Draco plays his part to perfection, and learns something that might help. The morning after the night before...not so loud! It's time for some strategy and planning, for Draco's sake. This might ...
I'm not as think as you drunk I am...and other news.
"I still think, Draco, old man, that you made a big mistake. The Dark Lord is not happy with you." Vincent wagged his finger at Draco, then, seemly fascinated by the dexterity of the digit - as opposed to the rest of his body - sat watching it for a few seconds before he tried to focus again on Draco.
Draco stood up and weaving ever so slightly, went over to the drinks cabinet and poured the last of yet another bottle into his tumbler. Flinging the bottle into the fireplace, he turned to face his friends, lying sprawled on the sofas and chairs. Daphne was curled up in Blaze's lap, sound asleep and Blaze's head was laid back on the chair, his eyes fighting to stay open. That battle would be lost, momentarily.
Millicent and Silvia had wandered off to the girl's dorm, earlier, supposedly to check on Tracey, who had excused herself, saying she didn't feel too well. Her coloring had been a strange shade of green, so no one had tried to dissuade her. None of that trio had returned. Vincent and Theo occupied one of the sofas, while Draco sat down on the one opposite, next to Gregory.
"Look," started Draco, heaving a sigh and rubbing his eyes with his hand. "I've had one lousy year so far, ok? Let's see: my Father escapes from Azkaban, rapes my Mother, tries to kidnap Twigg-Jones to impress his '/Lordship/', screws that up and gets himself killed and lands your fathers back in Azkaban, /BUT/!" He put up a finger for emphasis. "Not before he beats my Mother to a bloody pulp because he /got /her /pregnant?!?!." He started to take a sip, but continued before he drank any of the liquor in his tumbler. "/Then/, my dear, /sweet Aunt Bella threatens my Mum, which forces her, my Mum, that is, to go into hiding! I haven't seen her since last spring. I'm the head of my family now and have a lot of shit to deal with. I'm only concerned with MY future, at this point. And you think I'm going to let some self deluding, murdering maniac tell me what to do and drain my vault at Gringotts dry in the process? /HA/!"
The three boys jumped a bit.
"Take it easy, Draco, we understand, mate." Gregory patted him on the leg.
"Yeah," Vincent piped up. "We haven't seen our Dads since last spring, either."
"At least yours' are alive and safe; as long as their asses stay in Azkaban," Draco mumbled. "I'm sorry; I don't mean to take it out on you. Sorry. It's just..." He gazed down into his tumbler, swirling the liquor around slowly. "Pansy didn't deserve to die like that, just because she was my girlfriend. Hell, I've been friends with all of you since before we came to Hogwarts. Pansy and I only got serious in the last couple of years. Frankly, I'm amazed you two are still alive!" He looked back and forth between Crabbe and Goyle. "No offense."
"None taken." "It's ok, we understand."
"Draco." Theo sat up, grabbing the arm of the sofa, "Whoa!", to steady himself "We nearly did die, when we heard about Pansy, didn't we?" Crabbe and Goyle nodded, soberly. "We didn't know if we were next or what. I was scared shitless!"
"You got off easy, Theo," said Vincent, as he stood, rather unsteadily, and walked over to refill his drink. He took a sip and leaned against the hearth, not quite trusting his legs to make it back to the sofa just then. "When Gregory and I were summoned, I nearly had a stroke and my whole, short, boring life flashed in front of my eyes."
"Mine, too. It was pitiful." Gregory agreed. "But he wasn't going to kill us. He just wanted us to do something for him."
"Really? Since when does he ask favors of Hogwarts /students/?" Draco asked, eyebrow raised.
"Not since Snape's days as a Slytherin, I imagine," ventured Theo, giggling, the others joining him.
Vincent made it back to the sofa without spilling any of his drink and lowered himself, carefully, sinking into the cushions. The boys applauded politely and he bowed his head in recognition and took a sip.
"So," Draco continued the thread of thought, such as it was. "What big favor are you two doing for his '/lordship/'? Finding him a hot date? Refilling his supply of /Bertie Bott's Beans/?" Draco and Theo laughed at his joke, but Vincent and Gregory were frowning at each other, puzzled.
"You know, I can't quite remember."
"Me, either, but I know it was something important. Man, we better remember or we're in trouble."
"Well." Draco stood up and moved slowly around to the back of the sofa and leaned on it. "My bet is; he wants you two to scare me, somehow: Bat Boogey Jinxes, that sort of thing. That's about the worst hex you know, but I'll warn you now, boys, I can duck faster than you can shoot!"
"Ha! That's all you know. We've learned a new spell, Sparky and we've been practicing, too!"
"Oh, please/, what could /you two have possibly mastered besides '/Accio Butterbeer/'?" Draco shook his head, chuckling.
For some reason, Theo thought that was extremely funny and punched Vincent and giggled.
