Chapter 27: Family Ties

Indeed, right after breakfast on the 26th of December, Lucius asked the boys to come to his study. He also glanced inquiringly at Narcissa, but she shook her head. He nodded in return. Severus mumbled something about an experiment and disappeared.

By this time, Harry was almost dying of curiosity. Obviously, something important was going on. Maybe it had something to do with the strange behaviour of his parents and godfather the Yule morning...

The three of them went up to the first floor; Lucius closed the door of the study behind them and gestured the boys to sit on the sofa. He remained standing, stopped in the middle of the room and became thoughtful for a moment as if choosing words carefully.

"The thing I'm about to tell you mostly concerns Harry."

Harry immediately stiffened: his father's tone implied that there was trouble. What could have happened? Some problems with the Ministry? With the Aurors? Or with Dumbledore? Since the ill-fated Ministry ball the last year and the talk six months later, Harry was very aware that many people still thought his father to be Voldemort's servant — or at least treated Lucius with suspicion.

"Although," Lucius continued, "this is not quite true: this matter concerns all of us more or less in equal measure. I think, however, it would be correct to assume that Harry might be a little more upset than your Mum, Draco or I."

"Has something happened?" Draco asked anxiously.

"Nothing dangerous," Lucius replied and for some reason took a pair of thin silk gloves off his desk. He put them on and handed the boys two similar pairs of smaller size. "Put these on, please."

Harry became more and more puzzled. Meanwhile, Lucius opened the hidden cabinet behind the tapestry and took out the two volumes of the family chronicles - the originals, not the copies. He turned to the boys and offered them the books.

"Look inside, but be very careful."

Harry and Draco looked at each other.

"We have our own copies, so why..." Harry wondered aloud.

"Look inside," Lucius repeated.

Harry looked at the book before him and almost gasped: now it was twice as big as before. A realization dawned, and Harry opened the cover very carefully despite his impatience. What he saw did not quite meet his expectations, however. He frowned, thinking hard, and studied his new family tree with growing amazement.

"I think it's great," he announced, throwing a sideways glance at Draco who looked delighted and shocked at the same time. Then Harry turned to his father. "Is that what you, Mum and Uncle Severus were doing all night until Sunday morning?"

Lucius nodded.

"Yes. However, I would prefer not to discuss the details with you right now. I will only say that this is a safety measure, and it is needed for some very serious magic to work. So, I insist that you do not tell a single soul about it. Not a word to your friends. Even Uncle Gérard does not know any particulars, not to mention anybody else outside the immediate family."

"What about the Ministry?" Draco asked.

"Fortunately, this information is classified. Something will surely come out eventually, but now only the selected few are in the loop. And I would prefer for this group to remain very small as long as possible."

"Right," Harry agreed thoughtfully, "but I don't understand what I should be upset about. More likely, it is..." He looked questioningly at Lucius.

"Yes, I am not thrilled with... some aspects of this arrangement," the latter replied. "But today can turn out to be more unpleasant for you, than for us."

"Right, you promised some super important visit," Draco remembered suddenly.

"You see..." Lucius fell silent as if trying to choose the right words again. "This kind of magic is very complex. No one ever knows what might shatter its balance. Some situations are quite clear-cut, though. How would you define the difference between family and simple blood relation?"

"Well," Harry frowned in thought, "We trust each other, we have the same goals, the same views..." Harry fell silent, embarrassed, because everything he could think of seemed ridiculously irrelevant to the conversation.

"Absolutely right," Lucius agreed with a smile, looking satisfied with the answer. "But I was talking about something more straightforward and simple."

"We help each other?" Draco ventured, glancing at Harry. "We spend a lot of time together?"


Harry shivered.

"I so don't want to spend a lot of time with Aunt Petunia!" he exclaimed in horror. "Dad!"

"You won't have to," Lucius answered. "And I will certainly never leave you alone with her. Do not worry. We'll have to follow some formal requirements, however, and, I am afraid, regular holiday visits are one of them. I hope four or five visits a year won't be unbearable for us."

Harry calmed down a little, although now he understood why his father had assumed he would be upset.

"I got it!" Draco interjected suddenly. "It's because of Christmas, right?"

"Yes," Lucius confirmed. "It is a family holiday, and traditions should be honoured. That's why we'll have to visit Petunia and her son today, exchange presents, and so on."

"Wait, what about Uncle Vernon?" Harry remembered suddenly.

"To my deepest satisfaction," Lucius smirked, "after our last encounter he decided to divorce your aunt. Do not worry, we won't see him again."

