George shrugged. "Whenever you want to go."
"Now," Harry replied, standing up.
"Harry," Ginny said, grabbing his arm. "Hermione’s not in any condition
to do this."
"I know," Harry said, sighing. "But I need to check."
"I understand, and she would too, if she was in a reasonable state of
mind," Ginny said.
Harry watched as she worried her lower lip, as if struggling with
something. "Why don’t you and Ron go along with the twins this
afternoon while I’m with Hermione?" she said at last.
Harry furrowed his brow. "You’re okay with not coming along?"
"Just this time. We have some plans this afternoon, and they’re
important, too. Besides, it’ll be an added bonus to keep Hermione
occupied and let Mum ease into letting us go. It might be easier for
her if it’s just Ron the first time."
"What are you doing with Hermione?" Harry asked.
"Never you mind about that," Ginny said, standing up and kissing him on
the cheek. "Fleur had an idea, and I think it’s a good one, so we’re
going to try it."
"You’re going along with one of Phlegm’s ideas?" Harry asked
incredulously. He tried unsuccessfully to control the grin that spread
across his face.
"Don’t call her that, Harry," Ginny said reproachfully, as if she
wasn’t the one to come up with the nickname in the first place. "It’s
Harry bit the inside of his cheeks and nodded solemnly. After Ginny had
left the library, he raised a speculative eye towards the twins.
"What do you reckon?" he asked.
"I reckon she’s got you right in her back pocket," Fred said, grinning.
"I think you would have agreed no matter what she said, mate."
"Yeah, so when’s the wedding? That’s certainly a way to cheer up Mum,"
George replied, his grin matching Fred’s.
Harry felt his face burn. "Her back pocket isn’t a bad place to be," he
said cheekily and quickly left in search of Ron before had they had
time to comment — or smack him upside the head.
Since they’d previously been there, the twins were able to Side-Along-
Apparate Ron and Harry right into Dung’s old flat. All four of them
immediately gagged from the overpowering stench.
"Are you certain Dung doesn’t have a dead body in here somewhere?" Ron
asked, gasping. He’d been worried about leaving Hermione in her
depressed state, but Ginny had promised to stay with her. Ginny had
remained very tightlipped about their plans for the afternoon, but both
she and Fleur had been giggling like schoolgirls.
Even Hermione’s spirits had appeared to improve. That alone had
convinced Ron that some time with just the girls would be good for her.
At lunch, he’d announced that he and Harry were running an errand with
Fred and George.
Mrs. Weasley had fretted over both of them, following them right to the
door and insisting the twins swear to protect them. She hugged them
both fiercely before they left, but she held true to her word and
allowed them to go.
"I think it’s coming from the refrigerator," Harry said, attempting to
breathe through his mouth while cursing Dung for living in a Muggle
flat. He tried to ignore the overwhelming odor, but eventually pointed
his wand at the refrigerator and muttered, "Scourgify."
The stench evaporated instantly and was replaced with a fresh, lemony
"Better than Dung deserves," Fred said, taking in a deep breath.
"What about using magic in Muggle areas?" Ron asked, glancing uneasily
at the window as if he expected a Ministry owl to appear any moment.
Harry shrugged. "There are no Muggles here now, and I couldn’t
concentrate with that stench."
"So, what are we looking for?" Fred asked.
"The last time we saw Dung, he had a suitcase full of trinkets that
he’d nicked from headquarters. I need to see what’s in that suitcase,"
Harry replied, looking at Ron significantly. They’d brought the Spell
Detector, but he hoped to avoid having to explain to Fred and George
what they were doing with it. Ron removed it from his pocket and
quietly slipped into the bedroom.
Housecleaning spells were certainly something Dung hadn’t bothered
with, for the flat was a mess. They found an abundance of empty Ogden’s
Firewhisky bottles in addition to a variety of Muggle alcohol and
When Fred located a stack of magazines stored inside a footstool, he
whistled loudly. "Dung, you old dog. These PlayWizards date back to
Dad’s Hogwarts days."
Ron and George quickly peered over their brother’s shoulder as he
flipped through the pages. Harry, who had been searching through Dung’s
closet and had nothing to show for it but a nasty Doxy bite, was
irritated. He was about to snap at them to get back to work when he
caught a glimpse of the centerfold they were unfolding. Harry felt his
skin coloring. He’d heard the blokes in his dormitory talking about
that, but to see it…
After a fairly lengthy delay, they finally dragged their attention away
from the magazines and went back to work. The four boys searched Dung’s
flat as thoroughly as teenage boys were able to do. They’d found loads
of questionable items, including a folded flying carpet tucked under
Dung’s mattress, but no suitcase.
Fred and George confiscated the carpet, along with several various odds
and ends that they had stuffed inside their pockets.
"It’s not like it was really Dung’s to begin with," Fred said when
Harry raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah, he just nicked it from someone else," Ron added, admiring the
carpet that Fred still held. "Besides, Harry, don’t tell me you don’t
want a go on this thing. They’ve been illegal forever. Dad’s never even
been able to sneak one home."
Harry grinned. "The way I see it, Dung has a load of rubbish here
that’s part of my inheritance. The carpet calls us even — he probably
found it at headquarters anyway."
"He did," George said, examining the underside of the carpet. "It’s got
the Black family crest embroidered on it."
"Then I get first go," Harry said, grinning.
Fred and George looked at one another, their facial expressions
changing in that odd way of silent communication that Harry had seen
them use previously.
"Fair enough," Fred said, "but we get to keep the other stuff. Besides,
Dung’s landlord is going to chuck it all out before Dung is released,
"The suitcase isn’t here," Harry said dejectedly. As one final idea
occurred to him, he said, "Accio suitcase."
"Accio locket," he tried again, holding his breath. Still, nothing
"What do we do now?" Ron asked, glancing around the messy apartment.
"Where do we look next?"
Harry frowned, considering his options before an idea struck him. "Do
any of you know what happens to your stuff when you get arrested? I
mean, if Dung was hauled in by the Ministry, and the suitcase was with
him, where would it be?"
"Considering they chucked him into Azkaban without benefit of a trial,"
Fred said bitterly, "I’d expect it’d still be in a holding cell at the
"Then we’ll have to go out to Azkaban," Harry said, failing to suppress
a shudder. He knew most of the Dementors were gone, but even one was
too many as far as he was concerned.
"Er…Harry. How exactly do you propose to do that?" George asked,
"And what’s so bloody important that you’d want to go?" Fred exclaimed
incredulously. "Look, Harry, I know it’s your stuff that Dung nicked,
but…what could be worth a trip to Azkaban? They’ll let Dung out
eventually and then you can ask him for whatever it is you want back."
Harry shook his head. "It’s not that simple. It’s…er…it’s something of
personal significance" Harry said, coloring slightly. He hated lying to
the twins. "And I’m not the only one who might be looking for it."
George shrugged. "I still don’t see how you’re going to get out to
Azkaban. It’s not like you can just stroll right in. Or maybe you can.
Rufus Scrimgeour would love to have you owing him a favor."
Harry shook his head. "I’d prefer to do this without Scrimgeour’s
input, if possible. I’ll talk to Tonks. She’s been out there on guard
duty, or at least she was before we left."
"Yeah, she’s still been going, and looking a right mess whenever she
returns. Are you certain about this, Harry? You haven’t always had an
easy time with the Dementors," Fred asked, ducking his head. His ears
were bright red, something that Harry had seen in the past from Ron and
various other Weasleys, but never the twins.
"I know. I’ll deal with it when I get there," Harry said, nodding.
"We’ll deal with it," Ron said, his eyes boring into Harry’s. "Don’t
think you’re going out there alone, mate."
"Ron, I don’t even know if I can get out there, never mind bring anyone
else along," Harry said, running a hand through his hair.
"You’ll just have to find a way," Ron said firmly.
Dinner that evening was a quiet affair. Harry had hoped to speak with
Tonks about her duties at Azkaban, but neither she nor Remus was in
attendance. Mrs. Weasley said they’d gone out on a date. Harry was
pleased to hear it; Remus deserved to grab a little happiness when he
could find it.
Mr. Weasley was working late, as he frequently did, and since returning
from Dung’s place, Harry hadn’t seen any of the girls. Mrs. Weasley
said they’d been holed up in Bill and Fleur’s room all day. They’d even
kicked Bill out without telling him what they were doing. He and
Charlie sat at the kitchen table with a bottle of wine between them.
"Care for some wine, Harry? Ron?" Charlie asked.
With their nods of consent, he poured two additional glasses.
"How did everything go for you lot today?" Charlie asked, and Harry
noticed Bill listening intently, though trying to appear disinterested.
"It was a bust," Harry said, sighing. He knew it was too much to hope
that he’d find the locket that easily, but he’d still hoped anyway.
"I don’t suppose you want to share whatever it is you’re looking to
find?" Bill asked casually.
"Not really," Harry replied, sipping his wine.
The tension was broken by Mrs. Weasley’s startled gasp. Harry looked up
quickly to find Ginny standing alone in the doorway. His attention was
instantly drawn to her head where her glorious, waist-length hair had
been cut so it barely reached her shoulders.
She stood still in the doorway, her eyes avidly searching the room
until they rested on him and locked her gaze with his.
"Oh, Ginny! What have you done to your beautiful hair?" Mrs. Weasley
moaned, moving toward her daughter and reaching out to pull at the
"What did’ya do that for?" Ron demanded with his mouth full. Bill and
Charlie simply stared at her, awaiting her response.
Harry felt as if he’d been hit in the gut, and he swallowed heavily.
Ginny’s hair had always attracted him, he hadn’t fully realized how
much until he saw her without it. He felt frozen to the spot and simply
stared back at her, blinking.
Everything suddenly became clear to him when a beaming Fleur and a
hesitant Hermione followed Ginny into the room. Harry felt a bubble of
warmth spread inside his belly. Hermione no longer wore the
handkerchief that had become her talisman, but instead sported a short,
pixyish haircut in the same shade of Weasley red as everyone else at
the table, save Harry.