"Ow! Cut it out, Theo." Vincent rubbed his arm. "Look, Draco, I'll have you know we've been taught a spell, /just...for...you/!"
"Really? Well, don't /I /feel special." Draco struck a pose, then turned and grinned at Vincent. "What? Some dumb spell to give me the wedgie from hell?"
Gregory struggled to his feet and weaved his way around the sofa to stand next to Draco.
"Don't be daft, Draco. Now listen, mate..." He draped a arm around Draco's shoulder, looked this way and that, to be sure no one was eavesdropping, then leaned close to Draco and whispered, "I'll tell you the spell's name, but I can't do it, for some reason, at least not yet. /It's a surprise/." He put his finger to his lips and shhh'd. Draco nodded solemnly.
"I swear I won't tell anyone; hell, who would give a damn? This is a Slytherin secret and therefore..." Suddenly straightening up and nearly knocking Gregory over, Draco declared, "/Sacred/!" He crossed his heart.
"Right!" echoed Vincent, taking another drink. "Sacred to us Slytherins!" Theo nodded and took another sip.
"So," said Draco, copying Gregory's furtive check of the room and leaning closer to him. "What's the spell?'
He cupped his hand around his ear and Gregory whispered into it. Draco's eyes got wide then he looked puzzled. He turned and looked first at Gregory then Vincent.
"I've never heard of it," he said and shrugged.
"Neither had we, but it's supposed to be a wicked spell. At least I think that's what the Dark Lord said. I can't quite..." Gregory stumbled around and collapsed on the sofa, his head lolling back. "...remember." He slid silently sideways and passed out.
"Hey, Gregory," called Theo, but he got no response.
Draco looked down at the sleeping form, then at the two boys sitting on the sofa. "I guess he's got the right idea; it is getting late and we do have classes starting in the morning."
"Aw, jeez, now we gotta haul his fat ass to the dorm. Well, come on, Theo," grouched Vincent as he stood. "Gimme a...whoa..." he gasped as he swayed, "...hand."
Theo put his tumbler on the table and politely clapped.
"No, you idiot; with carrying him!" Vincent pointed at the now snoring Gregory.
"Oh! I thought you were just proud of getting up and staying vertical," Theo smirked, as he stood, none too steadily himself.
"You two need any help?"
"Naw; we got him, Draco."
"I'll just put everyone's tumbler over on the shelf, out of harms way. I'll be right behind you."
"What about them?" Theo indicated Blaze and Daphne.
"I'll put them on the sofas and cover them up. We couldn't get Daphne into the girl's dorm anyhow, with the wards, so let them wake up in the morning with a bunch of first years leaning over them, staring."
They all laughed at that picture as Theo and Vincent grabbed Gregory and between them, managed to struggle out of the room. Draco put all of the tumblers on the serving tray and placed that on a shelf of the cabinet.
" 'Wingardium Leviosa'."
He moved Daphne and Blaze onto the two sofas and covered them with blankets.
The house elf, Tykey, appeared at his elbow and began to tidy up.
"Sorry about all the broken glass," said Draco, indicating the fireplace.
"That is alright, Mister Malfoy, sir. It is easy to clean up, sir. You is not to worry."
"Oh, alright, then, I'll leave you to it. Goodnight, and thank you," Draco replied, smiling at the elf.
"You is welcome," giggled Tykey, as he flicked his nose with his finger and winked.
Draco returned the 'signal' and laughing, walked off toward the dorm to get some sleep.
Draco stopped and looked to his right.
"Yeah, is the coast clear?"
Draco looked around, listened and nodding, stepped closer to the recessed doorway where he knew Harry must be standing. Shaking off his /Invisibility Cloak/, Harry grinned at Draco.
"Do you have any idea how hard it was to keep from just bursting out laughing at you lot?"
"You were there the whole time?"
"Yeah, I was over in the corner, by the bookcase. They really got blotto, didn't they?"
Draco nodded, grinning. "Hopefully they won't remember much."
"How do you feel? I could see you didn't drink too much, but still..."
"Naw, I'm ok, I only had about that much," said Draco, holding his fingers about an inch apart, 'in, what," looking at this watch, "four hours?"
"The boys, however, must have had, at my last reckoning, over half a bottle each?"
Draco shook his head. "They are going to be so sorry tomorrow morning!"
"Yeah...Now about this 'snatching the Snitch' toast..." Harry suddenly stopped, listening and then quickly donned his cloak. Footsteps could be heard and Draco started walking, slowly, toward the dorm rooms.
Severus Snape came around the corner and approached Draco.
"My office." Severus turned and started off down a side hall. "You, too, Potter," he threw over his shoulder.
Severus waited until he heard Harry walk past him, before he closed and sealed the door to his office. As he walked up to the desk, Harry took off his cloak and sat down in the vacant chair next to Draco's.
