Story Summary:
Everything should have been perfect, but life never is. When Draco is faced with the choice between what is right and what is easy, he risks losing everything – Harry, the war, and even himself. Despite the warnings and the risks, Harry isn't about to give up on the boy who was once willing to die to save him. However, what Harry doesn't know and what Draco can't remember may destroy them both. (The sequel to "Eclipse"; HP/DM)

Chapter 01 - "Reunion"

Chapter Summary:
Having been separated from each other, Harry and Draco spent a month dealing with the aftermath of their ordeal, and the emotional wreckage left in its wake. Time and distance have left their own scars, and Harry doesn't know what to believe anymore. Draco has to come back eventually, and Harry has become progressively more desperate for that reunion, but expectations aren't always met.

Author's Notes: Hello! It's been a while, but as promised, here's the first installment of the sequel to "Eclipse". Please forgive the Author's Notes in the body of the fic, but there's a glitch in the FA upload system, and the notes aren't showing up in the regular place. But, the notes are important, and before you read, there are a few things you should know.

1. If you haven't read "Eclipse", this fic will make no sense. The events of "Convergence" begin one month after the end of "Eclipse".

2. The epilogue to "Eclipse" has been DELETED. That piece of writing was used as the starting point for this fic, but it was modified. The original epilogue did not follow my plans for the overall plot. I admit, I got carried away, and this is getting the plot back on track. Go read the last chapter of "Eclipse" if you want to remember where the story left off.

3. This is a 6th-year fic based on canon up to and including OotP. Some elements of canon from HBP are integrated into this fic, but in this timeline, events deviated from official canon after OotP. Snape is still teaching Potions, but Slughorn will make an appearance. Horcruxes are not an issue, but Scrimgeour is the new Minister of Magic. For all other deviations from canon, read "Eclipse"!

4. Thank you to my amazing betas, the BeST team (their acronym, not mine, but they're quite good), and my ever-patient (and sometimes enthusiastic) test-readers, Fiona_Fawkes, Wednesday_Jones, and Heidi. I couldn't do it without you guys! Special thanks to Fiona... for putting up with me in person while I went through my pre-posting spaz session. Thanks, love!

And now...



Chapter 1


The cool, clear days of September had quickly given way to the frigid winds of late October. The last leaves had been whipped away from the Forbidden Forest, leaving lonely pines and spruces as the only islands of green in a sea of grey branches. One morning, the surface of the lake was encrusted with delicate spines of ice; the giant squid had retreated to the depths in preparation for an early winter. In the halls and classrooms of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, life went on, as always. However, for Harry Potter, life had taken a dramatic turn that made every other twist in his personal tale seem dull and predictable. For him, the harsh chill of the oncoming winter seemed insignificant compared to the bitter void that remained in Draco's absence.

In the month that had passed since Harry had last seen Draco, he'd clung to the memory of the long look Draco had given him before stepping through the Floo and out of Dumbledore's office. Since then, he'd barely heard a word from his long-time rival and newest friend. Despite Dumbledore's reassurances, the silence worried him. During their journey, there had been times when Draco had been almost frantic over the knowledge that so many people wanted him dead. While Harry was certain that Dumbledore was doing everything possible to protect Draco, he knew that even Dumbledore couldn't protect everyone. Draco's fears were not unfounded. Despite the brave front Draco had projected the day he left, Harry could see the underlying dread in his eyes. If he'd learned anything about Draco in the three weeks they'd spent together, he knew they were wondering the same thing: would they ever see each other again? At least, Harry desperately hoped that was on Draco's mind.

Draco would be back. He would return, and then, together, he and Harry would face whatever might come. For now, Harry had no idea what that might be, but after walking the line between life and death itself, he was sure he could handle anything. That was, as long as Draco was there with him.

Never in his life had Harry felt such a strong reliance on anyone. Hermione had reluctantly admitted that it was understandable. He and Draco had literally put their lives in each other's hands, and such a deep act of trust would leave an indelible impact. Still, she seemed very keen on reminding Harry that she and Ron were still there for him, like always. And Ron tried, he really did, but nothing filled the void that Draco had left.

As the days had worn on, life had returned to normal, if "normal" was a condition that could ever be applied to Hogwarts. During the day, Harry had thrown himself into his class work, and in the evening, his NEWT-level classes had given him enough homework to distract him somewhat. It was at night that Harry lay there, awake, curled up on one side, altogether too aware of the empty space behind him.

It was the morning after one such sleepless night. Harry sat at the Gryffindor table, sandwiched between Hermione and Ginny, with Ron sitting across from him. While the others seemed to be carrying on a lively conversation, Harry was just doing his best to keep from falling asleep on his plate of toast and sausage. He was almost nodding off when an elbow stuck him in the ribs.

"You're not wandering the school at night or anything, are you, Harry?" Ginny said in a lecturing tone that sounded far too much like Mrs Weasley for Harry's comfort.

"No," Harry mumbled sleepily.

"Which means you're just lying awake at night for no good reason, I suppose."

"I'm not ..."

"Hmmph. Sleeping enough?"

"Yes, plenty, I -" He was interrupted by a yawn.

"Harry," Hermione said softly, "it's been a month. I know you miss him, but this obsession is completely disrupting your life!"

Across the table, Ron suddenly occupied himself by shoving an entire piece of toast into his mouth at once.

Suddenly much more awake, Harry placed his hands on the table in front of him and sat up straighter. "I'm not obsessed!"

"Well, perhaps that's not quite right," Hermione said in a placating tone. "I've thought about this, and I'm beginning to wonder if you have a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome. It's what happens when -"

"I think I can figure out what it is, Hermione," Harry growled, "and I don't need to have my head examined. I'm fine! I've finished every assignment for every class... I'm even passing Potions! I haven't missed a single Quidditch practice -"

"Well, you're the bloody Captain," Ginny said. "I should hope you make it to practice."

"You know what I mean!" Harry felt himself losing patience. "It is not disrupting my life! Everything is perfectly fine! I just -"

"Miss your boyfriend," Ginny finished for him.

Ron choked on his toast. Next to him, Neville reached over and gave him a hearty thud on his back. Ron coughed a few times, his eyes watering. "Thanks, Neville."

"Ginny! Shhh!" Harry said in a rush, looking around to make sure nobody had heard her. He lowered his voice. "I don't want anyone to know... and he's not my boyfriend. I don't know what we are, and he's not even here anyway... but if people know we're... close... it could put him in more danger, and -"

"Harry, the entire school knows something was going on between you two," Ginny said, rolling her eyes. She began buttering a piece of toast for herself. "And what the hell would you call him, if not your boyfriend?"

Ron made a noise like he was being strangled.

Ginny scowled at him. "Oh, grow up, Ron."

"But why couldn't he have ended up with you?" Ron asked Ginny suddenly, sounding desperate. "I always just sort of figured... when you were older - much older, of course - that you and Harry would, you know, and -"

"And what?" Ginny interrupted, sounding amused. "And then we'd have a whole flock of children by immaculate conception? For your information, Ronald-Never-Been-Kissed-Weasley, Harry is like a brother to me - no offence, Harry - and I am perfectly happy with Dean. Speaking of whom, he's just arrived, and we need to go plan our costumes for the Halloween feast tonight. Dean seems to think he's not going to be wearing one."

Without another word, she removed herself from the table to meet Dean by the doors.

Ron grumbled and stabbed one of his sausages angrily with his fork. "Immaculate conception... obnoxious... this is already turning out to be one of those days. Fucking costumes. Why the hell did Dumbledore decide to do something stupid like costumes for the Halloween feast? He's never done that before."

"Because," Hermione said smartly, "with everything that's been happening lately, it would be a wonderful excuse to cheer things up a bit."

"What 'everything' that's been happening?" Ron asked sullenly, as he took a large bite of sausage, barely chewed, and swallowed. "Last I checked, we've had nothing but N.E.W.T. level classes up to our eyeballs, and not a single Hogsmeade weekend to break up the monotony."

Hermione huffed at him. "Honestly, Ron, don't you ever read the Daily Prophet?"

"No. I figure you'll tell us everything that's going on anyway, whether we want to know it or not, so there's no point."

"Ronald, I'll have you know that everything we can learn right now might be vital, and if you want to make a joke out of this -"

"Okay, 'Ermione!" Ron said as he stuffed another bite of sausage in his mouth and spoke around it. "Just tell us!"

She straightened in her seat and frowned disapprovingly at him. "Well, there have been more of the same sorts of disappearances and attacks as there have been since the start of the year, but the Aurors told the Prophet that they haven't seen the same level of organisation in the past month as they had all summer and during September. Nobody's come right out and said it, but some people are hinting at a connection between Harry's return and the change in Death Eater activity. The attacks don't seem quite so well coordinated. They even managed to catch two of the Death Eaters during an attack last week."

"Good then," Ron said, spearing a large piece of egg and cramming it into his mouth. "More of the same shit, but not quite so bad."

Hermione glared and reached for her copy of the Prophet, which she'd mostly read by the time Ron and Harry had arrived at breakfast. "I wasn't done, and in case you'd like your update from the news this morning, yesterday afternoon there was a mass arrest of over a dozen Death Eaters from within the Ministry. It is an enormous scandal. Several were on the Hogwarts board of governors, and they had children here!"

At that, Harry perked up for the first time all morning. "Who? Who was arrested? Are their children still here? Are they still in school?" He began to turn around to look at the Slytherin table, but realised that it might be too obvious, so he carefully tried to glance out of the corner of his eye.

