Harry had, unsurprisingly, not been himself since the news of Hilde's kidnap had become clear. In class he was putting up a very good act for his students, but Draco was well aware that the fact he could not do anything was driving Harry crazy. The fact that none of the Order's resources had given them any useful information wasn't helping either.
That's why Draco got together with Professor Flitwick, Hermione and Seamus to come up with something that might help.
"We've got it," Draco said as he walked into their room on Thursday just before dinner.
"Got what?" Harry asked.
"The way to find Hilde and get the Order there before the D.E.s can move her again."
The way Harry's features brightened was quite stunning.
"We've altered a tracing charm," he explained. "This one will now work long distance as long as it's on a willing host. It uses their magic to amplify the result. If we cast it on Snape before he is summoned it will show us exactly where he is on a map."
"Won't the Death Eaters have wards against things like that?"
"That's the really clever bit," Draco replied. "It pains me to admit this, but Seamus figured out how to make it look dark. If anyone spots anything it will look like Snape just has something nasty waiting for someone."
"That's clever," Harry said, "but then Seamus has spent most of his school life trying to make one thing appear to be another."
"He's an Irish idiot who I now owe a bottle of firewhiskey, but, in this case, he was inspired."
Harry stood up and Draco was not surprised when his soulmate embraced him.
"Thank you," Harry said.
"At least this we can do," Draco replied. "The rest will be up to Snape and the Order."
* * *
So far there was no word from the Order. Harry knew that they would be going into action soon and all he could do was pray that Hilde and her rescuers would be okay. Sirius and Remus were both part of the retrieval team, and he was finding it difficult to think of anything else. This was a problem, because he was supposed to be refereeing a friendly Quidditch match between Hufflepuff and Slytherin.
Since inter-house unity was an objective this year there were several matches arranged, usually on a Sunday afternoon as this one was, that did not count towards the cup in an attempt to promote friendly rivalry rather than the cutthroat attitudes of many previous years. Being assistant Professor, Harry had drawn the short straw to ref most of these friendlies while Madame Hooch was dealing with the main games.
He blew his whistle loudly as the roar from the crowd alerted him to the fact something had happened.
"Penalty to Hufflepuff," he called, so not a shock given how the game had gone so far.
The Slytherin contingent in the stands booed, but that wasn't much of a shock either. He was pretty sure the only reason they weren't taking pot shots at him was because he had the ability to take house points.
It had been a hell of a week waiting for any news. Harry felt ragged round the edges. Snape had been summoned late that morning. By all accounts the tracing spell Hermione, Draco and Professor Flitwick had come up with had worked perfectly. When Snape had cancelled the spell they knew he had finally reached the same location as Hilde. Before the match, Harry had been told the Order knew where Hilde was and were just waiting for confirmation of the lay of the land before moving in. He had not asked for more details; he didn't want to be able to do anything stupid.
[Want me to take over?] Draco asked and Harry glanced at his soulmate in the stands.
[No,] he replied, [thanks, but I can do this.]
[I know you can,] Draco said, [you just don't have to.]
[I need something to concentrate on.]
[Then I suggest you do because the Slytherin Seeker just tried to take out the Hufflepuff Seeker with a side swipe and you missed it. If you don't watch out they'll have you off your broom.]
Harry took the gentle rebuke for what it was and did his best to get his mind on the game. Usually he could fall into the rhythm of Quidditch with its rehearsed plays, passes and incredible flying. Draco was right, it might not be professional Quidditch, but he still needed to have his mind in the match or Slytherin would find a way to unseat him. Putting his fears for Hilde to the back of his mind, he tried very hard to ref properly.
He managed it for nearly an hour of fast play. Slytherin were playing dirty, but Hufflepuff were giving as good as they got, so the match was relatively even. Harry had to be on his toes to keep up and a near miss with a bludger finally convinced his brain to play ball and stop worrying about things he couldn't change and focus on what he was supposed to be doing.
He had just blown the whistle as Slytherin scored when something in his chest trembled. It was as if a single string inside him had been plucked and was reverberating into his body.
[What is it?] Draco asked.
[I don't know,] Harry replied, but brought his broom to a hover.
It was lucky Slytherin had just scored and the players were returning to position before play continued, because it gave him a moment to track down what he was feeling. Strange things were nothing new to him these days, but this felt new and he was already on edge.
[Is it the bond?] Draco asked.
[I'm not sure.]
The twang came again, longer this time, like a cello string being played, echoing through the hollows of his chest. With it came a momentary flash of something that he couldn't quite catch: fire, darkness, confusion, but nothing that made any sense.
[Yes,] he said, [yes it is.]
He made a decision instantly, bringing his whistle to his lips and sending out a long controlled note.
"Match suspended," he called across the pitch.