Severus seated himself and looked at Draco.
"What information were you able to obtain from those two?"
"That they've been practicing a 'special' spell, to be used on me."
The Potion Master drew in a quick breath and sat without moving for a moment.
"You're positive that was the spell?"
" Why? What's it do, Professor?" Harry asked.
"It's...a cutting spell. But it's not just for slicing skin, there's also the fact that it's very hard to stop the bleeding, which makes it...useful...from a Death Eater's standpoint. If you hex someone with this spell, they're too busy trying to stem the flow of blood to worry about what you're doing; usually making your escape."
"I've never heard of it or read about it ..." Draco added. "Where...?"
"It was invented by Tom Riddle while he was here at Hogwarts as a student, to punish those who displeased him or tried to thwart him. Dumbledore found out about it and had the Ministry ban its use. It was nearly categorized as an '/Unforgivable/', but by that time, Tom had graduated and disappeared."
"How do you know so much....sorry, that was a dumb question, wasn't it? He taught it to all the Death Eaters, didn't he?" Harry surmised.
"Correct. I will discuss this with the Headmaster, Draco."
"You had better go to your dorm before you're missed. I'll be bringing all of you a hangover potion in the morning; be sure and take the glass with the most in it, Draco, as that one will be plain pumpkin juice. The others will get the cure they deserve; you, obviously, will not need it."
"Thank you, Professor. I've had that particular potion, and it is /vile/!"
"Potter, you had best get to your dorm, also." Severus regarded Harry, who nodded.
"Thanks for covering my back, tonight, Harry," added Draco.
"No problem; it was worth it, you did a great job of acting drunk but you're damn lucky I didn't get a case of roaring hysterics!" Harry grinned and Draco nodded.
"Don't forget to continue your 'acting' in the morning, Mr. Malfoy, to match their hangovers," Severus reminded him.
"Right, good thought."
"Good night, Draco...Potter." Severus stood and flicked his wand, unlocking the door..
"Good night, Professor." "Night, then."
The boys started to leave, but stopped in the doorway.
"Hey, Professor," called Draco.
Snape looked up and Harry and Draco gave him the 'signal'. He pointed toward the hallway. "Out!"
Draco turned left and Harry, turning right, donned his cloak and disappeared.
"I think a Goblin slept in my mouth," Vincent mumbled.
"A troll is inside my head, right now, trying to kick his way out." Gregory complained, sitting on his bed, holding his head in his hands.
"/Will/ you two stop /yelling/!" Draco was leaning against the edge of his bed, holding onto the canopy post.
"Well, who's smart assed idea was it to drink all that '/good stuff/'?" Theo shuffled over to his dresser, Draco winching with each footfall.
"Stop stomping Theo!" Draco muttered.
"How much did we drink? I can't remember much past the toasts." Gregory looked blank.
"Don't ask me," Vincent responded. "I do remember hauling you in here, dumping you and then falling on my own bed. End of story."
"You're doing better than me, then," Draco whispered, wincing. "I don't remember coming in here at all/. What /did we do last night, anyway?"
"After the toasts, beats me." Theo shrugged.
"Where's Blaze?" Gregory asked, looking around.
"I think I left him on the sofa," replied Draco.
"Wasn't Daphne there, too?" Vincent looked puzzled.
"Yeah. That's going to be the gossip of the day," said Theo, checking his bloodshot eyes in the mirror over his nightstand.
"Ha! Ha!... ow...ow...ow...Oh, man...don't laugh, guys. Trust me; you'll regret it," warned Draco.
They dressed in silence and headed for the common room, where they found Blaze sitting, head in his hands, on the sofa. Daphne was nowhere to be seen.
"Hey, where's Daphne?" Theo asked, perching gingerly on the arm of the sofa.
"Gone; had to change. Why'd you leave us here?"
"No condition to carry you."
Oh, well; ok then."
"/AH/! Who the bloody..." Draco turned to see Severus coming in with a tray, on which rested nine glasses, filled with an orange colored liquid. "Please, Professor, /don't shout/!"
Severus paused, his eyebrow shot up and then he put the tray on the side table. /BANG/!
"Each of you will drink one of these glasses and have the girls take a glass, as well. I won't have hung-over 7th years representing Slytherin House on the first morning of term. Mr. Zabini, tidy yourself; it looks as if you slept in that uniform."
Without waiting to hear Blaze's response, Severus turned and swept toward the door, the boys wincing with every sharp, echoing foot fall of the Potion Master's heels on the stone floor. Snape stopped in the doorway and turned to look at the group.
"Mr. Malfoy, you will report to my office tonight at 7PM to discuss your detention."
"DETEN....ow....detention? For what?" gasped Draco, grasping his forehead.
"For supplying these young fools with too much to drink," sneered Severus.
