vengeance through Nyah’s hands and arms, but the child refused to stop, concentrating only on helping her Mum. Fatigue set in quickly as Nyah’s tears fell freely on her Mum’s legs, soaking into the fabric and spotting.
“I - I can’t do it,” Nyah stuttered through the tears, “I can’t help you. I can’t fix anything. You and Dad… came to get me… and – and I’ve ruined it.” Her teeth clenched and her breath hissed between her teeth, as she allowed the anger to wash over her. “I – I don’t’ blame you… for not wanting me,” she whispered, refusing to look at her Mum. The once dormant electricity sparked and began slowly traveling through her body, as a cold wind snaked through the room. Nyah’s magic continued to search her soul, connecting the pieces bit by bit. Her eyes began to burn as the energy consumed her, ready to spill out… ready to flee from this broken body. The pain lay in wait… gathering and building, knowing that its gain would come once the magic was spent.
Nyah held her head, willing the energy to stop, knowing that anyone who came near her was in danger. “I - can’t – stop - it,” she breathed, hoping to warn Ginny. Loud, angry voices carried from the hallway and into the office. Nyah tried to drown out the sound of the blood rushing through her head and listen but only knew the sound was getting louder.
Her head screamed, Lay down, Nyah! Hide! Nyah glanced at her Mum wanting nothing more than to curl up in her mother’s arms, hidden away from the anger and pain. Instead, she reached out a shaking hand, careful not to touch Ginny’s skin, and draped the silky cloth over her Mum once again. Ginny’s eyes were steady now and stared straight into Nyah’s beckoning her to stay, but the young girl’s decision was to protect her Mum, even if it meant being found herself.
The footsteps echoed in the hall as they approached the office door. Nyah tucked Ginny’s wand under the invisibility cloak and crawled to the only available hiding spot… under the large desk. Pulling her knees to her chin, she sat as still as she could and simply waited.
“… incompetent, loathsome creatures, Fenrir,” a cold, curt voice spat as the conversation continued into the office.
“You know as well as I, Lucius,” a low, animalistic voice replied, “that they are young and inexperienced.”
“They were to find my grandson, nothing more! He is not some simple Muggle snack for your cubs!” A bright blast of red sparks filled the air, illuminating the office as Lucius hissed, “I have ways of handling my family, Fenrir, and do not need your assistance! Now, go – and be certain no harm comes to the boy.”
A muffled growl and a mumbled, “As you wish,” came from near the door. “And what of Potter and his friends?”
“I will deal with them myself. You can have whatever is left…”
The werewolf backed out of the office with a satisfied grin on his scarred face, leaving Lucius seemingly alone in the office. Soft, but quick footsteps led him to a large portrait in the back of the room, where he bowed low, pulling an ivory wand from his cloak.
His long, pale fingers reached out and swept delicately across the painting, as the cape in the portrait billowed in an absent breeze. “My Lord,” Lucius whispered lovingly, “I will not fail you this time. You will see, finally, that it was I who was always your most loyal servant. It’s nearly here, Potter’s downfall, just as you foretold. His child, stolen and raised by Muggles.”
Lucius took a timid step backwards as the wand shook violently in his hand. He stuttered, attempting to explain, “I’m – I’m sorry, my Lord, my – my son… my son did not follow orders and allowed the child to stay with the Muggles.” With another bow, he added, “He and his wife will be punished as well. Their son will be given to you in full service as soon as the Potters are dead, my Lord. There isn’t time to train the child to your original plan. Her birthday is tomorrow and the pact must be completed before then… but rest assured, Harry Potter and his child will die this very night!” The pale wand fluttered and lay still once more, seemingly satisfied by the servant’s offer.
Lucius bowed yet again, stroking the painting and the wand gently before turning and leaving the office, leaving Nyah crying silently beneath the desk, her fate laid out before her as a dark road.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The trio had continued their search for the hidden door in silence when Charlie tripped on a loose board, falling hard to the floor. The triumphant howls outside the wall increased, signaling to the others that their prey was captured. Cursing under his breath, Charlie moved to get back up when something caught his eye. There, by his foot was a tiny lever, nearly lost under the loose board.
