Tempers flare as guilt and sorrow spreads. Christopher and Hermione deliver the sad news. Harry and Aunt Petunia share a secret and come to an understanding.
Bad news travels fast
"What happened, Dumbledore?" The new Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, came striding into the Headmaster's office followed by several other officials, including Percy Weasley.
"Voldemort," Dumbledore began, ignoring the hisses and intakes of breath, "killed Viola and Stanley Parkinson and their daughter, Pansy. He ordered their bodies left at the gates of Hogwarts, I believe, as a message to Draco Malfoy, who is staying here this summer."
"Lucius Malfoy was a known and convicted Death Eater. What's his son doing at this school over the holiday?"
"Draco has renounced his father's ways and his association with the Death Eaters and their leader and his allegiance is now with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."
"Really? How can you be sure?"
"Draco has nothing to hide and everything to lose, as the head of the Malfoy family, including the lives of his mother and his unborn sister. He is steadfast in his decision."
"Then why were the Parkinsons killed?"
"It was to show Draco there is no turning back or changing his mind. Voldemort wants to make very sure Draco knows that he'll never be forgiven for turning away from the Death Eaters and aligning himself with Harry Potter."
"But, from what we could gather, Parkinson was a faithful follower...of you-know-who. Why kill his own people?" asked Percy Weasley, earning him a withering look from the Minister.
"Pansy and Draco were close friends and the parents...I imagine as an example to the other followers."
"May we see the bodies...to make the deaths official, you understand. And we would like to get a statement from Draco Malfoy who, I understand, was the one to find the bodies."
"Second on the scene, actually; Rubius Hagrid was first to arrive at the gates."
"I see. Well, we could talk to him also...I suppose."
"Of course." Dumbledore rose from behind his desk and led the way to the hospital wing, with Severus and Minerva, sniffling into her hanky, following behind.
Upon entering the ward, the bodies of the Parkinsons were lying, covered, on two of the beds to the right. Pansy was lying, opposite, with Draco still sitting by her, his back to them.
One of the Ministry officials walked over and uncovered the faces of the Parkinsons and waved his wand over them. He then flipped the sheets back over their faces and turned to the Minister.
"Both killed with the '/Avada Kadavra/' curse, Minister."
"Thank you. And Miss Parkinson?" He turned to find Poppy between himself and Pansy's bed.
"The same, Minister. Here is my full report on all three victims, complete with the death certificates," Poppy informed him, holding out a set of rolled parchments to the Minister, who nodded, took them from her and passed them to his assistant.
"Thank you, Madame Pomfrey. How very efficient of you. We needed to make it official, you understand."
"Of course, and I saved you a bit of paperwork, too." She smiled sweetly at him and his assistant, who nodded agreement as he put the scrolls in the pocket of his robe.
"Now, however, we need to speak with Mr. Malfoy."
"Really, Minister, must you?" Minerva McGonagall sniffed, wiping her eyes. "He's in shock and wants a bit of privacy to mourn his friend."
"No, that's alright, Professor," said Draco, who stood and turned, his eyes red and his face white and drawn. "I'll speak to the Minister, if he thinks it will be of any help."
"We don't want to intrude on your grief, but..."
"Yes, I know; official business. I've been through this before...recently, remember?"
"Ah, yes, well, what we would like to hear, in your own words, is what happened and what you saw."
Draco took a deep breath and started recounting the story in a dull monotone.
"I was walking down to Hagrid's hut when I saw a spell streak into the sky. It exploded into the Dark Mark. I thought for a moment it was over Hogsmeade, but I realized it was too close. Hagrid came running by me and I followed him to the gates. He tried to stop me from seeing, but I panicked. I thought it might be Mother. I ducked around him and ..." He took another deep breath. "I saw Pansy, lying there on top of her parents bodies. She was dead, they were all dead. I could tell. I must have gone down on my hands and knees, because I remember Hagrid pulling me to my feet. He was saying we had to take them up to the school. People were coming from Hogsmeade and there was shouting and screaming. Professor Snape and Headmaster Dumbledore got there and I picked up Pansy and we walked back to the school. Professor McGonagall was there, too. I brought Pansy up here, even though there was nothing Madame Pomfrey could do. She checked; they were all dead. I've been here with her ever since."
