The next to last finished chapter. Sadly, we have almost reached the point where I must leave you hanging, but I am thinking of posting more of my fiction on here–stories that I can’t find a home for, including, perhaps, my first completed novel manuscript in all its amateur glory.
But in the meantime, here is Chapter 11–Much That Is Hidden
“And so,” Harry said. “I threw the box at her and left.”
It sounded childish when he said it out loud, but he would not let the small flicker of guilt he felt drown out his indignation. He could still hear the waves pounding on the shore. The pain was too fresh.
Sitting on a wooden stool he had conjured from nothing, he stared at the engraved names of his parents as though he expected them to speak, to offer words of comfort. He had sat on the stool for over an hour, the dark cemetery around him growing still as the daylight waned. Far off in the distance, he could hear the sounds of people enjoying themselves at the pubs, something he missed during his first visit to Godric’s Hollow. To Harry, it seemed as though his defeat of Voldemort had turned the volume back up on the wizarding world, allowing people to speak without fear for the first time in years. Any thoughts of revelry, though, were as far from him as the fear was from the pubgoers.
“I thought things would be easier with Voldemort gone,” Harry said. He bowed his head, not wanting to look at the headstone, a reminder that his parents were not there to listen to him. “I thought I could have a normal life–get a job, fall in love, have children. Now, I’m not sure if I’ll ever have that. I don’t want to be famous Harry Potter. I just want to be Harry Potter–an Auror, a husband, maybe a dad. Someday.”
He sat quiet for a long time, embarrassed at being so sentimental even with his dead parents. After a while, he stood up and vanished the stool.
“I’ll come back soon.” He turned and walked back through the cemetery toward the gates. The white marble grave markers rose up from the dark grass like uneven teeth, the names and dates on each blurred in shadow. Lost in his own thoughts, he failed to notice the two shapes coming toward him until he heard a familiar, drawling voice. Harry ducked behind a large tombstone carved to resemble an owl, hoping he was not spotted.
“Do you have to follow me everywhere I go?” Draco Malfoy asked.
At first, Harry thought that Malfoy had, indeed, seen him hiding and was about to answer before another familiar voice answered instead.
“Until you tell me where you’ve been going and what you’ve been doing,” Lucius Malfoy answered, “yes.” The Malfoys walked closer to where Harry lurked behind the stone owl, forcing him to move around it to remain hidden. His feet padded noiselessly in the grass as Draco and his father moved deeper among the graves.
“I’ve already told you,” Draco said, scorn evident in his voice. “I’m just meeting with some old friends. Discussing old times. Nothing . . . sinister.”
Harry strained his ears to hear as they walked away from him. Abandoning caution, he crouched and skittered to the next grave marker large enough to hide him that would bring him closer to the Malfoys.
“I know your old friends, Draco,” Lucius answered. “You will remember, they are mostly the children of my old friends.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“The problem,” Lucius answered with equal venom, “is that in order to stay out of Azkaban, we must steer clear of those old friendships. The only way for us to survive is to build a new life away from those old allegiances.”
For the first time, Harry noticed how similar their voices sounded. Lucius’s remained an octave or so lower, but Draco’s nearly matched his in adulthood.
They had stopped before an ornate marble tombstone. Even in the gloom, Harry recognized it as the one Ron had pointed out on their previous visit as belonging to the Malfoys. Further back, he could see the faint outline of his parents’ stone barely a dozen yards away.
“No, Father,” Draco said. They were both looking at the Malfoy stone now, not looking at each other as they spoke. “The only way for us to survive is to form new allegiances.”
Harry saw Lucius turn his head quickly at his son’s words, but no response came for a long while. When it did, Draco’s father sounded unsettled.
“You can’t mean what Zabini came to you about.”
Now, it was Draco’s turn to look sharply at his father. “Did Mother tell you about that?”
“She did, and it’s lucky for all of us that she had the good sense to,” Lucius said.
Draco turned his attention back to the grave. When he spoke, his voice was calm.
“I guess I will have to keep my secrets from her, as well.”