Hermione shyly watched everyone’s expressions, appearing as if she was
ready to bolt from the room at the slightest provocation.
"Just what this place needs," Charlie said, grinning. "Another redhead.
I didn’t think we had enough of them here."
"There could never be enough of them," Bill said, beaming at Fleur with
the first genuine smile Harry had seen on him since their return.
"Eezent eet magnifique? Who knew I’d be zo talented with ‘air? Eet was
Ginny’s idea to copy ze Muggles and create a wig, but ‘Ermione deeden’t
want to go shopping. Zat is very strange, no? Anyway, she agreed to let
us try eet ourselves. I’ve never cut anyone’s ‘air before, but I zought
I could do eet," Fleur said, plopping down into Bill’s lap and kissing
him soundly. "And I can."
"Hermione," Ron said, blinking, his glass of wine still frozen halfway
to his mouth.
Hermione smiled tentatively before sitting down next to him. Ron leaned
over and whispered something in her ear that caused her to blush and
smile widely at the same time.
"What’s that, brother mine?" Fred asked. "Did I just hear you tell the
fair lass that you knew she’d always wanted to be a Weasley?"
"And why wouldn’t she be?" George asked. "Of course, isn’t it really up
to you to correct that situation?" George said, smiling smugly at the
blushes that suffused both Ron’s and Hermione’s faces.
"Sod off," Ron said, swatting George without ever taking his eyes off
"Harry," Ginny said softly. She’d moved from the door to the chair next
to him, tentatively looking into his eyes. She worried her lower lip as
she waited for his response.
Harry felt a large lump materialize in his throat over what she’d done
for Hermione. He didn’t think he could ever be more proud. "You are the
most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen," he whispered, running his hands
through her new, shorter haircut and pulling her close so he could kiss
Ginny’s eyes filled with tears as she leaned into him. "You really
think it’s okay? I know you liked it longer, but it’ll grow back," she
"It doesn’t matter. What you just did for Hermione makes you more
beautiful than any hairdo ever could," he said, kissing her again
despite the presence of her family at the table.
"Harry’s right," Bill said. Harry and Ginny both looked up to find Bill
staring at them, his eyes suspiciously bright. "That was a wonderful
thing to do, Ginny. You just reminded me how strong your bond of
friendship is with each other. I’d let myself lose sight of that. Hold
onto it, embrace it, and don’t let anyone — especially older brothers
with chips on their shoulder — stand in the way of it. I don’t think V-
V- Voldemort stands a chance against it."
Ginny pushed back from the table and hurried over to Bill. She threw
her arms around him and hugged him fiercely. "Thanks, Bill."
"I’m sorry, Ginny," he whispered into her hair. Releasing her, he
looked up and stared intently at Harry, " I owe you an apology, too."
"Never mind," Harry said, waving his hand dismissively. "It’s like you
said, as long as we stick together, Voldemort can’t win."
"Right, even if we sometimes act like prats," Bill said, smiling.
"Don’t worry. Harry knows that even Weasleys can act like prats on
occasion," Ron said, joining the conversation.
"Well, he must be very well aware of that since he’s been stuck living
with you for the past seven years," Bill said, chuckling.
"And he’s been lucky to have him," Hermione said, beaming at Ron with
"Yes, I have," Harry said, smiling. That annoying lump in this throat
appeared determined to return. "I’ve been lucky to find all of you."
"Except when we act like prats," Ginny said, plopping a scoop of mashed
potatoes on his plate.
"Yes," Harry replied grinning. "Except then."
The dinner resumed with much less tension than there had been on
previous evenings. Mr. Weasley had joined them halfway through, and
after the initial shock of seeing Ginny’s hair, he told her how proud
he was of her. Harry felt almost as if they’d never left and thoroughly
enjoyed himself in Grimmauld Place for the first time in a very long
time. When dinner was over, a giggling Fleur led Ginny and Hermione
from the kitchen.
Before he had a chance to follow the girls from the room, Mr. Weasley
placed a gentle hand on Harry’s arm.
"Harry, could I have a word?" he asked.
His tone was gentle, almost conciliatory, but Harry still felt uneasy.
He nodded stiffly and followed Mr. Weasley into the sitting room.
Mr. Weasley lit the fire in the grate and poured two glasses of brandy
from a decanter on the desk. He handed one to Harry as he sat beside
him on the couch. He swooshed the amber liquid around in his glass for
several moments without speaking. Harry forced himself not to fidget,
but the collar of his shirt was suddenly very tight.
"Well, Harry. I suppose you know why I wanted to speak with you," Mr.
Weasley said, his ears turning as red as Ron’s did when he was
"Yes, sir," Harry said, dribbling a bit of the brandy down his chin.
"I owe you an apology," Mr. Weasley said suddenly, surprising Harry.
"Huh?" he asked. Oh, great. Really eloquent, Harry.
"As you know, I suspected you were going to pull a disappearing act. I
also suspected Ron and Hermione would go with you. It was Ginny I was
unprepared to find missing," Mr. Weasley said, rubbing the bridge of
"I’m sorry, Mr. Weasley. I knew you weren’t expecting it, but I
couldn’t say anything," Harry said, feeling desperate.
"I know that, Harry. And unlike Kingsley or Minerva, I think you’re
more than capable of handling yourself in most situations. The person I
underestimated was Ginny. She’s my daughter-"
"And you wanted to keep her safe. I understand that, sir," Harry said
"No, Harry. You misunderstood my meaning. Of course, I want her to be
safe. I want all of my children to be safe, and I’m including you in
that statement," Mr. Weasley said softly, causing Harry to swallow
around the lump in his throat. "What I underestimated was my own
daughter’s determination. I know Ginny. I raised her. I shouldn’t have
expected anything less from her."
Harry smiled fondly. "She’s special."
"She certainly is. I’m not blind, Harry. I can see how much you care
for each other, but it’s very hard to let go," Mr. Weasley said.
"I understand, sir-"
"Let me finish, Harry. It’s very hard to let go, but if I had to chose
the wizard who would win my only girl’s heart, I know I couldn’t have
chosen any better than she did when she was ten years old. I can’t
think of anyone I’d rather her fall in love with than you," Mr. Weasley
said, shifting in his seat and taking a long swallow of his brandy.
Harry couldn’t control his fidgeting any longer, and he shifted in his
seat trying to decide where to look. He ended up taking a long swallow
of the brandy, feeling his face burn. Harry didn’t understand why he
felt like such a little kid sitting in front of Mr. Weasley.
"Thanks, Mr. Weasley," he said, scuffing his feet on the worn carpet.
"I want you to know that I’ll do everything within my power to keep her
"I know you will, Harry," Mr. Weasley said, clearing his throat. "What
say you? Shall we join the others in the drawing room? If my ears don’t
deceive me, I think I can hear music drifting down from that direction.
Merlin’s beard I hope Molly hasn’t broken out the Celestina Warbeck
Harry grinned, remembering the previous Christmas, and followed Mr.
Weasley from the room. They joined the others in the drawing room where
Celestina was crooning from the old victrola in the corner of the room.
Mrs. Weasley was sitting in front of it with misty eyes as she swayed
to the music. Bill and Fleur sat in a corner, whispering to each other
while Fleur mimed crude imitations of Celestina behind Mrs. Weasley’s
back. Ginny was standing in a corner talking with Hermione and Fred,
while Ron watched Charlie play against George in a game of chess.
Harry walked over to Ron and gently nudged him in the ribs.
"Hey. Where’ve you been?" Ron asked, turning away from the game.
Harry shrugged. "I just had a word with your dad. How’s Hermione?"
"Brilliant," Ron said, a wide grin spreading across his face. "She’s
back to herself."
Harry failed to suppress the grin that spread on his face. "That’s
good. Obviously things are better between the two of you."
Ron looked at his trainers while he scuffed the floor. "I almost lost
her, Harry. She could have died before I ever had the chance to tell
her… Well, before I could set things to rights. I don’t care about her
hair; it’ll grow back. Nearly losing her made me see what you meant
about grabbing happiness while it’s there, that there are no
guarantees," Ron said gruffly, his ears turning a brilliant shade of
"So…you’re dating?" Harry asked, feeling awkward. He and Ron rarely
talked about stuff like this, but sometimes he found the only way to
get an answer from Ron was to be blunt.
"Yeah, we are. Are you okay with that?" Ron asked, looking suddenly
Harry watched as Mr. and Mrs. Weasley began dancing in the center of
the room. Bill and Fleur quickly joined them, and Harry saw Bill wag
his finger warningly at his wife, who laughed musically.
He was okay with Ron and Hermione dating. He’d worried about it in the
past, wondering what would happen if things didn’t work or, or worse,
if they left him behind. Now that he was with Ginny, however, having
two couples completed them somehow. Besides, he could never deny their
attempts to find some happiness in all this mess. They’d certainly
helped him find his.
"Nah, I’m okay. I’m just glad you finally took your head out of your
arse and asked her," he said, laughing.
Ron shoved him. "Oh, you’re one to talk."
"Hey! Why are you shoving Harry?" Ginny asked as she and Hermione
"For being a right git," Ron said, taking Hermione’s hand.
"You look wonderful, Hermione" Harry said.
Hermione beamed. "Thanks, Harry. Ginny and Fleur really did a nice job.
Now we’ll have to do something about turning your hair red," she said,
laughing and tugging on a lock of his hair.
He ducked, jerking his head away.
"Harry wants red hair?" Fred asked. "I think I have something that
would take care of that."
Harry’s eyes widened in alarm. Taking Ginny by the hand, he backed
away. "That’s okay. My hair is fine, thanks."
He quickly wrapped his arms around Ginny and joined the others on the
dance floor. Resting his chin on the top of her head as they swayed, he
watched Ron and Hermione join them on the floor. The music might not
have been his first choice, and their location certainly left a lot tobe desired, but it didn’t matter. This, this is why he was fighting.
