Chapter 43: Doing Well (Year 7)
Tissues possibly needed, but for "aww" rather than Bad Things. End of chapter may get you angry, though.
Danger strode with purpose across the sun-drenched lawn, hearing the sounds of laughter and music from a small gazebo half-hidden by a projection of stone wall.
She'd left behind a badly shaken Pride, one on the verge of turning against itself. Harry had pulled out of his earlier bout of self-blame and was working to rally his Warriors, but it was an uphill battle, especially without his usual shieldmate.
Since Ginny has decided that what happened to Luna is her fault, which is irritating both Ron and Meghan to the point where we've had to step in and decree separate areas of the castle for everybody, just so they won't be sniping at each other every ten seconds…
Her personal suspicion about Luna's fate revolved around the timeline of the last thirty-six hours, on what had happened to whom, by whose hand, and when. If she was right, Lucius Malfoy's seeming victory over his son's beloved was as empty as his triumph over Draco himself, and his own spite had been his undoing.
Though hasn't it always?
Between one of her steps and the next, another woman materialized in her way, white-shot brown hair curling about her round and determined face, robes of golden-yellow streaked with dirt. "You shouldn't be here, Danger," said Helga Hufflepuff, holding out a hand to block her honorary Heir's further passage. "You know we can't let you talk to them."
"Them," Danger repeated, feeling the flutter in her chest she'd almost forgotten was called hope. "Not him."
"Oh dear, I shouldn't have said that, should I?" Helga sighed, but there was a decided twinkle to her eyes. "Well, I suppose since you know that much, I can at least let you have a look. But you can't call attention to yourself, do you understand me? If they so much as glimpse you—"
"I understand. No contact, no messages." Danger sighed. "It's against the rules."
"Which are there for your protection, love." Helga held out a hand, and after a moment of consideration Danger took it. "Can you imagine if young Mr. Riddle suddenly found himself able to truly talk to all the Dark ones who've gone before him, learn the secrets they took with them to the grave? If we tear the veil for you, even for a moment, that's a weakness he can exploit. And would, as surely as Tentaculas bite."
"Is long established as a time when the veil thins, meaning we can stretch the rules a bit that night. Or bend them, as Aletha's done. Though you'll have to ask her about that, not me," Helga added hastily at Danger's frown. "Come along, now. One look, and then home with you…"
Ginny huddled in one corner of the blue bedroom of the Hogwarts Den, finding the décor singularly suited to her mood. Not only was she feeling gloomy, self-loathing, and otherwise thoroughly depressed, but she'd always wondered if Luna might not have been a Ravenclaw if it hadn't been for the Pride.
And why should there have been a Pride in the first place? What good are we, really? Her thoughts found the beginning of their well-worn path and began their dreary, spiraling dance once again. All our oaths and pretty words about protecting each other don't mean anything when you come right down to it. One of us is dead and another one's been mind-blasted forever—even if we could rescue her body, that's all there is left of her, she's got the mind of an owl now, as if she'd been transfigured for too long, only it happened all at once—and there was nothing we could do about it, because we're useless, we weren't even there—
The door creaked.
Ginny was Lynx before she could think about it, and under the bed with scarcely more thought than that. Come right in, sit right down, she willed the feet in a battered pair of trainers she could see from her limited vantage point. The blood I really want belongs to somebody named Malfoy, but I'll take a pint or two of Potter if that's all I can get.
"You do remember what Hermione's Animagus is, don't you, Gin?" said Harry, his feet not moving from the doorway. "And what Draco's was, come to that. I know you're angry, but chewing on my ankles isn't going to solve anything."
And your talking at me is? Lynx growled under her breath. I'm not coming out, no matter what you have to say to me…
"You don't have to come out," Harry added. "All I want you to do is listen."
Fine. I'll listen. Lynx edged closer to the foot of the bed. And then I'll bite your legs off.
"So, there was this kid." The feet adjusted themselves into the position which meant Harry was leaning on the doorframe. "He really cared a lot about some other kids who were his friends. Including the girl he was pretty sure he wanted to marry some day. But there were these problems, and all this family drama, and he ended up dying before he could do any of that. Thing is, Ginny, he didn't die scared. Not for himself, anyway. And he didn't even really die angry. He died thinking about those friends, and that girl. About how much he loved them, and wanted them to be safe. And when you're magical—and he was—when you're magical, dying like that…well, it has an effect."
