AN: I apologise to my faithful readers, I have been remiss in updating this story…this is mostly due to the fact that I am working on several other projects at the moment and have somehow managed to lose the thread of this one. I hope you can forgive me. Please enjoy this much belated update; Any comments would as always be much appreciated. Thank you.
Chapter Sixteen: At Malfoy Manor
Draco stood in the bedroom doorway, Harry was perched in the window casement with a thick black blanket wrapped around his shoulders, his knees were drawn to his chest as he gazed out at the rolling Wiltshire hills and the Orchard where he could see Lily and James climbing in the trees. He tightened his arms around his knees and sighed heavily.
"If you wish I can recall Scorpius, they would do well having another their own age to play with." Draco said quietly as he stepped easily through the enchantments that prevented Harry from leaving the room.
Harry didn't bother looking round. "No...it's too dangerous." He croaked.
"They're coping well...Lily cried for a few days but James has been strong." Again Harry said nothing, keeping his eyes on the children as they played. Draco moved closer, his silver-grey robes swishing across the carpets. "They miss their father."
"He won't let me near them..." Harry replied, his voice a dull monotone.
"Maybe I could..."
"He won't listen."
"You don't even know what I'm going to say." Draco frowned at the back of Harry's messy hair.
"I don't care."
The blond sighed heavily. "You could at least make some attempt at keeping yourself alive...eat something."
"You should try..."
"Are you my mother?"
Draco tiskd angrily. "You are acting like a child."
Finally Harry turned his head, his face was too pale, he had a shadow of a beard on his chin and two dark rings under his eyes. "Every time I try to sleep I see him lying there..." He said softly, pushing fingers through his unkempt hair. "Every time I close my eyes I see him...his face...his eyes...It's torture."
"No...no you don't. Ron was more than my friend, Draco...he was a brother...we...we went through so much...without him I would have been killed a long time ago. Now he's..." he sighed shakily and closed his eyes. "I...I don't care anymore." He muttered. "The world can go to hell...I don't care..."
Draco couldn't answer that, so he sighed and ran fingers through his hair. "The Dark Lord wishes to see you." He said softly and watched Harry slide off of the Window sill and stand, the blanket slipped from his shoulders and Draco saw he was wearing the same robes he had been when Ron had died. "You cannot go looking like that." He said with a half hearted gesture at Harry's clothes.
"Why would it matter what I look like?" Harry replied.
"Because..." Draco gazed at him. "Because he expects you to be at his side now...and in more ways than one."
"Oh." Harry lifted his hand and ruffled his hair at the back making it messier than it had been as he crinkled his nose in distaste, Draco thought he looked rather cute...which wasn't a thought he generally associated with men. "Well...whatever...I don't have any clothes here anyway."
"You can borrow some of mine...I'm taller so we will have to take them in by magic...also you're skinny."
"I've always been skinny, Draco."
Draco smiled. "I know...a bit runty."
Harry flashed a sudden grin, it disappeared as quickly as it came but Draco was satisfied.
James entered the large drawing room, he was still very impressed and awed by Malfoy Manor, it was huge and old and he had found many places to go exploring with Lily tagging by his side but he still felt wrong...sometimes he found himself turning, expecting to see Al by his side, he wanted to tease him, make him cry and whine again...he wanted to make him laugh and smile...but Albus wasn't around so he made do with Lily seeing as Teddy was uninterested in their play.
James turned at the sound of the voice to see Teddy standing in the doorway, he was wearing black, his hair was yellow as it fell into his eyes which had become a dark steely grey. "Yes?"
"We're wanted in the dining room."
"What for?" James stood with a frown.
Teddy shrugged listlessly, eyes heavily lidded and extremely guarded, he had been strange since they had been reunited and he never spoke a word about what had happened to him in Azkaban, merely snapping at James to shut up. "Dunno...I suppose they want to talk to us...come on, brat." He led the way out of the drawing room and through the hall, James found himself gazing at the portraits which watched him curiously.
They entered the dining room, a large room of sumptuous decor with a massive table planted directly in the centre. James peered around Teddy as they entered and saw people sat around the table, many of them wearing the black robes of the Death Eaters. He looked to the head of the table and saw Voldemort sitting calmly, at his side was Harry, leaning on the arm of a chair and gazing at a wall with empty eyes. "Ah, and here are our young guests, please, sit." Riddle said indicating two empty seats at his other side. Teddy sat between Riddle and James, he lifted a hand and ran fingers through his hair and James watched as it changed colour slowly. It became dark brown, the same colour as his grandmothers, his eyes changed to match it and he glanced warily around the table, mouth set in tense line.
