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A Social Call by Moonlight writer

Format: Short story
Chapters: 4
Word Count: 7,616
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Drama
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Kreacher, Arthur, Molly, Lucius, Narcissa, Draco, Ginny
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione

First Published: 10/18/2007
Last Chapter: 04/05/2013
Last Updated: 04/05/2013

Summary:
A Social Call



The following short story borrows characters, scenes, and canon from JK Rowling’s creation. This story takes place after The Deathly Hallows.

Chapter 1
The Unwelcome Meeting

Harry, his mind exhausted and tortured, tries to get on with life, but does not get a reprieve.  The last thing He would ever expect is about to happen.


Chapter 1: The Unwanted Meeting
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A Social Call



The following short story borrows characters, scenes, and canon from JK Rowling’s creation. This story takes place after The Deathly Hallows.

Chapter 1
The Unwelcome Meeting

The kitchen was quiet one Tuesday morning, as Harry sat at the table, nibbling on a piece of toast, and sipping coffee as he perused that day’s copy of the Daily Prophet. He had just finished his breakfast of eggs and bacon that Kreacher, his house elf had made. Since the fall of Voldemort, and his instant renewal of fame, Harry had finally gotten a day to himself, without interviews, visitors, questions, or invitations. Kreacher was now faithful, and friendly, to not only Harry, but anyone who came calling as well. 

He practically beamed when Ron and Hermione would stop over Harry’s house at Grimmauld Place. Harry had just moved in last week, and was seeking contractors to renovate the house to its original grandeur, minus the house elf heads, grim reminders of pureblood ideals, and any other morbid thing Harry could find. 

Harry intended to restore Sirius’ name to the Black family tree, and had left his room decorated as he had found it, though it was now clean and tidied up. Harry had just recently hired Mildred’s Magical Merry Maids to come in and give the house a thorough shakedown, removing all the dust, grime, and spiders, which Ron liked particularly well, from number twelve. Aunt Petunia would have been impressed, despite the magic used to clean up what Ron had affectionately given Harry’s place, the unofficial name of ‘The Hovel’.  It was sort of like, ‘The Burrow’, only shabbier. Harry thought it was funny, but Hermione chided Ron for it. 

Today, Harry was purchasing new dress robes in Diagon Alley from Madam Malkin’s shop, to attend the funeral of people who died fighting the Death eaters. His old set had already become too short for him since the Yule Ball in his fourth year at Hogwarts. So many had perished needlessly, fighting Voldemort and the Death Eaters.  Harry still could not get used to the fact that some of the people he cared for were among them, including Lupin, Tonks, and Fred. Harry got up from the table, folding the Daily Prophet. Kreacher came hurrying over. 

“Has master finished his breakfast? Would you like anything else?” asked Kreacher, in a very stately voice. 

“No, no thanks Kreacher. I couldn’t eat another bite. But I must say that was one of the best breakfasts I have eaten. You are a wonderful cook.” 

“Master gives Kreacher much credit for his simple meals.” replied Kreacher, who had the equivalent blush of a person spreading across his face. 

“No, really Kreacher, I really enjoyed that breakfast. You could not have made it better, thank you.” replied Harry. 

Bowing as low as he could, Kreacher backed away and proceeded to clear the table. With a snap of his fingers, it had cleaned itself, as if no one had been eating there.

Carrying the Daily Prophet under his arm, Harry walked upstairs to wash and change out of his pajamas. After washing, he sat on his bed, deep in thought. In the corner, sat Hedwig’s empty cage. Harry missed her, and often thought about getting another owl, but had conflicting feelings of being a traitor to her, as if her death meant nothing to him. Hermione, Ron, and others thought it was okay for Harry to find another owl, but he could not bring himself to go through with it. 

Perhaps one day soon, but not at this time, when so many things required closure. Funerals to attend, respects to be given, families to console, and people to bury. It was all so mind-boggling. Harry felt responsible, though he had been told numerous times, that he was not, that Voldemort had been the one to blame, along with his Death Eaters. It wasn’t much consolation to him however, and there were times that Harry would withdraw from everyone as of late, sinking into a kind of despair. 

It felt like one of those times again.  Harry’s mind racing with coming events and past memories, melding into one large jumble.  His tortured mind always active, his sleep was fitful, and full of dreams.  It was a wonder Harry got any sleep at all. The restlessness was beginning to show.  Harry’s eyes were accented with dark circles, and his hair appeared more disheveled than usual. 

Unconsciously, Harry got up from his bed, compelled by an unknown force to get on with the day. In a daze, he mechanically walked over to the wardrobe, opened it, and pulled out a clean set of robes, and dressed. Afterward, Harry walked over to the fireplace, bayed Kreacher a farewell, and, using the flue network that had been linked to his house for easy getaways, proceeded to spin out of Grimmauld Place, into the Leaky Cauldron in London.  Tom, the bartender, greeted him with a large toothless grin. 

