Harry expected the barrage of questions, but he was slightly stung by
the tone in Remus’s voice. He cleared his throat before speaking, and
when he did, he looked directly at Remus.
"I appreciate your concern, and I’m sorry that you were worried, but I
honestly didn’t see there being another way. If I’d told you my plans
to leave, would you have stood aside and let us walk out that door?" he
"Harry, we’re here to help you," Remus said. "We want to help you."
"You can’t," Harry snapped.
"What do you mean we ‘can’t?’" Professor McGonagall demanded. "Of
course, we can, Potter. That’s the entire purpose of the Order."
"We are aware that you believe Albus left you with a job to do, but we
can’t believe he meant for you to do this alone, Harry," Mrs. Weasley
said, resting a hand on his arm.
Harry pulled his arm away. "You still don’t get it, do you?" he
demanded. "He didn’t leave me a job to do. It is my job to do — all of
it. Everything the Daily Prophet has said about this ‘Chosen One’
business — well, it’s about the only thing they’ve ever got right. I
know it, and Professor Dumbledore knew it. You all say you trusted him,
that what you did came down to whether you trusted his judgment or not.
Well, leaving this task to me was his judgment."
"But he’s gone now, Harry," Professor McGonagall said. "Things have
"Nothing’s changed; what has to be done remains the same," Harry said
vehemently. "Dumbledore once said that he will have only truly left
when no one here is loyal to him. You have to decide if you still can
be, even if what he’s asking isn’t easy."
"You have to choose between what’s right and what’s easy," Ginny
whispered. "We all do."
"How can we choose what’s right when we don’t even know what it is
you’re doing?" Kingsley demanded. "You’ve obviously told your friends.
Why can’t you tell us?"
"I told them because Professor Dumbledore told me I could. He thought
I’d need some support, and they’re the ones I’m closest to," Harry
said, leaving out the fact Ginny had only been included later.
"I can’t believe Albus would do this," Mrs. Weasley moaned. "Ginny
isn’t even of age."
"Neither was Ron when Professor Dumbledore told Harry he could share
this," Ginny snapped. "You have to stop dwelling on our ages and see
that what we’re doing is right. It’s working, and it’s the only thing
that’s going to stop Voldemort."
Again, there were several muffled gasps and shifting around the table.
Members of the Order had become accustomed to Dumbledore using the
name, but it still startled them to hear it from someone else.
"Look," Harry said, making a decision. Something told him it was the
right one to make. "I know you’re all as dedicated to stopping this war
as I am, and I do need some help. If I concede to some stipulations of
yours, can you agree to trust the fact that I can’t tell you
"Fair enough. Dumbledore never shared everything with us anyway," Mad-
Eye said before anyone else could agree or disagree. Looking around the
table, Harry could tell by their expressions that not everyone was
happy with Moody’s decision. Still, there were more that appeared ready
to compromise than there had been at the beginning of the meeting.
"The next time you have to leave, we want to know. No more waking up
and finding you missing," Moody said, and Harry knew he was beginning
with something Harry wouldn’t have a problem agreeing with. It wasn’t
like sneaking out again would work, anyway.
"Agreed," he said.
"And we want to know where you’re going and have a way to contact you
should the need arise," Remus said.
Harry shook his head. "I can’t tell you where we go. I’m sorry, but I
"Harry…" Mr. Weasley began.
"No. Not only would Voldemort kill you for that information, it would
jeopardize everything if he finds out what we’re doing. I can’t tell
you where we are, but I do think I have a way for you to contact us
that would be safe," Harry said.
"Which is?" Mr. Weasley asked.
Harry looked towards Remus. "Sirius once gave me a mirror. He said he
used to use it to talk with my dad when they were in detention. D’you
know what I’m talking about?"
A grin appeared on Remus’s face. "I do."
"I— er...I broke the one I had. D’you think you could charm another
couple of mirrors to act the same way? We’ll keep one, and you can keep
another here," Harry said.
