The morning papers are full of news, none of which is unexpected. Voldemort turns his attention to punishing Draco, with a surprising twist. Sudden shock and sorrow descend on Hogwarts.
Expected news and unexpected sorrow
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---------------------------Arson suspected as cause of local blaze-----------------------
A four alarm fire, the towering flames of which could be seen for miles, consumed the old Malfoy Manor, an abandoned estate house located just north of the village of Dinton, late last night. The entire property and the main building, especially, have been avoided by the locals for years, as it had a colorful local reputation of being haunted.
"Been sitting there, empty, for as long as I can remember," Local fire brigade member Charlie Stumps told this reporter. "Bit of an eyesore, come to that, falling down and all. Since it was fully engulfed in flames when we got there, the lads just contained it and made sure it was totally out, when it finally died down. Let the younger fellows get in a bit of practice and all, so some good did come of it."
Arson is thought to have been the cause, although authorities have no suspects at this time.
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"Bella. I trust it all went well?"
"Yes, Master. Malfoy Manor is a pile of ashes. Even the foolish Muggles and their water pipes couldn't stop the flames."
"Good. Now we can get down to the business of punishing Draco."
"But... that was why you sent me to set fire to the Manor; as punishment."
"No, Bella, that was to allow you to vent your frustration about Draco's betrayal of his heritage and denial of his destiny. It was a treat for you, from me, for your unwavering devotion. You see, I have a much more meaningful lesson planned for Draco."
"I don't understand, Master...it was their..."
"Bella, you must think things through...Narcissa and Draco had it emptied of everything that had any value, and left the shell. They didn't care about the Manor at all. Only Lucius seemed to take pride in it. And now he's gotten his wish, to remain there always. That was my little treat, to myself, so to speak"
"It was expected, of course, and it all fits into my master plan, so do not fret. Now we proceed with the next phase; showing Draco he's not as safe as he thinks from my wrath."
"What are you going to do to Draco?" Bella's face took on a hungry look, which pleased the Dark Lord. He could always count on Bella to relish pain; hers or, especially, someone else's.
"Not him, personally, but it will affect him, and Narcissa, /deeply/. He will see that he has taken the wrong path; a path that will lead to his death and the deaths of others."
"Bring the Parkinsons and their daughter, Pansy, to me, tomorrow night."
"Yes, Master." She smiled, with an evil look in her eyes.
"In the meantime, why don't you show me how grateful you are, for my little 'treat'."
"Oh, /yes/, Master," Bella whispered, as she approached him.
"It's seems the Manor burned down."
Narcissa spread the pages of /The Daily Prophet, /which Wally had just brought from London, on the table and reached for her cup of tea.
"WHAT?" Gwen came around the table and looked over her shoulder. "Oh my God! Oh, Cissa I'm so sorry."
"No need to be sorry, Gwen; I knew it would happen. It's Voldemort's pathetic attempt at teaching Draco and me a lesson. Little does he know how much we despised that horrid, drafty old mausoleum. I told Draco to expect this, that's why he had the valuables removed and stored. The rest, the house itself, we couldn't have cared less about. I wonder if Lucius' portrait was removed? My guess; no."
"That's a bit cold hearted, isn't it?"
"No, just being a Slytherin." Cissa smiled sweetly. "Vindictive lot, Slytherins."
"Damn...I'm glad you're on our side." Gwen finished refilling her mug and sat down again at the table. "What would burning down the house prove?"
"Makes our defiance, our decisions, final; no place to go and no place to call home. Draco will rebuild after the war is over, of course. A design that's pleasing to him." Narcissa shrugged. "I've decided I'm going to build a copy of the 'Little Lodge' on a corner of the estate for the baby and myself. If you don't mind, that is."
"Mind? Of course not; that would be fantastic!"
"What would be fantastic?" asked Anna as she joined them in the kitchen.
"Narcissa's going to build a replica of the 'Little Lodge' to live in after all this is over. Voldemort had the Manor House burned down."
"Really? Not very original; I expected it to be blown to kingdom come, in teeny/, /tiny little bits."
Pouring herself a mug of coffee, she peeked over Cissa's shoulder and perused the article.
"Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Looks like Bella's been playing with matches again."
"Apparently. She loves doing the dirty work for her Master; always preferred fire, too. Ah, well, what do we have planned for today?" Narcissa folded up the paper and took a piece of toast from the rack, looking from Anna to Gwen.
"The garden needs tidying up." Gwen rubbed her hands together, eager to start
"AH, controlled demolition and reconstruction." Narcissa laughed.
