– CHAPTER NINE –
Three gigantic hoops came into sight as the country stretched out at my feet. I had only seen such a structure once before, at Hogwarts. Surrounding the house was finely trimmed grass and a medium-sized swimming pool.
The Davis Manor stood at the brow of a steep, grassy hill overlooking wild country. I took a side-long glance at a dark river, its murky water glimmering under the full moon as it whistled past. Beyond the river, a gnarled fence marked the start of a series of pastoral fields.
The house itself stood at the brow of a small hill and seemed rather antiquated. Its dark bricks and solitude gave it an almost haunted feel to it. It did not stand tall, only three floors high, but it made up for this in surface area.
"Nice," I said, though the size seemed superfluous, especially considering only Mr. Davis and his wife lived there. Tracey shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly, though I could tell something was bothering her. It did not seem a good time to question her. I stayed silent.
We moved closer to the area. I felt a warm rush; the wards. There was an anti-Apparition, anti-intruder, anti-Muggle and an Unplottable Ward at the very least. There were probably other more ancient and discreet wards, but I could never hope to recognize them. Tracey looked at me anxiously, telling me she knew about the wards. The relief she portrayed gave me the feeling I had passed a test of some sort.
"I'm guessing it repels Muggle-borns," I said, trying not to reveal my disgust.
"Yeah," said Tracey in a small voice. "It used to repel all who weren't Pureblood before…you know…" The level of Pureblood supremacy angered me but I kept silent as we climbed the hill.
Only the soft trickling of water could be heard.
Tracey led me to the entrance. The front door was notably odd; it was perfectly circular and black for the most part. There was a crescent to the right of it, however, the shape and colour of the moon. I was impressed by the craftsmanship of it. Tracey placed her palm on the crescent and it shone brighter still. A blinding light appeared and when it had gone, the door was replaced by a circular hole with the words 'The House of Davis' inscribed around it.
"We bought this house from the Moons a few decades ago," muttered Tracey as we stepped into the opening. "Father loved the entrance so much, he kept it."
Despite its outward appearance, the Davis household was not at all gothic, or even gloomy. There was a very long corridor with moonlight from outside streaming in from well placed windows. I felt as though I had died and was on my way to the gates of Heaven. Judging by the intensity of the moonlight, it seemed as though there was a charm of some sort around the windows.
"Leave your trunk here," said Tracey quietly, "the house elf will deal with it." I obeyed her wordlessly and made sure not to bat an eyelid at the dismissive mention of a house elf.
There were numerous portraits on either side of the wall along the corridor, placed around the many doors, the occupants of which were either shaking their heads or tutting. I followed Tracey's example and ignored both them and the malicious feeling of being a magician who had not managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Strangely, I sensed absolutely no undercurrent of love for the Pureblood extravagance.
The carpet was very soft and red, clashing tastelessly with the beige walls. As we passed a door, it flung open magically. When we didn't enter, it closed again. I glanced up and my jaw dropped a little. There seemed to be no ceiling, instead the night sky was depicted in all its intricacies. As we moved, so did the moon. The difference in affluence between the Davises and the Weasleys was all too apparent.
"Show off," muttered Tracey darkly.
"What?" I said, tearing my eyes from the glowing moon.
"The house," said Tracey quietly, "it's showing off again. It does this whenever we have visitors. It's a bit of an attention-seeker."
Tracey stopped outside a pair of gleaming white double doors. These did not swing open, as the others did. I thought I could hear hushed voices from the other side, but Tracey did not seem to notice it. I decided not to comment in case I was imagining things again. I recalled irritably the incident on the horseless carriage.
Tracey raised a hand and knocked three times. The hushed voices stopped almost instantly. I noticed that she was far paler than usual – true worry marred her smooth features. I sighed. Maybe I should be as polite as possible for her sake if anything else. I had a feeling that Mr. Davis would not spare me the same conduct.
The doors swung open silently after what seemed an age. They revealed a circular room the size of the Gryffindor common room. The pale green walls bore only one painting, though it was almost life-size. Sat on a golden throne-like chair was a tall man with an aristocratic sneer plastered across his face. His robes were of the richest gold and complimented his mane of golden hair. He was looking down at both Tracey and I as if we had carpeted the floor with mud.
At the foot of the great portrait was a circular table of the deepest mahogany. On one side, stacked up neatly, was a pile of parchment. I realised that the table was a replica of the one depicted in the portrait as the door slammed shut behind us. Sitting on the throne-like chair was not the kingly man in the portrait, but another.
