Recipient's name: For celandineb
Summary: All fairy tales start with 'Once Upon A Time', but Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter never followed the rules....
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and its characters are copyrighted to J.K. Rowling and her licensees, and their trademark belongs to The WB. No copyright and/or trademark infringement is intended.
Note 1: Part of hd_holiday 2006. Written for celandineb. Her request can be found at
All fairy tales start with 'Once Upon A Time', but Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter never followed the rules, and their story started with conversation in a clothes shop that ended not so well. Their next encounter didn't bring flowers or love at first sight, but a rejected friendship.
They had the enchanted castle, just like in the stories. However Hogwarts wasn't the setting for a love story, but the place where lethal curses were cast on each other, and when they left, they didn't ride into the sunset together, but was the result of betrayal and opposing loyalties. With all these factors, everyone thought that theirs was a relationship based on hate and enmity. No one expected what was to come.
Harry walked through the entrance hall and went straight to the library. He sat and waited for his companions to do the same. Blessedly, they had found a way to quiet down the portraits. It had been rather simple once Hermione put her mind to it. They had cast permanent sticking charms on black sheets and attached them to the loudest portraits. That had kept the rest quiet.
"Another dead end," Ron said as he sat down on the couch. "How many copies of Hufflepuff's cup can there be in Britain?"
"Five months." Hermione let out a deep breath as she sat behind the big mahogany desk, and rested her arms on it. "I should have found something by now."
"Don't beat yourself up, Hermione. You're finding these cups. It's not your fault that they are bloody replicas," Harry replied.
"Yes, but we don't even know what the other Horcruxes are or where they might be," Hermione continued. "I really need to start reading more books."
Harry and Ron exchanged a look and they started laughing.
"Yes, lack of reading is the cause of our problems," Ron said, shaking his head. "Hermione, you've been reading every book in this library. You've made us read them. It's not your fault. These things could be anything, it's like finding a needle in a haystack."
"Still…." She sighed again, and rested her chin on her arms. "I wish there was something we could do."
"There is." Harry slapped Ron's thigh and stood up. "I can take a shower, and find a film to watch in Muggle London where no one even knows who Voldemort is. You two…" He smiled at them. "You do whatever you do when I'm not around."
Hermione blushed. "You needn't go."
"I know, but I need some time without all of this, too." Harry waved at them, and went upstairs. His trips to Muggle London weren't many, but they helped keep him sane. There was the illusion of safety in a dark cinema, at least for an hour or two.
Tonight wasn't any different than the other nights he spent in Muggle London. He went for fish and chips first, then found a big anonymous cinema, and sat alone in the back row with a huge bucket of popcorn to keep him company. When he Apparated home from the cinema's toilet, he felt better. However, tonight, the feeling didn't last long.
An owl tapped on the window of his bedroom only a few minutes after Harry got home. He took the parchment and gave the owl a treat. The owl picked the cheese from his fingers and flew off, the morsel still in its beak.
"I guess there's no reply requested," Harry murmured. He looked at the parchment again, and he remembered the first time he had received an owl. He smiled at the memory. It was so long ago. Since then, owls were welcomed messages from friends and mentors, but now Sirius and Dumbledore were dead, and his friends were right there with him. This couldn't be good news. He unrolled it slowly, and began reading it.
I have information that will help you in the destruction of You Know Who. Meet me at the Shrieking Shack tomorrow night at 11pm.
Harry looked at the letter a little longer, then pocketed it and ran all the way to Ron's room. He barged in and froze when he stepped in. Even in the dark, he could see Ron moving over Hermione, fortunately they were under the sheets.
He turned around, his face flushed. "I'm- Sorry, I thought you'd be done… I mean… I'll leave now… find me when you're ready."
"It's fine, mate," came the reply from Ron. "This must be urgent."
Harry heard some shuffling behind him, but refused to turn around.
"What is it, Harry?" Hermione asked after a moment. "And do turn around. We've learned to get dressed quickly. Mrs. Weasley likes to drop by unexpected."
Harry smiled sheepishly as he turned around. "It is rather urgent. Here." He handed her the letter.
Ron turned the lights on, and sat next to her. After a moment, he raised his eyes and met Harry's. "It could be a trap."
"I know," Harry said seriously.
"But we haven't had a break in months. We need help," Hermione said.
"I know that, too."
"You've already made up your mind, haven't you? So what do you want to do?"
