You can't sleep at night
You can't dream your dream
Your fingerprints on file
Left clumsily at the scene.
Your own worst enemy has come to town...
~"Your Own Worst Enemy", Magic, Bruce Springsteen, 2007.
Kingsley Shacklebolt sat to deafening applause.
Harry Potter stood; the hall filled with the scrape of chairs as everyone followed. Kingsley bowed his head graciously while the new Minister of Magic, Roger Davies, made his way to the podium.
"The end of an era," Neville Longbottom said as everyone eventually stopped clapping and sat. "Strange to think that Kingsley has been in office for thirty years."
"The wizarding world has never been stronger," Arthur Weasley said, dropping his voice as Minister Davies began his speech.
Hermione Weasley frowned, but said nothing.
Harry pushed back the disquiet that had been growing in him over the past few months and tried to smile diplomatically. "I'm sure Davies will do what he thinks is best for the wizarding population," he replied quietly. And for what puts the most money into his pocket.
"Young blood." Arthur beamed. "So good to see your generation taking up the reins of the world."
Harry noticed that Hermione winced at the reference to Davies's campaign slogan. She leaned towards him. "Listen to what Davies is really saying," she murmured. "I'm worried." She looked at Harry more closely. "Is anything wrong?"
Harry closed his eyes and shook his head. It was happening again, but he could fight it. No one needed to know. A vision of the Elder Wand rose in his mind; he felt its familiar hunger.
With an effort, he put it from his mind, opened his eyes and started listening for whatever it was that Hermione found disturbing.
Harry had felt the first stirrings of the wand's hunger ten years earlier, soon after Lily had left for Hogwarts. He'd been profoundly disturbed by the depth and intensity of the feelings evoked by the wand, a seductive promise of love, adventure, power, freedom. Not wanting to alarm Ginny or open an official investigation into possible Dark activities, it had taken several months of surreptitious spellwork and investigation to narrow down the possible sources of the magic. Only after he'd eliminated a broad array of possible curses did it occur to him to think of the Elder Wand.
The relief in identifying what was happening to him was offset by the realisation that he now faced a lifetime of fighting the wand's call.
Though he'd tried to listen to the new Minister's speech, fighting the wand's hunger left Harry empty. He followed Hermione out of the auditorium, letting her guide them through the huge crowds and into the crisp evening air. He'd sleep at Grimmauld Place again tonight. Feeling guilty — it would be the fourth night this week he'd not gone home — he justified it to himself that he slept better at Grimmauld Place anyway.
"Ginny's out tonight. I'll let you buy me a drink, shall I?"
Without waiting for Harry's answer, Hermione dragged him into a trendy-looking pub and found them a secluded table.
Harry stifled his anger as the night of freedom he'd anticipated slipped away in the grasp of Hermione's hand.
While they waited for their drinks, Harry looked around the pub. There were many tables full of laughing, talking couples and groups. One long line of tables along the back wall was filled with individuals crouched in front of flat tablets, faces lit by the eerie glow of computer screens. He was distracted as a waitress placed two half-pints on the table, took his money and left.
Hermione seemed to be more relaxed than when she'd walked into the pub. "This is nice," she said. "Thanks for coming in with me."
"Have you been here before?"
She nodded. "It's popular with the Uni students. I know of several study groups who meet here often."
"It's mixed, then?" Harry looked closer. Yes, there, and there, the tell-tale flicker of magic illuminated faces and hands with firefly sparks, subtle enough to be explained by the flash of light reflected off glass.
"Mmm hmm." Hermione sipped her lager. Putting the glass down, she leaned closer. "And a case in point."
"Case in point?"
"Davies's speech. He wants to separate the wizarding world from the Muggle world, completely."
Harry frowned. "He didn't say that, exactly."
"Not in so many words. But what else could 'rebuild the wizarding world's pride', 'adhere closely to our unique cultural values' and 'focus on magical purity' mean? It's separatist rhetoric."
"But we've always been separate from the Muggle world. At least, in recent history," Harry said. "Don't you think you're making a bit much of a simple political speech?"
"Political speech is the kind that needs the most analysis."
"I still think you're making too much of it. It's all the education, you know," he added, teasing. "Makes you over-think things."
Hermione looked sceptical. "I hope you're right, Harry. But Roger Davies has always been ambitious, even when we were at Hogwarts: Quidditch Captain, dating Fleur, key positions in the Ministry during and after the war — always in the limelight. I've kept my eye on him as he's risen through the Ministry. He's charming, but he doesn't have a reputation for sharing his success with the people who helped him get ahead."
"A lot of politicians are like that." Sometimes Hermione needed to be placated, Harry thought. "But if you want me to, I'll keep an eye on him."
"I wish you wouldn't take it so lightly." Hermione gestured at him impatiently, so Harry leaned forward again. "If we withdraw from the Muggles completely, what do you think would happen to the Auror Department's project with Scotland Yard to protect CCTV cameras from being sabotaged by wizards allied to terrorist groups?"
"You're not supposed to know about that!" Harry whispered urgently, bending closer. He glanced around the room, but no one appeared to be watching them.
"Who do you think they have working on the spells? Honestly, Harry!"
"You're an academic."
"Whose specialisation is the integration of magic and technology. How many of us do you think there are? Scratch that," she said. "There are quite a few of us now. Muggles and witches and wizards. See those computers?"
"Several of those people over there are students of mine. Soon, within a few years at most, those computers will not only be able to utilise Muggle technology, they'll be integrated into magical systems as well. The families of Muggle-borns will be able to use the Floo system to communicate without needing Floo powder. They'll be able to order owls to be sent to whomever they know in the wizarding world and have access to Hogwarts' libraries, including the Restricted Section."
"Why don't I know about this?" Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Those are all security risks! The Auror Department should be involved."
"It's not meant to be a secret." Hermione looked uncomfortable. "It's just experimental, in development right now. Once it's ready, we plan to share it with the Ministry."
"Where do you get your funding?"
She dropped her eyes. "It's privately funded. I can't tell you by whom; I don't know." She looked up. "But don't you see? If the wizarding world becomes isolated, all of this, all of your work and mine, will undoubtedly be outlawed."
"Or sold to the highest bidder." Harry scowled. "Bloody hell. I wish you'd told me about this earlier. I've got to look into it now, you know, and I'd rather have done that under Kingsley than under Davies. Kingsley understood discretion and security. Davies —"
"— is about the money. I know. I'm sorry. I honestly didn't think anything of it until the past few weeks. The election seemed to go so quickly." She sighed. "I know you don't want to do it, but Harry, I think it's time to finally write your autobiography."
"We've talked about this before," Hermione said. "Your perspective on the war is unique. You were the person who worked with Professor Dumbledore and learned first-hand about Professor Snape's role. All of that information will be lost unless you write about it."
"Absolutely not." As if beckoned by their conversation, Harry could feel the wand's hunger beginning to grow again. He sipped his lager, trying to ignore it.
"The timing couldn't be better," Hermione insisted. "Remind Davies early on that he's dealing with Harry Potter. It could also divert him from your investigations into who's funding our work and what the Minister's plans would be for it if he found out it existed."
"I don't want to make this a political battle." God, he was so tired of those. He'd been fighting for reforms for nearly a quarter of a century. "I'm one of his advisors, you know. Besides, you're always saying that it's better to battle from within."
Hermione gave him a shrewd look. "Davies probably thinks the same thing. Where better to keep an eye on you than by having the Head Auror on his Advisory Panel? I'm not saying that you won't be able to influence policy from your position, but you're also vulnerable to his political manoeuvres against you. He wouldn't be expecting the public to be reminded about the war so soon after he takes office."
"At least, not with a book by Harry Potter, you mean."
Hermione shrugged. "You don't have a reputation for being a scholar, that's true. But you rarely talk about the war, either. I can guarantee you that your book will sell. Besides, you owe it to the Wizarding world. If not the living, then to the dead."
"That's a low blow." Harry hated how manipulative Hermione could be when she wanted something.
"It's the truth. They're being forgotten, Harry. Remus — Snape — even Dumbledore. Davies is no idiot. He'll take the opportunity to rewrite history now that he's in office. He'll suppress those names and others until they fade out of history. You can counter that. Anchor the real history so that it can't be ignored."
"If I were to do this — if," he repeated as Hermione's face lit up, "— when would I even find the time? You know me. It took me forever to write field reports when I was on active duty. My secretary laughs when I ask if I can help her, and my handwriting's atrocious."
"If I give you the answer to that, will you promise to write the book?" Hermione's eyes danced with mischief.
"No. But I'll consider it. Maybe."
"Right." She leaned forward and pulled him close. "A ghostwriter."
"Binns?" Harry closed his eyes in disbelief — his life would end up looking like a chronicle of the Goblin Wars.
"Not a ghost who writes. A ghostwriter. Someone who will write the book for you yet still give you the credit."
"Why should I want the credit? Let the ghostwriter have it." Harry raised his glass. "Cheers to the bloke, whoever he is."
Hermione shook her head vigorously. "No, that would defeat the whole purpose. There've been hundreds of books written by other people about you, Harry. But there would be only one book written by you. Your life, from your perspective. I don't think you realise the power such a book could have."
Unfortunately, Harry could. All too clearly. He frowned. "I don't want to open my life up that way."
"It doesn't have to be about your whole life. Just the war. Whom could it hurt? You could focus on the other people, if you like."
"Maybe I'll focus on you. And Ron. He'd love that, I bet," Harry muttered. "Serve you right if the whole damned thing was about us running about the country, camping out."
Hermione looked smug. "Don't be ridiculous; that would bore people to tears. Focus on the heroes."
It would be good to write about Remus, Harry thought, surprised at the sudden flare of interest that rose within him. He wasn't so sure about Dumbledore — his feelings were still complicated when it came to the headmaster. But Snape — Snape was another matter entirely. It would be good to see him get the recognition he deserved for his sacrifice.
"So you'll do it?"
He shrugged. "Theoretically, sure. But it would have to be the right person. I couldn't talk to most people about this. Even you," he added with a glare. "So don't think about it."
"Never crossed my mind," she said. "I know just the person though." She grinned into her drink.
The space between Harry's shoulder blades itched, as if someone was looking at him, but when he turned, no one was there.
The wand's hunger grew.
Harry excused himself early from Al's birthday party to meet with Hermione. He felt a strong twinge of guilt, but it was ridiculous to feel bad about leaving. Al wouldn't notice, and Ginny had things well in hand.
The wand's hunger twisted inside him.
"His social graces are sorely lacking," Hermione warned Harry, "but he's brilliant. One of the youngest scholars to come out of the university, and already recognised in the Wizarding world for his books about the Voldemort Wars. They're very insightful."
Harry snorted. "Do you expect to persuade me with that argument? I'm not inclined to let someone burrow into my memories so that a reviewer can call him 'insightful'." He glanced around the teashop. "When do you expect him?"
Hermione stood on her toes to look over the crowded room. "I see him. He's over there."
Harry steeled himself. "I retain the right to refuse to do this once I've met him."
"Of course," Hermione said with familiar and highly irritating condescension. "Just give him a chance, will you?"
Harry followed her through the crowded shop, nearly bumping into her when she paused at a table. "Mr Newlin? It's good to see you again. Mr Newlin, this is Harry Potter. Harry, Owen Newlin."
The man stood, and Harry stretched out his hand to shake Newlin's. "Good lord," he said, pausing. His hand fell.
The man's resemblance to Harry's memory of the young Snape was uncanny. The same sallow face; the same yellowing teeth, although Newlin's weren't crooked. He was tall with a hauntingly familiar nose. High cheekbones, a spare frame. His clothing looked expensive, the black robes clearly tailored specifically for him.
It was if the Half-blood Prince stood in front of Harry.
Something about Newlin roused Harry's instincts. Owen Newlin felt — Dark.
The wand's hunger leapt, eager.
Black eyes watched him, hooded and wary, while dark hair swung forward to hide Newlin's face. "Mr Potter," he said.
That voice. Harry still heard it in his dreams, some nights. "Sorry." He mentally shook himself. There had to be an explanation, but it could wait. "You look like someone I once knew. I was taken aback." He offered his hand again. "A pleasure to meet you, Mr Newlin. And please, call me Harry."
Newlin's hand was cool to the touch, long fingers elegantly manicured, yet looking strangely naked with their skin bare of stains from caustic potions. "I prefer to address you formally, Mr Potter. I find it best to keep a distance between myself and those whom I interview." His eyes glittered as he released Harry's hand.
"May we join you?" Hermione asked, her voice unnaturally bright. "We seem to be blocking the aisle."
Harry started and the black eyes fell. Glancing around, Harry saw that they were the objects of avid interest. The other patrons had fallen silent, except for whispers. Fuming inwardly at the need to respond, Harry smiled vaguely at the room.
Newlin gestured to the empty chairs. "I took the liberty of ordering tea."
"Perfect." Hermione smiled. "I'll pour, shall I?"
Interest seemed to fade as the other people in the teashop realised there was to be no further drama. The low hum of conversation resumed.
Harry sipped his tea. "Hermione told me that you've written several books about the Voldemort Wars already," he said.
Newlin inclined his head. "I find it to be an interesting period, although ridiculously chronicled beyond all hope of accuracy."
"I don't read about the war," Harry said.
"Unless they've read my books, no one else has, either." A sardonic brow rose. "Mrs Weasley told me that you need a ghostwriter."
Harry exchanged glances with Hermione, who looked encouraging. "Perhaps."
Harry decided to be blunt. "If I were to need a ghostwriter, I would need to have absolute control over what was and wasn't included in the book."
Newlin smiled; it wasn't nice to see. "Of course. One wouldn't want to sully any reputations, would one?"
"Reputations be damned. It's the potentially dangerous magic that might come to light that I'm worried about." Like the Elder Wand, or the Horcruxes. Once again, Harry's instincts insisted that something about Newlin was Dark. "On second thoughts, this isn't a good idea." Harry stood. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr Newlin. Hermione, I'm sorry."
"Remus Lupin was close to you, wasn't he?" Newlin sipped his tea.
Harry paused. "And what does that have to do with anything?"
"Nothing. Although he would undoubtedly be concerned to hear that the new administration at the Ministry of Magic has already begun to contemplate reinstating the ban on hiring known werewolves. Or those who have werewolf blood."
Teddy. "That comment could be construed as emotional blackmail." But Harry sat, eyes narrowed.
"I prefer to think of it as political expediency." Newlin's posture, in contrast to Harry's tense stance, was perfect. "Perhaps we should discuss this further elsewhere."
"Mr Newlin," Hermione said, clearly aghast.
"Hermione," Harry warned her. "He's right. This isn't the place to discuss this." He motioned, and their bill appeared on the table. He laid down some Galleons. "Why don't we Floo to my house in London?"
Newlin carefully placed his teacup on its saucer. "Acceptable."
The three of them rose and left the teashop, Harry thinking furiously. Newlin's guess as to Harry's motives was disturbing. Harry knew Hermione would never have revealed the true reason for the autobiography. Were his actions so plain? If so, was Newlin somehow connected to Davies? And if not, what did Newlin want?
They Flooed to Grimmauld Place from the Leaky Cauldron.
Once they were ensconced in his home office, Harry sat back and examined Newlin.
"What's this about political expediency?"
Newlin sat back in his chair, fingers steepled in front of his mouth. He dropped his hands. "A guess," he admitted. "But it made sense, given how adamant you've been in the past about not talking about the war. No interviews, no speeches. I've interviewed Aurors, and they've all told me the same. You use your Auror experiences to illustrate lessons, never your war experiences."
Harry made a mental note to address security and confidentiality issues in his department immediately. "Hermione is an academic. Why would you immediately presume a political motivation when she's the person who pushed me to do this? She's not political."
"But much of her work is." Newlin glanced at Hermione. "I know several of the students who are working on projects with you. It's plain to see the political ramifications of the research that you're doing."
"It's not political," Hermione protested. "It's simply the pursuit of knowledge."
"Not to the Ministry." Newlin looked back at Harry. "Nor to you."
"So you deduced that I'm writing an autobiography because of the potential political impact of Hermione's research." Harry allowed a ghost of a smile to play across his lips. "Forgive me, but that seems to be a bit of a stretch."
Newlin looked momentarily disconcerted, but a moment later, he wore a smirk of his own. "Then tell me, Mr Potter. What am I doing here at your home instead of talking with you at a teashop?"
Harry looked at Newlin. The black eyes glittered with triumph, reminding him of similar black eyes from his childhood, eyes that had kept secrets from everyone — except, in the end, from Harry. "I require complete confidentiality regarding anything said or implied during the time we work on this project," Harry said quietly. "Otherwise, you're welcome to leave now, after a quick Obliviate."
"You're going ahead with it?" Hermione asked, quite obviously startled.
"I won't make an Unbreakable Vow," Newlin replied.
"A wizard's contract then. I'll have Hermione contact a solicitor to draw one up."
"Why?" Newlin seemed genuinely curious.
"As I said before — you remind me of someone. You realise there will be grave penalties if you break the contract."
"Of course." Avidly looking around the office, almost as if he owned it, Newlin added, "And the fee shall be commensurately proportionate, you realise."
"Of course." Harry stood, the others following. He extended his hand. "I look forward to working with you, Mr Newlin."
Newlin shook his hand. "Shall I leave via the Floo?"
Harry nodded. "I'll have it keyed to your magical signature so that you can return for our talks. Would you be free to meet me here tomorrow at one?"
Newlin bowed slightly, smirking. "I look forward to it. Goodbye Mr Potter, Mrs Weasley." He left. Moments later, Harry heard the cough of the Floo.
"Good lord." Hermione abruptly sat down. "What just happened?"
"I hired a ghostwriter," Harry said. A ghostwriter with disturbing political theories that needed investigation, he added to himself. Not to mention his personal interest in finding out just who Owen Newlin was and how he was connected to Severus Snape. "Now, about that contract..."
