Warnings: some graphic violence, implied violence, character deaths (none of the main ones)
Notes: Thanks to periazhad for beta'ing, alexia75 for Britpicking, violetfishy for reading, s8219 for letting me whine, and bellamorte19 for being there since the beginning. Also to my f-list, for their patience and support.
He ran as fast as his feet could carry him. The trembling didn't help him and he tripped, landing flat on his face. Forcing himself to get up, he managed to make it to the school gates just when he heard a loud screech and the flapping of enormous wings. The oaf's bloody chicken. Turning around, he saw someone on the ground and Snape running towards the gates. Within seconds Snape was at his side, yelling "Grab my arm!" And in his state of panic and confusion, he did...
Suddenly, everything went black. He felt the air around him pressing him, forcing the oxygen out of his lungs. Before he knew it, he was gasping for breath. Draco opened his eyes and confirmed that he wasn't at Hogwarts anymore.
His voice was a strained whisper. "Where are we?" Draco hoped they weren't going to meet the Dark Lord. He knew that wasn't going to end well and he wasn't sure if Snape was still willing to protect him. His thoughts jumbled together, most of them incoherent.
"Spinner's End. Shut up and follow me," Snape ordered him sharply.
Draco followed him numbly, still in shock. The functioning part of his brain noticed that every house seemed to be falling apart. Surely the Dark Lord wouldn't be hiding among Muggles. Draco assumed that his life was probably not threatened at the present time. Snape stopped at the very last house, motioning for Draco to stay outside. He opened the door, aimed his wand and yelled "Stupefy!"
A thump in the house made Draco release a breath he didn't know he was holding. Snape grabbed his sleeve and forced him into the house.
Draco followed Snape automatically around the house as he took a bag and started tossing things haphazardly in it.
"Listen to me very carefully," said Snape slowly, as though waiting for every word to sink in. "If you want to survive, you'll do whatever I tell you. The Dark Lord will hear what happened tonight. He will want you dead. I can hide you. Do you want me to?"
"But my mother? My—my father..." Crap. All this effort and they were all going to die in the end. The Malfoy family reunion in the afterlife would be very pleasant. 'Hello, Mother. You're dead because I couldn't kill someone. Oh, look, there's Father. He'll be pleased to know that he would still be alive if his own failures hadn't brought me into this mess in the first place.'
"Your father is safe. The Dark Lord cannot hurt him in Azkaban. Your mother is a different matter. I can protect her, but only if you agree to follow my instructions." Snape's tone was as close to soothing as Snape's voice could get, but it wasn't enough to ease Draco's panic.
"Yes. I'll do anything. Just don't let her get hurt," Draco replied, still in shock from everything that had happened.
"Good," Snape said flatly. He pointed his wand at the bag and the fastenings clicked.
Countless questions were floating in Draco's mind. He had no idea which one he should ask first, so he looked around him, trying to think of something.
"Professor, who is that fat lump lying unconscious on the sofa?" he asked when he spotted someone sprawled gracelessly on the tattered cushions. Why didn't he notice him before? He really should start paying attention if he was going to run away from everyone.
"Wormtail." Draco was about to ask who that was, but Snape interrupted him before the words left his mouth. "Peter Pettigrew."
"Peter Pettigrew?" Draco squeaked. Fantastic. They had just knocked out the Dark Lord's lapdog. Smooth escape, really.
"Yes." Snape drawled. There was a glint in his eyes that Draco thought was amusement. How could Snape be laughing at him in a situation like that?
"But...but...he's going to tell Him!" He would start hyperventilating any minute now, he could feel it. Clearly luck was not at his side that night.
"Draco. Get a grip on yourself. He was sleeping before the hex hit him, so he has no idea what happened. It just bought us time. The Dark Lord will not hear anything useful from him. Now follow me. I still have to hide you and your mother before I report to the Dark Lord."
They Apparated in front of an abandoned shack, hidden in the middle of a forest. Snape used his wand to unlock the door and ordered Draco to stay in there until he got back, almost slamming the door to his face.
Draco sighed. Even though he was exhausted, he felt like he wouldn't be able to sleep. The events of that night were too much for him to handle, so he pushed those thoughts away, trying to make himself comfortable. That is, after he Scourgified a corner of the room, throwing in a couple Cushioning Charms for good measure. It worked. Within minutes he was falling asleep, tightening the hold on his wand as he did so.
He didn't move until the next morning. Right in the middle of a bizarre dream, which included Chocolate frogs, a rabid Krup and a Weird Sisters' concert, the Krup started barking like mad and he was suddenly brought back to reality. Well, almost.
"Draco, wake up!" the Krup barked and started morphing into Snape, until Draco opened his eyes, only to come face to face with a large crooked nose.
Draco jolted and his head knocked against the wall. He looked around the room and then glared at Snape, rubbing his head where he was sure a bump would appear later. So that's who was actually barking... Draco would have started sniggering by now if he was in an entirely different situation, but he was on the run right now and his family was in danger.
"How's my mother?" he asked, now fully awake.
"Anyone who tries to find her at the Manor will think she has disappeared. But she is actually hiding in the cellars."
"You're actually expecting my mother to live down there?" he scoffed. Not in a century. Narcissa would never abandon her rooms to stay underground, surrounded by Lucius' wine collection. Even if she drank half of the bottles, she wouldn't be plastered enough to put up with it.
"Of course not. She's under the Fidelius charm. I'm the Secret Keeper. She will hide in the cellars for a few days, just until everyone thinks she has run away, and then she will start using the rest of the house again. I informed the house elves. They will do their best to take care of her, I'm sure."
"Oh. Professor..." He had to ask. It didn't matter if he sounded like a child. His mother got on his nerves ever since Lucius got locked up in Azkaban, but now that they were in danger more than ever, he felt that he needed to see her again. Even if it was just to reassure him that he hadn't gone through all that trouble for nothing.
"Will I see her soon?" There. It wasn't so difficult.
"I hope so, Draco. I hope so."
Harry was back at the Dursleys. Because Dumbledore wanted him to. Every night he dreamed of the night Dumbledore died—"No! He was murdered!" he corrected himself. The dream always started at the cave, at the point where he forced Dumbledore to drink the emerald liquid from the basin. And it always ended on the top of the Astronomy Tower, with Snape firing the Killing Curse at Dumbledore and throwing him off the tower. Every time Harry woke up screaming like he did that night. Or at least feeling like he was screaming even though, like that night, he never made a sound.
After every dream, he saw the same images replaying in his mind. Dumbledore's face when he drank the emerald liquid and when he was pleading with Snape and...the image of Dumbledore blasted into the air...the image of Malfoy lowering his wand....Snape's face right before he killed Dumbledore...
The Dursleys had stopped pestering him. Maybe they had realised that something was wrong. Harry would bet all his Galleons that it was probably because they would get rid of him permanently after his birthday. He still had to help with the housework, but only Aunt Petunia talked to him and her words were along the lines of "Wash the car" and "Do the dishes". Uncle Vernon just grunted when he saw him and Dudley was out of the house all day.
This was probably an improvement.
Harry himself hadn't spoken more than five times during the last weeks. He focused all his energy into thinking about the remaining Horcruxes. Every thought brought him to a dead end. He just couldn't imagine where Voldemort could have hidden them.
He thought of ways to torture Snape at least twice a day. Each scenario ended with a badly injured Snape at Harry's feet, begging for his life. And each time Harry aimed his wand at him, bellowed, "Avada Kedavra," and watched Snape's face as he died.
Harry really believed he could do it.
Ron and Hermione sent him letters at least three times a week. Hermione would go to the Burrow a few days before Harry. Maybe things will work out between Ron and her. He smiled. He couldn't wait to be with his best friends and the Weasleys again. And Ginny—he wanted to see Ginny again. Although they had broken up, he missed her, but he knew that he couldn't be involved with anyone, at least until he killed Voldemort.
Voldemort. It always came down to him.
Harry knew he wouldn't be able to rest until he made sure Voldemort was gone for good. So many people had suffered because of him. It was his responsibility not to let others have the same fate. That thought kept him going as he washed the car, dug the garden, scrubbed the pans, made the beds...
Like now, when the Dursleys had just finished their dinner and he was left alone in the kitchen to clean up after them. He thought of Voldemort and attacked the pan with the scourer.
Panting, he looked up and saw the full moon through the window.
After living in the abandoned shack for a few days, Draco started getting used to it. Needless to say, he hated the place and wished it looked more like his rooms at the Manor, but if living under these circumstances was the only way to stay alive he was more than willing to do it.
Snape was away most of the time. He usually came once every two or three days to check up on Draco and bring him food. But he didn't talk much.
Draco was getting bored.
That was why he started leaving the shack for a walk in the forest. Every time he walked even further than he had before. He was sure Snape would be furious when he found out. However, neither that nor his fear of wild animals and unknown forests was enough to discourage him. Boredom made him restless.
That afternoon, like he had done many times before, Draco pocketed his wand and left the shack. After fifteen minutes of following a path through the trees, he finally reached the river. He looked at the sun. "About an hour until sunset," he thought.
A breeze rustled the leaves of some nearby bushes. Draco shivered.
Halfway through his walk he felt like he was being watched. He shook off that feeling and blamed the breeze for making the hairs on the back of his neck stand. After all, it was the middle of July. He was sweaty and he felt chills at the back of his neck because of the wind. It was perfectly normal.
It was perfectly normal.
Repeating the same phrase in his head was probably not a good sign.
Especially when someone grabbed him from behind and placed a bad-smelling hand on his mouth.
During the last moment he had before panic overtook him, he glanced at the hand and saw the long yellowish nails. When he recognised them, he started screaming and thrashing immediately.
Don't panic... It's not dark yet...
He was tied on a tree five minutes before dark. On a full moon night. With Fenrir Greyback pacing calmly in front of him.
"You know, the Dark Lord will be extremely pleased, no matter how this is going to turn out."
Draco tried to speak through his gag, but he produced only a few muffled grunts.
"There are two options, you know. One, I bite you and stop there. You turn into a werewolf." Greyback said, lifting a finger. "Or two, I bite you again and again and again, ripping the flesh off your bones, splattering your blood all over the place..." He looked dreamingly at the second finger he lifted.
Draco wanted to throw up.
Greyback looked at him, continuing his speech.
"Not that I'll be aware of what I'm doing...I don't tend to hang around my victims. But I've gathered that it's quite messy!"
He emitted a disturbing bark-like laugh, just as darkness fell and the full moon appeared in the sky.
The transformation started.
Greyback started to shake. His head and body were lengthening; his shoulders were hunching; hair was sprouting on every visible patch of skin—
The werewolf in front of Draco growled.
Please, let me die...
The beast lunged forwards. As its jaws locked around his calf, Draco let out a scream. It wasn't the pain that scared him, but the realisation that if he survived, he would have turned into a werewolf. A half-blood freak.
He felt like ages had passed, though it was only seconds later when someone appeared out of nowhere and attacked the werewolf with an axe. The black robes that swirled around as that person landed the axe repeatedly on the wolf's back reminded Draco of Snape, and he hoped he was right. Pained howls pierced Draco's ears, his head was hurting, he didn't even feel his leg, blood was everywhere...
The wolf let out a whimper and stopped moving. Finally Draco felt the ropes being removed from his body and strong arms supporting him, but he was dizzy and tired and just wanted to die. He thought he got his wish when everything around him blurred before turning black.
Harry was in the hall of the Dursleys' house, sitting on his trunk. He glanced at his watch again.
Dudley had gone out hours earlier. At this hour he would probably be in the park with his friends, beating up some poor kid who couldn't defend himself. Uncle Vernon was in the living room, watching something incredibly boring on the telly. Aunt Petunia was pacing nervously in the kitchen, occasionally poking her head in the hallway to look at him.
The last minutes of his stay at the Dursleys seemed to last forever. In eight minutes, he would turn seventeen. He would have liked to celebrate his birthday with his friends, but since Dumbledore wanted him to stay there until then...
Hedwig hooted softly from her cage.
Harry realised he was fidgeting.
He started humming a tune to take his mind off the wait. This cheered him up a little and he hummed louder. Aunt Petunia's head appeared in the kitchen doorway.
"Sorry..." Harry muttered.
Harry got up from his trunk and stood outside the living room.
"Goodbye, Uncle Vernon!"
His uncle grunted, never taking his eyes off the telly. Harry went to the kitchen to find his aunt.
"Goodbye, Aunt Petunia."
She tried to scowl, but ended up nodding her head before turning her back on him. Harry returned to the hall to take his things and go outside. Just as the hands of the clock pointed at midnight, Harry looked at the house and saw a previously invisible barrier around it glowing softly for a moment before dissolving in golden sparks.
He held his wand and lifted his arm.
With a loud "bang", the Knight Bus appeared in front of him.
Harry arrived at the Leaky Cauldron thirty minutes later. The ride had left him slightly dizzy, but thankfully Tom the innkeeper was there to help him with his things. He was probably bored out of his mind now that the Leaky Cauldron was empty most of the time. From what Harry had read in the Prophet, people were avoiding Diagon Alley even more than they had a year earlier. After what happened at Hogwarts, they believed that no place was safe anymore. Harry was glad of this, because it meant that no one would bother him.
Tom led him to his room. When Harry was alone, he didn't even take his clothes off before collapsing onto the bed. He was asleep within minutes.
Early the next morning, after an appetising breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron, Harry went to the Ministry of Magic. He wanted to get his Apparition license as soon as possible because he was sure he was going to need it during the next few months.
Fortunately his test didn't last long and the Apparition Instructor seemed pleased with him. After completing his registration, which involved signing numerous Ministry forms, he made his way to Arthur Weasley's office. He was about to knock when the door opened and Arthur Weasley bumped into him.
"Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't—" he started, but then broke into a wide smile as he saw Harry's face. "Harry! How are you? What are you doing here?"
"Hello Mr. Weasley. I had some things to do here today before going to the Burrow and I thought I'd wait for you to get off work."
"Ah, yes. Of course. Come in, come in! I won't be long." He motioned for Harry to enter the office and disappeared down the hallway.
Harry sat on a chair in front of the desk. Mr. Weasley returned a few minutes later and picked up his cloak. They made a short stop at the Leaky Cauldron to get Harry's things and then made a Floo trip to the Burrow.
As he walked out of the fireplace, Harry was suffocated by a squealing and bushy-haired head.
"Hello, Hermione!" he tried to say, but his friend's hair muffled his voice.
"Oh, Harry! Happy birthday! We missed you so much!"
"For Merlin's sake, Hermione, stop it! You're choking him!" called Ron's voice.
Harry spent the next few hours catching up with his friends. The subject of Dumbledore's death was mercifully left out of the conversation and Harry started feeling better. He was with his best friends at the Burrow. Nothing could go wrong.
That night Harry, Ron and Hermione had to go to bed early, as they had a long day ahead of them. Bill and Fleur's wedding would take place in the afternoon and everyone would assist the preparations to make sure everything was perfect. Even Ginny, who used to dislike Fleur, had talked during the entire dinner, going on and on about Fleur and Bill's robes and Aunt Muriel's tiara—"Goblin-made, of course. It looks beautiful on Fleur's hair, you have to see it!" Harry suspected that her change of heart had to do with Fleur's reaction to Bill's injury.
When Harry returned from the bathroom, Ron was already asleep with his mouth half open. Harry smiled and flopped onto his bed, falling asleep shortly after.
"I'm so glad we can finally use magic!" said Ron, sitting on his chair in the garden. "If this had happened last year, we'd have to carry all this stuff! I get tired just by thinking about it!"
Everything was ready for the wedding. Ron and Harry had set the chairs in the garden, Ginny had dragged Hermione to Fleur's room to help her get ready and the guests had started arriving. Harry thought it was like a Weasley convention; the amount of red heads walking around was making his eyes hurt. Of course, when Fleur's family got there the effect was blinding as the red heads mixed with the silver-blonde ones. Harry was glad that the crowd consisted of not only the Weasley and Delacour families. He wasn't sure his eyes could stand that much shiny hair everywhere.
Tonks showing off her new hairstyle—and in a violent fluorescent green shade—didn't help the situation.
Suddenly music surrounded them and everyone moved to their seats. Bill stood in front of the crowd, waiting for Fleur, who appeared moments later behind Ginny and Gabrielle. Hermione slid into a seat between Ron and Harry once Fleur had taken her spot next to Bill.
Mrs. Weasley sniffled the entire ceremony.
So did Fleur's mother, though she was doing a very good job of hiding it.
Fleur looked stunning in her shining white robes. Bill couldn't take his eyes off her and his face looked so happy that no one seemed to care about the ugly scars marring it. As the ceremony ended, Bill planted a soft kiss on Fleur's lips and the guests applauded.
As expected, the crowd proceeded to the tables within minutes. Harry's stomach growled. Maybe weddings have this effect, he thought. The guests all look like they could eat a Hippogriff.
Snape reached the decrepit mansion as the sun disappeared behind a nearby forest. His Mark was burning and he felt beads of sweat forming on his forehead. Mentally cursing Voldemort's choice of attire for his followers, he reached the front door and murmured an incantation. The door opened, hinges creaking, and two other hooded figures beckoned him to enter.
Voldemort was sitting in the dining room having a conversation in soft hisses with his snake. When he saw Snape approaching, he conjured a stool a few feet in front of his armchair.
"Sit, Severus," he said, waving his unnaturally long and white fingers in the direction of the stool.
Snape did as he was told.
"Have you found the Malfoy boy yet?" Voldemort's voice echoed in the room.
"No, Master. He seems to have disappeared."
"Narcissa as well. I suspect that he returned home after he escaped from me. The Manor seems to be empty. Her rooms indicate that she left in a hurry."
"Is that so?"
"Unfortunately, my Lord. I searched the entire house and found nothing but house-elves. Narcissa's wardrobe was half-empty, as was the one in her son's room."
"Ah, yes...And what are your thoughts on this matter?"
"I believe they have left the country. So far, no one has been able to locate them in England. It's probable that they're hiding in France. I know Lucius has some connections there, people who might be willing to hide Narcissa and Draco."
"I see...Your next mission will be to investigate this possibility."
"Yes, my Lord."
Voldemort emitted a slow hiss and his snake stirred before slithering away. When the end of its tail finally disappeared from the doorway, Voldemort shifted a little and leaned towards Snape.
"Severus, I have received some rather...unpleasant news. It appears that Fenrir Greyback is dead."
An hour later Snape was entering the abandoned Muggle building in the middle of nowhere, where he kept Draco hidden. After Greyback's attack, Snape had wasted no time and quickly found a new hiding place, which he warded heavily to avoid other unwanted visitors, although he still had no idea how Greyback had found them to begin with. Passing through the protective barriers he had placed, he climbed the creaking stairs and went to the second door in the first floor corridor.
Draco was lying on a dirty mattress, tangled in some ragged sheets they had found. He was thrashing around, panting, and Snape was at his side immediately, placing a hand on his forehead. Great. He's burning up.
"Draco, wake up."
"Wake up!" he barked.
Draco opened his eyes abruptly. His gaze seemed unfocused for a while, until he looked at Snape.
"What...?" he croaked.
"You have a fever. Move, I need to check on your leg."
"What—" he stopped to clear his throat. "What happened?"
"The Dark Lord knows that Greyback is dead. He's not very pleased about it."
"Oh." Draco flinched when Snape placed some healing salve on his wound. "How does it look?" he asked when Snape was done.
"Horrible, just like it should look. And your face has turned into an alarming shade of green."
"Slytherin colour." Draco tried to smirk.
"I wouldn't say so. It's more like the colour of armadillo bile."
Draco's smirk faded and he glared at Snape before sinking back in his mattress.
Harry was walking between Ron and Hermione as they headed towards the village. It was fun, he thought, standing between them watching as once in a while one would cast a quick glance at the other and immediately turn away. One of these days he would have to talk to them about it.
At the village they bought ice creams and sat on a bench to eat them, watching people as they passed by. The wedding had provided enough material to keep them entertained even two weeks later. They still laughed between licks of ice cream at remembering that evening's events.
"Still, I can't believe Aunt Muriel threw herself at Fleur's cousin! Did you see the guy's face?" Ron's smile revealed some chocolate chips stuck on his teeth.
"Honestly, Ron! You're such a pig!"
Harry laughed at Hermione's remark.
"Why? What did I say?" Ron tried to sound hurt.
"Ron, seriously. You have to look at your teeth!"
Ron turned around to look at the window behind them. When he saw the state of his teeth, he turned at the others and glared. Then he pointedly looked straight ahead, avoiding their eyes.
"Thanks for mocking me," he muttered.
Harry and Hermione looked at each other shortly and started apologising to him.
"Ron, I didn't mean to—"
"Ron, mate, don't—"
Ron turned his head slowly and smirked at them.
"I can't believe you fell for that!!"
Harry's eyes went as wide as dinner plates, while Hermione's narrowed dangerously. Letting out a growl, they both jumped at Ron and started tickling him, making him drop his half-eaten ice cream on the ground.
That night the three of them were sitting in the garden, sharing some Bertie Botts' Every Flavour Beans. Mrs. Weasley was in the kitchen washing the dinner dishes and Mr. Weasley was probably rearranging his electric plug collection somewhere. Ginny had left two days ago to stay at Luna's house.
Harry decided it was time to reveal to his friends what was on his mind.
He cleared his throat. Ron and Hermione stopped munching the beans and waited for him to speak.
"I—uh..." He gulped. "I am going to Godric's Hollow."
"Great! When are we leaving?" asked Ron.
Hermione remained silent, having sensed Harry's uneasiness.
"I'm going alone." Ron's face fell. "And before you start protesting, let me explain. I do not plan on going after the Horcruxes by myself. You both want to come with me and I really appreciate and respect that, but..." He drew a deep breath. "I need to go to Godric's Hollow alone. That's where everything started, that's where my parents lived, that's where I was supposed to be living before Voldemort—"
He stood up and started pacing agitatedly. Taking a few deep breaths to calm himself, he went on.
"Just trust me on this one. I need to do this. After that, I'll come back and we'll do everything else together."
"Right. How will you go there?" asked Hermione.
"I'll take the Knight Bus. I'll also take my Invisibility Cloak, in case anything happens."
"Well, make sure nothing happens!" said Ron hoarsely.
"Don't worry, Ron. I will." Harry smiled and popped a bean into his mouth. "Eww, it tastes like feet!" he yelped, spitting the bean on the ground.
The three of them doubled over in laughter under the full moon.
Early the next morning, to avoid bumping into Molly Weasley, Harry left. Ron and Hermione stayed with him until he got on the Knight Bus, to send him off and to advise him to be careful. Harry had one last fleeting look at them as the bus started its hurtling course. It felt strange to ride on the Knight Bus without Stan Shunpike on board, he thought.
He didn't notice a black-cloaked figure in the back of the bus.
The ride was shorter than he thought it would be. Twenty minutes, to be exact. It was probably because the bus was almost empty and stopped only to drop a drunken old wizard at his house. Now it was in Godric's Hollow. Harry was home. He took his backpack, said goodbye to the driver, and stepped off. The bus took off again while he looked at his surroundings and—
A flock of sheep was heading straight at him. He jumped aside and wrinkled his nose. It was too early in the morning to deal with the smell of sheep. The shepherd appeared a few steps behind them.
Harry asked him for directions. The old man was more than happy to help him. He showed him the way to the graveyard but, no, he didn't know where the Potters' house was, however there was a place that might have been it once, and of course he would show Harry.
Harry had no other option but to follow the sheep.
It was like he thought it would be. An empty piece of land with only a few traces that a house had once been there. He walked around for a while, trying to locate something—anything - that would make it real.
Nothing. Unless one counted the foundations of the house that were visible through some patches of grass.
He turned around and made his way to the graveyard.
His parents' graves were under a willow tree.
Harry knelt in front of them, thinking about what he was going to do next. Talking to them was not an option. They couldn't hear him, for starters, and a part of him felt that if he started talking he wouldn't be able to stop.
So Harry tried to smile. As the corners of his mouth turned slightly upwards, tears started escaping his eyes. Not bothering to wipe them, Harry leaned forwards and placed one hand on each gravestone.
Something was off.
For some reason, he remembered being in the cave with Dumbledore. He also remembered the Gaunt house. Where the ring had been hidden.
Something inside him clicked. He transfigured a branch into a shovel and started digging. He had no idea what he was doing and why. He only knew that he had to keep digging. His shovel hit something metallic.
Clearing the rest of the dirt with his hands, he dug out a cup. A small golden cup with two finely wrought handles.
He should have been ecstatic that he had found one of the Horcruxes. On the contrary, he was furious.
"In my mother's grave..." he growled. "YOU BASTARD!" The growl turned into a roar.
Harry dropped the cup on the ground and had his wand pointed at it in a heartbeat. Soon he was throwing every hex and jinx and curse he could possibly think of and he didn't care, he just wanted to get this over with and be able to live, actually live again—
...when one of his spells, or maybe more than one, backfired and hit him straight in the chest. He fell backwards and saw everything slowly fading to black before his eyes and a figure covered in black was towering over him, but he didn't have a chance to worry about that. He saw nothing but black as he finally passed out.
"It's been three days since he left! He was supposed to be back yesterday! What are you getting paid for? He's Harry Potter!"
A fuming Ron, whose face had turned a shade even redder than his hair, was pacing around the kitchen, glaring at the Aurors. Hermione was on the verge of tears.
"And the owl came back with the letter?" asked the shorter of the two.
"Yes! She always found Harry up until now! If she can't find him..." Ron's voice cracked.
"Did you find anything in Godric's Hollow?" asked Hermione.
"An old shepherd, a Muggle, saw him the morning he went there. Other than that, he seems to have vanished. And we searched the entire village."
Ron felt his eyes water. Hermione let out a sob. Ginny, who had returned to the Burrow that day and had stayed silent until then, lost her patience.
"Will you listen to yourselves?" she said, hands on her hips, glaring at Ron and Hermione. "He is not dead." Ron flinched at that point. "He could be in danger, but if you keep acting like that, you're not helping anyone! These people are here to help. So, Ron, I suggest you shut up for a minute. And it wouldn't hurt to have a little faith in Harry. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to unpack."
She turned on her heel and left the room, rushing past her mother, who had tear streaks on her face.
Harry woke up. He had no idea where he was, how long he had been there or why he couldn't move. He tried to say something. No, that's not working either, he thought. He had almost started panicking, when the door opened and Snape came into the room.
Harry lost it.
He tried to move in order to attack Snape, but his body betrayed him. Only his face turned red from the effort, but other than that, nothing changed. Snape started speaking.
"Once again, you have proved that you really are an imbecile, Potter, going around on your own hexing cups, for Merlin's sake!"
Harry glared at him.
"I have had it! We all go to hell and back to keep you safe and you go and do something so monumentally stupid and almost ruin everything!"
Harry had no idea what Snape was talking about.
"You have been unconscious for four days. Right now, you are under a Full Body Bind. I am sure that had it not been for it, you would have been trying to strangle me by now. If you want me to take it off, you have to trust me. And to do that, you need proof. Well, here's your proof," Snape concluded, pointing his wand at Harry. "Fight back and see for yourself. Legilimens! "
Dumbledore was falling off the tower again...Malfoy was lying in a pool of blood...Ron was convulsing, foam dribbling from his mouth...
He started pushing back. The memories began to fade and Snape grew clearer. Suddenly, Harry's mind was filled with memories that were not his own.
And Harry saw the truth.
Minutes later, Harry lay panting on the bed. He felt Snape lifting the spell from his upper body and found out he could use his voice again.
"As you see, I had no choice." Snape sounded tired.
"How do I know these memories were real?" Harry asked.
"Really, Potter! Even someone as daft as you could tell the difference!"
"Insulting me isn't the best way to get me to trust you, you know!"
They both glared at each other. Snape was the first who spoke.
"They were real. Dumbledore wanted me to get as much information as I could out of Narcissa about Draco's mission. That's why I took the Vow. We never knew what that mission was until the very end. Dumbledore told me to kill him that night. I had to do it. That way, I would appear loyal to the Dark Lord, protect Draco and keep the Vow at the same time. Not to mention that Dumbledore was never going to make it after drinking all that poison."
"And he told you all that on the tower? In what, five seconds? You really expect me to believe it?"
"Dumbledore was much better at Legilimency than I ever will be. He told me what I needed to know."
Snape lunged forwards and grabbed a fistful of Harry's hair.
"You never learn your lessons, do you? You are going to respect me. I saved your life out there, if that makes any difference to you," he growled and stepped back. "The Ministry is looking everywhere for you. I can't let you go. Once we get a chance, we'll go to Hogwarts. Dumbledore's portrait might be able to convince you."
"When will I get my wand back?" Harry asked.
Snape observed him for a short time, looking like he was trying to sort out his thoughts.
"Are you going to run away or attack me?" he asked finally.
"Do I have your word?"
"Yes," he said through gritted teeth. Well, that didn't mean he was going to keep it.
"Good. You will get your wand back when you get well. That was a very...interesting combination of spells. Apparently the Hurling Hex caused the Reductor Curse to backfire and it hit you in the chest. Though I can't understand why you wanted to destroy a cup."
The mention of the cup roused Harry immediately.
"The cup! Where is it?" he burst out.
"With your wand. You'll get it later," Snape said. He lifted the Body Bind from Harry and left the room, muttering something about annoying teenagers as he closed the door.
Harry spent the next few hours alone. He was sure the door would be locked and had decided to be agreeable until he found a way to escape. In addition, the wound in his chest caused a discomfort in his breathing and it would be a problem if he tried to escape before it felt better.
The sound of approaching footsteps alerted Harry and he tried to sit up. Snape entered the room once more.
"If you are hungry, you can come to the kitchen and prepare something to eat."
He turned to leave. Harry decided he should get up and follow him. Snape headed towards the stairs. When they got to the lower floor, Harry asked where they were.
"It's an old Muggle inn, abandoned for years. It's also Unplottable and protected by various enchantments."
Harry didn't ask why.
After another flight of stairs they reached the ground floor. Snape walked along a corridor with mouldy walls, stirring the dust on the floor with every step. At the end of the corridor a door, which Harry assumed led to the kitchen, stood half open. Harry thought he heard clattering noises from that direction.
And he was right.
When he entered the room the first thing he noticed was the third occupant of the building, bent in front of a cupboard, blonde hair swaying back and forth as he rummaged through the pots.