Hermione tugged his sleeve. "Don't turn around, Harry. Here, look at the article. After receiving a testimony from an unidentified prisoner under Veritaserum, sixteen Death Eaters and sympathisers, most from within the Ministry itself, were arrested yesterday around noon, and some of their children, who were named as being part of an active plot to take out Dumbledore, you, and... other unnamed individuals inside Hogwarts, were removed from the school and also taken into custody for questioning. The Ministry won't release their names, though."

Harry grabbed the paper from her so he could take a closer look. "I wonder where they got the tip-off," he mumbled to himself. "From one of the earlier arrests... or maybe Draco got the information to the Ministry somehow." He scanned the article quickly, then stole a quick glance back over his shoulder at the Slytherin table regardless of who might be looking. Besides, if the ones he had to worry about were gone now, it shouldn't matter.

There were noticeable gaps amongst the Slytherin ranks, but not everyone came to breakfast every day. All the House tables had missing people, so he couldn't confirm who was actually gone. Then he caught a subtle grin and nod of the head from Crabbe.

Harry gave him a nod in reply before turning back around. It was amazing that nobody in Slytherin seemed to suspect what Crabbe had actually done. People really did just think he was stupid and useless. Sure, they knew he hadn't wanted to kill Draco, but everyone thought that it was Harry alone who had foiled Pansy's attempt on Draco's life. Goyle had been gone since the morning after Pansy was arrested, and he was the only one who might have suspected. It was better that way. Crabbe had been keeping an eye on the activities of the other Slytherins, and reporting back to Dumbledore. There hadn't been much to report, though. Whoever had been originally plotting to kill Draco had been able to effectively hide any connection to Pansy.

Maybe they weren't connected to her, Harry thought ruefully, so they couldn't be traced to each other. How disgustingly Slytherin. Redundant murder plans. If the first one fails, the next one tries something completely different. In the very least, I'm sure they had planned that if one of them was caught, the rest would feign ignorance.

Now, if they were gone, then maybe Draco could return. Harry looked up at the Head Table, but Dumbledore wasn't there. It was common enough for him to be missing lately. Probably dealing with the politics and all that stuff from yesterday. I'm sure the new Minister would love to get Dumbledore to stand next to him while he makes a speech about how they caught the Death Eaters. But if Dumbledore wasn't there, then Harry couldn't even ask him about Draco.

Harry cast a wistful glance at the window where the students' owls usually arrived, absently wishing Hedwig would appear with something from Draco. She never did, and he knew she wasn't going to. Just in case someone was intercepting owls, Dumbledore had insisted that he would hand-carry all letters between Harry and Draco. It annoyed Harry to no end, but he supposed Dumbledore was right. And even so, it hardly mattered because Draco had only seen fit to send him two letters all month.

Harry had received the first letter about four days after Draco had left. Draco had seemed to be doing well enough. He was working on his sixth-year coursework; Snape was passing along assignments. Draco complained about the lack of scenery, saying that after two weeks of open skies and endless mountains, the walls of Twelve Grimmauld Place were a miserable sight, but that only made Harry smile sadly. Apparently, Mrs Black or, as Draco called her, "Batty Auntie Black" was still on the wall when he arrived. After two days of being called a blood traitor, Draco had requested a can of black paint - it was appropriate, he'd said - and had shut her up. Harry wished he could have seen that.

The second letter arrived a week after the first. Draco was bored. His bed smelled musty. He missed his bed in the Slytherin dormitories. He missed Quidditch. But not once did he say he missed Harry.

Dumbledore had originally said that they could visit, but each inquiry Harry presented had been met with an explanation that it was "not a good time". Later, perhaps. Then there was, Ask next week. And finally, I shall let you know when we can arrange a visit. The more time that passed, the more Harry became more uncertain about what had transpired between himself and Draco. He wrote back to Draco, even after Draco stopped writing to him, but he didn't dare say anything more personal than what Draco had written to him in the first place. No questions of 'Did you really mean it?' or 'Is this really what I think it is?' He wanted answers, but he couldn't even ask the questions. It was maddening.

He couldn't get Draco out of his head, nor did he want to. Most nights that Harry actually fell asleep, he would dream that he was lying out in a field, under a cloak, pressed up close against Draco's body as he watched fairies float overhead. Or they'd be huddled together in a tent, warm and dry as the rain beat down around them. Grey eyes would shine at him through the shadows. Arms would wrap around him. Lips would meet his. The dreams always ended the same way. Harry would wake up, thinking that Draco was actually there beside him, but after a moment's confusion, he'd realise that he was alone in his bed.

He wondered if Draco had the same dreams. He wondered if Draco missed him. He wondered if Draco loved him, or if the rush of emotion had been caused by desperate situations and frantic worry, and had faded with time and distance. But he never asked. And Draco never said.

"Harry? Hey, Harry!"

"Huh... what?" Harry blinked a few times to find Hermione waving her hand in front of his face.

She shook her head at him. "If you don't wake yourself up now, you're going to have a rough time in class."

"Charms... ten o'clock... Professor Flitwick said that all we're doing today are glamour charms for our Halloween costumes. We're not even going to be tested on it," Harry said, trying not to yawn. "And then Potions this afternoon. There's no way I'll be sleepy in there."

Hermione folded her arms across her chest. "Well, you should still pay attention to Charms. You don't want to look stupid for the feast, do you?"

Harry looked at her sideways. "Of course, I don't; which is why there's no way in hell that I'm wearing a costume." He stood up. "Ron, I'm going back up to our dormitory. We've got two hours before Charms. If I fall asleep, will you wake me up in time for class?"

"Sure, mate," Ron said, sounding a bit more normal than before.

Harry nodded, turned and walked out of the Great Hall. He sighed to himself. Ron had been as supportive as he could be, considering that he was Ron. He'd treated Harry the same as always, until he heard Draco's name. He's trying, Harry told himself, the same as he'd told himself every day for the past month. I can't expect him to change overnight, or in a month... even though some people did. He's just going to have to accept things, and I'll just have to accept that sometimes, things don't happen the way you want. In fact, they usually don't. You can't have everything. but just because I have to live with it, doesn't mean I have to like it, or accept it.

By the time Harry reached his dormitory, his thoughts of Ron, Draco, and his own mess had all blurred together. He was terribly sleepy. He flopped down on his back with one foot hanging over the side of his bed, and stared at the Chudley Cannons poster above Ron's bed until he fell asleep and dreamed of dizzy orange fairies playing Quidditch on the ceiling.


Ron barely woke him up in time for Charms, and when they arrived, half the class had already begun to change the colour of their hair and eyes. They started by practising on each other, and Ron nearly had a heart attack when he looked in the mirror to find Harry had turned his hair white-blond. By the time class was over, many of the students were already wearing half their "costume" for the evening. Professor Flitwick had helped most of them in the end, and many of those who were wearing costumes were almost unrecognisable.

"Now, just in case some of you that I've helped have a bit of trouble removing the Charms, I've cast them to end at ten o'clock tonight," Flitwick squeaked. He seemed to be having more fun than any of the students. Harry wondered if he'd forgotten that these were the sixth-year Gryffindors and Ravenclaws, not the second-year Hufflepuffs.

Hermione, who had submitted to being attacked by Lavender and Parvati, was beaming as she approached Harry and Ron just outside the classroom door. Her facial features hadn't been changed much, but the rest of her...

"I'm going as Cleopatra!" she beamed, and turned around so that they could see her sleek black hair, which matched the glamoured tan and red lips. "Isn't it wonderful?"

"Er, yeah, Hermione," Harry said warily.

"And what about you?" she asked, suddenly stern.

Harry barely managed to not roll his eyes. "Oh yeah, I'm going as someone really famous. He's this so-called hero of the wizarding world with terrible hair and glasses. Think I look enough like him?"


He shook his head. "Forget it, Hermione."

She frowned. "Ron?"

"Not a chance, Hermione," Ron said, moving to stand at Harry's side. "No respectable boy above third-year is going to be dressing up in some ridiculous Muggle tradition."

Hermione looked like she was about to protest, probably with a lengthy lecture about Muggle and wizarding traditions, but she was interrupted.

"Hi, Harry! Er, I mean, Master Potter, sir!"

The voice was familiar, but it was coming from a house-elf that Harry had never seen before - a slightly taller-than-average house-elf. Then he saw the sandy blond hair sticking up around its ears, and the camera in its hands.

"Hullo, Colin," Harry groaned.

The house-elf frowned. "Aw, you recognised me!" He perked up again just as quickly. "What are you going to wear for the feast tonight, Harry? Could I take a picture of you in your costume?"

"Don't worry, Colin. You've already got more than enough pictures of me in this particular costume." Harry patted him once on the shoulder, grabbed Ron and made a hasty exit.


The door to the Potions classroom slammed shut as Professor Snape blew into the room, bat-like as ever. "Everyone will clear their desks immediately; you will not be needing your textbooks. However, this lesson will require your utmost attention, for the principles I will cover today will be vital to our next unit of study. Of course, the subtleties of this topic are so profound that I doubt any of you will be capable of appreciating them fully."

He flicked his wand, and in front of each student a shallow marble bowl appeared. "Today you will learn about the use of blood in potions, both Dark and benign."

Harry felt his heart jump a bit. In the month since his and Draco's brush with death, Harry had wondered when Snape was going to finally touch on the topic of blood in potions. The man had been so cryptic when he'd mentioned it that night, there had to be something of importance he was hiding, but since then, he'd not so much as whispered the word 'blood' in class. He'd also immediately reverted to being a right bastard to Harry, although Harry told himself it was probably now just an act to maintain appearances. Whether or not it was true, the thought made it easier to take. At the very least, Harry had been less edgy around Snape, just enough so that he could do his work without too much trouble. With the sudden revelation of the new topic, however, Harry found himself on the edge of his seat all over again.

