Somehow chapter 34 never made it up to ficwad. I'm going to post this and then delete and repost chapter 35 to get everything back in the proper order.~Jim
Acknowledgements - The usual kudos to the members of Alpha Fight Club and the ability for Kokopelli to take my crude efforts and refine them continues to impress me. I'd like to give Steven A a big thanks for the messages we've exchanged.
Chapter 34 - It's Like Mick Jagger Says ... I can't get no satisfaction
Friday September 13, 1996
Albus Dumbledore removed his spectacles with his one remaining hand. He set them down on the desk before him and rested his head the palm of his hand. Taking a moment to compose himself, he carefully gauged his next words for fear of damaging the fragile partnership that remained between him and the young wizard on the other side of his desk.
He was impressed, yet frightened at the same time. Did Harry speak to Professor Binns and utilize his unhealthy fascination for Goblin history? Or did he approach the Goblins directly through his political connections? During the Goblin revolts, they would use crude iron battering rams to sap the power from a place fortified by magic and have Trolls and Giants move ingots of the unshaped metal into the ward zone as they weakened and eventually drained the strength of the protective magic.
Except for a few legends of hostage rescues and the like, no one had ever thought to use cold iron to merely temporarily disable a set of wards. Harry had created a momentary hole in the Death Eater wards and filled it with several Muggle bombs. The wards never had a chance to recover before they were destroyed. It was a terrifyingly revolutionary idea.
"Harry, part of our side's problem is that we have become too factionalized. There is the Minister and his group. There is myself and the Order. Finally, there is -- you. Admittedly, you are the one with the best of intentions. You simply wish to end the war as quickly as possible."
Albus couldn't really call Harry his student. Truth be told, he had never taught him anything. The conversation was headed in the wrong direction, but it needed to be said.
"What are you saying?" Harry asked his voice rising in anger. "You'd rather we sit back and do nothing? Should I have waited until they recast the charm and it became useless? Forgive me for trying to take the battle to the enemy and rescue more hostages. I only wish we could have gotten Neville's father back as well."
Albus nodded sagely. Indeed, Harry had a knack for accomplishing the unthinkable. "I had not considered that you would have been able to extract this information from Peter's mind. I simply wish you had conveyed this to me first."
The level of hostility increased. Even the young and emotionally scarred Metamorph assigned as Harry's bodyguard looked at him suspiciously.
"I couldn't exactly come out and tell you now, could I? I can't talk out of both sides of my mouth like you! Tell me, what would you have done with it if I had?" Harry demanded pounding a fist on the desk.
"That is a matter of conjecture, but we could have had you infiltrate one of our portraits in there, under glamour, in effect placing a spy within his war room. We could have learned the rationale behind his recent spate of abductions. It also could have alerted us when Tom was in his headquarters to maximize the effectiveness of your attack. The point I am trying to make is that we need to trust each other ..."
Harry laughed derisively. "This goes both ways, Dumbledore! Or do I need to remind you how you tried to keep me from the reading of Sirius' will and being emancipated. You waited four years to tell me the real reason Voldemort was trying to kill me! Where's your trust? Where's all the information you were supposed to share?"
He met the young man's eyes and found them filled with anger and resentment. He dared not mention how much they reminded him of another wizard, some fifty years ago. Such a statement would not be taken well or considered helpful. "In the recent weeks, I have sought to rectify that. I have included you in the Order meetings and given you the run of the castle. We are both to blame for the gulf that exists between us. I don't know if you are familiar with Mr. Franklin's famous quote, 'We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately', but it is no less true today. It is not within my power to convince Minister Scrimgeour to coordinate his efforts with us, but you and I must start working together. Tom has grown beyond my ability to contain. We both know that I am no longer a match for him. For the moment, neither are you. Filius has been keeping me abreast of your progress and I fully intend to begin participating in your sessions to further hone your ever-improving skills."
He had tried to steer Harry away from the bone of contention. For a moment, he thought he had succeeded.
"I still don't understand why you're upset about this," Harry exclaimed. "He's the one looking for a new headquarters. He's the one forced to put the pieces back together for a change!"
"Fine, in the spirit of establishing our trust, I will tell you what worries me Harry. Imagine fifty Death Eaters mounted on brooms. Could they duplicate your attack on this castle, the Ministry, or the Wizengamot while it is in session? How much of a payload could an enslaved Dragon carry? Today the Goblins are your allies, but do not think that they won't add this tactic to their arsenal when the next uprising occurs. Think about the average family home, would those structures and their present wards hold against an aerial bombardment? I can speak with a certainty that this castle cannot. I will have to divert resources to ensure that it can. Next, I will have to weigh the options of if and when to inform the Minister, so that he can do the same. Our preparations will most likely not go unnoticed and Tom's forces will eventually identify what happened and refine your plan; perhaps even improving upon it. Single-handedly, your actions have escalated the scale of this war and now all sides must reevaluate their level of readiness."
Internally, Albus chided himself. He shouldn't have laid this burden on Harry. Wizards rarely attack from the air against a fortified structure. He hoped and prayed that Tom would not adapt this 'carpet bombing' to his needs. Now he found that he was berating Harry for scoring a victory. He needed to correct this, immediately!
