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The Fall of the Veils

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5 years post Voldemort

Harry had never been adept with politics, but by the time he arrived at Chief Mage Parkinson’s office, he already knew something was afoot. Less than an hour ago he’d felt the sudden stab of shock, fear, and anxiety that had occurred somewhere in Mage Headquarters, and he’d felt the ripple from several central points into the corridors. Something extreme had happened, and it had people considerably upset. Clamping down his mental walls, Harry prepared for bad news.

In many ways, Camellia Parkinson still looked the part she had played in the Muggle War. Her eyes were sharp as a hawk’s, her gaze hard enough to make a lesser Mage quake in his regulation black boots. When Harry entered her office, she stood facing the window, hands locked behind her in a military pose.

“What is it?” Harry asked.

Camellia turned around. Her hair was dark and closely cropped, though now there was grey at her temples. Her nose was as pug-like as her niece’s. “Mage Potter,” she said, and stopped.

Usually the emotion emanating from Camellia was fairly definite, though muted, similar to others who had strong emotions but held them in check. Now, however, Harry could feel anxiety radiating from her like a low hum. Cold fear laid a finger on Harry’s spine. He tried to keep it there and not let it escape, knotted in a bundle at his nape.

“There’s been an accident,” Camellia said.

Harry gathered from the tone of her voice that what she was going to talk about was anything but accidental.

“Mage Abbott is dead.”

There had been peace for years. Harry had thought the deaths were over by now.
For a moment, he couldn’t see. The fear had unknotted itself and wrapped itself about his neck, a noose of sorrow and loss.

“Sit,” Camellia suggested.

Harry kept his feet planted and did not sway. The noose warmed and melted inside his skin. “How?” he said.

“That’s where it gets interesting.” Camellia didn’t sound interested. She sounded vicious. “It was Cruciatus.”

“What?” Harry asked, surprised.

“That’s what they say anyway.”

“You mean . . . it was a wizard?” Considering the buzz of her fear, Harry had been half-certain that Camellia had called him here to tell him news of another Muggle uprising. He thought quickly. “Hannah was in Devon, wasn’t she?”

Camellia nodded. “She and Aberforth were discussing rebuilding Godric’s Hollow.”

“Godric’s Hollow is where Neville died.” The tangle of distress that Harry had sunk inside his skin rippled, a rope come to tie his tongue. “Aberforth?”

“Missing.”

Harry swallowed, finding calm once more. At least the last Dumbledore was not dead.

Camellia walked over to her desk. “Cruciatus is a horrible way to die.”

“Maybe someone didn’t want a reintegrated Godric’s Hollow,” Harry said. “And they wanted everyone to know it.”

“There aren’t many wizards left in that area,” Camellia said, moving aside some scrolls on her desk. “The ones there are aren’t willing to—” She looked up as the door opened.

Harry turned around.

“Secretary Tambling,” Camellia said. “I expect you’ve heard the news.”

“I’m so sorry, Chief Parkinson,” Secretary Tambling said, stepping into the office.

“It’s not your fault.”

“My condolences nevertheless.” Tambling closed the door behind him. “I hear Mage Abbott was an excellent witch and a kind woman.”

Camellia’s jaw hardened. To anyone else, the action might have been misinterpreted as resentment, but Harry could feel sorrow rolling off of her—muted as it was by Camellia’s attempt to hide it.

“She was at that,” Harry told Tambling.

“Mage Potter,” Tambling said, coming over to shake his hand. “You knew her?”

“She was a member of the DA,” Harry said, shaking Tambling’s hand back.

“The DA?”

“It was a group we formed during Voldemort’s War,” Harry said. Secretary Miriam Munt, the Defence Secretary for the Muggle government, knew almost every speck of Harry’s history, and thus the DA was public record. Home Secretary Tambling, however, had always been an advocate for the wizarding world’s privacy.

Though Tambling had been instrumental in the creation of MI13 and liaising between the Nonmagical wizard world, Harry had only met him once before. At the time, Harry had still been recovering from the half-Kiss he had received from a Dementor just before the end of the war. As a result of the half-Kiss and his subsequent cure, Harry had barely been coherent, his emotions haywire—battering his mental walls, assaulting his Healers, overcoming most wizards and any Muggles who approached. Secretary Tambling, having sympathy for Harry’s condition, had issued a reprieve from the questioning that Secretary Munt was demanding. Tambling had delivered the reprieve in person.

Once Harry had recovered, Munt had had her inquisition. By then, however, Harry was stable. He was able to resist Veritaserum, and while he gave Munt the information that was forfeit according to the Treaty of Wiltshire, he could withhold the important fact no one else should ever know—the location of the Elder Wand and Horcruxes. Harry had always been grateful to Tambling for that, and would have been even had Tambling not been one of the few advocates of compassion during the war and one of the greatest architects of the peace that came afterwards.

“I’m sorry again,” Tambling told Harry. He turned to Camellia. “What do we know?”

“Precious little,” Camellia said. “I don’t have a single suspect yet.”

“Pity,” said Tambling. “Are you assigning Mage Potter to the case?”

Camellia nodded. “Potter, you’re my top choice. You’ve got experience with dark wizards, and this is an area you’re familiar with.”

“Plenty of us are familiar with it,” Harry said. “Most of us went to Hogwarts.”

“I know,” said Camellia. “But if this really is about integration, there’s potential for it to get ugly on both sides of the equation—Nonmagical and wizard. I want to know the tenor of the situation over there.”

“It doesn’t always work that way,” Harry said.

“It’s the best we’ve got,” Camellia said.

“I’m sorry,” Tambling said. “You’ve lost me. Are you referring to—er. The Dementor’s Gift?”

Camellia nodded. The Dementor’s Gift was a result of Harry’s cure from the half-Kiss. “Potter has the ability to get the sense of people’s emotions. He’ll be able to tell if we’re about to have another war on our hands.”

“I might,” Harry said, “but it’s sort of nonspecific. I mean, I might get a sense that people are angry, but it’s not Legilimency. It’s not like I know exactly what people are thinking—they might be angry at the weather, for all I know, or the last Quidditch match.”

“And I’ve heard you don’t really use the Gift,” Tambling said.

Harry shook his head. “Not really. I mean, I usually do get a sense of people’s emotions, but I don’t actively read them. I certainly don’t transmit them back.”

“Transmit them back?” Tambling glanced at Camellia.

“It works two ways,” said Camellia. “If he wanted to, Potter could easily manipulate the emotions of others.”

“Not that easily,” Harry corrected. “I wouldn’t be able to change their minds. I just might be able to . . . make someone feel slightly better about something they felt bad about, or the other way around.”

Tambling nodded. “I can see how such power would be useful in an area where tensions are high—”

“Mage Potter would never use his Gift in such a fashion,” Camellia cut in.

“Why not?” Tambling said, surprised.

“It’s manipulation,” Harry said.

Tambling frowned. “But not mind control,” he pointed out.

“There’s a reason Legilimency is against the law now,” Harry said. “Nonmagicals don’t have any defence against it.”

“Yes, I suppose,” said Tambling. “But I’m sure you’ve heard my stance about such things. It’s a pity to cripple your species merely because my species doesn’t share your particular adaptations.” He looked from Harry to Camellia. “Obviously, I want to protect my own people. I know what some of them think—that I’m just a magic groupie, another wizard wannabe. But really, I just want our species to coexist, each using our abilities to the best of our capabilities.”

“No one else has my ability,” Harry said.

“I do admire your circumspection,” Tambling said. “I just hope you wouldn’t hesitate to use your powers should the need arise.”

“We should always hesitate to use our powers,” Harry said.

Tambling tilted his head. He was a mid-sized man in his late fifties with thinning brown hair and a pouched face, neither handsome nor singular looking. The emotional aura surrounding him difficult to decipher, containing sympathy, generosity, concern, but also a rapid thrum like anticipation or eagerness, and something else that was as biting and cold as fear.

Harry supposed he should not have been surprised that Tambling’s emotional aura was complicated. Tambling was not a soldier or a Healer or a simple merchant or businessman like other Muggles—instead, he was all these things combined. He was a politician. Kingsley Shacklebolt came the closest in terms of layers and complexity of emotion, and Harry was only used to the emotions that Shacklebolt emanated because he had known the man for so long.

“You’re an excellent choice even without the Gift, with that kind of attitude,” Tambling finally said. “After all, you’re the one with the most experience with dark wizards. Or so Secretary Munt likes to tell us all.”

“Secretary Munt.” Annoyance spiked from Camellia’s direction. “She’s going to have a field day with this.”

“Do you really think it’s dark wizards?” Harry asked.

Tambling looked surprised. “I thought Mage Abbott died from a curse?”

“Yes,” said Camellia. “It looks that way.”

Tambling’s surprise deepened. “Is there any doubt?”

“It’s definitely a wizard attack,” Camellia said, “and we can only assume it’s over reintegration. But while both wizardkind and the Nonmagicals have protested integrating our two worlds, if there’s violence, usually it’s wizards killing Nonmagicals—”

“Or Muggles killing wizards.” Tambling never hesitated to use the word ‘Muggle,’ even though most Muggles considered it derogatory. Tambling claimed that it was ludicrous, that if Muggles were to adapt and live peacefully with wizards, at the very least they could accept their terminology.

“Either way,” said Camellia. “Wizards killing wizards over integration is a new one.”

Tambling nodded in understanding. “Have you assigned a Healer to the case yet?”

Ever since MI13 and the Mage system had been established, Mages travel with a Healer. After the destruction of the veils, the status of Healers had been the most important stipulation in the Treaty of Wiltshire—Healers were sworn to protect Muggles. After the war the remaining Healers—as well as those who had become Healers as a result of the war, such as Aberforth and Draco Malfoy—all took an Unbreakable Vow. When Mages came to enforce wizarding justice, Healers came with them so that the Muggles knew they had nothing to fear.

Tambling had been in strident opposition to that section of the treaty, claiming that it stripped wizards’ ability to defend themselves. Because it was only the Healers, though, the Muggle government for the most part disagreed. Wizardkind could do nothing but comply. They signed the treaty, and the Healers took their Vows.

“I was going to assign Healer Finch-Fletchley,” said Camellia. “Unless you had a suggestion?”

Tambling shook his head. “I came when I heard the news because I wanted to offer my condolences, not because I wanted to run your investigation.”

“But you have a suggestion, nevertheless,” Camellia said.

Harry could tell from the emotion she was generating that Camellia did not resent it.

Technically, Secretary Tambling was in charge of MI13, just as he was in charge of MI5 and MI6, but as such he relied on the heads of the different Military Intelligence Sections—Director General of the Security Service, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, and Camellia, Chief Mage of Magic Services. Unlike Secretary Munt, he wasn’t constantly trying to curtail wizard powers or influence. On the contrary, he supported wizard independence and magic in everything except when he thought it threatened Nonmagical safety, as it had during the war.

“If it is dark wizards,” Tambling said, “perhaps you want someone who might understand that way of thinking. Didn’t your war against Voldemort involve something about pure-bloods and Muggle relations?”

“Yes,” said Camellia.

“As you know, I by no means share Munt’s fanaticism on this subject, but it does seem if someone is particularly against integration, it might be someone pure-blooded. Am I misunderstanding the . . . what were they called? Death Eaters?”

“You’re not misunderstanding them,” Camellia said.

“Not all Death Eaters were pure-bloods,” Harry said.

“Still, don’t you think they might be in a position to better understand the opposition? I’m not suggesting pure-bloods are our enemy. On the contrary, I’m suggesting that in this particular instance, a pure-blood could be Muggles’ best ally. Isn’t Healer Mage Finch-Fletchley a pure-blood?”

“No.” said Harry. “He’s Nonmagicalborn.”

“I can never keep these things straight.” Tambling’s brow furrowed. Wizarding customs and politics were probably confusing for him, but Harry couldn’t really tell. His emotions were still a vast array. “Surely there must be—”

“Malfoy,” Camellia said.

“Of course.” Tambling’s face cleared. “I’d completely forgotten. He played some part in the Voldemort War, didn’t he?”

“Voldemort lived at his house,” Harry said.

“Oh.” Tambling’s confusion returned. “Malfoy was a Death Eater? I’m sorry; I don’t remember—”

“They forced him to be,” Harry said. “Voldemort said he would kill his family, and Malfoy’s father was a Death Eater, so Malfoy took the Mark.”

Tambling chewed his lip. “I suppose he’s not the best option, then.”

Harry glanced at Camellia, who stood rigid at her desk. “Why not?” Harry said, turning back to Tambling.

Tambling looked surprised. “If he was a Voldemort supporter, can you really trust him?”

Harry stared at him.

Finally, Camellia said, “Draco Malfoy fought bravely during the Nonmagic War. He’s proven himself to the wizarding world. The treaty was signed at that same home in Wiltshire.”

“Right, of course,” Tambling said quickly. “Malfoy Manor. I know it. I just wouldn’t want Mage Potter to be uncomfortable.”

Harry kept his mental walls tightly sealed so as not to reveal his feelings. “I’m not uncomfortable.”

“I’ve already said it,” Tambling said, his voice gentle, “but I’m no Munt. I don’t care about your past wizard wars, and I don’t fear any Death Eaters or Voldemorts or Grindelwalds come to get us. I’ve met Healer Malfoy several times—he seems a great bloke, and someone who might be able to provide a lot of insight to this case. I’d just want to know how you felt about him before taking this on.”

“I think Malfoy is . . .” Harry trailed off, finding himself thinking about Malfoy. Once, two and a half years ago, Malfoy had spent six months of a circuit at Mage Headquarters, where he’d tended to the Mages who worked within the city. It was the first time since the Muggle War that Malfoy had treated Harry, and the truce they had established during the war became a friendship.

They did not see each other frequently, as Malfoy often had to go on circuit with assigned Mages as his partner, enforcing wizard and Muggle law. When they did see each other, the visits were brief—coffee near Mage Headquarters, lunch, drinks in the evening once or twice, sometimes a walk in the park. No one would call them best mates or their meetings terribly exciting occurrences, and yet Harry remembered every single one.

“I think Healer Mage Malfoy is fine,” Harry said, realizing that his silence had lasted for too long, and his inner walls had begun to crumble. “He’s an accomplished Healer and he takes his duty seriously.” Camellia was looking at him curiously. “We’ll get the job done,” Harry added quickly.

“All right.” Tambling’s voice was still gentle. He turned to Camellia. “Can you send Healer Malfoy a Patronus?”

Secretary Tambling’s request seemed odd, but then again, he was in charge of the Section over Camellia. Harry supposed he just wasn’t used to hearing Muggles talk about Patronuses, despite the fact that the Treaty of Wiltshire had been in place five years. Camellia didn’t seem to think it strange, nodding and writing something on a scroll on her desk.

“I’ve got to go to Downing Street,” Tambling went on. “Prime Muggle wants to know all about the developments, and you can bet Munt’s got her knickers in a twist. Well, Mage Potter, I imagine you’ve got business to attend to. Sorry for my muddling, Chief Parkinson.”

“Not at all,” said Camellia.

“I’ll leave you to it,” said Tambling, then left the office.

“He apologizes for interfering,” Camellia said, once the door was closed, “but he always does it.”

“Does he?” asked Harry, surprised.

“He’s just sly enough that sometimes you don’t even know he’s doing it. I’d never have sent Draco with you.”

“You were friends with Narcissa,” Harry said, not comprehending.

“Which is why her son doesn’t spring to mind.” From the faded feeling Harry could feel trickling around Camellia’s attempts to subdue it, Harry could feel pride and affection. She cared about the Malfoys a good deal. “They were our staunch allies in the Nonmagic War. I think of them as reformed; it helps me forget the part they played with Voldemort. I don’t like to be reminded that Draco knows how a Death Eater thinks, but Secretary Tambling’s right. If anyone on our side knows that mindset, it’s Draco.”

“I imagine Malfoy knows anyone’s mindset, once he sits down and thinks about it.”

The corner of Camellia’s mouth turned up in a dry smile. “You admire him.”

Harry swallowed, locking his heart in the pit of his stomach. “He’s okay.”

“You’re not always the best at hiding what you feel,” Camellia said. “Even when you’re not using that Gift.”

Harry gritted his teeth to keep his heart from coming up at all. “So I’ve been told.”

“You’ll make a good team,” said Camellia. “Let me get Malfoy, then we’ll get down to details. We’ve got a murder to solve.”

Harry sat down, and Camellia summoned Malfoy. As Camellia talked them through the details, Harry tried not to look over at Malfoy more than was strictly necessary.

They would make a good team. They had a murder to solve.

3 to 6 months post Voldemort

The next war followed hard upon Voldemort’s defeat.

On September 19, 1998 at 2:21 am Greenwich time, the veil between the Muggle world and Hogsmeade fell. No one noticed at first; a Muggle in his automobile merely thought it strange that a road over which he had been driving his whole life had developed a turn-off he had never noticed before. As morning touched the low hills that cradled the sleepy wizard town—the sun slow and warm, rising like bread in an oven—the first drone strike obliterated half the town, killing just over a dozen wizards.

As soon as he learned of the occurrence, Kingsley Shacklebolt spoke to Artemisia Lufkin, whose portrait corresponded with a portrait of Gorgon Stump in the Muggle Prime Minister’s office. The Prime Minister, Joseph Clancy, and Kingsley immediately held a conference, in which Clancy claimed ignorance of the attack. He said that he would send private Muggle forces to prevent Muggles from entering the town, but it was too late. The damage had already been done.

Muggles situated not far from Hogsmeade had heard the explosions, and many of them saw smoke curling into the early morning sky, spangled with the sparks of magic. Muggle reporters swarmed the area. Soon after the initial strike, Muggle news programmes were broadcasting footage of Honeydukes and the Three Broomsticks shuddering, crumbling to the ground.

Aurors were unable to resurrect the veils between the worlds, the groundwork of which had been erected nearly three millennia ago using ancient spells. The veils had grown unstable with age early in Medieval times, but by the Renaissance wizards had firmed them up. It was said that a piece of such a veil existed in the Department of Mysteries, hiding another world invisible to both Muggles and wizards. No one remembered how it was constructed or what world the curtain hid.

The veils themselves were never meant to be impenetrable. Muggles could wander in and out of veiled areas if they walked directly into them; the idea was rather that they tended not to notice anything strange about areas under the veils. They could walk straight by a veiled street and never notice more owls than there should be flying in and out of it, or they could drive straight by a veiled village and never notice the turn. The point was not to keep out people who wanted to get in, but rather to make it so that Muggles never wanted to get in in the first place.

In the area surrounding Hogsmeade, there was no way to Obliviate the Muggles quickly enough to stop the Muggle machine known as news media. By early afternoon, Muggles around the world watched as wizards waved their wands, calling down short bursts of rain to put out fires, moving impossibly large pieces of rubble with flicks of their hands. Someone had videotaped Madam Rosmerta healing the wounds of a burned baby. The broadcasters seemed particularly keen on the footage of Aberforth Summoning goats out of the second story of a burning Hog’s Head Inn. They ran the segment over and over and over.

Muggles poured into the Hogsmeade vicinity, Muggle news helicopters circling the smoking ruins, Muggle automobiles clogging every road for miles from the town. The Muggles were eager to see for themselves the strange sight of people who could fly through the air and move things with sticks, many claiming it was a hoax before they saw it with their own eyes.

The Aurors continued to follow protocol, Obliviating as many Muggles as they could. It was standard procedure and many of them, not knowing anything about satellites or Muggle broadcast systems, didn’t understand that there were already millions of people around the world it would be impossible to locate and Obliviate. Muggle reporters began covering the sudden cases of amnesia, easily discerning that the men with sticks appeared to have the power to wipe people’s minds.

The Ministry of Magic and the Muggle government could see no alternative, and Minister Shacklebolt made an executive order to cease all Obliviates. At 2:43 pm Greenwich he issued a historic joint statement with Prime Minister Clancy, announcing the existence of the wizarding world on dozens of Muggle news broadcasts, as well as the Wizarding Wireless Network. The UK Home Secretary Cyril Tambling told the world that the attack on Hogsmeade was an act of terror and, as such, would not be tolerated.

The Home Secretary, Prime Minister, and Minister for Magic all stated their belief that the Muggle and wizarding worlds could coexist without strife, brokering a new era of peace, commerce, and opportunity. Miriam Munt, the Defence Secretary, demanded to know why the wizarding world had been kept a secret. She ordered up intelligence on magic, claiming the public had the right to know. When questioned by the press, she said peace could only be possible if they learned the truth of the wizarding world.

The Muggles packed in and around Hogsmeade heard the statement issued by the British government on their mobiles or in the car radios. Some of the Muggles did not even know where they were, having earlier been Obliviated by Aurors. The spontaneous cases of amnesia among friends and family members combined with the announcement made by the government made the Muggles realize that wizards had likely been Obliviating them for years—even centuries. When they heard Secretary Munt’s statements, many Muggles agreed with her.

Murmurs moved through the crowds around the Hogsmeade ruins, people repeating what Secretary Munt had said. They watched the mediwizards pop in and out of the air between the broken buildings of Hogsmeade with growing agitation. As Aurors kept the crowds from the smoking ruins and wounded wizards with blocking spells and magic barriers, the murmurs changed to shouts. What had initially been fascination quickly turned to fear.

When the Muggles surged into the broken town, throwing rocks, waving sticks, and brandishing Muggle weapons, the Aurors—many of them veterans of the war with Voldemort—protected themselves in the only way that they knew how.

They fought back.

The first Auror to cast the Killing Curse was a young man named Ned Tiley, who had graduated from Gryffindor with Fred and George Weasley and gone straight into Auror training. The Curse hit a middle-aged Muggle named Sue Westin, a mother of two who lived outside Dingwall. Reporting Scotland caught it on camera, and it aired with that evening’s coverage of Hogsmeade.

After that the Muggle riots began in London and spread across the country. It was the first witch-hunt since the Witchcraft Act of 1735, and resulted in burning buildings, people beaten and dragged out into the street, and even death. The Muggles targeted people who seemed strange and dressed oddly, houses that had been dubbed haunted or were thought to be mysterious, streets on which strange occurrences and owls were often spotted. Many of these attacks were made by Muggles upon Muggles, but in some instances the Muggles had correctly identified the signs of wizardry.

The first woman in two hundred and fifty years was burned at the stake for witchcraft in England on Sunday, September 20, 1998 at 11:15 am Greenwich time. The event occurred in a little suburb town called Little Whinging in Surrey, England. The supposed witch was named Petunia Dursley.

Prime Minister Clancy spoke out against the witch-hunts, but Secretary Munt continued to express her feelings of foreboding. If Muggles didn’t even know who the wizards were, she argued, they could not protect themselves in the event of an attack. Meanwhile, Minister Shacklebolt had no choices—wizards and witches were in danger. Muggleborns and half-bloods were most at risk; they interacted with the Muggle world most, and it was possible their Muggle families could turn on them. Aurors and Hit Wizards were deployed to quell the riots, erecting magical barriers and spiriting away potential victims.

After twenty-one days, the riots were beginning to die out. The two governments had managed to maintain a tenuous peace.

Then on October 10, 1998, the veil separating Diagon Alley from Muggle London fell.

For the first time, Muggles walking down Charing Cross Road saw owls, not a block away, winging over a warren of streets that had never been there before. Over the other buildings they could see rickety Victorian turrets whose structures were so unsound that they should not have been standing, as well as someone zooming around on a broom.

There were no drones this time. Instead, there were three well-placed pipe bombs that destroyed Flourish and Blotts, Madam Malkin’s, half of Gringotts, and the Leaky Cauldron. Because Diagon was magically sandwiched along Charing Cross, the bombs also destroyed several Muggle establishments, including the shop front of the Leaky. Muggles, seeing the owls, were convinced the bombs were a wizard attack. Wizards, who didn’t use bombs, were convinced the bombs were Muggle.

Muggles surged into Diagon with guns and knives, while wizards swarmed into Charing Cross Road with wands drawn. The smoke and rubble from the bombs made it difficult to know what was going on; some were trying to help while others were trying to attack. Goblins from Gringotts were swarming in the streets, to whom the Muggles reacted with even more extreme horror. The narrowness of Diagon meant that people were climbing over bodies to get out by the end.

One hundred and sixty-seven people died—forty-two in the initial blast, one hundred and twenty-five in the riots afterward. Relations between the Ministry of Magic and the Muggle government grew tense as opposing sides demanded that the culprits for the bombings be found. Munt demanded that all wizard veils and locations be reported to the Muggle government, claiming that the Muggle army could not protect the wizarding world if it was hiding itself within Muggle territories. Home Secretary Cyril Tambling, who had been the advocate for peace in opposition to Secretary Munt’s war-mongering, reluctantly agreed.

Shacklebolt took objection to the phrase “Muggle territories,” and the Ministry feared that with a full list of wizarding locations, Muggles would storm the veils and bring about full war. Munt also demanded a registry of magical creatures, claiming that the Ministry for Magic had not been open in its disclosures of the nature of the wizarding world, that it was keeping secrets. The wizarding world could have any sort of violent, dangerous creatures that could be used against Muggles, Munt argued. In retaliation, Shacklebolt demanded a full registry of all Muggle weapons that could be used against wizards. Shacklebolt was not an idiot. He had heard of nuclear bombs.

On October 26, 1998, Shacklebolt told Artemisia Lufkin to warn the Prime Minister’s portrait that he was coming for a visit. Lufkin returned to tell Shacklebolt that Stump was missing—either someone had got into the portraits and harmed him, or the painting itself had been destroyed. Shacklebolt prepared himself to Apparate into Clancy’s office anyway, only to find that he could not. Someone—or something—had warded the office of the United Kingdom’s Muggle Prime Minister.

Twenty-one days after the attack on Diagon, on October 31, 1998, the veil on the Ministry for Magic fell. The Ministry was destroyed, killing one hundred and twenty-seven wizards. Shacklebolt, several other ministers, and two thirds of the Wizengamot survived, but many others died. In retaliation, a group of Hit Wizards—going against Shacklebolt’s orders to attempt to maintain piece—blasted away the foundation of the House of Parliament, levitated the building, and dumped it into the Thames. Thirty-eight Muggle MPs drowned. More than one thousand people died in the riots that followed.

On November 12, 1998, the British government declared war. On November 26, their American allies joined them, as well as France and Italy.

Some called it Voldemort’s Revenge. Others called it The Muggle Uprising. Some simply called it the second war, but others pointed out that Voldemort had risen twice. This was actually the third war.

The Muggles called it World War III.

5 years post Voldemort

After Chief Mage Camellia Parkinson gave them the details of Mage Hannah Abbott’s murder, Harry and Malfoy left her office together. They walked down the corridor in silence for several moments.

“I want to,” Malfoy began, and stopped.

Harry turned to look at him. Malfoy wore typical Healer whites—a knee-length tunic, split at the sides from the hips down; white trousers underneath fitted close to the thigh and calf for ease of movement; white shoes. Malfoy’s hair was as white-gold as fresh churned butter.

“I know that Mage Abbott was your friend,” Malfoy said. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“I hadn’t seen her in a long time.”

“She was an excellent Mage.”

“You knew her?”

“I knew of her.” Malfoy’s shoulders stiffened. “She had a cut, once. In the Battle of the Burrow. It was only minor. She—she said that the stitches were good.”

“Your stitches are always good.”

“Yes.” Malfoy looked down.

Harry opened his walls, allowing a chink in his mental armour, but as usual where Malfoy was concerned, Harry felt nothing in response. Malfoy’s emotions were always smooth and calm—cool, though never unkind. Sometimes they reminded Harry of the lake in the Forest of Dean—that still silver surface, the morning mist rising slow and curling between the scent of pines. Deep within lay the sword—sharp and terrible, a beautiful weapon, a glinting shard of soul.

“She was engaged to Neville,” Harry said finally.

Malfoy looked up. “He died five years ago.”

“She still wore his ring,” said Harry.

Malfoy’s shoulders slowly relaxed, little by little. “She should not have died that way.”

“None of them should have died the way they have,” Harry said.

Malfoy started walking again, and Harry fell into step beside him. “When will you be ready to leave?” Malfoy asked.

“Give me a couple hours,” Harry said. “What time is it?”

“A little after ten.” Malfoy didn’t use any time-keeping device that Harry could discern, nor had he cast a Tempus. “I shall bring the tent if you will pack the other provisions.”

Mages usually brought the means to survive any number of days outside of civilization. It often proved necessary, should the winds turn and their brooms be thrown off course, and could also be a good idea in Muggle areas wherein wizards might not be welcomed in inns or hotels.

“It’ll probably take me a couple hours to put things in order,” Harry said. “I know we should leave as early as possible, but I’d really like to visit St. Mungo’s before I go.”

Malfoy glanced at him.

“The Longbottoms are buried there,” Harry said.

Malfoy didn’t stop walking, but Harry could feel him tense. Malfoy’s emotions, however, were still a smooth wall of calm. During the Muggle War, Neville had been working with a unit of wizards who were trying to track down the terrorists who had brought down the veils and begun the war. Outside of Godric’s Hollow, the team had been attacked by angry townspeople, and Neville had been captured. Later Neville and the rest of his unit were found dead. It was the skirmish that had precipitated the final battle of the war.

“We’ll leave at one,” Malfoy said. Then he glanced at Harry, and the tension softened. “We’ll stop at the cemetery on the way out of the city.”

“You don’t have to come there with me,” Harry said. “I could meet you.”

“It’s on the way,” Malfoy said.

St Mungo’s Memorial Cemetery was strictly farther north than they needed to go if they were headed straight for Devon, where Hannah had died, but Harry didn’t point that out. Malfoy already knew.

“You,” said a voice.

Harry ripped his eyes away from Malfoy. At the end of the corridor stood the Muggle UK Defence Secretary, Miriam Munt.

“You, you, you,” she said, advanced towards them down the corridor. Anger, frustration, and fear sluiced in her wake.

“Let me do the talking,” Malfoy murmured.

“So you’re the wizard toadies he picks to go scampering after the next wizard threat.”

“Madam Secretary.” Malfoy’s posture had altered slightly—he looked indolent, relaxed. When he had been talking to Harry about Hannah, he’d seemed tightly wound.

“Of course he would send you.” Munt’s wide eyes narrowed on Harry. “You’re exactly his sort, aren’t you? You’re the perfect pair.”

“He did remark that we were superbly suited,” Malfoy said.

Harry wasn’t precisely sure whom Malfoy was speaking about. Though Tambling had suggested sending a pure-blood on the Abbott investigation, he hadn’t been in the room when Camellia gave them their assignment.

“Of course.” Munt waved her arm at Harry. “Harry Potter, a magical power house. He’s always wanted you on his side. This is why he’s petted you, courted you. It must be marvellously convenient to have one of the most powerful Magicals in England on his side.”

“I wasn’t aware that Potter and Secretary Tambling were intimate,” Malfoy said. Appearing rather bored, he looked over at Harry. “Has Mister Tambling been courting you?”

“He hasn’t,” was all Harry could say. “That was the second time I met Secretary Tambling in my life.”

Meanwhile, Harry had met Secretary Munt on dozens of occasions. From the time she learned about the existence of the wizarding world Munt had been convinced that wizardkind endangered national security. Once the Treaty of Wiltshire was signed, she uncovered wizard “plots” to take down the British government any chance she got, attempting to convince the public that wizards were still the enemy.

As Harry had been so heavily involved in Voldemort’s War, not to mention possessing the Dementor’s Gift, Harry was high up on Munt’s list of suspects, right below Kingsley and Camellia. Though Harry hadn’t given her much on which to pin her accusations, he didn’t doubt that she was merely waiting for an opportunity to take him down.

Malfoy turned back to Munt. “Potter says he hasn’t.”

“That isn’t the way Cyril works.” Munt leaned in, her bad teeth and thin nose right in Harry’s face. “He gets under your skin. He crawls there. Why do you think he pardoned you all those years ago? He needed to use you, and now he is.”

“But why should he need Potter?” Malfoy said. “He’s been surpassingly dull since The Dark Lord’s War. If you ask me, he was even rather lumpish during that affair. Thwarting a psychopathic megalomaniac hardly requires vast cerebral talent.”

Harry studied Malfoy. With his bright hair and fine features, he looked like a lazy angel.

“There’s only one reason Cyril bows and scrapes to all you Magicals,” Munt said. “He wants to be a Magical himself.”

“Tambling wants to be a wizard?” Malfoy said. “But then why should he not? Were I the fawning, fribbling Muggle that Tambling is, I should think becoming a wizard would be my life goal.”

“Don’t pay attention to Malfoy,” Harry said, doing his best to mentally block the fury that came pouring out of Munt at Malfoy’s remarks. “He’s nothing but a snivelling, filthy Death Eater. You should have seen the way he cowered after Voldemort.”

“I know exactly what he is.” Munt had large eyes that bulged slightly from her skull, topped off by a head of amber-coloured hair that was so sprayed and dried that it made a neatly packed wispy cloud akin to candy floss. Her small mouth had pursed up at Malfoy’s words, her skin gone red. Not for the first time, Harry noted her severe lack of chin. “A wand-waver who killed his own kind, who murdered Nonmagical children just to watch them bleed.” Munt leaned in towards Malfoy. “I know just what Cyril wants with you.”

“Do you?”

“You think you’re so superior.” Munt’s eyes narrowed. “I know how the treaty makes you writhe. You think that you should rule the world, and at last you’ve found the means to do it, the perfect Nonmagical stooge.”

“I’m confused,” said Malfoy. “Is Tambling the stooge, or am I?”

“Cyril has always wanted wizards to be in charge. He thinks that if he helps you rise, you’ll reward him with your power.”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way,” said Malfoy.

“It does,” said Munt. “With the Elder Wand. I know. I know all your plans.”

“Oh, that.” Malfoy made a dismissive gesture. “Is that twig still around?”

Harry had told Munt about the Elder Wand in one of the many interviews that had taken place in the wake of the treaty, when Munt had been demanding to know about Voldemort’s War. He had not thought Munt had forgotten any of those details, but he had no idea why she was bringing it up now.

Then again, he didn’t really understand the conversation to begin with. Everyone was aware that Munt disagreed with Tambling strongly on matters of policy and that Prime Minister Clancy fell somewhere in between, but Harry hadn’t known that the political vitriol between them was also personal. Meanwhile, Malfoy had changed into someone completely unrecognizable, and Harry was simply struggling to play along.

“I’ll find it before you get to it,” said Munt. “Mark my words. I have my sources.”

“Do you mean Bumble?” Malfoy asked. He was referring to Cyril Brimble, who had taken Munt’s side after the Muggle War, despite the fact that Munt had always been against wizards from the start. “It’s interesting that a low level flunky’s got more of a lead on the Death Stick than the Boy Who Lived.”

“I don’t have to tell you anything,” said Munt.

“And we were having such a pleasant conversation.” Malfoy showed pretty rows of teeth. “I’d hoped you would share with me why you think Tambling would do damage to his own kind. I’ve never noticed cows in a paddock conspire to eat beef, no matter how fond they are of humans.”

“You can’t convince me you’re not on his side,” said Munt. “You and all your little Hocusy Pocusies. You all worship him. He’s engineered it that way—he’s spoken for you, fought for you—but you just wait. One day he will turn on you, and then you’ll see.”

“Sort of like we’ll see you get the Elder Wand, I expect,” said Malfoy.

“I’m going to stop this.” Munt jabbed her finger at them. “Just you wait and see.” Pushing between them, she went on stalking down the corridor, fear and rage trailing after her like bad perfume.

“Farewell Madam Secretary,” Malfoy called. “Tell the Prime Muggle we say Abracadabra!”

Munt disappeared around a corner, and all the carelessness in Malfoy’s posture instantly disappeared. He stood ramrod straight, energy seeming to crackle from him like electricity in exposed wire. When Harry mentally reached out, he could feel the slight thrum of anxiety emanating from Malfoy, muted but palpable. “Malfoy—”

“Not a word.” Malfoy’s hand clamped down on Harry’s arm and he began walking, pulling Harry along. They’d got to the end of the corridor when Malfoy stopped, then took out his wand. Pointing at the ceiling, he said, “Accio ear.”

Harry looked up. The ceiling was the Muggle sort—plywood tiles arranged in patterns, covering insulation between the floors. He found the Extendable Ear just as it streamed out to snap into Malfoy’s hand. Malfoy wrapped the ear in a neat little ring, then pointed his wand at it.

“Wait,” Harry said.

Malfoy looked at him inquiringly.

Accio Nonmagical camera,” Harry said, and something round and black swam down through the ceiling. The tip was barely larger than the end of a pen, but on it was a tiny lens. Harry added it to the ear in Draco’s hand.

Incendio,” said Draco, and the camera and ear lit in his hand, then disappeared in a puff of ash and smoke.

MI13 used the ears and cameras—as well as audio bugs and Extendable Eyes—quite frequently, but Harry could think of no reason as to why the corridors of Mage Headquarters itself would be bugged. They dealt with covert investigations all the time, but as far as Harry knew, the dangers existed outside of Section 13. He’d had no reason to suspect any of the Mages or his Nonmagical colleagues in government before, and yet he’d never heard Munt talk that way, either. Harry had about a million questions, and all of them began with Malfoy.

Harry said, “Why—”

“Not here.” Draco shook his head. “I’ll see you in the courtyard at one.”

Obviously, something much bigger was happening than a random murder. Harry didn’t know who had killed Hannah or why, but Malfoy was right—Cruciatus was a terrible way to die. Munt had acted like it was the start of another civil war, and while Munt had always been an alarmist, Malfoy had not reacted to her at all like the man that Harry had come to know since the Muggle War.

From the moment Narcissa and Malfoy had allied with Kingsley, Malfoy had been trying to make up for his behaviour during Voldemort’s War. He hadn’t really sneered any less or become any friendlier, and Harry wasn’t sure he was repentant because he actually felt guilty for his crimes. However, Malfoy and his mother had definitely been trying to earn back the prestige of the family name, and they’d done so by falling in line with the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore’s old allies.

During the conversation with Munt, however, Malfoy had reverted to his former self.

When Harry met Malfoy in the courtyard at the appointed time, Malfoy didn’t seem any more inclined to talk about their encounter with Munt. Harry didn’t ask about it. They had a long journey ahead—more than enough time to discuss Muggle politics. Hannah had been murdered near the ruins of Godric’s Hollow, the closest Muggle town being Ivybridge. It would take over five hours to reach by broom.

