Draco gets an owl and a baby sister. Crabbe and Goyle make their plans. The 'sting' is on, and Draco puts his life on the line. Life goes on and the news isn't good. Gwen and Eileen meet Cyrus....
I have good news...and bad news
Draco walked into the Great Hall and headed for the Slytherin table. He saw Harry at the Gryffindor table and nodded. Harry nodded back.
"I'm starved," declared Theo as the group sat down for breakfast.
"Me, too, "Vincent agreed.
"You're always hungry," Silvia kidded him. Laughing at his hurt look, she patted his arm. "But, you're a growing boy, aren't you?"
"That's right and I'm getting ready for Quidditch season," replied Vincent, holding up his arm and flexing his bicep. "Being a beater is hard work and I have to keep up my strength!"
"I doubt seriously if you're in any danger of withering away!" Daphne observed.
"But just in case; where's the food?" Vincent took his fork and knife and holding them on either side of his plate, sat poised, ready for the breakfast to appear.
Draco laughed at that and looking around the Hall, glanced up to the staff table, where Dumbledore caught his eye and gave him the 'signal'. Draco furrowed his brow, then his eyes widened and Dumbledore nodded and smiled, almost causing Draco to grin, until he remembered what was about to start. He nodded back and started loading his plate with scrambled eggs and pieces of toast. Inwardly, he was very excited.
"Ah, mail's here," Gregory observed, as the post owls soared through the windows and swooped down over the tables to deliver their letters and packages.
Draco looked up with mild interest, and then returned to his breakfast until Oscar landed on the table in front of him and held out his leg.
"What, for me?"
Draco untied the letter and sat back, scanning down the page. Suddenly jumping to his feet, he threw his head back and raised his arms.
There was a stunned silence as the entire school swiveled to gawk at him, standing there grinning like a fool. Draco looked around, realizing his shout called for an explanation.
"Mother had her baby girl! /I'm a big brother/!"
Spontaneous laughter and applause broke out, as Daphne and Silvia jumped up and threw their arms around Draco and hugged him. Theo shook his hand. Draco sat back down and read part of the letter to the girls, who were demanding details.
"Let's see." Draco checked through the letter. "Ah, here it is."
I was in labor all of yesterday afternoon and evening, but decided not to alert anyone, as I knew how long the first part of labor can last and I'd know when the time was right. About 2AM, I had my house elf alert the Healer and without too much more time passing, your sister made her appearance.
She weighs seven and a half pounds and is twenty inches long. Blue eyes, but all babies have blue eyes at first, and a good thick head of curly dusty blond hair. She is also in possession of a great set of lungs; even louder than you were, if I remember correctly.
Anyway, all went well and she's sleeping now, so I thought I'd dash off this note to tell you the good news! Haven't settled on a name yet, but will let you know when I finally decide. Any suggestions, while you have a chance to give your input?
I think I'll get a little sleep, now, myself.
Congratulations! You're a big brother!
"Oh, Draco, that's wonderful."
"Yeah. It's so strange, though, trying to picture Mother with a baby. Wonder when I'll get to see them?"
"Soon, let's hope," replied Daphne, giving him another hug.
Looking down the table, Draco noticed Crabbe and Goyle weren't eating anymore; in fact, they looked a little green around the gills. He didn't say anything, thinking it better that they didn't know that he'd seen the change in their demeanor. He glanced at Harry, to find him watching Vincent and Gregory, but then he turned to Draco, nodded ever so slightly and flicked his nose. Draco glanced down, smiling, looking at the letter in his hand, and flicked his nose, too.
The students were filing out of the Great Hall, heading for their first class of the day. Draco rounded the end of the Slytherin table to find Ginny Weasley and Hermione Granger blocking his way. His eyebrow went up as his friends skidded to a stop behind him.
"Congratulations, Draco," Ginny blurted out, giving him a tentative smile.
"Please send your Mother our best wishes, won't you?" Hermione added.
"I'll do that. Thank you, Hermione."
The girls turned and walked out the doors. Theo came up beside Draco.
"What did those two want?"
"Just congratulating me about my baby sister." Draco shrugged, and then turning to Theo he grabbed his sleeve. "I may just lose my breakfast." He put his hand over his mouth.
"/Don't/!" Theo laughed. "Come on, we'll be late."
As Theo, Draco and the rest left, Severus Snape came down the Slytherin table to stop in front of Vincent and Gregory, who were still sitting at their places, talking quietly. They looked up, startled, to realize the Great Hall was now empty and they were facing their Head of House, who was regarding them with his arms crossed, a scowl on his face.
