Birds of a Feather, Chapter 17, Another Lineage Test
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter Universe belongs to J. K. Rowling.
A/N: Please don't pass out in shock at seeing another chapter.
The house was old and decrepit, and wore its desuetude with ill grace. It would have reminded someone, if someone had actually come close enough to notice, of a dowager who was still trying to maintain a façade of respectability in spite of worn-out lace, too-shiny taffeta dresses, and spidered stockings. But only if the dowager was also used to poisoning gentlemen callers, and who had a kitchen full of very sharp knives that were never used on something as innocuous as pork. Or beef.
If that someone were to step inside, the feeling of evil would have grown immediately stronger, more menacing, as if the bars had been taken off the cages in the zoo, and the wolverines were looking starved. Of course, the wolverines wouldn't have done anything, because with the pit viper right behind the someone, they wouldn't have had to do anything to forward their own agendas.
Inside the house, in one of the upper rooms, which had a fireplace big enough to roast a. . . well, a something, there was movement. A quick, sharp movement, as a rat scurried out of the shadows in which it had been lurking. The rat then stopped, and stood on its back paws, and started to grow.
"How pleasant for you to finally join us, Wormtail." One of the other occupants deigned to notice the still rather rat-like man. This other occupant was about as far opposite this Wormtail as it was possible to be. At least in matters of dress and deportment; the feel of evil, and corruption, and barely concealed loathing, on the other hand, was very similar.
"You don't understand," were the first words of Wormtail. "I had to-"
"I don't care about your excuses, Wormtail," the aristocratic blond man sniffed. "What have you found out?"
"I don't have to answer to you, Malfoy" the other man sniveled. "You're not my master."
"No?" the blond asked quietly. "Do you truly believe that, Wormtail? Do you really think there is any sort of hope for you if I were to go to the authorities?"
Wormtail flinched, then straightened, marginally. "If you tell anyone. . . If you tell anyone, then I'll tell the Duchess."
Snap! The sharp retort of a slender cane smacking flesh echoed around the room. "What did you say?" the taller man demanded. "You forget your place, Wormtail. You were the one who actually took the baby. Did you forget?"
"You can't prove that," whined Wormtail. "You can't go near the Veela colonies-you know how much they hate you. You can't tell anyone who matters!" Despite his defiant words, the look in Wormtail's face was that of a craven coward.
"Ah, Wormtail. You were never able to see the bigger picture, were you?" The look on Malfoy's face would have given pause to anyone. Well, anyone who wasn't already a craven coward. It had been quite some time since Wormtail had last looked the other in the eye.
Wormtail cringed even more, then snuck a glance at the large chair in front of the fireplace. It was always a gamble as to whether or not they would have an audience. Judging from their not having been interrupted yet, he assumed that the Dark Lord was either asleep, which he hoped devoutly, or biding his time so that his vengeance was fully ripe, which he rather feared.
Lucius smiled, slightly. It was the only outward expression of the inward satisfaction he had when being able to look down upon someone else. Which happened a lot. Truly he detested having to work with such lower-class slime, but then, there were things that only a rat could acquire.
"Enough," came a rasping wheeze from the chair. Wormtail blanched and started to perspire even more freely. "After being gone so long, Wormtail, I certainly hope that you were able to find what we needed."
Wormtail hunched over and sidled towards the fire. "Master, it was a difficult mission, understand, and I had to go to three different places-"
"Shut up, you stupid fool!" the rasping voice commanded. "I do not want to hear your sniveling excuses. Were you successful or not?"
Wormtail's head bobbed rapidly. "Yes, yes, Master. I was able to overhear a rather important conversation between Bagman and Snodgrass about the arrangements. We will be able to intercept the trunks without being seen." Here he shot a slightly supercilious glance at Lucius, but didn't say anything.
Lucius knew that Wormtail felt some modicum of superiority over him, due to his much-used Animagus form, but truly didn't care. He knew exactly how valuable Voldermort found the rat, and looked forward to the day when that almost-insignificant value was eclipsed by the man's cowardice.
The creature on the chair, having noticed the byplay, wheezed a small laugh, which did not bring any sort of cheer to the air of the stifling room. "Wormtail, do not forget that your usefulness to me is not such as would keep me from immediately replacing you."
Wormtail's face paled even more, and he fell to his knees in front of the chair. "Of course, Master. I am always yours to command."
"Of course you are, Wormtail. Never forget that I own you. Now, tell me exactly what you overheard."
Wormtail glanced fearfully at the creature, then started to speak in a whining voice. As he did so, the creature in the chair occasionally let out a dry, rasping laugh, which did nothing to reassure Wormtail.
Their planning session lasted until late that night.
Chaos was the order of the day in the infirmary. Ginny's last exclamation, and the collective intake of breath from the horde gathered at the door preceded a commotion any self-respecting riot would be proud of. Ginny's mother. . . well, one of Ginny's mothers, apparently, started it off.
"WHAT!?" Molly showed off the talent that she used mostly for controlling her sons. All the redheads in the room flinched, but Molly took no notice of that. She was, after all, somewhat busy racing towards her daughter. She wasn't the only one. Harry's (and perhaps Ginny's other) mother was right behind her. She wasn't as vocal, but she managed to keep up with Molly Weasley. The respective husbands didn't sprint, but their walk was rather accelerated. Small dust flurries fled from their feet's passage.
And it was a rather interesting demonstration of the fact that sounds become higher-pitched as the entity emitting the sound travels towards the listener.
This last observation was only noticed by Hermione, as the two on the bed were too preoccupied with the red-headed missile. Harry thought about casting a shield, but didn't have time to even reach for his wand before he found himself subjected to a possibly life-threatening hug. He was embarrassed at the squeak that slipped out when Mrs. Weasley hugged him, but thankfully no-one noticed.