"Yeah, Aunt Petunia and Dudley are more than enough," Harry grumbled.

"We'll have to bear it," Dad answered, "although, I hope that after the measures I have taken your aunt will at least be grateful, and her offspring will sooner or later start to resemble a human being."

"What did you do to them?" Harry got curious despite himself.

"What any head of the family should do," Lucius shrugged. "I guaranteed their comfortable existence — within reason, of course, — and with Gérard's help found a suitable school for your cousin. He will be transferred there only next autumn, though, and until then he will have to content himself with St. Benedict's Boarding School. Any other questions?"

"So we'll visit them so this mysterious magic that you don't want to talk about will work all right," Draco summed up. "That's it?"

"That's it."

"It's alright, then. Harry, if your cousin turns out to be like Nott, we'll just beat him up," Draco announced matter-of-factly. "And then Dad will turn him into a pig."

"I do not think it is a very familial gesture," Lucius snorted. "Harry?"

"If we must, we must," he replied. "Five times a year is not that much, really."


It turned out that Aunt Petunia invited them to lunch.

Harry thought they would have to dress into something Muggle, but Lucius said, "One must draw a line somewhere."

In the end, they chose some nice, but not overly formal robes and cast Disillusionment charms.

"Petunia and her solicitor have been informed," Narcissa explained, "and no one else will see us."

"Her solicitor?" Harry inquired.

"Mixing business with pleasure might be a good strategy in this case... if you can find any pleasure in the circumstances, of course," Lucius replied. "We'll have to discuss some financial matters with Petunia anyway, as well as her son's grades. I want to be sure that by the end of summer the boy is ready to attend a decent school. I would not want our family reputation with Gérard's friends to suffer. So, if today we do not only congratulate each other and have the required Christmas lunch together, but do some business, I won't have to bear a burden of seeing you aunt twice in a month."

"I see."

They Apparated to a quiet empty corner of some park and followed Lucius down a narrow path, then down a wider alley close to a hedge. Despite everything their father said about Dursleys being 'comfortable within reason', even Harry, who was only vaguely aware of the Muggle world conventions, understood that the suburb they were in was much more than simply comfortable, maybe even fashionable. The houses on the other side of the hedge looked grand, and the gardens were huge and well-cared for. They were certainly much bigger and better than number four at Privet drive.

Lucius passed two such houses and lead them to the wicket-gate of the third one, opened it calmly and walked straight to the door. Draco studied the surroundings with great curiously.

"Don't worry, Harry," Narcissa whispered quietly into his ear. "If they take any liberties, I'll turn them all into pigs, and no family ties will stop me."

Harry snorted quietly andcheered up a bit.

They reached the doorsteps. Petunia was meeting the guests at the door, looking very nervous. Three and a half years passed since their last meeting; she lost some weight and aged visibly. Life must have been tough for her, and that story with fake money certainly did not help. Harry had mixed feelings about her. On one hand, he clearly remembered her ill temper, her bullying and occasional cuffs or shoves. On the other, now he saw just a stranger, an ordinary and unhappy woman. He also remembered his father's explanations: his aunt must have always been jealous, because she was a Muggle. Thus, she deserved only pity, not fear.

"Merry Christmas," she greeted them stiffly, shaking hands with Lucius and Narcissa. She nodded to Draco and finally turned to Harry, "Hello." Her voice shook just a little.

And Harry suddenly calmed down.

"Hello, Aunt Petunia," he smiled politely. "Merry Christmas."


While greeting them, Petunia was strangely nervous for some unknown reason. Her hand shook a little, being clammy and cold. Certainly, meeting her nephew for the first time in years could explain the Muggle woman's unease, but Lucius had a feeling there was something more to it. Inviting them in and showing where to put their coats, she kept giving furtive glances to Lucius and then to the back of the house. Undoubtedly, she wanted to say something before they entered the living room, but could not muster enough courage.

"Is something the matter?" Lucius finally asked.

Petunia sighed nervously, then stood straight and said quietly, "The thing is, Mr. Malfoy..."

"Lucius," he corrected dryly.

"You see, I have a... an unexpected... guest," Petunia admitted. Seeing annoyance and displeasure on his face, she continued hurriedly, "He is your solicitor's brother, that is, Mr. Lewis's. Mr. Lewis helped me so much, it would have been impolite to refuse, you see."

