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 33 - Part 33

Author's Note:
Thanks to cloudlessnights for betaing!

"What do you mean, they're gone?"

Snape scowled from his picture frame, but Harry was well used to that after two weeks of brooding over class outlines and Defence textbooks with an ill-tempered portrait looking over his shoulder.

"It means they're no longer there. Madam Pince told me that the Carrows added so much dangerous material to the library that the Ministry sent her a few junior Aurors last summer to help her clean up, and they ended up removing a good part of the books in the old Restricted Section as well. They're all at the Ministry now, and it takes special permission from the Minister himself to get near them. Madam Pince isn't happy about it, but she said there was little she could do."

"Damn those paranoid idiots." Snape shook his head in disgust. "Ignorance is far more deadly than dangerous knowledge, but that's probably too much to grasp for an overeager Auror whelp. You'll have to talk to the Minister about this."

"Absolutely not." Harry leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm not asking Shacklebolt for special favours. We'll have to find another way."

He'd expected the portrait to argue with him, but Snape merely shrugged. "As you wish. You know that means you'll have to get the books illegally?"

Harry sighed, but didn't otherwise comment. He'd balked at first at Snape's demand that he start his preparation by studying the basics of Dark Magic itself, but he'd quickly realised that there really was no way around it. All these past years, he'd mostly relied on Dumbledore's advice, his gut feeling, or sheer dumb luck when it came to fighting the Dark Arts, but he wouldn't be able to base his teaching on that.

He'd been faced with some pretty gruesome stuff during the past two weeks, but most of it hadn't been as bad as he'd expected. Much of what he'd learned so far wasn't even so very different from the kind of magic he was used to, and there were moments when he caught himself wondering whether the distinction between the Dark Arts and legal magic wasn't mostly arbitrary. Is was a disquieting thought, because it went against everything Harry had been taught to believe since his first year at Hogwarts, and it brought back memories of the night when the Killing Curse had come to him as easily as breathing.

Compared to these things, having to do a bit of illegal shopping seemed like a rather minor concern.

"You'll have to go to Knockturn Alley." Snape was all business. "There's a small bookshop next to Borgin and Burkes that - "

"Wait a moment." Harry brushed his hair away from his forehead to expose his scar. It had never bothered him since Voldemort's death, but it hadn't faded either as he'd secretly hoped it would. "You want me to go to Knockturn Alley to buy illegal books on Dark Magic? Please tell me you're not serious."

"You have a point, I'm afraid." Snape made a face, as if it cost him great effort to admit as much. "You'll need a disguise."

"Polyjuice?" Harry wasn't overly fond of the idea; he'd had enough experience with the foul stuff to last him a lifetime.

Snape shook his head. ""Too risky, since you would have to drink it every hour. There's a better way."

* * *

Harry had been to Snape's old quarters a couple of times during the last two weeks, but they still made him uncomfortable; he always felt as if he could see Lucius Malfoy sitting in a chair by the fireplace out of the corner of his eye. Snape was watching him from the picture frame on the mantelpiece as Harry carefully unwrapped the small object he'd retrieved from a desk drawer after the portrait had walked him through a series of complicated unlocking spells.

It was a plain silver ring, inconspicuous but for a few scratches that might have been runes. Harry weighed it in his palm, wishing that Hermione was here to tell him whether there was actually anything written on the ring. "Is this it? What is it?"

"A Doppelgänger Token." Snape seemed to expect a reaction, but Harry just looked at him blankly.

The portrait heaved a sigh. "Potter, I'm afraid you're a lost cause. How can you not know -"

"It's not my fault I had only one competent Defence teacher," Harry cut him off and saw with no small amount of satisfaction that the remark had hit home. "So you'd better give me an explanation."

Snape's scowl deepened. "It's an object that allows the wearer to turn into a perfect replica of another person - much like Polyjuice Potion, only the effect lasts for as long as the token is worn. They're rare, and highly illegal; I confiscated this one from Mr Malfoy during your sixth year."

Harry eyed the ring with renewed interest. "Why are they illegal?"