Snape placed his hands on his desk and leaned towards the class menacingly. "Thus far, none of you have encountered potions requiring the use of human blood - much less brewed them - in this class." For an instant, his eyes seemed to rest on Harry, but he quickly moved on. "The magic of a wizard's blood extends through unfathomable levels. Symbolic, physical, deep, and immensely powerful. I doubt that any one of you would be able to remotely comprehend how profound this magic is, with perhaps one exception." This time, he was definitely looking at Harry.

Harry couldn't stop himself from squirming in his seat, and he was certain everyone was staring at him. Taking a calming breath, Harry tried to outwardly ignore the sensation of more than a dozen pairs of eyes boring into him. Would Snape just get to the point already?

Snape took a sudden step towards the student desks, almost predatory in nature, and his mouth twisted into a scowl. "Also, before we progress any further, I must make something perfectly clear. Contrary to some of the ... myths to which many ill-educated wizards and witches still cling, there is no difference whatsoever between the blood of one with pure wizarding heritage and the blood of a witch or wizard born to Muggles. This has been proven countless times in the use of blood for the brewing of potions, and I will not tolerate debate of this subject in my classroom. Is that understood?"

The vehemence in Snape's tone caused everyone to sit up a bit straighter, and Harry found himself nodding synchronously with everyone else in the classroom.

"Very well, then. Human blood in potions. Possibly the most dangerous, yet most important topic you will ever cover in this classroom. One never knows when this knowledge will draw the fine line between life and death."

Snape paused and looked directly at Harry. Feeling inexplicably defensive, Harry narrowed his eyes. Snape raised an eyebrow at him before turning away and continuing to speak as he slowly paced the classroom.

"There are several major categories for the use of blood in a potion. Who, besides the incorrigible Miss Granger, can list at least one of those categories?"

Hermione gave an indignant sniff.

"Protective magic," Blaise Zabini said without raising his hand.

"Very good. Five points to Slytherin." Snape surveyed the room, and Harry couldn't help but feel that his gaze lingered on him a bit longer than necessary. "Another example then?"

Harry felt as though he was supposed to say something, but he had no idea what that was. He certainly had first-hand experience with the topic, but what had he really learned? That every time Voldemort wanted his blood, it was bad news? That if Voldemort got hold of him, he would inevitably end up bleeding? There had to be something, but Terry Boot raised his hand before Harry could think of anything cohesive.

"Mr Boot?"

"Bonding, sir. To bond the wizard to another person, or to a thing."

"Five points to Ravenclaw," Snape said dourly. "And I will point out that several highly illegal Love Potions have been designed using blood for this purpose, and they are illegal for good reason. Another use of this application is to apply target-specific curses to items." He paused and looked across the classroom again. "Would anyone else be intelligent or foolish enough to venture another answer?" He wasn't looking at Harry, but Harry couldn't shake the sensation that Snape was practically demanding that he respond.

Of course, he should respond. He had to know something. Voldemort always wanted power and immortality. He wanted Harry's blood for the magic it contained. For power. But how that applied to what happened between himself and Draco, or to other blood potions - what could he say?

When nobody answered, Snape's expression sharpened. "At least one more?"

Harry cringed, but said nothing. To everyone's surprise, if the murmur in the room was anything to judge by, Neville raised his hand. "To control someone, sir."

Satisfaction welled up in Harry at the sight of Snape's face puckering as if he'd bitten into a whole lemon. It got even better when Snape gave Neville five points for Gryffindor to match the others, but the feeling disappeared just as quickly when Harry noticed Snape looking at him again.

Harry pressed his lips together, trying to concentrate. Every time Voldemort had used his blood, it had been to gain an element of Harry's magic. To create a body, to absorb his magic ... the blood had carried Harry's magic to Voldemort. So terribly simple. With Draco, the purpose had been entirely different though. Or had it? The blood in that potion had been to bond them together, hadn't it? But hadn't it carried some element of Harry's magic over to Draco? Harry made a mental note to ask about that later.

Finally, Harry raised his hand, not quite sure if he was going to make any sense. When Snape inclined his head, Harry swallowed once, then spoke. "It can empower whoever uses the potion with the magic of the blood donor, sir."

"Yes, a concept with which you've become unfortunately familiar over the years," Snape said slowly. "So it would seem, Mr Potter, incredible that you finally achieved comprehension."

Harry gritted his teeth.

Snape seemed reluctant to look away, but finally began pacing again as he lectured. "Blood can empower because it is the essence of power. It is, quite literally, the life force within a person. Under the right circumstances, even a drop of a wizard's blood, without the augmentation of a potion, can imbue the recipient with the magic of the donor, or bond two wizards together, or lend an element of protection. Intent often has much to do with the actual outcome, although magic occasionally seems to have a mind of its own. Even time-tested potions will vary, no matter how perfectly brewed. Experimentation proves even more difficult, for the physical components and the procedures are only supplementary to the magic and intent of both donor and recipient. In short, the result of toying with blood-based potions, or the simple use of blood in magic or ritual, is a dangerous prospect with often unforeseen results."

What the hell is he getting at? Harry mused. What unforeseen results?

Snape continued, "There are few consistent guidelines in the design of blood potions, therefore it would be far more prudent to begin with an understanding of the inherent nature of blood in magic. Intent, for example. Because blood is by nature a magical extension of a witch or wizard, the person whose blood is used in a potion will inevitably have a degree of control over the efficacy of the potion, whether or not he or she is aware of that control." Snape whirled around and drilled Harry with one of his most disdainful stares. "Mr Potter, if I were to take blood from an unwilling victim for use in a potion, do you think the victim's will would be helpful or harmful to my intent?"

Before he could think to stop it, Harry's left hand moved to clasp itself over the crook of his right arm, where Wormtail had cut him in fourth year. "Well, I... er... I'm sure the victim wouldn't want the... er... you to succeed... sir."

"Spoken with the eloquence of a troll, Mr Potter, but in a very roundabout way, you are correct. Although certain potions are intended for the blood of an unwilling victim, almost any potion will inevitably be strengthened if the donor is willing. Such a simple concept, yet so often overlooked, sometimes with disastrous results. Wouldn't you agree?"

Snape's tone was mocking, but the sensibility of his words felt to Harry like a bucket of ice water. He nodded dumbly as the implications struck him.

Draco's potion was more effective because I wanted him to succeed. Voldemort may have been more powerful, but he took my blood against my will. Now that I think of it, he did that when he regained his body, too. I wonder... is that why Dumbledore smiled? Because if Voldemort used the blood of an unwilling victim, he'd never quite gain the power he wanted? But the incantation had said 'forcefully taken'. It was Dark Magic. Actually, any potion that uses the blood of an unwilling victim is Dark Magic. Dumbledore always said that love was a stronger magic than any other... I don't know. This is just too confusing.

"In contrast," Snape drawled on, addressing the entire class, "the act of one wizard willingly giving his blood to another is the ultimate act of trust. You would quite literally be placing your life in the hands of another. A foolish act... in most cases." Then, Snape turned on his heel and returned to his lectern. "In each of your bowls is a simple testing base which has already been prepared. Working in pairs, conduct the series of tests that has been delineated on the board. You will need several reagents in small quantities, and will retrieve them from the front of the room one at a time as needed. After each test, bottle ten drops of the base solution, label it, and write at minimum two paragraphs of your observations per test. You may begin."

There was a shuffle of chairs as people paired off. Hermione sat next to Ron, while Harry slid over to Neville. However, everyone looked up as Eloise Midgen raised her hand.

"Professor Snape, how are we supposed to get the blood?"

Snape glowered at her. "If you are graced with the gift of sight, Miss Midgen, you will see a perfectly clean scalpel sitting next to your bowl, and a charm written on the board to heal small cuts. Any N.E.W.T. level student should be able to figure these things."

Eloise nodded, looking rather pale. Harry turned back to his bowl and was just about to ask Neville who should go get the first reagent when they were interrupted by a loud thud. Harry jumped up and craned his neck to see that Eloise had fallen sideways off her chair in a dead faint. At the front of the room, Snape groaned in a bored manner.

"There's one every year."


"Mr Weasley, your second test was a miserable failure because you did not give the blood willingly," Snape said.

"But I did! Er... sir." Ron looked at Hermione angrily. "If I hadn't wanted her to do it, then -"

"Then the reagent would turn it a putrid pea-soup green," Snape interrupted. He held up the phial. "Much like this, wouldn't you say?"

Hermione elbowed Ron. "I told you that if I had to hold your arm down, it wouldn't count."

"Well, you just looked much too happy holding that scalpel!" Ron shot back.

Snape snorted and tapped the phial with his wand causing the pea-green goo to disappear. Ron gave a cry of protest, but Snape had already moved on.

Harry watched Snape warily out of the corner of his eye. Neville placed the last stopper on the phial and slid the phial into the rack. Snape stopped in front of their table and withdrew the first test results. As he did, he looked at Neville, who didn't even bat an eye. Harry mentally congratulated Neville again. From what Neville had said, after last spring's fiasco at the Ministry of Magic, Snape just didn't seem that scary anymore. Plus, he was determined to become an Auror now, which meant he had to do well on his Potions N.E.W.T.

"I've seen better, Mr Longbottom," Snape drawled, "but I've seen worse. Acceptable. Barely."

Harry twisted his lips. Some things never changed. Then, Snape picked up the parchment lying in front of the phial rack.

"Interesting analysis, Mr Potter. Rather self-important, don't you think? Are these the only scenarios you can relate to these tests?"

Harry felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle in irritation. "Well, sir, considering half of them were first-hand, I think -"

"Potter, clearly you are not thinking, because you have missed several vital elements. Stay after class."

"But sir, the Halloween Feast is about to start!"

Snape smirked. "All too eager to parade around in some frilly little costume, Potter?"

