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The Dark Shadow by Penlene
Chapter 1: Prologue
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The sound came from the dining room at the other end of the hall. Lucius Malfoy was awake at once, his hand grasping for the wand he kept, always, at his side. The room was dark save for the faint lines of moonlight that streaked across the mahogany floor, casting distorted shadows of the window frame and trees beyond. He wondered how long he had been sleeping. The dull ache in his lower back seemed to indicate it had been a while however the odd aches and pains were not uncommon at his age. Wincing slightly, Lucius moved forward in his chair. The house was silent now and every groan that escaped his lips seemed tumultuous in volume.
When did I get so old?
It seemed to take an age before he made it to the doorframe despite the sitting room being a mere box compared to the luxury of his previous home. With a wave of his wand the lanterns that lined the walls of the hallway ignited with a soft woosh. Lucius paused a moment to listen for any responding sounds before making his way, slowly, down the hall. He would not pretend he was not afraid. It was difficult for him to recall a time when he wasn’t afraid. Narcissa slept upstairs, the combination of Firewhisky and sleeping draughts always ensured she had a restful night and he would not wake her now for something so silly.
It was a noise. It could have been anything. Nothing.
Lucius kept his wand raised as he approached the dining room. Everything was still. In the darkness he could distinguish the shapes of their pitiful table and chairs. The cabinet in the far side of the room was a monstrous shape in the gloom. And the windows at the far end…
The window is open!
Heart hammering in his chest, Lucius moved forward cautiously. The thin, pale fingers which grasped his wand shook. Just as he came around the side of the table it happened. The shape flew up at him from the darkness, knocking him off balance and causing him to cry out in fear. His wand flew from his hand and rolled away across the floor and before he could pull himself to his feet his attacker hoooed at him.
“Damn you!” Lucius spat at the grey owl perched on the back of one of the dining chairs. It stared down at him with wide, innocent eyes and watched, unblinking, as he struggled to stand. Glaring, he detached the scroll of parchment and followed the bird to the window, slamming it closed as the owl took off into the night.
“I must have left it open earlier,” he muttered, unsure. His memory was not as it once was and he often found open doors and windows around the home that he could not recall opening.
By the light of the moon, Lucius unravelled his letter and frowned at the words scrawled across it.
DEATH EATER SCUM
He could have laughed if he had not felt so tired. It didn’t seem to matter where they went, the owls always followed. He imagined a group of sniggering teens compiling this letter and sending it off to torment the Old Malfoys some more. Angrily, he began tearing it apart, letting the scraps float to the floor in a pile. In a moment of madness, he grasped for his wand meaning to ignite each peace until they crisped and burned before he realised that he had dropped his wand earlier when the damned bird had flew at him. Cursing the creature, he turned to search the floor and found himself face to face with death.
It was the first thing that came to his mind. The hooded figure with grey mask could be no one else, surely. How else could he sneak up on him so silently? Lucius could only stare in horror as the intruder raised a gloved hand and twirled Lucius’s wand between the fingers.
“Lost something?” the voice teased, unfamiliar and muffled by the mask which allowed only a thin slit for a mouth hole.
Before Lucius could reply the mystery man slid the wand down the sleeve of his cloak and brandished his own wand in the other hand.
“Who are you?” Lucius demanded, his voice shaking, betraying his fear. “How dare you presume to enter my home?”
“Should I have knocked first?” the tone was mocking.
“What do you want here? We have no money, no valuables. We’ve got-“
“Nothing? And yet you have far more than you deserve, it seems to me. A cell in Azkaban would be too good for your likes. Forgive me if I don’t weep for your troubles. I didn’t come here to talk.”
“No,” Lucius could feel the terror climb up into his throat, filling his mouth with the sour taste of it. His stomach heaved and he had to grip the chair on his right to stop from trembling. “Why did you come here?”
The last thought that went through Lucius Malfoy’s head was of his wife, asleep upstairs.
Sleep Narcissa. You must stay asleep!
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
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Not for the first time, Harry felt his hand go, almost automatically, to the scar on his forehead. With two fingers he traced the raised skin in the shape of a lightning bolt, running the tips across the coarseness over and over again. Had he just imagined the twinge? It happened so often now he was sure it couldn’t just be his imagination. But what did that mean? His mind raced with explanations, some so ludicrous he knew folks would think him insane if he ever voiced them. Other thoughts were more likely and therefore much scarier. Frustrated, he slapped the palm of his hand against his head and rubbed away at the skin as if to wash it off.
“Harry? Are you alright?”
