Number three; this book has a war in it so there is violence as we have a decisive battle….not too gorily expressed. If you missed Slytherin's Heiress and Surfeit of Malfoys you might find some developments difficult to follow; recommend checking the previous two.
Disclaimer: I own none of JKR's characters and I am merely borrowing them.
Chapter 1 An Unwelcome Mission for Draco
Lucius had been working hard to make up for the time he had been under Voldemort's control; he had relied on the knowledge muggle Prime Ministers had of the wizarding world to contact a former Prime Minister and found himself on rather good terms with her. David had suggested borrowing the SAS – or The Regiment as he referred to it – and Lucius had explained everything to his contact and asked if it might be possible to pull in some favours as he did not repose much faith in her successor, who bore too much in common with the previous rather inefficient wizarding Prime Minister, Cornelius Fudge. She had been very happy to help in any way she could to deal with the menace; she had been in power as Prime Minister for the first Wizarding War, and had heard about more than the wizarding ministry of the time had any idea about. Lucius granted her respect for both finding out, and in not turning a hair, though she was most displeased that the intelligence she had been given at Halloween 1981 had been erroneous. He left her with the promise only to ask her to call in favours if it was absolutely necessary.
He hoped it would not be.
Lucius had Severus and Krait staying with him; and if it were partly to give Severus a chance to legilimens his long time colleague such things were kept discretely unspoken. Lucius had found his feelings for the muggle Charlotte gave him a more open mind; and Krait had but little educating to do, for Charlotte had been ready to defend her end as a muggle, rather than giving way to all of Lucius' views; and he respected her the more for it.
The visit the Malfoy family received from the Dark Lord was nervous; Lucius certainly had a guilty conscience, though Narcissa had not, by mutual consent, been yet told of her son's and husband's defection. Voldemort wanted Draco present too.
Voldemort nodded coldly to Lucius.
"Since the fiasco at the Department of Mysteries I find myself short of several Death Eaters" he said in his high, cold voice. "Though my daughter acted as she saw for the best, I think it would be as well if she had backup at Hogwarts; I have decided to make Draco a full member of the Death Eaters now – and charge him with a particular task."
"I'm sure he will be honoured, Master" said Lucius.
"Dark mark and all?" Krait asked.
"Of course" said her father. "Any reason why not?"
Krait forced a natural sounding chuckle.
"That'll cramp his style" she said. "Draco, you'll have to find some excuse not to let them get suspicious….."
Draco knew his cousin well enough by now not to ask stupid questions over whatever kind of bluff she was trying to pull. He grinned sheepishly.
"What do you mean?" It was Voldemort who asked sharply.
"Well….he's shafting at least half a dozen girls and it's rumoured, Professor Vector too…."
Voldemort frowned irritably.
"Surely no silly girl is going to notice anything during teenage fumblings in the dark?"
Krait laughed again.
"In the dark? YOU didn't catch him in the prefects' bathroom with two of them, AND being watched by Moaning Myrtle into the bargain….that girl always ogles the prettiest boys, and she's such a blabbermouth, told everyone when Potter grew pubes….I must say, Parkinson must have a good pair of lungs" she lied smoothly and parenthetically. "Stays under water so long…."
"Yeah, it is rather embarrassing having a girl pop up unexpectedly" said Draco. "Even a dead one…and it's worse if I'm with someone." He backed up Krait's big lie.
Voldemort frowned again.
"This Myrtle might then see the Dark Mark and blab to Potter" he said. "Even if you hid it from your other inamorata….it might then be wisest to delay your full initiation until you leave school. You will have to rely on getting a summons from me through Severus….and you can still carry out the particular task I want you to."
"I am honoured to serve you, Master" said Draco.
"Naturally" said Voldemort. "What I want you to do may test your resourcefulness…I want you to kill Dumbledore, he is becoming a nuisance."
"My Lord….I will do my best….I appreciate your trust in me!" said Draco fawningly.
"My Lord…." Narcissa was white "He's only sixteen….Dumbledore is a powerful wizard…"
"You question me, Narcissa?" Voldemort's voice was almost purring and dripped with menace.
"N-no, master….I question my son's abilities."
"He will find a way….he needs to find a way" said Voldemort. "Lucius was in charge of getting me the prophecy….he failed. I hope his son is made of sterner stuff…or I will begin to wonder if the Malfoy family has ceased to be useful…."
Draco paled; the threat was implicit.
"I will find a way" he said. "Dad was outwitted by Dumbledore but I see him daily….and I can make use of the fact that he will not be anticipating any attack from within, even though the new Prime Minister has increased security at Hogwarts. In fact that will act in my favour because nobody will be expecting any attack to get through."
