Chapter Twenty-Nine: Mrs. Parkinson's Funeral
Harry opened a bleary eye that felt as if sand had been poured into it, and glared. "Wha timmizit, Blaise?"
"About five. Funeral."
Harry simply stared at him blearily.
"Seamus is in the shower. Neville's bringing his best robes over."
"Oh yay, get to play 'the Gryffies can't dress themselves before dawn'," Harry muttered, then rolled over and pulled the blanket over his head.
Harry almost flew from the bed a second later, cursing loudly and dripping wet. "That was ice cold!"
"We don't have time for you to act like an idiot," Blaise said firmly.
Harry glared. "Who died and made you Snape?"
"Ha, ha," Blaise snorted.
"Exactly what is--" Harry shook his head and held his hand out toward his wand, "Accio." Once his wand was in his hand he quickly cast a drying spell on himself and his bed and sat down. "Do you at least have tea, or coffee, or something with caffeine before you start in?"
"We can't all leave the castle at once, at least that's what the Gray Lady and the Friar figure," Blaise said, as he handed Harry a mug of coffee. "Bond is too new."
"And too much unknown," Harry added bitterly, "because if something's going to happen that's never happened before or almost never happens ... it's going to happen to me." Harry took a deep drink of the coffee. "Who did you decide were staying? Luna and Tonks?" He had stayed up in his bed the night before and had feigned sleep when Seamus had come in to avoid any 'are you alright Harry?' chats, so he hadn't heard what they had come up with.
"Makes sense to me. Tonks is on everyone's nerves at the moment and Luna can continue her chatting with the portraits without any of the teachers coming back thinking much of it. But that's way too simple for you and Malfoy to have decided ... so why them?"
"Tonks would look too cozy; Draco can't appear to have sided completely with you."
Harry felt his headache begin to return. "Not enough caffeine," he muttered and began drinking.
"Luna, like you said, can accomplish more here. Anyone else wandering around and talking to the portraits and walls for no reason would be wondered about."
Harry sipped his coffee and mulled over how his presence could be considered less 'gone over to the light side' than Tonks, who was after all Draco's cousin. But then again, he and Draco didn't have to really act to put on a front that said, see we're standing next to each other and not killing one another, what more can you expect? With Seamus and Neville behind him it would look as if he were Draco's keeper more than his ally, or whatever you could call them. They certainly were not friends. Not exactly.
So that meant Draco was concerned about Death Eaters attempting to either kill them or grab them at the funeral? They were going to be in all likelihood out in the open in plain sight of Death Eaters. How many shocked friends of the family would show up at Mrs. Parkinson's funeral bore the dark mark?
Draco and Pansy did not trust Tonks at their back. Luna and Neville were likely wibbled over but in the end, Luna could accomplish more staying at Hogwarts. Neville held up just as well as Luna did in a crisis, and if he went about talking to portraits that would garner far too much attention they did not want.
"Way too early for attempting to think like a Slytherin."
"You are a Slytherin," Blaise smirked. "Proves it if you can think like one. Slytherin thinking is beyond Gryffindors."
"Don't be too sure about that," Harry disagreed tiredly. "Neville can surprise you sometimes; so can Ginny and Hermione."
Hermione swallowed. Harry looked so changed. So did Seamus and Neville. Even Draco and Blaise ... What on earth were those tattoos? She had seen Harry's, of course, at Draco and Pansy's wedding. Draco, Blaise and Neville now had somewhat similar tattoos. Harry had said his mother had been responsible, but there was no way that Harry's tattoos were not connected to the other three's. It was simply too much of a coincidence not to be.
Ron had refused to come. He had been furious that Hermione had opted to go. Ginny had come, but refused to have Dean come with her.
Hermione screwed up her courage and grabbed Ginny by the hand dragging her towards the just arrived group.
"Malfoy, Pansy --I --I'm sorry for your loss," Hermione said awkwardly.
"Thank you, Granger," Draco said coolly.
Pansy gave her a weak smile, but her attention was focused on trying to get Patience to blow her nose.
