Now that all the excitement with Sirius was over, Harry had three things on his mind: Draco's birthday, Christmas and their other side project that had been put on hold while they dealt with Sirius.
He had plans for Draco's birthday and it was impossible to arrange a trip to Diagon Alley with him still being slightly less than top form, so he was dealing with that by owl. They were spending Christmas at Hogwarts with Narcissa, Sirius and Remus. Molly and Arthur had invited them to the Burrow, but it was Draco's turn to spend it with his family, now that he had one. Harry had been adamant about that.
That just left the other project. He and Draco may have figured out how to ward against their new method of travel, however, they still hadn't figured out how to let anyone else do it. What with everything else going on, it had taken a back seat.
"I think I know why Apparition used such a direct method," Harry said, looking up from the book he had borrowed from the library for yet more research; "it's the easiest."
Draco glanced at him from where he was marking Potions essays. That was one advantage of teaching flying; there were no essays unless they were a punishment of some description. Draco had promised to help him with the research once "the abominable creations" were done with.
"That would make sense," Draco replied.
"You don't have to know anything except where you want to get to," Harry continued, "you just blow a hole from wherever you are to wherever you want to be. It's barbaric, but direct. With the energy link you not only have to know where you want to go, but you have to figure out which energy strand you need to get there. I still have no idea how we do that."
It was frustrating to know he could do something, but not to be able to explain how he did it.
"It is possible that it's something about you that makes it possible," Draco said. "We spent so long worrying that we didn't really stop to think that it might actually be impossible for anyone except you or me."
"It's magic," Harry replied, "and I never underestimate magic. The problem with thinking something is impossible is then someone comes along and shows you it isn't."
Draco smiled a little at that.
"I think that might be you come along and show them it isn't," Draco said. "You may be over estimating the abilities of the rest of the universe."
Harry frowned and then put his book down completely.
"Are we going about this the wrong way?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" Draco encouraged him.
"Okay, so you say it might actually be impossible to create a spell that lets a normal person see what we see," Harry said, "or even if it was, they probably wouldn't have the instinct to use it anyway."
"Then what if we could create a tool that could do that bit for them?" Harry asked. "Like the matrix stone, only smaller, with a specific spell to activate it."
Popping his quill back in the ink well, Draco set aside the essay he was marking and turned towards Harry properly.
"That might work," Draco said, "but would we want everyone to be able to pick something up and just be able to make it work like that?"
"Well eventually, probably, yes," Harry said, "but, right now, no."
That was a very good point.
"The book," he said, thinking it through, "we could make them like the book you were using in the library, the one with the gloves, specific to their owners. If someone else tries to use them could we add something that would disable them?"
"Now that could work," Draco agreed. "We would probably need a specialist, especially if we wanted to use a person's magical signature not their physical one, that way even Polyjuice wouldn't help, or something like the gloves."
"Do you think Professor Flitwick would be able to help with the basic idea?" Harry asked. "He has some good advice for the rings. I know this will be more complex, but it's a similar principle."
"Probably," Draco agreed and then quickly picked up his quill again. "Now write down everything you are thinking so I can see it later, I have these monstrosities to finish dissecting. I want to be able to put them away and forget about them so we can enjoy the Christmas holidays."
Draco sounded so put upon and yet Harry could see the glint of relish in his soulmate's eye, he could also feel it down their bond.
"You're spending too much time with Snape," he said with a rueful grin and then set about putting his thoughts into words.
Tomorrow they would be celebrating Draco's birthday quietly together with Narcissa visiting in the afternoon, since most of their friends had now gone home for the holidays, and after that he was sure Professor Flitwick would have some idea. Now he had direction he was far happier.
* * *
"Will I do?" Harry asked, turning away from the mirror.
Draco had been admiring how nicely Harry's arse fitted in his new dress trousers and wondering if maybe they could get in one more round of birthday sex when the question distracted him.
"Oh you'll definitely do," he replied with wicked smile number five, which he knew made Harry all hot and bothered.
"Don't do that," Harry bemoaned, "we don't have time."
Draco made his eyes big and round and pouted. The way he actually felt Harry's resolve waiver was very good for his ego.
"Your mum will be waiting for us," was Harry's last ditch attempt at reason.
"That's true," Draco agreed, "and she would undoubtedly figure out why we were late."