"Do you have any idea why they were killed, Mr. Malfoy?"
"Because Pansy was my girlfriend." He heaved a sigh. "And because I haven't taken my father's place. I didn't go and get marked, as my father had planned. In fact, I've stopped or changed everything my father ever did to supply money or other help to Voldemort."
Some of the Ministry officials gasped. Draco stopped and turned to look at them.
"/VOLDEMORT/!" he yelled at the top of his lungs "Get OVER it! That's his name/...No, /wait/, I'm wrong. His name is /TOM RIDDLE and he's /half MUGGLE/! Remember?"
Draco looked wildly around at the shocked faces and then caught Dumbledore's eye. The Headmaster winked and smiled. Draco threw back his head and laughed. Then he stopped and turned to face the Minister.
"/Get out/!" His voice was ice cold. "There's nothing for you here. Your '/official business/' is finished. Leave me to grieve in private." He turned and sat down with his back to them and picked up Pansy's hand and held it.
"Minister," Dumbledore said quietly. "I believe he is correct. There's nothing more for you to do here."
"Yes, yes, well, I, well, we'd better be getting back to London. Come along everyone." The delegation beat a hasty retreat.
Minerva put her hand on Draco's shoulder. "Well done, Mr. Malfoy." She gave his shoulder a small squeeze.
"Thank you, Professor."
"Would you like Professor Snape or me to stay?"
"No, thank you. I'm only going to stay a while longer, myself. Madame Pomfrey will need to take care of things...soon."
"Yes, well, I'll leave you, then. Severus?"
"In a minute, Minerva."
Professor McGonagall left and Severus sat down on a chair on the other side of Pansy. He watched Draco in silence.
"Why kill her?" Draco questioned in a voice barely above a whisper. "Why not send her back here with orders to spy on me, find out what I'm up to? Why kill her and her parents?"
"He probably suspects you'd never tell Pansy anything of importance. She was useless to him, so he used her to teach you a lesson, sending you the message that you've sealed your fate."
"I'm even more certain I made the right decision, now. I'm just sorry Pansy had to pay for my defiance."
"Then let's make sure her sacrifice was not in vain. I happen to know what the D.A. has been doing; at least the spells they've learned. So, I'll help you catch up, until such time as Potter and the rest return," Severus offered.
"Do you think they'll believe me, that I've changed? Will they let me help with whatever it is they have planned?" Draco looked up at him, frowning.
"If Harry Potter believes you, they'll all believe you, but you've also got to win them over, Draco, by your own actions."
"Wait a minute. Why are you telling me this? How do I know this isn't some plot to get me to spy on Harry and the D.A.? You're a Death Eater."
"Was, Draco. We're on the same side."
"Father said you were a double agent."
"Well, he was half right; actually, I'm a double agent for this side of the war. I can tell you that, because I suspect the Dark Lord doubts my loyalty, a bit, as I haven't produced you for him to punish and my plan to 'keep an eye on you' didn't stop your dealings with Gringotts. I'm not sure if he'll accept my explanations for that. We'll see."
Draco stared at him for a long moment.
"Ok, if Dumbledore trusts you and Potter...Harry trusts you, so will I. Don't have a lot of choice, come to that. Does Anna know you're a double agent?"
"Professor Twigg-Jones knows a great deal about me, but she's still cautious. It's her Auror training by Mad-Eye Moody coming through. Still, I believe she trusts me also, instinctively." He smiled slightly.
"I'll let you in on a small secret, too. If you go to Professor Dumbledore's office you can send a message to Professor Twigg-Jones by talking with her late husband, Dr. Christopher Jones. His portrait was moved there from the DADA classroom, at the end of term, for just that purpose; so the Headmaster could keep in touch with her."
"Really?" Draco chuckled. "I've heard about him. She thinks of everything, doesn't she?" Shaking his head, then he took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. "If only she'd thought of this."
