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As always, that which you recognize from the books belongs to JK Rowling

“What are you doing here, Flint?”

Draco tried to be nonchalant about sliding his wand out of his pocket, but for all the civility Flint was showing, he needn’t have bothered.

“Are you deaf, Malfoy? Nott needs a healer. Don’t just stand there, get moving! Chop, chop!”

Draco didn’t budge, although if he had moved it probably would have been to hex Flint. The fact that Flint was the only thing keeping Nott from collapsing to the floor slightly edged out the burning anger Draco felt. Swallowing his annoyance for a moment, he locked eyes with Flint and kept his voice even.

“What happened to him? He looks like he caught the bad end of a cutting hex.”

Flint rolled his eyes and snorted contemptuously.

“Nott and I had to call on the local muggle constabulary and one of the filthy animals managed to grab one of those repeating flintlocks they use before I could curse him. Bloody thing nearly deafened me and now Nott’s bleeding all over the place. If you weren’t so busy sucking up to all of your new friends at the Ministry, you could have been there to help us.”

Draco struggled to put the pieces together in his mind as Flint aimed a swipe of his boot at the house elf trying to wipe Nott’s blood off of the floor. Muggle-baiting didn’t seem like a good idea when you were part of a conspiracy to overthrow the Ministry, but Flint wasn’t all that smart, either. Whatever it was, they had clearly found more trouble than they could handle. Nott’s appearance was growing worse by the second. His eyes were starting to look unfocused and he was shaking noticeably. Draco felt a small urge to help his former housemate, but suspicion and anger rapidly squelched it. There was no way he was going to let himself get dragged into the fiasco playing out before his eyes.

“What were you two doing in a muggle police station? What’s going on?”

“We don’t have time for this, Malfoy! Gamp wants everyone at his house in Wales by half seven and who knows how long it’s gonna take for a healer to set this mess right.”

Flint’s beady eyes flicked nervously back and forth between Draco and Nott. There was obviously more to the situation than he was letting on. Draco decided to push him for more information before sending the pair of them on their way.

“A whole team of healers couldn’t fix that mess by half seven, and you didn’t answer my question. Why did Gamp send you to terrorize muggles?”

No matter now much of a hurry he was in, Flint didn’t seem able to pass on the opportunity to direct a slight in Draco’s direction.

“What’s wrong, Malfoy? Does your family not approve of terrorizing muggles anymore?”

It infuriated Draco to continue absorbing Flint’s barbs, but it did seem like the best way to keep the obnoxious wanker talking. He swallowed his pride for a moment and kept his tone frosty but civil.

“Approval has nothing to do with it, Flint. Terrorizing muggle police officers just doesn’t seem like the best way to keep your secret plan a secret. If you were actually able to curse any of them, the Ministry will surely know all about it by morning.”

The self-satisfied sneer that settled onto Flint’s face was exactly the reaction Draco had been hoping for.

“By morning, it’ll be too late. We’ll have our own army by then, thanks to these.”

Flint reached into his cloak and pulled out the shirt from a muggle police uniform.

“We’ve got two complete sets. We’re gonna use them to sneak up on the guard post at the dock where the boats to Azkaban depart. The guards will think something’s wrong with the muggle-repelling charms, and they’ll try to fix them. When they come outside to obliviate us and recast the charms, Gamp, Goyle, Zabini and our friend will be waiting for them. We’ll only need to take down a few more guards at the prison gates and then we’ll start freeing the prisoners. The whole thing snowballs from there.”

Nott suddenly coughed violently, interrupting Flint’s moment. Rivulets of blood spilled down his chin and onto the front of his shirt. His knees failed him and Flint helped him to the floor.

“What are you waiting on, Malfoy? He needs a healer right away!”

Draco took a deep breath, allowing his heart rate to slow. He loosened the white-knuckle grip on his wand and spoke slowly and calmly.

“This plan of Gamp’s is insanity. You’re all going to end up dead or in Azkaban. I’ll let you use our floo to take Nott to St. Mungo’s, but I’m not going anywhere with you.”

Flint’s imperious glare quickly turned angry and he leveled his wand at Draco.