"I apologize, Harry," Albus said contritely. "You were victorious today. You rescued three hostages and delivered a fearsome blow against our enemy. We shall move forward and learn lessons from our successes to prevent them from being used against us. We will talk again tomorrow. For now, go and rest."
Dumbledore watched the young man leave along with Tonks. Already, he began thinking of a ways to reinforce the wards protecting the school. Anti-broom wards are only effective up to a range of a thousand feet. Until a suitable playing field could be cordoned off, Quidditch might need to be cancelled. Perhaps, a hidden dirigible with the wards anchored to it would surprise those who thought to fly above the limits of an earthbound anti-broom ward? Albus loved a good mental challenge, but would rather not have had this one this evening.
He gestured to his faithful companion, Fawkes. He needed a breath of fresh air. But first, he needed to use the Floo.
"Arabella? Arabella, are you still awake?"
"Albus, good heavens! Is something wrong?"
"It would be far easier to list what is right these days. May I come for a visit?"
"Certainly, would you care for a spot of tea?"
"That would be nice."
He always enjoyed traveling with Fawkes. It was exhilarating. Arabella had relocated a few days after the Dursleys had left.
The old woman and her cats regarded him as he appeared. He could see the pity and shock in her eyes when she saw his missing arm. She held a horrified hand to her open mouth.
"Please don't concern yourself with my injuries. They are of no consequence."
"What brings you here this evening Albus?"
"The same thing that brought me to you all these years ago, my dear, I need Harry watched."
"What do you mean?"
"He was able to leave school today and risked his life to attack the enemy. I salute his courage, but I cannot allow myself to be caught unaware by his movements."
"Surely, he will suspect me if I show up at the Castle."
"Ah, but we have several copies of this wondrous object called the Marauder's Map. It will allow you to sit in a room inside the castle and monitor his movements. In fact, I will be contacting several more members of magical families that were unfortunately not blessed with the ability to perform magic. Officially, you will be brought to the castle for your own protection; due to rumors that Lord Voldemort is specifically targeting those that society has chosen to call Squibs. Unofficially, you will be following Harry's movements and alerting me in the event he attempts to leave."
After discussing a few more details and the names of other Squibs, whom Arabella deemed reliable enough for this task, Albus returned to his office. He was not a happy man. Albus regretted that this was necessary, but trust would only go so far in times of war.
Lord Voldemort was not a happy man. He surveyed the damage to his headquarters. The Fidelius Charm over such a large structure had forced him to significantly reduce the potency of the other wards. Much of what was keeping the remaining structure from collapsing was the fading magic in the walls.
The three stories above ground were in shambles. Whole sections of walls were missing. Windows with unbreakable charms on them were simply blown outwards, intact frames and all. A few had even shattered, making him wonder at the sheer power required to overcome the magic. Unbreakable is as much a misnomer as the Muggle word 'bulletproof.' The thick stone walls had buckled away from the impact zone, adding to the instability and the crater dug well beyond where his main chamber had been on the first level. Had he been there at the time, the war would have been lost. Doubtless, Peter would be distraught over the loss of his table, but it was useless, now that the headquarters was effectively destroyed.
He'd miss his chair, though. It was quite comfortable and the charms work on it had been precise. It would be hard to replace that level of craftsmanship.
Moving closer to inspect the damaged stones, he was struck by the scope of the devastation. They were pitted and cracked in places with layers of dust and soot staining the surface. The material looked as if it had been coated by a corrosive and instantly weathered a century. Using a quick cleaning spell, it became apparent that there was ferrous material driven with incredible force into the rock. It reminded him of his wanderings through Europe after he had finished Hogwarts. He saw firsthand the ruins of Dresden and various other Muggle cities that were a testament to the Muggle's never-ending quest to find new and better ways to kill each other.
Upon arriving at the warehouses with the seven Jamaican Necromancers, he discovered that much of the activities associated with headquarters were suddenly being performed there and interfering with the production of the undead horde. Twelve of his followers, including Rabastan, were dead. Thus, he set out to find Peter and learn first-hand what had happened. His anger was tempered by the continuing pain inflicted by the presence of the Revenants. Until they were closer to Potter, they would persist in drawing energy from him. Leaving them at the warehouses, he already felt passably better, knowing that the boy would soon begin to feel the nausea that he had endured during the return journey.
James and especially Lily will feed upon his energies, draining him. They will infest his mind and inflict psychic torture upon him, depriving him of rest. Ultimately, Voldemort would release them and allow them to stalk Potter. All of Potter's allies will be powerless to help him against an unseen enemy and his considerable magic will be useless - a prime example of why family betrayal amongst Voodoo practitioners is such a rare occurrence.
The bellowing of instructions caught his attention and diverted him from his pleasant fantasy of what will happen when his creations were deployed.
"Well take three more with you and reinforce that passageway! If that stanchion goes, we'll lose most of this section! You there take two men into the forest and gather more lumber for support braces. Cut it and shape it out there. Something's interring with our Transfiguration."