An effect? Really? Lynx scoffed under her breath. An effect that didn't work this time, maybe! Look what happened to—
"So when the person who killed this kid, who happened to be his dad, by the way, when he went after the girl his son loved…" Harry's breath was shaky, but mingled with the scent of sorrow in Lynx's nose was that of disbelieving, overwhelming joy. "He got her body, Ginny, but that's all he got. The potion didn't work the way he thinks it did. Danger saw—let me show you what Danger saw."
A quiet jingle heralded a small cascade of golden chain falling to the floor beside the bed.
Lynx considered the matter for a moment, then scooted forward and hooked the chain under the bed with a paw. Flattening her ears and shutting her eyes, she ducked her head inside it. Five seconds, she said warningly as the link between her and Harry came live. That's all you get.
That's all I need. Harry spread the mental picture before her. Look at them.
Ginny looked, and looked again, and felt the knowledge contained in that look spreading out through her mind, draining off the poison in which she'd been drowning herself.
Three people sat in a small, white gazebo in the midst of a carefully tended garden. The eldest, a wizard of middle years with a long fall of auburn hair and a full beard to match, was holding out a handful of yellow confectionery for a bird with red and gold feathers to regard with one beady eye. Across from him sat a younger man with hair of a soft, sandy brown, waving gently about a strong-featured face highlighted by brilliant cobalt blue eyes, currently fixed with a frown on the music stand before him, which held several sheets of manuscript paper and a polished silver flute.
Kneeling on the bench between them, her left hand outstretched to a passing butterfly, was a witch of Ginny's own age, her tumbling dark blonde locks seeming to hold a hint of red within them, though that might only have been the strong, rich light around her. Her eyes, a mingling of blue, gray, and green, shone bright with their usual wondering joy as the butterfly fluttered to a landing on her palm, just short of the unornamented golden band which circled her slender finger.
But how— Ginny stammered mentally as the vision ended, reverting to human and wiggling out from under the bed. But who—
"Best guess?" said Harry, reclaiming his chain. "Fox sneaked out of their little pocket world and headed for the graveyard to see how the vision would happen. Might even have been him Luna was really talking to. And when Lucius spotted the dagger in her hand, and managed to get it away and use it on her instead, he dove in, Fox did, and grabbed her out of her body before the potion could hit. Left behind just her Animagus-mind, the part of her that's all Starwing, barely any Luna at all. Which is basically what the potion was supposed to do anyway, so Lucius wouldn't notice."
"And Luna…" Ginny found her voice shaking, and didn't care. This grief would heal, rather than wound further. "Luna's with him now. And she always will be. They'll watch over us, until it's our turn to go to them …"
Harry pulled her close. "One more thing you might not have noticed," he murmured into her ear. "I didn't, not my first three times looking at it. Their hands."
"What about—" Ginny looked down at her own hand, where a slender band of gold held pride of place, and another sob of pure gladness shook her. "Oh, Harry! But I thought, after they'd died…"
"It's the Founders' Castle. The rules are probably different. And Danger said that was what she put in her permission letter, so he's even officially allowed." Harry stroked his finger once across her wedding ring. "Bet you Professor Dumbledore did the ceremony himself. Just like he did ours."
"On the Astronomy Tower, at dawn," Ginny murmured. "Or maybe it was a lonely, winding road at twilight."
But that doesn't matter now.
The thought occurred to her, fleetingly, that either Danger or Harry might be lying to her, might have concocted the pretty memory-scene as a way to break her loose from her self-destructive spiral, but to her amusement she found that she didn't care.
Even if it's all a lie and Luna really is destroyed, gone forever, I'd be doing her no favors by curling up in a ball and whining about how useless the Pride is. Of course it will be, if its alpha female gives up at the first really hard hit we've taken!
Letting Harry's scent, his strength, his simple nearness soothe her for the first time since the news of Luna's fate had come to them, Ginny made her silent vow.
