The Parkinson murders were front page news the next morning. The Wizarding world shook their heads and wondered who, if anyone, was safe from Voldemort's wrath.
Hedwig arrived at the breakfast table, fluttering down to perch on the back of Draco's chair, and nibbled at his hair in a friendly sort of way.
"Ah, Harry's heard," Dumbledore observed.
"Yeah, looks like it. Thanks Hedwig."
Draco untied Harry's letter from her leg and Hedwig flapped around the table to land on Dumbledore's arm and receive a few bits of bacon as a treat. She then took off for the owlery to rest from her trip.
Draco unrolled the parchment and started to silently read, head bowed, being watched, surreptitiously, by the staff members at the table.
Hermione called after lunch and I was shocked and saddened to hear about Pansy and her parents. But, thinking about it as I write, I'm not surprised that Voldemort would do something like this. I'm just sorry it was Pansy. Not that I wish any of your friends any harm, don't misunderstand me, but it could have been anybody in Slytherin House who was your mate or anyone else you were close to.
It's just a shame his mind works the way it does and the fact he has no remorse or feelings about hurting or killing people, even those who supposedly were supporters. It makes less and less sense.
What ever else you do, do NOT blame yourself. You no more painted a bull's-eye on Pansy and her parents than I did on my folks.
It all comes down to me being able to stop Voldemort. I hope now that you'll really understand why the DA is there; to give me as much of a chance as possible, by out fighting and outsmarting the Death Eaters, to do what I must do, for all of us.
I'm planning on coming back to Hogwarts as soon as it can be managed, probably the last week of July. I'm going to be showing you some stuff the DA has been learning. We'll talk more then, but don't hesitate to write, if you feel the need; to let off steam or to just tell me what you've been up to. Bet the staff is finding all sorts of things for you to do to 'help' them.
Christopher (Dr. Jones - Anna's husband - he's got a portrait) told me, jokingly, of course, that that was why Anna had me to her house last Christmas, and I quote "to help carry in that bloody big Christmas tree......That's what teenagers are for...feed them...and they'll rearrange the whole house" HA!HA! Don't let them work you TOO hard!
Speaking of Anna and Christopher, don't hesitate to talk to him and thus to her. They're both very understanding and can help keep your head screwed on straight. They're pretty cool - for adults - (don't tell them I said that!)
I have to go and help Aunt Petunia. I set the table for dinner and make Uncle Vernon's 'after work/before dinner' drink. He says I have a "promising future as a barman, if this 'thing' (he won't say the word magic) doesn't work out." HA! As Anna says, always have a plan B, just in case. That could be my plan B; once we're rid of Voldemort I'll open a pub - Potter's - how does that sound? Or /The Wand and Scar? /Or /The Common Room/. Blimey, this could get very silly, very quickly; better stop before it gets totally out of control, don't you agree?
Write if you feel like it or when you feel like it. We're (the DA) all keeping you in our thoughts. Know that, and I hope find some comfort in the fact you really do have friends who are thinking and caring about you, especially now.
Draco finished with a small smile on his face.
"Harry's going to come back early. He's leaving his aunt and uncle's a few days before his birthday, it seems, and heading for Hogwarts."
"Yes, he's going to try and help you catch up with the rest of the DA," Dumbledore informed him.
Draco looked at Severus, who nodded.
"Right, he mentioned that. You knew he was coming?"
"It was one of the options open to him. I wouldn't be surprised if more than a few DA's showed up earlier than the start of term," Severus explained.
"How will they get here? Floo?"
"Yes, they could, if they owl us of their intentions, so we can prepare. The Network to Hogwarts is heavily warded and we have to know their intention to travel that way. Or they could Port Key or Apparate to the front gates." Dumbledore took a sip of his coffee. "Mr. Finnegan will, in all probability, return on Tut, with Mr. Thomas in the sidecar. The possibilities are...interesting." He looked over his half-moon glasses and chuckled. Draco smiled back.
"Oh, now I've got a life-sized mental picture of those two flying across the countryside stuck in my mind. Thanks a lot, Professor."
"It is a bit alarming to contemplate, to be sure," chuckled Albus.
"I rather enjoyed my ride in the sidecar," said Flitwick, looking over at Draco. "Felt quite safe, but a bit bumpy, until I charmed a cushion under myself."
"I thought my ride was pretty neat, too, although not the reason for it. Served me right, though," Draco answered, shaking his head.
"How is Potter?" Snape asked.
