- Story Summary:
- When you've spent six years fighting evil, all you really want is a quiet time. But when your name is Harry Potter the chances of that are very slim. A series of vignettes chronicling Harry's final six months at Hogwarts. Exams, friends, lovers, Quidditch, the war and Draco all conspire to make the year end seem a very long way away. Slash (Harry/Draco)
Chapter 11 - Consequences and Punishments
- Chapter Summary:
- res-o-lu-tion, noun -- solving of doubts, problems, questions etc. The Concise Oxford Dictionary When you've spent six years fighting evil, all you really want is a quiet time. But when your name is Harry Potter the chances of that are very slim. Exams, friends, lovers, enemies, Quidditch, birthdays, the war and Draco all conspire to make Harryï¿½s final six months very, very complicated and the end of term a long way off. Slash (Harry/Draco)
Chapter 11: Consequences and Punishments The Aftermath.
This chapter is dedicated to JK Rowling, without whom we would never have known the pleasure of Harry and Draco.
Author's note: Resolution was started before the publication of Order of the Phoenix and is based on the canon of PS/SS, CoS, PoA and GoF. While certain canon facts from OotP and HBP are incorporated in the story (such as spells and locations), the events of Harry's 5th and 5th years at Hogwarts in Resolution are NOT the same as those in rom OotP and HBP.
Amongst other things, Resolution makes the following assumptions:
1. Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore are alive.
2. Voldemort's return at the end of GoF is not common knowledge to the Wizarding world and many people, including the Ministry of Magic still refuse to believe it.
3. Lucius Malfoy is still considered to be a pillar of the community and any connections he might have with the Dark Lord remain a secret.
4. Draco Malfoy was never picked as a prefect.
5. Wizards and witches come of age at eighteen.
6. Wizards love to ski!.
7. The Prophecy in Resolution is not the same as the one from OotP and the full wording can be found here .
8. The Hallows mentioned may or may not relate in some way to those in the title of the seventh book. In Resolution, they are large circular stones, covered with intricate carvings and imbibed with powerful magical properties.
"Every great decision creates ripples -- like a huge boulder dropped into a lake. The ripples merge, rebound off the banks in unforeseeable ways. The heavier the decision, the larger the waves the more uncertain the consequences." -- Ben Aaronvitch
Chapter 11: Consequences and Punishments
Thursday 9th April 1998
Glastonbury ... Moonset...
Harry wasn't sure how long he'd stood by the window, his hand resting on the glass, but he'd gone through a whole gamut of emotions. Confusion, anger, frustration and, at his lowest point, desperation. Now all he was left with was the awareness of something he thought might be his link with Draco, joining them like a gossamer thread of moonlight traversing the physical distance.
The anger was still there, like a burning hot ember in the pit of his stomach, and he used it to fuel a determination to get Draco back. He just knew Draco was in trouble; he could sense it, like a block of ice that was the perfect counterpoint to the ember, and he was the only person who seemed to care.
Harry's hand clawed angrily at the glass, little specks of magic spreading across the surface like cracks in the ice of a frozen pond. Dumbledore had known about Harry being an Earth Mage for a very long time. Yet the Headmaster had kept Harry's heritage a secret, only ever telling the truth when it suited him.
Something Snape had told him sprang to mind.
I believe if you had been told the truth years ago you would be an exceptional Earth Mage by now instead of a mere novice.
And hadn't the Boy, the manifestation of Earth Magic, said something similar.
It's been with you since the day you were born, like the air that you breathe. They thought that making you live with humans would smother your birthright, but even that couldn't kill it completely.
Then there was Draco.
What was it Sirius had said about him earlier? It's only Malfoy's son after all. It's not like he's important.
Was that what Dumbledore thought of Draco as well? Not important? A necessary casualty of this war?
Well, Draco was important to Harry and he wasn't just going to forget about him.
He remembered Sirius telling him that getting into the Malfoy Estate was almost impossible. But was it really that difficult? He was supposed to be an Earth Mage with access to magic so powerful that Voldemort was desperate to harness it. So there had to be a way in, perhaps linked to that magic. Or maybe it was an emotional thing. Last night when he'd Apparated to the Manor, he'd been so angry and some of that anger bubbled in him now.
Well, he was going to try, no matter how much his godfather might object.
Stepping away from the window, Harry quickly dressed and pulled on his jacket. Did he need to be on a ley line or out on the Tor for it to work? Drawing his wand, he finally decided to try from inside the room to start with.
Instinctively knowing in which direction the Manor lay, he reached out a hand, wand pointed towards it, and tried to imagine himself at the boundary fence. Magic crackled about him like static electricity but nothing happened.
Frustration building inside him, he tried again and for one brief glorious infinitesimal moment the room dissolved and he was outside, on the grass. But stronger protective wards around the room rebuffed his magic, dragged him back and he stumbled against one of the beds.
Even more determined, he got to his feet and headed for the door. He'd try from outside.
His hand froze on the doorknob. Sirius was awake.
Of course his godfather was awake, the wards were probably attuned to him.
Harry took a measured breath, trying to keep his tone level. "Yes?"
"Where are you going?"
"Out. I won't be long." Even without looking Harry was aware of Sirius moving towards him; it was as if he could feel the shift in energy as the man approached.
"It's the middle of the night."
Sirius paused behind him and Harry's fingers tightened reflexively around the doorknob. "I won't be long," he repeated, turning just enough to glance at Sirius. The man was silhouetted against the moonlit window and Harry couldn't see his godfather's face.
"What are you planning on doing when you get to the Manor?" Sirius touched the door with his wand and the lock clicked shut. "That is where you're going, isn't it?"
The simmering anger crept closer to boiling over and Harry tried to counter whatever spell had been used on the lock. With a frustrated kick at the door, Harry pointed his wand. "Unlock it now! If I'd known what was going to happen I would never have let him go in the first place." His chin rose in defiance. "And I'm not leaving him there now."
The magic coiling in his belly like a sleeping serpent suddenly sprang into life and he pointed his wand at the door. It was at that moment Harry finally understood that he didn't need the wand to do this ... didn't even need to raise his hand ... he could focus the magic just with his mind.
The door shuddered in its frame before crumbling until it was nothing but a pile of woodchips left on the floor.
Without looking at his godfather, Harry strode forward. Was the whole building warded or could he Apparate from the hallway?
"I can't let you do that, Harry."
Sirius reached for him and Harry felt the uncomfortable sensation of Portkeying with someone else.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Harry landed heavily on his feet, then stumbled forward wand skidding across the grass as he put out his hands to save himself. Not moving for a moment, he stayed on his hands and knees, white-hot fury coiling in the pit of his stomach as he realised he was back at Hogwarts. All his worries and concerns for Draco transmuted into rage and he felt it -- the Earth Magic beneath the castle was reaching up towards him. He dug his fingers into the ground, clawing at the damp soil, and knew that if he could focus that energy he would be able to get away. But he didn't know how to do it and that just fuelled the rage in his belly.
Scrabbling for his wand, Harry got to his feet, the Earth Magic he'd released in those few seconds condensing in the sky to form clouds.
"Please, let's talk about this. Going to the Manor is just too dangerous."
He spun round and found Sirius a few feet away from him. He pointed an accusing finger. "You had NO right to bring me back here."
"I'm your godfather, Harry." Sirius held out his hands, the gesture placating. "And I'm your teacher. I am responsible for your safety."
The clouds above began to splatter the ground with heavy raindrops. "You're responsible for my safety?" His voice rose with each word. "Then who's responsible for Draco?"
"Or doesn't anyone give a toss because he's a Malfoy? You're his teacher as well, Sirius, or isn't his life worth as much as mine?" He stared angrily at his godfather before turning on his heel and striding down the sweeping drive in the direction of the gates. Hermione had drummed it into him over the years that no one could Apparate from inside the Hogwarts grounds, but once beyond the gates there shouldn't be a problem.
He had only gone a few steps when a hand gripped at his upper arm. "Just leave me alone," Harry snarled over his shoulder. But the person wasn't Sirius; instead he found himself looking into the blue eyes of Professor Dumbledore.
"Sirius brought you back here because I asked him to, Harry." Dumbledore was already steering him back towards the castle. "Why don't we continue this conversation inside?"
Pulling himself from the older man's grip, Harry stared at him defiantly. "Why don't I go and get Draco and then we can all discuss it together."
"You will not be able to leave the school grounds. I'm afraid I can't allow it." Dumbledore raised his hand and Harry felt the castle wards close in about him. "I have no doubt that you could force your way out, Harry. But when you've brought down the wards, what then? Hogwarts would be unprotected and you would place everyone inside at risk."
Harry growled in frustration, aware of the energy still rising from the ground. It produced spidery fingers of static that sizzled in the rain. How typical of Dumbledore to play a card he couldn't ignore. Even consumed by his desire to rescue Draco, Harry knew he couldn't risk leaving Hogwarts vulnerable to her enemies. And then there were the people inside, Hermione being one of them. How could he put her in danger?
Pushing a hand through his wet hair, he turned angry eyes on the Headmaster. "You can't just use people like this and then leave them. It isn't right."
"We will discuss that as well." Dumbledore gave Harry's shoulder a fatherly squeeze. "Let's go inside."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Malfoy Manor ... Moonset...
It was the cold that had finally roused Draco from his sleep. He'd been dreaming about Harry in the rain and an umbrella he couldn't get to open. Shivering, he stretched out his stiffened joints and almost tumbled from the window seat. Putting a foot down to steady himself, he stared sleepily about him and tried to fathom what he was doing at the window rather than in his nice warm bed. Outside the moon was beginning to set; inside the flickering light of a single candle cast shadows about his room.
Then the full horror of the previous day slammed into his consciousness with the force of a broom going full-tilt into a brick wall.
How his father had taken him into the garden where the Death Eaters had gathered to watch Voldemort Marking him. Being the Key for the Dark Lord's ritual, which had gone wrong. Then how Lucius had walked out, leaving him alone to be punished by a madman. Draco remembered the curses Voldemort had used on him -- Cruciatus and others that he'd never heard of before.
He was shivering, possibly from the early morning chill but certainly from the memory, and hugging himself, he rubbed absently at his arms. Warmth -- he needed warmth. The residual pain left by the curses was now a dull ache and he wondered what he could magic up to take away the pain.
Just a little wobbly, Draco made his way back to the bed and looked for his wand. It wasn't anywhere to be found and the final ignominy of what Voldemort had done solidified into his memory. The Dark Lord had told him he was a Squib and had snapped his wand in two.
Voldemort had cast something before breaking the wand -- Veneficus Delitesco. Draco had no idea what the spell did but his knowledge of Latin was good enough to understand the words used. Delitesco meant to 'hide away' and veneficus translated to 'caster of spells'. He remembered how the spell had flowed through him, like blood in his veins, and how barren he'd felt in its wake.
Trembling at the memory, Draco grabbed a blanket, wrapping it around his shoulders as he sat on the bed. It was the second time Voldemort had said he was a Squib; could it really be true? Did he only have magic because Voldemort had gifted the power to him?
Or was that just another lie? The Dark Lord might have destroyed his wand, but hadn't Draco been trained in wandless magic?
Pulling the blanket tighter about him, Draco concentrated on the glass on his bedside table. He could do this. Moving objects was the simplest form of wandless magic there was; it was one of the first things his father had taught him to do. Yet no matter how hard he tried, the glass remained steadfastly still.
But worse than the unmoving glass was the feeling his efforts left him with. He was empty. No, more than that, starving from the lack of magic in his body. It was as if Voldemort had reached in and ripped the magic from his very soul.
He tried again to move the glass.
And again and again until his body trembled from the effort. Finally, he crawled under the bedclothes and, curling up into a tight ball, cried himself back to sleep.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...
They stood in the Dumbledore's office, an awkward tableau watched by the portraits of long-dead headmasters and headmistresses. Professor Dumbledore was on one side of the huge claw-footed desk, while Harry stood on the other, arms folded defiantly across his chest. Sirius hovered at one end of the desk as if not sure whom he should be siding with.
It was Dumbledore who finally broke the awkward stillness. He pointed a hand at Harry, who felt his clothes become dry. Harry thought to say thank you, but he was too angry.
Then blue eyes fixed Harry with a look for a moment before turning to Sirius. "I wish to speak to Harry alone."
The surprise on Sirius' face made it clear that he'd expected to stay. "Are you sure?"
"Oh yes. Harry and I will be just fine; we've got lots to talk about."
For a moment it seemed that Sirius was going to argue; but instead he nodded and left the room.
"Shall we have some tea?"
Harry rolled his eyes as he watched Dumbledore conjure up a tea tray and sit at his desk. It was always the same with the Headmaster -- cups of tea. As if that would solve anything. He remained resolutely on his feet. "You can't keep me here."
"As Headmaster at Hogwarts I am, in effect, the guardian of all students while they are at school and, therefore, responsible for their care and welfare." Dumbledore poured steaming liquid into the cups.
"What about Draco Malfoy? Aren't you responsible for him as well? At least I tried to help him when he wouldn't stay here."
