Draco Malfoy Harry Potter
Action Romance
Multiple Eras
Published: 05/29/2003
Updated: 07/18/2003
Words: 95,194
Chapters: 14
Hits: 106,924

Thicker than Blood


Story Summary:
It is Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts, and Voldemort has returned to full power. The Death Eaters lay siege to the castle, trapping everyone inside. Draco is injured, Harry gets roped into saving his life, Crabbe shows unexpected resourcefulness, Dumbledore gets his way (as usual), and life is complicated for Harry. But then, life is always complicated for Harry, and adolescence only makes it worse.

Chapter 03


Chapter 3: Blood of the Lion, Heart of the Snake

"Breathe, Harry." The voice came from just beside his ear, warm and reassuring. "You mustn't forget to breathe."

Harry wanted to shout at Dumbledore that it was impossible to breathe with a giant sitting on his chest, but he did not have the spare oxygen for shouting. Instead, he struggled to pull in a breath against the crushing pressure that gripped heart and lungs. It worked, just barely, and he felt his heart give a spasmodic beat.

"You're doing fine, Harry," Dumbledore said, his words blurred by the ringing in Harry's ears.

His heart was lurching against his ribs with every beat, and it hurt something awful. He could breathe all right, but it didn't feel as though the air was getting into his own bloodstream. He felt cold and tingly, and his hands ached. In fact, all of him ached. Why wasn't it working? Why was his heart straining so hard to pump his blood and getting nowhere?

"All right, Severus," Dumbledore said, "now."

There was a sudden rush of warmth through Harry's body, followed by a terrible chill and a sense of urgency that was painful in its intensity. Harry gasped, and his eyes flew open. He saw Dumbledore bending over him, frowning in concentration.

"Professor!" He tried to sit up against the weight of Dumbledore's hand, and when he could not, the urgency in him blossomed into panic. "Let me go!"

"Calm down, Harry."

"I have to go! I have to..."

"A little less, I think, Severus."

Abruptly, the panic subsided, and Harry felt warmth steal back into his limbs. He still felt a frantic need to jump down from the bed and bolt out of the room - to where, he had no idea - but it no longer hurt to resist it. He lay back on his pillow, breathing hard, and fixed wide, doubtful eyes on Dumbledore's face.

"Is that better?" the old wizard asked.

Harry nodded uncertainly. "What happened?"

"Professor Snape opened the link. You're feeling the pull of the summoning charm."

Harry licked his lips nervously, unsure what to say or what to ask first. His mind whirled with questions and his stomach clenched with fear.

"Can you feel the link?" Dumbledore asked him.

"I don't know. It hurts."

"That's the summons. Try to ignore it and concentrate on what your own body is doing. Your heart, your blood, your strength. Feel them, Harry. Reach for them. Find the link."

Hesitantly, he closed his eyes and tried to focus. The call of the summoning charm was a constant ache within him, distracting and disturbing, but he managed to push it down in his awareness until it lay, like the pain of a bad tooth, in the very back of his mind. Then he tentatively reached out to find the link itself.

It came from his heart. He knew that instinctively. He could feel a difference in the way his heart was beating - more slowly and more forcefully - as it pumped his lifeblood and his power out through the walls of his body toward the dying boy who needed them so desperately. When he turned his thoughts in that direction, he found it instantly. A thick, gleaming, blood-red stream flowing out of his chest.

"I see it," he murmured. "It's beautiful." He hesitated for a moment, then asked, "Is it helping?"

Snape answered him, his voice sounding flatter and less scornful than usual. "It's too soon to tell. I have the link closed most of the way, so little power is getting through."

"When will you open it?"

"When you learn how to control it yourself."

"This is the most delicate part of the linking, and it depends on you, Harry," Dumbledore said. "Are you ready?"

Harry nodded.

"Good. Now concentrate."

They spent the next few minutes teaching Harry how to envision the Blood Link and how to control the flow of power through it. He found that if he pictured his mind like a fist, closing tight about the glittering stream, he could shut it off completely. But when he did that, his chest hurt and his heart pounded unpleasantly in his ears, as if all the healing strength meant for Malfoy were backing up in his own body and threatening to burst the fragile shell of his ribcage. When he opened the imaginary fist, power flowed outward through the link again and the poisonous call of the summons flowed in.

