Actions

Work Header

survival is a talent

Chapter Text

Not everyone has a soulmate. Perhaps one in ten people are born with the tell-tale soulmark, a black ring somewhere on their body.

That black ring is more permanent than any tattoo. It can’t be marred or moved by magic or muggle means, and will remain unchanged no matter the trauma done to it.

Until two soulmates touch.

Then it becomes something else entirely.

~

“Serpensortia!” Malfoy shouts, and a great black snake erupts from the end of his wand. The rest of the dueling club backs away from the platform, and the snake sways from side to side threateningly.

Malfoy is smirking at him like he’s won, and Harry isn’t going to stand for that. He confidentially walks forward, and the smirk slides from Malfoy’s face. The snake rears up against him, but he’s not worried.

“Are you trying to get killed, Potter?” Malfoy drawls, stalking forward. Quick as a serpent himself, he reaches out and grabs the snake just below the head. It thrashes in his grip, but is no longer able to bite anyone. “This is a poisonous snake, and I doubt anyone brought a bezor with them.”

Harry glares. He opens his mouth, and feels the beginning the snake’s language pass his lips, and that wasn’t what he wanted, what’s the point of insulting Malfoy if he can’t understand him –

Malfoy’s eyes widen. He slaps his hand over Harry’s mouth, “Potter, what the hell–”

He stops talking and his face pales. Harry has a horrible suspicion that he knows why. There’s a horrible burning sensation along his right hip, exactly where his soulmark is. Malfoy grimaces, and he presses his free hand against his own hip.

Soulmates always have their marks in the same place.

“Good show boys, good show!” Lockhart saws, edging forward nervously. “I’ll just vanquish that snake, shall I? Really, Mr. Malfoy, you shouldn’t have summoned such an awful beast.”

That snaps them out of it, and Malfoy takes a step back and away. He throws Lockhart a disgusted look, then points his wand at the snake, “Reditus.”

It vanishes just as it came. Lockhart’s shoulders slump in relief. “Oh, very good, Mr. Malfoy. Very good.”

Malfoy steps gracefully off the stage as if nothing has happened, as if though Harry’s hip isn’t on fire, as if he doesn’t feels as if he’s just been branded. But he’s not about to grab Malfoy and demand an explanation in front of everyone, so he shuffles back over to his friends and hopes he doesn’t look like he’s about to sick, because that’s certainly how he feels.

“That was a fourth year summoning spell,” Hermione says, sounding a mix between impressed and jealous. “It wasn’t very sportsmanlike of him to use it.” She scowls and shakes her head so her bushy brown hair falls over her shoulders, nearly blending into her dark brown skin.

“Right,” Harry says weakly.

Both Ron and Hermione give him a strange look, but then Lockhart and Snape are calling a fifth year Hufflepuff onto the stage so their attention is pulled away from him.

~

Harry gets changed for the night in the bathroom, heart pounding. Where before he’d had a small black circle on the edge of his hip, he now has a flower about the length of his wand that starts just under his waist and brushes the top of his thigh. Thanks to the long hours Aunt Petunia forced him to spend in her garden, he recognizes it.

It’s an iris, a deep purple with a stripe of vibrant yellow down each petal. It’s gorgeous, the petals perfectly formed and more beautiful than any real iris he’s seen. He didn’t know a flower could suggest arrogance until now. He has to swallow down the sudden burst of hysterical laughter, because he’s afraid if he starts he won’t be able to stop.

His soulmate is Draco Malfoy.

~

Harry’s not the only one with a soulmark in their year. Dean and Seamus are even soulmates. They’d found out before they were even sorted, and once they’d touched the black rings on the back of their calves had transformed into an oak and maple tree respectively. Lavender Brown had a soul mark, a black ring just below her wrist. He’d seen others, people flaunting them in the hopes that someone with a mark in the same place would see.

He’d never hid his mark, but he hadn’t flaunted it. It seems Malfoy hadn’t either. Harry hadn’t even known he’d had one.

~

The next day he’s walking back from another agonizing night helping Lockhart answer fan mail when someone grabs his arm and jerks him backwards into an abandoned classroom. He reaches for his wand, but before he can get it he turns around and sees it’s Malfoy. The door slams shut behind them and he demands, “Did you tell anyone?”

“No,” he says, and at least Malfoy isn’t ignoring him. Wait, no, he wants Malfoy to ignore him. Right? Maybe. “Did you?”

“Obviously not,” he says, running his hand through his hair. “What a bloody mess. Why couldn’t you have just taken my hand in first year? We would have known right then and there, but no, you just had to be difficult. Now look where we are!”

Indignation wells up inside him. “Oh, so this is my fault? Sorry, you’re the git who’s running around petrifying muggleborns, so this is definitely your fault.” He’s not a hundred percent certain what ‘this’ is, but he is certain that he’s not taking responsibility for it.

Malfoy scoffs, “Oh, that’s rich coming from you. You speak Parseltongue, Potter. If anyone’s the heir of Slytherin, it’s you.”

“I speak what?” he asks.

“Parseltongue,” Malfoy repeats. When Harry just keeps blinking at him, he says, “Snakes. You speak the language of snakes. Are you trying to lie to me right now? I heard you. You’re lucky I stopped you, otherwise half this school would be calling for your head about now.”

Harry stares at him for a long moment, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

After several long seconds spent pinching the bridge of his nose, Malfoy lays it all out for him – that Parseltongue is a trait of the line of Slytherin, that Voldemort could do it, that it’s considered a dark trait, and that if people find out he can do it, they’re definitely going to assume he’s the heir to Slytherin. “Aren’t you the heir?” Harry asks, mind whirling.

“Of course not! If I was descended from Slytherin, I wouldn’t be hiding it. All of the founders lines have died out, or, well, we thought they did. Clearly we were all wrong.”

He swallows, “So – I mean, I’m not doing this, I’m not hurting anyone. But if I speak Parseltongue, does that mean I am related to Slytherin?” Am I dark, he thinks but doesn’t say. The Dursleys have been telling him he was a horrible person his whole life. What if they were right?

For the first time some of the irritation drains out of Malfoy. “Don’t be stupid,” he says, but it’s the nicest he’s sounded all night. “You’re a Potter. It’s in your blood.”

“What are you talking about?” he asks. He’s getting tired of asking that question.

Malfoy grabs his hand and holds it up. His hand looks ghostly pale compared to Harry’s. “Britain has maybe a dozen species of snakes. India has over two hundred and fifty. Which wizards do you think developed the ability first? You have more of a claim to Parseltongue than either Salazar Slytherin or You-Know-Who.”

He almost sounds nice. Harry licks his lips and blurts, “Can I see your mark?”

Malfoy stiffens and pulls his hand away. Harry’s about to take it back when he says, “Only if I can see yours.”

“Sure,” he says, and winces when his voice comes out too high.

It seems to relax Malfoy though, who smirks at him before pushing his robe aside and tugging down the waistband of his pants.

There’s a cluster of three bright marigolds on his hip. One red, one orange, and one yellow. Harry wants to touch them, but that would be pushing his luck. Instead he does the same, allowing Malfoy to see the iris etched into his skin. The yellow stripe on the petals is the same yellow as the marigold on Malfoy’s hip.

“My parents have dragons on their arms,” Malfoy says, staring. Harry blinks. He hadn’t known Malfoy’s parents were soulmates. “It’s how I got my name.”

His name. Draco. Which Harry supposes he should start using, considering. “Are you going to tell them?”

“Absolutely not,” he says. pulling his pants back up. Harry does the same. “Trouble is brewing, and you’ve made your position very clear. Telling them you’re my soulmate will only make things harder for them.”

“So what?” Harry asks, stung. “We just pretend like nothing happened?”

“Precisely,” he nods, and Harry’s hands clench into fists. “We pretend like nothing has changed. We’re still enemies, and we still hate each other.”