On the way out of London they stopped at St. Mungo’s Memorial Cemetery. Harry, having Conjured a handful of white flowers, found the Longbottom plot. Frank and Alice had died during one of the Muggle attacks early in the war. Most of St Mungo’s had been evacuated, but some of the patients with long-term illness had refused to leave, Frank and Alice Longbottom among them. Augusta Longbottom, Neville’s grandmother, had died a month earlier in one of the riots. After his body had been found near Godric's Hollow at the end of the war, Neville had been brought here to be buried with them.

Malfoy stood some distance away as Harry placed the flowers. Harry had lost friends in both of the wars, but Neville was still one of the closest friends of his own age. Hermione, Ron, Luna, and Ginny had all survived. Harry didn’t think he could have survived the half-Kiss without them. He certainly would not have dealt as well with the Dementor’s Gift without them to help him through.

The January air was wet. Though rain was not visibly falling, the gravestones were slick, and, were it not for his Drying Charm, Harry knew his black Mage robe would be wet through. Mist smudged the more distant gravestones into the bleak sheet of grey that matched the sky and far off buildings, skeletal young trees occasionally rising between the stones. Harry glanced at Malfoy, who immediately began inspecting his feet.

Harry trudged over to him. “We’ve excellent travelling weather,” he said. “Best get going.”

“Potter,” Malfoy said, and stopped.

Harry looked down. Malfoy had been looking at a gravestone emblazoned with the name Gilderoy Lockhart. “Friend of yours?” Harry asked.

“He was an appalling professor. Potter—”

“I don’t particularly want sympathy, Malfoy.”

“Excellent. I hadn’t intended any.”

Harry looked up. In the dismal grey and crying rain, Malfoy looked inexplicably kind. “Oh,” Harry said.

“I wanted to show you my Wind-blocking Charm,” Malfoy said in a normal voice. “It’s going to be an icy ride.”

“I have a Wind-blocking Charm.”

“You don’t have mine.” Malfoy took out his wand and ran it over Harry’s face, then down his body. The warm tingle of Malfoy’s magic settled over Harry, mindful and strangely courteous, as Malfoy’s magic always was. Against his will, Harry leaned in. Malfoy’s magic always made him want more, a touch that teased but never embraced.

“You’re right.” Harry straightened. “I don’t have yours.”

Malfoy smirked. “You should work on your Charms.”

“Can we talk yet?”

The smile fell away, and Malfoy shook his head. “Not yet. Let’s put some hours between us and the city.”

Mounting their brooms, they took to the sky, Harry still buzzing with anxiety over whatever was happening at Mage Headquarters, sorrow over Hannah’s death, and the lingering warmth of Malfoy’s spell.

7 months post Voldemort

During Voldemort’s second rising, there had been no actual wizard army in the Muggle sense of the word. Aurors had fought against Death Eaters, but the Ministry for Magic had been compromised, and therefore all of its institutions also became suspect.

In the Muggle War, all wizards were united against a common enemy. Some wizards had friends or family who were Muggles, and many—Shacklebolt and plenty of the Wizengamot included—still wished to make peace. However, since the Muggle government had declared war, no wizard was safe in what was now considered “Muggle territory”—primarily Muggle cities, neighbourhoods, and homes. Muggle families quickly sent their magical loved ones to places where they could be safe behind the strongest veils, surrounded by countryside where no one would think to look.

None of the veils were safe, but some were safer than others—the veils in London, for instance, were particularly dangerous. Muggles noticed the wizard world straight away when veils in London fell, and reacted quickly. If a veil were to fall in a remote location, however, fewer Muggles would immediately notice. Whoever was making the strikes and setting the bombs could still attack, but the rioting afterward would hopefully be lessened.

Therefore, wizards sought out strongholds—remote wizarding locations where they would be able to protect themselves should additional veils fall. Several wizarding villages, a magic broom factory in Norfolk, an island in the Orkneys, and a couple castles in north England and Wales became temporary camps for wizard refugees.

Hogwarts was extremely close to the fallen veil of Hogsmeade, but it seemed to be still protected. No Muggles had approached it after the attack on Hogsmeade. With all the media attention centred on that area, the Muggles surely would have investigated the mysterious castle had they been able to see it. As the centre of so much that had happened during that last war, it seemed a logical temporary headquarters.

The remains of the Ministry shifted their operations to Hogwarts at the end of November. Shacklebolt, several other ministers and officials, clerks, and various members of the Wizengamot set up office in the Grand Hall. Aurors and Hit Wizards started training sessions in the Quidditch pitch and by the lake, instructing their ranks on Muggle weapons and how to counter them. The remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix gathered at Hogwarts as well—Aberforth Dumbledore, a great lot of Weasleys as well as their families, Minerva McGonagall, Olympe Maxime, Hagrid.

Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley came to Hogwarts, bringing with them what remained of Dumbledore’s Army. Susan Bones and Anthony Goldstein had died at the Ministry, while Luna Lovegood had been injured in Diagon, but many others were there—Cho Chang, Zacharias Smith, Terry Boot, Lavender Brown, Neville Longbottom, Dean Thomas. Many of the refugees were sent to other camps, saving space at Hogwarts for those who could fight. They would need all the help they could get.

In mid-December, Camellia Parkinson held a meeting regarding this very topic in the Grand Hall. The new Head Auror, she had replaced Gawain Robards when he had passed away in the attack against the Ministry. There had been some disputes about the promotion, some people in the Ministry claiming that her family had been Death Eaters. The other Aurors respected her so greatly, however, and she was such a force of nature, that when she simply began issuing orders, the department followed. As she discussed putting together an army and how to face the Muggles that day in the Great Hall, she stood behind the table on the front dais, to Shacklebolt’s right.

Shacklebolt was seated where Dumbledore used to sit when they had meals in the Great Hall. Behind him, the windows had been repaired since the Battle of Hogwarts, almost nine months ago, now.

Ron nudged Harry in the side. “She related to the Parkinson Parkinsons? You know, like Pansy?”

Harry shook his head. He was still thinking about Aunt Petunia.

“Shh,” Hermione hissed. “She’s her aunt.”

“Aunt?” Ron’s eyes boggled.

“Hush up,” said Hermione.

Camellia had started talking about bases of operations. Hogwarts was not ideal, she said—it was too far north. Apparating with the wounded was not recommended.

“And this place has seen enough war,” Hermione murmured.

“I thought we were supposed to shh,” Ron said.

They’d all been at Hogwarts for their eighth year. Most of the others had come back to repeat the year when Hogwarts had been run by Death Eaters—Neville, Dean, Seamus, Lavender, Pavarti, Padma. The only noticeable absences had been the Slytherins and the dead.

Harry should have known better—someone was always wanting him to leave Hogwarts. This year certainly would not be any different. When he thought about it, Vernon and Petunia hadn’t seemed to want him to come in the first place. Harry wondered if he had never come to Hogwarts whether any of the trouble with Voldemort would have even happened. Wishful thinking, probably, but he felt guilty that he was so relieved to be less important in the latest war.

“We need a stronghold,” Camellia was saying. “Preferably somewhere old, where the magic is strong. Somewhere not even Muggleborns would easily know the location of.”

“What’s wrong with Muggleborns?” someone called out.

Camellia’s attention snapped over to the speaker. With her closely cropped black hair and square grey jumper, she looked just like a general. “Nothing,” she said simply. “But in case someone is leaking the location of the veils—”

“Muggleborns would never do that,” someone else said.

The first dissenter spoke again. “You just think it’s them because your brother was a—”

“Hush up!” Hermione said loudly. “I’m a Muggleborn, and Auror Parkinson is right. I’ve told my parents where Hogwarts is. Even if they can’t find it because of the veil, they know the general location. They could tell someone else if they really had to.”

“This is not about blood,” Camellia said, nodding at Hermione and moving on. “It’s about strategy. We need somewhere accessed by fewer people than Hogwarts—somewhere in the south, not terribly far from London, but far enough to put a great deal of countryside between us and the Muggles. Surrey, Kent, Berkshire. Hertfordshire would be ideal, but even as far as—”

“Wiltshire,” said a loud, clear voice.

Everyone turned to look at the entrance to the Great Hall. The session was meant to be closed, including only key members of the Ministry, the Aurors, the Hit Wizards, and the Order of the Phoenix, and no one had heard the doors open.

In the large, imposing entryway stood Narcissa and Draco Malfoy. Narcissa wore black trousers and a tight black long-sleeve shirt, her hair pulled back in a severe ponytail. Malfoy’s clothes were a little more forgiving—a white button-up and black trousers—but his face was anything but. He looked pale, with large, dark circles under his eyes. Malfoy’s narrow mouth was a tight line, his jaw clenched tight in determination. Harry recognized that look from school—it meant that Malfoy was going to do something, and nothing was going to stop him.

“Narcissa,” said Camellia. She did not look exactly pleased.

“We’ve come to offer our services,” Narcissa said.

“No one wants your services,” a voice from earlier said.

“You’ll only make it worse,” a second voice said.

Ignoring them, Narcissa stepped into the room. Draco moved beside her, as close as possible without touching. “There was a reason the Dark Lord used Malfoy Manor as his base of operations,” Narcissa said. “It’s central. It’s hidden. The magic there is deep and strong.”

“Like Lucius Malfoy?” Ron asked.

“Ron!” Hermione’s voice was a harsh whisper.

“What?” Ron whispered back. “It’s true.”

Lucius Malfoy had only recently died in Azkaban, but Narcissa, stark and ghostly in her black, appeared unaffected by the comment. “If you don’t trust us, you may hold us ransom to our word. We will help in any way we can.”

“Any way you can to kill a lot of Muggles, you mean,” someone else called out.

Malfoy stared stonily at a far wall, but Narcissa turned to the person who had spoken, holding her head high. “Any way I can give my son a life that is no longer drenched in blood.”

Malfoy’s mouth went tighter, but no one said anything.

No one said anything at all.

Harry stepped apart from the crowd, turning to face Camellia. “I’ve been to Malfoy Manor, Auror Parkinson. Mrs Malfoy is right—there’s a lot of land, and a lot of magic. There aren’t any Muggles for miles. I say we go.”

“I’ve also been to Malfoy Manor,” Camellia said. For a moment, she looked down at her hands. Then she swallowed, and turned to look up at Minister Shacklebolt. “I motion that war headquarters be transferred there.”

“What are we waiting for?” said Minister Shacklebolt, standing up. “Let’s go.” He started walking down the dais, then paused. “Mrs Malfoy, Mr Malfoy,” he said, turning back to where the Malfoys still stood in the entryway. “Thank you for your assistance to the war effort. It will not be forgotten.”

“It is my pleasure,” said Narcissa.

It truly was, Harry realized. Narcissa wasn’t necessarily happy to be helping the people who had put her husband in Azkaban, but she was terribly pleased to be restoring honour to the Malfoy name. Wondering how Malfoy felt about that, Harry turned to look at him, but for once, he could not read Malfoy's face.

Narcissa put a hand on Malfoy’s shoulder, and they both turned away. It was not the last part that they would play in the Muggle War.

5 years post Voldemort

Malfoy had been right. As Harry flew with him high above the city on broomstick, heading in the direction of Devon to investigate Hannah’s murder, the wind was icy. Malfoy’s Wind-blocking Charm and the Drying and Heating Charms helped, but speaking was still difficult as they rode. They each had shrunk their provisions—the food, supplies, and tent as well as Malfoy’s various potions and bandages for Healing and the potions, Pensieve, Ears, and Eyes Harry often brought on cases. Even reduced in size, these objects weighted their brooms and the going was slower. It took all of Harry’s will power to hold tight to his broom and face the wind.

Despite the weather and the circumstances, there was some pleasure in it. Flying high above the countryside, Harry was free from most of the emotional pressure he associated with living in London. It was one reason he liked going out on assignment, though he was too important politically to often go far. It didn’t matter that Harry was miserable at politics and that he didn’t like them—even the Muggles knew the part Harry had played in Voldemort’s War, and as such he was a valuable pawn. Luckily, when Harry was Camellia’s and Kingsley’s pawn, he felt that he was in good hands.

When Harry did get to go on assignment, he was paired with a Healer, as was standard procedure. Although Harry didn’t generally mind it, he was always aware of that Healer’s emotional state. Considering the fraught situation into which they were flying, Harry was doubly grateful to be paired with Malfoy this time around.

While being near Malfoy was often disconcerting, it was also in some ways a relief. People such as Tambling and Kingsley were difficult to read accurately, but Harry could still feel emotions emanating from them, layered as they were. With Malfoy, however, mostly what Harry felt was peace. Every once in a while he could catch a glimmer of something—as he had after the conversation with Munt at Mage Headquarters—but for the most part, Malfoy radiated calm.

They took a break from flying at around four. The sun would be setting soon, but they had their wands for light, and Muggles had long since become accustomed to seeing lights flying in the sky that were neither helicopters nor airplanes. Malfoy found a quiet meadow in a forest below them where they could eat and restore their Charms. He had obviously picked the location carefully—there was no way there could be hidden Ears or Muggle cameras here.

“Are you going to tell me now what that conversation with Munt was all about?” Harry asked.

“Hm?” Malfoy arranged cheese on his bread, carefully avoiding the pickles Harry had laid out. They had found several large rocks on which to picnic, and Malfoy had warmed them all with Charms, so they were quite comfortable. “What about it?” Malfoy said.

“Don’t play daft,” Harry said. “I haven’t heard you use the word ‘Muggle’ in years.”

“Haven’t you?” Malfoy fussed with his tomatoes next. “I thought I was a snivelling, filthy Death Eater.”

“Come off it. You know I didn’t mean that.”

“I know.” Malfoy’s gaze flicked up at him, a dry smile turning the corners of his pink mouth. “Have I finally become reputable, then?”

“What?”

“You knew I wasn’t in earnest, just because I used the ‘M’ word.”

“You’ve been reputable a while, you git.”

Malfoy smirked. “And I suppose you think you’re not lumpish either.”

“I know what you think of me,” Harry said roughly.

“Do you?”

“Yes.”

Malfoy was the first to look away. “You follow my lead rather well,” he murmured, fussing again with the tomato.

Harry swallowed, and resisted saying what came to mind. “You were laying a trap.”

“Yes.”

“For Munt.”

“Yes.” Malfoy laid the lettuce on his little sandwich.

“Malfoy—”

“How much do you know about Ronald Weasley’s caseload?” Malfoy asked.

“Ron?” Malfoy didn’t reply, simply waited. “They’ve got him on a dead end.”

“Is that what he told you?”

Harry frowned. “He’s investigating the terrorists who brought down the first veils and made the first attacks. Everyone knows he won’t find anything. Whoever did that is long gone.”

“How do you know?” Malfoy’s expression, per usual, was inscrutable.

“You’re not saying you believe the rumour that it was the Nonmagical government?”

“I’m not saying that,” said Malfoy. “But how do you know it wasn’t?”

Harry shook his head. “If the Nonmagical government had known where the veils were and wanted to attack us, they’d have admitted it. They’d have sung it from the rafters, because they’d have tried to use the fact that they could destroy the veils to control us—but they didn’t. Instead they said it was someone else, and then they tried to negotiate peace with us.”

“And failed.”

“Because of the terrorists,” Harry said. “And the riots.”

“Or because someone in the Nonmagical government didn’t want to control us. They didn’t want us to exist at all.”

“Then how do you explain—”

“The peace negotiations? The Nonmagical was acting alone.” Malfoy went back to preparing his sandwich.

“You’re saying there was a traitor in the Nonmagical government,” Harry said. “Someone who helped the terrorists start the war, then covered it up.”

Harry’s head was whirling, trying to understand what Malfoy was implying and yet still not saying aloud. He watched Malfoy’s hands, deft and precise as he finished making the sandwich, the way his hands always were. Harry remembered those hands dressing his wounds during the Muggle War; he remembered Malfoy’s hand in his, after the war when they had agreed to become friends. Everything about Malfoy was so very inaccessible—his clever hands and his clever mind and his calm, clever walls, revealing nothing about who he really was.

“Munt,” Harry said.

“Perhaps.” Malfoy cut his sandwich in half with a spell. “Would you like some?”

“Okay.” Harry took half and shoved some pickles in it.

Instead of eating his own half, Malfoy took out and apple and started cutting it. “Munt revealed several interesting things during the conversation we had with her in the corridor,” he said. “Firstly, her accusation that Tambling has been grooming you.”

“He hasn’t.” Harry finished chewing his bite of sandwich, swallowed. “I’ve talked to him maybe a total of two times.”

“Yes. To most people, it may look as though he did not think you exceptional at all. However, the fact remains that you are exceptional, and therefore a politician with the savvy of Secretary Tambling overlooking you seems an oversight.”

“I’m not exceptional.”

Malfoy angled his face away. “Yes, you are.”

The mental fist holding Harry’s emotions in check squeezed too tightly, causing his heart to leap into his throat. Harry swallowed it back down.

Malfoy put down his wand next to the apple slices. “The main thing I know about you and Secretary Tambling is that he protected you when Munt wanted to question you shortly after you were Kissed. That his main act was to shield you is telling—it lends credence to Munt’s idea that he would like to use you.”

“Use me for what?”

“I don’t know.”

Malfoy picked up a slice of apple, and Harry couldn’t read his face. Being able to read most people’s emotions meant that usually he didn’t need expressions to understand what people were feeling, but when it came to Malfoy, nothing was given away. Harry was only just beginning to realize that the fact that Malfoy was closed off around him was revealing in and of itself. In the corridor with Munt, Malfoy had been lazy, at ease, but it had all just been an act. When he felt threatened, Malfoy put on a show.

He did not put on shows for Harry.

“What else did Munt reveal?” Harry asked, when Malfoy finally stopped fussing and started eating. “You said that there were several things.”

“The Elder Wand.”

“Munt’s been after that since she first found out about it,” Harry said. “She’s been after the Philosopher’s Stone as well. It’s not as though she’ll find them.”

“I suppose not,” said Malfoy, “but she was concerned about them in the past because she seemed to think they were some kind of threat. Do you remember what she said about what Tambling wanted?”

“That he wants to become a wizard?” At Malfoy’s nod, Harry went on, “Plenty of Nonmagicals want to be wizard. That’s not a crime.”

“She implied someone had found a way to do it.”

“But that’s impossible.”

“Yes,” said Draco. “But it was interesting.”

“Anyway,” said Harry, “I don’t think Secretary Tambling wants to be a wizard. He’s never said anything like that. And even if there was a way to do it with the Elder Wand, Brimble doesn’t know where it is any more than you do.”

Malfoy went a little stiff. “Yes.”

“What?”

Malfoy looked at him swiftly. “Nothing.”

“Yes, it was,” Harry said. “That was something.”

“What was something?”

“You twitched.”

“I didn’t twitch.”

“Yes, you did,” Harry said. “You twitched when I said you didn’t know where it was.” Malfoy’s gaze dropped to the ground, and Harry added more gently, “I didn’t mean it as an insult. No one knows where it is, Malfoy. Not even Hermione.”

“It’s not that.” Malfoy paused, then spoke with effort. “I read what you told Munt when she questioned you about Voldemort’s War. You didn’t tell her everything. About the Elder Wand.”

“No,” Harry agreed. He didn’t know where this was going.

“You didn’t tell her it was me,” Malfoy clarified. “You didn’t tell her you were master of the Elder Wand because you disarmed me, and I disarmed Headmaster Dumbledore.”

Harry was still confused. “Are you upset that I disarmed you?”

“Yes, it keeps me up at night,” Malfoy said impatiently. “What I mean is, I know the truth of the Elder Wand. I’m one of the few who do.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“I don’t know that either.” Looking thoughtful, Malfoy munched on his apple.

Harry picked up his sandwich again.

Presently Malfoy said, “Who suggested that I accompany you on the investigation?”

“Tambling.”

“Interesting.” Malfoy took another bite of apple.

Harry frowned. “He didn’t actually name you. He just suggested it should be a pure-blood—and honestly, that makes sense.” At Malfoy’s raised brow, Harry went on, “Since Hannah was killed by a wizard, it makes sense it’s someone who’s against integration. And . . .” Harry trailed off.

“And it makes sense that the ones who are most against integration would be a former Voldemort sympathizer.” Malfoy angled his face away again. “If that was Tambling’s reasoning, he was almost definitely suggesting that the one to accompany you should be me. Who else fits that description?”

“But he thought Finch-Fletchley did,” Harry said. “He didn’t explicitly state your name. And anyway, why does it matter if he did want you to come explicitly? It’s not as though he could turn you or corrupt you.”

Malfoy fiddled with the arrangement of his remaining apple slices. “Couldn’t he?”

No.”

“A lovely vote of confidence.”

Harry got to his feet, took a step towards Malfoy. “You’re not like you were. You’re nothing like you were.”

“I’m the same person I was when I was sixteen, Potter. My loyalties may have changed, but my morals haven’t.”

“I don’t care about your morals,” Harry snarled.

“You always did before.”

Harry took another step closer. “I know you.”

“Yes. I suppose you do.” Malfoy looked up at him. “That’s quite enough, Potter.”

Malfoy looked solid and calm, so completely impenetrable that Harry wanted to shake him. Harry’s hands tightened at his sides; he wanted to put his hands on Malfoy’s shoulders and shake him until his teeth rattled in his skull. He wanted to put his hands on Malfoy’s shoulders; he wanted to touch him. Harry made himself loosen his fists.

“I’ve a question to ask you,” Malfoy said, when Harry had sat back down and finished his sandwich.

“Well?”

“It’s about the Dementor’s Gift.”

“Oh.”

Malfoy linked his hands neatly in front of him, his posture quite prim for sitting on a rock in the middle of a forest. “I wonder if you ever use the Gift to manipulate people.”

What?

“You might easily sway someone in one direction or another as regards to a decision,” Malfoy said. “Am I correct in how it works? You could influence Nonmagical policy—the Houses of Parliament, the Cabinet, even the Prime Minister. You could influence the Offices of State—the Magic Office, Secretary Shacklebolt, Section 13, Chief Mage—”

No.

Malfoy kept his hands folded. “But theoretically, you could.”

“I would never—I couldn’t—” Harry got off the rock. It felt wrong to be sitting there with Malfoy saying things like this, but there was nowhere to go, and hitting a tree was stupid. Harry rubbed his scar. “I’d never do something like that. Never.”

“Why not?” Malfoy’s head tilted to one side.

“Because it’s—it’s wrong. That’s mind control, Malfoy. What you’re saying, it’s—you reach into someone’s head, you tell them how to think. That’s not right.”

Malfoy looked up at him, impossibly clear grey eyes solemn and inscrutable. “There’s a rumour that you do.”

“A rumour?” Harry rubbed his scar again.

“They say that you’ve made Shacklebolt and Parkinson dependent upon you. You’ve got them eating out of your hand. Some of them say it about Tambling too.” Malfoy shrugged. “Apparently, reports vary.”

“Whose reports?”

“Is it possible you influence them without realizing it?”

“What are you saying?”

“You’re able to read people’s emotional states. I imagine you could discern where someone stood on an issue before they know themselves. From there, all it would take is a nudge—”

“No.”

Malfoy raised his brows. “Are you even considering the possibility?”

“Of what? You don’t think—” A sudden thought struck Harry. “Do you—you want me to influence them?”

Malfoy was silent for a moment. “No.”

“But that would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? We could do whatever we wanted to, we wizards. The poor, inept Nonmagicals wouldn’t even know what was happening to them—”

“And here I thought I couldn’t be corrupted.” Malfoy sounded bored. “I’m pleased to see that you have changed your opinion of me.”

“Malfoy—” Harry cut himself off, then made himself think over what he’d just said. “I wasn’t trying to accuse you—”

“Then I shall be intrigued to see the result when you make an effort.”

Harry cast out his feelings like a net, but the wall around Malfoy had become a wall of ice. The apology and regret slid away and recoiled back into Harry, cold with Malfoy’s rejection. Malfoy himself was practically lounging on the rock. With his soft, white-gold hair, the Healer whites and the mossy rock under him, he looked like a ridiculous painting of some kind of sylvan lordling, someone who could command the trees and brook and ferns underfoot.

Malfoy was doing that thing he did to other people—that thing where he pretended he wasn’t upset, and it drove Harry crazy because he knew. He knew what Malfoy was feeling, even if he couldn’t feel it through his Gift, even if he couldn’t see it in Malfoy’s face. Malfoy was completely changed from that boy he’d been at Hogwarts, but this part hadn’t changed. Maybe that was what Malfoy meant when he said he was no different, that he was still the person he had been, deep down. It was Harry who had changed, who had learned to see that that part of Malfoy was beautiful.

“Never bother, Potter,” Malfoy said, using that same bored tone.

“I’m just . . .” Rubbing his scar, Harry cast about for words. “Look, Malfoy, I’m sorry. It’s just hard to control, and Tambling said something similar this morning and it—”

“Tambling?” Harry nodded, and Malfoy’s eyes narrowed. “What did he say?”

“He wasn’t—he didn’t accuse me or anything,” Harry said. “He didn’t say there was a rumour.”

“I wasn’t accusing you either.” Launching himself off the rock, Malfoy started shoving things into one of their travel bags. “We should go.”

“I knew you weren’t.” Harry went over to him, took his arm. “Look—”

Malfoy tried to wrench himself away, then found that he couldn’t. “Let go.”

Harry let go, and Malfoy went back to packing. “I was just surprised,” Harry said. “The Gift is hard to control, and I try so hard to do it. It’s—it’s bloody awful to hear that people think I’m abusing it when it’s exactly the opposite of what I’m trying to do.”

“I know it’s awful.” Something in Malfoy’s tone had melted. He paused packing the bag, looking over at Harry. “I think that he intended it.”

“Who?”

Malfoy cinched up the bag. “Secretary Tambling.”

“Malfoy, what’s going on?”

Malfoy shook his head, shrinking the bag with his wand. “I don’t know. Tambling wanted us to work together, but I don’t know why. I think he wanted me to tell you about that rumour, but I don’t know why. There’s something bigger going on here, something I haven’t figured out. We need to get to Ivybridge.”

“But—”

Abruptly, Malfoy turned to Harry. “Do you trust me?”

“What?”

“It’s a simple question, Potter. Do you trust me?”

Harry looked into Malfoy’s eyes. They were large, dove grey. They could have been a child’s eyes, soft, like the dark before dawn. Harry knew those eyes could be cruel. “Yes,” Harry said.

Malfoy tilted his wand. “Legilimens.”

Harry gasped. Legilimency had been outlawed after the Muggle War, and then the warm touch of Malfoy’s magic was inside of Harry’s mind, as kind and solicitous as ever. It felt like the back of a hand gently brushing Harry’s temple, mild and tender. There was a golden light, and then the sound of a child’s laughter.

Then the touch was gone, and Harry found himself standing in a cold forest full of evening mist. Malfoy stood before him, as inaccessible and frigid as ever. Harry found that he was breathing hard. “What did you—what did you do?” he finally managed to ask.

“It’s a very basic spell, Potter.”

“But—why?”

“I thought it might make you feel better.” Malfoy’s head tilted. “Did it?”

Harry caught his breath. It was difficult to concentrate with Malfoy looking at him that way, but when Harry carefully felt along the edges of his mental boundaries—Malfoy was right. Harry hadn’t had time to think it through, but the accusation of the rumour was distressing, and then the idea that Malfoy might think he would behave that way—and then the niggling doubt that Malfoy would want him to behave that way—

Harry felt much calmer now. “That was illegal,” he said, his voice low.

“I told you,” Malfoy said. “My morals haven’t changed.” He went to put the shrunken bag back on Harry’s broomstick.

“You barely ate anything,” Harry said.

“You can eat in the air.” Malfoy handed Harry his broom, and they took off up, through the branches of the trees, on into the mist.

7 to 10 months post Voldemort

In the early days of using Malfoy Manor as headquarters for the Muggle War, Harry watched Malfoy and his mother closely. Even though Harry had spoken in support of moving the wizarding world’s fighting operation there, he expected the Malfoys to try to get something out of it. Harry knew that Narcissa was trying to restore the family name, and he guessed that Malfoy would follow right along.

Initially, the Malfoys offered to train alongside the Aurors and Hit Wizards in learning how to combat Muggle weapons. Head Auror Camellia Parkinson talked to them about it, and from what Harry could tell, Camellia seemed to know the Malfoys—which made sense, seeing as Pansy and Draco had always appeared to be good friends. Either Camellia didn’t trust them, or knew that others wouldn’t, because in the end, she refused their offer. She told them they should talk to Percy Weasley if they really wanted to help.

Harry supposed that that would be the end of that, but Narcissa dutifully went to Percy, who delighted in assigning the Malfoys menial household tasks. They brought food for the Ministry, Wizengamot, Aurors, and Hit Wizards. They set up beds and cleaned their own stables, so that more beds could be placed there. They helped set up nearly one hundred wizarding tents in the area, so that recruits and refugees could contribute to the war effort.

After this first day of manual labour, Harry again expected the Malfoys to quit. After the first week, he expected them to at least apply again to Camellia and request to join the army. Camellia might not trust them, but she did appear to have some sort of respect or at least affection for them—but the Malfoys didn’t go to her. They did silently and efficiently what Percy asked of them, Narcissa in plain, conservative clothing, and Malfoy with his tight lips and bags under his eyes. They both looked pale, too thin. They were like ghosts.

After that first week, Harry didn’t want to watch them any more, but he couldn’t seem to stop.

On December 26, 1998, the veil separating the half, quarter, and eighth platforms in King’s Cross station fell. Platforms Seven and Seven-Eighths, Five and One Quarter, and One and a Half were each bombed. Eighty-nine people died; three hundred and twenty-two more were wounded.

What followed was less like the rioting that had come before and much more like a battle. The Muggles who came to join the fray were organized, quickly forming barricades using sandbags and automobiles. The Muggle army herded Muggle bystanders with plastic shields and sometimes even gas, transporting them to safe places. Wizard reinforcements from the Manor Apparated in and out, assessing the situation and surrounding the Muggle perimeter.

The fighting lasted nearly three days.

Afterwards, Percy Weasley was far too busy to continue barking orders at the Malfoys. Harry should have been too busy to watch them, but he’d made a habit of watching Draco, at least, and in the past it had proven useful. As wounded poured in and groups of Ministry officials and Aurors met behind closed doors to decide what to do next, watching the Malfoys became useful once again.

Hippocrates Smethwyck from St. Mungo’s was in charge of telling the Healers what to do, and the Healers had their assistants summoning rags, hot water, bandages, and whatnot. Madam Pomfrey had taken over triage, directing incoming patients and telling volunteers what to do with patients who were waiting for Healers.

There were, however, more volunteers than there were Healers, and some people were milling around getting in the way as they tried to help. This was where Narcissa Malfoy stepped in. Within ten or fifteen minutes of the first load of wounded, Narcissa had volunteers who couldn’t otherwise help in the war effort cutting linens, making new bandages, boiling water so that it could be Summoned, stuffing new mattresses, transfiguring sheets and medical equipment and scissors.

Harry only caught glimpses of her as he Apparated on and off the battlefield, but when he came home to a hot meal on the third day with fresh water waiting, he knew that it was Narcissa who was responsible for it. Everyone else was too caught up in fighting and healing; Narcissa ran all the household matters.

Through it all, Malfoy stayed attached to her side like some kind of pale shadow, instantly doing everything she said and doing it well, but always returning. Perhaps he couldn’t figure out what to do otherwise, Harry supposed.

Things went on like that for several months. Veils fell, bombs went off, battles happened, and wizards recuperated in Malfoy Manor. Home Secretary Cyril Tambling continued to plead innocent of the initial bombs that precipitated each new skirmish. He continued to hope for a quick and peaceful resolution to the war, but by now, most of the Muggle government had shifted to a harder line. Prime Minister Joseph Clancy as well as most of the Muggle Cabinet were fully behind Secretary Munt, who called for wizardkind’s unconditional surrender.

By the end of January it became evident that no matter who was laying the bombs, the Muggle government knew more than it was letting on. Just as they had been able to block the Prime Minister’s office from Apparition, they were beginning to figure out where the veils were, now that they knew what to look for.

The last bombing to follow the pattern of the previous attacks happened on February 13, 1999 at St Mungo’s Hospital. The hospital had mostly been evacuated by then, but the damage was already done. The war was happening on other fronts, now; a veil did not have to fall and a bomb didn’t have to explode for a new battle to begin. Both the Muggle army and the wizards stationed in Malfoy Manor were looking for the weak spots, taking advantage by attacking.

Harry sat in on many of the war councils, but for once, he was not the centre of the conflict. Technically, Harry was an adult. He’d turned eighteen last July, and the wizard leaders treated him as someone fully grown, capable of making intelligent decisions. Sometimes people like Aberforth or Camellia or even Minister Shacklebolt would ask for his advice, carefully listening to what he had to say.

Ironically, they needed him far less now than they had in the war against Voldemort. Fudge and Scrimgeour and Umbridge had been irresponsible and stupid. Shacklebolt and Camellia knew what they were doing, and they were in charge. Harry didn’t have any special part to play except as a soldier, and found that he preferred it that way. Shacklebolt and Camellia talked to Ron and Hermione more than they talked to Harry, and that was as it should be. Ron was brilliant with strategy, and Hermione was smarter than all the rest of them put together.

More and more, Harry found himself slipping out of the council sessions. He was willing to fight. He was good at fighting; he just didn’t exactly want to, and too much of his life and been anticipating battles and training for them. He didn’t want to spend his whole life talking about them. He wasn’t good at talking anyway.

That was how Harry found himself walking the perimeter of the headquarters. The encampment spread out far beyond the borders of the Malfoy lands, extensive as they were. The edges of the property abutted the lands of three other old wizarding estates, so they did not fear detection. There wasn’t another Muggle settlement for miles.

For weeks they’d still had winter weather—cold, grey, and rainy, much as anyone would expect for anywhere in England in January and February. The first two and a half weeks of March had brought the same, but the past few days had been sunnier, though still cold. This morning the sun was visible as it slowly rose past seven in the morning, drying up the lingering dew.

Harry had stopped by the last line of tents, parallel to a line of trees. Harry had never really got a chance to admire the setting before, having only come here once in person when his best friend was tortured, and several other times in the mind of a murderous snake. Down the hill, the sun was cradled in pink and purple crowds, cupped in the palm of misty green hills. It was beautiful, but Harry wasn’t looking at it.

He’d stopped to watch the Malfoys, who appeared to be scrubbing clothes and dishes on the lawn. They stood in front of a row of wizards tents, talking quietly as they directed pans and plates into one tub and robes and trousers into another. Harry wasn’t close enough to hear what they were saying, though they would have heard him were he to call out. He wondered if he should offer to help, but decided against it. The Malfoys had chosen their fate.

They didn’t look content, but they didn’t look depressed or angry either. If anything, Harry supposed, they looked determined. The light was making Malfoy’s hair pink.

Harry was watching them instead of the trees, or he would have seen the Muggles approach. There were three of them, which Harry only saw when a bullet cracked through the air.

Narcissa pushed Malfoy to the ground.

The Muggles shouted. Another one fumbled with his gun. They were closer to the Malfoys than Harry, directly across from them in the woods, while Harry stood far down the row of tents. He wasn’t going to get to them in time.

Malfoy struggled to stand, putting himself in front of his mother.

Narcissa pushed him again, turning to block him with her body.

“Mother, no!” Malfoy cried out, reaching for her.

Another shot went off, and Malfoy caught Narcissa as she fell.

“Stupefy,” Harry shouted, finally close enough to aim his wand between the dense trees.

Malfoy screamed. “Mother!”

“Stupefy,” Harry said again. The last Muggle was running away, and Harry chased after him.

“Mother! Mother!”

Harry Disapparated, then Apparated directly in front of the final Muggle. He stunned him, put him in a full body bind, and enchanted ropes to tie him to a tree. Apparating back to the other two Muggles, Harry did the same to them, hearing shouting over by Malfoy and Narcissa.

By the time Harry got over to the basins where the Malfoys had been washing dishes, there was already a crowd, and a Healer in lime green was levitating Narcissa in order to bring her to the Manor. “Is she alive?” Harry asked the first person he saw.

“She was shot,” someone said.

“Muggles?” someone else said. “Here?”

“Come and help me,” Harry said, and they went to get the Muggles from the woods.

For the next several hours, the Manor was in an uproar. At first, it was feared that the veil on the Manor had fallen and that further Muggle attack was imminent. Harry pointed out that he thought that the Muggles who had shot Narcissa had looked confused and disorganized. Though they had been armed and were wearing camouflage, they had likely not known where they were walking directly into wizard HQ. They had likely been on patrol and had stumbled through the veil onto the camp. This was bound to happen from time to time, which was why Obliviate existed in the first place.

Camellia and several other Aurors cast detection spells, verifying that the veil over Malfoy Manor was still intact. Next, they viewed Harry’s memories in a Pensieve, and later, they questioned the Muggles under Veritaserum. What Harry had supposed was true: the Muggles had not come through the veil on purpose, and had not known beforehand where the wizard base was. It had truly been an accident, and the only question left was what to do with the three Muggles. For lack of a better place to put them, they were taken to the Malfoy dungeons.

Harry had been in the Malfoy dungeons before. He didn’t like where this was going, and yet he could not think of a better alternative. The blokes had shot Malfoy’s mum. They’d shot her while she stood there washing dishes, and they didn’t even know who she was or what she was doing there. They’d shot her just because she was using a wand, and that wasn’t any better than the Death Eaters had been.

That evening, after visiting the prisoners with Hermione and Ron, Harry went up to the room where they were keeping Narcissa. When he got to the doorway, he thought that she was alone at first—there was just one candle burning. She lay there very still and pale.

Only gradually was Harry able to make out the shape of Malfoy, sitting by her bedside in the shadows. He was leaning over her hand, his head down low, low near her hip. He was moving as little as she was. Harry stayed a good long while, but Malfoy never moved from that spot, and never made a sound.

Narcissa had thrown herself in front of him, Harry remembered.

Harry went back downstairs to the main room, where he had been sleeping the past several months. He lay down on the floor where his best friend had been tortured, and dreamed of his mother, who put herself between him and the Killing Curse once, then twice, then again, and again, and again.