The summons was not the only alien thing slopping into Harry's mind. The emotions he got from the unconscious Malfoy were formless and confused, nothing more than a wash of dread across his thoughts and easily ignored, but there was something more sinister that came with them. He found himself shivering with an unnatural cold that had nothing to do with how many blankets covered him. When he paid close attention to the feeling, he detected a clinging foulness to it that he recognized as Dark magic. He'd felt it before and there could be no mistaking it.

Harry quickly mastered the art of controlling the link, but it took him longer to find a balance that allowed him to tolerate both the summoning charm and the clammy touch of the Dark spells, while sending Malfoy enough of his own power to be useful. Snape kept urging him to open the link farther, and Dumbledore cautioned him to conserve his strength. Harry did his best to obey both of them.

When Dumbledore was at last satisfied with the balance of energies between the two boys, he lifted his hand from Harry's forehead and moved into the space between the beds. Harry did not open his eyes. He felt too drained and, at the same time, too utterly fascinated by what was happening inside him to think of anything else. He could hear Dumbledore and Snape talking, with Madam Pomfrey inserting an occasional remark, but he did not bother to listen closely. All his attention was focused on the warm, living thing that coursed out of his body and into Draco's.

Suddenly, Dumbledore spoke directly to him, startling him out of his reverie. "Harry? How do you feel?"

He opened his eyes and turned to find Dumbledore beside him. "Fine. Weird, but fine."

The Headmaster smiled. "That sounds about right."

Dumbledore stepped away, and Harry found himself staring across the space between the beds at Malfoy. The other boy had not moved. His face was as ghastly, his eyes as sunken and his lips as bruised and bloodstained as ever, yet it seemed to Harry as if he were touched by a faint, golden shimmer. A hint of life that had not been there before. Maybe it was his own imagination, or maybe it was the effect of the Blood Link on Malfoy. Either way, Harry found that he could not take his eyes off of the still face beside him.

"Are you listening, Harry?" Harry gave Dumbledore a startled glance, wondering what the old wizard had said to him that he hadn't heard.

"Yes, Professor."

"This is extremely important."

"I'm listening."

Dumbledore sat down on the edge of Harry's bed, fixing him with stern, measuring eyes. "I'm very proud of you for doing this, and I have every confidence that you will behave responsibly. But Harry, I cannot impress upon you enough how powerful and potentially dangerous a thing this Blood Link is."

"I understand."

"No, you don't. Not yet. But as you experiment with it you will, and I must caution you to be very, very careful what you do."

"I thought I was supposed to heal Malfoy." As he spoke, his eyes drifted back to the other boy's face.

"Yes, but that is all you are supposed to do." Dumbledore waited for Harry to look at him again, and when he did not, he said, sharply, "Mr. Potter."

Harry's eyes snapped back to his face.

"When you learn to use the link fully, you will find yourself in closer contact with Mr. Malfoy than you have ever been with another human being. You will find yourself with the power to heal his body, shield him from pain, read his emotions - a heady kind of power, especially for someone as young and passionate as you are, Harry."

"I won't hurt him, Professor. I swear I won't."

"Not deliberately, but you may be tempted to overstep your bounds."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that it is not your place to 'fix' Mr. Malfoy or to sway his feelings in any way. He must be free to choose, Harry. Free of Voldemort and free of us."

Once again, Harry turned to look at Malfoy, and this time Dumbledore did not draw his eyes away. Harry watched the shallow rise and fall of the other boy's chest as he breathed, the only sign of life in him, and remembered the strange thrill that had gone through him when he saw the shimmer of his own power in Draco's face. "I think I understand."

"I hope so, Mr. Potter." Dumbledore reached up to clasp his shoulder for a moment, then he rose wearily to his feet. "I hope so."

They left him with strict instructions to stay in bed, rest, and call Madam Pomfrey if he needed anything. Harry did not think he could possibly sleep under the circumstances, but Madam Pomfrey gave him a frothy, chocolate-flavored potion that made his brain go fuzzy and his toes go warm. After that, sleep looked pretty good in spite of all the excitement over Blood Links and Death Eater attacks. He was drifting in and out of a light doze, feeling very comfortable and untroubled, when the murmur of voices approaching brought him fully awake.