"Let me put this coffee down my throat and we'll get started." Anna waved the mug in the air, then chugged the contents. "/Whoa/! Now I'm ready!"
"/This /is interesting. Mister Malfoy," Albus Dumbledore said, as he turned and regarded Draco over his half moon glasses. "It would seem you've displeased Lord Voldemort." He was reading the /Daily Prophet /as he drank his second cup of morning coffee.
"Manor house destroyed, then?" Draco asked between bites of toast.
"Apparently it burnt to the ground last night. The local Muggle Fire Brigade made a valiant effort to save the old place, but to no avail. Alas."
"Ha!" Draco held out his hand and Professor Snape dropped a Galleon into his outstretched palm
"/Really/, Severus, that's /appalling/; wagering on the destruction of Malfoy Manor," Minerva McGonagall sniffed, shaking her head.
"I started it, Professor," Draco insisted, laughing. "I bet it would happen last night and that it would be burned down. Professor Snape bet it would happen later this week, blown to hell and gone. It was a bet about when and how/,/ not if."
"How /awful/!" Poppy was just as shocked as Professor McGonagall.
"Not really, I hated that house and everything it stood for," Draco explained.
"/Stood/ being the operative word," Snape added, with a smirk. Draco laughed and nodded
"No matter, Mr. Malfoy, everything of value was removed in time, after all,"Albus added.
"Right. Besides, I'll build a new one, when I get the chance."
Just then Hagrid entered the Great Hall and approached the table.
"How's Narcissa doing, Hagrid?" Draco asked as the big man settled himself at the dining table.
"Narcissa?" Minerva whispered to the Headmaster.
"Unicorn foal; was injured recently and Draco's helping Hagrid care for it. He named her," he explained.
"Ah, I see."
Hagrid pulled over the serving platter of scrambled eggs. "She's looking a little stiff and sore still, but tomorrow'll tell the tale." He poured himself a big mug of coffee. "I'll be taken' off them bandages and having a look at her wound. Then we'll know where we stand."
"I hope she's ok."
"Oh, I think she'll be just fine, Draco. What ya been up to then? Haven't seen ya around much."
"I've been helping Professor Sprout with a bit of plant relocation in the greenhouses the last two days. Sorry I haven't been down to your place, but by the time she's through with me, I'm barely able to drag myself in here for some supper."
"Tha's alright, a bit of hard honest work is good for ya. Character buildin', it is." Hagrid nodded solemnly.
"I don't know about that, but it's building my appetite, and I'm afraid my waistline will be next. I'll not be able to get my broomstick off the ground, when Quidditch season starts, if I keep this up." He took another forkful of food off of his plate and wolfed it down.
Hagrid threw back his head and laughed.
"Tell ya what, Draco; come on down to the paddock tomorrow morning after breakfast and help me with Narcissa. She liked you, I could tell. Bet she's be glad ta see ya again."
"Ok, I'll do that."
Professor Sprout was standing and leaving the table. "Well, I better get down to the greenhouses. We're moving the shrivel fig tubs to greenhouse 5. Coming Draco?"
Draco finished his juice and stood to leave, also. "Be right with you."
"Have fun and I'll see ya tomorrow," Hagrid said as he reached for the platter of chipolatas.
"Yeah, see you, Hagrid. Professors."
"Draco" "Mr.Malfoy" "Enjoy your day." "See you at luncheon."
A high pitched scream echoed around the room. Voldemort turned away from Pansy Parkinson and she collapsed in a heap on the cold stone floor.
"You disappoint me, Pansy. I had thought you were closer to Draco than just being his sexual plaything."
Pansy barely heard the Dark Lord. '/Why am I being punished? It's isn't my fault Draco didn't come to take the Mark'/
"He didn't even tell me he was staying at Hogwarts until everyone was getting on the Express to come home/./ He stopped confiding in me after he heard that his mother had gone into hiding. He stopped talking to /everyone/; even Professor Snape," she gasped, pushing herself up into a sitting position.
"Ah, yes, Severus/. Well, I'll deal with /him later. However, before your parents join us, '/Imperious/'."
Pansy felt herself standing and then walking toward the Dark Lord. He bent slightly and grabbing her, pulled her against his body, his mouth inches from hers. Her face was expressionless but some part of her mind was screaming '/NO/!' Voldemort looked into her eyes and then smiled.
"Oh, yes, Pansy.../yes/."
The Dark Lord pulled his robes on and straightened them. Leaving Pansy lying on the floor he walked over to the side table and poured himself a drink. Pansy was moaning and struggling to crawl away from him. He laughed.