“You will keep nothing from us,” Lucius said. His voice rose as the words spilled out from his mouth. “You will stop jeopardizing your family and end whatever foolishness you have gotten yourself into.”
“I used to think you were so brave,” Draco said, his voice retaining his preternatural calm. To Harry, it sounded like the same tone Malfoy had used for years to taunt him and his friends. He got the impression that Draco was enjoying seeing his father so disturbed. “I used to think you were the greatest man alive after the Dark Lord. Now, I see you are just a coward. All the glory you said would be mine, all the promises you made and never kept . . . well, Father, that glory will be mine and I’ll keep my own promises from now on. And . . . my own secrets.”
Lucius sputtered for an answer, but Draco cut him off.
“Grandfather tried to warn me. On his deathbed, old Abraxas told me to follow my own path and avoid your schemes. He knew his son had no backbone. It just took me a little longer to figure it out for myself.”
Before Lucius could respond, Draco bent low over the Malfoy grave, stood, and walked away. He had made it nearly halfway to the cemetery gates before Lucius moved to catch up.
Harry tried to move into a better position to hear their conversation as they moved away, but as he turned, his feet tangled in the long grass and he nearly fell forward. To save himself from toppling into sight of the Malfoys, he clutched at the marble gravestone, his hand meeting the hard surface with a loud slap.
Light immediately shone from Lucius Malfoy’s wand, illuminated the stone above Harry in a stark corona. Harry waited for a few seconds, sure that he had been spotted or that Malfoy would invesitage the sound, but the light only moved this way and that, then went out. As Harry’s eyes adjusted, he heard receding footsteps as Lucius hurried toward the cemetery gates.
“I forbid–” Lucius began when he reached his son, but was interrupted when Draco turned on him, wand in hand.
“You’ll forbid me nothing,” Draco said, a trace of threat in his voice. “I don’t need you.”
Lucius shrank back a step, but did not go for his own wand. “Think of your mother.”
Draco laughed. The sound was cold and empty, almost chilling the balmy summer air that lay on the cemetery like a blanket. “Mother! What about her? She has never denied me anything. Do you think she will start now?” He turned again and continued on toward the gates of the cemetery. Lucius followed, slower now, not even trying to catch up. His head was slumped in a posture of defeat, something Harry never thought he would live to see, even with the fall of the Dark Lord.
When Draco and his father were gone for several minutes, Harry emerged from his hiding place. His knees blazed in pain from his crouching and he had to take a few experimental steps to see if he could walk without toppling over. Gripping the tombstones for support, he made his way to the Malfoy monument. He bent low again, ignoring the protests from his legs, and looked to see what Draco had left.
A black rose lay on the low mound beneath the marble stone. He touched the petals and, to his surprise, found them soft and supple instead of wilted, as they appeared. A memory flooded into his mind, one of himself going through the wreckage of his parents’ home in Godric’s Hollow, and for a brief moment he felt a bond between himself and Draco Malfoy. The reaction disturbed him, but he could not dispell it. He had felt many things toward Malfoy over the years–hatred, loathing, even pity–but at no time had he ever felt they might share certain things in common. He looked up at the engraved name on the tombstone. Abraxas Malfoy. Draco’s grandfather. He had only heard mention of the man once and had no idea how close he and his grandson had been. Now, Harry knew that they had at least had enough of relationship for Draco to leave a token behind in his memory, a token that now reminded Harry of all the people he had lost, as well.
Leaving the black rose atop the grave, Harry returned once more to stand before the stone marking his parents’ final resting place. He tried to return his thoughts to his mother and father, but the conversation between the Malfoys kept replaying in his mind. He wanted to think about it later, to not have it intrude on this one place he considered sacred. Still, he could not block out Lucius’s pleas and the cryptic answers that Draco gave him. He again wondered if Draco had fallen back in with the Death Eaters, had perhaps even become their leader. For several frustrating minutes, he tried to recall the conversation word for word, but what he heard kept getting confused with what he wanted to hear until he could no longer say for sure what Malfoy had admitted to his father. Finally, he was forced to give up and, with some difficulty, pushed the whole affair to the back of his mind to spend a few more minutes with his parents.