He decided to intervene, "That would be the large amount of iron, Peter. Report!"
The rat Animagus looked frightened by the appearance of his master. "Milord, the structure is still holding, but we seem to be fighting a losing battle ..."
"Yes. It does appear that way. What do we know of the attacking forces?"
Peter hesitated a moment and slowly started as if forcing himself to speak these words. "We do not know. I spoke with Rabastan after the attack occurred and while I was gathering reinforcements from the warehouses. When I returned, he had been killed by a blasting curse. A second one of your followers was found near him, killed by a severing curse from behind. The last one killed, not by the explosion, was found at the edge of the wards. When Roland Yaxley attempted to identify him, Yaxley disappeared and we detected traces of Portkey activation. Several others are missing, along with the prisoners. I have requested any information from our sources at the Ministry, but they have been unusually quiet."
Lord Voldemort looked at the predawn sky. It was either done internally, or someone had divined a method for breaking Peter's hold on the secret. Instantly, it hit him - Potter! Voldemort cursed his oversight! The boy had been in Peter's mind. He had done exactly what Voldemort would have done in the same situation; extracted as much damaging information has he could and then used it. That explained the Minister's recent success in locating his safe houses.
"Peter, salvage what we can from here. The site is lost to us until the metal contamination can be removed. We will simply seize a new site. Now tell me, what should we do with this destroyed building?"
"I have a ten person detail working here. We can remove this contamination, if that is your wish?"
"No Peter, I have no wish to stay in a place where we would be reminded of a defeat. You are obviously too personally involved to appreciate the bounty around us. Think about it! Use that critical thought process, you're always talking about. What happens, if you stop trying to prevent the structure from collapsing?"
"The rest of the wards will collapse, even the Fidelius charm."
"Go on, tell me what happens next?"
"The site would be exposed to the world at large."
Voldemort could see Peter thinking hard and starting to get a glimmer of what might happen. "Go on Peter, you're getting closer."
"The Ministry would investigate ..."
"Indeed they would, especially if they were tipped off by one of our sources in the Ministry."
"But why Master? Why would you want them to come here? They would check for hidden wards. It would not be suitable as a trap."
"What if I instructed you to select five of the new recruits and order them into the town and have them charm some of the locals? Say, about thirty or so. They would bring them here and dress them in the garb of my followers and appear to be part of a crew that is fixing this place. How would the Ministry react if their scouts found almost two score of my followers in a single place at one time?"
"They would attack in force, Milord. Scrimgeour would attempt to overwhelm us with numerical superiority."
"Quite so, he would bring the full wrath of his forces against this site. They would all be here. Now, tell me Peter, where would we be?"
His minion finally understood, "Anywhere we wanted to be!"
"Precisely, battles are fought. They are won and they are lost. Adversity is the truest test of a cause like ours. That said, we shall endure this hardship and turn it to our advantage."
He could see that Peter had relaxed. Being relaxed is how battles are lost, so he continued. "Indeed, I am angered by losing this site. You were in charge of our headquarters and that makes this defeat something you must own and answer for. I do not have the luxury of time to properly reward you for this failure, Peter. Therefore, I will simply state that you have a chance for redemption, but you have no further room for disappointment. For you see, your fate rests in your own hands now. Fail me again and I will be forced to do something rather unsavory to you in front of the rest, but it will be the result of your actions. You have already served with dedication. That alone is what preserves your life at the moment. I'm asking for you to serve with distinction now."
Voldemort could see the fanatical gleam sharpen in Peter's eyes. He rose to the top by manipulating people and getting more out of them than they thought possible. The Muggle books Peter enjoyed were written by rank amateurs compared to what he was capable of. It was time to drive that point home. "Yes Peter, you are a /wizard of destiny/, for you hold the means to your salvation in the palm of your hands. How do you want history to remember you, as a loyal follower, whose failures doomed him to death or even worse mediocrity? Or would you rather be known as a legend in your own right - a testimony of a wizard that not only survives adversity, but thrives in it! Do you insist on being known Wormtail, a betrayer of his 'so-called' friends? Or shall you become /Silverclaw/, a wizard who seized opportunity when it presented itself?"
Moments later he watched the zealot scurry off to implement his latest orders. He had no doubt that if he insisted that Peter would gladly stay and lead the expendable detachment, but he had other uses for that level of blind loyalty. Still, it had been a nice headquarters.
She couldn't take it anymore. No one should have to endure this kind of torture. Even with earplugs and a localized silencing charm on her body, the cursed song of that monster penetrated her stained soul. Each trilled note a cold, cruel, mocking reminder that Narcissa Black would never be considered 'pure of heart.' She let Charles' hand fall from her grasp, realizing that she had been holding it so hard her own hand was bruising.
Retaining what composure she could manage, she staggered away from the caterwauling monster that had tormented her these past two days and out of the immediate area. Charles still hadn't awakened, but she held onto the hope that he would break the chains in his mind. She had even gone as far to ask if Pomfrey would hold open his eyes so that she might attempt to use the little Legilimency that she knew.
