Beta's: Dark Lelouch3221, MateriaBlade, goku90504, Polegara.
Chapter 25, The Point of No Return
The platform jerked to a stop on the deck. "Wicked…" both men stated simultaneously as the only way to describe the experience.
The man who navigated their conveyance to the ship laughed, apparently enjoying their reactions. Once they managed to get themselves situated they looked about the ship they had been invited to tour.
Both of them looked around the floating galleon that had captivated them since it arrived a few weeks ago. Fred Weasley was the first to speak as they drank in the sights. "I would love to know how they did this. Can you imagine the potential, brother of mine?"
George nodded still looking around. "Indeed, my evil twin." He turned to their escort to ask a question. "The letter didn't say, but do you know who wanted to meet with us?"
Before their guide could answer, Fred broke in. "Hey, George, is that…"
George turned to where his brother was looking to see a fast moving rat racing along the deck as if his life depended on it. Considering that it was being chased by a mangy-looking orange fluff-ball of death, it sort of was.
The smushed-face looking cat was hot on the rat's tail as it bolted one way or the other across the deck. The twins marveled that the huge cat could not only move that fast, but that he was also that nimble. No matter where the rat went or how it cut a corner the massive feline would jump, dive, or scramble with a disturbingly joyful look in its intense face only inches behind the rat.
The Weasley Twins watched as the rat gave up losing the cat on deck. It bolted one last time into the doorway that they assumed led below decks. Its hunter only inches behind, as it too disappeared.
"Crookshanks…" Both stated as they smiled widely.
Both turned immediately to the sound of the owl bark to see the snowy white owl looking down at them from the rigging above. "Hedwig!"
Both men jumped around again, finally taking notice of the two teens sitting on crates toward the bow of the ship. They were sitting on crates apparently working on something.
"Reverend!" shouted the man next to them once again startling the twins. At the look they gave him, the jovial man just shrugged a shoulder. "What? I felt left out."
The five of them shared a laugh while Harry waved the twins over. "They're with us, Reverend. Come on guys, pull up a crate."
As the twins walked over to their wayward friends, they could hear the man behind them shout. "Alright, but don't let them walk about without you or Surge."
While the young men pulled up crates to join their wayward friends, Hermione replied. "No worries, Reverend. Thanks!"
Hermione went back to sorting through a pile of handwritten notes while Harry ripped a long strand of shiny grey tape from a roll. They watched in amusement as both teens sat going about their business as if they were not the most hunted fugitives of the Wizarding World, aside from You-Know-Who.
After a few moments of watching, Fred shook his head. "I don't even know what question to ask first."
Harry shrugged nonchalantly, a smirk on his face as he started wrapping the tape around three strange clear tubes full of different potions. Each tube glowed in its own shimmering light of blue, white, or green. Both easily noticed there was some kind of metal balls filling the tubes as well as the unknown potions.
"It's good to see you guys again. How's business?" Harry asked.
George laughed. "'How's business?' he asks. As if your lives are not much more interesting? What with the good Ms. Granger, over there, wanted by the Ministry."
Fred nodded along to his brother's point. "And you, Mr. Potter, sitting on this fine ship that ripped a hole in He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's forces, and our shop incidentally, just a few weeks ago as if you lived here."
"In all fairness, Fred," George stated. "It was that bloke Raze that ripped a hole in our shop."
"Quite correct, George. With his body no less." Fred agreed with an impressed nod.
Harry couldn't help but let his smile widen as he turned to Hermione. "And you doubt there is a will to the Arcanum."
The young woman rolled her eyes as she finally found the sheet she was looking for. "Fine, fine! Raze ending up blasted into their shop out of every other possible building in Diagon Alley, is a pretty convincing piece of evidence."
Harry chuckled as Hermione continued. "We are still going with a simple pin release with this one, right?"
"Yeah, like a grenade. I still don't know how you plan to set it to delay for five seconds after it's pulled. Once it starts mixing, it's going to go fast." Harry half asked, half informed her.
"I told you already, Harry. It's all a matter of a slow burn rune and not using the explosive glyph we used on the trip mines."
Harry shrugged while handing over the nearly finished device to Hermione. "If you say so, love. I just don't want to get Hacker killed when he tries to use this thing. It's bad enough we used concentrate instead of the original formula. Until we test it, we really have no idea what the radius is."
"Harry, we tested the original version. It worked precisely as it should have. The radial increase shouldn't be more than twice that."
"I hope so. I'm still not convinced I modified those Newgrange equations quite right on account of the ambient magic on the ship. Especially since all the spell casters are Wild Mages."
The twins watched looking back and forth before setting their eyes a little apprehensively to the bundled thing Hermione was working with. "Ah," George broke in. "What is that, and why do I get the impression it's dangerous?"
In a slightly distracted voice, Hermione replied, "Because, it is dangerous."
While she was working on setting the pin in place Harry turned to the Twins. "We weren't expecting you guys for a while yet, so you caught us working. For the moment, Hermione and I are assigned to help out the ground teams since we had to bail out of our Investigations job at Hogwarts."
"Assigned?" George asked.
Harry nodded. "Yeah. We're Raze's apprentices which means we work for the Guild."
"It's better than sitting through one of Binns' history lessons." After they heard a loud snap, Hermione looked up with a perfectly straight face. "Or, an Order meeting."
"Let me get this straight." Fred stated. "You two used to spy for the Guild."
"And now, you make really dangerous weapons for them." George cut in.
The last sentence was spoken by both of them at the same time. "On a ship floating over Diagon Alley, while being wanted by the Ministry?"
Hermione nodded easily. "About sums it up, Harry?"
"Sounds right." Harry agreed.
Fred reacted first after staring at them a moment. He fell to his knees looking awestruck at Harry. "You must teach us!"
George also fell to his knees but in front of Hermione. "We have so much to learn!"
Harry and Hermione laughed, as both twins clasp their hands practically begging. "We must know your secret!"
Still chuckling at the twins' antics, Hermione handed Harry the completed device. "First, you must draw the attention of an evil Dark Lord."
"Then, go on the run and almost die." Harry stated glibly as he rose to his feet.
Hermione nodded. "Twice."
Frowning, Fred turned to his brother. "That doesn't sound like very much fun."
George shook his head turning back to the smirking brunette hopefully. "Can we skip the dangerous stuff and get to the wicked part where we get to invent nasty surprises for Death Eaters?"
Harry laughed as he opened the crate Fred was sitting on. The twins jumped to their feet in shock when they realized that Fred's seat was storage for a bunch of the dangerous things. "Sure, we'll talk to Raze. He might subcontract a few things to you. Raze would never deny himself a chance to add a couple more mental geniuses to his asylum." Hermione jokingly assured the pair.
After Harry closed the crate, he stood back wrapping arms around both Twins shoulders. "But, he's busy right now. So, first things first. How about you guys come with us?"
