Not in the Hands of Boys

Fourth Rose

Story Summary:
Once the final battle is won, life must go on, although it can be even harder to master than death. Back at Hogwarts for his final year of school, Harry tries to cope with everything he's been through. As the world around him struggles for a way back to normality, he is forced to realise that in the long run, living takes a lot more courage than dying.

Chapter 07 - Part 7

Author's Note:
At one point in this chapter, I've used text from chapter 24 of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince".

"You've got to be kidding me." Harry took a step back from Snape's portrait and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'll let Malfoy into my head when hell freezes over."

Snape sighed. "Will you be quiet and listen? All I said so far was that I need the two of you for my lecture on Occlumency tomorrow."

"You said you wanted us to demonstrate," Harry pointed out, "which makes no sense in the first place since there's nothing to see with Occlumency, so why exactly am I wasting my time with this?"

"Oh, shut up, Potter," Draco snapped, "you're not the only one who has better things to do. Professor, I hate to admit it, but he's right, no-one will learn anything from watching me or Potter perform Occlumency."

"I'm perfectly aware of that, Mr Malfoy," Snape replied coolly. "You and Mr Potter aren't going to use Occlumency against each other. Your classmates need to learn to close their minds, which can only be achieved if someone actually tries to look into them first. I realise you're far more skilled at Occlumency than Legilimency, but -"

"- but," Draco interrupted with a grimace, "you still want me to teach Potter Legilimency because I bet those Gryffindors will run away screaming if you suggest they let me use it on them."

A corner of Snape's mouth quirked up for a second. "Something like that, yes." His expression became serious again when he turned to Harry. "I want you to do your best here, Potter. It would be far better if Mr Malfoy trained everyone, but I'm afraid he's correct in assuming that most of your classmates would refuse. Your control over your own mind is woefully lacking, but you've still got more experience with it than anyone else at hand. It's up to you to make sure that your fellow students get the best kind of training that's possible under the circumstances."

Harry shrugged, ignoring the jibe against his abilities; he reckoned he might have been a lot better at Occlumency from the beginning if Snape hadn't been utter crap at teaching it. "Fine with me. I find it hard to believe that Malfoy would let me look into his thoughts, though."

"Why not?" Draco's smile was infuriatingly superior. "It's not as if I couldn't stop you at every turn. I'll teach you how to see the things I decide to let you see, but I really doubt you'll be able to get anywhere in my head where I don't want you."

Harry gritted his teeth. "We'll see about that."

"Indeed we will. You know the spell, don't you? Then give it a try."

Focusing as best he could, Harry raised his wand and pointed it right at Draco, who held his gaze without flinching.


At first, absolutely nothing happened. Harry concentrated harder, trying to see past the pale grey eyes, to reach out with his mind and - there was something, at the fringes of his awareness, a blurry, faded image that gradually became clearer. He pushed forward, meeting no resistance, and suddenly he could...

...could look out through someone else's eyes and feel a rush of excitement and cold, controlled fury that was not his own at the sight in front of him: the body of a black-haired boy, frozen in a ridiculous crouching position, on the floor of what looked like a train compartment. He slowly raised his foot and, savouring every second of vindictive pleasure, brought it down hard on the face of the boy on the floor. He felt the crunch of breaking bone under his heel and heard himself say, in a voice that wasn't his, "That's from my father."

Then the scene suddenly went dim before his eyes; Harry tried to hold on, but he was pushed back, and before he knew it, he was looking out of his own eyes again into the smug face of Draco Malfoy.

"See how little effort it takes me to get you out of my head, Potter? Saw anything?"

Harry had to fight down the urge to slap the git, but he was determined not to give him the satisfaction of losing his temper. "I saw you breaking my nose on the Hogwarts Express at the beginning of sixth year."

Draco raised an eyebrow, as if he had expected a somewhat more vivid reaction. "Very good. Of course, I did the mental equivalent of shouting it at you, but still, it's a beginning."

"That was quite uncalled for, Mr Malfoy," Snape's cold voice interjected. "I'm not here to watch you two settle your schoolboy grudges, so please stick to the matter at hand."

Draco made a face. "I hope you don't expect me to show Potter anything he wants to see? Because if you do, I'll have to quote Potter's earlier statement about hell freezing over before that's going to happen."

"Is that possible?" Harry cut in, interested despite himself. "Can you make sure someone sees only what you want them to see when they're trying to read your mind?"

"Of course you can." Draco seemed surprised by the question. "It's usually done to block someone who's too powerful to be kept out completely. Didn't you know? I thought you already had a bit of training!"