Neither the Mediwitch nor the Headmaster would allow such a dangerous course of action, but the suggestion had generated a slight thaw with the violently temperamental Molly Weasley. Narcissa understood; most any mother would understand being angry with someone returning with one of your children at death's door. Were it Draco in her lover's place, she doubted that she would have refrained from violently cursing someone.
Molly barely acknowledged her, but Arthur placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and handed her a note with an appreciative smile. How Lucius would be turning in his grave now to see his trophy wife courting the favor of people who he deemed little better than animals? Of all the people who she had seen since arriving, only four had greeted her with anything less than contempt and suspicion - Dumbledore, Arthur Weasley and the Potters.
As she opened the note, she was struck by the change in Harry Potter. When they last saw each other at her cousin's will reading, he was full of fire and brimstone. Vehemently, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the way he had been treated. Now, he was colder, like the heat of his experiences had tempered him - forging him not unlike a sword. They had asked her to come by as soon as she could for 'family' business. Adjusting her hearing protection, she looked at the writing on the slip of parchment.
Draco Malfoy will be in detention with Professor McGonagall this evening for poor behavior during class. Minerva says that you know the way to her office all too well.
Indeed she did. Over two decades ago, a young witch, betrothed to the scion of a rich and powerful family had developed quite a mouth and an attitude during her final year. She had been reasonably talented, gifted in beauty, but lacking in both tact and modesty. Though she would like to pin her son's poor development solely on her deceased husband, there was quite a bit of Black in the boy. Prying eyes and ears had prevented any reunion for these last few days.
The castle teemed with life, but seemed to have a nervous energy. She likened it to a teakettle nearing boil. She understood that there had been deaths here this year, which was a departure from the last war. Perhaps, it was the fact that their savior was a student here. It was different from the last war and she couldn't quite put her finger on it.
Her presence was supposed to be a secret; so naturally, she assumed that virtually everyone knew she was here.
Tapping her hand against the door, she heard Professor McGonagall's simple command to enter. It struck Narcissa how state of a person's office is often indicative of their personality. McGonagall's was immaculately clean and orderly, but devoid of any warmth. It was the kind of place that one felt uncomfortable in - exactly how she remembered it. She ignored the woman and focused on the young man scrawling lines on a paper. He'd grown a bit and added some more muscle to his frame.
The scrawling stopped and his eyes looked up and regarded her. "Hello, Mother."
"Hello, my son."
McGonagall stood. "I will leave the two of you alone."
There was an awkward moment of silence between lingering as the old witch left them alone. He stood and gave her a proper 'conditioned' greeting. It felt cold and distant, but perhaps that was her projecting her own insecurities.
"So the rumors are true, you've returned. They say you are holed up in the infirmary with one of the Weasley spawn."
"It's nice to see the legendary ability for this school to spread secrets and rumors remains intact. In this case, they are correct. My bodyguard is injured and I am hoping that the Headmaster's familiar can break the curse he is afflicted with."
Her son's face remained non-committal, "I see. Perhaps you should have discarded him like you discarded me? It would have been more in keeping with your best interests."
The comment stung her, but she had been expecting it. One thing she hadn't counted on was the frayed state of her emotions after suffering through days of Phoenix song. She sucked in her breath. "Is that what you think? I have never until this moment allowed myself to believe that I had given birth to an idiot."
"Well tell me /Mother, /what am I supposed to think? You send me away on a vacation. I return to find that you have left, Father is dead and you have apparently endangered me by spiriting off with a large amount of Father's money, while I'm forced to walk the halls with his murderer and keep a smile on my face."
"To borrow a phrase Lucius used all too often, 'I did what I needed to do'. Creating a rift between the two of us prevents you from being used against me and vice versa. I will point out that your father was not /murdered/. He was executed by Harry Potter; from what little he said to me, it involved payback for the rape and torture of one of his friends."
"I know what Father was capable of. He even let me watch."
"Bah! All you saw was him releasing his pent up aggression on some poor hapless soul, carefully selected and procured. If you want to talk about murder and slaughter, go fetch a Pensieve, Draco and I can show you memories of the father you so adore and the foul creature he truly was. Would you really like to see that? How about what I /have done? My hands are far from clean. Would you care to know how many Muggles /I've killed and tortured for sport, all because I was doing what I thought was needed of me at the time. Care to know how we celebrated, the night I learned I was pregnant with you? We each killed two Muggles that night! Still, they were just Muggles, little better than beasts wouldn't you say?"
"No, you need to hear this. People beg for their lives before you kill them. It's sad and pathetic! Oh and it's a rush too - a feeling of god-like power to control someone's fate like that. Only later, that's when their cries will attack your conscience, but only if you let them. It's when they stop bothering you that you really should worry, but most are too far gone by then to care about the monster they've become. I actually have you to thank for stopping me. My pregnancy was difficult and I couldn't go out and participate in your father's games like I wanted to. Lucius even offered to fetch some and deliver them to the Manor so I could still enjoy my sport, but it just wasn't the same. I kept telling myself that I could go back to it after you were born. Instead I stayed to care for you. My conscience returned to me during those months and I found that I didn't like the person I had become. So, I invested myself in raising you and suppressed my urges to kill again. By then, your Father's master vanished. We were forced to become respectable and upstanding citizens again and hide our deviant behavior behind culture and civility."