He stopped at Ginny touch and allowed her to pull his arm down, away from his face. She smiled gently when he turned to look at her but the worry there was not so easily hidden behind a smile. Still, he returned the smile as best he could and glanced in the rear-view mirror. James had already left them, unsurprisingly. He had most likely hopped out the instance the car came to a halt and would not worry himself with turning back. Lilly watched him much like her mother did. Her big brown eyes probed his face with undisguised concern, her finger twisting, nervously, around a strand of red hair. Next to her, Albus gazed out the passenger window, his chin resting on a bunched up fist, his face filled with complete disinterest. Harry’s gaze lingered on his youngest son. With his black hair, not quite as messy as his brothers but long enough to be untamed, and striking green eyes he was so painstakingly similar to how Harry must have looked at his age. Yet his manner was entirely his own. Harry reflected that it had been a long, painful summer. The timid boy who had stepped on the Hogwarts Express a year ago had returned at the end of the school year a sullen, disagreeable teenager. The sorting had hit him hard, Harry new, and even he had been a little surprised to receive the owl from James a day into their school year. The joy their eldest son had felt in relaying the news that Albus Potter was to be a Slytherin was barely contained in the letter, emphasised by the fact this was the first owl they had received from James in his entire time at Hogwarts. Harry had written back in a futile attempt to encourage his unruly son to be supportive of his brother while writing a separate letter to Albus himself which never garnered a reply. The issue was not one that wanted raised and any mere mention of the infamous Hogwarts house was sure to raise hell at home…something James was keen to abuse when he felt particularly mischievous. Still, Harry worried about Albus in his silence. He spent most of the holidays in his bedroom doing goodness knows what and participated in any required family events with a stubborn, icy silence. He even rejected his sister Lilly who was so gentle and shy in her way that all she wanted was the attention of her big brother.
“Harry?” Ginny’s voice was firmer now, the smile gone. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he assured her, squeezing her hand. “I’m alright. Just tired.”
She didn’t believe him. That was clear to see the look she gave him. Lilly unbuckled her belt in the back and slid in between the two front seats.
“Do you feel ill Dad?” she asked in her sweet voice.
“No, Lilly, I’m ok.”
“I feel ill,” she said and curled her mouth to demonstrate. “I hope I won’t be sick on the train.”
“You’ll love it,” Ginny assured, running her hand across the hair that was a perfect match of her own.
“I won’t make any friends,” Lilly fretted, ignoring her mothers reassurance. “People are going to be so annoying. They’ll all just want to ask question about dad. James said that’s what happened to him in first year.”
“I’m sure James has told enough stories to keep them occupied for now,” Harry unbuckled his own seatbelt. “Let’s not keep them waiting then.”
Lilly whimpered as she let herself out the car and stood close to her mother as they made their way into the station. Harry loaded the trunks onto the back of a trolley as he noticed Albus remained in the car. He tapped on the window and opened the door.
“You ready, son?”
Wordlessly, Albus unbuckled his belt and slid out of the car, slamming the door closed behind him. Harry followed him into the station, keeping a few paces behind as he knew his son would prefer before the pain of this act became too much for him. He waited until he saw Ginny lead Lilly through the barrier onto platform 9¾ before rushing to keep pace with Albus.
“Albus, wait a minute,” Harry brought the trolley round and into the boys path forcing him to stop.
“What is it?” Albus mumbled, irritably.
“I wanted to speak to you.”
Harry paused. He had known he wanted to do this only now that he was here he couldn’t think of what to say. He thought back to when he was a student at Hogwarts, about feeling let down and that no one understood what he went through. He cringed at the memories and managed a bit of a laugh.
“What are you doing?” Albus asked, looking definitively unimpressed.
“I was just remembering when I was your age,” Harry smiled. “About how I was then.”
“Whatever,” Albus rolled his eyes and made to move around the trolley.
“Wait! I still want to talk to you,” Harry raised an arm to block his way and received a look of defiance.
“You want me to miss the train or something?” Albus demanded, angrily.
“Do you?” Harry countered.
Albus had no reply for that. He set his mouth in an irritable line and simply stared. Harry sighed.
“Albus, it’s no secret that you didn’t exactly have a great time last year. I know-“
“You don’t,” Albus interrupted. “You just think you know everything cause you’re the Harry Potter.”
“I didn’t always have a great time at Hogwarts,” Harry went on, ignoring the slur. “I don’t reckon there’s anyone that doesn’t have bad times at school now and then. I just want to make sure that you can talk to me if there’s anything serious going on.”
“Well I can’t,” Albus stated, crossing his arms. “I can’t and I won’t cause there’s no point. I’m awful. I barely do well in class, I can’t fly a broom, I don’t have any friends. I’m not you. It’s not the same.”
“What can I do?” Harry asked, desperately. He was aware of people turning to look now as Albus’s voice rose in anger.
“Unless you can make it so I was never born a Potter you can’t do anything,” Albus threw his father a look of pure hatred before rushing around the trolley and vanishing through the barrier, leaving Harry alone with his hurt.
Ginny was still wearing that expression of concern when Harry found her on the other side. Lilly was at her side, staring up at the great steam engine with a look of reverence. James and Albus were nowhere to be seen.
“Albus?” Ginny asked Harry as he wheeled the trolley round.