A little worried where this was going, Fred looked to the crate before looking to Harry who was smiling at him. It was a smile that did nothing to settle his unease. "Where to, mate?"
"Well, since Raze and the Minister are at Hogwarts tending to a few matters and the ground team is away doing their thing, Hermione and I decided that getting out and about is the ticket for us now that we are finished with our project. We, lads, are going to a barbeque." Harry finished with a nod.
George nodded along. His eyes darted quickly to the box of doom before returning to Harry. A barbeque didn't sound so bad. "Wicked. Where at, Harry?"
They turned to look at Hermione who answered while smiling darkly. "Grimmauld Place."
Amelia waited as the great gates of Hogwarts slowly opened. As per the message she sent earlier that morning, the Auror detachment at Hogwarts waited for her on the other side. More than a few of them were looking apprehensively at her companions. She was fairly certain the Team Leaders he brought with him attracted more than a few looks. She was also fairly certain that Sebastian was attracting the majority of the looks.
Sebastian, she had noted before they left, decided to dress to make an impression. Hard leather boots that rose to protect his knees, urban fatigue trousers, and thick metal worked gauntlets made up his ensemble. She resisted the twitch that itched at her eye. Nothing she said could get him to dress any differently.
Raze smiled, unconcerned as to what others thought of his appearance while looking about drinking in the sight. "I never thought I would ever step into this place again. It looks the same as when we went here."
Amelia nodded while holding the bridge of her nose. She pitched her voice low so that her Aurors couldn't hear her. "Did you have to bring the axe, Sebastian?"
Raze's smile widened. The axe in question was a great double-bladed monster of a weapon that was resting easy on his shoulder. A favorite of his in the past. "Of course. You never know when you might need a good axe, Amy. They come in handy in all sorts of situations. They are equally good for just looking menacing or splitting people in half."
"People like Dumbledore, Sebastian?" Amelia still kept her voice low as the gates finally stopped moving with a resounding clang. She shook her head. "We're not here to kill Dumbledore. We are here to collect all of the information he has on Voldemort."
Raze shrugged unconcerned. "Who knows what the day will bring? Opportunities arise all the time. Just imagine if I didn't bring it. Then, what would we do if something happened and you wished I had brought my axe? Such a tragedy should never be allowed to take place."
Amelia looked to the heavens as she released a long suffering sigh. There was just no talking to the man sometimes. She pretended to not hear the muffled snicker from one of the Aurors at Sebastian's comment. Unlike her, he didn't bother to keep his voice down. Instead of smacking him, or worse, as her imagination started to run away with her, she counted from ten backward.
"You could have at least worn a shirt." The Minister muttered as she started to stride forward. As expected, the Aurors filled in behind them.
Raze's dark chuckle rumbled from within him as he answered. "You would be surprised how intimidated the common Wizard is by a chiseled physique, Amy. Besides, you didn't complain about it last night."
Amelia Bones lost the battle with the twitch in her eye as she crossed the courtyard and walked through the great doors of the Castle. This was not the time to think of her own knowledge of that physique, or what the expected reactions from the castles populous at the sight of it would be.
"Just…don't make this any more difficult than it's going to be, Sebastian. Dumbledore, no matter what you think, is not going to be intimidated by your body or your axe. Let me do the talking."
The great hall was a ruckus of noise as they approached. Raze nodded easily. "Of course, Amy. I have no intention in getting into a war of words with the old man."
"It's what you do intend that is worrying me, Sebastian." The minister muttered, half under her breath.
Instantly the boisterous Great Hall quieted when the doors opened revealing her troupe. Amelia strode to the head table where the teaching staff watched her warily.
Raze made for his old house table. Once he arrived, he found a gap between two second years. An easy swing buried the blade enough into the bench for it to hold. Meanwhile, Raze took a seat next to it. The loud noise caused every student to jump in their seats. Unconcerned with the looks he was receiving from everyone in the room, he reached across from him taking the bacon from a fifth year Slytherin's unresisting grip, completely ignoring the half full plate in front of him.
He looked up and down the table smiling as he chewed on his stolen treat. "So," Raze's voice boomed in the stunned hall. "Who has plans for world domination?"
Amelia bit down on her tongue to keep from laughing at the horrified looks the Slytherin alumnus was receiving from his old house. This spectacle was almost worth bringing him along. Almost. She quickly asserted her iron will to show only an emotionless mask as she turned back to Dumbledore.
"Headmaster. I require a moment of your time."
Dumbledore's recovery appeared to be complete. He looked no different than he did before the incident with Ms. Granger; aside from the fact his usual grandfatherly demeanor was absent. Amelia couldn't help but smirk to herself. His day wasn't likely to get any better.
Dumbledore looked down at her over his half-moon spectacles. "Of course. Shall we adjourn to my office?"
"That would be acceptable." Amelia replied.
"Ah, Minerva. If you would be so kind as to send the students on their way when it is time?"
The stern Transfiguration Professor nodded. "Of course, Albus."
Amelia turned to walk back to the waiting Aurors when she noticed that Sebastian had disappeared. The group of Slytherins at the table were looking around confused and blinking rapidly. Her eyes darted around the room, but she didn't see him anywhere and that bloody infuriating man was damn near impossible to miss!
Once she got close enough, she turned to Sebastian's second. "I don't suppose you know where the rascal went, Mr. Logan?"
The amused man shook his head. "No, Ma'am."
She turned to Auror Tonks. Who, just like the rest of her Aurors, was also looking around confused. Two minutes. Her back was turned for two bloody minutes. "Find him. Find him now, Auror Tonks. Bring him to the Headmaster's Office as soon as you do."
The young woman nodded quickly, "Yes, Ma'am."
Slightly fuming at the rascal she barely took note of, Tonks muttered behind her as she passed by. "He was just right there… wasn't he?"
"Are you sure about this, Harry?"
All four of them were standing across the park, looking at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. Harry noticed Fred looking at him, but he kept most of his attention on the building itself.
"Yes. Hermione and I talked about it a few years ago." Harry began as he took in a deep breath letting Hermione's love wash over him. He again ignored the confused look Fred directed to George. "Sirius did a lot for me in the short time I knew him. Just knowing there was someone, anyone, who loved me and wanted me in their lives, had a huge impact on me."
Hermione kept her eyes on Harry but didn't interrupt, letting him vent. Harry was quiet the rest of the way. Harry led their group forward, walking to the building only the four of them could see. He only paused a moment before throwing open the door leading them into the dark, dank house.
The oppressive feel of house enveloped them as the foursome walked into the sitting room. No one made a noise and everyone's' eyes darted at least once to the covered portrait of the horrendous Mrs. Black. In the short time since the house had been abandoned by the Order, dust somehow found a way to cling to everything, further adding to the grim feel that seemed to permeate the House of Black.