Draco's face was tight with rage and flush with anger. "Damn you! Not another word! I don't want to hear it!"
Knowing she should stop, but unwilling to do it she continued in a low voice that neared a growl. "Did I coddle you too much? All those letters and packages, I've sent over the years, mayhap they were my desperate efforts to cling to what little I felt was right in my life. Perhaps I did more harm than good. Allow me to correct that. The truth is an ugly thing, my son. The great lie was the proud and noble Malfoy family with all the money, influence and power. The truth was that we were the ones who were savage beasts. We returned to our exquisitely furnished cave and talked of our high society functions where we could sniff the tails of the other animals to see who was leading the pack. Well I'd had enough of that life! When your father went to Azkaban, I knew I had to get out and I did, but once you're this far in, they don't let you go with out a fight and I've had to become a killer again, but this time I have something worth fighting for - my freedom."
Her son was easily angered and often slow to understand. Today was no exception, "So that's why you're rutting around with a Weasley? Is that what this freedom is all about? Is being a common whore what you always wanted?"
"My relationship with Charles has nothing to do with what we've been talking about. It's about me looking in the mirror and seeing a person I can respect again."
"Respect yourself? Now who's deluding themselves? No one's ever going to see you for what you are! You're not my Mother! I disavow you." He started past her for the door, but not before Narcissa delivered a stinging slap to his cheek. He was momentarily stunned. Lucius had struck him plenty of times, but she had never in his entire life.
"I'll forget that you said that, Draco. You're young and believe you have all the answers right now. When you come to your senses and wish to see me again, I will welcome you."
He stopped short of the door and spun back to her. "I'd rather die first."
Her words chased after him as he flung the door and went into the hallway. "Be safe, my son, for words such as that uttered during a time of war have a way of coming back to haunt us both."
The slamming door was the only response she received. Her heart ached at his rejection, but she had expected him to act this way. At least the rift would be quite believable. Hopefully, it would be enough to save him. She felt tired, drained and slightly nauseous. Part of her wanted to go back to her vigil, but she instead started towards her accommodations in the guest wing.
"Should I send Trixie for Madame Pomfrey?"
Harry looked at his wife and set his utensils down from the meal he barely felt like eating. Training had been particularly grueling today, though he couldn't place anything that Professor Flitwick had done different, but he was exhausted and angered by his poor showing. "No, I'm okay. I just need to get some rest, preferably with your arms around me. We should get going if we want to make the DA meeting."
Susan smiled. "I'm sure Hermione will understand us missing another DA meeting. We'll get there one of these days. As for the arms around you, that can probably be arranged, go ahead and shower. I'll try to finish my Transfiguration assignment while you get cleaned up. Have you started on yours?"
Harry shook his head. Somehow transfiguring wood into serviceable furniture and the differences in size, shape and decoration of the result could not hold his attention.
The shower was refreshing and Harry collapsed into bed, while Susan continued to work on her homework. He'd try to make an effort in the morning, but he knew Professor McGonagall would be lenient in this case. Tomorrow would be the first time Dumbledore attended one of his workouts. He couldn't afford to look bad in front of the man. He drifted off at some point hoping for a respite from the ever present problems no teenager should have to face.
Susan slid into bed seeing Harry was already asleep and draped an arm over him. The other instructors were giving him a great deal of latitude. Unfortunately, that same latitude did not extend to her and her grades were definitely slipping. She breathed in the vanilla scent of his shampoo. It was only during the moments of quiet like this that she allowed any self-doubt to seep through.
Would Harry have chosen her if things had been different? If Mum had lived and she wasn't living under the threat of the end-of-line Marriage Clause, would he have simply chosen Ginny or someone else? Would she have been one of those girls looking at Harry and his wife pass, whispering jealous things in their wake? People already treated her differently. She didn't want to think about how that would change after she started to show.
Rolling back onto her back she stared at the ceiling, agitated and tried to calm herself. Normally, she didn't get this worked up about things. If Harry was awake, he'd chide her and tell her to focus on what is rather than all the 'could have beens'. Still, she felt all this nervous energy. It was only when Harry first began to moan and thrash that she realized the genesis of her irritation.
"I gave my life for this?" Lily Potter asked bitterly. "/This/ is what my sacrifice bought? James come closer and see this wretched specimen. He's quite pathetic isn't he?"
"I swear Lily, that if he didn't look like me, I'd swear you'd slept with Snape. The future of the great and noble Potter line rests in his hands? It's disgusting."
Harry tried to deny these taunts, but they continued to berate him for what seemed like an eternity. He had heard his mother's voice before, with the Dementors and again in the Graveyard and was certain that it was her, but where he'd previously recalled warmth and love, there was now only a cold bitterness. His father seemed to take a backseat to the insults his mother hurled at him.
"I've had enough of this James, let's strangle him now. We brought this mistake into the world; surely it falls to us to remove it?"