“You miserable, back-stabbing worm! I told Gamp that you’d turn on us.”

Taking half a step to his right, Draco positioned himself between Flint and his mother. He willed his muscles to relax, bending his knees slightly. His thumb was pressing the hilt of his wand firmly against the pads of his fingers. If Flint tried to get a curse off in their direction, Draco would see to it that the incantation never made it past his lips.

“Believe whatever you like, Flint, but do it somewhere else. At the moment, nobody outside of this room knows that you’re here. If you leave now, it can stay that way.”

Flint stared back with a look of pure hatred simmering in his eyes, but he clearly hadn’t forgotten the dose of humility Draco had administered to him at Zabini’s house. Without Gamp in his corner, the beady-eyed wizard wasn’t nearly so bold.

Nott moaned piteously, an ominous gurgling sound audible from the back of his throat. Neither Draco nor Flint was willing to break eye contact to try to assess their former housemate’s condition. It wasn’t really necessary. Flint gestured toward Nott’s prone form with his elbow.

“What about him?”

With barely a sound, Draco’s mother stepped from behind him. It took Draco completely by surprise, and she was already crossing between the points of their wands by the time he recovered enough to realize what she was doing. At some level, he had to admit that it was brilliant. Narcissa Malfoy was exactly the sort of person Flint had been raised to respect, a pureblood witch his own mother’s age who exuded icy, aristocratic detachment. Flint would be as hard-pressed to cast a curse at her now as he would have been to speak out of turn in her presence at age ten. Her expressionless face didn’t betray any hint of anxiety as she stopped in front of Nott and gracefully lowered herself into a crouch, drawing her wand. She swept it back and forth over his injured body, softly mumbling an incantation that sounded strangely familiar to Draco. Nott suddenly sucked in a deep breath. The steady flow of blood through the fingers clutching his side ceased and a small amount of color returned to his ashen cheeks.

Narcissa rose to her full height and fixed Flint with a stare that seemed to make him shrink just a bit before her.

“He’ll survive until he can see a proper Healer. Now honor my son’s wishes. Take your friend and leave. The Houses of Black and Malfoy have no quarrel with your family. If what you’ve said is true, this isn’t a good time to be making enemies unnecessarily. You’ll have more than enough by morning.”

For a long moment, Flint seemed to be at a loss for what to say. Narcissa turned away and walked back to where Draco was standing, conspicuously taking a spot by his side rather than behind him. Eventually it seemed to dawn on Flint that he was being talked down to, and the angry scowl returned to his face.

“Black and Malfoy. I’m almost old enough to remember when those two names stood for something.”

Narcissa’s expression didn’t waver in the slightest as she stared down her nose at Flint. Draco wished that he could maintain his composure the way she did. When she responded, her voice was as cold and emotionless as ever.

“You’ve been asked to leave twice already. You won’t be asked again.”

Flint’s lip curled upward and he opened his mouth, probably about to deliver another belittling comment, when several loud cracks sounded from the front gates of the Manor. Draco’s breath caught in his throat. If the Ministry had already found out about Flint and Nott attacking the muggle police station and they were found at Malfoy Manor, there would be no explaining his way out of the situation. The best case scenario would be spending the night in a holding cell and the worst... he didn’t even want to think about the worst case.

The elf who’d been scrubbing Nott’s blood off of the marble floor stood up and hurried over to the front doors of the manor. As Draco struggled to compose himself, he felt his mother’s hand on his forearm. Her grip was firm, comforting. His nerves were far from settled, but he managed to fix a serene expression on his face. The elf wrapped its bony fingers around the doorknob. If there were Aurors on the other side, he was prepared to look them in the eye and calmly tell the truth.

The sight that greeted him when the elf pulled the great, wooden door aside was perchance the only one in the world that he was less happy to see than the glint of torchlight on a Ministry badge. He squinted for a moment, trying to make sure that his eyes weren’t deceiving him. A moment later, the deep, gravelly voice removed any doubt that things had just gotten even worse.

“Oi, Flint, what the hell happened to Nott? Malfoy, what d’you have to drink in this place?”

Draco resisted the urge to shout in frustration.

“Gamp, what the hell are you doing here?”

