Author's Notes: Thanks to all the usual suspects (libertine, kissaki, krissy, lunarennui, Miss
Breed, Rube, and to Audrey, without whom this ending would not exist. Thanks to and to all
reviewers, who's comments are cherished.
There is a photograph mentioned in this bit. The photograph itself tops this part of the story on my fiction archive, which can be found here: http://www.angelfire.com/ego/ivyblossom/fiction.html.
Disclaimer: I still don't own these folks. J.K. Rowling does. I'm not sure she'd want to claim them after I'm through with them, though.
Chapter Thirteen - Decisions and Revisions
By Ivy Blossom
Those creatures jumped the barricades
And headed for the sea.
She began to breathe,
at the thought of this freedom,
stood and whispered to her child,
She held the child and whispered with calm, calm,
When Draco Malfoy was particularly nervous, he adopted an elegant, lazy, demure sort of pose, his chin raised just enough to make him seem slightly taller than he actually was, as well as giving the impression that he was likely to flounce haughtily out of the room at any moment. He pressed his lips together primly, cocked an eyebrow, and, if he were standing still for a long enough time, as he had been just now, he would run his index finger along the inner hem of his robes, tucking that thin material under his fingernail. If you didn't know better, you might mistake this pose for disdain, nonchalance, or boredom. Harry Potter knew better.
They stood in the heart of Muggle London, in the foyer of a rather posh-looking bookstore called 'Waterstone's'. The highly polished counter in front of them housed a large, antique cash register, in gold, a large pile of books, mostly hard covers sans dust jackets. An elderly, balding man with white hair draped haphazardly over his ears sat perched on a stool behind the counter. He was pulling the books, one by one, from one pile to another, making note of each on a pad of yellow lined paper with a scratch-nibbed fountain pen, filling the otherwise quiet foyer with the sounds of canvas rubbing against canvas, and the soft thud of hefty tome falling one upon another, and the delicate scratch of the fountain pen, tallying the long minutes they stood there, unremarked upon, waiting.
Events had proceeded quickly. Dumbledore had informed the Ministry of Hermione's succinct summary of their latest discovery, and within a couple of days there had been several high profile raids. Malfoy manor had been all but sacked; but it had stood empty, the curtains still billowing at windows left half-open. Other than a handful of old potions bottles, there was no evidence of Voldemort, of attempts at freeing him, of bloody knives or goblin magic or anything else to be found there at all. The following day, Ministry officials had found the scene of a minor massacre. In the rear ballroom of a large manor along the coast in Wales, they found the bodies of three known Death Eaters, and those of five goblins. One other body, identified as Lewis Nelson, a wizard from Southampton and long-time suspect, was found in an abandoned upper room, dead for several months. Tucked under his robes was a long, silver knife wrapped in a blank piece of parchment. He had no blood in his body whatsoever. They found the doors to the manor thrown open toward the stony beach, as if its occupants had had to run, madly and half-blind, from the bloodied ballroom and into the ocean. The half-charred bodies of seven unidentified men lay face-first in the shallows, cold water ritually covering and uncovering the pink soles of their feet. When they turned one of them over, they found that he had tentacles protruding from his chest.
Before they finished, they made one last grisly discovery; Marjorie Bloom, a Hogwarts' student and pureblood witch, who had been thought killed in her grandmother's garden some weeks ago, had been shoved into a small closet and locked there. When they opened the door, she had screamed, and clawed out her own eyes, afraid of the men, the noise, the light.
The Daily Prophet had been again filled with accusations, outrage, shock. Horrid, appalling things were taking place, and no one at the Ministry had been prepared to give them any solid information. There were several rumours, reported in the newspaper, about a blonde man seen disappearing around a corner in Malfoy manor, picking up something from the bloodied ballroom in Wales and apparating God knows where. It was whispered in wizarding pubs and taverns across the nation that little Marjorie Bloom had screamed out 'No! Draco! No!' as she tore at her eyes. No one was sure where Draco was hiding, but the building that had formerly housed his flat had been torched, the landlord himself forced out in the middle of the night in his bathrobe to watch his home burn. He raised his fist and damned the Malfoys. "All of them." He muttered, watching his possessions go up in smoke.
