Parvati dumped a copy of The Daily Prophet in front of Lavender, insisting that she read it. At first Lavender couldn't understand why. How was it her business if prisoners broke out of Azkaban? Catching them was an Auror's job not hers. Lavender was tired of everyone getting excited over this sort of thing. The whole school had been hysterical when Sirius Black escaped two years earlier, and in the end, it had turned to nothing. Besides, Lavender had been late to breakfast; she didn't need to be late to class as well. But her friend insisted, vehemently jabbing at the front page with her red fingernail until Lavender obediently read. Then she saw the name Bones and suddenly Lavender was interested and all thoughts of punctuality were gone. Even if Parvati wanted to she couldn't have pried Lavender away from that paper.
During the last war some of those criminals had murdered a man named Edgar Bones, his wife and his children.
"Susan's uncle," Parvati whispered. Parvati knew everyone's secrets; her parents were Healers who had treated practically every witch and wizard in Britain. She often overheard them talking about their patients or incidents at St. Mungo's. She wasn't allowed to tell other people what she heard -- her parents were very strict about that. It normally took a steel bar to pry information out of her, which was frustrating. Sometimes Lavender thought she enjoyed knowing things other people didn't. When she did say something, Lavender listened.
The victim's sister, Amelia Bones, who was someone important on the Wizengamot -- the Head of Magical Law Enforcement -- described her family's reaction to the escapes. Lavender remembered hearing Susan talk about an Aunt Amelia who knew things about Potter. That couldn't be a coincidence. Parvati had to be right. The article went on to say that Edgar's parents had been murdered by Death Eaters, years before their son was killed. Lavender whistled through her teeth as she looked up and searched the Hufflepuff table -- without success -- for any sign of Susan. The girl's grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousins had all been murdered, making her far more interesting than Lavender had ever imagined.
"All those children, killed in their own home," Lavender whispered, as she closed her eyes, picturing the funeral -- the steel-grey coffins standing in a row, a beloved doll decorating the smallest one, Susan standing nearby crying... But no, Lavender thought, That wouldn't have happened. We were all babies then. Susan's parents would have been the ones standing by the coffin crying. Had they held Susan while they mourned? Had Susan even been born when the attack took place? Lavender would talk to Susan at the next opportunity to tell her how sorry she was. Perhaps she would learn from Susan how it felt to experience something so extraordinary, a tragedy so huge. Lavender felt the exciting things, the things that mattered happened in the past and to other people, while her own life remained dull and uneventful.
The next part was sickening, just sickening. Longbottom's parents – she didn't want to even think about them.
"Read the last part," Parvati said. "Those were Ron's uncles."
Two brothers named Prewett had fought off five Death Eaters, only to die together. That fight must have been brilliant. Lavender could see them, red hair flying, hurling hexes at their enemies -- almost succeeding until at last, overwhelmed by greater numbers, death. (Lavender knew without a doubt the two had looked like Ron.) She read the paragraph about the Prewetts over and over again.
I would fight like that, Lavender thought. They wouldn't capture me. I'd fight till I was dead.
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Lavender told Seamus the rumour that was flying all over school was true -- ten Death Eaters had broken out of Azkaban. When Seamus first heard the story from the others, he hadn't believed any of it, but then Lavender brought him a copy of The Daily Prophet and he saw that it was true. The escape of the Death Eaters and the stories of their crimes were described in bold letters, with pictures and everything.
In Herbology, Seamus sat brooding in his usual seat next to Dean. Lavender had claimed that the two men killed while fighting off five Death Eaters were Ron's uncles -- Ron who had shared a room with Seamus for five years! Edgar Bones, who'd been murdered with his entire family was supposed to be Susan's uncle. Susan Bones sat in front of him. If he wanted to, he could reach over and touch her braid as she sat whispering with her friend, Hannah.
"If you knew all along, why didn't you tell me?" Hannah had pitched her voice low, but Seamus was close enough to make out her words.
"Why would I?"
"I don't know, perhaps then I could have said something, acted differently."
"You don't think he wants people to be kind to him because of his mum and dad, do you?" Susan asked.
The girls were talking about Longbottom. No one needed to tell Seamus that the tortured Aurors were Neville's parents. The newspaper had published their pictures; Mrs. Longbottom looked exactly like Neville.
Earlier in their room, Seamus had read about the attack secretly, so Neville wouldn't see. Reading the story had felt wrong, like peeping through windows, but Seamus had been curious. Half-way through the article he'd remembered sitting in fourth year Defense class, watching the madman they'd had for a teacher torture a spider. The creature had twisted and writhed under the pain, turning in on itself in grotesque contortions. Sitting in his own room on his own bed with the newspaper spread out in front of him, he could imagine the smiling people from the photograph, Neville's parents, wrenched and contorted like the spider had been, crawling on twisted limbs, impaled by the steel-strong power of the Cruciatus curse. Disgusted, grabbed the paper and hid it under his mattress.
Now Seamus eyed his classmates, glancing from Neville, alone and silent, to Susan, still whispering with Hannah, and then to Ron arguing with Potter. Seamus was surrounded by those who were left after the killing and the wounding. The war, which was supposed to be over and forgotten, had walked in and taken the seats next to him in class.