Harry smiled. He could always count on his friend to get to the point and not question his decision. Ron was many things, but he approached their mission with single-mindedness that would have made Dumbledore proud. "We all go. You can use the invisibility cloak."
"We'll go earlier and check it out, make sure there are no sign of Dark arts or Death Eaters," Ron put in. "And we'll go in from Hogwarts."
"Ron, you aren't in charge," Hermione said.
"Of course not," he said grinning. "I only make the plans, and then send Harry to do the dirty work."
She huffed. "Harry, see what you've done? Telling him that he'd be in charge of our strategy? He fancies himself in charge."
Harry chuckled. "You can discuss this between you two." Not for the first time, he mentally added. "I'll just go to bed. Goodnight," he said as he left.
"Coward." Ron's voice came out loud and clear as Harry closed the door and went back to his room.
They went to the Shack that afternoon, ensuring that nothing was out of place. They also cast warning spells on the secret entrance. If anyone tried to get into Hogwarts they needed to know.
Hermione spent the day hunched over her books. Ron was scribbling away about possible ways out, different modes of launching an alarm, if needed, and Harry... Harry paced, feeling more restless with each passing moment. This was what they had been waiting for; he just knew it, and all of Hermione's research and Ron's precautions were unnecessary.
Finally, the clock crept slowly toward eleven o'clock. Harry found his invisibility cloak, put his own cloak on and ran downstairs. "Ready?"
"Harry, you've been impossible all day. Don't you know this could be a trap?" Hermione pointed out.
"Of course, I know, but it's not." Harry grinned at her, and tossed the invisibility cloak to Ron. "Let's go."
Just like they planned, they Apparated to the gates of Hogwarts, and made their way to the Whipping Willow. The passage to the Shack seemed smaller than it had been in third year, but finally they reached the opening.
They opened it enough to ensure that no one was there. Ron insisted that he and Hermione got out first, and checked the house under the protection of the invisibility cloak.
"Come on, mate. It's empty," Ron said, as he opened the passage door, and helped Harry come out of the tunnel.
"Are you sure?" Harry asked disappointed.
"Yes, but we did found this." Hermione handed him a parchment. "I've checked, there are no spells and it's not a Portkey."
"Thanks." Harry unrolled the parchment. He pushed his glasses up and began reading:
I know you too well to believe even for a moment that you don't have your friends with you, and that is the reason why I haven't met you in person.
I hope that this letter will convince you that I am not lying to you, and this isn't some sort of trap.
I know what you are trying to do; I know all about the Horcruxes. I know a mere word won't be enough to satisfy Granger, for this, I tell you the rest.
There are six Horcruxes that have been or need to be destroyed:
1. The Diary of Tom Riddle
2. The Ring of Marvolo Gaunt
3. Slytherin's locket
4. Hufflepuff's cup
5. Gryffindor's Hourglass
6. Ravenclaw's Wand
As further proof of my sincerity, I will disclose the location of the cup. The cup is currently sitting in an old cemetery in Loch Ness, right by the water. Look for the tomb of Shlomo Smith.
Don't waste time. I don't know how long the cup will be there.
"Who can he be?"
Harry looked over his left shoulder and found Ron closer than he expected. "I don't know."
"You don't think it's… it's Snape."
Harry's head snapped to the other side, and he glared at Hermione. "No."
"Be reasonable, Harry," she continued. "Who else could it be?"
"I haven't the foggiest idea." But as he looked at the words, one person came to mind. Potter, he could almost hear Malfoy spitting his name out, the way he'd say 'friends' like it was a dirty words. Besides, who else knew Harry so well? Ron and Hermione were already here, and no one else really got close to him.
"I say it's Snape."
Hermione's words made him snap out of his thoughts. "No, it's not him."
"You know who it is," Ron said.
Harry shook his head. "But I'll tell you the moment I find out." He had spent a year being suspicious of Malfoy and no one had believed him. This time, he'd wait until he had proof. "We can worry about him later. For now, we must go to Loch Ness."
Three weeks later, the cup was safely hidden in Harry's bedroom. They had yet to find a way to destroy it, and until they did, they would have to make sure it stayed safe. It also meant that Harry had yet to find something to do other than watching Hermione research. He was quickly losing his mind.
Harry went to his room and took the cup out of its hiding place. It looked so innocuous, but he'd seen the damage the ring had done. "How do I destroy you?" he said to himself.