Harry quietly led them into the ground floor parlor that was mostly just an area to receive callers who were not tied to the family.
Unnoticed by Harry, two of three of his companions took a slight step back. A spiritual Sirius was sitting in one of the chairs gesturing about to an equally phantasmal Harry. It looked like the image of Sirius was explaining something to the image of a younger Harry, but none of them could hear anything.
Fred looked to Harry, then to the images. He pitched his voice low to Hermione hoping she knew what was going on. "Ah, Hermione, tell me you know what is going on and what we are seeing."
George nodded. "Please do. This is really eerily."
"Harry's tapping into the Arcanum without realizing it." Hermione whispered. "I've seen him do this before during our therapy sessions. Harry is very attuned to the magic Raze taught us. He's just…letting his feelings out. This…this is for both of them. It took him a really long time to get over Sirius's death."
They watched silently for a moment before all the images faded away. Harry, oblivious to what the others had seen, turned from the room and walked up the stairs to the first floor.
"Sirius was the one who originally pushed me to talk to Hermione about my feelings for her." Harry chuckled sadly to himself. "That damn con risked coming back to England and showed up at Privet Drive to talk to me when I sent him that letter."
Harry paused for a moment on the landing at the next floor. "It was a week before Mrs. Weasley sent the letter letting me know about the World Cup. I had this spot in the park where I would hide from Dudley when his gang was feeling like a spot of Harry Hunting. We spent most of the day holed up there talking."
"He listened, then told me that his answer wouldn't mean as much as her explanation. At the time, it drove me mad. It took months for me to build up my courage in fourth year to talk to her. I don't even want to think about what would have happened if Sirius hadn't pushed me to do it."
Hermione smiled tucking herself into Harry's side. "You never will, Harry." She whispered to him before kissing his cheek softly.
Eventually, the quiet foursome ended up in a small parlor on the first floor. The ghostly forms of Sirius and Harry appeared again. This time, there was a spectral Christmas tree in full regalia standing in one corner. Sirius looked very disheveled and appeared to be sleeping on one of the room's couches. Next to him lay several transparent bottles of what looked like Firewhiskey. The image of Harry tucked a blanket around him. It looked like he was trying to make him comfortable. The scene only lasted a few moments before it too faded away.
With a sigh, Harry turned away heading to the stairs for the second floor. "He only had a few months on that tropical island before he was living in a cave eating rats just so he could be close if anything happened to me. Then Dumbledore had him reopen the house for the Order. We all know how well he reacted to that. I found him passed out almost every day after Christmas until we left to go back to Hogwarts."
Still looking at where the images were, George spoke up. "I found him a few times like that during the summer. Mum tried several times to get the whisky out of the house, but there was always more."
"I still say it was Kreacher that was doing it." Fred muttered morosely. "That crazy elf loved seeing Sirius deep into drink. Sirius was the only one who could ever find a bottle after one of Mum's purges. He didn't sober up or cheer up until you were in the house."
George nodded, "No matter what prank we pulled to make him laugh. Though the one where we turned Kreacher's tea towel pink and charmed it to flick his ears every time he muttered an insult had him chuckling for a few days."
Harry chuckled weakly before his mood soured again. "Sirius hated this house. He hated what his parents stood for. He gave up everything just to be free of it. Then to be trapped in this house again... It wasn't so bad for him when we were here, but winter hols are only a few weeks, and it got worse the closer to us leaving we got."
He sighed as he climbed the stairs. "Maybe this isn't the best way to…deal with losing him. It's been a long time for us yet… It still feels like we lost him yesterday. Maybe, if he's watching us like I like to think he is, then maybe he will appreciate gesture. I certainly intend to send up enough smoke for him to see it."
Hermione kept her eyes on Harry but didn't interrupt, letting him get it out. Harry was quiet for the rest of the trip to the bedroom on the second floor. The engraving on the door simply read 'Sirius'. Harry opened the door with a sad smile.
The group walked in. His room is spacious with a large bed that had a carved headboard, a tall window with long velvet curtains, and a candle chandelier. The walls of the room were covered with so many pictures that it is barely possible to see the wallpaper. There were also several Gryffindor banners dangling from the bedposts.
Harry chuckled with the twins as their eyes roamed over the pictures Sirius used to decorate his walls. There were all pictures of muggle motorcycles and bikini-clad Muggle girls. Hermione snorted in amusement shaking her head. None of the pictures moved and each one seemed to be more scandalous than the last. More than a few were topless, and some had on even less.
Fred spoke first after they all took a moment to remember the old Marauder. "Always said Sirius had good taste."
"Though, if we would have tried something like this Mum would have shrieked us deaf." George commented.
"I'm not sure Mrs. Black didn't do that to Sirius." Hermione added with her own chuckle. "Sirius told us that his fights with his mum were legendary. The muggles often complained about the noise from the house even with the wards blocking most of it out."
Harry joined them as he finished looking around himself. "Is it any surprise that he ran away at sixteen to live with Dad?"
Harry's mood dropped. As it did, another apparition of Sirius formed. Storming around the room yelling. There was a haunted look to his eyes as he shouted at things none of them could see. It took them a few moments to spot the spectral visage of Harry. It was sitting against the wall next to the door listening. Next to him were several ghostly potions on a tray.
"He tried so hard to hide it from me. He didn't want to add any more stress to my life. What with the Ministry having a go at me and all the stuff that happened at the end of fourth year."
"Still, it was summer of our fifth year I first noticed his rages. He would get into these moods with this look in his eyes. Every time he would disappear to his room. I would wait till it burnt out and help him rest. I…didn't know what else I could do for him."
The other three turned to Harry when he started talking. None of them mentioned the tear that fell from his eye. "Before we started training with Raze, he acted as our sounding board for a lot of things. But after we started training we talked mostly to the ship's therapist, Reverend. We had to; Wild Magic is partly tied to our emotions. We could have hurt ourselves or others if it got loose."
"At the time, we kept confusing the other's emotions as our own or being overwhelmed by them. But the worst was how much both of us were repressing our pasts. I didn't have a good childhood, and Hermione's primary school days weren't much better, even if her home life was loads ahead of mine. Talking… helped. Way more than either of us thought it would."
Fred and George both turned to Hermione with a frown on their faces not understanding parts of what Harry was saying. Without looking she mouthed 'Later'. She never took her focus off Harry. "Sirius never had the chance to recover from Azkaban. He didn't have anyone to talk to who understood or could help him. With him being on the run, he couldn't get the proper help to deal with what Azkaban did to him. Then, he ended up trapped in this house for most of the time."
"After a while of listening to us talk about Sirius, Reverend came to the conclusion that Sirius was so reckless during the ministry fight because he was euphoric to be finally doing something. He was helping, he was protecting me, and he was finally out of this house and striking back at the people responsible for so much of his loss."