“Fine,” he spits, trying to dredge up enough anger to cover his hurt. He reaches for the door, and he’d been so worried his soulmate wouldn’t want him, his whole life he’d gone back and forth between being grateful for his mark and being afraid of it, and now everything he feared is coming true.

Draco grabs the back of his robe, “Hold on! I said pretend, you idiot. Like it or not, we’re soulmates, and that matters. We pretend to be enemies, for both our sakes. But – but in private, like this, we don’t have to be. Not anymore. Not if you – not if you don’t want us to be.”

He turns back around, and it’s the first time Draco seems anything less than confident. There’s a flush high on his cheeks and his grip on Harry’s robe is a fist.

Draco’s a bastard. He’s arrogant, and rude, and he called Hermione a mudblood. He talks about the muggleborns getting petrified like it’s a good thing, and every time he opens his mouth talking about blood purity Harry has to resist the urge to shove his fist in his stupid smug face.

But he’s his soulmate. He can’t be all bad.

“Yeah,” he swallows, “I’d like that.” He hopes he isn’t making a mistake.

Draco gives him a tentative half smile, and Harry can’t help but return it.

~

Draco’s been on the edge of a panic attack ever since he felt that stabbing pain on his hip in front of everyone, but he feels almost calm now. There’s a plan, they have a plan, and he’s smart. He’s the smartest in their year besides Granger, and he still scores higher than her in practical magic. He can do this.

Then his soulmate proves that he’s deranged when he cocks his head to the side and asks, “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Draco attempts to ask, but before he gets a chance Potter – no, Harry bolts out of the room and runs down the hall.

He hesitates for a moment, then resigns himself to the fact that with any luck he’s going to spend the rest of his life running after his foolish, moronic Gryffindor soulmate and hurries after him. Harry’s pressing his ear against the wall, and Draco has a flashback to the last family reunion when he’d found Luna looking for something called nargles. Harry and his cousin are never allowed to meet. “You really can’t hear that?” Harry asks, and then he’s running again, once again not giving Draco an opportunity to answer.

Wonderful.

He follows after, and ends up running right into his back. “Harry! What are you doing–” Draco looks over his shoulder, and swallows. Without thinking, he grabs for Harry’s hand.

Before he can become to mortified at his actions, Harry squeezes back. “Well, at least we know neither of us is the heir.”

In front of them are the petrified bodies – for lack of a better word – of Nearly-Headless Nick and Justin Finch-Fletchly.

~

Harry had sent Draco away before reporting the attacks, certain that everyone would think he was the heir. Draco had tried pointing out that he didn’t care, but Harry had made him leave anyway.

They continue to meet at night, and it quickly becomes clear that this isn’t sustainable. “Blaise really is going to start thinking I have something to do with all this if I don’t stop disappearing in the middle of the night,” Draco grumbles, sitting opposite Harry with a chessboard between them. “You are awful at this, you know.”

“I know,” Harry sighs, “Ron tells me so. Often. Also Neville caught me leaving twice this past week. He doesn’t think I’m the heir, but he definitely knows I’m up to something. He tried mentioning it to Ron, but luckily he just thought Neville was talking about the Polyjuice potion.”

Draco freezes. Harry realizes all at once that not only did Draco not know about the potion, but it’s completely unnecessary since he can ask Draco any questions he has just as he is, and he knows for certain he’s not the heir now. Not that he’s told Ron or Hermione that. “The what?”

“Huh,” Harry says. One of Draco’s knights brandishes a sword at him. “There are probably some things I should tell you.”

He almost mentions something about the strange house elf that’s been following him around, Dobby, because Draco seems like he’d know about that sort of thing. But he already thinks he’s crazy because of the hearing voices thing, he doesn’t want Draco to think he’s even stranger fro being stalked by a house elf.

After spilling everything, Draco looks grudgingly impressed. “Granger really is as clever as they come. That’s a difficult potion.” He snaps his fingers and his chess set starts packing themselves away. “Regardless, you better let me take it a look at it. My practical potions grade is higher than hers.”

“What’s the point?” Harry asks, “We don’t need to use it.”

“You have a nearly complete polyjuice potion, and you’re just going to what? Throw it out? Absolutely not. We’ll stick a preservation charm on it and store it away.”

“We haven’t learned any preservation charms that strong,” he points out.

Draco rolls his eyes and banishes the chess set away. “Luckily, there’s this little thing called the library.”

Harry really wishes this whole soulmate thing wasn’t a secret, if only so he could throw Draco and Hermione at each other and save himself the headache.

~

They can’t think of a way to convince Ron and Hermione not to go along with the plan. Draco inspects the potion, and, finding no flaws, tells Harry to use the smallest possible amount. “I’ll sneak back in and take care of the rest. Just tell your friends you dumped it, and I’ll keep it in my quarters.”

Harry crosses his arms, hesitates, but says, “Why your quarters? What are you going to do with it?”

Draco wants to feel offended, but honestly he’s just a little bit relieved Harry isn’t a complete idiot. Just because they’re soulmates doesn’t mean either of them have changed really, even if they’ve been doing their best to stay away from touchy subjects. Which is incredibly difficult, considering the circumstances. “Nothing. I’ll give it back to you next time we meet, if you want. But make sure you keep it safe, and don’t tell your little friends about it.”

Harry’s face tightens, but agrees. Draco finds Harry to be far less irritating when he listens to him. So things go as planned, mostly. He sneaks into the girl’s bathroom and charms and bottles the remaining polyjuice potion, then goes prowling the hall where he told Harry he’d meet them. He only finds the two of them wandering the halls, and can’t ask after Hermione because he’s not supposed to know who they are in the first place.

He answers their questions, and it’s nothing that he hasn’t told Harry already. Then they’re running out of there before their hour is up, and Draco shakes his head. He’s never seen Crabbe or Goyle run before. Also, neither Crabbe or Goyle are that stupid. They just pretend to be because they prefer to be underestimated.

Blaise had gone home for the holidays, so he has their room to himself, and he doesn’t have to sneak past him each night. The last day of the holidays, however, Millie is sitting up in the common room when he walks through, her cat on her lap and a book in her hand. She stuffs it under a cushion when she sees him. “What are you doing?” she snaps. Her anger can’t hide her fear.

“Was that a muggle book?” he asks, frowning.

She looks away, refusing to answer him. He can leave, she won’t say anything about him being there because if she does he’ll be able to say he saw her reading a muggle book. He can just walk away and pretend like nothing happened, and she’ll be grateful for it.

This moment feels important. It feels like it matters.

Does he care if Millie is reading a muggle book? Does it really matter? Her mother is a muggle, after all. She’s only a half blood. He forgets that a lot, because she’s a Bulstrode, part of the Sacred Twenty Eight. She’s cutting and has a terrifying knack for transfiguration. She may be the daughter of a pureblood family but she’s not a pureblood herself. “Is your dad worried about you?”

He didn’t mean to ask that. She must be just as surprised as he is, because she turns to look at him. “What?”

“You know, with the,” he waves his hand to encompass the supposed monster that’s going around attacking students of questionable pedigree. She keeps staring at him, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing, why he’s even asking. He thinks he must be losing his mind when he says, “My mum is worried, and I’m as pure as they come. She’s trying to get my dad to shut down the school, but he won’t hear of it.”

Millie’s lost some of the fear, and now just looks guarded. “If your mum is so worried, why did you stay behind for the holidays?”

His first instinct is draw up the walls around himself, to wear arrogance around his shoulders like armor and use harsh words to cut her to ribbons. But he swallows it down. In the low light of the crackling fire, in the hours between midnight and dawn with Millie staring at him like she’s never seen him before, he pushes down his first instinct. “They’ve been fighting since summer. They never fight. I didn’t want to deal with it, so I decided to stay for the holidays.” He licks his lips and repeats, “Is your dad worried about you?”

She smiles. He thinks it might be the first time he’s ever seen her smile. “Terrified. But it’s not like it’s much safer for me at home than it is here. It’s one thing to have a bastard child with a muggle. It’s another thing entirely to claim that child as your own and give her your name.”