Harry sat thoughtfully at his desk in Grimmauld Place, the memories that Snape had given to him as he'd died swirling gently in the Pensieve beside him.
Other than the straight teeth and a general air of privilege, Owen Newlin was the image of Severus Snape at the same age.
Harry had stopped by Flourish and Blott's on his way home and bought a copy of Newlin's latest book, a biography of Albus Dumbledore. He skimmed through it, reading a few pages here and there. It definitely wasn't his cup of tea: overly academic and dry, Harry found it hard going. But he had to admit that Hermione was right. Newlin's insight into Dumbledore was startling.
He re-read the back flap of The Manipulation of Puppets.
Raised in Wales, Owen Newlin was educated at Beauxbatons, where he excelled in modern Wizarding history. He is the author of seven biographical and historical books about the Voldemort Wars, most notablyIronic Bloodlines andNo Deaths for the Wicked. He currently resides in London.
The man in the photo above the words scowled at him and looked away, hiding behind lank black hair.
Strange that Newlin hadn't attended Hogwarts. It gave Harry a place to start. He wrote a quick note to Ron, asking him to make discreet inquiries into Newlin's childhood in Wales and history as a student at Beauxbatons. Harry rolled up the parchment and gave it to his owl. He watched as it flew out the window.
"There you are," he heard from behind him. He turned as Ginny entered the room. "I've been looking for you," she said. "Why do you spend so much time in this gloomy old house when you could be working in the garden at home?" She playfully sat on his lap. "You need to get out more, you know."
Harry smiled and put his arm around her. "I've told you — Grimmauld Place is convenient to my job. And I don't disturb you at the cottage when I'm working."
"You mean, we don't disturb you. Don't think that I haven't noticed how preoccupied you are these days. I just stopped by to tell you I'm off," she said, standing again. "Mum and I are taking the children to the seaside for a week."
"They're hardly children any more," Harry said mildly. "Lily is twenty-one."
"A person's never too old for a holiday by the sea," she retorted. "You can still come with us."
"Thanks, love, but I have too much to do here. Besides," he glanced at the book, "Newlin will be here in an hour."
"I'm glad Hermione finally talked you into doing that book. Though he looks like a bad-tempered fellow." She picked up the book and looked closer. "A bit like Snape, in fact."
"I thought so, too."
"Have you read any of this?" She rifled through the pages, obviously not impressed. "You'd think he'd include a few photos of Dumbledore, wouldn't you?"
"It's an academic book. I don't know if they include photos."
"He'll include photos of your life, won't he? And write better, too. This seems so ... dry, I suppose. You've had an exciting life, Harry. The book had better get it right." She handed the book back to him. "Are you sure you don't want to come with us?"
"It's not a matter of not wanting. I'd love to come along. But —"
"— You have work." She sighed. "You're worse than Dad, you know. Well, I hope that you have a quiet week." She kissed him on the cheek.
"Give my best to your mum and the children," he called after her as she left.
He stared at the door. Once upon a time if Ginny had sat on his lap like that, they would have ended up in one of the empty bedrooms, rutting until they were exhausted.
He felt no such arousal these days. He tried to remember the last time that they had made love, and was surprised to find that he couldn't. At some point, they had just stopped. Yet their relationship didn't seem to be suffering.
Their easy camaraderie suited him fine, Harry decided, ignoring a twinge of pain and guilt. He heard the wand's whisper, and turned back to his work to escape it.
A little while later, he heard the Floo. "I'm in here," he called.
Newlin walked into the office, frowning and carrying a valise. "How did you know that I wasn't someone intent on harming you? Have you no security?"
Harry smiled. "The security is tight, I assure you. You wouldn't have been able to Floo here if I hadn't adjusted my wards to allow you in." He stood. "I thought we could talk in the library, if that would suit you. I've asked Kreacher to bring us tea when you arrived."
"This is the old Black mansion, is it not?" Newlin looked around critically as Harry led him through the corridors to the library.
"Yes. My godfather, Sirius Black, left it to me in his will." Harry opened the door to the library. "We've done quite a bit of work on it over the years. It used to be quite dangerous, but we've managed to tame it."
Newlin raised a sceptical eyebrow, but said nothing.
The library was almost cheerful, the long windows clean and a fire burning in the fireplace. Books devoted to Dark magic had been replaced by Muggle and wizard classics, including a large bookshelf of children's books. A large table occupied one corner of the room, while several chairs gathered around the fireplace.
Harry and Newlin sat at the table. Newlin took parchment, quills and ink from his valise as Kreacher served them tea.
"I'm not sure how this works," Harry said when Kreacher left. "Are you going to ask me questions? Or would you just like me to start talking about a certain event?"
"I'm not interested in events. I'm interested in what led to them." Newlin waved his wand at his quill, which began to dance across the parchment. "Let's begin with Dumbledore."
"I looked at your book about him. You seem to think he was — I don't know, a puppet master, I guess."
"And you think he wasn't?"
"Well, no, I wouldn't say that. But most people knew him to be a warm, caring wizard." Harry thought back to his years at Hogwarts. "I remember feeling safe when he was around."
"Yet you were one of the two people who were most unsafe around him."
Harry studied Newlin's face. It was devoid of expression, but in a way that made Harry think Newlin was hiding something. "You seem to have a great deal of interest in Dumbledore."
"He was a great wizard." Newlin looked at the fire. "Too great. I believe his ego drove him to manipulate people in a manner in which a more ethical person would not."
Harry sat silent for a moment. "I won't help you to write a book demeaning him," he finally said. "He had his reasons. And in the end, his methods worked."
"I'm not interested in demeaning him." Newlin sounded annoyed. "I'm only interested in telling the truth about him."
"You said two people were unsafe around him. Who would the other person be?"
Harry nodded. "I thought you might mean him."
"I suppose you, like most people, hated Snape," Newlin sneered.
"For a while, yes." Harry sighed. "He was a bastard. I doubt that anyone ever really liked him — except my mother. They were friends when they were children. But I think his childhood was pretty grim, otherwise. I have reason to believe that even Dumbledore treated him with contempt while he was younger."
"Which, of course, means that he was contemptible." Newlin snapped each word.
Harry shook his head. "No. His actions could be contemptible, but he was, underneath, probably one of the bravest men I've ever known. It's funny, in a way. When I was young, every time I needed courage, I thought of Dumbledore. But after the war, I've always thought of Snape. He set the standard for me." He looked at Newlin. "I've never told anyone that. Except Albus."
Harry shrugged and nodded. "I named him after them, you know. Albus Severus. By the way, my children are off-limits as subjects," he added. "This book is about the war, and the war only."
"You gave your son Snape's name?" Newlin was incredulous.
"Snape was a brave man. He deserved recognition. I'm only sorry that he didn't receive it while he was alive." Harry sipped his tea. "Looking back, I can only imagine the pressures he must have been under."
"Dumbledore was a hard taskmaster."
"He was that," Harry conceded, "but also, I think Snape was a hard taskmaster on himself. He didn't have to make the choices he made. Yet if he hadn't, I believe Voldemort would have won."
"That's — surprising." Newlin's annoyance seemed to have given way to thoughtfulness. "I've only met one or two others who thought the same as you."
"Who would they be?"
"Confidentiality encompasses many people, Pot- Mr Potter." Newlin's sallow cheeks burned red.
"If it's easier for you to call me 'Potter', by all means do so," Harry said, amused. "It reminds me of Snape. Actually, you remind me of Snape," he added, leaning forward. "Are you related?"
"I'm afraid I couldn't say." Newlin glared. "I'm an orphan, you see. I was raised in a foster family."
"I apologise." Harry placed his teacup carefully on the table. "That was incredibly rude of me."
"Yes." They sat in silence for a moment, then Newlin made an impatient gesture. "I don't wish to talk about it. Let's return to the interview."
"Right." Harry ran a hand through his hair. "What did you want to know?"
"Why were you absent from Hogwarts in your seventh year?"
Harry froze. "I can't talk about that in any detail," he said, choosing his words with care. "Suffice it to say that I was preparing for the confrontation with Voldemort. What else do you want to know about?"
"Was it something to do with Voldemort's familiar? Nagini, I believe he named her?"
"I can't talk about that," Harry repeated.
"Or perhaps it was something to do with Dumbledore's research into ... Horcruxes," Newlin said, his dark eyes glittering. Harry must have made some small movement, because triumph suddenly lit Newlin's face. "It was, wasn't it?"
"How did you know about Dumbledore's research?" Harry knew he'd confirmed Newlin's guess, but it was more important at the moment to find out where Newlin had uncovered the information so that he could make sure that no one else stumbled across it.
Newlin sat back in his chair. "I think I'll keep that to myself, for now." He smirked. "The snake was a Horcrux, wasn't she? I thought so, but he wouldn't —" he abruptly stopped speaking.
"Who wouldn't?" Harry demanded. Only he, Ron and Hermione knew about the Horcruxes. Harry couldn't believe that Voldemort had told any of his followers, but perhaps one of them had made a lucky guess.
Newlin shook his head. "I don't reveal my sources," he said.
"It's dangerous information to have," Harry replied. "It won't be in the book, or in any other public or private forum. Not if I can help it."
"Was that the dangerous magic that you referred to in the teashop?"
His terse answer again gave away more than he'd meant to. "There's something else, too," Newlin said, looking intently at Harry.
Harry felt a brush against his thoughts. He closed his mind and leapt to his feet. "You're a Legilimens!"
Newlin looked down. "Perhaps."
"Who are you?" Harry leaned down, bracing himself on the arms of Newlin's chair and staring him straight in the face. "This obviously isn't simply an interview for a book. What do you want?"
Newlin shrunk back in his chair, but his eyes were angry. "The truth," he said. "No one knows it anymore, except for you. The Wizarding world needs to know it, too."
Harry shook his head. "I don't know the whole truth, not of anything. Particularly not about dangerous magic like Horcruxes. This goes no further until you tell me who you are and what you want."
Newlin glared. "Fine," he finally snapped. "Step back and I'll tell you."
Harry stepped back, but kept his wand close to hand. "You're Snape's son, aren't you?" he demanded.
Newlin's back straightened. "And what if I am?"
"I honestly don't know." He regarded Newlin. "It depends on who you're working for."
"I work for no one!" Newlin glared.
"You're working for me," Harry pointed out.
Newlin looked exasperated. "Under a book contract. You implied that I was working for someone else, perhaps gathering information for them."
"If I were I would hardly tell you. No," Newlin said. "I just want —" He looked away again. "It's important to me to know the truth," he said, jaw clenched.
Harry nodded slowly. "I imagine it is. I remember how important it was to me to learn more about my father. I warn you, though — you may not like what you learn."
Newlin looked at him sharply. "Everyone thought your father was perfect."
"He wasn't." Harry studied Newlin's face. Though he still looked incredibly like Snape, his features were almost attractive, certainly something that Harry had never seen in Snape. Newlin's hair, while lank and heavy, didn't seem greasy like Snape's had. His nose was beaked, but it sat straight on his face, without the slightly offset cast that had hinted of Snape's past fights. Newlin's skin was clear, the sallow colour more olive than jaundiced. If Harry hadn't known Snape, hadn't associated anger and bitterness with the features before him, he supposed that someone could almost find Newlin desirable.
Yet there seemed to be something Dark within him. Not in intent, at least as far as Harry could tell. But certainly in his soul.
The Elder Wand whispered, and Harry strengthened his Occlumency.
"Do you know how Horcruxes are made?" he asked abruptly.
Newlin blinked and frowned. "A piece of a person's soul is put into an object for safe-keeping," he replied.
"But do you know how a person separates out a piece of a soul?"
Newlin shook his head.
"A person's soul shatters when he kills," Harry said. "You need to commit a murder in order to make a Horcrux."
Comprehension flooded Newlin's face. "I've had this conversation before," he whispered. "Draco's soul..."
"You know Draco Malfoy? What about him?"
"He's my foster-brother."
Newlin's whispered words stunned Harry. "You were raised by the Malfoys? Did you talk to Malfoy about Horcruxes?"
Newlin collected himself. "Yes, I was raised by the Malfoys. But no, I've never spoken with Draco about Horcruxes. You've merely reminded me of a conversation I once had. It is of no consequence."
"About Draco Malfoy killing someone?" Harry asked sharply.
"Draco has never killed," Newlin replied. His face was very pale; he looked distressed, though he was obviously trying to hide it.
"Newlin, what's going on?" Harry shook him by the shoulder, but Newlin threw him off.
"Nothing! Nothing. Just... " His eyes looked dead. "I won't tell anyone about Horcruxes," he said. "I can promise that."
Harry sat silent.
"I promise!" Newlin snapped, his anger beginning to build again.
"I believe you." And strangely, Harry did. "I think we've talked enough today, don't you?"
Newlin began to half-heartedly gather his materials. "Yes. You're right."
"Shall we meet again? Say, tomorrow at the same time?"
"You want to continue with this?" Newlin asked incredulously.
Harry nodded. "The story needs to be told. Just — parts of it must be kept secret."
Newlin regarded him thoughtfully, perhaps even with a small bit of respect. "I'll come again tomorrow," he said. His belongings neatly packed in his valise, he stood. "I'll be going then."
Harry nodded, watching as Newlin walked out the door. A moment later, he heard Newlin's voice and the sound of the Floo.
Now that Newlin had gone, the wand's hunger seemed to fade, Harry noted with relief. He stared at the fire.
Newlin was most likely Snape's son, raised by the Malfoys. Although, judging from Newlin's age, Snape must have fathered him sometime during that last year at Hogwarts. Would the mother have been a Death Eater? Perhaps Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry thought with a shiver. Except Harry didn't remember hearing any reports of Bellatrix being pregnant once she was released from Azkaban.
Suddenly, Harry felt extremely hungry. "Kreacher!"
Kreacher appeared with a pop. "Yes, Master?"
"Could you bring me tea? A proper tea, with sandwiches?"
Kreacher bowed. "Of course, Master." Moments later, a vast array of food was spread across the library table.
Even after he had eaten everything, Harry felt a gnawing in his stomach. His fingers itched to wield the Elder Wand, feel its power humming through him.
He stayed at Grimmauld Place again that night.
After a night filled with dreams of emptiness and fire, Harry woke to shouts coming from his sitting room. He staggered downstairs to answer his Floo.
"Hermione? It's five in the bloody morning!"
"Harry! What do you know about this?" Hermione looked so angry it appeared that she was close to tears, though it was a bit difficult to tell through the flames.
Harry rubbed at sleep-crusted eyes. "About what? Wait, don't tell me, I'm still half asleep. Why don't you Floo through? I'll have Kreacher make us tea."
The words were barely out of his mouth before she tumbled through the grate. "Here. Read this," she said, shoving a copy of theDaily Prophet at him.
"I need to sit down first." He walked to the kitchen, Hermione trailing behind him.
"Did you know anything about this?" She accepted a cup of tea from Kreacher. "Thank you, Kreacher." She sat next to Harry and pointed. "I hoped I'd be proven wrong, but look at that headline!"
Ministry Announces New Reforms was written in large letters across the top of the page.
"New restrictions on Dark creatures or those with Dark blood," she said. "And look! They want to establish foster programs for half-blood children, to place them with pureblood families."
"What about Muggle-borns?"
"Worse. They — oh, Harry. They want to take Muggle-born witches and wizards away from their families at the first sign of magic. Beginning immediately, all Muggle-borns over the age of eleven are to be tested for 'magical adaptability' and renounce living as Muggles, or their magic will be stripped from them."
"Bloody hell." Harry was wide-awake now, reading through the article with increasing horror. "We haven't had an Advisory Panel meeting yet."
"Davies obviously isn't waiting for the Advisory Panel," Hermione said. "I doubt he'll listen to you. I imagine that he'll use these reforms to try to measure who will stand against him before any Advisory Panel meetings take place."
"So he can remove the dissenters before there are any public outcries." Harry shook his head. "He's outmanoeuvred us."
"I've heard rumours that all of the projects I've been working on at the university will be relocated to the Department of Mysteries, and that the researchers will either be Obliviated or required to wear some sort of monitor." Hermione put down her teacup and buried her face in her hands. "I hate to admit it, but I'm frightened."
"What does Ron say to all of this?"
"I haven't been able to talk to him yet. He's in Helsinki, you know. I'm not sure if they get the Prophet there."
"I'll call him back and send Albright over in his place."
"As wonderful as that sounds, I don't know if that's the best course of action to take. Ron won't be able to do anything, and Davies will most likely view that kind of action from you as a threat to his agenda."
Harry took Hermione's hand, frowning. "What do you think we should do, then?"
"I don't honestly know." She looked up and blinked hard, dashing tears away with the back of her free hand. "I think what frightens me the most is the thought of one person having control over the research that we're doing. It bridges both worlds. We've focused on accessing the magical world, but it could equally be used to allow the magical world to access the Muggle one."
"Damn. Hermione, I truly wish you'd thought ahead."
"I know," she said miserably. "Davies is hungry for power, and our work would give it to him."
"I don't care what Davies thinks, I'm securing your labs," Harry said. "I'll get my Muggle counterparts to help me, so that we can keep as much of this away from our world as possible."
"I suppose we'll have to see what happens. Perhaps there will be some kind of public outcry. At least your book is underway."
Harry nodded. They both knew there would be no public outcry; the Wizarding world was too self-involved for social movements. "D'you want some toast?"
"Thanks." They sat quietly for a few moments, Hermione nibbling toast with a look of concentration on her face. "How is the book coming along?" she asked.
"Newlin will be here again this afternoon. He's not the easiest person to work with."
"I expect not. But he's brilliant, you know. He's multi-lingual."
"Speaking languages doesn't make him easy to work with. It just means that if I use the foul words that Ron teaches me whenever he learns a new language, Newlin will most likely know what I'm saying. And what's the point of that?"
Hermione smiled affectionately and shook her head. "Stop being silly and answer me. How is it going?"
He shrugged, reluctant to talk about Newlin. "It won't be written overnight."