If the uncivil greeting bothered Gamp in the slightest, he didn’t show it. He strolled into the entry hall, nudging Nott’s shoulder experimentally with the toe of his boot. Nott groaned softly and rolled his head to one side, which seemed to satisfy Gamp for the moment. Zabini peered through the doorway before entering, looking nervous. Goyle followed a moment later and a happy grin settled onto his fat face when he saw Draco and Narcissa.

“Hi, there, Malfoy, Mrs. Malfoy. How are you?”

Draco couldn’t help himself. An angry sneer settled onto his face as he threw his arms into the air.

“Oh, never better, Goyle. Just when life was starting to get boring, Flint and Nott turn up to bleed all over the floor. Now you and Zabini are here, it’s like a bloody class reunion. I daresay when the Ministry shows up to toss us all in Azkaban, they’re going to find the happiest bunch of arseholes this side of the sanitarium!”

Goyle’s smile fell slightly, as if he couldn’t exactly decide whether Draco was being serious.

“Uh, glad to hear it. I’m chuffed to see you, too.”

Gamp completed his inspection of Nott and turned his attention to Draco and his mother with a predatory smirk on his face.

“Relax, Malfoy. By the time the Ministry sorts their shite out, Azkaban’s gonna have worse troubles than finding a cell for your scrawny arse.”

Apparently emboldened by Gamp’s presence, Flint sneered at Draco and Narcissa and gestured menacingly with his wand.

“You missed out on Malfoy’s little speech, Gamp. Turns out he’s had a change of heart about which side he’s on, just like I told you he would. I say we hex him the lot of them, then leave them at Azkaban for the Ministry to find after we’re gone. Shacklebolt and the Aurors will be so happy to be able to lock them up that they might not bother to come looking for us.”

Draco aimed his wand directly at Flint’s heart. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the point of his mother’s wand directed toward Gamp. He lowered his voice to a snarl.

“Go ahead and try, Flint. I’ll spare the Ministry the trouble and expense of your trial.”

Zabini surveyed the scene nervously from a kneeling position beside Nott, who was starting to open his eyes just a bit. The dark-skinned boy raised his empty palms and addressed the room in a smooth voice that didn’t quite conceal his anxiety.

“Everyone calm down, yeah? I’m sure the change of plans just came as a surprise to Malfoy. We’re all on the same side here.”

“Are we?”

Gamp’s gravely snarl silenced the room. Draco’s eyes flicked away from Flint just long enough to realize that Gamp had also drawn his wand and it was pointed toward Draco and his mother. The situation had all the makings of a violent confrontation and Draco was far from certain of who would remain alive when it was over. Given a choice, he would have preferred to face Gamp and let his mother deal with Flint. Attempting to switch positions would be a highly provocative act, however, and one that would leave them vulnerable for a fraction of a second that could prove fatal. He kept his wand trained on Flint while Gamp continued to speak.

“I warned you, Malfoy. I told you I wasn’t going to put up with you trying to play both sides of this thing. Now if you wanna deny what Flint’s saying, go ahead and put your wand down and I’ll hear you out. Somehow, I don’t think you’re gonna do that, though. I think you made your decision a long time ago. You and your smooth-talking father have always been in it for yourselves. The other side won the war and you just changed your stripes and never missed a beat. I bet you’re the one who tipped off the Aurors.”

The sudden twitch of Flint’s jaw made it clear that the beady-eyed wizard was slightly behind the times. Without taking his eyes off of Draco, he eased ever so slightly toward Zabini and Nott.

“What are you talking about, Gamp? What’s happened?”

“When Goyle and Zabini showed up at my house this evening, we suddenly found ourselves caught in anti-apparition jinxes. We were bloody lucky our new friend arrived when he did or we’d have been done for. He managed to get the drop on the Aurors surrounding the place. Sent two of ‘em to St. Mungo’s in pieces. We’re meeting up with him when we’re done here.”