Each time, Harry tried to stop her. If he had, then maybe none of this would have happened. Voldemort would never have returned, and the Muggles . . . the Muggles . . . Harry couldn’t make sense of it. He didn’t know why the Muggles were attacking, why they would want to fight.

Each time that Voldemort came for him, Mum died in a new way.

5 years post Voldemort

Harry and Malfoy made it to Ivybridge late that evening. As they flew, Harry thought about what Malfoy had told him in the clearing.

Malfoy thought the terrorist who had started the Muggle War might be connected with someone in the Muggle government. Furthermore, Secretary Munt believed there was a conspiracy to obtain the Elder Wand, and that Secretary Tambling was somehow involved.

Secretary Tambling had always been an advocate of peace between wizards and Muggles, and had even advocated on Harry’s behalf shortly after Harry had been Kissed. Malfoy had pointed out that Tambling’s protection of Harry supported Munt’s claim that Tambling was trying to get on Harry’s good side so that he could use him in the future. Malfoy had further suggested that Tambling had proposed that Malfoy accompany Harry on this case because Tambling believed he could manipulate Malfoy.

That didn’t explain why Tambling would want Malfoy to join Harry on this case specifically, or how Tambling intended to use either one of them or for what cause. If Munt suspected Tambling of corruption, that might explain the Extendable Ear and camera in the corridors of Mage Headquarters, but it still didn’t explain Hannah Abbott’s murder.

On top of it all, there was what Malfoy had said to Harry about the rumour circulating regarding the Dementor’s Gift, that Harry was using the Gift to his political advantage. Even if Harry had been using the Gift that way, he didn’t know what political advantage people thought he wanted. Despite the fact that he was an important figure that Camellia and Kingsley occasionally referenced as a political ally, it was really just Harry’s name that had clout. Harry didn’t have a political agenda. He didn’t want to get involved. Malfoy seemed to know more about what was going on in the Muggle government than Harry did.

Which brought him to Malfoy. Malfoy had seen all these machinations, and yet he himself was not a political figure. Since offering their home as headquarters at the beginning of the Muggle War, the Malfoys had never overtly sought any political position. After the war ended and Narcissa had died, Malfoy still had not jockeyed for political position. He had never once tried to curry favour with Camellia or Kingsley, despite the fact that Camellia had been friends with the Malfoy family. Instead Malfoy had chosen to become a Healer, a position as lacking in influence politically as a doctor in the Muggle world. Harry would not have thought that Malfoy had his finger on the pulse of the Muggle government, but he certainly was far more involved than he’d let on for the past five years.

Harry supposed he should have known. Malfoy was smart. He was so, so smart, and during the Muggle War he had become a different person than he had been in Voldemort’s War. Malfoy said he wasn’t different, but he was—he’d become someone who paid attention, who stood back and observed what was going on. He’d become someone who gathered his cards and then played them quietly and efficiently when other people had forgotten he was there; Malfoy was someone who made you forget how skilled he was.

Given the intelligence Malfoy had gathered on the Muggle government and the current political situation, Harry wasn’t so very surprised to learn that Malfoy already knew all the players and was two moves ahead. By the time they figured out what was really going on, Harry wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Malfoy had been running the game all along.

Harry glanced at Malfoy on his broom in front of him. Bundled in his cloak, Malfoy could have been a pile of snow atop his broom, just as cold and unpleasant as the swirling sleet. Harry knew better, though. He knew the warm touch of Malfoy’s magic when he Healed, the gentle tingle that felt so unobtrusive.

Harry had kissed him once, five years ago, close to the end of the Muggle War. Malfoy had kissed him back, then told him that he wasn’t interested in doing it ever again.

There were several other occasions on which Harry had made it fairly clear what he really wanted, and Malfoy had always reacted coolly, with distance, telling him quite plainly that no relationship between them was possible. If Harry was using his Gift to manipulate people, it should have worked on Malfoy best, because the emotions there were so strong—sometimes wild, even. Harry almost wanted it to work on Malfoy, but it didn’t. Even when Harry tried to extend his feelings outward, they simply ran up against with Malfoy’s blank wall of calm.

Harry gripped his broom tighter, watching the smudge of white two brooms’ lengths in front of him. He shouldn’t try to touch Malfoy’s emotions with his own—Malfoy’s emotions only belonged to Malfoy, and Harry knew that he had to keep himself to himself. Flinging his feelings around was probably exactly why the rumour had got started; Harry never had been very good at Occlumency. If Malfoy could feel what he felt . . .

Realizing that his thoughts had got away from him again, Harry tried to tighten the wall around his emotion. Maybe this was what the rumour-mongers had meant—Harry could get carried away by his feelings far too easily. If he had been oblivious this whole time to the political manoeuvring going on in the Muggle government and MI13, there was the possibility that he had been oblivious to much more. He might have let his emotions get away from him without even noticing it; he might be influencing people around him without even meaning to.

The more Harry thought about it, the more it seemed entirely possible that the rumours were all true. It was entirely possible that his ability to manipulate others was just the kind of leverage someone working within the government could bend to their own advantage without Harry even realizing it. Somehow Harry had become the weapon in the next war all over again, and he hadn’t even realized it.

When they arrived in Ivybridge, Malfoy used a spell to find a Muggle pub. Godric’s Hollow was some distance away over farmland, and they were cold and hungry. It was half eight by the time they stopped, but the pub was still crowded, and the tables were all full.

As soon as they entered, Harry could feel a wave of antagonism surrounded them. Under the Muggle lights, Malfoy was so obviously magical—even the straightness of his spine looked like something out of a portrait from two and a half centuries previous. In his Mage black, Harry knew he looked as noticeable as Malfoy. Meanwhile the Muggles in the pub all wore the most Muggle of clothing—blue jeans, faded t-shirts, jackets with plastic zippers. Disguising magical status was illegal for wizards, but if not for their required uniforms, they might have at least looked inconspicuous. Harry had long since discerned that the required clothing was prominent on purpose.

Harry had been in plenty of situations in which he’d faced the natural suspicion and distrust with which Muggles regarded wizards, but the emotional aura of the pub seemed to contain considerably more hostility than he was used to. The reason might have been that a witch had been murdered, and another wizard was missing. In a town as small as Ivybridge, everyone had to know that Harry and Malfoy been sent from London to investigate; it would have been more strange had the local residents not stared at all.

Still, Harry could feel their suspicion like a weight. He wasn’t sure whether they were more distrustful than he would have expected, coming here under these circumstances, or whether all his thoughts about Malfoy and the rumour just made him more aware of their feelings. The more Harry thought about it, the more the stares people were giving them seemed outright malicious.

“Let’s go somewhere else,” Harry said.

“Why?” asked Malfoy.

Harry shook his head. “This doesn’t feel right.”

“Of course it doesn’t feel right,” Malfoy said. “There was a murder. Let’s investigate.” He started walking directly towards a table of Muggles.

Frozen in surprise, Harry was half certain something horrible was going to happen.

“Pardon me,” Malfoy said. “May we sit with you?”

The Muggles—two girls and a boy—looked at Malfoy, then inevitably sought his companion, easily finding Harry farther back near the door.

“We don’t bite, I promise.” Malfoy sat down even though the Muggles hadn’t said anything. “We’ll buy you a round of drinks. Wizard custom.” Then he smiled just like honey.

“Is it?” one of the Muggle girls asked. Harry could feel her waves of scepticism. Meanwhile, he could also feel the boy and other girl’s curiosity, tinged with fear and not a little awe.

Malfoy must know exactly what he looked like.

“No,” Malfoy said easily, “but it should be, shouldn’t it? Wizards have so many customs—sacrificing animals, drawing pentagrams in blood. We should at least have a way to manoeuvre ourselves a table at a pub.”

“Do you really draw pentagrams?” the Muggle boy asked, at the same time as Malfoy turned to Harry and said, “Come along, Harry. The only one who can throw hexes at this table is I.”

“Don’t be such a fucking wanker,” the awestruck Muggle girl said to the boy. “That’s so speciest.”

Harry came and sat at the table.

“He said he throws hexes!” The boy was defending himself, but he sounded excited.

“He was obviously joking,” said the awestruck girl.

“I’m perfectly in earnest.” Malfoy gave him his honey smile again, the pink one with all the teeth. “For instance, may I?” He drew his wand.

“Malfoy.” Harry’s voice was low and dangerous, and everyone at the pub stopped talking. Anger and fear swarmed Harry’s mind, building a hive of suspicion in the place of his heart.

Wizards did not draw their wands in front of Muggles. It simply wasn’t done.

“Never bother, Harry.” Malfoy’s voice was the epitome of sweetness, and he tapped his wand on a white napkin sitting on the table. “Floribus Crecere,” he said, and the napkin changed into a daisy.

Malfoy picked it up and handed it to the sceptical girl, who took it and said, “I’ve seen magic.”

The boy clapped, and the other girl gave a low whistle. “Can you do it again?” said the boy.

Malfoy did it again. He did it again and again and again, smiling drily, teasing lightly, all the while giving the impression that he was enjoying himself in the extreme. By the time that Malfoy was through with them, not only the sceptical Muggle but everyone in the pub was a fan.

The waitress brought them food, and Malfoy made points of light sparkle from the end of his wand; people asked him questions, and he made the pints sing the answers; someone even produced a hat, which Malfoy turned into a rabbit. Malfoy performed every paltry parlour trick any Muggle could think of, and seemed perfectly at ease as he did so. Even the other questions—

“Can you cure cancer?”

“How many people does the Killing Curse kill at a time?”

“Are you lot raising a secret force of dragons so you can burn all the Nonmagicals alive in their sleep?”

—Malfoy answered earnestly, sincerely. A friendlier, more genuinely well-meaning wizard had most likely never before been seen in these parts, and all of it was a lie.

Harry didn’t speak to the Muggles. The strength of their emotions—first fear and suspicion, now melting into curiosity, amusement, interest, desire—was too intense for Harry to easily block, and the Muggles didn’t speak to him except when Malfoy did, which wasn’t often. Left to his own devices, Harry returned to what Malfoy had said in the clearing, the rumour that he was influencing people with the Gift, the idea that he might not even know that he was doing it.

Looking around him, Harry didn’t see how that could possibly be the case. The Muggles weren’t even paying him any heed. They were all focused on Malfoy, which supported Harry’s arguments until he realized he was also focused on Malfoy. If the Nonmagicals were charmed by Malfoy, it was possible that they were charmed because Harry was charmed. Harry was always charmed by Malfoy—almost hopelessly; he had been ever since that day Malfoy set free that owl in the middle of the Muggle War.

Malfoy had been much less fit, then—too thin, pale against the stark midnight sky. Harry knew what Malfoy had been like—struggling to reconcile the fact of his father’s death, his mother’s injury. Fighting for redemption by the side of those he had once called enemies, seeking out solace in the feathers and wings of things that could fly free. Malfoy had been so tightly strung, emotions pinching his face, hate and terror and the hard cold steel of hope twisting beneath every expression.

That was the true Malfoy. This Malfoy performing for the Muggles was all an act. He was playing to the crowd. Just like with Munt, there was something Malfoy wanted from them, and just like with Munt, Harry did not know what it was. The Muggles were ignorant and clueless. They didn’t know the real Malfoy at all, and yet it was they who were the recipients of his smiles, his false kindness that was so much like real consideration. They were the recipients of his attention which, after a day of sleet, death, and suspicion, felt to Harry just like the sun was pointed in the wrong direction.

So besotted by Malfoy were they that they didn’t even notice at first when Malfoy slowly began to turn the conversation towards the war. At first, Harry thought Malfoy was going to try to get them to talk about Hannah, but instead, he got them talking about the Muggle War. Harry wasn’t sure what Malfoy was up to—Hannah had been killed by Cruciatus, which meant wizards. The Muggles probably didn’t know anything about it.

Plied with drinks and entranced by Malfoy’s spells, however, some of the Muggles began to reveal feelings they might otherwise not have. They talked about what their feelings had been when the magical world was first revealed—their surprise, shock, awe. Some of the Muggles in the Godric’s Hollow area had remembered the strange events one Halloween night in 1980, and some of the similarly strange occurrences seventeen years later.

Some of the Muggles had even become convinced that they were in fact magical—or, at least, that they were meant to be. Wizards were keeping the magic from them, they said, and they had a plan to get it back. When the Muggle War started, the same Muggles who claimed that they were magical were some of the same people that became most violently opposed to wizards.

The telling of events became muddled around the time Neville would have appeared in the Godric’s Hollow area nearly four years ago. That had been towards the end of the Muggle War, and times had been hard for everyone by then. Some people remembered the controversy surrounding Neville Longbottom’s capture and subsequent death, but no one would say what had actually happened. No one claimed to know how Neville had died, and after that, the Dementors had come to Godric’s Hollow.

The people in the pub got silent after that, and would speak no more. Harry had spent the whole time just trying to figure out what Malfoy was getting at.

Malfoy turned to Harry. “I think it’s time we left, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Harry said.

They checked into an inn that night, ready to start looking into Hannah’s murder the next day. Harry knew that without his quite realizing it, the investigation had already begun.

1 year post Voldemort

Narcissa Malfoy did not die when the Muggles shot her at Malfoy Manor. There was, however, no wizard cure for the Muggle bullet that severed her spine, and so she lost the use of her legs. Though she couldn’t move around the Manor as she had in the first few months of the Muggle War, Harry still admired the way she was able to manage matters from her wizarding wheelchair.

She still ran everything behind the scenes—seeing that there was food, medical supplies, clean sheets, and clean floors, as well as periodically checking on the lines of tents—efficiently and without complaint. Furthermore, after she was wounded, Percy Weasley wasn’t nearly so officious in ordering her and Malfoy about, which allowed Narcissa to get more things done.

For the first week after Narcissa was shot, Malfoy didn’t leave her bedside. For the next week, he only left her to fetch the items the Healers, nurses, and aides requested from him. After that, he didn’t leave the side of the Healer who was helping his mother through her convalescence. Malfoy did whatever the Healer told him, including changing patients’ bed pans and giving them sponge baths.

Once Narcissa started to use her chair a bit more, Malfoy continued to help the Healers. Harry thought that at first it was probably because Malfoy wanted to be near his mum and helping was the best way to do so, but that later he kept doing it because he’d finally found a way to be useful on his own. Or else he’d just got used to it.

After a few months of helping the Healers and later Madam Pomfrey in triage, Malfoy started helping the mediwizards on the field. It was the mediwizards who Side-Alonged the wounded to Madam Pomfrey, who sent them directly to the Healers or stabilized them until Healers could help. For smaller injuries, mediwizards cast cures and remedies on the field, helping wizards return directly to battle.

Early on, Shacklebolt and Prime Minister Clancy had attempted to negotiate terms of war, in which medics would not be targeted in battle. One problem with this particular term was that Healers wore lime green on the battlefield, but Muggle doctors wore white. Muggles complained that the lime was hard to see against the muted green of the English countryside, and so many mediwizards had taken to wearing white as well. The whites were easier to clean also, for though many stains could be dispelled with a simple flick of the wand, blood was often more complicated. Wands could more easily bleach all colour than pick out the correct ones.

So it was that Malfoy took to wearing white, which made him look more like a ghost than ever. Harry saw him on the battlefield, weaving in and out between Aurors and Hit Wizards. Malfoy was not brave but he was quick, tending those who needed it and getting out before he came into the lines of fire.

Harry kept expecting something different out of Malfoy—anything, a plea for recognition for all that he was doing for the war effort, a complaint about the stain on his pristine white clothes or the cuts and bruises Harry sometimes saw on Malfoy’s arms, his face. Harry expected Malfoy to break down and cry about his mother, tell patients who were shot and got to keep their legs that it wasn’t fair, turn and Avada Kedavra the Muggles in the battlefield for everything they had done to make his life miserable—but Malfoy did none of those. He just kept working beside all the other mediwizards, doing his fair share and not complaining, his lips tighter than ever and his skin so stark that his face looked just like bone.

Meanwhile the war went on. Camellia Parkinson was proving to be not only a good Head Auror, but an excellent war general. She separated them into units, giving each unit a leader so that they could be more organized. Because of his experience in the last war, Harry was given his own unit to lead. It did not include Hermione, Ron, or Neville, who had their own units as well. Harry saw the wisdom of this, but it was also difficult. Though some of his unit were former members of the DA, others were older than he was. Harry had fought the last war with his friends.

In many ways wizards had the advantage—they could Apparate out of any sticky situation; they could move vehicles and groups of people with flicks of their wands; they could even redirect bullets and missiles. Muggles had the advantage of numbers, however, and they had them everywhere. The number of wizards had already been severely diminished in the initial attacks, and the continuing war wasn’t helping any.

It didn’t help either that the war raged on many, many fronts—in America, France, Italy, the Middle East, northern Africa, and now Russia and China. Japan, Australia, south of the Sahara, South America, and Central America held tenuous peace for now, but tensions all around the world were high.

Long-distance Apparition had never been very easy, and overseas Apparition was yet more difficult. As Camellia Parkinson had pointed out, long-distance Apparition with wounded soldiers was out of the question. Still, to maintain any sort of tenable presence against the onslaught of the Muggle armies, wizards were having to join forces with their counterparts in other countries.

More and more often, Harry’s unit Apparated to America or France or Poland. Once, they’d even gone to Syria. The constant travel and barrage of new faces made him feel even as though he was fighting a war with strangers, even if they were fellow wizards. The situation became even odder when Malfoy was assigned to his unit as a mediwizard. Then Harry truly felt like he was fighting alongside of his enemies--and against those who should be his friends, the Muggles he'd long tried to protect.

Battling the very people he had been trying to protect from Voldemort was horrible. At times Harry wondered whether Malfoy thought Harry'd been stupid for trying to save the Muggles at all. But then, watching Malfoy and wondering about his awful thoughts were the only things that felt familiar to Harry as they traipsed across the globe. Sometimes he felt like they helped keep him sane.

Wizards were Harry’s people now. The wizarding world was his world, and Malfoy Manor was beginning to feel more and more like home.

One day in late April, Harry watched as Malfoy helped Pomfrey finish up with triage. After he was done with working, Malfoy always changed his clothes and found his mother something to eat. Even on the days when there was little to be had, he gave her a full portion. Harry suspected he saved up his own portions for times like these, when food was tight. When there was soup, Malfoy made sure that it was hot; when there were apples, he made sure that hers were ripe and healthy.

When there had been daffodils in April, Malfoy had gone all the way outside the camp and across the woods to bring them to her.

Harry had been on leave at the Manor for a couple days. Despite the shortage, he had been eating well. Though he tried to give his extra portions to those who needed it more, there always seemed to be food for the Boy Who Lived, no matter how insignificant his role was in the current war. Malfoy had just cleaned up and was assembling the meal for his mother, but when he spelled open a tiny, invisible cupboard in the kitchen wall, he seemed disappointed by what he found there.

Frowning, Malfoy pulled out a handkerchief and unfolded it, revealing half a sandwich and some withered broccoli. He cast some charms that made the broccoli look fluffier and greener, then cast another spell that must have added flavour to the sandwich. The smell of herbs wafted over to where Harry stood, but Malfoy continued to frown.

“Here,” said Harry, and handed Malfoy a clementine.

Malfoy startled, obviously unaware that Harry had been lounging in the doorway, watching. Then Malfoy saw the clementine, and several emotions worked through his face—surprise, confusion, need, desire, suspicion, resentment.

“Go on and take it,” Harry said.

“I do not require charity.” Malfoy folded up the corners of the handkerchief and turned away, taking the lunch with him.

Harry put a hand on his shoulder and pulled him back. “It’s not for you. It’s for your mum. Just take it,” Harry said, and forced it into his hand.

Malfoy pursed his lips, looking at the orange as though it might bite him. “Why?” was all he asked.

“I saw it. What happened. When your mum got shot.”

Malfoy looked up at him.

Harry shoved his hands into his pockets. “I didn’t defeat the Dark Lord when I was a baby.”

“Wonders never cease.” Malfoy’s voice was cool.

“Shut it, Malfoy; I didn’t. It was my mum. She . . .” Harry swallowed. “She put herself in front of the Killing Curse, and it saved me. So really, she defeated Voldemort.”

Malfoy put the clementine in the handkerchief. “I’ll repay you,” he said, and walked away.

Harry watched him go, hands still shoved in his pockets. His mum had defeated Voldemort, but she hadn’t saved Harry’s life. Voldemort had put himself inside of Harry’s head and killed him sixteen years later in the Forbidden Forest. Harry hadn’t asked Mum to put herself in front of that Curse. She’d just done it.

He wondered whether Petunia had been thinking of him when the Muggles tied her to the stake and burned her.

Harry hadn’t asked for any of this.

5 years post Voldemort

On the night of their arrival in Ivybridge, Harry was only in his own room at the inn long enough to drop off his broom and shrunken bags before he knocked on the door between the rooms.

The door opened, and Malfoy let Harry come inside. “Shall we compare notes, then?” Malfoy said.

“I didn’t even know we were taking notes,” Harry said. “You as good as seduced an entire pub full of Nonmagicals.”

“Seduced?” Malfoy detached the satchels from his broom and began unshrinking them.

“Whatever it is you call that.”

“I call it being friendly.”

“Something was wrong with the people at that pub,” Harry said.

“Was there?” Glancing up from his unshrinking, Malfoy looked interested. “They seemed normal to me. For Nonmagicals.”

Harry shook his head. “What is it? Do you think what happened to Neville is connected to Hannah?”

“I don’t know.” Malfoy began unpacking the bags.

He knew more than he was saying, and Harry tried to work through it, all the pieces that Malfoy had given him so far. Malfoy thought there was a conspiracy in the Muggle government, that it involved the terrorists who had started the war. He thought that someone in the Muggle government—probably Tambling—had a special agenda in sending Harry and Malfoy out to investigate this particular murder. Hannah had died where Neville had, and Neville had been investigating the terrorists.

“You think Neville found something,” Harry said slowly. “All those years ago. That’s why you were asking the Nonmagicals about the war—you think Hannah died because she found out something Neville knew, and someone in the Nonmagical government doesn’t want us to find it out.”

“That’s an interesting theory,” Malfoy said, even though it had obviously been the theory he was working off all along—“but it fails to explain why anyone would specially design that you and I in particular be assigned to this case. You’re very good at what you do.”

“I’m good at capturing thugs,” Harry said. “You’re the one with brains.”

“You said it, not me,” Malfoy murmured. Finished with unpacking his other clothes, he started taking off his cloak.

“It’s all connected somehow,” Harry said. “It’s just not coming together.”

Malfoy shook out his cloak, then hung it in the closet. “What did you mean when you said the people in the pub felt wrong? Do you think they’re upset about the murder?”

Harry shook his head. “It was more pointed than that. It felt angry.”

“You were using your Gift,” Malfoy said, surprised.

“No,” Harry said. “I wasn’t using it. I can just . . . feel things. Just the general sense of emotion.”

“All the time?”

Malfoy still looked surprised, and Harry scowled. “Hermione says it’s really not all that different from reading someone’s face.”

Hermione says.”

“Yeah.” Harry frowned. “Look, just because you think I can’t control my Gift doesn’t mean I don’t—”

“I never said that.” Malfoy sat down to take off his boots, acting as though unlacing them required all of his attention. “I simply had no idea that was the way your Gift worked. It . . . sounds exhausting.”

It was exhausting. Few people besides Malfoy—one of them being Hermione—had ever realized that before. “You still felt the need to tell me about the rumour,” Harry said finally. “Even if you think I can control it, you must at least suspect—”

“No.” Malfoy put the boots to the side and stood up.

Harry couldn’t help but notice that Malfoy was still in his socks when Malfoy stalked up to him. Harry was still in his boots; Malfoy in his socks was a breath shorter than Harry.

“I told you that rumour because it’s another piece of the puzzle,” Malfoy said.

“Puzzle?” Harry said, distracted.

“Brimble was the one who told me about it.”

Brimble?” Brimble had been the one who had wanted to use Dementors against the Muggles. Shortly thereafter, the last battle of the war was fought in Godric’s Hollow, and then the Treaty of Wiltshire was signed. For some reason, after that, Brimble had sided with Munt, who had been the strongest voice of opposition to wizards during the Muggle War. Harry guessed supporting Munt was just Brimble’s way of showing his support for Muggles—he had a five-year-old Squib daughter, and a united world of wizards and Muggles was the only existence she had ever known.

“Yes,” Malfoy said.

“You believed him?”

Malfoy ignored this. “I had assumed Munt sent him. It’s no secret that Munt doesn’t like you, and I wouldn’t put it above either one of them to spread dirty lies on your behalf.”

“So you do think it’s a dirty lie.”

Malfoy ignored this as well. “Now I think it might have been Tambling who sent him,” he went on. “I’d considered that before, but it didn’t seem to make any sense. If Tambling wanted to use you, he wouldn’t want to warn you that he sees the Gift as powerful. He wouldn’t send someone to—”

“It isn’t a gift.” Harry could feel his temper building. “It’s a curse. I didn’t ask to be given a Dementor’s emotional transference; I didn’t ask to be made a freak; I didn’t ask for Voldemort to kill my mum—”

“Well, he did.” Malfoy’s voice was cold enough to lash straight through Harry’s anger.

Harry felt instantly contrite. “Malfoy—”

“You’re letting that rumour get to you.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Potter.” Malfoy’s voice was light. “I can feel you.”

Malfoy’s eyes looked just like silver drains in a porcelain sink. “What?” Harry said, not comprehending.

“I could feel you all day,” Malfoy said, his voice still gentle. “I could feel your mistrust. Your suspicion.”

“I’m not the one who’s mistrustful and suspicious. It was—”

“You’re mistrustful and suspicious of yourself. I can feel how unhappy you are.” Malfoy shook his head. “Potter, you’ve got to get it under control. You’re leaking all over the place.”

“Leaking?”

“Your Gift,” Malfoy said. “You’re projecting.”

“But you said—I thought you didn’t believe the rumour.”

“I don’t,” Malfoy said. “But something’s got you so worked up that you’re loosening your hold on it. I can’t feel everything, but it’s enough.” He went to the chair where he picked up his wand, then spelled off his socks one at a time. “Are you using Occlumency?”

Harry nodded. “The Healers told me—so other people don’t feel what I’m feeling.” Harry swallowed. “It’s always worked before.”

“Always?” At Harry’s scowl, Malfoy turned towards him. “I just mean that now you’re under stress. Abbott’s murder, the possible conspiracy, the rumour, this town—perhaps now is a time of higher emotion, and it’s harder to block.”

“So you think the rumour is true?” Harry asked.

“Stop worrying about the rumour.” Malfoy directed the boots and socks to the closet, then turned back to Harry. “What we need to do is make sure your Occlumency is working properly, then solve this case.” Malfoy considered him for a moment, expression thoughtful. Then he came forward a step, still holding his wand. “I want to try something,” he said. “Do you mind if I use Legilimency?”

“It’s still illegal,” Harry pointed out.

“Yes. Do you mind?”

“Are you going to do what you did the day before yesterday?” Harry said.

“Not quite,” Malfoy said. “It’s just a way to test your barriers.”

Despite the fact that the main threat to Harry’s barriers over the past five years had been the emotions of the people around him, they weren’t a purposeful assault. When Snape and Voldemort had invaded Harry’s brain it had been intentional; the memories of it were sharper and more violent than the general populace with their accidental outpourings of emotion.

“It will not hurt,” Malfoy said, and Harry hadn’t realized that he was hesitating.

Harry steeled himself up. “Sure.”

“Relax.” Before Harry could do anything, Malfoy was pointing his wand, saying, “Legilimens.”

Harry had braced himself for the attack, and yet it didn’t come. Instead he felt as though the smooth, high wall around Malfoy had melted in the middle, a warm caving in just like chocolate turned to liquid. A steady stream came from it, coloured gold, and Harry was so surprised that he allowed it to come in.

He saw himself in third year, smiling at someone in the distance. He saw himself speaking at one of the trials—a little bigger for some reason, taller, his eyes greener than they actually were and his hair crazier. Then Harry was walking through an orchard he didn’t recognize, the sun bright and hard in a clear blue sky, and oranges hung like tiny suns amongst the green, green leaves. The smell of citrus filled the air, and Harry breathed in so deeply through his nose that he had to open his mouth to exhale.

The series of images came like a gentle tapping, inquisitive but not invasive, less like a sound and more like a feeling. It came in deeper and deeper, showing itself in flashes. Harry wanted to clasp it, hold it still, pin it down and see beneath the warm flow of it, but it was elusive—like a laugh, something that could not be held.

At last the friendly tapping reached a wall, something tight Harry had erected to protect him from invasion, something to keep himself himself, instead of turning into the things that Voldemort and the Dementor and all the other people had made him. Against the kindness of that gentle feeling, the wall crumbled into nothing, and suddenly there was far too much—Voldemort and rage, Sirius falling through the Veil. There was Mother and Molly and Petunia, and all of it sucked back into nothing, into coldness, into dark when the Dementor came with its gaping hole of a mouth and—

“Harry,” someone said, and Harry was falling.

The air caught him, and then the air was moving him, folding him into a chair, and Harry didn’t know what was happening until he saw Malfoy standing with his wand. His hair was all askew and Malfoy was pointing the wand at Harry, helping Harry to sit down and steady himself with the power of his magic. Then Malfoy was there and his hand ghosted over Harry’s hair, so light Harry barely felt it. Malfoy touched Harry’s scar next; his hand was very cold, and then it went away.

“Here,” Malfoy said, after a moment, and thrust a cool glass into Harry’s hand.

Malfoy must have Summoned it, and Harry drank the water. It tasted faintly of sage, but when he looked at it, it was perfectly clear. He looked up to find Malfoy standing a couple feet away.

“Your Occlumency needs work,” was all that Malfoy said. He wasn’t looking at Harry. “Your barriers fell apart like paper.”

“But that’s because—” Harry began, then put down the water. “You snuck in.”

“I didn’t sneak in.” Malfoy turned to face him. “I knocked.”

“But . . .” Harry remembered that tingling feeling, the surge of warmth and gold. “You were nice,” he said at last, putting his finger on the difference.

“Nice?” Malfoy looked at him strangely. “Potter . . . who taught you Occlumency?”

“Snape.”

Snape?” Malfoy looked shocked.

Harry nodded. “It was in my fifth year. Voldemort was trying to get in my brain, so he . . .” Trailing off, Harry shrugged. “It didn’t go very well.”

“I should imagine not.” Malfoy sounded odd. “Snape hated you.”

Harry shrugged again. “He was trying to help. In his own special way.”

“Show me.”

“What?”

Malfoy once again looked normal, perfectly calm. “Show me the way Snape taught you Occlumency.”

“Er.” Harry rubbed his scar. “Do I really need to?” he said, after a while. “There’s not—you know, pretty skies and orchards.”

“Excuse me?” Malfoy’s voice sounded severe.

Harry shook his head, ridding himself of the image. “I just mean—there wasn’t any knocking.”

Malfoy looked at him for a long moment. “Show me anyway.”

“Okay.” Standing up, Harry took out his wand. Then without warning, he pointed it at Malfoy’s head. “Legilimens!”

Harry expected to feel as though he had been thrown up against a wall. That was what he had always imagined Malfoy’s barriers to be—a smooth, white high wall. It wasn’t made of the kind of stone that must be stacked upon itself, but rather of something solid and of a piece—perhaps a little more like ice. The wall was thick, unscalable, cool to the touch and perfectly opaque.

Instead of the wall, there was nothing. There was absolutely nothing—just a blank cloud. As Harry moved his thoughts inside of it, it resolved into something a little more substantial—a grey mist, the exact colour of Malfoy’s eyes. Though he moved around in it, he could feel nothing, see nothing. He thought that he could smell oranges, and yet inside of Malfoy’s mind, he could not use his nose. It was simply the memory of scent, the thought of it. Harry fought to move towards it, thoughts stretched out, remembering the way that Snape had moved inside of his mind until he found something to hold onto.

On the other side of the mist there was something warm. Something tangible and colourful, something living and breathing and—

Harry felt himself forcefully pushed out, and Malfoy was kneeling on the floor.

“Malfoy,” Harry said, and moved towards him.

“Do not touch me.” Malfoy stretched out an arm. “I am all right.” Slowly, he stood up. “That was what Snape did to you,” he said, less of a question and more of a statement of fact.

“Yeah,” Harry said. “But he got further. I wasn’t really that great at Occlumency.”

“You don’t say,” Malfoy murmured.

“Hey,” Harry said, frowning. “I’m trying really hard, okay?”

“I’m aware of that, Potter.” Malfoy’s head tipped down, his hand at his temple. “You try hard at everything.”

“Hey,” Harry said again, tone completely changed. He moved closer to Malfoy, hand extended once again. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

Malfoy moved away. “No.”

“You lie a lot,” Harry said, dropping his hand.

Malfoy gave a soft laugh. “Are you surprised?”

“No. You always were a liar.”

Malfoy simply smiled. “I told you I haven’t changed.”

Malfoy’s shoulders were a sharp, narrow line. In that moment he looked so completely closed from everyone and everything, even despite his smile. It made Harry want to shake him, to tell Malfoy that he was not alone, that he didn’t have to do everything by himself. Harry had seen Malfoy closing up during the Muggle War—seen him don a mask, shutting himself away from everyone and everything except his mother.

Harry had been there and he’d felt it. He knew what holding everything inside felt like; he had to, because of the Gift. If Malfoy would only open up a little—Harry knew that Malfoy could do it. He’d felt it during that kiss. He’d felt Malfoy open to him, respond to him; Malfoy had wanted him—

And Harry wanted Malfoy. He wanted to break open that hard, cold exterior and touch him, just touch him—sometimes he wanted Malfoy so badly that it was hard to breathe.

“Harry,” Malfoy said, his voice very soft. “Focus your Occlumency. Please.”

Harry blinked, then realized the feelings he must have been projecting. He slammed down every wall around his feelings that he could find, unconsciously backing away. “Malfoy,” he said roughly.

“It’s all right,” Malfoy murmured.

“I didn’t mean to.”

“I know it.”

“You don’t—” Harry shut his mouth, then shook his head. “I know you don’t. I’m sorry.”

“I do care about you.” Malfoy’s voice sounded odd again. “I care for you very much.”

“But not in that way.” Harry wildly hoped that he was wrong, that somehow this time would be different from all the other times he had asked and not got what he wanted.

“Not in that way.” Malfoy’s voice still sounded strange.

“We’re on a case,” Harry said. “It won’t happen again.”

“It’s all right,” Malfoy said again. “I think the foundations of your Occlumency might be . . . flawed. I think I can help you.”

Harry shook his head. “You shouldn’t have to help me. You shouldn’t—”

“Harry.” Malfoy’s voice was so serene. “At least allow me to try.”

Harry looked up at him, and Malfoy was that same smooth well of calm that he always was. The Gift had become such a part of Harry that Harry had never considered that he wouldn’t go through life feeling the brush of other people’s emotions, that he might not have to shut himself away to block them. He’d become so used to it. “Okay,” Harry said finally, because it was Malfoy. “What do you want me to do?”

“Get a good night’s sleep,” Malfoy said. “I know for a fact that having someone else in your mind can be exhausting. I wouldn’t want to do it too often. Tomorrow night, let’s try again.”

Harry said okay.

1 year post Voldemort

On June 23, 1999, the Muggles destroyed Apparition. Though the wizarding world limped along until their surrender at the end of October, wizards would later admit that this loss was the real end of the Muggle War. Muggle Defence Secretary Miriam Munt claimed credit, saying that through an unprecedented leap in Muggle science, they had been able to claim the largest victory yet against wizardkind. Muggle Home Secretary Cyril Tambling issued a statement saying that he regretted removing power inherent to an entire race of people, but that it needed to be done. Meanwhile Prime Minister Clancy endorsed Munt’s claim, saying that no advancement was regrettable in the face of wizard terror.

At the time, no one knew how the Muggles did it. Years later it was still unclear to Harry. He just knew that one moment he was in the midst of battle, Apparating and Disapparating in order to weave in and out of the action, and the next moment he could not Apparate at all.

He had just cast an Incarcerous at a Muggle soldier, when he saw another Muggle pointing his gun out of the corner of his eye. Harry prepared to Apparate—and couldn’t. He turned to run, and saw far too many wizards on the field. They should have been Disapparating, but they were all standing there, caught, just like him.

Harry didn’t feel the bullet going in. Instead it felt as though something hard crashed into his hip—another body, a metal cart, a Muggle car, perhaps. Then he was falling, and the world seemed very strange from that perspective—wizards above him fighting, dying, and yet the sky was still so blue.

June, Harry thought. He just had the summer to get through, and then it would be autumn. He could go back to Hogwarts. Harry closed his eyes.

Enervate.

The spell washed over him, and someone slapped him.

“Wake up,” the voice said again, and Harry opened his eyes. “Press here.” Someone roughly grabbed his hand and put it on his side. At least Harry thought it was his side. He couldn’t feel anything below his chest. “Keep it there.”

Grey eyes hovered above him. Harry knew them, but he couldn’t place them. Then he saw the tight, frowning mouth. “Malfoy?”

Pressio,” Malfoy said, the spell keeping Harry’s hand firm against his side. It felt wet.

Pain blossomed in Harry’s hip.

“Don’t move,” said Malfoy. “Wingardium Leviosa.”

Harry felt his body lifting. For a moment he saw the battlefield, and it looked really different. Instead of wizards popping in and out, there were wizards everywhere, running away. Away, away, away, robes streaming, and the Muggle guns and explosions were tearing them to pieces. Then the agony spread from Harry’s hip down through his legs, and he thrashed.

“Don’t move,” Malfoy said again.

“Malfoy,” Harry said, and then his body began to floating along as Malfoy walked by his side.

“It will hurt less if you remain still.” Malfoy’s voice was right by his ear.

“What are you doing to me?”

“Don’t talk,” Malfoy said, and they began moving faster.

The battlefield rushed by in a blur of brown and red—sprays of mud flying through the air, the edge of a witch’s robe rushing past, the smoke from an explosion, and fire, so much fire. The acrid smell of the Killing Curse made it hard to breathe the air.

“I’m going to throw up,” Harry said.

“Turn your head,” said Malfoy, and Harry just kept floating.