“Your parents were married,” he says, even as he’s turning this over in his mind. It seems so hard, and he feels like it shouldn’t be.

Millie is the daughter of a respectable pureblood family. She’s a Slytherin, and a good one at that. She gets them a decent amount of house points from McGonagall, of all people, and she shows up to cheer at every Quidditch game.

“For that short time before my mother died,” Millie agrees, face blank once more. “Just a few days after I was born. Just a few days after my father gave me his name.”

One thing to have a half-blood with the name Bulstrode. Another thing entirely to have a muggle woman with the name.

Blood should remain pure. Muggles and their ilk have no place in their world. But – Millie grew up without a mother, and she’s just as likely to get attacked as Granger or any other halfblood or muggleborn. Millie, who’s one of them. Who knows their customs and wears their colors and would punch anyone who tried to say she was anything less.

“That’s not right,” he says. It comes out sounding almost like a question, and he’s a Malfoy. He’s not unsure about anything. “That’s not right,” he repeats, firmer this time. He’s going to be horrendously late to meet Harry, but this is important.

This is possibly the most important conversation he’s ever had.

“No,” Millie says softly, eyes wide with surprise. “I’ve never thought it was.”

~

Harry’s been waiting for almost an hour, and Draco’s never been late before. He can’t decide if he should be angry or worried, because either Draco’s blown him off or there’s a good reason he’s late, like he’d gotten attacked by a monster from the Chamber of Secrets.

He’s just made up his mind to go back to bed and worry there in peace when the door opens and Draco slips into the abandoned classroom they’ve been meeting in. “Where have you been?” Harry demands, scowling. Draco swings the door shut and turns around. He’s paler than normal, and his blue eyes are sharper, more focused. Harry’s never seen him like this before. “Draco?”

“We need to figure out what that monster in the Chamber is and stop it before it manages to kill anyone,” he says. His hands are shaking.

Harry stares. “I – I thought you didn’t care about the muggleborns. I thought you wanted the Chamber to get rid of them.”

His mouth twists into a grimace. “I did too. I don’t – muggles are filth, and they shouldn’t have anything to do with us. I still believe that. I just don’t want anyone to die over it, is all.”

On the surface, it’s not a big thing. Neither Ron nor Hermione would be impressed by it. But Harry can’t imagine Dudley turning an about face on anything like this, can’t imagine what the other Slytherins would do or say if they knew Draco felt this way.

It would probably be weird if he hugged him right now, but he kind of wants to anyway. He restrains himself and says, “Okay. So we’ll work together, so no one has to die over it.”

Draco’s shoulders loosen, like he was afraid that Harry would tell him no, that he wouldn’t let him help.

He thinks he likes him a little more for thinking that and coming to him anyway. Maybe Gryffindors haven’t cornered the market on bravery.  

~

Of course, this is all easier said than done. Now that school is back in full swing, it’s getting harder and harder for them to find times to meet. Neither of them can afford for their respective roommates to get even more suspicious, so they start carving out time in the middle of the day to sneak away to their favorite unused classroom. It’s the hour before lunch, and Draco slams a book down in front of him and scowls. Sometimes Harry thinks Draco might just be a prettier and meaner version of Hermione. “What is that?” he pokes the large and dusty tome warily, like it might bite him.

“The Complete Index of Magical Creatures by Newt Scamander,” he answers, glowering.

Harry blinks, “Isn’t that the same person who wrote Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?”

“Yes, obviously. Except that was just a pamphlet that he wrote on the fly one day, in comparison. This is a total guide to every magical creature on the planet. What he didn’t personally experience, he consulted with on experts equal to his own intellect. It was banned by the Ministry almost as soon as it was printed for endorsing the deregulation of dangerous creatures and promoting ideas that could cause harm to the public.” Draco glares at the book like it’s betrayed him. “I’ve read it cover to cover, and there’s not a single viable candidate for Slytherin’s monster. Nothing with the ability to petrify people lives lone enough to be from the founders’ era, and most things that do petrify people do it so they can eat them. Since no one’s been eaten, it probably wasn’t any of them.”

“If it was banned by the Ministry, how do you have a copy?” he reaches for the book, glancing at Draco for permission.

He shrugs, and Harry flips it open to a random page. “Well, my family’s library kept a copy, obviously. It’s the most accurate and thorough investigation of magical creatures to date, regardless of the ‘irresponsible propaganda,’ as my mother calls it.”

Harry looks up sharply, “Did you ask one of your parents to send you this?”

“Do I look like an idiot? Of course not! I just summoned it. I’ll banish it back tonight when no one will be in the library to notice it reappearing again.”

He’s missing something. “You summoned it? How?”

“With a spell,” he snarls, and Harry considered taking this priceless tome and smashing it into Draco’s face. “You’ve seen me to do it, don’t be obtuse. I summoned my snake the same way.”

“That was your snake? I thought it was just a random one.”

Draco sighs. “Do you ever pay attentions in charms?”

“Are you going to say something useful, or did you just come here to mock me?’ he asks. “We haven’t even covered summoning spells yet, I don’t know how you know any at all.”

He shrugs, “I don’t see why I can’t do both. Also Flitwick went over the introductory wand movements weeks ago. It’s a lot harder to summon things you haven’t seen or touched before – that’s fifth year spell work, and it’s tricky. Serpensortia is a general snake summoning spell, but if I’d just cast it without a specific snake in mind who knows what would have shown up. It could have been anything, from anywhere, since I can’t control non-specific summoning yet. I didn’t want that, so I summoned Abigail.”

Harry keeps staring at him.

Draco huffs and holds out his wand. “Serpensortia!” The snake appears in a much more controlled manner than before, sliding from the end of Draco’s wand and winding up his arm. It’s not angry or hissing this time, and Draco walks forward with his arm outstretched. “This is Abigail. She’s a great spoiled princess who does nothing but lay around all day.”

Where do you think I learned it from?” she hisses, curling her head around Draco’s wrist.

Harry startles. Draco’s eyes meet his, and widen in understanding. “You can understand her?”

Yes. She called you spoiled,” he says, and doesn’t realize he’s not speaking English until Abigail’s unwinds herself enough to look at him.

A Speaker!” she says, delighted. “Excellent. Tell my human that the garden mice are too chewy, and I won’t eat them anymore. It’s either the juicy ones from the forest, or from that place he got my rock with the warming charm on it, those ones are delicious, even if they all taste the same. And that I don’t like his new sheets, I don’t care if they’re silk. The cotton blend was much nicer to curl up in. His mother keeps putting me back into my tank, and I don’t like it. They should just leave the lid off and I’ll come and go as I please. I only interrupted one dinner party after all, and I didn’t even bite anyone, so I don’t see what the fuss is about. I like the wool from my human’s old sweater that he put in my tank, does he have any more? If not, I want another sweater entirely. This one doesn’t smell like him anymore, so it’s just getting in my way.”

“Well?” Draco demands, “What is she saying?”

They’re both looking at him with equal expressions of impatience, and Harry can’t help it. It starts out as a giggle, but soon he’s laughing so hard he’s clutching his stomach and trying to catch his breath.

Draco banishes Abigail back to her tank, and then leaves him alone in the classroom, still laughing.

~

Draco thinks he’s doing a pretty good job about hiding all his secret meeting with Harry from his friends. He keeps thinking that until Blaise corners him in their room and says, “You’re not involved in any of this, are you? I didn’t think you were, and you’re horrible at keeping secrets from me besides. But you’re sneaking around doing something, and you haven’t told me and you haven’t told Pansy. So what’s going on?”

Blaise is too clever for him to lie to, and he only has two secrets to his name. Both are likely to get him disowned, so he goes for the one that doesn’t involve his soulmate. Not changing in front of Blaise has been a nightmare. He has no idea how Harry’s managed it, considering he shares his room with four other people while Draco’s found it hard enough to hide it from only one.

“Did you know that Millie is a half-blood?”

