Behind Closed Doors
Chapter 11: Warning Signs
A draft of cold December air came through a crack in the window by Zara's bed. Even though it was slight, the brushing of air over her exposed left leg was enough to rouse the young Gryffindor from her sleep. She opened her eyes to an almost completely darkened room, save for the ray of moonlight coming in from the window. It was several days to the end of term and Christmas was a week away. Despite the fact that the holidays were on the horizon, Zara still felt exhausted. She rolled over sleepily onto her stomach intending to return to her slumber when she felt something unusual there.
Rolling back onto her side briefly, Zara retrieved the source of her discomfort. Holding it up to the light, she saw they were two white feathers belonging to some type of fowl. She assumed chicken. Zara frowned in concentration as she tried to remember how the feathers could have gotten there to begin with. After a few minutes of fruitless thinking, she made a mental note to ask Ginny about it in the morning. Then Zara proceeded to fall into a blissful and uninterrupted sleep with the feathers tucked safely into her palm.
It wasn't until Zara awoke the next morning that the presence of the chicken feathers began to worry her. As the other girls in her dormitory went down to the Great Hall for breakfast, Zara grabbed Ginny's arm.
"Wait!" She whispered urgently.
Ginny looked back at her friend in surprise, "What's the matter? Are we having a test or something that I've forgotten about?"
Zara ignored her last question, "Did we walk down to Hagrid's hut after classes yesterday?"
Ginny considered this for a moment, thinking before she answered, "No."
"He has the only chickens on the grounds right?" Zara pressed.
"Yes Zara, why do you want to know?" Ginny asked in a tone laced with concern. She was becoming increasingly worried as well.
"Because I found chicken feathers in my bed," Zara replied, pulling them out from a pocket in her robes."
Ginny's eyes widened, "Those aren't chicken feathers Zara."
"What are they then?"
"Rooster feathers," Ginny said, before studying her friend. "Do you ever have trouble remembering things you've done?"
Zara scoffed, "Oh Ginny that happens to everyone."
"I know that. But do you ever feel tired, even though you've gone to bed early?"
"Yeah," Zara said slowly. "How did you know?"
"Because it's been happening to me too, I feel like I've been up until late at night but I can't remember why."
"So have I," Zara admitted. "It's like we lost time or something."
"That's impossible isn't it?" Ginny asked looking to her friend.
"Of course it is! It's absurd."
"Maybe we're just coming down with something. We should go see Madam Pomfrey."
"And tell her what Gin? It's not like she could really do anything for being tired. Everyone is."
Ginny nodded, "You're right, maybe we just need the holidays to come. Are you staying?"
Zara shook her head, "No. My brother is but that's only because of the heir of Slytherin. I think I need to get away for awhile."
Ginny smirked at her, "And you want to be spoiled by your parents."
Zara giggled, "Maybe…"
"That's why I liked being home alone last year. I love my brothers. But it was nice having my mum and dad to myself for awhile."
"Hey Gin, can I ask you a question?"
"Do your brothers play tricks on you?"
"That comes with the territory when you have Fred and George for brothers."
Zara smiled, "I guess so."
"But if you mean, would they do what Draco did to you at your Grandfather's funeral, then no. Mum would have their heads. Then again, all brothers are different."
"Yeah, I guess they are," Zara said, wishing that her brother were like Ginny's sometimes.
"Come on, let's go grab some breakfast. I'm starving." Ginny said and pulled her from the room.
When the train pulled into King's Cross Station on Monday evening, Narcissa was waiting on the platform for her daughter. Zara disembarked a few minutes later in a throng of other Hogwarts students that had been desperate to get away from the dark mood that Slytherin's heir had forced upon the school. Narcissa felt relief flood her body as students cleared away and she saw Zara walking toward her. Since she had learned about what was going on at the school, she felt slightly nervous. While Narcissa reminded herself that her children weren't endangered by the heir of Slytherin, Zara's recent brush with the dark arts unnerved her even now. If Zara had fallen ill just by holding a vile of the powdered death draught, there was no telling what could happen with the Dark Lord's diary in the hands of the Weasley girl.
"Hello Mummy," Zara said coming up to her mother.
"Hello Zara, how was the trip?"
"Fine, I read a book most of the time. Draco told me to tell you to send more pumpkin pasties for Christmas."
"I'll make sure to do so," Narcissa replied with a slight smile. "Come, let us get you home."