Harry shot Snape's portrait a glare. "I did, but it seems that actually teaching me anything wasn't high on my teacher's agenda."

"You tried to teach Potter how to completely close his thoughts right away?" Draco, too, was addressing Snape now; he sounded incredulous. "But you must have known that's next to impossible, it took me a year until I was able to do it!"

"We didn't have a year back then," Snape replied stiffly. "The situation was grave, so there was no time for baby steps."

"No offence, Professor, but my father taught me that trying to take the second step before the first usually accomplishes nothing but falling on your face."

Snape gave him a glare that was almost as venomous as it had been during his lifetime. "Well, if you know so much about teaching, Mr Malfoy, I'll leave you to it. I expect Mr Potter to be able to master the basics of Legilimency for the classroom demonstration tomorrow. Good evening to both of you." With that, he turned around and, robes billowing around him, walked out of his frame.

"Great. Now what?" Harry hadn't expected that he'd ever be keen on Snape's company, but he'd have preferred him around for this. Being in a classroom with no one but Draco Malfoy for company wasn't exactly his idea of a good time.

Draco, however, didn't seem overly fazed; he merely shrugged. "Now we keep training; it isn't as if a magical portrait could have been of much help anyway. Ready for another go, Potter?"

"What use would it be?" Harry shot back. "We've established that I can read thoughts you want me to read. That isn't going to help the others when I'm training them, since they haven't learned to project their thoughts that way!"

"Well," Draco replied slowly, a predatory glint in his eyes, "then I suppose I will have to teach you a bit of Occlumency after all, won't I? I'll show you how to project, and you can then teach the others. We have to start there anyway; I meant what I said about the time it takes to fully close your mind."

Harry had to admit that the suggestion made sense, but that still didn't mean he was about to go with it. "Which part of 'I'm not letting you into my head' did you not get?"

Draco gave him a smile that had no humour in it. "Scared, Potter?"

A part of Harry desperately wanted to accept the challenge, but he wasn't twelve any more. "I think the events of the past year have established quite clearly who's the coward here, Malfoy."

Draco obviously had done a bit of growing up too, because he didn't take the bait either. "Then I don't see what you're worrying about."

"Oh, for the - fine, whatever." Harry suddenly was sick of arguing about this; the sooner they got it done, the better. "But I'm warning you, if you try to sneak around in my head, I'll hex you into next week."

Draco shrugged. "Like Snape said, I'm not that good at Legilimency anyway - especially not with a wand that isn't mine."

It seemed quite unlike the Draco Malfoy Harry knew to admit to a lack of competence - but if the git was hoping to guilt him into giving the Hawthorn wand back that way, he could keep trying until he turned blue in the face. "Whose is it, then? Still your mother's?"

"My great-grandfather's." Draco's voice was impassive. "I lost my mother's wand in the fire."

Harry tsked. "And your father's wand is gone too - your family seems to go through a lot of them at the moment."

"Thankfully, we also have a lot of them," Draco replied archly. "What with each of my ancestors leaving us at least one."

"Ah yes, the perks of being pure-blood." Harry did his best to sound equally haughty. "Can we get started now? I haven't got all night!"

"Very well." Draco raised the wand, pointing it straight between Harry's eyes. Harry had to fight down the reflex to take up a defensive stance; he knew Draco wouldn't be foolish enough to attack him, but that didn't mean he had to like being held at wandpoint like this.

"First, you need to decide what to project. It's easiest if you pick a real memory. Choose a scene that you remember in detail and picture it as clearly as possible - not only what happened, but also how it felt at the time, any colours, smells, sounds you recall. Ideally, you should feel as if you were back there, reliving the memory. Then hold on to it and don't let your thoughts wander, or I'll be able to get past the projection that way. Ready?"

Harry nodded. Choosing the memory hadn't been hard, given what Draco had shown him earlier; now he focused with all his might on the image of a bathroom where a white-blond boy was standing hunched over a sink with his back to him. "I'm ready."


Moaning Myrtle was crooning from one of the cubicles, trying to console Draco who wouldn't listen and insisted that no one could help him, that he was going to get killed...

And Harry realized, with a shock so huge it seemed to root him to the spot, that Draco was crying. He gasped and gulped and then, with a great shudder, looked up into the cracked mirror and saw Harry staring at him over his shoulder.

Draco wheeled around, drawing his wand. Instinctively, Harry pulled out his own. Draco's hex missed Harry by inches, shattering the lamp on the wall beside him; Harry threw himself sideways, while Myrtle was screaming in the background, telling them to stop.

Harry slipped as Draco, his face contorted, cried, "Cruci -"

"SECTUMSEMPRA!" bellowed Harry from the floor, waving his wand wildly.