I will live, she told her departed Pridemates, seeing again the clarity and joy in Luna's eyes as the butterfly waved its wings idly back and forth, the love and relief in Fox's as he glanced up in her direction. I will fight this war. And I will do it well, without anything that would make you sorry to admit you know me.
After all, Luna said it herself. We'll see each other again.
And I want to be able to look into her eyes without any shame when I do.
In the library of Malfoy Manor, a fair-haired girl sat in a sunny corner, her black cloak draped across the lap of her gray robes. Nimble fingers, one bearing a gold ring set with a red stone, tugged a needle up, down, up again, stitching black ribbon to the cloak in a pattern all but impossible to see. As the two wizards seated at the table watched, her thread came to its end, and she unhurriedly tied it off, snapped it with her wand, and rethreaded the needle to begin again.
"Fascinating," said Lord Voldemort, watching the quick, darting movements of Starwing's hands. "You say she remembers nothing, Lucius?"
"I wish I had better news, my lord, but sadly she does not." Lucius Malfoy sighed, rubbing the red stone on his own matching ring. "I do apologize, but when I saw the shape of what she was bringing from her pocket, I fear I panicked."
Voldemort laughed. "I could wish all my Death Eaters would panic so usefully! To turn an enemy's weapon against her, and come off unscathed themselves…no matter, Lucius, we have other ways of learning Potter's plans, and the Order's. And you are returned to me, a useful man instead of a burden. And yet…"
"And yet, I would be nothing but that same burden, were I to go into the front lines, even with Starwing beside me," Lucius finished for his Master. "My lord, I have thought about that very thing, and I believe I have a solution." He spread his hands, indicating the room where they sat. "In this."
"Your home?" Voldemort hazarded. "Your library?"
"Both, my lord, and what they represent." Lucius turned to look at a somewhat grimy wall. "The line of Malfoy is old, older even than its name. This manor was built by the family of Beauvoi only a few years after the time when your honored ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, decided that the land and castle which he had inherited from his mother in Scotland would be an excellent place for himself and his friends to found their school of magic. I cannot claim that the line of descent is unbroken from that day to this, certainly, but I can and do claim that these lands, and this house, have never passed into the hands of strangers."
"So much I knew." Voldemort tapped his fingers together. "What about it?"
"My lord, so many hundreds of years of history, so many books and documents that my ancestors have collected—even the very house itself, its decorations and its construction—" Lucius looked around the room with a slow, searching gaze. "Might they not hold some ancient secrets which will help you with your quest today? Spells, potions, talismans which were well known to those of old, but which we of latter days forget? I cannot guarantee it, but I suspect it strongly. And if you will allow me to labor among these books until my magic returns, to catalog them and set aside any which may be of use, I can find out." He sighed. "I had meant to set Draco to that task, once he returned from his mission…"
"Your loss is a grievous one," Voldemort agreed, "but never fret. Who knows? Somewhere within these walls may even be hidden some secret which would allow you to father another son." He smiled thinly. "One who would, I have no doubt, live better guarded than before."
"Certainly one whose mother could never make ridiculous, treacherous choices." Lucius smiled, the expression a trifle strained. "So, my lord? Your decision?"
"Did you think I was likely to say no?" Voldemort got to his feet, Lucius following suit quickly. "The plan is a good one. Your work will be of use, but tedious enough that no one will think I favor you, and still it keeps you out of harm's way until you are more easily able to join in battle, and to defend yourself. Will there be anything you require to begin?"
"No, with Starwing at my call, I think I have…" Lucius paused. "Now that I think of it, my lord," he said diffidently. "Perhaps…"
"Come, come, Lucius, you know you need only to ask." Voldemort laughed. "I am your guest, after all! What is it?"
"Perhaps, an assistant. One whose mind is unimpaired." Lucius glanced back at Starwing, her eyes bent on her work, giving no indication that she heard the two voices, or that she was aware of the wizards' presence at all. "Some of the tasks involved in setting the library to rights will require human judgment, and I cannot do it all myself—or I could, but it would take far longer than my magic will require to regrow. And I had just the man in mind, if I may have him." He looked up, into his Master's red eyes. "Wormtail."
"Wormtail?" The place where Voldemort's eyebrows should have been rose. "I have been asked not to send him with certain of my Death Eaters whom I have assigned to important work, but never before this have I been asked for him. I had not thought you greatly attached to him, Lucius."