"I am pleased to see that you two didn't panic when the Dark Lord's memory charm lifted."
"How did you...?"
"Our Master informed me of what he would have you do for him. Which is precisely why I am going to make sure you don't mess this up."
"Consider your options and come to see me this afternoon after classes."
"Do not attempt anything until after we have spoken."
"Now get to your class."
Well, I made a right fool of myself this morning when your letter arrived during breakfast. I jumped up and yelled 'Yes!!' The whole place went stone silent, until I realized they were all looking at me as if I'd gone bonkers, so I announced that you'd just had my baby sister. Everyone clapped and seemed genuinely happy about it, which made me feel good.
I'm glad you didn't have any difficulties with the birth. I'm in total ignorance of what it all entails, but according to the girls (Silvia and Daphne) it's hard work, even with birthing potions. I hope you had some of that potion, as I'd hate to think you were in any pain.
ANYHOW, how's my little sister? Is she a cutie, or are you too prejudiced to give an honest answer? (Silvia and Daphne also said most newborns are rather ugly) HA!HA!
I have to get back to class, but Professor McGonagall let me dash off this note, as it was such an important bit of news, so I could send it straightaway.
Will write again, later, when I can do a proper letter; there's a lot going on around here, so expect a fairly long one.
Your oldest child,
"Hello, Mr. Malfoy."
"I hear tell you're a proud big brother. Welcome to the club!"
Hagrid was grinning at Draco, as they stood outside the Great hall, which was filling up rapidly for the luncheon meal.
"I got the owl this morning. Mother and my sister are doing just fine." Draco beamed.
"Well, speaking of Narcissa, He! He! I just brought in some of the unicorn herd for a class tomorrow. Why don't you come down after dinner and say hello to Starlight and little Narcissa?"
"Great! I'd like to see them; check how Narcissa's doing. Bet she's grown at bit."
"Ay, she has and her horn is starting to show, too."
"I'll be sure and bring a treat or two. Thanks, Hagrid."
"Ya know you're welcome anytime, Draco."
Severus looked up from his desk as Crabbe and Goyle shuffled in and closed the door.
"Yes, sir." Vincent muttered
"When will you attack?"
"Tonight, sir; Draco is going to the paddock, after dinner, to see that unicorn foal he helped care for and we thought we'd get him on the way back." Gregory explained.
"Not outside. You'd likely miss him in the dark. The entrance hall would be best, as it should be deserted at that time of night and there are several places where you can conceal yourselves and room to maneuver when you attack," suggested Snape. "You can also get out the doors, when the time comes, and make your escape."
"Yes, sir," Vincent muttered again.
"Not having second thoughts, are you, Crabbe?"
"No, sir, just a little nervous."
"Understandable." Snape leaned back in his chair and continued, "Don't stand together; the farther apart you are, the harder it will be for him to watch both of you. Do not, however, get on opposite sides of the hall; you're liable to miss Malfoy and hit each other. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," answered Gregory.
"No more than two '/Sectumsempra/' spells from each of you; the Dark Lord doesn't want Malfoy to bleed to death, just have a vivid reminder of his far reaching power. Don't get carried away with the sight of blood."
"No, sir. We won't sir." Gregory nodded.
"Hit him with any other spells you'd like to weaken him, save the "/Sectumsempra/" until you hear someone coming to see what's going on, and then get out the front doors. I will be able to delay any pursuit for only a few seconds. Do not run down the road, as your black robes will stand out against the gray gravel and make you an easy target. Stick to the grass verge. Don't stop for any reason. If one of you falls, the other must keep going. I have made sure the gates are unlocked."
"We understand, professor."
"I don't know what your instructions are concerning what will happen once you are through the gates, but I'm assuming you will be met by one of the Master's faithful servants and transported to him."
Snape stood, as did Crabbe and Goyle.
"There is a small window by the broom closet. Hagrid's hut and the lawn are clearly visible from there, so you may watch for Malfoy's return."
"Do not fail our Master."
The two boys exchanged looks and left. Severus walked over to the picture on the wall.
"Let Albus know where and when they plan to attack, he can alert the D.A. and have them standing by and also inform Madame Pomfrey to be ready with the dittany."
"Right away, Severus." Christopher nodded and left to relay the messages.
Hagrid and Draco were standing at the paddock fence, watching the unicorns, when Pig crash-landed on Hagrid's head, hooting merrily. Hagrid reached up, engulfing the tiny owl in his huge hand and pulled him out of his hair."
"Daft little bugger," Hagrid laughed, as he opened his hand and Pig, righting himself, hopped toward Draco, holding out his leg, on which was tied a tiny scroll.