Before Malfoy had time to turn around, before Snape realised what was going to happen, before Harry even was aware of what he was doing, he howled and pounced on Malfoy. He didn't mind the pain in his chest. He didn't care that Snape could hex him. He only wanted to keep punching Malfoy, who was currently trapped beneath him, too shocked to fight back.
Strong arms grabbed him and pulled him away from Malfoy.
"Stop it this instant!"
Harry had barely stopped kicking and punching the air, when Malfoy broke out of his daze and decided to retaliate. In a swift move that startled Harry, Snape had grabbed Malfoy's collar and stopped him before he had a chance to punch Harry.
"Listen very carefully," he said in a whisper that sent chills down Harry's spine. "You," he looked at Malfoy, "will sit in this chair. Now. You," he glared at Harry, "will sit in that one." The chairs were at opposite sides of the table and far enough to make it impossible for either of them to reach the other.
They did, however, start a glaring contest.
"I am not here to baby-sit you. If I ever catch you fighting again, both of you will regret the day you were born. I'm trying to keep both of you alive, not playing referee to your fights. Ungrateful brats!"
Harry had a feeling that the last comment was directed mostly at him. He looked at Malfoy's face as his expression changed gradually. He must have just realised what Snape said, thought Harry, and he wanted to laugh at the horrified face in front of him.
He suspected that Malfoy had no idea that Snape wasn't exactly a loyal Death Eater.
"What did you just say?"
Draco slapped himself mentally. He couldn't believe he had just squeaked.
"I suppose you don't mean the part where I called you an ungrateful brat."
Draco glared at Snape.
"I said that I'm trying to keep you and Potter alive. And I don't really need to explain myself to you." Snape turned his back to him and picked up a pot.
"Potter? You're trying to protect him? What is going on here? Next thing you'll be telling me that you're working against the Dark Lord and spying for the Order of the Phoenix!"
Draco was seething. Snape just looked at him and cocked one eyebrow, which made Draco slightly nauseous as realisation hit him.
"You are, aren't you? Wait until he hears about you. He's going to rip you apart. But if I am the one who tells him..."
Snape moved too fast for him to react and grabbed him at the throat. He couldn't breathe.
"Don't even think about it. I did everything within my powers to protect you and your mother. If you turn your back now, I'll make both of you suffer."
He removed his hand and Draco gasped as air rushed into his lungs again.
"I asked you before and I have to ask again. Do you want to stay alive?"
"Yes," Draco managed to rasp.
"Then you'd better hope Potter here wins. The Dark Lord, as well as some of his followers will take great pleasure in torturing you before they kill you. You cannot go back to them. Now you have a choice. Do you want to keep running for ever, or offer your help to Potter to fix this mess as soon as possible?"
Draco had no idea what to answer to that. His jaw had started to hurt and he couldn't tell whether it was because of Potter's punches or from trying to keep his murderous expression. He couldn't stay in that room any longer.
Taking in a sharp breath, he got up and left, limping because of the strong pain in his leg.
Harry's gaze followed Malfoy's retreating back until he disappeared at the end of the corridor. He noticed Malfoy's limp and wondered if he got injured during their fight. "No, he would have started acting like I chopped his leg off" , he thought as he remembered the Buckbeak incident back in his third year. Malfoy hadn't mentioned his leg once, which in Harry's opinion showed that he didn't want to draw attention to it.
There was definitely something about that injury that embarrassed Malfoy, and Harry was going to find out what it was.
Snape was scowling at him.
"What?" he protested.
"I trust you not to pummel him again like you did today when I'm not around."
"Are you serious? First you tell me I have to stay in this dump, then I find out Malfoy's going to be here too and now you want me to behave when you're on your 'business trips'?"
He could see Snape was trying very hard not to reach for his wand and decided not to push his luck.
"Fine. Fine! You know what? I am going to behave. But if that wanker even thinks about coming anywhere near me, he's going to have a lot more to worry about than a beat-up leg!"
Harry sat back in his chair crossing his arms and looking at everywhere but Snape.
"Don't...talk about things you know nothing about..." Snape rasped and left the room, slamming the door closed on his way out.
Two days later he was awoken by Snape. It was still dark outside. He informed Harry that he wouldn't be gone for long and gave him his wand back, threatening to kill him in a very painful way if he found Malfoy in pieces when he returned. Harry grudgingly agreed and stuffed the pillow over his head to muffle Snape's voice and get some more sleep.
It was noon when he finally managed to wake up. The sunlight was reflected on something gold and the glow went straight to his eyes. Harry put on his glasses to see what it was. Snape had left Helga Hufflepuff's cup next to his wand.
His stomach was growling too much to ignore. He pulled on his robes and went down to the kitchen.
No sign of Malfoy. Good.
He found some leftovers from the day before and scoffed them so quickly that he got a stomach ache. While he was wondering why his stomach felt like it was about to burst, he heard footsteps in the corridor.
Harry got up quickly to leave the room, when Malfoy entered. They both froze. Malfoy's eyes flashed momentarily and he knocked his shoulder into Harry on his way to the sink. Harry grunted and left, slamming the door as hard as he could.
The cup was gleaming in the sunlight. Harry kept staring at it, trying to think of a way to destroy it. There were no visible signs that it could be a Horcrux. Harry shuddered as he realised that a piece of Voldemort's soul was trapped in it. His index finger traced the rim of the cup, moving on to the engraved badger.
He needed his friends' help.
Harry got to his feet and started packing his things. He stuffed the cup in his backpack, got his wand and left the room quietly. Tiptoeing on the stairs as he reached the lower floor, he avoided the floorboards he knew would creak and held his breath until he got his hand on the front door's handle.
A light breeze ruffled his hair as the door opened. He closed it carefully and took a few cautious steps towards the front gates. When he was about thirty feet away from the building, he met an invisible barrier.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.
He took his wand out and started casting any spell he could think of. All of them gave out bright sparks as they hit the barrier. He was getting desperate and was about to cast a Severing Charm, although he knew it probably wouldn't work, when he heard someone approaching. He turned his head and saw Malfoy running at full speed, his eyes wide and his face ghost white. Malfoy leaped when he got closer, tackling Harry to the ground.
"No, you idiot! They're going to find us!" he roared, and grabbed Harry's arm, trying to get him back in the house.
Harry tried to resist, but Malfoy used so much force it was almost impossible not to follow him. When they finally made it to the entrance, Malfoy closed the door and sealed it. He held his wand in a way that reminded Harry of horror movies, just when the protagonist realised that a mass murderer was in the house. Malfoy peeked through the curtains, his breath coming out in short puffs.
"What the hell are you doing, Malfoy?" he growled.
"What the hell are you doing? If the barrier dissolves, both the Ministry and the Death Eaters will be here before you even have time to blink! I don't care what's going on inside that thick head of yours, but I don't really want to be found by either of them right now." Malfoy closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. He moved his hands to his face and started rubbing his temples, continuing his speech in a tired voice. "No, you know what? I'll be locked up in my room. You deal with them when they come. I don't particularly want to die today."
And with that Malfoy climbed the stairs, limping once again and leaving a very confused Harry in the entrance hall.
Harry spent the next twenty-four hours on the second floor. His injured chest still hurt, especially after the events of the day before. The enormous bruise, covering the entire area from his right collarbone to his stomach, had started turning into an ugly dark purple colour. He couldn't believe that it had been caused only by a Reductor curse. Only something much worse would look that bad after all the potions Snape claimed to have fed him.
He was getting bored again. Cursing himself for letting Malfoy's presence get to him to the point where he isolated himself in his room, he decided to go to the kitchen again and ignore the annoying bastard if he met him. Instead of running into Malfoy, he found Snape sitting at the table, reading a tattered copy of the Daily Prophet. Harry sat on the table across Snape's seat.
Without uttering a single word, Snape pushed the paper in front of Harry. He curiously picked it up and started reading the front page.
A week ago Harry Potter, age 17, disappeared from Godric's Hollow. The Ministry has tried to cover up the incident, but after we received our information from a source that wishes to remain anonymous Ministry officials have reluctantly answered some of our questions.
According to some of Potter's friends he was in Godric's Hollow to visit his house, where He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was defeated sixteen years ago. He was spotted by a Muggle and mysteriously disappeared hours later, leaving no traces of himself behind.
This incident was the confirmation of the school governors' fears. Governor Arnold Sykes stated, 'After the events of past June, we realised that the school was no longer safe. The Board members were doing their best to assure parents that security measures would be taken to ensure their children's safety. Unfortunately, after Mr. Potter's disappearance, we received several letters expressing those people's wishes to remove their children from Hogwarts. At the rate these letters are coming, there won't be enough students left to keep the school open.'
Students who wish to continue their education at Hogwarts are advised to contact other schools, as Hogwarts will remain closed until further notice. (More information on page 4, column 2)
"Right. So what happens now?" Harry asked when he finished the article.
"Now...Now we can go to Hogwarts."
Harry locked himself up in his room for hours. He didn't want to go to Hogwarts. Dumbledore's portrait would confirm Snape's innocence, meaning Harry would have no reason not to trust him any more. And he didn't want to trust him. He desperately needed to hate Snape. Then there was the Malfoy issue.
Malfoy was just scared out of his mind. Somehow this didn't seem a reason good enough to trust him. Harry was sure that Malfoy would never manage to murder someone, but he wasn't so sure that Malfoy wouldn't sell them over to Voldemort if he thought it would be enough to save his life.
He wished that those were the only reasons that made him reluctant about visiting Hogwarts, but there was something else, something he didn't want to think about.
Harry wasn't sure if even his famous Gryffindor bravery would prevent him from breaking down in front of Dumbledore's portrait.
Over the next few days Harry and Snape planned their trip to Hogwarts. Much to Harry's annoyance he finally realised that when Snape said 'we', Malfoy was included as well. Although absent during the first few planning sessions, Malfoy finally decided to show up, doing his best to ignore Harry while scrunching up his nose at his suggestions.
One of the things that worried Snape was getting into the school without being seen. Hagrid was still living there and would be probably checking the grounds with Fang. Snape had been silent for a long time, probably thinking of ways of sneaking in unnoticed and looked like he was rejecting his ideas, furrowing his eyebrows every once in a while.
Harry finally decided he had let him suffer long enough.
"I know how we can get inside the castle without crossing the school grounds."
Snape broke out of his thoughts and looked at him. So did Malfoy, for the first time in days.
Harry thought it was wise not to let them in on all the details of the secret passage, so he just announced that they had to break into Honeydukes. Snape bit his tongue, but nodded eventually and continued planning...and planning...and planning.
They had arranged to leave on September the 1st. It was a Sunday, so Honeydukes would be closed.
Snape woke Harry up hours before sunrise. He wanted nothing more than to sink back into the mattress and ignore him, but he reluctantly got up and put on his robes. Minutes later he went downstairs, having stuffed his Invisibility cloak in his pocket. Malfoy was at the table, looking like he was about to fall asleep.
Harry had just started munching a piece of toast when Snape entered the room.
"Ready?" he asked them.
Malfoy nodded and got up. Harry mumbled a 'yes', trying to swallow his mouthful.
They followed Snape until they reached the barrier. He pointed his wand in the air and chanted a spell, sending out a white beam that opened a hole large enough for all three of them to exit. When they were finally out, he sealed the opening and cast a Disillusionment charm on Malfoy and himself. Harry just put on his cloak. And with three soft pops, they Disapparated.
When Harry opened his eyes again, he was in front of Honeydukes. There was no trace of Snape or Malfoy around him.
"Where the hell are they?" he wondered and the thought of getting as far away as possible entered his mind before he heard Snape's whisper.
"Potter! Front door."
When Harry's gaze settled on the front door, it opened with a soft click and the air in the doorway rippled as the Disillusioned forms of Snape and Malfoy rushed inside. Harry followed them and closed the door behind him as silently as he could.
Snape had just taken the charm off himself and was pointing his wand where Malfoy must have been standing. Harry removed his cloak and put it in his pocket. When he lifted his head, Malfoy was visible again.
Walking as silently as he could, Harry made his way to the counter and motioned for Snape and Malfoy to follow him. He crept through the door behind the counter and climbed down the stairs, using his wand to illuminate his path. When he reached the trapdoor, he pulled it open and waited for the others to catch up before disappearing through the dark gap.
Draco followed Snape as he disappeared through the trapdoor. If Potter was right about that passage... No, he wouldn't let himself think about it. He kept following Snape down the worn stone steps, trying not to think of what could be waiting for him at the other end of the passage. Soon the steps ended and Potter led them down a passage. Draco felt they kept getting deeper. Tiny beads of sweat had formed on his forehead and he lifted his arm to wipe them away with his sleeve.
The path's uneven floor slowed them down because Draco kept stumbling every few steps. After many twists and turns the passage stopped and Draco saw that they were standing at the foot of a long stone slide. He felt the veins in his head pounding. Before he had time to catch his breath, Potter pointed his wand at the slide and a rope appeared.
Great. Now they had to climb.
Potter went up first, Snape following closely behind. Draco found it difficult to climb with Snape's arse almost shoved in his face. He tried not to think about it. In all honesty, it was too early in the morning for him to crawl through tunnels with Snape's arse blocking his range of vision, no matter how much he respected the man.
A few minutes later, his professor's arse disappeared and revealed a fairly small opening at the top of the slide. Draco climbed the last few feet and poked his head through the hole.
He couldn't believe his eyes. Potter was right. They were in Hogwarts.
He had spent an entire year trying to fix a Vanishing Cabinet to get the Death Eaters in the school, when there was a passage under his nose all along. And naturally, Potter was the one who knew all about it. Draco fought the urge to start hexing everything around him and climbed off the statue's hunch.
Harry waited patiently for Snape to cast a Disillusionment charm on himself and Malfoy before pulling on his Cloak again. Although the only person near Hogwarts was Hagrid, who wasn't even in the castle, they didn't want to risk revealing their presence. They still had to hide from the ghosts and the paintings. Trying to stay as silent as possible, they slowly made their way to Dumbledore's office.
"I need to go alone first," said Harry the moment they stopped in front of the gargoyle statue.
A jet of light flew towards the gargoyle, clearly sent by Snape. The gargoyle leapt aside and Harry was pushed by Snape towards the stone staircase as it started moving.
"You have ten minutes until we come up," Harry heard Snape saying, just when he saw the oak door of Dumbledore's office. He was surprised by how easily Snape seemed to have given up, but he figured that he was just planning to barge in the office before Harry's time was up. Sighing, he placed a hand on the brass griffin and pushed the door.
The room was covered in warm yellow light, as the sunlight poured through the windows. Harry's eyes travelled all over the room, pausing momentarily on Fawkes' perch before finally resting on the portrait he came to see. The figure stirred and smiled at him, as he closed the door behind him.
"Good morning, Harry. I was wondering when I'd see you again."
Even as a portrait, Dumbledore still had that familiar twinkle in his eyes. Harry stared at him and tried to speak, but he stopped every time when he felt a lump rising in his throat. After his fifth effort and the encouraging smile of the portrait, Harry finally managed to say something.
"Professor..." he croaked. The sound of his voice embarrassed him. Harry had promised to himself that he wouldn't break down and it took him only a couple of minutes to fail miserably at that.
"It's nice to see you again, Harry. The last time we were...interrupted before I could explain everything to you. I suppose you have some questions you'd like to ask me."
"Snape is here."
Harry waited for some kind of sign that would alert him to grab some Floo powder and get the hell away from there, but it never came.
"Is he? Splendid! I have some matters to discuss with Severus."
Twinkly eyes, check.
Cryptic smile, check.
"Sir, I need to know if I can trust him. He showed me what happened, but I need to hear it from you. Did you really order him to do what he did?"
"Harry, sometimes we all have to make sacrifices. At that point there was no other option." Portrait-Dumbledore shifted in his painted chair. "You were not supposed to find out. I admit that I had my suspicions all along, but I wasn't willing to take any risks. Why do you think I finally allowed Professor Snape to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts?"
Harry opened his mouth but snapped it shut immediately.
"It was because I knew he would eventually have to leave the school. I trust Severus. He has a difficult task and so far he has helped us immensely. But that wasn't good enough. It seems that Lord Voldemort wasn't entirely convinced of his loyalties."
Harry started fiddling with his sleeve, while Portrait-Dumbledore continued his speech explaining what happened during the year. In the end Harry had no other option but to allow himself to believe what Snape had told him.
Portrait-Dumbledore had just stopped speaking when Harry heard a knock.
"You can come in," he said, raising his voice loud enough so that Snape could hear him through the thick oak door.
Snape entered the room in a swirl of robes, followed by a Malfoy who looked like a drowned cat. Harry wondered how he had not noticed Malfoy's appearance. His hair was stuck around his face, while some locks stuck out from the top of his head. He suppressed a snort and decided to focus on Snape's face instead. What he saw there was quite different from what he expected.
Snape looked...pleased? Relieved? Harry couldn't decipher that expression, but it was the first time he saw Snape looking like that. For all he knew, Snape could be on drugs at that moment. Snape ignored Harry and stood in front of the portrait.
"Headmaster," he greeted the portrait, bowing his head briefly.
"Severus. I see you brought young Mr. Malfoy along." Portrait-Dumbledore directed his gaze at Malfoy who was suddenly very interested in the carpet pattern.
"He won't be a problem," replied Snape. And with that, he turned around and sent a Muffliato towards Malfoy.
"Hey!" Malfoy tried to protest, but a glare from Snape shut him up. He sat in an armchair and sulked, while Snape continued his conversation with Portrait-Dumbledore.
"So Severus, how did you and Mr. Potter end up here?"
Snape explained how he had seen Harry on the Knight Bus and decided to follow him. When he described the scene he faced at the graveyard, Portrait-Dumbledore's eyes twinkled alarmingly and Harry felt his cheeks flush.
"Very good, Harry. I didn't expect you to find another Horcrux so soon."
Harry's heart skipped a beat. Why on earth would Dumbledore talk about the Horcruxes in front of Snape? He opened his mouth to voice his doubts, but Portrait-Dumbledore had started speaking again.
"Given the circumstances, I believe it would be favourable to let Professor Snape help you locate and destroy the remaining Horcruxes."
"But...But, sir—" Harry spluttered.
"Harry, if you return to your friends, everyone will wonder where you have been. Furthermore, the Ministry is planning to keep a close watch on you once you reappear. It will only obstruct your task."
For the next hour Harry reluctantly explained to Snape what he had learned about Horcruxes during the past few months. Portrait-Dumbledore merely nodded along, although his mouth twitched from time to time. Harry couldn't believe that Portrait-Dumbledore was amused by his behaviour. When he was finished, he looked at the portrait and waited for him to speak.
"Excellent! I see that you have not forgotten our lessons." Portrait-Dumbledore beamed at Harry.
Harry offered a small smile in return.
"I am very pleased that you thought to search for a Horcrux at the graveyard. I must admit I'm quite surprised that Lord Voldemort decided to place the cup there, as I'm sure that this wasn't its original location. Tell me, Harry, do you see a pattern in the places he chooses to hide these items?"
Portrait-Dumbledore waved his hand, urging Harry to go on.
"He chooses places that have been important to him in the past. The ring had been hidden in the Gaunt house. It's his connection to Salazar Slytherin's bloodline. The cave was where he had terrorised two children from his orphanage. That...That's where he used his magic to threaten others. To 'make them hurt if he wanted to', like he said. And..." Harry paused, not wanting to break down. "And my mother's grave. It was my mother's sacrifice that stopped him before."
"Very good, Harry. And if you had to make a guess as to where you'd look for the next Horcrux, what would you say?" Portrait-Dumbledore looked like he was sure Harry would give him the right answer.
That was all the encouragement Harry needed. He was sure that the first thought that crossed his mind that moment would be the answer Portrait-Dumbledore was looking for.
"The orphanage. I'd check the orphanage."
Portrait-Dumbledore had seemed very pleased with Harry's answer. He was about to explain to them the steps of destroying a Horcrux, when Harry decided to tell him that the locket was still missing. Portrait-Dumbledore remained silent for a while. Snape removed some nonexistent lint from his robes and Harry simply stood there, waiting for Portrait-Dumbledore's response. Just when he started thinking that the portrait wouldn't speak again, Portrait-Dumbledore cleared his throat.
"Well, I cannot pretend this does not hinder our plans. Perhaps it would be best if you didn't worry about that for now. If there's anyone who can find that locket, Harry, it's you."
Harry wanted to crawl under a large rock and never come out again. Finding the Horcruxes was difficult enough, but finding a locket which could be anywhere in the world was going to be impossible. Portrait-Dumbledore's voice brought him back to reality.
"Now, I think it's time to teach you how to destroy a Horcrux. It's quite simple in some cases, like in the diary, as you remember. Other objects require a different approach. I'm guessing the cup is a case similar to the ring. The first step will be to..."
Harry immediately grabbed a quill and a piece of parchment from Dumbledore's desk and started taking notes.
Draco was furious. He couldn't believe they had dragged him along, only to make him sit in the same room and cast a spell to prevent him from overhearing their little reunion. So he did what he knew best; he sank in an armchair and wore his 'You-can-drop-dead-for-all-I
The only problem with that was that after the first hour the muscles in his face had started going numb. Draco decided the look was being wasted anyway, so he decided to try and get some sleep. He pulled his legs up and tried to get more comfortable. He had almost fallen asleep when he suddenly heard Snape's voice.
Right. Now they decided to take the spell off.
"Draco, wake up. The Headmaster wishes to have a word with you."
Draco sat up quickly. He had managed to avoid the portrait so far. Unfortunately it seemed that he wouldn't get away that easily. Talking to Dumbledore's portrait meant that he'd have to deal with a lot of things he had managed to avoid so far. After all, he had spent an entire year trying to kill the old man.
He crossed the room and stood in front of the portrait. When he couldn't put it off any longer, he raised his head and met Portrait-Dumbledore's gaze.
"Good morning, Draco. How are you feeling?"
Draco cleared his throat. "Fine," he replied, trying very hard not to avert his eyes from Portrait-Dumbledore's face.
"A few months have passed since our last meeting, which I'm afraid ended rather abruptly. We never had a chance to end our discussion." Portrait-Dumbledore's soft voice sent a shiver down Draco's spine.
"Yes," he replied, not knowing what else to say.
"The offer I made that night still stands. I suppose you had enough time to reconsider."
Now everything made sense. What Snape had done for him was the same thing Dumbledore had suggested.
"I didn't have a choice in the end." Draco paused for effect, only to see that Portrait-Dumbledore didn't seem impressed. "I failed my mission. My options were clear enough after that. It was either dying or accepting your offer. Although I was tricked into it," he gave a pointed glare at Snape at that point, "I don't really want to die. And since my former side wants to kill me, it seems I'm stuck with yours."
Draco still hadn't sorted out his thoughts on that matter, but he realised that at least he really believed the things he just said. Portrait-Dumbledore responded with an enigmatic smile. Draco felt more relaxed than he had been since the night he left Hogwarts and for some reason he thought that Portrait-Dumbledore wasn't alarmed by the fact that he had spent an entire year trying to kill him.
"Very well my boy. I am sure Professor Snape will take good care of you."
Draco felt much better when he saw the shocked look on Potter's face.
They spent the rest of the day in Dumbledore's office, since it was too risky to leave the school before dark. Draco resumed his place in the armchair and tried to sleep again. The next full moon was close and he felt drained, as his body was not used to the changes it suffered during a lunar month. Draco had fallen asleep listening to Snape's whispering voice talking to the portrait.
Right in the middle of a very pleasant dream, where he was in the dining room at the Manor, emptying countless dishes of the most delicious foods, he felt someone shaking his shoulder. He felt his head spinning and he slowly opened his eyes to find Potter standing over him.
"Snape says you should come and eat," he pointed at a tray of sandwiches on the desk.
Draco barely had time to reply when Potter turned his back and headed for the food, ignoring him once more. When his stomach growled, he got up and went to the desk, grabbed a few sandwiches and returned to his seat. He didn't get up until it was time for them to leave.
It was very late when they arrived at their hideout. The moment they entered the building, Harry ignored the others and went to his room. Dropping his robes in a messy pile on the floor, he stretched out on the bed and fell asleep right away.
He didn't wake up until noon. Realising that they would be destroying the Horcrux that day, he jumped off the bed and hastily threw on some clothes. The cup was still where he had left it, hidden under a loose floorboard near the wall. Harry grabbed the cup and made his way to the kitchen.
Once he got there, he saw Snape hunched over a bubbling cauldron and a familiar smell reached his nose. No, it can't be... He cleared his throat to announce his presence.
"Sit. We'll start working on the cup in a few minutes," said Snape without averting his eyes from the cauldron. He put out the fire and let the potion cool down.
"Is that Wolfsbane potion?" Harry asked as he sat at the table, using the most nonchalant tone he could manage.
Snape turned around in a swirl of robes and an amused expression formed on his face.
"Well, Potter...It seems you actually learned something about potions after all..."
Harry thought he should protest, but Malfoy chose that moment to come into the room. He ignored Harry completely and approached Snape, whispering something to him. Snape replied in a similar voice. When he picked up a cup and poured some of the potion in it, offering it to Malfoy, Harry had to blink to make sure the scene in front of his eyes was really happening. At that point, Malfoy picked up the smoking cup and carefully took a sip, while an expression of disgust formed on his face.
Harry felt his eyes almost popping out of their sockets, but after a moment decided not to mention anything. If he was right, it would be better if Malfoy didn't know that he had discovered his secret.
Half an hour later the three of them were sitting at the table with their eyes focused on the cup. They had been like that for at least twenty minutes. No one seemed to be willing to start.
Malfoy shifted in his chair. Snape cleared his throat.
"I guess we should destroy it, then," Harry mumbled, deciding this had gone too far.
Snape took his wand out.
"Wait!" Malfoy cried out. Both Harry and Snape turned to look at him. He continued in a lower voice. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Oh, for..." Harry let his hand drop on the table. It was the third time Malfoy asked that question and Snape had already explained everything to him twice. "You just have to sit there and give us a few drops of your blood when we need it. And if something happens and we fail and a soul fragment starts floating around the room, you'll have to kill it!" He needed to calm down. Malfoy wasn't paying attention and it was getting on his nerves.
His outbreak earned him a sneer from Malfoy. Harry did his best to ignore him from that point on.
A bright jet of light erupted from Snape's wand, hitting the cup and making it shimmer. When the cup started shaking, Harry grabbed the knife he had brought on the table for the occasion and cut the skin on his palm. The pain made him hiss and he pushed the knife towards Malfoy.
Malfoy looked like he was two steps from fainting. Despite that, he still grabbed the knife and repeated Harry's actions. They waited for Snape's signal while the blood had started flowing out of their wounds.
"It's almost time..." Snape sounded tired. It seemed that it took a lot of effort to maintain that spell. "Do it...now!"
Harry reached out his hand and let his blood drip on the cup. Malfoy did the same once Harry was finished.
As the last drop of Malfoy's blood fell on the cup, its surface blurred and it looked as though something transparent was trying to come out. The light from Snape's wand disappeared and that thing kept growing. The moment it had completely left the cup, Harry grabbed his wand, intending to hit it, but Snape was quicker. His wand was already aimed and the words were on the tip of his tongue.
Everything in the room flashed green as the curse hit the piece of Voldemort's soul. Harry watched it as it wavered, before finally dissolving in a puff of smoke. He turned his head to see Snape wiping the sweat off his forehead.
"You should check up on your obsession with that curse. It can't be healthy," Harry said and got up to leave the room. He was sure he heard a snort as he reached the door.
Harry closed the door behind him and collapsed on his bed. Seeing Snape using the Killing Curse again reminded him of the night Dumbledore died. It didn't matter that he knew the whole truth now; it was still painful. He needed some time to calm down.
Then there was that other... thing. Malfoy was a werewolf. There was no other reason for him to be drinking Wolfsbane potion. Certainly Snape was an evil bastard, but even he wouldn't be brewing something that difficult in this situation and making Malfoy drink it. People like them—Slytherins? Death Eaters? Mental cases? — did a lot of strange things, but Harry doubted that one of them was starting their day with a steaming cup of Wolfsbane potion.
He didn't know exactly what day it was, but he guessed it had been almost a month since he left the Burrow. It felt longer, but he remembered that he was with his friends on the last full moon. What would his friends be doing now? Harry missed them terribly. He knew that they'd be worried about him. A part of him hoped that they'd try to find him, but he knew that it would only put them in danger.
At some point Harry opened his eyes and realised he had fallen asleep. Judging by the sounds his stomach was making, he was hungry. He got up and looked out the window. It would be dark soon.
Shoving his wand into his pocket, he left the room and headed towards the stairs. His foot had just touched the first step when he heard voices coming from the first floor. Trying to remain as silent as possible, he moved a few steps lower and crouched in the shadows.
Malfoy was in front of the second door in the corridor with his hands holding Snape's arm in a death grip. He looks like shit.
"Can't...It hurts too much..."
And with that he fell on Snape and started sniffling on his robes. Snape seemed like he was torn between feeling awkward and mildly disgusted. He grimaced when he looked at his robes, but raised his free arm and tried to pat him on the back.
Harry almost burst out with laughter. Almost.
Laughing at Snape's discomfort was one thing. But making fun of Malfoy's pain at that moment seemed just wrong. Harry remembered what happened the last time he saw Malfoy crying and shivered. If Malfoy saw him now, he wouldn't bother with the Cruciatus. He'd go straight to the Killing Curse.
Fortunately Snape managed to push Malfoy into the room and Harry waited for a while before going downstairs.
He had just finished eating when Snape appeared in the kitchen. Harry's empty plate seemed very interesting at that moment and he decided to study the leftover crumbs.
"Draco may have been too distressed to notice you, but don't think that I didn't know you were there."
"Be careful, Potter. Don't even think of mentioning to Draco that you know about this. If I find you using this against him, I guarantee you that I'll hex your limbs off one by one."
After making his threat, Snape turned his back and went to the sink to clean his cauldrons. Harry stayed long enough to show him that his threat hadn't scared him before returning to his room.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
"Mmm...Stop. I'm cold..."
Drip. Drip. Drip drip drip.
Harry opened one eye lazily to see which idiot decided to play a prank on him while he was sleeping. A look at his surroundings, although blurry, reminded him where he was. He grabbed his glasses and put them on, jumping off his bed at the same time, and then he looked around to see what had woken him.
Water from the ceiling was dripping onto his bed.