"There's no escape, little one," he whispered. "I'd spare you and keep you for myself, but Bella would be so jealous and I don't have the patience for female tantrums. Well...shall we invite your parents to join our little party?"
Voldemort waved his hand and the door to the chamber swung open. Pansy's parents were in the hall, where they had been waiting for hours. Her mother gasped, ran forward to kneel down and gathered her daughter in her arms. Pansy's father watched them and then turned to face Voldemort.
"My daughter has provided you with the information you required, Master?"
"Oh, I've learned several important things. It would seem your daughter's charms were insufficient to allow her to remain privy to Draco's plans."
"When she returns to Hogwarts in the fall, she will make a more concerted effort, I'm sure; for your benefit, Master."
"Perhaps. However, Draco needs to be taught a lesson /now/. He needs to know that his decision has displeased me greatly."
"Can we be of any assistance to you, Master?"
"Hummm, I believe you and your good wife...and Pansy can be of assistance."
Voldemort turned his head to look at Pansy and her mother. Mr. Parkinson walked over, pulled his wife to her feet and then grabbed Pansy's arm and yanked her off the floor.
"Stand up!" he hissed. "And cover yourself."
Pansy stumbled and then jerked her arm out of his grasp.
"I can stand on my own."
She shot him an angry look, as she pulled her gown closed and fumbled with the sash. Her mother put her arm protectively around Pansy's shoulder, but she shook her off.
"Let go of me."
"Don't you understand? He's going to kill me, to teach Draco a lesson!"
"/No/!" Pansy's mother turned, a shocked expression on her face. "Surely not?"
"Oh, I won't deprive Draco of his sweetheart." Voldemort smiled slightly. "Although, I don't think she's feeling all that kindly toward him anymore, in any event, are you, Pansy? After all; she has suffered my wrath because of his disobedience. But...physical pain fades, so something a little more memorable is needed, don't you agree?"
Pansy's parents looked at each other, perplexed, and then turned to Voldemort.
"What can we do, Master, to be of service?" Mr. Parkinson took a step forward.
A green light burst out from Voldemort's wand and Pansy's father dropped to the floor, dead. Her mother screamed and threw herself down on his body, sobbing.
"Do you miss him already, my dear? Then perhaps you should join him. '/Avada Kadavra/'."
Another flash of green light and Pansy's mother lay there, draped across her husband, dead. Pansy was too stunned to move. Her brain was registering the scene in front of her, but couldn't process a response.
/Except/...she looked up at Voldemort...and smiled.
"Now I understand," she said softly. "It suddenly all makes sense to me....why Draco wants nothing to do with you." She threw back her head and laughed. Voldemort's grip on his wand tightened, but he turned and walked across the room.
Pansy watched him and waited. She was beyond caring if she was killed/. 'Draco was right; following this maniac is not the answer. Will Draco ever know I agreed with him? Will he ever hear how I died? That Voldemort took my body, but my heart belongs to him? Oh, Draco, I'm sorry. I love you.'/ Those thoughts were flashing through her mind as Voldemort opened a cabinet and pulled out a small bottle.
"Come here, Pansy," he said silkily.
Chin up, Pansy went to him.
Pansy took the bottle from Voldemort, pulled out the stopper and raised the bottle in salute.
"To Tom 'Mudblood' Riddle, /may you rot in Hell!/"
And without hesitation, she gulped down the contents. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she fell to the floor, the small bottle flying from her hand and rolling noisily away from her body, across the floor, to smash against the wall.
Voldemort stood for a moment, looking down at her, eyes flashing angrily at her impertinence. Then he smiled slowly, stepped over her, walked back to his chair and sat down. He gazed at the bodies sprawled on the floor in front of him.
"Now you can contemplate how you caused Pansy's /death/, Draco, in more ways than one."
He waved his hand at the door, opening it. The small group of Death Eaters waiting in the hall entered the room hesitantly.
"Take the Parkinsons and their daughter and dump their bodies at the gates of Hogwarts. Place the girl's body on top of her parents. They will serve me, one last time, as the altar for her sacrifice."
"Master. It will be done as you wish."
They picked up the bodies and carried them away.
Draco was walking down to Hagrid's hut when he saw the green spell streaking up into the morning sky, exploding to form the Death Head symbol. It was hovering over Hogsmeade, or at least in that direction.
'No, wait' thought Draco '/that's too close. Could it be over the gates?'/
He heard thundering footsteps behind him and Hagrid ran past, heading across the lawn to the approach road. Draco took off after him.