Harry sighed, not noticing the slight mist that was rising from his form. "We were both reckless, and it cost him his life, and me my godfather. I spent a lot of time blaming myself for falling into that trap, and I still do. I mean, we thought it might be a trap, but I was just as reckless as Sirius was."
"I just couldn't stand the thought of losing him… He didn't have anyone but Hermione and me to fight for him. Ron, Luna, Neville, and Ginny had their own reasons for going with us that day. I…just couldn't take the risk of failing him. Too many people failed him already. Even amongst the Order, no one seemed to care what he was going through."
George watched the scene play for a moment before whispering. "You know we love Harry, but should we be worried about this? I mean, he's not going to lose control of his magic is he?"
Hermione shook her head still keeping her eyes on Harry. She ached for him and knew better than any other what being here was doing to him. She also knew that he wasn't going to get the closure he sought until he faced this. "No. Harry is just remembering Sirius."
The image of Sirius and Harry faded when Fred yelled 'Pack!' Suddenly the room was a whirlwind of activity as all of Sirius's things threw themselves into the trunk in the corner.
Fred shrank it before handing it to Harry. "Here you go mate. If we're going to blow up the place we might as well get everything out that matters, right?"
"Thanks, Fred." Harry said as he took the small trunk. For all their cavalier mannerisms, the twins always seemed to know how to cheer him up.
"Anytime, Harry. Was there anything else we should check get out before we do this?"
George chimed in before Harry answered. "Buckbeak's at Hogwarts. Hagrid's calling him 'Witherwings' now."
Hermione smiled while tucking herself into Harry's side. She could feel his gratitude toward the Twins, and it was cheering him up enormously. "We know. We meet up with Hagrid for tea a couple of times. After all, what's Hogwarts without tea at Hagrid's once a week?"
Harry chuckled pulling himself together. "Or passing off his rock cakes to Fang, because only that old boarhound can actually eat the things."
The other three joined his chuckles as Harry looked around once more. It looked like Fred got everything. "I guess we could check the library…"
Fred shook his head. "Dad said Dumbledore took everything out of there. Said Dumbledore didn't want anything left behind that could benefit Voldemort if something happened at the Will reading that would cause the house to change ownership."
Hermione rubbed Harry's back as he digested that bit of news. "We'll figure it out, Harry."
Harry gave her a smile before placing a small kiss on her forehead. "Thanks, love. I suppose we should just walk the rest of the house out and see if there was anything of Sirius's left behind."
The others agreed as they walked the rest of the house in silence. Harry led the way to the attic as they checked all the rooms and such. By the time they ended up in the old kitchen, only a few more pieces were added to the trunk. Harry opened the old boiler closet that was Kreacher's old room wondering where the demented old elf was, when he jumped back. His fast movement startled the twins but Hermione was the first one to act.
Before either of the twins could turn around to see what the matter was, Hermione had already thrown her arms around Harry. They blinked in shock at how desperate her hug was and how pale Harry's face had become.
"What's wrong, Harry?" Fred stated as he joined the looking into the old closet with his wand.
George also walked up with his wand drawn, but didn't see anything in the closet aside from a small nest of blankets and a small collection of Black Family Heirlooms. "The way you jumped, I thought that miserable elf was in there."
Hermione was constantly whispering in his ear while Harry forced himself to swallow. "No."
Both Weasleys looked with confusion as Hermione raised her voice loud enough for them to hear her. "Damn it, Harry, listen to me. Let Raze handle this…"
Harry's expression still looked pained but his voice held a firmer edge to it. "No. I have to do this. I have to face it."
"Harry…" Hermione's voice pleaded but again Harry shook his head.
"Fred, close the door please."
With a confused nod Fred did as he was asked. Once it was shut the paralysis that had gripped Harry seemed to vanish as he took several steps backward. Harry turned to fully face Hermione looking into her eyes. "I can do this. I just need a way to kill it."
"The sword is the only thing I can think of since the Basilisk is long gone to rot." Hermione answered him. Her face clearly conflicted by what Harry wanted to do. Harry smiled weakly as he placed his hands tenderly on each side of her face.
"Hermione, I have to face this. Twice now those things have almost taken me. I know you don't want me to do this or put myself in danger but if I don't do this, I'll never be able to beat Voldemort. I have to break whatever control these things have on me. You know I'm right."
"That does not mean I'm not going to be scared witless for you."
Knowing they were missing something big both twins looked to each other before turning once again to the couple that was ignoring them for the moment. "There is something really bad in that closet isn't there?"
Harry nodded. "Extremely. It's also something we've recently started hunting for to help make Voldemort mortal. That's part of why Raze and the Minister are at Hogwarts right now. We didn't know there was one here."
"Send Winky to Raze. Dobby's on the run as much as we are but they don't know about Winky yet. Raze can get her the sword." Hermione suggested.
Harry nodded as he raised his voice. "Winky!"
Raze smiled to himself as he walked through the halls of the great castle. He greeted several portraits he recognized as well as several suits of armor. Like a scene trapped in a snow globe, Hogwarts was timeless. The faces of the children had changed, but the feel of the old castle hadn't in the years since he had been a schoolboy.
He took in a great breath as he looked out one of the many windows. The vista before him pulled him deep into old memories of William, Amy, and himself. Watching Quidditch matches, study groups, or walking the various halls or lands about the great stone edifice. Simpler times. Times when all he had to worry about where grades, pranks from his peers for associating with a Gryffindor and a Hufflepuff, and the occasional bit of the war that infiltrated the bastion's gossip network.
Raze turned to the corridor. He readjusted his axe on his shoulder as he once again set down the corridor. The war was still here and he had something to do before Amy's Aurors found him.
It took him almost half an hour to finally arrive at his destination. Without as much as a pause in his stride, he threw open the door. It swung inward, the sound startling every student in the room when it impacted the wall.
He took several strong strides into the room. The only sound since his entrance was the flicker of flames and the sounds of Raze's boots impacting the stone floor. He came to a stop swinging his axe into the desk next to him. He ignored the muffled scream from the girl sitting there as his axe bisected her book.
"I have bad news, and good news." Raze stated to the professor in front of him.
Professor Slughorn quivered in place before half smiling half whimpering his reply. "G…g…good news?"
If it was quiet at his entrance, it was deathly quiet at his words. Slughorn shook in his expensive shoes. The students, meanwhile, shifted in their seats. After several very uncomfortable moments where no one moved, one of the students closed his book and stood up.
The whispered voice of his table mate carried through the whole room. "What are you doing?"
"Aurors in the castle, Dumbledore talking to the minister, and now this? Whatever this is, it's none of my damn business." The Slytherin boy stated as he left.