Draco laid Pansy's hand on her stomach and then leaned over and kissed her. Standing, he and Severus turned away and started walking out of the hospital wing.
Just as they neared the door, they heard a soft cough and looked up.
"Christopher, I was just telling Draco about your portrait."
"Yes, I heard, but didn't want to interrupt."
"How long have you been here?"
"I got here right after the delegation from the Ministry. Word had spread quickly through the castle, you see, and I came as soon as I heard. Is there nothing to be done, then?"
"I'm afraid not, Christopher. The '/Avada Kadavra/' spell is irreversible and only one person has ever survived it."
Christopher looked down at Draco. "I'm sorry about your friend and her parents, Draco, truly."
"Thank you, Dr. Jones."
"Please, call me Christopher. Everyone in the D.A. does and if I understood Anna correctly, you'll be a member come start of term."
"Did she say that? Optimistic of her."
"That's our Anna. And she's rarely wrong; she had you pegged."
Draco smiled. "She did, didn't she?"
"And, Bravo! for the way you handled that pompous windbag of a Minister. Insufferable prig."
That caused Draco to laugh out loud and Severus ducked his head, smirking.
"Well, I'm just going to go to tell her the sad news, then. Any messages, from anyone? While I'm making the trip, I may as well go with a full slate, what?"
"Tell her I'm ok, for now." Draco looked back at Pansy and sighed.
"Give her our greetings, from the staff and tell her we'll be here for Draco; not to worry on that score."
"Certainly. All right then, I'm off. And Draco, Severus was right, if you need to contact Anna, just come to Albus' study. Or if you feel the need to just talk, come around, any time."
"Thank you, sir. I'll probably do that."
Christopher waved and walked out of the frame.
"That was strange." Draco shook his head, as he and Snape walked out of the hospital wing and down the hallway.
"Why strange? Oh, you mean talking to a dead Muggle? It's my understanding Professor Twigg-Jones received special permission to have Christopher's portrait done magically."
"You're very friendly with Dr. Jones...Christopher...on first name basis and all."
"Actually, I met Christopher on a trip to Diagon Alley, about eight years ago, and corresponded with him about various potions and magical cures he was studying. We became professional acquaintances, so to speak. Now, we have become friends, and we still discuss and argue about potions versus Muggle medicines and drugs. Some are remarkably similar, it turns out."
"He knows about you and Voldemort and what's going on?"
"Yes. He's very aware of how intense this war will become. Anastasia has given him a fairly thorough background history of our world and its problems. He was a remarkably accepting individual; of our world and magic, in general. Found it quite fascinating, if a bit unexpected, at times, he told me. He's busy now, keeping Anastasia up to date as to what's happening. Less chance of her getting stir crazy and doing something stupid, like wandering away from her hiding place, in search of intellectual stimulation of some sort."
"Like shopping, you mean?"
"You've heard the rumors, then?"
"That and she has quite an extensive wardrobe, from what I've seen. I hear she's the terror of Diagon Alley and the Muggle shops as well." Draco smiled. "She puts even my mother to shame, as far as shopping goes, and that's saying something. But, she wouldn't go to /Diagon Alley/, surely?"
"No, I think not. However she is used to living among Muggles, so she could walk around without drawing attention to herself, at any Muggle shop, very easily, I'm sure."
"But she wouldn't, would she?"
"Let us hope she's showing unusual levels of good sense. Christopher is keeping an eye one her, without looking as if he's mother-henning, so we'll have some warning if she starts getting too antsy. It's not even been a week since she left, after all." Severus noted, and then thought '/But, it seems an age'/.
"Yeah, a lot has changed since last week."
"Anna? ANNA!" Christopher shouted, and then waited for an answer. Eileen Snape's ghost drifted into the hallway, where Christopher's portrait was sitting on the hall table, propped against the wall.
"Hello. Are you Christopher?" Eileen smiled at him.
"Why, yes and you must be Eileen. I'm very pleased to meet you. Is Anna around? I've some rather disturbing news I must relay to her and Narcissa."
"It's not Severus...?"