“Master Harry, how are things this fine day?” 

“Fine, thanks Tom,” said Harry flatly, not looking at Tom, but began brushing the dust off his robes. 

“Shall I get you anything? Coffee, or tea perhaps?” asked Tom, his smile faltering somewhat. 

“No, no, I’m fine. I’ve eaten.” stated Harry, his voice still somewhat flat. 

“Today is supposed to be quite warm and sunny.” said Tom, attempting to carry a conversation, sensing Harry’s distance. 

“Should be good shopping in Diagon Alley then.” answered Harry, his eyes finally taking in Tom’s face. Harry could tell Tom saw angst in his eyes, a look of what Harry could describe as pity on his face.

“Well, have a good day,” said Tom, resolving to not question Harry’s mood. 

“Thanks, Tom.” said Harry, forcing a smile on his face, which did not change Tom’s concern for Harry in the least 

Turning, Harry walked out of the Leaky Cauldron’s back door, into the back yard and proceeded to tap the bricks to get into Diagon Alley. Once there, Harry had noticed the difference as though night became day in the blink of an eye. No longer were there hurried people moving about with the look of fear in their eyes or worry on their faces. 

All the wanted posters that lined the shop windows had been taken, or rather, blasted away. Harry had noticed this because they appeared to have been burned, no doubt by jubilant witches and wizards who gloried in the demise of Voldemort.  They took out their frustrations and stress on these posters by blasting them from the windows, turning them to ash.  Remnants blew along the alley, their edges burned and crumpled. 

Standing in the middle of the alley, Harry suddenly thought about Fred and Georges’ joke shop. He was not far from where it was located, and wondered if George might be there. Harry set off in that direction, and soon came upon the store front. It was closed till further notice, as the sign, hung hastily on the door stated. Harry could not see anyone as he peered inside, though a couple lights glowed dimly. Harry had the distinct feeling that George was inside, grieving over Fred’s death. The two of them were inseparable. Now, they were separated forever in this life. 

The Weasley’s house seemed a bit hollow these days, their moods somber. Molly seemed to be taking it the hardest. At times, she could be heard mumbling to herself about things she should have done and not done. Author, Ginny, and the others had grown concerned about her mental state, but Molly refused any kind of counsel over the loss of her son. She claimed that she was fine, and asked to be kindly left alone.  Everyone did leave her be most of the time, though the family never stopped their attempts to distract Molly from her thoughts, and involve her in what were, at times, frivolous things. 

Harry’s cluttered mind, by process of elimination, made its way to Ginny, and how she had been handling all this. For the most part, she seemed okay, keeping up her usual manner.  She  even joked once or twice that Harry could recall, but he could tell she was also hurting inside, and refusing to let it show. She had been to Grimmauld Place twice since the final death of Voldemort, and each time, seemed on the verge of letting her feelings show, but held fast to her demeanor. Harry thought that she somehow gained comfort from her visits with him. 

Their companionship was one of the few things that made life bearable at this time. Harry was falling more in love with Ginny each passing day, further complicating the feelings that he was the one who caused their suffering, as well as everyone else’. 

His mind returning to the present, Harry turned from Wizard Wheezes’, and made his way to Madam Malkin’s shop. Inside, Harry found Madam Malkin bustling around, moving various sets of robes from one place to another, giving instructions to sewing machines, which were busy altering robes of their own accord. Madam Malkin did not notice Harry come in, though the bell on the door had rung when he entered. Harry dismissed this as the noise of the machines drowning out the bell, but Madam Malkin seemed distracted and frazzled. Harry coughed slightly, hoping to get her attention. 

Stopping in her tracks, Madam Malkin turned, her face taught with lines of both age and wear, spotted Harry. “Oh. Mr. Potter, I didn’t see you come in.” 

I’ve just arrived.” Replied Harry, watching Madam Malkin and how she seemed to have aged ten years since the last time he saw her. 

“Can I…help...you, with anything dear?” asked Madam Malkin, seeming distracted. 

“Well, I’ve come to get some new dress robes for the funerals…” Harry broke off, not  able to complete his thought. It seemed very difficult to bring up the subject, but Madam Malkin seemed to understand. 

“Yes, that is all I have been doing for three days now, since everything happened, is new robes for funerals, memorials, and parties. 

“Parties?” asked Harry. 

“Apparently, some still believe a celebration is in order for ‘you know who’s’ demise. I find it disgraceful myself, but what can I do? I’m getting too old for this sort of thing, and it has crossed my mind to retire from this business. I plan to go far away from here, to live out what remains of my life in peace.” 

Harry said nothing to this statement, but could understand where she stood. Madam Malkin had been a seamstress for many years, and can remember his first time here, which was a mere seven and a half years ago, but already seemed much longer. 