“I’ve got it,” he whispered, tripping the switch. With a ‘click’, a small section of wainscot near Hermione popped open. Stale air wafted through the room, as though they had discovered the remains of an old secret, hidden for decades.
Pulling her wand from her cloak, Hermione calmly crawled through the hole and disappeared without even a glance to the others. A small glimmer of light emanated from the opening, beckoning Charlie and Astoria towards the space. The growling and snarling from the far wall became heightened as the plaster began to give way, offering access to the small room. With his heart racing, Charlie pushed some boxes over the floorboards concealing the lever, and then crawled into the gap. Hermione pulled the door closed, shutting out the primitive sounds from the room beyond.
Wands lit, Astoria led the way, slowly making her way down the narrow dusty staircase. Hermione and Charlie followed closely, the silence only broken by the rustling of spiders and other unmentionables scurrying from sight. Dust danced about their feet, joining them in the journey, and cobwebs hung on their clothes and hair as though hoping to escape the dreary confines of the stairwell. The cool bricks lining the walls did nothing to relieve the musty warm air which closed in around them, threatening to overcome them.
Finally reaching a landing, Astoria paused, unsure whether to continue on down the stairwell or attempt to go into the connected room. She pressed her ear to the door, but no sounds traveled through the wall.
“Is this it?” Charlie whispered, pointing to the tiny exit.
“I’m not certain,” replied Astoria nervously, “I’ve never been down this way, but this should be the main level of the house.” She took a breath, and reached for the small lever. A hush fell over the group as the door silently opened and a rush of cool air welcomed them into to a dimly-lit office space. Astoria peeked into the room and crawled through the doorway, motioning the others to follow.
The grand office was still and bitterly cold, giving Hermione chills that had little to do with the temperature. Strange pictures lined the walls, moving and contorting, some twisting into grotesque shapes the longer you watched.
“Come on,” urged Astoria, throwing cobwebs and dust from her cloak and hair. “If we are caught here, it will be the end of all of us! Hurry!”
But Hermione stood frozen to the spot, her eyes lingering again on the walls, finally landing on the largest portrait in the room. There, behind the desk, was a life-size painting of none other than Lord Voldemort. His cape billowed in an eerie breeze and his crimson eyes bore into Hermione. She slowly backed towards the door, finally bumping into Charlie as he too, was transfixed on the portrait.
A small voice pierced the silence. “It doesn’t move,” Astoria said reassuringly, towering above Hermione and blocking her view. “The other portraits speak, move, and disappear at times – but not that one,” she whispered, turning to stare at the artwork. “Only the cloak moves. Draco said Lucius was distraught to not have his Master speak to him, but that doesn’t stop Lucius from talking to it… whispering to it… worshiping it.” Astoria gave a visible shudder and turned towards the door once more.
Charlie tugged gently on Hermione’s cloak, silently willing her to move, but she remained fixed, unable to retreat. He placed his hands on her shoulders, and physically turned her around, facing her towards the exit. Looking deep into her face, he smiled, hoping to calm her fears as he whispered, “Ready?”
Hermione nodded just a bit and wiped her eyes on her cloak, willing her heart to stop racing. She watched as Astoria continued to check the darkened hallway and Charlie moved out of the room. With a deep, calming breath, Hermione took a step as a whisper of her name floated in the air. An involuntary gasp echoed through the room as Hermione froze again, chills running across her skin, heightening her senses. She slowly pulled her wand and listened again, calmly ignoring the irritated looks from Astoria. Scanning the room for something she might have missed, a soft broken word carried to her again.
The sound was painful, and tears sprang to Hermione’s eyes and she whispered back, “Nyah… where are you?” She tiptoed through the office, looking behind every planter, at the bookcases, and finally walked boldly to the windows at the back of the room. Hermione held her head high, refusing to be intimidated at the portrait that continued to glare at her, but she found nothing.
“Hermione, come on,” Charlie insisted, irritation replacing the softness that lingered there a moment earlier.
“All right,” she snapped back, turning on her heels towards the door again. “I just thought I heard….”