He turned his head and threw up over his side, onto the ground. He thought some of it might have got on Malfoy. He hoped some of it had got on Malfoy.

“All right,” said Malfoy, and then said a spell to clean up Harry’s face and mouth. A rough hand covered his, pushing against his hip. “Don’t stop pressing.”

“What are you doing?” Harry said. “Where are we going?”

“Away.”

“Why can’t—”

“Get down.” Then Malfoy was yanking on him, dropping the levitation spell, pulling him to the ground. He was on top of Harry; a large explosion sounded, too close, and dirt rained all around them. “Let me see,” Malfoy said, after it was over, and pulled Harry’s hand from his hip. He went three shades paler then, the dirt on his face standing out starkly against his skin. “I’ve got to—” Malfoy tried to pull away, but Harry gripped his wrist.

“What—”

“I’ve got to get us brooms,” Malfoy said.

“I don’t think I can fly.”

“You’ll manage.”

“But why—”

“You’re not going to die,” Malfoy said harshly. “You’re the Boy Who Lived.”

Somehow Malfoy got a broom and manoeuvred Harry onto it. Malfoy got on behind him, locking firm arms tight around Harry’s midsection. This time there was no Fiendfyre. There was no Horcrux and no Voldemort; there were only smoke and Muggles, and wizards falling left and right. Malfoy tilted the broom up, and they lifted into the air.

What followed was mostly a blur to Harry. He saw the battlefield getting smaller, the wizards on the ground still running, wizards in the sky around them falling. For a while the sound of Muggle gunfire followed them as they flew through smoke and through the whirring of fighter planes, but then it cleared. They were out of the fray, over Muggle countryside, and Harry’s eyes slipped closed.

When he opened them again, the sky was full of stars. “Drink,” a voice said.

“Malfoy.”

“You need fluids,” Malfoy said. “Drink.” His face was pale in the starlight, streaked with dirt and blood.

“You look terrible,” Harry said. “Where are we?” He struggled to sit up.

“Don’t move.”

“I don’t know this place.” They were surrounded by hills and farmland. In the distance there were Muggle roads, but this late at night there were few cars.

“We’re not far from the Manor,” Malfoy said.

“Why don’t we just Apparate?”

Malfoy shook his head. “They’ll be coming soon. I’ve sent a Patronus. Drink this.” He held a bottle to Harry’s lips.

Harry looked up at him. Malfoy’s white robes were ripped and tattered, covered in blood and ash. “You haven’t drunk anything.”

“How would you know?” Malfoy said, his tone icy. “You’ve been insensate for hours.”

“Maybe a little.” Harry drank from the bottle that Malfoy offered him. He had no idea where Malfoy had got it from.

“They’ve done something. Blocked Apparition somehow.” Malfoy ripped the hem of his white tunic with his wand. “Someone will come for us soon.”

“What are you doing?”

“Changing your dressing.” Malfoy laid the fabric on the grass, then aimed his wand at Harry’s hip. That was where the bullet had gone in, Harry supposed.

“Pray don’t be dramatic about this,” Malfoy said, then began to unweave the spells on the makeshift field dressing.

Harry promptly fainted.

The next time the Harry opened his eyes they were high above a Muggle town. It was past noon, and Malfoy’s arms were once again wrapped firmly around his torso. The sensation of Malfoy’s chest pressed against his back was strangely reassuring—warm when the rest of him was cold. Maybe it was the altitude. Maybe it was lack of food; it had to have been almost twenty hours since he had been shot. Maybe it was lack of blood . . .

Harry didn’t remember arriving at the Manor. He didn’t remember them taking him off the room, putting him into the bed. He heard people talking, though only in bits and pieces.

“. . . flew two days straight.”

Malfoy?” That was Ron’s voice.

There was some mumbled reply. “. . . didn’t eat, didn’t sleep. Kept the poor bugger alive with . . .”

“. . . field dressing,” said another voice.

Harry moaned.

“Harry?” That was Hermione’s voice.

“What . . .?” Harry’s mouth felt dry, cracking at the corners of his mouth. Opening his eyes was painful, so he closed them again.

“Here,” said Hermione. Something metal shoved in his mouth and warmth poured in—a spoon, Harry realized. It was broth.

He swallowed. “What?” he said again.

“We were so worried,” Hermione said, feeding him another spoonful of broth. “The Muggles found a way to block Apparition. We don’t know how.” Another spoonful. “It’s happened everywhere. All across the world. It’s some kind of . . .” Another spoonful, a sigh. “I don’t know. We—Arthur and I—we think they’ve been able to determine the molecular structure of magic, that they’re working to destroy it.”

Harry swallowed another spoonful. “Was I . . .?” he began, too tired to finish the question.

Seeming to understand, Hermione offered him the spoon again. “You were shot. Malfoy dressed it, but he’s not a Healer. He flew you back. You would have died, Harry.”

Harry tried to open his eyes again. The light stung, a bright stab in the centre that grew around the fuzzy edges. Hermione was a warm, soft brown glow made of indefinite lines. “Why?” he asked.

“The bullet went clean through,” Hermione said. “It didn’t hit any major organs, but it would have—”

“No.” Harry tried to lick his lips. “Why did he . . . Malfoy . . .”

“Oh.” Hermione hedged, playing with the threads on his pillow. “Haven’t you seen him looking at you?”

Harry hadn’t seen Malfoy looking at him at all.

“It’s not his fault. He was just so relieved you stopped it last time.” Harry couldn’t really make out her features, but he knew that Hermione looked sad. She always deflated, sounding just like a puddle of chocolate whenever she was full of pity. “Oh, Harry. Malfoy thinks you’re going to win the war.”

“Oh.” Harry closed his eyes. “Tell him I’m not.”

He went back to sleep. When he woke it was to the feeling of another presence in the room, but when he looked, Hermione was gone and there was no one else there. The light didn’t hurt his eyes any more, and he could feel his legs. It must have been late at night, for the room was dark and only a single lamp was lit. The room smelled faintly of sage.

On the table beside the bed there sat a single clementine.

5 years post Voldemort

On the morning of their first day in Ivybridge, Harry and Malfoy walked to the local police building, which was only several streets from their inn. People stared at them as they passed by, and Harry tried to ignore them. They were most likely staring for the same reason the people in the pub the night before had stared—Mage and Healer uniforms stood out, and this was a Muggle town.

The feeling didn’t change once they arrived at the station. Harry could feel the tension as soon as they set foot inside, and people stopped to stare at them. Acting as though nothing out of the ordinary were happening, Malfoy stepped up to the desk and asked to speak to Robert Kelley.

According to Camellia, Kelley was a detective from Plymouth. He’d been in charge of the investigation so far, and he was their main Nonmagical contact for the case. Harry and Malfoy were meant to meet with the police and learn all they could before continuing with their own investigation.

Kelley, however, was not there to meet them. Instead the receptionist turned them over to Sergeant Meena Narang, the officer in charge of the Ivybridge area. Narang was tall and dark-eyed, her hair arranged in a no-nonsense ponytail. She didn’t look happy to see them. Harry could feel the suspicion pouring from her like steam from a freight engine.

Ordinarily, Harry might have used this information to try to put the Muggle at ease. While Harry wasn’t the best conversationalist, he was honest and forthright. People often found him trustworthy, looking for him to lead even when he hadn’t particularly intended to take control. The effect was such that when Harry really wanted to, he could usually make people trust him.

This had been the case even before the Dementor’s Kiss, and yet now Harry couldn’t help but wonder whether he was sensing Narang’s displeasure due to his enhanced empathic senses. If he did try to ingratiate himself with Narang—tried to show her that he was worthy of her trust—Harry didn’t know if he would be using his Gift or not. He had no way of knowing, even if he was trying not to use it. Malfoy had pointed out that it was possible Harry could be using it unconsciously. If he was, Muggles like Narang had a right to be suspicious.

Harry shouldn’t have worried about it. He’d forgotten he was with Malfoy.

“So they send in the magicians,” Narang said. She had her arms crossed over her chest and a sceptical brow raised. “That’s just wonderful.”

“Aren’t we, though?” Malfoy’s smile showed teeth. Harry looked at him in surprise, but Malfoy went on, “I’m Healer Mage Draco Malfoy, and this is my colleague, Mage Harry Potter.”

“You two wunderkind are just going to clean it all up; is that right? Tell me,” Narang said, leaning her hip against the edge of her desk, “why don’t you just cast your Abracadabra and undo all the shit you bring?”

“Abracadabra is a very messy spell.” Malfoy’s voice was placid. “It involves animal sacrifice, the blood of a virgin, the eyes of an infant—you get the idea.”

Very slowly, Narang blinked. Then her lips pursed, unamused. “Uh-huh,” she said out of the side of her mouth. “’Cause the blood and eyes and livers of a bunch of Hocusy Pocusies would be too convenient.”

“Also, raising the dead.” Malfoy shook his head. “Never ends well.”

“Some zombie apocalypses end well,” Harry said. “For the zombies.” Harry had expected Malfoy to once again lay on the charm, but that wasn’t what Malfoy was doing this time. Even though Harry wasn’t quite sure what Malfoy was actually trying to do, he knew Malfoy well enough to know that Malfoy was once again playing a part—and what Malfoy had said in the clearing was true. Harry was apparently very good at following Malfoy’s lead.

Harry would have done anything that Malfoy told him to, and a part of Harry was wondering whether there was something intrinsically wrong about that.

“So.” Narang swung her sceptical gaze onto Harry, still talking out of the side of her mouth. “This one talks.”

“Only in short bursts,” Malfoy said apologetically. “Ordinarily he’s being possessed by demons and speaking in tongues. I’m sure you Nonmagicals with your modern equipment understand.”

Narang’s brow went up again. It was very expressive. “Our modern equipment?”

“Oh yes,” said Malfoy. “I’ve heard all about it from the small men in the boxes. You have radars and sensors and sonar and toothbrushes; it’s all very exciting.”

“You’re taking the piss,” said Narang.

Malfoy smiled sweetly. “Whatever makes you say that?”

“He takes the piss out of everyone,” Harry said.

“Uh-huh.” Harry was beginning to think ‘uh-huh’ from Sergeant Narang meant something close to ‘fuck off’. Her brow turned on Harry once again. “And you don’t take the piss; is that it?”

“Demons never piss at all,” Harry said, very innocently.

Narang gave them both such a long, sarcastic stare that Harry shifted uncomfortably. He felt as though there were a lot of very strident curse words under that stare, and the fact that she wasn’t saying any of them was almost worse. And yet, despite Narang’s flat expression, Harry could detect a slight, gradual shift in Narang’s emotions. Though she was still mistrustful, she seemed a little less dismissive. She was certainly more amused than she was letting on, and Harry wondered how Malfoy had known.

Malfoy just stood there, easy as you please.

At last Narang pushed herself off the desk, turning around to take something off of it. “Kelley said he’ll meet you at the morgue,” she said, holding out a slim folder. “Good luck with that.”

Malfoy opened the folder. From what Harry could see over Malfoy’s shoulder, it contained the case file on Hannah Abbott—where she had been found, interviews with the people who had seen the body, pictures.

Narang was watching them read the file. “They said a curse killed her,” she said, after a long moment. Harry could feel the sour swing of emotion that came with her words. “I suppose at least you’re back to killing your own kind.”

“That’s not true,” Malfoy said. “We still kill fairies and unicorns and rainbows for sport.”

Narang glanced at Harry. “He always like this?”

“Not really,” Harry said. “Usually he’s quite sweet, really. It’s only when one of our colleagues dies that he gets slightly sarcastic.”

“Huh.” Narang’s face was blank, but the aggression that had been in her emotions was slowly twisting. “I suppose it’s your business now, innit? Doesn’t matter to me. You Magicals can just go magic yourself to death, for all I care.”

“I’ll be really sarcastic then,” Malfoy said earnestly.

“Go on,” Narang said, her emotions still twisting. “Get.”

“How did you know?” Harry asked, once they had left the station and were on their way to get their brooms to fly to the city morgue in Plymouth. Hannah’s body had been found in a field. It had been brought to Ivybridge first, then transported to Plymouth when it was determined that she was a witch who had been killed by magic.

“Know what?” Malfoy asked.

“The way to get on Sergeant Narang’s good side.”

“If that’s her good side,” Malfoy said, “I don’t want to know her bad side.”

Harry wondered a little bit at Malfoy’s phrasing. Narang had seemed like a very beautiful woman—but of course, Malfoy would never be interested in a Muggle, and never such a hostile one at that. Still, Malfoy had rejected Harry once again the night before, and yet Harry had never once seen Malfoy be interested in a woman.

Malfoy had really rejected him for good last night. There had been no misinterpreting Malfoy’s words—I care about you very much, but not in that way. Realizing what he was thinking about, Harry once again checked his emotional shields, trying to focus his Occlumency.

“I just meant that you’re usually charming,” Harry said.

“Why, thank you, Potter.”

“Don’t be a git. You know what I mean.”

“Do I?” Malfoy smirked. “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Stop it,” Harry said, because when Malfoy flirted, it was bad enough, but when Malfoy flirted with him, it made him want to grab Malfoy, and Malfoy had made it perfectly clear he didn’t want to be touched.

“I’m not doing anything,” Malfoy said innocently. He was still smirking.

“Yes, you are.”

Malfoy immediately stopped.

Harry swallowed a groan, realizing that he was a terrible person, way too self-involved, and Malfoy could by playful with whomever he pleased. Even Harry. “What I meant to say,” Harry said, trying to make his voice even, “is that at the pub you tried to convince everyone you were their best friend, but the sergeant, you just . . .”

“Took the piss?” Malfoy lifted his shoulder in an elegant shrug. “It just seemed as though it would be more effective.” Malfoy gave him a sidelong glance. “Didn’t she seem like a no-nonsense sort of lady?”

“So you give her nothing but nonsense?”

Malfoy shrugged again. “You’re the one with the empathic powers.”

Harry bit back his reply. He knew that Malfoy hadn’t implied that he should have manipulated the sergeant, but it felt that way. He wondered if in a way, he’d been manipulating her after all. He’d been able to sense the slight change in her emotion, and he’d gone along with Malfoy so that they could keep on changing it—

“Stop thinking about the rumour, Potter.”

“I’m not thinking about the rumour.”

“Liar.”

“Takes one to know one.”

“Very clever, Potter,” Malfoy said, but he was smiling. “Very adult.”

They went on walking to the inn to get their brooms. Nonmagicals didn’t seem to much like seeing wizards walk about with brooms, and shrinking wasn’t good for the bristles, so Mages didn’t usually bring their brooms everywhere. Harry lived in London, where people were a little more used to seeing wizards, so leaving his broom behind felt odd.

“You just seem to know what makes people tick,” Harry said finally. “I am the one with the empathic powers, but you’re the one that knows how people really operate. I’m just not sure how you do it.”

Malfoy gave him a brief, inscrutable look. “Observation.”

“You observe a lot.”

Malfoy looked away. He didn’t speak for long enough that Harry thought he wasn’t going to. When Malfoy did speak, what he said was entirely unexpected. “I have a tendency to follow blindly,” he said at last. “It’s a trait my father possessed. I have no desire to repeat his mistakes.”

Harry gazed at him in disbelief. “You honestly think you could behave the way your father did?”

Malfoy gave him another inscrutable look. “Yes,” he said briefly, and then looked away again.

“Malfoy.” Harry grabbed Malfoy’s elbow, stopping in the middle of the footpath. Malfoy neatly stepped away. “You’re nothing like your father,” Harry said.

“On the contrary, Potter. I’m exactly like him.”

Even in appearance, Malfoy favoured Narcissa rather than Lucius. Malfoy was perhaps as tall as Lucius had been, but not nearly as broad. His shoulders were narrow, his wrists delicate, his lips long and thin, just as Narcissa’s had been. But even had Malfoy looked exactly like Lucius, he acted nothing like his father. He had chosen to become a Healer. He helped people; he’d fought on the right side of the Muggle War; he was smart and insightful and passionate. He was nothing like Lucius.

“It’s manipulation, Potter,” Malfoy said, beginning to walk again. “I can look at someone and know exactly what he or she wants. With someone like Narang, I can play it to my advantage. Give it several days. By the end of this investigation, she’ll be our greatest ally.”

Harry hurried to catch up, not quite certain what Malfoy meant. Malfoy had also suggested that Harry manipulated people, but in an entirely different way. It was even possible that Harry had been the cause of Narang’s slight change in emotional response at the end of their meeting—he might have caused her curiosity, rather than Malfoy. It was also possible that Harry’s own investment in Malfoy made other people respond to him differently.

It was even possible that Malfoy knew that, and was using it to his own advantage.

Shaking his head, Harry walked more quickly. Malfoy’s words were messing with his mind. The Malfoy he knew would not use people in that way. Malfoy had become just, honest, and good. He no longer used people to his own advantage, as Lucius Malfoy had done. The more Harry thought about it, however, the more he wondered whether he thought that way because Malfoy wanted him to.

After all, the Gift worked both ways.

Plymouth was a larger town than Ivybridge, and there were not as many people in the streets that stopped to stare. The hospital, however, felt just as heavy with suspicion as the police station. The orderlies and nurses stared at them, and Harry felt sure than at least one of them made the sign of the cross.

Robert Kelley, the detective Camellia had assigned them to meet, found them outside of the mortuary.

“They’re just scared,” Kelley said, waving at one of the clerks hurrying by.

Kelley was a slim, good-looking man wearing plain clothes. His face was intense and narrow, like a fox, and his eyes were bright brown and intelligent. The emotions emanating him were relaxed and friendly, though they held an undercurrent that differed slightly from his easy expression. The undercurrent reminded Harry of Kingsley’s emotions, or Tambling—layered, somewhat difficult to decipher. Kelley was not completely unafraid of them, though he hid it well.

Harry supposed that was what he would do too, if he was a Muggle suddenly thrown into a world in which magic and dragons and wands existed. Acting like he could handle it was what Harry had been doing ever since that day Hagrid showed up on Vernon’s tiny rock of an island.

“We’re glad you’re here, even if we don’t act like it,” Kelley was saying as he led them into the morgue. “I don’t think the Devon police are really equipped to deal with it as-is.”

“Sergeant Narang seemed glad to hand it off,” Malfoy said drily. He’d taken to Kelley the moment they’d introduced themselves. Malfoy seemed to get along with whomever he wanted to.

“Narang?” Kelley glanced at them sharply. Then he rolled his eyes. “Christ. I’m sorry you had to deal with that old battleaxe.”

Malfoy raised a brow. “She didn’t seem that old.”

Kelley grunted. “That woman doesn’t trust anyone. Everyone’s always out of line with her. Pay her no mind.”

“We paid her as little as we could,” Malfoy said.

Kelley glanced at him again. “Good. I’m just sorry it happened in her sector.”

“I’ve heard a lot of exciting things happen in her sector.” Malfoy’s tone was neutral, giving nothing away. He didn’t mention that Godric’s Hollow had to fall within Sergeant Narang’s jurisdiction.

“And it’s a bloody shame.”

“Oh?” Malfoy said politely.

Kelley’s lips flattened. “The woman’s never liked wizards.”

“Tell me about it,” Malfoy murmured.

“Doesn’t like ‘em. Doesn’t want ‘em around. When we first found out they existed, she lit out on ‘em like a harridan.”

“She led witch hunts?” Malfoy said, still neutral, as though a witch hunt were something very much like a walk along a stream.

Kelley back-tracked. “I wouldn’t go that far. But there were those who wanted to meet them, learn about them. Sergeant Narang was having none of it. You ask me, she’s the reason there are so many strange things in her district—she didn’t like that Mage Abbott or Mage Dumbledore any more than she’s liked any of them.”

“You knew Mage Abbott and Mage Dumbledore?” Malfoy asked. He really did sound as though he was enquiring after a polite acquaintance.

“Nooo.” Kelley back-tracked again, scribbling something on a form at the nearby desk. “Come on. This way. I just heard the Mages were trying to rebuild that town—you know the one, where the battle was—”

“I believe I’ve heard of it,” Malfoy murmured. “Did you know either of the Mages?”

“What?” Kelley said. “No. Nothing like that. I just heard Sergeant Narang didn’t like the Mages’ meddling. That was all.”

“You believe Sergeant Narang had something to do with Mage Abbott’s death?”

Kelley began to look uncomfortable. “No, no, nothing like that. We got it straight from MI13 that Mage Abbott was killed by wizards.” He glanced at Harry, then back at Malfoy. “Does your partner ever talk?”

“No,” Harry said. “I’m the sidekick. Mage Malfoy just likes to ask a lot of questions.”

“You understand, of course,” Malfoy said, smiling.

Kelley frowned. “Of course.”

“You said that Sergeant Narang was against the rebuilding of Godric’s Hollow,” Malfoy went on. “Did anyone in the greater Plymouth area support it?”

Kelley nodded. “Yes. Definitely. Myself, for one. Everyone knows I’m a big supporter of wizards.”

“How very enlightened of you.” Malfoy’s voice still that polite murmur. “Have you ever heard of anyone supporting wizards so much that they’ve expressed a longing to be one?”

Harry felt a cold snap of fear lash out from Kelley, and then it was gone.

“That’s a weird question,” Kelley said. “Nonmagicals can’t be wizards.”

“Mage Malfoy loves weird questions,” Harry said, in his nicest way.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that,” Kelley said. “Maybe it’s something those magic-fan cults do in London? We’re in here.” He pushed open a metal door, and they entered the room beyond.

Inside, Hannah Abbott lay naked on a metal table, and a woman sat in the corner looking at a computer. Kelley introduced her as the coroner. Harry could feel her fear and suspicion as they shook her hand, but she showed them the box where they had put Hannah’s clothes and anything else that had been found with the body. There was precious little—a pocketwatch, some Muggle money. There was no wand.

“We’ll leave you to it,” Kelley said, leaving with the coroner so the Mages could examine the body.

Hannah didn’t really look like Hannah anymore, her body naked, bruised, and twisted. Her dead face was a rictus of pain, and she was still dirty—sticks twisted in her hair.

“Harry,” Malfoy said, when Kelley had gone.

“She’s still wearing her ring,” Harry said.

“Harry.” Malfoy reached out.

Harry didn’t know whether Malfoy was going to touch him. He stepped away anyway, going around to the other side of the body. Here in the morgue it was more peaceful than in the hospital proper. Malfoy’s feelings were never an intrusion, usually a solid, blank wall of calm—though now that Harry thought about it, he could feel from Malfoy a melting wave of pity. Erecting a barrier against it was easy.

There was nothing to block from Hannah.

“I can run the external diagnostic,” Harry said, taking out his wand. “You run the internal.”

“Yes,” Malfoy said, and took out his wand as well.

After about twenty minutes, Harry had run all the tests on the body that he knew. Malfoy, being a Healer, knew several more. “It was definitely Cruciatus,” Malfoy said at last. “There’s residual magic.”

“Not enough to tell whose it is.” Harry had got the same result. Her heart had given out; Hannah Abbott had literally died of pain.

“There’s something strange about it,” Malfoy said. “It doesn’t originate from one point.”

“What do you mean?”

“The curse should make contact in one place and radiate outward,” Malfoy said. “The residual magic should be strongest in the spot where the wand was pointed, but for her it’s . . . everywhere.”

“Cruciatus doesn’t feel like it originates in one place,” Harry pointed out.

“No.”

Harry thought about it. “I guess when you cast it, you do aim it.”

“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never cast it.” Malfoy ducked his head to examine something on the body. “Successfully.”

“Malfoy,” Harry said, his voice rough. He walked around the body again, towards Malfoy.

Malfoy pointed his wand at Hannah’s hand and said a spell. When Harry moved closer, reaching for him, Malfoy put something into his hand instead. “You should give it to her parents,” was all he said.

It was Neville’s ring.

1 year post Voldemort

Many witches and wizard died the day the Muggles destroyed Apparition. Wizards hadn’t been aware they wouldn’t be able to escape, and many had been in very difficult situations when they finally found out. Malfoy had saved Harry, but many others were not so lucky. Three hundred witches and wizards died on that battlefield alone, among them Molly Weasley.

In the days following that fatal battle, the wizarding world realized just how much the Muggles had taken from them. Not only was Apparition now impossible, but Portkeys and Floos were also useless. Wizards could still Accio and visibly move things, but they could not Summon objects out of thin air. Anything that had allowed wizards or any other objects to disappear in one location and appear in another no longer worked. It was as though the Muggles had discovered the mechanism by which wizards folded space and time and obliterated it with one of their Muggle guns.

For months after the Muggles made materialization impossible, witches and wizards across the globe tried to restore it. When the solution could not quickly be found, the wizarding world began to think of ways to retaliate. Without Apparition, witches and wizards could not easily escape losing battles. They could still redirect vehicles and weapons and cast hexes and curses with wands, but as the months wore on, the Muggles’ superior numbers began to take their toll on wizarding kind.

Something bigger, more extreme than what the wizards had at their immediate disposal was needed to counteract the Muggles and their weapons. Though the veils were no longer falling, more and more Muggles were stumbling through them, as the Muggles in March had stumbled across Malfoy Manor when they shot Narcissa. Muggles were beginning to notice places in cities and on the countryside that they had never noticed before, now that they knew what to look for. At the very least, the wizarding world needed a way to drive Muggles away from the veils.

“Absolutely not,” said Hermione. “Are you crazy? Dragons would be better.”

“Dragons can’t be controlled,” said Horace Brimble. He was Camellia Parkinson’s second in command. The Head Auror had been wounded in battle and was in critical condition, which was why they were holding council in the Malfoy’s parlour. It was one of the smaller rooms serving as a hospital ward, but half of the remaining Ministry had piled into it.

Hermione put her hands on her hips. “And how do you plan to control them?”

He controlled them,” Brimble said.

“Voldemort,” Hermione said. “Why don’t you say it? Voldemort controlled them.”

“What does it matter who it was?” Brimble was a small man with small eyes and a small moustache. Sometimes it was hard to believe he was an Auror. “He proved they could be controlled.”

“You call that control?” said Hermione.

“Hermione’s right,” Ron said. “Voldemort didn’t control the Dementors. It was more like he sort of . . . aimed them.” Though Ron had grieved upon his mother’s death, that grief had seemed to make him stronger, more grounded. These days it was more often Hermione who spoke in anger, and Ron who bolstered her with reason and courage.

Horace is right,” someone else said. “If we used Dementors, at least we would have something to aim!”

A bunch of people started talking, silenced after a moment by Kingsley’s booming voice. “How is the research, Arthur?”

“Research?” Arthur Weasley said. “On Dementors? I haven’t been—oh, you mean Apparating. There’s a Muggle method of travel called wormholes, but interestingly enough, as far as I can tell Muggles haven’t even invented it yet. See, there’s something they call quantum mechanics—”

“In other words, he hasn’t figured it out yet.” Brimble scoffed.

“Well, no.” Arthur pushed up his glasses. “But if the theory of the quantum foam is correct, there are actually tiny wormholes appearing and disappearing at the Planck scale all the—Planck is actually very small, you see; he was a wonderful Muggle scientist who—”

Muggle scientist?” someone said. “Has it slipped your mind that we’re fighting Muggle scientists?”

“Well, no,” Arthur said again. “But Mr Planck—”

“No one cares about Mr Planck,” said Dawlish. “It’s Munt-cunt we have to worry about. If we could find a way to get rid of her—

“You’re talking about assassination,” Kingsley said softly.

“He’s talking about survival,” said Brimble. Harry didn’t understand why Brimble was the one leading this crusade—despite the fact that he was pure-blood, his wife had just given birth to a Squib daughter. She would have to make her way in the Muggle world, however the war turned out.

“I wouldn’t be saying it if it were a normal war,” Dawlish went on. “If it were just the Tambling fellow—him and his generals, they fight fair. It’s Munt with her dossiers and her—”

“What war is ever normal?” Kingsley asked.

“She just makes it worse, is all,” said Dawlish. “We probably wouldn’t be in this mess if it weren’t for her red-faced yammering about secrets and amnesia and—”

“You forget,” Hermione said. “More than half of what Secretary Munt says is just the truth. We did keep secrets. We hid ourselves from the—”

“And look at what would have happened that much sooner if we hadn’t!” Brimble waved his arms. “You think just because you’re Muggleborn—”

“I’m not Muggleborn,” Ron said quietly, “and I happen to agree.”

“So do I,” said Arthur. “And quite honestly, scientifically—”

Brimble whirled on Arthur with furious eyes. “You barely even count as pure-blood,” he began, and there followed an eruption.

Harry couldn’t listen. He simply couldn’t listen to this argument all over again—this war should have been different, but it wasn’t. It was exactly the same as the last one. Arthur had thrown himself into his Muggle research since his wife had died, but it was easy to see that he had not recovered. He looked a mess—his hair and glasses askew, figures and theorems written on the backs of his hands and bits of paper, which were trailing out of his pockets.

Instead, Harry’s attention wandered outside the corridor. He had a good view of it from where he stood at the back of the room, and Malfoy was out there making beds. The corridors were wide enough in the Manor that most of them had at least one row of beds along one side.

Malfoy had started at the far end, taking the dirty sheets off and putting new ones on. He always made sure they were tucked in at the sides, then he straightened them, making the corners neat and even. Last he always smoothed the sheets over the mattress with one long, hard swipe. He did it over and over, one bed after another.

The sheets were starchy and white. Malfoy was starchy and white. It was dark outside and the sconces in the corridor lit him with a golden glow, making his hair very yellow. They must have freed the beds for another batch of patients.

“If we use Dementors,” said Camellia Parkinson’s raspy voice, “we must find a better way to control them than the Dark Lord did.”

If we use Dementors?” Hermione repeated, incensed.

Malfoy was on his last bed, the one closest to the parlour. Harry saw him stop, holding a sheet mid-air.

“There may be no other option,” Kingsley said.

“There are always other options!”

“I agree,” Camellia rasped. “We just may not have the time.”

“Don’t you see?” Hermione said. “We’re doing what he did. We’re becoming what he was. If we turn ourselves into Voldemort—what do we have left?”

“Our lives,” Brimble said. The statement was followed by a murmur of agreement.

In the corridor, Malfoy dropped the sheet. Turning on his heel, he walked the other way.

Harry wasn’t sure what instinct compelled him to follow, but he moved towards the corridor.

“Harry Potter,” someone called out. “You’re the one who defeated the Dark Lord! What do you think?”

“I think I’m getting out of here,” Harry said.

At first it was difficult to tell in which direction Malfoy had gone, but once Harry got outside, it was easy. The night was cool and dark, and Malfoy was a white smudge getting smaller across the green. Harry didn’t know where Malfoy was going, but he followed.

The Malfoy owlery used to be a large silo that reminded Harry of the Hogwarts owlery—wide and tall, with lots of perches for owls and even a little room for them to fly. When the wounded began coming in, the silo had been spelled clean and emptied for more beds. The owls themselves were being used as couriers, often sleeping next to those to whom they delivered messages.

When the owls did come back to the Manor, they roosted in a shed that had formerly been used to shelter the Manor’s peacocks in the winter. It was into this shed that Malfoy went. As there had not been many peacocks, the shed was small, barely large enough for two men to stand without brushing owls’ wings. The peacocks themselves had long since been slaughtered and eaten, their feathers used to stuff more mattresses.

When Harry went into the shed, Malfoy didn’t turn around. He must have known that Harry had been following him, the hay scattered on the floor easily announcing Harry’s presence. Instead, Malfoy’s attention was focused on the owl in front of him. It was a barn owl with the typical flat disc white face, circled by a ring of light brown. The rest was white, brown, and dove grey. One of its wings was circled by a bandage, and Malfoy was gently stroking its head, then down its neck, over its wings.

“What happened to it?” Harry finally asked.

“Shrapnel.” Malfoy still didn’t turn around.

“What happened to your eagle owl?”

“She died.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry said.

“A Death Eater killed her.” Malfoy stopped petting the barn owl. “For sport.”

“A Death Eater killed my owl too,” Harry said, as though it were any consolation.

“Hedwig.”

Harry couldn’t quite decide whether Malfoy’s voice was harsh or soft, so he said, “What?”

Malfoy turned around. “Your owl’s name was Hedwig.”

“Oh.” Harry was suddenly aware that it was very warm in the shed—warm and sort of smothering, with so many soft things sleeping. “I didn’t know your owl’s name.”

“Athena.”

“I didn’t know it was a girl.” Malfoy didn’t say anything. Harry felt like he should say something else, so he gestured to the barn owl Malfoy had gone back to petting. “So you got this one to replace her?”

“I didn’t replace her.”

“I didn’t replace Hedwig either.”

“I got her when I was five,” Malfoy said.

“Athena?”

“Yes.” Carefully, Malfoy took the bandage off the owl’s wing. He inspected the feathers carefully, his expression so intent and fingers so gentle that Harry didn’t realize he was staring.

“Is it better?” Harry said, when Malfoy wrapped up the bandage and slipped it in his pocket.

“The muscle is weak.”

“Can you fix it?”

Malfoy look up at him. Grey eyes held Harry’s, clear and quite bright in the light of the Lumos and the hay.

“I’m going outside,” Malfoy said abruptly. He held out his arm—Harry could not help noticing how the white sleeve glowed under the light—and the owl Malfoy had been stroking stepped out onto it. Malfoy kept his arm at an erect right angle as he walked out, his straight white tunic for a moment filling the doorframe, looking just like snow.

Outside he deactivated the Lumos and put his wand in his pocket. In the starlight he looked silver.

“They’re meant to fly.” Malfoy’s voice was as cold and hard as the stars.

“What?” asked Harry, distracted. He couldn’t read Malfoy’s face, even though it used to be so easy. Hermione had said that Malfoy wanted him to win the war, but Harry couldn’t tell by looking. He couldn’t tell anything by looking, and he looked a lot.

“The owls,” Malfoy said. “He doesn’t understand the purpose of a bandage, even if he’s hurt. He’ll only get better if he lives the life he was born to live.” The owl spread its wings experimentally, then gave a little hop. Then Malfoy lowered his arm, and pushed it back into the air.

The owl took flight, white wings against the blue-black sky.

“I don’t want to be born to live a certain life,” Harry said. He thought of Malfoy’s mum, and Molly.

“Maybe you would if you were a bird.”

They watched the owl disappear into the stars.

“I certainly would,” said Malfoy.

5 years post Voldemort

After examining Hannah Abbott’s body, Harry and Malfoy went back to Ivybridge. Since Hannah had been found not far from Godric’s Hollow, the witnesses who had found the body were in that area. Ivybridge was also the main Muggle area in which Hannah and Aberforth had worked, so Harry and Malfoy could interview some of the townspeople who had known them.

People here seemed more on edge than the average Muggles who were unused to wizards, and it went even deeper than just fear and concern over Hannah’s murder and Aberforth’s disappearance. Through his Gift Harry could feel more than unease and mistrust. He could feel anger, and—at times—secrecy, as though there was something some people were hiding. They didn’t seem as though they knew more about Hannah’s death, and yet they certainly knew about something they weren’t telling.

Whenever Malfoy asked them about the Muggle War, Neville, or Muggles who wanted to be wizards, they clammed up. Harry wasn’t exactly sure what angle Malfoy was working, but he was sure Malfoy must have some kind of theory. Harry tried to support his partner in any way he could, though the questions about Muggles wanting to be wizards seemed particularly strange.

At the same time as he was trying to help, Harry kept his own emotions tightly bound, not wanting to influence any of the townspeople with his own suspicions and fears. Even without Harry’s support, Malfoy could usually charm the Muggles fairly easily, as was his way. Harry knew he should have been grateful that Malfoy was such a good investigator, but instead it caused Harry to wind up tighter.

With everything else that was going on, having to block up with Occlumency everything that Harry felt about Malfoy was particularly difficult. Even without the stress of murder and conspiracy, the feelings were difficult to face—which was probably why Harry hadn’t been able to stop making passes at Malfoy, even when Malfoy kept saying he wasn’t interested. It just felt so right, and when they were together, everything was easier—even though what they were doing was hard.

During the Muggle War, when seeing the bodies of friends and classmates became too much, sometimes Harry would think of Malfoy just to cope. Malfoy had lost so much; he had even lost the first war, but he kept on going. He kept on going and going and going, and Harry could see Malfoy doing it—packing everything away, and doing what he had to do to make a life.

After seeing Hannah’s body laid out like that, Harry found it particularly hard not to reach his emotions out to Malfoy. He found it particularly hard not to touch.

Detective Robert Kelley had left a message with the coroner, saying he was following up on important leads. Harry wasn’t even really sure whether Kelley was still on the case, or whether he had turned it completely over to the Mages. By the end of the day, they were no closer than they had been to start.

Twenty minutes after they had retired to their respective rooms at the inn that evening, Malfoy knocked on Harry’s door, and Harry opened it.

“I thought we might compare notes,” Malfoy said, “and practice the Occlumency we talked about.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, opening the door wider. “Okay.”

Malfoy’s gaze flicked up. “Do you ever comb your hair?”

“No.” Harry tried to smooth it down.

“I thought not.” Malfoy stepped inside, and Harry became suddenly aware of the fact that he’d strewn his cloak over the chair, his boots and socks spread out before it.

He remembered the way that Malfoy had tidily put everything away in his own room, and began quickly spelling things into the closet.

“There’s no need to hurl everything about,” Malfoy said, sounding amused.

“I was distracted,” Harry said.

“Yes.” Malfoy came farther into the room, absently running his hand along the bureau, not looking at Harry. He’d taken off his Healer’s tunic. Beneath he still wore white—the white breeches the showed under the tunic, the white boots. His shirt, however, was not part of the uniform—a simple white button-down, open at the throat.

Malfoy should not be allowed to go about like that. It was indecent.

“Why do you keep asking everyone about Nonmagicals wanting to be wizards?” Harry asked to distract himself.

“It’s just a theory.” Malfoy said, hand idling on the bureau. “Not one that’s fully formed.”

Harry thought about it. “Hannah was killed by wizards,” he said finally. “But we always thought Neville was killed by Nonmagicals. If someone killed Hannah because she found out something about what happened to Neville—it could mean Nonmagicals and wizards are working together.”

“Mm,” Malfoy said, noncommittal.