She looked at him for a moment, then sighed and smiled again. "Right. I suppose I'll have to wait for the finished product."
"Hermione, does he — does Newlin remind you of anyone?"
She looked exasperated. "Yes, of course. He looks like Professor Snape, only younger and, well, cleaner. Harry, you aren't going to make that into a problem, are you?"
"What do you mean?"
"It's just that you and the professor never got on. Don't project that onto Mr Newlin."
"I wouldn't," Harry said with asperity. "Anyway, I have nothing but respect for Snape." Then honesty reared its head. "But I have to admit that I'm interested in Newlin's background. It seems like they must be related somehow, with them looking so similar."
"That's his business. It's nothing to do with you or the book. Stop being an Auror and just work with him, will you? I should be getting back," she added, standing. "I need to see what I can salvage at the office before the Ministry steps in."
"Right." Harry stood and walked back to the sitting room with her. "Be careful, will you? I'm going to send Albright over to the labs to help you and the others secure things. She's discreet, plus she's bloody clever about things like that."
"I will. And thanks." She kissed him on the cheek. "I'll see you soon. Cheers."
Harry stood looking at the flames long after Hermione Flooed away. Finally, he went to his study and picked up the mobile he used to communicate with Scotland Yard. He'd better not contact them from his office at the Ministry if he wanted to keep his actions a secret.
And he'd better use his computer tablet for his notes. Very few wizards raised in the Wizarding world had any idea how to use one, and more than once he'd been grateful to his Muggle counterparts for sharing their training with him, though he didn't allow his Aurors to use them exclusively, leaving that expertise to Scotland Yard.
There were times when technology trumped magic, Harry thought grimly to himself. At least, until Hermione's research broke down the barrier.
Newlin looked wary as he walked into the office.
"Good afternoon," Harry said. He looked at the papers strewn across his desk and ran a hand through his hair. He was exhausted, a condition not improved by his efforts to ignore an itch to retrieve the Elder Wand for safekeeping. "Is it that time already?"
Black eyes flashed. "That's very kind of you."
"What? Oh." Harry felt ashamed of himself. "Sorry. I am glad to see you. Just submerged in work. The new Ministry protocols..."
"Yes." Newlin shifted uneasily. "Shall I come back another time?"
"No. Please, sit." Newlin sat in the chair Harry cleared for him. "If you're comfortable with it, I'd like to talk in here today. It's the only room I've got warded for using Muggle mobile phones."
"You keep ties that close with Muggles?" Newlin's tone was sarcastic, though he continued to unpack his dictation materials.
"Yes." Harry saw no need to tell Newlin it was primarily for work. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"It seems a bit suspect, given today's political climate."
"Ah." Harry leaned back in his chair. "And if it were suspect, what action do you think the average citizen would take?"
"The average citizen would shut up and mind his own business," Newlin said dryly. "However, there are many citizens who are in no way average, and would likely cause you trouble."
Harry grinned despite himself. "Do you count yourself in that number?"
"Only if it would benefit me in some way." Newlin looked positively wicked.
"I'll have to make sure it doesn't, then," Harry said lightly, covering his sudden anxiety. If Newlin talked to anyone about ghostwriting Harry's autobiography, Davies would surely get wind of it. Then he thought of their contract, and relaxed. Newlin couldn't talk to anyone about the book without severe magical consequences. Thank heaven for Hermione's solicitor friend. "What would you like to address today?"
"Earlier, you said that Snape's choices were a large part of what won the war. Tell me about them."
"That's a little difficult." Harry chewed his lip. "You see, some of the information is, well — confidential. I'm not sure that I have the right to share it."
"He's dead. What does it matter?"
What, indeed? Yet, for years Harry had felt like Snape's protector. He'd never shared all that he'd seen in Snape's memories with anyone, not even Ron and Hermione. "I'll think about it, all right? But not today."
"How are you going to ensure he receives the recognition he deserves if you don't tell about his choices? Do you expect people to just say, 'Oh, Harry Potter says Snape was good, therefore I believe him'?"
Harry reluctantly smiled. "When you put it that way...no, I don't expect people to believe it just because I say so. But I need to think about how to do it. He deserves to be treated with respect."
Newlin looked at him intently. "Why?"
"Because he didn't receive it in life," Harry said. "He sacrificed everything — his reputation, his relationships, his life — yet received nothing in return. Not even Dumbledore trusted him completely."
"And you did, I suppose."
Harry shook his head. "I didn't trust him at all. It was better that way, I think — I was directly connected to Voldemort, so there was always the possibility that Voldemort would have discovered Snape's role as a spy through me. He never did, so in that way, Snape's plan worked. But that doesn't keep me from wishing that I'd known. It feels too late, now. He's dead, and to the end he thought of me, protected me. Yet all he ever knew from me was hatred and distrust. I would have liked to have given him more."
"Love?" Newlin's voice dripped with sarcasm. "Loyalty? Obedience?"
"Friendship," Harry said softly. "Trust. I had those to give."
"Only a fool gives where he doesn't receive."
Newlin brushed his hair away from his face. The curve of his long fingers was graceful, the heavy fall of the black strands tangling around them enticing. Ginny's hair had never been that silky ... Harry came to himself with a start.
"Er, yes, well," he said. "I still would have liked to have tried."
"I wondered about a speech that was attributed to you in the Final Battle," Newlin said. "A speech about — the Elder Wand."
Harry went cold as the familiar hunger surged. "You're mistaken," he said.
"I think not," Newlin replied. "Both you and Voldemort are said to have mentioned it several times."
"By whose account?" Harry had used the Elder Wand one last time before laying it back in Dumbledore's dead hands. All memory of the Elder Wand should have been erased.
"You might know that Horace Slughorn died several years ago. He left all of his writings to the Ministry. No one reads them, of course. So when I asked to use them for research for my book about Dumbledore, the Ministry archivist gave them to me outright. I think he was relieved not to have them taking up space."
"Slughorn was mistaken," Harry replied, determined to deflect Newlin's interest. "He often embellished his stories in the interests of making himself look important."
"You lie very poorly." Newlin smirked.
Harry weighed his options. He doubted that Newlin was lying about Slughorn's writings; it was the only way that Harry could see any knowledge of the Elder Wand existing. He needed to find the reference and destroy it. After that, he could Obliviate Newlin. Making his decision, he shrugged. "You're right. Everyone tells me that."
"So, about the Elder Wand..."
"None of this can be published in the book," Harry warned.
Newlin tilted his head, considering. "It seems there is quite a bit of information that can't be published," he finally said. "The Horcruxes I'll give you, but surely I can write about the Elder Wand after your death, if I understand how it works correctly."
"If I die a natural death, undefeated, the power of the wand will be broken," Harry confirmed quietly. "But I intend to live a very long life."
"It's curious, if you're so interested in making sure the wand's power isn't transferred, that you became an Auror. It seems to me that the risk that you might be defeated in battle would be fairly high. Especially," Newlin's eyes were shrewd, "since it appears that you aren't using it."
"I was young and stupid," Harry replied. "I'm behind a desk now."
"Slughorn said that the power of the wand should have been Snape's."
"I'd really like to see those notes," Harry said.
Newlin laughed. "I don't think so. You'll have to trust my word on it."
"Why didn't you go to Hogwarts?" Harry asked casually.
Still smiling, Newlin said, "I preferred Beauxbatons' library."
"At age eleven?"
"I was precocious. Will you answer my question?"
"I didn't hear a question."
A speculative look was directed at him. "You're cleverer than I thought," Newlin said.
"I'm glad I exceeded your expectations," Harry replied, his voice dry. He knew he was a fool, but he admitted to himself that he enjoyed the sharp exchanges that he was beginning to associate with Newlin. No one else in his life challenged him like this. It was exhilarating. He felt — alive. "Snape was never to have been the master of the Elder Wand. Dumbledore arranged for Snape to kill him, which would have broken the power of the wand."
"I hadn't realised..." Newlin said, his face paling.
"No one did, not even Snape. Dumbledore told no one. But it backfired. Draco Malfoy defeated Dumbledore before Snape killed him. After that, I defeated Malfoy. The power still lives."
Newlin appeared shaken. "I thought you were supposed to die before the Final Battle. That would have broken the power, surely."
Harry sucked in a breath. He hadn't expected that. "Yes and no. It's complicated. Yes, I died. But I had a choice, whether I wanted to leave Voldemort for someone else to kill, or whether I wanted to finish it myself. Since I was the master of the wand, it seemed to me that I'd have a better chance than anyone else would against it. So I came back."
"But no one could know that you would have had that choice," Newlin argued.
"Dumbledore knew, or at least, he guessed." Harry unconsciously rubbed his arm where the scar from Wormtail's knife still lingered, a faint reminder. "You see, Voldemort used my blood to resurrect himself. In essence, he became my Horcrux, bound by Cedric Diggory's death. Dumbledore gambled that if Voldemort killed me yet remained alive himself, I could find my way back to this world."
"But he said you were to be sacrificed..."
Harry nodded. "I had to die. I was a Horcrux, too." Suddenly Newlin's words registered with him. "Wait. Who said I was to be sacrificed? Dumbledore told no one except Snape about that."
"My research into Voldemort and Dumbledore," Newlin said absently. "I hated him for that, you know. Especially later..."
"What?" Newlin looked startled. Before Harry could say anything, Newlin continued. "It's true then? You had a choice." Newlin's voice was soft. "No one called you back."
"No one called me back."
Newlin sat a moment, seemingly lost in thought. "Perhaps I was too harsh in my judgement. Perhaps Dumbledore wasn't the puppet master I thought him to be."
Harry wasn't sure where Newlin had found his information, but there was no doubt the man was deeply affected by Harry's story. Harry could almost feel the Darkness roiling inside Newlin. He decided to take a chance. Perhaps he could use it to find out more about Newlin's source of information.
"You've been affected by Dark magic," he said, keeping his voice gentle. "I can feel it."
"You have been, too," Newlin replied. "What of it?"
Ignoring Newlin's defensiveness, Harry simply said, "You're stronger than it is, you know."
"Not when it's bound to your soul, as I believe it may behove you to remember." Newlin stood. "Thank you, Mr Potter. I think I have enough for today."
Newlin's black eyes searched Harry's. "Tomorrow," he finally agreed. He picked up his papers and placed them into his valise.
Newlin paused and turned back to him. "Yes?"
"Slughorn's papers. They're dangerous. They need to be destroyed."
Again, Newlin studied him. He gave an abrupt nod. "I have what I need from them." He paused, frowning. "Have you made arrangements?"
"What arrangements? Is there something that you need for the interviews? I'm sorry, I should have asked before, but I thought —"
"No!" Newlin glared. "Arrangements for your death. To break the power of the wand."
Harry blinked. Bloody hell. "Not really. Just die, undefeated."
"A fairly flimsy plan, it seems to me," Newlin said. "Good day." He left.
Harry stared after him. Newlin was either a fool or he was lying. No papers leaving the Ministry would ever be released without a thorough vetting from some portion of the huge bureaucracy overseeing the affairs of the Wizarding world. There was absolutely no truth to Newlin's claim that Slughorn's papers had been given to him so easily.
So what did he hope to accomplish by telling Harry that story? And where had he heard that Harry needed to be sacrificed? Had Voldemort told one of the Death Eaters that? Malfoy, perhaps, who had passed the information on to Draco? He shook his head; that didn't make sense. He needed to track the source of that information down, too.
But as far as Slughorn's papers, the answer must be that Newlin was trying to protect someone. Davies. It had to be. As careful as Hermione had been, Davies must have found out about the autobiography. Or, perhaps Davies had hired Newlin even before Hermione had sought him out. Maybe Newlin would have approached Harry if he hadn't been approached first, asking to write a biography and displaying all of the other books he'd already written.
The young fool. Harry turned back to his computer.
Funny, how quickly he'd come to care about what happened to the young man. Newlin seemed to be isolated, angry, and too bloody intelligent for his own good. He was prime fodder for someone who needed a scapegoat or a spy. He wasn't sure if Newlin had heard the warning behind his words about Dark magic, but had confidence that the young man would figure it out. Harry just hoped it was in time. Newlin's hunger for the truth behind the events of the Voldemort War was leading him into dangerous territory.
Harry debated whether he should search Newlin's home that night. He doubted that he would be able to find Slughorn's papers there, and frankly, he had to admit to himself that he believed that Newlin would destroy them. But there might be other evidence of what lay behind Newlin's hunger for knowledge about the war, and that could be valuable in learning the man's motives behind his interviews with Harry.
Still, Newlin was anything but trusting or stupid; he'd be expecting Harry tonight. Harry decided to wait a few days, in hopes that Newlin would relax if nothing happened. The man had underestimated him before. Let him do it again.
He truly hoped that he wouldn't have to arrest Newlin at some point. A brief image of Newlin's fingers running through black hair made him shudder. He closed his eyes; the memory seemed tied to the Elder Wand's hunger, which surged again.
Thank God Ginny was getting home soon. He'd have to make sure that he was home to greet her when she arrived. For the first time in a long time, Harry felt hungry for another body's warmth.
Ginny had been so gentle with him when he couldn't perform. "It's all right, love," she'd crooned as he'd thrown his arm across his eyes. His cock had lain limp against his thigh.
"I wanted..." he'd tried to tell her. But he hadn't been sure how to end the sentence. She had seemed to be satisfied with the attempt, though, and had pulled him into her arms, cradled his head on her naked breasts, and had fallen asleep.
Harry hadn't slept, haunted by the events of the day, his lack of performance, and his conviction that he should have stayed at Grimmauld Place again. Ginny obviously didn't hold the answer to his need. Perhaps it had been unfair of him to expect her to.
Instead she slept, oblivious to his frustration. Harry knew it was wrong of him to be so angry with her, but he wanted to be as far from her as possible.
The lure of the wand seemed stronger than ever.
The next morning, exhausted and humiliated, he presented himself to the Malfoy house-elf. "I'm here to see Draco Malfoy."
The house-elf trembled and bowed until its very long nose touched the floor of the foyer. "Master Malfoy is not being in to visitors, Mr Harry Potter, sir."
"Please ask him if he'll make an exception for me. I wish to talk to him about Owen Newlin."
Within five minutes, Harry sat across from Malfoy, a cup of Earl Grey steaming gently on the table next to him.
Malfoy had obviously changed things at the Manor since Harry had last seen it. Not that he had been paying much attention to the décor when Death Eaters had dragged him, Hermione and Ron to the Manor, other than to note what to use as possible weapons or cover in case of attack. But while his memories of the house were a confusing mixture of fear and elegant opulence, the home he had been ushered into today was cool and clean, full of modern lines that looked more Muggle than wizard.
"What do you want to know about Owen?" Malfoy's question was abrupt.
Harry studied Malfoy's face. He looked older, tired in a way Harry could empathise with. His hairline had receded nearly to the top of his head, emphasising his pointed features, though they looked more aristocratic than weasel-like these days. "I'm working with him. I want to know if he's trustworthy."
"Of course he's trustworthy."
"Let me re-phrase that. Can I trust him?"
Malfoy tilted his head, a smile playing across his lips. "Another question altogether, isn't it? I don't know, Potter. Can he trust you?"
Harry hadn't thought of it quite like that. "Good question," he finally said. "But not one I can answer at the moment. I think that part of any trust I give him would be based on what sort of person he is, which is why I'm coming to you."
"Well, it seems we may have hit an impasse, since I refuse to betray him by gossiping behind his back." Malfoy picked up his teacup. "The house-elf can show you out."
Harry ignored the hovering elf. "I know that he was born February 13, 1999, raised in Llandeilo, Wales, and was an outstanding student at Beauxbatons. His records indicate that most of the professors there were more than a bit taken aback by his level of maturity and insight into the subjects that he took. The only class he did poorly in was Potions. Interesting, considering how much he looks like Snape," he added, watching Malfoy closely.
Malfoy sighed. "You'll have to do better than that." He waved the house-elf away.
"He was a ward of your family," Harry said quietly. "You would have been what — eighteen? Nineteen? — When he was born?"
"I was eighteen." Malfoy studied him and seemed to come to a decision. "His mother — " he paused and looked away, "died in childbirth. My mother died the same year, but before she did, she begged my father to raise the child. He promised he would."
"Then Lucius was killed."
Malfoy nodded sharply. "I was left with Owen. Obviously, I was obligated to fulfil my parents' promises."
"You raised him?" An eighteen-year-old Draco Malfoy, raising the child of what were very likely Death Eater parents. Remembering how spoiled Malfoy had been, Harry found it hard to believe.
"As much as I could. After Father's death, it wasn't safe around here. I sent Owen to our estate in Wales while I rebuilt what I could of the Malfoy fortune and reinstated myself in society."
"I thought he spent his entire childhood in Wales."
"Setting things right took me longer than I'd hoped." Malfoy set his teacup back on its saucer. "By the time I married, Owen was eight. I asked him if he wanted to come back to live with my wife and me, but by then Wales was all he knew and he preferred to stay there. When he received his Hogwarts letter, he begged me to send him to Beauxbatons instead. So I did."
"It sounds like a lonely childhood."
"He wanted for nothing."
Except a family, Harry thought to himself. Newlin, orphaned and isolated through his entire childhood, left to his own devices. Harry felt a strong sympathy for Newlin's plight. Though Newlin had more materially than Harry had as a child, it sounded as if his childhood had been equally as devoid of love and companionship as Harry's. "Do you still keep in touch?"
Malfoy nodded. "He stays with us here when he needs quiet in order to write."
"He's writing — well, ghostwriting — my autobiography," Harry volunteered, curious to see what Malfoy's reaction would be.
Malfoy's eyes widened; he appeared to be thinking. "Interesting," he said.
A familiar smirk bloomed across Malfoy's face. "I think I'll keep that to myself. But I can assure you, he's eminently qualified to write about you. Or me, for that matter." The idea seemed to amuse him. "Anything more you need, Potter?"