Narcissa and Zara apparated into the front hall a few minutes later and without wasting a moment, Zara began to walk in the direction of her father's study. Naturally, she had been dying to see him even though it had only been a few weeks since they had seen each other last.
"Zara," Narcissa called to her lightly. "Your father is in with Mr. Goyle. Why don't you go upstairs and one of the elves will bring you dinner? I'll send your father up when he's finished."
Zara turned, "Yes Mummy." And with that, she headed up the stairs.
Meanwhile in the study, Lucius was having a drink with Goyle, Sr.
"Yes, I planted the diary on the Weasley girl sometime ago," the elder Malfoy told his companion smugly.
"Ingenious Lucius, absolutely ingenious! If this goes according to plan the Dark Lord will keep you in the highest esteem not to mention Hogwarts will finally be purified," Goyle said in praise of his friend."
"That is my intention, yes," Lucius replied. "And Arthur Weasley will be at fault for the downfall of Hogwarts, all because of his silly little girl."
"What about Zara, you don't think she would get a hold of the diary do you?"
"That my dear man would require her to be friends with the Weasley girl and Zara knows better than that. Besides, Severus is keeping an eye on Zara and he has reported that she is doing quite well despite the Gryffindor setback."
"You've taken that quite well. If Gregory was sorted into Slytherin, I would have hit the roof."
"There is no point in getting upset Goyle, Zara has always been full of surprises and the last thing I want to do is discourage her sweet nature. Shrewdness and cunning are fine qualities for Draco. But sweetness and cleverness will serve Zara better in the future. I want her to have the world at her feet."
"Spoken like a father besotted with his daughter," Goyle said with a knowing smirk.
"Is a man not allowed to care for his children now?" Lucius asked, looking up at his friend.
"Oh he is. I've just never seen anyone have you wrapped around their finger quite like Zara has. You'll have your hands full when it is time to find a husband for her. She'll be the object of everyone's affections."
"Someday," Lucius emphasized. "Until then, keeping her safe is my main concern."
"I thought Dumbledore agreed to do so."
"He agreed, but I don't trust him. When the Dark Lord returns, he'll take care of Zara."
"So you're going to encourage her to use her abilities for him?"
"There was never any question about that," Lucius said glancing at his watch. "If we're done here, I am going to see Zara. I'm sure she is home by now."
"Oh yes, we're finished. Keep me apprised of the situation at Hogwarts," Goyle said, setting his glass down and disapparating from the room with a loud crack.
Lucius exited his study and headed up the stairs. Walking straight up the steps, he entered the children's wing before knocking softly on Zara's door at the end of the hall. The sudden noise startled Zara who was laying on her bed on her stomach, writing to Tom in the journal which she had for the first half of the holidays. Quickly, she stashed the journal under her pillow and closed the ink bottle before shoving it in her nightstand drawer. The quill had fallen onto her quilt and the ink had stained the fabric. But Zara didn't notice and instead hastily put the quill in the drawer before closing it.
"Zara?" Lucius called from behind the door.
"Come in," Zara said smoothing out her clothes and sitting back down on the bed.
The door opened and Lucius stepped inside, "Hello sweetheart," He said. Zara walked over to him and he wrapped her in a hug. "How was your ride back to London?"
Zara smiled and hugged him tightly, "Fine daddy. I missed you."
"I missed you too my darling," He said before pulling away. "Did you eat?"
"Yes, Pinky brought me dinner."
"Good, " He said and then noticed the stain on the bed.
"Have you been writing in bed?"
Zara froze momentarily, "Um…yes. Extra credit assignment."
Lucius smiled and stroked her cheek, "Ever the little student I see. But be careful, writing in bed is bad for your back.
"I'll be sure to remember that," Zara said still smiling and keeping the nervousness out of her voice.
Lucius waved his wand over the spot and it disappeared, "You should get some rest."
"I will daddy. As soon as I'm done, I promise."
"Alright my love," He said kissing her cheek. "Sweet dreams."
"Good night daddy," She said and returned the kiss.
"I will see you in the morning."
"Ok daddy," She said and he left. Once the door was closed, Zara opened the drawer and retrieved the diary, ink, and quill. She opened the book and ink before writing, "That was close," on an empty page.
"Yes it was," Tom Riddle replied via the diary. "Remember Zara this is our secret as well as Ginny's. If either of you is caught, I'll go away forever."
"I know Tom. When can we finally meet?"
"Soon, my dear," said the handwriting, "Very soon."