"Dumbledore told us he couldn't leave," the first voice whispered. It sounded like Hermione.

"I know, but what if Malfoy is awake?" hissed the second. That was definitely Ron.

"Do you want to see Harry, or not?"

"Of course I do, but not with that weasel around!"

Harry pushed himself up on one elbow and grinned at the screen that hid him from his squabbling friends. "Hallo, Ron."

The whispers broke off and a familiar, flaming red head poked around the screen. "Hallo, Harry." Ron's smile looked more than a bit forced, and his eyes were very large in his pale, dirt-smudged face. "You want some company?"

"Do go on, Ron," Hermione said, giving him a nudge from behind.

"Hey! Watch where you put those hands!" Ron protested.

"Oh, honestly."

Hermione flounced up to Harry's bed, rolling her eyes at Ron's outburst. Ron followed a little more slowly, and his eyes strayed with a kind of morbid fascination to where Malfoy lay in the other bed. When he finally looked at Harry, he wore a troubled frown.

"How're you feeling?" he asked.

"Okay." Harry sat up, unconsciously rubbing his chest as he did so. "Kind of lightheaded, but okay. Does Dumbledore know you're here?"

"He said we could come, as long as we didn't tire you out. Is it true, Harry? Did you really let them..." His eyes strayed to Malfoy's sleeping face again, and he shuddered. "...do that Blood thing with Malfoy?"

Harry sighed and shoved at his glasses, trying to get them settled on his nose so he could focus properly. They tilted drunkenly, and Ron's face went even more blurry. "I guess Hermione told you about it."

"It was Dumbledore, really," Hermione said.

"What I want to know is why you didn't tell me about it! And why you did such a brilliantly stupid thing in the first place!"

"Shh," Hermione cautioned, "you'll wake up Malfoy. Harry, give me those glasses," she said, as she watched him shove at them again. "You fell asleep in them, didn't you?"

"Yeah." Harry handed them to her with a sheepish grin, glad of a moment's distraction from Ron and his outraged feelings. "I sort of forgot I had them on."

Ron shot the unconscious Slytherin a look of loathing and sidled a bit closer to Harry's bed. "Will you forget about the glasses and stick to the real problem?"

"There is no problem," Harry said.

"No problem? No problem?!"

"Well, besides the Death Eaters and the fact that we can't leave the dungeons and all that. I mean, there's no problem with Malfoy. He's mostly dead, Ron. He can't do anything to me."

"Harry, he's a Slytherin. And he's a Malfoy! He can always do something to you!"

"I know who he is," Harry said, shortly. He took his repaired glasses back from Hermione and put them on, blinking to clear his vision. "Can we talk about something else?"

"I told you not to nag him about it, Ron," Hermione scolded. "I told you he wouldn't want to..."

"Sure, you told me all kinds of things, too late to be any use! If you and Dumbledore had let me in on it sooner, I might have stopped Harry from making a complete prat of himself and getting into even more trouble than usual."

"Dumbledore made me promise not to tell anyone, and Harry didn't want you to know..."

Hermione broke off in embarrassment, as Ron goggled at her, his mouth hanging open. Harry saw the explosion coming and hissed, fiercely, "Will both of you just give it a rest?"

Two pairs of eyes turned on him, full of reproach.

"I asked Hermione not to tell you, Ron, because I knew you'd behave exactly like this. And she's right. I don't want to argue about it."

Ron shut his mouth with a snap. "You knew I'd talk you out of it."

"I knew you'd try." Harry heaved a sigh and let his shoulders slump wearily. "I knew you wouldn't like it, but I honestly didn't have a choice, and I didn't want to have this fight before it was done. I'm sorry, Ron. Okay?"

"Did you really have to? Did Dumbledore bully you into it?"

A smile twitched at Harry's lips. "Professor Dumbledore doesn't bully people."

"No. He just looks at you from over the top of his glasses, with that twinkle in his eyes, and says he knows he can rely on you to do the right thing..."

"And then he tells you that it's entirely up to you..."

"And he'll understand if you don't feel equal to it..."

"And you end up doing exactly what he wants!" Harry laughed then shot his friend a pleading look and asked, "You do understand, don't you?"