Gamp’s story was the final piece of the puzzle. Draco’s father was still living in old memories by the fireplace in the next room. There was no way old Lucius was the Death Eater Gamp had been working with. Draco’s mind was buzzing with activity as he tried to come up with a way to get rid of Flint and Gamp without exposing his mother to danger. If he could somehow sway Zabini and Goyle to his side, at least he’d have a chance. He needed to either frighten them out of following Gamp or bribe them into changing their allegiance. As he was pondering the best way to proceed, Flint broke the silence.

“So where are we gonna go? The Aurors will be looking for us everywhere.”

“Hold your water, Flint. We have business to wrap up here first. What’s it gonna be, Malfoy? No more empty words. Either you show us that you’re on our side or you just became a loose end that’s gonna have to be dealt with.”

Draco took a deep breath, buying himself every last moment to think. He stole a glance at his mother, who was directing an icy, defiant glare toward Gamp. She stood tall, her perfect posture betraying not a hint of the fear she must be feeling. It was the way she had always faced danger, even the Dark Lord himself. The sight of her made Draco’s decision easier. Ignoring Gamp, he shifted his gaze, making eye contact with Goyle and then Zabini.

“These two fools are going to get you killed if you try to follow through on this idiotic plan. If somebody tipped off the Aurors about Gamp’s house in Wales, they probably told them about Azkaban, too. They’ll be waiting for you. The only way you’ll make it to the island is in chains. We’ve known each other since we were eleven. Help me toss them out of the house and I’ll make sure you’re both taken care of.”

For a long moment, nobody spoke or moved. Zabini and Goyle both shifted their gaze nervously between Gamp and Draco. The silence was broken by Gamp’s cold, hollow laugh, which echoed off of the vaulted ceiling of the entry hall as he threw his head back and slapped his belly with his free hand.

“That was a good one, Malfoy. Hell, I was about ready to join you for a second there. Goyle, Zabini, go ahead if you want. But ask yourself this. If I’m right and Malfoy’s the one that ratted us out, do you think he hasn’t already given your names to the Aurors? Yeah, he’d make sure you’re taken care of.”

Draco adjusted his grip on his wand slightly. Unfortunately, Gamp had a point. Whoever it was that had beaten Draco to the punch on turning this sad lot over to the Aurors must have known who the key players were. Even though Draco was telling the truth for once, it didn’t matter. Goyle and Zabini were finished. It was so obvious that even Goyle wasn’t thick enough to miss the point. He slid his wand out of his pocket and pointed it toward Draco before speaking.

“The last thing Crabbe said to me while we were looking for that hidden room at Hogwarts was not to turn my back on you, Malfoy. He didn’t trust you and neither do I.”

Gamp let out another dry, menacing chuckle.

“You see, Malfoy, you can’t buy trust. It’s a bloody shame. With all you’ve seen and done, you’d have been damn good to have on our side. But you decided to cast your lot with the mudbloods and blood traitors. Now it’s time to pay the piper.”

What is the meaning of this?

Every set of eyes in the room instantly snapped to the door leading to the great room. Lucius Malfoy stood in front of it, tall and imperious looking. His face was still thin and pale, but his chin was held high and he clutched his walking stick in one hand while the other rested dangerously on the silver serpent’s head adorning the end that was well known to contain his wand. He seemed to effortlessly read the situation playing out before him, and fixed Gamp with a cold sneer.

“Explain yourself. Men have paid with their lives for lesser insults offered to my family, let alone threatening my son in my own home.”

Draco couldn’t quite justify the energizing sense of serendipity that settled over him as Gamp’s wand wavered slightly between targeting his mother and coming to bear on his father. It felt good nonetheless. Old Lucius certainly wasn’t the formidable duelist that he’d once been. The wasting of his mind and body had taken the edge off of his curses and weakened his defenses. Draco had seen that firsthand during the war. There was no way to be sure that the old man even knew what year it was. But Gamp and the others didn’t know that.

While Gamp was trying to decide where the bigger threat lay, Flint took it upon himself to speak on behalf of the conspirators.

“It’s not an insult if it’s true, Malfoy. Your precious son betrayed us to the muggle-lovers that run the Ministry. He’s a coward and a liar!”