"I need not be attached to him to understand him, my lord." Lucius encompassed a small space of air with his hands, then shrank it still smaller. "He is weak and easily led, but his magic is passable, his attention span reasonable, and he obeys orders without quibbling or delaying. I require no more."
"And most of the missions on which I send my Death Eaters do require more," Voldemort mused aloud. "So that, were I to send Wormtail on one of those, I run the risk of not winning my objective. Whereas, if he remains here with you…" He nodded. "I like it. Yes, Lucius, you may certainly have Wormtail. I will have him sent for immediately."
"You are too kind, my lord." Lucius bowed. "As soon as he arrives, we will begin." His eyes rested once again on the expanse of wall Draco had once sneaked into the library to examine. "I know just where I want to start."
"Clean a wall?" Peter tried not to look askance at Lucius, or past him at Starwing. Both of them set his instincts on edge, warning that he should look out, run away, hide from the predators. Lucius's waft of werewolf musk didn't help either, as it woke several conflicting reactions of 'friend' and 'foe' in the various parts of his mind. "I can, but—"
"This wall is special," Lucius interrupted. "I have reason to believe there may be something painted on it which was later deliberately concealed, something I would be loathe to lose forever. Revealing it without destroying it will require a wizard who has a dexterous touch with magic." Silver-gray eyes raked Peter from head to toe. "Though I suppose, as my lord has no one else whom he can spare for the moment, you will have to do."
Peter swallowed an inappropriate choke of laughter and instead drew his wand. "Where should I start?" he asked, looking over the wall. It looked flat, white, and dirty, like most of the walls of Malfoy Manor which were not covered with wooden paneling or adorned with snoring portraits.
But isn't there just a hint of something, on the left? Like a picture, a painting, that was almost erased or covered up, but not quite?
"Here." Lucius tapped the very spot where Peter had been looking. "If you can clear off the overlying layers of paint, we will be able to see if this is nothing but an idle dream, a moment of childish distraction, or if there is truly something here."
Watching from the corner of his eye as Lucius returned to the table and the book he'd been studying, Peter waited for his moment. "Childish?" he said aloud, softly enough that he could claim he'd been talking to himself if he were challenged on it. "I wonder if he means Draco…"
"Of course I mean Draco," said Lucius without looking up from his book. "Unless you think I kept a harem of other women sequestered in the house, and fathered children on them indiscriminately." Now he did look up, a gleam in his eye. "While we're on the subject, I believe congratulations are in order."
An instant of sheer panic had Peter's wand in his hand before his thinking mind took over again, thankfully soon enough that the wand's tip never pointed at anything but the floor. If he meant to cause trouble, hurt Evanie or take her away from me, he wouldn't be telling this to me, now would he? Either he's playing with me, tossing out lures to see if I'll react, or he wants something from me and he's realized the fastest way is through her. Stay calm, don't lie, and push back just a little, he won't be expecting that…
"Why, thank you," he said with a shallow bow. "You…sniffed it out, I assume?"
Lucius raised one eyebrow, then nodded slowly. "Well played," he said with the hint of a smile. "When do you expect your bundle of joy?"
"September." Peter turned to the wall, keeping his head inclined far enough over his shoulder that his voice would carry. "The house-elves have apparently declared that we should expect a daughter."
"And one disbelieves a house-elf at one's peril." Lucius's voice had turned thoughtful. "I must remember to do something about that. But not now. To return to the original topic, yes, I mean Draco. He slipped into the library during his brief period with us, and seemed very taken by that particular wall. And later, while we were battling for our magic and our lives, he tried to distract me with a flood of the strangest and most disparate images possible—except that one of them involved this very wall, with an intriguing mural painted on it. So, with your help, I propose to see if that particular vision of his is true or false." He chuckled. "Since I have already explored another avenue of those images, and found it entirely satisfactory."
Across the room, Starwing rethreaded her needle yet again and continued her stitchwork.