Dumbledore stared at him, the look stern as he indicated the chair. "Sit down." The tone brokered no debate.
Despite his frustration, the Headmaster's expression and voice made Harry feel like he'd somehow let the old man down yet again. He considered a retort, but as always happened in this room, Dumbledore had put him in his place. Chagrined, he shuffled his feet, but still remained standing.
"Very well." Blue eyes flashed dangerously. "I understand that you are tired and concerned about what happened yesterday. I will answer your questions, but only if you do me the courtesy of listening. If you aren't willing to do that then I suggest we continue this conversation when you have rested and are in a more receptive frame of mind."
Harry hung his head. "I'm sorry."
"Now, where were we?" The Headmaster pushed a cup towards him. "Draco doesn't need me to act in loco parentis for him at the moment because he is with his parents."
"But...." Harry feel silent as Dumbledore held up his hand, the expression needing no accompanying words. He felt himself flush at being told off twice in as many minutes. "Sorry."
"Draco also turned eighteen yesterday. He is now considered an adult and responsible for his own actions. If he should choose not to complete his education, I cannot compel him to return to Hogwarts." Dumbledore clasped his hands together, resting them lightly on the desk. "I do take the welfare of everyone at this school -- teachers and students -- very seriously. When I received word from Mr and Mrs Malfoy that they wished for Draco to spend the holiday with them, I had a long conversation with him. He was quite adamant about going home. Even with my knowledge of what might happen, I couldn't force him to remain here. So when it became clear Draco was going to leave, I gave him a Portkey should he wish to return to Hogwarts early."
Eyes narrowing, Harry looked up with a start. "He's got a Portkey?" He wanted to add Then why hasn't he used it? but the answer was too painful to consider -- Because he doesn't want to come back.
Dumbledore nodded. "Of course, I cannot make him use it. That is for him to decide." He indicated the chair again. "Please sit down."
Harry stood his ground for a few seconds more, but Dumbledore's comment had taken the wind out of his sails. The fact was, Draco was obstinate and would do what he wanted no matter who tried to persuade him. He finally sat on the edge of the chair; his whole body tense and ready to flee at a moment's notice. "It's just that Draco trusted me and I've let him down."
"Why do you think that, Harry?"
Harry pulled off his glasses and rubbed a hand over his eyes. Just how much should he tell the Headmaster? "I know Draco's alive, but something's not right. It's like ... um ... like...." He tentatively felt through the link and wondered briefly if it worked both ways. "As if he's ill."
"How do you know?"
"I was worried about Draco; that Voldemort was going to Mark him. So before he went home I did some protection magic on him." Harry saw surprise flick across Dumbledore's face. Snape clearly hadn't told Headmaster about their conversations or what Harry had done and suddenly he realised that he could trust the Potions Master. "You didn't know?"
"No." The Headmaster's expression changed as the benign smile disappeared. "Such magic is extremely dangerous, Harry, and the ramifications of it for your future even more so. Not only could it have gone wrong, but also I suspect Tom Riddle will know it was you who cast it and that you are an Earth Mage. Now his ritual failed, he will, no doubt, turn his attention to you to find out how much control you have over the magic and whether he can use you to gain the same control. Who instructed you?"
Harry didn't answer, trying to keep his face impassive as the silence between them widened into a gulf.
"No matter. I'm disappointed that you didn't feel able to confide in me but what's done is done. Do you know what Legilimency is?"
"It's something like mind-reading."
"That is rather simplified, but yes, it's the ability to extract emotions and memories from another person's mind, and to know if a person is lying. Tom Riddle is a highly skilled Legilimens and only someone who has been trained in Occlumency could lie and not be found out. Professor Snape is an Occlumens, which is why he was able to keep the truth from the Dark Lord."
Harry stared at his hands. Was Dumbledore a Legilimens? Could he be reading Harry's mind right now and know what Snape had taught him? Why else would he mention the Potions Master?
"If Draco had decided to remain at Hogwarts, then I would have explained everything to him, but his insistence in leaving meant I could tell him nothing. I have no doubt Riddle will have looked into Draco's mind and would know of my conversation with Draco, so all I could do was offer him a way back should he wish to take it. Can you see why it was important that Draco didn't know what was going to happen?"
Harry gave an exasperated huff and pushed a hand through his hair. It did make sense but that didn't mean he had to like it or agree with it. "I think so."
With a little sigh, Dumbledore reached for his cup. "You have become quite fond of Draco." It was a statement rather than a question.
Harry nodded. "Yes, sir." He wanted to add that 'quite fond' didn't come close to summing up how he felt. Did the Headmaster know just how involved he was with Draco?
"Of course." Dumbledore took a sip from the teacup as he stared thoughtfully into the distance. The silence seemed to go on forever and Harry was beginning to fidget. Then, just as he thought he should say something, Dumbledore returned his cup to the saucer with deliberate care. "Harry, I realise now that I have been very remiss. I should have explained to you about Tom Riddle's ritual and of Draco's part in it. It was unfair of me to expect your godfather to do it and disrespectful to you."
For a moment Harry was rendered speechless. Dumbledore was actually apologising and admitting that he'd been wrong about something. "I ... um ... Sirius helped a lot." It wasn't what he wanted to say; he wanted to rant and rave about the unfairness of people lying, but the almost penitent look in the old man's eyes knocked some of the frustration from him.
"Sirius cares deeply for you and would do anything to keep you from harm."
The words were now mildly reproachful and Harry almost cringed at them. "I know," he whispered as he sat back in his chair.
"Good, good." Blue eyes stared at Harry over the top of half-moon glasses. "Can you imagine what the consequences of allowing Riddle to harness Earth Magic would be?"
"It would be bad."
"Yes, very bad. You see, Harry, last night wasn't the first time Tom Riddle had attempted this ritual. He tried once before, exactly seventeen years ago, on Draco's first birthday. I found out about those plans from someone I had come to trust and we tried to find a way to stop him. In the end she spirited Draco away until it was safe. Riddle never forgave her and I believe he was ultimately responsible for her untimely death."
"Who was she?"
"Draco's paternal grandmother, Eleanor."
"Lucius Malfoy's mother?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Unfortunately, Lucius takes after his father rather than his mother. As for Riddle's plans, he was willing to wait until the next suitable star alignment for a further attempt, but seven months later he tried to kill you and ended up destroying himself."
"But that had nothing to do with Earth Magic, did it? It was because of the prophecy."
"Understanding someone like Riddle isn't easy, Harry. He clearly saw you as a threat and wanted to remove you. But now he also knows you are an Earth Mage and he has even more to fear. In the years that followed Riddle's disappearance, Lucius Malfoy looked for ways of releasing what he saw as his own birthright but he was never able to achieve what he wanted. When Riddle came back two years ago, I assumed he would make another attempt on the next star alignment, which would be on Draco's eighteenth birthday."
"Then why not do the same thing again? Keep Draco here so that it couldn't happen."
"Because Tom Riddle would simply have bided his time once again." Dumbledore picked up his wand and tapped it on the desk. A sheet of parchment appeared and he studied it for a moment. "There is another suitable alignment on New Year's Eve at the turn of the century and another on your birthday five years after that. Do you think we should have kept Draco locked up for the rest of his life?"
"Of course not."
"Then what, Harry? Let us say that Draco had remained here. What do you think Riddle might have done to make sure Draco was in his power for the next time?" Dumbledore raised both eyebrows as he looked at Harry.
The silence stretched between them and Harry remembered something the Earth Magic being had told him the previous night, Save Draco now and you condemn him because he will remain the Key and Voldemort will use him again and again in his attempts to gain control of this magic.
"Voldemort would do anything to get what he wants."
"But he has Draco now. He can keep him locked up until the next time."
Dumbledore was shaking his head. "No, Harry, there will be no next time. It was Eleanor who found out that if the energy point was opened but then immediately closed by an Earth Mage, that Key could never work again. While your heritage indicated you might be a Mage, we couldn't be sure until you started to manifest signs about a year ago. Only then could you start to learn about your magic. Your lack of knowledge meant that you would need help during the ritual and that help had to come from Draco."
"What?" Harry sat bolt upright. "You said he didn't know!"
"He didn't, but I knew that as the Key, if Draco willingly took the Dark Mark, your task would have been even harder. In fact, you probably would have failed. But if Draco refused the Mark or took it under duress, then I was convinced you would succeed." Dumbledore leaned forward a little. "Harry, it was important for Draco to question where his loyalties lay and he needed to learn that there was another path he could take. He needed to see that path for himself. Who better for him to learn from than you?"
His throat suddenly dry, Harry stared at the Headmaster; staggered by the enormity of what Dumbledore was telling him. Had his chance meeting with Draco at New Year actually been carefully orchestrated so that they would both be inexorably pushed in a certain direction, culminating in last night's events?
Then, even worse, he realised that if ... when ... Draco found out, he would probably assume that Harry had been part of Dumbledore's plan. That Harry had whored himself for the Order.
"You set us up from the moment Draco got lost in the snow." Fists clenching, Harry wasn't sure he could take much more.
"The snow was your magic, Harry, not mine. Haven't you noticed that you can affect the weather, such as the rain here tonight? Your emotions wrought the snowstorm and Draco was out skiing by chance. When you let me know that Draco was at Hagrid's cottage, it seemed like the ideal opportunity for you and he to get to know each other. If you worked with Draco, he might realise that he could refuse the future his father planned for him."
Harry closed his eyes, lying to himself that the moisture in them was tiredness rather than tears. God, what a mess. "He loves his father." He didn't know why he said it but it seemed important.
"You put us together hoping I'd have some sort of effect on Draco. But it was a two-way thing, Professor, he's taught me more about myself than anyone else has."
Dumbledore got to his feet and stepped round the desk to stand in front of Harry. "What you did last night was an incredible feat, Harry. You not only stopped Riddle but also freed Draco from the bondage of being a Key. You are, indeed, a very powerful wizard."
"But I haven't saved him, have I?" Harry looked up at the Headmaster, all sorts of awful images of what might be happening to Draco filling his mind. "He's still at the Manor and now he's in more danger than ever because Voldemort doesn't need to keep him alive anymore." He got to his feet. "I'm not going to just abandon him."
"I don't expect you to, Harry. But before you run off headlong into more danger, let me see if I can get word of how Draco is and what's happening there."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The corridors of Hogwarts were silent as Harry made his way from Dumbledore's office. He was grateful for the fact it was still much too early for the students who were still at the school to be up and about because the last thing he wanted now was to talk to anyone.
Dumbledore's admissions had left him numb. He'd always assumed it would be Voldemort the Slytherin who twisted and manipulated people, but to find out that Dumbledore the Gryffindor was just as capable stood everything on its head. Had the Sorting Hat struggled to decide what House to put Dumbledore in as it had for Harry? Not only was this new manipulative side something Harry had never seen before, but he also had to deal with a Dumbledore who wasn't all-knowing. In the end they had come to a compromise. Harry wouldn't try to leave Hogwarts until Dumbledore's contact had found out what was happening at Malfoy Manor.
But that didn't mean he shouldn't prepare for the possibility of having to leave.
He paused in the Entrance Hall. Off to one side was the staircase leading down to the dungeons, and he found himself drawn to it. Standing on the top stair, he looked down into the darkness as a plan slowly began to formulate.
What if he could get into Slytherin and find Draco's room? The fireplace in the room had at one time been linked to the one in Hagrid's cottage. Was it still working and, if so, would it work through the wards Dumbledore had put up earlier?
Harry tapped a nervous finger on the stone banister. His first problem was actually getting into Slytherin. He knew the password had been changed since his one visit to Draco's room and he'd never found out what the new one was. But he could wait for someone to go in, which was how he'd found out the first time.
Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
With one last look around the Entrance Hall, he stepped down into the darkness.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The brick wall entrance was the same as Harry remembered and he stood before it saying random words in the hope one might work. They ranged from words such as 'pure-blood' and 'serpent', to things like 'Quaffle' and even 'Honeyduke's finest'. He'd even tried all the standard unlocking spells, but the door refused to move.
He was just on the verge of giving up because he was so tired when something caught his eye. Low down, almost at floor level, one of the bricks looked different. Crouching down, he ran his fingers over it and found that someone had carved what might be a snake onto it. He squinted closer, finally lighting his wand to get a better look.
Yes, it definitely was a snake. Was it possible that it had been there since the castle had been constructed? Perhaps even put there by Salazar Slytherin himself? Could it be that a Parselmouth could open the door without a password?
He hadn't spoken Paseltongue for years and he tried to remember how he'd opened the door to the Chamber of Secrets. Still touching the serpent, he closed his eyes and tried to imagine it was alive. Then, taking a calming breath, he said, "Open up."
The stone door concealed in the wall slid open.
Harry managed a tired smirk as he stepped into the common room, grateful for once that he had Slytherin's gift for talking to snakes. He stood quietly in the shadows, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting before making his way across the room to the corridors beyond. He had to dart behind a statue when the Bloody Baron glided silently by, but otherwise the whole of Slytherin seemed to be fast asleep.