Untying the bit of parchment, Draco unrolled it. "Stay here," he said to Pig, "while I read this."
Draco held the note close to Hagrid's lantern.
Crabbe and Goyle are in the entrance hall waiting for you. Good luck; we'll be right there, out of sight, watching. We've got you covered.
He stuffed the scroll into his pocket and then picked up Pig and looked at the tiny face.
"Tell Harry I got the message. Ok?"
Pig hooted and nodded his head. Draco threw the owl into the air and he went zipping back to the castle.
"What's goin' on, Draco?"
"When I go back to the castle Crabbe and Goyle are going to attack me, Hagrid. They're under orders from Voldemort. But it's ok," he hastened to say when he saw the shocked expression on Hagrid's face. "Professor Dumbledore, Harry and everyone know and will be standing by, if I need help."
"Oh, well, that's good, then."
"Actually, Hagrid, you could help, too."
"Sure, what do 'ya want me ta do, Draco?"
"See, we have to let them escape through the front gates and report their success back to Voldemort or ...he'll kill them. So, what I want you to do is help scare them as they make a run for the gates. When you hear everyone shouting, you come out and chase after them, too. But don't catch them... Let them get about halfway to the gates before you start, because your strides are a bit longer than everyone else's and you'll cover that distance in no time. Yell a lot, that'll add to the confusion and make anyone outside the gates, that's watching, really believe we're trying our best to stop them. Ok?"
"Alright, I'll raise a ruckus for 'ya!"
"Great! Thanks Hagrid. Well, no putting this off. Wish me luck!"
"You'll be fine, Draco; I watched you and Harry practicing and you'll do alright against those two lumps!"
"Hope so. Well, see you in a bit. Oh, bring Fang, too, on a leash!"
"Right, good idea, I'll just go get him."
Hagrid headed for his hut and Draco started for the castle.
Draco came into the entrance hall, swinging his jacket in one hand, whistling, not in any particular hurry. He was about half way across the broad expanse of flooring when he heard movement on his left; a shoe scuffing on the stone floor. He didn't hesitate or give any sign that he'd heard anything; that he knew where one of the attackers was standing. Then a movement by the stairs in front of him, to the left, made him slow down a bit and cock his head. Gregory Goyle stepped out of the shadows, grim expression on his face.
"Hey!" Draco smiled. "You should have come with me to see..."
" '/Expelliarmus/!' " Vincent yelled.
Spinning, Draco managed to move out of the way and the spell streaked past him, exploding against the wall.
"What the hell?" Draco growled at Vincent.
Gregory fired off a spell which Draco easily deflected, " '/Protego/!' ", but then had to duck another from Vincent. He backed slowly toward the wall of windows, forcing Gregory to abandon the cover of the staircase railing and come out into the open. Now Draco had them in front of him, so he could at least see both of them at once.
"What the hell are you two playing at?" Draco snarled, his wand poised.
"Just following orders," Vincent smiled.
"So.../you've/ taken the mark, have you?"
"We will, when we report to him how we taught you a lesson in humility, Draco, old friend," replied Gregory, smirking.
" '/Old// friend/' being the operative phrase, I take it?" asked Draco.
Draco spun, throwing his jacket toward Vincent, while he fired off a spell at Gregory, making him duck and then Draco got off a spell at Vincent. Within seconds, the air was thick with spells and flying chunks of stone and wood, where the spells missed their intended target and connected with walls and paneling. The noise covered any oaths and shouts of the three.
Draco grabbed his leg when a chunk of stone grazed his thigh and 'blood' oozed between his fingers.
"That's going to leave a mark!" Vincent cackled.
"Son of a...'/Expelliarmus/'!"
Vincent went flying backward, to crash through the broom closet door, tumbling into the darkness, with the crash of buckets and mops echoing across the floor. Draco laughed, and then prepared to duel with Gregory. Suddenly, distant shouts could be heard. Gregory took aim and shot a spell over Draco's head, " '/Reducto/!" ", hitting the stained glass window, which exploded, sending shards of glass and metal showering down. Draco covered his head and ducked sideways, but his foot caught on a chunk of stone debris and he fell, sprawling on the floor, pelted by bits of the shattered window.
Vincent was clambering out of the broom closet as Gregory ran toward Draco.
"/Quick/! Someone's coming!" he shouted over his shoulder.
Draco tried to roll out of the way of the spell he knew was aimed at his back.
" '/Sectumsempra/!' " both boys yelled at the same time.
Draco felt a searing pain on his rib cage and across his leg as he scrambled to his feet.
Looking down he saw blood, real blood, his blood, spurting from the gashes in his shirt and pants leg. Bringing his eyes up, he saw an evil gleam of triumph in their eyes.
