A Second Chance
Chapter 15: Unanswered Questions: An Interlude
"I want to know who he is, Severus," Lucius hissed as he shot a curse at the nearest target. The bush blew away in a shower of sparks. The two Death Eaters watched it absently.
"You know who he is, Lucius," Severus remarked when all that was left was a pile of faintly burning twigs.
Lucius glared at him and continued stalking on, not waiting to see if the other would follow. "Of course I know who he is, but that's not enough. I need more information."
"And what do you expect me to do?" Severus hissed back.
"Are you the spy or aren't you?" said Lucius, stopping to blast apart the underbrush around a tree.
Severus glared at him and sneered. "I'm a spy for the Dark Lord, Lucius. Not for you personally."
The heavy snake cane in Lucius' left hand pressed firmly into the dirt. "Then remind me why I pay you so handsomely, Severus?"
The other did not answer.
Lucius allowed his hand to relax and turned to the other man. "I want everything on him. I must know how he did this. How did he plant that memory in my head?"
At that Severus raised a thin eyebrow and something of a smirk began to grow in the corner of his lips. "An added memory? Well, that's the first I heard of that. I thought all the Dark Lord has was a suspicion… Something about an article, I heard?"
Grinding his teeth together Lucius glared and debated on how much he should reveal. "You're the Occulmens, not I, Severus. I know what I experienced and whatever scene the Dark Lord pulled from my head wasn't it. Not even close," he growled.
A small rabbit hopped out of the bushes and started munching on a patch of grass. Both Death Eaters ignored it and continued to glare at one another.
"Then he suspects you of treachery?" Severus said after considering Lucius' words for a moment.
"Indeed," Lucius drawled, he twirled his wand in one hand; twisting it around his long, thin fingers. "I want everything about that boy you can find out. I want to know his hopes and dreams. I want to know his friends. I want to know what sort of marks he gets on his transfiguration essays. I want to know what his favorite bloody pudding is—do you understand me?" Lucius calmed his breath and when he had himself under more firm control he started again. "My son tells me that Potter has shown an unusual amount of interest in his little girlfriend. I plan to use that to my advantage, but I still need your assistance."
Severus nodded. "Then what do you intend to do?"
The snake headed cane was driven further into the loose earth around the tip. "What I intend, Severus, is to make him wish he was never born." Then Lucius caught the base of his wand again and pointed. "Crucio!"
And they both paused and listened while the rabbit screamed and screamed.
"What I want to know," James growled, grinding the words against his teeth in an effort to get them out of his mouth. "Is why you are continuing to allow him to think he's involved?"
Relaxed as ever Dumbledore took a sip of his tea. "That," he said after placing the china down on his desk. "Is because he is involved, James, and I welcome his support."
James glared back at him in cold fury. "He's clearly out of his mind, Albus."
"Ah, ah," Dumbledore interrupted while holding up a finger. "Out of his world, James. Not his mind. Though I daresay there are many reasons to confuse the two."
Blinking James tried to follow the old man's logic, and as usual, failed to. He quickly recovered. "He thinks he's a damn hero, Albus. He thinks he's faced Death Eaters, killed Voldemort and Gods knows what else." He slammed a fist down on the desktop. "For Merlin's sake, Albus, he called himself the Living Boy!"
"If my memory serves it's The-Boy-Who-Lived, actually," Dumbledore corrected.
Again James was left gaping. Squeezing his eyes shut James leaned back and hoped that the chair he had vacated earlier was still behind him. It was.
"James," Dumbledore began in a more soothing tone. "There is so much about Harry's situation that is hard to believe, but that doesn't make him any more insane than the rest of us. Why are you having such a hard time trusting him?"
James ran a hand across his face and paused to massage his temples. Suddenly tired and drained he dropped the hand and looked across the desk at Dumbledore. "You can't honestly believe him, Albus." It was a statement, not a question.
"Can you honestly not?" Dumbledore shot back, eyes twinkling.
"Where have you been?" Draco asked the moment she stepped into the common room.
She hesitated, bracing her feet against the cold stone floor. Her cheeks were still sporting tear tracks. "Nowhere," she whispered back while trying to desperately ignore the pounding of the blood in her veins.
He stood up from the couch and she involuntarily flinched back. "I thought I told you to stay in your room," he said, but to her relief he didn't sound angry.
"Sorry, Draco," she muttered, and held her cheek out as he reached to cup it. "I only wanted some fresh air. You know how stuffy it gets in the dungeons sometimes."
His frown weakened and he pressed his lips to her forehead. She allowed herself to relax into his hold and wrapped her arms around his lean form.