"Because," Snape replied coldly, "to make them, you need to kill the person whose appearance you want the token to create." He smirked when Harry flinched at this. "Don't drop it, Potter, you have need of it."

"You expect me to wander around looking like a murder victim? Are you mad?" It seemed to Harry that he should be horrified by the idea, but what he felt was mostly disgust. "What if I run into someone who knew the person who -"

"Stop fretting, for pity's sake." Snape sounded impatient. "This ring is at least two hundred years old; Mr Malfoy told me it had been in his family for generations. It creates the appearance of a young man who would have been dead for decades at this point anyway. And now listen carefully; in Knockturn Alley, there's more to blending in than just not looking like Harry Potter."

* * *

Harry felt thoroughly ill at ease when he turned away from the bustle of Diagon Alley and stepped into the murky semi-darkness of Knockturn Alley. The place hadn't changed very much since he'd last seen it, although there were more people about. It surprised him a bit, but he didn't mind the crowd; it was much easier to fade into the background that way. The weather was hot, and he was sweating profusely in the long, black robes Snape had insisted on, even though he wore nothing but underpants underneath because his own clothes wouldn't fit as long as he wore Draco's ring.

As he walked on, he had to keep himself from flinching whenever he saw his reflection in a shop window. He'd slipped the ring on his finger as soon as he had left the Hogwarts grounds to give himself time to adjust, but he still wasn't used to the wiry stranger with mousy brown hair and pale blue eyes he had become the moment he'd put on the token. This wasn't like Polyjuice, either - Polyjuice had never given him this creepy sensation of not belonging inside his own skin any more. Perhaps it was the knowledge that the man whose face he was wearing had died for it, but the feeling of wrongness that Harry had expected to experience as soon as he got into contact with Dark Magic was finally hitting him with full force.

He'd never missed Ron and Hermione so much, not even during the long summer holidays at the Dursleys'. The Muggle postcards they kept sending him from their trip with Mr and Mrs Granger were fun, but postcards couldn't make up for the reassuring presence of Hermione's level-headed intelligence and Ron's steadfast determination, just like Luna's colourful, excited letters were no replacement for the knowledge that he would get to fall asleep in her arms after a long, tiring day. Now he was left with nothing but the gloomy portrait of a dead man during his waking hours and whispering shadows in his dreams that he couldn't remember properly when he woke, and what would have been an exciting adventure then was now a repulsive task that he just wanted to be done with.

He almost walked past the narrow, nondescript entrance to the bookstore at first; only when he noticed the barred-up shop front that had once been Borgin and Burkes ahead of him did he realise that he was standing right in front of the place he was looking for. There was a clanging of metal overhead when he pushed the door open, as if the shop owner had considered the usual jingling bells not sinister enough.

Harry found himself in a big, cavernous room that was crammed with bookshelves. A few customers, all of them dressed in dark, nondescript robes, were browsing under the wary eyes of a bald old man at the till; behind the counter next to the old wizard, a much younger man was scribbling something in a huge catalogue without paying any attention to his surroundings.

As per Snape's instructions, Harry went up to the counter and rapped his knuckles on the rough wooden surface twice. It got the immediate attention of the older shopkeeper, who fixed Harry with a stare that reminded him uncomfortably of a lizard he'd once seen at the zoo. "Can I help you with something, sir?"

"I need a few books from vault number eight." Harry handed the old man a list of the books Snape had told him to get; he knew that the shop officially wasn't stocking any of these, but the fact that he could name the secret vault would, according to Snape, take care of that problem. Harry just hoped that Snape's information wasn't outdated - otherwise he would find himself in a lot of trouble very soon.

The old man barely glanced at the list before handing it over to his younger colleague. "Mr Flint, see to it."

The name, together with the crooked teeth the young man revealed when he grinned at him, finally made Harry realise why the second shopkeeper had seemed vaguely familiar before - this was Marcus Flint, the former Slytherin team captain. Given that Slytherins were said to value ambition above everything else, it didn't seem like much of a career for Flint to have ended up in a shady bookstore, but at least he must have made smarter choices than many of his housemates during the war because Harry hadn't ever heard his name in connection with the Death Eaters.

