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Defence, Pretence, Offence

Chapter Text

Monday had to go on as normal, even with the excitement of Sunday afternoon, but Harry was twitchy all day. Not least of all because the Prophet had had a huge headline all about him first thing in the morning. Several students discovered that amicable Professor Potter was not so easy going if they pushed him too far by bringing it up just after lunch.

No one mentioned it for the rest of the day.

As soon as the school day was over, Harry and Draco headed for London, because Harry had to see with his own eyes that Hilde was recovering. Draco was pretending that he wasn't just as worried as Harry, but it wasn't like he could lie to Harry, so they both knew the truth.

Hilde was sitting up in bed drinking what looked suspiciously like a cup of tea when they walked into her room.

"Well look what the cat dragged in," she said and smiled at them.

Harry produced the box of chocolates they had picked up in Hogsmeade and Draco brandished a bouquet of flowers as they chose one side of the bed each.

"For me?" Hilde asked, apparently absolutely delighted as she put her tea on the bedside cabinet.

"Well I don't see any other thoroughly deserving Hufflepuffs in the room," Draco said, and made her blush.

"Choccies and flowers," she said, "I'll be the talk of the gossip rag by tomorrow morning."

"Are you propositioning us, Professor?" Draco asked and wiggled his eyebrows.

Harry couldn't quite manage to be so charming now that he could see the healing bruises on Hilde's face; the fact that they weren't completely gone spoke of how nasty the injury had probably been. Unfortunately Hilde noticed that he wasn't joining in.

"Oh, Harry," she said, patting the side of the bed, "don't look so worried, I'm fine."

"But you almost weren't," he said, even as he sat down.

Much to his surprise, she reached out and hugged him. It was only a short hug, but he hadn't been expecting it at all.

"I take it you've been telling him this isn't his fault?" she said, looking at Draco after she pulled back.

"Of course," Draco said, "but he will be so Gryffindorish about it."

"Not completely unexpected," Hilde said.

"I can't help it," he protested.

"We know," Draco said and sat down on the other side of the bed, reached over and ran a hand down his back.

"Harry," Hilde said, ducking her head a little so she was looking him in the face even though he had taken to staring somewhere over her right shoulder, "we're in a war. I'm safer with this oath bond than I would be without it. You saved me. Your magic put one very bad man in St Mungo's under guard and knocked out three others so all the cavalry had to do was cart them off. They deserved everything they got and I am still here, very much whole and hearty. Thank you."

"I really don't know how I did that," Harry confessed.

"Of course you don't," Hilde told him and almost reached out to him again, her training being the only thing stopping her. "If Hecatamae could perform miracles at the drop of a wand, we'd have to up your statuses to demi-gods, not human beings."

"Please don't give him ideas," Draco said and made Hilde smile again.

"You're really okay?" Harry asked.

"Fit as a fiddle," Hilde promised, "well almost. They only have me still here for observation because of all the mixed magic that was flying around. Feeling all that power was quite a rush, let me tell you; I was higher than a kite for hours. Didn't feel a thing as the lovely healers fixed me right up. I'm hoping they'll let me go in the morning."

"We'll come break you out if you want," Harry offered, feeling just a little better.

"No," Draco said immediately, "no we won't, not if we ever want to be allowed in St Mungo's again."

"But I'm the Boy Who Lived," Harry said and smiled at his soulmate in the most innocent way he knew how; "didn't you know I can do no wrong?"

Hilde giggled and Draco groaned.

"I'll just bribe the healer to sign the paperwork," Draco said and threw up his arms, "it'll be less hassle."

* * *

Everything seemed that much more urgent after what had happened to Hilde. Voldemort had been lying low, but this was the first indication he was up to his old games again. Of course Harry had known his nemesis hadn't helpfully just disappeared, but this made everything that more immediate again.

