Fresh starts and a surprise
"Good mornin' to 'ya, Mister Malfoy," Hagrid boomed heartily, as he approached the large round table in the Great Hall.
The student tables and benches were against the walls and this large communal table was where the summer residents of Hogwarts gathered for meals.
"Morning," replied Draco, after washing down a mouthful of his breakfast with a gulp of juice. "And call me Draco, Hagrid. I'd feel more comfortable with that."
"Oh. All right, then...Draco. What did 'ya have planned for today? If 'ya don't mine me askin'?"
"Not much, actually. Thought maybe I'd do some practice on my broomstick out in the Quidditch...."
"Nah. I got sumthin' better then tha'." Hagrid beamed. "Come on down to me hut after 'yer done here and give me a han' with a few things."
"Do these 'things' bite or sting?"
Hagrid looked a bit offended until he saw Draco smiling at him.
"Ah, oh, no, no, nothin' like that."
"I'm kidding, Hagrid. Sure, I'll be down as soon as I finish, ok?"
"Right, right. See 'ya then."
"What have you got there?" Eileen had floated in through the wall and was looking over Anna's shoulder, as she and Cissa and Gwen unpacked the potion ingredients they would be using for brewing the 'Felix Felicis' potion."
"We're going to be brewing the 'Felix Felicis' potion, as part of our defense plans against Voldemort," Anna replied. "Hope you don't mind us using your kitchen as a potions lab."
"Why don't you set up in my old potions workshop?"
All three women stopped what they were doing and turned to look at the ghost of Severus Snape's mother.
"You have a potion workshop...here?" Anna asked, setting down a packet of chopped ingredients.
"Where do you think I taught potions to Severus before he went at Hogwarts?"
"Of course; I remember now. He always said you showed him everything worth knowing about potions." Anna looked over at Cissa, who nodded.
Then, shaking her head, Narcissa laughed. "I thought he was half way joking, to cover up a natural talent that put the rest of us to shame."
"Think of who you're talking about, Cissa. Severus, joke? No, it's obvious he was serious. So, where is this workshop?" Anna turned to her mother-in-law and cocked her head.
"It's under your feet, actually. The hidden stairs are over there behind the fireplace. Just push in that square cobblestone set in at end of the mantel."
"What a minute! Stop right there! Why isn't it opened with magic?" Gwen asked
"This was a Muggle house a few hundred years ago and it's what was called a 'priest hole', I believe."
Intrigued, Gwen led Cissa and Anna across the room and finding the stone, gave it a push. The stone wall split apart with a slight swishing sound and a steep staircase was revealed.
"Cool." Gwen turned and grinned at the other two. "Me first, me first! Hand me a candle."
Descending the stairs, they found a small but well equipped potions lab.
"Let's turn Winky and Dobby loose in here to clean it up a bit and then we'll move everything down and get started," Anna suggested, as she looked around.
Eileen had drifted down through the ceiling and settled by the fireplace.
"Will it suit your purposes?"
"It's more than we could have hoped for, and it will be perfect for the brewing, once it's had a good dusting and scrub."
"I'm glad. If I can do anything else; offer advice, keep watch over the cauldron...anything at all, you only need to ask."
"Thank you, Eileen. Severus will be pleased and surprised to know you had a hand in this. He'll be so proud of you." Anna went over and stood in front of her mother-in-law, and smiled at her.
"I'm so proud of /him/, for doing the right thing and for having the brains to marry /you/, Anna."
"And as I said, earlier," Cissa added, checking a few dusty old potions bottles, "it was about bloody time those two got together."
"Yes, I had a feeling Anna was something special when Severus would come home on holiday and talk about her. I always hoped.....but then..." She hung her head, and sobbed into her hand.
"Oh, Eileen, what's wrong?" Anna asked, looking around at Gwen and Cissa, who shrugged, perplexed.
"It's just, I'm so afraid, for all of you. Do you think that this Harry Potter can defeat Voldemort and all of you will have a future? Will you survive? Will Severus?"
"/Yes/," Anna said firmly. "But, the sooner we get going on this 'Felix' potion, the better everyone will feel, don't you agree? It always helps to have a little bit of luck on your side."
"Right...well...in that case." Eileen wiped her tears and smiled at them. "I'll pop upstairs and find Winky and Dobby and send them down," she said. She shot up through the floor, calling for the two house elves.
"Sounds like a plan to me." Anna smiled, looking around and rubbing her hands together.
Approaching Hagrid's hut half an hour later, Draco called out, "Hagrid? Where are you?"