Reaching the door to Draco's room, Harry's first thought was to look for another carved snake, but if there was one, it was carefully hidden. Finally he got out his wand and tried to reveal the spells that sealed the door shut. He could pick up a couple of the surface spells, but there were several layers and he couldn't work out what the rest were even when he tried several revealing charms with his wand.
Draco really was a very accomplished wizard.
Putting the wand away, Harry decided to try a different approach. He'd watched Draco remove the wards once before, so maybe he could try to remember the sequence. Or perhaps he could tap into the Earth Magic he'd felt earlier and try to connect with the castle.
He leaned against the door, soaking up the magic. Yes! It was right there, at his fingertips if he could just concentrate.
Harry physically jumped, automatically taking a step back from the door with a hiss of pain as he broke the connection with the magic. Standing just a few feet from him was Professor Snape.
"What are you doing?"
"Um. I...." He felt suddenly dizzy. "Sorry, I...." His legs gave way and he dropped to the floor with a spine-jarring jolt. "Did you know what he was doing?"
Snape crouched down beside him, wand in hand. "You are on the floor in Slytherin, asking unintelligible questions." He ran the wand quickly over Harry's body. "I suggest you remain silent until you can at least form a coherent sentence."
The exhaustion had hit him so fast that Harry found it hard to concentrate. "Did you know?"
"Your energy levels are severely depleted. When did you last eat and sleep?" Harry shrugged. "You need to go to the hospital wing."
"No, please." Harry grabbed at Snape's sleeve. "Not there. She'll call Dumbledore and Sirius."
"And you don't want to see them?" Snape took Harry's hands and pulled him to his feet. "Very well. Come with me."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Malfoy Manor ... Morning...
When Draco woke again, it was daylight and a weak April sun was attempting to break through the grey clouds now covering the earlier clear sky. Bundled in the warm cocoon of his bedclothes, he scrubbed the sleep from his eyes. He could feel the beginnings of a headache, the muzzy fullness throbbing in time with his heartbeat and knew he should take something before it got any worse.
He reached up to push his hair from his eyes and, as he did so, the sleeve of his pyjamas slipped back. There, on the pale skin of his forearm, was Voldemort's Mark and the sight of it made his heart beat faster and the throbbing in his head even worse.
Eyes fixed on the Mark, he disentangled himself from the blankets and sat up. He'd craved this for as long as he could remember, almost from the moment he'd first seen the Mark on his father's arm. In fact, just a few short months ago he would have given anything to bear it, but now all he could see was something ugly and disfiguring.
He flexed his fingers a little and watched as the black lines rippled over the red, angry-looking skin of his forearm. The Mark wasn't just on the surface though; if he concentrated he could feel it pushing its tendrils into his flesh. It hadn't got very far yet, just through the outer epidermis, and Draco knew the only reason it was unable to worm its way further into him was because of the protection magic Harry had done. He shivered; what would it be like when -- if -- the Dark Mark won and finally wrapped itself around his nervous system, inexorably linking him to Voldemort?
With morbid fascination he finally touched it, tracing the lines of the skull with trembling fingers. This Mark wasn't the same as his father's; the snake was not there and on the skull's temple was a mark shaped like a lightning bolt.
Or at least that was what Voldemort had told him it was.
He ran his thumb over the lightning bolt and knew the Dark Lord was telling the truth. Harry had marked him and he could feel this one already winding through him. He gave a sigh. Despite everything, Harry's Mark was soothing.
But the missing snake was the opposite. Draco knew it was roving over his skin, seeking a way through Harry's protection and knowing that was enough to make him feel sick to his stomach. First the Mark on his arm and now this serpent crawling all over him, looking for a way to claim him for the Dark Lord.
Sitting very still, he tried to sense where it was. At first there was nothing, but then on his right foot he thought he felt something like an insect crawling over his skin. He reached down and carefully pulled up the leg of his pyjama trousers. The snake was wrapped around his ankle, and what he could feel was its flickering tongue. He was sure he heard a hiss as the snake worked its way up his shin, disappearing beneath his trousers. There was no real sensation to the movement, just the occasional prickle from its tongue.
With a shudder of disgust he grabbed first at the trouser leg and then his sleeve, desperate to cover both the Mark and the snake. If he covered them he wouldn't have to look, and if he couldn't see them then he could pretend they didn't exist.
Suddenly it felt like the room was closing in on him. He was alone, without magic and a prisoner in his own home. He scrambled from the bed and crossed quickly to the window. At least there he could see beyond his cage.
There was a splash of gold on the window seat and Draco realised it was the toy lion Harry had given him for his birthday. Picking it up, he glared at it. The toy reminded him of just how angry he'd been with Harry the previous night. Harry must have known what was going to happen so why hadn't he warned Draco?
But Harry did warn you, the lion seemed to be saying. He told you over and over that it wasn't safe to go home.
Draco scowled at the creature. What would Harry do when he found out Draco was a Squib? Would Harry still want him then?
He didn't have time to contemplate that thought any further because a movement on the terrace below his window caught his attention. Pressing against the glass, he looked down and gave an audible gasp as he recognised the people in the small group gathered there.
The Dark Lord (Draco tried not to think of the man as 'David' anymore) was talking to his father and standing nearby were the last two people he would ever had expected to see at the Manor.
"Lupin?" He peered closer. "And Weasley? What the fuck...?"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
David sensed the sudden waves of emotion emanating towards him and glanced up to see Draco looking out of the windows. His anger from the previous night was no longer directed at the boy; instead he was using that ire to fuel his determination to achieve what was rightfully his. Draco would succumb to his will, of that he had no doubt; all it required was a little time and some 'gentle' persuasion. Of course none of his Death Eaters were aware of what had truly happened during the ritual. To have admitted a failure of such magnitude would show a weakness David knew he couldn't afford even his most loyal followers to see, so only two people knew the full extent of what had gone wrong. One was Lucius Malfoy and the other was David's werewolf.
"It would seem your son is finally awake, Lucius." David gestured at the window and Draco, realising he had been seen, darted behind the curtains.
Lucius let out a growl of annoyance. "I should have left him in the punishment room. A night sleeping on cold stone would probably have him grovelling at your feet, my Lord."
"I doubt that," Shadow's mellifluous tones interjected into the conversation and Lucius' eyes narrowed in annoyance at the werewolf's impertinence. "Draco may be many things, but he isn't one to capitulate easily. He's very stubborn. The problem now is that he has seen both myself and Cloud." He gestured at the redhead who was standing quietly out of earshot. "If your son should tell anyone we were here...." He left the sentence unfinished and raised an eyebrow, his expression speaking volumes.
David waved a hand absently as if to dismiss any worries. "Draco will not betray you if I let him return to Hogwarts. I might just keep him as my pet." He smirked and raised his voice to include Cloud. "One needs a pet to play with, don't you agree, Cloud?"
Scurrying to the Dark Lord's side, Cloud nodded. "Yes, Master, but ... I wonder...." He looked down again, cheeks flushing.
David placed a finger under the boy's chin to make him look up. "Wondered what, my Cloud?"
The flush deepened as the finger slithered, snake-like, in small circles over Cloud's freckled skin. "I ... do I need to go back to Hogwarts?" He straightened. "You don't need Malfoy. I could stay here, to serve you."
"You could, could you?" David continued with his caress. There was nothing like healthy competition to get the best out of people and it would be intriguing to see how his two young Death Eaters managed to work together considering they were life-long foes. It had worked with Lucius and Severus -- both desperate to please at the expense of the other. And already Cloud was worried that another had taken his place as the Dark Lord's favourite.
The caress turned into a test as David fitted his hand around Cloud's throat and squeezed, feeling the boy swallow as the pressure on his windpipe increased. Would Cloud just remain there and let David strangle him? He considered testing the boy's resolve, but decided this wasn't the time or place. "I need you at Hogwarts to fulfil your task there. Do well and I may reward you with the honour of becoming my personal attendant."
Cloud's face broke into a smile and as David pulled his hand away, the boy sank to his knees and kissed the hem of Voldemort's robes. "Yes, Master. Thank you, Master."
Reaching down to rest his hand on the boy's head, he looked at Shadow. "How is my Cloud progressing?"
"You taught him well, Master. He has removed almost half of the spells and replaced them with countercharms that mimic the originals so no one will notice what's happening to the castle."
"You will be finished in time." It was not a question but a statement.
"Of course. When you give the word the countercharms will be removed and Hogwarts will be defenceless. What about Harry Potter? Do you wish us to continue suppressing his magic?"
David's eyes narrowed. Potter, the bane of his existence. Who would have thought someone of such lowly birth would cause him so much trouble?
The Four Founders had harnessed Earth Magic to build the castle and he'd first experienced the incredible primordial power of it on the day he'd started at Hogwarts. He remembered clearly the sensation of something bubbling up through the lake on his journey in the boat and had known that one day whatever that something was, would become part of him.
Over the years he'd found out what lay under the castle -- pure, raw Earth Magic -- and that it held the answer to everything he desired. He had inherited a connection to the magic and knew once he'd mastered it no one would be able to stop him; the Wizarding world would be his to command and he would finally have the immortality he had so long craved.
Yet even after all these years the magic still eluded him and David had always needed potions and spells to make his connection to it. His search for an answer had involved much personal pain and suffering, but eventually it had lead him to the Crucis Hora ritual.
The ritual required four magical elements to be placed at the points of the compass, imbibing the earth with their powers. To the north was the Elixir of Life, while at the south was placed the Scales of a Basilisk. The east held the Breath of a Dementor's Kiss and, finally, to the west was the Blood of a Mother's Sacrifice.
This elemental cross was created over the Earth Magic power point, which was then capped by a Hallows stone; the lock for his Key.
Seventeen years ago, when he'd first attempted the ritual, the Hallows had come from the Isle of Portland on the Dorset coast and had been carved from limestone. He had struggled to procure the other items, at great cost to himself both financially and spiritually.
This time, the Hallows had been the most powerful one in the Wizarding world. Sculpted from Bluestone, its removal from the Parliament at Stonehenge was supposed to sound a death knell to those who defied him.
But Potter had interfered yet again. Despite their best efforts, Cloud and Shadow hadn't prevented the brat from getting in the way. Potter should have been if not dead then at least incapacitated by now. David had always known Potter was the boy of the prophecy, but to find out he was actually a fledgling Earth Mage as well made it even more imperative that David be the one to control Potter rather than that old fool Dumbledore.
Was Draco the only person Potter had Marked or were there others? Severus perhaps -- that would explain why he could no longer sense the traitor.
No matter, David knew he would eventually triumph. It was written in his stars that the Hallows and Earth Magic would let him lead the Wizarding world into a new utopia where Muggles wouldn't pollute their bloodlines. Potter, as an Earth Mage, was the ultimate Key with access to all the energy points anywhere in the world, including the one here at Malfoy Manor and the one at Hogwarts.
A smile quirked at the corner of his mouth as he wondered just how strong the relationship was between Potter and Draco. He knew they were sleeping with each other, but that didn't mean anything; sex was, after all, just sex. But what if it was more? Would Potter sacrifice himself for Draco? Give himself over to the Dark Lord in exchange?
Or once he'd broken Draco to his will, perhaps he would make the boy turn Potter over to him.
So many possibilities to indulge himself with.
He looked back at Shadow. "Leave Potter to me, I will deal with him. But I want you to watch my Potions Master. I want to know what Severus' part in this is and I want him to suffer for his betrayal."
"And the fact Draco has seen both Cloud and myself?"
Glancing back up at the window, David pointed his wand towards the room. "He's already forgotten about you. Now it's time for you to leave." Looking down at his young Death Eater, he stroked the boy's head much as he would a faithful hound. "Remember that when you see Draco again you are to treat him as you always have. No one is to know that you are both brothers carrying my Mark. Don't disappoint me."
"I won't, Master." Cloud came to his feet, gave quick bow and hurried after Shadow.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Pulling back from the window, Draco attempted to hide behind the curtains. He could still see the terrace below and wished the window was open so he could hear what was being said. But it was the sight of two people in particular that held his attention.
He looked again just to make sure he wasn't mistaken, but there they were, as large as life. Lupin was with his father and Voldemort while the Weasel was standing off to one side away from the older men. He knew he wasn't mistaken -- that was definitely Weasley red hair.
"Well, fuck me!" The expletive was one of whispered surprise at the realisation that two of Harry's best friends were involved with the Dark Lord.
Lupin didn't really surprise him. Despite the man's amicable ways, there had always been something dark and ominous about him that had raised Draco's hackles. Of course, all had become clear once word got out that the man was a werewolf.
Draco shuddered. He'd been scared of werewolves for as long as he could remember. Then, two summers ago, he'd had the misfortune to meet one in the middle of its transformation. The creature, Greyback, had turned out to be an acquaintance of his father's but that didn't stop the memory of its foul breath when it had appeared one moonlit night in the Manor gardens.
Yet Harry still trusted Lupin. Draco had heard rumours that Harry's father had been friends with the creature and that Black was somehow involved. And, of course, Dumbledore liked them all. So it made sense that Lupin should return to Hogwarts as a teacher again. But for how long had Lupin been involved with the Death Eaters?