A giggle from his Bonded alerted him to the fact that his estimation of audience size was too small by one. But hearing her laugh like that gave him some hope that she'd gotten past her former pique.
A sniffle from the same girl a moment later disabused him of the notion. He tried to turn to look at Ginny, but was still wrapped in Mrs. Weasley's arms.
Harry tried to disentangle himself, but found that not only had Molly seized him, but Ginny was now apparently trying to crush his hand with hers. It was somewhat painful, but reassured him that she still needed him and wanted his support.
Over the shoulder of his Mate's mother, he saw his own parents, who hadn't let Molly beat them by much in the footrace. His mother was anxiously hovering close by, and his father was standing just behind her with shiny hope-filled eyes.
Eventually the general loud conversation and jockeying for position alerted Molly to the rest of the audience, which seemed to have grown much larger while she'd been Molly-hugging the children. The Twins were there, and Arthur, of course. And Headmistress McGonagall. Oh, and there was Hermione, Ginny's best friend. Molly smiled slightly, noticing that Neville Longbottom had arrived too, and was holding Hermione's hand. The Twins, being who they were, were standing at the back and intently discussing something, although the other hub-bub obscured their voices. The Twins' friends, that nice Lee Jordan and Angelina Johnson were there too.
The too-perfectly-beautiful Delacour woman was babbling something in French to her husband. And next to her were her two daughters, who were sniffling a bit while looking positively ravishing, which didn't seem quite fair, and looking at Ginny and Harry with mixed emotions. Which Molly could have probably guessed at if she'd had the time to think about it.
And there were a few other students that Molly didn't know. They looked like part of the delegation from Beauxbatons-maybe they were Harry's friends? In fact, the only one missing that should have been there was her Ronald, but perhaps that was a good thing, taking into account his rather-more-volcanic-than-usual-for-Weasleys temper.
Whatever the case, the sound levels in the hospital wing were approaching uncomfortable, even for the Weasleys. But no-one seemed to be in quite the right frame of mind to take charge.
Until the door to Madame Pomfrey's small potions lab flew open with a bang, and Madame Pomfrey came storming out. "What is going on here?" she demanded, in her best health-care professional voice, which had been known to cow even Albus Dumbledore, back when he had been the Headmaster.
This didn't help, as everyone tried to answer at once.
"She said she was-"
"-came in here for-"
"-soutenir notre frère-"
"-the fifty-two galleons-"
"-we just wanted to-"
"-stupid Slytherin cow-"
"-Mairzy doats and dozy doats-"
"QUIET!" Madame Pomfrey yelled again. "The next person to interrupt will have the opportunity of staying here tonight and helping clean bedpans!" The threat was delivered at a volume that none of the horde had ever heard before. Well, at least in the hospital wing.
Silence achieved, Poppy continued. "Now, I want all the children out of here except immediate family members! You have 'til three!"
Half the group hotly responded with complaints and excuses until they heard "TWO!" Then there was a general stampede toward the door, although Hermione really did turn back and apologize for their rudeness, eliciting a ghost of a smile from the Headmistress.
Poppy looked around in disapproval, but couldn't quite force the rest of them out, although she was sorely tempted when she saw the Weasley twins, who were giving her their patented "Innocent Weasley Look No. 4", which she usually only saw when they had been discussing money. Satisfying herself with "No-nonsense Healer Glare No. 3", she turned around and waved Professor Flitwick out of the Potions lab.
He emerged carrying a basin with an oily pink liquid in it, and a large sheet of parchment, which was glowing a pale yellow.
The Weasleys looked rather curious at the sight, while the Delacours just looked hopeful.
Professor Flitwick took over, resting the stone basin on the table beside the bed where Ginny had been. He cleared his voice and gave the instructions. "We need to collect two drops of blood from you, Miss Weasley. I'll mix that into the Lineage Potion. It will turn white at which point I will place five drops onto one end of this piece of parchment. The magic in the parchment interacts with the potion, you see, and will normally draw out the family tree of the named individual. In a case like this, where there has been a magical adoption, we will actually get not only the family tree of the adoptee, but also the genealogy of the family into which she was adopted. These trees will extend back as far as the first appearance of the given individual's surname, or surnames, as we expect. Do you have any questions?"
Molly and Arthur looked at each other, then shook their heads. Ginny looked slightly. . . well, more than just slightly apprehensive, but Harry whispered something into her ear, and she stood up straighter, resolve strengthened.
Fred raised his hand. "Well, it's not really a question for you, Professor. What I mean to say is that Ron's not here-should we wait for him, Mum?"
Molly looked at Arthur, and they held one of their accustomed wordless conversations, before Molly turned back and shook her head. "No, Fred, I think it might be better if we just tell him afterward." She didn't notice the relieved look on Ginny's face.
"Okay, then. Miss Weasley, may I see your hand for a moment?" The blood dropped into the basin, and Flitwick stirred the potion carefully clockwise until all the yellow faded into a bright whiteness. He stuck a tongue depressor into the liquid, then lifted it out and carefully counted out five drops as they fell onto the charmed parchment.
Everyone watched in fascination as Ginny's name was slowly spelled out. Thin, spidery letters formed the name Ginevra Molly Weasley. But they kept writing, and the Delacours started tearing up when they read the final name; Madeline Amelia Delacour, b. 11 August, 1980. The lineage chart continued its work, tracing out both the Weasleys' and the Delacours' family tree, but no-one paid attention after that.
The silence was prolonged, as everyone tried to figure out what to do next.