Hermione glanced once more around the room and hit her knees. There curled up under the desk was Nyah, with Harry’s wand clutched in her right hand.
“Charlie,” Hermione called, completely disregarding any thoughts of being quiet, “it’s Nyah.” She reached to push the hair from her niece’s near-colorless face, as Charlie moved the office chair aside.
Nyah’s hands were cold and clammy, and her body shook. Small moans of pain interrupted her scattered breaths, but her eyes were clear and bright when Hermione whispered her name.
Charlie reached out and easily lifted her into his strong arms, his chin quivering as tears threatened to leave his eyes. He held her close and whispered to her as she cried, wrapping her small arm about his neck. Unable to contain her own emotions any longer, Hermione kissed Nyah’s forehead spilling salty tears on the young girl’s.
“Mum,” Nyah breathed.
Hermione smiled and said, “We’re going to take you to her, don’t worry.”
Pain shot through Nyah as her emotions continued to climb precariously high, the anguish nearly succeeding in winning the battle that raged within her small body. She took a shallow breath, choosing her words carefully, “The floor – Mum – there.” Her body shook violently and fell still, her mind floating peacefully as the war continued.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Draco kept his eyes to the ground as his father toyed with the new captives. The three men were bound near the center of an old library where random books collected dust and walls were torn and demolished, leaving a skeleton, a mere whisper of the grandeur it once held. Shadows moved as dark spells and Unforgivable Curses were fired randomly as Lucius taunted the men with thoughts of horrific torture to their wives and children.
The eldest Weasley laid face-down and unconscious on the hard stone floor, as a slow red stain formed about his head. His only movements were an occasional involuntary twitch. George had put up the loudest fight, spitting back and laughing at Lucius with every curse – but at the vivid description from Greyback of paying a visit to the seaside this very evening to find a dark-skinned little girl playing alone by the shore in the moonlight, George’s laughter froze.
Greyback had circled the bound man until their eyes locked gazes; one too afraid to look away… one too cruel to stop this torture. “She was sitting alone on a rock, the waves dancing on her feet,” Greyback whispered, “her dark curly hair waved to me and her skin blended with the shadows.”
The werewolf took a few steps back, eagerly watching the men’s faces. The smell of fear and torment hung in the air as it mingled with the blood and sweat. Greyback took a deep breath savoring the feeling as the hairs on his neck began to rise with anticipation. His cold amber eyes fixed on George once more as he gave a deep throaty growl. “It was so easy - with the sand and the waves… she didn’t even hear me coming. But oh,” he moaned, laying his head back and breathing deep, reliving the moment, “her scream was exquisite.”
It was more than his heart could take, and George passed out cold – no spell, no curse – simply a thought planted by a monster.
Howls of laughter rang around the room as Death Eaters old and young stood along with creatures of the dark. They joined Fenrir in his gloating and taunting of the captives which now turned their focus to the other Weasley.
Ron had refused to give up, and despite the bruises and open cuts, he continued to stare directly at Lucius and the others. Hot tears made streaks on his bruised and bloodied face, stinging as they traveled along. His left arm, although still bound to its counterpart, hung limp at his side, broken. Lucius’s servants enjoyed hanging Ron upside-down, blood rushing to his head to the point of losing consciousness while hissing ‘Mudblood’ and other vile things about Hermione and the children. Once tired of taunting him, Lucius would simply allow Ron to drop to the jagged floor. It was during one of these falls, that the sickening ‘crack’ was heard.
Harry alone, stood untouched – his punishment up to now was to watch the others tortured. His mouth was clenched in anger as he struggled against the ropes that bound him. Each movement allowed the binds to cut deep into his flesh.
“Potter,” Lucius spat, turning his attention to Harry, yet never attempting to hide his distaste for his name, “always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trespassing, breaking into my home, threatening my family…” His voice trailed off as he watched Draco slip from the room. Lucius nodded to Fenrir to follow and the werewolf, along with two Death Eaters, took off down the dark hallway in silent pursuit.
“Give me my daughter,” Harry demanded, his eyes fierce with anger.