"He looks like Snape," Harry repeated.
Malfoy laughed. "He certainly does. And sounds like him, too. Even acts like him, on occasion."
"Presuming that Snape was the father, who was the mother?"
"Ah." Malfoy's smile faded. "That's none of your business."
"I need to know if I can trust him."
"I don't see how his mother's identity is relevant to that," Malfoy said, his voice chilly. "She died when he was born. She could hardly have influenced his trustworthiness in those final moments."
"No," Harry said, embarrassed and angry. "But knowing who she was and what her beliefs were could have influenced him later on."
"I think this interview is over." Malfoy stood. "Good day, Potter." He swept from the room.
Sighing, Harry followed the house-elf to the door. As forthcoming as he'd seemed for much of the interview, in reality, Malfoy had given him nothing to really work with.
Except that the thought of Newlin writing Harry's autobiography seemed to amuse him disproportionately. Harry's instincts seized on the incident, which seemed out of step with the rest of Malfoy's answers. Why was the thought of Newlin writing Harry's autobiography so funny?
The more Harry thought about it, the more he became convinced that the answer to that question might prove to be the key to many of his other questions about Newlin.
The Auror Department was quiet, most Aurors either patrolling or helping with the quarterly applied spell and combat tests given to trainees. Harry sat in his office with his door warded, poring over the yellowed parchments contained within the Malfoy files.
There was no information about Newlin's family in the Ministry files, which surprised and irritated Harry. The files were well-maintained otherwise; Narcissa Malfoy's death in February 1999 was recorded as well as the details about Lucius Malfoy's murder later that year, in June. The day before Draco's birthday, Harry noted. Poor sod.
But there was no mention of Newlin, other than a small notation that the Malfoys had taken in a war orphan of unknown ancestry, and a few photos. It appeared that no attempt had been made to identify Newlin's parents. As frustrating as Harry found the omission, he suspected that there was a simple explanation for the oversight. For several years after the war, the Ministry had been in the process of being rebuilt, its departments severely understaffed. Given the number of orphans left from families killed during the war, Harry supposed he couldn't blame the Ministry for its lack of information on one child orphaned at birth several months after the war's end.
Harry had to admit that Draco Malfoy's efforts to rebuild his family's name and fortune were impressive. He hadn't realised how decimated the Malfoy fortune had been by the war and its aftermath. While nowhere near the grand excesses indicated earlier in the file, Malfoy's current net worth was impressive, much greater than Harry's own wealth.
It appeared as if Malfoy's son had run into a spot of trouble since leaving Hogwarts, though. The file reported a string of arrests and fines for crimes ranging from drug use to 'questionable activities', which Harry knew could mean anything from illegal gambling to frequenting known prostitutes. Thank heavens none of his children had turned out like that. Harry vaguely remembered that Malfoy's son was Albus's age, and made a mental note to ask Al about the other boy.
After having read the contents of the file several times, Harry found himself fingering the few photos of Newlin as a child and reflecting on Snape's childhood memories. Newlin and Snape could be identical twins as far as childhood looks; Harry hoped that Newlin's childhood held happier memories than his father's had.
When someone knocked on his door Harry closed the file and slipped it beneath some routine paperwork. "Come in," he said, unwarding the door.
"A note from the Minister," his office assistant announced. "He wants to see you."
"Right. I'll be right up. Thanks, Victoria."
Once she'd closed the door behind her, Harry put the Malfoy file under a Concealment Charm. The Minister wasn't pleased by today's Advisory Panel meeting, he thought grimly to himself. Mentally girding himself for a conflict, he made his way to the Minister's office.
"Harry. Thank you for your time. Please, sit. Would you like some tea?" Minister Davies's smile was still charmingly boyish.
Harry shook his head. "Thank you, Minister. But if I had any more tea, I think I'd float away."
Davies nodded. "It's often like that, isn't it? It seems a cup is constantly at one's elbow, begging to be drunk. But as you're a busy man, I'll get straight to the heart of why I asked you to meet with me," he said, sitting back in his chair and picking up a quill. He stroked the soft plume. "I have to say I was dismayed by your lack of enthusiasm today."
"I'm sorry you were disappointed, Minister," Harry replied. "I was merely doing my job."
Davies considered him. "Of course. But I seem to remember that you voiced a variety of concerns with some of my policies. Since I find that oftentimes it's difficult to address individual concerns during a meeting, I invited you in today to speak with me one on one, as it were. As you know, I believe in getting everyone's input. Running the Wizarding world is a team effort."
Two could play that game. "I appreciate that, Minister." Harry exhibited his own boyish smile. "In my career as an Auror, teamwork has accomplished many things."
"I'm sure it has." Davies studied Harry, his smile growing sharper. "I think that teamwork is a skill that one develops as one matures. I remember when you were in the Triwizard Tournament. You were a bit more independent in those days, weren't you? Didn't even have your friends around to help." His smile turned wolfish.
Harry was stunned. What were the stakes here? This didn't feel like normal political manoeuvring. If he wasn't mistaken, Davies had just threatened Ron and Hermione. "They came through for me in the end," he said, cautiously. "I've tried to inspire the same dedication and trust within my own department. My Aurors watch each other's backs." There, let Davies stew on that.
Davies didn't seem upset, however. He merely nodded and said, "I'm sure they do. Commendable loyalty. You've done a brilliant job at making the Wizarding world a safer place for us all." He placed the quill in its elegant holder. "In fact, I believe we're in full agreement as to the need for safety for witches and wizards. I think my reforms build very nicely upon your efforts."
"I don't think that curtailing freedoms necessarily results in a safer world." Harry kept his voice calm and even. "Even those confined to their homes run a risk of danger, sir."
"Especially if they invite an enemy inside."
Harry had never noticed before, but Davies had cold, pale eyes.
Davies leaned forward. "Let me be frank. I think that Kingsley Shacklebolt, as admirable as his intentions were, actually put the Wizarding world in more danger of being discovered than we have ever been since we separated from the Muggle world. His policies encouraged a dismaying amount of cross-cultural interest. In fact, your friend, Mrs Weasley, is involved in research that could bridge the gap between wizards and Muggles in ways that we cannot even imagine."
"Hermione's research is theoretical, not practical," Harry lied smoothly. Albright had reported that the research had been secured three days ago. Davies couldn't know the full extent of it.
"We'll find out how applicable it is. Yesterday, the Department of Mysteries intervened on behalf of the Ministry. They'll do a full investigation."
Harry was tired of talking around the subject. "I hope you don't think that the researchers had a political agenda," he said. "That's ludicrous."
"Is it? We'll see. Meanwhile, speaking of political agendas, I hear that you recently visited Draco Malfoy."
"Yes, I did." Thank God that Newlin was Flooing directly to Grimmauld Place; it appeared Harry's movements were being monitored.
"I don't remember the two of you being particularly friendly when we were at Hogwarts."
"We weren't. But things fell into perspective once I left school," Harry replied.
Davies looked at him shrewdly. "I imagine that they did. The Malfoys experienced several tragedies not long after the war. I doubt the addition to their family offset the loss of both of Draco's parents."
Newlin. Davies knew about Newlin. "Family is very important to Draco."
"I understand that he took responsibility for raising a war orphan after his parents' deaths. Quite a commitment for one so young, especially since he seemed to have limited resources at the time. However, he seems to have succeeded admirably. Mr Newlin is a talented researcher."
"I've heard that, also. Minister, please forgive me for being so blunt, but what does Draco Malfoy or Mr Newlin have to do with me?"
Davies smiled unpleasantly. "You've been an Auror for many years, Harry. It wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that, given your eventful life, you would want to take an early retirement while you're still young. Perhaps travel a bit. See the world. Write a memoir."
Was Davies guessing or did he know? "I have no intention of retiring, Minister. And as you know, I hardly have time for other activities, given my responsibilities."
How the hell had Davies found out? He and Hermione had hardly been discreet when they'd met with Newlin at the teashop, true. But as far as Harry could tell, Davies had still been building his political base at that point. He hadn't even released his reform proposals then. Was this speculation on Davies's part?
Harry would just have to assume it was, until something proved him wrong.
"As public officials, our responsibilities are especially burdensome," Davies said. "There's always a strong temptation to use public resources for our own benefit, when one doesn't have the time to make alternate arrangements. Of course, that's highly unethical. You wouldn't do anything like that, would you, Harry?"
"Of course not," Harry said, his mind briefly flashing to the Malfoy file on his desk and Hermione's research sealed in a Gringotts vault. He met Davies's eyes. "That would be a betrayal of public trust." If that were all that Davies had against him, it wouldn't be enough to build the kind of negative publicity needed to force Harry to step down. "Is there anything else you would like to talk to me about, sir?"
"Just a request — personal, of course — to ... think about things," Davies said. "Get used to some new ideas. Examine how they could benefit the Wizarding world."
Harry nodded and stood. "I'll do that, Minister. Good day." He walked towards the door, but before he could leave, Davies spoke.
"Oh, and Harry, I nearly forgot. I'd like to invite you to attend the opening of the Wizarding Museum of All Things Magical. We're collecting artefacts from all over the Wizarding world. Wizards and witches will be allowed to view items that constitute our heritage, yet at the same time, those items will no longer pose the threat they would were they still floating about. Hogwarts has kindly donated Gryffindor's Sword, in fact."
Headmaster Flitwick would never have allowed Gryffindor's Sword to be taken from the school. Harry turned. "I'd be honoured, of course." He bowed his head. "When will that be?"
"The Department of Reclaiming Items to Securely Keep is developing the collection and hopes to have exhibits prepared in time for the Christmas holidays. Never too early to put on one's calendar, though. I think it will be a tremendous event."
The Department of RISK. Davies's humour was morbid. "Undoubtedly, sir. I look forward to it. Is there anything else?"
"Yes, actually. I've heard some rumours lately. About you and — the Elder Wand, I believe?" Davies's eyes gleamed. "That would be quite an acquisition for the museum."
Slughorn's papers. Damn. Harry fervently hoped that Newlin had destroyed them already. "It would. If it existed, of course." Harry bowed his head again, fighting the wand's renewed hunger. "Good day, sir."
When Harry reached his office, he warded the door and searched his desk.
The Malfoy file was missing.
"Fuck," he whispered. He'd have to contact Hermione right away, tell her to be careful. He'd better call Ron, too, have him keep an eye out for her.
He'd warn Newlin, too, when they met at Grimmauld Place later in the afternoon.
"Malfoy, I'm worried about Newlin. He didn't show up today."
Draco Malfoy looked less than convinced as he watched Harry's head floating in the fireplace. "Owen can take care of himself."
"Look, I have a reason to be concerned, okay? I can't go into it through the Floo, and anyway, it's really none of your business. Just trust me, will you?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Fine. But I'm telling him that you threatened me to get the information."
"Go right ahead. Just give me his Floo address."
Within moments, Harry had his head in Newlin's Floo. "Newlin? Newlin!" He thought he heard a groan.
"Fuck this," he said to himself and stepped through.
Newlin lay on the floor, curled protectively around his middle. He moaned again.
"Bloody hell," Harry said. He'd thought he'd have had more time, but Davies's people obviously worked fast. And a lot more thoroughly than he'd ever imagined they would. He knelt beside Newlin and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Newlin? Can you hear me?"
A groan answered him.
"Right. I'm going to do a field diagnostic charm on you to see what's wrong, then I'll get you patched up until I can get you to St Mungo's."
"No ... not Mungo's," Newlin slurred. "Can't go there."
Harry ignored him and examined the results of the spell. The worst of the injuries seemed to be the wrist of Newlin's wand hand, which was broken, and several ribs that were cracked. "Looks like you put up a fight," he observed, freezing the bones in place. "How many were there? You'll need some Skele-Gro."
"Three. Didn't see ..."
The rest of the damage seemed to consist of extensive and deep bruising. Harry continued to cast healing spells. "You're lucky that I keep up with my field qualification tests," he said. "I never knew that a writer's life was so dangerous."
"Fuck ... off." Newlin groaned again and managed to roll over. He glared weakly up at Harry. "What the hell have you got me into?"
Harry sobered. "A lot more than I bargained for," he admitted. "Look, do you have any healing potions in the house? Some Blood-Replenishing Potion, or a pain relieving potion of some sort?"
"In the bedroom." Newlin struggled to sit upright.
"Take it easy. Here, let me help you to the sofa." Newlin's body was warm, hard and angular. He cradled his wand hand to him, and Harry took care not to jar the wrist as he gently lowered him to the cushions. Without thinking, Harry brushed Newlin's hair away from his face and peered into his eyes. "Your pupils look all right. I don't think you have concussion."
Newlin's eyes slid away from his. His sallow cheeks glowed red. "I'll be fine."
"I'll be the judge of that." Harry put a hand on Newlin's shoulder. "I'll be right back. Don't move too much."
Harry looked through the flat until he found the bedroom. A large bed dominated the room, neatly made, its duvet full and inviting. A chair sat next to a window in one corner of the room, with a small table beside it holding several books and a teacup. A large wardrobe took up nearly a whole wall. Surmising that Newlin probably kept his potions in the bedside table, Harry opened it. He pulled out several potion bottles and looked them over. He slipped the pain-killing potion into his pocket and put the others back, pausing when he spied a familiar-looking jar.
Lubricant. Harry flushed, feeling like an interloper. He hadn't given any thought to Newlin's sex life, but the lubricant was high-quality, one that was used almost exclusively by gay wizards. He'd once reprimanded an Auror who had laughed and made a crude comment about one of their prisoners after he'd found a jar as they searched the prisoner's home. Harry carefully put it away with the other jars and bottles and returned to Newlin.
Newlin drank some of the potion. His face relaxed, wiped clean of the lines of pain it had held. "Thank you."
"I think you should go to St Mungo's and have them check that wrist," Harry said. "It's your wand hand. You don't want it to heal poorly and become stiff."
"I'm fine," Newlin repeated. "I'll get some Skele-Gro."
Harry frowned. "I still think —"
"I'm fine!" Newlin looked away. "I have some experience with healing myself."
Harry thought of a child, playing alone in Wales with little adult supervision, learning to heal himself when he was injured, and sighed. "I won't push it, then."
"Thank you," Newlin said again. He considered Harry. "I received the impression that you had some knowledge of this incident. Pray tell, why was I targeted by thugs?"
"I think," Harry looked away, "it was because of me. There's some ... well, let's just say it may be political. Did they take anything?"
"I don't think so. The Minister?"
When Harry looked back, Newlin seemed to be studying the ceiling.
"Perhaps," Harry conceded. "But I also seem to attract attention from less savoury elements of the Wizarding world. I have a number of protective spells and wards on my family, but I never thought of extending them to you. I'm sorry." His eyes lingered on the long expanse of Newlin's throat, the swell of his Adam's apple. Some man had undoubtedly stroked that throat, licked it, sucked his mark onto it. He knew he would if he had half a chance ...
Harry paled. What was he thinking?
"Davies has an agenda," Newlin said, unaware of Harry's consternation. "He's a force to be reckoned with. Much different from Shacklebolt."
"Kingsley was an exceptional Minister," Harry said automatically, fighting to control himself in the wake of his epiphany.
He wanted Newlin. God, he wanted Newlin. Wanted to devour that throat, have those long fingers touch him, pull out his cock, wanted those thin lips to wrap around it, that sharp tongue to tease and stab...
The wand seemed to agree with him; its heat flared.
"Shacklebolt was an attractive figurehead," Newlin said. "I'll give him that. But everyone knows that you were the true force behind the government. People listened to Shacklebolt because you listened to Shacklebolt. If at any point you had betrayed any hesitation or distrust, the people would have turned on him."
Harry shuddered and pushed the images of Newlin's body from his mind. "You're mad," he said. "Everyone loved Kingsley. He was a good man and a strong leader."
"Who left no one to follow him," Newlin said. "What true leader does that?" Harry didn't respond, so Newlin continued, a speculative glint in his eyes. "Of course, he was probably expecting you to step in when he announced his retirement. After all, the Wizarding world stands or falls by you."
"No." Harry didn't want that, had spent his entire adult life fighting to keep from taking on that kind of responsibility. Yes, Kingsley had wanted him to be Minister. Ginny had, too. But eventually they'd given up trying to persuade him. Kingsley had even taken to teasing him about it.
Newlin was watching him now. "You know why, don't you?"
"The Chosen One," Harry said dully. Now that he thought about it, he and Ginny had started to drift apart after his final refusal to accept Kingsley's offer of the Deputy Minister position. Had that been what she had wanted? To be the wife of the Minister of Magic?
"No. The Elder Wand."
"What?" He must have misheard Newlin. It was the wand again, probably — it was on his mind constantly these days.
"You heard what I said." Newlin's voice was quiet, but his eyes burned. "Power. So many people want it, yet you hide it away. But you can't do that forever, you know."
Harry was convinced that the Elder Wand wouldn't allow itself to be hidden forever. He replied to the rest of Newlin's statement to hide his disquiet. "Dumbledore owned it before I did. There were several times when he fell out of public favour."
"Yet he always regained it. How many people do you know who have done that?"
"I don't want to be Minister," Harry protested. "If that's what Davies is afraid of, he has nothing to fear."
"Don't be a fool. Every ambitious man has good reason to fear you. And to want what you have."
The Elder Wand. At least it was safe. "The power will be destroyed when I die," he insisted.
"Dumbledore thought the same thing, but he was wrong. Fate seems to have a habit of intervening on the wand's behalf. I doubt it was any coincidence that Draco Malfoy conquered it on the Tower."
"I — wait." Harry turned to look at Newlin. "What do you know about the Tower?"
"Slughorn's notes," Newlin said, but his eyes fell away.
"I never mentioned the Tower in front of Slughorn, just that Draco had disarmed Dumbledore," Harry said slowly. "Slughorn couldn't have known."
"Then perhaps Draco told me," Newlin said impatiently. "What does it matter?"