"He's upset about what happened and worried about me. It seems Granger...Hermione...telephoned. Is that the word? Well, anyway, with the news. How she knew, I haven't a clue."
"Remus Lupin alerted her to what had happened, on my instructions," Dumbledore informed him.
"Oh...right, well he's really concerned about me, how I'm handling it. He said to rely on you, Headmaster and Dr. Jones, too."
"Sage advice from one who knows," Snape intoned.
Draco looked around at him and saw the small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. Draco nodded.
An owl arrived in the early morning with a copy of the /Daily Prophet/, sent by Remus to Gwen and Anna.
"Oh...my...God!" Anna gasped as she unfolded the paper and looked at the front page.
"How bad is it?" Gwen asked, turning from the stove, where she was heating water for their morning coffee. Somehow, magically made coffee didn't taste the same as fresh brewed and she insisted on making the first pot of the day. She walked over to the table and leaned over Anna's shoulder.
"Sweet Mary, mother of pearl!"
The pictures were bad enough, but the lurid article, that practically accused Draco of sending Pansy to her death when he saw her onto the Express the previous Saturday morning, was underscoring every single shot of the scene. More pictures and speculation about the deaths and the fire at Malfoy Manor and Draco still being at Hogwarts took up most of the next two pages.
"It's here, is it?" Narcissa entered the kitchen and the other two looked up from the paper and nodded.
"Is it as bad as we imagined?"
They nodded again.
"Worse, actually," Anna said, sadly.
Narcissa sat down and held out her hand for the paper. Anna tuned it around and slid it across to her. Despite knowing what she was about to see, Cissa still clamped her hand over her mouth to smother a sob as she watched Draco pounding the ground and Hagrid pulling him to his feet. Tears filled her eyes.
Gwen quickly came around and put her hands on Narcissa's shoulders. Anna reached across the table and took her hand.
The next picture, of Draco picking Pansy up, was almost too awful to view, but the fierce determination on his face was unmistakable. Severus turned as he hefted Viola Parkinson in his arms and glared daggers at the camera.
Another showed Minerva McGonagall hurrying down the road toward them as they turned toward the school with Hagrid bearing Stanley Parkinson in his arms and the Headmaster bringing up the rear.
There was also a graphic close up shot of the bodies, themselves, taken moments before Hagrid arrived.
"Does either of you find it odd that the photographer just happened to be standing at the gates of Hogwarts, camera at the ready, when all of this happened?" Gwen asked. "I mean, is there usually a lot of news worthy stuff happening in - what's the name of that village?"
"Hogsmeade," Narcissa and Anna chorused.
"Right, Hogsmeade. I mean, it's like having a reporter hanging around Oxford or Eton or Harrow or some other school, which is empty because of holiday, on the off chance of catching someone doing something for the 'look at the strange thing what we just saw' column."
"No students, except Draco," Cissa said in a small voice.
"Exactly," Anna agreed. "And no, Gwen, Hogsmeade and news don't belong together in the same sentence. It is more than just odd or pure coincidence; he was tipped off to be there. Voldemort wants to scare as many people as possible, including his own followers. If the Parkinsons can be killed that easily, having done nothing to displease him, how safe is anyone: friend or foe?"
"People are going to panic," Gwen observed. "The stress level in the Wizarding world is about to hit an all time high, I bet."
"That's what he wants, don't you see? Get everyone all worked up, have the Ministry running around in circles and just sit back and enjoy the chaos. Wait a while and strike again."
"What can we do?" Narcissa asked.
As if in answer, an owl swooped through the window and landed next to her. She untied the letter with trembling fingers. It was from Draco.
Anna leaned over and whispered to the owl, "If you fly up to the window under the east eave, you'll find food and water. Wally will share with you." The owl hooted and took off.
"I'm almost afraid to open this." Narcissa sat with her hands in her lap, the scroll on the table in front of her.
"Want me to read it?" Gwen volunteered.
"Would you? My hands are shaking so, I couldn't focus on the writing anyway." She gave her a small smile. Gwen picked up the parchment, unrolled it and read the contents out loud.
I am afraid I have some sad, bad news to share with you. I don't know if you get any news at all, but I thought you should hear this from me. This morning the bodies of Pansy Parkinson and her parents were left outside the gates here at Hogwarts. A Dark Mark was set off and Hagrid and I were the first to get there. There was nothing we could do, of course.