“Your daughter?” Lucius asked, feigning surprise, “What would your daughter be doing here? Surely you must be mistaken.” He took a deep breath and began pacing the floor before continuing, “You see, the only children here are my grandson and a poor, dying orphan girl rescued from a treacherous Muggle family.”
Lucius stared at Harry, jeering, “Surely that isn’t your daughter?” He shook his head at Harry, scolding the young man, “All these years… you let her sit and rot in a filthy Muggle house… beaten and abused. Sound familiar, Potter?”
Lucius gave a small nod to the shadows as a large, burly Death Eater emerged. His eyes still focused on Harry, he whispered, “Bring the girl. Her father would like to see her once more… before she dies.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Hermione stood and surveyed the room, quietly calling for her sister-in-law. “Ginny, are you here?”
Shaking his head in irritation, Charlie headed for the door with Nyah in tow. “Hermione, come on, we’re running out of time! We have to get Nyah to St. Mungo’s now and she’s not exactly light,” he said, shifting Nyah just a bit in his arms.
“But if she’s here,” Hermione countered, walking around the desk, “she’d kill us for leaving her.”
Astoria pulled Charlie towards the door as she added, “And Lucius will kill all of us if he catches us anywhere near his study. I promised to help you find your niece, not die for her.”
Crossing her arms, Hermione reluctantly started for the door when she tripped near the corner of the desk. Sending a scathing look worthy of Mrs. Weasley in Charlie’s direction, he covered his would-be laugh as a small cough. A bit embarrassed, Hermione quietly walked to the door, offering one final glance into the room before leaving.
There, near the desk, was a small hand. It was hovering in mid-air where nothing had been moments before. Hermione rushed over and reached for the silky material of the invisibility cloak.
“Ginny!” Charlie gasped, retreating back into the office.
Hermione quickly reversed the stunning spell, causing Ginny to collapse to the floor, tired, but unharmed.
“What happened?” Hermione asked, helping Ginny to her feet.
“Lucius,” Ginny said quietly, “and Death Eaters. They stormed the office and one sent a stunning spell aimed at Harry but it hit me instead.” The once frozen tears flowed freely as Ginny made her way to Nyah, reaching out to touch her hair and her face. “She’s so cold,” Ginny whispered, pulling off her cloak to lay on Nyah. She cleared her throat and continued, “Harry was knocked out and I heard Lucius say that Ron and George had been captured as well.”
“Did you hear anything else?” Astoria said, her eyes filled with fear.
“They were taking them to the old library, where ever that is,” Ginny said, still looking at Nyah.
Astoria and Hermione turned towards the door, as Ginny clung to her daughter… afraid to look away.
“Ginny,” whispered Charlie, “we have to go. Nyah needs to get to St. Mungo’s right away. You’ll be able to be with her there.”
The group set off as quickly as possible down the hall from the study. Ginny was still stiff and couldn’t walk very fast, leaning frequently on Hermione for support. Astoria was a number of paces ahead, slowing only to listen for the sounds of Lucius’s guards. She rounded a corner and ran directly into a hooded figure who grabbed her tightly and placed a hand across her mouth to prevent a scream.
Hermione drew her wand, and Astoria lashed out, kicking her captor in the shin. He released her quickly and grabbed his leg, the hood falling back to reveal soft blonde hair.
“Draco!” gasped Astoria, helping him to a bench in the hall. Recovering from the shock at seeing her husband under the cloak, she moved directly into irritation, “Why on earth would you grab me like that? Hermione nearly blasted you to bits!”
That one word caused Draco to stop nursing his wounds long enough to glare at the unwanted guests. “Granger,” he mocked, knowing how best to irritate her, “I don’t remember offering an invitation to tea for you or your assorted family, who seem to be everywhere I look.” He glanced at the small group, finally landing on Nyah. His eyes softened and he looked to Astoria asking, “How is she?”
“Not well, Draco, thanks to you and your father,” implied Ginny.
Astoria glared at Ginny. “Draco had nothing to do with her condition,” she stated calmly, “did you?”