Hermione looked at Harry and blurted, "Ron refused to come."
Harry nodded. That was actually a relief, but he felt too disloyal even thinking that, let alone saying that.
"Dumbledore offered me a place in the teaching accreditation program."
Harry winced. He could imagine how that went over with Ron, who was so touchy over being "plain old Ron" at times, or whatever it was exactly. He wanted to scream, but Hermione was still looking at him expectantly. "That crafty old bastard doesn't do anything without a reason, 'Mione. if you think you can handle it, it'd be a big help to -- everything, probably. With Fudge's mandates, having the best of the younger generations ready to step up to fill sudden vacancies would be good."
"Language, Potter," Draco muttered, shooting his eyes in the direction of his little sisters-in-law.
"If I can handle what exactly?" Hermione managed. Draco scolding Harry on his language was almost too surreal to comprehend.
"Not the studies, the strings and -- migraines," Harry sighed.
"You mean Ron's stupidity," Ginny frowned.
Harry shook his head. "That doesn't even make the top one-thousand." It did, but not in the ways that counted in the big picture, only in the his-best-friend-never-speaking-to-him-again way. And when did he start thinking like that, and when did Hermione start looking at him like that -- as if he actually had an answer? She was the one who planned and weighed everything out; he simply reacted on instinct and adrenaline, and thus far had managed to survive his school years.
Hermione's eyes narrowed calculatingly. "Harry?"
"Not here, not now, some possibly not ever," Harry said quietly.
Hermione frowned slightly.
"I wish you hadn't come. Those two ..."
"David Mitchell and Stephen Phelps, their mothers were both Rosiers." Draco murmured.
"Hermione, Ginny, you two stick with us until the others come for you," Seamus said quietly.
Harry looked down at Penelope Parkinson. "Huh?"
"I know the names of those that -- dealt in the same politics."
"Don't say that aloud again," Pansy hissed.
"Owww, Pans, you're hurting my hand," five-year-old Persephone complained.
"Sorry," Pansy murmured.
Neville glared at Draco.
"What?" the blonde Slytherin hissed.
"He needs his wand hand free, you take her Neville," Harry said softly.
Neville took the five year old from Pansy lifting her up in his arms Pansy lifted Patience into her arms.
"Portkey out when it's over. Don't wait for the rest of us. Just go. Pansy, Neville, Millie -- take the little ones and go. Understood?"
"Surely--" Ginny frowned, about to protest that surely nothing would happen at a funeral. She almost took a step back from the looks that were turned in her direction by Harry and the rest.
"Shacklebolt," Seamus hissed angrily, spotting the Auror that had injured Snape.
"Longbottom, you will Portkey out with Bulstrode and Pansy. One of you has to get back to Hogwarts. And they need to be protected," Draco said quietly.
Hermione had to concentrate on not gaping like an idiot.
The funeral passed largely without incident. Hermione had guiltily been interested in seeing an actual Wizard funeral and how it contrasted with a Muggle one. She still felt horrible for the rather morbid curiosity, but though she felt horrid for Pansy and her little sisters, Hermione had only ever laid eyes on Mrs. Parkinson once and never exchanged a word with her. If asked, Hermione would not be able to recall a single detail of the funeral. Her attention was entirely focused on Harry and the whole group he was with, which she and Ginny had been firmly attached to when people were starting to be seated. The Weasleys were on the other side of the crowd, but Harry had refused to let them go. It was safer for the Weasleys to come collect them after, and that apparently was that.
They scared her. All of them.
Her initial thought, that Harry was ... different, now seemed not only an understatement but an extremely idiotic one at that. Harry was frightening. Neville seemed harsher, colder. Seamus seemed that way as well.
"Millie, Neville, take the girls now," Harry said quietly. "Rita Skeeter."
"And Shacklebolt," Seamus' murmured, his eyes focused on the opposite direction from Harry.
"And incoming Weas--"
"Malfoy," Harry cut him off.
"Weasleys -- I was going to say Weasleys."
"Sure you were."