Remus nodded. "Yes, I can do that. I think that will work nicely."
"That seems to indicate that you think Ron and Ginny will be going with
you again," Bill said, frowning.
"Damn straight, we will," Ron said hotly.
"We’re not letting Harry do this alone," Hermione said, speaking for
the first time.
"Ginny is not going anywhere," Mrs. Weasley shouted, her face very red.
"I won’t have it."
"Oh yes I am," Ginny said, firing right back at her mum. "The others
never would have got out of there if it weren’t for me. They need me."
"You’re underage," Mrs. Weasley cried.
"It’s because I’m underage that my magic was undetected. Professor
Dumbledore discovered it last year when Harry went with him. Voldemort
is too arrogant to believe that anyone underage could be a threat to
him. Don’t make the same mistake, Mum." Ginny said, her eyes flashing.
"That’s enough, Ginny," Mr. Weasley said firmly.
"Ginny is your baby sister," Bill said, glaring at Ron. "You never
should have allowed her to go along with you."
"She’s not a baby anymore, Bill," Ron said, raising his chin.
Ginny flushed with pleasure and cast a grateful smile at Ron.
"‘E usually ‘az much more common sense except when eet comes to ‘’iz
leetle sister," Fleur said, patting Bill on the back.
Fred, George and even Charlie had to cover their snickers. Bill whirled
"You can’t tell me you’re all right with Ginny traipsing across the
countryside and living with Harry," he said incredulously.
Anger flooded Harry’s cheeks. How could they be worried about the
impropriety of where Ginny might be sleeping when Voldemort had Inferi
on the loose killing people? It was just too much.
"I don’t believe this," Harry roared. "I wish the biggest concern in my
life was hiding what Ginny and I got up to from all of you, but that’s
just not the way it is. We’re fighting this war, the same as you."
"We know that, Harry," Mrs. Weasley said, placating him. She again
rested her hand on his arm, and this time he didn’t pull it away. "But
you have to understand that she’s our child. We won’t stop being
parents simply because there is a war raging."
Harry nodded, chastised. "I understand. You really have nothing to
worry about; I’d protect Ginny with my life."
"We know you would, dear. That’s partly what we’re afraid of," Mrs.
Weasley said tearfully.
"Look," Harry said. "You all know the prophecy, or basically what it
says. You know what I’m up against. I might not have a lot of time to
Shouts of disagreement and dismay met this statement, but Harry held
his hands in the air, silencing them.
"Let’s be realistic, all right? There are no guarantees — for any of
us. That’s been made painfully clear. This little bit of time might be
all I have go give her, so I’m going to take it while its there," Harry
said, amazed by his own cheek.
"And what happens afterwards?" Bill asked. "When the war is finished,
and you have managed to survive? What happens between you and Ginny
Harry smiled, looking down into Ginny’s warm brown eyes. "Well, that’s
the plan. If we manage it, anything that comes after is the whipped
Ginny beamed at him.
"All right, back to the Order," Kingsley said, still scowling. "You
won’t tell us where you go, but you will leave us a method to
Harry nodded. "And what I could use from you is some information. How
do you go about tracking a wizard?"
"There is no way to track You-Know-Who, Harry. Don’t you think we’ve
tried?" Mr. Weasley asked softly.
"I’m not talking about him," Harry said. "I want to find the location
of the fathers of two of my former classmates. Vincent Crabbe and
Gregory Goyle’s fathers are both Death Eaters. I bet the guests
upstairs know their first names. I need to know where they are, that’s
Moody nodded. "I can look into that. Does this have something to do
with whatever it is they’re guarding?"
"Yes," Harry said shortly. He suspected he knew the location of one of
them already, but he thought it best not to announce he was leaving
again so soon to check it out. It would be better to let them think he
was following one of their leads.
"There is something else I want you to do for us," Kingsley Shacklebolt
said, staring intently at Harry.