"I thought you were forgetting our discussion already," he said, the words bouncing off her hair as his lips nudged at her ear. "I thought you were forgetting the debt you owe." A hand snaked its way over her shoulders and his fingers gripped over her bruise causing her to wince.
"Never, Draco," she whispered. Her eyes were cast downward and she was trying desperately to keep them from watering at his touch.
"Pansy hasn't been bothering you again, has she?" he asked, still letting his lips rub against her skin as he spoke.
She just closed her eyes and shook her head against his.
"Good," he said firmly. Then he relaxed and tenderly brushed the hair out of her face. "I trust you, you know," he said. "I know you'll remember where your loyalties lie when the time comes."
For the first time since she entered the empty common room Ginny looked up into Draco's eyes. "I always remember to whom I owe my loyalty, Draco," she said in a confidant voice.
He smirked a little, but nodded. "And I also know I told you to stay away from Potter, but…" then he backed away from her entirely and moved towards the fire and his seat again.
Obedient and curious, Ginny followed, and perched in her usual spot on the couch next to him. When she sat he placed a balancing arm around her waist and pulled her closer while waving a piece of parchment in his other hand.
"I had a letter from father while you were gone," his usually hard eyes dulled for a moment before the moment passed. "There's something that you need to do for us."
Briefly she closed her eyes and allowed herself to take in a deep breath, then they were open again and she nodded. "Tell me what you want me to do, Draco."
"What are you still doing up?" Bran asked as he plodded down the boys staircase.
Mare glanced up from her books long enough to give him a tired shrug. "Waiting for Hermione to get back from her rounds, I guess," she said.
Resisting the urge to yawn Bran walked over and fell onto the cushion next to her. He glanced over at the empty parchment on the table and noticed the heavy lines beneath her eyes. He raised an eyebrow. "It doesn't look like you're getting much work done."
She shook her head. "No, I don't suppose I am."
Thoughtfully he let his eyes rove over her workstation again. It wasn't like her to waste time when she could be working. Then again it wasn't like her to stay up past midnight either. "You're thinking about it all again," he said suddenly.
"You're not?" she said, turning her dark eyes on him.
Bran bit his bottom lip and worried it for a moment or two. "Yeah," he said finally. "Yeah I am."
With a little pout Mare fell back against the pillows and crossed her arms over her chest. "It just doesn't make sense. Mum and dad keeping him from us all these years and him suddenly coming home and everything. Do you think they ever intend to tell us?"
He shrugged, but he didn't have the answer anymore than she did. "You know they aren't going to tell us, Mare. I—I tried to ask mum today, about Harry, I mean," he ignored Mare's sudden curious glare. "All I said was I wanted to know more about him and… you know, his parents and stuff," he glanced over at his sister and wrinkled his nose. "She started crying, and I couldn't get her to stop so I just dropped it and told her I'd talk to her later."
"I guess she's pretty upset by all this then, too," said Mare. "I mean if they had a death certificate for him it's probably definite that him being here is new to them, too," she paused to think for a moment. "Did you say anything to dad?"
"No," said Bran. "He's been in a foul mood all week because of that Malfoy thing."
"Oh," she said and then they settled back to listen to the crackling of the fire. A few moments passed before she turned back to him. "We really are going to have to talk to Harry first aren't we?"
Bran released his lip from his teeth and glanced at her. "Yeah," he said finally. "I think we are."
"Tomorrow?" she asked.
He looked down and nodded. "Tomorrow."
Molly set the steaming cup of tea down in front of her son and tried to read the pensive expression on his face as only a mother can.
"Mum," he said after taking a sip of the soothing liquid. "Do you really think he can do it?"
She sighed and fiddled with the sugar bowl on the table. "Well, he has Dumbledore's support. I daresay that's enough, isn't it?"
"I suppose," he said and then he returned his attention to the surface of his tea.
"He's so young," Molly said after another brief period had passed.
"I know, Mum," Bill told her. He reached a hand out and gently pried her fingers off the sugar spoon and squeezed them between his own.
She felt the tears start to well up in the corners of her eyes. "You all are so young, Bill." His fingers started to move in a gentle circle pattern on her hands. "If only," she sighed and her eyes drifted towards the clock whose hands represented every member of her family. At the sight of it she felt her tears threaten to pour out over her cheeks.
Then her son's hands were cupping the sides of her face and forcing her to look at him. "Don't do this to yourself again, Mum," he said sternly. "You don't deserve to think like this. It will all work out," he added more gently. "I know it will. I'll… I'll…" he seemed to battle with the thought before he sighed and met her eyes again. "I'll move back home and help, I'll do anything I can. I promise."