As for Weasley, Draco didn't even want to contemplate what Harry would be like when he found out about his best friend's betrayal. He glanced back out of the window just as the redhead knelt at Voldemort's feet. Was Weasley already a Death Eater? If he was then he'd probably taken the Mark on his eighteenth birthday, whenever that was -- Draco would have to check.
Surely Dumbledore must know about both of them. But if he did, why had he let Weasley take over as Head Boy back in February when Justin Finch-Fletchley had suddenly been pulled out of school?
Eyes widening, he let out a gasp of horror as the memory of what had happened the previous night spilled painfully from his subconscious. He dropped back against the wall, suddenly needing some sort of support.
His father had killed Finch-Fletchley and Draco's hand had been on the wand as Lucius had spoken the Avada Kedavra curse. He had watched as Justin had pleaded for help ... he had felt the magic of the curse flare through his wand ... and he had seen the life leave Justin's eyes.
It had been....
Draco took a shuddering breath as he tried to understand what it was he was now feeling. He cared little for Finch-Fletchley and actually didn't know much about him; the boy had seemed to be an idiot with an over-inflated ego who was not only a Hufflepuff but a Mudblood as well. If he'd heard of Finch-Fletchley's death under any other circumstances the truth was that he probably wouldn't have cared in the slightest. But this was different. He'd felt the boy die and he suddenly understood why Harry had been so devastated by the death of Cedric Diggory during the Triwizard Tournament.
He would never be able to tell anyone what had happened to Finch-Fletchley. While he hadn't cast the spell, his hand had been on the wand ... on his wand. He'd be sent to Azkaban along with his father.
He was trembling when he looked out of the window again. Weasley was still on his knees and Draco wasn't sure whether it was the death of Finch-Fletchley or the Weasel's betrayal that upset him more. How, he wondered, was he going to tell Harry and would Harry actually believe him?
Then he realised the Dark Lord was pointing his wand at him. Draco ducked but felt the magic wash over him and for a moment he thought he was going to pass out. The sensation seemed to go on for a long time and if Draco had been able to see himself during those moments, he would have noticed that he was staring vacantly ahead, as if in a daze, and that his eyes had glazed over. But the moment passed and when his mind finally focused again he had completely forgotten about anyone being on the terrace.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Finally alone with Lucius, David turned his attention to the other man. "It's a shame Draco is such a failure." He watched as Lucius stiffened a little at the comment, clearly not enjoying the predicament his son had put him in.
"I blame Dumbledore's influence. I should have sent him to Durmstrang but his mother was insistent."
"Oh?" David quirked an eyebrow. "Your wife is the ruler in this house?"
"Of course not, Master. I can assure you...."
"I don't want your assurance, my slippery friend. Your devotion is much more important." Lucius started to speak but David silenced him with a casual wave of his hand. "Draco is flawed in so many ways that he is almost a lost cause. What I need from you is a new Malfoy heir, a son to replace him."
A muscle in Lucius' cheek twitched a little. "But Narcissa is unable to bear more children. We have tried."
"Then it's time for you to find a new wife, Lucius -- one that can produce a son. Perhaps you should marry Gwladus Llewelyn. We know she is fertile."
"I'm sure her father can be persuaded to accept another Malfoy-Llewelyn match. After all, he's not going to allow Gwladus to marry Draco once he finds out the truth about his prospective son-in-law." David gave a nonchalant shrug. "She's hardly your son's sort, don't you agree?" The remark was cavalier, as if he wasn't concerned, but it had the required effect on Lucius, whose look of confusion made David smile. He feigned surprise. "Didn't you know of your son's predilection for his own sex, Lucius? He will not provide you with a future heir."
"I...." Lucius spluttered.
"Draco's latest sexual conquest is none other than Harry Potter." At the other man's look of non-comprehension, David leaned closer. "He shares his bed with Potter, Lucius. He lets Potter fuck him. He thinks he's in love."
"Didn't you wonder whose Mark he now carries?"
"I ... didn't look."
"Well, I suggest you do. You will see Potter has used the shape of the scar I gave him as his Mark and it's there on your loyal son's arm. That is why last night's ceremony didn't work, Lucius. Your son chose a half-blood traitor over me."
Then David saw what he'd been waiting for; a change in the man's expression. Lucius' carefully schooled features morphed, grey eyes becoming full of rage and a pink flush of anger colouring his face. Oh how he loved breaking people, and Lucius was such fun to break. He gave a sly grin as he rested a hand on the man's shoulder. "It's such a shame but I do still have use for him even though he is flawed. Tell me, Lucius, what would you do if I took away your magic? Would you beg for its return? Do anything to get it back?"
David stepped away. He understood the Malfoys and knew how to deal with them. Draco would not be able to live without magic and once the boy realised that he would do anything to get it back -- even betray those he was most fond of.
"I am returning to London for a few days. Despite what happened yesterday, the time is right to put other plans into operation. While I am gone you will punish your son and explain to him the error of his ways. He's to be left alone to consider his position and he's to see or speak to no one, especially his mother. Have you house-elves remove all his personal belongings from his room. Do not let me down this time, Lucius. My forgiveness isn't infinite."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...
He was in a large circular room sitting at an enormous claw-footed desk. The frames that had contained portraits of Hogwarts' headmasters and headmistresses were now empty and the silver instruments that had once puffed smoke and made funny little noises lay broken on the floor. The Sorting Hat was dead, now just a shabby, tattered wizard's hat.
In front of him was an open journal, the parchment creamy and expensive. There were lists of names written in violet ink; names he knew like Jordon and Brocklehurst, Corner and Lovegood, Crabbe and Patil.
He picked up a quill and crossed out another name -- Hermione Granger.
"Next." His voice was strangely high-pitched and cold, the sound that an icicle might make if it could talk. He looked at the line of bloodied and bowed people snaking around the room, each one shackled by magic and forced to hobble forward, prodded by wands that cut and burned and made people whimper.
"Next!" This time his voice was louder, harder, angrier at the delay.
It took him a moment to recognise the next prisoner because his blond hair was matted with blood. He smirked at the boy and raised his wand. "You picked the wrong side, Draco. Avada Kedavra!"
A burst of green light filled the room and dead grey eyes stared up at him.
Harry woke, sitting ramrod straight, sweat cooling on his trembling skin.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Severus let Harry sleep and took great delight in not telling Black just where his godson was. He'd seen the other man rushing around the castle looking the worse for wear and asking people if they'd seen Harry. Of course no one had because the boy was in Severus' private quarters.
Now with the morning almost gone, he was sitting at his desk trying to make sense of some sixth-year homework and wondering just what had happened the previous night to deplete Harry Potter to the point of near collapse.
The boy talked in his sleep, muttering things that Severus couldn't quite grasp. There had been times all those years ago when he still considered himself loyal to Voldemort that Severus thought he knew when the Dark Lord was dreaming. He would catch glimpses of it through the Mark that joined them -- light bright moments that felt like sunshine and dark cloying touches that tasted of death.
Now that Harry had Marked him, Severus knew he'd swapped one master for another. He assumed Harry would be a much kinder master, but he wasn't sanguine about it. People changed and needed scapegoats. Eyes resting on the sleeping boy, he felt carefully along the emergent bond. Perhaps if he knew what Harry was dreaming, he might be able to help the boy settle.
A burst of green light filled the room and dead grey eyes stared up at him
Severus gasped, breaking the bond with practiced ease as Harry suddenly cried out, sitting ramrod straight, gasping for breath and eyes fixed at something only he could see.
"No!" The single word was urgent as Harry, still half asleep, scrambled to his feet, the blanket tangling about his limbs. "Oh god, Draco!"
Severus was at Harry's side almost instantly and took hold of the boy's arms. "Slowly, Potter. You're having a nightmare."
Harry clawed at him, trying to pull away. "But Draco.... He's in trouble -- I need to get to him." His legs buckled.
"You are having a nightmare," he repeated as he lowered Harry back to the sofa. Unlike his bond with Voldemort, he wondered if this one went both ways and he tried to send calming thoughts through it.
Harry stared about him, fear visible in the green eyes, then down at his trembling hands. "What's happening? What's wrong with me?"
"You were having a very vivid dream. Also, I believe you are suffering from the effects of magical enervation." At Harry's confused look, Severus gave an exasperated huff. "Overuse of one's magical energies." He crossed to a cupboard full of hundreds of bottles and rummaged inside. Eventually he found the one he was looking for. "I told you how dangerous wandless magic could be when used without the proper training." He tipped a measured amount of the deep blue liquid into a glass and held it out to Harry.
"But I haven't been doing wandless magic." Harry took the glass and sniffed at the potion. "It looks like ink."
"You've been using very powerful energies with only minimal training." He pointed at the glass. "Drink. It will help clear your head. Then you need to eat and rest before running off and attempting something typically stupid, even for a Gryffindor."
Harry scowled but didn't protest as emptied the glass. "Did you know?"
"I know many things, but I am not a mind reader."
"Did you know what Professor Dumbledore was planning for Draco?" Harry stared at the glass. "And is that why you wanted me to do the protection magic on him?"
Severus stared at the boy for a moment. Of course he knew. Not everything, of course, Albus kept his own counsel on many things, but he knew about the ritual and Draco's part in it. He knew that Albus had manipulated the friendship between Draco and Harry; in fact Albus had asked for the two to be paired in Potions and, no doubt, other lessons.
And he knew what would happen if Draco lost his life because of this. Of course Albus would be saddened, but the old man wouldn't mourn over the boy. Draco was, after all, a Malfoy and a Slytherin whose father had made it quite clear which side he supported. If Draco died, would there be black drapes in the Great Hall as there had been for Cedric Diggory?
Severus did understand and, to some extent, agree with what Albus had been trying to achieve. Voldemort had to be stopped from accessing Earth Magic at any cost. If the Dark Lord ever managed to harness that energy the consequences for both the magical and Muggle worlds would be disastrous. But to heap all one's expectations on two teenage boys and their unpredictable hormones was really an accident waiting to happen.
"Yes, that is why I asked you to do the magic." Severus pointed his wand at the small table next to the sofa and a steaming teapot and a plate of sandwiches appeared. "What were you doing outside of Draco's room?"
"I thought...." Harry pulled the blanket around his shoulders. "I was trying to get back to Malfoy Manor."
"And you thought Draco might have some sort of secret cabinet that would let you get there?" The tone was suitably sarcastic.
"Not exactly." Harry worried his bottom lip and Severus knew the boy wasn't telling him the truth. He debated whether to push the subject but decided this wasn't the time or place. "I know Draco's alive, but I need to find out if he's okay."
Severus watched as Harry took a sandwich from the offered plate and stared at it as if it somehow offended him. "I think you should tell me what happened."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Malfoy Manor ... Early Afternoon...
He had been sitting on the window seat for some time now, staring out at what had once been pristine lawns full of his birthday guests. Now the grass had been trampled flat by Death Eaters who had been watching when everything had gone wrong the previous night. He was just contemplating how his father had managed to hide the existence of the stolen Hallows Capstone from all those guests when a softly spoken voice broke into his reverie.
His head snapping up at the voice, Draco's heart leapt with joy as he saw his father standing by the door. Suddenly it no longer mattered that Lucius had abandoned him to Voldemort's tender mercies; his father was coming to get him and everything was going to be fine after all. "Father...!" He scrambled to his feet and rushed towards the man, the smile on his face a mixture of relief and excitement.
Draco froze; he was used to that tone and knew how to respond to it. But there was something else in his father's demeanour, something that stabbed an icy knife deep into his gut and twisted it. His father was appraising him in much the same way one might look at a house-elf.
The brief surge of joy dissolved and he felt as if his heart was going to break. He really had lost the most important person in his life. The toy lion he had been holding slipped from his fingers as he reached out to the man and mouthed, "Please."
Lucius continued to stare. Then finally he spoke. "Draco, I am very disappointed in you."
It was the worst thing his father could have said. Draco knew how to deal with most things ... anger ... annoyance ... praise ... even his father leaving him with the Dark Lord and letting the madman torture him. But knowing that he was a disappointment to Lucius was just too much for Draco to bear.
The cold appraisal continued until finally Lucius covered the distance between them with his long stride. He reached for his son's neck and pulled at the silver chain hanging around it. The chain cut momentarily into Draco's neck before giving way and he wondered briefly whether the broken links had slit his skin.
"Did Potter give you this?" The dangling chain with the little star swinging back and forth was thrust into Draco's face. "Did he?"
The quiet measured tone made Draco flinch. He'd never been able to directly lie to his father and in the end he nodded.
"And this worthless object? Did he give you that as well?" Lucius flicked at the toy lion with the tip of his shoe and sent it sailing into the air. It landed across the room, upright on all four paws and Draco could have sworn it growled.
"I asked you to bring him to me -- I even gave you the tools with which to do it, but instead you continue to let me down."
"I'm sorry, father."