Harry practically choked, then hung his head in acquiescence. Snape gave a curt nod and walked back to his desk as he barked that everyone was dismissed as soon as their workspaces were cleared.

Harry began sullenly cleaning up his workspace, trying to look on the bright side. At least I have an excuse not to wear a costume. But that didn't seem like a fair trade for spending even one extra moment with Snape. Neville picked up the bowls and began to walk over to the basin to rinse them out, but he stopped short.

"Harry, what was that all about?" Neville asked in an undertone.

"Just Snape being Snape," Harry grumbled while wiping the table with a neutralising solution.

Neville shook his head. For a moment, it seemed he was going to say something, but then he just turned and walked to the basin. Harry was about to take the phial rack up to the front for disposal when Ron came up behind him.

"Mate, you've got to help me. Hermione is determined to get me into a costume!"

"Sorry, Ron, but you're going to have to fight this one out on your own. I've got to stay after class."

Ron's face fell. "What for?"

"Apparently my observations weren't observant enough," Harry said flatly.

"But ... but you've had more first-hand experience with this stuff than any of us!"

Harry sighed and began walking towards the basin. "Not enough, it seems," he said back over his shoulder.

When the table was cleared and cleaned, Harry sat and waited as the rest of the class hastily filed out the door, leaving him alone in the room with Snape.

"Mr Potter," Snape said casually, leaning back against his chair, "before this dissolves into a pitiful battle of wills, I will admit that your observations were perfectly adequate... for any other student. Yet, despite how I have insisted that you are to be treated no differently than any other student, your situation in this case is... unique." He motioned towards the front row. "Sit."

This certainly wasn't what Harry had been expecting. He made his way to the front of the classroom, settled himself awkwardly into a seat and waited for Snape to make his grand pronouncement.

"During your ordeal last month, how many magical blood exchanges were made?"

Harry furrowed his eyebrows and frowned. "Two, Professor."

Snape shook his head disdainfully. "I expected as much. Were you aware of what transpired the night Draco was tested by the Dark Lord?"

"Well, yes, Draco told me... he said..." Harry furrowed his eyebrows in concentration. "Voldemort questioned him, and that he -" Harry's hand flew to the base of his throat, and his eyes widened in realisation. "Voldemort cut him."

At that, Snape almost looked sad. Almost. "No, Mr Potter. Draco allowed himself to be cut. Or more specifically, Draco cut himself on the Dark Lord's dagger. I don't think even you are so thick that the implications of that act will be lost on you."

Harry ignored the sideways jab and nodded in understanding. "So, what does this mean? For Draco?"

"I'm shocked that you're not more immediately concerned about its effects on you," Snape drawled sarcastically. "Always the hero though, concerned for everyone else."

"Just tell me what it means for Draco!"

In a flash, Snape was sitting rigidly upright, black eyes glittering. "It means," he said coldly, "that Draco's fate will not be his own until he or the Dark Lord is dead." The harsh spark in Snape's glare seemed to dim, and he sat back again. "And as you and Draco are also linked by a blood exchange, your fates are also tied together. The possible implications of this are almost unfathomable."

Harry's mouth had gone dry, and his stomach was twisting uncomfortably. "I... I don't think I understand."

Snape steepled his fingers in front of his nose - a gesture that reminded Harry very much of Dumbledore. "Potter, what you need to know is that as a result of your actions last month - yours and Draco's - the dynamic of this entire battle has shifted. The Dark Lord isn't hiding. He was nearly destroyed."

Too stunned by the pronouncement to say anything else, Harry echoed a vague, "Nearly...?"

"What was the purpose of today's Potions lesson, Potter? Please tell me that some of that information processed effectively through your brain."

"Blood in potions..." Harry began, but after a sharp glare from Snape, Harry took a deep breath and thought it through. "That the use of blood in magic is unpredictable. And... the more complex the system, and the more variable the components, the less predictable the result will be."

A ghost of a smirk cracked Snape's cold expression. "So, there's hope for you, yet." The smirk vanished. "What you must also understand is that through the Dark Lord's potion, Draco's potion, and Draco's willing letting of his own blood to the Dark Lord, an unanticipated system of connections was formed. Those connections have crossed and become intertwined. Tangled, even."

"How?" Harry shook his head to himself as he considered the thought. "I mean, how did it happen, then?"

"From my observations, as I had the dubious fortune of being present the night of the eclipse, I could see that the Dark Lord had slipped fully into the connection created by the potion. His magical aura had almost completely merged with yours." Snape leaned forward slightly. "From what Professor Dumbledore and I can infer, Draco literally put himself between you and the Dark Lord. By the nature of Draco's sacrifice, the Dark Lord was cut off from the connection by the one sort of magic to which he seems to be -" Snape's mouth twisted into a bitter smile. "- allergic. Not only was his connection with you cut, but he was also dealt a severe blow by someone who had effectively made a blood oath to him."

"So... Draco is still connected to Voldemort... and I'm still connected to Voldemort... but Voldemort is... almost dead?" Harry cocked his head to one side, then the other, trying to make sense of it, but his train of thought was interrupted by Snape's harsh laugh.

"Death is not something that would come so easily to the Dark Lord, considering the sorts of magic he has built up around himself. No, the body of the Dark Lord is quite alive, as is the mind. But his magic and whatever is left of his soul have been torn. What remains is now intimately connected to both you and Draco."

"Oh shit."

"Five points from Gryffindor for foul language, Mr Potter."

Harry glared at Snape, to absolutely no effect. "I thought Professor Dumbledore said that the bonds had been dissolved," he snapped. "Draco should have no more connection to me than -"

"Than you do to the Dark Lord, Mr Potter?"

"He shouldn't be connected to me at all! Or to Voldemort! Dumbledore said that the bonds were gone, and... and..."

"Mr Potter," Snape explained coldly, "for the purposes of that spell, that night, the bonds were dissolved. I have already explained to you the possible implications of this tangled web of blood magic, and the associated risks."

"I heard you," Harry said flatly. "What I want to know is how will this hurt Draco, who's going to protect him, and why the hell haven't I been allowed to see him for a month?"

Snape's lip twitched in a sneer. "The Headmaster and I have spent the last month trying to deduce how severely this would impact Draco. And you. We have only now reached any preliminary conclusions. Protection was also our primary concern, and you can be assured that Draco was given the best protection possible. He is quite alive and well, which will stand testimony to that fact."

"But why haven't I been allowed to see him - even a firecall or anything more than a scrap of a letter! - for a month?"

In one swift movement, Snape rose to his feet and slammed his hands on the desk in front of him. "Allow me to cut to the point, Potter. The world does not revolve around your teenage angst. First and foremost, Draco needed to be removed from the school as soon as possible for his immediate safety. Second, he was weakened far more than he was willing to let on, and required a fair amount of time and space to recuperate. Third, blood bonds are most volatile for the month following their inception, and by limiting your contact with Draco, it had been the Headmaster's intent to minimize the potential for negative repercussions on both of you."

Harry cringed, and tried not to shrink back in his seat, but Snape wasn't done.

"And finally, the Headmaster of Hogwarts is not your personal owl! In case you have failed to read the Daily Prophet, there have been many important developments recently, and Professor Dumbledore could not ignore those responsibilities in favour of arranging conjugal visits for his students."

Not quite sure how to respond to Snape's tirade, Harry squirmed and tried to look away. Truthfully, he felt nauseous enough from Snape's insinuations that if he were to try to speak, he might lose his lunch.

Apparently content that he'd sufficiently mortified Harry, Snape nodded and continued, a bit less harshly this time. "I had already begun explaining this, but in summary, here is what you must know: until you, Draco, or the Dark Lord is dead, these connections caused by the irresponsible use of blood magic will persist, and the Dark Lord will find a way to utilise them to his advantage. He will use Draco to get to you, you to get to Draco, and eventually both of you to regain his power. His desire for vengeance will only lead to greater acts of cruelty."

Feeling at a loss, Harry let his shoulders slump. "So things are a lot more complicated. Great. Wonderful. Now, Draco and I are both pawns on a bigger chess board." He looked up at Snape. "But at least we're on the same side this time."

Snape didn't reply, and Harry frowned. "We are, right?"

"Draco's role in this war will be of his own choosing, Mr Potter."

Something in Snape's voice caught Harry's stomach like a particularly nasty Portkey. "But... he already chose. He told me!"

Snape tipped his head down, ever so slightly, so that he leered narrowly at Harry with hooded eyes. "Every single soul makes choices every day, every moment. Your choice today may not be the same choice you make tomorrow."

Harry's mouth fell open in protest. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means, Mr Potter, that Draco is in a most difficult situation, and he has had to consider all possible consequences very carefully."

"And I'm sure that keeping him away from me has helped that," Harry snapped.

"Mr Potter -" Snape began, but Harry was feeling just desperate and reckless enough to cut him off.

"It's been a month since the blood bonds were made, right? If the blood bonds have settled, there's no reason why I can't see him anymore. And now that the arrests were made, and the students we were worried about are gone, the safest place for Draco would be here, wouldn't it?" Harry said, his voice becoming more forceful with each word. "And if Draco were here, like he was supposed to be, he'd tell you - he'd make the same choice again!"

A cruel smile curled Snape's mouth. "And how do you know he wishes to be here? With you?"

In an instant, Harry forgot the rest of the conversation. His worst fears surged to the front of his thoughts, and any sense of decorum vanished. "I just know that he does! He would, if you and Dumbledore and everyone else would just let him!" Harry knew he was arguing mostly with his own doubts, his rant sounded hollow, even to his own ears. But if he stopped arguing, his fears would win. "You've been keeping him from talking to me, and I'm sure you've been convincing him that it's for his own good, but maybe you're telling him that I don't want to talk to him either. He wants to come back! He does!"