This clearly isn’t what Blaise was expecting. “Of course, everyone does.”

“There are six more in our house now, and two muggleborns.” he says. “I checked. Which makes it a total of nine Slytherins who could be killed.”

“You’re the son of a Malfoy and a Black. You have nothing to worry about,” he says.

Draco glares, “Yes well, not everything’s about me. I don’t think Millie or anyone else should end up dead just because of how they were born. A girl died last time the Chamber was opened. Muggleborns being petrified for half the year is – whatever, it’s a little funny, if I’m being honest. But I don’t want anyone to die.”

His heart is pounding in his chest, because Blaise has been his best friend since they were kids, and he has no idea what he’s going to do now. They were raised to believe blood was the most important thing. And Draco’s not saying it isn’t important, because it is, but – maybe living is more important than purity. Maybe life is more important.

Blaise keeps silent for an uncomfortably long time, arms crossed. Finally he sighs and says, “I can’t believe you admitted that not everything is about you. I should have let Pansy be here so she could witness that.”

The relief nearly leaves him giddy. He grabs a pillow off his bed, and hits Blaise over the head with it. “You absolute git. Are you going to help me or not?”

“I suppose I better,” he cracks a grin, “You’re useless when you’re alone.”

The truth about Harry is crawling it’s way up his throat, so he grabs the pillow and continues beating Blaise with it until he loses his cool façade and gives into the inevitable pillow fight.

~

“You’d think this would be easier, what with all of us working on it,” Draco mutters, looking down at the scroll of notes that he, Blaise, and Pansy had put together. Laid out next to it is the one Hermione, Ron, and Harry had done.

Between them, there’s countless hours of research, and not one single piece of useful information.

That’s how things stay, until Harry drags him into a dimly lit corridor after Transfiguration. “Are you mad?” Draco hisses. “Anyone could see us!”

“This is important,” Harry says, and then tells him everything about the diary and its mysterious contents.

Draco gets more horrified by each word coming out of his soulmate’s mouth. “Harry! Are you stupid, suicidal, or both? Don’t answer that. Whatever that diary is, it sounds like dark magic.”

“Aren’t you listening? Hagrid opened the Chamber!”

“You are stupid,” Draco says in wonder. “Have you seen that great oaf? He wouldn’t hurt a pixie. If one landed on him for too long, he’d adopt it. Additionally, he’s half giant. He didn’t open the Chamber belonging to Salazar Slytherin. If what you saw is true, and that’s a big if because you shouldn’t trust dark magical artifacts, then it was a set up.”

Some of the color has returned to Harry’s face. “You think he might be innocent?”

Honestly. “I think Hagrid has a long list of offences against him, first and foremost being a halfbreed abomination, but he’s no murderer. I don’t believe that Hagrid killed that girl for a second.”

Harry crosses his arms. “I kind of want to hug you and punch you at the same time.”

Draco glances to the entrance of the corridor that someone could walk down any moment and find them. “Probably for the best if you did neither. We need to destroy that diary. Do not write in it again.”

Harry rolls his eyes, “Yes, dear.”

If Draco kills his soulmate, at least he won’t have to deal with his attitude.

~

Of course, they don’t get a chance to try and destroy the diary become someone breaks into their dormitory and steals it.

Harry’s expecting Draco to yell at him. Instead he gets a peculiar look on his face and starts pacing. “Do you think,” he starts, bites his lip, and goes back to pacing.

He tolerates this for a couple minutes before going, “Do I think what?”

Draco’s actually broken the skin on his lip when he turns and says, “Do you think the heir of Slytherin is in Gryffindor?”

“Why would you think that?” he asks, but as soon as the words leave his mouth he knows the answer. The Fat Lady wouldn’t have let anyone but a Gryffindor through, and there were no signs of curses or other tampering. “Bloody hell.”

Draco gives a tight nod and goes back to pacing.

He wants to say that a Gryffindor would never do that, that no one in his house would be trying to murder other students. But he would have said no one in Slytherin would be willing to help muggleborns and halfbloods, but he’s looking at the proof that that isn’t true. If he’s wrong about one, then it’s possible he’s wrong about the other.

What a mess.

~

It’s quiet for the next few months, and they don’t make much progress.

Then Hermione Granger and Penelope Clearwater are found petrified.

Penelope Clearwater is a pureblood.

His mother sends him a flurry of letters, saying that she wants to take Draco out of school, saying that she’s pushing his father to do something about this, saying that Draco should listen to the professors and not wander.

He can’t listen to her, of course. He sneaks out just before dawn and goes to the broken girls’ lavatory with the crying ghost in it, the only place he and Harry can hope to meet without getting caught.

Harry appears not long after, looking exhausted and covered with scratches. “What happened to you?” Draco asks.

“Spiders,” he says, as if that makes any sort of sense at all. “Dumbledore is gone, and Hagrid has been arrested.”

“Where the bloody hell did he go, at a time like this?” he demands. Then the rest of that statement catches up to him, and he thinks of his mother’s letters. “Oh. My dad–”

“Was behind it all,” he snaps, “I hope you’re proud.”

Draco steps back, stung. “My father isn’t on the board of governors alone, you know. It takes a unanimous vote to remove the headmaster.”

“And I’m sure they thought it up all on their own,” he continues bitterly. “So Hagrid will go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit – again, according to you – while Hermione lays petrified, and your father what? Pats himself on the back?”

“Shut up about my father,” Draco snaps. “Students are dropping left and right, why shouldn’t Dumbledore be removed? He’s clearly not doing anything that matters. Otherwise your precious mudblood wouldn’t be petrified right now.”

Harry grabs the front of his robes and slams him against the wall. “DON’T CALL HER A MUDBLOOD!”

“Don’t talk about my father,” he sniffs, retreating behind his cool pureblood mask. “I know you don’t have any personal experience with this, but most people don’t take well to disparaging remarks about the people who bore and raised them.”

Harry goes white, and Draco almost wants to apologize. But Harry started this, and he might be his soulmate but that doesn’t mean he gets to talk shit about his parents. He lets go of his robes and steps away. “I was such an idiot to think you were any better than the rest of them.”

He doesn’t know where to start with that. That Harry is most certainly an idiot, that the rest of them, as he calls them, are his friends and family, that Draco is trying, damnit. He doesn’t get a chance to say any of it, because Harry walks out of the bathroom and leaves him there alone.

~

They’re not speaking. If Draco wanted a chance to put this whole muggle-loving mindset behind him, the time is now.

Except he’s still worried about Millie and the other Slytherins with muggle blood, and even the kids from other houses if he feels like being brutally honest with himself, which he doesn’t. He still doesn’t want anyone to die. Soulmate or no soulmate.

It’s been a week since their fight, and he’s idly playing with Abigail in his bed, letting her crawl all over his hands and moving them around and farther apart so that she has to keep sliding around to keep from falling onto the mattress. He’s doing his best not to think of Harry, which means he’s thinking of nothing but Harry, and he turns his mind back that first meeting after they touched, where they showed each other their soulmarks. Of course, Harry managed to ruin even then when he ran out of the room like a crazy person straight to a petrified Mrs. Norris, claiming he heard voices

“Mother of Merlin,” Draco breathes, looking down at Abigail. “It’s a snake.”

Blaise is meeting with Sprout about his final project, and Draco doesn’t want to waste any time trying to find Pansy. He summons his owl and sends off a message to Harry to meet him in that awful girls’ bathroom. Harry might hate him right now, but Draco’s finally figured out what this monster is. He doesn’t know of any snake that can petrify people, but that doesn’t matter. If it’s a snake, there’s a chance Harry can stop it.

Snape isn’t keeping a close eye on any of them, is trusting their self preservation instincts will keep them safely in the common room. But he can’t send something this important in a letter, and Harry needs to know.

“Where are you going?” Millie asks as he strides to the door. There aren’t many people in the common room, but they all look up at her sharp question.