“And at Mage Headquarters, Munt said that Tambling wanted to be a wizard. If the Nonmagicals working with the wizards who killed Hannah want to be wizards, they could be connected to Tambling.”

“Plenty of Nonmagicals want to be wizards, Potter.”

“Yes, but you think that Tambling put us on this case specifically, which might mean he has a connection to this area, and to the Nonmagicals here. Do we know where Tambling is from?”

“York. I’ve been unable to locate any records of his parents, however.” Malfoy turned away from him again, hand returning to the bureau. His pose was one of absent thought. Malfoy’s long, elegant fingers touching that bureau were driving Harry insane. Of course Malfoy had looked up all of Tambling’s records.

“Do you always leave everything lying about?” Malfoy asked. He was no doubt eyeing the Pensieve, Ears, and Eyes Harry had dumped on the bureau.

“Pretty much.”

Malfoy nodded. “I was always able to tell every room you had been in in the Manor. There was always something lying about—your cloak. A glove.”

“I was always able to tell everywhere you’d been, too.”

“Oh?” Raising a brow, Malfoy glanced at him.

“Your magic has a scent.”

“Does it? I never noticed it.”

“Sage.”

“That’s a pleasant scent,” Malfoy said.

“Yeah,” said Harry.

Malfoy’s gaze dropped, and he turned away again. “What were your impressions of Detective Kelley?”

“He wasn’t much help, was he? And he certainly didn’t like Sergeant Narang.”

“I meant—your Gift.”

Suddenly, Harry remembered what Malfoy had said about being used. Someone thought they could use Harry’s Gift—and someone thought they could use Malfoy. Malfoy could use him, Harry realized. He hadn’t known it before Malfoy was here, alone in his room, touching the stupid bureau in his stupid white shirt. Malfoy could use him any which way he pleased, and Harry would have done whatever he said.

Maybe that was the reason Tambling had wanted them to work the case together. Maybe it was the reason Brimble had told Malfoy about that stupid rumour—because everyone knew Malfoy had this effect on him.

“Don’t be suspicious of me, Potter.” Malfoy left the bureau, coming closer. “I’m not the enemy.”

“What makes you think I—”

“Your feelings crash like waves,” Malfoy said. “You need to get control of them.”

Harry rubbed his scar. “Do you use Occlumency?”

“Yes.”

“You always feel like there’s a wall around you.”

Malfoy tilted his head. “I found it necessary.”

“During the Nonmagical War,” Harry said.

“Yes, but I’ve been practicing Occlumency for—almost as long as I can remember. My mother taught it to me.”

“Not your dad?”

Malfoy didn’t seem upset by the mention of his father. “Father was never very good at it. I wasn’t either. By the time I realized how much I needed it, perfecting it had become . . . difficult.”

“You mean when Voldemort moved into your house.”

Malfoy nodded.

“We moved into your house too,” Harry pointed out.

“That was different. There were times when . . .” Malfoy looked away. “I never had any brothers or sisters,” he said finally, a seeming non-sequitur.

Harry smirked. “You mean you liked having cloaks and gloves lying around.”

Malfoy smiled back lazily. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

They smiled at each other until Harry’s smile faded, shifting, and Malfoy looked away. “I think we should practice your Occlumency now.”

“Yeah.” Harry’s mouth was dry. “I guess we better should.”

“Come. This will be better.” Malfoy went and sat on the floor, and Harry sat across from him. Their legs were crossed, knees almost touching. Malfoy rested his hands loosely, palm-up, on his thighs, so Harry mimicked the pose. “Good,” Malfoy said, taking out his wand. He pointed it at Harry’s head. “You do not mind?”

“No,” said Harry, and waited for it.

Legilimens,” Malfoy whispered. The golden river started spooling out of Malfoy. Almost as soon as it started coming, it stopped. “You must clear your mind,” Malfoy said, when Harry opened his eyes.

“It is clear.”

Malfoy shook his head. “Don’t think of it as a wall. A wall can be studied and breached. You must allow me to come inside of you, but find nothing.”

“Yeah.” Harry licked his lips. “Okay.”

Legilimens.” The golden spool from Malfoy’s mind slowly started rolling out.

Come inside of me, Harry thought. Honestly, it was really the only thing on his mind, other than the soft, inquisitive touch of Malfoy’s thoughts. Malfoy’s exploration was as considerate as his magic, and Harry wanted to crawl inside of it—he could feel the thread of laughter in Malfoy’s Legilimens, the bright image of sunlight, the sharp scent of fruit—Harry could feel Malfoy, bright and sharp as a blade and ridiculously beautiful, cold to the touch but Harry knew he was hot inside, so hot—

Come inside of me

Malfoy’s mind rushed away from his so quickly that Harry felt empty in its wake. When Harry opened his eyes, Malfoy looked flushed. Quickly he dropped his gaze.

“Sorry,” Harry said. He didn’t feel very sorry.

“I should not have phrased it that way,” Malfoy said in a low voice.

“You really shouldn’t have.” Malfoy looked so, so unhappy that Harry did feel sorry, then. “Hey.” He wanted to touch Malfoy’s knee, but then remembered, and didn’t. “I’m sorry you had to feel that,” he said. “I can control it.”

“You don’t have to.” Malfoy set his jaw. “It’s the way you feel. I don’t mind.”

Malfoy obviously minded. He minded a great deal. “Let’s try it again,” Harry said.

“Yes.” The pink was fading from Malfoy’s cheeks, and he pointed his wand. “Legilimens.”

Harry tried not to brace himself, attempting to let Malfoy inside of his mind. He didn’t know how to make it seem as though nothing was there, however, because as soon as he let loose his thoughts, it was a jumble—

Voldemort and Sirius and Neville and Hannah, the image of an owl against the night, the colour of the sunrise, the texture of Hermione’s hair—

Something pulled on that one, the memory of Hermione’s hair. The tugging was gentle, a skittering touch, almost-not-quite there. Harry remembered Snape yanking, yanking memories out of his brain and—

The tug settled around Snape instead. Everything in Harry’s head felt heavy, turgid, a swirling morass of shadows and dark. Building a wall around it was like building a fort around a bog; the stones around it constantly were breached; the cracks between them oozed. Harry was constantly patching it up using whatever he could find, a lot of stubborn No, no, no thrust between the breaking parts and patched over with sheer will.

Malfoy’s touch was just like light. Barely touching, it was soft, like guidance rather than a grip. It tempted Snape out from the bog, out from behind the walls, and Harry struggled to follow it because he didn’t want to look at it; he didn’t want to look. He didn’t want to see Snape, ugly and terrible and twisted, drenched in the oily sins of all those things he had been made to do, all those things he had been made to see, simply because Snape had loved his mother. Harry didn’t want to see the way that Snape had been wronged, the beauty underneath that said he should have lived in light. Harry didn’t want to face that injustice. He didn’t want to be confronted with it.

He went anyway, though, because Malfoy led him there, and when the memories came out from behind the walls, Harry expected to live them again, to see them all before his eyes. Instead, the soft, gentle touch of Malfoy’s mind swiftly began to sort.

Everything flashed by almost too quickly for Harry to recognize. They were all the good things—Snape and Lily, mom’s freckles when she was little and Snape had known her, Snape and Dumbledore standing under stars, Snape at the Quidditch game during first year, a silver doe, the long thread of Snape’s memories, saving Harry. All the good and sweet and sad and silvery things curled up in a pile like a cloud, and then Malfoy did it with all the bad things too.

The Occlumency, Snape’s sneer, Snape’s ugly nose, those things he said to Hermione, those things Voldemort made him do, those things he’d said to Lily and then Sirius, hanging Snape upside down, Dumbledore falling, falling, falling the Half-blood Prince potions textbook and Sectumsempra—

Sectumsempra—

The soft, light touch that was Malfoy hesitated, then put all the bad things in neat little shelves where they could be taken down and touched and looked at but never, ever harm him, and then he spread the good things on a blanket, sat down, and beckoned. Harry touched the blanket and it was soft and sweet; it smelled like meadowgrass, the colour of his mother’s eyes.

Malfoy pulled away. “Like that,” he said.

Barely able to breathe, Harry opened his eyes. Malfoy was sitting there in a fuzzy glow and Harry loved him desperately, almost painfully. “Malfoy.” Harry could feel tears burning behind his eyes. His chest ached.

“It’s really very simple,” Malfoy said. He put away his wand.

“Simple,” Harry breathed.

“Yes. If you organize everything in way that makes your thoughts comfortable to navigate, it’s easy to pack everything away when you need to. I think of it as a little shop. All the fruits and vegetables can be lined up on display if you like, but then if it rains you can quickly cover up the cart and—”

Malfoy stopped because Harry was laughing, a choked, breathy sound. “Simple,” Harry said. “That’s magic.”

“Well,” Malfoy said, startled. “Yes.” He tilted his head. “You’re Occlumency is very steady right now,” he pointed out.

Malfoy was just like white wax, the bright gold of his hair the soft glow of a candle flame. “Jesus,” Harry said, and closed his eyes.

“We can work on it more tomorrow,” Malfoy said.

Can we work on it forever? Harry wanted to ask. He wanted it forever; he wanted Malfoy forever; he wanted Malfoy forever and ever and ever, until the end of time. Harry opened his eyes again. “Can we work on it more right now?”

Malfoy smiled. Harry still couldn’t feel anything from him, but he was obviously pleased. “I think you’ve had enough,” was all Malfoy said. He stood up, brushing himself off in his fastidious way, and Harry tried not to stare. Several moments later, Malfoy said goodnight and left the room.

Harry went to bed, and tried not to dream. He was meant to be working on the case; he was meant to find Hannah’s murderers; he was meant to take down the conspiracy in the Muggle government; he was meant to save the world again. He wasn’t meant to want Malfoy forever. He wasn’t meant to want Malfoy at all.

Harry tried to block it, but Malfoy had been right—Harry’s Occlumency wasn’t nearly good enough for any of this.

1 year post Voldemort

During the war against Voldemort, Harry had asked Ginny to wait for him. After the war, Harry had had to testify at a lot of the Death Eater trials, and in his spare time that summer, he had helped rebuild Hogwarts. He had asked Ginny to wait again, because he couldn’t give her what she deserved when he still had to be The Boy Who Lived. Afterwards, he would get to be Harry, just normal Harry, and then he could have a normal life.

Then the Muggles had attacked Hogsmeade, and Harry had asked her to wait again. Sometime after they had moved the headquarters into Malfoy Manor, Ginny had told him she was tired of waiting. Harry hadn’t known what to do, but Ginny told him not to do anything at all. Later, he had seen her kissing Dean Thomas, and he had waited to feel the curl of jealousy, the monster in his chest. He didn’t feel anything at all.

Harry knew he should have wanted Ginny. Even with everything else going on he should have wanted someone—love, romance, sex—but being with Ginny had been complicated. He had wanted to be perfect for her. He had wanted to give her the perfect life his parents should have had, and in some ways it felt like so much work. Even shagging Ginny felt a little like work—she was soft in all the right places and wet and willing, so willing, but he had been a little bit afraid to touch her. He wanted to be careful with her, and the few times they had done it had taken a long time for her to achieve her peak. It had taken Harry even longer, and Harry wondered what was wrong with him.

In some ways Harry got the answer when he met Édouard Lemaître. Édouard was a wizard from France who fought with Harry’s unit several times. He was tall and dark-eyed with braids in his hair, and he was immediately interested in Harry. At first Harry didn’t know what Édouard wanted, but he was very charming, so much so that when Édouard first kissed him, Harry let him. Then Édouard wanted more, and Harry let him do that too.

Growing up, Harry had never once considered the idea that he was gay. It had never even occurred to him before. When he started shagging Édouard, he wondered if it meant he really was gay or whether it was because of the war. Shagging Édouard was just so simple. When their units were assigned together they traded spots with tent-mates so that they could share the night together, and when the battle was over, they went back to their units. Knowing Édouard—his eager appetite, his charm—his bed was probably never empty, but Harry found he didn’t really care. When they were apart, Harry missed the close, intense feelings of togetherness—the warmth of another body pressed against him, the heat of someone inside of him—but he didn’t pine.

Harry remembered hearing things about Muggle armies, the things men did when they were alone together, far from women. This had nothing to do with that, as there were just as many witches in Harry’s unit as wizards, and in the early days when they could still Apparate, they could travel far more easily than Muggles to satiate their needs. Sometimes Harry thought that all these feelings still might be a result of war. Maybe he felt this way about Édouard because his whole life had been fighting, and never once had he felt that he won, that it was worth it. Maybe he was just built this way.

Whatever the reason, after the first time he and Édouard shagged, Harry began to notice things he never had before—the breadth of Charlie’s shoulders, the swagger in Oliver Wood’s walk. Harry even noticed Malfoy—Malfoy’s tall, slim figure, his bony wrists, his faded hair, the gentle way he touched things when he thought that other people weren’t looking. Harry knew he must be pretty far gone if he was noticing Malfoy.

None of these observations came to anything. Harry looked, but didn’t touch. He thought he wasn’t interested in touching, and then he’d spend another night with Édouard. Those couple nights each month were enough to satiate what few needs Harry felt he had. Eat, sleep, fight, shag. Eat, sleep, fight. Eat, sleep, fight, fight, fight, fight. Shag.

At the end of August, Édouard died on a battlefield in Flanders. Someone in Édouard’s troop owled to tell Harry, having seen Édouard sneak into Harry’s tent on more than one occasion.

Harry was saddened by the news, but he didn’t really grieve. The most intimate detail Harry knew about Édouard was the angle at which he liked to be penetrated, and thinking about that in the wake of Édouard’s death seemed crass. Harry felt like he should have known more about him—his family, his friends—whether he had gone to Beauxbatons, whether he knew Madam Maxime. Harry could have asked Édouard to Hagrid’s wedding, but he hadn’t. They hadn’t done anything. They had huddled together in the night, desperately clutching warmth in a blizzard that was destroying the world around them, and that wasn’t a relationship. That wasn’t anything.

So Harry didn’t grieve. He didn’t want to think about the could-have-beens, because if he did, he would think about all the other should-have-beens, and there were far too many. Harry hadn’t heard from Andromeda—and by extension, Teddy—since Apparition was destroyed.

Instead Harry thought about the way that Malfoy looked, standing under the stars, letting his owl go. That great big bird flapped its wings and filled the sky, and in that moment Malfoy hadn’t looked like anyone else, not like any of the other people back in the Manor arguing. Malfoy hadn’t been thinking of death or war or how to defeat the Muggles. Instead his face had been full of thoughtfulness, of sympathy; he’d been thinking of that owl’s wing and whether it was healed. He had been thinking of flying.

It was stupid and Harry could not stop thinking about it. He dreamt of it—of Mother falling and the veils, of Molly, Petunia, Narcissa, and the owls, the owls. The owls were flying. It was intolerable, and Harry nearly resented Malfoy for making him think about him this way.

“Hey, Malfoy, do you have a minute?”

“I was just—” Malfoy’s lips flattened when he saw Harry, and he walked over to him. “Why didn’t you go directly to triage?” Lightly he touched Harry’s hand, turning it so he could see Harry’s arm.

“It’s not that bad,” Harry said.

“Don’t be a fool.” Malfoy took out his wand, pointing it at Harry’s sleeve. The bloody fabric fell away, revealing a rather deep laceration.

Harry had received the wound from a jagged piece of metal flying through the air in the wake of an explosion. He wasn’t sure how deep the cut was, having had rather more important matters to attend to at the time. Once the battle was done and he had flown back to the temporary camp under the veil in Ottery St Catchpole, he’d checked in at the makeshift infirmary. The Burrow had been clogged with the dying and the dead.

Harry had backed out, only to find that Malfoy must have caught a break. Instead of running errands or casting sleeping spells in the Burrow, Malfoy was making beds in the recovery tent. Harry had watched him for a good ten minutes before he’d remembered his own arm.

Now he watched again as Malfoy used his wand to clean away the blood, then disinfect the wound. Malfoy’s magic felt lighter than the other Healers’, more aloof—yet politer, less invasive. His hands were lighter, barely touching, and the gentleness of it sent a shiver up Harry’s spine.

“You saved my life,” Harry said. They had never spoken of it. “When they stopped Apparition. You saved me.”

Malfoy wore a frown of concentration, focusing on the cut. “You may consider us even.”

“For a clementine?”

“Are you searching for a thank you?”

“What for?”

“Very well then, Potter.” Malfoy placed his wand on the top edge of the cut, slowly beginning to suture the wound together. “You have saved my life in more ways than I care to count. I am most sincerely grateful.”

“You don’t sound sincere,” Harry pointed out.

Finished with the stitches, Malfoy leaned in to look at the cut. “Do you want me to be?” he murmured.

Harry shivered again.

Still leaning in, Malfoy tilted his head, only slightly. “Do you feel light-headed?” he asked, in that soft, soft velvety way.

“Yes,” Harry said, and kissed him.

Malfoy was warm, his mouth soft and surprised. Harry didn’t care. Malfoy tasted nice—he tasted so nice, and Harry wanted to chase it down. He wanted to chase it all the way down, deep inside Malfoy because Malfoy tasted like something and it wasn’t sharp or bitter, the way he was half expecting. It was savoury and subtle—intoxicating; Malfoy was intoxicating. Malfoy was dropping his wand, and kissing him back.

Malfoy’s hands were tentative—so light, barely touching, as though he was afraid to touch, and Harry could see colours behind his eyes. They were all bright golds and warm yellows and hot, hot white, just like Malfoy—the kind of radiance that Harry felt he had not seen since the last war ended, before this one began. The summer hadn’t come this year, not really—not until he kissed Malfoy, and Malfoy made that one, tight strangled sound.

Malfoy pulled away. “I can’t,” he said breathlessly. His face was pink.

“What?” Harry said, and reached for him.

Moving farther away, Malfoy retrieved his wand. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

Malfoy smoothed down his white tunic, not quite meeting Harry’s eyes. “I have—other obligations.”

“Other . . . you’re with someone?” Harry was surprised.

Malfoy hesitated, then shook his head.

Harry came closer, but stopped when Malfoy backed away. “You kissed me,” was all that Harry could think to say.

“You initiated it,” Malfoy pointed out. “I was—surprised. I didn’t expect it.”

“You kissed me back.”

Malfoy tilted his head. “I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression.”

“The wrong impre—you snogged me, Malfoy.”

“It won’t happen again.”

It didn’t happen again—not once in five long years.

On the second day of their investigation into Hannah Abbott’s death and Aberforth’s disappearance, Harry and Malfoy planned to visit the site where Hannah’s body had been discovered. The only problem was that the location was unclear from the file Sergeant Meena Narang had given them, and Detective Robert Kelley, their main contact, was unavailable.

“Because there wasn’t an address,” Narang said, when Malfoy asked about the site. “’Found in the moor’. Or did you not read my report?”

“I read your report,” Malfoy said. “‘Found in the moor’ is hardly stellar police work.”

“Can’t you—” Narang waved a hand in an indistinct gesture—“magic it up?”

Malfoy turned to Harry. “Potter, can we—” he waved his hand as Narang had—“’magic up’ the location of the site of our esteemed colleague’s demise?”

“I think I can magic up a dragon,” Harry said, frowning. Malfoy only ever got his facts wrong for a reason. “Or maybe a plague of locusts. And some lovely daffodils, if you’re interested.”

“It’s not the ‘site of her demise’,” Narang said. What had been mild annoyance early now felt like fury, pointed firmly in Malfoy’s direction. “Did you or did you not read my report?”

“She’s not demised now?” Malfoy pretended to skim the file. “Did that zombie spell actually work?”

“Give me that.” Narang snatched the file out of Malfoy’s hands. “It clearly says the body was moved. You’re telling me you didn’t see the sticks in her hair? The dirt along her legs, clearly indicating she had been dragged? Did you not even read the part about the obvious pattern in the heath, showing a heavy object had been moved?”

“Sergeant Narang,” Malfoy said, smiling brightly. “You read the report!”

“Wow,” said Harry. “It even sounds like she saw where the body was found.”

“For the last time,” Narang said, still furious, “I wrote the report.”

“Excellent!” Malfoy clapped his hands together. “Then you can take us to the site.”

“You’re crazy,” Narang told him.

“I get the feeling she doesn’t want to help us,” Harry said.

“I think you’re right,” Malfoy said. “Mage Potter, I think we’re going to need to draw a pentagram all over this floor.”

“Oh no you’re not,” Narang said.

“Yes.” Malfoy nodded sadly. “It’s the only way to find the site, since you won’t take us there.”

“We need the blood of a baby calf, right?” Harry said.

Malfoy nodded again. “And that plague of locusts.”

Narang rolled her eyes. “If I take you there, will you take your case and leave us alone?”

Ten minutes later they were in Narang’s squad car, driving through Dartmoor National Park. Malfoy was preening in the front seat, while Narang drove, and Harry was in the back, wondering how Malfoy could possibly get away with the things he got away with.

“Tell me, Sergeant Narang,” Malfoy was saying as Narang drove, “why do you hate wizards?”

“I don’t hate them,” Narang muttered. Her hands were tight on the wheel.

“You’re very convincing.” Malfoy’s tone was soothing.

“I just want you to go away,” Narang said.

“Why?”

“Because where there’s magic,” Narang said, “there’s trouble. I used to live in a peaceful neighbourhood, you know. Crime was low.”

“It’s not low now?”

“It was, and then one Halloween there was a snake in the sky.”

Malfoy glanced swiftly back at Harry, then turned back to Narang, all calm poise. “You lived in Godric’s Hollow? You must have been young, when that happened.”

“I was sixteen. After that, everything changed.”

“Tell me about it,” Malfoy murmured.

“No,” Narang said, and then didn’t.

“My parents lived in Godric’s Hollow,” Harry said from the backseat. Malfoy looked back at him again, his eyes soft and grey and very kind. Then he faced forward again, and pretended to look at scenery. “They died that night,” Harry went on. “A wizard killed them. So, you know, I get it.”

“No,” Narang said again. “You don’t. You haven’t lived here. Every time, we’re fine, and then wizards come through and muck it all up again.”

The car was silent for a long moment. The emotions emanating from Narang matched her words—there was anger there, resentment, hurt, fear. But there was something else—something held back, something she didn’t want to say.

“We’re here to clean it up,” Malfoy said, after a long while.

“Yeah.” Narang glanced at him as she pulled the car over to the side of the road. “You just see that you do.”

They’d stopped about a mile from Godric’s Hollow, just inside the National Park. Harry recognized the general area. He’d probably camped with Hermione somewhere close to here. Narang said that Hannah had been found some distance from the road, so after she stopped the car, they got out to walk. Ten minutes later, they stopped at a seeming random bit of exposed rock, grass slowly creeping its way in every direction. The moors looked desolate this time of year, covered by large patches of bare rock. Some of the weeds and moss were bright green, while the heath in places was red and yellow with death.

“I don’t know what you expect to find.” Narang’s voice was tight, but her emotions were edging more towards frustrated defeat than her earlier open hostility. “My men searched this area thoroughly.”

“We’re just going to run some diagnostics,” Harry said, trying to keep his voice friendly. He and Malfoy were searching the heath, though nothing seemed unusual. “Sometimes wands can find things eyes can’t.”

“Wands are nothing but trouble,” Narang said in her disapproving way. “I can’t imagine why anyone would want one.”

There must have been something about the way she said it that clued Malfoy in. Malfoy pretended to crouch down to examine some heath. “Have you ever met someone who wanted one, Sergeant Narang?”

Narang was silent, and Malfoy looked up. “Well?” Malfoy said. “Have you?”

Narang pressed her lips together, looking as though she was resisting saying something. Harry wondered if she was resisting revealing what she’d kept from them in the squad car.

“It’d be pointless,” Narang said at last. “A Nonmagical with a wand. It wouldn’t do anything.”

“Have you ever met a Nonmagical who wanted a wand?” Malfoy asked.

Narang’s lips tightened again. “Some of the folks around here . . .” She waved her hand in a vague direction. “Well, I bet you know anyway, since you like to ask a lot of questions. There used to be some people around here, during the war, who wanted to be wizards. There. That answer your question?”

Malfoy remained calm and steady. “Were you one of those people?”

“No!” Narang recoiled. “Did you not hear what I said about Magicals? I’d rather die in a fire.”

“I’m sure you could,” Malfoy said, turning away, “if you were a witch.”

Harry was going to call Malfoy out on it, because he could tell from Narang’s emotions that the feeling she had towards wizards wasn’t actually hatred. But the words actually made Narang mellow a bit, as though she’d realized how hard her language had been. Acting angry, but feeling sad, Narang started to look through the heath with both of them.

Meanwhile, Harry had been thinking about wands. “Hannah’s wand wasn’t with her things,” he pointed out.

“Try it,” Malfoy said, not having to ask what Harry was thinking.

Accio Hannah’s wand,” Harry said.

Nothing happened.

“I felt a tug,” Harry said.

“What’s that?” said Narang. “That a magic thing?”

“It’s Mage Abbott’s wand,” Malfoy said.

“I think it’s trying to get to me,” Harry said. “But something’s in the way.”

“Is it clear enough that we can follow its direction?” Malfoy asked.

“I’m not sure,” Harry said, and cast the spell again. The tug felt as though it was coming from the northwest. “I think so,” he said, and began to walk.

Narang and Malfoy walked with him, Harry occasionally casting Accio while Malfoy tried to explain the Summoning spell.

“Why don’t you just Summon anything, then?” Narang asked. “Why don’t you just Summon Abbott’s killer?”

“There’s an idea,” Malfoy murmured.

“It’s harder to Summon things that are farther away,” Harry said, following the tug. “And it’s harder to Summon things that are bigger.”

“It’s harder, but not impossible.” Narang seemed as though she was about to say more, but she stopped.

“You’re wondering why we couldn’t just Summon a virus, to stop people from being sick,” Malfoy said gently, “or why we couldn’t just Summon a hurricane, to stop it from demolishing a city.”

“I’m not wondering any of that,” Narang said in a moody way. “Magic is trouble.”

“But other people have wondered that, haven’t they?” Malfoy asked. “The ones who wanted to be wizards.”

Narang shook her head, but Harry wasn’t sure if it was in answer to Malfoy. “It’s a bad idea. People shouldn’t rely on magic. They shouldn’t expect magic to save them—they shouldn’t want magic. It’s a bad idea.”

“But not everyone thinks so,” Malfoy said softly.

Narang scowled at him. “Just what are you implying?”

Accio Hannah’s wand,” Harry said, if only to cut the tension.

“Nothing,” Malfoy murmured to Narang.

“Listen,” Harry said, holding out his hand to stop their tramping through the heather. “Accio Hannah’s wand.”

They all heard it then—a very distinct thunk, like something bumping into metal.

“What is it?” Narang asked. In spite of herself, Narang sounded and felt curious.

“I don’t know,” said Harry. He moved a little to the left. “It came from right here. Accio Hannah’s wand!”

The thunk sounded again.

“It’s right under you,” Malfoy said.

Narang’s brow furrowed. “It’s buried?”

“Not quite,” said Harry. “Revelio door!”

A metre or so away, a clump of heath wiggled, then glowed. Harry went over to it, dropping quickly to his knees and using his wand to help him move the heath. Once he cleared it away, he revealed a large metal disk in the ground.

“What is it?” Malfoy said, curious.

Narang had a strange look on her face. “It’s a manhole cover.”

“Did you know this was here?” Harry asked.

Narang shook her head, but there was still something she wasn’t saying.

“I’m going to try to open it,” Harry said.

“Potter—”

Though Malfoy usually projected calm, Harry could feel the concern come off of him in a wave. “Don’t worry, Malfoy,” Harry said, finding the metal ring on the disk. “If there’s a basilisk, I’ll save you.”

“What’s a basilisk?” Narang asked, and then Harry lifted the heavy disk.

Narang was right. The disk was covering a hole down into the ground, and a foreign wand snapped up into Harry’s hand.

Lumos,” Harry said, using his own wand. He cast the light into the hole, revealing a metal ladder against the side of the rock leading down into the ground, and a concrete floor beneath.

“It’s Nonmagical,” Malfoy said. He did not often state the obvious, but his curiosity was getting the better of him.

“I’m going down there,” Harry said.

“Harry.” The worry coming from Malfoy amped up.

“Stay with Sergeant Narang,” Harry said, and started going down the ladder.

“Potter,” Malfoy snarled from above, but Harry was already inside.

Malfoy was better when it came to dealing with people. Even without his Gift, Harry had never really been that great at understanding people. Now that Harry had the Gift, he could sense what people were feeling, and yet it often made things harder rather than easier—muddying the waters, as it were.

And now it was even more complicated—Malfoy had said that Harry wasn’t in control of the Gift, and the Legilimency Malfoy had done the night before had rattled him. Malfoy’s thoughts had rushed right inside of Harry’s defences, and despite the fact that Harry had always thought he was in control, Malfoy made him think that maybe he wasn’t. The possible conspiracy back at Mage Headquarters didn’t help. Nor did the rumour, nor did the suspicious people in the Muggle town—and nor did being attracted to Malfoy, which was getting insanely out of control.

But this—finding clues, exploring a strange cave, walking directly into a potentially dangerous situation—this was what Harry was good at. Malfoy was good at all that other stuff—navigating politics, assessing people’s motivations, making people serve his own ends. Harry was mostly good for hitting things and knocking them out with magic. It was why he was here in the first place.

Lumos,” Harry said again, brightening his wand so that he could see the interior of the cave.

“You two had better come down here,” Harry said, five minutes later, when he’d climbed back to the top of the ladder.

“Don’t ever do that again,” Malfoy said, his tone icy.

“Don’t worry, Malfoy,” Harry said again, grinning up into the light. “I’m still in one piece.”

“No thanks to the brain in your head.” Malfoy’s voice had switched back to flippant, as though he didn’t care, but Harry had felt Malfoy’s terror. While he didn’t like making Malfoy afraid, the fact that he’d been that concerned made heat pool low in Harry’s stomach. “However did you survive two wars?” Malfoy asked in his bored, aristocratic way.

“Sheer good looks,” Harry said, and went back down the ladder.

The interior was not a cave. It had been carved from the rock by some kind of Muggle machine, then reinforced with concrete. The walls were straight and precise, and the room was quite large, with a tunnel extending at the far end, presumably leading to other chambers.

There were several tables set up in the room, along with stools and chairs. Pieces of Muggle machinery were scattered everywhere—odds and ends that Harry could make no sense of. All over the walls on bulletin boards were pinned charts, graphs, maps, lists, and diagrams. On the tables were computers, some of them gutted.

“What is this place?” Malfoy asked.

A large, echoing click filled the chamber, followed by a hum. Electric lights flickered on above them. Narang stood over by a light switch. “I think it’s a military base,” she said, tone wondering.

“You didn’t know about this?” Harry asked again.

Mutely, Narang shook her head, and began to walk around.

Harry and Malfoy walked around too, exploring. “Do you recognize any of this equipment?” Malfoy asked.

Harry shook his head. “Sergeant Narang, do you?”

“Machine parts, mostly,” Narang said. Scowling fiercely, she picked up a curved piece of metal with a series of holes drilled into it. “But what the hell kind of machine? What were they doing?”

“What were who doing?” Malfoy asked quietly.

Narang turned her scowl on him, lips tight and brow low. “I have no idea,” she said, and they all knew that she was lying.

Pretending to ignore it, Malfoy turned away, rifling through the papers some more. “What’s the last spell Mage Abbott cast?”

“I haven’t tried it, yet.” Harry took out Hannah’s wand from where he’d put it in his cloak. “Prior Incantato,” he said, pointing his own wand at Hannah’s.

Silver came out of Hannah’s wand, resolving into the translucent, wavering image of Hannah.

“Oh, hell!” Narang shouted, stumbling backward. “It’s a ghost! It’s a ghost, Jesus fuck!”

Her fear was real and overpowering, for a second the only thing that Harry could feel. She’d stumbled back up against the wall, arms shielding her head. Malfoy got to her by the time she was trying to climb under one of the tables. “It’s all right,” he soothed, hand locking firmly around her elbow.

Stupefy,” Hannah yelled, and pointed her wand.

Deletrius,” Harry said, pointing again at Hannah’s wand.

“It’s okay,” Malfoy said again. He was kneeling beside Narang, his hands gentle on her shoulder, her face.

“The bloody fuck.” Narang shuddered.

“It wasn’t a ghost,” Malfoy said. “It was a projection of the last spell that Hannah cast.”

“Jesus.” Narang wrapped her arms tightly about herself, and Harry hated himself for being jealous of the way that Malfoy stroked her hair. Narang glared up at him. “At least fucking warn me.”

“Sorry,” Harry said, putting both the wands away.

“Christ.” Narang shuddered again, and Malfoy’s hand moved down to the small of her back.

Harry looked away.

“She died down here, didn’t she,” Narang said. It wasn’t really a question.

Malfoy glanced up at Harry. “It explains why her wand was down here,” Malfoy said. “We know that the body was moved. Thanks for that bit of investigating by the way, Sergeant Narang.” Malfoy looked back down at Narang, whose expression had settled into a pensive scowl. Her fear had faded with Malfoy’s touch.

Malfoy had that effect on people.

Harry started sorting through the documents on one of the tables. “The Stupefy was trying to protect herself,” Harry said. “I guess it didn’t work.”

“If this is a military base, what were wizards doing down here?” Narang asked. Her tone was softer; she was talking to Malfoy. “Are Mages in the military?”

“Not that I know of,” Malfoy said.

“Malfoy,” Harry said. “Come look at this.”

Malfoy came over to look. They were maps. Lots of them. A map of Devon, a map of Kintail, where Hogwarts was. Several maps of London, and each of them had circles. One of them was labelled ‘Hogsmeade,’ in whatever pen had drawn the circle. Another circle, on the London maps, was labelled King’s Cross. Another ‘Ministry for Magic’. “Sergeant Narang,” Malfoy said. “You may want to see this, too.”

Slowly, Narang stood up and came over.

“Do you know what this is?” Harry asked.

“Hogsmeade?” Narang tucked a piece of hair that had come loose behind her ear. Sorting through the maps, she said, “That village was the village that blew up. When the war started.”

“The very one,” Malfoy murmured.

Narang looked up from the maps. “I remember Mage Dumbledore with the goats,” she said. “They kept showing it on the telly. He wasn’t a mage, then. He was just . . . trying to save those goats.”

Harry pointed to the circles on the map. “They’re the veils.”

“Yes,” Malfoy said, moving away to look at more papers spread out on another table. Harry began looking around as well, while Narang picked up a stool that had been knocked over on the ground and set it in front of a computer.

“Do you think it works?” Harry asked her.

“The lights work,” said Narang. “We’ll see.”

Harry watched as she pressed buttons on the machine and typed on the keyboard. After a moment, Malfoy came to join him.

“Do Magicals really not know how to use computers?” Narang said, eyes on the screen, which was black and filled with white figures. She was typing at the same time as she talked.

“Hermione knows,” Harry said.

“I know how to send an email,” Malfoy said.

Harry glanced at him in surprise.

Malfoy lifted a brow. “Healer Finch-Fletchley taught me. I’m very enlightened, Mage Potter; you’ll soon find that out.”

“I can do the basics,” Harry said. “What are you doing?”

“Hacking,” Narang said. “The system was locked.”

Harry looked down at Narang, whose face was lit by the screen. Her gaze was intent, but her fingers were flying. “Is that something they teach at sergeant school?” Harry asked, after a moment.

“I’m very enlightened, Mage Potter,” Narang said. “You’ll soon find that out.”

Harry rolled his eyes at both Narang and Malfoy. “Well, I’m glad you two are friends now.”

“You did say I’m very charming,” Malfoy murmured, moving away to another table again to look at more of the papers.

“We’re not friends,” Narang said, punching more buttons on the keyboard.

“Stop.” Harry pointed at the screen. “What’s that?”

“It’s a simulation.” Narang frowned. The screen was filled with computer code, intensely complex. “With a whole shitload of math.”

“A simulation of what?” Harry said.

Narang leaned into the screen to look at the title at the top of the window. “Destination, determination, deliberation.”

“Apparition,” Harry said.

Narang’s frown deepened. “Appa who now?”

Before Harry could explain, Malfoy said, “You both should come look at this.”

“Definitely not friends,” Narang muttered, but she punched some more keys and stood up, walking with Harry to the other side of the chamber.

Malfoy held a drawing of some kind of machine. It appeared to be complicated, with multiple components. The more Harry looked at it, the more similar it looked to most of the other diagrams posted around the room. Some of the parts even appeared to match some of the bits of machinery scattered on some of the tables and the floor, though there was nothing matching the scale or complexity of the drawing. Sections of it were circled and labelled, the writing surrounding it small and cramped.

“Read what it says,” Malfoy said.

Narang leaned in. “‘Wand Number One. Wand Number Two. Wand Number Three.’” She straightened, scowling at Malfoy.

“Yes.” Malfoy put down the diagram. “Do you have any idea why there are Nonmagical documents in a Nonmagical compound that refer to wizard towns, spells, and equipment, or why a machine that is so obviously Nonmagical would require wizarding components?”

Narang’s mouth flattened into a hard line, and Harry could feel the anxiety and tension stirred in her emotions.

“Perhaps you’d better tell me more about those Nonmagical friends of yours you mentioned.” Malfoy rolled up the diagram with a snap. “The ones who wanted wands.”

“They’re not my friends.” Narang ground her teeth. “I said magic is a bad idea.”

“Yes.” Malfoy’s voice was calm and very, very relaxed. “And who did you say that to?”

Narang had said it to them, but obviously she knew what Malfoy was really asking. Annoyance and frustration flared, but even as Harry felt them, he could tell the emotions weren’t for him and Malfoy. With it came resignation, and Narang started talking. “Yeah, okay,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest. “You want to know about the Magic Bringers.”

“Oh yes,” Malfoy murmured. “We want to know all about them.”

“The Magic Bringers?” Harry asked.

“They were a group,” Narang said. “Been around since that Halloween. They said that there was magic and that they could get it. It was really stupid at first—you know, just satanic ritual stuff, vandalism, sacrifices. After a few years, the lot of them grew up. You didn’t hear about them any more.”

“And then what happened?” Malfoy’s voice was soft, but his face looked so disinterested that he was likely hanging on Narang’s every word.

“The war,” Narang said.

“I seem to remember that,” Malfoy soothed.