Draco rose from the bench, ignoring his wife’s inquiry and walked towards Charlie. “Give her to me,” he suggested, as the group looked towards Ginny, “Listen, I think it would look better if I was carrying her and you were helping your sister. I don’t think Potter would like it much me touching his wife.”
Ginny nodded, but added sternly, “Don’t try anything foolish, Draco. You’ve got three wands pointed right at you.”
Taking a deep breath, Draco took Nyah in his arms, amazed at how light she was compared to his own son. He looked at Astoria and whispered, “Things aren’t going well. I need you to lower the enchantments on the Manor. The Ministry needs to be contacted…”
“But Draco,” Astoria objected, “the Ministry? Here?”
Draco nodded slightly, “It’s time they see. There’s no other way to get you and Scorpius out safely.” He sighed and dropped his eyes. “I have no other choice. I can’t stop him alone... I know that now. Go, but be careful, they’re looking for you.”
Ginny nudged Hermione and she called to Astoria, “Here, use this.” Hermione handed the sheer material to Astoria. “It’s an invisibility cloak.” She looked between Draco and Astoria, explaining, “The Ministry was tipped off earlier. They may be waiting just outside. This will help you get to them safely.”
Moments later, Astoria kissed Draco gently and their eyes locked as she pulled the cloak over her, disappearing from sight. The group turned back towards the hall with Draco in the lead. “The closest exit is just beyond those doors,” he said, turning down a darkened corridor. “Once we get there –” Draco started, but was cut off as Fenrir stepped out from the shadows, blocking the way.
Death Eaters grabbed Hermione and Charlie, relieving them of their wands, as Ginny was left to stumble into the wall.
“Well, well,” rasped Greyback, “Out for a stroll with friends, Draco?”
“That’s none of your concern, Fenrir,” Draco spat, “now back to your post.”
The werewolf laughed, a deep growl rolling in his throat as he eyed the captives hungrily. “Ah, this is my post,” he said, looking at Draco knowing the tides were turned in his favor, “I believe the library is the other direction. We don’t want to keep your father waiting…”
Draco backed away from Fenrir and turned, boldly walking towards the room filled with haunted memories, ghosts of the past, and hostages waiting to join them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The library doors burst open and the small group was unprepared for the sight that met their eyes.
“Ron!” screamed Hermione as she struggled against the Death Eater. Ron never moved, his head limp to the side, as his body was held upright by an unseen force. “Malfoy, you coward!”
Ginny and Harry locked gazes, tears falling for one another and for the children they may not see again. I love you, mouthed Ginny, while Harry simply smiled back. George lay perfectly still on the stone floor, and Ginny wasn’t able to tell if he was breathing or not. Glancing back to Harry, he seemed to know her fear, and mouthed He’s okay.
“Draco,” Lucius called, eyeing his son’s companions suspiciously, “where did you encounter such assorted company?”
Draco stood holding Nyah tightly, considering his answer. Everything hung in the balance and he had to choose his words carefully. He stepped towards Lucius, his gaze steady as his father searched him for signs of failure and deceit.
“Father, this has gone far enough. The child is dying… there is nothing left of the plan!” Draco insisted, a bit louder than he intended. “Do what you will with the others, but be done with her.”
“Done?” Lucius shrieked, “It is only beginning! I have planned this too long to let go now! The Dark Lord’s orders must be fulfilled this time! A child – a child to carry his legacy…” Lucius strode to stand before Harry, his face mere inches away as he hissed, “She was his chosen one… a child of the great Harry Potter! It was planned out long before…” Lucius turned and stared at Draco, “and if it weren’t for you and your wife, the plan would still be in place!”
The room was silent, hanging on every word Lucius offered. A door opened quietly in the back of the room and a small boy with blonde hair was ushered in by one of Lucius’s guards.
Draco’s face contorted and his teeth clenched, hate for his father filling every crevice of his soul. “No,” Draco said, shaking his head, “Leave him out of this father! Voldemort is dead. It’s finished. He’s nothing more than a ghost – a memory.”