With one smooth motion, Lucius slid his wand out of his walking stick and fired a sizzling curse at Flint. It missed, but Flint reflexively cast a shield charm to protect himself. That was all the distraction Draco needed to hurl a vicious cutting hex at Gamp, forcing the heavyset wizard onto his back foot. Dropping into a crouch, Draco hit Goyle in the midsection with a knockback jinx, dumping his former lackey unceremoniously onto his ample backside.

At the same time, Draco’s mother cast a powerful shield in front of herself and her husband, deflecting a pair of nasty curses from Flint and Gamp. The room came alive with colorful blasts of light and the sound of spells colliding with cold marble. The long-forgotten elf squealed in terror and disapparated away as Flint stepped closer to the door, trying to pin Draco and his mother in a crossfire. Goyle managed to pull himself into a crouch and joined the fray, alternating among the small number of offensive spells he was able to cast proficiently.

“Scoundrels! Filthy mudbloods! You won’t stop us this time. The Dark Lord will prevail, with or without your precious prophecy!”

If Draco hadn’t been caught up in a fierce duel for his life, he would have been tempted to bury his face in his palm. The old man thought that he was back in the Department of Mysteries. Still, his father was holding his own admirably in the fight, turning aside spells and countering with a wide array of non-verbal magic. If they all managed to make it out of this mess alive, Draco planned on having a very serious conversation with old Lucius about some of the memory reinforcing potions that Madam Blishwick’s team was working on.


Gamp’s gravelly voice delivered the incantation with relish and the angry blast of red light missed Narcissa by mere inches. The blood was pounding in Draco’s ears as he turned the full force of his fury against the bastard who dared to try to harm his mother. Gamp barely avoided a slashing jet of purple flames from Draco’s wand that would have opened him up from shoulder to hip, turning aside and attempting to retaliate with a bludgeoning hex. Draco was ready for it, however. Gamp’s brutish nature made him as predictable as he was dangerous. Deflecting Gamp’s spell with an angled shield charm, Draco borrowed a page from Saint Potter’s book, twirling his wand and disarming Gamp with a simple but effective charm known to every first year student.

“You won’t get away this time, Potter! You have a date with the Dark Lord, but first you’ll watch all of your little friends die.”

Lucius’s delusional rant barely registered in Draco’s brain as he stalked toward Gamp, who was struggling to locate and retrieve his lost wand. The fierce battle going on around him faded into the background. He aimed his wand at the side of Gamp’s head with only one thought on his mind. Nobody was ever going to hurl an unforgivable curse at Draco’s mother and live to tell the tale.

Narcissa’s scream snapped Draco out of his fugue an instant too late. He instinctively tried to throw his body to the floor, but Flint’s bludgeoning hex clipped his shoulder as he fell, sending him spinning through the air. He landed flat on his back, knocking the air out of his lungs and filling his vision with a shower of colorful sparks. Only the survival instincts he’d developed during the war kept his fingers tightly wrapped around the handle of his wand. As soon as he was able to suck down a painful breath, he threw his left shoulder forward, rolling onto his side to face three identical copies of Marcus Flint that were swimming erratically through the colorful haze that seemed to fill the room. Just as he was trying to aim his wand at the middle copy, three jets of blue light struck the three Flints squarely in their three chests, sending them cartwheeling backward into the haze.

Slumping back onto his back, Draco rolled his head to the opposite side and found his father standing tall behind him, slashing his wand back and forth as he dueled Gamp and Goyle. Draco felt his mother’s cold, slender fingers on his cheek. Her voice sounded slightly garbled as she urged him to sit up, and he heard the crack of a curse against her shield charm mere inches from his head. His back muscles cried out in protest as Draco hauled himself to a sitting position. Gamp, Flint and Goyle were directing a hail of curses at his parents while Zabini only seemed interested in dragging Nott out of the middle of the fight. Draco shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs. He cast a disappointingly weak shield charm, trying to give his mother a break, and stole a glance back toward his father. The old man was breathing hard, strain evident on his thin face. But there was a renewed spirit in his eyes, an intensity that Draco hadn’t seen since before the failed attack on the Department of Mysteries. The old man threw his head back and laughed in between spells.

“That’s the way, lads! Dumbledore’s pathetic lot of half-bloods and filthy muggle scum are no match for us. Watch our flank, Rosier! Travers, Avery, advance on them!”