“Don’t ask,” he muttered. The crowds of witches and wizards on the platform were too busy with hyper children and screeching pets to pay him much notice but still Harry could feel the stares of a few on the back of his head and once or twice someone would approach and offer a “Hi, Harry.” More often than not it was complete strangers but Harry did recognise a few of his old schoolmates.
“How’s it going, Potter?” Seamus Finnigan approached eagerly to shake Harry’s hand.
“Fine, Seamus. Have you lost your ones as well?”
“Mines is on the train already,” Seamus beamed, every part a proud dad. “Jamie is showing Colin down the compartments. He’s raring to go, you know. Haven’t heard him shut up since he got his letter.”
“Great,” Harry unloaded the trunks, barely listening.
“I was meaning to ask you the other day,” Seamus leaned in closer. “I heard a few things down my end about Dark items being located in a muggle home down Kent way. Some are saying-“
“People have a lot to say,” Harry cut in, heaving the last trunk onto the platform. “But as for me, I can’t confirm nor deny. It’s not my department, Seamus. Anything like that would go through Improper use of Magic most like. You know that.”
“I suppose…it doesn’t interest you much then?” Seamus’s smile was friendly but Harry could begin to feel his blood boiling.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not my department. I have to go Seamus. I’ve got kids to wrangle.”
“Oh sure, sure. We’ll talk later…”
“Mmm,” Harry turned away and found that James had finally returned to them and had done something to incur his mothers wrath.
“Honestly, sometimes I don’t know what to do with you,” Ginny was ranting as Lilly watched, eagerly. “I know there has to be a brain in there somewhere. I just hope this year you learn how to use it!”
“My brain works fine, mum!” James countered with a charming smile. “We wouldn’t have done it. Not really.”
“Oh as if I cant trust that,” Ginny spotted Harry and pulled him into the fray. “Your son here was planning on flying all the way to Hogwarts this year. Can you believe it? On a broom no less!”
Harry had only to look at James to tell that the thought had most definitely been appealing, despite his protests that it was just a joke.
“Really, dad, me and Patrick were only messing around. As if we really would. I’m not the problem child in this family, y’know?”
“Enough of that,” Ginny scolded. “And enough talk of flying, joking or otherwise. You let Patrick know that too before I track his mother down and get her to pass the message!”
James sulked away just as Lilly began bouncing up and down and gesturing at the smartly dressed woman and child coming towards them.
“Rose! Rose! Rose!” Lilly squealed as she threw herself into her cousins arms. Rose had the same flaming her as her younger cousin but where Lilly’s hair was long and silky, Rose’s was wild and bushy. She had tamed it back, slightly, with some clips which seemed to serve. She returned the hug, warmly as her mother came up behind her.
“We’ve been looking for you,” Hermione said as got her own hug from Lilly.
“We were a little delayed,” Ginny explained with a glance at Harry. “Hugo’s not with you?”
“No, mum and dad were happy to take him for the morning,” Hermione explained. “I’m so grateful. It’s difficult keeping track of them in this crowd.”
“Tell me about it,” Harry mumbled, looking for Albus’s mop of hair in the horde of families.
“Is Ron coming?” Ginny asked, unmoved by the blush that crept up Hermione’s cheeks.
“Uh…no, I don’t think so. He had to work I think.”
“Did you ask him?”
“Of course I did,” Hermione flushed completely. “I sent him an owl last week.”
“It’s a busy time in the department,” Harry intervened feeling the tension rise between the two women. “He would have been here if he could.”
Ginny shrugged, caught the eye of a friend and moved off to speak to them as Rose encouraged Lilly to join her in finding a compartment.
“Sorry,” Harry mumbled, awkwardly. “He’s her brother, you understand?”
“I suppose,” Hermione retained the redness in her cheeks. “I didn’t want this to happen, you know? Everything is all just so complicated and…I don’t want Ginny to hate me as well.”
“She doesn’t,” Harry said, quickly and confidently. “She’s just…well…”
“I know,” Hermione sighed. “How is Ron?”
Harry didn’t know what to say to that. He knew a lie would be preferable but he wasn’t sure he could bring himself to it. He was beginning to feel like he couldn’t bare another painful conversation this morning.
“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” he suggested, not unkindly.
“I’ve sent enough owls,” Hermione insisted. “He’s perfectly able of sending some of his own.”
“Yeah…here, help me with one of these would you?” Harry shoved the trunk between the two of them in a desperate attempt to change the topic. It seemed to work as Hermione lifted one end of the trunk and Harry the other. Between the two of them they were able to manoeuvre the cumbersome thing down the corridor to a compartment were Rose was talking in avid detail about the different classes Lilly could expect this year. Lilly looked just as terrified as she had all morning but there was also a look of adoration in the young girls eyes. As they returned to the platform they found that James had retrieved his trunk and moved it onto the train with the help of his friend Patrick. Harry heaved the final trunk and made his way down the train in search of his son.
Albus had a compartment to himself, as Harry suspected he would. He was sitting in the same position he had held in the car and barely glanced round as Harry pulled the door open.