"Has Mr. Lewis brought his brother with him?" Lucius was a bit shocked. When Gérard recommended him a trustworthy London squib solicitor for handling Petunia's finances, Lucius did not even bother to check the man's background, as Gérard certainly could be trusted in these matters. All in all, it was quite natural for a squib lawyer to be acquainted not only with Muggle laws, but also with the magical world. But why would Lewis bring his brother to this family-only gathering?

"You see," Petunia continued even quieter, "he explained that his brother actually knows you already, so that should be alright, and I owe him so much..."

Lucius' blood ran cold. This looked too much like a well-set trap.

"You owe me," he cut her off icily and instantly drew his wand out. "Cissy, boys, wait here and be alert. If anything happens, return home immediately."

He crossed the hall in several long strides and ended up in the doorway to the living room. And then he was shocked for the second time in three minutes, because he did actually know the suspicious brother of Mr. Lewis.

"Hello," Liam Lloyd stood up and offered his hand. "Sorry for coming without an invitation, but it could not be helped. I learned only this morning that I was free today."

If Gérard knew of this, Lucius thought, I will turn him into a toad and give him to Severus, I swear!

"Glad to see you," he nodded, shaking hands with Liam, then with Lewis. "So, how much information on my family affairs have you managed to pass to the Aurors, Mr. Lewis?"

The lawyer laughed.

"Not that much. Half of it, at most."

"His real name is Llyr Lloyd," Liam announced very solemnly. "And he is my older brother."

Lucius raised his eyebrows: frankly speaking, he could not entirely understand how he had won such confidence from this careful and reserved Auror. However, some things that had puzzled him before now became clear. Having a squib relative, and an older brother at that, certainly explained Liam's views and career choice.

"I must admit, it is rather difficult to gather information on you," Liam continued as if nothing had happened. "I think you will not be offended if I say that your previous deeds did not invite any desire to have a heart-to-heart talk."

Lucius smirked grimly.

"No, I will not. I think, however, that it is time to invite my family in at least."

Seeing that the guests were talking amicably, Petunia sighed with relief and brought Narcissa and the boys to the living room. As soon as the necessary introductions were over, she proposed without much certainty that "the boys can go upstairs to play".

Lucius looked questioningly at his sons, mostly at Harry. Harry was not thrilled with the prospect of hanging out with his cousin, but nodded. Draco just shrugged.

Dudley mumbled some nonsense sounding like "Let me show you my vidi-games", or something similar, and went upstairs. Harry and Draco followed.

The adults seated themselves comfortably. Petunia served the aperitifs and left the living room under some plausible excuse. Narcissa exchanged glances with her husband and also left the room, letting the men talk without interference and saving their hostess from embarrassment.

"You were saying..." Lucius turned to his ex-classmate.

"I took interest in you almost immediately after that adopting the Boy Who Lived trick of yours," Liam announced calmly. "Once again, it was very difficult to gather information on you, and I was in no hurry. Several years later, I was inclined to think that you had actually changed your views, which is quite an admirable development, if I may say so." Lucius frowned, but Liam raised his hand. "Wait, please. I am not asking you to put your heart on your sleeve, but I would like to explain. Anyway, by this autumn I had observed the situation long enough to warn you in September. Frankly speaking, I thought it would be the end of it. You can imagine my surprise when a month later my brother said that you had asked for his assistance! I was well aware of his business contacts with your French relatives, of course, but it did not even cross my mind that you could be interested in his services."

Lucius did not know whether to be angry or amused.

"I take it, Gérard does not know?"

Lewis shook his head.

"No, he doesn't. Strictly speaking, this is confidential information. As well as any affairs of yours that I take care of, Mr. Malfoy. Liam only knew that I worked for you; that is all. And he knew that much only because I wanted his advice before making a decision. Being discreet is my bread and butter, after all."

"I understand," Lucius smirked. "So, what did you want to discuss, Liam? Excuse me, but it's hard to believe you are driven by sentimental school memories."

Liam laughed.

"It's hard to be motivated by something non-existent, indeed. There are two points I thought you should be informed of. First, even if no one was able to ferret out what business exactly you have with that colleague of mine you were so much interested in, the mere fact of this partnership sparks interest. The whole thing looks rather scandalous: someone who has always been unofficially considered Voldemort's right hand man suddenly starts keeping company with the protégé of the Head of Magical Law Enforcement department..."


"As long as Amelia continues to be Head of the Department, your friend will go far," Liam nodded. "Personally, I have nothing to hold against him; The Shacklebolts are a respectable family, and he is an excellent Auror... However, this is a curious development. It is impossible not to notice the Seal of Silence on all the documents connected to you. People talk, you know."