Looking through the window, Harry realised that it was raining heavily outside. The water had made it through the roof and the situation seemed to be getting worse by the minute.
"This is ridiculous..." he muttered to himself. There was no way he'd manage to sleep again after that.
Harry started checking the rest of the floor to see if there was another room he could move into, but it seemed that with every door he opened, he found something even worse. In some of the rooms the floor had collapsed, in others there were holes on the walls and the last two had no roof. Sighing, he decided to go downstairs and try his luck there.
That's how he almost crashed into Malfoy two minutes later, as he was coming out of the bathroom. He had a ragged grey blanket draped around him and didn't seem to be wearing anything underneath. Harry tried to get rid of that thought by focusing on other parts of Malfoy. His eyes landed on an ugly scar on Malfoy's leg.
Malfoy quickly rearranged the edge of the blanket to cover it and sneered at him.
"What are you doing here?"
Harry wasn't affected by the sneer. It didn't seem to be working when Malfoy's face seemed so tired and pale.
"Trying to find a room. The rain's getting through the roof in mine," he replied, surprising himself with how calm he sounded.
Malfoy turned on his heel and went to his room, closing the door behind him with a loud bang.
Harry stood there awkwardly for a moment, confused. Had he just been nice to Malfoy? Admittedly, Malfoy looked horrible and it didn't seem right to pick on him just then...but still! This was Malfoy, and it was weird to be nice to him.
He might have stood there a long time, musing, but Snape had heard the noise and poked his head through his door to see what was happening. Harry explained the situation to him and Snape pointed to another door in the corridor before disappearing in his room again. The new room wasn't much better than the previous one, but at least there wasn't water dripping all over the place.
After placing his things in the wardrobe, Harry went downstairs to make some breakfast. With that weather a cup of hot chocolate seemed like a good idea.
During the next week Harry was desperately trying to find ways to escape his boredom. His new room was as clean as it could get, the door was swinging smoothly on its hinges and the bathroom sink was no longer dripping during the night. His most recent discovery was a room on the ground floor that must have been used as an office. Everything was covered in dust, but after a few cleaning spells the room looked decent again. Harry noticed a few books on the shelves and decided to look through them. Maybe I could read instead of playing maid for the ex-Death Eaters.
That was where Snape found him hours later, stretched out on the sofa with his face buried in a book. He announced that he had to leave for a few days and told Harry that he'd appreciate it if he and Draco didn't kill each other before he came back. Then he said that they'd start looking for the next Horcrux after he came back and left the room with his robes billowing behind him.
Harry sighed and closed the book. It wasn't as interesting as he'd hoped. Besides, he could make an effort to talk to Malfoy instead of just sitting there on his own. It certainly seemed more interesting than the book. Sure, the whole thing could end up in a brutal fistfight, but it would still feel more... normal. All this reading for fun seemed incredibly odd. Even Hermione would think he was under the Imperius curse if she knew how much he read.
He reached Malfoy's door without realising he had moved. He saw his hand reach out to knock, still unsure of what he would say.
Draco couldn't believe what he had just heard.
"I said 'Would you like to come downstairs and sit with me'?" Potter said through gritted teeth.
He's got to be joking...
"And why would I want to do that?" he replied, narrowing his eyes.
"Argh! Malfoy, you're impossible. I can't do this..." And with that, Potter turned around and headed for the stairs, running his hand through his hair and muttering to himself.
Draco was already reconsidering his decision. He had distanced himself from his friends during the past year and he had no one to talk to but Snape ever since he ran away from Hogwarts. Spending some time with Potter, even if they ended up hexing each other after a few minutes, was starting to sound like an interesting idea. Although it would be better to wait for a while before going downstairs; he didn't want Potter to think that he had given up so easily.
He started looking for Potter an hour later.
Potter was in the kitchen, sitting at the table with a steaming cup of tea in front of him.
"I made tea," he mumbled without bothering to look at him.
"I can see that," Draco replied, trying very hard to keep his voice calm. He reached for the pot and poured some tea in a clean cup. Once he felt confident enough that he wouldn't snap at Potter immediately, he sat at the table and avoided looking at him.
He was taking a sip of his tea when Potter spoke.
"So, um...How have you been?"
Draco spluttered his tea all over himself. He felt his hands stinging and wiped them on his robes after placing the cup on the table. Well. That was unexpected.
Potter was looking at him like he had sprouted horns. He decided he should probably give him an answer. I hope you're ready for that explosion, Potter.
"Fine. That is, if you ignore the details, like how I'm hiding from everyone, how I'm not allowed to meet my mother, or how I haven't seen my friends in months. Then there's another, far less important detail, where my father's friends are out there looking for me and thinking which way of presenting my corpse to the Dark Lord would please him the most. Not to mention that I'm supposed to be on your side, because that's the only way I can survive. But then I guess you never have to worry about such trivial things."
Draco glared at him through his entire outburst. Potter had turned red and seemed to be trying really hard not to start shouting or strangle him. Or both.
They remained silent for a couple of minutes.
"I was on the tower that night. I saw everything," Potter said eventually.
"What night?" Draco snapped, having a bad feeling about where the discussion was heading.
"The night you left. I know that you were trying to kill Dumbledore." Potter paused shortly before continuing in the same strained voice. "I also know that you wouldn't do it...Couldn't do it."
Of course...I fuck up and Potter already knows all about it.
"Oh yeah, rub it in, Potter! I'm sure you had a good laugh with your friends when you told them what a weak, worthless coward Draco Malfoy was—"
"Wha—" Harry spluttered, "What the hell is wrong with you? Weak?"
"Yes. Weak. That's what everyone will say," said Draco, looking away from Potter's face. No wonder Snape doesn't tell me anything about my mother. She's probably wondering how on earth she raised someone like me.
"Well, Malfoy, I've got news for you. You are many things. My first answer would be 'pain in the arse', although 'stupid' seems more fitting at the moment. But you're wrong if you think that not being able to kill another person makes you weak. If anything, it makes you human, which is something I seriously doubted until that night." Potter sounded like he was talking through gritted teeth.
Draco had no idea how to respond to that. Potter saved him the trouble by getting up and leaving the room, slamming the door on his way out.
What the fuck did I just tell him? Why the hell did I tell him that?
Harry collapsed against the door in his room as soon as he closed it. So much for having a normal conversation with Malfoy. Spending the rest of the time until Snape came back hidden in his room suddenly seemed more interesting now.
Snape came back four days later. Harry had been spending most of his time in the office, and that's where he found him again, sitting at the desk with his back turned to the door. He had been so focused in the book he was reading that he didn't hear the door opening. When Snape cleared his throat, Harry turned around so quickly that he almost fell out of his chair. Mentally showering Snape with a string of insults that would have made Mrs. Weasley have an aneurysm, he tried to look merely annoyed instead of startled.
"Dinner is in thirty minutes. We'll discuss our plans afterwards," Snape announced with a scowl on his face, before disappearing into the hallway.
Harry glared at the door for the next minute. Being confined in that building had started making him edgy and he was irritated by Snape for reminding this to him. He spent the biggest part of the next half hour reading the same paragraph over and over, until he realised it was almost time for dinner and threw the book aside. After stretching his back, he got up and headed towards the kitchen.
The sound of plates being set on the table was clear from the moment he reached the corridor that led to the kitchen. As he got closer to the door, he made out some hushed whispers coming from the other side of it. Harry moved slowly and leaned against the corridor wall, trying to stay in the shadows, and made an effort to listen to the conversation.
"But—but how can she know? What did she say?" Malfoy sounded panicked.
"Nothing out of the ordinary for her, but enough to make me wonder if she suspects something. It's probably just her acting paranoid again, but it's better to have our backs covered from now on."
There were sounds of shuffling feet, which Harry guessed were of Malfoy following Snape around.
"How can you be sure she hasn't followed you? You don't know her like I do! She's—"
"Believe me, Draco, I know her much better that you do," Snape interrupted him. "Control yourself. I've tricked her more than once. You have no reason to question my ability to keep her away. This discussion is over. Now sit down! You're giving me a headache."
Malfoy must have obeyed, judging by the scraping sounds of the chair dragged on the floor. Harry decided it would be a good time to enter, before they started talking again. The moment he opened the door, Snape acted like nothing had happened and Malfoy almost jumped up, but covered it up immediately by looking at everything in the room except Harry.
Soon the food was served. The greasy pork chops didn't look very tasty, but Harry ate them nonetheless, although he refused to eat all the peas. He kept pushing the leftovers around his plate, waiting for the others to finish their food so that they could finally have their discussion.
"Are you finished, Potter?" asked Snape with a slightly disgusted expression on his face.
Harry nodded and pushed the plate away. With a flick of his wand, Snape vanished the food and made the plates fly all the way to the sink.
"First of all, Potter, make sure you have all your things packed from now on. There's a chance we might have to make a quick escape soon."
Harry gulped. "Why? Who's coming?" This is about what they were discussing earlier.
"No one!" Snape barked, but continued in a calmer tone. "Yet. Some people seem to suspect me and I'm sure they will try to...investigate in order to find this place. I have another hideout ready, but there's no reason to worry about it yet."
Harry wanted to find out more, but Snape cut him off once he opened his mouth.
"Now. We are visiting the orphanage tomorrow. Here's what we'll do..."
They had spent hours planning their task and didn't get to sleep until much later that night. Getting up in the morning seemed difficult, but Harry was alert once he thought about what they were about to face. When he went downstairs he found Snape transfiguring Malfoy's clothes into a Muggle suit, his robes already turned into a grey pinstriped one with a dark green tie completing the set. For some reason seeing Snape in these clothes made Harry want to laugh, but he stopped himself just in time to see Snape pointing his wand at him. He felt his clothes changing and looked down to see what had happened to them.
Great. Me and Malfoy are a matching set now...
Both of them were now dressed in black from head to toes. Harry felt the tie choking him and tried to loosen the knot a bit. He was sure Snape did that on purpose.
"Do you have your wands?" Snape asked, straightening his jacket.
Harry mumbled a 'yes' while Malfoy nodded weakly.
"Good. We're leaving. Hold my arms."
They obeyed. Harry barely had enough time to think about how much he hated the feeling of Apparition before he opened his eyes again and discovered they had reached their destination. The three of them, dressed in formal clothes, looked entirely out of place in that dirty alley in Muggle London. Snape walked towards the main street, leaving Harry and Malfoy to follow him.
It was the same street Harry had seen in Dumbledore's Pensieve. He recognised the iron gates of the orphanage a few buildings away. Snape waited for them to catch up before he entered the courtyard. Harry felt his stomach twisting and turning. He was nervous and excited at the same time; nervous because he didn't know what they would face in the building and excited because he would be one step closer to Voldemort's destruction. If he had been right about the location of the Horcrux.
Once they reached the front door, Snape knocked. Just when Harry thought that no one would answer, the door opened and revealed a short, plump girl with blonde curly hair.
"Good morning. My name is Reginald Hill. I'd like to speak to the matron."
Harry shuddered. Snape was creepy most of the time, but the silky drawling tone he was using at that moment was incredibly disturbing.
"Yes, sir. Please, come in. I'll get her immediately."
The hallway looked the same as well; the black and white tiles on the floor still looking spotlessly clean. Harry eyed the stone stairs leading to the upper floor. Where Riddle's room had been. The sound of heels clicking on the tiles made him turn his head to see the woman approaching. She reminded him of a younger version of McGonagall, especially when she looked at them before she stopped in front of Snape.
The girl who had opened the door was standing a few feet behind, looking at Harry and batting her eyelashes. He thought she just looked like Miss Piggy.
"Hello. I'm Margaret Elliot, the matron. You wanted to see me?" the woman said.
"Yes, Mrs Elliot. I'm Reginald Hill," Snape said in the same tone he had used earlier, holding out his hand to greet her, "And these are my sons, Tobias and Derek. Is there somewhere we can talk in private?" At this he glanced towards the girl.
"Of course." She replied and turned to the girl. "Peggy, go to the kitchen and see if the cook needs anything." The girl mumbled something and hurried away. "Follow me, please." The woman turned around and led them to the room that Harry remembered was used as Mrs. Cole's office. Once they got inside, Mrs. Elliot closed the door and indicated the mismatched chairs. "Please, have a seat." She proceeded to sit behind the untidy desk.
"So, how may I help you?" she asked, eyeing them warily.
"I'll get straight to the point, Mrs. Elliot. Twelve years ago, my wife and I decided to adopt a child. We had our Tobias, of course—" he paused to look at Harry, "Anyway, we visited this place and found Derek. We adopted him as soon as we could. He and Tobias got along perfectly." He paused again, forcing his face to look like he was reminiscing. Harry suppressed a snort. He and Malfoy getting along perfectly was so far from the truth that Snape's story made him want to start laughing. "Last year my wife became ill. The doctors couldn't do anything, unfortunately..." he pulled out a handkerchief and sniffled. "Excuse me...She passed away last month."
"I'm terribly sorry to hear that. My condolences..." Mrs Elliot seemed nervous. "Who wouldn't be, with someone like Snape acting like that in front of them? " Harry thought.
"Thank you." Snape slipped the handkerchief back into his pocket. "Derek wanted to find out who his birth parents were, but he didn't want to upset Eileen. So we waited until now to visit you. Is there any chance you can help us?"
Malfoy was trying very hard to play the part of the poor orphan, but Mrs. Elliot didn't seem to be buying the story. Harry was sure she was going to refuse and one look at Snape convinced him that he was thinking the same thing. Everything was going to fall apart, he could feel it. He looked at the matron, trying to think of something to say that would do something to prevent this disaster, when he saw her gaze turning blank and unfocused. She seemed to be in some kind of trance.
Harry and Snape snapped their heads to look at Malfoy, who had his wand pointed at the woman.
"What?" he protested. "Your sob story wouldn't convince her! I had to do something!"
Snape looked like he wanted to strangle Malfoy, but after a moment or two he gave in.
"Tell her to let us search the place for a while, because you are looking for your room. After we leave, she has to forget we were here," he grumbled.
Malfoy concentrated and looked at the woman. When he stopped, she blinked once and then started acting like she had just realised they were there.
"Right. I'll show you to the upper floor. No one will bother you."
She got up and left the room, following the same route Mrs. Cole had taken when Dumbledore had been there. When they got to the upper floor, however, she stopped.
"Feel free to call me if you need anything," she said and left them.
Now all they had to do was search for the Horcrux.
"Your call, Potter," said Snape.
Harry felt they had to check in Riddle's room first. "Up here," he moved to climb the next part of the stairs, with Snape and Malfoy following closely behind.
When he reached the second landing, however, he didn't find what he was looking for.
"The door is missing!" he exclaimed. "It used to be right here!" He pointed angrily at the solid wall in front of him.
Snape pushed him aside and took out his wand, casting some spells that Harry didn't recognise. "True. There's something here," he announced a few minutes later. The next spell made the wall shimmer, revealing the door at its original place.
Harry felt his frustration fading at once. They were getting somewhere.
Now they had to get into the room. It couldn't be that easy. Harry reached his hand to touch the door handle, but Snape snatched it in time.
"No! Don't you see, Potter? It's trapped!" He conjured a worm and levitated it towards the handle. When the worm touched the metal, it twitched violently and dissolved with a hissing sound. Snape scowled at the door. "Blood," he muttered.
"Again? " Harry protested, earning him a sneer from Snape, who took out a knife and slashed his palm before leaving a bloody handprint on the door. With a soft click, the door opened slowly. Harry peeked through the opening.
The room was still the same, so much that Harry almost expected to see Tom sitting on the bed. He gulped and turned his eyes to the wardrobe.
"There," he whispered to Snape, pointing at the shabby piece of furniture.
They moved into the room and stood in front of the wardrobe. Snape cast another set of spells, sounding very similar to the previous one, and the doors glowed in several different colours.
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"There's something in there. It's not protected by anything...lethal. Which seems unusual, compared to what was used on the door."
Harry shook his head. At this rate, it would take forever to get the Horcrux. He took one step forward and opened the wardrobe door. The entire thing burst into flames, making the three of them jump back.
"How stupid can you be, Potter? Are you trying to get us killed?" Snape looked murderous.
"I bet you ten Galleons you'll apologise for that in the next three minutes," replied Harry, looking straight at the wardrobe and moving towards it again.
The fire wasn't real in the memory...
Harry threw his hand into the flames, too focused in his thoughts to notice the loud gasps Snape and Malfoy made, and reached for the top shelf. Just as he suspected, something was there. He took it out; it was the cardboard box from the memory. Taking a deep breath, he tossed the lid aside and looked inside the box.
He saw his face looking back at him on the surface of a bronze hand mirror. Its handle was sparkling in the firelight.
"It's not real..." Malfoy mumbled, staring at the flames in awe.
And just like that, the flames disappeared. Harry picked up the mirror and turned it around. On the back was an engraving of an eagle with its wings spread. "Yes!" He stuffed the mirror in his pocket.
"Are we done here?" asked Snape.
"Let's get the hell out," he growled and left the room, with Harry and Malfoy following closely behind.
As they reached the front door, they came face to face with the short girl.
"Are you leaving so soon?" she asked, looking at Harry.
"Our business here is done. Thank you, you have been very helpful," Snape replied in the slimy tone he had used earlier on the girl and grabbed Harry's arm to lead him outside. Harry caught a glimpse of the blushing girl before Snape slammed the door in her face.
Harry cast a sideways glance at Snape, ready with a comment on his behaviour around the Muggles. "Not a word..." Snape grumbled.
Harry would snigger, but he was interrupted by the unpleasant feeling of Apparition as Snape transported the three of them back to their hideout.
Draco opened one eye lazily and peeked at the window. It was late, but he couldn't leave the bed yet. He let out a groan, pulling the blanket over his head.
They would be destroying the Horcrux later that day. Snape had explained to him what the Dark Lord had done. He had to admit that it was a good plan in theory, but must have had many flaws if Potter managed to find the Horcruxes that easily.
Potter...Draco had finally managed to ignore him during the previous year. He was too busy doing other things. And look where that got you.
Living around him hadn't been as difficult as he would have thought. Potter was avoiding him most of the time, save for the time he tried to talk to him. At least he seemed to be changing his mind about him. Having the Golden Boy's approval could be useful in the future. He already had to work with him against the Dark Lord if he wanted to stay alive, but he had to be covered. If he got out of this mess alive, he would need to clear his name. No, he wasn't going to stoop so low as to ask Potter to do anything for him in that way. Potter would most probably do it on his own.
But Draco would never, ever play the werewolf card to invoke his pity. The longer Potter didn't know about it, the better it was for him. He couldn't stand the thought of having the side of Light feeling sorry for the 'poor pureblood heir-turned-half-blood-freak'. However, he wouldn't put it past Potter to use this against him. It hurt too much and Potter would know it. Even he would be able to see how much power it gave him over Draco.
Draco couldn't decide which option was worse. Then again, Potter's opinion was the least of his worries. What mattered to him was his mother's reaction.
Snape refused to tell him more about her, but claimed that she didn't know he was bitten. For all Draco knew, she could have known all about it and written him off. He didn't even want to think what Lucius would do if he knew, but Narcissa wouldn't want a werewolf for a son.
It was funny how he spent their last summer together avoiding her and going into a snit at every sign of her over protectiveness, when he would give up anything to have her make a fuss over him at that moment.
"Oh, this is ridiculous!" he muttered and kicked the blanket away before getting up.
Potter had decided to grace them with his presence. He mumbled something about packing his things and took a seat. When they had all finished their dinner, Potter placed the mirror on the table. Snape said he needed to check something upstairs and left the room.
Draco looked at the mirror. He reached out his hand to touch it, glancing at Potter out of the corners of his eyes. When he finally picked it up, Potter glared at him and started fidgeting. Draco studied the engraving for a while, decided it was boring and turned the mirror around to look at his reflection. He moved his head up and down, left and right, trying to see his face from different angles. When he scrunched up his nose, Potter decided to speak.
"Could you stop that? Voldemort's soul is in there."
Draco barely managed not to flinch at the mention of the Dark Lord's name. He put the mirror back on the table and tried to look offended, crossing his arms and clenching his jaw. Right when Draco started tapping his foot, Snape came back.
"Let's start," muttered Snape, pushing the knife towards Potter, who took it immediately and held it, waiting for Snape to cast the spell.
Exactly like the last time, Snape's spell hit the mirror and Potter cut his hand once it started to shake. Draco took the knife from him and slashed his palm, biting his lip as he felt the wound stinging. He started trembling.
"Drop it!" Snape ordered.
Potter dropped his blood on the mirror, his face twisted in a pained expression. Draco reached out his hand to do the same. He was shaking so badly that some of the blood ended up on the table instead of the mirror. He felt the room spinning. When the soul fragment emerged from the mirror, he was feeling so cold that his teeth started rattling.
The room was filled with a green light, but all Draco saw was a set of sharp teeth glistening in the moonlight. No...
"Dementors! Hold them back!"
Snape left the room and Potter did something with his wand. Something silver leaped out and went...somewhere... Draco couldn't keep his eyes open. He felt the werewolf's jaws closing around his leg again and started screaming at the top of his lungs. It seemed to last forever, until suddenly someone grabbed his arm and he was squeezed from all directions.
Everything stopped. The hand left his arm and closed his mouth to stop his screams. Draco finally opened his eyes.
They were standing in front of a small cottage. Its faĆ§ade was covered in vines, reaching all the way to the roof. The windows were barely visible through the leaves and the paint on the front door was peeling off. Snape left his side and started walking towards the house, holding three bags in his hands. Draco thought it would be best if he followed him.
He took one step forward and lost his balance, but Potter grabbed his arm in the last minute and supported him. Normally he would have pushed Potter away, insulting his friends and parentage at the same time, but all he wanted now was to go somewhere safe, and fast. So he swallowed his pride and let Potter lead him to the house.
Snape had already lit a fire when they got inside. Draco stumbled all the way to a sofa in front of the fireplace and collapsed on the cushions. They smelled like they hadn't been used in decades, but he found himself too worn-out to care. Then someone was pulling a blanket over him and he let himself fall asleep.
Harry followed Snape the moment he disappeared into one of the rooms. He closed the door behind him, sure that he'd end up yelling. There was no need for Malfoy to hear that.
"What the hell happened back there?" he growled, not bothering to wait for Snape to turn around and face him.
"Dementors. A simple explanation, even for you."
Harry clenched and unclenched his fists. He had managed to keep himself from attacking Snape all this time, but every time it took a lot more effort to do that than the previous one.
"How did you know? How did they find us? Why didn't we leave earlier? And when are you planning to start telling the fucking tru— "
"It was cursed, Potter!" Snape cut him off with a snarl. "The Dementors were drawn to the mirror from the moment we started destroying it! And it wasn't the only one. Do you remember how easy it was to find the cup? The curse on it was ten times worse and you would have been dead by now if I hadn't found you. Now go to sleep. It's late and we're all tired. I'm not willing to discuss this again until tomorrow morning," Snape said and turned his back to him.
Harry kept himself from yelling after Snape at the last moment. He couldn't believe that after all this time people still insisted on not telling him everything, especially when he was involved. He left the room, frustrated by the fact that he couldn't do anything more that night, and went into another bedroom, slumping on the bed and sulking for a long time before finally falling asleep.
It seemed that a few hours of sleep and a decent breakfast were enough to make Snape more agreeable than the previous night. He explained to Harry how the curse on the mirror had worked and why he had not warned them, emphasising the fact that he only found out what was really going on the moment they started destroying the mirror. It hadn't been difficult to connect it to the curse on the cup after that.
He was still adamant on not revealing everything to Harry though. Harry had been angry, but a glare from Snape forced him to let it go. At least for the moment...
Malfoy had kept quiet during the first days. Harry guessed he was ashamed of breaking down like that during the Dementor attack, especially since he had been mocking Harry's reaction to them back in their third year. He finally decided to ignore Malfoy, but it was more difficult than before because the house was smaller and they kept bumping into each other.
Harry had to admit that the house was far better than the other building they had been living in. Although it smelled a bit bad, it was pleasant living there after letting the windows open for a while to let fresh air into the rooms. And it was definitely not as neglected as the Inn; the roof and floors were intact, and it didn't take long to clean up the dust that had piled in during the years.
After a few days Snape started disappearing again. He always came back holding parcels which he stacked up in the kitchen cupboards. One time he brought a new cauldron. It was then that Harry understood what he was doing. The next full moon was getting closer and closer and Malfoy was going to need the Wolfsbane potion soon. Harry decided to keep an eye on the moon. It would be best to stay out of Malfoy's way near the transformation; he would be irritable and, surprisingly, Harry wasn't in the mood for a fight.
There was no need to check the moon every night. True enough, Malfoy was more jumpy as the days got closer.
It was already two weeks into October when Harry went into the kitchen one morning to find Snape lining up potions ingredients on the counter. The cauldron was already set on the gas stove, although there was no fire lit underneath yet.
Snape paid no attention to him while he took out a set of knives and arranged them next to the ingredients. Harry was about to sit at the table when a thought crossed his mind.
"Could I help?" he asked before he could stop himself.
Snape went rigid for a fraction of a second, but then he whipped his head around and scowled at him.
"I highly doubt it." He watched Harry for a few minutes without speaking, clearly contemplating something. Then his expression changed for a moment and he looked like he had just taken a dose of U-NO-POO.
"Oh, what the..." he muttered. "Get up. Pay attention and don't botch this up!"
Harry moved and stood next to Snape. They started working on the potion, Snape giving instructions and making Harry chop and dice and crush the ingredients while he made a show of demonstrating the correct order of adding them and the way the potion should be stirred. Harry wasn't sure why he had asked to help. Maybe he wanted to aggravate Snape. Maybe he wanted to show that he wasn't useless when it came to potions. Maybe he just wanted to learn how to brew Wolfsbane potion. It didn't matter in the end.
They managed to brew a successful batch of Wolfsbane potion and Harry felt a small smile forming on his face.
Draco should have known from the start that it was going to be a horrible day. A ray of light had been slipping through the curtains right on his eyes and almost blinded him when he opened them. His left arm was numb from being stuck under his body at an awkward angle during the entire night. And his mouth felt like he had drunk troll piss.
But nothing, nothing, had prepared him for what he heard when he was about to enter the kitchen.
He could smell the Wolfsbane potion being brewed even from his bedroom doorway. Just as he reached the kitchen door, however, he heard Snape's voice giving instructions.
"Crush the root. No, not like that! We need it powdered...When you're done, chop the Mandrake leaves in even pieces, like the one over there."
"Right. Why are we using Mandrake leaves?"
"They counteract the poisonous qualities of the Wolfsbane root. Pay attention!"
Draco made out the sound of a pestle as it crushed something dried up in a mortar, followed by chopping sounds and the bubbling of a potion in a cauldron. He tilted his head to peer through the gap of the door and saw Potter standing next to Snape, slicing some leaves as Snape stirred the liquid in the cauldron with a wooden ladle.
He was furious. What on earth was Potter doing with his potion? Why had Snape told him about it? Draco felt the urge to rush into the room and pour the contents of the cauldron on both of them, and thought that shoving some Wolfsbane root down their throats would make the result even better.
But he just stood there, watching them as they worked on the potion. His eyes followed their movements as they prepared the ingredients and dropped them into the cauldron, as Snape stirred the potion and as Potter washed his hands in the sink. When the potion was ready, Snape put out the fire and set the cauldron on the counter, away from the stove.
"Now the potion needs to settle for two minutes. When it's ready, the steam will double in quantity and become thicker. Any questions?" Snape drawled out the last part.
"Good. It's your turn to make breakfast."
Potter rolled his eyes, but started cooking without complaining. Draco waited a few more minutes before entering the room with a scowl on his face. Unfortunately this didn't seem to impress anyone. Snape poured some of the potion in a mug and left it on the counter next to the cauldron. Then he raised an eyebrow at Draco and went to sit at the table.
In order to get to the mug Draco had to pass behind Potter. With a last glare at Snape, he moved to get it. When he entered Potter's field of vision, Potter stopped stirring the pan and looked at him.
Say anything. I dare you.
Draco sent him a glare filled with all the hate and anger he could find inside him. Without averting his eyes from Potter's, he took the mug and downed the potion in a few gulps. When he finished, he slammed the cup on the counter, sent a sneer at Potter and went to sit next to Snape.
He got the impression that Potter had been amused instead of intimidated by his little performance, and that made him even angrier.
On the next day Harry noticed Malfoy taking another dose of Wolfsbane potion after lunch. He went to the living room afterwards and curled up on the sofa, staring at the glowing embers in the fireplace. Harry stayed on the other side of the room. He sat in the armchair next to the window to read a book. As the light outside started dimming, Snape appeared and said something to Malfoy before leading him to his room.
Malfoy paused outside the door, muttering something to Snape and fiddling with the sleeve of his robe. Snape seemed to be getting impatient. He hissed something back, but Malfoy kept muttering and looking at him.
"No, Draco! I already told you that you have to do this alone. Now get in there!"
Malfoy's eyes flashed angrily for a moment and then he turned on his heel and entered his room, slamming the door closed behind him. Harry thought he saw Snape flinch as the door banged against its frame. He buried his nose in the book and tried to act like he hadn't noticed a thing when Snape turned around.
When the moon appeared over the treetops, Harry thought he heard a soft wail coming from Malfoy's room. He closed the book and went to his bedroom, stuffing the pillow over his head once he fell on his bed.
When Harry was about to enter the kitchen in the next morning, he paused in the doorway the moment he heard Snape muttering angrily. He craned his neck to see what was happening.
Snape was at the table, pressing his fingers to his temples.
"Spoiled brat...Throws a tantrum when he doesn't get his way..."
Harry was certain that Malfoy had caused this. He waited for a while, a part of him enjoying Snape's suffering, before finally going into the room. Snape spun his head so quickly that Harry thought it would come off, but when he saw who it was, he scowled at him.
"Oh, it's you."
Malfoy must have really done it this time, Harry thought, if Snape acts like that to me." He was about to start piling food into his plate, when Snape interrupted him.
"Before you eat, I need you to take that to Draco," he said, pointing to a tray on the table.
Harry almost told him where to put his stupid tray, but thought better of it. Let Malfoy get on Snape's nerves today. I do that well enough during the rest of the month.
"Erm..." he said instead.
"He is locked up in there and won't open the door for me. He might open it for you if you mention you're bringing food." Snape looked annoyed.