His hair was darker, more brown than gold, and his nose was slightly less prevalent. However, their posture and build were identical and the sneer was firmly embedded. He stood slowly.
"Father," said Tracey happily. She approached his desk, making sure her movement could not be construed as a run, and enveloped Mr. Davis in a hug. As I had guessed, their relationship was a loving one. Judging by the scowl of the man in the portrait, he did not approve.
When Mr. Davis broke the hug, he stared frostily at me with his cold, crystalline eyes, and I was only too happy to return the gaze. I could, in my peripheral vision, see Tracey biting her lip anxiously, looking between me and Mr. Davis.
"Father, this is–"
Mr. Davis raised a hand to silence her. Had it been anyone else, she would have blasted them.
"So, you're Potter," he said coldly, his eyes briefly flicking up towards my scar. I bit back a stinging retort. The imposing portrait, the throne-like chair, the stench of grandeur, his cool exterior. It was obvious that this man craved fear and I refused to give him the satisfaction. Next to Riddle, he was a lukewarm supporting act.
"Don't interrupt, dear," said Mr. Davis quickly, his eyes fixed on me like a hawk eyeing a particularly juicy prey. "Go and greet your mother. She is leaving in a few minutes."
I felt my eyebrow raise. Mother? Last time I checked, Tracey's mother had not seen Mr. Davis since Tracey was a child. Why would Mr. Davis allow her into his home when he has a wife and hated everything about Mrs. Jones?
"She isn't my mother."
"Insolent child." The deep, refined voice came from the man in the portrait.
"This is neither the time nor place to discuss the matter," said Mr. Davis dismissively, though the twitch in his eye revealed the ire. "Go now."
Tracey pursed her lips before turning on her heel. She shot me a look which clearly said 'behave', to which I gave the slightest of nods.
Mr. Davis returned to his throne-like chair and indicated towards the small, wooden, hard-backed chair opposite the desk. Slowly, I took it, making sure my wand was within reach. I noticed a plaque underneath the portrait bearing the words 'Archimedes Davis, Minister for Magic.' My opinion of Archimedes was lowered further.
"So, Potter, you are in a relationship with my daughter." He stared at me, disapproval lining his ageing features.
"Yes, sir," I said, finding the effort of being polite a lot tougher than if it was a mere professor.
"You have been involved with my daughter for a year at least."
"That's right." His eyes narrowed, as though I had given the wrong answer.
"From what I gather," he said, glancing down at a piece of parchment, "you are in the house of Gryffindor." I felt like whipping my wand out and cursing his pomposity out of him. Instead, I nodded with reluctance. "You continued the relationship despite the misgivings of members of both your own house and that of the great Salazar Slytherin, is that correct?"
"You could say that."
"And now here you are, in a house which you know you are not welcome. Why, Potter, given your history do you choose to place unnecessary barriers in your life? Why my daughter?"
Despite his attempts at remaining distant, I knew his goal this summer was to break us up, and probably present Voldemort with my dead body.
"Your daughter is very special to me. If I cared for the fools who frown on what we have, I'd be with someone far less intelligent, beautiful and conscientious." Mr. Davis' eyes were narrowed to such an extent that it seemed as though he had a single, thin eyebrow.
"Would your decision have been influenced by the prosperity of my daughter's family?"
"I am a Potter, sir, I'm hardly begging on the streets." Mr. Davis' lips thinned. I took great strength from Davis' loss of composure, however faint.
"Theodore," spat the portrait, "this Mudblood is unwelcome here. Do the family proud and deal with him." Mr. Davis ignored the command. Instead, he edged closer towards me, his markedly blue eyes contorted with intent.
"How did you do it?" he asked softly. I could feel a ticklish sensation; poorly cast Legilimency. I instantly raised the strongest Occlumency wards I knew – there was no need to take chances.
"The Dark Lord was at the height of his powers," said Mr. Davis, the crackling fire reflected in his eyes. "Not even Dumbledore dared to duel Him unassisted. He laid waste to the strongest families and yet…"
"He couldn't kill a baby," I said, using very weak Legilimecy on the man.
He seemed to have very basic Occlumency skills, but Voldemort would not have allowed it to be infallible. It seemed the man could not pick up very weak and subtle Leglimency. There were flashes of a small creature, baby-like and scaly. I could not delve further without being detected.
