Act III, Chapter 7: The Darkening Horizon
Sirius stood on Grimmauld Place, staring at the ominous darkness of Number 12, hand gripping his wand tightly from within the pocket of his leather jacket. It felt oddly unlike his wand now that he thought about it. It was too thick, too smooth. Frowning, Sirius lifted his hand from the pocket, revealing a bottle of Firewhiskey clasped in his hand. Well, that explained that at least. He lowered the bottle back into his pocket and found his wand in his left pocket instead.
"Sirius?" Andromeda Tonks, formerly Andromeda Black, placed her hand on her cousin's shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Never better. Let's get this over with." Plastering as real as smile as he could muster of his face, and ensuring his sunglasses securely covered his eyes, Sirius advanced with a spring in his step – it was a very fake spring, but a spring nonetheless – towards the door. Sirius stepped up the small set of stairs and placed his hand on the door. Remus, Andromeda and Dora stood behind him, anxiously glancing down the street.
"I, Sirius Orion of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, and Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, do seek entrance to the family home." He said, trying very hard to keep his voice steady. The door creaked slightly, and a tiny shock of magic passed from the house into Sirius' hand. The door unlocked, swinging open of its own accord, and a rush of stale air blew out, causing his hair to whip across his face.
"Here we go," Sirius muttered, lighting his wand and stepping inside. The entire house was covered in dust - the portraits were caked in it. The floorboards creaked with each step they took. Mold was growing on the walls, and the staircase had rotted away in one spot. The drip, drip of a leaky pipe echoed through the house ominously.
"This is Black Manor?" Tonks asked, her voice betraying her disbelief.
"Believe it or not," Sirius confirmed, "doesn't look like much has changed though, hey Andi."
"No. Not even a single picture is out of place. I wonder if she blasted us off the family tree?"
"I would be shocked if she didn't," Sirius told her. He reached out for a door handle, and slowly edged it open, trying to keep it from creaking too much. The others followed him inside. The room was dominated by a large tapestry that hung the length of the wall. The cloth looked immensely old, it was faded and looked as though Doxys had gnawed it in places. Nevertheless, the golden threads with which it was embroidered still glinted brightly enough to reveal the sprawling family tree that dated back to the days of King Arthur. Andi knelt down and rubbed too blackened scorch marks with her hands.
"Yep, blasted away," she confirmed.
"Your mother was a cow, Sirius," Remus said solemnly.
"No need to tell me…" Sirius was cut off by a crack, followed by a scream.
"NO! NO! NO! NO! Kreacher won't! He won't serve the Blood Traitor master!" A house elf sat in the middle of the floor, wearing the filthiest rags Sirius had ever seen. It took him a moment to realise the elf was Kreacher, the same one that had inhabited the house as a child. Suddenly, the realisation hit him.
"Oh, but you don't have a choice, do you? You have to follow my orders because I'm the head of the Black family now. All my mother's hatred, fear and disgust of all things not-pureblood, where did it get her? Dead in a ditch. She's dead; Regulus is dead; My lovely father is dead; Bella is in Azkaban, and I've been giving serious thought to kicking Cissy out of the family altogether. What do you think, Andi?"
Andromeda grinned, "I think it's a fabulous idea. Rebuild the Black family as a force for good. Of course, that'll mean cleaning out the old place, making sure there aren't any nasties hidden in the closet, so to speak."
Tonks laughed and stepped on a loose piece of floor. Her foot went straight through, and she eeked when a dozen doxies flew out, scattering around the room.
"Speaking of nasties hidden in the closet, my first order as your knew master Kreacher, is to tell me if there are any lockets, diadems, or rings full of dark magic that were hidden here on Voldemort's behalf?"
Kreacher let out a long groan, pulled on his ears and banged his head on the floor. The others stood there, waiting him out. Finally, Kreacher began to croak.
"There are many artefacts full of powers in the house, the house that Kreacher keeps for his mistress. Oh, what she would do if she saw the filth that Master lets into her house…" Sirius made to smack the old elf, but Andromeda and Remus grabbed his arm.