"And what exactly do they say?"

"Many things. Some in your favour, some not so much... Right now, I would say fifty-fifty. I thought you needed to know that."

"Thank you," Lucius said. "I will keep that in mind. And the other point?"

"Considering all the circumstances, I would like not to be the talk of the department myself," Liam smiled thinly. "But if you need something, I would be glad to help. Luckily, Llyr is your solicitor, so if the need arises, you can turn to him, and he will contact me."

Lucius smiled just as thinly. Translated from Slytherin to English, Liam's words meant, "I am highly interested in the faction you are obviously creating, and I could even risk joining it."

"Thank you, it could be very useful," he answered.

Which meant, "I would think about it and could even risk accepting your offer."


Harry followed Dudley upstairs, eyeing his cousin with interest. The Muggle boy changed even more than Aunt Petunia. For one thing, he lost weight. Before, he looked like a pink piglet being fattened up for Christmas and promised to become a real boar in a few years. Now he resembled a skinny and dejected foal: he was thin, a little stooped and horse-faced, like his mother. The main difference, though, was that he did not try to beat Harry and looked even somewhat apprehensive. Either Petunia had browbeaten him, or the mere sight of wizards and Lucius' stern face made a real impression.

Dudley's room was spacious and well-furnished. He even had his own small TV set. He hovered at the door a bit before offering them to take a seat. The boys accepted, and an awkward silence fell.

"Well," Dudley mumbled at last, "this is my room."

"We guessed as much," Draco quipped, although it was obvious that the surroundings had aroused his curiosity. Unlike Harry, he had never been in a Muggle house before.

"It's nice," Harry said in a neutral tone. "When did you move here?"

"In November," Dudley livened up a bit. "It was so cool. If you'd only seen the place where we lived before..."

Harry remembered the shack on the seashore and made a face.

"I have."

"When?" His cousin was surprised.

"Doesn't matter. Go on."

"There isn't much to tell, really. I don't know much. It's just that once Mum said your guardian had come over..."

"His father," Draco corrected icily.

Dudley stared at him for a moment, and then shrugged.

"All right. Whatever. Anyway, Mum said your father had come and offered his help. Mum accepted, and we moved very quickly. And I was sent to this new school," he made a face.

"That bad?" Harry asked with sympathy.

Glancing at the door, Dudley whispered, "It's awful. Sit straight, don't put elbows on the table, do all the homework on time, and that blasted French... I hate froggies! And detentions! You breathe wrong, you get one! I cleaned the toilets four times in the last two months!"

Draco guffawed. Harry could not help himself either.

"Sounds familiar... It must be the most popular detention in all boarding schools."

"You meant most unpopular."

"Depends," Harry snorted. "Looks like it's very popular among teachers. You must be grateful you don't have to cut flobberworms for hours."

"Cut what?" Dudley opened his eyes wide.

"They are a kind of small worms, they are used to make the base of many potions," Draco explained. "A lot of small slimy worms need to be cut into very small pieces."

Dudley turned greenish.

"Ugh. Yeah, it must be even worse than cleaning the toilets."

"I don't know," Draco turned up his nose at him. "I think it's nothing special. Squeezing bubotuber puss, though..."

"Please," Dudley begged, "let's talk about something else!"

Harry laughed.

"All right. What did you get for Christmas?"

His cousin immediately livened up.

"Oh! I wanted to show you! My games!"

He dashed to the TV set and started fumbling with the box attached to it.

"What is it?" Draco asked quietly.

"No idea," Harry admitted. "That box is called TV set, and people watch it. It shows moving pictures like our photos, but there are a lot of them. I don't know how to play with it, though."

"Look!" Dudley called.

They came closer and stared at the screen. It showed some strange blue creature with ridges on the back staring triumphantly at them.

"It's... very nice," Harry noted tactfully.

Meanwhile, Draco read the phrase at the bottom of the screen.

"A sonic hedgehog?" he asked incredulously. "That's a hedgehog? Have they ever seen one? And why is it blue?"

"It's just a picture," Dudley laughed. "And it's not a sonic hedgehog, it's his name — Sonic."

"And how can we play with it?" Harry interrupted.

"Not play with it, play the game," Dudley corrected. "Haven't you ever seen a game console?"

"Oh, and you've flown on a broomstick or fought a troll in the school bathrooms?" Draco snapped.

Silence fell.

"You must be joking," Dudley said weakly.