Flint scanned Harry's list and let out a low whistle, but didn't otherwise comment. "Come with me."

Harry followed him to the back of the shop and through a narrow door that was half-hidden behind a shelf, then through a low corridor towards another door that Flint unlocked with a wave of his wand. Harry's fingers were closing around his own wand in his pocket; something in the way Flint kept watching him out of the corner of his eye made him uneasy.

The huge room they entered could only be the secret vault. It was windowless and lit by a couple of flickering glass lanterns of a kind Harry had never seen before; they cast an eerie purplish light over the towering bookshelves that reached from floor to ceiling. The door fell shut behind them with a bang that echoed through the vault, and Harry couldn't help gripping his wand more tightly. Flint wasn't even looking at him, though; he was studying the list again.

"That's quite an order. Restocking the family library, eh?"

Harry had no idea what he meant by that, so he kept quiet. Flint raised his wand, casting a nonverbal spell so that Harry couldn't hear which one he'd used. A huge, leather-bound tome rose from a nearby shelf and floated over to a small reading table in the middle of the room, where it landed with a thump. The next book took longer, since it came from a shelf at the far end of the vault; at this rate, Harry would be here for a while until he had the two dozen books on Snape's list together.

Flint's thoughts were obviously going along the same vein. "This will take some time, I suppose." He turned to face Harry and gave him a crooked grin. "How about catching up a bit while we're waiting, Malfoy?"

Harry barely kept himself from doing a double-take, remembering just in time what Snape had said about confiscating the Doppelgänger Token from Draco during sixth year. So Draco had snuck out of school and come to Knockturn Alley in this disguise? Had he no longer felt so eager to flaunt his family's connection with the Death Eaters once he'd begun to understand just what he'd got himself into?

There was no time to ponder this unexpected revelation further because Flint suddenly stepped up to Harry, forcing him to back off if he didn't want to end up nose to nose with Flint. He didn't get far, though; another step, and he felt the boards of the nearest bookcase against his spine. Flint was so close now that Harry could feel his body heat, and the only thing that kept him from drawing his wand and flinging a hex at his former schoolmate was the danger of being caught in the backlash at such a short distance. Shoving didn't seem like such a good idea either, given that Flint had at least two stones on Harry's current lanky frame.

"Get off me!" It came out less imperiously and more panicked than Harry would have liked, but there was nothing to be done about that now. It didn't seem to impress Flint anyway, because his grin widened.

"Come on, don't be like that." His voice lowered; he was all but whispering in Harry's ear when he continued, "It's been way too long, don't you think? I still get hard every time I see that desk over there and remember how you bent me over it."

Harry's mind went strangely blank at this, as if it had trouble processing the reality of what he just heard. There was a strange tingling sensation in the pit of his stomach that abruptly spread lower when Flint closed the remaining distance between them with a single step and pressed himself against Harry, making it impossible to miss that he hadn't meant his remark figuratively. "Thought I had forgotten after all this time that you still owe me a rematch?"

Harry opened his mouth, but no sound came out; his heartbeat was overly loud in his ears, and he barely heard Flint's next words, murmured with his lips against Harry's ear, "Don't give me any more of that 'I don't bottom' crap - you'll like this, I promise."

Before Harry could gather his wits again, Flint's mouth wandered lower, his teeth scraping Harry's neck while his hands were busy with the buttons of Harry's robes. Harry stood transfixed like a deer in the headlights, hardly noticing the sting of cold air on his skin when Flint sank to his knees in front of him. It didn't even occur to him to stop Flint's hands from pulling his underpants down; he felt as if he were caught in one of the dreams from which he would wake up panting and covered in sweat any minute now. It wasn't - no, it couldn't really be Flint's hand on his skin, he was probably just touching himself again without realising it while he was dreaming and -