"Well... I suppose." Ron ducked his head to avoid Harry's eyes, his ears turning a telltale shade of pink. "I suppose I would have done it, too, if Dumbledore had asked me." Which he wouldn't, was the unspoken ending to that sentence, because I'm not Harry Potter and no one ever asks me to do things like this.

Harry knew very well what the other boy was thinking but politely pretended that he didn't. "Thanks, Ron."

Hermione beamed at them, looking from one to the other with a look of smug approval that seemed to imply she had made peace between them singlehandedly. "Do you really feel all right, Harry?"

"Yeah, I do. It's strange. I can feel the link working, and it makes me tired, but it also makes me feel kind of... awake. Excited. Like my brain is busy doing things it's never had to do before and enjoying it."

Ron shook his head lugubriously. "I can't believe Draco Malfoy gets to siphon off your wizarding power. How weird is that? Harry Potter draining himself dry to save that dragon spawn over there."

"Don't let Hagrid hear you call him that. He might try to adopt him."

Ron laughed and sat down on the edge of the bed, his body relaxing as the tension finally left him. "Hagrid might teach him some manners."

"So what do you have to do now, Harry?" Hermione asked, as she perched on the bed next to Ron.

Harry's hand moved to rub his chest again, and he shrugged. He found it impossible to explain to his friends the task Dumbledore had set him. How could they grasp the delicate balance of power and pain flowing through the link between him and Malfoy, or the traces of Dark spells that now eddied through his own body? How could they understand what Harry must do when he found the courage to send his own awareness, the strength of his own will and emotion, through the link to help his unguided magic do its healing? He only half understood it himself, and he had the Blood Link anchored in his own chest, binding his body and spirit to another person.

"Just wait," he answered, lamely, "and give Malfoy what help I can."

Ron cast another dubious glance at the still body in the other bed but nobly refrained from comment.

"What's going on with the Death Eaters?" Harry asked, both because he wanted to distract them and because he had heard nothing since giving Malfoy the blood transfusion last night. Or he assumed it was last night. There were no clocks or windows in the dungeon, and his own watch was lying beside his bed in the Gryffindor tower.

"They haven't attacked again," Hermione said, "but McGonagall says they're still out there. They've surrounded the school grounds, weakening the outer wards with their presence and forcing Dumbledore to use all his power to keep them out."

"We still can't go into the upper castle?"

"Only for short times to fetch things we need, and with teachers for protection. The Headmaster sent a group of seventh-year students with Flitwick to the Owlery to see if any of the owls survived."

Harry felt a shock of fear go through him. He had not even thought of Hedwig 'til now, but he suddenly, desperately hoped that she had escaped. "Did they?"

"Yes, lots. It looks like most of them were out hunting when the Death Eaters struck. Either that, or they sensed trouble and got away in time. The ones who stayed in the Owlery were lucky, just like the students who were inside. Nothing much got through the castle walls." Hermione gave him a sympathetic look and added, "No one mentioned Hedwig, but I'm sure she's all right."

Harry nodded mutely.

"I haven't found Crookshanks, but I'm not worried. He's probably running around the castle, catching all the mice and rats that got loose in the confusion and enjoying himself immensely."

"There are going to be a lot of angry students when this is over," Ron said, dryly.

Hermione put on her superior face and said, "I should hope they'll have more important things to worry about than their pets."

"You only say that because your pet is the one doing the eating."

She flushed and pressed her lips together. "He didn't eat your rat, Ron. Get over it already."

Ron laughed shortly. "Don't I just wish he had! Think how much trouble it would have saved us if Wormtail had ended up as Crookshanks' lunch!"

"Have the teachers let anything interesting slip?" Harry asked, cutting off their digression before it could wander too far from the subject at hand. "Like why the Death Eaters attacked in the first place, or how Dumbledore plans to get rid of them?"

Hermione shook her head glumly. "They've all been as close as oysters. Flitwick got over-excited and said something about bringing in Ministry wizards to strengthen the wards, but I don't see how that can happen with Fudge in charge. And I... I did hear Dumbledore tell the Slytherins that they could send owls to their parents. He says he'll let any student go who wants to and whose parents give them permission."

"Well, that's all right then," Ron said brightly. "Dumbledore will send Malfoy home to play with Daddy and Death Eaters, and you won't have to worry about him anymore."