"You see, Mr. Davis, magic has many forms. There are forms charged by certain emotions. Unfortunately, the Dark Lord could not comprehend one particular form. In fact, Voldemort –"
"Do not say his name!" snarled Davis. His eyes widened and he looked at me with something close to disbelief.
"Why? Surely you don't respect the very man who held you under false pretences."
Davis leaned back in his chair and looked as though he had been slapped. I could not force down the small smile tugging at the edges of my mouth. Archimedes the portrait was staring at me strangely, stroking his mane of a beard.
"You want to be careful, Potter. This is not Hogwarts, it is my house. It then follows that you will obey my rules. If you do not like the rules of a club, leave it."
"Sometimes leaving it isn't an option."
Davis stared at me silently, a deep crease chiselled into his forehead. Without any warning, I yawned. It was late and I was tired, but I could not lose the first battle of wits with Davis.
"You are dismissed. This room is out of bounds without explicit permission. Tracey will inform you of the other rules in the morning."
I left the room almost immediately, making sure to keep my composure. It was only when I was outside that I let out the breath I did not realise I was holding in.
"How did it go?"
I started and looked over towards the door at the end of the corridor from which Tracey was emerging. She was wearing a baggy pink t-shirt bearing a lewd slogan and tight grey shorts. In her hand was a half-eaten sandwich. I eyed her up and nodded appreciatively – she always looked best in Muggle clothes.
"I like what I see," I said smugly, approaching her. "Where's my room?"
"Upstairs. Want something to eat first?" I shook my head and stifled another yawn.
She shrugged and led me back to the entrance hall. A small door to the right I had not noticed earlier swung open and revealed a spiralling wooden staircase, moonlight pouring in out of a circular window embedded in the far-off ceiling. The light shimmered ceaselessly and gave the stairway a mystic ambiance. There was something about it which sent a cold chill down my spine.
Tracey again seemed unaffected and led me onto the first floor landing. There were no paintings here and the wooden floor was a light, polished shade of brown. While marginally less comfortable than the carpet, aesthetically it was vastly superior. The corridor here was far shorter than that of the ground floor and there were only two doors directly opposite on another. She opened the door on the left and beckoned me in.
The room was undoubtedly Tracey's. A kingly bed lay at the foot of an arched window, framed with mahogany. The wood from the corridor had encroached into the room and complimented the sea blue walls. Candles floated near the high ceiling. Their flickering lights illuminated a small desk, next to which was a large bookshelf filled almost to capacity. Her property, it seemed, had been unpacked, judging by the forlorn trunk at the foot of the bed. As expected, her room was immaculately clean.
"It's good to show off sometimes," I said, "but I did actually want to sleep."
Tracey, who was sitting cross-legged on her bed, patted a spot beside her. "Nobody's stopping you," she said with a grin.
"Father won't be pleased," I said, taking off my robes. While I was glad that I would be able to share a bed with her without prefects swarming around, it seemed an unnecessary risk considering her father's predisposition.
"Father will never know. Just put your stuff on the desk chair – the house-elf will deal with it."
I shrugged and followed her suggestion. Her bed was sublimely comfortable. Crawling under the covers, I sunk slightly into the warm mattress. The pillow, while pink, was quite cool and seemed to mould around my face and wafted a constant, if faint, stream of the perfume Tracey always wore around me. Undoubtedly the best moment was when my hostess slipped in beside me, her cool skin brushing against mine, her warm breath causing the hairs at the back of my neck to stand. It almost made me forget about my obsession with Slytherin's Ring. Almost.
The candles went out of their own accord and the darkness was so thick, I felt blind.
"Harry," breathed Tracey from the midst of the darkness.
"Yeah," I replied, stifling yet another yawn.
"What did you talk to father about?"
I sighed. For every carrot, there's a stick. "Weren't you listening in at the door?"
"No," said Tracey in a small voice. "The portraits would have told him." I lay in silence for a moment, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of lying. "Harry?" Pretending to be asleep suddenly became a very tempting option.
"He's an interesting man, your dad."
"You can't dodge forever."
"He was looking for any underhand reasons why I'd be dating you. He doesn't understand my feelings; he's applying the laws of ambition to an area where they don't apply. On one hand, he likes the idea of his daughter dating a celebrity. On the other, he hates the idea of his daughter dating a half-blooded Potter, especially this Potter."
"Oh come on. He's not that bad."
"Love is blind," I said before giving in to my craving for sleep.