I understand Professor Snape saw a photographer from the Daily Prophet at the scene, so there will probably be pictures all over the front of the paper tomorrow morning. Hopefully, if you get the Daily Prophet where ever you are, you'll get this letter first, so as not to give you too bad a shock when you do see the pictures.
Anyway, I carried Pansy up to the school. Professor Snape and Hagrid carried her parents. The Ministry showed up, of course. As if they could do anything, except poke their noses in and sniff around. Vultures. I told off the Minister for Magic. HA! The lot of them left pretty quickly after that.
I was blaming myself, at first, but, really, it could have been anybody I'd been friends with. I know you and Pansy's mother were friends. I'm sorry I had to be the one to tell you, but I'm not going to let this stop me. I've turned my guilt into determination. That son of a bitch is going to pay for everyone he's ever harmed. Don't worry; I'm not going out looking for him or anything. I'm just going to work that much harder to help Harry and Professor Dumbledore and the rest, in any way I can, get rid of the sadistic bastard.
Sorry about that, I was ranting a bit. I was talking this afternoon with Dr. Jones (Christopher, I mean) and he's helping me deal with this and relaying messages to Anna. I know she killed Father, but really, she's not to blame for that, is she? Anymore than I'm responsible for Pansy's death. Voldemort would have killed anybody to try and teach me a lesson or scare me. I'm not saying I'm not afraid of him (I'd be a right fool) but this has only strengthened my resolve and determination to fight him.
I don't know if you have anyone you can talk to, but if you need to write to someone, why not try sending an owl to Anna, or send the note to me and I'll forward it for you, via Christopher. Be a relay, as it were. She's sent word back to me, and will be there if I need to 'talk' with her, too.
Anyway, the funeral is Friday, here at Hogwarts. I'll put flowers on the graves and I think when the other students come back, seeing Pansy's grave will show them how close to home (and school) this war can come. No more denying it.
Oh, I do have one bit of cheerful news to tell you. I was helping Hagrid with a baby unicorn and I named her Narcissa, as she has big blue eyes that remind me of you. She's a cutie, too and her mum, Starlight, likes me and all.
I'm enjoying helping out around here. I've been working in the greenhouses with Professor Sprout, too. She does a lot of pruning and transplanting and moving pots and tubs of various sizes outdoors for the fresh air and sunshine. She says I'm saving her numerous trips to see Madam Pomfrey to have her back treated. HA! HA! And imagine, me, getting my hands, and a fair bit of the rest of me, dirty and grimy, on purpose! It's hard work but fun, too and makes me feel useful.
Well, I'm going to take this to the owlery and then go to bed, so the owl can get there overnight.
Take care of yourself and say hi to my little sister.
All my love,
"Sounding strong and determined, isn't he?" Narcissa heaved a sigh and smiled weakly, as Gwen laid Draco's letter on the table.
"Indeed, and now you can write to Draco and tell him how proud you are of him and reassure him; tell him you're ok." Anna smiled at her. "I know you've been itching to write to him since we heard the news yesterday."
"I don't think I'll mention I saw the paper, though. He doesn't need that worry that I'd been upset by those awful pictures." Narcissa pushed the paper away as she picked up Draco's letter.
"Good idea. Although, he's guessed that you will see them, at some point," Gwen said, turning the paper to look at the front page again. She shook her head.
Anna sat back, thinking, then stood and went to fill her coffee mug. Sitting back down, she took a sip.
"I'm going to be sending messages to the DA about staying calm. There will probably be more attacks this summer, but not until this dies down a little or around Harry's birthday. That's when we'll get a feel for how Voldemort is going to do this; a piece at a time or one big attack. I'm betting a piece at a time; have two or three more incidents like this to upset everyone, have tempers get short. Finger-pointing is going to become an art form at the Ministry. Then..."
"He'll go for Harry?" Narcissa was looking at her, frowning.
"Yes, but ..." Anna patted Narcissa's arm reassuringly, "he'll be ready. All of us will be ready."
"Right. Then I'd better put quill to parchment and answer Draco's letter."
Narcissa rose and went out of the kitchen toward the front of the house. Gwen looked over at Anna, who was looking at the picture of Severus, tears in her eyes. She walked around the table and put her arms around Anna shoulders.
"He'll be fine, Anna," she whispered.
"I know, but I'm afraid I might turn into a nervous wreck, worrying about everyone. It hasn't been a week, yet, since we...and look what's happened. I wish there was more I could do, but being here..."
"Well, we know the cure for that, don't we? Action; get started on those notes to the DA and that'll get you focused and that always calms you down; plotting, thinking of a plan of action, any kind of action."