"Oh, no you don't," Draco snarled. " '/Sectumsempra/!' " He slashed across the air in front of him.
The spell streaked across Vincent's cheek and Gregory's arm, as he threw it up, instinctively, to save being hit in the face.
"So that's your spell for 'punishing' me, huh?" Draco taunted them, as they touched their wounds and stared at the blood on their hands. "Well, I'm a quick study, boys, so let's see who's best at this game, shall we?"
"Now, Harry?" Ron whispered.
"Not yet! They each have to throw another 'Sectumsempra' at Draco; than we can go."
The voices were getting louder and running footfalls could be heard approaching. Draco turned his head to see who was emerging from the dungeon level. It was Theo.
"What the hell?" Theo gasped, seeing the blood on the trio, standing there with their wands out.
"/Look out, Theo/!" Draco yelled. "/Get back/!"
Theo, thoroughly confused, pulled his wand and looked around to see who was attacking his classmates. That gave Gregory a chance to hit him with an '/Expelliarmus/' that knocked him back down the stairs. Vincent shot a second '/Sectumsempra/' at Draco that caught him across the back as he tried to duck. It knocked him down onto his hands and knees. Gregory fired at him but missed making a direct hit, just nicking his forehead, as Draco collapsed.
"Let's get out of here!"
More voices and running footsteps could be heard approaching. Just then, Severus Snape exploded from the dungeon stairs, wand out.
"Go!" he pointed to the door.
The boys didn't need telling twice; they took off running, flat out, just as Blaze, Daphne and the rest of upper classes of Slytherin House emerged from the stairway. Daphne screamed and ran to Draco. Snape was already kneeling over the boy, muttering spells and tracking his wand over the open wounds.
As the Slytherins came out of the dungeon stairway, Professor McGonagall and the senior members of the D.A. appeared on the upper staircase, took one look and came streaming down. Theo was staggering into the hall, held up by Silvia, as they all arrived at Draco's side.
"What's happened Severus?" Professor McGonagall gasped. "Good God, Malfoy! Who did this?"
"Crabbe and Goyle!" exclaimed Theo. "One of them blasted me backwards down the stairs."
"/What/? Where are they?" McGonagall asked.
Severus looked up from treating Draco and turned his head toward the half open front doors.
Harry pointed. "/There/! Let's go after them!"
Severus stood as the D.A. group headed out of the door.
"Minerva, get Draco to Madam Pomfrey as quickly as possible, please. She'll know what to do."
Without waiting to hear her answer, he also ran out the door in pursuit of Vincent and Gregory, while the Slytherins students remained with Draco.
The D.A. donned their sunglasses and easily picked out the fleeing duo, pelting down the edge of the approach road toward the distant gates. They ran after them, shouting and yelling, shooting spells on either side of two figures, being careful to just miss. Severus joined in the chase, although he didn't fire any spells at them, just shouting for the boys to stop. Then barking was heard as Hagrid and Fang started running after the pair, too.
Crabbe tripped and fell, crying out. Goyle hesitated but before he could turn back, spells started hitting all around him. Vincent scrambled up and they continued their flight to freedom. Crashing into the gates to stop their momentum, they yanked them open, even as spells hit the metal gates, sending sparks flying in all directions. Stumbling through, they continued running, straight into the arms of a waiting Death Eater, who immediately Apparated them all away.
The group of students, Hagrid, Fang and Severus all arrived at the gates, panting, wands out. The D.A. had removed and hidden their 'sunglasses' as soon as they saw the Death Eater waiting beyond the gates. Shouts of 'frustration' echoed through the night as they turned and started the long walk back up to the school. Hagrid secured the gates and headed to his hut, with Fang bounding around him, still barking, wanting to play some more.
"Quiet down, 'ya daft dog!" Hagrid chuckled. "Good Fang!"
A rat sat watching, then turned and disappeared.
"Ah, young Crabbe and Goyle."
Voldemort waved the boys into his room, where they approached and then fell on their knees as they had been instructed. Wormtail stood to the side of the room.
"I trust all went well?"
"Yes, Master, we did as you instructed us."
"So I've been told." He glanced at Wormtail. "I see you were wounded, also." He waved his wand and their wounds closed.
"Yes, Master." Gregory checked his arm and looked over to see Vincent's cheek wound closing.
"Draco fought, but we both hit him with 'Sectumsempra' twice each, as Professor Snape instructed."
"Severus told you to only use the spell twice? Why?"
"He said you didn't want Draco to bleed to death, just have a vivid idea of how far reaching your powers are, Master," Vincent explained.
