The drawing room dazzled after the darkness outside; even with his eyes almost closed Harry could make out the wide proportions of the room. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, more portraits against the dark purple walls. Two figures rose from chairs in front of an ornate marble fireplace as the prisoners were forced into the room by the Snatchers.
“What is this?”
The dreadfully familiar, drawling voice of Lucius Malfoy fell on Harry’s ears. He was panicking now. He could see no way out, and it was easier, as his fear mounted, to block out Voldemort’s thoughts, though his scar was still burning.
“They say they’ve got Potter,” said Narcissa’s cold voice. “Draco, come here.”
Harry did not dare look directly at Draco, but saw him obliquely; a figure slightly taller than he was, rising from an armchair, his face a pale and pointed blur beneath white-blond hair.
Greyback forced the prisoners to turn again so as to place Harry directly beneath the chandelier, pushing him down to his knees on the marble floor.
“Well, boy?” rasped the werewolf.
Harry was facing a mirror over the fireplace, a great gilded thing in an intricately scrolled frame. Through the slits of his eyes he saw his own reflection for the first time since leaving Grimmauld Place.
His face was huge, shiny, and pink, every feature distorted by Hermione’s jinx. His black hair reached his shoulders and there was a dark shadow around his jaw. Had he not known that it was he who stood there, he would have wondered who was wearing his glasses. He resolved not to speak, for his voice was sure to give him away; yet he still avoided eye contact with Draco as the latter approached.
“Well, Draco?” said Lucius Malfoy. He sounded avid. “Is it? Is it Harry Potter?”
“I can’t - I can’t be sure,” said Draco. He was keeping his distance from Greyback, and seemed as scared of looking at Harry as Harry was of looking at him.
“But look at him carefully, look! Come closer!” Harry had never heard Lucius Malfoy so excited.
“You must be sure,” Bellatrix said in a low, dangerous voice. “If we call the dark lord and this is not Harry Potter, he will not be pleased.”
“Draco, if we are the ones who hand Potter over to the Dark Lord, all will return to what it was, you understand?” Lucius hissed softly. “Everything will be forgiv -”
“Now, we won’t be forgetting who actually caught him, I hope Mr. Malfoy?” said Greyback menacingly.
Lucius turned stiffly, anger showing on his aristocratic features. “You dare speak to me like that, in my own home?”
Narcissa stepped to her husband’s side, taking his arm and pulling him away. Greyback followed for a few steps, then took Hermione’s arm from the snatcher who held her.
“But look at him carefully, look!” cawed Bellatrix to Draco. She grabbed hold of Harry’s hair and tilted his head back painfully. “Don’t be shy, come closer!”
Draco approached Harry and knelt in front of him, so close that Harry could see the usually languid, pale face in sharp detail even through his swollen eyes. With his face a puffy mask, Harry felt as though he was peering out from between the bars of a cage.
“What happened to his face?” Draco asked. His own face was remarkably like his fathers, even to the excitement now burning in his eyes.
“Yes,” Bellatrix drawled, looking at Greyback. “What happened to his face?”
“He came to us this way,” one of the other snatchers replied. “Ran into something in the woods, I reckon.”
“Or a stinging jinx,” Bellatrix said. She looked at Hermione. “Was it you?” Bellatrix walked to where Ron and Hermione where being held near one of the other snatchers who was holding a fistful of wands. “Let us see her wand.”
Harry was surprised when Draco leaned close, rubbing his nose against Harry’s ear as he breathed in deeply. A quick intake of breath filled Harry’s nose with Draco’s scent, a clean smell of summer and sunshine that made Harry lean forward, anxious to get closer to the smell.
The moment of peace was broken by Bellatrix screaming. “What is that?” she demanded.
“Sword,” grunted an out-of-sight Snatcher.
“Give it to me.”
Draco pulled back enough to look into Harry’s eyes. He frowned when he saw the swelling on Harry’s face and reached up to gently run a hand down the puffed skin. Harry could feel the swelling ease, feel his skin moving back into place as Draco’s touch healed him.
“Found you,” Draco breathed.
Then the voice of one of the snatchers rang out through the room. “It’s not yours, missus, it’s mine, I reckon I found it.”
There was a bang and a flash of red light; Harry knew that the Snatcher had been Stunned. There was a roar of anger from his fellows but by that time Harry wasn’t paying attention to anything but Draco’s mouth on his.
Draco tasted like peppermint tea and honey and Harry did his best to lick every last bit of that taste from Draco’s mouth. It seemed as if Draco had found something in Harry’s mouth that he liked as well.
“What d’you think you’re playing at, woman?” Greyback growled out of sight.
“Stupefy!” Bellatrix screamed, “Stupefy!”
There was more screaming, more bangs of spells being fired, but it wasn’t until Narcissa called Draco’s name that the kiss ended, though Draco didn’t pull back far.