"Right...right...you're absolutely right!" Anna kissed Gwen's cheek. "Thanks."
"That's why I'm here... the voice of reason."
"Don't you think so?"
"It's a dirty job, but..."
"Somebody has to do it."
"And that would be yours truly."
They continued bantering good-naturedly as they walked out into the hallway, arms around each other's waist. Eileen drifted in from the garden and over to the table. Looking down, she had the first glimpse of her son in twenty years. She smiled.
"Hello, my darling boy. What a fine looking man you've grown to be. Oh, my...you still have that awful scowl, though. I wonder if Anna's managed to make you to smile occasionally. Oh! Of course she has...she's pregnant."
Giggling, she drifted down through the floor to check on the simmering cauldron of 'Felix' potion.
My dearest Draco,
I received your letter at breakfast time. No, I do not subscribe to the /Daily Prophet/. Just as well, considering, don't you think?
I was, indeed, very upset to read your news, but on reflection, not particularly surprised that this happened. You must remember; I've been through this before, when you were a toddler. I know how ruthless Voldemort can be.
I do feel sorry about Pansy and Viola. They didn't deserve to die like that. Viola was in a situation similar to mine; Stanley was a Death Eater, she was not. I don't think he was ever violent toward her, just told her what she would do or not do, if you know what I mean.
Viola and I had talked, on occasion, about our husbands and their ambitions, concerning their Master. I believe Stanley was positioning himself to take Lucius' place at his Master's side. Obviously, he wasn't as important to Voldemort as he believed himself to be. I seriously doubt if any of his followers have real significance beyond his immediate plans. They are pawns; totally expendable at his whim. Even Bella, despite her high opinion of her status. Ha! That was my bit of ranting.
I wish I could have been there to hear what you said to that delegation from the Ministry. I bet Knuts to Nifflers the Minister wasn't expecting that, especially from you! I'm smiling, just thinking about it. Good for you, dear! Bravo!
Anna. Well, it might surprise you to know I agree with you about her and the circumstances surrounding what happened between her and your father. I read the transcript of the inquest (a copy was sent to me as the widow, wasn't THAT a lovely and thoughtful gesture on the part of the Ministry) and she did what she had to do to save her own life. I can not fault her for that. If it had been me in that situation I would have died, not being as resourceful as Anna seems to have been. She always was one step ahead of everyone, in or out of trouble.
I'm glad you have someone to talk to, besides Professor Dumbledore or Severus. Dr. Jones sounds like a very understanding person, for a Muggle. No offense meant; it's just that we in the Wizarding world tend to think of Muggles as complete idiots (and I'm sure a lot of them are). BUT, some of them must have good common sense and the same problems that we face; grief being the topic of the day. Talk with him and it might be just the ticket for helping you get through this.
I do believe I'll take your advice and contact Anna. That way, we'll all be on the same page, as far as understanding and coming to terms with all that's happened to the three of us in the last months. It's time we talked, about a lot of things. Well, write, anyway. Tell Dr. Jones to tell Anna that I'll be sending her an owl soon.
That sounds like a lovely idea, putting flowers on the graves. Be strong, and know that I'll be thinking of you on Friday.
All my love,
Your sister says hello; she just kicked me, to remind me to send her greetings - HA!HA!
"Narcissa, when Draco finds out I've been your Secret Keeper and that we're here together, he'll turn you over his knee and give you the spanking you deserve!" Anna sputtered, as she finished reading Cissa's letter. "'sent Anna an owl', HA! Short trip, that! "
Snatching the letter out of Anna's hand, Narcissa huffed, "Nonsense, he will be a little upset with me, I suppose, but he wouldn't dare try anything like spanking me. I'm his mother, after all."
"And that alone will save your posterior /because/..." Gwen crossed her arms and tilted her head, waiting.
"Well...he...I...oh dear, I might just be in trouble after all." She giggled, then holding up a finger, she continued, "Hopefully, the baby will be here by then and I can just hand her to him. And then run for my life! HA!HA!HA!" She started laughing, and had to sit back and fan herself. "But, seriously, you two know as well as I that I can't tell him I'm with you, or that you're my secret keeper."
"Well, if push comes to shove, he could know that/, don't you think, because he still wouldn't know /where we are? It might even put his mind at ease to know you're not alone," Gwen suggested.
"Perhaps, later this summer, when I get closer to having the baby. So he won't worry about me being alone for that event," Narcissa pondered aloud.