“Would you step up here, and let me take some measurements?” asked Madam Malkin. 

Harry walked over to a circular platform, where Madam Malkin proceeded to pull out a measuring tape that floated through the air, and began its own measuring, calling out numbers with a reedy voice. Once finished, Harry picked out a new set from the racks, and brought them to the counter. From behind him, Harry heard the bell on the door ring again. He did not immediately look around till he heard a whispered voice call his name. 

“Potter,” said the voice that Harry faintly recognized at first. 

Turning, Harry saw the last person he thought he would ever see again in his life. The shock virtually paralyzed him to the spot. There stood Draco Malfoy, looking eager, and worried at the same time. In his hand, Harry noticed Draco held what looked like an envelope. 

“Potter, can I talk to you for moment, its important.” said Draco, looking around nervously.

Chapter 2: The Invitation
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Chapter 2
The Invitation


Harry’s sluggish mind clicked slowly with what Draco had said. The words fighting against the voice screaming in his head to curse Draco on the spot, call the Aurors, and have Draco taken away to prison. Harry considered Draco to be nothing more than a treacherous coward. How dare he speak to Harry, let alone step out into public. He and his family were considered a disgrace to the wizarding community. How did he find him anyway? Was he tailing Harry to Madam Malkin’s shop? 

“Harry, I need to talk to you, quickly,” repeated Draco, his nervousness showing more so than before. 

“Talk…to me, Draco?” stammered Harry. “What the bloody hell do we have to talk about?!” Harry’s voice rising, tinged with anger. 

“Just give me a minute, and I’ll show you.” Said Draco, seeming to almost cower at Harry’s evident anger coming forth. 

This was not the Draco Harry used to despise. He had changed since Voldemort had been defeated. Harry had determined this in the brief few moments they had communicated. Another voice in Harry’s head said that he should investigate this change in Draco. 

“I don’t have much time, please could we talk for a minute?” said Draco rather urgently. 

Please? Harry thought this in itself was odd. He had never known Draco to have any kind of manners, unless it suited him for his own gain, buttering up a professor at school, or his parents perhaps. The curiosity was too great for Harry to resist. With Madam Malkin watching from behind Harry, he proceeded to walk towards Draco, resisting the urge to draw his wand, as Harry had done with him so many times in the past. 

“What is it?” asked Harry, in an annoyed tone. “You know how we all feel about you and your family since Voldemort returned, with you and your fellow Death Eaters falling over yourselves to serve him.” 

“This should help then.” said Draco flatly, handing Harry the envelope. “I don’t want to explain here, but please read this, and maybe everything will be better, once you come and know the whole story. Don’t worry; it’s not cursed or anything.” 

With that said, Draco turned quickly, and hurried out the door of the shop before Harry could say another word. Harry could only watch Draco vanish from sight, his mind turning with questions, the envelope clutched in his hand. 

Turning back towards the counter, Harry saw Madam Malkin looking questioningly at the envelope in Harry’s hand. He had almost forgotten about it, having been lost in the flood of questions about the whole event that just occurred. 

Looking down at the envelope Harry clutched, he turned it over in his hand, seeing only his name written in neat script on the front, and a wax seal on the back flap. It was imprinted with an emblem, what appeared to be a crest. Harry believed this to be for the Malfoy family, but he was never aware they had a crest. Taking the envelope in both hands, he prized open the seal, and pulled out a piece of parchment, folded in thirds. 

Opening the parchment, Harry saw it was handwritten in equally neat script. He read the following;

To Mister H. Potter,

We cordially invite you to dinner and important conversation regarding recent events at the Malfoy Manor on Friday evening, July the first, at six PM. Please RSVP by owl no later than Wednesday, June the thirtieth.

Sincerely,

Narcissa Black

Narcissa Black? That was Draco’s mother’s maiden name. Harry recalled seeing it on the family tree at Sirius’, or rather, his house, next to Bellatrix name. They were sisters, but Bella married into the Le Strange family, Narcissa, to Luscius Malfoy. What had happened to Luscius? Harry wondered, lost in thought, and had completely forgotten where he was till he heard Madam Malkin speak up, trying to snap him out of his trance. 

“Is something wrong, Mr. Potter?” 

“I’m not sure…” muttered Harry, who was looking back down at the invitation in his hand. Harry wondered again about what kind of conversation Narcissa and Draco would have to talk to him about. The whole thing was getting stranger by the minute. Draco had left so quickly, Harry didn’t have time to question him about what this was all about. Draco had said this would help explain, but all it did was leave Harry more baffled and full of questions. 

Tucking the envelope into his robes, Harry walked back to the counter, glancing back at the door in the hopes that somehow Draco might come back in to elaborate on the whole thing, and perhaps let him in on the joke, or trap, if that’s what this was. No such thing happened however, and he felt a bit foolish for expecting this. 