Cleaning the wall without damaging what soon became apparent was indeed a Muggle-style mural (the images neither flinched nor objected when he ran his wand over their faces, but continued to smile out at the world obliviously) required more thought and concentration than Peter had thought it might. To add to the burden, Lucius would from time to time toss a careless question his way, usually to do with some odd point in magical theory or an obscure facet of the history of the wizarding world.
Does he want to catch me out, maybe? Put me in my place so I won't give him trouble now that he doesn't have his magic to keep me in line? I wish I could tell him trouble's the last thing I'd want to cause—this suits me perfectly, it's work I can do, it isn't harming anyone, and it keeps me close to Evanie in case she needs anything the house-elves can't supply…
But trying to second-guess Lucius Malfoy would be an exercise in futility, so Peter dutifully answered the questions he could and gave a flat "I don't know" to those he couldn't. Lucius, as far as Peter could tell, seemed satisfied with either answer, making a few notes on the scroll he had open beside his book, then returning to his reading and allowing Peter to get back to the cleaning.
The light had faded so far that Starwing had set aside her sewing, and Peter had revealed the faces of a rather Malfoy-looking man and a pretty, plump woman with a head full of brown curls beside him, when Lucius called a halt. "My ancestors will still be there tomorrow," he said, looking at the newly-cleaned area of wall with satisfaction. "And the next day, and the day after that. If your current rate of progress continues, you will have the entirety revealed in…a week, would you say?"
"Maybe a little longer." Peter tapped his wand gently against the center section of the wall. "There's more detail further in, so I'll need to move more slowly to avoid damaging it."
"Yes, by all means, do that. Damage to a priceless work of art such as this…" Lucius shook his head. "What my more recent ancestors can have been thinking, to cover it over with paint and pretend it never existed, I cannot imagine. But then, the past is the past. We must learn from it, not dwell in it." He held out his hand in Peter's direction. "If you can agree with me on that, Pettigrew, I think we will do extremely well together."
Peter looked from Lucius's faintly amused face to his hand, over towards Starwing, who was fastening her newly-embellished cloak around her neck, then back to Lucius. "I think we will," he agreed, and met the hand with his own. "Same time tomorrow?"
"Perhaps a bit earlier, if you would be so kind." Releasing the handclasp, Lucius beckoned with two pale fingers to Starwing. "The Dark Lord will not, after all, be visiting us every day."
"No, of course not. After breakfast, then?"
"That will do very well," Lucius agreed, with the slightest of bows. "After breakfast."
Starwing smiled and curtsied to Peter, and the strange pair turned together and walked unhurriedly from the library.
Letting out the breath he hadn't been aware of holding, Peter turned to regard the faces painted on the wall. "Does he make any sense to you?" he asked them whimsically. "He's your however-many-times-great-grandson, after all."
The faces disdained to reply.
Danger lay sprawled across her bed at Headquarters, letting her mind rove back over the seemingly endless list of things to be done, and the dismayingly small proportion next to which she could place a mental check.
Recast the Fidelius over this place with the two of us as joint Secret-Keepers, just in case one of the Death Eaters realized that with Albus dead, either Snape or Luna could have led them directly here—done. Familiarized ourselves with the most recent business of the Order, and matched it up with what the Red Shepherds are handling—done. Talked with Brian and Corona about finding and helping the former occupants of that cave complex behind the waterfall where Graham and Natalie were taken—done, and wasn't that just as uplifting as it could possibly be?
She rolled over with a small groan. Knowing that the Death Eaters were sending the werewolves they controlled to prey on Muggles was one thing. Hearing the stories of the lives thus shattered, even second-hand, was altogether different.
Though at least they were able to recruit Maya and Crystal to help them some. Maya to back Corona up when she talks to some of the women, since I'm sure they have very good reasons not to trust a man within twenty feet of them, and Crystal to tell them it really is possible to adjust your life around magic, even if you don't have any of your own…
Running her hands through her hair, she sat up. "Three things done, and only about, oh, a million more to go," she said aloud. "Because, absolutely crazy people that we are, we've also agreed to take on classes at Hogwarts this fall! What were we thinking?"
We were thinking that children still need to be taught, and that we need a good, safe base to work from, Remus answered, as she heard his footsteps in the corridor outside the door. And we were also thinking…The door creaked under his hand as he came into the room, shifting into audible speech without a pause. "…that Minerva will need all the help she can get, both against external pressures and internal ones."