What, indeed? Once again, Harry was struck by the thought that there was more to Newlin than what he seemed. The Darkness inside him — could it have something to do with Newlin's insight and knowledge? Even more than before, Harry was reminded of Snape and the mysteries that had surrounded him. "I suppose it doesn't," he said, careful to sound casual. "So what you're saying is that the wand used Draco as an opportunity to pass on to someone else, since Dumbledore was dying?"
"No, I suggested that fate took a hand. I highly doubt the wand has an agenda, being an inanimate object." Newlin shrugged and winced.
If Newlin only knew... "I'm going to get that Skele-Gro," Harry said. "But before I do, we need to get you to somewhere more secure. I'm moving you to Grimmauld Place. We've plenty of room there, it's warded and it's better than leaving you here to be attacked again."
"Do I have any say in this?"
"Do you have a better proposal?" Newlin's scowl spoke for itself. "Right, then. What will you need?"
Newlin sent him scurrying about the flat, Shrinking clothing, books and other items and stuffing them into Newlin's valise. At the very last, Harry slid the jar of lubricant into his pocket. When he was done, the flat looked bare. "Anything else?"
"Couldn't you simply ward this flat?"
Harry shook his head. "With regular Auror wards, yes. But I doubt they'll be effective if the Ministry sent the assailants. Grimmauld Place wards are a bit more — creative."
"Dark magic, in other words."
"Old protections, built into the foundations," Harry said. No need to mention the Fidelius Charm at this point. "It's the safest place I know. I'll Apparate you Side-Along. Here, take my arm."
Newlin's hand was warm, even through the layers of Harry's clothing. Harry fought down another wave of arousal. "Right. Hold on."
Newlin staggered as they materialised in the sitting room of Grimmauld Place. His face was pale.
"I know that was painful. I'm sorry." Harry was supporting most of Newlin's weight. "I'll help you upstairs. There's a bedroom next to mine that you can use. Once we get you settled, I'll go out and get more healing potions."
"I thought you lived elsewhere," Newlin said between clenched teeth as they slowly made their way up the stairs.
"I do," Harry said, short of breath. "I sleep here when work is too busy for me to go home. I'll call Kreacher to help you change for bed," he added, too aware of what his own reaction might be if he were to take on the task of changing Newlin's clothes.
Half an hour later, after Newlin had been safely settled and his belongings restored to their proper size, Harry quietly raided his department's medical cupboard.
He was well and truly besotted by lust, he realised. The memory of Newlin's body against his as they climbed the stairs made his cock twitch traitorously. It's just been too long for Ginny and I, that's all, he tried to rationalise. I'll go home to her tonight, bury myself in her warmth, get this out of my system and fall back in love with my wife.
The last bit of the thought made him pause. He loved Ginny. There was no need to 'fall back in love' with her.
Harry sank on a chair and absently stuffed potions bottles into his pockets. He loved Ginny. At least, he remembered loving her. But it was as if the feeling had faded along with their sex life, a warm glow of affection that had absolutely nothing to do with the red-hot flare of arousal he felt around Newlin.
What would it be like, to touch Newlin's skin?
Harry shivered and glanced around. The supplies room in the Magical Law Enforcement Department was the last place he should be thinking these thoughts.
He left as quietly as he'd arrived.
Once back at Grimmauld Place, Harry sent Kreacher up with the healing potions and retreated to the library with a glass of firewhisky. He slowly sipped his drink.
What was it about Newlin that attracted him so?
The man was brilliant, no doubt, and Harry had to admit that a part of him enjoyed Newlin's acerbic comments. Harry had never been particularly attracted to men's bodies, but he had seen so many in his life between school and his job that he appreciated the qualities of the male physique. Newlin was strong and wiry, his posture perfect. He walked like Snape had walked, with purpose and drama. And those hands. Stripped of potions stains, they were Snape's hands. Harry had watched them a thousand times, clutching books, wielding a wand, clenched into fists, scattering potions ingredients into a cauldron with sure, confident ease.
But in the end, Newlin's eyes disturbed him the most. In them, he saw a man who had secrets, who hid darkness within him, whose gaze was so powerful that it stripped all pretence until nothing was left but truth. Harry felt alive when those eyes lit on him. He wanted to see the pupils dilate with passion, watch as the lids fluttered shut in post-orgasmic lassitude.
They were so alike. Newlin had grown up orphaned and isolated from others, just as Harry had, surrounded by people who were more involved with their own lives than the life of an unwanted child. He seemed to be old before his time, as if he had confronted evil and been injured in the process. Even in the presence of other people, Newlin seemed to be alone.
And now Harry had exposed Newlin to danger. Newlin, who had no one to take care of him.
Guilt ate at Harry. He wanted to do something for Newlin, something to make up for Harry's inadvertent but dangerous impact on Newlin's life.
Harry remembered being that alone, and how much he had hungered for stories about his family. He wondered if Newlin felt the same. Even the distorted memories of James Potter that Harry had gleaned from his failed Legilimency lessons with Snape had fed a bit of that hunger.
Snape's memories. His heart skipped a beat. He could give Newlin Snape's memories. Not outright, of course, but surely there would be no harm in Newlin seeing them, even though Harry had never shown them to anyone else. It had always seemed as if to do so would violate Snape in some way, but he was convinced that Newlin had to be Snape's son. Surely Snape would have wanted to know that his son knew him, at least a little.
Putting his glass aside, he went to his office to get his Pensieve and take it to Newlin's bedroom.
When Harry stopped by the open door, Newlin was sitting up in the bed, reading over parchments with a frown on his face and making notes with a quill.
"May I come in?" Harry asked, the Pensieve heavy in his arms.
Newlin looked up and gave him a curt nod, putting aside his work. Harry pulled a small reading table over to the bed and placed the Pensieve on it.
"I've remarked before how much you look like Severus Snape," he said without preamble. "I think he was your father."
Newlin's face shuttered. "So?"
"So," Harry said, pushing the Pensieve closer to Newlin, "I thought that maybe you'd like to see him. See who he really was."
Newlin sneered. "I've heard all about your relationship with Snape. If he was my father — and I'm not saying that I think he was — do you really think I'd want to see the memories of a child who hated him?"
"I stopped hating him once I knew the truth."
"Truth is relative."
"I was with him when he died," Harry said quietly. "I wish I could have saved him."
Newlin looked up. Harry looked into his dark eyes and remembered memories oozing from eyes nearly identical. "There just wasn't time," he whispered. In Newlin's eyes he saw Snape's determination, his desperate fight to live, just a few seconds longer, to try to take something — a hope, a dream — with him as he died. "I wish there had been time."
Without thinking, Harry leaned forward and pressed his lips against Newlin's mouth.
Newlin's lips were surprisingly soft. He gasped against Harry's mouth, and Harry took the opportunity to deepen the kiss, brushing a hand against Newlin's face and burying it in his hair. He was thrilled when Newlin, after a moment's hesitation, responded, reaching for Harry and pulling him onto the bed. Harry groaned into the kiss, the foul taste of Skele-Gro mixing with Newlin's own flavour to create a strangely heady, arousing feast. He pressed closer and felt Newlin's cock trapped against his leg.
It was as hard as his own. He slid on top of Newlin, who gasped in pain.
"Damn," Harry said, sliding off. "Sorry. I forgot about the ribs." He bent for another kiss, but Newlin gently pushed him away.
Newlin's eyes were dark and wary. "Why?"
Harry licked his lips. "To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. But I don't regret it. In fact, I'd like to kiss you again."
"Yeah. I'm married." Harry dropped his eyes.
"You haven't done this before."
Harry shook his head, still looking down.
Newlin sighed. "Fine. Show me your memories."
Harry finally met his eyes. "Thanks."
"For not," Harry shifted uncomfortably, "for not saying 'no'."
"I haven't said 'yes,' either." Newlin nodded towards the Pensieve. "Are you looking at them, too?"
"No." Harry didn't think he'd better, considering how aroused he was and the close proximity they would be in once they fell into the memories. "I think it's best if you see them for yourself."
Newlin nodded and cautiously leaned forward. A moment later, he disappeared into the Pensieve.
Almost immediately, he reappeared, falling back to the bed. Newlin sat up, his face white with fury. Without warning, he shoved Harry hard, sending him stumbling off-balance. Harry fell to the floor.
"How dare you!" Newlin hissed, holding his wrist and glaring down at Harry. "How dare you show me these!"
Harry levered himself up into a sitting position. "I don't understand."
"These aren't yours to share! How many others have seen them?"
"No one!" Harry cautiously got to his feet. "I wouldn't do that to Snape!"
"You just did, you bastard!" Newlin shook with rage.
"I thought you'd appreciate it! He's your father! I remember how much I wanted to know about my father, and I thought you'd want the same!"
"Get out! Get out!"
Harry backed out of the room. The door slammed shut behind him, the victim of wild magic. "I think he'd have wanted his son to see him, to know him!" Harry shouted through it. "You're being an idiot!"
His answer was the sound of something heavy impacting on the door.
"Fine!" Harry looked around. "Kreacher!"
Kreacher popped into the hallway in front of Harry. "Yes, Master?" he quavered, his ears drooping low.
"Make sure he doesn't injure himself again. I'm going home." Without waiting to hear Kreacher's stammered assurances, he Disapparated.
Harry fumed while looking through that day's owl post.
He was a fool. Newlin was Snape's son; it should have been no surprise to Harry that he was just as vicious and ill-tempered as his father. What did he think of Harry anyway? Did he think that Harry shared confidences like they were Honeydukes chocolates?
"In here, Gin," he called automatically. He winced. Definitely not good timing.
Still, he had a smile on his face by the time she came in the room and kissed his cheek.
"Mum asked us to dinner tomorrow," she said, looking through the letters in her turn. "Oh, look, a letter from Teddy!" She picked it up and began to read.
"I won't be able to make it, I'm afraid. Give your mum my love, would you?" When Ginny made a preoccupied noise in assent, Harry stood up and stretched nonchalantly. He studied Ginny from the corner of his eye as she read Teddy's letter.
Ginny was a beautiful woman. Age, gravity and easy living had softened her contours, but her hair still gleamed like fire and her long lashes swept her freckled cheek in the way that had always captivated him.
Yet Harry felt nothing.
He closed his eyes and thought of Newlin. His cock began to fill.
His prick had it wrong. He shouldn't feel like that about Newlin, he should feel like that about his wife.
Arms slipped around him from behind. "That looks promising," Ginny whispered against his neck, her hand brushing against his groin.
Harry groaned and turned, pulling her against him roughly. He began to rub against her, kissing her deeply.
But her lips were too full; her mouth tasted of marmalade and tea. The soft swell of her breasts gave in to his body instead of standing rigid and hard.
His cock began to deflate. He rubbed harder.
Ginny pushed him away. "Ouch! Harry, that hurts."
"I'm sorry, love." He sank into a chair and rubbed his forehead. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm so sorry, Ginny."
Ginny stood, looking down at him. "Who is she?"
Startled, Harry asked, "What?"
"Who is she, Harry? Who is the little whore that you're thinking of when you get hard, because it obviously isn't me!" Ginny's voice rose to a shrill shriek. "Is it that little blonde bitch who brought you tea the last time I visited the office? Or the one who kept fire-calling you in the middle of the night last year about some 'investigation'?"
"Ginny, it's not — "
"Seven months!" she screamed. "It's been seven months since we've had sex! How long has this been going on? Which one is she? Tell me, damn you!"
"I'm not having an affair with someone from the office!"
"Then where, Harry? Where did you meet her?"
"I — " He sunk his head in his hands. "Nothing's happened, Ginny. A kiss, that's it. It was stupid, it never should have happened —"
"You bastard!" Suddenly Ginny was hitting him over the head again and again. Harry grabbed her hands to hold her off while she continued to scream at him. "I'll hex your balls off!"
With a final scream, she froze. He slowly released her, but she only glared at him, panting heavily.
"Let's talk about it," Harry said softly. "I love you."
She looked at him incredulously. "You don't love me. You love your job. You love Ron and Hermione and the kids and Teddy. But you don't love me."
"Why would you say that?" Harry wanted to take her into his arms, but thought better of it. He ran a hand through his hair instead. "Ginny, I love you. I've always loved you."
"If you loved me, you would have listened when Kingsley told you that he wanted you to be Deputy Minister. At least then, I'd have some," she swallowed hard, and tears started to fall, "some dignity. If the papers found out, there's a public protocol we could have fallen back on. Now all I'll be is Harry Potter's wife who was too inept to stop him from having affairs. You bastard!" she sobbed, hitting him once more and then running from the room.
Harry was stunned. Ginny was more upset about her social standing than she was about her husband having an affair. Which he wasn't even having. But he'd expected her to be upset because she thought that he was involved with someone else, not because she was worried about what people would say about her.
The selfish bitch. He could feel the anger build slowly inside him. Talk about love or the lack of it — it sounded like all she'd ever loved was his name, and the position he held in Wizarding society. Damn her! All of those years, years when he could have maybe found someone to love him and not his name — wasted. He might have kissed Newlin, but Ginny had betrayed him long ago; she'd fallen in love with the Chosen One and not with him.
Cages. That's all they were. The house, his marriage, his career. Trembling, he bunched his fists. He needed to get away. Away from Ginny, away from her hypocrisy, away from the trap that Voldemort and Dumbledore and even Snape had set for him almost before he was born. Throwing on his cloak, he Apparated to Grimmauld Place.
He found Newlin dozing in his bedroom.
Harry stood in the doorway, staring at him. Newlin must have felt it, because he woke with a start.
If Ginny thought Harry was sleeping with someone, then he might as well do it and be damned for something he might actually enjoy than for something that he only thought about. He crossed to the bed, grabbed Newlin's face in both hands and pulled him into a kiss.
Again, he was struck by the differences in kissing Newlin. Newlin was fire and ice, vitriol and honesty, hard and violent and just bloody perfect, he thought, crying out as Newlin bit his lip and then wrenched away from his mouth to attack his neck.
"Yes, more," Harry begged. He sank to the bed and rubbed hard against Newlin's leg.
Newlin groaned and arched up into him, still biting. "I'll make you pay dearly, you bastard," he said breathlessly. "You had no right."
"Sorry," Harry said. An especially hard nip made him cry out. He could feel something trickling down his neck, but he wasn't sure whether it was blood or sweat. "Clothes. Off."
They ripped at their clothing, throwing pieces around the room as they came free from their bodies. Suddenly Harry found himself under a very angry and aroused Newlin.
"I refuse to bottom," Newlin said with a snarl.
"Fine." Harry paused. "Fuck me, then."
Newlin's eyebrow shot up. Then, his face twisted into a sneering smile. "Have you been fucked by another man before?"
"No. What does it matter?" Harry pushed his cock against Newlin's groin.
A low — and not entirely friendly — chuckle escaped Newlin. "Don't complain to me when we're through," he said. He pulled out the drawer of his bedside table and reached in. "It didn't escape my notice that this made its way from my bedroom to here," he said, withdrawing the jar of lubricant. "Turn over. On your knees." When Harry moved into position, Newlin dipped his fingers in, then plunged two of them into Harry's arsehole.
"Ungh!" Fuck, that hurt. Cock deflating, Harry tried to wiggle away, but Newlin pinned him securely. "Maybe we should reconsider this," Harry gasped, feeling every kind of fool.
"Relax," Newlin commanded. "Push out."
Harry followed his instructions and found that the pain quickly dulled to an ache. His arse felt full.
Newlin's fingers brushed something inside of him and he grunted. "Do that again."
Newlin's smile grew feral, and he rubbed hard against the place inside Harry.
"Ow! Too much!" It hurt, burned enough that all Harry wanted to do was to expel Newlin from his body. He grabbed Newlin's wrist, but Newlin twisted away from him and continued to stimulate the over-sensitive area.
The sensations began to grow; they quickly spiralled out of control. Harry could feel himself growing hard again.
Harry pushed his arse further onto Newlin's teasing fingers. "Oh, God, yes, more!" He grabbed his cock and began to wank. Newlin's fingers continued to attack the place inside. "Aaah! God! Harder!" Harry cried, thrusting into his fist.
In reply, Newlin removed his fingers from Harry's body and slapped his arse. "Hold still, you idiot," he said, holding Harry's hip. Harry felt a blunt jab, then another, and then Newlin pushed roughly inside him.
Harry cried out in pain and fell forward into the pillow. Behind him, Newlin grabbed Harry's hips and began to thrust in earnest. Harry gritted his teeth and released his cock, which had begun to soften again under the assault to his arse. He braced himself, determined to take Newlin's pummelling without complaint.
Then Newlin's cock hit that place inside him again. "Bloody fucking hell," Harry gasped. He grabbed his reviving prick. "Again, you bastard."
Newlin pumped into him, hitting him again and again in the sensitive spot.
"Harder!" Harry begged. "Come on, make me feel it!"
"Head down," Newlin panted angrily. Harry lowered his shoulders and Newlin draped himself over Harry's back.
His thrusts went deeper, until Harry felt Newlin's balls slapping against his arse with each stroke. Harry braced himself with one hand and pulled frantically on his cock with the other. Newlin plunged into him, hips snapping hard at the end of each downstroke.
Harry groaned. The place where Newlin's cock kept hitting felt battered, the dull bruising ache building in waves. He could feel his body burning as the sensations grew. "Make me come!" Harry panted. "Oh, fuck, God, harder!"
"You've always been demanding," Newlin growled into his ear. "Never asked, always took." His strokes grew even more powerful. "Take this, you little prick!" He reached under and pulled hard on Harry's balls.
Harry keened as the building orgasm abruptly halted. "No, you bastard! Come on, fuck me!"
"You'll come when I want you to come," Newlin said. He braced himself on the bed and began a series of fast, deep thrusts. "You owe me," he grunted.
Harry's orgasm began to build again under the jolting impacts. "This time, let me come," he whined. "Please, oh God, Owen, fuck me, fuck me, I need to come." His hand sped over his prick as his balls gathered for release. "Harder, damn you! I'm almost there!"
