A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, Draco is approached, a...
Saturday, November 30, 1996
Draco Malfoy sat in a small, plush study at Malfoy Manor, just before midnight. Anyone looking at him casually would see a handsome teen in a velvet dressing robe, holding a snifter of old brandy.
Looking closer, an observer would see the lines of exhaustion and deep dark circles around the young man's eyes.
Draco had had a bad November, there was no question about that. It had all started off just a few hours before the month had started, when three Seventh years had killed their two room mates. Hearing them shout the Killing Curse had been startling. Even more startling was when the three had stormed out of their room and started sending more only slightly less startling curses around the common corridor.
Draco still didn't know why he had been stupid enough to go and investigate. He had tried to tell himself it was because he should have still been the prefect, instead of Zabini, but he had soon admitted to himself he hadn't been that dedicated a prefect. He had just wanted to know what had been going on.
What he had seen was Crabbe Crucioing a First year. He had killed Crabbe when Crabbe had dropped the curse and turned that brainless grin on him. No one else remembered Crabbe being the one torturing that particular child, and the great oaf had fallen on his wand, snapping it.
Considering what could have happened to him, he had not been punished too badly. However, even though he had moved away from being a strong supporter of Voldemort, the attack had driven all the surviving Slytherins even further away. The House seemed to have a need to scapegoat somebody still alive, and Ted Nott had made certain it was Draco instead of him when Draco had returned from his first trial.
All so stereotypically Slytherin.
Draco had really learned who his true friends were: no one. Amongst the Slytherin boys, Zabini and Goyle protected him from physical assaults from Pritchard and some others, but that was as far as they would go. Nott had the knife firmly in Draco's back, to the point that even Pansy didn't like associating with him openly, although she still had privately.
And then the week before, he had had it out with Nott, and the House had decided that, for the most part, they didn't like either one of them. Draco had stormed out, and had been in exactly the wrong mood to run into Weasley.
'Damn him,' Draco thought bitterly, 'when did Weasel and even Longbottom get so good? I swear they should have been fumbling around, at best a step above Crabbe.'
Draco took a deep drink of his brandy, trying not to remember the terror and humiliation of his second 'trial.'
It had been so different at his first trial. Draco had not realized how dependent the careers of a large number of key Ministry people were on the support the Malfoy Trust. British wizarding taxation was amongst the lowest in the wizarding world. Services were cut to the bone, yet support had to be found for some types of public works and some types of research. These Ministry officials, most importantly Cornelius Fudge, had their careers because they found funding.
Funding keystoned by the Malfoy Trust. Funding that the politicians needed even with the International hovering in the background.
This had all been explained to Draco on November 2 by the Trust Officer, a rather distant cousin. He had also explained that there were many claimants to the Malfoy fortune, and that if Draco died without a legitimate son, the Trust would finally end, after over 500 years of existence under various guises.
"How much would you get?" Draco had demanded.
"About the equivalent of three years pay," the distant cousin had said. "I'd prefer keeping my life-time contract."
The cousin had been a Slytherin, too.
No, the first trial had been a little nerve-wracking, because while the fix might have been in, no one can be certain the fix will work until it does.
The problem was, there was only one bought vote at the second trial. Tobias Jones had been a fairly intimidating presence in the classroom. His two seniors, Myrddin and Dorff, were terrifying on the bench. The others had given him no comfort, especially when he realized that the African wizard who had been questioning him was the man who had supervised his father's execution.
No just sitting in the chair this time, he had been chained and bolted in. The fact that the Weasel was in similar restraints hadn't helped much at all.
He had been asked polite questions the first time, to which he gave answers his advisers had prepared for him. This time he had been stripped to his underpants and had been painted with a truth potion within an hour of being caught. He had heard himself admit to things that made him flush to this day.
He had lost, and there were now a horde of accountants pouring over the books of the Malfoy Trust. His cousin had assured him that the Trust itself would survive intact, as would Draco (and the cousin). However, it was far from certain how many of the politicians would last much longer.