Boos immediately came from the crowd, and even the Hufflepuff team were glaring at him. They were in the lead by ten points. Harry didn't have time to worry about that, however, as the sensation came again, even more insistent than before.
"The Vassal calls," he ground out through gritted teeth, entirely against his conscious consent.
[Harry, get to the ground now,] Draco's urgent voice broke through the overpowering demand on his attention.
Even as ancient magic did its best to take away his higher thought processes, Harry put his broom into a shallow dive. Even as the tremor came a fourth time he could see the logic in being on terra firma.
[Focus on me,] Draco told him, [they must be trying to break the oath spell again.]
[I'm trying,] he promised.
Another flash came. This time he knew it was Hilde, he could feel something of the essence of her, but it was confused and remote and he saw nothing helpful. The oath spell was older even than its use with Hecatemae, their research had shown that, and Harry could sense just how archaic it was. It had depths he had never suspected. It wanted him to do something, but he didn't know what.
His broom shuddered, lurching in the air. At first his mind flashed back to his first year and the moment Quirrell had jinxed his broom, but as the broom dipped he realised it wasn't that. Instinct told him to look inwards, even as he put the device into a steeper dive to reach the ground faster.
Shock lanced through him as he realised what was happening.
[What's going on?] Draco demanded.
[It's me,] he replied, [I'm leeching magic from the broom.]
[Can you stop it?]
The moment his feet touched the ground he dropped the broom, but he instantly realised he had stepped from the cauldron into the fire.
[Draco,] he called desperately as the magic in and around the pitch raced towards him through the ground, [get them away, get them all away.]
He couldn't concentrate enough to do anything about it himself as the oath spell twisted in his chest.
"Everyone off the pitch now!" he heard reverberate around the area. "No one is to approach Professor Potter, no one."
He only hoped that Draco's commanding tones would be obeyed, because he was helpless. With his eyes squeezed shut he fell to his knees, accepting the magic that flowed into him, lest it destroy him in trying. His head was filled with that one long, now continuous hum. It reverberated through him and through the magic, tugging on it. He could barely think.
He held on for as long as he could, but he was fighting against a blood oath that would not be denied. Putting his head back he yelled in defiance at whatever was causing this and magic took away his mind.
* * *
Every instinct in Draco told him to go to Harry, but he was the only other member of staff at the game, he had a duty to the children too. He could feel Harry battling with the magic calling to him. He could feel how dangerous it could be. Apparently his urgency came over in his tone, however, because even the Slytherins left the pitch and exited the stands when he told them to.
"Back to the castle," he instructed as he reached the ground, his voice amplified so it would carry to everyone.
Now some dawdled, clearly wanting to see what was going on.
"Move!" was all he said.
He was a millisecond away from hexing them into doing as they were told when the most incredible sound came from behind him. Every instinct in him fired again and he could do nothing except turn back. Harry's cry reverberated around the pitch as if it was an echo chamber.
Draco froze as his subconscious realised anything he could do physically was worthless. He was needed on another level and he clung on to Harry's mental presence with everything he had. Before his eyes a sphere of white surrounded Harry, obscuring him from view. A whirlwind spiralled upwards from him as the sphere swirled with metallic colours. It was pure power.
Nothing in the maelstrom that Draco was feeling from Harry could tell him what was going on, only that there was a dreadful purpose. It was awe inspiring to witness even as he played his part of foundation to Harry's spectacular abilities. In that moment it was as if time was suspended.
Draco wasn't sure what he expected next, but it definitely wasn't for everything to just stop.
The whirlwind died, the sphere vanished and the pitch was completely silent. Harry was just kneeling there, face to the sky, motionless, surrounded by a crater five feet wide. It was so sudden that Draco remained frozen in stunned silence.
[Harry?] he finally managed when his brain clicked back on.
Nothing came back.
Heedless of who might be watching, Draco abandoned any pretence of professorly conduct and ran towards his soulmate.
"[Harry,]" he tried again on mental and verbal levels.
At last a response.
[Harry, talk to me, are you alright?]
He tried to stay calm, after all panicking wouldn't help anyone.
[Um ... I think so ... what happened?]
As Draco skidded to a stop, Harry finally moved, blinking and opening his eyes and blearily looking around.
[You tell me,] Draco said, carefully reaching out and placing his hand on Harry's shoulder.
As their bond clicked into place completely at the physical contact, relief flooded through Draco. It gave the rational part of his brain much more to work with. Harry's mental presence felt dazed, but he couldn't find any other signs of distress. He nudged at Harry's thoughts a little to help get them moving.
"By Merlin," Harry said, eyes opening in shock, "Hilde. The oath spell, it, it..."
[Harry think, what did you do?]
[It wasn't me,] Harry said, [well it was, but it was the oath, it ...]