"Right." He left his plate on the counter and took the tray, heading over to Malfoy's room. Once he reached the door, he balanced it on one hand and knocked on the door with the other.
There was no reply. He reached for the handle, but it wouldn't move.
"Malfoy, it's me. Open the door."
"Go away..." came Malfoy's muffled response.
"I've got your food. Either you open the door right now or I'll leave it here and you'll have to get your arse out of bed to get it," Harry snapped.
A click came from the lock and the handle trembled slightly. Harry lifted his hand and opened the door.
Malfoy was lying on the bed, covered with a blanket up to his nose. He had just set his wand on the nightstand and was now dragging his arm back into the covers. For one moment, Harry though about checking it to see if Malfoy had the Mark, but changed his mind immediately. Besides, it was his right hand, so he wouldn't have seen it anyway.
He walked towards the bed and set the tray on the nightstand, pushing Malfoy's wand on the side.
"Do you need anything else?" he asked, trying to sound polite. Well, as polite as he could be to Malfoy.
Malfoy shook his head.
"Right. So...If you need anything later, just...you know." What am I telling him?
And with that, Harry almost ran out of Malfoy's room and disappeared into his own. The moment he closed the door he paused and shook his head. "Seriously, what did I tell him? And why? What was I thinking? Great, now he'll be thinking that I want us to be friends or something..."
The next day Snape knocked on his door, asking to speak to him in private. Harry let him in reluctantly.
"I'm bringing Draco's mother here in a few days for a visit."
"WHAT?" Harry burst out, but Snape shushed him.
"Stop yelling Potter! You won't tell him anything. He's not supposed to know about it. I'm only telling you this because you'll have to hide at that time. It's... She still doesn't know we're working with you. And I'd like things to remain that way until the Dark Lord is defeated."
"And you think that he's not going to tell her anything? He's going to spit it all out the moment he sees her!"
"You have no say in this. Just make sure you stay hidden in here in four days without making a sound. And don't tell him anything!"
And with that, Snape turned around and left the room, leaving Harry alone and angry. He kicked the wardrobe and ended up on the floor, clutching his leg and moaning in pain.
Snape hadn't been lying. Four days later he announced that he had to leave for a few hours, giving Harry a pointed look as he pulled on his cloak. Harry sighed, picked up his things and headed to his bedroom. Malfoy seemed a little puzzled by that exchange and kept sipping his tea while casting nervous glances around him. Harry closed his door and dragged a chair behind it.
He had been told to stay in his room. He hadn't been told not to watch what was happening. The keyhole was just the right height and angle to offer him a great view of the entire living room and the door was thin enough to allow him to hear almost everything.
It didn't take long for Snape to get back. Until then Harry had to watch Malfoy sitting at the dining table and acting as if the Death Eaters were about to attack. When Snape opened the door Malfoy flinched, but when Snape stepped aside to reveal the person standing behind him Malfoy jumped up so fast that Harry had to suppress a chuckle.
"Mother!" He was noticeably restraining himself from running to her.
"Hello, Draco," she said, removing her gloves and looking around the room before turning her eyes to Malfoy. Snape closed the door behind her. Malfoy was swaying back and forth slightly, like he kept himself from moving at the last moment.
"Well," Narcissa Malfoy said, "Given the circumstances, I think we are allowed to..." she gulped and looked at her hands, "act a little emotional, don't you think so?"
That was it. Malfoy rushed to her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, burying his face in her neck. She looked surprised for a second, but then smiled and hugged him back. Snape pointed to the sofa and she slowly led Malfoy to sit there.
"Mum, I'm sorry, so sorry!" he mumbled, still hiding his face in her neck.
"Shh, Draco, baby. Don't worry now. Everything is going to be fine." She ran her fingers through his hair and rubbed his back with her other hand. Harry thought that it seemed a bit silly for Malfoy to be acting like an oversized baby, but didn't have the heart to chuckle over that scene.
"No!" he wailed. "Didn't Professor Snape tell you what happened to me?" When he didn't get a reply, Malfoy pulled away from his mother and looked at her with wide eyes. "Oh no! He didn't tell you, right?" He looked like he was going to be sick.
"Don't be ridiculous, Draco. Of course he told me."
"But then how...? Why...? If I'm a—" he spluttered.
Narcissa smirked and reached out her hand to stroke his cheek, wiping a tear—When did that get there? —with her thumb.
"You thought I'd be ashamed of you? That I'd try to get rid of you?"
"Well, I—" He paused and looked at her. "Are we talking about the same thing?"
"We are talking about your... condition, yes."
"Then why are you so calm?"
Narcissa took his hand and entwined their fingers. "Because you're still my son. And be glad that Severus killed Greyback, because otherwise I'd be hunting him down instead of being here with you." And with that she planted a kiss on his forehead.
Harry didn't want to see anything else. He moved silently to his bed and got under the covers, blaming the empty feeling in his stomach on having skipped dinner.
The first thing he saw the next morning when he opened his door was Malfoy sprawled on the sofa with a smile stuck on his face. Harry fought the urge to punch him and headed for his armchair. When he sat, he looked at Malfoy and saw that the smile was still there.
"What are you smiling at?" he spat.
Malfoy's smile vanished immediately. He grabbed a pillow and hurled it at Harry with a snarl. Harry caught it right in front of his face and was about to throw it back, when he noticed that Malfoy had turned his head away, muttering angrily.
"Git," Harry replied.
"Oh, sod off." Malfoy squirmed a bit, trying to change his position on the sofa and have his back turned to him.
Well. At least he stopped smiling.
Soon Snape had to leave for one of his 'business trips'. He was pacing in the living room as he gave Harry and Malfoy instructions to what they should do until he came back, turning his head from one to the other so abruptly that Harry thought his abnormally large nose was going to poke someone's eye out.
At last, he put on a black cloak and left, closing the door behind him quickly. The silence that followed lasted for about five seconds. Until Malfoy spoke.
"Whatever you do, don't leave the house! Don't open the windows! Keep the curtains closed!" he mimicked Snape's voice, looking at the front door.
Harry thought it was a rather successful imitation of Snape, but he wasn't going to admit that.
"I'm surprised he didn't end that with a 'Constant Vigilance!' " he provided instead.
Malfoy glanced at him over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow. "You're learning, I see."
For a moment, Harry thought he had heard wrong, but then he decided to mess around with him a little. "Hey, Malfoy, are you getting soft? Because what you said sounded like a compliment." He accompanied this with the most Malfoyesque smirk he could manage.
Malfoy's expression changed immediately. "Don't push it," he sneered and strode to his room. When he closed the door, Harry almost laughed out loud.
And Gryffindor wins the match!
Draco rested his back against the door. Taking a deep breath, he let his knees bend and slid to the floor. Things were changing too fast for him to keep up. He had gone from helping Death Eaters into the school to working on the Dark Lord's downfall, from being proud of his parentage to trying to accept his new condition, from finally having more important things to do than mock Potter to having to live and work with him...
Still, Potter had been acting differently towards him. Draco knew that it wasn't because of his condition; Potter would have been treating him in a different way. How, Draco didn't know. But there had been cases, like that day, when they had been civil to each other. If it was because of the werewolf thing Potter would have been trying to be like that all the time, wouldn't he?
Draco couldn't tell anymore. He had been through enough situations recently to realise that things weren't always what they appeared to be.
Snape cleared his mind before entering the room where the Dark Lord was waiting for him. When the doors opened, he saw him sitting next to the fire with his snake curled next to his feet and Bellatrix Lestrange standing by his side.
"Take a seat, Severus," he ordered.
Snape sat on one of the nearby chairs.
"Have you made any progress in locating the Malfoys?" He dragged out the last word with a hiss.
Be angry. "Unfortunately not, my Lord. There is absolutely nothing to indicate where they might be. All my suspicions have been proved wrong."
"I can sense your disappointment. How do you feel about that mission?"
"It's infuriating that I can't find them. I am more than able to do that, and yet it seems my efforts are leading nowhere. Not to mention that it's outrageous, being misled by a woman and a worthless boy."
Bellatrix reached for her wand, but the Dark Lord stopped her, waving a hand in front of her. Hello Bella, queen of contradictions. Trying to jump in defence of your sister while you're doing everything in your power to have her son killed.
"Control yourself, Bella."
She backed away slowly, glaring daggers at Snape. "As you wish, Master."
"Now, Severus, since you are so invested in this task, there is no reason for me to reassign it. However, I'd like you to stay for the next meeting. You might be given an additional task."
Three extremely unexciting hours later, Snape was free to leave. Or so he thought. As he clasped his cloak shut on his way to the front door, he was accosted by Bellatrix.
"You may have him fooled, but I'm not falling for that shite you tried to sell him."
"Charming as always, I see," he replied, scrunching his nose as the smell of her stale breath attacked his nostrils. "Is it that time of the month again?"
Bellatrix huffed and tilted her head to whisper in Snape's ear. "I'll be keeping an eye on you, Snape." And with that, she took off, robes swaying behind her. Snape smirked, amused by her effort to frighten him, and left the building, heading for the area past the Anti-Apparition charms.
For the next two weeks Snape didn't stay at the house for long. Harry wasn't complaining; he knew that when Snape had time, they'd have to talk about the next Horcrux, and he was secretly glad this discussion was put off.
In the meantime, he had managed to have a few polite conversations with Malfoy. It had all started when one day Harry decided to grumble about the horrible weather and Malfoy added his thoughts, along with complaints about how cold his feet felt in the morning. There seemed to be a silent agreement between them to avoid subjects that would end up in a fight, so that didn't leave a lot for them to talk about.
One time, after turning an embarrassing shade of pink, Malfoy admitted that he was a fan of the Weird Sisters. He seemed disappointed by the fact that he hadn't been able to attend one of their concerts and that the only time he got to watch them perform was at the Yule Ball.
"I know, they sounded great that time. Maybe we could go to one of their concerts once all this is over," Harry had suggested, and immediately wished he'd said nothing when he saw Malfoy stiffening and looking away.
He knew how stupid it had sounded. It wasn't like they were friends or anything.
But then Snape came back and announced that they finally needed to talk. That's how they ended up around the dining table that night. Harry felt it was pointless anyway; there was no chance they'd figure out where to begin from, no matter how long they talked about it.
"So the locket was fake," started Snape.
"Yeah," mumbled Harry.
"Any idea where the original might be?"
"Not a clue."
"Let's go over the ones that have been destroyed already then." Snape sounded like he was barely keeping himself from losing his patience.
"The mirror and the cup. You know where these have been. The ring, which Dumbledore destroyed. It had been at the Gaunt house. And the diary. I don't know where that had been initially, but Malfoy's father had it at some point."
"What do you mean my father had it?" Malfoy protested, although Harry tried to ignore him.
"Do you know anything, anything at all about the locket that you didn't mention when we were at Hogwarts?" Snape asked over Malfoy's voice.
"There was a note in the fake one. But we couldn't find out who wrote it, aside from the fact that his initials were R.A.B."
"I asked you something, Potter!" Malfoy was glaring at him.
Harry turned to reply to him, completely missing the way Snape's expression had changed after what he said, like something had started making sense to him. "When we were starting our second year, your father slipped the diary into Ginny's books at Diagon Alley. Your house elf spent the entire year trying to tell me all about it!"
"R.A.B....Potter, what did the note say?" Snape barged in.
Harry turned his head again. "The person who wrote it knew that he'd be dead long before Voldemort found it. He had discovered his secret and intended to destroy the Horcrux. Then there was something about facing death in the hope that Voldemort would be mortal again when he met his match."
"I knew that house elf was worthless. There was always something odd about it. Father always told Mother that she wasn't kicking it hard enough."
"Hey! Don't talk that way about Dobby!" This was getting ridiculous. He felt like he was watching a tennis match, the way he had to turn his head every three seconds.
"Why? Do you have a crush on him?" Malfoy's eyes were flashing dangerously bright.
"I know who it was..." whispered Snape, but Harry didn't hear it at that point.
"That's just sick, Malfoy!"
"Oh, shut up! You have no idea what makes a good house elf. It's not like you had any since you grew up with Muggles. Mother's family always had the most obedient house elves. How that pitiful creature ended up working for us, I'll never know."
"Oh, yes, I've seen how great those house elves are! I met Kreacher, your great aunt's elf. Kleptomaniac, mental, betraying their masters and helping to get them killed!" This was going bad. He was thinking of Sirius again and he knew he would break down any minute now.
"Shut up, both of you!" Snape snarled, making Malfoy shut his mouth and bite back his reply. Harry sank into his chair and tried to get a hold of his feelings. "I said I know who did it! If you're finished arguing about the proper behaviour of house elves, we can continue what we were supposed to be doing tonight!"
"We're done..." mumbled Harry, folding his arms across his chest and staring at the far corner of the room.
"What he said," grumbled Malfoy.
"Thank Merlin!" Snape sighed.
No one spoke for a few moments. Harry thought it would be a good idea to get Snape talking again. "Who did it, then?" he asked.
Harry thought he heard wrong. "Who?" he asked, looking at Snape with wide eyes.
"No...It can't be. He was a Death Eater!" Harry protested.
Snape looked at him like he had just confessed his eternal love to the Giant Squid. "Tell me, Potter, how dense can you be? After all these years you still haven't figured out that things are rarely what they seem to be?"
"But—but Voldemort had him killed and—" Harry heard his words and suddenly the truth dawned on him. "Oh. Oh! "
"Exactly. 'Oh!'" He sneered at Harry.
"So he must have hidden it somewhere...But where—" Harry paused when a thought struck him. "Could the locket be at 12 Grimmauld Place?"
"It's not very likely, but it's a start. Although the Order is still using it as Headquarters and it's almost impossible for us to get in and search for it."
Harry suddenly remembered something. "Back before fifth year, when we were cleaning the house... I remember we found a locket somewhere...Maybe it's the one we're looking for!" He got up and started pacing the room, too agitated to stand still. "But what if we threw it away? We need someone who's going to look all over the house for it without being seen and..." Harry froze. "I got it. KREACHER!"
With a loud crack, the annoying house elf appeared in the middle of the room, covered in dirty rags and muttering to no one in particular.
"Oh, how Kreacher hates his Master, filthy friend of Mudbloods, oh, Kreacher's mistress would be furious if she knew what Master was making Kreacher do..."
"Kreacher!" Harry growled, turning the house elf's attention to him.
"Master called me?" Kreacher bowed, glaring at Harry.
Malfoy was looking at the scene in front of him with a shocked expression on his face.
"Yes, there's something I need you to do."
Kreacher looked around the room until he caught sight of Malfoy. His eyes almost popped out of his head. "Oh, how pleased is Kreacher to see young Master Malfoy again, such a noble pureblood boy with excellent manners, but what could he be doing around a horrible person like Kreacher's Master?" he croaked.
Malfoy opened and closed his mouth several times, looking like a goldfish.
"Enough Kreacher!" bellowed Harry.
Kreacher cowered and stopped speaking, waiting for Harry to give him orders.
"You are going to 12 Grimmauld Place. You will search the entire house very carefully without letting anyone know you're there. The thing you'll be looking for is a heavy golden locket with an S on it. When you find it, you have to bring it back to me. If it's not at the house, you still have to come back and inform me. If I suspect that you had a chance to find it, but discovered a way to disobey me, you will be punished severely. And I forbid you to tell anyone what happened just now and that you saw me or anyone else who is in the room. Got that?" Harry said, choosing his words carefully.
"Kreacher must obey his Master, but oh, how he hates him, and he has no choice but to follow the orders, and Master thinks of everything..." Kreacher started muttering.
"Right. You can go away now. Come back when you're finished and try to make it soon."
Kreacher threw one last glare at Harry and Disapparated with a loud crack.
"That, Malfoy, was your great-aunt's house elf. Charming little fellow, don't you think?" Harry spat and walked away, feeling drained as he closed the bedroom door behind him.
After that day Harry didn't want to stay around Malfoy for long. That conversation had reminded him of things he had been trying to forget. It was painful to think about Sirius and seeing Kreacher had made him incredibly angry. He dealt with it in his usual way: by hiding in his room and ignoring everything and everyone.
That lasted three days. On the fourth Snape woke him up and dragged him to the kitchen, insisting it was for something really important.
It turned out that the really important thing was making Harry brew Wolfsbane potion entirely by himself, with Snape only standing next to him and giving instructions when Harry hesitated. Once the potion was ready, Snape pulled on his cloak and got ready to leave, announcing that he had some things to do—Death Eater missions, Harry translated—and that he'd be back as soon as he could, but not before the full moon, which was on the next night. So he told Harry to make sure that Malfoy took his potion and that he stayed locked in his room during the transformation, not leaving out the usual instructions—that Harry and Malfoy should be careful in case someone discovered them.
When Harry heard the front door shutting behind Snape, he groaned and let his head fall on the kitchen table. "Way to start one's morning.. ." he thought.
Then Malfoy decided to show up.
Harry didn't even bother to raise his head and look at him before he replied. "He had some things to do. He'll be back in a few days," he mumbled. Sensing that Malfoy was going to ask about his potion, he continued. "Your potion's ready," he added.
He heard Malfoy's footsteps as he walked to the counter to see the potion. "Did he make it before he left?" Malfoy asked.
"Yeah." Harry wasn't going to reveal that he was the one who made it. Malfoy would probably throw a tantrum and refuse to drink it, insulting him and his potion making abilities while he was at it.
From the sounds he was hearing, Harry knew when Malfoy picked up a mug and poured some potion in it, when he gulped it down and when he put the mug in the sink. He also knew when Malfoy left the kitchen, dragging his feet on the way out.
Oddly enough, Malfoy had been less annoying than ever since that morning. He took his potion when he was supposed to and he tried several times to start a conversation with Harry like the ones they had before the day Kreacher showed up. Harry went along with him, if only to avoid starting a fight right before the transformation.
He was sure that Malfoy had ulterior motives. It wouldn't be Malfoy if he hadn't.
He was proven right on the evening of the full moon, as Malfoy was leaving his seat on the sofa to go to his room for the transformation. When he reached the door, he paused and turned hesitantly to Harry.
"Potter..." he called.
"Yes?" Harry lowered the book he was reading and waited for Malfoy to continue.
"Snape thinks it's not good, but I—well, I hate it, being alone after the thing, so..." He straightened his back and looked arrogantly at Harry. "It's not like you're doing anything else anyway."
So that's what the ferret wanted... Harry was somehow amused by the way Malfoy was trying to make it seem like he wasn't really asking for his help. "Yeah, sure. Unless you're planning to attack me or something..." He wasn't sure if he said that as a joke or if he seriously considered it as a possibility.
"Ha ha, very funny, Potter! I'll let you know when you can come in..." he said as he disappeared into the room.
A little later Harry heard Malfoy—or should he say the wolf? He couldn't decide—whining and scratching the door. He closed his book and left it on the armchair before heading to Malfoy's room. Taking a deep breath, he rested his hand on the door handle and forced himself to open the door.
The first thing he saw was a grey werewolf sitting on the floor in front of him with his eyes looking straight into his own. For a moment he was sure that there had been something wrong with the potion or that Malfoy was going to attack him anyway, but then the wolf got up and hopped on the bed, his tufted tail swaying behind him as he moved.
Harry wanted to laugh. Even as a werewolf, Malfoy was still the same. He moved like he thought everyone was supposed to worship the ground he was walking on. His snout was too pointy even for a werewolf. And Harry would bet that were-Malfoy had already found a way to sneer.
Looking around the room, Harry realised that there was no place he could sit on but the bed. He sat down carefully, trying to avoid making the mattress bounce. Malfoy wouldn't appreciate that.
After a few minutes of silence, Harry decided to say something, since Malfoy couldn't do that anyway.
"You know, Malfoy, I might actually prefer you that way. Your inability to speak gives me an advantage, don't you think?"
Malfoy let out a low growl.
"Oh, calm down, I'm just messing with you," Harry turned his head and smiled at him. For some reason he found it easier to talk to Malfoy then. It was possibly because he knew that Malfoy wasn't able to reply.
Malfoy whined softly and rested his head on his paws.
"Come on, it can't be that bad!"
Malfoy's reply was a louder whine. Harry was reminded of the way Malfoy acted when he was injured during school. Still, he reached out his hand to pet the wolf's head. Malfoy breathed out and closed his eyes.
After a while Harry realised he was feeling tired. Being turned in that angle and holding his arm out to pet Malfoy's—the wolf's—head had made his back and shoulder ache.
He got on his feet and stretched his back. Malfoy lifted his head.
"So, um—" He ran a hand through his hair. "I could leave if you want to sleep. But I can stay longer, if you want me to," he blurted out.
Malfoy wiggled his tail. Harry choked back a laugh when he thought how bizarre that seemed and sat back on the bed, resting his back against the pillows. He kicked off his shoes and clasped his hands on his stomach. Malfoy crawled on the bed slowly and set his head on Harry's thigh, who reached out his hand again to stroke the soft fur behind his ears.
As the time passed, Malfoy's breaths were coming out evenly and the warmth seeped slowly through Harry's jeans. Harry felt relaxed, which was very odd considering that it was Malfoy who had caused that. At one point Malfoy seemed to have fallen asleep, but Harry wasn't able to tell because he fell asleep shortly after.
Draco felt cold. He was still half asleep and had no intention of moving his aching limbs even to get under the blankets. But something was different. His head was resting on something that wasn't a pillow or the bed. And something was tangled in his hair.
Turning his head reluctantly, he discovered that it had been resting on Potter's thigh. And the thing that was in his hair was Potter's hand.
Letting out a loud squeak, Draco rolled off the bed, trying to drag the blankets along as he landed on the floor. At the same time, Potter jumped up terrified, took out his wand and blinked owlishly behind his crooked glasses. "Whassamatter?" He mumbled, trying to focus his eyes.
"Out! Get out! Now!" Draco shrieked and tugged the blankets harder, wrapping them around his shoulders.
Potter stiffened. "What the hell is your problem anyway?" He bent to pick up his shoes and moved towards the door. "You know what? Fine!"
Draco flinched when Potter slammed the door shut.
"Idiot! 'Hey, Potter, stay with me while I'm a werewolf! I swear, it's a great experience! You get to pet me and scratch my head! Only, there's a tiny detail I forgot to mention. I'm completely naked in the morning; I hope it's alright with you!' Merlin, what's wrong with me?" Draco thought and started getting dressed, moving slowly because he was sore.
He really didn't know what bothered him more. The fact that he had given in and asked Potter to stay with him was still difficult to accept. Normally—But what was normal anymore?—he would have chosen spending a night of pain alone over showing weakness to Potter. Being mortified, however, because Potter had seen him naked was something entirely new.
It wasn't that he was comfortable with standing naked in front of others. Six years of living with other boys—five of them also spent in the Quidditch changing rooms— had been enough to get him used to the idea, although reluctantly.
There was no other explanation. The werewolf thing had addled with his brains.
Really, letting Potter pet him? "I'm going insane..." If Lucius ever heard any of this, Draco would end up buried alive under the Manor. And that was the best of his options. He didn't dare to contemplate what the worst of them would be.
Draco chose to ignore the little voice in the back of his mind that reminded him he had liked what happened.
Harry stormed into his bedroom, resisting the urge to kick the first thing he came across. He wasn't planning to spend the few next days limping, no matter how angry Malfoy made him.
Malfoy's behaviour was confusing, to say the least. One moment he would be as arrogant and irritating as before, the next he'd try to be nice to Harry, in his own weird way, and in the end he'd freak out for no apparent reason.
Normally Harry would have strangled him by now. The fact that he hadn't yet worried him.
Dealing with Malfoy when he was in one of his moods would do him no good. Harry planned to stay away from him for the sake of his sanity.
Thankfully Malfoy kept to himself for the next two days. Harry only had to face him when he came out of his room to get something to eat. His timing couldn't be more terrible though.
Two nights after the full moon as Harry was crouched in front of the fireplace, poking the glowing embers, Malfoy opened his bedroom door slowly, but froze when a loud crack was heard in the room.
Harry jumped up reaching for his wand and let out a breath when Kreacher appeared from behind the sofa, dragging his feet as he moved towards him.
"Kreacher is here to inform his Master of his task," he croaked, shooting a nasty look at Harry.
"What happened? Did you find it?" Harry got up, subconsciously trying to tower over the house elf.
"Kreacher searched the entire house, but didn't find what Master was looking for. Oh, how ashamed his Mistress would be if she knew," he muttered, his gaze glued to the floor.
"Oh, really?" Harry replied dryly. "Are you sure you searched carefully?" he asked slowly, clenching his fists. He couldn't be sure that Kreacher hadn't found a way around his orders and that irritated him.
"Kreacher followed Master's orders. He looked everywhere for the locket," he shot back, doing his best to look insulted.
"Right. Did you talk to anyone or let them see you since the last time you were here?"
"No, Kreacher didn't."
"Who was at the house?"
Kreacher clenched his jaw, trying to stop himself from answering.
"Kreacher..." Harry warned him.
"Kreacher only heard the blood traitor, his mother and the Mudblood."
The only thing that stopped Harry from yelling at Kreacher for insulting his friends was the empty feeling in his stomach. He realised that he had missed them and needed to see them again.
But now he had a way to send them a message. Tearing out a blank page from one of the books, he scribbled a note and handed it to Kreacher, ordering him to take it straight to Ron without revealing to anyone but him that he had seen Harry. Kreacher glared at him and vanished with a loud crack, closely followed by the slam of a door as Malfoy locked himself in his room once more.
When Snape came back the next morning, Harry decided not to stall and tell him as soon as possible that he was going to meet his friends two days later.
It turned out that this was a big mistake.
The moment Snape heard that Harry had communicated with someone he started yelling and barking and waving his arms angrily while pacing in the middle of the living room. Harry started backing away slowly, but it was too late.
"...and you never even stopped to think that this was putting everything in danger? Our safety? The success of our efforts? Could you be more stupid, Potter?"
There was no chance Harry would not show up in that meeting, but he suspected Snape would try to accomplish exactly that.
"They won't tell anyone! I trust them far more than I trust you, but I haven't left yet! I'm staying here, not knowing if you're going to show up with a bunch of your co-workers at the doorstep. Or even take me to Voldemort! So just shut up and let me ask for their help! They're the only ones who can do something now!" Harry shouted, his anger flaring.
He was panting now. Snape seemed to be thinking of an appropriate response. Well, whatever he decided to say, Harry wasn't going to listen to him. No one was going to stop him from seeing his best friends again. It had been two months since the last day he spent with them, but it seemed much longer now that he was thinking about them so much. He needed to see them because he wasn't sure that he'd get that chance ever again. The day he would kill Voldemort was coming closer and a little voice in the back of his head was reminding him that there was a chance he wouldn't make it.
Not to mention that his friends were also in danger. Knowing them, they'd probably have joined the Order by now, or at least trying to help its members. What if something happened to them while they were looking for him? He had to let them see that he was fine—at least physically—before they did something rash.
Snape's opinion didn't interest him in the least. He was going to meet his friends and that was final. No one would take that from him. Even if Snape decided to lock him up or knock him out, he was still going to that meeting. How he was going to do that if he was unconscious, he didn't know. That wasn't important at the moment.
Letting his arms fall limply on his sides, Snape turned towards the door of his bedroom.
"You may go. But it's going to be on my terms. We'll discuss it later," he said in a tired voice and left, closing the door behind him softly.
Harry had no idea that his reaction would unsettle Snape that much. On the next day he gave him instructions in a dull tone, trying to mask his resignation but failing miserably. Harry knew what he was thinking; that he would never come back, that he was going to give them away to the Ministry, or that he was going to return with a dozen of Aurors or Order members...maybe even that something would happen to him.
He highly doubted that it was the latter, but on second thought, it wasn't impossible. Snape's plan to get himself and Malfoy out of the shite they were currently in would definitely involve him in some other way besides killing Voldemort.
However, he had to admit that Snape taught him a few interesting things. The most important was showing him how to use his Patronus to send messages, which was a method far safer than sending them out with Kreacher, since his Patronus didn't loathe him or wish his death.
One of Snape's terms was that he had to change his appearance to prevent others from recognising him. He taught him a few simple but effective spells to alter his features and explained how he should leave the house without triggering the protective spells that surrounded it.
Snape went to bed early, leaving Harry alone in the kitchen. Malfoy hadn't come out of his room all this time.
His friends followed his instructions and didn't send a reply, since Kreacher was not obliged to obey their orders and therefore could easily reveal their plans to anyone. Harry had no way of knowing if they had received his message or if they had been convinced it was real, but he hoped that his message had made it clear it was really him.
Leaving the house carefully in the way Snape had instructed him and with his appearance changed so much that no one would recognise him, he Apparated to London in the next morning.
The building of the Kings Cross station was across the street. Some people were walking past it, but many others were going in. Harry crossed the road and tried to blend in the crowd.
Once he got in he went straight to the ticket office, where Ron and Hermione were supposed to be waiting for him. True enough, when he turned around the corner, he saw them standing next to a pillar across the hall.
He couldn't wait to talk to them again, but the sight before his eyes was so funny that he needed to cherish it.
Hermione was wearing a long beige trench coat and had—unsuccessfully—tried to tame her hair under a beret. A ridiculously large pair of dark sunglasses was covering half her face and she was probably scanning the entire room behind them and the newspaper she was pretending to be reading, held open in front of her.
Ron was adjusting his own pair of sunglasses, which kept sliding down his nose. He was covered in black from head to toe, save for the orange and blue socks that were showing under his trousers. The black coat looked two sizes too small, probably because he was too tall for it, and his hair was standing out because of all the black, no matter how much he tugged on the black fedora that was perched on his head.
He bent towards Hermione twice to whisper in her ear, but she shushed him and elbowed his arm. Both times Ron looked embarrassed and went back to adjusting his glasses.
Harry moved around the room without alerting them and stood a few steps behind them, getting closer when he realised that they wouldn't notice him if he was careful.
"But Hermione, are you sure no one will recognise us? It's not like we look all that different..." Ron mumbled.
"Oh, really? Next time, you do the dressing up. Now be quiet, Harry will be here any moment now." Her elbow found Ron's ribs and he tried to stifle a cry.
"I'm already here," Harry whispered.
Hermione whipped around so fast that the beret almost fell off her head. She stopped, however, when she laid her eyes on Harry's face. Harry couldn't blame her. His appearance was entirely different from his normal one; light brown hair instead of black, hazel eyes instead of green and a face a lot rounder than before. Not to mention the missing scar.