"Don't! He won't help us if you hurt him, Sirius. It's not worth it," Remus exclaimed.
"Kreacher will not help foul Werewolf scum…"
"GET OUT!" Sirius snapped. Kreacher vanished with a crack, and a horrible screeching filled the house.
"Filth! Scum! By-products of dirt and vileness! Half-breeds, mutants, freaks, begone from this place! How dare you befoul the home of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black!" Sirius' blood went cold. It was a voice he and Andi would recognise anywhere. Even from beyond the grave, they couldn't be rid of her.
"Well, looks like this is going to take a while…"
Jessica did not like Lupin delaying her plan until after exams. In her opinion, investigation was far more important than exams. But Lupin had insisted on it, and Jessica reluctantly agreed, though not for the reasons he thought. Malfoy would be much easier to ambush after exams than before, because, with his classes and study over, he was more liable to become overconfident and let his guard down. So now, a day after her Defence Against the Dark Arts exam – which she was aiming to get a higher score on than Granger did the previous year – Jessica stood under Potter's invisibility cloak wearing one of Lily Potter's perception filter cloaks, following Malfoy and his bodyguards as they stomped down the fifth-floor corridor. Murdock was walking beside her, using the tap, tap of his white cane to mask any sound she might make. Luke and Danny were waiting in an adjoining corridor ahead of them.
"Urgh, Murdock you blind idiot, stop tapping, or I'll show you why they shouldn't let people like you into this school," Malfoy snapped, turning around and staring at Matt with loathing.
Matt continued forward a few more steps and stopped, deliberately taping his cane in a pre-prepared signal. Long tap, long tap, long tap, little tap, little tap, little tap, long tap, long tap, long tap. Crabbe and Goyle, dumb asses that they were, turned to stare at Matt, trying desperately to put intimidating looks on their faces. They failed. Miserably. Instead, their expression was more akin to something Jessica would expect to see on a pair of constipated walruses. Merlin, she was spending too much time around Ginny.
"Sorry, Draco. I didn't know it was you there, I can't see, remember? I'm not good enough with voices yet," Matt apologised, before hurriedly spinning around and sweeping his cane out, tapping back the way he came. Jessica didn't follow him. She stepped forward, wand in hand, and pointed it at Malfoy's back the second he turned around.
"Stupefy," she whispered, and Malfoy crumpled to the floor, to the gasps of Crabbe and Goyle. Then, two figures, cloaked in red, faces obscured by hoods, stepped into the corridor, wands drawn. Crabbe and Goyle, brave and loyal individuals that they were, crapped their pants and ran back down the hall after Matt. As soon as they were gone, Matt dropped down from the ceiling wearing his own cloak. Jessica pocketed the Invisibility Cloak, drawing the red garb around her (which was quite comfortable, despite the fact that she refused to call it a 'Defenders Cloak'). She reached down and rolled Malfoy over. Dangling from his neck, the same place it had been since they had known to look for it, was the amulet with the Aquarius Rune. She unclasped it and tucked it into the pocket with the cloak.
"Bingo," Danny whispered. Jessica ignored him, instead helping Luke drag Malfoy into a broom closet. She removed his wand, cast a full body bind on him, and placed a locking charm and a silencing charm on the door. Then she threw the wand down the corridor, where it clattered several times, before rattling its way down a set of stairs.
"Let's go," Matt said. He reached into the cloak, twisted the portkey hidden within the seam, and vanished. Luke, Danny and Jessica followed, arriving in the lobby of the Home with only a slight stumble. Jessica glanced at the clock hanging on the wall. Moony was in the school, probably marking papers. Padfoot was pointed to 'Hell on Earth' which Jessica thought probably wasn't that much of an exaggeration considering what her family home was like. Prongs and Jewel were still pointed at 'Lost Forever', and Wormtail's hand had been snapped off.
"Sirius must be at Grimmauld Place again," Luke said, voicing her thoughts.
"Should we wait for him?" Danny asked, flexing his fingers.