"You can't speak for Draco," Snape said. His expression took on an edge of malice that made Harry's insides twist painfully. Snape seemed to notice this, and leaned forward, looking far too pleased with himself. "Most, including your Gryffindor friends, would argue that you hardly know him."

Harry's hands curled into fists, but he couldn't quite dredge up the anger he wanted. His self-assurances were crumbling faster than he could build them back up. "I know Draco as well as anyone!"

Snape raised an eyebrow. "Is that so? You spent three weeks with the boy, one of which as his prisoner. In that short amount of time, do you honestly think that you could be able to learn everything about a person?"

Harry narrowed his eyes. "If you'd been there, you would know."

Snape didn't seem deterred. "I do not make a practice of using Legilimency on my students without good cause, but I will admit to having looked into Draco's thoughts. I know what happened during your little adventure, Potter." His voice was low and even, as if he were stating things as true and undeniable as the first law of magic. "Wouldn't it be possible - even likely - that your... feelings for Draco have been caused by an abnormally stressful situation? A shared need for comfort under extreme circumstances? It doesn't take a genius to realise that under any other conditions, you and Mr Malfoy would be far more likely to kill each other than to collaborate."

The use of Draco's last name wasn't lost on Harry, and he bit his tongue at the word. "No," Harry said weakly. "Things have changed."

"A person can not change a lifetime of conditioning in a mere three weeks. Mr Malfoy is still, and will always be, the same person who stabbed and poisoned you, and delivered you to the Dark Lord to be executed."

Harry was shaking his head, but he felt disconnected from his own body. He wanted to say 'no'; that he and Draco had forged a connection that went beyond their ordeal, and that Draco was not the same person he was at the beginning of September, but he couldn't. Perhaps it had been nothing more than the effect of a shared need for survival, and the experience of going through such an ordeal together. Nothing more.

It had been a month since he'd seen Draco. In that time, the freshness of the experience had faded. The bed on which he'd slept had eased away the aches from their nights spent on the cold ground. The miserable fatigue had faded from his legs. Hot meals had replaced cold sandwiches, and steamy showers had washed away the bone-deep chill of the river water. And the empty space next to him at night didn't really seem so empty anymore. It felt familiar, just as it had always been.

And the feel of Draco's lips on his was less substantial than the faintest memory of a ghost.

Now, looking back, the kiss seemed like it hadn't happened, or if it had, it had been in a completely different time and place. Everything had happened in a rush, in the face of so much life-and-death desperation that seemed completely disjointed with the relative normalcy of daily life at Hogwarts. Under that influence, Harry had felt the need to cling to something, and Draco had been there. And now, even without Snape's provocation, Harry had to wonder if that's all there was to it.

He looked up at Snape, who was now studying him neutrally.

"Your little fairy tale adventure is a lovely story, Mr Potter, but the escapade is over, and the reality of your situation does not allow for niceties."

Harry slumped back into his chair. As if my situation ever allows for niceties, he thought ruefully. "Why are you telling me this? Why now?"

"I am telling you because you need to understand your situation," Snape said evenly. "I expect you to pay close attention to the remainder of this unit of study in my class. If you remain properly observant and insightful, the knowledge you gain may tip the balance at some point. And I am telling you now because - as I said before - the battlefield has changed."

"The arrests that were made yesterday," Harry said, answering his own question before he asked it. "That caused another change."


"And you're not going to tell me everything that's changed, are you?"

"I shall leave that up to the Headmaster. I have disclosed the information he wished for me to relay to you. We do not yet know all the implications that these changes will have, and as I am not a Seer, I do not pretend to know the future."

"I thought it would mean Draco can come back," Harry whispered harshly, more to himself than Snape.

Snape gave a long-suffering sigh and stood. "Someday, Potter, you will see past your own self-indulgences and give precedence to reality."

Harry stood and faced the Potions Master, feeling like a soldier making a last futile stand, with one stone left to throw against the wall of a castle. "Or maybe, someday, Draco will be there when I need him because I didn't give up on him." Anger and irritation were beginning to choke him, but instead of just being angry with Snape, he knew he was angry because of the possibility that Snape might be right. He clenched his fists and tried to scowl, but Snape waved at him disdainfully.

"Fairy tales, Potter. Reality isn't quite so romantic."

"May I be dismissed now, Professor?" Harry asked thickly.

Snape merely inclined his head towards the door. Harry didn't say anything else as he grabbed his bag, slung it over his shoulder and hurried out of the dungeons.

By the time he arrived at Gryffindor Tower, it was deserted. Some feathers were scattered across the common room floor, evidence of the feather boas or feathered bodies that had passed that way earlier.

They're all enjoying the Halloween Feast, Harry thought. He was irritated by the idea that everyone was eating and celebrating while he was so miserable, but at the same time, he had no interest in joining them. He felt sickeningly hollow, but the last thing he wanted to fill that void was food.

The squeak of his bed frame as he flopped onto the mattress seemed too loud in the empty dormitory. The only thing moving was the Chudley Cannons on Ron's poster. It was all a blur of orange, and for several moments, Harry distracted himself by cursing orange as the ugliest colour on earth. Finally though, he couldn't distract himself any longer.

Draco isn't coming back.

After all we went through, after everything we said and did, and our promises ... he promised. Didn't he? He was going to come back as soon as it was safe, and then we'd continue where we left off, right? Right on the edge of an intense, taboo, unexpected, unacceptable, yet completely perfect ... friendship? Romance? What the hell is this supposed to be?

Harry groaned and rolled onto his side, letting his arm hang over the edge so that his knuckles brushed the floor. He'd grown like a weed over the summer if his arms were that long. Or maybe the bed was shorter. Whatever.

For a long time, Harry brooded over everything he'd seen, heard and felt since Draco had left. His thoughts seemed like the pieces of a puzzle for which he hadn't seen the final image. The impassive letters from Draco. The blood magic. The danger to both of them. The time and distance. The circumstances under which their feelings had developed. The return to reality. The faded feeling of Draco's lips against his, which just seemed so wrong now, when at the time, it had made so much sense.

We really made a good team, didn't we? Harry choked out a short, bitter laugh. Yes, we did, he answered his own question.

With a grunt, he sat up and let his feet dangle over the edge of the bed. No, not dangling. This year, for the first time ever, his feet rested firmly on the floor from this position. His shoulders slumped, and he sighed.

So this is irony's way of telling me that I've grown up, and it's time for me to stop believing in fairy tales, is that it?

Draco isn't coming back.

The hollow sensation Harry had felt upon his arrival in Gryffindor Tower redoubled, and he had to do something to take his mind off it. There was no way in hell he was going to the Feast. And he wasn't hungry enough to go to the kitchens and have the house-elves make him some food. If he waited in the dormitory long enough, the boys who wanted to escape the plague of costumes would be back, and Harry didn't want to endure any company. No, he wanted company, but the person he wanted was nowhere to be found, he was sure.

More out of reflex than anything else, Harry went around to his trunk and pulled out the Marauder's Map, trying to ignore the empty space at the bottom of the trunk where his Invisibility Cloak had been. Now, he cursed himself for having loaned it to Draco. For safe keeping, until you come back, Harry had said. Besides, the last time I wore it, look what happened. Draco had protested, saying that it meant too much to Harry, and now Harry figured he was right.

I had thought it might remind him of ... being out there. At the very least, he'll send it back to me, I'm sure. I hope. Oh fuck, I have to get that thing back.

Harry forced himself to look away from the trunk. He activated the Map and examined the layout. The Great Hall was so crowded that the names were almost impossible to read because they overlapped each other so thickly. There were a few people in nearby bathrooms. Probably checking their makeup and costumes. Including the boys. Filch was standing inside the door of the Great Hall, so he wasn't a worry. Snape was still in his classroom, and Dumbledore was still nowhere to be seen. Harry thought briefly of going for a visit to Hagrid's hut, as he'd barely seen the half-giant in the past month, before he remembered that Hagrid was also in the Great Hall for the feast.

No, it was just as well. Harry didn't want company.

Wiping the map clean and tucking it into his pocket, Harry eased off his bed and grabbed his scarf and cloak. Not my Invisibility Cloak, he thought irritably. A moment later, he'd slipped back out through the portrait hole.

He'd never really thought about Halloween as being the anniversary of his parents' deaths. At the Dursleys', it had been the day that Harry had to pick up dozens of Dudley's candy wrappers. At Hogwarts, it had been a day of extra food, and the odd mountain troll. Now, Harry's hollow feeling was heightened by the memory of the day's other significance.

I always end up alone, he said, letting himself wallow in his self-pity. It felt good in a perverse way. Harry made his way down the hall and turned the corner towards the stairs. He was looking at his feet, and didn't even see the tall robed figure cresting the top of the stairs before he'd collided with it.

Harry took a step backwards, stunned. "Professor Dumbledore! Where were you when I looked... I mean ... I... I didn't think you were here!"

Dumbledore stretched out his hands in greeting, but his face was drawn and sad. "It would seem that I have arrived. And Harry, my boy, I must apologise, but as I suspect Professor Snape explained, I was somewhat predisposed this afternoon."

At the mention of his conversation with Snape, Harry's anger spiked. "Yeah, he told me. And he said Draco wasn't coming back."

If anything, Dumbledore's sad expression became guarded. "I suspect he didn't say precisely that, but perhaps we should sit down and chat."

"If you'll pardon me, sir, I don't much feel like sitting."

"Ah yes. All dressed for a stroll outdoors," Dumbledore said. His tone was conversational, but somehow, it didn't comfort Harry at all.

"I wasn't about to go to the party," Harry said as he began down the stairs.