Hands grasped at him as he thrashed against them. He was having trouble moving and breathing. "It will all be over soon, Harry. You'll come back to us soon, Harry. Come back to us, Harry. Harry! Harry!"
His mother's angry visage and red hair melted into his wife's distraught face. "Harry! Harry! Wake up! You were having a nightmare."
He tried to clear his thoughts and understand what was going on. "A nightmare?"
"Yes, you were moving all around and moaning. I sent Trixie for Madame Pomfrey when I couldn't wake you."
Harry noticed his hands were gripped on her arms. It hadn't been his parents he was grappling with, but his pregnant wife. Instantly, he let go. "Are you okay?"
"Maybe a bruise or two, but I'm a big girl, I'll put on some balm when the nurse gets here. What was the nightmare about?"
"My parents, they were trying to kill me."
"Do you think this has something to do with that bastard stealing their bodies?"
"Maybe, I don't know." Harry felt awful. The 'rest' only seemed to make things worse.
In the confines of a broom closet, Pansy had found being owned was not something that she particularly liked. Unfortunately, her 'master' had forbidden her from informing anyone of her predicament either directly, through voice, or writing about it. For the last day she had managed to leave a book open on her nightstand to an article on using items to ensnare a person, but her thrice cursed roommates were too self-involved to notice.
Worse still, he had just asked her if she had been trying to inform anyone about her predicament!
"Yes," she heard herself say tonelessly.
"Tell me how," his voice commanded.
She hated him, but she could not refuse.
"I have a book opened on my nightstand. The chapter is on the use of items to control another."
Neville looked at her and shook his head slightly. "Oh Pansy, it pains me to hear that. You just have to accept that your little Death Eater arse belongs to me now. When you return to your dorm this evening, you will close that book and never attempt to use that method again. Actually bring the book to me. I might be missing something. Now tell me about the fourth-years in your house. How many of them plan on becoming Death Eaters?"
Pansy shrugged, having already discussed the first through third years, "All of them I suppose."
"Don't you know?"
She was flustered. "It's not like we go around telling each other! We don't exactly have a newsletter or club meetings like your pathetic DA!"
"The DA is not pathetic! Say it!"
She heard herself repeat his words. It had been tempting just to say the word 'it' and see if she could anger him more, but she had to wait until some moment when she might find a way to betray him, and alone in a broom closet was not such a place.
"That's right my property, being a member of the DA means being brave, honest and noble. Arrgh, you're distracting me again. Tell me why you think all the fourth years are planning to be Death Eaters?"
She considered asking how brave, honest and noble sitting in a broom closet, interrogating a magical slave was, but opted not to. "The twins are both Yaxleys. Culver still idolizes Draco even after his betrayal. The Prestons are as Dark as they come, just better at disguising it. The list goes on. Every last one of the seven fourth-years has relatives who are known Death Eaters."
She watched Neville think this over as the door to the closet opened up. One of the Aurors assigned to the castle was there, clutching some kind of map. "You two have been in there long enough. Time to move along, curfew is in thirty minutes. I'll be back along this hallway in ten minutes. You don't want to be here then. So, why don't you give your girlfriend a kiss goodnight and be on your way."
"We're just talking. She's not my...." Neville stammered.
"Don't really care, young man, whatever you're doing, just wrap it up and be out of here in ten."
The man shut the door.
Neville stared at her for about twenty seconds after the Auror had left. "He's right. People/ will/ talk. Kiss me."
At last, the two words she had dreaded him uttering since she found herself in this mess. She was almost shocked it had taken him this long to get to it. Pansy wished she could vomit on command. It would have been more enjoyable. Instead, she found herself leaning in and closing her eyes, hoping a quick peck would satisfy him.
"Again! Don't stop kissing me until I tell you, and enjoy it when you do."
Her arms wrapped around his neck, too bad it wasn't to strangle him. She found herself mashing her face into his and forcing her tongue into his mouth. Clumsily, he worked back against her, plainly demonstrating his complete lack of skill and experience. Despite any supporting evidence, she was cringing inside. Maybe she could string him out until the Auror came back? That would get them both into trouble. So she continued kissing moving off his lips and onto his neck. If he hadn't forbidden physical violence against him, she'd have take a shot at doing him vampire style. Instead, the best she could do was suck on his neck. Hopefully, it will bruise! She fantasized of him dropping dead right then until she realized she'd probably still be forced to kiss him.
A few minutes passed and she found her body disgustingly aroused, responding to his command, but she couldn't stop kissing him.
"Enough. Stop," he croaked.
She was thankful the horror had passed. An extra long shower was in order tonight to scrub this vileness off of her. She opened her eyes and looked at her controller. He was breathing heavily and still had his arms around her. It was the glazed over look in his eyes that scared her.
"That was very nice, Pansy. You're a very good kisser. Meet me here tomorrow night and we'll discuss the fifth-years in your house and maybe we'll kiss some more."
They stumbled out of the broom closet and nearly collided with Draco. Just when she thought the day couldn't get any worse!