"I didn't twist their arms," grumbled Draco. "It was tradition."
"Welcome to the wonderful world of being responsible for your actions, Mr. Malfoy. My office - tonight." He turned and marched off, robes flowing.
"That wasn't fair," Theo came up to Draco.
"We didn't know there was a limit," Gregory muttered. "Sorry, Draco."
"There isn't, as far as I know," Vincent said, rubbing his temples gently.
"And who said you had to nursemaid us, anyhow; you were just sharing some of your own liquor with us. No rule against that is there?" asked Theo, to no one in particular.
"Hell, I had as much to drink as you, so maybe my judgment wasn't the best. Oh, well, let me try one of these." Draco walked over to the tray Snape had delivered and took the glass with the most liquid in it, pinched his nose and downed it. He gasped and his eyes watered, but after he stopped coughing, he opened his eyes in wonder. "Damn, it worked! Go ahead, get one and drink it down, boys! But I'm warning you, it tastes /awful/!"
That was all the others needed to hear, as they each grabbed a glass and took their doses of the potion.
"UGH!" "Oh, that's disgusting/." "Yuck!" "What the bloody hell's /in this?"
"Who cares; it works and I'm getting in a supply for future needs." Draco laughed. "/BEFORE/ we do any more drinking."
"Definitely!" "Good idea." "Exactly!" "Excellent."
"Ok, just another step or two. Stop right there. Now, open your eyes!"
Narcissa took her hand down and looked around, as a smile spread over her face.
"Oh! It's lovely!" Then she sniffed and started to cry.
"Well, don't cry, silly!" Anna produced a hanky and handed it over, putting her arm around Cissa's waist. "Isn't it just /perfect/?"
"It is! It's just what I wanted! Oh, Gwen, you've done such a good job; this nursery is simply /wonderful/!"
"I just took your wish list and ran with it!"
Cissa started walking around the room, which had walls of white, with the palest hint of pink. On one wall, there was a mural of a beautiful garden with rabbits on the lawn and deer peeking out from the bushes and birds and butterflies flitting around.
"You didn't paint this, did you?" Cissa looked over at Gwen, brows furrowed.
"Good Lord, no! It's wall paper. All I had to do was put it up on the wall and trim the edges. The rest of the room I painted, though."
"How do you like the furniture?" Eileen asked, as she drifted around, checking the curtains and mural. "I remembered it was in the attic and Anna refinished it."
"It fits the whole theme of the room and I also found an old rocking chair that I painted to match," added Anna, pointing to the corner.
"I'm overwhelmed, girls, this is just too much to take in all at once." She turned around full circle. "I'm so happy with how it turned out. Thank you for all of your hard work, really." She hugged Gwen, then Anna and put her arms around Eileen and gave her a kiss on her cheek. Eileen blushed, if that's possible for a ghost.
"I love the pink and light green accents on the furniture and crib. It makes it so bright and fresh." Cissa stood by the crib and ran her fingers over the blanket that lay on the mattress. "And all of the bedding and curtains match, too. It's just so..." and she teared up again.
"Leak alert!" Gwen grabbed a box of tissues and passed it to her.
"Well, as I see it, all we need is a baby," said Eileen, smiling. "And that won't be long, will it dear?"
"It can't be soon enough, as far as I'm concerned," replied Cissa as she lowered herself, carefully, into the rocker and sighed. Rocking back and forth, smiling and looking up at Anna, she cocked her head. "Ok, missy, how are we going to fix up the other nursery for your little ones, hummm?"
"Princess dÃ©cor if I have girls, Thomas the Tank Engine if I have boys."
"Well, that's a bit of a story. You see, there was this reverend who loved trains and..."
They all turned at the sound of Anna's name being shouted.
"Dad. I'll run down and see what he wants; you two stay put," Gwen instructed, as she headed out the door to the stairs. "/Coming Dad/!"
"I hope nothing is wrong." Cissa whispered.
Anna took her hand. "If something was wrong, Christopher would have shouted a lot louder than that."
Gwen jumped down the last couple of steps and threw out her arms.
"TA DA!" She walked over to the portrait of her late Father. "Hi, Dad, what's up?"
"Well, wasn't that an entrance! Gracious, aren't you the little ball of energy today!" Christopher smiled at his daughter. "Where's Anna?"
"Upstairs in the nursery; we just did the unveiling. Cissa loved it!"
"Wonderful! I just wanted to tell Anna that Albus would like to speak to her at, say, 4 o'clock this afternoon? It's the first day of term and he'll be a little busy during the day, but right after class, if that suits her."
"Sure, she'll just be getting up from her nap. I'll let her know."
"You can sit in on this discussion, too, if you like."
"Sure, why not."
"We don't want Cissa to be around, though, as it involves Draco. Can you arrange that?"