Lucius pocketed the chain and grabbed at his son's arm, fingers digging painfully into Draco's bicep, and without ceremony Apparated them both to his study. Once there he dragged Draco to the centre of the room and pointed at a spot on the carpet. "Don't move."
Draco quickly stepped to the spot and did as instructed. He'd been like this before, in this room, feeling his father's wrath, and knew what Lucius expected of him. Eyes downcast, he watched his father's feet as the man paced. He'd only seen his father this angry a few times before and it scared him to feel the displeasure rolling off Lucius in waves. He needed to remain calm and focused to cope with this but at the moment he felt neither; in fact he was shaking and close to tears.
Perhaps if he said sorry ... tried to explain ... did what his father wanted....
Finally Lucius stopped in front of him and Draco focused on the toes of his father's immaculately clean shoes. "What is this?"
Draco looked up and saw his father was pointing at the crest above the fireplace. He swallowed nervously. "The Malfoy coat of arms."
"And what is the family motto?"
"La Famille Puis Le Devoir, L'Honneur Toujours." Draco remembered the first time his father had told him about the Malfoy motto. They had been here, in the study, with Draco sitting on Lucius' knee as he had explained the words.
"Family First, Duty Second," Draco took a breath, "Honour Always."
"And which part of this do you NOT understand."
"I didn't know...."
"Quiet! That was not a question." Lucius leaned in, hissing the words directly into Draco's face. Then with his arms held loosely behind his back, he resumed his pacing. "Family First. This is your family. It is Malfoy blood that flows through your veins, not the tainted half-blood of someone like Potter. You are the heir of this family and should conduct yourself in a manner befitting that position. Do you understand?"
Draco nodded. "Yes, father."
"Duty Second. Your duty is to me as head of the Malfoy family. Your purpose in life is to follow the direction I set and accept my word as law. Your public and private life reflects on this family and you have besmirched its good name by your actions. Do you understand?"
Draco swallowed. His father was talking very quietly, the measured tones much worse than if Lucius was raging. "Yes, father."
"Honour Always." Lucius suddenly stopped and looked his son in the eye. "Where is the honour, Draco, in fornicating with Potter?"
Draco gasped. How had his father found out?
"Yes, I know all about your disgusting unnatural habits." Lucius reached for his son's chin, holding it lightly. "Did you really think I wouldn't find out?"
Draco tried to look away but the grip tightened and all he could say was, "I'm sorry."
"And no doubt you think you've fallen in love with him." The sarcasm dripping from the words was almost palpable. "You think that you are in love with Harry Potter and he with you? You disappoint me, Draco. You are a weak fool and not worthy of the Malfoy name."
"It wasn't like that, let me explain...."
"Shhhhh." The fingers moved to cover Draco's lips, the gesture so gentle that it threw Draco off balance. "You are a disgrace to the Malfoy name, Draco -- a disgrace to your pure-blood heritage. Your family *always* comes first. Even before the Dark Lord and certainly before a half-blood like Potter." Lucius suddenly grabbed at Draco's left arm, pulling at the pyjama jacket sleeve. "You even let that blood traitor Mark you."
"I'm sorry," Draco managed to whisper. He tried to find his beloved father in Lucius' eyes. "Please, father. He's taken away my magic, don't let him take you away as well."
Lucius stared at him for a very long time before speaking again. "You will remain here standing on that spot until I send word that you may move. You will contemplate that motto and what it is to be a Malfoy. When the Dark Lord asks you, you will do as he wishes, not because he commands it but because I demand it. You will ask for his forgiveness and you will accept his Mark."
With that, he turned on his heel and strode from the room.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lucius stood by the slightly open door and watched his son through the gap. He knew there was no need to keep watch because Draco wouldn't move until instructed; once he'd left Draco for over ten hours and the boy had remained on the exact spot almost dead on his feet. He prided himself on having instilled such obedience into his son without the need for the physical chastisement some of his friends used on their children.
He had always assumed Draco would obey whatever instructions Lucius gave, but his son's rampant adolescent hormones clearly held more sway in what Draco did these days. Had he taught the boy nothing? The occasional sexual dalliance was of no regard, he'd had his share of them both before and during his marriage and there was nothing wrong in that. Draco, however, had clearly taken his momentary aberration too far and was only too willing to be swayed by his hormone-led trysts with Potter rather than carrying out his father's plans and instructions.
How long, he wondered, had it been going on? And why hadn't he noticed something was wrong when he'd visited Draco just before Christmas?
His son's stupidity would cost the whole family dearly. Lucius knew he could deal with the loss of the Earth Magic; he may have lusted after it all his life, but what one never had one never truly missed. He could even deal with the Dark Lord's retribution, though it would be difficult and, possibly, painful. The problem was the fact the Llewelyn marriage might not go ahead. He'd already set into motion certain business opportunities that counted on procuring the precious Bluestone from the Llewelyn estates. But that counted on Draco marrying Gwladus and a Malfoy being in control. Draco would always defer to his father in business matters.
The Dark Lord was right -- what pure-blood would allow his daughter to marry someone of dubious magical ability? If it were the other way round Lucius would certainly never allow Draco to marry Gwladus.
Quietly he closed the door. Perhaps there was merit to the Dark Lord's suggestion of alternative marriage arrangements after all.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Harry ... at last! Sirius and Professor Dumbledore are looking for you."
Glancing up, Harry gave Hermione a little smile. He'd managed to sneak up to Gryffindor Tower about an hour earlier and was currently lying on the sofa in front of the fire in the little seventh-year common room. He still felt drained and was grateful for the fact that it was Hermione rather than either Sirius or Dumbledore because he really didn't want to talk to either man at the moment.
The toy dragon, which had been a Valentine present from Draco, spread its wings, flying from Harry's side to the arm of the sofa. It stared at Hermione with its iridescent eyes and growled. The creature was inclined to be very protective.
"Please don't tell anyone you've found me." Harry gave her his best pleading look and hoped she might fall for it. "I just need a bit of space."
Hermione studied him for a moment before sitting down on the edge of the sofa and placing a hand on Harry's forehead. "You look really pale. Are you sure you don't need to see Madam Pomfrey?"
"I'm tired, that's all." He'd had three doses of Severus' potion now and while he did feel much better, the dream kept coming back and every time it did, he would wake trembling with fatigue. It was as if the dream was a premonition of what would happen if Harry did bring down the Hogwarts' wards to get away; that he would let Voldemort in and everyone would die. Now all he could think of was his hand crossing Hermione's name off a list of dead people.
"Okay, we'll give it an hour, but after that we're going to find them." She brushed a lock of hair from his forehead. "What happened? You were supposed to be away until next week."
"It's...." He looked at her -- really looked for the first time in ages. Hermione was his best friend, perhaps even more so than Ron. She had turned into his confidante and was one of the few people who knew about Draco. He looked into those brown eyes and knew -- just knew -- they would be friends forever. But... "Hermione, do I scare you?"
"Do I scare you? Does the idea of me being an Earth Mage scare you?"
She looked shocked for a moment and he thought she was going to say 'yes', but then she grabbed his hand. "Of course not. I always knew you were going to be special from the first time I saw you on the Hogwarts Express and you know I'll do anything I can to help you. Even put up with Malfoy. Harry, what's this really about?"
Harry closed his eyes and tried to connect with the bond again. He'd been checking regularly since Snape had explained what he needed to do, but he could feel nothing except fear and loneliness that he was convinced was actually his own. "It's Draco."
Opening his eyes, he quickly began telling her what had happened in the last twenty-four hours.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"I need to find out what's happening to Draco. Maybe get a message to him."
For several minutes Hermione didn't answer. Her mind was still digesting all that Harry had told her and she was just a little in awe of what Harry had managed to do with his fledgling Earth Magic. She'd always known that there had to be a reason why Voldemort hadn't managed to kill Harry all those years ago, but this changed everything. Harry was an incredibly powerful wizard and she would have to do some more research to find out just what an Earth Mage was capable of. She doubted there would be any useful books in the Restricted Section, so where else could she look? Hadn't Harry told her that Snape had hundreds of books? Would the Potions Master give her access to his private library?
It was only when Harry nudged her elbow that she looked up from her musings.
She blinked. "A message?"
"Yes -- to Draco. I can't send Hedwig because everyone knows her and I don't want to use a school owl. I'd go to Hogsmeade myself but...." Harry took a breath and Hermione knew from his expression that he wasn't going to be completely honest with her. "I promised Professor Dumbledore that I wouldn't leave the grounds. So, will you send a message for me?" He looked at her, his eyes pleading.
Send an owl to Malfoy? Hermione didn't really see any problem with it but something prickled at the back of her mind. Why would Professor Dumbledore want to keep Harry inside the Hogwarts grounds? Was it something to do with Harry's question about being people being scared of him? "I can, but do you really think it's a good idea?"
Harry's eyes opened wide as if he was surprised at her reply. "I have to know, Hermione."
"Yes, I can see that." And she could, it was written all over Harry's face how much he cared for Malfoy. "But try and look at it logically for a moment. You made sure the ceremony didn't go the way it was supposed to, so we can assume You-Know-Who wouldn't be happy with Malfoy."
"Which is why I want to get a message to him."
"Okay, just let me finish. What's going to happen if you send a message and someone else reads it? Malfoy wouldn't be able to answer and, worse, it could put him into even more danger because they'd know about you and him."
"I wouldn't put my name on it."
"Then what will you put? Have you both come up with a secret code for clandestine messages?" She huffed and folded her arms in annoyance. Sometimes she just wanted to slap Harry around the head in the hope of knocking some sense into him.
"Okay, point taken. But there has to be a way."
"And then there's another problem." She took a breath, knowing what she was going to say could just enflame their conversation. "What if Malfoy -- or the person reading it -- wanted to set a trap for you? They could answer the message and you'd go rushing in."
"I'm not stupid, Hermione. I'm not just going to go charging in." Harry's voice rose a notch and the toy dragon flexed its wings as if it was picking up on Harry's anguish.
"Like you didn't try to go charging in last night?" Hermione raised her eyebrows in what people called her 'McGonagall look'. She didn't agree with them, of course.
At first Harry glared at her, but the expression soften and instead he looked like a chastised child. "That might have been a little rash, but will you do it if I promise not to do anything without talking to you first?
She smiled. "Okay. Let me have a think about this."
Hermione's problem was that she couldn't decide exactly how she felt about Draco Malfoy. It was clear Harry was besotted with the Slytherin and was happy to forget Malfoy's spiteful behaviour to Harry, Ron and herself over their years at Hogwarts. Of course, she'd had a couple of long conversations with Malfoy herself in recent weeks and he did seem to have changed. In fact she didn't like to admit it, but he was much more likable these days. Perhaps he'd always been like that but had hidden that side of himself because of what was expected of him.
But there was still the fact that Malfoy might have been lying to Harry and that he'd always planned on becoming one of Voldemort's Death Eaters. What if last night's ritual had gone exactly as Voldemort had wanted? Maybe Harry hadn't prevented something from happening. Maybe he'd actually helped rather than hindered and Malfoy was currently sitting at the Manor in Wiltshire with his father and the Dark Lord all laughing at how they'd tricked the Chosen One.
Well, Harry had to learn one way or another whom he could trust.
She was just about to speak when there was a loud crack that made both Harry and herself jump.
Dobby the house-elf gave an awkward half bow because of the tray he was balancing on his head. "Dobby has brought Harry Potter something to eat." The elf clicked his fingers. The tray floated towards the floor where it grew legs and turned into a little table complete with a silver cake stand. Another click and the plates became loaded with sandwiches and cakes.
Harry pushed himself up on his elbow. "Thanks, but I'm not hungry."
"Oh no, Harry Potter." Dobby waggled his finger. "Professor Snape says you must eat or else."
"Or else what?"
"He says nothing else. Just or else." The elf reached for the teapot. "Dobby is happy for Hermione Granger to have a cake." A long finger pointed. "This one is your favourite."
Hermione smiled. The cake was, indeed, one of her favourites. "Thanks." Then a thought suddenly struck her and she grabbed at Harry's arm. "Harry, I think I know what you can do."
"The message." She squeezed his arm and turned back to the house-elf. "Dobby, do you still know any of the elves at Malfoy Manor?"
Already huge eyes opened wide and Hermione thought she saw tears in them. "Oh yes. Dobby misses them. Not all of them. Dobby still hates Inky and Fava."
"Could you ask them a question for Harry Potter? Could you ask them if Draco Malfoy had a good birthday party?"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Friday 10th April 1998
The Great Hall...
The nightmare had been the same, except this time the person stepping up to the desk had been dark-haired and green-eyed. This time the cold high-pitched voice had told him it was all his fault that Hogwarts had fallen.
His fault everyone was dead.
Harry had woken bathed in sweat and shaking uncontrollably. It had taken ages standing under the shower and two of Madam Pomfrey's headache potions to make him feel just a little bit human.
Now, several hours later, he was at long last feeling better. Sitting at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, he stared into his bowl of soup as if it was a Pensieve that would give him all the answers he needed. Then, dropping the spoon into the bowl, he gave a little laugh. Perhaps he should get Professor Trelawney to interpret the dreams for him.