Lucius slowly drew the ivory wand from his robe pocket, stroking it gently as the young boy came to stand at his side, eyes heavy with sleep and confused by the presence of the strangers. Placing a hand on his grandson’s shoulder, Lucius smiled and said, “You’re right Draco, the Potter child is dying – her magic shattered by this very wand – she is of no use to me now.” With a small flick of Voldemort’s wand, Nyah was ripped from Draco’s arms and flung to the ground near Harry. Talking over the sobs from Ginny, Lucius added, “But there is another to offer in service – one far greater in blood status, and he will assume the role and take his place as heir to the Dark Lord’s throne!”
“No, I won’t let you!” cried Draco, pulling his wand. Scorpius was crying, attempting to free himself from Lucius’s firm grasp.
Lucius lowered his head slightly towards Draco and uttered, “Fool.” With yet another tap of the wand, Draco lay unconscious and bleeding. Rolf, the Death Eater who brought Scorpius into the room lifted the boy and carried him off, away from the library, his cries for Draco echoing off the walls. Unscathed at the damage, Lucius turned his attention to Harry, who was now kneeling by Nyah whispering to her.
“And now, to complete one more order of my Master,” Lucius announced as he raised Voldemort’s wand. “Any last words?”
The crowd cackled and roared with anticipation as Lucius watched Harry’s every move as he was kneeling over Nyah’s body, shielding her as best he could. Harry finally turned and sat with his back to Nyah, eyes focused on Lucius.
“Afraid to fight me, Lucius?” Harry taunted. “The least you could do is untie me. Then we could call it even. But you’re afraid, just like Voldemort – and you will meet the same fate as he.”
Lucius wrinkled his nose and yelled, “Enough!” A cruel smile played across his face as he motioned for Fenrir. The werewolf took his place at Lucius’s side as he motioned to the captives, “Choose.”
“Let Potter get a taste for the new reign of the Dark Lord Scorpius as he watches his family die before him,” Lucius calmly stated as Fenrir grabbed Hermione by the neck, eyeing her hungrily.
A strong voice rang out above the cries, “Not today, Lucius.” Harry stood, wand in hand, ready to duel.
Charlie smiled as he remembered that Nyah was holding Harry’s wand, concealed unintentionally by Ginny’s cloak. Harry had managed to get the wand while Greyback and the others were stalking for their next victim.
Harry quickly disarmed the Death Eaters which allowed Ginny, Hermione, and Charlie to reclaim their wands. Spells were fired from all directions and the battle began.
On his right, Harry caught sight of Ginny as she fell to the ground, wounded in the leg. She was holding her own, but stayed near the far wall. Charlie was moving quickly, dodging spells, and taking out more than one Death Eater as he moved through the room.
The remaining werewolves were easily dealt with when Hermione fired the spell that permanently silenced Greyback, his body cold and still before reaching the ground. His followers scattered, retreating into the shadows.
With the last Death Eater stunned, Harry turned his attention once more to Lucius who remained near the center of the room, panting for breath. The older man’s eyes were dark, and the wand in his hand trembled as Harry approached.
A small sound carried through the room, interrupting Harry’s thoughts, as his daughter called for him.
“Dad,” Nyah whispered, reaching into the air, her eyes blurry as the realization of the intensity of pain descended upon her. Her chest tightened, and her breathing slowed as a spark of bright green color penetrated the darkness she was lost in.
“I’m here, sweetheart,” Harry whispered as tears flooded his eyes. “Hang on just a little longer.”
“Harry, look out!” screamed Ginny.
Lucius calmly aimed the wand, his cold eyes set on Harry and Nyah as a curse rang out.
The sound of rushing air engulfed the room as green sparks flew from the tip of the wand and connected with its target.
Draco stood looking down at the shell of his father, his wand arm falling limp to his side. With a small nod to Harry, Draco slowly turned and limped towards the library door as the faint hue of morning crept to the windows.
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Author's Notes: You've all been so patient waiting for this chapter - Bless you all! The final chapter “The Crossroads” will be up soon. It will follow everyone to St. Mungo's as the race to save Nyah's life takes a drastic turn.
Let me know what you think and of course, post your questions as well!
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