He glares at her, “None of your business.” He keeps walking towards the exit, but a strong hand grabs his elbow and yanks him back.

“It’s not safe!” Millie says, “You’re a pureblood, but Clearwater is too, and she got attacked anyway. You can’t go.”

There’s no time for this. He yanks himself free of her grip and says, “If I wanted your opinion, Bulstrode, rest assured I would ask for it.”

He runs out before anyone else can stop him. Once he’s in the corridor it’s harder, professors patrolling seemingly at every corner. It takes him too long to get to the bathroom, but when he does there’s no one there. He checks every stall, but there’s just the ghost girl wailing.

Was Harry not able to get away? Didn’t he get his message? Or, worse, was he simply ignoring it?

Draco paces. Harry needs know, and he has no way of sneaking into the Gryffindor common to tell him, since he let Harry keep the polyjuice potion. He could send Luna to do it, she has friends in Gryffindor. But then he’d have to send his cousin to walk the corridors when some sort of snake that’s trying to kill people, and there’s no way his mother would be okay with that. Then again, she’d probably be less okay with him walking those same corridors, but he can’t help that.

There’s the soft sound of footsteps behind him. “Finally!” he exclaims, turning. “What took you so long?”

It’s not Harry.

It’s a blood soaked girl that after a disorienting moment he places as the Weasley sister. “What happened to you?” he demands, stepping forward but not actually touching her. He can’t see any wounds. “Were you attacked? Was it the snake? We need to get you to the hospital wing!”

He grabs her hand, and it’s cold as ice. He lets go of it immediately, a sense of unease filling him. She slowly turns her head, and her expression is blank. He takes a step back, and something is wrong. Something is very wrong. “I guess I’ll have to change the message,” she says, tilting her head to the side. Her lips curl into a cruel half smile. “You know too much. You’ll have to die with her.”

Draco reaches for his wand, but she’s faster. The last thing he sees is a bright red light.

He’s just thankful it’s not green.

~

“We’re too late,” Harry says, standing with the rest of the students looking at the blood dripping down the wall.

Their skeletons will lie in the Chamber forever.

“Who’s missing?” Dean calls out. “Who’s that message talking about?”

McGonagall’s face goes pinched, and she folds her hands together. Her eyes glance at Ron then cut away. “It’s referring to Ginny Weasley and Draco Malfoy. Their parents have already been contacted.”

Harry’s hand goes to his hip, digging his fingers into his soulmark, and a thick, cloying fear fills his throat. He’d gotten Draco’s message, and he’d meant to go, but he’d promised Ron he’d visit Hermione with him, and then they found the message about the basilisk, and he’d forgotten about it.

This can’t be happening.

Not Draco. Not his soulmate. And Ginny – she’s his best friend’s sister.

He looks at Ron, and sees the same determination on his face.

They won’t sit by and do nothing.

~

“That bloody snake,” Ron snarls, “Malfoy is involved, I knew it! He probably took her down there himself. Probably had a big laugh about it, pretending he was innocent to everyone, and then dragging my little sister down there to be murdered. I’m going to wring his skinny neck, the disgusting, arrogant leech. I hope he does die in that Chamber.”

He shouldn’t say anything. Draco wouldn’t want him to say anything.

“SHUT UP!” he shouts. “He’s not – he didn’t! Don’t – he’s in trouble too, and we’re going to help him too. He didn’t do this Ron. He – he didn’t.”

His best friend is staring at him like he’s never seen him before. “What’s gotten into you? Of course he did! Malfoy’s a bigoted bastard, of course he did this!”

Harry is so angry he can’t speak. There’s a mix of guilt and worry churning inside of him, and he doesn’t know how to articulate any of it. So instead he jerks the waistband of his pants down and pulls up his shirt. The rich colors of the iris contrast against his skin, and Ron knows he has a soulmate, he’s seen the little black ring on his hip. He knows what this means. He reaches forward and with shaking finger delicately touched edge of a single purple petal. “Malfoy?”

Harry nods once, wound so tight he feels like he might snap. He swallows past the lump in his throat to say. “He’s – he’s kind of awful. But he’s nice too, sometimes. He didn’t take your sister. He’s been trying to help us figure this out for months.”

Ron nods, still looking at the soulmark but clearly not seeing it. “The dueling club?” he asks, “When he put his hand over your mouth. Was that the first time you two touched skin to skin?” 

“Yeah,” he rubs the back of his neck. “I know I should have told you, but he wanted to keep it a secret, and I guess I did too. But he’s not the heir. He doesn’t want anyone to die.”

“Well,” Ron says, resigned, “I guess we better save him too then, since he’s your soulmate and nice sometimes.”

~

Lockhart ends up being a complete, spineless coward who they have to march to the Chamber at wandpoint. Harry runs his fingers over the snake symbol carved into the sink, and he has a sneaking suspicion about what he has to do. He looks to Ron, “Don’t freak out.”

Ron raises both his eyebrows. “You have a wonderfully reassuring personality. Have I ever told you that?”

Harry rolls his eyes, and concentrates on the snake, tries to imagine it moving, thinks of the shifting scales and flickering tongue of Abigail as she wrapped herself around Draco’s arm. “Open,” he hisses.

Lockhart gasps and Ron swears. The sink lowers, then disappears, leaving a large pipe and a long way down. “Off you go,” Ron says cheerfully, and pushes Lockhart down the pipe. Then he turns to Harry, “How long have you been able to do that?”

“My whole life, I think,” he says honestly.

Ron nods, then points his wand at Harry and wags it in a fair approximation of his mother’s disapproving finger. “Any more secrets you feel the need to tell me? Any more secrets, period?”

“No,” he smiles, “that was the last of them.”

“Good,” Ron nods, “you’re my best mate. No more secrets. Okay?”

“Okay,” he agrees, then he and Ron jump down the pipe together.

~

Ginny and Draco look dead, lying there pale and unmoving. Harry wants to run to them, wants to shake them until they wake up, wants Draco’s bright blue eyes to glare at him. He wants his soulmate.

They were so cruel to each other, the last time they spoke.

This can’t be the end. This can’t be how their story ends.

~

Draco wakes up slowly, the stunning spell wearing off sluggishly. First he’s aware that he’s lying on a cold, dirty floor. Second that people are talking, and after a moment of concentration he realizes it’s Harry and whoever the Heir actually is, since it’s obviously not Ginny Weasley.

He wants to scream at Harry to run, but he can’t, not yet. He’s still under the effects of the stunning spell, and it will be several more minutes before it wears off fully. By the time the mostly-corporeal form declares himself to be Lord Voldemort, Draco can feel his muscles again, even if they’re sore and heavy as lead. About the time that the dark lord wannabe summons a basilisk (and why did none of them think of basilisks, just because they don’t typically petrify their prey doesn’t mean they can’t, he feels like such an idiot) the spell has worn off enough that he can roll painfully to his feet.

“YOU’RE A PARSELMOUTH!” he shouts, despairing not for the first time that his soulmate is this much of moron. “SPEAK TO THE BLOODY SNAKE!”

“Draco! You’re awake!” Harry says joyously, then nearly gets eaten by the giant basilisk. Draco screams. Harry tries hissing at it, and it merely lunges and almost swallows him whole. “It’s not listening!”

Tom laughs, delicately twirling Harry’s wand between his fingers. “She’s loyal only to me, you simpletons. Mine was the first voice she heard since Slytherin himself. She won’t betray me.”

Draco reaches inside his robe. He still has his wand.

If Tom’s life force really is connected to Ginny’s, he won’t be able to hurt him without hurting her. But he can help Harry.

He pulls his wand from robes. “Serpensortia!”

A rattlesnake comes from his wand. Tom’s laugh takes on a decidedly mocking edge. “Oh, please, summon all the little helpers you desire. I won’t even stop you.”

Draco grits his teeth, then forces himself to relax and breathe. He holds out his wand, straining his memory and focusing on every overly detailed paragraph of Scamander’s Index. “Serpensortia! Serpensortia! Serpensortia!”