He saw Professor McGonagall shift slightly while Remus looked away.
Tonks gripped his shoulder supportively. Harry knew instinctively that
he wasn’t going to like this.
"What’s that?" he asked.
"I would like you to resume Occlumency lessons," Shacklebolt said
"What?" Harry exploded. "They were a disaster; Professor Dumbledore
even agreed on that. Besides, Voldemort hasn’t tried to get into my
head for over a year."
"The reason they were a disaster could have been that Snape,"
Shacklebolt fairly spat the name, "wasn’t doing his best to teach you.
If you are hiding something as critical as you say, we cannot take the
chance that You-Know-Who can find it without your knowing."
"He couldn’t," Harry said.
"He’s done it before," Shacklebolt fired back, causing Harry to flinch.
"Harry," Remus said gently. "I think this is a good idea. Dumbledore
did believe it was a good idea before Snape convinced him otherwise. I
think it’s worth the effort."
Harry’s shoulders slumped in defeat. He couldn’t deny their words, but
something inside him told him Occlumency wasn’t the answer. "Fine.
Who’s to teach me though? You?"
"No. I’m not qualified to instruct you. We do have a couple of people
here, however, who are qualified. If you agree to it, that is," Remus
said, his eyes shifting again.
"Here? Who? I thought the reason Snape had to teach me was that there
wasn’t anyone else qualified?" Harry asked.
"They weren’t on our side then," Remus replied.
"You can’t be serious," Hermione shouted, looking back and forth wildly
between Remus and Kingsley. "You can’t let them inside Harry’s head. No
Harry blinked for a moment, trying to figure out what Hermione was
saying. The answer hit him like a blow to the gut.
"No way! If you think for one minute I’m going to let Draco Malfoy
inside my head-"
"He’s a capable Occlumens, Harry," Remus said mildly. "Weren’t you the
one who said he managed to keep Snape out last Christmas?"
"Yeah, but…" Harry stuttered, thunderstruck. "He’s Malfoy."
"He learned from his mother and his aunt. Obviously we can’t trust them
completely, but we can use them while they’re here. They’re using us
for the same reason; it’s mutually beneficial to both sides," Kingsley
said. "Remus has agreed to monitor the situation at all times, so you
won’t be alone with them."
"I don’t believe this," Ron shouted, unable to contain himself any
further. "First you’re all over Harry about being too young and not
trusting you with the answers to things he absolutely can’t tell you,
and now you want to let Malfoy and his mother have free reign inside
his head? Have you all gone mad?"
"That’s enough, Ron," Mrs. Weasley snapped. "Of age or not, I won’t
have you using that disrespectful tone."
"You’re all barking," Ron mumbled mutinously.
"It’s your decision, Harry. What do you say?" Remus asked.
Harry sighed, running his hands through his hair. "I told you I’m
willing to make some compromises, but this is a big one. I’ll give it a
try, but I’m not promising to stick with it if I think things are going
badly. And I want you all to remember this the next time I have to do
something that you’re not too happy about."
Ginny clutched his hand beneath the table.
What had he just done?
Setting Things to Rights
The next few weeks at Grimmauld Place were rather tense. Although the
air had been cleared amongst them, everyone still walked on edge. Mrs.
Weasley kept the foursome under close watch, as if she was afraid
they’d disappear under her very eyes. Harry suspected that although she
had resigned herself to their continued involvement in the war, she
wasn’t happy about it. She appeared to be waiting with extreme
apprehension for the announcement of their next departure.
Mr. Weasley had held true to his word and kept them apprised of
Scrimgeour’s activities. He’d also told them how the press had reported
their appearance in Diagon Alley in vivid detail. Harry’s instructions
on how to fight the Inferi had been front-page news for a fortnight,
and the Ministry had taken up the cause as if it had been their idea.