He stood there in silence for some time, still unable to quiet the drawling voices, then followed the same path the Malfoys had taken in their departure.
With a huge headache from the day’s adventures, Harry arrived back at Grimmauld Place and let himself in. He slammed the door without thinking, setting off the portrait of Sirius’s mother in the hall. Her bellows only added more fuel to his headache and his weariness and he walked over to stand in front of the large hanging.
“Blood-traitor scum! Friend of Mudbloods! Filth and slime invading the Noble House of Black!” the portrait wailed.
“THE HOUSE OF BLACK IS DEAD!” Harry roared. “YOUR FAMILY IS DEAD!”
To his shock, the portrait went silent. Her voice still echoing down the corridors, her mouth clamped shut and she stared at Harry with eyes so wide that he thought they might pop off the canvas and roll about on the floor.
“Dead?” Sirius’s mother whispered. Harry thought that he had gone partially deaf, having never heard her speak in anything other than full volume before. The rosy color of her cheeks drained away, literally bubbling up and running down the painting. “All of them?”
“All of them.”
Sirius’s mother buried her face in her hands and began to sob. Her crying was accompanied by a loud squelching noise and then the frame holding her portrait, held in place for years by unbreakable charms, pitched forward onto the floor at Harry’s feet. Down the hall, another portrait made the same noise and fell to the carpet. On down the hall into the sitting room, more pictures repeated this process and soon, every picture in sight was tumbling from the walls, knocking over lamps and decorations in their wake. Harry could hear more paintings falling above him on the upper floors and the intermittent sound of breaking glass.
“Well, that’s just great!” Harry spewed. He drew his wand, preparing to make a round about the house and repair everything that had broken, but a metallic glint from the wall in front of him caught his eye.
In the wall behind where the portrait of Warburga Black had long hung, a small space was open in the wall. Something giving off a golden reflection sat deep within the shadows and Harry moved in for a closer look. Reaching his hand into the opening, he almost touched it before caution took hold of his senses and made him pull his hand back. He raised his wand and cast a spell to reveal any enchantments that may be present on the object, but the object remained shrouded in darkness, giving nothing away of its nature. Taking a chance, he stuck his wand in and touched the object, feeling it give way before him. He prodded a bit more and found a golden chain which he managed to loop over his wand. Slowly, he pulled his wand out, drawing from the hole a golden chain and, attached to it, a symbol that Harry had seen before, but did not recognize. It resembled a cross except that the top was rounded, forming a loop that resembled an inverted teardrop. In the center, a stone the color of blood was set within the gold.
As the amulet slid out, it pulled a folded piece of paper out with it, sending it fluttering to the floor. Careful not to touch the golden object, he held his wand out and bent over to pick up the paper. He took both paper and amulet to the kitchen, slid the golden chain off onto the table, and sat down to read the note.
He unfolded the small scrap of paper and nearly dropped it when he saw the handwriting. Like the amulet, he had seen it before, but the blocked print he recognized immediately, the words bringing back terrible memories and a sharp pang of loss.
I am hiding this ankh so the Dark Lord will not acquire it. May it never fall into his hands. RAB
“Regulus,” Harry breathed. His eyes darted up from the note to the ankh and back. He thought for a moment, trying in vain to puzzle out why Regulus Black would hide such an object from Voldemort, then decided to get help.
“Kreacher!” he called.
At once, there was a loud crack and the house elf was beside him.
“Master Harry calls?” Kreacher asked in his croaking voice.
Harry pointed to the ankh on the table. “Have you ever seen that before?”
With some difficulty, Kreacher climbed atop a kitchen chair to take a closer look. He leaned over the table, his nose nearly touching wood as he studied the ankh. His eyes narrowed for a time, then he shook his head.
“No, Master Harry,” he answered finally. “Kreacher has never seen that object before.”
“You never saw Regulus with it?”