"Not at all," Draco answered. "Both of us have been riding a broom since the age of five, and we are on the school Quidditch team. Quidditch is a Wizarding sport where all the players fly on brooms. You need to throw a ball into the hoops, catch the Snitch and avoid the Bludgers. Those are huge balls that fly around and can easily kill you."

"It's true, I swear," Harry confirmed, trying very hard not to laugh at his cousin's stunned expression.

"There are real trolls in your school toilets?"

"Of course," Draco replied matter-of-factly. "There are hundreds of them. You can imagine what it's like to have a detention there."

"Compared to that, my video games are dull," Dudley sighed sadly.

"All right," Draco said patronizingly. "Show us how to play with your blue monster."


After studying Dudley's school reports, Lucius seemed satisfied, if not entirely pleased.

"It could have been better," he remarked, returning the papers to Petunia. "But these are fine results for two months. I hope in six months he will have made up for the lost time, and if not... there is always St. Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys. I hear they still use canes as a punishment."

Petunia paled.

"But..." Her voice cracked.

"I am joking," Lucius replied dryly. "I have more up-to-date views on how to treat children, even if they are not mine."

This time Petunia hung her head and did not answer.

"Lucius," Narcissa interfered gently. "Remember, it's Christmastime."

"Yes, darling," he agreed. "My apologies, Petunia, that was inappropriate. If the boy will keep this up, we will increase the amount of his pocket money... Let's say, after Easter. Before that, please, do not spoil him. I hope you restrained yourself and did not shower him with some extravagancies for Christmas?"

"I gave him a game console," Petunia said, blushing.

Puzzled, Lucius stared at her, as the word meant nothing to him.

"A Muggle entertainment," Mr. Lewis explained. "Quite a prestige toy, but within the budget we discussed."

"You see," Petunia bubbled, "children at that school may not be really polite, but they are far from poor. They can't bring anything like this with them to the school, but they still talk..."

Lucius nodded: he knew perfectly well the importance of establishing one's social status.

"Fine. If this thing cannot be taken to school, I suppose it cannot interfere with the boy's studies. Mr. Lewis, are there any other questions that I need to settle?"

The man smiled, "There are none, I think. If anything turns up, I will send you an owl."

"Wonderful. In this case, enough of business-talk, it is time to move to something more pleasant."

"I think, we can have lunch now," Petunia announced. Her confidence returned as soon as her precious son's future was settled, at least for now. "I have everything ready."


"How was your day?" Severus asked when they returned home late in the afternoon, just before dinner. He spent all the morning in the lab, and after lunch settled in the library with the latest issue of Studies in Alchemy and a glass of brandy. That was where Lucius found him later.

"Tedious," the latter sighed. "It looks like I will have to endure the company of Muggles for a long time, as a penance for my previous choices." He shuddered. "There were some informative moments, though. For example, you'd never guess who I met there."

"Hmm?" Severus responded absent-mindedly. "I thought you were having a family lunch, not a formal party."

"We thought so too," Lucius smirked, pouring a drink for himself. "However, one guest was informal enough to come uninvited. Guess who?"

"Dumbledore," Severus suggested calmly and looked at Lucius just in time to see him choking on his brandy.

"Do not say such things!" Lucius said indignantly after catching his breath. "I have had enough nightmares for one day."

"My condolences," Severus answered without any sympathy. Today, for the first time since the beginning of the school year, he was able to rest and relax, and all alone at that.

"Thank you very much," Lucius grumbled.

"So, who was it?"

"Liam Lloyd. Do you remember him?"

Severus frowned.

"Vaguely. Isn't he an Auror?"

"Yes. And my former housemate. He wrote to me in September, and we have exchanged a couple of letters since then."

Severus whistled quietly and finally put his journal down.

"And he came to visit Petunia," he frowned. "To the Muggle town where she had moved only a couple of months ago. And today of all days... I do not like it at all."

"Me neither," Lucius assured him. "It also turns out, he is a younger brother to my Muggle solicitor."

"What?" Severus could not believe his ears.

"You have heard it right," Lucius nodded. "At least, he told me so."

Then he settled into his armchair and retold his conversation with Liam in detail.

"This is utter rubbish."

"Or an unbelievable coincidence."

"Just as I said: rubbish."

"I see three main possibilities," Lucius said slowly, thinking aloud. "First, it is possible that he actually tells the truth, as unbelievable as it is. In this case, he must be assuming that I am in alliance with Amelia Bones and is trying to obtain my support. It would have been nice if I was actually in alliance with her."

"Are you not?" Severus asked slyly.