Times like these, being with his friends…his family…this was worth
anything Voldemort might throw at him. He’d fight with everything he
had to make moments like this one possible.
As September wound down and the weather turned markedly cooler, the
event Harry had been dreading was scheduled. His first Occlumency
lesson with the Malfoys had arrived. He met Remus in a small room off
the second floor landing and sat down to await the arrival of Narcissa
He and Remus greeted each other pleasantly, but an uncomfortable
silence had descended upon the room once they sat down. Harry knew the
Order felt these Occlumency lessons were important, but he also
suspected that some of them might be trying to use the Malfoys in order
to learn what Harry was doing. Harry couldn’t help but be disappointed
in Remus for going along with them. He tried to be reasonable and see
Remus’s point of view, as Hermione insisted he should, but when he
allowed the darkness to enter his thoughts, his mind whispered that
Sirius never would have done it.
"I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised you agreed to this, Harry. I
didn’t think you would," Remus said.
Harry shrugged. "I don’t think it’s the answer, but I’m willing to give
it a go," he said, not meeting Remus’s eyes.
"I understand your hesitancy, Harry," Remus said gently.
"Do you really? Do you really understand what you’re asking of me,
Remus? The same feelings that ran between the Marauders and Snape while
you were in school now run between Malfoy and me. Would you have let
Snape into your thoughts and memories back then? Would Sirius or my
dad? Particularly if you had something specific you wanted to hide from
him?" Harry demanded, his anger bubbling to the surface.
Remus sighed heavily, dropping his head. "Professor Dumbledore was
certain that Occlumency would help you last year. He only changed his
mind based on Severus’s opinion. We know now that Severus couldn’t be
trusted. I don’t think he tried to teach you properly. If Severus
didn’t want you able to do it, then it’s more than likely it can help
protect you. It’s at least worth another effort. I understand your
feelings, Harry, but I do believe this is for the best."
"I know you do," Harry said quietly, an uncomfortable churning in his
belly. "I’m willing to make some considerations to appease the Order."
"What exactly does that mean?" Remus asked sharply.
Harry finally raised his eyes to meet Remus’s gaze. "It means that I’ve
taken some precautions of my own."
Remus frowned, but the door swung open, cutting off their conversation.
Draco Malfoy strode into the room confidently, shooting Harry an amused
grin that instantly raised Harry’s hackles. Narcissa followed her son, her nose arrogantly held in the air. She wore flowing midnight blue
robes and dusted her chair with distaste before she sat.
"So, you want to learn the fine art of Occlumency, do you, Potter?"
Malfoy asked, sneering yet still managing to keep that irritating grin
in place. "I highly doubt you’ll have the necessary cunning to master
it. After all, you Gryffindors tend to wear your hearts on your
"Now, now, Draco," Narcissa said, "let’s not discourage him before we
get started." Although she apparently was scolding her son, Narcissa
acted as if she was more amused than disapproving.
"Draco, Narcissa," Remus said, nodding to each of them.
"That will be all," Narcissa said, waving her hand without even sparing
him a glance. "My son and I can take it from here."
"Actually, I’ll be staying to observe," Remus said pleasantly.
Narcissa’s nostrils flared. "Occlumency takes a great deal of effort
and concentration. I won’t have my son worrying about a werewolf attack
while he’s attempting it."
"I understand your concerns, but we’re nowhere near the full moon,"
Remus said mildly. "I assure you that you’re quite safe."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Harry asked, fuming. "Malfoy here is
in far less danger from Remus than we are from him."
"That’s enough, Harry," Remus said. His casual acceptance of the way
the Malfoys treated him infuriated Harry, and he clenched his fists to
keep from shaking his father’s old friend.
"Oh, yes. Of course you would defend the creature," Narcissa said,
sitting down as far from Remus as she could.
"Don’t worry, Mother. I was forced to endure Lupin’s company for an
entire year while he taught at Hogwarts, and I managed to avoid being
attacked. I can handle him," Malfoy said, smirking at Harry.
"Thank you for that, Draco," Remus said, rolling his eyes. "Now, I
believe it’s Occlumency that we’re here to discuss."
Harry was pleased to see Remus finally letting his irritation show.
"Yes, it is. Draco is a superb Occlumens. I understand you’ve already
had some instruction?" Narcissa asked, her icy blue eyes pinning Harry
to his chair.
"Yeah, from Snape," Harry spat. "He said I was hopeless at it,
"That sounds like Severus," Narcissa said, a ghost of a smile appearing
on her lips.
"I gave up on it after my fifth year. I really don’t see the point,"
"Yeah, well, you lot never were the best judge of Snape, were you?"
Malfoy asked. "You actually thought he was on your side."
"I didn’t. I never trusted him," Harry said, clenching his jaw.
"Pity you were never able to expose him, then," Malfoy said, grinning.
Harry’s blood boiled. It took all his self-restraint not to curse
Malfoy where he stood. In fact, his wand was twitching in his hand.
"Both my mother and I are accomplished Occlumens. We’ll work together
to see what you’re capable of, then we’ll let you know if there’s any
hope to teach you," Malfoy said, gloating. He was obviously enjoying
being in a position of power over Harry.
Harry couldn’t wait to knock him down a few pegs, even if he had to
suffer through Occlumency to do it.
"You and your mother only?" Harry asked, his curiosity getting the
better of him. "What about your father? Is he accomplished, as well?"
Draco scowled, and Narcissa lowered her eyes. "No. He never felt the
need to conceal any of his thoughts," Draco said bitterly.
"Draco, that’s enough," Narcissa said, and this time she did sound
angry. "Why don’t you and Potter start? I’ll observe."
Harry took a deep breath and moved into the center of the room, staring
warily at Malfoy. His wand felt slick in his grasp from his sweaty
hands, but he fought to control his nerves.
Malfoy’s gray eyes glittered dangerously.
"Deep breathing, Potter. Allow your physical body to relax while you
envision a strong stone wall within your mind. Focus on nothing else
but the stone wall," Narcissa said, surprising Harry. It was the first
actual instruction on how to clear his thoughts that he’d ever been
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, picturing the cold stone of
the hearth in the hut where Uncle Vernon had hid them all while trying
to avoid Harry’s Hogwarts letters.
"Legilimens," Malfoy cried.
Harry’s vision swam. The stone wall he’d so carefully constructed
imploded in his mind.
He was inside the hut on the sea, lying on the floor and attempting to
sleep despite the freezing cold while Dudley snored on the couch above
He was sitting in Dumbledore’s office after the Third Task, trembling
with Fawkes perched on his knee. He was so tired; he wanted nothing
more than to sleep and not think or feel anything for a time…
He and Professor Dumbledore sat with Professor Slughorn. The rotund
retired Potions’ Master insisted he didn’t want to return to Hogwarts,
that he was too old and broken to go back…
He was snogging Ginny on the couch inside their magical tent and
getting caught up in the moment. His hand slipped beneath her shirt to
feel the deliciously warm bare skin on her back…
"Enough!" Harry snarled, finally forcing Malfoy from his mind, enraged.
"That’s private." He was exhausted and panting heavily. It was all he
could do to remain standing.
"Don’t worry, Potter. I couldn’t care less what you get up to with
Weaslette, but it did make you finally fight back. Why did you let me
see those other memories?" Malfoy asked, amused. A light sweat
glistened on his brow, but otherwise he appeared unaffected.
"What happened, Draco? How did he do?" Narcissa asked, lazily drumming
her fingers on her chair.
"I broke in without much resistance at all," Draco replied gleefully.
"His pitiful attempt at a wall crumpled almost instantly. I saw Potter
as a child with some fat lout in a freezing little hovel. The next
scene was in Dumbledore’s office, and things appeared rather tense.
Potter looked a right mess, and Sirius Black was there."
Remus’s head shot up at mention of Sirius’s name.
"Ah, yes. Your dearly departed godfather," Narcissa said, her voice
dripping with false sincerity. "How tragic. Did you recognize the
Harry nodded stiffly. "It was after the Third Task."
"The other was a memory of him, Dumbledore, and Slughorn. It appeared
as if Dumbledore was trying to convince Slughorn to return to Hogwarts,
but why were you there, Potter?" Malfoy asked, his eyes narrowed.
Harry shrugged. "Professor Dumbledore said he had an errand to run
while we were on our way somewhere else. Why were you so interested in
my memories of Professor Dumbledore, anyway?" Harry asked, whirling on
Malfoy shrugged. "These were the first memories I stumbled across,
Potter. Either they’ve been on your mind lately, or it was pure chance.
Your mind is an open book, after all. The Dark Lord will make mince
meat of you in no time."
"That’s enough," Remus said, snapping. For the first time that
afternoon, there was a trace of anger in his voice, but Harry was
uncertain as to the cause.
"Anything else, Draco?" Narcissa asked, obviously enjoying herself
"A snogging session between Potter and the Weasley girl. I don’t know
where they were, but he looked as if he was enjoying himself. It was on
that memory that he finally managed to push me out," Malfoy drawled.
"This isn’t going to work if Potter is already worried about your
finding things he doesn’t want you to see, Draco. Stay away from
memories about his girlfriend. I most certainly don’t want you exposed
to that, anyway," Narcissa said disdainfully. "Try again and stick to
thoughts when you were younger — your first year at Hogwarts, perhaps
when you were both there together. Is that less threatening for you,
Harry had to grit his teeth, not wanting Malfoy near any of his
memories, but refusing to show his hesitancy. He wouldn’t allow Malfoy
to think he was scaring him.
"Fine," he bit out, his jaw aching, it was clenched so tight.
Remus appeared hesitant, but he retook his seat and allowed them to
"Once again, work on that solid strong wall, Potter. Make it stronger
this time, reinforce it. Use it as your shield," Narcissa said.
"Legilimens," Malfoy said.