“No, Master Harry.”
Harry sat back, disappointed. “Do you know what it is?”
Kreacher turned and leaned down to evaluate the amulet again. “Kreacher believes it is an ankh, sir.”
“Does that mean anything to you?”
The house elf rose and blinked at Harry. “Kreacher knows little about the magic of humans.”
Harry sat for a moment, trying to decide what to do next. For one wild moment, he thought of having Kreacher touch the ankh to see if anything would happen, then he imagined what Hermione’s reaction would be if something went wrong.
Hermione . . . .
“Kreacher,” Harry said, sitting up suddenly. “I want you to go to the Burrow and have Ron and Hermione come here right away.”
“Yes, Master Harry.” There was another loud crack and the house elf was gone.
Less than five minutes later, another crack announced Kreacher’s return and was immediately followed by the front door opening as Ron and Hermione entered.
“We told you not to go, but you decided to be a git instead,” Ron said as he entered the kitchen. He looked at Harry for a moment, then grinned. “At least you didn’t call us over to fix where she’d hexed you or something.”
“What?” Harry asked.
Ron’s brow furrowed. “Ginny. Her and Dean. Shell Cottage. What? Did she Obliviate you?” He turned to Hermione, standing next to him. “It’s worse than we imagined.”
Hermione did not respond. She was focused not on Harry, but on the golden ankh lying atop the kitchen table.
“Where did you get that?” she asked.
“That’s why I called you,” Harry said. “I found it behind the painting of Sirius’s mother.”
“Found it where?” Ron asked. He disappeared down the hall where Harry could hear him say “Blimey!” as he discovered the space where the portrait had previously hung.
“How’d you figure out how to counter that Sticking Charm?” Ron asked as he reentered the kitchen.
“I told her the Black family was dead,” Harry answered, his eyes still on Hermione, who had taken a seat across the table from him, her gaze fixed on the ankh. “Then all the paintings just fell off.”
“Well, I guess that was quite a blow for her,” Ron said. “Almost true, except for Andromeda, of course, and she might as well be dead as far as that old bat’s concerned. Maybe now you can throw a party or something here and not have to worry about her screaming her head off.”
Ron stopped talking when he noticed that Harry was not paying attention. Instead, he was watching Hermione as she drew her wand and whispered a few spells over the ankh.
“Care to share, Hermione?” Harry asked.
Hermione finished her incantation, but did not look up at him. “Well, it doesn’t seem to be cursed.” She reached out slowly and touched the golden chain. Nothing happened. Reaching a little further, she grasped the ankh and picked it up off the table. “There does seem to be some sort of latent enchantment, though.”
“Late what?” Ron asked.
“Latent,” she repeated. “Magic that lies dormant until it is activated.”
“How do we activate it?” Harry asked.
“Do we want to activate it?” Ron asked.
Hermione turned the ankh in her hand and studied it before answering. “I have no idea. There are no markings at all to tell what it might be used for.”
Harry slid the note he had found across the table and Hermione snatched it up before Ron could touch it. Leaning over her shoulder, he narrowed his eyes at her, then read the note at the same time.
“Very curious,” Hermione said, placing the note back on the table.
Ron shrugged and leaned back in his chair. “Still doesn’t tell us much, does it? I mean, he could have at least told us what it was used for.”
“I don’t know what it is used for, but I know someone who might,” Hermione said.
Harry and Ron both looked at her, at first confused, but then with looks of shocked disbelief.
“Surely you don’t mean–” Ron began.
Hermione interrupted him. “I do.”
“You said he was a nutter,” Harry reminded her. “You said–“
“Nevermind what I said before,” Hermione snapped. “It turned out that he was right, or at least partially right, wasn’t he?” She reached out and picked up the ankh again. “I think we should take this to Xenophilius Lovegood and see what he can tell us.”
Before anyone else could respond, Hermione left the kitchen, leaving Harry and Ron staring after her.
“Well,” Ron said, turning back to Harry with a smug grin, “there really is a first time for everything.”