“Your new robes will be ready by tomorrow afternoon, shortly after three PM,” said Madam Malkin, handing Harry a ticket stub. “Be sure to bring this back with you. I normally don’t do this, but since there have been so many orders, I had to use this ticket system to keep track of everyone’s purchases.” 

“Fine, tomorrow after three then.” Repeated Harry. 

 Turning away, Harry walked to the door and left the clothier, his mind now replaying what had occurred there. It felt almost like a dream to him, and he knew he had to tell someone about this situation. His mind went directly to Sirius, but he knew this was an old habit. Harry missed his godfather as old pangs of regret ran through his mind. He would confide in his two best friends, Ron and Hermione.

Chapter 3: Speculations and Preparations
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Chapter 3
Speculations and Preparations


That afternoon, when Harry had finished wandering Diagon Alley to contemplate what 
Narcissa and Draco were up to, he arrived home with new robes in hand and settled 
into a chair, his mind still turning with thoughts of what would transpire on the first of 
July. Curiosity burned inside Harry as had not known it to in quite some time. 

With the usual pop sound made by an apparating wizard or witch, Kreacher had appeared in front of Harry, making him jump slightly. He had just returned from Ron’s and Hermione’s homes to ask them to come for a visit to discuss what had occurred at the Robe shop. Since Harry had no owl to send, Kreacher agreed to deliver the messages after Harry called him to Diagon Alley. Harry was grateful. This also made Harry realize how crucial it was that he should find another owl to replace Hedwig, though pangs of guilt still bubbled up when Harry thought of it. 

“Kreacher has returned from Master Ron and Mistress Hermione’s homes.” 

“Are they coming?” asked Harry, sounding a bit excited. 

“Yes, Master. They asked me to tell you, as soon as they are able, they should be here by early evening.” 

“Thank you, Kreacher. You may go now. I’ll be eating here for dinner. Come to think of it, I think we should set three places at the table tonight.” 

“As you wish, Master.” replied Kreacher, who bowed low enough that his nose touched the floor. 

“Thanks, Kreacher.” said Harry, sitting back in his chair. 

Harry, in the course of thinking what the coming event was, believed he ought to have a plan of defense, in case it was a trap. It seemed very strange how Draco had acted at the robe shop. Was he being cautious? Harry had known Draco to be sneaky, but this didn’t seem to be the situation this time. Draco had acted very out of character. Harry was certainly glad he was not accompanied by Crabbe and Goyle, but Crabbe was dead, and Harry suspected Goyle was home, trying to straighten his own life out. 
He actually had no news about the fates of some people who fought during Voldemort’s reign of terror. 

The Azkaban prison was shut down, and it was speculated by other wizards and witches that another location and type of prison for magical people would have to be created, since Azkaban had been so heavily damaged and its security systems compromised. No official word was given by the Ministry of Magic and the remaining prisoners who had not escaped were being held at a secret facility. 

There was so much disruption in people’s lives, thanks to Voldemort; Harry fumed at the thought of what havoc he caused. Harry was glad that nightmare was over with. Mostly, he became angered over the loss of Dumbledore, but knew now that Dumbledore was not perfect. Still, Harry felt no less respect for the wizard he considered a mentor. 

Getting up from his chair, Harry went upstairs to get ready for Ron and Hermione’s arrival. Afterward, he came down to find Kreacher busily setting the table for three people. It had been covered in the whitest linen tablecloth Harry had ever seen. It was even whiter than Aunt Petunia could have hoped for, nearly glowing with radiant light. On the cloth sat fine China plates that belonged to the Black family. The silverware was equally dazzling. Harry’s eyes danced over the magnificence of the table, his face showing an expression of awe. 

“Kreacher, I must say you set a wonderful table.” 

“Thank you, Master. It is the best I can do.” 

“I don’t think anyone could do better,” replied Harry. 

Kreacher grinned at this comment, but said nothing, and continued his work to get ready for their guests arrival. 

“What are you preparing for dinner, Kreacher?” asked Harry, quizzically. 

“Rack of lamb, red potatoes, a vegetable casserole, and a fruit tart for dessert.” 

“It sounds delicious. It wouldn’t be a treacle tart by any chance, would it?” enquired Harry. 

“Yes, Master. I know it is one of your favorites.” 

“Excellent. Thanks Kreacher. My stomach is rumbling…” 

Harry broke off, hearing the front door bell ring. He didn’t think Ron or Hermione would be here so soon. Turning, Harry went to answer the door. Opening it, he saw Ginny standing there, looking perturbed at Harry. He knew this was not good. 

“Hi, come in, come in. I wasn’t expecting you…” 

“I hope you weren’t thinking of excluding me from this meeting. I am the one who loves you, if you’ve forgotten!” exclaimed Ginny, who stood at the door with her arms crossed, looking very Hermione-ish. 