"No, he's fine. It's...well, it involves Draco and a friend of his."
"I'll get them." She turned around quickly and floated straight through the wall, heading for the garden.
Soon, footsteps were heard hurrying into and through the house, to the front hall.
"Christopher, what's wrong?" Anna was in the lead, followed closely by Narcissa and Gwen.
"Is it Draco? He's not been injured, has he?" Narcissa looked at him anxiously.
"No, but...I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you the sad news. Pansy Parkinson..."
Narcissa gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.
"...and her parents ...were murdered by Voldemort."
Anna swore under her breath and banged her hands down on the table, leaning forward, shaking her head and muttering. Gwen put her arm around Narcissa and held her tight.
"Unfortunately, Hagrid and Draco found the bodies, which had been deliberately left at the gates of Hogwarts."
"Dear God," gasped Gwen.
"Oh, no..." whimpered Narcissa. She swayed a bit and Gwen grabbed a stool and had her sit down.
"That lousy/, /no good, /murdering //son-of-a-BITCH/!" Anna spit out, pounding the table again and then she started pacing, fists clenched.
Gwen had the presence of mind to ask the questions that were careening around in all of their heads.
"Was there nothing to be done for them, Dad?"
"How is Draco?" Narcissa asked, dreading the answer.
"Coping, rather well, under the circumstances. He went down the throat of the Minister for Magic, himself, when he and his bunch of officials showed up to poke their noses in. 'Official business' Draco showed them 'official business' - sent the whole lot packing. Did himself proud, Narcissa."
She looked up at Christopher and gave him a small smile and a nod.
"Who knows about this, so far, Dad?" Gwen continued questioning him.
"Everyone at Hogwarts and in Hogsmeade, of course, because a Death Mark was shot into the air. It's some sort of signal that the Death Eaters have struck. And I'm going, next, to see Remus so we can alert the kids in the D.A. before they see it tomorrow morning in the Daily Prophet. There was a photographer there, taking pictures of the whole thing, apparently."
"Great. That'll look just wonderful following on the heels of the Manor burning."
"Draco...my poor boy..." Narcissa was rocking back and forth, sniffing into her handkerchief.
"Yes, Draco needs some help absorbing this, but don't worry, Narcissa; Severus, Albus and I will be talking with him, as he blames himself for Pansy's death."
"/NO/!" Anna whirled around, turning toward the picture. "If anyone is to blame, it should be me/. I should have seen this coming. We only thought of the D.A. and how to protect /them. I never considered the Slytherin students were in any danger. GOD! How could I have been so /STUPID/!/" /
"Now, Anna, stop it!" Gwen turned toward her. "You can't blame yourself.../or/ think of everything /or /save everybody."
Narcissa stood, walked over and put her arm around Anna.
"Gwen's right, Anna; you've done so much, for all of the students and for me and my baby and Draco. You can't save everyone."
Christopher was watching Anna closely. He shook his head.
"Let go of her, Narcissa, she's too upset right now. She doesn't half hear you; much less absorb what you're saying."
Anna disengaged herself from Cissa's embrace and want out the front door, slamming it, almost off of its hinges, behind her.
Gwen heaved a sigh. "When she finishes venting, we can sit down and talk some sense into her."
Gwen and Christopher covered their ears as Narcissa looked back and forth between them and then realized what was about to happen. She hastily clamped her hands over her own ears and winced.
A primal scream rent the air, followed by the sound of smashing flower pots and overturning benches. After several minutes of continued screaming and crashes, there was silence. The trio in the hall slowly lowered their hands. Now the only sound was sobbing, and sniffing and then Anna could be heard blowing her nose.
"Ah, nearly done." Christopher nodded, sagely.
Eileen's ghost came floating down from the upstairs hall.
"Severus has his hands full with that one, doesn't he?" She smiled, shook her head and drifted off, humming to herself.
"/Tell //me about it/!" Christopher called after her, as Gwen and Cissa giggled with nervous relief.
"I'd forgotten how bad her temper can be; hasn't changed a bit, has it? Just like the old days," Narcissa observed, as she sat down on the stool again.