“There you are,” he said, with as much cheer as he could. “I brought your case on.”
Albus said nothing.
“Rose and Lilly are sharing a compartment just a few down. You could sit with them-?”
The silence that followed was deafening and Harry feared it would go for the rest of their lives if he could not break it now.
“Will you write to us?” he finally managed, already anticipating the answers.
“James will tell you everything that’s going on,” Albus said, moodily.
Harry nodded. He wanted nothing more than to go to him, hug him and feel some of the warmth his son had used to provide. Instead he ran his fingers through his own mess of black hair.
“Take care of yourself, son,” he said, softly. “I’ll be thinking about you.”
With no answer to wait for, Harry turned and made his way, hurriedly, from the train.
As the Hogwarts Express made its way from the station, slowly at first but gaining momentum as it went, Harry felt Ginny put her arm around his waist and pull him against her.
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” she asked, gently.
Harry forced himself to put his own arm over her shoulders and pulled her into a hug.
“I hope he’ll be ok,” he said, softly. There was no need to specify who.
“He’ll get there,” Ginny sighed. “He’s his father’s son.”
The train pulled clear from the station and disappeared out into the countryside
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
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As soon as he had sat on the train Albus decided he would not step back off it. He wondered what they would do to him at Hogwarts if he simply refused to leave the express. Most likely send him home but then that wasn’t an attractive notion either. He had watched from the compartment window as Lilly and Rose stepped off the train for one final goodbye. Hugs were exchanged all round and even James reappeared to have their mother give one final scolding before sending them off. If any of them had noticed he wasn’t there they didn’t seem to mind. And neither did he. He was sick of James and his practical jokes. Tired of Lilly always following him around and coming into his room. Fed up with his mum constantly nagging and the sound of her voice as she yelled at James for something or other. Worse of all was his dad who seemed to feel like he was the victim in this situation.
Famous Harry Potter.
Albus laughed, bitterly. He had thought it would be so cool to go to school with everyone knowing he was Harry Potters son. At first it had been true. On the Hogwarts Express there were loads of people all wanting to ask questions and some of them even claimed their parents had known his dad. Then the sorting had happened. He had been sitting under that ugly hat for what seemed like forever. When it was finally declared that he would go to “Slytherin!” there had hardly been a sound of response. A few of the Slytherin students had clapped and jeered but from the rest of the hall came stunned silence before a cascade of venomous whispers fell upon him.
“He’s him! The Potter kid.”
“His whole family is in Gryffindor, are they not?”
“Someone told me his middle name is Severus.”
“Like the death eater?”
“The one who killed the headmaster of this school.”
“No way! Creepy.”
None of them knew, he realised. His dad had told him the story behind his names. Everyone knew that Albus Dumbledore had been a great man. Not many people knew the truth about Severus Snape although his father had spoke about him a lot to the wizarding world before any of them were born. It seemed that his fellow students knew more about the shady aspects of Snape’s character than the good. Or else they just ignored it for better storytelling. Whatever the reason, Albus found himself isolated. A few Slytherins would speak to him but most gave up when they realised that the others hated anything Potter. Some had distant family who had been Dark Wizards in the past and who had lost everything when Harry Potter killed Lord Voldemort. Outside of his Slytherin the other houses either despised of were wary of him for simply being one of them. It delighted all of them to find that Albus was a clumsy student, who cast every spell with disastrously bad results, managed to raise his broomstick a few inches off the ground before crashing into it and constantly got lost in the winding maze of Hogwarts corridors. The Professors were not all too sympathetic either. Most were frustrated with his clumsiness and inability to master even the simplest spell. Professor Longbottom was always kind to him but that was just because he was friend with his dad.
And now he was going back.
He groaned and hugged his knees up to his chin so he could hide his face against them. That was were James found him a few moments later.
“Hey little brother. If you’re trying to hide you might want to get an invisibility cloak. I can still see you although I can’t see your face which is a massive improvement.”
Albus glared at his older brother as he tossed himself down on the opposite seats.
“Go away,” he demanded.
“Make me,” James grinned easily. He wore his wand behind his ear and Albus couldn’t be too sure he wouldn’t use it. His brother was always doing stupid things.
“What do you want?”
“I wanted to make sure you’re alright. Your wellbeing does concern me so.”
“You sound like dad,” Albus muttered, bitterly.
“And you look like him. Together we represent the good and bad sides of Harry Potter. Just a shame you never inherited any of the good stuff.”
“If your stupid head gets any bigger you’ll look even less like dad,” Albus retorted, causing a roar of laughter from James.
“That was pretty good little brother. But even with a massive head I still wont look as ugly as you.”
James did as he was told, laughing all the way. Before Albus could raise to slam the door closed again, another boy, already in Hogwarts robes appeared in the frame.
“I heard shouting,” Scorpius Malfoy said. He had three books under one arm and The Daily Prophet in the other. Albus considered telling him to mind his own business and go away but hesitated too long. Scorpius came into the compartment and sat himself down, placing the books next to him.