"And here I thought you hadn't sunk any lower, Parkinson. Longbottom! Hah! I'd offer you sloppy seconds, Longbottom, but I'm pretty sure that ship sailed a long time ago."
Pansy wished she would die at that moment, but one of the first things he forbade was suicide. "Shut it Malfoy. Pansy here decided to move up to a real man. Go ahead Pansy tell him."
That was her cue, the moment she'd been waiting for. "Draco, he gave me a necklace and it ..."
"Shut up, Pansy!" Neville said, and she did, cursing that she wasn't quicker.
"He gave you a bauble? That's all it took! Did she at least give you good sucking for it? Not that she's particularly good at it. Oh this is just what I needed to cheer me up! Thanks for the laugh. She's all yours now, Longbottom."
She heard his mocking laughter as he walked down the hallway taking what little hope for rescue she had with him.
"That wasn't very nice Pansy," Neville said grimly. "I see I'll have to be careful with you. If I tell you to speak, it is only about the current subject. You may never speak of the necklace unless I specifically direct it. Do you understand? Oh sorry, you can speak again."
"Good, I'm glad you can see it my way. Now go off and perform your Prefect tasks and I'll see you tomorrow. You're dismissed."
Pansy started to go, but he stopped her. "Wait. Pansy, I'm curious that thing Draco talked about. Did you really do that to him?"
She had to answer him. It only deepened her humiliation.
"Did you like it?"
"Not particularly, no."
The act really didn't do much for her and Draco wasn't exactly one to return the favor.
"Then why'd you do it?"
"I did it to make him happy and keep him from straying," she replied, wiping tears out of her eyes. She didn't like where this was headed.
"Oh, don't cry Pansy. I won't ask you to do that."
With a slight bit of hope in her voice she asked, "You won't?"
That same insane look in his eyes was there. "No, I'll just tell you to do it. If it helps, I'll tell you to be happy about it."
He walked away from her whistling.
She hated her life.
She hated everyone.
"I heard a rumor about you and Parkinson. Please tell me it isn't true," Ginny grunted, coming up for another in her set of crunches during their morning workout.
Neville paused before answering her. "She likes me. We've got this connection. It's complicated."
"If you say so, but I'm worried about you. Are you sure you're not under some kind of spell?"
"Well, you've got your wand back, go ahead and give me a good checking over."
Ginny was thankful for having her wand back, finally. The Squib comments had really gotten to her. She suspected Chelsea Abbott was behind them, that vindictive little bint, who should be rotting in some Ministry hellhole somewhere!
The weeks going by without her wand had been agony. She felt like a part of her had been missing, but now she felt better, whole even. She waved her wand over him and cast a couple of aura detection spells. She even summoned a Pocket Sneakoscope that Bill had given her. If Pansy had some kind of hold over him, she couldn't detect it.
"Looks like you're clean. I hope you know what you're playing with."
"Trust me Ginny, if anyone gets hurt, it won't be me. Now come on, we need to hurry up and stretch before our morning run."
The youngest Weasley sighed and knew Neville would mistake it for her dislike for the laps. In truth, she had started to like Neville a bit and to know that he was dating that trollop really was disappointing.
They chatted while they stretched, as Ginny opted to make no further mention of Pansy Parkinson.
"I had to ask your Phoenix to leave. The song seems to be upsetting Potter."
"I understand, Poppy, the need, but not the reason beneath it. It has never affected him in such a manner before. What have you learned about his condition?"
"He's sleeping right now, but he barely falls asleep before whatever this is affects him. I've run the standard battery of detection charms on him for the few minutes he sleeps and whatever it is seems external, but it's only momentary. He also appears to be very drained, but I've run blood samples through the potions and there is no indication that he has an illness or an infection."
"Do you recommend Dreamless Sleep?"
"Not until I consult with some specialists. With your permission, I'd like to bring some of the Healers from St. Mungo's here. It couldn't hurt to have a few of them looking at Molly's boy either."
Albus had planned to duel Harry today, but the boy on the hospital bed looked horrible - a far cry from what the people at large expected from their savior.
As he watched, the young man began to shake violently and flail his arms. His wife, sitting in the chair next to him, drowsing, bolted upright and sent a small jet of water on him to wake him up.
"What was it this time?"
"They were trying to drown me," he sputtered dejectedly.
"Who was trying to drown you, Harry?"
"My parents," the wizard answered.
"Troubling. Madame Pomfrey says the diagnostic charms and potions indicate no sign of illness or infection and only a hint of external influence. Is it your parents each time?"
"How is your Occlumency?"
"When you launched your assault the other day, Tom was not there and you were told he was overseas."
"We can only surmise that he has returned and whatever he has done with your parents' bodies is behind this. I will look into this and make what discreet inquiries I can overseas. If we can find out where Tom journeyed to, it may give us a hint of what you are facing. It is likely some form of psychic assault. Until then, try and get as much rest as you can under the circumstances. We'll give you and Susan some privacy."
Dumbledore led Madame Pomfrey back to her office. "When Susan attempted to wake him, she used water and he thought his parents were trying to drown him. What have the other experiences been like?"