It was almost worth what would be merciless teasing, his mother was a Slytherin after all. However, he sighed and dropped the irresistible act.
"For once you're right," he said, "we should go."
It was adorable how conflicted Harry appeared at that.
"But if you look as edible later as you do now I make no promises we won't be going for round four," he added, "or should that be round five?"
"Depends if you count the blow job in the shower," Harry replied and closed his eyes.
Draco could hear the mental count to ten. He loved how out of control Harry's hormones could be with just the slightest little prod.
"Come on," Harry said, opening his eyes again, "before I give up what little self control I have left."
Draco grinned and took Harry's hand as they headed for the door.
* * *
"Darling," Narcissa greeted as soon as she saw him.
Draco, of course, allowed her to embrace him, kiss his cheek and then give him a general motherly once over.
"Happy birthday," she said and kissed him again for good measure.
"Thanks, Mum," he replied.
"And Harry," Narcissa went on, "you are looking brighter, I am very glad to see."
"We're just really glad everything's over," Harry said.
"Assuredly," she agreed. "I wish I could have been there, but I am sure my presence would have been misconstrued. The family legal team are, however, greatly looking forward to suing the Ministry for false imprisonment. They seem to be excited by the precedent it will set. Have you convinced Sirius to let them at it yet?"
"He's being very Gryffindorish about it," Draco said and rolled his eyes for good measure, "one second he thinks it's an amazing idea and the next he's worried about the war effort."
"I can see his..." Harry shut up when Draco smiled at him.
"It's the principle," Narcissa said. "We really have to make sure they don't repeat their mistakes, and the only way to do that is to make sure they never forget they made them."
"Precisely," Draco agreed, "right in the treasury."
"Definitely don't want it happening to anyone else," Harry said.
They didn't agree on the timing, but they did agree on the principle. Harry seemed to think waiting until the whole Voldemort business was finished was the way to go, but Draco was definitely with his mother on this.
"Anyway, enough about such odious matters," Narcissa went on, "I have exciting news. I wasn't sure everything was going to be done in time, which is why I haven't mentioned it before, but it is, so..."
"Mum," Draco said with a smile, "what is it?"
The fact it had his perfectly poised mother in a bit of a flap made him more than a little curious.
"After the incident at Brancepeth Castle involving your fa..." Draco felt his features harden even as his mother spoke, "Lucius," she corrected almost instantly, "the protections on the manor released from his control. I've had people in to reset all the wards and security features and they finished yesterday. Professor Dumbledore was kind enough to inspect them yesterday afternoon and it is my great pleasure to invite both of you to Christmas at the manor."
For a moment Draco couldn't believe it.
"Really?" he asked.
It had been so long since he had been home. It hadn't been that long since he had thought he would never be able to go home ever again. His mum smiled, biting her lip and nodding quickly. She was just as excited as him.
[Can we?] Draco checked with Harry.
[Stupid question,] was the instant come back.
"Oh, Mum," Draco said, throwing his arms around his mother again, "this is the best birthday present ever."
"Of course Sirius and Remus are welcome as well," Narcissa said as she accepted the hug.
* * *
After the excitement of the previous day along with the wonderful news about Christmas, it was hard to think of other things. However, both Harry and Draco were adamant that they needed to take what spare time they had in the Christmas holidays and put it to good use. They had lost far too much time the previous term.
Harry had been in Professor Flitwick's office on more than one occasion and he always marvelled how normal sized everything was. Professor Flitwick was a very small person and yet the study was set up just like all the other teacher's places. Professor Flitwick simply used charms like they were second nature if he needed anything that was out of reach or to move to somewhere that was difficult for his short legs. Harry had the utmost respect for the diminutive professor; his magic was thoroughly impressive and he clearly had his students in mind rather than himself when he had designed the room.
"Well hello, Harry and Mr Malfoy," Professor Flitwick greeted.
"Draco, please," Draco said immediately.
The small charms master inclined his head at that.
"How may I help you today?" he asked.
"We've come for your advice, Professor," Harry said, "and I'm sorry to have to ask, but do you have any privacy wards, not the kind against student snoopers, but ones that would stand up to a Death Eater, please?"
"My this does sound serious," Professor Flitwick said, but calmly waved his wand once. "Never fear, this office is now completely sealed."
"Thank you, Professor," Draco said and Harry nodded.