Realization seemed to dawn on the conspirators and Draco willed his reluctant body into a crouch. Gamp shouted to the others over the din of spellfire.

“Old Malfoy’s gone around the bend! Take him down!”

Gamp, Goyle and Flint increased the intensity of their attack, focusing on Lucius. Draco did his best to shore up his father’s defenses, but the barrage of curses and hexes was unrelenting. Draco tried to call out to his mother for help, but he wasn’t sure she could hear him over the cacophony. She was still on her knees, clutching something small and shiny in her slender hands. It dawned on Draco that she might be injured, but at the moment there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He gradually rose to his feet, standing beside his father and pouring his remaining energy into keeping them alive.

“Come on then, you filthy animals! Come and meet your doom!”

Much of the energy was gone from his father’s words, and the old man sounded extremely weary. Draco could feel his own reserves dwindling as he cast shield charm after shield charm. This was how it was going to end. His father had gone mad, Astoria hated him and he was about to be cut down by the very men he once considered friends. As a cutting hex cracked the floor near his foot, he gathered himself for one last assault. If he was going to die, Gamp was coming with him. Without Gamp, the others would never be able to pull off this foolish attack. And with her sister’s husband dead, Astoria would be safe. She might never know Draco was the one who’d made it possible, but as long as she had many years of blissful ignorance, he could handle the disappointment.

A great, roaring noise arose from Draco’s right as he prepared to launch himself toward Gamp. He felt the searing heat against the side of his face before he could spare a moment to turn and look. Suddenly the entire room was bathed in an intense red glow that drowned out the light of the torches. Draco turned to look for the source just as an inferno erupted beside him, knocking him backward onto his father. A pillar of churning orange and yellow flames rose into the air and coalesced into the form of an enormous, snarling dragon. Beneath it, his mother held her wand arm aloft, slowly turning her wrist in a tight circle. When the top of the fiery creature was scorching the ceiling of the entrance hall, she whipped her arm downward and the dragon dove toward the conspirators, spewing white-hot jets of fire from its curved mouth.

Shouts of alarm echoed off the stone walls but they were nearly drowned out by the roar of the inferno. Draco grabbed his father’s shoulders and pulled the old man down as the beast made a pass overhead before attacking Gamp and Flint again. Draco’s old housemates were in full retreat, casting barely effective shield charms over their shoulders to cover their backs as they hurried to make their way out. All of the room’s furnishings were ablaze as the dragon sought out anything not made of stone to feed its insatiable hunger. Gamp shouted something about a rendezvous point as he blasted the flaming hulk of the front door out of the way, but Draco was unable to make it out. The room was growing hotter by the second. It seemed they had traded a death by curses for being cooked alive.

Narcissa stood calmly in the middle of the inferno. Once Flint and Goyle disappeared out the door, she lifted her wand arm back toward the ceiling. The great fire beast reluctantly followed her lead, tossing the charred remains of a piece of furniture into the air and then consuming them. With a look of intense focus on her thin face, Draco’s mother began to move her wand in ever-tightening circles, drawing the beast in on itself. Soon, the flames were contained to a large, churning ball that resembled the evening sun, only far too close for comfort.

As the flames swirled near the ceiling, Narcissa held a small, metallic object out in front of her chest, suspended from a fine chain. Draco squinted to shield his eyes from the light and the heat and realized that it was a locket of some sort. She tapped the tip of her wand on it and the ball of fire started to spiral downward, like water into a drain. The spiral grew tighter and faster until only a thin, twisted ribbon of flames remained. In a matter of moments, the huge, fiery monster drained into the locket, which his mother then snapped shut with a flick of her wand.

Narcissa pulled a handkerchief from the folds her her dress and grasped the intricate, silver locket in her hand. She inspected it until the lingering heat had nearly burned through the silky fabric, then allowed it to dangle freely from its chain. Turning toward Draco and his father, who were still lying on the floor, she must have noticed the stunned expressions on their faces.

“It’s a very old family heirloom. Nobody knows who performed the enchantments. Your great-grandfather passed it down to me.”

Draco found his voice first, but only after a long, uncomfortable moment of silence.