"Most times they are choking him."
"And what is Mrs. Potter doing?"
"Shaking him - do you think that he is processing this as part of his dream?"
"It is as good a theory as any. When this next occurs, try having her use a stinging hex and see what his dream experience is. If he truly is processing his surroundings it may help us craft a method of combating this."
Sunday morning in the female fourth-year dorms in Slytherin were not especially comfortable. Of all the dorm rooms in 'the Maze', they were probably the worst positioned of all seven years and were rather cramped, but it was a rather convenient spot for all seven of the fourth-years to gather. They were known as a rather tight clique.
Amanda Yaxley set down her textbook she was idly reading and addressed the group. "You know what I've heard? They're saying Potter has been holed up in the infirmary for a week with all kinds of specialists being brought in."
"That's a load of crap, Amanda. Daphne's been toying with some Huffletwits and she said that Potter's only missed Friday. Your source is so weak." Michael Culver answered from his position in Theresa Yaxley's lap.
Theresa smiled, petting her boyfriend like a pygmy puff. "We could always ask Parkinslut. She's humping a Gryffindor these days."
All seven laughed until a voice interrupted them. "What exactly would you be asking me?"
"Bugger off, Parkinslut. We only talk to real Slytherins."
"Wait, I know something we could ask her," Renee Rookwood asked with her voice tittering. "Is there any difference in taste between Slytherin semen and Gryffindor?"
Pansy replied icily. "Longbottom's the last of his family except for his brain-dead parents and very dead Uncle. He'll be seventeen soon and have lots of land and money coming his way. Plus it irritates the hell out of that bastard Draco."
"Here's an owl for you, Pansy-wansy. Draco doesn't care if you're doing a herd of Centaurs before breakfast. He never has!" One of the others howled in laughter.
"How would you like to spend next weekend with Filch instead of visiting Hogsmeade?"
"Oh, going all Prefect on us. Are you sure you aren't Hermione Granger in disguise? We'll go to Vector and get it overturned."
Pansy pulled out a coin purse, heavy with coins. "How about a contest? I ask you questions. Answer them right and you get gold. Answer them wrong and each one costs you an hour of detention next weekend. Any takers?"
"If you want to just give away the gold, we'll take your money. Unlike your year, we're not idiots."
"Fine, meet me in Greenhouse Seven in ten minutes and we'll start with Herbology."
"So, screwing Longbottom has suddenly made you an expert. We'll see about that, bitch."
"Alright, we're here! Let's get this over with before breakfast ends. What's you're first question?"
Pansy ignored the question and looked at the tiny elf cowering in the corner of the greenhouse. She had no desire to do this, no matter how much she hated the urchins, but she had even less desire to get caught. "Did they tell anyone they were coming here?" The elf shook her head no and she dismissed it.
"What's this all about? You stupid bint!"
Pansy couldn't hear them, due to the deadening effect of her disillusioned earmuffs, but she got the gist of what they were saying. "My first question is: can you identify this?" With a yank she pulled the full grown Mandrake from the pot in front of her.
Within seconds it was over and all seven were dead. If she was allowed, she'd yank her earmuffs off and join them, but that freedom she was denied. Instead, she levitated Amanda Yaxley over and positioned her by the potted plant and fitted a pair of defective ear muffs on the dead girl's head. She would need to stop by and plant the stolen diary with the new entries written with a forgery quill in Amanda's hand. It told a tale of a jealous twin who had been rebuffed by Culver in favor of her sister and the secret hatred she had for all her Slytherin classmates. It detailed her plan to make them pay. Part of her almost lauded Longbottom's plan. It was so believably juvenile.
She also now knew that Travers and Goyle's deaths weren't the accidents everyone thought, though once again, she could tell no one. What irony that the so called 'light' side branded them as monsters.
She toppled the pot, spilling the still screaming Mandrake onto the ground. If she was suffering, something else should too! It also added to the image of the crime scene. A silencing charm would keep it quiet temporarily and wear off. She replaced the 'Danger Mandrakes - Hearing Protection Required' sign in the window and removed the disillusionment charm on the stand of earmuffs outside the door. She shut the door and dropped the earmuffs into the rack and started her trek up the hill.
If she ever got this cursed necklace off, Neville Longbottom would die, slowly, by her hand.
Ginny was surprised when Neville cancelled their morning workout. She was still so far behind him in his conditioning that he could skip the rest of this month and he would still be slowing down for her. Still, she was determined to reach his level.
At the moment, she was sitting on the bathroom stall relieving herself before her run. The door opened and someone walked in. She looked through the crack as someone went over to the wash basin and began fiercely scrubbing her hands, sobbing. Ginny edged closer and saw it was Pansy Parkinson. The witch wiped her eyes and then pulled her robes straight, revealing a beautiful necklace. Ginny saw the look of anguish on the Slytherin's face. It was at that moment, with a shudder, that Ginny remembered just where she had seen that particular necklace before.
Author's notes - Thirty-four chapters down and roughly six more to go. Full discussion on DLP and FFA. So, how many of you are feeling bad for Pansy right about now?