Mille took Patience from Pansy and grabbed Penelope's hand, then murmured the word that triggered the Portkey.
Neville murmured the word that activated the amulet-turned-Portkey he wore and disappeared after the girls.
"Those were interesting words to set off the portkeys," Hermione managed. "Muggle bands?"
"M' da got m' mum listening to them," Seamus shrugged. "Not like Muggle rock bands come up in conversation round here."
Hermione nodded slowly. That made a little more sense, if Seamus had been the one to come up with the activation-words for the portkeys.
"Why didn't you come back and sit with us?" Molly Weasley was upon them now, scowling at her daughter.
"It was too dangerous," Harry scowled back.
"Nonsense. Albus assured us it was going to be perfectly safe."
"My count has ten that definitely have the Mark," Draco sneered.
"Sixteen," Pansy countered, dry-eyed and stony-faced, more the haughty Slytherin than ever, even at her worst in school.
Molly scowled at her half sister. "Aren't you the least bit upset -- have you--"
"Go, now. We'll deal with this, the girls need you," Draco said sharply giving Molly Weasley a murderous look.
Pansy glared and murmured the activation ward for the Portkey-amulet she wore.
"She's a Slytherin," Harry said, disgusted, after Pansy was gone.
Hermione blinked. Harry had said that as if that was supposed to explain it all. If it did, she certainly didn't understand it.
"Derail Skeeter." Harry nodded at Draco and Blaise.
"Did Dumbledore tell you why you are where you are?" Harry looked at Hermione.
"Yes," Hermione said slowly.
"It's Shacklebolt," Harry said in a barely audible voice.
"That's preposterous!" Molly squawked.
"You're sure?" Arthur Weasley frowned.
"You're confused," Molly insisted.
"I am not confused." Harry glared at Molly.
"Dumbledore knows?" Bill Weasley wanted to know.
Harry nodded. He'd registered the mob of redheads, but still, Bill and Arthur speaking up had caught him off guard.
"Ah, Harry, my boy," Shacklebolt said jovially, holding his hand out to Harry as he approached.
Harry glared at the hand held out to him, refusing to touch it. "Mr. Shacklebolt," he said coolly.
"How are you?" Shacklebolt said with a blatantly fake smile and a dangerous look in his eyes.
"And Remus?" the Auror baited.
"Fine," Harry answered flatly.
"When is he -- well he can't stay at the school."
"He has his Wolfsbane Potion. There isn't a problem. Professor Snape is brewing it."
"Surely Snape isn't up to it?"
"He's recovering well. Up and about," Harry smiled icily.
Shacklebolt's expression faltered.
Hermione's attention was not on the verbal exchange between Shacklebolt and Harry, but the silent one that seemed to be going on. Seamus was some how managing to look like a thoroughly bored goof-off attempting to behave. He was twitching and trying not to bounce in place, all the while watching Malfoy and Zabini like a hawk. It was rather obvious to Hermione's mind; Seamus was a bit hyper at times but at the moment he seemed to be ridiculously so, too much so for it to be anything but an act.
Seamus reached out, putting his hand on the small of Harry's back as if it were the most natural move in the world to make.
"Just a minute, Seamus," Harry said in answer to the touch. Hermione's eyes bugged. When school started back up Harry was getting cornered and talking the first chance she got. "Did you have anything in particular to say or were you trying to improve your reputation by being seen with me, Mr. Shacklebolt?"
"Harry James Potter!" Molly scolded.
Hermione answered the fleeting apologetic look from Harry with a twitch of her lips.
"We're wasting our breath, Seamus. Let's go rescue Malfoy from Skeeter, and then get him back to the school."
"Harry Potter, don't you walk away from me young man. I want a word with you!"
"Mum! I can't blame him if all you're going to do is harass him about Seamus. BAD ENOUGH SEAMUS IS DISOWNED BY HIS FATHER WITHOUT YOU STARTING IN ON HARRY AGAIN!" Ginny said loudly enough for the words to carry to Harry and Seamus and garner more than a few odd looks. Arthur Weasley gave his only daughter a strange look himself.