"She usually stays in her room, resting; until Dobby tells her dinner is ready. She says the baby can't come soon enough for her; she's tired of being tired and fat. We'll just talk quietly and she'll be none the wiser."
"Fine dear, I'll see you then."
"Is something wrong?"
"No, I don't think so, I believe it's more of a brainstorming session and Albus wants Anna's input."
"Ah, ok then, I'll relay the message."
"Good. Well, I have to take the dogs for a walk. Ta!"
"Mr. Malfoy, might I have a word?"
Draco and his friends spun around to see the Headmaster standing on the main staircase.
"Ah, sure, Professor," replied Draco, casting a look at this classmates. "I'll catch up with you in a bit."
"Yeah, sure, Draco," said Theo, then leaning closer, he whispered, "lots of luck."
"Right. Coming, sir."
Draco followed the Headmaster up the stairs and down the hall to the entrance to Dumbledore's office. He wasn't in the least surprised to find Harry and Professor Snape waiting for them. He was a bit taken aback to see Mad-Eye Moody leaning against one of the glass-fronted display cases that lined the walls.
Dumbledore went around his desk and took a seat. Draco found an empty chair next to Harry. That's when he noticed that Christopher was also in attendance. He waved and received a wink in response.
"Well, as you all know by this time, Draco did manage to find out what spell Tom plans on having his classmates use against him when he receives word of his sister's birth. '/Sectumsempra/' is a very dangerous spell and we will treat it as the real threat to Draco's well being that it is. We must be prepared to render him medical assistance immediately and keep his injuries to a minimum."
"/Whoa/...injuries? You want me to allow those two to actually hit me with that spell? No offense, sir, but /have you lost your mind/?"
"Mr. Malfoy!" Severus growled. "Apologize, immediately!"
Dumbledore held up his hand. "No, no, Severus, Draco's reaction is understandable. I would have been worried if he didn't care about the possibility of injury. 'Self preservation is a strong instinct' isn't that right?" Dumbledore reminded the Potions Master, looking over his glasses and smiling, then turning to Draco, he continued. "Unfortunately, Draco, you will have to submit to being struck by this spell..." Draco opened his mouth to protest, but Dumbledore continued, reassuringly, "however, if we plan accordingly, your personal risk can be kept to a minimum. Plus, we have received a suggestion from Dr. Jones, Gwen Jones that is, as to a way of giving the impression of injury without the pain and blood loss."
"What? I don't understand. How...?"
"Draco," interrupted Christopher, "we were talking, earlier, and Gwen suggested using squibs."
"Harry," said Christopher, as he waved his hand and nodded.
Harry turned to Draco. "Let me explain Draco. We're not talking about squibs, as in our world, but squibs, in the Muggle sense. They are used in special effects for movies; to make it look like someone is bleeding when they don't have a scratch on them. They're little packets of red liquid that pop open and run all over, like blood flowing. Like this: Go, Christopher!" Harry called to the portrait.
"Bang!" Christopher said, pointing at Harry.
"AH!" Harry clutched his chest and red 'blood' oozed between his fingers as he swooned and fell to the floor.
"/Harry/!" Draco jumped up, but stopped, stunned, as Harry sat up laughing, showing the small plastic bag in his hand and red jelly all over his shirt.
" '/Scourgify/'," Dumbledore said softly, and then looked at Draco, smiling. "It could be quite impressive, although, admittedly, you could also be hit with the real spell and suffer an actual injury. We would, however, be prepared to give you immediate medical assistance; rest assured.
"/Unbelievable/!" Draco sat back down, shaking his head. "What does Anna think of all of this?" He looked at Christopher.
"She thinks it's going to take a lot of quick thinking on your part and a lot of faking, as far as being injured is concerned, enough to let them think they're hitting you, but not letting them see you're still able to move and dodge the worst of their spells. But you must let them take back the mental picture of you being seriously hurt, or Voldemort will likely kill them for failing to do their job. He will use '/Legilimens/' on them to ascertain the truth about the confrontation; of that we have no doubt."
Draco sat for a moment or two, then, in a low voice, replied, "I can't have two more deaths on my conscience, especially Crabbe and Goyle; I've known them since...I can't remember not knowing them. I couldn't bear it; Pansy was bad enough....What do I have to do?"
Dumbledore and Mad-Eye exchanged looks as did Christopher and Severus. Harry put his hand on Draco's shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
"Ok, I'm going out on a limb here; I'm assuming you're not really giving me a detention, correct?"
Severus looked up from the roll of parchment he was reading to find Draco standing in front of him, arms crossed, eye brow cocked, waiting for his answer.
"If you had bothered to listen to the announcements at breakfast this morning, you'd have heard that the first D.A. meeting is being held tonight in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. You are expected to attend and," glancing at a clock on a nearby bookshelf, added, "you'd better hurry or you'll be late."