"Spoken like Lucius in his young, enthusiastic days" said Voldemort, glancing at Lucius.
"I am not unenthusiastic, my lord" said Lucius "I've just learned more caution….we had a setback, but not all of us were captured, and we live to fight another day…."
"You were hauled out of danger by my daughter" said Voldemort coldly. "And only because she did not want the embarrassment and suspicion of being the niece of a known Death Eater…you excuse yourself very readily, Lucius." He raised his wand. "Crucio!"
Lucius fell to the ground writhing in agony as Voldemort held the spell on him; and Krait absently placed an Imperius curse on Charlotte, watching from the adjoining room, to stop her running out to her lover.
"I apologise, my lord" Lucius gasped.
"You will know not to fail me again….but I place my trust in your son for this. Farewell!" Voldemort apparated away and Krait released Charlotte. She ran out.
"What did that filthy creature DO Lucius?" she asked.
"He is the Master! Do not so call him…." Narcissa started. Charlotte rounded on her, eyes blazing.
"You let him do that to your husband and let him give Draco an order that, if I understand right, is tantamount to a death sentence? You say you love Draco, but you don't fight for him!"
Narcissa actually wrung her hands.
"Severus….You'll help Draco won't you? Please….I beg you…."
"I will assuredly help Draco to do whatever he has to do" said Severus, dropping an arm around the boy's shoulder.
"I also" said Krait. Narcissa turned to look at her, venomously.
"Why didn't he get you to do it? Miss Blue-eyed Daughter?" she hissed.
"Because he's pissed with Lucius for not second-guessing Dumbledore" said Krait calmly. "He wants you both to squirm for Draco's safety because you've never been as proactive a supporter as your sister and Lucius got conned….he's like that at times. Hadn't you noticed in all the years you've been a Death Eater?"
Narcissa glared at her.
"You get away with so much!"
"And my fall would be further and harder if I failed him….as you well know. He was harder on Bellatrix questioning his judgement than he would have been on any other…"
"And her condition is your fault too!"
"She's still alive….she's rather a cute little girl, actually, once you break her of being spoiled as hell….you may have lost a sister but you could look on it as having gained a daughter….and she's not bullying you. How would she take you begging Severus to help?"
"That's none of your business!"
"It became my business when you started blaming me for your fear for Draco….and I will always be there for Draco, he's the brother I never had….I love him too, you know!" Krait scowled back.
"There is no need to be overwrought, Narcissa" said Severus. "Draco is well protected…trust us. You have asked for help; Draco will have all the help he needs. Do not be worried."
Narcissa's face worked and tears welled up in her eyes.
"I – I'm just so afraid for him!" she admitted. "Draco, I suppose you'll despise me…."
Draco put his arms around his mother.
"Y'think I'm not a little scared myself?" he said. "I'm in deep….it's scary. That's what friends are for, to help each other out….Severus and Krait are with me, I'll be fine."
"You're so brave, son…." Narcissa hugged him.
Draco exchanged a worried look with his bloodkin; Severus pulled a face and Krait shrugged.
Either they would have to find Voldemort's secrets before he got too impatient or they would have to fake the killing of Dumbledore.
Krait felt confident they could certainly do the latter; it would be well to start planning for that contingency as soon as possible.
Severus stiffened suddenly.
"Back to Hogwarts" he said harshly. "I – I have a feeling Albus is in trouble…."
"Dumbledore? That's bad, he's as hard as sin" said Krait. "Lucius, reassure Narcissa…." It was an implicit suggestion to gloss over Severus' concern for the headmaster; and Lucius nodded comprehending.
The three bloodkin took the gate of the 'loo network' directly back to Hogwarts and Severus led them at a rapid stride to the Headmaster's office, snapping "acid drops" to the Gargoyles that guarded it by way of a password.
Dumbledore was half swooning when they got to his office, almost grey of face and his wand hand was blackened and shrivelled. A ring was on it, heavily wrought with a cracked black stone.
"Severus…" Dumbledore's voice was weak. "It was cursed….."
"Ah" Severus raised his wand, and chanted, singing softly to himself. He lapsed into Parseltongue and the burning that was creeping slowly, inexorably up Dumbledore's arm ceased abruptly.
Draco and Krait had exchanged startled glances and synchronised heartbeats, pouring energy into Severus; as they did so there were several PLOP! And CRAC! Noises as the rest of the bloodgroup arrived without ceremony, the younger ones falling in an undignified heap on the floor tangled in each other.