There was a colourful story in one of the least reliable columns claiming that Draco was housed in a vault covered with goblin locks in the home of the Minister himself. The column noted that Draco and the Minister had tea together in the afternoons, and Draco was released for a single hour a day, only to be bound and sedated with various spells, propped into a formal and elegant position in the Minister's well-tapestried sitting room, compelled to discuss his horrible past, the evils of his actions, the workings of the mind of Voldemort. Another rumour had him still lurking in the corners of his department at the Ministry, eating rat poison and hiding in closets during the day. Most dismissed these claims, but still looked over their shoulders, walking down the wizarding streets, avoiding darker alleys and walking in groups at dusk. The streets were empty after dark. Draco Malfoy had become the bogeyman.
Aside from one murmured comment from Harry about the idea of him bound and open to suggestion which had frankly shocked Draco (A Gryffindor coming up with ideas like that! He's been spending too much time with me, he thought to himself, and then promptly told Harry, who had laughed maniacally and nibbled on Draco's earlobe), they ignored these ludicrous accusations. They had, however, cast spells on the windows so that Draco would not be seen through them, and Draco had begun using Harry's invisibility cloak in order to sit on their small balcony to get some fresh air. Ron and Draco had developed a ritual of playing a game of chess after dinner. This game was never particularly civil. Both swore like angry giants, and debated the wisdom of each other's moves loudly and with vigour. In spite of his scoffing, Ron had been relatively impressed with Draco's skill at chess, though for the most part Ron won these evening games. There had been an increasing number of stalemates, however, and he noted that Draco had already learned some of his trademark moves and had begun to anticipate them.
Harry was a fine chess player. Certainly, he was more than adequate. But Ron had spent his young years pitted against all of his older brothers in turn, and learned to beat the lot of them. It was something that came from being the youngest boy in a family of seven children that forced you to brush up on certain skills. Harry, of course, had never had a playmate as a child, and had not even learned to play chess, muggle or wizard, until his first year at Hogwarts. What he lacked in experience he had made up for in enthusiasm in the first couple of years, but his interest in the game had waned after that. Draco, however, was a worthy opponent for Ron. He was sly and conniving, a vicious and fearless attacker, with a poker face that could skewer you with its obstinate indecipherability. He considered his moves carefully and quickly, took calculated hits, and was prepared to gamble important pieces to offer Ron complex and ambiguous choices; possible loss against possible loss. Ron found it thrilling. The first time he had won a game against Ron, Draco had flashed him one of those self-delighted smiles that was not entirely scornful, and, in spite of keenly resenting the loss, Ron had seen for a moment a flicker of what Harry saw in this pale, tortured and trapped man. He twisted his lips thoughtfully.
"Good game," Ron said, proffering his hand over the chess board, from which his queen was looking at him angrily while gathering her skirts together and straightening herself up. Draco smirked and took his hand, giving it a firm shake.
"Yes, it was quite good, wasn't it. Rather better than yours, of course."
"Malfoy, you are such a twit. One win and you think you can get all cocky. I was just distracted."
"Let's make it two wins for me then, Weasel. Rematch?"
"You're on, Ferret-boy."
And then, late in the evenings, Harry and Draco would go outside for a long walk. This was very dangerous, and Harry knew it without the need for Ron's desperate reminders. But Draco could only sit around their flat staring at the walls for so long. He needed some exercise, some changing scenery. On their first ever excursion, Harry had enjoyed watching Draco's reaction when he pulled out muggle-ready attire for both of them. Over his jumper with the letter 'H' emblazoned on it and his rather faded blue jeans, Harry pulled on a navy peacoat with a thick silver zipper that Draco tugged on absently while Harry draped his Gryffindor scarf around his neck. Draco now sported a pair of runners on his feet, his own, neatly-pressed jeans, an Irish knit sweater, a brown oilcloth coat that came nearly to his knees, and a shapeless brown hat. Draco looked at himself incredulously in the mirror, still tugging on the zipper of Harry's coat.