"Oh, Bill," she sighed and reached up to grab his hands so she could hold them. "I can't ask you to do that. You've your own life to live and you're not…" she swallowed heavily and forced her emotions under control again. "You're not your father. You don't deserve these burdens either."
"No," he said, "But I can help, and I will, you'll see," then he smiled. "Besides, you saw the pretty blond in his memories. That's got to be worth something right?"
Despite herself laughter bubbled up in her chest and she grinned at her eldest son. "Yes, I daresay it is." She waited another moment before looking up at her son again. "Do you think he can do it, Bill?" she asked.
For a long time she wasn't sure he was going to answer her, but then Bill looked up and met her gaze seriously. "I hope so, Mum. I miss Ginny so much. She belongs home."
"Yes," Molly said as her eyes drifted once again towards her clock where's Ginny's slim hand rested in 'Mortal Peril.' "She does."
Tonks foot was in a very inappropriate place, and Sirius was staring at the table so intently Remus was sure he had somehow developed x-ray vision. Then suddenly the thought of Sirius developing x-ray vision and being able to see exactly what Tonks was doing made Remus very uncomfortable.
"Ow!" Tonks shouted as she jerked forward in her chair, and her foot made contact with the floor.
Sirius glanced at her. "What happened?" he asked.
Remus did his best not to blush and to maintain his innocent look even under the intensity of the harsh glare Tonks was sending his way.
"Nothing, Sirius," Tonks growled. "I just hit my foot on the table, that's all."
"Oh," said Sirius, already loosing interest in the brief distraction. He returned to staring at the table.
Remus shot Tonks an apologetic glance and watched her roll her eyes in response. He rather thought he'd pay for that later, but he was sure she'd understand.
"Knut for your thoughts, Sirius?" Tonks said, leaning over the table with her palms outstretched.
"Worth more than a knut, Tonksy," Sirius responded, but smiled at her anyways.
Remus dug in his pocket. He knew he couldn't find anything more than a knut, but he did have a few candies and a chocolate gallon from Honeydukes. He pulled it out and offered it to his friend.
Sirius grinned and snatched it out of his hand. "Ah, you know me too well, old friend." He peeled back the gold foil and popped the thing in his mouth.
"You could've shared you know," Tonks growled at him, looking slightly like a petulant child. Remus sighed and fished around in his pockets until he found another one to appease her. He was rewarded with a melting smile that caused his heart to clench painfully in his chest.
"You ate the chocolate," he told her, trying not to sound flirtatious. "Now you owe me your thoughts."
Sirius licked his lips, somehow only managing to spread the chocolate further. "Did you really need to buy mine to figure them out?" He shook his head and reached for his abandoned drink to take a long swig.
"What do you think of Snape?" Tonks asked Remus. "You guys were both in school together, you know more about him than me. Other than the fact that he's a git and a horrible teacher, I mean."
Remus twitched his lips and thought on the problem seriously. How did he feel about Severus Snape?
"Harry said they looked to him?" Lily asked.
James let out an exasperated sigh and nodded. "At least that's what he says."
"And Dumbledore?" she prompted.
"Seems to be just as delusional. He seems to believe everything Harry says," James ran a hand through his hair and swung his legs up onto the bed.
Lily scooted closer, feeling the need to have his skin on hers, hoping that by doing so she could somehow comfort him. "And what do you think, James?"
The sounds of the dying fire filled the room for several extended moments while James sat and thought. Lily waited for him as patiently as possible though she felt that whatever the end result of this conversation would be, would determine both of their next moves. So far, she didn't know what to think. Which would be worse; a son who thinks he can face Voldemort? Or a son who can face Voldemort? For now, she would have to trust her husband's judgment, and hope that they could come to a decision together.
"I didn't listen to what else Harry had to say," James said finally. "I barely listened. It all just sounded like nonsense. Killing Voldemort… not being able to kill Voldemort… the Order… being the Boy-Who-Lived… parseltongue… It all just sounded like nonsense," he repeated again.
Lily put her hand gently on his. "Do you think it was nonsense, James?"
"I told him to talk to me tomorrow, after he had a good nights sleep and could sort everything out," he said.
"But do you believe him, James," she said, trying again.
"Am I supposed to believe him?" James said a little hotly. "Nothing he said sounded even remotely believable. No one in their right mind would have wasted a minute listening to his lies."
"James," Lily said softly, she squeezed her fingers into his, forcing him to allow her to grasp his sweaty hand. He was nervous, and his grip was tight. "Do you believe him?" she said one last time.
He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and swallowed heavily. "I wish I didn't," he said softly.
"What're you doing?" Ron nearly shouted, until she motioned desperately for his silence.
"Can't you see they're having a bit of a private moment?" said Hermione, rushing them back out of the portrait hole.