"Over here!" came the answering shout, from the nearby paddock.
Walking over to the low wall, Draco could see Hagrid kneeling, bending over a small creature. Standing next to Hagrid was a unicorn mare, which turned around and regarded Draco with piercing black eyes. Hagrid looked over his shoulder.
"Change of plans, Draco. I found these two when I came back down after breakfast. Could 'ya do me a favor, lad, and go into the hut and on the table you'll find a bowl with some yellow salve in it. Bring it out here for me, won't 'ya? I had me hands full and couldn't carry everything at once."
"Sure, I'll be right back."
"Oh, don't let Fang out. He'll want to play and the unicorns don't understand he's just bein' friendly. Makes a bit too much noise, Fang."
"Right. Ok. Be back in a minute."
"Give him a treat outta that jug o' his on the mantle. That'll keep 'em busy."
Shaking his head, Draco retraced his steps to the squat stone hut Hagrid called home. Entering the side door, rather cautiously to be sure, he was greeted with great enthusiasm by the boarhound, Fang. Pushing the huge dog away, he saw the jug marked 'Fang's Treats' on the mantle.
"/Sit/, Fang," Draco ordered, pointing his finger at the black dog, who did as he was told, tail wagging, much to Draco's surprise. "Well, bugger me; it worked!"
Climbing onto Hagrid's arm chair, Draco stood on tip toe and reached into the jug. He grasped what felt like a very large leg bone of some sort and pulled it free. Fang was wiggling with anticipation, and when Draco tossed the bone to the far side of the room, leapt up and chased after it, into the corner. He picked it up, turned around about three times and flopped down to devote himself to its destruction.
Draco found the bowl of salve he'd come for and carried it, carefully, back to the paddock, after making sure the door of the hut was firmly latched.
"Walk up slow, Draco. Keep your eyes on the bowl. That's it. Put it down here and then come around to me other side. I need you to help me with this wee foal. I gotta treat and bandage this wound. You'll have to hold her for me."
"The mother's not looking too pleased," Draco noted, having stolen a glance in the mare's direction.
"Well, do 'ya blame her? She's just nervous about her baby, is all. Least ways she had the good sense to bring her to me for help. Wee thing's worn out, though and weak. Tell 'ya what, Draco, you stay here by my side and talk softly and the mother'll be fine about you being here and all. Won't 'ya old girl?"
Hagrid reached out and patted the mare on her neck. She nodded her head and snickered.
"I've known Starlight, here, since she was born. So she trusts me, see? She'll trust you, too if you stay still and talk quietly to her foal to calm her."
"What's wrong with her?"
Draco was getting his first look at the tiny golden creature. There was an ugly, gaping wound on her side that Hagrid had been cleaning. There were bloody rags tossed in a pile and a bucket of water, that was tinged pink. It didn't look good to Draco.
"Got tangled in some poison briars, looks like. Probably romping 'round as foals'll do and tumbled into it. Didn't get away fast enough and the briar attacked her. Starlight got her free and brought her to me. Poor little thing." Hagrid's hand almost totally covered the little unicorn as he continued to clean the wound.
"Now, Draco, you kneel here. No, wait, you better just sit on the ground. That's it. I want you to hold her head in your lap. Mind her horn bud, that spot's a bit tender."
Draco sat on the ground next to Hagrid, who had lifted the foal slightly and laid the tiny head in Draco's lap and showed him how to gently hold her muzzle and stroke her neck to calm her.
"Tighten your grip on her muzzle if she starts to buck, but be careful of her horn bud, like I said."
"Ok." Draco eyed the round bump on the foal's forehead, thinking of the sharp horn that would soon start to grow from that white spot. "She's quite pretty, isn't she? What's her name?"
"Don't have one yet. I knew Starlight was going to foal, but didn't see the wee one until this morning. I was putting out some feed for Beaky and..."
"Beaky? You mean Buckbeak, the Hippogriff, is here at Hogwarts?"
"Oh...well...ah, now, that's not common knowledge but...well... yes. You aren't going to turn him in, again, are 'ya, Draco?"
Hagrid had frozen when he realized his mistake; almost paralyzed with fear he'd be the cause of Buckbeak's re-capture.
"No. As a matter of fact, I think I owe 'Beaky' an apology, don't you?"
Hagrid's jaw dropped and he just managed to keep hold of the bowl of salve.
"Let's fact the facts, Hagrid: I was a right git about that whole Buckbeak thing. It was my fault, well, stupidity, actually. When I think back about what a total jerk I've been over the years, I can't believe people still tolerate me at all. Especially you, Hagrid. I'm sorry...for everything."