“Big surprise,” Narang muttered. “The war happened and the Magic Bringers—they got up to something.”

“What?”

Something,” Narang bit out. “Something—not good. I tried to find out, but I got called down from way, way way on up the chain. Someone didn’t want me looking into it.”

“What happened?” Malfoy asked.

“That wizard disappeared,” Narang said. “Four years ago.”

“Neville,” Harry said, making an unconscious movement towards Narang. Suddenly Malfoy was there beside him, his hand clamping down over Harry’s wrist.

Narang shook her head. “It was them. The Magic Bringers. I knew it was them. Everyone knew it was them, but—we didn’t stop them. It was a Magical, right? And we hated Magicals. It was war.” Narang shrugged, but Harry could feel the wave of self-loathing.

“What did they do to him?” Harry asked, voice tight.

Malfoy’s thumb slid into the palm of Harry’s hand and began to stroke small, gentle circles.

“I don’t know,” Narang said. “I washed my hands of it. Above my pay-grade, right? And it was war.” She didn’t seem to realize she was repeating herself. “That other Magical came; the Magic Bringers killed him, and that was the end of that.”

Despite the soft circle Malfoy was still rubbing with his thumb, his voice sounded disinterested, bored. “What other wizard?”

“Bumble-something.”

Harry shifted his hand to clamp over Malfoy’s, threading their fingers together. He was so close to Malfoy that he could smell the faint trace of sage.

“I thought he was going to convince them to let the other Magicals go.” Narang shook her head. “Guess that didn’t happen.”

“Brimble?” Malfoy asked.

“Yeah.” Narang frowned. “You heard of him?”

“Only in passing,” Malfoy murmured.

Narang’s lips flattened out again, and the eyes in her pretty face looked hard. “You think they could’ve done it?” She nodded over at the diagram. “You think they could use a machine to cast the curse that killed your Mage?”

Calmly, Malfoy removed his wrist from Harry’s grasp, rubbing it afterwards as though it burned. “I’ve never heard of Nonmagicals being able to cast spells with a machine,” he said, after a long moment. “Then again, I never would have believed Nonmagicals could destroy Apparition either.”

Narang shook her head. “If Magicals would just mind their magic business and Nonmagicals would just mind their Nonmagical business, you’d just have your own shit to deal with, and I could deal with mine.”

“I have a tendency to agree,” Malfoy said mildly. “When there were veils, the world was a safer place.”

“It’s everyone’s business,” Harry said.

“No.” Narang took a step closer to them. “It’s my jurisdiction. My watch. And this time, there isn’t a war.”

“Excellent.” Malfoy’s voice was bright, and his eyes looked just like Muggle guns. “Now tell me the name of every Magic Bringer you know.”

1 year post Voldemort

On October 21, 1999, the wizarding forces of Britain surrendered to the Muggle government. Five days later the American wizarding forces followed suit, and then the rest of the world. The Muggle War was over by Halloween, ending a little over a year after the first veil fell, and less than a year after the official war had begun.

For Harry, the final battle was fought at Godric’s Hollow. The veil had not fallen there, but Muggles in the surrounding area remembered the Dark Mark that had appeared in the sky above the town nearly twenty years ago on Halloween. They also remembered many strange events since, and it was not difficult for Muggles to connect the Dark Marks, disappearances, and deaths over the past few years to the wizarding world. It made no difference whether Voldemort had caused the damage or Harry Potter, or Kingsley Shacklebolt. To Muggles they were all just wizards—equally dangerous and deadly.

As Halloween approached, the Muggles had ramped up their efforts, apparently believing for some reason that Halloween was a peak time for witchcraft. Voldemort’s fondness for the holiday probably hadn’t helped.

The battle was already raging in the Hollow when Harry arrived. They had lost one of their unit on the way—broom-flying being conspicuous and difficult to conceal—and it had taken nearly three days to reach the Hollow. They fought for three more days, weary and exhausted, going through the motions of battle because the Muggles kept on coming with their tanks and their guns and their numbers, such large numbers. The wizarding world was now no longer fighting because they thought that they could win. They were fighting because they did not know what else to do.

News of the surrender reached the Muggles first. They had better communications devices—wizards had never really developed long distance talking spells. With Apparition and the Floo Network such spells had not been needed. Owls had sufficed for other messages, or Patronuses in the case of an emergency. While faster than the animal forms that they took on, Patronuses did not travel instantaneously. The wizarding world received the message of the surrender nearly twenty hours after the Muggles.

In the confusion of the sudden news, during the delay it took to absolutely confirm the surrender, chaos reigned. Many of the Muggles and wizards celebrated, but others were doubtful and afraid. No one knew how the two worlds could co-exist, now that they knew about each other and especially now that they had fought and killed each other. Some on both sides still did not want peace, and despite the ceasefire, several skirmishes broke out in the Hollow before the surrender could be confirmed.

It was amidst this turmoil that the spell holding the Dementors in check slipped. While Harry agreed with Hermione that use of the Dementors made them far too much like Voldemort for his comfort, he had to admit that the Dementors were useful against the Muggles. Few of their spells, hexes, or even magical creatures had been able to throw the Muggles into as much fear or confusion as the Dementors, and Harry understood why, remembering his own reaction to them. Some Muggles called them Ring Wraiths; a Muggleborn author had named them thusly when attempting to explain the wizarding world without giving up the secret. By either name, the Dementors were the stuff nightmares were made of.

The spell controlling the Dementors slipped accidentally and was quickly reinstated. In the entire scheme of the war, it was a minor event that only cost five lives—three Muggles and two wizards were Kissed. The incident was made more noteworthy because a third wizard was half-Kissed. There were records of it happening before, a Dementor’s Kiss that lasted long enough to steal part of the soul but not all of it. Usually wizards who were victims of such a Kiss went mad, but in this case the wizard made a full recovery—almost.

When the Dementor Kissed him, Harry felt everything being taken from him in a swirl of colour. He felt the warmth of white-gold, from when he had kissed Malfoy. He felt the green, green grass beside the lake at Hogwarts and Ginny’s hair spread out upon it like arteries, ribbons of blood. He felt the blue twinkle in Dumbledore’s eyes, the purple-pink-flash orange of Tonks’ hair—all of it slipping away. Slipping, slipping, and slipping away.

It should have been terrifying, devastating. Instead, to Harry, it felt like such a relief. He could let go of it all—all of it, and just be nothing.

Nothing.

Then the Dementor reached deep inside of him and took the inside things, the private things, the most precious colours of all—the warm golden brown of Hermione’s hair, the sun-coloured smile of Ron’s freckles. It started to take one morning, soft with dew, when the three of them had watched the sun rise over the Forest of Dean. Harry remembered the scent of pine, the smell of the river, and layered under it, the brine of ocean. He remembered the way the pink clouds had nuzzled the gravid belly of the Earth, the way the sky had gradually opened its arms to the birth of the blinding sun. Hermione had put her head on Harry’s shoulder, and Ron’s strong arm had been heavy on his back.

That was when Harry decided to fight. He could give the rest of it up—all of it, all of it, but he could not give up them. He would not give them up. He would die fighting for them; he would die, and he wanted to live.

For the first time in a long time, Harry Potter wanted to live.

The method they used to restore him had never been tried before. It involved finding the Dementor who had Kissed him, isolating the portion of Harry’s soul that had been extracted, removing it from the Dementor and giving it back to Harry. The cure for the most part worked, though not quite exactly as it was meant to. Harry regained his soul, his heart, his thoughts, and feelings—the shining silver knife blade of Sirius’s smile, the diaphanous glow of Luna’s hair—but he had something else besides.

The Healers called it the Dementor’s “Gift,” for lack of a better word. Harry was not a Dementor—he could not suck the happy thoughts from other people, leaving only despair in its wake. He could, however, feel those happy thoughts, as well as the sad ones. He could feel when people were hurt or angry or amused, and though over time he learned to block the emotions that constantly attempted to crowd his consciousness, the Dementor’s Gift never went away.

The other by-product of the half-Kiss was Harry’s ability to project his own emotions. Dementors only took emotions from people, but humans naturally both gave and received feelings. It was the only explanation the Healers could sort out for why Harry could influence people with his own emotions. As careful as Harry had to be to block himself from the onslaught of the feelings of people near him, Harry had to be thrice as careful not to transmit his own feelings to them.

By the time the Muggle War had been over a full year, blocking his empathic powers had become routine to Harry. The period of restructuring and adjustment was long. Sometimes, on his darker days, Harry did not think that humanity would survive. Other days, Harry woke and saw the sunrise. The world had survived two wars, one right after another. He had been half-Kissed, but he still had his magic, his friends, people he loved. Most of the Muggles—except maybe Munt—were really trying their very best.

And tomorrow, the sun would rise again.

5 years post Voldemort

Sergeant Narang gave Harry and Malfoy a list of twenty-one names of people she suspected belonged to the group that called themselves the Magic Bringers.

“And one last thing,” Narang said, after she’d given them the names. They were still in the military base they had found not far from Godric’s Hollow. “Don’t give that list to Detective Kelley.”

“Oh?” Malfoy said politely, folding the list up and making it disappear somewhere in his Healer tunic.

“Don’t do it,” Narang said.

“I’ve seen this in Nonmagical policing movies,” Malfoy said pleasantly. “Uniformed officers don’t get along with detectives, and detectives don’t get along with the Met and the Met doesn’t get along with MI5 and MI5 doesn’t get along with—”

“I get along with those people fine,” Narang said. “It’s Kelley.”

Malfoy was silent as they climbed out of the base. Once they were in the remote winter sunlight again, he pretended to pick a fleck of dust off of his perfectly white uniform. “You believe Kelley to be a Magic Bringer,” he said, as they walked back towards the car.

Narang held up her hands. “I didn’t say it.”

“Say what?” Harry said.

“I just don’t like him,” Narang said. “He ‘shows up’. He’s just there—wherever there’s magic, that’s where he is. When Mage Abbott and Healer Dumbledore first started making the rounds, he ‘showed up’.” Narang shook her head, her potent frown pulling down her brow. “I don’t like it.”

“We understand completely,” Malfoy said in a warm voice. “Mage Potter and I share similar feelings for the Security Service, MI13, the Joint Intelligence Commission, Defence Intelligence, and any of the Great Offices of State.”

Narang looked at him blankly. “You just named the whole British government.”

“As I said, we understand each other completely.” Malfoy smiled.

“Huh.” Narang looked thoughtful, then shrugged. “Okay. But we need to have someone look at those plans down there.”

“Whom do you trust?” Malfoy asked.

“In this town?” Narang made a noise. “Nobody.”

“Arthur Weasley,” said Harry.

Malfoy looked at him with an interested expression.

“We’re talking about the intersection between magic and Nonmagical science,” Harry said. “How they interact, or counteract. Arthur’s been studying what the Nonmagicals did to Apparition for years. If anyone can figure out what that wand machine is, it’d be him.”

“That’s very smart.” Malfoy seemed surprised.

Harry scowled at him. “Just because I got by on looks didn’t mean I don’t have a brain at all.”

Malfoy smiled, angling his face away. “But looks don’t hurt,” he murmured.

“Magic and science,” Narang said. “You know, I think I know someone after all. She and the Magic Bringers were really thick at one point, but she cut them off. Wouldn’t have anything to do with them. Used to be a scientist, but now she’s retired. Her name is Doctor Rosemary Spring. You’ll like her,” Narang said, glancing at Harry and Malfoy. “She’s as off her trolley as you two.”

Doctor Rosemary Spring looked like somebody’s grandmother. Her hair, which she wore in a mass of dreadlocks pulled back from her face, was frosted with grey and white, and her eyes were dark and kind. She said her arthritis was too bad to go down the ladder to the base, so they brought the papers and diagrams to her. Sergeant Narang put some of the information from the computer on a USB key she kept in the squad car and they drove over to Dr Spring’s house.

“You’re the Mages,” Dr Spring said, when they arrived at the door. “My, you’re both tall. Would you like some biscuits?”

She ushered them into a sitting room full of soft rugs and colourful blankets, leaving them their momentarily only to return with a plate of biscuits. “How are you, Meena?” Dr Spring held out her plate to Sergeant Narang. “Do you want a biscuit?”

“No.” Narang pressed her lips together. “Thank you,” she added.

“And how are your parents?” Dr Spring asked. Her voice was warm and crackly, just like a fire on a winter’s day.

“Fine,” Narang said.

“Meena’s parents and I were good friends,” Dr Spring said. “Before the magic. I thought we could use it; they thought it was rubbish.”

“They thought it was dangerous,” Narang said darkly. “They were right.”

“People are dangerous,” Dr Spring said. “Magic’s just magic. You lot sure you don’t want any biscuits?”

When everyone said no, they showed Dr Spring the diagrams and papers from the underground base. Narang inserted her USB drive into the computer sitting in the corner, while Dr Spring put on a pair of glasses and made a lot of ‘hmm’ing sounds, tracing the diagrams with her fingers and occasionally scribbling things on scraps of paper. Most of it looked like nonsense.

“Sergeant Narang said you were a scientist?” Malfoy said politely, after nearly five minutes of ‘hmms’ and scribbles.

“Oh, yes.” Dr Spring kept poring over the diagrams. “Theoretical physics, at Exeter. Booted me out when I started talked about magic, though. This is interesting,” she said, tapping a biro on one of the diagrams of the machine with the notes about wands scribbled in its margins.

“Do you know what it does?” Harry asked.

“Not yet,” said Dr Spring.

“Why would they kick you out of uni for talking about magic?” Malfoy asked.

“They didn’t know it existed at the time.”

“You knew about magic before the war?” Harry said.

“Mm-hm.” Dr Spring scribbled onto her pad of paper. “Came up with the theory a long time ago, but it didn’t really coalesce until about seven years ago—around the time those disappearances started, and the green snakes started appearing in the sky.”

Malfoy, who had been looking over Dr Spring’s shoulder, pretended to get interested in a painting that was right behind Harry on the wall. Malfoy moved closer.

“There were too many things it was impossible to explain—the snakes, the deaths. Terrible weather! Old Bathilda Bagshot—whatever happened to her, and of course that lovely couple and that missing baby years and years ago. So, that was my theory—magic. They didn’t like that at Exeter.”

“Did you know the couple?” Harry asked. “The ones that died years and years ago.”

Malfoy moved closer. He wasn’t looking at the painting any more at all.

Dr Spring shook her head. “Odd people. In retrospect, they were obviously Magicals—we just didn’t know it at the time. But with all the other unexplained phenomena, I began to research the possibility that quantum uncertainty could be manipulated. That’s what magic is.”

“Quantum uncertainty?” Harry asked.

Dr Spring looked at him over the tops of her glasses. “The world as most humans imagine it—even wizards—obeys laws of physics. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, so on. On a Planck scale, that breaks down. Everything is both a particle and a wave, which makes for really irrational behaviour—that’s Heisenberg’s uncertainty. My theory was that the uncertainty principle was less how our world is and more like a window into another world that worked very differently. I thought if we could get into that world, we could use its laws to break our own laws. We could defy classical physics, basically.”

“It was you,” Malfoy said quietly, getting it before Harry did. “You’re the Nonmagical who discovered the veils.”

Dr Spring shook her head. “I didn’t find them at all—I merely theorized as to their existence, and plenty of people have done that before. If you ask me, there are still other worlds out there—other dimensions, beyond yours, beyond mine. There are veils all around us; they’re part of the fabric of reality. If we could see through them all, then we’d know all the secrets of the universe.”

“Then how did the Nonmagicals find them?” Harry asked.

“Well.” Dr Spring folded up her glasses, then tapped them on the diagram she’d been examining. “I expect they used this.”

One day later, Arthur Weasley arrived in Ivybridge with an external hard drive full of all the research he had ever done on the veils, Apparition, and the connections between science and the wizarding world. After Molly’s death, Arthur had thrown himself into his biggest hobby, Muggle technology. With complete access to Muggle science and Muggle experts to explain it, Arthur had become adept at using computers, and even had begun to develop hybrid magical-Muggle technology.

Together, Arthur and Rosemary Spring pored over all of the files, documents, charts, code, and diagrams from the underground base. Using the calculations they had found and their own knowledge, they’d figured out how the Muggle terrorists who had begun the Muggle War had brought down the veils and destroyed Apparition.

If the diagrams from the base represented a machine that had in actuality been built, the machine could harness the power of wands and use it, much like a wizard could. If the machine worked as outlined, a Nonmagical could use the machine and program it to use wands to cast spells. Because the machine was not as powerful or controlled as a wizard, the machine required at least three wands.

This explained the multiple points of origin of the lingering magical traces of the Cruciatus Curse on Hannah’s body. She had only been hit with the curse a single time, but the curse itself had been coming out of the three wands on the machine. When Arthur did the math, he was able to conclude that the pattern of origin on Hannah’s body matched. Hannah had been killed by the machine.

18 months post Voldemort

On November 6, 1999, Shacklebolt signed a peace treaty, one of the primary authors of which was Muggle Defence Secretary Miriam Munt. In it, Obliviate was outlawed, various wizarding governments agreed to integrate with the laws and governments of the Muggle world, and new structures were put in place to regulate the new integrated government.

Under the Treaty of Wiltshire, owl communication and Floo travel were outlawed. Broom-flying was regulated, and Magical children were expected by law to attend Muggle schools. Magical schools such as Hogwarts were only to be used for extracurricular study. Muggles would be permitted to attend if they so chose, and anti-discrimination laws were put into place. Legilimency, Obliviate, and many other spells and curses were outlawed.

The biggest term in the treaty stated that the remaining veils would be destroyed. On November 13, 1999, wizards around the world took down the remaining veils—sometimes revealing war zones that Muggles already knew existed, but also revealing villages, streets, city districts and even an island or two the Muggles had never fathomed. Avalon and Atlantis were unwrapped like Christmas presents, and the walls that had separated the worlds for millennia crumpled like so much tissue paper.

As soon as the veils fell, Muggles began moving into wizard territories. Some of them simply passed through, curious, like so many Muggle tourists. Others wanted to stake their claim, showing wizardkind that their world was now a part of the Muggle world. Some did it in attempts to peacefully coexist, while still others wanted to rub their victory in the wizards’ face. However the Muggles acted, the wizards had to acquiesce—they were the defeated people, and they were now subject to Muggle law.

Beginning January 1, 2000, the Ministry of Magic became just another arm of the Muggle British government. Secretary Munt argued that Muggles should control the new office, or that at the very least the Cabinet should choose a new person to lead it. Her first choice was Auror Horace Brimble, who sang a very different tune now than he had during the Muggle War—making nice with any Muggles in power who might pay him heed. There was an old saying that war made strange bedfellows—in Harry’s opinion, peace made stranger fellows still.

Meanwhile, Secretary Tambling argued that wizardkind should retain their identity. They may have been defeated, but they were still British. Although they had fought against Kingsley in the war, he was obviously the leader that most wizards knew and respected, and it was only just to instate him as the new Secretary of State for Magic. These days Prime Minister Clancy was more conciliatory than he had been during the war. Now that the wizards had been defeated, he was eager to make peace. He sided with Secretary Tambling, and oversaw Kingsley’s swearing in as the new Secretary for Magic.

According to the treaty, the wizarding world now had no need for Aurors. Wizardkind would now have to abide by Muggle laws and obey Muggle police, submitting themselves to Muggle punishment if they went against the treaty. Still, there were certain magical problems that Muggle police could not handle, including everything from magical crimes to treaties with Beings such as giants and centaurs.

As such, Tambling quickly worked to align former Head Auror Camellia Parkinson with his allies in the Joint Intelligence Committee, including the Director General of the Security Service, which the wizards quickly learned was called MI5, and the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, which was called MI6. In so doing, Tambling worked around Munt, who oversaw Defence Intelligence. Furious, she demanded complete control of Auror forces, but in the end Prime Minister Clancy agreed that she should only control wizarding units in times of war.

Meanwhile, Secretary Tambling oversaw the formation of Military Intelligence Section 13—or MI13, Magical Services. The section was a combination of former Aurors, Hit Wizards, and Unspeakables, as well as many who had become soldiers in the Muggle War, who were now called Mages. Instead of carrying out justice in the wizarding world, the Mages preserved peace between the magical and Muggle worlds.

While most Mages were stationed in London in the MI13 office, the remaining Mages worked on circuits throughout the country, liaising between Muggle and wizard communities, settling magical disputes for circumstances in which the Muggles had no real-life experience. For instance, a Muggle authority would be completely lost when it came capturing a loose Hippogriff or controlling accidental magic gone haywire.

Munt still tried to keep her hand in, but she could not prevent the instatement of Camellia Parkinson as Head Mage. She continued, however, to demand that all magical history and secrets be revealed to the British government. It was Brimble who encouraged her to find out about the Battle of Hogwarts.

Once Munt had heard of Voldemort, she was like a dog with a bone, calling not only Kingsley and Camellia, but Hermione, Ron, Aberforth, and Minerva in for questioning. Harry was still recovering from the half-Kiss, though Munt demanded to question him too. Tambling reprimanded her, proclaiming that the wizarding world would share all their information with the Muggle world in time. They needed to have patience. Tambling even granted Harry temporary immunity, so that he could recover before questioning.

Patience was the last thing on Munt’s mind, however. By March of 2000, she had finally managed to question Harry, as well as every single former Death Eater, member of the Ministry and Wizengamot, and even the former DA. She had also discovered the use of Veritaserum, although the Muggles found after experimentation that it did not work very well on Muggles. In her zeal, Munt had learned everything there was to know about the war against Voldemort, including all about the Hallows and the Horcruxes. It was for the good of the nation, she claimed.

Only Secretary Munt seemed to want to make a big deal about Harry’s role in the last war. The other Muggle world did not seem as interested in magical history, far more interested in flying carpets, dragons, and love spells. Aside from Munt, Harry settled into his role as a Mage at MI13 with little more ogling from Muggles than every other wizard got. Mainly he worked to control the “gift” he had received from the Dementor, and tried to adjust himself to the strange new world of Muggles living side-by-side with wizards.

5 years post Voldemort

While Arthur and Dr Spring worked on the information from the base, Harry, Malfoy, and Sergeant Narang went through Narang’s lists of Magic Bringers one by one. Because Sergeant Narang didn’t trust him, they gave Detective Kelley vague updates as to their progress, and Harry and Malfoy sent back similarly vague reports to Mage Headquarters. While they trusted Camellia, they didn’t trust whomever else might be listening, especially since Malfoy still thought that the falling of the veils was connected to someone in the Muggle government.

While many of the suspects on Narang’s list of Magic Bringers were hostile, none of them revealed further useful information. They couldn’t ask about the underground base without revealing what they found, and they were hoping to find out more before making the contents of the base known. From some of the suspects, Harry could sense the same malice and secrecy he had from many in town, but they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest anyone or search their houses and flats.

He and Malfoy had made allies in Sergeant Narang and Rosemary Spring, but somewhere in this area were the terrorists who had started the war, the people who had captured Neville and killed him, the people who had killed Hannah and captured Aberforth. With some of the suspects Harry and Malfoy interviewed, Harry felt sure they knew more than they were telling, but Veritaserum was just as illegal as Legilimency, and didn’t work well on Muggles.

Sometimes, Harry had to wonder whether he was projecting his own uneasiness back onto their list of suspects. He and Malfoy had managed to find themselves at the heart of where the war began. Somehow, the Muggle government was involved, and for some reason, he and Malfoy were there together specifically to solve the case.

Harry didn’t understand it. They weren’t finding the answers, and the more time he spent with Malfoy, the more fraught the situation because. Although Harry had felt Malfoy’s fear when Harry had gone down into the underground base alone, Malfoy’s emotional aura had remained as smooth and implacable as ever since then. And yet—sometimes the way Malfoy looked at him, the way Malfoy smiled, the way he moved to be close to Harry whenever someone said something potentially hurtful—Malfoy’s feelings felt like more than friendship, even if Malfoy didn’t feel that way.

Then again, it was entirely possible that Malfoy moved close to him in those instances when people brought up his parents or Neville because Malfoy knew Harry was losing control of his Occlumency. Every night, Malfoy had to help him with it, and even though Malfoy was a good teacher—in some ways, it made it worse. Having Malfoy that close, having Malfoy inside his mind, the feeling of Malfoy’s feelings brushing against his own, wrapping them up in warmth, gentleness, kindness—it was driving Harry crazy. Malfoy shouldn’t be kind. He shouldn’t be . . . so damn efficient about his emotions.

There were so many times that Harry wished Malfoy was as crazy for him as he was for Malfoy, but Harry could tell from Malfoy’s thoughts that it wasn’t true. Although there was friendship and tenderness and consideration in Malfoy’s thoughts for him, there was no lust, none of that unbridled desire—none of the things that Harry felt. Still, Harry couldn’t help but feel that Malfoy’s emotions should go deeper—that they did go deeper. At the same time Harry was aware that he was probably projecting the emotions he wished Malfoy had onto Malfoy.

Harry knew he wasn’t making much sense. Malfoy could still care for him as a friend, even if he didn’t want Harry as a romantic partner. And yet, Malfoy always seemed to be holding Harry at a distance, as though he was afraid to get too close. Harry had always assumed it was a lack of interest, but now they were in such constant close proximity to each other, he wondered whether it was something else.

After a week in Ivybridge, interviewing suspects, following dead-end leads, and taking Malfoy’s Occlumency lessons at night, Harry felt ready to break. Malfoy, of course, noticed.

“Would you like tea?” Malfoy said, when he came into Harry’s room that night. “They have electric kettles.”

Harry was sitting in the chair, feeling defeated. He hadn’t even got up when Malfoy came in.

Without waiting for an answer, Malfoy swept by and began arranging the tea paraphernalia, filling the kettle with water and opening the paper tea bags. Watching Malfoy make tea the Muggle way, with bags and electricity, should have been strange, and yet Malfoy did it with the same careful, precise movements of his hands that he did everything.

Harry looked away.

“Detective Kelley is incommunicado,” Malfoy said, still over by the table with the tea. “Sergeant Narang is talking to his superiors. We think he might have learned that we discovered the base. It’s possible he’s contacting whomever is responsible for its construction.”

Harry looked back at him. “Narang said that?” Leaping to that conclusion didn’t sound a lot like Narang. Malfoy was the one who saw conspiracies everywhere. At the moment, Harry didn’t much care that Malfoy was likely right. Malfoy was always right about everyone; it didn’t make him superior.

Malfoy paused in his assembly with the tea, likely hearing the suspicion in Harry’s voice. “No,” he said at length.

They talked like this every night—rehashing the case, trying to get to the bottom of it. “Have you ever thought it possible that Hannah just—died?” Harry asked. “That this has nothing to do with anything? That we’re just . . .” Harry closed his eyes. “We’re just two blokes out on a normal case and that when we solve it—we can go home?”

There was another long pause. “Did you ever think that when Umbridge said the rumours about the Dark Lord’s return weren’t true?” Malfoy asked softly, after a long while. “Did you think it when Barty Crouch Jr Polyjuiced himself as one of our professors, or when the Chamber of Secrets was opened?”

Harry sighed. “No.”

“I did.” One of the tea cups clinked, and Harry opened his eyes again. Malfoy was faced away, intent on the electric kettle. “I thought nothing much more important was going on than my own life.”

Harry tried to read the lines of Malfoy’s back, the slender arch of his neck, the curve of his jaw in profile. “It’s not your fault, Malfoy,” Harry said.

“It is my fault.” Malfoy’s voice didn’t sound mad or sad or anything at all. His words were a simple statement of fact. “I followed the example of a man who was wilfully ignorant, and he himself followed the example of a man whose only desire was the acquisition of power.”

“He was your father,” Harry said, because he could forgive a lot for that. “Besides, you were different in the Nonmagical War.”

“In the Nonmagical War, I followed the example of someone else.”

“Your mum,” Harry said.

Malfoy went still. “Yes,” he said finally.

The lie was obvious.

Harry didn’t really understand. If Malfoy had not meant his mother . . . Harry tried not to be arrogant, but it seemed disingenuous to conclude that Malfoy was referring to anyone but him. However, if Harry was the person Malfoy wanted to follow—Harry didn’t understand why Malfoy wouldn’t just say it. It wasn’t a confession of anything; it wasn’t romantic. It was just Malfoy trying to be a good person, and the idea of it got all the way down into Harry’s bones, because Harry didn’t want Malfoy to follow him. He wanted to follow Malfoy.

He would go wherever Malfoy led.

“I’d like to try something different tonight. For your Occlumency practice.” Malfoy’s voice was a little strained. He was still facing the tea things, his back to Harry.

Harry realized that his shields were probably all over the place, and he was projecting onto Malfoy. Gathering himself up, Harry once again tried to use what Malfoy had taught him to gain control. “What?” he asked at last, when he felt sufficiently focused.

Malfoy turned around. “We’ve been working on organizing your thoughts.”

The practice would have been going well, if it hadn’t been Malfoy Harry was practising with. After that first night, when Malfoy had helped him dismantle the tangled memories and feelings surrounding Snape, they had taken thoughts and memories one by one and organized them.

Working with Malfoy wasn’t at all like working with Snape—sometimes, Harry felt as though Malfoy wasn’t even looking at the thoughts at all, wasn’t trying to see why they were what they were, and he certainly wasn’t trying to fix them. Instead, Malfoy simply sorted, as though Harry’s thoughts were colours or objects of different sizes. Good thoughts over here, bad thoughts over there, funny thoughts on this shelf, sad thoughts on that shelf, confusing things to the right, sexual things to the left, angry feelings down low, warm feelings up high.

“It works to a point,” Malfoy said, “but the spaces between your thoughts must be clear. In order to do that, we must work on clearing a path.”

Harry remembered the empty mist of Malfoy’s mind. “That’s the part I’m bad at,” Harry said.

Malfoy shook his head. “You’re not bad at it. You’ve merely had insufficient practice, and inadequate tutors.” The kettle clicked, and Malfoy set about pouring the water into one of the mugs provided by the inn.

“The Healers who fixed me after the Kiss were all right,” Harry said.

“I didn’t mean to disparage them.” Malfoy poured water into the other mug. “I suspect what happened was that they believed you to be proficient at the time. You are able to block thoughts by sheer force of will, which not many other people are able to do. Sugar?”

“No,” said Harry.

Malfoy began adding sugar and milk to his own tea. “By shielding yourself in the only way you knew how, you managed to convince them that you already knew Occlumency. From what you’ve told me over the past few nights, the things they taught you to help you control your Gift are mere dressing—tricks of the trade for people already proficient in Occlumency. What you’re lacking is fundamentals.”

“Why aren’t you a professor?” Harry wanted to know.

Malfoy put down the spoon. “I lack sufficient patience.”

“You’re patient with me.”

“You deserve it.” Malfoy brought Harry’s mug over to him, and Harry looked up. Malfoy’s expression was serene as always, his mouth a slight, gentle curve. Sighing, Harry took the mug. “Besides,” Malfoy said, turning away, “I’m afraid I would be of little service in the current school system.”

Malfoy was more than likely right. Harry put down his mug. “Okay. Should we be sitting on the floor?”

“Not this time.” Malfoy spelled the other chair in the room to position itself across from Harry. After fetching his own tea, Malfoy sat down in the second chair.

“What should I do?” Harry asked.

“I’d like you to pick a memory,” Malfoy said. “Pick a very clear, distinct one. Instead of organizing it, I’ll show you how to banish it.”

“Banish it?” Harry asked.

“It’s not the same as Obliviate,” Malfoy said. “You’ll still have it, if you want it, but you can make it disappear, like putting it in a Pensieve.”

“Clearing my mind,” Harry said, because that was what Snape had told him all along. “So I do this after I put all of my thoughts and feelings in the vegetable carts. The aisles in between them have to be clear.”

Malfoy smiled. “Yes, Harry.”

There was such fondness and affection in Malfoy’s voice that Harry was pretty sure he was projecting that, too.

“Okay,” Harry said. “So I need a memory to banish.” He should pick something relatively innocuous, something easy to banish. Sifting through his thoughts the way that Malfoy had taught him, Harry tried to remember the last time he was with Ron and Hermione. They’d got coffee together, and Hermione had shared happy news. “I’m ready,” Harry said.

“All right, Harry.” Malfoy pointed his wand. “Legilimens.

In the memory, Hermione had announced that she was pregnant. Harry had been happy for her, and Ron had been beaming. Harry remembered thinking about family. Ron and Hermione were like family—a brother and a sister, like he had never had. Like Malfoy had never had. Once Hermione had the baby, Harry would be like an uncle—not like Vernon, more like Sirius, or even Dumbledore.

Towards the end of the Muggle War, Harry had found out that Andromeda had moved to South America with Teddy to escape the riots and persecution. The choice to move was a good one, but they never did come back. Harry hardly ever saw them any more.

“We are a family,” Hermione had said that day in the coffee shop. She’d covered Harry’s hand with her own, and Harry had never been as good at blocking the Gift from her. She’d been one of the people who had helped him recover, and he knew his walls were weaker around her. Hermione never seemed to mind it, and Harry didn’t mind it either. His walls might be weaker, but the rest of him was stronger for her presence.

“Healer Malfoy’s back in town,” Hermione had said, apropos of nothing. She took her hand away.

“I’d heard,” Harry had said.

“Will you be seeing him?” Hermione had been pretending that she was merely curious, but her interest had run deeper. Harry could feel it, even though he appreciated that she was trying to hide it.

“I don’t know,” Harry said. “We haven’t—I haven’t.”

“Harry.” Ron felt worried, and it wasn’t because Harry’s walls were weak around Ron. Ron’s emotions were just so loud; they always had been, and sometimes Harry stayed away from both of them just to feel his own emotions, instead of theirs. “You know you’re barking up the wrong tree, mate.”

“I’m not barking,” Harry said.

“Malfoy’s straight as a post,” Ron said.

“Is he?” Hermione was worried, too. “I’ve never heard of him going out with any girls.”

“Well, he’s certainly not going out with blokes,” said Ron.

Harry had not remembered that they had discussed Malfoy in this way. He should have known—he, Hermione, and Ron often discussed Malfoy in this way. Harry hadn’t realized it before, but now that he thought about it, Hermione and Ron had to know how obsessed with Malfoy he was. It was no wonder they were always bringing him up—Harry was probably the one who brought him up more than half the time anyway, and if they could feel Harry’s emotions as well as Harry could feel theirs—

Harry had never considered before that if he felt his friends’ emotions to be overwhelming, they probably felt his to be so as well. They had never said anything about it, and yet they had known. They had known everything; they had known about Malfoy. Probably everyone knew; Harry had probably made himself ridiculous chasing after Malfoy when everyone knew Malfoy didn’t want him—

The memory faded into another memory, older, less innocent. It had been three years ago, when Malfoy had again been working at MI13, healing injured Mages.

At the time, Harry hadn’t thought that having Malfoy as his Healer would matter. By then—two years after his recovery from the half-Kiss—Harry was well aware that he was gay. He had had several lovers, enough to know why it hadn’t worked with Ginny. None of the relationships were serious, but Harry knew what he preferred.

Harry wasn’t sure what madness had inspired him to kiss Draco Malfoy that day in the recovery tent, but it had definitely been madness. He had been overwhelmed by death and war. He wouldn’t fall for Malfoy again.

And then he did.

It happened slowly, without Harry quite knowing why. Malfoy received him just as though he were any other patient, never mentioning the past. His magic was as light and his touch as gentle as it had been the day that they had kissed, and yet he did not act as though he was treating Harry any differently. That was merely Malfoy’s way of healing—calm, professional, infinitely delicate.

Harry knew for a fact that Malfoy was not engaged. He wasn’t even dating anyone, and whatever had prevented Malfoy in the past, the day they had kissed—that could no longer be a barrier. If there was some pure-blood tradition that meant he’d been betrothed at birth or that he could not date men, surely that was defunct. With the wizarding world in tatters, neither Malfoy nor Narcissa could still faff with the old ways of doing things—not now. And yet, Malfoy maintained his cool, collected demeanour, even after Harry began to feel quite differently.

Finally, it reached the tipping point.

“What are you doing tonight?” Harry asked Malfoy, who was on the other side of the check-up room, writing something on a clipboard.

“Tonight?” Malfoy didn’t turn around, even though Harry was putting his shirt back on. He just had a few bruised ribs, nothing major. Most people would have kept on looking.

“Yes,” Harry said.

Malfoy did turn around then. “Why are you asking?”

“Because I want to know if you’re free.”

Malfoy’s head tilted. “If I am?” He sounded curious.

“Let’s get drinks,” Harry said.

“Ah.” Then Malfoy was quiet for a very long time.

“We could go flying.”

“I don’t like men,” Malfoy said, then turned back to his clipboard.

“Okay,” Harry said slowly. “All of them, or, you know, just me?”

“I meant sexually.”

Harry didn’t think that the Dementor’s Gift was the reason that Malfoy had known exactly what he wanted, but he checked his mental walls anyway. They were intact. “All I was asking was whether you wanted to get a drink with—”

“I’m not interested in dating you. Or any other man.” Malfoy scribbled something on his clipboard.

“I wasn’t—”

Malfoy put the clipboard down. He did so gently and precisely, the way that he did everything, but it was so decisive that Harry stopped talking, and Malfoy turned around. When he spoke, his voice was soft, so very soft. “Weren’t you?” he asked.

“No.”

“Ah. I misunderstood.”

Harry could read nothing in Malfoy’s gaze, absolutely nothing. He looked just like ice, and it made Harry want him desperately, almost painfully. “I was asking you on a date,” Harry said, after a long, drawn-out moment. “I would settle for less.”

Malfoy’s voice remained very soft. “Would you?”

“Can’t we at least—” Harry searched for words. “We fought on the same side. We’re not—you’re not the same person you were at Hogwarts. You’ve changed—”

“So have you,” Malfoy murmured.

“So can’t we be friends?”

Malfoy looked away. “It wouldn’t work.”

“Jesus, Malfoy. The Battle of Hogwarts was three bloody years ago. I’m willing to forgive you if you just—”

“I forgive you.”

“What?”

“I forgave you long ago. It isn’t that.” Malfoy met Harry’s eyes. “I’ve tried it before. Being friends. It won’t work.”

“It could.”

“Why?” Malfoy’s hand twitched almost imperceptibly by his side. “What’s in it for you?”