"Er...e-excuse me?" James said suddenly, gaining the attention of the whole table as he leaned around Teddy to speak to Riddle. "W-Where's Lily?"
"The girl is much too young for this, she is with a house elf tucked safely away."
James nodded and sat back, he felt eyes on him and turned to see his father watching him intently. The table was full of paper, the men and women waited in silence for their Lord to speak, when he did his voice was soft. "Our aim is as it always has been; to establish Wizarding rule over Muggles, to elevate ourselves to where we belong...I have had loyal men take firm measures to see that many Muggle Sympathisers have been wheedled out of the Ministry, thus far they have been relatively successful. The Minister is currently in St. Mungo's, he is under heavy guard but if we can place one of the Healers under the imperious curse we may be able to finish him off..."
"I will do it My Lord...I know of one of the Healers who has been given the task to care for the Minister."
"Very good Wilheim, report back to me when the task is completed." The man nodded and Riddle turned to survey his Death Eaters. "Once the Minister is dead we must take the steps to secure one of our own as Minister, he will answer only to us..." His eyes flicked to Harry who laughed.
"Me? They would never consent, it would be obvious."
"Not at all...not if we clear your name."
Harry's eyes widened. "And why would they do that? You rescued me from Azkaban...They would never clear my name."
"Ah, you underestimate the power I hold within your precious Ministry. Already my men have placed their own within the upper echelon, I have been in control even before I was resurrected." He smiled when Harry's eyes grew wide.
"Then why did they bother discrediting me in the first place?"
"Because they assumed I would want you dead, and they wished to besmirch your good name." Riddle smiled, his face handsome as he locked eyes with Harry. "Now we will undo their work, we will clear your name and you will be voted into office as a hero."
Harry pulled a disgusted face. "A fake." He muttered softly but lowered his eyes. "As you wish." He stared at a knot in the ebony wood of the table and ignored Riddle's triumphant smirk.
Draco gazed at the Dark Lord. "Yes?"
"You will place yourself at Harry's side, protect him from the few who may not believe in his innocence."
"As you wish My Lord."
"You and a few others will hunt down the Mudblood woman, Hermione Granger, and you will take the children. I want them brought to me and held hostage to ensure her cooperation...she must not be harmed, do you understand me?"
Once orders were issued Riddle turned to the two children. "Now, I would return you both to school...if I knew you would not be able to escape me. You must stay here and learn the magical arts from me personally, you will obey every command I give you and you will not shirk these lessons. Do you understand?"
Teddy gazed at Riddle with an unreadable expression, though his eyes did dart to his Godfather's who gave a slight nod. "Yes." He said after a long silence, his fingers tightening into fists on the table, long lines marred the polish from his nails. "But..."
Riddle raised an eyebrow. "But?"
"Leave James out of this...he's eleven and he..."
"I will not take the advice of a werewolf pup." He said coldly. "You are in no position to question my orders."
"I am not a werewolf!" Teddy said suddenly, eyes flashing furiously. "I didn't even know my father! He died when I was a baby, as did my mother! I was raised by Andromeda Black..."
"Who betrayed her pure blood by consorting with a muggle." Riddle sneered. "Be wary boy, you tread upon dangerous ground."
"She may have married a muggle, My Lord, but she taught me the traditions of the House of Black! She taught me everything I know today!"
"Teddy..." Harry muttered in warning, he could feel the fury radiating from Riddle. "Calm down he..."
"No! You don't understand, do you, Harry?! All my life people have been telling me how wonderful my father was...how brave and splendid...what they didn't tell me was how he tried to desert my mother...how he left her with me in her womb!" He saw Harry's mouth fall open at that and smiled humourlessly. "My grandmother told me. She said how worried everyone was that I'd be born like him, be shunned by society...but no one took into account that the exact same thing would happen no matter what! I'm still shunned! Even with the new laws Hermione brought in! People are afraid of me...I'm treated like an outcast all because of what my father was. He was right when he said that I was going to be tainted by his condition...I should never have been born. Werewolves should never breed."
"How did you know he said that?" Harry muttered with a frown.
Teddy sneered, making him look the spitting image of his grandmother. "Ron told me...he was drunk and talking about Lord Voldemorts defeat..."