"Ah, that's alright, Draco. Yer just growing up; learning about life and all. Everyone deserves a second chance. I got one, why not you, too."
"Thanks, Hagrid. You know, Hogwarts seems to be the headquarters for second chances."
"Aye, it does, don't it? Ok, now hold her gently, but firmly, in case she jumps. And talk to her, quiet like."
Draco nodded. The foal turned her head slightly and looked up at him with her big blue eyes.
"Hello, little one," Draco spoke quietly as he stroked the velvety neck. "Your eyes are the same color as my Mother's. She's going to have a baby soon, too. I'm going to be a big brother." The foal blinked at him. "Hey, Hagrid, did you hear? Mother is going to have a baby girl in October."
"Really? Now that's something to look forward to! Big brother, eh? Well, I know what that's like."
"What? You have a brother?"
"Well, half brother. Grawp; lives in the Forbidden Forest. He's a giant, 'ya see and he's gotta stay outta sight and all, for his own safety, 'ya understand."
"Right...Grawp." Draco shook his head. "Three months ago, I'd be falling over myself in a rush to send word to my father about Gawp. Now...I think I like being in on the 'secret' better. How big is he, by the way?"
"Big enough," Hagrid grunted. "Now, are 'ya ready? Ok, hold her."
With a start, Draco realized the mare had walked around behind Hagrid and was standing next to him. She lowered her head and nuzzled her baby, whinnying softly as if telling the foal to be brave. Draco risked a glance in her direction and was greeted with a little nudge on his shoulder. He smiled at her and nodded.
Suddenly, the foal jumped and whinnied shrilly. Draco just managed to keep her head in his lap.
Bending quickly, he whispered to her, "It's ok, it's ok; it'll make you better. Shhhh. I know, it doesn't feel too good, but Hagrid knows what he's doing. Your mum trusts him; you can trust him too, ok? You'll be just fine."
He could see the panic and pain subsiding in her eyes and her breathing slowed. The mother unicorn stamped her hoof and snorted, then put her head down, again, to her baby, to reassure her.
"See, your mum's right here. You'll be feeling better soon. Everything is going to be just fine, little one."
"Let's get her up on her hooves, so I can get this bandage 'round her belly, Draco."
Hagrid gently lifted the tiny unicorn and set her on her wobbly legs. Draco knelt at her head and continued to stroke her neck, whispering encouragement in her ear. Hagrid quickly wrapped the bandages around the foal's belly and ribs and tied them off.
"There. Now we just wait. We'll know if we got the salve on the wound in time by day after tomorrow."
"What if we were too late?" Draco stood up and brushed off his jeans.
"Well... she won't /die/, o 'course, but that wound could get worse and the cure for that is....let's just hope we don't have to use it."
Draco looked down at the tiny animal standing next to him. She barely reached his waist, but then she lifted her head and looked at him, blinking her ridiculously long lashes over her huge blue eyes.
"Hagrid, can we name her after my mother?"
"Don't be daft, Hagrid!" Draco looked up and saw that Hagrid was smiling at him. He smiled back and shook his head. "Good one, Hagrid."
"Just kiddin', don't 'ya know? HA! HA! Narcissa, eh? Why that's a fine name for a little filly as pretty as this one, Draco. What do you think, sweetie?" Hagrid leaned over and addressed the newest member of the unicorn herd. Narcissa looked from Hagrid to Draco, nodded her head and then walked, a bit stiffly, over to her mother and began to nurse. Starlight snorted, gazed at the two humans and then tossed her head, nodding her agreement.
"I think that seconds the motion, so to speak, don't you agree, Hagrid?"
"I think so, Draco. I do indeed."
"And what did the portrait tell you had happened, Bella?"
"Master...the Goblins from Gringotts stripped the Manor of all of the valuables, for 'safe keeping' they informed Lucius' portrait, on Draco's orders, it would seem. Then, yesterday, Moody and the Aurors arrived and ...they knew how to open the secret vault that Lucius had under the floor in the dining room and all of his Dark objects and your former possessions that he had saved for you are gone. And... it seems Draco is still at Hogwarts."
"I had deduced as much, from the solicitor's report of their meeting. No matter."
"No matter/? But Master! That blood traitor nephew of mine is no better than my worthless sister. They /both have to die, for what they have done and for the disloyalty and disrespect they have shown you."
"Just dying will be too good for them, Bella. I have a much better 'fate' for them. They must be taught that this kind of treachery will be punished. Then they shall die."