Blood spurted from Draco's face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backward and collapsed onto the waterlogged floor with a great splash, his wand falling from his limp right hand.

"No -" gasped Harry.

Slipping and staggering, he got to his feet and plunged toward Draco, whose face was now shining scarlet, his white hands scrabbling at his blood-soaked chest.

"No - I didn't -"

Harry did not know what he was saying; he fell to his knees beside Draco, who was shaking uncontrollably in a pool of his own blood. Moaning Myrtle was screaming murder...

Then Snape burst in, took in the scene with a single glance and started healing the gaping wounds while Harry was watching, horrified by what he had done, barely aware that he too was soaked in blood and water.

"I didn't mean it to happen - I didn't know what that spell did..."

Harry was dimly aware of a strange tugging feeling at the fringes of his consciousness, but he didn't pay attention to it. It had, he realised now, been colossally stupid to choose this particular scene - he had only been thinking of getting one over Draco, completely forgetting how shaken he'd been back then, how hard he had tried afterwards not to think about how close he'd come to committing murder. If Snape hadn't -

A whispered "Finite incantatem" snapped him out of the memory. The room seemed very quiet; Draco was staring at him with huge eyes, and Harry half expected him to throw a hex any second.

Instead, Draco slowly lowered his wand and said quietly, almost as if he were talking to himself, "I always thought you meant it."

Harry took a deep breath, realising only now that his heart was racing. "Well, I - I didn't."

Draco kept looking at him for a moment, then his face twisted into a sneer; his wand was up before Harry knew what was happening. "Got anything else where that came from, Potter? Legilimens!"

What had only been a gentle tugging before was now a full-force invasion that took Harry completely by surprise. He desperately reached for a memory, a thought, anything that would be vivid enough to shield his mind with. Without thinking, he turned to the familiar image he'd held on to whenever he didn't want to think about anything else...

...and remembered a split second too late that it was the last thing on earth he should ever let Draco Malfoy witness. Harry desperately pushed back against the intruding presence in his head, struggling to empty his thoughts, to erect a wall between Draco's consciousness and his own before it was too late -

Then Draco lowered his wand, and Harry realised with a sinking feeling that even though he'd just given his best shot so far at managing Occlumency, it had still not been enough. Draco's face was shining with unabashed glee, and his voice shook with pent-up laughter when he asked, "Potter, what in Merlin's name was that?"

Harry silently swore he was going to look up Memory Charms as soon as he had a moment to go to the library. "It was nothing," he answered as icily as possible, although the effect was probably ruined by the way his cheeks were burning, "just a stupid dream I once had."

This didn't have the desired effect - on the contrary, it seemed to heighten Draco's amusement. "A dream? You're dreaming of me, Potter? Should I be flattered?"

"Shut up is what you should," Harry hissed, his temper flaring. "It's hardly surprising you should even pester me in my dreams, you do enough of it during the day!"

"And that made you add me to the tooth-rotting idyll of you and the she-weasel sending your ickle kiddies off to school? Really, Potter, I had no idea you cared so much." Draco obviously had trouble keeping himself from bursting into giggles. "Although I'm not quite sure what to make of the fact that you think me capable of marrying Daphne Greengrass."

"What?" It took Harry a moment to remember that there might indeed have been a woman standing next to Draco in the dream, but he couldn't for the life of him remember what she'd looked like. Wasn't Daphne Greengrass the mouse-faced Slytherin girl who had come back to Hogwarts this year? Harry wasn't sure, and he found it deeply troubling that the one short glimpse Draco had taken into his dream had let him see details Harry couldn't even remember.

"I also seem to recall that you were going bald, Malfoy," he snapped, grasping at the most insulting bit of the dream he could think of. "Who knows, perhaps it was a vision after all? Your head will probably look like a billiard ball before you hit forty."

Draco clearly wasn't overly concerned by this. "Your 'visions' wouldn't worry me even if I knew what a billiard ball was. I hope for your sake that you'll never have to make a living as a seer, Potter - no Malfoy in living memory has ever lost his hair, and the odds of me marrying Daphne are about the same as those of you marrying McGonagall."

Harry glared at him. "It goes without saying that I'll make you regret the day you were born if you ever breathe a word about this to anyone." He knew there was little hope that Draco would heed the warning, but Harry couldn't think of anything else to control the damage he'd done. Until he learned that Memory Charm, at least.

Draco held up his hand in a placating gesture. "Don't get your knickers in a twist. Just a piece of advice: if you ever do have kids, you'd better let their mother choose the names."