"No," Jessica said, retrieving the amulet from her pocket, "I want to know what this thing is, and I want to know it now. So, any of you planning on coming with me when I open the clasp here, better grab on now." Matt, who had abandoned his cane, grabbed Jessica's shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze. It was unnoticeable to the others, but Jessica couldn't help the butterflies that popped into her stomach. She inwardly berated herself. Stop thinking about that, it doesn't help anyone, least of all him. 'Besides, he's not going to want anything to do with you when he finds out what you really are. A freak,' the tiny voice that sounded suspiciously like her mother added. Jessica forced the thoughts, and the butterflies, back into the depths of her mind far enough to realise Luke and Danny were now holding onto her as well.
"Ready," they confirmed. She flipped open the golden locket, her feet were pulled out from under her, and she flew through a tunnel of flashing lights, only to stop a few seconds later. The others let go, and she took stock of the situation. They were standing in the middle of a large parlour, a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Dozens of portraits hung on the walls, and five doors of various sizes led away to different rooms. Jessica recognised it instantly.
"It's Malfoy Manor," she hissed.
"Two… maybe three people coming this way, centre corridor, the one with the double doors," Matt said, gesturing to the large wooden doors at the far side of the room, which were carved with the symbol of Slytherin House.
"What do you mean, maybe?" Danny asked.
"There are three voices, but only two heartbeats and two sets of footsteps. I'm not sure." Matt was straining his right ear towards the door, his head twitching ever so slightly from within the hood of the cloak.
"Move," Jessica whispered, before leading the way up a flight of stairs to a balcony level above them. They ducked down behind a banister just in time, as a few seconds later, the doors opened, and two figures walked out. One was unmistakably Lucius Malfoy, his platinum blonde hair being recognisable almost anywhere. In his hand was a thick, black covered book. The other man was a mystery. He was dressed in a long leather trench coat and had short shaggy hair and deep blue eyes, and carried a bundle of cloth. Danny gasped.
"I know that guy. He tortured me at the World Cup. Harry attacked him, and he was forced to flee before he could get to Ginny. Who the hell is he?"
"And what's he doing here?" Luke said, his voice making an attempt at the deepest whisper Jessica thought she'd ever heard. Jessica was going to reply when another person walked into the room by way of another door. Dressed in deep flowing black robes, she was tall, with hair as black as midnight. Her eyes, though they weren't visible from where Jessica hid, were a vivid piercing blue, as Jessica knew only too well. The scars on her neck flared in pain, and Jessica grabbed hold of the balcony railing, crushing it with her bare hand.
Allisandra Jones walked over to Lucius and the mystery man.
"It is ready?" she asked.
"It is. McNair should be entering the maze as we speak. He will ensure Potter wins the competition, or suffer the consequences of his failure," Lucius said, handing the book to Allisandra.
"And the book, Barty?" Jones asked, directing her question to the other man.
Barty grinned feverishly.
"The book has given us what we need Lady Jones. The cauldron simmers as we speak."
"Good. You are lucky you had the Dark Lord with you when you came to see me, Crouch. There is no other way I would have given you access to my families most prized possession otherwise…"
"Silence!" a cold high voice whispered. Suddenly, a giant green snake slithered out from the same door Malfoy and Crouch had exited earlier. A hissing sound followed coming from the snake, then another, in the same cold high voice as before. Then it spoke in English, "Nagini says we must leave now if the ritual is to succeed!"
Jessica's body froze, her eyes fixed on the green snake as it slithered up her mother's leg. Then she disapparated with a crack. Crouch and Malfoy followed, and silence descended on the building once more.
"There's no one else here," Matt said, in a normal voice that sounded eerily loud in the silence of the house.
"Barty Crouch? The head of International Magical Corporation is evil?" Luke exclaimed.
"But it didn't look like Crouch," Danny pointed out.
"He must be under Polyjuice then," Luke said.
"Why would he be under Polyjuice here?"
"Jones called him Crouch, why would she call him anything else?" Danny clearly didn't have an answer for this, so fell silent.