Harry frowned, face scrunching up in concentration.
[I don't know,] Harry eventually admitted.
Only then did he seem to notice the crater.
[Do you think it could have done that at the other end too?] he asked in abject confusion.
Draco had no idea.
[We need to talk to Albus,] was what he decided, and reached out to help Harry to his feet.
* * *
The headmaster had not been able to give them an immediate answer when they invaded his study. In fact it had taken an hour of waiting before contact had been made with the Order team. Harry was used to the waiting by now, but he was pacing by the time the fire call came through.
"She's safe," Sirius' head said from the fire.
"Thank Merlin for that," Dumbledore said. "And everyone else, Sirius, are they well?"
"No casualties," Sirius confirmed, "in fact we didn't have to fight at all. We were waiting to go in and there was an explosion of some kind from the house. When we got in there all the Death Eaters were out cold except Snape. As far as we can tell they were trying one last effort to break the oath spell and it must have backfired on them."
"You can say that again," Harry heard Draco mutter.
"What about Hilde," Harry asked, "is she hurt?"
"A little banged up, but she said to tell you she's fine," Sirius said. "We've restrained the Death Eaters and notified the Ministry and Remus has taken Hilde to St Mungo's. Snape should be back at Hogwarts by now as well, we thought it best he not be on the scene when the Aurors arrive."
"Yes, yes," Dumbledore agreed, "I believe that is well thought. Was Severus injured at all by the explosion?"
"No, although he said he was in the room," Sirius replied. "The only thing we could think of was that he wasn't one of those trying to break the oath bond, he was just a witness to it. I'll let him tell you what happened, I think the Aurors are here."
"Very good," the headmaster said, "thank you for the report, Sirius. We will see you back at Hogwarts once you are done with the Ministry."
"Let's hope that's soon," he said and disappeared.
Harry was more than relieved, but also perturbed.
"I don't think we researched the oath spell enough," he said, sitting back in his chair.
"All oath spells have protections," Draco said, "everyone knows that."
"But not all oath spells have me attached," Harry pointed out. "There's a crater in the Quidditch pitch, remember?"
"Nothing that cannot be repaired," Dumbledore said with a smile as he sat back down. "I believe this is most fortuitous."
"Students could have been hurt," Harry protested.
"You would never have allowed that, My Boy."
Harry rubbed his scar and wondered if the headmaster had finally completely lost the plot.
"Albus is right," Draco said.
"You're supposed to be the practical one," Harry said.
"I am," Draco told him, "and I am in complete agreement with Albus. You reflected the Killing Curse and it didn't kill, remember?"
Harry grimaced, it was hard to forget.
[Let it go, Love,] Draco added silently. [Everything worked out for the best.]
Harry was going to protest, but there was a knock at the door.
"Come in, Severus," Dumbledore called, even though Harry had seen no notification anywhere of who was knocking.
Snape entered, still in his travelling cloak, although there was no sign of his mask.
"Do sit down," the headmaster invited. "We have just had a fire call from Sirius."
"Then I presume Black told you what happened?" Snape said, taking the offered chair.
"He did," Dumbledore replied, "but left the firsthand account for you. Would you care to enlighten us?"
Harry kept his mouth shut, because he was pretty sure Snape was in no mood for his interruptions.
"When I arrived they had already set up a ritual circle to attempt a final breaking of the oath bond," Snape began without preamble. "I supplied the potion to lower Professor Praeceptrix's resistance to their magic and they began. After approximately seven minutes a white aura appeared around Professor Praeceptrix. A whirlwind started around her and took hold of those involved in the ceremony and hurled them around the room. The white aura then exploded outwards, pushing through the entire area, and leaving everyone apart from myself unconscious."
"The magic did not touch you at all, Severus?" Dumbledore checked.
"I felt nothing," Snape replied.
"Quite remarkable," was the headmaster's opinion on that.
"That is what comes of using magic of which you have no comprehension," Snape said in a dismissive tone. "No doubt the imbeciles made an error and their ritual back fired on them."
"Actually, Severus," Dumbledore said, his eyes doing the twinkling thing again, "we have reason to believe it was the oath spell itself which cause the backlash."
"You mean it caused the ritual to backfire?" Snape asked.
"No, the ritual caused it to backfire," Harry couldn't help himself.
Of course Snape glared at him for speaking.
"As I am sure your pupils will inform you, Severus," Dumbledore took over again, "there was an incident during today's Quidditch match. It resulted in a suspension of the game and a small crater in the pitch. The oath spell seems to have compelled Harry to be of assistance to Hilde, although we are unsure of exactly how."
"Yes, well," Snape said, recovering quickly, "if Mr Potter was aware of the 'how' in these cases, I suspect we would all be in trouble."
Draco snorted a laugh at that, so Harry decided not to be too insulted.