He was inside Madam Malkin’s trying on robes for the first time with a
nervous, sickly feeling in his stomach. Malfoy was standing on the
stool next to him, questioning him on Houses and Quidditch and a
variety of other things that Harry knew nothing about. He had the
distinct impression that he didn’t like this boy very much…
They were at Hogwarts attending their first flying lesson. Malfoy had
snatched Neville’s Remembrall and was taunting Harry, daring him to
give chase. Harry had never been on a broom before, but he wasn’t about
to let the blonde get away with it…
He was trapped inside his cupboard feeling bored and incredibly hungry.
He couldn’t remember how long he’d been there, but knew he was cramped
and uncomfortable and longing to stretch his legs. If only he could
find something to eat…
Dudley and his pals Piers and Malcolm were chasing him home from
school. They always thought a game of Harry hunting was the best way to
burn off steam. Harry had twisted his ankle jumping over a fence, and
his heart was beating loudly, fearing they’d catch him. They hadn’t
been able to catch him once yet this month, and they’d be determined
for some payback if they did…
Malfoy stumbled slightly as Harry finally pushed him from his mind. He
dropped to his knees, sweating and panting and beyond humiliated that
Malfoy had seen some of those memories. Merlin, I hate this. It’s a
"Harry, are you all right?" Remus asked, alarmed as he rushed over to
assist Harry to his feet.
Harry felt shaky and ill, and his scar was burning hot. He rubbed it
absently while trying to control his nausea.
"What happened, Draco?" Narcissa asked, perplexed.
Malfoy shrugged, staring at Harry with an odd expression on his face.
"I don’t know. I only saw a bunch of childhood memories; I don’t know
why it affected him so badly."
"Does your head hurt, Harry?" Remus asked, glancing significantly at
Harry tried to nod but it made the room spin so he stopped. "Yeah," he
whispered. "First time in a long time."
"I think that’s enough for today," Remus said, watching Harry closely.
"I didn’t know Potter had migraines," Malfoy drawled. "Of course
Occlumency can trigger them. I’m surprised Snape didn’t tell you; it’s
most likely the reason you were never able to master it. People who
suffer migraines rarely can."
"I don’t get migraines," Harry said through clenched teeth, wishing
they’d all shut up until his head stopped pounding.
"Whatever you say," Malfoy said, smirking, although his expression
seemed to lack its usual vindictiveness.
"Fine. If it isn’t a migraine, we can try again in a few days,"
Narcissa said decisively. She turned on her heel and strode from the
room, beckoning Malfoy to follow.
"Can I get you anything, Harry?" Remus asked, gently squeezing Harry’s
"No. I’ll be fine after I lie down for a bit. Just tell the others I’ll
be down later," Harry whispered, trying not to heave all over Remus.
"Very well. At some point I would like to discuss what you meant by
precautions, however," Remus said, helping him to stand.
Harry grunted noncommittally.
He wearily climbed the stairs back to his bedroom, feeling old and
tired. His head ached in a way that it hadn’t done in nearly a year,
and he was alarmed by it. He opened the door and slipped inside,
catching a glimpse of his pale face in the mirror on his door.
Opening his trunk, he carefully withdrew the Pensieve that Professor
Dumbledore had given him. One by one, he carefully extracted gossamer
white trails of memories from the Pensieve with his wand and restored
them to his mind.
Neither Malfoy nor the Order had learned anything about the Horcruxes
tonight. As long as he remained vigilant, they never would.
September melted into October without Harry even being aware of the
passage of time. He felt as if he’d flipped through the pages of every
book in the library and still come up with nothing on Horcruxes. He’d
begun to understand Hermione’s dismay that the library had let her
down. How could there be nothing written about something that obviously
He’d continued his Occlumency lessons with the Malfoys, but hadn’t made
any progress since that first lesson. While Harry’s head ached during
practice and even for a short time afterwards, he hadn’t experienced
any of the visions or flashes of Voldemort’s moods as he had during his
fifth year. The sessions always left him feeling tired and drained,
A dismal, tense mood had settled over headquarters during the past
week. The number of Dark creature attacks against Muggles had increased
dramatically. In fact, Mr. Weasley said he couldn’t remember a time
when there had been more vampire sightings within Britain. Several
high-ranking Ministry officials had gone missing within a short span of
time, leaving those left behind overworked and anxious. Some of the
wealthier families had gone abroad, as far away from Britain as they
Members of the Order were spread thin trying to clean up one mess after
another, leaving headquarters virtually empty most of the time. While
this allowed Harry to do his research unhindered, it also meant that no
one had had the time to look for Crabbe and Goyle’s fathers.
The attacks on Muggles and Muggleborns had Hermione understandably
worried for her own family. Mr. Weasley had promised that her family
was being watched, but she still worried. She’d got a bee in her bonnet
about returning to Albania, that they’d somehow missed something there.
Again, something in Harry’s gut told him what they were looking for
wasn’t in Albania. Ginny had suggested that perhaps Voldemort hadn’t
spent all his time there, after all. Greece bordered a large part of
Albania and maybe that was what inspired his use of the Parthenon.
Harry allowed that it was possible, but regardless, he didn’t think
either place held any answers for him.
Of course, Hermione wouldn’t let it go and refused to accept his
reasoning without a more sound explanation for his unwillingness to go
back. The problem was Harry didn’t have a sound reason; he just knew
it. A dark, underlying part of him wondered if it had something to do
with the bit of Voldemort’s soul that he now knew resided within him.
He and Hermione had argued about it over breakfast, and now Harry was
sitting in front of a fire in the drawing room with a large book on the
Dark Arts in his lap. He wasn’t really seeing the words, however. Hiseyes had glazed as his mind dwelled upon the fact that he was a
Locating and destroying the cup had been a huge victory, but it also
brought him one step closer to doing what he feared he’d have to do. He
couldn’t talk about it with any of the others because it seemed to
distress them even more than it distressed him. So, Harry was left
alone to contemplate his feelings, and the toll was wearing him down.
This was how Ginny found him when she entered the drawing room and sat
down next to him. He took a moment to even acknowledge her presence,
and when he did, it was with a start.
"What are you thinking about that’s making you frown that way?" she
asked, smoothing the tense lines around his mouth with her fingers.
"I was just thinking about what we had to do next," he replied.
"You’re worried," she said.
The corner of Harry’s mouth quirked upwards — he could never fool her.
"A bit," he said. "Hermione wants to go back to Albania."
Ginny nodded without response. Harry had the impression she’d already
heard the other side of the argument and wondered if she’d sought him
out to continue Hermione’s pleas.
When Ginny remained silent, he prodded her. "What d’you think?"
"Well," she replied slowly, "I can see why Hermione feels the way she
does, but I also think your instincts have been spot on so far. If you
don’t think it’s what we should do, I’m willing to trust your
Her words didn’t reassure him the way they should have. "Why?" he
demanded. "Why do you trust me? How can you be so certain I’m making
the right decisions?"
"Harry, I think it’s only human to second guess our decisions. The only
time we can ever be certain if we’re doing right is after the fact. You
have to make these decisions without hindsight and, so far, it’s
working. You were right about the last Horcrux — not only where it was,
but how to destroy it. I don’t know how you know, but you do. I trust
Ginny’s eyes bored into him, and he turned away from the intense
scrutiny, feeling exposed and utterly vulnerable. "You shouldn’t. I
have a nasty habit of getting the people I care about killed," he
"That’s a Malfoy talking," Ginny snapped. "Don’t listen to them, Harry.
They’re trying to get under your skin. I hate this stupid Occlumency
idea. Malfoy hates you because of his own inferiority complex. He’ll
never be better than you, and inside he knows it, and it eats him
Despite his melancholy, he couldn’t help but smile at her fierce
loyalty. "I love it when you’re fiery," he said, grinning.
"Oh, you do, do you?" she asked, swaying her shoulders seductively. "I
can show you fiery."
Leaning over, she kissed him soundly. He ran his fingers through the
shorter strands of her hair as every nerve ending in his body suddenly
stood on end. After several minutes of pleasant but tame kissing, she
pulled back, frowning.
"What’s bothering you, Harry?" she asked.
Harry averted his eyes again, wanting desperately to talk with her, but
also worried about her reaction. Before he could second-guess it, the
words burst from his throat. "I’m scared, Ginny. What if the reason I’m
feeling this connection to these Horcruxes is because they’re part of
Ginny nodded solemnly, as if she understood his fear. "It most likely
is. That would make sense."
It wasn’t what he wanted to hear. He wanted her to deny it and give him
logical reasons why it couldn’t be so.
"But, Ginny! How can you say that and still trust me? I’ve got a bit of
Voldemort in me," he said, nearly choking on the words.
"Yes," Ginny replied, nodding. "You have a bit inside you, but it’s not
you. You’re in control, and you’re the one I trust."
"How can you be certain?" he whispered, fighting the hope that flared
in his heart.
"Is that what’s bothering you?" she asked, tracing the line of his face
with her fingertips. "Are you worried that Tom has more control over
you than you know? Don’t let him do that, Harry. He’s making you doubt
yourself, that’s how he works. Don’t let him succeed. You’re going to
beat him. You’ll find these other two Horcruxes, and then you’ll manage
to defeat him while keeping yourself whole. I know you will."
"Don’t doubt it, Harry."
"I have to! Are you listening to yourself? Ginny, I have to destroy a
part of myself to win," Harry said, feeling utterly hopeless.
"No," she replied firmly. "You don’t have to destroy part of yourself.
He’s separate from you, and after all this time, he’s never been able
to gain control."
Harry looked up suddenly, her words jarring loose a memory.
"What?" she asked, perplexed.
"That instrument that I got from Professor Dumbledore," Harry said, his
mind racing. "When I saw him checking it after your father was hurt,
remember how I told you the smoke formed a snake? Well, Professor
Dumbledore said something about being divided and the one snake split
into two. Do you suppose it was me that he was checking on — checking
to see if he’d managed to take control?"
