Title: Black and Deep Desires

By: Dr. Kim-chan

Me: Hey, everybody. On August 21st, I FINALLY finished reading the—oh hell—the last Harry Potter book. (cringes, but nothing happens) Guess it only works when it's underlined/in all caps/bolded. Anyway, with no thanks to my niece, now I'm all caught up, so the muses are coming back, probably crazier than ever! (Suddenly all my muses spill out of the dimensional rift that had conveniently led to Hawaii and jump on me.)

All muses: WHO DIED? WHO DIED? WHO DIED??!!!

Me: Get off! (sprays an anti-muse repellant) I'm not at liberty to discuss that, but what I WILL say is that none of YOU died (points to Draco and Lucius). I'm so happy you two aren't dead! (hugs them and Plushie)

Plushie: I live to make a perverted joke another day!

Harry and Ron: (sadly) What about us?

Me: …………………Meh. (Harry and Ron start to cry)

Me: Enough bawling! (smacks them with a halibut) And I don't know what YOU'RE complaining about, Ron. You're returning to the Malfoy Manor, remember?

Ron: Well, at least that's something I can latch onto.

Plushie: Not to mention Lucius's forty-year-old ass…HEY-ohhhh!

Me: Good one. You been practicing?

Plushie: (blows on his nonexistent nails) Yeah, I still got it.

Me: Well, I see I'm close to my 200th review, as well as my fiftieth chapter, so we got no time to waste (though I've joined up with more clubs at college, so it'd be more like I don't have enough time) Roll it!

(Begin Chap. 46)

…Whether it was of their own imagination or not, it didn't alleviate the fact that the feeling remained; it was as if the air around the Burrow was so still, the oxygen refused to be pulled into the nostrils of the five who were cautiously approaching the house.

"Any movement?" Tonks whispered, more out of curiosity than from a sense of Auror-like professionalism.

"Not as far as I can see," Lupin whispered back.

Moody's jaw tightened, his false eye lazily rolling around in a tight circle. Mr. Weasley, who was just behind him, was experiencing the worst sensation of ambivalence: fatherly concern, anger, worry, and determination were all clashing with each other in his chest. Even Tonks's hair had transformed into a jet-black hue to reflect the seriousness in the atmosphere. Kingsley was already a good few feet ahead of them, surveying the Burrow's backyard for any potential ambush. After satisfying himself by rechecking for any enemies, he signaled to the rest of the group, opened the back door and, with the other four immediately following suit, rushed into the house.

Then they came to an abrupt stop.

Everything was a complete mess, even more than they had anticipated: in the kitchen, the chairs and the morning's breakfast were strewn across the floor, Peter Pettigrew still hanging limp over the table.

After a second Kingsley reemerged from the adjoining living room.

"In here's a wreck, too," he reported, "and you won't believe who else I found."

Moody pushed past Mr. Weasley and leaned over the threshold. Right on the other side of one wall was Bellatrix Lestrange, bloodied and unconscious.

"And someone else made a quick escape," Kingsley added, nodding toward the spilled bag of Floo Powder sparkling on the carpet as the other three nudged past him.

"Didn't Molly and Hermione reach us by Floo?" Tonks asked.

Mr. Weasley shook his head, as if he was unsure of the conclusion he was about to voice.

"They couldn't have made this much mess; Molly said they escaped before Pettigrew and Lestrange busted in. There'd be no need to scatter it all over the place."

A thoughtful silence, and then Tonks almost shouted out:

"Ron! Hermione said he stayed behind!"

Two other questions were on her mind, but the others already had a good guess of what she was wondering: was Ron the one who had valiantly fought and beaten both Lestrange and Pettigrew?

And if he didn't, was he okay?

"I'm searching upstairs," Mr. Weasley said immediately, and rushed up the stairs, Tonks coming up right after him. Lupin stepped fully into the living room and continued surveying the scene, his mind working at full speed.

"Ron couldn't have done this," he said quietly. "Not without—"

"Not without help, you mean," Moody finished. "And he would've come to us right after Molly and Miss Granger. If there was an interloper, they had to be pretty damn skilled to go against these two."

When he indicated the said Death Eaters with his wand, at the same time he placed a Body-Bind Curse on both of them and strode over to collect their wands, muttering something along the lines of, "…should've done this when we first barged in…"

"Whoever it was, if they were—or are still—here," Kingsley started, making an imperceptible nod towards the ceiling, where the noise of the two-person search party was carrying through, "not only did they have to be learned in defensive spells, but they had to know about the attack AND know Ron. I have to give credit to the Death Eaters, though—this was a perfect ambush."