It was, indeed, the entrance gates to Hogwarts over which the spell floated. Hagrid was standing, looking down at something in the road. Shouts, coming from Hogsmeade, could be heard in the distance.
As Draco approached, Hagrid turned and put out his arm. "No, Draco. There's naught can be done."
"What? Who is it? /Not Mother/!"
He ducked under Hagrid's arm and saw the bodies. /Who? "NO/!" he screamed.
It was Pansy, lying like a discarded rag doll on the bodies of her parents.
Draco went down on his knees, mind whirling. '/Why? What had she...oh no...it's because of me...because she was my girlfriend. Voldemort killed her and her parents because of that?!?'/
Anger, such as he'd never felt, exploded in his brain and he pounded the ground in rage and frustration. He was vaguely aware of people shouting and flashes of light, when Hagrid reached down and pulled him to his feet.
"We've got ta take 'em up to the school, Draco. We can't leave 'em here."
Professor Snape and Professor Dumbledore arrived, both slightly out of breath. They took in the scene in seconds and the curious wizards and witches coming on the run from Hogsmeade. Severus saw the reporter from the Daily Prophet and scowled at him, only to have him lift a camera and take another picture of the developing drama. That wasn't just coincidence; a reporter being in Hogsmeade. The paper had been tipped off. But Dumbledore was talking, so Severus turned away from the gathering crowd and focused on what was being said.
"Hagrid, you're right; we must take the Parkinsons up to the castle. Severus, take Pansy..."
"/NO/! It's my fault she's dead.../I'll/ take her." Draco picked up Pansy and cradled her to his chest, looking defiantly at Dumbledore, who nodded his head in understanding.
"You're not to blame yourself, Draco." Severus took a step toward him.
"Not now, Severus; when we get them up to the hospital wing," Dumbledore said, gently.
Draco snorted. "Bit late for that, don't you think?"
Turning he started the long walk up to the front doors of Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall met him halfway, took in the sight of Draco's pale face as he carried Pansy and Hagrid and Snape carrying the Parkinsons bodies. She silently turned and walked at his side back to the castle.
Poppy was waiting when they arrived at the hospital wing. Draco gently laid Pansy on one of the beds. Severus and Hagrid put their burdens on two of the beds on the opposite side of the ward.
Draco put her arm on her stomach and brushed back some stray hairs off of her forehead. Her other arm flopped off the side of the bed and her fingers opened, allowing the stopper she had been clutching to drop to the floor and roll under the bed, stopping when it hit Draco's shoe. He looked down, scowling, bend and picked the stopper up. He sniffed at it and turned to the adults on the other side of the room.
"Professor Snape, Pansy had this in her hand. Could it be what killed her?" Draco asked, as he held out the stopper to the Potions Master.
Severus strode quickly across the ward, took the stopper from Draco's outstretched fingers, lifted it to his nose and sniffed. His eyebrows shot up and he bent and looked closely at Pansy.
"Poppy, come here, please!"
"What is it Severus?" Dumbledore ushered Poppy in front of him to Pansy's bedside.
"She may not be dead. This stopper is from a bottle that contained the /Draught of the Living Death/."
"What!?!" Draco turned to look at Pansy, then leaned over and grasped her hand. "Pansy? /Pansy/!"
Poppy was waving her wand over Pansy, concentrating. She gasped and looked up at the Headmaster.
"She is alive, but at the level you'd expect with that vile potion." Looking at Severus, she confirmed her own suspicions, in a quiet voice. "She won't wake, will she?"
"No, she won't wake, Poppy, without the antidote," Snape answered softly, putting a hand on Draco's shoulder.
Draco looked up at him. "Can you brew it?"
Severus shook his head, sadly. "I can't brew an antidote for her, simply because it must be brewed at the same time the potion is made, using the same ingredients, sharing them for both. I'm sorry."
"Then," Draco turned and looked at Pansy, "She'll never wake up. We've no idea where the antidote could be."
"The Dark Lord never bothers having the antidote made, when he orders this particular potion, Draco. Any one he gives it to is not supposed to wake up."
"So, there's no hope." Draco sank down on the edge of the bed and picked up Pansy's hand and rubbed the back with his thumb.
"Draco, there is always hope." Professor Dumbledore walked around the bed, looking down at the heartbroken boy. "And...you and Pansy have just, together, saved her life, if you think about it. What if she hadn't held onto that stopper, bringing with her proof of what had happened. What if you hadn't noticed it when it fell to the floor? We'd have buried her with her parents, and she'd have slowly smothered to death. Or...if their wills stipulated cremation, we'd have burned her alive. We'd have done the killing for Voldemort; which was just what he planned, if my guess is correct. He'd relish the thought of being able to taunt you, sometime in the future, about causing Pansy's actual death.