"They consider this inconspicuous?" He asked, skeptical, poking at the hat, stroking the oddly textured coat. Harry grinned, nodded, and threw the invisibility cloak around Draco's shoulders. They started off, slipping quietly into the street, wands slid into their sleeves at the ready.
On these excursions they moved silently through the wizarding world and toward the other side. Harry pretended to be alone, avoiding people, staying to the broadest sides of the street, keeping close under the eaves of trees, which were beginning to recover from the long, cold winter. Draco breathed deeply, feeling the muscles in his legs groan and stretch pleasantly under the welcome strain of motion. They passed in silence until they arrived at a nearby park, where Draco removed the cloak under the sparse cover of shadows, and they would walk into the little meandering muggle streets together, unnoticed and unremarkable.
They moved quietly on tidy sidewalks along trimmed lawns, and occasionally dogs noses poked through fences beside them and whined, barked, or merely sniffed; they looked up at lighted windows, seeing curtains shut against the draft, with shadows cast on them of lampshades, figures walking across the room. Cars pulled into driveways and tired-looking men and women unfolded themselves, slammed doors, carried briefcases behind them as they walked without looking up toward their front doors. They saw several people walking dogs, a few cats prowling on fences, garbage cans turned upside down and left forgotten on curbs. They passed by a large, broad park, empty except for a teenaged couple sneaking kisses against a lamp post and giggling. Muggle London was like an entirely different universe. While Harry and Draco, and the rest of the wizarding world, woke up each morning from visions of untold horrors projected onto the insides of their eyelids, always slightly more on edge than the day before, clutching their coffee mugs a little tighter and glancing into the frightened eyes across the breakfast table, shaking hands holding the paper and scanning it for more word of disaster, massacre, destruction, the muggle world went on peacefully. Now, late in the evening, they saw families through windows, curled up in front of a flickering blue glow laughing; they passed children playing street hockey with tennis balls, their parents standing on stoops and calling them in to bed.
Harry and Draco watched this calmness, this sense of normalcy, and breathed it in, letting it seep into their skin. Sometimes the calmness found them speaking about evil things; questions of who, and how, and where, politics, dark motions, suspicions. Other times they walked in relative silence, simply enjoying their momentary freedom from noise, thought, concern. On that particular evening they spoke quietly about small things: some of the books Draco had been reading from Harry's rather extensive collection of muggle fiction; Quidditch captains and their various merits; the new muggle cookbook Harry had brought home for Draco, and why it was so atrociously bad; Harry's new camera, which had, he complained, the annoying tendency to autofocus when he didn't want it to, about how the instruction booklet was next to useless, but the photos were coming out rather well.
Harry had taken an interest in photography some years ago, and in calmer days he had even developed his own photographswizard and muggleat home, turning his kitchen into a makeshift darkroom. Draco had eyed this hobby with some suspicion, but had had to admit that Harry certainly had an eye for it. For Christmas, Harry had given him a framed black and white muggle photograph that he had taken while they were together. Draco remembered watching Harry taking pictures that day; his face obscured behind his black and silver muggle contraption, all knobs and dials, hand cradled under the lens, twisting it this way and that. They had been participating in a fencing match at the ministry, and Draco himself was the subject of this particular photograph, unawares, foil in hand and eyes trained on his opponent. Harry had captured him fending off an attack. He had won that particular match, though one of the senior members of the fencing club had won the heat.