“Mine,” he whispered, looking deep into Harry’s eyes.
“It is him,” Lucius exclaimed, standing very close by. “It is Potter. We must call the Dark Lord, now!” He pulled back his sleeve to reveal the Dark Mark burned on his forearm.
“STOP!” shrieked Bellatrix, “Do not touch it; we shall all perish if the Dark Lord comes now!”
Lucius froze, his index finger hovering over the Mark. Out of the corners of his eyes Harry saw Bellatrix bearing down upon the werewolf, the sword of Gryffindor gripped tightly in her hand, her face waxen.
“Where did you get this sword?” she whispered to Greyback as she pulled his wand out of his unresisting grip.
“How dare you?” he snarled, his mouth the only thing that could move as he was forced to gaze up at her. He bared his pointed teeth. “Release me, woman!”
“Where did you find this sword?” she repeated, brandishing it in his face. “Snape sent it to my vault in Gringotts!”
“It was in their tent,” rasped Greyback. “Release me, I say!”
Ignoring his demands, Bellatrix flicked her wrist and a jet of red light hit the werewolf. His eyes rolled back in his head and he fell to the floor.
“Draco, move this scum outside,” said Bellatrix, indicating the unconscious men. “If you haven’t got the guts to finish them, then leave them in the courtyard for me.”
“Don’t you dare speak to Draco like -” said Narcissa furiously, but Bellatrix screamed.
“Be quiet! The situation is graver than you can possibly imagine, Cissy! We have a very serious problem! Where did you find this sword?” she asked Ron, brandishing it in his face. “Snape sent it to my vault in Gringotts!”
“We-we found it,” he told her.
“I’m going to ask you again!” Bellatrix demanded “Where did you get this sword? Where?”
“We found it - we found it - PLEASE!” Hermione screamed.
Draco took Harry’s hand and stood, pulling Harry to his feet as well. They could see that Bellatrix had a hold of Hermione’s hair and the tip of the sword was pressed against the girl’s neck.
“You’re lying, filthy Mudblood, and I know it! You have been inside my vault at Gringotts!” she screamed. “What else did you take? What else have you got? Tell me the truth or, I swear, I shall run you through with this knife!”
“She is a danger to you,” Draco told Harry and, turning, he pointed his wand at Bellatrix’s back. “Avada Kedavra.”
A flash of green light flew across the room and hit Bellatrix squarely between the shoulder blades. Without a sound, the woman fell to the floor, dead, her unseeing eyes staring at the chandelier, the sword falling with a clatter at her side.
“Draco?” Lucius whispered. “What - how did you -”
“What have you done?” Narcissa exclaimed, looking at her fallen sister.
“We must call the Dark Lord,” Lucius said firmly, reaching for his Dark Mark once more, only to stop when Draco pointed his wand in his father’s direction.
“Draco?” Narcissa asked sharply.
Lucius simply looked at the tip of his son’s wand. “You would kill me, Draco?”
“No, father,” Draco replied calmly, “but I would sever your arm to stop you.”
“This is the only way to regain our status, Draco,” Lucius pleaded. “It is the only way to save our family.”
“He is mine, father. He is family.”
To Harry’s surprise, the words seemed to drain all the fight from Lucius and he let his arm fall to his side.
“Oh, thank Merlin,” Ron breathed, bending to take his wand from the unconscious Snatcher. He scooped up Hermione’s as well and handed it to her.
“What is going on?” Hermione asked, her voice shaking.
“He’s a Veela,” Ron said, as if that explained everything.
Apparently Hermione didn’t seem to think it did. “What?”
“Malfoy - Draco won’t let anything hurt Harry,” Ron explained, looking over at where Draco had Harry pushed half behind him, protecting him. “He’d die first.”
Narcissa moved closer to her son, trying to get a better look at Harry. “You’re sure, Draco? Absolutely sure?”
Draco put his arm around Harry and pulled him close to his side. “Absolutely.”
Lucius let his arm fall and turned away, wavering on his feet as if he’d taken a blow. “We are doomed,” he cried. “The Dark Lord will kill us all!”
“No, he won’t,” Harry said firmly.
“You think you can defeat him?” Lucius asked, burning back. “You, defeat the greatest wizard of our time?”
“He’s not a great wizard, father,” Draco answered disdainfully. “He’s a bully.”
“Do not -”
“I will speak of him as I wish,” Draco replied fiercely. “Look what he’s done to you, father, what he’s done to our family. He treats you worse than the dirt beneath his feet, he took your wand! It kills me to see the way he treats you, the way he treats us. I woke up every morning believing that one of use would die before the day ended and I endured it because there was no choice, but now there is, Father. We can choose to fight him. We can help Harry defeat him!”
Lucius shook his head. “The Dark Lord has promised us many things, the preservation of our culture, freedom for those pure of blood to continue our way of life -”
“He’s not a pure blood,” Harry told them.