"Even if Amelia agreed, it would have been a disadvantageous partnership," Lucius made a face. "She is too soft in determining her goals and much too scrupulous when it comes to choosing means. If the war breaks out in earnest, she will not live to see its end."

Severus only shook his head.

"I will not argue with that. And the other two possibilities?"

"The most unpleasant one is that he is lying and Lewis is not a relation of his — say, he is under Imperius. Or he had been bribed, or something else in that vein. If it is so, the whole situation is rather ugly. It would mean that Liam has probably already extracted from his mind all the information on Petunia and has a fairly good idea why we need her."

"Too risky," Severus objected. "It is highly unlikely that he thinks you are naive enough to expect you to trust his word only. In any case, he knows about your contacts with Shacklebolt. Ergo, everything he told you can be verified."

"You are probably right," Lucius conceded. "He is too smart to use such a pack of blatant lies. It could also be a double bluff, of course. There is one more option, though, and I think it is the most probable one."

"Which is?"

"All of it is mostly true, apart from the fact that Lewis was recommended to me on purpose."

"You think your cousin..." Severus sounded doubtful.

"There are other ways. Gérard is French, after all. He has some connections in London, but I doubt they are wide enough. Most likely, he approached his business acquaintances and made inquiries. It usually takes time. At that stage, someone used, say, a common friend to recommend him a reliable squib with a spotless reputation. I cannot even blame him, as I have seen for myself that Mr. Lewis is a very thorough and careful man in his field of work. I did not tell Gérard why I needed him, so..."

"Wait, are you saying that Liam knew beforehand that you would need a Muggle solicitor? How could he know?"

"This is the most curious part," Lucius said darkly. "Nine days passed between the ritual and Shacklebolt's visit. The question is, when exactly they noticed the changes in the documents and who had seen them before Shacklebolt."

"Strictly speaking, any time and anyone. The first point can be clarified with Shacklebolt himself. There is another thing I do not understand: Luc, what does it matter? We did not expect to keep it secret for long. What are you afraid of?"

"Nothing really, but when someone wants something from me, I prefer to know what that something is. And why it is wanted. So Mr. Lloyd's machinations look more than suspicious, even if he sincerely wants an alliance with me."

"It is quite obvious what these Ministry sleuths want," Severus grumbled.

"They always want Harry," Lucius nodded. "They will not get him, though."

"Meanwhile, we must take measures so that they would not know it as long as possible."


Draco sat on Harry's desk, swinging his feet, and looked through the books they got from Petunia as Christmas presents. He was flabbergasted to see that Muggle pictures were motionless.

"Muggles are so strange," he concluded, putting the book down. "They have blue hedgehogs, but the pictures are not moving."

"What did you expect?" Harry laughed. "They don't have magic."

"What do they have?"

Harry frowned.

"I think it's called technology. I don't remember what it means. You can ask Hermione. She could probably explain in detail how a TV set works and why Muggle pictures don't move."

"Thank you very much," Draco snorted. "There are too many Muggles in our life as it is. I'm more interested in magic."

"Yeah," Harry agreed. "And those lessons Dad promised. It would be so cool if we return to school knowing many battle spells!"

"What's the point? Dad will probably forbid us to talk about it. And he will be right, at that."

"Probably. I still can't wait, though. By the way..." Harry stood up, came to the door, opened a crack and peered carefully outside. Having made sure that the corridor was empty, he closed the door again and returned to his brother. "We need to find something in the library while we are home."

"What?" Draco whispered.

"A book on taming three-headed dogs."


"What do you mean, why? You did want to find the Philosopher's stone, didn't you?"

For a moment Draco was speechless.

"Are you serious?"

"Of course I am," Harry smiled. "To do that, we'll have to pass by that dog. We need to be ready. What if we need some potions or other magical stuff? We won't be able to get it later at school."

"It won't be easy here either," Draco grumbled, "with three adults constantly watching us..."

At that moment, someone knocked on the door, and both conspirators immediately grabbed a book each from the new four-volume set, pretending to be terribly busy.

"Come in," Harry said, staring at the picture with three trolls, thirteen dwarves and some strange creature he could not recognize.

Lucius entered.

"Ah," he said, "you are broadening your horizons."

"Do you want to read it?" Draco readily offered him the book he was holding.

"No, thank you," Lucius declined hurriedly. "Actually, I came because, first, dinner is ready, and second, we need to discuss our lessons in defensive and battle spells. What do you say if we begin tomorrow?"

The boys glanced at each other.

"Hurray!" they shouted in unison.