Seeing the photo had taken Draco by surprise. At first he wasn't sure that it was really himself in the picture; the fencing mask covered his face, the jacket and even the pants were uniform. But there was something in the curve of the shoulder, the way the jacket rested against his hip, that made him see himself all of a sudden. Having been taken by a muggle camera, it didn't move, of course. The stillness of it was oddly striking, like a flash of memory, one moment stretched into eternity, living constantly and yet halted in such a brief moment that there was no room for movement. Though the motion itself had been sharp, loud, and tense, in the photograph it looked tender, as if he held his foil delicately in a careful parry, pressing against his opponent's blade with such softness and grace that they need never move, never shift. It looked as though there were no tension at all in that hand, that arm, They stayed immutable with forever-crossed foils. Leave it to Harry to pin him down in a moment of strenuous conflict and portray him as gentle.
Draco treasured that photograph, and had hung it rather prominently in the living room of his flat. Sometimes, after Harry had left his bed to return to his own, Draco would slide into his slippers, pull on a bathrobe and pad out into the living room to look at it. It was a photograph of him, but everything about it reminded him of its photographer. Walking through the quiet and peaceful Muggle streets with Harry, who had left off talking about his camera and was instead commenting on the soup Draco had made him for dinner, Draco suddenly realized that his photograph was gone. He had seen the reports about his former residence up in flames. He breathed deeply, smelling woodsmoke, asphalt, and grass, and tried not to think about it.
When they returned to the flat, Draco hidden again under the invisibility cloak, There was an envelope waiting on the doorstep. In firm-handed black ink, it read 'Draco Malfoy.'
Harry glanced up at the clock on the wall at Waterstone's. They had stood there waiting for roughly fifteen minutes, and the man at the counter had begun to give them odd looks. Harry pulled Draco with him farther into the store, planning to give at least the semblance of being customers. Draco assented, following Harry up a set of rickety cast iron stairs to a slim aisle with bookcases along the wall. From this vantage point, they could look down off the slim rail into the rest of the bookstore. If they leaned over it slightly, they could even see the front door. Harry sighed.
"I wonder if this is a good idea," He said for the umpteenth time.
"As do I." Draco noted, pulling a slim volume (J. Alfred Prufrock and other poems, T.S. Eliot) off the shelf and glancing through it. He ran his index finger down a page, and harumphed. "There will be time to murder and create And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate," He read aloud. Harry leaned over and watched the door. It was resolutely still.
"I didn't know you liked poetry." Harry turned, crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the rail, watching Draco. He read intently, his finger rhythmically stroking the edge of the page.
"Time for you and time for me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a toast and tea. Isn't that optimistic, though?" Draco mused.
"Keep reading, I don't think it stays optimistic." Draco read on.
"Ah, yes. I see. Do I dare disturb the universe? In a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. Now that's interesting."
"Speaking of decisions and revisions perhaps we should forget this and go home."
Draco closed the book and sighed. "No. Unless he comes in with a whole herd of Death Eaters, I need to hear what he has to say."
The letter had been an invitation, a request, a desperate plea from Lucius Malfoy. He had written that he needed to see Draco, that Narcissa was in grave danger, that there was no one left other than Draco who could help. That if he even showed his face in the wizarding world, even to get help, he would be cursed and killed before he could ask questions. Draco and Harry both knew that this was true. "I am tired," Lucius had written. "I am tired and older than my years now. I cannot walk properly and my eyesight has been severely damaged. I am no threat to anyone, and yet I am unable to stand in public. These are sad times. But we must help your mother. There are things you need to know. We need your help. Please. Meet me at a bookstore called Waterstone's on Charing Cross Road at 2pm on Wednesday."
Harry and Ron had had serious reservations. Truth be told, Draco had as well. But Draco knew from his own research on the matter that what his father had written was true; his eyesight would have been compromised by his time trapped inside the charm, as would his hearing and his concentration, and thus, his ability to cast even the simplest of spells. His limbs would be weakened by their lack of use. When Draco proved too determined to be swayed in his decision to go, Harry had insisted on joining him. Draco had not argued with him on that point, and had not even wanted to. Thank God for Gryffindor pig-headed bravery. No matter how academically certain he was that his father was in no state to cause him any real harm; no matter how concerned he was about his mother's welfare, he was still afraid to confront his father. On hearing the news, Ron's face had turned pink.