“He left that thing to you?”

Narcissa lifted her eyebrows noncommittally in response.

“He couldn’t very well leave it to your Aunt Bellatrix. She would have burned down the entire island.”

Draco slowly pulled himself to his feet, feeling the ache in his arms and back. He turned and offered a hand to his father, who stared at it uncertainly for a moment before accepting the help with a small nod of appreciation. As the shock started to wear off, Draco realized two things. First, his body hurt a lot worse than he’d thought. Second, the fight with Gamp and the other conspirators wasn’t over. Now not only Draco knew about their plan, but his mother knew as well. If Gamp was serious about containing loose ends, they were all in danger. He thought back to the final moments of the fight and realized that he’d missed a key piece of information.

“Did anyone manage to hear what Gamp said when he told the others where to go?”

His mother nodded slowly.

“I couldn’t make it all out, but I believe he said something about Daphne. Isn’t that the young lady he married?”

Draco felt his blood run cold. If Daphne had been at Gamp’s house in Wales when the Aurors came, she would have been taken into custody. That only left one place she could be.

Without another word, he broke into a sprint toward the entrance. His mother’s cries of alarm fell on deaf ears as he leapt over the elf that was trying to smother the embers that were once the front door. As soon as he passed through the front gates, he turned and disapparated with a loud crack.

“Shag, eat, sleep and get drunk! For three days, that’s all he did! Then, out of the blue, he wakes up this morning and decides that we’re coming back to Britain. Our honeymoon was supposed to be two weeks, Astoria! Two weeks! Then he decides to cut it to a week. Then he decides to come home after three bloody nights! Do you know how many outfits I packed that I never even got to wear?”

Astoria rested her chin on her knuckles and tried to pretend that she was interested in what Daphne was saying. Her sister had been ranting and raving for nearly three hours about her new husband’s boorish, insensitive behavior. If anything surprised Astoria, it was that Daphne could be so surprised. Astoria hadn’t spent much time around Jeremy Gamp, but it was obvious that he didn’t have a romantic bone in his body. He tended to drink a great deal and be very blunt with his opinions. His wide eyes always seemed to linger a bit too long when he stared at you. Astoria found it very unsettling, and she was pretty sure that she wasn’t the only one.

“Don’t you agree, Astoria?”

Astoria realized that her mind had been drifting when Daphne suddenly fell silent and stared at her expectantly. She shook her head slightly and stifled a yawn before replying.

“I’m sorry, Daphne, I didn’t hear the question.”

Daphne glared at her for a second before throwing her arms into the air.

“I’m sorry that the collapse of my marriage bores you so.”

Astoria sighed and raised her palms slightly in a conciliatory gesture.

“No, I’m the one who should apologize. I just haven’t slept very well these past few nights. Please, what was the question again?”

Daphne’s fists gradually slid from their perches on either hip and her angry frown softened.

“I’m sorry I snapped at you. I know you’re probably still upset about what happened with that awful Montague boy. I was just asking whether you agree that it’s the very height of poor etiquette to interrupt our lovemaking because his drink was empty and he wanted a refill? Please, Astoria, be honest. Am I that boring?”

Astoria bit back the urge to ask her sister whether she’d been minding the little wizard and tried to think of something reassuring she could say in response. A wave of relief washed over her when the tolling of the door chimes announced the arrival of company at the gates of the manor. She shrugged her shoulders slightly and gave Daphne a quizzical look.

“Are you expecting anyone?”

Daphne shook her head in response.

“Jeremy told me he’s spending the evening at the house in Wales with his drinking buddies. Maybe it’s one of father’s business associates.”

They heard a loud crack as an elf appeared at the front door.

Hi, there! I'm sorry this chapter has taken so long to write. I really wanted to do a good job with the fight scene at Malfoy Manor, so I took my time with it. I hope it was worth it!

Huge thanks, as always, to my beta reader, sophie_hatter. Her story Evolution (M) is about to get a fantastic update. If you haven't checked it out, what are you waiting for?

Also, thanks to everyone who chipped in with ideas as to what a pureblood wizard might call a firearm. I hope you like what I settled on.

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