He looked up, startled, when he heard the tap on the glass, and he found himself staring at an owl. He covered the cup with a white cloth, and went into the closet. He found the raised board, and stuck the cup into the hole before sealing it. Finally, he went to the window and opened it. The owl flew around the room and settled on Harry's shoulder.
"The Malfoy I know would use a better looking owl," he murmured, but the bird must have heard him because it pecked his finger, before sitting up and ruffling his feathers. "But you're prissy like him," Harry said, as he took the parchment.
The message was brief and to the point. No ramblings or signatures:
There will be an attack at Hogsmeade, tomorrow at midnight.
"It'd been too quiet," he whispered, then shook his head. "You know there's no reply, but if you come with me, there's treats."
The owl chirped in accord, and they went to the kitchen, where Harry knew he'd find his friends. "We have a new message." He passed it to Ron.
"I'll warn the Order," he said as he handed Hermione the message. "Maybe you shouldn't come, in case it's a trap."
Harry shook his head. "He told us about the cup. Voldemort wouldn't have given it to me just to lead me into a trap. This is genuine and I'm coming."
"Oh Harry," Hermione said with a sigh.
"What is it?" Harry asked with a snap.
She looked at him and smiled. "You know what genuine means."
Harry chuckled. "You did that on purpose, didn't you?"
"It's nice to see you smile. Now, you two go play exploding snap or something and leave me alone. I think I might have found a potion to destroy the Horcrux." She waved her hand toward the entryway. "Go."
"Yes, ma'am." Ron kissed her head. "Call us if you need something other than reading books."
"Of course, I'll call you when it's time to destroy things," she said with a soft smile. "And keep him busy. He looks like he's ready to destroy the house."
"Hey, I'm here," Harry complained.
"But you have been driving us mad," Ron said. He clapped Harry's back. "Let's leave her alone, and let's get the Order ready."
As it was, it didn't take long to organise a counterattack. All members hid around Hogsmeade before the midnight. However, no amount of planning could help them with the disorganised manner the Death Eaters attacked. They didn't seem to have a goal other than to kill anyone in their path.
Harry walked fast between the shadows, casting spells to immobilise the Death Eaters. The Aurors could deal with them later. Harry's first goal was to stop the killing, because no one else would die if he could help it.
"Look, the little mouse is all alone," a voice said from not too far.
Harry recognised it immediately, and all his promises to avoid direct confrontations flew out of his head. "Bellatrix," he spat out.
"Still angry about my cousin?" she asked in a taunting tone. "You shouldn't be; he was a traitor."
Harry gripped his wand hard, but before he could raise it, she had her arm extended, wand directed straight at Harry.
Harry turned his head when he heard the spell cast from somewhere behind him. Hidden behind a tree there was a figure in a cloak, his head covered, but he saw the glint of blond hair. The scream from Bellatrix had him focus on her again. Blood gushed from her face and chest, and her clothes were stained. She took a few steps backward, and fell to the ground. He took one good look at the woman who had murdered Sirius, and he couldn't find a gram of sympathy for her. Instead, his attention returned to Malfoy. He ran to the tree, but he was too late, just like he knew he would be. Malfoy had disappeared again.
The rest of the battle passed in a daze, and Harry paid no mind to the meeting they had afterwards, raising his head only once, when Tonks informed them that Bellatrix was at St. Mungos, but was not expected to survive the night.
Finally, everyone left Grimmauld Place, leaving Harry sitting alone in the library.
"Mrs. Weasley finally left," Hermione said as she entered the room. "She needed to check Ron once more."
"Oy, don't you roll your eyes. She checked you over as well."
Hermione smiled. "Yes, but if you had just listened to her the first time, she wouldn't have continued nagging you."
"I'm an adult, I don't need her to check up on me. She doesn't act like that with Bill or Charlie or even the twins. Harry, tell her that my mother is overbearing."
Harry raised his eyes and finally looked at Ron, then at Hermione. "It's Malfoy."
His friends blinked. "Have you lost your marbles? What does Malfoy have to do with my mother?"
"Nothing." Harry stared at his hand for a moment, but then he stared at Ron. "I know you don't like him, and I know you two never believe me when I talk about him-"
"You are obsessed with him," Hermione pointed out.
"Maybe, but it doesn't change the fact that Malfoy is the one helping us…. He saved my life tonight. The spell on Bellatrix… It's the Sectumsempra spell-"
"He was probably trying to get you," Ron interjected.