"Internal?" Danger frowned. "Wouldn't the tests of intent have got rid of most of the bad apples?"
"Who will save us from ourselves?" Remus chuckled, a trifle flatly, as he shut the door behind him. "It's not the Death Eaters' children she's worried about, love. It's ours. Harry and the Pride like her, they respect her, they'll listen to her, but they don't yet give her the level of immediate obedience they gave Albus. They may never. But us…"
"Us, they obey." Danger nodded. "Not completely without question, but we've got a better chance of keeping them from flying off the handle—you should pardon the phrase—than Minerva would alone."
"Exactly why she wants us all there." Remus sighed, sitting down. "Is it terrible of me to be glad that we can't get to Gerald at the moment?" he asked, his mind filled with a painful mixture of guilt and relief. "Someone will have to tell him about Luna eventually, I know, but I can't help but feel grateful that it's unlikely to be me. She's been his world since Anita died, and for it to happen like this…"
"What's really bothering you?" Danger asked, pulling her feet up onto the bed. "There's something more here. Something personal. And no, I am not saying that you don't care about Luna," she added sharply as Remus's sense surged through the bond. "Or about Draco, come to that! But something has been eating at you ever since we heard what Hermione had to say, and I am damn well going to have it, Remus, or so help me I'll shrink you to house-elf size and stuff you in Kreacher's old den under the water tank until you talk!"
Remus raised an eyebrow at his wife. "You will?"
"I'll get Sirius to do it for me. Or no, better. Letha." Danger grinned triumphantly. "She's just as sick of you moping around as I am."
"Merlin's blood, she means it," Remus muttered towards the mirror hanging over the bureau.
"And why shouldn't she?" the mirror returned tartly.
"One of these days I'm mentioning to Sirius that he needs to replace the furniture around here." Remus turned away from the mirror's indignant squawks and, not without a wince, met Danger's eyes. I thought this couldn't happen, Danger, he said silently, restraining the worst tempests of emotion but still opening enough of his mind that she could see and feel the storms which shook him, storms filled with anger, confusion, but most of all, blame. I thought I'd stopped him. After I saved his life at the Department of Mysteries, I laid that debt on him as a geas, a magical prohibition, against hurting any of the Pride. It should have stopped him from going after them again, and especially it should have stopped him killing them…
Wordlessly, Danger sent back understanding, openness, a sense of readiness to hear.
Damn it, I should have listened to him! The words erupted from Remus's mind with enough heat and force that Danger flinched involuntarily, but remained where she was. He told me, Danger, he told me so himself—eight lives for one, I was stretching it too far, the bond couldn't hold—
"And just how were you supposed to know he was telling you the truth?" Danger demanded. "Since as far as I know, that's not an art in which he's generally considered proficient?"
"Point." Remus sighed. "But still, I should have known it myself. It's basic maths—one for one is only fair, two or even four for one is stretching it some, but it still might have held—but eight?" He shook his head. "How did I ever think I could make that work?"
"You were thinking about the Warrior-cubs you love, and the other Warriors they're learning to love in their turn." Danger laid her hand on the bed between them, palm up. "And love is one of the only ways that one and one can equal more than two." Like you and me, she added silently. I hope you realize I ought to be a great deal more offended that I am, that you thought I might be angry with you for this.
"How can you not be?" Remus kept his hands firmly where they were. "I failed you."
Oh, now you're just asking for the water tank. Danger glared at him. You took a risk, Remus. We've all taken risks over the course of this war. Sometimes those risks work out. And sometimes—and this is why they're called risks, and not certainties—sometimes they don't. This one didn't. If it had, if Draco were still alive, if Luna were in possession of all her faculties still, I'd be thrilled beyond words. But don't you dare, don't you even dare, to think that I could possibly blame you for not being able to shield them from every possible ill!
"All right, so you don't blame me." Remus produced something which bore a remote resemblance to a smile. "Now if I could just stop blaming myself."
"With that, I can't help you." Danger slid her hand closer to him. "Except perhaps to give you something else to think about for a while." We have to stay strong now, love, she added silently. Even, or especially, when strong is the last thing we feel.