Voldemort turned and stepped over the body of the former senior solicitor of the Malfoy family, who's two assistants were lying on the floor, too frightened to move or make a sound, for fear of drawing the Dark Lord's attention.
"I understand your anger, Bella, and I know how you long to exact your revenge, on your sister, especially. But Draco comes first, I think. Take Rodolphus and Rabastan and burn Malfoy Manor to the ground."
"Shall I bring you Lucius' portrait?"
"No. I think I'll derive greater pleasure out of the vision of him going up in flames. He deprived me of punishing him in real life for his many stupidities, so this will have to suffice."
"Yes, Master." Bella turned and headed for the door.
"Oh, and Bella...when we find Narcissa, and we will find her, I believe we should keep her alive."
"But? She deserves to die..."
"Oh, she will die, at your hand, if you so desire, but after she delivers her brat, which you and Rodolphus will raise, as your own."
"Oh, Master!" Bella flung herself down at the Dark Lord's feet and kissed the hem of his robe. "You are most generous to your humble servants."
"I know you will raise the child in the correct way; as a loyal, true pure blood."
"Of course, Master."
"Very well, you may go. Let us see what Draco and Narcissa do without a home to go back to."
Bella rose and swept from the room. Voldemort then turned his attention to the two solicitors cowering in the corner.
"Harry! See who that is, will you?" Petunia Dursley called from the kitchen.
Harry, who had been heading upstairs to collect his dirty laundry, stepped over against the wall, wand held by his leg. Opening the door, he found himself staring at a man in a horrid, shiny, ill fitting, pinstriped suit, holding a microphone and grinning like an idiot.
"VERNON DURSLEY?" he practically shouted.
"Ah...no," Harry answered, as he watched a video tech jockey for a better shot of the man on the front step.
"No/? Well, this /is 4 Privet Drive, is it not?"
"Yeah, it is. You want my uncle."
"Ah, good, good. Would you be so kind as to call Mr. Vernon Dursley to the door?"
"Right; hang on."
Closing the door, Harry shook his head and walked to the kitchen, where his Uncle Vernon was finishing his breakfast. Aunt Petunia looked around from the sink.
"Well, who was it?"
"It's a man, with a microphone and a guy with a video camera and the man wants to talk to you, Uncle Vernon," Harry answered her, but turned to look at his uncle.
"What does he want, boy?"
"Don't know, didn't say. Wants to talk to you." Harry shrugged.
Vernon and Petunia glanced at each other and then headed for the hallway. There was a momentary traffic jam in the doorway, that sorted itself out; with Uncle Vernon leading the way to the front door, Petunia right behind him and Harry and Dudley bringing up the rear. Harry stood on the landing at the bottom of the stairs for a better vantage point over the shoulder of his cousin, who was obscuring Harry's view with his vast bulk.
Vernon grabbed the knob and yanked open the front door.
"CONGRADULATIONS! YOU'RE OUR GRAND PRIZE WINNER!"
"Winner? Winner? What are you talking about?"
"It's about the all expense paid vacation of a lifetime; a cruise around the world, on Monument Cruise Lines Finest Ship, /The Phoenix/!"
Aunt Petunia shrieked and threw her arms around her husband and started crying and laughing. Vernon tried to pry her off, sputtering and choking. Dudley looked bewildered and glancing back at Harry, shrugged. Harry shrugged, too.
But as he looked over the heads of his aunt and uncle, the man with the microphone winked at him. Harry froze and then started grinning as the man's eyebrows flashed violently pink for a second. It was at that moment he got a good look at the video tech, who pulled his eye away from the viewfinder and smiled at Harry. It was Kingsley Shacklebolt. What was going on? What ever it was, he'd have to play along.
"Stop, Petunia! I didn't enter any contest! I'm telling you, /this is not right/!"
"But, Vernon; /we won/!"
"Mr. Dursley is correct. He did not enter the contest. His name was entered by one Harry Potter. Is he a friend of yours, Mr. Dursley?"
"What? /Harry/?" The Dursleys swiveled to stare at Harry.
"Yes, Mr. Potter entered you name last Christmas at a travel agency on Oxford St. And your name was selected from all of the entries. /Congratulations/!"
"Oh, Vernon!" And Aunt Petunia was off again, hugging and kissing her husband, who was trying to push her off, so as to get more details as to what this was all about.