Harry felt a sudden, irrational flare of anger inside him, and he turned on Ron fiercely. "Just shut up about Malfoy, okay? You don't know what you're talking about!"

Ron blinked at him, his face blank with shock, but he never got a chance to respond. A soft noise from the boy sleeping in the other bed cut off their conversation and turned all eyes on Malfoy. Harry's anger dissolved into pain, and he clutched at his chest, breathing hard.

"Harry?" Hermione touched his arm gently, making him flinch. "What's wrong?"

"I... I think you'd better go."

"What is it?"

"I think he's waking up, and it would be better if you aren't here."

"We're not going to leave you alone with Malfoy," Ron insisted, stoutly.

Harry turned pleading eyes on Hermione and whispered, "You understand, don't you? Just get him out of here, please."

"Come on, Ron."


"Yes." Hermione grabbed his arm and pulled him roughly off the bed. "Let's go find Madam Pomfrey. She should know that Malfoy is waking up."

Harry watched through pain-blurred eyes as Hermione bullied a protesting Ron around the screen and out of earshot. Then he slid off the bed and padded over to where Malfoy lay.

The other boy was still unconscious, but Harry could tell by the change in the emotions coming through the link to him that he wouldn't be for long. The formless dread that had colored Malfoy's sleep all this time was solidifying, growing stronger, taking shape in the pit of Harry's stomach where it writhed sickeningly. Lances of pain went through him, but it was not physical pain. That Harry could control. This pain was born of the summoning charm's siren call and the clinging shadows of the spells that spread poison through Malfoy's mind, and it hurt like nothing he had ever experienced before.

Harry did not dare touch Malfoy, though he suspected that he would find the link easier to manage if he did. Malfoy stirred and mumbled something, then he coughed, and a spattering of fresh blood showed on his lips. Harry gazed down at him, chewing his lip nervously, wondering what on earth Dumbledore expected him to do. Malfoy coughed again, and the tearing sound vibrated horribly through Harry's frame, making him grimace in pain.

On a desperate impulse, Harry loosened his mental grip on the link and sent a rush of power coursing through it. He could see the telltale golden flicker over Malfoy's skin as the power flowed into him, and he felt the boy's presence within him, in his heart and blood, strengthen. He also felt the summoning charm take him in a vicious, searing grip, sinking molten talons into his flesh to drag him away.

Stop it! Harry ordered sharply, hurling the words at the link and the demon creature shrieking at the other end of it. I'm not going anywhere!

To his surprise, the summons weakened. Harry blinked down at Malfoy in surprise, wondering how he had managed that and what he could do with this accidental discovery. Maybe Dumbledore was mistaken, and Harry could actually talk to Malfoy through the link. Or maybe the words he formed in his head went through the link as something else - something unspoken but meaningful. Screwing his face up in concentration, he tried again.

Wake up, Malfoy, he thought, willing his words to reach the other boy. Come on, wake up. I'm tired of sitting here by myself, staring at your ugly face. Wake up and talk to me. They weren't exactly healing or comforting thoughts, but they were the best Harry could do on short notice. As much as he wanted to help Malfoy, Harry found it difficult to look at his familiar face - a face he had viewed with hostility and loathing for six long years - and think of anything reassuring to say. Too scared to try, Malfoy? Too scared of what your father and his friends are doing to watch? I always knew you were a coward...

Harry gave a startled "Eeep!" as Malfoy's eyes suddenly flicked open and stared up at him. They were glazed with pain and illness, black pupils so big they nearly swallowed up the grey, but they were alert. Awake. And from the prickle of wariness Harry felt over his own skin, he knew that they recognized him.

"Potter," Malfoy whispered, his voice a rough croak.

Harry tried to answer neutrally and to let none of his triumph or excitement show. "Hallo, Malfoy."

If Harry expected a polite greeting in return, he was doomed to disappointment. Malfoy looked at him steadily, showing no reaction to his presence, then asked in that odd, rough voice that sounded so alien coming from him, "Where are we? What happened?"

"We're in the Hogwarts dungeons, in a makeshift infirmary, and too much has happened for me to explain it all at once."

Malfoy's gaze slid away from his face to wander up to the distant, shadowed ceiling then over to the fire. His expression did not change, though Harry could feel the fear and confusion boiling up in him. It was a very strange experience to look at Malfoy's cold face and realize how much fear lived behind it.