"There is another way that she can awaken, Draco," Severus said, quietly.
Draco spun around and looked up at the Potions Master.
"With the Dark Lord's death, anyone to whom he's given the 'Drought of the Living Death', if they are still alive, will awaken. But, as he plans to never be conquered by death, he thinks her fate is sealed."
"So, the only hope for Pansy is that someone manages to kill Voldemort?"
"Yes. He would be the logical candidate."
"I need to talk to him. Professor Dumbledore, is there any way to get Harry back here to Hogwarts?"
"Not until just before his birthday, at the end of next month. He will come back then," Dumbledore assured Draco. "What's important," he said, as he looked around at the small group, and then went on, "is that no one should know that Pansy is still alive. She must be hidden for now. Perhaps in one of your isolation rooms, Poppy? We will put wards around it, so know one will be the wiser."
"Albus, how can we account for her body at the funeral? Surely someone will want to see. A death certificate will have to be produced." Minerva was standing beside Poppy, trying to be the voice of reason.
"Poppy, as a Healer, can declare them dead. Make out the forms, now, please, so we'll be ready when anyone inquires. And we'll have the funeral here at Hogwarts. There will be three coffins, why would anyone question or doubt?"
"Yes, there were plenty of witnesses at the gate, including, I'm sure, a Death Eater or two, who have reported back to Voldemort, by now, the effect finding Pansy's body had on Draco. To say nothing of the event being recorded for publication on the front page of tomorrow's /Daily Prophe,/" Severus snarled.
"Then," Dumbledore continued, "let us continue this misconception." Turning, he looked at Draco. "Can you act as if Pansy is dead? You must tell no one, even Harry."
"I don't know...I don't think so. I'd rather you modified my memory and then I won't slip up."
"Wise decision, Draco," agreed Dumbledore, as he smiled at him. "One day, you and Pansy will be able to discuss this and she'll be very proud that you figured out what had happened and chose to protect her and you can tell her how proud you were of her for outsmarting Voldemort by bringing with her a clue as to her true condition."
"Yes, we will get to do that, someday, won't we?" He smiled weakly and looked down at Pansy again.
"Indeed. Well...Poppy, Severus, I believe you two should retain the knowledge of Pansy's whereabouts and condition, as will I. However...Minerva, Hagrid, I think I'd better modify your memories, along with Draco's, as your grief would then be genuine and would help convince anyone who comes here and the students, when they return."
"Of course, Albus." "Right-o, Professor Dumbledore."
"Alright then, the two of you stand behind Draco and put your hands on his shoulders."
"Everything'll work out fine in the end, Draco, you wait and see," Hagrid leaned over and whispered to Draco, who nodded, tears in his eyes.
Moments later, Hagrid pulled his handkerchief from his back pocket and blew his nose. Poppy patted him on the arm, reassuringly. Minerva leaned over and whispered in Draco's ear.
"Come with me, Mr. Malfoy...Draco. There's nothing you can do right now. Let Dumbledore and Poppy handle everything."
"No. I can't just leave her. She's dead and it's because of me. I'll not leave her to just lie here. Please, let me stay a while." Professor McGonagall looked up at Dumbledore, who nodded. "Very well, Draco. Poppy will be here, too. I'll be back in a bit." She gave his shoulder a squeeze and he reached up and put his hand over hers and nodded. Then, Minerva turned and walked toward the door, taking the sniffling Hagrid with her, comforting him as best she could.
Poppy tugged on Dumbledore's sleeve and they walked a little away from the bed. He bent to hear her whisper.
"Headmaster, there is undeniable evidence that Pansy has been...molested...viciously and repeatedly...and very recently...only an hour or so ago."
She saw flashes of terrible anger, heartfelt pain and great sadness cross the Headmaster's eyes, and then he replied in a deadly calm voice, "Do what you can for her, Poppy, after Mr. Malfoy leaves. Thank you." He squeezed her arm and she nodded.
Mr. Filch arrived at the doors of the hospital wing. Professor McGonagall had stopped and turned to hear what was happening.
"Headmaster, there's a delegation from the Ministry of Magic coming up the drive."
"Very well, Mr. Filch, meet them at the front doors and escort them to my office."
"Yes, sir." He turned and trotted off.
"Severus, Minerva, could you come with me, please? Poppy, I'll leave you to do the necessary paperwork and keep an eye on Mr. Malfoy. Hagrid, could I ask you to go and make sure the crowd at the gates has dispersed."