Harry shook his head. "He was behind me. I didn't see him, or more accurately I didn't see his hair until after he cast it. There is no way he would have missed me… besides, I suspected already. Those letters… they sounded like him."
"And you know how he sounds now?"
Harry gave Hermione a weak smile. "As you said, I am obsessed, and he with me. Remember what he said in the letter 'I know you too well', and I believe he does. Snape hates me, but he doesn't know me. Malfoy knows me."
"That's because he's just as obsessed with you, mate. I'd be careful," Ron said.
Harry's smile got bigger. "I didn't think you would like it."
Ron snorted. "I don't, but if he gives us the Horcruxes and saves me the research, I won't complain."
"So what will you do now, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"We wait for his next letter."
Harry had never been good at waiting. The past six years were filled with adventure after adventure regardless of what he wanted, and now he simply couldn't wait.
After three days without a word from Malfoy, he decided that he had waited enough. He took a parchment and began writing:
Don't even try convincing me that it's not you, because I know you too well.
I want to thank you for the information you gave us and for what you did with Bellatrix. I'm sorry you had to do such a thing to your own aunt, but I'm glad that the bitch is dead.
If you know anything else about the Horcruxes, don't waste time and let me know. I want to finish this as soon as possible. Write me back.
The reply came that night, brought home by a very upset Hedwig. Smiles and treats weren't enough to calm her down. "Yes, he can be rude, but… okay, he's rude and obnoxious, but you shouldn't take it out on me. For what it's worth, I'm sorry," Harry said as she finally allowed him to take the message from her. Hedwig raised her head and flew away without acknowledging his apology.
You utter imbecile. I do know you too well to expect that you'd use a modicum of common sense. How could you owl me? How the hell could you owl me using your own owl? How stupid can you be? Wait, don't answer that. I already know. You're bloody stupid enough.
Did it ever occur to you that someone could have recognised her? I had to lock her up all day so no one would see her. Do you know what would have happened if they had seen her? I could be dead, you bloody idiotic imbecile. I should kill you myself for putting me in danger.
Harry snorted. Malfoy couldn't kill a fly if he tried, and they both knew it. However he could admit that Malfoy had some right to be upset, but really who would care about his owl. Just as he thought that, he remembered Sirius's warning about how easily she could be recognised. All right, so Malfoy was right this time.
Even if they didn't recognise her, what if someone had seen the message? Are you trying to kill me on purpose or is this just stupidity? Oh right, we already answered that.
If you want to discuss the Horcruxes in depth, then it's time we make a few things clear. Meet me as soon as you get this at the Shrieking Shack and do not bring your friends. I'll leave the moment I see redheads.
The Person Who Isn't Stupid Enough To Put His Initials Down
PS Don't you even think about answering me, you mentally incapacitated baboon.
Harry grinned. Not that he was a baboon or mentally incapacitated, but he had been right about Malfoy, and now he would find out more about the Horcruxes.
He scribbled a note, mentioning that he was meeting Malfoy and left it on his pillow. He sneaked downstairs, although he was pretty sure that Ron and Hermione were having a biology lesson and he would most certainly not think about his best friends having sex. He was barely out of the door before he Disapparated. This time he took no precautions, and arrived straight into the Shrieking Shack. "Malfoy?"
"You are thick, aren't you?" Draco said as he stepped from behind a curtain. "It could have been a trap; there could have been someone else here-"
"I could believe in Santa," Harry said sarcastically. "It's you; I've known since the first letter. You aren't so clever or you would have tried to sound like… like not you. You saved my life only a few days ago, and you don't have the balls to plan this just to hand me over to Voldemort."
Draco winced when he heard the name. "Maybe I do."
Harry snorted. "And maybe I'm secretly planning with Voldemort to take over the world. Can we stop with the stupid statements and focus on what's important?"
"That you are an annoying prat?" Draco asked with a smirk.
"Never as annoying as you," Harry snapped back. "You know, I am assuming that you are helping me, because you want something. So even you can see why it's not a good idea to insult the person that is supposed to help you."
Draco opened his mouth and closed it again, but only for a moment. "You need my help as much as I need yours. We don't need to be friends."
"We don't work with enemies," Harry answered.
"Too bad, you're stuck with me," Draco said.
"You don't have to be my enemy."
"God, Potter, why do you insist on making things difficult? I hate you, you hate me, and we need each other. Out of this, the only bright light is that I can still insult you."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Very mature, Malfoy."