"I see. Was he surprised when you told him what spell you were going to use?"
"We didn't tell him, he...he knew what the spell was."
Voldemort stopped pacing and regarded the two. Using his powers of Legilimens on them, he saw the scene in Severus' office played out. The way Severus was staring at the boys, perhaps he had also used the same power to read their rather open minds for himself. There was no other explanation for his having that knowledge. The truth could be discerned later.
'/At least these two young fools managed to do the damage assigned them/,' thought Voldemort. '/They're more useful than their fathers/. /I shall enjoy instructing them, making them into true Death Eaters/.'
"Rise," ordered Voldemort.
Vincent and Gregory scrambled to their feet.
"Hold out your arm," whispered the Dark Lord.
Rolling up their sleeves, they looked scared, then excited and strangely proud. Grasping first one boy's arm and then the other, Voldemort burned his Dark Mark into their skin, causing them to both to cry out with pain. But they quickly got themselves under control and looked up at their Master.
"When the mark burns, you will instantly Apparate to me. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Master." "Of course, Master."
"Good. I think a little celebration is in order; it's still early in the evening, shall we do a bit of Muggle hunting?"
They glanced at each other, then looked back at Voldemort and nodded.
"Splendid. Come with me."
It was nearly dawn, and Harry sat by the bed, head drooping onto his hands. He had been here at Draco's side since the D.A. had returned to the castle. Draco had been given a sleeping draught, similar to the one the Healers at St. Mungo's had used for Severus, so he could heal without having to be aware of the pain involved.
The cuts had been rather nasty, but not as deep as Severus had feared he would receive. Crabbe and Goyle's inexperience with the spell had saved Draco from worse harm.
No amount of fussing from Madam Pomfrey had persuaded Harry to abandon Draco, so she had let him keep his vigil. Harry had slept fitfully, leaning on the foot of the bed and had just returned to his seat after waking and walking the length of the ward to stretch his legs.
Draco turned his head, starting to wake up. He had been conscious when brought to the hospital ward, so he knew where he was. Opening his eyes, he saw Harry, sitting backward on the chair by his bed, forehead resting on his hands on the back.
Harry's head snapped up.
"You've been here all night?"
"Yeah; but I got some sleep. How do you feel?"
"Itchy. Madam Pomfrey said the cuts would be tingling for a bit, but, I'll deal with it."
"You did well, Draco."
"Thanks, Harry. I got them with their own spell, too."
"Did you? Ha! Served them right."
"You didn't have to sit here all night, you know."
"Yes, I did. Just so you'd know we care what happened to you."
"Oh...I see. Thanks."
"Welcome to the 'Reluctant Hero' club." Harry grinned.
"Strange initiation ritual, I must say."
"Beats a Death Head on your arm."
"Point taken...I'm hungry. Did I miss breakfast?"
Harry checked his watch. "No, it's still a half hour until breakfast."
"Well, in that case, I have to talk Madam Pomfrey into letting me out of here. I feel fine."
"/I've/ never had much luck talking my way out of this ward. Here's some clean clothes Blaze brought up for you; get dressed quickly while I see if she's around. I think we should just make a break for it."
Harry indicated a pile of clothes on the next bed, and then went to peek around the screen to keep an eye out for Madam Pomfrey. Draco got up and dressed, and then he and Harry made a dash for the door. They heard Madam Pomfrey's outraged cries following them as they tore down the stairs, but were safely in the Great Hall, laughing heartily, before she could do anything to stop them.
Draco sat in the Headmaster's office, facing Christopher's portrait, waiting for him to return. He was a bit nervous about how his Mother was going to react to the news of the attack, but he and Dumbledore
had agreed, it would be better that she hear it from him and be reassured that he was physically and mentally unharmed by the recent events. Christopher had set up the meeting with her as calmly as possible, so as not to alarm Cissa.
"Draco, your Mother is on the way, so let me break the news to her and then I'll pass on any questions she might have. Ok?" Christopher was standing at the side of his portrait, looking down at him.
"I hope she doesn't get too mad that we didn't tell her what was going on, or worse, get mad at Anna for not telling her." Draco looked up at the portrait. "Make sure she knows it was my idea, not telling her."
"No problem. Oh, I hear her coming now, be right back."
Cissa took a seat in front of Christopher's portrait and looked up "Oh, hello, Christopher. Is Draco there?"
"Yes, Cissa, he's sitting facing me, about like you are. Now, before we start there is something he wanted me to tell you."
"Oh. Alright, what is it?"
"He wants you to know that it was his idea to not talk to you about this earlier, as you were so close to delivering the baby and he refused to upset you unnecessarily."