"Jessica?" Matt's said, kneeling down beside her. She was still staring at the place her mother had been seconds ago.
"She's going to do it again," she muttered to herself. Matt, by virtue of being Matt, heard it though.
"What's she going to do again?" he asked softly. He grabbed one of her hands in his and closed his fingers around hers. She wasn't sure why, but she felt a tiny bit better for it.
"She's going to try and use Harry to do the same thing she did to me. Only this time, it'll most likely work…" She trailed off, images of a pentagram, a golden cup and a book with a black cover dancing through her mind. The constant reminder that she carried itched, but she resisted the urge to scratch it. She had long ago learned that scratching only made it worse.
"What's going to happen Jess?" Her eyes snapped up to his, but she couldn't see them, not from within the hood. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, she realised. They would have been as unfocused as they always were. It was the first time anyone had ever called her Jess. And at that moment, everything fell into place.
"The Triwizard Tournament was a trap the whole time. My mum must have entered Harry into the contest and used the book to bewitch the cup. There'd certainly be something inside that could do it. Who knows what will happen when Harry takes the cup in the maze? When's the final task?"
"Tonight," Luke said shakily, pulling himself to his feet.
"Fuck," she exclaimed, the tiny surge of hope dying in her chest.
"No way an Owl gets to Harry or Dumbledore before it starts," Danny said.
"We have to warn them somehow!" Luke exclaimed.
"How are we going to get from Britain to America in a matter of minutes?" Danny snapped.
"There's something else as well," Matt pointed out.
"The Snake." Everyone went silent.
Diary. Ring. Locket. Cup. Diadem. Snake.
"At least we know where it is," Danny tried.
"That's true," Luke confirmed, placing a hand on Danny's shoulder.
Jessica's eyes went wide, and she pulled herself to her feet. Then she jumped clean over the railing, landing on the ground without even a stumble. She shoved the double doors open and ran down the hallway, torches coming to life on either side. She had been to Malfoy Manor before. And odds were, it was the exact same as her house. She exited the corridor and found herself in a large drawing room. She ran over to the dining room table, a massive slab of fine wood, and lifted the entire thing with a single hand. She kicked the carpet out from under it and dropped the table back to the ground, where it clunked loudly. She threw the rug aside, revealing a trap door embedded in the ground.
"Jessica, what are you doing?!" Luke called out, rushing into the room with Danny and Matt on his heels. She ignored them, wrenching the locked door open without so much as tensing.
"Whoa," Danny muttered, "did you know she could do that?"
"No," Luke admitted. Jessica jumped down into the hidden basement, pulled her wand and pointed it at the ceiling.
"Lumos Maxima!" A dazzling white light filled the dungeon space. The basement was almost identical to the one in her own house. On one side were dozens of bookcases, on the other were potion cabinets. On the far side of the room were cages containing dozens of animals, both muggle and magical. And nestled on the bookshelf was an elaborate box carved with the Malfoy family crest. She grabbed the box and opened the lid. Revealing a dozen rings, each in individual spots with tiny brass nameplates beneath them. The others followed them down into the cellar.
"What is this place, Jessica?"
"It's the Malfoy sub-basement, where they keep all their dark magic artefacts and illicit activities hidden from the DMLE. We've got one just like it," She told them, pulling a ring from a spot marked, 'Ilvermorny'.
"And this is an emergency international Portkey. Very illegal, but all of the old Pureblood families have them. Just in case. Most of them go to Europe or America naturally, so it was a good bet there was one to get us to Ilvermorny."
"Brilliant," Matt exclaimed. Even though she couldn't see his face, she could tell he was smiling at her.
"Okay, let me close this and fix the carpet, that way, Malfoy doesn't know we were here," Luke said, climbing back up the step ladder that Jessica had ignored. A few seconds later, he pulled the door shut, and the only light came from Jessica's spell, which was slowly fading. She held out the ring, and they each placed a finger on the golden band.
"Activate!" She said. Her finger suddenly became stuck to the metal, and a hook latched at her navel, pulling her, Matt, Danny and Luke into a spiralling tunnel of rainbow light.