Not being one to shirk his responsibilities, Harry spent all his spare time after Hilde's safe return, trying to finish the device to allow Transferring. All he could think was that if he had finished it before Hilde was taken she might have been able to escape from a terrible ordeal.

Draco tried to talk some sense into him at regular intervals, but otherwise just helped. While Draco always tried to be the voice of reason, Harry was all too aware his soulmate wanted every advantage they could create as quickly as possible. Fred and George were working on the idea to key the end result to an individual, but Harry still had to figure out how to embed the ability to tap into the energy connections into the device and how to activate it.

He knew how to create a spell matrix, he'd done it before, but how exactly to make it function was another matter entirely. They talked to Fred and George, they talked to Hermione, and they spent a lot of time in the library, finalising the possibilities.

The biggest hurdle was trying to figure out exactly what it was Harry did to see the connections in the first place. That's where Draco came in, because he tapped into Harry's abilities to be able to Transfer, so they did a lot of analysing what he had to do. There were several false starts, quite a bit of swearing and almost more magic flying around than even the Room of Requirement could cope with, but eventually Harry had a prototype.

It was a small, nondescript disc of iron, but it was ready for someone to try. They didn't have to look very far. Ron was not a young man of research and theory, but he was one of strategy and action. He volunteered before Harry had even finished explaining that the first version of the prototype was ready.

Ron, Harry and Draco were in the Room of Requirement and the wards against Transferring were down. The space was setup just like an area for learning to Apparate.

"So," Ron said, standing in one of the circles holding Harry's iron disc, "what do I do?"

"It's like Apparating," Harry explained as Draco stood back and just watched. "Concentrate on where you want to go and focus on the disc. It will activate and use the energy connections to transfer you from where you are to where you want to go."

"Just like that?"

"Just like that," Harry replied.

"Using the disc is like using a broom," Draco added, "it's a spell matrix that uses your magic to do what it needs to do, you just have to direct it."

Ron nodded and held the disc up in front of him. Using the finger tips of both hands he lifted it and then stared at it hard. The front of complete concentration on his face was just a little bit hilarious, at least to Draco it seemed that way.

[Don't laugh,] Harry warned him.

[Of course not,] Draco replied, [but I haven't seen him try this hard to cast a spell since the whole broken wand incident.]

[Definitely don't mention that,] Harry said, but glanced at his soulmate quickly with a small smile.

Bad humour was a defence mechanism for both of them and he appreciated Draco trying to lighten the atmosphere.

[He's getting it,] Harry said as he felt the magical atmosphere of the room shift.

As soon as he had finished speaking Ron vanished from the other end of the room and reappeared instantaneously in the circle closest to them. He realised something was wrong the moment he saw the bemused smile and glazed look in Ron's eyes.

"Oh, pretty," were Ron's immortal words and then he gracelessly slumped to the floor.

"Bugger," Harry said.

* * *

Ron was once again standing in the Room of Requirement holding Harry's prototype. Luckily the incident the previous evening had been Ron's brain protecting itself and as soon as he'd dropped the iron disc, he'd been perfectly alright again. Harry had spent the rest of the evening and into the small hours, changing the spell matrix so it didn't actually show the connections to the person using it, once Draco had talked him down from the guilt trip of course.

"You're sure you fixed it?" Ron asked, looking dubiously at the device in his hand.

"We're sure it won't do what it did last time," Draco replied with what he hoped was a reassuring smile.

He wasn't as good at reassuring as Harry, although his contamination by Gryffindors had done something to improve his abilities along those lines.

"You won't see the connections," Harry added, "it should just use them."

"So I concentrate as if I'm Apparating?" Ron checked.

It was obvious he was nervous, but then Draco couldn't blame him. People who tested out prototype magical artefacts were usually paid danger money. Of course being related to Fred and George made Ron much braver in that area than most.

"Yes, just like before," Harry said. "Think about going from the circle you're in to the circle at the other end of the room."