Newlin thrust erratically, hips slapping against Harry's arse. "Now," he said, and bit down hard on Harry's shoulder.
The pain pushed Harry over the edge. He cried out, spurting into his hand, onto the sheets, over the pillow. He felt as if he'd never stop coming, the spasms continuing even after his semen was spent. "Oh, fuck, yes," he moaned as they finally wound down. "Never like that. So good."
A last plunge, and Harry felt Newlin's hands grasp his hips with bruising force. Newlin grunted and warmth spread through Harry's backside. He could feel Newlin shaking with the force of his own orgasm. He clenched his buttocks, instinctively milking Newlin's cock.
"Fuck, Potter," Newlin gasped, and pushed in harder. He gulped, his breath escaping him in raw pants.
He collapsed on top of Harry and they both fell to the bed, gasping for breath.
Harry ached. God, he hurt. He could feel Newlin's cock shrinking inside him, until it slipped out of his raw arsehole.
It was the last sensation he felt before he slipped into sleep.
Harry woke alone.
He breathed deep, the smell of Newlin, sex and sweat teasing his cock, which gave a twitch of interest. His arse felt bruised and sore as Harry stretched and rubbed the rough stubble that covered his face, but the ache satisfied him in a way he hadn't felt satisfied in a long time.
In fact, Harry felt entirely too good. He looked at Newlin's empty pillow, smiled and rolled out of bed.
Showered and shaved, he made his way to the kitchen, expecting to find Newlin sitting at the table, perhaps reading the Prophet and eating toast. Instead, he found Kreacher.
"Is Master wanting eggs and bacons and tomatoes with his toast today?" The house-elf looked hopeful, rubbing his hands together eagerly.
"Yeah," Harry said. "I'm starving." The Daily Prophet was lying on the table, so he picked it up and sat down. "Has Newlin eaten already?"
Kreacher snapped his fingers and a half dozen eggs flew up and cracked themselves into one pan, while several tomatoes sizzled merrily amongst an army of bacon strips in another. "Mr Newlin had tea this morning, Master."
"Just tea?" He'd have to get Newlin to eat more. God knew, Harry hadn't been this hungry in years. "He'll not get through the day with only tea."
His eyes fell on the headlines and he felt the blood drain from his face. Harry Potter Has Affair!, it said, while underneath was Who Could The Mystery Woman Be?
"Kreacher," he said, horror growing inside him, "where's Newlin?"
"Mr Newlin is taking his things and leaving," Kreacher said, sliding a huge plate of food in front of Harry.
"Early." Kreacher looked at Harry, who stared blankly into space. "Is Master not eating?"
Harry pushed the plate away. "I'm not hungry." His mind raced and he sprang from the table.
"But Master must be eating his breakfast!" Kreacher shouted as Harry ran from the kitchen.
He stuck his head into Newlin's bedroom, noticing now what he hadn't noticed before. There was nothing on the bedside table; the wardrobe was empty when he opened it. Even Newlin's scent was beginning to fade.
Kreacher popped into the bedroom, holding the abandoned breakfast. "Master must be eating!" he insisted.
"Why didn't I wake up?" Harry asked. He always woke up. He was a light sleeper, and he'd made it a habit to wake quickly so that when Magical Law Enforcement issues came up in the middle of the night, he could slip out of bed without waking Ginny.
"Mr Owen Newlin, sir, was casting a sleeping spell on Master," Kreacher said. He snapped his fingers and the plate of food disappeared. "He told Kreacher to let Master sleep." He pulled on his ears. "Kreacher was being bad!" he howled. "Kreacher shouldn't have listened to bad, mean Mr Owen Newlin!" He burst into tears and began to bang his head against the wall.
"No, Kreacher, you did right." Harry grabbed the house-elf to stop him from hurting himself further. "Just, next time, ask me first, will you?"
"Kreacher promises!" He threw himself on Harry, hugging his knees. "Kreacher will always ask Master when Mr Owen Newlin tells him to do something. What should Kreacher do to punish Kreacher's badness?"
"Right," said Harry, distracted. He disentangled himself from Kreacher. "Er, clean the kitchen," he added.
Kreacher immediately stopped crying and brightened. "Yes, Master!" He disappeared with a pop.
Harry ran to his bedroom and dressed, then Disapparated.
He materialised in Newlin's flat. The flat was empty of everything; the sound of Harry's breathing filled the small space. Harry looked into every room, but it was the same everywhere.
Newlin was gone.
Harry Apparated back to Grimmauld Place and impatiently Flooed Draco Malfoy.
"Newlin's gone," he said as soon as he saw Draco.
"I don't blame him," Draco said, an angry expression on his face.
"Is it because of the article in the Prophet? Because if it is — "
"You bloody fool!" Draco glared. "Always about you, isn't it, Potter? No, it was not because of the fucking article in the Prophet. It was because he's a target."
"A target? Because of Davies, you mean?"
Draco gave an exasperated snort. "You're about as dim as a guttered candle, aren't you? Davies is after you. You've bloody gone and got yourself involved in something that's bigger than you, you fool. Yet you keep blundering about like a blind man."
"I don't know what's happening!"
"That's obvious." Draco crossed his arms. "I refuse to talk about it by Floo."
"Fine," retorted Harry. "Step back, I'm coming through." He pulled his head from the fireplace, then grabbed a handful of Floo powder and flung it into the fire. "Malfoy Manor!"
Moments later, he was picking himself off the floor after having landed at the feet of a furious Draco Malfoy.
"You bastard! You're going to destroy me, you realise! Everything I worked for, just because you have the brains of a gnat and think with your bollocks."
"This isn't about you, Malfoy," Harry snapped. "It's about Newlin. If what you're telling me is true — and I think it is — he needs protection."
"And he has it!" Draco's face was red with fury. "He's escaped from you! Now leave me the hell alone before you do any more damage to me and my family!"
"You're safe, you idiot. Nobody will come after you."
Draco threw his hands into the air. "Of course not! It must just be a coincidence that all of my business deals started to fall through the moment you darkened my doorstep!" He glared. "You just don't get it, do you? Something's in the works, something big. Anyone associated with you — no matter how distantly, as I can attest — is threatened. Owen had the sense to get out of it. I'm not about to get him embroiled in it again just because you want to play power games."
"I'm not playing! He's important to me!"
"As the chronicler of your many daring adventures," Draco spat. "Face it, Potter. He's got more sense than you have. I only bloody wish I could join him!"
"Run, then, see if I care." Harry grabbed the sleek brushed aluminium container of Floo powder from Malfoy's mantel.
"I can't. I'm stuck here, trying to pick up the pieces after the mess you've made of my life," Draco said. "Some of us have families that we love, you know."
"You bastard," Harry gasped, guilt and anger flooding him. "You have no right to pass judgement on — "
"You have no right to fuck up my life, but you seem intent on doing it anyway! Get out of here! Fuck your own life to pieces and be damned!"
Trembling with anger, Harry glared at Malfoy. Then he threw the Floo powder into the fireplace and shouted for the Auror Department.
Throwing caution to the wind, Harry stalked into his office, past wide-eyed and whispering staff, and slammed the door.
The first thing he saw was his mobile, lying in the exact centre of his desk. The bastards. He'd left it at Grimmauld Place. How the hell had it got here?
He checked it for spells. Finding none, he picked it up and checked for messages.
There was a text message from the Minister's office, ordering him to report. Harry swore fluently. He dialled Ron's number; Ron answered on the first ring.
"It's you." Ron's voice was icy. "What do you want?"
"Everything's going to hell," Harry said bluntly. "I don't have time to talk about it. I'm sorry about Ginny, but that's between her and me. I need your help on something else at the moment."
"Fine. What?" The words were bitten off; Harry could imagine Ron's face, red with anger.
"Find Newlin. He's in danger."
"Merlin's balls, Harry — "
"Find him." Harry lowered his voice. "Don't make me pull rank."
"While you have it, you mean," Ron muttered back. "Right. I'll do it. But I think you're a bastard."
"Join the crowd," Harry said. "Newlin's a priority, Ron. I'll get in touch with you soon. And Ron?"
"Watch your back." Harry ended the call and looked around his office. The sensitive files had been at Grimmauld Place, as had the key to the Gringotts vault. They were most likely already in Davies's hands.
Damn it. How had they got in?
When Dumbledore had died, all of the people who had known about Grimmauld Place had become Secret Keepers for it. Most were dead, but someone must have taken Davies there.
Harry closed his eyes and swore again. It would be just the kind of impulsive, angry action she was capable of. She'd probably taken it into her head to call the Aurors and have them clean out Harry's home office. Probably thought they'd find out who I'm having the affair with, he thought bitterly.
He straightened his shoulders. He hadn't had anything when he started working with the Ministry. It looked like he'd be leaving empty-handed, too.
Outside his office, he paused. Aurors were gathered around him, silent. Harry's hand crept towards his wand, though he knew he hadn't a chance against all of them.
"Well?" he snapped. "Don't you have anything better to do? Andrews, you're in charge until I get back." He started to push his way past them.
"Sir." Andrews took hold of Harry's wand arm. "Wait."
Harry whirled to face him, ready to fight. He paused as he saw Andrews's face and then slowly relaxed. "What is it you want to say, Jack?"
Andrews looked around at his fellow Aurors and turned back to Harry. "We're not sure what's going on, sir, but we want you to know, we're behind you."
Harry sighed. "Don't promise what you can't deliver, any of you," he added, glancing around. "I'm not entirely sure what's going on, either, but you all have to remember that your first duty is to the public. Keep them safe." He saw the faces of several of his senior staff grow grim. "Do your duty." He looked at Andrews again. "You can let go now, Jack."
Andrews released him and stepped back, as did the others.
"Get back to work," Harry said. He watched as they slowly drifted away, still keeping their eyes on him. "Lazy sods," he grumbled. Several people laughed half-heartedly.
Nodding curtly, Harry turned away and made his way to the Minister's office. The assistant looked at him fearfully and announced him to Davies.
"Head Auror Potter, sir."
Harry stepped past him into Davies's office.
A small, knowing smile danced across Davies's lips. Harry was struck by the sudden image of a younger Tom Riddle, attractive and charming. "You wanted to see me, Minister?" he said, fighting for calm.
"Sit down." When Harry was seated, Davies rose and leaned over his desk, bracing his hands on its polished surface. "You're in danger of losing your job, Potter," he said quietly. "This morning's scandal involving your sex life was bad enough, but do you know what the Department of Mysteries found in your office?"
Davies paused, but Harry remained silent.
"They found enough information about your liaisons with Muggles to send you to Azkaban ten times over," Davies said, his voice threatening.
"All of those projects were sanctioned by the Ministry," Harry replied.
"Not this one," Davies replied. "Working with Muggles is treason." He straightened and sat back in his chair. "I admit, I see little chance of your saving yourself. Interesting, how human you are after all, Potter."
"I never claimed to be otherwise." Now that he knew what Davies had in mind, Harry found himself growing much calmer.
"I doubt that you'd have been listened to if you had," Davies observed. "But that only makes your fall that much more dramatic."
Harry heard movement in the room outside and slipped his hand into his robes. "Drama is often orchestrated, don't you think?" He smiled, wand in hand, still hidden in the folds of his robe.
"You'll surrender your wand," Davies said as several people entered the room. Harry noted that there were no Aurors in their number, only people dressed in Department of Mysteries robes.
He stood, still facing Davies. "Why should I do that?"
"You're under arrest for treason." Davies leaned back, a satisfied smile on his face.
Pulling all of his power to him, Harry Apparated.
He materialised in Hogsmeade, behind the Hog's Head, pain exploding through his body. He gritted his teeth against it and wrapped his arms around himself. When he'd passed through the Ministry's wards, he must have been injured. He just hoped that he hadn't splinched himself and left his liver or a lung behind. He stumbled to the pub's back door and tried it. It was unlocked, so he slipped inside.
He was in a tiny office. He dropped into the rickety chair that tottered near the desk and tried to catch his breath.
A movement in the inner doorway made him look up. Aberforth Dumbledore glared down at him.
"I hope she hexed you good," he said. "Why did you come here?"
Harry shook his head. "It wasn’t Ginny," he said, wincing. "The Ministry just tried to arrest me."
Aberforth grunted. "Fools," he said. He crossed over to Harry and waved his wand. "You've messed about with your insides, I see." He cast a spell, and Harry felt the pain recede. "You still didn't answer my question, boy. Why did you come here?"
"Because Ron and Hermione's place was too obvious." Harry cautiously straightened, relieved when nothing hurt. "Anything serious?"
"Do I look like a Healer? But I think I caught the worst of it." Aberforth lowered his wand and gave Harry a suspicious look. "You wouldn't be thinking of holing up here, would you? Because if you are, you can just stop thinking that."
"Let me get my breath back and check in with Ron, then I'll be on my way," Harry said, taking out his mobile. "Damn. Too much magic here. I'll have to get outside the village.
"They'll think of Hogwarts."
"I know. I'll keep my eyes open." Harry paused. "If Ron and Hermione need —?"
"Tell 'em to stay away."
Harry smiled. "Right. Thanks." He cast a Disillusionment Charm over himself and then cracked open the outside door, wand in hand. "Keep your head low," he whispered.
"I intend to," he heard as he slipped out the door.
Keeping to the shadows, Harry slipped through back alleys until he was at the edge of Hogsmeade. He made his way up the mountain to the cave where Sirius had hidden when Harry had been a child in the Triwizard Tournament.
At the mouth of the cave, Harry crouched behind a bush and phoned Ron. No one answered. He looked at the mobile, weighing his options, then squeezed through the fissured entrance.
Once inside, Harry sat on the rocky floor and buried his head in his hands. He'd been set up, that much he knew. But by whom? Had Ginny really let the Aurors into Grimmauld Place? Maybe. But it occurred to Harry that, angry as Ginny undoubtedly was, she had to have thought of the potential danger to the children if Grimmauld Place's wards were broken. On the other hand, she was the only person who seemed to fit all of the criteria — she knew about his office and what he kept there, and she was angry enough with him to betray him. Ron and Hermione wouldn't tell. The only other person who had ever seen the inside of his office was Newlin.
And there was no way that Newlin could have led the Ministry into Grimmauld Place. Even if Newlin was Snape's son, he would have been much too young for Snape to have passed on the secret of Grimmauld Place. Of course, he wouldn't have been a Secret Keeper, anyway, not unless he was Snape himself...
If Newlin was Snape.
Shocked, Harry paused and felt the idea thrum through him like an arrow loosed.
It couldn't be.
But it made an awful sense. His gut told him he was right, but his mind couldn't grasp it. He tried to order his thoughts, to see if something so impossible could really be true.
It would explain so much. Snape, if he were alive, would be a Secret Keeper for Grimmauld Place. He would likely hold a grudge against Harry. He was used to subterfuge and spying, so it would be child's play for him to mislead everyone around him, including Harry. He would have known about Draco on the Tower. All of those slips — even last night, Harry suddenly realised, hearing a hoarse voice say You've always been demanding. Never asked, always took.
Who called him 'Potter' instead of 'Mr Potter' or 'Harry'?
He shook his head. The thought was ridiculous. He'd looked into Newlin's background. There had been a child who had grown up in Wales, who had gone to Beauxbatons. He'd seen the photos; the child had been the spitting image of Snape. Newlin's entire life, documented, and unless Draco Malfoy was capable of disposing of a child raised to give Newlin's life credence, Newlin was genuine.
Besides, Snape would be, what? Nearly seventy years old. How could he look so young? Newlin looked as if he were in his late twenties, which fit with his life's timeline. Harry could swear that Newlin hadn't been wearing a Glamour, and he'd been around him too many times for much longer than an hour and had never noticed Newlin drinking from a flask, so he couldn't be using Polyjuice Potion.
Maybe he's a ghost, Harry thought. He snorted. It certainly hadn't been a ghost's prick in his arse the previous night.
His phone vibrated. Ron's number showed in the display.
Harry accepted the call. "Hullo?"
"You're a bloody idiot."
"Whatever you do, don't go to the back door of Hogwarts," Harry replied and disconnected the call.
About an hour later, Ron and Hermione slipped into the cave. "I reckoned you'd be here," Ron said, while Hermione just nodded, trying to catch her breath from the long climb.
"Are you all right?"
Ron nodded. "The kids — yours and ours — are all tucked away with Charlie, including Mum and Dad. And Ginny." He frowned. "Mum's trying to talk her out of divorcing you, you know. She's got a solicitor." At the look on Harry's face, he added, "Didn't you get the owl?"
Harry knew he should be devastated by the news, but all he felt was exhausted, and a disturbing sense of relief. "I've had all my owls directed to Grimmauld Place. I didn't want this, you know."
"It's been coming for a while," Hermione said quietly. "Honestly, it's not a surprise; to either of us, anyway."
"Maybe now that it's public, you'll finally get off your arse and fix your marriage," Ron grumbled. "Bloody hell, Harry."
"Yeah." Harry leaned his head against the cave wall, wondering what life might be like if he didn't try to salvage what was left of his marriage.
The children were grown; it was about time that they started to live their own lives. They only stayed at home because Ginny wanted them to. Somehow, it didn't seem fair that they had the opportunity to leave and stayed, while Harry was obliged to stay and would love to leave.
No. Wait. That was the wand's desire, not his. He wanted to stay with Ginny...
"An affair?" Ron didn't seem to be able to let the subject rest. "How could you let it go that far?"
"Honestly, it was only a kiss." At least, it was when Ginny found out.
"No details, please," Ron said. "I don't want to know."
"Nor do I," Hermione said. "Can we drop the subject?"
Ron shrugged. "Fine. What do we do now?"
"We do what you would do with any puzzle. We deduce what's going on, of course," Hermione said. "But first, we should find somewhere safe."
"Davies uses a mobile," Harry said.