"Oh, don't worry, Mr. Dursley, one of our representatives will be dropping by with all of the details and paperwork for you to read through. We're just here to make the big announcement and get your reaction on video, for advertising purposes, you understand. You can sign the waiver with the rest of it." The man with the microphone assured Vernon.
"Oh, well, well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see then, what? Yes, yes, well thank you so much! Very kind of you to come, very pleased we are!" Vernon closed the door in the man's face.
Turning, Uncle Vernon eyed Harry
Harry shrugged. "It was a contest. I put your name in, and Aunt Petunia, and Gwen and Anna and Hermione's parents and Mrs. Figg, just for fun. I didn't think anyone would actually win." Harry was winging it at this point; he'd get the truth, later, from Tonks.
"What about my business, boy? I can't just up and leave!"
"That's what phones and faxes are for, Uncle Vernon. You can stay in touch from anywhere in the world."
"Yes, Vernon, you know that the factory practically runs itself," Petunia said over his shoulder.
"Yeah, Uncle Vernon, it's a testament to your managerial skills, so checking in from time to time should do the trick." Harry grinned at his uncle, as he watched him swell with pride at the flattery.
"And it would be so educational for our Dudley to see the sights and learn the history of foreign, exotic places."
Dudley didn't seem too impressed.
Harry leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Hey, Dud, did you know they serve food on these ships from 6 AM until 2 AM?"
Dudley's eyes grew wide and then glazed over as visions of buffet after buffet after buffet drifted through his mind.
"You all have to go; it's the chance of a /lifetime/!" Harry enthused.
"But, Harry, we can't leave you here, by yourself." Aunt Petunia turned suddenly and looked at him.
"Oh, I'll just go to Ron's house. He's been at me, already, wanting to know when I'll be coming down. It's no problem at all, Aunt Petunia. Then I'll just go back to school with him and Ginny."
Everyone stood there, silent.
"/Please/, Vernon," Petunia whispered.
"/Please/, Daddy." Dudley looked hopefully at his father.
"Go on, Uncle Vernon, /live a little/," chided Harry, winking at him.
Vernon's face was changing back and forth from thoughtful to doubtful to perplexed to wistful, all of the reasons for going and not going flashing before his eyes.
Then Harry leaned over and whispered, "And it's all /paid for/.../it's free/!"
"The whole trip?"
"The whole trip. Except what you might spend on souvenirs, I suppose."
"/Please/, Vernon. A dream trip... a second honeymoon...a broadening experience for our Dudders," Petunia wheedled.
'I just bet it'll broaden Dudders' Harry thought, wickedly.
"But...I...well...uh...oh, why not.../let's go/!"
"Yippee!" "Yes!" "Oh, Vernon!"
As Aunt Petunia threw herself into her husband's arms, crying and laughing all over again, Harry squeezed past them toward the front door.
"Tell you what, Uncle Vernon, let me see if I can catch up with that fellow and find out some more details, ok?"
Harry popped out the front door and looking around, spotted the man and the video tech sitting on a low wall at the end of the street. Walking up to them he grinned and shook his head.
"Wotcher, Tonks? Kingsley?"
"Hello, Harry. Well, what's the decision?" Kingsley lifted the video camera off of the wall, and shifted to make room for Harry to join them.
"Oh, they're going; couldn't pass /that /trip up. Whose idea was it?"
"Remus', actually. We were brainstorming last fall about places to hide or send people who might be vulnerable to kidnapping and or attack. Your aunt, uncle, cousin and Hermione's parents were at the top of the list, of course. One day Remus spotted this cruise line advert in a shop window and this '/Dream Cruise of a Lifetime' contest. And when he read about the continuous buffets, he instantly pictured your cousin."
"They'll lose money with Dud on board."
"To say nothing of the ship listing to whichever side he's on."
They all dissolved into gales of laughter.
"So," Harry sputtered, "who's going to bring the tickets and paperwork or whatever else is needed, to be signed?"
"Oh, I will," Tonks replied. "I'll come dressed as a super efficient secretary type. Picture Minerva working as a travel agent."
"Oh, what a /ghastly /image that put in my mind." Kingsley covered his eyes.
Harry turned serious, and looked at the two Aurors.
"Are they really in that much danger?"
"After your birthday, they could be. This way, they'll be out of easy reach, at least for a while."
"Right. Well, when are you planning on coming back? If you wait too long, Uncle Vernon will talk himself out of this trip."
"How about this evening? The sooner the better, all around, don't you think?" Tonks replied.
"Agreed. Well, see you later, then."
Harry stood and waved to them, then began walking back to #4, a thoughtful look on his face.
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