"Now, if we can get her focused," Gwen said looking around as the front door opened and Anna came back into the house.
"Sorry, I just had to..."
"We understand, my dear," Christopher assured her. "Well, I'll leave you three to talk. I really must go find Remus and alert him, although he's probably heard by now. I'll pop back later and keep you posted. Ta!"
"Goodbye, and thank you for coming to tell us." "Goodbye, Dad." "Thank you, Christopher."
He waved and walked out the side of the frame.
"I'd better go and write Draco a letter."
"You can't Cissa." Anna put a hand on her arm to keep her from rising.
"Why ever not?"
"How will you explain knowing about everything, barely an hour or so after it happened? Who at Hogwarts would know how to contact you?"
"I...oh, dear, you're right."
"After we see the paper tomorrow morning or if he contacts you, fine. But it would raise too many questions, if you wrote to him first."
"Look," Gwen reasoned, "if he can tell off the Minister for Magic - whoever that is - I don't think we have to worry about Draco. Tell you what; let's go attack those brambles we were talking about removing yesterday; take out our anger and frustration and aggression on them instead of sitting and stewing about this. There's absolutely nothing we can do, right now/, about /any of this, so what do you say; let's get busy and rip SOMETHING to shreds. It won't be as satisfying as tearing old Voldemort to pieces with our bare hands, but we can fantasize, can't we?"
"Yes, I feel the need to release some anger, myself," agreed Narcissa, standing up and stretching her fingers.
"Right," Anna chimed in. "Lead on, Gwen."
As Gwen turned and walked away, Anna put her arm around her old school friend and leaned sideways, to touch her forehead to Cissa's.
"Draco will be fine," she whispered.
"I know. He's stronger than people think."
"Let's go shred something, shall we?"
"Hi! This is Hermione Granger."
"Hermione Granger; I'm a classmate of Harry's. Is he at home?"
"Yeah, he's out in the back yard." Dudley looked out the kitchen window to see Harry helping his mother weeding her flower garden.
"Could you call him to the phone, please? I've some...news for him."
Hermione struggled to keep her voice light and friendly. She was upset at having to make this call. But Harry had to be told, that much had become instantly clear when Remus had phoned her with the news of Pansy Parkinson's death...and her parents. That part of the message had sent shivers down her spine. If Voldemort could kill a family of his own followers, she and her parents weren't safe at all.
"Yeah, ok, I'll get him."
"Thank you, so much," she replied. '/Hurry, please'/ she thought. It seemed forever before Harry picked up the receiver.
"Hey, how are you? What a great surprise. Have you heard from..."
"/Harry/!...I've got some bad news."
"Oh, sorry. What is it?" Harry braced himself.
"Pansy Parkinson and her parents were killed by Voldemort last night and their bodies were left by Death Eaters outside the gates of Hogwarts this morning. A Death Mark was set off and Hagrid and Draco found them there."
"/WHAT!// Bloody hell!/ ...Why kill /them/?" Harry leaned against the wall and ran his fingers through his hair.
"Remus said it was a message to Draco."
"What?...oh, Voldemort...yes, I agree."
"Why didn't someone just send me an owl? Why go through Remus and then you, to let me know?"
"I suppose they, Dumbledore, I mean, didn't want it to seem as if you'd need to know right away. He's trying to keep your new friendship with Draco as quiet as possible, I imagine, until fall, or whenever you go back to Hogwarts, don't you think?"
"Yeah, probably. I'll send a letter to Draco, though, let him know the word's out to the D.A. and send our sympathy."
"I think he'd appreciate that. I don't know if there's to be a funeral, but I'll let you know if I hear anything."
"Oh, right...yeah, thanks."
There was a long moment of slightly awkward silence.
"By the way, my parents are going abroad on a medical/dental relief mission. Isn't that exciting?"
"Cool, but I got a better surprise. My aunt and uncle won a 'trip around the world' cruise. They and Dudley are leaving in two weeks."
"Going into hiding in plain sight, too, are they?"
"Yeah. I wonder who else's folks might be 'traveling'?