It was unspoken that they joined hands and synchronised; and Severus smiled, and took his silver knife from his pocket to slit his own palm.
"Severus…." Dumbledore made a half protest.
"You are important to us too" said Severus softly.
"Yeah" said Harry, with feeling. "We WILL do what we can"
The flesh on Dumbledore's hand started to reform, regrow.
"The ring….Krait, you take it off me" said Dumbledore. Krait obediently slid the ugly object from the headmaster's damaged hand, feeling a slight tingle from it as she did so.
"There is a reason you picked me" she said, examining it closely.
"It is the ring of the Peverell family, descended from Salazar Slytherin, ancestors of the Gaunts from whom you are also descended" Dumbledore's voice was stronger. "If there was any residual curse, I felt you would be less at risk than any other…."
"It knows me…." said Krait. "Why – what – how and all the other questions?"
Dumbledore smiled; his colour was much better and under the rain of blood droplets from Severus his hand was almost entirely healed.
"Extraordinarily powerful" he murmured. "I never thought….I wondered if a small group could back Harry….you have stumbled on something of unexpected power."
"Only because we love, sir" said Krait. "We are bound by love as well as blood. I am convinced that it enhances the effect."
"Oh, undoubtedly" agreed Dumbledore. "Severus has a remarkable knowledge of counter curses….but the addition of the power of all of you….forgive me, children, I am just overwhelmed by this….I would have deemed the loss of a hand a fair price to pay for the destruction of the evil in this….but…" he flexed his hand. "Forgive any unseemly lack of modesty, but had it not been for my own prodigious skill the curse on this must have killed me outright, but I now could have wished for backing such as this…. I will not underestimate your collective abilities in future."
"Good" said Krait. "It drives Harry up the pole being talked down to all the time."
The New Marauders and Ellie stayed very quiet. They had no intention of reminding any grown up that they were, after all, only twelve.
"Tom Riddle could not, and cannot understand that love is the greatest magic" sighed Dumbledore. "He created Harry to be his Nemesis, left him with insights, with Parseltongue; and yet with no desire to follow the Dark Arts"
"Of course not!" said Harry indignantly. "He killed my mum and dad….his followers did worse to Neville's parents, and he stole Draco's parents from themselves and from each other….I'm prepared to accept Krait's word that Lucius is only that nasty because of Riddle…"
"In short, you are protected by your ability to love" said Dumbledore. "Understand, Harry, the prophecy is only important because Voldemort made it so….he 'marked you as his equal'…had he not known it existed do you think he would have acted to try to kill you and therefore make the prophecy start to come true BY HIS OWN ACTIONS?"
"Always in motion is the future" murmured David.
"By stepping from your path to change something you can in fact make it come true" said Krait excitedly. "it's a paraphrase not a quote but it sums it up…is that true, then, professor?"
"Oh yes" said Dumbledore. "There are many unfulfilled prophecies in the Department of Mysteries….by killing Harry's parents, Voldemort erred, for he imparted to Harry a furious desire for revenge! Tyrants often create their own worst enemy because all of them fear the people they repress, fear that one day there will be one who will rise against them and strike back. Voldemort is no different; and when he heard of the prophecy he leapt into action and as a consequence handpicked the tool of his own destruction!"
"But" said Harry "If that's so, surely the bit about having to destroy one of us….I've got to try to kill him, or he'll kill me."
"Of course you've got to" said Dumbledore "But not because of the prophecy….because you hate everything he stands for!"
"And past revenge too" said Krait. "Revenge carries its own piece of the Dark Arts because it's negative….it's for the love of his friends and surrogate family and his and their descendants time out of mind that Harry knows he must do this…."
"Yeah" he said. "I see…I fight because I CHOOSE to…as my parents, and Neville's parents chose to…..as Molly and Arthur and the Order and you lot here do….we can hold our heads up high because he can't force us just to react."
"I told you he'd grown up a lot, Albus" said Severus proudly. He dropped an arm round Harry's shoulder while Sirius dropped his arm over the other.
"All of which is important, but can we get back to my family's ring?" asked Krait.
"Certainly….I told you that I suspected that Tom made more than one Horcrux; almost certainly the diary he used to trap Ginny into opening the Chamber of Secrets was one….you destroyed that, Harry." He patted Ginny on the hand and she grinned.
"Fought him the next time….blood group again" she said.
"Indeed…never ceases to amaze me what you have managed to do with it….anyway, I searched the old Gaunt house….I have some memories to share with you, Harry, and Krait, that you'll be telling the others; some of them involve Tom Riddle's early life, his mother's life and his likely acquisition of certain treasures that would be significant to him for the storing of horcruces….I think that will explain much."