"Upset me? Why? What would upset me?"
"Draco was informed, over a month ago, that he would be attacked here at school, on Voldemort's orders, by Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. They were in peril of their lives if they did not obey these orders. He, along with Albus and Severus and Harry prepared for the attack and kept the possibility of any injury to Draco to a minimum."
Cissa sat there, stunned, but nodded that she understood, so Christopher continued relating the story.
"Draco refused to thwart this attack, as he feared for the boys lives and even though it meant that Vincent and Gregory would be leaving Hogwarts to go to Voldemort, at least he would not cause their deaths. Pansy's is still weighing heavily on his mind, you see, and the thought of two more of his friends being slaughtered because of him was unbearable."
"And they have gone to Voldemort?"
"Yes, they were met outside the gates by a Death Eater and disappeared. We assume they went straight to his hiding place. We have not, however, gotten word of what happened to them. But, no news is good news, as far as they are concerned. It's out of our hands now, in any case."
"But if they've gone, then Draco /was /attacked. Was he injured?"
"Slightly. /However/, as everyone was on the alert, Severus and Madam Pomfrey were there with in seconds and his injuries were taken care of immediately. He was right as rain the next morning, healed and none the worse for wear. No scaring or ill effects."
"Scarring? What spell was used, that he'd be scarred?"
"Let me see if I remember this correctly...'Sectumsempra' I believe was the spell. Do you know it?"
"Merlin's beard! That's a Death Eater spell Lucius bragged about," gasped Cissa. "Are you sure he's alright?"
"He's fine! Really/! Fortunately, those two weren't very good at doing the spell, so the cuts were fairly superficial and easily treated. /However/, you should understand that Draco /allowed himself to be hit with those spells, in order to insure that Gregory and Vincent could fulfill their mission and thus be safe from Voldemort's wrath when they went to him. They had to think they had succeeded, but it was, unbeknownst to them, all planned out to keep harm to Draco to a minimum."
"How did you all know this was going to happen?"
"Voldemort instructed Severus to aid in their escape after the attack. Which he did, but without looking as if he was deliberately helping them. They had to believe in his participation, also, for Severus' sake. You understand, don't you?"
"Yes. Of course."
"It was all well thought out and planned for maximum effect and minimum harm. Draco, however, gave as well as got in the actual attack, and those two will carry their scars for the rest of their lives, I'm afraid."
Cissa nodded, and then frowning, looked up at Christopher with one eyebrow raised.
"And who else, may I ask, was in on this 'plan' besides Draco and Albus and Severus and Harry...as if I couldn't figure it out!"
"Now, don't get upset, Cissa. Anna had to know as she was giving her technical advice about defenses for Draco and knowledge of spells and things. Draco made her swear not to tell you and she agreed that you should not be upset during the end of your pregnancy. So, don't be too hard on her, she was trying to keep both of you safe."
Cissa shook her head, smiling ruefully.
"Well, I'll deal with those two later," replied Cissa, then, looking up at Christopher, winked. "I'm just kidding. I can understand their motives. I just wish they'd have given me a little more credit for intestinal fortitude. But maybe they were right; I'd have, in all probability been a bit nervous about Draco."
"Oh, alright, a nervous wreck, but don't tell them I said so."
"Fine with me, dear. So, what would you like to tell Draco?"
"Tell him when I see him, I'll ring his neck! No, no, I wouldn't do that....HE! HE! HE! Seriously, tell him I'm very proud of what he did for Vincent and Gregory. It's a shock when people you thought you knew turn on you. I just hope those two understand what they've done. Ah well, that can't be helped, can it? Also, tell Draco that I think Pansy would be as proud of him as I am. Then, I want you to tell him I'm sitting here waiting to hear all of the details and I do mean ALL!"
"Right...be back in a minute. And by the way, Cissa, get comfortable; I think this could take a while."
"Anna and the baby are both taking naps, Gwen and Eileen are out puttering in the garden, so we won't be disturbed...we've have all the time we need."
"Excellent!" Rubbing his hands together, Christopher left his portrait. Cissa pulled over a stool and put her feet up.
"I owe you one, Anna," she muttered under her breath, smiling.
Life at Hogwarts returned to its regular routine. The attack on Draco was not discussed, nor was the absence of Gregory and Vincent, although, as with most goings on in the school, by the end of the next day everyone knew what had happened.
However, over the next month, more reports of Death Eater attacks were front page news in the Daily Prophet. Emmaline Vance, a member of the Order, was found murdered, as was Susan Bones's aunt, Amelia Susan Bones, who Harry remembered from the hearing at the Ministry just before 5th year.