Seamus bent his head down as he "steered" Harry through the milling people toward the white blonde beacon of Draco's hair. "Quick girl, that Ginny. Don't know whether to kiss her or kick her arse."
Harry nodded "Best let your mum in on this. It's going to be in the prophet."
"I'm kicking her arse," Seamus muttered. "This is going to make mum even more -- supportive."
Harry bit his lip and made a strangled sound.
"Laugh it up, dear. That book and the potion recipes were for both of us," Seamus snorted. "She'll be supportive of you, too, since the Weasleys aren't."
"I'm going to strangle Ginny," Harry muttered.
"You started it. Got to give her credit for quickness."
"She grew up with the twins, Seamus."
"We need to get back. Pansy's going to need your help with the girls, and the rest of us have our studies," Harry said.
Draco smarmily excused himself. Rita Skeeter was all but cooing at him. Harry had to give the blonde credit for that, he could use charm to manipulate as well as he did threats and intimidation.
"Who's do we use?" Draco murmured.
"Mine," Harry answered. They had agreed on using as few of the 'return' portkeys as possible so they could hold on to them for any emergency. What emergency none of them could really come up with, but after the past couple weeks they really didn't try that hard to come up with anything other than a vague just in case notion. "I'll have the easiest time getting another," he added.
The other three boys grabbed a hold of Harry and he activated his Portkey. Seamus' tight grip around his waist, still for show as he could feel Molly's eyes on him, was reassuring as the sickening hooking sensation caught him around the waist.
Dumbledore seemed surprised that they were all there, though only for a second. A second that all the boys noticed. The twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes wasn't quite up to it's usual level as they untangled themselves and stood. The Portkeys were supposed to have taken them back to the Apprentice's tower, but Harry's had apparently been set to take him to Dumbledore's office instead.
"It's a pleasure, I knew your father..." another voice began.
"Evidently the Portkey malfunctioned," Harry interrupted, glaring at Dumbledore.
"This is Matthias Bigsby, he'll be helping you with the legal--"
"No, he won't."
"Harry," Dumbledore said warningly.
"I'm hiring Zabini's uncle the solicitor for any help I need with legalities. If you'll excuse us?"
"It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Bigsby, I'm sure you're quite good, with Professor Dumbledore recommending you, but I've already made my own arrangements."
"Harry, you will--"
"Be using Zabini's Uncle," Harry bit off with a glare. "Good day."
Dumbledore stared after the group of boys in shock as they filed out of his office.
"Hermione?" a muffled voice called softly, on the heels of the knock on her door.
Wide-awake despite the late hour, Hermione opened the door. "Fred?"
"Want to talk?"
Hermione nodded slowly as she gave Fred a worried look. "What's wrong?" she asked, moving aside to let him in.
Fred handed Hermione a letter, one from the parcel Bill had slipped to Hermione at the funeral.
The letter was from Angelina. Hermione had thought Angelina was dating George, though at times it was hard to tell. The twins, Angelina, Katie, Alicia and Lee were a pretty tight knit group. Lee, Angelina, and Katie were the ones managing WWW while Fred and George were here for the remainder of the summer.
"She doesn't want to distract or upset him, so she's leaving it to me to tell him. Probably why he got past the wards on your room-- Angelina--"
"Shoddily done," Hermione interrupted, meaning the wards. She'd ... poked at them, trying to sort them out exactly, in an attempt to distract herself from everything else racing through her mind.
Fred nodded absently.
"Can I just start screaming and beating my head on the wall now?" Hermione muttered, as she finished the letter.
"Only if I can join you."
"I take it no one else knows about this?"
Fred shook his head. "Well, Katie, Alicia, Lee, me and now you."
"It didn't occur to you to bloody speak up when--"
"Wasn't time. George and I just got grabbed and told we were going to be put under the Fidelius. George barely managed to scribble down a couple sentences to Angelina and give it to Charlie to pass on. You were there."
Hermione nodded with a groan. It had been a whirlwind, they'd been informed and sent off in less than fifteen minutes, as everything had already been packed up for them.