A black mamba. A viper. A cobra.

Harry hisses in between running from the snake, and they all go to him, but are no help against a basilisk.

He can do this. Charms is his best subject. “Serpensortia!”

A thirty foot python comes crackling to life, and it’s strong enough to knock the basilisk off course. It dances according to Harry’s shouted instructions, and is just big enough to be annoying but small enough to slither away.

“Serpensortia!” he shouts, and a forty foot anaconda joins the fray.

These aren’t what he’s trying to summon. This isn’t what he wants.

“Serpensortia!”

An improbably large ashwinder slides across the floor, leaving scorch marks in its wake. It must have come from a volcano.

“Impressive,” Tom says, looking at him in a way that makes his skin crawl. “Perhaps I should have taken your magic instead.”

That’s disgusting. “You’re not taking anyone’s magic,” he says, stalking forward to place himself between Tom and the Weasley girl. “You’re not going to do anything. You’ll never leave this Chamber.”

There’s an edge of pity when Tom says, “Your summons are well done, and they are proving to be distracting. But the basilisk will kill them soon enough, and then Harry Potter. Then you.”

“No one,” he grits out, holding his wand so tightly he’s afraid he might snap it, “is going to kill Harry Potter. And certainly not you, you filthy half-breed mudblood.”

The anger that twists Tom’s face is absolutely worth it. Draco throws out his arm, wand held straight and firm, the promise of victory singing in his veins. “SERPENSORTIA!”

For a moment, nothing happens.

The out from his wand springs what he’d been trying to summon all along – a wild wyvern.

A cross between a serpent and a dragon, it’s about half as tall as the basilisk is long. It’s a terrifying, wild beast that should never be approached in any circumstances.

But Harry opens his mouth, and that strange slithering language comes out.

Not long after, the wyvern and basilisk are locked in a battle to the death.

It’s taken too much magic out of him, and it’s all Draco can do to stay on his feet and not collapse onto the Chamber floor. “You were saying?” he asks, raising a single eyebrow in his best imitation of his father.

~

The wyvern is amazing. He’s biting and clawing at the basilisk, and Harry gains a moment of inspiration and shouts, “The eyes! Blind it!”

It changes its attack, and mere minutes later the basilisk shrieks in pain as it’s deadly eyes are pecked out by the wyvern’s talons. Tom’s yelling in anger, but Harry can’t focus on that. He sends the ashwinder to slither across the basilisk, and wherever they touch the basilisk’s tough scales are burned away. It means the smaller snakes that Draco summoned are actually helpful. They can climb onto the basilisk’s back and bite directly into its muscles, and the creature shrieks in pain.

The basilisk flings its massive body around in attempt to dislodge the other snakes attacking it and escape the wyverns attacks. It hits the walls of the Chamber with thunderous strength. The wyvern seems to think that’s an excellent idea, because it begins hitting its body against the ceiling also. Harry doesn’t understand until a large piece of the stone work ceiling falls and lands on its head, disorienting it enough that it only sways confusedly for a moment. The ashwinder takes that opportunity to crawl even further up its body, leaving blistering bleeding flesh wherever it touches.

 The wyvern continues with its plan, throwing its massive body against the ceiling, and soon the stone of the ceiling begins to crack and fall.

TAKE COVER!” he screams, and realizes when only Tom reacts that he hadn’t said it in English.

~

Tom is corporeal enough to run. Draco looks up, and he has the time to throw himself out of the way. But he’s standing next to Ginny, and if he runs he won’t have to worry about Tom killing her because she’ll be crushed to death, and if they survive this it will be up to him and Harry to carry back her mangled corpse.

He doesn’t want anyone to die.

Draco throws his wand straight up in the air. He’s the best charm’s student Hogwarts has had in years. He’s exhausted and hurt and tired, but he can do this. He’s a Malfoy. “PROTEGO!

The soft blue light of the shield erupts from his wand just in time to stop them both from being crushed by a large piece of the stone ceiling. It’s cracks and breaks over his shield. Draco grits his teeth and is forced to his knees from the force of it, still holding the shield above them as more bits of ceiling come crashing down on them.

The Weasley girl has gained some color, and her eyes are moving rapidly behind her eyelids. Draco looks to the diary besides them, then up, and Tom is pressed against the side of the chamber. The farther he is from the diary, the less power he has, the less he’s able to pull from Ginny. They need to destroy the diary.

He doesn’t have enough breath in his lungs to shout, so he picks up the diary and holds it up. He doesn’t know where Harry is, if he can see them or even if he’s still conscious, but it’s their only hope.

~

It takes Harry a moment to figure out what Draco is waving about with his free hand, but as soon as he does he understands what he wants. He can’t get to them with the pieces of ceiling falling everywhere, so he gives a set of whispered instructions to the rattlesnake.

It darts around the falling debris and hurries to Draco’s side. It discovers a problem when it can’t get through Draco’s shield, and there’s an terrifying second when Draco cancels his charm so he can throw the diary to the snake and then recasts it just in time to prevent a stone fragment the size of his head from landing on Ginny.

Once he has the diary in his hands, Harry has no idea what to do with it. He doesn’t have his wand, and Draco had mentioned something about burning it before, but there’s no convenient fire around him.

He momentarily forgets about the diary when the wyvern gives a triumphant screech that nearly deafens him. The basilisk sways once more, before falling to the floor with enough force to shake the whole chamber. Its head is bloody and right in front of him. It lies there, alive but unconscious with its mouth open and panting.

Harry’s eyes fix on the basilisk’s fangs glistening with venom, and he has a terrible, wonderful idea.

Tom’s scream of defeat as he fades to nothing is so worth the absolute terror of sticking his arms into the basilisk’s mouth and shoving the diary through one of its fangs.

~

Ginny is mostly awake by the time Harry makes his way over to them. Draco is pale and sitting on the ground, looking like it’s taking all his energy not to fall over. Harry wants to touch him, wants to grab him and yell at him and say he’s sorry and shake him until he stops feeling afraid.

But Ginny’s brown eyes are looking between them both in confusion, and Draco gives a little shake of his head. Whatever they have to say to each other, it will have to wait. “It’s all right,” he tells Ginny, helping her up and wincing when she throws herself into his arms and clings to him, shaking. “You’re fine, we’re all fine.”

“Just brilliant,” Draco groans, and Harry doesn’t try and stop the smile that steals across his face since Ginny can’t see it. “Say your goodbyes so I can get rid of them.”

Harry turns around, and all the snakes Draco had summoned, including the Wyvern, are behind him, watching and waiting. “Thank you,” he hisses, and doesn’t react to Ginny stiffening against him. “We would have all died if it wasn’t for you.”

Yes,” the ashwinder says while the Wyvern makes a breathy sound that Harry interprets as laughter. The more common snakes just incline their heads.

He turns away and looks to Draco when he says, “Go ahead.”

Draco raises his wand. He takes a deep breath, steadying himself. “Reditus!”

With a crackle of magic, the snakes return from where they came. Draco’s face goes ashen, and it physically hurts Harry not to go over and help him. Unexpectedly, it’s Ginny who goes, “Are you all right?”

“Fine,” Draco grits out, forcing himself to his feet and making a useless effort to brush some of the dirt from his robes. “Let’s go.”

“What about that?” Harry jerks his head to the still living basilisk.

He shrugs. “Either it will die, or it won’t. Not our problem. Grab the diary, and let’s get out of here before it decides to wake up and eat us out of spite.”

~

Harry hadn’t come alone, as Draco discovers when they reach the entrance to the Chamber and Ron is there waiting for them. He hugs his sister and Harry, and gives Draco a complicated look that Draco returns with a glare. Harry definitely told him something.

Getting back to the surface ends up being easier than they’d feared, since with a bit of Pareseltongue floating stairs appear to take them to the top, an out-of-it Lockhart included.

“I’ll take him the infirmary,” Ron says with a disgusted look towards Lockhart. “You lot should head to Dumbledore’s office.”