Without a word Draco turned and walked out of his office. Severus picked up the parchment to continue, but a smile played at the corner of his mouth.
"Don't worry, Severus, I'll tell you everything that happens," said Christopher, from the small painting on the wall above the bookcase.
"I'm looking forward to that."
"I'll just bet you are. Ta!"
Draco arrived at the classroom and paused for a moment to take a deep breath. He knocked and pulled open the door. When he walked in, he was mildly surprised to see the desks against the wall and everyone sitting on little two person sofas, formed into a large circle. All eyes were on him and he nervously smiled.
"Sorry I'm late; I was in Professor Snape's office."
"That's quite alright, Draco." Professor Dumbledore was walking toward him, smiling. "Why don't you have a seat, here," he instructed, waving in the direction of the only unoccupied sofa.
Draco sat down and looked around at the members of the D.A., finding Harry, who nodded and winked at him, and Hermione, who nodded and gave him a small smile. He was starting to relax a bit, but really didn't know what to expect from this group.
"As I was saying, before Mr. Malfoy's arrival; I fully expect Voldemort to attack Hogwarts at some point this year. Not yet, but certainly before the end of the school year. He's trying to force as many of his intended victims into one location as he can, and by making Hogwarts seem like a safe haven, let everyone gather here, under one roof, and then descend on us."
"It wasn't safe for Pansy," Lavender Brown spoke up. "Sorry, Draco, but it wasn't."
"Ah, but Miss Parkinson and her parents were just left at the gates. They had been brought from another location, purely as a warning to Mr. Malfoy. The attack occurred elsewhere, not here at Hogwarts."
"Who else could he possibly want here, besides Harry, you, sir and now, Draco?" asked Justin Finch-Fletchley.
"Anna Twigg-Jones, Narcissa Malfoy, possibly the senior Weasleys, again...anyone who has ever crossed him in any way. He may attack individuals outside of our school to scare the others into coming here. We, unfortunately, will just have to be patient and see."
"Can't we warn them, can't the Ministry do something?" asked Ginny, who was fearful for her family.
"Those who have had dealings with Death Easters in the past know the danger and have taken some precautions, but there is only so much one can do. The Ministry is busy enough as it is, without trying to keep watch over every Wizarding family in the land. At some point everyone must look to themselves for their own protection. We are prepared here at Hogwarts. Our main concern is trying to discern how he plans to enter the school grounds and the castle.
"So, what can we do?" asked Ron
"First, relax, let you mind think of other things. The question of how he might enter the castle will be floating around in your sub-conscience and when you see something that may be a way in, it will pop to the forefront and you'll recognize it for what it is: the possible answer to our question. Most of the staff and even the house elves are looking at every nook, cranny and forgotten, unused passageway as a potential entry. We'll figure it out and then we can set up early warning signals, so our defenses can be put into play.....Which brings us to you, Mr. Malfoy," concluded the Headmaster, swinging around to face Draco.
"Me? I don't have any clue as to what your defenses are."
"No, you don't but you have learned about the defensive weapons that Professor Twigg-Jones entrusted to the D.A., am I correct?"
"Yes, sir and Harry has been working with me to get my defensive skills up to the level of all of you," he replied, looking around at the faces of the students who were listening to him. "I really want to help. Honestly."
"You've not changed your outward, 'right foul git', attitude so far, I noticed," said Ron. "Hermione says you're just playing your 'old' self, for the other Slytherins, though. Are you?"
"I have to act like that, but I try not to be too nasty, just standoffish. I do have to live with them, so..." Draco shrugged.
"True, I'm afraid, Mr. Weasley. He must maintain a certain 'image' for his own safety. But that brings us to the reason for this meeting: Mr. Malfoy is going to be attacked and wounded, severely, by Mr. Crabbe and Mr. Goyle. They were ordered to do this by Voldemort, himself, and will carry out the plan when the news arrives that Draco's Mother has given birth to his sister. They have a memory charm and an event charm on them and don't and won't realize what they are expected to do, until the charms are lifted by the arrival of that news."
"Sorry, but how do you know this?" Ernie Macmillan asked.
"That, I'm afraid, must stay privileged information. Suffice it to say, it was gathered from three different sources, so we are fairly sure of the accuracy of the information."
"Measures are already in place to guard Draco's safety. What I must ask of all of you will seem a bit odd, but let me explain thoroughly and you will see the logic. Vincent and Gregory are supposed to make their escape out of the school grounds, via the front gates, after they attack Mr. Malfoy and we must allow this to happen."
He held up his hand when mouths opened to protest.
"Hear me out, please. If they return to Voldemort with the news that they were successful, he will think his plan is working. If he thinks they failed, Vincent and Gregory will die. Therefore, they must be convinced that they did great harm to Draco and be able to report this. Hence, their escape must be successful, without it looking as though we just let them go."