Pushing back his chair, he was just about to get to his feet when a small owl landed on the table. It held out its leg for Harry to take the message.
It was from Professor Dumbledore; the Headmaster wanted to see him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Professor Dumbledore was standing at the window in his office overlooking the Quidditch pitch and turned at Harry's approaching footsteps.
"Ah, good afternoon, Harry."
"You wanted to see me, sir." Harry's response was cordial, most of his ire at the Headmaster had now dissipated, but a small ember waited at the back of his mind, eager to do battle.
"Yes, I have some news for you. I've heard from my contact about the situation at Malfoy Manor." Dumbledore's hand swept toward one of the portraits on the wall. The man in the painting had a pointed beard and was dressed in green and silver. "This is Phineas Nigellus."
"You asked a painting?" The ember began to glow.
The man in the portrait scowled and muttered something about ungrateful Gryffindors. "He's a Muggle-Born, Albus. How would he know we can visit our other portraits?"
"Of course I know that." Harry returned the scowl.
"Phineas is a Hogwarts Headmaster and I expect you to show him the same respect you show me. All old Headmasters and Headmistresses are honour-bound to help the current Head teacher."
"He is also Sirius' great-great-grandfather and related to Narcissa Malfoy. As there are portraits of him at the Manor he has been there to find out about Draco."
Harry wanted to ask about how Dumbledore knew the portrait was telling the truth? In the end, he decided this wasn't the time for another argument with the Headmaster. He settled for a simple, "Thank you."
"Well you tell Harry what you saw, Phineas?"
The man straightened his jacket and brushed at an invisible threat. "Young Draco's parents gave him the Manor's south wing as a birthday present and he spent yesterday moving into the new rooms. Of course his house-elves did the actual work -- his mother picked out two for Draco's personal retinue."
Harry took a step closer to the portrait. "Did you actually see him?"
"Of course." Phineas blustered, clearly annoyed that Harry was questioning him. "He was in the study with his father and both looked well. And his mother was talking to one of her friends about holidaying in Wales. Now, if you will excuse me, I'm late for a very important game of chess." And with that, he was gone.
"I was going to ask him to give Draco a message." Harry stared at the blank canvas.
"To remind him of the Portkey?"
"Yes," he nodded and felt the comforting pressure of a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't worry. I've already asked him to go back."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Leaving the Headmaster's office, Harry found himself wandering aimlessly around the corridors. He eventually ended up sitting on the steps leading up to the main entrance and that was where Dobby found him. The house-elf pulled off his woolly hat and gave a little bow.
"Dobby had been looking for Harry Potter, sir."
With a half-smile, Harry debated whether to ask Dobby to sit but in the end decided against it. Even though Dobby was a free elf, the creature still got very emotional when someone tried to treat him as an equal. "I've been with Professor Dumbledore."
It had been an almost cathartic conversation in the end. They had talked in detail about Voldemort's ritual and of the protection magic Harry had performed on Draco. He still hadn't told Dumbledore of Professor Snape's part in the magic. That, he decided was for Snape to tell if and when he decided to.
The house-elf kept worrying at his hat, long fingers clutching at it. "Dobby has been to the Manor."
"And?" Harry's attention was peaked.
"Master Draco was nowhere to be seen."
"He has gone away, Harry Potter. Or that is what Bobbin says. Bobbin is young master's new elf and he says he packed Master Draco's clothes and moved his furniture."
Harry frowned. Dobby seemed to confirm what Phineas Nigellus had said, but why didn't he believe it? "Are you sure?"
"Oh yes. Dobby looked and looked. But Dobby did find this in Master Lucius' chambers." He reached into a pocket and pulled out a thin silver chain on which dangled a small crystal star. "Dobby recognised it was Harry Potter's magic."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Malfoy Manor ... Sunset...
Draco was once again at the window, this time watching the last rays of the sun as it set behind the trees. The room would be in darkness soon with only moonlight to illuminate it.
The window seat was now the only place apart from the floor left for him to sit. Everything else had been removed by house-elves shortly after his father had allowed him to return to the room the previous night. They had left him with nothing but the clothes he wore, one blanket and the carpet on the floor. His bed, desk and chair, and even the contents of his wardrobes had been taken and Draco couldn't magic himself even the most basic of home comforts.
They'd even taken away the toy lion.
The house-elves had refused to answer any of his questions. He'd asked them to get his mother, but he was sure the message hadn't been delivered because he knew she would find a way to see him if he asked. In fact, apart from the elves that had brought him breakfast what seemed a lifetime ago, he'd seen and spoken to no one since the incident in the study.
Occasionally he thought he saw flashes of light out in the garden, as if there were night faeries flitting about down there. He used to watch the faeries with his grandmother and she had told him that if he ever caught one it would have to grant him a wish. He remembered running after them but the little creatures had always been too fast and he'd never got his wish. Forty-eight hours ago he'd thought he had everything he could ever want, but now he had nothing, not even his magic. Perhaps if he caught a fairy he could put his life back together again.
Draco wondered bitterly about faeries and his grandmother. He'd been told so many lies recently that he couldn't help but wonder if she had been telling him the truth. He looked out into the darkness again and wondered if the flashes of light were real or just his imagination.
He'd had lots of time to think since being taken to his father's study. Spending hours standing until he couldn't feel his legs anymore and then an uncomfortable, sleepless night on the floor followed by a day of silence did wonders to focus the mind. His father would be expecting him to spend the time contemplating the family motto and what it meant for his future, which was what he'd been doing, though not perhaps in the way his father would have approved of.
He gave a sigh. The fact was that his options were few and far between because whichever way he turned there were people who wanted to use him as part of their own plans.
Voldemort wanted Draco as his Key.
His father wanted Draco because he needed an heir to perpetuate the Malfoy name and prevent the family fortune from going to some long-lost relative in the wilds of France. Lucius also wanted the fortune Gwladus would bring to the family if Draco married her.
And Harry? Even Harry had tried to claim him.
Draco scratched absently at his arm where Harry's Mark overlaid the skull. Was he now tied to Harry in the same way he would have been tied to Voldemort? Would -- could -- Harry remove the Mark if Draco asked?
If he was ever going to sort this mess out, he needed to get away from the Manor. There had to be ways of surviving without magic that didn't include being beholden to other people. He certainly didn't want to end up as a servant like Filch or, even worse, Hagrid. It couldn't be that difficult to survive without magic, after all Muggles did it all the time.
Perhaps he could go and live in the Muggle world. He gave a perverse smile; wouldn't that make his father livid?
He could get out of the country and start a new life in France or Italy; he spoke French quite well and had been to France and Italy several times on holiday. But he'd need Muggle money to do that. Would Gringott's still let him access his vault and was it possible to change Galleons into Muggle money? He doubted Lucius would let him have any family money, but now he was eighteen, he had the little trust fund his grandmother had left him. It wasn't much, but would keep him going until he sorted out a job or something.
But where would be safe? Just how far did Voldemort's hand reach?
He looked up as the door opened and, for a brief moment, his heart beat faster at the thought that it might be his mother -- she would help him, she would have the answers he needed.
But it wasn't her. Instead two house-elves scurried in, neither looking at him. One carried a tray, which it placed on the floor just inside the door, while the other placed a lamp on the floor where his bed had once been and lit it. As they left, he sighed; at least he wasn't going to starve.
He glanced back out of the window and watched the lights in the garden. He needed a plan.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The East Tower, Hogwarts ... Evening...
Harry wandered around the small circular room on the third floor of the east tower touching things. The bedspread, a discarded pack of playing cards, Draco's robe, a pair of his own pyjama bottoms; familiar things that smelled of their owners and aroused memories of clandestine meetings and secret sex. He picked up the robe, bunched the material to his face and breathed in Draco's scent -- cloves and cinnamon and spices.
In the two hours since Dobby had given him the star, Harry had managed to upset just about everyone he spoke to.
He'd gone back to Dumbledore to tell the Headmaster he didn't believe what Phineas Nigellus had said. But when asked why, Harry couldn't say without revealing the star and its significance. Dumbledore had smiled his benign smile (which was beginning to really piss Harry off) told him not to worry and that in the meantime he needed to continue his studies with Sirius. As Harry had turned to leave, Dumbledore had told him not to study with Professor Snape any more, just with his godfather. Harry had told him that he wasn't a child any longer and he could do what he wanted. That had only made the old man look very sad, which made Harry feel guilty again.
Sirius, on the other hand, was angry that Harry had turned to Snape the previous day and wouldn't listen when Harry tried to explain how he'd ended up in the Potion Master's quarters.
He'd even managed to argue with Hermione and now Harry felt annoyed with himself for possibly alienating the one person who might be able to help him. They'd quarrelled over how Harry might make use of Earth Magic to try and talk to Draco without actually going to Malfoy Manor in person. He'd explained to her about the ley lines that criss-crossed the countryside and how he had used the one between Glastonbury and Avebury to get to the Manor for the ritual. Hogwarts was on one of these ley lines so why couldn't he try to do the same thing between Hogwarts and Avebury?
Hermione had quickly pointed out that he'd had Sirius to lead him through the magic and Snape's potion to help. What if he did manage to get there and then couldn't get back? It was, she claimed, stupid because Harry might end up placing himself into Voldemort's hands. No wonder Sirius and Dumbledore were worried about him.
Harry had responded that he wasn't an idiot. Hadn't he fought and won against Voldemort in the past? He'd told her that, potions or not, it was he who'd actually made the connection. He was the Earth Mage after all and there had to be a way to do this on his own. What, he'd demanded, would she want him to do if it was Ron rather than Draco who was in trouble? Wouldn't she want him to try then?
She had told him that wasn't the point and not to attempt something that was beyond his skills and which might possibly risk his life without at least discussing it with Sirius or even Professor Snape for that matter.
He'd called her a pompous know-it-all and told her that she always thought she was right. He'd told her that she was like everyone else who didn't care because it was only Malfoy in trouble.
Hermione had stared at him for several moments before saying simply, "You have no idea what I think, Harry Potter!" With that she'd walked away, leaving him fuming in the corridor and wondering if he could have said anything even more dim-witted.
At that point he'd come here, to the one place in Hogwarts he and Draco had made their own. Now, as darkness fell, he pulled on Draco's robe and dropped into one of the armchairs in front of the hearth. It had been another warm April day but now there was a chill in the air and he used his wand to light a fire in the grate.
The chair he had chosen to sit in was the one Draco normally used and resting on the arm was the book Draco was currently reading. He picked it up, running his fingers over the leather binding as if he could sense where the other boy had touched it. In the end he curled up on the chair, cradling the book against his chest, and stared into the flames.
He would have to find Hermione and apologise to her, but he still thought his idea of using the ley lines would work. Sooner or later he'd have to do this on his own, so why not now? Putting the book down, he took the star from his pocket and held up the chain. The crystal glinted in the firelight and he fiddled with the chain, finally managing to fix the damaged links. He was torn between excitement that Draco had managed to get it out of the Chinese puzzle box and worry as to how it had found its way into Lucius' hands. Had Draco given it to his father or had it been taken by force? And how had the chain been broken?
Taking off his glasses, he scratched absently at the end of his scar. It prickled and itched and he wondered what was making it do that?
Deciding that now was as good a time as any to try using the ley lines, Harry put his glasses back on and got to his feet. He absently wound the chain around his fingers as he crossed to the bed and stared down at it. Last time he'd been on this bed, he'd had Draco inside him and he could remember the way his lover tasted in his mouth, how sweet the kisses had been and the feel of Draco's fingers on his skin. Then, afterwards, when they'd exhausted each other, they had cuddled together under the covers and just enjoyed being together. Harry had felt so safe ... so wanted ... so loved.
He couldn't bear to lose Draco. Not when he'd only just found him.
Kicking off his shoes, Harry climbed onto the bed and made himself comfortable. Then taking several long, steadying breaths he tried to focus on the Earth Magic he knew ran through him.
So he tried something Sirius had suggested about picturing the energy.
The image that came to mind was of the lion that Draco had drawn on Harry's arm during the protection magic ritual. He could feel it on his arm and sense the way its tail flicked across his collarbone, but the lion seemed to be asleep and he didn't know how to wake it up. Then, just as he thought he would have to try a different image, he remembered the little mouse Draco had added to his drawing. The mouse reached for the lion's mane and tugged, pulling until the lion woke and shook its shaggy head.
Glowing shards of magic flew like drops of rain from the lion's mane and Harry found himself surrounded by it, as if he was wrapped in a soft blanket woven from the energy. Carefully he dipped into the magic and told himself he wanted to be at Avebury -- at the Manor.
At first he was convinced that nothing had happened, but when he opened his eyes, the canopy over the bed had gone and in its place was the night sky, the pale disc of the almost full moon washing out the stars. There was a light breeze blowing over him and reaching out his hands, he touched grass. He was lying on the ground.
Then the darkness hit him so hard that he gasped for breath as it crushed him under its heavy weight. It flowed from the ground beneath him, running through the roots of the grass, burning his skin and pushing into his pores where it touched.