"Well, all right. Insults are not nearly as amusing as when I broke your nose," Draco drawled out.
"Or when I cut you open," Harry said coldly. He pierced Draco with his eyes. "Don't start something you aren't ready to finish, Malfoy. I only work with people I trust."
"Then I should be leaving now," Draco said, his voice betraying the fear he felt under the cool appearance.
"Sit down and tell me what you want. We can go from there," Harry said, the ice leaving his voice.
Draco looked at him for a moment, hesitating, and then sat on the old, dusty couch. If he was surprised when Harry sat next to him, he didn't show it. "I want… I want you to kill the Dark Lord, I want you to help me survive this war, and I want you to help my family."
"Why should I?" Harry asked, without any malice. He truly was curious to see Draco's reasoning.
"Because you need my help," Draco answered without missing a beat.
Harry shrugged. "I've always found a way in the past. I can be resourceful."
"That you are," Draco said softly. He looked down, unable to meet Harry's eyes. "I'm not. I go and bollix all my plans up, but not this one." He turned his head and stared at Harry. "You'll help me because I need you, Potter, because you're the bloody Chosen One and you won't let me down if you can help me, because you'd feel horrible if I died, knowing that you could have helped."
Harry nodded. "Sometimes I think that you know me as well as Ron and Hermione."
"That's because I do," Draco said with a short lived smirk. "I've spend the past six years watching you. It's finally paying off."
"I'll protect you and your family, Malfoy."
"You'll need to tell McGonagall, someone other than your friends about me helping. Not now," he rushed to add, "but later, after we destroy all the Horcruxes."
"Before I fight Voldemort," Harry said. "Because I might die."
Draco sighed and nodded. "It is a possibility."
"I know. No one else will even mention it, though. Leave it to you to bring up the pleasant stuff."
Draco sniggered. "Glad to be of service, Potter."
"So… about the Horcruxes."
"Before that there is something else…. There will be another attack at Azkaban. There is no set date yet, but I will let you know as soon as I find out." Draco sat back, his immaculate black robe turning white from the dust on the couch. "My father is there-"
"And you want me to let him go?" Harry asked, his anger rising quickly. Lucius Malfoy was only slightly better than Bellatrix and not a subject he enjoyed discussing.
Draco shook his head. "I want you to make sure he's not there, and that he stays in custody. If he leaves, he will return to the Dark Lord, and he will bring death to my mother and himself. I've done too much to protect them; I can't let him destroy that."
"Don't worry; keeping him in prison isn't a hardship. What about your mother?" Harry asked after a moment. "Will she need help?"
"No, after my aunt… after she died, I convinced her that she couldn't help me any longer, there was nothing she could do for Father, and she should go away. She's in France at the moment, but it took so long to convince her. She's been so stubborn, but I think that was aunt Bella's influence. 'Must stay near our Lord, Cissa', 'you don't want to be away in case he needs you', all bullocks, but she was her sister."
"Is that why you-"
"Why I killed her?" Draco asked, cocking his head, letting his anger drip with every word. "No, Potter, it's because I couldn't think of anything else at the moment, and I needed to keep you alive. I thought… you're the fucking Boy Who Lived, you wouldn't let her die, but you did, didn't you? You stood there and watched her die, Potter. You and I are both murderers, Potter."
"NO! No," he repeated calmer, yet in a colder tone. "You aren't sorry. I'm not sure I am, either. I know I didn't want to kill her, but I can't say I'm sorry she's dead." Draco stood up, and began pacing. "All right, about the Horcruxes. I told you I can get to the wand, but not until you destroy the last one-"
"The last three," Harry pointed out.
Draco stopped and turned to face the Gryffindor. "Last three? How is that possible? I know you destroyed the diary, Dumbledore took care of the ring, and the two of you took the locket."
Draco frowned. "The Dark Lord is convinced you did. You went to the cave, and took it."
"We did go, but when we got there, the locket wasn't there. We found a message instead."
"What did it say? Did it give any indication about where the locket is?"
"Nothing that could help us. It said:
To the Dark Lord
I know I will be dead long before you read this
but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret.
I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.
I face death in the hope that when you meet your match
you will be mortal once more."
"Memorised it, haven’t you?"
Harry gave him a tepid smile. "I might have read it once or a hundred times. Dumbledore risked his life to get that Horcrux."