"Well, that's lovely, then, Harry. Why not just walk into a Death Eater trap WITH the silly git, and give them everything they could possibly want. Two for the price of one!"
Draco had then pulled out a series of dusty books from under Harry's desk. "Fine," he said testily. "I will bind Harry up with so many protective spells he won't be able to untie his own shoe laces. Will that suffice?"
"No, it will not." Ron was adamant. "Dumbledore will never approve."
"I'm sure he wouldn't, if he found out. But look." Draco looked at Ron seriously. "It's been, what, nearly two weeks. The Ministry is fucking useless. They have more information than they could possibly have gotten on their own, and they still can't find Voldemort. I'll bet they've stopped trying, the bastards. I expect the Ministry is hoping that I get lynched so that they can pretend that it's over. So they can have a scapegoat. My father knows something. And if he's coming to me, something's very wrong, and he's very desperate. So are we." Draco sighed. "I started this. I'll finish it too, if I have to."
And now Lucius Malfoy was thirty-five minutes late. Harry was nervous. Perhaps in an effort to ease the tension, Draco read out titles of books he thought might be interesting. "Hey, Potter, have you got this one? The History of the World in 10 1/2 chapters. I knew Muggle history wasn't very complicated, but I had no idea you could fit it all into such a slim volume." Harry leaned over the rail, and saw the doorknob turning.
"Draco." He whispered. He kept his eyes trained on the doorknob, watched the door swing open, and saw a black-booted foot press noiselessly onto the threadbare rug, followed by another. Harry felt Draco's hand press against his back and he turned and leaned over the rail.
Lucius Malfoy looked a great deal smaller than he had the last time Harry had seen him. His shoulders were hunched, his arms looked painfully thin even covered by the heavy woolen cloak he wore. His eyes were sunken and rimmed with a bluish tinge. While Draco's hair could be described as nearly white, a vibrant and ethereal halo that gleamed when he stood in the sun and glowed bluish in the moonlight, mussed against the pillow. That same hair looked simply pale, lustreless, watered-down, and without colour on his father. His face looked haggard and sad, his colourless lips were thin and pressed together grimly, as though the mere act of walking was a strenuous chore slightly beyond the abilities of his fragile body. There was a sense of the transparent to him, as though he had left a critical element of himself behind. He carried a thick cane in his right hand, which tapped rhythmically against the floor. He stopped in front of the gleaming counter, and looked around.
Draco gripped the back of Harry's coat for a moment, and then let it go. He turned and walked down the rickety steps, attracting his father's attention. "You're late." He announced.
Lucius smiled slightly, and nodded. "Yes. So I am. It, ah, took me perhaps somewhat longer to arrive than I had, well, than I had anticipated." He did not indicate his weak legs nor the cane in his hand. He stumbled rather gracefully over his words, speaking magnanimously with an almost ridiculous drawl that Harry recognized as a Malfoy family trait. He punctuated his sentences with breathy and moist pauses, as though searching for the precise word, finding it, pouncing on it, and presenting it with aplomb in spite of his weakened and pinched appearance. "I am quite glad to see you." He smiled wanly. His eyes suddenly darted behind Draco, seeing Harry walking purposefully down the stairs. He carried two books in his hand. Draco watched his father's eyebrow arch, following him down the stairs and across to the counter, where he dropped the books and pulled out his wallet. "I see that you have, ah, brought a friend." Draco decided to ignore this comment, and particularly the emphasis on friend, not knowing how to respond to it.