By the time the teen had passed the last row of desks, several other students began packing up their belongings. Once started, it didn't take long for the room to clear out after that leaving just the two men alone. After a moment, the old Professor pulled himself together enough to ask a question. "And eh, how is this good news?"
Raze smirked as he watched Slughorn's eyes dart back and forth obviously thinking fast. "I'm sure your students wouldn't mind the extra time for studying. Elsewhere. This is, after all, their O.W.L. year. Besides, I doubt very seriously you will want any witnesses to our discussion."
"W…Why is that my boy?" The fidgeting professor stated while slowly edging toward the door to his quarters.
Raze reached down and re gripped the handle of his axe. With a strong jerk he freed it from the desk before advancing forward effectively paralyzing the Professor.
"That would be the bad news. You, Professor Slughorn, are going to be a Hero."
His statement was greeted by a nervous chuckle. "I never had much love for Heroes, to be perfectly honest. A terrible business. Much more lovely in thought than in reality."
"I never said you had a choice." Raze chuckled darkly.
Finally Slughorn found the sliver that was his spine. He stiffened while blustering, "Now see here, I don't know who you think you are or what you want. Nor do I wish to. You sir, should leave before Dumbledore learns of this!"
Raze shook his head. "I'm here because of Dumbledore, Horace. You see, he thinks you know something about Voldemort."
"I know NOTHING!" The man shouted in denial.
"Very Sergeant Schultz, Professor." Raze chuckled. "However, I don't have a chocolate bar on me to bribe you into doing as I want. So, we'll have to do this one of two ways."
The terrified man before him remained silent. Raze wasn't sure if it was due to his fear or if he was confused over the reference. He didn't give him long to stew before he started talking again. "The first way, is that you willingly allow me to use Legilimency and quietly show me what I need to know. Then, I will leave after I obliviate you. No one will know of your involvement until after the war is over. When that day comes, you can get all the rewards due your bravery while remaining perfectly safe. Well, as safe as any of us are during these times."
"O…or?" Stuttered the fearful man before him.
"Or," Raze threatened with a smile that seemed to freeze the blood in the cowering Professors veins. "I take that knowledge from you by force. You see, dear fellow, I know about the Horcruxes. What I don't know is how many were made. Dumbledore thinks you do."
"Now, if I have to take this information by force, I will make sure everyone hears the great tale of how you came forward and offered it unsolicited. People will be singing of your bravery and heroism in the Alley by nightfall. How the brave Professor Slughorn revealed the existence of Voldemort's Horcruxes and put the Ministry on the trail of their existence."
Horace paled greatly as his eyes bulged. Raze kept his hard eyes on the man, smirking at the whimper. "I don't want to do this the hard way, Professor. However, I need this information. Amy's scruples won't allow her to do what is needed to get it. Dumbledore wanted to use a kid to weasel it out of you to keep his hands clean. I, however, have neither the scruples to prevent me from offending you, nor do I have any concern for the cleanliness of my own hands."
"The sad truth is that war has the tendency to make monsters out of us all at times. So which is it going to be Professor? A great Hero full of adulation and rewards at the end of the war, or a corpse by tomorrow night?"
Once the door was closed and secured she strode through the aisles of towering rubbish. Once again events were working in her favor. The stranger showing up and dismissing the class was perfect. There was little chance that she would be discovered, and even if she was, it would be too late to stop her.
It only took her a few moments to reach the cabinet. The young woman was about to put down her pack to get ready when her wand shot out of her robes. She tracked its progress with wide-eyed surprise only to see a Draco smirking at her as he stepped out behind a pile of broken tables. Her wand in his left hand.
"I didn't think it would take long after I told you it was done before you tried something. Hello, Ginny. Going somewhere?"
Her eyes narrowed quickly. "Give me my wand back, Draco." She ordered instead of answering.
Still smirking, Draco shook his head. "I think we need to reevaluate the direction of our relationship, My Love."
Ginny's eyes widened as she the situation became clearer. "You're not under the effects of the potions anymore…"
"I never was, actually." Draco informed her.
Draco flicked his wand bringing two chairs sliding into the little clearing in front of the cabinet. "I am a Malfoy, Weasley. You are not the first one to try and control the heir of my family. I've been protected against love potions since my first year. I let you think you had control of me because I was curious as to what you wanted."
"I was very surprised when it turned out you hadn't set your sights on my family money, but the mission the Dark Lord sent me on." He finished as he took a seat.
The young man holding her at wand point flicked his wand to the other chair. "Sit."
Not having much choice it he matter and knowing she needed time to think her way out of this she did as he asked. "What do you want?"
"Answers." Draco thoughtfully answered. "I already know why you were interested in my mission, but why did you help me complete it?"
"What does it matter now?"
"Very well, let us try this in a slightly different way. There is currently a company of Aurors in the castle. Not to mention the Minister herself is here. Now, you can either answer my questions, or I can take you to them and turn you in for attempting to control the heir to a noble family with a restricted potion."
"You won't do that. You would get in trouble for fixing the cabinet for Tom." Ginny stated in a voice far more sure than her thoughts.
The young man in front of her snorted though he seemed to frown slightly at the use of the name she used to refer to his Dark Lord. "Says the woman who was illegally controlling me to do it. As far as the Aurors will be concerned, I was doing it under your orders. You are, after all, the one with Amorentia in her pocket."
"Why do you care why I did it? If you're going to turn me in, just do it already." Ginny replied defiantly.
The Slytherin nodded. "Maybe I will. But, maybe I'm curious. Besides, why would I cut loose an ally that has been useful to me or might be useful to me later?"
Ginny snorted. "Ally my arse."
She noticed him smile softly at her. "Well, if I actually decided to keep this matter between us, you would at least owe me. For a Malfoy, that's as close as it gets to actual 'allies'."
"It doesn't matter…"
"It does to me." Draco pressed. "You've gone through a lot of trouble to get this far. I am very curious as to why a Gryffindor would commit such underhanded means to achieve her goals. The 'what' and the 'why' must be very important. Getting caught would mean either death, time in Azkaban, or having your wand snapped at the least. High stakes."
Ginny deflated in her seat. "I…it was the only way."
Draco didn't reply merely rolled his wand around to indicate she was to explain further. After a few moments she did as he asked. "You said Tom was using your parent's' house as his base. I was going to use the cabinet to sneak in and kill his familiar."
"The Dark Lord's Familiar?" Her captor didn't contain his surprise as he clarified her reference. "Audacious, if more than completely insane. Even for a Gryffindor plan. What made you think you could pull this off?"
Ginny shrugged one shoulder keeping her eyes down. "They wouldn't be expecting me. You said since the summer he's been partially worried about his familiar. Keeping it hidden at your family's Manor. The other cabinet is there. Surprise would have been on my side. Besides, you said yourself he's rarely there."