With this, Lupin was suddenly within reach of making a hypothesis…but it couldn't be…

Interrupting his thoughts, Mr. Weasley and Tonks thundered back downstairs, somber looks on their faces. The three men didn't have to be told that Ron wasn't anywhere to be found.

"So," Moody interjected loudly, coming back from confiscating Wormtail's wand, "someone saved him, or someone carried him off."

Lupin frowned at Moody's tactlessness, but knew that those were in fact their only two options.

"Possibly an insider, Kingsley and Remus were gettin' at, since they had the power to defeat two of the most ruthless Death Eaters to walk Britain."

"With close ties to the Weasleys…or to Ron…and they had to know about the surprise attack," Lupin continued.

"But we didn't even know!"

"Our point exactly."

"…Umira? She is a Seer."

Moody dismissed Tonks' theory. "She's running back an' forth between Hogwarts and St. Mungo's, trying to get Potter situated. Even if she had one of her…predictions, she wouldn't have been able to come so fast. And Apparating's out of the question; we have this place under protection now."

This couldn't be held in any longer; Lupin had to say it.

"There's someone else."

Everyone turned to him as he unwillingly finished his thought. "With what we know so far…someone who'd been in contact with Ron—just recently—and who could know about the Death Eaters' attack on this place. You don't suppose—?"

Lupin left it to them; it just had to be obvious…and yet so unbelievable…

"Are you saying," Moody growled, "that Malfoy had something to do with this?!"

Tonks furrowed her brows, her hair turning lime green to reflect her confusion, and tilted her head, but Shacklebolt actually seemed to consider the idea.

"He's got a point. Lucius Malfoy may be loyal to You-Know-Who, but we also know that he doesn't play well with his fellow Death Eaters. He may've been part of the attack, then turned traitor at the last second."

"Not to mention his visit to Hogwarts right before Ron was moved back here coincides too perfectly."

"Then where's the Weasley boy?!" Moody demanded.

"Could've taken him with him," Kingsley suggested.

Moody stormed around the kitchen, mulling it over as his false leg thumped on the floorboards. He didn't quite agree with this, but the only thing that made him even more furious than the outrageous claim itself was the possibility that it was right.

"We can't stage a raid on the Malfoy Manor like the Ministry," he finally said, stopping where he stood. "Not that I'm worried about what Fudge would think if we took over investigational authority, but it might cause a retaliation on the Death Eaters' part."

"Wait, wait," Tonks cut in. "What do they want with Ron anyway? We just paid them to get him back!"

A second silence fell upon the room. It had been pretty much all but forgotten that it hadn't been that long ago since the raid on Diagon Alley and the subsequent first kidnapping of Ron.

"The way that went, I'm almost certain it was Malfoy acting on his own; they probably only thought of a way to profit from it after they had Ron," Mr. Weasley finally spoke up. When Kingsley and Lupin nodded in agreement, he continued, "Malfoy was the one who sent us the ransom note, and he was the only one to show up at the exchange, and he was all too willing to put down his wand."

"Too willing…" Moody echoed, and he began pacing noisily again.

"What's it mean then? That You-Know-Who isn't interested in Ron; it's all Lucius?"

"Voldemort had to be involved; otherwise Lestrange and Pettigrew wouldn't have shown up to the party," Moody said dourly.

"Yeah, but what if he learned about what Malfoy was up to?" Tonks argued. "And then Malfoy had no other choice but to…turn on the Death Eaters?"

Moody abruptly stopped pacing again, but said nothing else; he suddenly rushed back over to Pettigrew's incarcerated body.

"We'll find that out when we turn these two in," Kingsley piped up. "Fudge can't be too mad at us for rounding these two up—"

"Look."

Moody was crouched low to the ground, almost level with Pettigrew's upside-down face. The rest peered in the direction that the retired Auror's electric-blue eye was pointing towards. On a corner of the Death Eater's mouth, interlaced with a drop of blood, was a thick liquid string of golden-amber. Kingsley straightened up and dashed into the living room, then reappeared with a rare look of wonderment on his face.

"Lestrange has it on her lips too."

"They were slipped something. Still fresh," he added when he poked the bulging drop at the end of the string with his wand, and the liquid slowly began running down the side of Pettigrew's face again. "I've barely seen this used on someone, not when we got something as convenient as Memory Charms, but this is a Memory Potion—for permanent erasure."

Now everyone appeared confused.

"So whoever attacked them didn't want them to remember it," Tonks pressed on, now also keen on the Lucius Malfoy theory. No one added or opposed to that; that was as good a clue as anything. Everyone now watched Moody as he kept rearranging his mouth into various frowns, wondering if he would give in to what little clues and conjecture they had to go on.