My sleep was plagued by brilliant rays of sunshine. I groaned and shut my eyes, hoping the sun would leave me to sleep in peace. No luck. I reluctantly propped myself up into a sitting position. Rubbing my eyes, I noticed that I was alone in the bed. I searched blindly for my glasses, finding them on a bedside table.
Tracey was definitely not in the room. There were a set of dark red robes laid out for me on the chair, still warm from when it was presumably ironed. I did not recognise them and wondered if Tracey had gone shopping. I restrained my urge to put on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt – giving Mr. Davis a heart attack was not a good way to go…for now.
I managed to find my way downstairs to the dining room at the end of the ground floor corridor. I found that the house had lost much of its spectacle under the light of day, but none of its grandeur. The dining room was an elegant affair; an armless marble statue stood in the far corner and faced towards a long, polished table.
Sitting at the near end of the table was Tracey, wearing dark brown robes and eating toast. As I drew nearer, I noticed that an ironed copy of the Daily Prophet was spread across the table. It wasn't the paper itself which caught my eye, but rather the picture. I quickened my pace, the dull thudding of my footsteps against the floorboards echoing across the room.
"Morning," mumbled Tracey as I slipped into the seat beside her.
I ignored her and stared blankly at the paper. Staring up at me was a thin bespectacled boy with jet black hair and brilliant green eyes. Staring up at me…was me, a few years ago. From the backdrop, I assumed it was my first visit to Diagon Alley. Yes, I could make out a gargantuan shadow which could only be Hagrid's.
Boy-Who-Lived Reported Missing
Reports from officials at the Ministry of Magic have indicated that Harry Potter, 15, has disappeared from his home with his guardians, whose names cannot be revealed for legal reasons.
Potter was last seen on Platform 9 ¾ alighting the Hogwarts Express with a yet unnamed female friend. Instead of heading towards the Muggle world, he disappeared from sight and has not been seen since.
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore has called for calm and urged any with information to go straight to the Ministry. "It is always difficult when a student is reported missing," said Dumbledore, Supreme Mugwump. "His friends and relatives would truly appreciate any information leading to his safe return."
I looked up from the paper, not knowing to feel irritation or bemusement. Tracey was smirking slyly. "Now that I've abducted you, you're going straight to the dungeons."
I laughed appreciatively and grabbed a slice of toast from a plate at the centre of the table. Much of the Prophet was filled with embellished stories of my past and speculation on who could have taken me. From the escaped Death Eaters to a gang of guerrilla House Elves fighters, it seemed everyone was incriminated. I wondered briefly whether the press would make more money selling serialised novels.
"How has this rag survived all these years?" I said, pushing the newspaper away from me.
"Are you trying to tell me Dumbledore and the Dark Lord haven't made a deal to get you out of the picture?" I smiled and finished off my breakfast.
"Ready for your first lesson?" I asked when I felt my stomach about to burst from the excess of bread.
"What lesson?" said Tracey airily. I gave her the most condescending look I could manage and she sighed. "There really is no need –"
"Which room should we practice in?" I said firmly.
"Mine," she said, her shoulders hunched in defeat.
The portraits shook their fists at us as we made our way back towards the staircase. Strangely, but to my relief, we did not encounter Davis. The house seemed asleep.
Once in her room, Tracey sat at the edge of her bed. I pulled up the chair and sat opposite her. She lifted a pale finger and scratched her nose, a sign I knew indicated irritation.
"Look at me," I said, and her icy gaze was fixed on me.
I felt a little overwhelmed – how was I meant to teach her this? I had only a hazy idea about how I myself had done it. What if there were special beginner's training that I had no knowledge of? I swallowed the doubts.
"nNw, what I want you to do is take a few deep breaths. Try and get as peaceful and comfortable as possible. Empty your mind of all worries and cares." She closed her eyes but the crease in her forehead remained. "Concentrate. Focus on keeping your mind clear; there is nothing to see there. Get ready now, I'm going in."
She opened her eyes and I instantly bore into them. The colour was rapidly becoming engulfed by black until it was all I could see. There were no memories, only an expanse of impregnable darkness. My surprise was only matched by my relief. It seemed like she had either done it before or she was a natural.
The darkness faltered and twitched, as though it were a curtain blowing in a light breeze. In one fluid motion, the curtains pulled apart and revealed a bright summer's day.
"Focus now," I said, refusing to dissipate the strength of the spell. "Get rid of these memories. Forget about them. They don't exist."