“Why?” Draco asks, wrinkling his nose. All he really wants is a shower.

“Our parents are probably there by now. McGonagall contacted them,” Ron says, and Draco considers just sliding back to the Chamber.

They walk to Dumbledore’s office, and it takes longer than it should, the three of them pained and exhausted. “Do you know the password?” Harry asks when they’re standing in front of the golden griffin.

“This is a bloody emergency,” Draco snaps at the statue, “Our parents are up there and we have a cursed diary and I am positively covered in something unidentifiable and gross. Open up.”

Harry sighs, “I really don’t think–”

The entrance slides open, revealing the spiral staircase to Dumbledore’s office. Draco throws him a smug look, and leads them up the staircase. He pretends he doesn’t see Harry rolling his eyes.

They hear sobbing before they open the door, and Ginny pushes past them and into the office, crying, “Mum!”

Draco and Harry walk in after that to the sight of Molly and Arthur Weasley clutching their daughter. Dumbledore sits at his desk with McGonagall and Snape on either side. Draco’s parents are seated opposite the Weasleys, not a hair out of place or anything more than polite disinterest on their faces. “Mother. Father,” he says, swallowing down his nervousness. For some reason he can’t think of, Dobby is cowering behind his parents’ chairs. He knows no one but them can see him, but he can’t think of why he’s here in the first place. He makes a note to ask about it later.

His mother sniffs and takes out her wand, “You’re positively filthy, darling. Did you forget how to cast a scourgify charm?”

There’s no way he’s going to admit he doesn’t have enough magic to cast so much as Wingardium Leviosa, so he gives an elegant shrug that he’d learned from her.

She tuts at him and twists her wand in a complicated pattern. The dirt and grime falls from his clothes and skin onto the floor, and she banishes that with another swish of her wand. “Much better.”

There’s tension in them still, from the too stiff line of her mouth to the unnatural stillness of his father. They’re not alone, he can’t throw himself into their arms like Ginny did with her parents, but he wants to. More than that, he wants them to stop being worried about him, but he can’t think of how to reassure them while they’re standing in a room with Dumbledore and the Weasleys.

“My, my,” Dumbledore says, eyes twinkling. Draco wants to pluck them out just like the wyvern did the basilisk. “It appears you have an interesting story to tell us, Harry.”

Draco stands by his parents while Harry tiredly explains it all, thankfully omitting any mention of Draco. He can’t help but be impressed with Granger – she’d figured it out before any of them. He may be a stronger caster than her, but he can admit, at least to himself, that she’s cleverer than him. Harry mentions Draco summoned the snakes but minimizes his efforts as much as possible in his retellings, which he appreciates. This is going to be an awkward enough conversation with his parents without having to explain his dozens of stupid decisions in detail, especially since he’s not planning to tell him the why of any of it. Not for the first time, Draco’s thankful he and Harry’s soulmarks are in an easy to hide place.

Harry’s just winding down when Ginny pipes up from her mother’s arms, “Malfoy saved my life.”

Draco twists around to give her his most vicious glare. She stares back, unimpressed. “Miss Weasley?” McGonagall asks, uncertain.

“Keep your filthy mouth shut, blood traitor,” he growls, “You were unconscious for most of it. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” He was so sure she hadn’t seen anything, but clearly he was wrong.

Her parents’ faces go thunderous, and her father rises to his feet. “Now see here–”

“I was possessed, not blind,” she shoots back, leaving the safety of her mother’s arms to stomp forward and glare at him. He matches her step for step, until they’re nearly snarling in each other’s faces. “The ceiling was falling on us, and you were right beside me. You had some sort of shield up, and the stones were cracking on top of it.”

“I was protecting myself,” he says, “You just happened to be there.”

Everyone’s looking at him now, and he hates it.

“Tom had enough time to run away, so you did too,” she says stubbornly. “You could have even left me after that, taken your shield and gotten to safety. But you didn’t. You risked your life to stay by my side and protect me. You saved my life.”

“A decision I’m regretting by the second,” he snarls. “You should have been smothered in your cradle, you rotten wench.”

There’s an outcry at his words, Arthur halfway to rising again. Ginny is unfazed. She pokes him in the chest, “Say whatever mean things you want. What you say doesn’t change what you did.”

He liked her more when Tom was possessing her and she was devoid of any personality. They stare at each other for a long moment before he says, “I think I hate you.”

“I’m okay with that,” she informs him.

Arthur coughs, looking conflicted. “I – thank you, Draco. I think.” He frowns and says earnestly, “No, I mean it. You saved my daughter’s life. Thank you.”

Could this get any worse? He presses his lips into a thin line and stomps over to Dumbledore’s desk, grabbing the diary and smacking it into Arthur’s chest. “If you truly want to thank me, you could teach your children not to be such blithering idiots,” he says. “You’re the Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department, and your daughter was possessed by a cursed diary. She should have known to burn it the second it talked back to her. None of this should have happened.” Arthur goes red in the face, but doesn’t say anything. Good. He sighs, and manages to make it sound more irritated than exhausted. “If you need nothing more from me, I’ll be leaving.” He turns to his parents and inclines his head, “Mother. Father.”

He waits for them to nod in return before sweeping out of there without a backwards glance to any of them.

It’s only through sheer stubbornness that he makes it back the Slytherin common room. He takes one step inside, and Millie is running towards him. More people are closing in, he can see Blaise and Pansy struggling to get to him. He ignores them for the moment, grabbing Millie’s forearms and saying, “Don’t worry, you’re safe. The monster won’t be hurting anyone else.”

“What happened?” Millie cries, eyes tracking the places where Draco’s sure bruises have started to surface.

“Everything’s fine,” he repeats, then frowns. “Don’t take me to the hospital wing.”

He passes out before Millie can question him, and can only hope she’ll catch him before he hits the floor.

 ~

Harry can’t remember the last time he was this furious. Draco had nearly died! His parents were here because they’d been told he was missing and presumed dead, and they reacted like it meant nothing. No tears, no yelling, just blank faces. They hadn’t even touched him.

Dobby was hiding behind Lucius Malfoy’s robes and looking at him pointedly. Which just makes this whole mess so much worse, because it means Dobby works for the Malfoys, it means Lucius orchestrated this whole plot in the first place and it nearly killed his son and he doesn’t even care.

Everyone has left but him, and Dumbledore is still staring at him over his half-moon glasses, but Harry can’t concentrate on that right now. “Is there something you want to tell me, Harry?” he asks softly, “Anything at all?”

He starts to look up at the headmaster, but his eyes get caught halfway there on the Tom Riddle’s diary. Just like when he shoved his hands into the basilisk’s mouth, he has another terrible, wonderful idea. “Not really,” he says. He undoes his shoe, takes off one of his socks, then snatches the diary off of Dumbledore’s desk and goes running out of his office. “I need this!” he calls over his shoulder, and when the headmaster doesn’t try and stop him he takes it as permission.

Narcissa’s disdain and Lucius’s anger when Harry tricks them into freeing their house elf is sweet.

~

Draco spends the next week in bed, and insists he’s simply tired when people try and push him into going to the infirmary. It’s partially true. The only cure for magical exhaustion is rest. He gets an owl from Harry with a short note saying that he’s told Ron and Hermione about them, the latter who’s back to her normal annoying self thanks to the mandrakes being ready.

He figures all’s fair in love and war, and so he locks the door to his room with Blaise and Pansy inside and shows them the three marigolds that bloom across his hip. “Bloody hell,” Blaise says, wide eyed. Pansy is poking at the mark like she can’t believe it’s real. Blaise’s mother has a soulmark, but it’s still that little black ring at the base of her throat, even four husbands later. Neither Pansy nor Blaise have marks of their own, but they’d known that Draco did.

“If either of you breathe a word of this to anyone, I’ll murder you in your sleep,” he promises.

They both shake their heads, and Draco relaxes a little at their vehemence. “Does this mean we need to start being nice to the Gryffindorks?” Pansy asks.