Hermione looked alarmed. "And you've both used yours?" When Ron and Harry nodded, she bit her lip. "We need to get out of here, now. Muggles can triangulate, you know."
Ron held out his hand. "We've dealt with that before. Give me your mobiles."
Harry shook his head. "It won't work anymore, Ron."
"What do you mean? We can just destroy the ID cards."
"That's one of the security measures I was working on," Harry said. "The Yard asked us to incorporate magical signature Charms into Auror mobiles." He held his up; Ron looked down at his identical unit. "Even if we pull the SIM card, it doesn't matter. These units are on record. Davies can track us by our wand use as long as we keep these with us. Hermione's is clean, though."
"Right. A bit short-sighted, weren't we?" Ron said bitterly. He dropped his mobile to the ground and muttered, "Incendio." The phone melted into slag.
Harry did the same to his. "I didn't exactly plan that the Head Auror and his Deputy would be on the run from the Ministry," Harry pointed out. "I wanted both Muggle and magical law enforcement to be able to respond to a situation if needed. And that's not the worst of it. Davies also has all of my files on the CCTV project; which means that we won't be able to use magic against surveillance cameras without being detected immediately."
"CCTVs are everywhere," Hermione said quietly. "And with the Muggles' use of facial recognition software, by now all cameras will be programmed with our profiles. As soon as one of us walks past a camera — "
" — We'll have the Ministry flooding the area," Ron finished.
Harry nodded. "That's how we designed it, so we could respond quickly to any known Dark wizards or witches that find their way to Britain. The country's covered in them. There aren't any in Hogsmeade or any of the other solely wizarding places, though."
"Which means that they'll look here first," Hermione pointed out.
"I don't think I can Apparate that far," Harry said. "I hurt myself when I Apparated out of the Ministry. I'm not sure my body could hold up to a long-distance Apparation like that. Besides, I need to get to Newlin. He may hold the key to all of this."
"The Elder Wand!" Hermione said suddenly. "If you get that, you'll have the power you need to get anywhere."
Harry shook his head. "No. I'm not using it."
"Don't be too hasty about saying no. I don't know if there are any other options, mate," Ron pointed out.
Harry pushed his glasses up and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "This is ridiculous." He sighed. "I don't like using it. It feels — Dark."
"With luck, you won't have to use it for long," Hermione said. "Besides, it'll probably be safer with you, anyway. Davies has been raiding all sorts of places for magical artefacts. It's just a matter of time until he raids Dumbledore's tomb, too."
Every instinct told Harry that taking the wand would be the wrong thing to do. Not that his instincts had been all that accurate, lately. He sighed, and bowed to the inevitable: he'd known it would happen someday. "We'll go after dark," Harry decided. "Unless they find us here first. Then I want the two of you to Apparate to Charlie's while I go to Dumbledore's tomb. I'll follow you from there."
Neither of them looked happy at the prospect, but Ron and Hermione both nodded.
One plan of action covered. Now for the next. "Ron, what did you find out about Newlin?" Harry asked.
"I tracked him down to Paris. He's staying in a flat in the sixteenth arrondissement, in the Auteuil-Passy area."
The French that Ron spoke had always sounded more like Gobbledegook to Harry, but he nodded. "Listen, I don't think that Newlin is who he seems to be," he said. "Though I may have gone barmy."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked.
Harry took a deep breath. "Right. Here goes. I think Newlin is Snape."
"What?" Even speaking quietly, Ron sounded incredulous. "Have you lost your bloody mind? Snape's dead."
"I know, I know, just — well, what if he isn't?"
"Harry, we saw him die," Hermione said gently. "Besides, Newlin is much too young. I know that he looks like Snape, but I don't see how he could really be Snape. Though I think he could be Snape's son," she added.
"Barely. Newlin was born in February 1999, right? That means that Snape would have had to get someone pregnant right around the time of the Final Battle."
"People often have sexual relations before battles," Hermione pointed out, blushing.
"He knew about Draco and the Tower. Nobody knew about that except for members of the Order and Draco."
"Draco may have told ..." But Hermione sounded doubtful.
Harry shook his head. "He'd be an idiot if he did. Why would he ever want to refer to defeating Dumbledore on the Tower? After the war, he was trying to rebuild his life, so he'd hardly want to remind anyone that he had a part in Dumbledore's death. And during the war, Voldemort was living in his home. Any reference to his failure to kill Dumbledore would have made Voldemort furious. And Newlin knows about the Elder Wand, though he explains that away by saying that Slughorn left some notes."
"Would Slughorn have had the time to make notes?" Ron said. He shook his head. "I doubt it. He was too busy making healing potions after the battle to have written anything before we Obliviated everyone."
"He must have found the time, because Davies has read them, too. There's more, though it's pretty circumstantial. Newlin knows about Dumbledore. I mean, he really knows. I read that book of his, and it's like he was a confidant of Dumbledore's. He knew information that only a few of us knew. Yet he didn't know about the Horcruxes. Snape didn't know about those, either."
"That's harder to explain," Hermione said slowly. "Dumbledore wasn't an easy man to understand."
"I agree, but I think Newlin got him spot on. Besides, there's something Dark about Newlin — something deep inside him. Yet I don't get the feeling that he himself is Dark." Harry frowned in concentration. "The rest is more instinct than evidence. It's just that when we've been talking, there have been times when he talks about me as if he knows me well, but doesn't like me at all. It feels like Snape, all over again. Some of the things he says are things that Snape said, in fact."
"I still don't think that's enough," Hermione said.
"I don't agree," Ron said. "I trust your instincts, mate. I've seen them work too many times in the field to doubt them. You're starting to convince me."
"Right. Well, here's the hard part. Davies got into Grimmauld Place."
"What?" Hermione's eyes were wide.
Ron looked grim. "None of the Secret Keepers would have said anything. How could he get in?"
Harry was reluctant to speak, but he had to. "Well, it could have been Ginny."
"No," Ron said. "No. I know my sister. She's angry, but she wouldn't do something like that."
"After I cooled down, that's what I thought too," Harry said quietly. "Which leaves someone else from the Order."
"Most of them are dead," Hermione said. "And I agree with Ron. None of the rest would have said anything."
"Yeah. But if Newlin were Snape, he could have told Davies."
"That's completely barmy," Ron said slowly, "but it may explain it. What about him being so young, though? It's not a Glamour."
"And it's not Polyjuice."
"A vampire?" Ron guessed.
Harry shook his head. "He met Hermione and me at the teashop during the day."
"What about," Hermione lowered her voice, "the Resurrection Stone?"
Harry thought about it. "It fits as far as his looks," he said. "Remus and Sirius looked younger, too. But when I used it, they weren't quite real. Not ghosts, but not physical, either." But he'd felt Dark magic in Newlin. Could someone have found the Resurrection Stone and coupled it with a Dark spell to bring Snape back?
Hermione tapped her lip with a finger, deep in thought. "There might be a way to find out the truth."
"Kreacher. He knew them both. House-elf magic is different to ours. They know things we don't."
"But Kreacher calls him 'Mr Newlin'."
"Because he's been told to call him that. But have you asked him?"
Harry shook his head and unconsciously shifted his bum.
Ron noticed. "Been sitting too long, eh?" he chuckled. "You've been squirming a lot since we got here. If you were anyone else, I'd be teasing you about trying it on with a bloke."
Harry couldn't help it; he flushed, his guilt written across his face.
Ron's smile disappeared. "Fuck. You didn't."
"What?" Hermione asked.
"Leave off," Harry said, giving Ron a warning look.
"You bloody bastard."
"It wasn't another woman at all, you bloody poof," Ron snapped, though he lowered his voice. "You've been fucking another man."
Harry felt his face go red, but he lifted his chin. "Not until Ginny accused me of having an affair."
"When the hell did that happen? Because I only heard about it yester..." Ron paused. "Last night. You were with Newlin last night, weren't you?"
"Ron, it's none of our business!"
"You slept with Newlin and — you sick bastard. You slept with Newlin even though you think he's Snape."
"I didn't at the time," Harry said defensively.
"And now that you do, would you fuck him again?" Harry stayed silent. Ron nodded. "I thought so. You're cheating on my sister with Snape."
Put like that, it did sound bad. "Ron, honestly, I was just so angry that she accused me of having an affair in the first place."
"Stop it! Both of you!"
Ron ignored Hermione. "Don't give me that. Ginny doesn't know about Newlin. She thinks you're sleeping with a female Auror."
"Leave it, Ron!" Hermione shook him. "It doesn't matter, and besides, it's none of our business. We need to be talking about Davies, not Harry's marriage."
"This isn't finished," Ron snapped. He turned to Hermione. "Fine. What about Davies?"
"We need to re-organise the Order. We need help on this."
"Right. Tell you what, I'll go to Charlie's right now and talk to the others." He shot a disgusted look at Harry. "It's better than being here." He Disapparated.
"I'm sorry, Harry," Hermione said softly. "I know that you didn't want to tell us like this."
"I didn't want to bloody tell you at all!" Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Look, I want to work it out with Ginny."
"I think you'll have a difficult time of it, especially if you're having an affair with Newlin, or any other man, for that matter. She's beyond angry."
"She doesn't care about our marriage. She's more interested in what others think of her."
"She's always been like that, to some degree. I admit, it got worse the past few years, but I think that's because she's been bored and unhappy." Hermione gave him the same sharp, weighing look Harry remembered from childhood. "Harry, do you think your ideas about Newlin being Snape are wishful thinking?"
Blast Hermione and her amateur psychoanalysis. "What do you mean?"
"It's just, when we were young, I remember thinking that you had a crush on the Half-blood Prince."
Harry was startled. "What?"
"You'd talk about him like you talked about us, as if he were a friend that you knew and cared for." She leaned forward and took his hand. "You never talked about Cho or Ginny like that. You were always quiet about them, especially Ginny. I wondered about the difference at the time. I put it down to deeper feelings for Ginny, but maybe I was wrong." She looked outside. "But we can talk more about this later. It's getting dark. I'd better go after Ron before he does something foolish. Will you all right?"
"Be careful." With that, Hermione Apparated.
Harry looked outside. It wasn't quite dark enough to leave.
Ginny might be divorcing him. It didn't seem real. Neither did the fact that he was a fugitive. Most likely, his Aurors were out searching for him at this very moment.
Yet all he wanted to think about was Hermione's comment about how she'd thought he'd been in love with the Half-blood Prince. He hadn't thought about the Half-blood Prince in years, not since he'd found out that he and Snape were one and the same person. Not until he'd met Newlin.
Harry had never accepted Snape as the Prince, but Newlin? Newlin was the perfect fit. All the admiration that he'd felt for the Prince, all the understanding, all the lonely empathy, came flooding back to Harry. He had thought of the Half-blood Prince as a friend. Someone to defend and protect. Someone who helped him. Someone who understood. Someone who fought. An equal.
Newlin was nothing like that, of course. For that matter, the Prince hadn't really been like that, either, except in Harry's mind. What they both had in common was anger, a feeling of isolation, brilliance — and passion.
Harry shivered. He used to feel that passion himself. He wanted it again.
The wand's hunger burned, a steady flame in the centre of Harry's chest.
Suddenly, he was eager to go to Dumbledore's tomb. He looked outside. It was time.
Harry stood and Disapparated.
They were waiting for him when he left Dumbledore's tomb, but with the Elder Wand, it didn't matter. The wand lurked in his heart and his hand like a crouched dragon, prepared to strike.
"Stun him! Take the wand!"
"Expelliarmus!" Wands flew from every hand to land at his feet. They burst into flames.
"You did this to yourselves, you know," he said conversationally as they stared at him with wide eyes.
Time to find Newlin. Harry headed away from Hogwarts.
The wand took him through Newlin's elaborate wards as if they didn't exist.
Newlin looked up, startled, and put down his quill. Warily, he took up his wand.
"Newlin." Harry looked around. The flat was exquisite, beauty and comfort combined to create a space both stimulating and relaxing. "I imagine this is much different than you had as a child." He rubbed a hand over the elegant curve of a chair and cast an appreciative eye at the walls of bookshelves.
The magic in the room sang. Or maybe it was the wand. Strange. He hadn't felt magic act like this, as something separate and alive yet completely under his control, since he mastered his first spell.
"Not at all. I had quite a privileged upbringing," Newlin said. "Draco provided for me. I had everything I could want."
"I didn't mean that childhood. I meant your first one. Kreacher!"
Harry hadn't been sure that he could Summon Kreacher to Paris all the way from London, but Kreacher popped into the room immediately.
"Master!" Kreacher looked around the room and cringed. "Master called for Kreacher?"
"Yes. Kreacher," he pointed at Newlin, "who is that?"
"Mr Newlin, sir, Master, sir."
"And what are his other names?"
"Professor Snape, Snivellus, the bastard, the traitor, the greasy git — "
"That's enough," Harry cut him off. "Thank you, Kreacher. You can go home now."
Kreacher bowed low, his long nose brushing the ground, and disappeared with a soft pop.
Harry turned to Newlin. "I just don't understand how. You were dead."
Newlin glared, though his perfect posture appeared strained. He didn't bother to deny Kreacher's identification. "I was," he said.
"You're not dead now," Harry pointed out. "Is there anything to eat here? I'm hungry. You cheated me out of breakfast this morning." He sat on a chair, neatly situated by the window, and pulled back the curtain slightly to look out. "All clear."
Newlin gestured, and a small house-elf, the tiniest Harry had ever seen, appeared. "Nous avons faim. Apportez-nous du thé et des sandwichs, s'il vous plaît, Janna."
The house-elf curtsied and gestured gracefully. A tea tray with a delicate porcelain tea set appeared, as well as a plate of beautifully arranged sandwiches. She set it on the table and disappeared.
Newlin nodded at the food. "Help yourself."
Harry shrugged. "You said 'we' were hungry. You go first."
Newlin stood, poured himself tea and put several sandwiches on a plate, then took them back to his desk. "Eat. They're not poisoned, you fool," he said, picking up a sandwich and taking a bite.
Harry helped himself to several sandwiches and some tea. "Davies is on his way, you know," he said before devouring two of the sandwiches in several huge bites.
"That may or may not be. However, it doesn't excuse eating like an uncivilised savage." Newlin sipped his tea and looked disapprovingly at Harry, who continued to eat voraciously.
"Don't care," Harry said, swallowing. "So why aren't you dead?"
"I was reborn," Newlin said dryly. "Not a pleasant process, I assure you."
Harry grinned. "I imagine not. So what, did you rise from a pool of blood instead of ashes? I did mean what I told Newlin — you — before. I wish there had been time to save you."
"You did what you had to do, just as I did," Newlin said. "And you're not being so outlandish thinking I rose from my blood. In point of fact, Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy took what remained of the viable blood and sperm from my body after you defeated Voldemort."
"Oh." Harry put down the sandwich he'd been eating and grimaced. "What could they do with that, though?"
"They used it to bind my soul to Narcissa's child."
"She was pregnant?" Harry asked, horrified.
"Raped by Greyback a week before, at his Lordship's direction, for sport." Newlin's cheeks grew red with anger. "Unfortunately, his Lordship used magic to bind Narcissa's fate to the child's, so she couldn't abort it without dying. Binding my soul to the foetus was Lucius's attempt to cheat the Dark Lord while still keeping Narcissa alive."
"So your blood and sperm transformed the foetus, and your soul was bound to it. I felt the Dark magic in you. It's the binding spell, isn't it?"
"And Narcissa Malfoy died after you were born."
"Yes." Newlin looked away. "I regret that. Draco told me that Lucius said that the Dark Lord's curse was subtler than they'd realised. Narcissa's fate was not only tied to the child's, the curse was intended to cause her to die once the child was born."
"You gave her nine months of life that she wouldn't have had otherwise," Harry said after a moment. "It wasn't your fault."
"Of course it wasn't. That doesn't prevent me from mourning her loss. Contrary to your beliefs, she was a loving mother."
"I know. She was the one who saved me after Voldemort killed me. She did it for Draco, but I owe her still. I'm sorry she's dead, too." He bit his lip, reluctant to ask, but needing to know. "Why did you take the chance of working with me?"
"It wasn't must of a risk," Newlin said after a pause. "I felt secure that you, like others, would jump to the conclusion that I was Snape's son. It seemed to be sufficient cover."
"That's not what I meant," Harry said. "Why me, specifically?"
Newlin looked away. "I wanted my life back," he said. "I knew that a book about Severus Snape would never persuade the Wizarding world that I was on the side of the Light. But you could. If I could regain all I'd lost, it seemed worth any risk."
Silence fell, broken only by the sound of rain hitting the window.
Harry sighed. "What should I call you? Newlin? Snape?"
"My name is Owen Newlin. Severus Snape is dead. Let him rest in whatever peace he may be able to find. His memories are a lifetime ago, Potter," Newlin said wearily. "Most of them are blurred. They happened to some other man, not me. I make my choices, not his. How did you work it out?"
Harry faced Newlin. "What? That you were Snape?" When Newlin nodded, he shrugged. "Too many coincidences. Ron and Hermione know, too."
"You fool." Newlin's face contorted with rage.
"They can keep a secret," Harry said, frowning. "Look, we'd better be on our way. If Ron found you within a few hours, Davies won't take much longer."
"What can Davies do to me? I'm not one of your precious Gryffindors to hold as bait." Newlin stood and walked to the fireplace, still angry. He took an ornate vase from the mantel and stared at it blankly. "If you go now, you'll escape."
Harry stood. "I don't want to go alone. I want you to come with me."
"Don't be absurd."
"The book is nearly written," Newlin said, gesturing towards the desk with the vase. "You don't need to hover until it's done."
"It's not about the book." Harry took a step towards Newlin. "It's about last night."
"Did you fall in love, Potter?" Newlin sneered. "The first man who fucks you wins your heart, is that it?"
Harry shook his head. "You know that's not it. You were right. I take what I want. And I want you."