Florian Fortescue, who owned the ice cream parlor in Diagon Alley, was "dragged off" by Death Eaters.
Caradoc Dearborn and Octavias Pepper, of the Order, were unaccounted for. Mr. Ollivander was also missing, but his shop was closed and locked with no signs of a struggle, which was very strange.
Then Hannah Abbott's Mother was found dead, and although it was not certain that she had been killed by Death Eaters, the Ministry was classifying it as a 'suspicious' death. Hannah was told during Herbology class and was away from school for almost three weeks. When she returned, she informed the D.A. at their next meeting, that she was even more determined to help rid the Wizarding world of Voldemort; now it was "personal".
The D.A. members were concentrating their efforts on the plans for securing and defending the castle. All of the advantages and disadvantages of various parts of the structure were discussed and plans formulated as to how and where members would be better able to defend themselves, each other and the younger students.
The first Hogsmeade weekend came and the students were allowed to make their traditional visit, but the younger students went in groups of four with two D.A. members accompanying them. There were no incidents and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the last stragglers came through the gates and headed up the road to the school.
Before long it was Halloween and the annual feast was to be celebrated. Draco was receiving a fair amount of ribbing about who his target would be this year: McGonagall, perhaps? It was even rumored that he was seen in Hagrid's pumpkin patch with a measuring stick. He took the joking good naturedly and laughed as loud as his friends at some of the suggestions for his "target-of -the -year".
Instead, Dumbledore asked for a vote at the conclusion of the feast; should they indulge themselves in a new "tradition" and hold the /2nd Annual Hogwarts Pie Fight/? Yea or nay? The vote was unanimous! YEA!
Harry stood up and called to the Headmaster, "Sir!"
"Yes, Mr. Potter?"
"May I say something?"
Harry walked to the front of the Great Hall and picking up a pie, turned to face the students. He lifted the pie high and proclaimed, "To Anna Twigg-Jones, where ever she is; God bless her and her bizarre ideas!"
"/Here, here/!" yelled the students.
"What?" Harry turned and SPLUSH! received the first hit of the evening, right in the kisser. Laughter exploded from the watching throng as Harry wiped the goo from his glasses and beheld Draco standing there grinning at him.
"You know, of courssse," he lisped, wagging his eyebrows. "Thisss means war!?!." And he hurled his pie at Draco, catching him on the side of his head as Draco tried to duck.
That did it! Another glorious battle ensued and the laughter and silliness helped everyone forget the menacing world outside their castle for a few extremely messy, fun filled minutes.
"Oh, here you are," Eileen said, as she drifted through the doorway and settled on the tarp covered furniture. "Gwen, what are you doing?"
"Putting painter's tape around the edges; so I won't get paint on the walls as I do the ceiling," answered Gwen, as she climbed down off of the ladder and turned to the ghost. "Takes a bit of time but I can paint faster, so it saves time, too."
"Looks like an awful lot of work to me. Why don't you just let Cissa magic the paint onto the ceiling and walls?"
"Nope; she's got the baby to tend to, Anna can't help because I don't want her breathing in the paint fumes, you're busy watching the 'Felix" potion and Winky and Dobby have us to take care of, so, that leaves me. Besides, I like to paint, and this is going to really brighten up the old place and I think of it as my wedding present to Anna and Severus. Oh! Look what I found on my last trip, when I got the paint."
She pulled a plaque out of a shopping bag and held it up for Eileen to read.
# - # - # - # - # - # - # - #
Having a place
to go is Home
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
to love is Family
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
is a Blessing
# - # - # - # - # - # - # - # - #
"I want to hang this in the front hall, when I finish, as a house warming present. What do you think?"
"It's a lovely sentiment and I think it will look wonderful," replied Eileen.
"Come out here for a minute, so I can get your opinion on where to hang it," said Gwen, walking out to the entrance hall.
Following Gwen, the ghost of Severus' Mother drifted over and settled on the bench by the stairs.
"Where were you thinking of putting it, dear?"
"Right here on this wall, this old tapestry has seen better days and may be worth restoring, but for now, I was thinking of taking it down in favor of the plaque."
Gwen held the framed sentiment in front of the ancient wall hanging, but trying to see the effect, shook her head.
"I have to take this old thing down. Do you mind? It's not an old family piece or anything, is it?"
"No, it was here when I moved in with Severus' Father. Belonged to the previous Wizarding family; we bought the house from their estate. The last of the family had died and this house was just what we'd been looking for. The only codicil to the sale was that the tapestry stayed on the wall; so, we left it there. I think the fact that no one has lived here for ages cancels that out, though, don't you? Take that nasty old thing down, with my blessing."