Dumbledore fell into step beside him. "I can certainly understand that. And I understand that none of this has been easy for -"

"Don't even say it," Harry bit out harshly. "Don't even say it."

"Harry, there are things that should be discussed. You are, I feel, owed an explanation."

"Ha," he coughed around the bitter word. "What about an explanation a month ago? You never even mentioned that there might be repercussions for the potions we used. Well, besides dying, of course. And now Snape is telling me that there's a complication, and that Draco and I have some sort of messed up three-way connection with Voldemort! Why didn't you tell me?"

"At the time, Harry, we weren't sure what the complications might be, or even if there would be complications, and I felt no need to worry either of you until we knew. There was always the possibility, but no guarantees, either way. And ask yourself, knowing that your rescue mission almost failed as time ran out, did we have the luxury of waiting?"

Harry said nothing.

"More to the point," Dumbledore said softly, "would foreknowledge have changed your decision to attempt to rescue Draco?"

Knowing he'd been pinned, Harry grumbled, "No." He cast a sideways glance at the Headmaster. "But why didn't you tell me afterwards? Why didn't you tell us?"

Dumbledore held his silence for a moment before speaking. His words were careful and measured. "I had tested Draco before he went into hiding, after you had left my office. The active bond was dissolved as the purpose of the potion had been served, but the magic performed by both of you was much more profound. Not just the magic that day, but everything that transpired since you had begun your journey together. Each of you had saved the other's life more than once. That was part of why we needed to remove Draco from Hogwarts. In addition to ensuring his safety, we needed to determine just how deeply rooted this magic had become, and that couldn't be done with a simple test."

Harry stopped short on the staircase and shook his head. "Wait, you're telling me that you've been monitoring Draco all this time? Like a rat in a lab?"

"I apologise, but we have been monitoring you as well."

"Oh, that makes me feel so much better." Harry started walking again, stomping each stair just a bit harder than necessary.

Dumbledore said nothing else until they'd reached the bottom of the stairs, and he walked across the foyer to a small alcove, out of view of the casual passer-by, indicating for Harry to follow. He rested one hand on the windowsill. "Harry, please understand ... we have never been in a better position to destroy Voldemort once and for all. The injury that you and Draco have caused him, although unintentional, has created an opportunity we could never have foreseen. Voldemort has not been this vulnerable since this very night fifteen years ago. However, you have never personally been so vulnerable to him as you are now."

"How's that? If I kill the bastard, I'll die too?"

The comment had been intended sarcastically, and Harry half-expected to be berated for his foul language, but when Dumbledore didn't answer, Harry felt his blood run cold. "You're... you're kidding, right?"

"It was a possibility that we needed to examine, but for now, it does not seem to be the probable outcome. We do not know all the possible consequences, Harry, especially now that Draco is also involved. Professor Snape and I have spent the last month studying this problem, and have come to no certain conclusions. Except one."

Harry looked down at his feet and said sullenly, "Draco and I need to be separated."

"Actually, Harry... that's not quite the case."

For the first time since leaving Snape's office, Harry felt a jolt of hope, and he looked up at Dumbledore fast enough that his neck kinked. "Then he can come back? Draco's coming back? When? At least, let me see him!"

Dumbledore held up his hands. "You will see him, Harry. But when you do, you may not be pleased."

The brief surge of elation faded into a sick feeling in his stomach. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means, Harry, that there were many unforeseen consequences of your actions with Draco. Certain things have changed in the past month."

Harry's stomach dropped to his knees, and it was all he could do to reply around a tongue as dry as sawdust. "What's wrong with Draco?"

Dumbledore's face fell. "Nothing, Harry. At least, nothing physically."

Harry's heart clenched. "Is Voldemort getting through to him?"

"We don't believe so."

"Then... what could be wrong? We can protect him, right? If he's coming back here, to Hogwarts, he'll be safe. There have to be ways to keep Voldemort from getting through to him. If Voldemort can't hurt him and the people who want to kill him have been taken out of Hogwarts, then what else could be wrong?"

Dumbledore said nothing.

"Professor Dumbledore? Sir?"

"As I told you before, we all must make choices. Draco's future is entirely up to him, although I can only wish, for his sake - and yours - that his choices are made carefully."

Harry opened his mouth to press for more answers, but Dumbledore stopped him. "I believe that is enough for now. I promise you, Harry, we will discuss this in my office later, and I will attempt to give you better answers."

By the look on Dumbledore's face, Harry knew it was pointless to press for more information. "Yes, Professor."

Dumbledore nodded and put on what Harry determined was a falsely cheerful grin. "And now, I should probably make a token appearance at the Halloween feast. Are you sure you will not join the festivities?"

Harry snorted. "I don't believe I'm wearing quite enough feathers for the dress code."

"Ah yes. Feathers. Brilliant idea, Harry." With that, Dumbledore snapped his fingers and was suddenly clothed in what seemed to be a Native American ceremonial costume, complete with a feathered headdress that trailed to the floor behind him. "This ought to suit the occasion."

"Er... yes, sir. Very... impressive. But I think I'll pass on the war paint myself. I'd really like to just go for a walk."

Dumbledore shook his head. "I think it might be best if you were to join the feast, if only for a short time. Have something hot to eat, and then you may go for your walk."

Harry's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Yes, sir." He stood still as Dumbledore turned towards the entrance to the Great Hall. "Wait, Professor, I have a question."

Dumbledore paused and turned in place. "Yes, Harry?"

"Who... er... who testified under Veritaserum? You know, the testimony that caused all the arrests?"

"Ah, yes, that would be Miss Pansy Parkinson. She came of age three days ago."

Harry mouthed a silent "oh" then looked down at the floor. Pansy had been the ringleader, so he was sure that her testimony had identified all the possible assailants in the school. Draco should be able to come back, and then Harry would be able to get answers to his questions. Harry looked up again to ask Dumbledore who had been identified as part of the Slytherins' plot, but the Headmaster was already gone.

Frowning, Harry turned and made his way back across the hall to the boys' bathroom. He might not have a costume, but at least he could splash some water on his face, and maybe attempt to straighten up his hair and robes.

The bathroom looked like a wrecking crew had hit it. More feathers were scattered here and there, but also bits of fur, glitter, and what appeared to be a fake hand. Considering that this was the boys' bathroom, Harry felt that the glitter was slightly more disturbing than the orphaned appendage. Shaking his head in bemusement, Harry went to the sink and turned on the warm water tap. He held his hand under the icy stream, waiting for the warm water to arrive.

Why can't a magical society figure out how to get hot water out of a hot water tap when you turn it on? I can understand why the Muggles haven't solved that one, but really...

However, just as Harry's fingers were starting to regain sensation with the warming water, something caught his attention. It was so light that he almost didn't see it against the porcelain, but it was there. He quickly twisted off the tap, wiped his hands on his trousers and picked up the white-blond hair.

It was the same length as Draco's hair. It was the same fine-textured, perfectly straight, white-blond that Harry had seen and touched only a month before. Nobody else in the school had hair like Draco's.

Unless someone has it as part of his costume, his common sense reminded him.

However, common sense was a faint whisper compared to the possibilities currently ripping through his thoughts. He's here. He's got to be HERE.

Harry spun around, half-expecting to see Draco standing there behind him, holding the Invisibility Cloak in one hand and grinning at him, but he wasn't. Undeterred, Harry clutched the hair in his fist and ran out of the bathroom, across the foyer, and to the door of the Great Hall. There was noise and music inside, and the door was slightly ajar. Harry pushed it open just enough to peek inside.

The tables had been arranged along the walls, and were heavily laden with food - mostly desserts, it seemed. The centre of the floor was wide open, and students were mingling in groups; talking, eating, and some of them were even dancing. Dumbledore, headdress and all, was up towards the front of the hall, and he seemed to be doing the "twist" as McGonagall looked on disapprovingly. Flitwick was standing on a chair, manning the old-fashioned Muggle record player, selecting another record from a stack as tall as he and the chair together. Behind him, a large - tree? - was swaying side to side in time with the music. It took Harry a moment to recognise Hagrid through the branches of what appeared to be a just slightly smaller version of the Whomping Willow. Other professors were lingering around the head table, while a few of them were moving amicably amongst the students. Everyone blended together in a crowd of humans, creatures, and even fictional characters and mythological figures as befitted a Muggle Halloween party in conjunction with a wizards' Halloween feast. It was a festive cacophony, and it was the last place Harry wanted to be.

For several moments, he scanned the crowd, looking for any sign of Draco: blond hair, distinctive pointy profile, sharp grey eyes, or even the characteristic movements that Harry had come to know so well. Or, at least, things he thought he knew. However, none of those features could be seen in the crowd, and Harry bit his lower lip as the familiar sense of hollowness settled back into his stomach. Finally, he saw Cleopatra standing next to a very distressed ginger-haired Caesar Augustus. Gritting his teeth, Harry kept his head down as he quickly moved through the crowd towards Ron and Hermione.

Ron saw him first. "Harry! You have to get me out of this!"

Harry didn't have time to get into it between his two best friends, as he continued to look for signs of Draco. "Get you out of what? You look fine, Ron."

Ron's eyes nearly bulged out between the olive branches that framed his face. "Fine? You call this fine?!? Bloody hell! I'm wearing a bedsheet! A bloody bedsheet! Or worse: a dress!"

"Ronald, you're being ridiculous," Hermione scolded as she punched him lightly on the arm. "You look perfectly masculine. The nobles of ancient Rome wore things like this, and -"

"This isn't ancient Rome, Hermione! No bloke in his right mind would be caught dead in a getup like this."

Harry snorted impatiently. "It's a costume, Ron. Everyone is wearing them."