"It’s certainly plausible," Ginny said slowly, "but didn’t you say
Dumbledore wasn’t certain about the Horcruxes until he got the memory
from Professor Slughorn?"
"Yeah…but he always had his secrets," Harry replied, his brow furrowed.
Ginny shrugged. "Even if he suspected, that story proves it. You’ve
been winning all along."
Harry looked at her doubtfully.
Ginny sighed, exasperated. "Harry, do you think you can believe in
something that you’ve never seen before?"
It was Harry’s turn to roll his eyes. "Ginny, I lived as Muggle for ten
years before I was exposed to magic. I’d have to believe anything is
possible after that, wouldn’t I? But Voldemort is still much stronger
"But you do have something just as wondrous that he doesn’t — it’s your
ability to love, and the people who love you," Ginny said, taking his
shirt in her fists and shaking him slightly. "Don’t discount that.
Dumbledore believed in you, I believe in you. You’re stronger than any
bit of Tom ever could be.
"You’ve already beaten him if he’s been inside you all this time, and
there is no trace. There was a trace with me, Harry. I have huge gaps
in my memory that year, but I can remember walking outside, wondering
why but doing it anyway. That was right before the roosters were
killed. I went outside and then my memory just stops. You’re stronger
than that. You’ve always been true to yourself, and he couldn’t bear to
be inside you at the Department of Mysteries because you are so
different from him. The piece of him that’s inside you hasn’t overtaken
you, despite your tough childhood. Don’t underestimate the value of
"Ginny, you were strong; you were only eleven," Harry said adamantly.
Ginny waved her hand in the air. "I’m not saying I didn’t try to fight
it eventually, but more than anyone else I know what you’re up against,
and I can see from experience how different it is. Believe me, Harry."
"I’m trying," he whispered.
Ginny held him in silence for a few moments before saying, "When you
tried to break up with me at the end of term, you said being with me
was like something out of someone else’s life."
"It is," Harry said softly, not meeting her eyes.
Ginny grabbed his chin and forced him to look at her. "That was the
saddest thing I’d ever heard. What we had…what we have…is wonderful and
special and it makes my heart dance, but I know it’s the way things are
supposed to be. It breaks my heart that you don’t think you deserve
that. You’re going to win, Harry, and I’m going to spend the rest of
our lives showing you how good things are supposed to be."
Harry looked up, startled. "You love me?" he asked, blinking.
Ginny’s face colored brightly, and her gaze looked everywhere but at
him. "I’ve always loved you, Harry."
Harry’s spirit suddenly soared. "You have? Say it," he demanded.
Ginny giggled, embarrassed. When he continued to stare at her intently,
he felt her tremble slightly before she whispered, "I love you, Harry."
He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her shoulder.
"That feels good," he said, his voice muffled.
"What?" she asked, returning the embrace.
"Hearing those words."
Ginny sniffled against his chest.
He took a deep breath, inhaling that sweet flowery scent that always
made him feel as if he was home. She’d shown her Gryffindor courage and
done as he asked. It wouldn’t be fair of him not to offer her the same
"I love you, too," he whispered into her shoulder, his body tense. He
was surprised at how easily the words flowed once he’d decided to say
Ginny pulled back, blinking and biting her lip. Her eyes filled with
moisture as they wandered over his face, as if trying to be certain
she’d heard it.
"I love you, too," he repeated, more confidently now. It wasn’t hard to
say at all.
Ginny’s grin spread across her face, making her eyes shine. She pulled
him tighter to her and whispered, "Now, this house is pretty much
empty. Even Mum went out with some of the Order to clean up an attack
in Cornwall. I think there are other things we could be discussing
besides Voldemort while they’re away, don’t you?
Harry grinned and pulled her onto his lap. Indeed, there were much
pleasanter ways to spend the unsupervised afternoon.
Several days later, Harry was scheduled to have another go at
Occlumency with the Malfoys. Remus had gone on an assignment for the
Order and was unable to attend. Alastor Moody had agreed to take his
place. He arrived first and instantly pulled Harry aside.
"Afternoon, Potter. Before we start here today, I thought I’d pass on a
friendly warning," Moody said gruffly.
"A warning?" Harry asked, perplexed.
"Be careful what information you allow to be seen in these sessions.
Constant vigilance, Potter. Not only against the Malfoys — never a lot
to be trusted as far as I’m concerned — but also against any
information you don’t want leaked to other sources," Moody replied.
"Other sources? Are you telling me the Malfoys are passing along
information to the Order?" Harry asked, his anger rising. Even though
he’d suspected it, he couldn’t help the wave of disappointment that
swept over him.
"Kingsley always does what he believes to be the right thing. He tends
to forget that he might not be the only one seeing the big picture — or
might not be the one with all the facts. Narcissa will always do what
suits her best. You’d do well to remember that," Moody said, his
magical eye swirling towards the door.
A moment later, Draco Malfoy strolled down the hallway. He smirked when
he saw Moody and Harry watching his approach.
"Good, you’re both here. My mother asked me to inform you that she
won’t be able to attend today’s lesson," he drawled, sounding bored.
"What do you mean she’s unable to attend?" Moody snapped. "What’s she
doing? Watching her hair grow?"
The color in Malfoy’s cheeks heightened slightly, but otherwise he
showed no response. "She said she won’t be expected to make it a
priority if others simply brush it off without a satisfactory
explanation. If you people can’t give it the respect it is due, she
certainly won’t either."
"Stupid, stuck-up woman," Moody muttered under his breath.
"Lupin couldn’t be here because of a situation with the war," Harry
said through gritted teeth. "She does remember there’s a war going on,
"How could she forget?" Malfoy asked, sneering. "It’s left us stuck
here with you and your merry lot of bunglers."
"Stay here both of you," Moody barked. "I’ll go fetch her."
He left both boys on the landing as he stormed up the stairs towards
the wing where Narcissa stayed.
"Oh, Mother will love that," Malfoy said, his lip twitching.
Despite his annoyance, Harry felt the corner of his mouth quirk as he
envisioned the scene. When he and Malfoy realized how close they wereto sharing a laugh, both quickly wiped the smiles from their faces and
shoved their hands into their pockets, scowling.
"So, Potter, what’s so important about learning Occlumency, anyway?
You’re obviously not very good at it," Malfoy asked.
Harry shrugged, averting his eyes. "Professor Dumbledore thought it was
important. Do you think Moody will get your mother to come down?" Harry
asked impatiently. If they weren’t going to have an Occlumency lesson,
he had other things he’d rather do than stand around chatting with
"Not likely. Mother’s in a foul mood," Malfoy replied.
"What’s she upset about now?" Harry asked, rolling his eyes.
Malfoy appeared thunderstruck. "What reason could she possibly have to
be upset? I don’t know, Potter. Maybe those filthy Muggles you call
relatives conditioned you to find being locked up acceptable, but I
assure you, my mother and I do not," he sneered.
Harry inhaled sharply; it was the first time Malfoy had made any
reference to what he’d seen of the Dursleys.
"Why do they hate you so much? I thought you were everyone’s golden
child," Malfoy asked, his gray eyes puzzled.
"We’re not talking about the Dursleys," Harry snapped, feeling slightly
unstrung. "We’re talking about your mother’s diva antics."
"My mother has been confined with your precious Order for months
without even being allowed the simplest contact with my father. Her
patience is wearing thin," Malfoy shot back.
"I wonder why? It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact
your father is a Death Eater and most likely would sell you out to his
precious Dark Lord, does it?" Harry asked, scoffing. He was pleased to
see Malfoy’s color fade slightly.
"My father would never betray my mother," Malfoy said in a low,
"No? How about you? Would he turn you over to Voldemort, Malfoy? His
own son," Harry asked. Malfoy cringed, a myriad of expressions crossing
"You think you’re so tough tossing that name around, don’t you? He’s
going to make you pay for it, you know," Malfoy said, recovering his
"Oh. We’re back on this again, are we?" Harry asked in a bored voice.
"Yes. We are. In fact, we’ve never got off it. The Dark Lord is going
to kill you, and where does that leave us? The Order will be
effectively wiped out once they’ve lost their only hope, and my mother
and I will be left like sitting ducks," Malfoy spat.
"You don’t know the Order at all if you think they’ll just roll over
and let him do as he pleases, even without me," Harry replied softly.
"But it won’t matter, will it? You’re their precious Chosen One, right?
Without you, they’re all lost…and you certainly don’t present much of a
threat," Malfoy said.
"Time will tell," said Harry, fighting not to show any emotion. Despite
the fact he agreed with the git’s assessment, he wasn’t about to let
Malfoy know it.
"Oh, there’s an understatement. Bravo," Malfoy said, applauding.
Harry had grown weary of Malfoy’s taunts, and it didn’t appear that
Moody was having any luck with Narcissa, either. "What is it you want,
Malfoy? What does your mother expect from us?" Harry asked.
Malfoy’s eyes narrowed as he stared intently at Harry. "I want to speak
with my father."
"So write him a letter. I’m certain you could get Tonks to deliver it
for you," Harry said, carelessly waving his hand.
"I can’t put anything into writing, you idiot. My father more than
likely has orders to pass on anything he receives from us, and he can’t
go against a direct order," Malfoy said.
"Can’t or won’t?" Harry asked belligerently.
"Can’t," Malfoy replied through clenched teeth. "I need to speak to him
"Good luck," Harry replied, rolling his eyes.
"He doesn’t know he has an option — that my mother and I are alive. I’m
certain he believes you’ve killed us," Malfoy said quietly.
Harry’s eyes widened. "We’re not the ones that go around killing people
for sport," he said incredulously.
"Oh, get over yourself, Potter. We’re your enemies; he’d expect nothing
less. Dumbledore knew that. He offered us an escape, and he included my
father in that offer," Malfoy replied.