There were now regular reminders and updates in each edition of the
Percy had returned to work without saying much to any of them, his
upturned nose expressing his disapproval. Charlie, however, had
remained behind, claiming to need a holiday. Harry suspected he was
attempting to snap Bill out of his funk. Bill was the only one who
apparently still held a grudge about their disappearance, although
Harry still felt uneasy around Mr. Weasley, as well.
He had carefully stored Helga Hufflepuff’s charred cup in his trunk
along with the diary and the ring. Three down, and he knew what the
fourth one was, if not where. That left only himself and one other
unknown item. The task still seemed overwhelming, but he was making
Harry’s greatest concern at the moment, however, was Hermione. She
wasn’t taking the loss of her hair well, but Merlin help anyone who
tried to point that out to her. She was completely irrational on the
subject, and refused to listen to anyone’s suggestions. Poor Ron had
spent more time trying to dig out of a blunder he’d unwittingly caused
than anything else. He’d been desperately trying to be sympathetic, but
had only ended up getting on her nerves.
Hermione had virtually barricaded herself in the library, and was
rarely seen elsewhere. She’d even skipped most meals, preferring to
have a tray sent up to her. At first, this behavior didn’t seem out of
the ordinary, but as the days passed, the others had become concerned.
While it was true that Hermione was scouring the books, Harry suspected
she was hiding more than working.
She spent as much time reading medical journals as she did anything
related to Voldemort. Hermione was having a lot of trouble realizing
that there was no solution to her hair loss other than to wait for
nature to fix it. She couldn’t stand being let down by the library and
apparently took it as a personal insult.
Whenever anyone offered to help her, she declined and retreated further
behind her books. Ron’s expression waffled between hurt and
bewilderment as Hermione most often released her pent-up aggression on
him. Harry knew that she tended to act irrationally when she felt
overwhelmed, but he was confident she’d pull it together when the
logical side of her brain took control. Waiting for that to happen,
however, was difficult to endure.
Hermione had kept her navy blue handkerchief wrapped tightly around her
head, and she jerked away from anyone who attempted to touch it,
particularly Ron. Harry had noticed how often she adjusted it and
suspected her fidgeting was due to self-consciousness. He wished he
could think of a way to help, but he was at a loss. He knew Ginny was
concerned as well, since he’d caught her staring speculatively at the
older girl on several occasions.
The one benefit to Hermione’s distress had been the thawing of Mrs.
Weasley’s demeanor. She’d remained distant and aloof for several days
after the Order meeting, but she’d obviously noticed Hermione’s
increasing agitation. Ginny had finally approached her mother for help,
and Mrs. Weasley had thrown herself to the task with her typical gusto.
It was as if she’d been waiting for the opportunity to swing back into
mother mode, and Harry was happy to see her bonding with Ginny again.
Harry was struck by the realization that Mrs. Weasley wanted to be
needed. Somehow, he’d always assumed that being an adult meant you grew
past that kind of insecurity. It was jarring for him to see otherwise.
Still, it felt right to have her bestow warm smiles and fond hugs once
again. Harry was startled to realize how much he’d missed it. Ron and
Ginny, too — he’d noticed both of them were far more affectionate to
their mum since their return. He hoped Mrs. Weasley could help reach
Tonks had suggested getting Hermione a wig, and both Weasley women had
stared at her blankly. Tonks had to explain how Muggle women sometimes
lost their hair after certain medical treatments, and that a variety of
stores carried wigs for them to wear in the meantime.
Although she knew exactly what a wig was, Hermione had absolutely
refused to accompany them to look for one. She instead burst into tears
and accused them of only wanting to make it easier for everyone to look
at her. Fleur had joined the conversation, trying to convince Hermione
to give it a try and told her not to be ridiculous, but a crying
Hermione had fled the room. Surprisingly, Ron had shouted at Fleur —
with whom he’d always been smitten— to leave her alone and went tearing
It was later that evening when Harry and Ginny were sitting in the
library — supposedly doing research but actually spending more time
studying one another — that Fred and George burst through the door.