"Please, do sit down," Flitwick invited. "Now, what is so important?"
"Harry's discovered an alternative to Apparating," Draco said.
"It was an accident," Harry said when Flitwick looked at him with his eyebrows raised.
"We figured out how to ward against it, and that's been taken care of, but we think it also might be useful to a select few," Draco continued. "The problem is, it uses information we think only Harry and, through him, I can access."
"We were wondering if it would be possible to create a magical device to do that part, which is keyed to an individual wizard or witch, to allow them to do the rest, which is just like normal Apparating," Harry finished.
Professor Flitwick had been nodding along to the whole explanation.
"My, my," he said, "that is most interesting. You have been busy. In theory, yes, I do not see why such a device may not be fashioned. However, it sounds like a most complicated piece of magic."
"But not impossible?" Harry checked.
"No, not impossible," Professor Flitwick acknowledged. "I have some knowledge in the field, although I specialise more in free charms work than devices. If I were you, I would take your problem to Fred and George Weasley."
"Really?" Harry asked; he had never thought of that.
"Oh yes," Professor Flitwick said with a smile, "those boys may be the finest pranksters of recent years, but they are also some of the cleverest device constructors I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. Their ability to combine magic with just about anything is unrivalled."
"That's brilliant, thank you so much, Professor," Harry said, standing up and reaching out to shake Flitwick's hand. "We can go to the shop this afternoon."
"We're going to die," he heard Draco mutter, but his soulmate was simply rolling his eyes when he glanced over.
Professor Flitwick seemed to think that comment was somewhat amusing.
* * *
It had been snowing and Draco was decidedly cold by the time they reached Zonko's. The shop, however, was toasty and warm and there were a scattering of people all looking around at the merchandise. Fred was behind the counter while their shop assistant was helping another customer.
"Well look who the cat dragged in," Fred said with a grin as soon as he saw them. "After something to prank our baby brother?"
"Not quite," Harry replied with a smile, "we were wondering if we could have a word. We were looking for something custom."
"Ooh, music to my ears," Fred said and Draco wondered how long it would be before something exploded. "George is out back, I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Thanks," Harry said and Draco followed his soulmate along the familiar route.
"Hello, strangers," George greeted, "to what do we owe the pleasure?"
"How good are your privacy charms?" Draco asked before anything else was said.
"With industrial espionage on the rise, the best in the business," George replied, losing some of his exuberant air. "Not a social visit then?"
"We need your help to create something," Harry said, "but can we wait until Fred's free?"
"'Course," George said, "come and see the latest prototypes while we're waiting."
Draco, sensible Slytherin that he was, hung back even as Harry hurried over to George's workbench. Draco was not going to end up squawking like a seagull or with gold hair or ears the size of dinner plates thank you very much. He settled in to watch from afar even as George handed Harry something that looked like a gobstopper.
Luckily for George, Draco did not have to step in and undo any wayward charms before Fred appeared, shutting the door behind him.
"You can all breathe a sigh of relief, I am here," Fred announced.
"Merlin help us," Draco muttered.
"Privacy Top Notch," George said before Fred could go any further.
"Oh, it's a secret, secret meeting," Fred commented. "What can we do you for?"
"We need help creating a magical item," Harry said.
"Specifically we want to be able to key the magical item to a person so only they can use it," Draco added. "Harry is the only one who can actually make it do what it needs to."
"Is it possible?" Harry asked.
"That depends on what this device is going to do," George replied. "Is it a one off or to be used over and over again."
"Over and over again," Harry said.
The twins looked at each other and Draco could have sworn they were having a conversation like he and Harry often did.
"Then we could embed an activation charm that..," Fred said.
"...on first use takes a copy of the person's magical signature," George finished.
"Then it won't activate..."
"...for anyone else."
"And there's no way around charms like that?" Draco checked.
"Not if we build..."
"...in a destruct."
He was unsurprised the twins seem to relish that part.
"Why the cloak..."
"Harry, you explain," Draco said, because the way the twins spoke always gave him a headache.
"Wow," the twins said at exactly the same time when Harry had explained all about Transferring. "You don't do small things do you, Mate?" Fred finished.
"If he did the world would come to a grinding halt," Draco commented.
"...see why you need the secrecy."
"But, what an..."
Harry nodded and Draco was satisfied. With the twins on board this was looking more and more possible.