Harry tried to let go but the grass seemed to be growing longer and longer, twisting about him like Devil's Snare. The darkness was all around him and in him and the shock from the contamination in the ground was violating him. He thought he might have screamed but that could have been the sound of magic rushing through him.
Then, just as he wondered if he was going to die, he felt the touch of a hand on his head and the sound of a female voice whispering in his ear.
"I've got you, Harry, I've got you. Struggling will only make things worse. You need to embrace the dark and not fear it. I need you to relax and imagine you are floating above the darkness and that you are free from its hold."
The hand caressed gently, the voice continuing its quiet instruction until finally Harry managed to push away the darkness as he had done three weeks ago when working with the Boy. As he did, the blades of grass broke, shrivelling back into the ground, releasing him from their dark hold. Finally free, he knew he was on the blanket of softly woven magic he'd imagined back in the room at Hogwarts. He let out a shuddering sigh of relief and pushed himself up on an elbow to face the person sitting beside him.
The lady was smiling. "Let that be a lesson to you, Harry. When you step into the Earth Magic world, always use caution. Work out where the darkness flows before you touch the ground." She tussled his hair. "Never forget that while you in this world, you are still in the other world. You are not invulnerable and must have someone to watch over you."
For a moment Harry didn't move. He thought he recognised the lady but he couldn't remember where he'd seen her before. She looked ethereal in the moonlight, almost as if she was translucent, and Harry wondered if he looked the same. "Who are you?"
She gave a familiar smile. "Can't you guess?"
Sitting up, he brushed off the broken and dead blades of grass that still clung to him. "I know you're the Earth Magic being, but...." He waved a hand. "Who are you?" Then the moonlight caught in her silver grey eyes and he finally remembered where he'd seen her before. "You're related to Draco. I saw your portrait above the fireplace in the study."
She nodded. "This is the form of Draco's paternal grandmother, Eleanor. It's an easy form to use within the grounds of the Manor because of the memories here." The Grandmother gestured past Harry and he turned to look.
Off to his right was the edifice of a huge building he knew was Malfoy Manor. Its shadowed bulk was in darkness now, apart from a few windows where candlelight glowed. Then he realised the icy silver sheen to everything wasn't moonlight; this was the frozen-in-time Earth Magic world. Around him everything was motionless, even an owl with its wings outstretched hung stock-still in mid-flight above him.
"Which room is Draco's?"
"It's that one -- second floor, fourth from the end, overlooking the terrace."
"People keep saying that Draco has gone away, but it feels like he's here."
"Is he okay?"
"The answer to that is relative to what you consider okay. He is well, but after what happened during Tom Riddle's ritual, he isn't safe."
"Can I see him?"
"Of course." She gave an indulgent half smile. "But he won't know you are here."
Harry studied the Grandmother for a moment. It was strange that when the being had used the forms of people he knew, he had believed them without question. But Draco hadn't talked about his family much and he wasn't really comfortable with this image even after what Dumbledore had told him about Eleanor. He debated asking her to change but in the end just nodded. "Okay, I'll settle with seeing he's alright." He got to his feet, wobbling a little on unsteady legs. "How do I get up there?"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Draco was good at making plans, at working out logically what option would be the best for him. Normally there were many options, but this time all his ideas hinged on two things. Whom did he trust and how could he get away from Malfoy Manor?
He'd quickly decided to leave his father out of his deliberations because every time he thought about the man he found himself falling into the familiar patterns he'd learned all his life. It was a son's duty to obey his father no matter what.
Of course, he could obey his father by going to the Dark Lord, asking for forgiveness and accepting the Dark Mark. He'd gone over and over what Voldemort had told him that night after the failed ritual and finally thought he understood what had happened.
The Dark Lord had Marked him, Draco had the skull and snake to prove it. Because Harry had already Marked him, Voldemort's Mark hadn't worked. That was why the snake had been set loose, to try and find a way through Harry's magic.
But, if Draco asked Voldemort to Mark him again, then what Harry had done would be totally negated. The protection Harry had given him would be lost and Draco could take the Mark as his father demanded.
The problem with that was obvious, it would put him squarely in Voldemort's pocket and while David Morrello might be a charismatic individual, what Draco had learned over the last few days was that beneath the handsome exterior was the most feared Dark wizard in a century. He'd come to realise just how little power Voldemort's followers actually had. His father was a prime example; an ostensibly powerful wizard who bowed to every command the Dark Lord gave him.
As for himself, Draco had only ever been one thing to the Dark Lord, a living Key, and just another pawn in the Dark Lord's game and as expendable as that chess piece. He didn't want to be just another of the man's minions.
Voldemort had another hold over Draco -- magic. If the Dark Lord and his father were telling the truth, Draco had been born a Squib and he only had magic because of Voldemort's intervention.
He frowned. But why would Voldemort want to Mark a Squib? If it was true that the Dark Lord had given him access to magic once, was it possible for it to happen again? But at what price? He remembered reading something once about selling one's soul to the devil. Was the return of his magic something he was willing to sell his soul for? Did he want it that much?
Or, more importantly, could he make Voldemort believe Draco was willing to pay the ultimate price and get away with it?
Then there was Harry. As much as Draco loved him (and of that Draco was sure), Harry had still tried to claim him. Maybe not in the same way as Voldemort and maybe Harry's motives had been with Draco's best interests at heart. But Harry had lied to him and Draco wasn't sure how he felt about that. How many times had Harry asked him to be honest? Yet the one time Draco had demanded honesty from Harry, he'd been let down.
Voldemort and Harry seemed to be two sides of the same coin. Both exceptionally powerful wizards, who wanted Draco for their own reasons.
Which left him with one option. Albus Dumbledore.
The Professor hadn't demanded anything of Draco and if he'd listened to the old man when they'd talked about Draco going home, then maybe he wouldn't be in the position he currently was in. But back then he'd still believed he was invincible and that his father would always be there for him.
Could Dumbledore protect him from Voldemort? Would he care about Draco no longer having magic and find him somewhere safe? More importantly, wasn't Dumbledore supposed to be the only wizard in the world that the Dark Lord was scared of? If he was that powerful, could the Headmaster return Draco's magic to him?
Dumbledore must have thought he was worth saving because he'd given Draco a Portkey.
Which lead him to the second part of his conundrum -- getting away from the Manor.
Dumbledore's Portkey was obviously the best way. But the house-elves had cleared away the leather pouch containing the phoenix feather Portkey and the only way to get it back was to have his personal belongings returned.
Which brought him back full circle to a son's duty to obey his father.
If he could make his father believe that he was going to ask the Dark Lord for forgiveness and accept his Mark, then he might also persuade Lucius to return his possessions. That would give him the Portkey and he could get away from the Manor and go to Dumbledore for help.
Quod erat demonstrandum.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"These are Draco's new quarters?"
Harry didn't try to hide his surprise at where he found himself. When Phineas Nigellus had told him Draco was moving into the south wing, he'd expected rooms of opulent splendour, like the ones he'd seen in television programmes about stately homes. It should be full of grand furniture and enough possessions to satisfy even someone of Draco's ego. But while the walls and ceiling were sumptuously decorated, there was nothing in it except a carpet and two empty wardrobes. "They said he was moving to the south wing."
He looked at the Grandmother, expecting her to know what the rooms should be like, but then remembered that the being wasn't actually Lucius' mother.
She watched him for a moment before running a hand over the door of one of the wardrobes. "He's still here. This is where he spent his childhood."
"But it's empty." Harry spread his arms, encompassing the whole room. "Why?"
"They took away everything to make him feel isolated and alone." She crouched down, picked up a small square of wood and held it out to Harry.
He took the piece. It was inlaid with the image of a Chinese waterbird. "It's from the puzzle box I gave Draco for his birthday." He ran his thumb over the design. "I put the star you gave me inside the box because I felt that if he managed to open it that would somehow mean he was my Protector." He held up the star, the chain still wound around his hand. "Dobby found this in Lucius Malfoy's chambers. The chain was broken and now it looks like the box was as well. Do you know what happened?"
The Grandmother studied him for a moment. "Lucius found out about you and Draco."
Harry blanched. "Does Voldemort know as well?" Even as he asked the question, he already knew the answer. If Lucius knew then so did the Dark Lord.
His mind conjured up all sorts of scenarios for how the chain and box ended up like this. "Is Draco Morning Star's Child?"
"Any prophecy is open to interpretation. The star was a physical manifestation of the magic that exists between you and your Protector. Do you believe it could be Draco?"
He frowned and then gave a little sigh. "I thought it might be Ron at one point. He's always been there since the beginning."
"No, I can tell you it was never Ron. He has ... another destiny. And at the beginning you weren't looking in the right direction. Wasn't Draco there even before Ron?"
"Yes, of course, in the robe shop." Harry couldn't help but chuckle. "He was such a self-centred brat back then." The chuckle turned into a broad grin as he pocketed the square of wood. "He still is now if you think about it. If he's my Protector, does that mean he's going to be okay?"
"What did the prophecy say?"
Harry tried to remember. "The Lion will choose his Protector who will be Morning Star's Child."
"Whom do you choose, Harry?" She gestured towards the window.
At first Harry only saw the curtains hanging half closed, then he realised there was someone sitting on the seat. For a moment he stood there, torn between rushing to Draco's side and the fear that he might be rejected because of what he'd done.
Slowly, as if the ground beneath his feet might shatter if he didn't tread carefully, he crossed the room. Draco was sitting unmoving, frozen like a statue, with his legs drawn up and his hands around his knees as he looked out into the night.
"Draco." He reached out a trembling hand. "Can I touch him?"
"If you want but he can't see either of us. He might experience your touch as a breeze on his skin."
Harry nodded. He was close enough now to see the lashes on Draco's eyelids and he reached out a finger to caress the familiar cheek before sitting next to him. The sleeves of Draco's pyjama jacket had slipped down his arms and Harry could just make out something on the other boy's left arm. He leaned closer, touching the pale skin now marred by the blackened lines of the Dark Mark. "It didn't work." There was a catch in his voice. "The protection magic didn't work -- Voldemort still Marked him."
He felt a gentle touch on his shoulder and looked up. "We don't have long, Harry. Voldemort's magic is strong here. He might notice a shift in the flow of Earth Magic and find you."
"I can't just leave him. Not like this."
"You must; Draco can only leave of his own volition. It's part of his journey and he will not thank you for taking away the choice. If you remain here, Voldemort will have won. He has already lost interest in Draco. It's you that he now wants."
"Then I need to leave Draco a message, so he'll know that I haven't just forgotten about him. Can I transfigure a piece of parchment?"
The Grandmother shook her head. "You can only use what is already here. The panel from the box for instance."
"I need to...." He almost reeled as the sickening sensation of Dark Magic hit him and it was only the Grandmother's steadying hand that prevented him from falling. "What was that?"
Eyes narrowing, her face darkened. "Voldemort. We must leave. NOW!"
"Okay." As he pulled the piece of inlay from his pocket, he felt the tug of Earth Magic and knew that he was being drawn away. Any second he would be back in the room at Hogwarts while Draco was still here. Alone. He tried to link a message to the sliver of wood but in the end only managed one word.
Quickly he fastened the chain around Draco's neck and left the piece of puzzle box on his lap. Then, leaning forward, he kissed Draco's slightly parted lips. "I'm coming back for you. I promise."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The lights in the garden flickered brightly again before fading as if someone had been there but had now disappeared. Draco watched for a moment longer. He'd made up his mind. It was going to be risky, but there didn't seem to be any other option.
Swinging his legs to the floor he stood up and stretched a kink out of his neck. Something dropped from his lap, bounding on the carpet and coming to rest a few feet away. With a frown, he bent to pick it up but paused as he felt something slip about his neck.
He reached up, fingers closing around a chain and a crystal warmed by his own body heat. The chain was long enough for him to see the star that his father had ripped from his throat. Yet here it was, the chain repaired and now back around his neck.
Confused, he released the star, feeling its strangely comforting weight against his skin, and picked up what had dropped from his hand to the carpet.
He recognised it immediately as a piece of the box Harry had given him, but like the chain he hadn't had it with him when he'd sat down on the window seat. Carrying it over to the lamp the house-elf had lit earlier, he studied the image. He wasn't sure what he expected to find, but there had to be something.
Finally he turned it over, almost missing the fact that something had been written on it. Squinting, he held it closer to the light and finally managed to make out the word.
"What the fuck?"
He looked again, just to make sure, but it definitely said 'Mouse'. Could it really be a message from Harry? And, if so, how had it got here? What was the possibility that Harry had written the word before giving the box to Draco, and then of that one piece of wood finding its way back here today?
And the chain -- was it somehow charmed to come back to him?
Was it possible that Harry had managed to be here? Actually here in this room?
Anger rose like bile in his stomach. If Harry had been able to get through the Malfoy wards, why just leave a message? Why hadn't he taken Draco away with him?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Narcissa stood just inside the darkened room. In the small circle of light provided by the lamp, she could see Draco huddled under a blanket.