Ron glanced passed her, but all he saw were the two Potter children sitting on the couch before the portrait of the Fat Lady swung shut again.
"What'd you wake me up for if you're not going to go in?" the Fat Lady demanded.
Hermione glared at her. "Sorry, but I realized I left a my homework in the library, c'mon, Weasley."
"What—?" Ron demanded as Hermione tugged his arm and pulled him away from the common room door. "What've I got to follow you for?"
She didn't pause, but glared back at him resentfully. "I caught you out after curfew, and I'm the Head Girl."
Ron pulled his arm back roughly, but continued to follow her anyways. "That doesn't mean I've got to do whatever you say. You've given me my punishment and led me back to the common room like a good little girl, Granger. Now, I just want to go to bed." He stopped walking and made to turn around until he noticed her come to a halt, too.
"Fine," she said, her lips twisting as if she was thinking of something very unpleasant. "You walk with me down to the library and back and I'll pretend like I didn't find you wandering the dungeons, okay?"
As quickly as he could Ron weighed the offer. He had been given a weeks worth of detention and docked twenty house points. "Agreed," he said, it was a fair trade. More than fair, really… "Why?" he asked, suddenly suspicious. Why would she, little miss goody-two-shoes, want to overlook the rules like that just to go on a walk… The realization dawning on him, Ron started smirking. "You like me," he said.
Her eyes widened in horror and she started walking back down the hall. "Don't disgust me, Weasley."
"C'mon," he said, hurrying after her, suddenly enjoying himself very much. "Admit it, Granger. You've got an outrageous crush on me."
"No," she snapped back, clearly not as amused by the predicament as he was. "What I wanted was to give Bran and Mare a moment to themselves."
Ron wrinkled his nose, but he couldn't figure out why they would need to be left alone. "Why?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Because it's tactful, something you obviously know nothing about."
He glared at her. "Shut up, Granger." They walked on in restless quite until they reached the library. Then since Hermione had obviously been making up an excuse to the Fat Lady they turned back around without retrieving any forgotten homework.
"What'd we have to leave for though?" Ron asked, trying again.
"You've got a bit family, don't you?" she asked, sounding exasperated. "Don't you ever need a private moment alone with one of your brothers?"
Ron thought about the Burrow and then about his brothers. "No," he answered immediately.
"Well," Hermione sighed. "Then maybe it's just a brother and sister thing," she said carelessly.
Ron tensed up, but kept on walking.
Hermione seemed to immediately realize her choice of wording and the silence became even more uncomfortable.
"You know I didn't mean it that way," she said after a moment had passed.
"What way?" he said, voice strained. He didn't want to think about it, let alone talk about it, least of all with her.
"You know," she said.
He didn't answer.
He ran his fingers along the scales of Nagini's spine, letting them linger while she slithered forward.
"He is searching for more information as you suspected, my Lord," the Death Eater that stood before him said.
"Whom has he been speaking to?" he asked.
"Snape," the Death Eater said, voice trembling slightly as Nagini raised herself on her tail and her head neared the level of his own. "He has also sent a letter to his son."
"And the letter said what?" he asked.
The Death Eater stumbled back a bit, trying to set a distance between himself and Nagini. "I—I do not know, my Lord. I was not able too see what it said."
He frowned in displeasure, but moved on in his questioning. "Did he reveal anything else of interest?"
"He—he, ah," the Death Eater said, moving forward a bit now that Nagini was retreating back to her spot at the Dark Lords feet. "Seemed to think that the memory you found was planted."
"Planted?" he mused aloud. "What I found in his head was a true memory."
"Between Malfoy and the Potter boy?" the Death Eater asked.
"Yes, Lucius seemed to be under the impression that he had more to offer than I did."
"Never, my Lord," the Death Eater was quick to assure.
The Dark Lord remained silent, and then he reached down to feel Nagini's reassuring scales again. "I want more information, Wormtail, I want you to continue to trail Lucius until you have more concrete evidence. He is a valuable asset to my cause, but this defiance cannot be allowed."
The Death Eater bowed low and hurriedly and made to exit.
"Oh, and Wormtail, bring back everything Lucius discovers about Harry Potter to me."
A/N: I had a lot of trouble uploading this chapter, for some reason wouldn't take my doc and it edited it out my page/line breaks so I had to improvise a bit. I hope to get it replaced in the next few days, but if it bothers you, the chapter is also up on my webpage (there's a link on my authors page under homepage). Sorry the chapter is shorter than usual, I was trying something a little different. I've started work on Chapter 16 which should be more to what you're expecting (and waiting for), and I think it should be up around Christmas depending on how my exams go. In the mean time, enjoy and as always: THANKS for reading!