Harry did not know what to say to this. The admission that Ginny loved Harry hit him so squarely; it may as well have been a curse from a Death Eater. Harry stood there, struck dumb. 

Recovering, he reached for Ginny, pulled her into his arms, and whispered to her, “I’m sorry, I just have this bad habit of trying to keep you safe, but I should know better.” 

Pulling away some from Harry, but not fully leaving his embrace, Ginny looked up into Harry eyes, and gave him a small smile. “I’m glad you realize this. You are improving.”
Smiling back, Harry kissed Ginny and ushered her inside, closing the door behind him. 

“How did you find out about Ron and Hermione coming tonight?” asked Harry. 

“I was there when Kreacher popped in to ask Ron to come. It gave Ron quite a start. He was raiding the cupboard and was expecting Mum to catch him. I nearly fell over I was laughing so hard.” giggled Ginny. 

“Is Ron going to be here soon?” asked Harry through a laugh. 

“I think he should be here within the next half hour. He was getting all primped for Hermione. When I left, he was spraying some ghastly cologne over him. I would recommend an anti-smell charm if I were you.” said Ginny. 

“I’ll keep that under advisement. Would you like to stay for dinner as well?” asked Harry. 

“You know I will. It smells wonderful. What are we having?” asked Ginny. 

“Rack of Lamb, potatoes, a vegetable casserole, and treacle tart for dessert.” said Harry. 

“Wonderful. How was your day, other than the Draco situation?” asked Ginny. 

“As strange as it’s ever been. This whole Draco invitation has got me curious and cautious at the same time. I invited Ron and Hermione here to get input on how to approach this dinner party. I can’t help feeling that I should be prepared for a trap, if that’s what it is. But something about what happened in Madam Malkin’s shop is telling me otherwise. Draco was so not himself, that I have to wonder, then there’s this.” said Harry, pulling out the invitation and handing to Ginny. 

Ginny read the invitation, and was about to comment when Harry said it for her. 

“Yeah, I know, Narcissa Black threw me as well. What happened to Lucius Malfoy? He somehow evaded prison, probably bargaining like Narcissa did, turning in Death Eaters, but from what I can tell, has also disappeared in the process. Did Narcissa do away with him? Did Lucius take off on Narcissa and Draco? I just don’t know what to make of that invitation. That’s why I need input from someone else. Now that you’re here, I can get yours as well.” 

“Draco never explained this?” asked Ginny, looking away from the invitation. 

“He turned and quickly departed the shop before I could even open it or ask him anything about what it was all about. I half expected him to come back or to find him in Diagon Alley, but he had gone as if he were smoke. He had to have apparated out.” 

“Maybe he’s grateful for being saved by you in the room of requirement and the cursed fire.” said Ginny. 

“That has crossed my mind, but it doesn’t explain his actions. He wasn’t himself. Usually, well, you know Draco, or so we all thought. He was sarcastic and nasty when at school, but he wasn’t like that at all, like a different person altogether.” said Harry. 

“But he was also not flanked by Crabbe and Goyle either. Maybe he only acts that way with them as his backup. But with Crabbe dead, and Goyle out of the picture…” 

“No, I’ve seen Draco without them also, and he wasn’t much different, until now. It’s got me really curious.” said Harry. 

The doorbell rang again. Harry and Ginny both turned to look at the door as Kreacher came into the room to answer it, but Harry was quicker to move. 

“Its okay Kreacher, I’ve got this, thanks.” 

Opening the door, there stood Ron, and Hermione, in dressier attire than Harry ever remembered seeing Ron wear. Hermione looked radiant standing on the doorstep, wrinkling her nose once or twice. Harry smiled broadly as he greeted them and let them inside. As Ron passed, Harry caught a lungful of the cologne Ginny had stated Ron was applying; in what were apparently, large quantities. Sneaking his wand from his robes, Harry did a quick charm which instantly took effect, reducing the intensity of the smell. Ron did not notice, but was glad Hermione entered first and did not pick up on any of it. Giving Ginny discrete thumbs up sign, which made her laugh, Harry closed the door. 

“So, I’m glad you’re both here…” 

“Aye, Ginny, what are you doing here?” interjected Ron, looking startled at the sight of Ginny standing nearby. 

“I am Harry girlfriend, in case you’ve forgotten. I want to help him as much as you do, if you don’t mind.” retorted Ginny, crossing her arms once again. 

“Ron, must you always nag Ginny so much? She is your sister, and can help as much as we can.” said Hermione. 

“Yeah, but she’s younger, and…” 

“Oh for heaven’s sake Ron, we are of age, and Ginny is shortly to be so! She’s not so little anymore.” exclaimed Hermione. 