Just as Albus’s name had brought him all manners of attention, Scorpius had received nothing but praise from their fellow Slytherins thanks to his parents and grandparents. The Malfoys were revered in house Slytherin with every student in Hogwarts aware of their ties to Dark Magic. Before Albus was sorted he had watched Scorpius walk, straight backed to the front of the hall and remembered all the bad things his uncle Ron had to say about they Malfoys. The hat had been on his head a long time too, but when Scorpius was declared a Slytherin there was a great cheer from that side of the hall and the traditional groans from the other tables. As the days passed and they had more and more lessons, Scorpius excelled in almost everything. He was a smart student and wand work came relatively easy to him with some study. Other students always greeted him and welcomed him into their ranks despite the fact that he showed none of the dark traits that was associated with his house. Scorpius was confident in class but shy in socialising. He fumbled his words and spent most of his time, more often that not, in the library. Albus had been a little disappointed. He had heard all about his fathers discord with Scorpius’s dad when they were at school and had thought he could win a few friends by having his own “good vs evil” fight. Scorpius had done nothing to warrant any kind of confrontation, however, and was, in fact, the only person to approach Albus in a positive way. He was rather irritating in that respect. No matter how many times Albus told him he wasn’t interested in friends, Scorpius continued to sit with him at meals and in classes when he could. He even helped him up the first time he crashed his broomstick into the ground.
“Where you fighting already?” Scorpius asked as he unfurled his Daily Prophet.
“It was nothing,” Albus retorted, finally closing the door and throwing himself down into his seat.
“It was a loud nothing,” Scorpius said as he flipped through the pages of his newspaper. “You didn’t write to me in the summer.”
“I told you you could.”
Albus rolled his eyes.
“I know. I didn’t have anything to say to you.”
“Really? How was your summer?”
“Mine was too. My mother’s really sick.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Albus asked, in spite of himself. Scorpius had a strange way of making him talk even when he didn’t want to.
“St Mungo’s can’t tell for sure. There was always a rumour in the family that an ancestor was cursed and the curse passes down a few generations. They think it may have been passed to her.”
Albus was stunned into silence for a moment as Scorpius continued to read the Daily Prophet. Finally Albus let out a low whistle.
“I didn’t know that could happen,” he managed, feebly.
“It is rare,” Scorpius admitted. He stared at the paper a while longer before putting it down on his knees. “My father is really messed up over it. He thinks she’s going to die, I think.”
“That’s…awful,” Albus said, lamely.
Scorpius smiled, sadly.
“Yeah it is…So is having a name like Scorpius though. I guess everything is just awful in my family.”
They both laughed and lapsed into a comfortable silence.
“I’m sorry Scorpius,” Albus said, finally. “I’m sorry that I didn’t write and…I’m sorry about…you know…your mum.”
“Thanks, Albus,” Scorpius said, sincerely. “I’m sorry your summer was awful, too.”“It was…nothing,” Albus said, realising the truth of it as he said it. “I mean, not compared to yours, anyway.”
Scorpius nodded, knowingly and disappeared behind his newspaper again. They remained that way for the rest of the journey. Albus stared forlornly out the window at the passing scenery and Scorpius switched to one of his books when he was done with the paper. The tea-trolley witch came and went and they ate in silence. Only when the train began to pull into the station did Scorpius gather up his books and newspaper.
“Well, I’ll see you up at the castle if you like?” he said.
Albus shifted, stubbornly, in his seat.
“Maybe,” he conceded. “I guess…maybe. I usually like to sit alone.”
“Me too. We suit each other well,” Scorpius smiled, oblivious to the rebuff. “Don’t forget to change into your robes!” He turned and left.
Albus looked down at the faded jeans and t-shirt he still wore. Cursing, he began to untangle a set of robes from the mess of his trunk as the station slowed into the station.
Here we go again, he thought, glumly.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
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Ginny Weasley was constantly being compared to her mother as she got older, particularly by her older brothers and especially in regards to their temperament. Even Ginny had begun to see the similarities that emerged as she aged, although she tried to ignore them. There was one thing she, seemingly, had not inherited though, and that was Molly Weasley’s proficiency with household spells. As a girl, Ginny would watch as her mother simply waved her wand and clothes would fold themselves into neat little piles, scrubbing brushes would orient themselves over the dirty dishes and a delicious meal would be bubbling over the stove.
Ginny stared at the empty pot in front of her wishing she had her mothers skills. She twisted her wand between her fingers and glanced back to the pile of parchments and quills she had abandoned for this folly. Her column was only half finished and it was due tomorrow afternoon. She had thought she would rush through it without the distraction of her children but somehow she was able to find another distraction.