"You don't look so good," Harry said truthfully. "Do you want me to get Madam Pomfrey?"

Draco's face contorted with pain, and he lifted his right hand to cover his eyes. "I want out of here. I have to go home."

"You can't." Of their own volition, Harry's hands lifted to rest on the edge of the mattress. "You're too sick."

Malfoy took a ragged breath and coughed, sending a sympathetic pang through Harry's chest. Then he stirred restlessly, and Harry knew that he was feeling the pull of the charm. "I have to go. My father's waiting for me." Mustering a pale imitation of his usual sneer, he added, "Some of us have families that want us, Potter."

Harry did not bother to respond. He knew Malfoy was baiting him out of habit and a need to distract himself from the terrible battle raging in his own body, and he knew that the words meant nothing.

Harry's fingers twitched, wanting to touch Draco's shoulder. He couldn't explain his sudden need for contact, and he was having trouble fighting it. But he knew that any such gesture on his part would get him blasted into next week with Malfoy's nastiest hex. He also knew better than to say anything soothing, no matter how immediate and inescapable the other boy's pain was to him. Unless or until Dumbledore told Malfoy about the Blood Link, Harry had to pretend that he was just another patient in Madam Pomfrey's hospital wing annex, killing time by making conversation with his worst enemy.

"How did I end up here?" Draco whispered, more to himself than to Harry. "I was leaving... I was..."

"Looking for your father?" Harry offered, finishing Draco's thought and making the other boy drop his hand to stare at him. The glazed, feverish look in those wintry eyes started the fear twisting in Harry's stomach again, but this time, it was all his own. "That's what you were doing out there, wasn't it? Trying to find your father?"

Draco lifted his hand again to cover his eyes. "Go away, Potter. You make my head hurt."

"I'll fetch Madam Pomfrey," he said, as much to put some distance between himself and Malfoy as from any hope that the nurse could do something for him. But as he started away from the bed, toward the screen and the rest of the ward, Professor Dumbledore stepped around it and blocked his way.

"You should be in bed, Mr. Potter. Was there something you needed?"

Harry eyed the Headmaster warily, wondering how much he had overheard. "Malfoy has a headache, Professor. I thought maybe Madam Pomfrey..."

"Madam Pomfrey is bringing him a nice potion for that. Watermelon, I believe." Dumbledore smiled guilelessly at Harry and mused, "I do think the kiwi-lime was her best, though the students seem to prefer chocolate as a general rule. Back to bed, Mr. Potter, before your feet freeze to the floor. These dungeons are impossible to keep warm."

Obediently, Harry climbed onto his bed and crawled under the blankets. Dumbledore approached Malfoy from the other side, leaving Harry a clear view of both the wizard and the injured boy, which Harry was quite sure was no accident.

"I'm delighted to see you awake, Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling at Draco over the tops of his half-moon spectacles. He reached up to clasp Draco's shoulder. "We were growing concerned. I do hope you're feeling better."

"Better than what?" Malfoy muttered sourly.

A smile of understanding twitched at the Headmaster's lips. "Better than dead, which is what you very nearly were, my boy."

Malfoy thought about this for a moment, then answered with a good deal less hostility than before, "I feel like a castle fell on me."

"Fortunately for all of us, the castle is still standing. You, on the other hand, will not be doing any standing, walking, arguing or leaving for quite some time."

The grey eyes widened in alarm. "But... I have to go. My father sent for me!"

"And when you are well enough, if you still wish to go to him, you may. But for the time being, you cannot leave this bed much less the school grounds."

"What happened to me?" Draco whispered, his glazed eyes fixed on Dumbledore's face and a note of panic creeping into his voice. "How did I get here? I was... I was trying to get out, to find my father..."

"Yes, I know you were." Dumbledore reached over to clasp Draco's left wrist, just above the silver bracelet and the wicked swath of burns around it. "He's calling you now, isn't he?"

Malfoy shuddered and pulled away from Dumbledore, curling up on his side with his face half hidden in the pillow.

"Try to rest, Draco. Try to close your mind to the summons, for now. We'll do our best to help you, but we can't silence it completely without breaking the charm, and that..."