Newlin set the vase back on the mantel and drew himself up to his full height, crossing his arms. "I refuse."
"I'll get a divorce."
"As if that makes a difference."
"I wanted the Half-blood Prince long before I wanted Ginny." Harry slowly crossed the room to Newlin. "Finding you is like getting a second chance. Those are pretty hard to find. I intend to make good with the one I've got."
"You speak of second chances. Second chances are as common as your next breath. They're squandered every moment of every day, because it's easier to keep on as you've started."
"It doesn't work like that," Harry said. It couldn't work like that. "Second chances only happen when your world starts crumbling."
Newlin glared and clenched his hands. "Of course," he said sarcastically. "The great Harry Potter has the right of it. After all, second chances as a common, everyday occurrence would imply responsibility to oneself and freedom of choice." His voice grew hard. "You're a fool. I will only say this one more time. Leave, Potter, or suffer the consequences."
"I'm ready to suffer them," Harry said stubbornly.
They glared at each other.
Finally, Newlin spoke. "It's on your head."
Without warning, Newlin's wand was in his hand. Caught off-guard, Harry ducked and reached inside his robes for the Elder Wand.
His fingers closed around it.
Newlin was faster. "Petrificus Totalus!"
Harry slowly toppled to the floor, his wand half-drawn.
"As common as breathing, Potter." Newlin knelt next to him. "I tried to tell you to leave, you fool," he whispered, barely audible. "Now we'll both have to gamble."
Behind him, Harry could hear the door open.
Newlin stood. "I believe I have something you want, Minister."
They took Harry to the Department of Mysteries. Newlin accompanied them.
Unable to move but desperate to see what he faced, Harry tried to focus on any detail that passed before his eyes. The resulting vertigo made him feel ill. Witches and wizards stood ready, wands drawn and pointed at him. The room was dark; his eyes were drawn to a pool of light ahead.
He was carried to the lit area, where he recognised a chair similar to the one he'd seen used for the Death Eater trials just after the war. Once he was bound to it, the magical chains biting deep into his skin, the immobilising spell was lifted. Harry tried to move, but the chains held him fast, only allowing him to turn his head. He glared at Newlin, who stood next to Davies at the edge of the lighted area.
Newlin ignored him.
What had that last whispered statement meant? Newlin had mentioned gambling. Was Newlin on Davies's side or Harry's?
Davies held the Elder Wand, running his fingers over its length. "Does this count as a defeat?" Davies asked Newlin. His eyes glittered with avarice. "Is the wand mine?"
"You haven't defeated him, Minister, merely detained him." Newlin looked at Harry as if he was an interesting specimen. "You will need to face him directly, at some point. I would suggest that you only do so after significantly weakening him, though. Potter may be a fool, but he's a skilled Auror."
Harry had heard Snape counsel Dumbledore and Voldemort in the same way. He did his best to remain impassive, but the realisation that Newlin truly was Snape, and was capable of such deep treachery, shook him. He tried to remind himself of Snape's determination to keep Harry safe in the past.
But hadn't Newlin said that those memories were faded, that they seemed to belong to someone else? Could Harry count on them any longer? Perhaps Snape was using this second chance of his to correct mistakes he might have thought he'd made in his first life. Had he decided that his sacrifice to the Light had been too great and decided to set up a new Dark Lord instead?
"Did you hear that?" Davies walked over and bent close to Harry's ear. "Torture, then death. And I'll be the master of the Elder Wand."
"You're mental, you know that?" Harry said quietly. "You're just another Voldemort."
Davies's fist nearly broke Harry's jaw. "You're a fool, Potter. You see Dark magic even where none exists. I'm not Voldemort. I'm simply a man with a vision."
"Even everyday magic can be used to kill," Harry mumbled. He could taste blood. "A Lumos can be cast with Dark intent."
"The words of a man about to be executed mean nothing to me," Davies replied.
"The wand will eat you just like it's been eating me." Harry spat out some of the blood. "It will destroy you."
"Dumbledore seemed to wield it easily enough," Davies said, amused. "For quite a long time, too. I think I'm up to the challenge."
"Neither of us has half the power that Dumbledore controlled. Besides, it defeated him in the end. He wanted to destroy its power, but it destroyed him first."
"Is this true, Newlin?" Davies asked.
"Don't listen to him, Minister. Circumstance destroyed Dumbledore."
Davies turned to Newlin. "So you've said in your book. If you're wrong, you'll die along with Potter. If you're correct, however, I will allow you to continue to survive."
"Thank you, Minister." Newlin bowed. "It would be an honour to serve you."
Harry needed to get through to Snape. "You would be honoured to serve the man who had you beaten?"
"Newlin has been working for me all along. It's kept his young — what would be the relationship, I wonder — your young foster nephew?" Davies taunted Newlin. "Young Scorpius Malfoy, anyway. Such a wild lad. Headed for Azkaban, until Newlin bought him his freedom by agreeing to spy on you for me."
"You still beat him," Harry said, glancing at Newlin and willing Snape's pride to come to the surface. "Hardly any way to treat an employee. What's to stop you from doing it again in the future?"
"I had him beaten because he wouldn't tell me what you and he spoke about when he interviewed you." Davies smiled at Newlin with narrowed eyes. "Something about a wizard contract, I believe." He turned back to Harry. "It made no matter, in the end. All I needed to confirm was that you had the Elder Wand."
Even knowing Newlin's predicament, Harry felt betrayed. He glared at Newlin. "You let him into Grimmauld Place, didn't you? You bastard. My children could have been there. Ginny could have been there."
"Don't be a hypocrite, Potter. In the weeks I've been working with you, I haven't seen you display any protective behaviour towards your family. You seemed to be more concerned about spending as much time away from them as possible."
Harry felt himself go pale. "You're wrong," he whispered. "You're wrong."
But was he? Harry tried to think of the last time he'd seen any of his children. Was it for Al's birthday? He was horrified to realise that had been almost two months ago.
I must not tell lies.
Don't lie to me.
Who are you sleeping with, Harry? No one.
Lies. The wand was full of them. It was filling him with them, too. Loving his family: a lie. Guilt for betraying Ginny: another lie. The wand had stripped him of those feelings, long ago, until all that was left was hunger. Newlin had fed that hunger. But then Newlin had betrayed him. Had Snape felt like this, in the end? Hungry, yet hating what fed him?
Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.
He met Newlin's eyes. "Take it."
"What?" Davies said.
"Take it," Harry repeated. "The Elder Wand. Take it. I don't want it."
"Will that work?" Davies asked Newlin.
Newlin refused to release Harry's eyes. "The wand won't let you give it away. It can only go to the stronger wizard. There must be a battle."
"No," Harry breathed. "If we fight, I'll kill him. I don't want to live with another life on my conscience. Besides, I don't have the wand, and Davies would be a fool to give it to me."
Second chances are as common as your next breath.
"Dumbledore was able to do wandless magic with ease when he was the master of the wand."
"Yes," Davies said. "The wand's power flows through its master always." He licked his lips.
Newlin continued to stare at Harry. "But perhaps you don't want to even try. Your life doesn't matter to you anyway, does it?" Newlin asked.
It should. Harry knew it should. "Look at me, sitting here," he begged. "I need you."
"I am looking at you."
Wandless magic. "Legilimens."
Harry's whispered spell had an immediate effect. Even without the wand in his hand, he could feel its power surge through him like a rush of dragon fire, all-consuming, unstoppable, raw magic. Suddenly, it wasn't only Newlin's mind that was open to him, but every mind in the room. And in them all, he saw the same thing.
Hunger for power. For knowledge. For acceptance. For sex. For Galleons. For all the tiny, insignificant things that a human heart craved, the things that were common as dirt.
And one that hungered for him. He focused on it, pulling memories and thoughts and fantasies from the depths of Newlin's mind.
With a thought, Harry put all of the wizards and witches to sleep, leaving only himself, Newlin and Davies.
"You wanted me to know," Harry said to Snape, secure in Newlin's mind. "The memories you gave me weren't enough, were they?"
"I wanted you to want to know. There's a difference."
"And I didn't. Not until you were gone." Harry paused. "But, I did, after."
"Much good that did me. You thought me dead. And it took so long," Newlin's voice was hoarse, "so long to grow up again. To become someone who might have access to you."
"Too many reasons. Power. Vindication. We shared a fate."
"We were both pawns," Harry said. "That's it, isn't it? I'm the only one who knows what it's like."
"Yes." Newlin's eyes burned.
"You want me," Harry whispered. "You have since I was a child. You lied."
"Then take what you want. You always do," came the whispered reply.
Harry nodded, willing Newlin to be at his side.
Newlin stood apart.
Harry sighed. Later, then. "Davies."
Davies's eyes were wide with terror as he found himself unwillingly walking to stand by Harry. "What are you doing?"
"I have no bloody idea," Harry admitted. "But it feels pretty good."
And it did. Power burned through him like dragon's blood. The chains around him loosened and fell; Harry lifted a hand to his face and felt the bones and flesh knit together until they were once again smooth and pain-free. He reached out and took the Elder Wand from Davies, then stood. "I have some questions for you before I take you into custody. I presume that Newlin told you about the autobiography."
"Yes." Harry pushed silently for more information, and Davies gave it to him. "But then he stopped talking to me."
"I had him under a contract. He couldn't speak. Why did you want him in the first place?"
"He knew. About Shacklebolt." Davies was plainly fighting not to speak, but Harry dragged the words from him. "About the war."
"About the Elder Wand."
"Yes," Davies snapped. "I'd read his books, but they didn't mention it."
"How did you know about it? I erased the memories of those who were there when Voldemort and I talked about it."
"I...Horace Slughorn sponsored me," Davies grated. "When he died, I looked through his papers."
"To see what you could find to benefit you," Harry said in disgust.
"I had a political career to plan. Slughorn was a rich source of information."
"And Hermione's research?"
"I watched her, to find out about you."
"Because she was the only one who wasn't constantly warded or surrounded by Aurors," Harry murmured. "The university is easily accessible."
"Yes. She needed money."
"Hermione would never have betrayed me." Davies was a fool if he thought that Harry would believe that.
"She never asked who funded her research."
"That was you?"
That meant that Davies had known from the beginning. He must have set events in motion. Harry looked into his mind and saw Davies lurking in the halls of the Ministry, gauging Harry's popularity, eager to take advantage of Harry's refusal to be Deputy Minister.
Harry frowned in thought. "She was trying to integrate magic and technology. You want to separate the Wizarding world from the Muggle world. I can't believe that you funded her research solely to spy on me. There must have been more."
"Yes. The only way to protect ourselves is to control the Muggles instead of allowing them to control us."
"Through the integration of magic and technology," Harry said quietly. "But there's more to it than that, isn't there?"
"I wanted the Elder Wand. Money. Power. I could have had it all, with the wand and the research projects." Davies's whisper was hardly audible.
"Yeah. I thought so. It's my job to make sure that doesn't happen, though."
"If you take him into custody, you merely postpone the confrontation," Newlin said. "Davies has the Ministry under his control; you would risk losing the Wizarding world to him."
Harry nodded. "That's true. You see my problem, Davies? I can't take you back with me." He knew Davies understood what that meant. The wand gathered itself, its power roiling inside Harry. "Ready to duel?"
Davies was visibly shaking. "You'll kill me," he whispered.
Harry shook his head. "I promise that I won't kill you. I won't even lift my wand against you." The wand had refused to kill him when Voldemort had cast the Killing Curse. Harry reckoned it would protect him again.
Davies took several deep breaths and then suddenly lunged, wand extended.
The Protego Harry cast was a mere whisper. Green light crashed against the Elder Wand's Shield Spell and leapt back, embracing Davies.
The green light faded.
Harry looked at Davies's body. The rush of the wand's power suddenly disappeared, leaving him empty and horrified. The wand had won. "He's dead."
"Yes," Newlin said. "You killed him."
Harry shook his head. "No. It was the wand. I — it took me over, I couldn't fight it." The wand had taken Davies's life, just like it had taken Voldemort's before. "The Shield Spell should have deflected it. The wand sent it back at Davies, instead. It did the same with Voldemort."
Newlin made an impatient sound. "That's ridiculous. The wand can't direct the magic, only you can. You should have no regrets about either death."
"You're wrong. It's Dark, I've known that for months, now. We have to destroy this, before it kills again," Harry said, looking at the wand. "I can feel it. It's hungry, and it's making me do things I don't want to do. You've got to help me."
"Potter, are you going mad?" Newlin frowned at Harry. "Don't blame the wand for the choices you've made."
"What?" Harry was incredulous. "D'you think I'd be here, now, my family destroyed, duelling a power-hungry maniac, without this wand's influence? It wants to be free."
"What would an object that needs a master to wield it know of freedom, you fool? That's your desire, not the wand's. It's just an artifact — a powerful one, with a powerful charm to retain its existence, but the rest is inside you. Not the wand."
Harry refused to believe him. "You're wrong. It's the wand."
Newlin examined him. "If you continue to delude yourself, you're a danger to us all."
"Then help me destroy it," Harry said. "You helped Dumbledore."
"I didn't realise what Dumbledore was trying to accomplish," Newlin said. "If I had, I doubt that I would have helped him. That wand is a piece of Wizarding history. It should be saved and studied."
"It's evil. It takes over its master, makes him do things he wouldn't normally do—"
"Like sleeping with another man?"
"I — " Harry paused. "That part wasn't the wand. I wanted to be with you. I still want to be with you. If you won't help me destroy the wand, at least stay with me to guard it."
"Stop making excuses. This is not about the wand, Potter. This is about you. What do you want to do with your life?"
Harry opened his mouth, but had no words. No one had ever asked him that question before, and he had no answer. He knew what he was supposed to do. He imagined that future: perhaps persuading Ginny to stay married, but living with her distrust; seeing his children look at him with disappointment in their eyes instead of adoration; sitting behind a desk, reading reports, going to meetings, making public appearances...
"I don't know," he said. "I don't know."
"When you decide, perhaps our paths might cross," Newlin said. "Until then, I know what I want and I intend to pursue it." He rubbed his face. "Take responsibility for your life, Potter." He Disapparated.
Harry stared at the spot where Newlin had stood until Ron and the Aurors arrived. When Ron shook him by his shoulder to get his attention, Harry said, "Obliviate them all," in a voice dead as the men the wand had killed.
The men he'd killed.
Harry desperately wanted Newlin to be wrong. He'd convinced himself that some outside force had driven his actions, and the logical conclusion was that it had been the wand. All of the betrayals, all of the hunger, all of the anger and desire for something, someone else: all that was the wand, it had to be. Harry Potter wouldn't have done all of those things.
Except, he had. Closing his eyes, Harry wondered when he had begun to believe in the Chosen One instead of himself.
Exonerated of the murder of Davies, begged by the Ministry to assume the position of Minister of Magic, living with Ginny's continued reproach and Newlin's disappearance, hounded by the press, watching his children's awkward attempts to ignore their parent's troubled marriage, exposed to Ron's continued anger and Hermione's desperate optimism, Harry simply walked away.
He didn't get further than Corsica. He'd never known such blue, never known that a man could fall in love with a colour.
Under the shade of a lemon tree, he sipped his retsina, the taste sweet and thick. The first time he'd drunk it, it had reminded him of a preventative draught Madam Pomfrey had given to students once when Frolicking Flu was making the rounds of Hogwarts. Ron had scrunched up his face, but Harry had found the flavour intriguing, its aroma swimming through his mouth until it filled his mind, like a memory of dark roots and sweet secrets.
Of course, the first time he'd drunk retsina he'd had a hangover the size of the Ministry. He smiled and took another sip.
No air moved this summer day, though the boughs of the lemon tree rubbed each other, sending leaves fluttering. Harry watched the patterns of light and shade dance over his hands.
Careful diplomacy and his natural tendency towards privacy had won the suspicious hearts of his neighbours, though he wryly acknowledged the additional debt he owed to his reputation as the Boy Who Lived. Michel, a wizened Squib who never turned down the chance to sit in the sun with Harry and share gossip about the fierce rivalries and passionate love life of the wizarding community on the island, saw to Harry's simple needs; Kreacher had been miserable in the sun.
A figure appeared on the dusty road. He carried a small satchel.
Harry's heart began to beat faster. He sent Michel for iced water with lemon, and sat back to wait.
A few minutes later, Newlin stood in front of him.
"Have you made your choice?"
Harry nodded. "That's for you," he said, indicating the pitcher of water. Moisture condensed in beads on the rough blue glass.
Newlin ignored it. "Well?"
"I haven't used the wand since," Harry said. He met fierce black eyes. "It's hidden. One of the children will be instructed to fetch it after my death."
Harry looked around. "I like this place. It's blue."
Newlin snorted and set his satchel on the ground. He poured himself a glass of water and sat in Michel's chair.
The whine of insects ebbed and flowed around them.
"They used to eat cicadas in ancient Greece. Did you know that?" Harry had filled himself with bits and pieces of his new world. In his mind's eye, they fitted neatly into one another in a simple mosaic. He preferred life like that.
"I can't believe that you failed Potions in Beauxbatons," Harry added before Newlin could reply. A smile played across his lips. "That must have killed you."
"I couldn't risk the Beauxbatons Potion Master identifying Severus Snape's techniques, since Snape no longer existed."
"Potions techniques are that identifiable?"
Newlin rolled his eyes. "Between masters, yes. At least I know how to take measures to protect myself. You're your own worst enemy, Potter."
"I don't think you're in much of an alliance with your own best interests, either," Harry replied mildly.
Newlin's mouth twitched. "Yes, well, there is that."
"The divorce finally went through yesterday," Harry said quietly after a few moments.
Hope flared within Harry. He stared at Newlin, waiting.
"Potter." Clearly. Distinctly.
Harry shivered. "Look at me."
Snape's eyes looked back at him.
Harry slid off his chair to kneel at Newlin's feet. He laid his head in Newlin's lap, and the hunger finally disappeared.
He smiled and breathed deeply of blue air.