Harry’s mind raced. Malfoy’s request could prove the perfect cover that
Harry needed to get into Azkaban. If Professor Dumbledore had made him
the promise, the Order would feel obliged to keep it. It would suit
Harry’s plans to check on Dung’s belongings if he could wrangle a way
to go along.
"If I can convince the Order to allow you out to travel to Azkaban, I’m
going with you."
"What? There’s no way you’re listening to a private conversation
between my father and me," Malfoy said indignantly.
"Then you’re not going," Harry replied, shrugging.
Malfoy scowled, but after considering his options, he eventually
nodded. "I suppose I don’t have a choice. Very well, you can accompany
"Gee, thanks, Malfoy. Will you wear your best dress robes for the
occasion?" Harry asked, raising his eyebrow.
Malfoy flushed, turned on his heel and stormed from the room. Harry
grinned. This might work out exactly the way he needed.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny had carefully reviewed their plans about
requesting the trip to Azkaban. Hermione thought it was a risky idea
for both Harry and Malfoy and didn’t think the Order would allow it.
Harry thought he could persuade some members easily than others. The
obstacle was narrowing down his choices.
The opportunity presented itself approximately a week later when Tonks
and Remus burst into the sitting room where the teens were gathered.
"We did it, Harry," Tonks said, grasping Remus’s robes after she
tripped in the doorway. They hadn’t seen much of Tonks at all during
the month of September. She was either stationed at Azkaban or
recuperating from her visits there.
Remus deftly caught her, and they continued into the room as if nothing
had happened. Harry and the others covered their grins.
"Did what?" Ron asked.
"You asked us if the Ministry had a way of locating someone and wanted
us to track Octavius Crabbe and Busby Goyle. I haven’t spent a lot of
time at the Ministry recently, but I was there tonight, and I finally
located one of them," Tonks said, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
"Only one?" Hermione asked, frowning. "I thought magical imprints could
be traced. The Ministry must have ways of watching a certain person?"
"It’s not as simple as that. I’m looking for specific people, but any
magic done in the vicinity where that person is will show up on the
record. If they’re in a place like Diagon Alley…well, the numbers can
be staggering. The only reason I found Octavius Crabbe so quickly is
that he performed a spell in a Muggle area — a flame charm," Tonks
"Where?" asked Harry, feeling an adrenaline rush beginning. He’d been
cooped up too long and was eager to accomplish something.
"On a beach in Scotland. It’s very deserted this time of year, so I’m
not certain what he’s doing there. Want to go take a look?" she asked.
Harry’s mind raced. He was certain it would be the same beach where he
and Dumbledore had found the fake Horcrux, or at least above the rocky
ledge where Tom Riddle had once lured two frightened children. Since
autumn had begun, the weather was growing chillier. Harry imagined thebeach was cold after nightfall, and Crabbe might forget Voldemort’s
instructions about not using magic in favor of comfort.
"Yeah," he said. "Let’s go take a look and see what he’s doing."
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny left with Remus and Tonks despite Mrs.
Weasley’s worried face. Ginny kissed her on the cheek before Mr.
Weasley wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulder, and the two stood
stoically as they watched their children depart.
The group Apparated to a spot on the roadside a fair distance from the
rocky cliff. A crisp breeze blew, causing them to clench their jackets
closer to their bodies. The smell of salty air greeted them as they
glanced around, letting their eyes adjust to the darkness. Harry could
hear the crashing of waves against the sharp rocks at the base of the
cliff. The familiarity of the place, and the haunting memories of what
had happened on his previous visit, sent a sharp pain through his
He’d been here with Professor Dumbledore on the last night of his
former headmaster’s life. He’d watched in awe as Dumbledore detected
the hidden entrance below, and the magic surrounding it. He’d forced
his mentor to drink poison because of a promise he’d hastily made when
he’d been desperate to be allowed along on an adventure. Harry inhaled
a deep breath of salty air. This time, he wouldn’t allow himself to be
Ginny must have sensed his inner turmoil, for she slipped her small
hand into his and gave it a reassuring squeeze. He attempted to smile,
but knew he’d failed miserably. Remus motioned for them to be quiet and
to follow him as they moved down the road.
They hadn’t gone very far when Harry spotted Crabbe standing on the
rocks beside a small campfire that was hovering in the air — and he
wasn’t alone. Another man stood across from him, gesturing wildly at
Harry and the others cast Disillusionment Charms upon themselves and
quietly crept closer towards the duo in order to hear what was being
said. Harry couldn’t suppress a shudder as he glanced at the steep
incline where he and Dumbledore had followed Riddle’s trail. It felt
almost as if that had been another lifetime. Dumbledore had trusted him
to bring him back to safety.
I am not worried, Harry…I am with you.
Harry shook his head. Now was not the time to dwell on memories; he had
a job to do.
"Did you have some information to pass along to me, or is your only
purpose here to complain that I decided to keep warm, Ferguson?" Crabbe
asked his cohort, sounding disgruntled.
He appeared as thickset and solid as Harry remembered, although he
thought he might have grown pudgier around the middle since that
fateful night in the graveyard.
Death Eaters must be eating well these days, Harry thought sourly.
The other man, Ferguson, was leaner than Crabbe, although still rather
stout. He had a thin mustache that curled slightly at the end, perhaps
thinking it made him appear aristocratic. Harry thought it made him
look like a ponce.
"I was asked to tell you to keep your eyes open for any of the
Parkinson birds. If they come to you seeking aid, you’re to detain them
and call the Dark Lord immediately," Ferguson said, sounding as if he
were repeating something he’d memorized.
"Parkinson? What’s Philip done to have the Dark Lord looking for his
family?" Crabbe asked in a stunned whisper.
Ferguson shrugged, but lowered his voice and said, "Philip’s dead. His
wife and kids have disappeared the same way the Malfoy bint and her
brat did. Master believes one of them knows where the Malfoys are
Crabbe whistled through his teeth. "My Lord must be very unhappy with
the recent run of traitors. Why do you suppose that is? D’you think the
"I wouldn’t finish that thought if I were you," Ferguson said, glancing
around nervously. "The Dark Lord always knows, and you wouldn’t want
him to suspect that you’re questioning the loyalty of his servants."
"No! No. I mean, that’s not what I meant. The Dark Lord will discipline
his servants, and soon all will call him Master," Crabbe said
"I still have to go and pass this information to Simmons. Mind your
post and keep a lookout for any of the Parkinsons," Ferguson said. He
turned on his heel and began walking toward the road without waiting
for a response.
Remus motioned for the others to follow him, and he led them in the
opposite direction from where Ferguson had departed. When they were far
enough away from Crabbe to ensure that he couldn’t overhear them, Remus
reversed the Disillusionment Charms.
"Parkinson? As in Pansy Parkinson?" Ginny asked immediately.
"Yes," Remus said, nodding. "Philip Parkinson is…was a Death Eater.
Pansy and her older sister must be on the run. I vaguely remember both
girls from when I taught at Hogwarts."
"We’d better get back to Headquarters and inform the rest of the
Order," Tonks said, grimly compressing her lips.
"Yes," Remus replied. "Does any of this mean anything to you, Harry? Do
you know why Octavius Crabbe is stationed here?"
Harry nodded. "I have an idea," he answered, avoiding the older man’s
eyes. "Thanks for letting me know you’d found him, but he’s not the oneI need. It’s Goyle that I have to find. Can you keep trying, Tonks?"
Tonks nodded, glancing hesitantly at Remus. "Of course. I wish I knew
Harry shifted his feet, hating lying to them. "I think he’s guarding
something I need to find."
"Need to find in order to find You-Know-Who?" she asked.
"Something like that," Harry said, nodding. "Can you help me?"
"Of course. I’ll keep checking each time I go to the Ministry. I think
Mad-Eye is trying to come up with some kind of tracking system, as
well. It’s keeping him busy anyway," Tonks said, smiling. "Of course,
the Ministry has tried to track You-Know-Who for years and never had
any luck with it."
"I have one more request," Harry said.
"What’s that?" Remus asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Harry-" Hermione said, and he knew she would try and warn him off.
"Malfoy wants to make a trip to Azkaban to speak with his father,"
Harry said quickly. "It was something Dumbledore promised him that
night on the Astronomy tower, and I’m going with him."
"And me," Ron said.
"And me," both Hermione and Ginny said, glaring at both Ron and Harry.
Harry rolled his eyes in exasperation. "We can’t all go."
"None of you are going," Remus said, raising his voice over the
complaints of the other three. "Have you all gone mad? I don’t think
any of you has any idea what Azkaban is really like. Whatever you’re
imagining, the reality is ten times worse."
"Why does Draco want to see his father?" Tonks asked.
"Dumbledore promised Draco that he would protect Lucius when he got out
of Azkaban if Draco switched sides. He wants to make certain his father
knows he has a choice, and that Draco and his mother are okay. He says
his father has orders to turn over anything in writing to Voldemort,"
Harry said. "I need to see the belongings that Dung had with him when
he was arrested. I think he has something of mine. If you arrange a
visit for me, we can bring Malfoy under the Invisibility Cloak."
"Invisibility Cloaks won’t work against Dementors," Ginny said,
scowling. "There are still some there, and you’re not going alone,
"He can remove the Cloak once we’re inside," Harry said, ignoring the
second half of her statement. "Since this was the last promise
Dumbledore made, we have to honor it."
"I know we agreed to help you, Harry, but I don’t like this," Remus
said. "I don’t think you’re prepared for how difficult Azkaban will be,
for you especially."
Harry nodded. "Maybe you can help with that, then, but I need to do
this, Remus. I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important."
"Let me talk to Mad-Eye," Tonks said, watching Remus closely. "He has a
knack for getting the others to agree to things they normally
"Good enough," Harry said.
"For now, let’s go back," Remus said, nodding to each as they
A fortnight later, Harry sat on a couch inside Regulus Black’s former
bedroom flipping through an ancient book on the Dark Arts. Hermione had
discovered the room while seeking a quiet place to read and had
stumbled across a book partially sealed into the wall.