"Your plan is flawed on so many levels," Draco said with his customary sneer. "…that I would be surprised if you didn't end up as 'entertainment' for the stationed Death Eaters at the house. If not outright killed before you made your sixth step."
"And I think you seriously underestimate my abilities Draco. I've put a lot of thought into this."
Her captor shook his head. "Ever the Gryffindor, charging off regardless of the consequences. What was your plan for the guard on the other side of the cabinet? There's always one there, you know. A precaution in case I was ever captured and told anyone about the cabinet. A question you never asked me, but you really should have."
Ginny sneered back at the smug Slytherin. "Already thought of that possibility. I have Peruvian Darkness Powder, as well as a few other tricks. He wouldn't have stopped me."
Draco nodded. "That might get you past the guard, but then the alarm would be raised. The house would go into lockdown under our War Wards."
Ginny frowned. That sounded familiar, but she couldn't place it. "War Wards? You only ever mentioned the protection wards around the house to prevent anyone for finding it or getting inside."
"I lied. Not under the potion's effects, remember? Honestly, Ginny, even if you use Veritaserum on someone, you never take what they say at face value. That is just what they 'think' is the truth. A few well-placed memory charms can change the truth of anything if a person was willing to see it done."
"Now, War Wards are a very complex set of insanely expensive wards. All the old Manors have them, though I shouldn't be surprised you don't know what they are. I would be astounded if your family could even afford basic wards, much less the levels we have at Malfoy Manor."
"So what, Anti-apparation, portkey, and some dark protections? The cabinet gets me past all that. I'll already be inside." She returned.
The Slytherin shook his head. "There are times I can't even believe you are a Pureblood. You're almost as ignorant as a muggle. Those are only a few of the Manor's defenses. The second there is a breach and the alarm is raised, either my father or Aunt Bellatrix engages the full set preventing anyone from getting into the Manor."
"In addition to that, there is a second set of inner wards that prevent anyone from leaving. It's virtually the same set but doubled on the inside making the place a fortress."
"Again, the cabinet gets me past both sets." Ginny pointed out smugly.
"True," Draco replied unfazed by her attitude. "But then you have to deal with the third set of wards which seals every door in the house. Only those keyed in can open them."
Ginny began to deflate at the cold logic delivered by the Slytherin. "Then there is the fourth set of wards."
"Four?" She asked shakingly.
Draco snorted. "The fourth set of wards, for those keyed in, can tap into the security scheme. All the animated portraits, some suits of armor, certain sculptures, as well as a variety of enchantments are at their command."
Draco nodded seeing she was finally starting to understand the errors of her plan. "It is, after all, a very old and well protected Manor of a Pureblood. Not just any Pureblood, but a very paranoid, and ambitious, Pureblood family. The Malfoy Family."
"Now, if you actually tried to invade it, the cabinet would be your only way out. Assuming you failed to kill or stun the guard the first thing to be reinforced would be that room. Once you left you would be very hard pressed to get back in. When you did, it would be guarded, your time short, and the Manor is impressively huge. Do you have floor plans for the house?"
Ginny shook her head looking a little ill. "I was going to use the information you gave me about the layout, but since you weren't under the potions effects, it's all worthless."
Draco smirked at her comment. "So, throw out what I told you. From other sources, what about resistance numbers or the patrols used? I would assume that since your parents are in the Order of the Phoenix and my Father is a known Death Eater you would have at least that. Assuming, of course, you actually managed to subdue the guard."
"How do you know…?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Please. As if the Dark Lord wouldn't know who his enemies are. So, do you?"
"I thought the escaped ones from Azkaban, maybe. I didn't think they would be roaming about. You said they mostly stayed hidden in the basement levels." Ginny muttered.
"Very poor effort, Ginny. Again, you never move forward without double checking your informant's information against other sources. Do you at least have any idea where the likely hiding spots for the snake might be? Or even how you were going to actually kill the damn thing? What was your plan for moving about undetected? Surely you had to have at least that figured out."
Ginny didn't reply for several moments. "Fred got me an invisibility cloak during the summer. I was going to use that to keep hidden while I looked. I figured it would take me a few trips to figure the rest out. As for killing the snake, I have something that should do it. At least, according to my great Aunt it should. Its goblin made and my great Uncle used to use it all the time when he worked in the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures Department at the Ministry."
He snorted clearly unimpressed. "You would be caught or killed before you could finish looking through one floor, much less the entire Manor. If you were incredibly lucky, you might accidently get Nagini, but I guarantee you wouldn't get out again."
Draco's face took on a more thoughtful look as he continued. "You still haven't told me why you are doing this in the first place. Surely your success at the ministry hasn't given you some inflated view of your abilities. No… This is a lot more than petty revenge for it attacking your father last Christmas. So, why? Why take these risks when your chances of failure greatly outweigh your chances of success? Why the dark lord's familiar?"
Ginny remained silent refusing to look at him for several moments. "I…"
"Yes?" Draco asked leadingly.
"…it's the only way to be free…"
She noticed Draco seemed to still in his chair. He remained quiet as she struggled with finishing her statement. "I…I owe Harry a life debt."
She chanced a look into his eyes noticing the glimmer of understanding. "Then the rumors were true. Somehow Potter did save you from Slytherin's monster."
Ginny nodded. "He can call in that debt at any time. Mum's plan was to potion him so he would agree to a Marriage Contract…"
"But Potter ran off with Granger!" The Slytherin reared back his head and loudly laughed for several moments while Ginny blushed. Her eyes hardened as he pulled himself together.
"What is so funny, Malfoy?" She hissed.
"It's such a wonderful Pureblood tactic. Especially considering what my parents have let slip about Molly Prewett a few years ago. Not exactly original, but what can you expect from a Weasley?" He answered still chuckling.
"Still, Potter would never see that coming. From anyone else, maybe, but not from your Mother. I'm almost sorry that she didn't give the plan a go. It would have been hilarious to watch the fallout."
"Now, Granger, mudblood or not, she'd see through it and expose you. Potter's her golden patron , she's not going to give that up without a fight. Of course, that's assuming they win the war. I've no doubt your lot thinks you can despite the evidence to the contrary."
A moment of silence followed while he nodded to himself. "I see your problem, now. If your Mother proceeds with the plan, he'll call in the debt. There were rumors she was a witches witch before she ran off with Potter. Seriously, all that time around both Potter and Weasley and yet seemingly not interested in either or anyone else? You would make an interesting plaything for them, I'm sure." Draco stated with a uncomfortable leer.
Ginny blushed deeply at the innuendo while Draco continued. "Even if your mother doesn't try it, there's always the chance he'll grow tired of Granger. She's a bossy little bint that, given enough time, could get on anyone's nerves. Maybe afterward he'll be more interested in being the one giving the orders instead of following them. That debt gives him a nice, willing vent for his urges. With no penalties if he decides to look for a wife elsewhere. You would be a most attractive acquisition that couldn't hurt him politically later. You're going to be Potter's concubine."