"No!" Malfoy's cry tore through the air like a dull blade, making the hairs on the back of Harry's neck rise, and suddenly Harry understood why his voice was so rough. He'd screamed it raw. "I don't want your help! I want to go home!"

Dumbledore shot Harry a swift glance as he bent over Malfoy's huddled body. "I won't break the charm without your permission, Draco. I promise you that."

"Let me go... Let me go! You can't keep me here!"

Harry hopped out of his own bed and approached the other one cautiously, to the sound of Draco's frantic cries. As he drew nearer, he saw that Draco's lips were dark with blood and his eyes bright with unshed tears. Once again, his hand moved of its own volition, reaching to touch the other boy, and this time he did not stop it. His fingers closed lightly around Malfoy's wrist.

Emotion hit him with the force of a speeding freight train, and his mind staggered under the impact. Unguarded, the Blood Link snapped wide open, and Harry was suddenly floundering under the full weight of Malfoy's terror. It gibbered and shrieked, spinning his thoughts into sickening chaos, while his own power surged up to meet its assault. Gold sparks swam before his eyes and a musical humming filled his ears. He could no longer feel his own feet or hands, and the sound of Draco's hysterical screaming seemed to come from a very long way off. His world had narrowed down to the ebb and flow of the forces within him, battling for control of his will and the link that bound him to Malfoy.

He was master of his own mind, he told himself, and stronger than any fear. He had faced the Dark Lord himself when he rose from the dead. He had walked with the shades of his murdered parents. He had withstood Voldemort's Imperius Curse. No spell, no matter how cruel or poisonous, could defeat him. He was Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and he was not afraid. He was not afraid.

When he blinked his eyes back into focus at last, Harry found Dumbledore gazing at him thoughtfully. Power still flashed and glittered behind his eyes, blurring his vision and throwing a kind of halo of gold sparks around Dumbledore's white head, and ran smoothly through the Blood Link. Malfoy lay still, curled on his side, his long hair tumbled over his face, his breath coming slowly and evenly. Harry could not explain how, but he knew that Draco was asleep.

It took him a moment to find his voice, then he licked his lips and asked, nervously, "What did I do?"

"Unless I am very much mistaken, you passed through the link into Mr. Malfoy to protect him."

Harry swallowed convulsively. "I didn't mean to. I... I thought it was all happening in my own head."

"When the link is so strong and the need so great, it is sometimes hard to find the boundaries between one spirit and another." Dumbledore eyed him narrowly and added, his voice soft but compelling, "Now you know what kind of fear and pain live inside Mr. Malfoy."

Harry felt faintly nauseated at the thought of blundering around in Malfoy's head. Completely aside from the fact that Malfoy's head was not a place he wanted to be, there was the matter of what kind of damage he could have done. He had no business messing about, uninvited, with another wizard's mind.

Harry's feelings must have shown in his face, because Dumbledore smiled kindly at him and leaned over to pat his shoulder. "Don't dwell on it, Harry. You did very well, considering that you've only had the link for a few hours and stumbled upon this skill by accident. Do you begin to see why I urged you to caution?"

He nodded mutely.

"Lie down then and get some sleep."

"That's all I do anymore. Sleep."

"Good. I know it feels as if you could keep this up forever, but the euphoria that comes with using your power will not help you to replace it when you have burned yourself out. You must rest twice as much, because you are working twice as hard."

Harry obediently got into bed again and settled back against his pillow. He felt warm and fuzzy, just like he had after drinking Madam Pomfrey's potion, and he spoke without thinking. "Like a pregnant woman... eating for two."

Dumbledore chuckled. "I wouldn't use that analogy around your classmates, if I were you."



"He really wants to go, doesn't he?"

The Headmaster did not have to ask whom he meant. "Perhaps."

"I thought... I hoped he'd choose to stay, if he knew it was safe. But all he wants is to leave."

"For now, yes. But we've only just begun, Harry. Don't give up hope so soon."

Harry's eyes tracked sleepily over to where Draco lay in a tumble of loose hair and rumpled blankets. His left hand hung over the side of the bed, the summoning charm glinting evilly in the firelight and the wicked burns standing out redly on his pale skin.

"I don't want him to go," Harry murmured, and he knew it was the truth.

To be continued...