"Your letter is very reassuring in itself, and I think it'll be just what he needs to hear from you right now. Remind me to tell Christopher what you put in that letter or he might let it slip about you not needing to send an owl; can't goof up at this point, now can we?"
"Alright, and Gwen..." Narcissa turned to look at her. "You remind me if I forget to remind Anna."
"Oh, stop it!" Anna chucked a soft pillow at Cissa, who caught it and threw it back, all three of them giggling.
"Now, let's see if we can call an owl to take it for us. We can't use Wally and the school owl left right after it got some water and food."
"There's an owl in the oak tree at the corner of the garden," volunteered Eileen, as she turned from looking at one of the flower beds and pointed off to the right. Drifting up to the chairs where they were sitting on the lawn, she continued, "I'll go see if he'll help you, if you want. Might enjoy the trip; bit of a change and a challenge, too."
"Excellent!" "Thanks you, Eileen." "Give it a go."
The ghost drifted out through the garden, then up the side of the ancient tree to a cavity in the trunk where a limb had fallen off ages ago, leaving a gap just big enough to shelter the sleeping bird. She leaned forward and woke him gently and conversed with him for a few moments, then turned and floated back to join the waiting trio.
"Owl after my own heart," she informed them, smiling. "He says give him fifteen more minutes of sleep and he'll be glad to be our post owl. Knows where Hogwarts is and all; seems a cousin of his is one of the school owls. His name is Oscar, by the way."
They all laughed at that information.
"What was that expression Christopher used to use, Gwen, about 'cats and knowing people' ..." Anna looked at her step-daughter, brows knit.
"Oh, you mean; 'you can't sling a dead cat with out hitting someone who's related to someone, so watch what you say, until you know who you're talking to'? Seems it applies to animals, too." Gwen laughed.
"Indeed. That saying is truer than you think, especially in the Wizarding world, where everyone is related, at some point in their family tree, to nearly every other Wizarding family, whether they want to admit it, or not!" Narcissa added.
Dobby came up just then and announced that luncheon was ready. They made their way back to the table that had been set up outside the kitchen, in the shade of a huge holly tree, feeling in better spirits than they had been at breakfast.
Dear DA members:
I know by now you've heard the news about Pansy Parkinson and her parents being murdered by Voldemort. Even I didn't suspect he would strike so soon or that he would use her to punish Draco. And that was the purpose of this tragic turn of events.
However, I think it will get quiet for a bit. He needed to make a point, which he did, and now he'll start plotting his next move.
I've been in touch with Christopher and thus Draco and I can tell you that he's handling this fairly well, under the circumstances. Professor Dumbledore and Christopher are both talking with him and guiding him through this difficult time. Please send him all your good thoughts and prayers, as I'm sure he would appreciate that from you.
Here's another reason I'm writing all of you (besides letting you know that Gwen and I are alright and settled into our hiding place. Yes, Gwen is here with me.).
I want you to keep your alarm coins with you at all times, along with your knapsack, bag, whatever you've packed as per my instructions. IF you get a signal about an attack, DON"T PANIC. Try to find out what's happened. Call one another, if you have access to a phone (use your list and check) or wait for an owl. They will be sent as soon as possible.
If the attack is near you or seems headed in your direction, then put our plans to work. Otherwise, just stay put. I don't want everyone screaming back to Hogwarts if someone thinks they've spotted a Death Eater at the local pub. STAY CALM and THINK! Is it an isolated attack or is the war really getting started. Trust me, if it is, you'll know. Then I DO want you to get back to the school. A.S.A.P.
I don't think he'll target any students individually, as he has bigger fish to fry: i.e. various members of the Ministry, and other adult targets. But, remember Mad-Eye's motto: CONSTANT VIGILANCE!
We are having a bit of a job, cleaning this place and getting it habitable and that keeps us busy. As you may have noticed, I had Professor Dumbledore use the school owls to deliver these letters, so as to: a) give the owls some exercise and b) keep my hiding place from being traced. You may write back in the same manner; sending your letters via the school. Be warned, I'm not the best letter writer in the world, but if you're willing to take a chance and patient enough to wait a bit for my answer owl, have at it! HA!HA!
Keep up your targeting skills, practice your reflex drills, get together and have fun this summer, and God willing, I'll see all of you soon. Take care and behave yourselves. And if you do misbehave....think how much fun I'd be having, standing right there with you! HA! HA!
My love and prayers for all of you,
Anna (and Gwen)
Winky sends her greetings, too!
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