Lucius took an angry step forward. “How dare you?”
“It’s true,” Harry insisted. “He told me so himself.”
“But why would he -”
“The diary you gave Ginny,” Hermione explained. “It held a piece of his soul inside of it. That soul possessed Ginny, and it would have killed her if Harry hadn’t found them in the Chamber of Secrets and saved her.”
“It is true that Merope Gaunt was his mother,” Harry told Lucius, “and that she was a descendant of Salazar Slytherin, but his father was a muggle.”
“A halfblood?” Narcissa breathed.
Draco cut off the name by putting a finger over Harry’s lips. Harry looked at him apologetically, irritated with himself that he’d completely forgotten about the curse on Voldemort’s name. Harry wrapped his fingers around Draco’s wrist and lowered it, but didn’t let it go.
“His real name is Tom Riddle, he’s named after his muggle father,” Harry said. “It was his father’s grave that we fought on, the night he got his body back. I’ve been in his head, I know how he thinks. Tom Riddle doesn’t care about pure bloods or muggleborns or your culture or any of his followers. The only thing he cares about is power.”
The news seemed to have stunned Lucius. The older wizard stumbled over to the chairs near the fireplace and sat down heavily.
“Do you really think you can win?” Narcissa asked.
“Yeah, I think so.” Harry looked at Ron and Hermione and debated telling the rest of the truth, but Hermione had started the tale by mentioning the piece of soul in the diary. “Tom Riddle came back because he split his soul into pieces and hid them.”
“Harry,” Ron warned in a low voice.
“Dumbledore believed that there were seven,” Harry continued. “We’ve already destroyed three. One was the diary you gave to Ginny -”
“Dear Merlin,” Lucius breathed, covering his face with his hands.
“- that I destroyed with a Basilisk fang in the Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore destroyed the second one, a ring. And just a few weeks ago,” he looked at Ron, “Ron destroyed one with that sword.”
“The darkest magics...” Lucius muttered, shaking his head in horror.
“No wonder he is insane,” Narcissa said, her voice wavering.
“Harry, Bellatrix was certain we’d gotten the sword from her vault,” Hermione told him. “She was terrified we had taken something else from it. I think maybe -”
“She told me he had given her something to keep safe, something precious,” Narcissa told them. “Do you think it could be one of these things?”
“Yeah,” Harry replied. “Can you help us get it?”
“It must be done carefully,” Draco warned him. “The Dark Lord cannot learn of this until all of these things have been destroyed. Do you know where the rest of them are?”
“No idea,” Harry admitted.
“We are doomed,” Lucius moaned.
“Dumbledore believed that Riddle collected trophies,” Hermione said, “that he made horcruxes out of them. Riddle had a goblet that was said to have belonged to Helga Hufflepuff. We think he made that a horcrux.”
Draco nodded. “That leaves three.”
“We don’t know what the other ones are. We’ve been searching since the ministry fell, but we haven’t had much luck,” Harry told them.
“Maybe he gave them to the other death eaters?” Hermione suggested.
“There aren’t many that he would trust enough,” Narcissa replied.
“He trusted your husband with one,” Ron pointed out.
Lucius sighed. “He did trust me once, but no longer. Bella was his most devoted servant; he may indeed have given one to her keeping. Now...”
“Snape.” Draco’s voice was bitter, spitting the word as if it were poison.
“Yes,” Lucius murmured, “it is possible.”
Harry shook his head. “Snape would never help us.”
Lucius stood up. In that moment he looked the proud pure blood wizard he had looked before his visit to Azkaban. “He would never help you.”
“He would never work against the Dark Lord,” Draco protested.
“Are you so sure he would not help us, Draco?” Narcissa asked. “He did stand by his word last year.”
“He fulfilled an unbreakable vow, mother,” Draco pointed out. “He hardly had a choice.”
“There was a vow!” Ron exclaimed. “What was it?”
Narcissa glanced at her son before answering. “He vowed to aid Draco in fulfilling the Dark Lord’s wishes, to carry out the order if Draco were unable to do so.”
“I was supposed to kill Dumbledore,” Draco told Harry softly. “I couldn’t do it.”
“I know,” Harry replied soothingly, tightening his hold on Draco’s hand. “I was there, on the Astronomy Tower. I saw you lower your wand.”
“And yet you’ve managed to murder your aunt,” Lucius pointed out coldly.
“I would do anything to protect my mate, Father,” Draco replied fiercely, “as you should damn well know yourself.”
Lucius looked at his wife and his expression softened. “Yes.”
“Let’s focus on getting whatever it is in Bellatrix’s vault,” Harry said. “Then we’ll concentrate on finding the rest of the horcruxes.”
“Yes,” Draco agreed, pulling Harry close to his side. “I have a plan.”