Harry sighed. "I'm sorry..."
"You shouldn't be. You didn't force him to procreate..." Teddy ran his fingers through his hair.
"As riveting as your teenage angst is..." Riddle began in a tone of utter boredom. "I wish for you to prepare yourself to begin training in the morning."
"I don't really have a choice do I?" Teddy said softly.
"No, neither of you do." Riddle replied and dismissed them with a wave. Teddy put a hand on James' shoulder who stood but hesitated, his eyes on his father.
"Can I...?" Harry began slowly, half standing and looking to Tom.
"An hour." Riddle replied.
With a nod of his head Harry stood and swept around the table, dragging his son into a tight embrace as Tom left them to it. He gazed into his son's face, a face that resembled his own. "Are you alright? Are they treating you well?" He asked rapidly, his hands on James' head holding him still.
"I'm fine…just confused…" James replied and he looked at his father, it was the worst thing he could imagine. The man he who had brought him up was gone, his eyes darkened by grief and his face much thinner. His hair was more unkempt than usual and he had a definitive air of lack of care surrounding him and the stale scent of drink clung to him. "Are you ok?"
Harry smiled softly. "I'm alright, you just worry about yourself. Is Lily…is she coping?"
James smiled. "She's coping better than me." He assured his father. "She's strong."
Harry's relief was palpable as he once again embraced his son tightly. "I'm so sorry." He whispered, his voice breaking. "This…everything is all my fault! I hurt you all, I've lost Al…all because I was so stupid! Stupid and weak…"
"It's not your fault, Dad." James whispered softly. "It's his. Everything is his fault!"
Harry pulled away with a frown. "Don't you ever say that in his presence…you don't know what he's capable of…being children won't help you." His eyes darkened again and he bent his head, his hands gripping James' clothes almost tightly enough to tear them. "I hope…if you get out of this alive that you will learn to forgive me…"
James was silent, he despised seeing his once strong father breaking like this. He hated it that Voldemort had forced such tragedy on them all, he frowned angrily. "I hate this." He said venomously. "Dad! I miss Al! I miss M-Mum…I miss Uncle Ron and Hermione! I-I want to see Grandma and Granddad again…I want…"
Harry tensed and took a shuddering breath, slowly he took James' shoulders in his hands. "Nothing will stop me from killing anyone who would harm you, your brother and your sister. Do you understand me? I'm going to get you out of this alive! No matter what!"
"Promise me…promise you won't die too…please! I-I can't lose you as well…"
Harry gazed at his son for a long time in silence. "Sometimes, James…sometimes we can't get what we wish. But remember even if I die, even if we're separated…I will always, always love you. As does your mother…she died to protect you."
James swallowed the great upsurge of terror and pain as he realised that his father had no intention of coming out of this alive, he took a shuddery breath and tried to control his emotions. His face crumpled slightly. "I don't want…I can't…don't make me do this on my own…"
Harry's smile was so sad it tore at James' heart, he smoothed hair from the boys face gently. "You'll never be alone, James. I promise you that." He sighed softly and pressed his forehead to his sons. "Your mother and I will never leave your side."
"Someone's coming," he said suddenly. Squinting tensely through the darkness, they watched the figure drawing nearer, walking steadily toward them between the graves. Harry couldn't make out a face, but from the way it was walking and holding its arms, he could tell that it was carrying something. Whoever it was, he was short, and wearing a hooded cloak pulled up over his head to obscure his face. And - several paces nearer, the gap between them closing all the time - Harry saw that the thing in the persons arms looked like a baby...or was it merely a bundle of robes? Harry lowered his wand slightly and glanced sideways at Cedric. Cedric shot him a quizzical look. They both turned back to watch the approaching figure. It stopped beside a towering marble headstone, only six feet from them. For a second. Harry and Cedric and the short figure simply looked at one another. And then, without warning, Harry's scar exploded with pain. It was agony such as he had never felt in all his life; his wand slipped from his fingers as he put his hands over his face; his knees buckled; he was on the ground and he could see nothing at all; his head was about to split open. From far away, above his head, he heard a high, cold voice say, "Kill the spare." A swishing noise and a second voice, which screeched the words to the night: "Avada Kedavra!" A blast of green light blazed through Harry's eyelids, and he heard something heavy fall to the ground beside him; the pain in his scar reached such a pitch that he retched, and then it diminished; terrified of what he was about to see, he opened his stinging eyes. Cedric was lying spread-eagled on the ground beside him. He was dead…**
Squinting tensely through the darkness, they watched the figure drawing nearer, walking steadily toward them between the graves. Harry couldn't make out a face, but from the way it was walking and holding its arms, he could tell that it was carrying something. Whoever it was, he was short, and wearing a hooded cloak pulled up over his head to obscure his face. And - several paces nearer, the gap between them closing all the time - Harry saw that the thing in the persons arms looked like a baby...or was it merely a bundle of robes?