Draco's head snapped up. "He, what?"
"I've been thinking about it. A lot."
"You aren't the sharpest; we both know that," Draco said smiling.
"Well, yes, and that's why it took me some time to realise that he was dying. That night, on the tower, he was already dying. He said he was expendable. He wasn't afraid that he would die; he was afraid that you would kill him, and now… now we've both killed. We've become what he most feared."
"Stop that, Potter. You can commiserate after this is over. For now, you must focus. Was the note signed? The locket, did you think it was destroyed?"
"I don't know; we can't rely on suspicions. We must trace its origin back, and be certain that R.A.B., whoever he is, destroyed it."
"That sounds like something Granger would say."
Harry chuckled. "Many times, in fact."
"Did you say R.A.B.?" Draco asked after a moment. "Well, well, Grange isn't so smart after all," he said, a little too amused considering the situation. "You're a bunch of mentally challenged apes, that's what you are."
"I thought we were baboons."
Draco glared at him. "It's the same, Potter." He waved a hand. "While I understand how difficult it is, try concentrating on the important things. R.A.B.? Who could be close enough to Voldemort to learn his secrets? He had to be a Death Eater. You don't think someone like Dumbledore would have left that message, right? How many Death Eaters do you know of that were killed by Voldemort? How many Death Eaters whose house you are living in do you know? Regulus Arcturus Black, you dolt. For better or worse, our family has always been involved."
"So, now it's your family when it comes to Regulus, but Sirius was... what was it you called him? A dog?"
"Oh grow up. I've never met either one, but I do know of them, and why is it that you are still focused on me when I just told you who had the bloody locket?"
Harry opened his mouth, ready to say how it was not true, except that it was. "How do you know so much about the Horcruxes?"
"First intelligent question you have asked." Draco sat back next to Harry again. "Regulus wasn't the only one spying. I listen; it's not hard now that they consider me harmless, a nuisance, but generally harmless. I'd be dead if it weren't for Snape."
Harry growled at the name.
"You can have the pissing contest later. Right now, he's keeping me alive, and I'm quite all right with that. Besides, if Dumbledore was really dying- Oh well, never mind that," he said when he saw Harry turn a strange shade of red. "As I was saying, the Dark Lord gave the Horcruxes to different people, thinking that would keep them safe. However things backfired, because he never explained what they were. A simple book, Father thought. Sure there were traces of Dark magic, but even Father had no idea what it could do. The two Death Eaters who had the cup and the hourglass died; their family had no idea what they had, and the items got lost. The Dark Lord has been quiet adamant that his inner circle should find those two things. He was very upset when the cup disappeared before he retrieved it. He wanted to do it himself, didn't trust anyone else. The delay cost him the cup. You do have it, don't you? You said three were missing."
"No, I said three hadn't been destroyed. I have the cup, but we aren't sure how to destroy it yet. I'd rather like not to die in the process if you don't mind."
"Strangely, I don't mind. How did you destroy the others?"
"I guess some things change." Harry grinned. "I used the venom from the basilisk to destroy the diary, but not many basilisks around, and I don't know what Dumbledore did, but it didn't work out too well for him. You will let me know the moment the hourglass is found, won't you?"
Draco nodded. "In the meantime, find that locket. The sooner we do this-"
"The sooner we are all free."
"Yes." Draco stood up. "I must go before anyone notices I'm gone."
"I will write you if I find out something."
"Please don't use your owl or that pathetic bird Weasley owns."
Harry smiled. "I won't. After all, I promised to keep you alive."
"Good to know. Bye, Potter." With a pop, Draco was gone.
Harry had waited no time to talk to McGonagall. He told her as much as he could without mentioning the Horcruxes or the identity of his informant, promising that he would reveal the rest as soon as he could. She hadn't been happy, but in the end, she accepted that he wouldn't change his mind, and called a meeting of the Order to inform them of the little they knew.
The meeting was just like so many: chaotic, loud and with many opposing voices. It was like no one could agree on anything now that Dumbledore was dead.
After an hour of shouting disagreements, Harry stood up. Slowly the voices quieted down. "In case you haven't heard what the Headmistress has repeatedly said," he started, "there will be an attack at Azkaban and we will be there. Tonks will coordinate things with the Aurors. We are not discussing this; we are not voting on this; we are not submitting this to a secret scrutiny. No, you will not be told how we are getting the information, and yes, the decision is final. If you have a problem, tell us now. A little spell, you won't remember anything, and your association with the Order will end. If you decide to stay, then you will be at Azkaban. Now, I'd like everyone to leave my house." He looked around the room. "Not you, Mundungus. We need to discuss something."