Leave it to Hermione to sniff out a hidden book.
It described many hexes and curses so vile that they made Harry’s
stomach churn just reading about them. But, hidden within the text of
an entirely different matter was a small paragraph about Horcruxes and
how they were made. The book was Romanian in origin — Ginny had
recognized some of the writing as similar to things Charlie had sent
Hermione thought they should plan to leave for Romania posthaste to
investigate any ties that Voldemort might have made there.
While Harry agreed it was a good lead in order to seek the remaining
Horcrux, he was far more interested in finding a translation to the
paragraph. He knew he could ask Charlie but didn’t want to involve him,
He glanced at his watch impatiently. Tomorrow was Halloween. It would
mark the sixteenth anniversary of his parents’ death. It was also the
day he was scheduled to go to Azkaban. He thought it strangely ironic.
Remus had given Malfoy and him the news several days ago at an
Occlumency lesson. Malfoy appeared surprised but pleased and requested
they keep the information from his mother. Harry wondered if anyone had
told him about Pansy Parkinson but hadn’t brought it up with the
blonde. He certainly had no fondness for the Slytherin girl — he
remembered her as a bully, much the same as Malfoy — but no one
deserved to be hunted like that.
Remus said Harry, Malfoy and Ron would accompany Tonks on her next trip
to the prison. Kingsley had arranged the visit through Rufus
Scrimgeour. Scrimgeour had been extremely eager to learn the details of
Harry’s trip, and Harry suspected some Ministry interference before theday was through. Remus had told him that no more than one of his
friends could accompany him, and Mrs. Weasley had absolutely forbidden
Ginny from going to Azkaban. She’d tried to stop Ron too, but Mr.
Weasley had gently reminded her that Ron was of age.
Harry had chosen Ron, which meant Hermione hadn’t spoken to either of
them in days. Ron had made the mistake of telling Hermione not to be
stupid, that of course he’d be the one to go with Harry. Harry would
swear he saw icicles form on Ron’s eyebrows from the glare Hermione
gave him. And Ginny wasn’t too pleased, either.
Aside from the fact he didn’t want to push Mrs. Weasley any further
than she’d been pushed already, the masculine side of his brain did
want to protect Ginny from Azkaban. He remembered that she’d had
difficulty with Dementors herself and wanted to spare her if he could.
Hermione had just been through a serious and harrowing injury, and
Harry thought it was a good idea for her to avoid the Dementors, too,
Of course, the girls saw things differently, but his decision had been
made. Ron was just as intent to protect Hermione as he was Ginny, and
Harry wasn’t going alone, so their arguments didn’t hold merit. When it
came right down to it, this was something he thought Ron could handle
better than Hermione, anyway. She had a tendency to panic if things
Harry closed his book and was about to head off to bed when the door
opened, and Ginny slipped inside.
"Hi," she said, shuffling her feet and not looking at him.
"Hi," Harry replied, aware of the hope flaring in his heart. She’d had
very little to say to him in the past few days, and he wasn’t very keen
to go to Azkaban while she was cross with him.
"Tonks said you’re leaving early tomorrow," Ginny said.
"Yeah. We’re going on her regular shift."
Ginny took a deep breath and flung her arms around him, squeezing him
tight. "You’re not forgiven for ditching me, but I wanted to wish you
luck. I hope you find what we’re looking for, and I hope it’s not too
bad for you there."
"It’ll be fine, Ginny. I’m sort of used to the Dementors now," Harry
said, running his hands along her back. It felt so good to have her in
his arms again. He didn’t know how he could miss something so much that
he really hadn’t had all that long to begin with.
"Quit being noble, Harry. No one ever gets used to Dementors. Just stay
with Ron and no heroics," Ginny said, holding his face between her
Harry pulled a face. "I’ll be okay, Ginny. If we find it, I’ll bring it
back so we can figure out how to destroy it safely."
"You won’t be able to bring your wand inside, so a Patronus isn’t
possible," Ginny said, worry evident in her eyes.
"I know. But Tonks will have her wand, and we’ll stay with her the
whole time. Don’t worry, Ginny," he said, gently brushing a strand of
hair from her face. It cheered his heart to see the concern shining in
her warm brown eyes — concern for him. It was still such a novel
concept to realize how much she cared about him. He enjoyed the way it
made him feel inside and hoped he made her feel a bit like that, too.
Ginny leaned in and kissed him soundly on the lips, making Harry forget
all about Dementors and prisons and everything else. In fact, he wasn’t
thinking of anything but the slip of a girl in his arms and how soft
her skin felt beneath his hands.
Although they’d promised each other not to get carried away, they were
still teenagers and prone to all the raging hormones that went along
with their ages. Their hands would roam curiously, and several articles
of clothing had inexplicably gone missing on several occasions. Still,
despite their minor slips, they’d managed to keep themselves in a
reasonable semblance of control. The idea had crossed his mind however,
that he didn’t know if those checks would remain in place the next time
they were out on their own and away from the prying eyes of Ginny’s
"Good luck," Ginny whispered when she finally pulled away. Her hair was
disheveled, and she wore a slightly dazed expression.
Harry just wanted to get back to the kissing. He nodded fervently and
pulled her back into his arms, feeling as if there was no way even a
Dementor could dampen his spirits.
Halloween morning dawned stormy and gray. There was a distinct chill in
the air that Harry knew would only worsen on the open ocean. It was
exactly the kind if dismal day that seemed appropriate for a trip to
Azkaban. He’d dressed warmly but still felt goose bumps rise on his
skin as he boarded the boat that would take him to Azkaban.
He, Ron, and Malfoy had met Tonks and Mad-Eye in the entrance hall.
Harry reckoned Moody was only going along to keep an eye on Malfoy; he
still suspected that Malfoy was up to something. Of course, Moody
generally suspected that everyone was up to something.
They’d Apparated to the Ministry and taken a controlled Portkey to a
small island not far from Azkaban where the Ministry ran a checkpoint.
No one was allowed in or out of the prison without going through the
island’s security. The wards at the prison prevented both Apparation
and Portkeys, much like the wards at Hogwarts.
Malfoy had remained concealed beneath Harry’s Invisibility Cloak until
they’d arrived at the checkpoint. There he’d had to register his wand
and state his intent to visit his father. Harry was incredibly
apprehensive about leaving his wand at the checkpoint. Tonks assured
him it would be safe; there were precautions in place so that only hecould remove it. Besides, only the Aurors were permitted to bring wands
inside the prison. If he wanted to go, he’d have to leave it.
Once they’d completed the registration, they were ushered outside to a
small boat ramp. The icy wind blew off the North Sea in fierce gusts,
causing Harry to pull his jacket more tightly around his body. His hair
ruffled in the breeze as the clean, salty air filled his lungs.
Grim-faced Aurors stared suspiciously at them as they boarded. There
were surprisingly few passengers, and Harry assumed the prisoners
incarcerated within Azkaban didn’t receive many visitors. Along with
Tonks, there were five other Aurors taking the journey to relieve those
who had worked the night shift.
The boat was small and mostly open to the wind. Stiff wooden benches
were aligned in rows behind an enclosure where the captain piloted the
boat. Harry and Ron sat on one bench while Tonks and Mad-Eye took the
bench behind them. Tonks left room for Malfoy to join them, but he
purposefully took the bench opposite them and sat alone.
"Where do they put the prisoners?" Harry asked, wondering how it would
feel to be making this journey knowing there was only pain and
imprisonment at the end. This trip already appeared foreboding, and he
was certain he’d be returning in only a few short hours.
"Prisoners don’t ride with passengers," Tonks said, shaking her head.
"There is a heavily secured ship that makes the trip once a day.
Prisoners are Stunned while they go in and out on that one."
"They’re Stunned even when they’re leaving?" Ron asked, his voice
Tonks smiled grimly. "There isn’t anything about this place that’s
"How long is this journey going to take?" Malfoy asked. He stood up and
scowled at the crude seating. "These accommodations are barbaric."
The boat jerked slightly as it left the dock, causing Malfoy to stumble
and hit his knee against the bench. He winced painfully and grabbed
onto his wounded knee. Ron sniggered loudly, causing Malfoy to glare at
him as he retook his seat.
"What are you laughing at, Weasley? Just because a wooden bench is
considered a step up from what your family is accustomed doesn’t mean-"
"Not one word about my family, Malfoy," Ron said, standing up and
towering over the blonde. In the cramped quarters of the launch, Ron
had to hunch over so that his head wouldn’t hit the roof. "There’s no
one on this boat who’d make a fuss if you suddenly found yourself
overboard, so I’d keep quiet if I were you."
"All right, that’s enough, lad," Moody said, chuckling and motioning
Ron back to his seat.
Harry turned away from their bickering to watch the waves crash against
the side of the boat. He could feel the cold spray of the water andpulled deeper into himself in an attempt to keep warm. The island from
where they’d departed had rapidly become a distant speck upon the
horizon. Nothing but the cold, gray sea surrounded them as far as the
eye could see in any direction. He wasn’t certain how far they’d
traveled, but it seemed as if they were exposed to the wind and icy
surf for hours. A fog had rolled in, making visibility nearly non-
existent. Harry strained his eyes, trying to see anything in the
Suddenly, the captain called out above the wind, "Land, ho!"
Harry tried unsuccessfully to suppress a shudder as a massive stone
structure emerged from the fog as if a curtain had been lifted. Jagged,
seaweed-covered rocks poked out of the water surrounding the small
island. The sharp, rough edges would be enough to make any stray boats
hesitant to try and dock.
The walls of the prison arose steep and menacing from the icy cold sea,
forcing Harry to crane his neck to see the top. He could see the water
line that the tide had marked on the stone, making it appear smoother
and darker than the remainder of the structure.