She moved further into the room. Her son -- her Draco -- sleeping on the floor.
Draco moved a little, muttering something in his sleep as one arm pushed at the blanket.
What was he dreaming about? She stepped closer, mindful of not waking him. Lucius would be incensed if he found her here. He'd made it quite clear that Draco was to be left alone and that she must have nothing to do with her son without Lucius' express permission.
Finally at her son's side, Narcissa looked down at him. She wanted to hug him; to take him in her arms and tell him that everything would be just fine. But Lucius was a Death Eater and his Master's word was sacrosanct.
But this was her baby. Her boy. She didn't know how to help him without betraying her husband's trust. If she went against Lucius, she would have nothing; no money, no home and, in addition, she would probably be disowned by her own family. Divorce for pure-bloods was unusual and the wife wasn't entitled to any of her spouse's wealth.
She shuddered at the thought of being penniless, but this was her son.
Carefully she crouched down and pulled the blanket back over Draco's shoulder. He curled up tighter, like she'd often seen him sleeping as a baby. With equal care, she touched the tips of her fingers to her lips and then touched them to Draco's cheek.
"I won't abandon you, my child. I promise."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Saturday 11th April 1998
The punishment room looked exactly the same as it had on the night of Draco's birthday, except this time the Dark Lord was seated on an ornate throne-like chair. David had long ago learned that the trappings of state impressed people and often held them in awe. He liked his followers to give him due deference and expected them to remember he was their Master with dominance over them all.
The boy kneeling at his feet didn't seem to understand this power play, however. Even though Draco kept his eyes lowered in supplication there was something about the way he carried himself that rankled David. The fact was that the boy still knelt before him. Draco should be crawling to him on his hands and knees ... no, dragging himself on his belly and begging for forgiveness.
He glanced briefly at Lucius, who was standing at his side rather than beside his son. Yet more power play. It left Draco alone. Lucius had supposedly been schooling his son in the proper etiquette for taking the Dark Mark and had been positive that this time Draco would make the appropriate choice. Despite his powers, David couldn't coerce anyone into taking the Mark, least of all by using spells such as Imperius. Typically those Ministry fools still believed people who claimed to have been forced into becoming his followers. If he could force people, then Lily and James Potter would both still be alive and would probably be two of his most ardent supporters.
Of course, that didn't mean David couldn't make the choice easier by subtle persuasion. And pain was one of life's great persuaders.
He tapped a thoughtful finger to his lips. He would take great pleasure in breaking this one. Almost as much pleasure as he would get in breaking Harry Potter.
Beckoning Draco forward, he watched as the boy moved awkwardly on his knees until he was close enough for David to touch. Taking the boy's arm, he pushed up the sleeve and studied the Mark that he had placed on the soft flesh. The skull was still there, burned into the skin with such exquisite perfection that it made David smile. Some Marks were more pleasing to him than others and this one was beautiful. It was a shame that Potter had marred the perfection with what he'd done. He traced with his fingernail over the zigzag line Potter had made and watched for Draco's reaction; the boy's whole body tensed momentarily.
"Your son has been bewitched with ancient magic, Lucius."
"I agree, my Lord." Lucius inclined his head in deference.
David pressed again and this time Draco flinched and tried to pull away. He reached for the boy's chin, forcing Draco to look up. Even with no magic and kneeling on the floor Draco oozed something his other Death Eaters didn't. Not since Severus had joined him had he seen a person look at him with such defiance. Eyes narrowing, he wondered which Malfoy he would prefer at his side -- the slippery father or the defiant son?
"What do you say, Draco? Are you ready to ask for my forgiveness?" Releasing the chin he cupped Draco's cheek, the touch a gentle caress. "I can be a benevolent master. Ask me to Mark you and I will take away the stigma of this." He rubbed his thumb over Potter's Mark.
Draco closed his eyes briefly as the Mark reacted to the touch. When he opened them again, he took a breath and met David with a steady gaze. "I'm a Squib. Why would you want me to bear your Mark?"
Lucius gasped, wand in his hand and pointed at his son.
David's wand was out just as quickly, but it was pointed at Lucius. "Never unsheathe your wand in my presence, Lucius. I might mistakenly think you are aiming it at me."
Turning his attention back to Draco, he ran the tip of his wand over the boy's cheek. Such open audacity in one so young was almost a pleasure. No one else dared question anything David said; yet this boy was not only doing just that, but was also actually looking at him while doing it. Didn't Draco realise that David could snuff out his life with just a flick of his hand?
Oh, how he wanted this boy as one of his followers. He smiled, tracing his wand down Draco's throat and over his chest, stopping with the tip resting on Draco's heart. "It is for me to decide what I want and for you to learn your place."
"I understand my place. My father has shown me the error of my ways. I was wrong and bewitched by Potter. But I -- I'm not worthy." Draco finally looked away, eyes to the floor.
"Not worthy, Draco?"
"Of your Mark. Only a pure-blood wizard deserves to carry it, not a Squib." Draco looked up, grey eyes pleading as he shuffled forward a few more inches. He took hold of the hem of David's robes and kissed it. "Let me prove myself. Please. Send me back to Hogwarts and I will get Potter for you."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Monday 13th April 1998
Harry stared at the tranquil waters of the lake, his gaze intent as if somewhere beneath the smooth surface the answer to all his questions lurked. Occasionally he scrabbled at the ground beside him until his fingers closed around a suitable pebble, which he would fling into the stillness. But the rings it made didn't reveal any answers either.
It had been a week since Draco had gone home and three days since he'd managed to get to Draco's room at the Manor. Three long days in which he'd tried to repeat the magic and the frustration at getting nowhere had turned into a dark seething mass in the pit of his stomach. Each day that passed -- each hour -- made his fears for Draco grow more and more.
He tried to hang on to what the Earth Magic being had intimated about Draco being Morning Star's Child. Harry needed a Protector to watch over him, and Draco was supposed to be that person. If anything happened to Draco then who would look after Harry?
But until Draco was back here at Hogwarts, safe and well, Harry knew he needed to work on a way to get back to him. He was wondering if he should try and find the pool where he'd first met the Earth Magic being when a shadow crossed over him. He looked up to find Ron staring down.
"Hi, mate." The redhead dropped down beside Harry, long legs stretching out towards the water. "A sickle for your thoughts?"
Harry smiled, surprised at how pleased he was to see his friend. He shrugged. "They wouldn't interest you. And shouldn't you be home now?"
Ron picked up a stone and threw it. "Been there, but I left all my transfiguration stuff behind and we've got that paper to get finished."
"You came all the way back for that?" Harry scoffed. "Hermione is having a really bad effect on you, Ron."
Ron shrugged. "I wouldn't have bothered but mum has been going on and on about it. She even arranged for me to Floo here so I had no choice but to come back." He threw another stone, which landed with a loud plop. "And she asked me to find you."
"I told her you were off somewhere with Sirius, but then she said you'd come back early and were here all on your own. She thought you could visit for a few days."
Harry raised an eyebrow, intrigued at the way the Order's grapevine worked and considered for a moment what to tell Ron. To be honest, he was fed up with keeping things from Ron. In fact, he was fed up with the lies. Full stop. At some point people would find out about Draco and that Harry was an Earth Mage; it wasn't like he could keep that a secret forever.
He glanced surreptitiously at his friend. Well, maybe he should keep the sleeping-with-Draco and being-gay thing quiet for just a bit longer.
As for the Earth Magic, hadn't Ron always said Harry probably had some sort of gift? And what about all the things Ron had point out when he'd read the star chart? So he probably wouldn't be surprised at what Harry could tell him. Then it suddenly occurred to him that he would be outside of the castle's wards and once past them he could go after Draco. What about Dumbledore? Was it possible Mrs Weasley had already spoken to the Headmaster and he'd agreed to let Harry go?
Well, there was only one way to find out.
He straightened and looked at Ron. "You know something -- you're right. Why stay here when I could be eating your mum's cooking? And when we get there I'll tell you everything that happened at Glastonbury." With that he jumped to his feet and held out a hand to his friend. "Come on then."
Ron looked up at him. "What, now?"
Harry gave a vigorous nod. "Yeah, now." He hauled Ron to his feet.
They were almost back at the castle when Harry noticed someone striding purposefully across the grass towards them. It was Sirius and Harry felt his heart sink.
"Ron." Sirius nodded at the redhead. "Having a good holiday?"
Ron grinned. "Yeah. Brilliant. And I've just persuaded Harry to come home with me. Isn't that great?"
Sirius cast Harry a questioning look before replying. "I'm sorry, but he won't be able to go just yet."
"Sirius!" Harry scowled.
Keeping eye contact with his godson, Sirius gave him a pleading look. "You see there's someone I need Harry to meet ... someone we missed at Glastonbury."
Harry had absolutely no idea what his godfather was talking about. Then he saw the man's expression. "He's here?" Sirius nodded. "Now?"
Harry suddenly realised why he'd felt so strange a little while ago. Draco was back.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It took all Harry's resolve not to sprint to the Headmaster's office. If he did, he would have to explain to Ron who he was rushing to see. Instead, he strolled back with them, finally managing to get away when they met Remus in the Entrance Hall. He quickened his pace, relief flooding through him that any minute now he was going to see Draco again.
He came to a halt in front of the ugly stone gargoyle and was just about the say the password when the gargoyle hopped to one side and the wall behind it split in two. The spiral staircase began to move downward and he stepped back, waiting impatiently.
His chest tightened as he realised it was Draco was coming down the moving staircase towards him. He barely kept from flinging himself at the other boy because Sirius and Ron probably wouldn't be that far away. Instead he stepped closer.
"God, Draco, you're safe." His words were an urgent whisper. "I've been so worried and...." Harry stopped as Draco walked straight past him without even acknowledging his presence. "Draco...." He grabbed at boy's arm.
Draco came to a halt and stared first at Harry's hand and then at Harry. The grey eyes were cold and emotionless. "Come to congratulate me, Potter?"
Harry gulped, confused at the other boy's reaction. "Congratulate you?"
"On getting engaged."
"Engaged?" Harry's hand dropped limply to his side.
"Yes. To a lovely girl called Gwen. What's wrong, Potter? Jealous?"
"But ... us ... I thought we...."
"Us?" Draco leaned in and whispered. "There never was an 'us'. Just a dalliance to pass the time." Then taking Harry's hand, he placed the star on the open palm and deliberately closed Harry's fingers around it. He tossed his head defiantly and smirked. "I don't need your trinkets."
With that Draco turned on his heel and, without looking back, strode off down the corridor.
And maybe, I'll find out
A way to make it back someday
To watch you, to guide you, through the darkest of your days
If a great wave shall fall and fall upon us all
Then I hope there's someone out there
Who can bring me back to you.
Wherever You Will Go - The Calling
Chapter 12: Truth and Lies.
It's been 650 days since I posted Chapter 10. Apologies for the long delay in getting this one finished. There are lots of reasons, including health, wealth and writer's block, but I hope it's worth the wait. Thank you for your patience and your continued interest in this story.
Quod erat demonstrandum.
The Latin phrase "quod erat demonstrandum" literally means "that which was to be demonstrated". The phrase is used after the conclusion of some line of reasoning when a theory has been proved, especially in mathematical or logical proofs. Q.E.D.
Resolution as a pdf
ikester has very kindly taken the time to make the first eleven chapters of Resolution into a pdf. It can be downloaded here. It is a LARGE FILE. Thank very much, Ike.
To my Betas (in alphabetical order): EdenMalfoy, Herne'sSon, Olivia, Melissa R, Plumeria and snottygrrl. I don't know where I would be without these people.
To everyone who made suggestions for the Malfoy Family Motto, especially to Dihall and Lusiology, whose suggestions eventually transformed into the one I used, and to Shezan, for providing the French translation.
To everyone at LiveJournal who have been, as always, such a help.
To everyone who has reviewed. I love reading your comments -- thank you so much for taking the time to write.
There is just one artwork link in this chapter. Lillithium's wonderful picture of Draco wasn't actually drawn for Resolution, but she has been kind enough to let me link to it. More of her art can be found on her LiveJournal lillithium
The following artwork was drawn for previous chapters:
AsukaLangly: Kiss (Chapter 5)
Magic (Chapter 9) (warning: naked body - Rated R)
I think this image is wonderful and I'd like to quote what nakedbee said about it:
I was entranced by the intimacy of a scene in which Harry draws symbols all over Draco as part of a spell. It seemed too hard to replicate the scene exactly (no lions or silver ink or blond hair), but I was intent on recreating the "covered in tiny symbols" vision that I had after reading the story. So I convinced the spouse to let me draw on him for a while some evening ... I don't really know how long it took (a few hours, maybe?), but it was an interesting experience.
After problems with yahoo groups (they deleted one), I now use two LiveJournals for my HP fiction. The first is called dragon_charmer (check out the memories section for links to stories). The second is a LJ community res_o_lu_tion , which is a bit like a backup for Resolution and a place for me to link useful information, odd notes and background information. Members of the community can post but anyone can comment.