Harry and Ginny broke apart guiltily and moved to opposite ends of the
"Why, brother, do you have the distinct impression we’re interrupting
something?" Fred asked, leaping over the back of the couch in order to
sit between Harry and Ginny. Disgruntled, Harry straightened the collar
of his shirt while Ginny narrowed her eyes at her interfering brothers.
"I do, brother mine, but what could we possibly interrupt while these
youngsters are holed up in here diligently working…behind closed
doors…all alone…and so far from the prying eyes of our beloved mother,
who only has their best interests at heart?" George asked, also
wiggling his way onto the couch between the pair.
"What do you two want?" Ginny asked, rolling her eyes dramatically.
"Now, what kind of attitude is that from our wee wayward lass? I would
think you’d be groveling at our feet after frightening us so," Fred
replied, holding his chest and batting his eyelashes.
Before Harry had the chance to explode, George laid a restraining hand
on his shoulder. "Keep your knickers on, Harry."
"And you keep yours on as well, by the way," Fred added, waggling his
eyebrows at Ginny.
She punched him in the shoulder — hard.
"I’m not here to give you a hard time. That’s Bill’s job," George said.
"He’s being impossible," Ginny said, scowling.
"He’ll get over it, Gin Gin. He still tends to see you as the spunky
little sprite you were when he left for Hogwarts," George said.
"I was only a year old when he left for Hogwarts. Certainly he’s
noticed a difference," Ginny said, mutinously crossing her arms across
"Exactly. You were a baby, Ginny, and just a little kid when he came
home for summers. He’d already moved out on his own by the time you
developed your attitude," George continued as if she hadn’t spoken.
"Now, here you are out fighting the war he wants to fight, but he can’t
because everyone keeps coddling him. He was the one left to console Mum
after you disappeared, and she was even more adamant about protecting
him after you were gone. He’s been unable to go back to work, and even
on the Order missions it’s Fleur who gets the more dangerous
assignments rather than him because no one wanted to upset Mum any more
than she already was."
"That’s not going to sit well with any self-respecting wizard," Fred
"And we really haven’t helped," George admitted grudgingly.
"I suppose we’ve been taking the mickey out of him a bit," Fred
conceded. "But we thought we were helping."
"When you and Ron came back, he’d just reached his breaking point. His
baby brother and sister are smack in the middle of it, and it was too
much for him," George said. "And, lately, the full moons always seem to
make him a bit grouchy."
Ginny’s face had softened, but she still appeared unwilling to let it
go completely. "Well, he’s going to have to get used to the idea,
because I’m not a little girl."
"Never said you were," Fred said easily.
"Yeah, we’ve been on the receiving end of enough of your hexes to know
better," George said, sighing. "Maybe you should hex him a few times so
he realizes it."
Ginny giggled and lightly shoved George’s head.
"So, you’re okay with it. With Ginny helping me, I mean?" Harry asked,
picking at a stray thread on the couch.
"’Course we are. We just wish you would’ve let us come with you, as
well," Fred said eagerly. When Harry opened his mouth to respond, Fred
held up his hands in a defensive posture. "I know you can’t, but that
doesn’t mean I don’t wish it was different."
"Or that you would at least let us help you," George said, leaning
"Yeah, but then we remembered that you did ask us for help. You asked
us to locate Dung’s old flat. Which we did," Fred said, his eyes
"You did?" Harry asked, sitting up straight. "When? Where is it?"
"It’s in a really dodgy Muggle area of Birmingham. The building owner
let us inside. He’s really hacked off that he hasn’t had any rent from
Dung in months. He said he was going to let the place to someone else,
but I don’t think there’s a long line of people who want to take it
since it’s really close to where those fires burned over the summer,"
"We went in and looked around, but there’s not much there. It’s filthy,
and the stench drove us away before we could take a really good look,"
Fred said, grimacing.
"Can you take us there?" Harry asked.
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,"