He looked around and saw they were all listening intently.
"We do not know when or where the attack will take place. Draco is capable of defending himself, but never the less, an alarm will be sounded and help will start arriving, forcing Mr. Crabbe and Mr. Goyle to make a run for the gates. Whoever is closest and comes on the scene, should stop to try and render help to Draco first, giving the boys time to make it to the front doors. Then, you can give chase. Shoot as many spells at them as you can, but miss them. Chase after them, yell, scream, blast away, but don't stop them.
"How can they get through the gates? Aren't they locked? Luna asked.
"Yes, but to keep people out, not in."
"Can I say something, Professor," said Draco.
Draco stood and Dumbledore took a seat. Draco walked out to the middle of the circle and turned around slowly as he talked to the D.A.
"Look, I know you have no reason, whatsoever, to help me with this, but the more noise you make and spells you shoot at them as they're trying to get away, the better it'll look. I'm going to have to let them hit me with some of their spells, so they can honestly say to Voldemort that they did what they were told to do. I'll probably look a right bloody mess when you get to me, come to that, but if they fail, he'll kill them, and I couldn't bear that. I already have the guilt of being the cause of ...anyway, the more chaotic and unorganized you can make it look the better. Close enough to being caught to scare them badly, but letting them get away in the end. It's a lot to ask, I know, but I'd appreciate it. Oh, and Professor Snape has to help them make it out the front doors, so don't get in his way, or he'd be in jeopardy, too. We know Voldemort will use '/Legilimens/' on them to get an accurate picture of what happened, so that's the way it has to be played out. I know you have legitimate reasons for not helping me but... I would be grateful for any help you could give me."
No one spoke for a minute, and then Ron stood and walked over to Draco. He held out his hand.
"Count me in." He smiled at Draco and nodded.
"Thanks Ron." Draco shook his hand and smiled back.
The rest of the D.A. rose and shook hands with Draco, welcoming him and promising to help with the plan. Dumbledore got up from his seat on the sofa and shooed everyone back to their places.
"Now, we don't think Vincent and Gregory will jump to their feet in the Great Hall and start blasting spells at Draco when the news arrives, but just in case they panic when the memory charm lifts and that does happen, the plan would be slightly different. First, get all of the younger students under the tables for protection, then see which way the battle is going and, quite literally, wing it, as Anna would say. You might have other members of Slytherin house trying to intervene, but don't harm any of them. Keep them busy, so that Draco can do what he must. He'll let you know when he needs help, then you'll play it out as we discussed, letting them make it out the door and giving chase. It will be hard to hold back, but you must let them fulfill their task."
"We understand, sir and we'll talk it over among ourselves, in the privacy of our houses, in the meantime," Harry spoke for the first time. "It'll work out just fine. Draco's pretty good with his agility and speed, if I do say so myself." Smiling, he looked over at Draco. "After all, I taught him everything he knows!"
"Ha!" Draco threw back his head and laughed, as did the others.
Christopher was watching from the landscape painting. This was going better then expected, but the proof would be when the news arrived in a few weeks.
'We'll see how well they're prepared, and then make adjustments accordingly/,' he thought. '/Good Lord, I'm starting to think like Anna.' Chuckling to himself, he reached down and scratched Beau's ear.
"Missy Gwen? /Missy Gwen/!"
"Hum, what?" Gwen rolled over and tried to focus. Seeing Dobby standing at the side of her bed, she sat straight up. "Dobby, what's wrong?"
"It's Missy Cissa; she says she needs you, Missy Gwen."
"Right, ok, tell Winky to..."
"Winky is waking Missy Anna."
"Oh, ok, right," Gwen swung her legs over the side of the bed and rubbed her eyes. "What time is it?
"2 o'clock in the morning, Missy Gwen, the clock just chimed," replied Dobby, bouncing up and down, clearly agitated.
"Dobby, calm down, we have everything under control," said Gwen, putting her hand on his shoulder. "I've done this before, you know."
"Yes, Miss," answered Dobby, who then turned and padded out the door.
Stretching, Gwen stood and went to put on a set of scrubs she'd brought with her for just this occasion. She looked around to find Winky standing there with a mug of coffee.
"Oh, bless your heart, Winky, that's just what I needed. Is Anna up?"
"Yes, Miss, but not dressed yet. She is drinking her coffee, Miss."
"Tell Cissa that I'm on my way, ok?"
Taking a gulp of the coffee, Gwen took a deep breath and then stretched to get all the kinks out of her neck and back.
'/Why do babies always choose to come in the middle of the night, just when everyone else in dead asleep/,' she thought.
She drained the mug, set it on her nightstand and walked out the door, heading for Cissa's room.
"You're doing just fine, Cissa," Gwen assured her, as the soon-to-be mother relaxed. "It'll only be a few more contractions and then you can start pushing."