Draco is sure he looks properly offended by the way she starts giggling. “Absolutely not.”

~

It’s only a couple days before the start of summer break when he and Draco finally get a chance to meet again. Harry has slowly been going mad, what with Draco hiding out in his dorms for a week, and not looking quite back to normal even when he’d returned. Hermione and Ron had been shocked when he listed off all the spells Draco had performed in the Chamber, and neither of them were surprised that he was taking a while to recover.

So now he’s pacing back in forth in the unused classroom, white knuckled and scraping his teeth against his lip. This is the first time they’ve really spoken since their disastrous meeting in the girls’ bathroom weeks ago. The door opens and closes, and Harry whirls around. Draco is standing there, looking at him with that cool mask of his, and Harry knows him well enough to know that it is a mask. “Yes?” he says when Harry only stares at him.

Draco is proper and stiff when he’s not being a bastard, and Harry had a proper and stiff apology planned. But he forgets all of it and flings himself at Draco, wrapping his arms around him like he’d wanted to do so badly in the Chamber and couldn’t because Ginny was there. “I’m really glad that you’re okay,” he whispers, pressing his face into Draco’s shoulder. “I was so scared when I saw that message, when I saw you lying there.”

Draco relaxes and hesitantly returns the hug. “You scared me too,” he says, “what with fighting the basilisk and Tom. Don’t do that again.”

“I’ll try not to if you do too,” he retorts, and smiles when he can feel Draco shaking with laughter. They pull apart, and Harry hurries to scrub his arm over his eyes. He’s not even sure why he’s crying anyway. He hesitates, but says. “Draco – your father, he – he,” he stops, torn. He doesn’t want to get into another fight, but Draco deserves to know.

“It’s okay,” he says, a faint smile curling around the edges of his mouth. “It’s a good thing I ended up getting taken. The Board of Governors was convinced he was involved, and he nearly lost his position. But luckily none of them believed he’d release a monster that would attack his own son, so he’s safe.”

“But he did,” Harry says helplessly, “He was the one who gave Ginny the diary.”

He shrugs, “I know. But he didn’t mean for me to become involved. And – he’s still my dad, Harry.”

He’s aware this isn’t a fight he’s going to win today, or possibly ever, so he drops it. “I can’t get owls during summer vacation.”

Draco brightens. “Well, I can’t be getting any letters from Harry Potter over the summer, either, so that’s fine. I made us something.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out two small compact mirrors, like the kind Aunt Petunia keeps in her purse. “I got these from Millie and Pansy, you’d think I was asking for their newborns the way they were carrying on. I told them I’d get them better ones over vacation anyway.” He rolls his eyes and plops the one with delicately carved pansies into his hand, and keeps the green one Harry assumes used to be Millie’s. “They have linked Siarad charms on them. Just open it and say my name, and my mirror will chime, and vice versa. We’ll be able to speak to each other through them.”

Draco looks absurdly pleased with himself.

Harry had already resigned himself to a lonely summer, barely talking to his friends or his soulmate. But now he’ll have Draco right there, in his pocket, the whole summer.

He hugs him again because he can’t think of what else to do, and Draco’s laughter makes his cheeks flush.

~

Draco meets his parents on the platform, stepping off the Hogwarts Express with his luggage trailing behind him. His mother tucks a stray piece of hair behind his ear and says, “Come along, darling.”

They haven’t said anything of importance in their letters since the Chamber, well aware that their family is under scrutiny because of the incident. His father doesn’t look at him as they walk off the platform to their carriage, and a low pit of dread grows in his stomach. Is he really that mad at him that he won’t even look at him?

Draco steps into the carriage before his parents, and as soon as they’re settled it's off, heading towards their manor.

Narcissa breaks character instantly, throwing herself forward and pulling him to her chest. “I was so worried,” she says, voice trembling as she holds him tight enough that it’s a little painful, but he’s not going to tell her that. “When Snape called – and they told us you were gone, that you – that your skeleton–” She starts crying for real then, and leans back to press kisses all over his face.

“Mum!” he laughs, making half hearted attempts to stop her kissing frenzy. “I’m fine! Everything’s fine, you don’t have to be upset. I’m okay.”

“I would have torn that castle down to the foundations,” she says fiercely, “I would have flayed Dumbledore alive, inch by inch, and relished in his screams.”

“I know,” he says, beaming, and he knows threats of violence aren’t how most mothers show their affection, but Narcissa isn’t most mothers. She’s his, and she’s the best. “I love you too, Mum.”

She kisses him once more on each cheek, and settles back into her seat, summoning a handkerchief to dab delicately at her eyes.

He looks to his father, who’s seated on the other side, stiff and silent and looking at the window. Draco stares at him, waiting for his lecture, and when it doesn’t come he realizes something.

His father isn’t angry. He’s scared.

Draco inches his down the seat so he’s sitting directly across from his father. His hands are clenched into fists and now that Draco’s really looking at him, he looks different. Older. Tired. He doesn’t like it, and he doesn’t want it.

“I’m thinking of trying out for chaser next year,” he blurts out, desperate for anything that will chase the grief from his father’s face. “There’s going to be an open spot, and Adrien says I’ll make a better chaser than seeker anyway, the wanker.”

Lucius slowly looks from the window to him, and there’s still something dark in his face. “I–” he starts, but can’t finish, pressing his lips together in a hard line.

Draco reaches forward and covers his father’s hands with his own. Lucius flinches. “Dad. It’s okay. I’m okay, you don’t have to worry. I’m alive, and I’m fine, and I’m right here. I’m not mad,” he adds earnestly, and he knows that this will be a problem later. He doesn’t want anyone to die, but his father does, and he’ll have to deal with that at some point. But his father would never want him to die, so it’s a problem for a different day. “I know you’d never hurt me.”

Lucius finally turns his hands over so he can clasp Draco’s in his own, rubbing his thumbs over the back of his hands. He meets his gaze, and Draco smiles, trying to show that he means it. Tension leaks from his father, and some of the terrible gravity has lifted form his face when he says, “We’ll get you some private coaching this summer. Flitwick recommended we give you supplemental charms training as well, to ensure your progress continues at its exemplary rate.”

“Great!” Draco beams. “Charms is my favorite subject.”

His father smiles at him, a slow, small thing. Draco counts it a victory.   

~

Harry’s already had to deal with hours of lectures from his aunt and uncle, and he’d tried not to stare at the matching birds on their necks as they’d yelled at him. He’d always known Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were soulmates, of course, but it had never seemed to matter before. Then he’d had a chores list shoved into his hand that was three pages long, and he’d stopped caring about their soulmarks. They’d locked up his school things, and Petunia had sent him to work in the garden as soon as they’d gotten home.

He falls into bed filthy and exhausted, knowing he should shower but not able find the energy to make himself do it. There’s a painful sunburn over the back of his neck and arms. The Dursleys insist he doesn’t need sunblock because of his dark skin, in spite of the many times he’s proven them wrong with blistering, angry burns.

He pushes all that aside. His heart is pounding as he reaches into the box of clothes the Dursleys had let him keep. He carefully unrolls a pair of socks and takes out the engraved mirror. He sits up in bed, and holds it to his chest. He hopes this works. He opens it and says clearly, “Draco Malfoy.”

For a moment, there’s nothing at all, and the disappointment threatens to cripple him. Then there’s what looks like a ripple across the glass and Draco’s face fills the mirror. He’s in blue silk pajamas, and there’s a light grey wall behind him. Abigail is draped across his shoulders. “About time,” he grins, then frowns. “Is that mud on your forehead, Harry?”

He sounds so scandalized that Harry has to bury his face in his pillow to muffle his laughter, which means he’s sure to have just gotten his pillowcase covered in mud as well. He can’t bring himself to care.

Draco is lecturing him on cleanliness while Abigail hisses demands for him to translate, and Harry thinks that maybe this summer won’t be so bad.