The next day Zara was walking around in the animal sanctuary. There was a small forest located in the back of the property and like the Black Forest at Hogwarts, it contained many different creatures. But unlike the forest there, this one had invisible boundaries that went all around the property to prevent the creatures from leaving. It was common knowledge that Lucius Malfoy was a collector of fine things. However, the impressing arrays of creatures were all here because of Narcissa. A supporter of creatures (not including house elves of course), Narcissa had started this sanctuary with a pair of unicorns who had been owned by a circus type company and been neglected and abused. She had used her money and influence to buy the animals and had them transported here to Malfoy Manor. Today, the family had several more who were the children of the first two. All of the rest of the creatures had similar stories. Lucius wasn't exactly and animal lover. To him, they were simply pieces of his collections, expressions of indulgence. But no matter what, Zara loved it here. She found solace amongst the animals and they accepted her without issue Snow crunched under Zara's boots as she walked the narrow trail through the forest. She walked along, lost in thought about what was going on at Hogwarts until a voice called out to her.
Zara turned to her right only to find a pair of male unicorns staring at her. Both were quite handsome with their pure white coats. Bt it was clear that one was younger than the other.
"Hello Zeus," Zara said to the older unicorn. "Hello Dionysus," she said turning to the younger unicorn, Zeus' son. It was unusual for a human being to converse with creatures. But Zara had never known any differently. She hadn't realized that she had been given such a gift until a year ago when she saw her mother walking in the sanctuary and not responding to any of the conversation around her. Zara had also not told anyone of her discovery, not even her father.
"Miss Zara, I am glad that you are here. I thought you would not return," Dionysus said gravely.
"What do you mean?" Zara asked, frowning. "I would never miss Christmas here."
"We have heard from our kin at Hogwarts that there has been trouble at the school Miss Zara," Zeus explained.
"Yes, that is true. But I am not in danger, it is those who are muggle born that you should worry about."
"While you may not be in peril at the moment Miss Zara, Juno, myself, Dionysus, and the others must warn you that you will face great danger soon."
"Danger? From whom?"
"He who must not be named," Dionysus said fearfully.
"But he is dead Dionysus. Everyone knows that."
"He who must not be named is not dead Miss Zara, merely weakened. Your fellow Gryffindor Mr. Potter fought him last year. It is he who is behind the attacks at the school. He is not strong enough to do it himself, but we creatures are sure that he is using someone to accomplish his means. And we fear that he may try to use you as well," Zeus said firmly.
"Me? But I'm not special. I'm just Zara."
"On the contrary Miss Zara, you are a very powerful witch and your powers will only to continue to grow with the passing years. He who must not be named would use you for his purposes just as others in your family have served him."
Zara nodded, she knew about her Aunt Bellatrix and cousin Sirius. "Ok Zeus, I promise to be careful."
"Your wand will offer you great protection, carry it with you at all times. But should you find yourself without it, make sure you have this," Zeus said and plucked out a small clump of his fur with his teeth before dropping it in Zara's palm.
"What do I do with this?"
"Put my fur into a small vial and wear it around your neck. The coats of us unicorns are pure Miss Zara. If you should find that you are losing yourself, touch the vial. It will restore you to your true self."
"Thank you Zeus."
"Your mother has shown all of us creatures in the forest great kindness and so have you. You will have our protection always. Use it well."
"I will." Zara said. But before she could ask any more questions, a pop sounded and Pinkie the house elf appeared beside them.
"Miss Zara," said the elf in a high-pitched squeaky voice. "Your presence is requested for lunch."
"Thank you Pinky. I have to go now," she said to the two other creatures. The house elves were the only ones who knew Zara's secret about talking to the other creatures. "But I'll be back later."
"Remember what we have told you Miss Zara," Dionysus reminded her.
"I'll remember," Zara assured him as she took Pinky's hand. "Goodbye."
A second and another pop later and both the house elf and the girl were gone.
"We should have told her about Mr. Lucius!" Dionysus exclaimed.
"It would not have done any good Dionysus. If Mr. Lucius is involved with what is going on at Hogwarts, he could not stop it now. And in any event we cannot get involved in their affairs. It will only make things worse."
"But what about Miss Zara?"
"We have done all that we can for her Dionysus. Now we have to wait. Come, we best go home. Your mother will wonder where we've gone off to," Zeus said before turning and walking away from the trail.
After a moment, Dionysus began to follow his father reluctantly.