Draco found it difficult to care very much.
Draco finished his brandy and sat in the quiet. His mother had retreated to southern France in July, and was still there. There was no one in the huge manor except for himself, and of course a few house elves.
Draco threw the balloon glass into the fireplace. It was still a few minutes before midnight, and he was far from drunk. Still, he decided, that was enough for today.
Draco stood up, swaying a bit, and opened the door to the corridor.
And standing there was a wildly grinning, insane-looking witch who could only be his Aunt Bellatrix. And, if Aunt Bellatrix was there. . . .
Voldemort strode out of the shadows.
"Are you ready to serve the Master?" Bellatrix screeched.
Draco looked at them. Bella not only looked insane, she obviously was. "No."
Bellatrix looked flummoxed.
Voldemort laughed, and if Draco had not been completely terrified before, he was now.
"Stay here," Voldemort ordered Bellatrix. He swept into the room, dragging Draco behind him. He threw Draco onto a sofa and stood over him.
"Shall I kill you, have you killed, or have one of my dementors Kiss you?"
"What does it matter?" Draco managed to force himself to ask. "I'll be in hell, and you won't be any closer to whatever dream that half-blood mind of yours has invented."
"What did you say!" Voldemort said with a hiss. He only restrained himself from killing the boy because he needed his willing help.
"You heard me!" Draco said, gaining momentum if nothing else. "A half-blood cannot lead the pure-blooded world! The most you can hope for is for your family to work its way back to where it was once, generations past! Look where the movement has gotten with you as its leader! Reduced to you, my crazy aunt, and dementors!"
"Do you seek death tonight, Draco Malfoy?"
"What did I just say? Kill me and I suffer in hell; leave and I suffer here. Which is worse?"
Voldemort laughed. "There is no hell, boy. There is life, and there is nothing. No hell, no heaven, no reincarnation, no nothing. Perhaps some shadowy existence for a few hundred to a thousand years for those few people who become ghosts, but even then you fade away. Oblivion, just as there was before birth."
"Well, if you want to live longer, go ahead. Figure out a way to exist for a few thousand, or even a few million, years. You're never going to get power now. The Pure Bloods here don't want you, and the Pure Bloods from the rest of the world have united to hunt you down. The Mudbloods wouldn't touch you. Go grab your extra-long life and try again in a few hundred years, and LEAVE ME ALONE!"
"You are foolish to anger me rather than follow me, boy."
"Yes, because my father is so well off this moment, having followed you."
Voldemort backhanded Draco nearly across the room.
"What do you want?" Draco demanded when he managed to sit up. "Even if I was willing and able to follow you, what could I do for you?"
"I want access to the small island your family owns in the Irish Sea."
"And no one can access it without the freely given consent of the Head of the House of Malfoy." Draco grinned and wiped the blood off his split lip. "You can't torture me or frighten me into giving you permission, or use the Imperius Curse -- even you'd be splinched."
Voldemort drew himself to his full height.
Draco laughed, and said, "Go. You and Aunt Bella both. You have my permission. Just remember, if I die, you can't go back. And if you have me killed and you're on the island when I die, you're trapped there forever."
"We shall talk again, boy. You had best get your priorities straight!"
Voldemort again restrained himself. He needed that island. "Do you know what will happen to you if you betray me, boy?"
"I am not following you," Draco said. "I am not helping what passes for the Ministry, either. So, go away and try and kill Potter. You have what you want from me."
Monday, December 23, 1996
Draco managed to wake up before noon. Opening The Daily Prophet, which had come with his breakfast, Draco shook his head in amazement.
Potter had survived again.
No, he was not going to be Voldemort's follower, but that didn't mean he was going to help the other side either. No, he wasn't going to help either side.
Except for fun.
"Where are we?" Ginny asked.
"Where does it look it?" Lloyd asked.
"It looks like a rather small cabin," Hermione answered.