Then a warm mouth closed around him, and every conscious thought was suddenly swallowed up by an onslaught of sensation stronger than anything Harry had ever experienced in his life. Luna had done this a few times, but it had never felt like this, like the world had dissolved into nothing but heat and touch and -

He reached out blindly, clutching the wooden boards of the shelf behind him without realising what he was doing. His heart was hammering as if it were about to break free from his chest, his sweaty robes clung uncomfortably to his back, but none of it mattered, nothing but Flint's lips and tongue and the things they were doing to him. Harry was fleetingly aware of Flint's hands sliding around his hips, but he still wasn't prepared for the slick finger pushing into him -

Harry cried out as he came, his fingernails digging into the hard wood of the board and his whole body tensing like a bow strung to the point of snapping. The next thing he knew were the rough edges of the boards against his naked chest and Flint's weight against his back, Flint's erection hard against him and then slowly pressing forward -

He startled violently when he felt Flint's fingers closing around the ring on his right hand. Harry tried to yank his arm away, but Flint held him firmly in place. "Come on, Malfoy, I want to do you, not some stranger -"

Curling his hand into a fist, Harry jerked his hips back, eliciting a sharp stab of pain and a groan from Flint, who finally let go of Harry's hand and grabbed his hips instead. The leathery smell of book covers filled Harry's nostrils as he pressed his forehead against them, dug his nails into the wood of the shelf once more and held on to it for dear life while Flint pushed into him. The pain was still there, but it was dulled by the haze of orgasmic bliss that made his legs buckle under him and his thoughts dissolve into a dizzy blur. Somewhere at the back of his mind, he was aware that this should feel strange and wrong, but it was neither; with each passing second it became easier to just let go and feel, pressure and friction and damp, hot gasps against the skin of his neck all coming together and coming to a peak when Flint let out a low, drawn-out groan and then collapsed heavily against Harry's back.

Harry felt out of breath as if he'd just run a marathon; there was a dull roar in his ears, and he was acutely aware of the cold air hitting his sweaty skin when Flint pulled back and murmured hoarsely, "See you at the till, Malfoy."

Then there was nothing but the rustling of cloth and the sound of receding footsteps, and it took him a moment to understand that he was alone.

* * *

It wasn't until he left the houses of Hogsmeade behind, the soot from the public floo still clinging to his hair and clothes and the shrunken books stored safely in his pocket, that the reality of what had just happened hit Harry. He'd just had sex with a man - one he barely knew and hadn't seen in years, no less - and had loved every second of it.

There was an old willow tree next to the path leading from Hogsmeade to the castle, and Harry stopped there and sat down under the tree, wincing slightly as his body reminded him just how real that experience had been.

Although, technically speaking, it wasn't even his body at the moment.

Feeling oddly dismayed by the thought, Harry took Draco's ring off his finger and watched with a mixture of fascination and revulsion as he turned back into himself. The robes he wore grew uncomfortably tight around the shoulders and chest, the sleeves slipped over his fingertips, and he would probably have to hitch up the hem if he didn't want to trip over it when he got up again. It didn't matter, though; even though his sight was now blurry because he'd left his glasses at the castle, it was a relief to look like himself again.

And yet he felt no different than before - his blood singing with an experience he'd never have thought possible, and the same small aches reminding him that it had been very much him and not some stranger who'd let himself be buggered by Marcus Flint of all people.

Blimey, Harry - looks like you're not so much into girls after all.

The thought, sounding strangely like Ron, had come out of nowhere. It left Harry frozen with surprise for a moment; then he took a deep breath and burst out laughing. He wasn't sure what had come over him - perhaps it was a normal reaction to a shock like this, perhaps he was just losing his mind, but he laughed until his stomach hurt and his eyes were streaming, and even though he was aware that there was a touch of hysteria to it, he couldn't stop until he was so out of breath that he was getting dizzy and had to lean against the trunk of the willow for support.

Could it really be that simple? All those dreams that had haunted his nights, the visions of a future Dark Lord's deadly beauty, the heady memory of Draco's body against his after he'd killed Greyback - had they meant nothing more sinister than that he was gay? Had he been stupid enough to worry about the stirring of evil deep inside him when his subconscious had merely been drawn to the fact that Tom Riddle had been pretty fit?