A tall man with brown hair and Tracey's sneer. He was a good deal younger than the man at the head of the Davis household, but it was undoubtedly Mr. Davis. He was standing over the huddled form of a woman. She was crying. His wand was held aloft and there was a mad glint in his eyes. The scene dissolved, replaced imperceptibly with another. A younger Tracey was holding hands with an equally young boy who sported a shock of blonde hair and, surprisingly, Muggle clothes. They were sitting on the banks of the river near Tracey's house. The boy said something and left. Tracey ran up the hill, tears flowing rapidly down her face. I felt a stronger resistance from her, but it was still not enough to repel me.
I decided that she would not be able to resist me and broke contact. My breath caught in my throat. Tracey had slipped off the bed and was on her knees. Her closed eyes had channels of sweat forming around them. Instinctively, I grabbed a handful of the bed sheets and wiped the sweat away. Far from being feverish, her skin was rather cold.
"Are you alright?" I said softly. Her breathing loosened and her eyes flickered open at the sound of my voice. I drew my wand and conjured a glass of water for her to drink. She took long, thankful gulps but did not meet my eyes.
"Tracey," I said. Her eyes were determinedly focussed on the empty glass cup in her hands. I was afraid that this would happen. That she would become afraid by how easily I had entered her mind. "I don't use Legilimency on the people I care about without their permission."
"Thanks for reminding me," she replied bitterly. I let out a long sigh and ran my hands through my hair.
"Occlumency is one of the most difficult forms of magic out there," I said, careful to keep my voice even. "For a first attempt that was bloody amazing." I knew instantly that this was the wrong thing to say. Tracey stiffened and her eyes glazed over. They were the chips of ice most students were accustomed to.
"I'm not a fool," she said coldly. I felt myself lean forward slightly but despite my confusion, I remained impenetrably calm. One of the more useful habits I had picked up from Tom.
"What are you talking about?"
"I should have seen this from a mile away," she said through gritted teeth. I resisted the temptation to Legilimise her, but I was becoming increasingly annoyed. She knew something I didn't.
"I honestly have no idea –"
"Don't think I don't know what these lessons are about," she interjected. I had to breathe and quell the rush of anger. How dare she cut me off? No, I have to stay calm and focused.
"What are they about?"
"It's about your obsession to know everything," she said, her eyes glistening with angry tears. "You can't stand being kept in the dark. I ask you who you talk about in your sleep and there's no response. I ask you about your relatives, there's practically no response. How you manage to learn so many more spells than the rest of us in the same amount of time is off-limits too. But when the shoe's on the other foot, I'm expected to give you a straight answer.
"So then there's two problems. First is that you can't accept it when I ask for space and then, of course, there's your morals telling you not to rape my mind. Simple solution to both problems is to give me this stupid façade of a lesson. Good plan. Bravo."
I stared at her. Her quivering hair, her watering eyes, her heaving chest. I didn't understand. I needed to put myself in her shoes, stop thinking about it as me protecting her. Then it clicked. I realized why she was so upset. I had seen some of her most intimate memories, memories she had tried to forget. Private memories. What would I have done if the shoe was on the other foot? What if she had found out about Tom or seen memories of the Dursleys? I shuddered at the thought.
"I think you need to take a rest. Clear your head, have some chocolate."
"Please…please don't kill me!"
I looked up quickly. "I'm not going to kill you," I said, not believing Tracey was so delirious that she thought I would harm her. Strangely, her lines of anger seemed to have turned into that of confusion.
"Please…I'm too young to die…please…"
My breathing became heavier and my throat felt as though it was getting smaller. Her lips were moving. Her lips were moving in time to the voice. But then why did she look confused?
"I-I'll be loyal to you, name your price. Anything…anything…"
"This isn't funny, Tracey," I said shakily. "There isn't a crowd here to entertain."
"I always liked you…you can't do this to me, please…please Tom…"
Tom? This was Tom's memory? How? How was he doing this to me? I closed my eyes and clutched at my forehead. Occlumency. I need to calm down. This was not real. It was an illusion. I could make it leave at will. My eyes peeled open.
I was on my knees. Dark, curly hair. Sweet perfume. Tracey. She was breathing heavily, making no effort to hide her worry and panic.
"Harry," she said, her voice feverish and high-pitched, "baby, are you alright? It was just the shock, I didn't mean it."
I smiled weakly. My first objective was to prevent Tracey from thinking I was completely mad. I could not hold the smile.
"What happened?" she asked, her cool palm on my face. A cold feeling which had nothing to do with her hand washed over me.
I didn't know.