"Exactly what it is. Come here." There was a large window at one end of the cabin. Lloyd pulled the drapes open, and the teens could see they were on a steep hillside. It was just before dawn here, but the night was clear. The ridge sloped down nearly 300 feet from the cabin on a steep angle. Beyond the base of the ridge, about half a marshy mile away from it, the ground rose again to form a flattened hill with a small town on it, perhaps twice the size of Hogsmeade.
"That's Carantouan, which simply means 'village on a hill," Lloyd said. "The ridge we're on goes up another two hundred and fifty to three hundred feet. It's about two miles long, and I own it. Behind us, to the east, is about six miles of ridge and woods before you hit woods that Muggles hunt in, and another ridge beyond that is Muggle farmland. The same is true to the west of the village. Actually, the same is pretty much true north and south of us, although the ridges, or mountains if you want to be generous, generally run north and south. There is a small Muggle road to our south, and a Muggle camp ground, which bring the Muggles to within three miles. We have a number of small dairy farmers, and so do the Muggles in the region. We even have an arrangement to sell our surplus, although they think the middleman is merely a bit of an eccentric."
"And the village?" Hermione asked.
"Tradespeople and some traditional crafts as well. My family, meaning mostly some second cousins and such, pretty much run the town, but not the farms. My more immediate family run the main workshop."
"How do we get there?" Luna asked. "Floo?"
"Exactly, but not the way you think." The cabin seemed to be one large room at first glance, with a fireplace in the back, next to what appeared to be an inner door. The room held a small bed, two over-stuffed chairs, a side table with a lamp, and a rug. Around most of the room were bookshelves. The outside door was near the front on the north side of the front room. Lloyd opened the door, and a cold draft came in.
Outside was an enclosed porch, with a fireplace on the back end, built as a continuation of the main fireplace. "Most of the houses around here have these types of porches. They're all connected to the town floo network. There's a fire place in the town hall that's connected with a wider network, but for local traffic, you floo to the porch you want and knock on the door. Much more private than the British system. Now, come along."
He led them back through the cabin. The inner door took them to a small kitchen with a wood/coal stove much like the one at the Burrow. There was also a backdoor and a small room with a toilet and large cold water sink.
The back door took them into what looked like a very large woodshed. A set of stairs led to a cellar door, for under the kitchen and toilet. When Lloyd touched the wall opposite, however, a hidden door slid open.
"Come on," he said. The wide corridor led into the mountain. Magical smokeless torches lit as they approached, and went out as they left them behind, just like at Hogwarts. The corridor went well into the mountain, and then ended in a wide chamber, with four wide columns set equally around it.
"Is the whole mountain hollow?" Hermione asked.
"If it is, it's classified," Lloyd said simply. He tapped one of the columns, and a door slid open, revealing spiraling steps going up. "After you."
"How far up do we go?" Ginny asked.
"About a hundred and fifty feet."
When they arrived, Lloyd described the set up. They had three floors, spread over seventy vertical feet, and over a third of a mile long. Plenty of the area was still solid rock (including above the top floor), but there were fifteen bedroom suites on the middle floor (each with a 12x18 foot bedroom with a window set into the side of the mountain, a full bath, and an inner room that was 12x12, all lit by magical lighting panels, although the ones in the bedrooms didn't snap on until the shades were down, to prevent light from giving away the window's position to the valley), a large parlor, an even larger library, a smaller television room, a kitchen, and a large dining room on the top floor, and a training area on the lower floor, along with the power plant and storage areas. Hermione was at first unhappy to see a pair of elves, until she learned they were free, and just preferred wearing togas made of dish towels.
The parlor already had a Christmas tree in it, although it wasn't decorated.
"So who exactly will be here again?" Neville asked.
"Well, let's wait for lunch and see."
"We haven't had lunch yet," Ginny pointed out, practically. "It must be about time for it."