"There's a restaurant down the street. We can talk there." Draco was curt. When playing games of power, there were a few ground rules that Draco knew well. First; always act as though the advantage is yours, even when your opponent has, on occasions of profound frustration and fear, beat you nearly senseless. Perhaps especially then. Second; never let your opponent chose the location of your rendezvous. Draco and Harry had already taken the precaution of casting a variety of spells on the restaurant in question to alert them to any untoward behaviour. Draco could hear Harry paying for the books behind him, and heard the rustle of a paper bag, the quiet thump of softcover landing on softcover. Third; never assume that physical weakness requires or deserves sympathy. Sympathy, of course, being the ultimate trap.
Lucius nodded his assent, and Draco pulled open the door for him. Fourth; never turn your back to your opponent. This is why courtesy was invented; the two people you should never turn your back to are women and enemies, both of whom wear different faces when they cannot see yours.
When Ron arrived home that night, he was relieved to see Harry sitting in front of the fire. He looked pensive and smiled wanly at Ron when he opened the door and dropped his keys onto the table. For a moment he wondered if Malfoy had also returned, or if he had been seduced again into the world of death and blood and mayhem. Then he realized that the smell of something tasty was emanating from the kitchen indicated that Malfoy was in fact still in the land of the living. Ron noted that he was actually relieved by this realization. How things change, he thought wryly.
Ron pulled of his cloak and looked at Harry. "Well?"
Harry sighed. He was fiddling with a small glass box, which he put on the table in front of the fire. "It was well, it was interesting. We met with him."
"Well. Oh, Ron, it's just so awful, all of it. He says it was that Nelson fellow, you remember him."
"Lewis Nelson? The one they found in oh."
"That's the one. We know what they were doing in Wales, now. He found out about the goblin charm, which makes sense. We knew he had been searching out ways to seize power, we knew he had the greatest access to spies. It makes sense to me that he would be trying to work out what happened to Voldemort. Well. It turns out that he found out about the goblin charm, and explained to Narcissa that he could get her husband home again if she went to Africa and got that scroll on that knife. When she came back, he used the goblin spell on himself, called the charm, and released Voldemort. Only well, the transfer of blood, it didn't take very well. He died shortly after. All the blood in his body evaporated." Harry shuddered.
"Well, what was Narcissa doing there?" Ron was suspicious.
"She was waiting to greet my father." Draco said coldly, leaning out of the kitchen. Harry sighed, and picked up a small glass box on the table, spun it between his fingers, and put it back.
"Well, so does this mean that You-Know-Who is dead?" Draco harrumphed and went back into the kitchen, banging pots and rattling silverware loudly.
"No, Ron." Harry lowered his voice. "This is where it gets sticky. When Nelson died, Voldemort tried to go somewhere else. So he. Well. He chose Narcissa. She was standing closest, and well. They're not sure if she's there anymore at all, or if she's just gone mad. At this point Lucius is certain that Voldemort is mad as well, which is not surprising, given the circumstances of the transfer. Draco says he's probably still half-enclosed in the charm, which would explain why I can still hear him, without the potions. He's forced into some kind of breech, a half-goblin, half-wizard breech. The result of a bad mixture of the two magics. No one knows how to fix it."
Harry rubbed his knuckles against his forehead, and whispered, "Draco is pretty upset. As you can imagine. His mother has been admitted to St. Mungo's under a false name, and " He picked up the glass box. "He's a danger to everyone. To Narcissa, to Death Eaters, and to the rest of us, as long as he sits in that breech. Draco believes that the madness is temporary, and when he comes to well, Narcissa will be the new Voldemort. She's simply not strong enough to stop his personality from dominating. And I might not be either. With him in that breech I'll never be without him inside my head. And it may even get worse. Voldemort might actually be able to. Well. Start to control me too, as he gets stronger. So you see, we don't have much choice." Harry was already pleading with him to accept this.
"Wait, Harry, what are you going to do?"
"We've got go help Narcissa. We've got to recapture Voldemort. We've got to put an end to this, before someone else finds a way to free him and set him lose." Harry sighed and leaned back against his chair. Ron winced.
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