"Spells..." he sighed and waved his hand in front of him.
Ron was the one who reacted first. He pulled Harry in a hug so tight that he felt his feet almost leaving the ground. He couldn't breathe for a moment or two.
"Ron, stop it. You're choking him," Harry heard Hermione's voice in the background.
Ron relaxed his hold and Harry started breathing normally again.
"Sorry..." he mumbled looking at the floor, his face turning red.
Harry hugged him back. "Missed you too, mate." Out of the corner of his eye he saw Hermione's eyes filling up with tears. Reaching out his arm, he pulled her into the hug as well. They stayed like that for a few moments until Harry remembered where they were and let go of them.
"Right. We need to go somewhere to talk."
Shortly afterwards they went into a nearby fast-food restaurant. Harry explained that no one would be looking for them in there, although Hermione looked at that place like it was a part of Voldemort's evil agenda. Ron was looking around him in amazement and Hermione tried to drag him away from the tills; who knew what he would order.
Harry left them at a table to go and order, returning a bit later with two trays balanced on his hands. Ron beamed at him and started devouring his first hamburger. Hermione looked miserably at her salad.
"You don't like it?" asked Harry, noticing her reaction.
"Well, it looks nice, but the dressing is probably full of sugar. Although it's probably the healthiest thing one can find in this place..."
"Come on, Hermione! It's not like we get to eat these things all that often!" protested Ron through a mouthful of fries.
"Anyway..." she continued, giving him a pointed glance, "We're not here for the food. We have more important things to talk about. Harry?"
Harry wasn't sure where to start from, but took a deep breath and plunged in, determined not to stop until he'd finished.
"I found a Horcrux in Godric's Hollow." His friends were about to reply, but he stopped them, raising his hand. "I tried to destroy it and got hurt in the process. Snape found me and healed me. We found another Horcrux later and destroyed both of them. And we went to Hogwarts and talked to Dumbledore's portrait."
His friends didn't seem surprised. They kept looking at him, like they were waiting to hear more. "Well, I expected a much different reaction..." he muttered.
"Oh no, Harry!" Hermione piped up. "It's just that we knew some of that!"
That was surprising. "But—how? I mean—No one—"
"Dumbledore came to Grimmauld Place, at the portrait in our room. They had an Order meeting in there," explained Ron. "We snuck in one night and talked to him."
Harry hadn't even thought that this could happen. "So what did he tell you? What did he tell the Order?"
"The Order knows about the plan now. At least the most trusted members do. So they're not going after Snape. But the Ministry is still looking for him. He also told us that you were perfectly safe and that he had seen you, but we should not go looking for you unless you contacted us. He was sure you'd do it though." Hermione stopped to take a sip of water. "The thing is, we are not supposed to tell anyone that we met you. Even if you hadn't asked us, Dumbledore did."
"What did the Order say?"
"They seem willing to testify for Snape when this is all over. If he stands trial, he'll probably be acquitted, especially if the Wizengamot lets Dumbledore speak. There's a portrait of him in the Ministry now, so that's going to be easy. But you shouldn't worry about that for the time being. Why don't you tell us what we can do to help you?"
"I need you to look for the real locket Horcrux."
Three hours later they had still not thought of where they should go looking for the locket. Harry had told them that he was sure the locket was the one they had found while cleaning the house back before their fifth year after sharing Snape's opinion that it was Regulus Black who had stolen it from the cave. He also recounted the story of the locket, how it changed hands from Merope Gaunt to Caractacus Burke to Hepzibah Smith and finally to Tom Riddle.
"For all we know, Dung could have stolen it and sold it to someone..." Ron mumbled, slouching back in his chair and turning his gaze towards the ceiling.
Harry saw red as he remembered Mundungus pocketing his godfather's—his!—property, but he realised that it would be very convenient if this was the truth. At least they would be able to track it down that way instead of looking through all the places where they had dumped the garbage they had cleaned out of Grimmauld Place. He straightened his back and was about to discuss this option, when Ron spoke up again, continuing his thoughts.
"I mean, if that's the case, it's probably going to be at Borgin and Burkes. Trust our luck to make us go to that place again and come back empty handed. It's not like Borgin will let us just take it..."
Hermione gave him a look and gaped. "Harry, that's it!" she said finally, turning to him.
"Excuse me?" Harry thought he had heard wrong. Ron looked at Hermione like she had gone mad.
"It seems logical. We can start from there. Well, we still need to get Mundungus to confess, but even if he didn't have it, Borgin and Burkes is the first place where we should start looking for it! Think about it! Where else could we find Slytherin's locket?"
Harry hoped she was right. Both she and Ron seemed to be excited about going after the Horcrux. Now there was nothing left for them to do. He could just spend the rest of his free hours talking with his friends, like the last two months hadn't happened. He really wanted to know what had been going on in his absence.
Apparently the Weasleys had been staying at 12 Grimmauld Place for the last six weeks. Ron and Hermione had tried to join the Order, but Mrs. Weasley had sabotaged their efforts. After their chat with Portrait-Dumbledore they had given up on it and waited for Harry to ask for their help instead.
Ron revealed, although reluctantly, that Ginny had started dating Dean again. Saying that he wasn't pleased about it was probably an understatement. Harry must have looked very disappointed by the news, because Hermione patted his hand in an effort to comfort him.
The truth was that he wasn't really hurt. After all, he was the one who had broken up with her, and for a good reason. It would be selfish to expect her to wait for him. He had more than enough things to worry about at the moment. There was no good in adding their relationship—or what was left of it— to them.
"So, Harry, how have you been spending your time? It must be really boring."
"Boring? This is so beyond boring that I doubt there's a word to describe it."
"That bad, huh?" Ron sent him a sympathetic look.
"Let me just say that the highlight of an average day is getting into a fight with Malfoy."
Ron and Hermione froze at once and their eyes widened comically. "Whoops..." thought Harry.
"Er, I guess both me and Dumbledore forgot to mention that part."
"But—but...Malfoy?" Ron spluttered. "How did that happen?"
"Snape had been hiding him. He's on our side now...somehow. It's not like he had a choice. Voldemort wants him dead and sent a bunch of Death Eaters after him."
His friends were startled by his revelation. It took him at least one hour to explain that yes, Malfoy had helped with the Horcruxes, and no, he wasn't trying to kill him, he was just acting like the annoying git he always was.
Harry finally decided to end that discussion. He was there to see his friends, not to waste his time talking about Malfoy. The wanker occupied his thoughts long enough when they were at the same place, there was no need for that to happen when he was away from him as well.
Early in the next morning Harry parted ways with his friends. They had spent the entire night in Muggle London, chatting and having fun, trying to take their minds off the difficult times that lay ahead of them. When Harry Apparated near the house, he felt his exhaustion catching up with him. He desperately needed to collapse on a bed under a lot of warm blankets and not get up until the next day.
Temporarily disarming the protective spells as carefully as he could, he reached the house and opened the door. He had just closed it and was almost finished with turning his appearance back to normal again when he felt someone looking at him. Turning his head, he saw Malfoy leaning against the doorframe to his bedroom, arms folded against his chest.
"What a surprise, Potter! You decided to come back after all! How nice!" he said, glaring at him.
Harry was too tired to deal with this.
"Leave it, Malfoy," he replied, pinching the bridge of his nose while he tried to fish his glasses out of one of his pockets.
"Why? Meeting didn't go as expected? Did Weasley and Granger not seem happy to see you? Or did your little girlfriend not show up?" Malfoy spat.
Harry growled and crossed the room angrily, heading towards Malfoy. "Don't talk about them! It's none of your business!" He grabbed Malfoy's robes and pulled him away from his door, shoving him against the wall. "And if you really want to know, I broke up with Ginny at Dumbledore's funeral. Of course this wouldn't have happened if you hadn't been the reason he died!" Harry pushed Malfoy forcefully back with every other word, making him wince as his back hit the wall.
The moment he loosened his hold Malfoy took advantage of it and tried to grab his hands. "Why did you come back? Why couldn't you stay with your friends?" he yelled, trying to punch Harry after he failed to take hold of him.
"Believe me, I would have if I had a choice! But I don't, so I was forced to come back here and put up with you, you wanker!" Harry managed to stop Malfoy's punches and land a few of his in Malfoy's stomach despite his exhaustion.
"Oh, yeah? Fuck you! " Malfoy yelled, finally managing to grab Harry's shoulders.
Harry tried to escape his grip, but Malfoy grabbed his hair instead and pulled. Harry let out a yell of pain, but suddenly Malfoy's mouth was against his own and muffled it.
Malfoy was kissing him. He was thrusting his tongue in Harry's mouth, and judging by the feel of it, he was probably trying to excavate his tonsils. It was sloppy, angry, clumsy, so different from every kiss he had shared with Ginny so far, but it still made him release a deep moan.
That brought Malfoy back to reality. He pulled away from Harry with a horrified look on his face and disappeared into his room, slamming the door behind him and into Harry's face.
Harry stared at Malfoy's door a long before he could make himself move again.
Maybe this is a dream...No! A hallucination. Because I'm tired. If I get some sleep, it'll go away.
Walking unsteadily, he reached his room and collapsed on the bed. If this had really happened, he wasn't going to deal with it until he had had a long sleep.
Draco locked his door with every spell he could think of and let his knees give in, sliding down to the floor.
He was hyperventilating. And shaking badly.
He had kissed Potter. He had kissed Potter? What had possessed him to do that?
Burying his face in his knees, he let out a pained moan.
Somehow, this explained a lot. Like why Pansy had never done it for him and why he found Blaise's arse more interesting than hers.
"Oh, God!" he moaned, hugging his knees more tightly.
Did he like Potter that way? And if he did, had it really been that difficult to control himself and not jump at him?
How was he going to face him now?
He wasn't. He'd just have to stay locked in his room forever.
Harry woke up quite a few times, but he always forced himself to go back to sleep, dreading the things he had to think about when he finally got up. He didn't leave his bed until the next morning, and that only because twenty-four hours without going to the bathroom were too long for his bladder.
He was back in his room in record time. The longer he stayed out, the bigger the chance of bumping into Malfoy. Speaking of...
Had Malfoy kissed him? Actually kissed him? With tongue? "Yes, it was the tongue part that was strange..." he snorted at his thoughts.
That was different. If he thought only about the kiss, he had to admit that it was...enjoyable. Whatever points Malfoy lost for technique, he certainly got back for enthusiasm.
"But it's Malfoy!" he reminded himself.
Yes, but he still seemed to be enjoying it. Well, at least up to the point where he realised what he was doing.
"But—but he's a boy! I'm a boy! We're not supposed to kiss each other and enjoy it!" he said out loud.
Great. Talking to himself was one more reason why he'd have to hide in his room for as long as possible. There was no way he'd be able to face Malfoy again like nothing had happened.
Because he definitely wasn't going to forget that. It was too big.
Harry thought how shocked Malfoy had looked. He had probably regretted doing it. 'Oh, he's definitely going to ignore it...'
Even though he didn't want to admit it, that last thought was not as pleasing as he expected it to be.
"Are you sure this is going to work? He didn't believe you the last time!"
"Now we're prepared. He won't recognise us."
"I hope you're right. Here we are."
"I know...This place gives me the creeps."
"Come on, let's get inside."
"May I help you?"
"Erm...Yes, actually. I'm here to get my wife a present."
"I see...What would the lady be interested in?"
"Tell him, dear."
"Oh, yes! I heard from a friend that you recently acquired a very valuable locket...I'd like to buy it. My husband is very rich, so money won't be a problem."
"Who told you that? Get out of my shop!"
"You really think that threatening me is going to help you? Your wand is useless in here!"
"Yeah, yeah, Borgin, I'm sure you're right...Tell us where the locket is."
"Now, now. There's no need to be violent...It's in the floor behind the counter, under the third tile from the wall. The one with the carved B on the corner."
"Got it! Let's go!"
"Let's get out of here. Now!"
"Hello. Who are you?"
"We're lucky Harry showed us these appearance altering spells. Borgin won't recognise us now."
"Pfft, I knew half of them already."
"Yes. What do you think I'm doing when I'm reading all these books? These are dangerous times, Ron. We have to be prepared. Honestly!"
Harry had managed to stay hidden in his room for four days, going out for food or to the bathroom only after he made sure that he wouldn't run into anyone. It was amazing how many things one could see through a keyhole.
On the fifth day Snape came into his room and practically dragged him to the kitchen. Harry yelled and kicked and fought, but Snape let go of him only after they entered the room.
Malfoy was there too.
Harry wasn't going to bolt now. He had no intention of showing Malfoy that he was afraid. Because he wasn't. Right?
After a second look, Harry noticed that Malfoy acted like a trapped animal. His glance was darting towards the door, he was fidgeting, even his pupils were dilated. His face looked like it did back in their first year, when they came face to face with Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest.
"Sit!" Snape barked and pushed Harry into a chair.
Harry bit his lip to stop himself from showering Snape with all the swear words he had handy at the moment. That was bad. Malfoy must have told Snape something, he was going to...
"This is going to stop. I don't know what happened in your last fight and I honestly don't care, but you are mistaken if you think I'm going to allow you to hide in your room and sulk." Snape turned abruptly towards Malfoy. "That goes for both of you." Harry let out his breath. So Snape really didn't know and had just decided on his own to act like that.
"Now, I've seen that you are capable of tolerating each other, or even..." he grimaced "...being friendly. You are going to solve this right now."
Harry sank lower into his chair. Malfoy was two seconds away from jumping up from his chair and disappearing out of the room. Snape was scowling at them.
Right at that moment something silvery and transparent, shaped like an otter, came through the kitchen wall.
Hermione's Patronus... Harry was saved.
He was ready within minutes. The others hadn't been able to see the message Hermione sent him, so they didn't know that the meeting was hours later. It was a perfect excuse to leave the house as soon as possible and avoid Malfoy and the discussion they were supposed to be having.
Harry knew that he wouldn't be able to avoid it forever. He just needed more time to think what he was going to say.
Draco calmed down almost immediately after Potter left the house. He was glad that discussion was put off, not only because he was scared of facing Potter, but also because Snape intended to hear everything that went on between them. Snape would probably think he was going mad if he heard that Draco had kissed Potter.
Driving the man who protected him to insanity wouldn't be wise, right?
Unfortunately, he showed no signs of backing off. It took Draco more than two hours just to talk Snape into letting him and Potter solve their differences alone. Snape finally agreed to it, although grudgingly, but only if the discussion took place right after Potter's return.
Draco scowled and returned to his room. As the time went by, he caught himself wishing for something bad to happen to Potter to keep him away, but immediately regretted that thought.
Apparently he had developed a talent for getting himself into the worst situations possible. The current one definitely fitted that description. Draco Malfoy, werewolf, hunted by Death Eaters, working against the Dark Lord, developing a crush on Harry Potter. That's a perfect introduction for parties. Lucius would love that one.
Why couldn't he just get away from everything?
The muffled voices outside his door interrupted his thoughts. A few minutes later Snape opened the door and waited for Potter to enter. Potter walked as slowly as he could, glaring at Snape like he was forcing him to enter the Great Hall naked.
"Don't think about Potter naked!" he scolded himself. Where had that come from? The situation was getting more serious by the minute.
"I don't have the time or patience to put up with your behaviour. In case you've forgotten, we have more important things to worry about. You will not leave this room until you resolve your differences." And with that he left, slamming the door shut behind him.
Draco flinched. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Potter doing the same.
The room was eerily silent. A fly zoomed at a corner. Draco swore he could almost make out the buzzing of its wings.
"So..." Potter provided after what seemed like ages. Ha, very nice, Draco. That's the person you like? You could have gone for the Giant Squid instead. It would probably be more eloquent than Potter.
He showed no reaction to that.
Potter let out a puff and ran his hand through his hair. "Look, Malfoy, as much as I hate to admit it, Snape's right. By the way, I can't believe I just said that and I'm going to kill you if you tell this to anyone. Just tell me why the fuck you did what you did so we can get on with our business."
"Why, you little piece of..." No. This needed a different approach. Who did Potter think he was, demanding an explanation like that?
Draco cleared his throat. "What did I do?" he asked. "I don't remember anything." There. Mess with his head a little. Maybe he'll get bored. He wanted to pat himself on the back for that.
Potter's expression darkened. "Bullshit, Malfoy. You know perfectly well what you did."
"I honestly have no idea what you're talking about." Draco didn't know how he managed to stay so calm and keep up his act. It was hard, but he didn't want to let Potter win, even though he knew that this was exactly where the situation was heading.
"You kissed me! That's what I'm talking about! And I want to know why you did it!" Well. At least Potter had started losing his patience. Draco considered this a small victory, but then again he suspected that he wouldn't be able to keep acting like that for long. He just wanted this confrontation to end as soon as possible.
"Must everything be about you? Can't you forget about it? Just pretend it never happened." Brilliant, Draco. You definitely floored him with that one.
"I've been kissed by a boy! Of course I can't pretend it never happened!" Potter exclaimed, causing Draco to let out a hollow laugh.
"Really, Potter. That's priceless! Only you would be worried about that! Of all the things... 'I've been kissed by a boy'..." he mimicked Potter's words. "I'm astounded! And here I was thinking you'd be worried about everything else I am besides that! You know, a Malfoy, a Death Eater, a werewolf? You need to sort out your priorities." He ended up sounding more bitter than amused. Damn Potter and the effect he had on him...
"Stop that! Just stop it and tell me the truth! For once in your life, just drop the act and tell me what's going on inside that thick head of yours!"
Potter looked furious. His cheeks had turned red and his eyes were looking straight into Draco's, giving him such a hard glare that he unthinkingly started answering Potter's question. If he had known what he was going to say, he would have taped his mouth shut with Spellotape.
"What do you want me to say? That I was just messing with your head in an effort to get back at you? That it was part of a plan to confuse you and make you run straight into the Dark Lord's hands? That I was lonely and horny and just kissed the first person I came across? Oh, I know! Let's blame the werewolf bit! I'm sure that would be a very convenient excuse, considering all the absurd things I've done since I was bitten!"
Draco paused. His voice was getting dangerously close to cracking and he needed to control it again before providing his explanation. He took a deep breath and continued in a soft whisper.
"Surprisingly, none of these things is the truth." Averting his eyes from Potter's, he forced himself to go through with it. "I started seeing you that way. I don't know why I couldn't stop myself from doing what I did. And yes, I realise that what I just admitted, combined with everything else you have learned about me, gives you a huge advantage over me. You can use them to hurt me or laugh at me with your friends when all this is over, I honestly can't be arsed to care. Besides, it's your fault. You made me feel this way." Draco was mortified by what he had said, but it was worth it if got Potter off his back. "If we're done here, I'd like to be left alone, please..." Turning his back to Potter, he closed his eyes and waited for him to leave while trying to calm himself down.
Just go away. I don't want you to see me breaking down like that. It's humiliating.
Any minute now Potter would leave and everything would be over. Judging by the soft steps he heard, that time was getting closer. Just go already!
Or maybe not.
Draco felt a light pressure on his arm. Opening his eyes slowly, he looked down and saw Potter's hand gently tugging his sleeve. He tried to swallow the lump in his throat before asking Potter to leave once more. Just when he opened his mouth to say that, Potter moved around and stood in front of him. Draco was too surprised to say anything; he had a hundred different things floating in his mind, but he just couldn't make his mouth move to put any of them into words.
Potter brought his other hand up and touched Draco's cheek while he moved closer as slowly as humanly possible, finally pressing his lips on Draco's after what seemed like ages. A moment later he moved back, just a little bit, checking Draco's face for a reaction.
Draco gulped and licked his lips. Potter's breath was warm against his mouth and he felt his eyelids growing heavy. He couldn't care less if Potter was serious about this or if he was just toying with him, all he wanted was to keep doing this. Moving his head forward, he closed the gap between them.
When Potter ran his tongue over his lips, Draco did his best to suppress a pitiful whine and opened his mouth instead to let Potter's tongue in. He couldn't believe how this had turned out. His knees were threatening to give in, but he stopped himself at the last moment from holding on to Potter for support.
If anyone asked him right then, he would have said that it ended too soon. Potter stepped back and looked at him, letting go of his arm and offering a hesitant half-smile. He was obviously waiting for Draco to say something.
"I ah—um..." The croaky voice he spoke in was downright embarrassing. Great. This is exactly how I want to act in front of Potter. Way to go, Draco. "So..."
"So..." Potter echoed.
Draco doubted that they would ever get anywhere, considering their articulacy, or lack thereof.
"Snape's probably waiting," he offered lamely, at the same time when Potter blurted out, "Maybe I should—"
After a few seconds of silence, Potter spoke up. "You're right. He's probably in the kitchen, scowling at the cupboards or something."
"So...Should we go tell him that we 'resolved our differences'?" The mischievous grin on Potter's face alerted Draco that he was possibly planning to tell Snape exactly how they had done that.
"You're not going to tell him anything, are you?" he asked, dreading the answer he thought he'd be getting.
Potter chuckled, amused by the alarmed look on Draco's face. "As much as I'd love to witness the expression he'd get by hearing about this, I don't think the follow-up would be that pleasant."
Thankfully Snape didn't ask any questions about how they had made their truce. Dinner had been as boring and silent as every other time before. Draco kept casting swift glances at Potter, but he didn't seem to notice. When they had left his room, Draco had been sure that Potter was serious about the kiss. As the time went by and Potter looked at everything in the room except him, he was getting the feeling that Potter had regretted it.
How could he have been so stupid? As if two or three major revelations about him weren't enough; he just had to let Potter know about that last one. "What were you expecting, you idiot? Hand-holding and kisses under the moonlight?"
He almost snorted at the last bit, but stopped himself just in time. The others would think he was going mad. Or at least more mad than his recent behaviour indicated.
When he finished his dinner, he excused himself hurriedly and went straight to his room. He just wanted to sleep and forget that this day ever happened.
When the morning came, Draco was awoken by a thunder so loud that it made the windows rattle. It was too cold, too early and just a horrible day in general to get out of bed. Memories of the last night's events flooded his mind and he groaned into his pillow, pulling the blanket over his head as though it was enough to hide him from everyone.
Clearly, it wasn't. Snape knocked on his door to remind him that he should get up soon to help them destroy the Horcrux Potter had brought the previous day.
Draco tossed the blankets aside and stumbled to the chair he had left his robes on. When he was dressed, he ran a hand through his hair in an effort to make it presentable and left his room. The others were waiting for him in the kitchen. Snape was standing next to the table with his arms crossed against his chest and Potter was slumped in a chair, looking bored like he was in the middle of a History of Magic lesson.
He didn't bat an eyelid when Draco took his seat at the table.
So that's how he was going to act. Fine, Draco could ignore him just as easily. It was just a kiss anyway.
"Are we waiting for someone?" he sneered at Snape a minute later, since no one had made a move to start yet.
Snape took a knife out of his robes and threw it on the table. Draco didn't want to look directly at Potter, but out of the corner of his eye he saw him searching his pockets, taking out a golden locket and setting it on the table.
Stupid Potter and his stupid locket...
While Snape cast the spell, all Draco could think about was how he wanted to shake Potter until he got a reaction out of him. He grabbed the knife Potter offered him and slashed his palm, cutting deeper than he intended. Great. I'm going to die of blood loss because the idiot has made me angry.
Snape signalled for them to drop their blood on the locket. When the soul fragment started emerging from the locket, Draco turned his head and glared at Potter, who seemed surprised by that. This motivated Draco to glare harder.
Somewhere in the background he heard Snape shouting the Killing Curse. Draco had barely registered a metallic 'clink' when he felt something heavy knocking him straight in the eye.
He howled in pain and covered his stinging eye with his hand.
Potter rushed out of his chair and came over to him, trying to check his face.
"Ow! No, don't touch me! What the bloody fuck was that?" he cried, slapping Potter's hands away.
"The locket! It exploded! Now will you let me see how much you're hurt?" Potter yelled at him.
"Fine!" he yelled back and removed his hand from his face. Potter's expression definitely wasn't a good sign.
"Is it bad?" he asked, preparing himself for the answer he knew he'd get.
Oh God! "How bad is it?" Draco squeaked.
"Well, it's going to be black in a few hours, I can tell you that. But the eyeball's red in a spot, a vein must have popped or something."
What? He was up so fast that he felt slightly dizzy, but ran to the bathroom as quickly as he could and looked in the mirror.
It was horrible.
No, it was more than horrible. It was revolting. Thankfully his eyelid had started swelling, so he wouldn't be able to see the creepy red eyeball after a few minutes.
Why did everything happen to him?
Draco had been sitting on the edge of the bathtub for a few minutes when Potter knocked on the door.
"Malfoy? Can I come in?"
No. You definitely can't come in, because it's your fault, you fucking wanker. Well, it wasn't really Potter's fault, but Draco needed to blame someone.
Potter entered the bathroom, closing the door behind him softly. "I brought you some ice," he indicated the ice pack in his hand and offered it to him.
Draco took it and placed it on his eye, hissing in pain as it touched the swelling. Potter sat next to him and looked at his hands, probably thinking of something to say.
"Potter, I am not in the mood for this. My eye is killing me, my head hurts and I'm certainly not up for a chat. So just leave it."
Leaning his head back, he closed his eyes and waited for Potter to leave. Instead, Potter inched closer, bumping his knee into Draco's as he settled. "I had to go blind to make you care, didn't I?" If that was the only way to get a reaction out of Potter, he didn't want to have anything to do with him. It was a mistake, he was sure now.
Potter wasn't making a sound.
"Damn it, Potter! If you want to take back what happened yesterday, just say so!" Where had that come from?
"What are you talking about? I'm not the one who has been moody since last night!"
"No, you were too busy pretending I wasn't even there..."
Potter groaned. "You're obviously off your rocker. What was I supposed to do? Throw you on the table and snog your brains out? You almost had a heart attack when I joked about telling Snape about that!" He got up and started pacing. Draco opened his unscathed eye and looked at him. The mental image of Potter snogging him senseless on the kitchen table brought a flush to his cheeks.
"Actually, Malfoy, did you wonder for once just what my position was? Just because I kissed you, it doesn't mean I have the answer to everything. You're not the only one who has no clue how to act here," Potter added in a tired voice.
"So...Should we just let it go?" he mumbled miserably.
"Do you want to?" Potter gave him a pointed look.
"...No." He hated it when Potter was right.
Potter sat next to him again. "Listen, Malfoy," he finally said a few minutes later. "We can give it a try and see how it goes." Draco knew Potter was looking at him and thought he could feel the intensity of that look.
"Okay..." he whispered and bit his lip. He felt Potter leaning closer and kissing softly the corner of his mouth. Taking the ice pack away from his face, Draco turned his head around and kissed him back. Potter brought his hand up to cup Draco's cheek, but he was careful not to put it anywhere near his eye. When he caught Draco's bottom lip between his teeth, Draco let out a whine and grabbed his jumper to pull him closer.
A knock on the door made them jump apart as fast as they could. Draco tried to catch his breath, but then he made the mistake of looking at Potter, noticing his flushed face and his mouth hanging slightly open, and all he wanted to do was open the door and yell at Snape for daring to interrupt them.
Potter got up and wobbled to the door, straightening his glasses before opening it. Snape studied his face shortly and then turned to look at Draco.
"For Merlin's sake, Potter!" he exclaimed, rushing towards Draco to examine him more closely. "Did you have to fight with him while he's in this state?" He picked up the ice pack and pressed it on Draco's eye hastily, making him cry out in pain once more, before pulling him on his feet and proceeding to drag him out of the room.
"Um...what?" Potter's baffled look was priceless. The only thing that stopped Draco from sniggering was the strong pain in his eye. Of course! Snape thought that their dishevelled appearance had been the result of a fight! Draco couldn't blame him; who would have thought that he and Potter would be kissing?
"You were supposed to bring him some ice, not wrestle with him! Just when I thought that the two of you had settled your differences...I am not here to referee your matches! Draco, are you alright?"
"Terrific," he said as Snape dragged him out of the door, turning his head back to smirk at Potter.
Things were looking remarkably better after that day. That is, if he didn't take his injury into account. That thing was still horrible.
Draco had stopped worrying about Potter and whatever was happening between them, now that he realised he had overreacted. Snape's reaction had seemed amusing for a while, but Draco decided later that day to spare Potter and assure Snape that they hadn't been fighting. He made up a story about Potter trying to help him with the ice even though he kept refusing it at first, and fed it to Snape, glad for the fact that he was still disoriented by the exhausting spell he used to destroy the Horcrux.
Potter gave him a hesitant smile the moment Snape turned his back to them. Draco did his best not to react to that, but the corners of his mouth twitched upwards on their own accord.
That night he brushed his shoulder against Potter's as he went to bed.
When the morning came, he got up feeling more relaxed than he had in a long time. That day started seeming a lot better during breakfast, when Potter stretched his leg under the table and rested his foot next to Draco's. Nothing else happened that day, because Snape was observing them all the time, looking for a sign that they were ready to jump at each other's throats again.
On the next day Draco found a chance to return Potter's gesture. They were sitting on the sofa in front of the fire with Snape only a few feet away, settled in the armchair and casting glances at them over the top of a book he was reading. Draco started moving closer to Potter as slowly as he could. When he was sure Snape wasn't looking, he tilted his leg until his knee was touching Potter's. Looking up, he caught Potter trying to hold back a smile.
Somewhere at that point Draco realised that the situation felt like a weird Hufflepuff courtship ritual. As shocking as that thought was at first, he decided to ignore it and get on with what he was doing.
All the random touching was the most interesting thing that happened during the following week. Snape had told them that they wouldn't be busy for a while, since he had to collect more information on the Dark Lord's plans before they went after the next Horcrux which, apparently, was his snake. Now that Draco had learned exactly what a Horcrux was, he couldn't avoid thinking how idiotic it was to turn your pet into one. Maybe working against the Dark Lord was a good idea after all.
More than a week had passed since the Locket Incident, but Harry was still surprised by the realisation that Malfoy had been so moody that day because he was feeling insecure about the whole thing. Understanding that in time stopped him from getting angry with Malfoy's irritating manners.
Not that their situation wasn't surprising enough on its own. Malfoy had admitted that he liked him. Sure, Malfoy's behaviour was confusing, not to mention that he still had his annoying moments, but when Harry had forced an explanation out of him, something had changed.