"I will not be a slave to anyone!" Ginny defiantly declared.
She was not expecting the interested glimmer in his eyes at her statement. "So all of this is to kill the Dark Lord's familiar to pay the debt you owe Potter then?"
Ginny nodded sharply. "Harry saved me killing a Basilisk. The closest thing I can think of is Tom's Familiar. It's not exactly saving him, but it's for him. My Great Aunt Muriel used to be an Unspeakable. As horrible as that woman is to be around, she knows her abstract magics. She agreed that it could work. Though she doesn't know I intended to try it when I talked to her before we came back to school. I didn't even know it was possible until I overheard you talking to the other Slytherins on the train."
"One of the things I've learned from Fred and George is anything's possible if you have enough nerve. You may not think much of my preparations, but I could have done this. It might have taken me a longer than I thought sneaking around to figure it out, but I could have done it."
"You're gambling an awful lot on 'maybe's' and 'what if's' Weasley." Draco observed. "Not only are you charging ahead blind into your enemy's camp, but you don't even know if it will actually work."
"It's...the only chance I have to get free. I'd rather die trying than be anyone's slave. Even Harry's. Honestly, I don't think Harry would ever call it in unless I provoked him. Even if he did, I don't think he would mistreat me the way you think he would. Still, in time anything could change. It's not a risk I am willing to take." Ginny muttered.
She watched the young man nod in understanding. "Now, that is something I can understand very well."
Ginny snorted. "What do you know about it Malfoy? You've been a pampered little prince your whole life."
"By your standards, certainly." Draco agreed. "By mine, this is the natural order of things. Being the scion of a wealthy Noble House has privileges. Privileges I feel no shame in having. Exactly the opposite, actually. I'm very proud of my heritage."
She shook her head. It was typical Draco. What wasn't typical of him was the look in his eyes. He sat looking at her as if he was studying her thoroughly. She remained silent letting him think.
"Why do you keep referring to the Dark Lord as Tom?" Draco finally asked. Ginny could tell he was very interested in the answer.
With a shrug she tossed her flaming hair over her shoulder. "Because that's his name. Tom Riddle."
"The enchanted diary Father kept for the Dark Lord… I remember him being very interested in it when he was trying to ruin your Father and Dumbledore years ago. It was actually his? Just not some relic the Dark Lord crafted for the war?" Draco asked shocked.
Ginny shuttered before wrapping her arms around herself. "Yes. Somehow he created a shade of himself in it. Your father slipped it into my cauldron during the fight in Diagon Alley my first year. I thought it was something the twins made to help me with starting school. I was so scared and nervous. At the time I thought it was sweet, but… It...ended up possessing me before I realized what was going on. By the time I did, it was already too late."
"I tried to fight it, but...it was too strong. It's what lead to Harry having to save me and started this whole mess. However, your 'Dark Lord' wouldn't be happy with what I learned from it. His name is just one of many things it taught me…"
"Like he's less than a half blood." Ginny stated using the statement to get back some of her composure. "That's right Draco, your beloved Dark Lord was the product of a Witch and a Muggle you despise so much. He lived in an orphanage knowing nothing of his heritage until he came to Hogwarts."
"He's not even a Pureblood?" Draco seethed.
Ginny smirked. "Nope. His mother was. But his father was as Muggle as you can get. I've always thought it funny that all of you worshiped him as the next coming of Merlin. Lauding his 'pureblood' as the apex of Magical society. My blood is more pure than your 'Lord'."
For several long moments the room remained quiet. It ended when a still angry Draco tossed her back her wand. Ginny easily caught it keeping it pointed downward the same way he kept his. Her surprise didn't last long before he started talking. "In order to succeed in your plan, you're going to need someone keyed into the wards. It just so happens you have access to that very person. Me."
Ginny blinked in surprise before she narrowed her bright brown eyes. "You? What possible reason could you have to betray Tom? Much less help me?"
"The question of the hour…" Draco muttered to himself yet loud enough for her to hear him. After a moment of thinking he replied without his custom sneer. "The Xanatos Gambit."
Ginny looked completely baffled as she looked at him. "The what?"
"While you might have been content raised to cull chickens, I assure you I was not. My youth was spent learning the 'game'. Do you think managing a fortune like mine is easy? One must be prepared at all times for anyone and everyone to try and take it from you. I cut my teeth on the intrigue behind House Politics, finances, and much more."
"You could have fooled me after all these years of your obvious failures here at school."
Draco smiled looking flattered rather than insulted. "Blaise plays the role his way; I play mine, my way. People have a tendency to seriously underestimate someone who appears foolish. Unlike Potter, my actions are an act. All my 'failures' merely bolster his confidence to the point of foolishness and make people seriously underestimate me. After all what do I care what people think of me here? Until I accede to my rightful status as Head of the Noble House of Malfoy there is no point. Better to be underestimated so that when I strike, there is no avoiding the fallout."
"Right. Pull the other one, Draco." Ginny scoffed.
"Alright." Draco said with his sneered. "You've put your cards on the table, so now I will do the same. After all, if we're going to be allies in this venture we need to trust each other enough to get it done."
"I have never hidden my belief that blood matters. Yet to be honest, I don't have any great hate for the muggles. I just don't want them in my world. Nor do I think mudbloods should attend Hogwarts. They don't know our traditions nor do they care about them. They come into our world full of muggle ideas, muggle ways, muggle traditions and piss all over ours thinking their way is better never knowing the full extent of what we have built."
"So, what then? They should just go insane in the muggle world for lack of proper training or worse yet, expose magic to the muggles?"
"No. Mudblood or not, they have magic and have the right to learn. They should attend a school that not only teaches them magic, but our world in detail. Somewhere they can be immersed in our culture so, when they are adults, they can fully understand our traditions. Then, they can choose which world they want. Theirs, or ours."
Ginny shook her head. "Something we are going to agree to disagree on Draco. I know several muggleborns and not one of them has ever done anything to make me think their beliefs are superior to ours."
"Fair enough." Draco conceded. "My point Ginny, is that I do believe in the Pureblood Cause. Only the old families still honor the old ways. Our culture is being eroded by mudbloods as they dismiss our traditions as archaic. If our culture is to evolve, it must evolve our way. Not because some muggles decided that they know better and taught that to their magical children."
"And how is this relevant to us right now, Draco?"
"It's relevant, Ginny," Draco frustratedly stated. "Because that is what the Dark Lord was about in the beginning."
Ginny snorted in disagreement. "The only thing Tom's ever been interested in is himself."
He waved her point away. "Semantics. In the beginning the old families joined him because it was the right move. They were trying to preserve our culture. It's why a lot of older families served, and some still do. The movement wasn't about any one person, but the idea! What it became later, is something else entirely."