Ron thought for a moment, the realization seeming to sink in that they were not at Hogwarts any longer, and that Ginny was basically their same ages. It had become a habit with him, being her older brother, to protect her as well. This, Ron realized, seemed to be more than just his instinct as well, recalling how everyone was eager to protect Ginny during the battle at Hogwarts with the Death Eaters. She was not, as Hermione said, ‘So little anymore.’ 

“Yeah, I just keep seeing you as my little sister, sorry Ginny.” 

Grimacing some, Ginny unfolded her arms, walked over to Ron, and hugged him. Turning to Harry afterward, she returned the thumbs up sign to Harry, confirming the charm was successful. Harry stifled a laugh of his own. 

“Anyone care for drinks? I have Pumpkin juice, butter beer, tea?” 

“I’ll take a butter beer. I’m starving.” said Ron, walking towards the dining room. 

“I’ll have the same.” Hermione said, spiritedly. Turning to Harry behind Ron, she whispered to Harry; “Anti-smell charm?” 

Harry could not help but laugh aloud. His mood instantly brightened. She knew what had happened after all. 

“Yeah, I didn’t think you knew.” whispered Harry, back to her. 

“How could I not. Ron is trying to make a good impression, but seems to not know that at times, less is more. Did he use the whole bottle?” 

“Ask Ginny later.” said Harry through another chuckle. Having his best mates and girlfriend here made Harry feel better than he could remember in a long time.
Entering the dining room, the three guests were amazed at the table Kreacher had set for them. Harry noticed that Kreacher had not missed a beat, and had set another place for Ginny. The superb smell of dinner cooking wafted from the kitchen, making Harry’s stomach rumble. Four butter beers sat at each place. Ron, quickly walked over to a chair, motioned to Hermione, and helped her into her seat. Everyone was impressed and surprised, but said nothing. Hermione smiled up at Ron for being so cordial, kissing him on the cheek, making Ron turn bright red. Harry, in turn, helped Ginny into her chair. She was equally delighted. 

Over dinner, they discussed recent events in their lives, and how each had noticed life returning to normal, or at least as close to normal as it could. Ron and Ginny expressed concern for their mother, hoping that her attitude would improve over time, but seemed to be running out of options to take her mind off of Fred’s death. 

George was not much better than Mrs. Weasley. He seemed to lose interest in Wizard Wheezes he opened with Fred, and since the Voldemort uprising was stopped, had opened it only sporadically, finding people to run it for him. Mostly, they were older students from Hogwarts interested in making some extra gold, or being paid in merchandise. This revelation seemed to put a damper on Harry’s improved state of mind, and he had become less jovial during dinner. It did not take long for Hermione to pick up on this. 

“Harry, you’ve gotten a bit quiet, what’s the matter?” asked Hermione, reaching out to Harry. 

Staring at his nearly empty dinner plate, Harry at first said nothing. It was difficult to discuss his feelings, there was so much going on in his head. 

“I…It’s hard to describe. I guess it’s just everything. Everything that’s happened to all of us gets me down. I can’t help feeling like I’m responsible, and I know that I’m not, but Voldemort picked me for his rival. It could have been anyone, really, but I got stuck with the task of doing him in. But in the process, so many suffered for it. So many whose lives won’t go on to be with their family, friends...It’s overwhelming sometimes.
Now I hear about how George is, and it brings it all back again. Now I get this ‘invitation’, so to speak, to what, do me a final blow? I just wish I could be forgotten, once and for all.” Harry finished to a very quiet room. 

Ginny, getting out of her chair, came to Harry and hugged him, looking as though she were about to cry. Harry clasped her arm in a half hug, acknowledging her and appreciating the comfort. Hermione and Ron sat in their chairs, looking awkward, not knowing what to say at first, but then, Ron spoke up. 

“Harry, we’ve been in this with you, at your side. Everyone I hear talk thinks you’re the greatest. I know that’s not much comfort mate, but we’re still here for you, whenever you need us.” finished Ron. 

Harry said nothing, continuing to stare at his plate. He was tired, and for a brief moment, thought of the way it used to be, before he found out he was a wizard. He almost wished it were like that again. The Dursley’s torments would almost be a welcome change to everything else that had happened. But Harry knew that road was long traveled and could not be revisited. 

“Harry, you have to think of all that you DO have; Ron and I, Ginny, your Godson, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and everyone who genuinely cares about you, this house. My life, as well as many other people’s lives is richer for having you in it. I think I speak for everyone when I say this.” said Hermione, almost reading Harry mind, her voice quivering as she spoke. 

This confession seemed to bring Harry around from his despair. Looking up, he managed a small smile, but kept quiet. Harry was reminded of how much strength he drew from his friends and how his life was richer itself for having that first fateful meeting on the Hogwarts Express, just seven short years ago. 

“Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like my tart please,” said Ron jokingly, trying to lighten to mood that hung heavy in the room. 