Harry had no idea what he meant by that, and he was determined to bite off his tongue before he asked. "I shut you out eventually, didn't I?"

"You did, as a matter of fact. Embarrassment seems to be a strong incentive for you." Harry was about to shoot back another scathing reply, but Draco cut him off. "Never mind that now. For whatever reason, you did exactly the right thing - focussing on my presence in your thoughts and pushing back. Try to remember how you did it, because this is the skill you need to work on if you want to get better at Occlumency. The last step is to close your mind in a way that leaves the intruder unaware that you're even doing it, but you've still got a long way to go until you can try that."

Despite his anger and humiliation, Harry had to grudgingly admit that he'd got more useful information about Occlumency during the last hour than during all those excruciating "lessons" with Snape in fifth year.

"You seem to know a bit about teaching."

Draco seemed surprised, but then he shrugged. "I've had a lot of experience tutoring people even thicker than you. How do you think Crabbe and Goyle got through their first six years?"

"Not that it did them much good in the end," Harry muttered, already regretting the lukewarm compliment.

Draco's face went blank. "No, I suppose not."

It was quiet for a moment, and Harry couldn't help remembering that the first thing Draco had done after they'd escaped the inferno in the Room of Requirement had been to ask after Crabbe.

Then Draco took a deep breath and continued, as if the last few sentences had never been spoken, "Make no mistake, Potter, it was a good first attempt, but you'll still need a lot of training. If I'd really tried right now, I would probably have got past your resistance, and I'm no experienced Legilimens and have to work with a wand that isn't mine. You wouldn't stand a chance against anyone who really knows what they're doing."

Harry was about to bring up the fact that he had eventually kept Voldemort out of his mind, but he thought better of it. He knew that he hadn't been able to do it because he'd suddenly turned into an Occlumency expert; the only logical explanation was that he had somehow learned to use the twisted connection they had shared to his favour. It wasn't something that Harry was keen on pondering further; the thought that a piece of Voldemort's soul had been inside him for most of his life always left him with a sickening feeling of violation.

"I know that," he replied instead, "but right now, I should learn the basics of Legilimency instead anyway, remember? Though I don't think I'll get anywhere with that if you keep blocking me on the threshold, so to speak."

"Nice try, Potter." Draco's voice was even, but his eyes were flashing. "If you think I'll let you rummage around in my mind, you're sorely mistaken."

"Hey, if I could stand it -"

"Oh, spare me your hero antics," Draco snarled, his self-control slipping momentarily. "In case you've forgotten, this isn't just about a little embarrassment for me. Don't tell me you'd hesitate to turn me in if you saw something in my head that would give the Ministry a chance to send me straight to Azkaban!"

Harry wasn't sure what to think of this sudden outbreak. "What are you blathering about? You didn't kill anyone, did you?"

Draco's expression went blank again, although there were angry red blotches on his cheeks and neck. "No, of course not. What kind of question is that?"

You're not a killer, Draco. The scene on the Astronomy tower suddenly stood out clearly in Harry's memory, and for a second, he wondered how Draco would have reacted if he'd shown him that. "Then what are you fretting about? Do you really think the Ministry will bother with you if they're letting the likes of your father off the hook?"

"What?" Draco had gone ashen; he was right next to Harry with two long strides and grabbed his arm so hard that it hurt. "What did you say about my father?"

Harry cast a pointed look at the hand on his arm, and Draco let go as if he'd been burned.

"You mean you haven't been told about the amnesty?"

It was obvious that Draco had a hard time keeping up a calm appearance. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Oh." Harry realised that there was no way he could not tell him the rest now, even though he'd have kept his mouth shut if he'd known that the Malfoys hadn't learned of the amnesty yet. "I had a talk with the Minister yesterday, and he told me the Ministry is going to grant an amnesty for all Death Eater crimes short of homicide. He mentioned your father by name, so it looks like he has again wormed his way out of the punishment he deserves."

Draco seemed to have trouble breathing. "Why did he tell you, if nobody else knows yet?"

Harry shrugged. "He wanted to be sure I wouldn't make a fuss when I heard about it."

"And you won't?"

Harry shrugged again. "There's no point, I suppose."

"Potter," Draco said slowly, his voice low and dangerous, "if this is some kind of sick joke, I swear I'll -"

"Oh, for pity's sake!" Harry snapped at him. "Do you think I've nothing better to do than inventing ways to torment you, Malfoy? Owl the bloody Ministry if you don't believe me!"

Draco seemed frozen on the spot for a second; only his jaw was working, and his cheeks had gone from pale to crimson. Then he turned on his heel and was out of the door before Harry could get another word in.