All summer his mother insisted that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was dead and gone, and good riddance to him. Potter, the neglected orphan, lied in a sad attempt to gain attention from the tragedies that surrounded him, while Dumbledore repeated Potter's lies like a gullible old fool. She'd almost succeeded in convincing Seamus. It made sense. He knew Harry was despised and mistreated by his Muggle family, while Cedric's death was understandable to anyone who'd seen how dangerous the Tri-Wizard Tournament had been. Then one night, Seamus had heard his mother whispering with his aunt, asking what they could possibly do if the old bad times returned. He realized she feared that Potter was telling the truth.
Seamus stared at Potter with resentment. His mother was afraid and it was all he could do at Christmas to pry himself away from her grip, and return to school. Somehow Harry was to blame. Everything -- Cedric's death, Sirius Black, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the escape of these Death Eaters -- revolved around Harry. But how it could all be Harry's fault he didn't know.
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Draco Malfoy knew immediately that the Dark Lord had arranged the escape of the Death Eaters from Azkaban. At Christmas, his father had hinted that something big was about to happen. This morning, the family owl dropped a copy of The Daily Prophet on his plate and it was all clear: the Dark Lord had promised to free his servants and he had.
The Ministry blamed Sirius Black, as if he'd had a dog's chance of prying anyone out of Azkaban; no one could be stupid enough to believe that. The idea was almost offensive, but his father always said lies were useful to fool fools and should be employed as needed. Draco supposed this lie was useful as otherwise, the Dark Lord would have made sure he received his due credit.
The faces of the escapees were all over the front page. Merlin, they'd been ravaged by Azkaban, but not broken by it. They could frighten their enemies with taunts from prison photos printed on a newspaper page. Draco's father knew these people. He'd been one of them himself but had been clever enough to avoid gaol. A shudder rose from Draco's chest and tingled over his skin as he read the newspaper accounts. In his excitement, he skipped words and sentences and had to reread whole paragraphs twice.
His excitement came to a crashing halt when he read about the deaths of Edgar Bones and his family. The newspaper featured their pictures: the children were young, just little kids, too young for Hogwarts. Draco could not figure out why anyone would need to kill them. How could they have threatened the Dark Lord?
He shook himself to stop such thoughts. Winning required sacrifices and success came at a cost. He reminded himself that breaking through the family's protections had taken impressive skill. Even their enemies admitted that the Death Eaters were formidable. Draco thought it was obvious that they had all the power and talent. Barty Crouch after years trapped in Azkaban overpowered Mad-eye Moody, an Auror who was supposed to be so formidable. That bastard who'd sent so many of Draco's father's friends to prison, who'd had the audacity to try to arrest his father, ended up locked in his own trunk for months. Crouch had even fooled Dumbledore, the brains of the wizarding world. One Death Eater had out maneuvered the best the other side had.
When Draco came to Bellatrix Lestrange, he stopped reading and took several breaths before continuing. She'd been beautiful once; he'd seen the pictures. His mother always said that her sister had given everything for the Dark Lord. She was right. Azkaban had consumed his aunt. The woman in the picture looked like she would devour the world and enjoy doing it if her master asked it of her. Draco felt a secret twinge of fear as he looked at her. He didn't want to give his all to the Dark Lord. He reminded himself that Malfoys were different, because they knew how to look out for themselves.
The article made no mention of Bellatrix Lestrange's connection to his family. (His father's power and influence was an unbreakable bulwark that could be relied upon.) He didn't think the other students were aware of it; nobody had ever mentioned a word about her to him. He wondered how much Nott knew. Had his father kept silent -- perhaps even on Malfoy orders -- or had he been sitting back all this time, knowing more about Bellatrix and what she'd done even than Draco knew, watching him, enjoying his ignorance? Draco could never tell what Nott was thinking. He suspected that the others were ignorant, though.
He regretted his parent's success at hushing up the relationship even as part of him was glad of it. The strength and skill, the raw power his aunt had used to destroy the two Aurors clearly intimidated everyone who knew of it. In the article the Ministry made a brave show of contempt, but their fear of her was apparent in every word.
Longbottom had Aurors for parents? Who would ever have thought that? Of course, they were permanently confined to St. Mungo's. The department must have hit rock-bottom when it recruited those two. Why else would they have broken so easily? He remembered Longbottom charging at him outside Potions. At the time it had made no sense, but he understood now. Had Longbottom known about his aunt Bellatrix or was all that anger only over the St. Mungo's remark? Draco couldn't tell.
Draco folded the paper neatly and laid it on the table. He had no idea what was to come after this break-out, and asking his father would be of no help. He knew that he would only say that Draco had a place among the Death Eaters.
Later that day, Draco decided that he was missing an opportunity. He would let a few people know that Draco Malfoy had some fearsome allies. He caught Lavender Brown outside of Charms; most people didn't know that she was a Mudblood, but Draco had figured it out. She needed to learn to show more respect. He would make it clear to that girl exactly who was in his family and what she could do, especially to insolent little Mudbloods. He'd only just begun when Seamus, Dean and Parvati came up from behind him.
"Is that git bothering you, Lavender?" Seamus called.
Lavender ignored her friends. "You're bragging, Malfoy? About having her in your family?" she asked. "If it were me I would want to keep that to myself."