The way Malfoy's voice had cracked while he admitted his feelings and the way his shoulders slumped afterwards made Harry feel...well, he couldn't think of a word that described how he felt, but he just knew what he had to do. It was confusing, but he decided to stop worrying altogether and just do what felt right. He didn't even know if he was going to survive. First he'd kill Voldemort. Then he could start worrying about everything else. Right?
The most interesting thing was what started happening after the Locket Incident. Malfoy was full of surprises. Who would have thought he'd lie to Snape to save Harry's skin?
Harry had realised that this Malfoy was different from the one he was used to. Maybe it was because he didn't actually know the old Malfoy. Maybe Malfoy hadn't really changed that much. Whatever the case was, he had already started feeling that he should give him a chance.
When Draco looked out of his window in the morning, he saw everything covered in snow. It was then that he realised it was already one week into December. Opening his door, he noticed Potter sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace. Draco crossed the room and sat down next to him.
"Is Snape up yet?"
"Snape left." Potter didn't take his eyes off the fire.
"Yeah, about half an hour ago. He was in a hurry."
"Do you know when he'll be back?" He'd better come back soon. The full moon was close and Draco was going to need his potion.
"No, he didn't say anything."
"Right. So...I guess we're alone now."
Potter stared at the flames for a little longer and then he got up, straightening his clothes. "Come on, let's go make breakfast," he said turning to Draco and offered his hand to help him up.
Draco took it.
Snape was in a room full of Death Eaters, waiting for the Dark Lord to give them an explanation as to why he had summoned them at seven o'clock in the morning. Bellatrix was sitting next to him with a superior look plastered on her face as he delivered his usual preamble. After all these years, Snape had to admit that the whole thing was getting tiring and entirely predictable. That is, until the Dark Lord finally got to the point.
"You shall be escorting Bellatrix to Italy for a few days. I received a very interesting request from a group of local wizards who wish to assist in our cause."
Fabulous. They would have to go all that way to negotiate with a bunch of sycophants.
"Follow Bella's orders. After you find out what they're really planning, I want all of them dead."
Oh. At least they'd skip the boring chit chat. Well, the Dark Lord always was full of surprises.
"Bella is going to give you instructions now. You will be leaving in three hours."
That was inconvenient... Bella's triumphant smirk as she looked at him would have made anyone else extremely uncomfortable. The Dark Lord left the room, giving Bellatrix the chance to start her own enthusiastic and slightly insane speech.
The snow outside looked so inviting and the idea of a snowball fight was so tempting that Harry wondered why he was still in the house. Snape still hadn't come back a day later and he had started feeling uneasy. What if someone discovered them? What if Voldemort forced Snape to reveal their location? What if Snape did that on his own?
The sight of a black-cloaked figure outside approaching the house interrupted his ponderings. He immediately reached for his wand, but relaxed when he realised it was Snape. Moments later the front door opened and Snape burst in, forgetting to close it.
"Potter, where's Draco?"
"I—sleeping. Why? What happened?" Snape seemed distressed. Harry was sure that something bad had happened.
Snape disappeared into Malfoy's room and came out a minute later, dragging a half-awake Malfoy behind him. Right when Harry started fearing that Snape would be taking Malfoy with him, probably to drop him off to Voldemort, Snape made him sit on the sofa. Malfoy was trying to understand what was going on, but he didn't seem to be succeeding yet.
"I can't stay long, but I had to come back and warn you," Snape said, pointing his wand at the windows and casting some charms Harry had never heard before. "They sent us away on a mission. I had to buy an illegal Portkey to get here," he grumbled.
"Why? Where were you?" Malfoy mumbled sleepily.
"The Dark Lord decided to send a group of a few select followers on a romantic trip to Venice. Which involves torture and murders, not to mention being led by her!" Snape spat out the last part.
Malfoy definitely woke up at that. "What did she say? Does she know?"
"No. But she's trying to find out. That's why I can't stay, she's looking for a chance to find out what we're up to. That's why I have to get back immediately. Don't leave the house while I'm gone. Potter, you're going to brew Draco's potion tomorrow morning."
"What?" Harry wished he had heard wrong.
"Brew the potion. You've done it twice already. As much as I hate to admit it, you're capable enough of doing it again, on your own this time." And with that, Snape put his wand away and walked to the door. "Try to stay alive while I'm gone."
When Snape closed the door behind him, Harry started wishing that it was all a joke. He didn't know who 'she' was or why it terrified Malfoy and angered Snape, he didn't know if he'd be able to brew the potion successfully and he wasn't entirely sure that he and Malfoy would manage to stay alive.
Malfoy's whisper stopped his impending panic attack.
"Did you really brew the potion before?"
"Yes..." Harry muttered and collapsed next to him.
"Did it work?"
"You didn't attack me a month ago, so I suppose it did."
"...Oh." Malfoy studied his hands for a moment or two. "Just...Try to make it work again, okay?"
It was right then that Harry actually believed he could.
"Are you sure it's fine?"
Harry sucked in a deep breath. "Yes, Malfoy, it's absolutely perfect."
Malfoy eyed the cup like it was full of poison. Harry lost his patience. "Just drink it!"
Malfoy glared at him. "If it doesn't work, I'm going to bite you tomorrow night."
"If it doesn't work, I'll let you!"
Malfoy picked up the cup and drank the potion, making an expression of extreme disgust as he gulped it down.
"Is it really that bad?" Harry asked him when he set the cup on the table.
"It's horrible...But..." Malfoy paused to make a gagging motion, "...this is as horrible as every other time. It might have worked after all." He looked completely miserable. Harry noticed the way his bottom lip was stuck out, just a little bit. Malfoy was pouting!
He leaned closer unthinkingly and ran his tongue over Malfoy's lip. When he opened his mouth slightly in response, Harry pushed his tongue gently inside. After releasing Malfoy's mouth a few minutes later to move his attention to his neck, he felt Malfoy's hand sneaking around his waist, grabbing his arse and pulling him closer.
Harry nearly lost it at that point.
He would have kept kissing and licking and biting, but the realisation that Malfoy had definitely felt his erection pressing into his thigh made him pull away panting, mortified by letting Malfoy see just how much he was enjoying this.
"I'm...sorry, about that..." he panted, trying to get his breath back to normal again. He was embarrassed and just wanted to crawl somewhere and hide until his cock decided to behave again instead of showing up when not invited, only to shock him and Malfoy.
"What for?" Malfoy was panting even more than him.
"For...For—" Harry was cut off when Malfoy pressed his entire body against him, because he felt it. Malfoy had an equally obvious hard-on, which he shamelessly started rubbing against Harry's thigh.
That did it.
The last coherent thought Harry had before the blood left his brain was that he should just stop feeling embarrassed and get on with it, especially since Malfoy seemed to have no reservations. After that, he let his cock do the thinking.
Somewhere in the middle of the moaning and the frantic rubbing Harry pushed Malfoy on the table and climbed on top of him, burying his face into his neck. Malfoy was writhing under him, pushing his hips up and groaning every time their cocks touched through their clothes.
Then he grabbed Harry's hand and pulled it between them. Harry thought he'd go mad. Malfoy's hand on his crotch was almost too much to handle, but when he squeezed it gently, Harry couldn't hold himself back any longer. He sank his teeth in Malfoy's neck and shuddered violently, collapsing on Malfoy, who let out a deep moan a moment later.
Harry felt the blood pounding in every vein in his body. His heart was beating so fast he thought it was going to break out of his chest. He could feel Malfoy's heartbeat against his chest, not quite matching his own. He could barely keep his eyes open and waited for his breathing to slow down, putting off any effort to move until he felt he could actually control his limbs again.
Malfoy squirmed, pulling their hands out, and Harry was surprised when he sensed his fingertips resting on the back of his neck. He sighed and let his eyes close.
"Potter..." A soft whisper woke him up.
Just then he remembered what had happened. He scrambled away from Malfoy and tried not to look at him. That proved to be really difficult, especially when he sat up and took a breath, as if he was going to speak. When he didn't, Harry turned his head to look at him.
Malfoy opened and closed his mouth several times, frowning and shaking his head in between, until he looked at Harry. They both averted their eyes quickly and looked at the floor.
After a few moments of silence Harry decided to say something. What they had done made things between them awkward, but if they were going to act like that, the situation would become unbearable. "I...Uh—"
"What?" Malfoy cut him off.
Harry looked up at him until he met his stare. "Are you regretting this?" Please don't say yes...
"No..." Malfoy mumbled, dropping his look to the floor again. A moment later he looked back at Harry. "Are you?"
"No..." Harry realised why Malfoy had looked at the floor as he did the same.
Silence again. "Come on, Malfoy, say something!"
"Ugh! I really need to change my clothes now!" Malfoy got off the table and fled the room.
That brought Harry's attention to the sticky mess in his own pants. "Well, Malfoy, you're not the only one," he muttered to himself.
There was no discussion of what they had done later that day, but to Harry's immense relief it seemed that Malfoy was okay with it. Which was good. Harry was okay with it too, but he wasn't all that eager to actually discuss it.
They spent that evening in the living room, not really talking but not ignoring each other either. As the time went by, Malfoy looked more tired than usual and ended up falling asleep on the sofa. Harry studied him for a while, noticing the way his chest moved with every breath and how his mouth was slightly open, before waking him up to tell him to get to bed.
Malfoy stumbled to his bedroom, yawning as he reached his door. Harry stifled a yawn as well and headed to his own room a few minutes later.
In the next morning Malfoy took his potion without protesting, although he made a disgusted grimace after he drank it. He spent the rest of the day curled up on the sofa and spoke only when Harry asked him something.
When it was almost time for him to go to his room for the transformation, he started fiddling with his sleeve and glancing at Harry, but still didn't say a thing. Harry took pity on him and spoke up.
"Do you want me to come in later?"
Harry was getting impatient. "Yes or no?"
"Yes," mumbled Malfoy.
"Alright." At that Malfoy got up and nodded before heading to his room. Harry threw a log in the fire and waited for Malfoy to let him know when he could go in. It didn't take long. A few minutes after the moon was up Harry heard Malfoy scratching the door again. He picked up his wand and went to Malfoy's room.
Malfoy was already on the bed. He swished his tail twice when Harry entered, but otherwise didn't move an inch until Harry sat on the bed next to him. Only then did he creep closer, nuzzling Harry's palm with his snout.
Harry placed his wand on the nightstand and set a pillow against the headboard before lying back. When he reached out his hand, Malfoy crawled under it and whined, stopping only after Harry started stroking his head.
Some time later, when Harry realised that Malfoy had fallen asleep, he set his glasses on the nightstand and draped his arm over him. Feeling Malfoy's body moving as he breathed, he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
It wasn't the soft morning light that woke Harry up, but the feel of Malfoy shivering next to him. Trying to disentangle his hand that Malfoy was clutching against his chest, he managed to reach his wand and summon a blanket from the chair across the room. After covering him carefully, he wrapped his arm around him and moved his head closer, placing a soft kiss on the back of Malfoy's neck.
Once Malfoy stopped shivering, Harry went back to sleep. He woke up again hours later, judging by the sunlight that was pouring through the window.
When he cleared his throat, he felt Malfoy stiffen. Great. He's awake and he'll freak out again like the last time.
"Good morning," he whispered, bracing himself for an outburst by Malfoy.
That was definitely not the reaction he was expecting. "Are you alright?"
Obviously Malfoy had decided to act like a baby. Harry took it that as a good sign; if Malfoy had been freaked out, he wouldn't be acting like that. "What's wrong?"
Instead of answering, Malfoy rolled around slowly and faced him. His expression as he did so showed it was difficult for him, not to mention painful.
Since he wasn't wearing his glasses, he could see only Malfoy's face clearly; everything else in the room was blurry. They were almost nose to nose. For one moment, Harry thought Malfoy was going to kiss him, but then he buried his face in Harry's neck and took one arm out of the blanket to pull him closer.
Harry was momentarily taken aback, but he got over it quickly and tightened his hold on Malfoy. Neither of them moved for a while.
Harry would have thought that things between him and Malfoy would change for the better after that day. Far from it, Malfoy was getting more distant as the days went by. Harry had no idea haw to react. At first he was annoyed, thinking that Malfoy acted like that because of something he'd done. Then he was angry, because Malfoy was ignoring completely every effort he made to find out what was wrong. In the end he was just frustrated. This wasn't how he wanted to spend his Christmas, which was only three days away.
Well. If he had a choice, he'd want to be with his friends and the rest of the Weasleys, exchanging presents and stuffing himself with Mrs. Weasley's delicious food.
That thought depressed him for a while, until he realised that there was nothing he could do to make that happen.
He was in the middle of thinking about what he should include in a message to Ron and Hermione when he had a thought. He realised what he could do, which was to make the situation he was currently in a little better.
Pleased with himself for thinking of this, he cast his Patronus and sent it away to his friends.
Yes. That was definitely going to work. Now all he had to do was make some preparations.
Cooking anything out of the ordinary was absolutely out of the question. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to pull it off and besides, there wasn't anything he could use in the kitchen. "Corned beef it is," he muttered disappointedly to himself as he rummaged through the kitchen cupboards.
The other part was much easier. He conjured some strips of tinsel and hung them over the fireplace. The result wasn't as nice as he expected—it looked too scruffy and a bit dim—but it was the best he could do at that moment.
When Malfoy came out of his room, he looked curiously at the decorations. "What's that?"
"Tinsel," Harry grinned. When he saw that Malfoy was waiting to hear more, he added, "It's Christmas tomorrow."
"It's already working," he thought to himself when he noticed Malfoy's expression softening a little.
Harry was up at dawn on Christmas morning. Dressing as quickly as he could, he all but ran to the living room, sitting next to the window. Soon he noticed a tiny dot in the sky, which formed into a white owl as it came closer.
He opened the window and Hedwig flew in, landing on a table and reaching out her leg to indicate the package she was carrying.
Harry untied the cord that was holding it in place and tried to stroke Hedwig's head. "Hi, girl. I missed you..." She clacked her beak angrily and turned her head around to show her annoyance. Harry couldn't blame her; she hadn't seen him in months and the only reason she was there was to bring him the package.
"I'm sorry, Hedwig. I didn't know I'd have to stay away. And even if I did, I wouldn't take you. It's too dangerous for you."
A suspicious sound came from her and she toddled away from Harry, with the back of her head still turned to him.
"Oh, come on!" Harry pinched his nose shut and waved his wand to get rid of the white droppings she had left on the table. "It wasn't that bad! Ron and Hermione took good care of you! And I already said I'm sorry, okay?"
His owl was still ignoring him.
"Women...Why do I even bother?" he muttered. "Listen, I'm terribly sorry for leaving you alone for so long. And I'm even sorrier because I don't have any owl treats to give you, and I know how much you love them. But do you really want to stay angry with me? I could die tomorrow, Hedwig. You might never see me again."
Hedwig flew and sat on his shoulder, hooting miserably in his ear. Harry congratulated himself on the perfect handling of the situation. "I guess you forgive me then. Smart girl...Let's see what Ron and Hermione sent me, okay?"
She nibbled his earlobe in response, still a bit harder than normal. I promise, girl, when all this is over, I'm going to be with you all the time... Harry tore the brown paper and some of the contents of the package spilled on the table. He took the rest of them out; there was another package, smaller and wrapped in silver paper, a dark green jumper and a note from Ron and Hermione, wishing him Happy Christmas and informing him that they had sent what he asked them, along with some of their presents for him.
Hedwig screeched. Harry set the note down and looked around the room, spotting a scowling Malfoy at the other side. "Happy Christmas, Malfoy."
No reply. Alright then... "This one is for you." He picked up the silver package and reached out his arm to hand it to Malfoy.
"What, Weasley and Granger sent you so many presents that you took pity on me and decided to give me what you don't need? Generous offer, but I think I won't accept it."
Harry saw red. Who did Malfoy think he was? He got up so fast that Hedwig lost her balance and flapped her wings, picked up his presents and walked angrily towards Malfoy.
"I asked them to send this because I wanted to give you something today. I guess I was an idiot for thinking you'd appreciate it."
He strode to his room and slammed the door behind him, opening it again to call Hedwig in. Once she was in the room, he slammed the door again—one of these days a door would fall off its hinges—and sat on his bed fuming, hoping that Malfoy would choke on the sweets that were in his package.
Harry did his best to avoid Malfoy since that day. He couldn't believe how stupid he had been! Malfoy was never going to change, no matter how many times they touched and kissed and groped each other, no matter what they said. It was all a mistake.
When he found the living room empty, he tore the tinsel down and threw it in the fireplace, staring at the flames as it burned. Then he sent Hedwig away, remembering that Snape was going to return soon. He didn't want to get a lecture on how they could be tracked down if anyone followed her.
Snape came back two days after Christmas. He grumbled something about discussing their plans in the next morning and disappeared into his room. He had looked grumpier than usual. Harry guessed his little trip hadn't been very pleasant.
The next morning came and Harry went to the kitchen to find Snape and Malfoy waiting for him at the table. He tried to ignore Malfoy as he ate his breakfast. When they were all finished, Snape said that he was going to collect information about Voldemort's future plans and that they would have to visit Dumbledore's portrait to discuss how they would attack him. Since Dumbledore had suggested that the last Horcrux was Nagini, Snape would keep that in mind and he'd try to pay attention to her habits as well.
Harry was just starting to get disappointed that he didn't know how long it was going to take until everything was over. At that moment, Malfoy decided to speak and make things even worse. The git had the nerve to ask Snape to bring his mother again! And naturally, Snape didn't take long to agree.
This was so unfair it hurt. Malfoy got to see his mother when he asked for it, but Harry had to beg in order to meet his friends.
He left the table and went to his room to sulk in peace.
As predicted, Snape left again three days later after signalling to Harry to hide in his room. He glared at Malfoy and slammed his door—the hinges rattled this time—, kicking his wardrobe as hard as he could. At least the pain distracted him for a while. When his foot wasn't throbbing that much, he moved the chair behind the door and got ready to spy on the happy Malfoy reunion the moment it started.
Since Malfoy was still the same bastard, it was entirely possible that he'd try to do something suspicious. It wouldn't hurt to keep himself covered, right?
This time it took longer for Snape to bring Narcissa Malfoy at their home. In all honesty, she looked worse than the last time he had seen her. Malfoy must have noticed that too, judging by the way his expression changed as he took in her appearance. They sat on the sofa together, with Snape lurking nearby and acting like he wasn't hearing them.
Harry's viewpoint allowed him to see that this wasn't the case. Snape was listening to every word they said and paid attention to their every move.
So even Snape thinks the git is going to say something stupid...
But no matter how carefully Harry observed them, Malfoy didn't say or do anything that would let his mother know the truth. For some reason this made him even angrier with Malfoy. When Malfoy's mother took a grey scarf out of a pocket in her cloak and wrapped it around his neck, saying something about not being able to go and buy him a proper present, Harry held his breath to hear more...
...Only to hear that the scarf belonged to Lucius Malfoy.
How he stopped himself from pulling the door open and bursting into the room to grab the scarf from Malfoy's neck and rip it to little pieces, he had no idea. It was like someone had petrified him. He couldn't tear his eyes away from them, even as Malfoy kept touching the scarf absentmindedly while he talked with his mother.
"Why don't you bring him his Hand of Glory next time, you hag?"
It was official. Malfoy was a lost case. If Malfoy Senior's accessories made him that happy, what was he going to do if his father got out of Azkaban? Harry knew the answer; Malfoy would go running back to him. And Lucius Malfoy would always be on Voldemort's side. Narcissa would be probably already asking her crazy sister to help her get Voldemort's help.
Harry didn't want to see anything else. He had seen enough for one night. Let the Malfoys be happy together...
He left his seat as silently as he could and got to bed, tossing and turning for a long time before he finally fell asleep.
In the morning Harry went to the kitchen and found Snape making breakfast. He sat at the table and waited until the food was ready. After they started eating, Malfoy came into the room with that stupid scarf around his neck, tied in an elaborate knot. Harry was too angry to wonder why a small piece of silk upset him that much.
He tried very hard to avoid letting Malfoy realise he was watching him. That would surely alert him to the fact that Harry knew he hadn't changed, or even worse, give him the wrong idea and make him think that Harry wanted to do something with him again. Because he didn't want to. No, he definitely didn't.
Some traitorous part of his body had objections. Harry crossed his legs and tried to get rid of all thoughts of him and Malfoy doing anything, before it was too late.
What a way to start a new year...
One of these days he'd have to talk to Snape and convince him to leave Malfoy out of it somehow. Defeating Voldemort was too important to let that idiot screw it up for him.
Looking up, he caught Malfoy staring at him. Harry glared at him and he dropped his head to look at the plate in front of him. A moment later he brought his hand up and ran a finger along the inside of his scarf, lifting it slightly from his skin. Harry dropped his fork on his plate and got up so fast that he missed Malfoy flinch at the clattering sound.
He left the room without bothering to check the others' reactions, already planning out what he was going to say to Snape.
During the next week Harry noticed Malfoy looking at him more than usual. Maybe he had started realising what Harry was going to do. As the days went by he looked more nervous and averted his eyes every time Harry caught him staring.
One more reason to talk to Snape as soon as possible.
He got his chance one evening when Malfoy had left the kitchen right after dinner saying that he was not feeling well and needed to go to sleep. Perfect...
Like always, Snape sent the plates to the sink with a wave of his wand. He must have noticed Harry being more fidgety than usual, because then he asked him about it.
"Is anything the matter, Potter?" Well. He still had his usual talking-to-Potter disgusted expression.
"Yes." Snape had probably not been expecting Harry to actually tell him what bothered him, because he seemed a bit startled by his answer. Harry thought it would be wise to continue before Snape recovered. "I want Malfoy to stay out of this from now on."
"Out of what?"
"Going after Voldemort," Harry blurted out, and then continued more confidently, "I don't trust him."
"You don't trust him..."
"No, I don't."
"Potter, I thought you had decided to let go of this pointless feud. Draco has made his choices. Wasn't that clear enough?"
It seemed that he was wrong about Snape. Obviously, he still trusted Malfoy. But Harry knew that he had to convince him. The last time people didn't believe him about Malfoy, things ended badly.
Wondering briefly why he had forgotten about this during the last few months, he burst out his reply. "I'm not going to risk everything just because you're protecting him! He's going to rat on us if he finds a chance and you know it! I'm not going to wait until his mother makes him reveal everything and then tells Voldemort about it! So find somewhere to send that wanker to or I'm going after Voldemort on my own!"
Snape had looked furious during Harry's outburst, but now he was staring past his shoulder with a shocked expression on his face. Harry spun his head around to see what was wrong.
Malfoy was standing just outside the kitchen door, with his entire body shaking in anger and his jaw clenched. Harry froze for a moment, not knowing how to react, and then made a move towards Malfoy—
But Malfoy reacted quickly and made a bolt for the front door, not even bothering to close it as he ran away from the house. Harry dashed after him, trying to catch him before it was too late. He was getting closer after every second. In the end he jumped, grabbing Malfoy's robes at the last moment and throwing him to the ground.
Malfoy was kicking and screaming, but Harry was fighting back with just as much force, using his body weight over Malfoy to his advantage.
"Get off me!" Malfoy snarled, trying to push Harry away. As he tried to hold him down, Harry knocked his elbow into Malfoy's nose. Snape's voice was yelling something in the background, but Harry paid no attention to it—
Until he felt a hand pulling his hair. Letting out a howl in protest, he opened his eyes and saw Snape pulling both him and Malfoy up and dragging them back to the house.
"What is wrong with you too? Do you realise that you were fighting past the spell-protected area? Do you want to get yourselves killed?"
Harry glanced at Malfoy and caught him wiping the blood from his face with the edge of his sleeve.
"...and in case I haven't made that clear already," Snape hadn't stopped speaking, "there are people who are trying to find us. That was the most reckless thing you could have done! Now get in there and don't even think about going out of the house again!"
Snape forced them into the house. Malfoy was still snivelling in his sleeve.
"Tell that to Malfoy. I wasn't the one who tried to run away," Harry grumbled.
"Fuck you," Malfoy spat out.
"It's the truth. There's no point in denying it."
"Brilliant, Potter. Did you figure that one out on your own? Merlin, you're impossible!" Malfoy slumped down on the sofa and tilted his head back. "I didn't ask for any of this, and yet I still helped. But I'm not going to sit here and let you insult my mother behind my back. Go after the Dark Lord on your own, see if I care..." His voice faded and he closed his eyes.
"Insult your mother? Just because I said she's going to tell Voldemort everything when she finds out? That's hardly an insult, Malfoy. It's the truth. How do you know she hasn't done it already?"
"It's none of your business!" Malfoy shot back. "Besides, she—she can't," he stuttered.
"Yes, that's very convincing. Keep telling it to yourself."
Malfoy tried to say something, but he couldn't make the words leave his mouth. Snape put one hand on his shoulder to hold him back and spoke up. "He's telling the truth, Potter. His mother really can't do that." Harry was about to snort at that, but Snape continued his explanation. "Everyone thinks she and Draco have run away. The only people who know she's still at her house are in this room."
Over the next hours Snape explained how he had placed Narcissa Malfoy under the Fidelius Charm. Harry avoided looking at Malfoy after that. He never thought he'd have the slightest sympathy for her, but he had to admit that staying hidden on her own for so long was probably something that even she didn't deserve.
Then Snape revealed that Voldemort had assigned him to find Malfoy and his mother and that Bellatrix Lestrange suspected he knew more than he let out. That explained who the 'she' was. Apparently Bellatrix had decided to investigate on her own and Snape was afraid she was getting closer to finding them every day. Harry thought about his things, which were all stuffed in his backpack.
She could come whenever she wanted. Harry was ready.
He was about to say that when a loud screeching noise sounded in the room. Snape took out his wand and pointed it towards the front door, sending out a faded white beam. "Go get your things. Now!"
Harry ran to his room and got his backpack. When he returned to the living room, both Malfoy and Snape were coming out of their bedrooms carrying their own bags. Malfoy was about to say something when a red orb of light appeared at the front door. "Grab my arms!" Snape murmured.
"What about my potion?" Malfoy cried.
"There's no time," Snape interrupted him and grabbed both his and Harry's arms, Disapparating them out of that place as the front door started opening.
Harry knew where they would be going and was proven right when he opened his eyes. Another abandoned place in the middle of nowhere. Fantastic...
"How do you know all these places?" he asked Snape as they walked towards the cabin.
"The Order of the Phoenix prepared them as hideouts during the first war. There are many more, but unfortunately this is the last one I know of. Dumbledore was kind enough to inform me about them last year, knowing that I was going to need them."
Harry stopped dead on his tracks. "So the Order knows about them?"
"Yes and no. The Order knows they exist, but each member only knows the location of some of them."
Snape had reached the door, dragging an unusually silent Malfoy along as he walked in. Harry followed them.
It was slightly worse than the first building he had stayed in. A thick layer of dust covered every surface in the house and the floorboards would be creaking loudly if it hadn't been for that.
"I have to leave," Snape announced. "Draco, I'm afraid you'll have to make do without the potion this time. I won't be able to get the ingredients and supplies back in time."
"What? No, you can't be serious!" Malfoy said in disbelief.
Harry was about to second that, but Snape interrupted him. "I have to go to the others in order to keep my cover." Harry had never seen Snape look so...desperate before. "It's...if you want this to end, we have no choice."
He instructed Harry to lock Malfoy in one room and himself in another and showed him no less than three complicated locking spells. Then he made him demonstrate them until he was satisfied with the result and left, completely ignoring Malfoy's cry as he closed the door behind him.
Harry felt the room closing in around him. Malfoy slumped on the floor behind the door and hid his face in his knees.
The reality if the situation hit him like a ton of bricks dropped on his head. He would have to spend the night in a house with a real werewolf, not just Malfoy in a werewolf's body. A real werewolf, who at that moment was just a human being, curled up on the floor and shaking.
Pushing aside all his fear and the distrust he had in Malfoy, he walked slowly towards him and sat down, swallowing a lump in his throat when Malfoy flinched as their elbows touched.
He made a move to touch Malfoy's arm. "Malfoy..."
"Don't touch me."
"Whatever you do is not going to protect you tomorrow night. Just leave me alone. Besides, it's too late to start acting all nice to me again. I know it was all an act, in case you've forgotten."
"Is it? Too late, I mean."
"What do you think? One day you just decided that I wasn't worth it and started looking for the best way to get rid of me. You didn't even stop to think what this meant for me. I am going to die if Snape stops protecting me."
"I just thought—"
"No, you didn't think! That's the problem! Do you have any idea what this is going to feel like tomorrow? Because I sure don't! And I'm the one who will be ripping his skin out."
"You should be. Actually, you will be. After all, if you don't do those spells right, I'll probably end up killing you."
Harry snorted and elbowed Malfoy in the ribs. "Come on, get up. Let's clean up a bit, I'd rather not die in the middle of all this dirt."
Making the cabin habitable was too much work for only two people. Hours later Harry collapsed on a divan, next to Malfoy who had given up a few minutes earlier. Pointing his wand towards the ceiling, he cleaned the last cobwebs in the room before resting his back against the wall behind him.
Malfoy was gazing out of the window. When Harry's stomach gave out a loud growl, he turned around quickly, looking like he had just remembered where he was.
"I'm going to see if there's anything to eat. Are you hungry?" Harry asked him as he got up. Malfoy just nodded before turning his head to look outside again.
Harry sighed and started rummaging through the cupboards, taking out two tins of soup and two spoons, which he placed on the table. After opening the tins and using a spell to warm the soup, he called Malfoy, who came at the table dragging his feet.
They stayed at the table for a while, not speaking until Harry saw the sky outside turning dark. That time tomorrow, he would be sharing the house with a werewolf. Malfoy must have noticed him tensing, because he cleared his throat and mumbled something about being tired and going to sleep. He hurried to one of the two bedrooms, almost knocking down his chair as he got up.
Harry dropped his head on the table. The situation couldn't be any worse.
Draco didn't want to get out of bed. He didn't want that day to start, he didn't want to be there and he definitely didn't want to transform without his potion. At that moment, he'd do anything to move time twenty four hours ahead.
He hated admitting it to himself, but he was terrified of what was going to happen. In every transformation he'd gone through so far, he had always been under the influence of the Wolfsbane potion. Being able to think like a human while in a werewolf's body was the last thing he had that kept him from hating himself. Turning into a real werewolf would make him become something he always hated.