“Gee, Malfoy. I dunno. Maybe friendship? This is stupid.” Harry grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. “Forget about it.”

Malfoy’s hand darted out almost more quickly than Harry could see, clamping down hard around Harry’s wrist. “Yes.”

“Yes what?” Harry twisted his hand in Malfoy’s grasp.

“Being friends.” Malfoy let go. “Yes. I—I accept.”

“You do?”

“As long as you understand that there’s no possibility of a sexual relationship.”

“Okay,” said Harry, and put out his hand.

Something ticked in Malfoy’s jaw—annoyance, perhaps—but he took Harry’s hand in his own, his grip strong and unexpectedly warm, for all his cool touches. Malfoy was human after all.

“Friends,” Harry said.

And they were.

The memory ended, and Harry could feel it all—the frustration, the disappointment, the anger, the sadness.

And then he realized that Malfoy was still there. Malfoy was still there inside his mind, and he had seen it all. He had lived through the entire memory with Harry, and Harry wanted to reach out. He wanted to apologize, because Malfoy should not have had to keep bearing witness to his desire. He wanted to say that he was sorry and at the same time, he wanted to ask why. Why why why—

Why didn’t Malfoy want him?

But the soft, warm presence of Malfoy didn’t answer. Instead, it cupped the memory with light touches, and piece by piece, began to pull it apart.

He began with the handshake—holding it, witnessing it, then making it slip away. It drowned under Malfoy’s cool silver waves of imperturbable calm. Then came Harry’s desire, his need. Malfoy touched that, and it went away too. Then each word, each question, each glance, the scent of Malfoy’s magic, the feeling of his touch—they faded to oblivion, and Harry ripped himself away.

He was in the inn once more in Ivybridge, and Malfoy was sitting across from him, looking startled. Their tea had cooled beside them.

Harry leapt out of his chair. “I can’t do that,” he snarled.

Malfoy looked up at him with his blank silver eyes. “You have to.”

“I don’t want to,” Harry said. “I don’t care what it does to anyone else; I don’t want to—I don’t want to drown myself like—”

“You do care.” Malfoy stood up. “You always care for others. That’s how you operate.”

“But not this.” Harry stalked closer. He knew that his emotions were violent, out of control. He was not using Occlumency at all right now, but Malfoy stood as straight and still as ever. “I can hide it from you, and keep it from you, and make it so that it’s not unpleasant for you,” Harry said, “but I’m not going to destroy what I feel for you. It’s mine.”

“Harry,” Malfoy said in his calm way. “You must.”

“No.” Harry put his hand on Malfoy’s cheek. Malfoy shifted, and Harry slid his grip down, tightening it. His fingers wrapped around the back of Malfoy’s neck, his thumb hard across Malfoy’s jaw. “What did you do, Malfoy?” he asked, his voice rough a low. “Did you just kill everything you feel? Did you drown it, bury it, just so it couldn’t hurt you?”

“I didn’t—”

Malfoy struggled again, and Harry didn’t let him go. “You didn’t and you don’t,” Harry said. “You don’t let anyone inside; you don’t let yourself feel anything. You take all your neat, clean feelings and you stack them all in rows and why? Why do you do that?”

Malfoy’s eyes went dark. “Convenience,” he hissed.

“Yeah, I’ll bet it’s convenient.” Harry pressed Malfoy’s body to his and he could feel him, all of him, the long hard lines of Malfoy he so loved. “What are you afraid of? That you’ll fuck up again, like you did with Voldemort? That you’ll lose someone, like you did your mum?”

“Let me go.” Malfoy’s voice was steel.

“It turns out the world is messy, Malfoy,” Harry said. “I can organize my thoughts and clear my mind, but I’m not going to stop feeling what I feel. I’m not going to stop feeling this.” Then he kissed him, lips hard and sure against Malfoy’s.

Malfoy stood there like a stone. He was so perfectly unresponsive, it was as though there was no one standing there at all.

Harry pushed with his emotions, clawed against Malfoy’s solemn wall harder than he ever had before, rammed into it with all the force he had. When he finally got to what was beneath, the only thing that he could feel was extreme discomfort, and slowly forming horror.

Instantly, Harry let him go, backing up as far as he could before hitting his chair. “You really don’t,” Harry said, because Malfoy wasn’t in the least bit attracted to him. Not even a little bit. Harry couldn’t seem to catch his breath.

“I really don’t,” Malfoy said, but he sounded distraught.

“Jesus, Malfoy.” Harry didn’t even know how he was going to begin to apologize.

Just then, there was a knock on the door.

Harry’s eyes darted in that direction. Horrified, confused, he couldn’t even figure out for a good long moment what the knocking meant.

“It’s Detective Kelley,” said a voice.

Calmly, Malfoy went to go answer the door.

All hell broke loose.

“Get them,” Kelley said.

Harry threw Malfoy against the wall and got in front of him before he really knew what he was doing. Two Muggles with guns had come out from behind Kelley and were advancing. Harry had his own wand in his hand without an incantation. He didn’t remember even thinking about it; it was simply there.

Stupefy,” Harry shouted, pointing at the closest Muggle.

Nothing happened.

“So, the magic dampeners work.” Kelley smiled. “The boss’ll be pleased.”

Malfoy slid out from behind Harry to fetch his wand, not bothering to use a spell. One of the Muggles turned towards him with his device, but seemed reluctant to approach.

Harry tried a few more spells.

Kelley’s smile turned into a frown. “What are you waiting for?” he asked the Muggles.

“They have wands,” one of them said.

“Yes,” said Kelley. “And?”

Harry could feel their fear, and knew that he could use it to his advantage. Instead of trying to cast another spell, he ran straight for the Muggle closest to him, bringing him down with a solid punch.

“Don’t shoot!” said Kelley. “Remember, we want them alive!”

Then the other Muggle was on Harry. Harry fought back, punching and kicking, while Malfoy did something with the other Muggle. Harry landed a solid blow to the Muggle’s eye.

“Dammit,” Kelley said. “I thought you were the sidekick!”

“Surprise,” Harry said, and rolled away.

Malfoy had found something on the other Muggle, a device the size of a billfold that gave off blue light. The Muggle from whom he’d taken it was standing up behind him.

“Malfoy!”

Whirling around, Malfoy had his wand in the other man’s face before the man could lift the gun. “I expect I can do magic,” Malfoy said in his lazy way, “now that I’ve disabled your device. But just in case I can’t, I can always put this in your eye.”

The Muggle obviously had no idea that Malfoy had taken an Unbreakable Vow to do no harm to Muggles.

Instead the Muggle whimpered, dropping his gun.

Instantly Malfoy picked up the gun, dropped the device, and fired a bullet into it.

Kelley slowly clapped. “Very nice.”

Harry lunged at the other Muggle, who was slowly getting up. Searching the Muggle as he struggled, Harry found another device similar to the one that Malfoy had shot. Removing it from the Muggle, Harry slid it across the floor. Standing very straight, with perfect aim, Malfoy shot that too.

Harry didn’t know where Malfoy had learned to shoot a Muggle gun. The image was burned into his brain.

“Oh look,” Kelley said, sounding just about as bored as Malfoy. “Here comes back-up.”

Two more Muggles came through the door into the small room—at least one of them one of the suspects Harry had interviewed during the past week. Neither one of them had magic dampeners, but they had another kind of device. This one looked more like a futuristic Muggle gun—silver, mechanized, glowing with blue light, a wand was attached to the muzzle. It was much smaller than the diagrams Arthur and Dr Spring had been examining.

The Muggles had obviously found a way to improve their technology

Attached to the Muggle apparatuses, the wands produced weaker spells than most full wizards—the casting closer to partial Squibs than anything. It was, however, enough to keep Harry and Malfoy busy, especially since Malfoy couldn’t cast spells against the Muggles. He could only protect himself—which he did, for the most part, unless Harry got distracted. Then he protected Harry.

“Get your shield over yourself,” Harry snarled at him.

“Then mind your backside,” Malfoy said, sounding bored.

“I am,” Harry said.

“Not enough.”

Malfoy sounded disinterested, and for the first time, Harry realized that maybe he actually he wasn’t. Maybe it wasn’t an act, a façade, a way to shield himself from the world. Maybe Malfoy actually really didn’t care about anything, and wouldn’t that be a better way to be, a better way to live—

Because here once again was Harry Potter, fighting the very Muggles he had fought so hard to protect during Voldemort’s War. These were people he had fought for, people he had died in a forest for, people his parents had died for, and as it turned out, the Muggle world hated them. The Muggle world outlawed their magic, crippled their Healers, shut down their schools, and all of it was for nothing.

Hannah had died for nothing; the unification efforts were for nothing; the Treaty of Wiltshire was a lie, because this was their brave new world—this world where they all still killed each other and died, and it was never going to stop. It was always going to be about who had magic and who didn’t, whose parents had magic and who didn’t, and no wonder Malfoy had shut down and stopped caring about everything and everyone.

Voldemort had been right.

“Harry, no,” Malfoy said. “That’s what they want; that was their plan all—”

Harry didn’t hear the rest of what Malfoy said. More Muggles swarmed into the room and there were too many. He couldn’t protect Malfoy, who couldn’t even cast spells to protect himself, and they were going to hurt him they were going to kill him and they were grabbing him, grabbing Malfoy—

Malfoy—

Malfoy—

Harry would rather die.

When Harry woke up, his hands were bound. The room was dark except for a soft blue light. Harry couldn't make out much by the dim glow, but when he tried to use wandless magic to light a spark, there was no response. Another device was in the room with him, then—one of those things Kelley had called a magic dampener. Sergeant Narang had been right about Kelley, Harry supposed.

Sergeant Narang was a Muggle too.

Harry closed his eyes and stopped thinking about it. Reaching out with his Gift instead, he tried to feel the emotions of anyone who might have been around. He couldn’t hear anything, and the only thing he could feel physically was the hard, cold floor beneath him. His emotions met with nothing, however, which either meant that no one was nearby, or the magic dampeners worked on his Gift as well. Harry did his best to move across the floor.

Presently there were footsteps, and Harry had only moved several feet. Immediately he stopped and pretended to be sleeping. Apparently, his Gift still worked, because he could feel the other person’s emotions easily. Whoever it was revealed the same suspicion and malice that had filled so much of Ivybridge, but now it was combined with hatred.

An unseen door opened. “Wake up,” a voice said. A light clicked on, filling the room with fluorescent brightness.

Harry cracked his eyes open. The room was mostly cement and metal, vaguely reminiscent of the base they had found in Dartmoor. The Muggle was one of the people Harry and Malfoy had questioned over the past week. His name was something-Brandon, and Harry hadn’t liked him from the beginning. Narang had been right about Brandon too, it seemed.

“We’ve got your boyfriend,” Brandon mocked.

Harry closed his eyes again. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“That’s not what the boss says,” Brandon said. “He says you’re really close.”

The hatred and fear emanating from Brandon felt like a steady drill, drumming down between Harry’s eyes. Harry tried to focus the foundations of his Occlumency like Malfoy had taught him, but when he did he thought of Malfoy—of the steady, patient way that Malfoy had helped him sort through thoughts, the bright, kind presence of Malfoy in his mind.

And then Harry had said those things to him, those hateful things. He’d been so unfair, so ungrateful, and then when Harry had kissed him Malfoy had felt nothing. Malfoy didn’t want him at all, but it shouldn’t have mattered. Just because Malfoy didn’t want to fuck him didn’t mean all his kindnesses and friendship had been lies. Harry might still have kept that friendship; he would have treasured it, except he ruined it and now they were here, and—

“Where is he?” Harry croaked.

“You’ll see him soon.”

“What are you doing to him?”

Brandon looked delighted that he’d asked. “I believe it’s called torture.”

Hands still tied behind his back, Harry struggled to stand up.

The delighted expression fell off Brandon’s face. “What—what are you doing?” he asked, backing away.

Harry started coming towards him. “I believe it’s called ripping your face off,” he said.

“No.” Brandon put his hands on his temples. “What—what are you doing?”

Harry kept coming towards him, but Brandon was already backing away, cowering, and Harry could feel—

Pain—

Radiating out from Brandon—

“Help!” Brandon shouted, and the door burst open again.

There were more Muggles, pointing various weapons at Harry, strange combinations of Muggle machines and wizard wands.

“He’s—” Brandon pointed a shaky finger. “He’s inside my head—

Only then did Harry realize that the pain Brandon was transmitting was the same pain that Harry had unconsciously projected onto him. Harry stopped moving, rather more due to shock than the threat of the other Muggles. This was what Malfoy had been trying to prevent all along—this was why Malfoy had been giving him lessons in Occlumency, why he had told him about the rumour.

“That,” one of the other Muggles said. “It’s the Demented Gift.”

Dementor’s Gift, you git.” The speaker was yet another Muggle Harry recognized—one of the attackers from the room at the inn. Harry had also interviewed her earlier in the week; her name was Evie Carper. “They said he would use it.”

“Yeah,” said the other Muggle, whom Harry didn’t recognize. “But I thought he was going to—”

“Shut up,” Carper said.

Secrets. Harry could feel them—their suspicion and mistrust, their hatred and their ambition, their loyalty and greed. Harry could feel everything, and he didn’t know how to control it. Malfoy had said he needed to work on the foundation of his Occlumency, but somehow Malfoy had become his foundation, and—

That was it. That was what Malfoy had been trying to tell him.

There was pain coming from all three of them now, fear, self-doubt that Harry didn’t know how to handle. He wondered what the other three Muggles had suffered to make their feelings so acute, and then he realized that he was once again feeling the reverberations of himself. He was an echo chamber, projecting emotion onto the minds of others, and those minds acted like magnifying glasses—picking up his fear his weakness his inability to block them—

Harry was drowning in their minds.

Stop it,” Carper shouted.

“He loves him,” Brandon said. He was clutching his head, rocking back and forth. “He’s in love with him.”

“I said stop,” Carper said, and hit Harry on the side of the head with her device.

Harry took her hatred. He took their pain and fear. He took the loss and terror that had come from him and cycled back through them and he put it with his own hatred—compartmentalizing, just like Malfoy had taught him—and then he sent it out over all of them, and they were screaming.

If Harry was to drown, he’d take them down with him.

Inside his mind the water was thick and dark, turgid as a bog and oily as sin.

His mind was as black as a veil.

Every time Harry resurfaced, he found something else to push him down again—

—all those Muggles who hated him, those for whom he had fought, they hated him. They were suspicious of him, mistrusted him, were willing to fight him and attack him, capture him and kill him, just like they had Neville, just like they had Hannah, just like they had—

Malfoy—

The Muggles pressed him down, Muggles and—

Malfoy who had touched Meena Narang’s hair and comforted her when she was scared. Malfoy, who had been the one to ask him whether he could control people with his Gift. Malfoy, who had been the one who told him there was a conspiracy. Malfoy, who had taught him to mistrust.

Malfoy, who had tried to teach him to clear his mind, and instead filled it up with things that could hurt him. Malfoy, who sometimes acted like he loved him, but felt nothing. Nothing at all. Malfoy felt nothing and Harry, Harry felt nothing for—

Malfoy, who had brought him here.

Harry didn’t know how much time passed. Eventually, they came to take him from the dark room, dragging him from the concrete chamber down what must have been a corridor. When at last they dropped him down on his knees, hands bound behind him, the electric lights were bright. When Harry at last began to recognize the shapes in the shadows, he could see Brandon and Carter on either side of him, wands attached to apparatuses and trained on Harry.

They were in a large building—industrial, military maybe, with a concrete floor and a wide open space, exposed pipes lining the walls. In the centre of the room was a large tank of slightly murky water. Beside it was a large machine with three wands protruding from it. Harry recognized it as the machine from the diagrams, the one that Arthur and Dr Spring had been studying. There were three barrels, one for each of the wands. These connected to a panel, no doubt holding circuitry and delicate machinery that were making a soft, whirring sound. Beneath the panel was a series of lights, causing the twisted silver and heavily engineered framework to glow softly blue.

Someone stepped out from behind the machine, and Harry instinctively knew that it was the boss, their captor. The figure stood before Harry, and yet Harry could not discern who it was. Their captor was a blur, indistinct, hidden by some sort of magical disguise. It might have been Kelley, and it might have been—

Their captor turned, touching some buttons on the machine. The hum increased, and the wands began to glow, as though with power. A soft whine escaped the machine, and the three wands cast spools of blue magic outward, leading to a point. Then Draco Malfoy rose into the air from behind the machine. Harry had not been able to see him, but he saw him now--dragged through the air by his heel, as though by Levicorpus, then held above the tank by the beam of magic coming from the wands.

This was what they had wanted from Harry. This was why they had assigned Malfoy to this case with Harry. They had known Malfoy would whisper to him of conspiracy. They had known Malfoy would tell him about the rumour. They had known how Malfoy felt about Harry, and how Harry felt about him. They’d had to know that putting them together for that long in a situation that stressful with so many other things to eat away at his control would break down all of Harry’s barriers. They’d brought together all the elements necessary to bring Harry to the edge.

His mind was this close to breaking.

Then the torture started.

He’ll die if you don’t give up the Death Stick, their captor said.

Harry’s mind unravelled neatly, just like the peel of a clementine.

All he could smell was the scent of sage.

Harry had only just finished telling them the location of the Elder Wand when the cavalry came.

The cavalry, as it happened, was led by Sergeant Narang. She brought with her Camellia Parkinson, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Arthur Weasley, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Rosemary Spring, and half of the police from the Ivybridge sector.

Later, when Harry was coherent enough to ask about it, he learned that Narang had contacted Arthur and Dr Spring when Harry and Malfoy had disappeared. Arthur had never been very adept about investigating but he knew exactly whom to call. Ron had taken it from there. With Ron’s Mage experience and spells and Narang’s police knowledge and equipment, they had been able to track them to their current location, which turned out to be another military base, this one in Cornwall.

Ron had sent Patronuses to his boss, boss’s boss, and wife, and Narang had put a call out to her unit. Arthur and Dr Spring had come along to figure out any of the equipment the base may have been using.

Once everyone arrived the scene was pure chaos. Ron and the other wizards cast hexes, while Narang’s police shot guns. The Magic Bringers used a combination of their wand apparatuses and Muggle weapons to scatter, fleeing to escape.

Their captor frantically touched the machine, and Draco Malfoy fell into the water. The wands from the machine turned their beam of blue on the shadowy figure of the boss, and he disappeared with a cracking sound no one had heard for nearly four years. The Magic Bringers who were left tried to run, but were overpowered by the superior numbers of wizards and police.

Accio Draco Malfoy!” Camellia shouted, pointing at the water.

Ron and Hermione were with Harry. Harry could feel them, their worry and concern, just as he could also feel the Magic Bringers, who were thick with terror, disappointment and rage. The Muggle police and wizards each clamoured with their own emotion, clangour upon crash of horror, resignation, excitement, and defeat.

When the Healers had tried to give Harry back his Gift after the Dementor’s Kiss, the emotions had screamed inside of him, and it had been too much. Harry had felt everything, and it had reverberated outward. Everyone who had come into contact with him during that time had felt everything that he was feeling, and he had felt it reflected against himself a hundredfold. He had not been able to withstand the assault of pure emotion. He remembered longing, at the time, for the Kiss.

It was happening again. Harry could feel it inside of each and every one of them, even if he could not feel it in himself. He was projecting outward, and he could see what it did to them. There was too much feeling in the world—too much terror, despair, hatred, rage, and Harry should have drowned it all when he had the chance, because everyone he had ever come to care for was lost, in the end.

A veil lived inside of him. Mum, Dad, Cedric, Sirius, Dumbledore, Lupin, Tonks, Petunia, Neville, Molly, Hannah, Malfoy. Malfoy. Malfoy had fallen into it, and Harry wanted nothing more than to fall as well. He didn’t want to have to feel. He wanted nothing; he wanted the Dementor’s Kiss.

“No,” Malfoy said. He was wet and shivering, hair plastered against his skull, bruises blooming on his face and neck, eyes bloodshot. “No,” Malfoy said. “I won’t let you.” He put his hands on either side of Harry’s head, and kissed him.

Harry could feel him—Malfoy against his mouth, Malfoy all the way inside his mind, Malfoy beating against his heart. Harry was filled with the grey, wet mist that protected Malfoy’s thoughts, and then it burned away into a warm, clear day. Malfoy was wide open, achingly open.

Narcissa was there and she was more beautiful than Harry had ever seen her, her hair as yellow as the sunlight and her smile as soft as something given to wear in winter. She was gentle and Harry could feel that way that she had touched him—understanding and petting and wise. She was a shield forged of silver and gold, making Malfoy stronger. Voldemort was huge inside, a towering monster. Harry could feel the horror of him, the sick, visceral twist, a panting panic that made him want to run, and then he saw himself.

Harry saw himself when he was eleven. He’d never thought he looked like much, but in to Malfoy he was striking, his eyes the brightest thing in Malfoy’s mind. Harry saw himself again in fourth year—he was standing on the green outside of Hogwarts, talking and laughing with Hermione. He was taller than he ever could have been at fourteen and looked healthier than he had ever looked. There was an arrogant tilt to his lip and sunlight in his laugh; Harry was beyond good-looking. He was gorgeous and Malfoy had hated him, hated him.

Then Harry was in sixth year and he was a shadow, always there, always present, chafing Malfoy’s mind until he was rubbed quite raw. Sometimes it felt as though there was no one else in the world, just Draco and Harry Potter, stupid gorgeous clueless popular ruthless Potter; there was no one in the world but him and Potter, and a cabinet Draco could not open.

Voldemort rose with trails of fire and blood streaming from him, climbing higher and higher in the sky of Malfoy’s mind until he swallowed everything, all of it. For a few moments there was nothing, and then there was Harry. For the first time, Harry saw himself in that battle and he was small, so much smaller than Voldemort, but he was beautiful and so bright it hurt to look at him. Voldemort faded almost anticlimactically, melting down to nothing, a drop of oil, a bead of blood, and there was nothing there but Harry—huge, invincible, powerful, and devastating Harry.

At Draco’s trial Harry’s jaw was strong, his eyes the hot green of the Killing Curse. He was silent and implacable but for the few words he had spoken, but those words rang with the hard peal of a metal bell. They were noble, just—strong, just like Harry; conquering, just like Harry; burying everything else, just like Harry.

In the Muggle War, Harry had never thought that much of himself. For once he had just been another soldier, but Draco hadn’t seen him that way. Draco had seen the way that Harry gave his rations to the other wizards. He’d seen the way that Harry trained his unit in on the grounds of Malfoy Manor—he’d seen the sheen of sweat on Harry’s shirtless body, seen the strength within his arms as they moved through combat poses, but Draco had also seen his kindness. He’d seen the way that Harry gently corrected those who were not accurately casting curses, the way that Harry would spend hours with just one soldier, endlessly patient.

Harry had never thought that much of any of that—that was just what you did, in training. He’d trained armies before and he was doing it again; it was one thing he was good at, and it was better than fighting wars. He never thought of himself as patient, either—he yelled too much for that, and Hermione said he needed to learn to control his temper.

But Draco saw him differently. He saw kindness when Harry knew that it was just exhaustion; he saw compassion when Harry knew that he gave away his food and blankets and place to rest just because he did not need them. Draco saw fairness where Harry saw convenience, he saw bravery where Harry just saw duty, he saw intelligence where Harry just saw common sense.

“He’s not going to win this war,” Narcissa said.

Draco looked away and said, “I know.”

“Draco.” To Harry, Narcissa sounded just as empty and self-confident as ever, but to Draco, his name sounded just like love.

“Mother, I know.” Draco sounded exasperated, but Harry could feel inside, and knew the respect, love, and resentment that lived there. Narcissa's love was overwhelming and omniscient. She always saw straight down through him, and though at times he was grateful to her, he could never hide anything from her.

“You just think he’ll win everything else,” Narcissa said.

Draco still couldn’t look at her. “He succeeds at the important things.”

“The important thing is to stay alive.” Narcissa’s eyes looked as steady and unconcerned as ever, but within Draco's emotions Harry could see worry, concern, pride. “You’re so much like your father.”

“No.” Draco ground his teeth. “I’m nothing like him.”

“He believed too much in people and their causes,” Narcissa said. “I tried to tell him that nothing is as important as our lives, but he followed the Dark Lord everywhere that madman took him, and he did it without question.”

“I’m not following Harry Potter.”

“Draco,” Narcissa said sadly. “You’d follow him if he walked into a grave.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Draco clenched his hands. “It’s Potter.”

“And you are my son,” Narcissa said. “End this foolish infatuation, Draco. Do not latch onto people and believe that they will save you. Only you can save yourself.”

“Some things are more important than survival.”

“That’s Potter talking.”

“What if he’s right?”

“Then he’ll sacrifice himself all over again,” Narcissa said, “and the world won’t be any better for it.”

When the Dementor had Kissed Harry in Godric’s Hollow, just after the final battle of the war, it hadn’t been for any reason. It had simply happened, a freak accident, nothing that had been foretold or prophesied, and nothing that could have been prevented except by being in a different place at a different time.

To Draco, however, the Kiss was the sacrifice.

When Harry fell to the Dementor, it was because he was Harry Potter, and had once again saved them. To Draco, Harry had absorbed with that Kiss all the pain and sin of the world, and held it within himself. The world could go on because Harry had suffered their sins for them; peace could be made because Harry Potter held the horror of war in his heart.

After the war, Harry had never seen himself as much more than a pawn Camellia and Kingsley could move about a board. Harry let them do so because he would do what was necessary; if they were ever to unify the worlds of wizard and Muggle he would help in whatever small way he could. To Draco, however, Harry was a man who had given up everything in the name of peace. He had made the ultimate sacrifice.

Two years later, they had become friends. Draco remembered that day in the check-up room as well, so reminiscent of the hospital tent. Harry had asked Draco out on a date, and Draco had refused him. Harry had asked for friendship instead, and Draco had given it. For the rest of the day, Draco had seen his patients, filling things out on clipboards, casting Healing spells on minor injuries. Then he had gone home to his flat and cried until he couldn’t talk. Harry could feel what Draco felt, the sobs that wracked his body, years of too much want finally ripped from him.

Another year passed, and then Draco was sitting by a hospital bed.

“I assume that you’ve seen Potter recently,” Narcissa said. Her voice was weak and frail.

“As it happens, I have.”

“You’re glowing, Draco.”

Draco smoothed his white tunic down over his thigh. “I don’t glow.”

“I suppose you don’t for other people,” Narcissa said. “I know you.”

Draco tried to change the subject. “How are you feeling?”

“Tell him,” Narcissa said.

“What?” Draco said, shocked.

“Tell him how you feel.”

“Have they changed your medication?” Standing up, Draco began examining the chart at the end of the bed.

Narcissa closed her eyes. “He’s already in love with you. Everybody knows.”

Draco moved to faff about with the Muggle IV. “You’re the one who said to keep it from him.”

“That was years ago.” Narcissa struggled to move her hand, weak and wasted, her skin nearly translucent. Draco felt guilty that they were talking about him instead of her, but there was nothing for it—she preferred to talk about him. She always had. Sighing, Draco sat down and took her hand, stroking it. “Things are different now,” said Narcissa.

“No, they’re not.” Draco folded his hand into Narcissa’s, twining their fingers.

“He would not be sacrificing himself for you,” Narcissa said.

“That’s not what I’m afraid of.”

“Yes,” Narcissa said. “It is. You think that he deserves more than what you’re prepared to give, and that if you offered what you could, he would sacrifice his happiness to have you.”

“Do you remember what you said, Mother?” Draco squeezed her hand. “About surviving?”

“I was wrong. The most important thing is not to live.” She squeezed back. “It’s this.”

Narcissa Malfoy died the next day.

The day after that, Draco received a case of clementines.

When Harry woke, he was in the Plymouth hospital.

Memory crashed in waves. When they had begun to torture Draco, Harry had completely lost control of his Gift. Everyone there would have been able to feel everything inside of him—every last excruciating detail. They would have known every petty grudge he'd ever felt, every unreasonable piece of anger—all the unrequited desire he'd felt for Draco, everything he'd hoped and dreamed.

Harry sat up so suddenly his head swam, and he saw black. He tried to bring his Occlumency down to fill him up, pushing out everything else.

“Harry,” Hermione said, and rushed over to his side.

“The Elder Wand,” Harry panted. He still couldn’t see, thoughts and emotions swirling like a thousand colours in his head.

“Malfoy told us.” Hermione’s voice was soothing. “Kingsley and Camellia are on their way to protect it.”

Malfoy. “They’ll be too late.” Harry swung his legs over the side of the bed. “Kelley can Apparate.”

“It’s not Kelley. Harry—”

Hermione's emotions were surprisingly chaotic—bright flashes of admiration, frustration, annoyance, layered underneath with a frothy worry that was threatening to fill up Harry's mind. Gently, Harry pushed it away, trying to ground and settle himself as Draco had taught him. Hermione looked surprised at first, then embarrassed.

“Sorry,” Hermione said, and a wall went up. The wall was soft as feathers, but strong, pushing Harry out just like a cushion.

“Occlumency,” Harry said.

“Yes.” Hermione tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Malfoy says he’s been trying to help you with it. He says he fears he’s done more harm than good.”

Harry shook his head. “Malfoy’s good at it.” He was really good at it.

Hermione was watching him carefully. “He says they did it on purpose. They put you into a situation they knew would chip away at your control.”

Harry finally asked the question he’d been afraid to ask from the moment he’d opened his eyes. “How is he?”

“He’s all right. Harry . . .” Hermione hesitated. “It’s not your fault. And it’s not Malfoy’s fault either.”

“I know.” Harry stood up, looking for his clothes. “I need to see him.”

“Harry . . .”

Harry pulled on his jeans, and quickly began looking for his shirt. “His he okay? Is he—”

“He’s fine,” Hermione said again. “It’s just . . .”

Harry took off his hospital gown, but paused with the t-shirt still in his hand. He turned to Hermione. “What?”

“Malfoy says whoever put you together did it because he knew you wouldn’t work well together. He knew you would destroy each other, and he says that it was true, in the end, that—”

“Bullshit.” Harry yanked his shirt over his head. “That’s such bullshit.”

“Yes. I thought so too.” Hermione still sounded worried.

“I need to see him.”

“Okay,” Hermione said. “I’ll take you to him.”

Draco was sitting in the guest chair in his hospital room, poring over a laptop, when Harry got there, Hermione trailing behind. He lifted his head when Harry entered, frowning. “He really shouldn’t be here,” Draco said, looking past Harry to Hermione.

“You’re a fucking idiot,” Harry said, and stalked into the room.

Draco sighed, standing up and putting the laptop on the table beside him. For once he did not wear white, instead clothed in grey trousers and a deep blue jumper. His face showed evidence of healing spells and fading bruises.

Harry pushed forward with his emotions, expecting resistance. Instead Draco opened to him immediately, spreading himself out—laid bare like so much skin, pale and smooth and warm to the touch. Draco let him see it all—the strength of his defiance, as supple as muscle; the iron of his determination, as hard as bone. The pulse of want and fear were hot as blood, surging equally wild, and yet there were so many soft places inside of Draco—some scarred and some still vulnerable, irritations and injuries that hadn't healed.

“Idiot,” Harry said again, roughly, and kissed him.

Behind them, Hermione quietly slipped away.

Draco was as Harry remembered him—not stiff and unyielding, the way he had been in the hotel, but as Harry remembered him all those years ago, in the hospital tent. Draco opened to him, warm and responsive, his touch gentle and almost tentative as his fingers brushed Harry’s face. “You’re an idiot,” Harry muttered, straight into his mouth. “You’re a fucked up idiot.”

“Yes, Harry.” Draco’s fingers swept the line of Harry’s jaw, finding the spot where the bone turned, just under and behind Harry’s ear. The fingers rested there, almost hesitant.

“I love you,” Harry said.

Draco took his fingers away. “Tambling was behind our abduction,” he said, turning from him.

“Draco—”

“There are more important things right now.” Draco went over to the laptop, pressing a button. “Mr Weasley and Dr Spring have discovered what he wants with the—”

“Malfoy,” Harry said, resisting the urge to go over there and grab him.

“—Elder Wand.”

Draco’s shoulders were spiky, his mouth a tight line. His mind was a whirl of want need concentrate confused determined afraid make it work make him see I can’t do this right now. Sighing, Harry went over to look at the laptop. “How do you know it's Tambling?” he asked.

“Healer Mage Dumbledore.”

Aberforth. “They’ve found him?”

Draco nodded. “They had him at the base where they held us. They were trying to drain his magic, Harry. It’s what they did to Hannah and to Neville. They use Cruciatus.”

“How?”

Draco shook his head. “It has to do with the way the wizarding world is connected to the Nonmagical one. The Magic Bringers have been working for years on Dr Spring’s idea of pulling magic from our world and making it work for them. The best way to do it is wands, since channelling magic is what they do anyway, but wizards are a big source of raw power.”

“That’s what they want with the Elder Wand,” Harry said. Draco showed him Arthur and Dr Spring’s calculations on the laptop, but it didn’t mean much to Harry. The crude diagram of yet another machine, however, suggested Tambling’s intentions. “He thinks he can make himself into a wizard,” Harry said.

“Dr Spring doesn’t think it will work, but Mr Weasley thinks it will. Either way, he could do a lot of damage.”

“Where is he now?” Harry asked.

“We’re trying to find him.”

“And the Wand?”

Draco shook his head. “Camellia and Kingsley aren't going to be able to get to it before he does.”

Draco's words confirmed Harry's suspicions. Whatever Tambling planned to do with it, he already had the wand, and was well on his way to making use of it. “Was that him?” Harry asked. “When—when they were torturing you. Did he Apparate?”

Draco nodded.

Having Draco’s mind open to him still felt strange to Harry. For the most part, it was well ordered—there was fear, but it was systematically arranged; there was love, but it was packed away quite nicely. Still, the centre of it was messy—obviously messier than Draco wanted it to be, for he kept pulling away the thoughts and feelings that surfaced, drifting, trying to make them sleep in their neatly organized oblivion.

“You think Tambling put us together because we’d destroy each other,” Harry said at last.

“He told Brimble the rumour.” Draco angled his face away. “He knew that Brimble would tell me, and that I would tell you.”

“He knew you’d try to help me,” Harry said.

“Yes.” Draco picked something invisible off of his trousers. “I made it worse.”

“You didn’t make it worse. Our minds are just different.” Harry came closer. “How did he know that it would work like that?”

“I have a theory.”

“I thought you might,” Harry murmured.

Draco looked up quickly at the tone in his voice, and Harry remembered the way that Draco had cried the day they had made friends. His sobs had been hard, bone-wrenching, torn from deep inside of him, born through years of longing.

“Draco,” Harry said, and came closer still.

Draco moved away. “Do you remember after you were Kissed? When the Healers tried to restore your soul from the Dementor.”

Harry shoved his hands in his pockets. “How could I forget?”

“Munt wanted to question you then,” Draco said, “but Tambling excused you. He came to see you, then—do you remember?”

“I know he did.” Harry shook his head. “That time is hard to remember. I wasn’t really in control.”

“I know.” Draco looked unhappily at his hands. “Tambling saw you then, when you still couldn’t block anyone out, when you were still transmitting everything you felt. He—he learned your heart, Harry. From that moment on, he knew how to break you.”

For a moment, Harry could only hear the silence of the room, and then he processed Draco's words. Ron and Hermione had seen Harry in all his darkest hours. They knew him better than Harry knew himself in some ways, and Harry didn't mind them seeing his weaknesses, his sharp edges, his dark cupboards. The Healers had been fighting to restore his soul, and though he hadn't liked them handling it, he knew they'd done it for his sake. But Tambling—

“Harry,” Draco said.

Clamping down on his Occlumency, Harry turned away. “If Tambling knew how to get to me, why would he wait so long to do it?”

Harry could hear Draco swallow. “He was still working on the machine, and then—Kelley made a mistake with Hannah.”

“Kelley?”

Draco nodded. “Camellia caught him at the base, and he’s talking. He tried to hide Hannah’s body, but in the middle of it he heard someone coming, and he had to leave her. She wasn’t supposed to be found—but by then, the new machine was almost complete.”

Harry thought about it. “So, he acted. He knew we would find the base in Dartmoor eventually, and he needed the Elder Wand. He thought he could use you to break me, so he put us together on purpose, and fed Brimble the rumour.”

“That’s the short version, yes.”

Taking his hands out of his pockets, Harry stepped towards Draco. “He didn’t break me.”

“You’re still in one piece, I suppose.”

Draco was still unhappy. Harry could feel it, but when he leaned in to kiss him, Draco’s feelings suffused with a warm tenderness that almost ached. His mouth opened as easily as his heart, and he took Harry deep inside—so deep, and Harry wanted wrap himself up inside of Draco until he couldn’t feel anything anymore, couldn’t think.

“You don’t break me,” Harry said roughly. “You make me stronger.”

“Yes.” Draco’s smile was slight. “I’m beginning to see.”

Harry kissed him again and Draco let him, hands ghosting in Harry’s hair as though still reluctant to touch. Harry wanted to touch him everywhere, wanted to put his lips and fingers on every inch of Draco so that he could tell him, convince him that this was enough; he was good enough; this was all he needed.

Harry’s mouth moved down to Draco’s throat, where he could feel Draco’s pulse fluttering, and Draco bent back, letting him do it. Harry’s hand tugged the hem of Draco’s jumper, pushing up under it—feeling the smooth expanse of skin underneath, the supple heat of it. Draco’s thoughts were just as jumbled, though hardly smooth. There was want there, and need, a sweet, tugging ache that pulled at every fibre of Draco’s being, a vibration that matched the rhythm of Draco’s trembling hands.

“It’s okay,” Harry said, because he didn’t know why Draco was still hesitant. “It’s okay. Touch me.” And Harry touched Draco, sliding a hand over his arse, squeezing and pressing in, letting Draco feel the desire in his mind and body.

The mist came so fast that it left Harry reeling, but Draco was desperately kissing him. His mouth was on Harry and his hands were tight around Harry’s neck, but Harry could no longer feel anything from him—not anything at all. All around Malfoy was that same smooth calm wall Harry remembered and so loathed.

“Don’t do that.” Harry pulled away.

“What?” Draco said, and went back to kissing him.