Hermione groaned again. Molly Weasley had been ... not exactly quick tempered, but certainly more excitable since Arthur Weasley had been injured by Nagini at the ministry the winter before.
The twins' quitting school had caused an unending string of harping from Molly; that, and their "foolishness" of Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Hermione shuddered as she imagined the decibels Molly's ranting would reach when she found out one of the twins had been married without her knowing it immediately after Angelina got off the Hogwarts Express in June. The twins had gotten raked over the coals rather soundly for showing up two days after school was out for the term.
"Harry have much to say?"
Hermione shook her head.
"He said something, though?"
She nodded and repeated his opinion on the Teaching Program.
Hermione frowned at the letter again. "Not telling him isn't an option, you know that."
"I know, but ... this is going to drive him crazy. Being stuck here."
"Sending you and George here is rather absurd. You're legally adults, and--ugh. Honestly, I could do something. I'm very good at research. I certainly could be of more use at the Headquarters ... or at the very least could be doing something here instead of going out of my mind."
Fred agreed silently.
"You can have the bathroom now." Seamus poked his head into the sitting room of their quarters.
Harry nodded absently.
"Harry--" Seamus frowned.
"You can't owl yer mum anymore. We need to find a way---the mirror!" Harry fought back the stab of pain. The mirror reminded him of Sirius, and everything else that he did not have time to think about just now.
"Sirius gave me a mirror. If -- like mobiles, or something."
A slow grin caught spread across Seamus' features as he caught on to what Harry was saying. The charms and spells on a two-way mirror were extremely complex, while for floo all one needed was to purchase a bit of powder, or make your own if you were able.
"I'll remind mum about Aunt Meggie's mirrors."
Harry gave Seamus a questioning look.
"Great-Gran has a pair of mirrors. My great-Aunt Meggie made them when she was a girl."
"I wish 'Mione were here," Harry muttered. "Should have told her to take the teaching program offer flat out ... but..."
"She probably will. She's Hermione. Chance for advanced studies; the girl isn't going to pass that up."
"Unless Ron is a complete arse."
"Doubt it even then. Ron usually comes round. Just takes a bit," Seamus disagreed.
"She'd be able to figure out a way to make a mirror connect to more than just one other mirror," Harry mused.
"I'll get it." Seamus frowned at the knock on the door.
Blaise and Neville stood there.
Harry looked questioningly at the pair.
"We really need to talk about what Blaise's Aunt told him," Neville blurted out.
Harry stifled a groan. Ron not being at the funeral had been telling, as much a relief as a disappointment. He had wanted to see Ron, but not if it was going to be nothing but an argument. Hermione had looked at him as she didn't know him. Damn it, he wanted his best friends--not a bloody follower and a possible enemy. Now here were Blaise and Neville knocking. Why did anyone think he had anymore answers than they did? Bloody hell, they all knew more than he did when it came down to it. At the very least, they were vaguely familiar with the ancient traditions that seemed to be popping out of no where and tangling them all up.
The only bright side was that he didn't have to worry about how he should act. When it was just him and Seamus, he was so on edge that Seamus would pick up on it soon if he hadn't already. And ... he just wanted to go curl up and hide and let someone else save the damned world.
The thought of the mirrors had brought Sirius to the front of his mind again, that wound still raw and for the most part not yet dealt with. Ruthlessly, he shoved all thought of his godfather back down and turned tired eyes on the pair in the door way. "Does Malfoy need to be here?"
Blaise shrugged. "He's going to need to know it sooner or later ... but ..."
Harry merely nodded. In less than three weeks Malfoy had seen his mother kill his father, then herself; been married, his wife disinherited, his father-in-law a fugitive, his mother-in-law buried, and had charge of his three young sister-in-laws; not counting everything else. The tattoos, the Allegiance Bond and the Bond with Hogwarts. No one wanted to deal with Malfoy if he lost it.
Harry went to the fireplace and threw in a pinch of floo powder, ordering strong coffee and a snack. It was like as not going to be another very long sleepless night.
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