Sitting down for afternoon tea with Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore did not expect to see Arthur Weasley's head appear in his fireplace.
“Albus, Minerva, are the two of you alone?” asked Mr. Weasley.
“Yes, of course.” Professor Dumbledore was disturbed by the distress in Arthur's voice. “Are Molly and the children alright?”
“What? Oh, yes of course. Harry, on the other hand...” Arthur cut his sentence off with a worried look behind him.
“What has happened with Harry that has you so worried?” Minerva asked, letting a bit of emotion slip into her voice. She was protective of all her students, but Harry held a special place reserved for those she considered family.
“I-I.... I'm not entirely sure! We, that is Ron, Fred, George and I, went by Harry's house with those muggle relatives of his to collect him to return to the Burrow for the rest of the summer. We were running early at the urging of Molly, she wanted us to get to know Harry's relatives.” Arthur’s words tumbled out in a long string without pause for breath. “When we arrived there was shouting coming from inside the house. Just as we were about to start making our way to the door a beam of blue light shot out of Harry's room just as all glass on the block shattered, including the glass that was inside cupboards and those auto-move-wheels. The ground was trembling, and the house looked like it was about to tear itself to shreds. We hurried inside, and just as we were coming up the stairs that huge muggle uncle of Harry's came through the wall, as if thrown! We hurried into Harry's room to see him floating in the middle with a ring of blue energy swirling around him. His eyes seemed to be made out of blue fire, Albus! When he saw us he simply collapsed, and we have been unable to revive him since.”
“Calm down, Arthur. If we are to help Harry I suggest you stand aside so that we can come through and check on his welfare.
“Very well, Albus. There are two more things I feel you should know before you arrive: The wards around Harry's house have fallen, and just as we were leaving I heard others apparating in.”
“Thank you for this information. I will think on the matter of the Wards failing. As for the apparating, let us hope it was the Ministry come to the house due to the detection of magic, and not the Death Eaters.” replied Dumbledore as he was walking towards the fireplace. “Now if you will move aside I will be coming through.”
Where am I? Am I dead, killed by my uncle? I thought there was supposed to be a light when you died, a light that would guide you to the other side...
Harry had awoken in complete darkness, but instead of panic like most people he felt a strange calm descend upon him.
At least I can't drag anyone else into death with me now
All of a sudden he heard something off in the distance. As he listened he realized it was someone singing, but not in a language he had ever heard before. The music was more beautiful than anything he had ever heard, but he couldn't shake the feeling that it carried great power.
But how can that be, he thought to himself. Music is just music, isn't it? Remembering where he was, he suddenly realized it was possible things were different here. I'm dead, after all. Maybe music and magic are one in the same here...
“Harry, love, you aren't dead. You have barely even started to live.” That voice... I know it... where have I heard it before? It's the same one that told me not to give up hope... If I could only remember...
“Who are you?” Harry called into the darkness.
“In time you will know, love. Just know for now that I am one who would help,” replied the voice. “You have exhausted yourself mentally, physically and emotionally, and so you are now unconscious while your body's magic heals itself. You should, in fact, awaken shortly.”
“Why do you call me 'love'? Do we know each other?” asked Harry as he began looking for the source of the voice.
“All your questions will be answered in time. For now, I'd ask that you rest. Dumbledore will know what to do to help you.” The voice called as if from a great distance.
“Hmm, most puzzling... Yes most puzzling indeed.”
“What is? Is he alright? Should we go to St. Mungo's?” Molly was beside herself with worry. Harry, her youngest son's best friend and her unofficially adopted seventh son, was unconscious on the couch in her living room.
“No, Molly, he will be quite alright on his own. What is puzzling is that he is showing signs of magical healing. Did any of you perform any spells on him?” Dumbledore asked the room containing Molly, Arthur, Fred, George, Ginny, Hermione and Minerva.
“No, Albus, none of us have done any magic near him. I figured if he was suffering from magic overload like I thought he might be, then magic would be the worst thing for him,” replied Arthur trying not to let the fear he felt enter his voice. “We only apparated him here because we didn’t know how else to get here.”