"If he did nick back the Weasley boy at the last minute," Moody finally breathed, "chances are he won't jump up to join the Order right away, or reveal where he is. Even when saving someone else, he'd want to save his own hide first. But whether it was Malfoy or not, our top priorities now are bringing in these two and finding Arthur's son. We did it before. We can do it again."

…The stillness in the Malfoy Manor was overbearing.

One would think that with a house this size, it would have been commonplace, or that three people wouldn't have made a difference. Even though Ron had only served here for a couple of months, he had felt it. He knew, just from looking at Lucius's face, what a difference of a lost family member—or the addition of a captive—made.

Even though he had been given the order to hide as soon as he arrived, Ron couldn't help but give himself a bit of a tour. At the moment he was wandering the corridors of the second floor, heading in the general direction of Lucius's master bedroom. It seemed that in the few weeks since he was given back to the Order, the Malfoy Manor lost all of what little warmth Ron had inadvertently given it. All the light that illuminated the manor's walls was natural, yet also dim from the thin film of dust covering the windows. Apparently, the loss of a servant left the Malfoys helpless against the chore of cleaning. Nothing had been dusted; the air of gloom was magnified threefold. Possibly…someone else had been here…

Someone who could spread around misery such as this…

Ron jumped, even though no noise had startled him, and shook off the feeling of fear he'd given himself. Why would he be here? Wouldn't he prefer locations with a little less profile? Damp, dark and out of the way of the eyes of prying Ministry officials?

He jumped again. This time there had been a noise…from downstairs.

Ron scurried as fast as he could to the master bedroom without outright running (footsteps were as loud as dragons' roars in this house), closed the door, and took a few moments to consider his hiding places. The bathroom was no good, and he didn't think hiding under the bed would work a second time.

Wardrobe.

Ron pushed open the door set in the wall and enclosed himself in near-absolute darkness, then turned around to allow himself to remember the layout of the place. It was more of a walk-in closet than anything else, but Lucius always preferred to call it a wardrobe. Ron ventured further and further back, pushing away robes and blouses, tripping over a boot on occasion, and it seemed like a good six or eight feet before he hit solid wall—probably a little louder than he meant to. He rubbed his forehead and turned back to the door. Still nothing, but he was so far into the innards of the Manor, he wondered if it was possible to hear anything…

He crouched down, hunting around for a good niche to hide himself in, when he heard an unfamiliar gruff voice in the distance.

"I don't know what Malfoy's thinking, getting himself mixed up with that lot. Does he really wanna get killed by Voldemort that badly?"

Another voice immediately answered the first one.

"Don't tell me you act'lly believe Pettigrew's rubbish? All we been 'earing 'as been comin' from that vermin's mouth! We're wastin' our time, is all, just 'cause of a letter Zabini sent to Malfoy a month ago! I don't even think that damn letter even exists..."

"True, Pettigrew does seem to relish in knocking others down a couple of notches, but the Dark Lord's smarter than to give in to that groveling worm's flattery."

An opening of a door and some things being shuffled around.

"Wot we lookin' for, anyway?"

"Actually, we're waiting for Malfoy to return from his mission with Lestrange and Pettigrew, but I couldn't help but look…"

Ron had stopped breathing for a couple of moments; footsteps had been getting closer to the door of the wardrobe, but at the deep-voiced man's reply, the footsteps suddenly stopped.

"Look for what?"

"I heard about Zabini writing him a letter, too. Supposedly it was when he went to visit someone overseas for some ingredients to that Elixir he was making. But I also heard Bellatrix say she had a copy, so I reckon Malfoy had the original…"

"What's so important 'bout that letter, anyway?!"

"I don't know, but if the Dark Lord's worried about the rumors, then—"

The sentence was cut off by a couple of hissing sounds, then the tiny rustling of fabric.

"Speak of the devil. He's calling us back."

"What th' bloody—we just got 'ere! Weren't we s'posed to be waitin' for Malfoy?"

"...Maybe someone got to him first. Let's go."

The sound of the bedroom door closing fell on deaf ears. Someone got to him first? The Order? Or could it have been…?

The irony failed to amuse him, but for the first time, Ron was actually wishing to be found by Lucius Malfoy.

(End Chap. 46)

Me: Yeah, it's a cliffhanger. So what? With all that's been happening at college, I was lucky to finish this before Halloween.

Lucius: (casually flips through her day planner which is CLEARLY marked "Private") You certainly are a jill-of-all-trades.

Me: (takes back the planner and smacks him with it)

Lucius: I believe your usual brand of slapstick humor is beginning to wane.

Me: You wanna stay alive past Chapter 50?

Lucius: …But threats are of another matter entirely.

Me: (pets him) Good Luci.