"Except you," Ron pointed out, accusingly. "How did you manage -"

"Ron," Harry said quickly, "I hate to do this to you, but I've got other things on my mind right now."

"What could possibly be more important than the fact that your best mate has been brutally forced into wearing a bloody dress?!" Ron appeared to be on the verge of a minor explosion, but Hermione put a hand on his arm and held him back, putting a temporary cap on the volatile mixture.

"Ron, hush for a moment," she said, looking at Harry rather than Ron. "Harry, you don't look too well. What's wrong?"

Harry shook his head, hoping they wouldn't think he was too crazy. "He's here."

"Who's here?" Ron asked sceptically.

Harry swallowed and held out his hand, displaying the one strand of hair. "Draco," he said softly.

In an instant, his friends' faces displayed the exact emotions he was hoping to avoid. Ron rolled his eyes and looked disgusted, and Hermione gave him that disapproving frown that reminded Harry too much of Professor McGonagall. Harry steeled his nerve. "Don't look at me like that! I'm not crazy. Nobody else in the school has hair like that."

"Costumes, Harry," Hermione pointed out, with a tone of exasperation.

"Look around and tell me if you see any blond costumes that would match this," Harry countered.

Hermione opened her mouth, but quickly glanced around and shut it again. Ron grumbled to himself and shook off Hermione's hand. "I'm going to get some butterbeer," he muttered and pushed off through the crowd.

Hermione watched him go, then turned back to Harry with a patronising sniff. "Harry, I understand that you miss him, and that it's been nearly a month -"

"It's been exactly a month," Harry grumbled under his breath.

"- but you can't let this obsession get the better of you like this! I'm sure there's a reason why he hasn't been in contact. Don't you think that if he were here, he'd come and find you?"

Harry meant to say, "Of course he would", but instead, he felt Hermione's simple question drive like a cold knife to his gut. Or the shoulder, he thought grimly. When he took too long to answer, Hermione's sceptical stare turned concerned.

"Oh, Harry. Don't do that." She sighed and took a step closer to him. "I know I've been rather harsh, and you know that Malfoy -"


"Draco," she corrected, "isn't my favourite person, but I know you wouldn't be this taken with someone who didn't care about you, too. I'm sure there's an explanation."

"Then explain this," he said grimly, indicating the hair clutched tightly in his fist.

Hermione pursed her lips for a moment, then finally shook her head. "I can't. But that doesn't mean there isn't a reason."

"Sure," Harry replied as he turned away from her. "Let me know when you think of it."

He felt a hand rest on his shoulder, and Hermione's voice came closer behind his left ear. "In the meantime, Harry, go have something to eat. You barely touched your breakfast or lunch. You must be starved."

"Not really, but I'll go have a drink." Then, he thought to himself, I can get the hell out of here.

"That's the spirit," she said, sounding happier.

Without replying, Harry began to move through the crowd towards the drink table. He dodged a group of Hufflepuffs, forced a friendly hello to Lavender Brown and Romilda Vane (who were poorly disguised as Veela), and narrowly avoided Colin the House- Elf with his camera. It was only when Dean the Gladiator stopped to congratulate him on his amazing avoidance of the costumes that Harry caught sight of something that made his stomach jump.

Just to the side of the drink table, Vincent Crabbe was carrying on what appeared to be a very tense conversation with an abnormally short Dementor. Harry swallowed and forced himself to breathe. "Dean, your costume is great. At least it doesn't have any feathers. I... I have to go talk to someone."

Dean frowned. "Something wrong, Harry?"

"I don't know," he said vaguely before pushing past Dean without another word. The Dementor had his back turned towards Harry, and a cloak covered its hair and face. However, it only took a moment for Crabbe to notice Harry's approach, and in the next instant, his expression became extremely apprehensive. The Dementor turned around, but its face was still obscured by the mask.

He was the right height to be Draco. Harry even thought that the tilt of his shoulders was uniquely Draco. Mostly, it was his gut instinct whispering that Draco was right there, as if he could feel the presence he'd missed for the past month. However, as he approached, the person in the costume folded his arms across his chest - body language that screamed distaste, defiance, and even disgust. Confused but not daunted, Harry strode up to them.

Crabbe spoke first. "Er... hi, Potter. Happy Halloween. Er... nice costume?"

"Hi, Crabbe," Harry said, not looking at anything but the hideous mask in front of him, just barely taller than his own height. Steeling himself, Harry squared his shoulders and asked, tentatively, "Draco?"

The Dementor shifted his arms, but didn't unfold them, and didn't say a word.

Frustration finally got the better of Harry, and in one swift movement, he reached out and grabbed the mask. A pair of icy grey eyes stared back at him, glaring furiously. Draco's familiar features, something Harry had thought he'd memorised from the arch of his eyebrow to his soft half-smile, were twisted into a scowl that Harry had all but forgotten. It was the Draco from another lifetime, only now he seemed older, angrier, and had a determination in his eyes that drilled through Harry. "Draco?" he asked, unable to quite hide his shock.

"Potter," he said coldly.

It was like a kick in the gut, and Harry's mouth dropped open in dismay. "Draco, what the hell are -"

"In case you hadn't noticed, Potter, you just interrupted a private conversation," he drawled, disdain dripping from every word. "Or did your Mudblood mother forget to teach you proper manners?"

Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing. He shook his head in disbelief. His mouth fell open, but Draco cut him off again.

"Oh, wait. I forgot. You don't even remember your mother. Then what about that Muggle family of yours? Muggles wouldn't even be capable of higher functions, such as manners. After all, they're hardly better than animals." Draco's nostrils flared, and his face twisted as if he smelt something unpleasant.

Blood was rushing in Harry's ears. Around him, he could hear the crowd go quiet, murmuring nervously as the tension built by the second. In front of him, the boy who would have died for him merely a month ago was scowling at him as if he were a revolting inconvenience that had dropped randomly in his path. It made no sense. It was beyond comprehension. Trying to ignore his lurching stomach, Harry balled his fists. "What the hell has got into you?!"

Draco snorted. "What's got into me? Nothing that a good month's rest, recovery and common sense wouldn't do. I should ask what the hell has got into you."

By now, even the Professors seemed to be aware of the disturbance, and the crowd had formed a distinct circle around Harry, Draco and Crabbe. Even Crabbe was edging away. Harry barely noticed them, as he was still desperately trying to process what was happening. "Wha...?"

"Eloquent as usual, Potter. So unless you plan to apologise for your atrocious Muggle-trained manners, I suggest you get the hell away from me."

The floor of reality seemed to be dropping out from beneath Harry. It has to be an act. Maybe there's still a threat. Maybe Dumbledore told him to do this. This can't be what Draco is really thinking. It can't be. However, before Harry could say another word, Draco had shoved past him, roughly clipping him on the shoulder.

The crowd parted to let him pass. The only sounds were Flitwick's old record player broadcasting scratchy old Muggle music, and the sharp clip of Draco's shoes on the stone floor. The footsteps echoed, despite the muffling effect of the crowd, and Harry remembered the same sound echoing off the walls of Voldemort's dungeon. As Draco retreated, the hood of his costume fell back, exposing his hair and neck; it was a sight that was so familiar to Harry, but now it was completely out of place and strange. Harry watched him go, and a sinking sense of hollowness set like a rock in his stomach, empty yet heavy at once.

Draco shoved the doors out of the Great Hall open with a bang, and it was more than Harry could take. Spurred into action, Harry ran off after him, reaching the doors just an instant before they fell shut again. He pushed into the foyer and looked around frantically. Draco's footsteps were still audible, and Harry turned just in time to see the back of his robes disappear around a corner.

"DRACO!" Harry felt a hand on his shoulder, trying to stop him, but he shook it off and ran after Draco.

This was too unbelievable. There had to be a mistake. Perhaps Draco had been brainwashed. What if he was hiding something? Maybe someone was threatening him, and he had to do this. Whatever the explanation, Harry didn't care. He hadn't lived through hell and waited this long just to have the only person he'd ever really... really cared about like this... betray him. Not like this. He couldn't accept it. He wouldn't believe it.

The sound of the crowd behind him only made him run faster. Draco didn't seem to be heading towards the Slytherin dorms, and Harry couldn't begin to guess his destination. He could only hope that he didn't fall too far behind. They were close to the corridor where Moaning Myrtle haunted the girls' bathroom, which only left Harry more confused. He had no idea where Draco might be going, but really, he didn't care where, as long as he was there, too.

Harry rounded the corner and skidded to a stop mere inches from Draco's face. The surprise of nearly colliding with his target elicited a startled yelp from Harry, and in his effort not to actually crash into Draco, he lost his footing on the polished stone floor and fell backwards, arms flailing.

With the wind knocked out of him, Harry groaned and looked up. Draco was staring down at him. For a moment, Harry thought a flicker of sympathy ghost across Draco's features, and for that instant, Harry was sure it had all been an act. Draco's shoulders would slump in surrender, and he would reach down and grasp Harry's hand, pull him up, and explain how he had been pressured into putting on such a cruel display, and that there had been a really good reason for everything, but that hopeful image faded in a heartbeat.

Draco's mouth curled into a scowl, and he gave Harry's leg an unsympathetic nudge with his shoe. "Pathetic, Potter. Chasing after me like some sort of noble hero. You really can't take a hint, can you?"

Harry was on his feet before he'd realised he'd moved, standing practically nose to nose with Draco. "No, Draco. I just can't accept that someone I cared about that much would... would act like that!" He glanced back over his shoulder, hearing the distant sound of approaching voices and footsteps. He turned back to face Draco's cold stare. "There's nobody else to hear you right now. Just... tell me someone is making you do this. Tell me that this is an act. Before they get here, tell me! Why are you doing this?"

Draco's face remained impassive, although his lip twitched. "Do what? Act like I've always acted?"