For the first time, Harry no longer felt deathly embarrassed about all those dreams he'd carefully extracted from his memory and hidden away so that Draco would never learn of their existence. Pointy and washed-out as the git was, he was still easy enough on the eyes, so it was probably just natural that Harry's imagination had latched on to him to avoid the awkwardness of fantasizing about someone he was friends with. It was suddenly amusing to imagine Draco's horrified expression if he ever learned that he'd got to star in Harry's fantasies while his mummy was probably already in the process of finding him the perfect pureblood bride to keep the line...

Wait. This whole thing had happened in the first place because Flint had thought that he was Draco.

Harry had been too preoccupied then to fully grasp the implications of that, but now he felt his mouth fall open as his previous line of thought did a sharp turn towards the memory of Narcissa Malfoy calling Teddy the last heir to the Black family.

What had Lucius Malfoy said to him all those months ago? "You can influence someone's development, but you can't make him into something he's not." Harry hadn't thought anything of it then, but now he remembered Draco's remark just before Harry's meeting with Lucius -

that there was nothing he had to hide from his father, even if it included Harry's memory of humping him in the grass next to Dumbledore's grave. And that Ravenclaw boy he'd taken to Hogsmeade, the one who had blushed when Ron had alleged that he was going out with Draco...

At this point Harry burst out laughing again; the muscles of his stomach protested, but the sheer absurdity of the situation was getting too much to remain serious. Here he was, still reeling with the realisation that he was into men when he had been fantasizing for months about someone who swung the same way and didn't even make a secret of it. Not that he ever would have touched the git (while he was in his right mind, that was) if he had known, but that hardly mattered - they were merely fantasies that meant nothing in reality, and after this afternoon's events, Harry was convinced that he would never feel shocked or embarrassed by a mere fantasy again.

* * *

It was almost dinnertime when Harry finally made it back to his quarters, but the last thing he wanted to do right now was spend any amount of time with the other teachers. He dropped the stack of books on the desk in his study without bothering to unshrink it, but kept the curtain in front of Snape's portrait closed. There would be time for that tomorrow; now he had something else on his mind.

He wiggled out of the uncomfortable robes on his way to the bathroom and left them on the floor, together with his underpants. It took all his willpower to resist the temptation of a quick wank in the shower, now that he saw the faint marks of Flint's touches all over his body, but tonight he wanted to take his time. He was almost painfully hard by the time he came out of the bathroom and went to get the small bottle that was still wrapped in Uncle Vernon's old sock at the bottom of Harry's old school trunk.

He sat cross-legged on his bed and carefully uncorked the bottle. It was a bit more difficult to pick up the silvery strands with his wand than it would have been if he'd used a Pensieve, but at long last he managed to put all the memories back where they belonged. Then he cast a triple locking charm at the door and crawled under the covers, his hand already drifting towards his erection. Tomorrow he would think about the consequences of this day's revelations, but right now he was determined to fully enjoy himself with his fantasies for the first time in his life.

* * *

Harry was woken at the crack of dawn by someone hammering against his door. It took him a moment to get his bearings; his mind was still hazy from vivid dreams that had probably been a direct result of yesterday's activities, and he would have loved nothing better than to bask in the afterglow for a while before he got out of bed. The knocking remained insistent, though, so he finally kicked the covers aside and wrapped himself in his dressing gown before he groggily made it to the door.

McGonagall was standing outside in a tartan dressing gown, her hair falling down to her back in a messy braid as if she'd just got out of bed as well. One glance at her face was enough to wipe the last remains of sleepiness from Harry's mind, together with the comfortable, sated haze it had been swimming in. The way she looked at him undid fifteen months of peace; it took Harry right back into the middle of the war, to the time when he'd known only too well what kind of news one delivered with such an expression.

"Harry, I'm sorry to wake you, but -" The Headmistress got no further because Harry cut her off.

"Who's dead?"