Harry lowered his wand slightly and glanced sideways at Cedric. Cedric shot him a quizzical look. They both turned back to watch the approaching figure.
It stopped beside a towering marble headstone, only six feet from them. For a second. Harry and Cedric and the short figure simply looked at one another.
And then, without warning, Harry's scar exploded with pain. It was agony such as he had never felt in all his life; his wand slipped from his fingers as he put his hands over his face; his knees buckled; he was on the ground and he could see nothing at all; his head was about to split open.
From far away, above his head, he heard a high, cold voice say, "Kill the spare."
A swishing noise and a second voice, which screeched the words to the night: "Avada Kedavra!"
A blast of green light blazed through Harry's eyelids, and he heard something heavy fall to the ground beside him; the pain in his scar reached such a pitch that he retched, and then it diminished; terrified of what he was about to see, he opened his stinging eyes.
Cedric was lying spread-eagled on the ground beside him. He was dead…**
…Harry woke with a cry. His old scar throbbed painfully as he bolted upright, the sheets tangled around his sweating body as he gasped in a lungful of air. His hands shook as he pressed them to his face and shivered in the pre-dawn chill. His stomach twisted and he had to fight with his body so he wasn't sick. Finally his shaking subsided and he sighed before falling backwards onto the bed, he gazed blankly up at the canopy of his bed. In his dream it had not been Cedric's corpse he had stared at, in his dream it had been his son. James' lifeless body lying on the dark grass in that dreaded graveyard. He shuddered again, the nightmare had been so real. "Ginny…" He whispered into the dark. "What…what am I supposed to do? Tell me!" He hadn't expected an answer, his wife was dead along with two of her brothers…the only family he had ever known until his own. He felt a burning sensation creep into his eyes and covered his face with both hands, it was too much. He was losing everyone. All his loved ones were being destroyed all because of his stupid decisions. It wouldn't be long before Voldemort decided to grow bored of babysitting James, Lily and Teddy…it wouldn't be long before he was forced to bury his own children. "H-help me…help me please…" He whispered, thankful for the darkness cloaking him as he let his grief overwhelm him.
"You've been so brave."
Harry heard the voice as clearly as if it had been spoken into his ear, slowly he let his hands fall from his eyes, almost expecting to see his mother sitting on the bed at his side. He knew it was a stupid and childish thing to wish for but he could think of no one else he would rather have spoken to in that moment, he gazed into the darkness knowing that his mind was playing tricks on him. Slowly he sat up again and tipped his head back, he closed his eyes and forcefully brought up mental images of happier times…Ron's laughter in the warmth of the common room at Hogwarts, Ginny's lips against his own, Hermione's reasonable voice, Fred and George's jokes, Sirius' sharp, warm laughter…He smiled as these memories came to him and he opened his eyes feeling calmer than before, he looked over to the window where the sun was rising and stood up. With a sheet tied about his waist he gazed out of the window and watched the sun rise over the hills, it filled him delight. A small half smile lit his face and he pressed one hand against the cold glass. He had to figure out a plan, if only he could find a way to get his children to safety before finally ending the charade of being Voldemort's pet and then he could end it…finally he could end everything in one fell swoop. And then, maybe, just maybe he could rest.
He took a bath, filling the claw-footed tub with sweetly scented bubbles and hot water. He sank gratefully into the water enjoying the invigorating warmth that entered his muscles and relaxed him. He lay there, floating in amongst the soft white peaks of foam and gazed up at the ceiling. Slowly he began to formulate a plan, it wasn't a very good plan but it was something and he felt more at ease as he scooped up a handful of bubbles and blew them into the air. They exploded and drifted gently down into the bath again like snow. He smiled to himself and closed his eyes as he tipped his head back against the rim of the tub. "Quicker and Easier than falling asleep." He breathed to himself, repeating Sirius' last words to him.