She wondered if Lilly had been sorted yet, if James had behaved himself, if Albus was settling alright. She felt a little jealous herself. She remembered how much she had enjoyed Hogwarts and her mind flitted over all the wonderful spells she had learned that she no longer had need for. Why would she want to stun someone as a sports columnists at the Daily Prophet? Although there was more than one occasion were she felt a bat-bogey-hex was the least that James deserved for his deeds. Still she had refrained and now she wondered if she would ever have occasion to use those spells again. Smiling slightly, she moved, quietly, from the kitchen and made her way across the hall to the livingroom were her husband was hunched over the pile of memos that covered the coffee table. Harry scratched his chin with one hand as he directed his wand with the other, charming a quill to write notes on a sheet of parchment as he read. Ginny bit her lip and grinned like a naughty child. She aimed her wand and said, “expelliarmus!”
Harry gave a shout of alarm as his wand flew from his hand. Ginny dissolved into fits of laughter as he jumped up, upending the coffee table as he did, and spun round, wildly. When he saw her standing there, hunched over with mirth, he rubbed his face with his hands.
“What are you doing, Ginny?” he said, stonily. He bent to retrieve his wand.
“It was a joke,” she said, still smiling widely. “I just wanted to make sure I hadn’t got too rusty.”
“A joke?” Harry’s voice was icy.
“Yes, Harry, a joke,” the smile slid from her face. She suddenly felt like James. “It was…just a bit of fun.”
“Sneaking up on someone and disarming them is fun?” he pulled the coffee table back into its proper position.
Ginny watched him wave his wand and cause all the memos to arrange themselves in a neat pile on the table. He turned to face her and she winced at the expression on his face.
“I’m sorry, Harry,” she said, blankly. “I thought it would be funny. It was funny.”
“You’re lucky I’m no good with non-verbalising,” he told her, seriously. “I could have hexed you, Ginny. You could have been anyone.”
“Well I’ll count my luck then that even Harry Potter is rubbish at something,” she threw back, moodily. She was disappointed with his response.
Harry’s whole body language seemed to melt then. His face softened and strode across the room to grab Ginny in a hug. She allowed him although having a fight still seemed like an attractive prospect and way more fun than writing her column.
“I’m sorry Ginny,” Harry said, sincerely. “I’m just-“
“Tired,” she finished for him. “You’re always tired, Harry. Maybe you should go to St Mungo’s?”
He shook his head and pulled back from the embrace.
“There’s just a lot going on at the ministry at the moment. Shacklebot is getting a lot of grief from foreign offices and then at home…well…it’s not easy being a parent,” he smiled, apologetically.
“Another thing you’re no good at,” Ginny smiled. “I could get used to this.”
“Careful,” Harry teased. “You’re only marginally better than me at Quidditch.”
“A margin is all I need,” she reached up and kissed him, softly. “And you need to have a decent sleep.”
“I know. I-“
The owl tapping against the window made them both turn. Harry frowned and moved forward to unlatch it as Ginny looked on. She didn’t recognise it an so assumed it must be a ministry owl. The bird raised a leg, rigidly, and allowed Harry to retrieve his letter before turning and flying off back through the window.
“I think I’m going to have to have a word with that department of yours,” Ginny said, placing her hands on her hips in an uncanny impression of her mother. “They can’t let you have a single night off, can they?”
“It must be important,” Harry reasoned, opening the seal.
“If it was important they’d use flu powder,” Ginny argued. “They’d reach you quicker.”
Harry didn’t respond as his eyes moved across the parchment, his expression serious. Ginny sat herself down on the couch and waited, her foot bobbing up and down in exaggerated impatience.
“Well?” she said finally. “What’s so important?”
“I need to go into the office,” Harry said, lowering the letter and searching around for his cloak.
Ginny made a noise of irritation and leapt up to follow him around.
“No Harry, c’mown. We hardly ever get a night to ourselves any more and besides, you’re exhausted and in no fit state to go anywhere. Surely they can cope without you for one night?”
“No,” Harry said, locating his cloak and draping it over his shoulders. “I’m sorry, Ginny. It’s important.”
Harry strode to the fireplace and threw a pinch of floo-powder into the flames. As they turned green, Ginny called over, “what’s the big emergency then?”
Harry looked back at her, his face marked with concern.
“Lucius Malfoy has been murdered.”
He stepped into the flames and disappeared in a flash of light. Ginny stared at where he vanished before sitting back down on the couch and cupping her elbows with her hands. She didn’t know how to feel.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
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The Ministry was in an uproar when Harry arrived, although he doubted that many knew exactly what was going on. He caught his foot in the hearth as he stepped forward from the green flames and stumbled onto the white marble flooring, earning him an appreciative whistle from his fellow ministry worker.
“It's about time you learned how to Apparate, Potter,” a tall man called Bilby advised as he rushed past with a trail of scrolls.
Harry raised his hand in acknowledgement and made his own hurried way to the brass elevators at the far end of the Atrium. Half way across the floor he heard someone else call his name and turned, in horror, to find Seamus Finnigan jogging towards him, quill and parchment in hand.
“Hey, Potter, can I have a quick word!”