"It's far too early for lunch here," Lloyd said with a smile. "You'll have to settle for second breakfasts. Then you can pick out your bedrooms."
The teens took rooms at the far end of the corridor, away from Lloyd's suite at the north end of the mountain. They all set up their things very quickly, showered, changed into casual Muggle clothes, and were still in the library by 9:00 local time.
"What do we do?" Harry asked.
"Relax?" Ginny suggested teasingly. They all knew Harry couldn't bear not doing anything. The most that could be done was getting him to sit down and read the sci-fi and adventure books Tabitha had picked up for him back in August.
"Here," Hermione said, handing Harry a pile of books.
"What are these?"
"Edgar Rice Burroughs. Read about Tarzan or Carter on Mars, but just relax. I bet come Boxing Day we'll all be very busy for the rest of the break."
"That's true." He looked at the books. "I don't know about these, though."
Luna sat down in the large chair, wriggling next to Harry. "Then read this aloud to us, Harry."
"Read this aloud to us, please?" Harry looked Luna in the eye, and his heart melted. Luna was a very understanding, very affectionate, and undemanding girlfriend in most ways. If you allowed her her sometimes eccentric beliefs, she was happy not to challenge another's behavior, unless Harry was being moody. Then her quiet support and genuine affection helped keep him steady. She rarely asked anything from Harry, other than his acceptance of her and that he share himself with her -- the second was of course more difficult for Harry than the first.
In any event, in those rare instances when Luna asked Harry for anything or to do anything, he always gave it great thought -- and then gave in. Still, he tried to struggle. "This?"
"It seems like a good title, anyway."
Harry looked at the title of the slim volume again. "You don't know what it's about?"
"No, never heard of it. It must be Muggle, but it seemed right."
"I wonder what it is," Ginny whispered to Hermione.
"With Luna, it could be anything."
"Yeah," Neville teased, "read us a story, Daddy."
"Okay. . . ." Harry said with a sigh.
Luna smiled happily. "Gather 'round, everyone," Luna told her friends. "Maybe we can start a tradition!" They all shrugged, and gave in as well. Hermione and Ginny were even more curious as to what Luna had picked out for Harry to read.
Harry cleared his throat and began to read. As he spoke the words, he got into the performance. "Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to."
"Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail."
"Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade."
"A little late are we, Tabby?"
"What experience do YOU have in getting a teen-age girl packed?"
"None what so ever," Lloyd admitted.
"I never noticed you having any difficulties," Tom pointed out.
"I was never a typical teen of any sort. And I rather suspect Sabrina has plans she had to pack and re-pack to deal with."
"They've been warned that this location is not to be revealed?" Lloyd asked in a worried voice.
"Several times. Where are the others?"
"In the library. Harry is reading A Christmas Carol to his friends, believe it or not."
"Appropriate," Tom said. "Should I send them in?"
"Are you kidding? It's after Eleven-thirty," Tabby reminded them. "I'll take them to the dining room. You go get the reading group."
Lloyd opened the door to hear, "'And God bless Us, every one,'" Harry finished.
Luna was snuggled onto Harry's lap. The other three were sitting together on the floor, leaning against a sofa with Ginny in the middle, also snuggled comfortably. Ginny's arms were around Neville and Hermione's waists. Ginny was leaning her head on Neville's shoulder, and Hermione's was against Ginny's. Neville's strong arm was supporting both girls, his hand on Hermione's neck. The group looked very happy.
"That was so sweet," Ginny said into the silence.
"It took you this long to read it?" Lloyd said.
"No," Harry said, "they made me read twice."
"It was . . . it was, so moving," Luna said.
"It was," Ginny agreed.
"But I still don't know why I had to be the one to read it," Harry complained.
"Well, you have the most experience," Neville pointed out.
"All that reader's theater you did with Lockheart," Neville managed to say with a straight face.
"You're getting to be as bad as Ron," Harry muttered.
"Speaking of whom, guess who's probably attacking lunch even as we speak?"