Gwen went back in the parlor, brought the ladder out and set it up next to the wall. Climbing up, she took a look at how the material had been fastened to the supporting rod.
"This looks pretty straightforward, if I can just....Umph!"
One end of the rod came loose and the tapestry slid off onto the floor in a dusty pile.
"My goodness, will you look at that!" exclaimed Eileen.
"Blimey! A door! Where does that lead to, do you know?" Gwen looked down from her perch.
"No, I never knew it was there."
Gwen backed down off of the ladder and moved it out of the way, then pulled the tapestry away from the wall and dumped it to the side.
"Well, let's see, shall we?"
She grasped the huge door latch and tried to lift it.
"Who's there?" A small trap door in the middle of the upper panel of the door popped open and an eyeball swiveled around, looking at Gwen and Eileen, blinking. "Who are you?"
"Gracious! Ah, well, I'm Gwen Jones. Who are you?"
"I'm the doorkeeper, you fool, who did you think I was?"
"Hadn't a clue, actually; as I've never met or even heard of a door keeper until about five seconds ago," replied Gwen, as she crossed her arms and regarded the door with an amused expression on her face.
"What? Don't be absurd, what kind of witch doesn't know about door keepers?"
"Oh, I see. You have to understand, I'm a Muggle," Gwen explained.
"What! That's not possible, Muggles don't believe in Magic."
"This one does," said Eileen, as she came over. "I'm Eileen Snape, this is my house. Or was, my son is the owner, now."
"Where is he, I must speak with him, if he is the present owner of this house."
"He's at Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft..."
"and Wizardry...yes, yes, I know all about that. I was put here by one of the Headmasters, who owned this house after the Muggles left it."
"That was ages ago, at least 300 years or so, am I correct?"
"Probably. It's a little difficult to keep track of time, when you're out of sight for so long. What year is it, by the way?"
"Merlin's Beard! Really? I have been hidden away for a fair bit, then, haven't I?"
"Apparently. So, what will we find when we open you? A hidden room? A secret staircase? I'm really intrigued by this," asked Gwen, looking over at Eileen, who nodded in agreement.
The Eyeball swiveled to Gwen and then back to Eileen.
"Inquisitive for a Muggle, isn't she?" the door said, at bit sarcastically.
"Indeed, but that is a good question; what does the door lead to?"
"Hogwarts, of course; the Head master's office, to be precise, although I'm concealed there, too."
"WHAT! You're kidding!" Gwen gasped.
"I most certainly am /not/!"
"But that's fantastic! We can just open you and go..."
"Do you know the password?"
"Pass...word; a secret word or phrase..."
"I know what a password is, it's just...well, I don't know /yours/. Do you, Eileen?" Gwen turned to the ghost, who shook her head no.
"I didn't even know there was a /door/."
"Oh, right. Crap."
Gwen sat down on the bench. Eileen sat down next to her. No one said anything for a few moments.
"Can I ask a slightly silly question?" Gwen looked up at the eye in the door.
"Who knows of your existence?"
"Just Headmaster Everarh and myself, and now you two, of course."
"Why did he put you here?"
"Truthfully?" The eyeball looked left and right to be sure it wouldn't be overheard. "He hated Apparating , the Floo Network made his sneeze plus he abhorred the soot and cinders and riding his broom took too long, even in good weather. So, he put me here; he could pop in and out, come and go, anytime he pleased."
"Brilliant!" Eileen laughed. "I disliked Apparating, too; made me queasy."
"We have to get that password, Eileen. Let's see if Dad could help."
"Yes, he could ask Headmaster Everarh for it, I suppose."
"Excuse me," Gwen addressed the doorkeeper. "Do you have a name?"
"Cyrus is my name, thank you for asking."
"Well, Cyrus, I think you will soon be back in business. We'll get to work on obtaining the password. In the mean time, though, don't talk to the other two witches or the house elves that might try to open you. I want this to be a surprise, OK?"
"I'm sorry, but I'm obliged to ask for the password when someone tries my handle. If you want to keep me a secret, you'll have to hide me again, at least until you can contact this Dad person."
"Right, ok, well then, there's nothing for it, we have to put the tapestry back up. Sorry, Cyrus, we'll try to get the password as quickly as we can," Gwen assured him.
"That's quite alright; after 300 some years, what's a little more time, eh?"
"That's sporting of you, Cyrus. Ok, let me get this back up before Anna or Cissa wander through here."
"Oh, goody; another secret." Eileen clapped her hands, as Gwen sorted out the tapestry and re-hung it.