“I would have said the same thing... if none of us performed this magic then who did... can it be possible that Harry's magic is healing him subconsciously...?” Dumbledore suddenly sat bolt upright as if shocked. “Arthur, you mentioned he was controlling a large amount of raw magical power. Was this power simply flowing around him, or was it making a specific shape?
“Well, yes, now that you mention it it was making three perfectly round rings rotating around him... but how-”
“How I know is not as important as what this signifies: Harry's magic has suddenly increased in power.” Dumbledore interrupted.
“But how can that be, Professor? I've never heard of that happening before in any of the journals on magic in the school's library,” asked Hermione, who had arrived the previous day, digging through her school bag. “Here is one account of the power levels of magic in children ages 11-25 throughout the last three hundred years: 'The level of magic in a child seems to increase in an upwards curve until they are 16, and then begins to curve inwards as if at a plateau, and then continue increasing at a much slower rate, seemingly for the rest of their lives.'”
“Yes, and I know of only one set of circumstances that would cause magical abilities to increase in the way they did... and I shudder to think that Harry could have anything to do with that particular ritual,” replied Dumbledore whose normal twinkling eyes had a dull, somber quality to them.
“R-ron? Mr. Weasley?” Harry's voice was barely over a whisper.
“Harry! You alright? What happened mate?” came Ron's energetic reply.
“I... I don't really know... we need to get Dumbledore here... he said he would know what to do...” with that Harry lapsed back into unconsciousness.
“Wait, who told you that? Harry?”
“Shh Hermione, let him sleep. He's had a rough time of it,” whispered Dumbledore as he covered Harry in a light blanket. “While I’m not certain what has happened, it appears he'll be alright in time. While we wait for him to return to us I shall floo to Hogwarts to collect some Magic Replenishing Potions and Rejuvenating Drafts from Madam Pomfrey. Molly, when he awakens he will likely be quite hungry, and so one of your delectable feasts would go a long way to aid in his recovery.”
With that, Dumbledore walked back over to the now normal fire, reached into his robes and threw some floo powder into the fire. Stepping in, he vanished in the green flames without stating his destination.
“How did he do that?” an astonished Ginny asked.
“One thing that is often not told to people, especially younger witches and wizards, is that you can access the Floo Network without voicing your destination if you are sufficiently proficient at wandless magic. This is usually not a subject of discussion as if your concentration varies for even a second you could end up somewhere entirely different, or the magic could become unstable and you could end up in several locations, which would, of course, be highly undesirable and unpleasant,” replied Arthur.
“Now then,” stated Molly. “Ginny, Hermione, if you would help me in the kitchen we can get working on that feast Professor Dumbledore suggested. You three watch Harry,” she said, pointing at Ron, Fred and George, tone offering no other options.
“There was no need to surprise me and drag me here,” huffed Draco. “I was perfectly fine with coming here, so you needn't have concerned yourself with that portkey.”
“Hurry it up, the Dark Lord is waiting and he does not tolerate lateness,” replied Bellatrix.
Walking down the dark corridors Draco could barely hide the contempt from his face. This is the home of the Dark Lord: it looked more suited to rats and other varmint. At least that rat, Pettigrew, will be at home.
Remembering that the Dark Lord was a skilled Legilimens, he began shifting his train of thoughts away from his so called treachery. It would not do to get killed the first time I met him... although I do hope this is the only time I have to see him... His thoughts were still on subjects dangerous to his health when Bellatrix spun to a stop in front of him.
“Before we go before the Dark Lord, you must know how he will expect you to act,” she sneered.
“I know perfectly well how to act in his presence. Father at least taught me that,” he copied her sneer perfectly.
“Yes, he was always one for protocol... however he also was one for grandstanding, which is how he managed to get himself captured. Do not make the same mistake, as it will likely be your last.”
“Yes, now I thought we were in a hurry?” Draco continued to sneer, outwardly radiating confidence while on the inside he was silently praying that his inner battle was not evident when he entered.