Everyone broke in snippets of laughter, including Harry. Leave it to Ron to break the ice. Harry knew he could always count on him. He felt foolish for being so down about what might be nothing at all. This coming event may prove to be something interesting, to say the least. He had handled Voldemort, and could not see this situation as being any more dangerous. 

“Yeah, I know, there could be nothing better than having all of you with me. I guess I’m overreacting to this whole thing. I thought this whole affair was wrapped up, but I guess there’s one more chapter to the saga, so to speak. So, shall we have dessert while we discuss some ideas about July first?” 

“Nothing like planning over dessert.” chimed Ron, which made everyone laugh again. 

“Please tell me you’re not still hungry?” asked Hermione. 

“Well, for that treacle tart that. I keep smelling, yeah.” corrected Ron. 

Harry could only grin. His mood improved once again, he peered around the table to see Kreacher bringing a tray with the tart set upon it like a prize work of art. Everyone ate with delight, marveling at the delicious taste of the dessert, their minds briefly removed from the business to come. Afterwards, they retired to the pallor, where Ginny sat next to Harry, holding hands, and Ron, next to Hermione, his arm around her shoulder. 

“Okay, so what do we do about Narcissa’s invitation?” asked Ron. 

“Well, I think I need to be ready in case they’ve planned something to finally do what Voldemort tried to do.” 

Everyone winced when Harry said Voldemort’s name. Seeing this, he reminded himself that old habits die hard. At least no Death Eaters appeared out of thin air to take them in, thought Harry. Pausing briefly, he continued. 

“I think if I had some company come with me, not necessarily in the mansion, but at least, scout out the grounds, hang around during the dinner, it would give me some level of back-up if they were to try anything.” 

“Should we alert the Ministry?” asked Ron. 

“No, I don’t think it’s anything we can’t handle ourselves. Besides, I don’t want to have too many people involved in this, in case this is a trap. The three of you should do nicely.” 

“I’ve been practicing some nasty little jinxes lately. Mom doesn’t even know about it, but they might come in handy.” said Ginny. Harry could see a glint in her eye, as he knew she was picturing the effect these jinxes would have on any unsuspecting victim who received one. Ginny could pack quite a punch. Harry remembered her famous bat boogey hex her brother’s always warned him about. 

Within the next hour, they had a basic plan hashed out for July 1st. Ron, and Hermione would each take points around the mansion’s grounds, scouting for any trouble that might be lurking, ready to aid Harry in any battle they might face. Harry was going to pack a couple extendible ears with him, which Hermione would improve to use remotely. Fred and George had been working on them before the uprising, and nearly finished them. 

Ginny would use Harry’s invisibility cloak and follow him to the door, hopefully to slip in behind Harry when he entered. She would be invisible backup for Harry. They could only hope there were no detection devises in place at the mansion. With luck, maybe none of it would be necessary. But at least they would not be surprised.
 


Chapter 4: An Unexpected Result
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     The day of the meeting, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny gathered what they thought they would need, and apparated to just outside Malfoy Manor.  Looking cautiously around, they noted the general neglect that had come over the grounds, from the gates which stood slightly open, to the hedges which were becoming slightly overgrown.  No wizards were in sight, no magic or traps could be detected by their sweeps of the area.  After several minutes of checking, they cautiously made their way through the open gates and up the drive. 

Ron jumped at a noise in the bushes, which proved to be a rather thin Peacock, pecking randomly in a search for food amongst the greenery.

"Poor thing looks half starved." commented Hermione quietly.

"Let's just keep moving, shall we?" muttered Ron, Ginny following close behind, wand drawn, Harry in the lead.

Just short of the front door, they all stopped, and looked around and at the windows of the Manor, waiting for any surprises that may suddenly come upon them.  Nothing did happen however, the only sounds were occasional bird song.  Harry handed Hermione his cloak, in which Ginny stood under with Hermione, stooping slightly so their feet were covered.  Ron found a nearby bush to hide behind, wand at the ready, while Harry proceeded to the front door.

Before he could reach to use the knocker, the door opened.  No one stood behind it to greet him.  Cautiously, Harry peered inside.

"Ah, Mr. Potter, please, come in, and welcome to Malfoy Manor."

Stepping inside, wand drawn, Harry's eyes adjusted to the slightly dimmer interior of the posh mansion.  In a chair by the large fireplace sat Narcissa Malfoy, smiling and looking as if Harry was an old friend come to visit.

 "Please, do come in.  You may put your wand away, I assure you, there is no danger to you here.  Please have your friends join us as well, it will help make my case."

Case?  Harry thought, perplexed about Narcissa' statement.  What case is she talking about?  Harry proceeded in, his wand now lowered to his side, but kept in out.  He was still waiting for an ambush.
 
 "What case are you referring to?" asked Harry.

"I will elaborate once you and your friends have joined me.  Care for a drink?" 