"Know the enemy" David Fraser nodded thoughtfully.
"Precisely" said Dumbledore. "I found the ring there and there I believe I have destroyed it as a horcrux….Tom wore it for his last year or so at school, I recall….he was wearing it in the heavily edited memory I had from Horace Slughorn, in which we are supposed to believe that Horace refused to tell him anything about horcruces. Severus, Krait, if you will work on Horace, he is moving from muggle house to muggle house to avoid being forced to become a Death Eater….if you cannot get him to tell you, I will see if he will respond to Harry."
"Why would he?" asked Harry
"Because he is a man of vanity who, without wishing to have power himself, likes to cultivate those who are likely to make a name for themselves….he does favours and expects favours in return, from tickets to Quidditch matches to boxes of crystallised pineapple" said the head dryly. "You are about the most famous youth of the age and as such would tickle his sense of vanity."
"We'll do our best, Albus" said Severus grimly. "Though you may not approve of our methods…"
"I am sure you will not hurt him, Severus" said Dumbledore blandly.
"HE however doesn't need to know of your certainty" she said.
"Meantime, Professor, we so are in trouble" said Hermione "We apparated without licences and we're all under age except Krait, Severus and Sirius…."
"Wrong, Hermione" he said, waving a hand to Sirri and Beloc. "You apparated from house elf instinct in your blood…..it's not noticeable to the ministry because house elves apparate so frequently and freely it's taken no notice of. It won't register as magic used where only underage wizards and witches are. And incidentally, you are at the Burrows….where magic is used commonly, the Ministry assumes that adults keep their underage offspring from using magic. Only the younger ones and Harry would have been at risk, and nobody would think our smaller people would manage apparating."
"Succinctly stated Sirius" said Dumbledore. "You had better all get back to where you are supposed to be, however. I am grateful for your intervention…. I will want to talk to the Dursleys about your last year with them, Harry, I will call in a couple of nights."
"Can't we kidnap him a little bit first?" asked Krait. "Draco and I so want to play with Dudley a little bit, purely physical, no magic" she added hastily "Just to show him…."
Dumbledore looked at her thoughtfully.
"Very well….you can borrow him and take him to The Burrows for me, unless you fail with Slughorn, in which case I will take him to see Horace myself and then on to The Burrows" he agreed.
"There was one more thing, sir" said Draco. "In the excitement it got subordinated….I am now considered a Death Eater and…" he gulped "I have orders to kill you."
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow.
"Severus has trained you well in occlumency" said Dumbledore. "I am not surprised."
"Was it because you destroyed his horcrux?" asked Draco.
"I think not….that only occurred in the last few hours. I believe that he has split his soul many times and cannot feel the effect of the destruction of any one."
"Dad said he was real angry over him slipping the diary into Ginny's cauldron" Draco volunteered.
"Yes, he would be….but he found out afterwards. Of course, had he trusted your father enough to tell him that he had given a piece of his soul to him to guard, Lucius would not have tried to serve his own end by opening the Chamber of Secrets with it….presumably Voldemort told him it would have that effect."
"He's undergone a change of opinion over muggles….Charlotte has some latent power, you know, I guess it attracted Jonathon Malfoy to her, she can mix the magical paints and paint moving pictures and she's a brilliant artist!"
"And it is love that saves your father…love for you, and for Charlotte and the children" said Krait. "Does Narcissa think they are your father's bastards?"
Draco shook his head.
"No, dad told her the truth about that….she was mollified that he'd not been deceiving her for years, though she doesn't like having half breeds in the house…she tolerates them kind of because I show her I like having a little brother and sister. Which I do." Said Draco.
"Well….we have work to do" said Krait. "Hyoo Pewter, away…."
"Eh?" Abrax was startled. "It should be Silver!"
"Can't afford silver, had to devalue…." Krait grinned. "Albus, while you're in a good mood, can I teach mostly full time this year and just study the extra subjects I'm taking on my own time? It would be more comfortable being on the staff table."
Dumbledore smiled sadly.
"And how would your father take that if he found out?" he said "He would wonder, if you were teaching, whether I had subverted you…. Better to retain the anonymity of a schoolgirl and just continue to help out Severus as his classroom assistant. I know you find it irksome but I prefer it that way. And as Lucius is the most active governor you need not worry about censure over Lilith."
"I wasn't" said Krait "Just complaining that I feel too separated from children to have to act like one. I take your point however I suppose" she sighed.