Narcissa nodded, breathing deeply. She'd been in hard labor for an hour now and the end was in sight.
"I'm glad Anna was able to brew that labor potion, as much as your breathing exercises help, I would rather rely on Magical methods for the actual birth, Gwen. I hope you don't mind."
"Nonsense, as long as you're comfortable, I don't care if you hang from a trapeze."
Cissa laughed, then took a few deep breathes and nodded to Gwen.
"Ok, Cissa, deep breath...another...and start panting...that's it...ride the contraction...a little faster...that's it...keep going...keep going...ok...slow down...slower...that's good...ok, deep breath... another....and relax."
Cissa lay there panting gently, as Gwen prepared for the delivery. Anna came in the door, smiling, shaking her head.
"Honestly, if Christopher is this excited about your daughter coming into the world, he's going to be a total wreck when I deliver!"
Gwen and Cissa both laughed.
"Eileen is staying downstairs, keeping him company. She says childbirth is messy and begs your forgiveness for not being here, Cissa," Gwen concluded.
"That's quite alright, but I'll bet Knuts to nifflers she doesn't miss the birth of her grandchildren!"
Cissa then got serious and took two more deep breaths. This time, Anna did the coaching as Gwen checked to see how close she was to delivering her baby.
"Ok, Cissa, I think it's time to push; when the next contraction comes. That potion you made, Anna is a marvel; it blocks the pain but not the sensation of what's happening, so Cissa can really help with this."
"Yes, I noticed that about Muggle deliveries; most of the time, the woman is straining to push, but with an epidural, they're just straining their neck muscles and upper body and can't feel if they're doing anything useful or not. Usually they aren't doing much actual pushing until the very end."
"Well, I'm about to do some, ladies, so if you don't mind!" Cissa looked at the two of them, with one eyebrow cocked.
"Oh, sorry Cissa; professional discussion. Ok, ready, deep breath...I'll help hold you up...now, curl your chin into your chest, that's a girl."
"Ok Cissa, push...push...that's it....steady....ok quick breath and push...push! Good, relax...deep breaths...good," Gwen enthused, "You're doing great Cissa, I could see the head starting to crown... so two, maybe three more pushes and you'll be a mummy again."
"Oh, this is so...wonderful...and scary at the same time...I'm so glad you two are here...I don't know what I'd do without you..."
"Have a baby alone," observed Anna. "But we're glad you're here with us, too, Cissa. Ok, take another deep breath...and another...ok, now let's make a baby!"
Helping hold Cissa's shoulders, Anna whispered encouragement in her ear as Cissa pushed again.
"Ok, there's the head, lay back Cissa and breathe, breathe, that's it." Gwen was suctioning amniotic fluid from the baby's mouth, preparing it's entry into the world.
"I have to push!" Cissa announced, getting into position again, with Anna's help.
"Ok, babe, do it!" encouraged Gwen.
"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, oh, oh!" Cissa fell back on the pillows, exhausted and then heard a tiny wailing cry and burst into tears, grasping Anna's hand.
Gwen laid the baby on Cissa stomach, preparing to cut the cord.
"There she is Cissa." Anna gasped, crying also, hugging her friend.
"She's so tiny. Oh, hush, darling, Mommy's right here." Cissa reached out and stroked the baby girl who was letting the world know of her arrival with some rather lusty cries. "I bet even Christopher and Eileen can hear her," she laughed.
"I bet so, too." Anna agreed.
"Is that Missy Cissa's baby?" Winky and Dobby were standing in the doorway, anxiously craning their necks, trying to see.
"Yes. Come here you two and meet the newest member of this household." Anna waved them over.
The two house elves scampered over and took a good look at the tiny human lying on Cissa's abdomen.
"She is very small, Missy Cissa, but her is having a big voice!" Dobby grinned, watching the bawling infant.
"Her is all messy, Missy Cissa. Is her needing a bath?" Winky inquired.
"Anna, why don't you clean her up and measure her and everything while Cissa and I finish up here," suggested Gwen.
"Good idea. Come on, little one, Auntie Anna is going to get you all clean and dressed."
Picking up the newborn, Anna took her over to the bassinet and watched by Dobby and Winky, cleaned the baby and dressed her. She brought her back to the bed and laid her in Cissa's arms.
"Welcome to our world, little one." Narcissa kissed her daughter's forehead and looked up at the smiling faces surrounding her. "Well, I don't know about you two, but I could do with a cup of tea!"
I know, I know, I know: the '/Sectumsempra/' curse was invented by Severus when he was a student, but I thought it was an even nastier idea if Tom Riddle had thought it up and kept it for his Death Eaters to use. Poetic license or whatever; I'm warped enough so that this is just another little twist to suit my own story. HE! HE! HE!