Ginny waited while he leaned back in his chair. "My father, despite what you and others think, was once a great man. Cunning, ambitious, for years the power behind the Minister. He moved the ideal forward in the vacuum that was left from the war. He was a legend I strived my entire life to live up to."
She couldn't help but roll her eyes and snort but didn't interrupt. Draco merely smirked at her nonverbal opinion. "It took him years to move past the stain of his association with the Dark Lord. Not only did he succeed, but he rose to prominence. Then in less than a year of the Dark Lord being back, fifteen years of endeavors, plans, and various ploys ruined!"
"The Malfoy name is in tatters, our position in our world destroyed, and my father wanted by the Ministry for treason. For what? Some prophecy about Potter and the Dark Lord? How does that advance the cause? Because of the Dark Lord's ambition and lust for power more magical blood has been lost than saved." Draco stated sadly.
He looked directly into her eyes and Ginny almost flinched from the anger that burned there. "This summer I was given the Dark Mark, and I was proud. The youngest Death Eater ever initiated. I was then given my first mission under the Dark Lord's banner. You think it was to fix the cabinet, but my real mission was to kill Dumbledore."
Ginny gasped. "That's suicide! He can't seriously expect you to succeed when even he couldn't do it?"
"That was the point." Draco stated grimly.
"What? He...Tom sent you on a mission that couldn't be done? Why?"
"Punishment. Because my father failed to get the prophecy. Because My father was captured. Because My father led the team that was bested by six school children. I didn't know it at my marking, but everyone else did. I am sure it was… quite the prank for them to laugh over."
"The Xanatos Gambit is a brilliant strategy. If I failed but lived, it would further disgrace the Malfoy name further putting us into the Dark Lords pocket. Our salvation could only be attained through his victory. If I somehow actually succeeded one of two of his greatest rivals would be dead. Even if I got discovered and was killed or captured it's a win for the Dark Lord."
"Finally, if I just refused to even try, he will kill both my Father and Mother in retaliation. So even then, the Dark Lord wins. The only losers here, is my family name, and me. But that's the point of the Xanatos Gambit. Not in any of the multiple foreseen outcomes is there any chance of failure for the architect. It's a win-win situation for whoever plots it."
Ginny swallowed at the clear trap Draco found himself in. "So, how does the cabinet play into this?"
"It was your brother's that made this even possible. Last year they stuck Montague into it as a prank for him taking points away from Gryffindor. He was trapped in there for days. No food or water, no bathroom. Nothing but pure darkness and his own thoughts. However, every now and then he could hear things from both sides. They couldn't hear him when he begged or pleaded for help though. Whatever the between place is, it wasn't affected by the castle wards, and nothing that happened in there seemed to affect the outside. He got out by accidentally figuring out how to apparate. Somehow ended up in a toilet on the fourth floor. Took him weeks to recover from what they did to him."
Ginny swallowed thickly. She always loved her brothers pranking nature but even she knew there were times when they got out of hand. Still, she never heard of one going this wrong before. Draco talking broke her out of her inner musings.
"Some of the things he remembered pointed me to the Borgin and Burkes. When I found the other one there I had Father buy it. I told the Dark Lord it would allow me to sneak a team of Death Eaters into the castle to act as a distraction for Dumbledore. The last thing he would expect would be for one of the students he was protecting to assassinate him."
"Even still, you can't have actually expected this to work out. You said yourself this whole thing was arranged so that no matter what you failed or lost in some manner."
"You're right. That is what the Xanatos Gambit is all about. However, there is one way to get out once you're trapped by it."
"And what would that be?" Ginny asked.
"The Gambit ensures that the architect has full control of all plausible or foreseen events and that they end in their favor. The only way out of it is by making use of unforeseen events." Draco explained.
Surprised, Ginny pointed at herself. "Me?"
"You." Draco nodded. "You heard some of my plans on the train. That led you to try and control me for your own ends. You need to kill the Dark Lord's familiar. Your involvement has changed the game by creating new possibilities. Possibilities I plan to exploit. What should have taken months only took weeks. No one knows the cabinet is done except for you, and me."
"Okay, so you help me get inside the manor, what am I supposed to help you with?" Ginny skeptically asked.
"One of your brothers is a Curse Breaker for Gringotts. A very prestigious position and not one easily attained. That tells me he's not only magically powerful, but very smart. I help you get in and kill Nagini. If you live to escape with me, then you convince your brother to hide us."
"Why would we need to go into hiding?"
"Because I intend to destroy Malfoy Manor."
"What!?" Ginny shrieked.
The fire in Draco's eyes took on a much more sinister look. "That's my answer to the Dark Lord's Xanatos Gambit. A Thanatos Gambit. We go in, and I'll take over the wards. I'm already keyed in and with only a few moments I can remove everyone else in the house from the scheme except for us. I'm going to destroy the cabinet so they can't use it to escape and then I am going to set the War Wards to implode."
"Don't worry though; you'll get your shot at the familiar. If you die you will just 'disappear' and I'll have to take my chances going forward on my own. If you survive you're going to need a place to hide as much as I will for helping you."
Ginny swallowed dryly. "You know he's going to hunt you down. If you do that he won't even know about me, he'll think the whole thing was you're doing all on your own."
Draco smiled darkly. "That house is Malfoy Manor. Not Riddle Manor, not the Dark Lord's Manor, it is Malfoy manor. Once the War Wards are triggered to self-destruct, no one will be able to stop it or get out except for us. If we can't get out before we are found or captured I'll still win."
"The Dark Lord wants to keep using my manor and family fortune. A fortune my family has spent generations amassing. For a war that does absolutely nothing for my family or for the cause we believe in. So be it. I'll take it away from him. No matter what it costs me. I am a Malfoy, and I will bow to no one. I would rather burn everything I own to the ground and be less than a mudblood, or die, than allow this slight to my family to go unchallenged."
Ginny sat stunned while her mind tried to wrap itself around Draco's mad plan. "How are we supposed to get to my brother? Assuming we can get out of the house once they figure out the wards are turned against them."
Draco held up what looked like an old gold coin. She didn't recognize the stamp on it. "If we can get outside of the wards boundaries, my emergency portkey to a family bolt hole. Contacting your brother is going to be on you but there's always an owl at the safe house. We won't be able to stay long, so from there we'll have to make our way to somewhere you think will be safe."
After only a few moments she nodded. "In for a Knut…"
"...in for a Galleon." Draco finished with a determined nod.
Okay, Chapter Twenty-five revision is done. For those of you interested in the story instead of my drivel, by all means leave a review telling me what you think of this chapter, and then hit that 'Next' button. Enjoy the read. As always thank you to all reviews and readers. You are noticed and appreciated.
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