Yeah, goodbye, Harry thought, recalling the last meddlesome Daily Prophet reporter who had dogged him so mercilessly.
“What are you doing here, Seamus?” he said, instead.
“C’mown Harry, you don't have to be a genius to figure out there's something going on,” Seamus grinned and twiddled his quill.
“I really have to run-”
“Just a quick comment, Harry, that's all I need. Help me out, for old times sake. Something big’s happened, hasn't it?”
Harry ran a hand through his already tousled hair.
“I really can't comment, Seamus, I'm sorry,” Harry took a half step backwards, feeling for the elevator doors. He took another step and fell back into the elevator just as the metal grate slid closed. Seamus’s yells followed him down into the shaft, “What's the ministry trying to hide, Potter!”
The wizard next to him in the elevator sniggered.
“Friend of yours?” he asked, grinning.
“Something like that,” Harry sighed.
He stepped off the elevator at Magical Law Enforcement where witches, wizards and flying memos rushed back and forwards from each department. Harry turned in at the Auror’s offices and made his way past cubicles of yammering witches and wizards. He ignored the few who tried to call out to him and stepped into his own office at the head of the room, unsurprised to find Kingsley Shacklebolt sitting behind his desk.
“You got here fast, Potter. Have a seat.”
Harry remained standing.
“What do we know so far?” he asked.
“Little and less,” Shacklebolt sighed, the hard lines on his face seemed to grow harder. “I've sent a few of your team down to help out the Magical Accidents and Catastrophes lot.”
“I didn't think we'd need to get them involved,” Harry said, frowning.
“Hard to keep them away. Everyone’s looking to get involved right now. We've secured the area as best we could. Concealment charms and the like, you'll need a portkey to get you there but the cottage is relatively secluded so you shouldn't have any bother from the Muggles.”
Shacklebolt tapped his wand against the empty mug on Harry's desk. It glowed brightly for a moment before returning to its normal white porcelain. Harry reached out to touch it but Shacklebolt spoke again.
“I'm just warning you, Potter, it was Draco Malfoy who found them. Apparently he's furious and refusing to leave the scene.”
“I can imagine,” Harry grimaced. Draco Malfoy had not been at all happy when the ministry advised his parents to move to the safe house. Despite the Malfoys repentance following Lord Voldemort's demise their family had continued to have bad fortune as time went on. Their fortune dwindled significantly and soon strange owls were arriving at their manor with threatening letters attached. It was for their own safety that they moved away although Draco himself refused to follow, insisting on remaining at the manor with his wife and child.
“I'm getting too old for this, Potter,” Shacklebolt said with a sad smile. “I thought days like these were behind me. I won't make it through office another year at any rate.”
“You might,” Harry gave his own smile. “No one else wants to take the responsibility. You'd be leaving big shoes to fill.”
“Looks to me like you've got pretty big feet yourself, Potter.”
“My own shoes fit me fine enough,” he said, grinning.
Shacklebolt gave him an understanding nod as Harry reached out for the portkey. The office lurched around him and he felt the world spin around him for what felt like an eternity before he came to a halt in a dark field in the English countryside. At the end of the field he saw the cottage, quite reasonable in size, surrounded by witches and wizards all busy at work. Harry approached quickly and gave a few nods of acknowledgement to a few. As he reached the cottage door he saw the parchment that had been pinned to the wood with a thin, black wand. The words on the parchment read, “They won't be the last.”
Harry took a deep breath and stepped into the cottage.
It was warm inside, not helped by the number of bodies that rushed back and forward. Harry spotted a head of bright red hair and made a beeline towards his best friend.
“Alright Harry?” Ron’s tone matched his sombre face. Harry noticed the bags under his eyes and the thinness of his lips.
“You got here quickly,” Harry pointed out.
Ron shifted his gaze.
“Yeah, well, I was just catching up on some reports at the office when the owl came in. Just in the right place at the right time I suppose.”
Harry just nodded, all too aware of the frailty of his friends ego at the moment. Ron lead him through to the small dining room where Lucius Malfoy lay, sprawled, on the floor. Harry noted at once how bizarre it was to see this once, rather dangerous, dark wizard look so old and frail and dressed in a velvet red nightcloak. He saw that Lucius’s once long, blonde hair had began to thin in areas, his face marked with notable lines and wrinkles and contorted with fright in death.
“Killing curse, of course,” Ron explained. “All the ministry's concealment charms had been broken.”
Harry raised his eyebrows at Ron as an unspoken fear passed between the two.
“I saw the note on the door,” Harry supplied.
“Yeah, pinned up with Lucius’s own wand,” Ron explained, rubbing at his nose in a nervous manner. “Doesn't look good, Harry, does it?”
Harry shook his head gently, considering the body before him just as he heard footsteps approaching, hurriedly, from behind. He and Ron turned just in time to see Draco Malfoy come marching at them. Before Harry could react, his old nemesis had the hem of his cloak in his hands, his pale and pointed face contorted with rage as he pulled Harry towards him.