“Don’t close yourself off to me.”

Draco stopped kissing him, his eyelashes swept down. “We can’t live inside each other’s hearts forever,” he murmured.

“Let me in right now,” Harry said. “Let me come inside of you.”

“Yes,” Draco said, and forced the mist away.

As it faded, Harry began to kiss Draco again, pulling him in close. Draco responded, hands on Harry’s neck, feelings a swirl of silver and green, lined with gold. Harry touched the skin on Draco’s abdomen, just under his jumper—the firm muscle and warm tingle of pleasure as Draco’s heart touched his. Then Harry touched the front of Draco’s trousers, and the warmth began to fade.

Draco continued to kiss him as Harry’s hand unfastened the top button of Draco’s trousers. His skin was still humid and pliant, welcoming. The feelings from Draco’s mind, however, were fading into disinterest, a slowly welling aversion. Draco kept on kissing him, and Harry reached inside of Draco’s trousers. Draco was hard, but the emotions now were unpleasant, dissatisfied, prickling with discomfort.

“You don’t want to,” Harry said, and stopped touching him.

“I want to.” Draco sounded strange. Harry could see how much Draco wanted to fasten up his trousers, but instead he reached for Harry.

Harry reared back. “Draco, I can feel it.”

“My mind can want it.” Draco reached for him again, and Harry caught his hand.

“But you don’t—you’re not . . .” Harry glanced down again, and Draco was still hard. He ripped his eyes back up to Draco’s face. “You don’t like it.”

“I don’t mind it, Harry. I can—”

“It’s not a question of whether you can,” Harry said. “It’s a question of whether you want to.”

“I told you that I—”

“You’re not attracted to me.”

“So what??” Draco finally exploded.

Acute frustration and longing roiled through Harry, but it was a longing to be touched, a longing to be held, a longing to be kissed but never to be fucked. Harry could feel like a big blank space the absence of physical desire, filled instead with fondness, want, denial, the fear that he wasn't good enough, would never be good enough—

Ever since Voldemort's War, Draco had been in a constant process of revising himself, making himself into a person who fit inside a new existence in which Voldemort had been defeated and Muggles were a part of their world. When he had found that he did not experience physical desire the way other people did, he had carved around that piece of himself, convinced that it was just another flaw. In so doing, Draco had come to believe that he was unable to give someone the kind of love that they deserved, and so he had closed away his heart. Narcissa had seen her mistake; she’d seen that for Draco, merely to survive was not to live at all.

“Draco,” Harry said. Swiftly, he reached for Draco’s trousers, buttoning them up again, then holding Draco in his arms. “Please, Draco, feel the thoughts inside me.”

“I can.” Draco struggled, pulling back. “I want to give you—”

“No.” Harry closed his eyes, opening his heart. He let everything pour out—the tingle of Draco’s magic, the warmth of Draco’s mind, the sight of Draco standing in the rain by a grave, Draco’s gentle smile and sharp wit, Draco stroking Narang’s hair. With his thoughts, Harry tried to tell him what he saw, the man that he so loved. He kissed Draco again. “That’s what I love.” Harry’s voice was a croak. “I don’t care about your body, Draco.”

Draco succeeded in pulling him back that time, and Harry could feel how untrue the statement was. Draco’s mind was pushing back with all those moments—all those many, many moments he had looked at Draco with sexual desire, the things Harry had wanted to do to that body, so many nights of Legilimency when Draco could feel all the things that Harry wanted to do to Draco, tied up with love in Harry’s mind.

“You want it,” Draco said. “I can give it to you.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry said. “I’m sorry you could feel all those times I wanted you, but it wasn’t about sex, Draco; it was—”

Draco put his hands on either side of Harry’s head, holding his face, thumbs strong on Harry’s jaw. “You don’t understand,” he whispered fiercely. “I want you to want to have sex with me. I want you to want me, and no one else. I love feeling that from you. I love every fantasy about me I’ve seen inside your mind; I want you to need me, Harry. I want you to get off on just the thought of me; I want to make you crazy—

“You do.” Harry slid his hands against Draco’s neck, holding Draco’s face just as Draco held his. “That’s what you do.”

“Then how can I ask that of you if I don’t—”

“Simple,” Harry said. “Ask.” He kissed Draco again, trying to pour into it every ounce of love and every scrap of crude desire, all the fantasies that Draco spoke of and everything else as well—the hopeless, almost desperate admiration, affection and respect, tangled inextricably with lust and physical longing.

Draco trembled.

“Ask for it,” Harry said, and kissed him again. “Don't keep secrets from me, Draco. Just be honest and tell me what you need, and I’ll give it to you.”

“I don’t—”

“I’ll give it to you because I want to. I'm done with sacrifice. Feel how done with sacrifice I am.” Harry held Draco’s face in his hands, letting every thought, every feeling pour into Draco’s mind. “I want something for myself,” Harry said. “Just this one thing.”

“Harry,” Draco whispered. He leaned in and kissed him—not on Harry’s lips, but behind his ear, softly, on the corner of his jaw.

For a split-second, Harry wondered how Draco knew about the spot, and then he realized that Draco had long been privy to his mind—every thought, every fantasy. Harry shuddered with desire.

“Want me,” Draco said, and pushed Harry’s body back, toward the hospital bed. There was no desire in the emotions emanating from Draco, but there was a reason Harry hadn’t noticed that before. Everything else was there—the toe-curling anticipation, helpless adoration, a lightness of being that seemed almost impossible in Draco Malfoy, who so often resorted to cold reserve.

“Yes,” Harry said.

“Need me,” Draco said, and pushed him down. He climbed on the bed beside Harry, kissing Harry’s throat. Devotion and intensity washed over Harry like the touch of hands, like the press of an ardent body against his.

“Yes,” Harry said.

“Only me,” Draco said, and held Harry in his arms, kissing Harry’s face, his neck, his mouth.

“Only you,” said Harry. His hand moved down to his jeans. “Can I . . .?” He let the thoughts of Draco flood his mind—Draco writhing under him, Draco naked on top of him, Draco holding him, ordering his release, voice suffused with lazy heat.

“I don’t mind it,” Draco said. There was a pause, uncertainty. “If you want me to, I can—”

“I don’t want you to,” Harry said. He didn’t need this to be about Draco’s body. He didn’t even need it to be about his own. “I don’t have to either.”

“You keep telling me my feelings aren’t wrong. Yours aren’t either.” Draco’s voice was low, his breath hot in Harry’s ear. “Please touch yourself, Harry.”

“Yes,” Harry said, and gasped. His fingers scrambled over his jeans, opening them up, and then his hand was on his cock. Draco lay beside him, kissing him, stroking his chest as Harry brought himself off.

“Love me,” Draco whispered.

Yes,” Harry hissed, arching.

“Love me all the time.” Draco gently bit his throat.

“Yes. Yes. Yes—” Harry’s fist moved on his cock, fast and hard, his other hand twined with Draco's.

“Forever,” Draco said, and gently brushed cool fingers over the fist around Harry’s cock.

Harry saw white, and he could feel the soaring heights of Draco’s mind. Inside of it was the little shop, lined with its little vegetable and fruit carts, its neat aisles and rows. Behind it was an orchard—overgrown into a wilderness, thick with green, healthy leaves, the bough of every tree burgeoning with fruit.

Harry came down, low and lower. Every single fruit was a clementine.

“Always,” Harry said.

3 days later

Since their rescue, the news about Harry and Draco’s abduction had gone viral. Tambling was considered an enemy of the state, and everyone who had been known to be a part of the Magic Bringers group was being brought in for questioning. Harry wasn't really surprised—every part of his life for most of his existence had always been shared with everyone. After opening his mind for all and sundry to witness, being in the papers again didn't seem like that big of a deal.

Camellia and Shacklebolt had arrived at the hiding place of the Elder Wand in the Forest of Dean only to find it gone. Tambling, as suspected, had arrived there first, probably using the power of Apparition that true wizards no longer possessed. Back at Mage Headquarters, Brimble was missing, and Shacklebolt as well as Prime Minister Clancy were issuing statements.

The Plymouth hospital released Harry and Draco shortly after Harry woke up. Since they still had Tambling to track down, Harry and Draco stayed in Ivybridge. A contingent of Mages moved in as well, working with the local police to scour the military bases Harry and Draco had discovered. Narang didn’t appreciate having so many wizards about, but she really did seem to appreciate solving cases and arresting criminals.

“And you two aren’t so bad,” she told them, when they met her again after the briefing Camellia held at the sergeant’s station.

“Does that mean you don’t mind if we draw pentagrams in blood on your station floor?” Draco asked, his voice innocent.

“That depends.” Narang crossed her arms.

Draco raised his brows. “This is a change of heart.”

“Last time you said that, you said you could use it to find something,” Narang said. “If you can use it to find Secretary Tambling—go right ahead. I have mops.”

Draco frowned.

“We don’t actually draw pentagrams,” Harry explained, sheepish.

“Uh-huh.” Narang lifted her disapproving brow.

“Or Summon plagues of locusts,” Harry added.

“Harry’s Expelliarmus can end world hunger, if you’re interested,” Draco said.

“Expelly who now?”

“Nothing,” Harry had said. “Thanks for all your help.”

Despite the fact that Narang still used her eyebrow and said uh-huh a lot, she was as dedicated to the investigation as Draco, which was saying something. For as long as Harry and Draco had been out of the hospital, Draco had been poring over all the available evidence, trying to track down Tambling. Harry was just as interested in bringing Tambling down, but the fact that Draco had spent all three nights in Harry’s room was highly distracting.

“I can sleep elsewhere,” Draco said quickly, when Harry mentioned the arrangement.

Draco was doing that thing where he made himself seem perfectly relaxed and calm, but Harry had been right all along—a depth of feeling lived beneath that façade, and Harry had finally learned how to interpret it. Even though Draco wasn’t letting him feel it right now, Harry understood Draco’s vulnerability, that lingering uncertainty. A part of him still didn’t understand why Harry would want him in his bed if Draco wasn’t doing the things that he thought Harry wanted.

“How come you want to sleep with me?” Harry asked, instead of soothing Draco’s frayed nerves. “I snore.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Draco pretended to be working on a laptop, going over evidence retrieved from one of the military bases.

“All right,” Harry said softly. “Here’s why I like sleeping with you.” He let Draco have it, then, a stream of feelings—the reassurance of Draco's body, the companionship of Draco breathing next to him, open and vulnerable in sleep. There was a silent safety in the presence of Draco's warmth, a shared intimacy in separate dreams experienced concurrently.

Before, Draco would have blocked the emotions with his Occlumency. Now, however, he opened to them like a flower into sunlight, his heart laid bare for it. When Harry was done, Draco’s eyelashes drifted down. “All right,” he said, in a bored, lazy way. “I’ll continue to sleep here.” He pressed a key on the laptop.

“You’re a ponce,” Harry said.

“I have to be creative if I’m to keep you interested.” Draco’s eyes stayed on the screen.

“No, you don’t.”

“I forget that your hobbies are so very dull.” Draco tapped another key. “You’ve done nothing but watch me for the past half an hour.”

That was partially true. Harry was lying on the bed, and he could have watched Draco for hours. One of Draco’s feet was in the chair, the other on the ground. His knee was bent, nearly brushing his chin as Draco leaned in toward the laptop on the desk in front of him, and one of Draco’s arms was wrapped loosely around his leg.

“I think you’re beautiful,” Harry said.

“Yes.” Draco pretended to ignore him, but his cheeks tinged a little pink.

“I think you’re sexy,” Harry said.

“How quaint.” Draco’s cheeks went pinker, but his eyes remained fastened on the screen. He tapped another key, the motion a little harder than was necessary.

“I think you’re not going to find Tambling by learning theoretical physics,” Harry told him, “no matter how brilliant and talented you are.”

Shutting the laptop with a little click, Draco rose fluidly to his feet. “You’re very distracting,” he drawled.

“Who, me?” Harry tried to look innocent.

“Yes.” Draco stalked over to him, then climbed on top of him on the bed, his knees on either side of Harry’s hips. “You,” he said, and swooped in to kiss Harry’s mouth.

Harry dragged a hand through Draco’s hair—his lovely, silky butter-yellow hair, and grinned against Draco’s lips when Draco made a soft sound of approval. Over the past few days, as they’d searched for Tambling, Harry had learned what Draco liked. He was fond of kissing, cuddling, touching. The possessive streak in him liked Harry thinking about him in a sexual way, even liked Harry wanking to the thought of him, even liked watching.

Draco didn’t mind touching Harry as he wanked, but had no real interest in it except for Harry’s pleasure. Harry thought that someday he might take advantage of that fact, but for now, he didn’t feel the need. He knew that he would never touch Draco back in a sexual way, even though he knew that Draco would allow it. Though Draco’s body sometimes became aroused, he didn’t enjoy other people touching him in that way. At best he was uninterested in it, and at worst he was repulsed by it.

He said it was nothing that had happened to him or that he had done. Harry could feel the truth of it in Draco’s emotions—Draco had simply always been that way. The only thing he had done that made things worse was to deny the feelings that he had had for Harry, thinking they were less than Harry deserved because they were not sexual.

There was a host of other reasons why Draco had kept his feelings from Harry, and Harry was slowly working through them. He knew the world had turned out different than Draco had expected, than he had dreamed when he was young. It had turned out different for Harry as well. That didn’t mean they couldn’t still build a future.

When Draco stopped kissing him, at last letting him up for air, Harry’s breath was hot and stuttering. “I think you’re the hottest person on the planet,” Harry said.

“The hottest person?” Draco murmured. “Really?” He nipped Harry’s chin.

“Maybe in the galaxy.”

Draco laughed, low and silky and warm. “I suppose you’re fit yourself,” he said, settling in to lie beside Draco, “for a Gryffindor.”

“Let me show you,” Harry said, and put his hand over Draco’s heart.

“If you must,” Draco said, but even he could not hide the rush of joy in his emotions.

If Harry had had to choose between this and sex, he would have chosen this. Under Harry’s hand, the mental barriers inside of Draco simply melted. Harry had been working on his own barriers again, using things that Draco had taught him but working with other Healers as well. Now, however, he let it all go.

The connection between them was another kind of communication. They could not always share every single thought and feelings—as Draco had said, they could not live inside each other’s hearts. They could, however, share their love this way, and Harry could feel it, twining with his sense of self as though they were one.

This felt like Draco was touching him, was inside of him, filling him up with everything that he could give. Harry felt weak with it and at the same time was ridiculously turned on by it—a fact which had bothered him until Draco had expressed satisfaction at the thought of pleasuring him without touching him.

It was pleasure. This was pleasure. Every part of Draco was pleasure.

“You feel like pleasure too,” Draco whispered, and Harry couldn’t tell if it was in his head or in his ear. “I feel like you’re inside of me; I can feel you inside of me—”

“I can feel you too.” Harry felt like whimpering.

“I can feel you—you’re hot,” Draco whispered. “Strong.”

Harry knew exactly what Draco meant. There was something fierce in Draco’s emotions as well.

“Take me,” Draco said, and the words blossomed as an offer in Harry’s heart, an open hand, a space to be filled. “Take all of me. Everything I am—I’ll give it to you.”

“Draco, I—”

“Fill me, Harry. Fill me until I’m another part of you.”

“I think I’m going to come,” Harry gasped.

Draco laughed, and that was definitely inside Harry’s mind—a warm delighted curl, it wrapped around his heart, squeezed tight, and for Harry the feeling shot straight down into his cock. “From this?” Draco teased.

“Oh dear God, yes.” Harry arched up on the bed. “Do you mind? While we’re doing this; do you—”

“I don’t mind.” A pleasant hum filled Harry’s senses, something so fond and affectionate that Harry arched on the bed again, and had to touch himself. “Just don’t leave my heart,” Draco whispered.

“Oh God,” Harry gasped. “Never.”

“I love you,” Draco said, and Harry saw himself through Draco’s eyes:

warm strong good kind stupid smart heroic foolish brave ideal angry alone beautiful noble incorruptible stubborn compassionate git unparalleled clever—

Harry couldn’t help but come, the surge of emotion so strong it felt like it was taking him apart.

“You put me back together,” Draco said, and kissed him.

When Harry woke up an hour later, the room was dark and Draco was beside him on the bed. His face was lit by the soft blue glow of the laptop, which rested on his thighs. Harry watched him for a moment, Draco’s face eerie and pale in the light.

“Munt.” Harry sat up suddenly.

“That must have been a terrible nightmare,” Draco murmured, scrolling something on the laptop.

“It wasn’t a nightmare.” Harry leapt out of bed.

Closing the laptop, Draco lit the room with a soft Lumos. “Are you quite well?”

“No,” Harry said. “How did Munt know that Tambling wanted the Elder Wand?”

Draco frowned. “I assumed she had some kind of surveillance on Tambling—the Extendable Ear we found.”

“That’s magic. She wouldn’t use that.”

Draco hitched a shoulder in a shrug. “A Nonmagical recording device, then.”

Harry shook his head. “Tambling seems too smart for that—and he had at least a little magic by then. He could have done spells to sweep for surveillance.”

Getting off of the bed, Draco Summoned one of Harry’s travel bags.

“What are you doing?” Harry asked him.

“If Munt had some special way of spying on Tambling,” Draco said, “then she might know more about his whereabouts.”

“But she knows everyone is searching for Tambling,” Harry said. “If she has information, wouldn’t she have already handed it over to the police or military intelligence?”

“Maybe.” Draco Summoned Harry’s other bags. “Maybe not.”

“Okay,” said Harry, “But why would she tell us if she didn’t tell them?”

“Haven’t you heard, Harry?” Draco’s smile was not quite nice. “We’re Hocusy Pocusies. We have ways of making people talk.”

Harry and Draco left for London at the crack of dawn the next day.

Harry wasn’t sure what Draco’s plan was. Although Harry might easily have been able to use his Gift to either read Munt’s emotions or manipulate them enough to make her tell them what she knew, Draco would know that Harry wouldn’t want to use his Gift that way. That left Veritaserum, which didn’t work well on Muggles, or Legilimency, which was illegal, or . . . torture, and Draco wouldn’t—

“Trust me,” Draco said, manoeuvring his broom closer as they flew back toward London.

“I do,” Harry said.

Draco smiled brilliantly, and a warm glow filled Harry’s heart.

As it turned out, Draco didn’t need to use anything as complicated as Veritaserum or Legilimency to get Munt to talk. Terror was always a potent weapon, and if Munt felt anything for wizards stronger than hatred, it was fear. Cornering Munt in her office took some doing, but Draco had always been good at sweet-talking officials, and everyone remembered Harry and Draco from the Muggle news. If any wizards could be allowed to trod about the Muggle government, making demands, it was the two who had recently been taking prisoner by the Home Secretary.

“What are you doing here?” Munt demanded, when Harry and Draco came inside her office. She looked furious under her candy-floss sprayed hair, but as soon as she had laid eyes upon them, the room had filled up with her fear. Standing up from behind her desk, she stalked over to the door.

“Just paying a visit,” Draco said.

“You’re not allowed in here!” Munt put her hand on the door handle. The flavour of her anxiety felt very different from the last time Harry had seen her. Then, her fear had been mixed up with the potency of rage and hatred. She had felt in control of the situation. Now there was a kind of hopelessness in Munt’s terror, despite her outward show of anger.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Draco said, in his lazy way. “For a Secretary of Defence, security around here is definitely lax.”

“What do you want?”

“Same thing as you,” said Draco. “Peace. Justice. Secretary Tambling’s head on a platter.”

“I don’t know where he is!” Munt waved her hands. “I don’t know where! Let me go!”

“Come, Madam Secretary.” Draco went over to her desk, pulling out her chair for her, and gesturing for her to sit down. “You knew so much about Secretary Tambling last time we talked.”

“Let me go! I’m a Secretary of State!” Munt turned toward the door again, and Harry moved to stand in her way.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Harry said, and took out his wand.

“You would dare to raise your wand to a Nonmagical official?” Munt’s fear, was edging toward panic. “You can’t do that! You can’t cast spells on Nonmagicals!”

“I’m not casting spells,” Harry said. “I’m just holding my wand. See, here it is.” He showed it to her.

Draco tsked. “Put that away, darling,” he said, his voice light. “There’s no need for violence.”

“Malfoy’s the nice one,” Harry said, and put his wand away.

“Really, Madam Secretary,” Draco said, sitting down at Munt’s desk, “there’s no reason we can’t help each other. I can assure you, we both hate Secretary Tambling equally.”

Munt whirled on him, fear and hatred swimming so dramatically around her that Harry mentally reached out to Draco, just to keep his Occlumency in check. “You don’t hate him,” Munt said, her voice high and screechy. “He’s one of . . . of . . .” Munt’s mouth moved, but nothing came out of it. Frustration combined with helplessness spread from her like a stain.

Draco had been rifling through some papers on her desk. Now he stopped cold.

Harry came forward. “You mean he succeeded in making himself a wizard?”

Munt glared at him, her absent chin making the expression almost amphibious.

“No,” Draco said softly, staring at Munt in something like wonder. “Tambling was already part of the wizarding world.”

What?

Draco ignored Harry’s outburst, his gaze fixed on Munt, whose expression hadn’t changed. “Madam Secretary,” Draco said in that same soft way, “who are Cyril Tambling’s parents?”

“I know them!” Munt said. “I know who they are! They’re . . .” Her mouth began working again, her eyes huge. There was no sound in the room except for a high-pitched squeak, like the grating screech of metal wheels grinding together. The sound was coming from Munt.

In a flash, Draco was on his feet, wand pointed at Munt’s throat. “Who cursed you?”

Munt’s mouth flapped. Waves of her terror crashed on the shores of Harry’s mind, and for a moment, he understood. He understood completely all her pain and panic—the terrible hopelessness of being a Muggle, of being cursed with no way to shield herself, nothing to protect her from the momentous power of magic. She tried to run to the door.

Once again, Harry blocked it. “We’re not going to hurt you,” he said, holding up his hands non-threateningly.

“I know!” Munt screamed. “I know who he is. You’re in league with him! He’s a—a—a—”

The flapping of Munt’s mouth was horrible to watch.

“We can get that curse off of you,” Draco said, “if we know who cast it.”

Munt’s mouth worked.

“She can’t tell us,” Harry said. “Draco, Tambling can’t be a wizard. I’ve been in the same room with him. I’ve felt him. There’s no magic there—we would have known.”

Draco glanced at Munt. “My guess is that Tambling is a Squib,” he said, at last turning to Harry. “That’s why I couldn’t find a record of his parents. That’s why he’s been so dedicated to being a wizard—that’s how he found out about them in the first place. It has to be; that’s the only explanation.”

“Brimble has a Squib daughter,” Harry said slowly, thinking about it. “He could be just as invested as Tambling in turning Nonmagicals into wizards.”

“Was it Brimble who cursed you?” Draco asked Munt.

Munt started making her high pitched squeaking again, obviously wanting to contribute something to the conversation, but unable to do so.

“We already guessed Brimble was with Tambling,” Draco pointed out, turning back to Harry. “No wizarding spell can find him.”

“But what if we can use one to find Tambling's parents?” Harry said.

“What are you thinking?” Draco asked.

“Someone didn't want Munt talking.” Harry gestured at Munt, who glared. “There are a lot of reasons Tambling might not want people to know he's a Squib—but what if one of them is he's somewhere in the wizarding world? What better place to hide?”

“An owl,” Draco said.

“Owl communications are not permitted!” Munt chirped, the first coherent sound she had made in a good long while.

“Brimble may have blocked his location to the owls,” Draco said, “but maybe Tambling's parents haven't.”

When communicating by owl had been outlawed after the Treaty of Wiltshire, most of the owls had not been content as wizarding pets. Without the task of delivering mail, they didn't get sufficient opportunity to stretch their wings. As Draco had once said, they were meant to fly. Many of them, except for those few employed by Mages, had escaped into the wild.

Quickly, Harry nodded. “Let's try it,” he said.

Owls would fly again.

Before they left London, Harry and Draco contacted Camellia in Devon, telling them what they had learned and what their plan was. Shacklebolt was going to go to London to help break the curse on Munt, while Camellia and several of the other Mages would follow Harry and Draco as they apprised them of their course by mobile phone. Muggle forces would join them when they found out where they were going.

Harry and Draco followed the owl by broom all the way to York. The journey was long and cold, without many opportunities for talking. When the owl stopped to hunt, they took a brief break, stopping in a meadow similar to the one they had stopped in on the way to Devon.

“One thing I still don't understand,” Harry said. “If Tambling really is the mastermind behind what we found in that military base, he's the one who brought down the veils. Why would he attack the wizarding world if his parents were a part of it?”

“Perhaps he is not on good terms with them,” Draco said.

“But to destroy their whole world?”

“You told me once that Voldemort's father was a Nonmagical,” Draco said. “He wanted to destroy their world.”

“It doesn't seem right.”

“Aberforth said that they'd been using him as a source of magic,” Draco said, after a long moment. “Perhaps Tambling's attacks on the veils were merely an attempt to gather more magic for himself. He needed wizards, and he needed wands.”

“Then why did he ever stop?” Harry asked. “The attacks on the veils stopped halfway through the war, and then he destroyed Apparition.”

“It makes sense that he would destroy Apparition if he himself had learned to Apparate,” Draco said, looking thoughtful. “That makes him one of the most powerful people in the world—more powerful than any wizard.”

Harry thought about it as well. “Sergeant Narang said that Brimble met up with the Magic Bringers in Devon,” he said, after a while. “Maybe Brimble told them about the Elder Wand.”

Draco nodded. “I expect that that was what really ended the war—Tambling realized there was a way to get the power he wanted without taking more wizards.”

Harry stared moodily at the ground. “And then I told them where that power was.”

Draco looked up at him from under his blond lashes. His posture was relaxed, but Harry knew that meant that there was tension in him. “It's not your fault, Harry.”

“I know. It's just—”

“Just nothing.” Fluidly, Draco stood up, then came over toward him. He got down on his knees near where Harry was sitting. “You told me to be honest,” he said, and Harry could feel warmth and comfort, circling around him. “I know you meant between you and me, but it occurs to me that if wizards had been honest from the beginning, perhaps none of this would have happened.”

“You mean I should have told them about the Elder Wand earlier?”

Draco shook his head. “I mean that . . . if we had told the truth from the beginning, Cassandra would have been trusted, and Troy would not have fallen. I mean that Merlin should have told the truth to Arthur. I mean that we've kept ourselves a secret, and maybe we never should have.”

Harry's eyes searched Draco's face. “Where is this coming from?” he asked.

Draco put his hand on Harry's heart. “If all of us could know each other the way that I know you, there would be less war.”

“That'd be nice,” Harry said. “I'm pretty tired of war.”

“I think the world is tired of it too,” said Draco.

Tambling's parents lived on an old mansion in the moors. It was obviously a wizard structure—more than a hundred years old, Gothic in style, complete with turrets that did not comply with architecture or the laws of physics. When the owl at last landed in one of the crooked, twisted trees in the yard, Harry and Draco landed with it.

They were headed toward the front door of the manor when they heard the yelling coming from the barn. Quickly, Harry and Draco changed direction. With a quiet spell, Draco slid the barn door open a crack, and they slipped inside.

The centre of the barn was dominated by another large machine, similar to the one that had held Draco aloft above the water in the military base. This machine glowed the same blue and was making the same soft hum, but instead of three wands attached to it, there was only one. It stood straight up, stretched out from the top of the machine, glowing such a bright blue it was almost white. It was the Elder Wand.

Nonmagicals stood ranged around the machine, watching the wand glow in awe. The light coming from the Elder Wand was increasing, and the humming was turning into a deep, grating thrum. Tambling stood directly before the machine, a witch and wizard beside him, holding hands. Horace Brimble stood not far away.

“Mother!” Tambling shouted. “Father! You don't have to do this!”

Draco glanced at Harry, and Harry could read the gaze without speaking. Silently, he and Draco started moving around the perimeter of the barn. It was darker there, and with everyone distracted by the machine, they could move around to find an opening.

Meanwhile, the witch and wizard were beginning to glow blue. They were both older wizards, probably in their seventies. The witch wore a long, flowing robe and the wizard had a long, flowing beard. The light between them trailed up into the machine, adding their power to the Elder Wand. Tambling kept shouting at them.

“It has to stop,” Tambling was saying. “Please. I don't need your magic! I've done well enough without it. I can't protect you anymore!”

Draco glanced at Harry again. They were hopelessly outmanned—most of the Nonmagicals standing about had wand apparatuses, which Harry and Draco knew could be used to cast spells. On top of this they had Muggle weapons, and Draco couldn't cast spells against Nonmagicals. Furthermore, there was Brimble to contend with—although it looked like Tambling might not be a problem. The choice was clear—they could stop the machine, or they could move out and wait for backup.

The hum of the machine changed into a whine. Witch, Harry mouthed. Nodding, Draco aimed at the wizard, while Harry aimed at the witch. “Stupefy!” they cried.

The witch and wizard fell to the ground, but light continued to flow from them into the machine. The Nonmagicals swarmed Harry and Draco, who fought back with their wands. As Harry had guessed they would be, they were quickly overtaken.

Petrificus Totalus!” Brimble yelled, casting first at Harry, then at Draco. Tambling rushed up behind Brimble, looking as though he meant to knock Brimble down with just his fists, but Brimble whirled too soon. “Impedimenta!” he called.

“Why, if it isn't the hero of the wizarding world,” Brimble said. He stepped closer to Harry, grinning down at him.

Harry squirmed inside the body-bind, but couldn't break it. Instead, he sent a jet of hate streaming toward Brimble's head.

“Ooh, you don't like me,” Brimble said.

“Stop it!” Tambling called out from where he'd tripped on the floor. The spell kept him from getting up, but he gestured wildly at his parents. “It's killing them!”

Brimble glanced over where Tambling was waving, and Harry had to cross his eyes to see. The blue light coming from the elderly wizards on the ground was stronger, brighter. The whole machine was shaking, and the wizards were convulsing on the ground.

“I'm not particularly bothered,” Brimble said. The emotions flowing from him careened with madness. They were unnatural in their frenzy, tumbling over each other in rushes punctuated with awe and anxiety. “They're the ones who brought down the veils, in case you were wondering.” Brimble looked down at Harry and Draco. “I nearly killed them myself when I found out, and then our friend Tambling told me what they'd been trying to do.”

Harry broke through the bind enough to talk. “You were the one that tortured Draco,” he said. He'd known this particular flavour of emotion felt familiar.

Brimble tilted his head. “How did you like it when I used your little boyfriend to break you?”

Closing his eyes, concentrating, Harry was at last able to break out of the body-bind. “Fuck you,” he said, surging up.

Incarcerous,” Brimble shouted, backing up. The magic ropes shot out of Brimble's wand, holding Harry where he stood. “Ah, ah, ah, Potter. Remember, he who holds the wand holds the power.”

“Do something!” Tambling shouted at the Nonmagicals standing about. “You've got to do something—he's mad!”

“He's going to make us magic,” one of the Nonmagicals said.

“He's going to make you dead.”

“Poor Cyril,” Brimble said, shaking his head. “He's carried such a terrible burden—trying to unite two worlds, knowing his parents started the war between them all along.”

“He set Draco and I up,” Harry said.

“Oh, yes.” Brimble nodded. “He had to protect Mummy and Daddy, didn't he? But he never wanted you to be hurt. That's why I used his Muggle face when I tortured my prisoners—I thought that it was fitting.”

“And Tambling's parents?”

Brimble glanced over at the bodies still convulsing on the floor. “They're dying for a cause,” he said.

“What cause?” Harry demanded. “You're killing wizards with this!”

“No,” said Brimble. “I'm brewing them.”

“Harry.” Slowly, with effort, Draco stood up. “Now.”

“Yes.” Harry closed his eyes, and let loose.

Draco had thought that when the Dementor Kissed Harry at the end of the last war, Harry had paid the ultimate price. It wasn't true—that sacrifice was now.

Harry let them feel it all, everything. Harry let them feel Voldemort, his insanity and power, his lust for death and destruction, his own self-loathing and hatred. He let the Nonmagicals around them know Sirius, Dumbledore, Molly, Neville, Hannah; he let them feel the light of their lives, the twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes and the bravery in Neville's heart, the smell of bread that had been Molly Weasley and the gentle strength that had been Hannah, the laughter that had been Sirius. Harry showed them how they all had died; he showed them war.

Everything that Brimble was feeling, Harry gathered up and transmitted too—he let them feel it, Brimble's madness, his insanity. And then Harry let everyone around him feel himself—his parents, his childhood, two wars, the friendship of Ron and Hermione and the love of Draco Malfoy, the quiet beauty in a sunrise and the hope of two worlds made one.

When Harry at last came to himself, Draco was holding him. “Come back,” said his desperate voice. “Come back, my love. You've given enough.”

The Nonmagicals around them were looking at the machine in horror.

“You're too late,” Brimble whispered. There were tears in his eyes.

Mum,” Tambling shouted. The force of his emotion broke him from the Impedimenta, and he rushed forwards, towards the witch lying on the ground.

The light died around her, and she opened eyes made blue with magic. “No more veils,” she said.

The barn exploded.

5 to 10 years post Voldemort

On February 8, 2003, a barn collapsed near a manor house in York, England. Each wall fell open like the petals of a flower revealing its center, which was a machine containing the Elder Wand. The Deathly Hallow shot an arc of blue energy into the air that could be seen from every point on Earth. As the sparks of light showered down, they say that for a moment, every veil covering every world was lifted, and all dimensions became one.

When the dust settled, every Nonmagical in the world was magical. Muggles no longer existed except in memory. Hailey and Augustus Tambling lost their lives to their terrible machine with its incredible power, but many people in the world hailed them as heroes.

Most of the Nonmagicals only received a small amount of power—the ability to turn on a light with a blink of an eye, the ability to stay afloat slightly longer when they jumped off of the ground. Not everyone was happy with the arrangement, and plenty of former-Muggles chose not to use their newly acquired powers.

In March of 2003, Cyril Tambling was put on trial for aiding and abetting the terrorists Hailey and Augustus Tambling. In bringing down the veils and attacking the wizarding world, the Tamblings had been trying to pool enough magic to bring down the final veil. Cyril, while not fully party to their actions, had been aware of them and shielded them from scrutiny.

He had furthermore wilfully and knowingly sent Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy to investigate Hannah Abbott's murder in Devon, aware that they would be hindered in their investigation by his parents' associates, the Magic Bringers. Although he had resisted his parents and in the end turned against them, on May 26, 2003, he was found guilty of the charge and placed in a minimum security prison for a sentence of twenty years, with the possibility of parole after four years.

Horace Brimble was found guilty of aiding and abetting terrorists, as well as the abduction of Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, and Aberforth Dumbledore, as well as the murder of Hannah Abbott. He was sentenced to Azkaban without parole. His Nonmagical associates, the Magic Bringers—a group which included Robert Kelley, Evie Carper, and Mark Brandon—were tried for a variety of charges, including terrorism against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Over the next year, Defence Secretary Miriam Munt led the crusade to discover and eradicate all three of the Deathly Hallows, as well as try and convict everyone who had been involved in the Muggle War and the case of Hannah Abbott. Kingsley Shacklebolt entered and lost the race to become the next Prime Minister, and Camellia Parkinson led the Mages in a colossal effort to make a world full of newly minted wizards safe.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Meena Narang began her magical training at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with the intention of one day becoming a Mage, and Arthur Weasley and Doctor Rosemary Spring jointly published a paper on the destruction of Apparition. While few people understood their research, the phenomenon was commonly explained as “tiny portals” to the magical world, which existed in the air.

These portals could be gathered together into a single portal roughly the size of a human body, which a wizard used to Apparate. When Hailey and Augustus Tambling had destroyed Apparition, they had closed all the portals in an exceptionally large burst of power. Over the next five years, they had been using the magic of wizards and wands to gather these portals with the intention of opening them inside the minds of Muggles, thus giving magic to everyone in the world. Everyone had magic now, but Apparition would never be possible again. Many people thought it a small price to pay.

After the birth of her son, Hermione Granger continued to lead efforts to unite Old Blood and New Wizards with the help of her husband, Ronald Weasley, who became Second Mage under Camellia Parkinson, replacing Horace Brimble. Harry Potter resigned the position of Mage, preferring to use the Dementor's Gift to help him teach Occlumency at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Draco Malfoy continued as a Healer Mage, but would run for Parliament in the coming years. He would win.

They said vows in a quiet ceremony with just family friends on Monday, August 16, 2004.

On February 8, 2008, Mage Headquarters held a five-year anniversary celebration for the falling of the last veil. Dr Rosemary Spring claimed the power had been within Nonmagicals all along—an untapped well endemic to the human mind. “The idea's been around since ancient times,” she said.

“I don't think theoretical physics was around in ancient times,” said Mage Narang, who still thought Dr Spring was off her trolley.

“I'm referring to the idea of the soul,” said Dr Spring. “Some say that that's the part that's magic, and how are we to know?”

Narang raised her judging brow. “You're the scientist.”

“I can tell you, on a subatomic level, why magic is there,” Dr Spring said, “but not why it exists. And what about all the other things we can't explain? What happens after life, or before it? What if every mystery is just a veil, and once it falls, we finally see the truth?”

“Uh-huh.” Narang crossed her arms. “Or maybe you just die.”

“I thought if she were magical, she'd be less critical,” Draco said, moving away from the conversation.

Harry smiled, walking toward the balcony. “Did you really?”

“No.” Walking beside him, Draco gave a lazy smile back. “Well, what do you think, Harry? Do you think you'll go to another world when you die?”

Harry shrugged. “I don't really want to think about dying. This is just about the longest I've ever lived without a war.”

“I forget how melancholy you are,” Draco drawled. “I shouldn't bring you out in public.”

“Shouldn't you?”

“No.” Draco pulled him outside of the doors, onto the balcony. Putting his hands on either side of Harry's face, he put his lips by Harry's ear. “I should keep you all to myself.”

Harry could feel Draco's emotions, slowly saturating Harry's skin, sinking into veins, then rushing up to Harry's heart. “I don't know whether there are other worlds,” Harry said, putting his hands on Draco's face as well. “But I do think it's better to see the truth. All of it. With no barriers.”

“Then come inside of me, my love.” Draco opened up his heart.

Harry went inside.