Because now it isn't just the Pack that depends on us. At last, Remus laid his hand on hers, and looked once more into her eyes. It's the Order as well. To some extent, the DA and the Red Shepherds. Even Hogwarts, with Minerva needing our help there. He sighed again. Heady stuff, for a wizard who only ever really wanted to ride a desk, like his father did. Or maybe teach Care of Magical Creatures, or work at one of the animal shops at Diagon Alley.
You think it's much better for a girl who thought she'd get some nice safe little job in a bookshop or a library, eventually meet a nice boy, give her baby sister some nieces and nephews to play with? Danger smiled. At least you knew about magic from the word go!
There is that. Remus squeezed her hand gently. And the way things fell out, I found you, and you found me. We have Sirius and Letha, we have the cubs—and for all the pain we've had from losing Draco, we know where he is, we'll see him again, and we'll never stop loving him. He grinned, for an instant looking very like his full-moon-night self. And one of these days, we will catch Lucius Malfoy off his guard…
Danger slid across the bed into his arms in reply.
Molly Weasley looked around with a frown as the small sound she'd heard a moment before was repeated. It seemed to be coming from the room off the kitchen which Sirius had refurbished for Dobby and Winky, and then enlarged in wizardspace when the news of Winky's pregnancy had been confirmed.
Could something be wrong with one of the elflets? But if they were ill, Winky knows me well enough by now, she wouldn't have hesitated to ask for my help…
The third recurrence of the sound was loud enough that Molly could place it definitely as a sniffling sob. Scruples set aside, she hurried to the small door and threw it open.
Winky looked up, startled, from the tiny bed beyond, her enormous eyes bloodshot, a piece of parchment crumpled in her hand. There was no sign of Dobby.
"Winky, what in the world," Molly began, before being halted by Winky's frantic headshaking.
"M-Mistress is not to be b-bothering with us," Winky said carefully, her eyes fixed on Molly's face, as she rattled the piece of parchment in her hand. "We is just having—having a bit of a talk about things, Dobby and I, and Dobby is going out to let off some of his feelings somewhere else, and I is s-staying here…" Her lips quivered, but she firmed them resolutely. "We is not causing trouble for Mistress, or for anyone else."
Molly looked suspiciously at the parchment. "Let me see that," she ordered.
A distinct look of relief crossed Winky's features as she obediently surrendered the note.
Accepting it, Molly took a step back to get the light from the kitchen candles.
A moment later, she could no longer see anything but red.
"How about a swimming pool?" Ron, sitting in the Gryffindor common room with Hermione, Harry, and Ginny, tapped a spot on Malfoy Manor's grounds directly beneath one of the first floor suites' balconies. "Right here, and then I could just get up in the morning and dive straight in, I wouldn't even have to change…" He blinked as a sudden light erupted under Ginny's robes. "What's—ow!" Hastily he yanked his pendants out from under his own robes as they turned momentarily scorching hot. "What the bloody—"
Ginny held up her first pendant, the muffin tin glowing brilliantly. "It's Mum," she said. "Something's made her angry, angry or afraid, but anything that frightened her that much would probably be a threat, and it's hot, not cold—"
Harry's Zippo buzzed. He pulled it from his pocket and flipped the lid up. "Go," he said shortly.
"Stay together and do not leave the castle until further notice," said Moony without preamble. "Lucius Malfoy seems to be doing very well for himself. He's apparently found a way around a Fidelius Charm."
Hermione swallowed once and reached for Ron's hand, which was already on its way to hers. "How do you know that?" she asked, in a voice which sounded nothing like her own.
"Very simply." Harry might have thought his Pack-father cared nothing for whatever was going on, had he not seen the decided flicker of the Zippo flame and been able to feel the surge of Moony's anger through it. "He left a note within this house, stating that as long as Dobby and Winky refrain from attacking him and his, he will not harm what he has taken from them."
"What he—" Ginny's eyes widened. "Oh, no."
"Yes," Moony confirmed flatly. "Echo is missing."
Insert curses here.
Quick note as trick-or-treaters will be at my door shortly. Happy Halloween, everyone—what would you think if, next year around this time, I was writing about the Final Battle? I'll try and make it happen if you give me lots of wonderful reviews!
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