"I'm sure we'll hear soon enough. Ron says Hi! by the way. I saw him yesterday in /Diagon Alley. /Fred and George, too. Mom and I were shopping and we stopped at the Leaky Cauldron for some of Tom's mulligatawny soup and we ran into them and Fred and George insisted on showing their shop to Mother. Fed her a Canary Cream, even though I'd warned her. She thought it was great fun." Hermione giggled.
"Your mum's a brave woman and those two have no shame; fed one of those to Gwen over Christmas, too."
"Ha! Well, I have to go and help her pack. They leave soon and then I'll go to the Burrow."
"As if I couldn't have guessed that!" Harry laughed.
"Right. I'll give Ginny your love."
"Thanks. Tell her I'll see her soon. I hope. And thanks for relaying the news."
"Wish I hadn't had to. Pansy didn't deserve that."
"No, she didn't. 'Bye Hermione."
"'Bye, Harry. See you soon."
"Yeah, 'bye." Harry hung up.
Harry turned to find Aunt Petunia standing by the kitchen sink, gardening gloves in hand, watching him. He heaved a sigh.
"Yes. Who's dead?"
Knowing he couldn't deny anything, he told her the truth.
"Pansy Parkinson...and her parents. She was in my year at school, different house."
"Oh, my God. How? When?"
"Apparently Voldemort killed them...or had them killed, and then their bodies were dumped at the gates of Hogwarts as a message to Draco Malfoy. Pansy was his girlfriend."
"He's that new friend of yours, that you told me about; the boy who is staying the summer at...Hogwarts?"
"Yes. Voldemort doesn't play favorites. Her parents were followers, for all the good it did them."
Petunia Dursley stood facing at Harry for a long minute and then looked to see where Dudley was. She saw he'd wandered outside, to take a lie down in the hammock, which was barely clearing the grass as it swung slowly back and forth. She turned back to confront Harry.
"We didn't win any contest, did we Harry? You...well, Professor Dumbledore, has arranged for us to be away from here for our own safety, hasn't he?"
"/Are/ we in danger? Here...now?" Petunia was grasping her gloves, white knuckles showing her agitation.
"No, not until after my birthday. That's why you're leaving in two weeks, to get you out of here well before I come of age. That's when the enchantments and charms Dumbledore placed on this house will end. I'll be on my own. Which is why I'll be leaving, too, not long after you all set sail on your trip."
"I see. Well, I'll not tell your Uncle Vernon or Dudley. We'll just let them enjoy the trip."
"Don't worry, Aunt Petunia. I'll be alright and so will you three."
"Are you sure?"
"As I can be; I'm...we're all prepared."
"Did I understand you correctly? Your friend who phoned, her parents are leaving, too."
"Hermione's parents are going on a medical mission tour. Best cover for them, I suppose." Harry shrugged.
"It's started, hasn't it?"
"What, their trip?"
"No...another war for your world? Like it was when...Lily and...James were killed."
"Yeah, it has."
"Are you in danger?"
"I'm #1 on Voldemort's list of people to kill."
"Oh, Harry. Can't Professor Dumbledore do something?"
"No. He, and you, have protected me all these years. Now I have to do my part."
"I see. Be careful, Harry."
He gave his aunt a hug and headed for his bedroom, to write a letter to Draco.
"I'll be back down in a few minutes," he said, as he turned to go up the stairs.
"Don't rush; I'm just going to get dinner started. Your uncle will be home from work before too long."
He nodded and took the stairs two at a time.
Now, before everyone starts screaming, I made an executive decision and FYI, Harry and Petunia have had some conversations since he came home from school.
She wanted news of Anna, so Harry decided to tell her the truth and she's come to the realization that Harry, in all probability, will never stay at their home again, after he goes back for his last year at Hogwarts. In fact, she may never see him again, period.
She also sees how much he's matured and finally has an idea of what Harry is facing.
SO, they have an 'understanding'; don't discuss Harry's world in front of Uncle Vernon and Dudley, but, she's really trying to come to terms with how Harry is going to have to face the very person who killed her sister. And, that he may die.