For a moment Ron's face was the utter picture of dubious. It would have been amusing if Draco couldn't feel what it was doing to Harry. The last thing Harry ever wanted to do was to hurt his friends, even in a minor way. However, before Draco could say anything, Ron's expression hardened to one of determination.

Just like the previous evening, Ron held the iron ring in both hands and glared at it as if it had done him a personal injury.

[It can't hurt him,] Draco said, [stop worrying.]

[It hurt him yesterday.]

[No, it made him relinquish consciousness for a few seconds yesterday,] Draco countered. [He was perfectly fine as the barrage of tests you insisted Madam Pomfrey carry out proved. Now calm down.]

Harry was doing very well at looking calm and collected on the outside, but on the inside he was a mess. Draco was impressed by the act, but was sure the lack of sleep had not helped Harry's current mental state. The whole Hilde incident had put them both on edge and Harry was trying to work himself to death to fix it. Draco was only going to put up with it until they had a working prototype, so he was doubly invested in today's test.

[Here he goes,] Harry said.

Ron vanished and reappeared in the second circle. He promptly sat down.

"Ron," Harry called and was on the move immediately.

"I'm fine," Ron said before Harry could really work himself up.

"You sat down," Harry protested.

"Reflex," Ron promised, standing up to prove it, much to Draco's delight. "I tensed too much. That was, actually, that was awesome."

"You're really fine?" Of course Harry had to check.

"Hair still red, freckles still in place, all limbs attached," Draco said in his best dry tone, "looks fine to me."

"Thanks, Malfoy," Ron said with almost matching derision.

"My pleasure, Weasley," Draco replied with a perfectly straight face.

"I'm beginning to see why you think Apparating is barbaric," Ron said and grinned at Harry.

"Do not encourage him!" was Draco's response to that.

* * *

Now that they had a working prototype, which Harry had since deactivated for security reasons, Draco had forbidden him from working on it until at least Sunday. That had left him with actual spare time and he had remembered what else had been bothering him. It took him until Sunday morning to corner his quarry no matter how hard he tried before that.

"You know, you're an awfully difficult person to get alone," Harry said as he stepped out of an alcove and into the path of Blaise Zabini.

The moment Blaise saw him the boy's eyes went wide with shock and he went for his wand, which he didn't have. Blaise had been cleared, but he was only allowed his wand in lessons under supervision until he had been influence free for one year. No one was taking any chances this time round.

For a fraction of a second Blaise looked terrified and then finally just resigned.

"Do your worst, Potter," was what the boy said.

"What?" Harry replied.

Blaise just glared at him.

"Oh good god," Harry said, "Slytherins, you're all so paranoid. Zabini, why on earth do you think I want to hurt you?"

The incredulous look on Blaise's face was totally priceless.

"Why?" he said. "Because I helped Lucius Malfoy take Draco and put you through the worst time of your entire life, which, given this is you, is saying something."

"No you didn't," Harry said shaking his head. "You were possessed."

"But I didn't try and stop it."

"You didn't know about it."

Sometimes Harry had to wonder what some pureblood parents taught their children. The little frown on Blaise's face was almost comical.

"Then why have you kept trying to get me alone?" Blaise all but demanded.

"Because I wanted to see how you were," Harry said with an exasperated sigh; "you're a victim in this as well, but I knew you wouldn't want to be seen talking to me by the other Slytherins. I also wanted to avoid any of the kinds of misunderstanding, which we clearly have here. Just so we're absolutely crystal, I don't blame you, I hope you're recovering and this year is going better for you than last."

"Oh," Blaise said.

"Right, well, I've said my bit," Harry added, "see you around, Zabini."

Then he turned and began to walk away. It wasn't exactly a fruitful conversation, but at least now he understood Blaise' behaviour. Draco was probably going to laugh at him when he explained what had happened.

"Potter," he turned as Blaise called his name, "thanks."

Harry nodded; it was not quite as bad as he had feared then.