The doors at the end of the hall swung forward as he approached, and he entered a dark chamber, similar in furnishing to the tunnel he had arrived in. The only noticeable feature of the room was a throne like chair made of bone at the far end of the hall. Upon this throne sat the Dark Lord. Draco's first thought was of a snake mated with a vampire... Lord Voldemort was frightening to behold, and he couldn't see what attracted so many of his followers. Power alone isn't everything. Besides, he didn’t seem all that powerful at the moment, in fact he looked rather frail and thin. Thankfully his disdain was now masked by fear, the fear for his life as the cruel creature gazed at him. Off to Voldemort's immediate right stood Severus Snape, and Bellatrix quickened her pace to take the place to his left.
“Draco,” he hissed. “So good of you to join us. We were most pleased when our dear Bella volunteered to go fetch you for us. It is good to know that at least half your family is loyal in their service to us. We are most hopeful that you will fall into this half, most hopeful indeed.”
“Y-yes My Lord,” Draco replied, stuttering for the first time he could remember. “I wish to serve you and reclaim the name of Malfoy.”
“My Lord, I appologize for my interuption, however I have just been summoned by Dumbledore.” He gestured towards a small glass sphere held in his hand. “If my duplicity is to remain undetected, I must return to Hogwarts at once,” oozed Snape, his voice cool and smooth.
“Yes, you do us a great service by misleading that old fool. Hopefully with Draco's assistance that will no longer be a necessary task,” he turned his cold, red eyes on Draco. “As we have no way of getting close to the old fool of a headmaster, your task will be to kill him in our stead. Fail us, and I'm afraid your family will have come to an end. I hope we understand each other, Draco, for I am tired of the failings of the Malfoy family.”
“Yes My Lord, I will not fail you in this,” he replied, his eyes never leaving the floor.
“Good, then leave us. Bella, if you would show him the way out?” he asked, although all present knew it was no request.
“Of course, My Lord,” she bowed as she was walking away from his throne. “I will return to you as soon as I can.”
“Oh, and Bella, please see to it that his mother understands the importance of this task, and inform her that we will expect him to have been trained to succeed in this.”
“Yes, my Lord, I will make your wishes clear to her.” Bowing once more, she walked out the door, with them closing silently behind her.
“Harry! Wake up! It's just a dream! Wake UP!” Urged a frantic Ron. He had been watching Harry when he suddenly started shaking and moving in his sleep. The other furniture in the room had begun to shift as well, and Ron was panicked as he shook Harry awake.
“Ron?” Harry asked, bewildered by the sudden change from the dark chamber he was occupying through his link with Voldemort. “Ron!” he cried. “Where's Dumbledore I have to speak to Dumbledore!”
“What is it, my boy?” the focus of Harry's attention asked, entering from the kitchen.
“It's Draco, he-he's been tasked to kill you!” Absolute silence fell over the room. Everyone was staring at Harry as if he had grown a second head, or a third eye had popped up on his face. “You have to believe me! I saw it through my link with him! Snape said you summoned him, and he is on his way to Hogwarts now,” Harry said, hoping that that would confirm his story.
“Slow down Harry, I believe you. Voldemort must be quite mad with the Malfoys to task this to Draco. He surely knows there is no chance of success.” Dumbledore spoke in a calm voice. “You were wrong about one thing, Professor Snape is on his way here, not Hogwarts.”
“Here!?! But Professor, why would he be coming here?” asked Ron, totally bewildered as Snape had never shown anything but contempt for the Weasley family.
“He is coming because we asked him here,” inserted Mr. Weasley. “Albus believes we may have use of his... unique knowledge base.”
They were all interrupted by the loud gurgle coming from Harry's stomach. Startled, Harry glanced at his midsection; he hadn't realized he was hungry. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I don't know why I'm so hungry.”
“That's quite alright, dear,” replied Molly from the doorway of the kitchen. “Albus said you would be hungry when you woke up, you expended quite a large amount of energy today.”