The fact that Potter would be in the house that night made the situation even worse. What if something went wrong and Draco bit him? He hadn't forgotten how awfully Potter had treated him since Christmas and he still wanted to get back at him for that, but attacking him that night would be too much.
The thought of waking up covered in blood next to Potter's mangled corpse made his stomach lurch in disgust.
Draco eventually decided to get up. He had to stop thinking about it before he went crazy.
It was almost time. Harry had spent the entire day around a fidgety and silent Malfoy, wishing he could just forget what was going to happen that night. It was a matter of minutes until he'd have to lock Malfoy in his room.
He finally cleared his throat and told Malfoy he should get ready. Malfoy got up and moved towards his bedroom, stopping on the doorway and turning around to face Harry. He took his scarf off and held it in front of him.
"Keep this for me. I don't want to ruin it tonight."
Harry did his best not to grab the scarf and stomp on it. He took it carefully, as if the contact would burn his skin, and put it in his pocket. "Alright," he croaked. Malfoy let out a breath and walked into his room. "See you in the morning," Harry muttered and closed the door, avoiding looking at Malfoy's face.
After he had cast all the locking spells Snape taught him, his heart started racing. Every step to his room made the floorboards creak under his weight. The sound seemed to be echoing in the house. When he closed the door, Harry repeated the same spells and pushed the bed behind it as well.
The veins in his temples pulsed violently and he felt dizzy. He walked to the window and looked outside, waiting for the moon to rise with his wand gripped tightly in his hand.
As he was looking for the moon, he almost missed a sudden move at the edge of the forest. He thought it was Snape at first, but then relief turned to panic as the figure moved closer.
It was Bellatrix Lestrange.
Harry moved away from the window. Creeping against the wall, he risked a glance outside. Bellatrix had almost reached the house. And no sight of the moon yet...
Countless questions flooded his mind, ranging from how she had found them to what was going to happen when she went in, from what she would do if she found Malfoy to how she would react if she came face to face with a werewolf.
His heart was beating so fast that Harry felt it would break out of his chest.
The screeching sound of the front door's hinges came muffled through the wall. Bellatrix was in the house. Then some creaking sounds followed, getting increasingly louder as she walked further into the house and closer to Harry's room. He raised his wand and aimed it at the door, holding his breath when the noise stopped.
Harry had no idea what she was doing. It was getting darker, so Malfoy would transform any minute now. What if she got to him right before he changed?
"Draco? Are you in there? What's wrong? Are you afraid of your favourite aunt?"
Some whispered incantations reached his ears. He had no way of knowing if she was trying to open his or Malfoy's door.
"Snape is such a fool. He went to all this trouble to hide you and then he just locked you up with spells even a third-year could break. But I'll deal with him later."
Whipping his head around to look out of the window, he saw the moon finally rising over the forest. If Bellatrix opened Malfoy's door instead of his, she was in for the surprise of her life. Harry gripped his wand tighter and waited.
Bellatrix muttered an incantation. "I hope you're ready for a nice family reunion," she hummed, the click of the lock indicating that she was finally opening the door. "Say hello to your Au— aaah!"
Her screams blended with loud growls and clacking of jaws, the sounds making Harry shiver. He felt it would last forever, but then her screams stopped and Harry let out his breath.
If only he had any idea what to do...
He walked towards the door, getting on the bed to press his ear against it. He heard nothing. Until—
A loud thud on the door made him jump back. The door rattled as the werewolf tried to get in, snarling and scratching it with its paws. Harry got off the bed and pushed it back, fearing that the door would collapse the next minute, but after what seemed like ages all sounds stopped.
Wiping the sweat off his forehead, Harry waited. He barely made out soft scurrying steps that made the floorboards creak lightly before fading out. Then a howl came from outside, making him get up and look out the window.
The werewolf was running towards the forest.
Harry collapsed on the floor, just noticing his hands trembling. He rested his head on his knees and tried to forget about the dead body outside his door and about were-Malfoy roaming free in the forest. He'd deal with it after the sunrise.
When the morning came, Harry was asleep on the floor, not knowing that Malfoy was staggering towards the house right then. He only woke up when he heard a croak from the front door.
Harry jumped up. Malfoy spoke again, sounding more desperate this time. "Potter?"
Pointing his wand at the door, he started removing the locking charms, stopping when he heard a slump outside.
Harry got to work again, pulling the bed away from the door as he heard Malfoy heaving and wailing. Once he had enough room to open the door, he rushed out, freezing to the spot as he observed the scene in front of him.
Bellatrix was on the floor, lying in a pool of blood with her limbs spread out in odd angles. Her throat was ripped open and her robes were torn apart and soaked in blood. Harry looked at her face. Her eyes stared blankly at the ceiling while her mouth was wide open, bringing into his mind the sounds of her screams.
He averted his eyes to check on Malfoy, who was naked and covered in dried blood and dirt, wailing and rocking back and forth on the floor next to her. Harry approached him slowly and crouched, pulling him away from the body and the puddle of vomit.
Harry tightened his hold on Malfoy, who turned around and buried his face in his jumper, letting out a long moan against his chest. It took him a moment to react, but he wrapped his arms around Malfoy and pulled him closer.
Malfoy was shaking and mumbling incoherently, and Harry held him until his crying waned.
"Come on, Malfoy, let's get you cleaned up," he whispered once he realised that Malfoy was too distressed to do anything. He led him to the cramped bathroom and made him get into the bathtub, turning on the water and getting on with his task. When he noticed the faded white scars on Malfoy's chest, he stopped looking at him altogether and focused on the dirty water swirling away until it came out clear.
In the end he wrapped Malfoy in a shabby towel and walked him to his room, helping him getting dressed when he saw that he was still not reacting.
Now he had to get rid of the body.
A look at Malfoy was enough to figure out that he'd have to do it on his own.
Pulling the blankets aside, he put him into bed. On second thought, he fished the scarf out of his pocket and put it in Malfoy's hand. That made him go still for a moment before he started shaking again.
Harry searched the house for a shovel but settled for transfiguring a broom instead when he didn't find one. Walking out into the cold winter air, he moved around the house and found a patch of soft ground, which he started digging forcefully. When the hole was deep and big enough, he went back into the house and dragged Bellatrix outside, throwing her in the pit and filling it with dirt until it looked exactly like before.
Like he hadn't just buried someone...
Not that she deserved to be buried. Harry was frustrated that he didn't have a chance to make her pay for killing Sirius and angry because she had shown up that night, causing Malfoy to kill her. He thought he could understand why Malfoy had reacted like that. He couldn't kill; Harry knew it since that night on the tower. And now he had been forced to do it because of her.
Well. She was his aunt too. But Harry refused to acknowledge that Malfoy could be upset because of that.
Cleaning away the blood didn't take long. When all evidence that someone had been killed in the house was gone, Harry went into Malfoy's room to check up on him.
He hadn't moved an inch. Harry moved closer to see if he was asleep. Malfoy's eyes were red, looking vacantly at the wall next to his bed.
"I took care of it..." Harry mumbled. "Buried her outside..."
Harry was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open. He crawled on the bed and lay down next to Malfoy, wrapping his fingers around Malfoy's wrist right before he fell asleep.
Harry woke up later that evening, but couldn't make himself get out of bed. He studied Malfoy's face for a long time until he fell asleep again, with the image of fluttering eyelids, half-hidden under strands of blonde hair, burnt at the back of his eyes. When the morning came, his hand was still on top of Malfoy's, who was still in the same spot.
He waited to hear Malfoy's steady breathing before he got out of bed. On his way to the bathroom his stomach gave out a rumble, which reminded him that he hadn't eaten anything for a day and a half. The events of the previous day had put him off eating for a while.
At that time he found it very difficult to trust Snape. He had just left them in the middle of nowhere, on a full moon night and with no Wolfsbane potion. And Bellatrix had found them. It seemed almost impossible that she could have found them on her own.
Just as Harry had started munching on a crispbread, the front door opened and Snape came in. Harry found his wand and held it under the table.
"It was Bellatrix..." Snape grumbled, taking off his cloak and dropping it on a chair.
Snape turned to look at him. "Yes, really. Is something the matter, Potter? Where's Draco?"
Anger started building up inside him. "Funny you should ask that. Do you even care? You just dropped us off in the middle of nowhere, without any potion on a full moon night, and then ran off to find your Death Eater pals!"
Snape bared his teeth. "I had no choice! It might not have been convenient for you, but I had to go there and make sure she wouldn't find us again!" he snapped at Harry.
"Yeah, well, you must have done a crappy job, because she did!"
Snape was about to yell back at Harry, but he paused with his mouth hanging open for a moment. "What?"
"She came here. During Malfoy's transformation. I had locked him up, but she opened the door and he killed her."
Snape scanned the room, trying to find evidence that Harry was telling the truth. "What, you really think I'd leave a corpse in here?" Harry sneered at him. "I buried her."
"Does Draco know?"
"That he killed her? Yes. I can't tell if he understood what I told him later though."
It was a while until Snape spoke up again, asking which room Malfoy was in. Harry showed him and then went into the other bedroom, locking the door when he got in. Let Snape sleep in the divan. Bastard!
Snape explained to Harry later that day what Bellatrix had been doing. Apparently, she had a dozen Death Eaters helping her out, and had spent the last two months trying to locate Snape without alerting him. He claimed he had no idea how she had finally discovered exactly where Malfoy was.
Harry doubted that. But after the fuss Snape made over Malfoy, he had no choice but to believe that Bellatrix had found them without his help. Plus, no matter how much he disliked her, it would be too much for him to send her there when Malfoy would be transforming.
Malfoy was still pretty much out of it. He hadn't left the bed all day and didn't say a word to Snape. When Harry brought him something to eat, he just lay there with a blank look in his eyes, clutching his father's scarf. Needless to say, he didn't even touch the food.
That didn't last long. Two days later Malfoy finally left his room and joined them at breakfast. He looked almost normal again, at least until Snape asked him if he was alright. The plate he was holding fell on the floor and shattered. Malfoy almost had another breakdown; he bent to clean the mess up— Malfoy? Cleaning up?—and snapped at Harry when he tried to help him.
Harry just gritted his teeth and tried to let that go.
Spending so much time around an edgy Malfoy had started getting on Harry's nerves. Malfoy was like a bomb ready to explode. Harry didn't want to be around when that happened, so he took the first opportunity he had to get out of the house.
...even if it was helping Snape cast protective spells around it.
Clearly, the only way to avoid fighting with Malfoy was to get into a fight with Snape instead. Fortunately they had finished the spellwork before they reached the point of hexing each other.
Harry stormed into the house and locked himself in his room. At that moment he just wanted everything to end as soon as possible.
After that day Snape started leaving the house to spy on Voldemort. Or so he said. Harry was glad to see him gone; the house was too small for the three of them to avoid each other.
Malfoy never stayed out of his room for long and when he did, he was always lost in thought and got fidgety every time Harry addressed him. After a week of putting up with this and struggling not to grab Malfoy and shake him out of it, Harry made up his mind. He was going to make an effort to talk to him about what had happened.
He got his chance later that day. Snape had just left once again when Malfoy came out of his room and started looking in the cupboards for something to eat.
Malfoy almost dropped a box of biscuits at the sound of Harry's voice. "Yes," he mumbled and headed for his room. Harry blocked his way and patted one of the chairs, urging him to sit at the table. "You can eat that here, you know. Stay. Please..."
Malfoy eyed him warily, but took the seat and opened the box. He started munching a biscuit as Harry slipped into the chair next to his.
No matter how long Harry stared at him, Malfoy didn't react. It was as if he was alone in the room. The chewing sounds echoing in the room had started to annoy Harry, but he didn't act until Malfoy had eaten half of the contents of the box.
"Are you going to talk about it?"
Malfoy choked. He coughed to clear his throat and replied, trying to sound calm. "About what?"
"About what happened. During the full moon."
The colour drained from Malfoy's face. "No." He made a move to get up.
"I said no! I'm not going to talk about it, because nothing happened!" Malfoy cried out and turned to leave, but Harry was up already and blocked his way again.
"You can't keep doing this, Malfoy."
"Oh, yeah? Watch me," he sneered and tried to push Harry out of his way, but Harry grabbed his arm to stop him. "It's over! Let me go!"
Harry didn't. He pulled harder, losing his balance when Malfoy shoved him. He fell on the floor, Malfoy landing on top of him, still fighting back. Harry felt a weak punch in his stomach and momentarily lost his grip, but then he hooked one leg behind Malfoy's knees, stopping him from getting away.
That had probably not been a good idea.
Because Malfoy was now between his legs, yelling and writhing, and the friction against his crotch was had woken up a part of his body that had been remarkably unresponsive recently.
He raised his head and pulled Malfoy closer, meeting his lips halfway through. It tasted like chocolate; Harry's tongue found some biscuit crumbs as he dragged it over Malfoy's teeth. Malfoy stopped moving after a while and settled for kissing him back.
Eventually Malfoy broke the kiss, resting his forehead against Harry's for a minute before pulling away. Harry propped himself up on his elbows, trying to catch his breath as he observed Malfoy huddling up in the corner.
Malfoy spoke up a little later, avoiding looking into Harry's eyes. "I still don't want to talk about it. You can stop staring at me."
"I still think you should." After some thought, Harry added hastily, "And I'm not staring."
Malfoy turned towards him and raised an eyebrow, making Harry drop his gaze. He got up and straightened his clothes before walking to his room, pausing at the door to give a last look at Harry.
Harry thought he saw Malfoy smiling as he disappeared into his room.
After that day Malfoy calmed down a bit. He still didn't talk much, but he stopped jumping out of his seat every time Harry talked to him. Sometimes Harry thought Malfoy was looking at him, but he never turned in time to catch him.
Snape only came back at night, preparing something to eat and then going to sleep on the divan. He was always gone in the morning. Harry noticed potions ingredients slowly piling up in one of the cupboards. At least this time Malfoy would get his potion.
It had been almost three weeks since the last full moon when one evening Snape came back earlier than usual. He called Harry and Malfoy and asked them to sit at the table. The fact that he actually asked them for something was alarming enough on its own. It didn't take long for him to drop the bomb.
"You're leaving for Hogwarts tomorrow night."
"It's time to start preparing for our attack. I need you to talk to Dumbledore." Snape started explaining what Harry was supposed to discuss with Dumbledore. Harry tried to memorise every single detail, suddenly feeling his stomach clench as he realised that he was getting closer to the end.
"I have to stay away from here for a few days. Draco is going to go with you. Try to stay at Hogwarts for a night or two."
Malfoy spoke up before Harry had a chance to ask Snape anything. "But what about my potion? The full moon is in a week." His voice was high-pitched at the last word.
"We will all be back until then. And even if I'm not, Potter can make it. I've already brought the ingredients."
Two days later Snape woke them up. It was dark outside and would probably still would be by the time they arrived at Hogwarts. Harry had packed his things on the previous night, so he only had to get dressed. After a few minutes he left his room and found Snape standing next to the front door, looking towards Malfoy's room with a scowl on his face and clutching a thick winter cloak in his hands.
Harry stood a few feet away and stifled a yawn, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes. The sound of Malfoy's door made him open them again.
Malfoy moved towards them dragging his feet, sneering at Snape when he told him to hurry up. The three of them went out into the cold winter air and started walking away from the house. Once they passed the protective barriers, Snape gave them some last minute instructions before directing them to Disapparate.
Harry felt Malfoy's hand wrapping around his forearm. He closed his eyes and pictured the train station at Hogsmeade. The air around him started squeezing him uncomfortably. When he opened his eyes again, he was standing in front of the train station. As he tried to shake off the unpleasant feeling of Apparition, he realised that Malfoy was still holding his arm.
"We're here," he whispered.
"I can see that. What I can't see is how we're going to get into the school from this point. Snape said we shouldn't try to break into Honeydukes again."
"Yes, I heard that too!" Harry protested. "I know other ways of getting into the school. Follow me." He started walking along the train tracks, Malfoy following a few steps behind. The walk was short, but the darkness made it feel longer. He finally spotted the outline of the old building.
"Potter...Why are we walking towards the Shrieking Shack?" Malfoy hissed, unable to leave a hint of worry out of his voice.
"You'll see." They had reached the Shack by then. Harry tried to open the front door using spells at first with no result. He was getting frustrated and the sun would be up soon. That was when he transfigured a branch into a long piece of metal and tried to remove the boards from the windows. When there was enough space for them to enter, he threw his bag through the gap and went in, poking his head out again when he realised Malfoy wasn't following.
"Are you coming or not?"
Malfoy hesitated for a bit, glancing over his shoulder before climbing through the window. When he got inside he started observing his surroundings, shuddering after a moment.
"It's not haunted," Harry provided.
"It's not that!" Malfoy snapped, but took a deep breath and tried to calm down immediately. "It's just...Something's odd about this place. And it smells funny."
Harry sniffed the air around him. "Sure it smells funny. It's old and dirty. What were you expecting?"
"No, not that. It smells like...someone. I don't know. Can we just get going?" Malfoy whined and picked up his bag.
Harry nodded. As he made his way to the room where the tunnel entrance was, he wondered if the smell Malfoy was talking about had something to do with Lupin's transformations in that place.
When he reached the hole in the wall, he crawled through it and waited for Malfoy to follow him. They went deeper into the ground, walking with their backs bent. Carrying their things like that was very tiring, especially for such a long distance. By the time they reached the end of the tunnel, Harry's back was aching and he desperately wanted to lie down. The soft morning light illuminated the last part of the tunnel, coming through the gap between the tree roots.
Harry climbed up carefully, finding a knot on the Whomping Willow's trunk and pushing it before the tree had a chance to attack him. He took the bags Malfoy passed to him and then helped him up. They stepped away from the tree and Harry took the Invisibility Cloak out of his bag, using it to cover both himself and Malfoy. The cloak was barely enough to hide both of them, let alone their bags, so Harry got as close to Malfoy as he could, wrapping an arm around his waist to steady their moves.
As predicted, the front doors were locked. Harry didn't even bother to try any spells to open them. He knew an easier way.
The house-elf appeared with a loud crack. He looked around him and scratched his head when he didn't see anyone, getting ready to leave again. Harry pushed the edge of the cloak aside and showed his face.
"Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby squealed, but Harry shushed him.
"Be quiet! No one is supposed to find out I'm here! Is anyone inside?"
"No, sir. It's only Dobby and the other house-elves."
"Can you open the door?"
Dobby snapped his fingers and the large doors opened slowly, letting a gap wide enough for Harry and Malfoy to squeeze in. Once they got inside, Harry took the cloak off and went to put it in his pocket, just as Dobby let out a shriek. Harry reached for his wand and tried to see what was wrong.
Dobby was staring at Malfoy, his bony arm stretched out like he was about to hex him. Harry jumped between them and tried to stop him. "No, Dobby! He's with me!"
"But—Harry Potter, sir, he did—" Dobby spoke up. Harry interrupted him. "It doesn't matter. He's helping me now."
Dobby's enormous eyes darted from Harry's face to Malfoy and back. It took him a while to say something, and after he did, he started banging his head against the wall. "Draco Malfoy is a horrible boy!"
Harry bent down and pulled Dobby away from the wall. "Dobby, stop it. Stop it!"
The house-elf stopped thrashing and looked at Harry. "Thank you, Harry Potter, sir. Dobby still finds it difficult to tell the truth about his former masters." This was said with a fearful look towards Malfoy.
Harry decided it was time to put an end to this. Before talking to Dobby he glanced at Malfoy, who was glaring at his former house-elf. "Actually, things have changed. He's not so bad anymore. He's even...nice, sometimes."
Malfoy stopped glaring and started studying his fingernails, while Dobby replied to Harry with his squeaky voice. "Dobby did not know that, sir. But if Harry Potter says it, then it must be true. Dobby is sorry for the way he acted earlier."
"I'm sure you are. Just don't punish yourself, alright?" Knowing that Dobby would start thanking him and talking about the greatness and kindness of Harry Potter, he continued before the house-elf had a chance to speak up. "Listen, we need to stay here for two or three nights. Can you prepare a room for us to sleep in?"
"Yes, Harry Potter, sir! Dobby will do anything Harry Potter wants! Dobby will have the room ready in no time!"
"Great. We'll be at the Headmaster's office. I'll call you when we're done."
The gargoyle concealing the entrance to the Headmaster's office moved aside before Harry had reached it. He stepped on the staircase, Malfoy following only two steps behind, and took a deep breath when he reached the heavy oak door at the top, letting it out once he entered the office.
"Hello, Harry. Draco," Dumbledore's portrait greeted them.
"Good morning, Headmaster." Harry picked up a chair and dragged it in front of the portrait. When he saw Malfoy still standing near the door, he motioned him over and gestured towards another chair. Malfoy brought the chair next to his and sat down, covering his mouth with his hand to stifle a yawn.
"I assume that Professor Snape won't join us today."
Harry kicked his bag under the chair and looked up. "No. He sent us here and told us to stay for a couple of days. We found the Horcruxes and destroyed them; all except Nagini. Now we want to discuss with you the way we're going to attack her and Voldemort."
"I suggest you get more comfortable then. This will take a while."
Many hours later, after the sun had set and Harry had recounted to Dumbledore everything that had happened since the last time they went to Hogwarts, adding the information about Voldemort Snape had told him to pass on, Dumbledore cut their discussion off.
Harry picked up his bag and went to the door, waiting for Malfoy to follow him. He didn't even have to call for Dobby; the house-elf was standing outside and straightened his back the moment he saw Harry.
"Dobby is here to take Harry Potter to his room."
Harry walked after Dobby, realising after getting a few floors higher that they were heading towards Gryffindor Tower. Soon they were standing in front of the Fat Lady's portrait. She tried to say something, but Dobby snapped his fingers and the portrait moved, revealing the entrance to the Common Room. Harry stepped inside.
The fire was crackling in the fireplace, casting light on a low table nearby where someone had placed two trays full of food. Harry's stomach growled; he had eaten only some sandwiches that appeared in Dumbledore's office around noon.
"The other house-elves made dinner for Harry Potter and brought it when Dobby told them! Dobby has two beds ready in Harry Potter's dormitory."
"Thank you, Dobby. I'll call you if we need anything else." The house-elf threw a wary look at Malfoy before disappearing with a crack. Flopping on the floor next to the table, Harry picked up a fork and dug in. Malfoy did the same a moment later.
Compared to the food he had been eating since he started living with Snape and Malfoy, this was like heaven. He didn't even stop to wipe the sauce dribbling on from the corners of his mouth until his plate was empty. After he was finished, he collapsed backwards on the floor feeling like his stomach would burst. Malfoy was probably in the same shape, judging by all the sighing and heavy breathing that reached Harry's ears.
It wasn't very late yet, but the only thing Harry could think about was getting into a warm bed and falling asleep. A few minutes later he managed to pick himself up.
"I'm going to bed," he announced to Malfoy, who was leaning back against an armchair. When he registered Harry's words, he struggled to get up, getting his things and following Harry towards the stairs.
When they entered the dormitory, Harry dropped his bag next to one of the beds. He noticed a pair of pyjamas he found on his bed and pulled them closer to inspect them, but Malfoy was next to him in no time, snatching them out of his hands.
"They're mine!" Malfoy said, his lips twisting upwards into a small smile. "Mine...I— I left my things behind when I left and..." He trailed off and stared at them, his fingers twisting into the soft material.
Harry remembered Malfoy running away that night. "We could ask Dobby to bring you the rest tomorrow morning."
Malfoy nodded, biting his lip. "Where is the bathroom?"
"Outside, second door to the left." Harry stared at Malfoy's back as he left the room. He started unpacking his bag before going for a shower, instead of just sitting to wait until Malfoy was finished.
Fifteen minutes later Malfoy still hadn't returned. Harry was about to fall asleep, but he wasn't going to do it without getting cleaned up first. After taking off his shoes he went to the bathroom, choosing a stall as far from Malfoy as he could. He had already finished lathering his hair when he heard Malfoy turning the shower off, followed by the sound of the bathroom door a couple of minutes later.
Harry took his time after that. Standing under the spray, he rested his forehead on the tiles and let the water spill down his back. His fingers had wrinkled by the time he got out of the shower.
When he returned to the dormitory he found Malfoy lying down on—
"That's my bed," he remarked.
"I didn't see a sign on it," Malfoy mumbled sleepily.
Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I didn't—"
"I'm not going to move. If it's so important for you to sleep in this bed, there's enough room. Just stop talking. I want to sleep."
That wasn't what Harry was going to say. But the sight of Malfoy curled up in his bed, damp hair splayed over the pillow, made it easier for him to decide what to do.
So he climbed on the bed and got under the blankets, creeping closer to Malfoy before he could stop himself.
One of Malfoy's hands snaked its way through the blankets and rested on Harry's waist. Harry turned his head and saw Malfoy staring at him behind half-closed eyelids. He moved even more close and kissed him, pushing himself up and lying on top of Malfoy.
Malfoy put his hands on Harry's hips, sneaking them inside his boxers a few moments later. Then he squeezed. Harry was so surprised he bit Malfoy's lip harder than he intended, making him cry out.
Mumbling an apology against Malfoy's lips, he slid his hands downwards and hooked his fingers on the waistband of Malfoy's pyjama bottoms, pulling them down slowly. Taking Malfoy's cock in his hand he started stroking it, speeding up when he felt it twitching and growing harder. Malfoy kissed him fiercely, shoving his hand down Harry's boxers and matching his movements.
Harry wriggled out of his boxers to give Malfoy better access, undoing the buttons on his shirt a moment later. He knew he wasn't going to last long if Malfoy kept doing that twist as he stroked, but he was willing to try. Licking his way from Malfoy's jawline until he finally reached his nipple, he closed his mouth around it and sucked.
Malfoy's moan nearly sent Harry over the edge. However, he managed to hold back his orgasm and continued licking and biting and stroking until he made Malfoy let out an even louder moan and he couldn't stop himself from coming all over Malfoy's fingers.
Shuddering violently, he buried his face in Malfoy's neck—which he had to admit was getting one of his favourite body parts of Malfoy, although on second thought, that cock throbbing in his hand made him feel equally good. Not even waiting to catch his breath, Harry continued his efforts to bring Malfoy off, succeeding a few moments later.
Malfoy gasped and arched off the bed, pulling Harry closer and kissing him sloppily as he melted into the mattress. Harry stayed on top of him, not even bothering to care about the mess between them and on their hands. They'd take care of it in the morning.
"G'night, Malfoy..." He mumbled in Malfoy's ear.
Harry was lying on an enormous four-poster bed, white linen drapes swaying in the warm summer breeze. Malfoy was straddling him, and there was something sticky that smelled like chocolate on his chest and belly and Malfoy was licking it off with excruciatingly slow movements. It smelled good, but Malfoy's tongue felt even better and Harry's cock was hard and aching. Malfoy was licking lower and lower, getting closer to the part where the chocolate ended. And then Malfoy's head was hovering over his cock, and with a sudden move it lowered, and Malfoy was swallowing Harry's cock all the way to the base—
"Harry Potter, sir!"
Harry opened one eye hesitantly. No summer, no enormous four-poster—only his bed in the dormitory— and no Malfoy giving him a blowjob. Malfoy was trapped under his body, snoring softly. That meant—
Harry propped himself up on his elbow and looked at the floor next to the bed, recognizing the fuzzy outline of Dobby. He had no idea where his glasses were.
"Headmaster Dumbledore told Dobby to wake Harry Potter up. Dobby has made breakfast for Harry Potter and served it in the common room."
Dobby just stood there, without doubt taking in the scene displayed in front of him and trying to see if it made sense. "Dobby," Harry whispered, trying to take Dobby's attention away from what was happening on the bed, "Do you know where Malfoy's things are? Those he left behind when he got away last year?"
"Oh, yes, Dobby knows! The Headmistress ordered the house-elves to take care of them, so we put them where we keep the things that students forget here—"
Harry interrupted Dobby again, since he wasn't going to stop on his own. "Can you bring them here? While we're at Dumbledore's office?"
"Yes, Harry Potter, sir! Dobby will do that!"
"Alright. Would you mind leaving now?" Harry flashed Dobby a smile, not wanting to disappoint him. Dobby beamed at him and nodded, Disapparating as silently as he could. It still was too loud. Malfoy stirred.
Harry brought his hand up and brushed a lock of hair from Malfoy's forehead when his eyes fluttered open and he squinted up at Harry.
"Time is it?" he mumbled, stretching and arching his back off the bed.
"I don't know. Late, probably." Harry bent his head and rested his forehead on Malfoy's shoulder, touching his lips on Malfoy's chest a moment later. A hand touched his head hesitantly, then started stroking his hair. He could have stayed like this forever—
"I need a shower," Malfoy mumbled and tried to get up, pushing him away.
Harry grabbed his arm before he left the bed. "Want company?"
Malfoy bit his lower lip for a second before nodding. Then he got on his feet and kicked his pyjama bottoms off, which were still tangled around his knees since the previous night. Harry was naked before Malfoy had finished taking off his shirt. He walked after him to the bathroom, staying a few steps behind to observe Malfoy's pale arse.
Once they got to the bathroom, Malfoy got into a stall and turned the water on. Harry rushed in and pinned him to the wall, capturing Malfoy's lips in a kiss that left both of them panting and hard. As the hot water stream ran down their backs Harry took his time, planting soft kisses on Malfoy's face while Malfoy let his hands roam over Harry's back.
Taking a handful of soap, Harry covered their cocks with his hand and started stroking. Almost immediately Malfoy's hand joined his. As their hands moved faster, white foam splattered and covered the hairs on the base of their cocks, soon mixing with semen as both of them came, collapsing on the floor in a tangled mass of limbs.
When they finally managed to get up, they cleaned themselves quickly and got out of the shower, wrapping thick towels around their shoulders and heading back to their room to get dressed.
Dobby must have put warming spells around their breakfast, because it still hadn't got cold by the time they went downstairs. It didn't take long for them to empty their plates, and soon they were heading towards Dumbledore's office, the backs of their hands brushing against each other occasionally as they walked.
And now...time to work. As he took his seat in front of the portrait, Harry tried to push what had happened to the back of his mind in order to concentrate on the task he had ahead of him.
It took a long time and a lot of suggestions that seemed to be leading nowhere, but eventually they started having something that resembled a plan. True, it was far from perfect, but they definitely had time to improve it, at least until—
Until they prepared one of the things essential for their plan. Which had been Malfoy's idea. Harry was gaping for at least a minute after Malfoy interrupted him to add his thoughts—and to offer to do...that. Well, it would be interesting, to say the least.