Harry proceeded back to the door, and after a moment, came back with the others following, all looking perplexed, but still cautious.

"Please, have a seat everyone, and I shall get to the reason I have asked Harry here.  I must say, I did expect Harry would not come alone, and find it a noble gesture that you are willing to stand by him.  Your friendships I think are one of the reasons the Dark Lord is no more.  I am not sorry he is gone, for I and the others are free of his tyranny, but I will be freer still, once you learn my reasons for you being here today." 

Everyone sat down, looking at Narcissa, whose manner was pleasant, without the least bit of deception that anyone could detect.  After drinks were handed out, Narcissa took a drink from her glass poured from the same pitcher on a table by her chair as a show of trust that is was not poisoned.  This made everyone feel a bit easier, and more curious as to what she was going to tell them.

Through the doorway into the next room came the sound of a door closely softly, and seconds later, came Draco, dressed rather well, and looking pleasantly at everyone. 

"Hello Harry, everyone, thank you for coming today." said Draco.

"I don't know if I can take much more of this." muttered Ron to Hermione, who sat very close to Ron, clutching his hand with her own.  Hermione nodded ever so slightly in agreement. 

Narcissa smiled, and went on.  "I invited Harry, may I call you Harry?" asked Narcissa, directing her question with a pleasant tone that made things more puzzling to Harry and the others.

Harry nodded, not able to speak.  Throat suddenly dry, Harry took a sip from his glass absentmindedly.  This made Ginny, who was also sitting very close to Harry and clutching his hand, tense up, but then relaxed as much as she could.

"Thank you, Harry, for coming, as well as the three of you.  I admire your courage in keeping Harry safe, but can assure you, this is no trap.  I am asking instead, if Harry and all of you will help Draco and I, get our lives back, that have been stolen from us for quite some time now."

"Stolen?' enquired Hermione.  "How so?"

Laughing to herself, Narcissa, took a small sip, and placed her glass on the side table, rose from her chair, and walked over the fireplace.  From on the mantle, she retrieved what appeared to be a metal object that had seen better days.  It's slightly blackened surface and twisted shape was apparent to all when Narcissa took it from it's resting place on the mantle.

Walking back over, she handed to object to Harry, who upon seeing it, recognized it for what it used to be, but was now in a twisted ruin.  It was the cane topper of Lucius Malfoy, Narcissa' evil husband, and father to Draco.  From the other room, came a loud squawk and metallic bang. 

Narcissa turned to the doorway, and without looking at him, asked, "Draco, would you be a dear and take care of that for us?" 

Without a word, Draco walked through the doorway.  Seconds later, a loud pop, and an anguished cry could be heard, then Draco came back through the doorway to stand by Narcissa, who was now seated again.

"As you may have noticed, as well as many in the wizard world, that Lucius has seemingly disappeared.  I have heard speculation that he was 'done away with', so to speak.  Well, in a sense, he is not the same Lucius you knew.  That object you hold Harry, is Lucius' cane topper, and the source of imprisonment of Draco and I for far too long." said Narcissa, motioning to the topper in Harry's hand. 

"I cannot say who created it, or when, but it was dark and vial magic.  You see, it 'controlled' us through some sort of imperious spell, always keeping us doing Lucius' bidding, playing the dutiful wife and son of a Death Eater.  But once the Dark Lord took Lucius' wand, removed that topper from it, something about that broke the spell it had over us, and you see what is left.  As for Lucius himself, if you will follow me, and that will be answered as well."

Getting up again, Narcissa proceeded gracefully through the doorway Draco and emerged from, and the direction of the squawk they heard minutes ago.  Cautiously, everyone got up, and followed Narcissa into what was their formal diningroom, with it's long table and posh décor.  In the back corner stood a large cage, with what appeared to be a very ugly, and large bird which sat dazed on a perch inside, it's eyes glowering at each of them as they approached.

"This, is Lucius Malfoy, as he is now, and if I had my way, will remain for the rest of his life." stated Narcissa, a cold note of venom in her voice.

No one could believe what they were seeing, or being told.  The ugly, glowering bird was Lucius Malfoy?!  How?

"What, about the Aurors?  Why not just hand him over to them?" asked Ron.

"Oh I intend to Mr. Weasley, but only after my story, the truth of it, has been presented to the wizard world and Draco and I have our names cleared.  That is why you are all here, to help us clear our names, and get our lives back.  Draco and I have not been welcome, nor are we pleased with what we have done, but are willing to make amends in any way possible.

I merely wish to be able to have acceptance in the community, and have everyone understand that our deeds were not of our choosing.  With you and your friends standing in the wizard world, that should help us to secure closure and understanding, or so I can hope.  So I beg of you, will you help us?" pleaded Narcissa, her voice cracking on the last statement, tears welling up in her tired eyes.




 
 
 
 
 
 


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