“I did? What happened? I don't remember anything after I heard my uncle thundering up the stairs.”
“Nothing at all?” asked Dumbledore.
“Well... except for the strange dreams... there was singing... and a voice that told me that you would know what happened, professor?” Harry was looking from face to face, looking for signs that they thought him crazy.
“In these dreams, who's voice was it?” Albus asked intently.
“I don't know. I recognized the voice from somewhere, but I just can't seem to remember where...” Harry's stomached growled again, and Molly called a halt to the discussion.
“That's quite enough for now, you can talk after you eat. Professor Snape is on his way here to help in your recovery and help us discover what is wrong, so until then you must eat. Those muggle relatives of yours should be put on trial, it's almost criminal the way they starve you...” Molly trailed off, looking worried.
“Yes, I must agreee. I wish I had realized how poorly they treated Harry before now, I would have removed him long ago... Well, enough of that let's eat!” replied Dumbledore.
“Come along, Draco. I have more important things to do than to return you to your mother,” Bellatrix said impatiently.
“Yes Aunt Bella,” Draco said, increasing his speed. He had no desire to remain in that hole of a residence, nor did he wish to anger his volatile aunt.
Suddenly, Bellatrix rounded on him, grabbing his arm. “It is time to return to the Manor, allow me to inform my sister of your task,” she said in a disparaging tone. “I do not wish to stay there any longer than is necessary and I do not need you interrupting me while I speak, is that clear?”
“Yes, Aunt Bella” Draco replied, outwardly accepting but seething on the inside from her insults. At least he would be able to get rid of her quicker this way.
“Good,” Bellatrix sneered, once more activating a port key.
Landing in the main hall of Malfoy Manor, Bellatrix immediately called out to her sister.
“Bella? What news?” demanded Narcissa.
“The Dark Lord has tasked Draco with a most important task. He is to get close to Dumbledore and kill him. If he succeeds he will become one of the most honoured Death Eaters. If he fails, the Dark Lord will no longer need to worry about the Malfoy Line. You are to train Draco so that he may complete his task. I am sure you want him to succeed, perhaps even more than the rest of us,” she looked at Narcissa with contempt. “If he fails, the Dark Lord will likely see it as poor training on your part, and he does not forgive weakness.”
With that, Bella spun on her heels and marched out the main door.
“Draco? We must begin your training immediately. Dumbledore will not be an easy target to take out...”
“Mother! You cannot honestly agree with this? I have yet to come into my Magical Inheritance, not to mention the fact that he has at least a centuries’ experience on me!”
“No, Draco, I do not. However what choice do we have? If we do not go through with this the Dark Lord will have us killed. I fear it is a pointless exercise though... there is little chance you will be able to succeed, and if you do the ministry will have you Kissed...”
“Mother, there must be another way! I have no intention of killing anyone, especially not in service to him! Have you seen that rat-hole he lives in? And the way all his Death Eaters cower before him? It's despicable! He’s vile! I may die for it, but I will not dishonour myself by serving a creature such as him!”
“I fear there is no other way, Draco. Where else would we go?”
“We could go to Dumbledore. If we explain ourselves he'd protect us!”
“Draco, what makes you think Dumbledore would protect us? He believes we are on the side of the Dark Lord, what could we say that would make him think differently? Even Veritaserum wouldn’t help us, as there are Dark ways to get around it. He will simply think we are attempting to become spies.”
“I don't know, but we have to at least try! I will not become a murderer! I may have acted like an arrogant prat that was eager to join the Death Eaters before, but once I was faced with that option, I find myself disgusted. I will not kill anyone on his orders.”
“For tonight, let us rest. We can discuss this more in the morning. If it is still your wish to see Dumbledore we will make our way to Hogsmeade, and from there find our way into Hogwarts and see the Headmaster. Goodnight, my son. Sleep well, and fear not, we will find a way to survive this.”
Well, that's enough for this chapter. I hope it isn't too bad of a place to end off, I never know when to finish a chapter... Let me know your thoughts in the forums, or leave me a review