"Of course, Harry. Need something, do you? I can find anything for you," he said looking around, "or sell anything."
Harry waited until one by one the members of the Order left. Hermione looked at McGonagall, then at Harry. She looked like she was about to say something, but then sighed, and closed the door behind her. Harry waited for the lock to click before he took out his wand and immobilised the man. "I want everything you took from this house back. I expect you to bring everything, and I mean everything, back here by the end of the week. I don't care how you do it, but if you don't, you'll have to explain to everyone why you stole something that could help me destroy Voldemort. Finite Incantatem!" Harry stepped closer. "Are we clear?"
Mundungus swallowed and nodded. "Yes, Harry, I'll get everything back, but-"
"No buts. You have four days. Do what you must."
"If you could tell me what you're looking for… the goblets perhaps?" he said hopeful.
"I want everything back. Now, get out," Harry ordered.
Mundungus scrambled outside, leaving Harry with McGonagall. "Was it really that important?" she asked.
"You know I don't care about things, but I need them."
McGonagall nodded. "Then you did the right thing. You learn that you must do what you must even when it's not what you would like to do."
"I apologise for my outburst before. It wasn't my place, but-"
"Nonsense. It was your place and your right. Whether we like it or not, Albus passed the torch to you, and everyone must learn to obey you." She rested her hand on his shoulder. The contact was uncertain, as if she weren't used to touching people, and then she squeezed gently. "He would have been proud of you."
"Thank you." Harry beamed, if only for a moment. "You'll make sure Lucius is moved, won't you?"
"I said I would. Why is that important?" Her lips thinned into a smile. "Let me guess, you can't tell me."
"Something like that, at least for now."
"Very well. I look forward to your explanation, and now I'm off. Have a good night, Mr. Potter."
"Headmistress," he called out as she reached the door. "There is something else you can do. I'm… I don't even know what I'm looking for, but if you find anything that the Headmaster left behind, any record of the last year. Pensieves, diaries, anything."
"Any reason for this sudden request or you can't tell me either."
Harry shook his head. "I don't know. It's just… little things that he said through the year, and a gut feeling. I know it's not much to go on, but…"
"Your gut has proven accurate in the past. I shall see what I can find. "Goodnight."
Harry had hoped that things would change with Malfoy's help, that they would go quicker, but it was the mid of March before he received another letter from the Slytherin.
Meet me tomorrow at the usual place. I'm not sure when I'll be able to get there, but after ten.
PS Bring your friends. We might need them
"What is it, Harry?" Hermione's voice was filled with curiosity. Ever since she had found out that Harry had sneaked out to meet Malfoy without them, she hadn't taken her eyes off of him.
"Malfoy. He wants to meet us."
"Us?" Ron asked. "Why?"
"I don't know, Ron. He says that 'we might need them', whatever that means," Harry said, handing Hermione the letter to satisfy her curiosity.
Ron laughed. "Probably choked, he did, when he wrote the word need."
Harry smiled. "Possibly, but he's still helping us."
"All right, we should have supper and then go there. We can get there early to make sure he's not-"
Harry cut her off before she could finish. "He needs me… us. He's not up to anything. We will go there at ten and wait for him."
"I think you trust him too much," Hermione insisted.
"I think you have doubted me in the past about Malfoy. When it comes to him, I know what I'm doing," Harry answered.
"Careful there, it sounds like you fancy the bloke," Ron teased.
Harry rolled his eyes. "I thought I was obsessed."
Ron laughed. "A little of both maybe. If he weren't such a prick, he wouldn't be such a bad looking block."
"Ron?" Hermione looked at him with her eyes as wide as saucers. "How can you say that?"
He shrugged. "What? I'm straight, not blind, besides, I've listened to Seamus make lists about hot blokes for years."
Harry sniggered. "Seamus has been quite the teacher on the subject, and speaking of inappropriate teachers, the twins said they'd be at the Burrow. Should we have dinner there?"
Ron groaned. "Supper with Fred and George is an attempted suicide."
"Still, it's your mother's cooking," Harry said, and Ron's stomach growled in response. "I guess that settles. Let's go."
* CONTINUED IN PART TWO *