"YES!" Harry almost cried. "We're friends! We're... more than friends ..."

"Naïve little Harry Potter," Draco said, his voice barely above a whisper. It was a grating sound, not the voice Harry had missed so much. "You really think that your charade out in the forest was enough to make me abandon my parents and to convince me that everything I was ever taught was wrong."

"Yes... it was," Harry said, but his words felt empty.

Draco snorted derisively. "You spent three weeks messing with my head, acting like you knew the secrets of the bloody universe. You had me convinced. Almost."

"But... Draco..." Harry swallowed thickly. On one hand, some part of him could almost feel Draco, like a physical thing, as if the link that had formed between them from the potion had never been fully severed. At the same time, Draco's words dug into him painfully, a sharp contrast to the warmth he missed... the warmth that was Draco that Harry swore he still felt. It made no sense.

However, his eyes were the final answer. Draco was glaring at him with complete and utter loathing. Behind him, the footsteps had closed in, and Harry was sure that quite a few people were now watching them from a careful distance. He didn't care. This was too important. "Draco... you escaped with me. You saved my life. You... you said you loved me."

"I'm sure it was nothing more than delusions brought on by exhaustion, exposure to the elements, and a lack of decent food," Draco said haughtily. "Although whose delusions... well." He eyed Harry up and down. "I'd say you're still quite delusional."

"But -"

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I've had a long day, and I've had quite enough of you."

With that, Draco began to turn around, but Harry grabbed him by the arm and spun him back so they faced each other again. "I love you!"

Draco struggled a bit. "Let me go, Potter!"

But Harry wasn't quite done with him. In one impulsive, desperate move, Harry quickly leaned in and pressed his lips against Draco's. For a fleeting instant, Harry swore those lips yielded to his own. The taste was so familiar, and the scent of Draco's hair was unmistakeable, and for that moment, Harry swore his heart was going to break.

In the next heartbeat, Harry found himself being shoved backwards. He caught himself on the wall behind him and reflexively pushed himself forward again, but even as he rebounded, he felt the sickening crunch of a fist connecting with his face. His glasses went flying, and he reeled backwards into the wall with a crack and slumped to the floor.

He could have gotten back up. He could have been on his feet with his fists swinging. Draco's punch hadn't been that hard. Instead, he sank lower against the wall as heat rose in his cheeks. He looked up at Draco's blurry form standing over him.

"If you knew what was good for you, Potter, you'd keep your distance from me."

Harry wanted to say something - anything - but nothing came. Instead, he sat silently and watched as Draco gave a self-satisfied nod that he could see even without his glasses, and stared bleakly as Draco retreated down the hall. Nobody followed. For several long moments, nobody moved. Harry was fine with that. He didn't want to move either. In fact, at that very moment, he was tempted to think that he never wanted to move again.

Eventually, he heard the shuffle of feet on the stone floor and Hermione mumbling a quick Reparo. His glasses were placed in his hands. Automatically, he put them on his face and looked up at Hermione. Even with his glasses back, she looked a fit fuzzy. Harry blinked a couple of times to focus. Hermione was looking at him with a mixture of concern, pity, and just a hint of I told you so. Harry was too busy reeling from Draco's actions to be angry at the look Hermione was giving him, and he could only listen to her numbly.

"Harry, you're bleeding. He hit you pretty hard. You should go have Madam Pomfrey take a look at that."

Harry reached up and touched his left cheek. Sure enough, his hand came away with a streak of red liquid. He was sure that his cheek was already swelling horribly, and he was bound to have a black eye in the morning, if not by bedtime. Funny, he hadn't felt the pain. And right now, pain didn't matter. "I have to go find him."

"Harry, listen to yourself!" Ron blurted. He was standing behind Hermione. Harry hadn't even noticed him approach. He looked up blankly as Ron continued to rant. "The bastard just punched you in the face. Everyone saw it! It's just proof he was putting on a show out in the woods because he knew he'd never make it back without you. I knew Malfoy would show his true colours. It was bound to happen."

"There's got to be more to it," Harry said, more to himself than to anyone else. His voice was shaking now. So was the rest of him. "He couldn't have meant it. Someone put him up to it. He would never -"

"Well, he did, Harry," Hermione said in her most reasonable tone. Then she frowned and pressed her hand against his forehead. "You're pale as a sheet and your skin is clammy. I think you might have hit your head on the wall behind you. We need to get you to - oh, Professor!"

Harry turned and looked past Ron to see Professor McGonagall staring at him with an unreadable expression. Professor Dumbledore was standing behind her. Harry felt a little jolt. Dumbledore! He knew what was going on! If what he'd said earlier that evening had been any indication, which Harry was sure it was, then -

"Professor Dumbledore! You have to tell me... what's going on with... please, I know you know, and..." Harry struggled to get to his feet, but as he did, a wave of dizziness caused him to stumble, and he slid back down the wall.

"Mr Potter," McGonagall said crisply, "Right now, you won't be doing anything except getting yourself to the hospital wing. And then, you will explain your behaviour! Blatantly inciting a fight with another student is inexcusable and -"

"But Professor, Draco must be -"

Dumbledore stepped forward and held up one hand. "Harry, I would suggest that you listen to your Head of House," he said, stressing the title, "and allow Madam Pomfrey to patch you up."

"But what about -"

"We will speak about this matter at a later time." Dumbledore's voice was low, and unusually solemn. It didn't make Harry feel any better, but it also didn't allow for further argument. "For now... Miss Granger, Mr Weasley, will you please escort Mr Potter to the hospital wing?"

"Yes, Professor," they chorused.

As Dumbledore dispersed the crowd, which was more substantial than Harry had realised, Ron and Hermione gently pulled Harry to his feet, steadying him when he teetered a bit. Hermione began to say something, but Harry gave her a sharp glare that effectively cut off any further discussion.

As they turned the corner, however, Professor McGonagall caught them. "And Mr Potter... twenty points from Gryffindor for provoking a fight. Thirty points from Slytherin for Mr Malfoy striking another student, but he could not have struck you if you hadn't followed him."

Harry gritted his teeth and nodded, not trusting himself to say anything, lest he accidentally let a few profanities slip out. The day was already miserable enough. He turned and allowed his friends to escort him towards the hospital wing.


In a tiny alcove just off the main corridor, hidden by the Invisibility Cloak - Harry's Invisibility Cloak, Draco couldn't help but think - Draco watched as Harry walked by, flanked by his ever-present entourage. The blood was still dripping from Harry's cheek where Draco's knuckle had cut him, and Harry was making no attempt to wipe it. In fact, it looked as though he barely registered the world around him. He seemed empty, like a broken doll, barely alive. Draco had seen that look on him only once before. It had been the look that had caused Draco to break once before, too.

He wanted to break again.

Draco looked down at the knuckles of his own hand. He'd cut himself on Harry's glasses, but it was completely inconsequential. He deserved far worse for what he'd done. For a betrayal like that, he deserved nothing short of the Cruciatus. In truth, he wondered if he could even think he deserved to live, especially if he followed this horrible plan to its painful end. However, if he couldn't even handle the first phase, then the rest of the plan and his own death would surely go hand in hand.

Far worse would be what might happen if he didn't even try.

The crowd dispersed under Professor Dumbledore's direction, and as the old man walked by, Draco swore he glanced directly at him, but soon, even Dumbledore was gone. Again, he was alone. He was going to be alone a lot, so he might as well get used to it. That didn't mean he had to like it.

Gritting his teeth, Draco made his way as quietly as possible to the main staircase and quickly climbed to the seventh floor. He stopped in front of a blank section of wall, opposite the portrait of Barnabas the Barmy, and quickly paced back and forth three times. A door appeared, as he knew it would. With one last check over his shoulder to ensure that he hadn't been followed, Draco let himself into the Room of Requirement.

Once inside, with the door secure behind him, Draco removed the Invisibility Cloak. He felt the Mislocator thud against his chest, and squashing yet another painful wave of nostalgia, he removed it too, and tossed it on the floor next to the Cloak.

He finally took a look around. The room and transformed itself into a familiar vista - one that had haunted his dreams lately and had been one of his only escapes from the reality he was preparing to face. He was out in a familiar field, under a beech tree. The moon hung full and high above him, and a cloak was spread invitingly underneath the tree. A small but warm bonfire crackled nearby. It was the perfect night, waiting for him. It was only missing one thing.


As beautiful as it was, and as close as it was to what Draco needed, he still knew the painful reality. Harry wouldn't be joining him anytime soon. He would be lucky if he could ever have that pleasure again.

Finally, Draco fell to his knees on the cloak and tipped forward. Facedown on the cloak, surrounded by an illusion of the wilderness he'd survived only a month ago - a place where he should be with the person he'd come to love more than anything else, yet as alone as he'd ever been - Draco cried.


Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And pray to God he hears you

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

(Lyrics by "The Fray")


Post-Script Author's Notes: And there you have it! Perhaps a bit unexpected, but that's would you expect anything less?

First of all, if you'd like to join in conversation about the fic, get information about updates, ask questions, and more, please join my Yahoo group, "Beyond the Eclipse", here:

Second, you can also find me at my Livejournal, here:

Third, I'm going to try to finish the second chapter of "Convergence" before Sectus. I'll be attending Sectus and Prophecy this summer. I hope to see some of you there!

And finally, keep your eye out for my silly little crackfic that I've just begin posting here on FictionAlley, tentatively entitled "Baseball Slash". Harry gets drunk on Fenway beer, Draco gets into a fight with a Red Sox fan, and Voldemort plays shortstop for the Yankees. Fun is had by all. Eleven installments - the Pre-Game, nine innings, and the Post-Game wrapup. See you at the ball park!