He really wanted that plan to work. Because if it didn't, if something went wrong—
No. Thinking this way wasn't helping anyone. He tried to concentrate back to what Dumbledore was saying.
"Of course you'll need to discuss the details with Severus. Now, Draco, I believe there's something for you back in the dormitory. Perhaps you'd like some privacy. I'll be keeping Harry a little longer."
Malfoy looked questioningly from Dumbledore to Harry and back, but left the room without a word. How did Dumbledore know about Malfoy's things?
"Harry..." Dumbledore's portrait started, continuing when he looked up, "You know this already, but I need to remind you that it's entirely possible that Nagini isn't a Horcrux."
"You think that she is."
"Yes, but I have been wrong before."
"It doesn't matter. I choose to believe you." Immediately after saying that, Harry felt embarrassed because a faint tint of glowing white paint appeared on the portrait's eyes. He looked away quickly and waited for Dumbledore to speak first.
"Well, then. Thank you." Harry nodded weakly and lifted his head as slowly as he could. "So, Draco seems to have changed quite a bit," Dumbledore added conversationally.
"Yes, he has."
"The incident with Bellatrix Lestrange...How is he taking it?"
Memories of that night flooded Harry's mind again, memories he had been suppressing all this time. "Well, at first he—it was bad. But after a while, at least I think that's what he did, he just...chose not to deal with it. Maybe it's better for him that way, at least for now." After saying this, Harry realised that this was exactly what must have happened.
Dumbledore nodded, but didn't push the subject any more, like he could sense that Harry didn't want to discuss it any longer.
"You'll be leaving tomorrow evening, if I'm not mistaken."
"I'd like to talk to you again before you leave. And now I think we've given Draco enough time to himself. You may leave."
Harry thanked Dumbledore and left the office, heading towards Gryffindor Tower. Once he got past the portrait, he went straight to the dormitory to look for Malfoy. The moment he reached the door, he saw a trunk open in the middle of the room, its contents scattered all over the floor.
"Malfoy?" After looking everywhere around the room he scanned the rest of the place for a sign of Malfoy, but he found nothing.
"Dobby!" he called in a strained voice.
The house-elf Apparated, the crack echoing loudly in the empty Common Room. "What happened? Where's Malfoy?"
"Draco Malfoy started looking through his things. He found something and ran off, but Dobby followed him. He's on the sixth floor, in the boys' bathroom, Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby squealed.
Harry took off. When he reached the sixth floor, he found Dobby waiting for him. He must've Apparated... "This way!" the elf squealed, pointing to a door a little further down the corridor. Harry reached the door and pushed it open, bursting into the room.
And then everything seemed to be slowing down. Malfoy was sitting on the floor—sitting! On the dirty, cracked tiles!—looking at a set of robes folded neatly on his lap. The only sound in the room came from a dripping tap.
He couldn't move. Malfoy started talking without turning to look at him. "Remember what happened here?" Yes, he did. This was the bathroom where he had found Malfoy crying, where they dueled until Harry cast Sectumsempra and slashed his chest open and Malfoy was on the floor in a pool of blood—
"These are the robes I was wearing that day. I didn't let anyone throw them away or repair them. I wanted to keep them because I needed to remember. Because I knew that one day you'd start to matter again and I'd need something to remind me what I should feel."
"Things have changed. This isn't what I want to remember."
Taking a few slow, measured steps Harry walked over to Malfoy and fell on is knees next to him. And noticed that the robes were torn and still had dried bloodstains. He felt a lump rising in his throat. "Malfoy—"
"Burn them," Malfoy said sharply and shoved the robes into Harry's hands.
"Malfoy, that's what happened. You can't erase that and remember something else instead. You can't... ignore things just to make it easier for you."
"I said...Burn. Them." Malfoy said through gritted teeth.
"Just burn the fucking robes, Potter! Get rid of them, I don't want to see them ever again!" Malfoy was screaming at this point, his cheeks turning deep pink. When he realised that Harry wasn't going to do what he wanted him to, he took out his wand and pointed it towards the robes. "Fine! I'll do it myself!"
Moving so fast that Malfoy didn't have a chance to react, Harry threw the robes aside and grabbed both of Malfoy's wrists in a firm grip. They exchanged a look that almost made Harry loosen his hold—almost, but then he sensed Malfoy tensing again right before he snarled and tried to get away from him.
Harry threw his weight on Malfoy and pushed him to the floor, trapping their hands between them. Malfoy kept squirming and growling.
"Stop it!" Harry yelled at him. "Just stop! It's not fair! Why should you forget about that when I'll never be able to do the same?"
Malfoy stopped moving and just looked up at him, breathing heavily. Harry let go of his hands and attacked the fastenings of his robe, tearing them open forcefully and pushing aside every piece of clothing he came across until he exposed Malfoy's pale chest. The faded white scars were barely visible in the dim light, but he could make them out if he focused hard enough.
Tracing the lines with his tongue, he paused at the parts were some of them crossed, continuing when one line stopped an inch away from a nipple. Malfoy had brought one hand up, biting it to stifle his moans.
"I can't let you forget that. But I can give you something else to remember," he panted, taking away his mouth from Malfoy's chest only for as long as he needed to say that. He continued moving lower, dipping his tongue in Malfoy's navel and making him cry out, the sound echoing oddly in the room.
Slowly undoing Malfoy's trousers, he continued licking his way towards the trail of blond hair that disappeared under Malfoy's underpants, letting his breath ghost over the erection hidden under the soft white material.
"I swear, Potter," Malfoy ground out when Harry stopped moving, "If you've done all of this only to back out now, I am going to—nnngh! "
Harry managed to shut him up by mouthing his erection through his underwear. In one swift move he drew the thin material down, freeing Malfoy's cock from its fabric confines. Raising his head slightly, he locked eyes with Malfoy and lowered his head to swallow his cock. Malfoy's eyes widened in disbelief during the moment it took for Harry to do it.
When Harry closed his lips around the head of Malfoy's cock, Malfoy shouted and dropped his head back. It felt weird at first, but Harry licked the head experimentally as he pulled the foreskin down, teasing the slit with his tongue a second time when Malfoy seemed to like it the first time. He took more of it in slowly, stopping when he realised that he wouldn't be able to control his gag reflex. Wrapping his hand more firmly around the base, he returned his attention to the head again.
Malfoy didn't last long after that. Not having heard his warning, Harry almost choked when Malfoy came in his mouth, doing his best to keep himself from spitting it out right then. Still, it didn't taste as bad as Polyjuice, he thought as he swallowed the contents of his mouth.
Propping himself up on his elbows, Malfoy peered at Harry with glazed eyes. He looked unbelievably ravished with his robes spread open, his trousers pulled down and his face flushed. Harry noticed a bruising bite mark on Malfoy's chest and averted his eyes to look at Malfoy's face again.
"Okay?" He asked. Malfoy simply nodded, still breathing heavily. Harry tucked him back into his clothes before helping him up, not forgetting to take the torn robes with him as they left.
Back in their room Harry helped Malfoy put the things back into his trunk, smiling when he saw him stuffing the robes in his bag. After picking at the dinner Dobby brought for them they went to bed, Malfoy spooning behind Harry a few minutes after they turned off the lights.
Harry woke up in the morning with Malfoy lying on top of him, his breath warming the back of Harry's neck. "Malfoy...You're squashing me."
"M'not..." came the reply, muffled against Harry's shoulder.
"Sure you're not. Come on, move. We're leaving today."
Malfoy showed no reaction. Harry managed to topple him over and got out of bed, ignoring Malfoy's protests. He started packing his things and got dressed, pulling the covers off Malfoy to make him get up. Soon Malfoy was up, glaring at Harry as he made his way to the bathroom.
Dobby had already served their breakfast in the Common Room again. Harry had emptied half of his plate by the time Malfoy came downstairs, his hair still damp from the shower.
"What are we doing today?" Malfoy asked a little later through a mouthful of scrambled eggs.
Harry gulped down some pumpkin juice. "After breakfast we'll go to Dumbledore. He wants a word before we leave. We'll see how that goes before deciding when it's best for us to get going."
When they were finished they went upstairs to gather their things. Malfoy paused at the doorway and looked at his trunk. After a while he called Dobby, who appeared in the middle of the room, looking like he was trying to keep his distance from Malfoy.
"Draco Malfoy called for Dobby?" he asked, searching around to see if Harry was okay.
"Yes, I—Well, it's..." Malfoy took a deep breath. "Could you take this to my house after we leave?" He pointed at his trunk.
Dobby turned his huge eyes towards Harry, who nodded a moment later. "Yes, Dobby will do it," he replied.
"Thanks," Malfoy whispered and rushed out of the room, leaving Harry behind.
"I must be rubbing off on him," Harry mused. "Dobby, we might see you again before we leave. We'll be at Dumbledore's office," he said to the house-elf and went after Malfoy.
He caught up with him at the entrance of the Common Room and they made their way to the second floor. Once outside the door to Dumbledore's office, Malfoy caught Harry's arm and stopped him, giving him a quick but hard kiss before pulling him into a tight hug.
"It's starting, isn't it? We're really going to do it after we leave..." he whispered into Harry's ear.
"Yeah," Harry managed to croak out. "Come on, let's go in," he rubbed Malfoy's back and turned him to face the heavy doors, reaching a hand to touch the brass knocker. A few minutes later they were in their usual seats in front of the portrait, going over the last details of their plan with Dumbledore.
"So all we need is a very strong poison and a weapon, assuming Snape has time to brew the potion," Harry said a few hours later, taking off his glasses to rub his eyes.
Dumbledore waited for him to look up again before speaking. "Actually, Harry, you already have a weapon..." Whoops. Here go the twinkly eyes again...
Harry followed the portrait's look as it moved around the room, stopping at a display case on the opposite wall. Harry walked over and looked questioningly back at the portrait when he realised what that meant.
"Sir, I—Are you sure?" he asked as he picked up the sword.
"To be honest, Harry, I'm surprised you didn't ask for it yourself."
Harry walked back to his seat cradling the sword. "That would be all, my boys. You may go. I'm confident you'll succeed," Dumbledore said, but Harry didn't make a move to get up. "Thank you," Malfoy said and touched Harry's shoulder lightly, leaning close to whisper in his ear, "I'll be waiting outside."
Harry nodded and waited for Malfoy to leave the room. Only after the door closed did he get up, walking up to the portrait with the sword in his hand. "I'll do it," he said, offering a half-smile as his fingers clutched the sword tighter.
"I know you will, Harry. After all, you're the only one who can."
Harry raised his hand to touch the portrait, placing his fingertips on the canvas as Dumbledore smiled at him. "Goodbye, Harry. You'll do fine."
He had no idea how long he stayed like that, but eventually Harry pulled away, giving the portrait a last look as he left the room. He found Malfoy waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs.
Malfoy made no comment about the tears running down Harry's face—which Harry was wiping away with his sleeve at that moment.
"This is so unfair!" he protested.
"What?" Harry asked, using his sleeve to wipe a tear from the edge of his nose.
"Oh, come on! We come all the way over here and look what we're taking with us! I got a set of torn and bloody robes. You got a thousand year old sword that probably costs a fortune. This is so unfair that even thinking about it makes my head hurt."
Harry let out a snort. "If it makes you feel any better, you also got a blowjob."
"I did, didn't I?" Malfoy got a dreamy look in his face. "Hmm...I'm not sure if it can compete with that sword. I mean...Look at it! It has rubies! You didn't even deep-throat me. Honestly, Potter, I think you'll have to offer a lot more than that if—"
Harry dropped his things and pushed his sleeves up, getting ready to pounce on Malfoy. "You're in so much trouble right now!"
Malfoy dashed off into the nearest corridor.
When they arrived at the house later that evening they found Snape asleep in Harry's room. Harry stood in the doorway, cursing inwardly the bastard for stealing his bed, until Malfoy took his hand and pulled him in his room, dropping their bags next to the bed.
After giving Harry a peck on the corner of his mouth, Malfoy went to the other room again and leaned over Snape. When he spoke again, he was imitating his father's voice so perfectly that Harry felt the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.
"Severus," Malfoy hissed in Snape's ear.
Snape's wand was at his throat in a heartbeat. Malfoy blinked. Snape did the same.
"Are you out of your mind?" Snape tucked his wand away. "I could have killed you! Is Potter's thick-headedness contagious?"
Harry glared at him. "Well, I wasn't the one sleeping like a log while two people walked all over the place!"
Malfoy smirked at Snape. "He has a point, you know. Now get up, we have a lot to do."
"And I suppose they're so urgent we need to start doing the immediately..."
"It depends. How long will it take you to start brewing some Polyjuice Potion?"
"That is ridiculous! It's never going to work," Snape was pacing next to the table.
"Dumbledore thinks it will," Harry countered.
"Well, it still won't. Do you honestly think the Dark Lord won't realise something is wrong? We can't just walk in there, even if you are—"
"Oh, come on! It will be over before you know it. His snake will be dead so she won't rat on us, Malfoy will play his role perfectly, where the fuck is the problem?"
"Oh, just shut up. It's going to work and you know it. You're just mad because you didn't think of it first!"
"Malfoy, stop it. It's okay..." Harry put a hand on Malfoy's shoulder and got up, walking up to Snape. "Listen, I know it seems difficult. I know there are hundreds of things that could go wrong. But if we make it work, we'll get rid of him for good. Just help us..."
Snape regarded them for a while until he made up his mind. "Let's see...In the next three weeks I'll have to gather ingredients for and brew Wolfsbane Potion, Polyjuice Potion, not to mention a quick-acting lethal poison that I'll have to think of on my own?"
"If you think that I'll do all of this alone—"
"Salazar help us all..."
Snape left early in the next morning to get the ingredients for the potions they had planned to make. He finally returned late in the afternoon, putting everything away quickly before he started stewing the lacewing flies.
Two days later Harry helped him with the Wolfsbane potion. Malfoy had practically dragged him out of bed, standing next to him and Snape as they worked on his potion and offering to help with some of the tasks.
Oddly enough, Snape hadn't mentioned anything about him and Malfoy sleeping in the same bed. Harry didn't know if he should be worried or relieved.
On the night of the transformation Harry waited outside their room until Malfoy scratched the door again. He went inside thinking what happened during the previous full moon. Malfoy must have sensed his uneasiness, because he backed away slowly and hid behind the bed. It took him a while to manage it, but Harry finally convinced him that it was alright and got him to hop on the bed.
Harry fell asleep with an arm draped over Malfoy, his fingers tangled in the soft fur of Malfoy's neck. He woke up a little later when he heard Snape entering the house— he had been outside picking fluxweed for the Polyjuice potion— but he just closed his eyes again and went back to sleep.
In the morning they stayed under the covers for a while, neither mentioning the previous night's incident. Malfoy seemed uncomfortable at first but calmed down a bit after the first snogging session of the morning. He was back to his normal self after the third one.
But the transformation took their minds off what lay ahead of them only for a short while. Soon Snape left again to meet Voldemort, coming back a day later only to lock himself up in his room and ignore the rest of the world until the next morning.
"What did you tell him?"
Harry was scrubbing one of the cauldrons. Snape replied without looking up from the ingredients he was sorting at that moment. "What he wanted to hear. Scrub."
"It wouldn't hurt to share the details. We're risking our lives too, you know," Malfoy mumbled.
"Draco..." Snape's voice made Malfoy look away from the potion he was stirring for a moment. "Shut up."
Malfoy ignored him and started talking to himself. "After all these years the man has known me, he finally tells me to shut up when I actually have a point. Unbelievable... You know, Potter, that cauldron isn't going to scrub itself. "
Malfoy didn't shut up even after Harry threw a dirty rag at him, which landed on his head. "Ha ha. Really mature response, Potter. Well done. How can I argue with—"
"Could you just stop talking and STIR THE DAMN POTION?"
Even Harry flinched at Snape's reaction. Malfoy cowered and concentrated on his job. In ten days the Polyjuice Potion would be ready and it would be time to attack Voldemort.
That time passed before they knew it. When Snape announced nine days later that the Polyjuice potion would be ready in the next morning, Harry escaped to the bedroom as soon as he could. A few minutes later Malfoy came into the room, finding Harry sitting cross-legged on the bed looking intently at the sword in his hands.
"If you don't stop staring at the sword right now, I'm going to get extremely jealous."
Harry looked up at Malfoy, who took that as a sign to approach him. Moving to sit next to him, Malfoy slowly pulled the sword away from his hands, setting it on the floor next to the bed before taking one of Harry's hands in his.
"It's simple. He'll die, we won't."
"You don't know that." Harry tried to concentrate on the feeling of Malfoy's thumb stroking the top of his hand.
"No...But don't make me think it's going to happen any differently. Please..."
Malfoy's hand had started to tremble. Drawing in a shaky breath, Harry turned and pulled him into a hug, burying his nose in Malfoy's hair.
In the morning they had breakfast in silence. Every few minutes Snape would get up to check on the Polyjuice Potion, filling a flask with it when it was ready. Another bottle nearby contained the poison. After seeing those things lined up, Harry went to his room to bring the sword and his invisibility cloak.
Malfoy was squirming in his seat. Harry thought he was going to vomit the few bites he had eaten so far. Snape looked constipated.
Harry was surprised they managed to make it until the end of that day.
Right after sunset they left, Apparating with Snape to the area where Voldemort was hiding in. According to his observations, Nagini always went out at dusk to hunt.
He had been right. While waiting in a field near Voldemort's hideout, Harry heard her approaching. He was sure the others couldn't, but started calling her in Parseltongue. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Malfoy looking at him with wide eyes.
When Nagini appeared, Snape shot her with a Confundus charm before she had a chance to realise who they were. Harry took Godric's sword out and dragged his palm along the blade, immediately afterwards pouring some poison on it, watching as it mixed with his blood. Still talking to Nagini to make her stay put, he approached her and with one quick move he drove the sword through her skull.
Her cries were painful to hear. He watched as she twitched and writhed on the ground until her movements and her cries stopped altogether.
Harry extricated the sword and stepped over the dead snake, heading towards the house he saw in the distance. When he realised the others weren't following him, he turned his head and called them over his shoulder.
"Let's kill him. I want to go home soon."
Peter wasn't stupid. He could tell that Snape had been hiding something all this time. "Wormtail was sleeping like a log" my arse. Like he wouldn't know he had been hit by a Stunner...
Then there was Bellatrix. Mental though she was, Peter knew she was right about Snape. She was definitely getting somewhere. But then she just vanished. That's when Peter decided to keep his mouth shut.
After changing into his Animagus form, Peter crawled through a hole in the wall, padding under the floorboards and heading towards the kitchen. As he passed near what used to be the drawing room he heard the Dark Lord hissing Snape's name. It wouldn't hurt to listen in, right?
Peter found a hole in the floor near the far corner of the room. When he poked his head out he saw Snape holding Harry Potter, who was bound and tied. The Dark Lord seemed very satisfied. Peter tried to concentrate on what was being said, but something distracted him.
There were two Harrys in the room. He could see the one, but he smelled a second somewhere in there. After concentrating for a while he could notice the barely audible creaking sounds on the floorboards along the walls.
It couldn't be anything else. Harry was there under his father's Invisibility Cloak.
Peter wasn't supposed to be in the room. If it were anyone other than Harry, he would have transformed back into himself to alert the Dark Lord. But he couldn't do it now; not when he owed Harry a life debt. Let him deal with it on his own. If he makes it out of here alive, I won't owe him anymore.
He tried to follow Invisible Harry's route, tensing as he realised that he was heading straight for the Dark Lord. Harry's steps were getting slower and wobbly as he went closer to Him.
Peter expected something like that to happen but it still took him by surprise. A sword appeared, as though out of thin air, piercing the Dark Lord's abdomen and coming out of his back between his shoulder blades. He let out a string of angry hisses, moving one of his hands in front of him to wrestle with something that wasn't there, using his other hand to take his wand out.
Snape crouched down, covering the fake Potter with his body. Hexes and curses started whooshing around the room. The Dark Lord's knees bent and he almost cast the Killing Curse at Snape, but someone knocked the wand out of his wand and—
Green light covered Peter. And then nothing.
Draco didn't have the time to realise what happened. When Potter attacked the Dark Lord and the hexes started flying all over the place, Snape took him out of the way. Draco waited for things to end, hoping to make it out alive.
The next thing he knew was Snape dragging him towards the Dark Lord's corpse, running his hands over the floor until he found the invisible lump that was Potter and Disapparated the three of them out of there.
They landed on the floor in the cabin. Snape crawled away from them, cradling his left arm and clenching his teeth.
Draco felt around until he found Potter's cloak and pulled it off him.
Potter's scar had bled all over his forehead, deep red blood standing out more against the pale white skin.
"No...Potter, wake up." Draco shook him, but nothing happened. "Shit...No, don't do this to me now..."
After fumbling around a bit he found his wand and pointed it at Potter. "Ennervate!"
Still nothing. "Come on, Potter, don't make me hit you..." He can't die. Not after...
"If you don't wake up right now, I'm going to—"
Potter inhaled sharply and started coughing. Draco helped him up, holding his back until the coughing subsided. "Did I—Did I kill him?"
"Yes," Draco replied, wiping Potter's forehead with his sleeve. "You did...It's over."
Potter rested his forehead on Draco's chest. "You still look like me..." he mumbled. Draco raised his arm to feel his hair, finding the same mess he could see on Potter's head.
"Actually, I look a lot better than you. You'd agree if you could see yourself right now," Draco whispered, burying his nose in Potter's hair and wrapping an arm around his shoulders.
Potter fell asleep in Draco's arms just as Snape started coming around. He later helped Draco carry Potter into the room, where they let him sleep after cleaning his face. Draco waited until Snape left—with his right hand covering his arm where the Dark Mark was—before getting under the blanket and snuggling close to Potter.
Harry woke up with a throbbing headache and fuzzy memories from the previous night's events. After extricating himself from Malfoy's grip he went to the bathroom. As he examined himself in the mirror he noticed that his scar looked almost as bad as it felt.
When he returned to his room he found Malfoy hugging his pillow. "Come on, Sleeping Beauty. We're going home today."
Malfoy mumbled something into the pillow, letting out something that resembled a purr when Harry started rubbing his back. After that Harry lied on top of him and kissed the back of his neck.
Harry stopped and pulled away, making Malfoy whine. "Seriously, Malfoy. You need to get up."
Malfoy opened his eyes slowly, turning his head to glare at Harry. And jumped up immediately.
"You're alright!" he said, reaching his hand out to touch Harry's face.
"Of course I am." Harry gave him a brief kiss before getting up and pulling him away from the bed. "Let's find Snape. We have some things to discuss."
"Trial? No way. They'll ship me off to Azkaban the moment they see me-"
"Malfoy, calm down! They won't. Both you and Snape will be fine. It'll be just to clear your name. Do you want to keep running away for ever?"
Snape spoke up. "Draco... Potter is right."
Malfoy sank lower into his chair. "I know, I just..."
Harry waited for the answer.
"I don't want anyone to find out what I am."
He should have been expecting that. "Malfoy...I wasn't planning on telling them."
Malfoy raised his eyes and looked straight into Harry's. "What?"
"It's something very personal. No one has to know if you don't want them to. In fact..." Harry reached a hand under the table, catching Malfoy's and tangling their fingers together, "...I'll keep helping you. If you want me to, that is..."
Knowing that he'd start sounding like an idiot if he kept going, Harry shut up. Malfoy was trying to say something, but ended up merely nodding.
"Right...Let's pack our things and take you home..."
Malfoy's house looked abandoned, like no one had lived there in months. The front door was left ajar and a trail of leaves, twigs and dirt led inside. Malfoy entered slowly, Snape walking next to him. Harry stayed behind them, glancing at the portraits on the walls whose subjects looked back at him suspiciously.
When Malfoy and Snape entered the room they were heading to, Harry stopped at the door, staying out of sight in the dark corridor, but in a place that allowed him to see what was happening inside.
Malfoy's mother was standing next to the balcony doors. She turned around when she heard them, rushing to meet Malfoy halfway across the room and pulling him into a bone-crushing hug. They exchanged a few whispers until tears started running down her cheeks and Malfoy lifted a hand to wipe them.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan until Narcissa Malfoy caught a glimpse of him. Immediately she sprang up and got in front of Malfoy, taking out her wand and pointing it towards Harry.
"Mother, no!" Malfoy stopped her before she had a chance to say anything.
She turned to look at him with a shocked expression on her face. "What is going on, Draco?"
"Don't do this. If it hadn't been for him, I'd be dead. Potter—" Malfoy paused to draw a breath in, "Potter is going to help me clear my name. After everything I did."
It took Snape and Malfoy an hour to convince her that it was true, during which they had to explain what had happened during the past six months and how Harry had been staying with them. She seemed to be calming down the more they talked to her, until Snape told Harry that it was time to leave.
He waved at Malfoy across the room and moved towards the door, closely followed by Snape, but Malfoy left his mother's side and caught up with him. When he hugged Harry, his mother started snarling again. He really had to get away at that point, before Narcissa hexed any of his body parts off.
Harry couldn't believe how quick the next three weeks passed.
Somehow, the Ministry had gotten wind of Voldemort's defeat—Snape had muttered something about cowards and idiots—and the Order members who worked there had been waiting for Harry to show up.
The interrogation lasted until early in the next morning. They locked Snape in a cell somewhere in the Ministry and sent Harry home. Tonks took him to Grimmauld Place, where fortunately everyone was still asleep.
That didn't stop Ron and Hermione from sitting next to his bed until he woke up many hours later. They started speaking the moment he opened his eyes, stopping only when they realised he hadn't understood a word they said—he did understand them when they repeated their questions at a normal speed.
Harry relayed everything that had happened since the last time he'd seen them, leaving out of course the parts about Malfoy being a werewolf and about their relationship— if he could call it that. He had no idea what that thing they had was, exactly.
While everyone was out on the streets celebrating Voldemort's defeat Harry was desperately trying to get some time away from them and prepare Malfoy's potion, since Snape was in no position to do it. He sent Malfoy a flask with Hedwig once it was ready.
Snape's—and Malfoy's— trial began the morning after the full moon. Harry noticed how awful Malfoy looked but couldn't get close enough to talk to him. The trial kept going on and on, but fortunately Malfoy had been allowed to stay at his home under Ministry supervision, at least until the trial ended.
The trial itself was really interesting, at least for someone who didn't know the entire story, that is. On the first day Dumbledore testified from a portrait in the courtroom, eliciting multiple gasps from the audience at numerous parts of his testimony.
When Harry's turn came a few days later he insisted that without Snape and Malfoy he'd never have been able to defeat Voldemort—the crowd flinched every single time he uttered that name—and that he'd trust them again if things happened the same way. He also mentioned that he considered Malfoy a close friend of his after all they'd been through, not caring in the least that Narcissa was glaring daggers at him when he said that.
In the end an old toothless wizard got up, saying that the Ministry should have reached a decision long ago, spending its resources to chase down runaway Death Eaters instead of keeping imprisoned "the people who helped the Chosen One defeat You-Know-Who, people which the great Albus Dumbledore trusts even after his death".
Some Ministry employees threw the man out of the courtroom but the decision was issued later that day, acquitting both Snape and Malfoy.
The crowd started spilling out of the courtroom as reporters tried to get close to Snape, Malfoy and Harry. He managed to avoid most of them by running out of the courtroom as soon as he could but the others weren't so lucky. Harry went away from the courtroom's entrance to wait for them.
Draco couldn't believe it. He was free at last. And he owed it to Potter. Potter, whose testimony was a work of art, playing the Chosen One card at the most appropriate moments, making Draco seem like an innocent, brave person who had been a key figure in the defeat of the Dark Lord. It was terribly convenient; now he was cleared, free to go back home and live a normal life without being hated by the entire Wizarding World.
He wanted to kiss Potter so much at that moment.
His mother scared the reporters away, sending them to Snape who dealt with them suitably—they were out of sight before Draco even left the room. Once his mother got him outside she left him alone before going to meet the Head of Aurors.
Meaning that she'll tell him to get those idiots the fuck out of our house, but make it sound elegant and charming at the same time. Oh, Mother, how I love you...
Draco chuckled softly and looked around him. People stopped to talk to him, but he only wanted to see one person. And he found him.
Potter was at the other end of the room. The moment their eyes met the corners of his mouth twisted upwards, forming a hesitant smile. Draco smiled back and took a deep breath as he got ready to take the first step towards Potter, when two people rushed past him and headed towards him first. Potter looked at them instead and smiled broadly.
It was Weasley and Granger. They reached Potter and the three of them started talking. Draco felt crushed. So he was invisible to Potter now...It was over...
He looked down, wanting to slap himself for thinking that what he had with Potter had a chance to continue. He'd probably go running back to Weasley's sister now that things were back to normal.
Well. It wasn't like they could do anything with the blessings of the Wizarding World.
Draco turned to leave. He hadn't taken more than two steps when he heard running footsteps approaching him and felt a hand latching on his arm and stopping him.
"Hey..." Potter... What does he want now? Draco braced himself for the rejection he felt coming and turned around to face Potter.
"I've been meaning to talk to you, but things have been crazy since the trial started."
Oh, really? "So talk," Draco replied dryly. "No one's stopping you."
Potter let go of his arm. Took a moment to calm his breath. "I have no idea what you're going to say to this, but I can't just let it go. The things that happened..." Potter trailed off. Draco waited.
"I want to see you again after today. If you want it too." He paused, biting his lip and looking hopefully at Draco.
"I don't think your friends are going to like it. Or anyone else, for that matter."
Potter smiled. "If my friends see me happy, they're going to like anything that's causing it. As for the rest? Honestly, I don't care. If you have other reasons for backing off, just tell me, but if that's the only thing worrying you, I'm telling you that it's not important. Just trust me. Besides, I've, um...I've already missed you." He blurted out the last part, blushing and shuffling his feet. "So what do you say?"
So Draco decided to do exactly that; trust him. And it didn't matter that they were standing in the middle of a room full of people, and that Draco felt a blush creeping on his own cheeks as well, and that soon they'd be looking silly with their matching grins, because it felt great. Something was definitely over, but other things, better things, were only beginning. He gave up and allowed the smile to form on his face, took a deep breath and gave his answer.