“Who did it?!” he demanded. “Who killed them?!”
“Back off, Malfoy,” Ron warned, raising his wand.
Harry held his hand up and gently disentangled himself from Malfoy's grip. As soon as his cloak was freed all the fight seemed to drain from Malfoy and his hands fell limply to his sides. He looked down at his father's body and face turned, if possible, even paler.
“We have things we need to talk about,” Harry said, carefully. “But not here. Come on. Let's go to another room.”
He wasn't sure if he would come, he certainly didn't seem like he was ready for moving. He noticed that Ron still had his wand raised, his eyes fixed on Malfoy's face. Harry supposed that some history ran too deep to be so easily set aside.
“Come on,” Harry encouraged again.
Something must have registered then as Malfoy spun on his heel and marched from the room, a hard expression on his face. Harry hurried to follow with Ron at his heels.
They stopped in the sitting room where Malfoy collapsed into a grand looking armchair and rubbed his face with his hands. His usually pristine, greased back hair was tousled and his hands trembled at his face.
“This can't happen,” Malfoy said, shaking his head. “I can't believe it.”
Harry knelt in front of him.
“Draco, I need to know,” he said. “Is there anyone at all you can think of who could be involved?”
Malfoy laughed, shortly and bitterly.
“It's no secret that the entire wizarding world hates us,” he said, scathingly. “My parents have been receiving owls for months now. All with the same pathetic drivel.”
“We knew about this,” Ron interjected, somewhat irritably. “That's why we sorted this safehouse for them.”
“Safehouse?” Malfoy spit out the word as if it had left a bad taste on his tongue. “Look how safe they were! This cottage was about as helpful as a chocolate cauldron! It didn't stop the letters and it didn't keep my parents safe!”
“You mean your father was still receiving the threats after moving here?” Harry asked, incredulous. It was the first he'd heard of it.
Malfoy shifted in his chair.
“My father refused to report them. He...he…” Malfoy swallowed and blinked his pale eyes. “He was...confused. Things have not been easy,” he looked up at Harry imploringly. “He kept removing the concealment charms and...sometimes I'd visit and he'd try to hex me. He thought I was an intruder. He was….frightened. Frightened and tired and…”
“Old?” Ron supplied, abruptly.
Malfoy glared at him.
“Yes, Weasley, well done. He was an old man. I suppose his wits weren't what they once were. And my mother....” Malfoy shook his head. “She was never the same after….after…”
Harry nodded, he didn't need to be told the details about Narcissa Malfoy's breakdown after the battle of Hogwarts. Ministry witches and wizards were keen to gossip about the former proud family and how Narcissa Malfoy had been repeatedly seen at St Mungo’s. Ginny herself had come across the family in Diagon Alley and recalled to Harry later about the strong scent of Firewhiskey that trailed beside them.
“This should never have happened,” Malfoy said, his voice growing in strength. “If they had just stayed at home in the Manor-”
“Lower your voice, Malfoy,” Ron instructed, harshly.
Malofy rose from his chair and pushed past them into the hall. He paused for a moment to turn back and say, “just find them. Whoever they are. I need to get home to my wife.”
Harry and Ron watched as Malfoy marched from the room.
“So,” Ron said, as soon as the footsteps died off. “What d’you reckon?”
“I don't even know where to start,” Harry sighed. He felt exhausted. This had been the longest day.
“Go home, Harry,” Ron advised, seriously. “You need to sleep, mate. Nothing is going on here now, anyway. We can start fresh in the office in the morning.”
“His son is in Albus’s year,” Harry said, absentmindedly. “I wonder if he knows.”
Ron snorted back laughter.
“Sorry,” he said, shrugging with an apologetic smile. “I didn't think it could get any worse than ‘Draco’.”
Harry didn't smile. He was thinking of his own family, of how they would react if it had been him sprawled on the plush carpet in the Malfoy sitting room. He wondered if Albus would be as wrought with grief as Draco was for his father.
“I suppose he'd be in Rose’s year, too,” Ron was saying, pulling Harry back to the here and now. “Did you see her? At Kings Cross?”
“Yeah we did,” Harry said, noticing his friend's ears had gone beetroot again.
“And Hugo, too?”
“No, he was with the Grangers.”
Ron looked a little disappointed but nodded all the same as they lapsed into an awkward silence.
“She said she'd asked you to come,” Harry supplied, desperate to break the silence.
“Yeah, she did….” Ron scratched at his nose. “Looking for me, was she?” He sounded hopeful.
“We all were.”
He seemed cheered by that.
“You want to come back home for dinner?” Ron asked. “Mum’ll have a pot of stew going.”
“I suppose,” Harry said, thinking that it sounded like the best thing in the world right now. “Means I won't be disturbing Ginny.”
Ron clapped his back as they made their way back out to the field. As Ron prepped himself for Apparation Harry wondered if there would ever be a time when he wouldn't be cheered by a trip to The Burrow.