The captain maneuvered the boat into a small inlet that Harry hadn’t
noticed at first. As he watched the boat make the treacherous journey
up the channel, he saw several of the jagged stones move out of their
way. Obviously the channel was controlled by magic.
When they reached the end, they docked on a simple wooden platform to
debark. The moment Harry stepped off the boat, he felt a chill deeper
than anything weather-related sink into his skin. He broke into a
clammy sweat despite the cold, and his head felt suddenly woozy. He had
no doubt there were Dementors nearby.
As the small party approached the stone wall, a doorway magically
appeared several meters above their heads. A metal stairway was
lowered, and they ascended into the prison. Tonks pressed her wand
against the door, which emitted a series of soft pops before gliding
The blast of air coming from inside the prison was colder than the sea
air in which they were standing. Harry followed Ron inside, his heart
pounding and his head swimming. A bout of nausea churned his stomach,
nearly causing him to gag.
A tall, thin, cloaked figure stood on the far side of the room,
observing them as they entered. Harry vision blurred as a distant
screaming began to echo in his head. Instinctively, he reached for his
wand only to find it missing. He took deep breaths, trying to control
his rising panic.
This is going to be harder than I thought.
He stumbled as Tonks quickly ushered them across the room and would
have fallen if Ron hadn’t caught him.
"You all right, mate?" Ron whispered as they entered the long stone
corridor outside the first room. Ron was very pale, making the freckles
on his face stand out darkly.
Harry nodded, his world steadying again after they’d left the room
where the Dementor still stood. His stomach roiled, and he was very
glad he hadn’t eaten much for breakfast.
"That’s right, Potter," Malfoy drawled, staring at Ron and him with
amusement glinting in his steel gray eyes. "I’d forgotten you had
problems with Dementors. They make you faint, don’t they?" Despite his
taunts, Malfoy’s pallor had faded, as well.
"Back off, Malfoy," Ron growled, staring at Harry with concern.
Harry didn’t even bother with a comment; it was taking all his effort
to remain standing. He’d tried to put a hand on the cold stone of the
wall in an effort to collect himself, but that had been a bad idea.
There was something alive in the walls. Harry didn’t know how else to
describe it. The stone was cold and slightly slimy from the damp chill,
but there was also a deep agony that emanated from it. It was almost as
if the stone had absorbed all the misery and torment from the people
that had been imprisoned here through the years.
Harry watched as water dripped from the ceiling and ran in rivulets in
certain spots along the massive corridor. It looked as if the walls
"Are you going to be able to do this, Harry?" Tonks asked. She’d moved
to his side and lowered her voice. Her hair had been her traditional
bubblegum pink when they’d left that morning, but since entering the
prison the color had faded and become dull.
"I’m fine," Harry replied, feeling anything but fine. "Let’s just get
it over with."
"What do you want to do first?" Tonks asked, her eyes showing concern.
It made Harry uncomfortable, and he grit his teeth as he tried to
ignore it. It was hard enough dealing with the effects of the
Dementors, never mind dealing with sympathy because of it.
"Let’s take Malfoy to see his father before we look through Dung’s
things," he replied. If the amulet was with Dung’s belongings, he
didn’t want to bring it anywhere near Lucius Malfoy.
"The cells where the prisoners are located begin on level three. That’s
where Dung’s cell is. Lucius is in the high-security wing on level
five. The stairs are this way. I just want to warn you — there are
Dementors on that level, so be prepared," Tonks said grimly.
They climbed the stairs in silence. The presence of the Dementors had
affected them all, and not even Malfoy had the energy to be difficult.
Once they’d reached level five, Moody informed Malfoy that he wouldn’t
be able to see his father alone. Moody said he was going with him.
"No way, Moody" Malfoy replied, some of his former bravado returning.
"You’re not going to use anything my father says against him at a later
date, not a chance."
Moody shrugged as if it made no difference to him one way or the other.
"Then you’re not going in, either, lad. You’re not entering his cell
without an escort."
"Tonks can go then," Malfoy replied, sneering. "She’s sort of family.
I’ll trust her over you."
"Sorry, Draco," Tonks said cheerfully. "I’m on duty. I have to go
relieve my partner, so I really can’t sit with you. You can pick Moody,
Ron or Harry, but one of them is going inside with you."
Malfoy scowled. "Potter then," he said, sneering
"Good enough," Moody growled. "Potter, keep your ears open that these
two aren’t plotting anything against the Order. Keep the Invisibility
Cloak on so you won’t be seen."
"I thought Invisibility Cloaks didn’t work against Dementors," Harry
asked, pulling the Cloak out of his pocket.
"The Cloak isn’t meant to fool the Dementors," Tonks replied. "They
don’t see the way we do. They’ll sense two people entering and two
people leaving. The Cloak will only deceive Lucius."
"As long as you keep your mouth shut," Moody said, his magical eye
staring menacingly at Draco.
"I don’t want my father to know Potter is there any more than Potter
wants to be seen. I don’t even want him there at all," Malfoy replied,
turning his back on both Harry and Moody.
"What you want has never been one of my considerations, boy," Moody
replied, harshly. "Go on down the corridor. He’s in cell 5-J; it’ll be
on your left. Ron and I will be waiting here."
Ron looked extremely hesitant to let them go, but there was nothing to
be done for it. Tonks pressed her wand to the heavy steel door and it
slid open, stopping with a loud clang. Harry threw the Invisibility
Cloak over his head and followed Malfoy down the long, dimly lit
The air was even heavier than it had been downstairs, and Harry knew
the Dementors were close by the volume of the screaming in his head. He
felt positively ill and hoped he wouldn’t alert Lucius Malfoy to his
presence by vomiting all over the man’s feet.
Draco glanced at the numbers of the cells as they walked. Harry peered
into each cell and felt a great wave of sympathy for the prisoners
huddled inside each small hole. There was barely enough room to move
inside, and most of the prisoners didn’t even have the energy to stir
as they passed.
Sirius spent twelve years locked up here, probably on this level.
Harry shook his head. This wasn’t the time to dwell on that. Malfoy
stopped walking and placed his hand on a silver disk located outside
the cell. The disk flashed green, indicating it was safe to enter.
There were no doors or bars to hold the prisoners but instead a ward
ensured they were kept inside. Tonks had said the ward would allow them
inside the cell, but they would be unable to leave until they again
passed their hands over the disk. If Lucius attempted an escape, they
would all be trapped within the wards.
Harry hadn’t bothered to ask exactly what that meant. He didn’t think
he really wanted to know.
He followed Draco inside the cell, and it was a moment before he
noticed Lucius sitting on the edge of his bed. He’d obviously been
sleeping as his eyes were crusted, and he squinted at his son as if
trying to process the fact he was there. Lucius was thinner than Harry
remembered. His long blonde hair was matted and dirty, and he’d lost
that haughty aristocratic demeanor that he’d always shown. He looked
haunted. Harry couldn’t imagine trying to live for years under these
conditions. It was a wonder anyone left Azkaban with his mind still
"Father?" Malfoy asked tentatively. His voice shook slightly as his
eyes roamed over his father’s broken form.
"Draco? What are you doing here?" Lucius asked. His voice was raspy
from lack of use. "Everyone has been looking for you. Is your mother
"She’s safe, Father. She doesn’t even know I’m here," Draco replied,
swallowing heavily. "How are you?"
Lucius Malfoy shook his head as if to clear it. That ugly sneer that
Harry remembered so well returned to his features. "What have you done,
Draco? Have you made a bargain with the blood traitors? Where is your
pride? I’m so disappointed in you."
"Father, listen to me. I can help you. When you’re released from here,
you can come into hiding with us," Draco said, a pleading quality to
his voice that Harry found painful. He knew from years of experience
that Draco’s pleas would fall on deaf ears.
"A real Malfoy would never crawl on his belly with the slime and dregs
of society," Lucius spat, seething now. "I thought I’d raised you to
know that. This is your mother’s influence, isn’t it?"
"Father, the Dark Lord will kill you when you’re released if you don’t
do something to ensure your own survival," Draco cried.
"Then I will die with honor, as you should have done," Lucius replied.
"No, Draco. You can still salvage this," Lucius said, moving closer to
his son. His eyes began to shine with a demented light. "Go back to the
Dark Lord. Kneel before him and beg his forgiveness. Prove your loyaltyto him by killing those who have given you aid. It might convince him
to grant you some leniency."
Draco threw his head back and snorted derisively "There is nothing
lenient about him; you know that. He’ll have me beg and then kill me
"Then you should die," Lucius replied.
Draco blinked, clearly stunned. "Father, I’m your only son."
"No son of mine would dishonor the Malfoy name in this way," Lucius
said, sneering. "I knew after we had you that you were a weakness to
your mother’s loyalty. She’d do anything for you, to save you. She’s
thrown away her own future to protect yours. It’s why we never had
another child. I knew she was weak, but you… You, I thought had learned
your proper place."
"My proper place?" Draco asked. "What, to kneel in front of a Half-
blood? I thought you said Malfoys were better than that."
Lucius raised his hand and slapped Draco’s face before Harry could do
anything to stop it. This was painful to witness, and Harry wished he
were anywhere else. He suddenly wondered if this was how Draco had felt
while watching scenes of Harry’s childhood with the Dursleys during
"That’s Potter talking," Lucius spat. Harry’s head jerked upward at the
sound of his own name.
"Is that who’s offering you protection?" Lucius asked incredulously.
"Have you aligned yourself with Potter? Oh, Draco, how could you have
sunk so low? Potter doesn’t stand a chance."
"Of course he doesn’t. But there is a better chance of survival through
his cohorts. I know at least that they won’t kill us," Draco said,
making one last attempt to sway his father.
"Until you stand up and take account for your actions, you are no son
of mine. Think about what I’ve said, Draco. You need to turn back to
the Dark Lord. You are near his enemies and can aid him greatly. It
could earn you great honor and respect. You are nothing without it,"
Lucius said, his voice silky smooth as he tried to entice his son.